Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What DO Men and Women Want?

Before Christmas, NRO's Dennis Prager gave women a very strong hint about what their men might want to find under the tree.  Now he schools men on what their women might like for, oh I don't know, Valentine's Day...if not sooner.

WARNING:  Prepare to be offended if you've embraced any of the politically correct feminist doctrines of the past 50 or so years.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Reflection

As I understand it, the entire Christmas season as we currently celebrate it is chiefly a product of the Victorian era.  Think of those Currier & Ives postcards.  Prior to the 19th Century, Easter was the more significant Christian holiday and was recognized as such by nearly everyone in the West.  If you are a Christian today, Easter remains, at least theologically, the more important of the two occasions and if you were asked, you would no doubt concede as much.  But, as a consequence, the fact that we don't invest the same emotional energy, let alone all the attendant folderol, in Easter as we do Christmas, serves to shame us  a bit.  Should it?

Perhaps.  But I think there's a more substantive reason for the disparity than the mere fact that we've become foolishly trapped in a tradition that is actually of fairly recent vintage, or even that we've simply fallen victim to the siren song of commercialism. ("Make a buck, make a buck.")

Theologians sometimes refer to the "already and not yet" character of the Christian faith.  That is, in Christ's life, death, and resurrection the final victory is "already" won.  Righteousness and life have triumphed forever over sin and death.  Christ's perfect sacrifice is indeed "once for all".

But, as we know, and cannot deny, in this life, on this side of Paradise, sin still abounds and death's sting still abides.  Therefore, the victory assured by the empty tomb of Easter remains for us in a very real sense "not yet".

As a result, the Christian life we actually live retains much of the feel of "promise" about it.  That is, we experience it more like a journey than a journey's end.

 I think Christmas, as it marks the beginning of the Life whose end would make all the difference, retains that feel.  At Christmas, we remember and celebrate the beginning of the Life that is then not yet finished, even as our new life is not yet finished as well.

Might it be the case that we have come to celebrate Christmas more than we do Easter at least in part because we can identify with it more?  If so, then whatever sin we are guilty of for that inequity, I'm confident we'll find mercy nonetheless.  Why?  Because for what purpose other did God become man than to secure our forgiveness, forgiveness even for this?  Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Delta Blues?

Maybe, maybe not. 

If you haven't already heard this, you will soon enough.  Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour is a racist.  Just ask the New York Times, and a rapidly increasing number of other Main Stream Media outlets as well. 

The Grey Lady published a hit piece yesterday insinuating that the Governor was sanitizing the history of his hometown's, Yazoo City, school desegregation and integration process that occurred during the late-1960s and early-1970s.  According to Barbour, it all went pretty smoothly.  And, as a matter of fact, it all did go  pretty smoothly.

So, what does this mean?  Or, should I say, what is it supposed to mean?  It means, of course, that Haley Barbour is not fit to be president.

But, if you can read between the lines, what it really means is that the liberal establishment is very afraid of a Haley Barbour candidacy.

For the Man Who Has Almost Everything

Ladies, still struggling to find just the right gift for your man this Christmas.  Read this column, deliver, and he'll worship you for it.  Men really are that uncomplicated.

If you can't deliver, then learn to fake it.  He'll still worship you for it.  As I said, men really are that uncomplicated.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Back to the Numbers

The New York Times has produced a nice chart and map highlighting the changes in congressional representation the new census numbers will require.

I just noticed that Massachusetts is among those states that will lose a representative.  Is it possible that redistricting will eliminate Barney Frank's seat?  Or is that asking too much of Santa?

FCC Power Grab

"FCC Approves Plan to Regulate Internet"

I think this story is hugely important but not because it involves serious First Amendment issues of freedom of speech, or even because it may further harm the still struggling national economy.  (And not even because it, once again, demonstrates the rank hypocrisy of liberal Democrats.)  Think about it, by a narrow one-vote margin, three, count'em, three unelected bureaucrats have just decided US law...and we ain't just talkin' about the speed limit on the interstate.

In a more virile era, small "r" republicans across the nation would have immediately recognized this abomination for what it is and demanded a stop to it.  In such an era, the legislative power would have been jealously guarded by the legislators themselves and never, never, relinquished in its entirety to an administrative agency.  As it is, our legislators either obsequiously rooted for the FCC to begin regulating or did little more than petulantly stomp their feet while at the same time wring their hands hoping it would not.  This is disgusting.  This is embarrassing.

