January 31, 2007

Joe Ain't Slow, Just Inarticulate

I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.
-- Slow Joe Biden

Foot in mouth, to be sure, but SJB is on to something. Obama doesn't use black dialect. His demeanor is conventional, and race demagoguery isn't his stock in trade. He's the Sidney Poitier of black politicians, and he's not just coming to dinner, he wants to run the restaurant.

Obama doesn't play into whites' negative stereotypes. He's like Tom Bradley or Colin Powell in that respect. What's not to like, besides his politics?

Consequences

Now is a good time for clear thinking and speaking. If we intend to succeed (and it is vital that we do), then we must persist. If the "surge" doesn't work, then more troops and different strategies should be employed.

If we are going to throw in the towel, then we should bring the troops home promptly, lick our wounds and prepare for the inevitable Third Gulf War, which we will have to fight under far worse conditions than currently. Either of those options are at least honest (although the latter is dangerously foolish).

But the current mentality in Washington -- to pretend that there is a third way between victory and defeat -- is morally despicable. Washington politicians of both parties are trying to salve their consciences for the ignominy of accepting defeat by fooling either themselves or the public into believing they are doing otherwise.

Perhaps they can fool their own flaccid minds, but history grades hard and true. And history may enter its ledger with shocking promptness.

--Tony Blankley
Blankley's right about most of the critics in Congress. They focus on the mistakes and the problems, feeding and feeding on the public mood, but few of them will face the strategy and consequences of withdrawal, as Pat Buchanan, for example, has done. Fewer still are prepared to discuss changes in our national strategy as a result of the war's consequences and lessons. Most are for interventionism, as long as the national interest isn't directly implicated (as in Darfur) and you can do it from the air (as in Serbia).

January 30, 2007

Inshallah

But if we change our way of doing business tactically, operationally, and psychologically—stop the arrest-and-release insanity, eliminate key militia leaders and disband their followers, expand the rules of engagement, accelerate cash payments for salaried Iraqis, patrol the borders, all while maintaining the veneer of Iraqi autonomy—even at this 11th hour we could entice the proverbial bystanders (a majority of the country) to cast their lot with the perceived winners: namely, us.

--Victor Davis Hanson
I hope Hanson is right, of course, and Petraeus does these things. Is it defeatist to say, "If my Grandma had wheels, she'd be a trolley car"?

Miracles of the Prophet Barack

In [political science professor Roger] Boesche's European politics class, [classmate Ken] Sulzer said he was impressed at how few notes [italics mine] Obama took. "Where I had five pages, Barry had probably a paragraph of the pithiest, tightest prose you'd ever see. … It was very short, very sweet. Obviously somebody almost Clintonesque in being able to sum a whole lot of concepts and place them into a succinct written style."
--Larry Gordon via The Obama Messiah Watch

Hey, I didn't take notes either. I drew cartoon animals around the edge of the notebook. I graduated summa cum laude.

How come I'm not President?

January 29, 2007

To Reckon What We've Lost


The opinionated and interesting Tilman Spengler, who writes for the Asia Times, expatiates on modern art, in a piece entitled "Admit It--You Really Hate Modern Art."
Modern art is ideological, as its proponents are the first to admit. It was the ideologues, namely the critics, who made the reputation of the abstract impressionists, most famously Clement Greenberg's sponsorship of Jackson Pollack in The Partisan Review. It is not supposed to "please" the senses on first glance, after the manner of a Raphael or an Ingres, but to challenge the viewer to think and consider.

Why is it that the audience for modern art is quite happy to take in the ideological message of modernism while strolling through an art gallery, but loath to hear the same message in the concert hall? It is rather like communism, which once was fashionable among Western intellectuals. They were happy to admire communism from a distance, but reluctant to live under communism.

When you view an abstract expressionist canvas, time is in your control. You may spend as much or as little time as you like, click your tongue, attempt to say something sensible and, if you are sufficiently pretentious, quote something from the Wikipedia write-up on the artist that you consulted before arriving at the gallery. When you listen to atonal music, for example Schoenberg, you are stuck in your seat for a quarter of an hour that feels like many hours in a dentist's chair. You cannot escape. You do not admire the abstraction from a distance. You are actually living inside it. You are in the position of the fashionably left-wing intellectual of the 1930s who made the mistake of actually moving to Moscow, rather than admiring it at a safe distance.

That is why at least some modern artists come into very serious money, but not a single one of the abstract composers can earn a living from his music.
Spengler seems to be saying that modern art is essentially ugly and its purpose is to destroy our sense of beauty. He cites an article in Wikipedia for the proposition that Picassos "Les Demoiselle D'Avignon," a portrait of five Barcelona whores, is full of allusions to El Greco's work, usually referred to as "The Breaking of the Seal" or "The Opening of the Fifth Seal." But, says Spengler, the allusion is not a tribute, but an assault:
Many critics maintain that Picasso's famous painting originally named "The Bordello at Avignon" (Les Demoiselles d'Avignon) was the single most influential modernist statement. In this painting Picasso lampooned El Greco's great work The Vision of St John. Picasso reduces the horror of the opening of the Fifth Seal in the Book of Revelation to a display of female flesh in a whorehouse. Picasso is trying to "take back" El Greco, by corrupting our capacity to see the original.

By inflicting sufficient ugliness upon us, the modern artists believe, they will wear down our capacity to see beauty.
I dunno. My mother was first a painter, then a sculptor, and although she flirted with abstraction, she was much more interested in the figure. I grew up with modern art. As a kid, I took art classes at the Museum of Modern Art, and Picasso's "Three Musicians" and the Douanier Rousseau's "Sleeping Gypsy" were as common place to me as Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington is to generations of public school students who saw it on the wall every day.

I sat through arguments between my mother and her father, who either didn't get it, or just enjoyed a good matching of wits. Modern art holds no strangeness or horrors for me, even if it is a product of a pewter age.

Spengler's larger picture, of course, has some truth in it. The moderns' efforts to deconstruct art, to strip it of bourgeois illusions and reduce it to structural elements like colors and planes, or to mock its social location (as in Dada) was analytical and destructive, and although modernist images retain their place in commercial art as well as in the museum world, the average man still prefers his landscapes, and most of the trends in modernism are played out by now.

The deconstruction done, where is shelter? Perhaps, "now," as the wanker Portnoy's shrink says, "ve can begin."

January 28, 2007

You Can't Arrest Me, I'm a Yout'

In researching for some comments on peace marches and sectarian leftism, I happened on the website of something called the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition.

If they use the word "Youth," five'll getcha ten they're communists of some sort.

Iraq On the Ground

Read Michael Yon.

Whatever one may think of the war and the strategy, our men are professional, honorable, and brave.

America First Redux?

It is not difficult to understand why Jewish people desire the overthrow of Nazi Germany. The persecution they suffered in Germany would be sufficient to make bitter enemies of any race.

No person with a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution of the Jewish race in Germany. But no person of honesty and vision can look on their pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a policy both for us and for them. Instead of agitating for war, the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way for they will be among the first to feel its consequences.

Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength. History shows that it cannot survive war and devastations. A few far-sighted Jewish people realize this and stand opposed to intervention. But the majority still do not.

Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.

I am not attacking either the Jewish or the British people. Both races, I admire. But I am saying that the leaders of both the British and the Jewish races, for reasons which are as understandable from their viewpoint as they are inadvisable from ours, for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war.

We cannot blame them for looking out for what they believe to be their own interests, but we also must look out for ours. We cannot allow the natural passions and prejudices of other peoples to lead our country to destruction.

--Charles Lindbergh, 1941
Larison points to Lindbergh's speech as evidence against the unjust anathematization of a historical figure in order to bash present-day opponents.

Examination of the question of interventionism must bring us sooner or later to the question of World War II and those who opposed American entry before Pearl Harbor. Chief among these opponents was the America First organization and its spokesman Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh today is remembered as the first to fly solo across the Atlantic, as the victim of a notorious kidnapping, and as the leader of America First.

The winners get to rewrite history, and in the light of Pearl Harbor and Hitler's declaration of war against the United States, America First gets tarred as a bunch of ignorant peckerwoods and Lindbergh as a Nazi sympathizer and antisemite. In the view of Lindbergh's critics, Exhibit A for the latter charge is the 1941 Des Moines speech. In the speech, Lindbergh lists the principal forces behind the pro-war faction as Britain, the Jews, and the Roosevelt Administration, and argues that intervention is not in the interest of America taken as a whole.

The section on the Jews, taken above, may not be a model of tact, but it hardly amounts to antisemitic agitation. There are four elements of the speech that some might take as tending that way, but the speech is carefully qualified, so that at most, Lindbergh was infelicitious in his choice of language. These three elements are (a) the references to "the Jews" as if they were a monolith; (b) the claim that Jews are influential in Hollywood and the media; (c) the warning (or threat) that war might bring with it a decline in tolerance; and (d) the contrasting of British and Jewish interests with American interests, as if Jews in this country were not American.

"The Jews," of course, don't agree on much of anything, whether in religion or politics, and they didn't then, as Lindbergh himself acknowledges. On the other hand, there are major Jewish organizations and spokesman. Even if many Jews are driven up the wall by the self-righteousness and self-importance of these groups, they are recognizable and they have influence. Even though there are plenty of Jews nowadays who are critical of Israel and Zionism, for example, it would be a bit crude but not inaccurate to say that "the Jews" favor American support for Israel.

Jews were influential in Hollywood in Lindbergh's day, and they are now; just ask Neil Gabler, who's proud of it. Just how influential Jews were in the 1941 media is not clear to me, but it's fair to say they weren't invisible when the New York Times was the newspaper of record and not a leftist birdcage-liner and Walter Lippman was the foremost political columnist. Did these media folks have a uniform view of politics or the world? Probably not. Were most of them pro-Allied? Probably.

The notion that crisis and conflict brings with it a heightened risk of ethnic and religious conflict of all kinds is familiar enough. Just ask any middle-class refugee from Baghdad. Did Lindbergh intend a threat? That's hardly clear, although there was Nazi propaganda in the era to the effect that if the Jews launch a war in Europe they would pay for it. Of course, they didn't launch the war and ended up paying anyway.

Finally, the old-fashioned reference to British and Jewish "races" advocating intervention for reasons that are "not American" logically implies that the Jewish reasons for wanting to intervene against Germany were not American, and if not close-read, that American Jews themselves were not American. Lindbergh actually didn't say the latter. What he was really saying was that German abuses against Jews were not reason enough for America to go to war.

To summarize, Lindbergh's speech is anything but an antisemitic rant, although it contains some language that in our PC age would be rephrased.

America First was a broad coalition. One could turn Lindbergh on his head and say that pro-German forces in America would favor neutrality for reasons legitimate to them, but that doesn't justify a retroactive anathematization of America First. Given the failure of Wilson's preachments about making the world safe for democracy in World War I, and the contribution of the Versailles settlement to the start of the Second War, the reluctance to intervene was understandable. So was the belief that the Roosevelt Administration was maneuvering to provide maximum help to the Allies, and pressing Japan to the brink as well.

From the perspective of half a century of interventionism/internationalism, the notion that America can survive and prosper without fighting the wars of the Old World may seem as quaint as the Mayor of Chicago threatening to bust the King of England in the snoot if he set foot in the Windy City, but the caution about fighting foreign wars that underlay America First is no longer quaint or outmoded. Neither does noticing that AIPAC is a powerful and effective pro-Israel lobby, or that some Zionist sympathizers are in the forefront of those agitating for war with Iran, an antisemite make.

What If Jimmy Carter Said This?

But unlike other sanction regimes, Israel is setting conditions but not promising anything in return. Thus, even if Haniyeh starts wearing a skullcap and Khaled Meshal begins humming Hatikva, and even if Abbas makes it mandatory to teach the heroic story of Masada in Palestinian schools, Israel does not want and is unable to propose a diplomatic alternative that would lead to the establishment of an independent and democratic Palestinian state. It does not want to - because any such proposal would mean a withdrawal from most of the territories and the dismantling of most of the settlements. It is unable to - because there is no government of Israel. After all, even when it appeared that there was a government in Israel, not a single measly illegal outpost was removed; this is a non-government that has transformed the disengagement from Gaza from a national trauma to a housing trauma; and in Hebron, or in Mount Hebron to be more precise, the sovereign provides free protection to a bunch of hooligans.
Nope, this wasn't Jimmy Carter. It was Zvi Bar'el in Haaretz. Alan Dershowitz--is Zvi an antisemite?

A peaceful and democratic Palestinian state may be an ignis fatuus.
Even now, they're busy killing one another rather than Israelis for a change. But at least Israelis seem to discuss things candidly.

January 27, 2007

Slower, Please

The New York Times Magazine has published a long article on Iran, which describes the divisions in Iranian politics and the increasing isolation of extremist President Ahmadinejad:
By mid-January, Ahmadinejad’s isolation even within his own faction was complete: 150 of 290 members of parliament, including many of Ahmadinejad’s onetime allies, signed a letter criticizing the president’s economic policies for failing to stanch unemployment and inflation. A smaller group also blamed Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory foreign-policy rhetoric for the United Nations Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran. As if that were not enough, an editorial in Jomhouri Eslami, a newspaper that reflects the views of the supreme leader, accused the president of using the nuclear issue to distract the public from his failed policies. Ahmadinejad’s behavior was diminishing popular support for the nuclear program, the editorial warned. The Iranian political system seems to be restoring its equilibrium by showing an extremist president the limits of his power. But is it an equilibrium that can hold?
In this environment, a U.S. (or Israeli) attack on Iran would very likely evoke patriotic fervor, damp down these differences, and strengthen the existing régime.

The crazies, like Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post are beating the war drums:
A proper Israeli foreign policy would serve to check and undermine Iran's international maneuvering. It would work to bring about Iran's delegitimization and isolation in the international community. It would work to dry up Iran's bank accounts and so unravel the stability of the regime and then act to overthrow it through popular insurrections. An effective, coherent foreign policy would be aimed at building solid international coalitions in which Israel could be part of an international military effort to destroy Iran's nuclear installations. Or, at the very least, it would prepare international public opinion for a unilateral Israeli military campaign against Iran.
It would be too much of a digression to parse Glick's mad politics. Suffice it to say that follow the advice of the Glicks of the world on this matter would be a disaster.

