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Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Whimper Of Our Dis-Continent

Like a good dog that fetches the newspaper on Sunday, my DVD player automatically serves its master the sexiest scene in moviedom: the carwash scene from “Cool Hand Luke”.

While that is a scene worth viewing on a daily basis, the most memorable scene is the fight between Newman and George Kennedy. In that scene, the much larger Kennedy beats Newman up. Every time Newman hits the ground, he gets back up. Kennedy begins to not only tire of the shellacking he gives Newman but begins to plead with Newman to stay down so he can end the beating. And Newman continues to rise for another felling blow.

The scene portrays the underdog, not in the Rocky sense of the underdog defeating the favorite, but as victor by perseverance. Kennedy actually quits the fight first when he sees his opponent will never quit.

In many ways this represents the U.S., not only in our relation to terrorists (a fight we will never quit), but in our relation to the rest of the world.

Those weary of the anti-American barrage from our Left, “Old” Europe and the U.N. prefer to accede to the demands of the ankle-biters. Victor Davis Hanson finds the world’s disdain a badge of honor. He canvasses our detractors and we learn that their esteem is not likely to ever be obtained no matter what we do. And maybe we should not want it either. As represented by the U.N. he writes:

At the U.N. it is said that a ruling hierarchy mistrusts the United States and that a culture of anti-Americanism has become endemic within the organization. No wonder — the Americans alone push for more facts about the Oil-for-Food scandal, question Kofi Annan's breaches of ethics, and want investigations about U.N. crimes in Africa. If we are mistrusted for caring about those thousands who are inhumanely treated by a supposedly humane organization, then why in the world should we wish to be liked by such a group?

Meanwhile, Hanson cannot stop himself from zinging European bureacrats:

Europeans sold Saddam terrible arms for oil well after the first Gulf War. Democratic Israel or Taiwan means nothing to them; indeed, democracy is increasingly becoming the barometer by which to judge European hostility. Cuba, China, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah — not all that bad; the United States, Taiwan, and Israel, not all that good. Personally, I'd rather live in a country that goes into an anguished national debate over pulling the plug on a lone woman than one that blissfully vacations on the beach oblivious to 15,000 elderly cooked to well done back in Paris.

While the Cool Hand Luke scene is uplifting, the actual self-inflicted demise of Europe is sickening.

James Lewis in The American Thinker discusses how the proposed EU Constitution, a massive tome that enumerates not the limited grants of power to government as in our Constitution , but what rights are allowed the citizens- the contra of the U.S. form of government. Some Europeans are waking from their catatonia and may vote it down. However, recognizing this, the Dutch are canceling its referendum, Blair has called for an immediate election and Germany is passing it without public voting. Lewis says that even without the EU Constitution, the government control is inculcated into the fabric of their economies.

In Europe the lethargic populace has ceded its decision-making to the ruling elite. The ruling elite gauges its minion’s desires to remain in power through a meager but steady flow of unearned benefits. The few producers game the system as best they can while pursuing an exit strategy. And the Muslim threat is ignored despite rampant violence.

Lewis explains that there are few voices in opposition to this encroachment of governments upon individual liberties. And the few voices are muted. Lewis says:

"...the EU simply does not have anything like the New Media that have sprung up in the United States in the last two decades. Government propaganda organs like the BBC are run by the elites, riding roughshod over popular opinion. The BBC “news” is just the ruling class talking to itself."

Unfortunately for the EU, England and Germany have largely allowed France to wield the greatest power within their group.

Charles Wyplosz, Professor of International Economics and Director of the International Centre for Money and Banking Studies at the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, writes how even the French who recognise where they are heading cannot find the energy to challenge elites or change their course. He writes in RealClearPolitics that in France:

"...most voters, depressed by poor economic prospects and unnerved by high unemployment, are simply unwilling to take the risk. They do not understand the roots of their economic troubles and are nostalgic for better times. They mistakenly see the European Constitution as one more challenge, at a time when they want to be nursed and protected. Scared people rarely make wise choices. "

We hope the people of Europe borrow one nugget from our lowbrow U.S. culture. Maybe for a night they can skip the nuanced films they so adore and watch how will to win can survive all odds. Otherwise, we will continue to witness Europe's sad demise that we will be unable to undo. This is truly going out with a whimper.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Amazing Facts from the Wall Street Journal

Today's WSJ had some interesting What's News items:

1. Research suggests people who are fat in their 40s could have a higher risk of developing dementia, according to the British Medical Journal.

When? In their 50s? After they look in the mirror? I have been kind of average fat this decade. Am I going to be just a bit crazy or will the mania fluctuate like my weight has?

