Romance novels are changing

Since I have a sometimes embarrassing fondness for romance novels (Mr. Bookworm teases me a lot), I’ve written about romance novels before (once about British chick-lit, which I think is demeaning to women; and once about the conservative morals underpinning American romances). I was therefore intrigued when AP did a little story about the Romance Writers of America’s 26th annual conference. The reporter chose to spin it by saying that the stories are changing, with more plot, and less frothy sex. That may well be true, and may explain why I like them more than I did twenty or so years ago. I’m a big believer in plot. What’s also interesting is the claim that, as the genre explands outwards, it’s attracting more male readers:

With the expansion of romance novels into science fiction and military tales, though, the male following is increasing, said Nicole Kennedy, a spokeswoman for the group. The 2004 market survey indicated that male readership jumped from 7 percent of romance readers in 2002 to 22 percent in 2004.

Kennedy cited the success of Suzanne Brockmann, who has written two series of romance novels featuring Navy SEAL teams, which Kennedy said are wildly popular among Navy SEALs.

Though romance writing remains an almost exclusively female vocation, some men have ventured into the field. Former Green Beret Bob Mayer, who has written many non-romance books under his own name and under the pen name Robert Doherty, teamed up with veteran comedic romance writer Jenny Crusie for a military romance called “Don’t Look Down,” released this year.

Mayer and Crusie met at the Maui Writers Conference three years ago. Both were looking to do something different, and they decided to collaborate. Crusie writes the parts that come from a woman’s point of view, while Mayer weighs in with the male perspective.

That’s a big leap in male readership, and one I find heartening, considering that I like the genre, and that I believe in the values system unpinning so many of these books.

Talking to Technorati: , ,

Whether or not you see the movie, just read the review

When two people leave me messages saying I must, absolutely must, read a movie review, I take that seriously.  I therefore headed over to the Washington Post and read the review for Ant Bully.  I can now tell you that you must, absolutely must, read the Ant Bully review.  Even if, after the first couple of paragraphs, you’re thinking to yourself “La, la, la….  This isn’t my kind of movie, and I find some computer animation a bit frenetic, and this sounds silly, etc., ” don’t stop reading.  You won’t want to miss the last few paragraphs.

The slippery slope or true democracy

I can’t decide if this is the beginning of the end for any hope of normal society in Holland, or if it is an appropriate event in a free society, which allows issues to be aired and decided upon by the voters:

A Dutch court refused Monday to ban a political party whose main goal is to lower the age of sexual consent from 16 to 12. The judge said it was the voters’ right to judge the appeal of political parties.

The party has only three known members, one of whom was convicted of molesting an 11-year-old boy in 1987. Widely dubbed the “pedophile” party, it is unlikely ever to win a seat in parliament. The group would need around 60,000 votes, and pollsters estimate it would get fewer than 1,000.

Opponents had asked The Hague District Court to bar the party from registering for national elections in November, arguing that children have the right not to be confronted with the party’s platform.

“Freedom of expression, freedom … of association, including the freedom to set up a political party, can be seen as the basis for a democratic society,” Judge H. Hofhuis said in his ruling.

“These freedoms give citizens the opportunity to, for example, use a political party to appeal for change to the constitution, law, or policy.”

Disgusting as the thought of this political party is, I’m included to agree with the judge that, as long as the pedophile “politicans” aren’t actively engaged in pedophilia, which is illegal, they have a right to a voice in the political process — no matter how disgusting that voice is. Your thoughts?

Funny that they don’t mention who he is

One of today’s most emailed NPR stories discusses a book by Robert Jensen, a professor of media ethics and journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.  In his book, Jensen purports to explain why all white people are in fact racists. I haven’t listened to the story, nor have I read the book (although I did read the excerpt of the book at the NPR web site). Frankly, it sounds like liberal, guilt-ridden psychobabble to me, but what do I know?

Oh, wait. I do know one thing. Jensen is no stranger to the media. While you probably won’t hear it on NPR, these are a few more things you should know about Jensen if you read his book:

According to the Professor Watch List, Jensen introduces the “unsuspecting” student to a crash course in “socialism, white privilege, the truth about the Persian Gulf War and the role of America as the world’s prominent sponsor of terrorism.

