I’m a strong believer in the efficacy of the separation of Church and State. Not only is it good for the State, but it’s good for the Church as well. I’m of the view that the Founders added the First Admendment as much to protect religion from the government as much as the other way around.
This is such a good idea I think we should extend it to the separation of State and Society. The State shouldn’t be trying to modify or run the society of its citizens, but should simply enforce a neutral as possible set of rules. It’s clear that as the State does more of what use to be done by self organizing associations in society, the weaker the fabric of that society, and the more bitter and sclerotic the politics.
One might object that the State can’t avoid affecting society, but then again neither can it avoid affecting the Church either. In both cases we simply have to work to minimize the interference.
I suppose I’ll get accused of utopianism again but if it comes down to a choice between politicians vs. actual people, I’ll go with the latter.
Revisiting the pension issue, I’ll just make some small points.
Mr. Burner asks what to do about those who can’t afford to retire for 25 years. Basically, they’ll have to work longer. I would note that when FDR set up the original Social Security, he deliberately picked a retirement age older than the average life expectancy. If we were doing it today we’d probably set retirement at 75. That’s a big shift, adding ten more years of earnings, cutting off ten years of retirement. It might well close the gap enough to avoid the Ponzi problem (if enough of the contributors don’t collect, you can get away with a pyramid).
It is, however, a thorny challenge.
Mr. Judd’s comment on the original post brings up another point, which is that you can’t have everyone retired at the same time. This is something that’s frequently missed by the childless. The fact of the matter is that you can not store up the actual goods you need to survive during retirement. Someone must make these goods so that they are available for purchase. As we are seeing in Western Europe these days, not having children ends up being a tragedy of the commons. While you may think yourself better off for not having to pay for children, if everyone does it then your retirement is going to be brutal and unpleasant.
Little Green Footballs and Winds of Change have been discussing this report from MEMRI about sermons from preachers employed by the Palestinians Authority. LGF cites this surreal exchange with Hanan Ashrawi:
Tony Snow: We understand that, as a matter of fact, hate language is used by both sides. The unusual factor here is that it is on a television channel that you and the Legislative Council and Yasser Arafat control. You’re responsible for the content…
Hanan Ashrawi: No we don’t control it.
Tony Snow: You don’t control your own television network?
Hanan Ashrawi: No, no. There is no censorship or control on those and I never heard this speech, and I will have to take your word for it, although I would like to know your sources.
That’s not the best quote, though. Ashrawi certainly knows the real situation and is just playing for the useful idiots in the West. However, this guy, Palestinian Mufti Sheikh Ikrimeh Sabri, is apparently completely without introspection:
The blessed and sacred soil of Palestine has vomited all the invaders and all the colonialists throughout history and it will soon vomit, with Allah’s help, the [present] occupiers.
Really, now? All of them? Including the religious armies that invaded and colonized Palestine in the 7th Century? But perhaps he’s right, and it’s time to expell all of the peoples who have conquered or settled in Palestine in recorded history.
I’m not addicted … I can go for hours offline!
The lack of posts has been mainly because of
I know you wish I’d say that I’d just run out of things to write about, but in fact my “idea box” is overflowing with things I haven’t managed to get the energy to write up. Sigh. Heck, I could do this weblog just from writing up tangents that are too off topic or big to put in comments from interesting posts over at the Brothers Judd.
What Missfelder said, in an interview published in the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel, was that old people were soaking up Germany’s financial resources with lavish pensions and gold-plated health care plans. Such largess, he said, came at the expense of young Germans, who he warned would be strangled by the burden of supporting an ever-larger population of retirees.
It’s interesting that folks in Germany are actually becoming aware of this problem. However, Burnet opines that
this story also shows how stark and selfish individualism and free-enterprise can be when they are not buttressed by commitments to faith and family.
I think it’s a bit of a stretch to blame free-enterprise for the debilitating results of massive state pension plans. One might argue that freedom is essential to civil society and that protection of property rights is an integral part of freedom. State pensions are the opposite of property rights - property is taken from some and given to others. One might also argue that pensions of themselves are harmful to family ties.
In the comments, Burnet asks, what would libertarians do about the dependents in society, if government pensions are out of line? This is a fair question.
I can’t speak for all libertarians but it is a mistake to believe that libertarianism requires autarkic individuals. In fact, libertarianism (much like conservatism in this regard) believes that people cannot be coerced into cooperation, forced to care or compelled to be charitable - the view is that these are intrinsically opposed concepts. Libertarians believe strongly in voluntary associations, the kind of thing Tocqueville liked about the USA. But if there is no “opt-out” the organizations can never really be voluntary. Just as defending freedom of speech doesn’t mean one approves of dreck like Noam Chomsky, defending the right of individualism doesn’t mean one supports an atomized society.
However, there is a question about how the right wing of the blogosphere views the issue. While I’m not sure I’m “right wing”, I am a libertarian-conservative which is probably close enough.
As I’ve noted before, I’m somewhat hesitant to criticize current US policy toward North Korea because there are simply no attractive options (something Johan, the poster at Harry’s, has realized). There is going to be a massive and painful fallout from the fifty years the North Korean regime has been allowed to ruin the country while creating a massive and dangerous armed force.
There is also the standard question about why it was a good idea to invade Iraq but not North Korea. I’ve dealt with that on the grounds of
I ws reading somewhere (sorry, lost the link) that for much of the younger generation these days, if something isn’t on the Internet then it’s either not real or not important. Part of that is that the kids spend a lot of time on the Internet and part is normal laziness (it’s much easier to find things in Google than trundle down to the library).
What I’ve noticed, though, is that this tends to apply to use old folks as well. I’ve noticed that I’m reluctant to write or comment on things if there aren’t link available. It’s not just that I need the easy access to the information but both of my readers do. I, personally, am suspicious of writers who make claims without any links as sources. This makes me reluctant to make cites without references as well.
I think that the expectation of cites and sources is a wonderful thing. It will make much of the shoddy work that passes for intellectualism harder to achieve. I’m sure that the intellectuals will blather on about “gatekeepers” and whatnot, but of course one of the great things about the Internet is the low barrier to publishing. It’s the current gatekeepers who are rightly worried about the coming Brave New World.
Today’s Wall Street Journal has an editorial on the Ford Foundation. Various government apparats are looking in to what, exactly, the Foundation is funding. In particular, the question is whether the Foundation is funding terrorists.
The editorial points out some funding of various Palestinian NGOs, which refused to sign a pledge that money from the Ford Foundation wouldn’t be used for terrorism. The Foundation dropped support after this and the resulting publicity. Susan Berresford, the head of the Foundation, admitted that the Foundation “did not have a clear picture of the activities, organizations and people involved”. One wonders what they did think it necessary to know about an organzation receiving $1 million a year for which the Foundation was the biggest funder.
My puzzlement is why a Foundation such as this engages in funding things that can’t stand the light of publicity. Isn’t it normally the case that PR flacks work tirelessly to promote awareness of the generousity of charitable organizations? I suspect logo-realism at work here. I believe that the people who made the funding decision just looked at the name based on that alone decided it was a worthwhile organization. In the logo-realist view, if an organization has “human rights” in its title, surely it works to promote human rights. Otherwise we have to believe that the Ford Foundation is doing charity by stealth despite knowing that it will be severely embarrassed if anyone finds out. And as is said, never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity.
UPDATE: Instapundit latches on to this issue.
One of the common counters to the anti-Bush arguments is the question “well, what would you do?”. This is not a successful tactic because there is always a simple, easy and counter-factual answer. The classic example is “I would have gotten buy-in from France to invade”. What’s the response to that? Anyone who currently finds that claim plausible isn’t going to be persuaded otherwise by mere facts. There’s also the responses of “I wouldn’t have rushed to war” or “I would have consulted with the UN”. The only possible response to these is long term, so that the very mention of France as an ally or the UN as a responsible organization doesn’t pass the laugh test. Until that day, I think this approach is dead as a debating tactic.
Once again the Caliphascists have demonstrated their stunning combination of tactical operational capabilities and strategic cluelessness.
