Sunday, March 07, 2004


I apologize if I've seemed a little out of it over the last few days - not answering the Communism posts and not thinking through the uselessness of RFIDs in cash. I'm on the home stretch of a novel that I'm finishing up this month and that's where my brain has been, for the most part. It's a strange book and attempting to wrap everything up logically has required a few more of the little grey cells than usual.

Anyhow, things are flowing smoothly now, more or less, and I'll get back to the usual posting schedule tomorrow.

Running from his record

Deroy Murdock writes on John Kerry: Try to get to John Kerry's left. Just try. If you're a U.S. senator, you cannot. According to a recent analysis of the World's Greatest Deliberative Body, the Massachusetts Democrat was the "No. 1 Senate liberal in 2003." As the archest of the Senate's arch-liberals, Mr. Kerry voted last year to the left of fellow Democrats John Edwards of North Carolina (No. 2), Barbara Boxer of California (No. 5) and Tom Harkin of Iowa (No. 10). Mr. Kerry's ayes and nays were significantly to the left of the two liberals who most conservatives would nominate for a one-way fact-finding mission to Mars: New York's Hillary Clinton (No. 7) and Massachusetts' Edward Moore Kennedy (No. 12).

At the other end of the spectrum, 14 Republican senators tied for least liberal with scores of 14 out of 100. Top Senate conservatives include Virginia's George Allen, Tennessee's Bill Frist and Indiana's Richard Lugar. America is a free country, and many citizens consider liberalism a worthy philosophy. In solidarity with those true believers, if nothing else, Mr. Kerry could wear the National Journal's conclusion as a badge of honor. Instead, he runs away from it. "Anyone who knows John Kerry knows that this label doesn't fit," Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton told the New York Post's Brian Blomquist. "He's a decorated Vietnam combat veteran [in case you had not heard], a former prosecutor and a deficit hawk [who has] opposed his party and voted to shrink the deficit." Mr. Kerry himself dodged the liberal prize in a Feb. 29 New York debate against his campaign rivals. He called the National Journal's label "a laughable characterization" and deemed this distinction "the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen in my life."

How does being a decorated combat veteran and a prosecutor somehow inoculate you from your public voting record? The leading National Socialist of yore was a decorated combat veteran, which hardly prevented him from pushing what we would today call a liberal program. And what is a prosecutor but another government employee flexing the muscle of the state? I understand why Jean Francois is running from his record, what I don't understand is how he expects that to work.

But it's interesting to see how two senators can appear to be polar opposites while remaining in sync on the most important issues of our time. I doubt Kerry and Frist can be separated on the issues of UN membership, debt-backed money, state's rights and the income tax. Even on gun control, the two parties' positions are moving closer, as the Republicans have become more squishy about protecting gun rights while Democrats are starting to realize that it is not a vote winner.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Microwave your money

Apparently not content with the ability to seize bank accounts at will, the US government - along with the EU - is now tracking your cash. Big Brother loves you. I think I'm going to start insisting that people pay me in American Eagles.

This post brought to you by Rat Spleen.

No government needed

Tait Trussell writes on Townhall: As writer Cynthia Crossen's research points out, in early America, many men and women had common-law-marriages, living together without the blessings of a church ceremony or approval of a governmental licensing authority. An l843 law declared that "no particular form of ceremony shall be necessary, except that the parties declared that they take each other as husband and wife."

As I pointed out last week, it hasn't taken long for government involvement to nearly destroy the institution. More of the same venom that is poisoning you is unlikely to serve as an effective antidote.

A fair question

BLS writes: Focus on the main question: Is America under attack from terrorist Islamic sects, and if so, who do you want as Commander in Chief - GEB or JFK - and why?

Yes, America is under attack from terrorist Islamic sects that have declared war against it. I don't want either George Delano or John Francois as Commander-in-Chief for the following reasons:

GD: refuses to declare which terrorist Islamic sects are responsible, much less confront them with military action. The Islamic world revolution is being funded almost entirely by the House of Saud. The Hezbollah and other active terrorist groups are primarily funded by Iran. GD is not fighting either, indeed, his State Department is actively supporting the Iranian mullahs against popular unrest. After Yasser Arafat killed two American officials, GD only cut off the funding that his administration was providing this terrorist leader. If the war is against terrorist Islamic sects - as we both agree it is/should be - GD has failed completely despite presiding over the conquest of two nations. Taking out one minor enabler, which Husseins certainly was, while ignoring the two major players is hardly indicative of strategic competence - quite the opposite, as a matter of fact.

JF: an unknown as C-in-C, although his votes for the various "war resolutions" indicates to me that he will likely follow in GD's imitation of the ineffectual Israeli two-step. While GD's Wilsonian nation-building is likely to appeal to him, Kerry is too big a fan of the United Nations to risk upsetting it by invading a third country, barring any further terrorist attacks in the USA. If there is an attack inside the USA, Kerry is as likely to greenlight a third invasion - probably Syria - as Bush. As I mentioned before, Democrats are historically more likely to engage militarily than Republicans, so to tar all Democrats with the antiwar peacenik brush is to focus too much on the bygone Vietnam era. Those under forty of both parties neither know nor care much about Vietnam; our analyses are not colored by it as is the case with the aged mainstream press, which sees Vietnam as the great event of their time.

As is usually the case, the purported differences between the two parties are greatly exaggerated. The first Republican George Bush was the one who did not finish the job against Hussein in 1991. Clinton's destructive decision to pare down the US military was aided and abetted by a Republican House and Senate.

Bane the Poet Divine

I didn't think it scanned well, but I thought the notion was funny so I hope the poet doesn't mind if I present my own version of his lovely little piece of social incorrectness.

Children are not born to hate,
They learn it only from you.
Be then sure to teach them well
And take care to tell them who.

War and not-war

Bane writes: Suffice to say, he thinks we are not at war, and I think we are... .I note his use of the phrase 'Police Action'....ahhhh. That little dust-up in Korea wasn't a war, even though we fought it for years, and continue to 'garrison' the DMZ to this day. Viet Nam. Not a war. Semantics. Tell it to the families of our honored dead. Cold War? A journalistic buzz-word that caught on. Lasted decades, as I recall. I don't think it's over, either. One stupid wall falling does not the surrender of the Red Menace make. The Great Wall in China is falling apart, but no one in their right mind would posit the demise of China from the decay of it's wall.

