Monday, August 28, 2006

A Good History Lesson

I don't often post so much of another's work, but this really is an excellent piece on historical or fundamentalist Islam and its relationship to fascism. The Federalist usually has the ability to compile some quality pieces such as this, and it's worth sharing. So Enjoy.

Will the real Islam please stand up?

Responding to breaking news of the thwarted attacks against a dozen commercial flights from Great Britain to the United States earlier this month, President Bush did the unthinkable: He described the would-be killers in accurate terms.

On that Thursday, 10 August, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the President opened his remarks to the gathered crowd with these soon-to-be famous words: “The recent arrests that our fellow citizens are now learning about are a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation.”

Key words: “Islamic fascists.”

Nearly five years since September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush has finally dropped his politically correct gloves and called the enemy of the West by the descriptor it deserves. This enemy is exclusively Muslim, and it has a modus operandi and worldview consistent with other forms of fascism.

Predictably, America’s Islamic lobby was quick to object. “We have to isolate these individuals because there is nothing in the Koran or the Islamic faith that encourages people to be cruel or to be vicious or to be criminal,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Muslims worldwide know that for sure.”

For sure?

In a recent article in Jurist, Ali Khan of the Washburn University School of Law echoed Awad. “It is becoming fashionable for elected officials in the Anglo-American world, notably in the United States and the United Kingdom, to employ abusive language involving Islam,” he wrote. “Phrases such as ‘Islamic terrorism,’ ‘totalitarian Islam,’ ‘crimes of Islam,’ and ‘Islamic fascism’ are freely used, with sadist disrespect, to condemn real and imagined terrorists who practice the faith of Islam.”

Is it possible, then, that by equating the doctrine and practice of Islam with the acts of a radicalized few, President Bush is blurring these lines?

Not according to Daniel Pipes, historian of Islam and director of the Middle East Forum. The President, he says, is “identifying not Islam the religion, but a radical form of Islam.” Indeed, how many times have we heard presidential speeches laced with language about the “religion of peace” and our commonality as “people of the book”? Such language allows Awad and Khan to take comfort in the knowledge that Islam is good, but that terrorism—which doesn’t in any way represent Islam—is bad.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s recent address to the U.S. Congress certainly reflected the President’s heretofore clear distinction between terrorism and Islam. In that speech, the prime minister spoke of the war in Iraq as “a battle between true Islam, for which a person’s liberty and rights constitute essential cornerstones, and terrorism, which wraps itself in a fake Islamic cloak; in reality, wages a war on Islam and Muslims and values, and spreads hatred between humanity. Wherever human kind suffers a loss at the hands of terrorists, it is a loss of all humanity.”

So, is our fight against terrorism or against Islamic fascism? To wit, is Islam peaceful, or intrinsically fascist?
The answers couldn’t be clearer. Terrorism is not an enemy; it’s a tactic. Muslim examples aside, terrorist tactics have been adopted by groups as varied as Northern Ireland’s IRA, Colombia’s FARC, the Shining Path of Peru, West Germany’s Baader-Meinhof Gang, Italy’s Brigate Rosse, Spain’s Basque ETA, and our homegrown Symbionese Liberation Army. Mostly separatists and leftists, none of these groups viewed terrorism as an end in itself, but as a means to another, political end.

Unlike terrorism, Islam is an ideology bent on territorial expansion and political domination. These traits, along with iron-fisted socioeconomic controls, are the essential characteristics of fascism. When this expansion requires violence, Islam turns to jihad, and within the context of jihad, terrorism is an acceptable tactic. According to Pipes, “Islam is a political religion in a way that none other is. There are many elements within the religion and the history of Islam that suggest there is a dynamic of conquest.” Pipes continues, “There is something inherently expansionist about Islam. Jihad is expansionist warfare.”

Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, coined the term “Islamofascism,” and he compares it other forms of fascism: “Islamofascism similarly pursues its aims through the willful, arbitrary, and gratuitous disruption of global society, either by terrorist conspiracies or by violation of peace between states. Al-Qaeda has recourse to the former weapon; Hezbollah, in assaulting northern Israel, used the latter. These are not acts of protest, but calculated strategies for political advantage through undiluted violence.” Schwartz continues, “Fascism was totalitarian; i.e. it fostered a totalistic world view—a distinct social reality that separated its followers from normal society. Islamofascism parallels fascism by imposing a strict division between Muslims and alleged unbelievers.”

When we look to the deserts of the Middle East at the founding of Islam in the early 7th century, such a picture is clear. At that time, increased trade across western Arabia created unprecedented wealth, resulting in the rise of new urban centers that directly challenged traditional tribal structures and loyalties. These urban centers quickly came to represent a different set of interests from the tribal communities, and a period of internecine conflict and social upheaval ensued.

In this context, the prophet Mohammed offered an alternative: the oma, the community professing the exclusive divinity of Allah, the moon god of polytheistic Arabia, and Mohammed as Allah’s prophetic voice. In creating the oma, Mohammed and his followers forged an inextricable merger of politics and religion. To this day, there has never been a separation—a “Reformation” —in Islam. This is due to the very nature of the oma, which must not only be defended militarily, politically and economically—but also expanded. Mohammed’s efforts to reconstitute the basis of authority and organization in Arabia—from polytheism to a political monotheism, from cities and tribes to the oma—made Islam’s expansionism a certainty.

Like other forms of fascism, Islam’s expansionist impulse would involve violence, subjugation to the state, and conformity to the ideology of the system. As Mohammed writes in the Koran, “Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection (Surah 009.029).” Further, Al Bukhari records Mohammed as saying: “I have been ordered to fight with the people till they say, ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah’.”

