31 / August
31 / August
The War on Terror Language

Islamic terrorists are bad. Nazis were bad. Beyond that there doesn't seem to be much to justify using the term fascist to identify both sets of people. Jack Reed, a Democratic Senator from Rhode Island, gets this. Specifically, he notes that nationalism, one of fascism's key ingredients, isn't even in the mix with "Islamofascists," making them not fascists at all. If fascism is the only evil you recognize, then excluding the Islamic terrorists from the "fascist" category might cause you fits. But if you recognize fascism as one of many evils found along the ideological spectrum, then you probably understand how Islamic terrorists can at once be evil and not fascists.

"I think if one carefully has looked at the history of fascism, which was a political movement in western Europe that actually, in the two principal cases, came to power through democratic elections—at least in Germany it did—I think the analogy is very, very weak," Reed explained, "And what they're looking for is a kind of a connection, a symbolic connection, between the struggle against Nazism and fascism in Italy. And I think, again, it misperceives the nature of the threats we face today." Reed continued: "This is not a nationalistic organization that is trying to seize control of a particular government. It is a religious movement.... I think it goes to the point of that their first response is, you know, come up with a catchy slogan, and then they forget to do the hard work of digging into the facts..."

Poor Judgment

A new film projects a director's fantasy of George W. Bush assassinated onto the silver screen. It's not like people imitate what they see, right? No one repeats lines from Caddyshack. No one bought the sunglasses they saw Tom Cruise wear in Risky Business. No woman asked the hairdresser to cut her hair like Jennifer Anniston's after watching Friends. No man went without an undershirt after seeing It Happened One Night. And it's not like people kill presidents, right? Assassins murdered four of George W. Bush's predecessors, and made serious attempts, by my count, on the lives of five other presidents (former, current, and future). The rules of good taste and decency change when the occupant of the White House has an (R) next to his name. Bill Clinton got The American President, Dave, and other schlock. George W. Bush gets Death of a President.

Hitler Hiding Under Every Bed

To the Left, every war seems always another Vietnam. To Charles Krauthammer, every enemy of the United States seems always another Hitler. Brendan Nyhan, through the wonders of Nexis, reveals that Krauthammer has over the years used the same quote from the Senator William Borah--"Lord, if I could only have talked with Hitler, all this might have been avoided."--to describe American diplomatic responses to China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran. Every writer returns to the same themes--certainly I do--but to see American foreign policy consistently through the lens of Munich in 1938 is to mishape present realities to fit a mold created by the distant, and different, past. Nyhan writes: "isn't it possible that our choices on these issues are frequently more complex than appease/not appease? You can't understand foreign policy using a single, simplistic mental model."

30 / August
30 / August
Worth Repeating #29

"But now this blind Victorian giant, 'Progress,' has led us into a tunnel with a black end, and those thoughtfully concerned about liberties have the hard task of turning around and finding the way back for a new start in the light. That is the simple and sorrowful truth. And meanwhile to the above average talker it still seems 'liberal,' as well as 'progressive,' to plunge on into darkness."
--Max Eastman, Reflections on the Failure of Socialism, 1955

29 / August
29 / August
John Mark Karr: Pedophile, Murderer, Liar

I prefer John Mark Karr to Mark David Chapman. Karr merely pretended to kill someone to gain celebrity. He's disturbed, but thankfully not disturbed enough to murder for fame. The backlash against the Boulder district attorney is perplexing. With a murder confession in an unsolved case, what were the authorities supposed to do? Arresting him was proper, just as dropping the charges after interrogating him in custody, and obtaining DNA evidence, was proper. Mike Nifong could learn something about ethics from the Boulder County D.A.: justice, not a conviction, is the goal.

Polled

WUSA-9 TV in DC surveyed me in a public opinion poll last night. Specifically, the computer asked if I approved or disapproved of George W. Bush's job performance. I selected "disapproved"--though not without hesitation. Such polls showing dissatisfaction generally get interpreted to mean liberal dissatisfaction. It doesn't occur to the newsreaders that many of the people most dissatisfied with the Republican president's job performance are conservatives. It should, though. Government is bigger, more intrusive, and more centralized than on the day George W. Bush took office. If anyone should disapprove of that most, a conservative should.

28 / August
28 / August
Make or Break Time for Democrats

"We have to go back to 1974 (during Watergate) to find such a favorable environment,'' Democratic political operative James Carville tells writer Al Hunt. "If we can't win in this environment, we have to question the whole premise of the party.'' It's highly unlikely that the Republicans will retain control of the House of Representatives and hold a commanding advantage in the Senate in January. But what if the Democrats don't replace Denny Hastert with Speaker Pelosi? What if they don't take out Senators Rick Santorum, Conrad Burns, and Mike DeWine? Historical trends certainly favored Democrats in the 2002 off-year elections. The political climate certainly favored them in 2004--George W. Bush was ready to be defeated. But the Democrats whiffed. It's hard to envision a scenario in which the Democrats don't win handily in November, but if they don't James Carville's advice of questioning the premise of the party will need to be heeded--if the Democrats don't wish to remain relegated to second-party status for years to come.

Fox Journalists Freed

Middle Eastern kidnappers have released reporter Steve Centanni, or perhaps more accurately, the kidnappers released Khaled, Centanni's adopted Muslim name following his forced conversion. Not everyone, it seems, rejoices over the emancipation of Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig. Prior to the release, a former Washington state Democratic party official asked: "If FOX is an essential part of the state propaganda-system which facilitates the war, then how can we absolve their employees from accountability? Doesn't that make them legitimate targets for resistance organizations?" Isn't this akin to the Sudanese government's rationale in jailing Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Paul Salopek?

25 / August
25 / August
Macaca Chewbaca

Does anyone still care that Senator George Allen called some camcorder pest "macaca"? Did anyone ever care? Sewer-mouthed Ana Marie Cox still feigns great offense at the non-racist, non-word that Allen used as a name for a Democratic operative showing up to his rallies with a video camera. Cox fantasizes that this will cost Allen his Senate seat. After having lived in Virginia for five years, my sense is that most Virginians who are offended take greater umbrage at the phony outrage than they do at George Allen fumbling over a nuisance's nickname.