I posted some time back about my concern that the men and women we elect today seem to be missing something, missing, that is, the "personal motives", that James Madison addressed in Federalist #51, necessary to protect their office.  Instead, they seem  far too willing, because they are content, unconcerned, lazy, weak--I don't know, you tell me--to simply relinquish their power, and the duty that comes with it, just so long as they retain the perquisites of office.

If none of this really bothers you, then just wait.  Kathleen Sebelius, or whoever follows her, will soon be telling you precisely what is and what is not acceptable health care.  When you complain, count on your congressman just shrugging his shoulders.

The Numbers All Add Up

The census numbers, that is, which are to be released today.  As the Wall Street Journal and most other media outlets believe, they should add up to substantial gains for the GOP in 2012, and throughout the rest of the decade as well.  The country's population shift continues from the Rust Belt, a Democrat Party stronghold, to the more GOP-friendly Sun Belt.

But the numbers all adding up depends, of course, on whether the Republican Party elders encourage candidates who represent a real choice for the voters or, instead, forward more moderate, "No Label", whole wheat, low cal, Laodicean (see Book of Revelation 3:15-16), RINOs.

We're counting on them...and watching them too.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Paragon of Virtue

"PETA Honors Bill Clinton"

Justice is served.  The "ethics" of our former president are at last recognized and rewarded.

"Life in the State of Nature..."

As some famous wag once put it, "is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."  And so it finally dawns as well on one erstwhile lover of nature, a professor of psychology no less, that it ain't all good, all the time.
Nonetheless, in resisting many things that I view as "unnatural"—nuclear weapons, global warming, chemical pollution, habitat destruction—while also honoring, respecting, defending, admiring, and nearly worshiping many things that are natural (sometimes just because they are natural), it is all too easy to get carried away, to forget that much in the world of nature is unpleasant, indeed odious. Consider typhoid, cholera, polio, plague, and HIV: What can be more natural than viruses or bacteria, composed as they are of proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and the like? Do you object to vaccination? You'd probably object even more to smallpox.
On the other hand, when we learned just last week from an official report issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services that even second-hand tobacco smoke kills, and sometimes it does so immediately, we learned also that tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 deadly chemical compounds.  When I heard that, I was reminded of a magazine advertisement of some 25-30 years ago.  The ad was a picture was of a beautiful and appetizing orange.  Beneath the picture was a long list of all the chemicals that naturally constitute an orange.  H2O, H2C4O3, that sort of thing, on and on, filling the rest of the page.  It  all looked pretty scary, but the point of the ad was that it needn't be, it was quite natural.

No one ever argued, including the Ancients, that using nature as a guide was clear and easy.  At the very least, we need always to distinguish human nature from the rest.  And then we need to distinguish even that nature from before the Fall and after it.

But then you're typical contemporary secular intellectual could never abide either of those important distinctions, could he?

John Henry Newman

If you're interested in such things (that's becoming a catchphrase of mine, isn't it?), I recommend to you a review by Eamon Duffy of John Cornwell's new biography of John Henry Newman.  The occasion of the biography is the recent move by Pope Benedict XVI towards the beatification of Newman.  I haven't read the biography itself, and probably won't, but the review is very well-written and highlights much, if you're sensitive to it, about the history of the church, the important differences between Protestantism and Catholicism, and how Newman was acutely aware of each's shortcomings.
Cornwell is of course the author as well of the controversial Hitler's Pope in which he argues that Pope Pius XII, in effect, aided and abetted the Nazis.  I realize that conservative Catholics may stop right there, but, according to Duffy anyway, Cornwell, while still hostile to the Church--according to him, Newman's  beatification is itself a move by the Church to tame him--is mostly sympathetic to the Victorian theologian and thinker. 

I should warn you that the first few paragraphs of the review are about the charge that Newman was (what else?) a closet homosexual.  But Duffy (and Cornwell) dismisses the charge as at best anachronistic and then quickly moves on to much more interesting matters.  Give it a read.    

Gay Like Me

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I suspect the military will somehow muddle through the multiple, and as yet unimaginable, challenges presented to it with the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".  I do worry, however, that the repeal has in some fashion legitimated the absurd argument that the push for homosexual rights is at root much the same as that which the country experienced with the black civil rights movement.

