More than a year after the arrest of Saddam Hussein, his former subjects voted in a national election this weekend. This dramatic turnabout is historic. Whether the election is an historic event or an historic novelty remains to be seen.
The day was almost wholly positive for a number of reasons. First, actual levels of violence failed to meet expected levels of violence. Second, the elections showed the world a face of Iraq they're not used to seeing. With terrorist attacks dominating the headlines, the media occassionally created an impression that confused Iraqi weariness of the occupation with Iraqi support for the terrorists. The dyed finger now stands with the toppled statue of Saddam Hussein as one of the striking visuals demonstrating the benefits of this campaign. Third, the elections facilitate the future withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Fourth, despite boycotts and death threats, the percentage of Iraqis casting votes compares to the percentage casting votes in the U.S. and other Western democracies.
But declaring democracy in Iraq now makes as much sense as declaring "mission accomplished" in May of 2003. Less consequential than the fact that Iraqis chose a government is the matter of who they chose to govern them. One election does not a democracy make. Sunday's events were encouraging, but check back one, five, or ten years from Sunday to have a better understanding of the significance of January 30, 2005.
Readers have purchased more than two-hundred books, DVDs, and CDs through FlynnFiles. If you've purchased an item through links on FlynnFiles, thank you. If you haven't, what's keeping you? This site operates at a loss, so your voluntary purchasing of products--rather than intrusive pop-up ads or appeals for donations--helps defer my costs. You buy CDs, books, and DVDs anyway. Why not do so through this site?
If you want to help the site and do some shopping, how about buying my favorite six-part Dr. Who episode? Or a Red Sox World Series commemorative t-shirt or cap? Or a book? Right now I'm reading A Patriot's History of the United States and Imperial Hubris. Popular among other conservatives are Ann Coulter's How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must), Thomas Woods' The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, and Mona Charen's Do-Gooders. In a more vegetative-state mood? I highly recommend Namco's 5-in-1 Pac-Man game. And of course, you should be listening to music while doing all of this. George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, Wilco's Being There, and U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb are worthy inhabitants of your CD player.
Arthur Herman see parallels between the beheading of Charles I and this weekend's elections in Iraq. I do too, just very different ones. Herman writes: "When Charles I went to the execution block on January 30, a brave new world was born, that of sovereignty of the people." Well, a brave new world was born, but it had less to do with popular sovereignty than it did with Oliver Cromwell, a name that inexplicably appears nowhere in Herman's article about the results of the 1649 regicide. Charles I's beheading, 356 years to the day of the Iraqi elections, fortified dictatorial rule by a gang of religious fanatics. Isn't that the historical lesson that we should be concerned about when it comes to Iraq?
"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"
Reports that female interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba attempted to break-down suspected terrorists by wearing thongs and mini-skirts reminds me of Monty Python's Michael Palin torturing suspected heretics with pillows and comfy chairs. Regarding one such incident, the Associated Press reports that a female interrogator "began taunting the detainee, touching her breasts, rubbing them against the prisoner's back and commenting on his apparent erection." In another incident, a woman "took off her uniform top, exposed her brown T-shirt, ran her fingers through a detainee's hair and sat on his lap." Yet another "female interrogator grabbed a detainee's genitals."
I'm outraged, but not in the way the author of this piece wants me to be. Does our government really think that threats of close-up encounters with scantily-clad women will depress al Qaeda's recruitment of hard-up Middle Eastern males? Here's hoping the terrorists replace their methods of prisoner treatment with these American practices.
The readers have spoken. After perusing the sites of thirteen FlynnFiles readers, the readership has nominated Willington World and The Last Angry Men as their favorites. The Last Angry Men is a new blog from a young conservative duo who trumpet Old Right themes. Think Albert Jay Nock failing an anger management course. Willington World offers a more lighthearted take on politics, featuring discussions of beer, insults for Kerry supporters, and, best of all, pictures of the Bush twins. Visit both sites and then vote for your favorite in the comments section below. Mr. Willington and the Angry Men: feel free to encourage your readers to vote in this momentous contest. Without further delay, everyone cast your vote.
Would a conservative president really feel the need to pay conservative commentators to get positive press?
Maggie Gallagher follows Armstrong Williams as the second pundit revealed to have a covert financial relationship with the Bush administration. The controversy is in some ways not as perfidious, and in other ways worse, than the scandal that engulfed Williams.
At least looking at the Maggie Gallagher half of the equation, the traditional-marriage proponent's role in this controversy doesn't compare to Armstrong Williams's role in the initial punditgate scandal. First, Health and Human Services paid her to conduct specific research--as the government does with scholars all the time. Gallagher even benefited from government generosity under the Clinton administration. Second, she got less than a tenth of the money Williams got. Third, unlike Armstrong Williams's post-subsidy flip-flop on the No Child Left Behind Act, no evidence has appeared showing that Gallagher changed her position on marriage after getting the money. Fourth, Gallagher did not get paid to shill for the president's marriage initiative in her columns or media appearances. But all of this does not absolve Gallagher of wrongdoing. The salient point Kurtz made is not that Maggie Gallagher's transgressions rival Armstrong Williams's (they don't), but that Gallagher keeping this relationship secret compromised her integrity as an independent voice. This seems a fair criticism.
Looking at the Bush administration's role, their conduct was in many ways worse in Punditgate II than it was in Punditgate I. They paid Williams to promote a law, not a piece of legislation. They paid Gallagher to write material for them that was used to promote an initiative, not a law. In other words, the Bush administration used government money to campaign for a proposed law. That's illegal. That's unethical. That's unconstitutional.
The Gallaghergate affair is offensive in so many ways. First, conservatives believe in a smaller, less intrusive federal government. A $300 million proposal promoting marriage--an institution that has prospered for so long without the aid of the federal government--undermines this conservative principle. Second, promoting any proposal (particularly a big-government one such as the marriage initiative) with government money, empowers big-government and manipulates the democratic process. And third, conservatives don't require payoffs to advance conservative positions. It's only when liberal proposals are masked as conservative ones--such as the No Child Left Behind Act and the administration's marriage initiative--that politicians would feel the need to grease the pockets of conservative media figures to gain favorable coverage.
"There's a lot of money to pay for this," Paul Wolfowitz explained in March 2003. "It doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." Like a lot of things that Paul Wolfowitz said before the war in Iraq, this idea turned out to be not only wrong, but wildly so.
