Memorial Day, 2011

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address

The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not — we will not — travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

Barack Obama, 2002 speech opposing going to war in Iraq

“I have vowed in the past, and I will vow so long as I’m president, to make sure that those lives were not lost in vain – that, in fact, there is an outcome that will merit the sacrifice.”

George W.  Bush,  after the U. S. death toll in Iraq reached 4,000

“We won’t talk about losing. There is enough talk about losing. What has been done this summer cannot have been done in vain.”

I did not say anything. I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain. We had heard them, sometimes standing in the rain almost out of earshot, so that only the shouted words came through, and had read them, on proclamations that were slapped up by billposters over other proclamations, now for a long time, and I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it.

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Today is the day we remember them all, stolen from their families and their lives, irrecoverable this side of heaven. Today is the day we are asked to try, at least, to comprehend what they have done for us. To read true stories of combat–from Antietam to Iwo Jima, from Dien Ben Phu to Fallujah–is to have humility thrust upon one, and gratitude, not only for the excruciating devotion of the dead but for the fortunate fact that fate hasn’t required of one the same sacrifice. Not yet, anyway.

Dallas Morning News editorial, May 31, 2004


Best New Book on the Conspiracy Crowd

And maybe one of the best books published this year. Here’s my all-too-brief review of  Jonathan Kay’s Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground.   If you want to try to understand the political, social, psychological, spiritual, and technological roots of these suspicious minds, this is the book to read.

More Proof that Obama Wins in 2012

Donning my prognosticator cap on April 15,  I declared Barack Obama the winner of the 2012 election. (See that bold prediction here.) The Republicans’ doom was sealed the moment they embraced the Paul Ryan plan for reforming Medicare, and the GOP death knell began sounding on Tuesday when the Dems picked up a New York House seat that had been reliably Republican for years. Their winning slogan could be summed up this way:

The Republicans Want Old People to Die in the Cold While Eating Cat Food And Cutting Their Blood Pressure Pills Into Small Pieces !!!!!!

My crowning of Obama had nothing to do with the substance of the issue. It had nothing to do with what might or might not be good for the country. (For the record, I see entitlement reform as unavoidable, we have to reduce military spending,  and I’m not against raising taxes on the wealthy.)

But none of that matters now. It’s o-vuh, baby. To use a baseball analogy, the ‘Pubs served up exactly the kind of slow floater that the Dems have always known how to murder, and they are going to blast that ball out of the park all the way to the 2012 Election. It’s as if Barry Goldwater came back from 1964 to lecture Americans about self-reliance and the folly of the welfare state. And we all remember what happened to AU-H20.

Sure, sober voices will continue to call for that “serious national conversation” on entitlement reform as the American stagecoach rumbles toward the cliff’s edge, but you can forget that. The Ryan plan is–was– probably our last unforced effort to reform entitlements; now the reforms, when they come, will be forced down our throats by multiple crises. And perhaps that was inevitable. Perhaps we were never going to build a storm shelter before the tornado destroyed the house.

Anyway, I’d hate to be a high-school government teacher trying to explain this to the  kids.

By the way, “if facts matter,” as Ross Perot used to say, check out this lucid video explanation of why Medicare has to be reformed even if Republicans lose every House and Senate seat over the next few years, and this piece recounting the well-known and lamentable fact that Medicare squanders billions of dollars each year on procedures that the best medical research says are useless.

Alpha-Male Idiots Betray Ideals, Voters

I know that the disgraced IMF former head,  Dominique Strauss-Kahn,  is innocent until proven guilty, and I’m sure he’ll amass a team of legal warriors  that will make the O. J. Simpson defense look like a high-school mock-trial team.

But if these charges pan out–and given Khan’s past track record with the ladies, they just might–he becomes the latest member of the Alpha-Male Hall of Shame routinely scorned on this blog.

When these Alpha Male erections–I mean, eruptions–occur, it’s tempting but too easy to just say, “Well, who cares what he does with his private life as long as he gets the job done for the people?”

Unfortunately, the public-privates (stop that!) divide isn’t quite that neat. Socialist pols like Strauss-Khan, American candidates like Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards and  a dozen more we could name come to the voters speaking of compassion, caring, ethics, being better than we are, taking care of the downtrodden, remembering our responsibilities to the larger community and the less fortunate. Quite often, they contrast their warm, caring policies with the heartless, cold indifference of those who put their own comfort and desires ahead of the common good.

In turn, the voters elect them to act on those admirable sentiments. A contract, not just implicit but explicit, is forged.

So, given that power and responsibility,  what do the Alpha Male Idiots do? Knowing they live in a world full of enemies who live to discredit them and their policies, they wantonly risk their careers–and the power they have to fight injustice and build a new America that lives up to the faith of our forefathers, blah, blah– for a few moments of illicit passion with a thong-sporting intern or (allegedly) an overworked chambermaid.

