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Crossing the Red Sea
Thursday, 8 December 2005
Site Update
Now Playing: Available Resources
Topic: Admin

Blogs are intended to be informative and enriching.

As a Christian, my primary priority is "food for the soul". While there are a multitude of politically-based links on the side bar, for those of faith or those seeking for spiritual answers and help in life, please feel free to use the web links given below.

Please review previous posts (much of Christian ministry is timeless) or find good material from the links at the side of the page.

Christian web pages below are hyperlinked; you can just click on the title to read.

web address -> Bible Gems for the Week

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Posted by dondegr0 at 12:14 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 2 January 2009 8:01 PM EST
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Monday, 30 May 2005
Now Playing: Enjoy your summer !
Topic: Message
There will be limited postings this summer. Please read other worthwhile sites.

Posted by dondegr0 at 6:09 PM EDT
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Friday, 27 May 2005
Faith & Combat
Now Playing: How much does God affect the details of our life ?
Topic: Religious Faith
May 27, 2005, 7:54 a.m.

God & Man on the Frontlines

Stephen Mansfield on The Faith of the American Soldiers.

Q&A by Kathryn Jean Lopez

"When soldiers step upon the battlefield, they immediately confront the kind of horror and hardship that has moved men through the centuries to reach for the spiritual," writes Stephen Mansfield. Death and destruction, "the loneliness and the fear, the boredom and the rage" all "drive men to the invisible; each forces the soldier to decide what he truly believes, making the battlefield as much a test of faith as it is a test of arms."

In his new book, The Faith of the American Soldier, New York Times-bestselling author Stephen Mansfield looks at the role religion plays in the lives of American servicemen. NRO Editor Kathryn Lopez talked to him this week about the book, our military, and Mansfield's time in Iraq.

National Review Online: How important a role does religion play in the life of the typical American serviceman?

Stephen Mansfield: Servicemen who live stateside reflect the populace as a whole in their religious lives. It is when they go into battle, face death, see their comrades killed, and have to grapple with the morality of killing the enemy that they reach for faith with new intensity. When I was embedded with the troops in Iraq toward the end of 2004, I did not talk to one soldier who was not seeking a stronger connection to God and his hand of protection.

NRO: Are there no atheists in foxholes?

Mansfield: I’m sure there are some atheists in foxholes, but not many. Wars press issues of faith into the lives of those who fight them. From the question of the morality of the war itself to the simple quest for protection from harm, soldiers are constantly reaching for understanding, comfort, and protection from a supernatural source. For the vast majority of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, this means pursuing God like never before.

NRO: Are there any stats on such things: How the military population compares religion wise to the rest of the country?

Mansdield: The military has largely stopped relying on statistics regarding religion in the ranks because most soldiers simply put “undeclared” or “no-affiliation” when asked about their religious preference. The chaplains in Iraq estimate that some 85 percent of the soldiers in country are in some form Christian with the next group being Jewish and other faiths filling out the last 5-10 percent or so. As a whole, though, the military is more oriented to traditional values, faith, and patriotism than the general population

NRO: For the military — for chaplains, in particularly — is it a hard balance? Dealing with the church-state thing?

Mansfield: Military chaplains have a very difficult role. First, they walk a fine First Amendment line and they know it. They are paid by the state to tend the religious lives of soldiers in a society that is almost preoccupied with the separation of church and state. Even though these chaplains are ordained members of recognized religious groups, they often have to exercise caution in how aggressively they preach the truth of their denomination or its views of other religions. Every chaplain I talked to in the field struggled with the definition of his job as a result.

The chaplains are also hampered by the military policy that often forbids them from “crossing the wire,” from going into battle. The military’s concern is that soldiers might be distracted from their mission while protecting unarmed chaplains on the frontlines. The result of this, though, is that soldiers frequently express the feeling that chaplains don’t know what they are going through because the chaplains aren’t exposed to fighting. Still, I found the military chaplains to be among the most hardworking and courageous people in the field.

NRO: How are chaplains different today than in Vietnam?

Mansfield: Military chaplains are not chosen according to a denominational quota system as they were during the Vietnam era. They are chosen according to a “best qualified” standard. This means that the chaplains serving today are deeply committed to ministering to the fighting man and woman and have met very high standards for entrance into the corps. Some of them are even decorated warriors themselves who left the military and then returned as chaplains. They are doing a hard job gloriously.

NRO: Have you followed the complaints about the Air Force Academy? If so what do you make of them?

Mansfield: I think the complaints about evangelicals at the Air Force Academy are misguided. The fact is that our service academies are drawing fine young men and women, many of whom want to serve God by serving their country. If they are eager to share their beliefs while they train for their noble task, so much the better. I recently lectured at West Point and found a large body of Christian cadets there, as well. This should be celebrated, not ridiculed.

NRO: What does honor mean for the American on the battlefield?

Mansfield: Honor on the battlefield results from living by a code that rescues the warrior from barbarism and elevates the profession of arms. It means understanding soldiering as a spiritual service as much as a martial role. Honorable soldiers are devoted to the moral objectives of their nation in war, are willing to lay their lives on an altar of sacrifice, are courageous in subduing the enemy yet compassionate to civilians and prisoners, are devoted to a godly esprit de corps, and are eager to master the art of arms by way of fulfilling a calling.

NRO: How important was it that the Iraq war be addressed in theological just-war terms?

Mansfield: It is vital for a government to establish the morality of a war before sending soldiers into battle. The traditional just-war concept has to be satisfied. Soldiers don’t want to fight simply to defend a nation’s vanity or to support a corrupt vision. They want to know they are doing good. This is essential for them and for the nation that is going to welcome them home again. I have talked to hundreds of soldiers during the research of this book. Almost every one of them mentioned his or her need to believe in the goodness of their nation’s purposes in war.

NRO: Is Abu Ghraib a symptom of a non-faith-based warrior code?

Mansfield: The Abu Ghraib scandal has a faith backstory. The chaplain who was at Abu Ghraib during the scandals was told not to be in the way but to let the soldiers come to her. There was no moral presence and little spiritual influence during the time of the scandals. Chapel attendance was low and many soldiers later said they did not even know who the chaplain was. When that unit was replaced, the chaplains of the new unit were told to be present at prisoner interrogations, at shift changes and in the daily lives of the soldiers. The entire atmosphere changed. Chapel attendance reached into the hundreds and the prison became a model operation. This makes the case for continuous moral influence upon soldiers at war and for a faith based warrior code as a hedge against future abuses.

NRO: Is there a good model for a faith-based warrior code?

Mansfield: Though I know there were excesses, the chivalric code of the medieval knights is probably the best attempt in Western history at a noble warrior code. I open my book with a description of the knight’s vigil for this reason. I’m hoping we can create a code that draws from these knightly values but that also fashions them into something more applicable to modern warfare.

