(Review) Life, it is said, is about more than blogging. I agree, and am begining a short hiatus, so that my lovely partner Christine and I can take a little time for recreation.
I'm going to Disneyland!
Here in California, the California Teachers Association (CTA) is the big labor union for Teachers. In recent weeks they've been running a lot of radio ads that Criticize the "No Child Left Behind" Act for it's insistence on standardized testing.
Now, I have my own criticisms about the act. Well, one criticism, which is that it exists. That's pretty much my criticism for the whole Department of Education, but that's not important right now.
What is important is that the Teachers' Unions really, really don't like the standardized testing idea. Why, the ad declares, before you know it, teachers will be teaching to the test!
Uh, well, actually, that's what they're supposed to be doing.
You see, I've been a teacher for several years. Back in 1987, the USAF sent me off to Lowry AFB in Denver for a couple of months to attend Technical Training Instructor's School. One of the central portions of the curriculum was Instructional systems design.
When you build a training course you do it in a particular order, to ensure that the your curriculum teaches students what it is they're supposed to know. The process, greatly simplified, is as follows:
1) Create your objectives. Figure out what students are supposed to know when the course is over.
2) Create tests and measures. Write the tests or practical evaluations you are going to use to determine whether students have satisfactorily learned the material.
3) Develop Lesson Plans. Once you know your objectives, and how you're going to test to see if the students achieved them, you write lesson plans that specifically cover the items to be tested in appropriate detail.
In essence, you teach to the test, because the test is the measure of how well the student has learned the material. If you don't teach the items that are on the test, then how in the world can you test students on stuff you haven't taught them.
You see, here's why the Teachers' Unions despise the idea of standardized testing. Because if you do create curriculum in the manner above, and the students still fail, then people might expect that problem lies with you. After all, the students are literally ignorant. They can't be expected to pass the test if they aren't taught properly. And what if some teachers' students pass the tests regularly, and other teachers' student don't?
Why, that might indicate some level of incompetence. Thus, standardized tests are a threat to the job security of teachers.
Now, a lot of teachers will tell you that they're offended by the idea of grading students anyway. "How do you measure learning?" they ask, without a hint of irony. And they really don't like to hear, "Testing," as a response. Learning, they assure us, isn't about answers, or reaching a destination. It's about the journey, man.
That's just a load of hippie crap. Being comfortable with "the journey" doesn't help much on the construction site when you have to decide if the safety regs allow you to lift a 50 lb bucket of concrete on a rope that's rated at 150 lbs., when your company requires a safety factor of four¹.
And, of course, there's that pesky self-esteem issue. Why, if a student does poorly, his self-esteem will be damaged, the little darling. Nowhere does it even enter their mind that failure is a useful spur to additional effort, and that self-esteem is not something that is given, but rather earned through the accomplishment of difficult tasks.
Those are, I think, just excuses. Because, when people ask, "is our students learning", and discover they aren't, the suspicion tends to flow inevitably towards the people who are supposed to be providing that learning.
And that's the last thing the Teacher's Unions want. Teacher's Unions are not academic colloquia whose purpose is to improve education. They're unions. Their sole purpose is to protect the interests of their employees.
Technical training, which I did, is pretty straightforward. Especially for the military, which tends to rate on a pass/fail system. Either the student can load and fire the weapon, or he can't. Either the student does find the secret hand grenade when searching the POW, or he doesn't. And, of course, the incentive is high, because if you don't do something properly in the military, it often means that someone, usually you, dies².
That tends to keep people's heads in the game, in a way that learning to find the value of X in algebra does not. But there's only one way to find out if a kid knows how to get the value of X, and that's to throw a "(X-2) x 3 = 17.4" and see what he comes up with. If he comes up with "42" then either he's an idiot, or his teacher is.
And, frankly, the Teachers' Unions don't want you to find out which one the idiot is.
¹ Answer: No. The minimum is a rope rated at 200 lbs.
² That's also why the military still tests rigidly, and if you fail, they tell you so. "No, you will not be allowed to carry this weapon, Private Sparky, because you cannot be trusted to do so, without becoming a danger to yourself or others."
(Review) Lord Hutton's inquiry into the whole Iraqi WMD/BBC reporting deal has led to the top two BBC executives resignation, while at the same time clearing Tony Blair of lying about Iraq's WMD programs.
Clearly, the BBC went too far in allowing a reporter's personal biases to color his reporting.
The appropriate conclusions about the Bush Administration should also be drawn, especially in the Wake of David Kay's testimony to Congress.
The question is, how do we fix the intelligence agencies that seem to have been so completely wrong about Saddam's WMD programs? The answer to that question is not, I think, an easy one.
The central problem is the difficulty of piercing the veil of secrecy that exists in any totalitarian state. That's tough enough. It's even tougher in a one-man state like Iraq was, where the dictator's activities are carried out by people from his hometown. It's not like you can simply insert an agent into that chain of command. It's a practical impossibility.
Intelligence is not a science, it's an art. It consists mainly of pulling tiny bits of information gleaned from communications interepts, interviews with defectors, comparisons with past activities, recon photos, and the like, and analyzing them in such a way as to obtain a picture of what's happening.
There's simply no way to make such a process infallible.
But to jump from the faulty intelligence--a fault that seems to have been shared by practically everyone--to the "Bush Lied" meme is simply fantasy.
I remain convinced that the Left doesn't hate Bush because they hate the war. They hate the war because they hate Bush. No amount of evidence will convince them that the WMD problem is the result of incompetence on the CIA's part, rather than conspiracy on the part of Bush.
(Review) Everybody from the Dem establishment is jumping on the John Kerry bandwagon now, and the Dean campaign is deflating as potential supporters scurry away into the darkness like rats departing a sinking ship. Nothing succeeds like success, I gues, and nothing fails like failure.
And, speaking of failures, I think the Dean Campaign died the day Al Gore decided to endorse him. I mean, you can just look back at the polls and see his headlong rush to ignominy began almost the minute Al Gore opened his mouth.
AL Gore is a loser. There's just not a nice way to put it. His whole life, he was protected from his own instincts by handlers and political minders, all of whom were apparently much sharper than he is.
Now, the thing about losing a presidential campaign is that it's liberating in many ways. Unless you're William Jennings Bryan or Adlai Stevenson, and you expect to run again, losing the Big One deprives you of all the minders in one fell swoop. Suddenly, you're a has-been that no one cares to waste time on, because, really, where do you go after losing the presidency?
But once all the handlers are gone, you're pretty much left to your own instincts. You're free of those nagging minders telling what to do and say all the time, but you're also free of their advice, too. That can be dangerous if, like Al Gore, you're actually politically tone deaf, and not the sharpest knife in the drawer, besides¹.
Gore came in for Dean way, way too early. Nobody was even scheduled to vote for another month, and Gore comes along, endorses him, and tells all the other candidates, "Get Out."² Nobody was even scheduled to vote in a primary for another 6 weeks, and there was Al, assuring us it was all over.
There are some truisms in politics, and Al Gore, who's been a politician for most of his adult life, should be familiar with them. And one of those truths is that, until people start actually voting, no one is the front-runner. Before New Hampshire, any talk about front-runners is all smoke and mirrors. We've seen this proven time and time again. But Al's never been a man to let the obvious be an obstacle.
What Gore should have done, is...well, pretty much what he should always do, namely, keep his trap shut.
Why? Well, you see, there are really only two reasons to make a public endorsement of a candidate.
First, you do it because you want to pick a winner. It makes you look like a sharp guy for choosing wisely, and maybe it gives you some leverage to call up the guy later and ask for a quid pro quo for your support if the candidate wins the office for which he's running. For example, let's say you have, like Al Gore, a hard-drinking young rapscallion of a son, and getting him appointed Deputy Assistant Undersecretary of Public Affairs for the Department of the Interior's Western Tennessee region allows him to have a job that's not too taxing, pays well, and lets you keep him close so you can keep an eye on him. In other words, you want to be able to call in a marker at some point in the future.
The second reason is because you really want a particular candidate to win, out of principle. This is the non-cynical reason. You just want to help.
The thing is, no matter which reason Al Gore had for choosing Howard Dean as his best new buddy, he should have waited before doing so. Your endorsement, theoretically, is precious. You can't waste it, and once you give it, it's gone. If you go back later and decide to endorse another candidate, it doesn't have anywhere near the same value.
If Gore was really sincere about helping Dean should have waited at least until after the Iowa Caucuses before jumping in. An endorsement then might have been extraordinarily helpful in overcoming the whole "Yeeeeaaarrrrrgh!" thing. Even now, it might help. In the meantime, Gore could have publicly talked about how attracted he was to Howard Dean's candidacy, without officially endorsing him. It would been an assist for Dean--to the extent that Al's support is an assist for anyone--but, depending on whether the reasons for Gore's endorsement were cynical or sincere, it would have provided either a) in the case of the former, cover for Gore if Dean's campaign went south, or b) if the latter was true, an opportunity to wait until a critical moment when an endorsement would be truly helpful.
What Gore actually got was the worst of both alternatives. He provided a key endorsement at a time when Howard Dean was peaking, and didn't really need it. So he gets no credit for helping out the candidate out of sincere motives, and no really useful markers to call in on Dean later, because Dean was already the "front-runner".
What Gore actually got was an impression that, the second he touched the Dean campaign, he spoiled it utterly.
And, since it's Al Gore we're talking about here, maybe that's true. Al Gore is the ultimate insider. OK, since he was vice-president he's the penultimate insider. But that's still pretty far inside the establishment.
The whole thing about Dean was that he was this rough and plain-spoken outsider, one of whose key points was to rail against the "Washington Democrats". There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Al Gore is a "Washington Democrat", so for him to jump onto the Dean bandwagon when the barrels of the dean campaign were aimed straight at Gore and his ilk, it had to make some people start wondering.
I think that, more importantly, Gore torpedoed the Dean campaign because his announcement focussed so much press attention on Dean. Once Dean was under much closer scrutiny by the press his little gaffes became much more widely known. And the more people saw of him, the less they liked him.
Gore's endorsement said that Dean was important, a man to whom attention must be paid. Once people started paying attention to him, they decided that he wasn't a man to whom their votes should be given.
Either way, the Al Gore endorsement was the kiss of death for Howard Dean.
¹ Yeah, I know he's supposed to be this big policy wonk, and W is supposed to be a frat-boy moron. But W is the guy with a Harvard MBA, and Al Gore is the guy who flunked out of divinity school. I mean, how dumb do you have to be to flunk "God"?
² Whatever happened to "Every vote must Count," Al?
(Review) Howard Dean has kicked campaign manager Joe Trippi to the curb. Trippi has been replaced by Roy Neel, "a former Washington lobbyist tied to Al Gore."
Al Gore? As if the stink of death wasn't already hovering around the campaign.
In a further sign of distress, the one-time front-runner implemented cost-cutting measures as he looked ahead to a series of costly primaries and caucuses, asking staff to defer their paychecks for two weeks.
Yeah, that's a sign of a healthy campaign.
I suspect that very soon, Howard Dean will be going to a place that's small, cold, east of here, and has a large supply of maple syrup readily available.
Photo: Reuters/Jim Bourg
Photo: AP Photo/Steven Senne
(Review) John Ellis gives us an interesting look at where the Democratic presidential race lies now, and how Kerry could still lose.
Let's be blunt about John Forbes Kerry; he's a cold fish and coldly calculating as well. Former Massachusetts State Senate President William Bulger (D) once said that the initials "JFK" stood for "Just for Kerry." Bulger's view is widely shared at the national level. In Massachusetts, Kerry fans are hard to find. To know him is not to love him. And the more you know him, the more you understand why.
More important, Kerry is not a constituency politician. He's self-created and actualized. There is no safety net beneath him, as there was for Reagan when he faltered in Iowa, as there was for Mondale when he lost New Hampshire, as there was for George W. Bush when he lost New Hampshire four years ago. Kerry has a base, but it's psychographic, not demographic. If he begins to slide, aging yuppies will not be the only ones to cut him loose.
So he needs to be the winner, because everybody loves a winner. And in order to be the winner, he has to make sure that no one else wins. And that is why the decisions he makes today will largely determine whether or not he leverages his success in Iowa and New Hampshire into becoming the Democratic presidential nominee, or whether he lets his remaining rival, Senator Edwards, back up off the floor.
Republicans better hope Kerry is a better politican than he appears to be. A Bush v. Edwards campaign in the fall would be a Republican nightmare.
(Review) John Podhoretz writes that, once again, the Dean Campaign shows that big media hype is usually wrong.
The Deaniacs brought "new passion" to politics, we heard. They joined up and found a glorious community of like-minded people to talk with, have house parties with - and, of course, hook up with.
Well, guess what? It was all basically bull. The same wide-eyed, breathless nonsense has been thrown at us for decades by wide-eyed, breathless journalists who are desperate to catch lightning in a bottle and get famous for spotting the Next Big Thing.
We had to listen to this argle-bargle about Eugene McCarthy in 1968, John Anderson in 1980, Gary Hart in 1984, Jerry Brown in 1992 and John McCain in 2000. The candidates become addicted to the idea that they represent something revolutionary and as their candidacies progress, they tend to become strangely messianic - as though it is their role to purify and cleanse American politics of its sinful taint...
Howard Dean has now lost the two states he was once supposed to win handily. Dean now has a new use for the Deaniacs - he blames his youthful supporters for riling him up so much during his concession speech in Iowa that he was compelled to let loose with the Screech Heard Round the World.
The press has been wrong about everything. Everything. Keep that in mind for the rest of the year. You can be sure that the political media won't remind you of it.
Well, except for big media people like John Podhoretz.
(Review) John Kerry may be a good product, writes William Saletan, but he's not one that can sell himself.
But before this rebound relationship drifts to the altar, maybe Democrats should ask what they're getting in Kerry. After watching him for a year and seeing him work New Hampshire, here's my warning: You're getting a guy who has plenty of selling points but can't make the sale himself.
Like my colleague Chris Suellentrop, I've watched the Kerry surge with amazement. I've asked myself how Kerry is persuading previously skeptical voters to change their minds about him. The answer is, he isn't. Other people are doing the persuasion. Other people are doing the testimonial ads, as first lady Christie Vilsack did for Kerry in Iowa. Other people are firing up his crowds. Other people are telling his story. Other people are touting his virtues at rallies because he doesn't reliably display those virtues himself. The man who stood up to serve his country as a soldier is being propped up as a candidate...
Kerry can't ad lib to save his life. Sometimes, in small gatherings, when he's late, tired, and punchy, he escapes his script and gives people a glimpse of the human being beneath the senator. There were flashes of that in Nashua. At first, Kerry bounced across the stage and arched back his shoulders, letting his jacket slip off with a smile you'd expect to see from a stripper. But soon enough, he tightened up. As Kennedy entertained the crowd, Kerry sat in the background with his fingers clasped together, sucking his lower lip and patting his hair nervously to make sure it was still in place. Just before Kerry rose to speak, his wife placed both hands on his shoulders, trying to impart strength. Hundreds of fans waved Kerry signs and applauded his every word. He wasn't there to inspire them. They were there to inspire him.
Physically, Kerry's repertoire is painfully limited. He thrusts his index finger at the audience in an overhead arc again and again, as though launching a projectile. He seems to be trying not to animate his thoughts but to expel them. Above the neck, nothing but his mouth moves. If you showed anyone a video of Kerry with his lips blacked out, they'd never know he was speaking. On television, it often seems as though Kerry is looking at you but not seeing you. In person, you realize he is looking at you but not seeing you. His words are even more stilted, particularly when he ruins a good line by adding prepositional phrases—"in this country … as a fundamental commitment … to all our citizens … regardless of circumstance"—until everyone is silently begging him to stop.
Irrespective of his personal talents, that makes it a bit harder for a presidential candidate in the general election. If you lack that shallow charisma we Americans tend to look for in our national leaders, that can be a big handicap.
And when it's just you, going mano a mano in debate with the President of the United States, there's nobody else in the sales force out there on that stage to prop you up. No Jean Shaheens. No Teddy Kennedys. No Teresa Heinzes, for that matter. Just you, and your drab, wooden little personality in the cold, pitiless glare of the camera lens.
Fortunately, Kerry will be running against George Bush, so it'll be a little more even.
Jeez, can you image Kerry having to face somebody like Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan in his prime?
(Review) Read Claudia Rosett in the Wall Street Journal today.
Which brings me back to the current U.S. debate, in which the agreed trigger for action seems somehow restricted to weapons of mass destruction--and the sure knowledge and certain existence thereof. This is peculiar in itself. While WMDs certainly matter, they are by no means the sum total of an evil regime's capacity to do damage. In the case of the Soviet Union, which possessed thousands of nuclear warheads and conducted hundreds of detectable nuclear tests, none of those bombs ever actually went off in a war. Yet the harm done by that corrosive empire was vast beyond imagining, and in very tangible ways--including such legacies as Kim's North Korea--still haunts us today.
According to "The Black Book of Communism," the death toll from communism was some 100 million people. That same system supplied to a host of nations worldwide, including in the Middle East, blueprints for the one thing that Soviet communism developed with greater efficiency than any other system ever devised--techniques for the repression of human beings. And it is political repression, not weapons of mass destruction per se, that has turned the Middle East into the danger it now constitutes for the democratic world.
But somehow, in the hurly-burly of election-year politics, the focus is all on those elusive weapons. By all means, beef up our intelligence and double-check information--and wish everyone good luck in penetrating with perfect clarity the secrecy and layers of lies that are precisely the specialty of the world's most dangerous states. But let's not pretend that this is the chief standard by which we will ensure the safety of our children's children.
We seem to be heading for the surreal conclusion that it is all right to be a murderous tyrant who only thinks he is pursuing weapons of mass destruction--even if he apparently believes it himself strongly enough to take the risk of kicking out U.N. arms inspectors for four years. Somehow, I am not comforted by the vision of a Saddam presiding over a country where he is allocating resources for WMD, terrorists are traipsing through, and whatever is really going on is anyone's guess, including Saddam's.
What needs to start sinking in, somehow, is that while arsenals matter, what matters even more is the set of rules and values that a regime defends and its leaders live by. This, more than anything signed on paper or offered as totalitarian propaganda, tells us where the worst dangers lie.
Read the whole thing.
(Review) Joan Venochi writes that Howard Dean's campaign isn't dead. He can still win. Really.
As I read this, I was reminded of Fredo yelling, "I'm smart! I can handle stuff!"
Yeah. Sure you can, buddy.
(Review) Michelle Malkin writes that, if you think Howard Dean has a tenuous grasp on his temper, you really, oughtta take a look at John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz.
Evidently, she's on a really short fuse.
No better place for that than in the stress of a national policial campaign. I just hope they have a film crew there when her cork pops. That'll be good TV.
(Review) The wonderfully named Peter Feaver¹ writes in today's Washington Post about what we know now about Iraqi WMDs, compared to what we knew then.
The first thing such a comparison does, he notes, is allow us to dismiss the "Bush Lied" meme as conspiratorial foolishness.
Democrats have gleefully claimed that since the Iraqi WMD program was (apparently) not as advanced as the Bush administration claimed it to be, the neoconservatives in the Bush administration must have deliberately lied. Despite its popularity on the campaign primary trail, this conspiracy theory is so nutty that Bush defenders have just as gleefully avoided tougher questions and contented themselves with knocking it down: How could even the all-powerful neocons have manipulated the intelligence estimates of the Clinton administration, French intelligence, British intelligence, German intelligence and all the other "co-conspirators" who concurred on the fundamentals of the Bush assessment?
And we need to dismiss such foolishness, because concentrating on it prevents us from concentrating on the true lessons to be learned.
- The alternatives confronting the Security Council in March 2003 were not viable. If eight months of largely unfettered investigations could not provide a smoking gun to prove the existence or nonexistence of a stockpile, certainly Hans Blix would fail as well.
- Intelligence failure was inevitable given the nature of the Iraqi regime. The new conventional wisdom is that Hussein wanted us to think he had a more advanced WMD program than he thought he had, and that Hussein himself thought he had a more advanced WMD program than he really had. If Hussein could be deceived in a country where he had absolute power, where he regularly punished betrayers by slipping them through human shredders or having their wives raped in front of them, then any external intelligence service was going to be deceived as well.
- Intelligence failures beget intelligence failures. The intelligence community has a sorry record of assessing just how advanced an incipient WMD program really is.
- Intelligence cannot substitute for political judgment. Coercive diplomacy, the alternative to war, requires political judgment under conditions of uncertainty, a fact lost in the increasingly rancorous partisan debate.
As far as the last item goes, this used to be commonly recognized by nearly everyone in the past, leading to the old saw that "politics stops at the water's edge". To bad the Left has discarded that bit of actual wisdom, too.
¹ One can only imagine the torture that he went through as a schoolboy. It's almost as bad as being named "Richard Head".
(Review) Mark Krikorian writes that the Wall Street Journal's blind support of open borders makes Tuesday's lead editorial intellectually dishonest when it claimed that we've made sincere attempts to police the borders. Krikorian responds that that is absolutely untrue, and anyone with a lick of common sense knows it.
In the Journal's words, "if a policy keeps failing for nearly two decades maybe some new thinking is in order."
Actually, I agree. The problem is that the "new thinking" we need is a commitment to enforce the law. Over the past 20 years, we have done almost nothing to control immigration except beef up the Border Patrol. And while that's a worthwhile goal in itself, any border agent will tell you that his job is only one part of any effort to enforce sovereign borders.
The Journal claims that the ban on hiring illegals, passed in 1986, has been tried and failed. Again, this is false. Enforcement of this measure, intended to turn off the magnet attracting illegals in the first place, was spotty at first and is now virtually nonexistent. Even when the law was passed, Congress pulled its punch by not requiring the development of a mechanism for employers to verify the legal status of new hires, forcing the system to fall back on a blizzard of easily forged paper documents.
And even under this flawed system, the INS was publicly slapped down when it did try to enforce the law. When the agency conducted raids during Georgia's Vidalia onion harvest in 1998, thousands of illegal aliens — knowingly hired by the farmers — abandoned the fields to avoid arrest. By the end of the week, both of the state's senators and three congressmen — Republicans and Democrats — had sent an outraged letter to Washington complaining that the INS "does not understand the needs of America's farmers," and that was the end of that.
So, the INS tried out a "kinder, gentler" means of enforcing the law, which fared no better. Rather than conduct raids on individual employers, Operation Vanguard in 1998-99 sought to identify illegal workers at all meatpacking plants in Nebraska through audits of personnel records. The INS then asked to interview those employees who appeared to be unauthorized — and the illegals ran off. The procedure was remarkably successful, and was meant to be repeated every two or three months until the plants were weaned from their dependence on illegal labor.
Local law-enforcement officials were very pleased with the results, but employers and politicians vociferously criticized the very idea of enforcing the immigration law. Gov. Mike Johanns organized a task force to oppose the operation; the meat packers and the ranchers hired former Gov. Ben Nelson to lobby on their behalf; and, in Washington, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.) (coauthor, with Tom Daschle, of the newest amnesty bill, S.2010) made it his mission in life to pressure the Justice Department to stop. They succeeded, the operation was ended, and the INS veteran who thought it up in the first place is now enjoying early retirement.
I don't know what kind of glockkukuksheim the Journal's editors live in in New York City, but wherever it is, it needs to get back in touch with reality.
The truth is that in California, if you can make it across the border, and then past the Border Patrol stations in Rainbow on the I-15 and San Clemente on the I-5, you're home free. And if you want to stay in San Diego county, you don't have to worry about the latter at all.
(Review) Last night was another bad night for Howard Dean. He's certainly not the front-runner any more. The thing is, he's got the organization and the money to stay in the race for a while yet. Now that the race is moving into the South and Southwest, Dean has a much tougher audience to face than Midwest Progressives and Northeastern liberals.
To have any hope of winning, he's got to attack John Kerry, and let everybody know what a weasel Kerry really is.
Rich Lawry writes that, If Dean can't be nominated, he'll settle for that kind of internecine bloodletting as a satisfactory second place.
In continuing the fight against John Kerry, the former Vermont governor will inevitably have to point out how Kerry's anti-Washington, anti-special-interest rhetoric is an affectation. Dean was already doing this, fairly gently, in New Hampshire. More will almost certainly be on the way. When he was down and out, Kerry argued that Dean was phony. Turnabout will now be fair play.
The Democratic establishment will realize this and push to get Dean out of the race, but with his base of activists and his network of Internet donors Dean has the capacity to resist pressure. And he has plenty of motive, because he thinks he was done dirty. Asked by Brit Hume last night about Terry McAuliffe's test that a candidate should have won something by Feb. 3 to stay in, Dean said basically that McAuliffe should stuff it, recalling that the DNC chairman had done nothing to stop the negative attacks against him. Attaboy Howard! You wuz robbed, robbed, robbed!
Dean has recently taken to complaining that his rivals in Iowa had game-plans to try to dissuade caucus-goers from supporting him. Oh, the outrage! What has the democratic process come to? Don't stand for it, Howard. Fight back — in New Mexico, in Arizona, in South Carolina, in North Dakota, in Missouri, etc., etc. It is time for the politics of paranoia and grievance to devour its own. Since you helped create John Kerry — his message has been to a significant extent Deanified — who better than you to point out his inadequacies and contradictions?
And the nice thing is that Dean can stay in at least until the California Primaries on 2 March, because a big win in California, coupled with respectable second palce showings everywhere else, might actually get him the nomination. At least mathematically. Especially if John Edwards does well in the South, which might hurt Kerry's delegate count more than anybody else's.
All the while, Howard Dean will be bashing Kerry, over and over, and over. Sure, Dean won't win, but he can still hurt Kerry enough to make him a weaker candidate in the general election.
Go, Howard, Go!
(Review) John Kerry opened a can of whupass on Howard Dean in NH.