Bane, with all due respect, the point that seems to be escaping you is that when the United States fights these undeclared half-assed little "wars" in which the citizenry is barely conscious that anything is going on and half of them don't support it even if they do, the problem that brought the so-called war about doesn't get solved. We did not fight a war in Korea, nor did we finish it which is why the situation is more dangerous to us today than it was 50 years ago. Vietnam's development shows that we might as well never have sent a single soldier over there, as what would have happened if we had not? The North Vietnamese would have taken Saigon... oh, wait, they did. A country dependent on citizen-soldiers cannot win wars that the citizenry does not understand or does not largely support. As TZ ( I think) commented, a nation that will give up nothing to support its war effort is not a nation at war.

I know you didn't mean the comment about the honored dead as a cheap shot, nor do I take it as one, but I daresay that I have as many members of my family buried at Arlington as anyone. The Commandant of the USMC himself gave my grandfather's eulogy there a few years ago, after which my brothers and I carried his casket to the carriage. One of the most vivid memories of my life are of the Marines who stand alone at each crossroads and salute the flag-draped casket as the horse-drawn carriage passes them by. It is precisely because I value the lives of Marines like my grandfather and your sons that I do not wish for politicians like George Delano or John Francois to spend them in playing an endless and ineffectual game of micro military actions.

I agree that China is a danger, even though the president and his economic advisors don't seem to recognize it. (The more pressing danger from them at the moment is actually economic, as they can shut off our debt-funding at any time.) And perhaps "police action" is a poor description, albeit one no less inaccurate than "war". War implies a major threat to the nation, and its exaggerated use in this case by the administration is clearly being done in an attempt to distract the populace and excuse its numerous failures on other fronts. Lilypad is at least honest about this.

I think there is a reasonable case to be made for a revival of the medieval war against the Turk, despite my doubts about the eventual ramifications of such a war. Europe is once again being overrun, and America has been targeted. But I see no indication that that any decision has been made to fight that war, the uncharacteristically inaccurate vision of VDH notwithstanding.

I'm stunned. I didn't see Vox as a Kerry voter. A vote against Bush, or a vote withheld, is a vote for Kerry.

I'm not a Kerry voter. The very notion is metaphorical nonsense, as if I wished to vote for Kerry, there is nothing to prevent me from doing so. Meanwhile, my less easily dismissed response is that a vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil. I will almost surely be voting Libertarian, although I will give the Constitution candidate a fair look before actually putting in my two cents.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Taking exception with VDH

The excellent VDH writes: Be that as it may, Americans owe Harry Truman a great deal for overseeing the rebuilding of Europe, his prescient understanding of the danger of Soviet expansionism, and preservation of the Democratic party from the forces of appeasement — and worse — from its extremist Left. Something similar to that landmark policy — a Bush Doctrine — is now emerging to face the threat of Islamic radicalism. Despite the current shrill claims that the United States is hated, hopelessly naïve, bogged down worldwide, and back in another Vietnam, since September 11 we have witnessed a historic emergence of a comprehensive foreign policy to confront Islamic fundamentalism and its parasitic relationship with Middle East autocracy — without which it cannot survive.

The problem with this is that while it may turn out to be true in the future, it simply isn't true now nor has it been for the 2+ years since 9/11. There is no Bush Doctrine opposing Islamic radicalism, quite the opposite, as the president insists that the War on Terror has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam. Saudi Arabia and Iran are fundamentalist Islamic states, Iraq is not - so how does ignoring the former and defeating the latter comprise a confrontation of Islamic fundamentalism? Furthermore, he has not spoken a single word on the threat posed in France, Germany, Britain, Holland and Denmark by this hypothesized foe.

VDH may prove to be a prophet, but unfortunately, he is an unreliable recorder of recent history in this specific example. I think too many commentators and individuals are concentrating on what they would like to see instead of focusing on what is actually right in front of their eyes.

Mailvox: Carving up Kerry

Alex writes: I'm here to take issue. BLS is correct and I have been troubled by some of the broad assumptions made here. Make them if you want; I would just like to see someone as intellectually honest as you give equal *scrutiny* to Kerry. I understand that you hate Bush. But I would urge you to read Victor Davis Hanson's most recent article - his knowledge of history and its lessons for our time is highly credible. Other than his last para, with what do you disagree in his article?

I don't hate Bush. I suspect that I'd quite like him on a personal basis. What I despise is that after years in the wilderness, the Republican Party has shown that it is far more interested in government power than it is in the small government principles that it has historically pretended to uphold. George Bush, more than any other individual, is responsible for this abandonment of foundational principles. As I've written many times before, Democrats are more blatant in their naked pursuit of government power. This doesn't make them less abhorrent to me - the subtitle of Monday's piece is "Why John Kerry wants to kill you" - but it also doesn't require much in the way of pointing out the flaws and corruption in their philosophy.

I have a very high regard for Victor Davis Hanson. However, the nation and the nation's leadership have by no means made the case or even made the decision to fight the great clash of civilizations war that is coming. Calling the present conflict "war" is a pretty serious stretch of the concept, especially considering that the two enemies selected have already been defeated. I can't remember who pointed it out, but it's true that if there's zero chance of the enemy raising its flag over your capital, it's not a very serious war by historical standards.

Death of the West

Gimli on demographics: "The population of Germany at the end of the century is going to be 56 percent of what it is now. The population of France will decline to about 52 percent." Meanwhile, Muslim immigrants are having babies at a much faster clip, so that in time, they may become the majority population throughout Europe. "Last year, 56 percent of the babies born in Brussels were Muslim," Rhys-Davies notes. "In a matter of 20-50 years, we are going to see two to three countries become predominately Muslim — Holland, France, and possibly Germany."

I suspect one reason for the EU's fast push for complete control over its member states is in order to have a non-democratic mechanism in place before the Muslim vote becomes the majority in those countries. As one of my liberal friends pointed out over dinner last night, Turkey is an interesting litmus test on this theory. There's no reason that Turkey should not be admitted to the EU, if the EU's raison d'etre is truly economic. We'll see.

What war, Lilypad?

