Monday, June 24, 2002

MEN NOT INCLUDED: A brilliant Brit has opened a sperm donation center designed exclusively to serve lesbian women. I don't guess I really care that much in the abstract, but I take offense at the absurdity of the center's organizer, John Gonzales. He says, "I have believed for a long time that same sex couples have a fundamental right to have children. This right has been denied through beauracracy and prejudice for too long." Without even touching the "fundamental right" fallacy, how is it that bureaucracy is at fault that lesbians can't reproduce? I mean, we can blame almost anything on bureaucracy, but I'm going to have to blame that one on the Creator. Mr. Gonzales also has a pre-fab response to the objections that will come from Christian interests. "I would say to them, if a lesbian walks into your church, are they barred from the church? If the answer is 'no,' why should they be barred from motherhood?" Wow. If ever a non-sequitur I've seen. Seems to me that this is the same problem the Left has been making all along. In glorifying the individual autonomy of women, we must wholly ignore the interests (not "rights" you notice) of everyone else, in particular, their children. I remember in my high school civics-ish class, my teacher explained the juxtaposition between liberty and law like this: we have the freedom to swing our arms, but only so long as we're not hitting anyone else. Is it just me, or are a generation of kids getting knocked upside the head?

Saturday, June 22, 2002

I HATE NORMAN MINETA: Blogging will probably not happen for about a week, as my family makes a 7,000 mile round-trip house-hunting expedition. We will, of course, do this trip by airplane, which leads me to the subject of this post: I hate Norman Mineta. My hatred is especially intense since I just returned from a 4,000 mile business trip, consisting of four-legs, before each of which I was searched. My trip began badly when I tried to check-in and the nice airline lady said I couldn't, and hollered for another employee to call an "LEO." Innocently, I asked, "What's an LEO?" "A law enforcement officer," she replied. "Oh." A nice LEO arrived and explained that my name showed up on a "no fly list" -- that is, a list of persons deemed too dangerous or ill-mannered to be allowed onto an airplane -- and he was sure it was all a mistake, but could I please give him my driver's license anyway so he could make sure. Innocent though I was, I found it unnerving that there could be, somewhere out there, another "Justin Adams" who had done something so heinous -- murder, rape, or smoking in a public place -- that he could not be trusted to travel by airplane. But my fears were quickly allayed by Mr. LEO, who confirmed that I wasn't the "Justin Adams" on the list. The nice airline employee then checked me in, but chuckled, "Of course you'll have to be searched before getting on the plane on both legs of your trip." "Of course. Ha, ha," I replied. She did not lie. The airline computer system had printed a large "S" -- presumably for "search" or "security" -- on each boarding pass, which the airline employee helpfully highlighted in red, so that the goons would not miss me. On each leg of my trip, coming and going, before getting on the airplane, a stranger rifled through my bag, ran a scanner up and down my body, made me flip my belt buckle over, and made me take my shoes off. This last search was actually a small mercy, since having one's shoes searched is a lesser indignity than having to search a stranger's smelly, sweaty shoes; such is the grim satisfaction of the utterly helpless. Some screeners spoke English well, some did not. Some treated me respectfully, some did not. Regardless, I pretended they did not exist. If specifically addressed, I responded, but otherwise, I endured their deprivation of my liberty in silence. Yes, this was childish. But you see, Norman Mineta won't return my angry telephone calls, and never replies to my vicious letters, so I needed a target for my hostility and airport screeners were the nearest target. Not that I expressed my hostility bravely. In fact, I'll stipulate that giving hapless security screeners the silent treatment is feeble and cowardly. But if I did anything worse than ignore them, they might really put me on that no-fly list, and then where would I be? I had to take the trip; I had to use an airplane; I had to let them search me and my things for no reason whatsoever. But I didn't have to be friendly; I had control over that. If they chose to become instruments of a mindless, faceless bureaucracy and harass and humiliate their fellow citizens for no good reason, I would treat them as nothing more than cogs in the machine. "But why the hostility?" you may ask. It's not the mere indignity of the searches that angers me. It's their pointlessness. We don't prohibit searches and seizures, just unreasonable ones -- and random searches of old men and women, cripples, the obviously mentally retarded, and little children simply aren't reasonable. (Maybe they are legally reasonable; I haven't thought about that; but as a matter of public policy and commonsense, they're not.) Searching me -- white male, married with children -- isn't very reasonable either, but at least the government could, with some absurd stretching, fit me in the profile of a terrorist (the profile being defined as able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 35). And if that's what happened, if I was actually being profiled (even as absurd a profile as that would be), I wouldn't mind being searched so much because I would know that the government was exercising some restraint. But everytime I see some meathead make an old lady in a walker take her shoes off, I know the government isn't restraining itself at all. Perversely, it is acting without any restraint whatsoever in choosing the targets of searches to avoid profiling. That is, to avoid the narrow equal protection problem of singling out a few people for searches based solely on bad reasons -- ethnicity or nationality -- the government is creating a huge fourth amendment problem by singling out many people for searches based on no reason at all. And for that, I blame and loathe Norman Mineta.
TEEN PREGNANCY, YOUNG MOTHERS, AND MARRIAGE: Last week Instapundit noted that a Florida high school now devotes pages in its yearbook to student-mothers and their children. Alex Whitlock honored these young mothers for keeping their babies instead of killing them in the womb, and I can't disagree. Loco Parentis praised them for managing to be mothers and finish high school at the same time (I can't disagree there), but she also criticized the stigma attached nowadays to being a young mother. As a relatively young mother myself, I can't disagree that stigmatizing young mothers makes no sense and is unfair. I agree when she writes, "There is nothing shameful about young motherhood. It isn't a dirty secret of some kind. We should get off of the backs of young mothers in this country. Age alone does not define a woman's ability to nurture and guide her child." It's the caveat she makes to her discussion of "young motherhood" that I have a problem with: "Leaving aside any questions of the advisability of having babies outside of a committed partnership ...." I don't think it makes sense to discuss society's stigmatization of "young motherhood" without considering whether "young mothers" are married. I doubt most people tar teenage mothers with the brush of stigma because they're young, but because they weren't married when they made the baby and never got married after they had the baby. And I think one good reason for stigmatizing unwed moms, whether 15 or 40, is that having babies out-of-wedlock usually deprives children of full-time (and often even part-time) fathers. Study after study shows how much children suffer without fathers (lower income levels, increased likelihood of delinquency, increased likelihood of having children out-of-wedlock) and at the hands of men who move in and out of their mother's house and bed. Not that anyone needed a study to know this; it's commonsense. Being a mother is a tough job whether a woman is 16, 26, or 36; being older doesn't necessarily mean you'll be better at it, and who knows, maybe being younger is an advantage. So it makes no sense to criticize women for having babies when they're 18 versus when they're 28, especially since women had children that young and younger in our culture for centuries and still do in other cultures. The real issue should be whether a woman, whatever her age, who has sex with a man without any thought to whether he would make a good father for her children, is doing everything she can to "nuture and guide" -- not to mention protect -- her children?

