November 30, 2004

Weasels on a Rampage

France continues to regard its former West African colonies as its sphere of influence. This video shows their true colors and commitment to human rights.

Stealing Childhood?

John Vennochi waxes indignant:
"The crime: stealing childhood, and in this instance stealing it in painful, ugly, public fashion.

"The little girl, around 2 years old, kicked, squirmed, and shrieked in her mother's arms. The mother, old enough to know better, held on tightly, determined to go through with her plan: getting her daughter's ears pierced.

"Piercing screams did not prevent this mom from accomplishing her ear-piercing mission. She carried the girl triumphantly back into the mall, adorned with two tiny gold button earrings -- all the better to show off her wispy blonde curls, red velvet dress, and tiny, teary face."

Two-year olds will scream over a broken crayon or a doll's dress they can't quite manage to get on the doll, or over an inoculation.

So is Vennochi overwrought, waxing indignant over this incident?

One of our daughters got her ears pierced at nine, because she wanted to. The other, older, has no interest in going near the piercing machine.

This event, though, seems to be an imposition by an adult on a child for the sake of the adult's vanity. Sure, we all get pleasure from our kids' finger-paintings, home runs, and even SAT scores.

But we don't own our offspring. In this culture, we no longer force our sons and daughters to marry for our convenience, or to go into the family business if they choose not to. Aside from the fact that we can't easily impose these choices, we see children as free, autonomous beings, whom we protect and discipline, but only partly make in our own image. Ultimately, they are free, and if we're both wise and lucky, we prepare them with enough discipline, and high enough standards, that they can use their freedom well.

Not owning our children, but having them on loan, isn't an easy condition to manage. That said, forcing a frightened two-year-old to get her ears pierced seems unjust to me.

November 29, 2004

A Wise Child

On our family blog (private), I posted a recommendation that people look at this slideshow, a poetic tribute to our troops.

The anti-Bush faction (just about everyone but us) used the occasion to comment on their dislike of the war, W. et al., although they don't hold it against the troops.

My 11-year-old posted this comment:
I would like to say that I thought it was sweet and that we should forget about all of the politics behind the war. What's done is done and they are there. At this point, we should just be supporting the troops who put their lives on the line for this country even though you may think it isn't necessary. The troops are already there, we should just try to keep them alive and support them. FORGET ABOUT THE POLITICS!

She is a wise child, methinks.

Reread Any Good Books Lately -- Or Ever?

Hugh Hewitt asks here for the blogosphere to name modern novels worth rereading. I guess he means ones we've actually reread.

There was a nomination here of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces. Hysterically funny, especially if you've been to The Big Easy.

Must be a Pelican State moment, because I had already thought of Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men. Also a 1949 movie.

This in turn put me in mind of A. J. Liebling's The Earl of Louisiana, which is not a novel but reads like one.

Members of my family have nominated To Kill a Mockingbird, Angela's Ashes, ( a memoir, not a novel, but who cares?), and Body and Soul. I've never read any of these.

Zoë, my eighth-grader, is reading Mockingbird in English class, and is frustrated because they take so long. Zoë devours fantasy books. She's read over 9,000 pages since school started in September. After a bit of cross-examination, she chose Rhapsody, by Elizabeth Haydon, or for a younger child, The Wind Singer by William Nicholson. Zoë has good judgment about these things.

Katharine, the sixth grader, would probably stick with the Harry Potter series as a reread. I'd reread them, too, had I but world enough and time.

November 28, 2004

Trouble Brewing?

This report is ominous:
"While television cameras have focused on the carnival-like sea of hundreds of thousands of orange-clad protesters in the Ukrainian capital, the blue army of men like Kolukh has been steadily on the march, pouring in by bus and train from the east.

These mostly impoverished miners and industrial workers voted in Ukraine’s disputed presidential election for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian prime minister who is fighting to hold on to a victory widely condemned as rigged.

Some 20,000 cheered Yanukovych as he called on them to do all in their power to stop a constitutional coup — raising fears, as the standoff entered its seventh day, that the remarkably festive mood in this ancient city could turn violent, with repercussions far beyond Ukraine’s borders."

A civil war or partition could be nasty.

HT: Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner.

Watch This

Take a minute and look at this.

HT to Gerard. It's Gerard, not Gerald. Sorry.

Polynesian Update

Presidential Palace Occupied
Originally uploaded by octopod.

While similar events unfold in the Ukraine, whose population is 200 times larger and whose weather is 200 times worse, the occupation of the Presidential Palace in Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, continues.

Oscar Temaru, leader of the indpendence movement, is in Paris, as is Gaston Flosse, the Ferdinand Marcos of French Polynesia, Jacques Chirac's poodle. Temaru and Flosse are negotiating with the Chiraqistanis for new elections. Flosse wants them in 18 months, Temaru immediately. Flosse has threatened to cut off the talks and return to Tahiti if the occupation is not suspended. Temaru has appeared to ask his followers to vacate, but they have refused.

We are still waiting for the American gunboats to appear on the horizon and throw the French out.

Frank Rich Drops His Towel

The insufferable Frank Rich, who writes a cultural column for the New York Times (free subscription), were life not short, would deserve a truth squad like his colleague Paul Krugman.

Unlike Krugman, who is a permanent fount of misinformation and spleen, Rich occasionally stumbles upon an insight. So it was on November 28, in this column.

Rich's riff was on the Monday Night football commercial where starlet Nicollette Sheridan appears to have accomplished a seduction of football player Terrell Owens in the locker room, a scene ending with the actress, seen from behind, dropping her towel, leaving a few bits to the imagination.

