Date ►►► December 29, 2008

Ultimate Illegal-Immigration Stopping Power

Hatched by Dafydd

All right, I admit it: Sachi, not I, has come up with the perfect analogy to illegal immigration, the legal immigration system, and everything else... and I believe everyone here will finally understand what I mean -- even if he doesn't agree with it.

Consider this:

Jerome Parker is an honest and decent man; but he lives in a very bad neighborhood (due to economic necessity). There are robberies and gang-banging, car theft for profit and for joyriding, and homicides. He feels threatened every other day by thugs... so he wants to carry a gun for self-protection.

Being an honest guy, he would much prefer to do so legally. Alas, Jerry lives in Los Angeles -- which steadfastly refuses to grant any CCW (carry concealed weapon) permit to anyone, anywhere, anytime, for any reason, no matter how good (except cronies of the mayor, Hollywood celebrities, bribe payers, and other city illuminati). It's useless to apply for one, since L.A. hasn't granted a CCW permit to any ordinary person in decades.

He lives very close to, and could move into, a separately chartered city incorporated within L.A. County... call it Slobovia. Slobovia has granted CCW permits, but there is no rhyme nor reason as to who gets one. You never can tell. They grant some permits to ordinary, decent residents who just want to protect themselves; but often those people are rejected -- and a permit is instead granted to Natal "Bang Bang" Muhammed Schwartz, suspected lieutenant of the feared Picknose gang.

Seeing no viable options, Jerome, with great misgivings but a strong desire to protect himself, his small business, and his family, simply starts carrying a gun even without a permit. This of course makes him a criminal, and he must constantly worry that he might be caught and prosecuted by zealous, anti-gun deputy DAs in Los Angeles.

Now we move a few hundred miles east and reboot...

Alberto T. Gonzales is an honest and decent man; but he lives in a very bad neighborhood (due to economic necessity). There are robberies and gang-banging, car theft for profit and for joyriding, and homicides. He feels threatened every other day by thugs... so he wants to carry a gun for self-protection.

Being an honest guy, he would much prefer to do so legally. Fortunately, Al lives in Texas, which has a state-wide mandatory CCW permit law; the law requires Texas state authorities to grant a CCW permit to any citizen who applies for one, unless they can show (within a reasonable period of time) that the particular applicant in question has a specific disqualification -- a felony conviction or any conviction for illegal use or brandishing of a firearm; a history of mental illness, drunkenness, or drug use; a restraining order against him; and so forth.

Al applies for the permit; since he has nothing untoward in his background, it's granted. He takes the mandatory gun safety, shooting, and firearm legal issues classes, and he begins carrying his Glock 9mm legally. He need not be furtive about it, he doesn't fear being arrested, and he is not considered a "criminal" under Texas law.

Surely the vast majority, probably over 90%, of Big Lizards readers can see that the second scenario is infinitely to be preferred over the first. Surely you understand that Jerome was made into a criminal by a lousy L.A. law, a law that was arbitrary, capricious, vindictive, authoritarian, corrupt, and unjust. Under the more rational, predictable, and just law of the great and sovereign Republic of Texas, people like Jerome and Alberto need not skulk in the shadows.

The law in Los Angeles prevents honest, decent people from carrying the means to protect themselves. A rational law would allow this; but the law in L.A. is irrational, and the law in Slobovia is unpredictable and inexplicable.

The solution is to implement a rational, predictable, and just CCW permit law nationwide. While more people would be carrying guns legally, many, many fewer would be carrying them illegally. This is a trade-off that would tremendously benefit society, as Professor John Lott has shown many times over (i.e., in his seminal work More Guns, Less Crime.)

And I cannot imagine it has escaped anyone's notice that under the L.A. anti-gun law, just because someone is caught illegally carrying a concealed pistol, you cannot assume he is a notorious character up to no good: He could just as easily be an ordinary bloke who wants to protect himself from the violent hoods in the 'hood.

By contrast, since any honest, decent citizen of Texas can get a CCW permit, the only people carrying weapons illegally would be those unable to get such a permit... which in practice generally means felons, hypes, and transient bums. Therefore, it's perfectly reasonable to throw the book at anyone carrying concealed weapons without a permit, because nearly all of them are bad guys.

I suspect most of you can see exacty where I'm heading with this analogy to illegal immigration, so I'll leave off here. But please think about your reaction to the scenarios above, then about your reaction to my call for the reformation of the legal immigration system -- and my argument that this alone would dramatically decrease the illegal immigration problem.

Analogies prove nothing; that is not their purpose. Their purpose is clarity, not proof; they strip away the emotional detritus that blocks clear thinking about controversial issues.

Please use this moment of clarity at least to understand my argument; then if you still want to dispute the validity of my contention, we can debate on the basis of shared understanding of what I'm actually arguing.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 29, 2008, at the time of 11:45 PM | Comments (37) | TrackBack

Date ►►► December 28, 2008

Anyone Up for a Nice, Little Religious War - in Europe?

Hatched by Dafydd

Bosnia and Herzegovina, when it was part of Yugoslavia, was fairly secular (granted, it was also Communist). But since the horrific war there against Serbia, when Tito's "Yugoslavia" sundered and shivered into pieces that instantly began to gnaw on each other, Bosniak Moslems have veered in a dangerous direction. Fueled by the kindling of several new madrasas (built by our friends, the Saudis) and the recent introduction of "Islamic education" into kindergarten classes, Wahabbi Islamism is sweeping through Bosnia-Herzegovina:

Many here welcome the Muslim revival as a healthy assertion of identity in a multiethnic country where Muslims make up close to half the population.

But others warn of a growing culture clash between conservative Islam and Bosnia’s avowed secularism in an already fragile state.

Two months ago, men in hoods attacked participants at a gay festival in Sarajevo, dragging some people from vehicles and beating others while they chanted, “Kill the gays!” and “Allahu Akbar!” Eight people were injured.

Muslim religious leaders complained that the event, which coincided with the holy month of Ramadan, was a provocation [but what isn't?]. The organizers said they had sought to promote minority rights and meant no offense.

It's not surprising that Bosnian Moslems would respond to their newfound freedom from Communist thugocracy by embracing the forbidden religion of their forefathers; but Serbians had the same reaction, embracing a newly invigorated Christianity. As the Wahabbism and Salafism of their Moslem neighbors take increasingly militant liberties with other Bosnians' freedom of religion (or of secularism), clashes, both verbal and violent, are bound to increase.

Although Bosniak (48%) is the plurality ethnic group and Islam (40%) the plurality religion, in fact Serbs and Croats together form a 51.4% majority of Bosnians, while Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism account for 46% of citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Thus, being outnumbered and not in totalitarian control of the government, the militant Islamic faction of the Bosniaks feels insecure and "under siege." This of course drives them towards greater militancy and terrorism (but what doesn't?)

I believe we may be on the brink of a new Bosnian civil war, which might serendipitously test a pet proposition of mine: Passionate Christianity is a greater bulwark against militant Islamism than is enlightened Euro-secularlism, and its rise is indeed the only thing that might possibly defeat the so-called "jihadist" movement.

This falls under the rubric of "you can't fight something with nothing;" the standard liberal democracic "philosophy" of Europe is as close to nothing as one can find on this globe; while Christianity, strained and anemic as it may be in this post-Enlightenment, post-Renaissance age of science and sanity, is nevertheless a powerful belief system that (we all remember) united the Jews, the Greeks, and the Romans; conquered the Roman Empire; held sway over most of the known world; civilized the Vikings, the Celts, and other nomads of land and sea; and predates Islam by more than six centuries.

I think we'll find that the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina will be unable to cope with the rise of Saudi-funded extreme Islamism... but the Orthodox and Catholic populations will answer the call to arms. I also believe, perhaps paradoxically, that moderate, modern Moslems will find themselves more on the Orthodox-Catholic side than that of their own fanatical co-religionists, for the same reasons that Sunni Iraqis finally formed the "salvation councils" to rid themselves of their turbulent brothers.

I anticipate a salutory lesson on dealing with the worldwide rise of militant, violent, terrorist Islamism.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 28, 2008, at the time of 8:48 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► December 22, 2008

The Irresistable Farce Meets the Immovable Objection

Hatched by Dafydd

This is almost too hilarious for words:

The U.N. General Assembly split over the issue of gay rights on Thursday after a European-drafted statement calling for decriminalization of homosexuality prompted an Arab-backed one opposing it.

