Category ►►► Opinions: Nasty, Brutish, and Shortsighted
May 30, 2010
Deepest Horizon of Suspicion
Would President Barack H. Obama be moving more swiftly to put the full weight of the federal emergency system behind stopping and cleaning up the Gulf oil spill -- if the region affected comprised liberal Democratic states? Could the president of the United States be that cold-blooded and vindictive against one particular part of the country, a region he particularly detests because of long-past racism and current conservative leanings?
As usual with liberals, when we allow our thoughts to pull us where the evidence seems to lead, we sound paranoid; we back away, embarassed at even thinking such a thing. Who could imagine such a vicious plot... it must just be a curious concatenation of coincidence.
Liberals routinely rely upon that natural tendency, hatching conspiracies so bizarre and brazen that nobody would ever believe them, from attempts to nationalize much of the Amerian economy to wild orgies with White House interns in the Oval Office (rather, the little room just off the Oval Office). Even Republicans like Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt scoff at the "conspiratorial" ideas of "lunatics":
- That Obamunism might include deliberately wrecking our capitalist economy with unsustainable debt, just to pave the way for a liberal-fascist, public-private "partnership," à la Venezuela or Japan;
- That ultra-liberals might welcome a flood of illegals into the country, reasoning that once they're mass-naturalized in a bona-fide amnesty (not like the legitimate path to citizenship proposed by George W. Bush and John McCain), they'll vote reliably Democratic;
- Or that the American Left actually wants to see America lose in Iraq and Afghanistan, to be repeatedly humiliated by Iran, Russia, and China, and to be driven away from our allies in South Korea, Europe, and of course Israel, all the better to "humble" us and drive us, out of desperation, towards supporting greater internationalism and the leftist dream of one-world government.
But at some point, we must ask the fundamental question: Can all the damage inflicted upon our country from the left side of the aisle, over the past century or more, be attributed to mere incompetence? Are the relentless heavy shoves all in the same direction just coincidence piled upon happenstance wrapped with synchronicity? Or at some deeper level, does the Left -- and today, the people surrounding the president or even the Man himself -- intend the consequences they consistently provoke?
I once spent an entire year keeping track of the number of times a restaurant bill was added incorrectly (this was in the days before all such bills were computerized). During that year, I received fourteen misadded checks; thirteen of them were mistaken in favor of the restaurant, only one in my favor.
It's tempting (easier, less truculent, not as scary) to suggest that such improper arithmetic is just a silly error; but if so, then shouldn't the error be in the customer's favor roughly half the time? When the errors so overwhelmingly favor the restraurant, the "null hypothesis" is effectively disproven. At that point, the most reasonable conclusion is that the misadditions are deliberate, not random.
Similarly with the incessant "missteps" and "incomprehensible errors" and "foolish mistakes" in domestic and international policy from the most liberal (or leftist) administrations: When nearly all, virtually without exception, trend in the same direction -- towards more government control at higher and higher levels of organization, cutting against individual liberty and local control -- then it's hard not to conclude that pattern matches the "Misadded Restauant Check" fallacy; and that the curiously coincidental errors are not such coincidences after all.
There are five American Gulf states: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The first four voted against Barack Obama by a whopping average of 58-42; now Florida is clearly trending back Republican after its brief flirtation with radical "hope and change," restoring the solid conservative, Republican South.
And this very day, Obama is enjoying another vacation, his second (!) since the BP spill began just 41 days ago. Yet he still hasn't ordered the most obvious responses, from directing the Army "Corpse" of Engineers to help Louisiana build barrier sand berms, to using fire booms to burn off the oil, to sending in oil tankers to try to scoop up the 20.7 million to 32.7 million gallons of oil that have erupted into the Gulf so far (the Exxon Valdez spill was a paltry 10.8 million gallons), to at least considering using powerful explosives to plug the well. (At least the president, never shy of bragging about the wonders he's going to perform, hasn't even mentioned the possibility.)
Is Obama merely a fool, or is he willfully dragging his feet because the primary victims of the disaster are by and large anti-Obama Republicans? Is this his way of punishing them for their apostasy against the One We Were Supposed to Have Been Waiting For?
Democrats might not like the implications of that question, but I say it demands an answer.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
April 26, 2010
The Religion of Fear Itself, or Why I Despise Modern Liberals (reason 334)
Rarely do I get such an opportunity to opine on my two favorite topics, politics and science fiction, simultaneously!
Physics idol Stephen Hawking is quite convinced that life -- and intelligent life -- exist elsewhere in our galaxy:
The suggestions come in a new documentary series [beginning Sunday, May 9th, at 9 pm, on the Discovery Channel -- DaH] in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.
Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.
Works for me. The chemical processes that produce the building blocks of life are entirely natural, and indeed many might not even need a planet on which to form; analysis of the data is not conclusive, but some simple amino acids may be able to form spontaneously in space.
The next step will produce a few howls of outrage; but one must accept that much good evidence points to life arising from non-life on this planet due to entirely natural, thus repeatable processes. Indeed, biologists and science writers have written entire books on the subject of abiogenesis, e.g., Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins, by Robert Hazen. There are so many models and hypotheses, so much experimental and observational data, so much creative science being published monthly, that the intelligent, well-read student simply cannot dismiss the possibility without months or years of research. That is, unless one is willing to...
- Reject virtually all modern science along with the scientific method;
- Adopt the a priori and unfalsifiable assumption that life requires a "Creator" who is cagey enough to deliberately hide all evidence of his (sorry, His) presence;
- And insist upon referring to contemporary evolutionary biology as "Darwinism" -- thus smarmily implying that it's just a cult of personality like Stalinism or Scientology.
For the 80% or so who are still with me, as life arose here through natural processes, it's a good bet that there are other planets elsewhere in the galaxy (and in other galaxies) where similar natural processes produced forms of life that we could at least recognize as such.
The penultimate step is that like life itself, intelligence -- that is, animal cunning -- is clearly a biological advantage; thus the chain of life will necessarily produce smarter and more sophisticated animals (shorthand for animated forms of life)... unless freakish local conditions preclude, e.g., the development of multicellular organisms. In any event, some planets with life will evolve cleverer life.
The last step is the one about which we know least. Does self-awareness arise spontaneously? Is it part of the implicate order of cleverness? Or does it require the breath of God to create the spark of a soul? If the former, then clearly we should assume there is intelligent life elsewhere in the void until proven otherwise.
But even if the latter situation obtains, what hubris would we exhibit were we to assert with confidence that God would never strike that spark anywhere but on this particular planet where we happen to live! Who are we to tell He who made Leviathan that Earth is the only planet "zoned" for self-aware, moral beings?
I believe as much as ever before that the odds favor a universe populated with many, many civilized cultures; but of course, nobody can know what civilization, morality, or even communication means to creatures which evolved on a completely different planet... or in a gas cloud or the surface of a somewhat coolish star, for that matter.
Hawking agrees with that point as well:
Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved.
“To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” he said. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”
But what's all this about modern liberals? Why should I despise someone with whom I fundamentally agree on such a vital issue? Because in his next breath, Hawking proves himself a coward; and I despise poltroonery:
The aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist -- but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.
Note that my main dispute with the eminent Hawking stands, even if the reader of this post rejects evolution: Hawking obviously believes in evolution by variation and natural selection, and he believes that will ultimately produce alien civilizations; but he is clearly terrified of the prospect of contact. Contrariwise, all my space-nutter friends and I desperately hope to see human-alien contact during our lifespans. That is one major difference between New-Left liberals and true libertarians: Whether one dreams of alien contact -- or endures an agonizing nightmare about it.
Why is Hawking so frightened? And why does he think should the rest of us be afraid? Because liberal ideology -- and in particular disgust with Western civilization and unthinking acceptance of all the environmenalist myth-making about the unnaturalness of humanity -- leads many liberals into despair and terror.
Such scenes [of imaginative and extraordinary alien life that might exist] are speculative, but Hawking uses them to lead on to a serious point: that a few life forms could be intelligent and pose a threat. Hawking believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity.
He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”
He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
So many Eco-Left bugbears bubble up from this ill-considered froth! If only Hawking would apply the same faculty for critical thinking to the potential of alien civilizations as he applies to physics problems.
Let's start with the scenarios he himself presents. Why would aliens travel dozens of lightyears (at least!), hundreds of trillions of miles, just to "raid Earth for its resources?" Which resources would those be... hydrogen, the most common element in the galaxy?
Oxygen, nitrogen, water vapor, and carbon dioxide, easily obtained from any Earthlike planet much nearer to the aliens than Earth? Pure water, as in the original TV series V -- which can be melted from any water-ice asteroid in our asteroid belt without us ever noticing its "theft?"
Gold, silver, uranium, or any other precious metal -- which can be mined anywhere?
And why would the aliens even need to dig minerals out of the rock? Assuming they're smart enough and technologically sophisticated enough to cross interstellar distances, wouldn't it be likely they could artificially produce such elements in nuclear manufactories in any quantities they needed, and with a fraction of the cost and none of the danger?
There is no vaguely logical reason why a civilization in search of resources would trundle across the vastness of space to tussle with some squalid alien Neanderthals (that would be us by comparison) for what they can obtain or create by lifting their smallest tendrils. "Invasion for resource raiding" is complete nonsense as a plausible reason for violent attack. Christopher Columbus may have stumbled upon the New World and enslaved the natives, but that's because he lived in a universe of scarcity, where mechanization could not yet replace human labor.
What else could aliens want -- territory? But planets that can support life, on which life evolved, where intelligence reached a critical peak, where that bright life awoke into self-awareness, where science was discovered and technology invented, and where practical spaceflight was developed... such planets would be an occasional fleck of diamond in a vast beach of ordinary sand. Why fight for territory when it's all free for the taking, as much as you want?
One can always wave one's hands and warn that the aliens might have some cockamamie religion that requires them to conquer and enslave humans. But it's equally valid to speculate that their cockamamie religion might drive them to help us gain the scientific understanding and technological powers they themselves enjoy. The same Western powers that claimed entire continents in the name of king and country centuries ago have more recently used their blood and treasure to raise up the Third World to First-World status (or tried to do, anyway).
Abstruse and obtuse reasons
When my pal and worthy co-conspirator Brad Linaweaver and I wrote the Doom tetralogy, we wanted (for plot reasons) to have an interstellar war (we were writing a subluminous, Einsteinian space opera, which I think is unique in science-fiction history). My goodness, how we struggled to come up with a reason that was not preposterous on its face, that was vaguely plausible, why alien races would ever go to war!
We finally settled on a long-ago dispute between competing schools of literary theory, the Surrealists and the Post-Modernists, each trying to analyze a fistful of fragments left behind by the first race ever to achieve spaceflight, billions of years earlier. These academic disputes erupted into a war that, due to lightspeed limitations, still continued after thousands of millennia. But that took us days of teleconferences to concoct.
Simply put, logic implies there is simply no reason for beings of one stellar system to attack beings of another. And while it's true that alien logic might be very different, we don't have any to study; so we're stuck with our own logic. To be frightened of the prospect of contacting aliens is to yield to xenophobia and the mortal sin (and bleak helplessness) of despair.
And that brings us, by a commodius vicus of recirculation, back to contemporary eco-nut liberalism. As we have seen, liberalism has metastacized into the philosophy of catastrophe, where every way we live brings about our gruesome death: Eating, drinking, exercising, heating our homes, cooling our heels, and now even exhaling. From the Center for Science in the Public Interest to the IPCC to ELF and ALF, liberals warn that we must fear everything.
Is Hawking a liberal? He tries not to talk about it, but enough has seeped out to make it fairly clear: He was a member of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats when he was at university; he "appeared on a political broadcast for the United Kingdom's Labour Party," according to his Wikipedia biography; and like most scientists who don't specialize in climate-related research, he is a fierce proponent of global-warming hysteria -- "globaloney chic."
He's either an agnostic (if you believe him) or atheist (if you believe his first wife). And of course, he hails from England, where even the so-called Conservatives are far to our left on the political spectrum.
Everything fits; it's all of a pattern. Hawking is clearly a liberal, and he evinces the same terror of the unknown that liberalism propagates as its primary recruiting tool. And for what the wretched ideology of left-liberalism and eco-nuttery has done to such a fine intellect, I despise modern liberals.
April 19, 2010
Emptying My Thimble
Over on my favorite blog, Power Line, Scott "Big Johnson" Trunk has a series of posts called something like "emptying my spindle." The phrase, for those of you younger than Scott (i.e., born after 1907), a spindle is a vicious spike sticking up out of a flat base; the idea -- horrific even to imagine in today's Nerfworld -- is to take important memos (printed on paper!) in one's hand and jam them onto the spike with a lusty whack, where they will stick... along with your hand, if your aim be unsteady. Having been "dealt with," said memos are promptly forgotten until until Doomsday.
To empty or clear one's spindle is thus to go through one's old business and respond belatedly to urgent matters that should have been taken care of months ago. Scott uses the phrase to mean going back through his voluminous file of posts he meant to make but didn't, and write some quick and pithy abstract of his thoughts on the subject, jamming two or three hundred essays into a single post, like a fossil-rich sediment layer.
Well, I don't have a spindle-full of such ancient pith, but I think I can scrape together at least a thimble-full of comtemporary stories about which I have a milliliter or so of fresh pith. So here goes nothing!
A man, a plan, a genocide -- Ahmadinejad!
Secretary of Defense and Bush leftover Robert Gates says President Barack H. Obama has no plan for what to do when Iran gets its nukes. Doesn't that make your chest swell with ideological pride?
A memo from Defense Secretary Robert Gates to the White House warned that the United States lacks a nimble long-term plan for dealing with Iran's nuclear program, according to a published report.
Gates wrote the three-page memo in January and it set off efforts in the Pentagon, White House and intelligence agencies to come up with new options, including the use of the military, The New York Times said in its Sunday editions, quoting unnamed government officials.
But of course, now that Obama's own SecDef has called attention to the gaping hole in our nuclear policy -- whoops, forgot all about that Iran thing -- surely the White House is rushing to rework our strategic posture to take into account this fairly likely scenario, yes? Well, not exactly:
White House officials Saturday night strongly disagreed with the comments that the memo caused a reconsideration of the administration's approach to Iran.
"It is absolutely false that any memo touched off a reassessment of our options," National Security Council spokesman Benjamin Rhodes told The Associated Press. "This administration has been planning for all contingencies regarding Iran for many months."
Ah, contingencies. So what contingencies are in place to deal with a nuclear Iran?
One senior official described the memo as "a wake-up call," the paper reported. But the recipient of the document, Gen. James Jones, President Barack Obama's national security adviser, told the newspaper in an interview that the administration has a plan that "anticipates the full range of contingencies."
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, who did not confirm the memo Saturday night, said the White House has reviewed many Iran options.
"The secretary believes the president and his national security team have spent an extraordinary amount of time and effort considering and preparing for the full range of contingencies with respect to Iran," Morrell said.
Well, that certainly clears the air!
This is one area where President Obama actually has an opinion beyond voting "present." The man is so pure and adamant in his hatred of nuclear weapons that he refuses -- on principle, one must surmise -- to think about them... even to the extent of how to respond if the world's most beligerent and most anti-democratic, and most Jew-hating regime on the planet perfects them. To plan a response is to accept the existence of atoms, which is anathema to the Obamacle.
Rather, the administration's policy appears to be cajole, beg, threaten... wash, rinse, and repeat, ad infinitum. And if Iran doesn't listen?
Gates and other senior members of the administration have issued increasingly stern warnings to Iran that its nuclear program is costing it friends and options worldwide, while sticking to the long-held view that a U.S. or Israeli military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would be counterproductive.
See? "Stern warnings": They do have a plan after all.
Renewing his bows
Speaking of the One Himself, Barack Obama has been bowing recently to all and sundry. From the Heisei emperor of Japan, Akihito, to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, to President Hu Jintao of China, Obama has groveled to them all.
This chaps my hide. What's next... will our president crawl on his hands and knees, scourging and debasing himself (or more likely George W. Bush) in penance for America's sins?
But I tell you this: The day Obama bows to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, I will forever refer to the Windy City community oorganizer as "President Hussein."
You may think it petty; I see it as symbolic... let the world know that he will have chosen up sides.
The mad tea-bash
Bill Clinton, in a fit of retro triangulation cleverly timed to remind us why we really don't miss that administration, has just equated tea-party rallies to the Oklahoma City bombing:
"What we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or that we should reduce our passion for the positions we hold - but that the words we use really do matter, because there's this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious [read: Democrats] and the delirious [Republicans] alike. They fall on the connected [liberals] and the unhinged [neo-conservative running-dog imperialists] alike," he said.
He warns the country against that lunatic fringe of "tea partiers" who hurl incendiary rhetoric like "Taxed Enough Already" and "repeal the bill." But here's the point missed by throwback leftists such as Mr. C.:
"I'm glad they're fighting over health care and everything else. Let them have at it. But I think that all you have to do is read the paper every day to see how many people there are who are deeply, deeply troubled," he said.
He also alluded to the anti-government tea party movement, which held protests in several states Thursday. At the Washington rally, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota railed against "gangster government."
Clinton argued that the Boston Tea Party was in response to taxation without representation. The current protesters, he said, are challenging taxation by elected officials, and the demonstrators have the power to vote them out of office.
No, actually, they don't; at least in most states, voters cannot recall their U.S. senators and representatives willy nilly as they please (nor do I wish they could). To set the record straight, we have the power to vote some of them out of office six months from now... but not right now.
Alas, in the upcoming demi-year, the Progressivist supermajority can do incalculable and irreversible damage to the United States of America. And we haven't even mentioned the horror that will attend the lame-duck session following the election, when scores of Democrats will know that their careers are ruined anyway... so why not be hanged for an entire abattoir of swine as be hanged for a single sheep?
Clinton says he isn't asking for us to censor ourselves, just tone down the demands; but freedom of speech includes not only the right to present the case for fiscal sanity, but also the right to do so colorfully and dramatically.
When the Left regularly drops F-bombs and N-words, plays the race card like a permanent joker, flashes its get out of jail free card to be exempt from all consequences of its actions and its own violent rhetoric, and encourages its members to confabulate wild, unsubstantiated urban legends for no reason other than to paint Republicans as ogres and cannibals... then why should the anti-Left be restricted to mild, hesitant argumentation, accompanied by much apology and forelock tugging?
I say, unconstrain your rhetoric, so long as you target the real culprits. Let the Left start responding with rational and logical debate, instead of special pleading and threats. Let a thousand points of light bloom. That may not be the Chicago way, but it's the American way.
Frame by frame
I had a fascinating revelation yesterday, what I shall call an "utterly obvious profundity."
Sachi and I were driving through an old section of town, one that was more or less intact from the twenties and thirties. As I looked at the buildings, I abruptly realized something: That world really was just as colorful and three-dimensional as today's. It's just that our only visual window into that world -- movies -- has a narrow aperature and happens to be in black and white.
While Cagney and Bogie and all the rest pursue their violent courses within a noir world of shadow, the real inhabitants of that spacetime locus wandered through the same colors, more or less, as we do today. (By the same token, when Enrico Casuso sang, his voice was not scratchy and drowned out by vinyl or wax hiss; that is simply an artifact of the recording medium.)
Perhaps this just proves my own banality; but I believe more people than myself subconsciously envison yesteryear as we've always seen it on late-night TV: grainy, black and white, occasionally silent, always narrowly constrained to the TV's dimensions... and constantly interrupted by adverts for Cal Worthington and his dog Spot.
My thimble is empty. Tally ho.
February 18, 2010
On Taxes, Violent Revolution, Michael Medved, and the Late Mr. Stack
On today's show, Michael Medved said something fatuous.
Yes, I know this is hardly news enough even to raise an eyebrow; he has done it many times before, and he will continue to do it. To be fair, he also says things now and again that are unusually perceptive; but to continue our brutal fair mindedness, I have never heard him utter profundity, a feat Dennis Prager occasionally achieves.
Medved's dilemma is twofold, ideological and pragmatic. His first ideological impulse is often leftwards, towards collectivism, relatively big government, and a nanny state; then when he stops to think about it, he veers right. But too often, while trying to "justify" the thin veneer of conservatism that beshrouds his underlying urge towards liberalism, he stumbles into a fugue of semi-desperate defensiveness.
My gut feeling is that Medved, because of his left-liberal background, is always just a little bit ashamed about being a capitalist and a social conservative; so he must continually prove that he hasn't actually betrayed his idealistic roots. When his "liberal conscience" gives him an attack of the guilts, it drives him to launch into a hectoring, sometimes whiny explanation cum apology. Michael Medved is forever trying to prove to his old friends that he's not really a running-dog imperialist fascist.
Pragmatically, he may know what to do; but fear gets in the way. In the present case, he seems quite nervous that if he raises the question of revolution, even to shoot it down as completely unwarranted and risible in today's America, everybody will point at him, and through him, at conservativism itself, chanting, "shame, shame!"
But we're Americans; we're driven by courage and optimism, not fear and a soul-sapping premonition of defeat. We cannot be afraid to think about the "unthinkable," lest the day of the unthinkable come as a thief in the night. Courage, Michael; courage.
Eh bien. So he was speaking about Joseph Andrew Stack III, that nutjob who unsuccessfully tried to murder his wife and stepdaughter, then flew his private plane into an IRS building in Austin. Evidently, some callers in the previous hour (I wasn't listening then) expressed some sympathy with Stack, either with his lunatic suicidal "protest," the hallucinations found in his mushroomy "manifesto" -- or merely with the idea that excess taxation is oppressive. Three paragraphs of Stackism are more than enough to get the general idea:
While very few working people would say they haven’t had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.
Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.
And justice? You’ve got to be kidding!
(This should put to rest any idea that Mr. Stack was a conservative; this reads more like a loony-left, anti-corporatist, populist screed, à la the Unabomber.)
Medved had to walk a tightrope in response: He agrees with the last point (taxes are too high) but of course rejects the first two. In his zeal to reassure America that Michael Medved is not a Stackist, that Stack isn't (I mean wasn't) a conservative, that the Tea Party movement isn't violent, and that Republicans don't stand for flying Piper Cherokees into federal buildings, the Sage of Seattle went a skosh overboard.
He stated that even discussing revolution crosses a "tipping point" where one's credibility is utterly destroyed; that it's dangerous and mad even to imagine resorting to violence to "make progress" in America. When someone called to remind him of the American Revolution, Medved was at great pains to lecture that our Founders weren't up in arms over taxation per se, but rather over the loss of local control over government, when Great Britain decided to wring us dry to pay for the French and Indian War.
True enough on the last; but doesn't that argument admit that there are, then, legitimate reasons to revolt? If not taxation, then when a remote federal government seizes sufficient power from the more accessible, local governments. That is, when government shifts from being of, by, and for the people to being an oppressive foreign element imposed upon the people from outside.
My impression is that Medved would shun talk of revolution even in the latter instance, at least within the United States. But I don't mean the America of today; we're nowhere near the point where revolution is a legitimate option... and I sincerely doubt we ever will be, to a large extent because of wonderfully American, government-limiting phenonomena like California's Proposition 13, the Reagan Democrats, and Tea Partiers.
But let's hypothesize; imagine if an American president signed a treaty making America a member of the European Union; and suppose a runaway Senate quickly ratified the treaty. Suppose we began overturning state and local laws, regulations, and protections to impose international diktats emanating from the unholy ménage à trois between Strasbourg, Luxembourg, and Brussels. Suppose the Constitution, its Bill of Rights, and American sovereignty itself remained as paper promises only, our sacred rights and liberties supplanted by what could only then be called one-world government; and that all peaceful means of reform were outlawed and made useless.
Would that be enough for Medved to consider the merits of violent overthrow of what our government had become?
I honestly don't know. It should be more than enough, in my opinion; but Medved imprinted "Summer-of-Love liberalism" at a very early age, and I don't think he'll ever entirely surmount it.
Liberals in the 60s almost invariably advocated for pacifism -- while their radical leftist allies urged bloody revolution. The former cannot have been unaware of what the latter demanded and frequently fomented; yet liberals still refused to break with their pals. I can only conclude that secretly, liberals saw the extremist left as their shock troops, their Basij; whether they admitted it to themselves or not, the idea, conscious or subconscious, was that the establishment should be passive while the Left rampaged through the streets.
Radical and revolutionary impulses can never be controlled by suppression; they can only be defused by responding to them... not just militarily but ideologically. We cannot win a war against radicalism without first winning the war of ideas. On the other extreme, unless we develop a general metric of revolution, we also cannot know when we have reached the real tipping point... the inflection point where revolution becomes not only thinkable for the huge majority, not merely inevitable, but a moral duty.
We see many examples in the world today; their follies and furies allow us to grope for our "general metric of revolution":
- Messianic fanaticism. Clearly Iran has passed that tipping point; can any honest advocate of American ideals dispute that theocracy in Iran is already odious enough that Persians are justified in seizing control, even violently, and hurling the mullahs into the abyss? With the will, they will have the strength; whether they have the will is debatable.
Military dictatorship. Ukrainian President-elect (pending the election appeal) Viktor Yanukovych says that Ukraine should not join either NATO or the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO); the latter -- comprising the Russian Federation, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- is the successor to the Commonwealth of Independent [sic] States, which arose from the ashes of empire in the old USSR in a desperate attempt to salvage Russian hegemony.
But suppose Yanukovych betrays his promise and signs the CSTO treaty, inviting Russian troops into Kiev... in essence, handing Ukraine back into servitude to the Russian bear. That would give Russia practical veto-power over any future change of government back to independence; and that too would give casus belli for revolution.
Economic oblivion. Zimbabwe is still "led" (cannibalized is the better term) by a madman, Robert Mugabe, even after the so-called "power-sharing agreement" with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Zimbabwe is in a state of true economic collapse, something that Americans have never experienced -- not even during the Great Depression, where unemployment never topped about 25%; in Zimbabwe a year ago, it ran about 95%.
They also have one of the worst cases of hyperinflation in human history, far more even than the Weimar Republic that immediately preceded the Nazi takeover of Germany; in 2008, Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate was estimated to be in excess of 230,000,000% (yes, I did indeed mean to type two hundred million percent). Just a year ago, Zimbabwe announced a "fourth" Zimbabwe dollar, which was to be exchanged at a rate of one new dollar for one trillion "third" Zimbabwe dollars.
Mugabe has responded to this crisis by trying to massacre all whites remaining in the country, seizing their farms and other property, and declaring that all of Zimbabwe's troubles stem from continued "colonization." In this case, the madness of Mugabe has metastasized, leading the entire nation into mass psychosis. This is another, albeit darker moral justification for revolutionary overthrow, no matter how violent: It's hard to imagine any new government that would not be infinitely better than the utter chaos, without form and void, that prevails there today. It truly is Hell on Earth.
I reiterate: America is nowhere near political discontinuity on the scale of the countries listed above; we are not at the point where "violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer," as the late and unlamented Mr. Stack would have us believe.
What do all three examples have in common? That the state has formally banned and violently suppressed all peaceful means of redress. That is the only case where, by defintion, "violence... is the only answer."
That must be our primary metric:
- If opposition candidates are allowed to run; and if they win, allowed to assume office;
- If dissidents and ordinary citizens are allowed to peaceably assemble, protest, petition the government, get on TV, and suchlike;
- If residents are still allowed access to the courts to appeal government decisions; if the Supreme Court still strikes down government power grabs, at least some of the time; and if those judicial decisions are accepted, however grudgingly, by the political leaders;
- If civil liberties are still protected at trial, in worship, in speech, and in other circumstances; if the police and military still feel bound by those limitations on their power and do not routinely ignore the law;
- If ordinary civilians are still allowed to possess the means of resistance, including arms;
- If interstate travel -- or in extremis, emigration -- remains unrestricted, thus allowing people to move or even leave the country...
Then you still have a free country. Redress of any set of grievances is still available, given sufficient support within the population; violence against the government is uncalled for; and terroristic acts against the symbols of society and ordinary people is a monstrous moral and social evil.
