Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Wright Stuff - Some Context

Here is some more Rev. Wright. 12 minutes of context leading up to his riff on Hillary. The more I see the guy, the more ambiguous I feel. I see less venomous hatred, more righteous anger. A bit too much Barak as Messiah for me, but I'm in complete agreement with him on Hillary.

I like the line: "Jesus loved the hell out of his enemies!"



The larger context makes one thing clear. While the "Greatest Hits" snippets show him as an accomplished showman and crowd pleaser, when he's talking about Biblical exegesis and the meaning of ancient Greek words, he's just like my priest: boring. So what was Obama doing in the seats for 20 years? He may have been snoozing, just like lots of other good, wholesome Americans.

Religion as an Entirely Private Matter

Funny:




Hat Tip: Fire Dog Lake

Monday, March 17, 2008

Obama Needs the Other O

Rev. Wright is certainly no Rev. Fulton J. Sheen. While hatred of America isn't a problem for some leftists, many Americans will be suspicions of a candidate whose "spiritual adviser" exulted in 9/11. It is not surprising that Obama's national poll numbers fell 7 points overnight.

The good Reverend is a problem for Oprah too. Both ends of the Axis of O promote themselves as unifying figures who have transcended race, yet both have sat in Trinity Church and listened to Rev. Wright.

Oprah will not allow her mainstream brand to suffer. I expect Rev. Wright to appear on Oprah's show soon to elicit sympathy and understanding, and to show what a loving, spiritual person he is.

Update: Perhaps not. It seems Ophrah had the sense to bail out years ago. Hat tip: Blith Spirit.

This quote about Oprah from Rev. Wright makes me think he may be OK after all:
She has broken with the [traditional faith],” he says. “She now has this sort of ‘God is everywhere, God is in me, I don’t need to go to church, I don’t need to be a part of a body of believers, I can meditate, I can do positive thinking’ spirituality. It’s a strange gospel. It has nothing to do with the church Jesus Christ founded.


I'm starting to actually like the guy!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spitzer's Real Crime Was . . .

. . . making the wrong enemies.

I find the guy reprehensible - just an ambitions, power-hungry politician who made a career as a prosecutor by streamrolling unpopular targets for his own personal aggrandizement. Someone who didn't think the rules applied to him. But the way he was targeted should give everyone pause. I don't like Alan Dershowitz, but he is quite correct here:

Even if Mr. Spitzer's derelictions were serendipitously discovered as a result of routine, computerized examination of bank transactions, the dangers inherent in selective use of overbroad criminal statutes remain. Money laundering, structuring and related financial crimes are designed to ferret out organized crime, drug dealing, terrorism and large-scale financial manipulation. They were not enacted to give the federal government the power to inquire into the sexual or financial activities of men who move money in order to hide payments to prostitutes.

Once federal authorities concluded that the "suspicious financial transactions" attributed to Mr. Spitzer did not fit into any of the paradigms for which the statutes were enacted, they should have closed the investigation. It's simply none of the federal government's business that a man may have been moving his own money around in order to keep his wife in the dark about his private sexual peccadilloes.

But the authorities didn't close the investigation. They expanded it, because they had caught a big fish in the wide net they had cast.


That is the danger of this over broad, never-ending "War on Terror" and the "War on Drugs." It gives government the ability to rifle through everybody's business like an industrial fishing trawler. Anyone - anyone - can get caught in the net, and the temptation to target 'disruptive" politicians or just unpopular citizens is just too tempting.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Let Jimmy Sort it Out

Clarice Feldman has a Modest Proposal for sorting out an increasingly toxic nomination process in the Democratic party. When you see fights coming about Florida balloting rules and the disenfranchisment of votors, who can help out more than the "election certifier extraordinaire" - Jimmy Carter!

Have Carter rerun the entire damn primary before June 7. Really, Carter can do this.

I suppose right now you're saying," Where did he get this idea?" I'll tell you, friend. it came to me listening to Carl Levin who asked, "How can you make sure that hundreds of thousands , perhaps a million or more ballots can be properly counted and that duplicate ballots can be avoided?"

