Saturday, August 26, 2006

"Prevaricators' Club Championship" Dept

Heard a good one today.

The Down Home Prevaricators' Club is having its annual liars championship, and Jim Bob Wayne, the defending champion, is looking good for being crowned again, having claimed to be the only person ever to have gone over Niagara Falls in a barrel -- from the bottom to the top. Nobody has topped that one and there is only one contestant left. But that last contestant is Jim Bob's downfall; he wins the event with the following few words:

"I must object to Jim Bob's entry and insist that he be disqualified. This contest is, as you all know, a contest of lying -- and Jim Bob's story isn't a lie; it's the gospel truth. He did go up Niagara Falls in a barrel. I know that for a fact...because I was there that day, and I watched him do it."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Jimmy Carter, bastion of good sense and charity, demonstrates his insight into and compassion for those who disagree with his religious opinions

Jimmy Carter gives an interview to Spiegel that is full of the humility and charity that we've come to expect from the man. Such as this, for example:

The fundamentalists believe they have a unique relationship with God, and that they and their ideas are God's ideas and God's premises on the particular issue. Therefore, by definition since they are speaking for God anyone who disagrees with them is inherently wrong. And the next step is: Those who disagree with them are inherently inferior, and in extreme cases -- as is the case with some fundamentalists around the world -- it makes your opponents sub-humans, so that their lives are not significant. Another thing is that a fundamentalist can't bring himself or herself to negotiate with people who disagree with them because the negotiating process itself is an indication of implied equality. And so [the Bush] administration, for instance, has a policy of just refusing to talk to someone who is in strong disagreement with them -- which is also a radical departure from past history. So these are the kinds of things that cause me concern. And, of course, fundamentalists don't believe they can make mistakes, so when we permit the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, it's just impossible for a fundamentalist to admit that a mistake was made.

They should be more like Mr. Carter, a man who is well known for his ability to admit to his own screwups...

Actually, what's hilarious is listening to Carter complain about how, "There's no doubt that this administration has made a radical and unpressured departure from the basic policies of all previous administrations including those of both Republican and Democratic presidents." The reason this is hilarious is simply that up until Carter there was an ironclad tradition that former Presidents did not openly criticize incumbents, a tradition from which Carter has made a radical and unpressured departure.

I don't know that fundamentalists really consider themselves morally superior to everybody else, but it's impossible to read that interview without understanding how very morally superior to fundamentalists Carter considers himself to be.

LaShawn Barber helps clarify the moral issue of profiling

LaShawn gives us a hypothetical:

Over the past 10 years, numerous jewelry store robberies have been committed by mostly young white women who may belong to a cult that believes followers will become goddesses if they steal a certain number of diamonds for the cult leader. These women are difficult to catch because they tend to blend in with other shoppers and exhibit some weird mutant running ability (bionic woman-style). They dress, speak, and behave normally, but they’re almost always alone when committing the crime. Would it make more sense for jewelers and law enforcement to pay special attention to a black middle-aged couple browsing or a young white woman, alone, near the engagement ring counter?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

On distinguishing between democracy and liberty

There's an interesting debate going on over at The Corner (it's hard to permalink to a debate over there but the first salvo is here) between Andy McCarthy and John Podhoretz. I think McCarthy has much the better of it on the merits of the initial subject, which was that our President says ridiculous things about the benefits of "democracy," and by both actions and words makes it clear that the central characteristic of "democracy" for him is the other words, Andy agrees with me on that point. John's initial attempt to refute him includes the statement, "Bush doesn't call [Lebanon] a 'democracy,'" which is probably the stupidest thing anybody has said on The Corner in the past six months and could only be honestly said by somebody who has spent the last year in a Trappist monastery. But as the debate moved on it got more interesting because several other topics came in.

Now, it may be that I am missing McCarthy's point as badly as I think Podhoretz is; I may well be projecting my own views onto McCarthy. I don't think I am, but I could certainly be wrong, and it is important to take note of that fact. But, with that major caveat, here's my take:

1. Podhoretz's belief that "democracy" will reform the Middle East seems to be driven by his insistence that the term "democracy" implies individual rights, and that a "democracy" that tramples individual rights is not a democracy at all. He therefore thinks that running around talking about "bringing democracy to the Middle East" is a good strategy; and he tries to defend the President against McCarthy by saying, "This is what the word means," but without (at least on The Corner) bothering to prove that that's what Dubya means. There are several things wrong with this, however.

a. The fundamental question of the direction of causality is papered over by pretending that "democracy" and "individual rights" are essentially the same thing. From a practical standpoint, it is absolutely critical to ask ourselves, "Which comes first?" if we intend -- as Podhoretz wants us to intend -- to establish both in the Middle East. It is analytically useful to have two separate terms, one of which describes the form of government (which is what the term "democracy" has meant since the Greeks coined it two and a half millenia ago) and one that describes the end to which the form of government is the means. It is, quite simply, obviously clear -- as McCarthy points out and as Podhoretz cannot hope, and does not try, to refute -- to say that the democratic form of government naturally devolves into political oppression, and that only in exceptional cases does that form of government stabilize around protection of individual human rights. When Podhoretz responds by saying, "Oh, well, but if it devolves, then it isn't a Real Democracy," he is in effect trying to redefine democracy as democracy-that-worked-out-well. But in that case, what word would he suggest we use for democracies in which the majority oppresses the minority using the democratic forms of government as a means? By Podhoretz's standards, (a) the Athenian democracy that won Marathon, lost Syracuse, fostered philosophy and killed Socrates, was not a Real Democracy; (b) there is no useful term for democracies like the Athenian one; and (c) it becomes extremely difficult to frame elegantly the fundamental problem with Bush's approach to the remaking of the Middle East, which problem is precisely how to make sure that the democracies you found end up being Real Democracies. For if you point out to Podhoretz that democracies have for most of history been the natural precursors of some form of tyranny -- a point the awareness of which was instrumental in the Founding Father's approach to creating our own Constitution -- he responds, "Oh, but that doesn't count because that's not really democracy." Podhoretz badly needs to stop playing with words and answer the question.

