Thursday, November 16, 2006

Around the Web on 11-16-06

Cross-posted from Gus Van Horn

A plate of humble pie awaits me.

I typically start my weekly roundups with whatever happens to be on my mind at the moment. Today, it is the election, thanks to last night's post. I'll get this out of the way right now. I was wrong to side with Robert Tracinski's idea of routing the left in this past election.

Although I modulated my position over time, I did not make a major effort to say so here. Furthermore, my position has changed even since Election Day as I have reviewed the positions of various other Objectivists, most notably C. Bradley Thompson, Paul and Diana Hsieh, and John Lewis. It isn't that I am any happier that the Democrats are now in a good position to ram their foolish agenda down our throats. It is that I have reached considered agreement with them that the Republican Party really has gone way downhill. Even many of the "small government" conservatives are just calling themselves that these days.

The GOP and the Democrats are now both pushing for the same goals in most cases, but at different speeds. If that is the way it is going to be, then let's at least have the people who are more easily seen as idiots pushing the foolishness. By analogy: If you were unscrupulous and wanted to sell one of your dogs, both cowards, would you feel more likely to get away with selling the one that barks a lot or the one that whimpers? On their prosecution of the war, opposition to environmentalism, and opposition to the welfare state, the Republicans have been barking a lot and the Democrats whimpering. It would be the GOP that would have the easiest time selling such idiocy as continued racial quotas and new carbon taxes because most Americans would not question their motives. At least with the Democrats in charge of Congress now, everything they do will be inspected with a fine-toothed comb.

Having said that, on with the show....

***

This old Cox and Forkum cartoon is especially apt for the following pair of news stories....


Via TIA Daily, it seems that we are "winning the peace" after essentially losing the Vietnam War. (But no, Vietnam did not defeat our military. Our own (oxy)moronic policy of "limited war" caused us to defeat ourselves.)
Communist officials give monotonous speeches warning the populace against "peaceful evolution" toward Western values and decadence. But many, including the revered Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, under whose command the Vietnamese defeated the French and then the Americans, send their children to study and live in the U.S. and Europe. (Many stay and launder their parents' ill-gotten gains in Western real estate.) The version of Vietnam the Vietnamese people like best is by far the one with America and its stuff.
Unfortunately, if we are "winning Vietnam after we lost Vietnam", we are "losing the American Revolution after we won the American Revolution":
The Belmont[, California, ] City Council voted unanimously last night to pursue a strict law that will prohibit smoking anywhere in the city except for single-family detached residences. Smoking on the street, in a park and even in one's car will become illegal and police would have the option of handing out tickets if they catch someone. [bold added]
Unfortunately, they seem to have forgotten that if you ban the smoking of tobacco, you must burn freedom to do so. Talk about some truly hazardous "second hand smoke"....

***

Andy might be interested in Rick Warren's newfound love for "Purpose-Driven" terrorism. FrontPage Magazine quotes a Syrian news account of a recent visit of the renowned evangelical to that state sponsor of terrorism:
Pastor Rick Warren, who yesterday met with [Syrian] President Al-Assad and Foreign Minister Al-Mu'allim, said: "Washington is wrong not to hold dialogue with Syria, which wants peace. I call on the Americans to visit Syria and meet its beautiful people. I will tell the Americans that their idea about Syria does not reflect the truth." This is what the American clergyman said after seeing the facts on the ground. It was not in his interest not to say the truth about what he himself and the accompanying Protestant delegation saw and felt. [bold added]
"Facts on the ground" is an argument that sometimes has merit, but as it is being used here, it is simply another variant of the "chickenhawk" fallacy. One need not actually go to Syria to know whether or not it is a state sponsor of terrorism. Nor does visiting the country transform someone into an expert. In fact, given that it is a dictatorship, such a visit will almost certainly make one less knowledgeable.

***

Call me crazy, but a "think tank that promotes thinking" that has already taken the wrong side in the global warming debate has already defeated its stated purpose.
While the speakers at the National Press Club unveiling were highly critical of Bush administration policies regarding stem cell research, global warming, abstinence-only sex education and the teaching of "intelligent design," they said that their group was nonpartisan and that many Democrats were hostile to keeping religion out of public policy. [bold added]
Although this group is right that, "This disdain for science is aggravated by the excessive influence of religious doctrine on our public policies," I would argue (and have) that it is far more damaging for organizations to push a leftist fad in the name of science. In fact, doing so makes the fundamentalists look more credible than they deserve. (HT: TIA Daily)

***

Diana Hsieh pointed out a fascinating interview with Judith Martin (aka Miss Manners), who has long been one of my favorite cultural commentators. If you haven't done so already, read it.

In addition, a commenter alerted me to a post from awhile back over there that quotes Frederick Douglass on slavery. That, too, is worth a look.

And that reminds me.... I still haven't read Andrew Bernstein's The Capitalist Manifesto! So much good reading. So little time.

***

Eric Ryle of The Sub Report offers some in-depth commentary (via Ultraquiet No More) on the recent incident involving the "stalking" of the USS Kitty Hawk by a Chinese submarine. He also discusses the Chinese military and espionage threats in general.

In addition, Michell Malkin has updated her post on the subject with more input from submariners.

***

Via Glenn Reynolds is an excellent piece by Ralph Peters on what we ought to do, for a change of pace, to bring some semblance of security to Iraq. Money quote:
What really matters is what our forces are ordered -- and permitted -- to do. With political correctness permeating our government and even the upper echelons of the military, we never tried the one technique that has a solid track record of defeating insurgents if applied consistently: the rigorous imposition of public order.

That means killing the bad guys. Not winning their hearts and minds, placating them or bringing them into the government. Killing them. [bold added]
I think this has even been used in the past against Islamic insurgents by the American military itself!

***

The Gaijin Biker points out a real horror story from a Polish student who went to America for a year as an exchange student and got a high-pressure program of religious indoctrination from his fundamentalist hosts instead. He quotes Spiegel Online:
When Polish student Michael Gromek, 19, went to America on a student exchange, he found himself trapped in a host family of Christian fundamentalists. What followed was a six-month hell of dawn church visits and sex education talks as his new family tried to banish the devil from his soul.

..."When I got out of the plane in Greensboro in the US state of North Carolina, I would never have expected my host family to welcome me at the airport, wielding a Bible, and saying, 'Child, our Lord sent you half-way around the world to bring you to us.' At that moment I just wanted to turn round and run back to the plane.

Things began to go wrong as soon as I arrived in my new home in Winston-Salem, where I was to spend my year abroad. For example, every Monday my host family would gather around the kitchen table to talk about sex. My host parents hadn't had sex for the last 17 years because -- so they told me -- they were devoting their lives to God. They also wanted to know whether I drank alcohol. I admitted that I liked beer and wine. They told me I had the devil in my heart. [bold added]
GB links to the whole story at his blog.

***

Captain Ed says that the GOP seems so far to have learned nothing from its recent shellacking. "[The House and Senate] leadership elections show that Republicans have not listened to their constituents." I would have to agree with that assessment as well as with much of what he says about John McCain, the presumable front-runner for its presidential nomination.

***

As a child, I used to love to sit around poring through our family's set of encyclopedias for hours on end. As an adult, I sometimes find myself wandering through Wikipedia. During a recent visit, I found two
very interesting links about Tom Bombadil, that most enigmatic character from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

To describe either link would be to spoil it, so I shall simply ask, somewhat in the manner of Linda Richman, "Tom Bombadil is either the reader or the Witch-King of Angmar. Discuss."

-- CAV