Rod Dreher sees both sides: My fellow conservative Dallasite Tara B. Ross has a piece out today warning that President Bush has no idea how much he's angered his base with all his crazy spending. But James Lileks, waxing Podhoretzian, tells right-wingers considering not voting for Bush to think about the importance of the war and get over themselves already.

Rod's a good guy. Ross is correct. Lileks is a superficial analyst who blindly swallows the ridiculous Republican excuse. First, we're not still at war, and only someone with almost complete ignorance of military history would attempt to argue that we are. When you can't even state with assurance with whom we are at war, when Congress has declared no war, we're not at war. If we haven't even bothered closing our borders to thousands of people crossing it illegally every day, then we're not at war. Yes, our troops are sitting in their bases playing garrison in over 100 countries and performing police actions; yes, there's still some low intensity combat here and there just as there always is. Yes, some troops are being killed. Were we at war in 1983 when we lost over 200 Marines in Lebanon? Were we at war when we killed 20 or 30 Philippinos getting Marcos out?

Does anyone consider World War II to have continued into 1946? After all, our troops were still in Germany and Japan and there were plenty of Nazi leaders still unfound. To argue that we are still at war months after the complete defeat of the Afghani and Iraqi regimes is bizarre. But even if we accept the notion that this undeclared bug hunt equates to full-blown war, how does it possibly excuse Bush governing Democrat-style? It's nothing but sleight of hand!

Republicans need to get over the notion that a) we are at war and b) war justifies abandoning your principles. There's no reason to believe Kerry is less likely to fight a necessary war than Bush - Democrats have gotten us into more wars than Republicans have anyhow. As for me, I'm not considering not voting for George Delano, I'm absolutely not voting for him.

Go ahead and correct him

Buck writes: Here is a big thank you for the tips on flash cards for teaching my son phonics. I am having what I consider great success with them which translated means great fun. The instructions said that for a child my son’s age 2.5 not to correct him. That’s just fine as his mispronunciations are hysterical. He loves this game we play. When I get home from work he will go get his cards from his room and run up to me saying “play cards daddy play cards!” What a blast.

That's great, and I'm glad he's learning so well, but don't be afraid of correcting him. Don't make a big deal of it, just say the correct pronunciation, let him repeat it once, and go on to the next one. I remember "fiveteen" being one that took a while to go away - of course, you kind of miss it once they learn how to get it right.

At this rate, your son will be reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by the time he's four. Children love to learn, they really do. It's only after years of sitting around in a classroom that teaches them to hate it - not that a classroom should be confused with actual learning.

I wouldn't be so sure

David Limbaugh writes: The Democrats' unity and the motivation of their base presents a problem for the GOP, which is exacerbated by the restlessness of its own base, some of which has been appreciably alienated by Bush's gravitation to the left on education, campaign finance reform, trade, overall domestic spending and immigration, to name a few. I don't think too many of these disaffected conservatives are irretrievable.

One of these days conservatives will stop falling for the "at least we're not the Democrats" argument. Perhaps it will be in 2004, perhaps not, but it won't work forever. The Law of the Sea Treaty is only the latest abomination that George Delano has embraced - of the five most important issues that I see, there is only a slight difference between Bush and Kerry on one of them.

But at least Mr. Limbaugh recognizes the truth of George Delano's governing philosophy, when he admits: Within no time at all, the Democrats were back to hating George Bush as usual, even though he extended numerous olive branches to them and was implementing much of their domestic agenda.

So, we have a Republican president, Republican House and Republican Senate, and they devote themselves to implementing a Democratic domestic agenda. Interesting.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Speak of the devil

Daniel Weigel writes in Reason: Dispatches From the Culture Wars fundamentally misunderstands politics, pop culture, and the connections between them. By equating aesthetics with ideology, Goldberg makes a common but serious mistake: He thinks you can tell a person's politics from the music she listens to.

The fact that a Christian Libertarian would write a song about a basically Japanese notion and title it after a Buddhist concept must confuse the smack out of Mr. Goldberg. I like Mozart and Metallica. I like Duran Duran and Dvorak. It signifies nothing, except that the Baby Boomers still haven't gotten over themselves. Which is hardly news.

I can't wait for the coming "Dentures are cool!" phase. I swear, that entire generation is 55 going on 16. No wonder the country is so messed up.

A great interview

DRUDGE: What I represent, if I see it correctly, is an independent voice who's willing to take on presidents and networks, and reveal ratings they don't want you to see.

PAGLIA: It's so true. The Drudge Report has dramatized the process of censorship that's going on, the filtering of the news by established news organizations. I used to think, at the beginning of the '90s, that we had a relatively free press and that people were out to make their reputations in the Woodward-Bernstein model. But I no longer think that. Most of the reporters on the networks and in main northeastern newspapers are company men -- shmoozing careerists who are desperately afraid to rock the boat.

This is one of the many reasons I love Camille Paglia. She isn't afraid to admit that she can be wrong about things, that she changes her mind. This interview is definitely of interest if you appreciate either her or Matt Drudge.

A note of appreciation

I have to thank both Si and Sarah, who were quite helpful in providing material for next week's column, entitled The Axis of Liberal. I'd forgotten just how perfectly poisonous dear old Jean-Jacques could be.

Breaking little brains

From the Miami New Times on Drudge: New York's downtown milieu left a lasting imprint on most people who passed through it, and while the experience may not have transformed them into flaming revolutionaries, it usually left them comfortably within "Bill Clinton's America" and injected a healthy fear of the "GWB-ies." To hear Drudge throw in his ideological lot with the latter tribe simply seems unfathomable, particularly when he glides from effusive praise of borderline reactionary Georgia Rep. Bob Barr to singing the lyrics of the house classic "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life" -- a veritable gay-nightclub anthem. Drudge says there's no inherent conflict. "I take this music seriously," he insists. "In fact I take this music so seriously that I don't want to see some shirtless freak tweaking. That kind of ruins it for me -- club music is the classical music of our age."

If they can't wrap their little minds around the fact that Matt Drudge likes club music, I wonder how they'd manage to survive the notion that I wrote three songs that hit the Billboard top 40 dance chart. Because, as we all know, only left-liberals are cool in the city. It's a degenerate Marxian notion - although in this case, it's more likely a high school concept - that one is somehow defined by one's music.

And, of course, the mere existence of the Queer Party Friends would probably make their heads explode.

