Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Sunni Terrorists want to "negotiate"

According to this article in Time, (via Daniel Drezner, whom I have just discovered), Sunni terrorists have been negotiating with U.S. forces through back-channels.

I'm no expert on diplomacy and war. But I think it's bad news if we go along with this. The Sunni negotiators said they want to be like Sinn Fein and that their goal is to "unify the groups, to resist the aggressor and put our views to the people" (emphasis mine). Sinn Fein? The political wing of Irish terrorists? This is like the defeated Nazis telling us they want to be like Shay's Rebellion. And that bit about "resisting the aggressor" sure does sound comforting.

This is a trial balloon. The insurgency realizes it cannot go on forever. At the same time, they are hoping to get a deal that will allow them to continue bullying people and using threats to obtain what they want. It will be just like the good old days when Saddam was in power and being a Sunni meant walking around with an air of superiority and control over everyone else.

Sorry guys: go take a long walk off a short pier. Come back when you're ready to use words like "unconditional" and "stand trial for murder." You lost--now start acting like it.

Programming Note

I have graciously been blogrolled by Zelda of The Urban Grind and Jeff from Beautiful Atrocities. A hearty "thank you" to both and I hope you'll continue to find this blog worth your time.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson, Dead at 67

Hunter S. Thompson has shot himself. I've never read any of Thompson's works but perhaps I should, if only for cultural reference. Even many on the Right concede that his early works were brilliant and innovative.

I can't help but wonder how long it will be before the more wacky folks over at Democratic Underground start coming up with conspiracy theories though. Thompson was an opponent of the Bush Administration and I'm sure someone will accuse Bush of being responsible for the suicide. You can set your watch by the DU nuts.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Practical vs. The Ideal in Social Security

Hugh Hewitt is currently presiding over a bloodbath on the President's proposal to consider a tax increase in exchange for partial privatization. And once again, Conservatives are beating each other around the ears over whether this is a compromise or a sell-out. I believe this to be a false dichotomy of sorts and I have yet to hear anyone correctly discern what is happening.

The real reason for disagreement is that Hugh, arguing for the compromise, and many Conservatives arguing against it, do not have the same goal in mind. Hugh's goal is practical: to fix Social Security and deliver taxpayers a better deal than the one they currently have. And the compromise plan, if it is negotiated well, is definitely a win for taxpayers.

But his opponents have a different goal: ditching the entire idea of social spending. Though they may not realize it, this is what bothers them about the compromise plan. Article I, Section 8 grants Congress no power to engage in social spending. The American people are like a King who grants a servant (Congress) a little power to carry out specific tasks. When the servant exceeds that granted power, he has committed a crime against his King.

Those who view the problem this way see the compromise as neutral at best because it does nothing to move the country in the direction of better compliance with the Constitution.

I am on both sides: I appreciate anything we can get that will personally benefit taxpayers and I also want to see a more Constitutional Congress. I think, however, that partial privatization in the short term--even gained at cost of compromise--may spawn a cultural revolution in the view of social spending that will allow us to gradually work our way out of the un-Constitutional mess in which we now find ourselves.

One failing of Conservative Idealists (Michael Savage, for example) is that they want everything now. They are not willing to see the long-term strategic plan. Perhaps I'm wrong and the Idealists are right. Perhaps this will end up driving us even further away from our end goal. But we didn't get into this situation over-night and we certainly can't get out overnight. Societies don't turn on a dime. But the smart Democrats see what's coming 40 or 50 years down the road and they don't like it.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Why is gossip fair game? Why is Michael Jackson?

Ace thinks a nasty rumor about Eason Jordan is not fit for circulation. I agree but I would take it further. Is it appropriate to broadcast the sordid details of Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant, O.J. Simpson, or Scott Peterson? I have yet to meet anyone who really needs to know what's going on in a celebrity trial. It's voyeurism and it's completely irrelevent to our lives. Why do they insist on pouring it out of my TV 24/7?

It's the reverse of the Monkees.

The Monkees were the beginning of the end--the sad moment when record labels realized they could make up a "band" out of whole cloth and then grab the cash with a forklift. They didn't have to spend a lot of time trying to find talented people who had youth and charisma. Now we have Britney Spears and Ashlee Simpson. Ugh.

O.J. played the same role for the rest of the media. Now they know they don't need to create their own product. They can just grab events--no matter how scandalous and ephemeral--and give them ruthless blanket coverage. If I didn't already think our justice system was a wreck, I'd be even more outraged.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Everybody Hates Political Correctness

There are certain things you can count on people hating: lawyers, cell phone users, the New York Yankees. And it seems that political correctness falls into that camp. I've seen countless people, both on the Left and Right, deride PC. Considering that PC is a Leftist concept, this seemed a little odd to me.