The Bush administration this week announced that it will ask Congress for another $80 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This will put the total spent on the Iraq war above $200 billion, a pricetag administration figures openly mocked when it was suggested prior to the war. In fact, when Bush economic advisor Larry Lindsey publicly warned in September 2002 that the war could cost as much as $200 million, his fellow Bushies came down on him, with Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels labeling his estimate "very, very high." Lindsey, who subsequently was forced out of the administration, was actually very, very low in his estimate of the cost of the Iraq campaign.
Today marks the deadliest day of the Iraq war for U.S. servicemen. Thirty-six of America's best and bravest lost their lives on Wednesday, including thirty-one Marines who perished when a CH-53 helicopter went down. More than 1,400 American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have died since the war started nearly two years ago. Keep them in your prayers.
Maury, heretofore known to FlynnFiles readers as Morris, again emerged victorious in the football pool. Like several other participants, Maury went 3-1. But because the ranking system was implemented to avoid ties, Maury's 3-1 record is irrelevant. What matters is that he scored nine of ten points, picking the Pats, Pats/Steelers Over, and Eagles/Falcons Under. He missed on his fourth game, picking Atlanta. Offer your congratulations to Maury below. Morris, take a bow.
The Oscars have boycotted one of the most beloved movies in the history of cinema for political reasons. Boycott them.
The movies nominated for best picture are Sideways, Million Dollar Baby, Finding Neverland, The Aviator, and Ray. Conspicuously excluded from nominations in all major categories was The Passion. While Hollywood has no problem celebrating movies that insult Christianity (The Last Temptation of Christ), it refuses even to recognize artistic works that take a decidedly more traditional view of Jesus Christ.
No doubt many of you join me in your deep hatred of Don Eppes, the FBI agent, and his brother Charlie, the mathematician. Not all advertisements, however, have viewers jonesing for the remote. Do you know Sabine Ehrenfeld? Certainly you know her better by her alter ego, the Overstock.com lady. Here's my question to you: Do you watch television for the shows, or for the Overstock.com commercials?
I speak at Kalamazoo College tonight on Intellectual Morons at 7 p.m. in Dalton Theater. On February 2, I speak at the University of Vermont on Intellectual Morons at 7 p.m. in the Ira Allen Chapel. Both events are free, open to the public, and sponsored by Young America's Foundation (which is also sponsoring this student essay contest on my book). If you're a reader of FlynnFiles and in the area of Kalamazoo, Michigan or Burlington, Vermont, I encourage you to come to an event and introduce yourself.
The Milwaukee county district attorney indicted five paid staffers for the Kerry campaign on Monday for their alleged role in the election-eve slashing of tires on twenty-five vans rented by the Wisconsin Republican Party. The Republicans intended to use the vans to drive GOP voters to the polls. Those charged in the underhandedness include the sons of the former acting mayor of Milwaukee and of a current U.S. congressman.
On Inauguration Day, protestors expressed widespread belief in the idea that the Republicans fixed the election. "I think that there was voter suppression, primarily in Ohio," a San Francisco man told me. "I think they stole Ohio," activist Darrell Anderson declared. "I think Kerry should have won." While these activists clearly demonstrated that they did not want Bush to win, they failed to cite any specific examples showing how Republicans suppressed the vote or rigged ballot boxes.
The criminal acts of Kerry's tire-slashing Wisconsin supporters were hardly isolated incidents. In Milwaukee, dozens of Kerry supporters, including one bullhorn-using Democrat, stormed Bush campaign headquarters and refused to leave when asked. In Madison, Bush supporters had their lawn signs stolen (hardly unusual in campaigns) and replaced with swastikas burned into their grass (very unusual in campaigns). The dirty tricks, coupled with the fact that thousands of same-day-registration votes for Kerry in Milwaukee can't be verified as legitimate, makes one wonder if John Kerry's 11,813-vote victory might have been otherwise had these felonies and misdemeanors not occurred and had the illegitimate votes not been counted. Don't expect those whining about imaginary voter-suppression in Ohio to raise any objections to the real voter-suppression in Wisconsin.
The best team in the AFC plays the best team in the NFC in two weeks. That's why they call it the Super Bowl. Last week, the Pats held the NFL's best offense to three points. This week they put up forty-one points against the NFL's best defense. Deservedly, they go into the Super Bowl as six-point favorites. The Philadelphia Eagles made Michael Vick look like Ryan Leaf. And who needs T.O. when you have Brian Westbrook?
Keys to the game? For the Patriots, I think they need to exploit Philly's mediocre run defense by feeding Corey Dillon heavy servings of pigskin. For the Eagles, Donovan McNabb's pass-run double-threat may be something that not even two-weeks of preparation by football's greatest mind can stop.
One final observation: Eight hours of the NFL playoffs on Sunday didn't make me sick of football. It did leave me fantasizing about who I should to kill first: Charlie or Don Eppes. Numb3rs is the most annoying television show ever about an FBI agent and his mathematician brother, and at least the most overpromoted show since Skin (certainly Ron Silver yelling, "HIS FATHER IS THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY!" is forever etched upon your mind too). What's the over-under on how many weeks Numb3rs lasts? Anyhow, the winner of this weekend's pool will be announced soon, and an official Super Bowl predictions thread will be unveiled next week. Until then, feel free to offer your analysis on the conference championships, and the Super Bowl match-up.
Johnny Carson spent thirty years in the living rooms of Americans on The Tonight Show, taking over the late-night program from Jack Paar in 1962 and handing it over to Jay Leno in 1992. Since that time, we haven't heard much from this private man. But just this week press reports revealed that Carson had been secretly writing jokes for David Letterman. Just four days after that story broke, we learn that Johnny Carson has died from emphysema. In an age when celebrities stage events for the paparazzi and pay publicity agents handsomely to generate tabloid press, Carson's retreat from the limelight was refreshing. Like Jim Brown and Greta Garbo, Carson's graceful bow left us wanting more rather than less. Johnny Carson, rest in peace.
The media is all over James Dobson and the American Family Association, mocking the giants of the Christian Right for stating that SpongeBob Squarepants is gay. Google fatigue has set in and I can't find any evidence that Dobson or AFA said anything like that. In fact, there seems to be some justification in their outrage over liberals politicizing cartoon characters. They've blasted a children's video project promoting "tolerance," of which SpongeBob is a part, that offers "Daddy's Roommate" and "Heather Has Two Mommies" on its recommended reading list. While I haven't found evidence of Christian conservative leaders labeling Spongebob a homosexual (if they do, they're foolish), the gay Left and annoying hipster-types have been making this assertion for years without media notice. The talking-heads on VH-1's I Love the '90s Part Deux, for instance, spend much of the SpongeBob segment debating the cartoon invertebrate's sexuality.