NRO: How much time did you spend over in Iraq? What's one story every American should know from your time over there?

Mansfield: I was in Iraq for several weeks. I discovered many moving stories of faith and heroism, but they are all summarized in the comment a journalist made to me on the C130 flying out of Baghdad International Airport. He said, “I came over here expecting Animal House and Debbie Does Dallas. Instead, I found Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan.” That captures a good deal of what I experienced.

NRO: Does the commander in chief's openness about his faith effect the troops in any practical sense?

Mansfield: Both while I was in Iraq and in interviews we conducted here in the states, soldiers spoke often about believing that George W. Bush’s faith and character were important to them. There were many references to the near depression in the military during the Clinton administration. Yet, with the Bush presidency, soldiers began to feel as though they were valued and that they were an extension of the president’s moral resolve. Even among soldiers who were disillusioned by supply problems or wearied by their hard months in the field, the belief that the president is a moral man conducting the war for righteous reasons made all the difference in their fighting spirit. Character really is the core of leadership.

Posted by dondegr0 at 12:11 PM EDT
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Monday, 23 May 2005
Two Front Struggle
Now Playing: What we really face around the world...can we stand up against such opposition ?
Topic: Middle East
May 20, 2005, 7:56 a.m.

Our Two-Front Struggle

Pre-modern plus postmodern equals riots in Afghanistan.

One recent Newsweek story alleged — or fabricated — that a single Koran was desecrated by an American soldier in Guantanamo Bay.

The unsubstantiated rumor led to rioting and death in Afghanistan and general turmoil and rage across the Islamic world. Mullahs issued fatwas and the more lunatic even declared a "holy war." What explains the unsubstantiated story and why the hysterical reaction?

The superficial answer is that we now live in a globalized village — united by the marriage of satellite communications with cheap consumer goods. Someone sneezes in Texas and a few minutes later a villager in upper Russia can say "bless you." What an "in-the-know" Beltway insider conjures up as buzz in the "Periscope" section of the magazine for his American readers can cause death and mayhem hours later 7,000 a miles away in the Hindu Kush.

Yet there is something far more to these bizarre events than mere "interconnectedness," or even media-savvy fundamentalists who have got the hang of Western telecommunications and know how to use them to stir up the mob.

There is not a necessary connection in the Middle East — or anywhere else — between the occasional appearance of technological sophistication and what we might call humanism, or the commitment to explain phenomena through reason and empiricism. We forget that far too often as we kow-tow to extremists and seek to apologize or fathom the holy protocols surrounding a religious text.

In the West, the wonder of a cell phone in some sense is the ultimate expression of a long struggle for the primacy of scientific reason, tolerance, critical consciousness, and free expression. That intellectual journey goes back to Galileo, Newton, and Socrates.

Everything from CDs to Starbucks that we take for granted is a representation of millions of past Western lives. These forgotten scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs, along with other reformers in politics, journalism, economics, and religion, created our present liberal environment. Only its institutions led to our prosperous modernity.

Without them, thinkers cannot discuss ideas freely. They will not find legal protection for their accomplishments, status for their contributions, and profit for their benefactions — and thus would end up hopeless and adrift in a society such as present-day Syria, Iran, or Egypt.

That long odyssey is not so in the world of bin Laden or an Iranian theocrat — or the ignorant who stream out of the madrassas and Friday fundamentalist harangues along the Afghan-Pakistani border. These fist-shaking, flag-burning Islamic fascists all came late to the Western tradition and now cherry-pick its technology. As classic parasites, a Zawahiri or al-Zarqawi wants Western sophisticated weapons and playthings — without the bothersome foundations that made them all possible.

An Afghan who riots because he learns of a rumor in a Western magazine, and those like him who explode and behead in Iraq, are emblematic of this hypocrisy. Nothing they have accomplished in their lives, either materially or philosophically, would result in a free opinion magazine, much less the technology to send out the story instantaneously — or, in the case of al-Zarqawi, to have his murdering transmitted globally on the Internet.

Instead, our Afghan rioters, and the Islamist organizations that have endorsed them, live in the eighth century of rumor, sexual and religious intolerance, tribal chauvinism, and gratuitous violence — but now electrified by the veneer of the 21st-century civilization that is not their own, but sometimes fools the naive that it is.

Yet all the illumination in the modern world — neon, fluorescent, or incandescent — cannot light up the illiberal Dark Age mind if it is not willing (or forced) to begin the long ordeal of democracy, tolerance, legality, and individual rights.

Despite cheap, accessible, and easy-to-operate consumer goods imported from the Westernized world, the thinking of a bin Laden or Muslim Brotherhood still leads back to swords, horses, and jihad, not ahead to iPods and Microsoft.

They want such things to use to destroy, but not along with them the institutions like democracy and freedom that would allow such progress in their own countries — and shortly make al Qaeda and the fundamentalists not merely irrelevant, but ridiculous as well. Thus, we can understand the increasing hatred of the United States and its policy of democratic idealism abroad that threatens to put them out of business.

As we learned on September 11, they try to kill us now with our own appurtenances before they are buried themselves under modernism, liberality, and freedom. That really is what this war is about: a last-ditch effort by primordial fascists to prevent the liberalization of the Muslim world and the union of Islamic society with the protocols found in the rest of the globe and which many in the Middle East prefer if given a chance.

Only democracy and freedom, not Western money or cheap guilt, will remedy the deep sickness of radical Islam that now so tires and sickens the rest of the world that daily has to watch and endure it.

For a suicide bomber like Mohammed Atta, the more he bumped into the West and used its bounties, the more he despised us for his own hypocrisy of enjoying what his culture could not make or allow. There was no law forcing Mr. Atta to go study in Germany or visit the United States or to wear Western clothes and use our technology; he did so on his own free volition — and later despised himself for doing so.

The Saudi insurgents who now volunteer to blow themselves up in northern Iraq, like their spiritual kindred suicide bombers on the West Bank, are not poor villagers content to plow ancestral fields and follow the tribal and religious rhythms of a timeless Middle East.

No, they are usually upscale and spoiled, or at least middle class, educated, and with some disposable income — the prerequisites to allow them contact with the West and almost immediately to incite their sense of envy, self-loathing, exaggerated entitlement, and ultimately nihilism at trying to destroy what they hate and lust for and cannot destroy.

Second, there is a certain mental disease here at home — long chronicled in Western literature — that encourages the Afghan rioter's love/hate relationship with things Western. After all, we have developed a culture in which a Newsweek writer grasps that if he scoops a story that the United States military is insensitive to the "other" and, better yet, religiously intolerant, he finds a certain resonance within our own elite. If that slur turns out to be wrong, well, his intentions were at least "noble" and there are likely to follow little consequences in his own circle that is far away from those soldiers who pay for his lapse on the ground in Afghanistan.

