Middle East Open Thread

You’ve probably noticed my conspicuous silence about events in the Middle East, especially in Libya.  I simply don’t have anything to add.  I’m a spectator here and, until the coin stops spinning and lands on one side or another, I’m not prepared to opine.

All I’ve got now are hopes and fears, but not opinions.  My hope is that, with the pustulant powers removed from the top, the poison will drain out of those Middle Eastern countries.  My pessimistic fear is that radical Islamism will fill the power vacuum, making them even worse than before.   Another hope is that Obama will figure out that now is the time to sign off on lots of drilling and exploration in America.  My fear is that his dream of $8/gallon gasoline is about to come true.

Share your hopes, fears, information, speculations, opinions, etc., here.  I’m interested.

It’s entirely possible that, when it comes to gay marriage and the First Amendment, pluralism won’t work.

Rodney King got his 15 minutes of fame for (a) getting beaten up while resisting arrest; (b) having his name attached to some horrific riots; and (c) plaintively asking “Can we get along?”  The last is a great thought.  I’d like to get along with people better myself.  “Getting along,” though, presupposes that people have the same goals and values.  In our pluralist society, even when we have differences, we mostly limp along all right.  Elections shuttle different value systems in and out of power and (at least when the unions aren’t rioting) Americans expect a peaceful transition.

Still, even pluralist societies have bottom line values, things as to which we’re not willing to bend (although, lately, it’s getting harder to pinpoint just what those values are).  Up until recently, one of those values was that “marriage qua marriage” was a one man, one woman deal.  In recent years, we were willing to contemplate “civil unions,” but “marriage” remained sacrosanct.

Also, because of the First Amendment, another American bottom-line is that the government cannot meddle in religious doctrine.  Some confused people think the First Amendment outlaws religion, or outlaws religious people from participating in politics, but most understand that — unless they’re calling for human or animal sacrifice, or polygamy — the American government leaves religion alone.

I have said all along that the main problem with the gay marriage debate is that, by creating an entirely new bottom line (gay marriage) we’re going to see two bottom lines crash into each other.  You see, traditional male/female marriage meshed nicely with the vast majority of traditional religious norms.  Gay marriage, however, does not mesh with traditional religion.  While Progressive churches and synagogues have opened their doors to gay marriages, more traditional ones, especially the Orthodox Jewish faith and the Catholic Church, have not done so.

When I’ve raised this concern to people, they scoffed.  One liberal told me that, even though abortions are legal, the government has never gone toe-to-toe with the Catholic Church.  He looked a bit taken aback, and had no response, when I pointed out that the Catholic Church doesn’t provide, or withhold, abortions; it simply speaks against them doctrinally.  The Church does, however, marry people, and that leaves open the possibility that a gay couple will sue the church for refusing to perform a marriage service.

Others, while acknowledging that my point has a certain intellectual validity, say that it will never happen.  I’m not so sure, especially after reading a story out of England involving a Pentecostal couple who were told that, as long as their religion held that homosexuality is not acceptable behavior, they could not foster needy children:

A Christian couple morally opposed to homosexuality today lost a High Court battle over the right to become foster carers.

Eunice and Owen Johns, aged 62 and 65, from Oakwood, Derby, went to court after a social worker expressed concerns when they said they could not tell a child a ‘homosexual lifestyle’ was acceptable.

The Pentecostal Christian couple had applied to Derby City Council to be respite carers but withdrew their application believing it was ‘doomed to failure’ because of the social worker’s attitude to their religious beliefs.

The couple deny that they are homophobic and said they would love any child they were given. However, what they were ‘not willing to do was to tell a small child that the practice of homosexuality was a good thing’.

What’s relevant to this post is that the judges explicitly held that homosexual rights trump religious rights:

Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation ‘should take precedence’ over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.

Admitted, Britain does not have a First Amendment.  However, as I noted above, First Amendment or not, our government bars, and (when Mormons are involved) actively prosecutes, polygamy.  It does so despite the fact that polygamy was official doctrine for the Mormons and is official doctrine for the Muslims.  Likewise, although Voodoo is recognized as a religion, we don’t let practitioners engage in animal sacrifice.  In other words, First Amendment or not, the government will interfere in religious doctrine if it runs completely afoul of a bottom-line American value.

If gay marriage is deemed Constitutional, we suddenly have two conflicting bottom-line values — gay marriage and religious freedom.  I’m not predicting how this will turn out.  I’m just saying that, if I was the Catholic Church or an Orthodox synagogue, I’d start having my lawyers look at this one now.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Life in the nanny state

I was reading Rick Steves’ Italy 2011 (the 2010) version, when I was surprised to learn this little fact on page 21:

Because Europeans are generally careful with energy use, you’ll find government-enforced limits on air-conditioning and heating.  There’s a one-month period each spring and fall when neither is allowed.

For those of us in Marin who have been fussing about PG&E installing smart meters on their houses (something that happened to our house, will she nil she), that little paragraph is a stark harbinger of the future in the nanny state.

If you need any further reminder of what it’s like to have the government make all your decisions for you, Bruce Bawer chimes in with this one:

In Norway, all wine and spirits are sold in government-owned stores dedicated strictly to that purpose.  The stores — which collectively are known by the cozy name vinmonopolet, or “the wine monopoly” — are open from 10 to 6 on weekdays and 10 to 3 on Saturdays. They’re closed on Sundays and on all sorts of holidays. Around Christmas and Easter they’re closed for days at a stretch.

The number of stores is limited, determined not by market demand but, in good socialist fashion, by government fiat. In Oslo, a sprawling city with a population of over half a million, there are only 26 stores. And the prices — thanks to taxes designed to discourage potential customers and punish those who do buy — are the world’s highest. Norwegians go to Sweden to purchase cheaper intoxicants than they can get at home – and for the same reason Swedes go to Denmark, Danes to Germany, and Germans to Italy.

