(Review) No, the title above isn't a typo. Xrlq hilariously takes the Las Vegas Sun sun to task for their article complaining that President Bush--that moron--mispronounces the state name as neh-VAH-dah instead of neh-VAD-uh. Actualy, the Sun wites that pre president "mispronunces" the state name.
The article's lede then says, "Nevada memo to George Bush: When making a first presidential visit to a state, use the right pronounciation of its name."
Yes, we must be sure to get that "pronounciation" correct.
As Xrlq writes:
OK, time to move on. No more carping over how to pronounce a pronunciation, pronunce a pronounciation, or any of that stuff. We got your point: don't say "ne vah-dah." So what should we say instead?To properly pronounce Nevada, the middle syllable should rhyme with gamble.
Really? Maybe it's just me, but for all the times I've been to Reno, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas, I have yet to meet a single Nevadan who pronounce the name of his state "Nevambleda."
Ah, the arrogance of the press.
(Hat Tip: BoiFromTroi)
(Review) Terence Jeffries comments on Newt gingrich's support of the Medicare Reform Bill.
Gingrich is right about one thing: This is historic. In days of yore, before Newt went hoary, he rode the backbenches of the House spitting acid-laced invective at party elders who sold out his principles. He once famously accused then-Senate Finance Chairman Bob Dole of being "the tax collector for the welfare state."
But now Newt spits invective at what he calls "obstructionist conservatives." These are today’s backbenchers who labor to prevent their entire party from becoming the tax collector -- or debt monger -- for the welfare state. They are led by principled legislators -- such as Reps. Mike Pence of Indiana, John Shadegg of Arizona, Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Tom Feeney of Florida and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
"Obstructionist conservatives can always find reasons to vote no," Gingrich wrote in the Wall Street Journal on the eve of the drug vote, "but that path leads right back into the minority and it would be a minority status they would deserve."
"Deserve," he said!
But since when did subsidized drug handouts become a litmus test of good government? When did they become a defining issue for the party of limited government?
And what is the difference between two parties, both of who have as their chief characteristic a willingness to shower public largess?
Aside from the War on Terror, there are, as far as I can see, no major differences between Republicans and Democrats.
And the truth is that, no matter which party is running the show, we will win the War on terror eventually. Sure, if somebody like Howard Dean becomes president, we'll pull back from Bush's policies. As a result there'll be another 911 or two.
But at some point, the American people will go ballistic, forcing whoever is running the show to fight this thing full bore. Democrats might make it more costly, due to the price that appeasement and weakness always extracts, but even they can't contain the righteous wrath of an American people who are attacked repeatedly. All they can do--worst case--is cause more American casualties through their ineffective policies. Which will probably finish them as a national party forever.
Still, it's clearly true that, as far as domestic policy is concerned, there is a Culture of Spending in Washington. Success is measured in a peculiarly Robert Byrd-ish kind of way, i.e. by how much federal slop you can pour into the local hog trough.
I guess it's too easy and too seductive to resist, this whole idea of spending other people's money on other people. Republicans, who've been telling us for years that they are the party of smaller government, evidently succumb to it just as easily as Democrats did.
Even Gingrich, the once-radical, conservative bomb-thrower.
(Review) Since I mentioned Palestinian polls earlier, I thought I would run this by you, which is from the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion.
There are barely any women active in Palestinian politics because:
38.8% Woman's place is in the home
14.1% Not talented enough
8.1% Prohibited by religious law
7.6% If women were in politics it would hurt the status of men
Response to adultery in a marriage:
30.7% Kill the adulterer
9.1% Kill the adulterer only if female
29.3% Separate or divorce
7.6% Divorce only if female was the adulterer
6.1% Forgive the adulterer
17.2% No opinion
Just a little slice of life for Women in Palestine. How wonderful it must be to be a woman there.
Photo: AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju
Photo: Reuters/Mike Theiler
(Review) There's no reason to read any farther than the first paragraph of Ambassador Dennis Ross' Washington Post op/ed today. When you start out this spectacularly wrong, everything else that follows is really just pointless drivel.
While peace is not about to break out between Israelis and Palestinians, there is once again an opening to end the past three years of warfare. Both sides want to end the war, create a period of calm and restore normal life for their publics. Those desires are not sufficient to reestablish faith in the other side's intentions or to bridge the gaps on how to deal with Jerusalem, borders and refugees. But they may be sufficient to produce a more enduring cease-fire and the resumption of a peace process.
Really, Ambassador? Both sides? Because from where I sit, it looks like one of the sides is committed to blowing up Israeli civilians at every available opportunity. And it doesn't look like the Palestinian Authority is very keen on stopping them.
Now, you can quote all you want from recent opinion polls that say 66% or whatever of the Palestinian people want a ceasefire with Israel. And I can show you another recent poll that says the exact opposite.
That is entirely irrelevant. Opinion polls matter only in states with representative governments. Yasser Arafat, the PA Prime Minister and his Cabinet are all elected in the same sense that Egyptian "President" Hosni Mubarak was.
When, as I asked earlier, do their terms end?
In a state where Yasser Arafat's thugs publicly murder those who "collaborate" with Israel, Opinion polls work pretty much like this: "Hello. While keeping in mind that having certain political opinions can have you shot, would you like to parrot the PA's current PR pap, or should we just send someone over to drag you away now?"
Telling me that 60% of the Palestinians prefer this or that 80% of them prefer that is just as pointless as opinion polls in the 1980s that purported to tell us what Soviet citizens felt.
Since they don't run the show, their opinions don't matter.
Yasser Arafat, the man who can't say yes to peace, is still the guy who gives orders to the men with guns. And his orders have been to leave the Hamas and Al-Aqsa killers alone to do their work. Which, I should also point out, they have been doing with a vengeance.
In point of fact, both sides don't want peace. One of the sides consists solely of Yasser Arafat (the father of modern terrorism), his sycophants, and his ideological children. No one else on that side matters, because they don't call any of the shots.
What Yasser and his punks want is the destruction of Israel. And that's hardly a basis for negotiation.
(Review) This is typical city government in California:
Los Angeles officials have asked that manufacturers, suppliers and contractors stop using the terms "master" and "slave" on computer equipment, saying such terms are unacceptable and offensive.
The request -- which has some suppliers furious and others busy re-labeling components -- came after an unidentified worker spotted a videotape machine carrying devices labeled "master" and "slave" and filed a discrimination complaint with the county's Office of Affirmative Action Compliance.
In the computer industry, "master" and "slave" are used to refer to primary and secondary hard disk drives. The terms are also used in other industries.
"Based on the cultural diversity and sensitivity of Los Angeles County, this is not an acceptable identification label," Joe Sandoval, division manager of purchasing and contract services, said in a memo sent to County vendors.
"We would request that each manufacturer, supplier and contractor review, identify and remove/change any identification or labeling of equipment components that could be interpreted as discriminatory or offensive in nature," Sandoval said in the memo, which was distributed last week and made available to Reuters.
You know, sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry.
Evidently, as a result of the Equal Opportunity Compliance Office's investigation, 1,000 items of county equipment in LA have been relabeled from Master/Slave to Primary/Secondary. Of course, Primary/Secondary means something entirely different in the electronics industry.
Next thing you know, male/female connectors will be named patriarchal/oppressed connectors.
This is just frickin' insane.
(Review) Victor Davis Hanson writes that the multilateral illusions of the pre-911 world have been shattered, and we must understand that a new world is being forged in its place.
No, the once-cheery multilateral world has become a very different place after 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq — the latter being the greatest and riskiest endeavor in the last 50 years of American foreign policy. Understandably, almost everyone is invested in its failure — and will slur us as either isolationist or hegemonist, depending upon the particular ox gored.
Russia will not want to see us succeed humanely when it has failed brutally in Chechnya and profited off Saddam. Europe's faith in multilateralism surely cannot be dashed by Anglo-American exceptionalism. Faux-moderates in the region were "moderate" only when they had a Saddam Hussein to point to and say, "At least I'm not him!" Here at home, Democrats can't count on a bad economy, and so it must instead be a bad situation in Iraq. Professors and media pundits cannot believe the world really has descended to such a level that reason only works in tandem with force.
So if Americans in exasperation are asking "What is going on here?", the answer is, "Almost everything." And that is precisely why so many are so upset about so much. Remember, "multilateralism" and "unilateralism" are just concepts — only as good or bad as the people who embrace them. In 1939 a "multilateral" world — Germany, Italy, Russia, along with support from Spain, Japan, and many Eastern Europe states, and the indifference of the United States and most of the Americas — decided to carve up Poland; a "unilateral" Britain choose to become bothersome and thus resisted. Go figure the moral arithmetic between the one and the many.
As always, read the whole thing.
(Review) Cal Thomas writes that, as libertarians have been saying for years, there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the major political parties.
The time when the Republican Party stood for something worth standing for is over. The "G" in GOP might as well stand for government. Smaller, less intrusive government with less spending and lower taxes is the stuff of history books and fond memories for a party that once had a purpose. But Republicans, having tasted power, are now drunk with it. Like the Democrats before them who became inebriated with the wine of success, Republicans now seem interested only in preserving their elective offices.
Truly there is less than a dime's worth of difference between the two parties. If only term limits would catch on! But the very people who are the problem would have to vote for the idea and there isn't any money in it.
Defense and anti-terrorism spending aside, there is no excuse for much of the rest of it. It is a pathetic betrayal of the faith many had put in the Republican Party to reduce the size and role of government in our lives.
But, now we'll all get "free" drugs when we get old. But, none of the fun ones, of course.
Actually, since the benefit will come out of taxes, we'll really be getting pre-paid drugs. And, at $400 billion, we'll be pre-paying up the ying-yang.
(Review) Economist Walter Williams explains why it's made the United States the richest country in thw world
In 1970, the telecommunications industry employed 421,000 switchboard operators. In the same year, Americans made 9.8 billion long distance calls. Today, the telecommunications industry employs only 78,000 operators. That's a tremendous 80 percent job loss.
What should Congress have done to save those jobs?
The correct answer, of course, is "nothing."
Finding cheaper ways to produce goods and services frees up labor to produce other things. If productivity gains aren't made, where in the world would we find workers to produce all those goods that weren't even around in the 1970s?
It's my guess that the average anti-free-trade person wouldn't protest, much less argue that Congress should have done something about the job loss in the telecommunications industry. He'd reveal himself an idiot. But there's no significant economic difference between an industry using technology to reduce production costs and using cheaper labor to do the same. In either case, there's no question that the worker who finds himself out of a job because of the use of technology or cheaper labor might encounter hardships. The political difference is that it's easier to organize resentment against India and China than against technology.
Both Republican and Democratic interventionist like to focus on job losses as they call for trade restrictions, but let us look at what was happening in the 1990s. Cox and Alm report that recent Bureau of Labor Statistics show an annual job loss from a low of 27 million in 1993 to a high of 35.4 million in 2001. In 2000, when unemployment reached its lowest level, 33 million jobs were lost. That's the loss side. However, annual jobs created ranged from 29.6 million in 1993 to a high of 35.6 million in 1999.
These are signs of a healthy economy, where businesses start up, fail, downsize and upsize, and workers are fired and workers are hired all in the process of adapting to changing technological, economic and global conditions. Societies become richer when this process is allowed to occur. Indeed, because our nation has a history of allowing this process to occur goes a long way toward explaining why we are richer than the rest of the world.
Those Americans calling for government restrictions that would deny companies and ultimately consumers to benefit from cheaper methods of production are asking us to accept lower wealth in order to protect special interests. Of course, they don't cloak their agenda that way. It's always "national security," "level playing fields" and "protecting jobs". Don't fall for it -- we'll all become losers.
That's essentially all you have to know about free trade, in one simple lesson.
Well, actually, you should know about Ricardo's Theory of Comparative Advantage, too. But this is a really good start.
(Review) Byron York writes that the press' willingness to let the Democratic memos story quietly die exposes the media's explicit double standards. Ethical misdeeds by Republicans get them hammered like cheap nails, but when the Dems do it, the story just quietly dies on the vine.
(Review) John Cullinan writes that US officials are suffering from a fundamental misread of the political situation iu Iraq.
(Review) MEMRI reports on the Arab World's reaction to President Bush's speech about democratizing the Middle East. Based on the Arab press --a press that is mainly controlled by the government--two things are clear: they aren't quite sure what democracy is, but they certainly don't want any of it.
"Bush has forgotten that the Arab and Islamic peoples prefer to be ruled by a dictator such as Saddam Hussein than by a democratic president of the likes of Bush...
Yeah, well, I'm sure the employees of the State run newspaper in a dictatorship like Egypt certainly hope that's true.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher stated that Bush's address was misunderstood, and that Bush was in fact not criticizing Egyptian democracy but praising Egypt's leading role in democratization and Egypt's democracy as a model that should be applied in other countries in the region.
Hmm. That's certainly an...optimistic view of the president's remarks.
By the way, I wonder If he's any relationship to Bill Maher? Anyway, Maher continues:
Our people, whose civilization is 7,000 years old, does not expect, and does not need to expect, others to give it lessons in democracy or in anything else.
Maybe you don't need any lessons in democracy, Ahmad, but if so, a lot of us are just wondering why, in the course of your 7,000 year history, you've never had any of it. I mean, let's face it, Hosni Mubarak doesn't look like he's gonna be running up against any term limits anytime soon.
Just how long is his presidential term anyway?
"The fact that Egypt is marching on the path of democracy demands no proof. It is impossible to cast doubts on [the fact that] this land enjoys freedom of the press that is nonexistent in many countries of the world."
I gotta say, this would be a lot more convincing if it wasn't taken from a newspaper owned and run by the unelected Egyptian government, printing an article by the Foreign Minister of that government.
President Bush and his speechwriters… are motivated by a Yankee and missionary mentality that propagates the values of democracy in the way of colonialism. [This mentality] blinds them to the facts of reality and history, because there is no one model for democracy. Democracy is the result of the economic, political, and social development of cultures, and it is not forced upon peoples by means of cruise missiles, tanks, and planes...
It worked in Germany and Japan in '45. I'm just saying...
Nasser Shamali wrote in the government daily Teshreen: "[Bush's] speechwriters are [members] of the Zionist gang that wrote the speeches of the war on Iraq and on the Arabs and Muslims. This is the same gang of usurers and bloodsuckers whose discourse on U.S.-style democracy refers to expanding its dictatorship all over the world, killing anyone it wants to, and robbing anyone it wants to."
Of course, it's a little known fact, but in Arabic, "Nasser Shamali" means "Noam Chomsky". No, really.
And, by the way, is it just me, or do Arab governments own a lot of newspapers?
(Review) The editors of the Manchester Union-Leader weigh in on the Democrats' outrage about the president's campaign ad.
Where were the Democrats when former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-GA, accused President Bush of knowing that the 9/11 attacks were coming but letting them happen anyway? She lost her seat in Congress over her accusations, and now she claims she was ousted from office in a Republican conspiracy. Just last week she told an audience that the White House is developing some race-based bio-weapons they can use against minorities and political enemies.
Where were the Democrats when Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky and other kooks accused the President of conspiracies similar to those alleged by McKinney?
Where were the Democrats when Sen. Ted Kennedy called the Iraq war a “fraud” and accused Bush of concocting the Iraq war plans in Texas purely for political gain?
We could go on, but you get the point.
Yes, I do. The point is that most of the leading Democrats are collection of pathetic little whiners and/or liars.
(Review) Well, everyone over 65, that is. The Medicare overhaul passed, and the President will sign it.
So, where's my free health care?
Oh, wait a second. I'm ideologically opposed to single-payer health care. Sorry. Slipped my mind there for a moment.
(Review) Jamie Glazov interviews Professors John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr about their new book, In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage. Glazov, a Soviet Émigré asks why the Academic Left is so keen to apologize for the USSR, and downplay the true evil of that regime, even in retrospect. Professor Haynes replies:
What is overwhelmingly clear to them is an imagined future collectivist utopia where antagonisms of class and race have been eliminated, the economic and social inequalities that have driven people to crime have been removed, poverty does not exist and social justice reigns, world brotherhood has replaced war and international strife, and an economy planned by people like them has produced economic abundance without pollution or waste. Coupled with this vision of the future is loathing of the real present which falls woefully short of these goals and hatred for anyone or anything that stands in the way of their illusion of the radiant future.
At Solovki, one of earliest Gulag camps, Soviet administrators put up a sign that expressed the Communist program: "With an Iron Fist, We Will Lead Humanity to Happiness." That slogan captures the murderous nature of the Utopian vision of the hard left.
What perfect, unintended irony. "With an Iron Fist, We Will Lead Humanity to Happiness."
Well, there wasn't much happiness by the time it was over. But 100 million dead proves that there was certainly an iron fist in there, somewhere.
(Review) Dennis Prager writes a moving, and important, open letter to US soldiers serving in Iraq.
(Review) John Leo writes on the Massachusetts Supreme Court's gay marriage decision:
Some admire the gay-marriage ruling in Massachusetts. Some don't. But surely the heart of the story is the stupefying arrogance of the state's Supreme Judicial Court. If you are going to stretch a state's constitution beyond all previous understanding and impose what many people believe is a fundamental redefinition of marriage, you don't do it in a 4-to-3 vote.
How could the four have missed the obvious lesson of Roe v. Wade? The U.S. Supreme Court's abortion decision, imposed out of the blue with flimsy constitutional cover, short-circuited debate that was still in its early stages. It took the issue out of democratic politics and sparked 30 years of social turmoil. It gave everything to one side of the debate, nothing to the other, and made a European-style compromise impossible by its arrogant and constitutionally dubious "fundamental right" ruling. It assured rage by making its decision democracy-proof--as antiabortion forces quickly learned, the ruling could not really be modified by democratic decision making. Well, here we go again. Although a serious debate on gay marriage has not yet taken place, the short-circuiting process is already far advanced, complete with attempts to bar the civil-union compromise and to make a constitutional amendment almost impossible. Once again, no consensus and no broad debate. And just as with the abortion decision, a court is summoning up enormous opposition by foreclosing normal democratic procedures.
Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 was a good and necessary decision, but it created the monster of "landmarkism." It also deeply affected left-right politics. As the left gradually despaired of attracting a majority of voters to its programs, it opted for a strategy of going around the voters by relying on judges to impose liberal outcomes. This liberal end-run around politics is what the current battle over judges is all about.
Judicial review is a necessary component of our political system. It is not, however, a substitute for legislative action, nor should it serve to short-circuit debate on important social and cultural issues.
But that is exactly what the Court has done, in this case, and what courts all over the country have done time and time again since the 1930s.
And, just like ROE v. WADE, this decision will provoke a national uproar. It will further politicize the selection of judges. It will close off any possibility of reasoned debate. In short, it will have precisely the same pernicious effect on our politics that ROE has had.
And don't think that the reduced respect for the judiciary that these kinds of rulings promote will have no effect on judicial review. Eventually, the citizenry will tire of judges telling them essentially that they are too stupid, greedy, or morally deficient to be trusted to decide these issues for themselves. The people do, after all, have the power to amend the constitution to severely restrict the right of judicial review.
(Review) Tim Cavanaugh is confused. He writes that politics in Washington is beginning to resemble a creepy version of Disney's Freaky Friday.
(Review) Hudson Institute economist irwin Steltzer writes that the president just can't seem to leave well enough alone when it comes to the economy.
Eager to respond to charges that George W. Bush has presided over the first decline in jobs since Herbert Hoover was in the White House, the president's team seems determined to adopt policies that have in the past stunted economic growth.
And how better for Bush to demonstrate his concern about the manufacturing jobs that seem to be moving to China, and the high-tech jobs that are being lured to India, than by a dramatic reversion to the sort of protectionism that has historically thrown the world into recession?
As if the federal deficit were not already large enough, Bush is preparing to sign an energy bill that doles out some $30 billion in subsidies to farmers and assorted special interests over the next 10 years. He is also pressing Congress to pass a bill that would subsidize seniors' purchases of prescription drugs, at an estimated cost to the government of $400 billion over 10 years--and that estimate, say most experts, is wildly on the low side.
There you have it. An economy growing steadily stronger, in part due to some intelligent tax cutting by the president. But it isn't growing fast enough to satisfy his reelection team, so they are pushing protectionist and fiscal policies that just might counteract all of the good work done in their calmer moments.
At this point, the only guy who can beat George Bush is George Bush. But, like his dad, he seems willing to give it try.
(Review) John Podhoretz writes that Democratic outrage over the President's campaign ad is just a tiny bit overblown.
Democrats greeted the ad with screams of outrage. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle demanded that it be retracted. Sen. Ted Kennedy said its intention was to "stifle dissent" in this country.
Please. For six months, the Democratic candidates for president have been going after Bush for his handling of the War on Terror and the war in Iraq. One, the flaky Rep. Dennis Kucinich, opposes the war in Afghanistan that routed al Qaeda and ousted the Taliban. All of them have attacked the USA Patriot Act, the key domestic element of the War on Terror, for its supposedly draconian qualities.
This weekend, Wesley Clark said we could find Osama bin Laden "if we wanted to" - suggesting, in other words, that Bush really didn't want to. John Kerry has said that "a dangerous gap in credibility has developed between President Bush's tough rhetoric and timid policies, which don't do nearly enough to protect Americans."
Evidently, senior Democrats believe they are permitted to say anything they like about the president - but it's illegitimate for Republicans to fire back on the president's behalf. It's such a pathetic line of argument that it's hard to believe they mean it.
This is of a piece with the immediately previous post. What is the deal with these guys? They get to say and do anything they want, and we have to give them a pass, but they get to jump on their opponents with impunity?
Yeah, I guess it would be cool for you if life worked that way, huh, guys? Then you wouldn't have to defend any of your positions to the electorate. "Republicans are evil. They want to starve children and kill the elderly." Game over, you win. But, life doesn't work that way, and the whining is just getting pathetic.
"Mommy, the Republicans are passing laws, and they promised we'd get to pass some too! And, that doodyhead George is calling me bad names!"
Judas H. Priest, what a bunch a whiners! If Harry Truman were alive today, he'd march up to the Saddened and Concerned® Tom Daschle, and say, "Now, I don't know how they do things up in the Dakotas. But in Missouri, we don't have much patience for some silly SOB who can't do anything but whine about how tough he has it. If all you can do is sit there and cry, then you just need to go home, and give your place to somebody who knows how to fight."
Can you imagine Truman in 1948, saying the things that come out of Daschle's mouth? If he had, the famous election picture would be Dewey holding up the newspaper that said "Dewey Defeats Truman".
No wonder the Democrats don't have the guts to stay the course in Iraq. They don't even have the guts to run an election campaign without bitching and moaning.
Compare that to FDR, who not only had to campaign, but did it from a wheelchair, and who, even though he was paralyzed from the waste down, used his upper body strength and crutches to pretend he was walking to the podium when he gave speeches. Not much whining there.
Geez, what bunch of losers.
(Review) Paul Gigot writes that the Republicans are just being terribly, terribly unfair. Why, they are using their majority to pass legislation, even when the Democrats disagree! Majorities passing laws? It's practically the end of consensual government!
"I don't mean to be alarmist, but this is the end of parliamentary democracy as we have known it," said Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts. The new system amounted to "plebiscitary democracy" in which leaders of the House have imposed such a strong sense of party discipline that they will ultimately pass whatever legislation they bring to the floor. "The Republican Party in the House is the most ideologically cohesive and disciplined party in the democratic world," Frank said. In response, House Democrats were more united in opposition to the bill than Democratic senators, who are operating as if the older system of give-and-take were still in force.
And the Republicans are now enforcing party discipline, in a way that used to be completely unremarkable for both parties 30 or 40 years ago? The ultimate crime, I'm sure.
Of course, when the minority party prevents even a floor vote on judicial nominees, that's a valid exercise of parliamentary democracy. So, I guess, democracy is only threatened when the elected majority passes laws, but not when a vocal minority uses parliamentary tricks to subvert the nominations process.
Cry me a river, Barney. You're part of the minority party. You don't like it? Win some elections. Until then, suck it up, legislation-boy.
(Review) Lee Kwan Yew is a very wise man. Fareed Zakaria conveys to us Lee's take on the War Against Terror:
“The Europeans underestimate the problem of Al Qaeda-style terrorism,” he said. “They think that the United States is exaggerating the threat. They compare it to their own many experiences with terror—the IRA, the Red Brigade, the Baader-Meinhof, ETA. But they are wrong.”
He went on: “Al Qaeda-style terrorism is new and unique because it is global. An event in Morocco can excite the passions of extremist groups in Indonesia. There is a shared fanatical zealousness among these different extremists around the world. Many Europeans think they can finesse the problem, that if they don’t upset Muslim countries and treat Muslims well, the terrorists won’t target them. But look at Southeast Asia. Muslims have prospered here. But still, Muslim terrorism and militancy have infected them.” Lee pointed out that Singapore and Thailand have both been targeted in recent years, though neither has mistreated its Muslim populations.
“The Americans, however, make the mistake of seeking largely a military solution. You must use force. But force will only deal with the tip of the problem. In killing the terrorists, you will only kill the worker bees. The queen bees are the preachers, who teach a deviant form of Islam in schools and Islamic centers, who capture and twist the minds of the young.”
Hear that Saudi Arabia? That means you.
Because, at the end of the day, Lee is right. There is a whole infrastructure in the Islamic world dedicated to spreading the fundamental, wahabbist type of Islam. The most noticeable of which are Madrassas all over the Muslim world whose only education is daily memorization of the Koran along with wahabbist religious instruction, and absolutely nothing else. Then there are the preachers in Mosques who give sermons filled with hate and bile for the West in general, and America--and, of course, the Jews; always the Jews--in particular.
These are the guys we should be going after. Their followers are just the cannon fodder.
And the main source of support for these radical clerics and terrorist wannabes, is our old "ally," the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Harsh lessons must be taught there, sooner or later.
(Review) David Brooks writes in the New York Times that despite the carping you hear from some--on the Right in the 1990s and on the Left now--we are essentially a prosperous, well-governed nation.
Obviously, huge problems remain. But the overwhelming weight of the evidence suggests that despite all the ugliness of our politics, this is a well-governed nation. The trends of the past two decades stand as howling refutation of those antipolitical cynics who have become more scathing about government even as the results of our policies have been impressive. The evidence also rebukes those gloomy liberals who for two decades have been predicting that the center-right governance of Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush would lead to disaster.
Most of all, the evidence rebuts the cultural critics of the right and left, who have bemoaned the rise of narcissism, cultural relativism, greed, and on and on. And while many of these critics have made valid points, if you relied on their work you would have a horribly distorted view of the state of this nation.
Catious optimism. I like it.
(Review) Now, I've never been a big reality TV fan. I've never seen a single episode of Survivor, The Bachelor, Or hardly any of the others. I have wathed Joe Millionaire because I was engaged by the train wreck feeling of it all, but that's it.
But I am going to watch The Simple Life. Watching Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie getting a sink-or-swim introduction tor eal people, with real physical labor to do every day (and there's hardly any more work that's more physically exacting than farm work) should just be a fascinating bit of television.
Watch Nicole and Paris jet to Altus, Ark., after a last-ditch shopping spree that includes a $1,500 designer dog carrier. Watch their faces fall as they realize they're staying in a modest country home that doesn't have room service or private bath. And that's no chocolate mint on the bed -- it's a tick! (Cue horrified looks from Paris and Nicole.)
See the young ladies traipse around the countryside in wildly inappropriate outfits. Watch Paris ponder the meaning of the following: Wal-Mart ("Is that where they sell wall stuff?"); a shopping list calling for "generic water" and the phrase "soup kitchen."
Oh, yeah. This should be fun.
(Review) Jonah Goldberg provides some counterpoints to Brian Anderson's City Journal article, "We’re Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore." Conservatives shouldn't, writes Goldberg, declare victory quite yet.
If conservatives have such a lock on the culture these days, as Al Gore, Al Franken, and others keep insisting, why don't we just switch sides? The Left can have Fox News, the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, the lavish offices of National Review and The Weekly Standard, as well as Sean Hannity's and Rush Limbaugh's airtime. The gangs at the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation will clear out their desks, give John Podesta the code to the Xerox machine, and tell Eric Alterman where in the neighborhood to buy the best gyros.
In return, we'd like the keys to the executive bathrooms at ABC, CBS and NBC, please. We'd like the cast of Fox and Friends to take over The Today Show's studios ("and tell Couric to take her Cabbage Patch dolls with her!"). We want Ramesh Ponnuru as the editor of the New York Times and Rich Lowry can have his choice between Time and Newsweek. Matt Labash will get Esquire and let's set up Rick Brookhiser at Rolling Stone (that way they won't have to change their drug coverage). Andrew Sullivan can have The New York Times Magazine. Robert Bork will be the dean of the Yale Law School and the faculty of Hillsdale and Harvard will simply switch places. Cornell West will be airbrushed out of The Matrix and Harvey Mansfield will take his place (though convincing him say anything other than "you call that a haircut?" will be hard). NRO will get the bazillions of dollars spent by the editors of Salon and Slate, and those guys can start paying their authors with chickens and irregular tube socks made in Albania.
In other words, talk to me about how we've won the culture war when Dinesh D'Souza wins a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" and Maya Angelou has to blog about it because no one at the New York Times will run her pieces.
It'll never happen, of course. Heck, I'd pay good money to see it. The Left would be permanently assigned to the ash heap of history, and the big political fights would be between conservatives and libertarians.
And conservatives would lose.
(Review) Andrew Rawnsley writes--in the Guardian/Observer, no less--that the bombings in Turkey make the anti-bush protesters look naive. In the end, the Islamists would be quite happy to kill the protesters, too.
For this form of terrorism, the front line is wherever the bombers can strike. Islamist extremists have killed the citizens of countries that supported the removal of the Taliban and the toppling of Saddam. They have slaughtered Italian policemen in Iraq and young Australian holidaymakers in Bali.
The terrorists have been equally delighted to kill the citizens of countries that volubly opposed the military action in Iraq. They have massacred French technicians in Karachi and German tourists in Tunisia.
The hallmark of this terrorism is that it kills anywhere anytime in any numbers that it can. The victims are American, European, African, Asian and Hispanic, Jews, Christians, Hindus, atheists - and Muslims. In Istanbul, as so often before, these people have no compunction about murdering their own faith.
As for those protesters who toppled that papier-maché Bush in Trafalgar Square, they were made to look naive. The bombers, if they could, would happily slaughter them too. It is a delusion to think that all that is needed to make the world safe is a change to the occupants of the White House and Number 10. Charles Kennedy could be Prime Minister and Michael Moore might be President of the United States. Al-Qaeda would carry on killing. Because, to them, freedom is an ugly thing.
And most likely, they'd find it easier to do the killing as well.
(Review) The editors of the Washington Post opine on the detention of Jose Padilla:
The problem here is not that Mr. Padilla is being held as an enemy combatant; it is that the government is denying him any meaningful process for examining the accuracy of its allegation. This is particularly troubling in the context of a potentially perpetual conflict against a non-state, transnational enemy, one in which distinguishing combatants from innocents can be difficult. Mr. Padilla is being imprisoned indefinitely on the basis of the president's say-so alone. But what if an enemy combatant designation were the product of some tragic mistake? What if it were made maliciously? No court could provide relief, because no court would even know whether Mr. Padilla admitted or contested the allegations against him.
In the lower court, Chief Judge Michael B. Mukasey struck a delicate balance to which the appeals court should pay heed. If Mr. Padilla is really an al Qaeda operative, Judge Mukasey wrote, his detention as an "enemy combatant" is lawful. But the courts cannot simply accept the government's word. An American citizen must be able to respond to the government's allegations and must have some access to counsel in order to do so.
Maybe Padilla is an enemy combattant. Maybe he isn't. But we'll never know if all we can do is take the President's word for it.
(Review) Civil Libertarian Nat Hentoff is essentially calling Teddy kennedy a blatant liar, when it comes to his opposition to Judge Janice Rogers Brown.
I hardly agree, to say the least, with all of Justice Brown's judicial opinions; but the fiercely partisan Democrats on the Judiciary Committee slide by her dissents and majority opinions that are at vivid variance with the Democrats' campaign to stereotype her entire record. This selective prosecution is dishonest.
In In re Visciotti (1996), Justice Brown, dissenting, insisted that the death sentence of John Visciotti — convicted of murder, attempted murder and armed robbery — should be set aside because of the incompetence of the defense lawyer. And, in In re Brown (1998), she actually reversed a death sentence in the capital murder conviction of John George Brown because the prosecutor severely violated due process by failing to reveal evidence that could have been exculpatory.
Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts charged Justice Brown with "a deep-seated and disturbing hostility to civil rights, workers' rights, consumer protection and government action."
But Mr. Kennedy didn't cite her votes in these California Supreme Court cases:
In People ex rel. Lungren vs. Superior Court (1996), Justice Brown said that the California attorney general had the authority to sue faucet manufacturers who used lead in their faucets. And, in Hartwell Corp. v. Superior Court (2002), she agreed that water utilities could be sued for injuries resulting from harmful chemicals in the water consumed by residents of the state.
Excuse me, Mr. Kennedy, is Justice Brown totally hostile to government action and consumer protection?
Good old Teddy. I guess he's just bitter because he knows he'd be president today, if he'd ever learned how to drive.
I have a problem with spam. Every single day, I get over 300 Spam messages in my inbox. Deleting them is such a huge pain, because if I don't exercise a fair amount of caution, I get rid of non-spam messages as well.
But I've found a whitelisting service that provides FREE spam-blocking. It's called 0spam.com. Whenever someone sends you an email, 0spam sends back a confirmation email. If they don't get a reply, they delete the message after a number of days that I select. If it's a legitimate message, you can just click on a link and you're added to my whitelist. If it's a spambot, the message will go unanswered.
Yes, if you send me a message, then you'll have to be slightly inconvenienced the first time you send me a message. But, after you're on my whitelist, you don't have to do that anymore.
The service is free, too, which astounds me. Similar services I've found run about 25 bucks per year. They do ask for donations, much the same way the Movable Type does, so if you use the service and like it, it's only fair to pony up a few bucks. After all, it certainly is a service that has value, especially if, like me, you're getting hundreds of spam messages per day.
It has really cleaned out my mailbox, and so, I figured that some of you out there might want to look into it.
I don't know who decided to put this together for free--well, for a voluntary donation, actually--but I do appreciate it.
(Review) Michael Barone writes that if Dean gets the Democratic Party nomination, the election will be a tough one for Democrats.
The Democrats' problem will be different if Dean is nominated. Their problem will be with American exceptionalism. That is the idea, shared by most Americans, that this country is unique and special, with unique virtues and special responsibilities--a city on a hill, as John Winthrop and Ronald Reagan put it, with the responsibility to spread freedom and democracy around the world. Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were all American exceptionalists. So, as we have seen with ever increasing clarity, is Bush. Dean doesn't seem to be, and neither do most of his followers. When they say they want to take their country back, they mean they want the United States to take its place as just one of many nations, with no claim to moral superiority, heeding the cautions of France, Germany, and Russia; deferring to the United Nations or NATO; seeking the respect of the protesters in the streets of London or the opinion writers in Le Monde.
