Render unto Caesar that which is Caesars….

I went to law school in the Bible Belt, so many of my fellow students were devout Christians. Thomas, however, out-Christianed everyone. His parents were missionaries, and he’d been raised with a level of faith no one else at the school could equal. He was one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, a truly Christian person in the best sense of the word, but he was also quite unworldly. It was this latter quality that came to the fore when it was time for us to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (or, as we called it, the MPRE). This exam is a prerequisite for practicing in just about every state in America, or at least that was the case a couple of decades ago.

The MPRE tests students on generic rules (as opposed to state-specific rules) of professional responsibility. These rules cover such scintillating topics as engaging in business transactions with ones clients, billing, dealing with clients who are deadbeats, the proper ways to approach the Court, conflicts of interest, and other wonderfully arcane topics that tend to have a surprisingly large effect on the average lawyer’s work day.

With one exception, everyone in my graduating class paid $200 dollars and trooped off to a one day review session in order to prepare for the MPRE. That one exception, of course, was Thomas. He announced to anyone who asked that he didn’t need to take a class in professional responsibility because the Bible taught him everything he needed to know about ethics.

I’m sure that, by this point, it won’t surprise you to hear that Thomas was the only student in our year (indeed, the only student in law school history) to fail the MPRE exam. The Bible did not prepare him at all for picayune rules about the proper way in which to handle retainers or the balancing of interests that needs to be done in taking on two similarly situated, but not identical, clients. In other words, Thomas’ deep and strong morality had nothing to do with procedural rules for being a lawyer in the modern era.

I’ve been thinking about Thomas a lot in connection with Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. The fact that Huckabee is a devout Christian is turning a lot of equally devout Christian voters his way. With Mitt, we see the reverse. Because he is a devout Mormon, devout Christians are rejecting him. As regards Mitt, I have heard from Christians who believe that any man who makes a profound doctrinal error cannot be trusted with any other task. Conversely, because Huckabee is on the right path doctrinally, they’re convinced that this will lead him automatically towards being a good national executive.

Thinking about these viewpoints, I can’t help but feel that people who are imposing a religious test on these two candidates are making the same mistake Thomas did: they think that reading the Bible the right way is sufficient to getting the task done, forgetting that some tasks have different rules. This is not to say, of course, that one must abandon ones Biblically-based morality and ethics. It is to say, however, that a deep knowledge of the Bible won’t get you through all of the necessary tasks of a specific job — especially the President’s job.

When you separate Mitt’s and Mike’s theology out from their political values and abilities, you get a rather different picture. I’m the first to admit that Mike is a charming, witty, Biblically erudite man. I also freely acknowledge that his values are entirely consistent with the values that social conservatives espouse, especially when it comes to abortion. However, there is no doubt that he is a tax and spend politician who believes that the government should use its power to coerce people into engaging in government approved behaviors — which is fine, perhaps, if Mike is the government and you agree with his ideas. It becomes a fearsome precedent, however, if the subsequent President is say, Obama, Hillary or Edwards, all of whom have freely admitted that they want to use government coercion on citizens, usually in ways that are disagreeable to conservatives. (Here are just the two most recent examples of Edwards, Hillary and Obama in nanny state mode.)

As for Mitt, even if you find his theology loopy, you have to agree that his end point is pretty consistent with the same end point a traditional Biblical Christian reaches, with the added bonus that he is an economically conservative Republican. I’ll offer just two examples of his social conservatism. The first is the wonderful answer he gave during the BoobTube debates to the question about black on black crime. Rather than coming out with just another tired old chestnut about throwing more money into black communities, something that hasn’t made a positive difference in the last 40+ years, he made a values statement: we need to encourage intact families amongst blacks:

YouTube question: Hi, this is me and my son Prentiss. We’re from Atlanta. I want to ask you guys a question (inaudible) every year. But what about the war going on in our country, black on black crime? Two hundred to 400 black men die yearly in one city alone. What are you going to do about that war? It feels like the (inaudible) is right outside.

Cooper: He’s talking about black-on-black crime, crime in the inner cities.

Governor Romney?

Romney: Well, first of all, Printes is pretty fortunate because he’s got a dad standing next to him that apparently loves him by all appearances there, and that’s probably the best thing you can do for a kid is to have a mom and a dad.

(Applause)

And it’s time in this country that we go back to the kind of values that allow kid to have moms and dads. In the African-American community today, 68 percent of kids born are born out of wedlock. And so we’re going to try and once again reinculcate in this country the try of values that have made us so strong: family values.

The second example is his pro-Life stance. I happen to know that many of you are suspicious because he came to it late in the day, but I’m not inclined to hold that against him, because my views have shifted so dramatically on the subject. For me, the moment came when I saw the first ultrasound of my first baby, aged 16 weeks. It was so clearly a baby, with a little spine like a string of pearls. Before that moment, I’d truly never connected the “fetus” with a baby. Growing up in liberal land, with the focus on “me, me, me (the woman),” I’d managed to avoid the obvious connection. If I were to get pregnant now, even though my pregnancies are Hell and I don’t want another child, I’d do something that would never have occurred to me 20 years ago: I’d stay pregnant. People change and Mitt ought to get the benefit of the doubt on this. In any event, the most important thing he can do, since he can’t set abortion policy (that’s not the White House’s job), is appoint conservative justices, who will read the Constitution as written and not snatch rights out of thin air.

Dennis Prager likes to say (and I’m paraphrasing) that we have to look more to what people do, and less to what animates their actions. Whatever path Mitt has taken, he has arrived at a spot where he is a pretty rock solid conservative candidate, both socially and economically. And whatever path Mike has taken, he has arrived at a spot where he is a rock solid conservative socially, but a flat-out liberal in terms of economics and nanny-state government policies. Also, unlike Mitt, Mike is unelectable. As a former liberal, I can assure you that anyone who espouses his religious views and calls himself a Republican (despite his Democrat proclivities) is more unpalatable to the average liberal even than George Bush was. In other words, a vote for Mike is a vote for Hillary, Obama or Edwards. And a vote for any one of those three will see outcomes that will make most conservatives, whether social or economic (or both) very, very unhappy.

Taking turning the other cheek too far

I won’t go into the genesis of the teddy bear kerfuffle, because I assume you know all about it, including the fact that a Sudanese court imprisoned a British woman for 15 days for naming a teddy bear Muhammad, an insult that apparently has the prophet rolling in his grave.

The teacher claims, with corroboration, that she named the bear after a student of the same name. It’s not surprising that she had a student of the same name, since it is the most popular boys’ name in the Muslim world. It kind of leaves you wondering whether it’s an insult to the Prophet if boys sharing his name go off and do bad things, really bad Muslim things like drinking alcohol.  Should they be killed for demeaning the Prophet’s name? This whole event is a reminder, if any is needed, that Islam is a weak and paranoid religion that cannot sustain itself through the strength of its ideas, but only through fear and intimidation (or, at least, that’s the way it perceives itself as seen through its own doctrine and conduct).

Anyway, all of the above is a digression.  What I really wanted to comment on is what the teacher’s son said in the wake of her 15 day sentence in a Sudanese prison for mis-naming a toy:

Her son, John, from Liverpool, has not yet been allowed to telephone her but was hoping to fly out to Sudan to visit her as soon as a visa could be arranged.

He stress that British people angered by his mother’s jail sentence should not turn against Muslims.

“I don’t not want this to lead to any anti-Muslims feeling in this country.

“Everyone has been very nice, we have had a lot of support from Muslims in Britain, in Sudan and across the world.

My fear, and one of my mother’s fears, is that this will result in resentment towards Muslim people. That is something I really hope does not happen and I am sure my mum feels the same way.” (Emphasis mine.)

Does John really believe that pandering statement or is he just saying it because his mother is being held hostage? I have to believe he means it, because he could just as easily have said nothing at all. Instead, when confronted with a religion that doctrinally requires his mother’s death, either directly or through flogging, he’s decided to say that nobody should think twice about the connection between his mother’s ordeal and Islam.

While I think John is right to point to those Muslims who have been supportive, the highlighted language in his little press statement is an invitation to ignore a serious problem in the world today — namely, that Muslim doctrine and practices are about 1,000 years out of step with the rest of the world. (And if you need any more evidence of that, just check out the obligatory Muslim mob.)

The disconnect between non-Muslims in Britain, as exemplified by John’s fatuous statement, and Muslims in Britain cannot be overemphasized:

Poll shows Muslims in Britain are the most anti-western in Europe

Public opinion in Britain is mostly favourable towards Muslims, but the feeling is not requited by British Muslims, who are among the most embittered in the western world, according to a global poll published yesterday.

The poll, by the Washington-based Pew Global Attitudes Project, asked Muslims and non-Muslims about each other in 13 countries. In most, it found suspicion and contempt to be mostly mutual, but uncovered a significant mismatch in Britain.

The poll found that 63% of all Britons had a favourable opinion of Muslims, down slightly from 67% in 2004, suggesting last year’s London bombings did not trigger a significant rise in prejudice. Attitudes in Britain were more positive than in the US, Germany and Spain (where the popularity of Muslims has plummeted to 29%), and about the same as in France.

Less than a third of British non-Muslims said they viewed Muslims as violent, significantly fewer than non-Muslims in Spain (60%), Germany (52%), the US (45%) and France (41%).

By contrast, the poll found that British Muslims represented a “notable exception” in Europe, with far more negative views of westerners than Islamic minorities elsewhere on the continent. A significant majority viewed western populations as selfish, arrogant, greedy and immoral. Just over half said westerners were violent. While the overwhelming majority of European Muslims said westerners were respectful of women, fewer than half British Muslims agreed. Another startling result found that only 32% of Muslims in Britain had a favourable opinion of Jews, compared with 71% of French Muslims.

