Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cool Christmas journalism

I worked a couple hours on Christmas. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to pursue an idea I had for a photo essay.

I'm a wordsmith by profession, but lately the miracle of digital photography has enthralled me with its ease of picture taking and processing via Photoshop.

So, I went out and took some pictures of different folks who had to work on Christmas: a cop, some volunteer emergency medical service personnel, an ER nurse and the doctor on call, a dietary aid in the local old folks home, a couple of convenience store clerks and the boiler operator at the local university campus physical plant.

My editor loved it. She assembled it into a dynamite photo essay and put it on the front page under the headline, "Thank You."

I was totally caught up in it, and I knew it was going to look great as the picture-taking opportunities started to present themselves.

This is the kind of journalism I love to do, covering the people who keep civilization going on a day-to-day basis.

Some call this "community journalism," I call it... journalism I guess.

Since I worked in public works for about a dozen years total, the public works people here know I speak the language. And fortunately I've got an editor who appreciates that kind of community coverage.

And, in an industry that is feeling the pain of downsizing, we're among a number of small papers that are actually growing, while the New York Times and Los Angeles Times stock is falling to junk bond status.

Some say it's the competition from the Internet. Me, I think it's because they've become rather full of themselves, and it shows.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays

Note: the following appeared as op-eds in the Valley City Times-Record on subsequent weekends.

Hanukkah, festival of light and freedom

"For eight days they celebrated the re-dedication of the altar... Then Judah and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the re-dedication should be observed every year for eight days.” First Book of Maccabees 4:56-59

This Sunday at sundown, the 25th day of Kislev, Dec. 21 in the Gregorian calendar, begins the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah.

For eight nights Jewish families all over the world will light a candle each night on the eight-branch candelabrum, called the menorah, until all eight are lit on the final night of Hanukkah.

Some menorah also have a ninth candle, called the shamash, or “guardian.” The Talmud forbids using the Hanukkah lights for any purpose other than meditation on the meaning of Hanukkah, so the shamash is used to light the other candles.

Because the Hebrew calendar is lunar, the dates of Hannukkah vary, and may occur from late November to late December on the Gregorian calendar.

The festival celebrates the liberation of the land of Israel from the rule of the Seleucid kingdom of Syria, one of the states founded from the remains of Alexander the Great's short-lived empire.

Under the reign of Antiochus IV, Judaism was outlawed, observing Jews massacred, and the temple of Jerusalem profaned with statues of the Greek gods and sacrifices of pigs.

A village headman Mattathias, and his five sons Jochanan, Simon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a revolt against the Syrian-Greeks. They were called Maccabees, after Judah's nickname, “the hammer.” Judah succeeded his father as leader after he was killed.

When the Maccabbees drove the Seleucids from Jerusalem and re-dedicated the temple, it was found there was only enough lamp oil to light the sacred lamp for one night. The story goes that it miraculously burned for eight nights, hence the eight nights of Hanukkah.

The Maccabbees fought for 25 years, until the last surviving brother Simon, won recognition of the independence of their nation.

He lived long enough to see Rome begin to expand into the region. Eighty years after his death, Rome wiped the nation of Israel off the map for 2,000 years.

So why is this story so meaningful to a goy like me? Though I have Jewish relatives, I am not Jewish myself. Why does the Hanukkah story have the power to move me to tears?

When I was a boy, I saw actor/folksinger Theodore Bikel tell the Hanukkah story on a TV program called, “Songs of Freedom.”

He sang “La Marseillaise”, “Scots Wha Hae”, and “Follow the Drinking Gourd”, as well as traditional Hanukkah songs in Yiddish and Hebrew. He sang of Hanukkah in the longing for freedom of all peoples. He showed that freedom is tragically rare in history, often crushed, yet always rising from the ashes.

He said, “In the lamp of freedom, there is oil enough for only a single night.”

Yet still it burns.

That group of national cultures we call “Western Civilization” has twin roots, in the ancient Greeks and the Hebrews. Whoever we are, wherever we came from, in a very real sense we are all Greek and Hebrew.