The Democrats are working on a similar situation, not with alcohol, but with food itself.  Michelle Obama’s obesity crusade isn’t about self-control, it’s about government control.  Mayor Bloomberg has already given New Yorker’s a taste for this kind of medicine:

Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle draws our attention to the fawning coverage Politico reporter Amy Parnes gives to Michelle Obama’s crusade against obesity. Parnes. Boyle argues, might as well be regarded as an unpaid press agent on the First Lady’s behalf. Parnes in particular wants to criticize conservatives who have taken aim at the First Lady’s self-chosen cause as another manifestation of the nanny state. But who can deny that the authoritarian left has our menus in its gunsights? From Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on transfats and war on salt in New York City to bans on sodas and other treats in public schools to the documentaries and pressure groups attacking McDonald’s, is the idea of extending government regulation to our food choices that far-fetched? Our nannies have already proposed taxing certain politically-incorrect foods at a higher rate. And if they come for our donuts, won’t our guns be next?

I’ll leave you to contemplate the irony of our gluttonous first lady, the one who dines in fatty style wherever she goes, attempting to control American eating habits.

Many years ago, one of my first slow steps across the Rubicon happened when, in 1979, I met a Russian woman who had managed to immigrate here because she fell in love with an American exchange student studying in Moscow.  The thing that struck her most was the choice in stores.  Russian stores had no choice.  You bought what the government made available.  In America, you bought what the market made available.  She would amuse herself by going into Safeway and just standing there, drinking it in.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The New York Times again strains for moral equivalence

We all learned in school about the Triangle factory fire in New York back in 1911.  The fire started and too many women died in significant part because of horrible working conditions the factory owners were able to impose on economically trapped women.  The fire was a PR disaster for management in America, and a huge aid to the development of private sector unions.  Since the 100th anniversary is drawing near, both PBS and HBO have shows lined up about the event.  The New York Times TV reviewer is excited, because he seems to hope that these shows will help boost sympathy to union protesters in Wisconsin and, now, other states too:

As demonstrations in support of Wisconsin’s public-employee unions proliferate, PBS can pat itself on the back for scheduling the documentary “Triangle Fire” on Monday night — more than three weeks before the 100th anniversary of the New York garment-factory blaze it details, which figures so strongly in the imagination of the American labor movement.

I wonder if the reviewer ever wakes up at 3 a.m. and thinks, “What the hell kind of crap am I peddling?”  Because, really, is there any equivalence between these two scenarios?

Scenario A:  Immigrant women labor under appalling conditions (60-80 hours a week), starvation wages, no job security whatsoever, and factory conditions so dangerous that, ultimately, 146 die in a single day, having leaped from windows to escape encroaching flames and locked doors.

Scenario B:  College graduates work a seven month year for the government and, once they’ve received lifetime job security, earn a total compensation package in excess of the average non-government worker in their community.  Further, these graduates are forced by law to pay money to a union that, in turn, hands that money over to a political party that, in turn, sets the wages for the union members, who then are forced by law to pay part of those wages to a union that, in turn . . . well, you get the corrupt cycle I’m describing here.

I hope that Americans are wiser than New York Times television reviewers and realize that, while we want our teachers to have living wages and safe working conditions, both for their own benefit and for the good of our children, the scam that’s currently in place with public sector unions is grotesque, unsustainable, and totally unrelated to the tug of war that occurs between labor and management in the private sector.

Two links for your outrage, amusement and edification

I’m not quite sure how to describe this one without giving away the whole weird little joke.  Suffice to say that it’s quick and amusing.

As for this one, you’ll be interested to know that Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians (“RCO”) believes women should be advised that, generally speaking, abortions are better for their physical health than having a baby.  This is technically correct, but so morally appalling, I’m at a loss for words.  The same RCO also says that there’s no merit to the studies that abortions left some women mentally damaged or bereft:

The guidance also says that women who are deciding whether to have an abortion must be told that most do not suffer any psychological harm. Until now, their advice has been that while rates of psychiatric illness and self-harm in women are higher among those who had an abortion, there was no evidence that termination itself was likely to trigger psychological problems.

In other words, mostly crazy ladies have abortions….  Yeah, that’s a club I want to join.  Please read the whole thing over at Brutally Honest.

Sunday book group?

Is it too late to open a post for those who are interested in discussing books today?  I couldn’t get to my computer earlier, because of family commitments and those same commitments preclude my posting anything substantive today.

I’m willing to bet, though, that many of you are reading something interesting that you’d like to talk about.  If not, just consider this a late-in-the-day Open Thread.

Obama is no Harry Truman

In an earlier post, I said that Obama’s decision to turn his back on DOMA, despite his professed support for traditional marriage, does not make him a Harry Truman.  Rich Lowry explains much better than I could why Obama’s current position is not a principled stand but is, instead, another step towards a pre-planned goal.  The whole pattern also reminds me of the way in which Obama lies, which is incrementally.

Watcher’s Council, 2-25-11 edition

I was very gratified this week, because I won on the Council side and my submission for non-Council (Zombie) won too.  It’s not a trifecta, but maybe a bifecta?

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

Europe died in Auschwitz

I got the following email.  I don’t know the essay’s true provenance, but the sentiments expressed are interesting, especially if it did indeed originate in EuropeL

ALL EUROPEAN LIFE DIED IN AUSCHWITZ

The following is a copy of an article written by Spanish writer Sebastian Vilar Rodriguez and published in a Spanish newspaper on Jan. 15, 2008. It doesn’t take much imagination to extrapolate the message to the rest of Europe – and possibly to the rest of the world.

