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Memorable Reunions

Veterans remembered -- and abandoned. Dems need new playbook. Down to earth. Ranch reflections. Bowman and Batman: a treatise. Paul DeSisto. Plus more.

8.21.08

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REUNION AND REMEMBRANCE
Re: Mark Tooley's Over Here, Over There:

In 1990 I covered a reunion of the Army's famous Rainbow Division, which served with distinction in both world wars, and was made famous by a fanciful Jimmy Cagney movie called The Fighting 69th. Some of those veterans entered federal service via the Ohio National Guard, and I interviewed a few of them.

One man, who clearly did not like reporters, sat alone in a corner while his comrades ate lunch. As he talked to me he grew angry, not at me, but at the way events unfolded at a pair of Ohio State Fairs.

"When we were first federalized they formed us up and took us to the state fair," he said. "We got a lot of applause; girls kissed us, people couldn't do enough for us." He served in France, and came home after the war ended. After a long pause he told me the rest of it. "A bunch of us went to the fair again in 1920. We went in uniform and people turned away from us. We embarrassed them." Sixty-nine years later, his pain was still audible.

There was no way to verify the story. I've lost the notes I made then, and 18 years later I don't even recall his name. But I believed him then and I believe him now. He had no reason to lie.

The story is moving under any circumstances, but its effect was amplified by another reunion I'd witnessed eight weeks earlier, at Kent State University. It was the 20th anniversary of the 1970 anti-war demonstration on that school's campus, which ended with the death of four students, now martyrs to any cause any left wingnut deems important. Its "theme" was reunion and reconciliation, and its star performer was former Senator George McGovern. At a press conference before the ceremonies began, a reporter was gauche enough to ask if any member of the Ohio National Guard had been invited to participate in this eventful reconciliation. The answer was no, of course. To this day, I regret not asking McGovern if events that took place in Cambodia after America left had changed his mind about America's Southeast Asian experience and his opposition to it.

I'm glad Mr. Buckles enjoys the respect and attention he deserves. I hope it comforts some of the men who, after doing their duty, didn't get the aid and comfort they merited. After the danger has passed most soldiers are ignored or forgotten or dismissed as old news; that's tragic. May it not happen to those coming home from the Middle East.
-- Edmund Dantes

DNC DISASTER
Re: Lisa Fabrizio's All-American Otherness:

Will the real Barack Barry Hussein Soetoro Obama please stand up?
-- Gretchen L. Chellson
Alexandria, Virginia

Certainly, McCain leaves much to be desired but Obama is not a viable alternative. Aside from his obvious lack of qualifications, what we know of his background and past associations is enough to steer clear of this man, just as we want nothing to do with the Clintons.

We need a true patriot who will stand up for true Americans. Democrats always take the stage with empty-suit opportunists. Their "vision" for making America great is a lie. Nothing about them makes me feel secure that their intention is to do something that will benefit this country or its citizens, but rather it's about the consolidation of power by taking it away from the people through taxation and regulation and to continue to expand a bloated government (their version of creating jobs). The Democrats are the "actors" and the script is the same; use race, religion and sex to create resentment to divide the nation, be vague where they stand on the issues, promise lots of hand-outs and rely on the corrupt news media to help dupe the masses. We've seen this movie already and most are not buying it. For those that do, read about what goes on in the U.K. They have so many laws and regulations governing behavior it's hard to get through the day without being charged with discrimination or a hate crime. The taxes are just stifling, crime, including rape, is rampant and if you attempt to take it upon yourself to protect your family or your property from criminals you're likely to be arrested yourself for violating their rights. And most horrifyingly, sharia law is being tolerated and even considered for adoption by the Archbishop of Canterbury. True British folks shocked at what's happened to their country who have the means are looking to get out. (I don't want to sound too melodramatic but that's our destiny if we allow it to happen.)
-- John Nelson
Hebron, Connecticut

Too bad that Rielle Hunter wasn't tapped to create that film on Barack Obama's "otherness." She has first-hand knowledge of one of the forms such a commodity can take.