That's with a little more than 1/3 of the precincts counted.
(Review) Al Franken attacked a Lyndon LaRouche supporter who was heckling Howard Dean. The heckler was shouting when Franken slammed into from behind, grabbed him, and threw him to the floor.
I don't know what that is in NH, but here in CA, it's a violation of sec. 242 of the Penal Code, and is punishable by 6 months in the county jail.
I suspect that the LaRouche people, being exceptionally irritating people, will now be suing the pants off Franken, who, by the way, apparently doesn't mind the violent crushing of dissent when it's dissent he doesn't like.
If you or I did that, we'd be leaving the big political rally in handcuffs.
Photo: AP Photo/Stephen Vaughan, 20th Century Fox
Photo: AFP/Patrick Kovarik
Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder
(Review) Bear Flagger Patrick Prescott has moved his blog into new digs. Check it out.
(Review) Peggy Noonan writes that The Little General isn't...well...normal.
Mr. Dole, a little emollient, then a little mischievous, told Gen. Clark, first, that "somebody [had] to lose" in Iowa and, next, that "politically you just became a colonel instead of a general." This little barb set off a pompous harrumph of a retort: "Well, I don't think that's at all--Senator, with all due respect, he's [Kerry's] a lieutenant and I'm a general. You got to get your facts on this. He was a lieutenant in Vietnam. I've done all of the big leadership." The exchange ended with Gen. Clark telling Mr. Dole that he, Wesley, had "been in a lot of tough positions in my life, one of them was leading the operation in Kosovo . . ."
"I won a war"? "I pitch a 95-mile-an-hour fastball"? "I've done all of the big leadership"? "I've been in a lot of tough positions"?
Oh no. Another one...
It is true that Americans respect and often support generals. But we like our generals like Eisenhower and Grant and George Marshall: We like them sober, adult and boring. The title "general" is loaded enough. We don't want one who is temperamental and unpredictable and strange.
Tempramental, unpredictable, and strange. I can't think of a better shorthand character sketch of The Little General.
(Review) Mark Steyn goes on the record with his predictions for New Hampshire:
But, barring a Larouche surge, my bet for today's vote is as follows:
1) Senator John Kerry 29 per cent
2) Governor Howard Dean 28 per cent
3) Senator John Edwards 19 per cent
4) Senator Joe Lieberman 12 per cent
5) General Wesley Clark 10 per cent
6) Everybody else 2 per cent
You can have a good laugh about these predictions tomorrow morning.
As a New Hampshire resident, he also weighs in with some observations about the campaign from his point of view. For Instance, what's a Kerry "rally" like?
If you go to a Kerry rally – something of an oxymoron, but let that pass – the senator's stump speech is a karaoke tape of floppo populist boilerplate. If he'd downloaded it for free from the internet, that'd be one thing. Instead, he paid a small fortune to hotshot consultant Bob Shrum, who promptly faxed over the same old generic guff he keeps in the freezer: "I (insert name here) will never stop fighting for ordinary people against the powerful interests that stand in your way."
This shtick worked so well for Shrum's previous clients - President Dick Gephardt (1988), President Bob Kerrey (1992), President Al Gore (2000) and President Insert Namehere (2008) that he evidently sees no reason why it shouldn't elect a fifth president this time round.
The most interesting observation, though, is that the image the candidates are trying to project--except for Howard Dean--is different than the traditional Democratic image.
That's the real story here: for all Howard Dean's talk that you can't beat Bush with "Bush Lite", the candidates who'll survive to the southern primaries next week are doing their best not to sound anti-war, anti-tax cuts or anti-guns. In other words, even in the Democratic primary, this election's now being fought on Republican terms.
Now, that is an interesting development.
(Review) In an article entitled, "I See Dean People", William Saletan takes several vicious, but well-deserved, swipes at the whole Dean Campaign.
The Internet helped Deaniacs find, organize, and fortify each other. Together, they built confidence and strength. They spent hours discussing topics such as "Why I love Howard Dean," "When did you fall in love with Howard Dean," and "Enough about Howard Dean—what do you love about Howard Dean?" But the more they affirmed each other, the more they lost touch with the rest of us. Even their first taste of reality, a third-place finish in Iowa, couldn't shake them...
The airbrushed, self-validating fantasy goes on as actor Martin Sheen takes the stage to introduce Dean. Sheen plays President Josiah Bartlet on NBC's The West Wing, which the Dean campaign has adopted as its model...Lately, Sheen has been stumping for Dean, as though Bartlet's imaginary presidential authority should carry weight in the real world. "As the acting president of the United States," Sheen begins, and the crowd whoops with delight...
Howard Dean has taken the microphone to "thank President Bartlet" as everyone applauds. Dean proceeds to describe an imaginary world in which he was "the only one" to oppose President Bush on a series of issues. "I'm the only governor in the country who stood up for civil unions" for gay couples, says the man who signed Vermont's civil unions bill behind closed doors after his state's Supreme Court forced him to.
Dean makes light of his concession speech on caucus night in Iowa, in which he vented his emotions with a visceral roar. In the week since then, he has repeatedly explained that he wasn't trying to scare the television audience; he was just trying to mirror and affirm the enthusiasm of his supporters who were in that room in Iowa. But that's the problem. Dean wasn't talking to the country. He was talking to his movement...It was the speech of a crusader, not a president.
Today, as Dean starts to talk about health care, a guy in the balcony interrupts him. The guy says he was unemployed but was able to see a doctor, thanks to Vermont's health insurance program. "Some people heard Howard Dean scream, and it made them run away," the guy shouts. "I heard Howard Dean scream, and it made me wake up!" The crowd whoops, and Dean smiles...
I don't know whether there are enough people like this guy to power Dean through tomorrow's primary. But I do know there aren't nearly enough of them to elect Dean president. I wonder whether Dean and his followers will ever wake up—and how many of the rest of us will have to run away before they do.
Don't hold back. Tell us how you really feel.
(Review) David Ignatius writes that the odd thing about the decline of the dollar's value in FOREX markets is that it doesn't seem to bother anyone. The theory seems to be "Strong dollar? Good. Weak Dollar? Good."
There is, however, deep pessimism about Europe's economic prospects with a strong Euro. I suspect, however, that's because of economic fundamentals that have to do with things other than their currencies strength. For instance, the looming pensions crisis, or their unsustainable welfare spending.
Where there is real optimism though, is among the Chinese.
The Chinese, in a nod toward reality, have said they will allow some upward flexibility in their currency this year -- and various Chinese bankers were offering teasing hints here about just when and how much the renminbi might rise. Indeed, a Davos parlor game was devising proxy investments that would allow you to place an advance bet on the inevitable rise in the Chinese currency once it becomes convertible. Ironically, the favorite proxy was the Taiwan dollar. The one thing few here seemed to doubt was that China's economic power will someday rival that of the United States. I asked one Chinese investor whether he thought the dollar would remain the world's reserve currency 50 years from now. "Of course not," he said. "The reserve currency will be Chinese."
Yeah? Well not with the current government, or any similar successor, it won't.
The Chinese have--have always had, really--this peculiar conceit that they are truly The Middle Kingdom, the world's center of, well, everything.
Now, maybe over the next 50 years, China's economy will boom fantastically. Maybe they'll throw off the shackles of their totalitarian overlords, and get a real, consensual government, All that will be wonderful.
But it's not like the US economy will be sitting on idle for the next five decades while that happens. And we don't have a quarter-billion people with no electricity still using outdoor toilets. Nor do we have vast tracts of wasteland caused by 60 years of environmental neglect that must be reclaimed.
China will require massive amounts of growth just to take a "Great Leap Forward" into the 20th century.
(Review) It's primary day in the tiny state of New Hampshire, or as Howard Dean calls it, upside-down Vermont.
So, who takes the prize there today? The polls say Kerry. But then, when it comes to New Hampshiore, the polls say a lot of things, and often wildly different things at the same time.
NH voters are...iconoclastic. They make last minute vote switches. 30% of the NH electorate in the last poll said they were still willing to change their minds about who to vote for. 15% are still undecided.
I note that The Little General won last night in the voting taken in Dixville Notch and Hart's Location.
Heh. What a load of fun it'd be if Clark actually ran away with this thing. Then Edwards won big in SC next week.
I think it'd be really funny if, after front-loading their primaries to choose a candidate by March, thus giving him the rest of the year to go after George Bush, what the Dems actually got was 3 or 4 candidates, each with 1,000 delegates or so. Then, they'd be deadlocked with no candidate until their convention chose one.
I think that'd be a scream. They'd all be sniping at each other for the next 6 months.
That Terry McAuliffe would sure be popular then.
(Review) Lileks distills the Democratic policy arguments against Bush to it's essence.
A Democrat could have a good shot at Bush's job if he concentrated on spending, not tax cuts. But they can't. They won't. And so they send the message that [they] will never cut your taxes. Ever. Can't be done. We need to raise taxes and we must never alienate France is not a winning strategy, I think. However they dress it up, that's what it comes down to.
Oh, and according to Wes Clark, if you don't believe in progressive taxation, you're unpatriotic.
(Review) So, we haven't found any WMDs in Iraq. Chief weapons inspector David Kay says he doesn't think we will find them.
So what happened?
We already know what the John Kerrys of the country will say.
"It confirms what I have said for a long period of time, that we were misled - misled not only in the intelligence, but misled in the way that the president took us to war," Kerry said on "Fox News Sunday." "I think there's been an enormous amount of exaggeration, stretching, deception."
Yeah. Shut the f*** up, Johnny.
You thought the guy had WMDs all the way back to 1998, when Bill Clinton made whacking Saddam the law of the land.
So, bite me. You and Teddy both.
Everybody thought the guy had a WMD program. Even Jacques Chirac's intelligence poodles yapped on and on about it.
So, either Saddam got rid of them at the last moment, or it was all a big bluff. Either way, good call, Saddam. How's that workin' out for ya?
But, I think the CIA owes us all a big explanation. How did the intelligence agencies of every country in the civilized world--and the Russians--get fooled so badly for so long.
We need to know because, at the end of the day, if we ever start talking about how the President-for-Life of Kaplackistan is building nuclear missiles, people are gonna wonder if it's true, or if we're just shining them on. We have to figure out how we can fix this, get the right info in the future, and how we can get other countries to get their own confirmation.
Because if we don't, then from now on, and for as long as the sun burns hot in space, every time a US president starts talking about some tin-pot dictator getting hold of a nuclear weapon, the French are gonna start screaming, "Il est tout un grand mensonge! Un mensonge!
And even though nobody here will understand that because we don't speak frog, let me tell you, it isn't an indication of high esteem for our credibility.
Now, the CIA are the same guys that estimated that the Soviet GDP was about twice as high as it actually was, which may a go a long way toward explaining why they also missed the fact that the whole Warsaw Pact was about to collapse in 1989. They didn't know the Iraqis were invading Kuwait in 1991 until the Republican Guard's battalion commanders were already dipping themselves in the Emir's warm marble bathtubs in Kuwait City. And now they evidently missed this. Oh, and the CIA and the FBI didn't exactly do a bang-up job of preventing 911, either.
So, who is it that actually works at the CIA? And why are they still there?
And how do we ensure that this never happens again?
(Review) Arnold Kling comes to Paul Krugman's defense on trade policy. And, increasingly, he's beginning to agree with Krugman that people who don't understand the Theory of Comparative Advantage shouldn't be allowed to talk about international trade.
Oh, and along the way, Kling manages to put to rest the idea that outsourcing to India is some sort of huge economic threat.
And he does it without graphs or math. Trust me, if you're an economist, that's not easy to do.
(Review) Terry Moe somehow conned the New York Times into publishing his erudite defense of school vouchers on the op/ed page.
(Review) Tom Friedman is a thinking man. But he is also a man of the Left, and prone therefore to the fallacy of thinking the economic determinism is at the heart of the problem in the Middle East. Why are there terrorists? Friedman seems to imply it's because they don't have jobs.
Just read the numbers and weep: of the 90 million Arab youth today (between the ages of 15 and 24), 14 million are unemployed, many of them among the 15 to 20 million Muslims now living in Europe. "There's not enough jobs and not enough hope," Jordan's King Abdullah told the Davos economic forum. According to the 2003 Arab Human Development Report, between 1980 and 1999 the nine leading Arab economies registered 370 patents (in the U.S.) for new inventions. Patents are a good measure of a society's education quality, entrepreneurship, rule of law and innovation. During that same 20-year period, South Korea alone registered 16,328 patents for inventions. You don't run into a lot of South Koreans who want to be martyrs.
I was at Google's headquarters in Silicon Valley a few days ago, and they have this really amazing electronic global map that shows, with lights, how many people are using Google to search for knowledge. The region stretching from Morocco to the border of India had almost no lights. I attended a breakfast at Davos on the outsourcing of high-tech jobs from the U.S. and Europe to the developing world. There were Indian and Mexican businessmen there, and much talk about China. But not a word was spoken about outsourcing jobs to the Arab world. The context — infrastructure, productivity, education — just isn't there yet.
No one, of course, denies that education and material well-being are unimportant. But behavior is not determined by economics. It is determined by the values impressed upon a people by their culture.
It's important to note the anomalous way in which the left has, ever since Marx, regarded the importance of economics. Economics, they seem to be saying, determines values. People are poor, so they feel hopeless, from whence it is only a short step to blowing stuff up. But, if economics determines values, then why doesn't the Left believe the rich are the most virtuous of us? If poverty makes you angry and violent, then why do riches make you, in the eyes of the Left, an evil and vicious exploiter of the poor? It seems, in the left's ideology, at least, that there is an exceptionally narrow range in which economics allows one to become a paragon of virtue.
If only, the Left cries, these people could have education and jobs their hatred would disappear. Funny, though, it didn't seem to prevent the Europeans from embroiling themselves in WWI. Nor did a university education at the Sorbonne prevent Pol Pot from becoming one of the 20th century's most prolific mass murderers.
And let's look at those patent figures. Is the lack of Arab patents indicative of poverty, or are they rather an indication of the Arab Muslim world's lack of freedom, intimidation of dissent, and repression of rational, skeptical inquiry? Indeed, isn't the poverty and lack of jobs themselves symptomatic of these deeper problems, rather than the source of them?
A poor economy is the result, not the cause of Arab cultural failures.
This is especially saddening when one realizes that Early Islam was the world's prime center of scientific and medicinal research. Indeed, many of the West Later cultural triumphs were possible only because Early Islam kept alive the writings and traditions of the Ancient Greeks, and retransmitted them to the West after the Dark Ages. But that brand of Arab Muslim culture is dead. For whatever reason, that particular culture today is intolerant, and viciously hostile to dissent or rational, skeptical inquiry.
This is not the atmosphere in one can—or should—expect innovation in science, business, or public policy. And without innovation, one can hardly expect dynamic, flexible economies.
So, then, where does the terrorism come from? After all, most Haitians are dismally poor, yet they don't blow themselves up in shopping malls in Fort Lauderdale and Mobile. Why doesn't their poverty cause terrorism? For that matter, why aren't Mexicans, Guatemalans, or Hondurans doing it either? Could it be because they have a different set of cultural values that include strong prohibitions against terrorism?
I submit that Arab Muslim culture has far weaker strictures against terrorism, at least if terrorist acts are committed against non-muslims. I submit that terrorism results from two dangerous ideas prevalent in Arab Muslim culture.
First, is the idea of Jihad. Of the world's major religions, Islam is the only one whose primary spread was advanced through military action. Now, Muslim scholars speaking for CAIR can repeat ad nauseum that the concept of Jihad refers to the personal struggle against sin. But the actual known history of their religion, and the fairly widespread Wahabbi interpretation of the concept of Jihad, is something entirely different.
Second is the Leftist idea that the problems faced by the Arab world, and in the Third World in general, are the direct results of colonization. As a practical matter, this is utter hogwash, as far as the Arab world is concerned. Their colonial power for hundreds of years, right up to 1918, was Moslem Turkey. While 30 years of colonization by western powers from roughly 1918-1948 may not have improved the lot of the Arab world by much, they certainly didn't cause pathologies that have festered for 60 years. Frankly, neither the British nor the French were that competent. But it is a lot more satisfying to blame outsiders, especially non-Muslims, for your problems than it is to look at your own society and realize that its pathologies are the cause of your misery.
But those two ideas together are a dangerous potion. Because they simultaneously tell you that non-Muslims are exploiting your people, and that killing those non-Muslims wholesale is a perfectly acceptable response. And it is a compelling argument, even if you, like the 911 hijackers, are university-educated members of the middle and upper middle class. It's compelling even to the successful, billionaire construction company owner who remains the world's chief terrorist today.
Assuming he's still alive.
If economics determined values, Osama bin Laden would instead be one of the world's chief saints.
(Review) The best writer in English language journalism, Mark Steyn, weighs in on the Democratic presidential contest in NH"
What seems to be happening on the ground in New Hampshire is this: Now that John Kerry is the sane alternative to Howard Dean, much of Wesley Clark's support has leached away to Kerry. But at the same time Dean has been so subdued and demoralized that some of his wackier support has leached away to Clark. If Kerry is the sane alternative to Dean, Clark is the crazy alternative to Kerry.
Don't take my word for it -- ask Michael Moore, the corpulent conspirazoid. He has endorsed Clark, not Dean. Message: Vote for the real crazy, not the karaoke crazy. In Thursday's debate, Peter Jennings twice gave Gen. Clark the opportunity to repudiate retrospectively Moore's characterization of the president as a ''deserter,'' as Clark had failed to do when Moore made the charge standing alongside him. Instead, Clark claimed to have no views on the matter, not to have looked into it, and said that Moore is ''not the only person who's said that.'' Clark doesn't scream: He has that weirdly intense stare. But, for as long as he's in the race, he'll do more damage to Democratic credibility than any amount of howling from Howard. He's very touchy about status: As he pointed out on CNN, he's a four-star general while Kerry was a mere lieutenant. In the ranks of the deranged, he's Field Marshal Flakey while Dean would be lucky to make corporal.
That brings us to the ''Comeback Kerry,'' as he styled himself last Monday, though even his missus, Theresa Heinz, could only force a grin at that line. In Iowa, the Ketchup Kid left Dean lying in a big pool of red sticky stuff, and establishment Dems breathed a sigh of relief. But it's hard to see why. Consciously or otherwise, Democrats seemed to be trying to neutralize the war as an issue -- the overwhelming majority is still opposed to it but in Iowa they just wanted it to go away, so they could get back to talking about their issues: health, education, mandatory bicycling helmets, etc.
Now that's a good line.
(Review) Chip Griffin writes that Howard Dean is putting everything he has into New Hampshire, to the exclusion of every other state.
And betting big he is. The Dean campaign has pulled TV ads in all states except New Hampshire. They are dumping 120,000 videotapes of the Diane Sawyer interview all over the state (enough for about 1 out of every 10 men, women, and children here). The reclusive "Doc Judy" has even begun to pop up almost as much as a whack-a-mole.
Will it pay off? It might. The (admittedly) notoriously unreliable tracking polls seem to indicate that Dean's freefall has abated and some even suggest a little recovery. These same surveys show that Dean's supporters are solid, with roughly three-quarters saying they won't change their mind.
It the only choice he has to stave off complete disaster for his campaign. And, maybe it'll be worth it. After all, he could win.
No matter what the polls say, NH is almost always a surprise, as the Washington Post points out today. NH has exceedingly odd rules about registration and voting in the primaries, so polling is sometimes so off-base, it doesn't even have a bad cell-phone connection with reality.
(Review) Despite every other poll showing Howard Dean all but finished in New Hampshire, the Zogby Tracking poll shows him with quite a lot of strength, and only 3 points behind John Kerry.
We'll know tomorrow if I--and everyone else--was wrong to write Dean off as a loser after Iowa.
(Review) According to John Fund, Andrew Sullivan isn't the only person who's got problems with George W. Bush.
For 30 years, the foot soldiers of the conservative movement have gathered here for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. It is the only major conclave in which all elements of the conservative movement--from home-schoolers to antitax crusaders to missile-defense advocates--are represented.
What should worry President Bush is that at the CPAC meeting that ended Saturday there was a clear undercurrent of discontent with his administration. "The people here will vote for Bush, but their friends could be dispirited and stay home just as [White House adviser] Karl Rove said some did in 2000," says Don Devine, who served as President Reagan's director of federal personnel. "We all know how close that election turned out."
Let's take it as a given the conservative small-government rhetoric is more overblown than the actuality. I remember back in 1981, right after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan (one of whose platform planks was to eliminate the Department of Education), when Terrel H. Bell, Reagan's Education Secretary went in to the office for his first full day of work.
Bell was taken into a large meeting area, where the employees were gathered. Bell looked around for a few seconds, then quipped, "All you people work here?"
The employees laughed, for just a second, then the reality of what he was talking about--shutting down the Department--hit them, and they began to groan.
Of course, as it turns out, groans were uneccessary. The Department of Education is not only still there, but W is substantially increasing its money.
W is exactly the opposite type of conservative that Reagan was. Reagan was a social libertarian and a fiscal conservative. Oh, sure, he made all the required pious mouth noises about abortion, and the baby Jesus, but he never actually did anything about them.
Although, come to think of it, he didn't actually do much to hinder the growth of the Federal government either. But Bush doesn't even try to use fiscally-conservative rhetoric.
Bush is a social conservative, fiscally liberal president. Need protection from those pesky foreign competitors for steel, lumber, or textiles? Well, we'll just slap some tariffs on those puppies! Elderly and need medicine? Why just let ol' Unca Sam pay for it! Kids aren't doing to well in school? Why, nothing a few billion bucks thrown at the Education Department can't fix!
I think George W. Bush is not unbeatable. All it takes is for disaffected fiscal conservatives and libertarians to stay home, and against Kerry or Edwards, he may just lose. Against Lieberman, he'd be complete toast.
In fact, under that scenario, I'd probably vote for Liberman.
(Review) Andrew Sullkivan isn't happy with the Bush Administration, and it's Nanny in Chief. And, as far as domestic policy goes, why should he be?
There's barely a speech by President Bush that doesn't cite the glories of human freedom. It's God's gift to mankind, he believes...But there's a strange exception to this Bush doctrine. It ends when you reach America's shores...When your individual choices conflict with what the Bush people think is good for you, they have been only too happy to intervene...
The President is proud of his Big Government moralism. As he put it in his first State of the Union message, "Values are important, so we have tripled funding for character education to teach our children not only reading and writing, but right from wrong." Sounds inoffensive enough. But who exactly determines what is right and what is wrong? Churches? Synagogues? Parents? Teachers? Nah. The Federal Government...
There has always been a tension in conservatism between those who favor more liberty and those who want more morality. But what's indisputable is that Bush's "compassionate conservatism" is a move toward the latter — the use of the government to impose and subsidize certain morals over others. He is fusing Big Government liberalism with religious-right moralism. It's the nanny state with more cash. Your cash, that is. And their morals.
I think this is precisely right. Apart from actively prosecuting the War on Terror and maintaining the tax cuts, I can't think of a single reason for which I would vote for George W. Bush.
Unfortunately, my choices do not include "idealized domestically libertarian, strongly pro-defense candidate". They include George W. Bush and "a quasi-socialist, UN-style internationalist to be named later".
Thanks for the choice.
Jeez, we coulda repealed the 22nd Amendment and just re-elected Clinton and gotten pretty much what we have now.
Jon Henke quips that we'd actually have a better trade policy.
(Review) Cobb both agrees and disagrees with my statements on illegal immigration.
What I agree with is that it benefits Mexico to have their citizens working in the US and delivering funds back to their home country. It stands to reason that these funds are not adequately taxed.
Well, it doesn't matter whether they are taxed or not. The advantage to Mexico lies not in the revenue the government extracts from this income (although, as inefficient as their tax system is, they must surely extract some), but in the fact that such income is available to the families of illegal immigrants. Remember, the Mexican government uses immigration as a safety valve to short-circuit calls for greater reform and transparency in the government. They eliminate some of this pressure by making economic refugees out of a potentially troublesome part of their population. For those the government cannot export, the extra income from the US ameliorates their complaints.
Let us assume that the Mexican government derives not one red cent from currency repatriation. It is still in their best interests to allow it.
I haven't heard much tell of the Mexican oligarchs being mercantilist, I'm not even quite sure what it means, but I'm sure some clever Mexicans have figured out a way to make a buck out of the way expatriot workers are making a buck.
Most of the economies of Central and South American states are popularly believed to be capitalist economies. They are not. They are mercantilist economies, to one extent or another. Mercantilism is essentially a type of economic nationalism. In general, mercantilist countries attempt to have regular trade surpluses. They restrict the ownership of certain industries—or, like Mexico, all industries and property—to their own nationals. Industries that might be substantially owned by foreigners face the constant threat of nationalization. (Indeed, one of the reasons why investors are so adverse to investment in Central and South America has been the nationalization of many industries in the past. Always after heavy norteamericano investment, of course.)
This has been changing in the last decade, as the economies of Central and South America have moved closer to free markets and free trade. But, mercantilist policies are still a powerful force in Latin America.
As far as Mexicans figuring out how to make a buck out of expat workers, I'm sure that's true. Or not. It isn't germane to my point, however. What is germane is that the influx of so much currency into Mexico helps them to maintain a current account surplus, which by mercantilist lights, improves the measure of Mexico's wealth.
Franks takes a swipe at theoritical multiculturalism as if it were the reason for playing nice nice with the immigrants. Having grown up in Los Angeles, and playing pickup soccer all through high school for what it's worth, I've always viewed multiculturalism as a formalization of what we do here anyway. Multiculturalism may need a jumpstart in Boston where they can't even cook decent barbecue ribs, much less understand Spanglish, but here in California it is de rigeur, if not de jure.