Rush Limbaugh used to joke about being a "male lesbian."  You know, a woman, trapped in man's body, who prefers women.  He was joking, I'm not.

In order to put to the lie the crazy notion that being a homosexual is no different than being black, I would like to begin today a mass national movement.  Henceforward, when asked about our sexual orientation by any pollster, government official, or nosy reporter, and especially when filling out a census form or employment application, all of us, every adult male and female, should respond with a proud "You bet, I'm gay."  If the questioner resists, either because you don't look or act gay, or because the evidence of your life, a heterosexual marriage with two well-adjusted children, for example, suggests otherwise, the easy, the proper, answer is, "I'm repressed."

There's an added benefit as well.  The chattering class loves that kind of drama.  If a homosexual is a sympathetic figure entitled to a whole new panoply of rights and legal protections, then a repressed homosexual...  Why, the sky's the limit.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What Have We Wrought?

I'm guessing that by now you've heard about the fellow who broke into a school board meeting in Florida and opened fire.  He eventually killed himself, but only after being confronted and shot at by a security guard.  A comment made by the guard to the press after the fact is telling:
The first time I shot him, he had his back to me...and I was like 'I'm going to jail,'" Jones said. "I've been an investigator for 20 years and then a policeman for 35 years altogether, and it still ran through my mind. I couldn't help it.
This fellow's heroic action should be an occasion for unqualified celebration.  Instead, we have created, or tolerated the creation of, an environment in which not only does the guard question himself after the fact, but even during the crisis, he hesitates.  Had he hesitated just a moment more, innocent people might have been killed.

An environment such as this has to change...and it will.  The Great Reckoning continues.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sometimes I Feel Like a Sad Song

I'm just familiar enough with music to know that if it's sad song I want to write, I'd best begin by strumming a minor chord on my guitar.  That's what everybody says anyway.

But what everybody says may not be true at all.  If you're interested in such things, check out Daniel Wattenberg's interesting piece in The Atlantic in which he reports evidence that the convention of minor keys evoking sadness may indeed be wrong, or at least too simplistic to rightly be a convention.

But then I should have already known that.  While it's true that you can complicate it by adding minors here and there, Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" is written in a major key and none other than Elvis himself called it the saddest song he'd ever heard.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Electronic Grunts"

My esteem for Victor Davis Hanson continues to grow.  His latest piece is a welcome defense of the tradition of focusing on the liberal arts in undergraduate education.

According to Hanson, among the most important things we lose when we fail to concentrate on them is the ability to communicate effectively.
The more instantaneous our technology, the more we are losing the ability to communicate. Twitter and text-messaging result in economy of expression, not in clarity or beauty. Millions are becoming premodern — communicating in electronic grunts that substitute for effective and dignified expression.
Contemporary discourse has become largely a series of "premodern...electronic grunts".  Perfect.  Wish I'd written that.

Until the Sun Goes Down..., cont.

The NRO's Victor Davis Hanson compares the current state of California with the one in which he grew up.  They are two very different places.

If ever conditions anywhere were ripe for a change of political/ideological direction, one would think California's would be so now.  And yet Democrats still swept all the major offices last month.

Can you say death wish?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Obama and Clinton and Bush

It appears that almost everyone in the chattering class is preoccupied with the "optics" (the silly new inside baseball word) of President Obama turning over the podium to former President Clinton and how that diminished Obama and how Clinton smirked and...

Has it occurred to no one that the real substance of that press conference is that now both of these world class tax-and-spend liberal Democrats find themselves in the supremely ironic position of defending the Bush tax cuts?  You know, the same cuts that ended the Clinton-era tax rates and that Obama vigorously ran against?

Who snookered whom?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Malthus Mistake

David Brooks' latest column directs the reader to a very interesting, and entertaining, video that shows how the world has become steadily healthier and wealthier since 1810.  Do check it out; it's short.

Brooks uses the information therein to make a different point, but as I watched it, it occurred to me how thoroughly it discredited the dire predictions of Thomas Malthus.  As fate would have it, Malthus began prophesying certain global decline at almost precisely the same time as the data in the video begins.  Basically, Malthus argued that global population growth would outpace the agricultural production necessary to sustain it and, as a result, catastrophe loomed.  Even without the formal data, we've known for a long while now that he was wrong.

