The New Democratic slogan — “I hate George Bush”

I'm one of those people who can quickly see if a room is ugly.  I am, however, constitutionally incapable of figuring out how to make it beautiful.  I'm simply lacking in those visual and spatial abilities.  I'm constantly reminded of my own weakness vis a vis decorating — the almost anarchic ability to destroy without the corresponding ability to repair or reconstruct — when I see the Democratic approach to politics.  (Of course, I have the wisdom not to decorate, while the Dems don't seem to know enough to keep out of politics.)

I know I'm not that first point out that the Democrats don't stand for anything positive.  Their whole platform is "I hate Bush."  However, sometimes it really takes a Democratic newspaper to expose this trend.  The following quotations are from articles that appeared in the New York Times this weekend.  One, by Peter Beinart, intelligently points out that the Democrats have consistently run away from the issues most important to the American people, sniping from the sidelines, while offering nothing in return:

This fall, for the third time since 9/11, American voters will choose between Democrats and Republicans while knowing what only one party believes about national security. In 2002, Democratic candidates tried to change the subject, focusing on Social Security and health care instead. In 2004, John Kerry substituted biography for ideology, largely ignoring his own extensive foreign-policy record and stressing his service in Vietnam. In this year's Senate and House races, the party looks set to reprise Michael Dukakis's old theme: competence. Rather than tell Americans what their vision is, Democrats will assure them that they can execute it better than George W. Bush.

Beinart goes on to urge Democrats to become classic Cold War liberals of the type all of us neo-cons were before the Democratic party went flaky, and we moved to the Conservative side.  Indeed, I'm tempted to tell Beinart to stop casting longing glances over his shoulder at classic — and long defunct liberalism, and simply move to the conservative "Dark Side," where all those classic liberal ideas actually took root.   This, Beinart describes pre-Vietnam liberalism in terms that, to me, sound remarkably like modern Conservatism.  (He's just in denial and doesn't recognize that fact):

But before Vietnam, and the disappointment and confusion it spawned, liberals did have a clear story of their own. In the late 1940's and 1950's, intellectuals like Reinhold Niebuhr and policymakers like George F. Kennan described America's cold-war struggle differently from their conservative counterparts: as a struggle not merely for democracy but for economic opportunity as well, in the belief that the former required the latter to survive. Even more important, they described America itself differently. Americans may fight evil, they argued, but that does not make us inherently good. And paradoxically, that very recognition makes national greatness possible. Knowing that we, too, can be corrupted by power, we seek the constraints that empires refuse. And knowing that democracy is something we pursue rather than something we embody, we advance it not merely by exhorting others but by battling the evil in ourselves. The irony of American exceptionalism is that by acknowledging our common fallibility, we inspire the world.

Obviously, I think Beinart is on to something, although I think he's looking in all the wrong places. Tim Roemer, however, a former Indiana Democratic Congressman, accepts without blinking the fact that Democrats don't stand for anything, that they have no vision, that they're adrift and angry.  Indeed, he looks to the past and thinks this is just wonderful.  To him, the hand of history tells him that this existential meaninglessness is a sure sell for the American people:

AMERICANS have clearly had enough of the Bush administration's record: 7 in 10 say the nation is headed in the wrong direction. But with the 2006 Congressional elections fast approaching, Democrats must not get so irrationally exuberant that they lapse into old, bad habits.

In January, President Bush's adviser Karl Rove outlined the issues he believes will lead Republican candidates to victory in November: national security, the economy and taxes, and the courts. Democrats cannot allow Republicans to define the terms of the debate. Instead, they should take a page from history and from a different Karl.

In 1946, Karl Frost, an advertising executive, suggested a simple slogan to the Massachusetts Republican Committee: "Had Enough? Vote Republican!" Frost recognized that these simple words could unite his national party and blame its opponents, who controlled Congress, for causing or failing to solve the many problems facing the country, including meat shortages, economic difficulties and labor unrest. The strategy worked: in 1946, both houses of Congress flipped.

Sixty years later, Democrats would be smart to turn Karl Frost's slogan on Karl Rove's strategy.

"Had Enough? Vote Democratic!" is a slogan that spotlights the many mistakes in Iraq, the mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina and the mangling of fiscal responsibility with "bridges to nowhere." Indeed, you can see and hear Democratic candidates rallying their voters at Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinners with a passionate and rhythmic chorus. . . .

The article goes on and on and on with the standard recitation of George Bush's myriad sins and failures — and offers not a word about what Democrats will do.  Only in the last paragraph, in a two sentence throw-away, does Roemer suddenly observe, "But make no mistake: new ideas matter. Democrats will also need the artillery of a disciplined, focused set of core proposals to complement their criticism of Republican excesses."  There you have it.  If we hate Bush vocally enough, people will run into our arms so, quick, think of something for them to find once they're in our embrace.

So, in one weekend, we have someone intelligently thinking about history, although drawing the wrong conclusions (in my humble opinion), and someone else looking to history to find an empty slogan he hopes will diguise the empty vessel that is his Party.  Roemer may be right that the Dems can win in 2006 based on this chimerical platform, but that victory may prove to be the Party's downfall in the even more important 2008 election year.  It's one thing to win without ideas; it's another thing to govern that way.  For the American people, governance for two years by a party distinguished solely by its hatred and vapidity may be enough to send them right back to the Conservatives. 