24 / August
24 / August
When Will the Jupiterians Reclassify Earth?

Pluto, which enjoyed planet status yesterday, does not enjoy planet status today. How so? SCIENCE! Or, perhaps more accurately, scientists. The International Astronomical Union, an Earth-based scientific organization, demoted Pluto to "dwarf planet" status. No word yet if similar bodies on Gallifrey, Tatooine, Miranda, and the other planets will follow suit. Longtime FlynnFiles readers have known that this day of Earthling hubris was coming. On behalf of all enlightened Earthlings, beings of Pluto, please accept this humble apology for the actions of a few anti-Plutonese "scientists."

'Trapped in a World That Does Not Understand'

Accused murderer and pedophile John Mark Karr claims that he is "trapped in a world that does not understand." In other words, it's not the pedophile's fault for molesting kids but society's fault for not understanding. This is a convenient, and predictable, rationalization from a pedophile. But pedophiles aren't the only ones advancing it. A small number of academics, who seem to add to their numbers every year, see nothing wrong with pedophilia, either.

More than a half-century ago, Alfred Kinsey likened adult-child sexual contacts to children's encounters with spiders--frightening but harmless. By taking the word of pedophiles at face value, Kinsey actually claimed that small children, infants even, enjoy molestation. If harm came, the Indiana University professor reasoned, it did so because of the overreaction of authorities who traumatized children.

Today, Kinsey's academic progeny have tenure across America. Perhaps we should be thankful they teach at colleges and not in grade schools. But who knows? One's advocacy or tolerance of a behavior doesn't make one a practitioner of that behavior. But some behavior is so extreme that advocacy or tolerance of it is abhorrent itself.

"Like communists and homosexuals in the 1950s," University of Michigan assistant professor Gayle Rubin writes, "boy lovers are so stigmatized that it is difficult to find defenders for their civil liberties, let alone erotic orientation." She points to a "savage and undeserved witch-hunt" engineered by the authorities "to wipe out the community of men who love underage youth." Opposition to pedophilia, she maintains, has "more in common with ideologies of racism than with true ethics."

New York University Press's Lavender Culture lambastes "archaic" notions, such as "the innocence of children" and "the potential harmfulness of sex." The text's essay advocates that activists "proselytize" to "young gay people with the message that…they should get out of their families as soon as they can." If they don't, the author warns, "future generations of gay people who wait until their twenties before they start to live." The piece demands the repeal of "repressive, ageist legislation."

A few years back, the University of Minnesota Press published Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex. The book advocates lowering the age-of-consent to twelve--not low enough for John Mark Karr, apparently--and touts a day-care center where "children of all ages may engage in masturbation without shame and consensual child-with-child sexual touching without adult interference."

Mark Karr may be "trapped in a world that doesn't understand." A few of the world's inhabitants do claim to understand. But the rest of us don't--understand, Mark Karr or academia's pedophila apologists.

Cartoon Correctness

Tom and Jerry violently attack one another, and run around without clothes. But it is the duo's infrequent liking for a smoke that serves as the impetus for a British television network cutting the offending scenes of the cartoon cat smoking a cigarette and the cartoon mouse smoking a cigar. One viewer's complaint sparked the move. Do they get Scooby Doo in England and does that one viewer know what goes on in the back of the Mystery Machine?

23 / August
23 / August
Worth Repeating #28

"In a much quoted passage in his inaugural address, President Kennedy said, 'Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.' It is a striking sign of the temper of our times that the controversy about this passage centered on its origin and not on its content. Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic 'what your country can do for you' implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man's belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, 'what you can do for your country' implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served."
--Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, 1962

Liberal Baby Bust

Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger advocated forcible sterilization and concentration camps to isolate genetic undesirables from the fertile populace. Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich promoted a lottery award for couples who limited reproduction and called for military force to stop Indians from reproducing. Paul Watson, a founder of Greenpeace, counsels: "Don't bring any more humans into being." All of this anti-human agitation on the Left is apparently having an effect.

"Simply put," Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks writes in the Wall Street Journal, "liberals have a big baby problem: They're not having enough of them, they haven't for a long time, and their pool of potential new voters is suffering as a result. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a "fertility gap" of 41%. Given that about 80% of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections."

22 / August
22 / August
How Many Feminists Does It Take To Screw in a Lightbulb?

Joke: "How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?" Feminist punchline answer: "That's not funny." In a few words, this joke says volumes about the handicaps liberals have in winning others over to their side. They are largely humorless.

Liberals lost a lot of people when they lost their sense of humor. When you can't laugh at people, people will laugh at you. People laugh at liberals, not with them.

Watch Bill Maher's program on HBO, for instance, and you'll see an audience laughing out of ideological solidarity, not because anything funny was said. Stephen Colbert makes people laugh, but he's the exception and not the rule. Keith Olbermann tries to make people laugh, but he mistakes sarcasm for humor. Janeane Garofalo, Michael Moore, and Dick Gregory dabble in comedy, but do so with scowls rather than smiles. I don't know the last time Dick Gregory made anyone laugh when he intended to do so.

Good comedy knows no ideological limitations. It doesn't throw away a funny joke because it offends the wrong people. It doesn't tell an unfunny joke because it offends the right people.

It's not that anyone would find a conservative comedian any more endearing than, say, liberal comic Margaret Cho--whose act probably gets replayed in hell. But there are comedians--Nick DiPaolo, Sarah Silverman, Jim Norton--whose refusal to steer clear of society's taboos sets them apart from other comedians. It's not that Norton and company are closet conservatives. (Most of their acts would offend most conservatives.) It's just that they mock liberals too, and offend the cultural guardians--who, if you haven't noticed, are no longer clergymen, Rotarians, and PTA moms. Perhaps this rebellion against the gatekeepers was the reason that the gatekeepers at Comedy Central cancelled Tough Crowd, a two-years-dead show that often featured Norton, Silverman, and DiPaolo. As one liberal blogger complained, Tough Crowd was "too tolerant of errant racist minds. To watch the show became an exercise in watching hate. I can't do that, and have no respect for it (sorry, am still a Democrat)." Why let politics get in the way of a laugh?

