Monday, April 25, 2005

Not for the faint of heart

John Bolton is up against it, as Condoleezza Rice was before him, as Bush appointees to the federal bench continue to be. And President Bush stands mute, or mostly mute, as the Democrats and their PR arm, the "news media," rant and wave their arms and invoke Nazi imagery (something that's simply not allowed in the blogosphere if you want to be taken seriously, unless you're over at Kos, so please forget I mentioned it). Every now and then I get a little peeved at our fearless leader for not sticking up for his subordinates more loudly and publicly.

Then I think about it, and I realize that he's got it exactly right.

We are, after all, attempting to be a majority of one, we American conservatives. Those who support the Bush administration's policies are going to be solitary voices in unfriendly rooms most of the time. If they buckle under the pressure of questioning by Democratic senators, if they shrink from the ghastly spotlight of the New York Times (some swear it puts ten years and ten pounds on you, unless you're at least a vegan from the Upper East Side), if they quail when their fashion choices or hairstyles become fodder for the lefty blogs, they have no place representing the US in 2005.

See, for instance (this will probably be the only time I ever link directly to Kos - enjoy it if it's your thing, then get the bleep on over there where you belong), this Kos entry claiming that Bolton ("our favorite mustached villain") is dead in the water versus Rich Lowry's discussion of Democrat tactics against Bolton - hint: the "mustached villain" comment is par for the course. I'd like to point out something about the Kos piece: its source is the NYT, which should surprise no one, and this phrase - "Four of 10 Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have expressed concern about Mr. Bolton, on a panel where one Republican vote against him could keep the nomination from reaching the Senate floor" - strikes me as a clear indication of which party is thinking and which is jerking its knees in partisan unison. This is not to say I have even the time of day for the "four of 10 Republicans" if their qualms about Bolton are based on the silliness that's been brought to light thus far - especially Mr. Specter, Republican In Name Only.

All I hope now is that before President Bush names a name, he first meets privately with the owner of the name and says to that man or that woman, "If you accept, you're goin' to have to cowboy up." Those on the coasts may take that colorful phrase as some kind of sign of childish bravado; those from Texas will understand what it would mean to him.

Update: PowerLine has much more on Bolton last night and today - or more to the point, on those opposing Bolton and, by extension, President Bush:

Vreeland [who yesterday claimed to have been a colleague of Bolton's at State in the early '90s, and who has leveled harsh criticism at Bolton's diplomatic skills] was a member of, and financial contributor to, a group called "Diplomats & Commanders for Change," which opposed President Bush in November's election. The organization's mission statement says that its members "are deeply concerned by the damage the Bush Administration has caused to our national and international interests."

That's what this is about: the attack on Bolton is being orchestrated and carried out by the administration's political enemies, as part of their effort to subvert the President's foreign policy.

Oh, and you may recall Melody Townsel, the former Moms Opposing Bush leader who claims that Bolton spent one wild night chasing her down hotel corridors, an accusation that is met with disbelief by anyone not actively working to bring him down. PowerLine (via Little Green Footballs via DANEgerus) notes that:

she has written her close friends at the Daily Kos to alert them to a history of plagiarism which she says will be used against her by Republicans.

I strongly recommend checking out the LGF link - it contains the text of her email to the Kossacks.

The only surprising thing about the Powerline pieces to me is that the brilliant John Hinderaker writes as if there's anything surprising about the source of opposition to Bush appointees' being the usual suspects (the Anti-Bush League).

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The washout system works

I was just listening to that precious broadcast gem, "This American Life" on NPR. I can't find a link to a transcript at the moment - it may not be up yet - but when it comes up I'll include it here. [Update: here it is.] Good grief.

The final segment, in brief: a young man tries to get into the NSA, and fails. He was a pothead and-so-on in high school, but left all that behind in college and undertook to train himself ideally for a career in intelligence, achieving a grad school spot in foreign affairs at a top university and learning Chinese, and simultaneously with grad school applied to the NSA, a grueling process that includes a polygraph test. He failed the polygraph test - miserably - because his stress reactions wouldn't stop even for the easy and obviously truthful questions. Ultimately, under the interrogator's prompting to "dig deep" for whatever the reason might be for his overreaction, he "confessed" to seeing child pornography over the internet, something like 50 images. It was an event train that he didn't see coming: he's terribly stressed because he wants the job so much, he blabs unnecessary details all over the place about his drug use and every possible indiscretion he can think of (including the fact that he's gay, which, when the interrogator looked at him in puzzlement, he said was "illegal in some states" - untrue, though certain types of sexual activity regardless of who's doing them may still be illegal on the books, and unprosecuted), the interrogator tells him he's failing and urges him to seek the buried reason for it, he says he may have inadvertantly seen an underage person in internet porn but he has no way to tell, she presses him - he either has or he hasn't, and he says all right, he has then, she presses for a number of images, he comes up with 10, she presses further with veiled threats that if he's wrong, even by only one image, he's still lying, he changes his answer to 50...

Evidently to his surprise, he was rejected, and the letter he received gave the reason as "due to [his] involvement with child pornography." He got a lawyer in case the government decided to prosecute for this felony he had admitted to but not committed, took a second polygraph exam that he passed without problems, but the government would neither reconsider his application nor "clear his name." Unbelievably, he later applied at the CIA, and was rejected because of his failed NSA bid. (The "unbelievable" part is that he applied, not that he was rejected.)

Eventually, as in "in the last minute of the segment," the reporter got around to what should have been the point: the young man was absolutely, patently not suited to intelligence work, as he'd "cracked" even when confronted with a friendly interrogator. Yet the sense of the injustice of it all prevailed all the way to the very last sentence, in which the reporter said he would not reveal the young man's new home or job at the man's request, because now he realized the value of keeping some things to himself.

