Saturday, November 6, 2004

Promises, Promises

Dahlia Lithwick at includes this in an article she writes on despondent democrats who plan to move to Canada in the wake of George Bush's reelection:

"If the country votes for Bush, then 51 percent of the people in this country are psychos," one Colorado resident told the Denver Post before the election. He'd already opened a bank account in British Columbia.

Last week's Ottawa Citizen reported that Scott Schaffer-an assistant professor of sociology at Millersville University in Pennsylvania - had already lined up an immigration lawyer and was applying for jobs in Quebec.

We also heard that Robert Redford had promised to move to Ireland if Bush won. Unfortunately, these people are no more likely to leave the country than were Alec Baldwin and Barbra Streisand who promised us in 2000 that a Bush win would cause them to take up residence elsewhere. These people are secular liberals and keeping one's word is not a trait one associates with secular liberals. It's too bad.

Stupid Voters has been running a series of very interesting essays written by Democrats on the topic of what their party needs do to gain back some political clout. Some of these, like the ones by Timothy Noah and Katha Pollitt are quite perceptive. They acknowledge that in fact there's not much the Democratic party can do without prostituting itself. For example, as Pollitt observes, the party simply can't try to win over pro-lifers without alienating the pro-choicers that comprise so much of its base. They can't sidle up beside the anti-gay marriage folk without causing serious distress among the gay rights crowd from which they draw economic and electoral sustenance. Nor can they become more hawkish on foreign policy without earning the ire of the Michael Moore/Howard Dean wing of the party. Noah and Pollitt acknowledge that the party is in a very bad way.

Then there are other essays in the series, like that which emerges from the pen of novelist Jane Smiley, a screed which reads like something from a rejected Saturday Night Live script. One suspects at first that it is a parody until it becomes gradually clear that Ms. Smiley is, to put the best face on it, non compos mentis. Perhaps the polite course is to avert one's eyes while she delivers herself of one embarrassing fatuity after another, but since she apparently insists on being taken seriously let's resolve to wade through her sophomoric rant wherein she delivers claims like the following:

The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry.

Here is how ignorance works: First, they put the fear of God into you-if you don't believe in the literal word of the Bible, you will burn in hell. Of course, the literal word of the Bible is tremendously contradictory, and so you must abdicate all critical thinking, and accept a simple but logical system of belief that is dangerous to question. A corollary to this point is that they make sure you understand that Satan resides in the toils and snares of complex thought and so it is best not try it.

The history of the last four years shows that red state types, above all, do not want to be told what to do-they prefer to be ignorant. As a result, they are virtually unteachable.

We see the outcome now - Cheney is the capitalist arm and Bush is the religious arm. They know no boundaries or rules. They are predatory and resentful, amoral, avaricious, and arrogant. Lots of Americans like and admire them because lots of Americans, even those who don't share those same qualities, don't know which end is up. Can the Democrats appeal to such voters? Do they want to? The Republicans have sold their souls for power. Must everyone?

Red state types love to cheat and intimidate.

In other words, conservatives are stupid, dishonest, and cruel. Let's set aside the fact that she offers no empirical support for her allegations. She simply asserts them and expects her readers to accept them uncritically, an expectation which demonstrates that she attributes to her leftist audience precisely the same intellectual weakness for which she condemns conservatives.

But as we said, let's not dwell on the logical incoherence of her piece. Let's look instead at the three vices she imputes to the political right. She accuses them of being ignorant and stupid, but take a moment to study the vote-by-county map here. Even a cursory examination shows that Democratic strength in the United States is concentrated in precisely those sectors of the country where schools and education are the worst, where the population is the most poorly educated and often barely literate. This is the Democratic base. Remember, it wasn't Republicans who couldn't figure out how to use a ballot in Florida in 2000.

