30 September 2008
As the suppression of the insurgency in Iraq nears its end, I'd like to say that it has been a singular episode. This was probably the first time that demonstrations against a war began earlier than the war itself. Likewise, I don't know of any other legislative-majority party ever trying so hard to lose a war as have Democrats during this conflict. Contrast this situation with our intervention in Vietnam: most of the arrogant protestors would come to constitute a voting bloc in the Democratic Party, but said intervention both began and grew deepest while Democrats controlled the Oval Office as well as the Congress.
The nearest parallel from history is the behavior during World War I of Socialists and of Communists, who intentionally undermined morale on the home front in their own countries, expecting the defeat of their national armed forces to spark revolution. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, et cetera, can't even claim the desire for a new world order as a motivation; they seem to have acted as they did for just one purpose, viz., to get more members of their party elected. I would hope that, come Election Day, the voters remember this.
19 September 2008
Not very long ago it was being noted that Barack Obama is the first Black to have a realistic chance of being elected to the presidency, unlike Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. So far as I've determined, no one has yet made the similar observation that Sarah Palin is the first woman to have a legitimate opportunity for the vice-presidency. She's not the first ever to be nominated by a major party—that was Democrat Geraldine Ferraro, in 1984—but it was most unlikely that the Democrats' nominee of that year for chief executive, Walter Mondale, would have beaten Ronald Reagan no matter whom he had chosen as his running-mate.
The contrast between Ferraro and Palin is striking. The former is a characteristically disagreeable feminista, for whom "Ferraro" is actually a maiden name (considering, however, the dishonest business practices of her husband John Zaccaro, perhaps it's justifiable that she doesn't want to be associated closely with him); the latter is despised by feministas for providing further proof that one can be a "strong woman" without being one of them.
In addition to the Palin-Ferraro contrast, there is an interesting comparison between Ferraro and Obama. Ferraro was practically unknown before Mondale made his inexplicable selection of her; rose to sudden prominence as a consequence of the novelty of having a woman as a major-party's nominee to be vice-president; and, soon after this novelty wore off and the election ended in defeat, returned to nearly her previous level of obscurity. When she was dropped from the Hillary [sic] campaign for daring to state the obvious about the Obama campaign, it marked the first time in almost 24 years that most of the people had heard anything about her. I expect a like outcome for Obama: once he loses the presidential election—and there has never seemed to be much reason for doubt that this will happen, given the public's preference for moderates (McCain) over extremists (Obama, even by Democratic standards)—the media's love affair with him will end as did that between Napoleon and Josephine, and perhaps only a few years from now, he will (as I've stated previosly) be nothing more than the answer to a trivia question.
13 September 2008
One of the minor mysteries of life is why people insist upon referring to the country known properly (but misleadingly1) as the "United States of America" as either "America" (which name really applies to the entire New World; this is why the continents in the Western Hemisphere are called North and South America) or the "United States" (of what: Mexico? Brazil?). Why not just call it the "USA," which is quicker to say anyway than either "America" or "United States?" To do so would certainly be more consistent with our practice of devising a stupid abbreviation for any commonly-employed word that comprises more than two syllables, e.g., "carb" for "carbohydrate," e-mail" for "electronic mail."
Another problem with "United States," as well as with the full name, is that no adjective can be derived from it, as "Canadian" has been from "Canada." Of course, we refer to ourselves as "American," but, again, anyone living in the Western Hemisphere qualifies for this designation; I've heard that people in such places as Argentina often call themselves "Americans," and resent our presumption that we have an exclusive claim on the title. A less-commonly used term for this country is "Yankeedom," but even this would be regarded as offensive by Southerners. I know of no current option preferable to the facetious one in my comic strip Wild Life, which is to pronounce "USA" as if it were a normal word rather than to spell out the letters of the acronym, and to derive from it (by analogy with the word "ufology") the adjective or noun "Usan." Another quandary solved by cartoon characters!
1 A "state" is by definition a sovereign political unit, hence such words as "statesmanship"; it's a misnomer when used for such a place as Connecticut, which has so little independence of action these days as to be hardly more than a satrapy of an empire governed from the District of Columbia.
03 September 2008
In The Inflation Hurricane, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., wrote that mandatory evacuation of New Orleans, and eventual repopulating of the city until the next major hurricane happens along, “serves as an unrealistic and irritating substitute for organizing a city in a way that actually makes sense in light of the predictable hazards it's exposed to.” Forcing people to desert their homes, indeed, seems an unsatisfactory policy, but Mr. Jenkins doesn’t specify what kind of “organizing” he thinks “makes sense in light of the predictable hazards” that the Big Easy faces.
I hereby suggest that what’s needed is not a superior organization of New Orleans, but rather a reason why people who abandon the place shouldn’t even have to return. The truth is that the site of New Orleans is just not a good one for a city, especially one of such size.
Many things can legitimately be blamed on the French these days, but the founding of Nouvelle Orléans is not really to their discredit. This establishment took place in 1718, whereas geologists concluded only in the 1950’s that, for the great volume of water conveyed by the Mississippi, the natural path to the ocean is no longer that mighty river but rather a distributary (a stream that flows out of a larger watercourse, as opposed to a tributary, which flows into the same) called the Atchafalaya. Since the Mississippi is very slow-moving by the time it enters Louisiana, particularly the southern portion of the State, much of the silt that it has carried from higher elevations is deposited there rather than far out at sea; this process is what has formed the Mississippi delta, on which New Orleans rests. (The swift-flowing Congo, by contrast, has no delta.) The gradual buildup of silt as the river “ages” has made the bed more nearly flat, and because water flows down a steep grade more readily than it does down a gentler slope, it now wants to reach the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Atchafalaya, which, being “younger” than the Mississippi, is more rapid. Similar scenarios have played out in other parts of the world; the mouth of China's Yellow River, for instance, is hundreds of miles from where it was in previous centuries.
The Army Corps of Engineers has created a system of levees and other works where the Atchafalaya has its origin, to prevent it from drawing away more than 30% of the Mississippi’s water; at a cost of many millions of dollars yearly, the corps also does constant dredging in the area. The purpose of this building and dredging, however, is not preventing floods but preserving the economic importance of the region from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. Instead of resisting nature, a better way for the government to spend (our) money would be to found a new city, in the vicinity of the Atchafalaya’s mouth, to take over the function of Baton Rouge - New Orleans; it ought to be constructed over a high, very large landfill, in order to head off the problems of New Orleans, which sits on what is basically a mud flat six feet below sea level. People wouldn’t be forced to leave the older city, but it would naturally shrink with its decrease in importance. I know that there would be strong resistance to such a plan—indeed, it wouldn’t be carried out at all, because of the current vested interests—but other storied cities, e.g., Babylon, have either dwindled to insignificance or disappeared. Except for God, nothing lasts forever.