Thursday, January 25, 2007

I Like Trees Too

A recent debate here in Indianapolis has crystallized for me an issue that’s been a pet peeve of mine for many years. Here in our fine city, the old city cemetery is called Crown Hill and it exists in what was once one of the more affluent parts of town. Now, much of those nice old houses are inhabited by low income or a few remaining middle income families. Crown Hill, not surprisingly, is very old. It is also large and has huge upkeep costs. Grounds keeping and maintenance aren’t cheap. The revenue Crown Hill has taken in recently isn’t really covering their bill, because there are not as many people being buried in the old cemetery. Competition has also taken its toll. So, the people who run it have to come up with new funding. They have in the form of a 70 acre parcel of old, wooded land that Crown Hill owns on its northern fringe.

This land can be prime development land, as the area is borderline decent. An affluent neighborhood could form the core of an area revival. It also will destroy most of the 70 acres of trees and habitat that now stands there. This is regrettable. I hate to see that. I like trees. I like wildlife habitat. However, it’s not my land, and unless I think I can get together the scratch to buy it, it’s not my business what happens to it. That’s the way of things. In a society where we allow people to do what they want to their own land, this is what you get. I find nothing wrong with that aspect.

I appear to be in the minority in this opinion. The local left-leaning news weekly and the editorials in the Indianapolis Star have been filled with protests from those who want to see this land preserved from the bulldozer. They are filled with colorful metaphors and fancy phrases that wax eloquent about how there is “another kind of death” at Crown Hill or how more of Mother Nature is being “raped” for the benefit of rich, cognac-swilling, cigar-smoking fat cats.

Their editorials and pontifications always end with calls for civic action. “Well, the city must DO something” and other such calls for government to stop a private land deal fill the media, especially the alternative media. This is the mentality of people who are still dead-set certain that Marx is applicable and can work. It doesn’t matter that it’s never worked to the benefit of the masses anywhere in the world. We just haven’t done it right yet. Part of doing it right, according to this train of thought, is when you don’t like what someone’s doing with their own land, you use the power of government to take it away from them.

Property rights are one of our oldest rights and along with those endowed to us by our Creator, they are pretty important. “A man’s home is his castle” and “the right to be secure in one’s home, effects and property” are indelible and unalterable aspects of who we are and how we define ourselves. If we let government decide what to do with our land, then the tyranny of the minority takes hold. Radical environmentalism is just the latest trend to exercise this principle.

Republican (not the party) ideals of personal freedom and responsibility have no merit if you say that our most fundamental material concern (property) is the “people’s business” and not private business. Not to mention, this power can be used in a grossly corrupt fashion to control any land for any reason, especially if you’re the one who wants to get your hands on it. If you could go back in time and ask the kulaks of the Ukraine under Stalin’s rule, they could have shown you many fine examples of this leftist philosophy in action.

The simple reality of it is this. In our society, my land is mine. It’s not yours. It’s not the government’s. It’s mine. If I want to do anything with it, as long as it doesn’t adversely affect my neighbor, then it’s nobody’s business, but mine. If I want to sell it to a private developer, it is my right. It is also Crown Hill’s right to sell it to who they think will pay the most for it. If these groups and individuals so desperately want to preserve it, they can form a foundation, raise money and buy the land. It’s as simple as that. Of course, that solution is never thought of because it doesn’t entail using “magic money” also known as taxpayer dollars to curtail such a basic capitalist transaction. I like trees too, but I like that everyone can have their liberty even more.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Maybe Heading To Townhall, But First...

For a variety of reasons, I’ve decided to move my blog over to Townhall. I will cross-post for awhile, but then post exclusively to that address. I will also post a few of my “non-event” position blogs to help anyone who stumbles on my blog at Townhall understand a bit of where I stand on the big issues. With that burst of fanfare, let’s dig right in.

