Friday, May 28, 2004

Lacking historical perspective
Joe, I don't like Ann Coulter much, but she did recently write something that applies nicely to your post:
The beauty of being a liberal is that history always begins this morning. Every day liberals can create a new narrative that destroys the past as it occurred.
Speaking of which, this morning on Doug Stephan's Good Day Show, they (Doug and his co-host what's-her-name) were freaking out over the 14 Defining Characteristics of Fascism and how they prove the U.S. is a fascist state. They believe this, they talk about it openly on the radio, reaching the whole country with their panic attack and fail to see the irony of it all. Amusing, in a sad, book-smack sort of way.
Rush Limbaugh and I have something in common,
and that's our appreciation for Victor Davis Hanson. Rush referred to this article on his show this morning, pointing out that many critics of the war don't seem to have any historical perspective. That is certain, but this rings true as well:
A majority of Americans, like a majority of mankind, does not embrace a strong particular ideology that keeps them levelheaded and always resolute through either bad or good news. Most simply wish to win, and to be identified with a winner - they are as giddy with success as they are dejected with disappointment, as quick to blame others for setbacks as they are to claim credit for progress.
There's no doubt that there's a lot of this going on. Take Al Gore's recent Howard Dean impersonation as an example. It wasn't that long ago when he, too, was calling for Saddam's removal.
My post yesterday
got me thinking more broadly about a question I've had for a while: Why is that, even though liberals tend to think of themselves as more "worldly" or "cosmopolitan," they seem to have a tremendous lack of world-historical perspective? Consider the number of "Bush = Hitler" references their have been (or any right-winger equals Hitler/Nazi reference), comparing U.S. prisons to Gulags, comparing Abu Ghraib under U.S. control to Abu Ghraib under Saddam's control (e.g. Ted Kennedy's recent tirade), calling the USA Patriot Act the first step toward totalitarianism, Senator from S.D. Tim Johnson's recent comments about the "Taliban wing of the Republican Party," etc. Yes, conservatives are sometimes prone to invective like this, as well, but it's nowhere near as prevalent as from liberals, and it's typically, and rightfully, castigated as overblown rhetoric.

What never ceases to amaze me, however, is how the smallest slight, the most minute injustice can create a swell of unhinged vitriol that, as far as I can tell, is getting serious comparison to some of the most vile periods in world history, or to some of the most grizzly regimes on the planet.

Like I said below, whenever I hear somebody speak about the Nazi-like state of the U.S. government, or the Stalin-like Gulags supposedly in our country, I want to smack that person with a copy of The Gulag Archipelago or Eichmann in Jerusalem or some other text that discusses actual depravity and totalitarianism.

Additionally, I have a filter now that ceases to take anyone who can look at me, and with complete seriousness, compare some minor thing here with, say, the Great Purge, I know that person is completely out of touch and can be dismissed.

Objectivists, of which I used to be one, have a similar propensity for comparing everything either to Weimar or Nazi Germany. It gets annoying, and simply turns everybody off. Nobody bothers to listen anymore when their told, for example, that Colin Powell's Volunteerism Summit in Philadelphia a few years ago was extolling the same principles as the Hitler Youth. Childish and silly. Hitler likes compulsory volunteerism; Powell likes compulsory volunteerism. See the similarity? Good for you; you're superficial.

That's where my initial hostility to this stuff came into being, because I noticed it in my own ideological brethren, and hated it. Now I see it more often among those across the spectrum, and it annoys me just as much.

Aren't history lessons required courses? Was I the only one paying attention? Maybe asking for some perspective is too much. Though, as I mentioned before, this is a useful filter. There are a lot of people I don't pay attention to anymore because they've rendered themselves too incoherent for consideration.
Jay Nordlinger was on the Dennis Miller Show
last night, and having only read his pieces on NRO, I thought I'd watch to see what he's like. Miller had him on a panel with some other conservative whose name I don't recall and Sophie B. Hawkins, who is a pop singer and the only liberal on the panel. It wasn't fair for her, but at least she didn't buckle under the pressure.