Diplomats said a joint statement initiated by France and the Netherlands gathered 66 signatures in the 192-nation assembly after it was read out by Argentina at a plenary session. A rival statement, read out by Syria, gathered some 60.

A friend of mine once tried to construct the "Great Chain of Being" that ordered the worldview of liberals:

  1. Above everything were two classes of entity: enlightened, anointed liberals who had "the vision" -- i.e., those who constructed the Great Chain of Being naturally put themselves at the top -- and Gaea Herself.
  2. At the top of the mortal chain were endangered species of whales, owls, snail darters, and rodents... cute, furry or feathered animals.
  3. Below them were native, pre-Christian, tribal peoples... American Indians (whoops! that should be "Native Americans," unlike all us interlopers who have only been here a dozen or so generations), Aleuts and Eskimos, Hutus and Tutsis, Aztecs, and suchlike.
  4. Drifting downward in moral importance, we have people of intellectual (book-derived) religions that are nevertheless anti-Christian, or at least non-Christian: Moslems, Bhuddhists, Hindus, and so forth.
  5. Then we have people from the Judeo-Christian tradition who consciously (and self-importantly) reject those traditions, laws, moralities, and understandings; these are your secular but unenlightened liberals, hippies, gays, and assorted atheists.
  6. Finally, in the lowest circle of liberal hell are those folks from Judeo-Christian traditions who openly, even nakedly embrace those traditions (eew!) and cling to those values.

My friend was always fascinated by the game of "Challenge": What happens when one link on the Great Chain of Being challenges another, when neither can yield? Who wins? (What happens when Superman fights Mighty Mouse?) His favorite example: When Eskimos want to hunt whales, what gives?

The result sometimes surprised us; the Eskimos were better organized politically than the cetaceans, so they actually got to keep their traditional right to harpoon the great, white beasts.

In this case, we have two groups who are one rung apart: Moslems vs. gays and gay-friendly liberals... and that, by itself, does not yield any certainty of outcome purely from the Great Chain of Being itself... they're too closely matched.

But to be brutally honest, I'll put my money on the Moslems; after all, liberal fashion may go and come... but jihad abides.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 22, 2008, at the time of 9:41 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► December 21, 2008

Found: Source of All Those New Democrats

Hatched by Dafydd

We've all been wondering -- oh, all right... I've been wondering -- whence came all those gazillions of Democratic voters who propelled the over-the-top Barack H. Obama over the top. Well, it appears that a new survey by the Josephson Institute of Ethics may have found part of the answer:

Teenagers lie. They cheat and steal, too. And they are doing it more often and more easily than ever.

That is the conclusion of the latest “Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth”, released this week by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, a partnership of educational and youth organizations. The institute conducted a random survey of 29,760 high school students earlier this year (as they have every two years since 1992) and found that the next generation of leaders have a somewhat casual relationship with the truth.

Among the findings:

  • 30% of teenagers (35% of boys, 26% of girls) claim to have stolen something from a store in the past year.
  • 42% (49% M, 36% F) said "they sometimes lie to save money;" I'm envisioning 14 year olds crouching down in front of the Mann theaters ticket office, and in a squeaky voice, insisting they're only 12. But in addition, 83% told their parents a lie about "something significant;" again I'm guessing, but I'd say about smoking, drinking, toking, or, er, going a little too far with their boyfriends or girlfriends.
  • 64% -- nearly two-thirds! -- cheated on a test; 36% let their mice do the writing, turning in papers they downloaded off the internet. (Perhaps these are the future Joe Biden voters?)
  • And to make things worse (and even more confusing), a quarter of respondents confessed that they lied about "one or two" of the questions on this very survey! Of course, that begs the question: lied which way, to make themselves sound more honest and trustworthy, or more wicked cool?

What this survey, which shows a growing trend of falsity, cheating, and amorality, tells us is that we are not only raising yet another generation of kids without a functioning moral compass, but more threateningly, a generation of kids who haven't the slightest idea that there is a real world out there where lying, cheating, and stealing not only won't get you anywhere, it can destroy your life.

I wonder how this recklessness with the truth -- heck, recklessness even with the things they make up -- affects their romantic relationships, their friendships, their own self respect? How can a person honestly, deep down, respect himself if he knows he's a lying sack of offal?

Of course such truth-challenged, reality-denying kids would be much more likely to grow into Democrat-voting young adults; the Democratic Party is the party of fantasy, denial, and situational ethics. Naturally, not every Democrat is dishonest... but the contemporary Democratic Party rewards brazen dishonesty in a way that I don't believe any previous political party in the United States has done.

Heck, look who just got elected president... and how he did it.

I firmly believe this is the result of leftist government schools (followed, after a while, by secular private and even religious schools) ceasing to teach ethics, civics, or even basic right and wrong, for fear of trampling on some kid's "right" to choose his own "values." (For that matter, even the substitution of "values," a content-neutral term, for "virtues," which implies a fixed moral code, is a terrible symptom of the disease of nihilism.)

My worthy co-conspirator in a number of projects, Brad Linaweaver, has recently coined a neologism to describe another aspect of this; he refers to members of ELF, ALF, PETA, and other such eco-nut radical activist groups as "econihilists;" I believe he defines the term to mean self-identified ecologists who are so anti-human and pro-nature that they actually ache to see the entire human race destroyed, to make room for the more "moral" species -- spotted owls, blue whales, blue-green algae, Ebola viruses, and the like. I don't think they would put it exactly that way, but that's the gist of their practical philosophy, such as it is.

Both the econihilists and the teens in the Josephson Institute's survey seem to share a deep loathing of the human race... which I can only conclude comes from a deep inner loathing of themselves. Paradoxically, I believe this self-loathing stems from the self-inflicted soul-wound of lying, cheating, and stealing; it is both cause and effect.

By being afraid to tell kids that there is a real right and a real wrong -- that some moral codes are absolute, not subject to the whim of the actor -- we may be sowing the seeds of our species' own destruction.

Perhaps it's time to tell the leftists running the nation's schools to go take a long walk on a short shrift. In my political manifesto, I shall declare that it's time for the GOP, marginally better on absolute morality than the Democrats, to seize the schools back from the dark side... "for the sake of the children." It's one of several strategic goals that the Republicans must pursue with vigor, making the case without compromise, now that we're completely cut out of the legislative and executive power.

To paraphrase Janis Joplin, "Political freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 21, 2008, at the time of 6:07 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► December 19, 2008

The Law of Unintended Taxiquences

Hatched by Dafydd

Well, we told you so!

The New York Times waits until after the election to drop yet another bombshell, one which may very well go unnoticed by the rest of the elite media (falling into the memory hole alongside the brief and cryptic reporting on Barack H. Obama's illegal fundraising). Under the headline "Tax Break May Have Helped Cause Housing Bubble" -- conjuring up images of yet another Bush giveaway to corporate fat cats -- we read the following:

Ryan J. Wampler had never made much money selling his own homes.

Starting in 1999, however, he began to do very well. Three times in eight years, Mr. Wampler -- himself a home builder and developer -- sold his home in the Phoenix area, always for a nice profit. With prices in Phoenix soaring, he made almost $700,000 on the three sales.

And thanks to a tax break proposed by President Bill Clinton and approved by Congress in 1997, he did not have to pay tax on most of that profit. It was a break that had not been available to generations of Americans before him.

Wow, what a great gift President Bill Clinton gave the American people! Except, half a mo... Didn't that staggering "housing bubble" have something to do with the subsequent financial collapse? Well, as a matter of fact, the Times itself now, after November 4th, is willing to admit as such:

The benefits also did not apply to other investments, be they stocks, bonds or stakes in a small business. Those gains were all taxed at rates of up to 20 percent.

The different tax treatments gave people a new incentive to plow ever more money into real estate, and they did so....

By itself, the change in the tax law did not cause the housing bubble, economists say. Several other factors -- a relaxation of lending standards, a failure by regulators to intervene, a sharp decline in interest rates and a collective belief that house prices could never fall -- probably played larger roles.

But many economists say that the law had a noticeable impact, allowing home sales to become tax-free windfalls. A recent study of the provision by an economist at the Federal Reserve suggests that the number of homes sold was almost 17 percent higher over the last decade than it would have been without the law.

Vernon L. Smith, a Nobel laureate and economics professor at George Mason University, has said the tax law change was responsible for “fueling the mother of all housing bubbles.”