It was without much of a shock that the Democrats moved quickly to strip a rule the Gingrich Congress imposed on itself that required a 3/5 supermajority to raise taxes. This rule has held firm for years in keeping taxes down and allowing the cuts made in 2001 to continue unhindered. Unfortunately, the rule really needed to be something on the level of a Constitutional Amendment. It took the Democrats less than one truncated work week (so much for the five day a week Congress) to dispose of the rule. Nothing so crass as a vote to cancel the rule took place. No, that might be even difficult for the Big Three to ignore. The Democrats on party-line simply approved a rule that allowed them to bypass the old rule with a basic majority vote. Leave it to the Democrats to add another layer of bureaucracy that doubly screws the American public.

Moves such as these are causing many to speculate, and perhaps rightly so, that the Democrats will raise our taxes soon. In other news, a bear was seen taking a roll of Charmin into Yellowstone and the Pope it turns out is actually Catholic. The rhetoric to date of course has focused on the evil “rich” among us, with numbers like “half a million” and the like thrown around to reassure us plebes that of course they don’t mean us. No, our punishment will be far more base. The reinstatement of the marriage penalty for income tax, capital gains tax for bonuses we receive and should those of us middle class who dare to own stock try to gain anything from it, the Dividends tax will make sure to smack us hard. Also, despite what others say, I doubt the Democrats will do anything to soothe over the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) creep that will start hitting more and more middle class. They didn’t for the years up to the Republicans taking charge, and we couldn’t even get the Republicans to abolish it. What makes anyone think the Democrats are interested in dropping a tax?

Democrats see any tax cut as “costing” the government. The media usually obliges by reporting such tax cuts in terms of how much the federal government will lose as if it was their money to begin with. There is a fundamental disconnect with such people when confronted with the idea that tax revenues are the confiscated earnings and yield of hard work of millions of their fellow citizens. They see it as magic money, appearing from thin air or at least the Mint’s thick printing presses. Watch any nightly news broadcast or Democrats debating on C-Span with this in mind and you will be awe struck by how much this belief is almost religious in the nature of the Left.

Of course, Democrats weren’t voted in because the majority of Americans thought we weren’t being taxed enough. That is what we got, though. A bevy of corrupt Republicans who were showcased to the tune of a hundred fold over their equally corrupt Democrat brethren were cited by most polls as the primary reason voters turned to the Left’s offerings. Naturally, most of these Democrats had to run so far right of center, they’ll have no choice but to be hypocrites when Pelosi and Reid come calling. When the tax bills come, they’ll be faced with every freshman Congressman’s moral dilemma of following their conscience or their party. You’ll forgive me if I’m a bit pessimistic in assuming they’ll fold on their ideals like a bad hand at a riverboat poker match.

The “Pay as you go” or “pay it forward” or “Citizens pay because we play” system or whatever the Democrats are trying to sell it now as is equally worthless. While interesting in principle, it has no basis in reality. A system that supposedly requires you match every tax cut with a spending cut is novel. However, since neither party has show any interest in cutting any program ever (except the military), there will never be a situation in which they can or will have the desire to cut spending. Hence, I foresee this as a fool’s errand. It’s merely a way to ensure that there is never again such an abhorrent thing to the Democrats as another tax cut. Lucky us.

Until true fiscal conservatives are restored to Washington, if ever that indeed there ever were such animals in the swamp, we can expect this situation to worsen and worsen quickly. A Will Rogers quote was recently published in The Federalist (07-03 Chronicle). “Alexander Hamilton started the U.S. Treasury with nothing, and that was the closest our country has ever been to being even.” When faced with that legacy, how on earth do we ever expect to catch back up?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Peace In Our Time...Again?

It seems a mathematical certainty that intellectuals on the Left not only don't pay attention to the lessons of history, they seek to actively flaunt them at every turn. So goes Robert Rotberg's editorial in the Boston Globe yesterday. He initiates his piece with a bevy of choices for U.S. policy makers.

