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Saturday, April 09, 2005

Get Me Some Firepower Quick

It is one of those great conversations you always hope for (other than a dinner invitation from Nicole Kidman).

A very liberal friend was telling me how a hospice worker, who was caring for his invalid mother-in-law who lived on the first floor of his 2-family home, had taken a credit card and run up thousands in charges. A ridiculously long time after discovering this, almost a week later, he convinced his wife to confront this worker and call the agency to fire her. The worker continued coming in to provide the services and, finally, he called the agency for her to be immediately dismissed. (Over the time from discovery of the theft and initial confrontation to the nurse's ultimate firing, the mother-in-law was in serious peril, I thought). When the nurse found out she was leaving she went on a loud harangue, swearing about this and that, creatinggreat fear on violence.

Here is the CLINCHER. My Quaker, pacifist, gun-control, anti-war Democrat told me he almost called his buddy, the neighbor, who has GUNS, to come over. He was in fear. Eventually, a few hours later, the nurse calmed down.

Now isn't that sweet.

When in deadly peril, he wanted the protection of an armed friend. He never considered that his friend may accidently kill someone or kill the nurse and then in manic bloodlust turn the gun on him and his family. No. He wanted the threat that the gun contains to turn a potential violent situation into a safe one. He recognized that his neighbor was a responsible gun owner who in a crisis was needed to protect the family.

My Ghandi-lover had, a week or so earlier, commented to me on the danger of guns due to the killings at the Indian reservation by the high-schooler. But when faced with bodily harm to himself by a nut-case, he considered without much political conscience to call in "the military".

John Lott wrote "More Guns, Less Crime" with this very scenario in mind. Besides the use of the gun to kill bad guys by law-abiding citizens, the very knowledge of its possession can turn down the volume in a bad situation. How much of that kind of violence is averted by the brandishing of a weapon is in the millions yearly estimates Lott.

As I say, the pen is mightier than the sword except when it isn't.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Schumer Yuans

Great letter to WSJ eds on Chuck Schumer's typical failure in Economics 101 by Professor Boudreau at Cafe Hayek :

Editor, The Wall Street Journal
200 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10281

Dear Editor:

Believing the Yuan to be undervalued, Congress is threatening to raise tariffs unless the Chinese government takes action ("Congress Again Says It May Act to Counter China’s Yuan Policy," April 8). Sounds like straight talk from no-nonsense public servants. It isn’t.

If Charles Schumer and other Congressional protectionists spoke plainly, they would say: "By buying dollars with Yuan, the Chinese government taxes its citizens to subsidize Americans’ consumption. This policy is wrong, not so much because it hurts the Chinese people but because it upsets certain American producers whose support is crucial to our plans for re-election. If Beijing doesn’t raise the Yuan’s value, we’ll reciprocate by hurting our citizens with higher tariffs. And as long as Beijing keeps putting the screws to ordinary Chinese, we in Washington solemnly promise to put the screws to ordinary Americans."
Donald J. Boudreaux
Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Kosher Laws-Why?

I was asked by an Irish friend about kosher laws. I was asked whether the prohibition of pork was due to issues of cleanliness and health or for religious purposes. I referred to the book by Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin entitled "The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism".

Here is what I gleaned from their book:

Man is an animal. Rather than succumbing to the natural inclination of an animal to eat everything it wants and immediately satisfy its needs, God wants man to be cultivated. The laws attempt to sanctify commonplace activities, to elevate the mundane to holy acts.

The laws truly have nothing to do with dirtiness of the pig or scavenger nor did the Jews have brilliant scientists who knew about trichinosis thousands of years before Pasteur. Judaism strives towards vegetarianism as Adam and Eve first lived in the Garden. Recognizing man will eat meat, the foods allowed are:

1. Animals: Chew cud and have split hooves;
2. Fish: With fins and scales;
3. Birds: Not birds of prey.

Kosher laws require that the animal spill blood. This will normally repulse a person by its sighting, thus reducing the intake of meat. Scaly fish bleed. The wild fowl must be shot while in flight so the bleeding is not witnessed. Domesticated fowl can be butchered. The butchering ritual reduces the animal’s suffering through the cutting the carotid artery.