Across the board, Muslim attitudes in Britain more resembled public opinion in Islamic countries in the Middle East and Asia than elsewhere in Europe. And on the whole, British Muslims were more pessimistic than those in Germany, France and Spain about the feasibility of living in a modern society while remaining devout.

I understand the above to mean that, while John is joining with your average Briton in saying that Islam had nothing to do with what is happening with his mother, it’s almost certain that your average Muslim in Britain, rather than agreeing with him, would be happy to join the Sudanese mob baying for her blood.

As long as a country seems to be constitutionally incapable of recognizing a problem, it cannot deal with that problem, and it will die.  In other words, denial isn’t just a Muslim controlled river in Egypt.

What I hope is that when Gibbons is safely released, she denounces what happened in the strongest terms.  What I suspect is that, either because she is given over to PC indoctrination or because she is afraid of future assassination, she will say only nice things about a religion that wants only the worst for the West.

Stop the presses! Poll points out the obvious.

You and I know that children — thank goodness! — are remarkably adaptable. Indeed, the younger they are, the more adaptable they are. It’s for this reason that pricey private schools and public schools in wealthy communities offer foreign language classes to the kindergarten set, rather than waiting, as they used to do in the old days, until the kids were in high school before exposing them to another language. You and I also know that the best way to learn a language is to be immersed in it. Those old high school classes didn’t work very well because we got grammar drills three times a week, instead of spending hours and hours surrounded by that language. Take the same high school kid and ship him off for a year abroad in Spain or France or Italy, and he’ll be chattering like a native in months.

You and I know all this. Liberals, however, while they grasped it for their own lily-white children, with ever more enrichment programs, stubbornly refuse to believe that the same might hold true for people of browner complexions. Hence, the insanity of bilingual education, which might have started as a humane way to ensure that a child wasn’t totally abandoned in a strange country, but morphed into a vast industry that prevented Hispanic children from ever coming into contact with the English language — all for the children’s own good, of course.

Given this mindset (“my little white children can learn a new language, but I love your poor little brown children so much I’m going to make sure they never get the chance to try”), I wonder how many of these educationally insane liberals are going to read and understand the latest study about immigrant children and English:

Most children of Hispanic immigrants in the United States learn to speak English well by the time they are adults, even though three-quarters of their parents speak mainly Spanish and do not have a command of English, according to a report released yesterday by the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.

Only 23 percent of first-generation immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries said they spoke English very well, the report found. But 88 percent of the members of the second generation in Latino immigrant families described themselves as strong English speakers, a figure that increased to 94 percent for the grandchildren’s generation.

To which I say, in my best English, “Well, duh!”

Interestingly, the New York Times spins this report, not as a blow to the anti-assimilation bilingual education cadre, but as a blow to those who are opposed to illegal immigration. They don’t seem to get that there is a difference between legal and illegal immigration, with the language debate having nothing to do with the latter issue.

Additionally, the Times-ites don’t understand that, as to legal immigrants, this study supports those who are opposed to government policies that keep all immigrants, legal and illegal, from assimilating into American society through that most basic tool of assimilation: the English language. Indeed, just recently, people who believe in language as an important vehicle for immigrant aid were appalled that Nancy Pelosi allied herself with the Hispanic caucus and the EEOC to force the Salvation Army to stop its quaintly antiquated policy of requiring English language skills for holding a job:

In March the EEOC sued the Salvation Army because its thrift store in Framingham, Mass., required its employees to speak English on the job. The requirement was clearly posted and employees were given a year to learn the language. The EEOC claimed the store had fired two Hispanic employees for continuing to speak Spanish on the job. It said that the firings violated the law because the English-only policy was not “relevant” to job performance or safety.

***

“If it is not relevant, it is discriminatory, it is gratuitous, it is a subterfuge to discriminate against people based on national origin,” says Rep. Charles Gonzalez of Texas, one of several Hispanic Democrats in the House who threatened to block Ms. Pelosi’s attempts to curtail the Alternative Minimum Tax unless she killed the Alexander amendment.

The confrontation on the night of Nov. 8 was ugly. Members of the Hispanic Caucus initially voted against the rule allowing debate on a tax bill that included the AMT “patch,” which for a year would protect some 23 million Americans from being kicked into a higher income tax bracket.

***

After testy negotiations, the Hispanic Caucus finally agreed to let the tax bill proceed after extracting a promise from Ms. Pelosi that the House will not vote on the bill funding the Justice and Commerce Departments unless the English-only protection language is dropped. “There ain’t going to be a bill” with the Alexander language, Mr. Baca has told reporters.

Incidentally, if you want to see what happens when a government engages in policies that prevent its immigrants from assimilating, just check out what’s going on outside of Paris (riots, incidentally, that Sarkozy seems to have quelled thanks to an aggressive response). All of the MSM outlets are waffling on about how not enough government money is flowing into the banlieus, but you and I know that not enough French/Western culture and too few Judeo-Christian host county values (assuming Europe has any left) are flowing in — and one of the ways in which they flow is on language’s back.

Incidentally, regarding values and language, I will remind you that ivory tower types love to point out that the Inuit language has practically a gazillion different words for snow. Language very much reflects value and culture — something George Orwell pointed out with startling clarity in 1984.

One of those days

Sorry for the blogging silence, but I have spent the day on the move without actually going anywhere.  This morning, I didn’t work because I had to bring my son to the orthodontist, which is one town away from me.  Then, I brought him to school, which is a different town away from me.  Then I went home and worked briefly before going to a client.  Then, I raced home in time to catch the bus and the sprint really began.  My daughter has a Thursday activity a 15 minute drive south of me — that is, if there’s no traffic.  My son has a Thursday activity a 25 minute drive north of me — that is, if there’s no traffic.

Because I’m the parent volunteer for my son’s activity, I usually have friends drive my daughter to and from her activity (since their daughters are involved too).  Today, though, the system fell apart.  The first inkling I had that things were crumbling was when the gal who was to drive my daughter there had to cancel.  So, I packed my kids in the car, drove South for 15 minutes and dropped my daughter off at her activity.  As I drove away, I saw her grumpy face, only partially resigned to a chilly 15 minute wait.

I then made the 15 minute drive back north to home base to pick up my carpool.  Car packed with boys, I headed even further north, into the serious traffic, for a 35 minute drive to the next destination.

It was on this drive that I learned that there was no one to pick up my daughter, since the Mom who was to bring her home canceled too.  I therefore dropped off the boys, hurriedly told the choir director that I had to get my daughter and headed south again.  Forty minutes later, I had my daughter in hand and headed north again.

Forty-five minutes later (with traffic thickening by the minute), I returned to my son’s activity, with a very grumpy daughter in tow.  I spent 40 minutes doing my volunteer work there, and then bundled my gaggle of kids (my own and the carpool into the car), only to hit the worst traffic of all.  Fifty minutes later, I finally made it to the carpool rendezvous spot, relieved to be headed home at last. Even cook dinner and taking out the garbage seemed peaceful and meaningful compared to the (rat) race I just ran.

I know that many of you spent many hours in traffic, while I, a self-employed lawyer, usually don’t.  I think therefore, my tolerance is low.  But what really hacked me was how unnecessary the traffic jams were.  The reason the traffic was so horrific was gridlock.  At every intersection, I had to wait through several lights because impatient drivers, incapable of taking their turn, simply put themselves into the intersection, knowing that it would turn red on them, but willing to block the traffic so that they could have their way.  Not only is that kind of driving selfish, it’s also dangerous, because hot heads get so impatient they do really stupid swerving and passing stuff eventually.  Had a few malcontents been a little more patient and followed the rules, everyone would have saved time in the end.

Racist or taking matters into their own hands?

I’ve got a few news stories to throw out at you, all of which, in my mind, are related. At the end, I’ve got a couple of questions for you. First, the news stories, many of which are just from the last couple of days:

Under the Labour Government, England has had an overwhelming influx of immigrants, which is balanced out by the almost equally high number of native Britons leaving the country. In a few decades, immigrants will be in the majority. The country’s social services are crumbling under the strain.

Although the media is playing coy, reading between the lines we understand that Arab and African immigrants are running riot in France, again.

Half of the 3.5 million immigrants living in Texas are illegals. Nationwide, one third of immigrants are here illegally.

Illegal aliens are behind drunk driving deaths and murders.

In North Carolina, state funded colleges and universities are being forced to admit illegal immigrants.

San Francisco is handing out official IDs to illegal immigrants.

And now two more news stories:

In Australia, which has had a huge influx of Muslim immigration, pigs’ heads were placed on the site of a controversial proposed Islamic school. (Hat tip: RD) This rendered the land unclean by Muslim standards.

In Padua, Italy, native Italians arranged to have a pig run over land that was being slated for a controversial mosque. Again, the land was made unclean.

These last two headlines can easily be classified as racist or, at least, religion-ist. Nimby-ism in its nastiest sense. But I think that’s a bit too simplistic.

What people are seeing, both here and abroad, is that their governments have failed to control immigration, whether by having open border policies or by allowing unchecked illegal immigration. They’re also seeing that their governments, having failed to stop immigrants at the borders, are either encouraging further illegal immigrants or destroying their economies handing out benefits to immigrants, both legal and illegal.

These government policies would be fine if the people actually agreed with them — but they don’t. Americans, for example, are overwhelmingly opposed to illegal immigrants and to extending benefits to illegal immigrants. (See here and here for examples of poll results.) Native Europeans are also disturbed by the enormous influx of immigrants. None of the polls, incidentally, indicates overwhelming xenophobia, with immigrants being castigated as evil. Instead, people are mad at their respective governments for losing control over a situation that is desirable under limited circumstances. After all, immigration, especially in America, is a very healthy antidote to societal stagnation. In other words, immigration, like medicine, can be wonderful in small doses and toxic in large doses.