Note also after the riots how few Americans announced their immediate scorn for silly rumors about our own POW center in a time of war — especially when it is housing Afghan terrorists who helped kill 3,000 of our own innocents. Can one imagine fundamentalists in the Bible Belt rioting and shooting should they hear an unfounded rumor that an American prisoner in Riyadh, charged with complicity in killing thousands of Arabs, found his Old Testament trashed by a Saudi guard — or a Saudi official promising to apologize to the Western world should a miscreant guard be culpable?

Was the Church of the Nativity carefully treated by its Islamic intruders — or did the desecration cause rioting and holy-war warnings across Christendom? It is just this imbalance that our elites do not talk openly about, but that outrages the populace who tires of it.

So we do not dare remind the world that we have nothing to apologize for, given that we have expended lives and treasure in Afghanistan to improve a country that once helped to butcher us. Most of those rioting and killing idolize bin Laden. The problem is not that they are confused, but that they express exactly what they feel — and that is a deep hatred for Western liberalism, manifested on their now sacred day of September 11. We don't say such rude things, not only because it would be stupid politics, but because we don't quite believe them ourselves anymore.

In that sense, we can be as warped as the Afghan rioter. Westerners have their own delusions. We seem to think that our neat gadgets also equate with an ability to refashion human nature or that a fascist abroad needs to know how much we care about his hurt.

There is a sort of arrogance in the liberal West — the handmaiden to our own guilt and self-loathing — that strangely believes we are both to blame for the ills abroad and alone can solve them through handing out money. Almost all of the pathetic rhetoric of al Qaeda — "colonial exploitation," "American hegemony," or "blood for oil" — was as imported from the West as were the terrorists' bombs and communications.

Some Western intellectuals, I think, need a bin Laden to illustrate and confirm their nihilistic ideas about their own postmodern society, just as he needs them to explain why his culture's failure is not its own fault. So just as al Qaeda will always find an enabling Westerner to say, "You lashed out at us in frustration for your unfair treatment," so too a guilty Westerner will always find a compliant terrorist to boast, "Yes, we kill you for your sins." America was once a country that demolished Hitler and Tojo combined in less than four years and broke the nuclear Soviet Union — and now frets and whines that a few thousand deranged fascists want an apology.

Abroad, we battle Islamic fascists who hate us for our success and want to kill us with the tools of the modern world they despise. But at home, we are also at odds with our own privileged guilt-ridden aristocracy, whose very munificence has made them misunderstand why they are hated.

The Islamists insist, "We kill you for being soft." Westerners in response feel, "We are killed because we are not being soft enough."

And so they riot and kill in Afghanistan over a stupid rumor, and we seek to apologize that it somehow spread.

How truly sad.

Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His website is victorhanson.com.

Posted by dondegr0 at 8:44 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 18 May 2005
Federal Judges
Now Playing: Those who stand for values will always be attacked !
Topic: Justice
May 17, 2005, 8:12 a.m.

The Dems Post-Nuclear Nightmare

The problem of Janice Rogers Brown.

By Peter Kirsanow

To Democrats, Janice Rogers Brown is the scariest nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the history of the republic. Since her nomination nearly two years ago, she has been the subject of the most vitriolic and persistent attacks ever leveled against a nominee to the federal bench other than Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.

The black sharecropper's daughter, born in segregated Alabama, has been excoriated as a closet member of the Ku Klux Klan who, at least according to the Senate minority leader, would like nothing better than to return America to "Civil War days." Left-leaning political cartoonists depict her as an Aunt Jemima on steroids, complete with exaggerated physical features typically found only in the racist literature distributed by hate groups. She's been called insensitive to the rights of minorities, the plight of the poor, and the difficulties of the disabled. Her opponents warn that she is "the far right's dream judge" and that "(s)he embodies Clarence Thomas's ideological extremism and Antonin Scalia's abrasiveness and right-wing activism." And her opponents are plentiful, a who's who of Left-wing advocacy groups: Planned Parenthood, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, NAACP, NOW, People for the American Way, National Abortion Federation, Feminist Majority, and the American Association of University Women, just to name a few.

SCOTUS on the Mind

What's driving the hysteria? Three things: demographics, abortion (more specifically, the doctrinal approach that produced Roe v. Wade), and impending Supreme Court vacancies.

As Professor Steven Calabresi of Northwestern University Law School has noted, Democrats are determined "not to allow any-more conservative African-Americans, Hispanics, women or Catholics to be groomed for nomination to the High Court with court of appeals appointments." And John Leo observes that abortion politics also is driving the opposition to filibustered nominees like Justice Brown.

As I noted in an earlier piece, pro-life minority nominees represent the perfect storm for Left-leaning opposition groups: non-conformist role models from the Left's most reliable voting blocs who may one day be in a position to reconsider Roe v. Wade. In that regard, Janice Rogers Brown could well be the Storm of the Century: A black female who has been nominated to the court viewed as a springboard to the Supreme Court and who may not view Roe as the zenith of constitutional jurisprudence.

Thomas Sowell adds the kicker: "What really scares the left about Janice Rogers Brown is that she has guts as well as brains. They haven't been able to get her to weaken or to waver. Character assassination is all that the left has left."

Indeed, Justice Brown's intelligence and steadiness are plainly apparent throughout the scores of California-supreme-court opinions she's written over the years. Their lucidity and precision reveal a person unlikely to go searching for penumbras and emanations; someone disciplined in interpreting the nation's laws without resort to European precedent or, as Justice Thomas puts it, "the faddish slogans of the cognoscenti." Put simply, Janice Rogers Brown's copy of the Constitution doesn't have a respiratory system.

Some of Brown's detractors dress up their opposition in legal garb. They contend that she "disregards legal precedent" but fail to cite a single case in which she's overturned existing law. They also allege that she lacks the qualifications to be a judge, ignoring ten stellar years on the California supreme court.

The biggest howler, however, is the claim that Brown "disregards the will of the people as expressed through their legislators." This, despite the fact that she dissented when the California supreme court struck down the will of the people (as expressed through their legislators) requiring parental notification in the case of a minor's abortion. Moreover, Brown wrote the main opinion upholding Prop. 209 — the referendum outlawing racial preferences that was overwhelmingly supported by the people but rabidly opposed by many of the same groups now opposing Brown's nomination. California voters duly punished Brown for disregarding their will by returning her to the supreme court with 76 percent of the vote.

The Substantive Critique
The only charges against Brown meriting serious consideration were posed by Stuart Taylor in a May 2, 2005, National Journal piece in which he examined Brown's nomination and described her as "a passionate advocate of a radical, anti-regulatory vision of judicially enforced property rights far more absolute than can be squared with the Supreme Court precedents with which judges are supposed to comply." (NR's Ramesh Ponnuru has made some similar criticisms.) Taylor's description is largely based upon a review of two speeches given by Brown a few years ago and her dissent in San Remo Hotel v. San Francisco.