Friday, June 21, 2002

IS THERE ANYTHING SCHOOLS AREN'T RESPONSIBLE FOR? Liberals don't think parents can take care of their children on their own, much less themselves. One way they "remedy" parental "deficiencies" -- which are always called a "crisis" -- is through public school policy. So schools hand out condoms to solve the "teen sex crisis," and feed kids breakfast to fix the "nutritional crisis." Now there's another "crisis": "Too Few U.S. Schools Protect Kids From Sun's Harm," Reuters reports. Maybe schools should hand out free suntan lotion and condoms at breakfast.
BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS! In a stunning revelation, Reuters reports that "Hospitalization Can Traumatize a Child."
IRRELEVANT INTENT: From the last paragraph of today's Washington Post article of stem cell research, referring to harvesting stem cells from human embryos:
The intent of the scientists who want to perform that procedure, a type of cloning, would be to derive healthy replacement cells that are a perfect genetic match for a human patient. But because the procedure would create a microscopic embryo that would be capable, briefly, of turning into a human clone if implanted into a woman's uterus, some groups oppose it, saying destruction of the microscopic embryo would be tantamount to murder.
(Emphasis added.) Note how the reporter carefully explains that the "intent" of researchers who kill embryos isn't killing but healing. Why? No one argues that scientists kill human embryos for the jollies, and the therapeutic purpose of embryonic stem cell research is well-known and granted. No, I think the reporter is attempting to make a fine distinction between knowledge and purpose that doesn't wash in these circumstances and misleads readers as to the nature of the moral debate about embryonic stem cell research. Here's the distinction I think the reporter is drawing. A person can do something not intending a consequence but with the knowledge that that consequence will likely, even certainly occur, like the general who orders his soldiers into battle not intending to kill them, but knowing that some will certainly die. But that distinction doesn't wash in this case because the researcher who harvests stem cells from an embryo not only knows this act will certainly kill the embryo, but is doing the very act that will kill the embryo. If there is still a difference between intent and knowledge in these circumstances, it's too fine for me to see. What I see is a researcher who intentionally kills an embryo for the benign purpose of healing other people. The reporter's explanation of researchers' "intent" is misleading because opponents of embryonic stem cell research don't deny the benign purpose of researchers, and supporters don't deny that the researchers are knowingly or intentionally killing embryos to accomplish that purpose. The debate centers on two questions: is an embryo a human being or just a potential human being, and is it OK to kill a human being or a potential human being for this benign purpose.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

CRUEL & UNUSUAL: So, the law now is, it is cruel and unusual to execute the perpetrator of a vicious, premeditated murder who happens to be not so swuft, but it isn't cruel and unusual to lock him up in a cage for the rest of his life. Of course. It's so logical. UPDATE: I'll just quote from Justice Scalia's dissent:
Once the Court admits (as it does) that mental retardation does not render the offender morally blameless, there is no basis for saying that the death penalty is never appropriate retribution, no matter how heinous the crime. As long as a mentally retarded offender knows the difference between right and wrong, only the sentencer can assess whether his retardation reduces his culpability enough to exempt him from the death penalty for the particular murder in question.
ASININE: A California elementary school principal has banned "tag" without adult supervision, because some kids "weren't feeling good about it." Playground sensitivity counselors will be brought in to train students to play a modified version of "tag," in which children take turns being "it" to reduce the stigma of slow, clumsy children who would otherwise always be "it." (First sentence true; second sentence "creative.")

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

GOOD JOB!!! A while ago, Tony Woodlief wrote about how nice praise is -- even coming from your toddler for things you don't normally get much praise for, like using the bathroom. Today I got a taste of the same sweetness when my son told me I'd done a really "good job" putting my sandals on the right feet all by myself. And you know, some days that's probably the hardest thing I manage to do.
WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR? Well, if you're about 30 inches tall and two and a half years old, friends are mostly for inflicting physical abuse. I took my son over to play with a friend's two year-old son and four year-old daughter last night. The four year-old daughter spanked him for following her rules, and the two year-old son whacked him on both sides of his head, leaving some lovely lumps. Not that my son just stood there and took it; that's not his style. He got his revenge later in the evening by pushing the two year-old down a couple of steps. Now, this kind of child-on-child abuse may sound terrible, but it's actually a healthy learning experience. Eventually, these two little boys will figure out that they're about equally strong, that it really hurts to get punched-kicked-shoved-down-the-stairs, and therefore that it isn't wise to pick fights with one another -- which will result in a sort of toddler cold war.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

I'M AS CONSERVATIVE AS BOB DOLE? I scored a 35 on the political quiz to which Cut On the Bias linked. Not bad, as far as scores go, although I don't know where I lost those five points. But Bob Dole? I never thought he was all that conservative.
BOOBS V. BOOZE: Before last week's parlimentary election in the Czech Republic, the Christian Democrats in the Moravian town of Valasske Mezirici were handing out free shots of liquor. The Communists fought back by having topless women distribute their campaign literature. Now I read that the Communists won 19% of the vote, while the center-right coalition together won only 14%. This a sad time for the Czech Republic -- electing Communists can't be a good thing -- but what does the preference for breasts over booze say? Just pondering. UPDATE: Maybe breasts and booze symbolize what Europe is all about -- hedonism and socialism.

Monday, June 17, 2002

BLOGGING will probably be slow for the next few days. Justin is out-of-town, and I am busy chasing a toddler all by myself.