If this is what Islam is all about—fascist expansionism and totalitarianism—where do moderate or liberal Muslims come from? In short, they come from the same place that liberal Christians and Jews come from. Confronted by the 18th century Enlightenment and its heir, modernism, all religious expressions have found themselves influenced by the ideas and ideals of secular humanism. As Muslims integrated with the West and the West came into increased contact with the Muslim East, Islam experienced the same synthesis. Consequently, liberal Christians, Muslims, Jews and atheists, all under the influence of modernism, confess the same essential creed: The intrinsic equality of human beings, a basic commitment to man’s reason, the supremacy of the individual, and man’s innate goodness in the state of nature. Thus, like liberal Christianity or Judaism, liberal Islam isn’t Islam at all; it’s an entirely different religion.

In the end, any realistic assessment of Islam must accept “fascism” as a term that is far more descriptive than pejorative. In his remarks on the hurtful nature of the term, Professor Khan said that if anyone is “using the label in this broad sense, and thus accusing Islam and not merely the militants, they should say so.”

Well, we’re saying so.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Global Warming Kicked Your Dog And Mugged Your Nana

It's getting to the point where there's just about nothing that global warming can't do or can't be blamed for. A new report on glaciers in Pakistan by the BBC shows that growing glaciers, glaciers that are advancing, must also be the result of global warming!

Researchers at Newcastle University looked at temperature trends in the western Himalaya over the past century.

They found warmer winters and cooler summers, combined with more snow and rainfall, could be causing some mountain glaciers to increase in size.

One shudders at the implication. If global warming can make glaciers grow as well as recede, why, it can do anything? But then again, so can any false god you wish to worship. Global warming as a policy point for the left has transformed into a religious exercise, one fueled by a mix of ignorance, lack of understanding and in some cases plain, unadulterated greed. The lack of educated understanding and unquestioning devotion by many of this rather discredited theory's followers seems more like a classic cult than something we need to seriously debate anymore.

Amusingly, the almost same opinion is expressed by those "learned" talking heads everytime I turn on the nightly news. It seems a matter of course for both sides that the argument is fundamentally settled. I would argue that the Right doesn't hold that closely to it, just that the likelihood of the Left's far-off view of global warming is likely more farfetched than the standard cyclic climate change our planet has been demonstrably undergoing since the last major glaciation. The Left will not even offer that discussion, just that they have scientists to back up their "facts and that is all they need. Having come from a science background, I can guarantee you that little reaches the realm of "settled" science.

It is only those who have no decent counter-arguments or who are so wholly deluded that would continue to argue in the face of evidence like this that global warming is a man-made and already irreversable catastrophe that will destroy the world. It apparently is doing no such thing. We stand amongst a crowd of Chicken Littles and they're perfectly willing to harm us, our society and our economy to prove their "facts" with assinine plans like Kyoto, which wasn't even meant to do more than slightly so down the alleged human influence. At the same time, "developing" governments are never included in their arguments, just the big bad United States. Again, you can certainly reach into the hat of usual suspects to know just how dubious a position that leaves the Left's arguments.

Even the Left's latest propaganda piece authored by the man-who-would-be-president can't stand up to much in the way of scrutiny. As we watch Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth, we are left with an even greater inconvenience. Much of what he purports cannot readily be backed up, chief amongst his very questionable evidence, man's affect on the long-term global climate. The real shame of this is that his expanded cult is hurting the scientific community. When science is made to serve politics, you fail both and Al Gore truly deserves the title of demagogue for his part in the EnviroCult.

Such evidence as this, though, evidence that works against the theory of global warming, being turned into some ridiculous "proof" of further damage is so far beyond the pale that I'm not sure how people can still take this movement seriously. Making even such blatant contrary evidence fit the dogmatic EnviroCult belief structure has taken us to a new level and I will not even give this movement the satisifaction of legitimate debate until they start examing the flaws in their own belief structure. You can't debate a zealot.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

You Can’t Have Your Living Constitution And Eat It Too

Jonah Goldberg has a masterful editorial this week on the hypocrisy of those wanting a “Living Constitution” versus those who would rather we stick to the easily identified original intent. He starts it with a quote from Slate’s legal correspondent, Dahlia Lithwick.

"We do not insist that our medicine, our technology, or even our entertainment, all remain in an obsolete state; why would we demand that the law be given such treatment? It seems absurd to suggest that we can change the speed limit to reflect improved technology but we cannot interpret the Constitution to reflect improvements in society."

Her assessment is interesting not just because of its towering arrogance, which Goldberg quite pithily takes apart, but because it provides an interesting technical view of how the Left justifies the whole concept of a “Living Constitution”. To the Left, in general, it really is no different than a radio or television and no more immutable than an encyclopedia or dictionary. After all, even Webster’s updates for slang.

And I’m not sure if she recalls law school, but the law has in fact changed quite significantly over 200 years within the framework of the Constitution. Federal laws have worked well within that frame and in the last sixty years well without it as well. The US legal code would make the librarians at Alexandria think about cutting back a little. The Constitution is not just some “law” that needs to be kept mutable to be saved from obsolescence. The Constitution was also not designed as a socially mutable document that would change with the hemlines for a given year.

The Constitution narrowly defines the powers and duties delegated to the federal government by the preexisting state governments. As an afterthought, and because there were paranoids among the Conventionalists who thought that some day people in the federal government might try and extend their powers over what were seen as inalienable rights. Now, not only are those not sacred and immune from attempts by “social engineers” to erase or modify them, but the Constitution is being turned into a social experiment by figures on the Left to give some semblance of legitimacy to their otherwise illegitimate programs.

If the Constitution is not susceptible to the whims of demagogues and changing cultural trends, then the limits on power it imposes and the freedoms it enumerates can be eternal. This was the intention of the Founders, plain and simple. If something did occur that required a significant revision of the language of the Constitution (such as the question of slavery), that mechanism was also provided in the form of Amendments. That worked for over 150 years until socialists just started bypassing it, but they have never been able to claim that they have a real mandate to do what they do, because there is no real Constitutional basis for it.

