Monday, May 31, 2010

Remembering Friends

Last week the 1,000th U.S. serviceman was killed in the war in Afghanistan. You may not have heard about it. Strange how that number is less reported now than it was even a few short years ago. Well, maybe not so strange.

Nevertheless, today is Memorial Day and we, as a nation, pause, or should pause, to remember and honor those 1,000, as well as the untold thousands more who have spilled their life's blood in service to this great country. They deserve no less from us.

As we remember them we should recall also that a soldier's life is not his own. That by his willingness to serve, he demonstrates his willingness to be placed in harm's way. That by being placed there, he demonstrates as well his willingness to die. That many do indeed die.

Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Might today we think of these, otherwise to us, mostly anonymous men and women not as soldiers, but as friends? Friends who loved their country, loved us, more than they did life itself.

May God bless them all. R.I.P.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Clintons, cont.

They just wont go away, will they? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, apparently impatient with managing the country's foreign affairs, weighs in on current U.S. tax policy as well: "The rich are not paying their fair share..."

You need to understand that this is coming from a woman, you'll recall, who once claimed as a deduction the proceeds from the donation of the former First Couple's used underwear as a way to avoid paying even one dime more than their "fair share" of the nation's tax burden.

It is quite literally impossible to shame these two people. Impossible.

The Clinton Connection

So, it was Bill Clinton who made the job offer to Congressman Joe Sestak for the White House, encouraging him to end his run for the Pennsylvania senate seat held by fellow Democrat Arlen Specter. Sestak, the White House, and the former president? While there may be more, now we know there's at least one person involved in this sordid story who is lying, or at least soon will be. You see, Bill Clinton and the truth have never enjoyed a particularly cordial relationship. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Here's a plug for the MarHillAudio Journal I mentioned in my last post. It's a bimonthly audio magazine produced in Charlottesville, VA, in which the host, Ken Myers, for the most part simply interviews guests from the arts and academe. He does so, however, from an explicitly Christian position. But the style and substance is not that of evangelism, or at least not what we typically think of as evangelism. It's more like an interview you've heard on National Public Radio, which is where, by the way, Myers got his start. It's all very civil, and very satisfying. I've been a subscriber for about ten years now and find it easiest, for me, to listen to the tapes or CDs in my car as I drive to and from work. Check it out.

In case you're wondering, I'm not connected with the organization in any way save as a long-time subscriber. My plug was not solicited, nor will I receive anything for it. I just like the product and thought you might too.

One Cheer for Ayn Rand

It seems I've been running into Ayn Rand everywhere lately. There are at least a couple of new biographies out, of which I've read several reviews, as well as seen the authors interviewed on C-SPAN. In fact, I just listened to an interview with one of them on MarsHillAudio. (More about that in my next post.) It's no wonder, I guess. As the current Administration, along with the liberal Democrat congressional leadership, seem hell-bent on marching us ever closer to their socialist dream-country utopia, there was bound to be a backlash, intellectual as well as political.

You need to know about Ayn Rand. I also think you need to appreciate something about her work, even if you were never completely seduced by her hyper-individualist, hyper-capitalist philosophy. (She purposefully wore a pin the shape of a dollar sign instead of a cross to symbolize her ethos.)

I, like many, went through a phase during my college years in which I was intrigued by her work: Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, The Virtue of Selfishness, etc. In fact, I tackled The Fountainhead just a few years ago. It's thick and intellectual, but a very quick read nevertheless. I asked my wife and a few other women friends of mine to read it for their reaction. There was something about the work that read more like a bodice-ripping romance novel than a sober piece of modern fiction in which little happens but lots of people talking and arguing, arguing and talking. (By the way, none of them have taken me up on it as yet. Such are my powers of persuasion.)

As I say, I was intrigued by her philosophy, but never seduced. That is, I never became a Randian, or anything like it. I'm too fundamentally religious, I guess. While I think Whittaker Chambers' very famous and very critical review of Rand's Atlas Shrugged for National Review, "Big Sister is Watching You", is a little over the top, I, by and large, agree with the conservative critique of her individualist philosophy.

So, why do I say, "One cheer for Ms. Rand"? Her achievement is this: Her work, the two novels, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, especially, manage as often as not to grip their first-time readers by the collar, shake them violently, and make them realize that the underlying altruism in which socialism prides itself is not altruism at all. Rather, it is envy. Ugly, pathetic, soul killing, society destroying envy. Nothing more. For that alone she deserves, if not a brass plaque in the Conservative Cooperstown, at least her due.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Our Faith, Our Hope, and Our Future

Over at First Things, R.R. Reno uses his review of a new book to explain why he remains optimistic about America in spite of our recent, and looming, travails. The book is about, of all things, the political culture of the Dakota Territories in the late-19th century and why, despite the rapid social change it experienced during that period, it didn't descend into the caricature that is the old, lawless, Wild West. Rather, the basic civility of the region held firm, and the author and Reno agree that one of the chief reasons for this was the vast reserves social capital available because of the population's Christian faith.

A vital Christianity is so important for our society, it's almost impossible to overstate. I'll leave aside its larger, grander, and frankly incomparable implications, and focus only on the immediate, secular, and social implications. I've said this so many times you'll have to forgive me if I'm repeating myself here, but in a society like ours in which we are more or less free to do anything we want, it is absolutely crucial that something instruct and inspire us not to do just anything we want.

