Thursday, March 31, 2011

Be Very Careful Marco

Rising Republican Star, first-term Florida Senator Marco Rubio yesterday offered his full support for the US intervention in Libya.  In fact, he one-upped President Obama by calling unequivocally for regime change.  He even went so far as to send a letter to the Senate Majority and Minority leaders calling for congressional authorization for the use of military force.  Unlike the president, Rubio managed this with just enough clarifications and qualifications to make his appeal, for me anyway, both reasonable and palatable, save for one very important exception.

Senator Rubio:
“If we believe that the rise of this new attitude among young people and others seeking a new life and a new way in the Middle East is a positive thing, and I believe that it is, then it serves our national interest to see that happen...The last thing you want is for someone like Muammar Qaddafi to get away with crushing something like that through brutal force. Because what he does is create a blueprint for how Syria should handle this, Iran should handle this, and everyone else should handle this.”
While I'm sympathetic with this line of thinking--what friend of freedom wouldn't be?--it does not for that reason override the need to be extremely careful about encouraging uprisings.

Most rebellions, however noble their underlying causes, fall very short of their stated goals, even their most immediate one of throwing the dirty, rotten, SOBs out.  Unfortunately, there is one quite dire and very predictable consequence of coming up short:  a brutal, murderous, and wide-ranging purge by the still-ruling tyrant.

If and when this happens, and it will happen as often as not, are we then both willing and able to intervene even more directly?  If not, are we then prepared to live with the blood of the doomed rebels at least partly on our hands as well?

With all due respect Senator, these questions, and a host of others like them, must be answered before we decide to get too deeply involved.

Blessed Be the Ties that Bind

Eugene Volokh of the blog, The Volokh Conspiracy, has penned a provocative piece for NRO titled "Multiculturalism: For or Against?"   In it he challenges conservatives by making the case that some undeniably very good things are a direct consequence of multiculturalism, things like federalism, religious freedom, freedom of speech, and parental rights among others.

While it's easy to take his larger point, I do think he confuses a society that acknowledges its mutlicultural reality and governs accordingly with multiculturalism.  The latter is an ideology, an ideology with a pedigree, and a pedigree replete with characters unmistakeably hostile to the American experiment.

That experiment is one of government by consent in which liberty is optimized.  That is, liberty is of a higher priority than equality, and especially higher than elusive contemporary notions of equality whether they be called positive liberty, social justice, or whatever.

But any society that is predicated on securing liberty above all has an inherent, and very serious, problem:  Optimizing liberty can and often does strain the very bonds that make the society possible in the first place.  As Volokh mentions, the Civil War is the terrible instance in our own history when those bonds actually broke for a time.

This problem is so serious that, especially given all the liberty-securing provisions of our consitution, it is absolutely crucial that some irreducible cultural homogeneity always describe and define our society.  Political scientist Louis Hartz, famous for The Liberal Tradition in America, argued that our constitution was so liberty-securing that it was actually a recipe for gridlock, then disaster, and then chaos, save for the very important fact that free to do as we pleased, we Americans could more or less always be counted on to do pretty much the same thing.  For Hartz, the irreducible cultural homogeneity was provided by a pervasive and abiding Lockean liberalism.

I would add English-speaking Judeo-Christianity to that irreducible list, but the point is that there absolutely must be something there.  A society that tries to be all things to all people is a society that does not and cannot exist.

As a result, those who understand multiculturalism as a mortal enemy of this country and who also fret constantly about the underlying level of cultural homogeneity that defines it, must not be dismissed simply as bigots, racists, chauvinists, jingoists, or any other handy epithet.  Instead, they should be appreciated for highlighting and worrying about a central problem of any liberty-loving society.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


To continue the theme of party discipline, it strikes me that, although I didn't focus group test it,  "irresponsible" might be a very good word for the GOP to use against the Democrats with respect to the immediate task of passing a budget or shutting down the government.

If the Dems were as genuinely concerned about the effects of Republican-proposed budget cuts as they now pretend to be, they would have passed a plan more to their liking while they controlled the whole of the legislative and executive branches over the past two years.  But they didn't, and that was irresponsible.  Instead, with the nation on the brink of economic disaster, they handed off to the GOP the heavy lifting of fashioning a budget that at least appears to be fiscally sane and all they can be counted on to do is obstruct the process and carp from the sidelines.  That is irresponsible. 

Republican spokesmen should use that word every chance they get, use it, in fact, to the point of it becoming trite.  Sure, in short order, journalists will begin to roll their eyes and mutter "yeah, yeah, yeah" when they hear it.  But also very soon, if they persist in using it nevertheless, if they remain disciplined as a party in using it, the American people will begin to associate "irresponsible" with the Democrat Party...and rightly so.     

I Feel Your Pain

Speaking of Chuck Schumer, The American Spectator's Jay Homnick confesses that although he's charged as a journalist with practicing at least a modicum of disciplined detachment and objectivity, when it comes to the senior senator from New York, he finds that standard absolutely impossible.

As someone who feels a similar revulsion at even the site of our 42nd president, I can definitley relate.

Disciplined in the "Extreme"

By now you've heard the reports of New York Senator Chuck Schumer, unknowingly caught on an open mike, revealing that the Democrat caucus had instructed him and his colleagues to use the word "extreme" when referring to GOP-proposed budget cuts.  I'm guessing it was a focus group-tested word.  While it's easy to cluck at the underlying cynicism this also reveals, frankly, I was more than a little impressed by it as well.