But if it is susceptible to such whims of social engineering as the Left has tried to employ and if it can be made to see whatever those in power want it to say merely with a claim of “changing with society” or the needs of some majority or minority, then it might as well not exist. It might as well be written in pencil and drafted by a 2nd grader for all the legitimacy it would have as the foundation for all our laws, and by consequence all our laws and government would be equally as illegitimate. They might as well resurrect the concept of “Divine Right” (no pun intended) to explain why we must no longer eat meat or why we must no longer be able to defend ourselves or basically act like Parisians.

With that in mind, I can see no realistic or effective argument to explain why or how the Constitution can be “Living”. If someone else has an argument they think could hold more than a thimble of water to argue such a case, I’d like to hear it. Until then, I think I’ll stick with the wisdom of what has come before, because it has the tide of history to prove how amazingly it has worked compared to the few decades of utter failure by those who have been in opposition to it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco

I see the UK is selectively editing Tom & Jerry cartoons to remove smoking scenes. This should come as no surprise to people here in the States. After all, we said nothing when the “Aunt Jemima”-like character that was occasionally Tom’s owner had her voice edited from what some viewed as stereotypical and offensive to a more neutral broadcast tone. There’s nothing like taking the fun out of funny. I have heard, though, that the new voice is actually funny if you’re high. I don’t have the Zogby statistics on that, though.

Anyway, scenes that “glamorize or condone smoking” will be edited out. On a side note, I hear they’re going to be cutting out scenes from Roadrunner cartoons where the Coyote doesn’t realize he’s violating the laws of gravity by running off a cliff. We have to think of the children don’t you know. While I think it’s a bit retarded to assume kids will smoke because a cartoon cat smokes, usually right before something horrible happens to him, I suppose my voice is in the minority these days.

The British regulatory body, Ofcom, concluded with likely the best line of the story.

“However, while we appreciate the historic integrity of the animation, the level of editorial justification required for the inclusion of smoking in such cartoons is necessarily high”.

I hear the Bible is next on their list as they intend to edit out all those pesky God and Jesus references. After all, it’s “historic integrity” is certainly appreciated, but we’re talking editorial justification here. This sort of thing isn’t unique to the British Isles kids. There’s people right here in the U.S. who not only agreed with this article, but wondered why we didn’t do it first.

Shall We Write A Story?

Eerie to know there are computer programs out there writing news stories. All you have to do is plug a few facts in and the program spits out a fully functional news story, ready for print. It’s like MadLibs only with the odd “Mrs. Robinson you’re trying to seduce me” vibe.

So far it’s greatest success appears to be in writing financial stories, which admittedly are rather dry and boring. They’re using these things as minor-league forecasters, though. Would you want your market research decided by some frustrated, bored programmer who would have rather been designing his new SimGirl than writing adjectives and predictors into his news story code?

The justification, as always, writes its own joke.

“This means we can free up reporters so they have more time to think.”

Think of all the labor this would have saved the likes of Jayson Blair from the New York Times. Why, if he’d had that, just think of it. He could have doubled or even tripled the rate of stories he fabricated. Consider me decidedly not impressed by automation in a field that really needs more supervision. News shouldn’t be churned out on a robotic assembly line. Next thing you know, they’ll be outsourcing news jobs to India and Pakistan and then there’s chaos.

I’m sure all bloggers and mainstream journalists will one day band together to combat the vile robojournalist. Until then, honestly, I thought that’s how a lot of news stories were already produced.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pigeonholing And You

There’s a danger to subscribing too much to a singular view of a given ideology. When you refuse to acknowledge that anything other than your narrow interpretation of a class of people or philosophy is the correct one, it forces you to interpret events and occurrences along your narrow thesis. This is true in science as well as in the liberal arts and humanities. If you build a religion around your belief, ultimately you’ll look like a schmuck.

Thomas Frank, author of the vaunted left-wing treatise “What the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America”, proves he is the poster boy for this affliction in his latest New York Times Op-Ed, “G.O.P. Corruption? Bring In The Conservatives” (have to be an NYT subscriber).

To look back, in Frank’s “seminal” work, Kansas, he argues that it wasn’t conservative ideas and principles that won over central America and took former “working class” bastions of Democrats and changed them to Republicans overnight. The problem, he stated, was that Republicans used fear and deception to turn otherwise loyal, but gullible and perhaps slightly retarded, Democrats and other Middle America values voters into frightened sheep who would vote for anyone who would protect them. The same logic was often used, I recall, during the end of the Cold War by Leftists who could find no other real argument for conservatives’ opposition to communism. So Kansas took an old Cold War meme and resurrected it for the 21st century. Leftists love it when old Marxist tactics become new again and thus Franks has received much acclaim for his work.

Frank’s basic argument was that conservative policies are innately damaging and unhealthy to these very salt of the earth who voted for them. Never mind that we have 40-60 years of government largesse and failed liberal, even socialist policies to prove conservatives’ very point or to offer an abundance of reasons of why Middle America might have wanted to walk away from a party that has radically drifted to the Left over the last few decades. That is inconsequential. What matters are Republicans and conservatives (which is just another word for Republicans) are evil. And now you can say you’ve read his book.

Getting back to Frank’s NY Times piece, the crux of his argument seems to be that conservatives are equally unfit to govern, because they believe in small government. There seems to be a belief on his part that, after using fear and manufactured terror to get into power, obviously “corrupt” conservatives in turn corrupted and scandalized large sectors of an otherwise benevolent bureaucracy. Through this evil master plan, conservatives, now that they’ve wormed their way into power, will corrupt that power and then fuel cynicism among the masses over the failures, in turn blaming those failures not on themselves but on hapless Democrats and liberals. The fiends! Of course, I’m paraphrasing, but not much.

