Friday, May 31, 2002
Notwithstanding the political ads, this place is pretty idyllic. Maybe it only lasts for a few days at the end of May, but if you're trying to approximate Eden, check out northeastern South Dakota.
I'm in South Dakota for a couple of days. Last night I had a beer with my brother. He flipped on the television and on came the political ads--one after another. I don't think we ever saw a program, just political ads, and there are still more than five months to go before the election. There was one by John Thune, whose race against Tim Johnson is the key to the Republicans' effort to reclaim the Senate, which starred his parents, saying how proud they are of John for Fighting to Save Social Security and Medicare. The general theme of most of the ads was Fighting For Seniors. Maybe I'm the only one who doesn't get this, but I know lots of "seniors," and few if any of them appear to be in need of Fighting For. I'm still looking for a candidate who is Fighting For Middle-Aged Taxpayers. Anyway, most of these ads were by conservatives--no one admits to being a liberal in South Dakota--but you wouldn't know it from the ads. Watching them, you'd conclude that what the voters really want is socialism, but with lots of guns. It was all pretty dispiriting.
Wednesday, May 29, 2002
The situation in India and Pakistan is a reminder that, while we hear constantly about Muslim hostility to Christians and Jews, it's Hindus they really hate. I don't know why Americans keep forgetting about conflicts with Hindus when we talk about the problem of Islamofascism, but this aspect could turn out to be the most serious of all, if Pakistan and India really do go to war. Also, I don't know whether anyone still thinks the Islamofascists will leave us alone if we change a policy or two (e.g., Israel vs. the Palestinians), but it seems obvious that they are unwilling to share the world with anyone--Hindus, Christians, Jews, whatever. There isn't any alternative to defeating them.
Tuesday, May 28, 2002
A reader wants to know whether we have any details about polling data on the Democrats' now-retracted attack on President Bush. We don't. We've been told that Republican Party polling has showed huge support for Bush and a backlash against the Democrats. The Democrats' polling apparently was similar; hence the retreat by Daschle et al.
Multiculturalism has exacted a truly terrible toll on the ability of average Americans to think clearly even about the things closest to their heart. Witness the embarrassing inability of Minnesota's Governor Jesse Ventura to formulate a respectable thought about a state law requiring public school teachers to lead students in saying the pledge of allegiance. James Lileks, Minnesota's Dave Barry, turns a lemon into a lemonade .
America has martial courage in profusion with which to fight the war on Islamofascism. What it lacks is intellectual clarity of the kind demonstrated in this piece by Daniel Pipes . What it also lacks is the public courage to call the war on Islamofascism by its true name.
Monday, May 27, 2002
Today I drove by a business in our neighborhood that used to be a tanning and video place. Then it changed owners, and now it is a coffee, gifts, tanning and.....sushi place. So far we haven't tried the sushi.
Daschle skedaddles. I've heard that the parties' polling, which is more incisive than the bland stuff done by Gallup et al., has been disastrous for the Democrats vis a vis their effort to attack the President. This suggests the polling data are even worse than we thought.
Another murder-bomber struck today, to the applause of most of his fellow Palestinians. Meanwhile, five Israeli soldiers were sentenced to prison for destroying Palestinian property during the recent fighting on the West Bank. Just another day in the "cycle of violence."
This is the first Memorial Day in many years on which America has been at war. (The Gulf War was over prior to Memorial Day 1991.) Perhaps never in our history--certainly not since World War II--has our country been so united; thankfully, Daschle, Gephardt, Clinton and their ilk have few followers when it comes to the great issues of war and peace. And not since World War II have Americans joined together so unanimously in appreciation of our veterans. This column by Ralph Peters explains why Memorial Day is the most American of holidays. If memory serves me, Memorial Day was instituted in the late 1860's to honor America's Civil War dead. Every nation reveres its war dead, but as Lincoln pointed out, America's casualties of war are unique: from the beginning, they have died not only to serve their country's interests, but to insure that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth. Thus far liberty has not perished, thanks primarily to the fighting men of the United States of America. May it always be so.
Sunday, May 26, 2002
My father was not an intellectual, but he was an extremely thoughtful man. He used to tell me the things he was grateful for and in retrospect I can see he thought about it a lot. He frequently said that the three things he was most grateful for were: 1) that his grandfather didn't miss the boat from Russia to the United States, 2) that when he arrived in New York he kept traveling until he reached Minnesota, and 3) that his father was born before he was...As Memorial Day arrives this year I think of the things we have to remember to be grateful for as Americans, the incredible amount of blood, sacrifice, and heroism that have been necessary to bring us to this day as free men in a country unique in the annals of world history...founded on certain self evident truths rather than on ties of family and tribe. Can we rise to meet the challenge we now face not only on the battlefield, but inside our country where the principles on which our government is founded remain under unremitting attack? The intellectual challenge is certainly as daunting as any other the present circumstances now present us with.
One thing that amazes me is that there is no consistent standard for dealing with ethics issues in government. Here is just one example: Tom Daschle is a very wealthy man, not because of his government salary, but because his wife is an extremely highly-paid lobbyist. Now why do you think his wife makes so much money? Is is because she is so exceptionally persuasive? Or is it possibly because her husband is the Majority Leader of the United States Senate? Gosh, I dunno....... This would appear to be an obvious conflict of interest, requiring full disclosure at the very least. But one of the many bad effects of feminism is that it is now considered impolite to assume that there is some relationship between a husband and a wife...OK, admittedly, there are a few instances where there is no relationship at all, like the Clintons, but the vast majority of the time this is an absurd supposition. Yet it is the assumption that apparently governs conflict of interest analysis. According to the official doctrine, it is of no concern to Tom Daschle that his wife is becoming a multi-millionaire through her lobbying efforts, and to Mrs. Daschle it is the merest coincidence that her husband happens to be the Senate Majority Leader. Does this make any sense whatsoever? Of course not. But feminism rules, and therefore Mr. Daschle, the sources of whose wealth are unknown and can only be speculated about, has no compunction whatever about refusing to disclose his joint tax returns. This obviously makes no sense, and it seems fair to assume, absent disclosure, that Daschle is feathering his nest at the public's expense, but don't wait for a story on this in the Washington Post or New York Times.