Nevertheless, many embrace his general theory still and the Malthusians alive today are mostly found among the environmentalist crazies who see little but gloom and doom in our future.  1810 was chosen as the starting point for the data because it afforded a nice, round, 200-year look back, and because it coincided, more or less, with the acceleration of the already ongoing Industrial Revolution.  You know, the Revolution that started spilling all those unsustainable levels of carbon-monoxide and -dioxide into our atmosphere.  But, as the data demonstrates, the world has not only survived the Industrial Revolution, it has positively benefited from it.  Heck, one might even go so far as to argue that the more of Blake's "dark Satanic Mills" we constructed, the better off we would be.  But I won't.

Don't misunderstand, this is no brief for capital "P" Progressivism.  Just because we're undeniably healthier and wealthier, doesn't mean we're any the wiser.  But we all need to know nevertheless, that this ubiquitous counsel of despair, coming mostly, and ironically, from contemporary Progressives, is wholly unfounded.

Fear not!

White Man's Burden

Two items in the news struck me today and for whatever reason I ended up pulling them together. 

First, this from a brief obituary by NRO's Victor Davis Hanson on the occasion of the passing of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke:
He clearly represented a wing of the Democratic party that used to be its mainstream: his unabashed and idealistic confidence in the utility of American power, and his faith that his sometimes flawed nation was far better than the alternative and did not have to be perfect to be quite good.
Next, this headline and the attending story from the Sudan: "Police arrest women protesting at flogging video"

Together, they made me pine for a time when the West was more self-confident and less captive to the idiocies of multiculturalism and political correctness.  In another time, prompted by this story from the Sudan, and given the general state of women in most Islamic countries, some hard-boiled diplomat and/or geopolitically sensitive prime minister or president might have been moved to lobby their legislatures actually to hire Christian missionaries to send to the Sudan and spread the gospel.  They would have done so without a hint of sentimentalism, or even imperialism in the more strict, and honest, sense of that word.  They would simply have been convinced that establishing a beachhead of Christianity in that sad region of the world would have been good for them and good for us.

(Standing by for the charges of bigotry that are sure to follow.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Will Remembers Well

If you want a succinct record of the facts that lead to the 2000 election fiasco, please see George Will's recollection.  (When I read it, I started boiling all over again.)

Will ends his piece with this paragraph:
Hard cases, it is said, make bad law. But this difficult case seems to have made little discernible law. That is good because it means no comparable electoral crisis has occurred. What the Supreme Court majority said on Dec. 12, 2000 - "our consideration is limited to the present circumstances" - has proved true. And may remain true, at least until the next time possession of the presidency turns on less than one ten-thousandth of a state's vote.
I think his last sentence needs elaboration.  What happened in 2000 was not simply the result of a very close election.  It was also, and mostly, the product of very bad faith on the part of the Democrats.

"A Confederacy of Gangsters"

Yesterday made it twelve years since the US Supreme Court handed down its famous Bush v. Gore decision that ended, both justly and mercifully, the madness that was the 2000 presidential election.  Fox News presented a retrospective this weekend and watching it served to bring my blood temperature up to the boiling point once again.

In my adult life, two events have taught me like no others just exactly who the Left is and what they are capable of doing.  The first was the Senate Judicial Committee hearings on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the High Court.  From very the beginning the Left was determined to sabotage his nomination and when it looked as though all their effort was for naught, they produced, at the eleventh hour, one Ms. Anita Hill, a reluctant witness against Thomas who made unprovable charges of disgusting conduct on his part.

If you're old enough to remember the drama that surrounded that event, you'll recall that it captured the nation's sustained attention like few others.  At the time, many who had been around in the early 1950s as well, compared it to the famous Alger Hiss case in its effect.  Ideological lines became solidly drawn and starkly clear.  You knew where everyone stood.

The second was of course the Left's drive to overturn the results of the Florida vote in 2000, and thereby the results of the national election as well.  As I watched the story recounted this weekend, I thought I remembered something Democrat pollster and television commentator Pat Caddell had said at the time.  Even he was embarrassed by and disgusted with his party's behaviour.  A quick Google search and there it was.
I'm a liberal Democrat. I started in Florida politics. I worked for George McGovern. I worked for Jimmy Carter. I've worked for Ted Kennedy, Mario Cuomo. Nobody can question, I think, my credentials and my convictions. But I have to tell you, at this point it's hard to believe that my party, the party I've belonged to since my great, great grandfather of my family, has become no longer the party of principles, but has been hijacked by a confederacy of gangsters who need to take power by whatever means and whatever canards they can say.
Who is the Left?  They are the ideological heirs of Lenin and Stalin.  Follow their pedigrees; they always lead there.  Those formerly among them who finally became disillusioned with the tactics of Uncle Joe and a thousand other atrocities besides expressed their own "second thoughts" many years ago now.