This Leftist media darling, the flavor of the month in a pool of little fish that tries to be the next Chomsky or Zinn, says what most conservatives joke about liberals saying and becomes the next in a long line of caricatures that refuse to see the world through any other lens than their “alternative” view of history.

Arguably, conservatives can be guilty of this world view as well, pigeonholing liberal wins into failures of the people or the masses, blaming anyone but themselves. Whichever side does it, it is an unhealthy behavior and a failed manner of belief. If you fail, you must analyze the fault in why you failed. I’ve often heard that fundamentally people are suckers for the truth. I’ve also heard that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The left these days routinely lies to the masses about their true intentions and then tries to fix a society that wasn’t fundamentally broken to begin with and they’ve done it so often and, previously, against light opposition that they’re starting to believe their own press as gospel. It’s time to start admitting when they’re at fault and that perhaps it isn’t just some evil puppet master conservative boogeyman. Maybe, Frank should just consider that Kansas, and the rest of the “red states” just aren’t buying what the Left’s selling anymore.

Hat tip to Newsbusters for this story.

Monday, August 21, 2006

What’s In A Democracy?

A lot of talk these days centers about how our democracy is threatened or endangered by Gestapo-like right-wingers or left-wingers. The talk often shifts to the ordeal in Iraq and Afghanistan and what kind of democracies they’re really going to have. I’ve even seen an author on C-Span speak to our “arrogance” that we a slightly over 200 year old country dare lecture Iraq, which is “7,000 years old” on what kind of government it should have. By the way, Iraq isn’t quite that old. Civilization in the area could be argued at 6,000-7,000 years and I’ve heard some arguments for exceedingly older, but even though it is the birthplace of Hammurabi, the area hasn’t seen “representative” government before.

Well, this led me to think on a line I heard not to long ago. What would you consider a country that could send government troops in at any hour of the day into your home, grab you, imprison you without trial and hold you indefinitely? Would that be a democracy? Well, I’d hope so. It’s what they can do to you in Great Britain through the Official Secrets Act. And Britain is the model for our democracy to a good extent.

I know some were thinking “Well, with Ashcroft/Gonzales/Bush (fill in your most hated current Executive employee here) it could happen here”. Actually, a bit of it happened when Clinton ordered Janet Reno to kidnap Elian Gonzales and send him back to communist Cuba, but we haven’t really seen it here since then. I digress, though.

Ideas like habeas corpus and several of the freedoms we take for granted in the Untied States are not subscribed to or even considered in other parts of the world and while we might get what are called and what even function as “democracies” in the Middle East and elsewhere, they won’t necessarily be American democracies. Our liberal government and even more liberal freedoms are the envy and in some cases a source of criticism of much of the world’s governments. To assume that cultures that don’t hold such liberal views on freedom will adopt them at all is possibly to assume too much. While we might instill representative government and perhaps a greater measure of freedom than most places have ever known, they are still not America. That should be kept in mind as we consider what “democracy” is.

Another consideration of our democracy in all this is how it may be “threatened”. Well, it’s always threatened. Demagogues and tyrants are ever present dangers in any society and the longer we exist the more we seem to want to regulate ourselves and wrap ourselves in the warm, clingy blanket of socialism. The Constitution is routinely attacked as outdated, sexist, racist, too vague, too specific, misinterpreted, flat-out ignored, or worst, treated as a “living, breathing document”. It’s the easiest way to build a new Great Society by deconstructing the old one. As it’s been said, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

Still, my concern is that those who consider it threatened in the alarmist fashion that’s so fancy among the hard-core left and right these days is that they think in the short-term. Our society and government are too resilient to be beaten in the short-term and no tyrant or demagogue could destroy us that easily. What they should be concerned with, and what many are seeing today, is the effect of long-term re-engineering of our society. What was unthinkable a generation ago becomes acceptable or even the norm and society decays and degenerates into some new, poorer form as a result. While people focus on the here and now, our national attention span shrinks faster than a 10-year old with a TV remote.

It’s important that those people refocus and think about the long-term. What kind of country are we leaving the next generation? What kind of country were we left and why? How do we stop those who so willingly make the mistakes that cause this damage? That is something we must all keep sight of or what makes a democracy will become somewhat of a moot point around these parts.

Friday, August 18, 2006

What Happened Exactly?

If you read any of what I write with any degree of interest, you know I’m a big fan of historical events and most importantly of properly understanding that history. That includes making sure the account is honest. It’s all going to be colored by the views of the authors. The adage “history is written by the winners” exists for a reason. Still, I like to think that we can try to be as honest as possible when it comes to documenting those events, regardless of our bias. In other words, there will always be bias, but it shouldn’t obfuscate the truth.

Take the recent and perhaps unfinished conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Already, the spinners of facts have begun revising and editing it, all with the proper use of language and with no blatant outright lies of course, to write how this event occurred, what happened and what the outcome is.

First, it’s important to remember who started this. Now let’s not get all philosophical and start with the “does anyone really know who started it” crap. This particular instance was started by Hezbollah. They attacked an Israeli outpost on Israeli land and killed between five and eight soldiers. The total has not been verified in the accounts I’ve seen. They also kidnapped two. This all occurred almost on the heels of Hamas attacking in southern Israel through a tunnel and kidnapping one Israeli solider. None have been release, by the way, nor do we know if they’re even alive.

What we do know is that the bulk of the coverage painted Israel as an aggressor state bent on killing innocents. The slant ran from the regulars like Reuters and the New York Times all the way up to former President Jimmy Carter. Let's examine some of the former President's most telling remarks when asked about the recent conflict between Israel and Lebanon.

