Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Why Haven't We Heard More About This?

Nicholas Kristof holds his nose and says Bush points the way:
I doff my hat, briefly, to President Bush.

Sudanese peasants will be naming their sons "George Bush" because he scored a humanitarian victory this week that could be a momentous event around the globe — although almost nobody noticed. It was Bush administration diplomacy that led to an accord to end a 20-year civil war between Sudan's north and south after two million deaths.

If the peace holds, hundreds of thousands of lives will be saved, millions of refugees will return home, and a region of Africa may be revived.

But there's a larger lesson here as well: messy African wars are not insoluble, and Western pressure can help save the day. So it's all the more shameful that the world is failing to exert pressure on Sudan to halt genocide in its Darfur region. Darfur is unaffected by the new peace accords.

I'm still haunted by what I saw when I visited the region in March: a desert speckled with fresh graves of humans and the corpses of donkeys, the empty eyes of children who saw their fathers killed, the guilt of parents fumbling to explain how they had survived while their children did not.

The refugees tell of sudden attacks by the camel-riding Janjaweed Arab militia, which is financed by the Sudanese government, then a panic of shooting and fire. Girls and women are routinely branded after they are raped, to increase the humiliation.
To be sure, Kristof says Bush and the world have much more to do. Still, those critics that reject humanitarian reasons as legitimate justification for removing should be heartened by this story. After all they like to say, why not Rwanda? Why not North Korea? Why not every other murderous dictator in the world? Well, there are feasibility issues that come into question with those. Even that aside though, there is no logic behind a reasoning that concludes, since we can't do everything we should therefore do nothing. No. We should do what we can, where we can, when we can. In the case of Sudan, Bush has started doing that, the Europeans have not, incidentally. If, as Kristof suggests, putting diplomatic pressure on Sudan could prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths, we ought not hesitate to make such a low cost, high benefit move. Unilaterally.

America, Rescue Thyself!

This should make Pat Buchanan happy. P.J. O'Rourke says that for America, isolationism is still an option:

John Kerry says America shouldn't cut and run. George Bush says America mustn't. But we don't have to retreat ignominiously from the war on terrorism and from our other international responsibilities and commitments; we can recuse ourselves. We can explain to the court of global public opinion that, because America possesses the largest economy, the widest network of business relationships, and the only effective military force on earth, we have too great a vested interest in world events to render fair and impartial judgment. On every issue of geopolitical adjudication, from 9/11 to the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, America is a jury of cops and crime victims. A change in venire has already been called for by noisy street protestors, France and suchlike. Let's accede to the pre-emptory challenge and go home.

The benefits will be immediate. We can cut $300 billion from our defense budget. This will be almost enough to pay for the aging baby boomers' prescription drug benefits, which can now include Levitra, Botox and medicinal cannabis.

America will enjoy cleaner air and less traffic congestion as oil goes to $200 a barrel due to chaos in the Middle East. A U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East will cause chaos, of course. Then again, a U.S. intervention in the Middle East has caused chaos already. And, during those periods of history when the U.S. was neither intervening in nor withdrawing from the Middle East, there was . . . chaos. The situation is akin to the famous complaint women have against men: failure to acknowledge that not every problem can be fixed. Sometimes the best thing is just a little sympathy. America had everyone's sympathy after the World Trade towers were attacked. We can get that sympathy back if we limit our foreign policy objectives to whining.
Of course this is P.J. O'Rourke so he's got his tongue placed firmly in his cheek, but I don't think an old dimwitted fuddy duddy like Buchanan would catch it. Keep hope alive though, O'Rourke may be on to something. In the final paragraph of the column he speculates on the positive benefits that a policy of isolationism may rain down upon the good old US of A. Read the whole thing, as they say. Just maybe it would happen.


(via InstaPundit) Michael Totten administers a proper fisking to Pat Buchanan that is worth reading. My favorite line:

"Sexual emancipation is our doctrine. I couldn't care less that he and his old-right reactionary pals here and in the Middle East haven't even caught up to the sixties yet. The radical left may be stuck in the 60s, but geez, at least they got there."

Friday, May 28, 2004

Three Articles

Via some combination of Pejman Yousefzadeh and Stephen Greene I came across these three articles a couple of weeks ago. I meant to link and discuss them then as they seem to dovetail each other nicely. Here goes.

The first one is a fascinatingly insightful peak into the conditions that cultivate anti-Americanism, much of it pre-9/11. The author, a journalism professor, takes us through Iran, Central Asia, Russia, Afghanistan and more. You'll be stunned by the absolute disconnect (or outright denial) the students demonstrate, as if being told that the world was in fact not round, but flat.