Attempting to assassinate the ruler of Pakistan, General Musharraf, is a tricky operation to pull off and major strategic blunder. It’s as if the planning cells sat around and said “what potential source of opposition haven’t we energized yet? — I know, Musharraf! Let’s convince him that it’s do or die against us!”. Musharraf has been playing both sides, balancing his need to be friendly with the USA vs. placating the Caliphascist elements of the Pakistan government and population. These attacks can only signal that any accomodation with the Caliphascists will end up with Musharraf dead anyway, so why hold back? It will likely energize Musharraf’s supporters in the population as well while simultaneously giving him political cover to take strong actions against Caliphascists in the government. It’s such a strategic setback for the other side that one is tempted to believe that it was all a set up done by Musharraf or USA special forces.
One key point in a probabilistic universe is that it is impossible to know the future, and that because of accumulating error the longer in the future you try to predict, the more off you will be. This has implications for planning. The main one is that there is no perfect plan because the more specific the events it is designed for the more likely it is to be inapplicable. A perfect plan that envisions every detail is guaranteed to be either wrong or too complex to comprehend.
The best plans are ones with some moderate level of detail for the most likely series of events, contigency plans for when things don’t go as planned and actions to try to get events back on the favored track. The company I work for, which is in the high tech industry, never used to plan more than about 18-24 months out. This was because it simply didn’t make sense - in those days no one knew what the industry would be like in two years, so why plan for the unknowable? All that was known for certain was that things would be very different on that time scale, but how exactly was very unclear. The rational position was to not commit to specific plans on that time scale, but to stay flexible so as to be able to respond to the expected unexpected shifts.
This is another way of looking at the dynamist vs. stasist viewpoint or even Hayek’s view on central planning. The problem is as always finding the balance, because while nothing is certain many things are effectively certain (such as tomorrow’s sunrise).
Moreover, one can do planning at a higher level. This seems to be the way the US military is evolving, planning for the unplanned. In this style one plans a toolkit of responses to likely events while providing for resources to supply those responses. The goal is to create a planning / feedback loop that can handle the shift terrain of reality. One plans the structures of response, not the responses themselves.
This kind of “meta-planning” is analog in the social realm of tool building in the physical realm. This is the step of building tools to build tools. I.e., rather than building a complete tool set that can handle anything, one builds a machine shop that can’t do much itself but can build whatever tool turns out to be needed. In a chaotic and changing environment, that’s the right approach.
USS Clueless, with regard to the capture of Saddam Hussein, mentions “how 4th Division made its own luck”. That’s an interesting concept that I’m going to elaborate on because it’s part of an larger meme that I’m working on about living in a fuzzy world.
The bottom line is that the capture of Saddam Hussein was, in fact, a matter of luck. The 4th could easily have missed that hole and lost the capture. Yet it’s also the case that his capture was the result of hard work. How can both be true? Because we live in a probablistic world where nothing is ever certain. There are two ways to deal with this fact.
One is fatalism - just accept whatever happens and hope you get lucky. This one is the easy path. It’s also the more modest path as it presumes that one’s actions don’t have much effect on what happens1.
The other path is to “make luck” by tweaking the odds. This is based on the belief that while one can never guarantee an outcome, one can act in such a way as to change the odds.
This latter is what the 4th did, both tactically and strategically. Tactically they modified the odds of each outing by gathering intelligence and concentrating their efforts in the most likely spots. This improved the odds on each roll of the dice. Strategically they maintained a hard pursuit, which gave them repeated opportunities to roll the dice.
Trying again and again is an excellent technique for dealing with small chance. It’s a central fact of probability that even low probability events become likely if one can roll the dice enough times. For instance, if you have only a 5% chance of winning, you can change that to better than even by trying 14 times. Strategically one wants to arrange matters so that winning once is enough (for instance, the 4th ID only need to “win” once looking for Saddam Hussein, whereas he had to get lucky every time. That’s why it’s good to be a predator and not prey). You still have to “get lucky” but by arranging multiple attempts you are making your luck.
1 Note the equivalence here with predeterminism. While the construction of reality is completely different, both lead to the same behaviour because ultimately choice doesn’t matter.
I have no idea how much I’ll be posting over the Christmas weekend, so both of you readers, have a merry Christmas!
Via Brothers Judd we have this little tidbit:
In an interview with CNN on Monday, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who recently announced that he would end his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, advised North Korea, Iran, and Syria to give up their WMD programs as well. Gadhafi said that by following in his footsteps, those nations can escape from their current difficulties.
The question I ask is, why did Gadhafi say this? What does he care about North Korea, Iran and Syria? Moreover, does he expect them to actually change their behaviour because he recommended it? That hardly seems plausible.
What I suspect is that this message was intended for an American audience. Gadhafi has probably figured out that while the USA can get anyone, it can’t get everyone. It’s the same theory as this old joke:
Two hikers are in the woods when the run across an enraged bear. One hiker takes off running but the other sits down calmly and starts putting on tennis shoes. The first hiker calls back “those won’t make you fast enough to outrun the bear!”. The other hiker replies “I don’t have to. I just have to outrun you.”
I expect that Gadhafi is thinking that he doesn’ t have to be good, just not as bad as others to escape Saddam Hussein’s fate. By calling on the new Axis of Evil to repent, he emphasizes the difference between Libya and those other countries while making a show of his own cooperation.
I’m OK with this. If the nasty regimes of the world are competing to not be first on the list of regimes we would like to dispose of, that’s good for everyone. Another win for the kind word and a gun theory of diplomacy.
In another display of just how unhappy the Palestinians are about even the prospect of peace that leaves Israel in existence, we have the Egyptian Foreign Minister assaulted by Palestinians, apparently for meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and other members of his government.
What I find interesting is that the various all claim the FM was attacked by “extremists”. How, exactly, is this known? Clearly the framing of the story in Big Media is that such people much be extremists and not representative of the Palestinian population as a whole, but why not? Not one of the articles that I’ve seen provides a shred of evidence for this. They just apply the label and move on. Is it accurate? It’s clear that the average journalist doesn’t care, assuming the notion even occurs to him.
I’ve been getting deluged with spam e-mail that contains offers to buy prescription drugs online CHEAP and WITHOUT A PRIOR PERSCRIPTION. Maybe it’s just me, but I suspect that most (if not all) of these places aren’t going to be the most thorough in verifying permission by the medical establishment for me to purchase these pharmaceuticals.
What does this mean long term for government or even AMA control of prescription drugs? I wonder how long it will be (if it hasn’t happened already) that some minor Carribean nation becomes a “prescription drug haven” by approving every pharmaceutical in sight, letting “hospitals” buy them and then re-sell them back to the USA. It wouldn’t even be necessary to offer much of a discount, the real selling point would be access. The first case where a patient sues an HMO for not paying for over the Internet drugs should be an interesting one.
Although the spectacle of lefty commentators making fools of themselves by claiming that the turkey President Bush was photographed serving was made of plastic, there is another aspect - Bush served the troops.
Just try to imagine Saddam Hussein or any of the other despots of the Middle East trying to be photographed doing that. Consider the whole plastic turkey controversy - the photo was basically taken by accident, not staged. But even if it was, consider the image being projected - not exactly the stuff of the calculated magnificence that is the PR object of so many other rulers and ruling classes around the planet. And even if it’s completely staged, the fact remains that all commentators believe that such an image is a winning one in America. This attitude toward the ruling class is just another aspect of the divide between the USA and Europe. While the EUlite openly claim their essential superiority over the masses, that yet remains the kiss of political death here. One more reason I love America.
When one sees articles like this about the general decline of Europe or France in particular, a question that always comes up is “why don’t they see this?”.
I’m sure that there is willful blindness or stupidity, but that’s hardly a sufficient explanation. I suspect more that the general belief is that either
The latter is an aspect of the fragility I mentioned earlier, where with a centralized, not particularly democratic state is is much harder to set right once it’s off the rails. Some of that is the effects of the propaganda that the elites know best and the masses can’t handle the actual running of the state, which inevitably has some effect.
As for the former, it’s quite a risk to try to change things - how do you know you won’t end up even worse off? On the other hand, one can live hoping to eke out something like the current state until one’s personal end. “Apres moi, le deluge” after all.