By the way, as an aside, if you want to see a rip-roaring Mark Steyn article about Democratic misuse of history, be sure to check out his latest column.  In it, Mark Steyn riffs off of the Dems' habit of relying on a purported Jeffersonian quotation, to the effect that "Dissent is the greatest form of patriotism."  In fact, Jefferson said nothing of the sort, something that sentence's clunky language and pedestrian structure should immediately have made obvious.  As Steyn says:

What does it mean when so many senior Democrats take refuge in an obvious bit of hooey? Thomas Jefferson would never have said anything half so witless. There is no virtue in dissent per se. When John F. Kennedy said, "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty" — and, believe it or not, that's a real quote, though it's hard to imagine any Massachusetts Democrat saying such a thing today — I could have yelled out, "Hey, screw you, loser." It would have been "dissent," but it wouldn't have been patriotic, and it's certainly not a useful contribution to the debate, any more than that of the University of North Carolina students at Chapel Hill who recently scrawled on the doors of the ROTC armory "F— OFF!" and "WE WON'T FIGHT YOUR WARS!" 

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My feelings exactly — although better expressed

Here's Debra Saunders on tomorrow's threatened illegal immigrant boycott:

I am one American who will be moved in the direction not intended by sponsors of the May 1 National Day Without Immigrants Great American Boycott demonstrations.

When supporters of illegal immigration threaten to boycott all stores, it makes me feel like shopping. When I see TV reporters interview demonstrators, who announce that they are undocumented, I can only surmise that illegal immigrants have nothing to fear from immigration authorities.

When demonstrators say that Americans should welcome them because they are willing to work at low wages, I notice that they have depressed wages for other low-skilled workers and made it harder for less-educated Americans to earn a living wage. I salute anyone who wants to work hard, but I cannot feel good about the fact that they do so by dragging down other people's ability to earn a decent living.

When I read Mexican American Political Association flyers for the May 1 event that demand "immediate legalization without conditions," that tells me activists don't want the earned citizenship in the Senate Judiciary Committee immigration bill, because it requires would-be citizens to learn English, attend civics classes, pay a fine and back taxes, and pass a criminal background check.

When I read, "no escuela" (no school) on MAPA flyers, and that the Los Angeles Times reported that in Southern California some 40,000 students may have skipped school to join in past protests, I think of the 18 percent of Latino high school seniors who have not yet passed the state exit exam.

When I read, "no trabajo" (no work), I see activists who are ready to stick it to their most potent lobby, American employers, which makes them ingrates.

Then, when MAPA President Nativo Lopez calls for "no employer sanctions and no guest-worker programs," that tells me he wants no laws whatsoever governing who can come to and work in America.

You can read the rest here.

As I've noted in the past, I'm a huge fan of legal immigration, which I believe is one of America's great strengths.  I'm tremendously hostile to illegal immigration, and will second anyone who writes intelligent on the subject — as Saunders does here. 

Why Johnny shouldn’t read

The big focus in American education from the 1960s through the present was why children can't read (something I attribute to the new educational approach that abandoned the wonderful logic of phonics). Now, though, for parents hewing to traditional morals who have kids trapped in public schools, the question becomes, "Why should my child read this drek?"

Zabrina, of Thought You'd Never Ask, tackles this in a three part series called Great Literature in the Public Schools (part three has yet to be published). In Part One, she details her unsuccessful efforts to protect her 9th Grader from reading a book larded with profanity and violent images. In Part Two, she tackles similar material (with an emphasis on raunchy language, not violence) that her 4th grader is reading in school (and that the teacher is reading aloud to the students).

It sounds as if Zabrina's children are sufficiently mature, sweet and innocent to learn from, without being affected by, such materials, but that doesn't change what I take to be Zabrina's point: Why are we using our public schools to teach down instead of up (up being more inspirational material)?

True, all teachers would (and, by Zabrina's example, do) defend whatever raunchy material they offer on the ground that any given book teaches important life lessons, whatever the lesson in the book happens to be (triumph over racism, drug addiction, handicaps, sexual abuse — all the things people need to triumph over in today's literature). But why can't we teach the same lessons (presumably of courage, self-discipline, a sense of self-worth, honesty, etc.), in the old-fashioned way — by pointing to people, real or imagined, who had exemplary lives, and by writing about those lives using dignified language, not trashy language more worthy of the street corner than the classroom?

Anyway, I'm just recycling ideas that Zabrina presents with great lucidity in her posts. They're long, but you'll be doing yourselves a favor if you read about her travails in the public schools.

To cut or not to cut

When my son was born, I agonized a lot about circumcising him.  As a Jew, I felt it was appropriate.  However, as someone horrified by female circumcision (which I do know is a much more extreme procedure), I wondered how I could justify cutting into a new baby's healthy flesh to satisfy a cultural practice.  I feel much better now about my decision:

For well over a decade, southern Africans have battled the spread of H.I.V. with everything from condoms and abstinence campaigns to doses of antiretroviral drugs for pregnant women — and yet the epidemic continues unabated.

Now a growing number of clinicians and policy makers in the region are pointing to a simple and possibly potent weapon against new infections: circumcision for men.

***

The most striking studies suggest that men can lower their own risk of infection by roughly two-thirds, and that infected men can reduce the odds of transmitting the virus to their partners by about 30 percent, simply by undergoing circumcision. Research suggests that the cells on the underside of the foreskin are prime targets for the virus and that tears and abrasions in the foreskin can invite the infection.

You can read more here, including the usual caveats to these stunning, albeit preliminary, research results. 