“Jensen half-heartedly attempts to tie his rants to ‘critical issues’ in journalism, insisting his lessons are valid under the guise of teaching potential journalists to ‘think’ about the world around them. Jensen is also renowned for using class time when he teaches Media Law and Ethics to ‘come out’ and analogize gay rights with the civil rights movement,” the list entry for Jensen reads.

Aside from classroom idiocy, Jensen was a strident voice after 9/11.  In an article published on September 26, 2001 in the Houston Chronicle, Jensen offered these pearls of wisdom:

But as I listened to people around me talk, I realized the anger and fear I felt were very different, for my primary anger is directed at the leaders of this country and my fear is not only for the safety of Americans but for innocent civilians in other countries.

It should need not be said, but I will say it: The acts of terrorism that killed civilians in New York and Washington were reprehensible and indefensible; to try to defend them would be to abandon one’s humanity. No matter what the motivation of the attackers, the method is beyond discussion.

But this act was no more despicable than the massive acts of terrorism — the deliberate killing of civilians for political purposes — that the U.S. government has committed during my lifetime. For more than five decades throughout the Third World, the United States has deliberately targeted civilians or engaged in violence so indiscriminate that there is no other way to understand it except as terrorism. And it has supported similar acts of terrorism by client states.

If that statement seems outrageous, ask the people of Vietnam. Or Cambodia and Laos. Or Indonesia and East Timor. Or Chile. Or Central America. Or Iraq. Or Palestine. The list of countries and peoples who have felt the violence of this country is long. Vietnamese civilians bombed by the United States. Timorese civilians killed by a U.S. ally with U.S.-supplied weapons. Nicaraguan civilians killed by a U.S. proxy army of terrorists. Iraqi civilians killed by the deliberate bombing of an entire country’s infrastructure.

So, my anger is directed not only at individuals who engineered the Sept. 11 tragedy, but at those who have held power in the United States and have engineered attacks on civilians every bit as tragic. That anger is compounded by hypocritical U.S. officials’ talk of their commitment to higher ideals, as President Bush proclaimed “our resolve for justice and peace.”  [Emphasis mine.]

It goes on in this vein, but I really don’t want to waste my blog space with this type of stuff.  You get the drift.  And the people of the great state of Texas get to pay this man’s salary.

Now, do you really want this man lecturing to you about racism?

A perfect bootstrap argument

The New York Times has come up with an editorial that contains a perfect bootstrapping argument, one that works off the premise it is supposed to prove.  It's an almost impressive piece of dishonest rhetoric, whether or not one agrees with the sentiment expressed. 

The context for this amazing piece of rhetorical sleight-of-hand is the Times' editorial chastizing the President for supporting the anti-gay marriage amendment.  I should say here that I agree with the amendment.  As I've noted before, I don't have a big problem with extending legal rights to committed gay couples via civil partnership laws.  I've known many extremely committed gay couples who have ended up in heinous end-of-life situations because of the absence of such protections. 

However, to me, marriage is also a religious issue, and male/female marriages, with their commitment to children, cannot be tossed lightly aside because in the last 25 years there's been agitation to change dramatically an institution that is as old as recorded human history — that is, the joining of a man and woman.  And while I would never liken homosexual relationships to such things as bestiality and pedophilia, I don't have any doubt but that a door opens when homosexual marriages become the law.  To the extent a society contemplates a fundamental change like this, it should do so after a bit more very, very, very serious thinking.

But I'm digressing wildly here, aren't I?  (A not uncommon thing for me to do.)  Let's get back to the Times.  First, it takes the President to task for actually thinking the gay marriage issue is important.  How dare he get his knickers in a twist about an amendment aimed at preserving traditional mores and, in many people's minds, saving the whole fabric of society?  But the real kicker for me lurks in the editorial's second paragraph: 

Mr. Bush's central point was that the nation is under siege from "activist judges" who are striking down anti-gay-marriage laws that conflict with their own state constitutions. That's their job, just as it is the job of state legislators to either fix the laws or change their constitutions.