Now this scene has evoked considerable indignation from some circles, an indignation Rich derides as inconsistent at best and feigned and opportunistic at worst. Rich points out that the soap-comedy-sitcom in which the actress stars, Desperate Housewives, is a big hit, as much in the red states as in the blue, and suggests that those who criticize the football commercial scratch that prurient itch watching the sitcom itself. He also puts in the ritual dig at Rush Limbaugh, whose success and talent have made him the left's favorite whipping boy, pointing out that Rush has had his drug problem and divorces.

On one level, Rich's critique is fair enough. Our culture, including its corporate and commercial side, is saturated with sex, and not just the high-toned variety (think "erotica" as opposed to "porn"). This saturation includes even the MSM (main-stream media), and even football. Rich points to scantily clad cheerleaders and commercials for aphrodisiac drugs. In this light, the noisy reaction to one pre-game bit is either beside the point or hypocritical, argues Rich.

Fair enough. But Rich stops there. He does not address at least two issues.

First, as Dennis Prager points out here, there's a difference between public and private displays. The issue is not whether Terrell Owens and Nicollette Sheridan indulge in a bit of hanky-panky, but whether they display it on prime time to an audience of millions who have not necessarily chosen to see this particular type of display.

People get naked and do the nasty. People relieve themselves. Except in selected venues, where the audience know what it is getting, these are private matters, and there's a great deal to be said for their remaining so.

Hypocrisy? Not necessarily. My father used to say that there are no dirty words, just words that are out of place. Soil in the garden is a blessing, but on the living room carpet it's just dirt. Although some of the same people who are offended by the Sheridan's towel drop don't want their children to learn about birth control even if the girls end up pregnant when abstinence education fails, others just want their prurient interest scratched constantly and in public.

Second, the noise about the NFL commercial is not necessarily hypocrisy, but a surrogate for a general concern about the coarsening of the culture. A generation ago, feminists made great noises about the "objectification" of women and the commercial exploitation of sex. Some of this noise was traditional pecksniffery disguised in avant-garde clothing, but it also made a reasonable argument for respecting women as whole human beings – in short, for public decency.

The culture has been coarsened and just because I say so I'm neither Bin Laden nor a Jerry Falwell.

There is a mass culture, and Proust, Joseph Beuys, and Penderecki will never replace it, which is probably just as well. But is it exploiting sex, violence, and various stupid ideas to a fault? Rich doesn't address the issue. He's content to mock the critics of the NFL episode. Easy enough, but beside the point, and par for the course.

November 27, 2004

A Worm in the Ukrainian Apple?

This story suggests pure optimism about the situation in the Ukraine may not be justified:
"But Ukraine, a country bigger than France with a population of 47 million, is not the Czech Republic. Its history of independence is sporadic and, crucially, it borders Russia and hosts that nation's warm-water fleet.

"Neither is it Romania. Leonid Kuchma, the man who has ruled the country with a rod of steel for most of its post-Soviet period of independence, is no Nicolae Ceausescu. He may stand accused of bribery, corruption, stifling authoritianism and complicity in the murder of a critical journalist. But he is by no means a universal figure of hatred; he commands serious respect among large swathes of the populace.

"Nor is the country united. It is in fact implacably divided, with the Dnipro river serving as a fault line that splits the country almost exactly in half. The more Russified east backs Mr Yanukovych, and the west and centre, which sees the country's future in the EU, supports Mr Yushchenko. Watching dramatic images of fired-up Yushchenko supporters marching through the streets of Kiev is arresting, but similar scenes are being played out in pro-Yanukovych strongholds. Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of his voters took to the streets of Donetsk.

"The 'Czechoslovakia scenario' is therefore never far from people's minds, with many Ukrainians fearing the political crisis could cause the country to split into two new states or prompt entire regions such as the Crimea to secede."

We'll see. Whether the European Union wants an impoverished nation of 46 million people is also a question.

If they're going to have mass immigration, which seem likely given the population decline, better Ukrainians than North Africans, who harbor an Islamist minority.

The Best of Times

Originally uploaded by octopod.
Sometimes there is good news.

The Ukraine, which suffered through Stalin's mass famines, the Second World War, and only recently became independent, has been ruled by a post-communist mafia.

Recent elections have led to a crisis as hundreds of thousands took to the street to protest the mafia's attempt to steal the election. So far, the protests have been both massive and peaceful, and the U.S. and Europe have weighed in on the side of the democratic opposition.

It's not clear how things will turn out, but no one seems to want things to sink into violence. Let us hope the Ukraine's sad history changes, and like Poland and the Baltic States, this large and important country becomes freer and more prosperous.

November 25, 2004


My 11-year old's one-sentence recital of what she's thankful for:

"I am thankful for my family, friends, food, technology, freedom, nature, rights, choices, love, and school."

'Nuff said.

November 22, 2004

These People are Nuts

This story shows how nutty multicultural-secular-progressive-yadda-yadda school administrators have gotten:

Maryland public school students are free to thank anyone they want while learning about the 17th century celebration of Thanksgiving - as long as it's not God.

Whether one is religious or not, you can't be true to history without teaching that the Pilgrims were dissenting Protestants, highly religious, and Thanksgving was created and evolved with a religious meaning.

To tell the story otherwise is a lie. There's always been an "official story" taught in the schools, but to teach that Thanksgiving wasn't about thanking a Protestant God is just a lie.

One lesson I've learned as a parent is don't lie.

Here's more detail on the Pilgrims and days of Thanksgiving.