Friday, June 14, 2002

JUST ADDED a new blog to the left. Readjacobs.com is a really interesting blog mostly related to education.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

BUT YOU ASSURED ME IT WAS A RELIGION OF PEACE! I got a kick out of this passage from a report on suspected terrorist Abdullah al-Muhajir (aka Jose Padilla) (via Instapundit):
... authorities have painted a picture of al-Muhajir as a former gang member who was born in Brooklyn but raised in Chicago, where he was convicted of various petty crimes as a teen. He apparently grew up a Catholic, but converted to Islam after moving to South Florida in the late 1980s. Despite this conversion, authorities say he developed a penchant for violence. ...
Imagine that: al-Muhajir became a violent sociopath despite his conversion to Islam. Rats. There goes my plan for bringing about world peace by forcibly converting everyone to Islam and killing anyone who won't....
OBNOXIOUS: Regarding newly proposed EPA regulations governing when and how energy companies must upgrade pollution controls when they repair or upgrade physical plant, "Earthjustice" executive director Buck Parker had this to say:
"With the release of this report, the administration dropped a dirty bomb and it's going to cost thousands of American lives."
Power plant pollution: it's like radioactive fallout from a terrorist "dirty bomb" intended to kill and sicken thousands of people. How clever, and so much more subtle than the usual "pollution is terrorism against the environment" analogy. I haven't formed an opinion as to whether the proposed regulations make sense, but over-the-top environmentalist idiocy like this confirms my gut instinct that they do. What a jerk.
INCORRIGIBLE UNTO DEATH: When lawyers speak in court on behalf of clients, they often hedge and speak in the hypothetical about facts unfavorable to their case. Lawyers don't make definite assertions about unfavorable facts because these assertions could be construed as admissions that legally establish the facts. Our legal system figures out facts by making two adversaries duke it out, so a party's self-serving hemming and hawing about unfavorable facts isn't actually a bad thing: it just makes the other side do its own work to establish the fact. But I can't see what purpose this kind of squishy-lawyer speech serves when it comes from the mouth of a man condemned to die for committing a heinous murder. I'm referring to Walter Mickens, a man who "sexually assaulted a ... teenager, stabbed him 143 times and left him to die on a dirty mattress" and was at last put to death for his crimes last night. Some of Mickens' final words were, "To whoever I may have hurt or caused harm, I pray that you can forgive me." Whoever he may have hurt or caused harm? Note first the lawyerly redundancy of "hurt or caused harm." Obviously this man had spent too much time with lawyers, which explains his odd, legal-sounding locutions as well as the fact that he'd cheated punishment for ten years. Note, second, the hypothetical or theoretical cast of the sentence: "whoever I may have hurt or caused harm." Does it gall you that a man who had been found guilty of stabbing a human being 143 times -- ignoring, or perhaps relishing, the victim's screams, the horrifying sound of metal puncturing tissue, the sight of dozens of bleeding wounds -- a man whose last legal claim was not that he was factually innocent, but merely that he didn't have a good enough lawyer -- does it gall you that this man, at the point of death, still wouldn't give up the role of beleagured criminal defendant and simply acknowledge his guilt? What issue was he preserving for appeal? Perhaps he thought God would remand for a new trial, and didn't want to waive the issue? No. He was simply in death, as in life, an incorrigible man-turned-monster, and that's just how they talk.
AT THE MOVIES: Michael Lewis's Dad Again column is once again an interesting read. He goes with his baby daughter to a parents-and-babies-only movie night. What a brilliant idea! I wish there were places like that across the country.
REVERSE DISCRIMINATION? I've been too busy using the internet to search for a house and a doula to pay much attention to the news, but I did notice an item in Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus about job advertisements. It seems that a travel agency in Great Britain wished to place an employment ad that described qualified candidates as "friendly." The job agency refused to run the ad for a "friendly" employee because "that would discriminate against applicants not lucky enough to have that sort of personality.” Judging from the large numbers of grumpy and surly clerks working in my favorite department stores, like WalMart, I don't think we need to worry about "personality discrimination" in the United States. In fact, I sometimes wonder if stores, not to mention government agencies, fast food restaurants, and my local medical clinic, are practicing reverse discrimination against employees lucky enough to be friendly and helpful.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

WHY WE LOATHE THEM III: I struck "hate" from the headline for my original post on this subject and replaced it with "loathe" because "hate" sounds too intemperate, too harsh, and connotes malice, which I do not bear toward even the EU-nuchs. I merely "loathe" their "moral vanity," which means something like "hate," but lacks the connotation of malice. That which I hate, I may wish to harm. But that which I loathe, I find too disgusting to trouble myself with it; I simply wish that it would go away, like some foul odor. When European officials preach to Americans about European "ideals," I don't want to hurt them, I just want them to be quiet, just be quiet, and stop insulting my country with their self-righteous blather.
WHY WE LOATHE THEM II: Referring to Germany's non-cooperation in the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, about which I artlessly and intemperately vent below, Best of the Web describes opposition to capital punishment as "the central object of European Union moral vanity." "Moral vanity" -- how better to describe the flaunting of a simplistic moral position, by the continent that created tyrannies galore, to the nation that crushed them all? Besides "loathsome," of course.
WHY WE HATE LOATHE THEM (EU-NUCHS, THAT IS): Germany, fatherland of such civil libertarian innovations as the Gestapo, Kristallnacht, and Auschwitz, regrets that it cannot aid our prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui because the death penalty, which our government seeks against Moussaoui for the petty crime of murdering 3000 people, does not, according to a spokesman for the German Justice Ministry, "correspond to the ideals of our legal system." These cretins demand that our government "consult" with theirs? These moral Lilliputians lecture us on "international responsibility"? These only recently neutered progenitors of the monstrous Third Reich and Democratic Republic of Germany get prissy with us about the "ideals" of their "legal system"? O, how I loathe them. Not that the United States will hurt the European states the way they deserve, by purposely letting them take one big one to the chin. ("Hey, sorry about the whole terrorists-nuking-Paris thing. We meant to send an e-mail, but it was, like, a holiday weekend.") That would violate our ideals, which -- bless our simplistic little hearts -- actually mean something more than waxing pious about the lives of mass murderers. Besides, the EU-nuchs are so far gone, I doubt taking even a devastating blow would faze them.