Here’s a quote:
Several pro-immigration and civil rights groups yesterday filed a class-action lawsuit to stop the government from entering immigration information into a national crime database
I like the language here - “pro-immigrant”. What they mean is “pro-criminal-immigrant”. I’m pro-immigrant myself, but I fully support enforcing immigration law and deporting all people are who not here legally. I like legal immigrants - they have been a source of strength for our country for centuries. Looking the other way for those who violate the law is not only unsafe in these times but a slap in the face of those immigrants who have shown respect for the law. I can understand those desperate enough to be willing to violate immigration law to enter this country, but I have nothing but contempt for the activists who show such contempt for law. This contempt is not only the overt efforts to vitiate immigration law but the de facto favoring of immigrants who are scofflaws.
I am a bit concerned about entering generic immigration data in to the NCIC (the national crime database) but I have no objection at all to entering the names of criminals, which includes anyone who is in the USA without legal permission. That’s a crime and someone who does it is a criminal.
The one thing space technology doesn’t need is another Apollo style program to land men on Mars. We’ve seen that future and it doesn’t work. It is, in fact, a nationalized industry and that’s never been a source of innovation and progress. I was hoping that President Bush would be more of a free market kind of guy, but apparently he’s not thinking outside of the failed policies of the past on this one.
The root of the problem, of course, is that engaging the free market on a problem is good policy but it’s not good publicity. Pumping money into a failed organization like NASA has the appearance of doing something, even when it’s just at best buying votes. There’s a lot of similarity between the UN and NASA - both had their glory days but the essential contradictions of their founding has now caught up with them. Both appear to promote certain high ideals but regularly betray them in practice. The solution for both might be to cut them back to doing what they’re actually capable of - for the UN, coordinating relief efforts and NASA, doing science, not R&.
If Bush was a real space industry, which would be of immense benefit to the USA and eventually the world economy, he should forbid NASA from building launch vehicles and instead require them to buy launch and orbital facilities from private organizations. Orbital habitats should be something NASA rents. Figure out what the International Space Station would cost, divide that by ten and offer that much every year for rent on something equivalent. We’d see more progress in that decade than we’ve seen in the past thirty. Free markets may not deliver “justice” or “equality” but they sure as heck deliver results.
Looking at the situation in Iraq after the capture of Saddam Hussein, we see a clear increase in cooperation. This was to be expected by everyone except the hard Left and Big Media.
The question to ask is, what is the viewpoint of an Iraqi who doesn’t want the USA there? It might well make sense to aid or at least be compliant with the terrorists in the hope that they’ll chase the Coalition away. However, if the perception shifts to the view that the Americans are going to win regardless, then helping the Americans is the best plan. As far as I can tell, more Americans believe that the USA was to create a satrapy in Iraq than Iraqis do. This means that even a patriotic Iraqi would be willing to help the USA once he was convinced that the USA will win. Once things are in order in Iraq, we’ll do there what we did in Japan and Germany. We’ll maintain bases but Iraq will be its own nation again. American bases won’t make Iraq a conquered nation, anymore than our bases in Germany forced Germany to toe the American line on invading Iraq. In fact, it is the threat of removing the bases that has many in Germany concerned. I expect the same for Iraq and once we hit the tipping point there I think the Iraqis in generally will see that as well.
For this reason, steadiness is the key. The defeat of the forces of resistance to civilization must be seen as inexorable. We don’t need a big, spectacular victory, but a steady stream of smaller ones. Once the general view is that it’s just a matter of time till the Coalition is fully in control, the resistance will effectively collapse. It may be that the capture of Saddam Hussein will be seen as the tipping point someday, but it’s still too early to tell. We need to push on now, rather than resting on that victory. The reports I’m seeing indicate that our forces in Iraq realize this as well. We’ll certainly know by next November.
Daniel Schorr was on NPR this morning, bloviating about some Nixon related thing. I realize that Schorr hasn’t had a moment of glory since the Nixon presidency, but while I can understand Schorr’s need to dwell on his past triumphs, why does that count as news? Why does NPR subject the rest of us to that? I have to agree that the Vietnam / Nixon experience has indelibly marked the generation that took part in the anti-government protests. Like an old high school quarterback who won the big game 30 years ago but struggles with a broken marriage and dead-end job now, modern reality is just too painful to deal with straight up. The only difference is that I can feel sorry for the former quarterback.
I was completely unaware that the UK has a probe on the way to Mars:
Britain’s mission to land a spacecraft on Mars reaches its first nail-biting moment today when the Beagle 2 probe is ejected from its mothership and sent hurtling towards the Red Planet. […] The British probe is due to bounce down on the planet at 2.54am on Christmas Day and begin its search for evidence of life.
Wow. Apparently it was launched just last June, presumably to take advantage of the conjunction. Good luck, chaps!
it’s also true that Saddam Hussein made some great improvements in Iraqi health care and domestic infrastructure.
This is of course not the case, particularly during the last 12 years or so. The Ba’ath let the infrastructure of everything not in Baghdad decay and even Baghdad wasn’t completely kept up. If Chait really believes this, that would explain part of his belief that the occupation of Iraq hasn’t been doing to well in getting basic infrastructure working. It was already mostly broken before the invasion. Of course, most of the breakage was the result of a combination of the sanctions and Ba’ath policy, but wasn’t Chait one of the ones who supported sanctions instead of invasion? But I guess that’s consistent with believing that the infrastructure in Iraq was well maintained by the Ba’ath regime.
So now JonathanChait has a hate Howard Dean website [via Harry’s Place]. Chait, of course, is the writer who publicly reveled in his hatred for President Bush earlier this year. What I want to know is, whatever happened to policy disagreement?
I’m no fan of Dean but I certainly don’t hate him. I like to reserve my hate for real scum, like say Saddam Hussein. I think most of us can agree that Saddam is outside the mainstream of US politics. But for a national politician (and even if Dean can’t actually win in Novemember, he’s clearly a real candidate) to hate them is to hate his supporters at some level. To hate Bush or Dean is to hate large chunks of the citizenry. Is that really a good idea? And do we really want to value the words of writers like Chait who openly do so?
On the other hand, perhaps we are once again reverting to a previous norm. The political campaigns of an earlier era were quite vituperative - modern campaigns, for all of the claims of mud slinging, are rather genteel affairs. Perhaps it is the concurrent rise of independent voices that releases the gate on this kind of invective. I doubt that Chait will be the last to indulge himself in this manner.
In discussing some issues of the use of intelligence in WWII, I touched on the view of the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, who correctly forsaw that victory against the US would come quickly or not at all. His strategic plan was not to break the US militarily but to create a situation where the cost of victory was too high for the USA to pay. The attack on Pearl Harbor wasn’t designed to permanently cripple the US Navy but to cripple it for long enough to conquer South East Asia and construct heavy defenses, defenses that the USA would be unwilling to break through. One notes that the USA did in fact pay heavily for breaking those defenses. And while Yamamoto’s plan didn’t work, it was the only one with some hope of success and Yamamoto was not given the option of not conquering SE Asia.
I’m reminded of this because this is essentially the same plan the Caliphascists are running. They had conquered most of Arabia and convinced the USSR that it wasn’t worth fighting over. The USA was the next target that would be shown the cost of opposing the Caliphascists, the former then deciding to concede the territory and states already conquered. Had Al Gore won the 2000 election, I think the plan might well have succeeded. It says something about modern politics that the Japanese plan was doomed no matter which candidate won.
One question that comes up is whether President Bush will engage in televised debates with the Democratic Party candidate. As noted in the comment string, such debates are a very recent invention that the republic survived without for quite some time.
The real question is whether such debates are actually a positive contribution. Given the astonishingly poor job done by the moderators and the very limited time, all that’s really demonstrated is how good a set of handlers the candidate has. More and more the candidates simply ignore the moderators (which I find hard to fault) and make campaign speeches.
Let’s just evolve this to its logical conclusion. Each candidate should have a weblog with comments that are open to other candidates only. I’d find it interesting just for what links are used to support various positions. I don’t even care if everything is written by staffers, as long as the candidates take responsibility for what’s written. Responses wouldn’t be time or space limited, although of course we would be free to judge the candidates on how pithy or wordily meandering their posts / comments were. Others could comment on the posts/comments and have real online discussions about them (which would probably be rich sources for the candidates).
It’s not going to happen, though, because it’s far too transparent. It would make a good talking point for an insurgent, though.
David Cohen asks the question that haunts us all, “why don’t other nations adopt a USA style government, since it’s worked so well for us?”
