Monday, May 29, 2006

Musing At the Wall

The following is an excerpt from Palace Cobra:

“War is an ugly thing, but it is not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by better men than himself.”
John Stuart Mill

Washington D. C. is a city of beautiful buildings and soaring monuments. The capital dominates with its majestic dome and broad stairways. The Supreme Court similarly rises among the stately trees with strength in its columns and classic façade. The memorials to the greats of our nations are white, broad and tall befitting the stature of the military and political leaders which they honor. But, the Wall is black and buried, a depression in the ground symbolizing the depression of the nation that did not win the war or respect the men who fought it. You can see the Washington Monument from miles away and you won’t need a map to find Lincoln or Jefferson or the World War II memorial, but you could walk within a hundred yards of the Wall and never see it. We seem to want to hide it, maybe hoping that an obligation has been fulfilled but no one wants to admit that the obligation existed in the first place.

The names are listed in a paper directory, dog-eared and dirty from thousands of hands searching through it for a name of a friend or family member who was lost. It’s chained to a plywood pedestal like a small town phone book at a gas station pay-phone, almost as an afterthought by the government that maybe some visitor might want to know where on the wall among the 58,000 names their special person is memorialized. But, they do want to know. They come from across the country to see and to feel and to remember. Some say they come for closure or to heal, but that is only a few. More come for respect and to belatedly honor the fallen. And some come out of guilt that they hadn’t gone or hadn’t done the right thing at the time.

The sidewalk along the brooding black marble wall slopes gradually, there are no steps along the way. It’s almost a metaphor for the gradualism that led us to failure. It marks the descent into the immorality of sending men to die for a cause that the nation wants to ignore. But when you reach the deepest point, the walk rises again and gradually, over time returns to the level of the street and the city. All things pass and maybe this represents a return to normalcy and patriotism and honor; belief in your country’s might and the principles that the other soaring white monuments of Washington commemorate. Maybe.

Children visiting the Wall from the inner cities of America laugh and tussle on the grass, showing little of the solemnity that we might wish for this spot. They don’t know these many years later exactly what this is all about. They don’t make a great distinction between Verdun and Vietnam. But, that guy over there, the one in the dark suit with the sunglasses, he knows the difference. The gray-haired fellow coming down the walk with his grand-son holding his hand, he knows many of these names. The heavy-set fellow in the West Point sweatshirt, sitting on the park bench with the cane by his side was there. The one in the tattered field jacket, with the beard and dirty matted long hair? No, probably not. Odds are he’s ten years too young and simply another poseur and “wannabe.” There are a lot of them these days. You can buy the jacket in any town and the medals can be found on eBay. But, that’s the stereotype; the homeless, drug or alcohol addicted hulk destroyed by the war. The reality is that the great majority of the survivors of the war are just quiet old men, living out their lives and remembering.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Two-Fer in the Journal

Regular readers here know that I enjoy the opinions and editorials of the Wall Street Journal. It’s only natural that a free-market conservative such as I would gravitate toward similar and reinforcing thought. It’s confirmed, however, by the fact that the WSJ writings are usually balanced, well reasoned and decidedly less shrill than the further left versions of daily print media such as the New York Times or Washington Post.

Friday offered a rare two-fer in the Personal Journal section. First there is this fine example of how even accurate reporting can create an inaccurate impression: Spin This For Example

The perspective of women in the military as victims is easily supported by poor Jessica Lynch—ill prepared, poorly led, badly treated and finally rescued and then elevated to questionable hero status. Why, that’s a perfect example of what is wrong with everything America does in the world, isn’t it? Actually, it’s a cheap effort to demean the military, women, and American policy in the Middle East.

The story of Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester wouldn’t serve the objectives of the NYT, so they don’t offer it to you. We certainly can’t have women warriors. It wouldn’t be politic to have women in leadership positions. They certainly shouldn’t be perceived as successful in such endeavors. Oooppps! Wait a second, isn’t that exactly the way they should be perceived. Isn’t that precisely what NOW has been arguing for the last several decades? Isn’t this a perfect example of what they have been saying? They are women, hear them roar! The poor main-stream media are badly conflicted here.

I’ve been picking up background material for a couple of years now for a book on the subject of women military aviators. I’ve watched the mandated entry into pilot and navigation training coupled with the affirmative action quotas to place females in cockpits, squadrons, leadership roles and finally into combat situations. Over the years resistance devolved to prejudice which shifted to grudging acceptance which recently has morphed into full-fledged respect. Old guys, like a lot of my peers, still resist. But young warriors in the fighters of today’s force weigh performance objectively and when good pilots fly and lead well, they are acknowledged regardless of gender.

The second half of the two-fer was this commentary on real-life and movie interpretation in Jewish America. Where's the PC Outrage?

On the one hand, we’ve got the spectacle of proud and financially-fixed parents striving for excess in recognizing the incipient maturity of their male offspring. Bar mitzvah parties aren’t anything new, but the extremes described in the opinion piece certainly are. Yet, that shouldn’t be restricted to Jewish families. There are Latin parties for teen-aged girls that certainly fit this category as well as baptisms, first communions, proms, showers, and most assuredly weddings that spread the scenario to Christians, agnostics, white and blue collar families, and most ethnicities. So, we can all chuckle a bit at the ridiculousness of the expenditure.

