CURRENT EVENTS AND CULTURE
FROM A RIGHT WING LIBERAL
PERSPECTIVE. WRITTEN DAILY BY JAMES MUNSEY.
Thursday, March 18, 2004
Lest we forget why the Madrid train was bombed, Al Qaeda reminds us. They've decided to take it easier on the Spanish. For now.
Mickey Kaus hits it on the head, again, in describing John Kerry's reasoning for voting against the $87 billion bill for the war in Iraq:
"...when that amendment failed, should he have voted against the overall bill? A legislator can always defend a vote against a bill by saying "Well, if the bill had failed they would have had to come back to us and we would have made these three improvements." That's one reason Washington votes are Kabuki theater. But Bush's tax cuts could always be repealed later to close the deficit the $87 billion would enlarge. In the meantime, the tax cuts weren't going to be repealed, the troops were in the field, and Bush was finally stepping up to the plate and asking for money to fund his war. It seems to me the logical vote would be to support the $87 billion and figure out how to pay for it later--unless you were a Democratic candidate running for president in anti-war Iowa and trying desperately to seem anti-Bush to make up for your vote to authorize the Iraq war in the first place. If the $87 billion vote had come during the general election, and Kerry needed to appeal to moderates and conservatives, would he have voted for or against it? The question more or less answers itself..."
Kaus goes on to argue that the Dems will start having second thoughts about Kerry as the convention nears. I think they've come too far to back away now. A revolt against Kerry in July would make the party look weak if it failed. And who would take his place at the podium? I think it unlikely but wouldn't it be an interesting convention for a change?
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
So which is it? Is it appeasement or the free exercise of democracy? The left would have you believe the latter, as evidenced by this New York Times story from today. House Speaker Dennis Hastert took the other viewpoint in USA Today.
It looks suspiciously as Hastert states. But even if it were not, even if it were righteous anger at the Aznar government and not craven fear of the terrorist that lead to the Socialist win in Spain, don't the Spanish people know the signal they are sending to those responsible for the bombings in Madrid. They will conclude based on the evidence, rightly or wrongly, that their actions led to the reactions of the voting public. The Spanish had to know that that perception would lead to more bombings.
Anger at Aznar is one thing. But placing that anger above consideration of the long term harm this vote will do to safety in Western Europe and America is morally bankrupt. If bombs go off in New York and London in the fall, the Spanish are at least slightly complicit.
Monday, March 15, 2004
Apparently terrorism does pay, sometimes. The bombing of the passenger train in Madrid which killed scores definitely had an impact on the Spanish elections, as well. Prior to the terrorist act, the government of Prime Minister Aznar appeared headed for an easy victory over the Socialists. Afterward, many Spaniards blamed the bombing on the pro-American polices of Aznar, especially in his strong support of the invasion of Iraq. Now, the Spanish are promised a government which has promised that Spain's token force of about 1200 soldiers will be withdrawn from Iraq.
Strange the different ways in which people react. Imagine if September 11 had happened in the shadow of a national election. One could easily see Republican and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, coalescing around the incumbent, whether Gore or Bush. In fact, that happened. Mutual amity reigned in this country for several months.
But in Spain, the government fell. Were the Spanish sacrificing Aznar and his people to the terrorists, whoever they are? "Here, take them. We are sorry if they gave offense." Will that buy them some time? Probably. The terrorists are zealots but they are not stupid. The bomb was the stick, no bombs for the time being is the carrot.
Will the same happen in Britain? Blair is weak but the saving grace there is that the Conservatives in opposition are as tough as he.
And what about this country? Like I said, my money says no. The American people will not be cowed into appeasement. A bomb dropped on November 6 might be the worse thing that could happen to a Kerry campaign.
Saturday, March 13, 2004
I can't quite put my finger on what bothers me about John Kerry. There is the senatorial pomposity, the arrogance borne of never having had to do a day's work, the self serving Vietnam diary excerpt in The Atlantic a few months ago. Of course there are the politics, which on the best of days are solidly to the left of mainstream but on Kerry's worst days are hopelessly muddled.
David Brooks does as good as job as I've read getting to the core of Kerry. Essentially, there appears to be no core. And I guess that's the problem I have with him. I do not know enough about his voting record or his stands on issues over the years to praise or scorn yet. As much as I disagreed with many of the stances taken by the Democratic pretenders for president during the early primaries, I got a good read on many of them. Edwards seemed likable, Lieberman had character, Dean had passion. Kerry, so says the pundits, has electibilty! What the hell does that mean? As far as I can tell it means that he has none of the flaws of an Edwards, a Lieberman, a Dean. But alas, he has none of the strengths either.
I'm sure I'll be writing about John Kerry enough in the months ahead. The election in November will consume many of these posts as well. But I'm putting it out there in mid March that this will not be 2000. This will not be a 50-50 split. Neither will it be 1984 with Kerry winning his home state and one or two others. This will be more like 1988, the year of Kerry's fellow Bay Stater. Remember Mike Dukakis? A landslide but not an embarrassment for the Dems.
Thursday, March 11, 2004
ONE FOR BUSH
September 11 changed everything. Not for everyone, apparently, but for me and many others. I think of this as I wait for the Board of Elections to send my voter registration card.
That might seem like a small thing to remind one of the most horrible day in recent American history. But let me explain. It's been many years since I've voted. This is due to a strain of cynicism about democracy that courses through me even now. So why did I register?