Please note the unproven assumption in the above paragraph that these various state judges are correct when they decide that their respective state constitutions support gay marriage.  That's a pretty big leap of faith.  I say that with special emphasis because I've known so many judges who are, if you'll pardon the expression, drooling idiots who can barely read the Constitution with their fingers tracking slowly under the words and their lips moving.  (And my humble apologies to any judges reading this who are brilliant legal thinkers and who truly possess that rarity, a judicial temperament.  Further, if one of you is reading this, I bet you have some colleagues who fit my description perfectly.)

Just to itself look even more stupid than those judges I described, the Times goes on to say this:

If there's anything the country should have learned over the past five years, it is that Mr. Bush and his supporters have no problem with judicial decisions, no matter how cutting edge, that endorse their political positions. They trot out the "activist judge" threat only when they're worried about getting out their base on Election Day.

This is the same Times, of course, that got itself into an apocalyptic frenzy over the spectre of a Scalia, Roberts or an Alito, all of whom were going to send this country back into the Stone Age.  I don't even want to touch the Times' behavior with regard to Clarence Thomas, in part because, in those days, I have to admit I was cheering the Times on when it mounted its loathsome attacks against him.

Anyway, does anyone take these Times editorials seriously any more, or are they just a more polite version of the usual Left of center rhetoric, aimed at overawing with emotion to hide the lack of any intellectual core? 

An eccentric musical savant

NPR's Fresh Air recently did a replay of a 1996 interview with Tiny Tim (born Herbert B. Khaury), who died only a few months after the interview.  It's quite amazing.  Tiny Tim was a complete nut, but also a true musical savant, with an encylopedic knowledge of old American music, and a wonderful, although somewhat bizarre, musical gift.  If you have any interest at all in popular music of yesterday (we're talking before 1920), and if you enjoy eccentrics, you should definitely take the time to listen to this interview.  He's really something.

Crime and Punishment

The West Wing, the now defunct NBC show, is the ne plus ultra illustration of how Democrats think the world should be run. Indeed, you can amuse yourself with a list of top Left Wing scenes culled from all of the show's episodes. Last night, though, I was struck by a plot line that didn't make the list. A bit of background:

A season or two ago, a subplot involved a crippled space shuttle with three astronauts inside. There appeared to be no way to rescue them until someone leaked the fact that the military had a top secret space shuttle, invented for matters of national security, that could be sent up at a moment's notice. As it happened, that rescue didn't need to be done (either the astronauts died or their shuttle fixed itself; I don't remember which). Investigation eventually revealed that Toby Ziegler was the one who spilled the beans. His motive: his brother, an astronaut, had died in some sort of astronaut-type accident years before, and Toby couldn't bear that to happen again.

Here's where it gets interesting. From the moment Toby was identified as the culprit, all the other characters were mad at him. But they weren't mad at him for putting his personal interests and the lives of three individuals ahead of America's security, they were mad at him for humiliating them and putting them at risk professionally. Ziegler himself, when finally caught, was mad too. His attitude seemed to be "How dare that destroy my life this way?" When he wasn't mad, there was maudlin self-pity: "How could they destroy my life this way, and the lives of my children by a woman to whom I'm not married and with whom I don't live?"

Fortunately, Toby's life wasn't destroyed, and everyone could live happily ever after. In the show's swan song last night, ficitional President Jed Bartlett's last act before leaving office was to grant clemency to Toby Ziegler, the man who compromised America's security in the fantasy world of The West Wing.

The episode had me thinking two things. First, we now have a lovely template of how the Left thinks about the NSA phone monitoring program. The program reviewed the occurrence of calls to and from telephone numbers, and was intended to track telephones that were used to dial up phones owned by known terrorists.  It could, therefore, not only have identified terrorists making calls to each other, put also some people who were, for reasons unrelated to terror, regularly calling these same known terrorists. In liberal land, that last — an innocent person swept into the net for having conversation with a terrorist — is untenable, so it was totally okay for the press to break the law and put America at greater risk by revealing vital security information. And since personal feelings are so much more important than law and public safety, those who broke these laws shouldn't have to suffer the consequences.