Significantly, that something cannot be the government itself, despite what those who either represent or champion it maintain. (This is basically the position of contemporary liberalism.) That puts far too much power in the hands of the state and places our liberty in jeopardy as a result. Almost unique to Christianity is the idea of the separation of church and state. ("Render unto Caesar...") Because the church's authority resides outside the state, it can play the prophetic, i.e. critiquing role that is invaluable in keeping the state within its properly limited place and, as result, our liberty secure. But, at the same time, it can also encourage us to step up to, embrace even, the social obligations that make us, well, a society.

I, like Reno, remain optimistic about our country. As shallow as our confused, smorgasbord Christianity might be, so long as its heart is beating, I'm confident it will accomplish its proper ends. (See Romans 1:16) Make no mistake, contemplating the immediate consequences of The Great Reckoning, as I call what is transpiring, can be frightening. But, because I am a Christian, I am fortified with a faith and hope that allows me to see through and beyond it. (Faith and hope are such invaluable gifts, i.e., graces. Praise be to God!)

Fear not!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Not So Deep Kimchi After All?

Referring to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula caused by North Korea's sinking of a South Korean warship, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton struck a much more diplomatic tone today than she did only last week: "We are working hard to avoid an escalation of belligerence and provocation."

No doubt someone in the Administration reminded her that the perpetrators were indeed North Koreans, not the citizens of Arizona.

DC for BP?

Is British Petroleum doing all it can to cork and clean the still gushing oil spill? Some think not. So why hasn't the Obama Administration simply stepped in and federalized the whole operation? After all, we are talking about liberal Democrats who are otherwise eager to federalize, well, everything.

My wife had a thought: (1) If they take over, they'll assume responsibility for the fix and, as things stand, they have absolutely no better ideas than does BP. (2) If things remain as they are, then BP remains as well a convenient whipping boy.

OK Honey. I posted it and, yes, you got the credit.

Gee whiz!

They'll Huff and They'll Puff

Andrew C. McCarthy has done more, much more actually, than his fair share fighting the good fight that is the War on Terror, both in and out of government. His efforts deserve not only our collective congratulations, they deserve, in fact, a standing ovation. But his soul-searching column at National Review Online today, a reaction to the standing ovation that, not he but, Mexican President Felipe Calderon received from congressional Democrats for the anti-American speech he delivered to a joint session last week, reveals a measure of abiding naivete that can no longer be tolerated by those of us on the political Right, nor, frankly, by any freedom loving American.

Calderon's speech and the Democrat's reaction to it forced McCarthy to conclude this:
Why does that matter now? Because, for the first time in our history, we have a president who would be much more comfortable sitting in a room with Bill Ayers than sitting in a room with me. We have a governing class that is too often comfortable with anti-American radicals, with rogue and dysfunctional governments that blame America for their problems, and with Muslim Brotherhood ideologues who abhor individual liberty, capitalism, freedom of conscience, and, in general, Western enlightenment. To this president and his government, I am the problem. Americans who champion life, liberty, and limited government are not just the loyal opposition; they are deemed potential terrorists, and are derided with considerably more intensity than the actual terrorists. Arizona — for criminalizing criminal activity, for defending its sovereignty and protecting its citizens’ lives and property — is slandered as a human-rights violator. And here is the excruciating part: As the Calderón spectacle demonstrates, these sentiments are not fringe sentiments.
The "now" to which McCarthy refers at the beginning of the paragraph represents, for him, the sea change that occurred with the election of Barack Obama and the Pelosi-Reid-run House and Senate. He's wrong about that. The change has been with us for some time. How, then, could he and so many others be fooled for so long?

If you're familiar with this blog at all, you know that I maintain that a Limousine Liberal is the only kind of liberal there is. The predictable hypocrisy of liberals on virtually every issue they otherwise champion can fool you into concluding that they don't really believe their rhetoric, that their posturing is but an act, that they're reasonable people after all. I mean, they don't want wind farms in their back yard, they buy and drive SUVs, they send their kids to elite private schools, they shelter their earnings from the tax man, etc., etc., etc..

But the thing is, they really do believe all this stuff and more, and do so in spite of their consistent behaviour to the contrary. How so? Human being are long-practiced and quite successful at living with cognitive dissonance. We all do this to one degree or another, but your average liberal has raised the practice to an art form. So when he tells you the country is fundamentally flawed, guilty even, and has much to learn from, for example, the People's Paradise in Cuba, believe him. Even if he doesn't book the next boat from Miami to Havana. Moreover, you must believe him because, as I often say, the stakes are simply too high. To give him the benefit of the doubt caused by his hypocrisy was always dangerous, but now it's undeniably so.

The title of McCarthy's piece is "The House Divided". In case you didn't know, it's a biblical allusion (Matt. 12:25) that was employed by Abraham Lincoln in a famous speech of his delivered during the run-up to the Civil War. While I do not think we are anywhere near a conflict of arms in this country, thank God, we are nonetheless "engaged in a great civil war, testing whether [this] nation...can long endure." As far as I'm concerned, this war began, more or less, with the onset of the Twentieth Century. For the Left it remained mostly a guerrilla campaign until the Sixties. Since then it has been nothing less than an all out frontal assault on most of that which we hold dear, which defines us as a people: Our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, our overwhelmingly Judeo-Christian religiosity, our self-understanding as "exceptional", our proud history.