There is no liberal South Park. This is partly because modern liberalism has made too many targets, and too many topics, off limits to ridicule and jokes. One person still open to ridicule is the president of the United States, particularly when a Republican. This masterfully spliced video, the Evil State of the Union, shows that at least a few liberals remain who have retained a healthy sense of humor.

Time ♥ Hillary

Hillary Clinton appears on the cover of Time magazine this week, 17 months before residents of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire cast ballots in the first presidential primary. That's advertising Joe Biden, Mark Warner, Evan Bayh, and other Democratic hopefuls can only dream of enjoying.

Hillary Clinton's visage has graced the cover of Time magazine 11 times since she entered the national stage in 1992 when she explained that she was not one of those Tammy-Wynette, stand-by-your-man wives. She turned out to be just that. Perhaps that makes her a hypocrite, but one whose actions rise above her words.

Time has given Hillary a 50th-birthday card, rebuked the press on her behalf for its interest in her husband's extramarital dalliances, and provided free front-cover advertising for her bestselling autobiography. Hillary is a controversial figure, but up until this latest cover, which features voting boxes next to the words "Love Her" and "Hate Her," its readers would hardly know this--at least if they read only Time they would hardly know this.

Ron Robinson, president of Young America's Foundation, has for years given an excellent presentation that utilizes the covers of Time and Newsweek to show media bias in action. If you're Pat Buchanan, you become a Hell Raiser employing "scapegoat politics" on Time's cover and a "Bully Boy" on Newsweek's. If you're Newt Gingrich, you get the grim five-o'clock-shadow shot appearing on the cover. If you're Rush Limbaugh, you get caricatured angrily screaming fire into a microphone. If you are Hillary Clinton, you need not worry about such treatment.

21 / August
21 / August
Murder Isn't Martyrdom

The Muslim concept of martyrdom leaves something to be desired. The liberal way that Muslim leaders use the term tacitly admits this. British Muslim leader Azzam Tamimi proclaimed that "dying for your beliefs is just." Saying, "killing for your beliefs is just," simply wouldn't do. Instead, even though Tamimi is speaking of people who kill (and intentionally kill civilians for that matter) for their beliefs--the fact that they die in the process is incidental--he conjures up images of sacrifice and martyrdom. Blowing up a pizza shop, flying a plane into an occupied building, and riding the morning train with a bomb strapped to your chest is murder, not martyrdom.

19 / August
19 / August
Guilty of Something

Who knows, John Mark Karr may not be guilty of JonBenet Ramsey's murder. But he's guilty of something. I accuse him on the following crimes, which may not be actual crimes in the law books but they should be:

Guilty of not using the neck machine at the gym
John Mark Karr's neck is roughly the size of my wrist. If his head were any larger, it would certainly flop around like a baby's.

Guilty of pulling his pants up to his chest
Leaving aside his lame Polo shirt and bargain-bin slacks, John Mark Karr's pants literally extend above his belly button. Martin Short's Ed Grimley comes to mind.

Guilty of writing really bad poetry
His poem, JonBenet, My Love, reads: "JonBenet, my love, my life. I love you and shall forever love you. I pray that you can hear my voice calling out to you from my darkness--this darkness that now separates us." Is this for real, or does this guy just have a really twisted sense of humor?

Guilty of the classic, three-name, serial-killer stylings
Does anyone that you know use three names? If so, call the police and tell them there's a serial killer--actual or potential--on the loose. Arrest him before his three-name curse causes him to harm others. On second thought, I suspect few serial killers, mass murderers, or otherwise creepy people actually went by three names before their arrests. Perhaps this is a police thing to prejudice the public, or more likely a media thing to differentiate the criminal from other people by the same name. Anyhow, I'm open to withdraw this charge if evidence shows that John Mark Karr went by John Karr before his arrest. If he played on the three-name team, then he should certainly go away for a very long time.

Guilty of the pedophile look
Some women have the come-hither look. Some men have the I'm-gonna-kill-you look (Some men shave their heads and grow gotees to purposely get this look, which defeats the purpose). John Mark Karr has that I-don't-date-older-than-my-shoe-size look. He's so creepy that he creeps out the creepy people. My sense is that at some point in his life, he went door-to-door offering to baby-sit strangers' kids for free.

That's my five-count indictment. Did I miss anything? Anyone care to come to Mr. Karr's defense? What type of punishment does justice demand for such offenses as bad poetry, wearing regular slacks as if they were overalls, and adopting the pedophile style?

18 / August
18 / August
Open Thread

It's not only Friday, but it's a Friday in August--a good time for an open thread. Say anything about anything in the comments section.

17 / August
17 / August
JonBenet Ramsey's Killer a School Teacher?

After all these years, I'm shocked that JonBenet Ramsey's alleged killer has been arrested. I'm not shocked that authorities arrested him in Thailand. I'm not shocked that his profession is "school teacher."

Just this week, police arrested a middle-school drama teacher in Waltham, Massachusetts for allegedly staging an elaborate production designed to molest male teens by offering them massages from prostitutes, then blindfolding them, donning a wig, and pretending to be the female masseuse. On August 10, police arrested another middleschool teacher, in New Jersey, for allegedly attempting to lure children into his car. On Tuesday, Jacksonville, Florida police arrested a teacher in a 13-year-old's house he had chatted with over the internet after a relative, wondering why the boy hadn't gone to school, arrived at the house to find the teen in his underwear and a strange man locked in the bathroom. Surely the teachers' union will be outraged when they learn that one of their own helped a student play hookey, no?

Teachers in Vacaville, California, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Newport News, Virginia also found themselves in trouble this last week in relation to alleged sex crimes with minors.