Prager and telushkin say that many of the rules are merely arbitrary (just as red lights mean stop and green lights mean go). But with the rules come compliance.

The Kosher laws remind man that the animal is one of God's creations, that death should not be taken lightly and that hunting for pleasure is prohibited. Eating then becomes a public observance. People who do not follow kosher laws will ask questions and the answers provide real life lessons on what is holy. So following the dietary laws (Kashrut) is not merely utilitarian. The Observance makes the dining table an altar, restates man's relationship with earth and develops a cohesion among people.

Yanks-Sox "The Big If"

My friend at Soxblog just spent some time discussing the opening series concluded yesterday between the Red Sox and the Yankees down in Yankee Stadium. The Yanks won 2 and the Sox won 1. The fans are arguing about the significance of the series win versus the melt-down of generally unhittable Mariano Rivera.

I lean towards the Red Sox coming away with the edge. When you are shaky regarding something you had always had complete faith in, you got problems.

I call the chances of the Red Sox and Yankees meeting in the AL Finals “The Big If”.

By that, I mean the “Big If” in the same way commentators talk about the potential success in Iraq. We hear it from all including conservatives like Bill Kristol. They say “if, and I say if…” regarding military victory of the US over Saddam, post-war clean-up, democratic government in the new Iraq and influence of Iraq in the region, etc.

The “Big If” regarding the Sox and Yanks is that clearly the Yankees will win over 100 games with that team awesome line-up and pitching staff. The Sox have as strong a line-up as last year’s champion. Starters that only have to give quality starts to their magnificent bullpen. Other than trading Pedro for Wells, the staff is as good or better. And Wells will pitch well enough to win 15.

Then the “Big If” is whether they will respectively defeat the Angels, A’s, Indians, White Sox or Twins. I say none of the above have a shot in a series.

Then head to head we know that the Yanks feel that they better have a large lead going into the 8th inning for Mariano to hold a win. It will be a fun season.

The UN Has Stopped World Wars?

Today in the Jewish World Review, Victor Davis Hanson writes another thoughtful article on the UN and whether it should be moved or even exist http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0405/hanson040705.php3. The summarizes the egregious UN accomplishment of elevating dictators to the table of world government.

In a recent discussion with a thoughtful liberal friend of mine, he raised the naming of John Bolton as our UN representative as a big mistake (and not because his first name was not Lindsay or Knowlton-see earlier post). He was irked at the Bolton nomination though the sole problem he could come up with was Bolton being openly critical of the organization. Unsaid was we should send a fan of the organization to represent us there. I had little knowledge of Bolton’s background. Given my opinion of the UN’s value, I could care less who represented the US unless he were a former KKKer, ex-murderer (both before or after his 18th birthday) or something along those lines. A monkey could represent us at the UN and I would be satisfied (and wouldn’t it represent some of our better politicians?).

My liberal friend recognized my dislike of the organization and made the following comment in support for the UN:

“There have been no world wars since the UN came into existence.”

This placard comment (sadly typical of the depth of my discussions so many people today on historical and political matters) begs further exploration and explanation before one can respond. Unfortunately, I received no further explanation so I am forced to do my own analysis for whomever reads this essay. When I explained that the Iraq war seemed like a world war to me, he disputed that this was a true “coalition” notwithstanding the fighting on fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq and the 40 or so countries that actually are providing troops for the invasion and after-math. The last point was refuted when he stated that the countries other than US and England offered minimal assistance and soldiers.

Of course, if one has read the brilliant essays of Norman Podhoretz, one recognizes that the Cold War can readily be characterized as WWIII and this War on Terror as WWIV. The timing of the UN’s existence is no cause in avoiding a world war. One may credit the National Basketball Association which incepted just after WWII for the same world condition. Given a very restrictive definition to world war, I may be credited with the lack of world war as well.

However, even by restricting our analysis to hot wars between nation-states, the following must be considered. Here is what I gather needs to be analyzed before crediting/discrediting the UN for the apparent lack of a world war.

1. There have been no world wars since WWII.

2. The UN through action or its mere existence has been the primary cause to inhibit world war.

3. The UN through action or its mere existence has been an important cause to inhibit world war.

4. Other factor(s) deserve more credit such as the context of world power today.

1. There have been no world wars since WWII.

First we need to define what a world war is. Is it merely the number of participants warring on many fronts around the world? Or is it the catalyst of the war that makes the difference?