REMEMBER AS YOU READ — IT WAS IN A SPANISH PAPER
Date: Tue. 15 January 2008 14:30

ALL EUROPEAN LIFE DIED IN AUSCHWITZ By Sebastian Vilar Rodrigez

I walked down the street in Barcelona, and suddenly discovered a terrible truth�Europe died in Auschwitz . . . We killed six million Jews and replaced them with 20 million Muslims. In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent. We destroyed the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who changed the world.

The contribution of this people is felt in all areas of life: science, art, international trade, and above all, as the conscience of the world. These are the people we burned.

And under the pretense of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty, due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with pride.

They have blown up our trains and turned our beautiful Spanish cities into the third world, drowning in filth and crime.

Shut up in the apartments they receive free from the government, they plan the murder and destruction of their naive hosts.

And thus, in our misery, we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred, creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness and superstition.

We have exchanged the pursuit of peace of the Jews of Europe and their talent for a better future for their children, their determined clinging to life because life is holy, for those who pursue death, for people consumed by the desire for death for themselves and others, for our children and theirs.

What a terrible mistake was made by miserable Europe . Approximately 1,200,000,000; that is ONE BILLION TWO HUNDRED MILLION or 20% of the world’s population.

The Jews are NOT promoting brain washing children in military training camps, teaching them how to blow themselves up and cause maximum deaths of Jews and other non Muslims. The Jews don’t hijack planes, nor kill athletes at the Olympics, or blow themselves up in German restaurants. There is NOT one single Jew who has destroyed a church. There is NOT a single Jew who protests by killing people.

The Jews don’t traffic slaves, nor have leaders calling for Jihad and death to all the Infidels.

Perhaps the world’s Muslims should consider investing more in standard education and less in blaming the Jews for all their problems.

Muslims must ask ‘what can they do for humankind’ before they demand that humankind respects them.

Regardless of your feelings about the crisis between Israel and the Palestinians and Arab neighbors, even if you believe there is more culpability on Israel ‘s part, the following two sentences really say it all:

‘If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel .” Benjamin Netanyahu

General Eisenhower Warned Us�It is a matter of history that when the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead.

He did this because he said in words to this effect: ‘Get it all on record now �get the films�get the witnesses�because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.’
Recently, the UK debated whether to remove The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it ‘offends’ the Muslim population which claims it never occurred. It is not removed as yet. However, this is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the, 6 million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians, and 1,900 Catholic priests who were ‘murdered, raped, burned, starved, beaten, experimented on and humiliated’ while the German people looked the other way.

Now, more than ever, with Iran , among others, claiming the Holocaust to be ‘a myth,’ it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.

This e-mail is intended to reach 400 million people. Be a link in the memorial chain and help distribute this around the world.

How many years will it be before the attack on the World Trade Center ‘NEVER HAPPENED’ because it offends some Muslim in the United States ?

Do not just delete this message; it will take only a minute to pass this along.
PLEASE KEEP THIS GOING! WE NEED TO GET THIS EMAIL OUT TO THE WORLD!

When even Liberals wake up

Here is a financial report on USA, Inc., presented as a slide show, as developed by financial analysts.

Most of us Bookworm Room aficionados know that the economic state of health of our country is not good and getting worse. It is critical, actually. Unfortunately, there are many still wedded to Keynesian mythologies of the Hoover and FDR era who insist on bleeding the patient with leeches when major surgeries are warranted.

Where I see hope is that this devastating report, authored by Morgan Stanley analyst and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Mary Meeker, was supported by famous Liberal Democrat heavyweights such as Laura Tyson, Al Gore and Peter Orzag. Small rays of sunshine are beginning to enlighten the clinicians’ gloom. One can quibble with details (that General Motors has turned the corner, for example), but the core facts presented are solid and irrefutable. Scroll toward the end and visualize how this is not just the United States but the entire western world as we know it that is affected.

To solve a problem, one must first define the problem. Read it, skim it (just the graphs are explanatory enough) bookmark it, and use it to educate as many  people as you can. Because the real battles will begin when all of us must decide between surrendering our entitlements to the scalpel and turning off artificial life support altogether.

Our era is ending and we are seeing the first birth pangs of the new. Birth is a painful, bloody process.

H/T Richard Fernandez and Ace of Spades HQ.

***Update***

Some people have had trouble with the link above, so here is another link to the article.

What’s really going on in Wisconsin

It’s a good video:

Here’s the real point:  If you want to work for government (which can be a very honorable or practical or neutral thing to do), you are forced to pay union dues.  You know, when you pay those dues that they will be used to fund the Democrats.  This is true whether or not you, personally, want to fund the Democrats.

Once elected, the Democrats shower benefits on the public sector unions, since that ensures that the unions will then shower money right back on the Democrats.  What’s important to remember is that these elected Democrats are your employees, just as the public sector workers are.  Nevertheless, you, the tax payer, have been cut out of the loop.  Instead, there’s an endlessly cycling mutually beneficial relationship going on between unions and benefits, that you’re paying for.  I think it’s called taxation without representation.  (Hmm….  Where have I heard that expression before?)

And yet another week of good stuff from the Watcher’s Council

The one thing about crises at home and abroad is that they inspire people to deep thoughtsThe Watchers are on it.  (This week is also special, because we welcome a new council member, The Political Commentator.)

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

Did Obama pull a Harry Truman? (No.)

I’ve always admired Harry Truman for his ability to go forward with moral acts despite the fact that these acts were at odds with his personal prejudices.  Although he was a good old fashioned Southern anti-Semite, in 1948, at the UN, he voted for the State of Israel, because it was the right thing to do.  Likewise, even though he was a good old fashioned Southern racist, he authorized the military’s integration, because it was the right thing to do.