I'm unaware of any Catholic priests arrested on molestation charges in the same period. I'm sure that if one were arrested, I would have heard about it. The media have been pretty dogged in exposing Catholic priests who molest children. But what of teachers? Except when a woman is involved, especially a good-looking one, the national media hasn't made much of a fuss over what seems, anecdotally at least, to be a disproportionate number of age-of-consent violators within the ranks of the teaching profession.

Like almost all Catholic priests, almost all teachers stay clear of sex offenses involving teens and children. But like priests, teachers occasionally find colleagues embroiled in scandals involving children. Sure, there are millions of teachers, meaning that they encompass a wide variety of humanity. And sure, the measure of trust parents put in them necessarily inflates the public outrage when a teacher, rather than say a gas-station attendant, gets sexually involved with a child. But doesn't it appear, at least, that a high percentage of pederasts and pedophiles are pedagogues?

Teachers, we are led to believe, are altruistic people who enter their profession to give back to the community. Some fit that description. Others are attracted to the long vacations, short hours, and unparalelled job security. My guess is that John Karr, the man arrested in JonBenet Ramsey's murder, found education attractive because it afforded him the opportunity to meet and gain the trust of children.

Karate instructor? Boy Scout troop leader? Little League coach? Catholic priest? School teacher? These positions seem to be popular among those charged in sex-crimes cases involving children. Does it require all that much common sense to conclude that those who are attracted to children are also attracted to professions that put them in contact with children?

16 / August
16 / August
The House That George Tore Down

Major League Baseball players voted Yankee Stadium the toughest place to play. They will not have to play there much longer. The Yankees broke ground on a new $1 billion stadium on Wednesday. The new Yankee Stadium will open in 2009.

Where the Girls Aren't

The suttee and foot binding are gone, but the patriarchy remains entrenched in India and China--because of abortion. The statistics from the Chinese government in 2000 purport a male/female baby-birth ratio of 117 to 100 in China. Things aren't much better for baby girls in India. About 93 baby girls are born for every 100 baby boys born in India. Where does NOW come down on all this?

Worth Repeating #27

"So likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favourite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and Wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification: It also leads to concessions to the favourite Nation of priviledges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld: And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favourite Nation) facility to betray, or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation."
--George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

15 / August
15 / August
Red, White, and Brown

The face of America is changing. The Census Bureau reports that in 48 states, the proportion of ethnic minorities has increased. In just two states, West Virginia and Hawaii, the proportion of non-Hispanic whites has increased.

We Don't Report. You Decide.

Gunmen kidnapped Fox News reporter Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig on Monday in Gaza. A reporter's worst nightmare is becoming the story he's covering. This happened here--and worse, way worse. How does one objectively report on a story when one is the story? One option, I suppose, is to not report at all. This is what Fox News has instructed most of its journalists and talking heads. The kidnapping is newsworthy, but somehow off limits. Do journalists have a double-standard on information when that information stands to affect other journalists? Or, does Fox News want its on-air talent to largely avoid discussing on this very real story because it is at the heart of this very real story? At least one line from Fox News Channel's controversial directive to its staff won't elicit controversy: "DO pray for their release." Those journalists, brave enough to leave the studio and get the story in dangerous territory, could certainly use our prayers.

The War of the Worlds

Certain Earthlings wish to make war on another world. They call themselves scientists, and they aim at nothing less than the destruction of the ninth planet. It's not that they want to nuke Pluto. It's just that they no longer want to call it a planet. Clyde Tombaugh would be mad. But since he discovered Pluto, other objects similar in size have been discovered in that vicinity orbiting the Sun. If Pluto gets to be a planet, why not Xena?

Is science up for a vote? The International Astronomical Union places the general question of planets, and the specific question of Pluto, before its general assembly tomorrow. Longtime FlynnFiles readers will recall the debate over whether Pluto constitutes an actual planet or a mere Kuiper Belt Object. The resolution of this debate, at least within the IAU, will either open the floodgates to dozens of new planets, or make planethood a restrictive club open to objects meeting strict criteria, such as size, orbit, and atmosphere.

The IAU assures that its decision will be based on the best science. Clearly, it's not science, but subjectivity that will determine what is and isn't a planet. That's because "planets" are socially constructed. Many, many objects--not just the nine "planets"--orbit the Sun. Are they all planets? That depends on how you define "planet," which is what the IAU aim to do. Must a planet be a certain size? Must it have a moon? Must it be spherical? Must it orbit anything? Must it have an atmosphere? Must it have a core?

The objects floating around space don't fit into neat little man-made categories. The ones that do will be called "planets." The ones that don't will force scientists to rethink the concept.

14 / August
14 / August
Cease Fire

Israel witnessed the creation of Hezbollah the last time it invaded Lebanon. This time, Israel could not inaugurate its destruction. By virtue of surviving the onslaught of the Israeli military, Hezbollah emerges from the war bloodied, though still standing, and thus it can claim victory. The losers, clearly, are the Lebanese people, who are more than 1,000 fewer because of the Israeli offensive and don't have the ejection from their midst of the private army Hezbollah to show for it. Israel, too, loses. The kidnapped soldiers they went to war over remain in the hands of their captors. Hezbollah remains armed and in charge in southern Lebanon. Israel made bitter enemies of the Christians and moderate Muslims living in a neighboring country and provoked international opprobrium over the killing of civilians. And Israel, of course, endured hundreds of casualties. Perhaps it's too early to assess the war. The combatants have ceased firing. But they haven't really laid down their arms, have they? The weapons are on safe, but they're at the ready, fully loaded.

An Unlikely, and Undeserving, GOP Hero

"I don't mind the church converting a whore," three-term Indiana Senator James Watson told former Democrat and soon-to-be Republican nominee Wendell Willkie, "but I don't like her leading the choir the first night." The blunt quip evokes thoughts of William Kristol's printed daydream of Joe Lieberman, eight years after serving as the Democratic vice presidential nominee, playing the same role for the Republicans. At least Willkie became a Republican before the Republicans nominated him in 1940.

