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.