Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Walter Duranty Legacy

The New York Times just can’t end its love affair with mass murderers. Back in the 30’s, Walter Duranty wrote glowing pieces for the Times on Stalin’s Soviet Union and his show trials. One got the true “Worker’s Paradise” feel from the fiction pieces Duranty wrote about those days of terror. He was so good at it, he won a Pulitzer Prize for it. Even after his stories were uncovered as the pack of lies they were, the Times has still refused to return his Pulitzer.

Times (no pun intended) certainly haven’t changed. In the Sunday Week in Review, David Barboza of the Times wrote a fawning piece about China’s Chairman Mao or more appropriately Mao’s giant image.

“Few images created in the last century are as recognizable as the official portrait of Mao that looms over Tiananmen Square in Beijing.”

Just a quick reminder, that’s the same Square where so many freedom protestors were executed as they stood defiantly against the Chinese totalitarian government, demanding change. Who could forget the stirring image of the man who would not let the tank pass? I never have, but apparently Mr. Barboza and the Times editors don’t recall it. They’re too fixated on the monstrosity that portrays the monster and how cute it is. To me, that image looms much larger than any portrait of the tyrant Mao.

So what can be said of the Chinese people and their feelings for Mao? Does he point out how the “cult of Mao” was foisted upon the citizenry or how the communist government used him as a sort of deification of their heinous policies? No, he only notes that the Chinese “may have lost some affection for Mao” and that he still represents something “indelible and intangible”.

Yes, I’m certain he represents something indelible and intangible, like the Boogeyman or some hellspawn demon. Any individual that killed over 20 million of his own countrymen (and that’s the most conservative estimate, mind you) certainly could be said to have left an indelible mark on his people.

But this is perhaps the Coup de Grasse. Barboza notes that, while the Chinese may not have a recognizable logo like Coke, they do have Mao, and he represents a “kind of George Washington, James Dean and Che Guevara wrapped in one a historic and pop figure who continues to be hip and fashionable…” This line, more than anything demonstrates the innate mental sickness that some on the Left possess. Actually, it seems to be quite prevalent. Our own historical figures deserve denigration. Our current President, Founding Fathers, who cares, they’re all fair game for criticism. Bring up a mass killer who believed in enslaving his people as a step to enslaving the rest of mankind and who brutally executed anyone who was an impediment to his plans, and they swoon with fawning compliments of the man.

At least with Che, he comes close, if not really in total body count. Che’s was relatively low by comparison. To equate him with George Washington shows considerable ignorance as to who Washington was and even more ignorance about what Mao really was. The James Dean line guarantees this guy will be schilling for Entertainment Tonight or perhaps anchoring network news before you know it. The true pain of Barboza’s piece, though, is it is not a unique sentiment. His opinion, as I noted, is a widely shared one and that’s a sad comment on the current state of the Left. How do you start a discussion with people that equate mass murderers with the Founding Fathers, and consider it a compliment that they included the Founding Father? Oh, and who compares someone to James Dean these days?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Down Went Garton

Many may remember the Indianapolis Star plastering Senator Bob Garton's stunning defeat in the primaries early this month. What most don't know and should is that his replacement is not very electable. Greg Walker has drawn the ire of both sides, partly for his part in bringing down Garton, and partly for unusual statements he's made in the past (like supporting public flogging of felons).

Rising as a very credible alternative, possibly in just the right place at just the right time, is Kenn Gividen. Kenn last ran in the gubenatorial race against Daniels and Kernan. I had the priviledge to meet Mr. Gividen at our local county fair and was very impressed with him. Indiana has a tradition of having truly excellent candidates step forward from the ranks of Libertarians, not the least of which include Mike Kole who's currently running for Secretary of State and Andy Horning, who ran against Julia Carson and also in other local elections.

Unfortunately, Indiana has another tradition they share with most states. Its citizens tend to vote for the party that dominates local elections. In Lake, Marion and Monroe counties, that is usually Democrats. Elsewhere, except some southern counties, it's Republican. So even if the candidate has little or no redeeming values, or doesn't really run a campaign, all they have to do is have the D or R after their name in the right place and they get elected. This has left some truly excellent candidates out to dry when they should have been serving you in the halls of government.

A unique opportunity exists in Senator Garton's old district. With Republicans defecting en masse to make sure he fell in the primary (following my advice, it would seem), but unwilling to see a Democrat get the seat, there are two choices. They can back Walker, who really has lukewarm support at best among the base, or they can look to Gividen, who has legitimate views that really do connect with the average Bartholomew resident (property taxes come to mind).

I had hopes with Andy Horning, and certainly I think Mike Kole will make a great run at the SecState seat, but to see such a strong candidate like Kenn have such a clear shot at a fairly strong seat in the Indiana Senate is more than I thought we'd see for the Libertarians in the immediate future. A gain at that level would be a unique and exploitable breach in the two party stranglehold currently on the legislature.

I wish him well and urge those who live in and around Columbus to give him a second look, or even a first look. You'll actually have a chance to elect someone who is as concerned with you about bloated waste in government and whose cornerstone philosophy is to reduce your tax burden. If that isn't worth five minutes to consider, then how do you justify even going to vote? Do yourself and your fellow citizens a favor, consider the issues in this one, and really take into account what Kenn getting elected might mean for the legislature.

Good Luck Kenn and Mike and all the Libertarians running in the election. They didn't pay me or buy me dinner or anything. I just think they're candidates who have the right ideas for Indiana and this being my blog, I thought that worth sharing with you all. Although if they want to buy me dinner, Papa's in Fishers is pretty good. :) Only kidding. Good luck guys.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Good Night And Good Riddance

I just finished watching George Clooney's "Good Night and Good Luck". I refrained from catching it in the theaters, so admittedly, most people have either seen it or not by this point. As I've noted many times in the past, though, I like history and I really hate distortions or twistings of history.

The story in Good Night and Good Luck for those who completely ignored its release is one of the CBS news crew operating around Edward R. Murrow on the "See it Now" show in the early 50's and Murrow's assault on Senator Joe McCarthy. It covers events from the perspective of Murrow, the legendary Fred Friendly and various members of the staff and management. One of the movie's selling points was that Clooney used only archival footage of Joe McCarthy, obstensibly so that he could not be seen as distorting the facts. I also remember seeing interviews with Clooney where he boasted that all facts in the movie had been "double and triple checked" because he knew right-wingers would attack him and his movie and he wanted to leave them no legitimate ground to stand on.

The movie falls into the category of "factually accurate" but historically inaccurate. More to the point, the movie definitely tells the story of Murrow vs. McCarthy from its own point of view. This is more ironic in that the character of Murrow in the movie argues that such things cannot be taken from a balanced perspective, but that one side inevitably will have more weight and merit. It's quite clear from Clooney's rendition that he believed Murrow's argument had more merit.

But what did the movie actually show? What did it correct? Clooney noted again in interviews that he was trying to prevent revisionist historians from diminishing the "terror" of the day, all of course caused by McCarthy. Most probably, he was referring to Ann Coulter in her book, Treason and one or two others who have tried to vindicate McCarthy in light of recent historical archive releases like the Venona Cables or the full transcripts of the closed-session Senate hearings. This much could be said. This movie completely ignores that either one of those revelations would have made any difference in the actual historical account.

Instead, we are treated to the white-washed version that the winners in that part of history, the Left, wrote into the textbooks. The story focuses on small portions of the bigger story of the era, like an Air Force Reserve Lieutenant drummed out because he had relatives with likely ties to the communists. Although that was an Air Force issue, this is shown as the catalyst for why Murrow went after McCarthy. It had nothing to do with McCarthy, but that usually doesn't bother proponents of Murrow's like Clooney. It shows the "terror" of the era as if all evil flows from one Senator from the MidWest.

There were attempts to discredit McCarthy with his statement regarding the ACLU as a listed entity that supported communism. Murrow correctly pointed out that at that particular time the ACLU was not listed, but it had been in the 30's (and just as easily could be today). It's founders were lovers of all things Marxist and a significant portion of the organization was dedicated to communist causes before a "purge" of its leadership before 1940. This is one of those factual but missing the bigger picture moments.

A lot of focus is also given to the story of Annie Lee Moss, the figure the Left has enshrined as the straw that broke McCarthy's back. This almost comic figure played the media and several Democrats on the Senate committee who were more than willing to believe her "play dumb" defense if it meant they might score a hit against McCarthy. First there was the "you've got the wrong guy" defense and the "I don't know nothin' bout birthin' no Marxist revolutions" twist as well. We see those hinted at very thoroughly in "Good Night" without the benefit of the revelation that she was snowing the Committee. Moss was a communist and had obtained a position in code transmitting in the Pentagon under dubious circumstances.

But the question no one seems to want to ask, and certainly this movie is no exception, is were there really communist infiltrators in the federal government and were they out to do the U.S. harm? The answer is a resounding yes to both, which we now know thanks to the fall of the Soviet Union. We know from Soviet defectors, Venona, the declassified hearings and even the KGB's own opened records that the U.S.S.R. had massively infiltrated the federal government, with at least the benign acceptance or neglect of FDR, Truman and possibly Eisenhower. We also know that their intentions in doing so were to undermine the one obstacle to Stalin's plans of world domination, the United States. They did so masterfully for years. Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Angola, the list goes on and on.