For me, differences between John Kerry and George Bush are largely irrelevant. One social issues I find myself mostly agreeing with Kerry, although I wonder how much his outlook is based on beliefs and principles and how much is based on pandering. On economic issues, I stake the claim that there is probably less difference between the two men than you would think. Both are advocates of big government, no matter Bush's rhetoric. Sorry, conservatives, but big government is here to stay.
There is one large difference however that motivates me to fill out that registration form and waste two hours of my day finding a stamp and that is national security.
This will be an election based on national security and who the American people trust most to safeguard it. I know that Kerry is not going to advocate the dissolution of the US military or the retreat of forces on all fronts. I'm sure he supports a strong military. What concerns me about Kerry (and any other Democrat) is the will to use it.
The people we fight fear resolve. Bush, I think, no matter his missteps in Iraq, has that in spades. I'm not so sure about Kerry or the Democrats. This weakness in the knees goes as far back as Vietnam and still haunts the national party and it will probably be why they lose again in November. Because 9/11 changed everything and they really don't get it yet.
And that's why I'm voting for Bush. And that's the only reason.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
I am going to start posting here as if nothing happened in the past 10 months because in fact, nothing happened. I took a vacation from the Old Goat Express but now I'm back, well rested and ready for the November hunting season on George Bush.
Read this from Andrew Sullivan (Actually, read it twice):
MICRO-AGGRESSION": It's a new term to me, but my conversations with college students this past couple of days have convinced me it's real. What's a micro-aggression? It's when you offend somebody for the usual p.c. reasons. You need not mean to offend someone; you may even be trying to flatter them; but if they feel they're offended or hurt in any way, it's a "micro-aggression." An accumulation of "micro-aggressions" can lead to actual aggression. I accidentally committed a "micro-aggression" two days ago when I used the term "Islamo-fascist" to refer to terrorists or unelected despots who use Islam as a cloak for their violence or tyranny. One poor young student was reduced to tears because I used this term. She said she felt attacked because she is a Muslim. I pointed out that the entire point of the term is to distinguish these theocratic thugs from genuine, mainstream Muslims. And she acknowledged that. Nevertheless, I had committed a micro-aggression. If I were on a campus today, I might be subject to discipline. What you have here, perhaps, is a post-modern, post-Christian attempt to resurrect different levels of sin. I committed what Catholics call a "venial sin," a small-bore, not-too-important, micro-sin. But unlike Catholic teaching, which insists that for something to be a sin, it must be consciously intended, with "micro-aggressions," your motives are irrelevant. In pomo heaven, the individual, after all, has no real autonomy, no independent soul, no personal conscience. He's just reflecting the interplay of power-structures. So in the pursuit of progress, we have resurrected the imperatives of Catholic moral teaching and removed moral responsibility at the same time. They call this a step forward. It's the opposite. One recalls Foucault's classic book, "Discipline and Punish." It's all that's left of his philosophy on American campuses.
I thought of this when I learned from a friend the other day that his wife had been reprimanded at work for discussing the Gibson movie on Jesus Christ's life.
Apparently a fellow co-worker took umbrage at the subject of what was essentially a movie review. Now try to forget for a moment the disturbing scenario of being reprimanded at work for discussing popular culture. What we had hear is a "micro aggression", according to the Though Police. No offense was intended, of course. Hell, the person offended wasn't even being addressed. But no matter, offense was "taken" in the same way one could be offended at being hit by a car if you play in traffic. If you want to be offended, you will be. It's all in how hard you try.
To my friend's wife, I'd say don't let this slow you down in the least. You know when you give offense, either with malice or unattentionally, but yeah, you know it. But there are also cases where you will give "offense" merely by being. After all, every day I breathe, I give offense to some Islamic radical who questions my fitness to live.
Monday, April 21, 2003
The old British leftist Christopher Hitchens continues his sensible slide to the middle. His essay on the hoolabaloo over Halliburton deserves a read. As Hitchens argues, who would the critics of the U.S. government's contract with the huge energy and construction company advocate the monies go to? Either they are for cleaning up the oil fields in Iraq, or they are not, in which case they are insensitive anti-environmentalists. The only other contender for the lucrative contract, beside Dick Cheney's old firm, is a French company. Do you really think the U.S. is going to go there?
Hitchens puts his finger on the real scandal, one that has been mentioned here: the UN's Food for Oil Program and the millions of dollars the agency has made skimming 2 percent off the top. Those millions lay in French banks accruing interest, thereby benefiting the UN and French bankers, but not the people of Iraq. As Hitchens states:
I want to be the first to agree that transparency in the administration and allocation of oil revenues is of the highest importance. For example, there is a gigantic amount of money involved in the U.N.-administered oil-for-food program. Vast quantities of this surplus are still unspent and are backed up somewhere within a complex bureaucracy. The Kurdish people, for example, are still waiting to see how much of their hard-won cash will be released for the rebuilding of their desolated homeland. Escrow isn't enough. All we know is that many U.N. officials are sitting contentedly on the transfers and that the great undisclosed balance is held in a French bank. Here's a good cause for the humanitarians to take up, if they are willing to do some work and some digging instead of mouthing a few easy slogans.
Similarly, Bill Safire in today's New York Times wrote on the same subject:
My Kurdish friends, for example, who are entitled by U.N. resolution to 13 percent of the oil-for-food revenues, believe their four million people are owed billions in food and hospital supplies. I wonder: in what French banks is the money collected from past oil sales deposited? Is a competitive rate of interest being paid? Is that interest being siphoned off in "overhead" to pay other U.N. bills?