b. Besides, even though that may be what the word means to Podhoretz, it is not in fact what the word fundamentally means to most people in the world. Americans tend to assume that democracies and individual rights go hand in hand, but that is an artifact of our childhood programming. And not even all Americans buy into it; Al Sharpton, for example, famously once said that we had to treat Yasser Arafat with respect because he had been "democratically elected." To most people in the world "democracy" refers to the form of government; it means elections and purple fingers. If Podhoretz wants to run around talking about "democracy" all the time but does not want to be misunderstood by the very people whose culture we are trying to change, then he is a very great fool indeed. What matters is not what Podhoretz thinks when he hears the President talk about "democracy in the Middle East." What matters is, in the first place, what people in the Middle East think when they hear the President indulging in that rhetoric; in the second place, what the President himself means by it; and in a very very distant third place, what Podhoretz means by it.

c. And what the President means by it is much more, it seems to me, what McCarthy criticizes than it is what Podhoretz defends. The President absolutely does talk about the "democracy" of Lebanon, and we had to endure lots of rhetoric from the President early in the Iraq War about how the people of Iraq were "ready to take over their own government." That the people of Iraq were ready to vote, was certainly true. That the people of Iraq had a sufficiently widespread passion for equal rights for all (and a dominant majority must have that passion or else your democracy will not wind up a Real Democracy), was always pretty dubious and the longer we go the more clear it is that that passion was not, in fact, sufficiently widespread among the people of Iraq (with the notable exception of Iraqi Kurdistan). When you ask the question, "Which comes first?" and then look at Dubya's decisions and tactics, the weight of the evidence seems to me clearly to imply that Dubya thinks that democratic forms of government naturally produce a widespread respect for human rights. And this is a catastrophic error.

2. Now, in his basic idea that the Middle East should be remade, Podhoretz (due allowance having been made for his unwise use of the term "democracy") is quite right.

I say it's still the case that the only way to win under these conditions is to offer up a rival doctrine to Islamism — liberty rather than submission, the rule of law rather than the rule of Sharia. And this war against Islamism is going to take a very long time, as I think even Andy can agree.

This is absolutely true. As a refutation of McCarthy's position it seems to me to be a straw man; but as an idea in its own right it is absolutely correct. The problem is that what we ought to be talking about is precisely liberty and the rule of law, not democracy. But Podhoretz is absolutely right in the substance of what he's saying. He's committing himself to an extremely foolish rhetorical strategy that threatens the success of that very project; but he's absolutely right about the necessity of the project. If he could bring himself to shut up long enough actually to listen to what Andy is saying, he might learn something that would make it much more likely that his project would actually succeed; but that might be asking too much.

Podhoretz, in short, thinks that Andy is saying that we ought not try to bring individual liberty and the rule of law to the Middle East. In fact Andy is saying that we ought to be trying to bring individual liberty and the rule of law to the Middle East rather than "democracy," because the more you focus on and hold up as your goal "democracy," the less likely you are to establish individual liberty and the rule of law. Podhoretz's response is essentially, "Well, if the democracy doesn't produce liberty, then we've failed; but we still have to try." But McCarthy's point is that the more we and the President run around talking about and focusing on "democracy" the more likely we are to fail to establish liberty and the rule of law. Does Podhoretz think that it doesn't matter whether we fail as long as we try? I don't imagine so -- but then it would behoove him to pay attention to the point Andy is making.

I think the whole debate, in the end, reduces to this question:

Does it matter whether we call it "the Democracy Project" instead of "the Liberty Project"?

McCarthy says, in effect, yes.

Podhoretz, in whose mind Real Democracy and liberty are essentially coterminous, says, "No, it doesn't matter whether we call it the Democracy Project or the Liberty Project."

I think Podhoretz is disastrously wrong. The Middle Eastern Liberty Project is absolutely essential. The Middle Eastern Democracy Project is likely to fail precisely because people like Podhoretz and the President refuse to admit that the two are distinct, that the direction of causality is critical, that the order of implementation is therefore equally critical, and that the failure to distinguish between the two in one's rhetoric imperils everything Podhoretz and the President wish to accomplish.

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: In saying that we should bring liberty and the rule of law to the Middle East rather than democracy, I mean of course that we should focus on liberty and the rule of law rather than on democracy. Naturally the long-term goal would be to have both. But the highest priority ought to have been to establish security and liberty without worrying about voting rights, rather than to get millions of people voting while Baghdad was still a place of sectarian and criminal chaos. Moqtada al-Sadr has significant political power in the Iraqi democracy, and the Afghan democracy recently did its damndest to execute a man for converting away from Islam. Anybody who wants to convince me that Bush has not tried to establish democracy first in the hopes that a flawed democracy will usually correct itself in the direction of individual liberty for members of small minorities, is going to have a very tough sell indeed. We would have been much better off, I think -- if we really want to bring liberty to the Middle East -- had we said bluntly from the very beginning, "We will stay here and keep control of this country until such time as you people are willing to recognize the fundamental human rights of every individual including the ones who decide they disagree with your theological opinions." Had we established liberty, democracy would eventually have followed. Since we started with democracy, we are unlikely in the end to see the flowering of liberty.

"Cause of the Day" Dept

Well, we all have the things we take especially seriously.