The secret is that the Left and the Right simply have different definitions for political correctness. For the Right, political correctness is the complete surrender of free speech in favor of Leftist ideology. To the Left, as demonstrated in this Slashdot post from a story on investigation techniques for child molestation and pornography, PC means traditional Judeo-Christian morality (emphasis added):
one of the best ways people deal with troubling subjects is to joke about them. It allows for a relaxation that can lead to a more serious discussion about a topic, uncrippled by the uptight PCness that society now uses. While yes, this is, in fact, a very serious topic, the jokes allow for us to move out of the depressing stage of our thinking and into a more serious discussion of the potential of this new technology. Try not to have a knee-jerk reaction to the jokes and look at the (perhaps subconscious) motives behind them. Just my opinion.
People were joking about how to get the original and unedited photographs of child porn. Someone thought that was disgusting and this fine specimen decided that such a concern was merely "the uptight PCness that society now uses." So people would not have found such jokes disappointing 150 years ago? It's only in these late lamented days that people are put off by jokes about raping 9 year olds? It was a "knee-jerk reaction"?

It has been suggested that Liberalism (or Progressivism) is simply another religion with its own morality and purpose. If so, the term political correctness could be used to mean the exercise of moral judgement. And no matter what, you can find someone who hates your moral judgement.

There are other phenomena in the arena of political discourse that work in a similar fashion. It's easy to find people on both Left and Right that think the media is biased against them for totally different reasons. The Right thinks media is biased because of the content (or lack of content) and the presentation. The Left thinks media is biased because media outlets are owned by large business concerns and, as everyone knows, all large business concerns are firmly in the grip of the Right. Not to mention that the media doesn't necessarily report every bizarre far-flung conspiracy theory the Left can create.

Friday, February 04, 2005

When did 'Congress' start meaning 'University of Colorado'?

The Belmont Club has posted about the upcoming review of Ward Churchill's future employment by the University of Colorado. Apparently, they are unlikely to fire the man for First Amendment reasons.

Just for kicks, let's read the First Amendment together:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Unless the entire administration of the University of Colorado has been elected to Congress without my knowledge, and unless reviewing the suitability of a professor is a legislative action, I don't understand how this effects the decision at all.

Now, I don't think the man should be fired for saying something stupid. I think he should be fired for lying about his background to promote himself. But the University doesn't seem to care about fraud.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

State of the Union and Incrementalism

It's over. A lot could be said about the speech. I could talk about how moving it was to see the mother of a slain soldier hug an Iraqi woman who just voted for the first time. I could laugh about the President tweaking the nose of Congressional Democrats over the 4 year period without the successful passage of his energy bill. On Monday morning I was tearful over the images of people who grasped for freedom with both arms outstretched. But I'm emotionally drained now. I know Hugh Hewitt and other fine bloggers will talk about it and I'll read them in the morning when I'm more refreshed.

Instead, I want to talk about a more subdued topic: Social Security.

The President presented the clear mathematics that make a solution necessary. If I'm lucky, I may end up with $0.26 for my retirement; but only if I pay a lot more now. That is reason enough to support a change. But more important to me is the moral reason: why should the government take my own money away to ensure that I don't die destitute, and then have the unmitigated gall to deny me the choice of a better way of investing it? When I hear Democrats opposing this plan, I am personally offended. The new Dukes and Earls and Lords are here to tell the lowly worthless commoners how to live. What do we call those arrogant controlling people? Democrats.

Of course, some Conservatives still bristle at the fact that we have Social Security at all and deride the President every chance they get. He's only a pseudo-Conservative, they say. (Yes, I'm talking to you, Michael Savage.) They need to correctly answer one question: why did the Democrats boo at the announcement of the collapse of Social Security?

Oh. Well. Obviously it was because they don't believe there's a problem. Right? Wrong. They know darned well there's a problem.

OK, well maybe they are afraid that Bush will get credit for fixing it. Yes, they are. But they wouldn't boo over something like that. It's already too late for boos once the President has said it. And the fact that Bush will get credit doesn't anger them enough for boos because any credit he gets will be years down the road.

Hmm. Well, it's possible that they know it will work? Yes, it will work. And you're getting warmer.

They are angry because they see the President using the same strategy that got us where we are now: incrementalism. We didn't wake up one morning in 1791 to find socialism and a nanny state. We didn't wake up one morning in 1930 to find socialism and a nanny state. We didn't really even wake up one morning in 1964 to find socialism and a nanny state.

It is certainly true that socialism has moved forward with thrusts in public policy. It is also true that those thrusts were many in number and small in scope. President Bush knows that it is impossible to stride to the podium and strike out 80 years of unconstitutional social spending. It will scare people, it will end up putting Republicans out of office, and it would be disaster for society.

But partial privatization is just the kind of step we need. It is small enough that it will probably go through (with a lot of effort). But it is like the parabolic mustard seed: it starts off small and sprouts into a very large tree. Once Americans begin to see the benefits of well-managed independence, they will start applying that knowledge to other areas of life.

It's very much like the President's plan in the Middle East. Once men and women see an attractive alternative that really gets results, they will throw away unpleasant alternatives that do not get results.

If Conservatives consistently take a well-planned incrementalist approach, victory is ours. If Conservatives foolishly demand complete and instant gratification, I swear to you, misery is ours.