"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Where's the ACLU when you need them?

That's a trick question, of course; nobody in America really needs the ACLU, as they've become the inverse of a protector of civil liberties (much like Canada's Human Rights Commissions only defend the rights of particular groups of humans). However, this recent story about a public school in Minnesota that operates suspiciously like a religious academy would seem to be perfect grist for their ever-griding mill of justice. All the ingredients for righteous indignation are there: it's a school funded by taxpayers, yet it has daily prayers, a religious curriculum, only serves certain kinds of theologically appropriate foods, and doesn't even fly an American flag as public schools should. I'd wager the contents of my IRA that if this school were operated by any Christian (or Jewish) denomination, the ACLU would be storming Minnesota's legal ramparts, subpoenas blazing away with both barrels. Yet the only person reporting about this is an intrepid local journalist to whom this whole arrangement smells a little funny. Could it be that this school has skated under the radar because its curriculum is Muslim, and groups like the ACLU - so used to labeling this or that association 'phobic' about something - are terrified of getting hammered as Islamophobes? Apart from a curriculum that's most unsecular, the school also has some officials who are acting a little strangely in light of this new attention. Its principal wouldn't let the reporter on the school grounds for an interview, using 'statewide testing' as an excuse; but those tests were weeks away. When the reporter pointed this out, further phone calls went unreturned. And apparently the reason why the American flag hasn't flown outside this school for over five years is that no one among the faculty could figure out how to operate the flag pole (this may say something about the cultural attitude taught at this school; but if I were a parent, I'd be a little concerned that my child was getting educated by teachers who can't figure out how to pull a lanyard up and down. Wait, I am a parent. Therefore, when I start school-shopping, basic knot-tying skills will be at the top of my list of requirements). This academy has also operated with startlingly little oversight from its district, visited only a handful of times in the years since it opened. Now, this is not to say that something nefarious is going on behind its doors, but at the very least it's violating the church-state separation that's been used to beat up Christians who want to do things like hold voluntary prayers before football games and deserves to be investigated for what it's doing with taxpayers' money. I anxiously await the promise of just such an investigation from the ACLU, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and all other professional pot-stirrers.

In Iraq news, Michael Yon has an excellent new column out that, among other things, argues for even more troops precisely because we've been doing so well lately with the ones we have. An interesting argument which even the war's most ardent supporters will never dare propose. He also parses the proposition that there's no purely military solution to the insurgency, along with the notion that members of Awakening movement are simply rent-a-cops who would gladly fight for whoever's offering the most money. Michael Yon is a remarkable individual; in some ways, he's like John McCain, staking his whole future and reputation on success in Iraq. In many ways, however, he's better: he's not running for office or any other sort of public reward. All the money he makes from selling the pictures he's taken or his recent book go back to funding his front-line reporting. At great risk to himself and for virtually nothing in the way of profits or accolades, he's pushing for our continued presence there because he believes it's the right thing to do for both countries. His reporting has taken him across the entire battlefield many different times, and he may well be the civilian most well-informed about this conflict anywhere. Should he start recommending we throw in the towel, I'd listen; until then, much of the Beltway would do well to listen to his arguments against just that.

On to something funnier: the economy. I recently bought a couple of books on economic matters, and low and behold the American economy started to wobble, so I decided to put these tomes on the top of my reading list. Both are by one of my favorite social commentators, P.J. O'Rourke, a man who is one of the most hysterical and insightful modern pundits I've had the pleasure to read. The first is Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics, and is classic O'Rourke journalism: he goes to various countries to find out "why some prosper, and others just suck." The second, which I will commence immediately upon finishing the first, is On The Wealth Of Nations, a commentary on Adam Smith's groundbreaking work that O'Rourke reads so you don't have to. He's a writer with a conservative/libertarian streak, but unlike Ann Coulter or Bill O'Reilly, he can make powerful arguments without using humor that has all the subtlety of a prison shank. If the economy's getting you down, give these a try and let P.J. help you laugh all the way to the bank.

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