Slower, please.

Larison's Surge of Excitement

Daniel Larison, to whom I've linked before, is a prolific paleoconservative blogger and student of Byzantine history (more particularly, monotheletism). Larison writes well and prolifically, but lately has spent a great deal of time flogging poor Hugh Hewitt.

Hewitt is promoting an online pledge not to donate money to any GOP senator who supports an anti-surge resolution. Hewitt has garnered over 25,000 names, not all of them genuine and not all of them people who ever give money to candidates. Larison, who thinks the surge hopeless and the war ill-advised and worse, says Hewitt, if successful, will be contributing to a GOP débacle of seismic proportions. Hewitt, who's a party man, has always, post 9/11, seen national security as the central political issue of our time, and the GOP as the only party to defend it.

Time for my two cents.

I've come to think the war was ill-advised, as are most crusades to make the world, or some benighted part of it, safe for democracy. After the demise of the Soviet Union, it was time to rethink our forward policy and retrench our global involvements. At the same time, if the war can be brought to a more successful conclusion than the nightmare a swift withdrawal would bring, that's an outcome much to be preferred.

The question of the surge is whether it's part of a strategy that has some hope of success, just a cover for an inevitable withdrawal, or a prelude to further escalation. Only if we choose the first horn of the trilemma does the surge make sense.

The last can be dismissed, because the manpower for an escalation much larger than the surge simply doesn't exist. If there is an escalation, it will be in the form of some kind of attack on Iran. Such an attack would be a mistake or worse.

If the surge is a cover for withdrawal, it's a terrible misuse of the our finest young people who will be wounded and killed in increased numbers.

The real question, then, is whether the surge is part of a strategy that can make a difference in the outcome. That in turn depends not only upon the strategic ideas of Gen. Petraeus, the new commander, but on one's assessment of the Iraqi government. If it is irredeemably a creature of the Shi'a militias, a few thousand more troops are unlikely to stop the fragmentation of the country and its continued descent into chaos. If there is a window for the persistence of a national center that is something other than a puppet of these militias, and the strategy makes sense, the surge could have some merit.

News reports, which are often untrustworthy, suggest that Prime Minister Maliki will be unable to separate himself from the militias, and a political compromise that will isolate the jihadis will not be easy to come by.

If this estimate is accurate, the surge is not likely to be effective.

The next question is, what of the resolution? On the one hand, as more militant war opponents point out, a resolution would be ineffective, because Pres. Bush has made his mind up and a non-binding resolution would have no effect. On the other hand, such a resolution would, as Gen. Petraeus suggests, is likely to be demoralizing to the troops. It's also likely to communicate to the enemy that patience on their part will ultimately lead to a withdrawal by the U.S.

There is also the question of the proper rôles of Congress and the President. The President is commander-in-chief, and Congress cannot manage the strategy or tactics of a war. If Congress is to have a hand, it can do so through its investigative and oversight function, or through the power of the purse. The latter is something the Democrats and the Republican war opponents are not yet willing to assert.

Hewitt's pledge is aimed not at the Democrats, some of whom have opposed the war our of partisanship or as a result of political pressure, but at Republicans, who Hewitt seems to think are obligated to support the President no matter what. That's not the case. Neither are they, as Larison, normally no democrat, seems to think, obligated to follow their constituents' views of the moment.

Hewitt is certainly within his rights to try to influence the Senators of his party, and 25,000 names is hardly political chicken feed. Larison may well be right that if the war is not resolved quickly, it will divide the GOP (which has hardly covered itself with glory on other issues). I still don't know, however why he is so excited about this particular issue.

UPDATE: Larison's passionate and very logical reply, here. I also made a few editorial changes. I'm a bit under the weather and some of the sentences were incomplete. If I respond to Larison it will be in his comboxes or in another post.

The Peace Crawl

Today is the day for the anti-Iraq War demonstration in DC.

There's a typically splenetic exchange in Marc Cooper's combox. Marc, it seems, thinks the speakers' list, studded with the usual celebrity suspects, along with the fact that the PR front woman for the march is a representative of the Communist Party USA (which I honestly did not know still existed), shows that whoever is responsible for these choices is "overtly dumb" and a "lunkhead." Marc wonders why.

Part of the answer is the fact that organizing one of these things is mind-numbingly dumb, especially when it's a "coalition" of fringe and front groups. Who has the motivation for showing up? It's people who might as well be selling the Watchtower at a Greyhound station by holding it up and hoping someone will buy. The Witnesses have God's telephone number, the sects have the key to history, and they've all set up a "Free Mumia" committee or whatnot. They're all trolling the coalition committees and at the demonstration will be trolling the crowd for recruits.

If you're just a citizen who thinks that Bush has blown the war, or starting it was a stupid idea, but you neither enjoy the thought of the U.S. losing nor think about being one of the 144,000 saved, you might show up. You won't be able to hear the speakers anyway, and if you do, they'll lose you soon enough with whatever flavor of cant they bring to the podium. What you won't do is find your way to the organizing committee, and insist on a sane speakers' list.

Michelle Malkin will have any easy time pointing out the prevalence of moonbats at the demonstration, of course, and on Monday the usual suspects will show up in their offices at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, and things will get back to normal.

Assigned reading: Robert Michels on the Iron Law of Oligarchy, and Hal Draper on the Anatomy of the Microsect.

January 26, 2007

Rant's [sic]

Pedant that I am, I sometimes react more strongly to apostrophe errors than to snark, stupidity, and lies.

The poor little punctuation mark is so misused that sometimes I think he should be put out to pasture.

It's easy, folks.

Rule 1. When the word is a contraction ("do not"==>"don't" "it is"==>"it's") you replace the letters that aren't pronounced with the apostrophe.

Rule 2. When there's a possessive "s" added to a noun, the apostrophe goes before the "s" when the noun is singular ("John's hat," "the cat's meow).

Rule 3. When there's a pluralizing "s" added to a noun that is also possessive, the apostrophe goes after the "s" ("the horses' tails," "the Smiths' dinner party").

Three simple rules, folks, that's all.

"It's" and "its" sometimes cause trouble, but they follow the rule.

"It's," meaning "it is" takes the apostrophe internally, because it's a contraction.

"Its" as a possessive doesn't take an apostrophe any more than "his" does--pronouns don't take a possessive apostrophe.

So: "It's a boy!" meaning "It is a boy!" but "Its eggs are green" because "its" is neither a contraction nor a possessive noun.

So endeth the rant. Amen.

(For extra credit: "apostrophe" is also one of the many devices of classical rhetoric:
A digression in the form of an address to someone not present, or to a personified object or idea, as “O Death, where is thy sting?”
Go and sin no more.

I Wish I'd Made This One Up


You know how they say, Don't ever ask how laws or sausages are made? Well, I can attest to the wisdom of that with the exception of kielbasa made with tofu.