The other thought this episode triggered is the meaning civil disobedience has in today's world. (Some of you may recognize a few recycled ideas from an old post here.) Although civil disobedience has always been around — that is, at all places, at all times, people have been willing to risk their lives, safety or comfort for their beliefs — it was Henry David Thoreau, in the mid-19th Century, who best articulated the "official" definition of that doctrine.

Thoreau objected to a poll tax because he felt the money was being improperly spent to support slavery and the war with Mexico. Rather than paying the tax, he took a principled stand, refused to pay the tax, and went to prison. His single night in jail inspired him to write an essay about a citizen's obligation to strike out against unjust laws — and to demonstrate the law's invalidity through the citizen's personal martyrdom. In his essay, Thoreau ruminated about irritating laws versus unjust laws, and about the vehicles available for protesting the latter. These protests include voting or, if that won't work, doing such things as refusing to comply with an unjust law, or refusing to pay a tax that supports something unjust. Significantly, Thoreau felt that, if voting was not an option, the other actions gained weight from an attendant sacrifice — which, in America, is usually imprisonment:

Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. The proper place today, the only place which Massachusetts has provided for her freer and less despondent spirits, is in her prisons, to be put out and locked out of the State by her own act, as they have already put themselves out by their principles. It is there that the fugitive slave, and the Mexican prisoner on parole, and the Indian come to plead the wrongs of his race should find them; on that separate but more free and honorable ground, where the State places those who are not with her, but against her–the only house in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor. [Emphasis mine.]

The notion of civil disobedience gained great currency on the liberal side in the 20th Century because of two men who put it to its highest and best use. Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Had each not been willing to accept imprisonment, thereby demonstrating the manifest unfairness and immorality of the laws against which each struggled, neither would have even appeared as a footnote in the history books.

Nowadays, though, whether in the fictitious world of The West Wing, or in real life, people break laws with impunity and to applause. I was most strongly reminded of this when San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsome, in February 2004, suddenly announced that he was going to ignore California's laws against same sex marriage, and have the City issue marriage licenses to all gay couples desiring them. Newsome was a fifteen minute wonder. The Press oooh'ed and aaah'ed about his bravery. But, really, what was so brave? Newsome wasn't running any risks politically in San Francisco, where a critical mass of voters approve his step. He wasn't running any risk of humilitiation or ostracism, because he became the media's darling. No one even mentioned prosecuting him for breaking the law, or impeaching him for violating his official obligations. It was a media stunt, but it wasn't civil disobedience, because we didn't get the spectacle of a righteous man felled by an unjust government.

As I noted above, precisely the same thing happens in the fictional world of The West Wing. A beautiful nexus with entertainment also appears in the whole Steve Colbert thing. I happen not to be a Colbert fan. To me, his comic persona is the political idiot savant — except that he routinely leaves out the savant part.

What was so fascinating about the kerfuffle following the Press dinner is how even those who had to admit that he wasn't actually funny were still thrilled about his bravery. "He spoke truth to power." Let me correct this misperception. There was no truth to power at play there. Colbert insulted the President to his face, the President was a gentleman about it, and Colbert was lauded in the press the next day for his bravery in insulting a gentleman to his face. This is not truth to power. This is not civil disobedience. This is the refined behavior of a four year old in a snit. It's only on the modern Left, which considers brave acts without consequences, that Colbert is revered as an intelligent political satirist.

UPDATE:  The lovely thing about an idea is seeing someone run with it and take it to great places.  Patrick did that at the Paragraph Farmer, where he used the "speak truth to power idea" as the starting point for a wonderful riff about the success of the West's intellectual flexibility.
Talking to Technorati: , , , ,

Schizophrenia on the children’s music front

I'm intransigently hostile to a great deal of modern pop music, because I consider it ugly, crude, vulgar, violent and hypersexualized. (I feel like saying here, "But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?) I don't even like Radio Disney because, although it presents the slighter cleaner end of the modern music spectrum, I still think it's indoctrinating my children in that fare. What's ironic in today's music culture is that it turns out that traditional songs, folk songs, are being bowdlerized like crazy to "protect" our children. Patrick, of Paragraph Farmer fame, is at The American Spectator with a charming essay charting the silly changes being wrought in children's music as we try to protect our children from dying geese and Tom Dooley's untimely demise.

