Friday, December 24, 2004

Noble and Knave of the Year

Every year at this time the Washington Times has a "Noble and Knave of the Year" contest. The contestants are taken from each week's "Noble and Knave of the Week"

You can vote on who deserves the title of Noble and Knave of the year. Select your top three for each category, and send your selections to with "Nobles Contest" in the subject line. Entrees must be received by the Times by December 30, and winners will be announced January 1.

Here are my selections:

Noble of the Year
  • Mel Gibson, for refusing to dishonor his biological father, and for making a movie honoring his Father.
  • The bloggers, for their dogged pursuit of the truth in line with the honored tradition of American journalism.
  • The Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots Foundation, for trying to give every child a present at Christmas.
Knave of the Year
  • Rep. Jim McDermott, who vainly chose to leave out "under God" while he led the House in its daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
  • Former President Jimmy Carter, for exploiting the funeral of a child to give an antiwar diatribe, and for saying that the Revolutionary War was "unnecessary."
  • U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, for calling the Iraq war "illegal."
Choosing the Knave of the Year was a lot harder, sad to say, as there were so many of them. And yes, choosing "bloggers" as a Noble of the Year is a bit self-serving, but hey why not? Blogging has been a lot of fun and we have made a difference.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

President Imam Bush

Here's an excerpt from a column by Stephen Schwartz
Perhaps the biggest story left unreported in the West is the extraordinary exuberance about the Iraqi election, set for January 30, among Iraqi Shias. I know about this because I spend a great deal of time talking to Iraqi Shia religious leaders, some of whom commute back and forth between Iraq and the U.S. The effervescence among them must be experienced to be believed. One prominent Shia in the U.S. told me, "I call the president Imam Bush." (In Shia Islam, the imams are the chief religious guides throughout the history of the sect.) "He is a believer in God, he is just, and I believe he will keep his promise to hold a fair election on January 30," my interlocutor said. "He liberated Kerbala and Najaf [the Shia holy cities]. He has done more for Shias than anybody else in history."

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Insensitivity and the Secretary

Whenever any public figure in Washington suffers criticism they immediatly have the label "embattled" and "under fire" attached to their names in subsequent news broadcasts. Due to the incident in which Secretary Rumsfeld was hit with a pre-arranged question regarding Humvee armor, he has the dubious honor of having those labels attached to him.

Wesley Pruden, the editor-in-chief of the Washington Times, has a way with words that few can match. In today's editorial he makes short work of the anti-Rumsfeld crowd:
Most of the Rumsfeld critics couldn't find a bottle of permanent blue-black ink if it fell into their laps. Ink and paper, 24-pound watermarked bond if you want to be as persnickety as the social pretenders are, are the only correct tools for this task. (You could ask Miss Manners). Just signing a proper condolence letter is not enough. If you're really serious about joining the hunt and polo club, you have to write out the whole letter by hand. All letters must be original; no fair copying a particularly eloquent phrase into a second or third letter.

Writing personal letters of condolence was something only company commanders were expected to do in previous wars. Families of soldiers slain at Gettysburg or Chancellorsville got the news in the newspapers; even in World War II, widows got only a telegram beginning " ... the president of the United States regrets to inform you ... ."

But sometimes any old stick will do, and the secretary sometimes asks for it. Tact is never found in abundance in the executive suites, where aides and flunkies stand at the ready to do the deed when the boss has to cough or burp, and Mr. Rumsfeld is blunter, plainer-spoken, "rougher and gruffer" than most. His reply to the Tennessee National Guardsman citing equipment shortages in Iraq — "you fight with the army you have" — sounds as if the secretary consults Marie Antoinette, not Miss Manners, for tips in the social graces.

The families of the soldiers slain in Iraq "would like to think that at least for a moment the secretary thought individually about this young man or this young woman," says Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a Democrat. Agrees the easily astounded Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a Republican who dreams of being John McCain when he grows up: "This issue of the secretary of defense not personally signing the letters is just astounding to me."

Senators are frequently easily astounded, and can occasionally even be surprised. Frequent correspondents of these worthies might usefully compare the squiggles and squirts in their signatures; auto-pens are not unknown on Capitol Hill. Senators, like CEOs, have others to do their really fatiguing tasks, such as signing letters.

