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November 21, 2008

A Few Good Reads

Patrick, in Am Spec:

The preeminent position of legalized abortion in any catalog of national blemishes cannot be denied. In James M. Kushiner's angry summary, "Roe v. Wade, like Dred Scott, and slavery, is a contradicting of the constitution of the organism in which it thrives." Kushiner is right and Kmiec is wrong, which is why I question the practicality of federalist solutions to the rift in conservatism.

Bookworm proposes a neo-libertarian approach to rebuilding the Republican brand, with local governments doing a lot more, national government doing a lot less, and social issues quarantined because they play out on at least fifty small stages rather than on one large one.

Another favorite blogger put the challenge similarly: "Conservatives would do well to frame the debate in a way that both educates the public and focuses on what Congress and the President actually do," she wrote, in the apparent hope that with the federal government "out of the business of legislating personal and sexual morality," conservatives can argue questions about abortion and gay marriage as "freedom issues" while holding fast against the kind of one-size-fits-all thinking that looks to the Supreme Court for social policy.

But emphasis on smaller government will not by itself resolve the tension between militant and conciliatory wings of the conservative movement, not with abortion enshrined as the status quo in too many precincts and a self-consciously progressive administration coming to power. Another commentator has it more nearly right, I think, in ignoring intramural differences to spotlight people who are not socially conservative themselves, but trust the rest of us to keep the home fires burning.

We live in an "ambiguously Christian Babylon" (the phrase comes from Fr. Richard John Neuhaus), so trying to stifle or reframe abortion talk amounts to a dereliction of duty. It was not pro-life activism that took abortion to the Supreme Court, or convinced a majority of the justices to look more to King Herod than to Pontius Pilate for precedent in deciding Roe v. Wade.

Apart from its moral weight, the pro-life point of view also serves as a useful proxy for other conservative positions, winning allies of the kind who say things like "Look, if I were playing the Wishing Game, I might suggest that conservative judges give a pass to Roe v. Wade (just to not upset the political applecart) while ruling conservatively on every other issue. But I'm not playing the Wishing Game. In reality, judges who favor Roe v. Wade favor just about every other example of liberal judicial legislating, and judges who are against Roe v. Wade are against every other example of liberal judicial legislating."

There is more than a hint of truth in that observation. It should also be noted that if reframing arguments is a prerequisite for conservative victory in subsequent elections, then reframing ought to proceed on our own terms rather than those of the progressive Left. We could start by arguing that the protection of human life at its most vulnerable is never a matter of "legislating morality," because the state has no business mandating good behavior, but compelling reasons to curb suicidal behavior.

Anyone who needs a refresher on the difference between incentives and disincentives might look to the Bill of Rights, where imperatives ("shall make no law," "shall not be infringed," "shall not be construed to deny or disparage") function more like guardrails than like harnesses. Surely Sarah from Alaska is not the only conservative who understands that.

I understand all of this. I wonder if Patrick (and others) understand our points? None of this matters if you can't get your man elected or can't get your nominees past the filibuster. In the end, it becomes a numbers game and tilting at windmills may win you the admiration of your ideological adherents but it doesn't reverse precedents.

There is something to be said for not allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. The great evil of Roe is that it prevented a national conversation which should have been held. What many prolifers don't seem to understand is that some of us are trying to ensure that that conversation takes place. They might be surprised what happens, should that ever come to pass. I have faith in my fellow Americans.

As do, oddly enough, the French in Afghanstan. As Jules Crittenden relates, they like us... they really like us! Sacre bleu!

Here we discover America as it is often depicted : their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by promiscuity and the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley. Honor, motherland - everything here reminds of that : the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the post parcels. Even if recruits often originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner. Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location : books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. in such way that every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission. And that is a first shock to our preconceptions : the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all his attention.

And they are impressive warriors! We have not come across bad ones, as strange at it may seem to you when you know how critical French people can be. Even if some of them are a bit on the heavy side, all of them provide us everyday with lessons in infantry know-how. Beyond the wearing of a combat kit that never seem to discomfort them (helmet strap, helmet, combat goggles, rifles etc.) the long hours of watch at the outpost never seem to annoy them in the slightest. On the one square meter wooden tower above the perimeter wall they stand the five consecutive hours in full battle rattle and night vision goggles on top, their sight unmoving in the directions of likely danger. No distractions, no pauses, they are like statues nights and days. At night, all movements are performed in the dark - only a handful of subdued red lights indicate the occasional presence of a soldier on the move. Same with the vehicles whose lights are covered - everything happens in pitch dark even filling the fuel tanks with the Japy pump.

And combat ? If you have seen Rambo you have seen it all - always coming to the rescue when one of our teams gets in trouble, and always in the shortest delay. That is one of their tricks : they switch from T-shirt and sandals to combat ready in three minutes. Arriving in contact with the enemy, the way they fight is simple and disconcerting : they just charge ! They disembark and assault in stride, they bomb first and ask questions later - which cuts any pussyfooting short.

We seldom hear any harsh word, and from 5 AM onwards the camp chores are performed in beautiful order and always with excellent spirit. A passing American helicopter stops near a stranded vehicle just to check that everything is alright; an American combat team will rush to support ours before even knowing how dangerous the mission is - from what we have been given to witness, the American soldier is a beautiful and worthy heir to those who liberated France and Europe.