Why we vaccinate

I'm a huge proponent of vaccination. The last two generations of Americans have lived complacently without the spectre of childhood killers such as measles and polio. I always get irked by — and will challenge — suburban mothers who think homeopathy will protect their children from deadly epidemics. At the very least, they should be grateful to people like me who are willing to put their children at vaccine risk to provide the herd immunity that is the true protector for those too foolish to vaccinate. Why my rant? Because in third world countries, where childhood diseases are rampant, those mothers only wish they could have the protection available to American children:

Across the impoverished kingdom of Nepal, 50,000 mothers like Mrs. Gurung, most of them illiterate, are foot soldiers in one of the great unfolding public health triumphs of modern times: the global push to slash the number of children who die from complications of measles. Nepal's first national measles vaccination campaign last year cut by 90 percent the country's measles-related deaths in a year, usually about 5,000, the United Nations Children's Fund estimates.

But remarkable as it is, that tremendous success is overshadowed by the grievous toll measles continues to take in neighboring India. Experts estimate that more than 100,000 children a year still die there from complications of measles for want of a 15 cent vaccine.

The contrast between the countries highlights both the extraordinary promise of measles control, and the tragedy of its unfulfilled potential.

Nepal's campaign shows that quick, deep inroads can be made against measles with the proper financing and national will, as well as a tested strategy for winning public trust of vaccines.

"Vaccinating children against measles is the greatest return on investment for child health that we have," said Dr. Mark Grabowsky, who for five years was the adviser to the Red Cross for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "It's the low-hanging fruit."

Still, measles kills 450,000 children worldwide each year. India, which has more measles-related deaths than any other country, has not made it a national priority, W.H.O. officials say.

Be fruitful and multiply . . . or else

Mark Steyn writes repeatedly about the West's self-immolation on the pyre of low birth rates.  While it may still be a trend in many places, it has become a practical reality in Japan:

This mountain village near the Sea of Japan, withered to eight aging residents, concluded recently that it could no longer go on.

So, after months of anguish, the villagers settled on a drastic solution: selling all of Ogama to an industrial waste company from Tokyo, which will turn it into a landfill.

With the proceeds, the villagers, mainly in their 70's, plan to pack up everything, including their family graves, and move in the next few years to yet uncertain destinations, likely becoming the first community in Japan to voluntarily cease to exist.

***

Ogama's decision, though extreme, points to a larger problem besetting Japan, which has one of the world's fastest-graying societies and whose population began declining last year for the first time in its history. As rural Japan becomes increasingly depopulated, many villages and hamlets like Ogama, along with their traditions and histories, risk vanishing.

Who has a finger on the trigger?

I've had an unusually (and delightfully) lazy day today, and can't bestir myself to any serious blogging.  Fortunately, others are willing to do the heavy lifting.  For example, here is James Lewis, at the American Thinker, writing about the fallacy between the attacks on Israel's nuclear weapons that seek to apply to Israel the same standards that need to be applied to Iran:

In a WaPo opinion piece this Sunday, Avner Cohen and William Burr present a critique of US policy on Israel’s nuclear weapons capacity. As usual in the liberal media, they take their facts completely out of context: This is Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.

They fail to mention, for example, such little facts as the repeated genocidal attacks on Israel by Egypt, Syria and even Jordan over a forty year period. They fail to mention that Israel came close to being overrun  by a massive tank assault in 1973, which would have meant the second genocide of the Jewish  people in three decades. And they do not mention that Israel is in greater danger today than it has been since the Holocaust, as its Defense Minister has just said.

This is the standard leftist line. By suppressing history, it conjures up a moral equivalence between attackers and defenders, between free societies and what Sharansky has aptly dubbed Fear Societies.  Fear Societies do not represent their people, but brutalize them. They lack popular legitimacy and therefore moral authority. Today’s Iran is a Fear Society that has killed tens of thousands of its own people to give the Mullahs dictatorial control. Israel is both a free society and one that has its back against the wall, time after time.

Read the rest here

Thank you, George Bush.

Kevin Sites tells the appalling story of the tortures visited on a child in Afghanistan when, at 5, she was married into a family of sadists.  Although he doesn't say so, I can't help but believe that her tortures were a product of life under the Taliban, and the fact that she was able to escape couldn't have happened but for the War in Afghanistan.  (Although I may well be reading too much into the story.)  In any event, I'll just point out again how silent the American women's movement has been about Arab brutality to women.  Clearly, if they were to acknowledge that brutality, they'd also be forced into doing something they can't do:  thanking George Bush.  Clearly, it's better to hate an American politician than to help a Muslim woman.

Anarchy is in the eye of the beholder

You only have to turn on the news, open the pages or the New York Times or attend an urban rally to know that Iraq is Hell on earth , comparable only to the Sudan or Rwanda. This is so because Iraq, which used to be such a peaceful place under Saddam Hussein, fell under George Bush's evil control In fact, as everyone knows, numbers lie — or, at least, liars use numbesr for their own ends. Victor Davis Hanson (happily recovered from a ruptured appendix that hit in Libya) makes this point by comparing Iraq and the Golden State of California:

War-torn Iraq has about 26 million residents, a peaceful California perhaps now 35 million. The former is a violent and impoverished landscape, the latter said to be paradise on Earth. But how you envision either place to some degree depends on the eye of the beholder, and is predicated on what the daily media appear to make of each.