Obama is a self-avowed proponent of traditional marriage, yet he has just announced that a federal law upholding traditional marriage is unconstitutional.  Is this a Harry Truman moment?  Is he putting aside his own prejudices to do the right thing?

Sorry, but no, it’s not a Harry Truman moment.  You see, Harry Truman didn’t flim-flam voters by promising never to support a Jewish state or an integrated military, and then changing his mind.  These were issues that arose out of the blue, so to speak, that were not part of a national debate, and that had never required Truman to sell his position — any position — to the American public.  They were deeply personal decisions for him:  do the right thing at that moment, or do the prejudiced thing at that moment.  He chose the former course both times, marking him as an ethically brave man.

Obama, however, sold the public a bill of goods.  He campaigned as a proponent of traditional marriage.  Jeffrey Anderson summarizes nicely:

President Obama has now decided that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional. Thus, the Obama administration says that it will no longer defend that federal law in court. On the campaign trail, President Obama repeatedly asserted that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Now, the president has apparently decided that his own view, at least when codified as federal law, is unconstitutional.

Rather than appearing Truman-esque, Obama simply increases the perception that he is a con man.  At the very least, if he’s had this kind of change of heart, he should be explaining to the public the reasoning behind the change.  He’s not making any such noises, though, because there are no such noises to make.

Conservative candidates are better looking

You’ve long suspected it, but now we know it’s true:  objectively speaking, conservative political candidates are indeed better looking:

Rightwing candidates are better looking than their leftwing counterparts, something they benefit from during elections, according to a study conducted by Swedish and Finnish economists.

The economists who conducted the study figured this out by asking people to look at candidate pictures that did not indicate the party with which the candidate was affiliated.  Conservative candidates won this beauty contest.

I don’t quarrel with the study’s bottom-line conclusion.  We in the conservative blogosphere have often commented on the fact that conservative women are better looking than Leftist women.  When you look at Laura Bush versus Hillary Clinton, or Dana Loesch versus Helen Thomas, there’s really no contest.  And just picture Scott Brown standing next to Harry Reid.  Again, no contest.

I do have a quarrel, however, with the theories the economists advance to justify their study’s results.  Basically, they say that good looking people are snotty, so they’d obviously be drawn to a snotty, non-egalitarian political world view:

“One possible explanation is that people who are seen or consider themselves beautiful tend to be more anti-egalitarian and rightwing,” Niclas Berggren, one of the three co-authors of the study, told AFP Wednesday.

[snip]

Explaining the findings, he said that globally, “the left perhaps traditionally has used a more rational approach.

The right meanwhile, “has been more conscious of the importance of looks,” he said, pointing to the examples of Ronald Reagan and Sarah Palin in the United States.

I’d like to offer a different theory, one that is equally unsupported by fact, but that makes a great deal more sense.  My theory is that unattractive people are often angry, unhappy people.  They feel as if the world has treated them unfairly.  They resent other people for having better looks and, with those better looks, having better luck in life.  (As the same article points out, attractive people tend to be more successful.)

These unattractive, unhappy, angry people are drawn to a party that says that individuals have no responsibility for themselves.  Instead, to the extent they are unsuccessful or unhappy, the fault always lies with the unfairness of others, a fundamental problem that can only be solved by a large, impersonal bureaucracy that overrides the inequality of individualism.  Unattractive people, therefore naturally hew to socialism, which negates individual worth and merit, and substitutes rules and regulations that are meant to equalize things.

Keep in mind in this regard that you can’t make stupid, ugly people smart and beautiful, but that you can place so many handicaps on the smart and beautiful that they no longer get the benefits of their gifts.  (Before he went Left wing loony, Kurt Vonnegut understood this, as you can see if you read his short story Harrison Bergeron.)  As I explain to my kids, in a footrace, the only way to ensure that everyone finishes the race at the same time is to force the good runners to go slowly, because it is impossible to get the bad runners to go quickly.

If that’s too sophisticated an analysis, I’ve got another one:  conservatives are better groomed.  Good grooming covers myriad sins.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

(Welcome, Instapundit readers!)

Is the military a good way to turn boys into men?

I love my son dearly and he dearly loves me right back.  He’s bright, exceptionally well-coordinated and, if I do say so myself, he’s very good-looking.  He’s also selfish, hyper-competitive, lazy, ill-mannered and a total slob.  I have been working for years on all those traits and there has definitely been some improvement, but we’re not even halfway there.  Thankfully, as he’s not yet teenager, I still have a while to work on him.  I’m worried, though, that the traits I mentioned all tend to worsen, not improve, as young boys turn into young men.  As a parent, I foresee I tough road ahead of me.

I often find myself saying to myself, “Boy, the military would be good for my son.”  With a coercive power I can’t hope to equal, it would teach him discipline and neatness.  Also, because of unit cohesion, it might take him out of his selfishness.  Lastly, the military’s hierarchical nature would be good for such a hyper-competitive person, because there is clearly delineated room for upward movement, complete with external proof (ribbons, stripes, etc.) that the person is improving.

Even as I have this thought, though, the mother-voice in the back of my brain says, “What are you doing, woman?!  Do you actually want to send your darling little boy to a tough, often cruel environment, one in which he stands a much better chance of being killed than if he stays safely at home with you?”

Well, right now, while he’s still a beardless little boy, and the questions are hypothetical, my higher brain answer to that mother-voice is “Yes, yes I do want him to go to the military.”  (By the way, I’ve probably just qualified myself for a visit from Child Protective Services for admitting that I think the military would be good for my child.)