November 21, 2004


This first-hand account of two incidcents in Falluja is humbling:

The first is a Marine from 3/5.  His name is Corporal Yeager (Chuck Yeager's grandson).  As the Marines cleared and apartment building, they got to the top floor and the point man kicked in the door.  As he did so, an enemy grenade and a burst of gunfire came out.  The explosion and enemy fire took off the point man's leg.  He was then immediately shot in the arm as he lay in the doorway.  Corporal Yeager tossed a grenade in the room and ran into the doorway and into the enemy fire in order to pull his buddy back to cover.  As he was dragging the wounded Marine to cover, his own grenade came back through the doorway.  Without pausing, he reached down and threw the grenade back through the door while he heaved his buddy to safety.  The grenade went off inside the room and Cpl Yeager threw another in.  He immediately entered the room following the second explosion.  He gunned down three enemy all within three feet of where he stood and then let fly a third grenade as he backed out of the room to complete the evacuation of the wounded Marine.  You have to understand that a grenade goes off within 5 seconds of having the pin pulled.  Marines usually let them "cook off" for a second or two before tossing them in.   Therefore, this entire episode took place in less than 30 seconds. 

The second example comes from 3/1.  Cpl Mitchell is a squad leader.  He was wounded as his squad was clearing a house when some enemy threw pineapple grenades down on top of them.  As he was getting triaged, the doctor told him that he had been shot through the arm.  Cpl Mitchell  told the doctor that he had actually been shot "a couple of days ago" and had given himself self aide on the wound.  When the doctor got on him about not coming off the line, he firmly told the doctor that he was a squad leader and did not have time to get treated as his men were still fighting.  There are a number of Marines who have been wounded multiple times but refuse to leave their fellow Marines.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

These men are risking their lives for the freedom of strangers.

The whole thing is worth reading. And read this.. Even the Times has stories worth reading now and then.

HT to Instapundit.

The President Stands Up For His Man

W. has never had a great personal appeal to me. He was a cheerleader at Andover. I wrote the art and music reviews for the school paper.

I admire skill with words. W. doesn't really show that, unless you think he's crazy like a fox.

I supported him not so much out of affection, but because I thought he and his people had some understanding of what was needed to defend the country, and the Democrats didn't. And because the coastal elitism of the Dems. increasingly offended me.

But this story makes me feel that we picked the right guy. A guy who instinctively stands up for his people, even with his body, shows virtue (which by origin, means "manliness."):

   The president's lead agent approached the line of men as quickly as it closed and demanded to be allowed through. Within a few seconds, the confrontation began to escalate with voices being raised and shoving in all directions.

    "You're not stopping me! You're not stopping me!" yelled the agent, as captured by several television cameras. "I'm with the president."

    During the fracas, another Secret Service agent was roughly pulled from the tumult and pushed against a concrete wall by Chilean security. A few seconds later, after posing for yet more pictures about 15 feet inside the doorway, Mr. Bush and the rest of the party turned to enter the dining room. But the president quickly turned his head to the growing din just outside.

    Mr. Bush calmly turned right as the other three continued on and inserted himself into the fight. The president reached over two rows of Chilean security guards, grabbed his lead agent by the shoulder of his suit jacket and began to pull.

* * * *

    A few Chilean guards turned their heads and noticed that the arm draped over their shoulders was that of the president, and the line softened. Mr. Bush pulled his agent through, who was heard to say, "Get your hands off me" as he passed roughly through the doorway.

    Mr. Bush then adjusted his shirt cuff and said something to the first dignitary he passed as a grin crossed his face.

Reading about how leadership works among the Marines in Fallujah, we see an echo of that in the President's conduct.

November 18, 2004

Mrs. Hassan, Martyr

Mrs. Hassan, Martyr
Originally uploaded by octopod.

A former student of Mrs. Hassan, murdered by swine in Iraq, writes:

Mrs. Hassan was my English teacher in The British Council in Baghdad in Al-Wazirya district, I remember her years ago with her Irish accent telling me it's not Important how many words I must learn but the pronunciation of the words I already knew must be perfected.

Mrs. Hassan speak s perfect Arabic and she has a heart of gold, she's been kidnapped today killed by (men in pajamas), turn Iraq upside down and save her find them.

Is there any doubt about what and whom we are dealing with, and how we must respond?

Avenge her death. Prevent more. Our soldiers must prevail.

HT to Gerald.

November 17, 2004

Bah! Humbug! Redivivus

If this story in the Boston Globe is to be believed, Target (pronounced "tar-zhay") is not allowing Salvation Army bellringers in front of their stores this season.

Hugh Hewitt mentioned this on his talk show and it struck a chord, apparently, and is now a major foofaraw.

You don't have to be Christian to recognize that this country has a Christian tradition and nominally Christian majority, and Christmas has a religious meaning as well as a general moral connotation of "peace on earth, good will to men."

Bad enough we've been politically corrected into "the Holidays" and strange readings of the constitution that allows Santa Clauses but not crêches on government property.

Now a big public company that makes lots of money out of the material side of the holiday (perhaps overly material?), won't even allow a traditional, and pretty effective, charity solicit in front of its stores.

Weird, especially when there's usually an oddball solicitor or two outside of most Targets I've been to in Southern California. If you find this news item unsettling, email them here.

November 16, 2004

Famous First Words

In spite of political differences can we all agree on the third sentence quoted below from this by Lileks?

Oh, there’s news; the cabinet shakeup is interesting. Yay Condi Rice. I want her to go to Saudi Arabia, and I want her first words upon getting off the plane to be “I’ll drive.”

Bye, Colin!

At the risk of pointing out the nudity of yet another monarch, I'm not one of those who is distressed by the departure of Colin Powell. Long overdue, if you ask me. The man is a model of rectitude, no doubt, and a poster boy for American opportunity. He also wasn't much of a Secretary of State, as Christopher Hitchens points out here with his usual iconoclasm.