Hellas lives on in the tradition of philosophy, skeptical inquiry, and the examined life.

The Hebrew religious tradition was the first to place the Golden Age in the future rather than the distant past, giving us the hope that tomorrow might be better than yesterday.

For though there may only be enough oil in the lamp for a single night, we may hope that the light will burn longer than we have any right to expect.

Christmas, season of paradox and renewal

It's Christmas again – er, one day past, OK– but what a wonderfully appropriate place to celebrate, in the North Dakota winter!

Christmas is at once the most, and the least, Christian holiday. The holiday Christians hold dearest, though its roots are older than Christianity. It is today a center of controversy, though most people are unaware that the controversy is far older than the present church-and-state argument.

Though it is the holiday most associated with Christianity, there is no scriptural warrant for the date of the festival. Nowhere in the New Testament is the date of the nativity mentioned. Some early Christians celebrated on May 20. It wasn't until 354 A.D. at the earliest, that the event was associated with Dec. 25.

Dec. 25 was the date of the winter solstice until a calendar adjustment moved it a few days off. The winter solstice was sacred to any number of solar deities from time immemorial. Early Christian missionaries wisely decided to adapt the festivals of the new religion to the familiar customs of the people they preached to.

From the pre-Christian customs of Europe came the Christmas tree, the Yule log, mistletoe, and the most beloved figure of all, Santa Claus. Our Santa was inspired by the life and works of St. Nicholas of Myra, patron of children, pawnbrokers and sailors, mixed with attributes from traditional characters from European folklore.

At times, religious reformers aware of the pre-Christian roots of many Christmas customs, have attempted to abolish Christmas. Under Oliver Cromwell, celebrating Christmas was banned, causing pro-Christmas riots in England. In Puritan New England you could go to jail for celebrating Christmas.

And today of course, we have our own Christmas grinches who attempt to banish any Christmas symbols from the public sphere.

But the celebration of Christmas resonated with our ancestors too deeply to be taken from them. And I think it was for reasons we can appreciate in North Dakota more than people in more temperate climates might.

The solstice marks the day the sun reaches its lowest point in the sky, and begins to climb higher each day, bringing the promise even in the depths of winter, that warmth and light will return and the earth renewed.

The symbolic correspondence with Christian doctrine of renewal and rebirth was obvious. Christianity taught that no one was too low, but with grace they might re-invent themselves as a new and better kind of person. A person with worth and dignity no king or emperor could take away from them.

In a world where the vast majority of people were abjectly poor, and a significant number of them outright slaves, the message spread like wildfire.

Today in a time of uncertainty, when many are worried about their future, and the future of their children, it is a time for reflection and reassurance.

The winter will yield to spring, the sun will return and the earth will be renewed. Bad times will pass and good times come again.

And in the meantime, we can occupy ourselves with good cheer and fellowship and keep warm near the fire with family and friends.

And Merry Christmas to you all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Pole who saved the world, and taught a lesson nobody is listening to

If you go here, you'll find a column on Col. Ryszard Kuklinski by an author who attended a seminar on him and his role in preventing WWIII at Langley (CIA HQ.)


I have the book on the stack of "must reads" that only seems to get taller. I think I'll move it up in the queue.

As some of you know, my father-in-law was an officer in the Polish military at the time of the events described, which lends the affair a certain interest for me. The impression I get from him is that a fair number of Polish officers thought Kuklinski was a patriot and hero, who did what a lot of them would have liked to have done.

It says something disturbing about our political and academic culture that this story is so little-known. This man, more than any other single individual, may have literally saved the world.

All evidence from the unimpeachable source, the former Soviets themselves, now shows that the invasion of Western Europe and the initiation of World War III by the Soviet Union was a "when," not an "if."

What saved the world, or at least Europe, was American military readiness, espionage, and the crucial information supplied by this man.

Gestures of good will, the philosophy of peaceful coexistence, all the enlightened attitudes of western intellectuals counted for precisely nothing.