I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon. What happened is that Israel is holding almost 10,000 prisoners, so when the militants in Lebanon or in Gaza take one or two soldiers, Israel looks upon this as a justification for an attack on the civilian population of Lebanon and Gaza. I do not think that's justified, no.

Considering Hezbollah was spread across all of Lebanon, from the suburbs of Beirut to the Bekaa Valley to the Israeli border, and considering Israel found dead Iranian Pasdaran among the fighters they'd killed, I think they were very justified in their massive bombing attempt. Carter's a nice old man and he's made a name for himself with really great organizations like Habitat for Humanity, but politically he's as naive as he ever was. Recall that he was genuinely stunned and caught unawares when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. This man defined clueless in that era and still does.

And Israel is holding terrorist killers. It's not holding a few people that "looked Arab" or "political prisoners". It's holding terrorists. When terrorists kidnap Israeli soldiers after killing others and violating Israel's sovereign territory to do that, I do in fact consider Israel justified and Carter's moral equivalency attempt makes me sick.

That reminds me of another point I wanted to comment on, and I know it's seen a bit of play in the blogosphere. The whole "disproportionate response" bs I saw on the nightly news and in the news dailies really reeked of low quality propaganda. In fact, pro-Hezbollah propaganda has been streaming from the likes of mainstream publications like the LA Times. Just because one side can kick the rear in of the other doesn't mean they should "equalize" their level of fighting. War is about destroying the other side's ability to fight and in some cases about the extermination of your enemy. Amazingly, this has been the case throughout the ages. Somehow, when it's a Lefty darling like Hezbollah, the one attacked is being "disproportionate". In case those same journalists missed it, Israel has made a habit, going back to '48, of kicking in the teeth of whomever was mentally retarded enough to attack them. This was not new news, but it was new spin.

Another thing missing in almost every piece of coverage I've seen has been how many Hezbollah were confirmed or projected to be killed. You usually only heard of Israeli soldiers and Lebanese civillians and how many were dead. The mainstream media has experience with this, however, in that they do pretty much the same when they cover the US Army and Marine's presence in Iraq. Well, at least one blogger had semi-official numbers. The Lebanese appear to have around 850 dead civillians, although it's hard to get a direct tally since Hezbollah doesn't wear uniforms. In addition, Israeli casualties have been 157, of which 118 were soldiers. For Hezbollah, there are over 600 confirmed dead by the IDF and 800-1200 estimated additional casualties. The IDF has a habit of being extremely conservative in its numbers, as it's mindful of mistakes being used against it. The U.S. got into the same habit after Vietnam.

So that's a lot of Hezbollah dead and good riddance to them, but you won't hear about them on any 60 Minutes piece anytime soon. And hence that should give you a little better picture of the conflict. Likely, with the falling out of the international peace keepers as France is already faltering, and the refusal of Hezbollah to even consider abiding by this fake "ceasefire" (you can't have a ceasefire when only one side stops firing), I suggest everyone should get ready for round 2.

They should also take some of the facts to mind of all that's happened there to date and keep them in perspective as the slanted coverage continues. I for one will be watching to see how things are reported and how much longer the mainstream can portray a bunch of terrorists with American blood on their hands as "the good guys" and get away with it. Should prove an interesting statement on our culture, shouldn't it?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What’s The Plan?

I love election season. There’s always someone who says they can do things better than someone else. It doesn’t matter if they know exactly what that is, just that they’re willing. Running for office means never having to say you don’t have a clue. Take this gem from Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-duh).

“I just don’t understand why we can’t get new leadership that would give us a fighting chance to turn the situation [in Iraq] around.”

Seems a simple enough and relatively average remark for an election year, doesn’t it? I think in these cases, the first thing that comes to my mind and the question I sometimes yell in frustration to the TV talking head or the internet quote is “Exactly what do you propose to do that isn’t already being done? What could you possibly make better and not worse? In a time of war, precisely what more could you add to the process or dialogue to make it more efficient?”

The answer in most cases, and from what I’ve heard from Madam Hillary so far, is absolutely nothing. In the case of Iraq, the Democrats have no new ideas, no plans other than to pull a Vietnam era (the only real comparison I’ve found between Iraq and SE Asia) and withdraw while our ally is weak.

What new leadership could give us a “fighting chance”? This is just ridiculous no-speak. A fighting chance? I didn’t realize Americans were in retreat and running for their lives. Last I heard, casualties are down, Iraqi forces are up and fighting more on their own and the three elements of the “insurgency” are quickly melting away to nothing but foreign fighters the average Iraqi doesn’t even want there. So what fighting chance are we hoping to get with the Democrats? That I’m afraid we won’t get an answer for.

As to the more general issue of the negativity spewing from the Left sans any useful ideas, there’s Joe Biden, one of the more “moderate” of the Leftists.

“There’s not much of a comprehensive strategy, and I, quite frankly, think we’re worse off now then we were before this administration initiated its efforts in the region.”

We don’t really need any evidence or proof. Joe’s just expecting anyone listening to him will take his accusations on “faith”. You know, the thing that he and his ilk usually hang on right-wingers as an outmoded and antiquated way of looking at the world. How are we worse off? Joe’s statement was in regard to Hezbollah, Hamas and the radical Shi’a Muslims. Do they hate us more than they did before 9/11? Considering all three have American blood on their hands from up to 20 years before or more, how can they hate us more? And why would we care if they do? This isn’t a popularity contest. This is a war and their side has spent the years since 1979 figuring out how to kill or subjugate the vast majority of us.

Such things are often lost when politics comes into play and politics certainly drives much of the rhetoric of the power figures of our nation. In this case, the Party largely out of power is just taking it to the extreme, no matter how hollow their arguments and in this case they’re pretty hollow. No plan, no “exit strategy”, no master agenda on how to improve the international situation graces the platform of the Democrat Party. Their plan is to smear until they win and then hopefully figure out something if they’re elected, or even better, hope it all goes away, at least for the next four years.

