Tuesday, May 31, 2005
LIBERAL ARROGANCE IN CANADA
Whether you liked it or not, there was once in this country a party that stood for something. Liberalism held sway and the vague yet compelling notions of constant progress and social justice attracted mass support. We could vote for or against such a party. Conservatives may not have approved of the Liberals, but they grudgingly acknowledged the greatness of the party. Canadian liberalism was a yardstick with which to measure the body politic.
The stick is now broken, the party is gone, the philosophy has evaporated. Instead of something solid and impressive, we now have mush and mess. A vehicle for power, an entity obsessed with government for its own sake, a symbol of empty boast and plastic politics. There are many reasons why I could never vote Liberal: The corruption scandal, the mishandling of the military, the lack of open and democratic government, the appalling waste of time and money that is the gun registry and the attempt to impose homosexual marriage.
All of these, however, possess one common foundation -- arrogance. The vain assumption on the part of Liberal politicians, the liberal media and the liberal establishment that they have a natural right and responsibility to govern this country and know what Canadians want and need far better than Canadians themselves.
Canada is supposed to be based on those two constitutional certainties of the rule of law and the separation of powers. As for the former, we now know quite clearly that laws have been broken (see AdScam). This can be dealt with. The latter is more significant.
There is supposed to be a glorious balancing act between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. In other words, between the Prime Minister and cabinet, Parliament and the courts. This system has served the democratic world for generations. But in Liberal Canada the lines have become so blurred as to no longer exist. The PM is now presidential, with his office wielding far more power than a cabinet minister. Backbenchers are virtually powerless and in a Liberal government are seldom allowed to vote against the party line.
The central judiciary is appointed by the Prime Minister, with only a token few hours of questioning of the justice minister by opposition MPs.
Power in Canada now rests with the Prime Minister, his two closest advisers, the Supreme Court and a few senior bureaucrats who are drenched in complacent Ottawa liberalism.
There are many fine Liberal MPs who have done good work over the years but they are, sadly, enablers. That is, they enable by their presence and their votes the furtherance of Liberal misgovernment. The Liberal Party is for the most part not even an ideological grouping any longer, but merely a conduit for political and social influence. There are, of course, Liberals who are of a different calibre but their voices are increasingly weak and are rarely listened to by the full-fed princes who control the party.
I can respect but disagree with a New Democrat or a separatist, but how am I to respond to modern Liberals? I have no idea where they stand on most of the major issues of the day. They said that the GST and free trade were Tory horrors, but they are now party policy. They said homosexual marriage was entirely unacceptable but it's now official legislation. They promised free votes but changed their mind. They wanted tax breaks for corporations but now think the NDP is right.
Canada splashes around for its life while Paul Martin swims on with a smile. Canadian democracy is not waving but drowning.
Monday, May 30, 2005
The Arrogance of power
County officials abuse public trust by using taxpayer money to fight term limits
Politicians hate term limits nearly as much as they hate accountability. They complain term limits dump "experienced" people out of office and encourage a steady stream of newbies. They hate being forced to keep on their toes, to be constantly figuring out how to stay on the public's good side and on the public payroll. Still, local and state voters have consistently backed term limits to make sure they have a lever to force out entrenched, and often unresponsive, pols. And those elected to represent the public ought to accept the vote of the people, or risk being seen as arrogant and contemptuous of the public's will.
That's what makes it so disrespectful for the county Board of Supervisors to agree to use taxpayer money to hire lawyers so District Attorney Steve Cooley and Assessor Rick Auerbach can sue the people of Los Angeles County in Superior Court to overturn term limits on their offices. This is money that should not be used to thwart a democratically decided policy. What a slap in the face! It's understandable why they hid behind closed doors to make their decision.
Nor is this the first time. When Sheriff Lee Baca decided he didn't want to be limited in terms, he used nearly $20,000 in taxpayer money to fight the issue in court and won a ruling that went unappealed, saying his office was exempt because it's created by the state constitution. Cooley and Auerbach are piggybacking on that ruling.
Term limits aren't perfect. They are a clunky answer to the widespread perception that our elected officials are, for the most part, doing a lousy job. The Board of Supervisors, with a record of failure as bad as any government institution, has done everything it can to prevent term limits from applying to county officials. Without term limits, the supervisors could serve for life, thanks to skillfully gerrymandered districts that give them personal fiefdoms and the ability to raise unlimited amounts of campaign cash.
Their support for this assault on the public can only lead to tougher measures in the future to make elected officials responsible to the people and accountable for their actions.
From Los Angeles Daily News - May 28, 2005
Sunday, May 29, 2005
AN UNGRATEFUL ELITE
Not long ago Pepsi Cola’s chief operating officer, Indra Nooyi, gave an address to the graduating class at Columbia Business School. In it, she metaphorically likened America to the middle finger on the global hand. Denunciations and anger arose from her use of the silly metaphor (e.g., “This analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents leaves the long, middle finger for North America, and, in particular, the United States.…However, if used inappropriately — just like the U.S. itself — the middle finger can convey a negative message and get us in trouble. You know what I'm talking about… So remember, when you extend your arm to colleagues and peoples from other countries, make sure that you're giving a hand, not the finger.”). Then came her employer’s obligatory explication that she really did not mean what she said. And soon her defenders claimed hypersensitive Americans could not take well-meaning admonishment. Pepsi is a $27 billion company. Those who run it, like Nooyi, make big money from its global sales and take-no-prisoners marketing approach. Pepsi is not known for worrying too much about putting indigenous soft-drink makers out of business. Here at home it does not often allow small businesses to offer both Coke and Pepsi in a spirit of consumer convenience and choice. Roughshod, no-holds-barred business gets such a company to the top — and allows multimillion-dollar salaries for its grandee hardball officers.
Former cricket-star-turned-Pakistani-politician Imran Khan in some ways jumpstarted the Newsweek-induced frenzy when in a May 6 press conference he demanded an apology for the alleged slight to the Koran. “This is what the U.S. is doing,” Khan boomed, “desecrating the Koran.” His mischaracterization, based on a lie, was then beamed across the Middle East — and, presto, Mr. Khan got the anti-American outburst he apparently wanted. Khan may have made his fortune and name in the British tabloids as a cricket star and international playboy of the London salons, a lifestyle that had strong affinities with the West rather than the madrassas. But now he is back in Pakistan crafting a political career and catering to the Islamists, even though religious extremism is antithetical to what allowed him to succeed and prosper abroad. Yet this same demagogue earlier urged Hindu extremists to remain calm during a recent cricket match between India and Pakistan. After all, religious extremism is valuable to beat up the West and the United States — but not to the point that such fervor might endanger playing a Western sport amid frenzied Hindus. Left unsaid is that there is no place for an Imran Khan in the world of the Taliban, where soccer stadiums were used to lynch moderate Muslims, not enrich pampered athletes.
Arundhati Roy, the Booker-prize-winning novelist, has developed a second career critiquing the United States, especially its promotion of the free markets and capitalism that she believes are the catalysts for righteous hatred against America. Roy doesn’t quite get that the reason that the UK recognizes an Indian novelist like her, writing halfway across the globe — and that she is able to jet over to the United States for lucrative speaking engagements, and that her books are mass-produced and hawked aggressively over global Internet book marts — is precisely the system that this child of capitalism so vehemently detests.
Pakistan, well before 9/11, was the recipient of billions of dollars in U.S. aid, and, in response, its intelligence services created the Taliban that in turn helped al Qaeda pull off September 11. India is making billions from an American free-trade policy that encourages outsourcing business overseas, even if it means the loss of U.S. jobs. Neither country has much of a legitimate gripe against the United States, and surely has not objected that its elites are going to the West to be educated, to profit — and, in these above cases, apparently to master the easy anti-Western rhetoric.
But note the anti-American two-step. Immediately after her silly remarks, the corporate mogul Nooyi provided a recant. Neither Khan nor Roy has vowed to stay out of the U.K. or the U.S., where the Koran is supposedly not respected and where the homeless starve as a result of capitalism — a system that both created and enriched them all and which they apparently love to chide.
The anti-Americanism that we frequently see and hear, then, is often a plaything of the international elite — a corporate grandee, a leisured athlete, or a refined novelist who flies in and out of the West, counts on its globalizing appendages for wealth, and then mocks those who make it all possible — but never to the point that their own actions would logically follow their rhetoric and thus cost them so dearly.
We might expect that a chagrined Ms. Nooyi would resign from Pepsi since it is the glossy fingernail of the American middle finger that apparently so bothers her. We pray that Mr. Khan will stay among the mobs and rioters of the madrassas and mosques he stirred up. Perhaps novelist Roy can write in an indigenous Indian language, peddle her books at home, and thereby disinvest from this hegemonic system that drives her to fury.
Then there is the director of anti-American films from Denmark, Lars von Trier, who whined, “Mr. Bush is an a**hole. So much in Denmark is American. . . America fills about 60 per cent of my brain. So, in fact, I am American. But I can't go there to vote and I can't change anything, because I am from a small country. So that is why I make films about America.” Memo to poor head-pounding Mr. von Trier: There is no compelling reason to have anything American in your country — except in the past to expel German invaders you either could not or would not keep out. Simply stop buying American. Don’t watch American movies. Admonish not us, but your own leaders to get out of NATO, pronto — the faster the better. Deny entry to all American troops — and tourists. Embrace the EU. It’s bigger and more populous than the U.S. Create an all-EU defense force. Go for it all! Above all, be sure that your films are not marketed through any global organization that is either American-financed, directed, or substantiates a Westernized hegemony in the promulgation of intellectual property. Perhaps there are plenty of Danes who would see your films about Denmark at home — and that might cleanse your brain of what you hate, if make you a little less money.