Taylor acknowledges that in her confirmation testimony Brown pledged to follow precedent, even when she disagrees with it, but he maintains that Brown has commented favorably on Lochnerism. ("Lochnerism" is a term derived from the 1905 case Lochner v. New York that struck down, on specious 14th Amendment grounds of economic liberty and "freedom of contract," wage and hour and worker-protection laws. Among other things, "Lochnerism" maintains that the state police power shouldn't regulate private commercial transactions. In some ways Lochner is the obverse of Roe). Brown has stated clearly that she doesn't support a return to Lochner.

Taylor cites Brown's San Remo Hotel dissent to suggest that she might invalidate laws that have the effect of redistributing wealth. He argues that such a radically expanded view of judicially protected property rights is simply another form of judicial activism — one that trends toward the libertarian/conservative side of the philosophical spectrum — but activism, nonetheless. To drive the point home, Taylor asks, "How would Republicans react if a Democratic president nominated an advocate of radical redistribution of wealth or Marxism?"

Taylor's critique, the best by far regarding Brown, is thoughtful and substantive, but suffers from at least two infirmities: First, Taylor places too much weight on Brown's speeches. While sentiments expressed in a nominee's speeches may illuminate how that person may behave as a judge, in Brown's case we're not operating with a blank slate. She's compiled an extensive library of opinions while serving on the California supreme court the last ten years. That record reveals a judge committed to steadfast adherence to precedent and textual interpretation. There's nothing in her opinions, including that in San Remo Hotel, outside of the legal mainstream. Critics who charge that Brown might give in to Lochnerian impulses if she were elevated to a United States Supreme Court unchecked by appellate review should consider that her position on the California supreme court provided numerous opportunities to be a judicial activist, yet she took advantage of none of those opportunities. Besides, if one's philosophical meanderings and musings in speeches, debates, or lectures are presumptive of how such nominee will rule as a judge, 90 percent of those who've ever taught a law-school class, given a luncheon address, or participated in an ABA panel discussion would be disqualified. Only the intellectually incurious would remain.

Second, Taylor's reading of Brown's San Remo Hotel dissent finds an urge to radically expand property rights where others find an unremarkable interpretation of the California constitution's comparatively broad takings clause.

San Remo Hotel involved San Francisco's hotel-conversion ordinance that requires owners of hotels that serve the poor, elderly, and disabled to pay a substantial fee to the city whenever the owners seek to convert their property to tourist use. The fee, amounting to 80 percent of the construction costs of the units to be converted, would be paid into the city's Residential Hotel Preservation Fund for the poor. Taylor suggests that Brown's dissent from the majority opinion upholding the law indicates she "would invalidate laws redistributing wealth from one group to another." Obviously, such invalidation could affect much New Deal and Great Society legislation, including Social Security and Medicare.

But Brown's dissent is not nearly so expansive. Rather, it's wholly consistent with mainstream (although, admittedly, libertarian-leaning) jurisprudence that holds that broad societal burdens may not encumber the property rights of a discrete or insular class of individuals. Moreover, Brown was referring only to laws pertaining to real property rights, not legislation that may otherwise have the effect of redistributing wealth (Social Security, etc.).

Janice Rogers Brown is no extremist. She's tough, smart, principled, and conservative. She's the embodiment of everything that challenges the worldview of liberal elites. Teamed with a Justice Thomas on the U.S. Supreme Court, she would threaten the Democrat political imperatives cited by Professor Calabresi. Teamed with justices that don't embrace the doctrines of a "living, breathing constitution," she would threaten the political imperatives cited by John Leo.

Two sitting Supreme Court justices are in their 80s; two are in their 70s. Retirement naturally beckons. There could be as many as four high-Court vacancies in the next few years. Nuclear winter fast approaches the Left.

Peter Kirsanow is a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. These comments do not necessarily reflect the position of the Commission.

Posted by dondegr0 at 6:49 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2005 8:45 AM EDT
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Saturday, 14 May 2005
Reason for Fighting World War II
Now Playing: When are we willing to stand up to evil ?
Topic: History
May 13, 2005, 8:08 a.m.

Remembering World War II

Revisionists get it wrong.

As the world commemorated the 60th anniversary of the end of the European Theater of World War II, revisionism was the norm. In the last few years, new books and articles have argued for a complete rethinking of the war. The only consistent theme in this various second-guessing was a diminution of the American contribution and suspicion of our very motives.

Indeed, most recent op-eds commemorating V-E day either blamed the United States for Hamburg or for the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, or for our supposed failure to credit the Russians for their sacrifices.

It is true that the Russians paid a horrendous price. Perhaps two out of every three soldiers of the Wehrmacht fell on the Eastern Front. We in the West must always remember that such a tragic sacrifice allowed Hitler to be defeated with far less American British, Canadian, and Australian dead.

That being said, the Anglo-Americans waged a global war well beyond the capability of the Soviet Union. They invaded North Africa, took Sicily, and landed in Italy, in addition to fighting a massive land war in central Europe. We had fewer casualties than did the Russians because we fought more wisely, were better equipped, and were not surprised to the same degree by a treacherous former ally that we had supplied.

The Soviets invaded the defeated Japanese only in the last days of the war; the Anglo-Americans alone took on two fronts simultaneously. Submarine warfare, attacking the Japanese and German surface fleets, conducting strategic bombing over Berlin and Tokyo, and sending tons of supplies to Allied forces — all this was beyond the capability of the Red Army. More important, Stalin had been an ally of Hitler until the Nazi invasion of 1941, and had unleashed the Red Army to destroy the freedom of Finland and to carve up Poland.

Do we ever read these days that when the Luftwaffe bombed Britain, Russia was sending the Nazis fuel and iron ore? When Germany invaded Russia, however, Britain sent food and supplies.

Yes, World War II started to free Eastern Europe from fascist totalitarianism, and ended up ensuring that it would be enslaved by Soviet totalitarianism. But Roosevelt and Churchill were faced with an inescapable reality in 1945 that to keep the Russians out of Eastern Europe they would have had to restart the war against their former ally that possessed it — a conflict that might well have gone nuclear in two or three years. The latter had been in great part armed and supplied for four years by their own taxpaying democratic citizenries. The Red Army was near home in Eastern Europe; the American 3rd Army was 5,000 miles from the United States.

Of course, we bombed German civilian centers. But in a total war when 10,000 a day were being gassed in the death camps, and Nazi armies in the Balkans, Russia, and Western Europe were routinely murdering thousands a week and engaged in breakneck efforts to create ballistic missiles, sophisticated jets, and worse weapons, there were very few options in stopping such a monstrous regime. This was an age, remember, before computer guidance, GPS targeting systems, and laser-guided bombs.