Here's a Hitchens sampler:

"There would be no need to mention the “Quartet”—the all-inclusive Powellite force that comprises (or comprised; it’s hard to say) the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia—if its utter failure had only involved that cemetery of diplomacy, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. More important to us is the question, does the dogma of multilateralism outweigh all experience? Recent history suggests an answer. The Europeans failed their very first post-Cold War test, in directly neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina, and had to implore American help. The Gulf Arabs, and their partial allies in Egypt and Syria, could not have recovered statehood for Kuwait on their own, and had to beseech the help of the United States, which—on that basis—was able to recruit an overpowering majority in the United Nations. Colin Powell as national security advisor and Colin Powell as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff sternly opposed both rescue operations until the balance in Washington shifted decisively against him. On the issue of the former Yugoslavia, he had a celebrated confrontation with then U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright, who accused him of being unwilling to employ military superiority in any circumstances."

Powell was no great shakes as a diplomat, didn't like to travel, and leakily sniped at his Administration rivals.

His caution about using power unless one is using enough, reasonable on its face, sometimes did seem to be a refusal to use it at all. The self-censoring caution of a man of color rising in a white society in difficult circumstances, à la LA Mayor Tom Bradley? Or a lesson of Vietnam learned too well?

Whatever my criticism, I thank him for his efforts at a very difficult job and his years of service, and salute his gravitas.

As for Condi Rice, this wasn't supposed to be the job she wanted, but if, like Porter Goss may be doing over at CIA, she jerks chains that have long since needed jerking, she may surprise and delight us all.

November 15, 2004

Polynesian Update

The weasels are trying to save Flosse's apples, but it may not work:

"France's state council, the highest administrative court, partially annulled the results of elections in French Polynesia opening a possible way out from a political crisis in the Pacific territory.

The council ruled that because of irregularities in some voting stations, May's territorial elections in the islands of Tahiti and Moorea were invalid.

The Government in Paris was said to be considering the possibility of calling new elections for the whole of French Polynesia in a bid to secure a clear majority in the territorial assembly."

Flosse, Chirac's buddy, did better in the outer islands, so they're trying to rerun the election only in Tahiti and Mo'orea where Temaru prevailed narrowly. Temaru wants new elections everywhere.

Prediction: there will be new elections throughout French Polynesia, or else there will be more turmoil.

November 14, 2004

Hayek In NIMBY-land

I wrote a long post in my Laguna Beach blog about zoning and the development entitling process in Orange County, California, the regulatory process, and the ideas of the economist Friedrich Hayek.

November 10, 2004

To the Barricades With Caviar and Crême Fraiche

I posted this on our family blog, but thought it ok for the cognoscenti who happen upon this blog to share:

Those who have not abandoned the cause of the proletariat for real estate investment and Dominican cigars will be pleased to see this.

Why should caviar, after all, be monopolized be the bourgeoisie?

A few years ago, the Wall St. journal ran a piece entitled something like "Karl Marx, this Bud's for you!" That was when beer commercials showed brawny, hard working guys getting off work and knocking back a cold one or two. Why not Veuve Cliquot instead?

Tom Wolfe, a few years earlier wrote two famous essays, Radical Chic and Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers, about how in certain circles it was cool to be an enemy of the state, and to let self-proclaimed black radicals abuse you.

Now it's gone commercial in a different way. Ah, la nostalgie de la boue!. Read all about that here a few posts down, at October 22 (especially the Comment).

Brings to mind Ferlinghetti's line, "I'm a social climber climbing down, and the descent is difficult."

If ya like fish eggs, Dean and DeLuca make the descent more gracious and tastier.

A Liberal Explains the Election

Martin Peretz, a moderate liberal, connected with The New Republic (he owns it) comments here on the problems with the Kerry campaign.

November 9, 2004

Polynesian Update

The crisis in French Polynesia continues. The pro-independence Oscar Temaru still sits in the gaudy presidential palace. A general strike is planned. Report here.

The French have pushed the Maohi around long enough, even while subsidizing them to an extent.

I still fantasize about the idea of a U.S. Naval Task Force showing up so the French have someone to surrender to, even if it's not practical or wise, really.

One thing I know. Flosse is Chirac's buddy, and they're both crooks.

A Solution for Arafat

Take him to the Adriatic, prop him up in a wheelchair, and dump him into the ocean.

Remember Klinghoffer.

The Battle of Falluja

Our hearts and thoughts go out to our men and women in combat, and their British and Iraqi allies.

Let them be safe and victorious. Our cause is just, our soliders are brave and well-trained.

November 7, 2004

It's Come to This: The Decline of Europe

Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was taken of his bicycle and murdered by a Muslim fanatic who didn't like an arty movie he made that was critical of Islam.

A Dutch artist put up a mural that said "Thou shalt not kill." After a local imam or mullah complained that this was racist, the authorities destroyed the mural. More details and a picture of the (not very esthetic) mural here.

Europe is in a full-blown decline, headed for dhimmification, unless its people take action, and soon. If action comes later, it may be too late, or take an extreme form that will carry its own dangers.

A Riff on the Apple From Flyoverland

We have a private family blog on which my wife and I are the lone Bush voters. It gets heated, which scares some of the young 'uns, and a lot of it is about the Red-Blue, religious-secular, coastal-flyover dichotomy. I saw a post by the charming and witty James Lileks and decided to quote it at length.