Here’s my thinking:  People need meaning and purpose in their lives.  Some people are internally driven.  They define and seek out their own goals.  Others, especially young men, drift.  Nowadays, that drift is made worse by computer gaming.  I know a man who was a top college student in the computer sciences, with computer companies frantically wooing him.  He ended up getting a great starter job, and quickly rose through the management ranks.   Then, something terrible happened to him:  his mother inherited a lot of money.  He knew, as of that moment, that he too would inherit a lot of money one day.  He no longer needed to work.

All of us dream about insta-wealth and early retirement, of course.  We imagine pursuing our passions, and believe that will give us complete pleasure.  Maybe that’s true.  I don’t know.  All I know is that, at 28 years old, this man quit his job and started a new life playing computer games.  That’s all he does:  exercise and computer games.  That’s all he’s done for twenty years.  He doesn’t seem very happy to me.  He’s playing his games, which is what he wants, but mostly he seems lost.  When I look at him I see a stunted life and wasted potential.  He’s never grown up.  Given the opportunity, he opted to remain a 13 year old boy forever.

This man is the most extreme, but not the only example, I know of a young man who simply decided to stop living and growing.  One of these young men, however, and I’ve written about him before, was moved by 9/11 to join the military.  He’s served in Afghanistan and Iraq; he’s lived under horrific conditions; he’s been under fire — and he’s as happy as he’s ever been in his life.  His life has meaning.

It seems to me, therefore, sitting with my smooth-faced little boy, that his life will be a happier one if he can find meaning in it.  There is no meaning in life as a computer gamer and slacker.  You fill your time, but you may as well be a cow chewing cud, or a pig rooting around in the mud.  We humans are better than that.

In a way, women have it easier, because having babies forces them to grow up, to look outside of themselves, and to have responsibility.  But in this day and age, young men don’t have responsibility thrust upon them through fatherhood.  Assuming the mother doesn’t abort, she still makes limited demands on the guy.  Certainly, few women nowadays demand marriage, and the notion of dad standing there with a shotgun is truly dead and gone.  The military, however, does thrust responsibility on young men, and they seem to be the better for it — assuming, of course, that they survive the experience.

All of this is not quite as hypothetical as it seems.  My son has always been military mad, and still talks about going to a military college one day.  He’s too young to understand what that really means, but it’s definitely part of his mental make-up.  While I won’t ever push him to the military — that’s a path I think a young person has to find by himself — my current thinking is that I won’t argue him out of it if that’s what he decides to do.  Certainly, I think it would help him with a lot of the behaviors and personality traits that currently prevent him from (yes) being all that he can be.

I’d be very interested to hear from active duty military people, vets, and the parents of current and former military people.  Am I blinded by the beauty of the uniform, or am I on to something here?

Could the European Union get more insane?

As I read it, the latest insanity from Europe/England is as follows:  woman gets government benefits; woman neglects to use those government benefits to pay rent on government housing; government housing tries to evict woman; the EU declares that eviction violates woman’s rights.  Woman walks away both eating and having cake.  Deadbeats throughout the European Union busily take notes.

My object all sublime . . . to let the punishment fit the crime, the punishment fit the crime….

If you’re a Mikado fan, you know the source of my post title:

The song came to mind because of two stories today, both of which left me wondering whether the punishment fit the crime.

One story you may already have read:  an Iraqi living in Arizona was convicted of 2nd degree murder for intentionally running his daughter over with a car because she had become too “Westernized.”  (Of course, if he was worried about that happening, a logical person might ask why he decided to move to the West in the first place.)  A second degree murder conviction carries with it a sentence that can be as long as 22 years.

The other story just broke recently:  the former head of a California mental hospital was sentenced to 248 years for sexually abusing his adopted son over an eight year period.

Both are heinous crimes, but does it seem to you that a deliberate murder is being treated more lightly than it should be?

When I was back and law school, a Crim Law professor liked to make a big deal out of two murder cases:  when was a garden-variety bar killing that ended in a death sentence; the other was a torture-murder that ended with life imprisonment.  His point was that the death sentence isn’t fair.  My takeaway message, though, was that, if you’re planning a crime, you might want to pick a jurisdiction that allows you to get away with it, so to speak.

Interview or savage attack?

Andrea Mitchell calls in an interview.  Rumsfeld understands that it’s a savage attack and, with great civility, responds accordingly.  Watch the video and enjoy DrewM’s comment:

I love the way he refuses to accept the premise of a number of her questions. It’s a skill I wish more political figures had. Far too often Republicans accept the framing of the question. They also tend to treat reporters as if they are trying to get information and not score liberal points. A few reporters but most aren’t. Rumsfeld doesn’t have any of it. He understands he’s in an adversarial situation and acts accordingly.

Why is Rumsfeld the only one who understands this?

By the way, Colin Powell has always been a whiner.

James Taranto on Wisconsin

Taranto is always good.  Sometimes, though, he’s great.  That’s the case for his column today, which discusses (a) the difference between public and private sector unions and (b) the difference between Tea Party and union protests.  He’s not saying anything you haven’t heard before or figured out for yourself; it’s just that he says it so well.

The difference between withholding brutal treatment and killing someone

In the old days, medical treatment was more likely to kill than to cure.  For example, one can make a good argument that George Washington died because his physicians bled him to death.

It’s scarcely strange, then, that homeopathy was such a hit when it first appeared on the scene.  The principle, as I understand it, is that one puts a drop of something medicinal (or, often, poisonous) into a container filled with pure water.  Then, one takes one drop of that mixture and adds it to another container filled with pure water.  And then, one repeats that process again (and, perhaps, again).  The end result is a container filled with pure water.

People who practice homeopathy believe that the water has the essence of the medicine, and therefore has a curative effect.  Whether that is true or not, a patient in 1820 who was given pure water to drink was likely to suffer less, and perhaps heal better, than the patient who was bled, cupped, given mercury, and subject to other horrific pre-modern medical treatments.