We cannot shy away from thinking about revolution, and we must not swallow our thoughts without voicing them. Without open, frank discussion, with no idea taken "off the table" before ratiocination even begins, we would have no defense against well-thought-out, cleverly articulated radicalism that demands a hundred RPMs, revolutions per minute. Without grabbing the bull by the tail and looking bloody insurrection in the face, nothing will stand between us and the Bill Ayers and Joseph Andrew Stacks of the world.
Regardless of Michael Medved's frets and fears, we must put on our manly gowns, gird our loins, and pull up our socks. Let's talk, and stop worrying that pondering revolution and concluding that it's preposterous in today's America is going to "destroy the credibility" of... Americanism.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
February 5, 2010
Fallout from Rahm "F***ing Retarded" Emanuel's Incivility
First, read this.
Am I missing something? Or does the word "retarded" simply mean slowed, impeded, held back?
What is "crude," "demeaning," or "name calling" about the word? It seems purely diagnostic.
I understand that Sarah Palin has a child with Down syndrome, and she might be sensitive about Trig being teased or bullied. Still and all, words mean what they mean; you cannot make mental retardation go away by demanding nobody speak its name.
Who's with me on this?
February 3, 2010
Failure Is Always an Option - Thank Goodness!
I was going to write about the curious fact that it's not only mathematically possible but now even somewhat plausible that Republicans could take over the Senate in November; but everybody and his monkey's paw is already going on about that. So I'm shifting gears: Instead, I'll argue against Michael Medved and every other conservative who repeats the stupid mantra that "Of course we hope President Obama is successful!"
That way, my only competition is Rush Limbaugh, whose explanation is kind of shallow, to tell the truth.
When some caller presses Medved on what the heck he means, he has a pat, memorized answer. Alas, it's a complete non-sequitur. Medved invariably explains that he doesn't mean he hopes Barack H. Obama succeeds in passing card check, implementing energy cripple and tax, closing Gitmo, ending the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda Axis, nationalizing more banks and other corporations, raising taxes, spending us into oblivion, and for dessert, foisting ObamaCare on the charred remains. Rather, Medved insists that by "I hope the president is successful," he means he hopes that Obama succeeds in leading America to prosperity, security, and liberty.
This explanation is nothing but Mueslix on stilts: nutty, flakey, and wobbly all at the same time.
Medved is engaging in what I call "Argument by Tendentious Redefinition." With that rhetorical trick, proponent takes an ordinary, simple English-language word (such as "success") and secretly redefines it to a meaning whose only purpose is to win the argument -- while still relying upon people imagining that he still means the generally accepted definition. In this case, the word "success" (meaning, achieving a goal one has set) is transmogrified to mean, achieving the goal diametrically opposite what one has enunciated, but which happens to be more congenial to the "well-wisher."
When Michael Medved or any of a score of conservative pundits says he hopes Obama succeeds, it's really code for saying he hopes Obama converts to conservatism. While that may be a laudible wish, it's definitely not covered by the word "success."
By the definition commonly accepted throughout the English-speaking world, what Medved, et al, really should say is that they hope B.O. fails miserably in his attempt to implement Obamunism, to remake America in the image of Sweden, Venezuela, or Cuba. That at least would be clear; one can disagree with the sentiment (though it's self-evident to any thinking person), but one cannot be confused.
I certainly haven't investigated this, but it seems to me that most of the Republicans and self-labeled conservatives who say they hope the president is successful -- meaning they hope he turns his coat -- grew up as liberals and only came to conservatism later in life. Medved certainly fits this profile, as he was a left-liberal activist and protester back in the late 60s; he flip flopped (he would say "wised up") during the Ronald Reagan era, making him a "neoconservative" by the most classical definition.
By contrast, Rush Limbaugh has never been a liberal, so far as I know; and he brazenly hopes Obama fails. But why does one's political life-journey make such a difference in rhetoic? Let's look a little deeper...
The prime directive of the Left is that "Everything is political." For example, Karl Marx taught that the core of history is a class struggle between what Saul Alinsky would later dub the Haves and the Have Nots; and that this class struggle was ultimately political in nature. Contemporary liberals chant, "the personal is political," which is functionally equivalent to my phrasing above.
This axiom on the Left means that every question is answered by politics, that reality itself is naught but a convenient consensus of political accomodation. If the Indiana state legislature votes that π, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, is equal to 3.0, then that becomes the new consensus reality -- regardless of the fact that it's wrong, in a literal sense. (The constant ratio π is actually an irrational number that begins 3.141592653589793... and goes on like that forever in more or less random fashion.)
To put it bluntly, liberalism teaches that Reality is infinitely malleable: If the political power changes hands, reality itself shifts correspondingly. "Truth" to a leftist or liberal means that which advances the Vision; while a "lie" is whatever contradicts or damages the Vision. (See Thomas Sowell's the Vision of the Anointed.)
It's an easy step from there to the Argument by Tendentious Redefinition: If reality can be changed by political action, then words themselves (which are part of reality) can be changed by strident repetition... and this in turn alters the concept at which the word points.
Here's a really good real-world example. A liberal wants to continually grow the scope and reach of government; but that can be expensive, as we see with the Obamacle's budget proposal.
So the people, the voters, demand that the liberal-run government cut spending. "All right," say the liberals, "we bow to the will of the people." And they do proceed to cut... they cut the rate of growth of spending. They had planned to raise spending by 10%, but they raise it by only 8% instead -- and announce a 2% "spending cut."
The tendentious redefinition here is that spending cut, which used to mean a reduction in actual spending, now means a reduction in the increase of spending, or a reduction in projected spending. To the extent liberals can keep the redefinition secret, they can pose as deficit hawks and get themselves reelected.
Liberals and leftists are steeped in such tendentious redefinitions by their peer groups; they may already have used that rule of inference long ago, even as children, which might be what drove them to liberalism in the first place; but in any event, such thinking is reinforced and rewarded within lefty circles.
But even when they depart the Left for warmer climes, they often take such thought processes with them as excess baggage. This led me to my own definition of a neoconservative: a person who thinks like a liberal but usually arrives at conservative conclusions. People like Medved, David Horowitz, and Sen. Norm Coleman (to pull a few at random), who used to be on the left, still use the same thought mechanisms that they used back then... but now in service to a different master. And their reflexes are still knee-jerk leftist; they often must argue themselves out of a reflexive reliance on liberal tropes and back towards a more conservative position. (A lot of libertarians came to that philosophy from the left, and they too carry a lot of lefty thought-baggage.)
One particular piece of lefty thought-luggage retained by Medved and his Obama well-wishing pals is an overwhelming feeling of guilt at hoping someone, especially a black someone, fails. Even when they honestly do hope the man does not achieve his goals, they're afraid to say such a thing out loud. So they frequently fall back on yet another lefty valise or steamer trunk, and tendentiously redefine the word "success" as noted above.
But I have never in my entire life been a liberal; I was never trained to think of a black man or some other minority as a representative of some group, or that his failure was due to the white man "holding him down for 300 years," as many blacktivists insist. Consequently, I feel no guilt whatsoever wishing abject failure upon Barack H. Obama: Success as Obama defines it is anathema to me, so why on Earth would I wish for it?
In fact, one of our most important rights is the right to fail: By failing, we learn, we grow, we mature... or at least we can. And I would never be so cruel as to take away anybody's right to fail by, e.g., supporting a government Bureau of Bad Breaks, which tries to make good (at taxpayer expense) any setback or adverse result of poor judgment -- like not buying health insurance and then getting sick or injured. That's a liberal idea, and I despise it as unAmerican and infantalizing.
I will defend with my life Barack Obama's fundamental right to fail. But I just wish he would get busy and exercise it... soon!
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
January 27, 2010
SOTU: What Does ObamaMan Want?
That's what tonight's State of the Union address (and voter reaction to it) will hinge upon: Does President Barack H. Obama want to be perceived as having succeeded on a handful of issues that resonate with voters? Or does he want to be perceived as having "stuck to his guns" on big-ticket, very left-liberal policies... that all failed?
In other words, is B.O. more interested in promoting the fortunes of B.O., or the fortunes of George Soros, MoveOn, and ACORN?
If the latter, there's nothing to say: If he's determined to go down with the lefty ship, let him. I believe we're past the danger than he would take the rest of the country down with him (except perhaps in terms of debt; but that would take quite a while). But if Obama is seriously interested in his own personal political future, then that brings us to the more interesting question: What could the president realistically say tonight that would start to repair the damage?
Note the highlighted word in that question: The Obamacle is not going to flip to being a Republican; nor is he capable of "triangulating," as Bill Clinton did, playing the Democrats off against the Republicans. He is bound not only by his past statements and behaviors -- which are far more radical than Bill Clinton pre-1994 -- but also by his own character and background: Basically, Obama is best described as "a community organizer for ACORN." Such a man cannot, for example, suddenly sign aboard a policy of reducing welfare, as Clinton did... it's simply not in Barack Obama's nature.
But there are things he can do; let's see if we can figure out a few. Yes, I know the speech is already cast in stone. But this is a fantasy; and anyway, change doesn't have to begin with this one particular speech.
The most important rule about holes: When you find yourself in one, the first step is to...
In this case, considering that each of Obama's signature programs has already flopped -- card check, the energy
cripple and tax cap and trade bill, sundry stimuli, and of course ObamaCare -- it costs him nothing to say that he wants Congress to put all those programs of revolutionary change on hold for a while. In fact, he should announce they're on hold until the next Congress is seated; that will simultaneously recognize reality and also position Obama to become much more bipartisan by default, since everyone knows the next Congress will be more balanced.
He should also put on hold his habit of making incendiary, populist, Oogo-Chavez like rants against Big Oil, Big Stock, Big Bank, Big Pharma, and Big Insurance: The speeches aren't playing well with the voters and they're scaring the bejesus out of investors.
Finally, it's long, long past time to stop blaming George W. Bush for all of Barack H. Obama's travails and tribulations. B.O. should man-up and firmly announce that the buck stops at his seat. To wit, Obama should invite George W. Bush to meet with him at the White House to discuss, let's say, strategy in the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda Axis.
Time to give voters a breather.
Make some new friends
Speaking of partisanship, practically the entire country thinks there's been a whole lotta too much of it.
Obama should admit that he lost his focus on bipartisanship, but that he intends to be much more inclusive of Republicans and moderate Democrats this year. Specifically, that he intends to meet with them at the White House, discuss the issues, and press Congress to work out more bipartisan solutions to the nation's problems.
Since everyone knows that such vows are "pie-crust promises, easily made and easily broken," he should make a specific pledge to veto any major bill that comes to his desk with support from only one party. "And not just one or two votes; I want to see a good-faith effort to be inclusive."
Bush famously made a horse-trade after 9/11 and even more so after the Iraq War began: He gave the Democratic minority some of what it wanted on the domestic front (the Medicare prescription-drug extension, for example) in exchange for Democrats not inflicting military defeat on the American people in Iraq and Afghanistan, i.e., by filibustering supplementary Defense authorization bills.
Obama can make the same deal in reverse: He can offer a more robust response to terrorism and the two major wars in exchange for the GOP helping him pass some small-scale version of, say, health-care reform.
This isn't exactly triangulating; there's no 180° flip-flop required for Obama in this deal, since he has never said (post-inauguration) that we should pull out of Iraq immediately or that all terrorists should be treated as civilian criminals. It's just shading the policy a little more towards national security than liberals would prefer.
Start listening to your own best friend -- yourself
Obama often talks a good game (or at least a considerably less awful one) on issues such as deficit reduction, the war against the Axis, Executive transparency, an end to earmarks and other corruption, and private-sector job creation. So why not actually make good on a few of those promises?
These are areas where B.O. already talks the talk; he doesn't need to flip a loud and public flop. But it is long past time he walk the walk.
These three tacks in aggregate could go a long way towards tearing down the wall of separation between Obama and America. Alas, we already know what he plans to say... because evidently, la Casa Blanca has already released its "talking points" for tonight's speech. Power Line has 'em here.
And while I don't like to judge before all the facts are in, it appears as though the president has opted simply to redouble his efforts in all the same directions as the last year.
So it goes.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
January 19, 2010
George the Magic Cracker
So Barack H. Obama went up to Boston, campaigning hard for Massachusetts Attorney General Martha "Chokely" Coakley to win the special election to serve the remainder of Ted Kennedy's term.
It didn't work out quite as planned.
Now the Democrats have found their newest scapegoat, and it turns out to be... Oh heck, let them tell it themselves:
Appearing at a rally at Northeastern University here, President Obama said out-of-power Republicans had taken advantage of the economic crisis to make Democrats the political fall guy during difficult times.
"We’re going to let them make the tough choices, and let them rescue the economy, and then we’re going to tap into that anger and frustration," was how Obama described the GOP strategy -- deeming it a "sleight of hand...."
"There were going to be some who stood on the sidelines, who were protectors of the big banks, protectors of the big insurance companies, protectors of the big drug companies who were going to say, 'You know what, we can take advantage of this crisis,'" [Obama] told the crowd.
It's all Bush's fault!
What is remarkable about this petulant outburst is the admission against interest that it subtlely incorporates: Even a year after Bush finished his final term, and despite the current president's whirlwind tour of Beacon Hill, retired president Bush evidently retains more electoral clout and cachet than Barack Obama.
I think they'd better think it out again...
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
December 30, 2009
A Hope or a Prier
Paul "Deacon" Mirengoff at Power Line has a short post about failed crotch-bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, or Metal-Knob, whatever: Now that he's lawyered-up, he's clammed up; he has ceased cooperating with the FBI and refuses to rat out his co-conspirators.
An earlier version of the Post's story included this statement: "Authorities are holding out hope that [Abdulmutallab] will change his mind and cooperate with the probe, the officials said." The Post removed the passage. Whether it did so out of embarrassment for the "officials" or for the newspaper itself is unclear.
I highlight this Power Line post for two reasons: First, to call attention to another gem from the Deke; second, to add the pithy summation that I'm sure was right at his fingerends but failed to make it into the post.
Which keeps America safer: To hope that Abdulmutallab changes his mind and cooperates -- or to prise it out of him with a funnel and a bucket of icewater?
I know which I would pick. I suppose that makes me a vigilante, but sometimes we need the Assembled Avengers more than we need the Constructive Engagers.
November 30, 2009
An online story notes the following about government-supplied food stamps:
Nearly half of Americans, and 90 percent of blacks, now receive food stamps at some time before reaching 20, according to an analysis of 30 years of national data that sociologists at Washington University in St. Louis published in early November.
By a remarkable coincidence, nearly half of Americans, and over 90 percent of blacks, subsequently become Democrats.
November 24, 2009
One pitfall -- or do I mean pratfall? -- into which a disturbing large percent of conservatives fall -- including Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, and a rasher of conservative columnists -- is to pooh-pooh such supposedly "elitist" pastimes as dance, serious music, and art. I suspect that if you scratch many self-proclaimed conservatives, you will hit populism without having to drill too deeply; populists (in the socialist sense) eschew putative "highbrow" entertainment in favor of the manly pursuits of the masses... hence the snorting rejection of "feminized" entertainments such as the TV show Dancing With the Stars.
Here is how DWTS works; hat tip to Wikipedia:
The show pairs a number of celebrities with professional ballroom dancers, who each week compete by performing [ballroom and Latin ballroom] dances. These are then given scores by a panel of judges. Viewers are given a certain amount of time to place votes on their favorite dancers, either by telephone or (in some countries) by the Internet. The couple with the lowest combined score (judges plus viewers) is eliminated. [Wash, rinse, repeat until one couple is declared the winner.]
They award the winner a trophy that the senior host, Tom Bergeron (of America's Funniest Home Videos fame) calls a "mirror-ball trophy," after the perennial prop in a 1970s disco... though to me, the trophy looks more like a giant, gold-plated golf ball.
The show is a miracle of wholesome entertainment -- and it should be exactly what real conservatives like: People entertaining the audience without resorting to explicit sex, sadistic violence, rejection and mockery of traditional American values, anti-religious hysteria, or Republican/conservative-bashing, which are all staples of most fiction television and TV (so-called) "news" shows. Other than a Mussolini-like obsession with being a "regular guy," I cannot fathom why so many conservatives go out of their way to spit upon DWTS and anybody who participates in the show.
Tom DeLay was a contestant in this season's DWTS; he actually did reasonably well, but he had to drop out due to a foot injury (a pair of them, actually). He certainly did not disgrace himself, as Hewitt and Medved and other conservatives (neocon in Medved's case) confidently and derisively asserted he would.
In any event, Sachi and I just watched the finale of DWTS; all three finalists performed three dances each: One assigned dance (e.g., Argentine Tango or the Cha-Cha-Cha), a group dance, and a "freestyle" dance wherein anything went.
Those of you who have been watching this season know that the three finalists are Kelly Osbourne (daughter of Ozzy Osbourne, former lead singer for Black Sabbath), singer/songwriter Mýa Marie Harrison, and entertainer Donny Osmond. At the end of the finale, based on the judges' scores (half the final score, the other part being supplied by the TV audience's vote), Mýa led with 87 points out of a possible 90; Donny was next with 85; and Kelly brought up the rear with 76, I believe.
As half the score comes from viewer votes, either Mýa Harrison or Donny Osmond could win; Kelly Osbourne is quite far behind Mýa and likely cannot catch up on viewer votes.
This season was fairly lackluster, though Donny Osmond stood out as the pre-eminent entertainer of, in my opinion, the entire show, all seasons. Mýa is a pretty good dancer, but I believe the judges have been overscoring her for some time now. Kelly started as a whiny cry-baby with the attention-span of a horsefly; but she blossomed (no better word) into a confident and adept dancer, not in the same league as most of the other dancers -- certainly not in technical merit -- but endlessly engaging.
Anyway, the point of this dreary and sordid post is simply this: I want to go on record predicting that, regardless of the fact that Mýa Harrison currently leads the pack, I predict that the winner tonight (Tuesday night) will be Donny Osmond: Last week, he ended up in last place on the "leader board" (counting only judges' scores), following an entirely uncalled for, and in my opinion unprofessional, set of scores for his first dance; yet despite being in last place, his fan base saved him by voting overwhelmingly. Osmond did not even end up in the bottom two, I don't believe.
I take it that he likely has the most numerous and enthusiastic fans of any of the contestants. Since he is only two points behind Mýa on the judge's scoreboard, I predict he will prevail. While Mýa may have a large following -- I have no idea -- I doubt they would be big fans of DWTS; contrariwise, fans of Donny Osmond are exactly the sort of folks who would watch a dance-contest television show.
In fact, Donny Osmond is the conservative that folks should have been watching all during this season; Tom DeLay was just a distraction. I have nothing against the former House Majority Leader; in fact, I firmly believe he is being railroaded by Travis County District Attorney and diehard Democrat Ronnie Earle, who indicted him on what I believe to be knowingly false charges, the purpose of which was to force him from public office. Even so, Donny Osmond is more interesting to me, because he has forged a successful career in the music industry, in movies, and on the stage... all while being openly and unapologetically conservative.
Osmond is not a political activist (though he did support California's Proposition 8, overturning the Cal Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage); he lives his conservatism in real life, his honesty, decency, and rectitude unquestioned. Not even D.A. Earle at his vilest could have found a hook to hang an indictment of Donny Osmond.
He is, however, a Mormon; and I suspect that there is a certain animus against Osmond on that basis, just as there is against Mitt Romney. I also detect the traditional sneering by hyperintellectuals directed against instinctual conservatives like Walt Disney, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, George Murphy -- and Donny Osmond (as well as against his sister Marie). Add in the populist problem, and I suspect that if Donny Osmond were ever to run for office, he would receive the "Palin business" from a large chunk of the conservative high-verbals.
(I trust Walt Disney more than the chattering class, and he was on the side of the Osmond Brothers; they got their first real break performing at Disneyland in 1958, while Uncle Walt was still alive and running the whole Disney empire.)
I make a secondary prediction: If Donny Osmond wins, he will still be utterly ignored by "movement" conservatives, despite the great potential for spreading the conservative memes using folks like Osmond. Thus the head severs itself from the body.
So sad; I see this rejection by Donny's natural constituents as another sign of the terrible and perhaps unbridgeable rift between the conservative "intellectual" (most aren't very) elite and the rank and file conservatives and Republicans. Nowhere is that rift more obvious than here in California, where the Cal GOP appears to have made a deal with the devil: They pledge not to try to expand their numbers from abysmal up to rotten, ceding the permanent majority to the Democrats... in exchange for the latter's assurance that they will allow the current Republican incumbants to serve out their wretched and meaningles careers without any serious Democratic opposition.
Thus have the elites thwarted the will and desire of the Republican electorate. So it goes.
November 19, 2009
If Joe Lieberman Is the Democrats' "Lindsey Graham"...
...Are we required to despise him too?
Politico notes that when Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT, 85% Dem) announced he would not merely vote against ObamaCare but would filibuster it -- at least the final motion to call the question -- he burnt many bridges back to the Democratic Party:
“My sense is that when he announced he would filibuster the public option, he was saying goodbye to the Democratic Party,” said Doug Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac University poll in Hamden, Conn. “My sense is, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
In a new Quinnipiac poll, Connecticut voters said by a 2-to-1 margin that Lieberman’s views on the issues put him closer to Republicans than to Democrats....
In an interview, Richard Blumenthal, the state attorney general, said he’s getting more encouragement from Democrats in Connecticut to consider a challenge to Lieberman in 2012. A February Quinnipiac poll found that Blumenthal would beat Lieberman by a 28-point margin.
Sounds grim, until one reads the next paragraph:
A September Research 2000 poll found that Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell would defeat both Blumenthal and Lieberman in a potential three-way 2012 matchup; the same poll found that 68 percent of the state’s voters support the public option.
Lieberman has turned into quite a Republican ally in this medicine-war for the soul of America:
Lieberman said it’s the “wrong time” to create a government insurance program, claiming it would increase the national debt, probably raise taxes and increase premiums for insurance holders.
But Democrats said that Lieberman is employing GOP talking points in distorting the virtues of a public option, noting it’s the one entity that could control costs -- by adding a major new provider to the marketplace that would force private insurers to reduce their costs.
Yes, "control costs" by using the same tactics as Great Britain's National Health Service (NHS): rationing or denying medical care; encouraging the old and feeble to die quickly to spare their children; and jacking up both taxes and federal debt simultaneously, thus making it nearly impossible even to pay for the programs already in place, let alone all the new or expanded programs Barack H. Obama hopes to institute.
I would find it sad but amusing if Lieberman were to lose his bid for reelection -- only to be replaced by a popular Republican former governor. But the important question remains begged: If we "Ned Lamont" Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC, 82%), will we retain that seat? Or would it turn out the same as when Ned Lamont "Ned Lamonted" Lieberman in 2006?
October 8, 2009
Why, oh why is President Barack H. Obama taking so blasted long deciding what to do about Gen. Stanley McChrystal's strategy and troop request in Afghanistan?
The Commander in Chief let it languish at the Pentagon for a month before even requesting it. Obviously, he already knew what was in it; the Pentagon leaked it, and its major components were widely reported: Switch to a counterinsurgency strategy and send more troops, structurally very like the strategy Gen. David Petraeus used so successfully in Iraq.
But the Obamacle sat and sat, squirmed and squirmed, unable to decide what to do about it (which is why he didn't request it be sent over to la Casa Blanca, because that formally "starts the clock"). Why? Why does he fiddle while Afghanistan burns? Our Marines and soldiers are dying.
The first is that Obama is congenitally incapable of making up his mind, of course. He has always been far more comfortable issuing lofty and vague encyclicals, then voting "present."
But he seems more torn that usual this time... and I believe there is a deeper reason why this particular decision is such an Obamic dilemma. This is the biggest, most consequential military decision he has ever had to make in his life... and it is the first entirely lose-lose choice of his immature administration.
Other crossroads have always offered Obama at least one option that was a win. What makes this one lose-lose?
The One likes to claim there is a "third way" between accepting the recommendation and rejecting it. He thinks he can get away with "counterinsurgency lite," which it pleases him to call a "counter-terrorist" strategy, whatever that means.
But in the end, no matter what alternative he picks, it will be seen by everyone as rejecting Stanley McChrystal's strategy... which is odd, because McChrystal is Obama's hand-picked choice to head up the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) commands -- after he fired the previous commander, Gen. David D. McKiernan. And McChrystal's report was the first and most urgent task Barack Obama was ordered to perform. Rejecting it would make Obama himself look weak... either he can't pick a good general, or else he's afraid of the course his general charted.
No matter, Obama has only two choices: accept McChrystal's request or reject it.
If he rejects the proposal, then Barack Obama owns Afghanistan: If it goes south on us -- which it likely will; it's hard to believe that even President B.O. thinks Joe Biden is a better military strategist than a four-star general who has actually fought -- if we end up retreating, if the Taliban makes great gains there and in Pakistan, if al-Qaeda returns to the Taliban-held territory... then everybody in the country blames Obama for losing the war.
We're not likely to reelect a president who inflicted another unnecessary defeat on us, especially in a war so closely tied to the 9/11 attacks -- "the war we should be fighting," as everyone on the left said, including Obama himself as recently as August. Americans have experienced insufficient pain to be eager to accept defeat as the only way out, as we became anent Vietnam.
He's already struggling because of his radical domestic agenda, which the American people have decisively rejected: government-controlled health care, massive bailouts, nationalizing banks and now even the automobile industry, and staggering tax increases coupled with an orgy of new spending. If we add "lost the war against al-Qaeda and screwed up the national security of the United States for decades to come" to the list of obstacles he must surmount to continue working at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., I think even the narcissism of the Obamas (B and M) would quail.
So the obvious choice is to accept McChrystal's recommendation. Ah, but this is the other horn of the dilemma... because he promised his radical-left base an American military defeat; and they may fully and finally reject his presidency (and himself) if he betrays that promise.
The defeat was supposed to be in Iraq, of course; that was the unpopular war in 2008, while Afghanistan was the forgotten war. There was enough pain associated with Iraq (our threshhold of pain has dropped markedly in recent decades) that inflicting a military defeat upon us in Iraq would probably have been acceptable to the American people, if --
- If the war in Iraq were going as badly in 2009 as it was in 2006-7, when he made the promise...
- If the economy had come roaring back shortly after Obama was elected, so he could claim credit (even if he had nothing to do with it)...
- If his radical agenda had proved as popular as he convinced himself before the election that it would be.
But by the time Obama took command, the war had been won -- and won so obviously that to turn it around then would have been too, too obviously anti-American. It's not like in 1974; back then nearly everybody got his national news from one of three television networks or one of a small number of print sources, all linked together by a couple-three wire services. The political establishment could actually manage the news, feeding the American people what the powers that be thought they needed to know.
Too, the heavily Democratic Congress could blame the hated Republican president. Richard Nixon was already embattled, widely (and probably wrongfully) seen as corrupt, an easy target. His paranoia had all come true, and he barely even fought back. The 1972 reelection was his last hurrah; it was all downhill after that. With his resignation, to be replaced by his anti-war Vice President, Gerald Ford, there was nothing standing in the way of blaming Nixon for "losing the Vietnam war."
None of that obtains today. The news comes from too many sources now and cannot be managed by a small cabal of center-left establishment kingmakers. The turn-around in Iraq was too widely covered to be covered-up. Gen. Petraeus is far too articulate and beloved to be spat upon by snatching Obamic defeat from the jaws of Petraeus' victory.
Ergo, President Obama was forced to bless the Bush-Petraeus strategy; he was overtaken by events. But the Left exploded in rage anyway, unwilling to give him running slack; Cindy Sheehan is busily getting herself arrested outside the White House, a certain barometer of leftist Obamania dropping to a very stormy low.
Barack Obama promised the Left a defeat in Iraq if it supported him. When Obama defaulted, lefties came bawling at the White House gates, promissory notes in hand, demanding immediate payment.
The Left has always hated America more than any other country, for the obvious reason: We're the world's greatest bulwark of liberty, individualism, and Capitalism against international socialism. The revolution would eventually have to go through us before it could gain world domination; so leftists decided long ago that one of their strategies had to be to inflict military defeat on the United States whenever and wherever they could.
