Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Adam: Because I want to get married.
Eve: Why?!
Adam: I don't want to be alone.
Eve: You can be single and not alone. Marriage bites!
Adam: I didn't know that.
Eve: Everyone knows that. Ask my divorced sisters. Or ask my divorced mom and dad.
Adam: They're all divorced?
Eve: Everybody's divorced.
Adam: It didn't used to be that way.
Brendan Frasier and Alicia Silverstone, Blast From the Past

I'm a single guy in my 40s. I'm not unique among my friends, while several are married, several aren't. Only one of my three brothers is married, the fact is the old fashioned system of marriage after high school is just broken. There was some complaint by women in the 90s about how there weren't any marriagable men around, not enough eligible bachelors. Yet from the other side, we have this column by Dr Helen on Pajamas Media:
After reading your last column on men’s rights, I have to ask, what are your thoughts on whether or not men should get married?

Dear Reader:
Wow, that is a tough question. Let me start by saying that many of you emailed me about my last column on men’s rights to say that I was wrong to blame men for “not showing up” to fight against the courts and laws that treat them worse than common criminals—without due process, constitutional rights or any say in government intervention into their private lives. But it seems that women are getting ahead in the workplace (in NYC and other large cities, they earn more
than men) but men are falling behind in the domestic realm which includes marriage. I understand that many of you feel that I am “blaming the victim”—in this case men—but I will use in my defense the refrain preached by Martin Luther King: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
She quotes from several writers, and a bleak picture is painted. Women used to rely on men for their protection and survival, but with women in the work place and society basically safe, women are treating marriage as less a future and a way of life and more a way of getting the things they want or just a tradition, what everybody does when they get to a certain point. Men are on the whole more romantic than they are given credit for, and there are some deeply sad stories of men looking for a life and finding a woman looking for herself and a good time.

Readers responded to this column:
You ask for advice to young men regarding marriage. I've only been married 25 years, so may not have enough experience to have worthwhile comments, but here are some quick thoughts.

  • Ensure that you and your intended are committed to the marriage and not just to 'love'. There will be times when you will be extremely exasperated by, angry at, or hurt by her. You will do the same to her at times. Both of you should be committed to getting through any problems which arrive: forgive and work things out.

  • No matter how you are feeling (see above), each of you should endeavor to treat your spouse in a loving manner.

  • Have the same or adequately similar religious views. Mixed marriages can work, but they are harder.

  • No sex outside of marriage. Ever. Marriages can sometimes recover from betrayal, but why risk it. (See the first item, above.)

  • Always try to be kind to your intended, now and when you are married. Kindness smooths a lot of frictions. When you show love, you start to feel love.

  • You and your spouse should agree that, absence physical abuse or adultery, divorce is never an option.

  • Have children: biological or adopted. Plural. It will help both of you to mature.
I'm sure more reflection would bring more thoughts, but these are the first, and subject to modification upon reflection.

I am a mid-thirties unmarried male, who has spent an inordinate amount of my life in long-term relationships with women. I have found that marriage is somewhat of an anachronism if you discount adding children to the relationship; until fairly recently, the 'marriage tax' was an economic hindrance, as well as the ramifications of divorce (I live in a no-fault state). My personal advice to men contemplating marriage is this: ask yourself if she would stay with you if she had to support you. Based on the notion that we're all supposed to marry our best friend, whomever makes the money shouldn't be the basis for the marriage. Yes, money isn't the reason for a marriage, but most divorces sure have money at their roots.
-by David

I guess I'm one of the boycotters. I'm 44, single, never married. In the past I had a few long term relationships that seemed headed toward marriage, one even involved cohabitation. In the end none worked out. The most serious one it seemed that all the effort to maintain the relationship was coming from me, and it wasn't enough. I was expected to put more and more effort into making things work out for her. In the end, when I felt I'd gone as far as I could without damaging my career (actually I did damage my career to a degree, just not irreparably) it wasn't enough for her and she dumped me. I was actually a bit relieved mixed in with all the other emotions because I knew that the question would come down to marriage or not soon enough, and while I felt like it was expected that we'd be married I wasn't sure I wanted to go forward with this particular woman. Afterward I heard from our mutual friends that she basically dumped me because she thought she could do better.

All that happened in my late 20's and early 30's. I dated for a number of years after that, only seriously once or twice. About 6 or 7 years ago I gradually just quit dating. Without really thinking about it I came to the decision that I would not get married, so I wasn't interested in going through the hassle of dating. The interesting part is that I share a house with two other guys in similar situations. We all seem to have voluntarily removed ourselves not just from the population of marriagable men, but from the dating pool. One is a few years older than me, the other in his early 30's. Both of them were previously married and don't seem eager to repeat the experience.
-by Ernie

Don't do it fellas.

I'm married, and happily so, but the more I see, the more I feel like a guy who played a slot machine while walking through the airport in Vegas, and just happened to hit the jackpot on the first try. Marriage is exactly like gambling. Yes, you're going to see a few winners, and the fact that they exist encourages a lot of other people to gamble, but that doesn't mean gambling is a good investment strategy.

Also, bear in mind that marriage isn't just one gamble. You're not going to be the same person in ten years, and she isn't either. Particularly if you have kids, an event that can significantly change your outlook on life. What are the odds that the people you'll be in a decade will get along with each other?

Find a girlfriend, treat her well, but don't ever let her take you for granted.
-by Jason

We tend to forget that marriage used to perform functions for society that have since been displaced by governmental social programs. A mere hundred years ago, women on the average lived shorter lives than men due to the complications of child birth. The need to address issues like property were less pressing. Women didn’t vote and had restricted contract rights let alone right to property, as they themselves were often treated as property. To protect one’s daughters, one married them off to someone to manage what ever the family gave them. If a women were to survive her husband, the possibility existed that the eldest son or another male member of the blood family would make play for the assets. Government was rather unconcerned about one’s existence other than as part of the 10 year census for apportionment because there was no income tax. So, if the birth was of a girl, the birth was just as much recorded locally in the parish records or family bible, cause dad wasn’t about to hitch up the buggy for a long trip to the county seat to file an official record when property was not going to be in issue, because a hundred years ago most Americans live in the country, on small farms, villages and towns. To protect females and their human rights within the context of the period, women were given the exclusivity of sex. While not perfect and saddled with a lot of hypocrisy, people a hundred years ago were prosecuted, harassed, and ostracized for sex outside of marriage. The imperfect institution meant that women were provided for in a world that did not integrate them as equals in the market place.

Give us the vote and subsequent property contract reform. Give us Social Security and lessen , if not remove, the need for the next generation of family to care for the elders. Systematically disassemble the monopoly on sex. Give us no fault divorce and cultural acceptable serial polygamy and polyandry. Give us open sex between consenting adults. It appears only commercial sex still carries the stigma society operated under a hundred years ago. Now throw in the negatives as so amply demonstrated, the real question is why does marriage survive?
-by Donald

I've been lucky and unlucky. My first marriage ended after 13 years (relativelly amicably and still hurt like hell) and basically so did my career/business. This was before widespread no-fault divorce, but my wife got a shark (paid for by her boyfriend) who I finally just said, "fine. Let her take whatever she wants. I quit." She was pretty good about letting me see the kids. There were other, later attempts by the lawyer (like attaching my income tax refund by claiming unpaid child support even though I had receipts and the County records showed I had paid up.) I couldn't take it and closed by business, put enough money (borrowed, mostly) into a drawing account that paid out child support once a month and dropped out.

Later, after I decided I'd probably be single the rest of my life, I met my current wife. We dated for five years, lived together (two different times) for 3 of those and finally got married. Our 15th anniversary is rapidly approaching. We have no children and both work. We have joint everything. We both try to put the other first.