There are easily identifiable constants in these sad examples. Rhetoric is always at odds with lifestyle: A novelist who tours and writes in English is the epitome of the Western liberal tradition that allows freedom of expression, promotes book sales through open markets, and enjoys unfettered peer review. Ms. Roy will always operate deeply embedded in the system she ridicules, and Western grandees will always pay her well for making them feel badly for a few hours. Islamists, Communists, and theocrats — in a Saudi Arabia, Iran, Cuba, or China — would not only not pay her, but might well issue a fatwa, jail time, or a death sentence for what they didn’t like to read or hear.
As a cricketer Khan made a fortune doing what most normal Westerners do not do. By some reports, corporate grandee Nooyi took in $5 million-plus a year — and lives a life that most Americans outside of Greenwich, Connecticut, and without her access to a globalized captain’s seat at PepsiCo could only dream of. So it is not just the West per se that has enriched these megaphones, but the hard-driving, over-hyped culture of the West, as exemplified by marquee sports, highbrow publishers, and the Pepsi Corporation. In other words, Khan, Roy, and Nooyi are, by their own volition, knee-deep in the supposed greed of the West in a way that most ordinary Americans surely are not. Maligned Americans on the tractor in Kansas or walking the beat in the Bronx have not a clue about the privileges that a Roy or Nooyi enjoy — and they are not whining, complaining, or biting the hand that feeds them far less well. No, these ungracious operators all seem to gravitate to, profit from, and then spite the paradigm that created rich global business, media, publishing, and entertainment conglomerates — and themselves.
A second constant is illustrated by director von Trier’s remark: “America fills about 60 percent of my brain.” There is a sort of schizophrenia also common among the “other” who bumps up against the U.S. The extreme example of this syndrome can be seen in bin Laden and Mohammed Atta, who seemed mesmerized and yet repelled by their own thralldom to things Western. In the case of von Trier, does he ever ask why the U.S. is so obtrusive in his gray matter, and why, for instance, Scandinavia is not — or for that matter a larger France or an even larger Russia? Instead in his movies and outbursts he retreats into the usual racist or exploitative mantra that serves a psychological need of reconciling what you want and enjoy and won’t give up with a feeling of unease and guilt about your own expanding appetite — or exploding brain.
A final suggestion for these unhappy and privileged few: To end your obsessions with the pathologies of America and the West, find a way to create your own alternative sports, literature, corporations, soft drinks, and filmmaking in the non-West.
From V.D. Hanson
Saturday, May 28, 2005
ELITIST CONTEMPT FOR RELIGION
You must not be "up there" if you are religious -- unless the religion is Leftism, of course. I am myself an atheist but I always treat Christians with the respect due to their high ethical aspirations
During his nationally televised press conference April 28, President Bush was asked about the Family Research Council's allegation that some of his judicial nominees have been filibustered because of their faith. After considerable probing by MSNBC's David Gregory, the president said he believed that in fact his nominees were being subjected to these stalling tactics not because of their religious beliefs but because of their "judicial philosophy."
Well, I agree with the president that some Democratic senators have targeted the judicial philosophy of the nominees. But that judicial philosophy has been scrutinized and scorned in several cases precisely because of the nominee's belief system or faith -- not because of his or her record. After all, it was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) -- not the Family Research Council -- who launched an inquiry into one key nominee's "deeply held personal beliefs." Schumer didn't challenge the nominee's "deeply held judicial philosophy," but rather his beliefs.
And what were those personal beliefs? In the case of former Alabama attorney general William Pryor, as with other filibustered nominees, it appears that it was the nominee's personal views on abortion, homosexuality and other matters on which Catholic and evangelical churches have clear positions that are contrary to those of liberal Democrats and their allies. Pryor failed the Democrats' test because he had spoken out, as a Catholic, saying that abortion is an abomination. He was also questioned about postponing a family vacation with his young children to Disney World because he found out it coincided with "Gay Days" at the park.
Leon Holmes and his wife were put to the test because he wrote an article for a church newsletter about the relationship between husbands and wives based upon Ephesians 5:22-25. Judge Charles Pickering was questioned about a statement he made as the head of the Mississippi Southern Baptist Convention, in which he said that the Bible is an "absolute authority" for human conduct -- a standard that just about any religious person would hold. A group called American Atheists blasted Pickering for these statements, even though they were made outside the scope of any government duties or judicial office. The National Organization for Women also attacked Pickering on religious grounds, citing his advice to convicted criminals to consult prison ministries (they have a marked impact on reducing the recidivism rate among convicts, and participation is voluntary) and his occasional use of biblical quotations in his opinions. (By the way, a judge who writes that "the love of money is the root of all evil" or mentions the "lilies of the field" is quoting from the Bible.)
Having "deeply held personal beliefs" such as these was enough to set the liberal pressure groups on edge and trigger filibusters. The pattern that has emerged is that any nominees who hold to the traditional tenets of their faith as a guide for life, whether they be Catholic, Protestant or Jewish, fail the litmus test, the liberal loyalty oath, that is being employed by some Senate Democrats. Faith is acceptable as long as it remains unknown, or is applied only to personal beliefs about such matters as poverty and capital punishment. Call this standard a litmus test on abortion, a de facto screening for religious conviction, or a demand for fealty to the Democratic Party platform -- whatever it's called, the results are the same.
The sometimes subtle, too often open, campaign against orthodox religious views is too important an issue for us to simply turn our heads and ignore the truth. Left unchecked, the climate of intimidation against religious voices will empty the public square of many of its most-needed voices. Our children, and our children's children, must never be asked to choose between publicly acknowledging their faith by teaching a Sunday school or catechism class and serving in high public office. We must never reward those whose methods of inquiry involve carrying tape recorders into private meetings, Bible study, church services and the chambers of conscience.
In their zeal to preserve an imperial judiciary, liberals have taken abuse of the confirmation process to a new low. The way out is to vote on each nominee on his or her merits.
Friday, May 27, 2005
LEFTISTS WANT TO KEEP BLACKS "IN THEIR PLACE"
If the share of the black vote that goes to the Democrats ever falls to 70 percent, it may be virtually impossible for the Democrats to win the White House or Congress, because they have long ago lost the white male vote and their support among other groups is eroding. Against that background, it is possible to understand their desperate efforts to keep blacks paranoid, not only about Republicans but about American society in general.
Liberal Democrats, especially, must keep blacks fearful of racism everywhere, including in an administration whose Cabinet includes people of Chinese, Japanese, Hispanic, and Jewish ancestry, and two consecutive black Secretaries of State. Blacks must be kept believing that their only hope lies with liberals. Not only must the present be distorted, so must the past -- and any alternative view of the future must be nipped in the bud. That is why prominent minority figures who stray from the liberal plantation must be discredited, debased and, above all, kept from becoming federal judges.
A thoughtful and highly intelligent member of the California supreme court like Justice Janice Rogers Brown must be smeared as a right-wing extremist, even though she received 76 percent of the vote in California, hardly a right-wing extremist state. But desperate politicians cannot let facts stand in their way. Least of all can they afford to let Janice Rogers Brown become a national figure on the federal bench. The things she says and does could lead other blacks to begin to think independently -- and that in turn threatens the whole liberal house of cards. If a smear is what it takes to stop her, that is what liberal politicians and the liberal media will use. It's "not personal" as they say when they smear someone. It doesn't matter how outstanding or upstanding Justice Brown is. She is a threat to the power that means everything to liberal politicians. The Democrats' dependence on blacks for votes means that they must keep blacks dependent on them.
Black self-reliance would be almost as bad as blacks becoming Republicans, as far as liberal Democrats are concerned. All black progress in the past must be depicted as the result of liberal government programs and all hope of future progress must be depicted as dependent on the same liberalism. In reality, reductions in poverty among blacks and the rise of blacks into higher level occupations were both more pronounced in the years leading up to the civil rights legislation and welfare state policies of the 1960s than in the years that followed. Moreover, contrary to political myth, a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But facts have never stopped politicians or ideologues before and show no signs of stopping them now.
What blacks have achieved for themselves, without the help of liberals, is of no interest to liberals. Nothing illustrates this better than political reactions to academically successful black schools. Despite widespread concerns expressed about the abysmal educational performances of most black schools, there is remarkably little interest in those relatively few black schools which have met or exceeded national standards. Anyone who is serious about the advancement of blacks would want to know what is going on in those ghetto schools whose students have reading and math scores above the national average, when so many other ghetto schools are miles behind in both subjects. But virtually all the studies of such schools have been done by conservatives, while liberals have been strangely silent.
Achievement is not what liberalism is about. Victimhood and dependency are.