See, I read that and remembered that Carter does this all the time. He's the election certifier extraordinaire. From his supervision of the 1990 election in the Dominican Republic to his oversight of the Chavez recall collection in Venezuela he's become the one man in the world who can, with the acquiescence of the entire world, put a gold stamp of approval and purity on a completely unfair and corrupt election. Fraud in counting votes? In registering voters? Discrepancies between the number of cast ballots and voter registration lists? Jiggered machines? Doesn't matter. The guy will keep his eyes and ears closed and stamp the entire thing kosher.


After all, the guy won a Nobel Prize for bringing peace to the Mid East. And that has worked out so well...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Looks, Family and Babies: A Man's View of the Hard Lives of Women

I can’t stomach frequent visits to Shakesville, since the things I read there almost always make me angry. But I visited last week and read something astonishing: PortlyDyke's Robbing the Hearts of Men. I don’t know much about PD, but from what I've read her feminist credentials seem unassailable.

Her post went well beyond just a cursory and grudging acknowledgment of what men have to face. Particularly this part:

Think about this the next time you hear someone say the words: "Be a man!"

Actually look at the situation in which this comes up, and think about what is being demanded. In my experience, it usually means: Shut up about your feelings. Grit your teeth and bear your pain and don't let anyone know you're feeling it. Don't show it on your face, don't talk about it, square your shoulders and your jaw and carry on like everything's OK -- hide it however you can.

That, to me, is unbearably sad.


This seemed motivated by genuine sympathy, and she got some well-deserved complements on it from both men and women. She drew a lot of fire too, and said in a comment:
If you appreciate me seeing the men's side of this with this post -- please go write a post about the women's side of it -- and defend it as thoroughly as I've defended mine.

It wasn't directed at me, but I figured I would try. My readers know I'm certainly no feminist. So here goes:

--

I suppose it happens for every girl. At some point, early in childhood, you suffer the frightening realization that how you look marks the boundaries of your life. Girls and women that are loved seem to have a certain look about them. If you are pretty, someone will come for you. If you are very pretty, in an almost magical way, that person that comes will be a prince, someone strong and good who will build a world filled with happiness for you.

The promise is that you needn't do anything or accomplish anything to gain happiness - if you have that look happiness will come and carry you away.

So you take stock of yourself pretty early, comparing yourself against every woman you see and every girl around you. Am I as pretty as she is? Lots of people help you in this assessment - your parents especially. If nature has favored you you'll gain some reassurance early on, and for a while you'll be able to believe you are good enough. But not for long - the bar is set impossibly high. From childhood on you walk a gauntlet of looks wherever you go. You hear comments or laughter from boys, or behind-your-back whispers from girls who you thought were your friends. People that love you understand this - they praise your good features, and show you how makeup and clothes can be used to obscure your more troublesome aspects. Dolls help illustrate these lessons. So you study yourself and pick your clothes and apply makeup very, very carefully, preparing yourself as if you were a dish being served up.

Of course bodies matter to men too - but not in anything like the same way. Boys are taught to evaluate their bodies based on what they can do. How fast can they run? Can they catch up to a high fastball? Can I win this fight? Boys are taught to treat their bodies like instruments to be honed for a purpose - after all boys learn very early that they have to do something to be loved. You are taught that you have to be something to be loved.

And what a difference that makes! There are so many more ways of doing than of being. And suppose - just suppose - you really, really want to do things? You feel some inner call to change the way things are? You can find a few examples of accomplished, independent women in stories, pictures and movies, but all of these examples make one lesson clear - - yes, it is possible to do "manly" things like this, but you'd better look damned good doing them.

No one expects you to show bravery. No one expects you to put yourself in danger. Quite the opposite you are encouraged to depend on your family for protection as a child, and to find a man to protect you as an adult. Fear is more than allowed - it is encouraged as an opportunity to seek comfort from others. Protection and rescue is men's work and women's due - and you sit with the deep fear that those rescued will be chosen for their beauty, and little else.

You learn that independence is risky, almost radioactive. When boys leave the nest it is a source of pride. You can leave too, but only to join another nest - a man's nest. Otherwise it is a betrayal.

Early on a whole range of emotion is severed from you. You can indulge sadness and fear in a way that boys can't. Anger is fine for boys, because it is properly seen as a spur to action. You are not allowed anger. Anger gives you hard edges, and all your edges must be smooth and inviting. Anger is a sign of ambition, and in you ambition is seen as selfish, and lack of proper consideration of others. Don’t rock the boat, don’t make trouble, swallow any anger and keep the peace. A peaceful family is a refuge - you must keep the inner peace, and let the men fight off the world.