This whole controversy is silly. SpongeBob isn't gay. He just likes to try new things occassionally. (Patrick is another story.) Experimental? Yes. Gay? No. Anyhow, there are certainly other animated personalities more deserving of the title, "Gayest Cartoon Character Ever." And I need your help in bestowing this honor(?). So let all of FlynnFiles know: Who is the gayest cartoon character of all time?
Did William Rehnquist swear in the wrong man on Inauguration Day? That's what many protesting the start of George W. Bush's second term believe. Pre-election taunts of "accidental president" and "re-defeat Bush" allowed Bush-haters to benefit from the illusion that they represented the majority. November 2, one might think, would have shattered that illusion. It didnít. In my piece on National Review Online, I discuss the Left's dismissal of the painful truth in favor of a comforting myth.
Welcome to the conference championships! Since only four teams remain, the rules of the pool will again change slightly. You will again have to pick the team to beat the spread and the over/under. Here's where it gets tricky: rank your picks one through four, giving the pick you are most confident in a one and the pick you are least confident in a four. Losses will still count as just a loss, but the number of points you earn will depend upon which of your picks came through--so try not to lose your number one or two game. Ones get four points, twos get three, threes get two, and fours get one. Home teams are in caps. All spread against the line. Feck is champion. Here are my picks:
1. Patriots -3 over STEELERS
2. Eagles/Falcons OVER 38
3. EAGLES -5 over Falcons
4. Patriots/Steelers OVER 35
Make your picks in the comments section below, and don't forget to rank your games one through four as that will play a huge factor in who wins. Good luck.
I found George W. Bush's second inaugural address an airy speech heavy on platitudes and light on substance. In fairness, this describes most inauguration-day speeches by recent presidents. Where the second inaugural address differed from recent presidential efforts is its inclusion of a "big idea," which exposed in its speaker a faith in government far surpassing any of his immediate predecessors.
Some variant of the word "ideal" appeared nine times in the speech. Bush spoke out on racism (he's courageously against it) and democracy (he's bravely for it). He even genuflected to political niceties by strangely claiming the Koran as a foundational text of the contemporary American experience. (Maybe in a more inclusive time, the followers of Anton LaVey will get their mention in the inaugural too).
"We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands." No, common sense doesn't bring us to that conclusion. Since the founding of this country, liberty around the world has been increasing while liberty in this country has been diminishing. There's no causal relationship between the former pleasant reality and the latter unpleasant reality, but they are realities nonetheless. My own liberty has about as much to do with a Laotian enjoying freedom of speech as it does with a Martian possessing the right to a jury of his alien peers. While Bush is right to wish proponents of freedom well, interlocking our nation's interests with the affairs of other nations is a way of limiting our freedom.
"Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our nation," Bush opined. "It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security and the calling of our time." George Washington ("Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground?"), Thomas Jefferson ("peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none"), and John Quincy Adams ("she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy") are rolling in their graves. Inside a tomb in the National Cathedral, Woodrow Wilson smiles approvingly.
I blog from our nation's capital, where George W. Bush was sworn in for his second term today. Despite landing some rather choice seats for the swearing-in ceremony, I decided to cover the counterinauguration rather than the inauguration itself. Well, the overbearing security and multi-hour waits in line kind of helped me make that decision, but that's a story for another day.
I've covered dozens of protests, but none where circumstances forced the opposing sides into such close quarters. This begat some ugly situations. Unsurprisingly, screaming matches erupted. In at least one instance, the forced proximity led to violence. Walking through a gauntlet of protestors, a proud Bush supporter taunted the mob. One young women responded: "F--- you!" The Republican then spat in her face at point blank range, which led to the woman breaking the wooden handle of her sign over the head of the man. Outnumbered, the Republican departed, only to hurl some debris that struck another woman. Welcome to the polarized world of red and blue America.
If there was a uniting theme among the protestors it is that George Bush is not only not their president, but that he's not your president either. You see, Ohio is the new Florida--at least in the minds of most of the activists I conversed with. "It's not a clean win," explained an activist from Philadelphia. "I think Kerry did win," Stephanie Kornfeld from suburban Boston explained, "because the exit polls would verify that."
There's safety in numbers, and thus leftists have put forward the comforting myth that the country actually agrees with them about Bush. Just like 2000, they maintain, Bush stole the 2004 election. Rather than face the tough reality that they are politically alienated from much of their fellow countrymen, leftists have constructed an alternative reality that depicts their side as the majority who had the election stolen from them.
"We are a nation that has a government--not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our Government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed."
Twenty-four years ago today, Ronald Reagan spoke these words after being sworn in as the fortieth president of the United States. Then, the march of history was away from the New Deal, the Great Society, and other liberal schemes. Today, the era of big government has returned. It's my guess that you won't hear anything like this today: "It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal Government." These words ring more true now than the day President Reagan said them.
Mine An Ener, a professor at Villanova University, delivered a baby suffering from Down syndrome in 2003. Six months later, the feminist prof slit her six-month-old's throat. Nearly a month later, Ener took her own life. Villanova University is now honoring this troubled woman.
Granting that a case such as Ener's is likely to evoke a range of emotional responses (sadness, horror, pity, anger, etc.), one response that's hard to understand is Villanova's decision to celebrate this murderer. After holding a symposium in her honor on "Charity" earlier this year, Villanova will be dedicating a section of their library to Ener tomorrow. On the invitations dedicating the Mine Ener Memorial in the library, there's no mention of Ms. Ener taking her own life or the life of her child. The initial invitations describe Ener as a "popular teacher and widely published specialist on the history of the modern Middle East." Practicing Catholics remaining at Villanova might recognize this as what St. Thomas called a sin of omission. Sick.
Romanticized histories of the 1960s depict the Black Panthers as community activists offering medical clinics and free breakfast programs for children. For many of the group's leaders, these giveaways served them in the same way that charity serves to cover crimes by mob bosses. The Panthers were a street gang that murdered, dealt drugs, and robbed. The fact that they served pancakes to hungry kids is about as pertinent to their identity as the Ku Klux Klan's adopt-a-highway efforts are to theirs.
Should they be convicted in the St. Paul murder of Officer James Sackett, Ronald Reed and Larry Clark will join a lengthy dishonor roll of Black Panthers who murdered policemen: H. Rap Brown, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Assata Shakur, Eddie Conway, David Rice, Ed Poindexter, and so on.