Monday, June 10, 2002

NO TV NEWS FOR LEFTIES? The tail-end of today's Howard Kurtz column in the Post caught my eye:
Everyone knows Fox News Channel has a conservative audience, right? Actually, a Pew Research Center poll puts the viewership at 46 percent conservative, 32 percent moderate and 18 percent liberal -- not much different than the 44 percent conservative audience for CNBC or 40 percent conservative for CNN and MSNBC. The difference is more apparent on individual shows: Bill O'Reilly's Fox audience is 56 percent conservative and 5 percent liberal, while Larry King's CNN audience is 38 percent conservative and 19 percent liberal.
Judging from the small numbers for "liberal" viewers, one might think lefties didn't watch TV news. (Which means they must be listening to NPR and PBS, right? Wrong, says this Pew Center study (link via Kausfiles), finding that 36% of NPR listeners are self-described conservatives versus 20% self-described liberals.) No, the real reason is that the right has successfully turned "liberal" into a dirty word for most lefties (as this great Bloom County strip explains, along with another involving Opus's appearance before a Senate committee, which I can't find on the web), which explains the popularity of the obnoxiously self-righteous term "moderate" and the still more odious label "progressive."
EVEN MORE ON MCCLELLAN V. GRANT: JunkYard Blog compares the Civil War's McClellan to today's Pentagon brass much more artfully than I did a while back. He writes:
[A]rmies are built to be used, not admired. McClellan was in love with watching his grand army in its resplendent blue uniforms march up and down big parade squares in camp, and was in love with the attention and respect the commander of the Union army garnered. ... In battle, McClellan was hapless, not because he didn't understand the battle tactics of the day, but because simply lacked the decisiveness and courage a general needs. ... Today's Pentagon seems to be in love with its reputation as the world's greatest military, but if reports of its skiddishness about Iraq are true, it seems to want to be admired as a military force, not used as one where high casualties are possible. ... We'll need our military leadership to carry out the orders of President Bush in destroying the Islamofascist conspiracy and ending its threat of international terror. Let's hope President Bush doesn't have to weed out a few McClellans on his way to discovering a US Grant. Let's also hope that if he does encounter a McClellan or two, he'll have the nerve to sack them and promote competent leaders who will take the fight to the enemy.
MCCLELLAN, GRANT, ET AL. II: Alexander was "noted as much for his uncommon decency"? News to me; I thought he led a band of cutthroats who were motivated by loot and women and inflicted terrible cruelties against their conquered foes. Anyway, Sherman as a war criminal? Sorry, that dawg won't hunt. Nineteenth century armies depended on local foodstuffs to live and horses and railroads to move; the Southern economy depended on slavery and the rebel war effort was dedicated to preserving the same. Sherman burned the crops, seized the horses, "bow-tied" the railroads, and freed slaves. That's fair play. Members of Georgia's fairer sex screamed loudly about rapin' and pillagin' Yankees, but they screamed louder at their husbands and sons for being too cowardly to fight Sherman's army, forcing them to bear the brunt of his assault. Besides, while some of Sherman's soldiers raped and killed some civilians, as some undisciplined soldiers do in every war, claims that his Army of the West engaged in rape and civilian murder as a battle tactic are based on hyperventilating Southern newspaper editorials, not fact. The Confederacy was a democracy; its populace voted in favor of rebellion and supported war against the duly established government of the United States; its oldfolk and womenfolk screamed for war and sent off boys and young men to die by the thousands -- yet most Southerners, especially Southerners of the aristocratic planter class, had never tasted the war they demanded. Sherman made them taste it, and they didn't like it very much. Sherman's March to the Sea and his march through the Carolinas shortened the war by teaching the civilian population that the rebellion had failed and that the rebel armies could not protect them. Seems to me burnin' crops, plantation houses, and railroads was a sight more moral than grindin' up several thousand more Southern boys. I'm won't get into total war doctrine, and its justifications and flaws, because I gotta earn a living. But let me take three pot-shots: First, targeting civilian infrastructure when it supports the enemy's war effort makes sense; that's what Sherman did in Georgia and the Allies did in German and Japan. Second, international law recognizes the principle of retaliation: a breach of law can justify a retaliatory act that would otherwise violate the law. Since it was illegal for the Germans to blitz London, that breach arguably justified the Allies' blitzing German cities. If Iraq or Iran financed a terrorist nuclear attack on an American city, that illegal act would arguably justify nuclear retaliation against an Iraqi or Iranian city. Smarter people than I have and will debate whether some laws of war trump the right of retaliation, and in many cases, morality should restrain the retaliating state, but state practice will decide the question, if it hasn't already. Third, as my last two points indicate, warfare between industrialized states and against agressor states that lack any qualms about killing civilians raises moral and legal questions that warfare between early-nineteenth century armies clashing in set piece battles did not, and which cannot be answered by simple citations to Ghengis Khan, Hitler, Stalin, et al. Take that! (Exit, chased by Southern Civil War reenactor.)
McClellan, Grant, Sherman, Patton, Marshall, Ghengis Khan, et al.: While I have oft been accused by my devoted son-in-law of becoming too emotionally involved in a war that ended nearly 150 years ago, the mix and match comparisons of the fighting styles of Northern Generals in the War Between the States and those of Patton/Marshall in WWII seem misleading and inappropriate. While I grant that Marshall's (and perhaps McClellen's, as well) hesitant timidity contrasted with Patton's great skill and assertiveness offers important lessons and examples for the present conflict with Islamic extremists, the methods of Sherman do not. Let me explain. It is no secret that, well fortified by some good Kentucky rye and unburdened by any of McClellen's scruples, Grant got the results Lincoln wanted. However, debating whether Sherman, with his clever little flanking movements, was a more skilled tactician than Grant ignores the more sobering fact that all three proud "Sons of Ohio," Sherman, Grant, and Sheridan, could easily and properly have been tried and hanged as war criminals for their brutal and needless war against civilian populations in Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, and elsewhere. The Nuremberg trials after WWII justifiably tried the Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering as a war criminal, not for any role in Auschwitz, Dachau, or Bergen-Belsen, but for his deliberate bombing of civilian targets in Poland, Russia, England, and Scandinavia. If, God forbid, the Nazis had won WWII and thereby also won the privilege of writing the history, you can rest assured that there would be a pious chapter on the military necessity of demoralizing a stubbornly recalcitrant enemy by murdering and starving its civilian population. Pillage, rape and civilian deaths are always going to be a tragic part of the collateral damage of war, but they need not be the goal of the protagonists. Arguably, the greatest military genius of the pre-Christian, or possibly any, era was Alexander the Great of Macedonia. By his mid-thirties he had conquered an area comparable to what the Roman Legions would need centuries to acquire. In his day, however, Alexander was noted as much for his uncommon decency as his military genius. Brilliant and ruthless in war against opposing armies, Alexander was also willing to spare the civilian population of any city that did not openly fight him. As a stark contrast to Alexander, Ghengis Khan in the early 13th Century successfully spread terror and demoralizing despair across western and central Asia by systematically and deliberately slaughtering nearly all the civilian populations he encountered. Despite Ghengis's military successes, the centuries following him saw (at least in the West) fewer and fewer kings and generals willing to imitate his style of deliberately starving and slaughtering civilians. Today, except in Mongolian history, Ghengis's military brilliance fails to obscure the fact that he was a brutal murderous thug, barbaric even by the standards of his barbaric age. Over 50 years after the fact, I can admire the daring, brave, and brilliant Alexander-like military tactics of Patton's tank corps. In contrast to Patton, however, the passing of 150 years have not removed the stain of Lincoln's Ohio Generals' cowardly Ghengis-like legacy of pillage, rape and scorched earth warfare against women, children, and old men. It is eminently arguable, if not altogether certain, that Lincoln's political ambitions and desperation to win by any means the war against the South reintroduced to the world the "effectiveness" of systematic total war against civilians foreshadowing the even more brutal 20th Century genocides by Kemal Ataturk, Joe Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Hideki Tojo, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