The party of FDR and Harry Truman is dead. A Dean nomination will just put the final nail in that old party's coffin.
And a governing Dean would have an even bigger problem. Americans will not, on the whole, be impressed with a president who clears our national security objectives through the Elysée Palace first.
Indeed, a Dean win in 2004 might be a disaster of the first magnitude for the Democrats. Two-thirds of the electorate believes the Democratic Party is unserious about national security. Any event which appears to highlight that weakness--like another 911 style terrorist attack--will cement in the public mind the complete unsuitability of Democratic politicians for the Presidency in times of national emergency.
(Review) Joe Klein illustrates the problems with both Democrats and Republicans when it comes to domestic policy.
The week's events illuminate a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans on domestic policy. The Democrats are boxed into complicated and unpopular positions because they tend to stand on principle—although the principles involved are often antiquated, peripheral and, arguably, foolish. The Republicans, by contrast, have abandoned traditional conservativism to gain political advantage (with the elderly, for instance) or to pay off their stable of corporate-welfare recipients.
And let's not forget steel, textile, and lumber tariffs. Or the $350 billion farm subsidies bill.
Still, it's funny to note that the president, a Republican, will beat on the Democrats like egg-sucking dogs for their opposition to a Medicare prescription drugs benefit.
So, Dems, how do you like »Mediscare« tactics now?
(Review) The perennially saddened and disappointed Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) is once again saddened and disappointed over the President's new television commercial.
The 30-second ad, which aired in Iowa over the weekend, features clips of Bush during his State of the Union address last January. It portrays Bush as a fighter of terrorism and says his opponents "are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists."
"It's wrong. It's erroneous, and I think that they ought to pull the ad," Daschle told NBC's "Meet the Press" program on Sunday.
"We all want to defeat terrorism," the South Dakota senator said. But "to chastise and to question the patriotism of those who are in opposition to some of the president's plans I think is wrong."
It is neither wrong, nor erroneous. The Democrats are attacking Bush for fighting the War Against Terror. They disagreed with the Action in Iraq, the Disagree with the president's handling of the postwar administration of that country, they disagree with his policy of preemption, they disagreed with the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan.
It is not wrong of the president to point this out. Indeed, it is vitally important that he does. If that causes the electorate to doubt even further the Democratic Party's seriousness about national security affairs, then the fault is not the president's, but rather the Democratic politicians who display such a lack of seriousness as to cripple their party's credibility when it comes to national security.
The president is not questioning the patriotism of his opponents, he is questioning their competence at devising a national security strategy that will protect the lives and property of American citizens. The Democrats, in general, seem to believe that national security policy seems to consist of handing out fuzzy bunnies to anyone who disagrees with us, and if that fails to pacify them, proffering elaborate and abject apologies to them for ever defending our national interests at any time in the past two centuries.
As The RNC replied to Sen. Daschle's remarks:
"We have no doubt that Sen. Daschle and others in his party who oppose the president's policy of preemptive self-defense believe that their national security approach is in the best interests of the country," RNC spokeswoman Christine Iverson said. "But we also have no doubt that they are wrong about that, and we will continue to highlight this critical policy difference as well as others."
Other Democrats are less temperate than Sen. Daschle:
Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy called it an "attempt to stifle dissent." On ABC's "This Week," Kennedy said "dissent is a basic part of what our whole society is about."
Perhaps I missed the part of the commercial where the president promised to track down dissenters, round them up, and put them in re-education camps. That's stifling dissent.
What the president is doing is telling the American voters that, as far as national security goes, the Democrats couldn't find their own asses without a flashlight, GPS, a geodetic survey map, and a ground approach controller to talk them in.
Teddy wants to be able to say or do anything he likes in opposition to the president without the president being able to say "boo" to any of his criticisms in return. Well, bad luck, Teddy, that's not the way the system works. If you want to act like a weasel then the president gets to call you one, and if it makes the voters view you with a more cynical eye, then tough cookies.
(Review) A new survey is out detailing some of the attitudes of Afghanis.
Some 83 percent of the Afghans surveyed said they feel safer than they did three years ago, when the hard-line Taliban regime was in power. More than three-quarters of those questioned said Afghanistan will be safer still in another year.
Of course, if the Left had their way, these people would still be trooping into the soccer stadium to watch the latest round of Taliban executions.
Okay, this is a complete waste of time, but it's pretty amusing. I call it fun with Systran. Here's how it works. Systran, the makers of the language translation software--the most publicly known example of which is Alta Vista's Babelfish--have a multi-language translator on their web site. Now, this translation software is pretty good. It can take plain, non-slang language examples and do a pretty good job of translating it into another language.
Unfortunately, things lose a little bit of their original meaning when you use multiple translations. it's like the old game of "telephone", where multiple repetitions get completely corrupted.
So, here's what you do. Take a simple English phrase, and go through the following translation cycle:
English to Dutch
Dutch to French
French to German
German to French
French to English
You get some interesting returns.
I'm a little tea pot, short and stout.
I am what the box of tea suddenly and maliciously.
That's some pretty strong tea.
The quick, brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.
Bruiné fast fox jumped with regard to the putrefied dog.
Well, at least now we know why that darned dog is so lazy. It's dead.
When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore.
If the moon relates to your eye like a large pie of paste of sheet Pizza dish amore those.
When you start talking like that, maybe you need Cher to slap you across the face and say, "Snap out of it!"
You can get more of what you want with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word.
They can more receive what you want with a worthy word to be loved, and not to then be able a gun with a worthy word to be loved you.
Somehow, I just knew if that phrase got passed through French, the meaning would change.
When you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite.
If you cannot kill it, a man cost anything to have lived.
Well, that's true enough, I suppose.
Anyway, this is just a load of time-wasting fun. And, even though this is a family blog, so I can't provide examples, here's a little hint: Swear words are fun!
(Review) Austin Bay writes that we've seen this spasm of Europeans bashing the president before. In fact, it was almost 20 years ago to the day.
Back then it was the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament v. Reagan, but a lot of us have seen it all before.
This month is the 20th anniversary of the Great Euro-missile Crisis. Oh, the accusations! Reagan was stupid. Reagan was dangerous, a warmonger seeking the nuclear destruction of the Soviet Union. Reagan was — good heavens — a unilateralist. Today, the mayor of London calls Bush "the greatest threat to life on the planet."
Twaddle. The current crop of Axis of Neville (Chamberlain) leftist pundits and leaders are thus exposed, recycling 20-year-old insults.
It does bring back memories, I must say. I remember having to patrol the fenceline at HQ Allied Forces Central Europe (it's now AFNORTH instead of AFCENT) in Brunssum, the Netherlands on a regular basis to chase these lefty yahoos when they broke into the camp. It was a pain.
And the criticisms of the Euros haven't changed a bit. Of course, that isn't to say that nothing's changed.
There is no more USSR, for example.
(Review) John Fund points out an interesting historical sidelight to the Kennedy election in 1960. In actuality, it appears Kennedy lost the popular vote, due to oddities of the ballot in Alabama that year.
The Democratic slate defeated Nixon, 324,050 votes to 237,981. In the end, the six unpledged electors voted for Sen. Harry Byrd of Virginia, a leading Dixiecrat, and the other five stuck with their pledge to Kennedy. When the Associated Press at the time counted up the popular vote from all 50 states it listed all the Democratic votes, pledged and unpledged, in the Kennedy column. Over the years other counts have routinely assigned all of Alabama's votes to Kennedy.
But scholars say that isn't accurate. "Not all the voters who chose those electors were for Kennedy--anything but," says historian Albert Southwick. Humphrey Taylor, the current chairman of the polling firm Louis Harris & Associates (which worked for Kennedy in 1960), acknowledges that in Alabama "much of the popular vote . . . that is credited to Kennedy's line to give him a small plurality nationally" is dubious. "Richard Nixon seems to have carried the popular vote narrowly, while Kennedy won in the Electoral College," he concludes.
Congressional Quarterly, the respected nonpartisan chronicler of Washington politics, spent some effort in the 1960s to come up with a fair way of counting Alabama's votes. Reporter Neil Pierce took the highest vote cast for any of the 11 Democratic electors in Alabama--324,050--and divided it proportionately between Kennedy and the unpledged electors who ended up voting for Harry Byrd.
Using that method, Kennedy was given credit for 5/11ths of the Democratic total, or 147,295 votes. Nixon's total in Alabama of 237,981 remained the same. The remaining 176,755 votes were counted as being for the unpledged electors.
With these new totals for Alabama factored in with the vote counts for the other 49 states, Nixon has a 58,181-vote plurality, edging out Kennedy 34,108,157 votes to 34,049,976. Using that calculation the 1960 election was even closer than we thought.
(Review) Robert Samuelson writes that it looks like the economy is casting its presidential vote for Geoorge W. Bush.
As a veteran TCS contributor, I can state firmly that Nick Schulz, TCS' editor, has never directed my writing in any way. Aside from questioning me in such a way as to force me to strengthen my own arguments, or to correct passages where my meaning was insufficiently clear--in short, exactly the kind of thing editors are supposed to do--Nick has left me completely free to choose my own topics, and to write essentially whatever I please.
In fact, Nick published my very first TCS piece is spite of the fact that it a) had appeared somewhere else previously, and b) contradicted the TCS editorial position.
So, if I am a shill for some corporate interests, I come by it honestly, not because anyone at TCS has suggested it to me.
(Hat Tip: Megan McArdle)
Here are some things I'm just not talking about:
If you've somehow gotten here looking for any of that stuff, well, you just won't find it here.
Not a bit of it.
And you won't find it at Indepundit, either.
And pay no attention to Xrlq's comment. "Googlebait", indeed. Well, I never.
(Review) James miller argues in TechCentralStation that libertarians are ducking the fight on homosexual marriage. That, he writes, is simply not an option.
Libertarians believe that the state should express no opinion on the morality of acts engaged in by consulting adults. Consequently, you would think that the default libertarian position on gay marriage is simply to have states never address the question of whether homosexuality is moral. Alas, on the issue of gay marriage there can be no neutral position.
If a state allowed gay couples to marry, it would clearly be endorsing gay marriage and proclaiming to America that homosexual love is equivalent or at least morally equal to its heterosexual counterpart. Through marriage the state officially endorses a relationship, so by allowing two men to wed, the state would be taking a strong moral position supporting homosexuality, a position which goes against the religious views of many Americans.
Of course, if the state doesn't allow gays to marry it proclaims that homosexual relationships are inferior to heterosexual ones. Married couples have legal rights that unwed couples don't possess, so by opposing gay marriage states deny homosexual couples the ability to acquire these rights. Given that much of the opposition to homosexuality is religiously based, if a state denies gays the right to marry it is essentially endorsing certain religious views of marriage.
Even if the state compromised on the issue of gay marriage and allowed just civil homosexual unions it would be taking a moral stand. The state would be claiming that gay relationships are not completely abominable, but not quite as preferable as heterosexual ones. Imagine that some state passed a law saying interracial couples couldn't marry but could still be joined in a civil union. Surely through this law the state would be criticizing interracial love.
Well, he's right. It's a toughie, and as a Libertarian, I really don't know what the principled answer should be. I do know, however, that it's a lot more complicated than the »We love each other, so that's all that matters« standard.
First, I reject the notion that marriage is simply about two people declaring their commitment to each other. It may be about that in part, but the most important part of marriage is the family aspect. As I wrote yesterday:
"The purpose of marriage is not to enshrine the beautiful love of two people. It's to legally force the man to stay around so that children can be properly raised and civilized. All that romantic crap is how we dress it up to disguise the fact that society requires marriage in order to act as a civilizing influence on men so that they don't blow off their dumpy, 40 year-old wives and children in order to buy a 'Vette and chase the local Paris Hilton when the urge strikes."
To a very large degree, the intent of marriage is to legally force men into accepting their responsibilities to provide for their families. It imposes an obligation upon them that remains even if the spousal relationship is broken and ends in divorce. Marriage is how we enfold men in a web of obligation to their mates, their children, and--to the extent that marriage prevents the wife and children from becoming public charges--to society as a whole.
Narrowing the definition of marriage to little more than a spousal relationship ignores the very real cultural and civilizational effects that marriage has in raising each new generation.
A lot of people will argue that marriage isn't about procreation, but this argument simply defies common sense. When two people get married, don't we expect them to procreate as a matter of course? Certainly procreation, and the long-term welfare of the resulting children, has something to do with marriage. If it didn't then what purpose would marriage serve? What could possibly justify the time and trouble both of getting married, as well as the expense and difficulty of getting divorced, if the only point is to show the world your love for your spouse? Marriage doesn't contain a multitude of legal restrictions and responsibilities because they all foster feelings of deep love, so let's leave the romantic notions at the door.
At the same time, what do we do with gay men and women who want to remain committed to a life partner, and who, furthermore, wish to have children, either through surrogacy or adoption? Obviously, their children are just as deserving of the legal protections of marriage as any other couple's. And, even for gays who don't want a family, what about the ability of partners to make medical decisions, inherit property, and all the other legal rights that automatically pass between married couples?
In the end, I believe this a matter for the people to decide democratically, because the Constitution offers us no guidance whatsoever on such deeply held social values. The Constitution is a wonderful document for protecting our political liberties. It does not, however, offer us any guidance on social issues, nor is it intended to. Jurists who pretend otherwise do nothing more than act as an unelected superlegislature, imposing their views on society by fiat.
And we should note that when Jurists do this, it isn't particularly helpful. It's been thirty years since the Supreme Court granted abortion rights in Roe v. Wade. I haven't noticed the issue become any less incendiary in the interim. All that's happened is that the will of the public is now totally irrelevant to the issue. That isn't, as we've clearly seen, helped calm everybody down.
I suspect that had the issue remained in the hands of the legislatures, some states would have abortion, some wouldn't, and the number of public protests, judicial confirmation wars, and national electoral politics would be vastly different. And far less strident.
We have to accept that the Constitution cannot address every issue in society, nor can it offer us reliable guidance in moral judgment. That simply isn't its purpose.
So, then, we're left with only our conscience as a guide.
That is, I think, why libertarians are ducking out of the gay marriage fight. Because we really can't divine principles from the text of the Constitution that are helpful. The issue is, in essence, primarily a moral rather than a political issue, irrespective of it's political consequences. And libertarians tend to be uncomfortable taking stands on matters of individual morality, believing them to be...well..individual. I don't think there is a libertarian principle about gay marriage that can be universally agreed upon.
In the end, I think I would accept the notion of homosexual marriage without quibbling too much. But I certainly respect the views of those who argue that marriage is a specific arrangement between a man and a woman. I recognize that this is just too complicated for any simple answer to satisfy.
(Review) Dick Morris, whom I don't usually put much stock in, is indisputably right about this:
The Iraq issue is the biggest danger to Bush's re-election. But Bush can completely neutralize it by bringing troops home week after week during the election campaign. With each new planeload, the arguments in favor of Dean will atrophy. Even if Iraqis are killing Iraqis and Baghdad and the Sunni triangle are in chaos, Americans will not care as long as Saddam is not in power and U.S. forces aren't being killed.
And don't think W doesn't know this. All that remains to be seen is whether or not he can resist the temptation.
(Review) Jack Shafer asks, "Why is the press avoiding the Weekly Standard's intelligence scoop?"
(Review) Eliot Cohen describes what would happen if the US decided to cut its losses in Iraq, and bring the troops home.
The United States would bury its dead and get back to business. But the lessons for its political leaders, and indeed for everyone else in the world, would be simple: The United States cannot and will not, under any conditions, conduct a counterinsurgency. When it tries, drips and spurts of casualties will cause it to lose its nerve. For all potential opponents of the United States, the ultimate deterrent is not a nuclear weapon but a few dozen suicide bombers and trucks to carry them, augmented by a couple of hundred grenade-launcher-toting irregulars. Not much, all things considered. Hussein made clear in 1990 that he had learned (he thought) the lesson of Beirut 1983 -- Americans cannot take casualties. In this war he seems to have learned the "Blackhawk Down" lesson -- Americans may be able to fight a three-week conventional war, but not a multiyear guerrilla struggle. If the United States leaves Iraq under these conditions, he will be proven right. And if he pops up in person to affirm such after we leave, the evidence will be irrefutable.
Cut-and-run cannot be disguised, and the price to be paid for it would be appalling. No one else would take on the burdens of Iraq; talk of handing it over to the United Nations or NATO is wishfulness, not strategy. Whatever one's view of the war's rationale, conception, planning or conduct, our war it remains, and we had best figure out how to win it.
We'd better figure out that we're in this thing for the long haul, too.
(Review) Feminist professor, author, and civil libertarian Phyllis Chesler has learned a lesson that, really, she should have learned a long time ago: Never violate the political orthodoxy of the Left. Her mistake was to write a new book in which she declares that anti-Semitism is, you know, a bad thing.
Unfortunately, she learned that, for many on the Left, feelings are a bit different.
On Saturday evening, November 8, 2003, the eve of Kristallnacht, I addressed a woman's "networking" conference of mainly African-American and Hispanic-American womanists and feminists at Barnard College. The conference was described as a grassroots, multi-cultural, multi-generational and multi-disciplinary organization for women in the arts. Indeed, the women seemed to range in age from 20-65 and were dressed in corporate business suits, ever-colorful African/ethnic attire, youthful jeans.
Booths were arranged in a semi-circle--it was as if the panels and performances were taking place in an African marketplace. Scented candles, beaded drums, sleek handbags, photographs, Citi-banking for women consultants, African skirts, all vied for my attention.