My advice to young men is:
1) Never, ever marry anyone you haven't spent serious time togehter with for at least 2 years. It takes time to really know anyone.
2) Have a written understanding of how finances will be handled. A pre-nup isn't all bad, either, even if you currently have few/no assets.
3) Lower your expectations, and hers. Life is not always going to be a dream. What will you do when you hit the inevitable rough spot?
4) Talk about the serious stuff frequently. One or the other of you may change your mind about something important. It is essential that both of you *know* how the other feels about the important stuff.
5) Understand that even a good marriage may end. What will you do? Plan ahead.
6) Try never to be mean. Women remember such acts pretty much forever. It's not worth it even if you stay together.
7) Practice give-and-take, but try not to keep score.
There's lots more, but this is a start.
-by JorgXMcKie

Historically, the most remarkable change in marriage is that it is no longer governed by contract law, where it had resided for thousands of years. Marriage vows, promises, and ceremonial statements, such as, “To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do us part”, bear little legal weight, are no longer a legal contract, and are unenforceable in law.

Marriage and divorce law is generally too unwieldy to remediate most unethical, immoral, or even illegal spousal conduct. Divorce proceedings in North America are rife with deception, fraud, embezzlement, perjury, defamation, and catastrophic financial and emotional outcomes. Children are especially victimized. The philosophy of “Marriage for Love”, relatively recent in human history, has not provided adequate guidelines about what to do when love breaks down.

Pre-nuptial contracts have begun to replace marriage vows, because they can be written in myriad ways, are enforceable, and are supported by all the power and precedence of thousands of years of contract law, with enforcement processes and procedures clearly understood by most litigation experts.

The simplest method to bypass the problems of typical marriages and divorces made on impulse is for couples to write and sign their own “cohabitation” contract, to replace marriage licenses and pre-nuptial agreements. This method is feasible right now by couples of any gender combination or sexual orientation.

The contract can specify certain benefits exchanges and obligations, with certain penalties for abrogating parts and/or all of the contract. Specific legal marriage documents would not be used, but a ceremony marking the signing of this cohabitation contract is feasible.

If the couple later have conflict over the contract provisions, it could be settled by standard litigation procedures. As in all important contracts, great care is needed for each signatory to commit fully to the process, with a clear understanding of the consequences of abrogating the contract and its provisions.

This may seem cold, but it’s actually quite hot. Couples who love and trust each other deeply would sign the contract willingly, because they wrote it, and “to have and to hold” would be legally defined and enforceable.

If they cannot negotiate such a contract, they may well not be ready for any type of cohabitation arrangement. It would also force irresponsible signatories to reconsider their negative behaviors in light of tangible legal consequences.

This contract method would not replace marriage for everyone, but it would create another legal route to recognize romantic commitment. It would motivate both signatories to stick together through “thick and thin”, since they would know that easy, no-fault, consequence-free divorce or abandonment was not possible. There would be serious and clear legal consequences for signatories who let themselves fall out of love.
-by DemocracyRules
Here's the really sad part. I know good marriages, my friends seem to have good ones, my parents did, my aunt does. The problem is, I know many more bad marriages, so many more it makes me look at it like russian roulette in reverse. Spin the revolver, five of the chambers have split nosed bullets in 'em, chum. Maybe you'll get the empty one. I'm not exaggerating here, my oldest brother has been married three times. The next older one was married once. I know a guy whose wife left him because he was "old and boring" when he was neither. I know a guy whose wife was sleeping around because he worked too hard and wasn't paying enough attention to her. I guess she figured it was fair play.

I know men sometimes are awful, I know there are bad guys out there. It just seems, from my point of view, that women in America at least have gone berserk, that they've lost all sense of duty, honor, commitment, and giving. It seems that all too many women have no idea that they have to care at least as much about the one they claim to love as they do about themselves, that marriage is a covenant, a commitment. That "you go girl" is not a proper slogan for a mature woman.

Sure, I'm a little bitter - and so are all these other guys I know. But maybe there's some basis for that, too. When you come down to it, given the difficulties and sadness around you, given the bad marriages we're surrounded by and the difficulty to find a single woman who is remotely worth the time and commitment can you blame us?
Eve: Adam says that this is simply how things work. First the parents take care of the children and then the children take care of the parents. He says historically, that's how it works.

Whenever Adam gives me such obviously incorrect information, I just smile, slap him on the knee, and look out the window.

Why spoil his dreams? They're such wonderful dreams.
-the end of Blast from the Past


"tell Americans that they're getting fatter and dumber"
-Bill Maher to Mike Gravel

Barbie and Math
For some time now, the presumption has been that Americans do poorly at math and engineering, that the country is being left behind. Test scores in the past have supported this perception - for example about a decade ago a test was taken and compared between industrialized nations. This test put American students near the bottom on mathematical skills, but near the top in perception about how well they know their math. President Bush has several times called for a greater focus on math and engineering among Americans so that the country is not left behind. They especially urge schools to expand their science and math departments and to graduate more students in those areas to compete better with China and India who tend to test better.

However, Investors Business Daily magazine recently looked at a study that casts some doubt on these results:
The authors of the report, the Urban Institute's Hal Salzman and Georgetown University professor Lindsay Lowell, show that math, science, and reading test scores at the primary and secondary level have increased over the past two decades, and U.S. students are now close to the top of international rankings. Perhaps just as surprising, the report finds that our education system actually produces more science and engineering graduates than the market demands.
This interests me. I like to find things that challenge our presumptions and do it credibly, I like to look at things that everyone thinks are true and find out if they really are or not. Quite often they end up being less than entirely accurate. At Newsbusters, they point out that this study isn't getting much play in the legacy media, which I guess is not too surprising since it doesn't fit the "everything is awful you're about to die" theme of much of the news media's content. Newsbusters examines the article, pointing out that much of the methodology used is suspect.

Commenters responded:
The United States gives a free public education for all. The notion that all students will do equally well is fallacious.

Other nations are not as generous with universal free educations. Their sample space for tests is more restrictive.

The best of American mathematics is quite good indeed. Actually the class of the world.
-by allanf

Lest we forget . . .

Europe, as an example, winnows their best and brightest in what we refer to as middle or junior high school. As a European student entering high school, one has already proven and is prepped for follow-on university studies. The rest of the high school age children are prepped for work in the trades.

Here in the United States we have to send everyone to college and thus, we have to have everyone take the SAT test whether they will actually go onto college or not.

The sad truth is that one has to go to our technical community colleges to learn a trade or hope that someone will take them under their wing and tutor them in their knowledge of their trade. The problem is that half of the high school students never even graduate from high school. So, their eligibility for higher education is limited. What we need is the bifurcation of the system at an earlier age. So, we spark interest in our children that have no interest or appitude for college.

Hey, guess what? Not everyone is destined for college. You can make good money and have a satisfying life as a tradesman. Heck, I ought to know. I just got the bill for some plumbing work I had done for a condo I own!
-by jdhawk

Well in Ohio we have a lot of tech (trade) schools that work with local high schools. In fact my high school worked with a place called Ohio Hi-Point. Kids that knew they weren't going to go to college went to Hi-Point for an entire day or for half a day. Hi-Point had classes for automotive fields, computer fields (for networking, basic computer repair, etc), cosmotology, and just about everything else that doesn't need a college education, but requires some sort of certification.
This is in a significant way a glimpse into the problem with doing these sorts of studies. You can compare the education of different countries in a broad way and get tests to show something, but there are so many variables that one has to wonder how useful any of the data is? Putting aside the fact that it's difficult to trust any data from China, commenter allanf above brings up a good point: everyone in the US gets an education. It's illegal not to get an education in the country. That means poor students, great students, mediocre students, everyone is mixed in the pool. In other nations, not everyone gets an education, and the brightest tend to be more likely to attend and thus bed tested. This is a difficult factor to adjust tests for.

However, recent data suggests that even disregarding this factor, the US isn't actually doing that poorly. The Washington Times looked at this recently as well, and they pointed out the fact that school kids are testing better:

I remember taking these tests when I was in school. I'm part of those numbers in 1982, where they gave a national test to American students and we all took an hour off school to fill in little ovals on a sheet. I distinctly remember upon hearing that this was going to have no bearing on our tests and would not go onto our permanent record that it occurred to me that it didn't matter what I put on the sheet. I figured this out in grade school. So I filled in the sheet as quickly as possible making interesting patterns with the dots, and then read a book for the remainder of the period. I don't know how representative I was but at least someone other than me probably was doing that.