I strongly disagree. America is not, nor has it ever been multicultural. America has always been multi-ethnic, which is a different thing entirely. Until 30 years ago, assimilation into American culture was an inalterable requirement for any kind of success. It was rigidly enforced in schools, businesses, and in public life.
As I stated in an earlier post, being an American is a philosophical commitment to a set of principles, not a matter of membership in a particular ethnic or racial group. This has allowed America to maintain an essentially peaceful civic society, despite having immigrants from every ethnic group in the world. What has made America successful is that it has been unicultural and multi-ethnic. We play nice with immigrants because public civility and tolerance is part of American culture. And we demand that they play nice, because while they can kill as many Serbs or Croats as they want back on the Old Country, we won't tolerate it here.
It is the ossification of the ethos which sets many conservative folks off.
No, it isn't. It is the tendentious stupidity of the idea in the first place, and its apparent failure everywhere else in the world its been tried. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Rwanda, Uganda, Yugoslavia, Chechnya, etc., etc., etc. You'd think that if multiculturalism were such a bang-up success, it wouldn't require a totalitarian like Tito to keep it from exploding into tribal violence.
You can have a successful multi-ethnic country. Despite our problems, we've done it for 220 years.
Multiculturalism, however, is a horse of an entirely different color. And a spectacularly unsuccessful one, as far as I can see.
Multiculturalism won, and it still rubs people the wrong way. Still, but I think it the height of hypocrisy for those who are incapable of even a modest bit of Spanish to assert any mandate for mono- or bilingualism. Remember the old jokes they used to tell at my crusty prep school - Can you speak Spanish? No. How does it feel to be dumber than a Mexican? (Har Har!) My word on this is best illustrated by that wild man Ishmael Reed who appropriately says, if you're not speaking the language, you're not learning the culture. This cuts both ways, against kneejerk assimilationists who believe Mexican culture is inferior, and liberal activists who respect bilingualism in kids who don't read well in either language. The grain of truth is that the culture that lives on, lives on in literature, arts and philosophy but most people embroiled in immigration controversy aren't generally looking in that direction.
I would say that ethnicity and ethnic heritage lives on, and that culture shouldn't. And I don't particularly care if ethnic heritage lives on. Mexican immigrants can speak Spanish all they want. But they shouldn't, like Inspector Reynaud in Casablanca, be shocked—shocked!—to learn that lack of ability to speak the majority language limits their horizons.
On the other hand, if we all learned to speak fluent Spanish, and yet kept our commitment to republican principles, America would be completely unchanged, aside from that. The language one speaks does not determine the direction of one's culture. The things in which people believe does.
Now, about " kneejerk assimilationists who believe Mexican culture is inferior". Let me be plain. Mexico's culture is inferior. After all, there are 12 million Mexicans living illegally in the US. The reverse is not true. That is prima facie evidence of inferiority right there.
To believe otherwise is to believe that Mexican culture has nothing to do with that country's staggering political corruption, its lack of a middle class and stratification into two classes, one small class of fabulously wealthy hidalgos and one large class of crushingly poor campesinos, it's utter inability to provide economic growth and jobs for its citizenry, or any of a host of other things that sends its own citizens to this country by the millions. Are we to believe Mexican culture has nothing whatsoever to do with the problems that have continuously plagued that country for the past four centuries?
To believe that if Mexican culture were prevalent here, all of those attendant problems would melt away simply because it happens to be geographically located north of the Rio Grande is naďve in the extreme. Mexico's problems have very little indeed to do with its geographical location. To the extent that Mexican culture would not be a failure in America, it would be because the culture had changed to become more like America's, and less like Mexico's.
When it comes to American politics, immigration is a racial and an economic issue, despite Mr. Franks honest protestations.
I never said otherwise. I just said that my arguments weren't based on either race or economics. I can't speak for others' arguments. I can only speak for my own.
My point is that in many ways West Texas is already an American Mexico, and everything is just dandy. Who are we to determine what is the proper character for an American city? If Deaborn, Michigan is suddenly recognized as the capital city if Islam in America are we suddenly to become upset with Dearborn?
And my point is that West Texas shows a large amount of Mexican ethnic character, but it operates under American, not Mexican, cultural assumptions. And that's perfectly fine.
If Dearborn, MI, was Muslim Arab in ethnicity, and classically liberal and American in outlook, then, no, we wouldn't have a problem with that. If, on the other hand, civil authorities in Dearborn proclaimed sharia law as the official mode of jurisprudence, began requiring women to veil themselves, and began taxing all Christian and Jewish community members with a special surtax, we would object quite strenuously indeed.
Such rules, of course, would be perfectly consonant with those that already exist in the Arab world, but they would be fundamentally un-American.
Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder
(Review) I know George Bush says he's against an amnesty on illegal immigration. But actions, evidently, speak louder than words.
Of 162 people stopped for using phony documents at San Ysidro since Bush announced his plan on Jan. 7, 94 said they were trying to enter because of the proposed new work program, according to sources present at a Wednesday meeting of a border-security working group in San Diego.
Border Patrol officials have reported a 15 percent increase in the use of phony documents at the San Ysidro port compared with the same period a year ago.
Bush's plan, designed to match willing workers with willing employers, would provide temporary legal status to illegal immigrants working in the United States and to others outside the country if they can show they have a job offer.
His proposal has been widely publicized in Mexico. In some quarters, it is being characterized as an amnesty, despite Bush's contention that it is not.
So, who you gonna believe? George W. Bush or your own lyin' eyes?
Photo: AFP/Sabah Arar
Photo: Reuters/Jim Bourg
Photo: Reuters/Jim Bourg
Photo: AFP/File/John Mabanglo
Photo: AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian
(Review) Byron York wasn't impressed by Wes Clark at the Dem Debate.
All in all, Clark's was the weakest performance in a presidential debate since, well, his performance in the early debates. And it could have been even worse; the general was lucky, for example, that no one brought up his embarrassing attempts to pull rank on his rival, Sen. John Kerry, who served as a lieutenant in Vietnam. It is impossible to see how Clark's performance Thursday night, as well as his performance in New Hampshire in general, will help his chances in the upcoming primary.
The dominant impression one receives after listening to Clark for a while, is that there is very little he actually knows, except that he wants to be Presdient.
(Review) Victor Davis Hanson writes that the Democrats are coming perilously close to destroying their party for the next generation due to their consiracy-obsessed, Chomskyite views on Iraq.
With all this in mind, it is hard to understand the Democrats' logic of disaster. True, we are in an election year — the stuff of predictable hysteria. Politics, of course, is an arena in which there are no laws — a gladiatorial free-for-all that (unless you are Howard Dean) you don't enter demanding the retiarius leave behind his net or the Thracian dull his scimitar. But still, both history and reason offer no support for the calculus of the candidates' current invective. The party of Harry Truman has somehow boxed itself into the corner of seeing bad news from the Iraqi theater as good news for them.
In contrast, encouraging developments — from the capture of Saddam Hussein to a return of services and gradual stability in Iraq — are embraced as antithetical to the Democrats' own election hopes. But do they grasp that very few presidential hopefuls — remember McClellan, McCarthy, and McGovern — have ever been elected during a period of turmoil through calls for a cessation of effort, which the American electorate always interprets as defeatist rather than rational?
...If the Democrats would stick to fiscal propriety — along the lines of Walter Mondale's cries about Reaganomics and soaring deficits — they, like Mondale, would probably still lose, given strong Reagan-like incumbent leadership on national security. But they would lose without destroying the Democratic party for a generation, which may well be the case should they continue to be on the wrong side of history about Iraq.
I think the Democrats don't care. Rage, not rational inquiry, is pushing the Democrats in this election. Perhaps they neeed a crushing defeat to remind them that the real gold mine in American politics is not their most radical supporters, but the broad American middle, which is uncomfortable with the ideologues of both sides.
(Review) Robert Robb makes the case that the Republicans have blown their chance to prove they are an effective governing party. Or a principled one.
While in charge, Republicans have lost their philosophical footing and any claim to be the party of fiscal discipline.
Federal spending under Bush is increasing more rapidly than at any time in the last 40 years. Federal spending as a percentage of gross domestic product is returning to the level it reached before Republicans took over the House of Representatives in 1994.
Nor is this substantially explained away by the demands of the war on terrorism and homeland security. Even discounting for those items, Republicans have driven federal spending at historically high rates.
And with Republicans in charge, pork - earmarks for local projects of dubious federal importance - have increased considerably in both number and amount.
A large part of the philosophical unmooring emanates from Bush. He has been called a welfare-state or big-government conservative. Regardless, he's been a sharp departure from the GOP tradition of smaller government and federalism.
In other words the only prtactical difference between Republicans and Democrats, in terms of governance, is that they are both taking us to exactly the same destination, the social welfare state, but the Republicans are simply driving slower on the way.
There are a couple of trump arguments in favor of continued Republican control of both branches of government: terrorism and judges.
Democrats would encumber national security with an internationalism that binds U.S. action to an elusive and often vague consensus among other nations. And restraining judicial legislating would require expanding rather than contracting the Republican mandate.
But generally speaking, the nation was better governed, at least domestically, under the divided government of the 1990s than under Republican rule in this decade.
Growth in domestic discretionary spending was less than half the rate, even as deficits were decreasing rather than increasing. And the major big-government reform was eliminating welfare as an entitlement rather than adding prescription drugs as one.
Well, those are two pretty powerful trump cards over the Democrats.
But I take his point, as the governing party the Republicans have shown themselves to be just as prone to being ensnared by the culture of spending that rules Washington as the Democrats were. The difference, of course, is that prior to about 1997, the Democrats never even pretended to be a party of fiscal discipline. The Republicans did.
And apparently, pretending was all they were doing.
(Review) JOnathon Last writes that the Deaniacs are unhappy, to put it mildly.
For one thing, the Dean campaign has taken on a suspicious attitude toward the media. It is campaign policy that no staffer or volunteer is allowed to speak to any member of the media on any topic without receiving permission from the press staff. So, for instance, when one intern is asked how she thought Dean handled his first question in the debate, she says nervously, "I thought he was really good--but I don't really think I'm supposed to say that to you." Another volunteer, explaining she didn't want to talk, said, "I don't trust the media after Iowa and the way they twisted everything around."
This last sentiment is echoed many times. Ann Marker, a volunteer who's been commuting from Newton, Massachusetts, claimed that "The media has been out to get him, especially since Monday. It's so cruel and unfair--he was speaking to 3,000 people and the press lowered a high-tech microphone down."
Actually Howie was holding that microphone in his hand. It was his microphone. He knew the press was there. He knew that his comments would be recorded and played back by the press. No one lowered anything down on Dean but Dean himself. He single-handedly turned himself into a national joke.
But, of course, the Deaniacs aren't willing to acknowlege this. It can't be Howard's fault, because if it is, then it means that Howard is fundamentally flawed. And if they've invested so much energy into Howard Dean, then perhaps it means the Deaniacs are flawed in some way as well. After all, it's not an easy thing to look at yourself in the mirror and suspect there's a fool peering back at you.
So, it's much better for all concerned if the fault can be laid on some force external to the candidate, thereby making Dean a victim, rather than a responsible actor in his own folly.
About once a decade, we get a perfect Muskie Moment. Dean has just given us this one.
(Review) From today's FOXNews:
The latest Boston Globe/WBZ tracking poll showed that the Massachusetts senator has opened a 15-point lead over former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean among New Hampshire primary voters. The showing was 5 percentage points better than in the poll released Thursday.
Kerry won 34 percent of the voters surveyed, while Dean dropped 2 points to 19 percent, according to the survey of 400 people. Retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark had 14 percent, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards 11 and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman 3 percent.
The Dean coronation has been postponed. We now join the Kerry coronation, already in progress.
Photo: The Advocate Magazine
Wesley Clark is a modern-day George B. McClellan. I'll bet he even looks at himself in the mirror every morning and says to himself, "I know that I can save this country, and that I alone can."
I don't care that Clark is on the cover of The Advocate, particularly. Regular readers here know that I'm just not all that concerned with social issues in general, being of a libertarian bent.
But I think it's interesting how far Clark will go to pander to any Democratic constituency he thinks can help him. As a 4-star general, we was not particularly known for his championship of gay and lesbian issues.
Now, of course, he's on the cover of The Advocate, in his snappy--and tight--v-neck t-shirt and black jacket, a look that wouldn't be out of place if he were hanging out down at The Brass Rail.
None of those uptight business suits or uniforms for the cover of The Advocate. Not even a sweater.
Photo: Eric Draper/The White House via Reuters
Photo: AFP/Getty Images/William B. Plowman
Photo: Reuters/Jim Bourg
(Review) David Broder writes that President Bush and his opponents don't just disagree on issues, they have entirely different visions about the problems facing America.
Bush believes he deserves reelection, not because of No Child Left Behind or Medicare prescription drug coverage but because -- as he reminded the television audience -- he has averted another terrorist attack on this country for 28 months and has signaled nations around the world, by his preemptive war on Saddam Hussein, that he will take the offensive against security threats wherever he finds them.
The leading Democratic candidates -- Howard Dean, John Kerry, John Edwards, Wesley Clark -- believe Bush deserves defeat, not because they differ with his handling of postwar Iraq but because, as Edwards puts it, his domestic policies have separated America into two nations, with the privileged and prosperous on one side and the struggling majority of families on the other.
This is, it seems to me, a prime reason why the US government isn't supposed to be in the widows and orphans business. The first responsibility of the Federal government is national defense and security. Without it, all other issues are literally meaningless.
But Kerry, Edwards, and their ilk have, as their fundamental concern, the continuation of a welfare state to care for widows and orphans. They can make all the pious mouth noises they want about how dearly they hold our national security, but at heart, national security is not as serious a concern for them as national welfare.
The only reason this type of tension is possible is because the feds have gotten increasingly into the widows and orphans business. As a result, the political demands to maintain the welfare state now work in direct opposition to the demands to defend the country. As the demands of the former increase, the ability to do the latter will be eroded.
(Review) Profesor Barry Schwartz writes in--where else--the New York Times that President Bush's plan to partially privatize social security is a mistake, because as you give people more chocies, they become increasingly paralyzed.
The president's underlying logic is straightforward. If you believe that individuals are the best judges of their own welfare, giving them choices does more to enhance collective welfare than any universally imposed government program could. It is assumed that whatever else may be accomplished by the privatization of Social Security, the privatization of health insurance for the elderly and school choice for America's children, these policies have the benefit of allowing individuals to pursue their welfare as they see fit. After all, adding options can't make anyone worse off — and it will probably make some people better off.
Though this logic may seem compelling, there is growing evidence that the emotional logic (the psycho-logic) is deeply flawed. Indeed, for many people, increased choice can lead to a decrease in satisfaction. Too many options can result in paralysis, not liberation...
My colleagues and I have identified many different reasons increased choice can have these paradoxical effects. For starters, increased choice creates an enormous burden on people to seek the information needed to make a good decision. Who has the time to find the best digital camera, the best cellphone plan, the best 401(k), the best health insurance or the best school for his children?
What's more, plentiful choice increases the chances that people will regret the decisions they make, because of all the bypassed alternatives, many of which might have been better. Choice also increases the sense people have of missed opportunities with respect to all the options they have forgone.
Basically, the point is that you're too stupid and weak to be trusted to make your own decisions. A wise and benevolent government, therefore, should make these decisions for you, lest you be dismayed by an excess of freedom.
And, there you have it: the leftist appreciation of freedom, and the citizen's ability to properly utilize it.
(Review) It was just one little primal scream. Why should it ruin Howard Dean's chances for the Presidency? Lee Harris nails it:
This last week, unfortunately for his electoral prospects, Howard Dean revealed the stuff that he was made of and did so in a matter of minutes; and -- fairly or unfairly -- many of those who watched his performance found themselves convinced that they now knew what Governor Dean would act like in a moment of genuine national crisis, and were not assured by the insight that had been inadvertently given them. We should keep this in mind whenever we reflect on the seemingly irrational method by which we as a people select the man to fill the most important office in the world. For the real purpose behind the superficially bizarre rituals of an American election -- caucuses, primaries, televised debates, concession speeches -- is not to provide an exercise in democracy; it is to test the inner resources and character of the candidates, and to do this by exposing them to a grueling series of artificially induced crises that simulate those that he will ultimately have to face as president. The American electoral process is, in a way, like the simulated testing done by the manufacturers of automobile tires -- we want to know which ones are reliable before we put them on our cars, rather than afterwards, and that is why the American people tend to respond so harshly to those candidates who fail to make the grade during this our national period of candidate testing.
Iowa was Dean's first crisis -- and he blew it; and in doing so he lost far more than the Iowa caucus: he lost the reputation as a man who could be trusted to act calmly and rationally in the midst of adversity. And that is a lesson that the American people will not quickly forget. We do not live in a world where we can afford to.
And so, like New Hampshire snowflakes melting away on Ed Muskie's cheeks, so goes Howard Dean's chance to be president.
(Review) New poll for the Boston Globe and Boston Herald show John Kerry with an 8-point lead over Howard Dean. One key factor: Howie's odd reaction to the Iowa Caucuses.
There's a growing belief in the Kerry campaign and among New Hampshire Democrats that the bottom may be falling out of the Dean candidacy. Dean himself took the rest of Wednesday off to return to Vermont, recalibrate his campaign and attend his son's high-school hockey game.
Dean's post-Iowa caucus outburst, in which he screamed red-faced into a wireless microphone, still has a lot of people shaking their heads.
"He's a punch line, and I just don't think he's going to get over it," the Union Leader's Cline told Fox News.
Thus are the mighty fallen.
The Machester Union-Leader also has a poll showing that 41% of the voters are still open to changing their minds about whom to select.
Tuesday should be quite interesting.
(Review) Jon Henke launches a blistering barrage against Teddy Kennedy--using Kennedy's own words! It's far too good to extract. You'll have to go read it all, yourself.
(Review) Yes, I watched the State of the Union speech last night. I don't think this was an important speech in the sense that the 2002 speech, in which he responded to 911, or the 2003 speech, in which he made the case for war in Iraq.
The speech did, I think, do a good job of defending his policies without being in any way defensive. And I think it served well as the opening salvo of the 2004 presidential campaign.
I was less impressed by his spending proposals. Bush has become almost Clintonesque in his ability to identify a problem, such as prison recidivism, and attempt to solve it by throwing money at it. But, with a federal budget at $2 trillion a year, maybe we're already throwing all the money we need to throw at stuff.
(Review) Cobb comments about my illegal immigration posts:
Dale Franks' case against illegal immigration is that a certain kind of immigrant defies America. America's greatness depends upon fidelity to core values of the country which by the nature of where they send their money proves they reject those values.
I think that's a basic misunderstanding of my point.
What I mean to say is that illegal immigration does two things for Mexico's government:
1) It provides an anti-reformist escape valve for hundreds of thousands of Mexicans who vote with their feet, instead of putting their own leaders feet to the fire.
2) It provides Mexico with a significant amount of foreign income they would not otherwise receive.
That may be good for Mexico, or rather, the mercantilist elite that runs the government and economy, but neither of those things are good for the United States.
Neither of those points, however, is an argument against illegal immigration, per se. They merely underscore the argument that reducing illegal immigration is simply not in Mexico's interest.
So I think Cobb is attributing an argument to me that I wasn't trying to make, at least with those examples.
I think I've tried to make it clear in various posts that my arguments against illegal immigration have nothing, really, to do with economics. I don't think illegal immigration is an economic issue on the "con" side, even though the "pro" side uses a variety of economic arguments.
My argument against illegal immigration is an assimilationist one. The huge flow of illegal immigration, mainly from Mexico, is so large that assimilating those immigrants into our culture is a monumental task. Moreover, based on the depressing performance of second-generation children of immigrants, we aren't doing a bang-up job of assimilating their children either.
What we are doing is building up a permanent underclass of illegal immigrants who serve as our helots, which is, I think, deeply immoral. And don't think that these immigrants don't realize that, too.
When we see immigrants march in Los Angeles in columns sporting a profusion of Mexican flags, that should tell us something. It is not unreasonable to wonder why, if they love Mexico so much, they aren't still there.
I think the answer is that because we are not assimilating immigrants into American culture, and because we promote the multicultural foolishness that all cultures are essentially equally good, we create the conditions for a romantic attachment to an idealized "Mexico", while at the same time limiting the opportunities immigrants have to form attachments to the United States. All cultures are not, of course, equally good. After all, millions of Americans aren't risking their lives to immigrate to Mexico, legally or otherwise.
We have essentially two choices: We can allow open immigration, and return to the assimilationist regime that was essentially mandatory in schools, business, and public life 50 years ago, or we can radically reduce illegal immigration to give that reduced number of immigrants a longer period of time in which to naturally assimilate into our culture.
Right now, we have the worst of both worlds: essentially uncontrolled immigration that results in second-generation children of immigrants who have a tenuous grasp of English and are segregated into that are nothing more than little pockets of Mexico in the US, out of which they come for long enough to do our scut labor, then retire to their ghettos.
Quite apart from anything else, this ghettoization results in fairly strong resentment of America among illegal immigrants. A resentment that, of course, serves as a strong barrier to assimilation itself.
We may not intend that result with our multi-culti do-goodedness, but results, not intentions, are the yardstick by which we judge policy. And based on the results of the last thirty years, if we wish to continue those policies, we might as well be honest, rename California as Messenia¹, and be done with it.
I heartily recommend Victor Davis Hanson's book, Mexifornia: A state of Becoming, for a more detailed look at the problems of illegal immigration.
¹ Messenia was the homeland of Sparta's helots for 400 years, until the Boeotian general, Epaminondas, liberated the helots in 370 B.C.
(Review) Jon Henke, of QandO blog asks some pointed questions about the Bush Administration's reconstruction policies in Iraq.
* Why are we so anxious to turn over centralized power to the Iraqis, before we hand over regional power? It was the State>Federal order that helped prevent a too-powerful central government in the United States. Have we learned nothing from that?
* What are the consequences of the caucus system we've proposed for Iraq? Since public expression of political dissent has not exactly been encouraged - to say the least - for generations in Iraq, is it such a good idea to ask them to walk into public buildings, surrounded by troops, and express their opinion? Transparent elections or not, it may be perceived badly by Iraqis. Doesn't a secret ballot make some degree of sense in this situation?
* How do you even go about registering an entire country to vote within 6 months?
Iraqis have little experience with constitutional government. It is therefore, our responsibility to assist them in creating it, rather than making our primary goal one of trying to get out while the getting is good, i.e., prior to the upcoming election.
(Review) The QandO Blog has moved over from Blogspot to its own site running Movable Type. In addition, Jon Henke, the proprietor of this fine blog, has added another blogger, the mysterious "McQ", who I think you'll rather enjoy.
They just made the move today, and the blog is already full of bloggy goodness. Update your bookmarks!
(Review) Hiwa Osman is an editor and journalism trainer with the Institute for War & Peace Reporting in Baghdad. He writes that, at the moment, things aren't looking good for Iraqi democracy.
Following liberation, many Iraqis, especially the oppressed Shia and Kurdish populations, felt that at long last the country was coming back to them; that it was no longer Saddam Hussein's Iraq. They were excited that a new chapter had opened and a new Iraq — an Iraq that does not marginalize them — was in the making. But a series of meetings were then held behind closed doors. The people only saw, through Arab satellite channels, the Iraqi and U.S. participants entering and leaving the meetings with an occasional general and noncommittal statement to the press.
The rebuilding of the new state still has not taken the shape of a national project. So far, political parties recognized by the United States have simply scrambled to grab as big a piece of the pie as they can.
These political parties have no experience in nation building. Worse, some have a stronger commitment to Iraq's neighbors — their old allies in the prewar world of exile politics — than they do to building a healthy state. They are a product of opposition politics and have not yet been able to remake themselves as advocates for a constituency in the face of great change. None seems to have a program, a platform, or even a vision, to remake the country.
The Kurdish leadership in the north is asking for federalism, but the street is much more hard-line. The Kurdish leaders are leftovers of the struggle against Baghdad and the fight for autonomy. But the young street is much more confident of its Kurdish self and does not see federalism as a victory. They see it as a concession.
The Iraqi Shia street, who saw the failure of both the mullah-led regime next door in Iran and of Arab nationalism, seek a moderate, secular state in which they will take majority position. But they are not represented. Under Ba'athist rule, political organizing inside the country was a surefire ticket to Saddam's prisons. Parties therefore developed clandestinely. Today's Shia leadership of mullahs and politicians spent years under the sponsorship of Iran and have another agenda than the street. They want an Iranian-style theocracy.
We do not appear to be doing the job we should at preparing the Iraqis for limited, constitutional, and consensual government. It appear to me as if the President, driven by electoral imperatives, is ceding too much legitimacy to the Iraqi governing council, and is too keen on ending the occupation.
I think it's becoming increasingly likely that we will end up with a fairly despotic Iraqi "Islamic Republic", or yet another of what Fareed Zakaria has termed Illiberal Democracies.
If so, this will be entirely the fault of the Bush Administration for fumbling the post-war reconstruction.
Let's take a whirlwind trip through the Big Media wrap-up of Iowa
Douglas Waller explains how John Kerry won for Time readers.
William Saletan on what happened, and what happens next.
Des Moines Register political columnist David Yepsen writes that Iowa voters simply thought Dean was too angry, and too liberal. Actually, that sounds odd coming from the voters who elected Tom Harkin to the Senate.
Slate's Chris Suellentrop explains why Dean tanked.
Susan Page and Jill Lawrence of USA Today write that the Iowa Caucuses usually narrow the nomination race by forcing some candidates out. But this time, the caucuses kicked the race wide open.
That's enough post-mortems, even for me.
(Review) Jonah Goldberg gives a preview of his syndicated colum, in re: Howard Dean.
Now, compared to some of the other things Dean has said over the last year, his nice list of states is, on the merits, not a big deal. Even his blood curdling scream probably isn't anything new to the people who know him best.