I had been asked to talk about what women can do, psychologically and ethically, in order to enact sisterhood and to work in productive, even radical ways. As I spoke, the women in the audience sighed, cheered, applauded, nodded in agreement, laughed, groaned, nudged each other--it was a half hour of good vibes.
And then my first questioner blew it all to Hell. All it took was The Question and it only required one Questioner. I could not see who was speaking. A disembodied voice demanded to know where I stood on the question of the women of Palestine. Her tone was forceful, hostile, relentless, and prepared.
The lightning rod of "Palestine" was enough to turn a very friendly audience quite hostile and a bit unhinged. Two or three women proceeded to ask aggressive questions in which they tried to get me to say that I had somehow "disrespected" poor women in my remarks; I had said nothing of the sort.
As I left the podium, a young African-American woman stopped me to say that I'd "hurt" her by how I had "disrespected" a "brown" woman. "What brown woman?" I asked. "Your first questioner was a brown woman" she said "and so are Palestinian women." I said: "Jewish women, especially in Israel also come in many colors including brown and black." She stopped me. "But you're a white Jew." As if this was proof of a crime.
The three young African-American women who had invited me were VERY supportive of me, they hugged me and thanked me for coming and looked rather embarrassed about what had happened.
What's important is this: Not one of them tried to stop what was happening, not one stood up and said: "Something good has just turned ugly and we must not permit this to happen." Thus, the "good" people did nothing to disperse the hostility or to address the issues.
Here's what's sad. Clearly, my speech touched hearts and minds; there was room for common ground and for civilized discourse. But not once the word "Palestine" was uttered, not when "Palestine" is seen as a symbol for every downtrodden group of color who are "resisting" the racist-imperialist American and Zionist Empires. Once the "Palestine" litmus test of political respectability was raised, everyone responded on cue, as if programmed and brainwashed. It immediately became a "white" versus "brown" thing, an "oppressed" versus an "oppressor" thing.
These are the Brownshirts of our time. The fact that they are women of color, womanists/feminists is all the more chilling and tragic. And unbelievable. And to me: Practically unbearable.
A few years ago, I belonged to a newsgroup devoted to debunking young-earth creationist "science". Naturally, the sentiment of many group members were well to the left of me, and the group moderator was essentially a socialist, and an activist for the Industrial Workers of the World, the famous socialist trade union.
For several weeks, everything went swimmingly, until somehow, a political discussion got started. As soon as I deviated from the orthodoxy of the group's moderator, I came under instant attack as a closet "fundie", who was trying to infiltrate the group. Not having the time to deal with that kind of foolishness, I left the group.
Really, I don't know why Dr. Chesler is so surprised. Intolerance for opposing points of view has been the primary characteristic of the Left for nearly a century.
For example, try getting a job on the faculty of university if you are a conservative. Heck, try distributing a conservative newsletter if you're a student.
Have doubts about the wisdom of homosexual marriage? Well, then, you're just a vicious bigot.
Think Affirmative Action is unconstitutional? Ah, well that's because you're an unregenerate racist.
Think that illegal immigration should be curtailed? That's because you're an ignorant xenophobe, you see.
Do you think Roe v. Wade was improperly decided? Ah, you must be from the Taliban wing of the Republican party, and prefer your women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, and presumably silent as well, you troglodyte Neanderthal.
It just gets tiring, really.
Maybe Dr. Chesler has never noticed this because she's always been part of the orthodoxy before. The Left can just smother you with warm, fuzzy goodness when you're saying what they want to hear. But, step out of line, as Dr. Chesler did, and all the sudden, nobody's giving out hugs to you, anymore. At least, as Dr. Chesler found out, not where everyone else can see them. Not where it does any good.
Being a libertarian, I can argue with conservatives all the time, without being made to feel like I'm some kind of subhuman for disagreeing with them on abortion, drug legalization, homosexual marriage, or any of a number of other issues.
Too bad that it's not really possible to do that with most people on the Left these days.
(Review) Despite moving to allow a much earlier resumption of Iraqi sovreignty than originally planned, George W. Bush, in his speech last night at Whitehall, said all the right things.
There were good-faith disagreements in your country and mine over the course and timing of military action in Iraq. Whatever has come before, we now have only two options: to keep our word or to break our word.
The failure of democracy in Iraq would throw its people back into misery and turn that country over to terrorists who wish to destroy us. Yet democracy will succeed in Iraq, because our will is firm, our word is good and the Iraqi people will not surrender their freedom.
We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq and pay a bitter cost of casualties and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins.
I certainly hope not. A lot of people, both in Big Media and in the blogosphere, have felt over the last week that the push towards an early resumption of Iraqi sovreignty signaled a willingness by the Bush Administration to let domestic politics push them into a corner.
Bush is still saying the right things, though, and having watched the Democrats consistently underestimate him for the past couple of years, I shouldn't wish to make the same mistake.
But running for re-election while a steady trickle of US casualties leads the nightly news will be a tough job. And the pressure to do something to stop the flow of casualties will certainly be hard for the president to ignore.
(Review) If you hate America, writes Mark Steyn, then it's fortunate for you that we are such a suffocating hyperpower that literally everyone can find reasons to hate it.
The fanatical Muslims despise America because it's all lapdancing and gay porn; the secular Europeans despise America because it's all born-again Christians hung up on abortion; the anti-Semites despise America because it's controlled by Jews. Too Jewish, too Christian, too Godless, America is also too isolationist, except when it's too imperialist. And even its imperialism is too vulgar and arriviste to appeal to real imperialists: let's face it, the ghastly Yanks never stick it to the fuzzy-wuzzy with the dash and élan of the Bengal Lancers, which appears to be the principal complaint of Sir Max Hastings and his ilk. To the mullahs, America is the Great Satan, a wily seducer; to the Gaullists, America is the Great Cretin, a culture so self-evidently moronic that only stump-toothed inbred Appalachian lardbutts could possibly fall for it. American popular culture is utterly worthless, except when one of its proponents - Michael Moore, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon - attacks Bush, in which case he or she is showered with European awards and sees the foreign-language rights for his latest tract sell for six figures at Frankfurt. The fact that the best-selling anti-Americans are themselves American - Moore, Chomsky - is perhaps the cruellest manifestation of the suffocating grip of the hyperpower.
Such hatreds, of course, are completely immune to human reason.
(Review) Cobb asks who owns black culture, and doesn't like the answers he finds.
The black experience continues to be interpreted by whitefolks in pop culture, wrongly, exactly as the black pimp says. What's real, via the majoritarian view of black culture, is 'Whazzap my nigga' and all you might imagine follows. But most crucially and gallingly, that blacks of refinement must heed those cultural guidlines because this is the best we can expect 'America' to recognize.
And he's certainly not happy with that. Nor will he be satisfied with it either.
Again I say that blackfolks need to do two things that are critical. The first is to adhere to their family and class identity and relationships with more ferocity than that to the fraternity of physical race. The second is that blackfolks need to fight losers, and stand in opposition to the lowbrow claims of ownership of 'black'. If you believe in Nelly's brand of black instead of Wynton Marsalis' version, then you are not on the right side of history, nor truth. Furhtermore if you're on that side, I'm looking to put you down.
The reason culture is so vital is because it encapsulates the civilization that we transmit to the next generation instead of allowing them to become noble savages. We are all, whether we like it or not, one generation away from barbarism. And "gangsta" culture, no matter how titillating, amusing, or heady with the aroma of rebellion--or financially profitable to the corporations that market it to middle-class white kids--doesn't help push back the bounds of barbarism.
African-Americans have a rich tradition of cultural and intellectual achievement in the face of the most daunting odds. That tradition is far more "black" than the pimp tradition will ever be.
The Mulatto Advocate puts it very simply: "Cobb nailed it."
Just like Cobb, I don't believe that the presence of skin color automatically guarantees "brotherhood". Point blank, I get along much better with my black neighbors than with some people I have known who lived in less affluent areas. Why? because like Cobb says, at a certain point, it ceases to be a race issue and becomes a class issue. My one of my black neighbors is a network engineer for SoCal Edison. Being a techie myself, I can relate to him. Our wives stay at home with the kids. We cut our lawns and wash our cars on Saturday mornings. His boys play baseball and soccer. My boys play football.
But somehow, this is never the reality that the media embraces. It's not hip enough I guess. There's just nothing sexy about people of color with high 5-figure salaries and stay at home wives living in the suburbs. My problem with all of this is that people like Cobb and myself and my neighbor who have worked hard and rejected victim status still have to overcome the image projected by the media. The image of the Least Common Denominator.
No, nothing sexy about it at all. Just the workaday process of maintaining a civilization that we can, with some modicum of pride, turn over to our children.
That aside, however, it would certainly be nice to see the horizons of the media expanded beyond the Least Common Denominator.
Photo: Reuters/Marion Curtis
Photo: AP Photo/Getty Images/Frank Micelotta
(Review) David Limbaugh writes:
It is difficult to quantify the degree of misinformation, hypocrisy, malevolence and impropriety issuing from Democratic ranks in their shameless hijacking of the president's judicial appointment power.
And that's just the lede.
(Review) The editors of the Arizona Republic are asking the same questions I am about W's about-face on the occupation of Iraq.
The administration announced over the weekend that the transition to an Iraqi-led government would be speeded up dramatically. An Iraqi provisional government is planned to be in place by next June, and an elected government by the end of 2005.
In addition, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday that he is seeking an expanded United Nations role in helping that transition occur, as well as help from the NATO international alliance with Europe, which may include putting U.S. troops under NATO's leadership.
Those are striking changes, announced suddenly over the weekend after hastily arranged meetings between National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and the coalition's civilian leader in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer.
It is difficult to look at those spectacular, potentially perilous policy changes and not see George Bush's finger to the political winds.
Indications all, of a mission shift to "Reelect me in 2004" from "A stable, free, and democratic Iraq". Of course, having said that, unless the former occurs, the chances of the latter happening will undoubtedly be even more remote.
(Review) In the NY Times today, Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel and Prof. Victor Fuchs outline their proposal for universal health coverage.
In a morally responsible country, everyone should have health insurance. Each family or individual would be given a voucher to purchase a policy that covered basic services, including doctor visits, hospitalization, pharmacy benefits, some mental health and dental care, and catastrophic coverage. People who want more services, like wider choices of specialists, could pay a premium over the basic voucher.
This would continue to be a decentralized system with existing health plans contracting with providers, but their insurance would no longer be employment-based. That Americans receive insurance from their employer is a relic of World War II wage controls. It has one advantage — pooling people to reduce premiums — but many disadvantages, including locking people into jobs so they can continue to receive health coverage and allowing employers to choose insurance providers. It has also become an albatross for businesses. Without costly insurance worries, companies could compete for workers by offering higher wages and better working conditions.
A voucher system would also enable the government to end Medicaid and phase out Medicare. Having multiple health care systems squanders resources. All Medicaid recipients would receive vouchers. Each year, those who normally age into Medicare would be enrolled in the voucher plan instead. Current beneficiaries who preferred traditional coverage would not be forced to switch, although after total Medicare enrollment dropped sufficiently, the program would be amalgamated into the voucher system.
One consistent concern about vouchers is that health plans would have financial incentives to avoid the sick. But requiring each insurance company to offer a basic package with catastrophic coverage would insure that individuals with greater needs would not be excluded. More important, the voucher system would pay insurers part of their cost as a lump sum and part as a reimbursement fee for actual services rendered, reducing the incentive for insurers to avoid sick patients.
There are, I think, a number of things that we want to ensure that Universal Coverage does, and which this plan seems to provide. They are, in no particular order:
I think the last thing we want is a direct, single-payer system. If we are, in fact, going to move towards universal coverage--and I think it's indisputable that we are--then doing so in a way that allows consumers to pick and choose among health plans, and purchase additional health coverage if they desire, is an important goal. Additionally, preventing the nationalization of health care providers is an important goal as well.
As the authors point out, the government already picks up about half of the tab for health care under our current system. The government pays the whole shebang for Medicare and Medicaid already, plus the billions of dollars in lost revenue that the government foregos because it allows businesses to write off their health care expenses.
What this plan lacks, it seems to me, is an adequate mechanism for restraining medical costs. The authors write:
More important, using an earmarked tax to pay for the vouchers would limit cost increases. The level of the tax would determine the value of the voucher. If the public began demanding an increase in the voucher value, it would be directly linked to higher taxes, moderating these demands and health care inflation.
I'm not sure that this is entirely true. It limits the amount of money available to pay higher prices, but I don't see where this controls the factors that cause prices to rise in the first place, especially the price of tort costs, which have jacked up the cost of malpractice insurance for doctors to stratospheric levels.
Medical prices, after all, are not rising because we all have a lot more money to spend on medical care. So, defining the value of the voucher doesn't seem to me to be the solution to rising medical costs.
Moreover, it seems to me that by directing insurers to provide a defined benefit for a voucher price mandated by the government you run the risk of bankrupting insurers if medical costs do continue to rise, but insurers are prevented from increasing their prices to cover the increased costs.
As the authors write, there is much more thinking to be done on the issue. I find their cost-control mechanism to be laughably ineffective without serious tort reform. Additionally, I think restraining demand by requiring fee-based co-payments would be desirable as well, as a means of forcing individuals to ration their own health care.
But I am attracted by the idea of vouchers. It would keep the government out of the health care provider business, for the most part, provide some choice for consumers, and free employers from the health-care mandate (and remove an increasing source of labor tensions).
There is, at least, something to talk about here.
(Review) Ralph Peters writes that, as we watch Britons fill the streets of London in rage against George W. Bush, it will do us well to remember why the European Left hates us so much.
Europe's left so hates America and all it stands for that the dictators have become "their dictators." Of course, European intellectuals supported Stalin, too. But it can only amaze anyone who believes in elementary human rights that America is pilloried for putting an end to a murderous regime.
On one level, the European left's protests against all things American are understandable. We won, they lost. All their cherished rhetoric led only to the Gulag in the East and to bankrupt welfare states in the West. Now, the East, where terror reigned, aligns with America, further angering the West Europeans who lived on credit for the past 50 years, loafing in the shade of America's might.
President Bush is an especially appealing target for their scorn, since he's the least European U.S. president since Andrew Jackson. Bush speaks awkwardly, but acts powerfully. The European ideal is a politician who speaks beautifully and does nothing.
As the protesters parade in front of the cameras, Americans should be proud of the great thing we've done in Iraq. We haven't done it perfectly, but perfection isn't a common human trait. We've served the cause of freedom, even as "Old Europe" accused us of fabricated sins.
I am unfazed by European snarkiness and pretensions to moral or cultural superiority. As I have often said, considering that the Europeans have spent the best part of the last century either engaged in, ignoring, or appeasing armed aggression, totalitarianism, and genocide, then requiring American military and economic might to rescue them from the results of their folly, I not particularly inclined to grant that Europeans have a claim to moral superiority about...well...anything.
(Review) In yet another example of an American court finding new rights in a Constitution that its framers had no idea was there, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that the state constitution requires that gay couples be allowed to get married.
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that same-sex couples are legally entitled to wed under the state constitution, but stopped short of immediately allowing marriage licenses to be issued to the couples who challenged the law.
The court is giving the Legislature 180 days to "take such action as it may deem appropriate in light of this decision."
The opinion itself is chock full of the kind of fuzzy thinking we've become used to seeing from courts that legislate from the bench. Take this, for instance:
In ruling that the Commonwealth could not do so, the court observed that the Massachusetts Constitution "affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals," and "forbids the creation of second-class citizens." It reaches its conclusion, the court said, giving "full deference to the arguments made by the Commonwealth." The Commonwealth, the court ruled, "has failed to identify any constitutionality adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples."
I love those last two sentences. "Oh we give full deference to the state's arguments. We reject them completely, of course, but we do it in a really, really deferential way." That's just sophistry.
As is the first sentence that talks about "second-class citizens." This has nothing to do with classes of citizenship. The issue is whether the people of Massachusetts, through their elected representatives, may define what constitutes a marriage within the Commonwealth.
Also at issue is whether the "right" to gay marriage the Court defines today actually exists, since no one in Mass has been aware of it for the previous 200 years.
The "marriage ban" the court held, "works a deep and scarring hardship" on same-sex families "for no rational reason."
Well, that isn't precisely true. The state presented a number of rational reasons, but a majority of the Court simply rejected them because they contradicted the desired result. I mean, let's at least be honest about what happened.
It prevents children of same-sex couples "from enjoying the immeasurable advantages that flow from the assurance of 'a stable family structure in which children will be reared, educated, and socialized."'
And how often, precisely do same-sex couples have children?
"It cannot be rational under our laws," the court held, "to penalize children by depriving them of State benefits" because of their parents' sexual oreintation [sic].
Yeah, except no one is denying them those benefits because of their parents' orientation. They are being denied because their parents aren't married, which is a bit different.
The court rejected the Commonwealth's claim that the primary purpose of marriage was procreation. Rather, the history of the marriage laws in the Commonwealth demonstrates that "it is the exclusive and permanent commitment of the marriage partners to one another, not the begetting of children, that is the sine qua non of marriage."
That's just factually wrong. The purpose of marriage is not to enshrine the beautiful love of two people. It's to legally force the man to stay around so that children can be properly raised and civilized. All that romantic crap is how we dress it up to disguise the fact that society requires marriage in order to act as a civilizing influence on men so that they don't blow off their dumpy, 40 year-old wives and children in order to buy a 'Vette and chase the local Paris Hilton when the urge strikes.
The amusing thing here is that the end result of this 4-3 decision (now there's a landslide for you) has been held in abeyance for 180 days in order for the legislature to act in the wake of this decision. Since the legislature is, even as we speak, preparing to amend the Mass constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, there's a pretty good chance that this decision will end up being completely pointless.