--Dennis Kucinich
Via Instapundit.

Listen to Divna


Very pure Serbian religious music. You can edit out the applause.

Also available on iTunes.

The Exterminator's Top Two

Delay started the call by talking about his new organization, GAIN (Grassroots Action and Information Network) and his new blog. He said that his two main priorities now that he is out of office are to push the conservative cause and to support Israel.

--Will Hinton
A strange world the man lives in. I thought the United States had a security problem.

Of course, if you say that Zionists have political influence in this country, you're antisemitic.

January 25, 2007

Mickey's Disaster Scenario

Mickey Kaus has a disaster scenario for "comperehensive immigration reform," which he compares to the Iraq war:

The equivalent disaster scenario in immigration would go something like this: "Comprehensive" reform passes. The "earned legalization" provisions work as planned--millions of previously undocumented workers become legal Americans. But the untested "enforcement" provisions (point #5) prove no more effective than they have in the past. Legal guest workers enter the country to work, but so do millions of new illegal workers, drawn by the prospect that they too, may some day be considered too numerous to deport and therefore candidates for the next amnesty. The current 12 million illegal immigrants become legal--and soon we have another 12 million illegals. As a result, wages for unskilled, low-income legal American and immigrant workers are depressed. Visible contrasts of wealth and poverty reach near-Latin American proportions in parts of Los Angeles. And the majority of these illegal (and legal) immigrants, like the majority in many parts of the country, are from one nation: Mexico. America for the first time has a potential Quebec problem,** in which a neighboring country has a continuing claim on the loyalties of millions of residents and citizens.

In one sense, this second grand Bush plan failure wouldn't be nearly as disastrous as the first--tens of thousands of people wouldn't die. In another sense, it would be worse. We can retreat from Iraq. We won't be able to retreat from the failure of immigration reform--no "surge" will save us--because it will change who "we" are.

He's right to be worried. Read his 10 points.

Envelope, Please--Today's Vocab Award

To Maximos.

Anyone who can use mountebank and fie in the same sentence is worthy of respect in this sordid century.

A Different Red-Green Alliance

London's socialist Mayor, "Red Ken" Livingstone, had a debate on Islam with Daniel Pipes, the American Cassandra on the subject. HT: PowerLine.

First of all, it's hard to imagine a mayor of a major city in this country having a public debate on a political subject with a public intellectual. How this encounter came about is in itself an interesting question.

Pipes observed that some on the Left have been attempting an alliance with the extreme forms of Islam in their countries, even though the Left is generally hostile to religion:

Pipes then homed in on the strangest aspect of the present British situation: the alliance between the U.K.'s radical Left and fundamentalist Islamist ideology. Pipes identified the former as a phenomenon distinct from, and contrary to, the traditions of the Islamic faith.

The absurdity of the relationship between Islamism and Marxism--given that leftists are strident in their defense of modernism and feminism--was nicely illustrated by Livingston's choice of debating partner. The mayor chose Salma Yacoob, who represents the Respect party--best known as the shelter for George Galloway--in a local council in Birmingham. Yacoob appeared wearing a hijab, even though the Respect party is, in theory, an arm of the secularist Socialist Workers Party (SWP).

Late in the discussion, Livingston declaimed his atheism and proposed that British parents should have no chance to opt their children out of the state school system in order to receive faith-based education. It would seem that these sorts of attitudes should make the Marxist-Muslim alliance trickier than it appears.

But of course, British left's adulation for Islamic fundamentalism is restricted to that single variety of religious experience. While Livingston flatters reactionary Muslim clerics such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, much of the Labour party spends its time assailing Catholic adoption agencies for declining to turn children over to homosexual couples. (Islam is generally opposed to adoption except by familial relatives, which might help square this particular circle for Britain's leftists; although Qaradawi has publicly called for homosexuals to be executed.)
The SWP has probably gone further than most communist groups. It's also interesting that the British SWP was founded by a Palestinian Jew (born before there was a State of Israel) named Yigael Gluckstein, pseudonymously Tony Cliff, among other monikers. Whether this alliance is simply a pushmeppullyou that can't last, or a harbinger of something more long-lasting remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the SWP seems to be pretty serious about the alliance, which could last until the British sharia state puts the Reds up against the wall.

Passing strange, in any case.

January 24, 2007

He's Not Reagan, He's Willkie

As World War II started there was a genuine debate in the country over isolationism vs. interventionism. Roosevelt wanted to maneuver us into the war. The America First movement wanted to stay out.

The watershed event was the stage-managed Republican nominating convention, where a "barefoot Wall Street lawyer" named Wendell Willkie, was nominated by acclimation. If you buy Gore Vidal's novelized history, the groundswell for Willkie was organized.

The defeat of Taft and Vandenberg meant that a consistent non-interventionism was not represented in the election, and afterward Willkie suppported Lend Lease and the other preludes to U.S. entry into the war.

Bush turns out not to be a Reagan, but a Willkie, as the SOTU speech showed. His initiatives on ethanol, health care (zzzzzzz . . .), education and other aspects of domestic policy are simply lite forms of Big Gummint. Big Gummint, Big Business, Big Education, and Big Law Enforcement, dumping America into a handbasket, and marching us to Hell.

Hillary will frog-march us there, but she doesn't lisp, and can pronounce "nuclear."

I will get into bonsai. I promise.

January 23, 2007

Reserved for the Dons

Rod Dreher's tender sensibilities are shocked by the fact that the Sundance Film Festival is all a-twitter (or all a-neigh) over a film, Zoo, about an underground of folks who are into sex with barnyard animals, one of whom was killed while being buggered by a horse.

I once spent several months in a Brazilian fishing village where the young men routinely called one another barrão, which in context meant "sow bugger." The difference is that no one sought to enshrine this adolescent hi jinks as great transgressive art. Some carnal people have always managed to bugger pretty much anything that moves, and some things that don't. Only occasionally do they think they are contributors to human enlightenment when they make art about it.

As I said in Rod's combox, you can't make this stuff up, just as during Watergate I realized that political novelist Alan Drury, as good as he was, could never have thought up those events, either. Who could have thought this movie up? Maybe Jules Feiffer, who wrote Little Murders in which Elliot Gould plays a photographer who does art pictures of dog turds. Maybe Fellini when in Satyricon mode. Anyone from Oxford University:
A student up at St. John's
Attempted to bugger the swans.
'No no', said the porter,
'Ye buggers me daughter.
The swans is reserved for the dons'.
We could use Savonarola, perhaps, but he's long dead.

All the News That Fits [Our Preconceptions]

Michelle Malkin points out that the anti-abortion demonstrations in DC yesterday were massive, but got very little MSM play. Here's a picture:



Now a picture showing the same MSM covering the antics of the execrable Cindy Sheehan and a few of her supporters:



Michelle asks, "What liberal media?"

Imagine If the Israelis Did This

Apparently some Shi'a militiamen in Iraq are expelling Palestinians:

Palestinians living in Iraq have been warned that they will be killed by Shia militias unless they leave the country immediately.

Iraqi police say the immigrants, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, are the target of a backlash by hardline Shias, including members of the Mehdi Army led by the Shia preacher Moqtada al-Sadr.