Here's another optimistic way of looking at the war. Until a few years ago, about 50,000 Americans were killed every year in car accidents. That represented many individual tragedies, but no one thought it was a crisis. No one worried much about the impact of car accidents on the economy. Eventually the total was reduced by, I think, about 50% because of nearly universal use of seat belts, safer cars and stricter enforcement of drunk driving laws. Sensible, non-ideological responses. Now think about the impact of terrorism: Even on a worst-case scenario, it seems very unlikely that the Islamofascists can kill anything like 50,000 Americans a year. There will be individual tragedies, no doubt. But as a country, we can take any foreseeable amount of damage the terrorists can inflict in stride. Absent an irrational political response, there is no way they can win.
We're just back from the race track. I do exactly the same at the race track and in the stock market, only I lose much less at the track and I get to watch the horses run.
Saturday, May 25, 2002
Boycott the New York Times for being anti-Israel? Sure. Better yet, boycott it for being anti-American. Actually, I haven't read the Times in years, because it's an inept paper. Does anyone still take it seriously?
Some look at Israel and fear that its current besieged state is a preview of life in America in years to come. Maybe so. But there are at least two basic differences between our situation and Israel's. First, Israel is a tiny island of western civilization amid three hundred million Arabs. Notwithstanding recent patterns of immigration, it will always be more difficult for Arabs to operate secretly in the United States than in and around Israel. And second, Israel is a far more liberal country than the US. (If you doubt this, you haven't been listening to Toby Keith lately!) Israel has shown an unbelievable (and unwise) degree of restraint in responding to Arab terror. Should Islamofascist attacks on the US ever begin to approach the magnitude suffered by Israel, we would mercilessly crush those who harbor and encourage terrorism. I was reminded somewhere recently (I forget where or I'd link to it) that the Islamofascists are not our first enemy to use attacks on women and children, and civilians generally, as a tactic. Various Indian tribes were there first. The results from their standpoint were not good, and if terror attacks start getting out of hand, I don't think our current enemies will fare much better.
Many people are depressed, I think, because they fear that our current enemies are too fanatical to be stopped. This is why suicide bombers are so horrifying. But the reality is that there have always been a great many people willing to die, as well as kill, for their beliefs. That is a constant through history. Japan's kamikaze bombers are one obvious example out of many. A Japanese person piloting an airplane today could easily fly it into a ship, if he were willing to die; the difference today is that no one wants to die for the cause of Japanese imperialism. Why? Because Japanese imperialism was defeated. Once Islamofascism has been crushed militarily, the supply of suicide bombers (and terrorists generally) will dry up quickly.
The second reason why some bloggers have gotten pessimistic, I think, is the recent wave of terror alerts relating to everything from apartment buildings to scuba divers. Presumably these alerts are intended to point up the foolishness of Democrats who try to criticize the Administration for not having issued enough alerts prior to Sept. 11. As such they seem pretty effective to me. But I guess what makes people nervous is the obvious impossibility of defending all of the places where terrorists could strike-- every building, every public place and every piece of infrastructure is a potential target, and even in a state given over to nothing but security, it would be impossible to protect them all--combined with the improbability of uncovering all plots before they can be carried out. Here, pessimism is justified in that there will almost certainly be successful attacks in the future, some of which are likely to exceed Sept. 11 in magnitude. But this is no surprise. The fact is there have been a number of successful attacks in the past--the 1993 World Trade Center bombing killed several people; the embassy bombings, the Beirut truck bombing, the attack on the Cole killed far more. President Bush has said repeatedly that the only way to defend against terrorism is to go find the terrorists where they live and kill them (or, as the Administration euphemistically puts it, "bring them to justice"). So far we seem to be doing a pretty good job of that.
Of course, what's mostly of interest to me these days is the war. Lately, pessimism seems to be spreading through the blogosphere. Perennial optimist Andrew Sullivan has been leading the way, most recently wondering whether the Administration is "giving up on the war." Whoa. That's a rapid turnabout. InstaPundit has been getting pessimistic too, although more about nuclear war, I guess, than anything else. Reynolds balances that by being optimistic about teen sex. Why the sudden pessimism? I guess because there aren't any troops on the way to Iraq. But I don't understand how anyone can seriously think that President Bush has abandoned his oft-stated goal of replacing Saddam; Bush has staked his personal prestige on regime change in Baghdad, and he did it at a time when hardly anyone else was talking about Iraq. There are some indications (like the Washington Post story attributed to "senior Pentagon officials," which I think was a deliberate leak by the Administration) that Bush may be leaning toward a solution that doesn't involve hundreds of thousands of American troops, But why is that bad? If the job can be done by other means, so much the better. Or, if an invasion is still planned but the timetable has been moved back, I still see no reason for pessimism. There have been lots of defectors from Iraq, including some who were involved in the nuclear program, and I think the Administration has a good idea what Saddam's capabilities are. It was Bush who said that time is not on our side, and I really don't think he would be deferring action on Iraq if time were critical. The bottom line is that Bush continues to be underestimated, even by his friends. There is no way he going to waver in what he sees as the central mission of his life: defeating the terrorists.