2. Work-related mishaps and illnesses kill more than 2 million people annually and are rising in countries like China and Brazil, a U.N. agency said.

Of course, it is only recently that these countries have actually had jobs for people to get killed doing. Maybe work safely takes some experience. And begging is historically a low-risk occupation.

3. More than 1,000 toads have bloated and burst in Germany and Denmark and tests have failed to find a reason.

Of course, twice as many Germans and Danes have also exploded. Experts believe the cause may have something to do with the marketing to Europe of Adam Sandler movies.

4. Hyundai declared that by 2008 the South Korean auto-maker will be the industry's top-quality producer, in a challenge to Toyota.

Makes you want to buy one of those things in the next 2 years, don't it? And that the prediction comes from Hyundai? Who's their spokesman, Al Gore?

And finally,

5. Scientists and conservationists said the ivory-billed woodpecker, thought extinct, has appeared in Arkansas.

It is called the Bill Clinton for obvious reasons.

Sorry, Bill. Could not resist. We'll do serious stuff tomorrow.

They Keep Us in Business

Don Luskin is carrying quotes from the media today that mischaracterizes the President's discussion last night regarding Social Security reform. Apparently, they are calling it a proposal to cut benefit. Typical.

My post below from this morning called it a "proposal to reduce benefit increases". The blogs continue to thank the MSM for keeping us in business. See the White House's web site for facts.

Concern for Children Except When It Costs Me

George Bush took a big step last night in moving towards Social Security reform with his nationally broadcast Q&A. I think the proposal to reduce benefit increases for the wealthy is a good political move to inch the class-enviasts towards approval of reform. The next step is to reduce all benefit growth by connecting it to consumer prices. Another proposal to institute a means test would have to only apply to the very rich, and not "rich" as defined under the AMT.

The best line of the week as reported by the NYT came from Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the finance committee. While the Democrats continue to seek to delay or fight the reform initiative, said Grassley:

"I'd rather bring something up in the committee and fail than tell my grandchildren I wasn't concerned at all about their Social Security benefits."

Bush also made the point that the children and grandchildren of retirees will have an estimated 20% of their salaries eaten by social security taxes if the program remains unchanged.

How can the older generation live with themselves taking away the future of their grandchildren? However, one cynical Connecticut congressman recently said, "I'll be long dead by then." With an attitude like that, I say the sooner the better.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

You're a bad boy! You're a good girl!

The always interesting Joanne Jacobs carried this link about Bring Your Kid To Work Day at a California med center. The girls looked through microscopes, visited ORs or ICUs while the boys got a sexism lecture. The director felt that putting boys in with girls would be a problem because boys "raise their hands more often, demand more attention and have discipline problems."

Better to make them pay for the big, bad male world they will inevitably bully.

Nukes or "How I Learned To Love The Bomb"

The Nuclear Option or “How I Learned to Love The Bomb”

Submitted By Andrew “Skip” March

Once again Democrats have been allowed to frame public debate, in this case over President Bush’s federal court judge nominees. And this is while as much as 80% of Americans believe an up or down vote should take place. Republicans and supportive commentators have complained that Democrats are acting like they still control Congress. Republicans should stop the whining (they’re starting to sound like the Dems during the last presidential election) and take charge.

If we read the headlines over this issue we are led to believe that this is an issue over the filibuster rule and the inevitable collapse of our Constitution if Republicans have their way. In fact this is simply the nomination and approval of judicial nominees as prescribed by our Constitution. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is pictured holding a copy of the Constitution while warning Americans of the Republican’s assault on our form of government. No one in the MSM seemed to point out that the filibuster rule is a congressional rule, not a law, and challenge Reid’s posturing. Framers of the Constitution didn’t even contemplate 2 (or more) political parties. It would seem that Reid has not read the Constitution lately. Why not ask him to point out where in the Constitution this filibuster law exists.

Further, these nominees are labeled as radical and controversial and that they too are a threat to our Constitution and the civilized world. As commentator Ross MacKenzie points out, Democrats have once again resorted to MSM friendly rhetoric such as references to Attila the Hun and Neanderthals. We can go on and on with the rhetoric flowing out of Senator’s Durbin, Biden, et al, but their shallow and deceptive arguments are not attacked with equal fervor.

Historical precedent in Congress often does not have an attractive history and is typically used for partisan purposes. If the public were fully informed, neither political party would resort to historical arguments and precedents for justification. Bill Kristol, on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, accurately pointed out that these debates have a tribal element to them. Republicans have not fully grasped that while Democrats have, and effectively so. So let’s “go tribal” on the Dems. If Republicans are going to let themselves be framed as Huns and Neanderthals they may as well use it to their advantage and then pass the 51% rule.