Nowadays, medicine is much more effective, although some of the side effects can be every bit as nasty and even fatal as the old medicines.  Speaking personally, while I know Vicodin is an effective painkiller, I’d rather take the pain that the extreme vomiting reaction it induces in me.  Still, if Vicodin doesn’t work, there’s usually something else out there that will, if not as well, at least enough to be worthwhile.

The whole equation changes when people are at the end of the road with terminal illnesses.  At that point, curative medicines and treatments have ceased to cure, leaving the patient with the side effects, but no benefits.  Socialized medicine holds that, at this point, the State gets to call the shots, determining that the person with the illness should no longer get the treatment.  The only problem is that people don’t slot themselves into neat little charts.  Some are dying, but want to live; some are living, but want to die; some are told they will die, but their bodies refuse to listen to the message and insist on getting better.  Allowing individual decisions in an open marketplace is the scenario most likely to allow people to fulfill their biological destiny, whether it’s a swift death, or a slow one, a longed-for death, or one that the person fights against bitterly.  Leaving the process to the government ensures only that more will die regardless.

I actually blogged on this topic almost two years ago during the ObamaCare debate.  I focused on people I knew who had insisted, when healthier, that they wanted to die but who had discovered, when death came calling, that they wanted to live.  In a pre-ObamaCare world, both of these people were allowed to try for life.  Both ultimately died, but they were around longer than they would have been if the government had announced that they were unsalvageable.

Today, Zombie touches on the other side of that equation:  someone who, like my dad and my friend, thought he wanted death but who, unlike them, was denied the opportunity to change his mind.  What makes Zombie’s story especially horrific is that this was not a situation in which his relative simply had treatment withheld.  As I noted at the start of the post, when treatment becomes useless and onerous, withholding it may be a wise and humane decision.  Instead, it’s a story of a battle between caregivers, with some wanting to care for the body, and others intent upon hastening death.

After you’ve read Zombie’s post, please come back to me and share your thoughts.  If I had to summarize my view it would be this:  If I come to a point in my life when treatment is only painful, and offers no hope, I don’t think I’ll want treatment any more.  Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean I want my doctor or my government to hasten my death.  Instead, I want to be made comfortable.  I want to be fed, hydrated and medicated so that my body (and my soul, if I have one), can make the journey as nature (or God, if he exists) intended.

Regressives

Roger Simon, among others, has noted that the demonstrations in Madison demonstrate how old-fashioned the modern Left is, something that’s true despite the Left’s attempt to re-brand itself with the name “Progressive.”  It therefore seemed appropriate for me to run again an article I wrote for American Thinker back in September 2007.  My section on the unions (“Look for the union label”) seems prescient now.

***

Regressives

Language is anything but static, something for which we must be grateful. It’s the dynamism of the English language that, at the high end, gives us Chaucer, Shakespeare, Pope, Dickens, and at the low end, gives us the liveliness of slang and dialect.

One of the interesting things about English’s constant, beneficial mutations is the fact that some terms which start off as merely descriptive begin to degrade in meaning, eventually ending as insults. For example, the now archaic word “beldam” started off as a grand old lady and ended up meaning a miserable hag. “Spinster” originally described a woman who spins, but came to mean a desiccated, narrow minded old virgin. Another word that ended with a completely degrade meaning was “bedlam,” which describes a completely insane situation, but that had its genesis in Christ’s natal town of Bethlehem.

And then there’s the word “liberal.” It comes from the Latin “liber,” meaning free, so the word “liberal” originally referred to one committed to freedom. Over time, however — indeed, in our lifetime — it came to mean one thing: someone who could not win an election. Clearly, it was time for a change.

Liberals, after some bold attempts to reclaim the title for themselves (and they’ve got the bumper stickers to prove it), decided to jettison the term entirely and come up with a new word to describe themselves. They are now “Progressives.” The word “progressive” means to advocate beneficial change and progress, and that’s certainly what Progressives would have the American people believe they offer.

By giving themselves this label, however, the Progressives have proven yet again that there’s no delusion quite as powerful as self-delusion. The fact is that, if you pick apart each of the Progressives’ stands on any major issue of the day, you’ll see that either they have staked out positions that were either proven false or ineffective decades ago, or they’re still fighting battles that were long ago won, making their efforts redundant (yet still, somehow, harmful to the modern political process).

One, two, three, four, No way will we win this war

The most visible example of the Progressives’ tendency to live in the past is their compulsive urge to view the Iraq War as if it was a movie sequel entitled The Vietnam War, Part II. This was apparent within minutes of the War’s inception, when Progressives (both in and out of the media) were already labeling it a quagmire. They looked for and found their My Lai massacre when the Abu Ghraib scandal and the Haditha affair came to light.

Showing admirable tenacity, the Progressives have clung to these few 1960s/1970s lodestones despite some pesky details that run counter to their Vietnam narrative. For one thing, there was the fact that, in the months leading up to the War, Saddam Hussein worked hard to convince UN inspectors that he had WMDs. If this was true (and they’re in Syria or elsewhere right now), he invited the War on himself and his long suffering people.

If it was Saddam issuing propaganda aimed at aggrandizing his stature amongst the rogue nations of the world, no one can be blamed for bombing his nuclear Potemkin Village. Certainly he’d actually built that faux village on a solid foundation, since few could doubt that someone who would gleefully use poison gas to massacre his own people would hesitate to use it against foreign enemies, given the chance.