The Left needs us to be decisively and thoroughly bested by Jihadist terror organizations; it's desperate for America to be crushed under the sandals of al-Qaeda, Iran, or the Taliban; and it wants the whole world to see it!
Then the Left can crow that America's century has ended. It can encourage the spread of anti-Americanism, defeatism, despair, and fear -- especially fear, their favorite tool for mass manipulation. It can begin to advance a "national front," an alternative governing paradigm that can gain mass acceptance in this country, eventually allowing the Left to overthrow the American system and install internationalist socialism in its place. More than anyone else, the Left understands that to create a new governing paradigm, you first must utterly discredit the current one.
And historically, the best way to do that is to take advantage of a humiliating military defeat: in Vietnam/Indochina after the French occupation; in China right after World War II; in Germany after World War I; and of course in Russia itself during World War I.
Don't panic. I don't for one moment imagine it can actually pull off such an agenda. I argue only that it has exactly that agenda, and that it will pursue it with courage and vigor -- forever. We -- must -- lose one of our wars.
So what's left for us to lose? What other "funds of defeat" does Obama have to make good that promissory note to his natural base, the hard Left? He certainly can't start his own war for the sole purpose of losing it!
The only actual war left over from the "previous regime" is Afghanistan. If Obama accepts the recommendation of Gen. McChrystal, and if Afghanistan turns around as Iraq did, and we're seen to have won the war... then Obama may get a boost from the victory from real Americans; but that would probably come too late, after the 2010 congressional elections. It takes time to recreate a strategy: First one must design it, then select the leaders, transport the troops, order them, reorganize the supply lines, implement the new strategy -- and then you must execute it for many months before you see the fruits of your labor. I predict it would be eighteen months or more from making the decision to seeing undeniable signs of victory.
But the tangible hit from the Left would be immediate and catastrophic. When the mid-term elections roll around, the Left -- the most powerful engine of the Democratic Party -- will idle defiantly, driven by anger to punish the president who first trod upon one foot then stomped even harder on the other. 2010 will go from very bad for the Democrats to a tidal wave that could even wash them from power; it has happened before, and not just in 1994.
So the president is in a quandry, better yet, a quagmire of his own making. He himself created this Slough of Despond by agreeing to this deal with the Devil in the first place: Elect me and I promise you an American military defeat! Now he balances precariously on the bull's horns; and no matter which way Obama turns, he's likely to topple the moment the bull begins to run, and he may even be gored or trodden underhoof.
And that, I believe, is why the One We Have Been Waiting, Waiting, and Waiting For is in such a lather about what to do, and why he lashes out, furious but impotent, at his own general, who put him in such a pickle. My heart bleeds for Barack Obama, abandoned child of the Left.
The president must decide between betraying the American people but satisfying the Left, or the other way 'round. In the final cut, I cannot believe that he could ever cut loose from the ideology that has suckled and comforted him since childhood; I think he will land on the side of paying off that massive political debt: He will reject the recommendation and just hope to high heaven that Afghanistan just magically turns around on its own.
Or that unemployment miraculously drops to 4%, the economy roars back, and Obama gets to press the reset button on reaction to his entire domestic agenda. Then he can pray that the American voter has the memory of a mayfly, and the Democratic Party retains a strong majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate... because Barack Obama is incapable of doing what Bill Clinton did after 1994; it takes brains and courage to "triangulate," and I sincerely doubt the current fellow has either.
But such a fortuitous (to B.O.) sequence of events seems delusional to me.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
September 18, 2009
The Forgotten San Franciscan
Just a brief, annoying Lizard lecture. Please pay no attention to this post; don't bother reading it. It's a complete waste of your time, I promise.
Ever since yesterday -- when Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) tearfully warned us that Republicans plotted to launch a wave of political violence and assassination, just like in "the late seventies" in California -- I've heard more than a dozen explanatory references to "the assassination of Harvey Milk."
There is absolutely no doubt that Dan White assassinated openly gay San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk. But only after he first assassinated openly straight San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, who was White's primary target.
White was enraged at Mayor Moscone: White had resigned his seat on the Board of Supervisors (due to financial problems); but he was persuaded to change his mind, because Moscone -- who opposed the pro-development position of a one-vote majority of the Board -- planned to appoint a replacement for White who would tip the balance to Moscone's side of the development issue.
So White packed a revolver (he was a former cop), snuck into City Hall via a basement window to avoid the metal detectors, and confronted Moscone in his office. He shot Moscone multiple times, killing him; then he left and headed towards the offices of the Board members, where he met Milk.
Harvey Milk was one of Dan White's two biggest opponents on the Board (the other being Carol Ruth Silver). In White's own office, he shot and killed Milk; then he fled on foot. He eventually turned himself in to a former friend from the police force, homicide Det. Frank Falzon. He was tried for two counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances, charges that could have gotten him the death penalty; but the jury instead convicted him of voluntary manslaughter, and he was sentenced to only seven years. (He was paroled after only five -- then committed suicide two years later.)
The sentence was, of course, a terrible miscarriage of justice... caused by very pro-criminal laws enacted by California liberals. Fortunately, White's defense of "diminished mental capacity" was abolished after, and because of, his trial.
Somehow, George Moscone has become the "forgotten victim" of the Dan White killings. Why? Very simple: As everyone knows, Harvey Milk was one of the very first openly gay elected officials in the United States... so of course, the myth has arisen that White murdered Milk because White was homophobic. (As always, it's all about them.)
Therefore, George Moscone became an annoying distraction to the clear storyline: Right-wing conservative homophobe guns down pioneering gay politician! So Moscone has been by and large erased from the picture.
The "homophobia" interpretation makes no sense:
- The first person White killed was the mayor, who was heterosexual, married, and had four children.
- White had severe political differences with Milk, the same as he had with Moscone -- which supply a much more plausible motive than supposed homophobia (the financial motive is also strong, as is the clinical depression... which is not a defense but certainly an explanation).
- After White was released from prison, he confessed to Falzon that he also intended to kill two other political opponents: Supervisor Carol Ruth Silver (of the anti-growth faction of the Board) and California Assemblyman Willie Brown (later Speaker of the Assembly, later Mayor of San Francisco) -- neither of whom is gay.
I think it very clear that Dan White's motives were (a) politics, (b) money, and (c) clinical depression; I've never seen good evidence that supposed homophobia played a significant role.
Incidentally, White's attorneys never claimed that White had diminished mental capacity because he ate junk food (the infamous "Twinky Defense"). Rather, they argued that he had diminished mental capacity due to clinical depression -- and one piece of evidence of that clinical depression they introduced was that he had started eating huge amounts of junk food. White's defense claimed the junk food was a symptom, not the cause, of his depression.
I believe White should have been executed; he murdered two people with obvious premeditation, for political reasons (that's two separate counts of special circumstances). I'm very glad that we abolished the diminished mental capacity defense shortly thereafter; and I'm also very pleased that White did the honorable thing at the end (even if he was driven to it by other demons).
But it's simply wrong to say that White assassinated Milk because Milk was gay, as well as saying that White's attorneys claimed that eating Twinkies and other junk food drove him crazy.
And can we please remember poor George Moscone -- White's first victim, and the forgotten man of the Dan White murders?
September 11, 2009
Thoughts on the Eighth Anniversary of America's Awakening
I've never had anything personally stolen from me.
There's a reason for this: When I walk or sit, I am always conscious of who is around me and what he's doing. My optometrist told me (based on marks on my contact lenses) that I actually sleep with my eyes half open.
I've noticed this: I'm almost never fully asleep. If someone enters the room where I'm "sleeping," my eyes open fully and I observe the person. If I know him or her as a non-threat, I go right back into what passes for sleep to the reptilian eye, and usually I don't even remember waking (others tell me what I do). But if it's a stranger or someone I don't trust, I'm awake immediately... watching.
When I'm out and about, and someone begins giving me the fish-eye, I look him back immediately, staring directly at him. Generally he breaks eye-contact and drifts away. Occasionally it's gotten me into trouble (dominance games I'm uninterested in playing), but generally serves me well.
Why am I telling you this? Because in this way, I am America -- as she should be.
I'm wary but never afraid; I won't back down, but in a fight I move well, left and right, forward and back. I stand by my friends, even if I think they were foolish for picking a fight with some troll who can kick their heinies; I'll double the defenders and see what transpires. I don't take crap from people -- but my usual punishment is to ignore them thenceforth. I'd rather not do damage, but I'm not afraid of it, either.
We were all like this during the first half of the twentieth century and earlier; we began to lose our edge sometime after the Korean War, and we hit our nadir towards the end of Vietnam. We weren't defeated; we just lost our nerve, lost our sense of self, lost our belief in our own decency, goodness, and especially in our traditional American principles. Instead of thinking of ourselves as the defenders of the underdog, we began feeling like the underdog ourselves, in a world where being weak invites not allies but attackers.
Ronald Reagan rekindled the American soul, but the flame didn't survive long after he left office. The bitch-slapping of September 11th, 2001 reawakened us. What happened since?
- Some immediately rolled over and went back to sleep. They're now running the government.
- Some were awake and vigilant for a while, but then their minds wandered, they drifted, and now they're back somnambulating through life, just as they were on September 10th.
- But others have stayed vigilant and awake... I think it's enough of us. More than were awake eight years and a day ago.
We won't be hit the same way again; that's for sure. Yet it's equally sure we'll be hit, hurt, hard yet again by some means we haven't thought of yet.
But because of the vigilant ones, the men and women on the wall, our response will be swifter than after 9/11, with less fum-fahing around, less wheel-spinning. The sleeping giant has had his coffee, and he's not ready to drift totally off to the land of Nod just yet.
Go ahead and be proud to be an American; but that's not the important part. It's much more vital that we all understand that to be American is to be the champion eternal of liberty, individualism, and Capitalism -- and that means we must accept our duty, take up the free man's burden, and not allow the half-awake drones to lull us into Europeanism, the belief that there's always Somebody Else who will protect us from blue meanies and green crescent rolls.
The only person who is always there when you're in trouble -- is you, yourself. Always be ready to become an army of one, to defend you and yours... and odds are you won't have to do, because very few Moloch worshippers, human sacrificers, and cannibals really want to attack an army.
They prefer to go after the sleepwalkers.
September 8, 2009
[H]opefully we can agree it’s a good message to tell students they need to work hard and get a good education.
Thankfully, we can't.
[T]here is no good reason for Obama not to give his speech.
Yes, Paul, there is.
The Obama administration is off to a horrible start, but it isn't yet a lost cause. If Obama could put aside his dopey left-wing ideology and stick to this kind of positive message, he could yet salvage his Presidency. But I'm afraid he doesn't have it in him to do that.
No, he can simply make himself a laughingstock. (But I do agree with your last sentence.)
The ghost in the machine
What all three are missing is that this speech, or indeed any speech by the President of the United States given (by decree) to all schoolchildren on their first day back -- even if the attempted monopolization was unsuccessful -- causes very real and significant damage to the education of a free, self-reliant citizenry in what should be a nation of liberty.
Oh, come on, Dafydd, where's your sense of proportion? Aren't you taking this much too personally?
No, I'm the only one being honest and realistic on this bus. Hasn't any of you asked yourself why Obama insists upon delivering this speech in the first place? Do you imagine he thinks his little homily will actually turn around the decline in American education over the past few decades? Or is it more likely that he just wants to get his nose in the tent -- so that next time, the precedent having been set, he can say what he really wanted to say this time.
John mentioned "subtext" in his post, but he didn't take that analysis far enough. The systemic subtext of any such speech is that the president is acting within his jurisdiction in talking to other people's children about how they should approach school and life in general... and the only proper response by parents should be to say, "Mr. President, my child's education is none of your damn business."
It may be the business of their state's governor, or perhaps their city's mayor -- or better yet, their kid's principal. It may even be the federal government's business that the states are doing their jobs at least minimally well, so long as those states suckle at the federal teat.
But the subtext of this or any other presidential speech to the nation's schoolkids is that the federal government, and its avatar, the president, stand in loco parentis: "In the position or place of a parent;" and that is simply above the pay grade of the president. It's not Obama's business, especially when his platitudes may well conflict with lessons from the parents he is usurping.
In particular cases, as when a parent is abusing a child, I can see the state, county, or city having authority to become the child's new parent -- though we all know how horribly that power can be abused. But there is no justification possible for the Chief Executive of the United States to usurp parental and local authority of all students, irrespective of how good or bad a job is being done by those he has just elbowed aside.
What's done is done -- and done again, and again, and again
In addition, this speech sets a vile precedent: That anytime the president wants to propagandize the nation's youth (even for "good" propaganda about working hard and doing all their homework), he can henceforth give a speech and demand that teachers and school systems everywhere force students to listen to it.
What life lessons will Obama feel compelled to pass along in 2010, 2011, and 2012?
What if the next president gives a "back to school" speech about the importance of celebrating same-sex marriage, abortion, and socialism? What if the one after that wants to use his by now traditional privilege to force kids to sit still for a lecture on pure laissez-faire Capitalism, the evil of any and all taxes, and the unprovable, fairy tale nature of "Darwinism?"
As a general rule, it's a wretched infringement to teach children to take marching orders from the president. Any president, at any time other than dire national emergency... and even then, they should be skeptical as hell: The Tree of Liberty demands nothing less.
This year's back-to-school speech is seemingly innocuous; I'm utterly convinced that the next will be a little more pointed, however; the third will be outright partisan; and the fourth will exhort all the little Winston Smiths to tattle on their parents' thoughtcrime.
What once all knew
I can't believe conservatives still haven't gotten it through their heads that the worst tendencies of people in this fallen world are exaggerated and exacerbated by orders of magnitude when those bad people serve in the government.
But I'm not in the least surprised that the libertarians -- last seen voting for Ron Paul, Babar, or even the One They Were All Waiting For himself -- are nowhere at hand when the State reaches its grubby paws right into every classroom in the most direct and offensive method possible: A presidentially directed national sing-along that simultaneously infantalizes students, emasculates fathers, and marginalizes mothers. Repent, ye natural sons of liberty.
Speaking of tea parties, how would those Boston rapscallions have reacted to a royal decree that some recent "speech of virtues" given by King George III be read aloud to every child in America -- even "innocuous" virtues that in the abstract, they all supported?
In many ways, we were a more sophisticated, intuitive, savvy people 236 years ago.
August 29, 2009
President Barack H. Obama and his Windy-City White House have admitted that their projected deficits were far too low, so they've upped the 10-year total to $9 trillion, more or less matching the CBO. But aren't they still playing fast and loose with their figures?
Obama swears that ObamaCare won't add even a dime to the deficit; thus he has not included any costs from that program in his projection. But wait -- nearly every non-White House source believes it will be very expensive, costing anywhere from $750 billion to $3 trillion.
Which means, I fear, that even the expanded Obamic deficit projection is significantly low -- and we're actually looking at adding nearly $11 trillion (taking the mean average of the projection boundaries), not a "mere" $9 trillion, to the national debt by 2020.
In addition to the problems with ObamaCare, the administration also estimates that they will save an additional $200 billion (per year?) on Medicare. According to AP:
Democrats also are calling for cuts in Medicare spending, using some of the savings to help uninsured workers. A House bill would result in a net reduction in Medicare of about $200 billion, though Obama has insisted the reductions would not cut benefits in the health program for the elderly.
Five'll get you eight that the administration is including this as "deficit reductions" in their budget estimates, since no "new government programs" have yet been enacted specifically to eat up that supposed reduction (the reductions are counted immediately; the spending won't be counted until it's actually spent).
In the event that this amazing Medicare savings (without cutting any benefits!) fails to eventuate, the deficit increases by another $200 billion -- if that alleged savings is allegedly a one-shot -- or by another $2 trillion, if it's supposedly a structural change. So the national debt rises by a total of more than $11 trillion (best case) to as much as $13 trillion (worst case).
The joy of tax
Economist John Mauldin, in his weekly e-letter, notes the following point about some of President Obama's assumptions underlying the recent budget estimate:
Instead of fiscal discipline, we are hearing increased demands for more spending. Please note that the very rosy future deficit assumptions assume the end of the Bush tax cuts at the close of 2010. But raising taxes back to the level of 2000 does not make the projected future budget deficits go away.
I mean, seriously, does anyone think Pelosi or Reid are going to lead us to fiscal constraint? Obama talks a good game, but he has not offered a serious deficit-reduction proposal, other than further tax increases. And by serious, I mean we need cuts on the order of several hundred billion dollars.
Liberal squawking notwithstanding, most of the Bush tax cuts went to middle-income taxpayers. Obama has sworn that he won't raise the taxes of anyone making less than $250,000 a year... which means he wouldn't be able to cut the Bush tax cut much at all. And even if the president proposed breaking his word on this issue ("read my lips..."), it's very unlikely that wavering members of the House and especially Senate would go along with it, since the congressional debate would have to be flooding the airwaves in 2010, swamping almost every other issue in the November elections.
So that's one assumption that appears to be busted from the git-go; who's going to vote for massive tax increases right before an election? Let's assume no significant tax increase on the middle income, including allowing the Bush cuts to die "quietly" (yeah, right -- quietly!)
So how much is the net hit on the deficit projection due to the unlikelihood of repealing the Bush tax cuts?
Mind, we're not talking about an actual deficit (if any) was created by the tax cuts; that's a whole different argument. I'm asking how much the Obama administration estimated the Bush tax cuts were costing per year, and how much of that amount they expected to recover from killing them. In other words, how much deficit reduction did they include in their calculations that they're not actually getting?
The leftist Economic Policy Institute is just the sort of econ think tank that Barack Obama would find trustworthy; it was founded by various liberal economists (including Bill Clinton's future Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich) in 1986, and it consistently presents the view from the Left. Their 2005/2006 position paper on tax cuts estimates the deficit impact thus:
In the recently completed fiscal year 2005, the combined effect of the tax cuts passed since 2001 was $225 billion without interest. When the interest costs from greater debt is included, the tax cuts raised the deficit by $260 billion, a sum that would wipe out most of last year’s unsustainable $317 billion deficit.
I wonder if they consider Obama's trillion-dollar deficits, marching into eternity, "sustainable"...
I think it reasonable to assume that the current administration accepts the estimate that the Bush tax cuts increased the deficit by at least $260 billion per year; how much do they expect to "recover" by killing the tax cuts? It would be hard for me to believe, given the urgency of the budget-deficit problem, that Obama would have low-balled the savings. I think it's not unreasonable that he would have "estimated" savings of about $200 billion per year, or 78% of what he (and liberal economists) imagine the cuts are costing the economy.
So bursting that soap-and-change bubble, adds another $2 trillion over ten years to the national debt, bringing the adjusted total increase up to $13 to $15 trillion.
Finally, Mauldin quotes from economist Richard Russell:
“The US national debt is now over $11 trillion dollars. The interest on our national debt is now $340 billion. This is about at 3.04% rate of interest. In ten years the Obama administration admits that they will add $9 trillion to the national debt. That would take it to $20 trillion. Let's say that by some miracle the interest on the national debt in 10 years will still be 3.09%. That would mean that the interest on the national debt would be $618 billion a year or over one billion a day [sic; more like $1.7 billion per day -- DaH]. No nation can hold up in the face of those kinds of expenses. Either the dollar would collapse or interest rates would go through the roof.”
But Russell is assuming only nine trillion dollars added to the debt; splitting the difference, what if it's really $14 trillion, going from $11 trillion today to $25 trillion by 2020?
Under Russell's formula, an increase from $11 trillion to $20 trillion (182%) yields an increase in budgetary "debt maintenance" from $340 billion up to $618 billion, or 182%; so the equation is roughly linear.
That makes it easy to calculate with the new figures: An increase of the debt from $11 trillion today to $25 trillion -- 227% -- should result in a corresponding increase in debt maintenance from $340 billion per year to $773 billion. But wait, there's worse! A perception of increased financial risk for the United States could force us to raise the interest rates for U.S. Treasury securities, which would of course dramatically raise the interest payments on the national debt. That $773 billion could easily rise to a trillion dollars or more... just to pay the interest on the debt.
It could easily become the largest component of the entire budget, en route to gobbling up the whole thing, lock, stock, and kaboodle.
Like a spiderweb, the pieces all fall into place
Such a huge chunk of the budget going to pay mere interest on the debt will have a devastating effect on our economy (Mauldin sarcastically suggests we borrow money to pay the interest on the money we borrow). But the frustrating thing is that economists cannot agree whether such a collapse would produce massive inflation, as in a typical recession -- or massive deflation, as we had in the Great Depression. Alas, the strategies individuals should follow are completely different for each of these options: You don't want to be holding gold during deflation, for example; you want to be holding cash.
The only thing that might lessen the march towards economic collapse would be to drastically reduce spending; that means not only not enacting the rest of Obama's grandiose and delusional agenda, but actually rolling back the budget by an additional $300 to $400 billion from where it was in 2008. Such fiscal discipline would also have the serendipitous effect of keeping Treasury securities at lower interest rates, as default would be less likely in a scenario of economic responsibility.
Some kind of stimulus would almost certainly still be needed to stave off a double-dip recession; but we could do an awful lot to mitigate the damage caused by such spending by spending it more wisely. That is, Barack Obama's syllogism is simply false: It really does matter to the economy what you stimulate.
Instead of shoveling money to pet projects of liberals, if our "stimulus" included things that actually create wealth directly or indirectly, rather than just spreading the existing wealth around -- we would encourage our economy to grow. Instead of focusing on dividing the pie, focus on baking a bigger one.
What kind of stimulus am I talking about?
- Repair and upgrade of infrastructure, including water distrubution, road building, the electricity grid, and hardening our electronics against the electromagnetic pluse (EMP) effect;
- Building a bunch of new nuclear power plants;
- Dramatically upgrading and improving our border security;
- Offering low-cost loans to recent or even start-up small businesses;
- Fully privatize Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (paying the transition costs), and so forth.
And that is the only long-term solution to such fiscal problems: growth, growth, growth. Knowledge is being created all the time; wealth is the application of knowledge and human industry to natural resources; thus an increase in knowledge should normally trigger an increase of real wealth. As knowledge always increases, in this day of survivable recording media (the Dark Ages could not happen again), the normal state should be a continuing rise in real weath over time.
The theory is sound; it's only its application that has been wanting in recent years.
Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
August 22, 2009
Withdraw for Peace!
I've been pondering the new Obamic strategy for Iraq: Withdraw from joint patrols to a Fortress of Solitude, withdraw from the successful counterinsurgency strategy (COIN) of Gen. David Petraeus, and announce to the entire world exactly when we are going to withdraw from Iraq altogether. How has that worked out so far?
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on Saturday alleged there had been collaboration between Iraqi security forces and the insurgents whose massive truck bombings killed 95 people three days ago.
Zebari, whose ministry lost 32 workers in the blast at its headquarters, admitted the attacks were a serious security setback and that the government had failed to protect its citizens.
Wednesday's bombings at the ministeries of foreign affairs and finance culminated in the worst day of violence seen in the conflict-hit country in 18 months, with around 600 people also wounded.
It's not that the entire war is falling apart, mind; it's just a small setback -- set back to about 2006, that is, the nadir of the failed "containment" strategy, in which we cached American forces in moated castles, whence they would sally forth to engage any passing enemy army.
The hallmark of COIN was the remarkable cooperation we got from Shia, Sunni, and Kurd, once we made it clear that we were willing to patrol, fight, and if necessary, die alongside Iraqi forces to protect the Iraqi people. It was that commitment to civilian security that finally turned the tide, snatching victory in 2007-8 from the jaws of a 2006 defeat.
But our new Commander in Chief has other ideas; we no longer patrol with Iraqi forces, fight alongside them, or concern ourselves much with protecting the civilian population. Evidently, Barack H. Obama believes that the two years we've been building up the Iraqi military and civilian infrastructure should be plenty. "Enough!" as he is fond of saying in many contexts. It's been such an incredibly long time that surely our Iraqi partners can stand on their own hands by now.
Let's see... we spent fourteen years (1899-1913) in the Philippine jungles, building up indiginous forces (Philippine Scouts) and inculcating Filipinos with radical ideas such as the rule of law and the evil of involuntary slavery, before we could finally put down the Moro (Moslem) Rebellion and set up a functioning civilian republic. That country is still functioning today, with a vibrant economy (after a recession in the 1980s caused by their brief flirtation with socialism under Ferdinand Marcos), and still strongly allied with the United States. This is the model of a successful counterinsurgency followed by successful nation-building.
By contrast, France under Charles De Gaulle -- whipsawed by the socialists abroad and the French Communist Party at home -- pulled their troops out of Algeria prematurely, only three years after the French COIN strategy finally suppressed the Front de Libération Nationale; thus they never gave the 60% majority of Algerians who opposed complete "independence" from France their opportunity to erect civic institutions and security forces to protect and defend the liberties of a free people. And today, the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria is a socialist totalitarian regime with much closer ties to the Middle East than the West.
President Barack H. Obama carefully pondered these historical examples, analyzed them with his unequaled military acumen... then decided to follow the French example. (Of course!) Ergo, today in Iraq...
Zebari said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had ordered the arrest of 11 senior security officers on Thursday so they could be questioned on how a four-tonne truck had entered an area where even two-tonne vehicles were barred.
He also made the first official admission that the blasts signalled that security gains made in the past year were under serious strain following a series of deadly attacks in recent months.
"They have been moving their attacks... now they have focused on their main concern, their main attention, on Baghdad and this is a dangerous and a serious development and a security setback," said Zebari.
"This has been going on for the last two months. Every week, every two weeks we see a wave of these bombings and killings of innocent people."
I picture Petraeus tearing his hair out in frustration, watching all the gains of COIN poured out onto the Iraqi sands. Our allies are starting to sound desperate, even plaintive:
But Zebari went further and called for a re-appraisal of the country's entire security apparatus as it was not, he said, obtaining sufficient intelligence to counter the enemy threat....
"Sometimes you can't fight these people with checkpoints. You should be mobile. You should go after them you, disrupt and penetrate their network to get human information. This is the key," he added.
Sadly, however, the real "key" would be a change of leadership here in the United States. That is beyond the grasp of Nouri al-Maliki, Hoshyar Zebari, or any other Iraqi; and the Iranian-backed terrorists in Iraq know they have at least three more years to slaughter and butcher before they must worry about that possibility.
August 3, 2009
Lizardian Credo of Sanity - UPDATED already!
I'm extracting this from the comments of a Dave Ross post and posting it here. Just because.
Lizardian Credo of Sanity (a required taste)
We hold these truths to be self evident...
- That Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not fake the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor;
- That Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F. Kennedy (and was the lone gunman);
- That a dozen American astronauts walked on the Moon between July 21st, 1969 (Neil Armstrong) and December 14th, 1972 (Eugene Cernan);
- That President George W. Bush was properly elected President on November 7th, 2000 (no matter how long it took to determine that fact);
- That nineteen Islamic militants working for al-Qaeda hijacked airplanes and used them to knock down the two World Trade Centers towers, damage the Pentagon, and drive a plane into a Pennsylvania field;
- That President George W. Bush did not cause Hurricane Katrina;
- That Barack H. Obama is a natural-born American citizen, properly (if foolishly) elected President on November 4th, 2008, duly sworn, and is the legitimate (radical, misguided, and destructive of America's national character) POTUS.
UPDATE: Hat tip to Radley Balko/twit, via a hat tip from Balko's best friend, Patterico:
The first truly persuasive evidence that Obama is not a native-born American citizen...
July 25, 2009
The Funny Thing Is, Obama Could Easily Have a Health Care Bill, If...
...If he really just wanted a bill -- as opposed to this bill, the Pelosi bill.
I know this is a crazy idea that nobody would ever even consider; no Democratic president would ever, ever consider triangulating between the three main congressional sects. But if Barack H. Obama were simply to reach across the aisle not only to the Blue Dogs but even to the Republicans (eeeeeeeeeeeee!), and offer an actual compromise, he would almost certainly get a third to a half of the liberals as well (they would be getting something they wanted -- say, more government help for low-income Americans to buy health insurance -- and they're predisposed to support the Obamacle anyway).