As a fifth-generation Californian, I deeply love this state, but still imagine what the reaction would be if the world awoke each morning to be told that once again there were six more murders, 27 rapes, 38 arsons, 180 robberies, and 360 instances of assault in California—yesterday, today, tomorrow, and every day. I wonder if the headlines would scream about “Nearly 200 poor Califor­nians butchered again this month!”

How about a monthly media dose of “600 women raped in February alone!” Or try, “Over 600 violent robberies and assaults in March, with no end in sight!” Those do not even make up all of the state’s yearly 200,000 violent acts that law enforcement knows about.

Iraq’s judicial system seems a mess. On the eve of the war, Saddam let out 100,000 inmates from his vast prison archipelago. He himself still sits in the dock months after his trial began. But imagine an Iraq with a penal system like California’s with 170,000 criminals—an inmate population larger than those of Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Singapore combined.

Just to house such a shadow popula­tion costs our state nearly $7 billion a year—or about the same price of keep­ing 40,000 Army personnel per year in Iraq. What would be the image of our Golden State if we were reminded each morning, “Another $20 million spent today on housing our criminals!”

Some of California’s most recent prison scandals would be easy to sensa­tionalize: “Guards watch as inmates are raped!” Or “Correction officer accused of having sex with underaged detainee!” And apropos of Saddam’s sluggish trial, remember that our home state multiple murderer, Tookie Williams, was finally executed in December 2005—26 years after he was originally sentenced.

Much is made of the inability to patrol Iraq’s borders with Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey. But California has only a single border with a foreign nation, not six. Yet over 3 million foreigners who snuck in illegally now live in our state. Worse, there are about 15,000 convicted alien felons incarcerated in our penal system, cost­ing about $500 million a year. Imagine the potential tabloid headlines: “Illegal aliens in state comprise population larger than San Francisco!” or “Drugs, criminals, and smugglers given free pass into California!”

Every year, over 4,000 Californians die in car crashes—nearly twice the number of Americans lost so far in three years of combat operations in Iraq. In some sense, then, our badly maintained roads, and often poorly trained and sometimes intoxicated drivers, are even more lethal than Improvised Explosive Devices. Perhaps tomorrow’s headline might scream out at us: “300 Califor­nians to perish this month on state highways! Hundreds more will be maimed and crippled!”

And that's only the half of it. You should definitely read the whole thing.

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Fifteen years for eight murders?

This is a dreadful story, with grotesque pathologies bursting out all over the place:

A woman charged with killing eight of her newborn babies has gone on trial in a case that has shocked Germany.

The bodies were found buried in a fish tank and in flower pots and buckets in her parents' garden in a village near the Polish border.

The woman, a jobless dental assistant known as Sabine H, 40, faces eight counts of manslaughter. She could be jailed for up to 15 years if convicted.

A ninth baby also died, but too long ago to allow prosecution.

It is thought the babies were born and died between 1988 and 1998.

At Thursday's hearing, the woman's lawyer said she would not give evidence at the trial.

She previously told investigators she did not harm the babies, but let them die after giving birth alone.

She told them she could only remember properly two of the births because, in the other cases, she got drunk when she went into labour.

"We already had three children, and my husband didn't want any more children," she said, according to a transcript read out in court.

She added that "I always hoped my husband would notice the pregnancies of his own accord".

We're not talking abortion here — we're talking the murder of nine living babies.  One of them is ignored entirely because Germany apparently has a statute of limitations on murder and, as for the other eight, she might conceivably receive almost two years in prison per murder for a fifteen year total.  I'm wondering in what rational universe a serial killer gets the equivalent of a slap on the hand from the criminal justice system.  Apparently the Germans are shocked, but they're not that shocked.  The fact that her husband apparently didn't even know she was pregnant makes the story even more horrible to contemplate.  

Identifying the real problem at schools

This NPR story addresses the Day of Silence gay kids are holding today at American schools and the Day of Truth that Christian kids are countering with tomorrow at American schools.  I think both are proselytizing, and I'd like to see both out of the school.  However, to the extent any given school allows one, it should definitely allow the other.  My question, though, is whether the premise underlying the Day of Silence (which started all this) is correct.

The NPR story indicates that the purpose behind the Day of Silence is to counter the bullying gay kids undergo in American schools.  (Most gay kids, when polled, say that they've been bullied.)  I'm not gay, but boy was I bullied when I was in school.  I'm short, I was skinny and pale, I wore thick glasses, and even then I was a bookworm (not a pretty picture, huh?).  Getting through the halls often wasn't pleasant.  Indeed, it was my own private Hell.  With age, though, comes wisdom and shared experiences, and I've since learned how many of my peers were harassed — because they were too tall or too short, too dark or too light, too smart or too dumb, too fat or too thin.  

Basically, children are cruel and they will seek to assert their own status by picking on others whose differences they can easily discern.  It's a pack behavior.  "If I can distinguish you as too dark, I can gather near me all the other kids as pale as I am and, voila, I'm safely in a pack.  I just hope that my pack doesn't notice that I'm too heavy (even though appropriately pale), because then my pack will turn against me."  It's a dog-eat-dog, or maybe "Lord of the Flies" world out there.