With McCarthy's loss of innocence, we've no doubt added one more very significant enlistee to the musters of the New Grand Army of the Republic. As Victor Laszlo says to Rick Blaine in my favorite movie Casablanca, "Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pretending To Care

Last week President Obama signed into law the "Daniel Pearl Press Freedom Act". The signing ceremony for the bipartisan bill was held in the oval office and was attended by family members and friends of Daniel Pearl, the Jewish American reporter who was brutally murdered by Islamic jihadists in 2003. The heinous act was recorded by the murderers and aired internationally via the Internet, although from Obama's remarks at the ceremony you would not have learned any of this. Instead, he described the murder without passion or judgment, referring to it simply as "the loss of Daniel Pearl", as if the poor man had died of cancer.

I've noticed that many other blogs are calling attention to Mark Steyn's thoughts on this unseemly episode. And well they should. You simply must read what he has to say in order to appreciate more fully our cool and detached president.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Deep Kimchi

In light of the overwhelming evidence that it was North Korea that sank the South Korean warship last March, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly condemned the communist nation, warning that "provocative actions have consequences."

There's simply got to be more to this story than we're being told. This Administration does not usually employ this kind of harsh rhetoric for professed enemies of the United States, reserving it instead for fellow citizens like the good people of Arizona.

Trust me, something's up.

Nam Droppers

It's been a few days now, but I've thought a little more about the revelation that long-serving Connecticut Attorney General, and now candidate for the US Senate, Democrat Richard Blumenthal did not in fact serve in Viet Nam as he had claimed or implied on numerous occasions. As I thought about it, I couldn't help but remember Massachusetts Senator, and 2004 Democrat Party Presidential nominee, John Kerry's story about his participation in a secret mission into Cambodia over Christmas of 1968. An event that he insisted was, "seared--seared--in me." Like Blumenthal's claim, that one was also untrue.

I call it an untruth rather than a lie because I think it reveals something about these two men, and the kind of men they represent, that is even more troubling than the fact that they are liars. That is, they're weird.

If you're old enough you'll remember comedian Jon Lovitz's Saturday Night Live character who pathologically told lies about, among other things, being in the CIA, being married to the attractive actress Morgan Fairchild, and therefore seeing her naked, etc. "Yeahhh! That's the ticket!" What made the character funny was not so much that he was a liar, and that the lies were so transparent, but that he was so strange.

Remove the exaggerated aspects played for laughs and ask yourself, does Lovitz's character in any way describe Kerry and Blumenthal? Sadly, I think it does. But it's actually worse than that. Lovitz's character was a loser who, to impress people, had few options available to him besides lying. Not so Kerry and Blumenthal. They are both otherwise accomplished men, wealthy, and with long records of public service. So what's the point of their lies? What's more, did they really think they would never be found out when finding out was so relatively easy?

As strange as Blumenthal and Kerry are, the larger question for us is this: Are they representative? That is, are they in any way indicative of the kind of people currently motivated to pursue high public office? People who lie unnecessarily and foolishly. If so, does our future increasingly include government by the weird?

C'mon America! We can do better than this.

Say What?

This will no doubt give a whole new meaning to the phrase "hard of hearing".

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Racist" Electricity

At least one Arizona utilities commissioner is considering a motion to halt the delivery of electricity to the California city of Los Angeles. L.A. currently purchases approximately 25% of its electrical power from the Grand Canyon State. The utility commissioner's move was in response to the L.A. City Council's termination of some of the city's outstanding contracts with firms headquartered in Arizona. That move was initiated by the Council to demonstrate its objection to Arizona's recently passed anti-illegal immigration law.

Meanwhile, the very liberal Los Angeles City Council gathered to deliberate over whether it wanted to continue the purchase of electricity produced by the increasingly racist neighboring state. The reports were unclear, but the council members no doubt arrived at the meeting by limousine.

Mexican Standup

I mean really, is he joking? I'm referring, of course, to Mexican President Felipe Calderon's comments from the White House voicing his concern that the new Arizona anti-illegal immigration enforcement law is "forcing our people to face discrimination".

Who knew that before he was Mexico's president, Calderon was a comedian? Anywhere from 10 to 20 million Mexicans are currently in the United States illegally, but still of their own free will. They are often forced to pay exorbitant fees to coyotes who ensure their entry, but still they come and many stay. If this is "discrimination", then he is giving a whole new meaning to the word "discrimination".

Nah. It's got to be a joke.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Film director Woody Allen in an interview with the Spanish-language magazine La Vanguardia: "It would be good...if (Obama) could be dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly."

Geez! And to think I was a big fan of Woody Allen movies. The old ones anyway. Oh well, actually his comments are not surprising. In fact, they're useful as revelation, and not just of himself, but liberals generally.

I've always thought that, sooner or later, liberals reveal their impatience with government by consent. Democracy is too messy, involves too much give and take, demands too many compromises. This is ultimately unacceptable to a liberal as their self-understanding is one of undeniable and unchallengeable moral, philosophical, political, heck, even aesthetic superiority. If you disagree with them, then you must be mentally or morally deficient. Note how enthusiastically they embrace the nanny state in order to control you and how quickly they use the epithets of "racist" and "sexist" in order to discredit you. Hence, within every committed liberal there incubates a tyrant waiting to be born.

Enjoy their movies, when you can, but never trust'em.

The Literary Left and Radical Islam

In the wake of Attorney General Eric Holder's embarrassing, for him, appearance last week before a congressional committee in which he refused to use the words "radical" and "Islam" in the same sentence, there appears a very passionate piece by novelist and critic Mark Goldblatt on the political correctness, that amounts to cowardice, that largely accounts for such disgusting performances.

