Sunday, May 29, 2005

Quotable Quotes from Left Field

There is no shortage of ‘Dumb Bush Quotes’ sites on the internet. They are everywhere. Visit one and you find silly phrases, grammatical errors, mistakes. But you will find nothing hateful -- no claims of Democratic rottenness, stupidity, or conspiracy. Nothing like "Harry Reid is a big fat liar!" Maybe of course the Democrats are just so nice that there’s nothing bad to say about them.

The Democrats do talk a lot though, so it’s easy to assemble some quotes. Here are some lines from the Dems’ top officials, starring DNC Chairman Howard Dean and backed up by a supporting cast of Senators and Congressman:

On Bush:
"I think this guy is a loser." - Sen. Harry Reid, D-NV

"He betrayed this country! He played on our fears! He took America on an ill-conceived foreign adventure dangerous to our troops, an adventure pre-ordained and planned before 9/11 ever took place!" - Al Gore

On Republicans:
"Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and Confederate swastika flying side by side." - Julian Bond, NAACP Chairman, on the Republican Party

"You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room? Only if they had the hotel staff in here." - Howard Dean

"There’s corruption at the highest level of the Republican Party." - Howard Dean

"I think Tom DeLay ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence." -Howard Dean

On Terrorism:
"[Osama bin Laden has] been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day-care facilities, building health-care facilities, and these people are extremely grateful. We haven't done that." - Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA

"There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud," - Sen. Kennedy, D-MA

"One could say that Osama bin Laden and these non-nation-state fighters with religious purpose are very similar to those kind of atypical revolutionaries that helped to cast off the British crown." - Marcy Kaptur, Democratic Representative from Ohio

"I'm the number one target of the White House. They can't get Osama bin Laden; they're going to get me." -Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-MO

On America:
"I was embarrassed to wear it." Sen. Feinstein, D-CA, talking about her American flag pin.

On Convictions:
"Republicans have painted us into a corner where they have forced us to defend abortion. I don’t know anybody who’s for abortion." - Howard Dean

"I’ve waffled before. I’ll waffle again."- Howard Dean

On Religious Thoughts:
"I cannot imagine that God, whoever He has or She has to worry about, is going to take the time to debate the filibuster in heaven." - Sen. Dick Durbin (D, IL)

"They could call Jesus a terrorist too. I mean, he was pretty tough on money lenders a time or two." - Ramsey Clark, former Democratic Attorney General

These are just a few choice selections of Liberal “thought.” It is fairly unfortunate for these Dems that they cannot claim that they were trying to say something else or that they got the words mixed up. It’s not the words that are confused -- it’s the ideas.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Gentleman's Last Stand

In my modern American novel class we were discussing the anti-Vietnam War book The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. We were discussing in particular the type of person who gets his draft card and responds by running away to Canada. Some of my friends and I pointed out that such a person is both a coward and a disloyal American.

This was not the only, or even the dominant, opinion in the room. Someone else said that we should not judge this person’s actions because we have never been in his shoes. (By this logic jurors should not sentence convicted murderers unless they are murderers themselves). This classmate went on to add words to the effect of, “if I had been in that guy’s position I probably would have done the same thing and run away to Canada.”

So there you have it -- an American in an American classroom publicly stating that he would commit a criminal act by dodging the draft if the chance presented itself. What makes this statement truly remarkable, though, is that the speaker was a girl.

Doesn’t she know that women were exempt from the draft? Don’t my classmates know? Doesn’t my teacher? It didn’t look like it. (Of course, just a day before my teacher had said “the rumblings of the draft are very real” so there is obviously a lot she doesn’t know).

Perhaps the reason that so many people don’t know that women were exempt from the draft is that they don’t understand why they should be. After all, women are exactly the same as men (provided you ignore the obvious differences).

Today’s young man is not taught to be a gentleman -- he does not hold doors for a girl or carry her books; he grants girls no quarter in the co-educational gym classes, nor would you expect him to, because he has been taught that to differentiate between guys and girls would be sexist. So with the death of “sexism” we have the death of gentlemanly respect for women. And it’s a triumph for the feminists.