It's worth reproducing here:

One of my favorite bloggers (and also a professional columnist) is James Lileks, who was born in Fargo, I think, and lives in MPLS. He writes about his daughter, "Gnat," various kind of memorabilia, and just published a book on bad décor. Here he has some typically warm-hearted but incisive comments on the blue-red, bicoastal-flyover foofaraw occupying the blogosphere these days (forgive me, Jim, if I quote you at length -- I'm introducing you to potential new readers):

In the New York Times, some angst from our betters:

"Everybody seems to hate us these days," said Zito Joseph, a 63-year-old retired psychiatrist. "None of the people who are likely to be hit by a terrorist attack voted for Bush. But the heartland people seemed to be saying, 'We're not affected by it if there would be another terrorist attack.' "

Sir. Please. First of all, on a purely practical level, if New York takes a hit, the economy takes a hit. There are people in North Dakota who write financial management software used by big companies. The economy goes south for a year, they might well go south forever. On an emotional level, an attack on New York is an attack on us all. No one tunes in at midnight on New Year’s Eve to watch the corn cob drop in Des Moines, or whatever they do. For that matter, we simple folk in flyoverland tune in at eleven o’clock to watch New York declare the old year dead. Our own midnight feels like an anticlimax. We don’t even mind that you came up with the next new year first; hell, we’re used to it. We get one more hour out of the old one, and that’s fine.

That said, if I may quote Rita Moreno, who sang the greatest lyric of the latter half of the 20th century: I like the Island Manhattan. Smoke on your pipe and put that in. I could never live there, because I need space and mobility in terms the city can’t provide. But once a year I go there, and I never feel as alive as I do my first day in town. I’m not sure I could take that much exultation on a daily basis, and I would hate to become used to the Chanin Building at night, or the great golden sky of Grand Central. More than that, it’s the small places that abide, the idea that I can walk into Beekman Liquors on Lex and feel as though I stepped back one year, five, ten, thirty. It’s a miraculous place, if only for the sheer variety of ordinary things it provides. Just as every man feels himself somewhat less for never having been a soldier, every man would like to think he could have been a New Yorker in the classic mold, however he defines it. Hate you? I love you more than you know. We may disagree about the means to keep it safe; that’s fine. But don’t assume that someone sitting in a smallish metropolis half a nation away is indifferent to your fate and safety. On the contrary. They touch one hair on your head, they should sleep with the fishes.

We continue, alas:

"I'm saddened by what I feel is the obtuseness and shortsightedness of a good part of the country--the heartland," Dr. Joseph said. "This kind of redneck, shoot-from-the-hip mentality and a very concrete interpretation of religion is prevalent in Bush country--in the heartland."

Sir, speaking as a heartlander who makes it to New York whenever he can, may I kindly suggest you get out of town more often. There’s only one New York, which is why it is so important. But there are a hundred thousand Fargos, which is why they matter too.

As for a “Shoot from the hip mentality and a very concrete interpretation of religion” – well, if you hang around the right corners in New York long enough you’ll probably see a gun battle AND some Lubavitchers handing out literature; this would not make me assume all New Yorkers are gang-bangers or Torah-thumpers. It’s a big country. Please take this in the spirit it’s offered: we watch the news that comes from New York, read the magazines that come from New York, see the shows that come from New York. It’s entirely possible we know you better than you know us. Nu?

I particularly liked the part in red.

I remember when I was a kid, we took a car trip to DC and Virginia. Saw Monticello and the Skyline Drive. I was particularly impressed by playing miniature golf in some western Va. town, and realized there was a world west of Bucks County and south of Staten Island that was very different.

If our bicoastals would be as multicultural for Lutherans and Babdists as they claim to be for Gujaratis and the Hmong, perhaps we can remember that we really are one country. Nu?

November 6, 2004

On the Word "Progressive"

Whenever I hear the word "progressive" in today's political discource, it makes me grind my teeth.

I have a dim memory of the 1948 Presidential campaign in the U.S. The Communist Party and various innocents and fellow travelers ran former Vice President Henry Wallace for President. The segregationists ran Strom Thurmond in the same campaign, which Harry Truman surprised the pundits by winning.

The CP christened their puppet party the "Progressive Party." It survived a couple of elections. I remember one of the Hallinans from San Francisco running one year.

The term "Progressive" had two connotations. The first was a spurious identification with an earlier "Progressive" movement of Bob LaFollette, to make the puppet party seem to come out of an indigenous American tradition. The second was a view, part of Marxism and other social theories, that there was an upward movement in history, from savagery to barbarism to slave empires to feudalism to capitalism, culminating in a socialist revolution and communist utopia. Others, not Marxists, also believed that on one measurement or another, there was an upward progress to history.

By some measures, mostly material, there has been upward movement. Vaccination, clean water, and electricity make life easier for millions compared even to 150 years ago. Technology, of course, has also made possible the realization of mass oppression and murder on an unprecedented scale, and arguably has led to the destruction of community, folk traditions, and other good things in the name of a commerciial mess of over-salted, aritificially-flavored pottage.

The concept of progress in human institutions thus is open to question. There are more slaves today than 100 years ago. Piracy has been revived, especially in Southeast Asia. Despite the vows of "Never again!" genocidal episodes break out with alarming frequency. Proving Bertrand Russell's point that suffering does not improve character, the grandchildren of the Holocaust, however great the provocation, have made no "progress" in their dealings with the Palestinians, who are even more enamored of futile violence against the innocent.

In my youth, I became acquainted with the work of Russell Kirk, the conservative scholar. Kirk reasoned that there were certain constants in human nature, one of which was a perversity and inclination to evil that Christians call "Original Sin." Once we recognize this black hole in the heart of man, we realize that the notion of human perfectibiity through better legislation or education or nutrition will inevitably be tainted by the evil at the heart of man, and come a cropper. Better, therefore, to stick with institutions and habits that have grown up over time, recognizing that they need to change over time, but an effort to change them radically based on ideas born of human reason is almost doomed to tragedy.