To strengthen his point, Goldblatt includes a story he heard at the service honoring the Beat poet Allen Ginsburg after his death in 1997. The story was about Ginsberg's reaction, in 1989, to a Muslim cab driver in Manhattan who unapologetically supported the Ayatollah Khomeini's issuance of a death sentence on the writer Salman Rushdie after the publication of Rushdie's novel, The Satanic Verses, in which the prophet Muhammad was not exactly portrayed in the most respectful light. You really need to read the account in order to appreciate fully the effect this had on Ginsburg, but suffice it to say that he was not constrained by the strictures of political correctness. Goldblatt embraces Ginsberg's reaction and uses it to enrich, if that's the right word, his own reaction to radical, and even not so radical Muslims worldwide.

Anyway, Goldblatt's piece reminded me of both the episode and the events surrounding it when Rushdie's novel was published in the late 1980s. Why, then, did so many of the Literary Left find it so easy to come to Rushdie's defence, even going so far as to attack vigorously the religion of Islam itself? And why today, by contrast, will you look long and hard before you'll find anyone from that particular tribe willing to say so much as an unkind word about even radical Islam, and this after the actual murders of more than 3,000 on 9/11 and not simply the promise of a murder of one lone writer? (Christopher Hitchens, by the way, is a notable exception.)

Before I answer, let me complicate this a bit more. Do you recall that in response to that same episode, there were more than a few on the political Right, the Religious Right to be more precise, who, at the time, articulated a measure of sympathy for Muslims over the insult to their prophet contained in Rushdie's novel? Now, again by contrast, these same people are perhaps the most willing to call radical Islam for what it is, a murderous ideology that must be stopped.

Is there any way to reconcile these apparent contradictions? I think so...well partly anyway.

The Literary Left rallied to Rushdie's side at the time because his novel, in part, sought to accomplish what they all collectively sought also to accomplish, at least here and there, and that is the deliberate discrediting and mocking of traditional religion. The Religious Right sensed this as they themselves had long experience being the target of the same enterprise and, as a result, proffered a measure of sympathy for Muslims everywhere.

Today, after 9/11, with the entire country clearly the target, the Religious Right, along with all sane Americans, quite rationally and naturally want to defend it from its expressed foe, radical Islam. But what of the Literary Left? Why do we hear so little from them? I'm convinced that gutlessness, plain and simple, is a large part of it, probably the largest part. But we shouldn't forget another very powerful reason that they actually share with the radical Muslims. That is, an abiding hatred of America. The same pleasure they take in attacking traditional religion, they take also in watching their country torn down. It's suicidal, no doubt. But not for that reason any less true. The passionate language Mark Goldblatt's uses to express his disgust for radical Islam, might be just as appropriately directed at these people.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Shock Theater

I realize it's trite to say it, but it's so fitting in this case that it's simply impossible to restrain oneself. Although I must admit that here it's tough to know which way the saying goes. Is it art imitating life, or the other way around? Or is it even possible to tell? No matter.

It would seem the Wilson couple, you know, Joe and Valerie, finally got the movie gig they were auditioning for from the very beginning. Remember the Vanity Fair piece with the accompanying photo in which they were both trying oh so hard to look just like Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in Alfred Hitchcock's classic film North By Northwest? Alas, in the end, the handsome couple were denied the starring roles which went to the more seasoned actors, Sean Penn and Naomi Watts. Nevertheless, we are assured the movie remains still a faithful adaptation of their unbelievable story. And I do mean unbelievable.

Apparently, the entire episode did take its toll on the two. I am referring, of course, to their long struggle with the Bush Administration, not the making of the film. Ms. Wilson, when asked about it, replied that, "I'd gone from a job I loved, where discretion was paramount, to all of a sudden being the focus of unreal media attention, and I found that extremely difficult." Yep, posing for Vanity Fair can be a real drain on you.

I'm not sure if these two have broken the Mixed Doubles record for irreducible phoniness. The Clintons, after all, set the bar very high (low?). But surely they have earned their place on the podium among the medal winning elite.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Giv'em Hell Christie

By now you've at least heard of New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie's exchange with the "thin-skinned reporter". If you haven't seen it, you must.

If you're a conservative, you were joined by millions of like-minded others who, when they first saw this, could be heard almost screaming, "FINALLY!" Christie's response to the transparently liberal reporter's question, as well as to his underlying premise, was aggressive and unapologetic. If he wasn't already a national GOP favorite, he soon will be, and that despite the fact that he's effectively pro-choice. ("I'm personally opposed, but....")

The more "sophisticated" members of the Republican Party, you know, those who spill more ink and fill more air time disparaging Sarah Palin than they do critiquing Barack Obama, should take a lesson from Christie's performance, as well as from the reaction it has engendered among the GOP's rank and file, not to mention the Tea Partiers.

I will concede that Christie's actual words, his delivery, and his tone were no doubt objectively superior to anything Mrs. Palin could have pulled off in a similar setting. But the Party sophisticates are wrong if they think that that is what defined his "victory" in this episode. What Christie demonstrated, what he and Palin share, and what makes them increasingly darlings of the Right, is much more basic, more primal even, than that. It is simply the willingness to fight. On the Right, temporizing politicians, even if only in tone, are dead. The stakes are too high, and everyone knows it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sovereignty Anyone?

It would appear that during deliberations over the Greek financial bailout, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy reconsidered his country's continuing membership in the eurozone. But this is not about that.