Black educational achievements are a special inconvenience for liberals because those achievements have usually been a result of methods and practices that go directly counter to prevailing theories in liberal educational circles and are anathema to the teachers' unions that are key supporters of the Democratic Party. Many things that would advance blacks would not advance the liberal agenda. That is why the time is long overdue for the two to come to a parting of the ways.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
AN ANTI-RELIGIOUS ELITE
For a while last winter, Ruth Kelly, Britain's newly appointed education secretary, had to feel that she was getting the Buttiglione Treatment. Rocco Buttiglione, that is: Italy's nominee to the European Union's executive commission, who had only a few months before come under sharp attack--both from EU parliamentarians and the press--for his traditional Catholic views about the sinfulness of homosexual acts. He tried to hang in, but ultimately the controversy compelled him to stand down.
So what was Kelly's problem? She had been receiving spiritual counseling from the Roman Catholic organization Opus Dei. The British press went to town with lurid myths and half-truths about that organization, from its past associations with Franco's Spain (even though there were Opus Dei members opposed to Franco) to the fictive portrait of the murderous Opus Dei "monk" in Dan Brown's wildly popular novel, The Da Vinci Code (even though there are no monks in Opus Dei). The suggestion, clearly, was that anyone under the influence of such an organization could not support her party's position on such things as abortion and condom use.
While Kelly survived the mini-tempest, her experience captures what many say is the prevailing attitude of European elites toward religion, particularly traditional religion and particularly in the public sphere. From the ban on the wearing of visible religious symbols in French public schools to the refusal of the EU to include specific mention of Christianity's influence on Europe's distinctive civilization in its first constitution, a mountain of anecdotal evidence suggests that an aggressive form of secularism--what the British religion writer Karen Armstrong calls "secular fundamentalism" --is afoot in Europe.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
STAR WARS: MORE SELF-IMPORTANT IGNORANCE FROM HOLLYWOOD
The Lib-Left multimillionaire set that is the Hollywood cabal just doesn't realize the average American isn't the least interested in the non-stop slurring of the values for which President George W. Bush and the Republicans stand. The irrelevancy of the spoiled brats of the entertainment world was shown in the 2004 presidential elections when they did all they could to tarnish Bush's name and elect wonky Democratic candidate John Kerry to the White House. No one -- except card-carrying Democrats -- really gave a damn what the motley lot of Cher, Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin, George Clooney, Martin Sheen, Jessica Lange, Woody Harrelson, Barbra Streisand, Susan Sarandon, Julia Roberts, Ed Asner or the Dixie Chicks had to say.
Director and muckraker Michael Moore may have seen Fahrenheit 9/11 haul in $100 million despite its distortions and factual errors but it surely didn't sway many uncommitted voters. Actually, in the scheme of things, Fahrenheit 9/11 wasn't a big success -- Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ pulled in $800 million. I come back to the Hollywood cabal following columns such as "Naive dupes" (Sept. 16, 2003), "Who are the morons?" (Nov. 12, 2003) and "Silly Cher" (Jan. 20, 2004) because of some idiocy proclaimed by Star Wars creator George Lucas. Apparently, Lucas can't tell fact from fiction and is calling in the Empire to strike out at the democratically elected Republican government. Yup, he now says the Star Wars movies have a political message: Fight to free Americans from the evermore frightening dictatorial tyranny of the Bush administration.
I saw the first Star Wars movie, which was quite entertaining, though not nearly as so as the Flash Gordon serials of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Saw the second Star Wars movie, found it boring. Haven't seen one since. That said, Lucas has a right to make juvenile derring-do movies if he wants, but what caught my attention about the latest Star Wars offering is Lucas reminisced in an interview as to how he thought up the original Star Wars. Back when the original Star Wars movie came out in 1977, Lucas stated he had been greatly influenced and inspired by actor Buster Crabbe's Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers cliffhangers -- but now, apparently that isn't the case at all. Lucas now says he wrote the framework for the first Star Wars in 1971 in reaction to U.S. President Richard Nixon and the events of the Vietnam War. The latest Star Wars movie is a "wake-up call to Americans about the erosion of democratic freedoms" under Bush. What utter nonsense and banality.
But Lucas says when he conceived the first Star Wars movie the issue was, "how does a democracy turn itself over to a dictatorship? Not how does a dictator take over, but how does a democracy and Senate give it away? The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we are doing in Iraq are unbelievable." Naturally, Lucas doesn't mention it was Democratic President John F. Kennedy who got the U.S. into Vietnam in a big way, and Nixon who actually got the U.S. out of Vietnam. Nor that, thanks to Bush, both Iraq and Afghanistan are now free countries, having ridden themselves of a brutal dictatorship and even more brutal theocracy with the evil Taliban. Maybe Lucas doesn't know Kennedy got the U.S. into Vietnam after Soviet dictator Nikita Krushchev mocked him and called him a "puppy." Kennedy wanted to prove to the Soviets he was tough, and disastrously chose Vietnam to do so.
Perhaps Lucas really doesn't know about the persecution under the Taliban in Afghanistan or Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Whatever, seeing ghostly parallels between the Nixon era and the Bush presidency and the supposed sacrificing of individual freedom in the U.S., Mr. Pontificator has a hopeful heart that the latest Star Wars movie will inspire Americans to rebel against their supposedly repressive government. OK, OK -- so the Liberal-Left in the U.S. is bitter the Democrats have lost seven of the past 10 presidential elections (and will lose again in 2008) and that Bush won only 51% of the ballot and only 3.5 million more votes than Kerry. They should live in Canada where Paul Martin's Liberals won with just 37% of the vote, or Britain, where Tony Blair's Labour party won with 36%.
Yet surely if Lucas is ignorant of historical fact, he should keep his mouth shut, as incidentally, should the rest of the Lib-Left Hollywood rabble.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
LEFTISTS: IT IS OK FOR US TO IMPOSE OUR MORALITY BUT NOT OK FOR OTHERS TO IMPOSE THEIRS
In his article "Political pulpit--The Bible as weapon in the culture war," John Shelby Spong is critical of those Christians who are trying to influence government according to their convictions (Perspective, May 15). Spong writes, "When leaders seek to intimidate the presumably independent courts, the first step toward totalitarian government has been taken," and then he reiterates the charge that conservative Christians "seek to impose their religious agenda on the whole body politic."
What Spong fails to point out is that the liberal left also seeks to impose its agenda on the rest of us. The three examples he gives--same-sex marriage, abortion and the Terri Schiavo case--all point to a conflict of opinions, and no matter which side one takes, somebody is imposing his morality on someone else.
If same-sex marriage became law, the definition of marriage would be changed for all of us. It would affect adoption laws and certainly the entire school system. Already, a father here in Chicago asked me recently how he should handle a situation in which his 6-year-old daughter is expected to watch a film that defines a family as any combination of adults: two men, two women, etc. So who is seeking to impose his morality on whom?
Ominously, on Jan. 11, both the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate amended the Illinois Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation as a protected class. Two weeks later, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed it into law. This law makes no exemption for churches and other religious institutions. Sen. Carol Ronen, the sponsor of the bill, is on record saying that the new law applied to churches: "If that is their goal, to discriminate against gay people, this law won't allow them to do that. But I don't believe that's what the Catholic Church wants or stands for."
If same-sex marriages were legalized, we have every reason to believe that churches that fail to comply will have their tax-exempt status revoked. We can hear it already: "You have no right to deny us our constitutional rights to be married." When that happens, we will witness a chilling intolerance for those who write or speak against such unions. No laws are neutral.
The mother who chooses abortion imposes her own morality on her preborn infant, whose life is wantonly snuffed out. And in the case of Schiavo, the will of her husband was imposed upon her (evidence to the contrary is at least questionable), and she was starved to death. In other words, in all moral judgments, and in every law, someone's morality prevails.
In recent years, many judges have expanded the 1st Amendment phrase "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" as a reason to eliminate all expressions of religion in the so-called public square. Forgotten is the second part of the sentence, which bars Congress from "prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It is indeed difficult to see how a prayer before a football game is an example of Congress establishing a religion, or why a principal would think that a student who brings his Bible to school is guilty of establishing religion. Nevertheless, through the courts, we see an ever-increasing desire to stamp out religion from public life and to impose a secular agenda on "the whole body politic."....
Conservative Christians do not advocate a totalitarian government; if anything, they fear a totalitarian government from the left: When children, beginning in the 1st grade, are indoctrinated in a morality that is contrary to both natural law and their parents' convictions, is not this a step toward totalitarianism? And when a whole class of people, such as preborn infants, is denied protection, and thus can be killed for convenience--is not this a precursor to totalitarianism? After all, if one class of people can be denied a basic right to live, who is next, the elderly, the infirm? And if religion is deemed to be private, who is to say that the day might come when it is completely restricted to houses of worship, eventually to our homes, or even limited to our own minds?....
Monday, May 23, 2005
The only thing more medieval than the concept of absolute truth is some groups' claim that they alone possess it. Yet, not only is such backward, fundamentalist thinking thriving in 21st-century America, it dominates one of our major political parties. Concerned citizens wonder: What's the matter with Democrats? To answer that question, read Thomas Frank, who articulates the self-righteous anger and self-satisfied worldview that infects liberal thought.
Start with the article "What's the Matter With Liberals?" in the May 12 issue of the New York Review of Books. Move on to his elaboration of these themes in his mega-best-selling book, "What's the Matter With Kansas?" which is now available in paperback (Owl Books, $14, 322 pages). His article's headline suggests a fearless critique, enumerating the missteps that have cost Democrats all three branches of government in the last decade, offering a platform of principled positions that will enable them to rise again. Instead, his attacks are aimed at Republicans. The cozy, oh so flattering message to liberals is clear: What's the matter with us? Not much.