What it takes

From the Miami New Times article on Matt Drudge: "And it took just two fingers, a modem, and guts." He then adds with a snarl: "And not giving a shit!" That sentiment is precisely what alarmed many in the media.

Matt is right. While there certainly are efforts on the part of editors and producers to keep voices of the right and other dangerous notions out of the public eye, it is primarily self-censorship on the part of journalists of all stripes that keeps people from learning about the truth of the world around them.

Lack of fear among the serfs always alarms the masters.


This one is open to everyone since we're unlikely to have any genuine defenders, but today is not a day for critiques or sarcasm, just serious answers as if you were attempting to defend the subject under discussion.

Why is it unfair to use the history of the Soviet Union to judge communism? In what ways was the Soviet Union not "true" communism? What would make for a better example of true communism in the real world?

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Mailvox: what to carry

Jonnelle asks: On a related tangent, I would like to ask for a recommendation from the firearm enthusiasts floating around here. An incident yesterday has prompted me to look into buying a handgun. My knowledge and experience is.. um.. well.. non-existent. The intial searches I've done for information border on overwhelming.

Firearm enthusiasts here? Perish the thought.... I am of the opinion that the .357 is too big for a woman to carry around easily, especially in a small purse. I recommend the S&W .38 featherweight for the utmost in portability. It's a revolver not much larger than your palm, holds five shots, has a catchless hammer and is designed to be fired at very close quarters - like through your coat at someone who is trying to pile you into their car. The .38 is a weak round, but hollow point helps take care of that. Since the vast majority of incidents don't actually require shooting anyone, the important thing is that it's there and that it goes bang.

The best gun in the world is useless if you don't have it on you. I would go with two guns, something larger, perhaps a .357 with a laser sight for things that go bump in the night at home, and the featherweight for when you're on the go. The only problem with the featherweight is you can seriously forget you've got it on you.

Space Bunny's got a Glock 9mm with a laser. She likes it and can hit her target with it.

The verdict is in

15,500 new carry permits in Minnesota, and a grand total of two revoked for unlawful discharge of a firearm in the first year. Neither of the two permit-holders were actually shooting at anyone. So much for the Red Star's predicted bloodbath.

Mailvox: These enlightened times

BLS writes: Read great economists? What can Dead White Males possibly have to say to a person living in these, the most enlightened times ever? Look, it's perfectly simple: whatever policy position makes me feel good about myself is right, and since it's comfortable to me, then anybody who disagrees with me is either too stupid to appreciate my brilliance, or just plain evil. Which are you?

And, of course, should you dare to either identify my brilliant thought as one that has been thought and dismissed before or follow a reasonable train of logic from my assertions to conclusions I don't like, you will of course be guilty of mischaracterizing my positions. Furthermore, I reserve the right to redefine any concept that has negative connotations, regardless of how easily identifiable and well-understood it might be.

"This time it will be different" is the battle cry of the latter-day socialist. "This is different" is the battle cry of the liberal who is too stupid to realize that he is a latter-day socialist.

Swatting flies

Sarah writes: I don't think you should get yourself upset over folks like Si or 'anonymous'. By giving them undue attention and allowing your frustration to be exposed, I have a feeling that such things only make the problem worst. Perhaps you are giving them what they want? Also, it may even, perversely, affirm in their minds that they are in the right.

Please understand, pests like the aforementioned two don't upset me personally in the least. I get email every day informing me that I am uneducated, stupid, evil and uncaring, a vast cornucopia of unfounded caricature. I actually enjoy this sort of thing, as it's amusing to have the chance to properly tee off on someone who lobs a nice fat slow one at you. But I find it profoundly irritating when someone is so socially unskilled as to feel the need to defecate in the pool in which numerous people are happily splashing water at each other. As the Virginian said, "say it with a smile."

I will ban without warning or announcement anyone who repeatedly insults me or anyone else on this blog, whether they are in agreement with me or not. I don't expect intellectual accord, but I do demand civility. I responded at length to Si's missive because one rarely encounters a so-called liberal who is willing to state in such outright terms their worship of the State and elevation of the community over the rights of the individual. I wasn't surprised at the poor quality of his thought; I was surprised that he was so willing to expose it to all and sundry. Most leftists know better.

Still, I give him credit for trying, even if he would have saved himself a lot of trouble by reading the great economists of Left and Right, who've covered all of that ground before. He's welcome to continue posting here if he likes, although Anonymous will have to rest content with the knowledge that his ban from this site was preordained from the beginning of time.

End of the Gold Rush

I always hated the 49ers. I was out in the Bay Area fairly often in the early 90's, and there have never been football fans who were more annoyingly confident while being simultaneously ignorant of the game. I came to hate them almost as much as I hated the Steelers and the Raidess, not just because they regularly knocked out good-but-not-great Vikings teams out of the playoffs, but because the way in which they won was irritating no matter who they beat. I looked forward to the day when Montana and Rice would be gone, Bill Walsh would be outdated and the franchise would return to the morass of mediocrity.

Then Walsh pulled Garcia out of his hat three years ago and I watched in disbelief as the 49ers somehow managed to stay in contention. But I knew the end was near when the new so-called brain trust brought in Dennis Erickson, who didn't do much with the Seattle Seahawks the last time he was coaching in the league.

And yet, I find that while I'm pleased to see new powers rising in the NFC West - even if I still have to remind myself that the Seahawks are there - I can't help but feel a mild tinge of regret for the lost era. I guess it's easier to despise an arrogant winner than it is to derive real pleasure from kicking the formerly lofty when they're down.

I will bury you, said the mouse to the elephant

The New York Post reports on Air America: The line-up will pit the new network's talkers directly against the biggest names in radio. Franken is expected to air at noon and go toe-to-toe with Rush Limbaugh, who has a 15 million-listener head start. South Florida liberal Randi Rhodes will follow Franken and be up against Sean Hannity (WABC), Bill O'Reilly and Bob Grant (both on WOR) in New York. She told her West Palm Beach listeners this week that she plans to "bury" Hannity and Grant. Garofalo is the network's choice for 8 to 11 p.m., Post sources say. Robert Kennedy, Jr. will host a weekend slot.