The question then, is whether kids who get harassed because they're gay actually got harassed more often than other kids.  If that's the case, there's really a problem.  However, if they're getting harassed at rates equal to the harassment visited on other children, with the harassment being directed at their sexuality, rather than their looks, or whatever, than the problem isn't homophobia.*  Instead, the problem is a bullying climate in the given school. 
I think bullying is an appalling problem, having been on the receiving end of it myself.  Every school should address it, because school should be a safe space of all students, regardless of sexual orientation, height, skin color, religion, intellectual pursuits, weight, whatever.   But if the problem is endemic bullying, it's no solution to focus solely on the bullying visited on a single identity group in the school.  Instead, the behavior should be eradicated entirely through a focus on civil behavior, good manners, and simple kindness.

________________________________________

*To me, harassment is name calling, teasing, humiliating, etc., not physical violence or intense psychological torture.  If gay students are experiencing the latter, that's conduct beyond the pale of the ordinary bullying that distinguishes so many young people, and does deserve special and immediate consideration.
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Words, words, words

You know Eliza Doolittle's complaint in "My Fair Lady":  "Words words, words, I'm so sick of words."  I thought of this when I saw this snippet that Congressman Tom Tancredo posted on his website.  (Thanks for the tip, Kevin.)

Pythagorean theorem: 24 words

The Lord's Prayer: 66 words

Archimedes' Principle: 67 words

The 10 Commandments: 179 words

The Gettysburg Address: 286 words

The Declaration of Independence: 1,300 words

U.S. Government regulations on the sale of cabbage: 26,911 words

In my considered opinion, there are few things more foul that the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.

A not very effective recruitment video

I'd finished writing a really beautiful post about al-Zarqawi's latest pronouncements, in a newly released video (you can find it here, at Centcom). I then did the intelligent thing, hitting the "save" button, only to do see my magnum opus vanish entirely. Sadly, I don't have the time to recreate it. I urge you to read the speech yourself. I'll give you my conclusions, though, for what it's worth:

al-Zarqawi is hurting for troops. Despite statements about high morale and repeated victories, he acknowledges that his troops have sacrificed to their limit and, twice, in high-flown classical language, calls for new warriors:

Where are the lions of Al-Anbar? Where are the lions of Salah-al-Din? Where are the men of Baghdad? Where are the knights of Nineva, and the heroes of Diyala? Where are the brave men of Kurdistan? Where are you lions of monotheism?

Zarqawi recognizes that the news is hurting him. He announces that America is in defeat and in retreat. However, in an acknowledgment that the media shows the opposite, he claims that his troops are the victims of an "escalating and collaborated media blackout," and that, absent that blackout, "you would have seen wonders." You're psychotic or lying when you claim invisible victories to advance your position.

al-Zarqawi has been studying the anti-War playbooks for both this war and the Vietnam war. In terms of this War's anti-War effort, he talks in terms of imperialist expansion, sure to push the buttons of any liberal who sees the US seeking to exploit the third world. He also reverts to the Vietnam War by reverting to the big lie that portrayed American soldiers as dissolute, drug-addled, suicidal losers:

Not a single time were you truthful to yourself or your people; even though truthfulness, which you lack, is found in some of your forefathers. Why do not you tell the truth about your soldiers and that their fighting will is rather weak, so that your people will know the truth about this war? Why do not you tell them that your soldiers are continuously committing suicide? Why do not you tell them that your soldiers cannot sleep without taking drugs and hallucination pills and that those pills make them lose their mind to allow your evangelical-Zionist war generals to drag them into the slaughter house? Why do not you tell them about the mass desertion and revolt [which] is growing among the ranks of your soldiers?

As part of this approach, he plays on American fears of an endless war, by reminding us that his soldiers have no love for life, only a love for Allah and victory — making them the sure winners in a fight against our drug-addicts.

al-Zarqawi inspires his followers with a vision of the Caliphate, and makes it clear that a Democratically elected government cannot be the precursor to the Caliphate. All our promises of freedom, and happiness, and goodness simply don't rank against the blood-soaked Caliphate he envisions for his people.

At the same time that al-Zarqawi seeks to unify all Muslims against the "Crusader" oppressors, he's still working on his plan to foment an escalating civil war. He lumps the Sunnis in with the evildoing Crusaders and Zionists. If you can't get all Arabs working together, at least get them fighting against each other so violently that the momentum of that battle itself frightens the West into leaving. And considering the nine year war between Iran and Iraq, with casualties comparable to those we saw in the American civil war, the Arabs are perfectly capable of fighting each other to death, and taking everyone else down with them.

I didn't find al-Zarqawi's communication very impressive, but I'm not a true believer. Of course, even the most mediocre speech can sound inspiring when you're hearing it at gunpoint. And that's the real issue — will al-Zarqawi's rambling pep talk serve his recruiting goals and inspire his existing fighters in such a way that they will have real, rather than just imaginary, victories?

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Higher education redux

I could — as others already have — devote my blog to portraying the insanity that passes for higher education at so many American Universities and Colleges.  I've opted not to, since there are other things I want to maunder on about here.  Nevertheless, occasionally something going on at one of these "education" factories catches my eye, and I simply feel compelled to bring it to your attention.  Although the pickings are slim, the higher education arena is still, in theory, a marketplace and there places you, as a consumer, may wish to avoid. 

Today's example of a college you may want to avoid is Bucknell.  Lee Markison, a freshman there (and how did a freshman get to be so wise), gives us this latest example of your tuition dollars at work:

Nipple tassels, “smut” stories, and strippers.  One would expect the mere mention of these things to cause hordes of feminists to storm the nearest fraternity house complete with burning brassieres and demands that the oppressive men inside respect women.  But we are living in strange times, and at Bucknell nipple tassels, “smut,” and strippers are apparently synonymous with feminism.