Of course, this being the TImes, they quite predictably get a number of points wrong. There was no "failure by regulators to intervene;" in fact, the "relaxation of lending standards" was precisely in response to Clinton regulators interpreting the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act to require banks to make subprime housing loans to poor people who couldn't possibly afford the mortgage payments.

But they do get the basic point: When government intervenes in the market, the unintended bad consequences often overwhelm whatever good was intended. This is why economist Milton Friedman coined the phrase "the invisible foot" of government as the antiparticle to the "invisible hand" of the market.

In this case, Bill Clinton decided that homeownership was good for the country -- which it is, of course; homeowners are more firmly a part of society, so they tend to be more conservative, more productive, more stable, more responsible, and consequently raise better-adjusted kids. But Clinton went further, deciding that if homeownership was good, it was up to government to push more people into it, ready or not.

To that end, he pushed for (and the Newt Gingrich Congress gave him) a huge tax break to steer people away from other investment instruments and into real estate. When those pesky bankers got in the way, demanding standards of income and collateral and down payments that were barriers to poor people owning their own homes; so once again, Clinton decided the federal government would more or less take over the mortgage industry, using the CRA as a bludgeon.

And once again, after a feeble attempt to fight back -- remember, Republicans controlled both houses of Congress still, and could have stopped this interpretation of the CRA by vigorous opposition -- the GOP caved yet again.

The Times now thinks this government intrusion was a bad idea after all:

Referring to the special treatment for capital gains on homes, Charles O. Rossotti, the Internal Revenue Service commissioner from 1997 to 2002, said: “Why insist in effect that they put it in housing to get that benefit? Why not let them invest in other things that might be more productive, like stocks and bonds?”

Amusingly, then-Sen. Blob Dole, running against Clinton in 1996, gave a speech that appears to have precipitated Clinton's housing tax-break proposal; but Dole had actually called for an across-the-board cut in the capital-gains tax, without singling out any particular instrument over the others. (Grover Norquist agreed with Dole.) Had Clinton followed Dole's advice, we might very well not be in the current financial crisis.

But, well, here we are. At least, however, we have the enormous satisfaction of seeing the New York Times admit that a Bill Clinton domestic monetary policy was naive and foolish, and give a pretty good explanation -- after the One is safely elected -- why in future we should run our economic and monetary policy on the basis of Capitalism, not liberal fascism. (One wonders whether this new-found fiscal conservatism will ever translate into opposition to specific Obamic policy.)

Better late than never, I suppose; but even better in time than late.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 19, 2008, at the time of 2:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Date ►►► December 16, 2008

The Party of Pre-Americans

Hatched by Dafydd

In today's topsy-turvy world, best described by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland --

"Let the jury consider their verdict," the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

"No, no!" said the Queen. "Sentence first -- verdict afterwards."

-- I thought it best to present my conclusions first, then tuck all the boring explication and justification into the slither-on. This will make it easier for 95% of readers to skip the post entirely, and the remaining 8 to proceed to the argumentum already in a state fit to be tie-dyed.

Accordingly, I conclude that the Republican Party cannot survive as "the native-born American party." We have no option but to reach out to all those immigrants and children of immigrants who come here because they love America and what she stands for. Instead of discouraging or even stopping immigration, we must encourage it -- but only by the right people, those who come here anxious to assimilate, who already believe in American values, no matter where they were born. We need more, not less, immigration by folks who were already American in their hearts long before they immigrated here.

I call such folks "pre-Americans." If we don't want to repeat the same mistake with the rising population of Hispanics that we made with blacks, the Republican Party must become the party of pre-Americans. Here are the three main reasons I discover:

  • Without Hispanic votes, we are sunk as a viable party;
  • Without (pre-American) immigrants, we cannot survive economically;
  • Nor can we win the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis.

All else is dicta. Please read the dicta before raining katzenjammers on us in the comments section.

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that my earlier prediction was correct: The anti-immigration hysteria of some putative "conservatives" during the 109th Congress, while the immigration-reform bill was under consideration, has so poisoned the well that we may never win another national election -- unless we act immediately to undo what a few prominent Republicans did.

I'll call them the Tancredistas, not because Tom Tancredo was the leader of the opposition (he wasn't), but because his anti-immigrant rage -- not simply anti-illegal immigrant, but anti-immigrant, period -- exemplifies all that is wrong with the GOP's approach to the subject. Angry opponents of what they were pleased to call "amnesty" often demanded a moratorium on all immigration; this went far beyond mere opposition to fence-jumping and cut right at the heart of America, which has always been a nation of immigrants.

Worse, whenever any pro-legal immigrationist wondered why the Tancredistas thought we needed to curtail all immigration, the stock answer was invariably that Hispanics "refused to assimilate," or even that it was impossible for Hispanics to assimilate. Sometimes Moslems were tossed into the mix as non-assimilationers, as well; but the Tancredistas never complained about non-assimilating Europeans or Canadians. Evidently, Italians and Albanians were quite willing and able -- just not Hispanics and Moslems. (I wondered aloud about immigrants from Spain, but no one rose to clarify.)

I am quite convinced that the number of out and out racists among the Tancredistas was always very, very small. Most in the anti-"amnesty" camp believe, in their hearts, that they're only opposed to illegality, to lawbreaking, to flouting our national borders.

Alas, even the non-racists adopted exclusionary language, phrases that could hardly be distinguished from those signs during Jim Crow that read "No dogs, Jews, or Coloreds allowed." This sort of cold, harsh language was frequently coupled with irrational arguments: A few La Raza activists parading through Los Angeles carrying Mexican flags and chanting "Aztlan!" were equated to the entire Hispanic population of the United States, for example; any method of regularizing illegals already living here was dubbed "amnesty," even if it involved punishment; and any call to reform the legal immigration system was rejected as "selling out to Ted Kennedy."

Tancredistas offered increasingly pugnacious counterproposals:

  • Closing the borders (that permanent "moratorium" on immigration)
  • Mass round-ups and deportations
  • Kicking "illegal" children out of school
  • And denying citizenship to the children of illegals, even if they were born in the United States

All of this energetic and frankly over-the-top anti-immigrant activism has convinced a great majority of American Hispanics, both immigrants and first- or second-generation native-born Americans, that the Republican Party hates them and wants to deport them all -- not just the illegals, but those here legally as well. I believe that most of those I'm labeling Tancredistas (let alone other Republicans) don't really want to deport legal Hispanic immigrants. But that's the way it comes across; and in politics, perception is just as important as reality.

Democrats constantly try to hang a label of racism on us; they hoot that the GOP cannot survive as "the white party." That's certainly true, but it's a vile smear, well befitting their general approach to life: "It's not how you play the game, it's whether you win -- and utterly destroy your opponent." I've never heard anybody inside the Republican Party suggest we should be "the white party."

But a more appropriate and accurate variation on that vile, racist, anti-GOP slander is also true: We cannot survive as "the native-born American party;" we must, must reach out to those who come here wanting to become Americans, those who come here anxious to assimilate, those who come here with American values, no matter where else they had the misfortune to be born. Let's call these folks, those who were already American in hearts and minds even before coming here, "pre-Americans": We must rebrand the Republican Party as "the party of pre-Americans." (Note, I'm not saying exclusively pre-Americans.)

Once our immigration laws become more rational, predictable, and fair, then and only then we can equate pre-Americans with legal immigrants. But our laws are neither rational nor predictable nor fair; they are arbitrary, capricious, and unjust to a staggering degree. (Their only virtue is that they're nowhere near as irrational, unpredictable, and unfair as those of every other nation on the planet.)

Thus, the first step in rebranding the GOP is for the GOP to unify behind a legal-immigration reform law -- which could be separate and distinct from a decision on what to do with illegal immigrants already here, about guest workers, and so forth. The sole purpose of the legal-immigration reform law should be to make the system:

  • Rational. Agents should decide who gets residency and citizenship on the basis of assimilability and American values, not irrational criteria such as country of origin or whether the applicant has a cousin with a green card.
  • Predictable. Applicants must know in advance how likely they are to gain residency or citizenship... and more important, what steps to take to increase their odds. Thus, those who really want to become Americans and are willing to work for it will have a clue what to do.
  • Fair. Agents must decide based upon the individual applicant, not some larger group over which he has no control and may disagree vehemently ("Sorry, we've already admitted our quota of PhDs; we're only admitting plumbers now"). They must also decide based upon known and published criteria that do not change from day to day, depending on which agent or office the immigrant happens to get.