Look, I have no opinion whatsoever on whether the people of the Commonwealth should allow homosexuals to get married. But it is a matter for the elected representatives in the legislature to decide--or the people themselves through a referendum. It is not an issue for the courts to decide by creating new constitutional rights by fiat.
Indeed, it probably would be wise for the state legislature to at least acknowledge the existence of gay partnerships by legislating the appropriate probate, medical, and property rights for same-sex couples. But there is often a vast gulf between what is unwise and what is unconstitutional. The problem is that courts increasingly are unable to acknowledge that gulf, so that »unwise« and »unconstitutional« become essentially the same thing.
I am reminded of the story of Judge Learned Hand, who after a lunch with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, was overcome with enthusiasm as Holmes' carriage departed to return to the Supreme Court. "Do justice, Sir! Do justice," cried Hand as the carriage pulled away.
Holmes ordered the carriage stopped, then said to Judge Hand, "That is not my job, Sir. My job is to apply the law."
Would that jurists believed that today.
(Review) I have posted the HTML special character codings, in case you need a ready reference for them.
I need it because I can never remember the HTML coding for the darned things.
(Review) I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. If you aren't regularly reading the Q and O blog, then you're just missing out on all kinds of bloggy goodness.
Jon Henke is full of interesting observations like this, and I think a regular perusal would be well worth your time.
Photo: Reuters/Pool/Laura Rauch
Photo: Reuters/Pool/Laura Rauch
Photo: Reuters/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus
Photo: Reuters/Larry Downing
Photo: Wirepix (via Reuters)/Medialink/Jim Sulley
Photo: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
(Review) Now, this is just odd. Five years ago, a garden building at the Budapest University of Arts was closed for construction. About a year ago, someone evidently broke in and hung himself.
So, yesterday, the building was opened for repairs to begin. Since there was so much modern art strewn about, onlookers thought the body was a modern sculpture of some kind.
Today, they finally realized it was a stiff, and called the cops.
I'm not exactly sure what that says about modern art, but it can't be good.
(Review) Peter Brookes writes in the NY Post that the quick turnover of sovereignty in Iraq to the IGC certainly smells suspiciously like a retreat.
The abrupt recall of Coalition Provisional Authority czar Paul Bremer to Washington for emergency consultations must have left jihadists cheering and Ba'athists guerrillas high-fiving each other. From Vietnam (1973) to Lebanon (1983) to Somalia (1993), America's enemies have come to believe the United States has no stomach for casualties - that we are nothing more than a paper tiger.
Now they wonder if the Americans are looking to cut and run from Iraq (2003) by turning over power to the Iraqis as soon as possible - perhaps even prematurely.
Handing over the reins of government before Iraq is stabilized - and before the Iraqis are ready to run it - would be a mistake. No matter how politically expedient it may be to bring U.S. troops home quickly, we can't allow ourselves to hurry so much that we fall short of our real goal: an open, free Iraq.
Doing anything less than assuring Iraq's transition to a fully-functioning, stable democracy in the heart of the troubled Middle East would be a major strategic blunder in the long term.
Of course, we want to return sovereignty to the Iraqis as soon as possible. But turning power over to an incompetent authority is a recipe for disaster.
From all accounts, the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) is not ready for prime time: For now, at least, it's incapable of administering Iraq and dealing with the growing insurgency.
I sure hope he's wrong. I hope I'm wrong.
(Review) In an update to Calblog's Justene Adamec's problems with Infotel, Aaron, or Aaron's Rantblog has provided a nice graphic.
My original post outlining Justene's problem with Infotel Publications--a company that is allegedly so crooked that its principals have to have a brace of security guards to help them screw their pants on each morning¹--can be found here.
¹ Why, yes, it is another Hunter S. Thompson reference.
(Review) Jose Padilla, the American citizen the government says was part of an Al-Qaeda "dirty bomb" plot, will have his case heard by the 2nd Circuit Court of appeals.
Padilla has been held without bail, without access to counsel, and without trial, since June of 2002. Remember, he's an native-born American citizen.
As is, by the way, Louisiana native Esam Hamdi, who was captured fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan, along with Californian John Walker Lindh. Lindh, however, was not declared an enemy combatant, so he's already had his trial. Padilla and Hamdi are still being held incommunicado, without bail.
And, remember, they are both American citizens. I simply don't get too excited about what happens to the foreigners we've captured. But American citizens are a whole different ballgame, and the Bush Administration's decision that they can simply hold indefinitely and without charges American citizens who are "enemy combatants" bothers me immensely.
The most glaring problem with the "enemy combatants" designation is that it seems to mean anything the Bush Administration wants it to mean. Hamdi, of course, was caught red-handed carrying an AK-47 in Afghanistan. He's a slam dunk as an enemy combatant. Padilla, on the other hand, was picked up in the airport in Chicago. And, as far as I can tell, Padilla never carried a gun, or participated in combat against US forces at any time, at any place in the world. So how does he magically become an "enemy combatant" without actually doing any...uh...combatting?
And what about young Johnny Lindh? He was as much an enemy combatant as Hamdi was, yet he walked almost scot-free. Why wasn't he dumped into a Navy brig indefinitely like Padilla, who, as far as we know, didn't fight for the Taliban like Lindh did?
"Enemy combatant" appears to be a designation of rather imprecise meaning, to say the least.
Look, for both Padilla and Hamdi, I don't know why we don't just put 'em in front of a military tribunal for treason and then shoot 'em, if the evidence is as good as the government says it is. Again, for Hamdi, it'd be a slam dunk. We could open his tribunal at eight, and have him in front of firing squad by five. And we could have had Johnny Lind in front of a firing squad in a trice, too, since he was also caught red-handed.
But, if the evidence isn't there for Padilla, then let him go. If it is, then try him. That's the system we're supposed to have, not this eternal twilight detention.
Indeed, this indefinite detention is, as far as I can tell, unconstitutional. Art II, §9, Clause 2 of the Constitution says habeas corpus can be suspended, but it doesn't say who has the power to do it. It's placement in Art II implies that it's a congressional power, not a presidential one; however, the text of the Constitution is silent on this point, which opens the habeas corpus clause up to various interpretations in terms of how it may be invoked, and by whom.
Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus on his own authority in 1861. Congress was not in session at the time, so Lincoln, acting on the advice of his attorney general, declared that, as Congress was not in session, its powers devolved upon him as the nation's Chief Magistrate, and he suspended habeas corpus. This was quite controversial, but Congress retroactively approved the suspension in 1863, and maintained it until 1866.
In either case, however, it would seem to me that some formal act, either by the president or by Congress, would be required in order to suspend habeas corpus. Doing it administratively, as the Bush Administration has done by simply declaring Padilla and Hamdi to be "enemy combatants" seems to me to skirt important constitutional liberties at the very least.
What the Bush administrations wants, it seems to me, is the ability to quietly suspend habeas corpus whenever they feel like it through the enemy combatant designation, but without having to formally suspend it and take the political heat that the public controversy on the issue would inevitably generate. They want all the benefits of a suspension, without paying any of the political price.
The Administration already lost on this issue in the trial court, and appealed immediately. I hope the 2nd Circuit will uphold the trial court's ruling.
Then Padilla can have a fair trial before his hanging.
(Review) I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, but David Aaronovitch tells Guardian readers that, rather than protesting Bush's visit to their country, perhaps they should reflect on--and appreciate--what America has done for the world.
The double standards here are obvious but worth a reminder. During the week anti-Bush protesters will, we're told, be splashing red paint to symbolise the spilled blood of the people of Iraq. No such red paint was splashed around London after Halabja, after the 1991 Shia and Kurdish uprisings or during the Iran-Iraq war, almost as if that were not real Iraqi blood. Blood, after all, is only blood if Americans spill it.
No crimson splotches were created during the state visit of Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu in 1978, a visit which - because of Romania's semi-dissident position in the Soviet bloc - suited both cold warriors and sections of the Left. Earlier this year the Chechnya-enmired President Putin escaped almost any kind of demonstration.
The slogan 'Yanks Go Home' has always had more potency than, say, 'Romanian murderer go home'. And the danger has always been the same - that the protesters might get the thing they asked for. The fact is that many in the States harbour the same dream; but for them it is the dream of isolation. In an election year, when the sitting President is involved in a costly foreign exercise, the cries of the opposition tend not to be for more involvement but for far less. And for higher steel tariffs.
With body-bags returning from Iraq, there is a real dynamic growing behind disengagement. In the intellectual sphere this is to be found in the current critique of what is known as 'Wilsonianism', the idea originating with President Woodrow Wilson that the US should 'make the world safe for democracy'.
This argument might be 'Wilsonian', but the alternative is to shred our Amnesty reports, disband our human rights commissions, and cut off our support for democrats, on the basis that it is better to leave it alone; better to stay out. Who are we, after all, to conclude that the Iraqis don't quite like being tortured by their own leaders? As the anti-Bush writer Gore Vidal said on Australian radio recently when asked about their plight under Saddam: 'Don't you think that's their problem? That's not your problem and that's not my problem. There are many bad regimes on Earth, we can list several hundred... at the moment I would put the Bush regime as one of them.'
Far-off countries of which we know nothing¹. Or, on a more practical level, where doing less risky things might be more in our interests. A senior ex-military man said to me that, in his opinion, the Iraqi invasion had been unnecessary because 'containment was working. Sanctions were working. No-fly was working'. Only the Iraqi people were suffering, almost extravagantly, from the combination of sanctions plus Saddam. But at least no bodies were returning in RAF transports.
I don't want the Americans to go home. In fact I am terrified of what would happen if they did. Their going home in the past has often meant suffering for others. Sure, I want them to change. I want more consistency. I want Bush to stop tolerating the nastystans of Central Asia, to tell Ariel where to get off, to treat allies with more respect, to dump the hubristic neo-cons, to sign up to Kyoto, to reverse 'he who is not with me is against me' to 'he who is not against me is with me'. I would like acknowledgment of the mistakes and crimes of the past. I would quite like Bush to become Wesley Clark.
But our enemy is not America. It isn't America that gives the most effective support to Sharonic intransigence - it's Israeli insecurity that does that. It isn't America that sends ambulances to blow up aid workers or Istanbul synagogues. It is America, above all, that is bearing the cost of helping to create a new Iraq - a new Iraq which, despite the violence, is being born in towns such as Hilla and cities such as Basra. And yet some of our writers and protesters - betraying their own professed ideals - identify with bombers and not teachers, administrators and policemen who are building the country.
Where is the red paint to protest against the blasts at Najaf, of the UN in Baghdad, of the Red Cross, of the synagogues, of the Bali night-club, of the Arab-Jewish restaurant in Haifa? Where are the 'No Suicide Bombings' posters in the Muswell Hill windows? Or do you really believe we can save ourselves by constructing a huge wall around these islands, or around America, and painting it with smileys? That maybe then the ills of the world will leave us alone?
I think even the most rabid anti-Bush partisan--deep down inside--knows the answers to those questions.
¹ This is such a good line! In case you don't know what it refers too, I will tell you. In 1938, Hitler was threatening Czechoslovakia, whose independence was guaranteed by France and Britain. Rather than go to war over the Czechs, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew--for the first time in his life--to Munich, in order to tell Hitler that he could essentially do whatever he wanted to Czechoslovakia. Upon his return to Britain, Chamberlain defended selling out the Czechs by reminding Britons in a nationally broadcast address that the dispute between Germany and Czechoslovakia was "a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing." For Britons of today, this line of the article makes a great point about the dangers of appeasement.
(Review) Mark Steyn is trying to figure out just what it is Bush's people think his trip to Great Britain is going to accomplish.
When the crazies jumping up and down in the street yelling "Death to the Great Satan!" are the citizenry of your closest ally, you can bet there will be at least a few Democratic presidential candidates ready to make hay and demanding to know, "Who lost Britain?" The argument will be that these scenes demonstrate just how total America's isolation is. Rumour already has it that certain elements in the rogue State Department set Bush up for this debacle to remind him in the starkest way just what happens when you listen to hard men like Rummy instead of the emollient types at Foggy Bottom.
Perhaps they did. Or perhaps it is just the State Department's usual incompetence, that they failed to understand just how much more complicated Iraq's political dynamic is in Britain: most of Mr Blair's party opposed the war, but so did many ex-John Major cabinet heavyweights (if you'll pardon the oxymoron) and a hefty chunk of Telegraph group columnists. The many anglospherist romantics on the US Right ought to note not the loonies in the street but the lack of any really spirited rebuttal from much of the UK establishment.
As to the derangement of the crowd, they are impervious to reason. After two years of warnings from clapped-out Arabists that the incendiary "Arab street" was about to explode in anti-American rage across the Middle East, it remains as unrousable as ever. Instead, it is the explosive European street that remains implacably pro-Saddam, pro-Yasser, pro-jihad, pro-Taliban misogynist homophobes, pro-anyone as long as they are anti-American.
It's a puzzler to me, too. And what does Tony Blair get out of it? His own party despises Bush. And the rest of Britain isn't, shall we say, enthralled with W, either. So a photo op with W seems like a net negative for Tony, too.
(Review) The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt has the same fears I do about the Bush Administration's announcement of June as "Give Iraq Back to the Iraqis" Month.
Yes, good things are happening in Iraq. Markets are bustling, traffic is snarled. Iraqis are taking advantage of new freedoms with newspapers, political parties, town councils.
But the progress is not sustainable if the United States loses the war that is still being waged against it. And at the moment, in key ways, it is losing.
Occupation authorities have been forced into such a hunkered-down isolation that many of Paul Bremer's assistants might as well be working in Crystal City. They would meet as many Iraqis, and the phones would work better.
Through a deliberate and ruthless strategy, the enemy also is isolating the Iraqi people from the world, at the very moment when -- after decades of a stifling dictatorship -- what they need most is contact. Terrorists are killing Americans to undermine political support in the United States for the occupation; they are killing U.S. allies, United Nations officials and Red Cross workers in a successful effort to force such foreigners to leave (and others not to come); they are assassinating Iraqis who cooperate with the United States.
For that reason, transferring authority to Iraqis, while desirable if done in the right way, will not quell the fighting. Saddam Hussein's henchmen would seek to destroy a U.N. authority or a democratic Iraqi authority just as mercilessly as they are opposing U.S. authority. Their motivation is not anti-Americanism or nationalism, though they may invoke both, but a determination to maintain their power and access to wealth.
The difficulty is that the administration's emerging strategy is susceptible to two interpretations. Hastening the training of Iraqi forces could be an important step toward improving intelligence and freeing American soldiers for more aggressive operations; or it could be a prelude to America's turning over an unfinished operation to an unready force. When senior officials sugarcoat the current situation, they naturally raise suspicions that they are tending toward the latter option -- that they are fooling themselves, or think they can fool the rest of us, about what it will take to win.
OK. Fair enough. Maybe I'm being too pessimistic. But I don't think anyone ever lost money by overestimating the ability of politicians to fool themselves into thinking that they are getting the job done when, in fact, they aren't.
(Review) Robert W. Tracinski writes that Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) have vowed to get some sort of new Federal "Hate Crimes" statute passed before the end of the current session.
It's hard to think of any principle in criminal law that is more threatening to our liberties than the idea of "hate crimes".
The proposed law declares that criminals motivated by a government-designated set of intolerable ideas -- racism, sexism, religious sectarianism, anti-homosexuality -- deserve special prosecution and additional punishment.
But to subject someone to trial and punishment on the basis of his ideas -- regardless of how despicable those ideas might be -- constitutes a politicization of criminal law. Why, for example, should a racist be prosecuted for the special crime of targeting blacks, while the Unabomber is not subject to special prosecution for his hatred of scientists and business executives? The only answer is that the Unabomber's ideas are considered more "politically correct" than the racist's.
A "hate crimes" law would expand the law's concern from criminal action to "criminal thought." It would institute the premise that the purpose of our legal system is not to defend the rights of the victim, but to punish socially unacceptable ideas. This is a premise that should be abhorrent to a free society.
The whole idea behind hate crimes is that government can be especially nasty to you if you were thinking certain prohibited thoughts while committing a crime.
And the government gets to decide which thoughts are prohibited.
(Review) After 5 weeks in drug rehab, Rush Limbaugh will come back to his radio show today. I'm hoping that this whole unfortunate episode will make Rush a little more tolerant of drug users now, and will inform his views on the drug war in a more libertarian and compassionate fashion.
(Review) Finally, today is the day that the incompetent, indecisive weasel known as Gray Davis will be driven out of Sacramento like some sort of poison troll¹. Today's inaugural--unlike Gray Davis' first inaugural, where $3.5 million of the taxpayers' money was spent--will be a quiet, no-frills affair. There will be no inaugural ball, or parades. Just the swearing in, a few official luncheons, the Arnold will be at work in the governor's office by this afternoon.
And, considering that Donna Arduin, the new finance director is painting a picture of brutal fiscal mismanagement in Sacramento, he probably should get to work right away.
Schwarzenegger, [Arduin] said, will assume a state debt of almost $25 billion, plus a continuing mismatch between revenues and spending that each year adds up to about $13 billion to $14 billion.
If nothing were done to fix the imbalance, she said, the grand total of the state's deficit would add up in 3 1/2 years to $62 billion. The state's total annual budget is a little more than $100 billion.
"We knew this was going to be bad," she said. "But the fact is that it's staggering. The fiscal and financial problems that the governor-elect is inheriting are breathtaking, and time is running out to fix the problem."
And how much help will be available from the Democrats, who, after all, control every other statewide elected office, as well as both houses of the legislature?
"The needs and demands are greater than the revenue being generated," he said. "Our greatest challenge is to balance the budget in a way that's responsible and does not move California backward in our most important investments -- education, health care and law enforcement."