Let's just say in the overly utilitarian, pragmatic culture of the United States taking meaningless tests is not likely to be embraced with zeal and national pride by American students.

At the same time, I can see where a lack of engineering and scientific students would be bad for American's future and technological capacity in the future. Yet, if this study is true, more students are graduating in these fields than there are jobs for them which suggests there's not the crisis that some are crying about.

In the past when I've written about education, there usually is a comment from President Friedman who notes that not everyone is college bound and thus their educational requirements are different than, say, a philosopher or a doctor. I tend to agree with that assessment to a point: there's no great need for a mechanic to learn college prep literature and study Beowulf.

At the same time, however, there is a minimum level of education that everyone benefits from regardless of their career path as a human being at the very minimum. Education is not - let me repeat - not in order to get a job. It's to understand the world around you and be a fully prepared and capable human being. You don't need to know algebra to be a mechanic, but you ought to know it in order to face the world. You don't need to know grammar to be a farmer, but you ought to know it to be a good citizen and capable parent.

There's a basic level of education that everyone should have in order to consider themselves educated and adult at all. There's a minimum level of engineering and scientific - and literary and historical and so on - education which all students should get to be a mature citizen and capable part of society. It is this we should be concerned with: what's right to do and wise for our culture; not "is India beating us in tests?" or "will we be left behind technologically?"

Being so concerned about pragmatic areas misses the entire point of education and its results. A well-educated person is able to engage in whatever they do with superior skill and wisdom, with greater preparedness for anything that they encounter. We ought to know and understand the world around us so that we can be a useful part of our society, not because we've got to beat the (insert country here).

One last point: I among others were bemoaning the lack of true skilled machinists in america, the loss of people who could build anything from scratch or modify things; people who can build a hot rod, design and construct an engine, create a machine. Then shows like American Chopper, Monster Garage, and American Hot Rod came out, which popularized machining and modifying and building. Suddenly welding, engineering, building and working with metal, lathes, and sweating in a shop was cool again.

And it seems like that's where a lot of this concern over lacking mathematicians and engineers is missing the point. Kids go into what they're interested in. For decades, the scientist in a lab coat and the mathematician have been portrayed as losers, geeks, loners, pathetic. And kids reacted with "wow, I want no part of that." Yet things change, too, and there's no way of knowing what new trend will change things. There are some great shows on TLC, Discovery, and so on about engineering that are fun to watch and might be having an impact on young minds.

The last thing this needs, even assuming there is any problem, is government money and programs. That's not how you address any such problem.

*UPDATE: For more thoughts on this, take a look at The Myth of the Math and Science Shortage at the Ludwig Von Mises institute.
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"I seriously believe we have to start asking questions about his mental health."
-Dennis Kucinich (referring to President Bush)


"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"
-the Wizard, The Wizard of Oz

Fauxtography in Lebanon
One of the oddest twists in the whole Beauchamp fantasy story at The New Republic is the effort put into declaring the entire episode meaningless and easily brushed aside. That it's nothing worth time, a minor event to shrug at. At the Winds of Change, the Armed Liberal pointed out that many left leaning bloggers and pundits are doing just that. TNR doesn't even have a big circulation, this is a distraction, why worry about it?

He brought up an article he wrote in the past about the truth and how false perception affects policy and politic:
But the monomaniacal focus on Los Angeles as the "Gang Capital of the World" created a false impression that Crips and Bloods ruled the streets. Where did that perception come from? From reporting the, like a hip-hop drumbeat, regularly pounded home the point.

In a few small pockets, for a few years, yes. But the vast majority of people in Los Angeles - people like me - drove throughout the city, ate in restaurants throughout the city (three of my favorites are in South Central and two in East LA).

But the perception of the city changed. Policies changed as a result - policies that may or may not have been good ones.
Immediately, commenters got the point, led off by this one that sums the entire thesis up nicely:
Isn't it sort of disappointing that one has to spend this much time telling journalists, and journalist's most ardent supporters, why it is important that journalists don't lie? Isn't that a pretty good sign that something has gone completely, hysterically wrong in that field, and that, maybe, it is far past salvaging??
-by Corvan
There was an attempt by a commenter to pretend that Beauchamp matters because he's a straw man, a single example that proves that bad morale generating reports by the media are damaging. Yet Corvan again clarified and pointed out the error in that:
arguing ever more loudly that it is okay for journalists to lie so long as they lie about the right things in the right way is not more convincing. As a matter of fact the tin eared defenses I've read here and else where on this sort of out right fabrication convinces me that lying might be an accepted practice in news rooms all over the country, and that there is a large audience for those lies...mostly, though not entirely, on the left.

Perhaps the media's current plight ( Haditha, Koran in the toilet, willie pete, TANG memos, staged car crash tests, Jayson Blair, Baathist and Hamas stringers, feauxtography, TNR-Steven Glass, TNR-Beachamp, Media Matters repeatedly, Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, the bogus NBC story on the dragon skin armor, the out right worship of Arafat, the kissy face interviews with Saddam, with Assad, with the President of Iran, CNN's sniper video, etc, etc.) Are simply a method of appealing to their market share. (i.e. People who can't tolerate reality and who demand that it go away.)
That's the bottom line. The news media is entirely based upon the truth, if they stop reporting things as they really happened faithfully and accurately, then they are useless and possibly worse. After a certain point the pattern develops revealing a crossing of the line between being honestly mistaken and being deliberately manipulative and false. Even if this is simply an example of being willing to believe false things because they fit a "narrative" or agenda, it is pernicious and damaging and a betrayal of everything the entire fourth estate stands for and is meant to be.

You can tell the reason some are so willing to dismiss Beauchamp's goofy inventions, stories he admitted were invented, is because it's so uncomfortable and unpleasant to consider. It's like tying yourself to a certain player on a sports team then finding out he's a cheater and a rotten person. You'd just rather the whole thing went away and insist others do, too. It's embarrassment and shame, and behind it the dread that maybe you've been wrong all along and the cowardice that won't allow you to face that and deal with it.

You can see that when someone instantly changes the subject, starts crying about some other story, waving their arms and crying "Abu Ghraib! Abu Ghraib!" It's the sort of attempt that the Wizard of Oz tries in the movie, and roughly as successful.

I'll close with one more quote from a commenter, this time Glen Wishard, who warns about triumphalism:
A few years ago, when Saddam's regime collapsed (Thank Allah) rather more quickly than the left had hoped, leaving them caught awkwardly in mid-quagmire pose, I well recall how the "warbloggers" were sternly lectured against engaging in something called triumphalism, which leads to hubris and the pride that goeth before the fall, etc., and is furthermore insensitive to the feelings of people who are embarrassed when their country accomplishes something.

Then Strumpet Fortune rolled over on her belly, and we sank into an unpopular struggle with insurgent forces, the status and progress of which was difficult to gauge from any perspective, in or out of the country. But the left read the goat's guts loud and clear: THE WAR WAS LOST, which meant that they - beyond all hope - had won a glorious victory. At this point, they quite forgot the advice they had given about triumphalism.

We are now into the third or fourth year of leftist triumphalism, and the crowing has been going on around the clock. Every corpse of the sixties has been resurrected to crow, too. All kinds of masks have come off.

And now it's all coming apart. There was supposed to be a huge political payoff, but instead they got Pelosi and more Bush. The left and liberal media has utterly humiliated themselves over this war, and their blog rivals have thrived. There was supposed to be an international tidal wave against the United States, but apart from the Spanish and some repellent dictators, our traditional allies have held up. The French are closer to our views than theirs.

And they have utterly failed to make a dent in the war. Their "leaders", if one may call them such, have tried everything they can think of, and they have failed every time.

They are now in the denial phase that they have accused everyone else of being in. It will be the loudest denial phase in history. It's not fair that we're winning something that they had in the bag as lost. It's not fair that they can't cash in their big stack of chips.