Because we never fully acknowledged that pivotal part of our history, that the U.S.S.R., even when obstensibly our ally in WWII, was dedicated towards removing the U.S. as a threat and to exporting communist revolutions all over the globe, communism-lite in the form of little socialist governments is spreading in South America. Europe is crippled with its own creeping nanny-state socialism, the United States flirts with it, through our universities and government as if professors, Supreme Court Justices, Congressmen and the President seem somehow to magically know just how much socialism will work without wrecking the country, and the Middle East still writhes in an odd concoction of relic fascism and communist influence mixed with a resurgent fundamentalism.

That's stepping out on a huge limb, but bear with me on this one. America has a lot of skeletons in the proverbial closet. History is rife with missteps, failures and missed chances that might have changed the state of our nation and our world. What if the Battle of Trenton failed? What if Lincoln has let the southern states peaceably secede? What if the U.S. hadn't entered the First World War? What if Stalin was treated the same as Hitler by FDR and subsequently our history books? By coddling him and his failed experiment, by sticking our head in the sand when we should have been looking under the bed, did we prolong needless suffering in the world? Maybe, maybe not.

Just as Clooney wants to fight the "revisionists" in this case, though, I want to fight back. Sometimes history needs to be questioned. Sometimes the questions remain there for us to answer them. Nothing is written in stone, especially not history. Finding the truth is what the study of that noble idea is all about and if new facts are found along the way, they should be explored and not shunned. Clooney does the country a disservice with this movie, treating it as the true history of a noble crusade when it really was a puff piece of people patting themselves on the back for contributing to the downfall of someone, regardless of his methods, trying to save the country from its own folly. Self-prescribed victims who turned on the alleged victimizers and then wrote the history as if the Red Scare was no different than the Stalinist purges of the kulaks now get a boost from a man who apparently just read his own one side to the story and assumed it was the correct one. That doesn't do anyone any favors, not even him.

In short, if you want to see possibly how Murrow and his ilk felt at the time, assuming they were all as noble and innocent as the movie makes out, Good Night and Good Luck is a nice piece of the past, albeit from a very limited viewpoint. You might enjoy it more than you would if you take it as it was intended, an attempt to use the Left's "golden moment" to cast further aspursions on the modern right.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Me Thinks They Doth Protest Too Much

In the recent bribery case of Democrat Congressman William Jefferson, it’s been a bit of a surprise to see so many from both Parties step up to show their outrage at his office being searched by the FBI. Rarely does such a blatant alleged felon warrant such a star-studded list of political luminaries to defend him. Consider this piece from the Hill, courtesy of John Hawkins at RightWingNews.

"House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) told President Bush yesterday that he is concerned the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) raid on Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) congressional office over the weekend was a direct violation of the Constitution.

Hastert raised concerns that the FBI’s unannounced seizure of congressional documents during a raid of Jefferson’s Rayburn office Saturday night violated the separation of powers between the two branches of government as they are defined by the Constitution.

...Calling the Saturday-night raid an “invasion of the legislative branch,” House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) predicted the case would eventually be resolved in the Supreme Court and hinted that Congress would take further action. The majority leader said Hastert would take the lead on the issue because he is the chief constitutional officer in the House.

...“No member of Congress is above the law,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters yesterday. “I am concerned about the unprecedented exercising of authority over a separate branch of government and the execution of a search warrant without any communication with the leadership of this House.”"

It’s quite a feat when you get the House Speaker, Majority Leader and Minority Whip to leap to your defense. I was perhaps most shocked that Ms. Pelosi hadn’t been tapped for a quote, but I imagine she would stand with her fellow Congressionals.

As have others, I also wonder what exactly Speaker Hastert thought could be a direct violation of the Constitution and Separation of Powers? I know the relevant passage, but it doesn’t cover felonies for one and bribery to the best of my knowledge is still a felony in this country. And how is this “an invasion”? Who would be the regulatory force for Congress? Don’t tell me the assertion of Congress is that the police themselves. They don’t honestly expect the citizenry, after centuries of dubious exercise of power, to believe that they could be so entrusted do they?

It would seem, sadly, that they do, especially in light of Congressman Boehner’s comment that Congress will take “further action”. What, is Congress going to write a law that they’re surrounded by an invisible force field, no takebacks, immune from investigation or prosecution? What other “action” could Congress consider? How about considering that they are not above the law, as Congressman Hoyer at least had the decency to admit, albeit with a qualification.

Were all 535 residents of the Capitol Building absent in government class the day they discussed checks and balances? The Executive executes the law (imagine that). No matter what you may think of any given Executive, the need to obey the law, to exist as a nation of laws, does not stop at the Washington border or the doors to Congress. It extends everywhere, or it extends nowhere. The minute that anyone from the President on down becomes immune to prosecution of felonious behavior, that’s the minute we abandon all pretense of a “representative” republic and go right into the Imperial Congress/Executive role. There is no middle ground in such an instance and I would think that the esteemed leaders in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, would have the slightest idea what that was about.

The members of Congress need to reflect and examine what it is to be a representative of the people and how they are bound by the nation’s laws. If they feel they do not need to submit to the same rigors as “the people”, then it’s time they step down and allow someone to handle the job who does feel that way. I warned you, this incumbency nonsense really does go to your head.

Representative Jefferson and all those like him cannot hide behind their office, and one wonders what those who are shouting so loudly in his defense have to fear themselves. If he turns out to be innocent, fine, but until then, he’s no different than Delay, Cunningham, or any other Congressman that comes under suspicion of illegal behavior. Congress’ power is not absolute, and they, like every other elitist entity (read: antique media), need to get a grip on that and accept the consequences of living in a republic. Otherwise, they risk losing their relevancy and allow our entire society to suffer as a result.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

People’s Republic of Seattle

They can’t be serious. Or can they? Short of San Francisco, one of the growing stealth zones of the far Left has to be Seattle. The ’98 riots to disrupt the WTO meeting in that city were the proverbial canary in the coal mine to enlighten us as to the direction of the city and its residents. We now see the true Marxist (or is it neo-Marxist these days?) thought popping up in the school system courtesy of Capitalism Magazine.

Take a look at this definition of ‘cultural racism’ from the school system’s web page.

Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as “other”, different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.

Let’s examine that language briefly. Racism is apparently defined as anything too “white”. Well, I suppose that goes along with the current preferred train of thought on the Left that only whites can be racist. Where this notion was a bit absurd even a decade ago, it is stepping up to become a major paradigm. That in itself could serve as a warning that even the most ridiculous notions should be challenged, because one never knows what fertile ground in which they might take root.

And people being “different” is a crime? Well, all the separate graduation ceremonies for minority groups in other parts of the country (read: California) would definitely violate that rule. No, I suppose they wouldn’t, since only whites can be racist and minorities run those separate but equal ceremonies. Didn’t people like Martin Luther King march to stop this garbage? I wonder also, since white skin tones can’t be “flesh colored” or “nude”, can other skin tones? What if it’s a very tan white person? What if they used that spray on tan and look a bit orange? Moronic really doesn’t begin to describe the people that wrote this code. Well, I suppose they could be comedy writers.

I don’t argue the “one race” as all great writers or composers, although it’s been my experience that in such instances, great writers are occasionally ignored because they are white by such multiculturalists so that a more diverse pool of literaries can be presented to the student body. It’s a good thing minorities can’t be racist, because that sounds pretty racist to me. Time to face reality on the language issue. There is only one accepted form of English. Ebonics and anything remotely like it, well they’re fine for dialect studies, but we only teach one kind of English and it needs to stay that way. To define that as racist is to define that you have zero common sense and even less in the way of intelligence.

Oh and here’s the one that’s got the right side of the blogosphere just churning.

emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology

You’ve got to be pretty sure of your population (and Seattle is) when you put in the straight Marxism right there in the school code. Collectivist = good, individual = bad, except when it comes to sex and abortions. Do that whenever you want, I think. Why don’t they just write in a paragraph about how to properly celebrate May Day or about saying their pledge to Stalin before they start class every morning? I mean, if you’re going to go for broke, why not go all out? Quit playing around with it and just throw the hammer & sickle up the flag pole at Mao Elementary. Put the Little Red Books in the text book rental list and you can call it a day.

Defining individualism as racism, likely along with individual or natural rights, is the first step towards instilling the supremacy of the State over the individual. Is that what Seattle residents want their kids to believe or how they want them taught? God help us all if that’s the case.

Hat tip to Right Thinking Girl for the story.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

You Don’t Build East Germany In A Day

Such are the thoughts of Nina Totenberg, NPR correspondent at-large. At least, that is what one might infer from her comments on “Inside Washington” the other day. A great past time of the Left is to attribute fascist tactics to those who differ with them. If you can’t invoke the Nazis, then invoke the next best thing, East Germany.

"You know, this is the way it used to be, this is the way it was in East Germany. I mean this, when you really have this kind of thing going on, this is a very, it’s a, I'm not speaking from a personal point of view because I think we probably will try to find ways of dealing with this. Throw away phones and all kinds of things like that. But this is the kind of talk really in a police state."