"I belong to no organized party, I'm a Democrat."   Will Rogers could once use that line to great effect, but, to me anyway, it hasn't felt anything like the truth for some time now. On the contrary, the Democrats and their fellow travelers in the elite media are nothing if not disciplined in advancing their vision for the country.

On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh will from time to time demonstrate this aspect of that discipline for comic effect.  Take the word, oh I don't know, "incoherent", for example.   As in, "the Bush policy in Iraq is incoherent."  Rush's team will splice together soundbites from the day before's newscasts, tapes of journalists, pundits, and Democrat politicians, in which they all, in seemingly choreographed fashion, use the exact same word over and over again.  It's funny, but it's also amazing, and, I suspect, at least somewhat effective as well.  By doing this they help frame the issue in a manner more favorable to liberal Democrats.

By contrast, if the Republican caucus does anything like this, counseling, for example, the public use of the word "extreme" to describe Democrat Party policies, they can count on Senator McCain using instead the word "excessive", "extravagant", or "outrageous", if for no other reason than to retain his status as a maverick.   

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Exceptional" After All

President Obama tonight defended and explained (sort of) his order of US military intervention into troubled Libya.  His appeal rested largely on, get this, "American Exceptionalism", something he and fellow traveling liberals typically disdain.  Nevertheless, he used words and phrases like, "unique", "who we are", "our values", and "the United States of America is different" throughout the speech.

Is he coming around or is his appeal more than a little, as the Church Lady used to say, "convenient"?

(If you're too young to remember the Church Lady, google it.)

"Dictatorships and Double Standards"

Wasn't a famous neo-con once mocked for that phrase?

Anyway, if you're looking for, if not consistency, then at least a pattern of behavior from this Administration, shucks, from any liberal Democrat, well here it is:  Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a longtime American ally, simply had to go, but Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is not only tolerable , he's a “reformer”.

Just imagine if...

I've been thinking about beginning a recurring series titled, well, you read the title.  It refers to the Double Standard (that's what I used to call it) afforded Libs, and Dems, and Lib Dems by the media, heck, by everyone, even Conservative Republicans.  It goes like this: "Just imagine if this had happened during a Republican Administration."

Anyway, here are a couple of recent examples, one laughable, the other decidedly not so.

"Did Joe Biden Really Lock a Reporter in a Closet? Not Quite"


"'Death Squad': Full horror emerges of how rogue U.S. brigade murdered and mutilated innocent Afghan civilians - and kept their body parts as trophies"

Talk About Your Understatements

Unfortunately named Obama Administration Deputy National Security Advisor, Denis McDonough (as in "I dunno") earlier today:  "We don’t make decisions about questions like intervention based on consistency or precedent.  We make them based on how we can best advance our interests in the region."

Now that's confidence inspiring.

By the way, to whose "our" was he referring?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"A Watershed Moment"

Appearing on Sunday morning talk shows, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expounded on the larger meaning of the US Libya intervention.

First, Secretary Gates:  "I don't think it's a vital interest of the United States, but we clearly have an interest there."

Then, Secretary Clinton:  The intervention “is a watershed moment in international decision making. We learned a lot in the 1990s. We saw what happened in Rwanda. It took a long time in the Balkans, in Kosovo to deal with a tyrant. But I think in what has happened since March 1st, and we're not even done with the month, demonstrates really remarkable leadership.”

Here we have an almost perfect example of liberal reasoning when it comes to a proper US foreign policy:  The commitment of US troops only when it's clear that there are no national vital interests at stake (or at least when it's not clear that there are) and the measure of success is not the actual removal of a tyrant, but, rather, the commitment of those same troops is achieved by an international, i.e., not a national, body and done so in less than one entire month.

Now that's change we can believe in.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor, RIP

I need to thank a good friend, Ken Thomas, over at the NoLeftTurns blog for directing us to this tribute to the late Elizabeth Taylor by none other than Camille Paglia.  Like Ken, I find Paglia fascinating and if you're not familiar, this interview with her is as good a place to start as any.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Are You an Interventionist?

I'm hearing and reading these "interventionist" versus "isolationist" labels being thrown around again and it bugs me.  I've always thought the terms themselves a bit too sloppily and hazily defined to be genuinely helpful.  As a result, I find they're more often used as handy epithets than they are anything useful.  Moreover, the "versus" that is typically placed between them, I believe just confuses the issue.

First, if an "interventionist" is simply someone who is at least unafraid of his country's engagement with the world at large, then I suspect we're all interventionists.  And, if an "isolationsist" is no more than someone who worries about the nature, size, and scope of his country's involvement with that same world, then I maintain we're all isolationists as well.

If I may, I'd like to suggest that we're all both "interventionists" and "isolationists", more or less, not either/or.  And the more or less is what matters most as it depends very much on the issue at hand, as well as the context that describes it.

So, if you were to ask me if I was an interventionist?  My answer would be, "Of course I am, we all are, and, with respect to the issue at hand, if you can convince me that our country's interests are involved, that there's a reasonable chance of success, that the costs are not prohibitive, that we have the necessary resources and the political will to see it through, then I'll be even more of one.  If you can't, then less so."