What struck me, however, was the comparison to the movie, “Keeping Up With the Steins.” Of course, once we accept movies titled, “White Men Can’t Jump” or “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, we should learn that certain religions, ethnicities and societal groups are fair game for ridicule. The hypocrisy here is that these topics and stereotypes are tolerated by the same leftists who immediately take umbrage at things like naming athletic teams after Native Americans or drawing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Where is the ACLU to defend Jewish parents from such portrayals? Why is no one speaking out against these politically incorrect cartoons? We know immediately that there would be universal outrage if someone made a film titled, “Black Men Can’t Parent”, or “My Big Alcoholic Navajo Homecoming”, or even suggesting that Rosie O’Donnell might not be an ideal parent.

It’s so much easier to be a conservative these days. The poor libs have way too much difficulty keeping their standards consistent. Having things both ways is certainly an easy way to go through life, but the problem is that a lot of folks won’t be able to figure out where you really stand.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Remember Quasimodo running into Notre Dame with the fair damsel in his arms, shouting the historic plea for respect of the sanctity of the cathedral as a refuge from violence? Well, now we have a Mel Brooks moment in the hallowed halls of the Rayburn Office Building as FBI agents with Federal warrant enter the office of Representative William Jefferson (D-LA) and find the majority of the $100,000 which they paid him in a sting operation.

So, let’s see if we can understand this. Here’s the detail and the umbrage from Speaker Hastert, among others: Sanctuary, Sanctuary!!!

The situation apparently is that Congress-critter Jefferson has been suspected of just a tad of corruption. Based on a reasonable probability that he would continue to operate in the manner to which he had become accustomed, the FBI put out some bait. Trap baited and video rolling, the Congressman snatched it up and in the process even joked at the foolishness of circumlocution regarding the discussion of the quid-pro-quo of the pay-off. Why, no need to talk in all this code as though the FBI is watching… Oooopps! They were.

Then with a hundred large in the Congressman’s sticky hands, the FBI went off with the video to a Federal judge and sought a warrant to close the loop and recover the money thereby validating the sting. They were even smart enough to discuss the nuances of how to deal with legislative papers and materials which might raise the separation of powers issue. Reasonably enough, the judge issued the warrant.

Raid was conducted and there in Mr. Jefferson’s freezer in his office was the cold, hard cash. Looks like a slam-dunk. But, nothing in Washington is ever as it seems. Recently the Dems have been hard-pressing the Reps on corruption issues. What with Cunningham and Delay both nailed, the concept of an administration rife with corruption looked like a good bet for the Donkeys in the coming election. Now, we’ve got pretty good evidence that it isn’t a one-way street. Jefferson is at least as sleazy and maybe a bit more blatant.

The question that must be asked is why all of this high dudgeon regarding the sanctuary of the offices. Yes, the separation of powers clearly demands that the executive storm-troopers not go marching into legislators’ offices intimidating them and bending them to the will of the King (AKA President.) But, if there is evidence of crime and there is proper warrant and the result clearly does not infringe on the legislative process isn’t it reasonable?

The cliché of “Rule of Law” is being thrown about, implying that the Executive is violating equal protection for an oppressed class of folks—the Congress-critters. Yet, if any of us were stung in similar manner it seems doubtful that we could claim Fourth Amendment protection against proper warrant and search of our homes. Why should there be office sanctuary for slime like this?

At least the Congressman didn’t punch out any Capital Police officers, ala McKinney.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


I feel like saying it in one of those “Valley Girl” accents. It is a work of fiction. “Like, DUH!” It is a story, and a darn good one I might note. That’s why it is so appalling to see the Catholic Church get their miters, tiaras, chasubles and crosiers all in a knot about “The Da Vinci Code” movie. They quickly lower themselves to the same appalling level as the Muslim extremists who are so offended by a series of not really very offensive cartoons that they feel compelled to burn embassies, overturn cars and assassinate perfectly innocent infidels who have no connection to the affront to the Prophet. Where was this guy when forty million copies of the hardcover edition were being sold and read and the Catholic Church was still surviving the heresy?

Cardinal urges legal action against Da Vinci Code�|�

Here’s a guy who was almost selected as pope last year now telling Catholics that they need to litigate, be deeply offended and possibly even emulate the violence of the jihadists. Can he really be serious? Can he not distinguish between fact and rousing good fiction? Doesn’t he know that he’s merely hyping the movie at no cost to the producers and making it all the more enticing to the masses? Would he willingly sacrifice freedom of speech for this questionable cause? Isn’t there something more important in the world for him to be disgruntled about? Gosh, he’s a Nigerian—maybe there are some problems in his homeland regarding tribes chopping each other to pieces which he could devote his energies to. Or, possibly some positive strokes to encourage a meaningful battle against AIDS? Or, a bit of constructive dialog regarding corruption, leadership, democracy and good public policy could keep him busy for a while.

Is it my prejudice against religion, or is it really an example of religious leaders of so many faiths displaying their irrelevance to the moral issues of the world?