“We are sorry. The humanoid you have reached is no longer….”

Frederica Mathewes-Green writes a screamingly, hair-pullingly funny article about her failed effort to book a flight for herself and her family. We've all been there: the extremely nice Indian phone operator who never quite understands your American English; the fact that, when dealing with a big company, every employee has different ideas about corporate policy; and the hollow fiction of the "contact us" email addresses or forms, that just send computerized answers back your way. It's all there. There's also a useful link to Get Human, a website set up to help us with the difficulties of deal with modern corporate phone systems.

Suburbs and urbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your comments and observations on this would be very welcome.

Image from Brad Silverman.

Talking to Technorati: , , , ,

Friends in interesting places

Some time ago, when I was still blogging at Blogger, I wrote a post asking what an American theocracy would look like.  I asked this question because it occurred to me that, while liberals were frantically throwing around statements about Bush's "ultra conservatism" and "scary fundamentalism," none were articulating what they thought would happen if Bush really and truly had his way — short, of course, of seeing Roe v. Wade overturned. 

My dear friend Patrick, at Paragraph Farmer, took that idea and ran with it.  He ran so far and so well that he got an entire article published in "The New Pantagruel."  Patrick imagines a world that is actually more humane than that currently dominated by secularism, although I suspect some of that humanity is Patrick's own, and cannot just be attributed to his imagined theocracy.  Significantly, Patrick doesn't see any witches getting burned, gays being flayed, or adulterers stoned.  It's a nice world.  Make sure you go and visit it.

Talking to Technorati: , ,

Is innate human biology hostile to the welfare state?

Working away today, I caught an NPR story about social and behavioral scientists who are beginning to study altruisim and freeloading (which can be flipsides of each other). The results of the studies indicate that the healthiest groups (at least in economic models) are those that, not only do not reward freeloading, but actively punish it:

[S]cientists in England and Germany conducted an economic game. The goal was for each player to make as much money as possible.

But to be really successful, people had to cooperate by pooling their funds.

People in the game could join one of two teams. The first depended on voluntary cooperation. The second allowed members to sanction those who didn’t chip in.

Bernd Irlenbusch of the London School of Economics says students’ behavior changed dramatically over time.

“In the beginning participants were very reluctant to join the sanctioning institution,” she says.

But they soon figured out that people in the sanctioning group were making more money because more people contributed. There were fewer freeloaders.

After every round, Irlenbusch says, more students switched to the sanctioning group, even though members had to pay money if they wanted to sanction someone.

She says eventually even the freeloaders in the first group switched to the second group and changed their ways. And they began punishing anyone else who didn’t cooperate.

In other words, a traditional society, a capitalist society with traditional Judeo/Christian values, seems to be the most profitable for all. Just as significantly, we seem to be hardwired for that type of society:

Fowler says the explanation for altruistic behavior may be that our brains are wired to reward us for punishing freeloaders.

“That might be why we see individuals having an emotional and even sort of a brain response to punishing,” he says. “They actually feel pleasure when they punish people for violating a social norm.”

And Fowler says it takes just a few punishers to change the behavior of a lot of freeloaders.

More on manly men

I did something I rarely do:  I made an impulse purchase of a just-released movie on DVD.  I simply couldn't resist buying  The Chronicles of Narnia : The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I then watched it again with the kids, and found it just as good as I remembered from viewing it in the theater last December. 

[SPOILER ALERT] I also concluded that my first impression of a few months ago was correct:  this movie is a celebration of a manly man.  This particular manly man is Peter, who goes from being a frightened bossy school kid, to a formidable warrior — not for fame or glory, but because it's the right thing to do. [END OF SPOILER ALERT.]

