Thursday, May 26, 2005

GOP Gets Sucker-Punched, Again.

The new-found senate comity lasted less than 48 hours before the Democrats voted almost unanimously to prevent John Bolton from receiving a confirmation vote on his appointment to the post of ambassador to the U.N. Four of the seven Democratic senators who agreed not to employ a filibuster unless there were "extraordinary circumstances" have chosen nevertheless to invoke a filibuster on the Bolton nomination.

It's true that the filibuster compromise only applied to judicial nominations, but the whole deal was predicated upon good will and trust in the other side's willingness to abide by the spirit of the agreement. It seems that a lot of the air has leaked out of the spirit of the agreement in the last two days.

Senator Frist is no doubt feeling vindicated; Senator McCain has egg on his face. Senator McCain better get used to it. This surely won't be the last time his Democratic friends let him down.

The Rainbow Party

When next you're at a social gathering and someone remarks that they just don't understand why parents would homeschool their children and thereby deprive them of the socialization opportunities that attach to a public school education you might casually mention The Rainbow Party by Paul Ruditis. The Rainbow Party is geared to Middle School aged kids and Ruditis hopes that teachers will use it to instruct their students in the arcana of human sexual behavior.

Michelle Malkin writes about the book in the Jewish World Review:

Here's a rich irony: I'm writing today about a new children's book, but I can't describe the plot in a family newspaper without warning you first that it is entirely inappropriate for children.

The book is "Rainbow Party" by juvenile fiction author Paul Ruditis. The publisher is Simon Pulse, a kiddie lit division of the esteemed Simon & Schuster. The cover of the book features the title spelled out in fun, Crayola-bright font. Beneath the title is an illustrated array of lipsticks in bold colors.

The main characters in the book are high school sophomores supposedly typical 14- and 15-year-olds with names such as "Gin" and "Sandy." The book opens with these two girls shopping for lipstick at the mall in advance of a special party. The girls banter as they hunt for lipsticks in every color of the rainbow:

"Okay, we've got red, orange, and purple," Gin said. "Now we just need yellow, green, and blue."

"Don't forget indigo," Sandy said as she scanned the row of lipstick tubes.

"What are you talking about?"

"Indigo," Sandy repeated as if that explained everything. "You know. ROY G. BIV. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet."

"That's seven lipsticks. Only six girls are coming. We don't need it."

What kind of party do you imagine they might be organizing? Perhaps a makeover party? With moms and daughters sharing their best beauty secrets and bonding in the process?

Alas, no. No parents are invited to this get-together. A "rainbow party," you see, is a gathering of boys and girls for the purpose of engaging in group oral sex. Each girl wears a different colored lipstick and leaves a mark on each boy. At night's end, the boys proudly sport their own cosmetically-sealed rainbow you-know-where bringing a whole new meaning to the concept of "party favors."

In the end, the kids in the book abandon plans for the event and news of an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases rocks their school. But the front cover and book marketing emphasize titillation over education, overpowering any redeeming value the book might have. Indeed, according to Publisher's Weekly, the bound galleys sent to booksellers carried the provocative tagline, "don't you want to know what really goes down?"

The author and publisher of the book seem to have persuaded themselves that they are doing families a favor. Simon & Schuster did not return my call seeking comment, but Bethany Buck, Ruditis' editor, told USA Today the intention was to "scare" young readers (uh-huh) and Ruditis told Publisher's Weekly:

"Part of me doesn't understand why people don't want to talk about [oral sex]," he said. "Kids are having sex and they are actively engaged in oral sex and think it's not really sex. I raised questions in my book and I hope that parents and children or teachers and students can open a topic of conversation through it. Rainbow parties are such an interesting topic. It's such a childlike way to look at such an adult subject with rainbow colors."

Teenage group orgies are "an interesting topic?" Is Ruditis out of his mind? We can only pray Simon & Schuster keeps him away from the preschool "Rubbadubbers" books.

In a small sign that decency and common sense still survive in the marketplace, a number of children's book sellers are refusing to stock "Rainbow Party." But as Ruditis's comments indicate, it's just a matter of time before the book ends up on public school library shelves in the name of "educating" children and helping them "deal with reality." The teen lit market is now awash in sexually explicit books that would require brown-paper wrapping if sold at 7-11; their authors are being hailed as "edgy."