LIFE IMITATES THE SIMPSONS: I've checked. This Washington Post op-ed, "Fighting Obesity And the Food Lobby" -- which notes "disturbing parallels" between the "food industry" and the "tobacco industry" and issues an ultimatum that the "food industry"
(1) suspend all food advertising and marketing campaigns directed at children; (2) remove sugar-sweetened soft drinks and snack foods from vending machines in schools; (3) end sponsorship of scholastic activities and professional nutrition organizations linked to product promotion; and (4) refrain from political contributions that might influence national nutritional policy
-- is not based on The Onion. It's based on The Simpsons (Episode 1308: after authorities "determine that Springfield is pound for pound the fattest town on earth, ... Marge ... hires a lawyer and wins a class-action lawsuit against big sugar. The Judge then decrees that sugar be banned from Springfield for life.") (Via Best of the Web) (See also Overlawyered here and here.)
DEPARTMENT OF KIDDIE PROPAGANDA: It's easy to scare kids. They have vivid imaginations, a loose grip on reality, and will believe anything they're told, especially if it comes from an authority figure. Which is why lefties love writing scary books for children on the horror de jure. Nowadays it's global warming. (See, e.g., Climate Crisis: Saving Our World, by Nigel Hawkes. Comes in library binding, naturally. Public schools and public libraries love this stuff.) But when I was an urchin, the lefties decreed that the Official Childhood Fear should be nuclear war. I remember reading a book back then (I've long since forgotten the title) about a boy who complained to his parents that they didn't spend enough time with him because they kept going to nuclear freeze rallies. "But honey," they replied, "We're just trying to make the world a better place for you." And the other day, when my wife and I were browsing the library's kid lit section for our son, I came across this blast from the past, published in 1986: Nobody Wants a Nuclear War, by Judith Vigna. Readers may remember Ms. Vigna as the author of such children's classics as My Two Uncles ("Sometimes a man loves another man in the way a married couple love each other"), Saying Goodbye to Daddy (Daddy's dying), I Wish Daddy Didn't Drink So Much, I Live with Daddy (Daddy's divorced), Mommy and Me by Ourselves Again (Mommy's boyfriend broke up with her; who knows where Daddy is). Nobody Wants a Nuclear War is classic kiddie propaganda. Here's how it goes. Arms control, MAD, the Cold War -- it would be hard for Vigna to explain all of that to little blighters. (But my dad did: "You see, son, we have to build bombs because the Russians keep building them. But if the Russians think we can blow them up before they blow us up, they won't bomb us.") So she doesn't mess around with details; she just scares the little blighters: "If there's a nuclear war ... the whole world will blow up. There'll be no more houses or trees or animals or parents. Only a dark, smoky desert like we saw on television," a little boy explains to his sister. An artless illustration depicts the little boy and his sister hiding beneath a bed, holding a magazine with a mushroom cloud on the cover. But it's not enough to scare kids; you have to move them to action, and more important, piety. The little urchins run outside, build themselves a fallout shelter, and fall asleep inside it wrapped up in "the big snuggly picnic blanket." "I felt safe," says the little girl. That's the title of a wretched book by Judith Vigna wrote for children back in the mid-1980s.

Saturday, June 08, 2002

TEN MORE WORDS TO KILL FOR: A.C. Douglas lists ten words that "when written or uttered are cause sufficient for the murder of the writer or utterer, and the immediate establishment of a prima facie case of justifiable homicide with the consequent full exoneration of the murderer." I agree with all of his homicide-inducing words, and nominate a few more:
  1. as a __ -- when used to imply that a speaker's opinion on a subject is dictated by the speaker's sex, race, or other status, and that persons of different status may not legitimately offer an opinion on the subject, as in "As a Tibetan bisexual woman, I find your opposition to liberal immigration policies, same-sex marriage, and abortion-on-demand deeply offensive."
  2. feel -- when used as a synonym for "think," as in "I feel that your position is illogical."
  3. deeply -- when used to modify "offensive" or "offended," as in "I was deeply offended by that remark," or when used to modify most any other word, for that matter.
  4. diversity -- when used to mean "per capita skin melanin within a population," as in "This community lacks sufficient diversity" or "I am deeply offended by the lack of diversity at our university."
  5. impact -- when used as a verb, as in "the poignancy of Alec Baldwin's latest public remarks impacted me deeply."
  6. network -- as in "This conference will be a great opportunity to network with prospective employers."
  7. offensive -- when used to describe almost anything besides an odor, as in "I find your position on affirmative action deeply offensive."
  8. parent -- as in "No one can tell you how to parent your child."
  9. progressive -- as in "Mother Jones takes really progressive positions, like confiscating private property."
  10. synergy -- when used in any context, but especially offensive when used in wedding vows, as in "The synergy of our souls will last us through eternity." (If you can't believe that synergy gets used in wedding vows, you haven't been watching TLC's A Wedding Story.)
IF MY GRANDMA HAD WHEELS, SHE'D BE A BUS: A lot of the debate about what the FBI and CIA knew and whether they could've prevented September 11 reminds me of the wisecrack that "If my grandma has wheels, she'd be a bus." Yes, it's hackneyed, but it makes a good point: it's pointless to speculate what might be the outcome if you had circumstances completely (and impossibly) different from actual circumstances. If you could staff the FBI and the CIA with bureaucrats who are always selflessly dedicated to their mission, not selfishly devoted to personal advancement and prestige; who always think creatively, not regurgitate conventional wisdom; who always exercise reasoned judgment, take intelligent risks, and accept responsibility for their actions, not evade risk and responsibility by inaction; who never become complacement about potential threats, no matter how many wearying false alarms they endure, no matter how bewildering the array of intelligence sources they manage -- if you could staff a the FBI and CIA with people like that, you'd create effective intelligence agenices unlike any known to mankind -- but only because they'd be staffed by aliens!