If we could only bottle such genius, the world would be far greater for it. Like Nina, I wasn’t in East Germany in the 40’s through the 90’s, but I’ve been able to view the actual historical accounts. I’ve heard stories from soldiers who fought the Cold War near and in such places. To compare the true fascist police state of East Germany to the United States is insulting. It insults the memory of those who fought that system and those who lived and died under it. East Germany wasn’t even Moscow Lite. It was, perhaps, Little Moscow, a tiny sliver of the USSR separated by the unfortunate souls stuck in Poland. No one was free. Everyone was watched and informants were everywhere. North Korea and East Germany could easily be said to have had a lot in common in their day.

That the NSA is conducting surveillance, as it’s done pretty much since it was founded, both inside and outside the U.S. is no surprise. It did it during the Cold War. No one told it to stop. It’s merely changed who it has to survey. Of course, this goes to the case for viewing all of history and not just the convenient parts.
Such arguments, careless cries of fascism, are usually all one needs if one wishes to discredit any policy that does not fit the current agenda of the Left, or Democratic Party (a wholly owned subsidiary). It is easier to say “Well, the Nazis did the same thing” or “The Nazis loved their country and waved the flag too” or “East Germany started out this way before it got worse” without the slightest legitimate argument or comparison. This is possibly because such arguments disintegrate when one tries to examine them against the historical perspectives from which they attempt to grow. If there’s one thing I hate more than ignorance of history, it’s willful distortion, which brings us to her kicker when she was confronted by Charles Krauthammer who made some of the above argument.

"But, you, you don't start out as East Germany."

His simple but smart response:

"No East Germany did start out as East Germany. Let me tell you, day one. Stalin insisted."

The “And then they came for me” argument certainly has merit, when properly applied. In this case, it was not, and I don’t think Totenberg really has the knowledge or background to do so. Communism was far more efficient than simple Nazism in terms of stripping its citizens of freedoms and rights. East Germany mimicked its fellow Pact nations well in providing the illusion of freedom but leaving no doubt with the citizenry that they faced imprisonment or death for violating the whims of the State. No subtlety was required.

If Nina or her like wants to make a case for future developments from the current NSA issues or other Bush agenda items she dislikes, she’ll need to be a little more intellectually honest, but that might tip her own bias. Hence, we are doomed to more of her misguided analogies. They make for amusing reading, though and half-way decent educational tools. It’s always cute to see someone working without a historical net. There are always concerns that the government will step one step too far. All it takes is the politician with the will to do it. When that politician or politicians pushes that direction, we'll need more direct and correct arguments to counter the push, not partisan drivel like this standard Totenberg fare.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Culture of Corruption?

It might be considered a bit of bad comedy, but the antique media is rich in such things. There has been considerable effort on the part of the major networks, several newspapers and the occasional cable news outlet to push the Dem talking point “culture of corruption” whenever speaking of any scandal they can remotely link to Republicans. This ranges from Tom Delay (who may deserve it) to Jack Abramoff (who seems to have been a serial donator with no significant party affiliation except where he could buy influence). Also included would be “Top Gun” himself, Randy Cunningham. Why, one would think the entire Republican Party was nothing but another Teapot Dome scandal waiting to happen.

While it is unlikely that this phrase, culture of corruption, is used solely to give leftists visions of Sugar Plums mixed in with the hated White House official of the week being frog marched in prison orange off the White House grounds, it is being used with great effect to implement its own portion of an agenda linking only Republicans with our nation’s problems. While I might agree on certain issues (DEFICIT *COUGH*), I have a hard time agreeing. And isn’t it just so terribly inconvenient when a Democrat screws up and is even more blatant in his open bribe-taking than any Republican.

Case in point, William Jefferson, DEMOCRATIC Congressman from Louisiana. I put that in caps because most media outlets seem to have omitted his party affiliation. Newsbusters has an absolutely great list of media outlets that have so far managed to avoid using the word Democrat and any variant of Congressman William Jefferson in the same sentence. So which is it guys? Are you ignorant or purposefully evasive? Have you stopped beating your wife again lately? The question’s as obviously loaded as the antiques’ pathetic attempt to mask Jefferson’s affiliation with the donkey.

The guy was caught on tape more clearly than Marion Berry was when he was busted by the Feds. They found the money in his freezer, hidden in ziploc’s. Dirty money’s so hard to keep free of freezer burn. Naturally, I’m sure Congressman Jefferson will have plenty of excuses for why he took the money, but I’m still waiting for why he commandeered a National Guard detachment to clean out personal effects from his New Orleans home in the middle of Katrina’s aftermath. So we may have to wait a long time.

The culture of corruption, it would seem, knows no political bounds. The culture of corruption is the culture of incumbency. Good people go bad as they are exposed to more and more power or they just come in that way. I’m not a bettin’ man, but I think Willie falls into the latter category.

Nor is he unique. The previous administration was rife with felons. Web Hubbell, Henry Cisneros, Mike Espy and John Deutch (three cabinet-level positions and one associate attorney general) all were convicted, and summarily pardoned under Clinton’s watch and they were just the top of a very big pyramid of convicts. Teddy Kennedy left the scene of an accident, may have been guilty of manslaughter or worse, and retained his Senator’s seat. Robert Byrd is a former Klansman, not only that, a former Klan recruiter. The "Torch", Robert Toricelli was so disgraced he had to give up his next Senate run to the retired and reviled Frank Lautenberg. Party’s got nothing to do with quality of the individual.

Washington D.C. is built on a swamp and not so surprisingly this has led to it being notable for attracting some of the worst vermin imaginable. Nothing new in that comparison. Nor is it likely new that the antiques have attempted to plant all the muck on one political party, in this case Republicans. It creates a picture that is disingenuous, though, that there is salvation only if we choose the OTHER of two political parties. That sound like a workable solution or something from a viable news source to you?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Last Week In Taxes

Last week saw the President signing the next in his series of minor-league attempts to reform the federal tax system. The keystone pieces of the legislation were a temporary continuation of the current rate of dividend and capital gains taxes through 2010 at 15% and at least another year break for those who’ve been paying the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax).

Publications like USA Today have called this in their editorial pages “irresponsible” and “dubious” to use their favorite descriptors. In some ways, they are right, and in some ways, as usual, they defend the status quo of New Deal/Great Society taxation. One could expect such publications to do little else.

Last Wednesday, for example, they spoke of “cuts” and “tax breaks” for the rich. This mantra is nothing new. We saw it last week on the evening news and echoed in a number of “centrist” newspapers. What perhaps is most bothersome about it is that they still try to sell such opinions as valid.

In small ways, I agree with them. The individual tax rate hasn’t seen any downward movement in five years. I’d remind them that under the previous Democratic president it didn’t see any downward movement at all. In fact, it trended upward. I don’t remember USA Today or any other major news organ of the antiques speaking on behalf of the great unwashed masses at the time, because they didn’t. To them, the individual rate should go up. Still, I agree with them that Bush not pushing Congress to reduce it further, especially on the middle class, is pathetic and terribly typical for Washington.

Another defense it and the Left continues to make is in favor of the AMT. The “soak the rich” tax, designed to get the few wealthy individuals eons ago who had enough money and lawyers to figure out how to pay nothing by exploiting the tax code, now gets over 15 Million families a year. That’s right. The AMT now soaks millions, reaching down into the middle class. Was it ever intended to do this? No. Is this a bizarre and sad mistake? Yes. The AMT was never designed to be indexed for inflation. Do most people in Washington want to do the decent thing, realize this was a Marxist ploy by Democrats way back when to punish the nomenklatura and delete this pathetic piece of legislation from the tax code? No. The most we can muster is a delay. It takes a Hearstian-sized pair on the part of USA Today to agree with that logic.

Even better, such measures as staving off the AMT for one more year and keeping down the dividends and capital gains tax, as noted, are argued against based on their “cost” to government. They don’t cost government anything. They cost you and me big time. Either in lost production, lost investment, or lost income they cost the American citizenry.

This is an important point and one you all should seriously consider. Government doesn’t create wealth. It doesn’t have some invisible river that it scoops free cash out of to spend on pet projects. All government can do is steal wealth from the citizenry and the private sector to sustain itself. By its very nature, it is parasitic. Some things and programs we want have to be paid for, so we feed the parasite. In some areas, it is benign. In others, it is as harmful as a legion of ticks.

We are told that repealing the AMT by the likes of Congressman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will cost us $611 billion over the course of a decade. He rightly points out that government shouldn’t even have that money to begin with, but he can’t help but try to offer a compromise so that government doesn’t “starve”. I like the Congressman, but he is symptomatic of the rest of Washington. They can agree that they harm us more than they should, but it’s for the good of government you see, so bite the leather belt and take the pain. You don’t even get a shot of whiskey in this case.

I’m not sure how we’re supposed to have serious tax reform in this country, be it choosing the Fair Tax or some other plan that will reduce the still-growing tax code. I am sure that the people most responsible for doing that, though, are not morally, ethically or even mentally prepared to make that change. Congress fights for the status quo, mostly because it is dominated by incumbents who agree with the status quo. New legislators in general would even carry this sort of thinking with them, because to get that deep in the establishment, you sort of have to believe.