Directness in men is admirable - but if you are direct you are being pushy and demanding and hence unattractive. Men are encouraged - even shamed - into getting things done. If you want things done the only acceptable way is to get others to do it. But this requires great art. If men get others to do their bidding, it is seen as leadership. If you get others to do things, it can be manipulative. Men can be clever - you seen conniving.

Anger isn’t welcome - especially by those who love you. Ambition is closed off. Men can dedicate their lives to a creative or intellectual endeavor - any desires you have in that area must remain second to a far more important endeavor: having babies. If you put any ambition before love and family you are seen as cold and stunted. Love must be your ambition. Seek it you must, but not by hunting it. No - you must set bait.

--

Dolls teach you about the importance of appearance, and dolls teach you about babies. Be pretty, leave your family in the arms of a dashing suitor, and have babies - that is the track that was laid down for you. Get the order wrong and there is big trouble. If you focus on appearance and winning love, and avoid the baby - you are a whore. If your baby is born without the bind of sanctioned love, you are a shameful parasite. If you have a baby and don't keep the baby, your are a murderess. If you can't have a baby, you are an object of deep pity, and no - they don’t prepare you for that possibility as a child.

Babies are essential to society, but you bear the burden, and the terror of that. Men are taught to seek out and face danger as a general matter, but you are armored to face one particular and one very specific ordeal that no army can protect you from: childbirth.

If you get through it - and despite any medical advances every cell in your body knows the odds are not good - there is a reward. Something special, almost sacred you've been pointed at since you were a child. Feeding your newborn infant is one of the most blissful experiences a person can have. This is one of those universal feelings that everyone - even men - can experience. But in contrast to men you must have this inner experience - the blessing is mixed with the burden of obligation. God forbid you are one of those rare women who recoil from your wailing infant. That isn’t a feeling you can share - with anyone.

Women have plenty of time to think while they care for their infants, and to reorient themselves to new, and troubling, circumstances. You have a soul to protect now, a soul more important than even your own. Life has played this trick on you: you've been given something infinitely important to protect, but have always been told you are powerless to do so. While protection of your family has always been the one area where fierceness might be acceptable - you've also been taught that men are better, more effective protectors than you could ever be. If you've followed the right order of things, and have a loving man to protect you, this infant you hold should mean just as much to him. But does it? Every pull from your breast makes you wonder if he cares as much. You know you don’t look attractive at the moment, so you wonder at the strength of his bond to you. He has his child - does he still need you?

All of life has prepared you for a family. You've fought through the pain of childbirth, and you've won the purpose you're allowed. You've won a deep and binding stake in the world, and now you know why you've always been encouraged to feel afraid.

--

Obviously this just scratches the surface of the hard lives that women face. This is just my narrow view of one mainstream pathway in women's lives - I suspect the others are no easier.

So having said the above - how do I feel about feminism? As I've said here, I don’t like feminism because as an ideology it is dangerous, and as a movement it provides a welcoming and supportive refuge for anti-male bigots. Has feminism ever hurt me? I've never raised a hand to my wife, I've never had a child by any woman other than her, and I believe any success I've won is due to my talents. Feminism has not hurt me. Will feminism hurt my son? Perhaps it has raised suspicions against men, and he'll have to deal with that. But after all the odious things that men have done, and continue to do, a healthy suspicion about men - and indeed all people - is surely warranted. Perhaps feminist politics have given some evil women tools they can use to torment him? Yes, but I'm just as worried - or more worried - about the dangers he faces from men. If he is a decent man who makes an honest living, and treats women with love and respect, I doubt feminism will make any difference to him.

But when I consider my daughters I know that feminists have forced open some doors. My daughters have some paths in life and tools to use that they wouldn't have had otherwise.

So I am grateful for feminism.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Goodbye to The Wire

A nice scene-by-scene breakdown of the final moments of the best TV show ever made.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

"Activist" Right-Wing Courts?

Leftists love to complain about our "right-wing" Supreme Court, and how it threatens individual liberties. But look at this: a California court says that 166,000 families may be subject to prosecution if they continue to home-school their children. Has there ever been a right-wing court decision on any level that has ever told that number of people they must stop doing something they've long done?