It turns out that many FlynnFiles readers have sites of their own. In an effort to generate interest in these sites, and to allow readers to vote for their favorite of the bunch, I post links to sites that readers submitted in an earlier post. I encourage you, the readers, to check out each site and vote for your favorite in the comments section below. Feel free to provide colorful commentary about what you saw on those sites as well. Those with sites listed, you may vote for your own site too (but only once), and feel free to encourage your own readers to vote as well. I'll feature the top two vote-getters in a blog post next week, and then we'll have a run-off. The winning site will be featured in a post, where I'll analyze it and discuss why I think it won. Here are the sites that you can choose from:
The Atavist, O'Donnell Web, Willington World, Sponge Daddy, Stationary Bandit, Harold Wachtel, Bow Tie Crafts, Billy's Blog, Are You Myth Guided?, Error Theory, The Nightfly, The Last Angry Men, and Borg Blog. Readers, tell us which one is your favorite in the comments section below.
One of the best things about immigration is that it infuses the diversity of external cultures into American culture. One of the worst things about immigration is that it infuses the diversity of external cultures into American culture.
In all of the Arab world, and in much of the larger Islamic world as well, democracy, freedom of speech and religion, and trial by jury are non-existent. Honor killings, laws demanding apostate executions, and compulsory masks for women persist. These are among the reasons why so many Islamic immigrants come to places like Dearborn, Michigan, Jersey City, New Jersey, and Lewiston, Maine. But as Middle Easterners become more like Americans, America risks becoming more like the Middle East.
The horrific murders of four members of a Coptic Christian family in Jersey City may turn out to be a robbery gone awry. Because several of the deceased were outspoken Christians living in a Muslim community, and because of the grisly manner in which they were killed, police are also exploring a more disturbing possibility: anti-Christian fanaticism fueled the murders.
In their piece on the family's funeral, the New York Times notes: "Muslims and Christians have a long and violent history in Egypt." Indeed they do, starting nearly fourteen centuries ago when Muslims killed or forcibly converted nearly everyone in the largely Christian land. The Copts, somehow, survived. The violent religious history continues to this day in Egypt, and perhaps as a result of anarchic immigration policies, in Jersey City too.
Feck! Feck! Feck! Reader Feck edged out the competition in week two of the playoffs. Feck went 6-2 on the weekend, running the table on the over-under picks. Just as the pool evolved in the playoffs to encompass the over-under, the pool evolves yet again this week to compensate for the shrinking pool of games. Check back on Thursday to make your picks in the new pool for the conference championships. Until then, offer your congratulations to Feck.
This weekend, the Washington Post asked President George W. Bush: "Why hasn't anyone been held accountable, either through firings or demotions, for what some people see as mistakes or misjudgments [on Iraq]?" "Well, we had an accountability moment," Bush responded, "and that's called the 2004 election. And the American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me, for which I'm grateful."
1. How could the election be a referendum on Iraq when both major candidates supported not just the war in Iraq, but the incorrect presumptions that led to the war? 2. Exit polls showed Iraq to be a loser for Bush. Voters who chose Iraq as their most important issue swung for Kerry over Bush 73 percent to 26 percent. 3. The electorate can't hold the secretary of defense or the director of central intelligence accountable. George Bush can, but has refused to do so. The electorate can hold Bush accountable for what happened on his watch, but what happened on his watch also includes tax cuts, placing conservative judges on the bench, and a host of other popular stances that has offset the unpopularity of the colossal intelligence mess-ups over Iraq.
In other words, Bush's answer to the Washington Post's question doesn't hold water. CBS has fired more employees in its memogate scandal--four more to be exact--than George W. Bush has fired in his administration's intelligence debacles on Iraq.
Democracy is not the cure-all for the Middle East's woes. Mort Zuckerman recognized this on The McLaughlin Group this weekend. The publishing magnate ventured that if Saudi Arabia were to hold elections, seventy-five percent of the people would vote for Osama bin Laden. In Egypt, Zuckerman suggested, the Muslim Brotherhood might find itself in power if the people had the choice. In both cases, democracy would bring a worse outcome than the status quo. Zuckerman's point is exactly why placing one's faith in democracy to make everything right is misguided. The mob can be as unwise and unjust as any sultan.
Weirdo liberals have made a bracelet telling foreigners, "I'm not one of them!" The blue bracelet says--what else?--"count me blue." The idea came to Bern Rothschild upon visiting snotty liberal friends in England. She explained, "I sort of felt ashamed, and didn't really want to be associated with being an American." Well that's a coincidence. I don't know you, Bern, but I've been asked by every American (save for some people who objected in Northhampton, Massachusetts, Yellow Springs, Ohio, Athens, Georgia, and Arcata, California) to tell you that we really don't want to be associated with you either. Get out.
If you're a liberal and sick of the "love it, or leave it" mindset, then make things easier on yourself by ceasing to make your love of country contingent upon your country voting Democrat. "I sort of felt ashamed, and didn't really want to be associated with being an American." Yeah, that about sums up why I wrote a book called Why the Left Hates America. Bern, I'm glad, for your sake, that you are an American. Had you been born in any number of countries outside of the West and said something similar about your homeland, the bracelets you'd be wearing would be a shiny metallic rather than a baby blue.
Charles Graner, described as the ringleader of the abuses at Abu Ghraib by the people he describes as the ringleaders of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, was found guilty of maltreating prisoners, conspiracy, dereliction of duty, committing indecent acts, and assault. The case illustrates a basic difference between Western civilization and the more extreme parts of the Islamic world: here, an abuser of captives faces more than seventeen years in jail; there, abusers of captives are considered heroes.
One passage in the Associated Press article on the verdict caught my attention: "One witness, Syrian prisoner Amin al-Sheikh, had characterized Graner as the 'primary torturer,' who merrily whistled, sang and laughed while brutalizing him and forced him to eat pork and drink alcohol in violation of his Muslim faith." Two observations: 1. Torture occured at Abu Ghraib, but what the prisoner describes is not torture. Forcing people to engage in activities that violate their conscience is clearly wrong and all, but it's not like Graner was making the prisoners wash down raw pork with Stroh's. 2. How, precisely, did the Syrian Mr. al-Sheikh find himself in an Iraqi prison?
I would blog on this for several more hours (really, I would), but it is Friday night and I plan on torturing myself with ribs and Labatt's Blue.