If you're new to my writing, you can find more of my thoughts on this point in an article I did at American Thinker about the movie.  However, if you haven't yet seen the movie, get the video, enjoy it tremendously and then, if you're still interested, read my article (it's a bit of a spoiler, so you shouldn't read it before seeing the movie).

Talking to Technorati: , , , ,

The triumph of faith over reason

Faith is a tremendous virtue — when it comes to religion.  It has dubious value in the political field, as Thomas Sowell so neatly explains:

What is more frightening than any particular policy or ideology is the widespread habit of disregarding facts. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey put it this way: "Demagoguery beats data."

People who urge us to rely on the United Nations, instead of acting "unilaterally," or who urge us to follow other countries in creating a government-run medical care system, often show not the slightest interest in getting facts about the actual track record of either the UN or government-run medical systems.

Those who believe in affirmative action likewise usually see no reason to find out what actually happens under such policies, as distinguished from what they wish, hope, or imagine happens.

The crusade for "a living wage" that will enable a worker to support a family proceeds without the slightest interest in finding out whether most people who are making low wages actually have any family to support — much less seeking out the facts about what actually happens after the government sets wages.

People who have made up their minds and don't want to be confused by the facts are a danger to the whole society. Since the votes of such people count just as much as the votes of people who know what they are talking about, politicians have every incentive to pass laws and create policies that pander to ignorant notions, if those notions are widespread.

There's more, which you can read here.

Are we fanatics?

I seem to be on a binge of books that make me wonder. Today's book is Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith. This is a book I mentioned before in connection with my reflections on whether a religion can abandon founding tenets and still be considered true to itself.

Krakauer's book focuses on two breakaway polygamist Mormons who committed violent murder against their sister-in-law and her fifteen month old daughter. In tracking down the events that led to these killings, Krakauer tells, not only the murderers' story, but also the history of the Mormon church. And that history inevitably embraces those who now claim the banner of the original Mormon faith — something they do primarily by embracing polygamy. What characterizes so many of the fundamentalists he describes is that they started off as ordinary Mormons or non-Mormon Christians; they had various epiphanies that led them (they believed) to seminal truths; and they were convinced that, having learned these revealed truths, everyone who didn't embrace the truths was wrong or evil.

Well, folks, that could be me. I started life as an ordinary liberal Democrat (who always had conservative leanings); I had an epiphany in the wake of 9/11, when I decided the world had arrayed itself in an Us vs. Them pattern, and that those who deny this pattern are wrong; and I constantly hark back to a pure America of the Good War of the 1940s, and the (at least superficially) coherent society of the 1950s. I'm now sure enough of my newfound beliefs to blog about them regularly and to try to convince people, through my blog, to see the world as I see it. Certainly, my husband, who has remained true to his original Democratic faith, perceives me as having gone off the deep end.

So my question is: Have I gone off the deep end? Where does commitment end and fanaticism begin? When does a change of heart cease to be the reasoned development of the intellect and become the kind of blind faith that can lead one to commit dangerous or wrongful acts? Feedback anyone?

UPDATE:  Perhaps the self-restraint Dennis Prager discusses in this article (conservative vs. liberal self-restraint) is part of what separates the fanatics from those who are merely committed to a belief system. 

Limiting entitlements

The whole Cynthia McKinney kerfuffle is a distillation of entitlement run amok.  McKinney, who belongs to a "protected" group (several, actually, since she's black, female and anti-Semitic), feels that she is entitled to treatment denied others:  she is entitled to refuse to wear her Congressional badge, which alerts the Capitol police to her special identity; she is entitled to hit people who get in her way; she is entitled to put the entire Capitol at risk of a terrorist attack, etc. 

McKinney is extreme, but she's entirely in synch with a world of entitlement thinkers:  "I'm illegally here, but I'm entitled to free medical care for my whole family, free education for my children, and whatever social welfare I can get you to cough up."  "I'm a guy who robs convenience stores, but I'm entitled to a free pass for that, because I grew up in a bad neighborhood."  "I'm a sexist animal who objectifies the opposite sex, but I'm entitled to a free pass on that, because I'm a woman."  And so on. 