Actually, to tell the truth, a Sri Lankan buddy gave me a sarong in college; and if I weren't married and having to hold down a consulting job (two very good reasons to remain sartorially conventional) I'd never wear anything else but a sarong in the Texas summertime. Considering that I attend Episcopalian churches I could even get away with it on Sunday morning. And in hundred-degree heat, jeans are as comfortable as a sarong in about the same way that Al Capone was as unselfish and loving as Mother Theresa.

But that still doesn't keep me from thinking the rhetoric of the Kiltmen is hilariously over the top (presumably on purpose, though if their tongue isn't in their collective cheek then that just makes it even funnier).

More proof of the superiority of the sarong: consider the movie George of the Jungle (a family favorite). No doubt you remember the line, "Hoo, boy, I'm chafing, Max. I'm chafin' big time..." A hilarious line, right? And yet...just imagine if Thor had popped out of the SUV wearing a sarong. Even funnier, even without any dialogue. Don't try to tell me I'm not right about this.

"The Family That Preys Together..." Dept

I have already admitted that I'm looking for ways to spend more time hanging out with my boys. This is one that, frankly, had not occurred to me. Perhaps I am insufficiently creative.

Hat tip to The Blog's Research Assistant.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Line of the day

From M Luo in Mark Steyn's mailbag:

"The TSA's new carry-on restrictions have things like shampoo and toothpaste banned. But I fail to see how this will inconvenience British travelers."

Since we're here we might as well note the far more serious comment from cross-dessing gay man "Simone":

In time of peace I have the freedom to disagree with Geo' Bush, Maggie Thatcher, Blair, Mark Steyn etc - but in the times we live in I can see that what divides me from these folks is like a cigarette paper compared to the chasm that divides me from Islam and those Moslems who seeks to bomb & destroy all that we have built and evolved in half a millennia since the English Civil War.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Parody site of the day: the disproportionate Jewish response of 10 May 1943

The New York Times covers the Warsaw Uprising.

Note in particular the subheading: "Jewish Resistance Shatters Hopes for a Peaceful Final Solution: How could both sides have blundered so badly?"

You should go to the site to see the entire issue of the Onion-like parody web-magazine The People's Cube, from which this particular piece is taken. I personally got a kick out of one of the sidebar notes: "Historians: Victory disproportionately awarded to the victors."

I owe somebody a hat tip but I'm terribly embarrassed because I closed the original window and now can't remember how I got there.

Ditto that

She Who Will Be Obeyed has just kicked Michelle Malkin off of her blogroll, and for pretty much exactly the same reason Michelle is gone from mine, so far as I can tell.

It's just not pretty when a formerly nice person goes all vicious. A sad thing to see. And the trouble is that Michelle doesn't have an Ann Coulter / Molly Ivins wit or cleverness of phrase...just graceless invective.

I hope she finds her way out of it someday.

Oh, and by the way, as for Michelle's readers: death threats are unspeakably contemptible even when they don't come from the Left. Nothing excuses that. Plus, I'd bet my next week's paycheck that some of the jerks who slammed Helen so viciously, also sit around and go on and on about how terrible it is that the Left engages in hate mail and death threats. (Just check Michelle's own archives, for example.)

In the meantime, I figure the least I can do is to read Helen's blog for a while. To think that it was this largely innocuous and largely reasonable post that set Michelle off...well, Michelle's pretty easy to set off these days. And the death-threatening crowd that Michelle apparently now attracts...well, Michelle has a bigger audience than Alexandra does, but I bet when Alexandra links to a liberal site the liberal she's linked to doesn't suddenly get flooded with hate mail.

Now, since I know an objection that some of my regular readers will raise: okay, yes, I realize that it's not strictly speaking reasonable for Helen to complain that the airports are not yet safe, and then complain about racial profiling -- as though you could possibly make airports safe and air travel comfortable, as Helen wants it to be, without the sort of "minimal observance" that recognizes that, um, foreign-accented men of Arab descent are rather more of a security risk than are English/American women. But look, Helen wasn't really writing a political-policy post; she was writing a self-revelatory post about how she was feeling -- you could have titled that post "Requiem for a Way of Life," so clear and poignant and almost Tolkienesque was the sense of melancholy inevitability, of a massive oaken door closing pitilessly between oneself and a carefree existence always before taken for granted but now possibly never to be recaptured. The writing is first-rate; what Helen means to do (unless I greatly misunderstand her), she does very well indeed, and it is well worth the doing.

So set aside the questionable logic. When I say the post was "reasonable," I mean that the tone was exemplary. It's just too bad that Michelle can no longer rise to Helen's level in that department.

UPDATE: I couldn't help but feel that anybody who had gotten the kind of hate mail Helen has had to put up with for the last couple of days, deserved to hear as well from the people who liked her piece. So I sent her this note, which does I think a better job of making my point than I managed in my first try (that is, in my first hack at this very post). And I encourage you guys to go read her piece, and, if you think it's a good piece, let her know -- because the people who were told that it was a bad piece (not that they actually read it themselves) have certainly let her know their opinion.

Dear Stranger ("everyday" is hardly le mot juste for your outstanding writing):

For whatever it's worth, I thought your post was first-rate (even though I would imagine I disagree with you on numberless items political). Michelle Malkin was escorted off of my blogroll premises some time ago precisely because of the behavior you suffered at her hands, even though on political philosophy (though not personal philosophy) she and I are probably very similar.