But it was something new to lots of Americans. Moreover, at the very moment the voters had declared they wanted more moderate and reasonable candidates, Dean gave them undiluted rage. Disc jockeys like Howard Stern are already--unfairly it should be said--playing his diatribe against the soundtrack of Nuremberg rallies.
OK, maybe it is unfair. But it's interesting to see that my opinions about the Hitleristic nature his wierd speech are apparently fairly common.
I think in a few years, the Dean Implosion will be as famous as the "melting snowflakes" Ed Muskie's eyes.
(Review) John Derbyshire doesn't like the president's space proposal. Not because he doesn't like space exploration, but because he doesn't think he should be required to pay for it.
I am a big fan of space exploration, but cannot see any point in government programs to send human beings out there. That is just not necessary for any national purpose. I feel sure that by the end of this century the solar system will be teeming with human space travelers; I just don't want any of that funded from my tax dollars.
What kind of space program would I like to see? Well, I think that first of all, I'd distinguish between the necessaey and the cool: between things we must do in space and things it would be nice to do.
The things we must do are all military. The main one is, protection of our assets in orbit. When a US Special Forces scout in the Hindu Kush gets down from his mule, unpacks his laptop, takes a GPS reading and calls in an air strike on an al Qaeda camp in the next valley, he needs to know that GPS satellite is in orbit and functioning. If it is, then he is the Angel of Death. If it isn't, he's just a guy with a mule and a game of solitaire.
Frankly, I don't see why the government is in the space business either. If there is some fantastic return from space exploration--and there is always a return from pure science and exploration, we just never know what it will be beforehand; it is a "known unknown" as it were--then that should be ample reason for the private sector to do it, and for the government to get out of the way.
I have to admit, it's hard for me to say that, though. I just love the space program. I love the very idea of space tourism. I love the idea of an American stepping out onto the surface of Mars. So this is an area that causes a real conflict with my otherwise libertarian principles.
But As Derbyshire points out:
National-prestige extravaganzas — pyramids, ziggurats, treasure fleets, grand mausoleums — are strictly for despotic empires. We are a practical and commercial republic. Let's keep it that way.
Yeah, okay, you're right.
(Review) Rich Lowry writes that Howard Deans wierd screaming jag last night can't have done him any good. I mean, let's just say it didn't make him look like the most stable hydraulic lifter in the garage.
My favorite schadenfraude [sic] moment last night: watching Sen. Tom Harkin pretend (I'm assuming he was pretending) to enjoy Howard Dean's maniacal performance on stage after his stunning third-place finish. Dean looked as scary as he ever has. Nothing is weirder than someone trying really, really hard to look happy and energized when he's really annoyed and disappointed. Dean looked like the Incredible Hulk, just before he turns green. Harkin must have been thinking: I endorsed this. There was a perverse pleasure in watching Harkin, since his endorsement was so opportunistic, based on a calculation that Dean would win. He deserved every moment standing behind Dean tonight, deserved every shrieked state name, and especially deserved that weird, painful primal scream/battle-cry/whatever: "YAAAARRRRHHHH!" Who knows how Democrats — especially Democrats in cranky New Hampshire — will react to Dean's performance last night, but if you had doubts about Dean, they certainly couldn't have been allayed.
*sigh* I know I'm gonna get in trouble for saying this, but I can't help it. First, let me make it clear that I don't believe Howard Dean is, in any way, comparable to Hitler as a person, or in his policies.
But, that wierd speech last night reminded me of nothing so much as Adolf Hitler's speaking style, moving from calm to nearly hysterical in the space of a few seconds. It was certainly every bit as creepy as watching Hitler give a speech.
It was, in any event, a supremely odd moment for a US politician, and I can't imagine it did Howard Dean any good at all.
(Review) What was up with Howard Dean last night? Did you see that speech. I mean, talk about creepy. Primal screams and the whole nine yards. Byron york thinks so, too.
Dean's speech, delivered at his headquarters in Des Moines, stunned even some observers used to his displays of anger on the campaign trail. And in the days after the caucuses it is sure to spark discussion of Dean's emotional intensity and whether such intensity should be a disqualifying characteristic for a potential president.
The speech didn't start badly. Although Dean appeared oddly exuberant after what was an extraordinarily disappointing finish, that might easily be attributed to a politician's desire to put a publicly positive face on bad news. "You know something?" Dean asked his fans. "If you had told us one year ago that we were going to come in third in Iowa, we would have given anything for that."
That was a perfectly reasonable gloss for a candidate to put on unfavorable election results. But Dean quickly took on a red-faced, shouting, teeth-baring, air-punching demeanor unlike any of his performances during the campaign.
"Not only are we going to New Hampshire," he said, his voice rising. "We're going to South Carolina and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we're going to California and Texas and New York. And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan. And then we're going to Washington, D.C. to take back the White House."
Then he let out a strange, extended, yelp that seemed to come from deep within him: "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!"
His face got all red a blotchy, and he looked like the guy in Scanners, just before his head exploded.
Just utterly wierd.
(Review) Iraqis are taking to the streets, shrilly shouting their demands at the US administration.
This time, however, they're upset at us because we don't seem serious enough about killing Saddam Hussein.
But I think it's important that they learn the importance of due process in a criminal justice system. First a fair trial, then a hangin'.
(Review) Dick Gephardt's out of the presidential race. He's canceled plans to go to NH, and is flying back home to MO, instead.
And he'll be having a press conference tomorrow from there. I guess we all know what that means: He's gone.
I think Kucinich is probably headed that way as well, especially after telling his Iowa caucus people to throw their support behind Edwards if he looked like too much of a loser.
(Review) John Kerry Is the big winner. John Edwards got second place. Howard Dean is loser-boy.
"This is one for the ages, I think," Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Gordon Fischer told Fox News before the caucuses started Monday. "We've never seen a race this close and so many undecideds so late … they're just kind of deciding, who's the most electable — who can go up against George Bush in November and win?"
And he was perfectly right.
This gives both Edwards and Kerry immense momentum going into New Hampshire. And It may the death knell for Howard Dean's campaign. Iowa Democrats, it seems, have no more confidence in Dean's ability to beat Bush in November than anyone else does.
This is a real problem for Dean, and it means that he has to win, and win big in NH, or he faces the prospect of an ignominious defeat early on in the primary process.
Dean's other problem is that he's simply not a nice nice guy. He just isn't likable. Likable people tend to win all the marbles. Unlikeable people tend not to, no matter how good they are at throwing red meat at the party faithful.
Dean's one big advantage in NH is that he's from next-door VT. Frankly, I don't think that'll be enough. In the last 6 weeks, Dean's NH poll numbers have dropped steadily from 42% to 28%. That's not the direction you want to see, if you're Dean. And it certainly doesn't help to come into NH carrying a big Iowa loss.
Funny, 6 months ago, the big media pundits were saying Kerry's campaign was on life support. Now, it looks like he's just come out of his coma.
And Dean's campaign may need to think about ordering a respirator.
Frankly, I think Dean's finished.
At the very least, this is now a race that's too close to call.
Not that this means all is smooth sailing for Kerry. Even if he were to win the nomination, you have to face that fact that, despite the fact that every Senator sees a potential president looking back at himself in the mirror, we don't elect Senators to the presidency. The first sitting senator ever elected to the White House was Warren G. Harding. The second--and last--was John F Kennedy. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, they both died before completing their first terms.
When Americans choose a president, we tend to elect governors.
And sitting presidents.
(Review) James Taranto examines the New York Times's overblown rhetoric against Judge Pickering's recess appointment.
The Times' substantive reasons for opposing Pickering are rather eyebrow-raising as well: "Over the years, Mr. Pickering has displayed skepticism toward cases involving civil rights and expressed doubts about well-settled principles like one person one vote."
He's expressed skepticism! And doubt! Why, he must be stopped! This is further evidence of the intellectual bankruptcy of liberalism. We don't need to muster an argument, the Times seems to be saying. It's enough to declare Pickering a heretic. And these people accuse the right of stifling dissent?
He holds an upopular opinion! It might not even be in the mainstream¹, for cripes sake!
But Bush is Hitler, huh?
¹ Especially since they get to define what "mainstream" is.
(Review) After a weekend of CD-buying and listenening, I proffer herewith some selections for your listening pleasure:
Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Boy Named Charlie Brown
This is a fantastic trio recording that simply stands out as one of the best progressive jazz recordings ever made. Pretty darn sophisticated music for a cartoon.
Live at the Blue Note Series:
Roland Guerin Sextet
Proof positive that jazz is still in the hands of some extremely talented young composer/player types.
Irvin Mayfield Sextet
Irvin Mayfield is another young lion of jazz with outstanding intellectual and performing skills that brings out the best in this jazz combo concert recording.
(Review) Michael Graham says that there are several reasons to keep an eye on John Edwards tonight in Iowa, and offer several reasons why.
IOWA LIKES SOUTHERNERS: The Iowa caucuses created the Jimmy Carter candidacy. George W. Bush won there handily and even Pat Robertson of Virginia did surprisingly well in the Hawkeye state. Maybe it's a rural thing, or maybe it's the drawl, who knows?
IOWA LIKES SURPRISES: John Edwards is polling well — in second or third place in some polls — so it wouldn't exactly be a surprise to close observers if he pulled out a win. But to the typical American, who's currently more interested in New England's Tom Brady than John Kerry, an Edwards win would be viewed as a major upset of presumptive nominee Howard Dean.
Just as they did for Carter, Gary Hart, and George McGovern, the Iowa caucuses could launch a relative unknown yet again.
IOWA LIKES TO ARGUE: This isn't a primary, it's a caucus. You get together, you spend a couple of hours talking to your neighbors, you debate, and then you pick sides. Some recent polling showed that half of all those attending the caucuses might possibly change their minds tonight. There could be significant votes up for grabs.
You know, we might just have a real horse race going on here, instead of a Dean walkaway.
(Review) Debra Saunders lists the reason why she wants John "The Yankee Al Gore" Kerry to be the Democratic Presidential nominee.
I want a Democratic nominee who bemoans "America's gluttony for fossil fuel," unfazed by the embarrassing fact that he owns a Cessna...
I want a Democratic nominee who orders Grey Poupon with his Philly cheese steak sandwich...
I don't think the Democratic Party can have enough candidates who show that they're regular gun-loving guys by going pheasant hunting.
I want Kerry to ride his Harley on the "Tonight Show" again -- but wearing the helmet Michael Dukakis wore in the tank.
She has lots more reasons, too.
(Review) Dwight Lee writes that the Civil Rights movement led by Dr. King enriched America economically as well as morally.
While commemorating the contributions of Martin Luther King, we shouldn't overlook the connection between freedom and the economic progress possible only in a market economy. The expansion in freedom brought about by the civil rights movement under King's inspiring leadership receives far too little credit for improving the prospects and prosperity of all Americans. And our free-market economy receives far too little credit for helping move us toward King's dream of freedom for all our citizens.
Freedom has a synergistic effect that makes the total equal more than just the sum of its parts.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 28, 1963
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.
But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
(Review) Victor Davis Hanson points out the problems with the bush immigration plan.
Supporters of the proposed law say that something is needed since Americans simply refuse certain backbreaking jobs in construction, agriculture, hotels and restaurants. But such understandable pessimism rests on many questionable suppositions. It assumes, for instance, that the traditional remedies of the free market for scarce workers--mechanization and increased wages--ceased to work around 1980; that it is hard to sleep or dine out or find a cut lawn in an Iowa or Maine where there are not tens of thousands of illegal workers; that the experience of guest-workers in Germany and France provides encouraging analogies for importing cheap labor, that Californians or Texans once did not do most of their own work before the influx of industrious aliens; and that it is economically beneficial and morally sound to use foreign workers when millions of Americans remain unemployed.
We forget that there is a life cycle for the typical teenage worker from Oaxaca, whose backbreaking labor is said to be essential for the economy. For a laborer of 18, it may be a good bargain for all involved--but for too many people, after 30 years without education, English, and legality, too often these jobs turn out not to be entry-level or rite-of-passage, but remain dead-end, and thus catastrophe ensues when an aging, unskilled worker is injured, laid off, ill or the sole breadwinner of a large family. Only the public entitlement industry--health, housing, education and maintenance subsidies--can come to his rescue to provide some parity with Americans that his job or former job could not. His employer in the meantime looks for a younger, healthier, and foreign, successor. Thus the tragic cycle continues.
Not content to carp from the sidelines, however, Hanson also offers the only real solution.
Instead of squabbling over piecemeal legislation in an election year, rolling amnesties or a return of braceros, we might as well bite the bullet and reconsider an immigration policy that worked well enough for some 200 years for people from all over the world. Reasonable advocates can set a realistic figure for legal immigration from Mexico. Then we must enforce our border controls; consider a one-time citizenship process for current residents who have been here for two or three decades; apply stiff employer sanctions; deport those who now break the law--and return to social and cultural protocols that promote national unity through assimilation and integration.
In the short term, under such difficult reform, we of the American Southwest might pay more for our food, hotel rooms and construction. Yet eventually we will save far more through reduced entitlements, the growing empowerment of our own entry-level workers (many of them recent and legal immigrants from Mexico), and the easing of social and legal problems associated with some eight million to 12 million illegal residents.
More importantly still, our laws would recover their sanctity. Without massive illegal immigration, Americans would rediscover their fondness for measured legal immigration. At a time of war, our borders would be more secure. And we could regain solace, knowing that we are no longer overlords importing modern helots to do the jobs that we, in our affluence and leisure, now deem beneath us.
Ah, don't you just love the classical allusion to Sparta's helots? 'Cause really, when you think of the helots, don't you also think of Epaminondas?
You don't? Then you really need to read this.
(Review) Rob Reiner and Martin Sheen opine that Howard Dean offers us the last chance to save ourselves from being destroyed by the Bush Administration.
You gotta love the faith the Hollywood Left puts in the resiliency of our republic and the commons sense of the voters.
If Howard Dean gets the nomination, the following exchange will admirably describe the fortunes of the Democrats in November:
TURHAN: How will it all end?
KOSH: In Fire!
Maybe that would be the best thing. Another McGovern-like landslide loss might make the Dems get their heads of their...well, you know what I mean.
(Review) Bill O'Reilly writes in the New York Daily News that the Dems' flirtation with the far left is a flirtation with disaster.
A poll by the Pew Research Center says that just 20% of Americans consider themselves liberals, and you have to assume half of that crowd is somewhat moderate. That leaves only 10% running around calling the President a Nazi and worshiping at the altar of secularism.
But that 10% is making a lot of noise and has a ton of influence on the Democratic establishment. Billionaire George Soros is the big money man for the Democrats this season, and old George is one far-out character. He wants to legalize pretty much every vice, sees merit in euthanasia and is moaning there isn't enough "income redistribution" in the world. Maybe that's because the Soviet Union collapsed, George. Get a clue...
As actress Julia Stiles said: "I was afraid Bill O'Reilly would come with a shotgun at my front door and shoot me for being unpatriotic."
Good grief! I don't even own a shotgun. No worries, Julia, just enjoy the land of Oz.
Exactly what are everyday Americans supposed to think when they see the likes of Soros and these showbiz people launching into the most far-out political discourse in memory? And Carville and Brazile are right in the middle of it?
So I am sending a final warning to the Democratic Party, which my family belonged to for more than 100 years: Wise up before it's too late. People do judge you by your associates. To paraphrase a protest song from the '60s: "You don't believe you're on the eve of destruction?" Well, you are.
You would have thought Clinton had taught these people a lesson, especially after the 1992 drubbing the Dems took. Steer too far to the left and you are gonna alienate a whole lot of people.
This should be a blinding glimpse of the obvious, but, evidently, it isn't. Or, at least, it doesn't look like it at the moment. Maybe Iowa and New Hampshire will make things look different.
(Review) Today's the big day. The very first...well..not votes, really, but selections, as the Democrats all across the frozen hell that is Iowa in winter meet in living rooms all across the state to figure out who'll get their support for president.
According to the final Zogby, the results look like:
Bad news for Dean, I predict. If he doesn't win, I think it starts the media chorus of "Loser!" for the Dean Campaign. And New Hampshire suddenly becomes make-or-break for Dean.
He's the "front-runner". Front-runners are supposed to win. If they don't, their campaigns have a tendency to plow straight into the ground at Mach 1.3, leaving behind only the salty residue of Ed Muskie tears.
So let it be with Dean. At least it would be a sign that there's still some shred of sense left in the Democratic Party that hasn't been overcome by the Stalinist goons at ANSWER, or the Hitler-obsessed morons at MoveOn.
(Review) OK. So, we're giving prescription drugs to seniors. We're going to mars. And now, evidently, we're gonna get universal health care, or something like it.
President Bush is expected to propose a health care initiative in his State of the Union address to help the uninsured and the underinsured, White House advisers said on Friday.
It was unclear how much the initiative, to be announced in the address on Tuesday, would cost at a time when Mr. Bush is under pressure because of a growing budget deficit. But White House officials have made clear that they do not want to cede the politically potent issue of health care to the Democratic presidential candidates, all of whom have made health care a centerpiece of their campaigns.
"One of the main drivers of a significant section of the uninsured in America is because of the rising costs of health care," a senior administration official said Friday in a briefing to reporters. "And those can be addressed from several different ways, which he'll talk about on Tuesday."
Huh. I wonder how much that will cost.
Of course, no matter what Bush Proposes, it won't be enough for the Democrats.
"The American people have a right to ask, `Mr. President, how do you intend to make health care more affordable, and more available?' " Mr. Daschle, of South Dakota, said in a speech at the National Press Club.
A right? Really. Hmm. Let me peruse my copy of the Constitution...Huh. A right to government provided health care doesn't seem to be in there.
Not that the text of the Constitution is a guide any more for...well...anything.
In any event, that's the Democrats position. We have a right to government-provided health care. And it's the president's responsibility to see we get it.
Note to future generations of Americans: I know you don't believe it now, but we actually had a pretty free country here once. No, really. You could buy land and build a house or farm on it pretty much anywhere you wanted. The Federal government took less than 10% of your income in taxes. You could keep a gun in your home for personal protection. Police couldn't do midnight no-knock warrant searches of your home.
Sorry we f***ed that all up for you.
I haven't noticed anyone posting a Bear Flag Review for a while, so I though I'd help out, by linking to a few things that caught my interest.
Absinthe & Cookies has a terrific one-liner:
Oh, a little side note: watching FNC and they're talking about Gwyneth Paltrow who is going to raise her baby in England, for the usual goofy lefty celeb reasons. [rolls eyes] Whatever.
The Angry Clam is, well, angry. This time, it's the New York Times reporting that President Bush is thinking about a new health care proposal. He wants his 2000 vote back. (Warning: adult language)
Calblog husband predicts the surprise winner of the Iowa Caucuses.
Cobb discusses the failures of anti-racism.
The Indepundit, Citizen Smash, details why he believes Howard Dean is morally inconsistent in his arguments for the use of American force.
Infinite Monkeys has looked into the future at the serious problem with illegal immigration. To the moon.
The Interocitor writes that it only took two days for NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe to completely screw up the president's vision of space exploration. That has to be some sort of record, even for NASA.
Michael Williams writes that, with their tired, discredited ideology, liberals just have nothing to offer anymore.
Pathetic Earthlings reprints his post, "Old Glory on Mars".
Patio Pundit accurately describes Dick Gephardt's position on trade as "madness".
Patterico discusses sweatshops and illegal immigration.
The Right Coast offers incisive commentary on Justice-Cowgirl O'Connor.
There's lot's more stuff in the Bear Flag league. The links are all on the left.
(Review) Steve Sachs does a wonderful side-by-side comparison of Wesley Cark's back and forth statements about the War in Iraq. and concludes:
I'd really like to think that Clark is a viable candidate in 2004. By "viable," I don't mean that he's electable, but that he's someone I'd feel comfortable with in the White House. But after reading this op-ed, along with his earlier praise of Bush and Cheney (not to mention his bizarre comments on abortion -- up until the hour of birth?), I don't get the sense that he's the kind of person who's thought long and hard about the issues and figured out where he stands. I don't get the sense that his campaign is fundamentally about Wesley Clark's vision for the country. Instead, I get the distinct and unfortunate sense that his campaign is fundamentally about Wesley Clark.
That sounds about right.
I did notice, however, that Dennis Prager this week predicted that Wesley Clark would be the Democratic nominee.
So, to the people who supposedly have no qualms about Joe Immigrant getting a job and living his life (i.e. people in the third category that I described, not the first two categories), why are you mad at Joe Immigrant? You claim not to care if people come here, but you are upset that they do it without government permission. Why do you want them to get government permission in the first place?
Cobb further argues:
I agree that one cannot be against a welfare state and for global capitalism without being for open borders. It's a simple contradiction. It makes me believe that there are few good reasons for keeping the border closed and more good reasons for having a better system of national ID.
Well, now that's a fair criticism, but one that misses a a few larger points. It seems to me that this is a prime example of confusing "normative" economics ( i.e., arguments about the way things should be) with positive economics (arguments about what is empirically provable).
In theory, a good positive economic argument can be made--indeed is nearly axiomatic--that the unrestricted flow of goods, services, capital and labor is the most efficient allocation of resources, and creates the greatest amount of economic advancement for the greatest number of people.
But just because that is the most efficient economic structure in theory, it does not necessarily argue that it is the best structure in practice.
Frankly, I submit that you, right now, as you read this, no matter how much you support the principle of global capitalism, don't believe in the global free flow of goods, service, capital, and labor. Do you believe Saddam Hussein should have had unrestricted access to global markets? Do you believe Kim Jong-Il should? Do you believe the Sudanese should be allowed to export slaves?
Aah! It seems there are exceptions to this global capitalism deal, doesn't it?
We do any number of things that are grossly inefficient in terms of positive economics. It would be far more efficient just to take anyone convicted of a violent felony out into the jailhouse courtyard and put a bullet in the back of their head. For the cost of a single bullet ($0.25), we would permanently erase the problem of recidivism among violent criminals, thus saving the United States literally billions of dollars a year, not only in the care and feeding of the prison population (which would actually be quite low under such a system), but in the direct cost in lives and health to the victims of second- and third-time offenders. Indeed, we might see a substantial deterrent effect on crime in general.
Yet, we spend millions upon millions of dollars keeping these obviously violent and anti-social people incarcerated, despite the demonstrable inefficiency of doing so.
Or how about one for you social conservatives out there: Non-violent drug offenders. Get caught with a gram or two of crack cocaine in your pocket, and even with a totally clean arrest record, the chances are very good that you'll be spending a few years in the pen. And yet, social conservatives are forever going on about how the drug war can be won if only we'd get tougher on the druggies.
Yet, by legalizing drugs (allowing the global free flow of pharmaceutical products), we would instantly make black market drug sales unprofitable. This would eliminate the drug cartels as a criminal concern. In addition, as the price of drugs dropped dramatically to reflect the costs of their production, instead of the risk premium the price currently incorporates due their illegality, all manner of street crime would drop precipitously as drug users would be supporting a $5 a day habit, instead of the $200 day habit they must support now.
One notes that, while cigarette users are addicted to a substance that the Surgeon General tells us is a worse jones than China White, smokers aren't knocking over liquor stores to buy a pack of Camels.
Yet, even talking about legalizing drugs is politically verboten. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Joycelyn Elders. Case closed.
So, if you support any of the policies listed above, then, as Winston Churchill was once reputed to say to Lady Astor, "We already know what you are. Now we are merely arguing over price."
So, we've traveled a long road just to arrive at immigration, which is the point of this whole screed.
As I explained in a previous post, legal and illegal immigration, as they exist today, are fundamentally different.
There is a difference, both philosophically and economically, between immigrants who come here to become Americans, and immigrants who come here simply to work for some length of time, and then return to their country of origin.
One of the things that has made America so fabulously successful has been the fact that Americanism--unlike the national "isms" of almost every other country in the world--is not an ethnically or racially defined category. Americanism is the subscription to certain philosophical beliefs, among which are the belief in limited, republican government and inalienable civil rights. America, in short, is a philosophical idea.
That is what makes America an exceptional nation. If we wish to retain that exceptionalism--and I think we do--then we have a national interest in promulgating an immigration policy that encourages 1) a sense of permanence among immigrants, 2) a sense of acceptance of immigrants as "real" Americans through assimilation into our culture as a matter separate from their ethnic heritage.
Illegal immigration, as it exists today, does neither.
Economics is a science. It provides us with wonderful tools to describe how the world works. But, like every other science, it is silent about larger questions of meaning and belief. Yes, the free flow of labor and capital is a good thing in and of itself. As to whether it is a greater good than retaining some sense of American exceptionalism, or in sanctioning rogue nations, economics is completely silent.
In the end, the argument about illegal immigration is not about economics. It is a normative argument about what America owes its prospective immigrants, and about what they owe America.
And all the Nobel-laureate economists at the University of Chicago are no better equipped than anyone else to answer that question.
(Review) Brian Noggle writes that the Supreme Court's decision to OK police roadblocks to collect information about unrelated crimes is another small step toward a police state.
So the police handing out literature, nor stopping drivers in the middle of the night to answer a few questions, helped them in the case for which they set up the roadblocks. But those roadblocks did, however, come in handy for at least one unrelated crime. That's the point.
This, like so many other handy law enforcement practices and new laws, is all about bringing you, the potentially guilty citizen, in contact with police where they have a pretense to look for probable cause. Now, police can pull you over for driving without a seatbelt, or if it looks like you don't have a seatbelt on, or for driving in the left lane for longer than they want. And once you're on the side of the road, then the fun begins. Where are you going? What's in the bag? Can we take a look in your trunk?
Now having been in law enforcement for over 10 years, both on the military and civilian side let me make a broad generalization.
The police aren't interested in your Constitutional rights.