I am seriously anticipating the debut of Air America. I predict it will crash and burn in a more spectacular manner than the Hindenburg. Ozzy's dead guitarist Randy Rhoads has a better chance to beat out Hannity than does this woman. I can't wait to hear the explanations of how America is too stupid to support their moral superiors.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

That'll put the breaks on.

From Newsday: Four days after presiding over a slew of same sex marriages in his quaint Hudson Valley village, the mayor of New Paltz today was charged with 19 violations of New York's domestic relations law, injecting the debate over gay marriages in the state with increasing drama and urgency. Jason West, 26-year-old Green Party mayor, was ordered to appear in court Wednesday to answer charges that he broke state law by solomizing about two dozen weddings without a marriage license, according to New Paltz police and West's lawyer.Chief Raymond Zappone said he and a lieutenant from the town police served a 19-count summons to West Tuesday afternoon and that the mayor faces up a $500 fine and a year in jail for his actions which have attracted international attention and brought the fight over gay marriages squarely into New York.

We may never see Gavin Newsom's face again. What's he up to, 3,500 counts?

Press F11 twice

Several readers write variants on this theme: I'd love to read your whole blog. Please put up March's archives as half of your days work doesn't download on my system on the first try. I get it all from archives for some reason.

Pressing F11 twice seems to take care of this problem, which effects only Microsoft Internet Explorer users. I'd recommend doing that if you can't bear to switch to Opera, Mozilla, or Firebird. But switching honestly is preferable, in my opinion, for the pop-up blocking alone.

Let's see how serious we are about self-determination

Voting with a thunderous "aye," Killington residents endorsed a plan Tuesday for the ski resort town to secede from Vermont. The overwhelming voice vote inside the elementary school opened the next chapter in what could be a long and costly push to join New Hampshire, a state 25 miles to the east. Town officials estimated between 200-300 people attended the meeting, and that about two-thirds of them supported the idea in the voice vote.... Vermont lawmakers have given the plan a lukewarm reception. They have said it is largely symbolic and probably will be voted down by the Legislature.

If self-determination is so important that we must fight for it in other countries, how can we possibly not respect it in our own? Of course, I have no doubt that the Vermont government will be justified in invading Killington and putting this secession down by force since, as we know, secession is really about slavery.

Fred questions the faith

Fred Reed writes: The religious orthodoxy that impedes discussion of biological evolution continues with its accustomed dreadful tenacity.... The answers to these questions either lapse into a convoluted search for plausibility or else boil down to the idea that since guacamayas are as they are, their coloration must have adaptive value. That is, it is the duty of the evidence to fit the theory, rather than of the theory to fit the evidence. This is science?

Another excellent column from the marvelous Mr. Reed. I'm just wondering. Do Fred's doubts - a marvelously meaningful word here - about evolution mean that he is yet another uneducated Christian creationist fanatic? This is an excellent example of the growing divide between science and scientism.

The War on Drugs funds terrorism

The Washington Times reports: "Cigarette smuggling costs the United States more than $1 billion in lost revenue every year, while pumping incredible profits into criminal organizations," Michael Garcia, assistant secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said late last month. Cigarette smuggling in the United States also has been linked to international terrorist groups. Last year, FBI and ATF agents broke a smuggling ring operating out of the Seneca Nation of Indians' Cattaraugus reservation in New York. From 1996 until last year, the group funneled some of the $2 million in illegal profits to Hezbollah's "orphans of martyrs" program, which benefits families of Hezbollah terrorist killed while committing acts of terror.

If it's this profitable to clear $1.25 on avoided taxes on a pack of smokes, imagine how much more is realized by a kilo of marijuana, or cocaine. Especially considering that it's actually less work to grow the marijuana than it is to buy and transport the cigarettes. I had some friends who harvested two kilos of high quality marijuana one year from their basement botany project - they didn't realize any profit out of it, however, as they spent the next six months absolutely stoned out of their gourds.

Of course, the Federal government finds useful the ability to scare people into sacrificing their rights - or more to the point, what they think is their dangerous neighbor's rights - in order to justify continuing this charade. Never mind that the results are predictably negative and the unintended consequences are uniformly hideous. Because, of course, if we don't have the government to threaten us with asset forfeiture and jail, we'll all be addicted to smack, ice and the devil weed within days, if not hours. Never mind that the public schools are the pushers nowadays - so many people are on legal drugs these days that the War on Drugs is increasingly beginning to resemble a war to defend the pharmaceutical industry against competition.

This is also a death blow - as if one should be needed - against the notion of static tax models. People alter their behavior much more readily than most people realize, and the legality or illegality of an action seldom enters into the equation. That's why totalitarian states have to kill people - people control often boils down to a binary issue. They're only perfectly predictable when they're dead.

Think of it as evolution in action

Polemics draws attention to this Boston Globe article. But I don't see why anyone would complain about these individuals failing to breed. They're self-absorbed and politically left, so they'd make for nightmarish parents. Furthermore, well, just look at the picture. It's not like the genetic pool is losing grade-A material or anything.

An industry of leaders

Quasi in Rem writes: Spurred by the success of Mel Gibson's recent movie "The Passion of Christ" studios have begun to target the massive audience who apparently desire to see movies which are accused of being anti-semitic. Through six days in theatres Mel Gibson's "Passion of Christ" has grossed over $125 million. MGM has jumped on the band wagon first and completely re-edited and over-dubbed "Cody Banks II: Destination London".... MGM was in a rush to get the movie out into theatres in order to compete with other purportedly anti-semitic fare from the major studios. Disney's Shrek II has been recently subtitled "The Truth about the so-called "Holocaust," opens on Memorial Day weekend. Similarly Paramount plans to re-release "Schindler's List" this summmer with an added laugh track and an entirely new "feel good" ending.

I just about wet my pants when I read this. It perfectly captures and lampoons the way in which Hollywood and the secular press has misread the movie. Of course, the only real surprise about The Passion of the Christ besides its overwhelming success is that Hollywood didn't have a second version coming out in three months, one that revolves more around John's perspective instead of Mary's.

The old grey mare ain't what she used to be

From NRO's Corner: The San Francisco Chronicle asked Walter Cronkite to what he attributed the longevity of his own marriage to Betsy: "I do think one of the factors was we were of different sexes." He looked delighted as the laughter billowed around the room. "That doesn't mean I wouldn't have been happy to be married to several friends I had of the same sex," he followed. "It just never came up in our particular relations."