For once, radio shock jock Howard Stern has my sympathy. When Oprah Winfrey aired a show last year in which a guest joked bawdily about teenage "rainbow parties" under the guise of enlightening parents, Stern pointed out the regulatory double standards. Why should he be punished for indecent broadcasts while Oprah escaped scrutiny for equally explicit and exploitative content?

Stern is in the wrong line of work. If you want to peddle smut with society's approval, children's books and sex ed is where it's at.

It is just astonishing that people like Ruditis can get a major publisher to publish this book and then actually think that such a story is somehow good for children to read and that it should be used by parents and teachers to teach about sex. The guy must be out of his mind.

Intelligence Coup in Iraq

Captain's Quarters links us to a remarkable story in the London Press:

BEIRUT: A Syrian intelligence officer detained in Baghdad has admitted to launching the missile attack on the late premier Rafik Hariri's Future Television in June 2003, according to Al-Rai al-Aam Kuwaiti newspaper. In an article published on Wednesday, the newspaper said Hussein Ahmad Tah, 32, was arrested by Iraqi police when he was attempting to assassinate employees in an Iraqi public institution. Following his arrest, Tah decided to admit to his previous crimes, among which is the Future TV bombing. Tah said he worked for Syrian intelligence services, adding that he worked for a long time in Lebanon where he perpetrated several attacks. He then moved to Iraq, where he committed several attacks against mosques and Iraqi civilians.

Security sources in Iraq said that Tah recounted the details of the attack on Future TV. The television station, situated near Raouche in Beirut, was attacked on June 15, 2003, resulting in the destruction of one of the newsrooms. No casualties were reported. The attack was considered as a message to then-owner of the station, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Sources said the car used to perpetrate the crime was stolen in 1997 and hidden in a garage until the date of the attack. A previously unknown group called Jamaat Ansar Allah had held itself responsible for the attack in a statement issued the next day. However, Tah told Iraqi police that the group did not exist and that he had written and issued the statement.

If this story turns out to be true it almost forces some sort of action against Syria and Bashar Assad. Syria has been indolent in stopping terrorist migration into Iraq and is apparently energetic in plotting mischief in Lebanon and Baghdad. Tah's confessions almost certainly implicate Syria in the death of Hariri.

Assad must feel like he's in his last days as president and perhaps even as a living organism. In order to save himself it's likely that Assad will make some gesture of cooperation with the United States in the war on terror, perhaps by handing over some terrorist major domos hiding out in Syria. The question is whether he's strong enough to get his security apparatus and military to go along.

The Illusions of Adulthood

Today's Philosophical Quotation tells us that the 19th century philosopher Auguste Comte once remarked that, "Religion is an illusion of childhood, outgrown under proper education."

With due respect to Comte, it's probably more accurate to say that the religion of one's childhood is often exchanged for another religion when one becomes an adult. Indeed, Comte is himself a prime example, having attempted in his later years to develop a religion based on humanism and positivist science.

When Comte was fourteen he abandoned the French Catholicism of his parents and embraced atheism, but he evidently lacked a "proper education" because he never outgrew his need for the numinous. His goal eventually became to develop a new atheistic religion, a new faith based on the apotheosis of man. A humanistic clergy would be needed, he believed, to replace the Catholic clergy. Comte proposed that these be taken from a scientific-industrial elite that would announce the invariable laws of a new social order. This clergy of elites, the technocrats, was necessary to meet the problems which ensued from the collapse of the ancien regime as well as those created by the growth of an industrial society.

With his attempt to found his own religion Comte drifted away from his philosophical and scientific interests toward mysticism. He appointed himself the high priest of his new faith which had its holy days, its calendar of saints -- Adam Smith, Frederick the Great, Dante, Shakespeare and others -- and its positivist catechism. It was a non-theistic religion of man and society, an illusion, to be sure, of adulthood.

For another example of the difficulty even atheists have of escaping their need for the religious see here.

As G.K. Chesterton said, "When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn't believe in nothing. He believes in anything."