Granted, the bulk of the public is still on their side, even if the facts no longer are. But when they turn their hostility against the soldiers, who have refused to be the dehumanized losers they want them to be, the public is not with them. The polls may turn many times before this is over, but that fact will not change.
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Quote of the Day

"Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing."
-Redd Foxx
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Songs I Like: Walk Like a Man (Bruce Springsteen)

All I can think of is being five years old following behind you at the beach
Tracing your footprints in the sand
Trying to walk like a man

Tunnel of Love Cover
Bruce Springsteen is one of the best songwriters in modern history. His lyrics at their best take common life and common folks and make them something remarkable and meaningful. His best album, I think, is Tunnel of Love, which he wrote and sung in 1988, during his marriage to his backup singer Julianne Phillips. The album covers themes of love, confusion, difficulty, marriage, and loss - all of which he likely was experiencing as their marriage fell apart.

The song in particular that grabs me by the gut and wrenches is Walk Like a Man. Like the Rudy Valli song before it, this is a song about trying to stand tall and be a man when things are hard, but Springsteen takes a more mature, deeper look at the idea. He looks at what it means to be married, to follow his father, to try to be that great. He looks at what it means to be without his father, and to face life alone, trying still to walk in those footsteps in the sand.

When my father died the same year this album came out, I realized that I'd never be that man standing at the altar with my father, trying to help me walk like a man. I realized I'd never have him there any more to show me and teach me what it meant to be a man, to face life as a man. Now I realize I'll never be at that altar at all, and I hope that when he looks down at me he's just not disappointed. I think that's part of why I keep returning to the theme of being a man, to try to understand what my father seemed to know instinctively as well as to avoid the ways he failed; to walk like a man.

I remember how rough your hand felt on mine
On my wedding day
And the tears cried on my shoulder
I couldn't turn away
Well so much has happened to me
That I don't understand
All I can think of is being five years old following behind you at the beach
Tracing your footprints in the sand
Trying to walk like a man

By Our Lady Of The Roses
We lived in the shadow of the elms
I remember ma draggin' me and my sister up the street to the church
Whenever she heard those wedding bells
Well would they ever look so happy again
The handsome groom and his bride
As they stepped into that long black limousine
For their mystery ride
Well tonight you step away from me
And alone at the alter I stand
And as I watch my bride coming down the aisle I pray
For the strength to walk like a man

Well now the years have gone and I've grown
From that seed you've sown
But I didn't think there'd be so many steps
I'd have to learn on my own
Well I was young and I didn't know what to do
When I saw your best steps stolen away from you
Now I'll do what I can
I'll walk like a man
And I'll keep on walkin'
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"Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of Liberty abused to licentiousness."
-George Washington

No Smoking
Tyranny does not tend to come with a bang, but rather a slow murmur. It is unusual that a nation becomes a dictatorship in a hurry, although sometimes a military takeover will happen. Typically the rights and freedoms of a nation are slowly eroded and the ruler takes on more and more power, always for the good of the people and finally they are all powerful. It is always a tragedy as people give up more and more liberty until they have only the rags of it left, if any. Venezuela is a case example of this going on right now, as people give up more and more power because they want a better life while the government lies and promises and pretends.

There are some who claim the United States is on this path, that liberties are being taken away and civil rights restrained. The ones who claim this the loudest are the ones who demonstrate by their very actions this isn't true: if that was happening, they wouldn't be able to claim it on television and on the radio. There is, however a form of incremental tyranny that is taking place in the US and elsewhere in western culture however. Mr de Havilland at Samizdata believes he has a sample of this:
And so we have force backed regulations setting out the minutia of a parent's interactions with their own children, vast reams on what sort of speech or expression is and is not permitted in a workplace, rules forbidding a property owner allowing consenting adults from smoking in a place of business, what sorts of insults are permitted, rules covering almost every significant aspect of how you can or cannot build or modify your own house on your own property, moves to restrict what sort of foods can be sold, what kind of light bulbs are allowed, and the latest one, a move to require smokers to have a 'licence to smoke'. Every aspect of self-ownership is being removed and non-compliance criminalised and/or pathologised.

The person suggesting this latest delightfully totalitarian brick-in-the-wall, Professor Julian le Grand, says some very telling things:
"There is nothing evil about smoking as long as you are just hurting yourself. We have to try to help people stop smoking without encroaching on people's liberties." [...] But he said requiring them to fill in forms, have photographs taken in order to apply for a permit would prove a more effective deterrent.
No doubt Julian le Grand thinks that makes him seem reasonable and sensible, because he does not want people to have their civil liberties encroached upon... and he then proceeds to describe how he would like to do precisely that in order to 'deter' you from doing what you really wanted to do.
It's this sort of "for your own good" or "for the children" approach to morality and law that becomes a tyranny of its own, slowly. The argument is no longer an appeal to shared, absolute morality outside of us, but rather an appeal to emotion and a gut-level subjective judgement. Wouldn't it be better if people would just not smoke? Let's require a permit.

Commenters responded:
and if they introduce a "smoking permit" without a shot being fired , then you know darn well that its going to be an "alchohol permit" next. then "fatty food permit". then a "car driving permit".... this toleration of fascism from our political elite absolutely astounds me. its as if they have completely forgotten exactly WHY we fought WW2.

on a different note , are any Samizdata folks going to the pro-referendum rally this Saturday?

even if only 1 man and his dog turns up , its a good excuse to have a few pints anyway.
-by john trenchard

Eloquently getting to the nub of the matter, as ever.

Part of the problem is that "normal" people (i.e. people who don't think about politics and philosophy and don't read Samizdata and assume that the BBC is the last word in what's going on in the world and how to interpret it)...

...*don't see the link between form filling and force*.

They think that everybody agreeing with each other about what is best for everybody (democracy) is the pinnacle of civilisation, and a bit of harmless form filling or or painless paying of fines is perfectly reasonable.

Trying to convince them otherwise without coming across as a nut-job is almost impossible.

"Normal" people don't care about principles and just want an easy life. That's why there won't be any shots fired over this sort of thing and why the slow chipping away of liberties is such an effective strategy for totalitarians.
-by Rob Fisher

The distinguishing feature of the new totalitarianism is that though the final resort might be to the violence of the state, it is led by sentiment and by PR. The principal technique is that identified by Orwell, advocated in slightly different form by Gramsci, and dissected in action in New Britain in Oborne's The Rise of Political Lying: the agents of power overwrite public discourse with stories that conduct both sides of their desired argument. This makes opposition in any form other than the pre-fabricated, pre-defeated, one, literally unthinkable for most people.

Mick Hume covers a straightforward example in his latest Times column:
Two years ago the civil liberties lobby claimed victory when MPs rejected Mr Blair’s plans for 90-day detention and voted “only” for a 28-day limit. Now the Government’s opponents talk as if defending 28 days is the height of civil liberties in Britain. But if the possibility of being locked up for four weeks without charge is the definition of a free society, then the right of habeas corpus is already a corpse.
-by Herbert

I agree 100%.

But (and I know I may be in for a whipping) how does the fact that our own totalitarians are the same people who are prosecuting the "war on terror" jibe?

I've been down this path once or twice before (when right libertarians are accused of being moonbats or mountain men). I always conceded that radical Islam is a problem. I've never said different. But it is also true that the people who have mounted an amorphous "war on terror" are the same group of people who endlessly chip away at freedom and liberty themselves. Is this merely a deal with fallen archangels to beat the devil, and then to deal with them in due time? If so, it isn't working very well because it is these Statists who are aiming at maintaining more of a status quo with the Eastern mentality more than reckoning with it. All the while entrenching themselves more and more into our lives.