His response raises an important question: Which kinds of pressures/threats to a political unit exert a centrifugal force (pulling apart) on the unit and which kinds exert a centripetal force(pulling together)? Now that's worth a weekend of ruminating, isn't it? Bon appetit!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Nazis and Commies

Claire Berlinsky has written a piece for City Journal titled "A Hidden History of Evil". In the subtitle she asks the question: "Why doesn’t anyone care about the unread Soviet archives?" She then sets up the rest of the article, in which she points out the relatively easy availability of those archives, with this introductory paragraph:
In the world’s collective consciousness, the word “Nazi” is synonymous with evil. It is widely understood that the Nazis’ ideology—nationalism, anti-Semitism, the autarkic ethnic state, the Führer principle—led directly to the furnaces of Auschwitz. It is not nearly as well understood that Communism led just as inexorably, everywhere on the globe where it was applied, to starvation, torture, and slave-labor camps. Nor is it widely acknowledged that Communism was responsible for the deaths of some 150 million human beings during the twentieth century. The world remains inexplicably indifferent and uncurious about the deadliest ideology in history.
Several years ago I heard Anne Applebaum in an interview with Brian Lamb on C-SPAN's "Booknotes" ask essentially the same question. Her appearance on the program more or less coincided with the release of her Pulitzer Prize winning book that chronicled exactly what its title suggested, Gulag: A History. If I remember correctly, she opened the interview by noting that Nazi paraphernalia was fairly difficult to get one's hands on, and even if you did manage to take possession an artifact, it was likely something you kept out of sight. For obvious reasons, Nazi contraband makes for somewhat embarrassing mementos. Not so trinkets from the former Soviet Union, however. They were at the time everywhere available behind the former Iron Curtain and no particular discomfort attended their possession. In point of fact, I myself have a cheap Soviet-era lapel pin that bears the images of Marx and Lenin. (Maybe Engels too; I can't remember.) A former student of mine gave it to me after he returned from a visit in the early 1990s to the former East Germany. It's presently at home, tossed casually aside in some drawer or other.

So, the question stands: Why are we so relatively less interested in and troubled by the undeniable evils perpetrated by those guided by a communist ideology than by those who performed similar acts as adherents of national socialism? As you would expect, I have a few notions.

Academe in the West, by whom we would expect a more complete and accurate history to be written, is still overwhelmingly a stronghold of the Left, and, to state the obvious, the Left finds Nazis much easier to hate than Commies. But, to be fair, in this respect their inclinations are really no different than our own. Our inclinations, however, are informed mainly by that which the leftist academics choose to record and report, and they choose mostly not to record and report Commie atrocities. So again, why?

1. Some reasons are obvious. During World War II, the West made a necessary alliance with the Soviets in order to defeat the more immediate threat posed by the Nazis. Hence, we have a history of having been on the same side, at least for a time.

2. But some are not so obvious. Nazis and Commies are socialists alike, so you might expect the Left, as it is partially defined by its enthusiasm for socialism, to extend the muzzling of its criticism to both parties. But here an important distinction is at play. Nazis are national socialists, while Commies are international socialists. The latter is much more acceptable to men and women of the Left, and when the two are at war with each other and you have to choose, if you're a Lefty, it's clear where your sympathies must lie. (I've often wondered what more completely describes a Lefty: His hatred of free-market capitalism or his hatred of the modern nation-state? Maybe you have a thought on that?)

3. The Left in the West were fellow traveling socialists with their Soviet comrades and had a long-standing, almost romantic relationship with them. "I have seen the future and it works," cooed American journalist and Soviet apologist Lincoln Steffens in the 1930s. You simply don't abandon that kind of love affair for light and transient causes like the deliberate starvation of untold millions in the Ukraine. Whenever the Left was confronted with a terrible fact such as this, along with innumerable others, they chose not so much to deny, as to ignore them, and routinely so.

OK, at this point you're probably thinking that so far this is nothing more than the predictable analysis one would expect from a conservative. Am I right? Just another opportunity to castigate the Left, correct? Well, please indulge me for just one more point, if you would.

4. In our conflict with the Nazis, we chose to make hot war and pursue victory, which we blessedly achieved. With the Commies, by contrast, we opted for cold war and containment. Yet another cost of containment (see my previous posts on this subject here and here), is that as a policy it makes us all somewhat complicit in the evil we are otherwise resisting. We accommodate it, rather than destroy it. In the case of our conflict with the Commies, the nuclear standoff between us and the Soviet Union was quite real and a sound reason for challenging them only carefully, in fact, only very carefully. But it didn't for that reason absolve us of our guilty consciences.

International communism constituted an Evil Empire (to coin a phrase) that needed to be challenged directly and defeated outright, and we knew it. Our decision to pursue another course may have been prudent, but it was a prudence tainted with a measure of selfishness and cowardice, and we knew that too. We had then, and still have today dirty hands.

So, why are we less interested in Commie than Nazi atrocities? One important reason is that to focus on them too directly is to remind ourselves that we once could, and probably should have done more.

Does that make you uncomfortable? Me too. Let's change the subject.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Arizona Saves Millions

The City Council of Los Angeles has voted to boycott Arizona to the tune of at least $7.7 million, canceling several outstanding contracts with companies located in the Grand Canyon State. The offending issue, of course, is Arizona's passage of its tough anti-illegal immigration law. But, as the city of L.A. is currently just this side of bankruptcy, as is also the entire state of California, which otherwise might have been in a position to bail the city out, they actually saved Arizona from getting stuck with a very large handful of very bad paper.