She alleges, further, that conservatives are dishonest. Apparently, she is unaware of the howlers Senator Kerry's supporters tried to fob off on the public during the campaign. Almost everything they said, from their candidate's war service to their charges that the Bush team had banned stem cell research, planned to take away social security from the elderly, suppress the black vote, and reinstate the draft, was a total fabrication. Likewise the Democrats' allies in the media, like CBS, did not hesitate to press fraudulent documents into service to discredit the president. ABC's Mark Halperin urged his staff to abandon objectivity and tilt toward Kerry in their political coverage. No one in the MSM ever bothered to ask the Senator why he refused to release his military records so that the controversy over his service could be laid to rest. Evan Thomas at Newsweek wrote that the media would be worth 15 points to Kerry on election day and they probably were. When it comes to dishonesty the Republicans are light years behind the competition.

In the middle of her muddled piece Ms. Smiley launches into an extended discursion on the wild west, and, to the extent that her point can be deciphered, it seems to be that people in red states are mean. Perhaps the reader can bring more exacting exegetical skills to bear on the relevant paragraph and offer an alternative interpretation. Here it is:

Ignorance and bloodlust have a long tradition in the United States, especially in the red states. There used to be a kind of hand-to-hand fight on the frontier called a "knock-down-drag-out," where any kind of gouging, biting, or maiming was considered fair. The ancestors of today's red-state voters used to stand around cheering and betting on these fights. When the forces of red and blue encountered one another head-on for the first time in Kansas Territory in 1856, the red forces from Missouri, who had been coveting Indian land across the Missouri River since 1820, entered Kansas and stole the territorial election. The red news media of the day made a practice of inflammatory lying-declaring that the blue folks had shot and killed red folks whom everyone knew were walking around. The worst civilian massacre in American history took place in Lawrence, Kan., in 1862-Quantrill's raid. The red forces, known then as the slave-power, pulled 265 unarmed men from their beds on a Sunday morning and slaughtered them in front of their wives and children. The error that progressives have consistently committed over the years is to underestimate the vitality of ignorance in America. Listen to what the red state citizens say about themselves, the songs they write, and the sermons they flock to. They know who they are-they are full of original sin and they have a taste for violence. The blue state citizens make the Rousseauvian mistake of thinking humans are essentially good, and so they never realize when they are about to be slugged from behind.

This sounds like the maunderings of a drunken sot, but to the extent that there is some allegorical significance buried in the text, she seems to be implying that conservatives are a violent and brutal lot. Yet where is there any evidence to substantiate such a libel? Whatever evidence there is from the last campaign points the finger in the other direction. Almost every instance of campaign thuggery that occurred over the last several months was perpetrated against Republicans. It is not Republicans who hoped for "a thousand Mogodishus" in Iraq. It wasn't Republicans who made a movie about how to assassinate the president. It wasn't Republicans that pined for Lee Harvey Oswald and John Hinckley "now that we need them". It wasn't Republicans who've been arrested in Michigan for slashing the tires of their own GOTV vans, and on and on.

The Democrats are in a tough spot. They're stuck with an ideological message that does not resonate with the majority of the population. They can either abandon their message, or they can try to convert enough people to their message that they become a majority, or they can follow Ms Smiley's example by taking leave of their senses and accuse 59 million people of being stupid, dishonest, and cruel.

Fortunately for the public perception of the Democrats, not all of the essays in the series are so mindless. Some of them are very thoughtful. Viewpoint will take a look at some of those in the days ahead.

The Kind of Fighting Lying Ahead

More insight into what the Coalition is, and has been, facing in and around Fallujah can be found at the Strategy Page:

What kind of fighting will occur in Fallujah? It will be a game of wits, as well as weapons. The most professional and experienced anti-government gunmen are in Fallujah, and they have developed many countermeasures for the coalition advantages. A major disadvantage is the coalition control of the air, and the constant presence of UAVs, aircraft or helicopters. Too many gunmen have seen their buddies ambushed, or jumped by unexpected coalition troops, to ignore the possibility of a UAV above sending live video of the battlefield to coalition commanders. So the gunmen try to set up movement routes that cannot be seen from the air.

Rugs or sheets are spread across alleys to make this possible, and sometimes even short tunnels are dug. The downside of this is that movement is inhibited. In fact, American troops do not always have a vidcam equipped UAV over the battlefield. But Department of Defense public affairs people like to distribute videos of such operations. The implication that American troops can "see everything" is meant to intimidate the enemy. It does, and slows down enemy movements, often fatally so.