I actually do a lot of political posting, myself -- but I do most of my political posting in the comments of my friend Alexandra von Maltzan's blog, precisely because I don't want my own blog polluted with the lunatics that show up on the big political sites like Alexandra's. For a long time Alexandra -- who wants her blog to be as widely read as possible and couldn't understand that my own blog exists mostly for my own personal self-expression, not because I want to Change The World -- kept trying to get me to link back from her site to my blog so that my hit counts would go up. I finally explained carefully to her that I did not WANT my hit counts to go up -- because I wanted my children to be able to read the comments on my blog, and when the readership gets very big (at least when you allow yourself to express political or religious opinions), the lunatics inevitably show up. Alexandra works very hard on fostering civility in her comments, but nevertheless I've seen some really vile stuff in there when somebody has snuck something in overnight so that she wouldn't see it right away (for example, a ten-thousand-word, virulently obscene and nauseatingly scatological mocking of the Koran in which Mohammed and Ali are shown doing one unspeakably bestial thing after another, by someone who apparently mistook Alexandra's strong opposition to jihadism for a hatred of all Muslims). Therefore I much prefer the relative privacy of a blog that is, in practice, friends-and-family-only.

So I suppose I’m saying that even though I haven't read any of the nasty e-mails you got, I have a pretty good idea of what sort of stuff was in them. And I am so very sorry that you were their target.

It would be presumptuous of me to apologize on behalf of Michelle and the lunatics among her flock, apologizing being the privilege of those who have committed the offense in question; but I do very much regret that you were the target of their bad behavior du jour, and I hope they move on to other prey soon. In the meantime, for what little it's worth, I spoke pretty glowingly of your writing over on my extremely non-influential and very little-read blog and pointed people in your direction. I doubt you'll get more than a couple of people coming from my low-profile little site. But those who do come your way from the Redneck Peril, will be coming to enjoy your first-rate writing, not to gratify their right-wing malice.

I really did enjoy that piece very much. Thank you for writing it.

Yours respectfully,

Ken Pierce

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Pierce family tale from long ago

Granddad (my mother's father) died a few years ago, a respected and successful businessman who fought Parkinson's for two decades before finally succumbing. Perhaps Kasia and Sean and Kegan remember him. I doubt Merry does, and neither Granddad nor Nonna (who didn't last long after Granddad went) ever met any of the Kazakh kids, I don't think.

There are many Granddad stories, and I've decided I'll start telling some of them occasionally on the blog. And I'll start with one I told the boys just a few days ago, over a game of Dungeons and Dragons, where we meet on equal footing as neophytes all, as I work diligently on establishing a pasttime for me and the boys to have in common after all those years I spent on the road missing their childhood.

It says something, I suppose, about how poor my choices have been, that they haven't heard this story until now...but, hm, this post is meant to be amusing, not unattractively self-reproaching; so enough introspection.

Granddad was always a spirited chap. Even when he was in the nursing home and hallucinating from the drugs in the final days, he was irrepressible. I remember sitting there with him and Dessie and Nonna, and he started trying to reach for something that only he could see, something that he apparently couldn't reach because he was tied into the wheelchair.

Dessie noticed. "Granddad, what do you need?"

"I can't reach the bourbon."

Now, I never once saw my grandfather drunk, but he did like his bourbon, albeit in the moderation characteristic of the iron self-discipline that never seemed to desert him. We knew perfectly well where the bourbon was stashed; we also knew that it wasn't yet time for the shot he was allowed daily. So Dessie decided to outwit him -- which, I must say, was never a task to be undertaken lightly, even when he was doped up and seeing things that weren't there.

"But Granddad, there aren't any glasses."

"Of course there are glasses; I'll tell you where they are."

"No, Granddad, you don't understand -- they forgot to wash the glasses. All the glasses are dirty. You wouldn't want to drink bourbon out of a dirty glass, would you?"

Granddad pondered this for a couple of seconds and then replied decisively, "Well, I suppose we will, because it sounds like that's the only way we're going to get any bourbon."


That's not the story I told Sean and Kegan the other night, actually. The story I told them went eighty or ninety years back, back into the Prohibition days when Granddad was a teenaged boy possessed with more than his share of high spirits (the natural kind, not the alcoholic, though there was that embarrassing episode of the wagonful of bottles of homemade choc beer that started exploding from the afternoon heat as Granddad tried to drive inconspicuously down Main Street one fine summer's day...but I digress). In those days Haileyville, Oklahoma had little in the way of indoor plumbing, and so every Halloween it was traditional for the young bloods to go out and mark the occasion by tiptoeing out through the dark night and turning over other people's outhouses. Young Harold (it doesn't seem right to refer to a teenager as "Granddad") and his buddies always made a special point of upending the outhouse of one particular older gentleman of whom they did not approve and by whom they were not highly regarded. One of those vicious cycle things, alas.

Our story begins just before sundown on one particular Halloween. No moon is expected, but Harold and his friends are most definitely expected by Older Gentleman. He is engaged in making his preparations for their arrival. Nothing fancy; no reinforcing with concrete rebar or six-inch posts. No, his preparations are far simpler.

He is merely moving his outhouse six feet to the right.

Night falls; darkness descends; all is silent. Then several shadows move silently across the lawn. The silhouette of the outhouse looms up ahead of them with its silent Siren call...and then...

I personally rarely if ever heard my grandfather curse. But never could there have been a time at which a hearty, "Oh, s***!" could have been more appropriate. Whether he or his friends actually uttered this or other expletives, is discreetly left unrecorded in the family annals.

At this point, Older Gentleman is far enough ahead in the game that victory is assured, and young Harold & Company can only try to lessen the margin of defeat. They therefore relieve their outraged feelings, not by tipping over the outhouse, which now seems to them patently inadequate, but by depositing the outhouse in the middle of Main Street. Unfortunately this has the effect merely of widening the gap in the score...because it brings the proceedings to the attention of the chief of police. And for some reason -- perhaps he is psychic? -- the chief knows right away exactly which young men are to be held responsible.

Game, set and match to Older Gentleman. Ah, good times.


This reminds me of a classic anecdote from the days when every child in America knew the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. I must have heard it for the first time when I was in elementary school, but I imagine it was a chestnut long before I was born.