Only by accepting Iranian hegemonic pretensions, odious as they are, can the United States extricate itself somewhat honorably from Iraq.

I scarcely know where to start, there are so many options. This op-ed could just as easily have been written by Neville Chamberlain with Germany substituted for Iran. It is no secret that the Persians have wanted to regain political, economic and military dominance in the Gulf. They've been smarting over that ever since the armies of Mohammed rolled over them and forced them to convert to Islam. Arabs have dominated the region ever since. You can imagine what a blow to cultural pride all this has been. The Persians were masters of the region in one form or another for thousands of years before the arrival of Mohammed. To be in the subordinate position for so long has to have been distasteful.

This historical need, combined with the modern fusing of radical Islam with traditional Marxism by Khomeini back in the 70's has created a dangerous force in the region and one of the principle sponsors of world terror against the West. This doesn't stop Rotberg from wanting to cozy up with them, though.

If Iran, accused of funding and fomenting the Shi'ite militias, could dampen its enthusiasm for mayhem, so Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni powers could be prevailed upon to assist in reducing the Iraqi Sunni militancy. Any reduction in sectarian clashes should enable US and Iraqi forces to focus on the less dangerous Al Qaeda-related insurgency that now runs beneath the growing sectarian violence. Then we could slowly reduce US troop levels and leave. No "surge" would be required or desirable.

How this 'convincing' of Iran to do these things would be orchestrated, Rotberg obviously has no idea. You have a government in Iran that advocates the destruction of Israel and the United States. Is that what Rotberg is proposing to get Iran to come from the table? This is no run of the mill political pundit, by the way. This is the director of Program on Intrastate Conflict at the Kennedy School of Government. His leftist credentials (president of the World Peace Foundation) get mentioned also, but I mention his scholarly credentials for one reason. This is the prototypical example of a Leftist college professor in a position of extreme authority using that position to further his agenda, that we should treat with tyrants so that we may have some imagined peace.

How we do it is not his problem. Cookies and milk or the annhilation of entire nations may be required, but if it humiliates the U.S. and props up a world nightmare, then so be it! At least the ivory tower will have been listened to and thus we will all lead happier lives. I wonder if he has a book deal coming up.

No matter. The amusing thing about this editorial is that it shows a distilled version of the American Left in their natural habitat, that of assuming that the United States is the problem with the rest of the world, and that if we just would flagellate and humble ourselves before the world, the rest of the planet would play nice and live in peace and harmony.

It ignores the reality that the world is a dark and nasty place where most countries would rather rip out the throats of every last citizen of their neighbor country than ever tolerate their existence. It ignores that there are dangerous men with dangerous agendas and the money and weapons to back them up, with only the thin red line of governments like the U.S. who will stand up to them and thwart those agendas. Yet people like Rotberg demonize us and lionize the oppressors of the world. This editorial in the Globe should serve as a reminder of what we strive not to become, a nation of quislings, like Mr. Rotberg and his ilk would have us be.

The First 100 Hours of Democrat-cy

I imagine no one is surprised by the progress of the newly minted Democrat-controlled 110th Congress in pushing a liberal agenda. It's who the citizenry elected and they've done their best not to disappoint. The two big "successes" of the Democrats in their first go at the House were the passage of federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research and raising the minimum wage. Very impressive.

First, let's start with the stem cell garbage.

After years and years of promising cures for everything from Alzheimer's and male-pattern baldness, not only can't embryonic stem-cell researchers get money from the wealth of private investors out there, perhaps the reason why is that they haven't put up result ONE on any of their fabled promises. Adult and umbilical stem cells make discovery after discovery and are already being used in successful trials. Embryonic stem cell research has led to dead ends and extreme failures. Amazing that no private investor would want to put their money in that! Enter the federal government, the last resort for junk science. For years the liberals in Congress have been trying to get this schlock funded, mostly after their campaign coffers get a nice fat donation from one of the principles trying to sell this snake oil.