A conservative can defend supporting Joe Lieberman in a race between him, Ned Lamont, and a Republican with little chance of winning. But what would provoke a conservative to suggest that Joe Lieberman should be next in line for the presidency?

Human Events takes exception to Kristol's article, noting that Lieberman voted against the ban on partial-birth abortions, President Bush's tax cuts, and Judge Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court, and for the assault-weapons ban and U.S. compliance with the Kyoto accords. "In short," Pat Buchanan writes in his column, "the Weekly Standard wishes to see, on a Republican ticket and a heartbeat away from the presidency, a proud liberal Democrat who supports partial-birth abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, gay rights, affirmative action, reparations for slavery, gun control, higher taxes on the top 2%, distribution of condoms in public schools and driver's licenses for illegal aliens.... But as long as you support war in Lebanon, war in Iraq and a 'war-fighting Republican Party,' in the Weekly Standard's phrase, you get a pass on everything else." Perhaps Buchanan holds a grudge. Kristol, after all, told the New York Times he would cast a ballot for John Kerry before casting one for Pat Buchanan.

This Lieberman fetish is a symptom of a disease among Republicans of lionizing anyone who inflames the Left rather than promoting those who effectively advance conservative ideas and policies. Within a fractured party, the position of being against the other side is always the safest and most unifying. Joe Lieberman, however, fails even this weak benchmark. Connecticut's junior senator is not even against the Democrats. The Democrats, at least most of them, are just against him.

The primary ousting of Joe Lieberman tells us a lot about the Democratic party's move to the Left. It tells us a bit about the conservative movement's swing leftward as well. The former may prove beneficial to Republicans seeking office. Both will prove disastrous to conservatives.

13 / August
13 / August
The Great Black Hope

Oleg Maskaev scored a technical knockout against heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman in the 12th and final round on Saturday night. The 37-year-old Kazakhstani joins Iron Curtain compatriots Wladimir Klitschko, Serguei Lyakhovich, and Nikolai Valuev as holders of heavyweight titles. From Sonny Liston to Lennox Lewis, a black man held the heavyweight championship. From 1962 through 2005, other than the Canadian-Jamaican-Brit Lewis, an American black held the heavyweight title--the real, the linear heavyweight championship. But now, in 2006, not only is the linear heavyweight champion white and foreign, but his co-titlists--holders of belts of varying importance--are also white and foreign. In fact, all of them boxed within the amateur system of the former Soviet Union. Where are all the American heavyweights? At Oklahoma, Penn State, and Miami? Perhaps. Boxing has declined as a sport across racial lines in the United States. There is an undefeated white American heavyweight--Joe Mesi--who, up until his career got derailed by Soviet fighter Vassily Jirov, contended for the heavyweight championship. And there is a black man, Samuel Peter, who might very well knock the heads off all of the current beltholders. Alas, Peter is a Nigerian. Where are the African Americans, who have owned this--the most illustrious title in all of sports--for most of the last one-hundred years? Where are today's Muhammed Alis, Joe Louises, Jack Johnsons, and Mike Tysons? They may be on the football field, in front of the classroom, in the board room. They're not in the ring.

11 / August
11 / August
Friends in Low Places

A suspect in the British terror plot to explode planes in transatlantic flight allegedly met Member of Parliament George Galloway on numerous occasions. No one is surprised.

The Mainstream Reverses Stream

Nearly 3 in 4 Americans supported the Iraq war when the Iraq war was a dream. Now that it's a reality, and one that doesn't conform too closely to the fantasy outlined by the armchair generals, 3 in 5 Americans oppose it.

10 / August
10 / August
Sobering Up on Bush

National Review got drunk off George W. Bush. The hangover has been bad. Sober, the publication's editor offers an appropriately sober assessment of Bush's delusion that Western institutions--democracy, religious tolerance, free speech, etc.--are really universal desires. Everyone may want to be free. Not everyone wants you to be free.

Terrorist Bust

The British police claim to have uncovered a plot to blow up twenty or more aircrafts in mid flight. "Overnight police have arrested a number of people in London," a deliberately vague statement from the police announced. Flights from Britain to the United States face especially stringent security screening, which will result in lengthy delays. Does this mean some of the conspirators remain at large? As described, the terrorist conspiracy closely resembles Operation Bojinka, a complex terrorist endeavor in the mid-'90s aimed at blowing up numerous airplanes in flight. It's more than a decade later, and terrorists apparently remain transfixed on this old plan. Lack of imagination? An amazing amount of patience? A little bit of both?

UPDATE: The initial reports of a terrorist plot involving more than twenty planes has been scaled down to 6-10 planes. Rather than "a number" of arrests, the UK now states it has "21" under arrest in connection with the plot. Stateside, the color alerts are not only back, but raised to "red"--the highest level.

Sore Loserman Redux, Kinda Sorta

This may be the first time in American political history when a bumpersticker taunt--Sore Loserman--gets recycled by the party it initially derided. Six years after refusing to accept defeat as Al Gore's runningmate, Joe Lieberman refuses to accept defeat in Connecticut's U.S. Senate race. This time around, he may have a point.

Joe Lieberman can win a general election race in Connecticut. He's thinking: Why not go for it? Well, because you sought to make the Democrats' team, and, when you got cut, you took your ball and went home, nay, you took your ball and joined an opposing team. This makes Joe Lieberman a sore loserman in the eyes of many Connecticut Democrats, even ones who marked his name on their ballots.

With the endorsements of Bill, and Hillary, and Harry, and Barack, as well as Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the AFL-CIO, and Human Rights Campaign, Joe Lieberman lost a Democratic primary. Without them, the Joementum slows. Joe loses all of his powerful friends in running as an independent. He either loses his committe posts in the Senate, or gets bailed by an unholy alliance with the Republicans. Neither scenario plays well in Connecticut. His run will be a lonely one.