Andrew Sullivan has joined the ranks of crackpots in giving credence to the "gay Lincoln" theory, first championed by UMass-Boston's Charley Shively and now celebrated in Clarence Tripp's posthumously released book, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln. This week Sullivan attacked the Weekly Standard for its negative review of Tripp's preposterous book and for failing to reveal the "conflict of interest" of its reviewer, Philip Nobile. "He had his own book in the works on the subject," Sullivan writes. "Tripp beat him to the punch--and is now dead so cannot challenge Nobile's account of the editorial process. Isn't this a conflict of interest that the Standard should have disclosed?"
Did Andrew Sullivan read the Standard piece, or did he merely do a blog read of the Standard piece?
The seventh paragraph of Nobile's lengthy review states: "Tripp and I intended to be coauthors of the book, laboring together on the project from 1995 to 2000--when our partnership, already fissured by dueling manuscripts, came to a bitter end." Elsewhere in the piece, Nobile discusses clashing with Tripp's attorney over his attempt to publish his own work on Lincoln that he alleges Tripp purloined and used as chapter one of The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln. Sullivan's protestations to the contrary, Nobile's article is rather upfront about its author's competing work on the subject. What is it about "dueling manuscripts" and "unresolved legal dispute" that Andrew Sullivan doesn't understand?
There is, however, a conflict of interest that Sullivan might want to highlight next time he posts on this matter. Clarence Tripp, like Sullivan and earlier gay-Lincoln proponent Charley Shively, engaged in sex with other men during his life and actively fought to normalize homosexuality. In other words, Tripp, Shively, and Sullivan all have an interest in depicting one of America's most admired historical figures as a homosexual. Author Tripp, an acolyte of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, was not an historian but rather an enthusiast of bestiality who bragged about having sexual relations with dogs. Before his death, Tripp proclaimed: "Pedophilia is an almost non-existent kind of crime.... child molestation? What is that? Nobody knows. Abuse of children? Are they talking about bollixing them against the ear or hitting them with a stovepipe, or are they talking about tickling them a little." Just as Tripp's own sex life led him to disturbing opinions regarding pedophilia and bestiality, it led him to this factually unsupported position on Lincoln. One senses that this same causal relationship between private behavior and public pronouncements is at work with Sullivan's writings on this issue, too.
I am the reigning champion of the football pool going into week two of the playoffs. Games start Saturday at 4:30 p.m. EST. Home teams are in caps. Pick the team to cover the spread, and then choose whether you think the point total for that game will go "over" or "under" the designated number. You'll have eight picks total--four teams, and four over/unders. The spreads, and the totals, are listed with my picks, which are:
STEELERS -9 over Jets, Over 34.5
FALCONS -7 over Rams, Over 48.5
Vikings +9 over EAGLES, Over 48
PATRIOTS -2 over Colts, Under 52
Make your selections in the comments section below. The winner will be announced to all of the readership on Monday afternoon.
Bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy diggy said the boogy said up jump the boogy/My name is DAAAAAAAN, DAN FLYNN!!!
So Kid Rock isn't going to play at George W. Bush's second inauguration, after all. The debate amongst conservative bloggers has been rather spirited on this seemingly trivial controversy. Michelle Malkin leads the anti-Bawitdaba forces, slamming Kid Rock for racy lyrics and "ripping a hole in an American flag, wearing it as a poncho, tearing it off, and hurling it over his head." Protein Wisdom mocks the anti-Bawitdaba bloggers criticizing Kid Rock for donning an American-flag poncho. In jest, the site posts a picture of Captain America with his "package-hugging tights, suggestive codpiece, [and] improper use of patriotic accoutrements."
I think they're all missing something: shouldn't Kid Rock be running as fast from President Bush as President Bush is from him? Presidential inaugurations are for Liza Minnelli, Luther Vandross, Pat Boone, and Gordon Lightfoot. The entertainment is supposed to be safe and inoffensive. In other words, it's supposed to be everything that rock 'n' roll is not. Playing at the inaugural, Kid Rock? You don't get much more square than that. Do you want to kill your career? What would all your "heroes in the methadone clinic" say? Or how about your "homies in the county in cell block six"? Or the "hookers all tricking out in Hollywood," for that matter? Kid Rock singing for a bunch of old people in tuxedos and gowns? Joe C would not have approved.
Colin Powell was "absolutely sure." Ari Fleischer professed to "know for a fact." Donald Rumsfeld announced: "We know where they are." George Tenet proclaimed it a "slam dunk." George W. Bush and Dick Cheney both said there was "no doubt." It turns out all of these wise men holding the reins of government were wrong.
Nearly two years after invading Iraq, the U.S. government announced that it was calling off its search for Iraq's stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. In case you haven't been paying attention, they couldn't find them.
It doesn't seem improbable that these men truly thought Saddam Hussein possessed such weapons. But thinking something is a lot different from knowing something. There's a wide gap between suspicion and "slam dunk," "no doubt," "absolutely sure," "know for a fact," etc. Now we know the Bush administration didn't have a single human intelligence source on the ground in Iraq, let alone one telling us that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of WMD. Bush, Cheney, Powell, and the others had no business speaking with such certainty.
The president's defenders are left theorizing that the WMD lay hidden somewhere, making ex post facto arguments downplaying the centrality of WMD in the justification for war, and insisting that the president didn't lie. The first point is unsupported and the second ridiculous, but on the last point: fair enough. The president made a mistake. But isn't the mistake bad enough? Sure, he didn't lie, but his miscalculation has cost us hundreds of billions of dollars, international credibility, and 1,300 American lives. The partisan debate featuring the president's enemies attacking him for being a liar and his supporters defending him for being mistaken obscures the salient point: couldn't we have done better than a choice between dishonesty and incompetence?
The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently released a survey contending that more than one in four online Americans read blogs, and about one in fourteen have a blog. Do you have your own blog or website? Then speak up in the comments section below by posting your site's url, and I will link to it (provided that it's not rated NC-17 or something) in a future post on this blog. If I get enough responses from readers with sites, I'll ask the general readership to peruse each site and vote for their favorite one. I'll then highlight the most popular in a post announcing the winner. Don't be shy: enlarge your readership by posting your site's address in the comments section below, and then we'll open it up to the readers in a few days to determine their favorites.
Ten competitors entered the NFL Playoff Pool last weekend, but there was room for only one winner: me. That's right, I am your champion. I did it by going four for four on the over-under picks, with Indy and St. Louis also coming through for me. Had Minnesota kicked a field goal on their game-ending drive instead of sitting on the ball, the Vikings-Packers would have gone over the 48.5 total. Readers Dennis and Gregory Oatmeal would have shared victory and I would have been just another also-ran. But it was not meant to be. Road dogs went 3-1 on the weekend. The under also went 3-1, with the Colts-Broncos blowout the only contest going over. Look for a new playoff pool on Thursday. Until then, show me some love.