Or find me a Roberts-Rehnquist "right wing activist" court decision that was as sweeping as the 1964 Warren Court One Man - One Vote decision. It nullified all 50 state legislatures and forced their reapportionment.

We Need a Chamberlain - Not a Churchill

The surge has worked, and Iraq is showing some hopeful signs of order. We've missed several opportunities to get out: the capture of Saddam, the initial elections, and the ratification of the new Iraqi constitution. This is yet another opportunity to leave, but like all the others we'll ignore it. We'll stay until we are driven out, and we will lose thousands of other lives and trillions of dollars we can’t afford.

So why do we remain in Iraq?

Some suppose it is because of our dependence on oil. This is nonsense. The Chinese and Japanese are far more dependent on Mideast oil than we are, yet they have no troops on the ground there, and no carriers patrolling the Gulf. If Iran launched an attack in the Gulf, and (improbably) was able to close the Strait of Hormuz, all economies would suffer, but ours least of all. We're still the largest energy producer in the world, and we get most of our imported oil from Canada, Mexico and Venezuela. We import relatively less oil from the Mideast than any other major power except Russia, and any dramatic spike in shipping costs would significantly reduce the comparative advantages of overseas vs. domestic manufacturing. We'd see more American made goods in Walmart and we'd ship fewer dollars to China The flexibility of our economy means that we would be the first to recover from such a shock, and we'd gain a greater competitive advantage over the rest of the world than we have now.

Some suppose it is because we are fighting al-Qaeda. But we're an easier enemy for al-Qaeda in Iraq, because our natural tendency is to fight to a stalemate. If we leave, they'll be fighting among the Saudis and the Iranians, and that will be a desperate fight to stay alive, not to maintain stability. By keeping our troops between the Sunni's and al-Qaeda on the one hand, and the Shiites and Iranians on the other, we sacrifice our lives for the purpose of keeping all of our enemies alive. Any stability we preserve guarantees that al-Qaeda lives to attack another day. It makes no sense.

Some suppose it is because of a commitment to democracy. But we have no troops on the ground fighting for democracy in Egypt, Pakistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states.

I've just finished reading Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq, by Michael Scheuer. It is an uneven book, but it is a very strong indictment of American policy in the Mideast during the past few decades, and our conduct of the War on Terror. Scheuer was the former head of the CIA's Bin laden unit, so he speaks with some authority. He says American policy is misguided because:

1) We suffer from an undue allegiance to Israel, spending our resources defending a state that is not critical to America's interest.
2) We support dictatorships in the Mideast, triggering resentment from Muslims.
3) We maintain troops in the Gulf states, triggering resentment from Muslims.
4) We support the Saudi royal family.
5) Our military measures against terrorists like Al-Queda are too weak and insufficient. We fail to destroy our enemies, because we attempt half measures in order to limit criticism from Europeans.

He doesn't deny that al-Qaeda is a real enemy of America, and goes to great length to point out the egregious failure of the Clinton Administration to take Bin Laden seriously, and its failure to take advantage of numerous opportunities to capture and kill him.

Scheuer has studied the writings of Bin Laden. He disagrees with the notion that al-Qaeda and its sympathizers hate America because of our free, secular society. He takes Bin Laden at his word that he hates America because of our policies, and those policies happen to be the same ones - support of Israel and Arab dictatorships, troops in the Gulf, and friendliness with the House of Saud - - that Scheuer criticizes. Don’t for a minute assume this author is some closet Bin Laden supporter - one of his primary points is that we have never treated al-Qaeda with the savagery they deserve. Bush waited to attack in Afghanistan because he was soliciting the favors of allies that had nothing to offer militarily, and this gave Bin Laden time. Bill Clinton had many opportunities to capture or kill Bin Laden, but he didn't act because he wouldn't risk the civilian casualties that would have been necessary to get him. He was more afraid of negative European headlines than attacks by Bin Laden against America.

Just because your enemy wants you to do something doesn’t mean it is a mistake to do it. Our interests should dictate whether we have troops in the gulf, and whether we send money to Hosni Mubarak. Our interests should dictate whether we support the Saudi royal family. We shouldn’t continue to this just because Bin Laden wants us to stop.

So why will we stay in Iraq until we are driven out?