Yet, as Lowell Weicker's governorship proves, independents can win in Connecticut. Theoretically, Lieberman can retain part of his primary support, win independents, and even pick up Republican support. But this scenario ignores all those powerful people, who used to be friends of Joe, now hanging out with their new pal Ned. It ignores that there is an actual Republican in the race, who will attract Republican votes. It ignores the Iraq war, which is unpopular among the independents Lieberman seeks to court, just as it is unpopular among the Democrats who rebuffed him. It ignores Lieberman losing committee assignments in the Senate, Ned Lamont elevating Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger by debating him and him alone, the funds that used to bankroll Lieberman's campaigns drying up, and the harm that will come to his campaign by well-wishing phone calls from Karl Rove and an endorsement from National Review. Most importantly, it ignores the fact that Ned Lamont is a lot more polished, mainstream, and attractive than the bloggers and activists who supported him. In other words, he's a formidable candidate anyhow.

Lieberman can win. That doesn't mean he will win.

Irony of ironies: just a few years after winning the most votes for the vice presidency and presidency, Joe Lieberman and Al Gore likely will hold no office. Political life has gone down hill for these running mates ever since 10 p.m. on November 7, 2000, when CBS News retracted its election-night projection. In the hours before that cruel reversal, their dreams for the future were far more grandiose than the realities life has since handed them.

09 / August
09 / August
Irregular Joes

Joe Lieberman and Cynthia McKinney weren't the only incumbents rejected by their party on Tuesday. Joe Schwarz, a pro-choice Michigan Republican who voted for McCain-Feingold, against drilling for oil on government land in Alaska, and for federal funding of stem-cell research on embryos, felt the agony of defeat too. Tim Walberg played Ned Lamont to Joe Schwarz's Joe Lieberman. Embarass the party and feel the party's wrath. Cynthia McKinney didn't learn this lesson when she lost in 2002, and it's doubtful she learned it last night. Insult the party's base and the party's base will insult you. A pair of irregular Joes learned this on Tuesday. The activist base of both parties gets ignored in general elections. Candidates who ignore the ultras of their parties on primary day risk getting ignored in the ballot box.

Worth Repeating #26

"Systems always breed more systems; when new liberating movements arose in England and on the continent during the 17th and 18th centuries, they took the familiar European forms of anti-systems. Thus, 'the Enlightenment,' which claimed to free men from superstition and from the dogma of old authority and petrified thought, itself acquired much of the rigidity and authoritarianism of what it set out to combat. The European Enlightenment was in fact little more than the confinement of the mind in a prison of 17th- and 18th-century design. The new 'rationalism'--which Europeans boasted was their new freedom--was the old human dogmatic servitude."
--Daniel Boorstin, The Americans: The Colonial Experience, 1958

The Odd Couple

Joe Lieberman became the most vociferous proponent of George W. Bush's foreign policy among Democrats; Cynthia McKinney, its biggest detractor. It doesn't pay to be on the extremes in politics. The Iraq hawk Lieberman and the 9/11 conspiracy theorist McKinney went down together in Democratic primaries. But there's life after defeat. Senator Lieberman will likely challenge his vanquisher Ned Lamont as an independent, and stands a decent chance of winning the general election. Congressman McKinney, on the other hand, stands a decent chance of going on a hunger strike with Cindy Sheehan. She has come back before. If she does again, my guess is that it will be as this gentleman's runningmate on a national ticket.

08 / August
08 / August
Whither the Democrats?

What a difference a few years make. In 2000, Democrats loved Joe Lieberman and nominated him for the vice presidency. In 2006, Democrats hate Joe Lieberman and donate money and volunteer time to defeat him. What happened? 9/11 happened. Iraq happened. George Bush happened.

Hillary Clinton's Democratic party is not Bill Clinton's Democratic party, just as Teddy Kennedy's Democratic party was not John Kennedy's Democratic party. Times change, and so do parties. This is especially true of the Democratic party. Once a states'-rights party, once a big-government party, once a party of the cultural Left, the Democratic party seems to be again undergoing a transformation. We are living in it, so it's not so obvious now. But it will be ten, twenty years down the road.

Thirty-five years ago, the Democratic party experienced its last transformation. Rebuffed by the party-controlled nominating system that elevated pro-war Hubert Humphrey in 1968, liberals and radicals spent the next four years grabbing power and changing internal rules. Eventually, they pushed aside the Richard Daleys, Scoop Jacksons, and Bob Caseys. The party of Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy became, in the immortal words of Spiro Agnew, the party of "acid, amnesty, and abortion." The primacy of cultural issues has been unquestioned within the party since that time, and during the Cold War, an anti-antiCommunism eclipsed the anti-Communism that had previously been the dominant strain.

The Democratic party is changing again. Subservience to the cultural Left on abortion is still a prerequisite for admission to the party hierarchy. But where one poses in relation to the president, particularly the president's foreign policy, is increasingly seen as an article of faith within the Democracy. The Democratic party is becoming more purely leftist.

Movements seek purity. Parties seek votes. It's hard to get the latter when steadfastly pursuing the former. Democrats have proven this, but haven't learned this, over the last six years.

Unlike the Republican party, which sacrificed purity for victory after its Clinton-era exhile, the Democrats have become more extreme, and therefore more alienated from the electorate, during their time away from power. Since George W. Bush's 2000 victory, Democrats have selected a San Francisco Democrat as their leader in the House of Representatives; nominated a Massachusetts liberal as their presidential candidate; and installed the not-ready-for-prime-time-player Howard Dean as their party leader. Now the party's Robespierres seek the head of their 2000 vice presidential candidate. They may get it, but at the eventual cost of their own heads.

Joe Lieberman is a liberal Democrat who gives the appearance of moderation by his advocacy of an activist foreign policy and occasional rhetorical scoldings of liberals on such issues as racial preferences and school choice. He puts a moderate face on a liberal party. He's like a poor man's Daniel Patrick Moynihan in that he can speak conservative but can only vote liberal. This combination makes it hard to understand why conservatives want him to win so badly and liberals want him to lose so badly. Alas, symbolism trumps substance in politics, and this race is all about symbolism. Defeating Democrat Joe Lieberman, the script goes, means a symbolic defeat for Republican George W. Bush. It doesn't. Joe Lieberaman is not a stand-in for George W. Bush. Liberals don't get a redo of the 2004 election, even a symbolic one. But it's strange that so many conservatives and liberals read this Democratic primary's result as a blow or boon to the Republican president.