So what I think those last two stories show isn’t racism or religion-ism. I think they show an exasperated population trying, without violence or overt face-offs, to step in and act in the vacuum their governments have created. Heck, it’s not even a vacuum. All of these governments, whether deliberately or through inaction, are flouting the will of the people. If governments would control their borders and stop handing out benefits like candy, local populations wouldn’t feel obligated to exert some minimal control over their own environments.

Do you agree or disagree? Alternatively, do you have a whole different theory I didn’t even think of?

UPDATE: As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve got a real bee in my bonnet about dishonestly presenting actual facts. The sin of omission especially gets me, because the author of a particular report self-righteously points to the accuracy of what he did say, without having acknowledging the inaccuracy created by what he didn’t say. Into that category falls a new study out of UCLA that announces that illegal immigrants are underutilizing the free services offered to them at American emergency rooms. Below, you can read the headline and the first few paragraphs in the LA Times version of the story:

Study finds immigrants’ use of healthcare system lower than expected

UCLA researchers find that Latinos in the U.S. illegally are 50% less likely to visit emergency rooms.

By Mary Engel, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 27, 2007

Illegal immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries are 50% less likely than U.S.-born Latinos to use hospital emergency rooms in California, according to a study published Monday in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

The cost of providing healthcare and other government services to illegal immigrants looms large in the national debate over immigration.

In Los Angeles County, much of the focus of that debate has been on hospital emergency rooms. Ten have closed in the last five years, citing losses from treating the uninsured, and those that remain open are notorious for backlogs.

By federal law, hospitals must treat every emergency, regardless of a person’s insurance — or immigration — status. Illegal immigrants, who often work at jobs that don’t offer health insurance, are commonly seen as driving both the closures and the crowding.

But the study found that while illegal immigrants are indeed less likely to be insured, they are also less likely to visit a doctor, clinic or emergency room.

“The current policy discourse that undocumented immigrants are a burden on the public because they overuse public resources is not borne out with data, for either primary care or emergency department care,” said Alexander N. Ortega, an associate professor at UCLA’s School of Public Health and the study’s lead author. “In fact, they seem to be underutilizing the system, given their health needs.”

Reading that headline, sub-headline, and packet of six paragraphs, you are of course meant to understand that the illegal immigrants are not, in fact, a burden on health care, and that it is racist, classist, imperialist, capitalist, and any other -ist you can think of for the anti-illegal immigration crowd to base its arguments on our overburdened health care system.

But did you figure out what’s missing from the story? The question isn’t whether the illegals are under-using the system relative to their own health care needs. From the point of view of the American tax payer, the only question is whether they are over-using the health care system compared to their contribution to the system. And only in paragraph seven of the story does Mary Engel touch upon that pivotal point:

Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that lobbies for tougher immigration controls, said that usage rates are just one measure of illegal immigrants’ effect on healthcare. The other factor, he said, is the cost to taxpayers, which Ortega’s study did not examine.

Cost estimates vary widely. A Rand Corp. study published last year in the journal Health Affairs put the cost of healthcare for illegal immigrants nationwide at $1.1 billion a year, excluding care for those younger than 18 and older than 64.

FAIR called the Rand number a “low-ball” estimate. Its own study of healthcare costs of illegal immigrants and their dependents, including U.S.-born children, estimated California’s portion alone to be about $1.5 billion a year.

Mehlman said $1.5 billion “is still a significant amount of money, unless you’re Bill Gates.”

Having made an intellectually honest women of herself, Engel goes right back to her dominant point, which is that the immigrants are sacrificing their health so that we don’t have to bear their burden. Really, it brings tears to my eyes — NOT.

By the way, if you’re wondering why I included this story in this post, it’s because it’s kind of part of the package of stories I included at the top of this post, regarding the enormous stresses illegal immigration places on American society, and it can be analogized to the enormous stresses legal immigration places on the social welfare societies of Europe.

Media up to its tricks?

During the last Democratic debate, it looked as if CNN had planted Democratic activists in the audience — people who it identified as undecided voters as if they were political tabula rasas – — to throw softball questions at the candidates.  It now looks as if someone at CNN planted a Democratic activist to throw hardball questions at the Republican candidates.

This time, the plant showed up in the form of a Clinton activist who lobbed a nasty, loaded question at the candidates regarding gays in the military — an especially funny thing considering that it was the Clinton presidency that created the “neither fish nor fowl” policy that currently dominates the American military when it comes to gay service people.

If anyone wonders why the American people regularly rank the media below lawyers and used car salesmen when it comes to career respect, they should look no further than these types of shenanigans.

Syria — spoiler or saviour?

My view of the Annapolis talks has been that they will turn into something of a gang bang, with Israel, led by the inept Olmert, as the victim. I just know that Israel is going to concede and concede and concede, with nothing to show for the experience except a ruined reputation and some serious problems down the line. However, it turns out that Syria, of all countries, has stated that its purpose is to make sure that Israel leaves Annapolis with her national virtue intact.  Okay — I admit it.  Syria doesn’t actually use that language, nor does Syria intend for anything good to happen to Israel.  Nevertheless, Israel might benefit from Syria’s stated goal going in, which is to make sure that nothing whatsoever comes out of Annapolis:

It really would be something if the Syrian delegation could find their own road to Damascus on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. But that would require something approximating good faith. The Syrians’ decision to be represented at Annapolis by their deputy foreign minister–his bosses evidently having more important things to do–is one indication of the lack of it. So is the Assad regime’s declaration (via an editorial in state newspaper Teshreen) that their goal at Annapolis is “to foil [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert’s plan to force Arab countries to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” And lest the point hadn’t been driven home forcefully enough, the Syrian information minister told Al Jazeera that Syria’s attendance would have no effect on its relations with Iran or its role as host to the leadership of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.

Of course, things are never quite so simple. Because Syria seems more adept at this Machiavellian game than either America or Israel, there’s a strong likelihood that it’s not simply going to ensure that Annapolis doesn’t change the status quo (because I’m sure Olmert, unfettered, will make things worse), but instead it will actually use subtlety and nuance to drive both the US and Israel into positions that are untenable and even dangerous over the long term.  Thus, as Bret Stephens says in the article from which I quoted above:

At best, then, Syria will attend Annapolis as a kind of non-malignant observer, lending a gloss of pan-Arab seriousness to the proceedings. At worst, it will be there as a spoiler and unofficial spokesman of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. If it’s clever, it will adopt a policy of studied ambivalence, with just enough positive chemistry to induce the administration into believing it might yet be prepared for a real Volte face, provided the U.S. is also prepared to rewrite its Syria policy. Recent attestations by Gen. David Petraeus, that Damascus is finally policing its border with Iraq to slow the infiltration of jihadis, suggest that’s just the game they mean to play.

What price will the U.S. be asked to pay? Contrary to popular belief, recovering the Golan is neither Syria’s single nor primary goal; if anything, the regime derives much of its domestic legitimacy by keeping this grievance alive. What’s urgently important to Damascus is that the U.N. tribunal investigating the 2005 murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri be derailed, before the extensive evidence implicating Mr. Assad and his cronies becomes a binding legal verdict. No less important to Mr. Assad is that his grip on Lebanese politics be maintained by the selection of a pliant president to replace his former puppet, Emile Lahoud. Syria would also like to resume normal diplomatic relations with the U.S. (which withdrew its ambassador from Damascus after Hariri’s killing), not least by the lifting of economic sanctions imposed by the 2003 Syria Accountability Act.

Watcher’s Wanted

Sadly, ‘Okie’, of ‘Okie’ on the Lam, has commitments that will prevent him from continuing to serve on the Watcher’s Council.  I will certainly miss his thoughtful insights, ably presented through an amusing and interesting writing style.  His departure creates an opportunity, though, for another blogger to step up to a place on the Watcher’s Council.  If you’re a blogger and you’re interested in trying out, you can read the rules here.

Looking to be outraged

I’ve been thinking lately about self-perpetuation. Although I can’t remember the source of their outrage, Mr. Bookworm told me that Greenpeace is outraged by something. Hearing that, the thought popped into my mind that, well, if they’re not outraged about something, they may as well disband.

I read somewhere, and I can’t remember where, that some bureaucracy is loudly and expensively sticking its nose into something irrelevant to its original mission and, again, I suddenly realized that, if the bureaucracy doesn’t make work for itself, it may be stricken from the federal budget.

I’m having this thought more and more often as I read of outrage and interference: it’s artificially manufactured to justify the existence of an institution or ideology that is no longer (or feels as if it is no longer) relevant.

And with that intro, let me introduce you to the latest outrage of the day:

MADONNA has horrified animal activists after dyeing her sheep blue, pink, yellow and green for a Vogue spread at their English country estate, in Wiltshire.

Madonna, 49, and husband Guy Ritchie, 39, insisted the dye used was temporary and did not harm the animals but an online report on music-news.com has said that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) stated that even though the dye may be safe for the animals those who copy this stunt might not be so careful.

An RSPCA spokesperson said: “Why is it necessary and what are they trying to prove? It is an irresponsible publicity stunt. It sends out the wrong message about how to use animals.”

I’m so not a fan of Madonna, but to me, this is just a group “being outraged” for no purpose but to claim relevancy where none exists. There’s no allegation that the sheep were hurt in any way, including being emotionally humiliated (if such is possible for sheep).