At least Hunter could get off the dole of John Edwards' friends temporarily.
-- Evelyn Leinbach
Colorado

When Robert Stacy McCain and Liz Fabrizio are poking fun at Obama you know he's in trouble despite all the help from the MSM. Don't be fooled by the polls or the media propaganda Obama is in trouble and it has absolutely nothing to do with race. Obama is a bad candidate and Hillary's supporters are going to think twice before casting a vote for audacious change when 2012 isn't that far away.
-- LCDR (Chaplain) Michael Tomlinson
1st Battalion 2d Marines
Camp Habbaniyah, Iraq

CLEAR SAILING
Re: Robert Stacy McCain's Overrated Obama:

The messiah has no miracles and his disciples are morons. The only thing that will make Obama President is if conservatives bury their heads in their "principles" and choose the path that gave us the abominable Reid/Pelosi Congress, McCain's health becomes and issue or he makes a major mistake like selecting a pro-abortion Veep. Could it be 1972 all over again -- hope so and hope McCain has coat tails like Bush in 2004.
-- Michael Tomlinson
Camp Habbaniyah, Iraq

Bravo, Stacy McCain! I look forward to a follow-up analysis of Obama's spastic arm-waving today, as he said, "Everyone [I love the anonymous "everyone" quotes of desperation] I meet is saying the Republicans are goin' to attack your character -- they gonna be swift-boatin' you..." Well, Obama had better review the contents of Unfit for Command and consider that we have yet to see John Kerry's military records, as refutation.

B.O. is beginning to sweat. (That would make a nice bumper sticker) As my sainted, if irreverent mama used to say, he is as nervous as a pregnant fox in a forest fire.

Sometime back I wrote in to predict that McCain would wait until August to say "OK, I've had enough -- no more Mr. Nice Guy" and he would begin skewering and serving Barry up "en brochette" at every opportunity. If he had hammered him from the start, he would have validated the curmudgeon label.

This campaign may not be a snoozer, after all. My politically challenged husband commented today after hearing the "Um, ah, uh,Y'ow," montage Rush has been airing. "They say he does well on a teleprompter, wonder why he can't speak extemporaneously?" I said "For the same reason Charlie McCarthy was not a solo act, Hal." Remarks like that land with a thud on my poor husband. He said "How could he, Charlie McCarthy was a dummy...." Exactly.

Funny McCain would use the word meltdown in describing Muskie's fall. Muskie swore it was a snowflake melting on his cheek. But those macho ruffian reporter guys said he had teared up in defending his wife's honor. Lordy, how things change! Bill Clinton must have squirted his eyes with pepper spray before every performance, to ensure his appearing as though on the brink of bawling. I could never witness it without thinking of Nelson Eddy ' "Sweetest little feller, ev'rybody knows, Don't know what to call him but he's mighty lachrymose..."

Meanwhile, I would like to thank all your readers' kind words in putting up with my nonsense. Girls just wanna have fun. Even girls who just turned 81 last week.

Here's an idea. TAS charters a cruise ship to take us all on a vacation right after the election. I'd be keel-hauled before we got out of port. My brother had it right. He said my tombstone will read "She Never Had an Unexpressed Thought"
-- Diane Smith

You couldn't be more off the mark. Barry "Lonesome " Rhodes is the greatest thing since sliced bread!
-- Heather Tarnowski
Minneapolis, Minnesota

SEANCE NEEDED
Re: Quin Hillyer's Reagan in the Sky:

All you need to know about the difference between Ronald Reagan and the pitiful excuses of leadership who tried to walk in his footsteps is the line "Reagan would not surrender essential principle." I can't think of one prominent person today who qualifies for that description. And don't the bad guys know it -- they worked out years ago that they have nothing to fear from the current infestation of poltroons and windbags. Ronald Reagan was on the receiving end of plenty of insults in his life but not even his worst enemy ever called him that. They didn't have the nerve. A lesson forgotten by far too many, far too soon.
-- Christopher Holland
Canberra, Australia

DYSTOPIA IN ASIA
Re: Doug Bandow's The North Korean Prison State:

If George Orwell could write a sequel, 2084, it might be about such a country. It might feature people like Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama.