In mid-February the Bucknell University Conservatives Club was asked by the Bucknell Feminist Majority to help fund a show to bring sex workers (strippers, prostitutes, phone sex operators, etc.) to campus to celebrate their professions.  “Of course we’ll fund it, we like free speech,” was the expected response.  We respectfully declined, because while we hate the idea of censoring speech, we do not feel a need to support all speech.
However, while the BUCC refused to help cover the $1,920 cost of the Sex Worker’s Art Show, other members of the campus community did.  Groups like the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, Center for the Study of Race, Gender, and Ethnicity, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Samek Art Gallery, Office of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Awareness, and others all cosponsored the event (feel free to ask them why they felt your tuition dollars and alumni contributions ought to be spent in this manner). 

Lee then provides us with a discreetly written, but still shocking, description of the sex show Bucknell got for its money.  I'll leave it out here.  You can go the link above (which takes you to the Independent Women's Forum) to get the details.  I really like Markison's conclusions about this embarrassing, degrading show:

Rather than promoting causes like ending the international sex trade, where countless women’s lives are ruined as they are sold into sexual slavery, Bucknell’s “feminists” made a joke of prostitution.  Actually, what they did was worse; they celebrated it.
The supposed message of this show was that sex workers are people, they could be your neighbor, your sister, your mother (read your, not my) and you should not look down on them.  Unfortunately, this message was lost by a stunning display of nipple tassels, political jabs, stripping, lubing, and overall degradation.  It was in fact nothing short of a carnival promoting sex work and the supposed empowerment that it offers.

The BUCC [Bucknell University Conservatives Club] has always been a proud proponent of free speech.  Our disgust for some types of speech should not be confused with a desire to censor.  To the contrary, this event proved one of the BUCC’s core arguments in favor of unfettered speech: when all are speaking, we are best able to determine which ideas and groups ought to be discarded as irrelevant, mindless, and unworthy of consideration.

We now all know what the Feminist Majority stands for, and now you have a question to ask yourself: “Do I stand for that too?”

How, in the forty odd years of the women's rights movement, did that movement travel from urging equity for all women to celebrating deviance and degradation?  Even more, how did it become a movement that is so fascinated with this morally degrading behavior that it turns its back on the millions of women worldwide whose lives are destroyed because they are forced into the sex trade?  Those are actually rhetorical questions, simply because the answers would fill a book (or several books) not a mere blog entry.  Suffice to say that it's no surprise that most American women, when asked, vigorously deny allegiance to the modern feminist movement.

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Suburbs and urbs

My son belongs to a music group that functions in a large urban area, but has suburban satellites. My son trains with one of those satellites. In the days leading up to performances, all of the satellite groups descend on the urban center for final rehearsals. I got to audit one of those rehearsals the other day and was struck by the differences in boys.

There are many similarities of course. When you gather 50 boys between the ages of 6 and 10 in one room, you're going to have the itchiest, twitchiest, wiggliest group of people you've ever seen or even imagined. The secret to perpetual motion was hidden in that room.

What was different amongst the groups of boys from different geographical regions, though, was attitude. Without exception, the little suburban boys were respectful. Their bodies may have been wiggling, but their attention was on the teacher. Most of the urban boys were also respectful, although with a little more of an edge. However, there was something in that room that I haven't seen in the suburbs: out and out disrespect. A handful of those ten and under kids had already completely internalized urban attitude. They were "cool" — and cool means rude. I was shocked.

Now, it would be easy to say that I'm looking at just a small group of 50 boys total, and shouldn't reach general conclusions. Likewise, the fact that most of the urban boys were good, and that they constitute a much larger group of boys than my little suburban cadre, means that the majority of boys are going to be good. My small group is therefore statistically anomalous.

All of these excuses for that disrespectful behavior are possible if one ignores the fact that I'm used to interacting with huge groups of suburban boys — at soccer, at baseball, at school, at parties, in the neighborhood, etc. No matter how large the group, I've never seen "attitude" amongst these boys. Some are naughtier, some are more active, some a little sullen, but none think that they're so cool that they can treat adults with blatant disrespect.

This difference in communities is especially interesting given that the parents in my community are all good, card-carrying liberals, and they tend to be non-disciplinarian parents (spanking is not a parenting option in my community and can, for the unlucky parent, lead to a visit from Child Protective Services). The parents are not united by religious, political or social conservatism. Yet, somehow, they've managed to raise their children with a small town ethos that includes respect and honor. Perhaps there is something about living in a community that looks like a setting for Beaver Cleaver or the Brady kids that leads inexorably to parenting expectations that mirror those imposed on these fictional characters.

Your comments and observations on this would be very welcome.

Image from Brad Silverman.

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More on manly men

To a hammer, everything is a nail. Currently, I'm hammering away at the idea of manly men. I did so yesterday in a post that alluded to early posts and articles I've written. Today, I'm doing it in connection with a New York Times article about Paul Greengrass's United 93. It turns out that there've been some murmurings of discontent from family members who think four male passengers have been given too much credit for the events on that flight:

As the courageous behavior of passengers and crew members who battled the four hijackers on the plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001, became public, some families grew troubled that four former athletes who made phone calls from the plane — Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick — received almost all the sunlight of media exposure. Many others aboard were left in shadow.