As a reader, I can only ask in bewilderment what “wrong message about how to use animals” is being sent out? These are sheep, for goodness sake. There are millions of them in England and they stand around like white fluffy things eating grass. That’s what they do. And then they are shorn, and the white fluffy stuff is dyed and sold to people. Sometimes they are also slaughtered and eaten with mint sauce. I doubt that they care about Technicolor spray paint.

My new heart throb

Okay, I admit it. I’ve for years thought of Fabio as a joke. The bulging muscles, the overly squared jaw, the flowing locks — to me he looked like a caricature of a man, rather than a man. I’m now doing mea culpas for having been guilty of that kind of look-ism. It turns out that Fabio isn’t just another rather bizarrely pretty face, he’s a thinker — and, despite an unnecessary number of obscenities, he’s thinking the kind of thoughts I like:

“The Israeli people have been the sacrificial lamb of history,” Fabio declares. It’s mid-August, and the bombs are dropping in Lebanon as we stand in the kitchen of his sprawling Spanish-style mansion in Los Angeles (his publicist asked that we keep the neighborhood a secret to deter stalkers). The so-called Harlequin heartthrob, a diehard news junkie, has had a lot on his mind lately, particularly when it comes to Middle East policy and the Iraq war.

“It’s about f*****g time,” he says, as Fox News reports on Israel’s attempt to push Hezbollah out of Southern Lebanon. “[The Jews] have been getting killed for 5,000 years. Enough is enough. The rest of the world does not give a shit, except America, because the Israelis have no oil. Everyone sticks with those Arabs—because they have the oil.”

Oil is a big issue for Fabio. Despite being an avid dirt-bike aficionado, he’d like to see America wean itself off fossil fuels. “We should f*****g get alternative energy and tell all the Arabs and the rest of the world to stick it up their a**,” he says. “F**k them and the oil!”

Bless his heart, he’s not just my kind of guy when it comes to foreign politics and the right reason, as opposed to the loony reason, to go green, he also genuinely likes his adopted country.  That is, he doesn’t come here, benefit from American freedoms, and still go around badmouthing the place:

Fabio has a deep respect for the United States, which he credits with helping him achieve his incredible success. He has traveled the world, and says he has no doubt that America is by far the best country out there.

Fabio isn’t a mere Republican sycophant, though.  He is clear that he’s not a Republican, and he thinks that going into Iraq was a big mistake.  However, with the logic of someone who was in the military, he’s totally clear on the fact that, if you’re going to wage war, you wage war, you don’t just mess around with delicacy:

He’s also critical of how the war has been waged. “We went in too fast,” he says. “To me, shock and awe should not be a light touch. Where’s the shock, you know?” The model, who served the once-mandatory 18 months in the Italian military after high school, nods a lot when he speaks. He’s so damn friendly, even when calling for mass carnage, that I find myself nodding along with him.

“Bomb them for a few years,” he suggests, “And when they start coming out with the white flag … bomb them a little bit more. Then you go in with our soldiers.”

Clearly, Fabio will not be the type of model who goes off and cavorts with loathsome dictators.  I feel like running out and buying a romance novel with him on the cover just to make a statement and to apologize for underestimating his capacity for rational thinking solely because of his looks.

Hat tip: Hot Air

“Youths” honor decedents of “ethnic descent” by continuing to attack French police

I kid you not — the language I put in quotations in this post caption is the precise language the BBC uses to describe those who are engaged in a little bit of urban unrest In France. You know, the kind of innocuous urban rioting that results in more than 80 policeman being injured from beatings and bullets. Here, let me show you:

At least 10 cars have been burned and a fire broke out at a library in Toulouse, southern France, following consecutive nights of rioting in Paris.

There was also more violence in the capital as youths set cars on fire in the suburb of Villiers-le-Bel, the Associated Press news agency reports.

***

Relatives of the two dead teenagers, who were both from ethnic minorities, have insisted that police rammed their motorcycle before leaving them to die. (Emphasis mine.)

And that’s it. That’s all the information the BBC is going to give you about those rioters. But in this internet day and age, “ve haf vays” of finding out more information, even though it’s tough, very tough to do so. The Bloomberg report, for example, coyly hints at the ethnic nature of the “unrest” (Bloomberg’s word, not mine), by stating that “In France, poor neighborhoods and housing projects where many immigrants live tend to be far from city centers.” Hmm. Immigrants from where, I wonder? But we’re putting the pieces together. We’ve now got immigrant communities with people of ethnic descent.

AP, surprisingly is fairly forthright about the nature of the suburbs in which this year’s batch of riots is taking place, although it can’t resist implying that the poor innocents doing the attacking are doing so righteously because of their alienation: “The unrest showed that anger still smolders in France’s poor neighborhoods, where many Arabs, blacks and other minorities live largely isolated from the rest of society.” And again, “Youths, many of them Arab and black children of immigrants, again appeared to be lashing out at police and other targets seen to represent a French establishment they feel has left them behind.”

I’m sorry to say that the British paper The Independent is no help at all. While it boldly calls the youthful attacks on police something akin to “guerrilla warfare,” it places the blame firmly where it belongs: on the police. You see, last year, long after the riots ended, it turned out that the two youths who were electrocuted had been acting innocently when the police chased them into the power substation, knowing it was dangerous. (It does not appear that this was known when the actual riots happened, of course.) In other words, The Independent agrees with AP that the current crop of youths is righteously upset about the two kids killed while on the motor scooters, clearly justifying anarchy.

So, both at home and abroad, the MSM narrative is as follows: Young people are rioting in Paris and, in true “if it bleeds it leads” tradition, the news reports will happily tell you that they’re organized, they’re armed, and they’re incredibly aggressive, so much so that scores of police have been injured, and we’re not even talking property damage. If you insist on knowing more about who these people are, we’ll hint that they’re friends of youths of ethnic descent, and that they live in neighborhoods that have primarily Arab and African immigrants and their children.

If you suspect that part of the problem might be that these Arab and African immigrants are Muslim, please be assured that you are wrong. In the ponderous language of social scientists, the reporters will assure you that the riots/unrest/guerrilla warfare problem is entirely due to (1) the government’s treating these youths badly and (2) the fact that it emerged after last year’s riots that the police might have lied about their run-in with two of these same types of youths.

By the way, I don’t have any doubt but that part of the reason — even a large part of the reason — that these riots happen is because French society, indeed most European society, is set up so that there is no path to integration and assimilation for immigrants. That societal failure to absorb immigrants means that they’re going to be sitting in slums that become powder kegs of anger, unrest and, eventually, violence. Believing that, though, doesn’t mean that I don’t also believe that another, possibly significant, part of the problem is that there is a connection in this day and age between Muslims and violence. And when news reports play so coy, rather than my ending up believing that Islam has nothing to do with the violence, I tend to believe that Islam does have something to do with the violence and that the press is simply avoiding an issue it does not want to address.

And by the way, this kind of media avoidance syndrome — where you have to read through scads of articles to gather the puzzle pieces that shape the whole picture — is not limited to youth violence. Over at Big Lizards, Dafydd has taken the time to investigate the hidden, and very sordid, connection between the Clintons and InfoUSA, with the latter being a database marketer that knowingly sells information about vulnerable populations (the old and the sick) to organizations that run scams on these same people. He’s also taken the time to smell a rat in the article that purports to show a racist/religious-ist Romney refusing to contemplate the possibility of a Muslim holding a high government position in his administration. (Note to MSM types: it’s the carefully placed ellipses that always end up giving you away.)

My bottom line to the media: either report the news or stop pretending that you do.

UPDATE: It’s currently hidden behind the WSJ’s subscription wall, but John Fund has written a great article about Nancy Pelosi’s current effort to make America more like France by working to ensure that the current generation of immigrants remains stuck forever in non-English speaking poverty. Consistent with fair use, I’ll give you just a taste of what Fund has to say, and we’ll hope that the WSJ soon releases the article for general consumption:

Should the Salvation Army be able to require its employees to speak English? You wouldn’t think that’s controversial. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is holding up a $53 billion appropriations bill funding the FBI, NASA and Justice Department solely to block an attached amendment, passed by both the Senate and House, that protects the charity and other employers from federal lawsuits over their English-only policies.

The U.S. used to welcome immigrants while at the same time encouraging assimilation. Since 1906, for example, new citizens have had to show “the ability to read, write and speak ordinary English.” A century later, this preference for assimilation is still overwhelmingly popular. A new Rasmussen poll finds that 87% of voters think it “very important” that people speak English in the U.S., with four out of five Hispanics agreeing. And 77% support the right of employers to have English-only policies, while only 14% are opposed.

But hardball politics practiced by ethnic grievance lobbies is driving assimilation into the dustbin of history. The House Hispanic Caucus withheld its votes from a key bill granting relief on the Alternative Minimum Tax until Ms. Pelosi promised to kill the Salvation Army relief amendment.

UPDATE II: More on liberal efforts to keep minorities ghettoized.

UPDATE III: For a literary touch, I’ll just throw in one more thing. Because I’m feeling lazy, I’ve been re-reading Dorothy L. Sayers’ Gaudy Night, one of my favorite novels from England in the mid-1930s. (Even though it’s a mystery, I view it as a novel because, after many readings, there are no mysteries left in that book for me.) The book takes place at Oxford, and has a healthy respect for the old-fashioned idea of academic objectivity. Sayers therefore has one of her characters, during a discussion with someone about a history book, say the following:

“I entirely agree that a historian ought to be precise in detail; but unless you take all the characters and circumstances concerned into account, you are reckoning without the facts. The proportions and relations of things are just as much facts as the things themselves, and if you get those wrong, you falsify the picture really seriously.”

The whole book, incidentally, is a testament to examining facts without allowing private belief systems or loyalties to interfere with ones understanding of those facts.