The issue merely boils down to an "expectations" table with probabilities as to outcome. Is the magnitude of the threat times its probability higher or lower? Is radical Islam and its threat times its ability to actually do something about it worse than the threat Statists offer times its near certainty? Perhaps the only real difference is that some right libertarians see their own Statist totalitarians who are in control are a worse threat than radical Islam (and that's not to diminish that threat at all, it merely shows just how much of a threat our Statists are). Perhaps the average Samizdatista sees it the other way around. I can accept that. But it does seem a bit schismatic to see umpteen articles about how bad the State is, and growing daily (and will only continue to do so as the majority of the unfunded defined benefits comes due) and then see articles on how wonderfully it seems to be working when it starts up a "War or Terror".
-by Brad

Indeed, chip, indeed!
But (and I know I may be in for a whipping) how does the fact that our own totalitarians are the same people who are prosecuting the "war on terror" jibe?
Brad, it is a perfectly reasonable question. I regard the use of force to keep the barbarians from the gate as one of the few legitimate roles of the state (i.e. killing tyrants and their minions). Because the state does a whole lot of other stuff I disapprove of does not change that.
-by Perry de Havilland
The baseline test for freedom is whether or not someone is free to be a jerk. Not that they ought to be, but whether they can be. Another test is whether someone can be self destructive or not. Part of the problem with our modern society is that we've come to the delusion that being comfortable, happy, and healthy are the chief end of humanity, that this is our highest goal as a people. As a result, appeals to ending discomfort, preventing hardship, and easing into greater leisure are very potent voices.

The problem is, there's no compelling principle that everyone should prevent someone from experiencing hardship, and therefore none that the power of the government should be bent to that end. As long as what you do only impacts yourself, at least primarily, it should be left to individual conscience and liberty - at least that's what the founding fathers of the US argued, as did the philosophers that they studied.

Any discussion of smoking, however crosses over into a broader territory.

Smoking produces smoke, and that smoke is in the air. Much the same as too much perfume or car exhaust, it affects everyone nearby. There are some studies that indicate this can be damaging to the health of others nearby - and some that indicate the damage is minimal or nonexistent. Any way you paint it, however, smoking has an impact on others around you. It coats clothing, it leaves a scent on hair, as anyone who has been to a bar or around lots of smokers for any time period can tell you. That's part of why I don't care to see bands at the local bar as much as I might.

At question is whether or not it is an unreasonable imposition of your personal vice upon others to spew smoke upon them while you enjoy your addiction, or if it is an unreasonable imposition of the bystander's unhappiness to force you to not smoke. Liberty requires that we put up with things we don't care for - even physically in some cases - simply because that's the price of the freedom we enjoy. I have to put up with the feeble bleatings of Dr. Richard Dawkins and even defend his right to bleat, because that liberty has to be applied equally and evenly or it's not liberty at all.

We have to be willing to endure the foolishness of our neighbor in a society to one degree or another in all societies and systems, tyranny or otherwise. That's simply the price of having others around you at the same time as having peace. The more enclosed and limited that society is, the more you must endure rather than simply separate yourself from to avoid their annoyance. On a ship, for example, you're crammed into a small area with possibly hundreds or thousands of others. You deal with their idiosyncrasies, because you've no choice.

However, there is behavior and action that every society determines is too much, that cannot be permitted any more. Murder, theft, rape, and so on are the usual determining factors, and the more sophisticated a society becomes, the more rules that the society creates. Not merely theft, but fraud. Not merely murder, but abuse. As a society continues, this number of rules increases with few being removed. But there's always a line between what a people will put up with and what they will not.

Where is that line drawn?

Smoking is a bad idea, it's stupid, self destructive, expensive, and damaging to personal hygiene. It leeches vitamins out of your body, destroys your lung capacity, and ruins your sense of taste. It makes you much more likely to get various unpleasant and even lethal diseases such as an agonizing death by cancer.

Every smoker knows the truth of at least some of these things, if not all of them. Yet as Dennis Leary pointed out, you could put cigarettes in black packages with a skull on the front called Tumors and smokers would buy them. Because it's an addiction, because smokers physically are tied to the things. Is society compelled to stop something destructive and addictive, or is there a sliding scale, where some are allowed, and some not? Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane for fun is certainly a dangerous activity, but skydiving is perfectly legal. Taking heroin tends to make you unproductive, ruins your health, and the burning addiction will drive the junkie eventually to more and more depraved and illegal acts until they die or kick the habit. That we've made illegal, and even hard living rockers condemn.

The problem we face in the west is that after successfully tearing down every single basis for societal morals and every absolute for right living, we're adrift. It's like hacking the sails and rudders off a ship then demanding that we go this way and that. Well, you are out of luck; you're going the way the winds and tides are blowing that day, buster. A society cannot continue long without a clearly shared system of ethics and rules. There has to be an objective standard for behavior and law, or the society inevitably, if gradually, succumbs to the rule of the strongest voices, or voice.

Which is another way of saying: if you don't agree on what's right and wrong, the strongest among you will force you to agree with their idea. And there the seeds of tyranny are sown.
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“To me, ignoring religion in general is just as problematic as endorsing any one religion.”

You've probably seen it in the movies at least, the flag folding ceremony. The honor guard with military precision and deep respect carefully fold the US flag that is draped over the coffin of a soldier. Finally the triangle showing only stars is handed to the widow or mother of the fallen hero, and the soldier says a few words to her. This is but one part of a ritual for every soldier, to demonstrate a nation's gratitude for their service and sorrow at their loss.

Each fold has come to take on a special meaning over the years, although the number is significant only in that's how many it takes to turn the flag into this triangular bundle. Here's what each fold symbolizes and means:
1. Life
2. Eternal life
3. Honor and remembrance of veterans
4. Our need to turn to God in times of peril
5. Our country, America
6. Where our hearts lie, in allegiance to the flag
7. Tribute to the armed forces
8. For mothers and for the hope of reunion with the fallen hero
9. Tribute to women, the soul of the country
10. Tribute to fatherhood
11. For the Jew: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
12. For the Christian: the triune God father, son, and holy spirit
13. The national motto: In God We Trust.
It was the 11th fold that has caused a controversy
Flag-folding recitations by Memorial Honor Detail volunteers are now banned at the nation’s 125 veterans graveyards because of a complaint about the ceremony at Riverside National Cemetery.
The National Cemetery Administration then decided to ban the entire recital at all national cemeteries. Details of the complaint weren’t disclosed.

Administration spokesman Mike Nacincik said the new policy outlined in a Sept. 27 memorandum is aimed at creating uniform services throughout the military graveyard system.

He said the 13-fold recital is not part of the U.S. Flag Code and is not government-approved.
The exact complaint is not known, if it was a broad complaint about religion in general, it would be against the fourth last three folds, not just the 11th fold. This complaint specifically targeted Jews and the Jewish religion; the 11th fold specifically refers to the triangular shape symbolizing the bottom of the star of David and speaks both of King David and Solomon.

At the Captain's Quarters, this story was noted and Ed Morrisey was outraged:
The men whose votes matter most have not taken this news quietly. The parliamentarian for the American Legion has instructed his detail volunteers to ignore the NCA. Two others quoted in the article wonder why one complainant has more weight than the millions of veterans who expect and deserve the ceremony at their funerals. No one has ever heard the complaint despite their many recitals of the ceremony.
His readers responded:
I am a veteran, and I also agree with stopping this part of the ceremony. I served honorably and well to support the Constitution, and nowhere in that document does it say that we are Jews or Christians. That ceremony makes it abundantly clear to those who hear it that the flag represents only Jews and Christians. The rest are ignored.

The flag MUST represent ALL citizens, of whatever religion they profess. WE cannot be inclusive while proclaiming that our national flag is made up of symbols that exclude other religions.

The Constitution makes it abundantly clear that the Government CANNOT recognise any SPECIFIC religion. By associating parts of the flag with Judaism and Christianity, it violates that portion of the Constitution.

I did not serve to protect any religion, nor did I serve to see any religion excluded. I served to protect the rights of ALL citizens to worship as they choose.

I will not stand idly by and see the flag of our nation usurped for a particular religious belief.
-by AW1Tim

We might just as well stop everything and die - someone will be offended over everything. So, hey, let's just quit.

This is not a religious issue, this is a "chip away at American traditions" issue.

If a soldier does not want the line read (AW1 Tim) so be it but what about the millions in the past and the thousands in the future who did and do?

We have so convoluted the First Amendment that all of us are at risk for losing the right to say anything that someone (and I mean ONE) deems offensive. We need to grow up.
-by j

This reveals two thing. The first is the unwillingness of the 'offended' party to speak to the others that are supposedly offending them and politely asking for a change (such as clearing the reading with the family first). Instead they immediately run to Mommy govenment to fix the problem. This indicates a lack of personal courage.