That’s slipping in to the realm of fantasy, though and I think they’d be fools to expect it will. The lack of credible or useful foreign policy ideas from the Left, though shows that not only are they a grand cavalcade of fools, but that should they get back in power they’ll lead us down the road of misery, malaise and suffering. Obviously they don’t mean to. Surely they haven’t planned for that.

Friday, August 04, 2006

You Say Compromise, I Say Sell-Out

Some have probably heard of the House’s recent attempt to pass some tax reform for the ridiculous Estate Tax. Despite having a clear majority, House Republicans felt the need to compromise with Democrats and finally addressed the long-dormant issue of a minimum wage hike.

The idea was the minimum wage would be raised to $7.25/hour incrementally over the next few years. In exchange for this rather large economy-stalling job-killing welfare increase, the Republicans included a provision that would exempt estates worth less than $5 million (or $10 million for couples) from having to pay Estate Tax. There would be a graduated scale for those with more valuable estates, with a 15% tax on estates valued from $10 million to $25 million and a 30 percent tax on estates that were valued at more than $25 million.

Granted, this was a bit of a sell-out itself, as the idea had been all along to abolish the Estate Tax. We obviously aren’t going to be that lucky, but I see the need to appear that “the rich” weren’t getting any significant break. God forbid we should ever reward success in this country.

Even more ironically, Senate Democrats (including the minimum wage’s chief champion Teddy “Chappaquiddick” Kennedy) killed the measure decrying a “dirty trick” by Republicans to try and tack on rich people reform to their noble attempt to help the poor. So there’s still no minimum wage hike or estate tax break nor will there be. Nothing will be done before the November elections and likely nothing will get done afterwards. Expect at least gridlocked split Houses of Congress at that point or Democrat control, so either way the Estate Tax is here to stay.

There is substantial evidence of and arguments regarding the damage caused by minimum wage laws, most notably from esteemed professor Walter Williams. That the House Republicans were so willing to compromise on such a left-centric issue shows how far they’ve fallen and how much of the conservative base they’re willing to sell out. Sadly, even this weak attempt at compromise was shot down by the Democrats who have clearly shown there can be no compromise. There can only be the Left’s agenda. Anything else must be stopped and this is what the November election will help ratify one way or another.

At least there was some success in getting a bill passed to allow for drilling and oil and natural gas exploration in the Gulf and on the coasts. I might remind you that Cuba with the help of China is already beginning exploration in that same shelf and could tap significant quantities of that resource before the U.S. could even get out of the gate, thus negating environmentalists requirements that they be kept pristine. Cuba, it seems, does not feel the need to follow the EnviroLeft’s agenda in this regard. Still, the bill has to make it out of committee to reconcile the different versions of the House and Senate. We can only pray the more expansive House version wins out.

The latest drilling bill and the previous bills on illegal immigration do show that when the House puts its mind to it, it has some chops. Since it’s obvious the Democrats has forgotten what compromise is, there is perhaps no need for the Republicans to keep pursuing it as if they were the minority party, which they may be again in a few months. Again, November will tell.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Progressive Idea Nixed By Progressive

Webster’s has several definitions for Progressive, but one I thought most interesting is “making use of or interested in new ideas, findings or opportunities.” Perhaps that should be amended to include items solely desirable by the Left, because it certainly doesn’t fit the column of DeWayne Wickham in Tuesday’s USA Today.

Mr. Wickham’s column is a fairly run of the mill hit piece on vouchers, an idea at which you would think the Left would jump. Never have I seen a group so defined by “choice” and “individual right to choose” for so many other issues, but not for where you can send your kids to school. Perhaps that’s because most on the Left know full well that they run the public schools and everything that’s taught at their little social engineering factories.

His main beef is with a $100 million program of federal tax dollars aimed at allowing vouchers under a different name (Opportunity Scholarships) to be given to parents who want to choose a better public school for their children. He crows that it is a failure before it starts and that these kids don’t need a different school, just a better public school (requiring of course MORE money to an already bloated educational establishment).

His primary evidence? Kids with certain economic, social and racial backgrounds (read: poor minority kids) don’t do well in either public or private schools based on a report from the National Center for Education Statistics. He harps on that point for the bulk of his editorial and carefully skirts another small fact, that while switching to a private school doesn’t turn all underprivileged kids into Rhodes Scholars, it does certainly improve their scores and more succeed under such a system. Those facts, being that they don’t backup his race-baiting hypothesis, are surprisingly omitted, except for a brief mention that “overall”, private schools did better than public schools.

Here’s one you’ll like even better. His primary backup to indicate that “The results…are nothing more than we expected” is Reg Weaver, President of the NEA, a large and well-funded (by you and me) organization that primarily backs leftist causes and political candidates through its control on teacher’s unions. Most teachers in private schools, you may or may not be aware, are not unionized. In public school they are. It shouldn’t take much more than that for you to see the connection. Mr. Weaver states “We know what it takes to improve public education and it’s not vouchers.” Sounds like Nixon and his plan he couldn’t tell us. Well, tell you what Weaver, let us in on your little secret because we’ve been wondering for the past 40 years if you had the slightest idea what in the hell you were doing or how you would “improve” public education.

It wouldn’t be a true hit piece, though, without a backhand at the voucher program by calling it racist. He doesn’t have to come out and say it. Wickham just brings up that vouchers were offered after schools were desegregated (in his example in Prince Edward County in Virginia) to allow white students to be transferred out of integrated schools. So of course, we should hate this because it’s racist. Well, that argument would hold a bit of water other than the fact that NO racial bias is in any of the current voucher plans and in fact it’s been suggested rather tellingly in volumes of research that minorities in poor neighborhoods would be the primary beneficiaries of vouchers. Perhaps there in lies the resistance and the need to lie (not an uncommon thing for journalists these days) to denigrate a program that threatens one of the pillars of the Left’s power base.