I wrote a piece several months ago on why women should not be allowed to serve in the military, closing with the observation that no self-respecting man would allow a woman to do his fighting for him. I was surprised by the reaction I got -- a lot of “self-respecting” males came up to tell me that they had no problems with letting women fight for them. One teacher added that he thought I had a good article, but why did I have to end it with such blatant chauvinism? Of course, I also got positive reactions to my article -- from guys I knew had considered or were considering military service. Maybe the self-respecting male is just a lot harder to find that he used to be.

There is a two-pronged attack on America’s manhood (and womanhood) at public schools. The first prong is in the lack of the patriotic lesson. The young men in our school seem to think that the highest goal they could have in life is to pump tremendous amounts of cash into their bank accounts. They do not think about honor, or service, because no one teaches them what a great country this is. In other words, they do not understand why the United States is worth defending. They don’t think about the manly pursuit of fighting for your homeland. They don’t think about manliness. (I should add, though, that I know several fellows who do think about these things. There are not too many of them, but they’re the sort of guys you want for friends.)

The second prong is the theory of guy-girl interchangeability, which could only have originated in the classroom. The unfortunate thing is, though, that it is much easier for a fellow to forget the rules of chivalry than it is for him to follow them. It is not easy to cultivate respect for anything, so why bother? -- particularly if you are told that this respect is a bad thing.

Chivalrous behavior towards women requires that gentlemen honor and respect ladies. This puts feminists in a bind, however, because to accept this honor would require that they admit there is a reason for it, and they see this as accepting an inferior position. They have decided, therefore, that it is better to let women live without this honor and respect.

It is obvious that feminists hate men -- men, in their view, are the condescending suppressors of female independence. In practice, however, feminists hate women even more. This hate has worked its way into the modern public school system, and the result is that young women are wasting time worrying about being drafted. The young gentleman, as well as the young lady, is being forced out.

“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are an abomination unto the Lord thy God.” -- Deuteronomy 22:5

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

An Evening in Commentary

On Monday evening I had the honor of attending the first annual Norman Podhoretz Lecture, heretofore the Commentary Dinner. The evening was dedicated, as the name suggests, to Norman Podhoretz (probably the greatest intellectual in the country today) and also marked the 60th anniversary of the influential New York-based magazine, Commentary, of which Mr. Podhoretz is the former Chief Editor.

The setting for this gala occasion was the fancy-shmantzy Union League Club on Park Avenue (where else?), an impressive edifice containing wood-paneled walls, uniformed stewards, dimly-lit and impressively large club rooms, and very fluffy paper towels in the bathrooms (I found this last item to be a big plus that contributed greatly to my enjoyment of the evening).

My father, my mother, and I disembarked from our limousine shortly after 6 PM, which left us with an hour before dinner to talk to people. Generously sprinkled through the immense cocktail lounge, among the 250-or-so guests, were the top Conservative thinkers in America, including Norman Podhoretz, William F. Buckley Jr., Charles Krauthammer, Neal Kozody, John Podhoretz, etc (this is a long list here).

Since we were in the middle of the cocktail hour, I needed a cocktail, which in my case was a glass of tonic water with too many ice cubes. It was here that I made my first big sacrifice of the evening, courageously allowing my left hand to become frozen in order to keep my right open to shake hands with everyone who came up to talk with or introduce himself to my father. Conversation was interrupted every thirty seconds or so as yet another steward came by in a vain attempt to foist some caviar or paté on us. My father tried to stick close at hand but was frequently pulled off into neighboring conversational circles, often leaving me over my head in terms of discussional depth. When we were no longer talking about my college plans next year, I was left with fairly little to say, and reduced to offering the occasional clever remark just to keep my hand in.

Punctilious and punctual stewards came in at 7 to ring the four-tone dinner bell (more of a xylophone really). It is just as this bell is sounded that nothing happens, as my father explained: everyone pretends to ignore the dinner call, just to demonstrate how engrossed he is in his deep interlocutional experience. Finally, with some prodding from the hungrier guests and the closing of the bar, everyone boarded the elevators to go down to dinner (second floor).