- No "government option;"
- Mandated medical insurance (using the jiggery pokery of withholding some portion of federal Medicare payments to states that don't have some form of insurance requirement and enforcement, since the feds cannot directly order the little people to buy insurance, I wouldn't think);
- Assistance to low-income Americans -- say, up to 150% or 200% of the poverty line -- to buy private or group insurance;
- Looser rules for group insurance, to allow more creative "groups" for insurance consumers, beyond the usual group=employees model;
- Expanding the size of an MSA that can be deducted from income tax, and allowing individuals to deduct all of their health-insurance premiums, if they itemize;
- Shifting Medicare and Medicaid from defined benefit to defined contribution -- where the contribution from the feds is to pay some portion of a group insurance premium -- with the particular plan to be chosen by the Medicare/Medicaid recipient from a list of eligible plans. Recipients could choose the cheapest plan and pay some small portion of it; or they could pick a more expensive plan with better coverage, and pay a larger portion. The feds would pay the same amount no matter what plan is chosen; if a recipient wants more, he can pay for it.
- Allowing insurance companies to sell to anyone in any state (that the feds can certainly do; it's obviously related to interstate commerce);
- Requiring insurance companies that sell across state lines to accept people with preexisting conditions at about the same rates as everyone else, or a little higher, using the same model as allotting bad drivers among different automobile insurance companies as "assigned risks;"
- Maybe one or two other things to drag in this or that group.
If Obama really, really wants a bill, this would do it: He would get most of the Republicans, all of the Blue Dogs, and a third or more of the liberals who don't want to destroy their own president; that adds up to a minimum of 230 in the House and at least 55 in the Senate, in both cases likely more. The die-hards on both Left and Right could vote against it to satisfy their constituents, but it would still pass... and I doubt the Left could scrape together 41 senators willing to shoot down such a clear compromise via filibuster, and risk more voter wrath.
So the question is this... Which is more important to you, Mr. One We Have Been Waiting For -- getting some forward momentum towards resolving the problem of 46.7 million uninsured Americans (most of whom can afford insurance, they just don't want to); or gobbling one seventh of the nation's economy into the belly of the bureaucratic beast?
The first option, the blue pill, is almost risk-free, and will give a huge boost to your approval rating. The second option -- red pill -- is very, very risky, could end in a complete debacle that would (as you yourself said) destroy your presidency... and would almost certainly look like a really, really, really bad deal in three years, with many Americans already losing the health insurance they liked, just as you're running for a return engagement at la Casa Blanca. Which bitter pill would you swallow, blue or red?
I predict that when it becomes clear that Congress is simply not going to enact Emanuel's Folly, sometime in September, Obama will suddenly turn into a triangulating pragmatist... and we'll see a compromise health-care bill along the lines of the outline above.
July 4, 2009
In Which the Lizards Dabble in Palin-tology
All right, so Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska made the shocker announcement today: She is not running for reeelction in 2010; in fact, she is resigning as of Sunday, July 26th, 2009. Future career plans left unannounced.
Much speculation centers on the possiblity that she will run for the presidency in 2012; that's certainly what most commenters on Power Line seem to think, according to John Hinderaker. (I'm sure that Paul Mirengoff will shortly weigh in with a discouraging word.)
I concur in part and dissent in part from John's take on this development. John is skeptical that she is going to run for president after just three quarters of a term as governor:
Most observers assume that means she will devote full time to running for President. I guess so. Frankly, it seems bizarre to me, unless Palin calculates that in order to run she will have to spend most of her time in the lower 48, and the logistics of doing that while continuing as Governor are impossible.
I concur; she is not yet seasoned enough. If Obama is reelected, she could be a plausible candidate in 2016; and if a Republican is elected in 2012, she will still be young enough in 2020, at age 56, to be a strong contender. But what is she to do in the meantime to keep her name in circulation and bolster her future presidential viability?
Though he offers no prediction of the future plans for most everybody's favorite soccer mom (everybody except John S. McCain's campaign mangler, Steve Schmidt, I presume), I get the feeling John believes she is not going to run for elective office again; this subtextual dismissal is the part to which I dissent. I believe a much more likely possibility is being ignored...
Palin has a good shot running in the Senate primary against Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK, 58%). Murkowski is a very liberal (and often very embarassing) RINO; she is a legacy-babe, having originally been appointed to the Senate by her father, Frank Murkowski, when he resigned his Senate seat to become governor in 2002.
Sen. Murkowski has a number of positions that don't sit well with conservatives and most Republicans:
- She opposed the "nuclear option" for ending the endless Democratic fillibusters of Bush appointees, thus undercutting the president's ability to move the bench even further towards judicial restraint;
- She strongly favors taxpayer-supported embryonic stem-cell research, even without the use of technology that leaves the embryo intact;
- Murkowski is very, very pro-choice for a Republican; she's not in Ted Kennedy-land, but she's much further left on this issue than Palin.
- She voted to raise the ridiculous biofuels standard fivefold, requiring production of 36 billion gallons per year of biofuels by 2022 (we currently use about 7 billion gallons).
She is still better than nearly any Democrat, of course; for example, she strongly supports drilling for oil and natural gas in Alaska, even in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). But I can certainly understand a conservative like Palin hoping to replace Murkowski with someone who... well, with someone who thinks more like Sarah Palin.
Too, Frank Murkowski was part of the good old boy network in Alaska that Palin has fought so long and hard to overthrow. The other corrupt, old blackguard in that clubbiest of clubs is of course Ted Stevens -- notwithstanding that his corruption conviction was thrown out due to prosecutorial misconduct (after which, Stevens was thankfully not heard to remark, "Guilty as sin, free as a bird... only in America!")
Mr. Stevens was defeated in his bid for reelection in 2008, in no small measure because of his (tainted) conviction; but his last successful endeavor was to help reelect -- wait for it -- Sen. Lisa Murkowski in 2004, when she ran for her first election after Daddy appointed her. So with Frank Murkowski as her father and Ted Steven as her mentor, Lisa Murkowski in many ways exemplifies all that is wrong with the Republican machine in that state.
And Murkowski herself had a brush with the same sort of corruption that has tainted the GOP in Alaska for many years; she bought property from Bob Penney, a businessman in Anchorage, for what appeared to be very much less than the land was worth, leading to speculation that it was an illegal gift. The day after it was referred to the Senate ethics committee, she sold the property back to Penney for what she had paid. She also failed to report significant income ($100,000 over three years) on her Senate disclosure forms and had to file amended disclosures.
Even with the pull of Stevens and Murkowski, then the most powerful pols in Alaska, she barely squeaked out a minority victory over former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, 48.62 to 45.51. Had 4,800 votes gone the other way, she would have been defeated without ever having been elected to that seat. This does not inspire confidence that she can pull it off again next year, even against the same candidate.
So for many reasons, I can see soon-to-be-ex Gov. Palin wanting to mail L-Murk back to Anchorage, C.O.D.
But of course, even the Right would think it pretty gauche for Palin to campaign against sitting Republican Sen. Murkowski in the primary -- while Palin was still the Republican governor of the state: It would be ill-mannered.
But if she were to return to being a private citizen, then all barriers to challenging Murkowski in the primary would be removed; she could make a full-throated run against Murkowski on all three points -- Murkowski's politics, her ethics, and her electability. I'm not prepared to make this an actual prediction at this juncture, but I think it a very distinct possibility. Don't be surprised if she announces her candidacy for the U.S. Senate later this year.
July 1, 2009
The Membrane Connecting Science, Morality, and Aesthetics - More Thoughts
In the comments of a previous post, frequent commenter Geoman wrote the following:
Which brings me to this: the involvement of god or supernatural forces, in any way shape or form, automatically negates your argument as science.
This is true, as far as it goes: Of course discussion of the nature of God is not "science." But not being science is not synonymous with not being worth discussing or not rational or not serious... or even not real. That error -- made by virtually all those particular scientists (or science writers) who also happen to be atheists, is just as egregious as Michael Behe claiming that evolution requires the specific finger of God to arrange various systems of a bacterium into a flagellum.
All that science can say about non-scientific questions is -- science can't say anything about non-scientific questions.
That does not translate to, "Non-scientific questions are nonsense that need never be considered." It also doesn't translate to, "Things outside science are fantasies that don't really exist." But we do need to recognize that they can be neither proven nor disproven by the scientific method; they may well be urgent, vital questions -- but they must be discussed and debated without the imprimatur of "science."
The danger of mistaking any systematized mode of thinking for the only such available is twofold:
- That we try to drape the mantle of science over questions of politics, religion, morality, aesthetics, or sociology.
This results in, e.g., "social Darwinism," where the undeniable reality of evolutionary biology (henceforth "evo-bio") is abused to declare one race or class of people to be superior to another. (Oddly enough, those making such declarations invariably find themselves in the superior, never the inferior group.)
As noted earlier in the comments of the linked post, such ideological abuse-of-theory does not invalidate the original science that was perverted; but it can taint it politically, causing people wrongly to reject it, in the mistaken belief that the abuse is a "natural consequence" of the real science... and under the well-known fallacy that if the natural consequence of something is bad, its supposed source must be false. ("It can't be true, because it would be so dreadful if it were!")
The corollary danger, though, is just as grim:
- That we reject anything not provable by science as fiction, fantasy, or meaningless sentimentality.
What an ugly world that would be! And a dangerous one; as above, you cannot "prove" traditional morality (justice, decency, loyalty, courage, and such) by science... so such hyper-rationalists must reject morality as a guide to behavior. They must also reject aesthetic considerations such as beauty, taste, and love; as well as frivolities such as play and recreation. One becomes an automaton.
To be a whole person, we need both scientific rationalism and other varieties of rationalism. To be a whole society, we need all of the above, but also religious rationalism -- a certain kind of religion, that which Dennis Prager identifies as "ethical monotheism." Individuals may not need religion to be moral, but Prager has convinced me that societies do.
Each kind of reasoning must stay in its proper sphere, but each sphere must have some limited volume of overlap with all of the others. As organic minds, we cannot compartmentalize, say, our scientific from our religious reasoning: Each must take account of the other, or we fall prey to Multiple Epistemology Syndrome -- one mode of thinking tells us something is true, while another tells us equally strongly that it is false; and there is no way to mediate between the severed pieces of mind.
The proper answer to the question of evo-bio and Mankind is to accept that evo-bio is how our bodies biologically evolved... and also, that if a theistic God exists, He clearly chose evo-bio as the means to create us (and also as the means to create porpoises, penguins, pike eels, petunias, and paramecia).
By definition of omniscience, a theistic God would know that setting the various laws of the universe and physical constants the way they are, along with a particular initial state of matter and energy, would result eventually in us. But that also requires us to accept that the same space-time and mass-energy "initial condition" might also have created (and continue to create) similar evo-bio elsewhere. In other words, if God works miracles by science, we might not be unique. There may be others out there going through similar intellectual angst, confronting equivalent crises of faith or science; we cannot rule it out by glib vanity and Biblical narcissism.
That same God would necessarily transcend the physical universe (or else He couldn't have created it!) -- so if He exists, he can also be the source of kinds of reasoning that transcend scientific reasoning. That doesn't make them better; they just answer different questions than does scientific reasoning.
In other words, the religious have no reason to reject science a priori; nor do the scientific have any reason to reject religion a priori. They exist quite comfortably side by side; and neither pursuit is inherently useless, meaningless, sterile, or Orwellian.
This seems very obvious to me (and to such prominent religious scientists as Francis Collins), and I've never understood why it seems such a stumbling block to a majority in both camps, the scientific and the religious.
June 19, 2009
An Immodest Disposal
The state of California -- the most populous by far at 36.8 million -- is staring down the barrel of a $24 billion deficit; there is a very strong likelihood that barring any unforseen windfall, California will have to declare bankruptcy within the next few months.
Now mind, $24 billion is chickenfeed by federal standards -- even the federal standards preceding the One Who Will Spend Us Into Oblivion. However, despite pleas from all factions in the factious state government (some sincere, others perhaps not so), the feds flatly refuse to bail California out.
Now I happen to agree with this position; states should not be "bailed out" when their financial messes are entirely self-generated... which describes California to a tea party. During the boom times, the state -- well, the Democratic legislature, which has run the state more or less continuously, in despite of Republican governors, for decades -- the Democrats enacted enough new "entitlement" programs and other new and frivolous spending to fill the Yosemite Valley. Now times aren't so flushed; and my libertarian response is, "You buttered your bread, now sleep in it."
But you have to admit, refusing to bail out one of the most liberal, pro-Obama, leftist-socialist states in the United States is awfully out of character for the Barack H. Obama administration and the Congress of Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%).
Great leaping horny toads, Obama has already pledged more than twice as much to bail out a single company: GM. GM employed 243,000 people in 2008, probably less now; California employs 242,939 total people as of May, 2009 -- not to mention having the largest economy, again by far, of any state: $1.812 trillion gross state product. One would think it a no-brainer for the Democrat president and Democrat Congress to offer "fiscal amnesty" to the Democratic state with the largest number of electoral votes, the largest economy, and the largest population.
So why aren't they?
I really don't think it's because the Oogo-istas running the federal government, who are throwing money at every problem the pops up and nationalizing one major industry after another, have got a sudden attack of fiscal restraint. Rather, I think there are two other major reasons for the denial:
- California has a (nominally) Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is term-limited and cannot run for re-election in 2010.
It will be an open contest; but if Schwarzenegger has actually solved the state's long-running fiscal crisis, Republican candidates for the legislature and the governorship will receive a major electoral boost... which they sorely need; on its own merits, the California Republican Party is possibly the most inept and dimwitted in the Union.
But if Schwarzenegger is seen to fail -- even if it's due to the Democratic legislature's refusal to enact any meaningful spending cuts -- Republicans will nevetheless get the blame; and the Democratic nominee (probably Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa) will be elected by a landslide.
Simply put, the Democrats see a fantastic chance to grab the governor's mansion to go along with the state legislature, thus enjoying a limitless free pass to enact any socialist measure, no matter how unpopular, no matter how insane. Democrats may be calling for a federal bailout of California in public, but I strongly suspect they're privately sending a very different message to the Obamacle and his bestial virgins... one that says, "Hold off on any bailout until Antonio, not Arnold, demands it."
Certainly Democrats are not acting like they want to solve the crisis (at least not until 2011); with a state budget of $131 billion, they would only need to cut 18% across the board to have a balanced budget again. From 1998 to 2008, the budget grew from $73 billion (in 2008 dollars) to $131 billion, an 80% spending increase -- what a spree! Reducing the budget by $24 billion would only mean returning to 2006's budget. Yet the legislature "cannot find" even 5% in cuts!
I don't think any serious person could argue that the legislature is honestly or sincerely trying to solve the crisis. And I don't believe they will try -- until a Democrat is in place to take all the credit.
- I suspect the second main reason for no Obamic bailout of California is lingering anger and resentment over the citizen's constitutional amendment that overturned California's State Supreme Court on the issue of same-sex marriage (SSM).
Proposition 8 was passed by a strong majority; it amended the state constitution to declare marriage to be only between one man and one woman; no other form of union would be legal or recognized in the state as a "marriage." (The 18,000 same-sex couples who married during the brief interval in which it was legal are "grandfathered" in.) I suspect that a great many Democrats in Congress -- and the One Himself -- still seethe that the people of the state took back their own government from the elites... and still fear that such resistance might set an example to citizens in many other states, on many other issues. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people has never been very popular in "people's republics."
Yes, I know; President Obama says that he agrees with the voters of California that marriage should be restricted to mixed-sex couples. Color me skeptical; I find it much more likely that, like many other Democrats, he sincerely wants to revolutionize marriage, along with every other bedrock principle upon which Western Civilization is built. I believe he would not only be fine with same-sex marriage but polygamy as well -- that strokes two special-interest groups at once!
But he doesn't want his fingerprints on such a radical, drastic change in social culture. The president would much prefer others to do the dirty work (preferably federal judges, who are more reliably liberal and don't have to worry about re-election), while he stands above the fray and votes "present." He thought he had nabbed the biggest prize of them all when the California Supreme Court issued its ruling last year; the state is home to the largest population of gays, of Hollywood celebrities, and of liberals (with, of course, a gigantic overlap), and it routinely gives Democratic candidates the largest amount of campaign cash.
But then along came the traditional-marriage amendment, chopping the legs out from under the court's ruling. Injury became insult when that selfsame court -- ignoring the blatant "hints" from the Left -- actually held that Proposition 8 was valid and legitimate, and would be enforced.
And then immediately afterwards, along comes Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, cap in hand, begging for money from the federal coffers. Hah!
Sure, Schwarzenegger himself pretty much supports SSM, and he's hardly what anyone would call a conservative. Ne'ertheless, he still has that scarlet R stitched onto his 52-inch chest; and that was sufficient to evoke all the rage, hatred, and fury: You don't expect the Democratic Congress to give money to a state full of homophobes, do you? (Especially not a state whose citizens had also voted in recent years to end state subsidies to illegal aliens and to terminate all racial-preference programs statewide. Good heavens, they must be Nazis!)
So take my thoughts for what they're worth; I'm glad we weren't bailed out, no matter how disreputable the reason why not. But I'm apprehensive how this will all play out in next year's gubernatorial and legislative elections. It's hard to imagine that the liberal monopoly here could get any worse; but no matter how deep you already are, you can always dig another sub-basement.
May 25, 2009
Speaking Ill of the Dead
Yes, yes, I know: "De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est" (do not speak ill of the dead). But why not? I say, go ahead and speak ill of the undeserving dead.
Erstwhile South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun is dead. He threw himself off a cliff today, coward that he was, because he was afraid to face the legal consequences of his corruption. Good riddance to very, very bad rubbish.
As we spoke ill of him several times in the past, we shall remain consistent and speak ill of him in death:
- A Rock And a Hard Peace
- No Samurai Spirit Here!
- Japanese Prime Minister Defies Asian Pressure
- Honda's Chinese Accord
- Next Time, Listen to Your Mother
Roh was not an evil man; he wasn't important enough (or, as is now obvious, brave enough). He was a wicked man however, though you'd never guess from his fawning obituary in the Associated Press. He rose to power as a demagogue, riding -- and fanning -- a wave of anti-Americanism in South Korea, the country which owes its very existence to American blood.
Roh repeatedly insisted that America and Japan were the Republic of Korea's greatest enemies, that we wanted to enslave them, that we had ravaged their countryside with war for no reason, and that we are today allied with the World War II oppressor of Korea (as if the current Japanese government is the same as that of Tojo). Paradoxically (and incoherently), Roh has also condemned us as war criminals for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
(He also once stood at an international conference to deliver a long speech denouncing Japan for trying to colonize Korea; but for a change, he wasn't talking about the Japanese military dictatorship of the 1930s and 40s... he was furiously condeming them for the invasions carried out by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the late sixteenth century. Roh Moo-hyun was also, atop everything else, a weirdo.)
In addition, he is most famous for his many acts of petty bullying of the weak and appeasement of the strong:
- Roe made repeated overtures of appeasement and submission to Kim Jong-Il, "president" of the neighboring Democratic People's Republic of Korea, a.k.a., Stalinist North Korea. (Actually, Kim is emperor of North Korea, a position he inherited from his father, Kim Il-Sung, as is customary in monarchies.) On Saturday, Kim referred to Roh as his little buddy... rather, his "lifetime democracy movement comrade":
Roh maintained liberal predecessor President Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" of offering North Korea aid to facilitate reconciliation, holding a summit in Pyongyang with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2007, the second such meeting between leaders of the two countries that technically remain at war.
"I lost my lifetime democracy movement comrade. I feel like half of my body has collapsed," Kim said, according to an aide.
- Roh precipitated numerous military confrontations with Japan, knowing the Japanese would never fight back; typically, Korean warships would bully, capture, or even sink unarmed Japanese fishing vessels. Once, Roe even threatened to sink a Japanese scientific survey ship if it continued on a planned mission to the Japanese island of Takeshima... which the South Koreans have claimed since 1954 (with no international support), and which President Roh tried to seize by force in 2006.
- Roe did nothing about North Korea's incessant kidnapping of South Koreans and their indefinite detention in prison camps up north; needless to say, he said not a word about North Korea's kidnapping of Japanese, either.
- And in 2007, in response to demands made by the Taliban after capturing seven South Korean missionaries and holding them hostage, Roh ordered his government to pull all of its troops out of Afghanistan -- they were scheduled to leave anyway, but we were in talks with Roh to extend their stay... talks which he abruptly quit after accepting the Taliban's demands. And as part of the deal with the kidnappers, he also promised to prevent Korean Christian missionaries from ever again evangelizing in Afghanistan.
He rode to power on the claim that he was, as AP put it, "a 'clean' leader immune to South Korea's traditional web of corruption." Then he was enmeshed in a scandal and accused, with mounting evidence, of accepting as much as $6 million in bribes:
He previously acknowledged that a local businessman indicted in December in a separate bribery scandal - gave his wife $1 million, which he did not consider a bribe. He also said he was aware the man gave $5 million to another relative but thought it was an investment.
Prosecutors suspect all $6 million eventually reached Roh, and were expected to announce soon whether they would seek to arrest him. His wife and children also were summoned for questioning, and last week his elder brother was sentenced to four years in prison in a separate bribery scandal.
Like many bullying thugs, he turned out in the end to be a craven; he was so afraid of being arrested, tried, and convicted that he left a suicide note on his computer, then went for a walk (with his security detail) and flung himself into the void.
Roh was not a "bad man" in the sense of his demended North Korean soulmate, or even a "strongman" like Oogo Chavez, Robert Mugabe, or Muammar Gaddafi. But he was an enabler of bad men, a coward who led his country into cowardly, dastardly acts, a slanderer of truly good countries like the United States, and a despiser of friendly relations with his nation's allies -- though he certainly seemed to long for submissive relations with his country's enemies. He was a vain, pompous, truculent, dishonest, corrupt, dangerous fool; and the world is better off without him.
As I have said many times, every human life has value, but sometimes that value is a negative number. Sic transit Roh Moo-hyun: Out of sight, out of mind. He will not be missed by many, and the world, including his lifetime democracy movement comrade, will forget him in ten minutes time.
May 17, 2009
What's a Conservative Anyway?
As before, I'm not looking for every possible policy position held by conservatives, but rather the core principles of conservatism. Particular policies should be derived from the principles of the ideology; we must never again allow the arrow of causality to point in the other direction. That, in a nuthouse, is what happened during the Bush years in which the GOP controlled Congress: Ideology was rewritten to retroactively justify the grab for power, sex, and money engaged in by Republicans, conservative and non-conservative alike.
Bear in mind that non-conservatives don't automatically hold the opposite of every principle below. Liberals are not obliged to reject all traditions, embrace all radical change, deliberately enact laws designed to encourage evil, and be atheists. My point in this list is that liberalism does not demand any of the following virtues. The liberal can reject tradition, embrace radical change, push for the mandatory abortion of "defective" foetuses, and write books entitled Atheism, unGod's Great Gift to Mankind, yet still remain a liberal in good standing among other liberals.
A conservative who did the same would be shunned by his erstwhile fellows; that is the sort of principle I try to deduce here... what would get you drummed out of the club if they caught you at it.
But remember, I am not myself a conservative; some of these principles I more or less support, though perhaps not exactly as a conservative would understand them; others I completely reject; still others seem "orthogonal" to my own principles (oh, look it up, for Pete's sake.) If any actual conservatives take issue with some of these principles, well, the comments section is your friend; argue away! (Just always bear in mind the commenting rules.)
I'll try to put these in order of increasing specificity (or decreasing generality):
Support for tradition and established order
This is the most fundamental, basic definition of conservatism: the wish to conserve what is already here, except for those elements that are completely incompatible with other principles of conservatism (e.g., slavery, which conflicts with human liberty).
Resistance to fundamental change
This flows from the first principle, but it's such an innate characteristic of conservatives that I think it deserves its own bullet point.
There is a tradition that, on his return from France, Jefferson called Washington to account at the breadfast-table for having agreed to a second chamber. "Why," asked Washington, "did you pour that coffee into your saucer?" "To cool it," quoth Jefferson. "Even so," said Washington, "we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it."
Resistance to change can be good, as when conservatives vigorously oppose the radical changes envisions by the One We Have All Been Dreading. But it can also be bad (to my way of thinking), such as when conservatives fight against cultural changes that enrich the American Borg culture: interesting new forms of music and art; cultural elements imported from other countries via immigration; scientific innovation (genetic research, for example, even when they do not require killing human embryos, as with cloning); fundamental change towards something positive, such as more Capitalism; and so forth.
Clearly not every conservative takes everything to extremes; but there are forms of conservatism that do, such as the Amish. And the tendency is there and must be fought in cases where fundamental change is good or even necessary.
Belief in God
I suppose it's technically possible to define conservatism such that an atheist can be a conservative; but it would be a conservatism unrecognizable to nearly everyone who calls himself a conservative, hence a useless exercise; when a label means anything at all, then it really means nothing at all.
Conservatives must believe in God, and He must be the God of the Book, more or less... some aspect of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. It's very difficult to have a conservative polytheist, for instance, because by its very nature, polytheism does not lend itself to universal morality -- a signal attribute of conservatism (see below); if you worship Hermes, god of thieves, then thievery is not only acceptable, it's a sacrament! Likewise, a Buddhist could easily be a fatalist, but not a conservative, I believe; I won't argue the point here, but perhaps in the comments, if anyone takes issue.
Belief in essential human libery, dignity, and life
Because God created humans in His own image, each person has an implicate holiness. It may be unrealized, it may be brutally suppressed by the personal evil of the individual... but no person is beyond the reach of God's grace. Hence every person must be accorded certain "unalienable rights," until and unless he forfeits them by his actions.
Of course, conservatives can and do differ on the specifics; does "human dignity" require society to guarantee a "living wage" to every worker, or does the "human liberty" of employers to set their own wages and conditions of employment trump dignity? But those who would deny liberty, dignity, or life altogether, such as the Khomeiniists in Iran or the unholy warriors of al-Qaeda, cannot qualify as "conservatives." They are radicals... in this case, radical, militant Islamists. (For heaven's sake, you can hardly call a man a conservative if he leads a Jacobite revolution against a somewhat functional democracy.)
Strong version of pro-life position, along with traditional morality
The strong version says that abortion is always morally wrong, even evil, except in the narrowest case: when absolutely necessary to preserve the life (not merely the "health") of the mother. (The weak version would ban abortion after some point later than conception, or would only ban some types of abortions.)
Traditional morality presupposes that a universal morality exists -- some things are absolutely right, others are absolutely wrong, and humans can determine what those things are -- and the belief that it is the duty of the government to enforce the most vital elements of that universal morality.
Beyond that point, there is much disagreement among conservatives. Some grudgingly allow that abortion should remain up to the states, believing that Federalism (liberty) trumps life; others believe in a constitutional amendment banning all abortions, believing that life trumps the liberty of Federalism. But every person I've met who calls himself a conservative fits one of two patterns: Either he believes abortion is always a great evil, or else he has many other facets of what I would call liberalism... he is a "CINO."
There is even more disagreement about what exactly "traditional morality" entails; a few conservatives (e.g. Patterico) reject privileging traditional, opposite-sex marriage over same-sex marriage; but most are more like the lads at Power Line, however, rejecting both same-sex marriage and also court rulings like Lawrence v. Texas, which found laws banning "sodomy" to be unconstitutional; they believe the State can and should legislate many more aspects of morality than it now does, or than libertarian-conservatives would tolerate.
(A few conservative Moslems and Mormons privilege polygamy over monogamy; but most who hold that position simply cannot be shoehorned into "conservatism;" they are radicals, and not just on the marriage question.)
Typically in the West, "traditional moral values" is adequately described by the Ten Commandments -- or Ten Mitzvahs, "blessings," to Jews -- plus whatever Talmudic dicta is necessary to flesh out the broad rules.