"If the documents are not what we were led to believe, I'd like to break that story," Dan Rather told Howie Kurtz in September. "Any time I'm wrong, I want to be right out front and say, 'Folks, this is what went wrong and how it went wrong.'" Well Dan Rather, you had your chance to "break that story" last night yet you stayed home. But perhaps Rather may be finally discovering what the rest of us have already figured out: 1). something doesn't become true only once Dan Rather says it's true; and 2). Rather wouldn't have been breaking any story on last night's newscast. Everyone grasped that CBS's memogate story was a fraud within days of it airing on 60 Minutes 2. We don't need a CBS commissioned report released months after the fact to confirm the obvious.
"Don't cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year?" asked the lawyer of Charles Graner during the Army specialist's court martial on Monday. Referring to the infamous, naked, Abu Ghraib POW-pyramid, attorney Guy Womack wondered aloud, "Is that torture?" I might add that I strongly suspect that several gentlemen that I'm familiar with would pay between $80 and $140 to be forced to wear a dog-collar and parade around in women's undergarments, but this is hardly the type of argument that wins acquittal in court martial cases. Johnnie Cochran, Guy Womack isn't.
Armstrong Williams's final column for Tribune Media Services runs today. It's an apology over his conflict of interest in secretly accepting money from the Department of Education and then promoting matters involving the department in his role as an independent commentator. Like many public apologies, it's more than a bit self-serving.
Despite Williams's insistence that "I did not change my views just because my PR firm was receiving paid advertising promoting the No Child Left Behind Act," there is strong evidence suggesting otherwise. In a May 16, 2001 column, Williams laments that "Bush scooped out the soul of his own education proposal" and that "the spirit that ought to animate such legislation has been bargained away." After he got paid, Williams lavished unadulterated praise upon the No Child Left Behind Act.
Six times in the apology piece, Williams refers to "school choice," "vouchers" and "school options." This is a non-sequitur. The Bush Administration dumped the No Child Left Behind Act's provisions regarding school choice to win over Democrats. Williams acknowleged this in his June 26, 2002 column: "Unfortunately, something happened on the way to Congress. On May 2, the school choice provisions were stripped from the bill." The Department paid Williams to shill for the piece of legislation after it had become law. By this time, the No Child Left Behind Act, as Williams recognized then but conveniently ignores now, had nothing to do with school choice. So why is Williams draping his shady promotion of the No Child Left Behind Act in the rhetoric of school choice? Primarily, to make it seem that there was something high-minded and principled in his actions. Secondly, to appeal to his base of readers--conservatives--who generally detest the No Child Left Behind Act but love school choice.
Eight times in the piece, Williams reduces the controversy to one involving his acceptance of paid advertising from DOE on his television show. "I understand that I exercised bad judgment in running paid advertising for an issue that I frequently write about in my column," explained Williams. But if this were merely about Williams running ads on his show and then writing about those issues, there would hardly be a controversy. Television ads are hard to hide, making the relationship between host and advertiser rather transparent. But this, of course, is more than about a few television ads. Williams got $241,000 to occassionally turn his show into a No Child Left Behind Act infomercial and promote the legislation to other media figures. He did all this without disclosing the lucrative financial arrangement.
"People have used this conflict of interests to portray my column as being paid for by the Bush Administration," Williams writes. "Nothing could be further from the truth." In the embattled talking-head's defense, Williams has on numerous occassions criticized the Bush Administration. While his repeated invocations of "school choice" and "television ads" seem to be weak attempts at a Jedi Mind Trick, Williams is on solid ground when he maintains that the money didn't determine that his column would be reflexively pro-Bush.
Washington, as Armstrong Williams is now finding out, can be a brutal town. But it can also be a very forgiving town. Just ask Marion Barry, Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and the countless lesser men than Armstrong Williams who have rebounded from bigger scandals. Having seen Williams electrify audiences of young people from the podium, and observed his telegenic presence in front of a camera, I can attest that Armstrong Williams has a lot to offer. But if you truly wish to regain your prominent place at the table in the great national discussion, Mr. Williams, then it would be a good idea to tell the truth, issue a less self-serving apology, and return the $241,000 to the taxpayers.
Randy Moss's talents as a wide receiver seem inversely related to the amount of class he possesses as a human being. Last week, the Vikings receiver walked off the field before the game with the Redskins had ended. This week, after catching his second touchdown pass, Moss celebrated by pretending to moon the crowd at Lambeau Field and then wiping his backside on the goalpost. We should be talking about Moss's inspired performance on Sunday, playing through an injury and catching two touchdown passes. But, because of Randy Moss, we are instead discussing his behavior again. What did you think of Moss's endzone taunt? Is the media making too much of this? How should the NFL respond? Is there a player in the NFL with less maturity (remember: Ryan Leaf and Lawrence Phillips are out of the league)?
Hugo Chavez's government in Venezuela is set to expropriate a 32,000-acre ranch owned by a British lord. The seizure is among the first of more than 100,000 estates, farms, and other pieces of property that closet-Communist Chavez plans to redistribute in the coming months. "The full weight of the armed forces and the police will be present to implement the first phase of the land mission," explained Alexis Ortiz, the attorney general for the Venezualan province. What's phase two? I've seen this movie before. Whether it's called Zimbabwe, Uganda, or Bangladesh, this story never has a happy ending. Expropriation drives the wealth creators out of a nation. It promises the poor wealth, but instead delivers to them more poverty.
I'm not shocked that George W. Bush has governed as a liberal. I am shocked that conservatives have generally looked the other way. How did this happen? Well, I found perhaps a partial explanation in this weekend's headlines.
USA Today exposed Armstrong Williams as a pundit on the take on Friday. The administration paid the syndicated columnist and television host nearly a quarter-million dollars to shill for the No Child Left Behind Act after it had become law. While liberals still defend that hack I.F. Stone for demanding payment from the Soviet Union to slant his articles--Stone infamously claimed South Korea invaded North Korea to launch the Korean War--I'm glad to see that they've finally found religion and are all over Mr. Williams for his clear conflict of interest.
If this had been done on Bill Clinton's watch, conservatives would be all over him too. Because it has happened on the spendthrift George W. Bush's watch, wait for the excuses to fly and for Williams, rather than Bush and his outgoing education secretary, to be the villain of the story. Some principled conservatives have criticized the administration over this crooked use of money. Good, but I'd like to know if any other conservatives are being bribed to promote liberal positions. And if so, I'd like to run their paymasters out of town.