They just aren't. Yes, they will observe them to a nicety, but it's because they have to, not because they want to. The primary interest of the police is catching bad guys. To that end, they will employ every tool they possibly can to do so. If they believe you are bad guy, they will come after you with every tool at their disposal, even if you are not, in fact, the bad guy they think you are.
The police will never refuse to use any technique they can get away with to accomplish that end, if they believe that technique to be effective.
It behooves us, therefore, to be very cautious about the tools we give them.
(Hat Tip: Venomous Kate's Snark Hunt)
(Review) Michael Kinsley, no friend of George W. Bush, savages Paul O'Niell and the new book. He concludes,
As described by Paul O'Neill, life inside the Bush administration is like life itself (according to Macbeth): "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." The only solid punch he lands on President Bush is unintentional: What kind of idiot would hire this idiot as secretary of the treasury?
That's about the best final word on O'Neill you're likely to find.
(Review) Heather MacDonald writes that the Federal government's attitude towards immigration law seems to be that it's honored more in the breach than the observance.
Roughly 2,000 immigration agents have been responsible for all interior enforcement, a massive portfolio which includes checking work sites, eradicating document fraud and alien smuggling, and apprehending criminal aliens...
Currently, a mere 124 immigration agents are responsible for enforcing the law against hiring illegal aliens, according to the Associated Press. Only 53 employers were fined in 2002. An employer's chance of punishment for breaking the law, therefore, was a scant one one-hundreth of a percent...
The 1986 law (the Immigration Reform and Control Act [IRCA]) was emasculated at its inception and has been continuously thwarted in its application.
Here's how: A ban on illegal labor can work only if employers can reliably determine a worker's employment eligibility. Business and ethnic lobbies defeated worker verification in 1986 and every time it has been proposed since then.
Millions of illegal workers pretend to present valid documents, and thousands of employers pretend to believe them...If the documents are not obvious fakes— scrawled on a matchbook with a red crayon, say — the employer must accept them.
In fact, if an employer looks too closely at a worker's papers, he may face a lawsuit for racial discrimination.
May be if we just tried to enforce immigration law, we might make a dent in illegal immigration
(Review) Jonah Goldberg attacks the "Bush Lied" meme.
For example, the online magazine Slate has been hosting an interesting discussion among the most respected and prominent liberals who supported the Iraq war. The question before them, more or less, is whether they regret it. Some do. Some don't. Most hold positions awash in shades of gray.
One of those is Kenneth Pollack, the former Clinton NSC staffer and author of the hugely influential book, "The Threatening Storm." Pollack's book was the most coherent and sustained case for the war from any quarter. Slate's round-robin is timed to coincide with a must-read cover story in the current issue of The Atlantic in which Pollack tries to figure out where he - and we - went wrong on WMDs.
Anyway, Pollack tells Slate, "If I had to write 'The Threatening Storm' over again I certainly would not have been so unequivocal that war was going to be a necessity."
In response, George Packer, a prominent liberal hawk, says, "Ken Pollack should be congratulated: How many leading voices on this issue have subjected themselves to such honest criticism? What he got wrong he got wrong because the intelligence was mistaken. What the administration got wrong it got wrong because it didn't care about the intelligence."
This encapsulates pretty much everything that's wrong with even the White House's most respected critics: a nearly total inability to consider the possibility that this administration operated in good faith.
Packer says Pollack's mistake was based on the best intelligence available; however, Bush & Co are a bunch of bloodthirsty ideologues or greedy liars or both.
Unfortunately, there are too many anti-Bush slanders out there to count, let alone debunk, but they are all premised on the "fact" that Bush lied.
But nobody has made a remotely persuasive case that Bush lied. The German, Russian, French, Israeli, British, Chinese and U.S. governments all agreed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. The German assessment was even more dire than our own. They were convinced Saddam would have a nuclear weapon by 2005.
Bill Clinton and his entire administration believed Saddam had WMDs. In 2002 Robert Einhorn, Clinton's point man on WMDs, testified to Congress, "Today, or at most within a few months, Iraq could launch missile attacks with chemical or biological weapons against its neighbors" including our 100,000 troops in Saudi Arabia.
The threat - chemical, biological and nuclear - against U.S. territory proper was only a few years away, according to Einhorn. Dick Gephardt, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, Wesley Clark, Joe Lieberman, Tony Blair, Hillary Clinton, Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder: all of these people believed Iraq had major stockpiles of WMDs.
Were they all "liars" like President Bush? No? Why not?
You can't have it both ways. You can't say Bush lied while others who said the same thing were being honest. The White House was operating with fundamentally identical information to that of Clinton, Pollack and Einhorn. What was different was that this White House needed to deal with the post-9/11 world.
Not that will convert anybody, but it's nice to have the facts out in ther open.
(Review) Reader Pedro asks in the comments section of the linked post:
So what would YOU want to do about the millions of illegals here now. And what would you like to do with the future of immigration? Carping and complaining and criticizing is easy, but what would you do?
What would I want to do? I'd have thought that would be obvious. So obvious, in fact as to obviate the need for constantly restating it.
If I was in charge, I'd do the following:
1) Round up and deport every illegal alien I could get my hands on.
2) Cut off all federal money for Law Enforcement to any city or county that forbids their police agencies from enforcing immigration law.
3) Spend whatever money was required to increase border security, including military patrols along the border with Canada and Mexico.
4) Implement criminal sanctions--with real jail time, not fines--against American employers who hired illegal aliens.
5) Deny all benefits such as welfare to illegal aliens.
6) Veto every proposed immigration law reform that could be construed as amnesty for illegal aliens.
Let's not pretend that this isn't possible. We know it is because we've done it in the past.
We are practically the only country in the world that fails to secure our borders against illegal immigration.
And let me point out, once again, since the obvious apparently needs frequent restating, that illegal immigration to the US is entirely different from legal immigration. I have no problem with legal immigration. I wouldn't have any problem at all with substantially increasing the number of green cards allowed every year at the same time we were rounding up illegals and shipping them back to their country of origin. But legal and illegal immigration are fundamentally different.
Legal immigrants come to this country to become Americans. They wish to start a new life, and become part of their new country.
Illegal immigrants, for the most part, have no desire to do any of the above. Illegal aliens tend to either 1) reside here temporarily (although temporarily can mean "until I can retire") with express intention of one day returning to Mexico, and do not become part of the larger national community, or 2) come here expressly for the purpose of having children born here, who then become eligible for a wide range of benefits, thereby allowing them to live off of our largess. They repatriate a significant portion of their income to Mexico. Indeed, this is Mexico's largest source of foreign income except for petroleum exports.
Illegal immigration is not a net benefit to the US in the same way that legal immigration is, because illegal immigrants come here for fundamentally different reasons, and act in fundamentally different ways.
Yes, Mexico is, for the vast majority of its citizens, a horrible and hideous place to live. That is not our fault. And we do neither Mexicans nor ourselves any favors by serving as a relief vale to alleviate political pressure for reform in Mexico by allowing their people to escape by fleeing to the US. Doing so simply allows Mexico's government to become even more corrupt and ineffectual, although it's difficult to believe that's even possible.
Nor does it particularly help us. Because it provides employers with a large, relatively easily exploited workforce, it depresses wages for the workforce as a whole. Because it provides a cheap source of labor, it inhibits the implementation of new farming or production methods that increase productivity.
Again, somebody buses tables, mows lawns, harvests produce and washes cars in Iowa. And, since there are essentially no illegal immigrants there, who does it? We are constantly told that without illegal immigration, Americans wouldn't take certain jobs. But, since 40 states have no significant numbers of illegal aliens, that argument simply can't be true, because Americans do perform those jobs in 40 of the 50 states.
So that argument is just a load of crap.
Oh, yeah, it was also the same argument the South used to justify slavery.
And, speaking of arguments that are a load of crap, so is the idea that, absent illegal aliens, farm produce prices would skyrocket. Labor costs amount to about 10% of the cost of produce. You could double the cost of farm labor and add about a dime to the cost of head of lettuce.
Of course, if we did round up all the illegals, prices wouldn't double, because the Ag industry in the effected states would simply implement the productivity-increasing mechanization that's already used in other farming states.
All amnesty does is try to make the problem go away by making illegals legal at the stroke of a pen. And it encourages millions more people to try to make it here, secure in the knowledge that if they can stay long enough for another amnesty program, they can come and go between the US and Mexico all they want. And, since we've given amnesty every 7 years or so since 1986, while at the same time becoming more and more lax in our border enforcement, that's precisely what has happened.
People do, after all, respond to incentives.
(Review) Scott Lehigh reports from Iowa that Dean's momentum appear to be fading as the race enters the home stretch. And Dean has nobody to blame but Dean.
So what can be said, based on dozens of interviews with Iowa caucus-goers, about the candidates and their themes? First, as late deciders mull their very different choices, Kerry and Edwards are the candidates winning the most closing-days consideration. Second, despite Dean's efforts to make service in Washington a disqualifying demerit, many caucus goers actually want a candidate who knows his way around the nation's capital.
Third, though his core supporters appreciate Dean's aggressive style, other voters tend to see him as too pugnacious. And that quality, along with his various miscues and flashes of temper, is cause for deep concern here in the capital of the Nice Belt.
We may soon be referring to Dean as "the former front-runner".
No matter how good Dean may have looked 2, 6, or 12 weeks ago, when it actually comes down to voting, or, caucusing, as the case is here, people begin to apply different standards to the candidates.
It might be amusing--even attractive--to listen to Howard Dean "have a little fun at the President's expense". But it's another thing entirely to actually pull the lever for the guy when you go into the booth.
The only poll that ever really counts is the big poll that we call election day.
(Review) Joh Podhoretz handicaps the Democratic presidential race. In doing so, he has this to say about Wesley Clark:
How Clark wins: Gen. Wesley Clark either wins New Hampshire outright or loses it to Dean by fewer than four points. At this point, he becomes the golden boy of American politics. Bill Clinton comes out from the shadows and openly endorses Clark. The next big primary is Feb. 3 in South Carolina. Clark surges there and either wins it or comes in second. (He could even come in third if Al Sharpton manages to score an electorally meaningless, but utterly disgusting, second place there).
On Feb. 10, Virginia and Tennessee go Clark's way and he cruises along confidently until March 2. That's Super Tuesday, when Democratic voters in California and New York and a bunch of other big states make their selection. He scores big and he's the nominee.
How Clark loses: The politically inexperienced general repeatedly steps on his own very large and very awkward tongue. Other candidates force Clark to deal publicly with the fact that almost every major military figure who worked over, alongside or under him during the 1990s believes the former general is unfit for the presidency. That's a hard critique to overcome.
There's no doubt that a Clinton endorsement would be a huge boon for Wes Clark. But it's interesting to see what can be made of his fellow generals' distaste for him.
(Review) Illegal immigrants, we are told, are only here because they do the jobs that nobody else will do. Kate O'Bierne takes a look at that argument and finds it wanting.
The case for President Bush's guest-worker amnesty program warns me that frigid weather won't be the only unpleasantness I will be dealing with when I head to Iowa and New Hampshire over the next week. There obviously aren't enough illegal immigrants in either state to "take the jobs that Americans refuse." I expect that the local custom is to bus one's own dishes at restaurants and change the sheets when you check into the hotel. These states must face alarming shortages in childcare, abandoned construction sites, and empty shelves at their Wal-Marts. A summer visit would apparently reveal neglected lawns.
The concentration of unskilled illegal workers in a minority of states refutes the argument that large numbers of them are crucial if certain jobs are going to get done. Who makes up the unskilled labor pool in the majority of our states?
According to the 2000 census, 87 percent of illegal immigrants are in 15 states, with about 80 percent in only 10 states. California ranks number one. About 6.5 percent of its total population of 33.9 million is estimated to be illegal aliens. Texas, New York, Illinois, and Florida rank in the top five states. But, 40 states have relatively insignificant illegal-immigrant populations.
And, yet, presumably someone does those jobs in, say, Ohio, or Michigan. But who?
We may never know.
(Review) A few months ago, in an imbroglio whose details are too tedious to review right now, Sen Rick Santorum (R-PA) commented that once you allow homosexual marriage by constitutional fiat, you have to allow pretty much everything else.
Critics scoffed at Santorum as if he were some kind of troglodyte, of course. But, as it happens, he looks to have been right.
Three adults who want to live together as a husband and two wives asked a federal court this week to strike down Utah's ban on polygamy as a violation of their constitutional rights.
The plaintiffs are G. Lee Cook and D. Cook, a married husband and wife, and J. Bronson, the woman who wants to join them in a "plural marriage." According to the lawsuit, the Cooks and Bronson share "sincere and deeply held religious beliefs" in polygamy as it was practiced in the early decades of the Mormon Church. Acting on those beliefs, the three of them went on Dec. 22 to the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office, where Mr. Cook and Ms. Bronson applied for a marriage license. But since Cook acknowledged that he was already married, the license was refused.
"The law makes it very clear that they can't be married to more than one person," the county clerk told the Salt Lake Tribune. "We're here issuing licenses according to the law." That law is written right into Utah's Constitution, which declares: "Polygamous or plural marriages are forever prohibited." And that, the plaintiffs argue, deprives them of their religious freedom and privacy rights under the Constitution.
Well, there you go. Welcome to the logical outcome of the Supreme Court's Griswold decision. As I've long criticized, in places like this, We are moving closer to a judicial oligarchy as our primary form of government. Increasingly, legislatures are becoming little more than the administrative arms of the court system.
It's only a matter of time, you know, before some brother and sister sue in Federal court for permission to marry.
And how can we possibly deny them the ability to consummate their true love? Well, if Lawrence and Goodridge are correct decisions, we can't.
(Review) The newest polling in Iowa isn't very good for Dr. Howie.
The news is only slightly better in New Hamshpire, unless you're Wes Clark, in which case it's a lot better.
It's still a win for Dean at this point, but it'll be interesting to see how the race changes after Iowa. But Iowa's results, it's important to keep in mind, can just be plain wierd.
(Review) Richard Cohen writes that Gen. Wesley Clark is beginning to look like a real contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. And, unlike the rest of the Democratic field, he can't be ignored as weak on national security.
In a way, Clark is this season's John McCain. As did McCain in 2000, he makes a special appeal to veterans -- asking them to stand at his speech here, for instance. His themes are similar, too, but where McCain ran to the left of Bush, Clark runs to the right of the Democratic field. That assessment has nothing to do with his actual positions, some of which are downright liberal -- he has no problem with civil unions or marriage for gays, for instance -- but rather with his military record and his Southern roots.
Whatever the reason, the general is on the move. Polls show him second to Howard Dean in New Hampshire -- Dean moving down, Clark moving up, with what his campaign says are approval ratings in the high 70s. Some of that can be explained by a palpable desire for "none of the above" and some by his record and some by the fact that on occasion he has delivered a good speech -- one, incidentally, that does not disparage his Democratic opponents.
To be sure, in a two-way race, Bush would far prefer Dean or Kerry to Clark. And Clark has a long way to go before threatening to take the nomination. Or, at least, that's how it appears prior to anyone actually voting.
But the main obstacle to a Democratic presidential candidate's election in quasi-wartime is a perceived weakness on national security. Whatever else one may say about Wes Clark, that's not a charge that will ever stick. Four stars are more than adequate insulation against that.
Which is not to say, by the way, that Wes Clark isn't weak on national security. He may very well be. Or, if not weak, perhaps confused.
Just because someone has been a general doesn't necessarily mean that they have an able grasp of national security issues. It's never been true in the past, and it isn't true now. Wes Clark may be a fabulously able soldier, and one who can turn the strategies of his political superiors into achievable military goals at the drop of a hat. That doesn't mean that, when he's the one whose job it is to identify the nation's grand strategy that he'll do a particularly good job at it.
In fact, the only way you can ever really know that about someone is to watch how they do the job when they actually get it.
But, America has had a long tradition of cranky generals. Those qualities that make one well-suited to lead men in combat are not necessarily those qualities that provide an individual with strategic foresight or political acumen. For every Dwight D. Eisenhower in our country's history, there is at least one George B. McClellan.
It is an open question as to which of those generals Wes Clark more resembles. Personally, I think it's more McClellan than Eisenhower. But the American people may see it quite differently. And for moderate voters who think they see a less rigidly inclined moderate instead of a "conservative" like George W. Bush, and one who is also strong on national security, the combination might be very attractive.
Sadly for Clark, however, the Democratic Party's nomination process is tilted heavily to the left. So his chances of actually getting the nomination are rather slim. They are not, however, entirely out of the question. Especially if Howard Dean keeps self-destructing every time he opens his mouth.
Blogging will be very light until Friday I'm tied up in development meetings from 7a to 6p all week.
See Dale's web traffic. See it crash and burn.
Crash, crash, Traffic! Crash!
(Review) Haven't blogged on Paul O'Neill's comments yet, but that's mainly because I know too much about him for any of this to come as a surprise.
They guy's a flake. Always has been. You know he was up for a position in the Reagan Administration, but Ron's guys knew better, and they passed. And it didn't take too long for W's guys to realize it, too, which is, in large part, why he is no longer a senior administration official.
This isn't to say that Oneill isn't an accomplished or talented guy. But he isn't a team player, and he has CEO disease. He doesn't handle being an employee well, and he's not used to being a good team member. He's used to telling the team what to do.
And, like a lot of talented people, he's kind of a crank. So, I consider the source.
(Review) George Will reminds us that things in the United States are very, very good.
American life expectancy has dramatically increased in a century, from 47 to 77 years. Our great-great-grandparents all knew someone who died of some disease we never fear. (As recently as 1952, polio killed 3,300 Americans.) Our largest public-health problems arise from unlimited supplies of affordable food.
The typical American has twice the purchasing power his mother or father had in 1960. A third of America's families own at least three cars. In 2001 Americans spent $25 billion - more than North Korea's GDP - on recreational watercraft.
Factor out immigration - a huge benefit to the immigrants - and statistical evidence of widening income inequality disappears. The statistic that household incomes are only moderately higher than 25 years ago is misleading: Households today average fewer people, so real dollar incomes in middle-class households are about 50 percent higher today.
Since 1970 the number of cars has increased 68 percent, and the number of miles driven has increased even more, yet smog has declined by a third and traffic fatalities have declined from 52,627 to 42,815 last year. In 2003 we spent much wealth on things unavailable in 1953 - a cleaner environment, reduced mortality through new medical marvels ($5.2 billion a year just for artificial knees, which did not exist a generation ago), the ability to fly anywhere or talk to anyone anywhere.
The incidence of heart disease, stroke and cancer, adjusted for population growth, is declining. The rate of child poverty is down in a decade. America soon will be the first society in which a majority of adults are college graduates.
So, even you are like Jonathon Chait, and feel oppressed by Georhe W. Bush's very existence, the fact is that you are better off than 99.9% of the humans on the planet, and 99.9999999% of all the humans that have ever lived.
(Review) Fred Barnes writes that the Democrats' policy on taxation has taken a 180° turn over the last 40 years.
The Democratic reversal on taxes has come full circle. Forty years ago, Democratic president John F. Kennedy believed tax increases would neither balance the budget nor create jobs. Kennedy proposed deep cuts in income taxes that were enacted by an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress after his death. In the 1980s, Democratic presidential nominees Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis had a different tack. Mondale said it was sad but true that federal taxes had to be raised. Dukakis said he might boost taxes, but only as a last resort.
Now all nine Democratic presidential candidates agree that increasing taxes must be a first resort. This is an amazing turn of events. Sure, some would sweep away President Bush's tax cuts in their entirety, and others would preserve the cuts for lower income brackets. But this striking fact remains: While serious candidates like Richard Gephardt and Joe Lieberman don't agree with wacko candidate Dennis Kucinich and demagogue Al Sharpton about much, they're on board with them on taxes. And by the way, so are Democratic congressional leaders.
It's as if Democrats live in a parallel universe where ordinary economic rules don't apply.
This is not only true in Washington, but here in California as well. The Democrats' respose to California's budget crisis, led by aging hippie John Burton in the State Senate has been, "If we need more money, then let's raise taxes." It's not even a controversial position among leading Democrats, in either Sacramento or Washington DC.
There's something scary--or, at least, there should be--about a mind-set that embodies such a sense of entitlement. The default position on the Left is never to cut the budget, fire government workers, and eliminate programs. It's as if those options don't even appear on their menu of choices.
And, really, why should it? If they need more moiney, they can always force it from our pockets. Legislators, after all, make laws, and once something becomes law, the state has the right to come in with «jackbooted thugs» as the phrase used to be, and force your compliance.
And, besides, goes the reasoning I've heard countless times, Americans really are undertaxed, when compared to other industrialized countries in, say, Europe. The thought that this also may explain why America is a superpower engine of job creation, innovation, and technological advancement while Europe is a stagnant morass of high structural unemployment and anemic job creation seems never to enter their mind. There is, after all, a reaon why Europe didn't create a single net new job from 1975 to 2000. Maybe tax policies that call for an income tax rate of 50% on the middle class, a VAT on every product you buy of 18.5%, and gas taxes that raise the price of gasoline to $5.00+ per gallon might have something to do with that.
I mean, I'm just saying...
The reason, of course, is simple: People respond to incentives. It's a blindingly simple truth, but it's simply ignored on the Left when it comes to economics. The implicit assumption among Democrats is that if you raise taxes by X%, it will produce $X in revenue. The fact that this kind of static analysis has never been proven correct is ignored.
But, because people respond to incentives, when you tax a thing beyond that level at which people desire to see it taxed, you get less of it. If the government were to place a 100% surtax on all incomes over $100,000, billions of dollars would not start pouring into the Treasury.
Instead, within two weeks of the tax's passage, there wouldn't be a single person in this country with an income greater than $100,000.
But Democrats blithely call for more taxes, as if they didn't have a clue about incentives, or peoples' responses to them.
(Review) Jon Henke wonders whether or not we've already lost the battle to prevent medicine from being socialized.
Look, I'm not interested in socialism, if I can choose between that and capitalism. I've got no question which is better, which is more efficient. But what if capitalism is not an option? Is it possible that it's time to pick our battles and admit that we're not only going to lose the health care battle, but that we've already lost?
As the aforementioned doctor told me, the battle at this point is to make the nationalised health care as market-based as possible.
Some examples are instructive. Britain, for example, has a dual track system. They have the NHS, under which, every person in the country is covered. On top of that, private health care coverage is available to any individual who wants it. And can afford it.
How does Britain's system compare with ours? According to Professor George Frederickson:
The percentage of gross domestic product going to health care is twice as great in the United States as in Britain (14 percent to 6.8 percent). Between 1970 and 2000, the percentage of the American GDP going to health care more than doubled. Annual per capita health care spending is two and one-half times greater in the United States than in Britain ($4,100 to $1,400). Average annual growth in health care spending is much higher than inflation in both countries, but greater in the United States (12 percent to 10 percent). Average annual administrative costs for health care are more than twice as great in the United States (11.4 percent to 5.0 percent). There are 27 scanners and 16 magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines for each one million Americans, compared to 6 scanners and 4 MRIs in Great Britain. The average annual income of physicians in the United States is over $200,000 whereas in Britain it is under $60,000. In the United States, about 15.5 percent of all citizens and 11.6 percent of all children are without health insurance and that percentage is much greater among the working poor, African-Americans and Hispanics. Because everyone belongs to the National Health Service in Great Britain, everyone is covered. The American infant mortality rate is higher than in Britain (7.8 per 1,000 births compared to 5.9 per 1,000 births) and life expectancy rates are lower (76.8 in the United States and 77.2 in Britain). Cancer and heart disease mortality rates are, however, about the same in both countries.
Now, that is an interesting comparison. It seems that we derive some benefits from our system in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality that the British do not. But we are paying a lot extra for those benefits.
On the other hand, all is not peachy keen in merry olde England, however:
Late last year, the British Medical Association sent voting papers to all 36,000 General Practitioners (GPs) in Britain asking them if they would be prepared to resign from the NHS. There was a 66 percent response rate with 86 percent voting in favor of resignation.
Dr. Kevin Ilsley, a GP who works in a group practice in Bromyard, Worchester, stated, “I now say I only enjoy the first 40 hours of my working week and I don’t get much pleasure out of the last 30 hours.” Dr. Ilsley’s workload is so heavy he has given up his duties as an assessor of GP training practices.
Dr. Anita Goraya, a GP in Friern Barnet, talks of patients’ rising expectations and her frustration with the NHS. “I had a patient who came to see me about depression. Unfortunately, I am unable to refer anyone suffering from depression for counseling because there is a 17-month waiting list to see a therapist. There are few services locally and the waiting list for the few that exist is preposterous.”
Evidently, there's no Utopia there. On the other hand, here in the US, Doctors are also leaving health care in droves, mainly because they find paying $250,000 or more per year in malpractice insurance to be a bit steep.
So, how much money do the heavily socialized health care systems of other countries spend on health care? Well, here's a per-capita comparison from Health Policy Monitor:
And we're the guys with the "free market" health care system. The picture's not much better when you compare health spending as a percentage of GDP.
But, hey, we're number one!
The difference is that regular medical coverage doesn't exist for 40 million Americans, a situation that does not obtain in the rest of the industrialized world, where there is 100% coverage.
Something is deeply wrong with the US health care system.
Part of the problem is that we really don't have a free market in health care. Individuals, by and large, don't buy health care policies. Health insurance is employer provided. In effect, however, this is underwritten by the US government by making health care premiums deductible for businesses, which results in about billions of dollars in lost revenues for the Federal government. And then, of course, you have to throw in the $300 billion or so that the state and federal governments spend outright to provide health care.
And, of course, once you hit 65, you're on the health care gravy train, because you've got your Medicare, which the government does pay for. And now, it pays for prescription drugs, too.
Why do we spend too much for health care in the US? The Heartland Institute has listed several reasons:
1) Government subsidies to health care increases demand by artificially lowering costs.