Making War, Left and Right

I'm sure Ross Douthat is a very nice guy, but I was reminded again why I simply cannot not read his column with any regularity without absolutely blowing my top.  He's supposed to be a conservative presence at the very liberal newspaper, The New York Times.  He either wants very much for his liberal editors to like him nevertheless, or he's really no conservative at all.  I'm increasingly convinced it's the latter.

Anyway, he wrote one of those "balanced" pieces the other day about Obama's intervention into Libya, "A Very Liberal Intervention", and if is a reliable indicator, it's been read now by a good number of people now.  I just got around to it. 

Let me summarize his argument for you:  Liberal war-making is more moral, but less effective, while conservative war-making is less moral, but more effective.

I wanted to scream.  OK, I will.  Ahhhhhh!!!!!!!

Besides being unfaithful to the facts, this way of thinking about war, where the highest of stakes are involved, is almost embarrassingly simplistic and juvenile.

So, you mean to tell me, that if the international community (Whatever the hell that actually is, by the way) had been unwilling to participate, or at least approve (Do you need 100%? Do the North Koreans have veto power? If not, why not?), it would have been immoral for George Bush to prosecute the war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the former of which supported the latter, which was itself directly responsible for 3,000 American dead on 9/11?

And, you also mean to tell me, that if the approach and very limited action taken thus far by the Obama Administration with respect to Libya ends with Gadafi still in power, with the surviving rebels in very real fear of their lives as he seeks vengeance and retribution, with billions spent in the increasingly short supply of American capital, with some very real number of American lives lost in the effort to oust or control him (or whatever the lowest common denominator purpose the coalition, such as it is, finally agrees to), that simply because it was all pursued in a "liberal" fashion, it was for that reason alone more moral?

I could go on in this vein almost forever.

Please Mr. Douthat, stick to reviewing books and movies, would ya?  

What a Mess!

As if we needed more evidence that the Democrat Party, and the American Left that underwrites it, simply cannot be trusted with the foreign policy of the United States.  At least the President has pledged, to a foreign news outlet no less, not to us, that "absolutely" no American ground forces would ever land in Libya.

This is an otherwise strange and foolish thing to promise when your objective at least once was the overthrow of the current regime.  But can you imagine Obama and Company deciding, then un-deciding, then half-deciding to send in troops?  Troops who would be given strict orders to shoot to wound, if, that is, they're allowed to carry bullets at all.  And then, when it all went inevitably badly, failing to achieve whatever shifting objective the soldiers were for the moment charged to achieve, the troops would be abruptly removed  from Libya (the only truly decisive moment in the entire campaign), their embarassing retreat covered with humble apologies to anyone who would lend an ear for the US invading in the first place.  Please understand, the Administration would beg, they had to do it, Bush made them.  Meanwhile, more than a few American soldiers would have sacrificed life or limb for absolutely nothing.

What a mess!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"How did this happen?"

So asks liberal pundit Michael Kinsley of POLITICO about the wisdom of President Obama's intervention into Libya.

Is he serious?  How did this happen?

He writes:
So once again the bombs are bursting on CNN. But why? We’re getting terribly familiar with this routine, and even complacent about it. Obama wasn’t even in this country when the bombing started. He was in Brazil—about as far out of it, politically as well as geographically, as you can get. The bombing started Saturday afternoon, and on Monday morning the Washington Post editorial and op-ed pages contained not a single word about it. How are we supposed to know what to think?
C'mon Mr. Kinsley, "Complacent" is the gear you liberals shift into when one of your own is in the White House.  If we happen to elect a Republican president next time around, I'm quite confident you'll find "Drive" again, even "Over-Drive".

And then there was this part which had me asking once again, "Is he serious?"
"Was there nothing we could have done between sitting on our hands and launching something close to all-out war? Sure there is. It’s what we did for eastern Europe that helped bring victory in the Cold War: verbal support and financial support for dissidents and democrats. Make clear which side we’re on—but without overpromising, as in Hungary, 1957. It sounds like the opposite of “speak softly and carry a big stick,” and in a way, it is. But it worked to defeat Communism, and our track record with bigger ambitions in smaller situations has not been impressive.
Correct me, but weren't you one of those back during the Cold War who thought history was on the side of the Commies?  Who thought the best we could do was reach some sort of an accommodation with them?  Peaceful coexistence, that sort of thing?  Who argued that language such as "Evil Empire" was reckless and unnecessarily provocative?

Forgive me if I don't take seriously either Michael Kinsley's feigned surprise or his hypocritical policy alternatives, nor, for that matter, those of any other liberals who might try to follow suit.

One Smart Woman

I confess, I've always had a little "thing" for Mona Charen.  But after reading this latest column of hers charging President Obama and his defenders with the rankest of hypocrisy for their support of this intervention into Libya, but not the one into Iraq, it may have just become a "THING".

God is Dead

Or soon will be, at least statistically so, in places like Australia, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, nine countries in all.  Check it out.

As news of this phenomenon spreads, I wonder if we can expect Greenpeace or the Sierra Club to launch campaigns to raise funds for the sending of missionaries to these countries?  If they act quickly, there may still be time to keep alive at least some of these exotic God-fearing people.  Perhaps they could humanely capture a few healthy representatives of the species and place them in a state-of-the-art zoo in San Francisco, for example, a near replica of their natural habitat in an otherwise hostile environment.  Safely housed, all interested observers could come and witness these strange people practice their even stranger rites?

Heaven knows something must be done, and soon.  If we can save the North American Condor, surely we can save the North European Lutheran.

