Sunday, July 27, 2008

Planet of the Apes

My friend Linda gives us a heads-up on a Weekly Standard column by Wesley Smith in which he foresees very disturbing consequences of Spain's recent decision to confer certain rights upon apes that heretofore had been reserved solely for human beings. Smith asks:

But why grant apes rights? After all, if the Spanish parliament deems these animals insufficiently protected, it can enact more stringent protections, as other countries have. But improving the treatment of apes--of which there are few in Spain--is not really the game that is afoot. Rather, [as animal rights activist Pedro] Pozas chortled after the environment committee of the Spanish parliament passed the resolutions committing Spain to the Great Ape Project, this precedent will be the "spear point" that breaks the "species barrier."

And why break the species barrier? Why, to destroy the unique status of man and thus initiate a wholesale transformation of Western civilization.

Specifically, by including animals in the "community of equals" and in effect declaring apes to be persons, the Great Ape Project would break the spine of Judeo-Christian moral philosophy, which holds that humans enjoy equal and incalculable moral worth, regardless of our respective capacities, age, and state of health. Once man is demoted to merely another animal in the forest, universal human rights will have to be tossed out and new criteria devised to determine which human/animal lives matter and which individuals can be treated like, well, animals.

The Great Ape Project does indeed seem to be a logical consequence of the loss of belief that we are created in the image of God. Indeed, in a secularized, Darwinized cultural environment we truly are descended from apes, and a number of bleak consequences follow from no longer regarding human beings as if they were in some sense special. Smith talks about some of these consequences in the rest of his fine article.


Bush and the Dark Knight

Novelist Andrew Klavan compares Batman to Bush in an excellent column at the Wall Street Journal. Klavan writes that:

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past. And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society -- in which people sometimes make the wrong choices -- and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.

"The Dark Knight," then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror. And like another such film, last year's "300," "The Dark Knight" is making a fortune depicting the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.

He goes on to ask:

Why is it, indeed, that the conservative values that power our defense -- values like morality, faith, self-sacrifice and the nobility of fighting for the right -- only appear in fantasy or comic-inspired films like "300," "Lord of the Rings," "Narnia," "Spiderman 3" and now "The Dark Knight"?

The moment filmmakers take on the problem of Islamic terrorism in realistic films, suddenly those values vanish. The good guys become indistinguishable from the bad guys, and we end up denigrating the very heroes who defend us. Why should this be?

Do read the rest at the link, it's just outstanding stuff.

I haven't seen the new Batman, but Klavan has just convinced me that I need to rectify the omission.


Tale of Two Judgments

While Senator Obama was sucking up all the media oxygen in Europe Senator McCain was in Denver dispensing some hard truths about his rival. Here's part of what the Arizona senator said about the differences between him and Obama on the surge:

Senator Obama and I also faced a decision, which amounted to a real-time test for a future commander-in-chief. America passed that test. I believe my judgment passed that test. And I believe Senator Obama's failed.

We both knew the politically safe choice was to support some form of retreat. All the polls said the "surge" was unpopular. Many pundits, experts and policymakers opposed it and advocated withdrawing our troops and accepting the consequences. I chose to support the new counterinsurgency strategy backed by additional troops -- which I had advocated since 2003, after my first trip to Iraq. Many observers said my position would end my hopes of becoming president. I said I would rather lose a campaign than see America lose a war. My choice was not smart politics. It didn't test well in focus groups. It ignored all the polls. It also didn't matter. The country I love had one final chance to succeed in Iraq. The new strategy was it. So I supported it. Today, the effects of the new strategy are obvious. The surge has succeeded, and we are, at long last, finally winning this war.

Senator Obama made a different choice. He not only opposed the new strategy, but actually tried to prevent us from implementing it. He didn't just advocate defeat, he tried to legislate it. When his efforts failed, he continued to predict the failure of our troops. As our soldiers and Marines prepared to move into Baghdad neighborhoods and Anbari villages, Senator Obama predicted that their efforts would make the sectarian violence in Iraq worse, not better.

And as our troops took the fight to the enemy, Senator Obama tried to cut off funding for them. He was one of only 14 senators to vote against the emergency funding in May 2007 that supported our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. ...