Neutrality and truth

There is an extraordinary story hidden behind the latest album Swedish soprano Anne-Sofie von Otter is releasing. The album itself should be lovely and moving, because it’s a collection of songs from Terezienstadt, including lullabies a nurse composed for her charges in the days (weeks?) before she and they were shipped off to Auschwitz and death. What’s amazing, though, is the back story — the story that inspired Otter to make this recording:

Her tragic tale begins on a train, as so many war stories do. Anne-Sofie’s father, Baron Göran von Otter, was a Swedish diplomat in wartime Germany, adjutant to the ambassador. On the night of 20-21 August 1942, travelling from Warsaw to Berlin, he became an involuntary witness to the Holocaust.

Standing in the corridor because he could not get a sleeper, the diplomat saw an SS officer glancing in his direction. When the train stopped at a station, both men got off for fresh air. On the pitch-dark platform, the SS man asked for a light for his cigarette. Von Otter produced a pack of matches with a Swedish crest. ‘I must talk to you,’ said Kurt Gerstein.

‘With beads of sweat on his forehead and tears in his eyes’ (as von Otter reported to his superiors), Gerstein explained that he was head of a Waffen-SS Technical Disinfection unit, responsible for supplying poisons and gas equipment. ‘Yesterday,’ he told von Otter, weeping uncontrollably, ‘I saw something appalling.’ ‘Is it about the Jews?’ said the diplomat.

Over the next six or eight hours in the train corridor, having examined Gerstein’s papers and satisfied himself of his credentials, von Otter heard a detailed account of the mechanics of genocide, the gas chambers, the mass graves. Gerstein gave chapter and verse, the names of senior personnel, the look in a little girl’s eyes as she was shoved naked to the slaughter. ‘I saw more than ten thousand die today,’ he wept.

He implored the Baron to inform the Swedish government, in the hope of stopping the slaughter. ‘I had no doubt as to the sincerity of his humanitarian intentions,’ said von Otter, who promptly wrote a report to Stockholm and heard nothing more. Not long after, he was recalled. When he looked for his own report in Foreign Ministry files, there was nothing to be found.

Gerstein, after risking his life with further confessions to foreigners, gave himself up to the French in April 1945 and was charged with war crimes. In prison, he wrote a full account of what he had seen and a letter to von Otter requesting corroboration of their meeting. The diplomat’s reply arrived a few days too late. Gerstein was found dead on July 25, 1945, either by his own hand or murdered by fellow-SS inmates. He had originally joined the SS in order to investigate the death by euthanasia of his mentally disabled sister-in-law.

‘My father never talked,’ says Anne-Sofie von Otter with sombre concentration. ‘Not just about Gerstein, about anything. We didn’t even know that his grandfather had been prime minister of Sweden for two years. What I know, I heard from my mother who was with him in Berlin. But I had the feeling growing up that it troubled him deeply, not getting Gerstein’s information out, not being able to save Gerstein’s life. A strong sense of guilt hung heavily over the rest of his life. He was not a particularly courageous man, but he was always driven by a sense of trying to act and do right, something he tried to pass on to his four children.’

Von Otter’s career stalled, possibly because his 1942 report compromised Sweden’s blind-eye neutrality. He rose no higher than consul-general in London, and died in 1988. ‘He was not a happy man,’ says Anne-Sofie. ‘He felt a failure in his career, his family weren’t close to him and it must have preyed on his mind that millions of people were being gassed all the time when he was unable to do anything. Not to mention Gerstein’s death, a man of his own kind who was also trying to do the decent thing. He tried hard in London with me, the youngest, but he didn’t manage to be the sort of father that makes my heart reach out to him.’

That’s what political neutrality tends to mean.  Not a principled stand for peace, but actively turning a blind eye to evil (or as in the case of the Swiss, playing banker for evil).

Hat tip: RD

Is Obama Jimmy Carter or is Huckabee?

National Review has a Rich Lowry article asking if Obama is this generation’s Jimmy Carter (an article available in its entirety to subscribers only). Here’s how Lowry describes Jimmy Carter, circa 1976:

Carter wasn’t really in the McCarthy-Hart-Bradley mold. He ran a conservative, or at least an ideologically indistinct, race in the 1976 Democratic primaries. He was cagey about his abortion views, but basically pro-life; relatively conservative on economics; and somewhat supportive of right-to-work laws. (As all the qualifiers suggest, he was hard to pin down on anything). Liberals distrusted him just because he was a southerner. He vied for the George Wallace vote and benefited from four major candidates — Morris Udall, Birch Bayh, Fred Harris, and Sargent Shriver — dividing liberal support.

The article goes on to track his similarities with Obama, such as the unexpected nature of his candidacy and the limited power of his experience.

Actually, I was thinking yesterday, after reading Robert Novak’s take-down of Mike Huckabee, that it is Huckabee who is the Carter of 2008, and that despite the fact that Huckabee is running as a Republican, not a Democrat. Here, in releveant part, is what Novak had to say about Huckabee’s decidedly unconservative tendencies:

There is no doubt about Huckabee’s record during a decade in Little Rock as governor. He was regarded by fellow Republican governors as a compulsive tax increaser and spender. He increased the Arkansas tax burden by 47 percent, boosting the levies on gasoline and cigarettes. When he decided to lose 100 pounds and pressed his new lifestyle on the American people, he was far from a Goldwater-Reagan libertarian.

As a presidential candidate, Huckabee has sought to counteract his reputation as a taxer by pressing for replacement of the income tax with a sales tax and has more recently signed the no-tax-increase pledge of Americans for Tax Reform. But Huckabee simply does not fit in normal boundaries of economic conservatism, as when he criticized President Bush’s veto of a Democratic expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Calling global warming a “moral issue” mandating “a biblical duty” to prevent climate change, he has endorsed the cap-and-trade system that is anathema to the free market.

In other words, like Carter, Huckabee is a Southern governor; like Carter, he is a devout Southern Baptist, so like Carter, he is the butt of media sneering about his religious and moral outlook; and, most significantly, like Carter, he believes in big, big government.

I’m pretty sure that Huckabee is a better man than Carter (and, on the moral trajectory Carter’s taken in the two decades, he could hardly be worse).  I like his wit and I like his support for Israel.  I bet I’d really enjoy spending time talking to the man.  I’m also not too troubled by his lack of Ivy League credentials, since I think we’re tending towards a fearsome elitism if we begin to expect Ivy League degrees from all future presidents.  But do remember that Carter’s religiosity did not stop him from embarking on a tax and spend governance that led to one of the saggiest, flabbiest economies America has suffered through.  Nor did people take well to being preached at by the White House for their own good.  It’s no coincidence that many people, myself included, consider him the worst President, if not ever, then at least of the modern era.  It’s also no coincidence that it was Carter’s successor, the supply side, ebullient Ronald Reagan who captured America’s hearts and minds.  And even if Huckabee isn’t Carter, he’s also definitely no Reagan.

Random thoughts about Annapolis

Regarding Annapolis, I’ve had little to say. I feel as if I’m watching a car accident in slow motion, horrified by the spectacle, but helpless to do anything. I do have one hope, though, and one comment. My hope is that the Arab nations attending get into “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” mode and recognize that they may need to form an alliance with Israel against the greater threat that is Iran.

The comment is that I know the outcome is going to be the same old, same old: Palestinians are going to emerge with tangible benefits based on their promise never to be bad again. This will happen regardless of a long history showing that this is one promise they can’t keep.

How about this instead: If Palestinians promise to go 40 years without attacking Israelis, and do in fact keep that promise, then they will get X, Y & Z.

By the way, that 40 years is a deliberate number that you may recognize from the Bible: God determined that 40 years in the desert was a sufficient time for the old, slave generation to die out and a new nation to be born, deserving of its own land. Maybe 40 years of self-imposed peace amongst the Palestinians will be enough to see the fading away of the hatred that currently animates them so that a new people can be born.

Of course, my wish will never see the light of day. As always, Israel will make concessions and get nothing in return but bombs dropped on her citizens. As many have said, until the Arabs take the first step of recognizing the Jewish state’s right to exist, everything else is meaningless, pointless window dressing. As Bernard Lewis said in a WSJ article (which, unfortunately, is behind the subscription barrier as of this writing):

If the issue is about the size of Israel, then we have a straightforward border problem, like Alsace-Lorraine or Texas. That is to say, not easy, but possible to solve in the long run, and to live with in the meantime.

If, on the other hand, the issue is the existence of Israel, then clearly it is insoluble by negotiation. There is no compromise position between existing and not existing, and no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist.

UPDATEA little boost for my theory that the Arab leaders showed up because their fear of Iran outweighs their hatred for Israel.

Unclear on the marriage concept

I don’t know anything about Evergreen State College, except that I’d certainly steer clear of one history professor there — and if she’s representative of the rest of the faculty, I’d avoid the school entirely. But let me back up.

In today’s NY Times, one of the top most emailed articles is an op-ed by guest contributor “Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history at Evergreen State College.” Coontz is not a nobody in academic circles. Judging by her website, she has spent her long academic career focusing on women and marriage, and has published many books on the subject. She looks like a nice lady. All of which makes more incomprehensible the fundamental thinking errors underlying her op-ed piece.

Her article’s premise is spelled out in its title: “Taking Marriage Private.” That is, she suggests that marriage cease to be something affiliated with the state and become a purely private matter — sort of like living together, except with some sort of preliminary party. To support her premise, she embarks on a laundry list of historic moments in marriage, which reads like one of the time charts on a library wall — all facts, no substance or understanding. The end of the article is, of course, the conclusion that the state should allow gay marriage.