When the lumbering and often unescorted bombers started out against Europe and Japan, the Axis infrastructure of death — rails, highways, communications, warehouses, and decentralized production — was intact. When the bombers finished their horrific work, the economies of both Axis powers were near ruin. Armies that were systematically murdering millions of innocents in forgotten places like Yugoslavia, Poland, the Philippines, Korea, and China were running out of fuel, ammunition, and food.

Revisionism holds a strange attraction for the winners of World War II. American textbooks discuss World War II as if a Patton, Le May, or Nimitz did not exist, as if the war was essentially the Japanese internment and Hiroshima. That blinkered and politically correct focus explains why so many Americans under 30 are simply ignorant about the nature and course of World War II itself. Similarly, the British have monthly debates on the immorality of their bombing Hamburg and Dresden.

In dire contrast, even the post-Soviet Russian government will not speak of the Stalin-Hitler non-aggression pact, the absorption of the Baltic states, the murder of millions of German citizens in April through June 1945 in Eastern Europe, and the mass execution of Polish officers. If we were to listen to the Chinese, World War II was about the gallant work of Mao’s partisans, who in fact used the war to gain power, and then went on to kill 50 million of their own citizens — about the same number lost in all of World War II. Japan likewise has never come to terms with the millions of Asian civilians its armies butchered or its systematic brutality waged against American POWs.

The truth is that the supposedly biased West discusses the contribution of others far more than our former enemies — or Russian and Chinese allies — credit the British or Americans.

The German novelist Gunter Grass — who served in the Wehrmacht — recently lectured in the New York Times about postwar “power blocs,” in terms that suggested the Soviets and the Americans had been morally equivalent. German problems of reunification, he tells us, were mostly due to a capitalist West, not a Communist East that caused them.

Grass advances the odd idea that Germany was not liberated from American hegemony (“unconditional subservience”) until Mr. Schroeder’s recent anti-Bush campaign distanced the Germans from the United States. To read this ahistorical sophistry of Grass is to forget recent European and Russian complicity in arming Saddam, their forging of sweetheart oil deals with the Baathist dictatorship, and the disturbing German anti-Semitic rhetoric that followed Schroeder’s antics. Unmentioned are the billions of American dollars and years of vigilance that kept the Red Army out of Western Germany, or the paradox that the United States is ready to leave Germany on a moment’s notice — which might explain the efforts of the Schroeder government to keep our troops there.

There is a pattern here. Western elites — the beneficiaries of 60 years of peace and prosperity achieved by the sacrifices to defeat fascism and Communism — are unhappy in their late middle age, and show little gratitude for, or any idea about, what gave them such latitude. If they cannot find perfection in history, they see no good at all. So leisured American academics tell us that Iwo Jima was unnecessary, if not a racist campaign, that Hiroshima had little military value but instead was a strategic ploy to impress Stalin, and that the GI was racist, undisciplined, and reliant only on money and material largess.

There are two disturbing things about the current revisionism that transcend the human need to question orthodoxy. The first is the sheer hypocrisy of it all. Whatever mistakes and lapses committed by the Allies, they pale in comparison to the savagery of the Axis or the Communists. Post-facto critics never tell us what they would have done instead — lay off the German cities and send more ground troops into a pristine Third Reich; don’t bomb, but invade, an untouched Japan in 1946; keep out of WWII entirely; or in its aftermath invade the Soviet Union?

Lost also is any sense of small gratitude. A West German intellectual like Grass does not inform us that he was always free to migrate to East Germany to live in socialist splendor rather than remain unhappy in capitalist “subservience” in an American-protected West Germany — or that some readers of the New York Times who opposed Hitler might not enjoy lectures about their moral failings from someone who once fought for him. Such revisionists never ask whether they could have written so freely in the Third Reich, Tojo’s Japan, Mussolini’s Italy, Soviet Russia, Communist Eastern Europe — or today in such egalitarian utopias as China, Cuba, or Venezuela.

Second, revisionism requires knowledge of orthodoxy. One cannot dismiss Iwo Jima as an unnecessary sideshow or allege that Dresden was simple blood rage until one understands the tactical and strategic dilemmas of the age — the hope that wounded and lost B-29s might be saved by emergency fields on Iwo, or that the Russians wanted immediate help from the Allied air command to take the pressure off the eastern front in February 1945.

But again, most Americans never learned the standard narrative of War II — only what was wrong about it. Whereas it is salutary that an American 17-year-old knows something of the Japanese relocation ordered by liberals such as Earl Warren and FDR, or of the creation and the dropping of the atomic bomb by successive Democratic administrations, they might wish to examine what went on in Nanking, Baatan, Wake Island, Guadalcanal, Manila, or Manchuria — atrocities that their sensitive teachers are probably clueless about as well.

After all, this was a week in which thousands of the once-enslaved Dutch in Maastricht were protesting the visit of a president of the nation that once liberated their fathers, while thousands of neo-Nazis were back in the streets of Berlin. A Swedish EU official recently blamed the Second World War on "nationalistic pride and greed, and…international rivalry for wealth and power" — the new mantra that Hitler was merely confused or perhaps had some “issues” with his neighbors. Perhaps her own opportunistic nation that once profited (“greed”?) from the Third Reich itself was not somehow complicit in fueling the Holocaust.

How odd that Swedes and Spaniards who were either neutrals or pro-Nazi during World War II now so often lecture the United States not just about present morality but about the World War II past as well.

If there were any justice in the world, we would have the ability to transport our most severe critics across time and space to plop them down on Omaha Beach or put them in an overloaded B-29 taking off from Tinian, with the crew on amphetamines to keep awake for their 15-hour mission over Tokyo.

But alas, we cannot. Instead, the beneficiaries of those who sacrificed now ankle-bite their dead betters. Even more strangely, they have somehow convinced us that in their politically-correct hindsight, they could have done much better in World War II.

Yet from every indication of their own behavior over the last 30 years, we suspect that the generation who came of age in the 1960s would have not just have done far worse but failed entirely.

Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His website is victorhanson.com.

Posted by dondegr0 at 12:37 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 3 May 2005
Stepping It Up on Judges
Now Playing: Aren't we glad God is a Righteous Judge ? Many others sure aren't ...
Topic: Justice
May 02, 2005, 8:09 a.m.

Don Presidente

President Bush must step it up on judges.

“Some day, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day — accept this justice as a gift on my daughter's wedding day.” — Vito Corleone to Bonasera the Undertaker in The Godfather.

It is time for George W. Bush to call on those who owe a service to him. When John McCain came to the president and sought “justice” from the political insults of his enemies, Don Presidente granted his request and signed McCain-Feingold into law, despite his serious reservations with its legality. When Arlen Specter sought protection from the slights of his fellow Republicans, Don Presidente stepped into the Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania and backed Specter over his more conservative challenger, Pat Toomey, drawing the howls of Bush’s most ardent supporters. Many others have called on the kindness of the president for similar political favors, not to be disappointed. Early in his tenure as capo, he even reached out to the other families, appointing two of President Clinton’s holdover nominees to the federal courts of appeals.