As Far As We Are Able

It appears there is growing dissension within conservative ranks over the prudence of the so-called "freedom agenda".  It's always been there, but this time with a Democrat president being pushed by its logic, at least in part, the dissenters are a bit noisier than they were during the Bush Administration.  The particular issue is of course our involvement in Libya's current troubles.  Should we or shouldn't we? 

I've noticed that the famous quote by John Quincy Adams is making the rounds again.
America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.
While I do find a great deal of wisdom in it, I think perhaps Mr. Adams goes a bit too far.  We indeed are, and ought to be, the "champion and vindicator" of liberty around the globe, for the spread of freedom is consistent both with our principles and with our interests.

However (you knew this was coming), our resources are limited.  They always have been, but perhaps moreso now than at any time in living memory.  We simply must pick and choose our fights.  And here's the kicker, we will pick and choose them whether we admit it to ourselves or continue to pretend that we won't. If indeed we persist in pretending that "we shall pay any price, bear any burden,...", we will surely be charged, and also be guilty of, if not hypocrisy, then at least an embarrassing and self-confidence eroding inconsistency in our foreign policy.

So, as long as we're tossing around famous quotations, how about this one from Emerson:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
A "foolish consistency" in foreign policy is one that promises beyond its ability to deliver.  Hence, I propose that these six simple words be appended to the end of every new "Doctrine" articulated by all future presidents:  "As far as we are able."

True, to the cynic, who is almost always a jilted idealist, those words form an all too easy escape clause from any and all promises.  But, to the prudent statesmen, they are a humble bow to reality and the bedrock of a wise consistency.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Parsing "Palin"

By way of reporting the results of a poll in which the respondents were asked whom they would prefer as president, Sarah Palin or Charlie Sheen (yep, that Charlie Sheen), Kathryn Jean Lopez at NRO has a nice piece about what Palin has come to represent.  At one point she remarks:
You don’t have to want Sarah Palin to be president to acknowledge that the frenzy around her may have more to do with us than her.
(By the way, the Democrats and Independents polled prefered Mr. Sheen for president by sizeable margins.  Ms. Lopez is interested in the character of whomever it is that would poll such a thing in the first place.  I'm also curious about the character of those who would actually respond.  If, over the phone, some pollster were to ask me that question, the next sound he/she would hear would be "click", or, perhaps, some profanity-laced diatribe about wasting my time quickly followed by "click".)

Anyway, like Ms. Lopez, I'm growing increasingly curious about reactions to "Palin".  I don't mean reactions to Sarah Palin, the woman, the wife and mother of five, the former governor of Alaska, the former US vice-presidential candidate, the reality-TV star, etc.  For most people, that actual human being ceased to exist from almost the very first moment she stepped onto the national stage over two and one-half years ago.  Rather, I'm interested in reactions to "Palin", the icon, the Rorschak inkblot.  You can tell a lot about somebody if you ask them what they think of "Elvis", now so too "Palin".

And the "somebodys" I'm currently most interested in are those with whom I share the Right side of the political spectrum.

For what it's worth, here's one early observation about those very same "somebodys":  Those on the Right who seem most disgusted with or embarrassed by "Palin" are more likely than not the same people who supported a John McCain candidacy for president in both 2000 and 2008.  They supported it because McCain represented for them some clever conservative "third way" that could effectively woo a substantial number of independent voters away from the Democrats.  Do I need to say it?  This is the very same John McCain who lifted from political obscurity by choosing as his running mate, one Sarah Louise Heath Palin, a heretofore unknown sitting governor from a lightly populated state that he would have won easily anyway.

This is just too absurd to be explained away as a simple instance of irony.  Rather, now, when I hold up the "Palin" inkblot and get the response I've come to expect from one of these people, people with whom I otherwise have much in common, I'm tempted to just shake my head and conclude, "You know, politically, this guy is nuts."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Image of God

Many years ago, we watched at home as a family the movie The Truman Show.  I highly recommend it.  Anyway, at the end of the flick I asked everyone whether the movie was "anti-God" or "anti-people playing God."  My then fourteen-year old son didn't hesitate, "It's anti-God!"  I think he was right.

A similar thought came to mind as I read this piece about the tendency we all share to project a moral sensibility onto animals when we hear or witness stories like the proverbial dog that saves the baby from the burning building.  The writer, Stephen Budiansky, will have none of this and while he praises another writer, Dale Peterson, for telling the "rest of the story" about, for example, the zoo ape that "saved" the boy who fell into the cage, he thinks Peterson suffers still from the same root problem.
Mr. Peterson, who was Ms. [Jane] Goodall's authorized biographer, nonetheless makes clear at the outset that he very much shares the fundamental ambition of the animal-rights movement to puncture the claim of human exceptionalism—the "error," he states, of believing that humans have a unique status in nature or "are disconnected from the limits, systems, structures, and truths of the rest of the natural world." Recognizing the difficulty of boosting animals, his approach is instead to deflate humans: in particular, to suggest that there is much less to even so vaunted a human trait as morality than we like to believe. Rather than a sophisticated system of language-based laws, philosophical arguments and abstract values that sets mankind apart, morality is, in his view, a set of largely primitive psycho logical instincts. This is a definition undemanding and broad enough to encompass much of the animal world, which is precisely his point.
While Budiansky doesn't go this far in his critique, it occurs to me, yet again, that this is precisely the point because to concede the empirically obvious and scientifically undeniable hard cold fact of human exceptionalism is to crack open the door just a bit toward having to admit, or at least investigate, something more, something much more.  See my title.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Pursuit of Happiness