Hayek, the libertarian Austrian economist, came to a similar conclusion through economic reasoning. The information necessary to plan a modern economy effectively does not exist, and control from the top leads inevitably to systematic distortion of what information the planners receive. Moreover, even if the techniques of centralized planning existed, the choices to be made would not be self-evident, leading inevitably to a political, and possibly violent struggle over what direction planning is to take.

In short, as Lord Acton put it, "Power corrupts, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely."

The upshot of all this, to me, is that those who claim the title of "progressive" may be disguised sympathizers of revolutionary socialism, or at least of a class-based view of politics. In any of these cases, they are hiding their true beliefs; or at a minimum, they are believers in the possibility of perfecting human society through government policy, which is a dangerous business usually ending in systematic oppression and mass death.

"Progressive" also has a slightly out-of-date feel to it.

"Progressives" think too highly of themselves just to say they are left of center, or advocate certain reforms. No, they have a world view. They march in step with the footfalls of history.

The ranting maniacs who dominate Pacifica Radio, the true believers on the Nation magazine, the wearers of Birkenstocks, the shrillest of the feminists. These are the "progressives," and so shall they remain, as history, with its unpredictable rises and falls, twists and turns, leaves them by some roadside, ranting and shaking their fists at a world deaf to their wisdom and blind to the beauty of their ideals.

Or so it seems to me.

On Evil in the Human Heart

The debate on secular vs. religious America is made deeper by the pre- and post-election chatter. A thoughtful presentation of a Christian view of the matter is found on Dr. Bob's blog, to which I've just added a few comments of my own.

So from a belief that we had to reelect the President, whatever his failings, because the Democrats would utterly fail to protect the country, I suddenly find myself back in the quandaries of my youth, which I never resolved.

Attracted to the skeptical view of human perfectibility in Russell Kirk and others, I naturally flirted with religion, as I have all my life, notwithstanding a secular upbringing and a profound skepticism on many levels.

Now I find the political questions again leading me, in the afternoon of my life, to the questions about the nature of man and the existence and meaning of God.

In my next post, I'm going to ponder the hollow seductions of the word "progressive" and how it relates to some of these issues.

Damn! The Ultimate Questions again!

Chiraqistan in the Pacific

We’ve had the pleasure of visiting Huahine, one of the islands of French Polynesia, several times. It’s quite lovely, the people are pleasant, and a good time was had by all.

However, he fly in the Polynesian ointment is that they are controlled by our old pseudo-ally, France. Many of the French people on Huahine are lovely people with whom we have no quarrel. But as colonial overlord, France has not covered itself with glory.

France’s most famous offense against the Polynesians is that when they decided that their dubious gloire demanded that they develop a nuclear weapons capability, the force de frappe. Of course, the Hexagon (metropolitan France) was no place to test nukes, and so they chose Mururoa, an atoll in Polynesia, with disastrous results for the environment and the islanders – a few menial jobs for a while but lots of radiation where it wasn’t supposed to be. The same technology that makes the aircraft carrier De Gaulle a useless hulk and the new Paris airport terminal a pile of twised steel and concrete.

France has tried to make up for this particular offense by throwing subsidies around. It also exports retired civil servants, and more or less monopolizes most businesses that aren’t the province of the Hakka Chinese. Their policies are old-fashioned mercantilism. French wine is cheap, but other imported products are expensive and poor quality due to the exorbitant import duties.

And it goes without saying that the French display their customary arrogance with respect to the maohi (Polynesians). On the other hand, they have turned the islands into a dependent welfare state, so that unless their subsidies were replaced, it would be a slow, hard way up if the French left.

For many years, “autonomous” Polynesia’s President has been their own Ferdinand Marcos, a crony of French President Jacques Chirac named Gaston Flosse. Flosse is the Ferdinand Marcos of Tahiti. Like Chirac, he has a reputation as a crook. Some say he made his money from bribes related to gambling. An unsavory, self-aggrandizing old man.

In recent elections, a pro-Maohi, pro-independence leader, Oscar Temaru unexpectedly won a coalition victory and was elected President. Flosse, with the connivance of the Chhiraqistanis, bought off a small group of Temaru’s supporters, staged a vote of no confidence, and reassumed the Presidency.

Now Flosse and his supporters have occupied the key government buildings, refusing to move until new elections are called. 25,000 Tahitians marched in support of Temaru, and there’s a standoff until Paris decides whether to call new elections or to order Temaru and his group to leave. There’s a French Navy presence and some foreign legionnaires (fugitive Romanians with shady pasts and whatnot). More could be brought in from New Caledonia.

Real unrest would threaten tourism, and even conceivably a revolt, which would be embarrassing to France. Tahitians, of course, aren’t allowed to own guns. They hunt the immense wild pigs on the slopes of the volcanoes with spears.

It is to be hoped that Temaru prevails and new elections are called. Among other things, they want to encourage Polynesians to learn English, which is the language of education in most of the Pacific, as well as to promote the study and use of Tahitian.

My more aggressive self fantasizes that the next time France beats its chest and obstructs the United States for money and out of its customary snotty resentment, the U.S. send a small naval task force and some marines to lie offshore while Polynesia declares its independence and throws the French out.

In this day and age, why should the singes capitulards (“surrender monkeys”) be allowed to keep and mismanage a colonial empire?


For a reasonably fair, but damning look at the U.S.’s troubled relationship with France, read Our Oldest Enemy, a revealing debunking of the idea that France is our oldest ally.

Yet Another Blurb on Leftist Intolerance

David Brooks points out that the reasons for Bush's victory are complex, but they certainly aren't the result of a takeover by millions of Jimmy Swaggarts. Brooks sees the log in the left's eye:
"But the same insularity that caused many liberals to lose touch with the rest of the country now causes them to simplify, misunderstand and condescend to the people who voted for Bush. If you want to understand why Democrats keep losing elections, just listen to some coastal and university town liberals talk about how conformist and intolerant people in Red America are. It makes you wonder: why is it that people who are completely closed-minded talk endlessly about how open-minded they are?"