A relatively hot-tempered father has been saddled with a young son who takes bold creative license with the truth, and red-faced yelling and thorough switchings have had little noticeable effect. So the dad decides he'll try a different tack. He calls the boy into the living room and tells him the story of the cherry tree, ending up impressively, "And when George Washington's papa asked, 'Son, did you chop down the cherry tree?' George Washington said, 'Papa, I cannot tell a lie. I did chop down the cherry tree.' But you know what, Tommy? George Washington's father was so proud of him for telling the truth, he didn't even spank him."

Young Tommy has been listening politely though not very attentively up to this point, but this last bit grabs his attention. Unfortunately, this is not because he is struck by the contrast between little Georgie's behavior and his own. The striking contrast is between Papa Washington's behavior and what Tommy figures his own dad's reaction would be.

In fact, the more he thinks it over, the more certain he is that telling the truth to his own dad in a similar situation would produce very different results. He decides a test is in order; but unfortunately his family possesses no cherry tree. A substitute offense is required, and after some thought he decides that pushing the family outhouse over the cliff should do quite nicely. The deed follows shortly upon the thought, and then Tommy returns to the house and placidly awaits the outcome of his experiment.

A couple of hours later his father comes through the door looking quite grim.

"Hello, papa," says Tommy brightly.

His father looks at him with serious mien. "Tommy," he says sternly, "I must ask you a question. Did you, or did you not, push our outhouse over the cliff?"

Tommy folds his hands angelically and says in as sanctimonious a voice as he can muster, "Papa, I cannot tell a lie. I did push the outhouse over the cliff."

At which point his father snatches him up and proceeds to blister the barnacles off Tommy's tender young sit-me-down-upon.

Tommy is not enjoying this process, naturally, but there is always a great deal of satisfaction in having been right, and so there is a triumphant note to his voice as he objects, "But, Papa, when George Washington told the truth, his papa didn't spank him."

"That's as may be," returns his father, "but just you answer me this: was George Washington's father actually in the cherry tree when he chopped it down?"

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"Priorities" Dept

Quote of the day from Heathrow security personnel, who have been responsible for enforcing the ban on all carry-on items other than "essential items" (i.e., passport, boarding pass and wallet):

"But you'd be surprised how many women try to insist that their make-up is an essential item."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

"Lamentations of the Father" Dept

I am absolutely delighted to discover that the classic little book Lamentations of the Father is on-line. If you have never read it, and if (like me) you have children, and if (like me though not like my children) you grew up reading the King James Version regularly, then stop whatever you're doing and read it now.

And even if you aren't a KJV-conversant parent, I still think you'll find it well worth the effort.

...Likewise if you receive a portion of fish from which every piece of herbal seasoning has not been scraped off, and the herbal seasoning is loathsome to you and steeped in vileness, again I say, refrain from screaming. Though the vileness overwhelm you, and cause you a faint unto death, make not that sound from within your throat, neither cover your face, nor press your fingers to your nose. For even I have made the fish as it should be; behold, I eat it myself, yet shall not surely die....

Welcome to the party, Brendan!

Brendan Loy finally faces up to the fact that the Democratic Party is no place for the likes of him -- and, much more shockingly, his mom walks off the Democratic plantation too.

Here is my favorite passage from Brendan's piece -- just because it's so nice to see somebody who never understood how you feel, to suddenly have that light-bulb moment. Welcome to the world of people who think for themselves, Brendan.

I never wanted to be an independent. As I said earlier, it always struck me as something of a cop-out, the meaningless refuge of those who “don’t want to be labeled.” Screw that, I said; I have no problem with being labeled, so long as the label fits. But now, I finally understand where earnest independents are coming from, because now, for me, neither label fits.

Best roundup of the Reuters/AP/Times fraud stuff

Just how stupid do these people think we are? Oh, wait, I forgot -- the media is controlled by the Jewish cabal. It's the ultimate Rovian tactic!

Those Jews, they're so ingenious.

Seriously, the Zombietime guys have done a great job of sorting out and organizing the different types of fraud committed by Reuters et al in Lebanon. You really do need to read their roundup.

I should mention that Zombietime unfortunately overlooked the fact that Tyler Hicks wasn't a willing party to the New York Times fraud.)

HT: Ace, I think. Sorry I don't remember for sure, big guy.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

At this point, the Times is just a pitiful joke

For the record I don't think this farcically obvious fraud shot is politically motivated or symptomatic of Bush Derangement Syndrome or anything like that -- I think the Times photographer just wanted the money shot and figured, "Hey, it's not like my editors will ever notice -- this is the Times, after all, where editorial control and professional standards are, that's right, just like the points on Whose Line Is It Anyway." In other words, I think this is more like the second coming of Jason Blair. UPDATE: Turns out the problem is in the caption the Times ran, not the caption the photographer appears originally to have provided. The photographer appears to have identified the man only as "hurt;" the caption that clearly implies that the fallen guy was a dead body being pulled out of the rubble, came from some nameless NYT editor, not from the photographer. With Tyler Hicks having been duly exonerated, we now focus back on the Times.

The Times is, professionally, just a joke. Just pitiful. It's what a newspaper would be if Bud Selig were its editor-in-chief. They should consider renaming its news sections "Edsel" in order to try to capitalize on association with a product more competently produced than their own.

Really, I'm totally serious -- how is it even remotely possible that the Times's shareholders continue to put up with the current management team? How much more devastation has to be done to the paper's reputation -- and, as a result, its stock price -- before they decide that maybe it might be a good idea to put somebody in charge who was, oh, I don't know...what's the least marginally competent?