Another problem for the Regressives… er, Progressives… is the nature of Saddam’s Iraq itself. Vietnam had the bad luck to be caught between opposing Communist forces, with Vietnam the battered football in the middle. Iraq was quite a different kettle of fish. In a region that distinguishes itself as the land of repressive regimes, Saddam stood out as a star. In addition to the Halabja massacre (see above), Saddam brutally tortured and murdered his own people, committed ecoterrorism to drive out disfavored ethnic groups, gave free reign to his sadistic sons with the hope that they’d eventually rule Iraq, invaded neighboring sovereign nations, and is believed to have murdered around 200,000 of his own people. Under Hussein, Iraq was not an unwitting international football kicked around in the Cold War, it was a time bomb waiting to explode.

None of these icky little facts deter the Progressives. For them, it’s always 1974 all over again and they urge us on to the one lesson they learned from the Vietnam War: the U.S. should turn tail and run. Sadly for Iraqis and Americans, the Progressives are careful to freeze their historic memories to fix on that (to them) wonderful moment when people raced to the rooftops of buildings, desperate to board the last U.S. helicopters. Memory carefully stops before it reaches the reeducation camps in North Vietnam or the Killing Fields of Cambodia. For Progressives, useful as the past is to define their current-day agenda, some history lessons are better left unlearned.

‘I believe it is peace in our time.”

When it comes to terrorists, Progressives show a true sense of retro style, turning the Way Back machine to the 1930s, with Neville Chamberlain as their role model. For those who are not conversant with Chamberlain’s dealings with Hitler, they are instructive.

Immediately upon assuming power in 1933, Hitler began to use violence and intimidation within Germany in order to achieve his political and social goals. To the extent that he went after Communists, many in Europe and, especially, in Britain, were not unsympathetic to his goals, even if they deplored his tactics. They were less sympathetic to, but perfectly willing to ignore, his attacks on Jews, gays, clergyman, gypsies, and the mentally and physically handicapped. These were, after all, internal affairs and (I’m sure this was said with the inevitable shrug), “what can one do?”

Europe’s ability to look the other way changed in 1938 when Hitler, feeling limited by turning his aggression on his own people, began turning his energies outward. In March 1938, after having already procured the assassination of an Austrian Chancellor, Hitler invaded Austria in what became known as the Anschluss. (And it’s no credit to Austria that large numbers of its citizens were delighted with this turn of events.) Although this was a complete violation of all international law, and was clearly an act of war, Chamberlain’s government sat passively by.

Then, in September 1938, when Hitler began to rumble about the Sudetenland, which Germany had lost to Czechoslovakia after World War I, Chamberlain went to Berlin to meet with Hitler. Hitler quickly got the measure of the man and offered Chamberlain an either/or solution to the Sudetenland issue: Either Britain assist Germany’s plans to annex the Sudetenland or Hitler would invade Czechoslovakia and take it back himself. Overawed by Hitler’s reasoning, Neville Chamberlain quickly agreed to the “either” part of that plan and executed the Munich Agreement. Proud of his negotiating skills, which gave Hitler the power and geographical range instantly to overrun Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain returned to England and boasted to the British people that

“this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace in our time.”

The 1930s peace crowd took those words seriously. Despite Hitler’s increasingly aggressive acts throughout the 1930s, both inside and outside Germany, and despite Hitler’s clearly expressed threats to take over Europe and destroy all whom he deemed inferior, Chamberlain and the peace party that support him were “shocked, shocked” when Hitler, appropriately viewing the Munich Agreement as a carte blanche from supine European leaders, first invaded Czechoslovakia, then Poland, and then tried to take on the world.

Chamberlain’s incredible naiveté in believing that it was possible to have peace with a tyrant bound and determined to control and kill anyone who affected his power meant that, within seven years of the Munich Agreement, through genocide, the ordinary and tragic casualties of war, and battle deaths, as many as 72 million people are estimated to have died. One can only conclude that Chamberlain got “peace with honor” confused with the Roman idea, which was to “make a desert and call it peace.”

If the above narrative sounds uncomfortably familiar, it should, and I’m not just saying this because you probably studied World War II in school (or, at least, you did if you’re over 30). The so-called Progressives are closely mimicking Chamberlain’s behavior. They’re thrilled with Bin Laden’s reasoning, especially since he sounds uncannily like their own Progressive leaders. They want us to do everything that Bin Laden and his minions advise: withdraw from Iraq, jettison Israel, and remove any Western presence from Saudi Arabia (except, of course, for the petrodollars).

The Progressive’s antiquated appeasement standards are even better displayed with Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York. Let me remind you here that Ahmadinejad may have been part of the 1979 hostage crisis, that he’s repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel entirely, and that he’s determined to become a nuclear power, which poses a threat to all Western interests. But who cares? Bully boys are always treated well by appeasers. This time, not only were the Progressive appeasers excited to give him a forum at the once prestigious Columbia University in New York, they’ve gave him airtime on American TV courtesy of 60 Minutes.

And just to put the whole matter of the Progressives’ fawning over Ahmadinejad in its proper retro perspective, in 1933 Columbia happily offered the red carpet to a high ranking Nazi official. One could argue that, in 1933, it wasn’t quite so obvious how terrible the Nazis were to become, but Columbia President Lee Bollinger has killed that argument already. He announced that he would have invited Hitler to speak too. Keep in mind that even Chamberlain didn’t invite Hitler to London.

We’re having a baby, my baby and me.

One of the most retrograde areas in Progressive thought concerns abortion rights — and I think you’ll agree with me whether you are pro-Choice or pro-Life.

A couple of years ago, I found myself at the abortion rights webpage for the National Organization of Women. What struck me right away was how dated the organization’s position was regarding abortion. At that time, to make its point about the need for legalized abortions, it led with photographs of four women who died from abortions. Following the link, I was led to the story of seven women who died from botched abortions. The years of death were 1929, 1929, 1940, 1950, 1967, 1977 and 1988. The dates are significant, since only the last two occurred after abortion became legal.