At least he does offer what should improve public education, again from the huckster Weaver. “Certified teachers. Smaller class sizes. Adequate and equitable funding. Safe and orderly schools and qualified staffs.” How have we missed this before? The answer was so simple and all we needed was the NEA’s wisdom to guide us. Certified teachers, more appropriately qualified teachers are easy enough. You just have to do away with the unions and start testing the teachers’ proficiency on their given subjects. WAIT. The NEA opposes that. Smaller class sizes are a red herring and have been debunked themselves. Adequate and equitable funding arrived a generation ago. Most schools are funded to what some might “conservatively” call (no pun intended) excess. Teachers aren’t paid that bad and in fact many are paid quite well. Public school union teachers certainly outshine their private school counterparts in terms of salary, no question. The administrations for public schools receive the lion’s share of the funding and use it to fund massive bureaucracies, counselors, lawyers, “experts” and public relations personnel. Considering private schools live without most of those rather successfully, the “adequate and equitable funding” line goes beyond being a joke and more of a flat-out insult to the intelligence of the general public. Safe and orderly schools require more than the federal government can give. They require a restructuring of our society that has been steadily and intentionally broken down since the early 1960’s. Schools can’t do that nor is it their mandate to do it and we’re certainly not going to pay their unqualified selves to do it. Qualified staffs? See above. Submit to performance testing and we’ll talk. Until then, ask your union rep why you’re inadequate.

I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me, by the way, why the several thousand I pay a year to the local government for holding my land hostage with property tax that they say goes to local schools doesn’t entitle me to determine where my child goes to school. We’re lucky at least, to have access to a good school system, in fact one of the best, but I can’t say I approve of being scolded like a child by a newspaper writer on why I and others don’t need that right.

There’s a popular phrase associated with the late, great Bill Hicks. “Go back to sleep America. You are free to do what we tell you.” I often hear it bandied about when it comes to money going to conservative causes or when the government undertakes some venture the Left isn’t too fond of. But I don’t in those instances see a destruction of individual choice. The axiom could be more easily applied to the Left’s train of thought in cases like this, implying that they know what’s best for us and that we really should leave it to the elitists to run our lives and our money for us. And yes, I know elitists fall on both sides of the political spectrum, but these days the only ones that seem to be impacting my personal freedom and wallet seem to be coming almost exclusively from the Left.

Getting back to Wickham’s column (No DeWayne, I haven’t forgotten you), his argument doesn’t hold water. He played the racist card because he knew his argument was inadequate and his best source is the President of one of the most left-leaning and partisan groups in Washington opposing vouchers; hardly credible in my opinion and definitely full of bias and malice.

Yet, his was not the only Leftist piece to hit the press after this study was released. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to talk about that more later. Til then, take a nap and come tomorrow there should be some other element of society or government ready to tell you how to live your life and how you should pay them to make sure it happens.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sometimes They Get It Right

Occasionally, you read a story in one of the big dailies that speaks a bit of common sense. Unfortunately, it is usually because the editors have an agenda that is furthered by attacking something they would normally ignore. Still, you take what you can get. Such is the case with today’s USA Today editorial on the 10th anniversary of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.

To bolster their argument that government shouldn’t be picking on poor, defenseless single mothers, they highlight some serious corporate and special interest welfare that usually doesn’t see a lot of ink in the big papers. The highlights of the piece are the over $144 billion paid out in the last ten years in agricultural subsidies and drought relief payments. They rightly point out that not all of the money, in fact hardly any, goes to the stereotypical family farm. Most go to agricultural corporations or individuals who have never farmed, but are paid not to, for example. Money also goes to relieve drought in areas that haven’t seen a dry year in ages. Thus it goes to show that once you open a money spigot, there’s almost no chance it will be turned back off.

Then it brings up one of my other favorites, corporate welfare, where the Congressional Research Service has noted 15,877 earmarks worth $47.4 billion in our money. Who pitched for that? Lobbyists and special interest groups, of course did most of the dirty work. Contrary to CNN and the Washington Post, the NRA is not the sole lobbying organization in Congress. Everyone from sugar growers to car manufacturers to airlines to service unions are vying for your money.

The USA Today editorial also decries money going to state and local governments as a way to pay for their woes and shore up federal mandates. What it doesn’t say and should is that most of that money could have and should have just stayed with the states and never been taxed by the feds. That would have solved much of that problem. Local and state governments have become as dependent as the legendary welfare moms on the feds for everything from highway money to midnight basketball (remember that one?). It is a situation of the federal government’s own making. As its bloated bureaucracy has expanded, it has required the smaller governments to bow to its requirements, something that has crippled their ability to provide basic services without federal aid. It’s easily akin to a pusher/junkie relationship. USA Today would have done well to explore that a little further.

Last and certainly not least, the largest welfare queens of them all receive a paragraph. Whole books have been written about the lamprey-like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and the spiraling costs they entail. These are perhaps the largest drain on our economy and the biggest recipients of federal largesse. As our population ages, higher taxes or fewer benefits (most likely both) will be the result, especially as Congress inevitably vacillates back and forth between tax and soak Democrats and spendthrift Republicans. Neither major party seems interested in solving that problem, but why should they? It makes for a better political football and these days that’s all such groups really care about…politics.

The editorial calls for restoring fiscal sanity through control of welfare payments at all levels. Elimination of most of them would likely be even better, although you usually won’t hear a liberal paper like USA Today call for that. Eliminating just the farm subsidies and corporate welfare would save almost $200 billion in a budget where we’re currently spending $300 billion over what we take in. It’s one small step, followed by looking at federal programs and departments that could easily disappear tomorrow with no ill effect to the rest of us (*COUGH*Department of Education *COUGH*).