Frank's lack of specific proposals underscores a common critique: that Democrats on the national level don't stand for anything. Yet he also reminds us that Democrats do stand for something quite far-reaching: the certitude of their own virtue in a wicked world. Like fire-and-brimstone preachers of old, they are less interested in leading than in warning us about those who might lead us astray. It is a moral vision defined by the negative: We are good because our opponents are evil; believe us because you cannot trust them; we are right because they are wrong.
This mind-set leaves Frank with a gnarly problem: Why have so many forsaken reason to worship false gods? More prosaically, he poses a question that has become a key Democrat talking point: Why do so many working-class Americans vote against their own economic self-interest and support Republicans? Frank, of course, has little interest in conclusively demonstrating that Republican policies have hurt average Americans -- or why, if this is so, people are moving from blue states to red states. He doesn't attempt to show that such voters would be better off under Democrats. For him it is an article of faith.
He answers his question like a preacher who does not want to antagonize possible converts: You sin (i.e., vote Republican) because you have been bamboozled by wily conservatives, who goad you into believing that liberal social platforms, not harsh GOP economic policies, are the fount of your troubles. "Strip today's Kansans of their job security, and they head out to become registered Republicans," Frank writes. "Push them off their land, and next thing you know they're protesting in front of abortion clinics. Squander their life savings on manicures for CEOs, and there's a good chance they'll join the John Birch Society."
The contemptuousness of Frank's analysis does not make it wrong. Perhaps rafts of his fellow Kansans -- and working-class Americans across the country -- are gullible pawns, so out of touch with the reality of their own lives that voting has become, for them, a form of self-immolation. Then again, maybe they do not believe they are as impoverished as Frank maintains. Maybe experience has taught them that the government can't solve all their problems. Or maybe their moral beliefs make cultural issues such as abortion and school prayer paramount in their minds.
Rather than interview a representative sample of these folks to understand their thinking, Frank arrogantly concludes that they suffer "derangement." What else but a mental condition -- and a healthy dollop of ignorance -- could prevent them from seeing Frank's light? This lack of curiosity and empathy is particularly troubling. If we no longer see the point of understanding one another, how can we bridge the gaps between us? The final characters in Frank's morality play are phonies leading these "deluded" fools. These cynical manipulators pretend to "wage cultural battles where victory is impossible" -- such as outlawing abortion and restoring school prayer -- to swipe the votes of rubes they need to win elections and line their own pockets.
For Frank -- and other influential liberal writers such as Frank Rich and Paul Krugman of The New York Times -- politics hinges less on measurable results than emotional perception. Liberalism has not declined because people prefer alternatives, they maintain, but because Republicans have seized control of reality itself -- twisting truth to demonize their saintly opponents and cover their horns and tails with a Wal-Mart halo. Thus, liberals do not proclaim that President Bush is wrong or misguided but that he's a liar and a con artist -- throughout his book, Frank refers to conservatives as the "Cons." The suggestion is that Bush and his allies do not believe what they say, that deep down they know the liberals are right. Driven by dark and evil forces, they deceive the people for their party's selfish ends.
"What's the Matter With Kansas?" is a lazy, self-satisfied work. It is also an important one. It shows how deep an intellectual hole liberals have dug for themselves. Its success suggests how hard it will be for them to crawl out from it.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
LEFTISTS THINK THAT THEY ALONE HAVE ANY RIGHTS
And that only they can grant them to others
Maybe the non-stop denunciations of judicial nominees by Senate Democrats will seem relevant to some people but it is in fact wholly beside the point. Senators who don't like any particular judicial nominee -- or any nominee for any other federal appointment -- have a right to vote against that nominee for any reason or for no reason. That right has never been in question during the more than two centuries since it was conferred by the Constitution of the United States. So all this unending talk about what Senate Democrats don't like about Justice Priscilla Owen of the Texas supreme court or Justice Janice Rogers Brown of the California supreme court is completely irrelevant. Senators who don't like them can vote against them.
The real issue is whether those Senators have the right to deprive all other Senators of the right to vote on these nominees. Nothing that is said for or against Justice Owen or Justice Brown has any relevance to the issue of some Senators denying other Senators the right to vote.
The essence of bigotry is denying other people the same rights you have. For generations, it was racial bigotry which provoked filibusters to prevent the Senate from voting on bills to extend civil rights to blacks. But bigotry is bigotry, whether it is racial bigotry, religious bigotry or political bigotry. People who say that the right of unlimited debate in the Senate "has served this country well" can seldom, if ever, point to any specific benefit that has come from any specific filibuster. The detriment includes years of denying equal rights to minorities, when the majority of the people in this country were ready to grant equal rights but Southern Democrats prevented the Senate from carrying out the will of the majority by preventing other Senators from voting.
Although this was the bigotry of the right, the bigotry of the left has since become pervasive, not just in politics but also in our educational system and in much of the media. Again and again, the left has claimed rights for itself that it denies to others. Schools and colleges that bombard students with propaganda in favor of homosexuality often stifle any contrary views with rules against "hate speech" that prevent any criticism of either homosexuality itself or the policies advocated by gay activists.
Environmentalists who are against development think their views on this subject are a sufficient reason for unelected zoning boards and planning commissions to prevent other people from building homes or offices, even though there would not be any issue unless other people thought otherwise.
Indeed, the left in general has increasingly favored unelected institutions which impose their views, whether the federal courts, environmental agencies, or such national bureaucracies as the National Park Service or international agencies like the United Nations or the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
The left has for decades condoned or "understood" riots and violence that fit the vision of the left and even condemned police action to restore order and the rights of other people to go about their business unmolested. The New York Times published a sympathetic account of one of our domestic left-wing terrorists on the very day when international terrorists attacked the World Trade Center. Violence is of course the ultimate in imposing your views on others by forcibly over-riding their views.
Although scholarship is supposed to be the search for truth, there is no need to search for truth when you are dogmatically certain that you have already found it. That is too often the mindset of the left in academia, where contrary views are penalized by restrictive speech codes and faculty hiring decisions include ideological litmus tests, while even visiting public speakers are limited to those acceptable to the left. Ideological bigotry has become the norm on even our most prestigious campuses, where students can go for years without reading or hearing anything that challenges the left vision.
The ideological bigotry of the left is currently holding center stage in the United States Senate, where those who favor one view of judicial nominees argue as if that view justifies preventing Senators with other views from voting.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
American liberalism has traditionally derived much of its energy from a volatile mixture of emotion and moral superiority. The liberal belief that one's policies would on balance accomplish something indisputably good generally made opposing arguments about shortcomings, costs or unintended consequences unpersuasive. Nonetheless, politics during the presidencies of Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower was waged mainly as politics and not as a kind of religious political crusade. Somehow that changed during the Kennedy presidency.
Mr. Kennedy used the force of his personality to infuse his supporters with a sense of transcendent mission--the New Frontier. The emotions this movement inspired coincided with the one deeply moral political phenomenon that postwar America has experienced--Martin Luther King's civil-rights movement. The Rev. King's multiracial civil-rights marches and their role in overturning de jure and de facto segregation in the U.S. were a political and moral achievement.
In retrospect, it's clear that the moral clarity of the early civil-rights movement was a political epiphany for many white liberals. Some have since returned to traditional, private lives; others have become neoconservatives. But many active liberals carried along their newly found moral certitude and quasi-religious fervor into nearly every major public-policy issue that has come along in the past 15 years. The result has been liberal fundamentalism.
The Vietnam anti-war movement, the environmental movement, the disarmament and nuclear-freeze movements, the anti-nuclear-power movement, consumerism, the Third World movement, the limits-to-growth movement. These have been the really active faiths in contemporary America. Their adherents attended the anti-war march on Washington in 1970, locking arms and once again singing "We Shall Overcome." They characterized the leader of their own country at the time as demonic. More recently, they have held vigils outside nuclear power plants, singing and holding lighted candles, while their lawyers filed injunctions in friendly courtrooms. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups transformed "the wilderness" into a vast, pantheistic shrine, which they and fellow believers must defend against the depredations of conservative developers. America's Roman Catholic bishops denounced nuclear war and became revered figures in the nuclear-freeze movement (but when they denounce abortion, they are reviled).
Not surprisingly, this evangelical liberalism produced a response. Conservative groups--both secular and religious--were created, and they quite obviously make the political success of their adversaries more difficult. Liberals don't like that. So now, suddenly, we find all these politicians and columnists who are afraid someone might want to impose a particular point of view on them. "There is a long and unhappy history of intolerance which still flourishes at the extremist fringe of American politics," says Ted Kennedy, a fundamentalist liberal preacher from eastern Massachusetts. Indeed there is. It greeted U.S. soldiers returning to California from Vietnam with spit. It has characterized people who work in the auto, drug and nuclear-power businesses as criminally amoral. It turned the investigations of Anne Gorsuch, Les Lenkowsky and Ed Meese into inquisitions.
If some liberals are now afraid that certain Christian fundamentalists will reintroduce new forms of intolerance and excessive religious zeal into American political life, perhaps we should concede the possibility that they know what they're talking about. But they might also meditate on the current election and why there has been an apparent rightward shift in political sentiment in the U.S. It could be that a great many voters have taken a good look at the fundamentalists on the religious right and the fundamentalists on the political left and made up their own minds about which pose the greater threat to their own private and public values.