Did Walter mean to imply that he was interested in having sex with these friends? I'm not sure that the senile old globalist understood why the room was laughing.

Mailvox: deconstructing liberalism

Before Anonymous showed up, the artist formerly known as Si was making a serious play for the position as resident pest, and managed to accuse me of a host of intellectual sins in an impressively short period of time. Since he'd already happened to email me a short manifesto of what he described as liberalism, I thought an analysis of it might demonstrate the irony of his attempting to critique my reasoning. And it also serves as a very useful opportunity to understand where the liberal mind is coming from these days.

I'm of the opinion that more often than not, the reason conservatives see liberal arguments as irrational, or internally inconsistent, and liberals see conservative arguments as the same, is that the two groups are often using vastly different reasoning schemes.... A perfect example is taxation, as liberals see it as a paying of dues, or providing the government the means to do its job, while conservatives see it as theft.

And Si leaps right off to an abysmal start, although given the rest of the manifesto it does indeed serve as a perfect example. Liberals may see taxation as whatever they like, but both examples here are nonsensical. In a fiat money system such as exists in every modern economy, taxation provides government with nothing but a means of obscuring the inflation inherent in such systems. In the words of the 1984 Grace Commission: “100 percent of what is collected is absorbed solely by interest on the Federal debt and by Federal Government contributions to transfer payments.” As for the notion of dues, there is a strong implication of voluntary membership which clearly cannot apply to an involuntary system resting on the use of physical force to take private property from an individual on the basis of his birthright. Nor does the liberal concept even begin to explain how such a forced seizure of property can be anything but theft, unless there is no such thing as private property - these aren't vastly different reasoning schemes, they are vastly different views of reality, one of which requires ignoring it.

I. The basic goal of liberalism.

The basic goal of liberalism to facilitate the well-being of all individuals who are members of communities. This essentially means that liberalism is designed to maximize well-being. Well-being includes things like happiness and health. The rights and freedoms liberalism values are the rights and freedoms that allow beings to pursue their own well-being without infringement on the well-being of others.

This is a strangely utilitarian notion which has nothing to do with classical liberalism – “an economic theory advocating free competition and a self-regulating market and the gold standard” – or the modern linguistic perversion which is described as a political orientation favoring progress and reform, (towards what is never explained).

First, note that Si's liberalism excludes those members who are not members of communities. An ominous note, considering what follows. Next, note that for all its central importance, well-being is never defined and the only two components mentioned are both nebulous and wholly subjective concepts. Therefore, an elite will be required with the power to define well-being as well as measure the competing claims of the infringements that will no doubt appear in any community larger than two individuals. And, naturally, it will require the muscle to enforce its decisions. Already, Si has laid the groundwork for totalitarian rule.

II. The basic goal of government in liberal ideology.

The basic goal of government is pretty straightforward, to produce an environment, including enacting and protecting rights and freedoms, that maximize the well-being of all individuals in a society. Thus, in the abstract, the government should be designed to produce and facilitate people who are productive both as individuals and members of a society/community. People who are productive as individuals will be people who actively participate in their own self-devlelopment. This means they will nurture their strengths, work on their weaknesses, etc. People who are productive members of society are people who will actively participate in the development of a society that maximizes the well-being of its members. The government cannot actively force individuals to directly participate in their own self-development, or the development of society, but it can enact laws, produce and protect rights and freedoms, and collect the means necessary to allow them the ability to do so.

Si next engages in a monstrous fallacy, which is the notion that government creates rights. That which it gives, it can take away, of course. (See the UN Declaration of Human Rights for a concrete example of this.) He leaps from implied socialism to outright socialism here, with government devoting itself to enacting laws – sans force? – that will facilitate individuals to be productive. Of course, it is the government that will decide who is and who is not productive, since productivity is defined as participation in maximizing that nebulous well-being. Note that there is not a single mention of private property or a specific individual right yet, but plenty of emphasis on the need for government to be in control.

This basic goal of goverment requires the government to protect its citizens (through both the maintenance of a military and the enactment of a fair judicial system, including both the police and the courts). It must also protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens that allow them to work toward their own well-being. These freedoms and rights are valuable only insofar as they facilitate this, and therefore there is a hierarchy of rights and freedoms. Obviously, health and happiness are at the top, but others will include some of the fundamental freedoms in our society, like freedom of speech, though, religion, open access to information, aesthetic freedom, economic freedom, privacy, choice, and things like the right to fair pay for work.

By this point, it's quite obvious that Si is a simple emotional socialist who's never read any of the socialist economists or their critics. He's describing nothing more than a typical socialist structure, minus the usual flavorful detail of the advantages of syndicates over vanguards or vice-versa. Freedoms and rights are not unalienable here, but there is a hierarchy of them and they are valuable – permitted would be a more accurate term - only if they are allowed by the required arbiters of well-being. No doubt the arbiters will have rights rather high up the hierarchy. And of course, we've already seen how well it plays out when health and happiness are ranked ahead of economic freedom and private property – total economic and technological stagnation. Even if the people of this society have good health to begin with, it won't last long.

This also means that the government will have to have a realistic view of the society in which it operates, and thus recognize that there are inequalities that are not the faults of the individuals who are their victims, and therefore compensate for those as effectively as it can. This is why the government must have social programs, including things like wellfare, medicare and medicaid, affirmative action, etc. These programs should be enacted as necessary, and they should be effective. If they are not effective, i.e., if they don't compensate for inequalities in peoples' ability to achieve their own well-being, they should be replaced with new programs that will. Thus, if it is shown that affirmative action does not increase the potential for the achievement of well-being for individuals who are at a disadvantage, of if this increase in potential is at the expense of placing other groups at a disadvantage, it should be done away with for better programs. These sorts of things are empirical questions, however, and programs like affirmative action should not be done away with for strictly ideological reasons.

I was wondering when we'd get to the quest for cosmic justice, and here we are. Thomas Sowell has written a book dismissing it and its possibilities; suffice it to say that government never has and never will address the fundamental inequities which inevitably appear and repeatedly recreate themselves throughout every society, and the law of unintended consequences coupled with the inescapable sclerosis of bureaucracy will assure that the society in search of cosmic justice will soon find itself with greater inequities than those with which it began.