Here's a short piece that's very much worth your time: "Condemned to Joy" by Pascal Bruckner.  He's a French writer I've mentioned before.  Anyway, here he takes on the mindless pursuit of happiness in the West.
The Western cult of happiness is indeed a strange adventure, something like a collective intoxication. In the guise of emancipation, it transforms a high ideal into its opposite. Condemned to joy, we must be happy or lose all standing in society. It is not a question of knowing whether we are more or less happy than our ancestors; our conception of the thing itself has changed, and we are probably the first society in history to make people unhappy for not being happy.
Liberty, that is, barren Liberty is a lonely stage upon which a one-man magic act is performed nightly before an empty house.  The magician's impossible task and sure fate is not simply to free himself from a set of encumbering chains, but, in the process, always to supplant one set for another.

"O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

Not Exactly Inspiring Confidence

Readers of this blog have no doubt noticed that I haven't had much to say about what the US should or shouldn't do in Egypt or Libya.  It seems to me that there is nothing obvious or compelling about any policy option with respect to either of those places and to that extent I sympathize greatly with the difficult choices facing President Obama and his Administration. 

What I can't sympathize with, however, is his apparent unwillingness to make any choice at all.  The latest action seems to me tentative still, more like putting a decision off than actually deciding.  To be in charge is to choose, something or nothing, and then, as clearly as possible, to articulate and implement that choice.  A rudderless ship as big as the U.S.S. United States is not merely pathetic, it's dangerous.   Unfortunately, whatever qualities Obama inspired in 2008, confidence is not among them now.

What I can't tell is what, exactly, is the chief cause of this indecisiveness.  Is it mostly a product of the partly congenital, partly deliberate aloofness that seems to describe Barack Obama?  Charles Krauthammer, for one, has long noted a pattern in which Obama seems always to want to remain above it all, mundane politics that is, foreign and domestic, preferring instead only to descend at the last moment, when most of the fighting is already done, in order to play more poignantly the role of  healer, or savior even.

Or, is the indecision more a consequence of being a contemporary liberal Democrat for whom the exercise of US power is always suspect, if not unjust by definition?  Unless, of course, one can be sure that absolutely no American national interests are at stake.  When it is clear that none are at stake, then, and only then, is the spending of American treasure and the shedding of American blood warranted.  To this point, at least, the presence or absence of American interests in these two countries is not altogether clear, hence, the hand-wringing.  (I should add that for far too many on the Left the clarity sought after is not the absence of American interests, but in fact the presence of something fundamentally contrary to them.  That's the side they'll be on; that's the policy option they'll support.  Sadly, for our country, this president's pedigree suggests that he shares more than a bit of this kind of thinking.)

Or, might we more simply lay most of the dithering and dawdling at the feet of the much remarked upon lack of executive experience, combined, I hasten to add, with what appears to be a more academic cast of mind?  A solid academic is quite skilled at analyzing, less so at choosing.  Until the probability for actually realizing Plato's ideal philosopher-king is greater, much greater, than it is now, I'd prefer to keep our philosophers in the classroom and our kings, however dull, but always decisive, at the helm of the ship of state.  Someone must steer.

Or, and I hate to say it, but it could be some ominous combination of all three (or more).  God forbid.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Saint Patrick's Day Relief

At one point in the movie Gran Torino, the character played by Clint Eastwood takes the young Cambodian boy he's befriended to his local barber in order to teach him a thing or two about genuine manhood.  If I remember correctly, the barber character is of Polish descent, while Eastwood's is of Irish.  (It might be the other way around, no matter.)  Throughout the process of Eastwood's hair being cut, he and the barber engage in straight-faced, but good-natured male banter about the suspect nature of the other's origins in which nothing is off limits, and I mean nothing.

According to contemporary standards, the banter is deeply offensive and had it happened in real life some Commissar of Political Correctness would have no doubt brought them both up on a hate-crime charge.  But I think Eastwood, as the director of the film, did this deliberately.  I think he did it as if to say to his viewers, "Lighten up, would ya?"  Today, Saint Patrick's Day, I witnessed just some of this same banter for real and, I must say, it was oh so refreshing.

My job brought me to Miami this morning and I was for an hour or so surrounded by a group of working class American men.  They were all, save one, of latin descent, mostly Cubans, but with a Venezuelan and a Colombian, I think, thrown in the mix as well.  The lone Gringo, as they call him, routinely calls them all "Mexicans", even though he's well aware of the differences.  They all laugh at this just as routinely.  At one point he called to one of them and asked him if he knew that today was Saint Patrick's Day.  He did.  The Gringo then lifted his shirt to display underneath a t-shirt which sported the Irish colors along with some statement or other about Saint Patrick's Day.  He then asked the same fellow if he knew what Saint Patrick was most famous for.  He didn't know.  The room was quiet.  He explained that Saint Patrick was most famous for running all of the "Damn Mexicans" out of Ireland.  The room erupted with laughter.