Reform is a good first step, but it's not sufficient to woo back Hispanic Americans who feel betrayed by the GOP. In politics, it's not just what you say but how you say it. Too many Republicans picked an incredibly toxic way to argue against a plan they thought too generous towards illegal aliens... and the words they used convinced tens of millions of immigrants and children of immigrants that they were unwanted nuisances polluting the precious bodily fluids of the United States.

This reaction may be unfair; reality often is. However, given John S. McCain's dismal performance among Hispanics in November -- he was equated with the Tancredistas by a series of Spanish-language ads run by Obama, despite McCain being the leading Republican voice for immigration reform -- it's almost undeniable at this point that the GOP "brand" among Hispanics and other ethnically foreign populations within the country is more unpopular than New Coke.

Therefore, we not only must support significant reform of the legal immigration system, we must start to rebuild our relationship with, in particular, Hispanics. Having given them the impression we were spitting in their faces, we must now show regret for the intemperate language used and begin using much more inclusive language in the future.

There is no need to compromise on the fundamental requirement of controlling our borders; but we must finally recognize that most illegal immigrants are not "criminals," not in the commonly understood sense of a convenience-store robber or a carjacker. Most are simply responding irrationally to an irrational and unjust immigration system. Correct the system -- which we should do anyway for our own reasons -- and we'll see a huge drop in illegal entries, as those pre-Americans who rationally should be admitted are allowed in legally.

But it is important to show sympathy and support for those "huddled masses yearning to breath free" who desperately desire to become real Americans -- those that already have the distinctive American values and virtues. Instead of talking about a moratorium on immigration (which comes across as "There are too many of your sort here already"), we must say, in essence, "While it's important to enforce our territorial integrity, we understand that many folks see America as a 'shining city on a hill,' and we'll do everything in our party's power to open the gates to all those who are truly American at heart... no matter where they were born."

Then actually do it.

When the legal immigration procedure is more rational, predictable, and fair, the honest will use it rather than trying to swim the Rio Grande. With a much smaller rate of illegal border crossings, we could focus much more attention on those who still feel the need to sneak into the United States; likely, there is a very good reason why they cannot immigrate legally. And we would be able to use harsher, more authoritarian means to crack down, since (again) when the honest can enter honestly, only the dishonest persist in entering dishonestly.

Not only do Republicans (and the nation) need pre-American immigrants for economic reasons (they're far better for our country than "guest workers" who feel no affiliation or affinity with the United States), but they would also benefit and strengthen American borg culture, as has every other wave of immigration. American immigration has always been another example, besides Capitalism, of the "creative destruction" that signals a nation rising, rather than the cultural stagnation that betokens a nation in decline. And that's something we desperately need, as we're engaged in a true Kulturkampf (and I don't mean against American liberals).

We're at war with a vicious culture that worships a murder-totem who demands endless human sacrifices; that militant Islamist culture wants to overwhelm the West and institute so-called "sharia" law, enslaving both Christendom and the rest of Islam to its bloodthirsty death cult. All Western, Judeo-Christian and anti-militant Moslem cultures must join forces to defeat the Moloch worshippers.

We cannot retreat into ethnic enclaves and still win that war. Yes, admitting massive numbers of pre-American Hispanics will change American culture... just as did admitting massive numbers of Russians, Poles, Chinese, Irish, Catholics, Jews, and of course Africans. Allowing anyone other than British Anglicans or German Lutherans, the dominant groups when the country was founded, to become American necessarily changed American culture.

But there's nothing inherently wrong with changing American culture; what matters is how it's changed. And there is nothing within traditional Latin-American culture that's incompatible with the deepest American values; it's not like admitting tens of millions of Ayatollah-Khomeini followers. If anything, Latin-American values of work, family, and entrepeneurship are a perfect compliment to the corresponding Republican (and American) values.

The same could have been said of black values back before the civil-rights era... and had we taken the route of eliminating institutionalize state racism, empowering individuals through Capitalism and home-ownership, and raising victims of discrimination up to meet the universal standards (instead of lowering the standards to make it easier for the class of all blacks to exceed them), then I believe we would have a black voting population today that cast its individual votes on the basis of individual opinion, instead of a black voting population that is wholly captive to a single party -- one that does not have the best interests of individual black families at heart.

Ergo, if we don't want to repeat the same mistake with the rising population of Hispanics, the Republican Party must become the party of pre-Americans. I reiterate the three reasons, in increasing order of importance:

  • Because without Hispanic votes, we cannot survive as a viable American political party;
  • Because without pre-American immigrants, we cannot survive economically;
  • Because without pre-American immigrants, we cannot win the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis.

It's long past time to swallow our pride and accept the inevitable: There are going to be millions of Latin American immigrants into the United States annually for the forseeable future. The only question is whether they come in through the gate or over the fence... and whether we make it easy for the law-abiding and hard for the bad guys by reforming our broken system -- or do nothing, leaving it equally easy for everyone, righteous or rotten, to enter anywhere and everywhere.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 16, 2008, at the time of 8:25 PM | Comments (41) | TrackBack

Date ►►► December 15, 2008

Suggestions for Commenters

Hatched by Dafydd

I've noticed several people making multiple copies of the same comment -- heck, I did it myself a week or so ago!

I have a feeling that the new TypeKey/TypePad system is not doing a good job of updating the posts to show a newly added comment, even if it's actually published. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Before attempting to publish your comment, please select the entire comment and copy it to your clipboard. That way, you have a copy, just in case something messes up.
  2. Once you post, no matter what response (or non-response) you get (or don't get), before republishing, please actually check the post yourself to see if your comment did already publish after all.
  3. If you don't see your comment, please click your "reload" button above your browser window. This should delete the cache version of the post and actually download the current, correct version instead.
  4. If your comment is still not showing up, you can click to leave another comment and paste the clipboard-saved text of your comment into the text box.

Thanks, and I hope this works!

-- the Mgt

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 15, 2008, at the time of 5:07 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Standing Tall Against Standards

Hatched by Dafydd

(I feel a bit like I'm poaching on the home turf of Power Line and Captain's Quarters Ed Morrissey's Hot Air posts; but it is a national story. Honest!)

In the drawn-out Senate race still crawling along in Minnesota, the battle lines have at last become clear: Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN, 64%) wants clear statewide standards before considering rejected absentee ballots -- while failed comedian Al Franken has gone to court to reject all standards and allow local Democrats to decide which absentee ballots to accept and which to reject.

From the first story:

Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R) campaign has asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to issue a stay in a decision Friday by the state’s Board of Canvassers that could significantly sway the razor-thin margin in Minnesota’s still-undecided Senate race.

The Board recommended that Minnesota’s 87 counties open and count absentee ballots that were disqualified for no stated, legal reason. The Coleman campaign said Monday it had asked the state’s highest court to put a halt to that count until it could determine uniform standards for counting the ballots, estimated to number more than 1,000.

"The Supreme Court ought to direct the local officials to step back, take a breath, and allow the Court to set a uniform standard," Coleman campaign attorney Fritz Knaak said Monday in a conference call.

And here is the response from the Franken campaign to Coleman's call for uniform standards, as reported in Politico's second article:

Democrat Al Franken’s campaign on Monday accused Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R) campaign of trying to halt the recount in the state's contested Senate race and disenfranchise Minnesota voters whose absentee ballots were improperly disqualified.

"The Coleman campaign went to the state’s highest court to stop the counting and overrule a unanimous decision by the canvassing board," Franken campaign attorney Marc Elias said in a conference call Monday.

The state's Board of Canvassers recommended on Friday that counties to open and count more than 1,000 absentee ballots they said were disqualified for no stated, legal reason. The Coleman campaign filed a suit with the Minnesota Supreme Court asking the court to stop counties from tallying the ballots until the Court can establish a uniform standard for reviewing the uncounted ballots....

Franken’s campaign accused Coleman’s suit of really trying to overturn the board’s decision last week, and prevent the votes from being counted. Elias said that a clear, uniform standard for counting the ballots already exists in the Minnesota election code.

"Norm Coleman didn't get his way on Friday, so he's suing to stop the counting of lawful ballots and disenfranchise voters who did nothing wrong," Franken spokesman Andy Barr said. "That may be characteristic of his approach to this entire process, but it's entirely un-Minnesotan."

(How long before Franken's charge that Sen. Coleman is "un-Minnesotan" metastisizes into accusing Coleman of being unAmerican?)