The second thing this reveals is that our gov't employees willingly accept all complaints as equal and then solve the problem with the regulatory hammer.
-by Lazarus Long

The underlying problem is the desire for some sort of antiseptic and perfect absolute boundary in a area that is messy and undefined. Death and burial are the most spiritual events in human society. The obsession with scrubbing the smallest atomic subparticle of America's religious history from any level of public life is unrealistic and denies America's character.
-by Gideon

AW1 Tim, I don't dispute the requirement of religious neutrality.

I'm suggesting that if they're using a soldier's funeral as a vehicle of their protest, the agenda is not a sincere or patriotic one.

Can I give you an analogy? If you have a valid lawsuit on a technical civil matter, you don't serve the papers on your opponent's wedding day. It displays an utter lack of class, and reveals that your real intentions aren't centered on justice, but rather something ugly and spiteful inside of you.
-by Jeff from Mpls

I'm an atheist. What the hell is wrong with religious references at a funeral?
-by Steven Den Beste
The way I see it, they should keep doing the ceremony but should ask if the family wants it or not. My problem is not with changing an arbitrary ceremony, this hasn't been a part of the flag ceremony at military funerals forever, it's just something that developed over time.

My problem is that in the news story this seems to be specifically targeting a religion, that the complaint is about particular religion. Here's the exact text the veterans use when they read off the meanings of the flag for the 11th fold:

The eleventh fold, in the eyes of a Hebrew citizen, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

That's not endorsing any religion, it's not in any way presuming the person is a Jew. It's simply pointing out that this is what the fold symbolizes to someone of that faith and heritage. For someone to take offense at this particularly inoffensive section of a reading is curious, to say the least. To single out Jews would be troubling. But is that was is really happening?

One of the commenters attached the text that he says is the letter sent out to veteran groups regarding the funerals:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Date: September 27, 2007

From: Director, Office of Field Programs

Thru: Each MSN Director

To: Each Cemetery Director

Subj: The Meaning of Each Fold of an Honor Guard Funeral Flag

It has come to my attention that cemeteries may be distributing a handout entitled, “The Meaning of Each Fold of an Honor Guard Funeral Flag” and/or posting the handout in cemetery buildings. I have also learned that our volunteer honor guards may be using the handout as a script and reciting the meaning of the thirteen folds of the flag while the interment flag is folded during the committal service.

There are various versions of the script circulating by anonymous authors. Some of those scripts are religious in nature and also ascribe meaning to the individual folds put into the flag. We have recently received a complaint sent to the President of the United States that there was a gross error in the handout with reference to the 11th fold “…glorifying the Gods Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”.

There are no federal laws related to the flag that assign any special meaning to the individual folds of the flag. The National Cemetery Administration must not give meaning, or appear to give meaning to the folds of the flag by endorsing or distributing any handouts on “The Meaning of Each Fold of an Honor Guard Funeral Flag.”

Effective immediately all national cemeteries are to refrain from distributing any handouts on “The Meaning of Each Fold of an Honor Guard Funeral Flag”; remove any postings from all cemetery buildings and discontinue our VA-Sponsored Volunteer Honor Guards from using the handout as a script at a committal service during the folding of the flag.

The only time the reading of “The Meaning of Each Fold of an Honor Guard Funeral Flag” is authorized in our national cemeteries is when the next-of-kin arranges for military honors with their local VSO and requests the reading during the committal service.


He also attached what he claims is the response to the original complaint letter:

Dear Mr.[redacted]:
OCT 5 2001

I am replying to your letter to President George W. Bush regarding your concerns about the handout you received at Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery, which explains the meaning of each fold of an honor guard funeral flag. President George Bush cares about the concerns of those who write to him; however, he cannot respond to every inquiry that he receives. I am responding because I oversee the development and operation of our Nation’s 125 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) national cemeteries.

Please accept my condolences on the loss of your father. I appreciate you calling our attention to the error in “The Meaning of Each Fold of an Honor Guard Funeral Flag” handout you received at Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery at your father’s committal service. It is not a VA document. A copy of the document was provided to Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery and they decided to include a copy in the interment folder that is provided to the next of kin.

Through research, we learned that there are various versions of this document circulating, and we regret that we have no knowledge of who authored the version that you received. We have instructed all of our national cemeteries to discontinue the distribution of this document and any other versions of it.

I hope that this information is helpful to you. Again, thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

William F. Tuerk
I notice two things here. First, the complaint was responded to in 2001 which is six years ago. The second is this line in particular from the letter to the vet groups:
We have recently received a complaint sent to the President of the United States that there was a gross error in the handout with reference to the 11th fold “…glorifying the Gods Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”
Assuming this is valid and accurate, I see a few things. First, they refer to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as gods. Nobody, anywhere does that. Second, it doesn't specifically say that this complaint was about the mere presence of this quote, but it says that there was a "gross error" in the handout. Was the error calling these patriarchs gods? Or was that a mistake in the quote, and the error is something else that the man complained about? Is the National Cemetary Association of the US military overreacting by commanding the volunteers to stop doing this part of the ceremony?

Again, assuming any of these documents are valid, why did it take six years for the NCA to take action on this complaint? Why are they telling the vets to not have this at all if the complaint was about the wording of one fold? Why did the AP story make it sound like the complaint was about the fold rather than the wording of it?

Too many questions, and too drastic a response by the military.
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Quote of the Day

"What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I'm semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing...he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance... just a tiny bit."
-Aaron (Albert Brooks in Broadcast News)
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Monday, October 29, 2007


"Yaakov Kirschen in his cartoon ‘Dry Bones’ got it right when he declared that NBC’s TV movie of the Holocaust got a larger reaction than the Third Reich’s original production."

There are holocaust deniers out there, some quite prominent and some just disgruntled cranks mumbling to themselves. They run the gamut of society, and the sad fact is I believe that as time goes on their voice will become stronger. We still have people in our midst who can point to their arm, show the numerical tattoo off and say "I was there you miserable bastard!" Some day those people will die and the denials will just get louder.

One such person is Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), and he recently met with Dutch politicians. Lantos is not a friend of Guantanamo Bay, he's rather outspoken against the war on terror and is a strong leftist. Probably the Dutch, led by green party legislator Mariko Peters thought they had a sympathetic audience. These folks want to get Guantanamo Bay shut down, partly due to riots and Islamic pressure in the Netherlands. They didn't hear what they expected.
Peters said: “We have to close Guantanamo because it symbolizes for me everything that is wrong with this war on terror.”

To which Lantos apparently replied: “Europe was not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay”

He also said: “You have to help us, because if it was not for us you would now be a province of Nazi Germany.”
The socialists were dismayed, grumbling that this "shut down the debate." Yes, I should rather think so. The problem is, as Don Surber points out, there never really was any debate:
Americans by and large do not care what the Dutch think or the French or the Germans or the Belgians. We’ll listen to them, but if they are going to go tell us we “have to” do this or we “have to” do that, they can put a sock in it.

Let’s talk about NATO, shall we? After liberating half of Europe in World War II, we set up NATO to protect that half from the Soviets. We did so because we did not want to have to climb through a bunch of sand and barbed wire again to take back the European continent from cheap-ass dictators.

About 10 years ago, the rest of NATO decided to bomb Yugoslavia — using our bombs, of course — to prevent the holocaust of some Islamic people. We went in. Slobodan Milosevic was no world threat, but any time we can liberate a people, we should do it.

NATO had our back in Afghanistan. But Iraq? Not so much. And now the Dutch are queasy about Gitmo because their own Islamic youths are not happy campers.

Like the letter-writing effort by the prominent UK Newspaper the Guardian to influence Clark County voters in Iowa, telling Americans what to do generally backfires. That's true about most countries, if the US told the Netherlands what to do I expect most of the Dutch would respond in flinty disregard and contempt. After all, if you're not part of that country, who are you to say? I'd expand on Mr Surber's point and say that there wasn't any debate because there was no interest in hearing anything but the one side: close Guantanmo Bay down, stop antagonizing Muslims because they get mad at us.