Do you think we can ever get this country back?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

In Over His Head

It appears to me that National Review may well have hit on a theme for framing the coming election that, if employed strategically, could serve to help topple the Obama Presidency in 2012.  If his domestic policy abominations, the Mother-of-All Stimulus Packages along with Nearly-Nationalized Health Care, fail to gain sufficient political traction for whomever ends up being his GOP opponent, then perhaps this observation, put most succinctly by Rich Lowry, will:  For the job of the nation's chief executive, "this man is too small."

Consider, for example, these three pieces that have appeared at NRO in just the last few days:

Victor Davis Hanson: "Obama as Hamlet"
Michael Barone: "Obama Votes 'Present'"
Rich Lowry: "The Whiniest President Ever"

Monday, March 14, 2011

Palin Perhaps?

Consider, from POLITICO no less, this headline and these first few lines from the story:
'She's becoming Al Sharpton, Alaska edition' 
Sarah Palin has played the sexism card, accusing critics of chauvinism against a strong woman.  She has played the class card, dismissing the Bush family as “blue bloods” and complaining that she is the target of snobbery by people who dislike her simply because she is “not so hoity-toity.”  Most famously, she has played the victim card — never more vividly than when she invoked the loaded phrase “blood libel” against liberals and media commentators in the wake of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting.
Sounds to me like the perfect Democrat candidate for the presidency.

Geez, do they despise this woman or what?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What If They Can't Read'em Their Rights?

Do the first two lines of this story anger, frustrate, and sadden you as much as they do me?
The Dayton Police Department is lowering its testing standards for recruits.  It's a move required by the U.S. Department of Justice after it says not enough African-Americans passed the exam.
Aside from being a foolish and potentially dangerous policy because it could result in the hiring of less than qualified cops, it's an absolute insult to the good will of overwhelmingly most white people and the intelligence of overwhelmingly most blacks.

And just when I thought we were finally moving beyond this kind of  insanity.  God help us.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pray for Japan

Enough said.


With some polls showing that support in Wisconsin for Governor Walker has dwindled to less than 50%, others that the American people are generally on the side of "labor" in the larger implications of that dispute, and others still that they will blame a government shutdown mostly on the GOP, there has been predictable nervousness and fidgeting within the Republican ranks.  They must be encouraged to hold the line.

Why?  Well, I'll tell ya why.

First, nothing succeeds like success.  The GOP has the votes to call the shots and this stand will bear considerable fruit over time.  (Forgive me here and elsewhere for mixing way too many metaphors.)  And time, electorally at least, they have.  The next election is not for 20 months. 

Second, the Democrats are prisoners to the demands of the various interest groups that define their party.  As things stand, those demands are not only incompatible with each other, they are also incompatible with sane, much less sound, fiscal and monetary policy.  If they, nevertheless, somehow manage to wrest back just enough political power to pursue the mindless hodgepodge of policies necessary even to attempt to meet those demands, it WILL result in the collapse of the American economy.  It will also result in a decisive end of the Democrat party as it is currently constituted.  In this tragic sense anyway, this stand for the GOP is win-win.

Third, the Democrats will not go down without a fight, and a vigorous one at that.  As a result, the Republicans should not expect landslide victories, nor be disappointed by narrow ones.  The Democrats are a party that represent the disparate interests of constituencies that have one very powerful thing in common:  an addiction.  They share an addiction to the idea that they are somehow entitled to the fruit of another man's labor, if not their neighbor's, then at least their neighbor's children and grandchildren.  No addiction is easy to overcome and while in its grip, one cannot be reasoned with.  Moreover, for an addict there is simply no such thing as honor.  Oh, they're going to fight all right, and the GOP should not be surprised by it.
Fourth, all of this must be seen in the larger context of the Great Reckoning.  You may not be interested in it, but it is definitely interested in you.  Stop fearing it and start embracing it.  You will have the advantage of embracing the truth and the very simple truth is that WE'RE BROKE!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Gray Lady to the Rescue

A couple of days ago I commented on the liberal double standard with respect to Gitmo and military tribunals.  When Bush instituted both, it was a war crime.  When Obama breaks a signature campaign promise and decides to continue both...nothing.  (Actually, this is not really evidence of a double standard for, as I insisted in that blog, the Left's objections to Bush's policies were transparently cynical bull$#!+ from the beginning.)

Well, I guess the silence got to the New York Times for in today's issue they produced an unbelievable editorial that excuses Obama's promise breaking by (are you ready?) blaming it on Bush.

Their silence was more credible.

The King James Bible at CD

At CD, not on CD.  Roman numerals seemed somehow appropriate; it is the Bible after all.  Although I guess I could have said "Twenty Score" instead. 

As you may have already heard, this year marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, indisputably the most famous and widely used of all the English translations of the Holy Scriptures ever produced.   Sadly, as far as I'm concerned, it's not as widely used as it once was.

I can still remember Mrs. Sloan, my 10th-grade public school English teacher, responding to resistance from some in the class over the difficulty of the language in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar which we were reading.(Not from me, I was both too proud and too vain.)  As she had been teaching at that point for many years already, she said she suspected that much of students' frustration with Shakespeare's Elizabethan English came from the fact that the King James Bible had been replaced in church increasingly with more modern translations. 

I think she was right about that and I regret that my own children, for example, are not as familiar as I am with its syntax, cadence, and style.  When I grew up, the King James Bible simply was the Bible.  As the old joke went, if the King James was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it was good enough for me.