The contrast could not be clearer... and it exactly mirrors the central argument in Bush v. Gore, the 2000 Supreme Court case about counting, recounting, and revoting the votes in Florida: The very reason that seven out of the nine Justices voted to stop the chad-count was that there were no uniform statewide standards; the precincts simply made ad-hoc rulings higgledy-piggledy. (Which meant in practice that conservative precincts tried to be unbiased and neutral, counting every legitimate vote; while liberal precincts decided their mandate was to count every Al Gore vote, legitimate, illegitimate, or imaginary.)

As Dennis Prager frequently notes, clarity is often more important that agreement; now at least everyone in the country clearly knows where Franken and the Democrats stand!

I'm now in a position to predict that this race will not be settled by January 6th, when the Congress is seated, nor on January 20th, when we swear at the president-elect. I'm not even sure it will be settled by the 2010 election. Al Franken and the Democrats plan to drag this out "forever and a day," on the theory that a 58-41 majority is better than a 58-42 majority -- so they'd rather force the seat to remain open as long as possible.

Democrats: "Holding firm against the courage of any convictions whatsoever!"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 15, 2008, at the time of 4:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

UnAmerican Inactivities

Hatched by Dafydd

How long would any Republican governor (president, senator, representative, executive chef) have lasted -- after saying this?

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) said it was "un-American" for senators to have voted against approving a bailout of troubled automakers last night, saying their vote may cause a recession to become a depression.

"It is unacceptable for this un-American, frankly, behavior of these U.S. senators to cause this country to go from a recession into a depression," Granholm said during a radio interview Friday morning.

I have sat, sardonically amused, for several days now, listening for the fall of the hammer; it never fell, of course, for "no enemies to the left" is still the rule, not the exception. That which would have slain the career of anybody to the right of Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 85%), when sounded by Ms. Granholm, was not even worth a finger wag.

Here's some more deep analysis from the junior demagogue of Michigan:

“It is such an unbelievable stab at workers across the country,” Granholm added. “You give this big bailout to these financial institutions -- don’t ask a single question, they can do what they want -- and then you lay the blame for the auto industry, which is a victim of this financial meltdown, on the backs of the people who are working on the line.”

I apologize for my mirth, but I find this sort of over-the-top McCarthyism frankly hilarious. Evidently, it's a red herring of the most colossal measurement to suggest that the "auto industry" itself (by which she means GM and Chrysler, not Nissan, Honda, or BMW) -- by its feckless devil-bargaining with the United Auto Workers union, its out of control pension and benefits plan, and its paucity of imagination or creativity in designing cars -- shares any of the blame in its own economic woe. Worse than a false accusation, the argument is proof of unAmericanism!

But I seem to recall this is a common leitmotif among lefties; they sling about that "anti-Americanism" or "unAmerican" charge like casting pearls before journalists. I wonder whether the real beef Democrats had with the original Joseph McCarthy was not demagoguery.. but violation of the Democrats' intellectual property rights to that particular false accusation.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 15, 2008, at the time of 4:11 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► December 10, 2008

American Special Forces in Afghanistan Accidentally Defend Themselves

Hatched by Dafydd

This is rich. First read AP's headline:

US Special Forces mistakenly kill 6 Afghan police

Next, the beginning of their lede graf:

U.S. Special Forces killed six Afghan police and wounded 13 early Wednesday in a case of mistaken identity...

Finally, here are the complete first two paragraphs:

U.S. Special Forces killed six Afghan police and wounded 13 early Wednesday in a case of mistaken identity by both sides after the police fired on the Americans during an operation against an insurgent commander, officials said.

A U.S. military statement said police fired on the American forces after the troops battled and killed an armed militant in the city of Qalat, the capital of the southern province of Zabul. The Americans returned fire on the police but only later learned their identities. One Afghan civilian was also killed in the exchange.

Anybody reading just the headline (which is all that is shown in some news feeds), or even just the headline plus the beginning of the lede (which might be all that is shown on most other feeds), is bound to come away with the impression -- as I did -- that once again, those vicious, violent, bloodthirsty American soldiers were firing indiscriminately, wildly shooting at anything that moves, and they killed a bunch of innocent victims. Again.

But the reality is that the Americans did not make any mistake: They simply returned fire when fired upon, an action always allowed of any unit in any combat zone... even the Dutch can do that much!

But even after admitting that we responded to being fired upon, AP is still determined to blame America for the deaths. They quote a self-serving statement by the deputy governor of Zabul:

Gulab Shah Alikhail, the province's deputy governor, said U.S. Special Forces carried out an operation in a small village near a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Qalat. The police, thinking it was a Taliban attack, opened fire, he said. Then a helicopter fired on the security post and destroyed it, he said....

"Unfortunately, the Special Forces didn't inform the police that they were going to the village," Alikhail said.

Of course, they never quote a single person exonerating the Americans; instead, they earlier quoted a U.S. military spokesman, who says that "Coalition forces deeply regret the incident of mistaken fire," despite the obvious purpose of the statement to provide face-saving cover for the Afghans, who started the whole thing by opening fire without clearly identifying their targets first.

The closest AP comes to admitting that we were not even at fault in keeping the operation secret from the Afghan police is a non-sourced non-quote:

U.S. officials quietly admit that they are hesitant to share detailed plans of raids against militant commanders for fear that government officials connected to the Taliban could tip off the militants of the impending operation. ["Quietly admit," as if they're ashamed of their (probably racist) feelings?]

This comes, of course, seven paragraphs into a ten-paragraph story.

Bear in mind, this is the supposedly "good war" in Afghanistan, that one that even Barack H. Obama supports; yet even so, the elite news media still bend their necks backwards trying to find a way to pin ersatz war crimes onto the American military... even after the ascension of the One!

Reflexive, compulsive habit is evidently very hard to overcome.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 10, 2008, at the time of 12:53 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Get Smart

Hatched by Dafydd

I found an article on improving brain function biochemically, instead of by, say, higher education, sexual abstinence, and ideological purity of essence -- three proven failures. "Smart pills," that is to say.

Some earthbound IQs on both left and right are wringing their hands at the very idea of boosting intelligence or concentration via psychopharmacology; but as an old student of Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson (I took multiple multi-day seminars from each over a number of years), it's old home week for me.

The ethical questions such intervention raises are interesting; but ultimately, I don't think the neophobes (a.k.a., Luddites) have an argument to stand on: There is nothing inherently unethical about making people smarter, though I agree that smartening up alone will not solve our most pressing problems.

It would certainly help, though; I consider intelligence increase to be a necessary but not sufficient component of evolving the human race into something more advanced. (For the killer arguments on this issue, I call your attention to Poul Anderson's early novel, Brain Wave, 1954.)

Here is the somewhat shallow and ham-fisted way the Associated Press "analyzed" the questions:

Healthy people should have the right to boost their brains with pills, like those prescribed for hyperactive kids or memory-impaired older folks, several scientists contend in a provocative commentary.

College students are already illegally taking prescription stimulants like Ritalin to help them study, and demand for such drugs is likely to grow elsewhere, they say.

"We should welcome new methods of improving our brain function," and doing it with pills is no more morally objectionable than eating right or getting a good night's sleep, these experts wrote in an opinion piece published online Sunday by the journal Nature.

Needless to say, in this dark age of science, the idea of better thinking through chemistry has stirred up a hornet storm:

Some health experts agreed that the issue deserves attention. But the commentary didn't impress Leigh Turner of the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics.

"It's a nice puff piece for selling medications for people who don't have an illness of any kind," Turner said.

Note the implication: If you don't have what Ms. Turner would call an "illness," you have no business altering yourself chemically. How liberating!

I personally consider stupidity a disease caused by a malfunctioning brain, leading to a lack of intelligence that society would be well advised to eradicate, if it can. But the same holds true for sociopathy -- which I envision as a lack of empathy leading to amoral, criminal, or unethical behavior.

In reality, civilization would be immensely benefitted by increasing both intelligence (chemically or otherwise) and traditional morality, which must go hand in hand, or catastrophe ensues:

  • Increasing intelligence without increasing morality leads to a world of Adolf Eichmanns and A.Q. Khans;
  • But increasing morality without increasing intelligence leads to a world of Prince Charleses and PETA-people, well-intentioned dimwits who do just as much damage as the mad scientists; how? By successfully palming off their own follies and foibles onto the nation as a whole.