Friday, May 20, 2005
ARIZONANS VERSUS THE ELITE MEDIA
Anybody who appreciates a good yuck was sad to see the Minutemen pack up their pickups and go home. After all, it wasn't every day that we got to enjoy the spectacle of sunscreen-lathered ACLU observers chasing volunteer border-watchers through the desert. But in the media bonfire accompanying Arizona's Redneck Revolt, we saw the cultural divide separating media elites from ordinary people--those with BlackBerries and $150 hairdos versus folks with tobacco bulges in their cheeks.
In the view of most of the reporters who parachuted into Arizona for this story and, disturbingly, local ones as well, you'd get the distinct impression that the Minutemen are the problem along the border. That's right. America needn't worry about the thousands who bust into the country every night. No, the real danger are those yahoos who think calling the cops when they see somebody breaking the law is a good idea.
Never mind that it worked, more or less. In April, the number of illegals coming across along the Naco corridor, where the Minutemen were stationed, fell, even if the balloon effect pushed them to other places along Arizona's 350-mile-long border with Mexico. But that's not the story most editors and producers wanted. They wanted to stand up the angle that went something like--no, exactly like--this: Gun-toting vigilantes run amok in the desert, hunting harmless illegals who are only looking for work.
So, you show up in gritty Tombstone, grab somebody wearing a straw hat and a sidearm and work him for the quotes you want. Then you shoot film of the guy wearing his gun, because that's what the producer said in the story meeting, and if you're lucky you get a big grin on the subject's face showing gaps where teeth should be.
I've been a reporter in Arizona for 30 years. As the border story has heated up, I get calls from out-of-town reporters wanting me to hook them up with angry border residents. If I mentioned in a story that a particular rancher carries a gun, that's the rancher the reporters want to see. They're less interested in understanding his problems than getting film of him and his six-shooter.
These border residents are routinely snickered at and called racist vigilantes. But most are decent folks caught up in the daily invasion of illegals who tramp across their land. Ranchers in hard-hit areas spend the first hours of every day repairing damage done the night before. They find fences knocked down and water spigots left on, draining thousands of precious gallons. And then there's the trash: pill bottles, syringes, used needles, and pile after pile of human feces.
Sometimes illegals hammer on residents' windows in the middle of the night, demanding to use the phone. Some even walk right into the ranch house and refuse to leave until the rancher pulls a gun and forces the issue. One rancher told me about illegals who rustled one of her newborn calves. The intruders beat the 12-hour-old animal to death with a fence post, then barbecued it on the spot.
How bad is it? In the Tucson Sector alone in January 2005, the Border Patrol arrested 35,704 people, seized 34,864 pounds of marijuana, and impounded 557 smuggling vehicles. In one month. High-speed chases and accidents on our back-roads are now common. Residents know to stay off certain roads at night because the smugglers--of people and drugs--own them, and if you're not careful they'll come around a bend at 100 mph and run you into a ditch or worse.
In some hilltop spots near Douglas, you can unfold a lawn chair, crack open a Schlitz and watch the invasion happen. As dusk falls, they come, hundreds of headlights from Mexican cabs streaming north, each filled to the windows with soon-to-be illegals. Are they good folks? Are they carrying biological agents? We have no idea. They could be the worst terrorists and thugs. If that sounds alarmist, consider that some ranchers have found Muslim prayer rugs and Arabic dictionaries on their property. And the feds confirm that the ultraviolent Mara Salvatrucha street gang is using Arizona as a gateway into this country.
But you haven't heard much about these problems nationally, because the media soft-pedal them. Why? It's politically incorrect. We've built a new third rail in American life. Leave the harmless illegals alone and go after their victims instead.
I've interviewed a fellow named Bud Strom, a retired Marine and a pretty fair cowboy poet who has a ranch south of Sierra Vista. He tells about a reporter for the New York Times coming out to his place and doing a story on what it's like to live on the border. "The story made it sound like I was out there helping them, giving them water and such," says Bud laughing. In fact, when he sees a group, he wheels his horse and gets out of there fast, then calls the Border Patrol.
Bud knows what he's dealing with. He has had a truck stolen, found bales of drugs on his land, and routinely has illegals approach him demanding beer. It used to be that one or two would ask a local resident for water and a sandwich, and, once fed, be on their way with a polite "Gracias, Se¤orita." The new breed now comes in groups of 50. They demand to be driven to their pickup spot, and if you refuse they flip you off. Sometimes they poison barking ranch dogs or cut their throats to quiet them. How long do you suppose such outrages would go on in Fairfield, Conn.? Or Greenwich? It'd be a day and a half before some kumbaya-liberal flipped sides and founded the Merritt Parkway Minutemen. Or the BlackBerry Brigade.
The best part of this story is that while the elite media's agenda on the Minutemen played well on the coasts, Arizonans weren't buying it. A poll found that 57% of the state's residents supported the border-watch project, which sent the editorial page of Tucson's Arizona Daily Star into a stammering fit, calling the number alarming. Of course, this is a paper so politically correct it can't even bring itself to call illegals illegals. Its writers refer to them as migrants or, my favorite, border crossers. But as the Minutemen plan to expand operations to five more states--and a new citizen group, the Yuma Patriots, begins patrolling--that 57% heartens me. It looks to me like the rednecks won.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
LEFTIST INTELLECTUALS ARE THE MAJOR PROP OF TOTALITARIANS
A dirty little secret is that totalitarian ideologies always empower intellectuals. The best name for all the bloody-minded professors of the last hundred years comes from a Frenchman named Julien Benda. It is the title of his book, The Treason of the Clerks. The treasonous "clerks" are the intellectuals of Europe, who directly inspired all of its mass-murdering ideologies, ever since Lenin and Hitler.
In light of this well-known history, it came as stunning news last week that the union bosses of Britain’s colleges have decided to boycott Israel’s university teachers - unless those teachers denounce their own country. The clerks of Britain are at it again. The aim of the academic boycott is to dehumanize Israel, to turn it into the South Africa of the new century. This is now standard procedure. It is how the Left put African tyrants like Robert Mugabe into power. It is exactly why they slander America, day after day, in the Euromedia.
The Soviet Union is long gone, but the clerks have learned nothing. They are still trashing democracies that are threatened by aggression. In stark contrast, Europe covered up mass murders in Rwanda and the Sudan for years, because telling the truth might embarrass their good friends in the Third World. Murdered children don’t bother the Left, unless they are politically useful children.
The ground for today’s boycott has been carefully prepared. It comes after decades of daily disinformation (that is, lies) in Europe’s media. The once-fearless British Broadcasting Corporation is now a captive donkey of the hard Left. Just last week, the BBC was caught with its hands in the cookie jar -sneaking Leftist hecklers with microphones under their shirts into a Conservative Party meeting, with a BBC crew to film them. This is fairly typical for the BBC, which was the model for Orwell’s Ministry of Truth (that is, lies) in 1984.
Just a few years ago the Beeb peddled the Big Lie of the “Jenin massacre,” when Israeli troops battled a heavily booby-trapped center of armed terrorists in the city of Jenin. In the first days of house-to-house fighting the Beeb went ballistic, claiming that a thousand Palestinian civilians were dead. The final count: 52 dead terrorists, 23 dead Israeli soldiers. The BBC never bothered to apologize. Instead, their correspondent tearfully confessed on national radio how sadly she cried when the dying pedophile and terror chief Arafat was flown out of Jordan. Europeans are now saturated with anti-Israel disinformation. In Britain, Jewish teachers and students fear violence, abuse, and intimidation. Last week a friend of Tony Blair’s son was spat at.
It was Europe's clerks who conceived of National Socialism a century before the Nazis came to power. It was they who connived at Hitler's Final Solution, and they who carried out Lenin's bloody war on the peasants of Russia and the Ukraine. Stalin thought of himself as an intellectual. For decades, Fabian ideologues in England pushed Stalin’s propaganda, just as they went into great spasms of outrage to defend Saddam Hussein two years ago. American universities are now politically correct "islands of tyranny in a sea of freedom," but Europe led the way. Our campus bullies are only a pale copy of theirs.
Contrary to myth, Hitler was a classic European intellectual, a failed artist who acquired his lifelong hatreds in the bohemian cafes of Vienna. He just echoed some of the most famous intellectuals of his time. Lenin dwelt in the same circles, as did Mussolini. All were attracted to the Left. Jean Paul Sartre, the most famous European philosopher of the 20th century, publicly proclaimed that Marxism was more important than Existentialism. That was in the mid-1950s, when no one could close their eyes any more to the true nature of Marx and Stalin. Just a few years later, Sartre switched his public support to Mao, who was even then massacring 30 million Chinese people in the insane Great Leap Forward.
But the Treason of the Clerks did not stop in the 1950s. Pol Pot was a French-educated intellectual who executed one out of every four Cambodians in the 1970s. He remarked calmly at the end of his career that "my conscience is clear." One of today's celebrated heroes in philosophy, Martin Heidegger, was an enthusiastic Nazi. Even the New York Times showed a photo of Herr Doktor-Professor Heidegger in Nazi uniform, proudly showing off his Hitler salute for the camera.
Winston Churchill called them "bloody-minded professors" at the time, and bloody-minded professors is what they still are today.