But here I am, being conclusory myself. Let me explain what I mean about the intellectual flaws in Coontz’s chronology. I think the easiest way to do that is fisk her essay. I’ll apologize in advance for the fact that fisking her essay destroys the chronological coherence of my argument, since I’m responding to her sometimes random, vague, or misleading points in the order in which she makes them.

WHY do people — gay or straight — need the state’s permission to marry? For most of Western history, they didn’t, because marriage was a private contract between two families. The parents’ agreement to the match, not the approval of church or state, was what confirmed its validity.

For 16 centuries, Christianity also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows — even out alone by the haystack — the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married. [This argument may be technically correct, but it still misses by a mile the core issue, which is that marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic faith. Catholic marriage is not simply a formulaic procedural event. Instead, as one Catholic website explains, "Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification (Catechismus concil. Trident., n.4, ex S. Aug. 'De Catechizandis rudibus)." In other words, sacraments lie at the heart of the Catholic faith. People who professed themselves married, even if they did so on their own, were still presumably embracing the sacrament of marriage, which obligated the church to recognize their self-imposed status. And to the extent it was a sacrament, people were not going to mess around lightly with the concept.]

In 1215, the church decreed that a “licit” marriage must take place in church. But people who married illictly had the same rights and obligations as a couple married in church: their children were legitimate; the wife had the same inheritance rights; the couple was subject to the same prohibitions against divorce. [See my discussion above.]

Not until the 16th century did European states begin to require that marriages be performed under legal auspices. In part, this was an attempt to prevent unions between young adults whose parents opposed their match. [True, but Coontz is being disingenuous in this paragraph by coyly handing out minimal facts. What she fails to mention was that, in the 16th Century, the Catholic Church, which hitherto had been practically indistinguishable from the governance of Europe, was suddenly being challenged by Protestantism. In England, for example, Henry VIII broke with the Pope and started the Church of England, with himself as the head. Nevertheless, he was a traditionalist and continued to be believe in marriage as a sacrament. To the extent he merged marriage and state, marriage had to be taken out of the Catholic church and put into the state to satisfy his religious requirements. The same was happening throughout Europe. As the Church faltered, the state took over, either because it was replacing the Church, as in England, or because it was trying to reinforce Church hegemony, as in France or Italy.]

The American colonies officially required marriages to be registered, but until the mid-19th century, state supreme courts routinely ruled that public cohabitation was sufficient evidence of a valid marriage. By the later part of that century, however, the United States began to nullify common-law marriages and exert more control over who was allowed to marry. [Again, true, but there are a few problems. First, Coontz makes it sound as if merely living together was sufficient to create a recognized marriage. The opposite was true. Common law marriages were hard to prove at law: the relationship had to be one of long duration, and both parties to the relationship had to hold themselves out to others as husband and wife. In an increasingly bureaucratized age, and in an era of greater social dislocation and alienation, however, these public representations became harder to validate, and the states needed a recognizable procedure for clarifying relationships. The potent amalgam of a mobile population, children, and the full faith and credit clause requiring State A to recognize a marriage in State B, meant that it made sense to standardize the situation.]

By the 1920s, 38 states prohibited whites from marrying blacks, “mulattos,” Japanese, Chinese, Indians, “Mongolians,” “Malays” or Filipinos. Twelve states would not issue a marriage license if one partner was a drunk, an addict or a “mental defect.” Eighteen states set barriers to remarriage after divorce. [I'm not sure what Coontz's point is here. That some states had bad marriage laws has nothing to do with the fact that states had valid reasons for passing basic marriage laws in the first instance.]

In the mid-20th century, governments began to get out of the business of deciding which couples were “fit” to marry. Courts invalidated laws against interracial marriage, struck down other barriers and even extended marriage rights to prisoners. [Ditto.]

But governments began relying on marriage licenses for a new purpose: as a way of distributing resources to dependents. The Social Security Act provided survivors’ benefits with proof of marriage. Employers used marital status to determine whether they would provide health insurance or pension benefits to employees’ dependents. Courts and hospitals required a marriage license before granting couples the privilege of inheriting from each other or receiving medical information. [Again, Coontz is being disingenuous by slipping in here for the very first time in her lengthy disquisition the core historical (and, perhaps, modern) point of marriage: children. Indeed, she doesn't even make this point explicitly, instead euphemizing it as "a way of distributing resources to dependents," and then trying to disguise the point with babble about Social Security benefits and hospital visits. At all times, in all cultures, the focus behind marriage is children and inheritance. When the Church controls a society, the Church sets the terms for marriage. When the state controls society, the state sets the terms. But it's always about establishing patrimony, ensuring child care, and distributing wealth. To imply that this factor is a sudden mid-20th century phenomenon is misleading.]

In the 1950s, using the marriage license as a shorthand way to distribute benefits and legal privileges made some sense because almost all adults were married. Cohabitation and single parenthood by choice were very rare.

Today, however, possession of a marriage license tells us little about people’s interpersonal responsibilities. Half of all Americans aged 25 to 29 are unmarried, and many of them already have incurred obligations as partners, parents or both. Almost 40 percent of America’s children are born to unmarried parents. Meanwhile, many legally married people are in remarriages where their obligations are spread among several households. [This is not an argument. It's a glossy statement that hides the fact that the 40 percent of America's children that are born to unmarried parents also constitute the greatest number of American children living in poverty. And the fact that people have identities outside of marriage has nothing to do with the societal benefits that arise from marriage (although I assume she's trying to say that, in the 1950s, when "almost all adults were married," all you needed was a marriage license to become a recipient of distributed state benefits. That's untrue, of course.)]

Using the existence of a marriage license to determine when the state should protect interpersonal relationships is increasingly impractical. Society has already recognized this when it comes to children, who can no longer be denied inheritance rights, parental support or legal standing because their parents are not married. [Whoa, Nellie! Did she just say that children cannot be denied inheritance rights? That's certainly true in places such as Italy and Brazil, but last I heard, parents could still cut ungrateful American brats out of their wills. In fact, I know of one particularly mean-spirted parent who successfully cut her lovely child out of her will. I will provide for my children as part of my testamentary planning because I love them, not because the state forces me to. And even in the old days, when remarriage was common because of one spouse's death, the break-up of a marriage didn't necessarily deny the children of a previous marriage any testamentary rights. It just depended on the way in which the estate was originally devised, a fact all Jane Austen readers understand.]

As Nancy Polikoff, an American University law professor, argues, the marriage license no longer draws reasonable dividing lines regarding which adult obligations and rights merit state protection. A woman married to a man for just nine months gets Social Security survivor’s benefits when he dies. But a woman living for 19 years with a man to whom she isn’t married is left without government support, even if her presence helped him hold down a full-time job and pay Social Security taxes. [Well, then, maybe they should have gotten married so as to take advantage of the government benefits. Polikoff and Coontz both get the argument bass ackwards here. They say because the law is unfair to people who make different choices, the law is wrong. It never occurs to them that the law is intended to increase societal stability, especially for children, and that maybe the choices are wrong.] A newly married wife or husband can take leave from work to care for a spouse, or sue for a partner’s wrongful death. But unmarried couples typically cannot, no matter how long they have pooled their resources and how faithfully they have kept their commitments. [Ditto.]

Possession of a marriage license is no longer the chief determinant of which obligations a couple must keep, either to their children or to each other. But it still determines which obligations a couple can keep — who gets hospital visitation rights, family leave, health care and survivor’s benefits. This may serve the purpose of some moralists. But it doesn’t serve the public interest of helping individuals meet their care-giving commitments. [Ditto.]

Perhaps it’s time to revert to a much older marital tradition. Let churches decide which marriages they deem “licit.” But let couples — gay or straight — decide if they want the legal protections and obligations of a committed relationship. [Or perhaps it's time for society to remember what marriage is about and, instead of shaping the law to choices that although beneficial to individuals are deleterious to society, Society should remind individuals that marriage is good for children and stabilizes society, that these laws serve a valid purpose and that those who, knowing the law, still elect to co-habitate, have made their choices and must take their chances.]

As for me, I’m conflicted about co-habitation before marriage. I did it because, in my heyday, everyone did it. I was very pragmatic about it, seeing it as a way to save on rent and as a practice for marriage. As to the latter, it wasn’t, of course, a point best made by a friend of mine who also lived with her husband before marrying him. She said that everyone asked her, “if you’re already living together, why get married?” She replied that this question showed a complete misunderstand of marriage.

“When John and I were living together, we always knew that we could just walk away if it didn’t work out. We were roommates with sex. However, when we got married, we stood before man and God and made a commitment to each other. Our vows were a covenant to the marriage. It’s not a contract. It’s not that, if one person ‘breaches’ the contract, the other person can walk out. A covenant binds you regardless of the other person. Since we’re married, John and I are much more careful of each other’s feelings because we are bound together.”

My friend was absolutely right. And she spoke that way before having children. As those of us with children know, that binding tightens when there are children involved. Even though children can put great stress on a marriage, their needs — physical, emotional and economic — are best met by a stable marriage.

When marriage is a miserably unhappy experience, even if there are children involved, it’s probably a mistake to try to hold the marriage together. However, if the marriage is tolerable, that combination of public commitment, religious covenant, and obligation to the children should keep a couple together, since their togetherness benefits their children and society as a whole.

UPDATE:  Myriad typos corrected, although I’m sure you can still find many more.