The dining hall was similarly big but better lit than the salon, and heated to about 300 degrees. Whitish walls and a white ceiling, with Grecian triglyphs around the top and large blue-and-gold chandeliers. An immense portrait of Lincoln and an American flag dominated the room from one end; Lincoln was no doubt happy to see that Republicans continue to promote the advance of freedom in the world, and he watched the whole affair in silent approval.

As we worked our way to our table, I saw Mr. Krauthammer sitting in his electric wheelchair at a table near the podium, chatting amiably with a herd of surrounding people. He seemed somehow larger (more massive) than he had looked on Fox News. My father, my mother, and I moved off to our table, which was right next to the lectern, across from the table with Krauthammer, Buckley, and Podhoretz, and adjacent (or nearly so) to a table with Neal Kozodoy and two guests from the White House.

The sound-level in the dining hall quickly rose to the point where one could only talk to the people immediately adjacent. I took quick stock of the situation, noticing simultaneously that I was the youngest guy in the room and that there were no attractive young ladies to look at.

We worked through our haute-cuisine dinner, starting with a fairly peculiar salad which, judging from the other plates in the room as well as my own, did not seem to be generally edible. After the servers had given us plenty of time to contemplate this unfortunate scene, we moved on to the main course, which turned out pretty well (a piece of fish, with decoration). As we finally got to the exclusive Union League Club sorbet, Roger Hertog stepped up to the lectern, forcing me to turn around (I had been sitting with back to the podium) and leave my dessert for the moment. When I next got a chance to look at my sorbet, about an hour-and-a-half later, it didn’t seem nearly so appetizing.

Roger Hertog is a famous financial figure, friend of the Jewish community, patron of the arts, and a central figure in the Commentary dinner. (As Commentary editor Neal Kozodoy later said, most of the contributors to the Commentary Fund have chosen to remain anonymous, especially Roger Hertog.) Mr. Hertog introduced Kozodoy , who spoke about Commentary’s 60 years, the 5-million people each year who read some piece in Commentary, and the great men behind its success. In particular, he addressed the major metaphysical problem facing us today, namely “Who is qualified to deliver a Norman Podhoretz lecture, other than Norman Podhoretz?” The earlier quest to answer this question had led to the selection of syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, and the later selection of the man who would introduce him and was now himself introduced -- my father.

My father’s speech was certainly (and I am reporting this in as unbiased a manner as possible) the wittiest and best introduction ever given to any man in the history of the United States, if not the world at large. He started off with a few words about Podhoretz (“The Bible says ‘Do not follow a multitude to do evil.’ Norman’s entire careers is a commentary on that verse.”) This was followed by praise of Commentary (“the most distinguished magazine in the country”) and Neal Kozodoy (“Neal is the perfect embodiment of what intellectuals were supposed to be like before anyone had actually met one”). And that brings us to Krauthammer, “wholly and entirely original… Not once but dozens of times Krauthammer has performed the greatest single feat a thinker can -- he’s said something that seems obvious in retrospect. He says it and before long everyone else starts saying it, and you can barely remember that no one ever had said it before he did.” My father finished with a brief biography of Krauthammer (“In ’87 he redeemed the honor of the Pulitzer Prize by winning one…”) and the podium was handed over to Dr. Charles Krauthammer.

Krauthammer began to speak (“if my mother were here, she’d believe it”) and quickly moved into a fascinating lecture that focused on the movement of Neo-Conservatism into a dominant position, following the failure of realism (Bush ’41) and liberalism (Clinton). Liberals who had been with us only at the very beginning of the war on terror were among the first to jump ship and decry our attempts to democratize Iraq, predicting (and hoping for) failure; suggesting that the United States was incapable of giving, and the Iraqis incapable of receiving, democracy. After we had already fought the war in Iraq, and were moving to the establishing-democracy phase, the semi-Conservative Francis Fukuyama said that the failure of our campaign had been predictable. But, interestingly enough, Mr. Fukuyama had not predicted it, and so he was obliged to predict it in retrospect (“Maybe that’s how it works when you predict things at the end of history”). Unfortunately for Mr. Fukuyama, he had performed the remarkable intellectual feat of getting a retrospective prediction wrong, as Iraq successfully continues to move towards democracy. Krauthammer spoke of four critical elections (Australia, US, Afghanistan, and Iraq) that lent strength to Neo-Conservatism and the march towards world democracy, and added the additional important point that temporary alliances with dictators are sometimes necessary, because we cannot democratize the entire world overnight. We must continue to move in small but decisive steps. Krauthammer suggested that we move on to Lebanon next and then Syria, two countries that are now ready for democracy.