Three weeks after Senator Obama voted to deny funding for our troops in the field, General Ray Odierno launched the first major combat operations of the surge. Senator Obama declared defeat one month later: "My assessment is that the surge has not worked and we will not see a different report eight weeks from now." His assessment was popular at the time. But it couldn't have been more wrong.

By November 2007, the success of the surge was becoming apparent. Attacks on Coalition forces had dropped almost 60 percent from pre-surge levels. American casualties had fallen by more than half. Iraqi civilian deaths had fallen by more than two-thirds. But Senator Obama ignored the new and encouraging reality. "Not only have we not seen improvements," he said, "but we're actually worsening, potentially, a situation there."

If Senator Obama had prevailed, American forces would have had to retreat under fire. The Iraqi Army would have collapsed. Civilian casualties would have increased dramatically. Al Qaeda would have killed the Sunni sheikhs who had begun to cooperate with us, and the "Sunni Awakening" would have been strangled at birth. Al Qaeda fighters would have safe havens, from where they could train Iraqis and foreigners, and turn Iraq into a base for launching attacks on Americans elsewhere. Civil war, genocide and wider conflict would have been likely.

Above all, America would have been humiliated and weakened. Our military, strained by years of sacrifice, would have suffered a demoralizing defeat. Our enemies around the globe would have been emboldened. ...

Senator Obama told the American people what he thought you wanted to hear. I told you the truth.

Fortunately, Senator Obama failed, not our military. We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right. Violence in Iraq fell to such low levels for such a long time that Senator Obama, detecting the success he never believed possible, falsely claimed that he had always predicted it. ... In Iraq, we are no longer on the doorstep of defeat, but on the road to victory.

Senator Obama said this week that even knowing what he knows today that he still would have opposed the surge. In retrospect, given the opportunity to choose between failure and success, he chooses failure. I cannot conceive of a Commander in Chief making that choice.

Whereas Obama gives the impression of determining his positions by looking at the political weathervane, McCain does what he thinks is right regardless of which way the wind is blowing. Obama's judgment has been impugned by the success of the surge and McCain's has been vindicated.

HT: Powerline


Summer Symposium

Kathryn Lopez at National Review Online distributed a number of questions on books, movies and politics to some of the folks at NRO, and their responses are posted here.

These are the questions, and though I was not invited to participate in the symposium (an oversight on their part, I'm sure), just for fun I'll supply my answers to them anyway:

What's the best political novel you've ever read? Why is it the best? I read Advise and Consent so long ago I can't remember anything about it other than it inspired me to pursue a career in politics. The inspiration subsided after a couple of days. Since then maybe 1984 is the best, because it paints such a chilling, dreary picture of the world as the left would make it.

If there were only one book on conservatism you could recommend to a newcomer, what would it be and why? The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk because it gives such a masterful overview of the history of conservative thought. If Kirk's tome is a little bit daunting I'd probably recommend Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative.

Is there one book that you'd recommend to uplift and inspire depressed conservatives this summer? Perhaps Michael Gerson's Heroic Conservatism, but in truth it would take more than a book to uplift conservatives faced with having to vote in November for John McDole and faced with the prospect of at least four years of an Obama presidency. That's depression for which there is no anodyne.

What's your favorite WFB book and why? All the Buckley books I've read I read decades ago and can't recall which of them, if any, was my favorite. I do know that I never read a Buckley book I didn't enjoy.

What's your favorite political movie and why? Man for All Seasons featuring Paul Scofield is my second choice. My first selection is The Lives of Others. It's a film everyone should see who wants to understand the sort of world to which leftist ideas logically leads. It's a great movie with lots of drama and redemption.

If you could read or reread one classic this summer, what would it be? What are the odds you actually do? Well, it's not a reread, and I'm embarrassed to say that I've never read it before, but I recently started Tolstoy's War and Peace. I expect to have it finished by the summer of 2010.

Is there any recent book that's made you want to buy copies for everyone you know and love? Did you actually make the purchases? I actually did buy copies of Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax for my son and daughter who have children of their own. Two other recent books I'd be willing to buy for people are Tim Keller's Reason for God, and Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism. Unfortunately, I have very little success getting people to read books I recommend to them so I haven't bought either of these for anyone. Yet.

Are there any summer movies you're looking forward to? I'm hearing interesting things about The Dark Knight, so I might see that. It's not a summer movie, I guess, but I do recommend Bellah for anyone looking for a wonderful film about real people.