Hat Tip: Ace (as always, my children are forbidden to follow any links to Ace's blog). Ace, by the way, deserves immense kudos for his prescience. I quote at length, from his post of six days ago:

The American media is setting itself up for a massive scandal. One day, it will in fact come out that they are guilty of willful blindness and a deliberate avoidance of asking their stringers tough questions to maintain their own plausible deniability.

And they'll have to answer some hard questions, such as, "If you're so vigilant against being 'used' by the American government for its 'propaganda,' why are you so blithely nonchalant about being worse-used by America's enemies?"

Many of Steven Glass' colleagues looked back and wondered how they'd been fooled by his fabrications for so long. Apart from the outlandishness of some of his stories, he also had an uncanny knack for getting the Killer Quote that tied together a piece or summed it up in one pithy, bullet-point sentence. We should have known no one gets that lucky so consistently, they said later.

The American media seems to be an employing a possible Army of Steven Glasses, and yet they're more than willing to pretend they don't know what's going on so long as those suspiciously-dramatic front-page pictures keep coming back from the foreign stringers.

Ace also links to Allahpundit who is having a grand time with photos of a car that was "hit by an Israeli missile" that somehow managed not to break the windshield, and the following three pictures that cast some doubt on the good sense of U.S. News and World Report.

We have the original cover.

Then a picture that was taken, in an amazing coincidence, by the same guy who faked the Reuters shots.

Then a closeup of the "fires of war"...

Yes, that's right. The dude is posing, in his best hey-look-at-me-I'm-a-badass-Arab-warrior shtick, in front of a dump full of burning tires. On the cover of U.S. News and World Report. See, the big advantage the professionals have over the blogosphere is all that professional expertise they have and all those professional standards to which they so painstakingly adhere.

Which leads Riehl World to be somewhat unkind:

Hmmmmmmm...the pictures aren't uploading....will try to fix in a minute...

Monday, August 07, 2006

"It Was Only A Matter Of Time" Dept

Half the hard-core Republicans in the blogosphere must have had this idea in the last couple of days -- I did and I'm not even really a Republican, just a guy who thinks the media's whoring along behind the Hezbollah propaganda machine is worse than disgusting. But the Jawa Report dude seems actually to have buckled down and commenced t' photoshop.

That blog is worth exploring a little -- I also like his take on, "When does the death of one person become a massacre? Whenever a Jew does the killing, of course!"

It's 1938 all over again.

In a genuinely must-read article, Victor Davis Hanson lays it out there for you.

Money quotes:

When I used to read about the 1930s — the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, the rise of fascism in Italy, Spain, and Germany, the appeasement in France and Britain, the murderous duplicity of the Soviet Union, and the racist Japanese murdering in China — I never could quite figure out why, during those bleak years, Western Europeans and those in the United States did not speak out and condemn the growing madness, if only to defend the millennia-long promise of Western liberalism....

But nevertheless it is still surreal to reread the fantasies of Chamberlain, Daladier, and Pope Pius, or the stump speeches by Charles Lindbergh (“Their [the Jews’] greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government”) or Father Coughlin (“Many people are beginning to wonder whom they should fear most — the Roosevelt-Churchill combination or the Hitler-Mussolini combination.”) — and baffling to consider that such men ever had any influence.

Not any longer.

Our present generation too is on the brink of moral insanity. That has never been more evident than in the last three weeks, as the West has proven utterly unable to distinguish between an attacked democracy that seeks to strike back at terrorist combatants, and terrorist aggressors who seek to kill civilians....

And finally examine here at home reaction to Hezbollah — which has butchered Americans in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia — from a prominent Democratic Congressman, John Dingell: “I don’t take sides for or against Hezbollah.” And isn’t that the point, after all: the amoral Westerner cannot exercise moral judgment because he no longer has any?...

But what is lost sight of is the central moral issue of our times: a humane democracy mired in an asymmetrical war is trying to protect itself against terrorists from the 7th century, while under the scrutiny of a corrupt world that needs oil, is largely anti-Semitic and deathly afraid of Islamic terrorists, and finds psychic enjoyment in seeing successful Western societies under duress.

In short, if we wish to learn what was going on in Europe in 1938, just look around.
Read the whole thing. That is an order.

The hat tip on this is from Her Anchorship, who refers to the Hanson article in her own long and eloquent piece on the madness of those who are playing Chamberlain to Islamofascism's Nazi. And her piece is also something you should definitely read.

The counterfeit virtue of tolerance

Human nature has a couple of characteristics that come near to being constant.

1. We don’t, generally speaking, attain virtue because it’s too hard.

2. We like to think that we are virtuous.

Because of the second characteristic, even when Satan has us trapped in vice, there’s always the danger (from his perspective) that we will long for redemption and that grace will find us. Imitation virtues are the substitutes that Satan provides in the place of true virtues in order to keep us from longing after the real thing. They are the vaccine with which Satan inoculates us against the desire for genuinely admirable character by reassuring us that we already possess it.

An obvious example is the false virtue that encourages us (if I may paraphrase Sheldon Vanauken) to hate the oppressors of our neighbor, and then congratulate ourselves on how much compassion we have for our neighbor. Taking up offenses – that is, reveling in an anger that implicitly claims that our neighbor’s oppressor owes it to us not to oppress our neighbor – is a vice, not a virtue; but it is very easily confused with the virtues of compassion and of chivalry. Rachel Corrie – consumed with hatred of Amerikkka, her face distorted in rage as she burned her Amerikkkan flag, and then dying pointlessly and asininely in an utterly useless gesture of protest – was no doubt confident that she was motivated by “compassion” and was “defending the oppressed.” That any half-decent Marine does more for the oppressed than a thousand Rachel Corries or Cindy Sheehans, is something that the Corries and Sheehans can’t face up to; much less that it is really hatred, not compassion, that is their defining characteristic.