If the British Left has its way, Israel will commit suicide. There will now be a European campaign to shun the universities of Israel and dehumanize its six million Jews. Europe’s treacherous clerks would love see a Palestinian Mugabe instead of today’s vibrant democracy, in which all Israeli Arabs have full and equal rights. Israelis will be called Nazis and racists, as many of Europe's famous intellectuals have already done. Europe is coming full circle to its proud past.
In old-fashioned thinking, the university was about a search for truth. It was about tolerance and free debate, and an honest effort to find evidence one way or the other. The PC academy has put all that bourgeois nonsense behind it. It already knows the Truth, and it will lie, cheat, and yes, support murder to make others obey the Party Line. That is the record of the 20th century. Today, we are just seeing more of the same.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
THE ELITIST PBS
The New York Times recently ran an article titled "Time to Defund PBS?" The bias at PBS has gotten so bad that the president of The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has acknowledged that its programming leans to the left. All Americans support PBS with their taxes, but the "Public" network pushes a far-left agenda that represents the beliefs of only a fraction of taxpayers.
Although I do not believe this, some would make the case that there was a time when the United States actually needed PBS. There were three networks that controlled what Americans saw on television. Our younger readers won't remember this, but there was really a time when you could not surf 240 channels. This was that wonderful period in our history prior to the advent of the Communist News Network (CNN). The Big Three seldom ran historical or scientific programming. TV was for entertainment, and history and science just weren't all that entertaining to the masses. But if America needed PBS then, it certainly does not need it today. The History Channel and the Discovery Network, along with a host of other free programming sources, more than fill our needs for culture and education. PBS is simply no longer needed.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting was created to feed from the public trough by a group of elitists who convinced Congress that the Untied States would become a vast cultural wasteland if the government did not pay for alternative programming. Instead of insisting that public schools teach our children effectively, these well-meaning but misguided folks believed that the one-eyed babysitter could transform our children into privileged geniuses who could quote all the major passages of Shakespeare and hum complete Mozart symphonies.
Regardless of whether there was ever a need for PBS, you will never convince me that it was ever constitutional or even sensible for our government to underwrite any part of its horrendous cost. Historically, art and culture have been supported by wealthy patrons. That is as it should be. But I defy anyone to show me that portion of the Constitution of the United States that mandates (or even allows) our government to pay for culture. If the elitists believe that there is a need for PBS today, let them pay for it. The majority of Americans should not be forced to pay for it through their taxes.
Ken Tomlinson, the aforementioned president of The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, started this debate by declaring that NOW With Bill Moyers was so left-leaning that it jeopardized PBS's tax-exempt status and its government funding. He stated, "I frankly feel at PBS headquarters there is a tone deafness to issues of tone and balance." The Corporation Tomlinson heads dispenses hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to public television and radio every year. Tomlinson is responsible for seeing that that money is spent in a legal manner.
It is illegal for tax-exempt entities to support political parties or candidates. Anyone who has had the stomach to watch PBS's "public affairs" programming over the last decade cannot question the network's undying support for the Democrat platform and Democrat candidates. If there were a viable Socialist Party in this nation, PBS would be campaigning for them.
So the liberals are crying that Tomlinson is trying to kill PBS. Far from it. Tomlinson is trying to SAVE PBS. He knows that Public Television stands to lose government funding if it does not start reporting issues in a fair and balanced manner. If anyone questions whether PBS's political programming is UNfair and UNbalanced, they can simply go to area of the PBS website that lists the programs appearing on NOW. Every one currently listed is either negative toward the United States or toward our military personnel......
PBS, reacting to public scrutiny, has removed Moyers from the NOW program and reduced it to 30 minutes. But he is still a player at PBS, he has a new show, and his former show still spews forth liberal hatred and lies.
If there was ever a time when the US needed PBS, that time passed a long time ago. There was never a time when it was legal or constitutional to steal money from citizens through taxation to support causes that most of us deplore. Public sentiment is starting to turn toward defunding Public Television. I encourage all of you to contact your representatives and say, "TURN PBS OFF - FOR GOOD!" Let PBS raise its money through its famous beg-a-thons.
I will close with a quote from Ross Mackenzie's blog on Townhall.com. "Will anyone seriously contend that if Ken Tomlinson were asking public broadcasting to be fairer to the left than to moderates and conservatives, he would be blasted - as he amply is blasted now - for comments that have a 'chilling effect' and threaten public broadcasting's editorial independence?"
(Excerpt from Tom Barrett)
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
THE NYT ON SOCIAL CLASS: CONFUSED THINKING GALORE
In which good news is greeted glumly. Excerpts only
There was a time when Americans thought they understood class. The upper crust vacationed in Europe and worshiped an Episcopal God. The middle class drove Ford Fairlanes, settled the San Fernando Valley and enlisted as company men. The working class belonged to the A.F.L.-C.I.O., voted Democratic and did not take cruises to the Caribbean. Today, the country has gone a long way toward an appearance of classlessness. Americans of all sorts are awash in luxuries that would have dazzled their grandparents. Social diversity has erased many of the old markers. It has become harder to read people's status in the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the votes they cast, the god they worship, the color of their skin. The contours of class have blurred; some say they have disappeared.
But class is still a powerful force in American life. Over the past three decades, it has come to play a greater, not lesser, role in important ways. At a time when education matters more than ever, success in school remains linked tightly to class [Because Leftists have destroyed American public education so only the kids of those who can afford private schools learn anything] . At a time when the country is increasingly integrated racially, the rich are isolating themselves more and more. At a time of extraordinary advances in medicine, class differences in health and lifespan are wide and appear to be widening.
And new research on mobility, the movement of families up and down the economic ladder, shows there is far less of it than economists once thought and less than most people believe. [Click here for more information on income mobility.] In fact, mobility, which once buoyed the working lives of Americans as it rose in the decades after World War II, has lately flattened out or possibly even declined, many researchers say. Mobility is the promise that lies at the heart of the American dream. It is supposed to take the sting out of the widening gulf between the have-mores and the have-nots. There are poor and rich in the United States, of course, the argument goes; but as long as one can become the other, as long as there is something close to equality of opportunity, the differences between them do not add up to class barriers..... [But if differences between rich and poor have been much reduced does it matter? One would have thought that the NYT would be celebrating this!]
The trends are broad and seemingly contradictory: the blurring of the landscape of class and the simultaneous hardening of certain class lines; the rise in standards of living while most people remain moored in their relative places.
Even as mobility seems to have stagnated, the ranks of the elite are opening. Today, anyone may have a shot at becoming a United States Supreme Court justice or a C.E.O., and there are more and more self-made billionaires. Only 37 members of last year's Forbes 400, a list of the richest Americans, inherited their wealth, down from almost 200 in the mid-1980's.... [So the Dream is in fact healthier than ever!]
A paradox lies at the heart of this new American meritocracy. Merit has replaced the old system of inherited privilege, in which parents to the manner born handed down the manor to their children. But merit, it turns out, is at least partly class-based. Parents with money, education and connections cultivate in their children the habits that the meritocracy rewards. When their children then succeed, their success is seen as earned. The scramble to scoop up a house in the best school district, channel a child into the right preschool program or land the best medical specialist are all part of a quiet contest among social groups that the affluent and educated are winning in a rout. [It wouldn't be so important if ALL schools gave a good education]
"The old system of hereditary barriers and clubby barriers has pretty much vanished," said Eric Wanner, president of the Russell Sage Foundation, a social science research group in New York City that recently published a series of studies on the social effects of economic inequality...... [What! No cheers from the NYT?]
A few sociologists go so far as to say that social complexity has made the concept of class meaningless. Conventional big classes have become so diverse - in income, lifestyle, political views - that they have ceased to be classes at all, said Paul W. Kingston, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. To him, American society is a "ladder with lots and lots of rungs." "There is not one decisive break saying that the people below this all have this common experience," Professor Kingston said. "Each step is equal-sized. Sure, for the people higher up this ladder, their kids are more apt to get more education, better health insurance. But that doesn't mean there are classes." ... [More to celebrate?]
Studies on mobility over generations are notoriously difficult, because they require researchers to match the earnings records of parents with those of their children. Some economists consider the findings of the new studies murky; it cannot be definitively shown that mobility has fallen during the last generation, they say, only that it has not risen. The data will probably not be conclusive for years.....
One surprising finding about mobility is that it is not higher in the United States than in Britain or France. It is lower here than in Canada and some Scandinavian countries but not as low as in developing countries like Brazil, where escape from poverty is so difficult that the lower class is all but frozen in place.
"Being born in the elite in the U.S. gives you a constellation of privileges that very few people in the world have ever experienced," Professor Levine said. "Being born poor in the U.S. gives you disadvantages unlike anything in Western Europe and Japan and Canada." [Which contradicts the preceding sentence!]
Why does it appear that class is fading as a force in American life? For one thing, it is harder to read position in possessions. Factories in China and elsewhere churn out picture-taking cellphones and other luxuries that are now affordable to almost everyone. Federal deregulation has done the same for plane tickets and long-distance phone calls. Banks, more confident about measuring risk, now extend credit to low-income families, so that owning a home or driving a new car is no longer evidence that someone is middle class.