Still, there are those working their way up who don’t believe things have to be as they are or that we have to compromise away their mistakes. You should all take hope that Neal Boortz’s Fair Tax book debuted at #3 on the NYT bestseller paperback list. That’s unheard of, and also shows just how many of the citizenry agree that something’s got to be done. They too are finding out that the people representing them are sadly not the ones who will or want to do it. Maybe that gives us a small glimmer of hope over a wholly depressing topic such as “tax reform”.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Putting A Face On The Issue

I've certainly seen my share of illegal immigrant stories in the news lately. The idea seems to be, put a face to the problem, and those who oppose giving illegals full citizenship in front of immigrants trying to get in legally will melt. Well, let's see if those same people have a heart where actual Americans are concerned. Take the example of rancher Ron White.

Ron White sees two kinds of illegal immigrants on his ranch south of town.

There are the dozens each day who simply pass through. They are a nuisance.

But others, White says, are a threat - like the group that tried to order him off his horse, or the smugglers who cut his fences every full moon.

White, 60, who has been confronted by large groups of immigrants, is convinced people are smuggling drugs across his land and has started wearing a pistol on his hip and carrying a rifle in a saddle scabbard when he rides his ranch, repairing the eight miles of fence cut at least monthly by someone he suspects is a drug smuggler.

White feels no animosity for most of those who enter the United States looking for work, though they litter his ranch with discarded clothing, backpacks and empty water jugs.
White moved to the ranch about 10 years ago.

"When I moved out here we'd get five to 10 (immigrants) a month," White said. "When they started talking about amnesty prior to the 2004 election it jumped to 50 to 100 a day."

Now, White said, "My wife and my grandchildren can't even leave the house and go out for a walk in the country and I can't even ride the fence line on my ranch without an arsenal."

White said he started packing weapons after being confronted several times by large groups over the past two years, and that some of them tried to order him off his horse. He refused, and rode away.
Before that, "I never carried a gun in my life," he said.

"I've never hurt anybody in my life, but, my God, we're scared to death."

White said every month, about the time of a full moon, someone leads a string of pack horses across his land, cutting fences on the north and south sides of the ranch.

White said he suspects the trespasser is a drug smuggler and that the cut fences cost him $15,000 to $20,000 a year in lost cattle.

White said he feels badly for the struggling migrants, some of whom have been victimized by border criminals.

"I've talked to some of them. They say they've been robbed by other illegals," White said.

Here's a man living on the border and living with the real effects of illegal immigration. Because someone wants illegals for "jobs Americans won't do" allegedly, White and others like him have to personally deal with this problem alone without much help from the government. Normally, I'm all for the government letting people solve their own problems, but border security is sort of a basic issue of sovereignty, and if you can't control your borders...well, we've discussed that before.

Here's a man who has sympathy for those coming across to work. He personally seems to be on the side of the "illegal immigrants rights" crowd that say "times are tough, ok, let 'em work". Which is fine. I used to be firmly in that camp, so I understand his feeling. But his life and livelihood are threatened by the criminal element also crossing the border. The only jobs they're here to do are supplying the drug trade and killing anyone who gets in their way. They've also been known to help smuggle other criminals back into the country and apparently even have help from the Mexican Army at times.

So, he packs a gun, something he likely never thought he'd have to do, just to protect his wife and grandchildren. And when he or they end up hurt or dead, who does he blame? Does he blame the criminal that crossed the border wantonly and hurt them? Or does he blame the government for so carelessly allowing the situation to get this bad?

Another thing I usually despise is moral relevancy. But in this case, I'd hold them both to be as guilty as the other and when such events occur, as they have been occurring already, their blood will be on the government's hands. I wish White lots of luck. He's going to need it and he has a better chance at this point of finding a four leaf clover on his ranch than of finding help from the Feds (and that includes the empty platitudes in the President's speech last night).

Hat tip to RightWingNews for the lead on the story.

Monday, May 15, 2006

“Fresh” Thoughts In The Star

The Indianapolis Star has a daily feature in its editorial section, one I quite enjoy, called Fresh Thoughts. In this section, it features citizen voices and their take on issues of the day, sort of an amateur editing staff or mini-blog. For Friday the 12th, the Star chose to focus on the younger mindset of high school and college age voices. Typically, I find that many of the youngsters are well-meaning and quite fervent about that which they are writing. Some, though, are expectedly a bit naïve and occasionally don’t take into consideration the whole story. Interesting biases play out as well.

Take for example a young lady’s piece on college enrollment and gender equality.

We’ve finally done it. Women now make up 56 percent of the college population 0 a percentage that continues to rise.

Quite a laudable goal, I would say. I’m all for getting any student who has the drive and capability to get to college enrolled and learning. An educated populace is not a panacea to the issues (almost everyone present at the meeting to determine implementation of Hitler’s Final Solution for the Jews was a lawyer), it is a good start. An education at least gives you the foundation on which to build reason. However, then she shows a bit of bigotry.

While yes, there should be a concern for equal numbers, college administrators must not center their focus on recruiting more men.

Why? What did the men do to warrant not being treated as equals? There was such a cry for “gender equality” and now that the scales tilt the other way, we’re told gender equality doesn’t matter? Oh, well, I suppose if women are more equal, that’s ok then. That sort of defines sexist bigot. So does her justification for the previous statement.

How can they forget that in the not-too-distant past far fewer women attended elite college at all and most elite colleges admitted only men?

Of course, she’s speaking about events that didn’t even likely occur in her lifetime, but hey, justification for bigotry seldom requires a modern event to back it up. Just look at the issue of slave reparations.

Her finale? Just more of the same.

While a discrepancy in college enrollment is never good, let’s for once focus on the positive. This phenomenon has generated greater independence and opportunities for women of all ages….We have earned it.

Well, right she is, actually. Women have earned the right to be educated without fearing discrimination. I’d hope we’ve seen some progress towards equality in that regard. How well and how capable one learns is not governed by one’s gender. However, if the trend continues for two years, five or ten, with women outnumbering men at universities, will she and those like her continue to tow the same line? Or will they admit that perhaps over-discriminating in favor of women might have caused and will continue to cause a new discrimination against men that then puts the sexism and gender discrimination on the other foot. Bigotry, it would seem, is never gender-biased.

Then there’s the university student who talks of Bush’s low poll numbers. You occasionally see someone eager to show off what they learned in class and that’s laudable. I remember feeling just as willing to share my new-found knowledge with others after Intro to American Politics and my interpretation of the day’s events.

In her case, she mentions the latest CBS/NY Times poll regarding Bush’s approval on a variety of issues.

31 percent approval rating of his job as president, 29 percent approval of the situation in Iraq, 28 percent approval of the economy, 27 percent approval of foreign policy, 26 percent approval of the issue of immigration and 13 percent approval on the issue of gas prices.

She finishes with a discussion of this being why U.S. citizens want a change and raps up by noting that although “no administration can fix decades worth of blunders” she seems to at least bear some hope that the Democrats might be uniters and “stand for progressive economic, foreign and immigration policies rather than criticize". I’m paraphrasing her, but that’s the gist of her argument.

First, let’s look at the approval numbers. Well, Bush is too stubborn to want to be a popular president. I don’t think he has a hoot in hell of making most of the people happy with him, although apparently they were happy enough to elect him in record numbers.

The Iraq situation is a war. I’m not sure how much clearer that can be made. As wars go, it’s gone pretty well. The U.S. position in Iraq isn’t much different than its position in post-WWII Germany or Japan. That’s fact, but when all you hear about is the latest road-side bombing or how much the war costs, well, I can see where one might be disheartened. War is never a pretty thing and always an expensive thing. The sad fact is, those who write and respond to these polls don’t always acknowledge or understand that.

28 percent approve of his handling of the economy? That’s either blindly or willfully ignoring the obvious or just pure ignorance. Another tax cut was just passed, keeping capital gains and dividends taxes down until 2010. The AMT has been held back another year or two, although it should have been repealed (so there’s a small negative). We have a 4.7% unemployment rate and have averaged the lowest unemployment in the last three decades (including the Booming ‘90’s) including the creation of almost two million jobs. So much for the “jobless recovery”, I suppose. Government just reported a budget surplus of $119 billion last month, the fourth largest in U.S. history. This will make our deficit for the year much lower (although it should be zero).

The Wall Street Journal noted that overall state revenues climbed by 8% in 2004 and nearly 9% in 2005, according to the Census Bureau, and more and more states are piling up big surpluses. Yeah, economy’s really sagging. Where exactly is the 28 percent coming from? Probably the only ones who actually had heard of those numbers.

27% on foreign policy I’m having trouble seeing. Exactly what are we supposed to be doing that we’re not? If we’re supposed to be looking out for American interests while attempting to remain friendly to our “allies” and strong and resolute to our enemies, where have we failed? Well, I suppose if you count the kowtowing we’ve done with China and Mexico, our foreign policy is lagging a bit. That we didn’t kowtow to Russian, German, and French national interests just shows we’re not completely suicidal. The problem with polling is that they never ask for specifics, not when it might fail to convey the message they’re wishing to manufacture (which is all polling is anyway). What about the foreign policy in this case are Americans concerned about?

This poll certainly won’t tell us.