A Liberal's Myopia

Liberal writer Robert Kuttner denies religion has a place in informing people's decisions and equates it's presence as the complete undoing of the First Amendment's separation of church and state.

Kuttner makes the following accusation:

"Today's religious extremists are not only trying to use the state, with all its power, as religious proselytizer. They oppose science when it happens to conflict with their version of revealed truth. They twist history to claim that the Republic's freethinking Founders, like Jefferson, Adams, and Madison, were really theocrats like themselves. They long for the predemocratic world of absolutes circa 1500."

But what about the other religion. The religion of statism espoused by leftists. The reason he does not see statism and New Deal legislation as government corrupted by religion is because to Kuttner liberalism is the embodiment of Truth. Anyone who differs with the Truth is a heretic, an extremist in his view.

He becomes more hysterical:

"Our very democracy is under assault. History is filled with cases where a small minority was able to overturn democratic institutions."

When Kuttner pushes for his agenda through judicial caveat to undo acts passed by representatives of the people, democracy is not under assault? Are the decisions of liberal judges not a small minority overturning democratic institutions?

Liberals had control of all 3 branches of government for the past 70 years and pushed through their complete agenda. Now that a different viewpoint is persuading a majority of the public with legislation reforming or abolishing liberal "institutions' (bureaucracies), this is an indication, according to Kuttner, of sinister Christian zealots. First, I am not a Christian yet I support many of the conservative initiatives for non-theistic reasons. Second, I approve of people utilizing all resources in informing their decisions. Some do not explore as deeply as others to reach their conclusion on matters. Being ill-informed is not a monopoly of the right these days.

The irony is Kuttner and his ilk cannot see that they are zealots as well. Try to rationally discuss issues like war, the environment, capital punishment, nuclear energy, minimum wage, affirmative action, school vouchers and abortion, to name a few, with a liberal and you will see religious zealotry in action. Their religion is just an unwavering belief in government.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Tale of 2 Senators

Mark Reynolds offers this tale of 2 Senators:

“The Osgood File”, which airs on WCBS Radio in the mornings, laid out the relative positions of Senators Spector and Dodd on Bolton’ nomination:

Spector - "I think if we exercise our independence on John Bolton we'll come to the right decision. I think it's too close to call. I think the best policy is to have his nomination come to the full Senate."

Dodd – “He should withdraw or the President should withdraw this nomination. There are plenty of other good people who embrace his ideological views. John Bolton is not that individual.”

According to the Constitution, the President “… shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors …” (i.e. he picks the individual and the Senate votes on it, period end of story). Now, by their own words, which Senator sounds more in line with the Constitution?

Clearly it’s Spector. He says let the President’s nominee go before the Senate so they can give their “advice” and potentially “consent” or not as the case may be. Senator Dodd seems to think he can tell the President who his nominee should, or shouldn’t, be.

How much clearer can this be, folks?

Frankly Charlie, I Don't Give a Damn

Don Luskin cites from today's New York Times a piece of a conversation between Charles Rangel and GW on Social Security reform.

This is beautiful!!!!!:

Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said he met with the president last week and urged him to take private accounts off the table so the two parties could work on solvency.

Mr. Rangel said Mr. Bush replied: "Congressman, I am the president. And private accounts are not coming off the table even if it's the last day I spend in the presidency".

Air America Deflates, Mon

Mike Taylor offers another nugget from National Review:

Apparently, more New Yorkers were interested in listening to steel drum music than New Yorkers wanting to listen to Janeane Garofolo and Al Franken spin paranoid delusions about conservatives:

From Byron York at National Review Online:

“The new Arbitron figures for Winter 2005, which covers January, February, and March, show that WLIB, the station which carries Air America in New York, won a 1.2-percent share of all listeners 12 years and older. That is down one tenth of one point from the station's 1.3 rating in Winter 2004, the last period when it aired its old format of Caribbean music and talk".

Per Mike:

“As they say on my Indiana basketball fan site: “BWAHAAAHAAAHAAA, BWAHAAHAAAHAAA!.....” (Although lately we haven’t been laughing so much about the state religion of Indiana.)

Al Franken gets about half as many listeners as does Rush Limbaugh in the New York City area… and that’s got to be Al Franken’s best demographic area and Rush’s worst, wouldn’t you think? Well, maybe San Francisco…

Iraq- Learn by Doing

Think Tanker Mike Taylor provides this post:

I would commend to your attention an article in the current issue of National Review entitled “What Went Right – How the U.S. Began to Quell the Insurgency in Iraq” by Richard Lowry.