Fortunately, today, at A Rose By Any Other Name, I had the good fortune to read "The Bill of Non-Rights."  This gem started life on the internet at Bushwhack's American and Proud of It, was discovered Texas Fred of Ace in the Hole, and, as I noted, was used by Anna at A Rose By Any Other Name, which is where I found it:

The Bill of Non-Rights

We the sensible people of the United States, in an attempt to help everyone get along, restore some semblance of justice, avoid more riots, keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior, and secure the blessings of debt free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great-grandchildren, hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense guidelines for the terminally whiny, guilt ridden, delusional, and other anal retentive bed-wetters.

We hold these truths to be self evident: that a whole lot of people are confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim they require a Bill of NON-Rights.

ARTICLE I: You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV, or any other form of wealth. More power to you if you can legally acquire them, but no one is guaranteeing anything.

ARTICLE II: You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone–not just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, click the mouse and LEAVE a particular Blog if you don't like it, etc.

ARTICLE III: You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful, do not expect the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently wealthy.

ARTICLE IV: You do not have the right to free food and housing . Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more than the creation of another generation of professional couch potatoes.

ARTICLE V: You do not have the right to free health care. That would be nice, but from the looks of public housing, we’re just not interested in public health care.

ARTICLE VI: You do not have the right to physically harm other people. If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim, or kill someone, don’t be surprised if the rest of us want to see you fry in the electric chair.

ARTICLE VII: You do not have the right to the possessions of others. If you rob, cheat, or coerce away the goods or services of other citizens, don’t be surprised if the rest of us get together and lock you away in a place where you still won’t have the right to a big screen color TV or a life of leisure.

ARTICLE VIII: You do not have the right to a job. All of us sure want you to have a job, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we expect you to take advantage of the opportunities of education and vocational training laid before you to make yourself useful.

ARTICLE IX: You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American means that you have the right to PURSUE happiness, which by the way, is a lot easier if you are unencumbered by an over abundance of idiotic laws created by those of you who were confused by the Bill of Rights.

ARTICLE X: This is an English speaking country. We don’t care where you are from, English IS our language. Learn it or go back to wherever you came from! (lastly….) NOW..

ARTICLE XI: You do not have the right to change our country’s history or heritage. This country was founded on the belief in one true God. And yet, you are given the freedom to believe in any religion, any faith, or no faith at all; with no fear of persecution. The phrase IN GOD WE TRUST is part of our heritage and history, and if you are uncomfortable with it, TOUGH!

Yeah! 

Teaching immigrants to love America

In a rather stumbling way, I asked why immigrants don't love America, and said that I wished our schools would be required to teach students what's great about America.  Ironically, one day later, the Wall Street Journal published Peggy Noonan's elegant, lyrical reflection on the same point.  She begins by speaking of Medal of Freedom winners, those extraordinary men (and one woman, I think), who without thought were willing to sacrifice themselves to preserve American freedoms.  From there, she transitions to the conundrum of modern American immigrants, who want what we offer but hate what we are:

There are a variety of things driving American anxiety about illegal immigration and we all know them–economic arguments, the danger of porous borders in the age of terrorism, with anyone able to come in.

But there's another thing. And it's not fear about "them." It's anxiety about us.

It's the broad public knowledge, or intuition, in America, that we are not assimilating our immigrants patriotically. And if you don't do that, you'll lose it all.

We used to do it. We loved our country with full-throated love, we had no ambivalence. We had pride and appreciation. We were a free country. We communicated our pride and delight in this in a million ways–in our schools, our movies, our popular songs, our newspapers. It was just there, in the air. Immigrants breathed it in. That's how the last great wave of immigrants, the European wave of 1880-1920, was turned into a great wave of Americans.