The economic changes making material goods cheaper have forced businesses to seek out new opportunities so that they now market to groups they once ignored. Cruise ships, years ago a symbol of the high life, have become the ocean-going equivalent of the Jersey Shore. BMW produces a cheaper model with the same insignia. Martha Stewart sells chenille jacquard drapery and scallop-embossed ceramic dinnerware at Kmart. "The level of material comfort in this country is numbing," said Paul Bellew, executive director for market and industry analysis at General Motors. "You can make a case that the upper half lives as well as the upper 5 percent did 50 years ago." [So America has achieved what the Communists only talked about]
The American elite, too, is more diverse than it was. The number of corporate chief executives who went to Ivy League colleges has dropped over the past 15 years. There are many more Catholics, Jews and Mormons in the Senate than there were a generation or two ago. Because of the economic earthquakes of the last few decades, a small but growing number of people have shot to the top..... [No Hurrahs for that either?]
Family structure, too, differs increasingly along class lines. The educated and affluent are more likely than others to have their children while married. They have fewer children and have them later, when their earning power is high. On average, according to one study, college-educated women have their first child at 30, up from 25 in the early 1970's. The average age among women who have never gone to college has stayed at about 22. [Errr... would another way of saying that be that deciding to have children early and out of wedlock is a major factor in keeping people poor?]
The benefits of the new meritocracy do come at a price. It once seemed that people worked hard and got rich in order to relax, but a new class marker in upper-income families is having at least one parent who works extremely long hours (and often boasts about it). In 1973, one study found, the highest-paid tenth of the country worked fewer hours than the bottom tenth. Today, those at the top work more.... [So they don't deserve more?]
Monday, May 16, 2005
ELITIST DENIES HE IS AN ELITIST BUT PROVES HE IS!
The article below is one of the funnier examples of foot-shooting that I have seen. He denies that he or his Leftist ilk are elitist and defines elitism as "thinking that you are better than everyone else" and yet his article just drips with assurance that he and his ilk are better and wiser than everyone else -- in particular better and wiser than Christians -- whom he seems to see as only semi-human and certainly not worthy of the vote!
We’ve all been hearing and reading a lot since last Tuesday about the “liberal elite”. Even liberals are throwing the phrase around, as if it’s a given that liberals—who favor lower tax rates for the poor, higher tax rates for the rich, equal rights and opportunities for people of all colors and sexual orientations, and a government that stays out of religion—somehow think they’re better than everyone else. Do I even need to point out that “liberal elite” is a contradiction in terms?
The idea that Blue States are elitist for being intolerant of intolerance is mind-bogglingly dense. The only elitism in the Kerry campaign was a failure to address this distortion because they simply did not believe that a certain portion of the voting public is capable of rational thought. In all fairness, to some degree, they were right. But coupled with a fear of scaring off undecided voters, this allowed Bush to galvanize his other base (you know, the not-elitist one that thinks people who don’t practice their faith burn in hell for all eternity), and more than counteract the flood of new Democratic voters around the country.
Liberals: Get the hell over it. We, as a political body, are our ideas, our hopes, and the future of this country. There’s only way to get over the great ideological slump that we’ve fallen into: Admit that we’re right and work to convince voters. Thinking that your ideas are right isn’t elitism. Believing it’s not worth trying to convince others is.
While the endless parade of Cable TV pundits that have effectively destroyed rational discussion in this country drone on and on about the “liberal elite,” they let it be taken as a given that the “moral majority” in the red states are somehow not elitist. We have come to believe that people who think that the rich should pay lower taxes, gays shouldn’t be allowed to get married (even in other states… but otherwise they’re for states’ rights), that those who do not share their religious convictions are immoral—and who just 40 years ago were rioting over having to share the sidewalk with a Darkie—could never be accused of elitism. What could possibly be more elitist? Oh, that’s right. John Kerry getting a haircut. Yet, you can almost see those red states thumbing their noses: “So you’re too good to think everyone should be a white, straight Protestant. Oooh la la!”
And thumb they did. While the outcome of this election was close in terms of electors, the difference in the popular vote was incredibly high. Given the doubts already raised, unless there is a serious investigation right now, historians aren’t likely to view this election as any more legitimate than 1960 or 2000. So the good news is that we won’t all look dumb in the history books; just complacent. The bad news is that they are likely to agree that Bush did indeed win the popular vote by a wide margin.
John Kerry would have had an easy walk to the White House, if this race were decided by politics. But it wasn’t. It was decided by Evangelical Christians, many of whom went to the polls with decidedly elitist world views. “When you say 'radical right' today,” Barry Goldwater once said, “I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.” In 2004, the South and Midwest gave politics in America the kiss of death. It’s a sad state of affairs in this country when even liberals look to Barry Goldwater for inspiration.
Bush managed to end politics as Goldwater knew it by uniting already solidly Red States against the solidly Blue ones. In other words, the man who ran as a “Uniter, not a divider,” has successfully divided this country more than any time since the Civil War. More shockingly, he has gleaned all of this support from non-issues—policies that the executive branch have no direct say over.
Democrats in this campaign made a fundamental error, but it wasn’t in being out of touch with the problems of the average voter. It was a failure to even attempt convincing voters to see things their way. Or as I call it, “Practice leadership.” Rather than disagree with popular opinion on issues like abortion and gay marriage, arguments they could easily have won, they chose to sidestep them in favor of another round of “It’s the economy, stupid.” Clinton politics somehow didn’t work in a race with right-wingers portraying John Kerry as Jane Fonda’s main squeeze and George W. Bush as Jesus Christ’s chosen one.
Had John Kerry come out (pardon the phrase) and pointed out the fact that many, many churches and Pastors in America—including some within the President’s own Methodist church--were already performing gay weddings, and that nobody is standing up for their rights, he may have deflated Bush a little. If he had pointed out that no American church has ever been forced to perform weddings for, say, someone not baptized in their faith, he may have changed some minds.
If he had pointed out that one in nine verses in the Bible is about the treatment of the impoverished, and that George W. Bush has done nothing but increased their ranks while turning his focus to a handful of questionable verses about homosexuality, he might even have won over some hearts. But more than that, these things would have made John Kerry, in the eyes of the voters, a strong leader and a man of conviction, even if they disagreed with him. And, since we were apparently electing a religious leader and not a President, it would have made him look more Godly, too.
If John Kerry had pointed out that abortion had actually increased under Bush (after falling dramatically under Clinton) because of increased poverty and an incredibly misguided abstinence-only sex education programs, he might have changed some minds about how to curb the number of procedures. Clinton used say that abortion should be “Safe, legal and rare.” Under Bush, it’s become more dangerous, more likely to become illegal, and much more common. Give the man another four years and you won’t be able to walk a back alley without stumbling over a set of forceps.
If he had subtly argued that Bush’s strict respect for human life seems to end immediately after delivery, he may have taken some steam out of his support. But, more importantly, these would have shown John Kerry to be a good, practical leader, contrasted with an ideologue with negative real-world results. Since Bush’s stance on every other issue seems to have been, “Yeah, I’m wrong. But I know it, and I’m not gonna change,” this probably would have worked to Kerry’s favor.
But Bush knows how to win anything that isn’t a rational argument. And he had plenty of prejudiced (Dare I say, elitist?) rhetoric burning up the campaign trail. It’s difficult to have a serious policy discussion while managing to work into every sentence “Senator from Massachusetts” or “The Liberal Senator from Massachusetts” as a derogative. If Kerry made one big mistake during the Presidential debates, in my opinion, it was not addressing the President’s cynical and sly attacks on Kerry’s home state......
If you look at Bush’s rhetorical pattern, it is clear that he repeatedly derides those who disagree as divisive or “complainers” while simultaneously viciously dividing the public about non-issues. Finally, he seems to answer logical arguments with “Can’t we just disagree?” Kerry’s reaction should have been a resounding “No.” If you’re wrong, you can’t just go on acting like you’re right. At least not if you’re running the country. And Bush was wrong about virtually everything.
But this ran a small chance of making undecided voters uncomfortable, so instead of doing so, John Kerry decided to stay “Above the fray.” Undecided voters, however, did not decide this election. Evangelical Christians, icked out by the thought of boys holding hands, decided this election. Right-wingers who believe that abortion is wrong, but that the death penalty and invasion of Iraq are somehow right (or just less wrong,) decided this election. Voting machines that magically gave the President many, many more votes in precincts without a paper trail decided this election. If the High Road worked, Karl Rove and George W. Bush would both have been out of a job a long time ago.
Liberals don’t answer many right-wing arguments because they simply don’t see the logic behind some of their right-wing values (largely because there is none). That’s not elitism. What is elitist is thinking that people can’t change their minds, or support a candidate who doesn’t always see things their way. When, Kerry repeatedly chose the tactic, “Let’s agree to disagree,” He allowed voters to fill in the next bit: “And also, that I’m wrong.” Well, I’ve got news for John Kerry: you were right. But if you’re right, you have to stand up for the facts, not cower away from them. That only works for Republicans
Sunday, May 15, 2005
BRITISH LEFTIST ELITE FEAR IMMIGRATION DISCUSSION
Thus revealing their contempt for the ordinary people of Britain
It seems safe to say that 'the immigration issue' - which involved so little debate about the facts, figures or politics of immigration - is about something other than immigration. It is about how the political elite views the rest of us. You can see that in the Tories' desperate attempts to connect with the public through immigration, and in the concerns of New Labour and its supporters about people's 'ill-informed prejudices' being stirred up over immigration: this isn't a discussion about the numbers coming in to Britain, but about the people who were born and live here - and about how politicians might make a connection with such people, whom they clearly consider to be a volatile mass, easily ill-informed and stirred up. 'The immigration issue' has become code for both the elite's suspicion and loathing of the white working classes, and its sense of separation from the public.