Is this why this story is being, can we say, "militantly ignored"?

Have they forgotten the lesson of Archimedes?

"But nothing afflicted Marcellus so much as the death of Archimedes, who was then, as fate would have it, intent upon working out some problem by a diagram, and having fixed his mind alike and his eyes upon the subject of his speculation, he never noticed the incursion of the Romans, nor that the city was taken. In this transport of study and contemplation, a soldier, unexpectedly coming up to him, commanded him to follow to Marcellus; which he declining to do before he had worked out his problem to a demonstration, the soldier, enraged, drew his sword and ran him through."

Plutarch, Parallel Lives: Marcellus. Translated by John Dryden

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The economy is fine, but I think winter is here...

Last weekend we got a blizzard with driving wind that left about a foot of snow on the ground.

I went out in it and walked to the grocery story, about a half-mile away, only to find everything in town closed. People stayed indoors and waited it out.

For those of you who don't live in the northern tier of states, up here the on-ramps for the interstate highways have gates. When it gets like this, they close the highway until they can get it plowed.

On my way back, I met a young woman all bundled up.

"Frozen yet?" she asked.

Then she explained her car was stuck in the driveway and she had to go to the store for some things.

"Don't bother," I said. "It's closed. Everything is."

Then I added that the walk wasn't a total loss for me, since I got some great pictures for the paper.

"You work for the paper?" she asked. "You're hard core!"

It's snowing again, a steady, soft fall through the night with hardly any wind. Then this morning it's picked up and is coming down in a hard driving wind from the west.

They originally said, five to six inches, but I think we've gotten that already and it doesn't look like it'll lighten up anytime soon.

I recently had occasion to call the state climatologist for information on the drought cycle. It turns out he's Turkish. We talked a bit about the climate here, and he was so excited to be living in North Dakota. It was like he'd died and gone to climatologist heaven.

"This is the most extreme climate in the world!" he said.

"Oh come now, worse than Siberia?" I replied.

"Oh yes, worse than Yakutsk. In 1936 they recorded the most extreme yearly temperature differential ever, 181 degrees!"

That means the difference between the highest summer temperature, and the lowest winter temperature.

My God.

The good news is, the local economy is fine up here. The small-newspaper chain seems solid, the John Deere Seeding group is actually planning to expand, and in the west part of the state, jobs are going begging because of the Bakken oil field drilling.

I recently did an article on local car dealerships, and all of them are doing fine, or more than fine.

It seems the economic cycle hereabouts is more even. They don't have the crazy highs, but they don't have the low-lows either.

One thing my interview subjects mentioned was, crop prices are good. Another was, the banks are sound.

That last made my ears prick up. I couldn't say it in a newspaper article - and it really wasn't relevant to that specific article, but that's largely a matter of demographics.

The northern mid-western states are almost entirely white. Minorities are a statistically insignificant part of the population.

The social effect is, those that do live here including recent immigrants from India and Asia, soon become totally assimilated. Their kids go to school with, play with, date and eventually intermarry with the dominant group.

And by and large they're doing just fine thank you.

The unassmimilated minorities are the American Indian tribes and the Hutterite colonies. And because we have a small university here, the local black people seem to be mostly Africans.

The eonomic effect of this was, the banks didn't get leaned on by the fed to make those bad housing loans to the "underserved," because there weren't any. Or at least not enough to make the market crash when those loans tanked.

There is an underclass here. I know, I do the police report every morning. But it seems to be a white underclass. And when you think of it, that's logical. A non-white person with a penchant for criminal behavior would stick out like a sore thumb here.

Which is not to say we don't have the occasional illegal immigrant passing through, but the fact is, the weather tends to keep out anyone who doesn't have a good reason for being here.

They say up here, "Forty below, keeps the riff-raff out."

This gives me the somewhat eerie feeling of watching the rest of the country with an odd sense of detachment.

Nonetheless, it seems like a good place to ride this weirdness out.