Meanwhile, the Lakers will be traveling to Phoenix as scheduled, and vice versa, in order to compete in the next round of the NBA playoffs. Principles are principles, but let's be real, shall we?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"No, She Can't, Dee Dee"

Dee Dee Myers titles her latest column for Vanity Fair, "Can Elena Kagan Be Both Too Liberal and Too Conservative?"

Will someone please tell Ms. Myers that she's no longer a presidential press secretary and doesn't have to pretend in this fashion anymore. But then after working for Bill Clinton, pretending probably became a pretty hard habit to break.

The Great Reckoning Continues

The Golden State's balance sheet is, well, not so just now. Golden or balanced.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Borking Kagan

With President Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan for the soon-to-be-vacant seat on the Supreme Court, The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol wonders what might transpire if conservatives were to behave more like liberals. Beautiful!

$ymbol of $overeignty

The current example of Greece is illustrative in so many ways. German sociologist Max Weber famously defined a sovereign state as "a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory." In Greece, that monopoly is being presently being challenged by the people of Greece themselves. Whether or not the presence of some foreign army will one day be necessary to restore, or impose, order remains to be seen.

But while the efficacy of an armed force may indeed be the ultimate test of sovereignty, it's not the only one. In the case of Greece, Anne Applebaum illuminates yet another by asking whether it's still meaningful for that country to claim sovereignty when the other countries of the European Union can effectively impose such severe financial restrictions upon it.

A relatively precise way to determine the fact of sovereignty is to note the coining of money. Absent the practice, the claim of sovereignty is questionable. Greece no longer coins its own money. Is it still sovereign? Is it still master of its own fate? Does is it remain the ultimate authority and final arbiter within its own territory?

The price of sovereignty is steep. The cost of selling it is steeper still. Here endeth the lesson.

I See Dead People

Among the many inevitable consequences of government-run healthcare is rationing. And rationing will end just as inevitably in the "duty to die." Over at National Review Online, Thomas Sowell makes the point simply and poignantly.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dig This

I have a good friend who owns a small but successful landscaping business in South Carolina and he confirms every aspect of this article. Even closer to home, my wife works at a small clothing store and she reports that people routinely stop by to ask whether or not there are any job openings. There are none, which of course they know even before they ask. You see they don't really want the job, they just want to fill the square of having asked so they can continue to draw unemployment. They're very upfront about this with her.

Only a liberal will be surprised by these anecdotes. Surprised because he naively thinks the average Joe above such behavior. Or surprised because he contemptuously thinks the average Joe simply too stupid to play the game in this fashion.

When a real job pays only marginally more than either welfare or unemployment compensation, what fool would take it? Well, this fool would. But our numbers are dwindling.

Back to Good and Evil

Psychological studies on infants and toddlers at Yale University seem to confirm something we already knew, but pretended hard, very hard, not to know. That is, that there exists an innate moral sense.

It is not just that we are a species hard-wired to construct moral codes and then by and with them make moral judgments. Rather, it is that we are hard-wired already to know good from evil. It's there from the beginning. To be sure, it can, and should be developed, improved, and refined. But we can no longer pretend to understand a human being as a tabula rasa upon which we can create the stuff of morality ex nihilo.

What does this say about the larger Enlightenment project of conquering or simply ignoring nature? Might we finally be awakening from the twisted dream that is trying to live Beyond Good and Evil?

I doubt it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Just Say "I Do"

Four of ten children in the U.S. are now born without married parents. Four of ten! Let's face it, that also means that nearly four of ten children will be reared without a father as well. If this is not already a disaster, it's a disaster waiting to happen...and soon!

In the name of compassion, not to mention the frisson experienced with the shedding of those dreadful puritanical sensibilities, we've removed virtually every cost once associated with unwed pregnancy. We've lowered, in some cases eliminated altogether, the material, social, and moral price one used to have to pay for bearing or fathering a child out of wedlock. Is the word "bastard" even in the dictionary anymore? You'll not find Hollywood using it, and they usually revel in being as inventively potty-mouthed as possible.

And to think I was told (am still told, in fact) that the pill and condoms in the classroom will solve all this.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Great Reckoning

Our current economic predicament is beginning to look to me less and less like the Great Depression, or even the Great Recession that some have labeled it. Rather, our times seem increasingly to carry with them an undeniable element of justice. Hence, The Great Reckoning. Is it upon us at last?

The Dow's 1000+ point swing yesterday made everyone nervous...again, even if it could be explained away in part by a "fat finger". (I'm sceptical, by the way.) Meanwhile, the editors of Spiegel Online have penned a long piece about the state of the Greek, European, American, and world economies. You need to plow through it. While the tone of the article manages to remain mercifully this side of Gotterdammerung, it's still quite frank and quite sobering.

But does any of this really surprise us? I mean really? You need no advanced degree, nor long experience in Big Business or Wall Street to know the simple truth that you can't forever spend that which you don't have. So, I ask, "Has the bill arrived at last?"

Plagued with the leadership of hapless dilettantes for far too long, it is my great hope and fervent prayer for our country that men and women of good will, sharp minds, strong courage, and unyielding backbone will finally step forward and assume command. I remain convinced that trying times like these serve best to reveal such people. Our roll is to recognize them and then encourage them when we do. Fortunately for us, we have a great opportunity to do just that from now until this November. Let's not squander it.