When you fill up the tank of your car, some percentage of the money goes to the Saudi Royal family. Most American's didn’t know this, but until the late 1970's all the money the Saudi Royal family got from selling oil was split 50/50 with us. Aramco was owned by a consortium of oil companies - mostly American, and it had an exclusive licence to pump Saudi oil The Saudis bought out our share in 1980. But lots of that money still gets recycled back to American oil, engineering and construction companies that maintain the oil, pipeline and shipping infrastructure in the Kingdom. The Gulf states have similarly lucrative contracts with US companies.

Should there be a revolution in Saudi Arabia, and some new tribe take over control of the Gulf, these arrangements would be null and void. That is why our military is there - not to prevent disruptions in oil supplies, but to protect the flow of construction and engineering contracts, and to protect the interests of financial partners in many endeavors. If there was any sign of trouble, the ships and ground forces would move in. We would say publicly it was about protecting our oil supplies, but it would really be to protect the profits and contracts of American companies that do business with the royal family - any new tribe that took over Saudi Arabia might choose to do more business with the Chinese, Japanese or Europeans.

From the perspective of a powerful interest group of politicians and businesses, the relationship with the Saudis and the Gulf states is very lucrative. From the perspective of America as a whole, the costs of maintaining a forward presence in the Gulf and the risks of war that such a presence entails - the costs are too great to bear.

As I've said before, I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t think the executives of these companies huddled together and planned all this. To them, their Saudi partners are friends. They know Saudi Arabia and they've lived there, and in their world view the Saudis are more sympathetic figures than they appear to other people. Oil engineers like to build things, and because of environmental sensibilities they just don’t get to build anything in our country. So they like the Saudis. Similarly Bush and Cheney aren’t getting suitcases full of cash from Prince Bandar - they are meeting with a friend of an important domestic constituency and a seeming ally of America. And the Saudis are a public, albeit somewhat erratic, enemy of al-Qaeda. This isn't about evil men (except for Bin Laden), but rather mistaken policies.

We went to Iraq because of the confluence of four factors
1) Legitimate worries about WMD,
2) Concerns about a potential alliance between powerful enemies - Saddam and Bin Laden. There was good reason to fear this - all one need to do is recall the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939 to realize that enemies often make deals with each other for the sake of dealing with a common adversary.
3) A sincere, but misguided, American belief in the power of democracy.
4) The opportunity for special interests to build a second, and equally lucrative, "House of Saud" relationship with an Iraqi government.

The first proved - in hindsight - a mistake. The second was successfully averted. The third will prove futile in the long run. The forth is the real reason we will stay at almost all costs.

We have good reason to be proud of our troops. The military effort against Iraq was breathtaking, and the occupation has been extraordinarily humane, but any historical standard. Go and read After the Reich: The Brutal History of The Allied Occupation for a comparison. The change in tactics that we adopted after the surge showed the fundamental attribute of a successful army - an ability to learn from experience and adapt accordingly.

But it will be all for nothing. Our position is unsustainable in the long run, because there is no constituency for democracy in Iraq, and American politics will not support a brutal occupation. Colin Powell's "pottery barn" analogy is flawed. Just because in a post 9/11 world we needed to make an example out of Saddam does not mean we "own" Iraq, or bear any responsibility for it. Once we dragged him out of his hole we should have left.

Left to what? We'd save hundreds of billions a year - money we are borrowing from the Chinese and Saudis. There would be a surge of sectarian violence in Iraq, but it would be smothered by the regional war that would ensue. Iran, Turkey, the Saudis and Syria would fight over the spoils. Al-Queda would be more intensely invested in this fight than in the fight they have with us, and they would likely be snuffed out.

And this brings me to Neville Chamberlain. History has given him a raw deal, and has labeled him a coward for his policy of appeasement, even though his successor, Winston Churchill, didn't:
I do not propose to give an appreciation of Neville Chamberlain's life and character, but there were certain qualities always admired in these Islands which he possessed in an altogether exceptional degree. He had a physical and moral toughness of fibre which enabled him all through his varied career to endure misfortune and disappointment without being unduly discouraged or wearied. He had a precision of mind and an aptitude for business which raised him far above the ordinary levels of our generation. He had a firmness of spirit which was not often elated by success, seldom downcast by failure, and never swayed by panic. when, contrary to all his hopes, beliefs and exertions, the war came upon him, and when, as he himself said, all that he had worked for was shattered, there was no man more resolved to pursue the unsought quarrel to the death. The same qualities which made him one of the last to enter the war, made him one of the last who would quit it before the full victory of a righteous cause was won.