There was one thing worse than Howard's cheap attempt to make a connection with the public by claiming that we're all worried about immigration, and that was the response of his critics. Rather than taking up his claims or positing an opposing view, they said: 'You can't say that.' Yet if, as Sarfraz Manzoor claimed, 'the polarised and charged atmosphere of an election campaign' is not the right time to talk about immigration (or anything else for that matter), when is? Some accused Howard of 'playing politics' with immigration - yet surely it is the job of politicians to do politics, even to play it sometimes, and surely an election is one occasion when we should be free to debate anything and everything, however uncomfortable it makes sensitive commentators feel? Howard may be guilty of ratcheting up the rhetoric, but what his critics proposed was even worse: that the election should be polite, controversy-free, and with no ugliness allowed - in effect, that it should be a politics-free zone.
Where Howard was motivated by opportunism, his critics were motivated by a belief that Joe Public is fickle and gullible and easily led astray by dangerous and offensive rhetoric. Theirs is a demand for politicians to mind their language, lest they awake in the British public a latent desire to vote Tory or British National Party (BNP), or even to bash a few immigrants. One contributor to a BBC discussion accused Howard of potentially 'inciting racial abuse and violence' with his 'negativity about immigration'; elsewhere, we read of the Tories stirring 'the dark pond of racial strife', and how the 'race issue' has been 'wickedly stirred'. When, on election night, government minister Margaret Beckett blamed 'the immigration issue' for losing Labour votes (even before the results had been declared), she expressed the contemptuous belief that people are easily, and cheaply, won over by anti-immigrant ranting.
Some seem to believe that there is a well of hatred in the UK, especially among whites of a certain class, which might be brought to the surface by the likes of Howard. They see the mass as an irrational lot, which is why they call for less charged and heated public debates - in order to keep us in line and our alleged simmering racism under control. If we really are so vile and untrustworthy, perhaps politics should be conducted, not only more quietly, but behind closed doors? That would be the logical conclusion to this left and liberal fretting over 'the immigration issue'.
The notion that the electorate is unpredictable, and just a politician's rant away from doing something dodgy, reveals far more about the mindset of the political class and sections of the media than it does about people's lived reality. In the real world, whites, blacks and Asians interact all the time, especially in big cities like London and Manchester. Racial tension and expressions of public racism are much more rare than they were 20 or 30 years ago. Here, 'the immigration issue' expresses the political elite's sense of separation from the public, from the very people who elect them to office: they don't know who we are, what we are like, or what we think about various issues. To them we are a peculiar lot, with strange views; and they worry that their link to us might be severed over something like immigration. When politicians talk about 'the immigration issue', it expresses their fears about failing to connect with us.
Witness the internal Tory wrangling after the election, with bigwigs clashing over whether they focused too much on immigration, or not enough. Aides to Michael Howard argue that the Tories could have 'forced Blair's resignation' if only they had stuck with the immigration issue in the last week of the election campaign; instead, they abandoned plans to continue focusing on it after being criticised for looking like a 'one-issue party'. Other Tory figures, however, including one of their biggest donors, Michael Spencer, now say the party overplayed immigration, and would have better connected with the electorate through other, less negative issues. This is a slightly surreal debate: Tories bickering with each other over how they should have played immigration to win more support, rather than facing up to the fact that whole swathes of the country avoid voting Tory like the plague.
This tendency to focus on 'the immigration issue' rather than address underlying problems was perfectly captured in a handwringing post-election piece written by Labour minister Margaret Hodge. She is MP for Barking in east London. Seventeen per cent of the vote in Barking went to the BNP; yet for all the fears of a broader anti-immigration vote, across the UK the BNP's share of the vote was 0.74 per cent, well below exit-poll expectations of three per cent. Hodge was clearly rattled, and wrote in the Observer about the need for Labour to 'reconnect with its neglected and disenchanted supporters'; she argued that failing to address voters' concerns about immigration could 'spell trouble for many urban communities'.
What comes across most powerfully in Hodge's article is that she hasn't got the first clue about what people in Barking are like, or why some of them vote for certain parties and others don't vote at all. She revealed that, after the General Election of 2001, she 'carried out research' to find out why 54 per cent of people in Barking did not vote, and recently 'conducted five focus groups, where we interviewed 100 residents'. She found that nine out of every 10 Barking residents think politicians are 'out of touch'. Hodge sounds more like junior TV producer than a politician, using focus groups to find out what her audience wants to hear and see rather than engaging with the people of Barking publicly and politically. Her conclusion? That 'the immigration issue' needs to be addressed and resolved in order to break down barriers between politicians and the people. Here, immigration is code for Hodge's sense of utter disconnection from people in Barking - a snapshot of what the immigration issue has come to mean across British politics.
This means that politicians not only express their contempt for sections of the population through 'the immigration issue', but also their self-delusions. If they think that immigration can explain the chasm that exists between public life and the people today, they have another think coming.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
ARROGANT MEDIA THEIR OWN UNDOING
In case you haven't noticed, Big Media is collapsing. The country's oldest and most prestigious news media organizations -- elite mainstream media outlets such as CBS, the New York Times and Newsweek -- no longer have the economic clout, moral authority or persuasive power they once had. This fact of modern media life makes a lot of powerful journalists and politicians cranky, especially the ones who work and live in New York and Washington, D.C.
But as "The Collapse of Big Media," the Wilson Quarterly's cover story, makes clear, the smashing of America's traditional news media into smaller, more fragmented, more ideologically diverse pieces is a good thing for the country. In "Starting Over," Terry Eastland shows that the elite East Coast liberal news media was never perfect, never fair-and-balanced and never as socially or politically conservative as the American heartland it looked down on. Eastland, the publisher of the conservative Weekly Standard, is right when he says Big Media's fall from trustworthiness began when its product -- news -- was exposed as biased by talk radio and the Internet.
In Part 2, "The Young and the Restless," ex-CNN assignment editor David Mindich tries to explain why young people will never pick up the news habit and start reading newspapers and watching network TV news when they get older. Basically, it's because kids have far more interesting things to watch on TV or read on the Internet; plus, they really don't care much about current events or political news.
In Part 3, "Seven Steps to Salvation," critic William Powers offers the old media some practical but probably unrealistic tips on how to recover some of their public standing and sense of self-worth. The old media, he says, should first relax and admit they have biases. Newspapers need to put joy, creativity and spirit in their dull, timid pages and "stop making nice, and start making mischief." TV news, meanwhile, has to get more serious and less celebrity-addicted. Old media should neither patronize the young and dumb nor pander to the old, Powers says. They should defy the marketers by offering longer, more in-depth analyses instead of tiny news bites. And they shouldn't give up hope. Young people might even start wising up.
Whatever happens, Eastland says, Big Media won't disappear. That's good, he says, because they remain important independent sources of news for a free society. But to regain their credibility, respect and customers, he says they "are going to have to dial down their imperial arrogance" and "look for news in places they formerly did not."
Friday, May 13, 2005
GARRISON KEILLOR: ARROGANCE EXPRESSED AS CONDESCENSION
If you have a strong stomach, read this article by Keillor in "The Nation". It just drips with condescension. He plays the part of the Olympian God looking down on a the cute little kiddies below with their silly passions and concerns. He makes a superficial pretence of finding charming what he is really mocking. When it come to conservatives, however, the mask drops and the hate and abuse just gushes out. I reproduce that element below. Amid the abuse there is one serious proposition. I have marked it in red. It is hilarious. The claim that Leftists like to hear opinions other than their own will come as amazing news to anybody who knows that great bastion of Leftism -- the universities. Leftists there are so keen to hear only what is said by their own kind that conservatism is effectively banned there most of the time! In many university Departments there are no registered Republicans at all -- only Democrats and the wary. At least as far back as Lenin, Leftists have in fact always been the unremitting enemies of freedom of speech
"People like Tommy Mischke, a nighttime guy on a right-wing station in St. Paul and a free spirit who gets into wonderful stream-of-consciousness harangues and meditations that are a joy to listen to compared with the teeth-grinding that goes on around him. Not that teeth-grinders are to be disparaged: I enjoy, in small doses, the over-the-top right-wingers who have leaked into AM radio on all sides in the past twenty years. They are evil, lying, cynical bastards who are out to destroy the country I love and turn it into a banana republic, but hey, nobody's perfect. And now that their man is re-elected and they have nice majorities in the House and Senate, they are hunters in search of diminishing prey. There just aren't many of us liberals worth banging away at, but God bless them, they keep on coming... The reason you find an army of right-wingers ratcheting on the radio and so few liberals is simple: Republicans are in need of affirmation, they don't feel comfortable in America and they crave listening to people who think like them. Liberals actually enjoy living in a free society; tuning in to hear an echo is not our idea of a good time. I don't worry about the right-wingers on AM radio. They are talking to an audience that is stuck in rush-hour traffic, in whom road rage is mounting, and the talk shows divert their rage from the road to the liberal conspiracy against America. Instead of ramming your rear bumper, they get mad at Harry Reid. Yes, the wingers do harm, but the worst damage is done to their own followers, who are cheated of the sort of genuine experience that enables people to grow up".
Taranto also skewers Keillor, as does Peg Kaplan.