WWII was a reaction to the belligerent invasion simultaneously of Asia and Europe by Japan, Germany and Italy, respectively. Germany and Italy acted together in the European Theater while Japan acted independently in the Asian Theater. Much of the war began and was ongoing for a while until the US entered. The Allies consisted of the US, Russia, England, Australia and Canada. The Axis consisted of Japan, Germany and Italy. The fronts were mostly Europe and Asia after Africa ceased to be a front by 1944. Other countries served as invadees, forced laborers and willing helpers (see France) where the Allies repelled the conquering activities of the Axis nations.

But WWII was largely the US and Britain’s war against the Axis with similar contributions from the other member Allied countries much like in today’s coalition. It was no surprise that Eisenhower ran the ETO and MacArthur ran the Pacific theater.

Going back to WWI we see Europe as the lone theater (though a quite large one) while affecting the Middle East and other locations as the participants lost its influence within their dominions.

2. The UN through action or its mere existence has been the primary cause to inhibit world war.

Whether the UN has actually deterred world war must be viewed in the context of war that impacted many countries. While the US has been, rightly or wrongly, involved in a number of wars, the larger national interests of a number of countries has not driven them to enter into such wars.

The closest thing to a world war were the various Arab-Israeli wars. Despite their duration, there were a number of countries fighting on the Arab side. One never knows what the US would have done in the event of Israel’s defeats.

But we do know the UN did little to stop the onslaughts against Israel. The other instances of subjugation of peoples, torture and execution of populations, also did not appear of enough importance to raise the UN’s troops into action. Only because the individual wars did not impact enough countries has there been nothing comparable to WWII. The UN deserves no credit due to this.

3. The UN through action or its mere existence has been an important cause to inhibit world war.

Diplomacy and inter-country treaties have existed well before the UN was created. While it sits as a body of a large number of countries, the lion’s share of wars, armistices and peace treaties were rendered without its involvement. Perhaps allowing countries to vent in New York City appears to be a New Age version of gestalt therapy but the mere voicing of formal speeches has done little to improve communication among countries.

Important is the recent report on genocide in the Sudan. That a report on those atrocities omitted use of the term genocide renders its report toothless and ineffectual.

Further, where the only countries that can receive its censure is Israel and the US, its value as a means of bringing together countries for serious debate is nil.

4. Other factor(s) deserve more credit such as the context of world power today.

I contend that todays’ world consists of one power, the US. Back in the 1930’s and 40’s there were many countries roughly in the same plane economically and militarily: Germany, Japan, Russia, England and the US. Today, while economics roughly consist of the same group of countries, none come close to matching US power and wealth (and to a lesser extent England and Japan). Japan tends not to have a horse in this Islamic terrorism “race” given its homogenous society. No question Japan and Germany, the WWII vanquished, are pacifists. France has its special place of being pro-Nazi and now pro-Islamic Jihadists. But France has minimal military and waning economic power anyway. So in measuring who is involved in this Iraq war, the wealthiest are fighting in it.

Vietnam must be seen as a world war. The Vietnam stage had Russia and China assisting through arms, direction and soldiers a number of Asian countries in their war against the US. At that time the world’s powers were the US, Russia and China. This certainly was not a one-on-one game. And viewed globally over time, there were similar wars fought (hot and cold) in Central America, Cuba, Middle East and Africa that contain the nexus sufficient to be deemed a world war.


The question of the overall value of the UN and its curative effect upon belligerence ultimately is decided upon its image as a fair and willing influence. Its failure to provide an unbiased consensus can be traced to its existence as a “toothless” organization. The UN is unable to influence events because it has nothing to back it up, except the United States military. Its edicts are not taken seriously. George Bush proved that when they refused to stand up and enforce its resolutions against Saddam.

As an international debating organization, it serves a purpose. That purpose may be less necessary given the technological advances of today. There is no need for a building and ad hoc meeting can always be convened in places other than NYC. Where the UN has used its troops, the negative news of rapes committed by its soldiers further reduces its influence.

With its bark clearly biased and its bite laughably ineffectual, one must be very skeptical regarding it can be credited with any influence upon the incidence of world wars since its was created.