Same goes for immigration. Which poll responders didn’t like the fact that we have an impotent government that won’t seal the borders and deal with illegal immigrants and which wanted to have fully open borders and embrace all illegals as new (Democrat) voters? Again, the poll is left wanting.

Lastly, 13% approval on gas prices shows that no matter who the President is, the American people will always assume he or she dictates the price of gas or has that power. It never ends. Clinton, Bush Sr. and I believe even Reagan (and I know Carter) took lumps for higher gas prices. Carter’s price controls, disastrous as they were, were the only thing of the most recent presidents that could be considered worthy of scorn or ridicule. Anything else past and current leaders have done, like open the Strategic Reserve, have been largely symbolic measures. Oil is a worldwide commodity and the desire for it is what drives up its and ultimately gasoline’s price. There’s no way around it, but at least in this way, the media and public are not Party-biased in smacking the President for something he really has no control over.

That she felt uncompelled to address any of the numbers and just take polling data as an apparent mandate for some future Democratic leadership goes a long way to show she really hasn’t thought the issues through very much. She certainly ignored all those rather salient criticisms of the numbers in favor of her argument. She could have reviewed any of the above points and tried to more thoroughly interpret the data, but that’s just not done when you’re young. You latch onto something like a pitbull and run with it. Come to think of it, that happens a lot when you’re older too.

Well, I say, keep the Fresh Thoughts coming, Indianapolis Star. You give us a strong insight into what the mindset of the average citizen, and especially the average student holds. Maybe that will allow a little inter-generation communication and perhaps some of us might even learn something in the process, but then again, I always was an optimist.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Candidate McCain

Senator John McCain (R?-AZ) has spent the last several months positioning himself as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2008. It's gone so far that pundits and media types are already cooing over a potential Clinton/McCain showdown for the Presidency. With that, we would be given a choice of bad and worse for the country.

George Will in his latest column discusses some of the more recent idiosyncracies of the man who would be the Republican nominee. The most famous of his recent comments is quoted in Will's column from his appearance on the Don Imus show.

"I work in Washington and I know that money corrupts. And I and a lot of other people were trying to stop that corruption. Obviously, from what we've been seeing lately, we didn't complete the job. But I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government.''

Well, it's good to see where his priorities are, although you might expect a bit more from someone who wants to "support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States".

McCain represents the Washington establishment at its most pure and its most base. He represents Arizona about as much as David Duke represents the Nation of Islam. His concern is for incumbent power, hence McCain-Feingold and his further attempts to expand its control. He is completely out of touch with mainstream America or even his own constituents. His preferred method of getting press is to bash fellow Republicans and then fake right when he receives any serious, public challenge. In short, he is the consumate Washington Insider.

It's not a wonder so many pundits want to see McCain face off against Hillary in '08. There's no way the Left can lose (so they think) with two such vacillating giants of politics. Scarily, the two of them have more in common than they might ever admit. One area for certain comes to mind. They would both choose candidates as elastic as silly puddy to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. One has no easy way of knowing which way such candidates may eventually rule, other than they will expand the judicial oligarchy already festering and growing in the federal government.

We've now had three successive presidents who've run a bit right, then eventually drifted left. Bush the Elder was a lackluster Kennebunkport liberal when he ran in the '80 primaries and proved eight years with Reagan couldn't change him. Clinton was a broken home poster boy who campaigned as an old South conservative Democrat and then quickly veered hard Left, only to be shoved back to the center by a newly arrived and unforgiving opposition party in Congress. Now Bush the Younger is equally shifting left. Scoring early points with conservatives in cutting taxes and a strong foreign policy, his complete failure to do anything about illegal immigration or energy issues and his strong desire to outspend his Texas cohort LBJ have shown that he's not much less liberal than his father on many issues.

Now, to compound that, we'll have a choice of more liberal or less liberal in the next election. With either McCain or Hillary you'll get a strong Washington Insider who gets played as a "maverick" or "strong individualist". You'll get more big government and guaranteed you'll see restrictions on any pesky freedoms that might get in the way of their agenda. You'll also get more appointed judges who believe as Candidates McCain and Clinton do that the Constitution is an outdated fossil, free for them to change and reinterpret at their leisure.

Both will be nanny presidents. They've already made it clear they know what's best for you, and require only your electoral mandate to prove it to you. When it's over, you'll be a little less free, the country will be a lot more in debt, socialism will have crept in a little further into our economy and our daily lives and America will be a faltering and weak contender in the foreign policy arena. W. Bush will leave and quite frankly no one will notice. His successor, be it a he or she, Republican (?) or Democrat (?) will govern further along the same lines to the point where with few exceptions (like foreign policy and the Courts) you won't be able to tell we've changed presidents.

In other words, and with only a few exceptions, FOUR MORE YEARS! FOUR MORE YEARS!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Global Sticker Shock

Seems a popular topic these days is to talk about who’s to blame for the cost of gas being so high. Americans rarely move on any issue more than when the cost to fill up their tank skyrockets, as it has done. This is certainly not the first time in the last two decades we’ve had gas spikes, but it’s the first time since the 80’s the media has had Republicans to lay the blame on.

Naturally Big Oil is also a time-tested boogeyman. Talk of windfall profits taxes and hearings on Capitol Hill are exceedingly prevalent these days. Never mind that profit on most gas is typically .09 a gallon for most oil companies. Never mind things like the huge tax on gas by state and federal government. The easiest thing to ignore is the world oil market. Big Oil’s to blame! We don’t need any other proof! To the gallows!

And thus you have what the Left sees as one potential avenue of strategy to win back Congress in November. And, because Americans really hate paying the high price for gas, they might be able to sway quite a few individuals. I mean, consider rhetoric like this.

"Pain at the pump: 70 percent of Americans say they're feeling the sting. Is Big Oil to blame? Should they do more to ease your pain?... [T]he estimates are that the six large U.S. companies will have a total of $135 billion in profits for the year 2006. Don't consumers have a right to be angry?... [I]isn't at some point enough, enough?... [I]s there any sacrifice that Big Oil can make? People, the public looks at this and says what's unreasonable about a windfall profits tax?"

Charlie Gibson at CBS.

Hat tip to the Federalist for that quote.

Charlie’s right, of course. Consumers have a right to be angry. So who will be our target? Should it be Big Oil? That seems so short-sighted. Maybe we should look elsewhere, beyond the smoke and mirrors of the antique media machine.

Well, there’s the small matter of the developing economies of China and India. Even though the U.S. is the chief purchaser of foreign oil, China and India are cutting into that market and want their fair share. Developing economies gobble up a lot of resources, none so much as oil. This might explain why oil is over $70 a barrel.

Then there’s the areas most oil comes from. The Middle East, long a powder keg that rested under a forced island of stability, the region has destabilized, and about time too. Stabilization brought dictators, oligarchs and theocracies with delusions of grandeur. Destabilizing the region may cure some of that, but one of the side effects will mean the oil supply is more precarious for a time, which also drives up prices.

Then there’s nations like Mexico and Venezuela, nations growing more and more hostile to the U.S. and its interests. Venezuela has a wonderfully socialist presidente for life (he hopes) and Mexico, well, they’d like about six of our states before they’ll consider being friendly with us (how unreasonable we are). Sad that our most stable supplier is Canada.

What to do? Well, we could start tapping our own reserves again and all the ones they’ve discovered in the last 30 years. There’s oil and natural gas on the continental shelf in the Atlantic, possibly in extreme abundance. Actually, there’s no possibly to it. It is abundant. Then there’s still untapped reserves in Alaska and in the shale deposits of the central mountain states. We have considerable supplies of domestic production. So why is that being sat on? Why no alternatives?

Must be those greedy Republ…wait a minute, there was that rather extensive environmental movement on the part of the Left that was championed by the Democrats and some liberal Republicans now that I think about it. I seem to recall, as recently as this year, calls for higher taxes on gas and more restrictions on where we could explore for oil. Hmm...

Wonder if they have anything to do with the high taxes and high cost of a gallon of gas. Could be. But I’d imagine it’s the last of the long line of possibilities outlined above that you’ll see anyone with a microphone and a network (and most cable) news show or a printing press. You’ll see the first one, the Big Oil in bed with Greedy Republicans (I should trademark that phrase, I could make a fortune off George Stephanopolous alone). They’re not going to mention all they did to stop oil exploration or stifle production, new refineries, alternative power (like nukes) and tapping new supplies like the Shelf. That might show you that they are just as culpable in this energy mess and that wouldn’t exactly help them win in November. You might consider it, though.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Man Who Would Be Shah?

The fall of Iran is a moment burned into my childhood. I remember watching the Iranian threats and the impotence of our government as American hostages were held who’d been kidnapped from the storming of our own embassy, what for all intents and purposes was U.S. soil. I kept asking my parents “Why doesn’t the Army save them?”

Well, I was admittedly very young, but the question was a legitimate one. More importantly, though, I should have asked why the President wasn’t trying to save them. Knowing what we do now of Carter and of history, we see he was too weak, vacillating, and ineffective to save them or to save Iran from a fundamentalist theocracy.

Iran has spent the last two and a half decades as a thorn in the side of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, but in a recent interview with Human Events Online, Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former Shah, details how he thinks the theocracy may not be long for this world and also how he has been, until now, quietly playing a part in that.