One of the respondents pointed out what I think is the key point, that modern constitutions are written by professional politicians and therefore serve the interests of the political class. In contrast, the US Constitution was written to restrain and frustrate the political class in order to benefit the citizenry. It’s an example of what we code slingers call user centered design. This simply means thinking about what the user of the program wants to do and building the software to do those things in the way the user would like to do them. It seems obvious, but if you’ve ever used an application and cursed it, saying “only an engineer could like this!” then you’ve seen the results of not doing a user centered design. And who hasn’t done that?
Writing a constitution is similar in many ways to writing a system specification for an application. Our Founders wrote our Constitution with the “users”, i.e. citizens, firmly in mind. Modern day constitution writers (such as the EUlite) are clearly writing to create governments that do what they, not the citizens, want. Not only is it harder to think about users instead of one’s self, but with constitutions one must actually care about the citizens as people instead of simply “masses” who serve primarily as a component of the state.
It may be that the American experience is historically unique, where the citizenry not only had much experience in self-government (and therefore expected the same in any new constitution) but also that the Founders felt the need for the general approval (again, in contrast the EUlite is actively against giving the citizens of Europe any say). It really would be a catastrophe for the world if we lost that here.
The problem is that the timescale is missing. In my view, facism is in fact superior in productivity and cohesion in the short term (say, 10-20 years). It has two severe problems in the long term.
Like a hit of a stimulant, fascism can boost the productivity of a society, for a while. But the come down is always there and the longer the high the bigger the hole to fall in to. Even beyond the human cost of fascism, it just doesn’t work long term.
P.S. There is another post that describes some fo the corrective mechanisms that have kept the USA on at least a moderately even keel for 2½ centuries.
Andrew Sullivan notes that Daniel Drezner has written a good round up of much better critique of President Bush’s handling of foreign policy than has come out of any of the Democratic party stalwarts. Drezner concludes that
In many ways, Bush’s supporters have devised a more powerful critique than anything Bush’s opponents have come up with.
I have to agree with that, and it’s interesting to ask why. It is, in my view, because these critics want Bush to succeed. They agree with his basic policy but think that it could be better done. It’s the kind of criticism one gives a friend, not an enemy. As Drezner notes, it concentrates on actual facts and presents detailed alternative actions that could be taken (the most common being “make examples for the encouragement of others”). This is how one criticizes without being disloyal.
Here’s the scenario I consider most likely:
The new political speech restrictions and the rise of the Internet both encourage the formation of relatively ad hoc political organizations at the national level. Such groups will exert an increasing amount of influence on national politics. The two major parties will continue to exist and frame national political contests, although their platforms may become far more volatile.
Is this really different from what’s gone before? It seems to me that we’re just moving back to a more retail level of politics. Is Howard Dean’s organization so much different than the Sierra Club or the Teamsters? It may seem that Dean has an organization, but I think that it’s more that the organization has Dean. It’s like superheated water - it requires some nucleation side to boil but the real energy is from the pent up state. In the same way I think Dean is just a catalyst for the anger of a political ideology that’s dieing, rather than Dean creating a politcal movement.
It’s difficult for me to see how this is fundamentally different than the kind of endorsement that various organizations have given candidates since the early days of the republic. We haven’t seen it for a while because of the scale of national politics. As webloging harkens back to the pamphlateers of the early republic, the Dean phenomenon is similar to things like the Free Soil party. My prediction is that future candidates will be expected to be able to bootstrap themselves in to the running via this kind of catalyzed organization. Candidates that don’t will simply be unable to compete effectively. Moreover, this kind of organizational / machine politics will render primaries less and less relevant. In effect, the active voters (the only ones who vote in primaries anyway) will “vote” by joining such organizations. Again, this isn’t really new - rather, it is primaries that are relatively recent invention that is outliving it usefulness1. In effect, what used to be done in the party conventions will be done over a longer period of time before the primaries by organizational competition among the candidates.
We can expect to see the beginnings of this for the Republican Party in 2008. I suggest any serious candidate call Patrick Ruffini now before someone else does.
1 Not only are primaries threatened by the changes described here, but the “we can have a primary earlier than you” effect has not be healthy for them either.
I wonder if one effect of the potential for multiple national “parties” is that there will be pressure to ease ballot restrictions. While the major parties have the advantage of inertia and forces on the ground, the ad hoc organizations can better concentrate their efforts on specific states, knocking them over one by one. It also doesn’t have to be the same organization fighting the battles. Different organziations may decide that different states are more critical than others and concentrate on that state. If this happens, I expect that cross endorsements will be the primary goal. That has other interesting implications that I will elaborate on in my next post.
Mickey Kaus (who writes on a Microsoft sponsored website so it’s not up on the latest web technology, like permalinks) has a series of posts about third parties and the internet. The essence is that Howard Dean isn’t subverting the Democratic Party, but launching a hostile takeover. The key difference is that Dean has built his own organization, donor list, set of volunteers, agitprop group, etc. that is essentially independent of the main party. This would make a third party run (if Dean doesn’t get the nomination) much easier. It also raises the question of just what Dean is gaining from getting the nomination.
The gain for Dean from the nomination is twofold. First, he prevents any other candidate from using the party machinery against him. Second, he gets ballot access. While it’s possible to get on the ballot as a third party candidate, it’s hard and expensive. It’s far easier and cheaper if you are the candidate from one of the two main parties.
Kaus notes that in the future,
The label “Democrat” will be a sort of title to be won in the start-from-scratch organizing wars. It won’t come with an existing cadre of officials, or even necessarily with any ideology.
I think this will be true to some extent, but I think Kaus is missing two key facts.
One is the ballot access issue I mentioned above. Ramesh Ponnuru comes close to noticing this but doesn’t quite make it. He does note that one of the key elements discouraging third parties is the prohibition of cross endorsements. I.e., if the Christian Coalition formed as a political party, in very few states could it endorse a candidate in another party. The creates the cruel bind that Ponnuru mentions for third parties, of pushing the ideological line or contributing to the defeat of the candidate most in agreement.
The other point Kaus fails to address is the low level office work. It’s fine and dandy to set up parties to run for President, but where do the candidates come from? Presidential candidates that have never held elective office are at a severe disadvantage. So one can presume that most will have done so. But how does that happen? Only through national parties that have persistence. The efforts of such parties serve as basically farm teams for the major leagues, which means that national politicians will end up associated with a major party by the time they can walk on the national stage. This will also mitigate against the capture of party machinery by ad hoc Internet based groups. It will be like the invasions of China, where China was “conquered” by a foreign dynasty which was rapidly converted in to a Chinese dynasty. In exactly the same way, Dean like candidates may be able to sweep in from the mountains to seize the seats of power, but ultimately it is the base party structure that persists.
What we could see is a combination of these, where ad hoc Internet groups end up being persistent so that the factional fighting in the major parties becomes much more external. I.e., the factions exist as separate, persistent organizations that do battle to capture the trappings of a major party. One can see this happening with MoveOn. I find this more likely than the major parties ending up as empty shells to be put on by independent candidates.
Last I had checked, Arizona had tied our lovely state for number of governors convicted of felonies (two). But even before George Ryan was elected governor, I had high hopes. An associate who was political editor at a big Chicago paper told me before the election that Ryan had more than a few skeletons in his closet. That he did, that he did. But while many of his associates have been convicted of various crimes, Ryan himself has escaped.
Until today. He’s now been indicted on corruption charges and I consider it likely that he’ll be convicted. From peace prize candidate to criminal defendant. Oh wait - that’s about the same thing, isn’t it?
A special envoy from President Bush won unspecified pledges Tuesday from the leaders of France and Germany to reduce Iraq’s crushing foreign debt, U.S. and European officials said.
I must say that I was quite surprised that the Axis of Weasel would rhetorically cave so early in the process. I think it’s reasonable to presume that this is part of the blowback from the declaration of no Iraqi contracts. Just like taking out the Iraqi Ba’ath shows that there are limits to how much you mess with the USA, that declaration showed that President Bush was willing to live with the international approbation of such declarations. That puts some real weight behind Baker, who can say with gravitas “deal with me now, or maybe we’ll just ‘odius debt’ the whole thing”. Imagine that, actions have consequences. Quite a shock to the logo-realists out there.