More than 600 Palestinians are believed to have died at the hands of Shia militias since the war began in 2003, including at least 300 from the Baladiat area of Baghdad. Many were tortured with electric drills before they died.

Wait. I thought the Shi'a Hezbollah supported the Palestinians. Well, in Lebanon maybe, so long as they stay in their camps.

As Emily Litella would put it, "Never mind." We went to war in a place we will probably never understand.

January 22, 2007

Mommy, Why Are My Eyes Glazing Over?

The kid on the lower right has MEGO Syndrome, just like me.

Her eyes glaze over whenever someone starts to drone on about health care.

Meanwhile, SNL demolishes HRC.

January 21, 2007

Beautiful Pictures By a Russian Pilot

Here.

Here's a sample:

The National Museum of Stupidity

Tehran proposed ending support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups and helping to stabilise Iraq following the US-led invasion.

Offers, including making its nuclear programme more transparent, were conditional on the US ending hostility.

But Vice-President Dick Cheney’s office rejected the plan, the official said.

The offers came in a letter, seen by Newsnight, which was unsigned but which the US state department apparently believed to have been approved by the highest authorities.

In return for its concessions, Tehran asked Washington to end its hostility, to end sanctions, and to disband the Iranian rebel group the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and repatriate its members.

--BBC News, via Eunomia.

The Iranians went along with the Afghanistan invasion.

The refusal to talk to the enemy is an old vice of our foreign policy. If this story is even half true, the stupidity of those who refused will be worthy of a monument. How about a National Museum of Stupidity? It won't be hard to fill.

The Political Exploitation of Genocide

Some who write about the murder of the Jews of Europe (The term "Holocaust" is a misnomer) contend that the proper approach is simply silence in the face of the enormity of the deed:
According to Steiner, Auschwitz and the atrocities of the Third Reich are literally unspeakable, they cannot be adequately expressed or communicated in language for two reasons. First, because of the misuse of language in the Nazi regime, language, and particularly the German language, has suffered a destruction so total that it cannot resume its previous function as the vessel of humane rationality and truth. Secondly, the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime were of such a nature that they transcend any words we could use to characterize them. Their barbarity goes beyond the referential and representational capacity of language. In an essay contained in the same volume, "The Retreat from the Word," Steiner urges us to follow oriental metaphysics and Wittgenstein and consider silence as a response to the ineffable.
The appropriateness of silence may be one reason why I write about almost everything else except golf and rotisserie football, but have written very little on the subject. I also suppose I've bought into the belief that the Jews went passively to their deaths, which if true might be understandable but hardly praiseworthy. Dave Kopel, whom I respect, says it's not true, and in fact Jewish resistance to the murderers was noteworthy.

Still, I hesitate to write. I am reminded of the Seinfeld scene where to his parents' outrage it comes out that Seinfeld was kissing one of his sexier girlfriends in the movie theatre while Schindler's List was playing. I've never seen Schindler's List, and many decades have passed since I've necked in a movie theatre (alas!), but whatever one says about the subject is likely to offend someone, because it may seem insufficiently respectful of the dead and their suffering.

Another reason, and it's this one I wish to discuss now, is that I believe and have believed for years that the whole subject has been exploited for political and other purposes.

Rabbi Emil Fackenheim, for example, has said that the 614th commandment for Jews is not to give posthumous victories to Hitler.
Fackenheim explains the concept this way:

... we are, first, commanded to survive as Jews, lest the Jewish people perish. We are commanded, secondly, to remember in our very guts and bones the martyrs of the Holocaust, lest their memory perish. We are forbidden, thirdly, to deny or despair of God, however much we may have to contend with him or with belief in him, lest Judaism perish. We are forbidden, finally, to despair of the world as the place which is to become the kingdom of God, lest we help make it a meaningless place in which God is dead or irrelevant and everything is permitted. To abandon any of these imperatives, in response to Hitler's victory at Auchschwitz would be to hand him yet other, posthumous victories.

This line of thinking is simply emotional blackmail. Rabbi Schulweiss rejects it:
We abuse the Holocaust when it becomes a cudgel against others who have their claims of suffering. The Shoah must not be misused in the contest of one-downsmanship with other victims of brutality....The Shoah has become our instant raison d'etre, the short-cut answer to the penetrating questions of our children: 'Why should I not marry out of the faith? Why should I join a synagogue? Why should I support Israel? Why should I be Jewish?' We have relied on a singular imperative: 'Thou shalt not give Hitler a posthumous victory.' That answer will not work. To live in spite, to say 'no' to Hitler is a far cry from living 'yes' to Judaism.
To put it more bluntly, must I refrain from wearing linsey-woolsey and eating pastel M&M's because the Nazis killed the Jews of Poland? In fact, the invocation of the genocide provides a rationale, albeit not very successful, to preserve the loyalty of the young to an American Jewish culture that has fragmented and lost its footing.

Why is there an American Holocaust Museum in Washington, but no Museum of the Middle Passage, or for that matter, a Museum of American Jewish culture? The answer, of course, lies in the political power of groups who will call you an anti-Semite if you point to the fact that they have political power, and who are calling upon the horrors suffered by the dead to justify their waning claim on the loyalty of the living.

The kind of emotional blackmail implicit in Fackenheim's position finds its way into the political sphere. Thus Benny Morris, who earlier in his life exposed as propaganda the notion that the Zionists were blameless in the nakba, or Arab exodus from Israel in 1948, now invokes the Nazi genocide to add emotional force to his warning about the threat to Israel of an Iranian nuclear bomb, for which he offers no strategic solution. Indeed, his article ends with an anecdote of heart-rending, nauseating horror.

Deborah Lipstadt, she of the David Irving libel trial, writes a column in the WaPo criticizing Jimmy Carter's latest book, which calls the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza "apartheid." In addition to calling Carter's claim that an American politician who moves away from the Zionist line would be committing political suicide an "anti-Semitic canard," which it isn't, inevitably invokes the genocide as a rationale for Zionism:

His book, which dwells on the Palestinian refugee experience, makes two fleeting references to the Holocaust. The book contains a detailed chronology of major developments necessary for the reader to understand the current situation in the Middle East. Remarkably, there is nothing listed between 1939 and 1947. Nitpickers might say that the Holocaust did not happen in the region. However, this event sealed in the minds of almost all the world's people then the need for the Jewish people to have a Jewish state in their ancestral homeland. Carter never discusses the Jewish refugees who were prevented from entering Palestine before and after the war. One of Israel's first acts upon declaring statehood was to send ships to take those people "home."

A guiding principle of Israel is that never again will persecuted Jews be left with no place to go. Israel's ideal of Jewish refuge is enshrined in laws that grant immediate citizenship to any Jew who requests it. A Jew, for purposes of this law, is anyone who, had that person lived in Nazi Germany, would have been stripped of citizenship by the Nuremberg Laws.

The Palestinians don't find it convincing that because Hitler murdered Jews, they should give up their villages to American Jewish immigrants from Brooklyn. Iran's Ahmadinejad, whose Holocaust-denial conference was creepy and offensive, and in its own way an exploitation of Hitler's genocide, in this instance made a point that is hard to refute.