The death in 1977 was blamed on the fact that the dead woman was denied public funding for her abortion; the death in 1988 was blamed on a young woman afraid to seek parental consent for a legal abortion. Thus, with the exception of the 1977 and 1988 abortions, all the highlighted deaths occurred in times when birth control options were nil to limited, and when the stigma of pregnancy for unmarried women was extraordinarily high. The 1988 abortion was also a “stigma” abortion, since the girl was afraid to tell her parents.

There is no doubt that, if you are pro-Choice, either whole heartedly or in a lukewarm kind of way, there are, in 2007, still arguments to make in favor of abortion — rape, incest, a high risk pregnancy, a woman’s right to control her body, etc. The old reasons, however, just don’t apply anymore. Aside from the easy availability of myriad forms of birth control, nowadays the average accidental pregnancy may well be difficult or inconvenient, but it is no longer social death. Women are not turned out at night into snow storms, women do not become community pariahs, women are not forever tainted because of having an “illegitimate” pregnancy and, despite NOW’s focus on teen abortions and parental consent, it’s the rare news story that concerns a teen dying of a back alley abortion in those states requiring parental consent. It may certainly be embarrassing for a woman to admit to a pregnancy, but it is no longer the end of life on earth as women know it. Certainly the abortion debate would be more honest, if less emotional, if the “Progressives” were to debate abortion in the here and now, instead of in the then and gone.

We Shall Overcome

Perhaps ashamed that during both major Civil Rights battles (the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movements), Democrats allied themselves against African Americans, modern Progressives not only proclaim themselves the defenders of Civil Rights in America, but they also continue to wage the battle against racism as if it’s still Selma, 1964. In the Progressive world, racial oppression is an omnipresent aspect in the fabric of American life, with every white American (who isn’t Progressive, of course) a slavering racist anxious to degrade and dehumanize blacks.

To Progressives, something like the Jena 6 is a beautiful thing, because it proves their point — America is a racist nation, and they can board their protest busses and bravely take a seat at the segregated lunch counters of their fantasies. What they seem incapable of realizing is that even government conduct as suspect as that in the Jena 6 case reveals how far America has come since the actual Civil Rights movement. I’m probably not the first to notice that Jena 6 is a cause celebre, not because it’s happening all over America, or even all over the South, but because it’s anomalous.

White America is not routinely scapegoating black America. Indeed, the most recent racially motivated scapegoating saw a white Southern politician attempt to destroy the lives of several white defendants in an effort to curry favor with the local black community. (That would be the alleged Duke rape, for those of you scratching your heads over my allusion.) It’s also worth pointing out that the Jena 6 case is not the traditional “whites are bad, blacks are scapegoated” scenario, but seems to be an uglier and broader slice of race warfare amongst the young’uns, with each side enthusiastically threatening and otherwise terrorizing its opponent.

There is no doubt that there are still Americans who are racists, and it behooves each and every American to target that racism where it lies. But we make a grave mistake if we (for “we” read “Progressives”) pretend that the institutional racism of the Jim Crow South is still a looming factor in the lives of African-Americans. That kind of historical yearning means that, every three years or so, when something bad happens to African-Americans (and I don’t deny that bad things happen), Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton can race over to relive their own glory days in the early 1960s, all the while obscuring the fact that we live in a much less racially charged world. This kind of 1960s theater in the 21st Century does two terrible things: it continuously inflames the African American sense of grievance, something both psychologically and practically damaging; and it helps grow two dangerous emotions in white Americans when it comes to race: ennui and resentment.

Look for the union label

Unions were a necessity in the early days of the industrial revolution. Workers were so spectacularly abused in those days (in part because they had limited mobility when it came to looking for greener employment pastures) that only by united action were they able to shift the employer/employee dynamic away from mind-bogglingly brutalizing practices. (See, for example, the successful 1888 strike that forced the British government to legislate against the horror of phossy jaw, a phosphorous based cancer that afflicted 19th and 20th century workers in match factories.) Unionization is still useful today in highly dangerous industries where the risks of employment go beyond the economic and into life and death scenarios – and this is especially true in the chemical industry, where the employer has information the employee lacks and has the ability to control environmental safety which, again, is something the individual employee cannot do.

Having said that, most unions today are not useful at all, but are redundant victims of their own success. Thanks to decades of union action, the federal government and all the States have wage and hour laws, labor commissions (most of which are usually very hostile to the employer), occupational safety and health laws, mandatory retirement plans, minimum wage laws, etc. All of these, of course, were worker protections that unions fought for and won.

The problem is that, once you’ve done what you came for, what’s left? Well, for a lot of unions, aside from a huge effort negotiating salaries for the union bosses and a de minimus effort doing the same for union members, what’s left is a bullying style that tries to infringe on management prerogatives by dictating how the business should be run. The most obvious example of that trend can be found in the teacher’s unions, which routinely try to control both the broader political process and the classroom curriculum, all the while pressuring their employer (that would be you, through your agent, the government), to continue employing them without regard to performance standards.

Despite all this, for the Progressives, unions are the only things that stand between American workers and the 19th Century factory system of 12 hours, at salaries equal to mere pennies, in horrible unsafe conditions. It’s as if the social and political changes affecting employees during the last 100 years never happened. Instead, only by emphasizing working conditions that, in most cases, no longer exist, can Progressives keep alive an institution that serves their larger political agenda (often with a complete disregard for the rank and file’s beliefs), but that has an increasingly small effect on any given union’s original purpose.

Bill and Hillary Clinton, when running in 1992, were fond of repeating the old saying that insanity is defined by doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different outcome. They were prescient (and I’m not just talking about Hillary’s recycled healthcare plan). No matter how they label themselves, the Progressives are anything but: on every issue that affects Americans, they have staked their politics and theories that are antiquated, ineffective or redundant. And if that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News