2) Favorable tax treatment of employer-provided health care has the same effect.
3) Lower-income people without health care must rely on emergency room health care delivery at substantially higher cost.
4) health care buyers and sellers meet in a "market" that is heavily regulated by the government.
5) State governments increase health care costs by mandating benefit coverages.
6) State governments artificially reduce the supply of health care by requiring Certificates of Need before health care providers can expand services.
7) States interfere with the creation and operation of PPOs by fixing prices or the range of services they can offer.
So, really, we have what is, in many ways, the worst of both worlds. We have a market-based system, but one in which market incentives are minimized through regulation and subsidies. In effect, government policy bids up health care prices.
It's no wonder that more and more people are looking at single-payer, government-provided health care as an alternative to what we already have. At the very least, a single payer system would end the inefficient and fragmented ways by which health care is currently purchased.
Frankly, I'm not sure what the answer really is. Or rather, I think I know some very good solutions, but the chances of them being implemented is practically nil.
(Review) David Limbaugh, the less famous brother of you-know-who writes that he can't figure out what W is thinking with this proposed immigration plan. Not only that, but Bush's supporters can't either.
Some say the president's plan is designed to court the Hispanic vote. That certainly seems to be the case, but it's hard to imagine that one as savvy as Karl Rove would calculate that the marginal gains there could offset the major alienation of the conservative base as well as mainstream America, which seems to be largely unsympathetic to illegal aliens.
Others speculate that Bush is doing this to re-establish himself as a compassionate conservative at a time when voters are increasingly turned off by the stridency of political debate. How quickly we forget that Republicans don't easily win points for so-called compassion, whether by throwing untold billions of federal dollars at education or increasing domestic spending elsewhere.
Others have suggested Bush is correct that Republicans can't afford to be viewed as a party hostile to immigrants or immigration as we enter this new century with its ever-changing demographics. True, Republicans can do without a xenophobic or nativist image, but I don't understand how opposing illegal immigration is tantamount to being against foreigners any more than opposing affirmative action makes one a racist. Republicans should stick to principle and leave the pandering to the Democrats.
The fact that even Bush's supporters aren't sure why he's doing this or how he can justify it is all the proof we need that it is wrongheaded. It's a muddled plan, with dubious goals and inevitably negative consequences -- which doesn't bode well for the president's image as a decisive leader with moral clarity.
On the other hand, As I was driving in my car yesteray afternoon, the drive-time hosts on talk radio station KFI, up in LA, had a veritable parade of congresspeople on the air, most of them Republicans, speaking out in opposition to the Bush plan.
Maybe W figures he can get points for compassion for proposing the plan, secure in the knowledge that a Republican Congress will have great reluctance to actually pass it into law.
(Review) Michael Kinsley writes that politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. Especially when those bedfellows are as far apart on the political spectrum as Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and former Reagan Administration Treasury Undersecretary Paul Craig Roberts. They say they are for Free Trade, but...
The core of free-trade theory is the concept of "comparative advantage." Schumer and Roberts make the classic college-student mistake of confusing comparative advantage with absolute advantage. Nations trade because for each one there are goods or services it is more efficient to buy from abroad than to produce at home. If there is nothing America can offer the world that is either uniquely desirable or cheaper than elsewhere, the world will not buy anything from America. And after a while the world won't sell anything to America either, because we won't have the foreign currency to pay for it. So, even in this extreme case there is no need to restrict trade because trade will restrict itself. But in fact, as Ricardo demonstrated, there will always be something worth trading. Even if Nation A can produce both apples and oranges more efficiently than Nation B, it will still make sense to concentrate on producing one fruit and import the other. And Nation B will make itself poorer, not richer, by keeping out fruit from Nation A. If Nation A retaliates by keeping out fruit from Nation B—and why shouldn't it?—Nation B will be doubly punished.
That's the theory. It's pretty rock-solid. You can reject it in its entirety—as, for example, Dick Gephardt, the most protectionist of the leading Democratic presidential candidates, pretty much does. But most critics don't have the guts to defy reality and/or conventional wisdom (take your pick) to that extent. Schumer and Roberts cling to the free-trade label and endorse the general principle while claiming it no longer applies because "the factors of production can relocate to wherever they are most productive." In fact, that makes the theory even more compelling. If the factors of production become more productive, the whole world becomes richer. If there is some explanation of how a society can get richer by denying itself the fruits of this process (and most likely curtailing the whole process itself, as others misguidedly retaliate), Schumer and Roberts do not offer or even hint at it.
I don't know much about Chuck Shumer, other than what I see on the TV. But I do know Craig. I used to interview him every week on my radio show in LA. And he's pretty...uh...eclectic in his views sometimes. He's not actually a whack job, but, still, when you talk to him, you get the impression that he's always about 3 seconds from screaming, "It's the freemasons! The Freemasons and the Illuminati! They're destroying America, and all of you are blind to it! Blind!"
We finally dumped him off the show when he began veering into Clinton Conspiracy territory. I was a little uncomfortable with a regular guest hinting that the president of the United States was a drug dealer and multiple murderer. I was doing news and credible financial/political analysis, not Rush Limbaugh.
So, the fact that Craig agrees with Chuck Schumer on something doesn't particularly surprise me. It does, however, make me a little more doubtful about Schumer.
(Review) Howard Fineman writes that its there in the Dean campaign if you care to look for it. Little indications of worry. The sense that the slightest bit of resistance could stop the Dean "juggernaut" cold.
The hardest thing to do in business is to close a sale, and it’s the same with politics. Dean’s numbers were holding steady in Iowa, Trippi insisted, but there was too much of what the pollsters call “volatility” to suit him. “The numbers are a mess,” he said, meaning that things were still uncomfortably fluid. John Kerry was moving up fast, Dick Gephardt was sinking just as fast, and even John Edwards seemed to be making a late move. Front-runners don’t like that much motion underneath, even if they are ahead...
Dean’s own surge has clearly slowed. To revive it, this self-styled non-Washington politician is trying to goose his campaign in the most traditional way: with endorsements. Al Gore’s seemed to help; Bill Bradley’s clearly did not. Now the campaign is hoping that Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin will endorse, anointing Dean like a knight in a Shakespeare play.
Fineman then goes on to count the ways in which the Dean campaign is slipping up, and--perhaps--starting to let the campaign get away from them.
(Review) Well, there's not much to be happy about in the unemployment report this morning. Only 1,000 new non-farm payroll jobs were created last month. Moreover, last month's 57K increase was revised downward to 43k.
The unemployment rate spiked down to 5.7%, which is good news, I guess. At least it would be if we knew why it dropped. But, since the self-employed really aren't covered in the non-farm payrolls we really don't know. A lot of people say they're working, but it isn't in on-farm jobs.
You know, the whole report is just confusing when you look at the raw numbers. Housing is booming. The ISM employment index is rising. Temporary employment, usually a leading indicator of permanent labor demand, has increased for 8 straight months. All the signs are there of imnproved demand for labor. All the signs except an increase in non-farm payrolls, that is. Everything we see tells us that labor demand is improving, yet, nobody's hiring. Why?
Wage growth is also really slow. Today's report shows and increase of just 0.2%. Now, that's just strange, too. Productivity, the chief source of wage increases, has risen sharply. And, as I just said, all the signs of improving labor demand is there. So why are wages being tightly restrained?
And, come to think of it, why is the length of the workweek declining? The number of average hours worked fell by 12 minutes to 33.7 hours per week.
The only possible explanation I can come up with is that productivity gains have been so strong. This has delayed the creation of new jobs as employers squeeze more production out of the same number of employees. Heck, meybe everybody in business is so efficient that they can now finish their work and go home a few minutes early. But that still doesn't explain why the unemployment rate is falling when no new non-farm jobs are being created.
It's a wierd and contradictory report. I can't really figure it all out, and I used to do this for a living.
(Review) President Bush (search) will announce plans next week to send Americans to Mars and establish a permanent human presence on the moon, senior administration officials said Thursday night.
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(Review) Democratic pollster Mark Melman writes that Howard Dean simply can't beat George W. Bush.
Dean is in desperate straits in a New Hampshire general election where he trails Bush by an astounding 27 points (57 percent Bush, 30 percent Dean). And this is a state Bill Clinton won and a state Al Gore lost by only 7,211 votes. But Dean has alienated all those who do not identify as Democrats. Less than 1 percent of Republicans would vote for Dean, while 14 percent of Democrats support Bush. Most troubling is the fact that Dean garners only 11 percent among swing independents (undeclared) while Bush gets 63 percent of this vote. Moreover, this poll predates the capture of Saddam Hussein.
Dean’s serious troubles are evident in a variety of other states as well. Florida is central, but Dean loses by 23 points. Arizona is a state we hope to bring into the Democratic column in ‘04, but Dean lags 15 points behind Bush. Democrats always hope for Ohio, but Bush has a 19-point advantage over Dean.
Dean says he hopes to make gains in the South, but his clumsy handling of the Confederate flag issue has only made that goal more elusive. He is 21 points behind Bush in Virginia and 22 points behind in North Carolina.
Dean’s desperate general election straits also are clearly evident in national polls. A Washington Post poll at the end of December showed a generic Democrat trailing Bush by just 9 points (50 percent to 41 percent) while Dean trails Bush by 18 points (55 percent to 37 percent). Among independents, a generic Democrat trails Bush by 12 points (50 percent to 38 percent) while Dean loses to Bush by 21 points (56 percent to 35 percent).
The recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows Bush having opened up a 23-point lead over Dean, while NBC/Wall Street Journal pegs Dean’s deficit at 21 points. CBS found Bush 20 points ahead.
Some may counter with another poll taken over New Year’s weekend that shows Dean much closer. I frankly wouldn’t pay any attention at all to one poll, taken on one of the worst polling days imaginable. Moreover, those same sponsors released a poll yesterday showing Bush with a 22-point lead over Dean.
I think this pretty much validates what I wrote here a few days ago.
(Review) John Podhoretz simply doesn't get it.
One of George W. Bush's key selling points as a candidate for president was that, in his races for governor of Texas, he had demonstrated that a Republican could indeed garner Latino votes despite the shadow of Proposition 187.
Before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it appeared that President Bush was going to dedicate a significant amount of his foreign-policy time to building ties and economic relationships with Mexico - so that he would have a partner in trying to deal with the costs of illegal immigration here at home and the possibilities of a trans-border economic approach to the problem.
Those foreign-policy ambitions were put on ice by the War on Terror. But it should surprise no one that Bush has returned to the issue of immigration. He believes what he said yesterday: "Out of common sense and fairness, our laws should allow willing workers to enter our country and fill jobs that Americans are not filling. We must make our immigration laws more rational, and more humane."
And he believes deeply, and correctly, that a Republican Party that continues to lean toward a position of hostility toward immigrants and immigration is a party that will not prosper and prevail in the 21st century.
It's not a policy of hostility toward "immigrants". It's hostility towards open borders that encourge the migration of illegals, who do not wish to become immigrants in the traditional sense.
The point of immigration is supposed to be the desire to come to the United States and to become an American. Coming to the US to work for 5, 10, or 15 years, while sending as much of your salary back to Mexico, then returning yourself at the end of that time is not immigration. And, while coming to the US but working rarely, while absorbing medical, welfare and educational benfits is a kind of immigration, it isn't the kind of immigration want, nor is it the kind of immigration that occured in the past.
Podhoretz insultingly equates a concern about illegal immigration with the nativist porejudice of the past. Well it's not the same thing.
One of the most peculiar elements of the anti-immigrant intellectual movement is just how many of its members are themselves immigrants - John O'Sullivan, John Derbyshire and Peter Brimelow from England, and George Borjas from Cuba. I once found myself in an argument with a few of these gentlemen at a conference and realized that I was the only person speaking with an American accent.
Yeah, well, get a clue, John. That should tell you something. These men aren't anti-immigrant, they are anti-illegal immigration. And, having jumped through hoop after hoop to get here legally, with the full intention of becoming Americans, they are probably a little annoyed that millions of illegals can just march right in and, enjoy the privileges of being here without having to play by the rules.
And, come to think of it, so am I.
(Review) Mansoor Ijaj writes that Pakistan has been a trouble spot in the fight against nuclear proliferation. How much trouble? Well, that's the question.
The burning question is whether Pakistan has morphed into a rogue nuclear state, or is the unwitting victim of a handful of deranged army generals, intelligence officers, and mad nuclear scientists run amok.
I have written on nuclear proliferation before, and the picture isn't very pretty. The technology required to make a nuclear bomb is 60 years old. There's a limit to how hard you can keep that cat in the bag.
Above all, it's not helpful to have countries like Pakistan or North Korea offering to spread the knowledge around, either.
Jim Hoagland also has an interesting roundup on recent nonproliferation progress in his Washington Post column today.
(Review) I don't know what it is about George W. Bush. Well, that's not true, I do know. He's a politician.
A bunch of wankers, the lot of them.
This immigration decision of his ranks right up there with signing the Farm Bill & McCain-Feingold into law or the steel and lumber tariffs.
Gotta pander for those votes, boy.
What's the point of even having an immigration policy if Canadians can just ponce right down south. I mean, the second largest Canadian city in the world (by Canadian population) is Los Angeles.
Of course, it isn't the Canadian vote W is shooting for, though, now, is it?
Currently there are about 8 million unemployed US citizens in this country. Oddly enough, there are also between 8 and 12 million illegal immigrants as well.
Do we even need to talk about the billions of dollars the taxpayers spend for medical, education, or welfare benefits for illegal aliens. The estimate is $7 billion in California alone.
Now they get rewarded for their willingness to ignore our laws by being rewarded with three-year worker's visas. And another three-year extension after that. Why? Because we want to give them plenty of time to obtain their green cards!
Oh, and all that talk about how we'll improve our security by knowing who the illegals are is just hogwash. What, does W actually think Al-Qaida infiltrators will walk into the new, improved, homeland security version of the INS and declare themselves? If so, he's about the only one.
So, here's how it'll work. Washington will essentially suspend US immigration laws, and leave the states holding the bag for the cost of benefits and education that illegals will cost the states.
Victor Davis Hanson is right.
(Review) David Newsom asks if the US is really ready for a democratic Middle East.
Democratic regimes in the region would face populations feeling humiliated by the West and vulnerable to politicians who would seek to exploit the deep-seated resentments relating to Israel; ethnic and religious divisions; and the intrusion of foreign, particularly Western influence. In a period when the US emphasizes the war on terrorism, new governments may have different definitions of terrorism and terrorists. Strong Islamist movements, long suppressed by governments in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world could emerge. Policies of the new governments could directly challenge the presence of US forces, efforts to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, US policies toward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and significant American human rights initiatives.
Well, that is a real problem. Because democracy is not, as many suppose, a solution for, well, much of anything. 50% +1 one of us might vote to send you to a concentration camp. That would be perfectly legitimate and democratic decision, but it's deficient in any number of other ways.
As I previously wrote:
Westerners in general, and Americans in particular, are prone to believe some rather unrealistic things about democracy. Chief among these is the idea that democracy in and of itself is inculcated with some virtue that makes the people more peaceful and reasonable. Such a view is entirely specious.
The reason democracy works as an ameliorating institution in the West is because it is based upon a host of other liberal ideals. Democracy is the result of ideas such as individual equality, open debate, freedom of thought and speech, and freedom of the press. It is not a precursor to them. Such ideas need to have relatively firm root in a society for democracy to work as a restraining force.
Democracy is, of course a fine institution. If nothing else, it is a wonderful method for ascertaining what the people want, and selecting leaders to carry out the people's will. It is not, however, in and of itself, a particularly good way of ensuring that what people want is the right thing.
Democracy isn't a solution for the world's problems, in and of itself, no matter how vital it might be as an integral part of a solution.
(Review) The First color Pictures are coming back from the Mars Rover, "Spirit".
But Howard Dean and his Deanie-weenies do all they can to restrict the free speech of others. I can predict with certainty that Dean's Internet Gestapo will pounce on this column, twisting the facts and vilifying the writer, just as they do when anyone challenges Howard the Coward.
Free speech, you see, is only for the left.
Dean wants to muzzle his Democratic competitors, too. He believes the Democratic National Committee should shut them up. His followers try to intimidate other presidential aspirants by surrounding the cars delivering them to their rallies and chanting to drown out their speech. Of course, Dean denies any foreknowledge or blame.
These are the techniques employed by Hitler's Brownshirts. Had Goebbels enjoyed access to the internet, he would have used the same swarm tactics as Dean's Flannelshirts.
In Dean's alternate reality, everything the Bush administration has done and might do is a failure, no matter the facts. The president's even responsible for Mad Cow Disease. It's Goebbels again: Just keep repeating the lies until the lies assume the force of truth...
Dean was already practicing the Big Lie. Montreal was just a stop on his journey from Munich to Berlin. He was already looking around for his Leni Riefenstahl.
Yeah, Peters tries to talk his way out of it at the end of the column:
Of course, I don't really see Howard Dean as a potential dictator - just another hollow man soiling the halls of power. And this is America. Our system is far stronger than any individual. Besides, even the vilest dictators have a vision of something greater than themselves. Howard Dean has nothing beyond ambition.
Huh. Damned with faint praise.
This is just foolish, and wrong. It's wrong when MoveOn does it, and it's wrong when Ralph Peters does it.
Until somebody starts opening death camps and shoving prisoners into "showers" 2,000 at a time, nobody is analogous to Hitler.
If you don't like the Deaniacs calling you a fool or worse, then stop writing your column, Ralph. Otherwise, keep your trap shut and take it. The Deaniacs do, after all, have the right to tell you you're a bozo, just like you have the right to say Dean is one.
But, really, we gotta stop with the Hitler stuff. It's stupid. It's the kind of "argument" you make when you just want to denigrate someone.
Look, Hitler's brownshirts didn't just show up a Socialist party rallies and act rude. They showed up with clubs and started beating heads. They weren't rowdy and undisiplined. In the contrary they were murderously disiplined, and organized in military fashion right down to the block and street level.
I doubt the average Deaniac could organize a successful panty raid on a girls dormitory. And, unless the Deaniacs are whacking Gephardt supporters with pikestaffs, they aren't using Nazi tactics.
They're just being complete asses.
And you know what? I say, let them. I can't think of a tactic more well-designed to shoot down Howard Dean's candidacy than the childishly rude acts of his supporters. That kind of stuff will turn off both primary and general election voters in a heartbeat.
The Deaniacs may be rude and infantile--and heck, so is their candidate, for that matter--but they aren't Nazis.
Childish and Evil, after all, are two very different things.
All you accomplish by doing this is just lowering yourself to their level.
"Your guy is like Hitler!"
"No, yours is!
Cripes, grow up, the both of you.
(Review) Brendan Miniter writes that it's becoming increasingly clear that there's a whole lot of stuff Howard Dean doesn't seem to know much about, but has strong opinions on, anyway.
Rhetorical overreach is normal in politics. But some lines are just too brazen and get even presidential front-runners laughed down. That's what happened to Howard Dean on Sunday. And the experience--which stopped him in midsentence--must have made the former Vermont governor feel about as small as his home state.
"I am going to balance the budget, and I'm going to do it in the sixth or seventh year of my administration," he said at the Iowa Democratic debate. The laughter that erupted was so loud he couldn't finish his next sentence: "We're also going to have health care . . ."
Right. Pull the other one.
That came in answer to a question about how he'd cut taxes for the middle class, and pretty much his entire response--although long-winded--was laughable for its brazenness. "Ultimately, we will have a program for tax fairness," he promised. But the "big picture," he said, changing the subject, is that President Bush's tax cuts were really tax increases. Americans may have gotten their rebate checks, but for many that amounted to a $304 savings, he said. "And the question I have for Americans is, did your college tuition go up more than $304 because the president cut Pell Grants in order to finance his tax cuts for his millionaire friends? How about property taxes, did they go up . . .?"
Perhaps someone needs to explain to the former governor the federalist system we have in America. President Bush isn't responsible for local taxes brought on by out-of-control state spending. Or more pointedly, perhaps Mr. Dean should place a call to Jon Corzine and find out what the party line is regarding Pell Grants. The New Jersey senator has already joined with other Democrats to declare victory over Pell Grant "cuts."
Even Dean's fellow Democrats realize that Dean is just shooting off his mouth.
Joe Lieberman pointed out that the average family of four in Iowa saves $1,800 a year thanks to the Bush tax cuts. "I don't know which is worse, that [Mr. Dean] wants to repeal the tax cuts, or that he won't admit that they ever existed," Mr. Lieberman said. John Kerry jumped in later on to ask Mr. Dean why he keeps saying things that are obviously not true or indefensible.
The obvious answer is that Dean has a constituency who've created an internal reality in which these things are true. Or, rather, they believe them to be true, despite any empirical evidence whatsoever.
Democrats once hoped to neutralize national security issues and win this election by making it a referendum on domestic policy. But with Howard Dean talking about not "prejudging" Osama bin Laden's guilt and offering vague promises about programs for "tax fairness" and second-term priorities mixed with provably false statements, how can he ever expect to beat a president who's captured Saddam Hussein and delivered tax refund and rebate checks to millions of Americans?
Well, there's still 10 months left until the election. W could still make some spectacular mistake, and lose it all. After all, his dad did.
But the outcome of the election is in W's hands, not Howard Dean's.
(Review) Paul Krugman says that former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin has joined him in the "coalition of the shrill".
In a paper presented over the weekend at the meeting of the American Economic Association, Mr. Rubin and his co-authors — Peter Orszag of the Brookings Institution and Allan Sinai of Decision Economics — argue along lines that will be familiar to regular readers of this column. The United States, they point out, is currently running very large budget and trade deficits. Official projections that this deficit will decline over time aren't based on "credible assumptions." Realistic projections show a huge buildup of debt over the next decade, which will accelerate once the baby boomers retire in large numbers.
All of this is conventional stuff, if anathema to administration apologists, who insist, in flat defiance of the facts, that they have a "plan" to cut the deficit in half. What's new is what Mr. Rubin and his co-authors say about the consequences. Rather than focusing on the gradual harm inflicted by deficits, they highlight the potential for catastrophe.
"Substantial ongoing deficits," they warn, "may severely and adversely affect expectations and confidence, which in turn can generate a self-reinforcing negative cycle among the underlying fiscal deficit, financial markets, and the real economy. . . . The potential costs and fallout from such fiscal and financial disarray provide perhaps the strongest motivation for avoiding substantial, ongoing budget deficits." In other words, do cry for us, Argentina: we may be heading down the same road.
Lest readers think that the most celebrated Treasury secretary since Alexander Hamilton has flipped his lid, the paper rather mischievously quotes at length from an earlier paper by Laurence Ball and N. Gregory Mankiw [Not to be confused with popular and controversial radio "shock-jock", Mancow--Ed.], who make a similar point. Mr. Mankiw is now the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, a job that requires him to support his boss's policies, and reassure the public that the budget deficit produced by those policies is manageable and not really a problem.
But here's what he wrote back in 1995, at a time when the federal deficit was much smaller than it is today, and headed down, not up: the risk of a crisis of confidence "may be the most important reason for seeking to reduce budget deficits. . . . As countries increase their debt, they wander into unfamiliar territory in which hard landings may lurk. If policymakers are prudent, they will not take the chance of learning what hard landings in [advanced] countries are really like."
Look, forget that this is Krugman, and that it's the New York Times. Whatever else you may think about Krugman's popular writings, he is an extraordinarily well-respected economist in his academic work.
It was Krugman, after all, who highlighted the key weaknesses of Supply-Side quackery. He is the guy who incorporated many of the traditions of traditional Keynesian economics to create a neo-Keynesian synthesis that is extraordinarily compelling. He is also, in case you didn't know, the guy who showed that market failures are far more common than previously believed, but who also showed that government "solutions" to such failures are, for the most part, either completely ineffective, or actively harmful.
Now, strip away the Democratic Party rah-rah stuff that is the centerpiece of his regular column, and you do get to a serious argument, and one that I've made before.
Indeed, I partially made it briefly in the immediately previous post.
The government cannot borrow forever. Or rather, it can't borrow heavily forever. But, since 1980, that's precisely what we've done. And, even in the 1990s, when we were running all those budget "surpluses", we were still going deeper and deeper into debt.
The US Treasury keeps a record of the US national debt to the penny. This is what it's looked like since 1987.
The National Debt as of 12/31/2003: $7,001,312,247,818.28
Now, there is a counter-argument that says sustainable levels of debt will not cause an economic collapse. Supply-Siders, for example, tell us that despite mounting levels of debt, interest rates have trended lower for the last 20 years, not higher. I addressed this argument previously, by writing:
If current marginal tax rates are close to the equilibrium point, then further tax reductions move us closer to Point A on the [Laffer] curve, which means revenues will drop, rather than rise. Hence, a real danger exists that further tax cuts will contribute substantially to higher deficits. The "revenue increase" argument is essentially closed off for them; therefore, they are left with the rather paradoxical arguments that government deficits can put downward pressure on government spending, while at the same time assuring us that such deficits will not increase interest rates.
Supply-Side theory does real damage to the conservative arguments for limiting the size and scope of government. If lower taxes lead to higher revenues, then what restrains the government from simply growing larger in order to take advantage of increased revenues? If increasing deficits do not put long-term pressure on higher interest rates, then what stops the government from simply spending more money, secure in the knowledge that the price of borrowing won't increase? How does either of these propositions put downward pressure on government spending? These arguments amount to little more than declaring that there is a free lunch.
But there is no free lunch.
What the supply-siders do not address is the fact that the current account deficit (the most comprehensive measure of foreign trade) has ballooned massively. In effect, foreign investors are underwriting our deficit by pouring money into US capital markets. The Supply-Siders can only be right if they assume that this is a condition that will obtain forever.
Government debt is the 800-pound (or $7 trillion) gorilla of the debt markets. And it's a gorilla that's getting even bigger.