There are all kinds of reasons, legal, moral and practical why Israel should stay where it is, notably the approximate equality in the numbers of expelled Jews and Palestinians, the right of conquest, and the murderous violence any solution that included the elimination of Israel would require.

The most emotionally charged argument, however, flawed thought it is, is that the Nazi genocide must not be repeated, and the fear that it just might be. The political exploitation of the murders on all sides, will, therefore, continue.

I prefer silence.

If It Quacks Like a Duck, Is It a Canard?

Carter has repeatedly fallen back -- possibly unconsciously -- on traditional anti-Semitic canards. In the Los Angeles Times last month, he declared it "politically suicide" for a politician to advocate a "balanced position" on the crisis.

--Deborah Lipstadt
A canard is "a false or baseless, usually derogatory story, report, or rumor. Lipstadt is mistaken here. A politician who advocated anything less than reflexive obeisance to a pro-Israel line would have an abbreviated political future.

Can any observer doubt that there is an effective pro-Israel political network in the U.S.?

Various ethnic groups have or had their own causes (boycotting South Africa, Cyprus, the Armenian genocide, "captive nations," boycotting Cuba), as the First Amendment permits. Some who point out that the pro-Israel network is effective may be anti-Semites; some aren't. But it's no canard because it's true.

UPDATE: A canard can be hard to kill.

My Head Is In the Sand--Don't Bring Any of Those Damned Emus Around Here!



Two stories in our bicoastal press raise questions about race.

A story in The Whale reports that black and Latino gangs are targeting each other's people, and in fact, some Latino gang activity appears designed to drive blacks out of certain neighborhoods.
The headlines are among the most stark documenting gang violence. A Latino gang member, without saying a word, guns down a 14-year-old black girl standing on a sidewalk. A black gang member shoots a Latino toddler point-blank in the chest.

For the most part, though, the role racial animosity has played in gang crime has gone unexamined, largely undocumented in crime statistics and often tamped down by politicians and law enforcement officials anxious about inflaming tensions.

That changed this month when Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Police Chief William J. Bratton and L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca all spoke with unusual candor of their concern that an increasing number of gang crimes appear to be born out of racial hatred. In a few instances, the Los Angeles Police Department has identified Latino gangs they say are indiscriminately targeting African American residents in what appear to be campaigns to drive blacks from some neighborhoods.

The acknowledgment by top officials, some activists say, has been a long time coming.
Meanwhile, The Gray Lady views with metropolitan contempt the hostile reaction of Clarkston, Georgia to the decision of faraway outsiders, apparently taken without any consultation with the people of Clarkston, once a town of 7,100, to inundate the place with refugees from all over the world.

Clarkston High School now has students from more than 50 countries. The local mosque draws more than 800 to Friday prayers. There is a Hindu temple, and there are congregations of Vietnamese, Sudanese and Liberian Christians.

At the shopping center, American stores have been displaced by Vietnamese, Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants and a halal butcher. The only hamburger joint in town, City Burger, is run by an Iraqi.
These changes don't make the former residents happy, an unhappiness that extends even to kids' sports.

“There will be nothing but baseball and football down there as long as I am mayor,” Lee Swaney, a retired owner of a heating and air-conditioning business, told the local paper. “Those fields weren’t made for soccer.”

In Clarkston, soccer means something different than in most places. As many as half the residents are refugees from war-torn countries around the world. Placed by resettlement agencies in a once mostly white town, they receive 90 days of assistance from the government and then are left to fend for themselves. Soccer is their game.

But to many longtime residents, soccer is a sign of unwanted change, as unfamiliar and threatening as the hijabs worn by the Muslim women in town. It’s not football. It’s not baseball. The fields weren’t made for it. Mayor Swaney even has a name for the sort of folks who play the game: the soccer people.

The Times writer, Warren St. John, presents some of the facts, but it's clear she regards the Clarkstonites as racist rubes. He writes of the refugee children soccer team, the "Fugees,"
Their story is about children with miserable pasts trying to make good with strangers in a very different and sometimes hostile place. But as a season with the youngest of the three teams revealed, it is also a story about the challenges facing resettled refugees in this country. More than 900,000 have been admitted to the United States since 1993, and their presence seems to bring out the best in some people and the worst in others.

The Fugees’ coach exemplifies the best. A woman volunteering in a league where all the other coaches are men, some of them paid former professionals from Europe, she spends as much time helping her players’ families make new lives here as coaching soccer.

At the other extreme are some town residents, opposing players and even the parents of those players, at their worst hurling racial epithets and making it clear they resent the mostly African team. In a region where passions run high on the subject of illegal immigration, many are unaware or unconcerned that, as refugees, the Fugees are here legally.
Let's leave aside Mr. St. James's deviation from the repertorial pretense of objectivity, and get to the facts. Here was a quiet town, living in its accustomed way, when a bunch of outside do-gooders decided their town would be a good place to resettle not just a few, but a flood of refugees from all over the place. Were these folks consulted? Did the do-gooders assume that Clarkston's capacity for cultural mobility in their own little town was unlimited? Would the do-gooders want this proportion of refugees, legal or illegal, in their own communities in just a few short years?

Perhaps the virtuous thing to do would have been for them all simply to welcome the newcomers. No doubt Latino and black gangs-bangers in Los Angeles should be hanging drywall and going to church. People's attachment to their own kind, however, is old news.

Do-gooders and Bushies must know this; even the Wall Street Journal must know this: Too much "diversity," too much rapid social and cultural change, a sense of being driven out of one's own home town by forces unleashed, or at least uncontrolled, by powerful outsiders, and people feel threatened and become angry.

If we get control of the border, and turn down the spigot of refugees (in part by refraining from contributing to the roiling of places like Somalia for a change), perhaps with our history of absorbing immigrants and granting equality before the law to all, we can mitigate the problems we now have and avoid further train wrecks.

What seems unutterably foolish is to put our heads in the proverbial sand and do nothing. Besides, we have to keep our eyes peeled in case those damned emus try to horn in on our territory!

Our Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You

Barack Obama announced last week that he was forming an exploratory committee to explore whether he can really be as fabulous as the media say he is. And happily the answer is: Yes! He's young, gifted and black, and white, and Hawaiian, and Kansan, and charismatic, and Congregationalist, and Muslim. He rejects the way "politics has become so bitter and partisan,'' he represents "a different kind of politics." He smokes, which is different. He was raised in an Indonesian madrassah by radical imams, which is more than John Edwards can say. And he looks totally cool when he smokes! I haven't smoked since I was 14 but I'm thinking of taking it up again just because the sophisticated refreshing nicotine taste helps take the partisan bitterness out of the atmosphere. Barack Obama is Lauren Bacall to America's Humphrey Bogart. Lauren Barack coolly blows smoke, leans against the wall and purrs:

"You don't have to say anything and you don't have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow."

Some commentators say he's a blank slate. And how long is it since we've seen one of those? They used to have 'em in the schoolhouses back when the kids still learnt stuff instead of just discussing their sexuality with the guidance counselor all week long. I'll bet in those radical madrassahs they're still using blank slates.