I felt bad for Nordlinger. Everyone else, including Miller, spoke very, uh, aggressively, and then Nordlinger would say something in a relatively meek (compared to everyone else), mild-mannered tone that just kind of got lost amongst the noise. Stand up for yourself, man!

Nordlinger is younger than I thought. I love his writing, but it seems so old.
Al Gore: Uniter
The Best of the Web, under the Guilty Gore Goes Gaga section, points out that Al Gore has succeeded where President Bush has not: he has brought Republicans and Democrats to a consensus. Unfortunately for him, the consensus is that he's gone cuckoo.

UPDATE:InstaPundit has more, and concludes thusly:
I was once a big Al Gore fan, but my attitude toward him has gone beyond disappointment. Now it's something more like horror. He's lost it.
Massive gullibility
This morning's edition of the local paper carries the following story, which I offer without comment, for words escape me:
Joplin police Cmdr. Jim Hounschell said a 16-year-old female manager and a 19-year-old male cook told another manager who discovered them in the compromising position a little before 9 p.m. in the women's restroom of the Sonic Drive-in at 1030 E. Seventh St. that they were following the instructions of a man who'd called the restaurant and identified himself as a police officer.

A man who called the restaurant at 7:45 p.m. told a female manager that an elderly woman had come to the police station to report that her purse was stolen while she was at the drive-in and that a male employee was the suspect, Hounschell said. The caller asked the manager to describe the male employees on duty, and when she got to the cook, he told her that was the guy and that he needed her to conduct a strip search of him, Hounschell said.

The female manager then asked the cook to accompany her into the women's restroom.

"The caller then tells her to have the cook disrobe, and the cook does," Hounschell said. "Apparently, the caller was threatening to have her arrested if she did not cooperate. So she cooperated."

The caller then ordered the manager to perform oral sex on the cook, which she initially refused to do, he said. But he threatened her with arrest again, he said.

"He told her he'd send some officers down to arrest her," Hounschell said. "So, uh, she did."

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Reading Lolita in Tehran
Just finished this fascinating book by Azar Nafisi, currently a professor of literature at Johns Hopkins, but formerly of the University of Tehran.

A combination of litery criticism as well as memoir (no surprise, as the subtitle is "A Memoir in Books"), she discusses books by Nabokov, Fitzgerald, James and Austen. The literary criticsm is fascinating, though I admit that I haven't read too many of the books she describes. The section on Nabokov, and the one on The Great Gatsby, are the only ones where the literay comments were about books I'd actually read.

What was most fascinating about the book, however, was how she weaves each story into her life and experience in Iran. Nafisi had lived in the United States for some years, and returns to teach in Tehran. Shortly after she arrives, the Shah is overthrown, and the Ayatollah Khomeini begins his rise to power. What was once a somewhat liberal autocracy is replaced by a horrendously repressive totalitarian theocracy.

Her description of the transformation of Iranian society, particularly from the vantage point of how it affected women, is amazing. Professional, make-up wearing, laughing, flirtatious, vivacious, exciting women are transformed into faceless, formless, emotionless nothings by the rigid imposition of the veil, as well as the dictate that only the skin of the face and hands of a woman should be seen. Laughing, smiling, wearing make-up, showing your hair, being seen with a man not your relative or husband, acting in a manner "not fitting a Muslim woman" could all bring swift retribution from roving patrols.

The book focuses on a book club that she forms in her home with some of her prize female students. In this club, they read the books that she loves so much, and the ones that got her expelled from the University for teaching "decadent," "Westernized" filth. Creating a club like this was an incredibly brave act. These books were banned, and to be reading them could be considered a crime.