The article reviews how the U.S. forces did not anticipate events very well, how the U.S. forces adapted and how the U.S. forces are currently winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis. To be certain, Lowry points out how ignorant we have been and points out how we learned to adapt.

T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia to you Peter O’Toole fans) is cited as an example of “learning how Arabs govern Arabs” and to promote the philosophy that “It is THEIR war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them”. Some of the more interesting vignettes:

How the U.S. took a page from Rudy Giuliani’s anti-crime playbook to prevent the insurgents from recruiting. A colored map showing the frequency of garbage pick up in the city was key.
How the single most effective tool against the insurgency is a TV program that features captured insurgents crying, sniveling and apologizing for killing fellow Iraqis every night at 9 p.m. Makes ‘em look like idiots rather than holy figures on their way to 72 virgins… and it was an Iraqi who thought it up! (Maybe Fox can use this guy for programming ideas…)

How the Iraqis, at first, needed to be forced into patrolling. Now they’re more efficient at it than most American units. It helps that they can recognize foreign accents.

Readers with military training will love some of the tactical stuff, how placing a Marine camp south of Fallujah, deliberately starting many small preliminary raids from the south… then when it came time to deliver the hammer blow… the U.S. came streaming in from THE NORTH and we just kept coming…

In any event, it makes you feel good about the chances of success in Iraq. Things could still go wrong, and if you listen to the MSM, nothing good is happening in Iraq.

Well, let me say this to the MSM…”I’m from Indiana and I can recognize the smell of bullshit from a long way off…”.

-- Mike

Papa Bush Instead of Bolton?

Tom Friedman has an interesting choice as UN ambassador. Of course, it is not Bolton (Friedman does work for the NYT). His idea is to name George HW Bush for the UN post. Says Friedman, "I want at the U.N. an ambassador who can be a real coalition builder, a superdiplomat who can more often than not persuade the U.N.'s member states to act in support of U.S. interests".

We know HW as President did not have the philosophy of his son as nation-builder but neither did GW prior to 9-11. Who knows what any President would feel had to be done in response tor 9-11? In a small way I have fantasized that even a Gore as President would have done what was needed for our security. Emphasis on small way.

But Friedman's doesn't think Bolton is right for the job because: "...why would you appoint him to be ambassador at an institution he has nothing but contempt for to do a job he has no apparent skills for?" Maybe the skill needed fo that job is the very hard-nosed skills that Bolton possesses.

However, if the weak-kneed Republicans cannot stand up to their adversaries, Papa Bush may be the best replacement choice. Politics is the art of the possible. And we'd see whether the Dems are as politically incompetent as they have shown of late by turning the small victory of denying Bolton the UN spot into another failure by stalling Bush the Elder's appointment.

BBC Makes News

As reported by the London Telegraph, we have another instance of the MSM staging the news rather than just objectively covering it, the BBC is being accused of providing hecklers to jeer at a speech given by Conservatice leader, Michael Howard. The communications director of the Tories, Guy Black, says the BBC staged the heckling "to generate a false news story and dramatise coverage. . . intended to embarrass or ridicule the leader of the Conservative Party"

We all recall the various staged events throughout MSM's history from the rigged car/truck explosions to prove rear-end collision dangers through CBS and the fake documents regarding Bush and the National Guard.

Are they just incapable of playing it straight? Not if your journalistic credo is to "change the world".

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Buy Chinese and Prosper

The Great Depression informs much of the public debate for older citizens on many issues, today most notably social security reform. However, the Great Depression’s cause and intractability is largely misunderstood. One cause was trade protection laws passed by Congress at the insistence of Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt. Trade protection, enforced through the Smoot-Hawley Act and its progeny, was the source of unemployment and the lack of goods. That failed policy of yesteryear is making the rounds again today.

Richard W. Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, wrote an opinion article (link unavailable) in Monday’s WSJ that provides a primer on the past and recent benefits of free trade.

Fisher recounts how tariffs preceded the stock market crash of 1929, Black Monday in 1987 and as recently as the 400-point drop of the Dow on April 6, 2005. Markets rely on price consistency. Inflation is inevitable when the cost of goods and the components of goods are driven up by denying Americans cheaper imports. Fisher was a trade negotiator during the Clinton administration. He credits Nafta, China’s entry into the world market and other open trade agreements for the phenomenal economy of the late 90’s. Our 3.3% growth since 1994 despite a recession and the addition of 16 million jobs is a testament to free trades benefits.