What will they do?  As their genealogy demonstrates, they'll do whatever is necessary to capture and retain the power they need to institute their hideous dream of the omnicompetent state.  It's not simply a case of the ends justifying the means.  Rather, because the end is a dream, that is, it's neither real nor grounded in reality, any and all means are justified.  The only constraint they recognize is whether or not the means are effective. 

Anyway, Republicans who continue to insist on compromise, on reaching across the aisle, on making a deal, would do well to remember this about most of their opponents.  Or, if they can't, at least recall what happened just ten short years ago.

(Phew!  I told you that show got my blood to boiling.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

They Huff and They Puff

Even the most occasional smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke causes "immediate damage" to your body that can lead to serious illness or death, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
There's a technical, scientific word for a report such as this:  Bull$#!+

I'll ask for patience from those of you who know me and have heard me make this argument before.  For the rest of you, here goes:

If I were to force, at gunpoint if necessary, a teenage boy to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day for an entire year, but at the end of that year he were to stop and never smoke again, the odds of him suffering any ill effects whatever for the practice would be so small as to be virtually meaningless.  As a result, the long-term effects on his life would be meaningless as well.  I defy anyone, HHS scientist or not, to prove otherwise.

However, if that same teenage boy were to engage in sexual intercourse, even once, the chances of him actually contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or getting the girl pregnant, though small, are still very real indeed.  If either or both of these things happened, his life would never be the same again.

Similarly, if he were to use heroin, again, even one time, then, out of his right mind (that is the point, correct?), he may well do something like wreck a car, or engage in sexual intercourse, that could change, or end, his life forever.

So how does the Left react to undeniable facts such as these?  In the case of tobacco, they rail against its use, and against the companies that produce it, as though it were a global conspiracy of evil.  Meanwhile, in the cases of sex and drugs, they urge passing out government-funded condoms and needles and counsel the rest of us to get over our puritan hangups.

Again I say, liberalism is "a sickness unto death."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Weiner's a Winner

Watch this exchange between Representative Anthony Weiner, D-NY, and Fox New's Megyn Kelly. 

While I can't bear much of anything for which this unfortunately named fellow stands, at least he stands for it.  If only we had a few more on our side who were as feisty and unapologetic. 


It appears Senate Democrats will awaken in at least sufficient numbers to stop the the so-called DREAM Act which would, in true liberal fashion, not only excuse lawbreaking, you know, root causes and all, but actually reward it.

Once again, this is who they are and this is what they do.  If the GOP can't make political hay out of this, they oughta be...well, they just better make political hay out of it.

No Guts, No Glory

The American Spectator's Bob Tyrrell thinks last month's election returns are a harbinger of the future.  That is, the results signal that the Democrats will soon be out of power altogether and will remain so for at least a generation.  While I certainly hope he's correct, I'm not so sure.

Among the evidence he marshals to make the point is that, when asked, Americans consistently self-identify as conservatives rather than liberals at a 40% to 20% rate.  "Consistently" here means that this number has held more or less steady for about 25-30 years.

As this is an inarguably huge difference, why hasn't it redounded to the Republican's perennial benefit?  Why have national elections remained so stubbornly close?  How did the Dems win the White House in '92, '96, and '08?  The Congress in 2006?

Could it be because the ideological position of the Republican candidate is not always undeniably conservative?  And might that be because the Republican Party is not actually run by conservatives?  Or, if it is run by conservatives, might those conservatives lack the courage of their convictions?  And could that lack of courage mean they reflexively favor the more moderate candidate and, in any case, counsel all candidates to temporize and assume a more moderate pose?

I'm just asking.

"A Time for Choosing"

Didn't a famous former president once give a speech with that title?

Jonah Goldberg writes a nice piece at NationalReviewOnline highlighting the fatuousness of the "No Label", uh, label.  Check it out.

In my experience, those who say they eschew labels are almost invariably liberals.  They are almost just as invariably people who, by doing so, think they're demonstrating their intellectual superiority.  But I repeat myself.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Is Multiculturalism Dead?