Readers at Don Surber's site responded to the news:
Bush said he would close Gitmo as soon as the countries from which the Gitmese came from claim them. To this date, the Euros refuse to claim their own upright citizens incacerated by Bushitler. Go figure.

The Dutch may as well pull out from Afghanistan, they are not fighting anyway. Most NATO members’ troops are there for show. They are in the saftest areas, and refuse to fight. We may have to spend resources to protect them.

The only NATO members who fight are the US, the Brits, and the Canadians. The Germans contribute helicopters to ferry the troops. What do the French and the Dutch do?
-by ic

My Dutch father and grandfather would spin in their graves if they could see how the feckless, craven leftists who now dominate Dutch politics are shaming the Netherlands (see Ayaan Hirsi Ali) while allowing it to be colonized right under their noses by a hostile culture.

The real “problem with the war on terror” is the left’s manufactured outrage over everything and anything that could possibly undercut America’s efforts–and damn the consequences.

So Tom Lantos had an epiphany. Big deal. I’m sure it’s just a momentary lapse on his part and tomorrow he’ll be damning Bush and the U.S. again with the rest of them.
-by Drake

“The only NATO members who fight are the US, the Brits, and the Canadians. The Germans contribute helicopters to ferry the troops.”
You forgot the Australians. Even though they’re not NATO, they’re still there fighting besides us. Interesting how english speaking nations tend to help each other out in times of need.
-by Pantera

1. Ic, I am afraid you are mistaken about the Dutch role in Afghanistan. Unlike the French, Italians and the Germans, the Dutch are fighting with the British, Canadians and Americans in the dangerous southern part of the country. They recently have been taking casulties. The Netherlands has joined Canada in desparately pleading with other NATO allies to share the combat burden.
2. The Dutch did not send the delegation to “bitch about Gitmo”. It was a multiparty fact-finding delegation responding in part to the wish of the Bush administration to transfer Gitmo detainees to other countries, including the Netherlands. They also visited Gitmo itself. While leftwing politicians did indeed say some clueless things. the rightwingers reported that conditions at the prison were admirable.
-by Global2

Don Surber Reply: My lone trip to your nation (and Amsterdam was not on the itinerary) was a joy. The Dutch really appreciated Americans — the 101st returning after 30+ years (I was not a member of the 101st; there to report).

You have to separate the soldiers from the politicians. Sounds familiar? There are several (many?) european countries in Afghanistan. It is my understanding that the soldiers do very well on the ground while trying to avoid the politicians from their home country. Fortunately some governments “get it” - a small danish contingent has lost a number of soldiers, but the prime minister is holding steady. (The amount of fighting is the most significant since the danish-prussian war of 1864).

The morale, soldiers KNOW what is at stake, politicians rarely do. ‘Bully’ for the danish PM. There is hope yet.
-by Hedje

Just to provide some perspective: Van Bommel is from a socialist party about akin to the moveon wing of the DNC. At this point in time the Netherlands have more soldiers per capita fighting the war on terror than any country besides the US, UK and Oz. As this is a bit of a strain for us with just a small military, we are asking other European Nato partners to back us up a bit. There is no intention of quitting. Before you insult an entire country and a good ally because of our left wing fringe, please check out your facts.
-by Wijnand

I find some comments to this thread problematic for three reasons.

Firstly, because they’re based on ignorance. Global2 has already corrected this ignorance in respect of the Dutch contingent - rightly, because they’ve lost 11 men in Afghanistan. But the Germans have lost 22, and the Spanish 24. If this is some bizarre contest to see how many of your compatriots have died across there, the Aussies are losing with their pathetic two deaths.

Secondly, because they hark back to “what my granddad did in WWII”. Great. My Granddad won a military cross and croix de guerre in WWI. However, I am not my Grandfather. I regard him as an example to follow (though with his record he doesn’t make it easy), rather than a licence for me to make empty criticisms of the military performance of other countries.

Thirdly, and most importantly, our objective should be to restate again and again the heroism of what our boys are doing across there, why NATO matters, and why participation in the war on terror is important for all free nations. Bickering and point-scoring by armchair soldiers is useless. Look to the future not the past, and think of persuasion rather than destructive criticism based on national origins.
-by Havved
As Mr Surber says, he'll probably apologize for his comments, that's what politicians do. Sort of. He needn't, and shouldn't.

I do want to point something out, however. While there are some Dutch who are anti-American, and some Dutch politicians who are this sort of MoveOn goofballs, the Netherlands is not like Sweden or France. When the riots happened in their country, the Dutch didn't respond with attempts to cover it up (like France) or capitulate, except for a few exceptions like the ones that visited congressman Lantos.

In the 1980s I remember all this concern in the US over land being purchased by the Japanese, they were going to own more land than Americans! All the while, it was true that by several times over, the nation that owned the most land in the US was... the Netherlands. Of all the continental European nations, at least in the west, The Netherlands are actually the most friendly to the US. Americans are treated with greater respect there than in other nations (such as Germany), according to the reports of travelers.

Let's not get into provincial attacks and insults based on borders, no nation is so homogenous that you can characterize everyone living there with a single position. These politicians are craven and weak, but that doesn't mean the people they represent are. I'd hate to think the US was characterized by Senators Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) or Harry Reid (D-NV). And I'd hate to think the dutch believe Lantos represents my viewpoint of their nation. It was a team effort that beat the Nazis, and while the US carried the heaviest load, everyone worked together.
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Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox have won their seventh world series, through great offense, defense, pitching, and managing. Congratulations to all of you on the team, and I'm happy for Boston fans. Boston suffered through an extraordinarily long period without a world series win (1917-2003), but have won the world series twice in the new millenium, and with the team they've built have a good chance of doing so again. Since superstar Alex Rodriguez won't be a Yankee next year, there's a good chance he'll be a Red Sox next year, which will only make the team stronger.

I'd like to tip my hat to the Colorado Rockies, who made it farther than I expected this year. People talk about the World Series losers like they are losers overall, but they were the second best team in baseball that year. Just making it to the fall classic is an incredible feat, so great job guys. You might want to consider a new manager, though. Hargrove lost you that game with his decision to pitch Fuentes after a disasterous game 3. That home run to Atkins was the deciding run in the game, great job, skip.

So congrats to both teams, you made it a great end to a great year in baseball. I'm Looking forward to next year already!


"Surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away"
-Cheap Trick, Surrender

The Daily Kos has a system that a few other blogs such as RedState use, where they allow regular readers and commenters to post their own "diaries" or personal thoughts and blog entries up. These may or may not represent the personal beliefs or ideas of Markos Zuniga, although he'll delete diaries that are too troubling or outrageous.

On the 23rd, diarist Yacka Jah Yacka posted this diary:
How many of us are really just religious lightweights, happy to simply go to church every Sunday, attend church socials, knock back a drink or two every Christmas and not worry ourselves about the deeper implications of our faith?

Given the way most of us pay any real attention to the tenets of our faith, life really wouldn’t be that different if we were to exchange one faith for another. The prayers would be different, but we would recite them just as mindlessly as we do today. The sermons would in all likelihood be exactly the same, and we’d continue to snore through them.

Sure, there are a few people here and there who take religion seriously, but they are in such a small minority that their protests can be easily ignored.

All in all, converting to Islam would be a small price to pay for an end to the killing and maiming of our sons and daughters, not to mention the billions of dollars we could put to better use than fighting this perpetual war.

So let’s do away with our religious pretences, adopt Islam as our new faith, add a few extra holidays to our calendar, and get down to the real business at hand: pumping oil.
Now, this is obviously at least partly satirical (see that last line), although not completely so, consider this comment by the author further down in the replies:
My point is that Muslims would want people to have the right intention for reverting to Islam instead of a petty reason..
Of course they would, just as members of any faith would want converts to their religion to approach it with the best of intentions.

But we're talking about ending terrorism here, so all bets are off on this intentions crap. I mean, who's gonna know? Do Muslim initiates have to pass a polygraph test?