And what does he have to show for these acts of kindness? Very little. Languishing in the Senate for the last four years are a group of highly qualified, top-notch nominees to the federal court, supported by a majority of U.S. senators but unable to receive an up-or-down vote. Fueled by ultra-liberal interest groups like Moveon.org and People for the American Way, Democrats have successfully blocked the majority of the Senate from exercising one of its most important constitutional functions, advising on and consenting to the president’s nominees to the federal court. Using the filibuster, a procedural device never before used to block a judicial nominee who would otherwise be confirmed by the Senate, Democrats in the Senate have prevented nearly 1/3 of the president’s nominees to the U.S. Courts of Appeals, the prestigious courts that sit in review of lower-court judgments. Because of obstruction by Democrats, President Bush has been the victim of the lowest confirmation rate for appellate-court judges in modern history.

And the situation may worsen before it improves. On the horizon is the possible retirement of one or even several Supreme Court justices. Democrats, bruised by over a decade of electoral losses in Congress, realize that their only real chance to govern is through the courts. So they will demand the appointment of Supreme Court justices who will continue the trend of judicial activism that has tied the hands of the elected branches of state and federal government on issues like the death penalty, marriage, and decency, and even protection of the homeland. The only problem with their approach is that they do not control the presidency and the commensurate power to appoint those justices. President Bush has sought just the opposite — judges who will not impose their personal political beliefs on society through their judicial decisions. The filibuster, then, is the Democrats’ last remaining hope to achieve their utopia of governance by judges.

Faced with this unprecedented obstruction, Republicans in the Senate have, until very recently, done little to respond. But Senate Republican leadership now appears ready to overcome the Democrats’ obstruction. Recently, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist proposed a change to Senate rules that would guarantee an up-or-down vote on the president’s blocked judges while at the same time preserving the Senate’s tradition of vigorous debate on each nominee. Frist and his Republican leadership have stepped up the pressure, both in public and privately, on their Republican colleagues to support the rule change — called the “constitutional option” by Republicans in light of its constitutional foundation in the Senate’s ability to establish its own rules of procedure.

Some Senate Republicans are wavering, if not openly opposing, support for the Republican plan. John McCain (R., Ariz.), motivated by fears that Democrats may someday control the presidency and the Senate, recently announced his opposition to the constitutional option. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) says he hasn’t made up his mind about how he would vote. Others, such as John Warner (R., Va.), Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.), and Susan Collins (R., Maine) remain publicly uncommitted, as Frist and company scramble to lock down the 51 votes needed to ensure the end of judicial filibusters.

Strangely silent in all of this is President Bush. Asked at his recent press conference, he expressed a modest “hope” that his “nominees get an up or down vote.” While the vice president has stated that he would vote to break a tie in the Senate if called upon to do so, the president has declined to weigh in further on Senate Republican efforts to end the filibuster, treating the filibuster issue as an internal Senate matter.

No one has more riding on Senate Republican leadership efforts to end Democrat obstruction than President Bush, and no one has a greater pulpit to make it happen. Confirmation of his judicial nominees is no more a purely internal Senate matter than congressional passage of Social Security reform, a subject on which the president is putting a full court public press. But while as much, if not more, of his legacy rides on the confirmation of his judicial selections, President Bush has been virtually mute. Maybe the president is working behind closed doors to shore up support for the Senate rule change, but it is time he did more publicly to support Senator Frist and Republican leadership. Perhaps a little old-fashioned arm twisting is in order. At a minimum, he should take to the stump to support Senator Frist’s proposal.

Laura Bush joked at this weekend’s White House Correspondents' Dinner that her mother-in-law Barbara was more like Don Corleone than the sweet grandmother everyone thinks she is. How about a little "like mother, like son" action? No one is suggesting that Senators McCain or Specter or those other wavering Republicans wake up with a horse head in their beds, but they might be reminded that the president supported them when they needed him most. President Bush should call on them to render to him this very important service.

Shannen W. Coffin, a Washington, D.C. attorney, is a former deputy assistant attorney general for the civil division of the U.S. Department of Justice. His wife, Casey, is not at all happy about his comparing the president to a fictional mobster, even in jest.


Posted by dondegr0 at 9:33 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 27 April 2005
President Bush an Evangelical ?
Now Playing: Mixing Christian beliefs & politics...
Topic: Christians

Tue Apr 26, 7:58 PM ET Op/Ed - William F. Buckley

By William F. Buckley Jr.

It is becoming an article of faith that President Bush not only is himself an evangelical conservative, but owes his election victory to evangelical conservatives. I'd guess that the psephologists have not done their homework on this latter point, and I doubt that they have materials at hand that would permit them to announce, say, that it was evangelical conservatives who gave the state of Ohio to Bush. How would you establish that Bush's appeal to evangelicals was critical? And how are you going to define evangelicals?

A sophisticated author at work on a book on the subject of the rise in the past 10 years of U.S. Christianity lists as tests of acceptable Christian positions in the evangelical community abortion and gay rights. "I am not an acceptable Christian," he concludes ruefully, "by applying those two standards."

Wilfred McClay, who is a learned senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., gave an arresting lecture in February called "The Evangelical Conservatism of George W. Bush; Or, How the Republicans Became Red." By this last crack McClay means to associate red with corporate political idealism -- for instance, the socialists and the communists (and the 1848 progressives, who chose the color red to distinguish themselves from the partisans of the existing orders, bland Whiters more or less content with the status quo).

And so to George Bush. McClay lists the energizing discontents of President Bush. "His 'compassionate conservatism,' his relatively favorable view of many federal social and educational programs, his sensitivity to issues of racial injustice and reconciliation, his softness on immigration issues, his promotion of the faith-based initiative, his concern with issues of international religious liberty, his African AIDS initiative, and above all, his enormously ambitious, even seemingly utopian, foreign-policy objectives -- (these) are positions that are best explained by the effects of his evangelical Christian convictions, and by his willingness to allow those convictions to trump more conventional conservative positions."

Mr. McClay darts off here to make different points, entirely engrossing: "It is strange that, of all the things liberals loathe about Bush, his religiousness seems to be at the top of the list. For it is precisely the seriousness of Bush's commitment to his evangelical faith that has made him more 'liberal,' in a certain sense, than many of his party brethren."

But it is high time to pause. The positions listed by McClay as most likely related to evangelicalism are not plausibly removed from a general political idealism that can be said to be rooted in Christian belief, but not exclusively so. The points listed in the Bush agenda are independently backed by many non-Christians, and indeed the most conspicuous of these, the ultra-Wilsonianism of Bush's second Inaugural Address, is most reliably traced not to Christian impulses, but to a non-Christian expression of them. It is the neo-cons, most frequently identified as Jewish in orientation, who are primarily identified with such policies -- so that we have arrived at exactly what, beyond that Jewish idealism and Christian idealism can and often do converge?