One of the ways in which the Anglosphere can oppose the efforts of Al Qaeda (which I will use as a standing for insurgent Caliphascism in general) is to punish the states that support Al Qaeda activities. This wil certainly have a large negative impact on Al Qaeda but it’s unlikely to eliminate their activities completely as some might hope. This is another facet of the no step functions point. Al Qaeda can go underground (like the Red Brigade) or base themselves in lawless regions of the planet. However, their capabilities will be greatly reduced in this situation short term and long term, as more states become self ordered ones Al Qaeda will find fewer recruits and less support. There will no climatic battle, but slow and unsteady progress which will gradually reduce the threat from Al Qaeda until it’s no longer significant.
One misunderstanding of reality that I see a lot is the assumption of what a mathematician would call a step function. The essence of a step function is that it instaneously changes from one value to another (so that the graph looks like a step). This has its uses in mathematics, but in physical reality such things do not occur above the quantum level. Civilizations don’t instaneously collapse, public opinion doesn’t instantly shift, one more straw doesn’t break the camel’s back.
One manifestation of this was the discussion of whether the attacks of the resistance to civilization in Iraq would continue or not after the capture of Saddam Hussein. To me the very question is silly. Of course the attacks will continue - nothing stops instantly. The question is, will there be more or fewer attacks, and on what time scale?
Complaints of how the capture won’t stop the attacks simply demonstrate the writer’s weak grasp of reality. Unlike the world of conspiracy theory, there is no single lynchpin to a conflict such as this, no key link that can be broken to end the conflict. Instead, there is a whole palette of contributing causes. Each success will, over a medium time scale, result in a reduction of attacks. The attacks will never be completed eliminated - even in the USA we haven’t managed that. But at some point, as callous as it sounds, they will become more of a nuisance than a threat to a self ordered society in Iraq. That’s really the best we can do.
P.S. I wonder if the Left is more susceptible to this. It’s certainly not that case that this misperception is the sole province of a single political viewpoint (that would be self-invalidating!) but I think it probably that rationalists are more prone to the error. The very belief that large scale social problems can be “solved” by some N-point policy is a fallacy of this nature. Ameloration is possible, but elimination? Not as long as humans are humans.
She Who Is Perfect In All Ways had the radio on again this morning so I was prevented from going back to sleep by the BBC and later NPR coverage of the capture of Saddam Hussein. What I found interesting was what Jeff Jarvis refers to as the “coalition of the pissy”. Liane Hansen as the host felt this obvious obligation to dig until she found something bad, at which point she would dwell on it. Some other NPRite read a letter from a female trooper about the capture, which was as you might imagine quite upbeat. Hansen found that unacceptable and kept casting about for some way to inject negativity in to the report. Instapundit readers also write in about the “dejection in the voices” of the BBC and NPR. I’d agree that they sounded a bit more downbeat than usual. The myth of objectivity gets a little more ragged every day.
The BBC World Service is reporting that Saddam Hussein has been arrested and that this has been confirmed by UK Prime Minister Blair. Others are reporting confirmation by Ambassador Paul Bremer. I think that’s probably enough to discard the 48 hour rule just this once.
Most of the reports center on the morale shift of this capture, big plus for the Iraqis and the Coalition, big negative for the forces of resistance to civilization and the “peace” movement. But I wonder if the bigger hit to the latter won’t be lack of access to money and supplies. It’s hard to believe that Saddam shared data on the location of money and weapons caches with anyone else. That wouldn’t be his style and it would also discourage those who knew where he was from turning him in. I just wonder what all of the “but President Bush can’t even capture Saddam Hussein” people will say now.
I was thinking about energy efficiency and CAFE standards. One thing that’s not pointed out enough is that making the use of something more efficient causes greater use of that thing by (in effect) lowering the price. One need only look at electrical use. As electrical devices have become more efficient, we use more of them. The large rise in overall fuel efficiency in cars in America hasn’t lead to less gasoline being used either. Of course, one could argue in favor of CAFE on other grounds, but the idea that it will reduce the overall use of gasoline is not supported by the historical record.
But let’s look at the bigger picture. What’s the actual goal of conservation, of improving the level of efficiency of using natural resources? One effect is increased economic activity and wealth, but I’ve seen few to no advocates of conservation tout that as a feature. Instead, the putative goal is “conserve” these natural resources. But why? If they are in fact finite, then they’ll run out no matter how much we conserve. Conservation can only put off the day of reckoning, not prevent it. Why put it off, why not enjoy ourselves now? Our distant descendants would do without anyway. In a world of finite resources, we have to plan for That Day regardless.
Ah, you say, but the longer we delay That Day the more chance we have of finding some alternative. I actually don’t think that is true either. How would we find an alternative? Only by investing excess wealth today. The more excess wealth we have, the more we can invest in research to find alternatives. So it’s not the total amount but the excess that matters. Where does that excess wealth come from? Why, the profligate use of natural resources! It’s easy to conceive of a conservation regime that would eliminate all excess wealth and thereby prevent the discovery of alternatives for That Day when the resource runs out. Subsistence farmers tend to remain subsistence farmers.
This is a bit of a simplistic treatment of the issue, but hopefull it illustrates the fact that mindless conservation can well not even serve its own purposes. Perhaps the environmentalists should take up the banner of conspicuous consumption and point out how saving money on electricity for gadget A makes room in the budget for gadget B. Anyone want to alert the Sierra Club?
However, I also think the media reflexively thinks that anti-establishment protest is more “honest” and newsworthy than anything supporting the establishment - and in their view, anything conservative or associated with a conservative administration is by definition “establishment”. I also think they’re suspicious of demonstrations supporting the US or at least tracking a parallel position because they assume the US had some role in setting it up. […]
Essentially, for the most efficient production of news the media as a whole has developed frames, pigeonholes for news, that quickly organize raw information that comes in. They assess a situation, associate it with an established theme, and file it away there. […]
A CNN reporter hearing about this may see “support for US interests” and mentally file it under “administration hype” (shorthand: ignore) rather than seeing “Iraqis freely demonstrating” and “Iraqis rising up against terrorists” and filing it under “Important changes” (shorthand: cover).
While this is likely to be a fairly accurate description of the immediate origin of what we libertarian / conservatives see as media bias, it leaves some big questions unanswered.
For instance, why are these demonstrations ignorable because they’re presumed organized by the ruling power, while previous demonstrations organized by the Ba’ath regime weren’t? It seems that the ignorable box is “USA government propaganda”, not just “government propaganda”. I think it’s legitimate to ask why the USA gets this extra level of dismissal. I have noted before that it’s not holding the USA to standards that is anti-American, but the holding of only the USA to those standards. It’s just stunning (and amazing parochial) that our news media has, as a fundamental part of their world view, that the USA is the only government that is automatically not trust worthy. And they go on about how the rest of the American public is ignorant of the rest of the world!
CounterSpin was on the radio last night as I was falling asleep, but it almost woke me up from laughing. The moderator was going on about the recent prescription drug legislation. Several of the comments were just bizarre:
The overall bizareness was the viewpoint that it should be the case that the federal government could decide on whether to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on some industry’s products without that industry doing some big time lobbying. It seems to me that if such lobbying is a problem, let’s just not spend the money. But that thought never seems to occur to the left side of the aisle.
From The Corner we have a report that the NRA is thinking about getting in to the media business. Why would they do that? Because of the recent Supreme Court Decision which restricts political speech except for the media.
This is a primary reason that there’s not much negative coverage of the McCain-Feingold, because its passage puts the media and its practioners into a priviledged position in society. Until now, the priviledges of the New Class in the media was by convention and a few weak state laws. Now, however, media has a priviledged ability to discuss politics in public fora. That’s quite a nice little perq. I expect many lawsuits to hash out what exactly “media” is as the new unfree speech regime evolves. Lawsuits over websites should be particularly interesting. Perhaps we can get some weblogger arrested for posting political opinions on his website.
I didn’t have much to say about the recent Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance reform. It’s something I’ve been on about for so long that I’ve just grown tired. I agree with Spoons that this will be a historic ruling, on par with the two decisions that made the Commerce Clause all encompassing and allowed the New Deal to subvert our government.
Like the Commerce Clause decisions, this one of itself doesn’t change all that much. As Mickey Kaus point out, non-incorporated organizations can still spend money on politics. However, he seems to miss the point that once Congress can regulate some political speech, the Supreme Court isn’t really involved anymore, it’s all up to Congress. David Cohen and Justice Thomas see clearly (as Hayek did with regard to state intervention) that once regulation is permitted it spreads like ink in water, expanding at the edges until it’s everywhere.