It's not that other victims' families discounted or resented the valor of those men. But the families resisted early attempts by politicians to honor only these four. There was concern that bravery aboard United Airlines Flight 93 not be made into a kind of Olympic sport, where some passengers received a gold medal for gallantry while others had to settle for silver or bronze.

That's a very personal fight the families are having with a media that likes to focus on individuals the media deems more charismatic than others. I'm not going there, because deep emotions such as these are beyond the realm of argument or analysis.
The fact is, though, that when making the film, Greengrass decided to hew to this popular version of events on the plane, and he did so for what I believe is a very compelling reason: he felt it was more likely that these traditional, manly men, would assume leadership roles and personally lead the charge against the terrorists:

Relying on logic and evidence from phone calls, if not the safety net of proof, Mr. Greengrass concluded that the passenger rebellion was propelled by the youngest and strongest men.

"Sitting in a real airplane with actors who are roughly the same age and build as the passengers, you notice who the young men are and how many there are," Mr. Greengrass said. "Pinned in the back, your eyes automatically go to the biggest men."

In the movie, it is Mr. Glick, a former national collegiate judo champion with an outsized body and the skills for close-quarter fighting, who leads the revolt, leveling a hijacker with a running kick. Later, he appears to break a terrorist's neck.

I don't think Greengrass's decision denigrates the others on the plane. As I noted, I knew one of the passengers personally and, knowing her energy, optimism, courage and superb physical fitness, I have little doubt but that she was an active participant in saving the Capitol from the terrorists. However, acknowledging the undoubted bravery of the other passengers doesn't mean ignoring reality. And reality is that, in the small amount of time remaining to them, these passengers were not going to have a touchy-feely, egalitarian meeting, with everyone weighing in with an opinion, and debating the finer points. The events could only have happened if leaders stepped forwards immediately and Greengrass is right: The leaders were most likely to be the fit, traditional males on the plane.

Manly men — true manly man who embody all male virtues, from bravery through compassion — are an asset to a healthy society. We forget that at our peril.

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History — especially Muslim/Western history — endlessly repeats itself

Since 9/11, we've been hearing a lot about the Crusades.  The current version is that Christians were evil in the Middle Ages when they attacked the peace-loving Saracens.  The version goes further, which is that the psychic scars inflicted seven hundred years ago were so deep that they go a long way to explaining the current crop of beheadings, bombings, plane crashes, etc.  An alternative view that is slowly being advanced is that, beginning with Mohammad, Islam established itself as an exceptionally aggressive religion, so that the Crusaders were dealing with their own seven hundred year old psyhic wounds when they embarked on the Crusades.  Clearly there is more than enough finger-pointing to go around, and the fact is that, in those days, both sides were equally at home with behavior that we non-Muslims now consider barbaric (especially the beheading bit).

The thing is, though, one needn't look so far into the past for modern parallels.  Bin Laden's most recent speech, which urges Islamists to focus their attention on the Sudan, raises fairly recent history.  As Dan Darling reminds us, this is not the first time the Sudan has witnessed a clash between Muslims and Christians:

As Rohan Gunaratna noted in Inside Al Qaeda in 2002, "the threat posed by Islamists has not diminished in the Sudan and is likely to re-surface from time to time. Parallels are often drawn between Osama and his Sudanese precursor, the Mahdi, who fought a jihad against the British in the late nineteenth century."

To get a sense of the time, watch pre-PC Hollywood's Khartoum.  That plot can be summarized as follows:

English General Charles George Gordon, a devout Christian, is appointed military governor of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan by Prime Minister Gladstone. Ordered to evacuate Egyptians from the Sudan, General Gordon stays on to protect the people of Khartoum, who are under threat of being conquered by a Muslim army. His Christian faith and military command are challenged by Mohammed Ahmed el Mahdi, "the Expected One," the head of the Muslim forces.

It's a very good movie. 

Giving their lives for our freedom

Maybe it's just objective news; maybe the AP is making a point. Who knows? All I know is that the AP is once again announcing the number of US forces who have died in Iraq: 2,392. This averages out to less than 1,000 deaths per year of war. While I find the number saddening, since each death is a child or sibling or parent lost, the number itself is pretty darn impressive — impressively good, that is. Just a few points of reference.

  • On September 11, 2001, in under an hour, 3,030 noncombatants died.
  • Not counting the Iraq War, deaths in the American military from 1980 to 2000 averaged 1,586 deaths per year (mostly attributable to accidents). 1983 was an especially bad year (probably because of the bombing at the Marine barracks in Beirut) and 2000 was a very good year. If I were statistically brilliant, I'd tell you how this death rate measures against the mortality rate in the population at large. You'll have to do that yourself if you're interested.
  • Vietnam saw a total of 58,209 American deaths in Vietnam.
  • The "police action" in Korea resulted in 36,574 American deaths directly attributable to the war.
  • World War II? 405,399 deaths, both from combat and "other." (To give that a little perspective, keep in mind that roughly 62 million people died world wide, from Europe to Africa to Asia to the Anzac nations, because of WWII. I find it impossible to wrap my mind around that Malthusian number.)
  • World War I — 116,516 American dead — and we were in that war for a little over a year.
  • During the Civil War, 364,511 Americans gave their lives on the Union side to hold together the nation and defeat slavery. The Confederate side, which had a smaller population to draw on, lost 258,000 to wounds and disease. The numbers of this truly savage civil war also help to give a little perspective to the civil war now taking place in Iraq.
  • The Revolutionary War, which citizen militias waged in the cause of freedom, saw 4,435 deaths, a staggering number when you considering America's small population.