This is one of those books (like The Gulag Archipelago or, for that matter, any other book by Solzhenitsyn) that I would like to use as a bludgeon whenever I hear some whiny, leftist, anti-American schmuck whine about the "Taliban wing of the Republican Party" or some such. How do you take someone like that seriouisly when I've just read a book where, in one memorable example, a passage in this book recounts how of her student's friends were accosted by "morality police" for eating their apples too laciviously? Or how some were arrested, whipped, and forced to confess "sins" that never occurred, merely because they, a few unaccompanied women, were found without men in a courtyard? It boggles the mind.
The economy is clicking
More good news.
Excessive health care regulation
has caused all kinds of problems:
Throughout the last decade, state capitols focused on aggressive and costly efforts to expand insurance coverage, but failed to make much headway. Vermont, for instance, took the same regulatory step Maryland did, but then went one step further by expanding Medicaid to include the working poor, thereby doubling enrollment. New Jersey legislators embraced price fixing, requiring that health insurance be sold to anyone interested (guaranteed issue) at prices uninfluenced by health status (community rating). "State Efforts to Insure the Uninsured: An Unfinished Story" considers various state experiments. But, as this new paper by the RAND Institute observes, little was achieved. In Vermont's case, the number of uninsured actually increased, and the public program will soon slip into deficit. Over in New Jersey, a family health-insurance plan costs more per month than the lease on a Ferrari. And even if these efforts had worked, today's fiscal realities compel a different approach.
Maryland has learned its lesson and is working on deregulating in an effort to make health care more affordable. May other states follow its lead.
Chomsky cum laude
That's what it says on my degree.

Actually, I've never had the joy of reading him. I've spoken to people who have, and they used to refer to him as a front man for Shining Path or one of those South American neo-Stalinist terrorist organizations. The concensus was that he a brilliant linguist, but a raving nutball in political theory.

He's a professor at MIT, or at least he was when I was at Harvard. Apparently, MIT had to quietly announce his lectures and classes -- if they were too vocal in advertising his linguistics lectures, all sorts of camo wearing Communists would come out to hear their savior speak.
The consequences of a political science degree
Andrew Sullivan refers to an interview between a lefty at some online magazine and the lead singer of a rock band called Iced Earth. I link to it because I think Joe, who has a degree in political science, will be interested to know that he's apparently a Chomsky-ite by definition:
BW&BK: Well, sometimes Americans believe they're very free, when they're sometimes not. There are a lot of authors, especially a guy like Noam Chomsky, who believes a lot of consent in the US is manufactured by politicians and corporations --

JS: Talk about one of the [expletive deleted] ultra leftist spin doctors of the world, Noam Chomsky. You buy into that crap?

BW&BK: Well, I read a lot of his stuff.

JS: But do you believe it all?

BW&BK: I have a degree in political science, so I believe some of it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Good news in Najaf
Let's hope this will come to fruition:
Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr agreed Wednesday to withdraw his militia from Najaf and hand the city back to Iraqi police, the government said, raising hopes for an end to weeks of fighting that threatened some of Shia Islam's holiest sites.
A film to see
NRO carries an article about Ike: Countdown to D-Day, which will be aired on A&E on Memorial Day. I'll have to watch.
So the 3rd season of 24 is over,
and I'd have to say it was pretty good. I never did get to see Jack on a Terminator rampage, and Chloe's eye is intact, but so it goes.

This must have been the season to make some of the characters seem more "human". Heroic, yes, but not the unflinching, stoic, perfectly loyal defenders of freedom we may have thought. The last we see of Jack, he's weeping in his car - although at least he didn't go to his car to shoot up, which is what I thought he was going to do. Tony compromised national security for his wife and will go to prison. Palmer actually took the low road for once and he paid for it. That's three seasons in a row with a bitter-sweet conclusion. Yes, the bad guys' plans were foiled, but the heroes suffer nonetheless. There's a lesson in that, a message I don't like. Whatever happened to a happy ending?

On a lighter note, after last night's desperate action to free Chase from the virus bomb, I am forced (forced, I tell you!) to add another rejected show title to the list: "Dude, Where's My Hand?" Ba-dum-dum-Pshhhhhh!

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The 24 season finale
is tonight, and I have to say it's been a good 3rd season. I kept waiting for Kim to be a victim again, but it didn't happen, which is good. President Palmer actually showed his dark side, which is disappointing yet more interesting. Sherry is deservedly dead. I'm still waiting for two things: for Jack to go on a Terminator-style rampage (which won't happen) and for Chloe to get poked in the eye for being so danged annoying.