Surprisingly, as I learned from this piece about the project which was completed in 1611, and which I recommend to you, the achievement of an elevated style was not a principal objective of the translators.
As for the literary style of the new Bible – so often regarded as its greatest glory – there is little sign that the translators paid it much attention. For the most part, it seems, they were content to take care of the sense and leave the sounds to take care of themselves.
If this is true, then perhaps the King James translation is indeed something like the miracle its fiercest defenders have always insisted it was.  For it's that "sound" more than anything else that distinguishes it.

Anyway, if you have a moment, read the article.  More importantly, read the Bible, the Bible, of course.

Thus sayeth the Sage.

Not So Wise Latina Woman

Look, I suspect I disagree with our next to latest Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, over just about everything, but she seems a likable person nonetheless.

So, if she'll accept it, I'd like to offer her a friendly piece of advice:  While I don't doubt for a moment that there's a double standard in the nomination and confirmation process for women, vice men, who aspire to a seat on the highest court in the land, even if this is true (I'll confess, I'm more than a bit dubious), Justice Sotomayor might just want to keep her mouth shut.  Ms. Sotomayor:
You know, and I don't mean to be graphic, but one day after I'd been questioned endlessly, for weeks at a time, I was so frustrated by the minutiae of what I was being asked about and said to a friend, 'I think they already know the color of my underwear...There were private questions I was offended by. I was convinced they were not asking those questions of the male applicants.
Justice Sotomayor simply must be smart enough to know that whatever her professional qualifications as a judge, the fact that she is a women was more, much more, in her favor than not.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lunch is on Me...and You

Appealing to the widely known, but apparently not very widely believed, adage, "there's no free lunch," plain-speaking Thomas Sowell points out the costs of labor unions, the costs, that is, to the union members themselves. (And he ain't talking about their monthly dues.) 

He then explains how public-sector unions are different.  Unlike for their private-sector counterparts, for government unions the lunch may indeed be free.  BUT...,well, see my title, and then read Sowell's piece.   

Monday, March 7, 2011

What Happens in Vegas...

Adultery is a pretty serious sin, but then so is treason.  Which is the greater betrayal?

The GOP cuts Nevada Senator John Ensign loose and is happy to do so.  Meanwhile, Nevada Democrat Senator Harry "this war is lost" Reid is re-elected and the liberal elite breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Look me in the eye and tell me again that there's not a dimes worth of difference between the two parties.

Git it?

After over two years in office without yet closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, the Obama Administration has now also concluded that Article III military tribunals for those accused of participating in terrorist acts against the United States are sufficient justice after all.

Both of these acts, or non-acts, are tacit admissions of the wisdom of Bush Administration policies.  They are also admissions that the Obama White House has no intention of keeping its campaign promise about reversing those policies.  From the Elite Media, from fellow Democrats, and from fellow travelers, the silence over the breaking of this pledge has been deafening.

To anyone with eyes to see, ears to hear, and at least half a functioning brain (that's all it takes), these issues, like virtually every issue to virtually every liberal on virtually every occasion, were never anything more than  opportunities for them to cynically manipulate public opinion in order to improve their chances of either getting or remaining elected. 

That real human lives were at stake meant for them little to nothing at all.  If it did, if it really did, we would be listening to more than just the crickets chirping right now.

Will Obama and his confreres suffer politically for this breach of promise?  Not likely.

They are shameless by definition.  But shame on us for not making them pay for it. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Four Eyes

I just watched former Alaska Governor and US Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin interviewed by Bill O'Reilly on The Factor and it occurred to me, again, that one of the chief reasons why this woman drives not only all liberals, but far too many conservatives as well, absolutely crazy is that she is self-confident enough to wear eye-glasses publicly.  Why, even the smartest woman on the planet, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, wears contacts, donchaknow?

"What an utterly superficial and pointless observation Sage," you say?   Yea, just like most of the criticism regularly leveled at this woman WHO HAPPENS TO BE ON OUR SIDE.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Fightin' Franciscan

One continues to hear great things about this pugnacious priest, the Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver,

Read the speech he delivered just a couple of days ago to the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University and you'll know why.  God bless him.

Shop Until You Drop

"Fecal Matter Found on 72 Percent of Grocery Carts"

When I first read that headline, I was reminded of a comment my late father made about 20 years ago to my dear wife.  He was having dinner with us and she was then proceeding through (rapidly, thank God) a mildly "green" phase in her life.  She reported to him with pride that the carrots he was enjoying were in fact organically grown.  As he brought the fork to his mouth he said without missing a beat, "Really?  You know, I swear I can almost smell the manure."

But I was wrong, that' not what the headline was referring to at all.

Rather, it was about a study done by researchers from the University of Arizona who reported that grocery store shopping carts were virtually covered with, well, with exactly what the headline says.

After remembering that interchange of long ago between my wife and my dad, my second thought was, "Oh no!  What will liberal legislators do with this?"

Let's face it, you don't have to think very hard to imagine some Democrat politician like, oh I don't know, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, standing before an excited media gaggle, decrying this latest outrage and demanding that something be done about!...for the children.  "If we can put a man on the moon..."  The speech would be followed very shortly thereafter with the introduction of the "Shopping Cart Control Act of 2011"  Reasonable regulation they would argue, not outright prohibition.

You see at first, sensing an opportunity to stick it to Wal-Mart as well, Schumer and many other Democrats would have been moved to outlaw the carts altogether.  But when a sympathetic reporter, from the New York Times perhaps, asks about the potential effect of such legislation on the homeless, a key Democrat constituency, cooler heads would prevail.