Friday, June 07, 2002

I don't understand why some people think agency competition is bad and centralizing agency responsibility is good. Maybe they imagine that agencies work the way my middle school civics text described it: a flow chart tracing the devolution of executive power from the president to his cabinet secretaries and agency heads, then to their underlings, and so on, a neutral system of communicating and executing the will of the president. But the federal bureaucracy doesn't really work that way. Agencies aren't neutral presidential mouthpieces, but are political constituencies unto themselves. These constituencies have interests and agendas that transcend individual administrations: the State Department was an arms-controlling, Arab-appeasing, and UN-suck-upping institution under Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton, and continues to be so under Bush II. Civil service protection ensures that most agency personnel survive administration changes. And agencies develop agendas independent of Congress or the president because that's what we designed them to do; remember, one justification for creating and deferring to the administrative state is that career bureaucrats have "expertise" that transient, elected political hacks lack. To add to the confusion, Congress creates multiple agencies with overlapping jurisdiction, The result is that a new president comes into office facing legions of personnel who do not agree with his policy decisions and actively try to thwart them. None of this is as bad as it sounds. re: proposed new department -- don't think solution is centralization -- agency competition is good -- different approaches, info, ideas -- but key is to create incentives for useful competition. That means system of rewarding creative thinking and ideas; and firing ineffective people -- that means firing top people -- I also wonder whether the long-term solution is technological -- Director of Central Intelligence and National Security Advisor, I thought, were both designed to filter, synthesize info -- but how a President uses NSA, DCI, depends on President and whose in the positions. Bush seems to rely a lot on Condi Rice to manage competing agencies Discussion of eliminating turf-wars and such is fanciful -- bureaucracies compete for money, authority -- trick is to use what they want as reward and punishment system -- FBI blows it, cut its budget, CIA figures something out, reward it -- maybe it's too far-fetched, but long-term solution might be a congressionally-enacted budgetary scheme where President has more discretion to throw money around to agencies, kind of slush fund for good behavior. Lot of the discusison about intel failure and long-term solutions is kind of like arguing that if my grandma had wheels, she'd be a bus. If you could get bureaucrats who were selflessly dedicated to their mission rather than selfishly devoted to their own advancement, prestige, brownie points; if you could get bureaucrats who thought creatively and took intelligent risks based on reasoned judgment, instead of people who were too afraid of failure to do anything, who put their heads down and press on by the book, not wanting to tick anyone off; if you could get people who never become complacement, who never stop worrying about potential threats, despite wearying false alarms and bewildering array of intelligence sources -- in short, if you could create a bureaucracy unlike any every known to mankind, staffed with people unlike any ever created in the history of the human race -- because their aliens! -- then you'd have an intelligence system that worked. Oh.
COLLATERAL DAMAGE: The hostage situation in the Philippines ended horribly, but it ended the right way. It ended horribly because it left two hostages dead and one a widow. But it ended well because it ended with a military assault, not negotiations. Someone once argued, in National Review, I think, that the right way to deal with hostage situations is to treat the hostages as already dead. It's a horrifying thought, condemning fellow countrymen to almost certain death, and I couldn't advocate it if it my loved ones were the hostages. Most people can't approach difficult problems rationally if they're personally and emotionally involved. The government has to act in the best interests of society, and society's interests are served by making hostage-taking a futile, no-return investment. That means denying terrorists what they hope to gain from hostage taking -- publicity, ransom, and government paralysis -- by hunting them down and killing them, even at the risk of killing the hostages. We don't let the risk of collateral damage to the enemy paralyze our military operations. We can't let the risk of collateral damage to our own countrymen paralyze us either.
DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ: This story proves the well rehearsed quip. Beijing's most popular newspaper reported as fact a story copied word-for-word from "The Onion," an internet satire tabloid. Apparently, if DC doesn't come through with updated accommodations, Congress is looking to make a strategic move to Memphis or Charlotte -- a town with a much better fan base and improved concessions. (Although I hear the beer is still outrageous!)
ANOTHER REASON TO HOMESCHOOL: Pregnancy rates for high school girls rise during the school year, the effect of putting a bunch of hormonal youths together without parental supervision. Pregnancy rates drop off during the summer. So much for summer romance.
SILLY RULE OF THE DAY: Exercise and I don't mix well. I'm not Jonah Goldberg -- my friends would believe I have and do go on hikes once in a while -- but I don't get out and exercise much. Which means I don't keep up with the world of sports bras. For example, I did not know until today that some sports actually regulate sports bras. The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association disqualified the winning high school 800-meter relay team because one of the runners wore an illegal sports bra. Modest souls may wonder if her offense was wearing nothing on top but a sports bra. But no, it wasn't. Her offense was daring to wear a white and black sports bra. You see, the association's regulations specify that exposed sports bras be only one color -- white, black or grey.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: I haven't thought much yet about the newly proposed "Department of Homeland Defense." I just instinctively hate the idea of creating a new federal department. But I also instinctively like anything Dan Schorr doesn't like -- and he doesn't like the proposed department. (He thinks it's an undeveloped and poorly thought out idea, like his NPR essays.) Now if the President wanted to trade Education for it -- maybe I could go along with that.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

KUDOS: A while ago, I wrote about rude people. I was pleased this morning to read that one of my favorite bloggers, Tony Woodlief, is not only not a rude person, but indeed quite the gentleman. Not that I ever doubted that he would be.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