Read his whole post. C'est magnifique!

Finalement, Tigerhawk is blogging about sex again. "Thinker", my ass.

Posted by Cassandra at November 21, 2008 02:54 PM

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"Thinker", my ass.

Um, I think the Unit would shoot me if I tried. Assuming my Bride didn't reach the weapon first.


Posted by: MikeD at November 21, 2008 03:20 PM

Okay, hit sex and relationships right off the mark and get it over with...

Posted by: BillT at November 21, 2008 03:32 PM

I clicked through to the Bookworm post and found it most reasonable. Then I read this:

In this libertarian world, government continues to be responsible for [snip] the assurance that no single group is targeted for discrimination in any of the marketplaces that make up a functional country (business, housing, education, etc.). As to that last, government would be charged with protecting citizens such as women and minorities from discrimination, but it would no longer use its brute force to give them a leg up in the marketplace.

That sounds fine but how does that idea do when faced with the news that eHarmony has agreed to provide services for gay and lesbians in order to settle a lawsuit? Is this a legitimate effort of the government to make sure no group is targeted for discrimination or is this unwarranted government intrusion into a private business? I believe it’s the latter but I can’t seem to formulate a principle that supports that belief and yet agrees that government should protect citizens from discrimination. Is it just a question of which groups we define as needing and/or deserving protection? Women, African-Americans, Hispanics, yes; gays and lesbians, no? That doesn’t seem very principled.

I’m afraid I’m finding this whole redrawing conservatism thing very discouraging today.

Posted by: Elise at November 21, 2008 04:05 PM

As to that last, government would be charged with protecting citizens such as women and minorities from discrimination

It all depends on whether it is "discrimination" to treat homosexuals simply because homosexuals are "discriminating" in their choice of partners.

If an American soldier chose to not wear his body armor, got shot by a pistol round, and then died, would it be correct to say that government regulations, which allow this action (hypothetical world), "discriminated" against that American soldier, Elise?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at November 21, 2008 04:30 PM

Tigerhawk is thinking about your... whaat?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at November 21, 2008 04:32 PM

Is this a legitimate effort of the government to make sure no group is targeted for discrimination or is this unwarranted government intrusion into a private business?

That question will be answered the first time a young lady answers her door expecting to greet Prince Charming and sees Rosie O'Donnell.

Posted by: BillT at November 21, 2008 04:34 PM

If an American soldier chose to not wear his body armor, got shot by a pistol round, and then died, would it be correct to say that government regulations, which allow this action (hypothetical world), "discriminated" against that American soldier?

Wearing IBA is optional in the FOB interior, where your chance of being shot with *anything* is pretty marginal.

Wearing it on patrol in a questionable area -- not optional.

Wearing it in a guard tower or manning a checkpoint -- not optional.

It all depends on the threat level -- commanders are taught "Don't accept *unnecessary* risk."

Posted by: BillT at November 21, 2008 04:44 PM

Tigerhawk is thinking about your... whaat?

All right, smart aleck. That was a reference to the post about that Typealyzer thingy :p

Which you totally knew.

Posted by: The One at November 21, 2008 05:33 PM

There were no French forces in Afghanistan when I was there for OEF VII, but we did work with Canadian forces a fair bit, and rubbed elbows with the Brits from time to time. I have nothing bad to say about them. Nothing at all. I was less impressed with some other NATO forces, and thoroughly unhappy with the NATO commanders at the time who kept the Canadians from supporting our, ah, exuberantly kinetic operations as much as we would have preferred.

Posted by: Sig at November 21, 2008 07:17 PM

I guess then i was ok i mentioned this in the snow post before this went up?

i thought the post was EXCELLENT...

and when i finally travelled this year outside the US, what a pleasant surprise that everywhere i went, americans were not hated at all.

odd how the constant drone of the speakers in the US can get your compass off...

Posted by: Artfldgr at November 21, 2008 07:28 PM

...everywhere i went, americans were not hated at all.

What's even more interesting is that the majority of the people I've talked to (in France, Italy, Iraq, the Emirates) thought the Bush-bashers were either incredibly naive or incredibly stupid.

Posted by: BillT at November 22, 2008 01:17 AM

Yanno......I'm not so much sure it's either one of those, TJ. Those in the throes (oh, hey cool, that rhymes.) of BDS are not stupid. In fact, that's what, IMNSAO, is so frustrating, because how can such an intelligent person be so deliberately freakin' obtuse?
I think they're spoiled.

That's my .03....keep the change.

Posted by: DL Sly at November 22, 2008 05:47 AM

...because how can such an intelligent person be so deliberately freakin' obtuse?

There you go again, *thinking* when you should be *feeling*.

That type of person is the one who sees someone drowning and immediately leaps into the water to save him -- totally disregarding the fact that *he* doesn't know how to swim.

Then, after some soul blessed with fewer brains but more common sense hauls them both into a boat, the would-be rescuer insists on giving his version of the events to the tell-the-vision reporters. And, because he's sopping wet and the boat-driver *isn't*, he makes for a better visual.

Who ends up being fêted as the hero? You may draw your own conclusions.

Use a number two pencil.

Posted by: BillT at November 22, 2008 06:57 AM

*flipping penny back to DocLady*

Buy some sealant for your boat.

Posted by: BillT at November 22, 2008 06:59 AM