Didn't think so.
To some degree he's being serious - not that everyone should surrender to the terrorists and do exactly what they are told, but that he thinks this is actually a viable solution, that it would stop the fighting and end terrorism. Now, the reason I posted this is not to point at Daily Kos and cry "see? see? They are all for surrender, they are islamofascism appeasers!" That's what Little Green Footballs and other blogs did. No my interest is to highlight the comments to make a point:
Religion is an individual decision, not a national decision. Especially in a country whose constitution forbids religious dabbling by government.

Your diary is as naive as one that says "why can't everyone be nice?" or "shouldn't we tame all those wild animals?". Elementary school level thinking.
-by Joffan

It crossed my mind after 9/11

If I were President.....I might call bin Laden's bluff and convert...maybe declare America a Muslim nation.......which, actually, American Muslims report that America is, in many ways--the spirit, not the rituals.

If it would avert so much tragedy, I'd even make a pilgrimmage to Mecca.

Of course, I suspect that bin Laden & Co. would still be violently anti-Israel.

But it did cross my mind that if enough people like me converted to Islam--if massive numbers of Americans did--it would radically alter Islam!

But it did cross my mind that if enough people like me converted to Islam--if massive numbers of Americans did--it would radically alter Islam!
I understand what you're thinking when you say this, but I don't agree with it. Islam is Islam, regardless of the intentions of the person professing to be Muslim. Muhammad (pbuh) had to deal with a similar situation, with a group of people who halfheartedly claimed to be Muslims, but were exposed for the hypocrites that they were. According to the Qur'an, the hypocrites would be going to hell in the hereafter.

People who become "Muslims," with the erroneous belief that by force of numbers they could change the precepts of Islam, are in for a rude shock. Islam doesn't work that way. Much of Islam is "non-negotiable."
-by JDsg

like the holding of slaves, the raping of slaves, the raping of wives, the sex of 9 year old children, the murdering of apostates, the murdering of gays. bigoted sharia law against all minorities, including christians and jews.

non-negotiable elements indeed.
-by bobisbob

Then why so many different Muslim sects?
-by Yacka Jah Yacka

Well, first off, the page you linked to has eight "sects" listed. Some I would consider sects, others I would not (e.g., the Ahmadiyya, Kemalism). Regardless, I wouldn't say that eight constitutes "so many" (especially in comparison to the much larger number of sects within Christianity).

Be that as it may, the common denominator among almost all of the sects listed on that page is that they are Shia. Being Sunni, I'm not sure exactly why it is the Shia have had a propensity for subdividing other than the Seveners (Ismailis). The vast majority of Muslims are Sunni, some 85% or so. And even the Shia would agree with the Sunni regarding the non-negotiable points. The Sunni/Shia split developed due to politics, not a religious disagreement. In that regard, Sunnis and Shia recognize each other as being Muslim.
-by JDsg

at least not anything that Americans would find acceptable. Just being nominally Muslim wouldn't be any more acceptable to the Islamic wingnuts than our current nominal Christianity is to the likes of Pat Robertson.
-by Sura 109

I suspect it would take 30 seconds for Osama to have us all declared apostates and the killing would continue. You can't just change the Quran because there are a lot of you.

While the jihadis view this as a religious conflict... it is about more than them being "believers" and us being "Kufars" and it's a Southparkesque fallacy that if we just took a pledge (with our fingers crossed) all would be forgiven. I suspect that it would just embolden them to push harder for al Qaida's political goals (of which I think you know ZERO) of a world Caliphate (read that "Islamic Government"). Not sounding so pretty is it?

Islam is Submission to God. Submission to Islam. Islam is also more than a religion, it is a form of GOVERNMENT! You might want to actaully read the Quran or the Hadith before you spout off this crap. I hope it was a snark... but from your comments I see it was not.

When you don't value your own history and culture enough to defend it or fight for it... it is worthless.

I suggest you consider moving to middle east if you want to live under Sharia law. Or just try France. They will be muslim in a generation or so... Last I checked this was America and I can worship as I please (or not) and I like it that way.
-by Captain Infidel

Well done Yacka Jah Yacka. Any Christian who remotely understood the spirit of the bible would do what you've just suggested doing. As part of "love thy enemy", Christians have the ability to defuse this war in the short term simply by converting to Islam, with no skin off anyone's nose. You don't need to change anything at all. Even those extra holidays are not required. You don't need to go to church to be a Christian. You don't need to celebrate Christmas. You don't need to do anything at all.

This is the solution to the problem with Islam too. It needs to be reformed the same way Christianity was, and who better to do that than Christians, who have learnt the art of spinning all the horrible stuff in the bible such as "stone your own children to death if they are disobedient" into "whatever you do, DON'T stone your own children to death, even if they are disobedient", without batting an eyelid.

It is ironic that the first (actually, second) person to suggest this turned out to be from the left-wing, and that the right-wing instead dug in their heels and decided they'd rather see every Muslim dead than say 3 little words "I'm a Muslim". Both the left and the right can be so hypocritical, but today it's the right's hypocrisy on display.

When I pointed this stuff out to the right-wing on LGF, I got banned. So much for their (rightful) condemnation of suppression of freedom of speech in other areas (such as college campuses). Dear oh dear.
-by Kerravon
Hard to believe someone would be banned for saying real Christianity means abandoning one's faith for another and claiming we should all become Muslims rather than fight. The only reason I included that last comment is because out of 51 comments, it's the only one that remotely agreed with the diary. The rest dismissed it (one even claimed it was a GOP plant to make them look bad). They pointed out the rabid hate of the Islamofascist, the antisemitism, misogyny and hate toward gays that radical Islam represents. They pointed to the fact that lately Muslim terrorists kill more Muslims than anyone else. They pointed to the wars between Muslim factions and sects. They listed several recent attacks by terrorists on Muslims who weren't sufficiently radical.

In other words: they recognize the evil we're facing, they rejected this as a solution, and even defended the strength of faith that many people have, which the author dismissed. There were a few cranks, such as the guy that said Pat Robertson is the equivalent of Osama Bin Laden (and is using President Bush to execute his horrors). But the overall tone except for one comment was rejection and even mockery.

Which begs the question: why are they so opposed to President Bush and every single effort to fight this evil? If they recognize this as a real problem, why are they so virulently opposed to the very attempts to stop it and right the wrongs?

Because they don't see it as a threat. They see Islamofascism as a bad thing... over there. They see the radical muslim terrorists as bad... but not a problem for them. They see President Bush's use of force to fight this evil as worse than terrorism and his social conservatism as an imminent threat to the life they live. The fact that President Bush opposes the murder of unborn children and their use for medical experiments screams oppression and tyranny to them.

These are the kind of people who add up each death and pile them on a scale (believing the most outrageous, goofy studies, and blaming all of them on President Bush) then say "see? The war on terror has killed far more than terrorism!" They consider the numbers the only way to compare the two. The fact that terrorists deliberately target innocent people in an attempt to intimidate societies into surrendering to their ideology (as this diary proposes as a solution) and the military kills opposing military and terrorists is irrelevant. They look at bodies and that's the metric.

The fact that the death squads and terrorists in Iraq are the ones killing civilians and blowing up soldiers doesn't matter. If we weren't there in the first place, then nobody would be killed, in their thinking. So all those bodies are at the foot of President Bush as well.

Sure it makes no rational sense. Sure it's a childish view of the world. That doesn't matter because the reason behind these positions has really nothing to do with the deaths in the first place. They started with a worldview that proclaims Republicans bad and conservative republicans even worse. Then they look for ways to explain why this is true, rather than the opposite (find reasons, declare based on those). They presumed President Bush's evil and from that point they point to anything and everything, however irrational and silly, as proof of this.

In other words: they oppose the war because they oppose President Bush. He's like the strange kid in grade school that no matter how bizarre or horrible the story told about him, the credulous and less thoughtful kids in class would believe, because you just knew something weird was true about them. It's the same infantile mindset that believes every wrong and insulting thing about other races because you dislike them to begin with. It's the secondary cause of a lot of evil in the world through history, because it's easier than thinking. Just root for your team and hate the other team, and who cares what the truth is?
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