But when I think of false virtues, the one I think of first, at least in connection with America, is tolerance.

Now the true virtue that tolerance attempts to replace, is love – but when you use the word love you have to be careful because what God means by love is not generally what we mean by it. To love somebody is to desire his good; and unconditional love desires good for the other person no matter how badly that person behaves.

Of course, if a person is behaving badly, then love doesn’t necessarily mean that you stand back and let him keep doing so, especially if he is hurting other innocent people. There are some kinds of behavior that ought not be tolerated; and there are some kinds of behavior that we are emotionally incapable of tolerating. Ideally those two classes would perfectly coincide; in practice they do not. By that I mean that most of us tolerate in others some kinds of behavior we ought not tolerate, and find intolerable other kinds of behavior that we ought to put up with. What the virtue of love tells us is two things.

First, it tells us that we ought to put up with the tolerable kinds of bad behavior rather than demanding that the rest of the world, or even just one or two other people, adjust their lives and convenience to a tyranny of our peeves and peccadillos. Where our innocent desires happen to be in conflict, we should be just as willing for the other person to get his way as we are willing to get our own; for we should desire his good as we desire our own. Love makes his good, our good, because we desire for him to receive good things.

But second – and much more formidably – love tells us that even when we have to step in to put a halt to behavior that ought not be tolerated, we still have to desire the good of the person. The extreme example of this template comes from the traditional words with which we sentence people to execution: “...and from thence to the place of execution...,” because his behavior was that intolerable, but also, “...and may God have mercy on your soul,” because we do still love him and do still genuinely hope that he will yet find grace and eternal life. But any parent who has ever disciplined the child she loves, knows this dynamic intimately from personal experience that is just as real, if rather less dramatic, an outworking of this principle.

Tolerance, in other words, is not a virtue in the sense that love is. It is always good to desire the good of another person – though we may err by misunderstanding what his true good is, or how we may best advance it. But assuming that that which we desire for him is truly good, to desire it and to take that action that is most likely to accomplish his good, is always virtuous. But while tolerance is often a good thing, it also often is a bad thing. And this is particularly true when “tolerance” comes to be defined, as it is among the more foolish subcultures of the Left, as “not saying that somebody is behaving badly.”

In other words, tolerance properly speaking is allowing somebody to behave in a manner that you find morally wrong or personally annoying. You don’t like it; you don’t necessarily even pretend to like it; you may urge him to think better of his folly; but you don’t try to force him to stop. And even with that definition of tolerance, there are many types of behavior that no genuinely moral person would tolerate – for example, a man who would stand by and do nothing while a much smaller and weaker man than he raped an old lady, would not be demonstrating virtue by his tolerance of the rapist. How many more exceptions to the general rule that tolerance is good, then, will we encounter when the scope of “toleration” is expanded to include even the expression of doubt as to the factual accuracy of another person’s opinions, or as to the wisdom of his decisions!

So when tolerance is promoted to a virtue, three things happen.

1. It practically always replaces love in the “tolerant” person’s moral system. In my own experience, if you show me a person who talks about “toleration” as though it were one of the highest of all moral virtues, I can almost always show you a person who will tell you plainly that it’s impossible to hate a sin and still love the sinner – and whose behavior proves it to be true in his own case. But anyone who doesn’t understand that the more you genuinely love a sinner, the more fiercely you will hate his sin, doesn’t really understand the first thing about love.

2. It can’t be worked out coherently as a fundamental virtue because there are too many things that morally ought not to be tolerated. It can be brought into an ethical system as a derivative and contingent virtue – that is, as a course of action that under certain circumstance can be the proper expression of one or more fundamental virtues – but it can’t be a fundamental virtue itself.

3. It can’t be lived out systematically because for every individual person there are certain behaviors that he is emotionally incapable of tolerating in others.

What is so devastating about the third in particular, is that the person who has promoted tolerance to the level of a fundamental moral requirement and then finds himself face-to-face with intolerable behavior, has a fundamental emotional conflict that simply doesn’t exist for the person who is pursuing the virtue of love.

Here’s what I mean. Let us say that you have been taught, correctly, that it is your duty to love everybody with whom you have dealings – but there is that one guy that just drives you crazy, and no matter how hard you try, you just can’t help feeling most of the time that you’d like to wring his neck. Now, it is absolutely open to you to confess that emotion to God in your prayers and to choose to say to God, “He drives me crazy but bless him anyway...ideally with a brand new and much less annoying personality, if that suits Your plan for him; but at any rate, Thy will be done, and give me the grace to do for him whatever Your plan for his life requires me to do.” You can pray for the man, and thus choose to act for his good, even if all you can feel for him is annoyance or even hatred.

But what if you have been taught that tolerance – in the particular sense of not imposing your own religious opinions on others – is a moral requirement; only you’re dealing with a homophobic theocrat who wants to discriminate against homosexuals by refusing to go along with their ordination into the priesthood, or to rent apartments to gay couples? It is extremely difficult to find any way to justify bringing the law to bear on the evangelical landlord that does not, in the end, mean that you are forcing him to conform to your own religious opinion, namely, the opinion that God does not object to homosexuality. You are, quite clearly, being intolerant; which given your conviction that you need to be tolerant so that you can feel good about yourself morally, is a guilt-inducer. And while a particularly agile mind might be able to work out some set of principles under which the obligation of toleration was suspended in the case of the “intolerant,” that would still tend to leave open the question of why you should get to decide which kinds of intolerance are okay and which aren’t, plus – much more importantly – that would be a helluva lot of intellectual work.