It would discuss the incrementalism of democrat hegemony. The incarceration began with the incitement of class warfare; then the democrats' unrelenting attacks on Christianity and the Judeo-Christian system of ethics; the elevation of government to divine status as the solver of all problems and giver of life.

Next of course will come the institutionalization of dissenters. Not jail, no. But rather, since the government and those who run it are so perfect and selfless, anyone who disbelieves must be mentally deficient and so put under care for their own well being.

And so may well go America...
-- Jay Molyneaux
North Carolina

For those who worry about North Korea, Democrats have the answer -- Barack Obama. He'll make it better just by being who he is if he's in the White House. No need to worry about gulags and religious persecution everything is better with Obamanation even if it stays the same or gets worse. With his syrupy words he'll kiss the boo-boos bye, bye and make the bad men go away. Three cheers for uh, hum, ah...audacious hope for change and other BS!
-- Michael Tomlinson
Camp Habbaniyah, Iraq

TAKE BACK THE KNIGHT
Re: James Bowman's "The Dark Knight":

While I am very impressed and awed by Mr. Bowman's obviously scholarly mind and well-informed thinking, I am afraid that I must frankly disagree with his conclusions. I believe that he completely misread and misinterpreted the film, and has thus robbed himself of the true message that the film is offering. Without being too convoluted, I wish to offer a small rebuttal to his well-written (yet incorrect) criticism of The Dark Knight.

I find Mr. Bowman's commendation of "evil for evil's sake" to be quite odd. I especial find odd his assertion that this type of evil is somehow "post-modern." "Evil for evil's sake" is the furthest thing from post-modern views of evil (and morality in general). The post-modern view contains a severe blurring of good and evil until they are indistinguishable and finally lost: "Well, the bad guys have good motives (or understandable motives), so are they really bad? Well, the good guys have bad motives, so are they really good? Can we really know what good and evil is?" That is post-modern morality, i.e., the loss of morality. "Evil for evil's sake" is in direct conflict with post-modern morality, because post-modernism asserts that motivations complicate the moral; but if it is "evil for evil's sake," and thus (as Mr. Bowman points out) motivation is removed, then post-modern morality dies out. There is no complication -- the thing is just evil; there is no way to explain it away.

Contrary to what Mr. Bowman says, characters like the Joker and the killer from No Country for Old Men do not reinforce post-modern morality. Direct and blatant demonstrations of evil are actually breaths of fresh air in the post-modern smog. Specifically in regards to the Joker, here we have a character whose evil has no motivation other than itself, and thus there is no way to sympathize with his evil, because we see it as strictly evil. Villains like the Joker are refreshing in a world that wants to sympathize with evil to the point where we have trouble recognizing evil at all.

In addition, Mr. Bowman's statement that "evil for evil's sake" makes evil some kind of "fashion statement," and thus makes it "glamorous," is completely erroneous. First of all, "evil for evil's sake" does not make evil fashionable; it makes it satanic. John Milton expressed as much in Paradise Lost when Satan proclaimed, "Evil be thou my Good." "Evil for evil's sake" is not a lesser kind of evil; it is the "purest" evil, the truest evil, the most complete absence of anything good. Second of all, there is nothing "glamorous" about "evil for evil's sake." There is nothing glamorous about Hannibal Lector or the Joker, aside from their momentary deceptive charm. In the end, however, they are always revealed as pure moral negations, disturbing demons wrapped in human flesh.

Mr. Bowman's analysis of the Joker is (unfortunately) horribly off. For starters, his claim that the Joker is out to "seduce the best of us" is just plain incorrect. To say that the Joker "seduces" anyone is a misnomer. The Joker was not out to "seduce" people to be as evil as himself; he was out to prove that people already were as evil as himself. "I'm not a monster," he says to Batman, "I'm just ahead of the curve." The Joker is not a seducer; he is an unholy prophet, an "agent of chaos" as he himself put it. He is not out to win an argument; he is out to demonstrate that he has already won the argument.