It’s nice to see a paper like USA Today bring this up in one of their editorials, even if it was to just highlight that they thought welfare moms were receiving too harsh of treatment because of reform. Funny enough, even they had to admit in the first part of their editorial that Welfare Reform by and large not only worked. It exceeded most every expectation.

They wouldn’t be the liberal rag they were, though if they didn’t point out how unfair it was that these people who had children out of wedlock and didn’t get a good education can’t get the $14+ an hour jobs that are required to finally do better than just being on the dole. Amazing how unjust that is… To hear them tell it, those jobs should just be handed out or we should pay for these women (and some men) to be educated so they can make that much. No mention of course on not only why we should have to pay for the irresponsible behavior of others is made, but also there is the typical lefty naiveté of how not only would they be paid for, or what jobs would be created magically created that they could fill.

There’s also the small detail omitted of all the millions already spent on job training and “workforce development” at all levels of government. It doesn’t seem to do much good even when it is available and then any government bureaucracy allowed to handle it wraps it in so many layers of requirements as to make it unusable. Why I remember myself looking years ago into such things as there being federal money available for retraining for those of us laid off by companies that outsourced U.S. jobs to other countries. Take a guess at the loophole. If the job went to a NAFTA trading partner, the feds didn’t have to pay. And now guess where the jobs in question went? They drink Molson there, I can tell you that much.

It’s also not unique. Most of those programs don’t work. They just pay for bureaucracies that employ a few here and there without actually fulfilling much of their noble intended goals and I guarantee you we’d see more of the same if the left’s advocated “new job training” programs for the former welfare moms were expanded. Some would benefit, but most would still be where they are, safely still poor so that the likes of USA Today could yell and scream for even more of our taxpayer dollars to be spent.

So, chalk this one up as a partial victory for common sense in one of the newspapers of record, even if it was only to take another shot at the “cruel” Republicans in power. Now if we can get them to shout as loudly when a Democrat sits in the White House, we’ll be making real progress.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

We’re Already In World War III

I’ve been hearing lately in regards to the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict that it has to be brought in check before it leads to World War III. I have news for those pundits who chose that as the Phrase of the Day. We’re already fighting the Third World War. We just don’t call it that yet.

While we were attacked in smaller though no less significant ways before 9/11 (the Cole, Khobar Towers, the African embassy bombings, Somalia, the ’93 WTC bombing, Beirut in ’83, etc.), America didn’t seriously enter the war until September 11, 2001. When we did, there was a realization among many, those who chose to look beyond the usual Republican/Democrat hogwash, that this was a war, now called The Long War, with no end in sight and no clear idea of who we would have to fight to end it. We only knew we were in it and we could continue suffering casualties or do something about it.

The famed “Axis of Evil” speech, the “You’re either with us or with the terrorists” line and what became the Bush Doctrine all were signs of our new global reality; one we actually were part of for years but only at that point acknowledged. Flush with oil money and emboldened by a fusion with global Marxists after an initial training and love affair with unreformed Nazi fascists, the shadow of Islamist terror organizations have merged with the old hardline Communist survivors (China, North Korea and Cuba) and even "ex" communists like Russia to take on the last remaining superpower and the chief impediment to their global goals, the United States.

The United States must be reduced and or forced back into isolationism if any of their agendas are to succeed. They see the model of Vietnam and know this is the only way they can fight the U.S. until some of them are militarily capable of challenging it. The most likely candidates in the short term will be China and/or North Korea, with possibly Iran bringing up the rear. This is the war currently waged against us and there are willing allies, either complicit or implicit, in the form of the American Left.

Whether the U.S. fights militarily in the Middle East and elsewhere or whether we're fighting the battle of political wills here at home, we have to keep in mind, we didn't start this. No, no. Don't start pulling out your lists of "Well America did this". Trust me. I've seen those lists since college and they're starting to get a little stale. No country, especially not those currently aligned against the U.S., has done more for the world or guaranteed more freedom for its own people than the U.S. It's certainly not perfect and we wage that campaign daily as well, but I'll take it over the rest of the world any day.

What I mean by us not starting it is, there's nothing we could do to just turn it off tomorrow. Israel's current conflict with Hezbollah is a prime example. Hezbollah and Hamas started this round by killing Israeli soldiers and then kidnapping others. Israel responded by going after those organizations with everything it had. It could have easily folded up and died, but it didn't. And all these discussions of a cease fire and peace in the Middle East seem to be focusing on stopping Israel's offensive. Well, one must consider Israel isn't the only one shooting, nor did it start the shooting. Until you can get Hezbollah to cave, there will be no peace, except one forced on an Israel that is winning. The only way Hezbollah will talk peace is if their Baathist masters in Syria or their sugar daddies in Iran pull their financing, and that won't happen. One could make an arguable case that Iran and/or Syria put Hamas and Hezbollah up to this latest round of bloodshed.

The United States is in the same situation. Are we to stand by and watch them kill more and more of us, becoming bolder and bolder in their attacks, until one day we all live under dhimmitude? Is that our best solution? Or do we go into their dens and kill them all? Not a lot of middle ground there. We couldn't "contain" the Soviets. We couldn't stop at the Rhine when fighting the Germans. We couldn't not drop the atomic bomb on Japan. Half ass doesn't win a war. It just lets the enemy catch their breath and hit you again another day.

All the arguments against the war in Iraq or the Israeli-Hezbollah/Hamas conflict or even the war in Afghanistan fail to take into consideration a) history and b) other nations' and NGOs' motives. Until they do, the arguments are moot. We are in a war not of our choosing and will only be out of it when the other side begs for peace or is dead. This may be contained. This may get out of control and most likely all of us will be lucky to live through it. Just don't make the mistake of thinking we aren't living in the middle of the next World War.