I miss Jews though. I miss the cultural spice that a Jewish presence brings to a community. I had to write the Hanukkah piece for the paper myself.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Question from a reader

I received the question below from a reader who found my old post, "Observations on Arabs" found here: http://rantsand.blogspot.com/2006/09/observations-on-arabs.html

It amazes me that I still get comments on that one. It pleases me that this time it's not calling me a racist.

For future reference, if anyone wants to call me a racist, would you kindly explain first how "Muslim" or "Arab" can be reasonably defined as a race?

And while your at it, please define "race"?

Secondly, if you still want to call me a racist, please get in touch with me, so that we might arrange to discuss the matter further. In person.

So, the question:

"I was looking for an explanation as to why shoes are a weapon of choice for Arabs culturally, as with the example this past week of Zeidi the journalist hurling his pair at Bush in Iraq. I came across this instead, which I recall reading in a forward email awhile ago. The second read was well worth it for some insights.

As an Anthropologist, you don't have any explanations for me do you?"

Answer: Damned if I know.

The sole of the foot or shoe, is considered unclean in Arab culture. I've asked Arab friends about this and got explanations such as, it's dirty because you walk on it, it's farthest from God, etc.

When teaching in Saudi I had a few troublemaking students* who would find some excuse to raise their foot or put it on the table to show the sole.

Usually I said, "I know what that means."

Remember the first video reports from the capture of Baghdad? Remember all those Iraqis beating pictures of Saddam with their shoes?

I've read that in Japan striking someone with your shoe is a huge insult as well.

Do you remember videos of Nikita Khruschev at the UN beating the table with his shoe?

You've intrigued me. Now I'm beginning to wonder why we don't have that particular insult.

Any suggestions from the floor?

* I mean extreme troublemakers. Most of my, and other expat teachers', complaints about our students were that they were just not taking schooling seriously. They were getting paid 40 riyals per class to show up - and many tried often to get us to mark them present when they were absent.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chicago politics

Note: This appeared as an op-ed in the Valley City Times-Record weekend edition.

“One of the peculiarities of the American Revolution was that its leaders pinned their hopes on the organization of decision-making units, the structuring of their incentives, and the counterbalancing of the units against one another, rather than on the more usual (and more exciting) principle of substituting "the good guys" for "the bad guys".”
Thomas Sowell

Gov. Blagojevitch of Illinois has been caught with his hand in the biggest cookie jar in state politics. The FBI arrested him for pretty blatantly attempting to sell the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama to the highest bidder. And evidently, there were a fair number of interested customers.

It's official now, Chicago politics is corrupt. Oh whatever will this poor old world be FORCED to endure next?

There is of course, a lot of partisan back-and-forth about whether the president-elect knew about political corruption in the state he so recently represented.

I sure hope he did. I'd hate to think our new president was that dumb.

Let's get a few things clear. You cannot work in Chicago politics, heck you can't even live in Chicago, and not know it's corrupt through and through.

That is not the same thing as being personally corrupt. Obama had to know the nature of the Chicago political system to work within it. But any man as smart and ambitious as he is would keep clear of personal involvement in anything blatantly illegal, if he aspired to the highest office in the land.

Did he have contact with Blagojevitch about who was going to fill his seat?

Let's see. Would the leader of the party in power, which is within spitting distance of having a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, be just the teensiest bit interested in who's going to get his old job?

Do I even have to answer that?

Obama would be failing in his duty to his party if he didn't try to have some say in picking his successor. That doesn't mean he was in any way involved in attempting to sell the office. That's the governor's prerogative under the current rules.

I am however, irritated my new president thinks so little of my intelligence that he doesn't think I understand this, and attempts to deny any contact with the governor.

Not long ago, Democrats swept the congressional elections, campaigning against a Republican “culture of corruption.” They were quite right.

Now Republicans are crowing about the Democratic culture of corruption. They're right too.

Why is politics so corrupt?