My over-brief summary of Krauthammer’s remarks are approximate, as I am writing from mental notes only (the lady sitting next to me had borrowed my pen for the duration of the lecture). When it was all over, and my head was energetically whirring with ideas, and I was temporarily able to conceal the fact that I was utterly exhausted. Avoiding the herd that had once again established itself around Mr. Krauthammer, we rode the elevator down to ground, said a final goodnight to Mr. Hertog (who happened to be sharing his elevator with us just then) and exited the classy club into our classy limousine, which carried us back out of Manhattan (a good-looking city, in the dark). We passed by the recently collapsed wall on the Henry Hudson Parkway, and, finally, got back to our very own Connecticut house, just in time for me to satisfy the hunger I had left over from dinner with half a cinnamon bun. Not a bad evening -- my first and fascinating introduction to the upper crust of American thinking.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Commentary

On Monday evening I will be going to the first annual Norman Podhoretz Commentary Dinner, which will be attended by many of the greatest modern Conservative thinkers. Speakers will include Roger Hertog, Neal Kozodoy, Charles Krauthammer, and (of course) my father David Gelernter. Tune in later this week for a complete wrapup.
Sorry Alec and Doug, I will get to your issues eventually. In the meantime, please try to keep your lunatic friends from posting their "comments."

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Equal Opportunities

Half way through the current school year, the Amity public school system moved the 9th grade up from the junior to the senior high school. In order to adjust the freshmen to their new climate, the senior high provided “link crews” – pairs of Amity students who would speak to the freshmen about the experience awaiting them, and give them various ‘transition’ games to play and activities to do.

My brother (a freshman, as it turns out) rummaged through his backpack the other day and found a little packet from his “link crew” experience earlier this year. It’s an assignment: each freshman will write a letter to himself to be opened on graduation (“Look at the blank sheet of paper in front of you now. That sheet is like your life…”). The second page of this packet is a handy-dandy example letter, which includes lines like “I’ll bet I’m still friends with Corey” and “I swear that I will at least try to go to the prom with J.G.” The freshmen apparently spent about an hour preparing for and writing this letter.

After the letter writing was done (a pointless, though not a damaging assignment) the link-crews went on to discuss a statement that had been written on the board: “You’re not better than anyone, but no one is better than you.”

How about that! We’re all the same (and we’re all special, too). We’re all equal – because, after all, they say we are.

Of course, just saying that you’re not better than anybody and no one’s better than you doesn’t make it so. It doesn’t even make anyone believe it. Nobody in this school, not the people writing this stuff on the board, not the roomfuls of freshmen reading it – not even the administrators who thought this line up in the first place – could possibly believe it. And yet, someone seems to think that this is important enough to “teach.”

What do they mean when they say that you’re not “better” than anybody else? They can’t possibly mean that we’re all of equal intelligence, or there would be no point in having honors-level classes. They can’t possibly mean that we’re all equally good at sports, or there wouldn’t be a school record in sprinting. Do we all have the same writing skills? The same musical talent? Perhaps they mean that if you were to award points for relative goodness in each field, everyone would have the same number of points, total (I’ve seen this sort of thing suggested in a psychology text book). But this is silly, unless you claim that someone who has been awarded high points for hamburger-flipping skill is really of the same caliber as a student who wins the regional computer-programming championships.

In the final analysis, the word “better” as used by our school in this exercise has no meaning. It’s just another one of the ways our school likes to distribute liberal amounts of feel-good attitude. The thing is, the only way this feel-good thing works is if you don’t think about it. You have to keep you brain switched off, because, if you try to find the meaning (as no doubt many freshmen did) you will realize that there is none to be found.