Roger Scruton thinks it might be and it's worth your time to read why.  (This guy is really good on just about every subject he tackles.)

I'm guessing, and hoping, that he may well be correct; that it's all part of The Great Reckoning.  But I do still worry a bit.

Is the death of multiculturalism mostly a consequence of the presence of a very real and common enemy--jihadism--or have we finally come more fully to our senses and recognized the great and good thing that is Western civilization, or Christendom, for what it is?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Canadian Cat Crap Coffee

I kid you not.  And I'm actually scheduled to be in Calgary next week.

So, when I order a cup and complain that, "This tastes like $#!+", can I expect the waitress to say, "Exactly"?

Neither Fair, Nor Balanced

If Fox News were to air a segment in which a talking head from, say, the Family Research Council was interviewed alongside some creep from the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) about lowering or eliminating altogether the age of consent, would you consider it, thereby, an episode of fair and balanced reporting?  The visual image would certainly suggest that it was: Two men, from opposing positions, asked essentially the same questions, allotted equal amounts of time to answer.  They report, you decide.  Right?

Wrong.  It would neither be fair nor balanced because the whole presentation would leave you with the impression that the issue was a more or less 50-50 proposition, reflecting, as it were, a similar division of opinion across the country.  That impression would be incorrect because, as we know even without polling data to prove it, the real disposition of opinion is more like 99-1 (or even less than 1) against lowering the age.  Therefore, airing the episode in the manner I suggested would, in effect, communicate a falsehood.

I say all this to point out a similar problem with a piece by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat praising the efforts of the Bowles-Simpson Deficit Reduction Commission. (BTW, for this piece and another he penned last week about ideology and partisanship, I'm placing Douthat alongside David Brooks and several other "conservatives" in the "take'em-with-a-grain-of-salt" category.)   

In the piece, Douthat breaks down the issue of tackling the deficit into the need for simultaneously raising taxes, or increasing revenue as liberals euphemistically call it, and cutting spending.  No real news there, but he presents the champions of both positions, liberals for raising taxes and conservatives for cutting spending, as basically two entrenched antagonists who, sooner or later, must compromise if they are to save the country from fiscal ruin.

But that, like my imaginary Fox News segment, misrepresents the problem entirely.

Does anyone still seriously think, other than a few from the shrinking and recalcitrant Left, that our problem is essentially one of taxing too little, that we don't send enough money to Washington already?  What makes the efforts of the Bowles-Simpson Commission laudable thus far is that even its leaders, a tax-and-spend Democrat and a tax-and-spend-just-a-bit-less Republican, agree that the lion's share of the problem is over-spending, that for every $1 of tax increases, there must be something like $3 of decreased spending.

To frame the issue, as Douthat does, as one in which both sides are caricatured as stubborn adolescents who, wether they realize it or not, will one day have to meet in the middle, is not only wrong because, in the end, it aids and abets the Left, it's wrong because it's not true.  And because it not true, neither will it solve our problem.

Shocking (Yawn), Ain't It?

Heard about the controversy over the "artsy" video of a crucifix crawling with ants that was exhibited by Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery?  Maybe?  Heard that they removed it?  Maybe again? 

That's the point of Eric Ferlton's near perfect reaction to the, uh, reaction, or subdued reaction, or non-reaction to the whole episode.  What happens when the work of artists, who too many believe their very raison d'etre is to transgress, becomes banal?  It would appear that over the course of the last century they've upped the ante so many times, that they've finally run out of ante, or paint, or dung maybe.

As pleased as I am to learn about the sad plight of the world of modern art, I do still worry about the rest of us.  Does the shrug of our shoulders mean we are now beyond good and evil as well?   

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"Growing Up Fast"

Do read Victor Davis Hanson's NRO column "Obama & Co., Growing Up Fast".

That's his title.  Mine would be, you guessed it, "The Great Reckoning, cont."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Even Think About It

I suspect that some of you were wondering why I haven't weighed in on this subject already.  It's because it's bigger than I am.

In many ways, the beginning of my military career marked the end of an era.  The new era that began closely on the heels of my own swearing-in would be defined in large part by the aggressive integration of women into the armed forces.  With the current push to accommodate open homosexuality, I sense a parallel dynamic at work.