Chamberlain's appeasement was not motivated by cowardice, but by two realizations that are undeniable. The first was that his nation was not prepared to go to war for the issues presented at the time, and the second was that Woodrow Wilson's peace had saddled the Germans with legitimate grievances against the European order. Chamberlain sought to appease those grievances, in the hope that the impulse to German radicalism could be alleviated.

We find ourselves in a similar situation today. Our nation is not prepared to fight to a savage victory unless we are attacked again. Our nation is not prepared to fight to a stalemate when Iraq explodes again, and to bankrupt our economy in the process. Our nation is not prepared to fight for the House of Saud. Nothing we do in Iraq can prevent another attack. Nothing that is politically supportable now will prevent another attack.

So we need a Chamberlain. Someone with the courage to withdraw from Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, and dismantle our base in Quatar. A one-term president who is prepared to stand by and watch the regional war that ensues there. Someone willing to watch a revolution in Saudi Arabia, and see oil go to $12 a gallon - without intervening. Someone willing to stop the aid we give to Mubarak, Jordan and the Palestinians. Someone willing to leave NATO - an organization that is worthless for US Security - so we can bring 90,000 troops home from Europe.

This will cost the career of a courageous politician, but the nation will survive and eventually prosper. Hard medicine, to undo the bankrupting policies of several decades, but medicine we can take better than any of our competitors. I do not see how al-Qaeda could attack under such circumstances, because they would be in a war of survival in that environment, as opposed to the slower war of attrition we have now. The rocket attacks against Israel would cease, because those rockets would be needed on the Tigris. Israel would be the decisive ally of the winning Arab power in the regional war, and so the Palestinians would be forgotten - as surely as Jordan forgot about them in 1970. The fulcrum of Middle East tensions shifts immediately from the Jordan to the Euphrates. Israel winds up being the indispensable ally of the winner, rather than the way it is now in our seemingly "stable" situation - where Israel is the common enemy of all.

We have no national stake in those events, any more than the Japanese do. Any power that won would need to sell oil on the world market as surely as the Saudis and Iranians and Venezuelans and Canadians do now. I know of no historical example where a power permanently refused to sell a fungible, non-military commodity for political reasons. And the nations of the Middle East have nothing else to sell on world markets.

There could well be another attack. But in contrast to the last we would have freedom of action to destroy al-Queada wherever they are. We would have no fragile international order to uphold, no sensibilities to weigh - we could strike as needed.

Iraq is just the latest in our decades-long policy of tying ourselves to fragile regimes in the Mid East. Now have foolishly fought our way onto the poor ground of Iraq, and we owe it to ourselves to be honest about our situation. The belief that this is somehow a "forward strategy" where we can fight al-Qaeda on their turf is mistaken. If we withdraw, we force them to fight even more savage foes. Our troops could be protecting our borders, not Iraq's.

Consider the worst that can happen. al-Qaeda takes over Iraq? But in doing so they get a fixed address, something to lose, and an addiction to oil revenue. Iran develops nuclear weapons? Then the Saudis will buy some, and you'd have a stalemate or a local exchange. al-Qaeda takes over Pakistan? The Indians will deal with them. All of these outcomes present fewer scenarios than we have now where a Mid East power would see it in their interest to attack America. Muslims have more natural grievances with the Chinese, Russians, Indians and even Europeans than they do against America.

Retreat is a fundamental strategy of war. If we leave now - when the surge has shown success - we'd be making it clear that we are leaving of our own accord, at a time of our choosing, and for purposes of our own. By killing Saddam we've demonstrated that no leader that is our enemy is safe. The surest way of following up that demonstration is that we have full freedom of action to pursue our interests. This retreat must be total - we must end any support - military, financial or political - for any regime in the Mideast.

Let the Chinese and Japanese suffer the heavy burdens of playing that futile game.