CLUELESS CONYERS: Referring to the Justice Department's proposed regulation "requiring a new 'special registration' of thousands of people visiting the United States from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Sudan," Rep. Conyers spluttered:
"It is shocking that the [most free] nation on earth could engage in a system of racial and ethnic profiling," he said. "It is as though the equal protection clause had no meaning or context whatsoever to the authors of this Orwellian proposal." [Washington Post]
First, note the gratuitous use "Orwellian" to describe an immigration restriction on foreigners from hostile states that lets them into the country, just on the condition that they get fingerprinted and photographed, give contacts in the U.S. and in their own countries, and periodically report in to the INS. So passports and visas were just first steps on the path to 1984? Who knew? Second, and much more amusing, note that Rep. Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee -- which means he supposedly knows something about our legal system -- is unaware that the equal protection clause has little if any bearing on which countries and under what conditions we grant the privilege of immigration to our country. I'm not advocating arbitrarily discriminatory immigration restrictions (although we arguably have such restrictions already), just that the constitution generally doesn't forbid substantively (as opposed to procedurally) discriminatory immigration rules. And it certainly doesn't forbid restricting immigration from hostile states in a time of war. Indeed, the federal government controls immigration not because the constitution specifically grants it that power, but because the Supreme Court found that power implied by the federal government's express powers to regulate foreign commerce, conduct foreign affairs, and make war. (One of the first things a country does in a war is restrict enemy nationals' access to its territory.) One legitimate criticism of the proposed regulation is that it doesn't discriminate against enough hostile states, because it exempts countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Yemen (although individual immigrants may be subjected to the restrictions on a case-by-case basis). I hate to say it -- I hate to see it -- but Conyers proves, yet again, that many politicians on the left simply will not engage in rationale debate about appropriate security measures in time of war. UPDATE: Volokh has a detailed discussion of the legal issues of discrimination in the immigration context.
NOW I CAN GET SOME SLEEP! Sometimes I'm so resistant to trendiness that I miss out on something good, but this time my husband kept pushing me until I finally read the Harry Potter books. They're great and awfully hard to put down; I gobbled up all four books in a week, and just in time, too: staying up reading until 1:30 a.m. every night (which is easy to do in Fairbanks, because the sun doesn't really set these days) was killing me.
THE RETURN TO NORMALCY:
12 Killed In Bombing
Of Bus In Israel
Many Wounded in Blast During Rush Hour Washington Post Foreign Service Wednesday, June 5, 2002; Page A18 [link]
I wonder when it's our turn.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

"TWO ZULUS BUGGERED MY CAT": No, this isn't a sordid attempt to increase readership by showing up on twisted Google searches. It's a mnemonic John Derbyshire claim English medical students use to memorize "the five branches of the facial nerve (temporal, zygomatic, buccal, mandibular, cervical)" in his essay on the educational benefits memorization. I ran across his essay, and one on the same subject by Claudia Winkler, in this post on The Corner. As Winkler and Derbyshire both point out, memorization and rote learning are practically taboo in modern education. But how educated can one be without them? I ran into this cultural resistance to memorization when I was a German TA for undergraduates. They couldn't accept that the best way for them to learn irregular verbs was to write them over and over again until they had them memorized, but since they were adults and weren't headed off for immersion in a German-speaking country, I really couldn't offer a better way. I know the benefits of memorization first hand. I wasn't homeschooled, technically, but got plenty of schooling at home from my mother, who came up with mnemonics for everything, including a poem for counting by threes (available upon request). In second grade, we had to memorize a poem, and I chose Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Swing." (Today, I can still recite it to my son every time I take him to the park.) Winkler notes that "rote memorization" means learning "by memory alone, without understanding or thought," which is why modern educational orthodoxy criticizes it. But what's so bad about learning something without understanding it? Memorization for its own sake is a great exercise of the brain. My husband (bless his heart) can't get the words right to any song, while I can sing the Kingston Trio tunes I learned at my father's knee without fudging the words. My husband's defense is that he doesn't want to clutter up his brain with pointless facts, but what's a brain for if not for getting cluttered? And the more we clutter our brains, the more space we'll find in them. More importantly, memorizing information without understanding it the first time around makes it easier to understand it later. Children quickly learn songs without understanding the lyrics or the music. My two-and-a-half-year old son, thanks to some ambitious Bible school teachers, informed me the other day that "The Bible was written by holy men inspired by God." (It doesn't quite sound that way when he says it, but then, I can understand toddlerese.) He doesn't know what that doctrine means, any more than he knows that "Big Rock Candy Mountain" is an old hobo song (sanitized, but only slightly, for children). But these presently meaningless words are the framework to which he will someday attach knowledge and understanding. And once he fixes words in his memory, and attaches ideas to those words, they will stay with him the rest of his days. In short, if they memorize it, understanding will come. Now if only I could think up a mnemonic for spelling "mnemonic."

Monday, June 03, 2002

PRODIGAL BLOGGER: We will, of course, be killing the fatted calf in honor of Ms. Frazier's long-awaited return to Curmudgeonry.
KILLIN' TEXANS: Without comment, the Supreme Court overruled Texas' appeal that death row inmate Calvin Burdine should be executed for (allegedly, of course) killing his gay lover, never mind that his lawyer slept through parts of his trial ... including questioning of the prosecution's witnesses and admission of evidence. It's an interesting question. Is sleeping in trial like the temporary absence of counsel from the trial, which would result in an automatic reversal of the conviction, or is it like impairment of counsel due to drugs, drink, or mental illness, in which case the convict has to show a likelihood that the outcome would be different if his counsel had been competent? I'm sure if it was important the lawyer would have awakened to object. And damn those prosecutors for whispering in court anyway. If his opening hadn't been such a lullabye ....
TAKE THIS TEST! The answers will shock and amaze you! (If you're Norman Mineta and the New York Times.) (Via The Corner).
THE ENORMITY OF"ENORMITY" IN MODERN USAGE: Go ahead, call me a pedantic twit, but this line from the Washington Post article I complain about below made me snicker:
The White House maintains that Bush has developed this vision throughout his candidacy and presidency by stressing the end of the armed conflicts among the world's great powers that characterized the past two centuries. "The war on terrorism and the enormity of that and the enormity of American leadership and the kind of earthquake that has produced in international politics puts us in a different place than we were two years ago," a senior administration official said. "But clearly, the elements were always there." (emphasis added)
While the terrorist attack that ignited the present conflagration is by any measure an "enormity," only the most repugnant appease-nik would characterize the "war on terrorism" or "American leadership" as an "enormity," i.e. "great wickedness, ... a monstrous or outrageous act; very wicked crime" (Webster's New World Dictionary, 3d College Edition, 1988). Snicker, snicker. But the snicker is on me: my Webster's also defines "enormity" as "enormous size or extent; vastness," albeit with this caveat: "in modern use, considered a loose usage by some." Meanwhile, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary sneers that "some people insist [enormity] is improperly used to denote large size ... may not recognize the subtlety with which enormity is actually used. It regularly denotes a considerable departure from the expected or normal. When used to denote large size, either literal or figurative, it usually suggests something so large as to seem overwhelming and may even be used to suggest both great size and deviation from morality. It can also emphasize the momentousness of what has happened or of its consequences." When the walls fall down and the barbarians enter the citadel, I suppose even a curmudgeonly prescriptivist like me must bow in allegiance to his new masters.
SAY WHAT? The Washington Post's report on the President's West Point speech reads like an editorial -- sorry, "news analysis" -- but isn't labeled as such and has this bizarre take:
Bush's new description of his foreign policy ... sharply revised the positions he took as a candidate, when he emphasized the need to limit U.S. intervention to regions with immediate bearing on the nation's strategic interests. ... [T]he speech wove together a number of additional themes ... into what a senior administration official described as an "overall security framework" .... The framework places Bush in a far different position than the campaigner of two years ago who criticized President Bill Clinton for trying to be "the world's policeman," depending too much on the views of others to set American priorities and spending too much on foreign assistance with no direct U.S. benefit.
First, the Post piece misses the point of the speech, which isn't to update candidate Bush's foreign policy for the post-September 11 world, but to continue laying the rhetorical groundwork for what will be -- unless George W. Bush is a political suicide -- a revolution in American foreign policy and the international law of war, to wit, the right of preemptive war against terrorist-harboring or -sponsoring states. Second, it's absurd to imply, as the article does, that the intervention resulting from this policy revolution wouldn't have an "immediate bearing on the nation's strategic interests" or would allow the "views of others to set American priorities." The danger is that hostile states like Iraq will acquire weapons of mass destruction and either directly use them against the United States or give them to terrorists who will. The proposed solution is a mixture of diplomatic and military intervention to destroy such regimes. If that kind of intervention doesn't have an "immediate bearing" on our strategic interests, I don't know what does.