And now they have their foothold.

Thirty-seven Republicans joined 216 Democrats to pass the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would allow federal funding of research on stem cells from embryos slated for destruction at fertility clinics.

The 253 to 174 vote fell 37 votes short of what it would take to override the veto that Bush yesterday promised would be forthcoming, assuming the Senate passes the same bill, as expected. Bush vetoed the legislation after it passed last year.

Just goes to show that party affliation can't always guarantee how spineless, ill-informed, or susceptible to the almight dollar you are. It also furthers my old point that the Republican Party is NOT the conservative party. It's the party where the few conservatives who've been elected hang out.

One of those few bright spots with the President is that he might actually use that ancient and barely used veto pen to send this bill back to the trash bin where it belongs. More importantly, I'd love to see news outlets actually paint this in its real light, that of using taxpayer money for junk science because no one else will throw good cash at bad science. I've written about this ridiculous notion before. Embryonic stem cell research is a leftist political darling and as such it doesn't matter if it's as promising as the man-made global warming theory. It's theirs, they believe it, and we should spend our hard-earned money to support their quackery. At least, that's how I read it.

I don't think we're going to be as lucky on the minimum wage bill that just passed the House. The Senate will most likely clear it since it has the little nibbles they want and Bush will likely sign it. Yay for us. Naturally, Pelosi's ethically-soaked Congress missed the little provision that exempted some companies in Pelosi's district, but at least it's getting some ink now, after the fact. You'll also be hard pressed to find the major news outlets discussing arguments against the minimum wage like those of Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell or the CATO Institute. As Neal Boortz has said, we've already lost the battle on minimum wage. Its myths are go ingrained into our culture, that it would take a lot more than common sense, reasonable arguments, and historical fact to blow it out of the water.

The minimum wage increase raises wages for a small group of Americans (mostly part-timers and teenagers), aids a traditional leftist voting block , the unions, whose contracts tie their wage increases to any minimum wage increase and will result in many of those earners being laid off or to put it more bluntly fired because small businesses cannot absorb this hit to their bottom line. I'm sure, though, when these people lose their jobs, our unemployment rate increases, and business growth shrinks considerably, it will all be the Republicans' fault for running such a lousy economy. At least that's what I expect to hear out of Couric and Williams on the nightly news. I hang onto the hope that most people will see otherwise. Until that time of fantasy and legends, we'll have to continue living in the reality that is socialist America.

Short Memory Or A Big Brass Set...You Decide

Everyone by now, I'm sure, has heard that U.S. forces in Iraq have captured five Iranians who were attempting to provide monetary and material support to the terrorists (in this case Shia groups) operating against Iraqi and U.S. forces. If you're Iran in a case like this, you either disavow them or you go all fire and brimstone. Well, they chose the latter.

Tehran denied the five detained Iranians had been involved in financing and arming insurgents in Iraq.

"Their job was basically consular, official and in the framework of regulations," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Sunday during his weekly media briefing. "What Americans express was incorrect and hyperbole against Iran in order to justify their acts."

Hosseini said the Iranian representative office where the five men worked was established in Irbil in 1992 to facilitate the visit of Kurdish businessmen and medical patients from Iraq to Iran.

"Then, both countries agreed to promote it to consular level," he said. "Agreement for formation of the Iranian consulate section was exchanged in the current (Iranian) year."

Hosseini accused the United States of resorting to "hostility and conflict toward neighbors of Iraq" because he said the country did not want to acknowledge it had failed to bring stability to Iraq.

"The United States should release all the five persons, prevent possible similar acts and compensate damages," Hosseini said.

So, just to clarify, the Iranian government's response is that the U.S. is violating consular rules by illegally seizing consular officials. Everybody get that? Is there a statue of limitations on irony? Could someone maybe hand a Wikipedia print-out to Hosseini or something?

I can't wait to see how this one plays out.