So instead, it seems to me that the Tolerance Movement (if that calls to mind the Temperance Movement, it should, because they have much more in common than the Tolerance Brigade would like to admit) is driven much more often than not to exaggerating the moral turpitude of the people that they can’t tolerate, so that they won’t feel guity for being intolerant themselves. Since love leaves you free to say that some acts are intolerable but you can still love the person even while stepping in to make him stop what he’s doing, that particular emotional self-contradiction simply doesn’t come into play for those who pursue love. Thus the more committed you are to “tolerance” in the abstract, the more you have to demonize the people whom you can’t tolerate, in order to justify to yourself your own obvious intolerance of those people.

Even more devastatingly, I think, is this: in the very act of convincing yourself that they are so bad that you don’t have to tolerate them, you convince yourself that they are so bad that you have no moral obligation left to them at all. For after all, your fundamental obligation to them is the obligation of tolerance; but they have forfeited it. Love says that even if you have to kill them, you still have to desire their good; you still have to pray that they find grace and that you will rejoice to find them in Heaven with you for eternity. Nothing they can do can release you from the obligation of loving them. But if your core obligation is the obligation of tolerance...well, there’s plenty that people can do that relieves you of the obligation of tolerating their behavior; and if toleration is your fundamental obligation, then when they forfeit that then all bets are off...and since you are almost certainly exaggerating their degree of depravity in order to reassure yourself that it really is okay in this particular case to be intolerant, the level of viciousness is even more exaggerated.

At any rate, whatever you think of the emotional conflict I’m here hypothesizing, I think it’s a simple and obvious empirical fact that the people who make the most noise about “tolerance” have long been the people who are most active in trying to ban from the college campus speakers with whom they disagree. I think this is precisely because they have stopped valuing love and have instead made an idol out of “tolerance.”

But that’s just my opinion; I could be wrong.

"Disappointment of the Day" Dept

The most disappointing development of the day, from the Reuters perspective, may be found at Cox and Forkum.

Another heartbreaker

Offered without comment. Read it.

Hat tip: neo-neocon.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Must-read article of the day (thought it's old)

Money quote from this very thought-provoking piece on the self-destructive music of the children of the first MTV generation:

And therein lies a painful truth about an advantage that many teenagers of yesterday enjoyed but their own children often do not. Baby boomers and their music rebelled against parents because they were parents — nurturing, attentive, and overly present (as those teenagers often saw it) authority figures. Today’s teenagers and their music rebel against parents because they are not parents — not nurturing, not attentive, and often not even there. This difference in generational experience may not lend itself to statistical measure, but it is as real as the platinum and gold records that continue to capture it. What those records show compared to yesteryear’s rock is emotional downward mobility.

HT: Stanley Kurtz

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bumper sticker of the day

The Maximum Leader, guest-blogging over at the Hatemonger's, has a very nice little piece up with which I pretty much agree (give me fine, honest, friendly and armed-to-the-teeth neighbors any day is what I say). But I especially like the bumper sticker he passes on:

"Note to Self: Pillage, THEN Burn."

Gotta get me one of those...

"9-1-1...What's Your Emergency?" Dept

File under "Opposite World," I suppose.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"...But You Still Have The Wrong Number" Dept

I was standing this afternoon in a newly opened coffee shop down the street from my house that I'd never been in before. Just as I placed my order the shop's phone rang. The proprietor begged my pardon and answered the phone.

PROPRIETOR: Harvest Coffee, may I help you?

[A few seconds of silence]

PROPRIETOR: I'm sorry, you have the wrong number.

[Several more seconds of, apparently, talking on the other end.]

PROPRIETOR: Well, that's true, but you still have the wrong number.

[Several more seconds]

PROPRIETOR [still with careful politeness]: Yes, but you still have the wrong number.

[A couple more seconds of silence and then the proprietor takes the phone from his ear and disconnects, shaking his head]

PROPRIETOR [to me, in apparent bemusement]: Well, that was very...

[The phone rings...]

"New Gospels Apparently Being Found Every Day" Dept

My Nepalese friend Deepak, who sits in the cubicle across the aisle from me, was getting a lesson in Western culture a little while ago. I wasn't paying terribly close attention, but then it registers that our co-worker is saying to Deepak, "You mean you don't know about the miracle of the loaves and fishes?" So I tuned in just in time to hear her say, "Well, Jesus had to feed these people and he only had five thousand fish..."

The miracle is that those two people managed to eat it all at one sitting...

[grinning] I'm leaving my co-worker anonymous so as not to embarrass her, but I don't want anyone to think she really didn't know the story -- just an amusing spoonerism.

Speaking of Deepak, at some point I'll have to tell him that every time he mentions the name of his home town Kathmandu (the th is pronounced roughly like t in this case), I automatically think, "...whatever Kathwomanwant." Very distracting. He needs to pick a different hometown with a name less likely to inspire bad know, something innocent. I hear Thailand is nice. Maybe he could say he's from Bangkok.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Eleanor Holmes Norton vs. Stephen Colbert...hmmm, wonder who's likely to win? -- YouTube

I love YouTube. One sees a TiVo'd Colbert Report, says to oneself, "I have to blog that," and no longer even questions whether it will be available for blogging. It's a given.

Now, to business.

One would think it obvious that if you're a Congressman considering being interviewed by Stephen Colbert, you -- or at the very least one of your staffers -- would understand that you'd better meet two requirements:

1. You're not stupid.

2. You have a sense of humor.

Eleanor Holmes Norton was not qualified.

Seriously, she gives every appearance of being somebody who had no idea that it was a comic interview. So she takes offense at what are obvious jokes, lectures Colbert in all seriousness on basic civics that he of course already knows, and then decides to try to use sarcasm to make him look stupid. This last is the rough equivalent of Robin Ventura's decision to kick Nolan Ryan's butt, only rather more of a mismatch.

It's hard not to agree with Colbert's conclusion: "Now do you understand why you don't get a vote?"