Ahh, the liberal mind at work.  God help us.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rights and Freedoms

With respect to the governor vs. the union showdown in Wisconsin, it occurs to me that there's some pretty sloppy talk about "rights" being employed.

While we enjoy the right to peaceably assemble, we have no similar right either to organize as a labor union or to collectively bargain as such.  We have the freedom to do so, but not the right.  A right, unlike a freedom, imposes an obligation on another.

Seriously, what does it even mean to say that I have a right to organize?  Are my fellow workers now obliged to follow suit?  Must they pay union dues whether they agree to or not?  What about their right not to join?  If, as a union, we become dissatisfied with the terms and conditions of our employment and strike, has our employer surrendered thereby his right to replace us all with employees who will work under those terms?

We are free to organize, if we can.  We are also free to collectively bargain, again, if we can.  But it seems to me we have no right to either.    

"Racist" Budgeting

That's what the Congressional Black Caucus thinks of the budget cuts proposed by the new Republican majority.  Moreover, in order to highlight the "racism", they find it convenient to make the point on the very last day of Black History Month.

In addition to celebrating the many successes of African-Americans in this country, the single most important purpose of Black History Month is to force us all to remember, and never to forget, the genuine suffering endured by this race during our nation's now regrettable period when slavery and segregation were both tolerated and legal.  The Congressional Black Caucus is doing great harm to this cause.

By making such a baseless, fatuous, and irresponsible accusation of racism, in order, simply, to further their own partisan and ideological agenda, they continue to participate in turning what was once one of the most serious charges one American could level at another into little more than a vulgar, schoolyard-bully, epithet, the reaction to which is a mere roll of the eyes or shrug of the shoulders.

This is truly a crime and I pray it never comes back to haunt them.  For our country's sake, not theirs.

Where Have You Gone "Phyllis Dietrichson"?

Speaking of the differences between men and women...

If you're familiar with this blog at all, you'll know that the Sage is a big fan of the movies, old movies at least.  (There's just something about the ability of a black-and-white film to communicate seriousness, even if it's a comedy like His Girl Friday.)  Anyway, let me recommend to you this near perfect piece about the Femme Fatale on the Silver Screen, what she is, what she represents, why she's with us no more, etc.

Because my mind is sometimes preoccupied with such things, I anticipated many of the writer's observations and conclusions. (That might also explain why I liked the piece.)  Significant among them was that contemporary feminism is largely responsible for the death of the femme fatale. 

It's true, as the writer points out, there's more than a little misogyny in the characterization of the typical femme fatale.  But then, there's more than a little man-hating in much of feminism.

Ironically, contemporary feminism rests almost fundamentally on the image of woman as victim.  In film, lately anyway, the omni-presence of these ridiculously hard-bitten, karate-chopping, gun-slinging female heroes actually serves to reinforce the point: Women, as women, are so essentially victims, that their only escape is to fantasize about themselves as men.

The femme fatale is almost always portrayed, at first, as a victim.  That is how she attracts the attention of the male in the movie.  (That and her long luscious legs and...oh, sorry, where was I?)  But her victimhood is a pose.  It's the way she lures the man in to do whatever it is she wants done, usually some form of dirty work, murder even.

What contemporary feminists don't like about the portrayal is precisely that the femme fatale is no victim at all.  Not only that she is no victim, but also, this is important, that she succeeds as a woman.  There is absolutely no equality of the sexes here, and no femme fatale would want it any other way.  It is the precisely the differences between men and women, highlighted and exaggerated in film, that matter the most.  It is the differences that put her in complete control.

Feminist scolds to the contrary, my experience has taught me that most women still admire, at least secretly, the femme fatale, both on the screen and in real life as well.  When they witness any woman confident enough of her sex appeal to quite deliberately put it to work, it may make them roll their eyes, it may even tick'em off if they think they are more deserving of the object of that work, but they both understand and admire it nonetheless, and only wish they were similarly sure of themselves.

*"Phyllis Dietrichson", you'll learn if you read the article, is the name of the character played by Barbara Stanwyck in the film noir classic, Double Indemnity.  Fred MacMurray as "Walter Neff" is her helpless-in- her-grasp lover.

Grappling with Sexual Equality

Thank you Mona Charen.

By now you know the story of the young male wrestler who forfeited his Iowa State Championship match to his young female opponent.  When this story broke a couple of weeks ago, I was very interested in the reactions of female talking heads and pundits.  From the Left, one could hear the predictable screams of  "I am woman, hear me roar!" coupled with outright contempt for the stand the young man took.  (He was extremely gracious, by the way.)  From the Right, however, the responses were mixed, and therefore more interesting.

Many of these women have benefited tremendously from what we used to call women's liberation and they know it.  Therefore, on occasions like this they feel the need to offer at least two cheers for feminism, and so they do.  Others, many others it seemed to me, were clearly uncomfortable with the story.  They knew in their souls that there was something right about the young man's stand and something very wrong with forcing him to make it.

National Review columnist Mona Charen cuts to the heart of the matter with this question:  "Are we really sure we want to obliterate the last traces of chivalry in young men — to stamp out every trace of protectiveness from the male psyche?"

The more radical equality between the sexes is pursued, the more women lose.  Smart women like Mona Charen know this.