The failed Democratic anti-Surge

I’m not giving away anything by quoting here the concluding paragraph from Noemie Emery’s long and fascinating article about the Democrats’ desperate and, at the moment, unsuccessful anti-Surge efforts in the last year.  If you read only this paragraph, good as it is, you’ll have missed all of the really interesting stuff:

As they took control of Congress at the start of 2007, the Democrats vowed this would be a year of historic importance, and it seems they were prescient: Seldom before in the annals of governance have so many politicians fought so long and so hard to completely screw up a winning strategy being waged on their country’s behalf. Some cruelly define this as treacherous conduct, but this is imprecise and unkind. They tried, it is true, to do serious damage, but were compromised in the event by their chronic incompetence, as well as by being too above-board and open to try to do things on the sly. A stab in the back as a concept was wholly beyond their capacities. This was not a stab in the back that works via guile and subterfuge. It was 41 different stabs in the front, that always fell far short of serious damage, unless you count the damage they did to their own reputations (the approval ratings for Congress are now in the twenties). It was the Stab in the Front, the Surge-against-the-Surge, the Pickett’s Charge of the Great War on Terror. It was a year to remember, that will live in the annals of fecklessness. It was historical. It was hysterical. It was the Stab that Failed.

Today’s public health message

I really try not to be neurotic about germs.  I understand that, especially with kids, a few bacteria here and there are good for their immune systems.  Indeed, when my kids were little, I read somewhere that kids who grow up in houses where Mom is too aggressive with the antibacterial sprays actually have compromised immune systems.  I do have a few anti-germ rules, though:  wash your hands when you come home; use anti-bacterial gel after handling shopping carts or riding public transportation; and run a bleach load once a week (’cause you don’t really want to know what kind of gross bacteria grow in your washing machine).  I now have a new item to add to the list:  wash your hotel drinking glass really, really well.

The gap between critics and the rest of us

Rotten Tomatoes is an aggregator that assembles movie reviews and then, depending on the number of positive or negative reviews, assigns any given film a “freshness rating. ” The higher the rating, the more favorable the majority of reviews are.

For example, as of today (11/25 at 18:06 PST), Enchanted gets a 93% freshness rating (which is a percentage point higher than yesterday). In other words, there’s a fair degree of critical unanimity that Enchanted is a really nice movie. That unanimity carries over to the non-professionals too. At the bottom of each movie’s Rotten Tomatoes page, non-professional critics can add their two cents, either by writing a review or simply by voting for the movie. The non-professional critics give the movie a 92%, while the user rating is 8.4/10 — pretty high. And if you get away from the rarefied world of professional critics or people who take the time to contribute to sites such as Rotten Tomatoes, the news is still good. By voting with their feet, film-goers gave the movie a $50 million opening, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Things are a little different for famed director Brian de Palma’s Redacted, both in terms of box office revenues and, most strikingly, in terms of the way the professional critics see the movie and the way the rest of the world sees the movie. In this last regard, it is, once again, a striking reminder that our media is populated by people who are very anti-War — which, as I always say, is their prerogative, if only they didn’t pretend to some Olympian objectivity.

So, back to Rotten Tomatoes, this time to the Redacted page (again, as of 11/25 at 18:06 PST). Generally, the movie hasn’t been well-received. What’s fascinating is that, the more “important” the publication (in a declining scaled from the New York Times down to the Podunk Review, and yes, I made that last one up) the more likely it is that the critic approves of the movie. Thus, while the critical average for the movie is 47% (that’s aggregating all professional critics) the top critics (or, as they’re called, “the cream of the crop”) gave it a 54% rating. Even more strikingly, some of them acknowledge that it’s a lousy movie. They just like the message so much, they really think you ought to see it. For example, David Edelstein, who reviews movies both for NPR and New York Magazine, has this to say:

Critics have called the movie crude and punishing. All right, the defense concedes all that, but the movie does a harrowing job of depicting the psychological toll of the occupation on both Iraqis and U.S. soldiers. Despite the presence of two American sociopaths (one named Rush, perhaps in honor of the radio commentator who likened torture at Abu Ghraib to frat-house antics), this is not an unsympathetic portrait. In the film’s best scene, we watch a car approach a checkpoint from the Americans’ point of view. It takes a long time, and who knows who’s inside it? All at once, you understand the corrosiveness of living all the time with that threat. And is it unpatriotic to point out that soldiers on their third tours of duty in a place where they have little knowledge of the culture, where they can’t tell who is on their side and who wants to blow them up, stand a good chance of losing both their moral compass and their minds?

If I read Edelstein correctly, he’s saying that Redacted is a lousy movie, but you should see it anyway, because it shows that our soldiers are going insane in Iraq. Okay. He may have framed it in the guise of compassion (those poor babies at the checkpoints), but I think the underlying message is pretty unmistakable, don’t you?

While the faux-intellectuals may be impressed, the public is not. The bottom of the Rotten Tomatoes page starts to give the game away. Non-professional reviewers give the movie only a 30% approval rating, which is enough to drive anyone away from the box office. Likewise, those who merely vote (without a written review) give it a 3.4/10 — again, a singularly uninspiring showing. But that’s the world of words. How about the marketplace? Therein lies the real story (H/T Power Line):

IT’S hard for Hollywood pacifists like Brian De Palma to capture the hearts and minds of America if Americans won’t see their movies. While the public is staying away in droves from “Rendition,” “Lions for Lambs” and “In the Valley of Elah,” audiences are really avoiding “Redacted,” De Palma’s picture about US soldiers who rape a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, then kill her and her family. The message movie was produced by NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who insisted on deleting grisly images of Iraqi war casualties from the montage at the film’s end. Cuban offered to sell the film back to De Palma at cost, but the director was too smart to go for that deal. “Redacted” – which “could be the worst movie I’ve ever seen,” said critic Michael Medved – took in just $25,628 in its opening weekend in 15 theaters, which means roughly 3,000 people saw it in the entire country. “This, despite an A-list director, a huge wave of publicity, high praise in the Times, The New Yorker, left-leaning sites like Salon, etc. A Joe Strummer documentary [of punk-rock band The Clash] playing in fewer theaters made more in its third week,” e-mailed one cineaste. “Not even people who presumably agree with the movie’s antiwar thesis made the effort to see it.” (Emphasis mine.)

It kind of gives you hope for America, doesn’t it? We may be bombarded by intellectually superior people urging us to do our moral duty by seeing a movie that implies — heck, that says straight out — that American troops are so morally and psychologically weak that serving in Iraq has turned them into monsters, but we, the People, ignore that type of crap. Good for us!

UPDATE: Hot Air reminds me that America was never the real target market in any event. It’s sad when anti-American propaganda, rather than being created abroad and sent here, is created here and sent abroad. It’s an inversion of the normal way people should feel about their home.

The ultimate bureaucracy

I’ve disliked the EU ever since, in a moment of absolute insanity, I took a class on EU law when I was in law school. It was a Kafka-esque nightmare — and that was just studying about it, not experiencing it.

If you want some small insight into experiencing it, read this Spiegel article that describes what happens when you have unfettered bureaucratism — all in the name of the public good, of course. People who fear the European economic juggernaut (my mother says there’s now talk of going off the dollar standard and onto the Euro standard) might want to contemplate EU regulations before they panic.

The minute detail of these regulations presages two things for the European economy: stagnation, as people struggle to deal with bureaucratic meddling that stifles innovation and marketplace movement; and crime — not violent crime, but the exponential growth of a black market where people violate the bureaucracy left and right. Neither trajectory bodes well for economic growth or stability.

Trust Mark Steyn to sum up the political playing field perfectly

Three paragraphs of perfect political analysis from Mark Steyn:

If I could just sneak out in the middle of the night and saw off Rudy Giuliani’s strong right arm and John McCain’s ramrod back and Mitt Romney’s fabulous hair and stitch them all together in Baron von Frankenstein’s laboratory with the help of some neck bolts, we’d have the perfect Republican nominee. As it is, the present field poses difficulties for almost every faction of the GOP base. Rudy Giuliani was a brilliant can-do executive who transformed the fortunes of what was supposedly one of the most ungovernable cities in the nation but on guns, abortion, and almost every other social issue he’s anathema to much of the party. Mike Huckabee is an impeccable social conservative but fiscally speaking favors big-government solutions with big-government price tags. Ron Paul has a long track record of sustained philosophically coherent support for small government but he’s running as a neo-isolationist on war and foreign policy. John McCain believes in assertive American global leadership but he believes just as strongly in constitutional abominations like McCain-Feingold. So if you’re a pro-gun anti-abortion tough-on-crime victory-in-Iraq small-government Republican the 2008 selection is a tough call. Mitt Romney, the candidate whose (current) policies least offend the most people, happens to be a Mormon, which, if the press is to be believed, poses certain obstacles for elements of the Christian Right.

On the other hand, as Jonah Goldberg has pointed out, the mainstream media are always demanding the GOP demonstrate its commitment to “big tent” Republicanism, and here we are with the biggest of big tents in history and what credit do they get? You want an antiwar Republican? A pro-abortion Republican? An anti-gun Republican? A pro-illegal immigration Republican? You got ‘em! Short of drafting Fidel Castro and Mullah Omar, it’s hard to see how the tent could get much bigger. As the new GOP bumper sticker says, “Celebrate Diversity.”

Over on the Democratic side, meanwhile, they’ve got a woman, a black, an Hispanic, a preening metrosexual with an angled nape – and they all think exactly the same. They remind me of The Johnny Mathis Christmas Album, which Columbia used to re-release every year in a different sleeve: same old songs, new cover. When your ideas are identical, there’s not a lot to argue about except biography. Last week, asked about his experience in foreign relations, Barack Obama noted that his father was Kenyan and he’d been at grade school in Indonesia. “Probably the strongest experience I have in foreign relations,” he said, “is the fact I spent four years overseas when I was a child in Southeast Asia.” When it comes to foreign relations, he has more of them on his Christmas card list than Hillary or Haircut Boy.