Furthermore, Mr. Bowman perfectly captured the Joker's gospel: "both heroism and villainy grow out of reason and law and civilization, and that, therefore, these things are mere shams and subterfuges masking a Hobbesian reality devoid even of honor, in which man is a wolf to man and there is nothing to believe in but the individual Nietzschean will, either to good or evil." I thunderously applaud Mr. Bowman's analysis here; he nailed the Joker's gospel on the head. Unfortunately, he strays far off course when he claims that that is the message of The Dark Knight. I was shocked at such a conclusion. Had Mr. Bowman (that illustrious scholar) not watched the film? Did he not realize that the Joker's gospel was the very thing that Batman was embattled against? Could he not recognize that Batman was the direct antithesis to the Joker? That Batman believes "these people [of Gotham] are ready to believe in good," good that is more fundamental than law, reason, or civilization? Could he not see that Batman's gospel is the direct opposite of the Joker's, and that it is his gospel that wins in the end?

Actually, Batman's gospel is entirely absent from Mr. Bowman's analysis, the gospel that says that heroism and villainy grow out of our choices, choices that lead us towards real good or real evil. It is this gospel that triumph in the movie. In the climax with the Joker in the film, the Joker's final scheme is to get two groups of people to kill the other in order to save themselves. If they did so, the Joker would have proven that, indeed, all reality really does boil down to the individual nihilistic will that does what it wants. However, the people choose the good, choose not to kill each other, and the Joker is rebuffed. His gospel is defeated. True, abiding morality wins. The Joker fancied himself as the only sane man (notice in the film his anger at being called "crazy" or a "freak") and that all others are the fools ("Their moral codes," he tells Batman, "are a bad joke"). In the end, however, he has lost the battle for Gotham's soul, and Batman tells him, "You're alone." Mr. Bowman's assertion that the Joker is a glamorous, "villainous hero" whose gospel is the film's message is completely untrue. He went wrong when he assumed that the films core was "how the hero and the villain are really just two sides of the same coin." That issue is never once mentioned or addressed in the film. Instead, the film deals with choice: the choice to do real good or real evil, and whether or not good and evil exists and therefore whether or not such a choice exists. The Joker claims no morality, and thus no real choice; Batman claims morality, and reaffirms choice. In the end, Batman is proven right.

There are a few minor, yet still serious grievances in Mr. Bowman's piece that I must address. His assertion that The Dark Knight is "strictly a comic book movie" misses the scope of Director Christopher Nolan's vision. Mr. Nolan's intention (which I believe that he succeeded in) was to completely avoid the stereotype of "a comic book movie," to avoid a "childish fantasy...in which anything can happen." Perhaps I can understand why Mr. Bowman so grossly misjudged the film: he was looking at it through the wrong lenses. Mr. Nolan asked that everyone remove the lenses of the "comic book movie" and to actually take the film seriously because he was going to take it seriously. Perhaps if Mr. Bowman had done this, he could have better understood the film. For now, his claims upon the films "preposterousness" and outlandishness are the only gross exaggerations present.

Mr. Bowman's assertion that other characters besides the main ones merely serve to "contribute to the body count" is absurd. Equally absurd is his claim that their death's are "faceless, anonymous." I am afraid that the character of Rachel Dawes cries out against this claim. Her death most certainly was not faceless and anonymous, nor did it merely add to the body count, nor was her death "comic or spectacular." Mr. Bowman does a grave disservice to Mr. Nolan's ability to not waste characters. Every death (or seeming death) is a punch in the gut, a disturbing drama, a rude awakening to the question of, "What would I do if I was given the choice?"

As a literary student, I must call a personal foul over Mr. Bowman's assertion that "the measure of the seriousness of any dramatic work is whether it takes death seriously." I find this to be a gross simplification. Are there not other themes for a dramatic work to take seriously besides death? What about choice (the theme of The Dark Knight)? Or honor? Or love? Or justice? Or good and evil? Or even seriousness itself? There is much, much more to drama than merely death.

I also must (for the sake of literature) heartily disagree with Mr. Bowman that "the reality of the Homeric epic is conveyed by the fact that those who are its heroes do die." This is false. Achilles may have died in The Iliad, but Odysseus did not, nor did he die in The Odyssey. Virgil did not kill Aeneas in The Aeneads; and Nolan does not kill Batman. The hero lives on, surrounded by the consequences of his own choices, the choices of others, and the choices of the gods.