It's interesting that the minor scandal has become the major scandal and the major scandal has become the minor one. It's good that repercussions have found Mr. Williams. Tribune Media Services has canceled syndication of his column. But what about the Department of Education? They spent the taxpayers' money on propaganda. This is about as clear a misuse of government dollars as it gets. Williams deserves our scorn, but not as much as the people who paid him deserve it.
In 1996, the Republican Party formally called for the abolition of the Department of Education. Today, they brag of presiding over the greatest increase in the federal education bureaucracy since its establishment under Jimmy Carter. Armstrong Williams' pricetag was $241,000. Most pundits come a lot cheaper. The pricetag for conservatives shutting-up about Bush's amnesty plan for illegal aliens, signing McCain-Feingold after labeling it "unconstitutional," engaging in nation-building after mocking the practice in 2000, and increasing the size of the federal budget by a third, seems to read: "no charge." Or are other talking-heads receiving government subsidy too?
"We are at war," Armstrong Williams wrote in a 2003 column on government waste. "We need to demand that our legislators stop raiding the treasury to line their own coffers." This goes for bureaucrats and media flaks too.
Did you ever turn in a paper, only to have your professor demand that you undergo psychiatric counseling? No? Well, me neither. But this is precisely what happened to Ahmed Al-Qloushi, a seventeen-year-old Kuwaiti studying in California. The Foothill College freshman had the temerity to disagree with his professor on a take-home final exam, which, in the professor's jumbled mind, apparently qualifies one as a mental patient.
Check out the question--it's really a politicized statement--that Al-Qloushi objected to: "Dye and Zeigler contend that the Constitution of the United States was not 'ordained and established' by 'the people' as we have so often been led to believe. They contend instead that it was written by a small educated and wealthy elite in America who were representative of powerful economic and political interests. Analyze the US constitution (original document), and show how its formulation excluded the majority of the people living in America at that time, and how it was dominated by America's elite interest."
In response to the loaded exam question, Al-Qloushi wrote this essay. His instructor, Professor Joe Woolcock, refused to grade the paper, threatening to report Al-Qloushi to the dean of international students if he didn't seek psychiatric treatment. The teenaged Al-Qloushi submitted, with the psychiatrist dismissing him without finding anything wrong. When the media picked up on this outrage, Professor Woolcock filed a complaint against Al-Qloushi for harassment. The young Arab, thankfully, has been in this country long enough to have caught on to the American spirit of defiance. He declares: "I did not leave my country and my family to come to the United States to receive further brainwashing."
The NFL playoffs have arrived! Here are the rules for the football pool: pick the team that will beat the spread, and then pick whether you think that the point total for the game will be over or under the designated number given below. So in the comments section you'll have four teams, with the word "over" or "under" next to those team names. Home teams are in caps. Here are my picks:
Rams +4 over SEAHAWKS, under 52.5
CHARGERS -6.5 over Jets, under 44.5
COLTS -9.5 over Broncos, over 56
PACKERS -6 over Vikings, under 48.5
If you didn't play the pool in the regular season, please join us for the playoffs. Make your picks in the comments section below. The winner will be announced to much fanfare on Monday.
While we're on the subject of parents who kill their children, a court in Texas has just overturned the convictions of mass-murderer Andrea Yates. Mrs. Yates, you'll likely remember, drowned her five children in a bathtub. The National Organization for Women championed Yates's cause, falling just short of naming her Mother of the Year for 2001. Even many of those prone to sympathize with NOW found their defense of Yates, well, indefensible. It is, but it also could be seen as a logical extension of the pro-abortion position. If a group decries any restrictions on abortion even in the third trimester, should we really be shocked when they start calling for the decriminalization of the fourth-trimester abortion?
A teenage couple aborted their unborn child through repeated blows to the pregnant girl's stomach with a baseball bat. Michigan law prohibits such unlicensed violence against the unborn by a party other than the mother. Thus, the young man is being charged with a felony. Pro-abortion activists are crying foul.
"My heart went out to these poor kids," reacted defense attorney Miranda Massie, who has offered her services. "I believe it is a terrible mistake to be charged at all." It's as if Massie believes the baseball-bat weidling abortionists were the victims. Hello? They conspired to beat an unborn child to death with a Louisville Slugger.
But, feminists argue, why should the teenager be charged with a crime by partaking in an act that medical doctors get federal funds for? I share the feminists' premise but disagree with their conclusion. Yes, the young man's act is no different from abortion, a perfectly legal practice. But instead of rethinking the charges against the high-school student, maybe we should rethink the judicial decree prohibiting any local restriction of abortion, whether via a baseball bat, a vacuum, a saline needle, or some other equally menacing killing device.
The Washington Times weighed in on Intellectual Morons this weekend, featuring a positive review in its books section. Reviewer Larry Thornberry calls the book a "quick intellectual history--more accurately a history of the anti-intellectual and the pseudo-intellectual--of the past century, and how many popular but untrue and toxic ideas undermine free society." He explains that Alfred Kinsey, Jacques Derrida, Peter Singer, and other professors get the "Flynn treatment"! Thornberry observes: "Flynn beats up on academe pretty hard--but was there ever a more deserving punching bag?"
DocMcG is the champion of the final regular season AYRFSF pool. Boasting a 9-6-1 record, DocMcG returned as champion by knowing who would phone it in (the Colts and Eagles), who would fold (the Panthers, Jets, and Vikings), and who would come to play (the Chargers and Giants). The last week of the NFL season may be even tougher than the first. Also-rans, don't fret: a special, playoff edition of the pool--incorporating over-unders to compensate for the lack of games--will appear tomorrow. For now, congratulate DocMcG on his week seventeen victory. DocMcG, a verbal curtain-call is in order.
An Associated Press article caught my eye: "Iraqis in U.S. Face Big Hurdles Voting." What size hurdles do you suppose Iraqis in Iraq face in voting?
Terrorists assassinated the governor of the largest province in Iraq on Tuesday. In less than a month, Iraqis are scheduled to elect a government. With the country's most populous regions in a state of disorder, can we really expect anything resembling political liberty by January 30? Or even January 30, 2006?
Aside from the immediate concerns about holding credible elections in a state of anarchy--which certainly describes the situation in certain areas--there is the more important, and more overlooked, longterm issue of whether the vote will bring good things for Iraqis, their neighbors, and us. Ballots can elect a George Washington as easily as they can elect an Adolf Hitler. Sure, giving people a political choice is important. It's also important that people make wise choices. Would you rather be ruled by an 18th-century Virginia gentleman or a 21st-century Shiite cleric? I'll let you guess who is more likely to govern Iraq.