In the same article, Steyn has some words about the amount of pandering going on, minimal from Giuliani and McCain, chronic from every Democrat but for Kucinich:

Let me ask a question of my Democrat friends: What does John Edwards really believe on Iraq? I mean, really? To pose the question is to answer it: There’s no there there. In the Dem debates, the only fellow who knows what he believes and says it out loud is Dennis Kucinich. Otherwise, all is pandering and calculation. The Democratic Party could use some seriously fresh thinking on any number of issues – abortion, entitlements, racial preferences – but the base doesn’t want to hear, and no viable candidate is man enough (even Hillary) to stick it to ‘em. I disagree profoundly with McCain and Giuliani, but there’s something admirable about watching them run in explicit opposition to significant chunks of their base and standing their ground. Their message is: This is who I am. Take it or leave it.

That’s the significance of Clinton’s driver’s-license dithering. There was a media kerfuffle the other day because at some GOP event an audience member referred to Senator Clinton as a “bitch” and John McCain was deemed not to have distanced himself sufficiently from it. Totally phony controversy: In private, Hillary’s crowd liked the way it plays into her image as a tough stand-up broad. And, yes, she is tough. A while back, Elizabeth Edwards had the temerity to venture that she thought her life was happier than Hillary’s. And within days the Clinton gang had jumped her in a dark alley, taken the tire iron to her kneecaps, and forced her into a glassy-eyed public recantation of her lese-majeste. If you’re looking for someone to get tough with Elizabeth Edwards, or RINO senators, or White House travel-office flunkies, Hillary’s your gal.

The Nazis were Marxists

I’ve often pointed out that the Nazis were not of the Right, but of the Left.  (The giveaway, of course, being the word “Socialism” in their full name.)  I’ve been challenged on the view by people on the Left who simply won’t accept that the Nazis were a variation of Marxism, not conservatism.  To reiterate my point about the Nazis, I’d like to direct you to this American Thinker article that provides detail after detail about the Nazis’ socialist roots.

One movie, two views

Dennis Prager likes to say (and I’m paraphrasing here) that liberals and conservatives have entirely incompatible world views. They understand facts in such a different way that there are few points of intersection. I had a reminder of that truism the other day when I watched Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center with a liberal friend.

As you may recall, WTC, which came out last year, tells the true story of two Port Authority police officers (John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno) who got trapped in an elevator shaft when the Trade Center buildings collapsed. The movie traces their day from its ordinary beginnings, to their bewildering mission into the building, to their entombment, survival in the wreckage and ultimate rescue. It also looks at how their families cope with both the news and the complete absence of news, and how they are discovered and extricated. I found it a very moving experience to watch. My friend did not. He thought it was sentimental and pedestrian, despite learning at the end that much of the dialog was lifted right out of newspaper stories and quotations from the people actually involved in the events.

My friend’s perception in that regard could just be an artistic, movie-making quibble. What was more interesting was his emotional response to the movie. As I watched events unfold, especially when the planes hit the buildings and people began to realize that America had been attacked, I became furious all over again at those who had attacked us, and at those who masterminded and funded the attack. I was sorry that the Saudis in the plane died, and that they died fulfilling their hearts’ desires, because it would have been so much more emotionally satisfying to subject to them to some horrible medieval style torture. (And, in that way, it’s probably good for America’s soul that we didn’t get the opportunity to flay them alive, and remove their intestines and burn them before their eyes, which is what they richly deserved.) That was my response.

My friend’s response was this: “Bush is going to go down in history as the worst president ever. He squandered the opportunity to go after the terrorists.” I didn’t want to talk politics during the movie, so I let it drop, but I had a few thoughts: As to the source of this attack, which was Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Bush didn’t squander the opportunity. Instead, he went in and destroyed the Taliban. And as to the fact that it was Saudi Arabia that provided the manpower, the money and the ideology, I doubt my friend seriously believes anyone could attack Saudi Arabia without destroying the West in a single, oil-dripping stroke. In other words, once Bush went after the Taliban, which was a low level player in world Islamism, although a high level players in this single attack, what should he have done vis a vis the Twin Towers?

There will be, for a long time, debate about the wisdom of Bush’s next responsive choice — invading Iraq. I’d like to avoid the justification given for the war — violating UN sanctions, creating a Potemkin nuclear village (although some of the village’s real components seem to have drifted into Syria), funding terrorism, etc. — and focus on the strategic benefit of going into Iraq.

George Friedman, who is the founder of Stratfor, a company that produces intelligence analysis, wrote a book in which he opined, based on information available to the public, that Iraq was a proxy attack on Saudi Arabia. That is, Bush used information available at the time built up a credible and honest case that Iraq was a threat (and I say honest because most of the information was, in fact, true and, as for that which was untrue, there was no way to know at the time that it was false). Neutralizing Iraq, though, was only one goal and, perhaps, even a secondary one. What he really wanted to do was to create a strong American military presence, both short and long term, that was breathing over Saudi Arabia’s shoulder. Saudi Arabia got the message, by the way, and after the War began, Saudi Arabia instantly stepped up its own attacks against Al Qaeda within Saudi borders.

Bush also hoped to create– and, in fact, may have created — a stable pro-American bulwark in the heart of the Middle East. He almost incidentally created a honey pot that attracted Al Qaeda fighters from all over the Muslim world (especially Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia), men who rendered themselves useless by becoming dead. While there may be other fervent anti-American Muslims around the world, not all are willing to die for their beliefs, so the fact that they hate America (as they have done for decades) may be less important than the fact that they’re suddenly not so willing to throw themselves in front of American bullets to demonstrate their hatred.

That’s my view, but I willingly concede that there is room for intelligent disagreement, both about the War’s origins, its conduct, and its eventual results. Nevertheless, I still found peculiar that my friend, watching in almost real time a Muslim/Saudi attack on America that killed 3,000 people, rather than venting at the attackers, used the opportunity to vent against George Bush.

My friend also had one other interesting take on the movie. I’m not giving anything away here, since it was well publicized when the movie came out, but the two police officers were discovered because an ex-Marine, living in Connecticut, recognized that the US was at war, pulled on his old uniform, and went down to the ruins to hunt for survivors. And because he was not affiliated with any official organization, he wasn’t constrained by orders from headquarters calling the search off for the night. He just went in. Once there, he found another ex-Marine, exactly like himself: someone who pulled on his uniform and did his duty. It was these men who, in the dark, dusty, dangerous smoke, went around yelling for survivors to call out or tap. And it was these men who, when they found McLoughlin and Jimeno, assured them that, as Marines, these survivors had become their mission, and the Marines would not abandon them. Since you know how I feel about the Marines, I was really moved by that moment.

Interestingly, when my friend was talking to my son, and telling him about the movie, he described these two rescuers thusly: “These ordinary guys decided to go looking for survivors.” I interrupted to say, “They weren’t ordinary guys, they were Marines.” My friend insisted that I was wrong. They were ordinary guys, he said, because they weren’t fire fighters or police officers or FBI agents or anyone else working with an organization. They just went in on their own. My friend is technically correct — both men were ex-Marines who showed up without orders — but I think he missed something profound, which is that it was their Marine identity and training that drove them there. Strikingly, both of them showed up in their uniforms, which I think was more than just a way to avoid police cordons. I think it was a statement about their identity and their goals: they were Marines, and they were on a mission.

So, one movie, two very different responses.

Weasel results

Despite the press of Thanksgiving, the Weasel crew managed to get its votes in. I have to say, Thanksgiving must have been inspiring because, from my point of view, this is one of the best crops of articles I’ve read since I became a Weasel Watcher. I am, therefore, very proud to have placed in this week’s election. You can unbate that breath now, ‘cause here are the results:

On the Council side, first place went to Cheat Seeking Missiles for Charting a New Course in Iraq Messaging, a scathing denunciation of the way in which the Democrats, deprived of their chance to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, are now attempting to ensure that, even if America leaves Iraq successfully, she is still perceived as the loser. It’s an impressive performance (in a very negative way) from the Democrats, and an impressive post (in a very positive way) from Laer.

Given how good that post was, I’m pleased to have come in second with my Prophets in a Freudian Age, which actually tied with Laer’s post, until the chief Watcher cast the deciding vote (a vote I heartily second). As for my post, you may recall that I starting thinking about how impossible it is for prophets to be taken seriously in an age that brings all deviations from the norm — and hearing God’s voice is one of those deviations — down to mental illness. From that point, I figured that, if I were forced to follow someone the Freudians had diagnosed, I’d much rather follow the humane delusional man (that would be Jesus), as opposed to the violent paranoid schizophrenic (that would be Mohammad).

On the non-Council side, first place went to The Van Der Galiën Gazette for its post, The Irrationality of Europe, which examines how so many of the overarching political positions in Europe are at odds with the facts on the ground and defy rationality and logic. In this regard, the post focuses on European hostility to America, Israel and Turkey, despite the fact that these nations should be their friends given the values the Europeans claim to espouse.

Second place went to Cracked.com for The Ultimate War Simulation Game. In a tongue-in-cheek post, David Wong demands a real war game, that isn’t just for testosterone driven teenagers, but that actually simulates war, right down to all the propaganda moments: “On the very next level I want to lose half of my units because another ‘orphanage’ turned out to be an enemy ambush site. I want another round of hearings asking why I didn’t level that orphanage as soon as I saw it, including tearful testimony from a slain soldier’s daughter who is now, ironically, an orphan.” Sounds real to me!

Did I mention at the start of this post that it was an exceptionally rich week for Watcher’s contributions? Let me check. Yup, there, in the very first paragraph, I said just about that. And I meant it. If you’re hungry for good reading this weekend, you should check out everything there, not just the winners and the placers.