Government policy should encourage moral behavior and religious belief and discourage the opposite.
This is a stronger version of "the rule of consistency" than found in the Republican version; the latter requires only that the government not violate principle, while the former requires active legislation and regulation to enforce principle. Thus there may well be conflict between a conservative and the Republican Party, especially over libertarian issues; this is why some conservatives (especially "single-issue" cons) can also be found in the Democratic Party, the Reform Party, various nationalist parties, and suchlike -- not just in the GOP.
Again summing up, I believe the core principles of conservatism (in order of increasing specificity) are:
- Support for tradition and established order;
- Resistance to fundamental change;
- Belief in God;
- Belief in essential human libery, dignity, and life;
- Strong version of pro-life position, along with traditional morality;
- Government policy should be consistent with conservative ideology.
But as I said before, this is to a much larger extent "terra incognita" to me than was the previous post; because, while I am not a conservative, I am a Republican.
Working and playing well with each other
So conservatism and the Republican Party are not synonymous, nor is one a subset of the other; there is, however, a very large insection between the two sets. There are a number of points of agreement; and if we focus on these, instead of the few areas of disagreement, both conservatives and Republicans will benefit -- as will the nation itself.
First, because the American tradition is more fiscally conservative, supports a very strong national defense, and has generally been more pro-trade than anti, a conservative's orientation towards a traditional understanding of hot-button issues will tend to drive him towards the GOP, rather than the Democratic Party (currently on the leash of the radical Left).
Second, both sets include the principle "Belief in essential human libery, dignity, and life," albeit not for the same reasons: Republicans deduce it from the necessity of free, reasoning individuals to run an enlightened government, while conservatives tend to profess it as deriving from the implicate Godliness of Man.
By contrast, neither liberals nor Democrats demand support for any of those three qualities as a prerequisite of membership in "the club." Thus again, conservatives will naturally feel more comfortable with the morals of the GOP, rather than the morals of the Democratic Party (which are those of an alley cat).
Third, most conservatives mistrust the government. But the Democratic Party demands far more trust in the Capo di Tutti Capi than does the GOP. Again, conservatives are nudged rather strongly towards the Republicans.
In fact, conservatives are so strongly identified with the Republicans, now that we're at least two generations past the terrible division of segregation, that some conservatives mistakenly believe that they are the Republican Party... or at least that they should be the only drivers on that bus.
We very much need to distinguish between commonplace and truly universal positions among Republicans; in other words, which is actually a shibboleth to identify who is and who is not a bona fide member of the party. There are a lot of fights we must join immediately which are fought entirely within the realm of core GOP/conservative principles; for instance, Obama wants to radically remake America (anti-conservative) into a Eurofascist welfare state (anti-Republican).
If we stick to those battles and set aside, for the moment, our internecine squabbles, we shall have a very good chance to make great gains in 2010 -- and maybe even take back the House of Representatives. But if we spend more time going after the heretics in the hall than the barbarians at the gate, we can kiss the next twenty-plus years goodbye.
I'm very interested to see where this finally goes; please comment to your heart's desire.
What's a Republican Anyway?
I often note that while I'm a Republican, I'm not a conservative -- generally to hoots of disbelief from liberals, who see everyone to the right of Lincoln Chafee as a "hard-right extremist proto-domestic terrorist." But readers of this blog surely ken that there are many types of Republican within RR's big tent. Some are just barely Republican... RINOs like Arnold Schwarzenegger and
Arlen Specter Michael Bloomberg. (The former because to be a Democrat in California is to be a Socialist; the latter purely for expediency -- Bloomberg didn't think he could win the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City.)
But there exist other "non-conservatives" who will remain honest and loyal members of the GOP, so long as the party itself stays true to its principles. So what are those principles, and how do they differ from the principles of conservatives, whether Republican or Democratic? We'll have to answer this question ourselves.
Let's try to identify the core principles that underpin the Republican Party; later we'll find the core principles of conservatism, then compare the two.
Here we go:
Fiscal conservatism: Low taxes, balanced budgets, low interest rates to encourage entrepeneurship, strong support for Capitalism
If you don't believe in Capitalism and all that it requires, including rule of law, less regulation, and government taking no more of our money than is absolutely necessary, then what would you want to be a Republican for anyway? Such people have only underhanded reasons to join our party... and we should have the bouncers bounce them out of the tent.
If a person cannot at least say that Capitalism serves America better than Oogo-Chavez style nationalist Socialism, then he can find some other party, and good riddance to bad rubbish.
A strong national defense: Defending the nation using any means necessary, short of betraying America's own principles
For a counter-example, I could never support "defending America" by enslaving people -- American Moslems, for example -- and forcing them to build tanks at gunpoint, as the Soviets did with political dissidents and the Nazis did with the Jews. An America that did that would not be an America worth defending.
But leaving adolescent hypotheticals behind, any Republican should, I believe, support such policies as missile defense; harsh interrogation of unlawful enemy combatants that does not amount to torture (room for diversity of opinion on what does constitute torture); and taking the fight to the enemy. Anyone who believes in "fortress America" -- that we should simply bring all of our soldiers home, ring our borders with them, and otherwise refuse to sally forth to other countries to fight the Iran/al-Qaeda axis there -- is an isolationist; and while isolationism (typically born of xenophobia) was a respectable position prior to World War II, I believe there is no room for it in the post-Holocaust GOP. (This doesn't mean I think isolationists are evil; but they differ so fundamentally with the mainstream of the Republican Party that I think they should join another or start their own.)
Belief in essential human libery, dignity, and life
Note that this does not mean an absolute pro-life position; we're still talking about the principles of Republicanism, not yet the stricter principles of conservatism.
But even non-conservative Republicans should oppose such flagrantly anti-life positions as late-term abortions for no necessary medical reason; involuntary euthanasia of "defectives;" policies that trap innocent souls in degrading, subhuman lives (no Republican should support policies that lead to beaten, abused, or starving children, for example); involuntary servitude except upon conviction of an actual crime (not the "crime" of being born the wrong color); and denial of basic liberties, including freedom of speech, worship, and the vote.
Treating each person as an individual, not as the representative of some group defined by characteristics beyond his or her control
This is not only fundamental, it should be obvious. For the most obvious example, Republicans should never support putative "affirmative action" by the State unless it's administered individually, rather than collectively. I applaud the EEOC helping some particular individual who can show that he, personally has been discriminated against; but it's morally corrupt for the State to favor Jesse Jackson's children over those of a middle-income white family, just because Jackson is black.
(I personally think it's even morally corrupt for the government to favor the poor over the rich; but that's one of my personal principles, not one I think the GOP must assume. Note that wealth is not a characteristic "beyond the individual's control.")
A foreign and domestic policy consistent with the principles above; that is, Republicans must believe that our principles are not simply things we say when engaged in moral preening; our principles are actual core elements of our government's ideology and policy
This may be the most controversial element of my GOP creed: I reject as a true Republican anybody who believes in a ban or even a moratorium on all immigration, or on immigration by certain types of people determined not by individual action but by inherent characteristic (e.g., a ban on all immigrants from Venezuela). This is simply another and uglier aspect of isolationism, combined with tribalism.
But I don't feel as strongly about, for instance, a ban on all immigrants who have been members of any group on the list of terrorist organizations, even if he insists that he has since changed his mind (I think such a blanket policy is foolish but not unRepublican).
I also think that those who in general reject treaties, including free-trade agreements (FTAs), with other countries are unRepublican and should join some other party; but of course, there may be good reasons to reject some particular FTA, if it's not good for the United States.
And proper Republicans cannot support excessive regulation of the market (I understand that "excessive" is a weasel-word), onerous government intrusion into citizens' lives, or attacks on certain religions or religion in general -- and yes, that includes Islam; it's urgent to attack the type of Islam that poses a direct threat to the nation... but not to attack Islam in general or, e.g., put all Moslems under surveillance.
All religions must obey the law; but the law should not discriminate against any religion, against religion in general, or against irreligion. So no government-mandated prayer in schools and no government ban on wearing a cross, a yarmulke, or praying towards Mecca (excepting regulations obviously crafted just to avoid conflict, of course).
So to boil it down, here are what I consider to be the core elements of the Republican Party; anyone who opposes one or more is being unRepublican and should seriously reevaluate whether the GOP is the right home for him:
- Fiscal conservatism;
- Strong national defense;
- Belief in essential human libery, dignity, and life;
- Treating each person as an individual;
- And a foreign and domestic policy consistent with the other four principles;
Next we'll tackle conservatism and see how its principles intersect with those of the Republican Party.
May 12, 2009
Racism Is the Most Natural Thing in the World
I don't mean that sarcastically at all: For most human beings, racism comes so naturally, they don't even know they're racists.
Of course, being "natural" is not a synonym for being good. It's "only natural" that a man will forcibly take any woman who arouses him. It's "only natural" that we steal whenever we're sure we won't get caught; these behaviors are ubiquitous in the animal kingdom... and thank God we do the unnatural thing in such cases!
Racism is simply tribalism, where the tribe is expanded to encompass everyone of the same color or gross physiognomy. Western civilization is powerfully anti-racist because it's anti-tribalist; it redefines the comfort-group to a set determined by culture, not by skin color or facial features. That is why Western Borg culture led the way towards the abolition of racial slavery -- and why many non-Western cultures, particularly in Moslemdom, still cannot understand what is wrong with that "peculiar institution."
(I use the term "Western Borg culture" because Western civilization is so powerful and attractive that it assimilates every culture it comes into contact with; resistance is futile.)
The song from South Pacific, "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught," has it exactly backwards: Racism is the default state; what must be carefully taught is individualism: Not the I-me-mine kind of narcissism found in infants and liberals, but the full-monty philosophy that other people are also individuals deserving of as much respect and liberty as we, unless by their own actions they forfeit that respect.
That philosophy is bizarre, unnatural, and incomprehensible to very young children and very primitive peoples. Fortunately, the economic version of individualism -- Capitalism -- is such a powerful wealth producer that (a) Western countries are rich enough to mandate liberty (subsistance societies haven't the luxury), and (b) the smell of money lures the primitive towards liberty, Capitalism, and individualism by another completely natural deadly sin: Envy.
Thus does God -- if He exists -- turn even human failings to His own purposes.
February 5, 2009
Snips 'n Snails 'n Media Tales
From the Associated Press, quoting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin:
"If I were giving advice to myself back on the day my candidacy was announced, I'd say, 'Tell the campaign that you'll be callin' some of the shots. Don't just assume that they know you well enough to make all your decisions for ya," Palin said....
"I don't know if you can get it [mooseburger chilli] commercially in New York," Palin said. "Come up here to my home, and I'll prepare it for ya."
So AP is reduced to transcribing Palin's accent in the attempt to make her sound like an Alaskan hillbilly.
Now imagine they began doing that for Rep. Charles Rangel, Jesse Jackson, Jeremiah Wright, or even, God forbid, Barack Obama, transcribing their accents -- but making them read like dialog from Gone With the Wind. What exactly would the rest of the elite media say?
Interrogations without straw
The Obama administration will not conduct the kind of "extraordinary rendition" that the Bush administration allowed, CIA Director nominee Leon Panetta assured senators on Thursday.
Panetta told the Senate Intelligence Committee that President Barack Obama forbids what Panetta called "that kind of extraordinary rendition -- when we send someone for the purpose of torture or actions by another country that violate our human values."
Ah. More maunderings from the most ethical administration in the entire history of the United States of America: Our "human values" (?) are so refined, so principled, so cosmically just, that we refuse to send terrorist detainees to any country -- even their own! -- that might interrogate them more harshly than do we. But of course, we'll be similarly schoolmarmish with our own interrogations:
"Having said that, if we capture a high-value prisoner, I believe we have the right to hold that individual temporarily, to debrief that individual, and to make sure that individual is properly incarcerated so we can maintain control over that individual," he said....
Panetta is not expected to face major opposition in the Senate. If confirmed, he would assume control of the CIA just weeks after Obama made dramatic changes in the agency's interrogation and detention program, directing that secret prisons be closed and interrogations held to methods approved by the military.
Panetta is a strong supporter of Obama's rules.
"We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don't. There is no middle ground," he wrote last year.
Lyin' Joe Wilson was "debriefed" by the CIA when he returned from drinking sweet mint tea in Niger; I suppose that's about as harsh as we're going to get with current and future (if any) detainees in the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis. (We note in passing that Panetta evidently does not understand the difference between a prison sentence, which is punishment for a crime and subject to the "cruel and unusual" clause of the Constitution, and enemy interrogation, which, whatever else one may say of it, is not intended to punish but to elicit information and intelligence vital to preserving the national security.)
But just as President Barack H. Obama is going to "create or save" four million jobs -- just ask him! -- Director Leon Panetta will still get all the intelligence we need:
Panetta said he would come to the job with a list a questions he wants the CIA to be able to answer, including the location of Osama bin Laden, and when and where al-Qaida will next try to attack the United States.
"Our first responsibility is to prevent surprise," he said.
Of course, the only way to determine "when and where al-Qaida will next try to attack the United States" (as well as "the location of Osama bin Laden") is to extract intelligence; that intelligence resides inside the heads of captured terrorists; and captured terrorists have every incentive to withhold such intelligence from infidel interrogators. So we will very likely have to use something a bit stronger than a "debriefing" to get at it. Surprise!
So how can Mr. Panetta reconcile the urgent need for information to protect American lives and our freedom, democracy, and our national character with his and his boss's fastidiousness about the methods used to gather that information? Very simple:
The former White House chief of staff under President Clinton and ex-congressman from California has much experience in government but little in intelligence gathering or analysis.
What's that expression about somebody or other rushing in where angels fear to tread?
First chance for second thoughts
President Obama has nominated nominally Republican Sen. Judd Gregg (NH, 72%) to be Secretary of Commerce. Today we learn:
The director of the Census Bureau will report directly to the White House and not the secretary of Commerce, according to a senior White House official.
The decision came after black and Hispanic leaders raised questions about Commerce Secretary nominee Judd Gregg ’s commitment to funding the census....
The selection of the Republican Gregg for Commerce -- a plum often given out to a big fundraiser or personal friend in the president’s own party -- left many Democrats scratching their heads and others fearful that Gregg might not defend favored agencies and programs with the department....
It was not immediately clear whether the White House plan to circumvent Gregg on Census Bureau matters would assuage lawmakers who raised questions about his nomination.
If it doesn't, the president can always snip off a few more responsibilities from the Commerce Secretary. Then a few more, and a few more. More Obamic "post-partisanship" in action!
I wonder what Sen. Judd Gregg thinks about his decision to join Team Obama now?
Al Franken's impractical joke: count every vote -- on the Minnesota Supreme Court
Lawyers for Democrat Al Franken told Minnesota's highest court Thursday that he should be certified as the winner of his tight Senate race with Republican Norm Coleman without waiting for the outcome of his rival's legal challenge.
Given that a three-judge panel (appointed by Justice Alan Page, the football guy, of the Minnesota Supreme Court) is at this very moment hearing that "legal challenge," called an election contest, how can Franken hope to prevail? He has a cunning plan:
Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and Justice G. Barry Anderson recused themselves. Both men sat on the State Canvassing Board that ruled on disputed ballots and certified the recount numbers.
Both justices are Republicans appointed by Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty (ordinarily, justices run for election to the state supreme court, but the governor can appoint a justice if a vacancy occurs during the term). Both would likely be skeptical of Franken's demand that he be seated whether or not he really got the most votes. With them sitting out the hearing, the odds shift slightly towards Franken... though it appears the remaining justices are likewise skeptical.
So it appears that Al Franken can count every vote after all.
December 7, 2008
Knicks & Knacks II
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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.
December 5, 2008
Knicks & Knacks I
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:
- That he was completely justified, both in the robbery and in the killings;
- That he actually, for real, didn't kill either his former wife or Ron Goldman, and he didn't really rob anybody;
- 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:
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.
March 12, 2008
Transformative Elections vs. Kicking the Can: a Sermon
(Follow-up to "Romney: My Fave for the Nomination, But a Mistake for VP")
Picking up on our last post, let me clarify the philosophy behind our call for a "flamboyant," "galvanizing running mate," rather than one of the "usual suspects," like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty. I don't know whether John McCain understands this; I hope he does, or that he figures it out before selecting his running mate.
Simply put, if Republicans care about the future of the party, we cannot afford yet another narrow presidential victory. Of course it's better than a narrow loss; but it does nothing to build the brand. People are drifting away, because there is no longer anything exciting or daring about being Republican -- as there was in the 1980s.
We're losing the vision edge to the Democrats in the twenty-first century. You always must bear in mind that the Left has an automatic edge on "vision," because they're entirely defined by their vision of utopia and bringing about heaven on earth, right here and now.
This is a huge draw, especially to the young, as Jonah Goldberg argues in Liberal Fascism: Yutes always want to believe there is something sui generis about them that makes them uniquely qualified to rule the world. We on the anti-liberal side must first batter down this autogenerated conceit before showing them why our philosophy is more exciting.
Narrow victories like 2000 and 2004 do little to awaken people to the implicit failure of progressivism, and to the alternative philosophies out there... Capitalism, conservatism, and individual and family responsibility, as opposed to statism and "it takes a village (or a nation) to raise a child." With an unorthodox candidate like John McCain, we have the opportunity to wrench this election out of the normal mode on the Republican side... and we're fools if we don't roll those dice.
This can either be an ordinary election -- or a transformative one. We can choose to just kick the can down the road, or we can establish what Republicanism will mean for the next several decades. McCain is the gateway to 21st-century Republicanism; but like Moses, he can see but not enter the promised land. To make this election transformative, we need someone who exemplifies the future of the party... and the vice presidency is one good way to highlight such a person.
The last transformative election was 1980. Reagan galvanized America and flipped eight decades of progressivism and liberal fascism on its head. Alas, however, George H.W. Bush certainly did not exemplify Reaganism... which was precisely the reason he lost in 1992. The transformation of 1980 continued under Clinton in some areas (economic, for example); but in other significant ways, notably national security and individualism, it petered out over eight years of mudpacking by a follower of Huey Long and a disciple of Saul Alinsky.
Imagine how the last four elections would have gone had Reagan eschewed the normal political calculus (name your nearest rival as running mate) -- and instead reached deeper into the well to draw out somebody young, exciting, and a thoroughgoing Reaganite; someone who could truly have carried the torch in 1988 and 1992, perhaps founding a party dynasty.
In an ordinary election, political calculus should prevail; the nominee should pick a Republican whose turn it is, or someone who can bring one or two specific states over to the GOP side. But this is not an ordinary election; and I don't believe for one second that there is any specific state that Mitt Romney, or any other VP pick from the usual suspects, can bring to McCain.
To put it another way, McCain himself, by his very nature, is already transformative; he already does the job, as much as it can be done, of bringing in traditionally knife-edge states -- those that went for Kerry by less than 5 points in 2004: Michigan (17 ev), Minnesota (10 ev), New Hampshire (4 ev), Oregon (7 ev), Pennsylvania (21 ev), and Wisconsin (10 ev). McCain also will do a better job holding narrowly held red states, like Iowa (7 ev), Ohio (20 ev), and (nowadays) Virginia (13 ev), than would a Southern conservative nominee. I believe McCain will hold all the reds except Virginia (I think the Ohio hemorrhage is over); and he'll get some of the blues; but no possible running mate will make him get more of those.
Take Mitt Romney, for example. Despite having a father who was a very popular governor of Michigan, Romney wouldn't help McCain win Michigan. Now, if the nominee had been Fred Thompson, then Romney might help; Thompson is just a mainstream conservative Southerner. But McCain will either win or lose Michigan all on his own; Romney won't help.
But much more interesting to me, in crafting a transformative election, are what I call the Nine-Pointers: blue states that aren't razor-close, but also are not deep, double-digit azure. States like Delaware (7.5 points, 3 ev), Hawaii (9 points, 4 ev), Maine (9 points, 4 ev), New Jersey (6 points, 15 ev), and Washington (7 points, 11 ev). Maybe even Connecticut (10 points, 7 ev) and Illinois (10 points, 21 ev). And of course, the granddaddy of all Nine-Pointers, California (9 points, 55 ev).
The bluish purples add up to 69 electoral votes; but the Nine-Pointers add up to 65 evs, not counting California; add in the Golden State, and that's 120 evs. Put both purple groups together, and you have a potential haul of 189 electoral votes.
If the ticket of McCain-[fill in the blank] can grab any substantial portion of those, then we're talking blow-out. Not a total wipe-out, like Reagan/Mondale in 1984, Nixon/McGovern in 1972, or Roosevelt/Landon in 1936; but a substantial enough victory that only the most froth-at-the-mouth left-liberals can try to claim the presidency is "illegitimate," or that McCain is the "commander in thief."
This is the kind of win that cows Congress; this is the kind of win that can have coattails; this is the kind of win -- if the new president represents a break from the norm -- that actually brings new, young voters to the GOP... similar to Reagan, though not quite that substantial, I would expect. This is big enough to be a transformative election, if the winning ticket calls the young to follow... and I believe McCain does that, to some extent.
But a younger, more exciting, more futurist running mate would magnify that call tenfold.
Bill Clinton's back to back minority victories didn't move the masses, and neither did Bush-43's back to back narrow (spread less than 4%) wins. 9/11 was a screaming smoke-detector for many Americans, including many young Americans; but there was no solid, ideological follow-through by George W. Bush to counteract the Democrats' droning cry of, "Nothing to see here, let's just MoveOn."
That lack of communication and a coherent, post-9/11 ideology is Bush's biggest failing as president; but realistically, he never meant to be a transformer; he ran as a technocrat administrator. It was America's ill-luck the attack happened when it did, and not a year earlier, when it could have helped John McCain in 2000.
(I voted for Bush in the 2000 primary. Though I'd been warning about the danger of militant Islamism since 1990 -- in print! -- I had no idea what was just around the corner when I voted. I now believe McCain would have made a better post-9/11 president than Bush.)
But a Nine-Pointer victory with a transformative ticket will actually move people, those who ordinarily would just vote the faith of their fathers, to switch to the other team -- our team.
So we should search for a running mate who can compliment and augment McCain and help drive this election into a Nine-Pointer win in the popular vote, thus winning a substantial number of the Nine-Pointer states. There's no rush to name one; McCain has months. In fact, if he makes no decision but drops hints of these criteria, that would generate much more interest than quickly naming a yawner.
I don't just want a narrow victory, where we squeak past Obama; I want Obama (or Hillary) crushed... and crushed badly enough that the socialist hydra is driven deep underground, perhaps even freeing the Democratic Party itself from enthrallment by the philosophies of Woodrow Wilson, FDR, LBJ, and Saul Alinsky.
So that's the kind of running mate we should be looking for: One who can magnify McCain's voice, then follow McCain as president and be a bellwether for the future of the Grand Old Party.
February 14, 2008
She Needs a Man
Bear with us for a bit...
Hillary Clinton is our first serious (?) female candidate for president.
Feisty (fisty?) Hillary
From Day-1, her campaign has been run by Patti Solis Doyle, Hillary's longtime -- uh -- friend:
Patti Solis Doyle
But Solis Doyle was just ousted, and now Hillary's campaign is run by Margaret "Maggie" Williams, Hillary's former chief of staff and loyal to the core:
What do these three people have in common, besides being fanatically loyal to Hillary? Let me give you a broad hint... it has something to do with gender.
Of course, she does have pollster Mark Penn working for her, along with other males; but they are subordinated to the folks above... and Penn, at least, appears to be growing increasingly frustrated by the inept campaign.
But let's step back a bit in time. Most accounts I have read say that it was Hillary who insisted that President Bill Clinton name a woman -- one willing to be a sock puppet for Hillary -- as attorney general. First he tried Zoe Baird, but she turned out to have hired an illegal alien to be her chauffeur and another to be nanny to her child, not even paying Social-Security taxes on their wages.
The second try was Kimba Wood; she too turned out to have an illegal-alien problem.
The third time was the not very charming Janet Reno. Reno had no illegal-alien nannies -- probably because she had no children -- so she was confirmed. She subsequently transmogrified, a few years later, into the de facto counsel for Bill and Hillary Clinton, while still remaining on paper the attorney general... but that is beyond the scope of this post.
Reno's top deputy was Jamie Gorelick; she was also generally considered Hillary's "political officer" (in the Stalinist sense) within the Justice Department. Certainly Justice staffers were more afraid of Gorelick's wrath than that of the attorney general herself.
Gorelick, you will recall, published a memo in 1995 directing the US Attorney and the FBI, then investigating the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, to essentially erect a wall between intelligence-gathering and law-enforcement, not allowing side either even to communicate with the other. This stupid idea went far beyond the law's requirement (as she admitted in the memo) and almost certainly led, in part, to many terrorist attacks on the United States, including the 9/11 attacks themselves (which she continues to deny to this day).
It became clear during the run-up to the 9/11 Commission (on which Gorelick served) that Hillary, not Reno, was behind the memo that created "Gorelick's wall."
Then there was Susan Thomases, a New York corporate lawyer with little government experience and but a small bit of political experience -- but Hillary's closest friend from the 1970s.
Thomases had a slightly better political resume than others in "Hillaryland" (Patti Solis Doyle's term): She had been a scheduler for Vice President Walter Mondale and had run the Senate campaign of Bill Bradley in 1978, and she was a successful Manhattan attorney. Still, this seems a bit slim to qualify her for her role as Hillary Clinton's closest advisor, troubleshooter (mainly on Whitewater allegations), personal lawyer, scheduler to the President of the United States, and unofficial "enforcer" of Hillaryland.
She later became famous for testifying more than 180 times during the congressional Whitewater investigation that she did not remember key facts or incidents, so couldn't answer whatever question she had been asked. (Pundits called it the "Alzheimers defense.")
I asked before what these Hillary appointees have in common; let me be more specific about the answer: It's not just that they are all women; the real similarity is that they were all chosen by Hillary Clinton precisely because they were women. she appears to have only two criteria for her appointments. The appointee must...
- Be fanatically loyal to Hillary Clinton;
- And be a woman.
Does anybody imagine that in 1993, the top three candidates for Attorney General of the United States were all women? Does anyone believe that the best choice Hillary could have made for campaign manager was Patti Solis Doyle... who had run a (virtually unopposed) mayoral campaign for Richard Daley in Chicago and two (virtually unopposed) Senate campaigns for Hillary, but who had never, ever held a significant position in either a presidential campaign, or even in a campaign of any sort against a tough opponent -- but who just happened also to be a woman?
Maggie Williams is now running Hillary's presidential campaign. So far as I can tell, she has never served on any other campaign; she was a "senior advisor" to the campaign before Solis Doyle was ousted... but Williams was earlier Hillary's chief of staff (fanatical loyalty); and of course, she is a woman.
Zoe Baird, Kimba Wood, Janet Reno, Jamie Gorelick, Susan Thomases -- pretty much the same evaluation: Not particularly qualified, except in the all-important loyalty and gender checkboxes.
Hillary Clinton has always been proud to call herself a feminist (one of those feminists who owes everything she has or is to a man, her husband), but she is a particular kind of feminist: She is not what Christina Hoff-Sommers would call an equity feminist, one who wants only equality of opportunity for women; Hillary is what Hoff-Sommers calls a gender feminist... that is, a tribalist whose "tribe" is women.
Hillary enthusiastically supports anything that helps women or girls, whether fairly or unfairly; thus, she still applauds university admissions standards that give preference to women, even though women outnumber men on college campuses by a substantial margin. Likewise, a gender feminist like Hillary champions any policy that hurts or retards men and boys relative to women and girls.
Contrast Hillary's female appointees to George W. Bush's appointment of Condoleezza Rice first as National Security Advisor, then as Secretary of State, and his nomination of Harriet Miers as Supreme Court justice. Or for that matter, with Bill Clinton's appointment of Madeleine Albright as Secretary of State. Bush certainly did not pick Rice just to pick a woman; she had previously served as special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. William J. Crowe, Jr; then she served on the National Security Council as the senior advisor on Soviet and East European Affairs. She was Bush's senior foreign-policy advisor during the campaign; so it was perfectly natural that he name her his NSA.
