Tuesday, 25 September 2007


My stepfather always told my brothers and me that his goal wasn’t to fatten us up but to keep us alive. You were kidding, right, Jerry?

Best of the Web Today


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The Education of Robert Gates” (column, Sept. 19):

David Brooks passes on uncritically Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’s assertion that Iraq was an “unstable regime” before the United States invaded in 2003.

Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party regime was solidly in power for some 24 to 34 years (depending on whether one posits its beginning as 1979, when he became president, or 1969, when he was named vice president).

Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq may have had a brutish existence, but it was not “unstable,” or indeed going anywhere before our invasion (that is, it was successfully contained under Clinton-era policies), despite a decade of sanctions and no-flight zones over two-thirds of the country.

A regime can’t get more unmovable than that. An American invasion was needed to destabilize the country (and the region).

Michael J. Sullivan
Philadelphia, Sept. 20, 2007
The writer is a professor of political science at Drexel University.

Note from KBJ: Human Rights Watch issued this report in 2003.


One of the things that distinguishes adults from children is that adults have (more) experience. This keeps them grounded. Children, lacking experience, think that everything is possible. They have no idea where human nature leaves off and socialization begins. They live in fantasy land, as far as society is concerned. What could be better evidence for the childishness of progressives than that they’re supporting candidates, such as John Edwards, who can’t possibly win a general election? See here for David Brooks’s insightful column about the Kos Kids and the sleazy characters at MoveOn.org. By the way, it makes perfectly good sense to see people move from progressivism to conservatism as they age. I never dreamed it would happen to me, but it did. How many people do you know who went in the other direction? I don’t know anyone. Not every progressive becomes a conservative, obviously; but then, not every child grows up. It’s why we have the word “childish” in our language.


I’ve been blogging for almost four years and still enjoy it tremendously. I especially like the comments posted by people like you. I’m glad I changed my policy to require full names. You know who I am; why should I and others not know who you are? If this policy forces you to be discreet, civil, and respectful (for fear of being thought thuggish), so much the better. Civil discourse is the best discourse. One reason I’m a conservative (as opposed to a progressive) is that I strongly believe in personal responsibility. Each of us is responsible for everything he or she does. Everything. Speaking and writing are activities, so one is responsible for what one says and writes. Own your words.

Think of all the brave people in human history who stood up to the powers that be, at some risk to themselves. Think of John Hancock, who, in signing the Declaration of Independence, risked everything he had. (He was one of the wealthiest and most powerful people in colonial America.) It would have been easy for him to give moral support to his fellows but refuse to disclose his identity. Instead, he signed his name with a flourish, the better (it is said) that King George III could read it! I admire him. He is one of my heroes. (I have many heroes.) To repeat: I have never written anything anonymously (or pseudonymously) in my life, and I can’t imagine any circumstance in which I would. I say what I think and take my lumps. W. K. Clifford famously said (I paraphrase from memory) that if you can’t take the time to investigate the grounds of your beliefs (including whether there are any grounds), you have no business believing. I say that if you can’t take responsibility for your words, by attaching your name to them, you have no business speaking or writing.

I feel like I know many of you. Your personalities come through in your comments, especially over time, on a range of issues. I’m sure you feel as though you know me. I always enjoy reading the latest batch of comments, even when they take issue with something I posted, and yes, even when they come from those execrable Yankee fans. The baseball stuff is all in fun. I think.

A Year Ago

Here. I didn’t comment on this letter a year ago, but I will now. The letter writer knows what’s right (it’s blindingly obvious to him) and doesn’t understand how anyone—especially someone intelligent and informed—could possibly disagree with him. This, my friends, is the totalitarian impulse. It is distrustful of bottom-up solutions of problems. It sees diversity as chaos—and abhors chaos. It seeks simplicity, uniformity, and, most importantly, conformity. It is intolerant of dissent. It is elitist. It is condescending, patronizing, and paternalistic. (“We know what’s best for you!”) What’s frightening is that the impulse is present in some of our presidential candidates. You know which ones I’m talking about.