This will be a stain on President Bush’s record that he signed this legislation, hoping that the Supreme Court would shield him from that. On this, I can understand (not agree or condone, just understand) the Supreme Courts frustration with Presidents and Congresses who barely bother to hide their disdain for doing their duty to the Constitution and simply fling legislation over the wall for the Judicial branch to clean up. I’d say that I hope a Republican victory in November will enable the appointment of Justices who will reverse this odious precedent, but they’ll be nominated by the guy who signed the thing in the first place, won’t they? Moreover, that won’t address the root cause of the dereliction of duty by the Legislative and Executive branches.
If Bush wants to recover some reputation on the domestic front, he could go in to the presidential campaign on this issue, with illustrations of how the legislation not only doesn’t stop the money, but how it endangers our liberty and silences the citizens. What a wonderful way to play out an assault on Big Government, by describing the forms and procedures a citizen needs in order to speak out politically. What can the other side say, “we think it’s a good idea to be able to toss citizens in jail for illegal campaigning”? I live in hope but very little expectation.
P.S. Here’s a round up of other comments on this issue.
The blogosphere is abuzz with the news that the Pentagon has a list of approved countries for American funded contracts in Iraq. This is certainly a good idea - actions must have consequences.
I don’t think we should exclude countries that didn’t help in the run up to the invasion. We should exclude countries that actively opposed the USA. I can understand a country that decided to not participate and I don’t see any need to retaliate (such countries shouldn’t be rewarded but that’s a different thing). However, despite the frequent portrayal of France as simply a nation that didn’t help, the record is clear that France actively opposed the USA and provided aid to the Ba’ath regime in Iraq. It’s more than appropriate to cut nations like that out of any flow of American funds in Iraq.
I’ve been seeing advertisements for the movie version of the Dr. Seuss classic The Cat in the Hat. I have to say, if these advertisements represent the best parts of the movie, even these reviews seem too kind.
The question arises, how could people who alledgedly like the book do something like this? The standard answer is narcissism. The “creative” crew responsible simply did the things that they would like without regard to the intended audience (that is, children). How else to explain the amount of risqué and age inappropriate material?
But I think that this kind of narcissism actually a rather infantile one. As someone with a well developed ego, being aware of other people and viewpoints is important so that they can be properly categorized with respect the center of reality — me. As much as I hate to admit it, former President Clinton had this kind of ego as well. He had a deep awareness of others because there is no way he could have been so successful and used others so thoroughly without it. However, the narcissism involved in the movie is much more of a juvenile narcissism, that of a child who’s not yet old enough to realize that others have an independent existence.
On the other hand, maybe Meyers in particular is just tired. The bottom line is that even if the movie is complete dreck, it will have a big box office and Meyers will pocket quite a bundle. Why should he bother trying to do a proper job instead of whatever he thinks is funny? Bad reviews? If Meyers knows it’s garbage, why would he care? He gets to have fun on the set, trash a treasured icon and get away with it. He can do it, of course, because the public lets him. All I can do is not be an enabler myself, note the passing of what was once actual talent, and move on.
Via The Edge of England’s Sword we have the tale of the UK representative to the EU Constitution committee, Gisela Stuart, slamming on how the work was done. It’s the standard tale of EUlite arrogance and disdain, although some passages like
There was little time for informed discussion, and even less scope for changes. Large parts of the text passed through without detailed discussions
sound a lot like the recent Medicare bill.
On the other hand, it’s one thing to do this for legislation that can easily be changed the next week or with the next Congress. It’s quite another to do it for a Constitution.
I was also floored by complaints like this one:
On one occasion a redraft of articles dealing with defence mysteriously arrived just before midnight. They were written in French and the authorship was unclear. Verbal reassurances were given that this was little more than a “linguistically better draft of the earlier English version”. The draft was discarded when some of us spotted that references to NATO had mysteriously disappeared.
NATO? What in the world is a reference to NATO doing in a Constitution?
The real problems in the EU Constitution are only alluded to in these complaints from Ms Stuart. If the new EU Constitution has so much text that the tactic cited above is useful, that seems a flaw far beyond Ms Stuart’s explicit complaint. Again, it’s one thing to have big, complex laws for big, complex programs that only lawyers (if their endurance is suffcient) can understand. I don’t like that, but it’s not a fatal problem for the Republic. However, if the basic Constitution is interpretable only by lawyers, then it’s not really a Constitution, it’s simply a cover for lawyers and committees to rule by fiat.
A good Constitution should be short enough that the average citizen can spend an evening reading it and get an accurate overview of how the government is supposed to work. If that’s not the case, then the result is that the workings of the government are effectively concealed from the citizens, who must take the word of the annointed. This, of course, prevents the citizens from acting against the government in any way short of strikes or rebellion. There is no place for real citizen participation.
Of course, many would argue that is precisely the goal of the drafters of the EU Constitution. It’s the standard result from those who believe that the people are too ignorant to govern themselves and therefore power should be vested in the hands of an elite. I suppose one could argue that this is true for any population that believes it.
P.S. There are strong parallels here between this and campaign finance reform where the never end elaboration of laws disenfranchises citizens. It’s not surprising that both are being pushed by ideological fellow travelers.
One question that frequently comes to mind about the Caliphascists is, how do they expect to win? How can a poor, technologically backward region compete in armed struggle with the West, which has the most powerful military force and technology the planet has ever seen? The answer is in pictures like this. If this kind of open support for armed forces of the Caliphascists can take place in an area controlled by a nation of the West, why wouldn’t those people believe that the West is simply incapable, for whatever inscrutable Western reason, of actually stopping them?
Best of the Web has a comment about potential problems in the Howard Dean campaign. This is basically that because it’s decentralized, Dean can’t exert much control over what is done in his name. That’s kind of interesting, but what’s sad is that Dean’s biggest worry is that some supporter could send himself or Dean to jail or make them subject to a large fine. Think about. Here, in America, the campaign finance reform laws putatively designed to free up politics for the masses make exact the kind of grass roots, spontaneously political activity encouraged by Dean illegal.
I just wonder what will happen the first time a Dean supporter gets busted for this kind of violation. I predict that no one in the Dean camp will think about why the supporter could get busted, but will simply claim that it’s “Republicans abusing the laws” without asking who, exactly, supported the passing of those laws. It’ll be no different then when former President Clinton got busted under sexual harrasment laws (why could they make him talk about that kind of stuff — because of laws Clinton and his political allies supported), or when Dean declined public financing for his campaign.
On the other hand, this kind of learning disability has been endemic over there for quite some time. For instance, Oliver Willis is whining about an advertisement for President Bush being illegal. The dastardly criminal act? There was no “I approve this message” tagline. Oh, the horror! Can our political system survive that kind of perfidity? How can anyone who claims to want participation in politics by ordinary citizens think that this kind of nit picking is a good idea? I guess, though, based on the size of Bush’s campaign warchest, at least we’ve gotten the money out of politics. Right, Mr. Willis?
I realize that there’s been a big flap about an independent European military force but I have wondered for years why NATO is still important. I have to agree with some of the critics of the USA that if a group of European nations want to do this, who is the USA to say “no”? The USA could withdraw from NATO in response but for some reason this is unthinkable.
That brings me back to the editorial, which again harps on the European Defense Initiative and the risk to NATO while failing to explain what, exactly, is the reason why NATO is sacrosanct in American foreign policy. NATO was certainly a key bulwark in the fight against Soviet Communism, but hey, special alert - we won! If we’re now concerned about Russian expansionism, the better solution would be to buddy up with some of the key frontline states like Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic Nations. Russia couldn’t afford any serious adventurism right now so that’s not even an urgent issue.
Also on the scales is that France wants to break up NATO. I say we let them. Who is it that thinks French foreign policy during the Fifth Republic has served France well? And what use has NATO been during the war with Caliphascism? What help we have gotten from European nations is because of bilateral relationships, not because of NATO (would the Poles have refused our request without NATO?).
Most bizarrely the WSJ editorial goes on about the inability of the key European nations (e.g., France and Germany) to afford NATO and an independent European force. Well, OK, this is a problem for the USA? They’re not contributing anything useful to the USA now anyway so why would not contributing in the future matter? It might well serve as a wakeup call that he who pays the piper calls the tune.