Fear not!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Weaknews" For Sale

I toyed with "Newsweek, R.I.P." as a headline instead, because the weekly news magazine is dead, "...morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably, and reliably- dead!"

A dwindling audience due to Left-wing bias aside, in a country where even those counted by the government as living below the poverty line enjoy easy access to both cable/satellite television and the Internet, the days of successful mass print news, balanced or not, are numbered.

Over the course of a career in the Air Force, my family and I have lived in many different places across the country and we have always had the local paper delivered to our home. While no one would have expected us to be as interested in the local news as the natives, we still wanted to know when and where the sales, the movie schedule, the weather forecast, etc. But no more. Since we moved back to North Carolina about three years ago, only my wife reads the local paper, The Mount Airy News, and even she reads it on-line.

Don't misunderstand. I find no joy in reporting this. I'm a dinosaur who still enjoys some familiar, tactile pleasure when holding paper of some kind in my hands as I read. It also, for no doubt snobbish reasons, makes me feel smarter than and superior to the herd. (It's easier on my eyes as well.)

Nevertheless, look for the "For Sale" sign currently posted in front of Newsweek's HQ to be replaced in short order by a tombstone. And it won't be long before the spreading epidemic makes victims also of Time, The Washington Post, and even the venerable, but definitely graying lady, The New York Times. "She's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead!"

G.O.P. Plot

Consider this headline at Politico and then quickly guess the ideological bias of the piece's two authors. To be fair, unlike the headline, the piece itself is a somewhat prosaic and wonkish report about how an out-of-power party re-organizes itself for victory in the next round of elections. (Although the premise is a bit silly, implying as it does that they are somehow revealing a secret.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Defending One's Own

Jonah Goldberg over at "The Corner" in National Review Online makes a very important point about the guessing/wishing game that was played before we knew who actually placed the bomb in Times Square. Far too many liberals publicly expressed their hope that the undeniable terrorist would turn out to be "homegrown", while some conservatives no doubt hoped for just the opposite. Prejudices such as these, as Goldberg points out, do great harm to the effort to discover the real culprit and, as the real culprit was bent on accomplishing mass murder, this can be dangerous.

All well and good. But there remains a crucial difference between these two reactions. Confronted with an embarrassment, not to mention a crime, it is altogether natural, understandable, and even forgivable that before the facts are known, one sincerely hope it not involve any of one's own. Not one's family, not one's friends, not one's countrymen. But to wish for the opposite is by comparison, unnatural, sick, and ultimately suicidal.

The liberal reflexes in the war on terror are not just wrong, they're malignant.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Another Cost of Containment

In yesterday's post, my purpose was to highlight one of the costs associated with pursuing a policy of containment with Iran, a country whose leadership is hostile to us, our allies, and our mutual interests, and apparently determined to produce a nuclear weapon. That cost is that to the American mind, containment is at best a necessary evil, an extremely frustrating concession to the fact that confronting an enemy more directly and thereby defeating it, the preferred policy option, is simply too dangerous, the associated risks too great. This was the case during the Cold War and our long struggle with the Soviet Union.

Today I want to highlight yet another cost: Over the long run, a policy of containment slowly but surely corrupts the otherwise clear purpose of an armed force and in the process erodes the discipline that keeps it at its most effective.

In the fall of 1999 I was assigned for several months to Ali al Salem Air Base located in northern Kuwait near the Iraqi border. (It's still in use today. In fact, my son went through there on his way to Iraq last year.) Anyway, our presence there then was as a small part of the larger Operation Southern Watch, which itself was part of the policy of containing, yes containing, Saddam Hussein in the aftermath of our successful liberation of Kuwait in the Gulf War of 1991. As part of my duties, I attended a conference held in Bahrain at which representatives of the various fighter units in the region would gather routinely to discuss and evaluate the tactics employed in holding Saddam at bay. My attendance there was more as an observer than as a participant.

At that particular conference, I witnessed something that caught my attention at the time and I have remembered ever since. To an audience that contained several flag rank officers from both the Air Force and Navy, an Air Force full colonel, as a diversion in an otherwise dry briefing that unavoidably included lots of slides with lots of graphs and numbers, told a story about how some of the fighter units were deliberately trying to lure a particular Iraqi pilot into the air in order to engage and destroy him. I was never quite sure how they had identified this particular pilot, but by then we had been flying over Iraq for more than eight years, and what with radar and satellite technology they had nevertheless become convinced that he was one of their best.

Engaging this particular pilot had absolutely nothing to do with the larger effort to contain Saddam within Iraq's borders. So how had it become important? No, that's not fair. Even as the colonel briefed us, he, along with everyone else in the audience, was laughing. No one was under the illusion that shooting down this pilot was in any sense important to the overall mission. What struck me was not that they had foolishly come to think it important, but, rather, that it was even discussable in this fashion and at this level. The whole episode seemed to me even then as something of a breach of discipline, something a bunch of generals wouldn't want "60 Minutes" cameras in the room recording.

As I thought more about what had transpired at that briefing, it occurred to me that perhaps this small incident was not isolated after all, but was rather itself a product of pursuing a policy of containing rather than defeating Saddam Hussein. At that point, we had been over there for eight-plus years and the mission had become, and I'm afraid I can't think of a better word, a bore. In order to relieve the boredom, the pilots had turned the mission into a game, in this case a game of luring a particular Iraqi pilot into the air in order to shoot him down.