The young man named his failing "immaturity." He apparently still rails at the irony that people later found to have been Soviet spies "make the cut" but that he, completely loyal, completely dedicated to grooming himself for exactly this kind of work, did not. Can he really believe that he was ever cut out for human intelligence work - indeed, any intel work? Here are some qualities that ought to disqualify an applicant: Immaturity. Confessing to crimes not committed. "Diarrhea of the mouth." Lack of judgment. Inability to visualize the end of the road before taking a a completely unreasonable fork.

Obviously the system is not perfect; our intel services have been under heavy fire for believing their own stories too much, for building up said stories on shaky evidentiary foundations, and indeed for inadvertantly harboring Soviet asps in their figurative and collective bosom. But at least this story provides some indication that the people who wash out are the people who ought to wash out.

Friday, April 08, 2005

If we outlaw invasions...

...only dictators will invade.

Heh, as Prof. Reynolds would say. That Mark Steyn, he's something else.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Jamie: the sequel

Bought new unmentionables today (obviously without breaking the bank, if you follow my link)... Soon I expect to burst out of my cocoon of mommyness, spend a little time curing my silk-and-lace wings, and then catch the wind again, and taste the nectar, and altogether celebrate that I was I before I was a mom, no matter how Mom I always intend to be.

Take that, ZPG!

Rather a thrown-together post. Apologies in advance.

Mark Steyn, who somehow I missed all this time but who's swiftly jumped to the very top of my reading list, has this to say about babies, or lack thereof:

In practice, a culture that thinks Terri Schiavo's life in Florida or the cleft-lipped baby's in Herefordshire has no value winds up ascribing no value to life in general. Hence, the shrivelled fertility rates in Europe and in blue-state America: John Kerry won the 16 states with the lowest birth rates; George W Bush took 25 of the 26 states with the highest.

The 19th-century Shaker communities were forbidden from breeding and could increase their number only by conversion. The Euro-Canadian-Democratic Party welfare secularists seem to have chosen the same predicament voluntarily, and are likely to meet the same fate. The martyrdom culture of radical Islam is a literal dead end. But so is the slyer death culture of post-Christian radical narcissism. This is the political issue that will determine all the others: it's the demography, stupid.

The Herefordshire (UK) baby he mentions was aborted because of a treatable cleft palate. The doctors responsible for the decision(?) and the abortion were not prosecuted for their action because authorities were convinced that they were acting "in good faith." What prosecution they might have faced if they hadn't been successful in convincing authorities of their good faith, I don't know; unlike the Supreme Court, I'm not terribly interested in the laws of other countries, at least as they relate (or don't) to our own system of laws and jurisprudence.

All over the board today, aren't I?

Steyn's op-ed piece is titled "The strange death of the liberal West" and deserves a read in toto. The upshot: our need for particular resources and our ability to produce them change over time - e.g., the oil that we were supposed to have run out of by now - but the changes rely on one thing: human ingenuity. Human ingenuity, it is patently obvious, is only available when there are humans. Falling birthrates denote a loss of the one resource we absolutely can't do without, he says.

When we're having a kid-intensive moment, my husband and I joke that we only ever wanted two children - sometimes these two, sometimes those two... In light of Steyn's comments, tonight at least I'm altogether happy to have had three.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

"Be not afraid"

In the death of Pope John Paul II, the freedom fighter, the defender of life, the one who asked forgiveness and who forgave, the man who sought daily that his life be a reflection of the life of Christ, we are diminished and we are exalted. He was great, because he stood like a rock in the stormwaves of the end of the second millenium, sometimes submerged in the froth of rhetoric and disapproval but never washed away. He was great, because he placed his hope in his Lord and he garnered his strength from the Gospel: he was great, because he never attributed greatness to himself but to God alone. If the cardinals have among their number a man who can be as great, let the white smoke rise quickly over their decision to elevate that man. If they have no one as great to choose, let God lead them to choose the one who will at least not detract from the greatness of his predecessor.

In my time I've criticized Catholicism for its resistance to change - the changes I considered good, at any rate, such as the ordination of Godly women. I'm Episcopalian now because Catholicism was hard bread for my husband; I wanted to worship with him, even if it meant accepting a doctrine different from the one under which I was raised, and my criticisms made my decision easier. But today I say: Bravo, John Paul, for not listening to my kind. Change for the sake of "evolving standards of decency" or a "modern understanding" of good is a dangerous matter.

I believe that the Catholic church may eventually allow women to become priests. They may, on the other hand, decide to allow non-celibate - married - men to become priests, though I think the women have a better chance, sooner. But to embrace either of these changes because of a social evolution encompassing only forty-odd years, in an institution spanning two millenia and with roots much older, would have been foolhardy; there's no hurry. Conservative? Yes, John Paul was conservative, and so should any Pope be. The Holy See should not innovate; it should preserve the heart of the faith intact, and move as slowly and inexorably as a glacier to change its underlying landscape.

That his death follows so closely on the death of Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo is a powerful evocation of John Paul's papal message that we are not to be afraid. Calls to kill Terri, in the guise of "letting her die with dignity," "giving her release," or "fulfilling her wishes," were rooted in fear: our fear of helplessness, of uselessness, of indignity exposed, of mysterious suffering we cannot quantify that can only be answered by death. John Paul's message, the message of his words illustrated by his long, difficult, private life made public for our edification, is that when we place our trust in God, we may not be spared suffering, but we will surely be given the resources to withstand it.

More than that: to triumph over it, even if the world sees only defeat.