Sunday, June 02, 2002

"THE WAR ON TERROR WILL NOT BE WON ON THE DEFENSIVE": That was the major theme of the President's West Point commencement speech on Saturday. He hit other key points, and hit them well. The nature of the threat: "shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend" and therefore immune to containment or nuclear deterrence. The justification for preemptive war: "We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act." The kinship between the war against communism and the war against Islamism: "Our struggle is similar to the Cold War. Now, as then, our enemies are totalitarians, holding a creed of power with no place for human dignity. Now, as then, they seek to impose a joyless conformity, to control every life and all of life." That moral clarity is indispensable (and did he ever hit this point hard):
Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities. Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place. Targeting innocent civilians for murder is always and everywhere wrong. Brutality against women is always and everywhere wrong. There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty. We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it."
Words like these give me hope that, despite the ducking and weaving of the last few months, the President knows he must and intends to wage war against terrorist states, beginning with Iraq. It's not just that he's saying the rights words and making the right arguments. It's that by speaking so clearly, he continues to box himself in politically, so that if he does not instigate war against Iraq, and if he does not effect the revolution in international law that such a preemptive war entails, he will have committed political suicide. I can't believe this adept and pragmatic politician would unwittingly drive himself into such a corner. Which is kind of funny: I usually don't trust George W. Bush because he's a pragmatist; now I hope he'll do the right thing precisely because he is.

Saturday, June 01, 2002

MORE ON MCCLELLAN V. GRANT: Tony Woodlief quibbles that my post should have pitted McClellan versus Sherman":
You are right that Grant was willing to engage the enemy, which is why he rose through the ranks of politicians who infested the Army of the Republic. I don't think there is great evidence that he was an especially skilled general, however; he ultimately required massive numerical superiority to finish off Lee's army. It seems that all of his great victories as a commanding general, in fact, required a combination of overwhelming firepower, a willingness to trade 2 of his own for every enemy's life, and the patience to sit out a siege. A better example, if you must stick with the Yankees, might be Sherman (don't tell my Southern friends I said so), who had all the qualities you mention of Grant, but who also evidenced, to this untrained historical observer, at least, a cunning and daring that Grant lacked.
I can't really disagree: as a strategist and tactician, Sherman beats Grant any day, just as Patton beats Marshall any day, too. (See Victor Hanson's The Soul of Battle, which argues that the Boetian general Epaminondus -- who humiliated Sparta -- Sherman, and Patton epitomize how generals of great democratic armies should fight, namely by driving massive armies deep into the enemy's territory, using constant, rapid movement to outflank his forces, and by freely romping in his heartland, humiliating his military and demoralizing his civilian population.) But I contrasted McClellan with Grant because they held analogous positions of authority -- both were generals in chief -- and were such polar opposites in temperment. McClellan wouldn't fight, because he was afraid to risk damage to his army; Grant would, even at a horrendous cost in lives. Grant shouldn't be celebrated for needlessly getting thousands of Union soldiers killed. Sherman's rapid movement and flanking maneuvers, which won battles at a much lower cost in lives than Grant's meat-grinder, victory-by-attrition approach, was much more humane and consistent with the value a democractic society places on individual lives. But Grant gets credit for putting the Union armies on the offensive, for giving generals like Sherman free rein, and for using his armies as weapons, not shields. (Would it be accurate to say, using modern terminology, that Grant was a good theater commander?) But it's too bad Grant didn't turn over the Virginia campaign to someone like Sherman. Another reader argues that the armies on both sides of World War I had McClellans too:
A recent book about World War I (The Myth of the Great War, by John Mosier) makes the same point. France and Britain were losing to Germany in 1917, which is why America decided it had to enter the war. Why were they losing? Both sides began the war with a load of McClellans, good desk generals who turned out to be totally unfit for wartime duty. But Britain and France couldn't find the will to replace these old boys, because they were politically well connected. Germany acted quickly to retire (or at least re-desk) any officers who couldn't handle the reality of war, and then moved younger leaders out into the field. The result was that Germany was well on the way to winning despite numerical disadvantages.
It figures that McClellan and Grant are characters that show up in every army. What's unnerving is that success depends on (a) someone finding a Grant and (b) putting him in charge. That's not inevitable.
GOOD BLOGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT: I knew if I waited long enough someone would write what I wanted to write about the whole teen you-know-what debate, saving me the trouble of translating my thoughts into coherent sentences. Read these posts by Jane Galt and Susanna Cornett.
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