I say hurrah for increasing intelligence! Or to put it in a Learyesque context, hurrah for Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, and Life Extension (SMI²LE), by any means necessary. So long as we simultaneously work just as hard to increase traditional moral understanding -- also necessary but not sufficient, and upon which our entire civilization of freedom, liberty, Capitalism, and individualism is built.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 10, 2008, at the time of 3:32 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

I think I Forgot to Mention...

Hatched by Dafydd

...That I think -- fingers crossed -- I've managed to completely repair my system here at Lizard Central.

At least, it's worked fine for the last couple of days.

<neep alert>I had disk images for each of my drives sitting on an external terabyte USB drive... but the problem was I couldn't get my system to boot (after the fiasco where the fatheads at Microsoft tech support "suggested" I simply buy another full copy of Windows XP and install it on a different partition -- inadvertently neglecting to mention that this would mean I'd have to reinstall all of my applications; that is, all 126 of them, about 100 of which are sans disks that I could find (though each and every one is legally purchased).)

It took me more than a week to undo that insanity and get a system that would actually boot... but only using my Norton Rescue Disk. Eventually, I bought a new 500 Gb IDE drive, plugged it into my original motherboard -- I now know how to replace the motherboard without causing Windows to fall into a hysterical fugue, but I'm not sure that new Windows installation disk will cooperate -- booted off the Norton disk, and was able to restore, one by one, each of the drives to a corresponding partition on the new drive. The boot drive and the Windows drive each had problems, but I judged them not serious enough to prevent booting; and once booted, I would be able to repair the drives.

It all finally worked, and I spent all day Monday running every repair application I had, from Norton Disk Doctor to Norton WinDoctor to Pest Patrol, to a couple of antivirus programs, to Registry First Aid 7.0 -- which I had to run five separate times to clean up all 3,347 registry errors lurking in the Windows-drive disk image I restored.

Anyway, it all seems to work now, knock wooden nickles.</neep>

So the last few posts here were created on my original, comfortable, happy, Windows system, instead of on Sachi's wretched Macinslosh toy computer. And I was only able to do so once I got the brilliant idea of completely ignoring all of the advice I was getting from endless armies of help-desk professionals from Bangalore named Noor or Singh or Mohammed, and simply following my own instincts and logical, Spockian analysis of what to do and how to do it.

There must be a patriotic lesson buried in there somewhere.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 10, 2008, at the time of 1:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Date ►►► December 9, 2008

Castle Hassle

Hatched by Dafydd

A number of states have recently adopted laws enshrining the "castle doctrine," which says you do not have to retreat or flee before you can use deadly force in your home, business (sometimes), and personal vehicle. Like any other legal defense to manslaughter, murder, or ADW, sometimes the cop, judge, or jury buys it, and sometimes he doesn't.

But AP evidently considers it inconsistent and "uncertain" that the outcome varies depending on the circumstances:

A convenience store clerk chased down a man and shot him dead over a case of beer this summer and was charged with murder. A week later, a clerk at another Jackson convenience store followed and fatally shot a man he said tried to rob him, and authorities let him go without charges.

Police say the robber in the second case was armed, while the man accused of stealing beer was not.

Just the same, the legal plights of the two clerks highlight the uncertain impact of National Rifle Association-backed laws sweeping the nation that make it easier to justify shooting in self-defense.

I don't see an "uncertain impact" in this story, except insofar as the exact circumstances dictate whether a doctrine of self-defense will fly in a particular case. You cannot have "one size fits all" justice, because it's inherently unjust not to consider both the provocation and the nuances of the response.

And thank goodness we have a legal system set up to do just that. It's just another example of how much better off we are with ours -- which assumes that self defense is, at least, a debatable and rebuttable justification for using deadly force -- than the European model, where even honest self defense is no defense.

Two officers in Greece shot and killed a "youth" (an Anarchist, not a Moslem radical) who was evidently attacking them -- and Athens and Thessaloniki have seen day after day after day of increasingly violent revenge-protests by Greek radicals:

The circumstances surrounding Saturday's shooting were unclear, and Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos has promised a thorough investigation and the punishment of anyone found responsible.

"It is inconceivable for there not to be punishment when a person loses their life, particularly when it is a child," he said [meaning "older teenager"]. "The taking of life is something that is not excusable in a democracy."

Police said the two officers involved claimed they were attacked by a group of youths, and that three gunshots and a stun grenade were fired in response.

The two officers have been suspended, arrested and charged, one with premeditated manslaughter and the illegal use of a weapon, and the other as an accomplice. They are to appear before a court Wednesday. The Exarchia precinct police chief has been suspended.

Notice that not a single person asks anywhere in the article whether the officers were legitimately in fear of their lives, or whether there was an actual threat to them; evidently, the rule in Greece is that defending your own life or the life of an innocent party is still no license to use deadly force. (The same rule holds in many other European countries, such as Japan.)

In other words, to quote from an old DayGlo poster I had in the 1960s, "Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?"

I've mentioned this before as the Case of the Disappearing Context Adjectives. Rewrite the sentence to reinclude them, and the question answers itself: Why do we kill guilty people who kill innocent people to show that killing innocent people is wrong?

Another reason to fight against the mounting Europeanization of America.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 9, 2008, at the time of 7:12 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

R.I.P. Nina Foch 1924 - 2008

Hatched by Movie Badger

Even though I've known this was coming for a while, considering she was elderly and in poor health since the first time I met her, it made me quite sad to learn that Nina Foch passed away last Thursday night at the age of 84.

Foch was one of the people you've never (barely) heard of, yet who has had an enormous influence on modern film. She initially was an actress, appearing in Scaramouche, the Ten Commandments, Executive Suite, an American in Paris, and Spartacus. But far more important, she taught about acting and working with actors to every directing and screenwriting student of the USC Film School for the last 40 years.

She profoundly changed the way I think about actors and acting, and no doubt did the same for other students in her class; that includes Judd Apatow, John August, John Carpenter, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, George Lucas, Josh Schwartz, Bryan Singer, John Singleton, Stephen Sommers, and Robert Zemeckis. Anyone on this list that went to film school since the 60s was hugely influenced by Nina Foch.

She also did extensive private work with actors, directors, and singers, changing the way they think about acting as well.

As an instructor, she was scary as hell; she delighted in pushing people from their comfort zone. But in doing so, she left us with a much better understanding of film than when we started -- and a strong bond with our classmates. She truly loved teaching, even teaching a class on the day she died. She will be missed.

Here's the Los Angeles Times obituary. And here is a video of her in the Mandy Moore movie How to Deal. Jump to 0:32-0:40 and 2:21-2:32:

 

Hatched by Movie Badger on this day, December 9, 2008, at the time of 2:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Date ►►► December 7, 2008

Knicks & Knacks II

Hatched by Dafydd

What knackers!

Today on Power Line, John Hinderaker once again takes up the sensuous man's burden in praise of beauty pageants. Anent the Miss World competition, now underway, he writes about one of the beauties, whose picture he emplaces below the paragraph...

Nevertheless, excitement is beginning to mount. With serious wagering now in progress, betting odds have taken shape. The original favorite, as reflected here, was Miss Ukraine. That's not too surprising, given the home stage advantage that we often see in beauty pageants. What is remarkable is that, notwithstanding the shift in locale, Miss Ukraine still rates second as a betting favorite (as always, click to enlarge).

Click to enlarge? You think you, uh, might rephrase some of those phrases? Hindrocket?

Going to war with the Army you wish you had

So President Barack Obama evidently chose his new Secretary of Veteran's Affairs primarily to poke a finger in Donald Rumsfeld's eye, at least according to AP:

Shinseki's tenure as Army chief of staff from 1999 to 2003 was marked by constant tensions with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, which boiled over in 2003 when Shinseki testified to Congress that it might take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq after the invasion.

Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, belittled the estimate as "wildly off the mark" and the army general was forced out within months. But Shinseki's words proved prophetic after President George W. Bush in early 2007 announced a "surge" of additional troops to Iraq after miscalculating the numbers needed to stem sectarian violence.

Obama said he selected Shinseki for the VA post because he "was right" in predicting that the U.S. will need more troops in Iraq than Rumsfeld believed at the time.