A dozen or so years into my career, a woman officer who I happened to work with at the time, and who was just a bit junior to me, asked me what I had thought about that integration process when it was first occurring in the mid-1970s.  She asked me because she knew, first, that my career straddled the change in policy, but also because I was quite conservative and traditional.  I knew that she was someone who had benefited considerably from that change and I was very aware that the question was loaded with landmines.  I also knew, because I had learned the lesson very well over the years, that if one couldn't enthusiastically support the new policy, the safest course was always to keep one's mouth shut.  But I answered her nevertheless.  I told her that I had no opinion at the time, which was true, I didn't, because I realized even then that the whole thing was so much bigger than I.

The current effort to integrate openly practicing homosexuals into the military has the same feel about it and the Pentagon report presented last week by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs only confirmed it.  Right or wrong, prudent or foolhardy, the integration of openly practicing homosexual is in the zeitgeist and it's going to happen whether I, or you, like it or not.  It's bigger than we are.

For the record, I don't like it, I think it's wrong, and I think it's foolish.  To explain why, I can't do any better than Mac Owens does in his reaction over at The Weekly Standard.  Along with pointing out the many problems with the report, Owens also brings to our attention the substance of an e-mail written by a Marine colonel that was apparently making the rounds several months ago.  The colonel asks a series of questions about what, exactly, a change in policy would mean.  What conduct would and would not be permitted?  Could a cross-dressing male homosexual, for example, where a skirt to the PX?  Some months ago, I posted a blog about the possibility of transsexuals serving openly.  I wondered, only half-jokingly, which uniform they might wear.  The male, the female, or something in-between?

But, as I say, such objections don't appear to matter much, if at all.  And, to be fair, I suspect whatever hodgepodge of exceptions and adjustments that are eventually made to make the new policy "work", we'll still manage somehow to field the best fighting force in the world, a force against which no other existing army would be a credible match.  The integration of open homosexuals will simply present one more problem with which a commander must deal, much like the integration of women is an additional challenge with which he currently has to attend.  To be sure, it'll unnecessarily complicate the task, but he'll somehow manage nevertheless.  Moreover, as the real number of homosexuals is undoubtedly far smaller than the progressive elite would like us to believe, it'll be a problem that occurs mostly here and there.

Which all leads to what, as far as I'm concerned, is the real crux of Owens' piece and the real issue:
The Pentagon report notwithstanding, the current arrangement seems to work quite well. So why the push to repeal the law and reverse the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy compromise? The short answer seems to be that this is not about individual homosexuals serving in the military but about a broader homosexual agenda.
Much as the integration of women into the armed forces that began 35 or so years ago had more to do with the broader feminist agenda than, more simply, whether or not individual women could serve, the "broader homosexual agenda", i.e., the crusade to normalize homosexuality, is what this contemporary push is really all about, although few will say it directly. 

So here's a shot across the bow that, because the issue is bigger than I, I'll concede even before I type it, will change absolutely nothing.

Imagine that tomorrow morning every man, woman, and child in the United States woke with an entirely new opinion on this subject, an opinion in which they decided not only to tolerate homosexuality, but to actively affirm it as well, to celebrate it even.  What would that change in opinion mean to any particular homosexual, to a homosexual you actually know, to one you might even hold dear?  When compared to the overwhelming majority of all Americans, their sexual inclinations would still remain different, odd, or, dare I say, "queer".  Openly pursuing and practicing those inclinations would not, for that reason, make them any less queer.  Nor would the approbation of their fellow citizens relieve, in any meaningful sense or for anything longer than  perhaps a passing moment, their essential pain.  In fact, it would likely make it worse, because we, and they, would know it to be a lie.  

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sorry Charlie

A year ago I would have bet the mortgage against it, but it looks as though a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will complete the process after all and actually censure one of their own, long-time New York Congressman Charlie Rangel.  You can be sure that the evidence against him is overwhelming or the Dems would have simply issued a pass.  As it is, even censure is a tap on the wrist.  You or I would be in jail.

Rangel, of course, continues to insist on his essential innocence.  Mistakes were made, but...blah, blah, blah. You know the drill.  I have to admit, however, that while justice is indeed being carried out, there is still something nevertheless believable about his protestations.

To me, Rangel and this entire saga represent one more episode in the slow but steady disappearance of a particular species of politician.  A similar example can be found in the fate of the late Dan Rostenkowski, also a former Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.  These politicians are, and almost invariably so, older men, Democrats, who hail from big cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, etc., where machine politics was once the only order of the day.  (Still is to some degree.)  For them, politics was almost entirely about rewarding their friends, and themselves, and about punishing their enemies.  If you charged them with corruption for doing so, they would look at you like we look at Captain Renault in Casablanca when he shuts down Rick's cafe because he is "shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"  Hence, when they protest, they're not being disingenuous.  They really mean it when they say, "Are you kidding me?"