Harriet Miers was the president of a large Dallas law firm; then president of the Dallas Bar Association, then the Texas State Bar Association and chairman of the Board of Editors of the ABA Journal. Most important, she was chief counsel to Governor Bush's transition team in 1994, and she became Bush's personal attorney while he was governor. She headed the Texas Lottery Commission, a fairly large bureaucracy, and reportedly did a very good job.
Yet despite the fact that she was well qualified and a very close friend of the president, he did not name her Attorney General of the United States; that honor went to Sen. John Ashcroft. She did eventually become White House Counsel in 2004... and it was from that position -- and her role as head of Bush's selection committee to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- that Bush's eventual nomination came of Miers herself to replace O'Connor.
He said at the time he specifically wanted to pick someone who did not come from the appellate courts. When conservatives objected, he withdrew Miers (after a long struggle) and picked Judge Samuel Alito... from the Third Circus Court of Appeals. So it goes.
And even Madeleine Albright had a stellar academic career, and served as Clinton's Ambassador to the United Nations for four years, before he named her Secretary of State. There is no indication that Bill Clinton named her just because she was a women, though I'm sure he was not blind to the PR aspect. (Bill Clinton has a rather different set of political sins than does his wife.)
But Hillary Clinton is determined that her campaign will be run by and for women, regardless of whether there are better qualified and more experienced campaign managers who happen, sadly, to be male. And we see the consequences of Hillary's tribalism today: Despite every institutional advantage one can imagine, she is being slowly ground into hamburger by a complete lightweight no-name with even less experience than she has.
Her campaign is in free-fall not because it's run by a woman, but because it has all along been run by people selected primarily because they are women. Hillary's gynocentrism has probably thwarted her political aspirations, unless she gets amazingly lucky -- and both Barack Obama and John McCain make catastrophic, career-killing mistakes ("Macaca!").
The only way I can think for her to turn her candidacy around would be to hire a male campaign manager... not because a generic man would be better than Maggie Williams or Patti Solis Doyle (although that's probably true), but because such an appointment would signal that Hillary had actually changed her own psyche from gender feminism towards an equity position, selecting not "the best woman" for the job but "the best person."
But considering the psychology of the individual, I consider that a very slim possibility indeed. Hillary would rather lose while surrounded by a pavillion of women than put a man in charge -- and win.
January 16, 2008
Kids... Those Darn - Kids!
I was reading a piece on AP which reported that in the United States, births are significantly up; fortunately, AP gave us the benefit of its anointed, elite-media analysis of the looming catastrophe -- a rising fertility rate -- that will positively dwarf the pending disaster of global climate change:
Bucking the trend in many other wealthy industrialized nations, the United States seems to be experiencing a baby boomlet, reporting the largest number of children born in 45 years.
The nearly 4.3 million births in 2006 were mostly due to a bigger population, especially a growing number of Hispanics. That group accounted for nearly one-quarter of all U.S. births. But non-Hispanic white women and other racial and ethnic groups were having more babies, too.
Good heavens! More children; don't these people know that we're destroying the Earth as it is? What can be causing this aberrant behavior?
Experts believe there is a mix of reasons: a decline in contraceptive use, a drop in access to abortion, poor education and poverty.
Zounds, have things gotten so bad that women are forced to start having babies again? Quelle horror!
One of those religious fanatics might suggest that more people are simply deciding to have more children, perhaps because they believe in the future here -- as they certainly do not in the socially conscious European countries. (Since there is no future, believing in one is a sign of desperation, delusion, or senility.) But even if the religious explanation is true, it just proves what unsophisticated boobs red-state Americans are:
"Americans like children. We are the only people who respond to prosperity by saying, 'Let's have another kid,'" said Nan Marie Astone, associate professor of population, family and reproductive health at Johns Hopkins University.
Those crazy Americans. Don't they understand the danger the human population poses to this planet? And will this boomlet continue? AP turns to the most appropriate subject-matter expert to ask about this freakish rise in childbirth:
Demographers say it is too soon to know if the sudden increase in births is the start of a trend.
"We have to wait and see. For now, I would call it a noticeable blip," said Brady Hamilton, a statistician with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Yep, when I want to learn more about the causes of an inexplicable increase in fertility, my first choice would certainly be to contact the Centers for Disease Control. And Prevention.
At least there is a dark lining to this silver cloud:
To many economists and policymakers, the increase in births is good news. The U.S. fertility rate - the number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime - reached 2.1. That's the "magic number" required for a population to replace itself....
But the higher fertility rate isn't all good. Last month, the CDC reported that America's teen birth rate rose for the first time in 15 years.
Aha! So the increased fertility rate reflects nothing more than rampant unmarried teen mothers. We always knew the evil of the anti-family Republican regime would eventually catch up with us; this must be the explanation for the putative "boomlet." Oh, wait:
The same report also showed births becoming more common in nearly every age and racial or ethnic group. Birth rates increased for women in their 20s, 30s and early 40s, not just teens.
Oh. Ah, nevermind.
Demographers say there has been at least one boomlet before, around 1990, when annual U.S. births broke 4.1 million for two straight years before dropping to about 3.9 million in the mid-1990s. Adolescent childbearing was up at the time, but so were births among other groups, and experts aren't sure what explained that bump.
It's just totally counterintuitive: Why on earth would anybody want to have children? For God's sake, a Republican is in the White House! Shouldn't this be a time to protest by refusing to have babies, thus denying the regime the cannon fodder it needs to threaten the world?
Unless... maybe it's a result of all those union-job-stealing illegal immigrants swarming in with their crazy foreign ideas that there's something good, in some mysterious way, about having a family:
The high rate probably reflects cultural attitudes toward childbirth developed in other countries, experts said. Fertility rates average 2.7 in Central America and 2.4 in South America....
Some complain that many illegal immigrants come here purposely to have children.
"The child is an automatic American citizen, thus entitled to all benefits of American citizens. This gives a certain financial incentive for people coming from other countries illegally to have children here," said John Vinson, president of the Virginia-based American Immigration Control Foundation.
There you go: Even those hardline, anti-immigration, militia-joining, federal-building-bombing, Buchanan-supporting, white supremacist, hood-wearing members of the Taliban wing of the Republican Party agree with us that having kids is unAmerican.
So what can we do about this scourge of spawning? Isn't there some sort of international "Protocol" we can join against childbirth? One must exist, because the European Union and Japan have clearly negotiated just such an agreement. How else to explain their refreshingly low fertility rates?
Here are some possible solutions we can consider:
Fertility levels tend to decline as women become better educated and gain career opportunities, and as they postpone childbirth until they are older. Experts say those factors, along with the legalization of abortion and the expansion of contraception options, explain why the U.S. fertility rate dropped to its lowest point -- about 1.7 -- in 1976.
Sadly, however, it appears that the contrarian American public just doesn't get it, like they just don't understand the peril of unbridled Capitalism and the immorality of having a strong military:
But while fertility declines persisted in many other developed nations, the United States saw the reverse: The fertility rate climbed to 2 in 1989 and has hovered around that mark since then, according to federal birth data.
Kohler and others say the difference has more to do with culture than race. For example, white American women have more children than white European -- even though many nations in Europe have more family-friendly government policies on parental leave and child care.
More proof, as if any were needed, of the greater enlightenment of women on the other side of the pond.
Finally, there is one other dark side to this that we will never talk about. Except we have to let you know about it, because how else would you know what we're not going to talk about?
The influence of certain religions in those latter regions is an important factor, said Ron Lesthaeghe, a Belgian demographer who is a visiting professor at the University of Michigan. "Evangelical Protestantism and Mormons," he said.
Either Professor Lesthaeghe was cut off in mid-sentence, or else Catholics have finally come to their senses. Maybe next they'll go all the way and start supporting a woman's right to choose!
In any event, surely you can see the dilemma here: How on earth can we cure this problem of excess births? What external controlling factor is forcing more and more women back into the baby quagmire... women who should be in the vanguard of freeing themselves from biological servitude?
It's a serious problem. We'll need some major research grants to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to finally reverse this epidemic of new life.
December 3, 2007
Venezuelan Strongman Throws Hissy Fit - the Rest of the Story
This is by way of an update to our previous post, Venezuelan Strongman Throws Hissy Fit.
As most of you know by now, in an amazing and joyous slap in the face of the pudgy premier, the voters of Venezuela appear to have actually turned down Oogo Chavez's bid to become El Presidente for Life... and the concomitant bid to consolodate all governmental power within his bloated fist:
Voters in this country narrowly defeated a proposed overhaul to the constitution in a contentious referendum over granting President Hugo Chávez sweeping new powers, the Election Commission announced early Monday.
An opposition group celebrated after the referendum. Venezuela had remained on edge since polls closed Sunday afternoon and the wait for results began. More Photos >
It was the first major electoral defeat in the nine years of his presidency. Voters rejected the 69 proposed amendments 51 to 49 percent.
I say "appears to have" because with Oogo, you never know for sure; he could do an about-face tomorrow, declare a recount, and pronounce that the recount showed he had really won... once the Election Commission (controlled by Chavez) and the Supreme Court (controlled by Chavez) rejected a few tens of thousands of "fraudulent" ballots cast by traitors and American dupes.
He has already threatened to cut off our oil supply if we "interfered" with the anti-constitutional election; and of course, interference is clearly "proven" by Chavez's loss. This is, however, a particularly feeble punishment, considering that oil is basically fungible: If Venezuela sells the U.S. less oil, instead selling to China, then other members of OPEC on the world oil market will (necessarily) be selling less to China by that same amount -- and will happily sell it to us to make up the difference.
Of course, we could simply bypass all the malarky by drilling for our own oil in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Santa Barbara, and yes, even in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR); that would yield more oil per year than we currently get from Venezuela.
If only the Democrats would deign to let us use our own oil, rather than forcing us to buy from Wahabbis and Venezuelan communists. If you don't want to be paying $5 - $6 a gallon for gasoline -- then vote Republican.
December 2, 2007
Venezuelan Strongman Throws Hissy Fit
President Oogo Chavez of Venezuela has threatened to nationalize (that is, confiscate) the Venezuelan subsidiaries of two Spanish banks, Banco Santander SA (BS) and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBVA).
BBVA purchased the Venezuelan Banco Provincial a decade ago; BS purchased nearly all of Banco de Venezuela in 1996 for about $350 billion. Both transactions occurred before Hugo Chavez was first elected president of Venezuela in 1998 -- but after he attempted to overthrow the government by coup d'état six years earlier.
So why is Chavez threatening to seize the Spanish banks? Let's allow him to tell it in his own words:
"Are we going to turn the page, are we going to forget? No!" Chavez told hundreds of thousands of supporters at a campaign rally ahead of a vote Sunday on changes to Venezuela's constitution.
"The only way this is going to be fixed is for the king of Spain to offer an apology for having attacked the Venezuelan head of state," Chavez said.
Otherwise, "I'll start thinking about what actions to take," he continued. "Spaniards bought some banks here, and it doesn't cost me anything to take those banks back and nationalize them again, and put them in the service of the Venezuelan people."
So... how exactly did King Juan Carlos of Spain "attack the Venezuelan head of state," as Chavez said, speaking about himself in the third person again? Why, King Juan told Chavez to "shut up" at a conference in Chile?
And why did he do that, other than the obvious (that Chavez is a pissant bully whose very forte is boorish behavior)? Because the thuggish Chavez called former Prime Minister of Spain Jose Maria Aznar a "Fascist."
I see the adults are once again running things in South America. Meanwhile, word from the electoral front is that voting is strangely light in areas known to be friendly to Oogo:
The referendum, which follows several weeks of street protests and frenetic campaigning around the 69 proposed amendments, appeared to unfold largely without irregularities and violence. Still, turnout in some areas was unexpectedly low, particularly in poor districts that are traditional bastions of loyalty for Mr. Chávez.
We don't know yet whether the Venezuelan people are going to vote today to allow Oogo to essentially remain president for life, without having to worry about future elections or recalls, and to give him a Castroite level of dictatorial power to "formally establish a socialist state". We can only hope the Venezuelan people have finally come to their senses; we should find out late today or early Monday.
Nobody knows how the tyrant-in-waiting will react if his referendum fails. Perhaps he can threaten to nationalize the entire electorate if they don't give him what he wants.
November 16, 2007
More Qwik Hits - Sleepless in Senate, Desert Desertions, and John Kerry
Heh, I'll bet you thought the title all referred to the same person, didn't you? Nope, three separate stories...
Sleepless in the Senate
Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) is irked that President Bush has decided to exercise his constitutional authority to make recess appointments when the Senate refuses even to hold hearings on those men and women he has appointed through the normal route.
So in the Democrats' never-ending quest to cripple the presidency itself, stripping as many powers and duties away from the Executive as they can gobble up into the Legislative, Reid has decided not to recess the Senate over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, as has been customary for decades. Possibly even since President Lincoln created the holiday.
Reid's stroke of genius is that, if the Senate isn't in recess, Bush can't make recess appointments:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has decided to keep the chamber in session over the Thanksgiving break to block President Bush from making any unsavory recess appointments while Senators are out of town. ["Unsavory?" Not that Roll Call would be at all biased in its coverage of this issue...]
In a statement inserted in the record Friday, the Majority Leader said he will hold the Senate in a series of pro forma or nonvoting sessions to prevent the controversial practice. ["Controversial?" Who has ever before denied the president has this power -- which is explicitly granted in the Constitution?] In the statement, Reid argued that nominations need to get on track, and that Bush has not met the Democrats “halfway” in agreeing to Democratically backed nominees to “important commissions.”
First of all, Sen. Reid of all people is a fine one to talk about not being met "halfway" on appointments. Does the phrase "blocked judges" ring any bells?
But second, I would love to see Bush call the bluff: When the GOP and most of the Democrats are out of town (as they will be), and there isn't even a quorum in the Senate (as will happen at some point at 3:00 in the morning), Bush should just quietly sign and time-stamp all the recess-appointment papers, whether the Senate is formally in recess or not. A Republican senator should stand outside the chamber, quietly videotaping the virtually empty room -- and showing the clock on the wall -- for future evidentiary use.
Then let Reid spend the next year plus duking it out in the courts. Republicans can run on the issue, noting how many recess appointments President Clinton made -- and demanding to know why Minority Whip Reid didn't object to any of them.
(Reid was Assistant Minority Party Leader, a.k.a. Minority Whip, of the Senate from January 1999 to January 2001, during which President Clinton certainly made recess appointments, including James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg and Roger L. Gregory to the Fourth Circus Court.)
Run on the scandal of the Democratic Senate trying to seize power from the office of the presidency itself, not just from Bush. Don't they trust future Democratic presidents?
The Democratic Party: It's not just a job; it's an ongoing criminal enterprise!
Soldiers strained by six years at war are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80 percent increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003.
This might be more startling if one did not recall that since 1980, we have barely had any sustained hot wars; it's hardly surprising that more soldiers unprepared to serve in combat would desert during wartime than peacetime, when the military often becomes just a jobs program.
The only long confrontation (more than a few months) we had during that time was in Bosnia; and we were not handling the brunt of the ground action. We had a peacekeeping presence in the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), but mostly we were there in our NATO capacity... and NATO's involvement was mainly aviation.
The point is that the last major American war before the Afghanistan and Iraq wars was Vietnam... and as even AP admits:
While the totals are still far lower than they were during the Vietnam War, when the draft was in effect, they show a steady increase over the past four years and a 42 percent jump since last year.
So the AP has discovered, amazingly enough, that major wars with long deployments lead to an increase in the desertion rate -- from 0.7% in 2006 to 0.9%. Shocking!
But they signally fail to tell us what we really want to know: How many of those deserters were Democrats taking their cue from Harry "Pinky" Reid?
John Kerry -- still searching
This one is just amazing. Reporting by the Associate Press tells us that John Kerry (D-MA, 95%) is still trying to disprove the allegations of the Swit Boat Veterans for Truth -- years after he lost his presidential bid largely on the issues the SBVT raised:
Sen. John Kerry, whose 2004 presidential campaign was torpedoed by critics of his Vietnam War record, said Friday he has personally accepted a Texas oilman's offer to pay $1 million to anyone who can disprove even a single charge of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
In a letter to T. Boone Pickens, the Massachusetts Democrat wrote: "While I am prepared to show they lied on allegation after allegation, you have generously offered to pay one million dollars for just one thing that can be proven false. I am prepared to prove the lie beyond any reasonable doubt."
So what is the one Swiftie allegation Kerry has vowed to prove "beyond any reasonable doubt" was a lie? AP doesn't say; presumably, John Kerry hasn't figured that part out yet.
AP is still carrying water for Kerry, by the way; consider this howler:
While fellow veterans and reporters disproved many of the group's claims at the time, Kerry refused to air ads responding to the criticism. His own response was muted for fear of legitimizing his critics' attacks. The senator conceded after losing to Bush that his lackluster response likely cost him the election.
Which claims were disproven "at the time?" AP doesn't say; presumably, they havn't figured that part out yet.
I have read many of these so-called disproofs; none impressed me with its logical or evidentiary acumen. Typically, by "disprove," they mean the same witnesses who took Kerry's side earlier took it again later, insisting that he really did so perform whatever feat of heroism he claimed to have performed. Each failed to respond to the SBVT's evidence, simply sweeping that aside as irrelevant.
This reminds me of the very recent (past few decades) redefinition of the verb "to refute." According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (my version is from 1989), until very recently, to refute always meant "to prove wrong; show to be false or erroneous." This is what they call the "uncontroversial" definition.
But in the past few decades, a new definition has been grafted onto the word -- a definition that is universally condemned by grammarians (especially the British) but is increasingly common nonetheless: merely "to deny the truth or accuracy of."
To quote from the Dictionary of English Usage:
Its most frequent use is by journalists in reporting the emphatic denials issued by those accused of wrongdoing. Hardly a day now goes by, it seems, without one goverment official or another refuting a new set of allegations.
I reckon "disprove" now joins the ranks of "refute" as simply meaning to forcefully deny an allegation.
Meanwhile, John Kerry is still desperately seeking the real medal-faker... across every golf course in America. Perhaps he should team up in doubles matches with O.J. Simpson.
November 5, 2007
Dems On the Rampage, Dennis On a Tear
For this entire year, the Democrats have been stung by repeated legislative embarassments; they failed to:
- Force defeat in Iraq;
- Let the camel-nose of SCHIP into the tent (with the body, socialized medicine, to follow);
- Pass even one, single appropriations bill through Congress and to the president's desk;
- Follow through on their promise to make the 110th Congress "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history" by passing meaningful ethical reform with either a ban on earmarks altogether, or at least complete transparency of the earmarking process -- shining a spotlight on the earmarking roaches in the system;
- Make a decision on the soon-to-expire Bush tax cuts for the middle class;
- Do anything at all about illegal immigration, and so on.
Their perennial, whiny complaint is that the Republicans in Congress keep filibustering Democrat-sponsored legislation, and that President Bush vetoes the trickle that does get through. But navigating that needle is part of the process of leadership.
Neither party has had anything like a veto-proof (or even unfilibusterable) majority in ages; neither has the luxury of completely dominating the legislative conversation and burying the other side's objections.
During the Republicans' tenure, they actually managed to pass significant pieces of legislation, from tax cuts, to allowing faith-based organizations to vie for charitable governmental spending, to beefing up the border with double fencing, to a couple of declarations of war, to easing environmental regulations, etc. The Republicans were largely successful at legislating because they found issues where even the bulk of work-a-day Democrats agreed with the GOP and disagreed with the Democratic leadership; thus conditions were ripe for Democrats to join with Republicans to provide enough votes to invoke cloture, thus preventing a filibuster.
But the Democrats of the 110th loudly announced, even before they assumed office, that they considered congressional Republicans to be mere speed bumps -- and the president an anachronistic irrelevancy. Their "negotiation" style consists of a lengthy series of take-it-or-leave-it ultimata... and evidently, the GOP's response has been not only to "leave it" but to show just how much power a unified minority party has. And of course, the president has the constitutional authority to veto legislation; it's not something dirty or underhanded, as the Democrats seem to believe.
Ergo, the Democrats find themselves at a crossroads. Two paths open before them:
- They can change their tone and begin working with the Republicans to craft bipartisan legislation, supported at least by the GOP rank and file, if not necessarily by the GOP leadership;
- Or they can retreat from the world of legislating into the comforting zone of endless investigations of the Bush administration, in order to create the illusion of progress when in fact all they're doing is loudly burning rubber at the starting line.
With all that as prologue, we come to a couple of articles. From the Associated Press...
House Democrats threatened Monday to hold President Bush's key confidants in contempt of Congress unless they comply with subpoenas for information on the Justice Department's purge of federal prosecutors last winter.
The White House shrugged off the ultimatum, saying the information is off-limits under executive privilege and that the aides in question - White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former presidential counselor Harriet Miers - are immune from prosecution.
"It won't go anywhere," predicted White House press secretary Dana Perino.
Congressional Democrats nonetheless submitted their 102-page report, and a Republican rebuttal, to the House clerk on Monday afternoon. The report accused Miers of contempt for failing to appear and testify as subpoenaed. She and Bolten were charged with failing to produce documents on whether the prosecutors were fired at the White House's behest.
The essential absurdity of this investigation is found in a couple of short, quiet sentences buried in the middle of the article:
If the report is passed, the House would forward the citation to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia for prosecution....
It's not clear that contempt of Congress citations must be prosecuted.
That's quite an understatement. In fact, the courts have made it very clear that they will not force the Executive branch to prosecute itself on orders from the Legislative branch. Thus, the most at Chairman John Conyers (D-MI, 100%) can do is shake his fist and demand that President Bush prosecute his own aides for carrying out his own policies... which seems implausible on its face. So beyond congressional self-abuse, what is the point?
The plain and simple fact is that the "fired" U.S. attorneys -- who were not fired, by the way, but mostly just not reappointed to another term -- were sent packing for purely performance-based reasons: They had their own private, political agendas, which they insisted upon following rather than following the agenda of the President of the United States. As they serve at the pleasure of the president, and the president was not pleased, they were gently encouraged to find employment elsewhere.
When next a Democrat is elected president, he will have the same authority: He need not keep reappointing U.S. attorneys, or any other appointed officials, who march to the sound of a different drum. It's as simple as that.
I don't think even the Democrats believe that once the president names someone to a position, he is obliged to retain that person forever, no matter what he does. I think this is just another way for Democrats to investigate -- which requires no negotiation whatsoever -- rather than legislate, which requires actually listening to the opposition and making some effort to accomodate their views in order to gain their support... an odious, Herculean labor that the Democrats simply cannot bear to undertake. (Actually, it's the Democrats, not the Republicans, who remind me of the Stymphalian birds.)
And while we're on the subject, we also have this: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Venus, 100%) has decided to use some obscure House rule to force the entire House of Representatives to formally cast a roll-call vote on impeaching Vice President Dick Cheney...
"The momentum is building for impeachment," Kucinich said in a Nov. 2 news release. "Millions of citizens across the nation are demanding Congress rein in the Vice President's abuse of power."
House Resolution 333 says Cheney should be impeached for "high crimes and misdemeanors," because he "purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive the citizens and Congress of the United States by fabricating a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify the use of the United States Armed Forces against the nation of Iraq in a manner damaging to our national security interests."
Kucinich insists that Vice President Cheney continues to violate the U.S. Constitution by insisting on the supremacy of the Executive Branch....
"Congress must hold the Vice President accountable," Kucinich said last week. He accused Cheney of using his office to advocate the "continued occupation of Iraq and prod our nation into a belligerent stance against Iran."
Which raises an interest question that itself demands an answer: Does Dennis Kucinich actually believe that opposing an Iraq pullout and advocating we be more "belligerent" towards Iran constitute "high crimes and misdemeanors?"
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats must now grapple with the confirmation vote for Attorney General designate Michael Mukasey; with several Democrats jumping ship and supporting Mukasey, including Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 90%) and Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%), while the bulk of the leadership still opposes him, the ironic possibility exists that the majority in the Senate, led by Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), may try to mount a filibuster!
As we close in on the end of the first session of the 110th Congress, the stunning paucity of legislation makes this not just the majority that couldn't shoot straight -- it's the majority than cannot even shoot crooked. Rather, the Democratic congressional leadership, at least so far, resembles Ralphie Parker in a Christmas Story -- daydreaming about shooting Black Bart and his gang with Ralphie's Official Red Ryder Carbine Action Two Hundred Shot Range Model Air Rifle, felling the the GOP gang left and left with unbelievable but wholly imaginary accuracy.
The Democrats had better be careful: They'll shoot their eye out!
October 8, 2007
What's All This I Hear...
...About a brutal military junta in Miramar? What are all those flyboys doing down there in San Diego?
Are their flightsuit jockstraps too tight? Has that good Navy chow gone to their heads? These jet-jocks have every advantage: a college degree, hundreds of dollars of training, and those lovely scarves and goggles they wear while flying their aeroplanes.
But do they appreciate all that? No... instead, they have to set up a junta -- and they can't even pronounce it right! That's a J, not an H; how could college-educated men not be able to read?
But the "junta" isn't bad enough: They have to run out and oppress a bunch of monkeys! What have those sweet, innocent monks done that our fighter pilots at NAS Miramar have to arrest and beat them? That's animal cruelty... and where are the ASCAP and PTA and all those other so-called "animal warfare" groups? Those poor, shivering monks always look so cute in their little caps and uniforms, tipping their hats when people toss a few pennies to the organ grinders. It's a crime that grown Navy pilots feel like they have to start a war against them!
And for what? Just for demanding civil libraries! I mean, who wants libraries that are uncivil, with people saying coarse things about each other and making faces?
I'm with the monkeys. I want my libraries to be civil places, where people can go in peace without having to worry about...
What's that? A military junta where -- in Myanmar? Fighting against Buddhist monks?
Oh! That's very different.
[With some apologies to -- and lots of snickering at -- the poor sap of a newsreader at Fox News Channel Friday, who reported a new crackdown by the "military junta in Miramar;" and in fond memory of the late, great Gilda Radner, the funniest woman who ever lived.]
October 6, 2007
Why I No Longer Have Many Liberal Friends
I realized a little bit ago that I used to have a lot of liberal friends -- we disagreed on politics, but we still kicked around and hung out. But now I have virtually none: They all departed, either by drifting away or more explosively.
I found out the same thing happened to several other Republican friends of mine; perhaps some of you have noticed this effect too. For years, I wondered why; but back when I was guest-blogging at Patterico's Pontifications, I had an epiphany (which I didn't write about at the time, I don't think). Let me illustrate with a more recent personal reminiscence...
A few months ago, I realized I hadn't talked to my two former housemates from UC Santa Cruz, J. and A., for several years. Since I like to keep in touch, I tried contacting them.
I tracked down J. first, via e-mail; I discovered that, notwithstanding his major in PoliSci, he had become a computer programmer! So I sent him a friendly e-mail saying that was pretty strange, as he'd had no interest whatsoever in computers back at UCSC. I was hoping to open a conversation in which he would tell the story of how he changed from a politics guy to a computer guy.
Instead, I received a one-word reply: "Indeed." J. made it blunt that the conversation was over before it even began.
Blinking, I called or e-mailed A. (I honestly cannot remember which I did). A. and I had always been somewhat closer. He condescended to respond... but only on grounds that this would not become an ongoing conversation. A. tersely updated me on J. and several other mutual friends... then told me never to contact him again.
I'm still a bit stunned by this. It's not like we had a fight; we literally hadn't spoken since the 1990s. Nor had we had any unpleasantness back then; I went up and visited Santa Cruz, met J. and A. and some other mutual acquaintences (A. had relocated to Berkeley, where he lives now with wife and child), and we kicked around for a while, chatting about the G.O.Ds of the early 1980s. We parted amiably.