Finally, I do not hold to the concept that war is the last resort and are the failure of diplomacy. We have seen that some countries do not relinquish their position though discussion and negotiation. Sometimes the military option must be used to gain credibility in our words. And whether a war is deemed to be a “world war” or just a garden variety war, war it is and it is a significant tool of necessity in the global arena. As Hanson states,"Elected governments replaced autocrats in Panama, Nicaragua, Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq only because of American action — not U.N. resolutions."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Laughs-Mark Steyn on GOP Crack-up

Mark Steyn killed in this column entitled “GOP crack-up? Pardon my guffaw” http://www.suntimes.com/output/steyn/cst-edt-steyn03.html. He pokes fun at the liberals who see a chink in the GOP armor (apparently they are ignoring the last 3 election wins and trends towards more seats in Congress in 2006).

Steyn’s best comments were regarding the flack caused by the John Bolton nomination to the UN.

With all apologies to the big, small and wannabe Ivies, the graduates who end up in the State Department are of a type that, shall we say, never worked at a Wendy’s or a factory. Apparently, these pink-shirts at State are in a snit about the nomination of John Bolton. Assuming they’d prefer we send mint-julep-sipping ambassador to the UN so he can tell Kofi that he also gets confused when reading financial statements from his trustee, Steyn gave me a giggle with the following:

Then there's the 59 striped-pants colossi of the Nixon-Ford-Reagan State Department who've sent a letter to the Senate calling on them to reject John Bolton's nomination as U.N. ambassador. According to the Associated Press report, the signatories include:
"Princeton Lyman, ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria under Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; Monteagle Stearns, ambassador to Greece and Ivory Coast in the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations; and Spurgeon Keeny Jr., deputy director of the Arms Control Agency in the Carter administration."

Princeton Lyman? Monteagle Stearns? Spurgeon Keeny Jr.? If Norman Lear's shows had wacky characters like that, they'd still be in syndication. It's a good rule of thumb that anything 59 economists, bureaucrats or diplomats are prepared to sign an open letter objecting to is by definition a good thing. But that goes double when the 59 panjandrums lined up against you are Princeton Monteagle Jr., President Nixon's ambassador to the Spurgeon Islands; Spurgeon Monkfish III, President Ford's ambassador to the Lyman Islands; Dartmouth Monticello IV, President Johnson's personal emissary to His Serene Highness the Monteagle of Keeny; Columbia Long-Playing-Album, the first diplomat to be named by President Carter to the State Department's Name Control Agency; and Vasser Peachy-Keeny, the first woman to be named Vasser Peachy-Keeny. One sees their point, of course: Let a fellow called "John" Bolton become ambassador and next thing you know Earl and Bud will want the gig.

I grew up in Fairfield County, Connecticut and knew at least 3 Spurgeons from Greenwich. I wondered where they had gone in life. I guess my little David has no shot at an ambassadorship. He better hit the weights a little harder.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Kaus on Zogby

Zogby has miles to go before he regains any credibility after his performance in the last election when he had Bush behind by 6 points going into election day. I agree with Mickey Kaus on this one:

OK, now I'm convinced Americans were in favor of removing Terri Schiavo's feeding tube: Zogby says they were against it. ... 1:20 A.M.

The Pope's Death II

Another point regarding the Pope's effect on our attitudes.

Not only did the Pope alter the attitude of Christians towards Jews but he also enhanced the view towards Christians by Jews. I think a part of Jews being more open to adopt and espouse conservative positions (and to vote Republican) is the removal of the boundaries between Christians and Jews. The older generation of Jews, the retirees, live on with their unchangeable liberal attitudes developed since the 1930's. So, not only do they grasp with all their might to the Social Security straw, they see the Christian "right" as part of the father Coughlin anti-semites of their youth. The baby Boomers and younger accept people more for the "content of their character". The Pope was a contributor to this softening attitude between the religions.