In this interview, Pahlavi outlines how it is possible, given the current climate in Iran to turn the tide and possibly free Iran from the fundamentalist theocracy that has shackled it for all these years. As I read the piece, I was reminded of words and speeches I’d heard attributed to the late Shah. Reza is truly his father’s son, and as I believe his father did, wants the best for Iran and wants it to thrive in the global community rather than remain isolated and hostile towards it. Honestly, I see him and his ideas as one of the only hopes Iran has of making it through the next few turbulent years and possibly one of the primary hopes of the U.S. in helping to stabilize and mitigate Iran before military action, which may not work for any of us, becomes inevitable.

Take these excerpts as an example:

On Israel

Since when has Israel been a threat to anyone? Israel just wants to be left alone and live in peace side by side with its neighbors. As far as I’m concerned, Israel never had any ambition to territorially go and invade, I don’t know, Spain or Morocco or anywhere else. And let me tell something else about Iran: Unlike the rest of the Islamic or Arab world, the relationship between Persia and the Jews goes back to the days of Cyrus the Great. We take pride as Iranians of having a history where Cyrus was the most quoted figure in the Torah, as a liberator of Jewish slaves, who went to Babylon and gave them true freedom for them to worship and in fact helped them build a temple. We have a biblical relation with Jews, and we have no problem with modern day Israel.

Imagine any other Muslim ruler saying that today. Pahlavi’s sentiment is one that’s quite absent and yet long overdue in that part of the world. This is one of those times that I’d actually dare to hope he was serious and not just spouting political rhetoric.

On The Current Iranian Regime

The whole regime, in its entirety, is hostile and antagonistic to what we understand in the free world as being our definition of human rights and individual freedoms. This regime is dedicated to implement a viewpoint which is the most extreme interpretation of religion and God’s law on Earth, anywhere around the globe, starting with itself, the region and beyond. If tomorrow they can do it in Washington, they will do it. Or anywhere else. They don’t see eye to eye with you. This is a regime that is dedicated to that.

Understand one thing: The basic powerbase of this regime is the Revolutionary Guards, at the end of the day.

On His Relevance To The Cause

Look, I think I can be effective, and the reason I have stayed behind until now was because I wanted to exhaust every avenue of possibility so that the opposition can gather itself and collectively work on a common agenda. Within the next two or three months, we’ll know if the result of two or three years of intense effort is going to pay off.

Does Pahlavi have a personal interest in seeing things change in Iraq? Oh most definitely he does. Do I think he’s sincere? Well, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Right now, Iran is a powder keg that doesn’t have to be, that didn’t have to be. It’s people are much like the Russians were ten years ago, trying desperately to find a way out of the mess they are buried under without getting bombed back into the Stone Age. No one wants war. We want some kind of solution, but there are damned few leaders who’ve stepped forward to offer anything positive.

China and Russia are quite content to deal with the Iranian theocracy because it serves their interests and they don’t feel any reason to denounce the actions of their new ally. In allying themselves with the totalitarian government of Iran, they have also squared off against the U.S. in a proxy fight, almost reminiscent of events in the Cold War. If the U.S. must attack Iran, we know it's an irrefutable scientific fact that it will make the region worse. If we don’t attack them and they continue to grow their nuclear program until they can threaten Europe, Israel, and the U.S., it will make the region worse.

Pahlavi’s potential, his “other alternative”, is likely the best option to come down the pike in all this. Let’s hope he’s on the level and let’s hope the Iranian people agree with him, otherwise, the Long War will continue to live up to its name.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ridiculing Laffer

There is no more amusing form of liberal than a liberal economist (except perhaps one that wears a Che shirt). Case in point, Charles Wheelan provides us with a real hoot of a piece regarding the Laffer curve theory.
In his article, Wheelan doesn’t seem to wish to argue whether or not spending cuts are important, useful, good or bad. In this instance, his argument is with the basic premise of the Laffer Curve that beyond a certain point, it is worthwhile to expect you can increase revenues if you cut the tax rate. Notice, if you will, that this refers to a Curve and not a linear progression or anything of that nature. Now, I had only the requisite year in Econ in high school like everyone else, but I did take trigonometry and especially liked working with parabolic arcs and the like. They look and act quite differently than a straight line.

We know that if you regulate and tax the economy, you will reap a certain amount of dollars from that, but as regulation and taxation becomes more onerous, industry can no longer absorb the burden and thus becomes less efficient as it has less capital to work with. If you back off the tax rate, the Laffer principle goes, you could reach a point of greater returns because business has more capital to build the economy and thus is more productive. Obviously, being a curve, there’ll be a point where if you back off any further, enough revenue is lost that even large gains in the economy will not make up for the shortfall. Where that number lies is a bit of a crap shoot, economically speaking. How much of a tax rate is too much? Well, back it off a little and let’s see.

After Bush’s tax cuts, just as with Reagan’s, we saw an increase in revenue into the federal coffers from the increasing economy. That shows we’re on the leeward of the Laffer Curve and that the rate could likely be backed up even more. However, Wheelan doesn’t see it that way. He sees only his theoretical when there is a practical already in place.

...Think about a simple numerical example: Assume you've got a $10 trillion economy and an average tax rate of 30 percent. So the government takes $3 trillion.

Let's cut the average tax rate to 25 percent and, for the sake of example, assume that it generates $1 trillion in new economic growth (a Herculean assumption, by the way). So now, what does Uncle Sam get? One quarter of $11 trillion is only $2.75 trillion. The economy grows, government revenues shrink.

He then goes on to speak, incorrectly, of reduced revenues after both cuts. I’m not sure where he got his numbers, because anyone actually looking at the data sees there was a reported revenue increase. Is the Treasury lying and does only Wheelan has the facts? Not likely. The reality, it seems, is that it has happened, but again, why deal with reality?

Lastly, and you really have to savor this one, he produces an interesting paragraph that’s supposed to put the kibosh on the whole theory.

"In fact, you can disregard every other argument in this column and think about one thing: If Laffer were right, lower taxes would never require any spending sacrifice. We could pay a mere one percent of our income in taxes and still fund all of our government spending -- and maybe more! Do you think that's really possible?"

Remember the whole curve idea we talked about? Such a low percent would fall on the windward side of the curve and thus, would represent likely a big drop in revenue, but again can we trouble such a noted economist not to know the difference between a flat line and a curve? Don’t bother such noted intellectuals with the facts. Their theories should be good enough for you and if they say they don’t work, well, who are we to argue?

I would tack on the small extra that I’d appreciate the lower spending to go right alongside lower tax rates, but that’s off-subject. What is noteworthy is how you get to see theory fail in the face of reality and still be defended. To such individuals, this is not so much political theory, but a religion in its own right. The true liberal economist, not that far from the true Marxist or communist or neo-whatever they’re calling themselves this year, does not live on bread alone, but the unwavering belief that if their ideas are implemented fully, there will be no need for facts or competing theory or reality for that matter. Faith sustains, doesn’t it?

Monday, May 08, 2006

At Least They're Honest

Say what you want about Leftists in places like Seattle. At least they come out and tell you they want to infringe your liberty. It's got to be all the caffeine. Cathy Sorbo laments a series of rambling problems, from recent foiled potential school shootings to what life was like when she was a kid. Because she never really makes a point, she never really has a case, but I like to review such rants as they appear and dissect them like the curious little organisms they are. Take the following for example.

Gun violence and gun control issues can quickly divide communities. Gun advocates everywhere will tout their right to bear arms while others would prefer the right to live in a society without people packing weapons down the backs of their pants.

Although it's difficult to isolate her arguments, this paragraph gives you a clue of the typical thought of the large segment of the Left that, despite not wanting to bring it up to the general public, still strongly believes in dismantling Second Amendment rights. As I noted, at least Ms. Sorbo is a bit more direct. the last sentence about packing weapons in our pants shows she views this as one of the fundamental reasons that society has broken down. Where does she think society's breaking down? Well, that sort of falls later in her piece.

It's quite clear that kids are becoming increasingly more fragile over time.

They must be heavily conflicted and frightened by the never-ending wars, bombs, famine, deceit and mistrust in world leaders, expanding poverty and the WASL test.

Mustn't forget to mention deadly influenzas, AIDS, cancers galore and flesh-eating disease: Stub a toe, lose a leg and then die anyway. Who wants to continue in that world?
"Is bird flu in your backyard? Find out at 11."

Throw a dysfunctional home life and a couple of firearms into the mix and you have a kid on the edge.

Of course, from this you're led to believe that kids these days have so much more pressure on them than any previous generation. Having grown up hearing the same things about our generation and the ones before us, I can say fairly definitively that she isn't much of a historian. Kids have always had to worry about a lot in their lives. Kids a couple hundred years ago had to worry about dieing from all sorts of illnesses and societal failures. They still do. It didn't cause them to take paw's rifle and go shoot up the town school. That's immaterial to an argument like Ms. Sorbo's, though. If you start injecting reality into the debate, then it might hurt her argument. Kids were also around firearms when, not too many decades ago, they were carrying them to school to shoot in a rifle club or down the street to go plinking in a nearby woods. If guns were banned tomorrow, as she fantasizes (in addition to being Jude Law's nanny), there would still be disease, stress, social pressure, violent video games and TV, drugs and broken families.