Personally, the biggest incentive for me would be the sheer schadenfruede of watching France and Germany try to set up a military operation. These are the same nations that declared their rapid reaction force operational without the actual troops. Presumably this is in fact the same force that would serve as the basis for the European military force under discussion, even though that was denied at the time. It’s difficult to see why it will work any better this time around when France and Germany are having even greater financial difficulties.
Finally, there is the issue of the beaurocratic undead. No organization wants to be disbanded, even when its mission is no longer relevant. We see this effect with the IMF, which goes around creating financial havoc now that its original mission is obsolete. I would not like to see the same happen to NATO. It served its purpose, it is time to let it go.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Irish Parliament was pushing an investigation as to why Ireland had for twenty years pushed anti-religious discrimination resolutions in the UN but not once supported a resolution against judenhass. In fact, Ireland was involved in “slamming the door in the face of a resolution to protect Jewish victims” of religious descrimination / violence. Foreign Minister Brian Cowen’s response wasn’t feasible because of the need for “concensus and a wide level of co-sponsorship”.
Two things lept out at me from this.
First is that it’s not just our State Department that has a excessively fondness for concensus over principle. Even in Ireland, foreign affairs is far enough out of true that its Parliament wanted to know why. This is even more remarkable because of the greater unity between the executive and legislative branches in a parliamentary system.
The second is that once again, the UN stands firmly in favor of Judenhass. Just like putting a bunch of thugs together and calling them a government doesn’t make for a moral government, putting dictatorships and one party states together and calling it the UN doesn’t make them a moral authority. It is of course the point of the UN to bend the foreign affairs of other nations (otherwise it’s just a money sink of sinecures for corrupt officials). Yet it’s still hard for me to see why we would want that if the bending is toward mob rule rather than any sort of principled one. It’s just another aspect of the liberal myth that groups of people who are vested with political power will iutomaticaly become angelic. I don’t know what to say because If the Twentieth Century didn’t disabuse people of this notion, nothing will.
From the Belmont Club via Winds of Change we have an interesting analysis of the struggle between the North Vietnamese general Vo Nguyen Giap and the French forces in Indochina. It’s worth reading on its own, but I want to cite one key paragraph, one I competely agree with:
Long before attempting Groupment Mobile 100, or even knowing he was going to attack something like it, Giap prepared the ground. He first won the “Battle of the Borders” in which he forced the French to withdraw their outposts on the Vietnam-Red China frontier. This was actually the decisive battle of the Indochinese war. With this, Giap opened a secure supply line to China, which served as an arsenal and sanctuary in which he could raise his divisions and regiments at leisure. From this point on, really, the French had lost the war.
This is a key point to consider. While some may say that other players in the Middle East can’t afford to support an insurgency in Iraq it really doesn’t take that much money. The total spent on the VietCong insurgency was probably not that large yet it caused quite a bit of trouble for the USA. Moreover, the Saudi Entity or other oil regimes might well reimburse Syria for the effort.
What is key here is gaining control of the borders. It’s not required to completely control the borders, but control must be strong enough to create a high tariff barrier to the import of troops and weapons. I’m glad to see rumours of hunter-killer teams on the border. For these teams, the most important task would be to kill the couriers, who are much harder to replace than the jihadi fodder. It’s also one thing to ferry others across the border to their death, quite another to have it be a serious risk to one’s self.
Whatever’s happening, it’s likely to be slow because both sides are playing an attritional game. Who will run out of money and will first, the USA or the Caliphascists?
I was reading some comments about Shari’a in Canada when I realized that Islam and California suffer from the same problem. As was pointed out, the nations in which Shari’a has been implemented are nations where many of the inhabitants would like to flee elsewhere. Yet, once they’ve successfully fled there is a tendency to re-create the legal system (Shari’a) that caused them to flee in the first place.
This is of course the same reason that people in states next to California don’t like Californians who move to their regions. These people are fleeing the ugliness that is the California coast, but immediately upon arriving seem intent on duplicating that dysfunctional society in their new home and destroying the social customs and fabric that made their new home a desirable place.
Is this a throwback to our hunter / gather roots, where tribes would exhaust / pollute the local environment and then move on? That’s probably not as successful a strategy today as it was back then. The problem is that moving is just a material cost, while fixing the problems is at the cost of self, which is a much higher price to pay.
I was reading an article on nano-fabrics recently, where someone has demonstrated how to weave transistors in to cloth. What happens when that technology and organic diplays gets good enough that one can wear the equivalent of computer screens? Think of the T-shirts! Rather than some static image, one could have live video playing. Alternatively one might have only a few physical outfits and switch them by reprogramming their diplay aspects.
I think that the progression will go like this
The biggest impediment will probably be how this interacts with washing, both in terms of durability and power sources. It’s one thing to get a flexible surface, another to survive a wash cycle. On the other hand, many decorated T-shirts don’t survive that many cycles anyway so even limited durability may not be a show stopper.
What would happen to the fashion industry if new fashions could be adopted in real time, just by downloading from a website? Currently it takes time for “high” fashion to spread to the masses because of manufacturing and pricing. But if it costs the same for everyone, that will no longer be a factor. And of course, it will become much easier for “amateurs” to get in to the area. It should be an interesting time.
A standard way to cast the major faultlines of society today is Postrel’s dynamicist vs. stasist point of view. This postulates that the “dynamicists” are comfortable with change while the “stasists” want everything to stay the same. It’s frequently presumed that Americans are basically dynamistis and Europeans are stasists. But what changes and what stays the same?
In my opinion, one of the reasons for the recent resurgence of conservatism in the US is that conservatives have learned to become dynamicists in the ephemeral while staying stasist on the fundamentals. This isn’t to say that conservatives now embrace any cultural change that emerges, but their critiques are now more about the merits of the change rather than simply that it’s different and therefore bad.
In contrast, the liberal side (particularly in Europe) have become ephemeral stasists and fundamental dynamicists, sacrificing any ideological coherence to maintain a rigid stasis of current government policies.
One mark of what Andrew Sullivan calls “eagles” (but I think are better called “coots”, because otherwise you’re falling in to the “bright” trap of propagandizing via a putatively neutral term) is respect for the fundamental of thrift while not worrying so much about quotidian details of life. The coots are now a big factor in the rising political dominance of the conservatives.
In contrast, the liberals (and again, the Europeans and patricularly the EUlite) seem to be willing to adopt any basic ideology as long as the quotidian details (long vacations, welfare payments, government jobs) stay the same. If that means switching from supporting human rights to funding brutal tyrants then so be it.
Personally, I’m a coot because knowing that there are eternal verities makes local experimentation less scary. If there are no fundamental truths, if all is flux, by what standards can anything be judged? How can we, as a society, learn anything if everything can change?
A post by InstantPundit about how 60’s revivalism isn’t going over well with the young crowd made me think of one of the long term advantages of conservatism, although it’s a short term disadvantage. That is the reliance on the “eternal verities”.
In the short term, this is kind of frumpy and boring. But if, like the modern Left, one is hooked on the “new”, eventually you run out or suffer from the over powering syndrome where one must get increasingly extreme in order to succeed. Neither of these is sustainable long term and we may be starting to see the beginning of the end game.
On the other hand, while timeless truths are somewhat boring and old fashioned, if one’s platform is based on them it doesn’t wear out. One can create new forms (e.g. modern Christian rock vs. hymns) but the substance doesn’t change. In the end, unless the ideology is fundamentally flawed (although if it’s survived for a few thousand years how bad can it be?) the tortoise will over take the exhausted hare.
there are more and more signs of the IRS and other arms of the federal government taking a conspicuous interest in the finances and political spending of Democratic-leaning organizations.
Most establishment, mainstream Dems don’t want to think this sort of thing is happening. But I’ve spoken to several in recent days who are starting to think that it is. The IRS, for instance, has just began a top-to-bottom audit of the NEA’s (the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union) finances.
I’ll skip over how the IRS did this kind of thing to conservative groups during the Clinton adminstristration. Instead, I’ll point out that of the various groups that one might use to illustrate the point, the NEA is probably about the worst possible choice. There have been allegations of illegal political funding from the NEA for almost a decade and the stories just keep coming. The real question regarding the NEA is why they haven’t been seriously investigated by the IRS before now.