When a Republican officeholder gets ousted for his pro-war stance, then the president will take notice. But this election means little to George W. Bush. It means quite a lot for the Democratic party. Is it a party that chases out members? Or, is it an inclusive party willing to tolerate differences of opinion? Is it a party of purity? Or, is it a party that wants to govern?

Specifically, the Joe Lieberman-Ned Lamont Senate race focuses on one issue: Iraq. Since Connecticut voters, and particularly Connecticut's voters in today's Democratic primary, oppose the Iraq war, it makes sense for them to dump the pro-Iraq war Lieberman. But John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Dianne Feinstein also supported the war. Should they be the next to go? A conservative can hope, but not about who their replacements would be. Life rule #1: It can always get worse.

The same party stalwarts who proudly affixed Gore-Lieberman stickers to their bumpers just six years ago are today working feverishly to defeat him. Joe Lieberman goes today, as John Connally, Phil Gramm, and Zell Miller went yesterday. Who goes tomorrow?

I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me

According to security consultant Roger Cressey, there are about 30 million surveillance cameras operating within the United States. I don't feel safer, just more watched.

You Ought To Be In Pictures

A freelance Reuters photographer hardly compares to CBS News' anchorman, but both scandals--the doctoring of war photos, the airing of a phony story based on phony documents--share more in common than their exposure by citizen watchdogs in the blogosphere. Specifically, both stories demonstrate that a journalist's perspective, contrary to assurances given by so many journalists, can change a story.

07 / August
07 / August
Reality Bites

Half of Americans, according to a Harris poll, believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. A third of Americans, according to a Scripps Howard poll, believe it likely that the U.S. government let the 9/11 attacks happen, or actually played a role in them. The scariest part is that the half of America that believes in Iraqi WMD and the third of America that believes in a 9/11 U.S-government conspiracy generally don't overlap. In other words, more than eight in ten Americans prefer to construct their own private "reality" than to deal with the one that confronts them.

A+ in Foolishness

"[T]he government not only permitted 9/11 to occur but may even have orchestrated these events to facilitate its political agenda," maintains a group of "scholars" employed by such institutions as the University of Wisconsin, Brigham Young, and the University of Texas. Scholars for 9/11 Truth, made up largely of degreed crackpots who believe the U.S. government orchestrated the 9/11 horrors, provides more weight to George Orwell's aphorism that some ideas are so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.

04 / August
04 / August
Fashion Police

Cooperalls in the NHL? Painter's caps in the major leagues? Billowy clouds on a football helmet? ESPN.com's supercool Page 2 is taking a tally on the worst fashion choices in sports. My vote goes to the circa-1980s Vancouver Canucks. Who gets your vote for worst uniform in professional sports history?

03 / August
03 / August
Where Is the Quentin Roosevelt of the Iraq War?

Marine Phillip Baucus, the nephew of Montana Senator Max Baucus, died in combat in Iraq this past weekend. To my knowledge, Corporal Baucus is the closest relative to a Congressman killed in action in Iraq. According to this dubious source, less than one percent of the members of Congress have a child in Iraq.

Might members have voted differently on the war had the lives of their children been directly affected? Maybe. It is a good idea to have elected representatives actually represent those they represent. It is also a good idea not to immunize representatives from the affect of the votes that they cast. Might it be that the lives of those who govern are too distant from the lives of the governed?

About one in four current members of Congress served in the military, a ratio that has declined dramatically in recent decades. As the proportion of veterans has dropped, the willingness to use force, in Panama, in Kuwait, in Somalia, in Kosovo, in Bosnia, in Haiti, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in places I've forgotten about, has increased. Would they be so quick to draw had they been involved in previous gunfights?

An informed Congress is best. Experience is an excellent way to become informed. The lack of experience in so important an area as the military detaches Congress from its most important Constitutional responsibility. Obviously, Congressmen can't help but voting on a great many issues in which they have limited experience. But this experience, military experience, is somehow of greater importance, at least in the context of being an elected representative in Washington, than, say, experience in the space program or experience as a school teacher. A veteran voting on war is an informed vote. A veteran voting on war also feels immune from attempts to impugn his patriotism should he vote for peace. The vote he casts is thus in someway freer from outside influences than the vote cast by his non-veteran colleagues.

Senator Baucus's nephew's death brings to mind an earlier time in American history when the children of public servants, as a matter of family honor, actively sought service. Like Max Baucus and Iraq, Theodore Roosevelt advocated American entry into World War I. So infectious was Roosevelt's martial spirit that his son Kermit jumped the gun on America's entry into the Great War by joining the British army. His four other children, including daughter Ethel who went to France as a nurse, served in World War I as well. Theodore, Jr. was gassed by the Germans, and lived to tell about it. Like his brother Kermit, Theodore took unnecessary risks and was known more for his courage than his judgment. Quentin, the baby of the family, took the greatest risk by flying, at a time when flight was in its second decade, behind enemy lines.

Quentin, a 20-year-old kid who dropped out of Harvard and postponed a marriage to fight in the war, was killed somewhere over France. Like the offspring of current politicians of import, Quentin Roosevelt was a child of privilege. Unlike the offspring of so many current politicians of import, the twenty-sixth president's son did something to tell the world he understood the duties that come with privilege. He never got his diploma from Harvard. He never married his sweetheart. He never became president. He never did these things because he went to war and made the ultimate sacrifice.

They don't make jingoes like Teddy Roosevelt anymore. And they certainly don't make politicians' sons like Quentin Roosevelt anymore, either.

The Black Sheep of Liquors

Overlooked amid Mel Gibson's rebellion against law and custom is his affront against good taste. Sure, Mel Gibson drove drunk. Sure, he invoked a cop's religion and declared that practitioners of that faith lurk behind all wars. Sure, he created his own unmentionable name for a female cop. But what about his choice of booze? The man had an unsealed bottle of tequila in his car. Tequila?