It sort of makes bringing up all these issues around the issues of "boy I wish guns were banned" a little useless in terms of a real argument, and Ms. Sorbo mostly ends up wasting valuable column space. But just when you think all is lost, she brings up the "when I was a kid" argument about why guns are bad, at least I think that's what she's saying.

When I lived in the University District circa 1998-99, there was quite the upsurge of drug dealing. The escalation of such activity was a deciding factor in our move out of the neighborhood. On the very day we moved out there was a dealer sitting on a retaining wall while customers actually lined up while waiting to purchase their tiny plastic baggy of goods. I wouldn't be surprised if those bold and enterprising drug dealers later ended up with their own table at the farmers market.

There were never any incidents with gunfire, but it seemed imminent, just a matter of time. We got the heck out of there.

So, guns never really were a factor in her growing up, although drugs seem to be a big factor, but it's the guns that need banning. That will stop the drug dealers, right? I wonder if she honestly believes this. How could anyone with a lick of common sense? Or does she just think that banning guns will make drug dealers give up guns? She should check with England. They tried that and their gun crime is at an all time high, as is their drug crime. Not much of a current events person either, is she?

Perhaps, if she hadn't in such a roundabout way tried to connect all these horrible things to the availability of guns, she might have had a decent piece on trying to improve the environment kids are growing up in, but that effort is lost in her slightly overriding hatred for firearms.

Public school students do not have that option. Instead they have school dress and behavior codes prohibiting open-toed shoes as well as assault rifles.

I hope these kids can enjoy a relatively violence-free end to their school year, and hope they can find Kevlar prom wear.

Well, assault rifles are THE accessory to have at prom this year, I hear. Where's she getting her information from, bad '80's movies? She managed to cover most of the major boogeymen kids have to deal with these days, with a few ommissions.

Kids have to deal with drugs, peer pressure, poor or no family environments, social indoctrination at public school, violence on TV and in video games and the simple fact of hormones turning every teenager into their own individual soap star. But why have a discussion about that? Why focus on how to fix or even how to address these problems, when all you have to do is ban guns? Ms. Sorbo, your story is Pulitzer Prize material if I ever saw it.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Enter The Fairness Doctrine

It could be that many don’t remember just how horrible the little piece of legislation known as the Fairness Doctrine really was. Democrats seem to be counting on that for the 2006 elections as they hope to win back Congress and from the latest drumbeating seem ready to reinstate it.

To give you a little history, The Fairness Doctrine began as a weapon to silence political opponents by claiming that the public airwaves required “equal time” be given to all opposing points of view. It was haphazardly enforced, mostly when someone without power was saying something on the air that offended someone with power. In other times, that might be called stifling of free speech. Liberals just call it fair.

In the 1980’s the Reagan administration killed the inappropriately named Act as an embarrassment to free speech rights in this country. See, the trick wasn’t that they didn’t want everyone to have their say. On the contrary, they wanted everyone and their grandfather to have their say. But “equal time” wasn’t being given. Radio stations and then TV stations it turned out were businesses and sought to make a profit as many businesses do. They discovered that if they had to air equal amounts of opposing political commentary, their listeners might tune out for a whole side of the debate due to unpopularity or just due to the tastes of the listener. This cost the stations advertisers and thus political programming proved to be more trouble than it was worth.

Public service messages were reduced from political discussions to PSA’s like “Don’t drown your food” and “Conjunction Junction”. Not that there was anything wrong with Conjunction Junction, mind you. True political discussion seemed allowed only on NPR. The discussions there were (and are) left-centered usually and when “counterpoints” were offered, it was usually by other liberals; so much for that being fair.

By ridding the airwaves of the Fairness Doctrine, the marketplace was again able to dictate which ideas were popular among listeners and which weren’t. Starting with Rush Limbaugh, a whole waive of liberal and conservative commentators took to the air to express their points of view, much as bloggers are doing now. The market shook them out pretty heavily. In general, conservatives edged out liberals in the radio markets. Many hosts just plain failed. Some liberal hosts survived, but in fairly small numbers of markets. Even the much vaunted “Air America” barely registers on the Aribitron readings in some of its cities, if at all.

This may not provide all points of view, but it also lets whoever has the money and air time exercise their right to free speech and share their own take on the political scene. Given that radio is not the only medium and that liberals still have the Big Three Networks, NPR, Air America, CNN, MSNBC and occasionally even Fox News to inform them, I don’t consider there to be a shortage of left-wing thought making it out to the American public.

Regulating speech, whether through McCain-Feingold or the Fairness Doctrine or some horrible future revision of either does not follow the principles of the Founding Fathers and does not retain for us the freedom endowed to us by our Creator. It’s a control mechanism designed to stifle thought and inhibit the spread of ideas. THAT is Orwellian and I take back that word from the hackneyed cliché it’s become over the years to describe anything the Left doesn’t like coming out of the current administration.

Is deciding who gets to speak fair? Is deciding which opinion gets air time and which doesn’t fair? Is it a sign of freedom or fascism? What Doctrine shall we file that under? How about the round file, where it belongs. Attempts to stifle free speech, especially if the Democrats do win back the Congress, will be varied and just as absurd. That’s an important thing to keep in mind when you go to the polls this November.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

May Day Parade

May 1st here in the U.S. saw a time-honored tradition that’s not practiced even in the country where it used to be most celebrated. The annual Worker’s Parade or May Day Parade was a major event in major cities across the country this year. The biggest difference was, in addition to the normal “Workers of the World Unite” claptrap, the Far Left has managed to tag on immigrant rights as its newest banner.

Providing a pretty fusion of worker’s rights and racism, the latest craze among the Far Left of “immigration reform” consists of the attempt to break down the sovereignty of the United States while winning money and converts to the cause of such groups as International ANSWER and its parent group the World Worker’s Party. It goes without saying that such groups have never forgiven the U.S. under Reagan for tarring and feathering the old Soviet Union. They have spent the years since the collapse of that old cesspool of evil and corruption acting like little pygmies throwing darts at the mammoth of the U.S. (forgive the borrowing of Bill Hicks imagery for that one) in the hopes of felling it.

This particular poison barb, the attempt by illegals to stop work and not spend any money (amusingly enough the ANSWER people at the protests were trying to get them to donate that money to their “cause”) to show their true “power” over the U.S. economy has generated a lot of newspaper ink and editorials praising the act. It’s also gotten a fair share of opinion pieces calling the demonstration what it is, moronic. Define irony. A bunch of people who enter a country illegally demanding that that country grant them all the privileges and rights of full citizenship…or ELSE. As the saying goes, only in America.

In no other nation in the world would such a display be tolerated or in some circles encouraged. We are truly a unique land to tolerate such arrogance. Memo to the protestors though, and I know others have said this. If you want people to sympathize with your cause and echo your demand for rights, try not to wave the flags of foreign nations and anti-American banners during your protests. You get a lot more flies with honey than with Marxist rhetoric.

This perhaps was my largest source of amusement. Not only were they demanding rights, some of them were demanding land, in the form of several states. And others were demanding that the Yanquis in true ugly American form “go back where we came from”. Who says they’re not assimilating? Juevos grandes, amigos. Truly.

So, let’s break it down for the illegals crowd. You do not deserve rights. You entered as a criminal. You’re working as a criminal. You’re flaunting that you’re a lawbreaker…like some criminals! You deserve to go back to your home country and apply for citizenship to the U.S. the correct way like everyone else. Meanwhile, we’ll try to correct the mistakes and inefficiencies of our immigration policy, including those foisted on us by Teddy Kennedy in ’65.

When you come back, the Star Spangled Banner will be sung in English and there will be no bilingual service in the License Branch or at the ATM. English is the language of the United States. Get used to it. Millions of immigrants (including most of my ancestors) spoke other languages when they came here and they learned English. They adopted American culture and joined our Great Melting Pot (a phrase not used often enough anymore). You’re no better than them. You are not special. You’re just spoiled by an overindulgent and very active Leftist establishment in this country. Time you went to the wood shed, took your whoopin’ and came back to the U.S. in good time to become productive and LEGAL citizens of our nation. When that day comes, I’ll be there with the parade.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Couldn’t Find Louisiana With Two Hands And A Map

One of my favorite, and yet most frustrating areas of concern with the citizenry is their lack of basic knowledge. Usually, my concern is the lack of historical awareness among the population. Going back to my high school days, though, has also been a pet peeve of mine regarding geographical awareness.

Studies going back for the past few decades have shown embarrassingly poor performance on the part of students in locating even the closest neighbors to the U.S., or our nation itself. These studies highlight to me a true dumbing down of the student body as other priorities displace such trivial concerns. My pet theory in this regard is that although we were in a downward trend, the creation, funding and intervention in local schools by the U.S. Department of Education in the 1970’s accelerated it to bullet train-like speed.

A recent AP story notes that a Roper Poll commissioned by National Geographic in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina coverage to determine if it had improved students’ awareness of where they were in the world. The most amusing or saddening numbers depending on how you look at it include:

One third of students couldn’t find Louisiana on a map.
48% could not find Mississippi (wonder how many could spell it)
60% could not find Iraq
47% could not find the Indian Subcontinent
75% had no idea where Israel was on a map of the Middle East
60% did not know the DMZ between North and South Korea is the most heavily fortified border in the world. 30% thought it was the U.S.-Mexico border (won’t that be a surprise to the thousands of illegals that cross daily!)