The right policy to towards the Iranians, the Saudis, and the Israelis was stated by George Washington:
Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

Neville Chamberlain had the insight to realize his nation would not fight to protect a Europen order that they had no interest in. There are times when nations need Chamberlains, and times when they need Churchills. Bush has the dogged persistence of Churchill, at a time when such doggedness serves not the nation, but a narrow set of special interests.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Rediscovering Something Very Old

Reading Hugo Schwyzer's post on the book Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex and Power, I'm struck at how blind to human nature some leftist ideology is. When you spend years learning the secret ways to discern the ghost of Patriarchy that stands behind every social exchange, it can come as a shock to discover that men are human beings. That they actually have emotions - just like women! That they have desires far deeper, and far more nuanced than the brutish need for sex and power. Wow!

All that is happening is that some feminists are finally realizing how shallow their views of men have been all along, and they are trying to garner credit for the "discovery."

Hugo is a big fan of Robert Jensen. In my view, which I've written here, Jensen is an extraordinarily shallow thinker who has made a career of shuffling and regurgitating radical leftist nonsense that he doesn't have the talent to originate. Hugo quotes Robert Jensen's essay in the book, saying it serves as the best summary of most of the other essays:
We live in a time of sexual crisis. That makes life difficult, but it also creates a space for invention and creativity. The possibility of a different way of understanding the world and myself is what drew me to feminism. I was drawn to the possibility of escaping the masculinity trap set for me, and the chance to become something more than a man… I was drawn by the possibilities of becoming a human being.

There is willful blindness here. Blindness that supposes that the only way to be a respected man among men in society is to mimic some "macho" caricature of manhood. Jensen needs to realize that there is a group in society that benefits from this caricature - Feminists. "Toxic masculinity" is the best marketing tool for the feminist agenda. Feminist outrage seems justifiable when you focus your attention exclusively on insecure adolescents, rapists, predators, and manipulative, violent sociopaths. Feminists have long claimed that women's experiences have been marginalized and women's voices have been "silenced." But the truth remains that the vast majority of men, who neither kill nor rape nor exploit, but spend their lives avoiding trouble and providing for their families - play only the smallest of roles in feminist discourse. So Jensen and other feminists take an adolescent toxic social dynamic and pretend it is the locus of experience for most men throughout their adult lives.

Ideologies need a hard, uncompromising view of an immoral enemy to survive. If any sympathy for that enemy seeps in, the whole edifice comes down. So feminists promote the belief that most men are stuck in that phase, when most men move beyond it as they mature.

Hugo continues:

Of course, men do have feelings — and not just the familiar ones like anger and lust. Reading through this anthology, I felt again and again that sense of relief that comes with realizing “No, I’m not alone in this. Other men feel as I do.” In our hyper-masculine and confused culture, we rob men of the chance to speak about their pain early on; “boys don’t cry” becomes an internalized message that most men carry to the grave. But we make a terrible mistake when we assume that because men seem to lack the same vocabulary for their emotions that women have, that they then somehow lack the emotions themselves. We give men the chance to develop that vocabulary by exposing them to male role models who are comfortable with strong emotion, and comfortable too with rejecting the straitjacket of traditional masculinity.

Did James Joyce lack a vocabulary of feeling? Duke Ellington? Eugene O'Neill? Is Robin Williams shy? When Hugo says "we make a terrible mistake when we assume" I don’t include myself in that "we." I don’t include historians - who have studied men and their motivations - in Hugo's "we." I don’t include police, who see the rawest of emotions each day. I don’t include wives who know exactly what their husbands are feeling, and why. I don’t include nurses, who see men suffer. I don’t include soldiers, who watch men die. The "we" are academic feminists, who need to relearn what most children learned from their fathers.

Only some men remain in the straight jacket; Feminists claim that most, if not all men are still trapped, and feminists hold the key. Nonsense - a man needs to get himself out, as part of growing up.

Hugo speaks of his students views:
So many of us, particularly women, despair about men. So many of us have had been left bewildered and hurt by the ways in which the males in our lives live out the masculine credo. I can’t count the times my female students have said something along the lines of “You know, I don’t really believe men have feelings the way we do. Maybe a few rare ones do, but it just seems like men don’t think, don’t hurt, don’t engage in anything emotional. I think men just play at having emotions to string us along, displaying whatever they think we want to see, whatever will get them laid or shut us up.” And when one student says something like this, others nod their heads vigorously. Some of those nodding are men.
I guess William Shakespeare just couldn’t "engage with anything emotional." Walt Whitman just couldn't find the right words to express how he felt. Frank Sinatra couldn't make sense of emotion. Beethoven was deaf to human feeling. Maxmillian Kolbe lacked empathy. Firemen don't understand fear. Husbands and fathers don't understand love. No - the reason that Hugo can’t count the number of times his female students generalize like this is because they are never corrected - they are never told: "Go study some English literature if men puzzle you. Study some ancient drama. Read the wartime letters of soldiers. Listen to Arlo Guthrie. Watch Seinfeld for God's sake!"