Fighting in Fallujah will be a war of surprise and ambush. Whoever first figures out what the other side is up to will have an edge. The smart money is on the Americans. For while the "insurgents" have received lots of positive press for their unequal struggle, they have by far gotten the worst of it. In thousands of little battles, the anti-government forces are almost always defeated. Most of the time they just flee, but all too often they are killed or captured. Coalition intelligence officers know who they are fighting, and how they fight.

There's more at the link.

The Coming European Civil War

Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, a descendent of the famous artist, was shot and stabbed to death on a Netherlands street last week by a young Dutch Muslim because Van Gogh was an outspoken critic in his films of Islamic misogyny and bigotry. His murderers pinned a note to his body with a knife. It read in part:

I know for sure that you, Oh America will go under; I know for sure that you, Oh Europe, will go under; I know for sure that you, Oh Holland, will go under; I know for sure that you, Oh Hirsi Ali, will go under; I know for sure that you, Oh unbelieving fundamentalist, will go under.

The note concludes by threatening several Dutch politicians with death.

As Andrew Sullivan asks, "What part of that do we not understand?"

More pertinently, perhaps, what part of that doesn't the left, both in Europe and in the American media, understand?

Power Line cites the New York Times opinion on the murder and highlights the Times' penchant for turning the wrong way on every one way street. Power Line writes:

Here is how the New York Times responded today to the horrific murder of Theo Van Gogh and the ensuing arrest of nine Islamic militants:

"Something sad and terrible is happening to the Netherlands, long one of Europe's most tolerant, decent and multicultural societies."

Yes, that is true. Van Gogh was shot, and then, while still alive, he was stabbed repeatedly and his throat was cut. The murderer then stuck a five-page letter to Van Gogh's body with the knife; the letter threatened certain Dutch politicians. That is indeed "sad and terrible," although we would be more inclined to rage than sadness.

But what does the Times propose to do in response to this terrorist murder?

"Urgent efforts are needed to better manage the cultural tensions perilously close to the surface of Dutch public life. The problem is not Muslim immigration, but a failure to plan for a smoother transition to a more diverse society. One very real danger is that the public trauma over the van Gogh murder may lead to a clamor for anti-Muslim policies that could victimize thousands of innocent refugees and immigrants. The challenge for Dutch political leaders is to find ways to reverse this disturbing trend of politically motivated violence without making it harder to achieve cultural harmony."

Notice how blame for Van Gogh's murder rests not with the killers, but with the Dutch government's "failure to plan for a smoother transition to a more diverse society." Whatever that means. And, of course, in the Netherlands as in the United States, the Times' chief fear is that popular outrage at Islamic terrorism might lead to "victimization" of innnocent immigrants. Let me just hazard a guess here: there won't be any innocent immigrants having their throats cut. Except, perhaps, for Ayaan Hirsi Ali and others who have been threatened with death by the Islamist terrorists.

The Times concludes with a wistful plea for "cultural harmony." I think harmony went out the window some time ago; the Times just wasn't paying attention. At this point, the goal should be not so much "cultural harmony" as rounding up the terrorists before more innocent people get killed.

Power Line has more here, and there is a Dutch blog which is focussing almost exclusively on this episode here.

The New York Times' pleas for cultural comity notwithstanding, the fact is that unless moderate Muslims soon start speaking out against the radicals in their midst, unless they soon begin to purge their mosques and communities of these savages, there will result a war of extermination in Europe and perhaps even in North America.

In Europe one of two situations is likely to obtain given the evident indifference of the larger Muslim community to the cancer in its midst. Either the European people will be so cowed by the terrorists that, emboldened by the weakness of their prey, the Islamists will launch a holy war on European soil to hasten the Muslim eschaton of world Islam, or the Europeans, in an uncharacteristic fit of resolve in the face of evil, will begin mass deportations and violence against the Islamic communities within their borders. Such aggressive self-defense will itself precipitate a violent reaction from the Muslims and religious civil war would likely ensue.

Given the silence of the "moderate" Muslims, if such there be, and the aspirations of the radicals, one of these two outcomes is almost inevitable. To paraphrase George Orwell, if you want a picture of the future as the Islamists see it, imagine a knife sawing at a human throat, for ever.