Since then, we've had no contact by phone, e-mail, or in person. We're not on any bulletin boards together; I haven't published any articles or suchlike that could have ticked them off; and there was nothing remotely contentious about my contact e-mail and/or call.
I can think of only one event that intervened that could have changed them so thoroughly: The election of George W. Bush in 2000.
I lost three other liberal friends when that happened, one of them reasonably close; that last (from SFWA, not UCSC) was railing against Bush and denouncing him throughout the campaign. Then after the long count, when Bush was declared the victor, he demanded that I "admit" that Bush had "stolen the election" -- or he would never speak to me again.
I refused, of course; I don't react well to extortion. True to his word, we have never spoken since.
The other two became moodier and more sullen after the election (though they did not put it quite so starkly). Within a year or so, both drifted out of my orbit, and we don't speak anymore.
But all three first became noticibly hostile towards me immediately following the 2000 election... although my politics were identical before and after; the break occurred because of Bush's election, not 9/11, the Afghan war, or the Iraq war.
In 2005, I finally had my "epiphany": Back in 2000, after eight years of Bill Clinton skunking the Republicans and weaseling his way out of being removed from office, the Left -- broadly defined, from liberal to socialist to Green to Naderite to Communist -- decided that the presidency was theirs by right. And more specifically, sometime back in August or September of 2000, they literally came to believe they had already won the election -- and the actual vote was a mere formality, rubber-stamping what "the people" had already decided.
This was not based on polls, which all showed Bush leading narrowly; Democrats disdained polls that summer, dismissing them as nonsense. Rather, the election of Algore was an integral part of what Thomas Sowell calls "the Vision of the Anointed."
When the confirming vote was held, and it appeared as though Bush had somehow won (and by a handful of votes in Florida), Democrats, liberals, and the rest of the Left reacted the way Cain did when Abel "stole" his birthright.
[This is, as commenter Jauhara Al-Kafirah notes, a complete mishmash: Cain did kill Abel (so they say), but it had nothing to do with a birthright; that was Esau and Jacob, and nobody killed anybody in that story. I can only plead early-onset dementia... but you get the general idea: Cain and Abel meets Esau and Jacob and Ted and Alice, and I'll be in Scotland afore ye. -- the Mgt.]
This, in my earnest opinion, is why Gore tried to sue his way into the White House: He, too, believed that he had already won, and Rethuglicans had criminally deprived him of what was rightfully his. Thus, he forced the long count to recover his stolen property.
Nationally, the Democrats took their lead from Rantin' Al: The only way that George W. Bush could be sitting in la Casa Blanca in January was that he had stolen the presidency from them. Like Cain, they did their best to slay President-Select Abel... not literally but by character assassination.
And then, the reckoning with the minions began. Democrats turned on their Republican friends with the ferocity that you would turn on your best mate, if you found out he had aided and abetted a burglar to break into your house and ransack the joint. Democrats felt doubly betrayed: first by the American electoral system, and then by their Republican friends, who inconceivably defended that betrayal -- thus outing themselves as unindicted co-conspirators.
And that explains, in my nasty, brutish, and short-sighted opinion, why J. and A. -- both "men of the Left" -- had no further interest in speaking to me. It's a sad state of affairs, similar in structure (though not violent effect) to the Civil War, when friend broke with friend and brother fought brother. But unlike that national crisis, this one originates entirely in the delusions of the Democratic Party.
They've yet to recover or even heal. I'm afraid that even the election of Hillary Clinton (God forbid) wouldn't mollify them; they would see it instead as vindication, their final triumph over the wretched betrayers.
August 30, 2007
Next Time, Listen to Your Mother
When I was a little lizardine growing up in Southern California, my mother had three pieces of advice that she trotted out on every appropriate occasion -- and several that were wildly inappropriate... but that's a tail of a different reptile. Mom said:
- Never show your cards unless called;
- Trust but verify;
- Never cut a deal with terrorist hostage-takers.
Sadly, the entire western world has now found out why #3 was so urgent...
Taliban militants released the last seven South Korean hostages on Thursday under a deal with the government in Seoul, ending a six-week drama that the insurgents claimed as a "great victory for our holy warriors."
We know very little about the deal; South Korea evidently promised to pull its 200 troops out of Afghanistan on schedule, and also (this part is vague) "vowed to prevent missionaries traveling to the country." I'm not sure what they mean by that; how do you stop missionaries from, say, leaving Korea for Japan -- and then leaving Japan for Afghanistan? Will the Republic of Korea institute a mass crackdown on Christians on orders from the Taliban in Afghanistan?
South Korea and the Taliban both deny that money changed hands; but that has not quelled the accusations, based upon past deals with the Taliban:
Speculation in Kabul remained rife that the South Korea had paid a ransom for the release of the hostages. But South Korean and Taliban officials continued to deny that a ransom was paid. Afghan officials have said that paying ransom to the Taliban would only increase the taking of foreigners as hostages....
Across Afghanistan this year, the Taliban have increasingly used the kidnapping of foreigners as a tactic to garner publicity, the release of prisoners and, most likely, large ransoms.
In a much criticized deal this spring, the Afghan government freed five senior Taliban prisoners in exchange for the release of a kidnapped Italian journalist, Daniel Mastrogiacomo, after coming under intense pressure from the Italian government. In a separate case, aid workers have said that the Italian government paid $2 million for the release of a kidnapped Italian photographer last year. Italian officials have declined to comment on the case.
So what's the point? And what's all that about my mother? Only this, from the AP story linked above:
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi vowed to abduct more foreigners, reinforcing fears that South Korea's decision to negotiate directly with the militants would embolden them.
"We will do the same thing with the other allies in Afghanistan, because we found this way to be successful," he told the Associated Press via cell phone from an undisclosed location.
And there you are: What you subsidize, you inflate... and that's true whether the "payment" is money or just prestige. As sources in the article point out, the mere fact that a real government -- the Republic of Korea -- sat down and negotiated with the formerly moribund Taliban tremendously raises the stature of the latter. It will probably help in recruiting, it might force President Hamid Karzai to take them more seriously, and if we're really, really unlucky, might even lead to some kind of power-sharing arrangement. Thank you, Mr. Roh.
And when all that happens, it won't be the Koreans who have to pay; it will be all the rest of us.
The Korean government, of course, had a perfectly rational explanation for their actions:
South Korea has denied doing anything wrong, saying it was normal practice to negotiate with hostage-takers.
Well... for them, it probably is. That's reason number 273 why I'm glad I don't live in Korea (either one).
As an aside, I loved this little snippet, the continuation of a long-running and deliberate mendacity by the elite media. What (as I am wont to ask) is wrong with this picture?
The hostage crisis unfolded at a time of soaring violence in Afghanistan despite years of counterinsurgency operations by international troops and millions of dollars spent in equipping Afghan security forces.
Not to keep you in suspenders, the answer is that the "soaring violence" to which they refer is primarily the wholesale slaughter of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters at the hands of NATO and Afghan forces, as Sachi pointed out some time ago: Up to that point, in the recent "surge" of Taliban, the bad guys had killed 150 NATO forces and 850 innocent, unarmed civilians... and NATO forces had killed over 3,000 Taliban fighters... or in many cases, fleers.
The Taliban's reversion to type -- back to being Neolithic trolls and hill-bandits -- is quite understandable under the circumstances of their complete failure to engage the enemy successfully; and exactly the same can be said of the drive-by media.
August 23, 2007
Quick Hits - They Say That Ginning Up Is Hard to Do
Now I know, I know it's untrue -- if you're in the elite media, that is; if so, then ginning up a controversy, contradiction, confession, corruption, or calamity is as easy as π, no matter how irrational it may seem to ordinary, non-journalist humans.
Our reading material for today's lesson is the short article sent out over the wire (well, over the internets, anyway) about newly hatched Secretary of the Army Pete Geren's insistance that the Pentagon is not going to extend tours of duty in Iraq from 15 months to 18.
I don't know if this is good or bad; Geren has the figures in front of him and I don't. But what caught my eye like an errant fishhook (yes, I know... "eew") was this little attempt at legerdemain... transforming two completely unrelated statements into a "contradiction gotcha":
Asked about comparisons between the current Iraq conflict and the Vietnam War -- a parallel that President Bush drew Wednesday -- Geren said the current conflict is unique.
In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, Bush linked the U.S. pullout from Vietnam to the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and he said the history of U.S. conflicts in Asia have shown that critics of the day are often wrong and that withdrawing from war should never be done for short-term gain.
While saying that "historical analogies help illuminate the present" Geren said the Army "can't be guilty of fighting the last war." The Army, he said, has to consider the unique circumstances of the Iraq conflict and train and equip the soldiers and leaders accordingly.
Oooh, snap! Caught the Bush administration red-fisted in a whipsaw of a contradiction...
- On the one hand, Bush says that Vietnam taught us that withdrawing in unnecessary defeat leads to terrible consequences;
- But when the shoe is on the other hand, Secretary Geren says that our soldiers should use different tactics and equipment fighting terrorists in the Iraqi desert than they used fighting Communists in the jungles of vietnam 40 years ago -- completely the opposite of what Bush said!
"John says Mary is too short, but Mary insists the dress is blue, not red. How do you reconcile those two statements... 'Berto?"
We've seen this moonbattery before, of course: The "contradiction" between FBI Director Robert Mueller quoting Deputy Attorney General James Comey saying the Justice Department had trouble with the legality of a classified intelligence-gathering program that had been much talked about -- and current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales saying that the objection was not to the specific element called the Terrorist Surveilance Program, but to a different intelligence-gathering program.
Perjury, obstruction, contempt! Five Democrats sent a referral to the Justice Department, demanding an indictment and investigation -- in that order, I believe -- of Gonzales... but not of Mueller, oddly enough. A couple of days later, when sources came forward to confirm that all three men told the truth (the objection was to the data-mining element, not the TSP), the Democrats quietly dropped the substance of the charge and began rummaging around for a brand new cause of action:
"Well there's yer problem right there... ya got a malfunctioning cause of action; have to remove and replace it with a spanking-new one from the factory!"
Here are some more "contradictions" -- tomorrow's AP stories today!
- Under intense cross-examination, President Bush finally admited that Saddam Hussein did not plan and execute the September 11th attacks; but then, amazingly, Bush turned around and claimed that al-Qaeda operatives did meet with Iraqi Intelligence Service officers to discuss operational cooperation.
- Although the president has said that FEMA did everything it reasonably could have or should have done before and after Hurricane Katrina, several of his own fellow travelers in the GOP have instead argued that Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and the Grand Nagus, mayor of Nawluns, failed to evacuate people quickly enough.
- President Bush has praised the all-volunteer American Army; but apparently, he doesn't like it enough to send his twin daughters into military service.
Evidently, our fine president, like Mr. Whitman, is large and contains multitudes.
August 15, 2007
Horrific Nineveh Bombing Shows Counterinsurgency Working
Contrary to the line many elite media are taking, the coordinated quadruple suicide bombings in Nineveh yesterday -- which appear to have killed between 250 and 500 Yazidis, making it the single worst terrorist attack of the entire Iraq war -- have not "dealt a serious blow" to the claim that the new counterinsurgency strategy is working.
In fact, they emphatically demonstrate that it is.
Consider where the bombing occurred:
Al-Qaeda bombing of Yazidi Kurds at Syrian Border
The red dot marks the approximate area of the four explosions. This is about as far as one can get from our counterinsurgency and still remain in Iraq.
We're fighting heavily in Anbar province in the west; in Najaf in the southwest; in Diyala and Baghdad in the east; and we have a lot of forces in Sulaymaniyah in the northeast, hard up against Iran. The Kurds are very strong in Kirkuk in the north; and the Brits have not yet left Basra in the southeast.
Just about the only place left for al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) to operate with any degree of impunity is in the northwest, in the remote desert inhabited by a smattering of Yazidis. In fact, even the New York Times has noticed this geographic reality, though they try to spin it into a negative:
All three towns [Sinjar, Amerili, Tal Afar] lie north of the main areas affected by the increase in American troop strength that began in March, supporting the notion that, as in numerous earlier American offensives, insurgents have moved from where they are being attacked and restarted their operations elsewhere....
Asked why insurgents would pick such simple villages in the desert for such a colossal attack, General Bergner said: “Perhaps their vulnerability. Perhaps they were a target that they could attack.”
The Times wants readers to believe this shows that the "surge" is a failure. After all, al-Qaeda is simply moving "from where they are being attacked" and "restart[ing] their operations elsewhere."
But that is precisely what the counterinsurgency aims to do: Unlike the previous "attrition" strategy, we don't just attack higgledy-piggledy following the terrorists, allowing them to set the operational tempo; instead, we began by defining an area of control -- the "white" area, using the terminology of French Lt.Col. Galula in Algeria, one of the recent architects of modern counterinsurgency theory. Then we expand from the "white" areas into the adjacent "pink" (contested) areas.
As we invest pink areas and turn them to white, that automatically makes what had been adjoining, enemy-controlled (red) areas into contested pink areas. That is, rather than chase al-Qaeda up and down Iraq, we start in one or two spots and expand outward -- like oil expanding across troubled waters.
"Victory" occurs as we push the enemy farther and farther away from the military, political, and economic centers of the country... which is precisely what we see happening in Iraq today. This attack is a perfect example.
Even more interesting about the geography of this attack: It's virtually on the Syrian border, over which AQI has been smuggling weapons, fighters -- and suicide bombers -- for several years. From the AP story linked above:
"This is way out by the Syrian border, an area where we do think in fact some suicide bombers are able to come across the border. It's an area that is very, very remote - quite small villages out there - and it was disheartening for us, too, obviously," [Gen. David] Petraeus told The Associated Press in an interview.
In the past, prior to the Coalition's new offensive strategy, al-Qaeda had little trouble smuggling suicide bombers across the Syrian border -- either in Anbar or Nineveh provinces -- and then transporting them to Baghdad, or any other location in central Iraq, where the blasts can be more spectacular (and, they hope, visible to the American elite news media parked in the Green Zone) and affect far more mainstream Iraqis. But in this bombing, while they likely got the murderers across from Syria, they were unable to move them very far. So instead, they tried to make lemonade by bombing a tiny sect that lives right at the border: the Yazidi.
I'm absolutely certain that al-Qaeda in Iraq would much rather have killed 250 people in Baghdad (capital of Baghdad province), Ramadi (capital of al Anbar), or Baqouba (capital of Diyala), where our counterinsurgency is actually focused... rather than a pair of villages in Nineveh so tiny, they're not even represented on most maps of Iraq. For that matter, al-Qaeda would almost certainly have rather blown up Kirkuk or Mosul... which, while not being part of the "surge," are at least major cities in the north and eponymous provincial capitals.
The only thread AQI can hang their rampage on (other than "that's the best we could do") is the infamous Yazidi stoning on April 7th, 2007. On that day, between one and two thousand Yazidi men stoned to death a 17 year old Yazidi girl, Du’a Khalil Aswad, for the crime of loving a Moslem boy and planning to elope (and possibly convert to Islam; that part is unclear). After Aswad was murdered, her body was burned and buried with the remains of a dog.
In "retaliation," AQI launched a reprisal massacre of 23 Yazidi men on a bus 13 days later... but that was in Mosul, the capital of next-door Mosul province. Since then, the Yazidi have not been singled out by AQI.
Again, I find it very unlikely that this was planned all along for two obscure Yazidi villages. We know the plan is at least a week old, because AQI distributed leaflets warning about it; but that was likely after they had already smuggled in the bombers... and realized they couldn't move them anywhere where an attack would be more visible and intimidating.
The overwhelmingly likely explanation is that the target was picked primarily for propinquity: The bombers could get to those villages; they could not get even as far as Mosul, let alone Baghdad... the American Army and Marines were in the way.
Another reason the Yazidi are a curious target is that they are not, in fact, considered Islamic. They are an offshoot of an offshoot of an amalgamation of the pre-Islamic Middle East, archaic Levantine (descended from Crusaders) and Islamic religions, Kurdish culture and language, and bits and pieces of Sufism. They seem to me to occupy a similar position in the Middle East to the Mormons here... I don't mean the mainstream, late 20th-century Mormonism of Mitt Romney; I'm referring to the violent, polygamous version of Mormonism in the 19th century -- the Mormons that initiated the Mountain Meadows massacre, for example.
Those Mormons were driven from pillar to post in the United States; typically, they tried to immigrate west, out of the country (which did not yet extend "from sea to shining sea;" there was a big gap of wilderness in between Missouri and California). But as America kept catching up to them, they found themselves more and more in conflict. Christians tended to consider them heretics back then; some remnant of that prejudice exists today, with many otherwise ecumenical Christians angrily asserting that even present-day Mormons are not Christians.
Similarly, as AP puts it:
Some Muslims and Christians consider an angel figure worshipped by Yazidis to be the devil, a charge the sect denies. The Islamic State in Iraq, an al-Qaida front group, distributed leaflets a week ago warning residents near the scene of Tuesday's bombings that an attack was imminent because Yazidis are "anti-Islamic."
Why is this significant? Because typically, AQI wants to target its ghastly and spectacular bombing attacks against mainstream Shiite targets... such as the al-Askari "Golden Dome" mosque in Samarra. In a pinch, they may punish "rebellious" Sunni tribesmen in Anbar or Diyala. But what impact would result from bombing an obscure, non-Islamic sect that most Iraqis only associate with the stoning of Ms. Aswad? Iraqis (even mainstream Kurds) will likely just shrug. And the distance from there to the nearest front in the war is so great that it will be hard even for Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%) to argue that this constitutes a failure of Gen. Petraeus's strategy.
Again, I think this shows that AQI is reduced to striking whatever target is nearest to hand, out by the Syrian border, where they're hiding; and they must take "pot luck" when selecting victims. More than anything else, this reminds me of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, where rampaging bands of black and Hispanic youths burned down a thousand buildings -- almost all locally-owned and run businesses in their own neighborhoods. Why? Because those were the only buildings they could get at. Buildings in Beverly Hills, the west side, Palos Verdes, and even many Korean-owned stores and restaurants were too heavily guarded by homeowners and shopkeepers.
This is not to say that AQI will never get lucky again with a terrible attack on an important target in the heartland of Iraq. But such attacks have become fewer and fewer as the counterinsurgency continues:
The number of truck bombs and other large al-Qaeda-style attacks in Iraq have declined nearly 50% since the United States started increasing troop levels in Iraq about six months ago, according to the U.S. military command in Iraq.
The high-profile attacks -- generally large bombs hitting markets, mosques or other "soft" targets that produce mass casualties -- have dropped to about 70 in July from a high during the past year of about 130 in March, according to the Multi-National Force - Iraq.
In 2006, AQI destroyed the al-Askari mosque; in April of this year, they bombed the Iraqi parliament; in June, they knocked down the two remaining minarets of the al-Askari mosque (which few realized were still standing anyway). And yesterday, they bombed an obscure pre-Islamic sect of Kurds living right on the Syrian border, in the extreme northwest corner of the country.
In the counterinsurgency war we're fighting, that's exactly what victory looks like.
July 10, 2007
Is "Treasonous" Really Milder Than "Nativist?"
A quick drive-by...
Hugh Hewitt never tires of telling us that it was the supporters of the immigration bill who tore the GOP apart by their inflammatory rhetoric. But how is one supposed to respond to anti-bill rhetoric like this? Here is Arizona State Representative Russell Pearce, speaking on last Saturday's Beltway Boys:
KONDRACKE: OK, did you -- I saw you quoted somewhere as saying that Jon Kyl and John McCain, the former prisoner of war and war hero, were traitors. Did you mean that to the country or how did you mean that?
PEARCE: Well, that was taken out of context. What I talked about and have no regrets for is the bill that was run through Congress was treasonous. Actually, it was the sellout of America. It was amnesty to law breakers. It ignored the damages of the crime. It allowed gang bangers to stay here. It allowed convicted felons to stay here. It allowed terrorists to stay here.
In fact, the bill explicitly excluded all three of those categories from consideration for provisional Z-visas. Someone could argue that the prohibition wasn't strong enough; but to say the bill "allowed" them to stay is a flat, vicious lie.
However, I'm more interested in the fact that, according to Rep. Pearce, I am a traitor to my country, because I supported treason against the United States of America. I see no other way to read that, and the distinction he purports to draw is nonsense on stilts: By definition, anyone who supports treason is a traitor.
I agree that many of the bill's supporters had ham-fisted tongues. But it's time that the bill's opponents acknowledge that the rhetoric of many on their own side was at least as vile, as vicious, as truth-impaired, and as divisive within the party as anything said by supporters.
For heaven's sake, crying "treason!" is at least as egregious as calling someone a "nativist;" and there were plenty others, including other public office-holders, who did exactly that.
Neither side had a monopoly on speaking the inexcusable, and neither side was an innocent victim. Until bill opponents admit that, we cannot "move on" and try to heal the wounds.
July 8, 2007
In a comment on a previous post, commenter Terrye said the following:
I know I am an Independent and I voted a straight Republican ticket in 06 while real true blue Republican conservatives like Noonan were telling people to stay home and let the Democrats win.
This started me thinking. This post began as a comment; but like Topsy, it "just grew," and I decided to promote it to the rank of blogpost. So here goes...
First, a whiff of heresy to start the day: Peggy Noonan is not a "true blue Republican conservative;" she is instead a "Reagan conservative," and thereby hangs a tale...
I cannot tell what her political position was BR (before Reagan), but I wouldn't be surprised if she grew up much more liberal than she became later. Regardless, she glommed onto Reagan during his 1980 campaign (or perhaps a little earlier) and hasn't let go since.
Now, many Republicans will argue that conservatism is entirely defined by WWRD ("what would Reagan do?") The problem is that Ronald Reagan -- who was himself eclectic -- chose to define his presidency on only two big (urgent) ideas:
- Economic policy reform: lower taxes and lower interest rates, though he never carried through to privatizing "entitlement" programs such as Social Security and MediCare, and he never quite understood the importance of small business -- especially independent (non government-subsidized) technological innovation;
- Confronting Communism around the globe.
Strangely, his eagerness to engage in "foreign adventures" to hit Communism never seemed to spill over into a general theory of active military and diplomatic engagement on behalf of other urgent foreign-policy goals. For example, after Libya committed the Berlin disco bombing, Reagan decided a response was necessary; but his response was limited to a single bombing raid. He made no attempt to get at the root cause -- in Libya, Arabic nationalism rather than extreme Islam -- and resolve it.
Qaddafi pulled in his horns, but not for long; and his subsequent attacks on America (such as the Lockerbie bombing) were more subtle than the Berlin attack had been. He also waited until Reagan was nearly out of office: Because Reagan had set in place no anti-pan-Arabist policy that would survive his own presidency -- he thought Libya a nuisance, not a new anti-American front -- Qaddafi simply outwaited him.
Reagan treated pan-Arabism, and the pan-Islamism of Iran, as annoying distractions to the "real" problem of stopping Communism, rather than as separate, distinct, and very serious threats to America in their own ways. Destroying the Soviet Union was vital, and Reagan was both prophet and general (like Mohammed!) on that front. But he was AWOL on the Arab/Moslem threat.
Today, there is a strong strain of conservatism that loyally plays follow the leader down that same blind trail; they typically oppose the Iraq war as the very sort of "foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues" that George Washington warned against in his farewell address.
That was good policy... in the 18th century. But that was then, this is now: 2007 is not 1796, and the world is far too interconnected and integrated today to retreat behind the walls of "Fortress America" and let the rest of the world rot. (See the Pentagon's New Map, by Thomas P.M. Barnett, for further information.)
Such Reagan conservatives were willing to go along with the first stage of the Iraq war, invasion followed by the swift collapse of Hussein and the Baathists; but when the war evolved to the counterinsurgency, reconstruction, and diplomacy of today, they lost interest.
For some reason I cannot ken, many "Reagan conservatives" are allergic to an activist foreign policy -- except insofar as it applies to Russia, Red China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and now Venezuela (anyone detect a pattern here?) In particular, they deride any response anywhere that goes beyond "killing people and breaking things," as if America were a blundering ogre whose only weapon is a massive tree trunk in one hand.
Thus, many -- most definitely including Noonan -- hated the post-war attrition strategy, and now they hate the counterinsurgency strategy... or even the fact that we have a post-war strategy at all. Their preferred plan would have been to smash Iraq flat, bounce the rubble, and then toddle off with a quiet glow of satisfaction at a job well done. Putting the rubble back together again makes the job seem overdone, in their minds, like trying to put the firecracker back together after exploding it.
They deride swamp-draining as "nation-building," which appears to be a term of opprobrium: Either they believe building something is inherently inferior to tearing it down, or they believe our enemies do not deserve (e.g.) the Marshall Plan or the rebuilding of Japan, or else they judge America to be utterly incompetent at doing so... which is a harsh and ahistorical judgment to make, considering our mixed but not at all catastrophic record of achievement at reconstructing the conquered in our own image.
Curiously, this reticence does not carry over to the remnants of the former Soviet Union; we are expected to make them capitalist democratic republics. I believe this to be an example of taking a prophet's action (or inaction), which may have been driven entirely by personal, secular, human considerations, and imbuing it with almost religious significance: We visit the house where George Washington once slept the night; we avoid broccoli because the prophet always hated it.
Reagan never took seriously any foreign policy threat beyond world Communism... so who are we mortals to run where the great man feared to tread? Remember, Khomeini took over Iraq the year before Reagan was elected; yet in Reagan's entire eight years in office, he never did a thing about the rise of the regional superpower and its terrorist arm Hezbollah -- not even when they attacked us and killed 241 Marines and 58 French paratroopers in Beirut in 1983.
For many Reagan conservatives, Reagan himself becomes not merely the greatest president of the twentieth century, which most of us would agree he was, but a Mohammed-like figure who both defines and limits modern American conservatism: Just as many extreme Moslems will not do anything unless the prophet did it first, it seems that a typical Reagan conservative like Peggy Noonan is suspicious of any action that goes beyond what Reagan did -- and what she imagines he would do today, were he only still alive.
Thus, at core, Peggy Noonan is angry at George W. Bush for not allowing the Salafist and Shiite fever swamp to fester, as "the prophet" did: To move beyond the divine master is to become apostate.
Because Bush has actively tried to dismantle the irhabi hirabah infrastructure by a combination of war, diplomacy, and reconstruction or "nation building," which the entire region desperately needs, Noonan feels he has abandoned Reaganism and become just like George H.W. Bush, the first man to jilt her at the ideological altar. (Unlike Jeanne Kirkpatrick -- whom Noonan wishes she were -- Noonan is more of a "feeler" than a "thinker.")
Bush-41 personally betrayed her: She wrote his "read my lips, no new taxes" speech. I think Noonan, like many Reagan conservatives, was always chary of Bush jr., breathlessly waiting for him to "betray the legacy," just as his father did. Thus, at the first sign of deviancy -- whether it's nation-building, immigration reform, or a more robust integration with the outside world, working with other countries rather than dictating to them (as Reagan conservatives falsely remember Reagan doing) -- Noonan, et al, instantly cried "havoc" and let slip the dogs of Reagan orthodoxy.
I have never had much respect for Noonan as a thinker; now I despise her as a spineless defeatist. I fully expect her eventually to find a home in Pat Buchanan/Bill O'Reilly socially conservative populism (as Buckley appears to be doing), thus completing the dawn-to-dusk cycle from naif to Reagan acolyte (Noonan's high) to aging Mother Superior of the First Church of Fundamentalist Reaganism.
She will end her days as an embittered Maureen Dowd of the Right, endlessly railing against the modern and clinging to her narrowing tunnel-vision of Reaganism as if it were poor King Charles' head.
June 19, 2007
Why I Won't Call the Iraq Violence a "Civil War"
I noted in the previous post that Michael Yon used the phrase "civil war" to describe what is happening in Iraq; a commenter to that post, BigLeeH, suggests that the definition used (when Democrats hurl the term) is very simplistic:
When the American left applies the term "civil war" to a modern conflict the operative definition is "any war that is none of our d**n business and we should just butt out."
BigLeeH went on to suggest that when conservatives argue that it is too our business, they in essence foment "a needless conflict with the plain meaning of the words."