Now imagine that attitude, our mission is a bore, spreading to an entire army. At the very least this is not conducive to the maintenance of a highly disciplined fighting force. With respect to Iran, containment may well be the policy our political leadership finally decides to pursue. Or, in the absence of more decisive action, it may come to be so by default. In either case, we should be under no illusion that it's a strategy of defending the nation on the cheap. The costs are considerable and they are not always immediately apparent.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Jack-Booted Thugs?

Referring to the British Petroleum (BP) owned and operated oil well that continues to leak thousands of gallons of black gold into the Gulf of Mexico, Obama Administration spokesman Robert Gibbs, repeated Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's promise to "keep the boot on (BP's) neck."

BP is a legal corporation that is confronting, because of the oil spill, a public relations disaster. It is also losing for the same reason a not insignificant amount of the very product through which it makes a profit. The cost to the company as a result will no doubt be huge, hurting the company's bottom line, placing many of its employee's jobs at risk, and potentially raising the price of gasoline for us all.

And yet the Administration's public approach to this very unfortunate turn of events is to treat the company as if it were the equivalent of some terrorist organization that actually planned the explosion and the resulting oil spill, an effectively al-Qaeda-trained suicide bomber.

Can there remain any doubt as to what this Administration and its allies think of business, big or small? You know, the organizations that produce the goods and services you and I consume? The same ones that provide the jobs through which we earn the money to purchase the same?

Containing Iran

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, needs to check out Michael Anton's excellent piece at National Review Online about the real costs of pursuing a policy of Containment with Iran. It's a bit long, but well worth the read anyway.

Anton opens the article with a brief survey of the history that led to the doctrine of Containment during the Cold War, beginning with the famous "Mr.X" article penned by George Kennan for Foreign Affairs magazine in 1947. He makes the very important point that, at least initially, containment was understood by everyone as at best a necessary evil. As it ultimately succeeded in helping topple the Soviet regime, it only looks like the policy of choice in retrospect.

In his survey, Anton mentions briefly that "rollback", actually confronting and defeating militarily the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe, was the alternative policy choice at the time. But, given the presence of nuclear weapons, it was judged at the time as too dangerous, potentially mutually destructive, and was abandoned.

But while rollback, as a policy alternative, was dismissed, the idea it represented never was. And during the long struggle with the Soviet Union it was finally voiced again, in a fashion, by none other than Ronald Reagan when he famously said over 30 years later, "Here's my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose."

Containment, accepting as it does not only the reality, but also in an important sense, the legitimacy of an otherwise intractable foe was, and is, frankly, un-American. Prior to the Cold War, our long diplomatic and military history had evolved in a single direction: In war, nothing is finally acceptable to Americans but total victory on our part and unconditional surrender on the part of our enemies. Anything less than that outcome sticks in our collective craw. Witness: Vietnam. (The single best place that I know of to go to inform yourself of this development is Russell Weigley's superb The American Way of War.)

Hence, the frustration experienced by many, and I would argue most, Americans during the period of the Cold War. Swallowing the Mexican standoff that was Mutually Assured Destruction under the broader policy of Containment was extremely tough on the average American's psyche. He wanted an end to the conflict with the Evil Empire through victory even as he understood the great danger of too direct a confrontation with it.

A similar price will be paid by the average American if we pursue a similar policy with Iran. No, that's not right. I think the price will actually be even steeper. Why? Presently, we are overwhelmingly their military superior and, to this point anyway, a potential global holocaust is not one of the costs we would have to be willing to bear. But if we wait, trusting that a policy of containment will protect us and the world, the price of victory, the only acceptable outcome, will go up with each passing day.

Greece is the Word

After some dithering, it appears the European Union will come to Greece's financial rescue after all, to the tune of some $147 billion. Did they really have a choice? Anyway, among the conditions for receiving the cash are severe cutbacks to the country's overly-generous public worker salary and pension plans.

By American standards, the Greek's original employment and retirement conditions look almost ridiculously extravagant. Therefore, the deal's cutbacks seem not only necessary, but altogether reasonable as well. But as a result, we should be ready for more and more stories pinning the blame for that country's financial woes on the unreasonable, and even selfish Greek worker or retiree.

I suppose it's true that one deserves, ultimately, the government one has. But the more immediate blame in Greece should be placed squarely on the shoulders of that country's political leadership. This is also the case in every other country that comprises the European Union where similar fiscal catastrophe looms. Those politicians have routinely and irresponsibly promised for their citizens an increasingly unfunded and finally impossible financial future.

But more to the point, those promises have been informed, almost without exception, by a socialist, or quasi-socialist ideal. Regrettably, that ideal informs as well far too many in our own country's political leadership. Beware! Or Greece's present, and worse, will be our future.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Business of America is...Dangerous

The Obama Administration supported Financial Reform Bill currently before the Senate contains the authorization of broad federal power to collect and monitor data on the business practices and spending habits of individual Americans, as well as American business. This bill is coming from the same crowd who, even after 9/11, vigorously opposed nearly every aspect of President Bush's Patriot Act because, they insisted, it violated the privacy rights of American citizens.

I'm afraid, however, the motivations for the new bill do make their own kind of sense. You see for liberal Democrats the real threat to America was never a deadly and determined Soviet Communism. Nor is it now a terror-practicing radical Islam. The real threat to America is American business itself, producers and consumers.

Does somebody out there still want to defend these guys as true friends of liberty?