Would you rather listen to John McCain's convention speech or read Dick Morris's new book? I'd rather be assured that John McCain was reading Dick Morris' new book.

Name one book we're going to be shocked you read. The Devil Wears Prada. I read it for a book club I was in. In my defense I should mention that I never finished it.

Thanks to Jason for passing on the link.


Supporting the Troops

The MSNBC website tells us that:

"During his trip as part of the CODEL to Afghanistan and Iraq, Senator Obama visited the combat support hospital in the Green Zone in Baghdad and had a number of other visits with the troops," Obama strategist Robert Gibbs said in a statement. "For the second part of his trip, the senator wanted to visit the men and women at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to express his gratitude for their service and sacrifice. The senator decided out of respect for these servicemen and women that it would be inappropriate to make a stop to visit troops at a U.S. military facility as part of a trip funded by the campaign."

A U.S. military official tells NBC News they were making preparations for Sen. Barack Obama to visit wounded troops at the Landstuhl Medical Center at Ramstein, Germany on Friday, but "for some reason the visit was called off."

One military official who was working on the Obama visit said because political candidates are prohibited from using military installations as campaign backdrops, Obama's representatives were told, "he could only bring two or three of his Senate staff member, no campaign officials or workers." In addition, "Obama could not bring any media. Only military photographers would be permitted to record Obama's visit."

The official said "We didn't know why" the request to visit the wounded troops was withdrawn. "He (Obama) was more than welcome. We were all ready for him."

I sure hope that he didn't cancel the visit to the wounded troops just because he couldn't take along photographers. I heard yesterday, but cannot confirm, that instead of the hospital visit Obama went shopping and worked out.

If he did cancel the hospital trip because it wasn't a politically advantageous use of his time then what are we to think of him? The reason he gave, that it wasn't appropriate to visit the troops as part of a trip funded by the campaign, doesn't make any sense at all since he visited wounded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The decision to cancel the visit makes it look an awful lot as though Obama's just exploiting the wounded troops for his own political purposes.

The cancellation makes it appear that if Obama's going to visit our wounded and maimed soldiers and Marines he wants everyone to know that he's doing it. I wonder how many visits to our kids McCain has made that nobody but his people and the hospital staff and patients know about.


The Giant Amoeba

Throughout his tour of the Middle East Barack Obama sounded as though he were a member of the Bush administration when talking about Iraq, Israel, and the Palestinians. Almost nothing he said, except for his 16 month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, differs substantively from what the White House has been saying for years. This was especially true of his thoughts on Iran:

Barack Obama asserted that he would bring "big sticks and big carrots" to make Iran stand down on its nuclear program, but take no option off the table. Answering reporters' questions in the missile-battered southern town of Sderot, July 23, Obama stressed that preventing Iran [from] acquiring a nuclear weapon must be of paramount concern for any US administration. It would lead to the disintegration of the non-proliferation regime, other Middle East nations would also obtain nuclear weapons and some would reach terrorists. "This is the single most important threat to Israel and the US."

The logic of Senator Obama's words leads to this: If the nuclearization of Iran is the single most important threat to this country then, if all else fails, military force would be justified to prevent it. This is exactly the Bush/McCain position.

I don't know whether Obama actually means what he's saying, but if he does it's a significant departure from the Obama who campaigned in the primaries as the candidate least likely to ever go to war. He has now moved so close to McCain on foreign policy that the two are almost occupying the same ground.

Like a giant amoeba Obama he's slowly engulfing and absorbing the differences which had distinguished McCain from himself. He seems eager to make the campaign not about policy distinctions but about image, style, and charisma. He realizes that on the issues McCain is pretty much where the country is, but that the old man can't compete with Obama's charm, wit and afflatus, qualities which seduce many voters who haven't a clue what the issues are or where the candidates stand on them.

The rookie Senator appears to recognize that on policy matters and experience he has nothing much to offer so in order to win the presidency he has to maximize his strengths, and neutralize McCain's by making McCain's positions his own. If this is correct, then Obama is going to continue moving right and continue to look just like many another politician - a dishonest, insincere opportunist.

I hope for the country's sake that this is not what Obama is up to, but if we see him moderate his views on taxes, health care, and/or off-shore drilling then we'll know that it is.