Additionally, by taming inflation, banks can keep interest rates down. That has fueled the real estate market’s appreciation. As Fisher states, “Price stability is a central banker’s sacred duty, and imports have helped us control inflation in recent years.”

Yes, some jobs are lost in industries that compete with the foreign goods that come in at lower prices. But we are all consumers reaping the benefits of cheaper clothing and electronics. It is what we can buy that makes us rich unless you just like holding pieces of paper with $ signs printed on it (you can get that same feeling when you play Monopoly). Fisher says that when we pay less for clothing, etc., we “have money to spend elsewhere-to the benefit of local businesses.”

The computer I am using cost $650 delivered. It has more speed and capacity than the one it replaced. That one cost me $1650 five years ago. My dollars buy more because of free trade and competition. The blow-hards continue to demagogue the issue. It is up to citizens to understand free trade’s benefits.

Monday, April 25, 2005

We Are All So Equal

I just heard the latest instance of the watering down of competition on America. A friend with a 3rd grader advises his daughter tried out for the local travel soccer team. However, you do not “try out”. The official term is “try in”. No joke! I guess if you do not make any of the 4 teams, you do not get “cut”. You get “specially promoted to free agent status”.

Oh, the silliness of the removal of competition from out children’s lives.

At my daughter’s science fair, everyone was a ribbon winner (the same color, of course). Our volcano was the biggest hit since we enhanced the eruption spectacle with food coloring. Also, our placement right next to the entry door helped with our popularity. But the display of aerodynamics was more informative and I complimented the engineer-parent who did the whole assignment for their kid.

The same town soccer league described in the opening paragraph has done away with the practice of denoting the travel teams as Teams A, B, C and D with Team A being the most talented and Team D the least talented. My friend says they now refer to the various teams by colors. Yeah, and the kids haven’t figured out who is best and worst by that sly trick. Calling Mr. Orwell!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The "Little Guy"

I did not create Ramparts, work with Huey Newton or arrange the first anti-war protests like one of my heroes, David Horowitz. I am not a former radical son. I am just a typical former liberal. What I became is hard to label. This is not uncommon for us. “Neo-con” is bandied about though that tends to have racial stereo-type overtones. “Libertarian” or “neo-libertarian” in a new tag that may be correct though I have a hard time consistently towing their lines.

I still honor my liberal roots in fighting for the “little guy”. However, that “little guy” has changed. Instead of trying to help all of the “little guys” through massive government programs, I now realize that every single person is a “little guy”. That means the “little guy” is not only the homeless man or the unemployed father but is also that guy on the yacht or the CEO of the big company. We are all “little guys”! We are all individuals who are small in contrast to the government or other mass of power. Every one of us is a “little guy” ENDOWED BY OUR CREATOR WITH CERTAIN INALIENABLE RIGHTS.

Yes, the Declaration of Independence is something I still honor. The Constitution is another document that contains what I see as the blueprint of a successful government that looks out for the interests of my “little guy”.

My ideological reassessment took almost 2 score to realize. I realize that being a “liberal” not only means you do not have to say you are sorry, never have to assess the success of any of your ideas as actually implemented, but it means that every position you take on an issue is informed by how you feel, not how you think. For instance, I always felt that the rich had enough money. I still do. But I know that they have earned it. More important, I realize I have no right to take any money from them just as I don't have the right to take money from anyone of lesser means. I always felt that taxes and other measures allowed for equality per Thomas Jefferson. Now I know that he was referring to equality of opportunity, not results. I still feel many of the emotional responses I used to feel. But now I know the better course to reach desired ends is the fairer course where no person or organization receives any advantage except as offered by the voluntary decision-makers of the free market. And I realize that every government hand-out comes from a government take-away. Some "little Guy" had to fork over the money and do without something he wanted to buy or even save in order for a do-gooder to give it to another. And take credit as a charitable person!

Why do I know? First, I have seen the failures of almost every program I supported in my youth. The intended results not only failed to occur but, in most cases, the intended beneficiaries are worse off than before the program began! Second, I have studied history and economics and have found that redistribution of wealth through government coercion, trumpeted as necessary by the mainstream media, have benefited the bureaucrats at the expense of the “little guy”.

Finally, I have learned who the “little guy” is and always was. It’s me! It’s you!

I want to live and decide for myself what I need to get by. I want to support my family through my honest labor. I want wealth. I want my neighborhood and country to be safe. I want others to play by the same rules that I follow.

The “little guy” is every individual. The “little guy” has a God-given right to LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY. That “little guy” is abandoned whenever politicians or do-gooders create a program that reduces our control over our personal life, liberty and property.

I have learned that I am still a liberal. The “liberals” have forgotten what they are.

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