A case in point is this bigoted rant by the author Jane Smiley.

Ordinary Americans are smart enough to smell out the contempt of the bicoastal literati. Keep writing, Maureen and Jane! You'll insure a 50-year GOP hegemony.

November 5, 2004

Name-Calling vs. Disagreement

Mickey Kaus, a Democrat who endorsed but dislikes Kerry, takes on Paul Krugman for a stance many liberals take -- equating disagreement with extremism or intolerance:

"Paul Krugman thinks 'opposition to abortion' is 'intolerance'--at least if he means what he writes in today's NYT. Why isn't opposition to abortion a form of principled idealism with which Krugman disagrees? Who's intolerant here? "

Not to say there aren't intolerant people on the anti-abortion side of things, but a view that abortion is morally questionable is certainly defensible by reasoned argument.

As one who, like the majority of the American people, doesn't take an "either-or" position on all the abortion-related issues, I suppose I am an intolerant extremist to the Krugmans and an aider and abettor of baby-killing to the other side. My (dare I say it) nuanced position apparently puts me at risk of being an object of both sides' invective.

November 4, 2004

My Candidate for the Supremes

Alex Kozinski
Originally uploaded by octopod.
Alex Kozinski, a justice on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, would make a good Supreme Court appointee. The guy's brilliant and can be funny, but is deadly serious as a justice. He would bring an intensity and wit to questioning of lawyers before the Court that would be quite refreshing.

Kozinski has a somewhat libertarian philosphy, writes clearly (sometimes breezily), and could win confirmation. I have no idea what he thinks about Roe v. Wade.

Liabilities: slight accent (born in Romania, I think), and would be the third Supreme Court Justice of Jewish origin if appointed to replace Rehnquist.

My two cents, anyway.

Generalissimo Francisco Franco Is Still Dead

Yasser Arafat's illness put me in mind of the old Saturday Night Live chestnut, "Thus just in. Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead." Rantburg posted it first.

It also puts me in mind of the old Steve Martin routine. Some medieval guy suddenly thinks about some modern idea like airplanes or democracy, and then rejects the idea. The Arafat version would go like this:

"Hmm. Maybe we can stop bombing people and sit down with the Israelis like adults, for the sake of our children, make the best albeit imperfect peace we can, and built an Arab Hong Kong or Singapore in the Middle East . . . . [long reflective pause} . . . . but, naaaaah!"

Maureen Dowd's Panic

Maureen Dowd had a meltdown in the New York Times today.

A woman who thinks the Republicans are extremists wrote this:

W. ran a jihad in America so he can fight one in Iraq - drawing a devoted flock of evangelicals, or "values voters," as they call themselves, to the polls by opposing abortion, suffocating stem cell research and supporting a constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

"Jihad" may just mean struggle, but in today's usage it implies a violent one, often terroristic in nature. A political campaign, even if you disagree with it, is not a jihad. And I don't think Dowd meant it figuratively, like Eisenhower's "great crusade." So differing with her makes one a terrorist?

None of the three positions Dowd cites are extreme, whether or not one agrees with them or not. There has always been a sizable body of opinion opposing abortion, which is why it was illegal in many states before Roe. Gay marriage is a very new concept in public debate, and pretty radical at that. The fruits of having judges impose it as a constitutional right are seen in the 11 states that repudiated it by popular vote.

Millions of people quite take the positions Dowd lists, and have reasons for them as rational or irrational as the average New York liberal. Dowd, quite typically, is not just arguing that she's right, but assuming that those who disagree with her are extremist, stupid, and morally inferior.

Dowd, of course, succeeded Anna Quindlen as a Times columnist. For years, the Times has relegated its token female columnist to a quasi-gossipy, semi-humorous second balcony, while the men sit in the loges talking about serious stuff.

Dowd's piece today, along with the hand-wringing letters to the editor in the same paper, show that on the left, panic and outrage at the fact that the country doesn't believe they have a natural right to run things has not been replaced by reflection or analysis.

Some cooler heads will try, no doubt, but don't expect results any time soon.

I Crow a Little

My pre-election prediction:

If I had to guess, at this point, I'd say Bush 49-48, and in the EC, 281-257. That's close. The GOP will pick up a few Senate seats, enough so that Lincoln Chaffee can't be the next Jeffords, and a net gain in the House.

A little low on the popular vote -- Nader and Badarnik didn't do so well -- and within 2 points on the electoral. Right on as to Congress.

Better than Zogby, fer sure. And he does it for a living.

Here's Z's mea culpa--or weasel-words:

Statement from John Zogby on 2004 Presidential Election Results:

“We feel strongly that our pre-election polls were accurate on virtually every state. Our predictions on many of the key battleground states like Ohio and Florida were within the margin of error. I thought we captured a trend, but apparently that result didn’t materialize.

“We always saw a close race, and a close race is what we’ve got. I’ve called this the Armageddon Election for some time—a closely-divided electorate with high partisan intensity on each side."

More candid than Rather on the documents, anyway.

November 3, 2004

He did the right thing

This sotry shows Kerry doing the right thing. The numbers weren't there.

Gotta give him credit. Overnight was not too long to wait.

Where Kerry Went Wrong, and Where We Go from Here

The country is changing politically. The Republican lock on the Congress is not an anomaly, but the result of tectonic movement in the political outlook of the populace, and the decay of leftism in all its varieties. Bitterness will not change this fact, but it might blind the opposition to the important role that remains for it.