This should be seen as what it is: an irresponsible betrayal of those, especially those with great needs, who entrusted them with office.

And these ain’t randy 19-year olds who can claim the hormones just carried them away.

Hey, Gang! Let’s Bash Newt and the End-of-The-World Crowd!

Gosh, it’s been a wonderful week for the millions who thrive on Schadenfreude, the ugly delight we take in the misfortunes of others. Is there anything better than joining vast herds of the lemming-minded so we can all  feel smug and superior as we watch people humiliated? It’s better than the opening weeks of “American Idol.” In 1984 they had the Two-Minute Hate. We’ve got the 24.7 Sneer!

First, Newt Gingrich and the Glitter Queen.  As almost everyone knows by now, some gay “activist” dumped a box of glitter all over Newt and his current wife while they were meeting and greeting. The scene has been replayed on cable TV hundreds of times and it’s all over the Web on sites  like the Huffington Post.

I’m not providing a link here because I think it was a shabby, disgraceful incident that did further damage to our tattered social fabric. Public figures should not be subject to attacks by exhibitionist morons. It shouldn’t be necessary to say this, but if you got cheap thrills from seeing Bad Newt humiliated, imagine for a moment that it had happened to a Good public figure you support.

What if a 380-pound housewife dumped a gallon of cream gravy over Michelle Obama’s head and yelled, “Tell the Food Police to keep their hands off my Big Macs!” Would that be like , y’know, really cool?  Or would we then hear somber calls for civility and moderation and calmly discussing our differences?

If you think the Gingrich incident was a ton of fun, you are implicitly “voting” for a world in which the same thing, or worse, could happen to Michelle Obama or Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi. What’s glitter for the goose is gravy for the gander.

It also shouldn’t be necessary to say that I would not vote for Gingrich. I’m not exactly sure what his positions are–and he doesn’t seem to know either– but at the very least he is an ultra-hypocrite. As friend and fellow blogger TheFabSage put it:

Now on his third marriage, the Newtster, always a professing Christian and crusading “family values” moralist and now a convert to Catholicism, was immersed in one of his clandestine affairs even while snorting and frothing for the ouster of the philandering Bill Clinton. And that’s just a tiny portion of the glorious tower of morality that his candidacy presents to our messiah-seeking nation.

All true. Newt pushes the hypocrisy envelope way past the tearing point. It would be one thing if a serial adulterer ran as a libertarian, or a French cabinet minister, or even a liberal who didn’t want to crusade one way or another against family values. But to have led his life, and then presume to lecture others who stray from Jesus’ fold, is just way, way too much.

But we can believe all that and still feel very uneasy about the national lip-smacking over the Glitter Attack, which had the strange effect of actually making me admire Gingrich for a moment. Amazingly, he kept his cool during this absurd assault, which most people, myself included, could not have done. I would have made every effort to launch myself across the table at the glitter-flinger. I wish they would press charges against him.

As for the End Times gang, what can you say? At any given time there is some odd cult wailing about the Final Days.  I’ve lost count of the bumper stickers that read “In Case of Rapture, This Vehicle Will Be Unmanned.”

Talk about shooting fish in a barrel. I  feel sorry for these sad, deluded people with their primitive theology, and I take no pleasure in knowing that come Sunday morning, they will look even sillier than they do now. Rather than poking microphones at them, we should avert our eyes as we would when encountering a double amputee or a victim of terrible burns. Just as these unfortunate people have been physically maimed, the Rapturites have been intellectually maimed.  It’s pitiful that their search for some coherent meaning in the universe has led them to such anti-scientific nonsense, but that doesn’t justify turning them into pinatas of ridicule.

The media attention to this carnival of bunk has been astonishing, because there is no news value here. Contrast this with the Westboro Baptist cult, subjects of the recent Supreme Court decision, or the Bible-thumping Floridian whose threats to burn the Koran led to violence in the Middle East.  At least these were nuts with actual impact on the world. The Rapture crowd is nothing but a freak show.

If  there was truth in broadcasting, each news item or TV feature about them would be prefaced with these words: “Hey, folks, let’s all gather ’round the set and giggle at a bunch of antediluvian clowns who are going to wake up Sunday morning and be the laughing stocks of the world.”

Worst Self-Aggrandizing Quote of the Week

“Everybody’s seen the footage of the landing craft, the house on the hill in Normandy. Well, those guys in the landing craft are the lobbyists. They’re getting ready to hit the beaches to go try and convince somebody to do something.”

D. C. lobbyist David Fuscus, NPR, May 19

I don’t know. .  . Call me picky, but somehow that analogy just doesn’t work.