In honor of the show, I present my top ten rejected show titles:

Just Jack!
Whose Nerve Gas Is It Anyway?
Everybody Has a Bad Day
Kill Kim
Tony Loves Michelle
Torture, Torture, Torture!
Catch Me If You Can
Law and Order: CTU
Strong on strategy, short on message
Victor Davis Hanson gives the President's speech a mixed review and reminds us of the important things:
Americans do not grasp that should a constitutional government emerge in Iraq, al Qaeda is faced with an enemy far more formidable than the United States. The old false choice between strong-armed dictators and Islamic fascists will start to crumble with a third option that says to the Arab Street: "Look to your own elected government - that is, yourselves - not the United States or Israel, when the sewers back up and the power fails." So, yes, what happens in the next two or three months is the most critical event since September 11.

We need to accept that our enemy is not a fleet of bombers or subs, but something far more insidious and formidable. He is a stealthy foe that so far has killed more Americans in their home streets than all of Hitler's Storm Troopers, Tojo's carriers, or Stalin's Migs -and more eerily still, with far less furious a response from Americans than was true during the last sixty years.

Monday, May 24, 2004

That was quick
President Bush is still shaking hands and Yahoo! is already carrying an article on the speech. They might as well be real-time blogging.
The Libertarian threat to Bush
Perhaps the Libertarian vote will spell doom for President Bush this election:
Fiscal conservatives in particular are not amused by the fact that spending has risen so much faster under Bush than it did under Clinton. I don't know whether fiscal conservatives will vote Libertarian, stay home, or what.
I, too, am upset about the level of government spending. However, I do know hawkish Libertarians like myself - those of us that believe national security is the government's primary concern - don't have much of an alternative. Can't vote for Kerry or for Nader for obvious reasons, the preeminent Libertarian candidate wants to cut and run... Who else is there?

Perhaps many will stay home, essentially voting "none of the above", but I think that would only help Kerry. Yes, government expansion under Bush has been disappointing to say the least, but under Kerry or Nader such behavior would not be disappointing, it would be expected. So I would think Libertarians looking to vote for a candidate that has a chance would lean toward Bush. There's always the hope that as a lame duck President, Bush will allow his conservatism to bloom and start vetoing some spending bills.
What's a Commodore 64 worth these days?
Not as much as I thought. My parents found our old Commodore 64 recently, and I thought for sure you could sell it on eBay for a decent price to some collector, but no. At this time, there's an auction with about two hours to go for a complete system, including the CPU, disk drive, joysticks and such and the high bid is a mere $49.60. I didn't think anyone would be able to sell a C64 for hundreds of dollars, but $50 is disappointing. There must be more floating around out there than I thought.

Which prompts me to list my top 5 most memorable Commodore 64/128 games (in other words, I still remember them):

Archon - the king
Seven Cities of Gold - colossal time sucker
M.U.L.E. - lessons in capitalism
Adventure Construction Set - build your own game
Hard Hat Mack - first C64 game is still first in our hearts
Sunshine and lollipops
This article's opening makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside:
Facing political discord over the war in Iraq , President Bush tries to reassure voters Monday that hundreds of Americans have not died in vain, and to tell the world he has a blueprint to create a democratic nation.
Including "died in vain" is a nice touch.
Looking for an apology
Victor Davis Hanson points out the harm Senator Kennedy caused with his comments on the Iraqi prison scandal:
This slander is both untrue and dangerous at a time when thousands of Americans are under fire in the field from commandos and criminals without uniforms who often pose as innocent civilians. The slur, pompously and publicly aired, is a morally reprehensible pronouncement in almost every way imaginable inasmuch as Saddam murdered tens of thousands with the full sanction of the Iraqi state apparatus. In contrast, a few rogue U.S. soldiers may have tortured and sexually humiliated some Iraqi prisoners — evoking audit and censure at the highest levels of "U.S. management" and inevitable court martial for those directly involved. There is no evidence that the "torture chambers" that disemboweled, shredded, and hung prisoners on meat hooks are now "reopened" for similar procedures on orders of the American government.