So what does the school really want? Do they want us to think we’re all equal or do they want us to think?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Dems Opposed to Private Accounts. Because?

A few months ago (it was Feb. 3, to be exact) Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and four other liberal Senators (including Schumer) gathered around the ignominious FDR wheelchair-statue to blast President Bush’s private-accounts plan, which would, according to them, “gut” the program (and disgrace the memory of FDR too, no doubt).

These Senators’ choice of venue was unfortunate, considering that the man they were all gathered around (and who Reid was patting affectionately on the shoulder) was in favor of making private accounts a part of the original social security system. He wrote to Congress in 1935, saying that Social Security should include “voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age.” FDR added that the government should only pay for “one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.”

The Democrats don’t mention this, of course. Perhaps they simply forgot that FDR supported private accounts. It’s not impossible. After all, they don’t even remember that just a few years ago they supported private accounts too.

As PBS NewsHour reported in 1998, Democratic Senators Pat Moynihan and Bob Kerrey introduced “‘The Social Security Solvency Act of 1998,’ which would cut the Social Security payroll tax by 2 percent and allows workers to invest the tax cut in personal savings accounts.” President Clinton, in his 1999 State of the Union address proposed that we “establish universal savings accounts” continuing: “With these new accounts, Americans can invest as they choose, and receive funds to match a portion of their savings, with extra help for those least able to save.” Senator Reid himself (the man with his hand on the statue) said in 1999 that “most of us have no problem with taking a small amount of the Social Security proceeds and putting it into the private sector.”

Dems are certainly not eager to quote themselves on this issue (and in addition they are no longer quoting Federal Reserve Chairmen Alan Greenspan -- he came out in support of private accounts too).

So how can all these people now be opposed, on ‘principle,’ to discussing any plan that contains private accounts? Especially when polls show increasing public support for private accounts: an April 25-26 poll showed that 79% of Americans think that private investment should be an option, and that 77% of Americans trust themselves over the government concerning investment retirement decisions. (It is further interesting to note another poll found that support for private accounts drops 6% when the plan is mentioned as having been proposed by President Bush, as opposed to “Some people.”)

How can House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) say that Democrats will do no negotiating whatsoever until private accounts are taken off the table?

What are the Democrats really opposed to?

These moves couldn’t be of a petty, partisan, political nature, could they? Are they merely opposed to the plan because now it comes from President Bush as opposed to President Clinton?
On the other hand, maybe the Democrats really are opposed on principle, to letting us have private accounts. (Though this would seem somewhat hypocritical, considering that they themselves already private investment accounts, known as the “Thrift Savings Plan”). Maybe they are opposed to the principle that it is never a good idea to let you do what the government can do for you. What we are really talking about is just 4% of your entire income, the maximum that you would be allowed to invest (the actual decision to invest, and the amount up to the 4% will be up to you -- you don’t have to invest at all if you don’t want to).

The Democrats seem genuinely concerned that you will take this money -- your money -- and do what you want with it. They emphasize the danger (Reid calls it “gambling” now) to try to scare Americans away from this system. They try to create the impression that adding private accounts would destroy Social Security completely (who hasn’t seen that AARP ad that suggests that Republicans are about to “tear down the whole house” because the kitchen sink is clogged). We should not be allowed to take risks -- and the Democrats cannot, in good conscience, allow us to. And since when have we been able to figure out what to do with our own money any way?
There is a third possibility -- maybe the Democrats are simply opposed to change. Are they reactionary liberals, stuck in the 1930s, clinging to a system that was designed to have 42 workers supporting a retiree as, opposed to two or three? Is this why they have failed to come out with any plans of their own to counter the President’s?

The Democrats are opposed to something, but they have not been too clear about what it is, exactly. There are so many possibilities as to why they don’t want private accounts, but whether they think that we’re too dumb to handle our own money, or whether they can’t stand any alterations at all, or whether they know that supporting the President in anything will not help them back to majority status in congress, the crucial thing that the Democrats are missing is a good reason.

And I for one want to be in charge of my money.