Tequila is gross. It's not as gross as the tequila-flavored beer Tequiza, but as far as the big five go--gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila--tequila is dead last. It is disgusting straight, leaving behind an unsavory flavor that tastes like Jose Cuervo and all of his cousins vomited in the back of your mouth. Gentlemen prefer rubbing alcohol.

It mixes, at least with regard to simple drinks, horribly too. I know, I know. Tequilla is a key ingredient in Long Island Iced Teas, Margaritas, and other popular bar drinks. Making those drinks right, however, requires not just any old diploma from bartending college, but a Ph.D. They are too complicated to make, particularly when you are drinking them too.

I was unlucky enough to win a bottle of tequilla a few years back. I got around to drinking it in June. I tried mixing it with Coke. You can't go wrong with Coke, right? It mixes smoothly with rum and whiskey, and is certainly drinkable with gin and vodka. But tequilla doesn't play well with others. The concoction hit on my gag reflexes. I asked a relative, quite familiar with such elixers, what mixes with tequilla. Fresca. He was right. The Fresca-tequila mix didn't quite erase the painful memories of the Coke-tequila mix, but it worked. Unfortunately, when making a liquor palatable requires the purchase of an obscure soft-drink--one not even found in most vending machines--then that liquor deserves its bad reputation.

Hang around with the Black Sheep of Liquors and people might think of you as a black sheep too. Mel Gibson offended Jews, women, and cops. Mel Gibson offended enlightened drinkers too. On their behalf, I demand an apology.

02 / August
02 / August
Worth Repeating #25

"Hypocrisy is a sort of homage which vice pays to virtue."
--François Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Reflections or Sentences and Moral Maxims, 1665

Gimme Shelter, a Tax Shelter

Why are people who want to control the money they earn dubbed greedy while people who want to control the money others have earned dubbed humanitarians? "Stingy Stones Avoid Tax on £240m Fortune" reads the headline of a story in the Daily Mail that claims Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts have paid just £4 million in taxes since 1986. That's £4 million more than most pay. Will the Daily Mail next run a story on three average Joes who have paid £3.9 million or so less in taxes over that same period?

Most people shelter their money from petty robbers in their pockets or at banks. But bigger robbers call for more elaborate methods. That's where tax shelters come in. No smart person would leave there money unsheltered around robbers.

In a world with freedom of movement, successful individuals will leave nations that punish success and move to nations that allow the successful to keep their rewards. There's nothing greedy about doing that. There's something stupid about not doing that. Stereotypes aside, many rock stars are not stupid. George Harrison famously complained of onerous, 94 percent tax rates in Harold Wilson's Great Britain. Pink Floyd became UK tax refugees in the late 1970s. The Stones, of course, didn't just figure out the benefits of sheltering their money twenty years ago, as someone reading this Daily Mail story might mistakenly think. In 1971, the Stones moved to the French Riviera and became tax refugees. Their famous exile produced a more famous exile--Exile on Main Street, the group's best album.

Rather than shame the Stones into unsheltering their money in the United Kingdom, the Daily Mail's article should shame the United Kingdom into creating a tax climate in which the successful would feel comfortable leaving their money unsheltered. We know that it won't.

01 / August
01 / August
MTV @ 25

Did you ever have a friend who used to be cool but went down the spaz path? That's how I feel about MTV. Music Television turns twenty-five today. MTV used to be a friend, but I won't be celebrating its birthday.

I like to think that MTV doesn't exist anymore. We didn't know it when it happened, but MTV died a long time ago. Some would claim MTV died when the network replaced their original VJs--Martha Quinn, Triple J, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and Nina Blackwood--with Adam Curry and Grace Slick's daughter. Others would cite the introduction of Remote Control and other non-music shows into their lineup. Yo! MTV Raps was certainly a sign of things to come, as was The Real World, which ushered in reality television (or did Cops do that?). MTV died a thousand deaths. No one moment, but a collection of moments, did it in.

Rather than "Music Television," MTV now more closely resembles Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous for really dumb seventeen-year-olds. Whatever day the E! Channel launched, MTV should adopt that as its birthday. That's their real parentage. I want my MTV, not the celebrity worship, not fantasy shows about obtaining beautiful cars, cribs, and girls, and certainly not reality-style shows about minor celebrities that amount to advertisements for their careers.

Hell hath no fury like an MTV viewer scorned. It's hard to grasp this now, but MTV once offered something worth watching and listening to. Do they make weirdo videos like David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" anymore? How would today's MTV react to major bands offering multiple videos from the same low-budget shoot, as The Police ("Spirits in the Material World," "Demolition Man," "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic") and The Who ("You Better You Bet," "Don't Let Go the Coat," "Another Tricky Day") did back in the day? What of videos of graying rockers, such as Nick Lowe's "Cruel to Be Kind," featuring what appears to be the singer's rather average girlfriend and a bunch of his friends celebrating a faux-wedding? Think that would make it to TRL? I prefer my videos closer to cable access than Hollywood blockbuster.

Even into the '90s, MTV offered worthwhile music programming. Alternative Nation and 120 Minutes were must see TV. For the mullet crowd, there was Headbangers' Ball. MTV Unplugged aired acoustic takes on electric tunes from everyone from 10,000 Maniacs to LL Cool J. But mission creep happened, and Music Television stopped being music television. Even on the rare occasion when the station plays actual music videos, they do so with an appeal to the tacky celebrity culture that they cater to: stars whose second careers are music--JLo, Hillary Duff, Paris Hilton--get airplay.

The lyrics of The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star," MTV's first bit of programming, proved especially prescient. Video did indeed kill the radio star. But it's actually the fledgling network's second clip that gave greater insight into MTV's future. Pat Benatar's "You Better Run," a mediocre song that pales next to the profound synth prophecy that played before it, whispered to anyone paying attention: MTV goes downhill from here.