In other words, "We don't want to cut spending, anywhere, for any reason." Which means, of course, in the Democrat view, tax hikes will be necessary. <sarcasm>Imagine that. Democrats supporting a tax hike. Who would have thought they'd ever see that, huh?</sarcasm>
You know, five years ago, we were spending less than $60 billion a year. Now, it's $100 billion. That's a spending increase that's more than twice the rate of population growth and inflation combined. But, the Democrats don't want to "move California backward", i.e., spend less money.
This is what just kills me about the left. Increases in government spending are always «progress.» Spending cuts are always «moving backwards.» Must be great to be able to define your terms that way.
I suspect that any solution Arnold comes up with will be rejected by the Democrats in the legislature. At the end of the day, Arnold will have to do what Hiram Johnson did in 1910-1911. Go directly to the people with his message, and force the politicians in Sacramento to clean up their acts.
Which, if it resulted in forcing the aging San Francisco hippies out of the legislature, would be a very good thing, indeed.
¹ To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson.
(Review) Calblog's Justene Adamec is under assault by knee-biting legal reptiles from a Canadian company called Infotel Publications.
Now get this: they want to shut her down not for anything she wrote, but for what some commentors wrote in response to her post.
As far as I can tell, this Infotel outfit appears to be running a scam whereby they claim you ordered a $300 business directory when, in fact, you did not. They then threaten you with a legal pummeling unless you pay up.
Their lame, suck web site can be found here. Really bad web site design, ca 1996. Somebody need to tell their web design team to join us in the new millennium.
Anyway, Justene has had to shut down part of her comments, because she'll have to defend herself against these bâtards. So, I guess it's fortunate that she's a lawyer.
The Bear Flag League, of course, is lining up full square behind Justene against these weasels.
(Review) The Iraqi Governing Council--presumably with White House approval--has just announced that the American occupation of Iraq will end by...wait for it...June 2004.
As far as I'm concerned, this is a pretty strong indication that the Bush Administration's timing for leaving Iraq is based on domestic political calculations, and not the chances of success in Democratizing Iraq.
Now maybe I'm wrong, and Bush Administration's cunning plan will make Iraq a paradise on earth by May.
But I doubt it.
(Review) This is a big issue, especially for me, since I learned after my heart attack two weeks ago that I am diabetic.
A cure for insulin-dependent diabetes may be in sight after United States scientists not only halted the disease in mice, but reversed it.
Planned patient trials could lead to a cure for the disorder, scientists say.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said they had reversed the disease in mice by injecting them with spleen cells from healthy animals.
The work was a follow up to research in 2001 in which spleen cells called splenocytes were shown to halt the auto-immune process behind type 1 diabetes.
The last two weeks have been the biggest change of my life, and while I haven't talked about it, because this blog really isn't a chronicle of my health problems, it's been a very tough couple of weeks in many ways.
It would be very nice if I could go back to the way things used to be in my pre-diabetes days.
(Hat Tip: Pejman)
(Review) James Lileks is a bit upset. Several things have torked him off this week, including Michael Moore.
There have been many things I've wished to write about this week. Michael Moore went to Germany and slammed America up and down for all the usual reasons--we don't have passports! We only speak English! Our stupid minds! Stupid, stupid! We're not like the cultured Europeans, who--aside from their occasional continent-shattering spasms of facism--are the epp-EEO-tomay of culture and enlightenment. This, in the same week that a survey of EUians named Israel as the greatest threat to world peace. (Sometimes I swear that if a European hits his thumb with a hammer when no one's around, he shouts GODDAMN JEWS!)
A lot of other things have gotten his dander up, too, but you'll have to go there to find out about them.
(Review) John Cole over at Balloon Juice has a few thoughts over the Tom Tomorrow/Chickenhawk deal.
At any rate, I think we should all be able to agree that the chickenhawk slur is not an argument, not a set of reasoning, not fact based, but merely an insult designed to stifle debate. If you can't think about any other reasons, at least look at the fact that our Founding Fathers saw no reason for military experience to be a requirement to become President. And what, with the War Powers Act and Congress controlling the funding, there is no military service requirement there, either. All of Congress could be composed of chickenhawks- egads!
At any rate, even if the term doesn't die, I am done with it. When I hear someone say it in public, I will fumble around in my pocket for a mint, or a piece of gum, or a lollipop, and I will hand it to whoever said it so they have something to occupy their feeble mind, just like a toddler trying to wait patiently in a Doctor's office. When I am reading online, I am going to mentally subsitute the following phrase every time I see the word 'chickenhawk:'
Look at big stupid me! I can't form an argument and I am going to to try to shut up those who can.
I'll certainly go along with that.
(Review) Joshua Claybourn has officially announced that his support for George W. Bush in 2004 is officially up for grabs.
But over the past three years - essentially since George W. Bush has taken office - conservatism's role in the party has come into question. I've listened and tried to understand the logic put forth by some in the GOP that Bush's brand of politics is the best option available. After a few years contemplating this predicament I've come to the conclusion that that's just not so. Here is a condensed list of complaints.
Now, I'm not so much a conservative as I am a libertarian with some rightist leanings. But a lot of what Josh says strikes a chord with me. Oh, I'm pro-choice, and pro-legalization, so those issues aren't really ones where I'm concerned about Bush's lack of leadership.
But I think the president has a lot to answer for in his unwillingness to stand up for our basic constitutional liberties, for fiscal responsibility, or for free trade.
The really bothersome thing, of course, is what alternative do I have? It's not like Howard Dean is going to be any better in any way. And in the area of foreign policy, where I am admittedly, an absolute hawk, Dean is a total loser.
(Review) Max Hastings weighs in on the problems of the Iraqi occupation with a piece on the Spectator, in which he says that Americans just aren't good at this sort of thing. And it's causing a lot of anger in Britain.
British soldiers and diplomats anticipated almost every misfortune that has occurred. The bear traps were repeatedly drawn to the attention of the Pentagon, the administration and, indeed, the White House. At every stage since the autumn of 2002, American reassurance was given that post-war policy was being addressed. And, of course, it was not.
It is no good for British supporters of George Bush to accuse his critics of anti-Americanism. It is a plain statement of the facts that the allies are today in a dreadful mess in Iraq, as a direct consequent of culpable blunders by Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and their friends, who understand everything about American military power and nothing about the human behaviour of societies other than their own.
I can't help but fear that the Bush Administration, whose heart is, at least, in the right place, isn't getting the job done properly. And if Hastings, who is no enemy of the US, thinks the Bush Administration is traveling down the road toward failure, then I have to wonder if there isn't a lot of merit to the argument.
The cultivated ‘warrior ethos’ of the US army, the soldiers who patrol the streets even of a peaceful city in helmets, body-armour and sunglasses, militate fatally against engagement with local people. The tactical emphasis on ‘force protection’ —which means making the preservation of American lives an absolute priority — is likewise antipathetic to building relationships with anybody outside the wired and bunkered compounds in which the liberators are billetted.
I wish there was some way to get it across the the American people that we are at war, and our soldiers are going to die. It is not the primary responsibility of our military leaders to limit casualties. Their primary responsibility is to accomplish the missions we give them, and to make the deaths of their subordinates--however tragic they may be--mean something.
Until we find some way of doing getting that idea across to the American people, "force protection" will be the mission, and anything else we accomplish will be incidental to that.
That simply isn't a prescription for victory.
I often wonder how our great-grandparents did it, back in the 40s, when they sent our grandparents off to fight the Germans and the Japanese. They must have been quite a different people than we are.
It is too soon to despair about Iraq, not least because we cannot afford to do so. Even if, like the Irish joke, most of us would not have started from here, the West now has far too much at stake to cut and run. As of today, George Bush has no intention of doing so either. He embarked upon his Iraqi adventure as a matter of deep personal conviction, and there is no sign that this is flagging.
Yet what of the American people, in an election year? If American casualties continue to rise, if Saddam remains uncaptured — and his seizure could still transform the situation overnight, both symbolically and operationally — if the Iraqis seem persistently ungrateful, then who can say what will happen? And if we, in London and Washington, feel uncertainty about whether the United States has the staying power for a long, thankless occupation, then who can blame the Baathists for supposing that there is everything to play for?
What is certain is that American policies in Iraq, both for security and reconstruction, are not working. All the spectres so familiar from Vietnam — wholesale corruption, squandering of resources, ill-judged military tactics, failure to win hearts and minds — are again evident. So vast are the power and wealth of the United States that they may yet be able to turn around this situation, and rehabilitate Iraq. But until those at the summit of power in the United States start to tell each other the truth about what is going on, they will get nowhere.
I fear that Hastings is right that the real problem we're facing is an administration that is increasingly focusing on the electoral calendar rather than on doing what is necessary to win in Iraq.
Look, I'm no civil affairs specialist, nor do I wish to be a pessimist about this situation. But I'm getting increasingly worried, because the signs I do see aren't good.
(Review) Jonah Goldberg writes that it's hard to get whipped into a frenzy about the issue of Federalism, but we probably should.
The problem in America is that we have a vast, multicultural nation in which certain people want to live one way and other people — who live thousands of miles away — want to live another way. But we have a central government that increasingly believes its way is the only way.
This development came on the back of a legitimate moral good: the widening of civil rights for minorities and women. But the legal and political logic which made it possible to topple Jim Crow also made it inevitable for the national government — mostly through the courts — to topple a host of traditional arrangements governing how people lived in their own communities. If Kansas wants school prayer, for example, why should people in Florida care?
Even abortion was on the verge of being sorted out by 50 state legislatures when the Supreme Court forced a one-size-fits-all policy across the country. This radicalized abortion opponents and proponents alike, so the country remains polarized 30 years later.
Real federalism may be a profoundly dull topic, but it also happens to be the greatest system conceived for maximizing the most happiness for the most people.
The whole idea behind Federal control over...well...everything, is the idea that there's one idea that's best for everybody in the country. That isn't the system we started with, and it shouldn't be the system we're working toward now.
(Review) Luke Boggs is a bit tired of hearing Jimmy Carter drone on about human rights. Especially since his presidency didn't actually do much to advance the issue.
For all Carter's talk about human rights, how many people were liberated from oppression during his presidency? How many gulags were closed? Exactly zero.
Carter may not be a bad man, but he was a bad president. We would follow his advice today at grave peril to both America and the global cause of human rights.
Jimmy Carter. The most ex of our ex-presidents.
(Review) Reuel Marc Gerecht writes that the goal of democratizing Iraq seems to be taking a back seat to--well, let's be honest--casualty reduction.
The administration is now going to grant the Governing Council's wish: it will become more or less an autonomous provisional government. In return, the council has promised to set a timetable for drafting a constitution and holding democratic national elections (although, oddly, the question of which will come first remains up in the air). This new approach, the White House hopes, will make Iraqis feel more responsible for their own fate, and thus more willing to take over security from coalition forces. In sum, the administration that waged a war for democracy now wants an exit strategy that is not at all dependent upon Iraq's democratic progress.
In fact, the administration's efforts to improve internal security and midwife democracy are now seriously at odds. Where once American officials were sensitive to the need to have political reconstruction precede the re-establishment of a small Iraqi army, they are now rushing Iraqis into uniform, showing no concern about the long history of overgrown security and military forces running roughshod over the country's parliaments and civil traditions.
Now, I'm aware that there is a lot of nay-saying going on because of the negative reportage from Iraq. And, it seems that, in many ways, the Iraqis are glad to have us there.
But I think the public is getting very edgy about Iraq, and the Bush Administration, feeling that rising political heat, is now getting more concerned with an exit strategy than they are with trying to create a democratic state there.
If that is indeed, what's happening, it's a Bad Thing. The most important thing we could possibly accomplish is to leave Iraq with a stable, functioning democracy. If we leave without accomplishing that, then our mission will ultimately have been a failure. Beyond the weapons of mass destruction, beyond the elimination of Saddam Hussein, the whole point of our action was to create a democratic country in the heart of the Arab world.
If we end up by leaving before that is accomplished because we are taking some casualties, that will do us nothing but harm. It will prove to the world that we are incapable of conducting a sustained national effort of any consequence whatsoever. It will prove Osama bin Laden's contention that we will turn tail at the first sign of even moderate casualties.
That will embolden our enemies, and make the future struggle more, not less costly.
Reader Tom Wittig of Brooklyn writes to ask me some questions about my Tom Tomorrow post:
Well, okay, I'm a little confused. You're proud of the fact that you carried an M-16 to defend Tom's right to write...but, you criticize him for then exercising that right. Is that not logically inconsistent? You have that right, because you're an American, but shut up?
I guess you are confused. It is intrinsic to free speech that I be allowed to criticize him if I feel like it. What, do you you think Tom gets a free ride, and nobody gets to criticize what he writes?
Uh-uh. That's not how it works.
I'm not saying--I'm not even implying--that Tom Tomorrow doesn't have the right to cartoon to his little hearts content. But I also have the right to criticize the content of those cartoons in however I wish. Free speech works both ways.
Because one of the rights I was carrying that M16 to secure was the right to call Tom Tomorrow an asshat.
So, if you think there's an inconsistency somewhere here, then you simply aren't thinking very clearly.
And, speaking of inconsistentencies, let me ask you this: what is more troublesome a President who avoids a draft for a war to which he was opposed (Clinton) or a president who avoids a draft for a war which he supported, but which he wanted persons other then himself to fight?
Well, actually, I don't really care. I've never criticized either Bill Clinton or George Bush for their Vietnam-era actions, nor do I particularly care about them.
I served under Bill Clinton. Hell, I voted for Bill Clinton. So, I don't really know who you're addressing with all this, 'cause it sure ain't me.
Finally, I would like for someone, anyone, to explain something to me: why do so many military people apparently support a man who utilized his family's connections to avoid the draft and land a cushy National Guard spot, a man who scored as low as you can score on a pilot aptitude test but was made a pilot anyway, and who spent an entire year of his service AWOL? I can't figure it out for the life of me.
I know you guys on the Left think GW Bush is some kind of slack-jawed moron, so any excuse to pillory the guy is too tempting to pass up. But, I gotta tell you, it's as stupid to hear the Left go into mouth-foaming fury about W as it was for the Right to get their panties in a wad over Bill Clinton.
You can't have it both ways. You can't give Bill Clinton a pass for draft dodging because Vietnam was a »morally ambiguous« war then call W a weasel because he dodged the draft by joining the National Guard and becoming a fighter pilot.
I mean, jeez, at least try to be intellectually consistent, for cripes sake.
Was Bush AWOL for a year? Who knows? Did Bill Clinton actively avoid the draft? Who knows?
Who cares? As Andrew Olmstead--who currently commands an Army Reserve unit--writes:
It's certainly possible that President Bush was AWOL for some period during his service, and that nobody bothered to enter him as such for the reasons I've cited above. It is just as possible that he completed his required service, but the paperwork was not well-maintained, so there's no evidence that he did so. The one thing we know is that he was not charged or prosecuted with the crime of being AWOL. So perhaps the bigger question we should be asking is, what kind of job is he doing right now? Because whether you think he's doing a great job now or a lousy one, would it change your opinion much to learn he was AWOL thirty years ago?
Nope. Not much.
In 1992, we elected Bill Clinton, even knowing his record of service was...questionable. Why? because we decided that everybody gets a pass for their Vietnam-Era peccadilloes. Maybe that was the right decision, and maybe it wasn't, but that's the choice we made, so no fair going back and calling do-overs because you don't like W.
All of which brings me back to my original point: Military service, or lack thereof, is in no way a disqualifier to talk about the necessity of military action now, any more than it's relevant to one's fitness for the Presidency.
John Kerry actually served in Vietnam (you may not have known this, because he doesn't like to talk about it), but he doesn't have a strategic vision for protecting US interests that, frankly, fills me with confidence. I am entirely uninterested in seeing him become president.
Fortunately, it appears that most Democrats are, too.
(Review) Hugh Hewitt writes that the memo from the Democratic staff of the intelligence committee (remember that memo?) shows that Democrats simply cannot be trusted with national security issues.
The Democratic memo reveals that much of what the media has been focusing on for the past six months has been a set-up job. The staff and Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have been selling story after story (think the Niger yellowcake and "imminent" threat controversies). Out of whole cloth, they have contrived an ambiguous but ominous speculation about the Bush administration's sinister motives for invading Iraq. Now, through this one memo, they have been revealed as nothing short of cynical political operatives. And the reporters who ran with their hints are revealed as breathless and easily manipulated amateurs.
The media has to ignore the memo because to focus on it would be to focus on their own gullibility.
There is no escaping the hard fact that the Democratic staff embraced the "verdict first, trial later" approach to oversight. They were on a mission to undermine the president and his administration, no matter what the intelligence showed or will show, and the senators did nothing to rein in their out-of-control staff.
The committee's Democratic members are discredited, as are their previous and future attacks on the president. When it comes to the national security, the statements of Democratic senators simply cannot be trusted. The proof is in the memo.
As if any more proof were needed.
(Review) How do Hollywood celebrities view ordinary Americans? Simple. They think we're morons.
Yes, show a celebrity an American, and that celebrity will show you an ignoramus.
Too sweeping a statement? Perhaps. But what about this Michael Moore screed about Americans in the London Mirror earlier this month? “They are possibly the dumbest people on the planet. ...We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance. We don’t know about anything that’s happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing.”
Johnny Depp said a few months back, “America is dumb, is something like a dumb puppy that has big teeth that can bite and hurt you.”
Ted Turner once said this about television-watchers: “The United States has got some of the dumbest people in the world. I want you to know that; we know that.”
Speaking of Ted Turner, Jane Fonda was in Canada this past April and said: “I don’t know if a country where the people are so ignorant of reality and of history, if you can call that a free world.”