Shortcomings in Mr. Rumsfeld's schooling in social deportment are not actually the point of the sniping, which has become the gala sport of the festive season. The snipers include John McCain, of course, and even Trent Lott, of whom we had not heard since last Confederate Memorial Day. The critics are after George W., as usual, and the president understands that the Gaffe Patrol is itching for action after Bernie Kerik went down in flames (or at least in flagrante delicto) before anyone could fire a shot. But Donald Rumsfeld, an old fighter pilot, has turned out to be a canny and elusive target.

Ordinarily, thoughtless gaffes can take down Washington figures when real mistakes can't. But so far not this time. Saxby Chambliss, the Republican senator from Georgia, rightly calls the defense secretary "insensitive," but a good leader nonetheless. Sen. Richard Lugar thinks the secretary deserves to be kept after school to practice his penmanship, but "he should stay in office."
So Rumsfeld's biggest sin, as it turns out, has nothing to do with Humvee armor. It is in not personally signing the condolence letters that are sent to the families of soldiers killed in battle. He accused of being insensitive and not showing enough respect towards the families.

Such criticism is to a large degree the victory of style over substance, one that has permeated our society. Who has not sat through the mandatory HR class on "sensitivity" and "respect"? Who has not had it hammered into their heads that "everyone deserves respect" as a right by their existance? Sensitivity concerns now demand that we not utter the dreaded word "Christmas" in the workplace or the public schools.

I've never had much patience for that way of thinking. To me, respect is something you earn, it is not a door prize you get for showing up. Sensitivity means "awareness of the needs and emotions of others". There is a time and a place for bluntness, and at other times when certain things just need not be said at all. Yet all too often speaking the plain truth with no icing on top is called "insensitivity" when it is actually just simple straight talk. Throwing out gratuitous insults and engaging in name-calling is insensitivity.

There is also a difference between "courtesy" and "respect", a point completely lost on some people. One can be plain-spoken, even blunt, and yet remain courteous. Indeed in my mind courtesy is demanded as a matter of principle. "Courtesy" and PC notions of "sensitivity" are quite different. But then, some people can't seem to understand the difference between "toleration" and "approval" either (file under "gay issues").

These are subtle yet important differences. In my own blog I try to maintain a professional demeanor, not tossing out gratuitous insults to make a point. Here at Conservapuppies all the writers do the same, which is one reason why I am proud to be associated with them.

Public figures need to watch their words carefully. Yet the sniping at Rumsfeld over his alleged "gaffe" has gone to an absurd level. Of course, whenever McCain or Hagel get into the act you know that something is fishy. Fortunately for the Secretary, he has a stronger man standing up for him. One who, unlike the good senators, is not all-consumed with his public appearance.

That we live in an age, and are fighting a war, in which it is even possible or conceivable for any one person to write or sign letters of condolence to the families of soldiers killed in action is amazing enough, when one stops to think about it. And it is something that we should thank the good Lord for.

(My complete take on the Secretary and the Humvee issue can be found on my other blog site here)

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A Freeman in France

I just picked up a book by Jean-Francois Revel titled Anti-Americanism. Revel is that rare Frenchman who admires America and believes that the nations of Europe have to get their act together and stop blaming America for all of the world's problems. This book was published in France in 2000 but was not translated into English until 2003.

An excerpt:
The American liberal revolution was becoming the driving force behind what was to become known as "globalization." This liberal invasion of the world, which would triumph resoundingly above all after 1990 and the disintegration of Communism, is what Francis Fukuyama would call the End of History, an expression that has come in for some criticism because it has been poorly understood, especially by people who think they have read a book when they have only read its title.

The world should take note that America, for the time being, is the sole power at once capable of saving Mexico from economic collapse (in 1995); dissuading Communist China from attacking Taiwan; mediating between India and Pakistan in the matter of Kashmir; pressuring the Serb government to compel Slobodan Milosevic to appear before the International Court of Justice at The Hague; and working with some chance of success towards the reunification of the two Koreas under a democratic regime.

The [American] unilateralism in question arises automatically from the weakness of the other [European] powers, a weakness more often intellectual than material; that is, it stems from faulty analysis rather than inadequate economic, political and strategic resources. Nothing, for example, prevented the Europeans from joining forces with the Americans as the latter went to the aid of the Afghan resistance fighters in their struggle against the invading Soviets in the 1980s. It was not for want of means that they sat on the fence, but from obsequiousness towards the Soviet Union and obedience to a lamentable geopolitical analysis, whose chief priority was "safeguarding detente" --- as if detente were not by then well and truly dead, and as if it had ever existed apart from naively optimistic Western fantasies.
Perhaps France has had its Victor Davis Hanson in the person of Jean-Francois Revel for decades and just did not know it.