How otherwise to ingest the statement by Woodrow Wilson campaigning for the presidency in 1911? "A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about. ... America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the tenets of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture."

Whether Bush owes his election to any explicit connection with evangelical Christianity is sheer speculation, as noted. But a derivative point, made by Wilfred McClay and of quite general interest, is: What has happened to the political idealism associated with the liberals? He refers to Martin Peretz of The New Republic, whose views he summarizes. "Liberals, he argues, find themselves today where conservatives were a half-century ago, without ideas, without a vision of the good society, bookless, forced to feed on stale ideas from the '60s, and therefore, dying."

Let them die. Meanwhile, conservatives will keep our eyes on President Bush, and stop him before he campaigns for compulsory baptism.

Posted by dondegr0 at 9:19 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 14 May 2005 5:29 PM EDT
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Thursday, 21 April 2005
Working Harder
Now Playing: Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might ! (Ecclesiastes)
Topic: Culture
An Asian student confesses -- 'we work harder'

Larry Elder

April 21, 2005

Why do students from some racial or ethnic groups outperform students from other racial or ethnic groups?

Don't bother raising that question at California's Alhambra High School, where Asians make up 54 percent of the population and Latinos 38 percent. On the school's 2004 STAR Test, which measures student proficiency, Asian students' scores in English Language Arts for the 11th grade are 44 percent, with Latinos scoring 26 percent. In Mathematics, Asians in Algebra I scored 49 percent, and Latinos 12 percent. In Algebra II, Asians scored 55 percent, with Latinos at 19 percent. For Geometry, Asians scored 51 percent, and Latinos 11 percent.

Robin Zhou, a senior, wrote a school newspaper column called "Latinos Lag Behind in Academics." Zhou asked, "So why are our Advanced Placement classes 90 percent Asian? Two factors contribute significantly that influence students' academic progress from the first year of school. The first is cultural: many Asian parents, especially recent immigrants, push their children to move toward academic success, while Hispanic parents are well-meaning but less active. Since kids are concerned mainly with the present, little parental involvement often means they fail to realize that school is not an end in itself but a bridge to better things.

"Given that Asian students are often pushed harder and more consistently by their parents, it's not surprising that a performance gap already exists by middle school. . . . The second factor maintaining the performance gap appears around then, the deliberate segregation of previously uniform student bodies into white- and blue-collar castes."

For respectfully pointing out the elephant in the room, Zhou received threats. Some students -- and at least one teacher -- called him racist! Never mind that Zhou carefully wrote the article to avoid offense. "Using past scores as a measure," he carefully wrote, "are Hispanic students not pulling their weight? The answer is clearly no. To deny that the Hispanic student population as a whole lags behind its Asian counterpart would be ignoring the cold statistical truth. Is this suggesting that brown people cannot think on the level of white and yellow people? Absolutely not. [Emphasis added.] But the difference is real, and it needs to be acknowledged and explained before it can be erased."

Consider the plight of Scott Phelps, a teacher at Muir High School in Pasadena, Calif., for 12 years. Phelps posted an e-mail in a school district chat room -- later distributing it to his fellow teachers -- discussing recent scores of the school's students on the Academic Performance Index. He committed the politically incorrect sin of wondering why low socio-economic African-American students, as a group, have historically scored lower on standardized tests, and why many seemed to lack academic focus. "If you look at their scores and track them over the years, you will see that they're horrible," said Phelps. "I'm not singling out a group. I'm not saying that low test scores are caused by low socio-economic students, I'm saying that low scores and low socio-economic students are directly related."

Further, Phelps had the audacity to suggest that of the students who engage in disruptive behavior, black students are disproportionately involved. "Overwhelmingly," Phelps wrote, "the students whose behavior makes the hallways deafening, who yell out for the teacher and demand immediate attention in class, who cannot seem to stop chatting and are fascinated by each other and relationships but not with academics, in short, whose behavior saps the strength and energy of us that are at the front lines, are African American. . . . Eventually, someone in power will have the courage to say this publicly. . . . Class is something they do between passing periods, lunch or nutrition break, when they chase each other in the hallways, into classrooms, yelling at the top of their lungs."

The resulting uproar got Phelps suspended. The school board reinstated him only after town hall meetings in which parents and even some black students and teachers demanded that the popular and widely respected teacher return.

I have a friend who lives in mid-town Los Angeles. Years ago, he invited me to visit a small library at the corner of Olympic and Vermont, an area between the high-rises of downtown and Koreatown. It is about 70 percent Hispanic and 20 percent Asian. At around four-o'clock in the afternoon, outside the library, several Hispanic kids performed incredible tricks on their skateboards. They were jumping, spinning, twirling and showing off their considerable skills. My friend then said, "C'mon, Larry, let's go inside." Inside the library -- standing room only -- were Korean-American kids and their mothers. Not one Latino kid inside the library. Not one.

The diversity/inclusion/multicultural crowd wants not only equal rights. They want equal results. But results require hard work, sacrifice and discipline. Either that, or a really good government program.

?2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Posted by dondegr0 at 1:06 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 19 April 2005
Globalism & Its Effects
Now Playing: The interesting effects of the spread of American culture...
Topic: Culture
April 15, 2005, 10:23 a.m.

The Specter of McDonald’s
An object of bottomless hatred.

By Jonah Goldberg

EDITOR'S NOTE: McDonald's turns 50 today. Jonah Goldberg wrote on the hated company — and their great Big Macs — in the June 5, 2000, issue of National Review. It's reprinted here.

If you're bored — I mean really bored — you might fish out an old copy of The Communist Manifesto and try replacing the word "Communism" with "McDonald's." "A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of McDonald's. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this specter." This McDonald's Manifesto would at least be more readable than most of the dreck composed by the vast and powerful forces arrayed against the fast-food chain.

In fact, if you're anti-WTO, anti-America, anti-capitalism, anti-globalism, anti-biotech — pretty much anti- anything — it's likely that you view Ronald McDonald as your sworn enemy and that your most persuasive public arguments involve taking a bad word and putting a "Mc" in front of it. Signs denouncing "McGreed," "McPollution," and corporate "McDomination" are staples of left-wing protests everywhere. And, of course, here at home we're all accustomed to the complaints of welfare-state warriors who denounce so-called "McJobs," presumably because they think "job" is a bad word too.

It's more than name-calling. In the last year, franchises in Switzerland, England, Belgium, China, the United States, and — surprise! — France have faced protests, boycotts, ransackings, and even bombings. In the last five years, more than 50 countries have hosted such assaults on the Golden Arches.

