Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Snakes and Sickos

Does it strike you as weird as it does me that the news media have gone wall-to-wall to give us every detail of the doings of the man who claims to be the person responsible for the death of JonBenet Ramsey ten years ago, including the complete menu of what he had to eat on his plane ride from Bangkok? Yet there has been almost nothing on kidnapped Fox News' reporter Steve Centanni and camera man Olaf Wiig who are still missing in Gaza.

Just when you think that the media couldn't be more shallow, just when you think their priorities couldn't be more perverse, they refuse to conform to your expectations and rush to fill the airwaves with the fantasies of some insignificant epicene psycho. Meanwhile, two men's lives hang in the balance in the Middle East, all but unnoticed by reporters and talking heads who can't be distracted from what they apparently believe to be the really important "breaking news".

Maybe this is unfair. The shows I saw did expend a lot of coverage on Samuel L. Jackson's vulgar dialogue in a movie, no doubt eminently forgettable, about snakes on an airplane. Perhaps that was seen as an important news story as well. Snakes and sickos on airplanes. Lord help us.

In 1961, when there were only three channels, FCC chairman Newton Minnow described television as a vast wasteland. It's added a lot of choices since then, but, notwithstanding the amazing number of options, seems only to have grown more arid.

Arrogance and Ego

Time magazine, which has run eleven issues since 1992 whose covers have been graced with Hillary Clinton's visage, declares her "ready to run" for the presidency in 2008. With eleven covers dedicated to Mrs. Clinton there doesn't seem to be much question who Time will be endorsing if she does.

At any rate, a friend of mine has a cousin who is an air marshall. He related this story to me about an encounter his cousin had with Senator Clinton:

A few months ago a cousin of mine, a US Air Marshal, boarded a plane and sat in the first class section. His partner sat in the last row of the plane. The plane was held waiting at the gate for what the pilot said was "an important VIP passenger."

Sure enough, Senator Hillary Clinton, two secret service agents and several other aides came bustling onboard, demanding all passengers in first class move to the rear. Senator Clinton promptly announced her staff would be occupying the entire first class section. Several customers complained that they had paid for their first class seats, to which the senator told them to take up their problems with the airline and stop wasting her time.

Everyone eventually left, except the undercover air marshal. The secret service agents requested he move, but the marshal instead told them that he too was a secret service agent, and as an air marshal, the aircraft was his jurisdiction. Finally, Senator Clinton herself requested the marshal move to the rear, or else she would get the pilot involved. The marshal recommended she do just that.

The pilot was notified of the delay and announced on the intercom that all passengers kicked out of first class were to return immediately. Senator Clinton and her two agents would be allowed in first class, but the rest of her entourage was relegated to the rear of the plane.

Needless to say, the senator was unhappy with her treatment.

We have to consider the possibility, of course, that the details were not exactly as the air marshall remembered them. On the other hand, if events did unfold as he related them then this says something very unpleasant about Senator Clinton.

It reminds me, in what it reveals of the senator, of the time Senator Kerry scolded and demeaned a secret service agent with whom he accidentally collided on a ski slope. Politicians like Clinton and Kerry profess to care about the "little people", but stories like these raise one's doubts. It seems rather that at least some of our political leaders are so consumed with arrogance and a sense of self-importance that they forget that it is they who are the servants and it is tax-payers whom they serve.

Paying the Price for Bad Ideas

Juan Williams lends his voice to the chorus of African American writers who are demanding that blacks look at themselves for the causes of black failure in America and look to themselves for the solutions. He writes:

[Bill] Cosby said that the quarter of black Americans still living in poverty are failing to hold up their end of a deal with history when they don't take advantage of the opportunities created by the Supreme Court's Brown decision and the sacrifices of civil rights leaders from Martin Luther King Jr. to Thurgood Marshall and Malcolm X. Those leaders in the 1950s and '60s opened doors by winning passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and fair housing laws. Their triumphs led to the nationwide rise in black political power on school boards and in city halls and Congress.

Taken as a whole, that era of stunning breakthroughs set the stage for black people, disproportionately poor and ill-educated because of a history of slavery and segregation, to reach new heights -- freed from the weight of government-sanctioned segregation. It also created a national model of social activism to advance the rights of women, Hispanics, gays and others.

Cosby asked the chilling question: "What good is Brown" and all the victories of the civil rights era if nobody wants them? A generation after those major civil rights victories, black America is experiencing alarming dropout rates, shocking numbers of children born to single mothers and a frightening acceptance of criminal behavior that has too many black people filling up the jails. Where is the focus on taking advantage of new opportunities to advance and to close the racial gap in educational and economic achievement?

Incredibly, Cosby's critics don't see the desperate need to pull a generational fire alarm to warn people about a culture of failure that is sabotaging any chance for black people in poverty to move up and help their children reach the security of economic and educational achievement. Not one mainstream civil rights group picked up on his call for marches and protests against bad parenting, drug dealers, hate-filled rap music and failing schools.

Where is the civil rights groundswell on behalf of stronger marriages that will allow more children to grow up in two-parent families and have a better chance of staying out of poverty? Where are the marches demanding good schools for those children -- and the strong cultural reinforcement for high academic achievement (instead of the charge that minority students who get good grades are "acting white")? Where are the exhortations for children to reject the self-defeating stereotypes that reduce black people to violent, oversexed "gangstas," minstrel show comedians and mindless athletes?

Part of the problem black America faces is that African Americans have been conditioned by liberal political and social philosophy to believe that racism is the cause of all their ills. They've been taught that doing what Williams, Cosby, Shelby Steele and many others are doing is tantamount to blaming the victim. They've been led to think that the problems of the poor can be resolved by throwing more money at them. They've embraced the lies of the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 70s that whispered, like the serpent in the garden, that drugs were liberating and that sex is a form of recreation, that families don't need fathers, that single motherhood is just fine. Their children have languished in sub-standard schools whose educational mission is impeded by teacher unions which in some cases weigh down urban schools with onerous salary and working condition demands and which fight tooth and nail to prevent any form of school choice from being made available to parents.

In other words, modern African-Americans are indeed victims, but not of racism, per se. They are victims of something whose consequences are just as insidious - post-WWII secular liberalism. The sooner blacks shed the chains that have held them in thrall to the Democratic party, and the nostrums that have been foisted upon them for the last forty years, the sooner they will begin to benefit from opportunities which have been for too long unappreciated and unavailed.

Thugs and Buffoons

Kofi Annan has demonstrated yet again why his tenure at the helm of the U.N. has been a farce. The other day he criticized Israel for violating the ceasefire by conducting a raid whose aim was to prevent a resupply of weapons from reaching Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah, which, under the conditions of the cease-fire was supposed to disarm, refuses to do so, and Annan says nothing. The Lebanese, who under the conditions of the cease-fire, were supposed to disarm Hezbollah, refuse to do so, and Annan says nothing. The French, who, under the conditions of the cease-fire, which they brokered, were supposed to insert a strong military force into Lebanon, refuse to do so, and Annan says nothing. The U.N. member nations which, under the conditions of the cease-fire, were supposed to contribute 15,000 troops to police southern Lebanon, have been painfully slow to do so, and Annan says nothing.

But let Israel try to protect itself by doing what the rest of the world is supposed to do but won't, and Kofi Annan has no difficulty finding the words to express his displeasure. No wonder so many see the U.N. as little more than a clique of disreputable thugs and buffoons from which civilized nations do well to distance themselves.