Could it be that when you give ordinary human beings (and believe me, I've stood next to enough politicians to know they're made of no special stuff) great power and little accountability over raising and spending trillions of dollars, they get tempted to grab some of it for themselves every now and then?

And it's not going to get any better, until we relearn what those brilliant, cynical, idealistic men who founded this country and wrote its constitution knew.

It's not about throwing bad guys out and electing good guys. It's not about expecting our elected officials to be immune to the corrupting influence of power. It's not about looking for angels to govern us.

It's about working with human nature, not against it. It's about creating the mechanisms of transparency, accountability and oversight.

It's about making the powerful live under the same rules as the rest of us.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

An indelicate question...

Looking over a previous post, 'A bad time for lovers,' I was reminded of a question a late friend of mine asked many years ago, "Why is it that the best lays are usually disasters as human beings?"

He was male, and a wounded veteran of the gender wars. I have no idea if the question ever occurs to women, although perhaps it's the male equivalent of, "Why are women attracted to bad boys?"

I thought about it for a few days, and came up with a possible explanation:

The way you get good at sex, is the same way you get good at anything. You practice.

(Perhaps with the aid of any number of the how-to books available.)

There are two ways you can practice. You can find a willing partner, and practice a lot together.

Or, if you can, practice with a lot of different partners. This is obviously easier for women.

Observation: People capable of forming stable, long-term relationships - do.

Corollary: Most of the people capable of forming stable, long-term relationships are going to be in one at any given time.

So... the people you are most likely to meet who are great in bed, are most likely to come from that subset of the category of "great lays" who are not capable of forming stable, long-term relationships, i.e. "disasters as human beings."

I thought this was one of the cleverest short arguments I'd ever come up with - and most depressing.

My friend couldn't find any holes in it either.

And by the way, he died very lonely.

Are we a generation of wussies? part 2

"A fateful characteristic of our violent age is the non-violence, the incredible meekness of the victims. Almost without exception, the social scientists are telling us that Americans are at present more violent than they were in the past. Yet anyone who observes the American scene in any big city with his own eyes knows that it is not so. The American man in the street is infinitely less pugnacious, less quarrelsome, and less ready to take offense than he was in the past. We used to fight in the streets, in saloons and on the job. Neighbors used to argue shrilly over the fence and often come to blows! But just now the great majority of Americans are afraid to open their mouths. They will not get into a fight no matter what you call them, and will not get involved even when they see people murdered before their eyes. They are afriad to get angry. The crucial, central fact about contemporary Americans is their timidity - their cowardice."

Eric Hoffer: First Things Last Things, 1967

Eric Hoffer is so admirably succinct that it's hard to paraphrase what he said, it's almost always easier just to quote him.

I've been wondering about this point for a while now. In politics and public life you get insulted, period. If someone thinks your proposals are dumb - they say so. And they should, proposals for government action should always be challenged. Government is just too damn dangerous to be left to run unsupervised.

That is however, a different thing from calling one a liar or advocate of tyranny and mass murder, as in "racist," "Nazi," or "fascist."

I take that particularly ill, when it comes from people who excuse - or actively justify, mass murdering regimes such as Castro's, or belittle the enormities of the Soviet Union as "just Stalin."

We're supposed to be too "civilized" to offer to punch someone in the nose for an insult anymore, much less invite them to the field of honor.

The question I've been raising in recent posts is, have we become too civilized?

"If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, you must be prepared to accept barbarism." - Thomas Sowell

Maintaining civilzation depends on most people accepting lines they will not cross. The vulnerability of civilization is that some people may discover they can get their way by crossing those lines with impunity when people have forgotten how to enforce them.

I think this goes beyond law. A society can survive very high crime rates, and indeed writer Louis Lamour pointed out all dynamic societies have high crime rates.

Defence against criminals is a matter of making it dangerous for them to ply their trade on you. Simple in concept, if not always in execution.

But what happens when criminal conduct becomes normalized in society?

College campuses are full of students today, who probably wouldn't rob you at gunpoint or snatch a lady's purse, but think it justified and worthy to steal a stack of newspapers containing opinions they don't like, or shout down a speaker they disagree with.