We are not assimilating our immigrants patriotically now. We are assimilating them culturally. Within a generation their children speak Valley Girl on cell phones. "So I'm like 'no," and he's all 'yeah,' and I'm like, 'In your dreams.' " Whether their parents are from Trinidad, Bosnia, Lebanon or Chile, their children, once Americans, know the same music, the same references, watch the same shows. And to a degree and in a way it will hold them together. But not forever and not in a crunch.

So far we are assimilating our immigrants economically, too. They come here and work. Good.

But we are not communicating love of country. We are not giving them the great legend of our country. We are losing that great legend.

What is the legend, the myth? That God made this a special place. That they're joining something special. That the streets are paved with more than gold–they're paved with the greatest thoughts man ever had, the greatest decisions he ever made, about how to live. We have free thought, free speech, freedom of worship. Look at the literature of the Republic: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist papers. Look at the great rich history, the courage and sacrifice, the house-raisings, the stubbornness. The Puritans, the Indians, the City on a Hill.

The genius cluster–Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Madison, Franklin, all the rest–that came along at the exact same moment to lead us. And then Washington, a great man in the greatest way, not in unearned gifts well used (i.e., a high IQ followed by high attainment) but in character, in moral nature effortfully developed. How did that happen? How did we get so lucky? (I once asked a great historian if he had thoughts on this, and he nodded. He said he had come to believe it was "providential.")

We fought a war to free slaves. We sent millions of white men to battle and destroyed a portion of our nation to free millions of black men. What kind of nation does this? We went to Europe, fought, died and won, and then taxed ourselves to save our enemies with the Marshall Plan. What kind of nation does this? Soviet communism stalked the world and we were the ones who steeled ourselves and taxed ourselves to stop it. Again: What kind of nation does this?

Only a very great one. Maybe the greatest of all.

***

Because we do not communicate to our immigrants, legal and illegal, that they have joined something special, some of them, understandably, get the impression they've joined not a great enterprise but a big box store. A big box store on the highway where you can get anything cheap. It's a good place. But it has no legends, no meaning, and it imparts no spirit.

Who is at fault? Those of us who let the myth die, or let it change, or refused to let it be told. The politically correct nitwit teaching the seventh-grade history class who decides the impressionable young minds before him need to be informed, as their first serious history lesson, that the Founders were hypocrites, the Bill of Rights nothing new and imperfect in any case, that the Indians were victims of genocide, that Lincoln was a clinically depressed homosexual who compensated for the storms within by creating storms without . . .

You can turn any history into mud. You can turn great men and women into mud too, if you want to.

What's so sad is that it's no longer fringies dirtying our history.  We've raised a whole generation that has internalized the fringies message and is passing it on to the next generation, both native-born and immigrant. 

Sharon Stone crosses a line

The Drudge headline is that Sharon Stone advocates oral sex, but that's not really the whole story.  The real story is how this well-intentioned lady goes about carrying out her advocacy:

She [Stone] explains, "I was in the store the other day and I watched a young girl trying on clothes, showing her abdomen. "Her mother was trying to talk to her about not being inappropriately luring. I said, 'Gee that would look much nicer with a camisole under.' "Her mother walked away, and I said to the girl, 'I'd like to give you a two-minute conversation about sex.'"

Call me a troglodyte, but I'd livid if I found out that some lady was filling my child's ears with her views about sex and sexuality — without my permission and behind my back.  If Stone's message is so great, what is she doing sneaking around stuffing it in children's ears?

Sad, bad women

I’m heading into another insanely busy day, so won’t post until later. However, I couldn’t wait to tell you about a disturbing book I’m reading called Female Chauvinist Pigs : Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, by Ariel Levy. In it, Levy takes on the raunch culture that is developing around young women today: the Girls Gone Wild videos, the slut clothing, the staggering promiscuity, the obsession with sexual conduct.

Levy herself is a product of that generation and the child of free love hippies. She’s pro-choice and anti-conservative — and yet, she’s disturbed and disgusted by a culture that encourages women to think that equality means aping men’s basest behavior, rather than their best. It’s a good book, an easy read and, as I said, very disturbing. Since I still have elementary children, I’ve only been peripherally aware of this phenomenom, but I know it’s out there, and this book brought it slap dash into my face.