Si is not troubled by the failure of every single major US government program by every metric upon which it may be judged; from the War on Poverty to the War on Drugs, from family farms to rent control, the problem is worse than before government intervention began. But these are just empirical problems, so he waves away decades of failure with breezy assurance, and we should not be so ideological as to suggest that no breeding of two cats will ever result in a dog, no matter how doggedly one persists in the attempt.

There is another group of people who should get particular mention, as the government has particular responsibilities for these people. They are parents. The government should not only facilitate the ability of parents to achieve their own well-being, but it should also provide parents with what they need to achieve the well-being of their children, or to teach their children to achieve there own well-being. This includes things like public education for parents who cannot afford to pay private school tuition, student loans for parents to send their children to colleges and universities, and social programs like WIC and Head Start.

Such sweet innocence. Si is no sophisticated social engineer; he has not yet figured out that in order to produce the proper little unthinking worker bees required by his “liberal” society, public education must be mandatory and all private schooling will have to be stomped out. I'm sure he'll be pleased to know that his suggested program here is remniscent of point 20 in the National Socialist Party's Munich Manifesto, and I suppose he would have added the aim of the student understanding the central importance of the State had he only thought a little deeper. Otherwise, how will they learn what societally approved well-being is? Not to mention the societal need to provide for the selection and training of tomorrow's arbiters of well-being.

[Long, conventional and unsophisticated bits on taxation, social programs, health care and crime. The short description of his position on each is Democrat, Socialist, Socialist, Utilitarian]

But he goes on to say (actually at the end, but makes more sense here): You may have objects that rely, for instance, on economic analysis. However, there are as many different views among economists as there are among politicians, and liberals can just as easily come up with economic analyses that support their views as can conservatives.

Oh Sweet Moses! I don't think Si realizes that there's a very good reason that what is now known as political science was formerly known as political economy, because economics is an absolutely fundamental aspect of any political system. This is why our major ideologies were all created by economists, albeit of varied ability. Now his utter starry-eyed utopianism shows itself clearly; if we can revoke the iron law of supply and demand, why not revoke the law of gravity as well and declare that everyone will have magic floating cars that power themselves on sunlight and produce clean exhaust consisting solely of diamonds, $100 bills and chocolate! This is almost as bad as Karl Marx waving the magic wand and declaring that – poof – the State will disappear and everyone will live happily forever with 70 virgins. Seen one socialist, you've truly seen them all.

Yes, liberals – or socialists as he'd more accurately call himself if he had any inkling of what his dream society inherently requires – can easily come up with economic analyses that support their views. They're usually called Five-Year Plans, or as they're now known to history, total fiction.

I think these brief explanations of liberal positions on some major issues will serve to elucidate the logic derived from liberal ideology and behind these positions and others. Naturally, you will disagree, if you are conservative, because your view of the goal of government, or perhaps even the best ways for achieving well-being, are different. However, these views are consistent internally, and obey a logic based on their premises. Attacks on liberals that accuse them being illogical, basing their decisions on feelings rather than reason, etc., for holding these positions, are therefore invalid.

There is an internal logic here, it's called circular, and it is based on undefined premises which necessarily remain undefined in order to prevent the unwieldy edifice from collapsing of its own absurdity. There is a certain consistency too, though probably not of the sort that Si had in mind. As long as we throw out logic as well as everything that we know of human history, human nature and the immutable laws of human action that have repeatedly asserted their primacy for thousands of years, we can concoct a vision for society that hasn't been new since Plato first revealed it in The Republic. 2,351 years and mankind still can't come up with anything new. Those who don't know history truly are doomed to repeat it. How depressing!

But we must give Si credit for clearly demonstrating exactly what modern American liberalism has devolved into today. It is latter-day socialism, dumbed-down to the point that it is too stupid to recognize itself in the mirror.

Monday, March 01, 2004

She shoots Glock, you know

LD writes: Based on your column, would you be willing to go so far as to divorce Space Bunny in the legal/state sense to uphold the principles you state in your column? Had you thought it through all the way at the time, would you have legally married her or just had a church wedding? Of course that may have been exactly what you did and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

While I could care less about the state's opinion of my marital status, I am extremely dubious that Space Bunny would be quite as nonchalant about it - just asked her, in fact, she says forget it. She's fairly radical herself, though, and says that had we thought about it beforehand, it wouldn't have bothered her in the least to bag the license. I have a close Christian friend who's getting married this summer and they're not bothering to get the state's approval.

To be honest, I'd never thought about the matter until the whole gay marriage debate started. That got me wondering why the state was involved.

Mailvox: conservatives get radical

DH writes in response to today's column: Amen, brother. I'd be curious to know what kind of a response you're getting from the 'conservative' Christian crowd.

I don't think strong government appeals as quite as much to cultural conservatives as it once did. Perhaps the lessons of George Delano are beginning to sink home. Much to my surprise, no one has written in to take virulent exception, and the general tone of even the skeptics is, yeah, that makes sense, but how do we handle property division, taxes, children etc. I suspect that the failure and subsequent perversion of the War on Drugs also plays a part in growing Christian distrust for government solutions.

Mailvox: Answering Mr. Brown

Christopher Brown raises a few points: 1. prayer is a hit and miss proposition since God may not have control over that for which we ask.

Prayer is a hit or miss proposition. I've prayed for things and haven't received them. Haven't you? Every prayer may be heard, but I don't know anyone who believes every single prayer they've ever prayed has been answered. In Daniel, the evil spirit of the principality has the power to interfere with the prayer being answered for three weeks - who is to say he couldn't do so indefinitely? Jesus also distinguishes between exercising our authority in the Earth and prayer requests when he tells the disciples that some demons may only be exorcised by prayer.

2. God promises eternal life (not merely long life)and yet, free men in heaven might choose to rebel. How then has God kept his word?

By giving them eternal life. You commit a logical fallacy by assuming eternal life and rebellion are mutually exclusive. You don't know precisely what eternal life is, therefore you can't say that it is impossible for free men in Heaven to rebel.

3. If God promises eternal life, and does not deliver because men in heaven have free will, then what?

Same fallacy as in point 2.

4. Then the Bible is unreliable. Then what?

False conclusion based on previous fallacy.