And that nonsense about men living out the "masculine credo." Perhaps to Hugo and Robert Jensen that credo means little more than getting laid, and kicking the ass of anyone who gets in your way, but in doing so they willingly and purposefully market an adolescent phase as if it was the full measure of what it means to live life as a man. As if it represents the full range of choices men have today. The vast majority of men lead lives far deeper than that, and survival dictates they must navigate the same emotional waters women do. Jensen's view of men doesn’t see men as having artistic urges, or religious impulses. No - Jensen sees himself as the lonely pioneer leading the way in that area.

All through history, any "masculine credo' that existed was roomy enough to include artists and saints, in addition to warriors. And true, non-tyrannical leaders too. Look at some of the most famous, successful men of the twentieth century:

Charlie Chaplin
Muhammed Ali
Pablo Picasso
Pope John XXIII
Charles Lindberg
Bill Gates
Martin Luther King
John Lennon
Neil Armstrong
Billy Graham
Fred Astaire
Ernst Shackleton
Irving Berlin
Walt Disney
Thomas Edison
Albert Einstein

Can you find a common "masculine credo' that they share? Ali is the only one I'd want on my side in a barroom brawl, but he'd be no help in combat - because he went to jail rather than to go to war. I'm guessing the men in this list weren't strangers to emotion, and that they had some crude ability to express it - yet they were highly respected for what they accomplished. So what is this "masculine credo" that our society enforces as the road to wealth, success, respect and admiration?

So when Hugo's female students vent in the classroom, they are venting about a straw man "masculine credo" that has been deliberately constructed for them - by feminists - as an effigy that will fire their anger. A straw man that deliberately lacks some of the "traditional" masculine imperatives like hard work, dedication, perseverance, creativity, self-sacrifice, courage, honor, and integrity. Adding those to the effigy might muddy the waters, because in some circles they might be seen in a favorable light. So those qualities are excluded, in order to make venting easier. And the more the (female or non-heterosexual male) students vent against the silly effigy that feminists desperately point to, the more the teachers feel validated in their own narrow views.

Hugo quotes an essay from the book on a male sex abuse survivor:
one out of six boys wil experience sexual assault by the time they turn eighteen. By comparison, though, one in three women will be assaulted in her lifetime. What this means is that we need to include men as victims in conversations about sexual assault without decentralizing women’s experience and without taking away from the leadership of women and gender-variant survivors. We must recognize that while sexual assault affects everyone, it is also a tool of the patriarchy that specifically and disproportionately targets those assigned less social power.
That's an essay I'll skip. To paraphrase: Yes, we know men have feelings, and we will graciously give them a hearing - as long as they don’t disturb our settled certainties about whose suffering is really important. Men "can be included in the conversation" - but purely as a marketing effort, not because we really care. So men, please express your feelings - so I can chivalrously focus on other, more deserving victims.

So here's another answer to give when Hugo's students start to vent about men they know who "don’t think, don’t hurt, don’t engage in anything emotional." Maybe men don't express their feelings to woman like you because they have the emotional insight to realize that you don't really care about their feelings. The more feminist you are, the less likely you are to care about men's feelings, despite the empty "patriarchy hurts men too" rhetoric you were taught to use.

Hugo concludes by summarizing one of the essayist's experiences with feminist academia:

Gently, firmly, Brillante makes the case that academic feminism must be open — in theory and practice — to men, just as those men must also be open to rethinking their deepest beliefs about gender and sex.

Notice that it is men that must do the rethinking as the price of admission to these rarefied circles of academic feminists. Yes, men do need to rethink their roles in society, but they'll find fallow ground for that at the feet of feminists.

Anyway - are there men that want in to feminist academia? I sure don't, and it pleases me that my children show not the slightest interest in Women or Gender Studies. Then again my daughters don't need a place to vent - they do plenty of that at home.





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