As for Sen. Nuance, Kerry ran a terrible campaign. First and foremost, he was stuck with a mixed message on terrorism and Iraq. "I'm tougher and smarter and can fight the war better" was one part of the message. The other part was "The iraq war was wrong, we should defer to allies (France?) and the U.N." Mushy, awful stuff.

Second, he did not sincerely project his own personality. He's a well-spoken, rather stiff millionaire. People might very well elect someone different from them, but Kerry's pathetic attempts to look like a regular guy contributed to his artificiality. The dead goose charade, "Lambert Field," and such are good examples of this problem.

Third, the Vietnam thing, which was an attempt to overcome the mixed message problem, was a big mistake. Vietnam is over, and the extraordinary effort to pimp on Kerry's military record opened up his anti-war, anti-military past and the questions about his military record.

Fourth, Edwards was not the right choice for VP. Kerry needed someone older with more gravitas. Gephart was the obvious choice, because of his long experience and the chance he could help win Missouri. Edwards has charm, but as VP he would be "John the Unready."

Fifth, Kerry didn't distance himself from the wackos in his party. With his physical stature and good diction, he looked and sounded presidential. Throw Michael Moore, Hollywood celebrities, and assorted rock stars and demonstrators in the mix and you lose that image. Remember Clinton and "Sister Souljah"? A symbolic line-drawing would have helped Kerry.

Finally, Kerry didn't stay on message. "I have a plan" is not a plan. This lack of focus and courage has plagued the Dems for some time. Bitterness about Bush was not a substitute for a one or a few key, repeated themes. Kerry either didn't have them, or couldn't stay on message clearly and consistently enough to persuade the voters. Bush, by contrast, projected consistency and conviction.

What now? Kerry, Daschle and others should face the music and concede the election. They should congratulate the winners, make the ritual offer to cooperate, and go lick their wounds somewhere warm.

Each party needs to rethink itself. The Dems face the danger of becoming the party exclusively of the coasts and the single, secular urbanites. Maybe Hillary can bring it back to the center, where Bill Clinton was able to win two terms. They don't need more Pelosis, for sure

The GOP's red state base is probably mobilized to the max, and the party needs to reach out. When does preemptive war turn into adventurism, the "moral agenda" turn sectarian, tax cutting and suspicion of regulation into corporate welfare, "compassionate conservatism" turn into big-government fiscal irresponsibility?

It's going to be an annoying few weeks, until reality sinks into the self-discredited MSM and the Democrats, and a challenging four years. We are at war. Even if W. is no Lincoln, we have avoided electing a McClellan. Now there's work to do.

Remember "Be a Good Sport?"

When I was a kid, if you lost, you were expected to put your best face on it, shake hands with the other side, and try to win the next time. If you won, you weren't supposed to do a chicken dance and mock the losers. It was called "being a good sport."

It is eminently clear that Bush has won. He's up about 140,000 votes in Ohio, with all precincts counted. There are some number of provisional ballots, and a lesser number of absentee ballots in the mail. If you ignore the absentees, which are likely to favor Bush, and assume that there really are 250,000 provisional ballots, and all will ultimately be counted, the election is still over. Kerry would have to get over 56 per cent of the vote. Even if there is some skewing this is unlikely. If a more realistic total of 200,000 provisional ballots is counted, Kerry would have to get 70 per cent to win, with no military absentees. If the 175,000 figure is correct, and all the provisionals are counted, Kerry would have to get 80 per cent, with no military absentees. In short, it's ALL OVER.

Moreover, Pennsylvania, where Philadelphia is hardly immune to voter fraud, went for Kerry by a lesser margin than Ohio. How many provisional ballots and absentees are there in Pennsylvania? Yet there's not a peep out of anyone about this state.

Some caution on the part of the networks and papers was wise. The exit polling was apparently useless, and premature calls in Florida last time discouraged voters in the panhandle. But at this point Ohio, Nevada, Iowa and New Mexico all have clear Bush leads, and both the Dems and their allies in the MSM are pretending there's something left to decide in this election. This in the face of a convincing and incontestable popular vote majority for W. Time to stop the bitter, divisive approach and face the facts.

If there were a genuine possibility of victory, or real signs of widespread cheating, not conceding early makes some sense. Here, though, the MSM and the Dems simply look stupid and petty. In short, they are not being good sports. This attitude reflects the deep bitterness found on the left. Not virtuous, not smart. Be a good sport, dammit.

November 2, 2004

Bush Wins -- The Republic Stands

At this point (11:07 pm PST) Fox has declared Bush the winner in states amounting to 269 electoral votes, which if it holds guarantees him a tie. It appears that Bush will at least carry New Mexico, which will put him above 270 electoral votes, even allowing for a faithless elector. Bush also has an 11,000 vote advantage in Iowa with 96% of precints counted. He also has a nearly 4% margin over Kerry in the popular vote and appears to have more than 50%.

This vote is not an overwhelming victory but it is a mandate sufficiently decisive to make it clear that Bush has a mandate for his second term. After all the bitterness of the campaign, it remains to be seen whether or how the country can be reunited. Bush began in a conciliatory way, but as time has gone on has taken more or less partisan postions. We remain a country sectionally and culturally divided. A Giuliani or a McCain could try to overcome the divide, but it's not clear whether the Bushies want to or can.

I am relieved and apprehensive at the same time. We had to reelect Bush, because he would fight and Kerry might not, and instead defer to Chiraq and other dhimmis, and to the United Nations. But Bush, too, has glaring deficiencies, some of which he may correct in a second term. I'll save that for later.

We have to fight the war harder, and smarter, and prepare the country for sacrifice.

Carville's a Pro

Carville's comment shows he's a pro:
"'REALITY IS HERE, and I think we've got to give the President and his team a lot of credit. ... They've won it.' So said James Carville just now on CNN.