I would appreciate it greatly, Mr. Editor, if it was made clear that I mean Mr. Bowman no disrespect. I am quite sure that I will never reach his scholarly heights of intellect. However, I do sincerely believe that he was wrong on the previous counts, and that his errors have done himself a serious injustice, robbing him of the true potential of a film that asserts the reality of true evil, confirms the reality and power of choice, and digs deep into what it truly means to be "heroic."

Your humble servant,
-- Jonathan Vowell

MOROCAN MISAPPREHENSION
Re: Col. D. Moroco's letter (under "On Target") in Reader Mail's Right-Wing Cotton Candy:

One of the easiest mistakes people can make is to get their news from the mainstream media, e.g. major network news, The New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, etc. Otherwise why would anybody hold the notion that U.S. manufacturing is in decline? "In fact U.S. industry continues to produce a greater share of industrial value added than any country in the world, and it has been growing every year." (Prof. Michael Pettis of Columbia and Peking Universities. Do an "Ask" search under "U.S. Industrial Production" and read the whole article.) But apparently Col. Moroco is doing just that, as evidenced by his remarks about our not having a "surge" capacity in industry, and that laissez faire economic and free trade are discredited. Nonsense; none of the data when interpreted honestly support that assertion That's why, with 6% of world population we produce 20% of the dollar value of the world's manufactured goods.

As to the "desolation" in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, give credit, or blame, where it is due. For starters, try tax-crazed politicians in hock to state employees unions and labor union bosses. Add in some co-opting of the tax eaters and cheap attacks on the revenue producers and you have a good recipe for economic stagnation...sort of like existed during the Great Depression with its sky-high tariffs and government assault on bankers and utility companies.

The principal objective for domestic industrial capacity is NOT to meet national defense needs, colonel. It's one element of national economy that enables it citizens to improve their lives and raise their families. National security is but one (essential) capability derived from such an economy.

One of the most incompetent administrations in history? How's that? Under Clinton defense's share of GDP fell from 5.5% to 3%, as old Bill let the nation take a break from history. Under Bush, excluding Iraq and Afghanistan, it's risen to 4% (Heritage Foundation). But Moroco blames Bush. Eight million new jobs created between 2003 and 2007. Twenty quarters of positive GDP growth. Oh, gasoline prices are high, and it's all because Bush drove the dollar down? No, the Federal Reserve, answerable to congress, let the dollar fall. As to our "craven, corrupt, overpaid incompetent CEOs," does Colonel Moroco means the ones leading the oil majors to "obscene" profits. Or are these profits the result of low oil supplies artificially induced by politicians banning drilling in face of rising demand?

One final thing, as I know this letter is much too long: I'm sick and tired of people bashing this president. When the pantywaists and the intellectuals were screaming caution after September 11th Bush did the resolute thing, the manly thing, and acted. Despite the cackling and hectoring of the elitists who hate America and the second-guessing of snot-nosed senators who want us to lose this war he has held firm and fought the good fight. Yeah, sure, he's made mistakes, but he's learned, e.g. the "surge" in Iraq, which, by the way, has succeeded with only half the troops that General Shinseki said were needed (see Col. Moroco's Spectator letter of 3 July 2007, under "Nails on the Head"). Even now, with all the caterwauling about our "weak" response to Russia's adventure in Georgia we're signing missile defense agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic. It's been ten whole days! Give the guy a minute, dammit!
-- Paul DeSisto, CFA
(Lt Col. USAF, Ret.)

Colonel Moroco, with all due respect, stop talking about tariffs. You want to talk about the corporations outsourcing labor because we cannot have a 'level' playing field without protective tariffs. I would say 'let's give that a try' just so you can watch it fail, but the truth is we tried that a few decades back, and it took a bad recession and turned it into a ten year long depression. You talk about the ruins that are Pennsylvania and Ohio. I counter with the blooming Tennessee, Texas, and other Right to Work states. You rant about companies moving their jobs overseas and do you think this is because the 'CEOs' are just unpatriotic, mean, and incompetent?