--Mark Steyn

They say that the song originally went
So here's to you, Mrs. Roosevelt,
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you, woo woo woo!
They changed it to fit the movie title.



Oh please Mister Obama
We soon must say goodbye
We've lost our dear old mama
And must have health care -- you know why!

January 20, 2007

Or, One More Thing . . .


Learn Georgian (it only has about 45 consonants), and take up polyphonic a capella singing.

Baking bread is good, too.

10 Things To Do During the Upcoming Presidential Campaign










10. Smash your TV.
9. Learn a classical language, preferably a difficult one, and read its classics.
8. Grow bonsai.
7. Ride a bicycle at least two hours a day.
6. Knit large shawls.

5. Start humming and drumming your hands on the table. Repeat.
4. Fast and pray.
3. Assemble something challenging and hand-operated--a harpsichord or a kayak.
2. Live with wolves. They won't try to sell you anything.
1. If you like the wolves, start howling at the moon.

Whatever You Do, Don't Talk To Me About Health Care Policy!

Every time I think I've touched bottom as far as boredom is concerned, new vistas of ennui open up.

(Margaret Halsey)


Everyone hates insurance companies, but whenever a politician mouths the words "health care," with or without a "for all" tagged on, MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over).

There Have to Be Clowns

If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.

-- H. L. Mencken

Hillary and Brownback are in.
It's going to be a tedious and depressing two years.

Cultivate your garden.

January 19, 2007

American Exodus

A couple of decades ago they used to talk about blacks chasing Jews who chased Christians up and down the Atlantic seaboard. There's still a lot of chasing going on, but the participants are different.

Michael Barone, one of the few pundits who actually knows things, presents some statistics on internal and international migration in the U.S. Unfortunately the tables don't all format well, at least in Firefox, but that data are compelling nonetheless.

Counties that are gaining from internal migration are exurban counties, mostly in the South and Southwest. In the Southern California conurbation, it's the "Inland Empire" (San Bernardino and Riverside Counties) that is gaining. Even Orange County, California, once a big net gainer, shows net domestic outmigration.

Big losers are the central cities all over the country. In short, the areas that tend to be liberal and Democrat are losing population and more Republican areas are gaining. This is consistent with Steve Sailer's data that show married breeders, who gravitate toward low house prices, tend to be more conservative than the non-breeders who can afford to live in the central cities.

Looking at metropolitan areas, here are the big losers with their losses:

New York, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa. 1,151,338
San Francisco, Calif. 506,241
Chicago, Ill.-Ind.-Wis. 342,664
Los Angeles, Calif. 291,180
Boston, Ma.-N.H. 223,017
Detroit, Mich. 146,170
San Diego, Calif. 97,536
Philadelphia, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md. 51,888

Here Barone adds the international in-migration figures to the big losers:

New York, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa. 1,151,338 865,533
San Francisco, Calif. 506,241 327,724
Chicago, Ill.-Ind.-Wis. 342,664 306,954
Los Angeles, Calif. 291,180 726,174
Boston, Ma.-N.H. 223,017 132,759
Detroit, Mich. 146,170 72,285
San Diego, Calif. 97,536 91,725
Philadelphia, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md. 51,888 75,799

Los Angeles and Philadelphia are unique in that international immigration offsets the internal out-migration.

Of the areas that gained from domestic in-migration, only Dallas and Houston show greater gains from international immigration.

In L.A., it's quite clear. Immigrants are pouring in, and the native-born are leaving. As they used to say in Garden Grove, California--will the last American to leave please turn out the lights?

If anyone thought about it, we're not headed to a future that most Americans would prefer.

Polish Jokes and Bush Babies


The "Polish Joke" is a type of humor in which the teller and the hearer build their own solidarity in a sense of superiority over an ethnic group supposedly composed of rubes and dopes.
How many Polacks does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Three. One to hold the bulb in place and two to turn the ladder.
Ba-dump-bump.

In different places, different ethnic groups are the butt. In Brazil, it's continental Portuguese:
Someone said to a Portuguese man, "Manoel, your house in Niteroi is on fire, and your children will burn!" He ran to the ferry and jumped across the water just as it was leaving. Then he slapped his head and said, "My name's not Manoel, I don't live in Niteroi, and I don't have any children!"
Ba-dump-bump.

In Canada, a "Newfie left" is a right turn. The Polacks of Canada are the Newfoundlanders. Etc., etc. and so forth:

There were two teams of telephone pole installers. A team of Americans and a team of Newfies. Their supervisor went up to them and said, “I’m sorry to say this, but we’ve had budget cuts and one team has to go. For the next three days we’re going to have a contest. The team that installs the most poles stays and the other one goes.” At the end of the first day both teams went to their supervisor and reported their numbers. The American team put in 20 and the Newfies, 15. At the end of the second day the Americans had put in 45 and the Newfies had only put in 30. On the third and final day the Americans put in 50 poles and the Newfies got 35 in. Their supervisor went up to them and said, “Well I’m sorry to be the one to do this but the American team got more poles in so you Newfies have to go.” The Newfies looked very upset and cheated and one of them said, “No fair, they were only putting their poles in half way!”


Borat
, according to Steve Sailer, is an extended Polish joke, and he may just be right:

To my mind, Baron Cohen and the critics have it exactly backwards. I try to be polite in private and candid in public, but that's not terribly fashionable. The critics are claiming to be outraged that the Americans in the film who were exposed to Borat's anti-Semitism and anti-Gypsyism in private didn't denounce him to his face. Instead, they tended to be polite and tried to change the subject. In contrast, almost none of critics have mentioned Baron Cohen's extremely public anti-Slavism. Complete apathy reigns over Baron Cohen's revival of traditional goyishe kop attitudes toward Slavs. As Lenin said, the ultimate question remains "Who? Whom?." And everybody wants to be on the side of the Who, not the Whom.
I've seen "Da Ali G Show," which includes Borat as a character. I like it when he sends up people like Noam Chomsky. Originally I wanted to see the flick, but exposing the supposed stupidity of people who are just trying to be polite strikes me as cruelty, even if I can't help being amused by it.

Which brings me to the early episodes of "American Idol," a national craze and one in our house. The producers revel in mocking self-important, lower-class fools who think they can sing and make spectacles of themselves. One strange-looking hopeful was compared to a "bush baby," a kind of primitive primate. It's a kind of musical "Jerry Springer Show," without the sex and nudity. I must confess I find the early episodes funny.

Rod Dreher, whom I like but whose middle name is either Namby or Pamby, finds AI appalling, notably the apparent cruelty with which Simon Cowell delivers his usually negative verdicts:
I'd heard that this Simon person is especially cruel, but it shocked me how harsh he was with that young woman. She begged for another opportunity to sing, but after the second one, they sent her away with a fusillade of insulting remarks. Offstage, she sobbed, which you knew was coming. She graspingly tried to salvage her dignity by saying that she was "sick," and that that had affected her voice. But she was, of course, completely untalented. She didn't realize that. She does now, most likely.