On subject, Dennis Prager has devoted 10 columns over the past 2 months to the topic of "Judeo-Christian Values" published on townhall.com and Frontpagemag.com. I recommend your reading these to see the subject examined by this leader of an ecumenical view of the 2 religions.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Pope's Death

The passing of Pope John Paul II has led many writers to address the contributions of this truly great man. I refer all to today's column by George Will posted on townhall.com. Will gives a thorough review of the effect of the Pope on the world. While the Pope made an undeniable contribution to the unseating of Soviet Communism in Eastern Europe and clearly stood for life as the spiritual leader of the Catholic religion, I have a different reason to give the late pontiff credit. There has been a discernible change in the views towards Jews by Christians in America that was caused in some way by the public pronouncements of the late Pope. He owned up to the collaboration or silence of the Church during the Holocaust. In so doing, he paved the way for Jew and Gentile to build the bridge towards understanding. This was not always the case as I grew up in a Catholic New England town. However, the pontiff led his flock on this issue. While the Protestant branches of Christianity have been leaders in their commitment to Israel as shown by President Bush's overt pro-Israeli policy, the Pontiff has been a voice for all to hear

Bankruptcy Law Change as Reported by the New York Times

Bankruptcy- Doesn’t it take 2 to tango?

The New York Times, Week in Review, on March 13, 2005, tackled the arcane new bankruptcy law about to be signed by President Bush.

In the front-page “Bankruptcy, the American Morality Tale” written by Leslie Eaton, the provisions could not be analyzed in detail given what Eaton called its “highly technical provisions”. Agreed. But, never once was it mentioned that there was such a thing as the interests of creditors. Somehow, per Eaton, apparently the purpose of the law change is to exact punishment against debtors without consideration that there may be regular people (small business owners, perhaps) harmed by the lenient bankruptcy law being amended. Doesn’t it take 2 to tango? Are creditors not victims? Do they not bleed?

But per Eaton, the debate is this: “(T) he right to a fresh start versus the idea that people must be held responsible for their actions.”

Put that way, I have to choose rights over ideas every time. And shouldn't any caring, thinking reader?

We learn that a fresh start is a core American idea. Eaton says it is like “moving to a new city, buying a new car, getting a face lift.” Not to dispute the comparison of bankruptcy to a face lift, I have always thought another American ideal is owning up to responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions, working through problems of ones own making and indemnifying those harmed. But this idea of running away from what you have done does not sound very American to me.

We hear from a supporter of the law change, Orrin Hatch, at the bottom of page 1 near the break. He said, “Personal responsibility is a core American value.” Glad they did not bury that one.

Eaton also mentions Hamilton and Jefferson as willing to give debtors a second chance. Interesting to mention Hamilton. As the secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton made sure that the borrowed sums and notes issued by the colonies during the Revolutionary War were paid back at face value plus interest to the legal bearer. He stated that the money was still owed to creditors by the new government even when public coffers were quite bare. He negotiated the passage of the bill that all colonies pay back the bearers of these notes against the tide of serious opposition. Our country’s financial credibility was saved by this decision.

Now, as to Jefferson (an opponent to Hamilton’s “highly technical” repayment proposal), Eaton advises how his personal debts weighed heavily on his mind. Of course, the guilt did not cause him to sell off his slaves (maybe going deeper into debt by freeing them could have been considered), ending the countless renovations of Monticello (50 rooms are not redecorated “on a dime” like on HGTV) or cutting back on his spending sprees at Barnes and Noble.

While this article is typically one-sided in support of the vulnerable consumer (some with as many as 20 separate credit cards), the failure to mention the creditors reminds me of Yankee fans who brag of their championships without mentioning the World Series losers. This is acceptable for baseball fans but is an inexcusable flaw in a NYT analysis of public policy.

Slay the despots

The title of this blog is, of course, a take-off on the final words of Caesar. He was a powerful titan destroyed by men fearing his tyrrany. This blog will be posting peices from a Think Tank of Americans with political views that, regardless of the label the writers see themselves as, span conservative to libertarian but agree that tyrants deserve to be destroyed. Our way is through sound arguments. We tend to honor the ideals of the Founding Fathers and free market thinkers. For years, we have been discussing current events and important policy issues on the internet. We will now share our thoughts with the rest of the blogosphere. Feel free to post your opinions on the topics written. We merely ask that you remain civil (recognizing the emotions that are stirred when opining on highly-charged issues) and make statements that are supportable by reasoned explanations. Slanders will not be countenanced. Otherwise, let's slay some despots!

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