Also in Canada, Martin Sheen said recently: “Every time I cross this border, I feel like I’ve left the land of lunatics. You are not armed and dangerous. You do not shoot each other. I always feel a bit more human when I come here.”
Well, here's a idea. Why don't you stay the hell up there, Marty?
Oh, wait, I remember, it's because all us slightly less humans down here pay you several million dollars a year to exercise your talent, which is to pretend to be someone you're not.
This is so irritating on so many levels, I hardly know where to begin.
First of all, where do actors get off talking about the intellectual shortcomings of others. Maybe I missed it, but I wasn't aware that actors generally have reputations as intellectual giants. It's not like Johnny Depp is gonna head out to Pasadena anytime soon to fill out a job application at the Jet propulsion Laboratory.
And where do they get off insulting the people who pay their princely salaries? Most businesspeople are smart enough not to intentionally offend the paying customers. Not, evidently, Jane Fonda. Although, in her case, since she hasn't made a movie in years, she has no paying customers.
Now, look if they want to call all us all morons, that's certainly their right. Lord knows I call them that often enough.
But I don't depend on their good will to pay my bills.
(Review) The president is finally speaking up about Democratic intrasigence in the Senate on the issue of judicial nominations.
Standing in the White House with three judges, all women, whose nominations have been blocked, Bush described them as "superb women" who were being "denied a chance to serve on the bench because of ugly politics in the United States Senate."
"Senators are playing politics and it's wrong and it's shameful and it's hurting the system," the president added.
Too bad he didn't start talking like this eighteen months ago.
(Review) Michael Williams reflects on what rain means to us here in Southern California.
For most Los Angeleans [and for San Diegans as well.--Ed.], the second thing that comes to mind when they see water falling from the sky (after the awe disappates) is that it's going to screw up traffic. It'll take twice as long to get home, mostly because we don't know how to drive in the rain. We drive as if it's not raining at all, until we crash into something hard and die. Then everyone behind us gets delayed by our wreckage, and pissed off even further. Once they finally navigate around the accident site, it's common practice to curse the dead for not dying at a more convenient location, and to then jam the gas pedal to make up for lost time.
The sad thing is that if you live in southern California, the above paragraph is howlingly funny, instead of simply appalling.
(Review) Yeah, I know there's a war on, and it costs a lot of money to rebuild Iraq, but this is ridiculous:
Confounding President Bush's pledges to rein in government growth, federal discretionary spending expanded by 12.5 percent in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, capping a two-year bulge that saw the government grow by more than 27 percent, according to preliminary spending figures from congressional budget panels. The sudden rise in spending subject to Congress's annual discretion stands in marked contrast to the 1990s, when such discretionary spending rose an average of 2.4 percent a year. Not since 1980 and 1981 has federal spending risen at a similar clip. Before those two years, spending increases of this magnitude occurred at the height of the Vietnam War, 1966 to 1968.
The idea that if you want a smaller government you should vote Republican is taking a real pounding. Republicans control Congress, the branch of government that actually appropriates the money. They control the White House, which submits the budget for the operation of the executive branch. They control, more or less, the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of which submits the budget of the judicial branch to Congress.
And we're spending money like a drunken sailor on a Singapore shore leave.
You often hear that Washington has a "culture of spending", and the term just flies over your head. But you should really think about it. The whole point of going to Washington, no matter what you initially think when you get elected to go there, is to spend the people's money. Practically everything you do as a congressman or senator eventually comes down to spending the people's money.
Conservatives like to laugh at Robert Byrd (D-WV) because he shuttles so much Federal money off to West Virginia that practically every free-standing structure erected there for the past 30 years has his name on it. But the hard truth is that the only difference between Sen. Byrd and his colleagues is that he is slightly more successful at doing it than they are.
But with spending increasing by 12% per annum, the Republicans are showing that they are no pikers when it comes to spending, either.
Hat Tip: Andrew Sullivan
(Review) Robert Scheer, whose increasingly strident and paranoid screeds should be confined to the pages of The Nation, rather than being printed in respectable news outlets, is at it again.
It takes stunning arrogance for a president to invade an oil-rich, politically strategic country on the basis of demonstrable lies, put his favorite companies in control of its economic future, create a puppet regime to do his bidding and then claim, as George Bush did last week in a speech, that this is all a bold exercise in spreading democracy.
Yeah, well, if Bob had his way, Saddam would still be running the country like it was his personal dog kennel. I haven't noticed Bob coming up with any plans for spreading democracy in the Mideast. All he managed to do over the last year is play the nation's Worried Mom, yelling at us to leave that nice Hussein boy alone.
Sorry it's taking us more than 6 months to produce Jeffersonian Democracy in a country that's been ruled by a classic oriental despot for the last thirty years, Bob. I guess we should have followed your advice, and let Uday and Qusay keep feeding dissidents into industrial plastic shredders feet first.
(Review) The Hill reports that senior Senate and White House officials are considering poking the Dems in the eye by making recess appointments of Bush Judicial nominees.
Well, something needs to be done other than the pointless PR exercises that Bill Frist has scheduled.
(Review) Jed Babbin writes that the Baathist regime in Iraq isn't the only one that needs changing.
Throughout the Iraq campaign, Syria proved a convenient safe haven (at least temporarily) for many of Saddam's fleeing thugs, and maybe even his WMDs. Billions of dollars looted from Iraq are sitting in Syrian banks. And the terrorists that Syria supports were — and still are — sending people, weapons, and money to the Baathist remnants and terrorists who are now killing Americans in Iraq. The Syrians are doing their best to prevent Iraq from becoming a democracy. Because it has taken the field against us, and is harboring, aiding, and abetting terror throughout the Middle East, the Syrian regime is our enemy. It is time to resolve the Syria problem.
For whatever reason, the Conventional Wisdom on young Bashar was that he wasn't exactly a NASA job candidate, and could be a little more easily controlled than his dad, who was as smart and mean an SOB as they come.
But, the guy did manage to become an MD and so he had to have something on the ball, CW not withstanding. And, now we're learning just how badly wrong the CW was in his case.
So, maybe we should think seriously about removing the Ba'athist regime that runs Syria, and sending Dr. Assad back to his eye clinic.
(Review) Robert Samuelson writes that the Bush Administration's steel tariffs are just dumb, both from an economic and a political standpoint.
Good politics and good policy often diverge -- but not here. A strong economic recovery should shield the steel industry from large job losses even without tariffs, which now cover almost a third of steel imports (by value) and are as high as 24 percent. Of course, rescinding the tariffs would trigger loud protests from steelworkers, companies and their political allies. The president would be accused of reneging on his promise to provide protection until 2005. But if jobs survive, most protests would probably be forgotten by election time.
Now, consider what happens if Bush retains the tariffs and defies the WTO.
For starters, he incurs the wrath of many small industrial users of steel -- makers of auto parts, various steel components and machine tools. They've complained that tariffs have raised their costs and undermined their competitiveness against foreign rivals. Indeed, tariffs have probably cost more jobs among steel users than they've saved among producers. Gary Hufbauer and Ben Goodrich of the Institute for International Economics, a think tank, estimate that tariffs preserved 3,500 steel jobs; by contrast, they think that the tariffs might have cost steel users between 12,000 and 43,000 jobs.
Nor is that all. If Bush keeps the tariffs, the European Union will retaliate, as WTO rules permit. It would impose tariffs of 8 percent to 30 percent on $2.2 billion worth of U.S. exports, including steel, fruit, paper and pantyhose. Other countries, including Japan and China, might do likewise. The point: Keeping the tariffs would cost more jobs (and probably more Bush votes) than scrapping them.
The steel tariffs were always a bad idea, no matter how the president tried to defend them. Now that the WTO has ruled them to be improper, and the EU is ready to go with $450 billion worth of trade sanctions, it's time for the president to realize that the right thing to do is to drop it, which is what people like me have been saying all along.
(Review) But, I'm happy to make an exception in this case, since I've been formally admitted into the Bear Flag League!
The BFL is a collection of California bloggers, and you really should check them out. There is really some wonderful stuff being written by these guys and gals, so please take the time to peruse the links over there on the left.
(Review) The decline of the Democratic Party seems to be a theme today. Everybody's writing about it, including Byron York, who weighs in with an article on voter registration
Last summer, pollster Mark Penn found that just 32 percent of voters called themselves Democrats, which led Penn to conclude that, at least on the party-ID issue, "the Democratic party is currently in its weakest position since the dawn of the New Deal."
Now a new study by the Pew Research Center pegs the Democratic number at 31 percent, versus 30 percent who call themselves Republicans.
That’s very bad news — if you’re a Democrat — but what does it actually mean?
Just who are those voters who have switched party affiliation? And perhaps more important, where are they?
As it turns out, many are right where Democrats don’t want them to be — in the swing states that could determine the winner of next year’s presidential election.
In Minnesota, for example, Democrats used to enjoy a 31-26 advantage in party identification. Now, it’s 31-28 in favor of Republicans. In 2000, Bush lost the state by about 58,000 votes out of 2.4 million cast.
Next time around, with more Republicans, he might do better.
In Michigan, Democrats used to enjoy a 33-26 advantage. Now it’s 31-29 in favor of Republicans. In 2000, Bush lost the state by about 217,000 votes out of 4.2 million cast.
In Iowa, Democrats used to enjoy a 32-27 advantage. Now, it’s 34-27 in favor of the Republicans. In 2000, Bush lost the state by about 4,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast.
In Wisconsin, Democrats used to enjoy a 33-29 advantage. Now, it’s 30-29 in favor of the Republicans. In 2000, Bush lost by about 6,000 votes out of 2.6 million cast.
Those are the states that have turned over. In some other states that Bush lost narrowly, Democrats maintain their edge — just less so.
For example, in New Mexico, Democrats used to enjoy a 40-30 advantage. Now, it’s 39-35. In 2000, Bush lost by just 366 votes.
And in the most important swing state of all in 2000, Florida, Democrats used to enjoy a 38-33 advantage. Now, it’s 37-36 in favor of Republicans. That means Bush might be able to build on his 537-vote landslide.
"Republican gains have come across the board, both geographically and demographically," the Pew report says. "There have been increases in Republican party affiliation in nearly every major voting bloc, except among African-Americans.'
In the last post, I mentioned the book The Emerging Democratic Majority, by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira. They argue that the increases in minority voters will pull the electorate to the left. The trouble with their argument is that, with the exception of African-Americans, when minorities begin to do well, they begin to vote Republican too.
In point of fact, Democrats get voter support from only two main groups of people, other than African-Americans: poor people with relatively little formal education, and affluent people with post-graduate degrees.
What's missing from this picture? The middle class.
That's simply not a prescription for long-term success. It might get the Democrats a presidency from time to time, but it's a long way from that to true majority government.
(Review) Continuing the theme of Democratic political problems is this article by policy analyst and University of Miami prof Paul Crespo.
Soon 60 percent of Americans will live in states run by Republicans. With the exception of ''left'' coast enclaves such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, and parts of the ''granola'' Northwest, the GOP continues to dominate the West as well. The only true liberal Democrat stronghold nationally appears to be the Northeast rust belt.
For those who may not have noticed -- the GOP is becoming our dominant party coast to coast.
To bring the point home, U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., who recently endorsed Bush's reelection, titled his new book about the Democrats, A National Party No More. Miller argues that the Democratic Party has become dominated by parochial and extreme left-wing interest groups that are pulling the party further away from the mainstream even while America has shifted rightward since Sept. 11. He adds, "Its obvious that a train wreck is about to happen with the Democratic Party."
It is not, however, obvious to the movers and shakers in the Democratic Party, judging by their public performances. I don't really know whether that is sad or funny.
They can read The Emerging Democratic Majority as many times as they want, but that won't change what we're seeing right now. And right now, it looks like Zell Miller's right on the money.
(Review) Nick Kristoff writes that the Left and the Right are both foaming at the mouth now.
Considering the savagery with which the Snarling Right excoriated President Clinton as a "sociopath," blocked judicial appointments, undermined U.S. military operations from Kosovo to Iraq, hounded Vincent Foster and then accused the Clintons of murdering him, it is utterly hypocritical for conservatives to complain about liberal incivility.
But they're right.
Liberals have now become as intemperate as conservatives, and the result — everybody shouting at everybody else — corrodes the body politic and is counterproductive for Democrats themselves. My guess is that if the Democrats stay angry, then they'll offend Southern white guys, with or without pickups and flags, and lose again.
Of course, Kristoff appears to need a reminder that Clinton-hatred wasn't where the incivility started. Think back just a few years, Nick, to the Bork nomination.
"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, children could not be taught about evolution."
Remember that, Nick? Oh, and how many times had the "extremist" Robert Bork been overturned by higher courts upon review during his judicial career? None at all.
So let's not pretend that political incivility started with conservative hatred of Bill Clinton1.
In any event, that's neither here nor there. Reasonable people should be able to disagree without calling into question the motives or morality of their opponents.
Look, I think most of leftist thought is stupid, and I'm not shy about pointing out the intellectual vacuity of its proponents. But we've gone way beyond that in most political discourse now, as I've written about previously.
Kristoff is also right that this now hurts the Democrats far more than it hurts the Republicans.
The left should have learned from Newt Gingrich that rage impedes understanding — and turns off voters. That's why President Bush was careful in 2000, unlike many in his party, to project amiability and optimism.
Core Democratic voters are becoming so angry that some are hoping for bad economic figures and bad Iraq news just to hurt President Bush. At this rate, Democrats risk turning themselves into an American version of the old British Labor Party under Michael Foot, which reliably blasted the Tory government and reliably lost elections.
If your party is reduced to wishing for American failure in order to reap electoral success, then you've got serious problems. If you are so bereft of ideas--and so estranged from the electorate--that you depend on the opposition's disasters for a shot at governing, then maybe you need to re-examine what your party is all about.
1 Full disclosure: I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992.
(Review) The headline to this FOXNews story reads:
Caucuses Rely on Racial, Ethnic Politics to Move Congress
(Review) A new government for the Palestinian Authority has been approved by the legislature. There's a new prime minister, named...oh...something or other that sounds like "North Korea".
Anyway, there's also a whole new cabinet, filled with such stellar personalities as that whatsisname guy, and that other guy, the one with the mustache.
Meanwhile, Yasser Arafat, the guy who really runs the show over there, is calling for peace again.
"The time has come between us and you Israelis ... to get out of this cycle of destructive war," Arafat said.
And when you translate that into Arabic for domestic political consumption in the PA, that statement comes out as, "The time has come between us and the the infidel oppressors of the 'Zionist entity' to make the sands run red with their blood! Only by driving the Jews into the sea can we get out of this cycle of destructive war."
I believe the response of Hamas to all of this was to say, "And this affects us...how?"
(Review) The Senate has scheduled a pointless and futile 30-hour marathon debating session over Bush judicial nominees.
For 30 straight hours - from Wednesday evening through midnight Thursday - Republicans and Democrats will condemn each other in 30-minutes face-offs over four filibustered U.S. Appeals Court nominees: Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, Texas judge Priscilla Owen, Mississippi judge Charles Pickering and Hispanic lawyer Miguel Estrada.
Democrats have refused to allow confirmation votes, and Republicans have not been able to get the 60 votes to force them in a Senate split with 51 GOP senators, 48 Democrats and one independent. Frustrated at the delays, Estrada withdrew his nomination in September.
Republicans hope the all-night Senate session - the first to go past 4 a.m. since 1992 - will help publicize the blocked nominees. Conservatives have complained the GOP hasn't done enough to highlight the Democrats' blockades.
Well, I'm complaining, too, so it isn't just conservatives who are torked off. But this is nothing more than a useless bit of PR hackage.
If Bill Frist had an ounce of guts, he'd have a real filibuster. The way to do that is to halt all Senate business, open the session, and refuse to close it until an up or down vote was held.
He won't do that, of course, so this farcial parody of the nomination process will continue indefinitely.
On this, our national day of appreciation for veterans, I just want to say from the bottom of my heart: You're welcome.
(Review) Uber-Leftist comics artist and idiot Tom Tomorrow takes on warbloggers in his The Modern World strip today, in a bitter little cartoon called "Chickenhawk Down".
You know, while Tom was scribbling his little cartoons about how Ronald Reagan was steering us all towards WWIII, I was already in uniform, carrying an M16 in various hot-spots to protect his right to write. While Tom started complaining that George Bush was an even worse warmonger for kicking off Operation Desert Shield, I was still in uniform, guarding high-level NATO officials from terrorist attacks, and getting ready to pack my kit for the Gulf. When Tom Tomorrow was writing about how cool President Clinton was for being something other than a conservative, I was still in uniform, guarding an entire flight of nuclear ICBMs in -60 degree weather in North Dakota.
So, Tom can take his "chickenhawk" comment and stick it. Or rather, since he never served in the military, and since he counsels surrender now, perhaps he should describe himself with a shortened version of "chickenhawk," by simply dropping the last syllable.
Second, if military service is a requirement for speaking out on military issues, then maybe Tom should shut the hell up. By that reasoning, his lack of service disqualifies him from taking any position, either pro or con.
I'll take a "chickenhawk" like Abe Lincoln or FDR any day of the week over an experienced general like Wesley Clark.
The Indepundit has contacted Tom Tomorrow (if that is, indeed, his real name), and learned that Mr. Tomorrow is just as clueless and obtuse in person as he is in comic form.
Photo: Reuters/Yuri Gripas
(Review) La Civiltà Cattolica is a Jesuit Magazine that is believed to be a keyhole into the innermost thoughts of the Vatican, and whose articles are personally approved by the Vatican's Secretary of State. The magazine has just opened a broadside on the Islamic world, accusing Islamic countries of actively persecuting Christians. In so doing, the article breaks decades of silence on this issue by the Church.