Now, Supply-Siders will also argue that as the economy expands, the debt can be made sustainable for ever longer periods of time. To an extent, this is true. But, even at a rate of indebtedness increasing at only 2% of GDP per year, the borrowing is not sustainable forever. Eventually that money has to be paid back.
As the St. Louis Fed notes, he US Federal Budget deficit is currently running at 3.4% GDP. Of that, a portion is caused by cyclical changes in the economy. But the structural deficit is 2.9% of GDP.
Cyclical deficits, which often have a strong global component, do not threaten long-term fiscal solvency because they will be reversed over time. However, large structural deficits—those greater than the country’s average output growth rate—cannot be maintained forever and might require adjustments to tax and spending policies.
They might, indeed.
We generally think of the US, since it is a modern, industrialized economy, as capable of a growth rate of 3%-4% per year. Currently, with a $7 trillion dollar debt and a GDP of, well, let's estimate $12 trillion for 2003m that gives us a debt ration of about 60% of GDP. But that's only part of the picture. Let's not forget that the current account deficit is increasing at 5% GDP per year. (In fact, by 2010, the total foreign debt alone will be 65% of GDP.) With a structural deficit of 2.9% GDP and an increase in the current account deficit of 5% GDP, we'd need an annual GDP increase of 7.9% every year just to stay even.
That would be great, but I doubt it's gonna happen over the long term.
Now, we've been pretty deep in hock before. In 1945, our total debt was almost 100% of GDP. Of course, the difference is that it was incurred while fighting a global war against fascism, and the debt ration began immediately to decline. Oh, and it was owed almost entirely to domestic borrowers. In our current situation, we are, despite the war on terror, living with an essentially peacetime budget and current account deficit that are increasing daily, with an increasing proportion of the debt held by overseas investors. The two situations are not congruent.
This is simply unsustainable. The crash may not come this year, or perhaps even in this decade. But it isn't that far off. We've racked up a lot of bills over the last 20 years and eventually someone is going to have to pay them, "eventually" being sometime in our lifetimes.
Here's a simple question to ask that is a good rule of thumb for judging fiscal policy: Would this work if I did it in my private life? So, ask yourself, if my total debt was 60% of my annual salary, and my salary increased by 4% a year and my debt increased by 8% per year, could I keep borrowing indefinitely? The two situations aren't perfectly analogous, of course, because if you own a house, your debt is probably more than 100% of your annual salary. And, the government doesn't have a house. But in either case, you can't increase your indebtedness forever. And if you can't do it, why can the government?
Krugman may hate W like the devil hates church, but that doesn't mean that he's some whack job.
Well, not in this specific case, anyway.
(Review) It's a mystery. And David Ignatius is on its trail.
The new year begins with a financial mystery: Why have China and Japan continued to accumulate large dollar surpluses -- financing the U.S. trade deficit in the process -- even as the value of those dollars has continued to plummet?
That's actually a very good question. In orthodox trade theory, a trade imbalance between two nations causes the currency of the exporting nation (let's call it, uh, Japan) to fall in value against that of the importing nation (which we'll pretend is the US).
Now, what follows is a gross simplification of trade theory, anbd like all simplifications, is not perfectly accurate, but let me try to explain the mystery.
You see, when Japan sells a car in America, the car is sold in US Dollars. To get their money back to Japan, they have to exchange those dollars for Japanese yen. Now, as the demand for yen rises in the FOREX market, the demand for the dollar falls. As a result, the price of the yen rises. So, instead of getting 100 yen for every dollar they exchange, the Japanese exporter gets, say 94 yen to the dollar.
In theory, this makes Japanese exports more expensive relative to domestically produced US goods, so eventually, people begin buying less of the Japanese stuff as the price rises. This has the effect, over time, of evening out trade imbalances.
Also, in theory, as the price of the dollar declines, the speed at which exporters convert their dollars to yen increases, because the longer they wait to get rid of their dollars, the less yen they will be able to buy. So, rather than holding a stash of c-notes to finance an American business expansion, they dump their dollars in the FOREX market to get as many yen as possible.
What is happening right now is that, for some mysterious reason, a lot of Asian countries are holding on to their stash of US dollars, even though their value is falling.
They aren't supposed to do that. Gotta keep that money moving. Gotta maximize return on those investments.
And so, the IMF, among others, is worried.
The Asian dollar hoard certainly looks like a stupid investment. The dollar, after all, fell about 20 percent against the euro last year because of worries about U.S. trade and fiscal imbalances. And many analysts (me included) have warned that a further sharp slide is likely this year as China and Japan begin to dump their surplus greenbacks.
Among the leading worriers is the International Monetary Fund, which warned in its latest "World Economic Outlook" in September that a further decline in the U.S. currency is likely and that "a disorderly adjustment -- or overshooting -- remains an important risk."
What worries economists is the idea that once somebody begins dumping dollars, everybody will jump in with panic, and start doing the same thing. Before you know it, Asian dollars will be so worthless that Korean peasants will be stuffing their stoves with Andrew Jacksons to bake a loaf of bread.
Something similar happened to Asian currencies in the late 90s, so the idea's not so far-fetched.
But, there might, in this case, be reason why we can be a bit less scared about a collapse of the US dollar's purchasing power overseas.
Perhaps the Asian nations are pursuing an entirely rational strategy -- one that seeks to maximize domestic employment rather than financial return...
This counterargument was presented to an IMF forum two months ago by Deutsche Bank economist Peter Garber...
Garber argues that Asia's seemingly irrational accumulation of surplus dollars is the inevitable consequence of its export-led development strategy. To increase domestic employment, the Asians keep their exchange rates artificially low and sell cheap goods to the United States -- in the process accumulating those ever-larger surpluses of dollars.
"The fundamental global imbalance is not in the exchange rate," Garber told the IMF forum in November. "The fundamental global imbalance is in the enormous excess supply of labor in Asia now waiting to enter the modern global economy."
...If this all sounds a bit like the world after 1945, that's the point. What's really going on is a revival of the Bretton Woods financial system that created the IMF, Garber and two other economists noted in a paper that was published in September by the National Bureau of Economic Research...
Without realizing it, the authors argue, we have returned to a fixed-exchange-rate world, with China and other Asian developing countries keeping their currencies artificially low by pegging them to a falling dollar. The Asians today are like the Europeans after World War II -- using cheap exports to the United States to power their economic revival. And the wonder of it is that this neo-Bretton Woods system works as well as the old one did.
If Garber is right, then the strategy of holding dollars, despite the decline in the dollar's value is perfectly reasonable.
It means that, for the time being, currency traders and economists can breathe easier about the prospects of a collapse of the dollar to fire sale prices.
Presumably, as Asian countries fully enter the global economy and employment rises to the NAIRU¹ level, they can begin repatriating dollars, without jeopardizing their domestic employment level.
This is essentially what the Europeans did after WWII, until Bretton Woods was scrapped in 1973, in favor of a regime of free-floating currencies in the FOREX market. The Asian countries appear to be creating what is a de facto Bretton Woods system by hoarding US dollars, instead of exchanging them freely in the FOREX market.
The US becomes a center for "uncontrolled capital and goods markets" for Asian countries. This finances their ability to increase employment, while, at the same time, helping us by financing the US trade deficit.
The real question then becomes: at what point to the Asians start repatriating dollars, and and what speed?
Bretton Woods could be scrapped without significant damage to the dollar's value in large part because the US dollar was, in 1973, the only global currency, and the US had no substantial Trade Deficit. That is no longer true today. The Euro is an equally valid replacement currency, and if the Chinese manage to a) employ the vast majority of their potential workforce, and b) make their currency fully convertible, the renimbi might someday be a global currency as well.
Eventually, all those dollars have to be converted, and I expect that it won't be as painless as scrapping the original Bretton Woods agreement was.
First, foreign investors in US securities will probably want to disinvest. Making 10% per year on your US investments doesn't help much if the value of that investment in US dollars is declining by 15%. You're still a 5% loser.
Borrowing from foreign sources for either trade purposes, or to finance the government's deficits will be prohibitively expensive, because interest rates will have to be usurious to counteract the currency risk.
Domestic borrowing might become more expensive as the government has to rely solely on domestic bondholders to finance deficits. Every dollar taken up with government borrowing is one less dollar available for private sector borrowing for business expansion, home loans, etc. (although, having said that, there is still a lively debate among economist about this "crowding-out" effect)
On the other hand, US exports become fabulously inexpensive for foreigners, while imports become outrageously expensive. This should help reduce the trade deficit. Foreign sales of US goods will increase, while import sales drop.
One thing this might force the importing nations to do is what Japan had to do in the 1990s, as the value of the dollar declined relative to the yen: Open up operations in the US. Most Japanese cars sold in the US, for example, are not imported from Japan, although many of the parts are. A large proportion of Japanese cars are at least assembled in the US by US workers. This has the effect of increasing employment in the US, and reducing the need to repatriate dollars to Japan or China.
The good news is that the Asian countries have some hard choices to make here, too, when the time comes. They have to eventually move from exporting goods to making goods primarily for domestic consumption. That is a difficult transition to make. Moreover, if they just dump dollars back onto the market in a big rush, they face the very real prospect of killing their own economies, and all that new employment by destroying their own export markets.
Their wisest choice is to be very conservative about the rate at which they repatriate dollars, in order to preserve their remaining export markets (they will always have some), and to maintain the value of their overseas investments. Causing a run on the dollar is, in the end, not really in anyone's best interest.
Not that that's stopped anybody before.
¹ The Non-Accelerating Inflationary Rate of Unemployment. The lowest level of unemployment that can be maintained without wage-led increases in the rate of inflation.
(Review) Charles Krauthammer writes that our old system of alliances is basically dead.
It is sheer laziness now that counts France and Germany as old allies, sheer naivete that counts Russia as a new one.
It should not surprise us. Countries have different interests. For a half-century, anticommunism papered over those differences, but communism is gone. Europe lives by Lord Palmerston's axiom: nations have no permanent allies, only permanent interests. Alliance with America is no longer a permanent interest. The postwar alliance that once structured and indeed defined our world is dead. It died in 2003.
To be sure, there are some countries that see their ultimate security as dependent upon the international order maintained by the U.S. These are not insignificant countries, and over time they may become the kernel of an entirely new alliance system. They include Anglo-Saxons (Britain, Australia) and a few Europeans (Italy, Spain, Poland, other newly liberated East European countries). They understand that the sinews of stability — free commerce, open sea lanes, regional balances of power, nonproliferation, deterrence — are provided overwhelmingly by the American colossus. They understand that without it, the world collapses into chaos and worse. They believe in the American umbrella and are committed to helping the umbrella holder.
As for the rest, they are content to leave America out there twisting in the wind. They do not wish us destroyed — they are not crazy — but they are not unhappy to see us distracted, diminished and occasionally defeated.
We can't count on NATO to help us in the War of Terror. For 50 years the nations of Europe needed us desperately to prevent Soviet troops from pouring in unstoppable waves across the Fulda Gap. Now they don't.
It's quite simple really.
But it's a reality we'd better start getting used to.
(Review) David Brooks tries to inject a little reality into the "neocon conspiracy" theories.
In truth, the people labeled neocons (con is short for "conservative" and neo is short for "Jewish") travel in widely different circles and don't actually have much contact with one another. The ones outside government have almost no contact with President Bush. There have been hundreds of references, for example, to Richard Perle's insidious power over administration policy, but I've been told by senior administration officials that he has had no significant meetings with Bush or Cheney since they assumed office. If he's shaping their decisions, he must be microwaving his ideas into their fillings.
It's true that both Bush and the people labeled neocons agree that Saddam Hussein represented a unique threat to world peace. But correlation does not mean causation. All evidence suggests that Bush formed his conclusions independently. Besides, if he wanted to follow the neocon line, Bush wouldn't know where to turn because while the neocons agree on Saddam, they disagree vituperatively on just about everything else. (If you ever read a sentence that starts with "Neocons believe," there is a 99.44 percent chance everything else in that sentence will be untrue.)
Still, there are apparently millions of people who cling to the notion that the world is controlled by well-organized and malevolent forces. And for a subset of these people, Jews are a handy explanation for everything.
Haven't they always been?
Brooks points out that we live in such a splintered society that we essentially get to pick our own realities.
There's something else going on, too. The proliferation of media outlets and the segmentation of society have meant that it's much easier for people to hive themselves off into like-minded cliques. Some people live in towns where nobody likes President Bush. Others listen to radio networks where nobody likes Bill Clinton.
In these communities, half-truths get circulated and exaggerated. Dark accusations are believed because it is delicious to believe them. Vince Foster was murdered. The Saudis warned the Bush administration before Sept. 11.
You get to choose your own reality. You get to believe what makes you feel good. You can ignore inconvenient facts so rigorously that your picture of the world is one big distortion.
But, of course, while there may be any number of beliefs, there is only one reality. It would be nice to get back to it.
(Review) The Arizona Republic's O. Ricardo Pimentel has an...interesting theory.
The conventional wisdom is that Democrats should worry that a Howard Dean candidacy will spark an exodus of centrists to the GOP and cost the party the election.
Forget about it. It's wishful thinking by Republicans and just plain hooey spread around by Democrats who want to be front-runners but aren't.
The truth is that the party should worry about its progressives. These are the defections that could ensure another Bush victory.
Two centuries of American political experience argue otherwise. This is an especially foolish idea to promote today, when independents--the vast majority of whom are moderate ones--make up about 40% of the electorate.
Nor is it any coincidence that, of the Democrats who have had a decent shot at the presidency, all of them have been moderate southerners.
The very nature of the American political system veers presidents towards the center, and it always has.
Now, Ralph Nader has already set up his exploratory comittee for the 2004 presidential race. Any Democratic candidate who wants to move far enough to the left to keep that wing of the democratic party on his side instead of defecting to Nader will have to give up a far larger percentage of independents than he will gain in liberal democrats.
Look at how America's voters define themselves, according to the Harris Poll:
Now, you do the math. Do you go for the 40% moderate vote, or the 18% liberal vote?
Look at the 2004 election results, which are instructive on a number of levels. Al Gore came into that election on the heels of a popular, moderate presidency¹, a strong economy, and with a background as a moderate southerner. His opponent was a Republican of fairly limited experience, rumors of drug and alcohol abuse, and questionable intellectual accomplishments.
Gore tried to run to the left with his populist, "The People v. The Powerful" campaign, and it didn't help him keep the Nader Vote on his side. He still lost 2.9 million votes to Ralph Nader. Yes, he won the popular vote, but still lost in Florida in a squeaker that was so close that it will always be within the margin of error. I think there are a number of lessons that should be drawn from this experience.
Lesson #1: You can't run far enough to the left to keep your liberal base from abandoning you for someone who's even farther to the left. Ideologues are inherently unreasonable. It's why they're ideologues in the first place.
Lesson #2: The "Nader Vote" is 2.7%. The moderate vote is 40%. If you go far enough to the left to capture that 2.7%, how many of the moderates will you keep in your corner? Because even if you get all 18% of the liberals, you still need another 32% of the electorate to vote for you. 18% doesn't win anything. Chances are that going far enough to the left to capture the Nader Vote will cost you far more than 2.7% of the moderate vote.
Lesson #3: We aren't even sure whether the "Nader Vote" actually exists without Ralph Nader. A lot of people simply stay home if they aren't excited about the candidates. 104 million Americans voted in the 1992 elections. 96 Million voted in 1996. 105 Million voted in 2000. Pretending that the 2.9 million Nader Vote in 2000--or the 19 million-strong Perot Vote in 1992--is a fixed number of votes, rather than a fungible one, defies logic. If Nader is drawing in people who otherwise aren't going to vote, then it's folly to try and capture their possible vote when doing so requires that you alienate any significant number of moderates who actually are going to vote.
What got Al Gore so close to the presidency was the long history he had of more or less moderate politics, and his affiliation with a popular, moderate, and--as far as we knew at the time--successful administration. What hurt him was his dive to the left, rather than to the center, during the general election. In other words, Gore fell for the same fantasy that Pimintel now proposes, which was, in essence, that his major obstacle to winning the presidency was Ralph Nader instead of George W. Bush.
Rather than capitalize on the accomplishments of the Clinton Administration--which occurred, in the public's mind, as something completely separate from Clinton's personal peccadilloes--and highlighting the accomplishments to moderate voters, such as welfare reform, budget surpluses, etc., he instead went off on a more liberal tangent in the hopes of stemming his losses to Nader. It never occurred to him, as it apparently hasn't occurred to Pimintel, that Nader's voters weren't the Democratic Party faithful. They were the alienated WTO protestors and their ilk that would have otherwise sat the election out, just as many of Ross Perot's people did in 1996. In the end, he didn't capture their vote anyway, and ended up in a dead heat with George W. Bush, who, quite frankly, he should have beaten handily.
The whole nature of American presidential politics is to attract a majority of the nation's voters. Tailoring a campaign to cater to the needs of a relatively small minority of the electorate is not going to accomplish that, and anyone who argues otherwise is dangerously unmoored to reality.
¹ Please don't flood me with emails telling me that Bill Clinton wasn't a moderate. For all practical intents and purposes, and with a Republican Congress in place, he governed as if he was. And he certainly ran his election campaigns as if he was.
(Review) Mort Kondracke thinks he knows why Dean seems all but unstoppable at this point.
Months ago, even before the good news started pouring in for President Bush, a Democratic friend of mine succinctly summed up his party's attitude toward the 2004 election. "If we're going to lose," he said, "we may as well go down fighting with our boots on."
He was rooting for Howard Dean, of course, and this sense of rushing headlong toward true, blue state martyrdom explains at least part of Dean's apparent invulnerability to attacks from his rivals.
OK. Well, as Douglas Adams once wrote, "10 out of 10 for style, but minus several million for good thinking, yeah?" Or, as it's been phrased before in American politics, "I'd rather be right than president." Based on that standard, Howard Dean may end up being very right, indeed.
But, we are still two weeks away from the first actual voting in the primary process. Iowa Democrats caucus on the 19th, and New Hampshire voters go to the polls on the 27th. (Oh, yeah, District of Columbia voters got to the polls on the 13th, but nobody really cares about that.)
What remains to be seen is whether the attitude Kondracke talks about will prevail, or whether Democrats will get some measure of sanity involved in the process, and begin tilting towards Kerry (Who served in Vietnam. It's very important to him that you know that.), Gephardt, or Lieberman.
If Dean fails to win, and win big, in Iowa and New Hampshire, we will have an entirely new nomination race. If he does win there, then it's essentially over, and it's Dean v. Bush for 2004.
(Review) Dennis Byrne writes that, while multilateral coalitions are a good thing, the lessons of the Barbary Wars shows that, sometimes, they aren't.
Talk about forgetting the lessons of history. One of the first ones we learned 200 years ago was that "diplomacy" and "multilateralism" sometimes must end and direct action must begin. Back then, pirates from the North African states of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli routinely plundered and seized our ships, demanded ransoms for captive crews or sold our sailors into slavery. European shipping routinely suffered the same fate.
Europe's answer was "let's negotiate," which meant sitting down with some pasha and asking him how much money he wanted to leave them alone. Then forking over millions. Thomas Jefferson thought that approach ridiculous, inviting never-ending blackmail. As the American minister to France, he strongly urged a multinational alliance to "reduce the piratical states to peace." Pick them off one at a time "through the medium of war," so the others get the message, and they'll give up their piracy too. Some European powers were "favorably disposed," as Jefferson said, to a joint operation. But guess who had reservations? France. (No kidding, you can't make up this stuff). France, because of its own interests, was suspected of secretly supporting the Barbary powers. So, the plan collapsed in favor of a policy of continued "negotiations" (read: appeasement)--meaning supplicating the blackmailers to tell us how much money they wanted for the ransom of ships and sailors and for annual tributes.
When Jefferson became president in 1801, he finally could do something about it himself. He simply refused Tripoli's demand for a tribute. That provoked Tripoli to declare war on us, as if this young, upstart pup of a nation had any right to stand up for its principles. Jefferson's response was a no-nonsense piece of clarity.
He sent a squadron of ships to blockade and bombard Tripoli. The results of these efforts were somewhat mixed. But on Feb. 16 of this year, we will celebrate the bicentennial of Lt. Stephen Decatur leading 74 volunteers into Tripoli harbor to burn the previously captured American frigate, The Philadelphia, so it could not be used for piracy.
It was considered one of the most heroic actions in U.S. naval history. The next year, Marines bravely stormed a harbor fortress, an act now commemorated in the "Marine Corps Hymn" with the words "... to the shores of Tripoli." Eventually, Morocco, seeing what was in store for it, dropped out of the fight. And the threat of "regime change" in Tripoli led to a treaty of somewhat dubious benefits for the United States.
Demonstrating the need for perseverance and patience, a series of victories in 1815 by Commodores William Bainbridge and Decatur finally led to a treaty ending both piracy against us and tribute payments by us. We even extracted monetary compensation for property they seized from us. Meanwhile, Europeans, continuing their multilateral, diplomatic approach, kept paying and paying and paying.
"Millions for defense, but not one penny for tribute", as it were.
Despite the whines of critics, a unilateral security policy is not a bad thing in and of itself. Indeed, even the Europeans recognize this. The French dabble in la Francophonie, especially the African portion, all the time. They certainly didn't ask anyone's permission last year to send a couple of thousand French Troops to Africa. They just did it.
By the same token, an exclusive committment to multilateral action only is not a particular sign of virtue, especially if it prevents you from adequately securing the lives and property of your nation's citizens.
(Review) John Fund writes that James Carville and Terry McAuliffe thought it would be best for the party to change the rules and allow states to hold primaries prior to March 1. The idea was that early primaries would let the party know who the nominee was earely on, and give them plenty of time to organize for the general election. Unfortunately, now that this changed process may result in a pell-mell rush to a Haward Dean victory, they're not quite as enthused about it.
All of these led Democrats to worry that Mr. Dean was turning himself into a pińata for Republicans during the fall campaign. "I know Howard Dean is the doctor, but I have a prescription for him: He doesn't need to answer every question," said Donna Brazile, Al Gore's 2000 campaign manager.
It was Mr. Carville who sounded the most worrisome notes. "It seems like he's come down with a case of 'mad mouth' disease," he said of Mr. Dean last week. "He may be candid, but there is the glory of the unspoken thought here." Later on CNN, he elaborated: "I'm scared to death that this guy just says anything. It feels like he's undergone some kind of a political lobotomy here."
Democrats find themselves in this fix--either nominating an unelectable candidate or alienating his core supporters--in large part because they endorsed a quick rush to judgment through an early and hurried primary schedule.
There's no way to be sure that a more leisurely and conventional primary process would have produced a different or more thoughtful result. But it's safe to say that those who thought a lightning-fast selection of a Democratic nominee would leave their party better positioned against President Bush are having to relearn the law of unintended consequences. One has to ask, who's the real political blunderer: Mr. Dean, who has brilliantly used the party's new rules to his advantage, or the party leaders who made it all possible?
"The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley."
(Review) Long-time Democrat Zell Miller takes a look at the Democratic race for president, and offers a few pointed observations.
(Review) Rich Lowry has a number of questions for Howard Dean that he thinks Dean's opponent should be asking him. Among them are:
You routinely say that the Berlin Wall came down without a shot. You mean without a shot excluding Korea, Vietnam and small wars throughout Latin America and Africa during four decades, right?
You say Osama bin Laden should be presumed innocent until a jury gets to decide his fate. Who do you think would best represent bin Laden at his trial, Johnnie Cochran or Mark Geragos?
You say the United States shouldn't have fought the Iraq War because Saddam did not present "an imminent threat" to the United States. Yet you supported wars in the 1990s in Bosnia and Kosovo. How exactly did Slobodan Milosevic pose an imminent threat to the United States?
You have said at various times that it would be irresponsible not to support President Bush's $87 billion funding request for the troops and reconstruction in Iraq, and that you opposed the $87 billion. What is your position right at this moment on the $87 billion? How about now? And...now?
Did you have any favorite ski spots during the Vietnam War?
I'll bet every night before bed, Karl Rove gets down on his knees and begs God to allow Howard Dean to get the nomination.
(Review) Michael Ledeen asks why we keep trying to play nice with the Iranian mullahs, when they so obviously have no wish to play nice to us. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, recovering from his recent cancer surgery, chose to issue yet another blandishment to the regime, expressing the hope that it might soon be possible to sit down and improve relations. To these words of good will, the so-called reformist president of the Islamic republic, Mohammed Khatami, responded with the back of his moderate hand. There would be no improvement until and unless the United States mended its evil ways, and first the Americans would have to "learn their lesson in Iraq."
For those willing to see what is before our noses, that was a fine description of Iranian intentions. They mean to drive us out of Iraq (and Afghanistan as well) by killing as many Americans (and Iraqis and Afghanis) as they can. Meanwhile, they are spreading their oppression to Iraq itself, and attempting to get their French friends back in business there. In Khadamiyah, for example, Shiites are imposing sharia on the local schools, rounding up tardy students, and forcing the girls to cover their heads. Locals have informed American forces that they believe the Iranians are organizing these gangs. And back in Baghdad, the SCIRI (Iranian-supported Shiite organization) representative on the Iraqi Governing Council has assured the French and the Russians that they will be able to participate in Iraqi reconstruction projects. I have yet to hear Jerry Bremer, who is so quick to jump on any questionable statement from the Iraqi National Council, condemn this shocking embrace of the opponents of the liberation of the country.
There is a lot of trouble in Iraq which is attributable to the mullahs, not the lingering remnants of the Ba'athist regime. Asking the Iranian government to play nice simply isn't working.