What happens? The next stage is they begin to feel that it's a good deed to rough up speakers, to physically humiliate them. To vandalize their property. To make false accusations against them - even in a court of law. To insult them hideously, and wait for the slightest opportunity to misrepresent what they said and prosecute them under "speech codes."

Of course conservatives and libertarians complain about this. To each other, in the pages of editorials read by other conservatives and libertarians.

We've seen this growing over the past few decades. Now it's getting worrisome, to the point many fear the left will soon attempt to shut down right-wing talk radio by bringing back the mis-called "fairness doctrine." The ultimate hecklers' veto!

And I wonder, would these punks be so bold if someone had asked them if they wanted to step outside when they first crossed that line?

Some years back, I was in Bulgaria during the last days of the communist-dominated coalition government, having lunch with the intelligence officer of the U.S. Embassy.

We were talking about the massive corruption, massive inflation, and general thuggish incompetence of the government, and how the people just seemed to take it. (Eventually they did throw the bastards out.)

We fell silent for a moment. Then he blurted out, "These people are sheep! When are they going to get angry?"

"Fuck democracy! Our power is in the streets!" Graffitti seen on a wall at an "anti-globalization" riot in Vancouver.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Who's to blame, part 2

Writing this comes hard.

I've been outlining this in my head, and found that I really didn't want to do it much. Not because I'm sad, disappointed, or fearful of the future, but because I'm mad as hell.

Not at the opposition, at my own side.

You conservatives. Perhaps it's not fair to blame you too much. After all, there are no conservatives in Washington, only Big Government Republicans.

Nonetheless, you could have held the Republicans' feet to the fire. You could have been screaming bloody murder as Bush sent the deficit into the freaking stratosphere.

As far as I can tell, many of you thought supporting a wartime president was more important to the life of the nation than preventing him and his party from pursuing a course that would ultimately tank the economy and hand the left a default victory.

You didn't know that's what happens when economies go south? Weimar Republic ring a bell?

You couldn't point out the obvious? That wars are expensive, and wartime spending must be accompanied with cuts elsewhere, rather than digging the debt hole deeper and deeper?

And you stood ready to abandon your most cherished principles when they rubbed up against your prejudices.

Federalism. The principle of devolving power to the lowest political subdivisions possible.

Individualism. The principle that people's lives should be under their own control, to the maximum extent compatible with a reasonable degree of public order.

Limited government. The notion that a government may restrict or regulate only what it specifically allowed to in the fundamental law of the land.

Oops! Runs up against local democracy voting to let cancer patients on chemo smoke pot - junk it all.

And how much time have you devoted to seriously weird irrelevancies like how uncomfortable you are with evolution?

Got news for you, the theory of evolution is the best friend conservatives ever had. It validates the bedrock principle that human nature is fixed and unchanging, across cultures and throughout historical time. Who cares where it comes from? The consequences are the same.

Libertarians, you stood fast to your principles. Too bad you never accumulated the experience necessary to adapt them to the real world.

Instead you chose to run meaningless presidential campaigns, election after election, with vote totals that stagnated or actively declined.

They were educational campaigns! I hear you say.

Yes indeed. You educated the public to know you haven't had a new idea in thirty years. Nor the discipline to join a party, do the scut work, and work your way up the ladder of leadership the same way everyone else does, by paying your damn dues.

But you "radical libertarians," survivalists, and anarchists, you've got the answer. Politics is corrupt, you're preparing for revolution and/or the collapse of society so you can rebuild on the ruins.

Don't make me laugh.

I've heard that garbage for 30 years, and only grow more convinced that you are the people least competent to survive in chaotic times.

How many of your are military veterans? Then where do you expect to get your combat skills?

Have you studied military history? The history of revolutions, successful or un-, and their aftermath?

Have you even read: Sun Tzu, Clauswitz, Jomini, Mao, Gen. Georges Grivas, Gen. Alberto Bayo, Jan Karski? Taken a few courses in college? You know ROTC courses are often open to non-ROTC students.