How many misstatements, fabrications, and misunderstandings can an author squeeze into a single article? Here are four from a scant three paragraphs:

  1. George W. Bush did not "miscalculate" how many forces he needed; the president was presented with one strategy that needed a certain number of military personnel... and when that strategy wasn't working, he was presented with a different strategy that required a slightly larger number of military personnel. In both cases, Bush supplied the troops that his generals requested.
  2. Gen. Eric Shinseki was never "forced out" as Chief of Staff; he served his complete four-year term... as AP itself admits in the immediately preceding paragraph.
  3. Shinseki was indeed "wildly off the mark" about the number of troops we would need: He said we would need "several hundred thousand," which would mean at least 300,000 to 400,000. In fact, we had about 130,000, and we needed about 158,000. A "surge" of 28,000 men hardly constitutes "several hundred thousand."
  4. It is clear from context that Shinseki was not thinking about a counterinsurgency strategy (which he never mentioned) when he made his infamous claim... he was thinking about refighting the Gulf War, when Gen. Colin Powell sent more than half a million troops to Saudi Arabia to liberate Kuwait. Shinseki must have known this was utterly impossible, given the slashed military bequeathed to Bush by former President Bill Clinton; I believe Shinseki's only purpose was to dissuade us from going into Iraq at all... which, considering how well it's turned out and what a victory we achieved there, hardly counts as "prophetic"... even if we did end up needing 22% more than Rumsfeld expected in the counterinsurgency phase. In any event, it's not the number of troops that mattered; it was the change of strategy -- which Eric Shinseki never even addressed.

Bush is leaving, Rumsfeld is already long gone, but the vendetta of the elite news media abides.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 7, 2008, at the time of 6:01 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► December 5, 2008

Knicks & Knacks I

Hatched by Dafydd

The Juice gets squeezed

So Orenthal Simpson gets sentenced to a minimum of 15 years, maximum of 33 years, and not eligible for parole until at least nine years have passed. Picture me doing the Snoopy dance all about the room.

Is there any part of Simpson, any slight shred of conscience left, that whispers in his ear that he deserves the sentence he got -- and maybe even more? I sincerely doubt it; I believe he sees himself entirely as the victim here, just as he saw himself as the victim when he murdered his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and an innocent witness, Ron Goldman.

I wonder which of the following Simpson has convinced himself of:

  1. That he was completely justified, both in the robbery and in the killings;
  2. That he actually, for real, didn't kill either his former wife or Ron Goldman, and he didn't really rob anybody;
  3. Both (a) and (b) simultaneously.

Barney gets frank with us

Here's Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA, 95%) pimping for a bailout of $25 billion -- whoops! now it's $34 billion -- for the risibly dubbed "Big Three" American auto makers (they're actually the Big One, the Weak Sister, and the Flyspeck):

The [House Financial Services] committee chairman, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., cited the jobs report showing the 11th consecutive month of losses as all the more reason for Congress to act to help Detroit.

"For us to do nothing, to allow bankruptcies and failures in one, two or three of these companies in the midst of the worst credit crisis and the worst unemployment situation that we've had in 70 years would be a disaster," Frank said.

Let us rephrase that with some Frank talk of our own:

For us to pound $34 billion worth of sand down the Detroit rathole, without forcing GM, Ford, and Chrysler to radically change their failed business model -- GM has been called "a benefits company that manufactures automobiles as a sideline" -- simply because we can't sit here and "do nothing," would be a folly and a catastrophe of Brobdingnagian stature.

It's a classic example of the "do something" syndrome: Don't stop, don't think, don't wait -- just do something! Of course, sometimes the very best thing to do is sit back patiently and let nature take its course. In this case, if GM and its mini-mes are forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they might actually be able to break some of the onerous labor contracts they've entered into over the decades.

Incidentally, there are two significant differences between the already enacted rescue of Wall Street and the proposed bailout of Detroit; here is the first:

  • The automakers like to claim that the "American automobile industry" -- by which they mean the American-managed automobile factories in the United States employing American workers and headquartered in the United States, as opposed to the American-managed automobile factories in the United States employing American workers but headquartered in other countries -- "touches" 10% of the American economy.

    But the international credit and banking market and the financial industry that controls it is vital to 100% of the American economy. If credit is frozen across the board -- as it was and to some extent still is -- then no company can function. It's a much more significant and national (even international) problem that whether GM goes "bankrupt" and is forced to sell its assets and plants and such to other car companies.

And the second:

In the rescue of the financial markets, we have done two things: At first we purchased "toxic assets," mortgage-backed securities that literally could not be valued, hence could not be traded or used as reserves; then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson decided to inject money more directly into the financials by buying woefully undervalued stock in major financial companies.

But once we sort out the actual components that make up the MBSes, down to the actual mortgages themselves, they will be found to have an intrinsic, nonzero value: They're based upon real property that has physical value. And once they can be valued, they will be worth more than they are right now. Similarly, as the credit crisis eases, bank stocks will rise.

  • All of which means that the $700 billion already authorized and any other money spent on this rescue is an investment, not a bailout: We will realize a positive return on our rescue money, especially if lawmakers can find the huevos to repeal or rewrite the laws that currently force financial institutions to offer oversized mortgages to borrowers who cannot possibly make the payments.

    By contrast, unless the auto companies can dramatically change their business practices to the point that they can actually compete with Toyote, Honda, BMW, Mercedes, and other "foreign" manufacturers (all made in the United States by American auto workers), they will continue to fail worse and worse, no matter how much money we inject into them.

Even if we gave them their blasted $34 billion bailout, they would simply be back in four years, like Oliver with a twist: Instead of "please sir , I want some more," it will be, "Give us another $50 billion right now, or we'll make the economy collapse again!"

That is the very definition of a bailout: enabling anti-market behavior by shielding companies from the consequences of their own corporate stupidity... hoping that if you just bail enough water out of the boat, the leak will fix itself.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 5, 2008, at the time of 6:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► December 3, 2008

Has Al Franken Snapped?

Hatched by Dafydd

The campaign of failed comedian Al Franken has just made an astonishing announcement: They now claim that Franken is ahead of Norm Coleman (R-MN, 64%) in the recount:

Minnesota Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken’s campaign said Wednesday that the comedian has taken the lead in his race against Sen. Norm Coleman (R).

Franken’s lawyer, Marc Elias, has been pressing for the media to focus on the campaign’s internal vote totals of the recount, which as of Wednesday showed Franken opening a lead of 22 votes.

Of course, nobody else sees Al Franken with a lead; he would have to use a very special metric to arrive at that conclusion... and of course, he does. This is the key:

The media have reported that Franken trails in the recount by around 300 votes, but that includes challenged ballots. Coleman’s campaign has challenged several hundred more ballots than Franken’s, but the vast majority of challenges are generally rejected.

Elias argues that, since most challenges will be invalidated, a more accurate count would not include those challenged ballots.

In other words, Politico reports that the Franken team is subtracting from the count all ballots that have been challenged by either side. Politico reports that the Franken campaign claims that when they do so, Franken picks up a net 320+ votes, putting him into the lead.

But there is a problem with the statement, and I don't know whether the mistake was Marc Elias's or Politico's: If it's true that "the vast majority of challenges are generally rejected," then what the Franken campaign means is that they want to count all the ballots... including the ones that are challenged, on the theory that the "vast majority" of challenges (not ballots) will be rejected.

Since the Coleman campaign has challenged more ballots than the Franken campaign, then if all the challenged ballots are added back in, Franken would pick up more votes than Coleman. That is the only calculation that makes sense (from the Franken point of view), so that must be what Elias said (or at least what he meant to say). Either Elias misspoke, or more likely, Politico miswrote.

But this opens up another can of monkeys; by suggesting this metric for determining who is ahead at any moment, Elias makes the hidden assumption that all challenges are equally invalid -- that the challenges made by Coleman against Franken votes) are no more likely to be found valid than the challenges made by Franken against Coleman votes. You follow?

This is the classic "split the difference" fallacy: You have two kids, John and Mary, and one pie. John wants to divide the pie into two equal pieces... but Mary thinks she should get the whole pie to herself. Seeing the impasse, Mary suggests she and her brother "split the difference" -- and give Mary 3/4ths of the pie.

The fallacy is the assumption that all claims are equally valid. In fact, facially, John's claim seems much more reasonable, while Mary's appears more frivolous. Further information can change this presumption: Perhaps Mary won the pie in a contest against John. In that case, Mary's claim is valid, and John's is frivolous or even mendacious. But in neither case is the proper answer to "split the difference;" the individual claims must be adjudicated.