By all means, let us mourn our dead and be thankful for the sacrifices these men and women made on our behalf. And then let us be grateful that we live in a day and age when our Army can take down a dictatorship, be swarmed daily by truly evil gnat-like militias, and still have such a low casualty rate at the end of the day.

 

Never again. Never forget.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. I'm a little late, but it's really never too late to remember not to forget.

In a weirdly hopeful sign, there might be a small corner in Egypt — of all places — that isn't forgetting:

A new book which does not deny the Holocaust and the number of Jews murdered in it has been published in Egypt in recent days, Israel's leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Tuesday.The book, "The Holocaust of the Jews – concentration camp, Auschwitz Birkenau" was written in Arabic and is 325 pages long. The author is Dr. Ramsis Otz.

The book is bases on research carried out in the West and in the countries of the former Soviet bloc, and presents the truthful and known picture regarding what took place in the concentration camp – a first for Egypt.

The book includes the set up the camp, the Nazi plan for the destruction of the Jews, means of genocide, the incinerators, injuries to the bodies of the victims, Joseph Mengele, Rudolph Hess, the women and children in the camp, and more.Sources in the Israeli embassy in Egypt say that the book has high importance due to the strengthening of voices in Egypt and the Arab world which deny the Holocaust, doubt the number of Jews murdered, and attributing the Holocaust to Zionist media manipulation.

In addition to that, few of the studies in the Arab world and specifically in Egypt address the Holocaust and the death camps in the way that the book does. The author used terms in the book such as mass destruction, forced labor, and Holocaust.

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What censorship really looks like

I love it when people hostile to the current administration get onto every TV show and garner column inches in every newspaper to voice their complaints about censorship and suppression.  Irony doesn't seem to be an operative word in their vocabulary.  These same people are always remarkably quiet when the real deal happens.  In this case, the real deal is Islamofacist militias in Iraq murdering two beloved entertainers:

FOR the crime of staging a children’s show, Faud Radi and Haidar Jawad were executed by the new moral guardians of Baghdad.

The actors were part of the Happy Family Team, a troupe adored by millions of Iraqi children from its frequent appearances on television. The theatrical group and a dozen others were planning an 11-day festival to help youngsters to forget momentarily the curfews, bombings and other dangers of daily life in this city.

 

Armed militias, which pass for the law in many neighbourhoods these days, had other ideas and set out to sabotage the event.

Safaa Eadi, 31, a founding member of the Happy Family Team, told how the group had been threatened by gunmen, who objected to them giving drama classes to children of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. A handwritten note had been left on the windscreen of the group’s van, the usual method that the militias employ to warn a target.

“We didn’t take them seriously, so we carried on,” Mr Eadi said. “The next day the building was burnt down.” Then, on the eve of the festival, Mr Radi, 20, and Mr Jawad, 25, were returning to their homes in the Amirayah district of western Baghdad, the heartland of Sunni insurgents.

They were in the van, so they made an easily identifiable target. They had offered to drive a woman friend to hospital on their way. Their vehicle came under a barrage of gunfire on a main road. Mr Jawad and the woman passenger died instantly. Mr Radi was dragged from the van and beaten to death.

It's so frustrating that, rather than putting all our energies to fighting these heinous people, people committed to snuffing out goodness and light all over the world, we are engaged in furious battle at home with people who would deny both that this kind of evil exists and that it is threatening the free life we know and love.
Hat tip:  Clear and Present 

How to handle a woman

As the mother of a very masculine little boy, I spend a lot of time thinking about (and some time blogging about) what makes for a good manly man. In the "what not to do" category, I've been reading Kate O'Beirne's Women Who Make the World Worse : and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports. I expected this to be a light, amusing romp through the insanities of radical feminism, but this well-written book is, in fact, quite depressing. It spells out in careful detail the attacks radical feminists make against men. The justification for these man-hating attacks is that, in the distant past, men did not treat women well. There you have it. Because men historically didn't show women the respect these feminists demand, my sweet little boy is treated like a hostile combatant. I've been gnashing my teeth reading this book, and keep having to take breaks to read fluffy stuff. Still, anguish notwithstanding, I'm not giving up. This book has too much important content to be abandoned because it's an uncomfortable read.

That was my "what not to do" rant. What I really want to blog about is what to do, a subject that keeps coming to mind when I see a nine year old boy in my neighborhood. He is a very manly little guy — athletic and, for that reason, much admired amongst the swarms of little boys in our community. It's not only the boys who admire him, though. The little girls (my little bookworm included) adore him. Why? Because he's already learned the art of cherishing them. When groups of kids start playing, a situation that always has the potential for insult and kid-on-kid violence, he never picks on or attacks the girls. Instead, he protects them. The result is that the girls want to be around this strong boy who always makes sure they're okay. He is the perfect old-fashioned gentlemen, something that seems to be a combination of good parenting and innate people-sense.

I think this boy's relationship with his peers is very telling, and refutes strongly the whole feminist demand that boys be made over into placid, egalitarian creatures. He is a born leader amongst a whole cadre of children because he plays to traditional stereotypes: he's the warrior for the boys, the protector for the girls. Those children who hew less to these traditional behaviors are also less popular than he is.

I realize that this child is an "N" of 1, as is my neighborhood, but there's certainly food for thought in the dynamics I daily see playing out around me.

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