I remember at a libertarian conference in Texas years ago, a Radical Libertarian told me, "You know Sam Konkin just (gasp!) bought a gun!"

That's supposed to impress Texans?

Have you taken a combat shooting course to learn to use that gun? Mastered at least one martial art? Do you even make an effort to stay in shape?

I'm supposed to take you more seriously than a Dungeouns and Dragons fanatic?

And you Objectivists.

Your fetish with ideological purity is right up there with Hindu Brahmins. Did you ever consider the notion that disagree is what free men do?

For the sake of preserving your own freedom to believe what St. Ayn taught you, you've been unwilling to cooperate, or even associate, with partners who might (gasp!) believe in God.

All of you, you didn't have to love each other, or agree on everything. You could have fought like cats and dogs over specific principles of liberty - like the freedom to alter your consciousness with which drug, or what to call legal contracts between gay adults.

The problem is, you wouldn't even get into the same arena, so the synergy never happened.

Across the spectrum, the libertarian movement is theory heavy/experience light.

What we have now is conservatives with experience, but without a consistent theory of liberty. And libertarians without experience.

And theory without experience drifts into fantasy. Experience without theory just drifts.

Update: Here http://www.forbes.com/opinions/2008/12/19/bush-lame-bailout-oped-cx_jb_1219bowyer.html

You can find a succinct summation of how George Bush has vindicated free-market economic theory - by caving in to the Left just about every damn time they demanded some idiot social/economic policy guaranteed to tank the economy. And because it happened on his watch, they'll get away with it. It's "market failure" you see.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Why don't they call...?

Over here http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZTJhMjA1MDZiNDkzYTE0MzI0NmI2MjdiMTNiMDBhYTg=

at National Review Online, Tom Gross asks the following questions:

So why are so many prominent Western media reluctant to call the perpetrators terrorists? Why did Jon Snow, one of Britain’s most respected TV journalists, use the word practitioners when referring to the Mumbai terrorists? Was he perhaps confusing them with doctors?

Why did Reuters describe the motivation of the terrorists, which it preferred to call gunmen, as unknown? Were we meant to suppose that it might have been just anything — that to paraphrase Mark Steyn, they were perhaps disgruntled former employees of Lehman Bros embarking on an exciting midlife career change?

Again, why did Britain’s highly regarded Channel 4 News state that the militants showed a wanton disregard for race or creed when exactly the opposite was true: Targets and victims were very carefully selected.

Why did the “experts” invited to discuss the Mumbai attacks in one show on the state-funded Radio France Internationale, the voice of France around the world, harp on about Baruch Goldstein (who carried out the Hebron shootings in 1994), virtually the sole case of a Jewish terrorist in living memory?

But what are we to think when even such a renowned publication as the Times of London feels the need to refer to terrorists as “militants”, rather than calling them by their right name?

What is the motivation of journalists in trying to mangle language?

Dear Mr. Gross, the answer to all of the above questions is, because they are cowards.

Do they somehow wish to express sympathy for these murderers, or perhaps make their crimes seem almost acceptable?

The answer to this question is twofold. 1) they wish to assure the murderers that they are not their enemy, in effect saying, "Please don't hurt me, I'm not a threat to you."

And 2) It's even more unspeakable than that, they admire them. A coward doesn't like living in a state of fear, no one does. "Ah, but if only I could make people fear me like they do..."

Eric Hoffer said, a strategy of the weak is to hint at their capacity for evil.

How are we going to effectively confront terrorists when we can’t even identify them as such?

Answer: We aren't.

Does the New York Times think that the seeking out and murder by Muslim terrorists of the only New York rabbi in Mumbai and his wife was an accidental target?

Answer: No, they're lying. But it's the lie of cowards, the comforting lie they first tell themselves, over and over, until they believe it.

Happy to be of service Mr. Gross. Please feel free to ask my help with these conundrums anytime.

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