I have repeatedly objected to that definition of civil war. It's not "the plain meaning of the words;" it's one side's definition of the term, a definition I reject:
- Neither al-Qaeda nor the Shiite insurgents have fielded an army;
- Neither of them controls any significant territory;
- Neither has formed a national front;
- And neither has set up a shadow government.
These four elements are critical to any civil war, by my definition. I offer for my examples England in the 1640s, America in the early 1860s, and Spain in the late 1930s.
Nothing like that is happening in Iraq, which is why I dispute Michael Yon's conclusion that there is a civil war there:
- Rather than fight to install a different government, al-Qaeda is fighting to destroy all government in Iraq, leaving it a wasteland of chaos -- in which environment al-Qaeda thrives.
- And the Mahdi Militia is fighting, not to install a different goverment, but instead to crush Iraq so that Iran can take over.
What is happening in Iraq is no more a civil war than Chicago in the 1920s or Colombia in the 1980s -- or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the Red Army Faction in Japan. Those conflicts, in fact, suggest the correct term (rather, pair of terms): Iraq is suffering a simultaneous gangland war and insurgency.
It's a gangland war, sez I -- like the Medellin and Cali Cartels' violence against the Colombian government -- coupled with a classical insurgency, as in Algeria, the Philippines, or Kashmir.
This is not to minimize the violence in Iraq; but fighting a civil war requires a completely different strategy than fighting a gangland war -- which is an expanded law-enforcement operation -- or an insurgency, which requires a counterinsurgency strategy.
Labels should clarify rather than obscure. The "civil war" label is used far more often to obscure critical differences than to consolodate different elements of a single class.
Thus, Democrats say, "it's a civil war, so obviously the Iraqis don't want us there. Let's leave!" But in fact, if it's a gangland war and an insurgency, they very likely do want us there to help. The Democrats deliberately cover up the distinction so that they can trick us into withdrawal.
As for Michael Yon, he's just being sloppy; I don't think he has any ulterior motive.
April 30, 2007
The Virtue of "Torture"
Ayn Rand once published a book titled the Virtue of Selfishness, which I didn't actually read: While I like her fiction, I find her nonfiction bombastic and often hilariously uninformed about everything from philosophy to science.
But that won't stop me from stealing the title for this post. What I really want to talk about is Dean Barnett, John McCain, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (hereafter KSM), and the moral status of both torture and "torture."
Virtue, in this case, means showing that some technique will save innocent lives while not itself being morally repugnant... which is precisely the case I prove for "torture" -- but reject for torture.
Let's set one boundary condition for this debate: We are not interested in either torture or "torture" as punishment; only as a means of extracting information. The other debate is for another time (and probably another blog).
So read on, MacDuff; and damn'd be he who first cries "this is puff!"
Dean has an excellent post up at Hugh Hewitt's blog that makes the case for some version of what he calls torture, even though he really means "torture" (I'll get to the distinction in a few pages):
THE TORTURE DEBATE brings out a similar absolutism from torture opponents. They tend to casually assume that people who support “coercive interrogation techniques” do so because they’re congenital sadists who have just been waiting for this moment in history so they could begin water-boarding Muslims with impunity.
That’s not the case. The people who support coercive interrogation techniques, and I am one of them, do so sadly. Unfortunately, given the nature of the war we’re in, certain moral compromises are a necessity. Using coercive interrogation techniques is one of them.
Alas, Dean's case is almost exclusively utilitarian (as seen above)... can't make an omlet without breaking a few heads, that sort of thing. He conflates it with, e.g., the firebombing of Tokyo; while both "torture" and the horrors of war can be severally moral acts, they aren't the same thing and shouldn't be used as analogies.
And I'm not particularly sad about us using "torture" (not torture) on terrorists such as KSM. Nor do I feel joy. I do take some satisfaction in the thought of KSM's blubbering breakdown, blabbing every bilious villainy to his Marine Corps interrogators. But other than that, I have no opinion, because he is a no-count.
The problem with Dean's utilitarian argument is twofold:
- It requires him to cede the moral high ground from the git-go, arguing that of course torture/"torture" (he doesn't distinguish, though we shall -- below) is morally wrong, but in such and such a case it's a necessary evil.
I think it a breathtaking leap of faith to declare that inflicting pain on some prisoners to gain information is necessarily a moral wrong, whether or not it's balanced by some greater good to be gained. How can anyone make such a pronouncement without even hearing the case?
- Second, the argument that we may do evil X because it's for the greater good requires a threshold calculation that almost nobody is prepared to make -- because it's almost impossible to quantify.
Threshold calculation? Huh? Don't worry, rhetorical help is on the way...
On the threshold of a scream
We often say "the ends don't justify the means," but obviously some ends justify some means: If we could save a thousand innocent lives by harshly scolding a terrorist, I suspect John McCain, Hillary Clinton, heck, even Pat Leahy would go for it. So the problem becomes defining, for any particular end, what level of "means" is allowed -- where every term must be well defined.
It should be clear that there's no easy way to do this. In Dirty Harry, we watched Det. Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) stomp on Scorpio's (Andy Robinson) gunshot leg to force him to reveal where he buried a teenaged girl alive; and most of us thought Harry was justified. But that's because the circumstances were about as exigent as they can get: An innocent high-school girl was (we presumed) trapped in a grave, slowly suffocating to death; and equally important, by that point in the movie, we knew to 100% certainty that Robinson's character was Scorpio... and was guilty of murder and kidnapping.
That makes a big difference. Suppose we had not one but three suspects, and we were only 70% certain that one of them was the killer; would it be morally just to torture each of them, hoping that one of them (a) would be Scorpio, and (b) would reveal where he buried the girl? In that case, we're guaranteed that two of the people we torture are innocent of these serial killings and don't know anything about the girl; and there's a 30% chance that none of them is guilty!
So what threshold of certainty need we have about a person's guilt to inflict either torture or "torture" upon him, and what kinds of information are valuable enough to warrant such extraordinary treatment? That's a question impossible to answer in the abstract; it requires a case by case evaluation.
The futility of utility
Dean also raises the question of the effectiveness of torture or "torture," and here he does a good job, I think:
And then there’s the persistent intellectual incoherence of the anti-torture voices. They can’t decide whether they’re against torture because it doesn’t work or whether they oppose it solely on moral grounds. This confusion belies their own sense of their argument’s weaknesses. If you add up the consensus of informed opinions, torture sometimes gets you some really useful and actionable information, and sometimes gets you utter rubbish. Torture opponents know this, which is why they cherry-pick experts who argue that torture never works. Because if a consensus formed that torture produced any good information, and the media acknowledged that consensus, torture opponents know their position would become politically untenable.
This we can use: Obviously, if the only point of torture/"torture" is to extract information, we have no grounds whatsoever for using techniques that are highly unlikely to succeed; all of our moral argumentation should be focused solely on those extreme techniques that actually work... of which there certainly are some.
(And of course we must apply basic information testing to ensure that the prisoners are not simply telling us what we want to hear or what they want us to think. But that's true of any method of interrogation, including the interview conducted by a cop when he pulls you over for speeding, and need not concern us here.)
The mechanics of morality
So if we decide not to essay the utilitarian argument for torture/"torture," then how can we approach the problem? Let's tackle it head-on instead: What would make an interrogation technique "immoral" or "wrong" in the first place? There are several definitions, in decreasing order of universality. An action is immoral if...:
- It violates a code laid down by God, whichever deity that represents to some individual, or by some other power (karma, the cosmic balance, etc.) that transcends all temporal powers; this is believed to apply to everyone, everywhere, whether he accepts it or not.
- It violates a code of conduct laid upon every person within a society; this applies only to those within that society's jurisdiction.
- It violates a code of conduct especially laid upon interrogators: police not being able to interrogate without first "Mirandizing" a suspect, for example; this applies only to those persons who hold the special status of approved government or private inquisitors with special authority beyond that of an ordinary citizen. (I'll lump constitutionality, law, and departmental regulations and pratices into this same category.)
(Call them the codes of God, Man, and Yale, if you prefer.)
Number (1) gives us little help; I don't recall any passage of the Bible (either Jewish or Christian) that discusses what level of interrogation can be used to extract information... the only limitations on the infliction of fear, pain, or injury by the government relate to punishment, not interrogation.
Clearly Islam doesn't restrict the use of either torture or "torture" during interrogations. It's possible that some sects of Buddhism or Hinduism explicitly do, but I would be surprised; and in any event, it's silly to suppose that a Christian nation like the United States would take its cue from the life of Siddhartha Gautama or from the Bhagavad Gita. So we must look elsewhere than God for moral guidance on interrogation techniques.
Number (3) is very specific; but it's too volatile, able to be changed on the fly or suspended in various circumstances. We cannot rely upon mere police department regulations or university standards of behavior, because all it takes is a new chief administrator to change the whole system.
So our primary guide must be number (2), the code of society: This is usually quite explicit, universal (at least, it's supposed to be universally enforced), and at the same time relatively stable over time, with defined and difficult (but not impossible) rules for change.
Social morality: a two-way street
Even within society, there are two classes of rules: a tiny fraction of moral rules that apply to everyone within the jurisdiction of the society, and the vast majority of rules and protections, which only apply to those who accept the social contract.
A better way to describe the distinction, however, is by who such rules are intended to protect. The first group of social rules, the ones that apply to everyone, are designed to protect us from our own worst impulses: they prohibit actions so vile and despicable, they "sear the very souls" of their actors. Even an ordinary person forced by circumstances to commit such horrific crimes irreparably debases himself: Treason, forcible rape, child molestation, and murder of innocents fall into this category. From such sins, there is no restitution, no absolution, and no return.
The second class of social rules and protections are designed to make life smoother. Violations can be expiated by punishment (incarceration, caning, depending upon society and circumstances) and the payment of weregeld. Violations can also be justified either in advance or ex-post facto by exigent circumstances: A hiker lost in the wilderness and starving to death finds an empty hunter's cabin stocked with food; it is perfectly reasonable for him to break in to prevent his own death... though he must leave a note and money (or pay compensation later, if he hasn't enough on his person).
But if the cabin in fact belongs to a bandit and is stuffed with stolen loot, then the owner cannot expect society to give a rat's patootie about his property; if he has a broken window and loses a bunch of his supplies, tough luck.
A man who lives a lawless life has no business demanding social protection from lawlessness.
Unlike the other kind of societal rules, which are designed to protect the potential perpetrator from debasing himself, these rules are actually protections for the potential victims... and the victims must be worthy of such protection.
To scare-quote or not to scare-quote
And at long last -- I know you've been holding your breath waiting, and I wouldn't want you to topple over from lack of oxygen -- we come to our distinction between torture and "torture":
- Interrogational torture (no quotes) comprises the deliberate infliction of death, maiming, or physical agony for the purpose of obtaining intelligence; by its very nature, torture violates the first type of social rule, the one that applies to everyone everywhere within the jurisdiction of the society;
- "Torture," by contrast, is here defined as extreme interrogational techniques that do not rise to the level of actual torture, but which achieve their results through fear, confusion, lies, false friendships, or the infliction of pain, discomfort, or annoyance that falls below agony, maiming, or death; "torture" violates only the second type of social rule -- the protections of which are not available to outlaws.
Thus, Dirty Harry stomping on the gunshot wound of the Scorpio killer is a type-1 violation; it is a moral wrong that can only be justified by the most extreme circumstances. And torturing a group of suspects in the hopes that one of them is actually the kidnapper and will tell the cops where the girl is buried is a moral wrong that is probably never justifiable.
However, police can (and do) trick a suspect into confessing by falsely telling him that his partner already fingered him as the ringleader. Prisoners can be denied privileges such as TV watching until they identify who shivved some guy in lockup.
And a terrorist cannot use social rules to shield himself from, e.g., waterboarding:
- Waterboarding itself is a type-2 violation, as it works its magic by the fear of drowning, not by actual physical torment (such as beatings, burnings, or mutilation);
- Terrorists, by definition, have violently rejected our society and its protections... thus, they have no right to demand protection from type-2 violations -- only from type-1 violations. All we need show is that our suspect is guilty to some chosen degree of certitude, and that the technique to be used is less painful or injurious than actual torture.
This is a much firmer moral basis for extreme interrogation techiques than Dean's utilitarian argument; this argument is robust, confrontational, and easily understood: we're not hurting KSM enough to call it real torture; and KSM has no grounds to toss and moan about it, considering how willing he is to go much further himself... and against actual innocents!
It is not, therefore, immoral for us to very selectively use non-torture "torture" on thugs like KSM. In fact, because the techniques, properly applied, save the lives of thousands of innocents, I can only end where I began: with the virtue of "torture."
March 4, 2007
So Ann Coulter Went Too Far. So What?
I realize it's become fashionable on La Rive Droite to trash Ann Coulter.
She's over the top; she's gone too far; I used to be a fan, but I'll never read her again; she's a liability; she gives conservativism a bad name; we should dump her; she's evil; she just craves attention; she's a rightwing Keith Olberman; she's Hitlerian...
I also realize I'm not about to make the NRO hit parade -- but honest to goodness, I think Ann Coulter has done more for conservativism -- and plain, old Americanism -- than most of those savaging her today.
Did she "go too far" in her failed joke that implied John Edwards was a homosexual? Yup. Does that mean I'm going to throw out everything she has ever done and make her a conservative unperson? No; and anybody further right than Bill Clinton who does so is throwing the baby out to spite his face.
It was a stupid, unfunny joke, and it cut the thin thread that separates humor from cruelty and bigotry. But frankly, if an edgy comedian doesn't cross that line every now and again, he's not doing his job.
There are two basic kinds of comedy:
- There is the quiet, gentle, self-deprecating comedy of Robert Benchley, Dick Van Dyke, Fred MacMurray, Bill Cosby, and Buster Keaton;
- Then there is the slashing, ripping, dancing on the edge of the precipice comedy of Don Rickles, Jon Lovitz, Steve Martin, Rowan Atkinson, Andy Kaufman, Lenny Bruce, and H.L. Mencken.
For Hank's sake, we need them both; and I speak as one whose comedy, to the extent I can manage any, is almost entirely Type 1.
Coulter does comedy the way Debbie does Dallas: she strips it all off and does everything you can imagine -- and a lot you never dreamt in your philosophies. But besides having a sense of humor, she also has a sense of serious. And because of her serious books on serious subjects, from High Crimes and Misdemeanors to Slander to Treason to Godless, she has earned her place in the pantheon of conservative goddesses. (Some of the attacks on her exude the distinct whiff of Venus envy.)
And yes... sometimes she "crosses the line." Name a Type 2 comedian who hasn't.
So what? Is conservativism or capitalism or Americanism a fragile piece of Tiffany glass, so that all it takes is a chance, unfortunate word, and all will fly to flinders? Have we actually bought into the great deceit of liberalism -- that individuals have no innate value (good or ill) but merely exist as representatives of some group -- so that everything Ann Coulter says taints Thomas Sowell, P.J. O'Rourke, William F. Buckley jr., Hugh Hewitt, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol, Michelle Malkin, and Dafydd ab Hugh? (Dafydd ab Who?)
If you think that, you've let some liberal make a donkey out of you.
We still read Mencken, even though he made horribly disparaging comments about Jews and blacks -- and Christians, Moslems, whites, Asians, men, women, cripples, presidents, and everybody else on the planet, including himself. We still laugh at Rowan Atkinson, even though he makes jokes about mental illness, racial bigotry, and snot. And I will continue attending Mel Gibson movies, even though he got commode-hugging drunk and turned into his blithering, racist father.
I loved Sweeney Todd (cannibalism), Tom Jones (mother-son incest), and Gulliver's Travels (vulgar and disgusting sexual content -- you really do need to read the unexpurgated version next time). Did they o'erleap Coulter Canyon? Should Sondheim, Fielding, and Swift turn in their pundit cards?
Those who condemn the gal set a standard of moral purity too high for my corrupted, mortal existence. They cut themselves off from so much that is good, even great, in a pursuit of holiness that ends only in rank sanctimony and schoolmarm finger-wagging.
Yeah. Bad joke. Naughty joke. Maybe the next will be funnier. And her next book will once again take a dangerously sacred cow and loft it out of the park (why, that's my favorite manglephor of the last three weeks!)
And the next time she says something that pushes "edgy" to "over the edge," the usual suspects will predictably jump on a chair, pull up their skirts, and scream. And I will shrug again
Ayn said "A is A;" I say "Ann is Ann."
December 6, 2006
First, on the home front: you guys aren't pulling your end. We've been doing our part, publishing good blogposts about exciting topics (Iraq, Iran, the GWOT, Mark Steyn)... but our hits are down.
The way Sitemeter works is that all visits by the same IP address within a 30-minute window are counted as a single visit: that is, if you visit once at 8:00 am and again at 8:27 am, it's not counted as two visits... just one.
But if you wait, twiddling your toes and filing your teeth, until 8:31 am, then visit -- that is counted as a second hit on the old greeter-meter.
Thus, in order to get our count up, so advertisers will rush to pay us money to keep this site flowing through the interether (whenever BlogAds regains consciousness), please to start visiting multiple times per day. You needn't stay long; for example, if you're headed from Captain's Quarters to Power Line, all you need do is first go to Big Lizards, and then continue on to Power Line. Simple as Simon!
If everybody did that, oh, four or five times a day, it wouldn't cost you much time (10 seconds per visit, maybe) -- but we'd be a powerhouse again in no time.
So let's see if we can't raise the bar up to 2,200 or 2,300 per day... and give those lefty bloggers a hiding they'll never remember!
North Korea is currently playing the roll of gangster state: they've been counterfeiting our money, extorting us by threatening to go nuclear if we don't pay them off, and now they seem to be engaged in "massive insurance fraud" (to the tune of $150 million or more).
Well, two can play at that game, Filstrup: I suggest we set the Bureau of Printing and Engraving to produce hundreds of billions of counterfeit North Korean "won" and start passing them all around Southeast Asia. Sure, some currency speculators will also take a hit -- please, God, let it be George Soros! -- but maybe we can completely collapse the DPRK's economy, make their currency worthless... and send a brutal message to the Dear Leader: don't mess with il capo di tutti capi.
I'm wending my way through Mark Steyn's America Alone. On page 78, I found a couple of thought-provoking passages. Here's the first:
Indeed, co-existence is what the Islamists are at war with -- of, if you prefer, pluralism; the idea that different groups can rub along together within the same general neighborhood. And even those who nominally respect the idea tend, on closer examination, to mean by "pluralism" something closer to "subjugation."
This is actually an old conundrum: if a society's greatest principle is tolerance, then are they obliged to tolerate the intolerant?
- If the answer is Yes, then the society will quickly become an intolerant one, as it's taken over by those who will not tolerate the tolerant;
- If the answer is No, they will not tolerate the intolerant -- then they're not very ruddy tolerant, are they?
Then there is this one, which is somewhat meatier:
The Islamists incite jihad from American, Canadian, British, European, and Australian mosques, and they get away with it. The West's elites lapse reflexively into twittering over insufficient "respect" and entirely fictional outbreaks of "Islamophobia." The Mounties, the FBI, Scotland Yard, and others are reasonably efficient at breaking up cells and plots, but they're the symptoms, not the disease. It's the ideological pipeline that needs to be dismantled. Through their network of schools and mosques, the Saudis are attempting to make themselvs into a Muslim Vatican -- if not infallible, at any rate the most authoritative voice in the Islamic world. We might have responded to the Wahhabist challenge by distinguishing, as William Tayler did, between Sunni and Shia, Sufi and Salafi, and all the rest, and attempting to exploit the divisions. But as proper Western multiculturalists, we celebrate diversity by lumping them all together as "Islam."
So far (through page 89, at least), Steyn hasn't developed this theme; but I think it points us towards one more way we can fight the war of Jihadism vs. Americanism.
Steyn is correct that there are many radical mosques in the United States; I've heard it said (I don't know if this is true) that there are more militant mosques in America than any other Western nation. These radical mosques contain radical imams who preach violent jihad as a matter of course.
Thus, for national security reasons, we should be surveilling every last one of these militant mosques, determined by our own intelligence operations (that is, sending loyal American Moslems into the mosques to listen to the sermons). From what I understand, they hardly hide their inflammatory opinions under a burning bush: it shouldn't be hard to decide that a mosque is "radical" if the imam says the congregation should financially support Hamas and encourage their children to become mall-martyrs.
Get warrants when there's court-level evidence; but do it under the president's plenary power as Commander in Chief when the probable cause is military level but not civil-court level.
Regardless of how we justify it, let's tap their phones, bug their conference rooms, tail their employees. Let's read their mail, ghost their hard drives, and track their bank accounts.
We should have been doing this for the last five years -- and maybe we have and the New York Times just hasn't gotten that leak yet. But somehow I doubt it.
Sure, the Democrats will fly up out of their seats, full nine feet high and higher. They're rush to commit savage acts of "oversight" on those clandestine agencies that are engaged in this "domestic spying."
Heh. Excellent... we send administration representatives (like Tony Snow) out to the Sunday talk shows to say that they neither confirm nor deny that we're doing this -- wink -- but really, Mr. and Mrs. All-American, don't you think we should be? And why are the Democrats so concerned about the "right" of fire-breathing Wahhabi imams to call for assassinations and bombings in Amerca, but not so much about your rights not to be blown up at work, at the mall, and not to have your kids blown up at school, like in Beslan?
I can just see Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI, 100%), sweating bullets on Anderson Cooper 360° or being grilled by Chris Matthews on Hardball, trying to explain why the Democrats don't want to know whether there are any terrorist mosques in America. Maybe the Superglue would break, and those blessed glasses would finally slip off his bulbous nose!
It can only help us to get a fight going between Bush and the congressional Democrats on just how far we should go to protect the American people. It's a heck of a lot better than drawing a line in the sand over minimum wage.
Oh, and by the way... we might just learn enough to be able to deport some of these Saudi-funded imams, or maybe stop a terrorist plot or two. That's almost as good as putting Democrats on the spot!
October 12, 2006
Beyond the Democratic Event Horizon
In the midst of a curious piece carried on Breitbart, AP's Economics writer, Martin Crutsinger, straight-facedly reports a rollicking "180" rejoinder from the Democrats that almost gave me whiplash.
The tale ledes with an in-your-face "toldja so" to the tax-hikers and Paris-Hilton spenders in the Democratic Party (the tax-cutting, drunken-sailor spenders in the Republican Party differ from their co-conspirators across the aisle, in that economic growth does not actually hurl them into anaphylactic shock):
The federal deficit in the budget year that just ended fell to a four- year low of $247.7 billion -- a figure President Bush touted Wednesday as "proof that pro-growth policies work."
The deficit for the budget year that ended Sept. 30 was 22.3 percent lower than the $318.7 billion imbalance for 2005, handing Bush a welcome economic talking point as Republicans battle to hold onto control of Congress in the midterm elections.
Bush called the outcome for Fiscal 2006 a "dramatic reduction" that redeemed his 2004 campaign pledge to halve the deficit earlier than his original 2009 target date.
"These numbers show that we have now achieved our goal of cutting the federal deficit in half and we've done it three years ahead of schedule," Bush told reporters at a Rose Garden news conference.
Blah blah. Good stuff. Shocked it appeared on Breitbart, but not as shocked as if it had appeared on Reuters.
The Democrats respond predictably: Yak blah five years of surpluses in the Clinton era blah yak blah Iraq blah blah mismanagement twiddle twaddle tax cuts for the rich. But then some Democrat -- we don't know who it was, only who it was not, and that is Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND, 85%) -- adds the following:
Republicans said the big improvement showed that Bush's economic policies were working to stimulate growth and boost tax revenues. But Democrats said the narrowing of the deficit would be temporary as the pending retirement of 78 million baby boomers will send costs of the government's big benefit programs soaring. [Great Scott! Who'd'a thunk it?]
"The fact that some are trumpeting this year's deficit number as good news shows just how far we've fallen. Our budget picture is extremely serious by any measure," said Sen. Kent Conrad, the senior Democrat on the Budget Committee.
So I take it that the Democrats are now ready to get serious about resolving the unfunded liability of the Social Security scam and the Medicare manglement? Perhaps by --
- Switching Medicare from a defined benefits program to a defined contribution program;
- Capping automatic benefit increases in both programs to the actual rate of inflation;
- Privatizing all (or at least some significant portion) of Social Security for anyone who wants to switch over;
- Letting private investment and brokerage firms administer the accounts, instead of the government, which has a disturbing tendency to raid them whenever they run short of funds;
- Making contributions to Social Security fully deductable, even for those who take the standard deduction;
- Allowing taxpayers to deduct generously large payments to IRAs and MSAs (more than allowed now);
-- and other such elements to make both retirement and medical care part of the "ownership society," so that we can all control our own futures?
That the Democrats now believe that individuals are better able to handle their own savings, investment, retirement, and medical choices than Congress? That the party of Clinton, Carter, Johnson, and FDR is now willing, at long last, to embrace Capitalism?
Occam's Razor demands instead that we conclude that Democrats randomly belch out words and catch-phrases they vaguely recall having heard somewhere, in order to shout down the president... not even remembering that the danger they warn us about, Cassandra like, is precisely the same danger they scornfully rejected when Bush rang his own tocsin and demanded real, workable solutions.
The same imminent explosion they now raise to suggest the economy isn't as good as it looks is just what President Bush's programs were designed to prevent -- programs that the Democrats fought, filibustered, and finally finished off, with a great whoop and holler. (The hullabaloo was only topped by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Caesar's Palace, 100%, triumphantly -- and prematurely -- ejaculating "we killed the Patriot Act!")
I call the panic reaction of uncontrollably shouting out spurious slogans and jingoisms "Spurrette's Syndrome": the Tourette's-like eruption of spurious, anti-Bush non-sequiturs in the middle of debates, arguments, news stories, and the like. (I've been working on a post about it, but my natural inclination towards sloth gets in the way.)
But God, what must it be like to live behind Democratic eyes? They live in a world that is three days wide: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Anything more than a day in past or future is beyond the Democratic event horizon and ceases to exist.
October 9, 2006
Over on Power Line, Scott is honoring John Lennon. He makes it quite clear that he honors only the music, not the grotesque philosophy.
But I must say it, since nobody else will: The Beatles were the most overhyped group in history.
I'm not saying they were bad, especially; but they're widely dubbed the "greatest rock 'n roll group ever"... and they're not even within yodeling distance to being that. I could name fifteen groups off the top of my pointy head that are better, from Led Zep to Bowie to the Moodies to Crimso to Tull to Country Joe and the Fish.
Overhyped. Like Krispy Kreme, White Castle, and Bill Kristol. That's all I'm saying. And Lennon alone was so pathetic, I can only conclude he was one of those artists desperately in search of an editor.
He found one in Paul McCartney (ten times better a composer; and McCartney actually sang through his mouth, not his nose). So Lennon was reasonably good when the Beatles were in full scream, with Paul there to pull up John's pants. But take McCartney away from Lennon (like taking Bernie Taupin away from Reggie "Elton John" Dwight), and he hits his nadir with garbage like "Imagine" and "Cold Turkey," or my all-time antifavorite, "Working Class Zero." (Whoops, I meant "hero." Sorry.)
He and the virago were made for each other.
Of course I didn't jump on a chair and cheer when he was shot; it's a calamity when anyone other than a murderer is murdered. I remember the announcement came during a football game; Howard Cosell was announcing, and he said, "this is only a game; but today, a tragedy: John Lennon, former Beatle, shot to death in --"
And the other jackanapes interrupts, "Howard! Lookitthatsonuvabitchrun hesgoingalltheway!"
But face it, the world didn't lose much in 1980. Much less than a decade later, when up and coming Stevie Ray Vaughan took the place of has-been Eric Clapton on the helo that went down. God, what a horrible twist of fate that was.
Hey, but at least we got the "unplugged" version of "Layla," where Slowbrain makes the tart sound about as enticing as Princess Margaret. Wouldn't have wanted to miss that!
I'm just saying.
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