Look again at the scenes in Bam. The destruction of that once fabulously beautiful city is a symbol of what the regime has done to Iran, once a wealthy and prosperous and creative country. Look at the many reports on the awful degradation of Iranian society, now leading the region in suicide and teenage prostitution, its standard of living a pitiful shadow of what it was before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, its infrastructure in tatters, its armed forces distrusted by the country's leaders, its students under virtual house arrest, its newspapers and magazines silenced, its talented moviemakers and writers and scientists and artists fleeing to the West whenever they see a crack in the nation's walls. Look at the damning human-rights reports. Read the harsh condemnation of the mullahs' relentless censorship from Reporters sans Frontičres," which calls Iran the world's greatest predator of free press. And listen to the cries of the Bam survivors as they ask why this had to happen, why no help arrived until long after the disaster struck, and why the mullahs preferred to see thousands of them die, rather than accept humanitarian assistance from the Jews.
And then ask our leaders what in the world we are waiting for, and why we insist on believing that a regime so demonstrably evil deserves to have good relations with the United States, and why a people so demonstrably on our side, and so demonstrably worthy of freedom, does not deserve our full support.
If I were president--an event of extraordinarily low liklihood, I admit--I would be serious about promoting democracy in Iran, and, everywhere else in the world I could reach with American power, either overt or covert. President Bush makes speeches that sound as if he were similarly serious, but he isn't. Not really.
I despise totalitarian states. I mean I have an an pure, visceral hate for them. I would love to live long enough to see the last dictator hanging from a streetlamp.
(Review) The Democratic presidential hopefuls spent much the the presidential debate slamming Howard Dean, in what appears to be a futile effort to deprive him of the nomination.
Futile, that is, if you believe Dean's PR, which it appears the press corps, by and large, does.
If dean doesn't win--and win big--in Iowa and New Hampshire, this race may become an entirely different one.
(Review) Well, well, well. Another Audiotape from "Osama bin Laden" has been released to, of course, al-Jazeera. Intelligence agencies are telling us that this is probably an authentic tape.
But, As I wrote last year:
So, if OBL is still alive and walking around, why not have him hold up the front page of todays Islamabad Times? Just so we'd--you know--be able to tell whether or not he's currently alive?
I mean, prior to our attack on Afghanistan, the guy showed up in more videos than Asia Carrera. Now, he can't be bothered to make a 30-second promo.
It's just suspicious, is all I'm saying.
And I'm still suspicious. OK, maybe the deal is that he got caught in a bombing raid at Tora Bora and he's now so hideously disfigured (we can only hope) that he doesn't want to appear on camera. But outside of that, his change of venue from video to audio tape strikes me as fishy, if he's still alive.
(Review) For the first time in seven years, we have a working lander on the martian surface. Color pics are due out today.
(Review) Pete Rose says, why yes, I did bet on baseball.
Must've slipped his mind for the past 14 years. Naturally, the reason for his belated "honesty", is a desire to get into the Hall of Fame.
He's lucky that the Commissioner of Baseball is Bud Selig, and not Kennesaw Mountain Landis.
(Review) Via Indepuntit, this should start your weekend off with a smile:
A dozen former leaders of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party have handed in weapons caches in northern Iraq to curry favor with the U.S. military and claim a role in a new Iraqi leadership, the commander of the Army's 101st Airborne Division said.
"They're coming to us, saying they want to be part of the new Iraq," Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. "It has slowly sunk in that Saddam isn't coming back."
It doesn't take a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing.
(Review) Michael Crichton has published the text of his Caltech Michelin Lecture, Aliens Cause Global Warming, and it is absolutely fantastic. He explains why he's so fearful that the science establishment is becoming another Mother Church, instead of a collection of skeptics searching for provable, verifiable facts.
Part of the problem, is the whole idea of "consensus science". It might be consensus, says Crichton, but it certainly isn't science.
I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.
Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.
He then goes on to detail several spectacular failures of consensus science.
Next he remarks on the impossibility of predicting the climate, or anything else, 100 years in the future.
Let's think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horseshit? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?
But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except for sport. And in 2000, France was getting 80% its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan were getting more than 30% from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember, people in 1900 didn't know what an atom was. They didn't know its structure. They also didn't know what a radio was, or an airport, or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet, an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, IBM, IRA, ERA, EEG, EPA, IRS, DOD, PCP, HTML, internet. interferon, instant replay, remote sensing, remote control, speed dialing, gene therapy, gene splicing, genes, spot welding, heat-seeking, bipolar, prozac, leotards, lap dancing, email, tape recorder, CDs, airbags, plastic explosive, plastic, robots, cars, liposuction, transduction, superconduction, dish antennas, step aerobics, smoothies, twelve-step, ultrasound, nylon, rayon, teflon, fiber optics, carpal tunnel, laser surgery, laparoscopy, corneal transplant, kidney transplant, AIDS… None of this would have meant anything to a person in the year 1900. They wouldn't know what you are talking about.
Now. You tell me you can predict the world of 2100. Tell me it's even worth thinking about. Our models just carry the present into the future. They're bound to be wrong. Everybody who gives a moment's thought knows it.
He also talks about the persecution of Bjorn Lomborg and The Skeptical Environmentalist, and concludes:
Further attacks since have made it clear what is going on. Lomborg is charged with heresy. That's why none of his critics needs to substantiate their attacks in any detail. That's why the facts don't matter. That's why they can attack him in the most vicious personal terms. He's a heretic.
Of course, any scientist can be charged as Galileo was charged. I just never thought I'd see the Scientific American in the role of mother church.
You really, really need to read the whole speech, especially if you, like me, are concerned about the increasing politicization of science.
So, here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna change the picture to a big "Re-elect George W. Bush!!" message, with The Review's web address at the bottom.
You have to be careful when you link to images at a private web site. You never know what will happen to the images. Heh.
I'll be interested to see how long it stays up on the board once I do that.
OK, I did it. Now, instead of the original picture, visitors to Democratic Underground will see this image:
Yes, I know this counts as trolling, but it's just too good an opportunity to pass up.
(Review) The Wall Street Journal seems to be on crusade to keep Jose Padilla in jail, indefinitely and without any charges. This article, "Earth to Second Circuit: We're at War", by Bradford Berenson, is a perfect example of the Journal's overblown rhetoric.
"How can the President of the United States detain a U.S. citizen on American soil and hold him without charge and without a lawyer, perhaps for years?" This is the question that apparently boggled the judicial mind in the Second Circuit's recent decision directing that Jose Padilla be turned loose by the U.S. military or surrendered to civilian prosecutors in the criminal justice system. Given the near certainty of further review by the full Second Circuit or the Supreme Court, the question remains important.
And the reason why it's important is because the Constitution says it is. Holding an American citizen incommunicado for an indefinite period of time is a big no-no. If Bill Clinton had done this, the WSJ editors would've had a freakin' coronary.
The Constitution does say that the president can suspend habeas corpus if invasion or insurrection require it. But, the president hasn't done so, as far as I know. And, in the interim, Congress hasn't given the president to hold someone in this manner either.
The very definition of a right is that it must be upheld, no matter what the social cost of doing so. The Bill of Rights doesn't say, "suspended in case of war", anywhere on the cover.
The key fact is not that Jose Padilla is a U.S. citizen.
I beg to disagree. It's a very key fact. As is the fact that he wasn't caught in a foreign country with a gun in his hand. He was caught flying into O'Hare.
It is that Padilla, a k a Abdullah al-Muhajir, was an al Qaeda agent who worked directly with terrorist mastermind Abu Zubaydah to plan a dirty-bomb attack on a major American city. He was captured in Chicago-O'Hare airport on his way back from Pakistan to scout potential targets. He was, in short, an active enemy fighter making war on the U.S. and its citizens, just as the 19 hijackers who attacked New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania were.
Really? He was? How do you know? I mean, the President and the FBI say so, but is it really true? I don't know. And neither does Berenson.
All we have is the administration's word for it, and evidently, they don't even have enough evidence that it's true to put Padilla before a military tribunal. Conveniently for the Bushies, by claiming the power to hold him incommunicado indefinitely, they never have to explain to any compentent legal authority exactly why they are holding him.
The president's power as commander in chief to do what is necessary to protect the nation in time of war is, as it must be, exceptionally flexible and robust. He can engage and subdue the enemy in any way he sees fit. There is no judicial check on his authority in this vital and sensitive area because there cannot be: As the Framers expressly recognized in the Federalist Papers, the "decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch" that are the hallmarks of unitary executive power are "essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks."
No one denies that the President can pick him up and get him off the streets. We aren't even denying that, as an enemy combatant, he can be tried before a military tribunal, rather than in federal court. We did it during The Big One, WWII, so there's no particular reason why we can't do it now.¹
We just deny that, once you've got him, you can hold him forever at the will of the President. If the government knows so much about Jose Padilla, and can prove it, then why not just try him before a military tribunal, and have him sentenced?
As the Supreme Court recognized more than 50 years ago in unanimously upholding President Roosevelt's capture on U.S. soil of a U.S. citizen Nazi saboteur, "citizens who associate themselves with the military arm of the enemy . . . and enter this country bent on hostile acts are enemy belligerents" and may be treated as such.
The difference, of course, is that FDR didn't just have the guy grabbed off the street and held incommunicado for a couple of years. He went ahead and had the Nazi SOB tried before a military tribunal and hung.
Why doesn't W just follow the FDR example? If he did, there wouldn't be any problem. But that isn't what he's doing. He's effectively suspending habeas corpus, which is another thing entirely. But W. doesn't appear to have the guts to actually do it officially, so he's trying to backdoor it through this "enemy combatant" stuff.
The real-world consequences of the recent ruling to the contrary could not be more dangerous or debilitating, especially in this war, in which our enemies are attempting to carry out attacks within the U.S. and conceal themselves among the civilian population in order to do so. Under the court's ruling, the only option for dealing with an American citizen engaged in terrorist activity on our soil, at least absent further legislation, is the civilian justice system.
Uh, actually, that's not true at all. In fact, Berenson just wrote about using military tribunals two paragraphs ago. That certainly isn't part of the civilian justice system.
Look, this isn't rocket science. If the president wants to suspend habeas corpus, he can do so. He just has to be prepared to take the heat for doing it. If he doesn't think he can do so, because he can't make the case that insurrection or invasion require it, then he can't back-door the process for "enemy combatants". Oh, the 2nd Circuit also says that the President can also go to Congress and ask for the authority to suspend habeas corpus in the particular case of enemy combatants, and that's be fine.
And, considering that Congress, as it's composed right now, is essentially a lapdog of the administration on any issue that doesn't require a supermajority, why doesn't the president just do as the Court says? Get congressional approval to suspend habeas corpus on these particular people as an exigency of the war on terror, and the whole problem goes away.
Despite its protestations to the contrary, the Second Circuit must have doubted whether we are really at war. At a minimum, it seriously misunderstood the war's essential character. The court repeatedly described American soil as distinct from a battlefield and said that Mr. Padilla was "outside a zone of combat" and was not "actively engaged in armed conflict against the United States" when he was apprehended in O'Hare airport. By that logic, neither were the 19 hijackers as they walked through Logan and Dulles Airports on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
But it's not the Court that's pretending we aren't at war. It's the Bush Administration. They want to pretend we're at war when it suits them, but when it comes to a very controversial measure like suspending habeas corpus, all the sudden we're not at war, at least insofar as insurrection or invasion requires habeas corpus to be suspended.
It's the administration that acts like we're at war or not as it suits them. You can't be at war only when it's a political advantage, the demur from being at war when it comes to a potentially unpopular policy. That's called having your cake and eating it, too.
In the real world, you very rarely get to have it both ways. All the court is saying is that if we're at war, we have to apply wartime rules. If we're not at war, then we can't apply wartime rules.
That doesn't seem like an unreasonable ruling to me.
¹ There is a scene in the Walter Matthau/Robin Williams movie, The Survivors, in which Walter Matthau is on the phone to some service person and says that he was a veteran and should be treated with respect. Matthau exclaims, "I fought a war for this country!" Pause. "Which one? The big one...Korea! Pause "Well, it was big to me!"
(Review) "Religious broadcaster" Pat Robertson says that God has already told him who will win the presidential election in 2004. Guess who it is.
"I think George Bush is going to win in a walk," Robertson said on his "700 Club" program on the Virginia Beach-based Christian Broadcasting Network, which he founded. "I really believe I'm hearing from the Lord it's going to be like a blowout election in 2004. It's shaping up that way."
Robertson told viewers he spent several days in prayer at the end of 2003.
"The Lord has just blessed him," Robertson said of Bush. "I mean, he could make terrible mistakes and comes out of it. It doesn't make any difference what he does, good or bad, God picks him up because he's a man of prayer and God's blessing him."
Unlike W, Democrats, presumably, are just heathens whose lives here are lived entirely at God's personal sufferance. Indeed, just by registering as a Democrat, you're probably lucky God doesn't do some serious smiting on you right then. At least, that appears to be Pat's intepretation.
I know many Democrats who consider themselves to be fine Christians, though. I expect they'd disagree.
Frankly, I doubt very seriously that Robertson is listening to God, any more than Oral Roberts was, when he heard "God" tell him to come up with 2 million bucks in unmarked 10s and 20s if he knew what was good for him.
I also think it's presumptuous of Robertson to tell us that he has divined God's will. God's will might be for Americans to elect a Godless tyro to office, who would screw up so spectacularly that tens of millions of Americans would rededicate their lives to God during the horrific disasters spawned by the election of this incompetent heathen.
So, in that scenario, Howard Dean would win.
On the other hand, Robertson's statement sure might explain why this picture keeps cropping up:
(Review) Larry Elder, The Sage From South Central (although we're not supposed to call it South Central anymore) reprints his Personal Pledge 32, just in case you were looking for New Year's Resolutions.
Personal Pledge 32
1. There is no excuse for lack of effort.
2. Although I may be unhappy with my circumstances, and although racism and sexism and other "isms" exist, I know that things are better now than ever, and the future is even brighter.
3. While I may be unhappy with my circumstances, I have the power to change and improve my life. I refuse to be a victim.
4. Others may have been blessed with more money, better connections, a better home environment, and even better looks, but I can succeed through hard work, perseverance, and education.
5. I may be a product of a single- or no-parent household, but I will not hold anyone responsible for my present, or allow anyone to interfere with my future. Others succeed under conditions far worse than mine.
6. Some schools and teachers are better than others, but my level of effort, dedication, curiosity, and willingness to grow determine what I learn.
7. Ambition is the key to growth.
8. I will set apart some time each day to think about where I want to go, and how I intend to get there. A goal without a plan is just a wish.
9. "Luck" is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
10. If suitable role models are not nearby, I will seek them out.
11. A role model is someone who, through hard work and a positive outlook, has achieved.
12. A role model may be a parent, relative, friend, church member, judge, doctor, attorney, businessperson, or someone I've read about in the newspaper or seen on the local news.
13. I will contact role models and seek their advice, guidance, and counsel. People remember when they were my age and are eager to help.
14. I will seek out recommended magazines, articles, books, biographies, videos, and motivational and how-to books, and use them for education and motivation.
15. The light is always green. You cannot go full speed with one foot on the brake.
16. I am always "in school," and I will not waste my summer by failing to read about and speak to people who can inspire me.
17. I will avoid friendship with people who do not share my goals and commitments. Non-supportive relationships waste time and energy.
18. I will not seek immediate results, as I understand life is a journey and not a destination.
19. I will read a newspaper each day.
20. I will entertain myself in ways that challenge and expand my mind. As someone said, a mind once expanded never returns to its original size.
21. I will pay attention to my diet and overall fitness, as they are the keys to a healthy and productive body and an enthusiastic mind.
22. Drugs are stupid. People who believe in drugs don't believe in themselves.
23. I understand that jobs of the future require more preparation and training than ever, and I am determined to obtain the necessary background.
24. A well-rounded, competent student studies math and science.
25. People are not born "deficient in mathematical ability." Through hard work and dedication, the subject can be mastered.
26. It is essential that I learn to speak and write standard English. This is not "acting white," but acting smart.
27. A strong vocabulary is the key to communication, and I will read books on vocabulary enrichment.
28. I expect sometimes to be teased, even ridiculed. This will not stop me; it will only make me stronger and more determined.
29. I control my body and will not create a child until I am spiritually, psychologically, educationally, and financially capable of assuming this awesome responsibility.
30. Life is difficult. I expect setbacks and will learn from them. Struggle creates strength.
31. Every day is precious, and one without growth is squandered.
32. There is only one me, and I'm it!
I think there's something in there for everyone.
(Review) Steven Moore writes that, if elected president, Howard Dean would raise taxes!
Recently, an organization I run, the Club for Growth, began airing TV ads in Iowa and New Hampshire telling voters about the specifics of Mr. Dean's tax proposals. The Dean plan, our ad notes, would raise taxes by $2,472 a year on a typical middle-income family of four. Mr. Dean would also raise the death tax rate, the capital gains tax rate, the dividend tax rate and the payroll tax, and he would bring back the hated marriage tax penalty that President Bush abolished this year. There is hardly a tax levied at the federal level that Howard Dean would not raise.
And although the Dean campaign has howled in protest over this ad--and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to rebut it with TV ads of its own (which mostly change the subject)--what it cannot deny is that these are precisely the economically destructive changes to the tax code we would see under a Howard Dean presidency. In fact, unlike some recent presidential candidates, Mr. Dean doesn't bother to conceal his plans to raise taxes, he revels in telling America about it.
Oh, and he's got charts and everything.
(Review) Mickey Kaus writes that Howard Dean is hopelessly pre-Clinton on matters of race.
"Dealing with race is about educating white folks." Howard Dean seems to have said this. That'll bring in those Southern pickup guys! They love being singled out for 'education'! ... Yes, Dean was apparently pandering to Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson. But that's hardly an excuse. Try to imagine Bill Clinton uttering the same sentence. It's pretty difficult. For one thing, Clinton was too smart a politician. And one of Clinton's major (and heavily-advertised) virtues was his occasional willingness to speak unpleasant truths to both whites and blacks...
Is there really nothing in "dealing with race" that involves changing African-American attitudes along with white attitudes? Dean's comment would be more depressing if weren't also the sort of cluelessly pre-Clinton utterance that virtually guarantees he will never be president.
Yes, Bill Clinton did have his "Sistah Souljah" moments.
(Review) Having just offended minorities in my previous post, I now turn to immigrant bashing. Because that's how speaking plainly and truthfully about these topics have been demonized.
In any event, Lou Dobbs wants lawmakers to stop trying to amnesty illegal immigrants.
The average working American knows what our political leadership is ignoring. Illegal immigration carries a steep cost to society. States spend more than $7 billion each year on K-12 education for illegal aliens and hundreds of millions more in treating illegal aliens in our hospitals in border states.
More than three-quarters of Americans say we need stricter controls on immigration in this country. However, a Chicago Council on Foreign Relations survey found that only 14 percent of our political leaders agreed that current immigration levels represent a critical threat. I can think of no issue on which there is greater disconnect between our political leaders and the American middle class than on the issue of illegal immigration.
When discussing illegal immigrants, the key word is not "immigrants". It's "illegal". As in, "it's a crime".
You know, it's a funny thing, but every time I hear about Pete Wilson, here in California, reporters almost always mention about how unpopular he became as a result of Prop 187, and its perceived racism among Latinos.
That's revisionist history. Prop 187 passed with 60% approval. Every single poll taken since says that if Prop 187 were on the ballot today, it would pass by the same margin. Maybe it made Pete Wilson unpopular in the self-referential circles in which reporters travel, but for the rest of us, it seemed like a pretty good idea, and still does.
I can't think of another issue on which politicians are so completely out of touch with what a large majority of the electorate wants.
(Review) Joe Hicks and David Lehrer write that constant carping about "racism" by civil rights groups is simply overblown. And it's keeping us from focusing on the real problems still faced by minorities, which have very little to do with racism.
If most of today's civil rights establishment seems to be driving down the road with its eyes planted on the rearview mirror, what's being missed? Well, for starters, what about the bloody reign of terror occurring in many urban black and brown communities — not as the result of white supremacist group activities but because black and brown thugs victimize residents? Black leaders fear that speaking publicly about this problem is the equivalent of airing dirty laundry.
Orthodox civil rights groups are also largely silent on what may be the most important civil rights issue of our time: the perplexing and shocking racial learning gap between white and Asian students at one end of the learning spectrum and black and Latino students at the other. By the 12th grade, on average, black and Latino students are four years behind their white and Asian counterparts.
The data suggest that poverty, racism, class size and spending are not major factors. Instead, it is the inability to hold teachers accountable, powerful teacher unions that have lost focus, school cultures based in failure and a dominant culture in many black and Latino homes and communities that, in part, leads to kids watching too much television, having little exposure to books, facing peer pressure that ridicules academic excellence and having insufficient parental involvement in their educational lives.
Unless we make closing the education gap the highest priority, staggering numbers of black and Latino youngsters will continue to emerge from high school with little ability to compete and succeed in life.
The trouble with activist groups is that the problems about which they complain can never be solved. I don't mean that the problems are insoluble, I mean that activist groups cannot admit that the problem has been solved. It is, after all, how they make their living.
If the problem is solved, that means the activists all have to get real jobs, a prospect for which most activists are spectacularly unsuited.
I think that goes a long way towards explaining why civil rights groups have to yell "racism!" at the slightest provocation. This is why I'm amused when I hear about, say, the rampant racism in the NBA. Being "kept down" is not being sprayed with fire hoses any more. It's about being paid several million dollars a year, and then retiring, rather than moving into a coaching job.
Of course, I understand that what happens in the NBA is insignificant. That real people, in the real world, i.e., that portion of the world where people aren't paid millions--or even hundreds of thousands--of dollars a year, have far more serious problems. I understand that there are still racists.
But you can't change the hearts of men, folks. All you can do is make the law treat people equally.
But there are serious social pathologies in minority communities that have nothing to do with racism. Nor are they the residual results of slavery or oppression. In the Jim Crow 1940s, a black family was far more likely to stay together, children were far more likely to be legitimate, and the household was far more likely to have at least one full-time wage earner.
The pathologies seen in minority communities today--pathologies that go largely unremarked upon by civil rights organizations--began in the 1960s, not in the era of Jim Crow.
And complaining about racism won't solve them. Problems are only solved by addressing their real causes.
(Review) Ellen Goodman complains that she doesn't feel any safer yet. Apparently, however, she will feel safer if the country is run by Howard Dean, a man who will defend American interests.
As long as the French and the Russians give us their permission, of course.
Wes Clark can mouth off all he wants about how if he were president, he'd already have Bin Laden's head stuffed and mounted on the Oval Office wall. That doesn't make it true.
And, really, do you feel safer by having Al Qaida hunted down by US Special Forces troopers, or by FBI agents? Because George Bush is doing the former, while Howard Dean, who delicately declines to say whether Bin Laden is guilty, because, after all, it hasn't been proven in a court of law, would do the latter.
There are, of course, those who feel that all this military posturing makes us less safe, because it inflames our enemies. That's an extraordinarily naive and foolish idea. After all, American troops weren't occupying Iraq on 911. We weren't propping up the provisional government of Afghanistan when the USS Cole was bombed.
No, they already hate us. We could hardly make them hate us worse. What we can do, however, is kill enough of them to make it difficult for the remainder to seriously harm us.
That's good enough for me.
(Review) George Will welcomes you to 2004, the year before everything changes. Or not.
WELCOME to 2004, the year before.
It is the year before the year in which Democrats probably will have one of their agonizing reappraisals. And it is the year before the year in which Republicans, having come to terms with the fact that the welfare state is here to stay, will prove that they are, or are not, serious about governing it.
When you turned the page on the calendar Wednesday night, the first page of 2004 should have had printed - in large letters, in red ink - this insomnia-producing warning: "DEMOGRAPHY IS DESTINY AND IT IS NOW JUST FOUR YEARS BEFORE THE DEMOGRAPHIC DELUGE - THE BEGINNING OF THE RETIREMENT OF 77 MILLION BABY BOOMERS."
The Baby Boomers, frankly, have been an unending source of problems since 1965. Not, all of them, of course, but it certainly was a generation with more than its fair share of spoiled, whiny brats, a substantial portion of whom still haven't grown up. Self-indulgent and self-absorbed. The people who bought us the "Me Generation" of the 1970s.
And while we're talking about Baby Boomers, let me just remark that if male pattern baldness has already cleared the hair off the top of your skull, then maybe it's time to think about lopping off that ponytail you've been sporting since 1968.
Oh, by the way, Happy New Year, Mom and Dad.
So, where was I? Oh, yeah, right. Social Security.
Obviously, when Grandpa came home from shooting Nips & Nazis, he and Grandma had a lot of catching up to do. (Yeah, now get that image out of your mind. Heh.) The result is a hideous demographic bulge that's just gonna choke the Social Security and Medicare systems to death. According to the Trustees Report for 2003, total spending for Social Security and Medicare in 2003 was $757 billion.
Bu 2012, as the first of the Baby Boomers start to retire, that figure will rise to $1.28 trillion. By 2030, the midpoint of the Baby Boom's retirement cycle, the cost of Social Security will be about 6.5% of GDP. Medicare will cost about 5% of GDP. Oh, and these figures don't take the new prescription drug benefit into account.
The news is even worse, because these figures don't really account for the recent inflation rate for medical care. So, really, the situation might be a lot worse.
So, if 2004 is the year that breaks the Democratic Party's back for the rest of the decade, we will learn exactly how serious the Republicans are about addressing this.
1) If you travel to Europe, and your return flight is on British Airways, you might want to re-think your travel plans.
2) Avoid Chicago, which is now the new murder capital of the US.
This reminds of a Late Night with David Letterman show several years ago. In Letterman's monologue, he said something like, "New York is no longer the murder capital of the United States. It was announced today that Washington DC has passed New York in the number of per-capita murders. At a press conference held after the announcement, an angry Mayor Dinkins..."
Pretty sharp, that Letterman.