The contemporary fetish for democracy as a panacea for the Middle East's problems overlooks the reality that the people of many Arab countries are more barbaric and anti-American than their rulers. Democracy works neither with an unenlightened nor an oppressive electorate. What good is the ballot that votes away your paycheck, your freedom of speech, and your ability to practice your faith? We can't assume respect for these values to grow overnight in a soil forever hostile to it. Yet if we remain as an occupying force attempting to instill these values over years, we lose lives and money--and risk moving further away from the goal of a free, democratic, and stable Iraq. Democracy by gun point, after all, is an oxymoron.
Last June, I hoped that the Bush Administration's turnover of some basic governing functions of Iraq to indigenous bureaucrats and politicians would impede the insurrection and decrease the killing. It didn't. Similarly, I hope that January's election will bring peace, prosperity, stability, freedom, the rule of law, and self-government to a more enlightened Iraqi people. But I don't think that it will.
Rational explanations for the Christmastime tsunami don't suffice for irrational people. First, those harboring a monomaniacal hatred for America somehow found ways to place blame upon the U.S. Now, environmentalists blame global warming for the catastrophe.
"No one can ignore the relentless increase in extreme weather events and so-called natural disasters, which in reality are no more natural than a plastic Christmas tree," explains the executive director of Greenpeace UK. Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, theorized: "Here again are yet more events in the real world that are consistent with climate change predictions."
But as writer Stephen Milloy points out: "Earthquakes aren't caused by the weather or greenhouse gas emissions; they're caused by tectonics--that is naturally moving geological faults. While tectonics may cause climate changes, the reverse is not true."
Are we really as advanced as we believe? Columbus tricked Indians into working for him and giving him food by threatening to take the moon away if they refused. The lunar eclipse that followed frightened the Indians into doing what he wanted. Environmentalists trick the deluded into altering their lifestyles by threatening the disappearance of the Earth if they refuse. Tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other naturally occuring phenomenon frighten people into doing what they want.
Have you read Intellectual Morons? Are you a student under the age of twenty-five? If so, you have an opportunity to win several thousand dollars and a trip to the Reagan Ranch through Young America's Foundation's "Exposing Intellectual Morons Essay Contest." In 1,200 words or less, entrants are to answer the following: "Dan Flynn discusses more than a dozen intellectual morons in his book, including Noam Chomsky, Michel Foucault, Margaret Sanger, and Alfred Kinsey. Of all the figures discussed in Intellectual Morons, which one has had the most pernicious impact on our world and why?" The deadline for the contest, which will be judged by FrontPageMag publisher David Horowitz, Hillsdale College professor Burt Folsom, and Dr. Nigel Ashford of the Institute for Humane Studies, is February 15. If you're a college student, I strongly encourage you to enter the contest. After your free trip, and the fattening of your wallet, you may be thanking me that you did.
Even misers are generous when they have other people's money to give. That's why foreign aid is not the best indicator of the generosity of a people. More indicative is private giving. President Bush recognized this today by stating: "The greatest source of America's generosity is not our government; it's the good heart of the American people." But media reports on the Indian Ocean tsunami relief efforts have maximized public giving and minimized private giving. Might this have something to do with the number of cheapskates abroad? Anecdotally, any waiter or waitress will tell you this is true when it comes to tipping. Statistically, the percentage of the gross domestic product spent in donations in various nations tells us this is true too. Donations in terms of the absolute dollar amount and in terms of the percentage of gross domestic product are greater in the United States than in just about every country in the world. Strictly as a percentage of GDP, U.S. private giving--excluding religious donations--exceeds private giving in Mexico by 25 to 1, Germany by 12 to 1, Italy by 11 to 1, Japan by 7 to 1, and Jan Hegeland's Norway by 4 to 1. Who says we're stingy?
They're out there. Perusing Red State this weekend confirmed this. A post reacting to the passing of California Rep. Bob Matsui noted that the comments section of the left-wing website Daily Kos was awash with conspiracy theories positing George W. Bush's involvement in the congressman's death--from a rare type of bone marrow cancer.
People consumed by politics imagine the worst of their enemies. If someone is so evil as to oppose abortion, the abolition of prisons, a world court, and a cabinet-level department of peace, then certainly he's capable of murder--or at least that's how it plays out in the mind of a crazy.
I witnessed something akin to this fanaticism during the 1990s from inside the conservative movement. Among the more fantastical claims about the Clintons that I came across on the fringe were that Bill Clinton contracted HIV, that Webster Hubbell really fathered Chelsea Clinton, and that Hillary Clinton endured (enjoyed?) a sexual initiation into the Black Panthers. A mirror image of the imaginative believers in such tales can be found on the contemporary Left.
The nascent conspiracy theories regarding President Bush and Congressman Matsui follow a four-year run of some of the most wild stories of intrigue--including the idea, popular among many anti-war protestors and European leftists, that President Bush allowed 9/11 to happen. There's even a site called Bush Body Count, which hosts a thirteen-page list of deceased individuals. The "Bush Body Count" includes President John F. Kennedy, Senator Paul Wellstone, Enron executive Cliff Baxter, and, most ironically, Barry Seal--someone Clinton-haters assured us was murdered by the 42nd president.
When someone gives you a whole bunch of money and expects nothing in return, the proper response is "thank you" not "blank you."
The Times of India labels the U.S. "parsimonious," its tsunami relief package "crumbs," and its record in foreign aid "less than generous." Less generous than, say, India's?
"Aid is not charity," the paper contends. "This is the basic point that the West, particularly the U.S., must realise." Government aid, whether in the form of food stamps or foreign aid, certainly isn't charity. Its dispensers give what's not theirs and its receivers are often government officials--sometimes on the take--rather than the truly needy.
I'm prepared to agree that "aid is not charity," but the India Times's following convenient supposition is not something that I--or any other rational person--would be willing to indulge. "Aid is trade," the paper claims, "nothing more or less." Really? We are giving the embattled region $350 million. What are we getting in return for what we're "trading" you? A scowl? Insults? Complaints?
There are more than 150,000 dead from the Sumatra earthquake and the ensuing tsunami. Many more will die from starvation and disease. Now is not the time to score ideological points--as the India Times is attempting to do--but to save lives. Three-hundred-fifty million dollars will help do that. Reflexively blaming America for a natural disaster won't.