6. If the bible is unreliable then, vox is a liar, for he claims it has authority as a reliable book. Then what?

False conclusion based on previous fallacy.

7. If vox is a liar, we should not believe his goofy theories.

Believe what you want. God permits you to, how can I not follow His example.

Those who worship dogma

Anonymous writes of The Passion of the Christ: Yes, somebody didn't want this film to be made - God. But since He is gracious and slow to anger he lets man "get away" with enough sin until the cup is full and then the judgement follows.

Yes, I can see where telling millions of people about Jesus Christ and the good news of his death and resurrection is something that the Christian God would wish to prevent. What god do you worship anyhow - besides your own dogma? I'm seriously beginning to wonder if these angry devotees of predestination are Satan worshippers or something. They sure seem to hate Christianity and Christians, especially those who dare to be open about their faith.

Arminian theology is sub-Christian because it denies God of His sovereign right. It places the autonomous man in a position of ultimacy. It basicially believes the autonomus will of man decides for himself if he will be saved or damned. But those take all of the Scriptures into account know that it is God who makes men to differ. This blog is a case in point of how corrupt the church has become. Those who willfully propogate wrong theology will have more to answer for on that day.

This is totally absurd. Elevating theological correctness above Jesus Christ, baptism and the great commandments strikes me as nothing but the actions of a modern-day Pharisee. To say that because an individual doesn't buy into a specific human interpretation - often an illogical and unimaginative interpretation at that - of the Bible, they are sub- non- or anti-Christian is ridiculous. Jesus Christ told his disciples to follow him, to share the good news, feed the poor, heal the sick and raise the dead. I don't recall him saying anything about being theologically correct, though perhaps I missed the bit where Jesus said that unless you believe with your heart and confess with your tongue that his Father murdered a young father of three with cancer, you will not be saved. It's intriguing to see how these champions of dogma are now openly opposing a) a movie preaching the Gospel, b) a columnist who occasionally preaches the Gospel, c) honest intellectual inquiry.

Paul wrote that he didn't care if a man was preaching the Gospel solely out of greed and ambition, so long as the Gospel was preached. But what was good enough for the Apostle is apparently not good enough for these men.

It is said that by their fruits you shall know them. And what fruits, exactly, come from encouraging Christians to sit on their butts doing nothing, believing that they have no free will, no individual responsibility for their decisions and that they are helpless before the evil of the world, which is all inflicted by God anyhow? Dogmatic predestinationers like to talk about God hardening men's hearts; I wonder if they ever consider that the hearts being hardened might be theirs?

Mailvox: know your metric

EB asks: You have the figure of our current divorce rate at "4.9 per 10,000". That would be a divorce rate of only .05%. Shouldn't it be more like 49%?

I don't think so. The number, as I understand it, was the number of divorces per 10,000 population. You appear to be thinking in terms of number of divorces per marriage. Needless to say, the vast majority of people don't get married or divorced every year. For example, there were 15,000 divorces in Minnesota two years ago out of a population of 5 million. If the divorce rate were 49 percent of the population, that would mean that almost everyone in the state got divorced with about 2.4 million divorces, 160 times more than actually occurred. I have seen some conflicting statistics which say the current rate is 4.1 per 1,000 - obviously someone misplaced a zero somewhere, though I don't know who.

In any event, it's the rate of change that is the pertinent point in today's column. I'm not an expert on divorce statistics.

Mailvox: What else floats? Churches!

Gadrial writes: Why is the government involved in the marriage contract ? I don't see the Devil here, however I see a revenue generator that never ends. First you get them married and make them pay, if they have problems and want a divorce they must pay again, and if they have children they are fighting over they must pay again to see who gets the brats. Marriage is nothing more than retail storefront for the STATE. Your right the church was in charge of this for at least 6,000 years, but the Church was also the government, so your argument that it would be any different seems more like fantasy than reality. The Church has proven itself over the centuries to be just as corrupt and slimy as all Governments today. A world with less or none of the other would be ideal.

Two problems with this theory. One, marriage has been around for all of recorded history, while the Church has been around for only 2,000 years. Nor was it the government for most of that time, except in the Papal States and in post-Henry VIII England where it was only a State agency. I agree that the Church has been seriously problematic at times, but I submit that this has primarily been when it assumed State responsibilities and was corrupted as the State always is and does.

Second, the State did not begin its interference with American marriage in pursuit of revenue, but information. Information - registration - is necessary for control, and control is required to exercise State power. Money is actually of little interest to the State, as long as it can create it out of thin air. This is nothing new, indeed, it was first discovered in the modern era by the colony of Massachusetts, and taken to an extreme by the colony of Rhode Island until the British government cracked down these financial shenanigans. State control of marriage and children is one of the many factors required for totalitarian rule, which is why it should be rejected by wise conservatives who understand the danger inherent in attempting to use the State to enforce any morality, traditional or otherwise.

What the State gives, the State can and will take away. What the State touches, it will destroy.

Cutting down the black robes

RY writes: There is much angst and hand wringing over our run-away Supreme Court. All the talking heads on talk radio ask what can be done. No one seems to know that the court's wings can be clipped without resorting to a constitutional amendment: Article III section 2: (operative section) ...In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as Congress shall make. Clearly, Congress can by law set the limits on the Court's jurisdiction. This has some important implications. Constitutional amendments are not necessary for the will of Congress and the people to be asserted. Please research Article III section 2 and it's implications for one of your up coming articles.

Good point. Definitely something to look into.

Good luck with that

Thomas Sowell writes in the Wall Street Journal: Many economic issues are complex, but sometimes a single fact will tell you all you need to know. When you know that central planners in the Soviet Union had to set 24 million prices--and keep adjusting them, relative to one another, as conditions changed--you realize that central planning did not just happen to fail. It had no chance of succeeding from the outset. It is a wholly different ball game when hundreds of millions of people individually keep track of the relatively few prices they need to know for their own decision-making in a market economy.

And yet my idiot Economics 101 professor - who actually wrote the textbook - said: "you plan your day, you plan your week, why on Earth would you not plan your national economy?" He wasn't too happy when I raised my hand and explained that the reason you would not is that the number of variables and interested parties was orders of magnitude higher, hence the Austrian concept of the impossibility of socialist calculation which had only been around for something like fifty years. Needless to say, I was not the class pet.
Newer Posts Older Posts