Well, you're wrong. Everything else you talked about in your response is 100% correct. Energy is power. Our reaction to Russia has been anemic at best. Our military has been gutted. But your economic statements are just flat out wrong. We can still build nuclear reactors. The Navy builds several every year, and we have the natural talent pool necessary to build more if we choose to do so. We have plenty of surge capability in our industry, it just needs a reason to be used. As for laissez faire economy failure...what laissez faire economy? Our economy spends as much as $500 billion dollars (yeah, that's a b) to comply with the tax code. The other regulations, and these are just Federal, cost our economy as much as a trillion or more, it's almost impossible to estimate. A trillion dollars, Colonel. Wasted on government regulations in a supposed laissez faire economy?

There is an estimated $14 trillion dollars in off-shore tax shelters, what's that doing to our economy? Nothing. Just imagine if we could pull that back in, think it might make a difference? Why is so much money off-shore? Because those who earned it think they should keep it and not send it up to Feds. Want to know why companies send work off-shore? Because they don't have to pay a 20% surcharge on every worker. Then they can avoid the second highest tax rate in the industrialized world. They don't have to fight over-bearing unions making them pay 10 people at 80 grand to do what they could pay 4 people at 60 grand to do. They go and they find people who had parents sacrifice for a real education and so they understand the value of hard work, rather than a bunch of barely competent college grads expecting even higher paychecks while refusing to actually show any loyalty to the company, or do the work necessary to succeed on their own. And I should know, I work with (or have worked) with people just like that. They don't have spend millions satisfying the environment lobby or meeting onerous and unnecessary environmental regulations.

Want to know why we haven't had any new nuclear reactors or oil refineries in three decades? Want to know why we're 70% dependant on foreign oil? Want to know why companies seek employers and investments outside the US? The answer is all the same: government.

You want a better economy? Get government out. Want a better life? Lower your government. Government involvement hasn't worked in over five thousand years. I don't see any reason why the latest 'crises' that government caused is going to get solved by government. Any government.

Note: Some of this is exaggeration, none of it is exactly fact-checked. The only two figures I know for a fact are accurate are the $500 billion and $14 trillion mentioned above. See www.fairtax.org for more information.
-- Charles Campbell
Austin, Texas

IF ONLY
Re: Jeffrey Lord's Batman and Rush: Why McCain Will Win:

I wish that were true. But have you taken a close look at the under 35's, whom Obama may bring out in droves? They are being brought up, it seems, to believe that all behavior is relative, that all actions are equal, if it is based on raising self-esteem, that they would save a pet's life before a human, that we're all alike and that the melting pot doesn't blend us into Americans, rather, has us being separate diverse ethnic blobs that happen to meet in America, loyal to their own country. These are the kids who are taught not to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance if it offends them or their parents, assuming it's even allowed in their schools anymore, and that grades don't count, or winning and losing, rather, we're all alike and as long as we "Try" we should be rewarded.

If the younger generation, especially the non-voting (up to now) 18 to 25's, if they get out there and vote, than the cowboys will lose, and Karl Marx will win. After all, we're not allowed to be cowboys, they picked on the poor Indians, genocided them, and killed all of those poor buffalo. And, even worse, they didn't let the ladies live the saddle-sore life of no bathing and eating hardtack and fighting the elements, so they were really bad discriminators. I shudder to think what may be in today's politically correct textbooks.

My main point is: I wish you were right, but you're looking at a class of Americans that is rapidly disappearing, being replaced by those brainwashed by the PC's, the worst internal enemies of America, those who re-write history and make us feel bad about being the best country in the world.
-- Stacey Greene

Two points:

First, Batman would be an awesome president, probably one of the best we could ever have.

Second, I disagree that McCain is a shoo-in. It seems that the younger generations of today are exceptional in both their stupidity and their liberal self-righteousness. They will elect the Obamessiah.
-- Owen Sayers

FLORIDA KEY
Re: Larry Thornberry's Orange Blossom Politics:

Check out what happens if McCain wins Michigan and Minnesota (currently 3.5 and 2 pts. in favor of Obama). That's 28 EV's vs. 27 for Florida. So it is possible.
-- James Sibold

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