Saturday, May 03, 2003

Unpredicted consequences
None of the US media seem to have picked up on this story from Britain about the shocking results in local council elections. One might have expected that the glorious results in the Iraq war would have given a boost to Labour prospects, since Blair is the Labour leader. Quite the contrary. The Tories gained hundreds of seats, and even the third party Liberal Democrats gained many more seats than expected. The fourth party British National Party, described as "right wing", known informally as "British Nazi Party", gained significantly, mostly at the expense of Labour. The gains were so significant that Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative leader, "guaranteed" that the Tories would win the next general election. BBC, of course, emphasized the Labour gains in Wales and the BBC's roundup of how the papers in Britain treated the election emphasized that all parties had some gains in various places. The BBC refuses to recognize what looks to me like a (an? or is that too self-consciously Anglophile?) historic victory for the Tories.
So why did the Conservatives gain so much, when the leader of Labour is just coming off a huge foreign policy coup? First, the Tories were much more solidly behind the liberation campaign than the Labour Party. The split in Labour was gaping. And the traitor Galloway is a Labourite. Those stories could not fail to have been lost on the electorate. Of course these were local council elections, so something must have been going on at the grass roots, too. Perhaps the locals are just finally fed up with closet - and not-so-hidden - Socialism. Maybe it was the in-town tax in London that showed the electorate where Labour was heading, maybe the proliferation of cameras everywhere, maybe Blair's fondness for the Euro and the Continent, when the French and Germans turned out to be less than staunch when it came time to act on Iraq. Labour must have been seen as the party of big government, favoring encroachment on traditional British freedoms. Whatever the reason, a political turning point seems to have been passed. Years from now we may look back on the liberation of Iraq as the event that triggered many much-needed changes. We may have escaped dystopia by the skin of our teeth.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Having a bit of a tough slog
I'm being besieged on all sides over on Light of Reason. I've taken a bit of a provocative stance on homosexuality and the hounds are in full cry. Here's the stance:

I don't know how to say this gently, so I'll just say it. I simply don't comprehend how you can say:

In order to gain the toleration of someone like Santorum, I would have to go back to the view I had of being gay in the 1960s: that it is something fundamentally wrong about me, that I should never act on it, and that I should do absolutely anything to try to change it. If that's not an attack on who I am as a person, then what on earth would be?

You have obviously considered that homosexuality may be wrong and rejected that view. But haven't people with other sexual proclivities said exactly the same thing about their "disorders", however obviously mad they may be? I know that one doesn't just trust one's own reason about a matter. That's not reasonable. You may, after all, be wrong. The social judgment about the harmfulness of homosexuality may be changing in the West, but in many cultures across the globe it's not. The climate may be becoming even more repressive with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. And even in the West, many, like Santorum, doubt the wisdom of "tolerating" anything and everything. I just don't understand how you, as an Objectivist, can be so sure, just because of your deep feelings that homosexuality is "part of you as a person", that practicing homosexuality is moral or advisable. Feelings are no basis for behavior. Is the prevalence of promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse and misery among homosexuals due only to "repression" or is it something inherent in what, again, brutally, may be seen as imitation heterosexuality?
For what could be more inherent in what it means to be a man than to function as a man with a woman? And how could failure or inability - however seemingly 'hardwired' - to function as a man be anything but destructive to mental balance? And to think and act as though rejection of one's genetic role as a man should and will incur no psychological costs is simply to deny reality. You are not a "person", infinitely malleable and undefined. You are a man.

And here's my comment at the (present) end of the onslaught:
Hmm. "Stupid" "homophobe" "baffled" "must get out more" "want Wahhabism to take over the world" I'm taking notes so I can improve myself. I wonder if I'll ever be right. I think I am right about the misery that is homosexuality, though not because of some "oppression" by the "straight" tyranny we live under, but by its very nature.
It's odd to hear Objectivists defending priestly celibacy and saying people just ARE one way or another, that they can't control their behavior. Sounds like victimology to me. Because it's behavior we're talking about here, not skin color or gender. I don't think I have a "solution" for homosexuality, any more than I have one for shyness or alcoholism or child abuse or murder. I'm just trying to define what Rand meant by "man qua man". Thanks, all, I think I might be a little closer. By the way, yes, Sean, I do know there are women who behave homosexually, but I have long ago given up trying to understand how women's minds work.