Naturally the article includes clarion calls for programs that will emphasize geography and energize schools and communities to learn the wonders of a map. I’m sure these campaigns will cost taxpayers nothing. Of course, several organizations are participating in this campaign and some might say that they will absorb the cost, but I would remind them that there’s a good chance many will use government grants to accomplish the task.

I see the National Council of La Raza is involved. Well, perhaps they’re just trying to clarify which of the U.S. states they want Mexico to have back (sorry, cheap shot).

Those things aside, including the tragic comedy that is the desire and ability of the modern student or worse young adult to exercise such basic geographic knowledge, it might help to look upon why schools neglect such teaching. Of course, I’m just pontificating here, but a good start might be if students actually got to deal with real knowledge instead of ridiculous feel-good programs. Multicultural awareness, sex education for grade-schoolers, and lengthy diatribes about the teacher’s political leanings could probably be set aside to find the minutest amount of time to discuss such mundane facts as the location of, say, China.

After all, if we’re going to be fighting them one day, we should know where they are. Perhaps while we’re educating 18 to 24 year olds on where Iraq is, we might also point out that it is just to the west of Iran or Persia (kind of like the old line, corn or as the Natives call it, maize…). Again, should we have to drop nuclear weapons on Iran after it lights up Europe or Israel, it’d be good to know for the students exactly where we have to target. Don’t want to have to wait until those missile techs in the Air Force get trained on how to use it to get a crash remedial course in target location.

We could even try cross-promoting with the Marxists and put pictures of Cuba on Che shirts. Maybe we could start a trend, putting North Korea’s outline on shirts of lil’ Kim (and I don’t mean the singer) or put a picture of India on all the shirts protesting out-sourcing. It’s crude, but I think it just might work.

And to top it all off, if you’re going to protest and you’re going to call Americans Imperialist aggressors, do us the small favor of knowing the location and perhaps some general knowledge about the area of the world you’re protesting about. And try not to get it from the latest episode of the West Wing (now cancelled) or Law & Order (any of them). They don’t always use real country names anyway (important safety tip).

It’s often said, the solution starts at home, so parents if you’re reading this please expose your kids to that quaint little invention called a globe. An atlas (modern or historical) might be another novel diversion for your little info sponge. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt if you refreshed your memory on the current political borders as well. After all, things change but none so much or as often as borders.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Primary Election Day!

Today is Primary Election Day, a day when less than 20% of the eligible voters of the state of Indiana have turned out to cast their ballots. It is a shame that Indiana citizens, like the citizens of most states, have been conned into subsidizing party candidate selection. Were you aware of that?

If you've followed my good friend Mike Kole's web site, you certainly are. He's made it a cornerstone issue of his campaign to run for Indiana Secretary of State. As he's pointed out in his radio commercial, Libertarians don't make the taxpayers pay for their candidate selection. The Libertarian Party is nice that way, but this isn't a campaign ad for Mike (well, it's a small one).

If this were all that occurred at that time, we could feel free to ignore this day if we had no vested interest in party politics. Unfortunately, the political machine in Indiana has tied important school board elections to the Primaries race. That should be noteworthy to you for two reasons. One, you can go to the polls and without voting in the party primaries request a school board ballot. This will allow you to help decide the future of your schools. It will also allow you a say in the decision by some candidates who vocally propose raising property taxes (in an era where property tax is soaring through most of our roofs) to help fund new school initiatives. For that, at the very least you should be there to voice your opinion.

The second item of note is tied to the first. Historically, turnout has gone from bad to worse for these days. Thus, school boards have become more draconian and less representative of the parents they supposedy represent and party candidate selection has turned into a rubber stamp for the majority of incumbents (being that currently all our statewide incumbents are Republican and Democrat and subject to the Primaries).

These people feel no heat on them to form their issues to truly represent their constituency because they have come to realize they do not need their constiuency to stay in power. They only have to please the diehard political machine cogs to keep the grease running and get them nominated. Once in, given that districts in most states are so gerrymandered there is no hope of a challenging party breaking in, the elected official can feel free to carry on with his or her incumbent duties and catering to special interests because, well, you proved ineffective at changing his or her mind at the polls.

The failure to teach these incumbents ultimately lies with all of us. Because we have abandoned our civic duty to vote and because life often doesn't provide us the luxury of monitoring our politicians every waking moment, we have forfeited our say, largely, in the running of the Republic. An important thing for you to do, then, as citizens of the United States, is to vote this primary season. Make the effort and learn for at least a day what your candidates have done in the past or what the new ones stand for. If they're good people, vote to keep them. If they're scumbags, send them packing and you can still vote for your preferred party if it's one of the big Two. That's your Constitutional duty today. Exercise it.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Go Nuclear Takes On A Whole New Meaning

Much ado has been made of Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore’s comments on “Earth Day” last week. Most of it, though, seems to be coming from the right side of the blogosphere. I suppose it only makes sense as it might be a bit embarrassing to note such a dramatic change in the beliefs of a liberal icon. For those who haven’t heard, below are Mr. Moore’s controversial comments.

"In the early 1970s when I helped found Greenpeace, I believed that nuclear energy was synonymous with nuclear holocaust, as did most of my compatriots... Thirty years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change... The 600-plus coal-fired plants emit nearly two billion tons of CO2 annually—the equivalent of the exhaust from about 300-million automobiles. In addition, the Clean Air Council reports that coal plants are responsible for 64 percent of sulfur-dioxide emissions, 26 percent of nitrous oxides and 33 percent of mercury emissions. These pollutants are eroding the health of our environment, producing acid rain, smog, respiratory illness and mercury contamination. Meanwhile, the 103 nuclear plants operating in the United States effectively avoid the release of 700 million tons of CO2 emissions annually—the equivalent of the exhaust from more than 100-million automobiles. Imagine if the ratio of coal to nuclear were reversed so that only 20 percent of our electricity were generated from coal and 60 percent from nuclear. This would go a long way toward cleaning the air and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Every responsible environmentalist should support a move in that direction."

Courtesy of the Federalist

Fission nuclear power has long been a boogeyman of the Left. Three Mile Island looms as possibly one of the most overblown industrial accidents in the history of industry. Chernobyl, although a genuine disaster, happened in the Soviet Union using a reactor type deemed wholly insufficient for use in the U.S. These along with the proven destructiveness of nuclear weapons (although lumping the two together is like comparing an oil-fired electric plant to a napalm bomb, somewhat different uses) were used by environmental and anti-U.S. groups to convince the American public that nuclear power was a demon to be played with only sparingly or not at all. The paucity of nuclear plant construction since the 70’s shows just how effective they and the antique media were in that regard.

In my own state, the public utility tried to build a nuclear plant to relieve perceived future pressures on our coal reserves. It was an amazingly insightful move for a public utility. Protests from a whole house full of Leftist groups not only killed the project halfway into construction, but bankrupted the utility which then had to be sold to a private concern. Now, those who are served by that utility pay far more for energy than they would’ve had to with a nuclear plant. At the time, I was just a little boy and easily bought into the fear mongering and propaganda used to destroy the project. Hindsight has allowed me to see the demagoguery for what it was and saddens me, because nuclear energy could have alleviated a lot of our modern problems.

Even if 100 new plants began construction today, it would take years for their effects to be felt and in a nation where energy production has stagnated for almost three decades, getting even one new plant green-lighted seems a staggering proposal. I feel saddened by this because not just my generation, but my daughter’s generation is going to pay for the arrogance and short-sightedness of the Left, something at the time they accused everyone else of. Higher energy prices already consume a significant part of our family budget, worse in the winter.

Combine that with the high cost of fuel for someone like me who has no choice but to endure a long commute to work, and I count myself among those who can legitimately haul off and punch the protesters who killed that nuke plant 20+ years ago square in the mouth. Thanks for the high energy cost in an era when it could have been avoided. That sort of thinking has caused significant damage to primarily, the little guy, the very person supposedly championed by all these leftist for-profit groups like Sierra Club (and yes, It’s FOR-profit now).

So. Bravo to Mr. Moore on his comments in favor of nuclear energy plants. While I consider him still to be an alarmist on the global warming issue, now affectionately bullet pointed as “climate change” since they can’t narrow down exactly what Earth wants to do year to year, he at least has decided to grow up and join the common sense understanding that nuclear power sits as one of the most heavily regulated entities in energy production and that it works. If it can be seen as an effort businesses can invest and succeed in as an alternative to fossil fuels, we may see companies return to the industry and expand. More energy from nuclear power will mean less dependence on fossil fuels and consequently less vulnerability to the U.S. economy.

It will also lead to more development in refining the technology related to nuclear power plants and might even eventually lead to the development of more efficient nuclear power like fusion energy. This is one area where a small victory can be gained over our dependence on foreign sources of energy. It will take people on the Left like Moore to join with existing proponents to finally break the three decade stalemate on the U.S. energy policy and take a step towards making life a little easier for the average American.