An international coalition of Greek Communists, animal rightsers, farmers, unions, affluent anarchists, left-wing intellectuals, right-wing nationalists, Luddites, Chinese Communists, radical Pakistani Muslims, parochial separatists, and malcontents of a thousand other varieties have all declared one restaurant chain to be the locus of evil in the modern world. And yet that same chain is so popular it manages to open a new store somewhere in the world every 17 hours. Clearly, there is a conflict of visions here.

To be sure, a big part of it is that "anti-McDonald's" equals "anti-American" in many places, and America's unquestioned dominance puts a bee under some people's berets. This is especially the case in France, where McDonald's is the only thing short of pedophilia or boxed wine that is safe for everyone to hate. Indeed, if this weren't France, the extent of anti-Americanism there would be very disturbing. An anti-U.S. activist and author named Jose Bove is a French folk hero because he led a goon squad of angry farmers in dismantling a local McDonald's with crowbars. An angry judge gave Bove a whopping 20 days in jail. Politicians bravely denounce the company. Jacques Chirac, the French president, recently declared, "I am in complete solidarity with France's farm-workers, and I detest McDonald's food."

But anti-Americanism only partly accounts for the phenomenon. For example, protesters will often attack a Mickey D's even if the U.S. embassy is more convenient. When Breton separatists wanted to send a signal to Paris last month, they blew up a McDonald's, killing a 28-year-old breakfast-shift leader. (It was a mixed signal, to be sure, because McDonald's is even less popular in Paris than in Brittany.)

McDonald's-ism represents more than Americanism: The company long ago surpassed Coca-Cola and Nike as the true force of globalization. Political scientists constantly use McDonald's as a metaphor; The Economist, the worldwide tip sheet on global prosperity, uses a "Big Mac Index" to measure disparities in purchasing power around the globe; environmentalists spin conspiracy theories about the company's plot to create a "McWorld"; and anarchists just want to open a fresh can of whupass on the Hamburglar. Tom Friedman of the New York Times formulated his "Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention": No two nations with a McDonald's ever went to war with each other. (This was true for millennia, until the U.S.-led air war with Yugoslavia. Another first for Bill Clinton.)

But what does McDonald's-ism stand for, really? Well — to borrow a phrase from Burger King — it stands for "having it your way." McDonald's is perceived by its enemies as a plague-carrier, imposing the pestilence of Western consumer culture and low standards on every hamlet. The reality is exactly the opposite: McDonald's sprouts up naturally wherever there is enough economic oxygen to sustain it. As historian David Halberstam points out in The Fifties, McDonald's was a natural product of postwar American prosperity. Young families flocking to the suburbs — often with both parents working — wanted a fast, clean place where they could feed the kids affordable, high-quality meals, on the parents' own schedule. Anyone who has needed a quick coffee and one-handed meal, on the way to a 9 a.m. business meeting or parent-teacher conference, understands the vital role McDonald's plays for the typical worker. Indeed, for all the silliness about the company's exploiting women, the chain was an unsung hero in women's liberation — allowing overworked women an opportunity for a convenient meal. One of the company's first slogans was "Give mom a night off." This eventually became "You deserve a break today." That model hasn't changed. In the current issue of Foreign Affairs, Harvard China scholar James L. Watson makes a persuasive case that the success of McDonald's in China is dependent on similar economic changes: "As in other parts of East Asia, the startup date for McDonald's corresponds to the emergence of a new class of consumers with money to spend on family entertainment."

When Golden Arches go up, it's not the hoisting of an American flag, but rather a sign that a country is raising its own standards. McDonald's is the canary in the coal mine of economic success. Despite the fact that French farmers are the company's chief antagonists, France's 800 McDonald's buy 80 percent of their ingredients in France, sustaining 45,000 French beef producers. The same pattern obtains throughout most of the world.

In his essay, Watson argues that McDonald's is a barometer and accelerator of bourgeoisification in China. He points out that for all the complaints against the company's "cheap" standards, it maintains more reliably sanitary conditions than most indigenous Chinese eateries. Indeed, this points to the educational value of McDonald's. Watson reports that the fetish McDonald's makes of cleaning bathrooms has only had a salutary effect in the rest of China. Another social benefit was evident at the opening of the McDonald's in Hong Kong: Customers, in traditional style, swarmed the counter, screaming and thrusting their money toward the cashier. McDonald's appointed a young female "queue monitor" to coax the mob into a line. Watson credits McDonald's for the fact that middle- and upper-class customers in Hong Kong, and increasingly throughout China, have come to accept a wait-your-turn system instead of mobs. This may sadden traditionalists, but nostalgia for mobs is not a strong argument.

The most relentless criticism against McDonald's is that it is a profit-hungry multinational offering nothing but minimum-wage, dead-end jobs. Don't believe the hype. First, the "greedy" charge is an entertaining one, considering that the company's success is famously tied to its low profit margins. If profit equals greed, McDonald's is not an offender. Besides, low prices are surely a good thing for the world's poor.

Second, while there's nothing wrong with paying the minimum wage, the truth is that McDonald's is paying considerably higher than the minimum wage in most regions, and many franchises are now offering health and dental benefits. The average manager in a company-owned McDonald's starts in the mid 30s. As for dead-end jobs, with one-eighth of the American work force having worked for a McDonald's at some point, the company has rightly been called America's best job-training program. Young people are taught cleanliness, punctuality, and basic business skills. Over half of the company's middle and senior management started as hourly workers.

Yes, McDonald's does things to anger environmentalists, but who doesn't? Their real problem is with development of any kind, and by beating up on Mickey D's they blame one kind of flower instead of the fertile garden that produces it.

At its core, anti-McDonald's fervor is less an instance of anti-Americanism or anti-globalism than a form of elitist nostalgia. Bove, the French activist, understands this. He says, "McDonald's is a symbol of industrial food production. Whether such products are American or French, the effect is the same: the destruction of traditional farming, different cultures and ways of life." He's confused, but he's honest. As Watson points out, if you wanted to try real industrial and unsafe food, you should have visited China before it got McDonald's. Today, Watson says, China offers vastly better high- and low-end eating than it did even ten years ago. When people want to get rid of McDonald's, they want to turn back the clock.

When I lived briefly in Prague, I saw this phenomenon first hand. The expats there were livid that a McDonald's was coming to town. They very much wanted Prague to maintain its sealed-in-amber charm, complete with authentic lousy food. But I remember a Czech friend's outrage at the idea that McDonald's should be kept out. "You try living without hot, cheap, safe food when you want it, for forty years. It's easy for them to say. We don't want to be Prague-Land for young Americans. We want to be a real country." A real country, like America — where there is one McDonald's franchise for every 30,000 people (the exact ratio the Founders intended for congressional representation). Around the world, the company has more than 25,000 outlets in 119 countries. Clearly McDonald's is giving people something they want. And, one last thing in their defense: Big Macs taste really good.

Posted by dondegr0 at 12:12 PM EDT
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