I’ve been trying to write something about the so-called “Geneva Accord” that is a peace plan negotiated without the involvement of the leaders of either Israel or Palestine. The problems are legion, but another Talking Points Memo post illustrated several problems that seem the most intractable to me.
The first is the idea that this could be negotiated by Palestinians without at least the tacit approval of the Palestinian Authority, i.e. Yassir Arafat. The Isreali side, in contrast, was free to do so (although such an act would be illegal even in the US).
Second is TPM’s main point that
a sea change has been taking place of late in Israeli public opinion
That may or may not be. But I note that TPM makes no mention of any public opinion on the Palestinian side. There’s the difference that I can’t ignore, which makes mock of the kind of equivalency in which TPM indulges. If the Israeli public abandons Prime Minister Sharon, then he’ll be removed from office. If Palestinians don’t like Arafat, they get killed. I suppose that if these seem equivalent to you it’s not much of a stretch to view the Bush Administration as a brutal tyranny.
As for these accords being close to the final terms, there’s just the little matter of the “right of return” which the Israeli side claimsis revoked by the agreement while the Palestinians involved in the negotiations either dispute or refuse to comment on that point, not to mention that the version of the accords printed in Arabic and distributed to Palestinians differed in a number of paragraphs from the English version. That hardly sounds like the “the two sides aren’t really that far apart”.
Finally, TPM says that the accords make Sharon and Arafat “feel threatened”. Of course, Sharon is afraid that it will get hundreds or thousands of his fellow citizens killed while Arafat is afraid that he won’t be able to oppress and steal from the Palestinians. I guess it’s my simplismé but I just can’t view these as the same. And I can’t see any real peace coming from treating these two views as morally equivalent.
Given the furor over the battle in Samara, the former Coalition policy of not stating enemy casualities was the better choice. Such counts are an inferior metric for success, beyond being highly unreliable. It’s certainly not morale boosting to enumerate only Coalition casualties and not Caliphascist ones, but it’s probably less damaging than publishing estimates. This is especially true in a situation like Iraq, where the only difference between a dead civilian, guerilla or terrorist is whether a weapon was left with the body.
While this kind of action is of concern, it’s less of one than tales from inside the CPA in Iraq of the shear amount of document movement required to get anything done. Unfortunately, this is a double Catch-22, just like reporting on Caliphascist casualties. The first catch is that any bypassing of a full scale bureaocracy will bring screams of cronyism. Beyond that, adding additional staff to help with the paperwork has a good chance of creating paperwork faster than the additional staff could handle it.
It may well be that it’s because of these inherent problems that occupations are messy and never go as well as it seems they should.
Michael Kinsley’s latest screed is another exercise in shifting values and sleight of hand.
The essence of it is Kinsley dancing around the “dogded Vietnam service” issue now that Howard Dean has been caught in that web. I think it was sleazy to claim 4-F status based on a bad back and then turn in to a ski bum, but it’s just not something that weighs heavily on my mind. In this sense I’m the wrong audience for Kinsley as his main thesis doesn’t matter much to me.
Kinsley’s kind of stuck since he made such a big deal over President Bush’s time in the National Guard. While serving in the Guard was not as hazardous as actual duty, it’s certainly a big step above hitting the slopes in Aspen in terms of national service. This leaves Kinsley with no choice but to write the evasive column we have before us. Rather than a fisking, I’ll hit the things that really grate on me.
The first is this paragraph:
The second complicating fact is that Vietnam War was a bad war. In 2003, despite the unending controversy about aspects of Vietnam, that basic fact is not even controversial. Some people believe the war was evil to its core, some believe it was merely mistaken, some take the even milder view that it could have been a good thing if the country had truly been behind it. But almost no one thinks that the enterprise as it actually played out was a good idea. So in judging the presidential candidates on all this, there are two factual questions. “What did you do to help fight the war?” is one. The second is, “What did you do to help stop it?
What is a “bad” war? A poorly executed one, one that wasn’t in our national interests, one that was detrimental to our national interests, or one that was immoral? Note that Kinsleys hits most of these as what he means in the early part of the paragraph, but manages to exclude the first one, that the war was for a good purpose but poorly executed. It seems that the price paid by the South Vietnamese after the war still doesn’t matter to Kinsley (they’re not Democratic Party voters,after all). Next Kinsley starts his package dealing. First there is the reasonable point that few people are satisfied with the actual sequence of events in the war which he segues in to agreement that the war wasn’t a good idea. Would Kinsley similarly argue that law enforcement is a bad idea because the LAPD was corrupt? But all of this is just a setup for the real package dealing in the next paragraph, which is lead in to by Kinsley’s choice of “fight the war” instead of “support the war”.
What is your obligation, as a fighting-age citizen in a democracy, regarding a war that is morally wrong? Your first obligation is to decide what you think. So you get a small demerit if you couldn’t be bothered to form an opinion […] and a big demerit if you favored the war and nevertheless left the fighting and dying to others. No demerit, in my view, for mistakenly supporting the war if you acted on that mistaken belief by joining the fight or even (close call) if you passively accepted an opportunity not to serve.
Right off we have moved from the “bad war” concept to “morally wrong”. This isn’t a simply slip, as Kinsley uses the “morally wrong” argument repeatedly in subsequent paragraphs as a key point. Note that Kinsley first labels the war as “morally wrong” and then says that one should “decide what you think”! And of course, the repeated insistence than any support for the war was “mistaken”, although Kinsley is generously willing to overlook that error.
This whole paragraph is the old “chicken-hawk” canard. I’ll hit Kinsley with two demerits on this point. As I’ve noted previously this argument lets us impugn Kinsley’s morality by pointing out that he supports law enforcement and fire fighting yet never became a cop or a fire fighter himself, leaving the risks for someone else. The other demerit is for side stepping the fact that those who opposed the war (like Kinsley) left the suffering and dieing to the South Vietnamese. To completely ignore what actually happened after the fall of Saigon, the peace crimes of the North Vietnamese Communists, is the same kind of moral shallowness that Kinsley castigates Bush for. Kinsley could, of course, come right out and say that no amount of oppression and death in South Vietnam was worth the lives of US citizens. The fact that such a view is essential to his thesis yet Kinsley can’t come out and write it speaks volumes about his sleaziness on this issue (again, precisely the thing he objects to in Bush).
I’ll close with this thought from Kinsley:
it seems strange to say you are morally obligated to go and kill people in a cause you believe is morally wrong
So fighting against the misery, oppresion and death camps of Communism, a belief system that has killed a hundred million people and enslaved billions, on behalf of others isn’t just not our business, or not our responsibility, but morally wrong. JFK must be rolling over in his grave that such as these are the claimants to his legacy.
Yesterday’s WSJ had an article [not online as far as I can tell] about how the UN is no longer the home of “A-list” socialites. Back in the day, being a UN ambassador was an almost sure fire entreé into the New York high life. No more, apparently. UN functionaries are stuck going to each other’s parties. Interestingly, among the reasons cited is that the high social stratum in New York is sensitively attuned to power and that’s the kind of thing in short supply at the UN these days.
This is an interesting effect of the political clash over the invasion of Iraq. There is a positive feedback cycle here, where a power deficit can feed on itself. The fact that power brokers cease to invite UN officials to the parties where they can network with other power brokers of itself damages the power of the UN officials, making them even less likely to bond with the Powers That Be.
This is illustrative of how government action can catalyze a longer lasting, more thorough social action. It’s important to note, however, that such catalytic action works much better if the initial catalyst is real, not symbolic. The loss of influence by the UN by its opposition to the invasion of Iraq was not just symbolic but was a real, inarguable loss of power and influence. It’s not just Arabs who back riders on the stronger horse.
President Bush has decided to repeal most of the steel tarriffs imposed 20 months ago. What I don’t understand is why this wasn’t a open and shut issue.
The tarriffs didn’t help the US economy at all, costing far more jobs than they saved. Morever, there was no political benefit to them either. I never understood what the Bush Administration thought it was doing in this regard. I couldn’t see any payoff either economically or politically from the tarriffs. Of course, now Bush will get the worst of both worlds, blame for creating the tarriffs from the free traders and steel using industries and blame for lifting them from the steel manufacturers. Overall, though, I doubt that this issue will be of much note by the time the 2004 elections roll around.