I'm not a troll, really I'm not. I can control my commenting behavior any time I want. The opinions I have I don't just take out of the air. I have been sharing them with Andrew Sullivan, too. I think he's getting a little exasperated at how dense I'm being about how homosexuality is just fine and just like any other kind of sexuality. But wait, wasn't that Santorum's point, in part at least? That sexuality is controlled by the state because it's bad, and homosexuailty is just like the other kinds of bad sexuality? He may be wrong but he's at least consistent. And who would deny that sex is, after hunger and thirst, the strongest drive we have? And how do laws get made except by taking the pulse of the people? My whole point is really that one needs to take a much closer look at behavior before pronouncing it as beyond criticism like skin color or gender. Point made. How come I can't stop? How about this: having second thoughts about the wisdom of social legitimation of homosexuality is not an attack on a man but on his behavior. Could that be more obvious? But, wait, again, didn't Santorum say that too? Uh-oh, I'm becoming a gay-basher.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

The Lessons of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Now that Iraq has been delivered from the hands of the Ba’athists and most of the killing and dying and destruction has stopped, we can step back and consider what we know that we didn’t know on March 20th.

First, we know that Saddam was a paper tiger. As most, but certainly not all, military analysts had predicted, his Russian arms and rigid military hierarchy just plain didn’t work. The only part of his apparatus that surprised US military thinkers was the Fedayeen Saddam, a good part of whom turned out to be foreign terrorists. Their tactics, reminiscent of Stalin’s political police in their brutality and utter disregard for the lives of soldiers and civilians, managed to kill a small number of US troops and may have slowed down the advance to Baghdad, if only by a few days.

And we know that the Iraqi people were not deprived by sanctions or US bombing, but by Saddam. The contrasts between Saddam’s palaces and the starving people, especially in the South, prove beyond a doubt that UN oversight of the Oil-for-Food Program was, typically, non-existent and that Saddam never gave a moment’s thought to his people’s well-being, especially if they were Sunnis or Kurds. It’s important to remember how much traction the “sanctions are killing children” lies got before the war and to look around and hear the deafening silence now.

We also know that Saddam was running Terror Central. The boxes of documents we’ve uncovered will provide ammunition for years to keep the lid on terror organizations around the globe. The Left will never admit it, but the victory over Saddam was crucial to the War on Terror. The links to AlQaeda seem indisputable. The wackos among us even think links to Timothy McVeigh may surface. It's a euphoric time. The Weapons of Mass Destruction still are proving elusive, but I have a feeling they will turn up, too. After all, as I've seen a couple of places on the blogosphere, if Saddam didn't have WMD, why did he fight? He could have just laid out the disposition of the WMD that were documented after the Gulf War and probably survived the muted outcry about the Al Samoud missiles that had longer ranges than allowed. He was temporizing and resisting the inspectors for a reason. And to those who say, well, why didn't he use them in extremis then?, I say that he may very well have tried to but could find no one to carry out his orders. Or he shifted them to Syria or to Tikrit or Western Iraq at the last moment, hoping to conduct a fighting retreat and got caught by surprise, perhaps killed, when his armies folded. I will admit that exact scenario is cloudy right now. But we're still learning.

We know France, Germany and Russia are not reliable allies. Britain is. I don’t know why there hasn’t been more publicity about the overwhelming evidence of Russian double-dealing and outright hostility to US goals in Iraq. They supplied weapons, trained Iraqis and diverted intelligence. France and Germany did many of the same things, but Russia’s behavior seems, so far, to have topped them both. France seems to be taking all the heat at the moment, but I have a feeling Russia’s turn will come. I feel Putin is frozen in fear, knowing more will be revealed that will deepsix friendly relations with the US for a long time. He's almost totally dependent on IMF loans right now and cannot survive politically - perhaps physically - if the US blackballs him. The Russian arms salesmen are putting a brave face on the arms situation, touting the performance of their Cornett (sp?) anti-tank system. They don't seem to realize that's like waving a red flag to George W.

And that's another thing we know. George W. is a mensch. Sure he garbles words a bit, smiles at perhaps not quite the right time. But he means what he says and now the whole world knows it and knows the US armed forces are solidly behind his every word. That's an inestimable advantage and a huge change from Clinton. US citizens will feel safer anywhere they go. Governments around the world will respect our flag and our passports because they will know they mean something. And governments will look at the UN and know there's no "there" there. The there's in Washington, not New York. I am overcome with how different, how exactly opposite all these new bits of knowledge are from the predictions of the antiwar crowd. It's almost like war meets antiwar and peace results. A real peace this time, a just peace, a true victory.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Haiku time
Loud cars
Hippos bellow
"This river has crocodiles"

Leaves catch in my hair
Time for a fire

The wildebeest dragged down
Lions line up