I did something I never would have done 10 years ago: I turned off the TV. The schlubby young woman was a fool, but it was unbearable watching her torn down like that.
Dreher goes on to repent of some of the things he wrote in his past as a critic.

Dreher's combox is filled with a debate on this discussion. Some commend Simon for telling the truth to the hopelessly untalented, and some lament his cruelty. An audition is an event in which most participants lose, and only a few win. That's life in show business, and if you can't stand that heat, buy your food ready-made at McDonald's. If someone is hopelessly untalented and would do better to study refrigerator repair than waste more money on singing lessons, it's only fair to tell them so. To be sure, they aren't going to like it, and by now should have known what to expect. On the other hand, an honest message can be delivered without exposing the recipient to the superior tittering of the entire nation. Such attitudes degrade the viewer as much as the butt of the joke.

And yet, sinner that I am, I find it all amusing.

If I had to do it over, I'd eschew the TV entirely, something my family wouldn't tolerate. Without a TV, I could really feel superior. And if I lived in Poland, I could attend movies for the blind.

January 17, 2007

Dope-Sniffing Camels and the Nanny State

A Dennis Krantz copy once got a suspect to flee (and thus create probable cause for a search) by claiming his Thanksgiving turkey was a "dope sniffing turkey."

My post on the antics of our moralizing constables here.

January 14, 2007

"The Tyrant Lincoln"?

What he might have also remarked on was the odd habit that some of Mr. Bush’s supporters seem to have in comparing him to the tyrant Lincoln as a way of praising his leadership or urging him to follow Lincoln’s example. (Perhaps the comparisons between two Presidents who routinely violated the Constitution and launched aggressive wars are just too obvious to be ignored.)

--Daniel Larison
Daniel Larison is a prolific blogger, a self-proclaimed paleoconservative, who writes well and frequently surprises with his insights.

Last summer my daughter and I visited Washington, and of course visited the Lincoln Memorial. Inscribed on the wall in giant letters are his eloquent words from the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural. I have always been taught, and assumed, that Lincoln was a remarkable leader.

There is a contrary view, as reflected in this debate, for example, and in various writings of H.L.Mencken, such as this:
The Gettysburg speech was at once the shortest and the most famous oration in American history... the highest emotion reduced to a few poetical phrases. Lincoln himself never even remotely approached it. It is genuinely stupendous. But let us not forget that it is poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it. Put it into the cold words of everyday. The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination—that government of the people, by the people, for the people, should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves.
I have wondered myself whether the goal of preserving the Union was worth the 600,000 lives that were lost in the war, and whether a negotiated separation would have been better in the long run. Would slavery have been abolished in the South within a generation, as it was in Brazil, without war, and without the violent reaction that ended in the system of Jim Crow?

The Civil War was the first industrialized war, and resulted in slaughter on a massive scale, the suspension of many constitutional liberties, and set the stage for the next period of centralized power, the growth of trusts, and the emergence of America as an assertive world power a generation later.

Lincoln was a larger than life figure. Was he our greatest President, or as Larison says, a tyrant?

Not a closed question.

Mene Mene Tekel . . . Buchanan

But Bush has to know the card he played is not going to save the pot into which he has plunged his legacy, the credibility of his country and America’s standing as a superpower.

Which leads me to believe Bush has yet another card to play, an ace up his sleeve. What might that be?

Midway through his speech, almost as an aside, Bush made a pointed accusation at and issued a direct threat to – Tehran.

To defend the “territorial integrity” of Iraq and stabilize “the region in the face of extremist challenge,” Bush interjected, “begins with addressing Iran and Syria.”

“These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

Now, any networks providing “advanced weaponry and training” to jihadists and insurgents are outside Iraq. Otherwise, they would have been neutralized by air strikes already.

So, where are they? Answer: inside Syria and Iran. And Bush says we are going to “seek out and destroy” these networks.

Which suggests to this writer that, while the “surge” is modest, Bush has in mind a different kind of escalation – widening the war by attacking the source of instability in the region: Tehran.

“I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region,” said Bush. “We will deploy … Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies.”

But there is no need for more carrier-based fighter-bombers in Iraq. And the insurgents have no missiles against which anyone would need Patriot missiles to defend. You only need Patriots if your target country has missiles with which to retaliate against you.

What Bush signaled in the clear Wednesday is that air strikes on Iranian “networks” are being planned. That would produce an Iranian response. That response would trigger U.S. strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities, for which Israel and the neocons are howling.

--Patrick J. Buchanan
Things get interesting, in an ominous kind of way, when a super-Zionist like Caroline Glick and an anti-interventionist paleocon like Pat Buchanan both see the same scenario looming.

Risky, for sure. Buy firewood, oil your bicycle, and keep your powder dry.

Quaker Picnic Talk From an Unrepentant Marxist

Of course, some of us who have quaint ideas about right and wrong and international law might quibble over the right of the U.S. Marines to invade and occupy such countries, an act that Marine General Smedley Butler once described as a “racket”."

-- Louis Proyect
Louis Proyect, of course, self-defines as "The Unrepentant Marxist."

It's quaint that a Marxist revolutionary cites "right and wrong" and "international law" to support his criticism of U.S. policy.

If I remember right, in most varieties of the Marxist glass bead game, "right and wrong" is merely the expression of class interest, and "international law" the operating rules of the tyrants' cartel.

In this calculus, blaming a bourgeois government for violating international law is like blaming a rattlesnake for being venomous.

There's a whole tradition in this country, of course, of leftists trying to wrap themselves in the flag. "Communism," said Earl Browder, "is 20th Century Americanism," and when Stalin sent American Communists to die for the Spanish Republic, their expeditionary force was styled the "Abraham Lincoln Brigade." And who can forget the "Ballad for Americans?"

In 1935 the Comintern proclaimed a Popular Front policy that downplayed revolution and emphasized alliances with reformers and other leftists against the common menace of fascism. Embracing this stance with the slogan "Communism is twentieth-century Americanism," the CPUSA shifted to support of Roosevelt and sought a cooperative role on the left of the broad New Deal coalition. Communists achieved a limited but nonetheless significant presence in main stream politics through their participation in New York's American Labor Party, the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party, the End Poverty in California movement, the Wisconsin Farmer-Labor Progressive Federation, and the Washington [state] Commonwealth Federation. Two members of Congress, Representatives John Bernard (1937–1938) of Minnesota's Farmer-Labor Party and Hugh De Lacy (1945–1946), a Washington State Democrat, became secret members. Two open communists won election to the New York City Council.

Communists also took leading although usually secret roles in numerous liberal-left advocacy groups such as the American League for Peace and Democracy, National Negro Congress, American Writers Union, and American Youth Congress. Communists had no role in founding the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), but in 1936, after secret negotiations, CIO leaders hired more than fifty communist organizers and brought into the CIO several small communist-led unions.

Source: here.
Years ago, a friend of mine, a "red diaper baby," told me of going to a Youth Congress in Russia. The slogan of the day was "Mir e Druzhba!" or "Peace and Friendship." They went around Mir-and-druzhbing. This, of course, was the language of a Quaker picnic, not class struggle.