In the present context, Coleman wants each challenge to be evaluated; but Al Franken simply wants all of them summarily rejected, thus giving him a huge chunk of votes. But what if Coleman has more challenges that are likely to be ruled valid than Franken? In that case, fewer of Coleman's claims would be rejected, so he would actually pick up votes, not lose them. It's irrelevant which side has filed more challenges; it only matters how many challenges on each side will be accepted.

Even if Al Franken has lost his mind, his campaign mangler has not. If they are calling for all challenges to be dropped, then they must believe they've made far more frivolous claims than has Coleman. Thus they expect to lose even more votes once the challenges are adjudicated, and they would be overjoyed to see all challenges wiped away, putting them on top. Simply put, the Franken campaign is not going to call for a remedy that would leave Franken in a worse position than he would be under the default remedy of deciding each individual claim on its merits.

The only fact situation that fits Franken's new metric is that far more Coleman challenges are valid than Franken challenges... and Al Franken (and Marc Elias) are well aware of it.

But every challenge on either side occurred with poll watchers from both campaigns present; Coleman's campaign watchers must know the character of all of Franken's challenges compared to their own.

This, then, is a wild "hail Mary" play; Franken has the audacity to hope that the Coleman campaign is so incompetent or so lazy, it agrees simply to hand the election to Franken, rather than go through all the fuss and bother of actually evaluating each challenge, case by case.

I ask whether Al Franken's mind has snapped because no rational person would expect his opponent to concede a race that he believes he has won, and in which he is ahead in the count. It would be like Gore demanding Bush agree to divide Florida absentee ballots equally between them; only a madman would make such a bizarre (and DOA) proposal. A sane candidate would want to preserve at least a shred of dignity, if not decency, and retain his viability for future campaigns.

Nor will this influence Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 85%) to take up the progressive man's burden and try to put together a Senate majority to seat Franken, not Coleman, in January. Reid won't move on this plan; not unless he doesn't mind a seal-kill of Democrats in 2010. Nobody cares that much for Al Franken. Not even Harry Reid.

I believe the fat lady -- or in this case, the humor-impaired "comedian" -- is singing "uncle."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 3, 2008, at the time of 6:23 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► December 2, 2008

Lunatic "Indictments" of Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales Rejected by Judge

Hatched by Dafydd

In an unsurprising but still satisfying development in the latest sad chapter of criminalizing political differences, the bizarre and unbalanced floccillations of defeated Texas DA Juan Guerra have been rebuked and nullified:

A judge dismissed indictments against Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday and told the southern Texas prosecutor who brought the case to exercise caution as his term in office ends.

Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra had accused Cheney and the other defendants of responsibility for prisoner abuse. The judge's order ended two weeks of sometimes-bizarre court proceedings.

Guerra is leaving office at the end of the month after soundly losing in his March primary election.

All of the indictments brought by Guerra's heavily manipulated grand jury were quashed; the reasons varied, but they all amounted to gross imbecility in pursuit of personal or partisan advantage.

Vice President Dick Cheney, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, The GEO Group (which privately operates federal prisons in Texas under U.S. government contracts), and state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. had been indicted for abusing prisoners or allowing them to be abused. Gonzales was singled out because he halted a federal investigation that was going nowhere; Cheney was added ostensibly because he invested in the Vanguard Group, which in turn invested in GEO (I believe we all know why he was really indicted). These bills were all dismissed because Guerra was replacing grand jurors with alternates (possibly more pliant) without properly substituting them... I suppose he simply told the actual jurors to shut up and had the alternates vote in their place.

In addition, two state judges, a state prosecutor, and a district clerk were indicted for investigating Guerra's earlier antics; these indictments were dismissed because it turned out that in addition to being the prosecutor, Guerra was also the alleged victim and the lone witness. Evidently, this constitutes some slight conflict of interest under Texas law.

So one attempt to criminalize policy differences has collapsed utterly, while another -- the indictment of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay for money laundering, of all things -- limps to its nigh inevitable conclusion, not with the bang of a gavel but the whimper of a charge simply allowed to lapse.

Has anyone else noticed how the DeLay case dropped off the elite-media radar the moment it served its purpose of forcing him out of Congress? It's almost as if that were all they ever intended.

I just did a Google News search on "Tom DeLay" + "Ronnie Earle". The latter, you will recall, is the thoroughly discredited Travis County District Attorney; his vendetta against DeLay stems ultimately from the latter's successful drive to break the Democratic gerrymander that had kept the congressional delegation of Texas strongly Democratic -- even as the state had become very reliably Republican. Earle, a Democrat, was evidently furious that his party lost its electoral advantage, allowing the citizens of Texas actually to vote for the delegation they wanted, rather than the delegation that the Democrats allowed them.

The Google search turned up one (1) hit: An article by someone writing for the Texas Observor, "a nonpartisan watchdog [organization] that has filed ethics complaints against TRMPAC, Justice Alan Waldrop, and Bill Ceverha"... in other words, by a leftist house organ for the Austin-based Democratic Party in Texas. And even this piece of, ah, journalism concludes that the only way DeLay could be convicted is if (they hope, they hope!) Jack Abramoff drops some hitherto unrevealed bombshell. This is the Hail Mary of all judicial Hail Marys: Maybe DeLay committed some other crime of which we were previously unaware -- and he gets nailed for that! Hey, it could happen.

Criminalizing normal political differences has been a specialty of the Left for better than three decades; during the campaign, the Obama mob drummed up votes by talking about "war-crimes trials" and impeachments for all of the top Bush-administration officials... though they appear to have backed away from these threats since he was elected. Just as they believe that "the personal is political," they likewise believe that "the political is judicial": They think nothing of either prosecuting someone for taking the wrong side of a political dispute or else shopping around for a leftist judge to force some "progressive" policy onto the masses (unrestricted abortion, same-sex marriage, property-tax hikes, gun control) that the democratic branches of government find themselves unable to enact legitimately.

Logically, one would guess that having now captured both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, the Democrats would be content to exert their power within the framework the Framers intended -- by voting for it. But I doubt it; I begin to believe the Left actually prefers enacting its agenda judicially (and punishing its political opponents with prison sentences): Judicial power is more easily controlled (it's not messy, like a vote), it has a longer reach, and best of all, it gives Progressives the joy of thwarting the will of the very polity they pretend to represent.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 2, 2008, at the time of 6:59 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► December 1, 2008

Puzzle Solved!

Hatched by Dafydd

My favorite blogger just put up a post on my favorite blog; he quoted from an AP story on the appalling ineptitude of the Indian security forces during the terrorist siege -- where ten men held an entire city of 19 million souls hostage.

Some choice quotes:

As more details of the response to the attack emerged, a picture formed of woefully unprepared security forces. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised to strengthen maritime and air security and look into creating a new federal investigative agency - even as some analysts doubted fundamental change was possible.

"These guys could do it next week again in Mumbai and our responses would be exactly the same," said Ajai Sahni, head of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management who has close ties to India's police and intelligence....

Bapu Thombre, assistant commissioner with the Mumbai railway police, said the police were armed mainly with batons or World War I-era rifles and spread out across the station.

"They are not trained to respond to major attacks," he said.

The gunmen continued their rampage outside the station. They eventually ambushed a police van, killed five officers inside -- including the city's counterterrorism chief -- and hijacked the vehicle as two wounded officers lay bleeding in the back seat.

"The way Mumbai police handled the situation, they were not combat ready," said Jimmy Katrak, a security consultant. "You don't need the Indian army to neutralize eight to nine people."

Constable Arun Jadhav, one of the wounded policemen, said the men laughed when they noticed the dead officers wore bulletproof vests....

Even the commandos lacked the proper equipment, including night vision goggles and thermal sensors that would have allowed them to locate the hostages and gunmen inside the buildings, Sahni said.... [Ajai Sahni is "head of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management who has close ties to India's police and intelligence."]

The slow pace of the operations made it appear that the commandos' main goal was to stay safe, Hefetz said. [Assaf Hefetz is "a former Israeli police commissioner who created the country's police anti-terror unit three decades ago."]

To which John appends his own bafflement:

In view of the number of terrorist attacks India has suffered, its failure to be more prepared is puzzling.

Well, perhaps the puzzle is more solvable than at first it appears. Of course the Indian authorities failed to be prepared for any sort of resistance: They relied upon India's extensive and draconian gun-control laws.

For what they proved worth.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 1, 2008, at the time of 3:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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