Wednesday, July 22, 2009

<i>Sic Semper</i> Opportunists

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania made a cold political calculation earlier this year and decided he could not defeat Rep. Pat Toomey in the GOP primary. So he bolted from the Republican party, with which he had been affiliated at least since being first elected to the Senate in 1980, and joined the Democrats. No doubt he thought this would win him enough Democrat votes to defeat Toomey in the general election in 2010, but apparently he miscalculated. Though holding a 20 point lead over Toomey in May, a new Quinnipiac poll shows the Senator today in a statistical tie with his nemesis.

Not only did Specter lose his seniority by joining the Democrats (though he evidently had been led to expect he would retain it), he looks like he may well lose his prestigious seat in the Senate as well. His only course of action is to support Obama's legislative agenda and hope that agenda will succeed. If he opposes it, which he might have done if he remained a Republican, he'll lose his party's backing altogether. If he supports it, and it fails either to be passed into law or winds up wrecking the economy, he'll lose the support of independents and moderate Dems. He has put himself in an unenviable position, but no tears are being shed for him in Pennsylvania where many people see him as an opportunist who's getting what he deserves.


Expiration Date

Russ Douthat has a fine column on affirmative action in the New York Times. He writes that a good case could be made for the need for affirmative action in the decades after the post WWII civil rights struggles, but that there needs to be a statute of limitations:

Allowing reverse discrimination in the wake of segregation is one thing. Discriminating in the name of diversity indefinitely is quite another.

After noting that by 2042 the United States will be a "majority minority" nation Douthat says:

A system designed to ensure the advancement of minorities will tend toward corruption if it persists for generations, even after the minorities have become a majority. If affirmative action exists in the America of 2028 [the date that Justice Sandra O'Connor suggested as an upper limit], it will be as a spoils system for the already - successful, a patronage machine for politicians - and a source of permanent grievance among America's shrinking white population.

For myself, I don't understand why affirmative action has continued this long, much less why it should still be around in 2028. Affirmative action was designed and justified as a means of racial reparations, a way to compensate those who had been disadvantaged by segregation. Now, going on three generations after segregation has ended, defenders of affirmative action say we still need it. Why? What evidence is there that racial discrimination is still a significant factor in American life? What social conditions, what metric, would the defenders of affirmative action accept as justification for the conclusion that affirmative action is no longer necessary?

The most frequently cited example of the need for affirmative action today is the paucity of minorities in certain fields, but racial discrimination isn't the only, or even the best, explanation for that lack. How do we distinguish between competing explanations? The argument that the shortage of qualified minorities is itself evidence of discrimination has been threadbare now for twenty years. It's time that we insisted that in this country, just as no one will be denied a job or college admission on the basis of race, neither will anyone be awarded one on the basis of race.


Pure Evil

Lest anyone doubt what sort of people the Iranian authorities are The Jerusalem Post gives us a good idea via an an interview with a former Basiji member who was himself briefly imprisoned for having released protesters from detention without authorization:

The Basiji member, who is married with children, spoke soon after his release by the Iranian authorities from detention. He had been held for the "crime" of having set free two Iranian teenagers - a 13-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl - who had been arrested during the disturbances that have followed the disputed June presidential elections.

"There have been many other police and members of the security forces arrested because they have shown leniency toward the protesters out on the streets, or released them from custody without consulting our superiors," he said.

He pinned the blame for much of the most ruthless violence employed by the Iranian security apparatus against opposition protesters on what he called "imported security forces" - recruits, as young as 14 and 15, he said, who have been brought from small villages into the bigger cities where the protests have been centered.

"Fourteen and 15-year old boys are given so much power, which I am sorry to say they have abused," he said. "These kids do anything they please - forcing people to empty out their wallets, taking whatever they want from stores without paying, and touching young women inappropriately. The girls are so frightened that they remain quiet and let them do what they want."

These youngsters, and other "plainclothes vigilantes," were committing most of the crimes in the names of the regime, he said.

Asked about his own role in the brutal crackdowns on the protesters, whether he had beaten demonstrators and whether he regretted his actions, he answered evasively.

"I did not attack any of the rioters - and even if I had, it is my duty to follow orders," he began. "I don't have any regrets," he went on, "except for when I worked as a prison guard during my adolescence."

So what did he do during his adolescence that causes him regret? Read on:

When he was 16, "my mother took me to a Basiji station and begged them to take me under their wing because I had no one and nothing foreseeable in my future. My father was martyred during the war in Iraq and she did not want me to get hooked on drugs and become a street thug. I had no choice," he said.

He said he had been a highly regarded member of the force, and had so "impressed my superiors" that, at 18, "I was given the 'honor' to temporarily marry young girls before they were sentenced to death."

In the Islamic Republic it is illegal to execute a young woman, regardless of her crime, if she is a virgin, he explained. Therefore a "wedding" ceremony is conducted the night before the execution: The young girl is forced to have sexual intercourse with a prison guard - essentially raped by her "husband."

"I regret that, even though the marriages were legal," he said.

Why the regret, if the marriages were "legal?"

"Because," he went on, "I could tell that the girls were more afraid of their 'wedding' night than of the execution that awaited them in the morning. And they would always fight back, so we would have to put sleeping pills in their food. By morning the girls would have an empty expression; it seemed like they were ready or wanted to die.

"I remember hearing them cry and scream after [the rape] was over," he said. "I will never forget how this one girl clawed at her own face and neck with her finger nails afterwards. She had deep scratches all over her."

A nation that institutionalizes this sort of behavior and incorporates it into its laws is simply evil. There's no other word for it. The Iranian regime deserves universal reproach, but Western diplomats and media, steeped in multicultural relativism, have lost their ability to reproach anyone lest they be accused of cultural chauvinism.


Bad Company

I'm not saying this report is correct, mind you, but it certainly seems to be genuine:

Honduran authorities have seized computers found in the Presidential Palace belonging to deposed president Mel Zelaya. Taking a page right out of the leftist dictator's handbook, these computers, according to the news report, contained the official and certified results of the illegal constitutional referendum Zelaya wanted to conduct that never took place. The results of this fraudulent vote were tilted heavily in Zelaya's favor, ensuring he could go ahead and illegally change the constitution so he could remain in power for as long as he wanted to. ACORN, I'm sure, is taking notes.

This is the man that the OAS, the UN, and the Obama State Department want the Honduran people to reinstall as their leader.

Manuel Zelaya had, according to the article, already fabricated the results of the unconstitutional referendum he was trying to illegally foist on the Honduran people when he was deposed. Whether the report is correct or not, it really is distressing that our president and secretary of state have thrown their influence behind a man supported by the Castro brothers, Hugo Chavez, and Daniel Ortega, and are pressuring the Hondurans to reinstall him in office. It is to our national shame that we find ourselves in such company.

Meanwhile, here's the latest column on the Honduran situation from the indispensable Mary Anastasia O'Grady at the Wall Street Journal.