Don't misunderstand.  Rangel is getting what he deserves, or, well, almost anyway.  And it's way past time to discredit any and all rationalizations for taking from some in order to give to others.  But what makes the theft of old pols like Rangel and Rostenkowski somehow less objectionable is that they can look you in the eye and tell you that they do it simply because they can.  At least they won't bore or insult you with some highfalutin justification they learned as a graduate student from a quasi-Marxist professor.   

A Break in the Weather

"Pelosi Climate Panel Dies in Republican Sweep of House"

Ahhh.  Blue skies at last.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Politically Taxing

Tired of the debate over whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts?  Me too.  Maybe this'll cheer you up.

As you know, the Bush tax cuts came with an expiration date: 31 December 2010.  Since they were passed in 2001 and 2003, whatever their consequences for the US economy, they have proved nevertheless to be an extremely rich source of political leverage for both parties.

For Democrats, the talking point has been that they unfairly benefit the rich at the expense of the poor and working class.  Over the last decade or so, the phrase "tax cuts for the rich" has been uttered by Democrats untold thousands of times.  Moreover, as Democrats have also argued, the cuts deprived the government of revenue that could have been used to reduce the budget deficit and national debt.

For Republicans, at least until 2008, the cuts were held to be the most immediate reason for the robust economy, the extremely low unemployment rate that attended it, as well as the huge windfall of tax revenue that streamed into the federal government's coffers as a result.  Since 2008, their argument has been that it would be economically foolish even to consider raising taxes during a recession.  Consequently (and throughout both periods, actually), their looming expiration has served to provide the GOP with the reliable rallying cry, "Make the tax cuts permanent!"

It sounds to me, at least rhetorically, like a political win-win.  But, as we begin the last month of the Bush cuts today, does anyone seriously doubt that before New Years' Eve, the Democrats will finally cave and extend them? 

If this is so, is it possible that the Republicans have stumbled onto a winning strategy for passing tax cuts in the future?  It occurs to me that with every proposal of theirs to reduce tax rates, the Republicans should include just such a sunset provision.  Why?

Imagine a Democrat congressman or senator who occupies a marginal seat.  While he and his party remain ideologically opposed to cutting tax rates, when confronted with a bill to do just that, he, if not his party, finds it politically difficult to oppose.  If such a bill came with a sunset provision, however, it might offer him with a way to have his cake and eat it too.  If the bill included an expiration date, a provision that he could even be allowed to demand publicly and indignantly, he could seem thereby to remain more or less loyal to both his party and his ideology, while at the same time still provide his, "one-time", to be sure, vote for it. 

With this strategy, the GOP just might peel off enough Democrats to get such a bill passed.  But it gets even better.

When the expiration date finally approaches, in order to argue for extending them, the Republicans can use exactly the same rhetoric they're using now to extend the Bush tax cuts, and with exactly the same result, i.e., the Democrats will likely give in.  And while the Republicans should insist on making the making the cuts permanent, as they are also doing now, they can use that demand as a bargaining chip.  That is, if the Dems will vote to extend the tax cuts, the GOP will concede, again, an expiration date, and again, and again,....

The downside of this strategy is that uncertainty over the precise nature of next year's tax rates will cause many a business that might otherwise be prepared to risk producing a new product, building a new plant, or hiring a new employee, instead to wait and see what happens.  By doing so, it will have the effect of dampening the economy.  Uncertainty over the Bush tax cuts has accomplished precisely this and, as a result, served to prolong the recession.

But, I'm afraid, when it comes to economics, arguing with a Democrat is like arguing with a child.  And at least sometimes when dealing with a child, child psychology is warranted.   

The Golden Rule

From POLITICO:  "House Rookies a Millionaires Club"
[F]or the most part, the freshman class — one of the most conservative in a generation — comes to Congress having experienced significant financial success. Republicans in Washington say they represent the successful small businesses that are the pillars of the American economy.
Can you imagine the editors of POLITICO allowing just such a headline and just such a story when the Democrats recaptured control of the Congress in 2006 and then lengthened their lead in 2008?