Even without active persecution, the Islamic idea of dhimmi is bad enough for those Christians who live in the Islamic world.
It is evident that the condition of the dhimmi, prolonged through centuries, has led slowly but inexorably to the near extinction of Christianity in Muslim lands: the condition of civil inferiority, which prevented Christians from attaining public offices, and the condition of religious inferiority, which closed them in an asphyxiated religious life and practice with no possibility of development, put the Christians to the necessity of emigrating, or, more frequently, to the temptation of converting to Islam. There was also the fact that a Christian could not marry a Muslim woman without converting to Islam, in part because her children had to be educated in that faith. Furthermore, a Christian who became Muslim could divorce very easily, whereas Christianity prohibited divorce. And apart from all this, the Christians in Muslim territories were seriously divided among themselves – and frequently even enemies – because they belonged to Churches that were different by confession (Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian Churches) and by rite (Syro-oriental, Antiochian, Maronite, Coptic-Alexandrian, Armenian, Byzantine). Thus mutual assistance was almost impossible.
The consequence of the dhimma regime was the “erosion” of the Christian communities and the conversion of many Christians to Islam for economic, social, and political motives: to find a better job, enjoy a better social status, participate in administrative, political, and military life, and in order not to live in a condition of perpetual discrimination.
And that's just when things are good. When they get bad, well...
In Algeria, the bishop of Orano, P. Claverie (1996), seven Trappist monks from Tibehirini (1999), four White Fathers (1994), and six sisters from various religious congregations have been brutally killed by Islamic fundamentalists, although the murders were condemned by numerous Muslim authorities. In Pakistan, which numbers 3,800,000 Christians among a population of 156,000,000 (96 percent Muslim), on October 28, 2001, some Muslims entered the Church of St. Dominic in Bahawalpur and gunned down 18 Christians. On May 6, 1998, Catholic bishop John Joseph killed himself for protesting against the blasphemy law, which punishes with death anyone who offends Mohammed, even only “by speaking words, or by actions and through allusions, directly or indirectly.” For example, by saying that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, one offends Mohammed, who affirmed that Jesus is not the Son of God, but his “servant.” With this kind of law, Christians are in constant danger of death.
In Nigeria – where 13 states have introduced shari’a as state law – several thousand Christians have been the victims of incidents. Serious incidents are taking place in the south of the Philippines and in Indonesia, which, with its 212 million inhabitants, is the most populous Muslim country in the world, to the harm of the Christians of Java, East Timor, and the Moluccas. But the most tragic situation – and, unfortunately, forgotten by the Western world! – is that of Sudan, where the North is Arab and Muslim, and the South black and Christian, and in part, animist. Since the time of president G.M. Nimeiry, there has been a state of civil war between the North, which has proclaimed shari’a and intends to impose it with fierce violence on the rest of the country, and the South, which aims to preserve and defend its Christian identity. The North makes use of all of its military power – financed by oil exports to the West – to destroy Christian villages; prevent the arrival of humanitarian aid; kill the cattle, which are the means of sustenance for many South Sudanese; and carry out raids, for Christian girls in particular, who are brought to the North, raped, and sold as slaves or concubines to rich, older Sudanese men. According to the 2001 report of Amnesty International, “at the end of 2000, the civil war, which started again in 1983, had cost the lives of almost two million persons and had caused the forced evacuation of 4,500,000 more. Tens of thousands of persons have been compelled by terror to leave their homes in the upper Nile region, which is rich in oil, after aerial bombardments, mass executions, and torture.”
We must, finally, recall a fact that is often forgotten because Saudi Arabia is the largest provider of oil to the Western world, and the latter therefore has an interest in not disturbing relations with that country. In reality, in Saudi Arabia, where wahhabism is in force, not only is it impossible to build a church or even a tiny place of worship, but any act of Christian worship or any sign of Christian faith is severely prohibited with the harshest penalties. Thus about a million Christians working in Saudi Arabia are deprived by violence of any Christian practice or sign.
Which is all really quite surprising, considering that Islam is, you know, the "Religion of Peace".
So, one wonders whether this signals a new willingness by the Vatican to open a campaign that addresses the persecution of non-Muslims in the Islamic world.
(Review) Thomas Sowell writes that Dianne Feinstein's lack of economic knowledge would be laughable, if it wasn't so sad.
Senator Feinstein has said that it is "simply untrue" that property rights have been sacrificed in San Francisco. According to Senator Feinstein, private property "is alive and well" in San Francisco, "with property values making it one of the highest cost-of-living cities in the United States."
It might be humorous, if it were not so sad, that a senior United States Senator has so completely missed the point of discussions about the destruction of property rights that have been going on for decades in legal and intellectual circles.
One of the main reasons for the outrageous housing prices in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay area is precisely the over-riding of property rights. Endless restrictions, obstructions, and bureaucratic delays facing anyone who is building anything on their own property in this area have forced housing costs to astronomical levels.
What is it about the Democratic Party that makes them the Kings of Not Getting It when it comes to economics? I mean, is it just that they can't handle the math? What?
(Review) Due to my recovery from my heart attack, blogging was especially light last week, so I didn't get to address the Bush speech. And, I think it'll be remembered as the speech, if for no other reason than it signals a reverse of the entirety of post-WWII US foreign policy.
Bill Safire thinks so, too.
He evoked Woodrow Wilson trying to make the world safe for democracy in 1918; then F.D.R. in 1941 giving hope of freedom to peoples enslaved by Nazism; finally, Ronald Reagan telling a skeptical Britain's Parliament in 1982 that a historic turning point had been reached and Communist tyranny could not stop the march of freedom. "From the Fourteen Points to the Four Freedoms, to the Speech at Westminster, America has put our power at the service of principle," Bush said. "The advance of freedom is the calling of our time."
That is called a theme. Did he develop that theme in his speech, marshaling his arguments both rationally and evocatively at a time of crisis? Did he succeed in setting his vision of our mission in the world before the American people in a detailed, coherent and inspiring way worthy of rallying their support?
I think he did — not only because I agree that protecting and extending freedom has always been America's "calling," but because I was able to read and re-read the serious speech in its entirety.
And if you haven't done so yet, you should. Don't let the editors and editorializers tell you what it meant. Read it yourself and see the type of change the president is proposing.
I've posted the entire text here. This is a speech that should be read int it's entirety, because if it accurately describes the Bush Administration's policy, then it defines a fundemental change in how American foreign policy will be conducted.
Promoting Liberty. That's the kind of foreign policy I can really get behind.
(Review) According to FOXNews:
The Supreme Court will hear its first cases arising from the government's anti-terrorism campaign following the Sept. 11 attacks, agreeing Monday to consider whether foreigners held at a U.S. Navy base in Cuba should have access to American courts.
The appeals came from British, Australian and Kuwaiti citizens held with more than 600 others suspected of being Taliban or Al Qaeda foot soldiers. The court combined the appeals and will hear the consolidated case sometime next year.
Lower courts had found that the American civilian court system did not have authority to hear the men's complaints about their treatment.
"The United States has created a prison on Guantanamo Bay (search) that operates entirely outside the law," lawyers for British and Australian detainees argued in asking the high court to take the case.
"Within the walls of this prison, foreign nationals may be held indefinitely, without charges or evidence of wrongdoing, without access to family, friends or legal counsel, and with no opportunity to establish their innocence," they maintained.
My point of view vis a vis the Guantanamo prisoners has always been, "First a fair trial, then a hangin'."
But, the lawyers for these people bring up a good point, namely, how much power does the US government have to hold someone incommunicado, without charges, for an indefinite amount of time.
Yes, these guys are all heathen foreigners, but they aren't the only ones this is happening to. There's that Padilla guy, of "dirty bomb" fame, who even now is languishing in a Navy brig without assistance of counsel, and without a court date. And he's a US citizen on US soil.
Then, of course, there's strip-club owner Michael Galardi. Did he bribe some public officials in Las Vegas? The government doesn't know, but it figures the Patriot Act gives them the tools to pressure him to find out.
It looks to me like the Patriot Act is the kind of law that is ripe for abuse, just like the RICO statute turned out to be.
Even if we accept, arguendo, that the Patriot Act has so far never been abused, the potential for its RICO-ization remains very real. RICO, after all, wasn't abused for the first few years either.
You know, it causes me almost physical pain to agree with a political has-been like Al Gore, but he's right about one thing. The Patriot Act needs to be carefully re-examined.
(Review) The WTO has ruled that the Bush Administration's tariffs on steel are illegal.
I've only been saying that for a year and a half. The steel tariffs were nothing more than a naked political payoff to try and capture some union support. Well, our trading partners can play that game just as well as the Bushies.
The 15-nation EU has drafted a list of $435 million worth of U.S. imports, ranging from cigarettes to frozen vegetables to paper products, on which it is threatening to impose 100 percent import duties, effectively pricing the goods out of the EU market.
To increase political pressure, many of the products targeted are produced in swing states that would be crucial to Bush's re-election campaign next year.
The White House also is facing heavy political pressure in the dispute, especially from steel-producing states such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, where campaigners want the tariffs kept in place. The Bush administration has been reviewing whether to maintain the duties for the full three-year coverage period, which would run past the elections until March 2005.
Brussels says it will start retaliating if the U.S. steel duties are still in place five days after the report has been formally adopted by the WTO, which would likely be at the end of November.
Nothing Bush can ever do will get an AFL-CIO endorsement. Nothing he can do will sway organized labor to the Republican side. So, what's the point? All tariffs do is tork off our trading partners.
The US is always quick to slap an unfair trade suit on any other country that looks at us cross-eyed, while, at the same time, claiming the right to slap tariffs on anything that moves if there's an ounce of political gain to be made by it.
Yes, I know that the push towards global free trade was essentially a creature of the US. I know that we've done more than any other nation on earth to make freer global trade a reality.
But that only makes our trade hypocrisy even more blatant and sickening when we display it.
I remember in the 1980s when everybody was slamming the Japanese for unfair trade practices in automobiles, and complaining how the Japanese never allowed us to import autos to Japan.
Well, the truth was that the Japanese didn't want to buy our cars mainly because we couldn't be bothered to export a single right-hand drive car to Japan. Not one. In a country where everyone drives on the left side of the road. And US automakers and politicians had the gall to blame the Japanese for not buying American.
Well, now, that kind of attitude of "do as say, not as I do" when it comes to trade, after years of fostering some smoldering resentments among our trading partners, is about to come home to roost. We invested a lot of time, money, and prestige in the 1990s to create the WTO. Now, we'll see how the Bush administration likes living under it's rules.
And after the WTO addresses the steel tariffs, they can turn to the lumber and textile tariffs the Bush Administration also foolishly implemented.
(Review) Tunku Varadarajan writes about Howard Dean's comments about the Democratic Party needing to appeal to people with Confederate Flags on their pickups.
So what was Mr. Dean thinking? One explanation, the sympathetic one, is that he read his party's ailment right and sought to remedy it--only clumsily. The Democrats cannot compete as a national political force if they continue to shrink down to being the party of the liberal élite. To win, especially in these times of war and heightened insecurity, the party needs to be a broad tent and to secure the votes of those whom Mr. Dean caricatured as "Confederate" types with an inflexible attachment to a particular mode of transport. Mr. Dean's choice of imagery is, if anything, confirmation of his metrosexuality. He saw Southern blue-collar whites as the Other. But, to his credit, he is trying at least to woo them. Most metrosexuals, one suspects, would rather incinerate every pickup truck in the land.
An inability to connect with Middle America is the central problem of the Democratic Party today. Yes, you can pick up load of money by sticking to the Hollywood/Seattle/New York/Boston Axis. But, you can't pick up a lot of votes that way.
And, at the end of the day, votes are what counts in American politics. If money alone elected politicians, Ross Perot would still be president, and Michael Huffington would be the senior senator from California.
But if you can't appeal to the majority of middle-class voters, you're finished as a party. Increasingly, the Democrats are the party of two types of people: The uneducated, low-wage, metro types, or the postgraduate-degreed elitist types. That's not a coalition that can be counted upon to carry a party from victory to victory.
And it hasn't.
(Review) Victor Davis Hanson punctures several myths about the war on terror, including the "it has nothing to do with Islam" myth.
We should accept that they are at war with us and cease the intellectual dishonesty and moral cowardice that makes us worry about bombing during Ramadan in Afghanistan while our religious enemies seek to inaugurate these same holidays with the murders of Americans. When you are at war and you care more about the sanctity of your enemies' religious holidays than they do, you are in serious trouble.
When you give nearly $2 billion a year in aid to Egypt and its media are the locus classicus of anti-American hatred, you have earned not merely ingratitude, but ridicule in the bargain. When your citizens are murdered on the West Bank as they try to offer scholarships to the needy, and their would-be rescuers then stoned by the populace, it is time to confess, collectively and loudly, that a government that either cannot or won't stop such hatred of Americans is not our ally, not a neutral, but a belligerent whose enmity of America should be accepted rather than ignored.
And we must accept that Christians and secular Westerners will condemn an over-the-top comment by Jerry Falwell far more readily than a President Mubarak or Saudi prince will admonish the far worse ravings of the president of Malaysia — in the same manner Christian believers are more endangered in Islamic countries than their Muslim counterparts are endangered in Europe or America. If one finds that a harsh generalization, try opening up a church in Saudi Arabia compared with a mosque in Detroit. So yes, there is a ubiquitous asymmetry, and it is just as disingenuous — and dangerous — to ignore it as it is indiscriminately and wrongly to blame Islam. We rightly fret about the latter, but wrongly ignore the former. And if we don't change, we will lose this war.
I like that phrase: "ubiquitous asymmetry". It sums up all the differences between us and the Arab Muslim world.
(Review) Job growth, which is a trailing indicator as the economy starts to grow, finally looks like it's on track as well. Last weeks initial figure of 7.1% annualized GDP growth was good news, and today's non-farm payrolls is the icing on the cake.
Economists were expecting payrolls to jump by 65,000 jobs, which was well below the actual figure of 126,000 new jobs. Moreover, last month's 57k increase was revised very sharply upward to an increase of 125k.
Paul Krugman, currently on tour promoting his new book about America's economic collapse, The Great Unraveling, could not be reached for comment.
(Review) Mark Steyn writes that the US and Europe are no longer allies in any real sense. Instead, they are entering a Cold War phase of opposition to each other.
But, he says, it's a Cold War the Euros will lose just as certainly as the Russians did.
[T]he idea of a childless Europe rivalling America militarily or economically is laughable. Sometime this century there will be 500 million Americans, and what’s left in Europe will either be very old or very Muslim. That’s the Europe that Britain will be binding its fate to. Japan faces the same problem: in 2006, its population will begin an absolute decline, a death spiral it will be unlikely ever to climb out of. Will Japan be an economic powerhouse if it's populated by Koreans and Filipinos? Possibly. Will Germany if it's populated by Algerians? That’s a trickier proposition.
Last Sunday, recalling the US–Soviet summits that helped 'ease the tensions of the Cold War', the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman proposed we hold regular US-Franco-German summits. Implicit in that analysis is the assumption that France and perhaps other Continental countries now exist in a quasi-Cold War with America. If that's so, the trick is to manage the relationship until the Europeans, like the Soviets, collapse. Europe is dying, and it's only a question of whether it goes peacefully or through convulsions of violence. On that point, I bet on form.
What I think is truly interesting about what is happening in Europe right now is that the more "progressive" that political governance gets, the weaker the society and culture gets.
Well, I guess the rest from my heart attack is over, so I suppose I sjould jump back into the commentary pool again. Thanks to everyone who emailed their messages of support and "get well" wishes.
It appears that my stent installation held (about 1/3 of them don't), my blood sugar is much closer to normal. Ok, I still dream about having a cigarette, but I haven't touched one since my heart attack.
So, it's been a week of big changes for me, but I think I'm getting back in the saddle very nicely.
In fact, I just designed a new web site, which you can see here, if you're interested.
(Review) My newest TechCentralSTation column is up. In this one, I talk about the coming crisis in health care finance, and how to avert it.
On a personal level, I guess this is the week everything changed for me. The tough thing so far is the lifestyle change. Until Wednesday, I smoked a pack of Camels and sucked down two 64-ounce Vanilla Cokes every day. On top of that, my diet was high in rice, potatoes, milk, sour cream, and pasta. Meat and potatoes, essentially.
Evidently, that's a good combination for a heart attack before you're 40. Oh, and don't forget a stiff case of diabetes.
So, in the space of a single day, I've had to go cold turkey on tobacco, sugar, and starches. Since those were essentially the entirety of my diet prior to Wednesday, you can't even imagine how large--and difficult--a change this is for me.
So far, though, I've managed to get my blood sugar down from 416 mg/l on Wednesday to 168 this evening. Normal blood sugar ranges less than 100, so I've still got a ways to go. And, oh, yeah, about the whole blood testing thing: Now, I get to poke myself with a needle 4 times a day to test my blood sugar. That's a real freakin' thrill.
Quitting smoking. Hey, there's another fun thing to do. I don't even want to talk about that.
And then there's the meds. Of course, none of them have generics, so my health plan requires me to pay either $20 or $40 per refill. The actual price is even worse:
Without health insurance, that's a $470 trip to Walgreens. As it is, it's $100 bucks per trip even with health insurance. For the rest of my life.
OK. So, life isn't fair and it sucks to be me. I understand and accept that, and all I have to do is look at those pictures of my heart to know not only how lucky I am to be alive, but how extraordinarily lucky I am to have escaped without any damage at all to my heart.
Doesn't make the lifestyle changes--or the self-discipline required to make them--any more pleasant though.
So, there. I've vented.