I caught my first glimpse into that miasma of misinformation, envy, and anxiety on the morning of September 12, 2001, when I staggered into class only to face my students' announcement that a world war between Christians and Muslims was imminent. I had been up all night surfing through 63 television channels that did not include CNN, so I wasn't exactly in the mood to teach. But the professorial gene kicked in as soon as I settled behind my desk.

"Which Christians and which Muslims?" I asked the class. Half of the students in the room called themselves Muslims although after eight decades of Soviet hegemony, few knew what Islam required. "Are you talking about yourselves?"

"Not really. Muslims here aren't really Muslims like in Afghanistan."

The quietest girl in the class shyly suggested, "But Muslims have to defend other Muslims against attack"

I stopped her mid-sentence. "What if the Muslims are in the wrong? And what happens when Muslims attack other Muslims?"

"Muslims don't attack other Muslims," she insisted.

"Iran and Iraq? The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait? Should I go on?"

A boy in the back raised his hand. "But Muslims have no choice but to hate the United States and declare a jihad, since the United States is always attacking Muslims," he said.

"Is that true?" I pressed. "Where have we attacked Muslims?"

"I don't know. That's what people say."

"In Bosnia and Somalia, we were supporting Muslims," I said. "And in the war against Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait, we were supporting Muslims who were attacked by other Muslims."
But in this world of controlled media, contradiction by facts is a useless endeavor, for if the facts contradict the "known truth" those so-called facts are obviously false, don't you know? Read the whole thing, and note the surprisingly warm reception in Iran. Which leads me to the next article, which confirms some of the above authors' experiences.

QOM, Iran In the offices of an ayatollah here, I was jokingly introduced as coming from the Great Satan.
"Humph," a young man responded immediately. "America is only Baby Satan. We have Big Satan right here at home."
...Turbans to the left, turbans to the right - Qom is the religious center of Iran, but even here, there is anger and disquiet. One of the central questions for the Middle East is whether Iran's hard-line Islamic regime will survive. I'm betting it won't.

"Either officials change their methods and give freedom to the people, and stop interfering in elections, or the people will rise up with another revolution," Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri told me.
"There is no freedom," added Ayatollah Montazeri, who is among the senior figures in the Shiite world but is excluded from power in Iran because of his reformist ideas. "Repression is carried out in the name of Islam, and that turns people off. . . . All these court summonses, newspaper closings and prosecutions of dissidents are wrong. These are the same things that were done under the shah and are now being repeated. And now they are done in the name of Islam and therefore alienate people."

Whoa! Ayatollah Montazeri was a leader of the Islamic Revolution, and was initially designated by his close friend Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to be his successor as supreme leader of Iran.
Iran has a large, modern middle class that is utterly fed up with living under the crushing culture of the mullacracy. I thought the regime would fall last summer, it didn't. Instead the powers that be rented some Islamo-fascist thugs to intimidate and beat those seeking reform. Then, a few months ago, they fixed the elections, barring any serious reform candidates from placement on the ballot. Perhaps it will be this summer, as even the requisite hatred of The West takes a back seat to that of their rulers.

Which brings me to the final article, which was written not by Paul Wolfowitz or another (evil,white) member of the secret neo-con cabal that everyone knows about, but a Nobel Peace laureate who says that sometimes a war saves people:

As a Nobel Peace laureate, I, like most people, agonize over the use of force. But when it comes to rescuing an innocent people from tyranny or genocide, I've never questioned the justification for resorting to force. That's why I supported Vietnam's 1978 invasion of Cambodia, which ended Pol Pot's regime, and Tanzania's invasion of Uganda in 1979, to oust Idi Amin. In both cases, those countries acted without U.N. or international approval--and in both cases they were right to do so.
Perhaps the French have forgotten how they, too, toppled one of the worst human-rights violators without U.N. approval. I applauded in the early '80s when French paratroopers landed in the dilapidated capital of the then Central African Empire and deposed "Emperor" Jean Bedel Bokassa, renowned for cannibalism. Almost two decades later, I applauded again as NATO intervened--without a U.N. mandate--to end ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and liberate an oppressed European Muslim community from Serbian tyranny. And I rejoiced once more in 2001 after the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban liberated Afghanistan from one of the world's most barbaric regimes.

...Saddam's overthrow offers a chance to build a new Iraq that is peaceful, tolerant and prosperous. That's why the stakes are so high, and why extremists from across the Muslim world are fighting to prevent it. They know that a free Iraq would fatally undermine their goal of purging all Western influence from the Muslim world, overthrowing the secular regimes in the region, and imposing Stone Age rule. They know that forcing Western countries to withdraw from Iraq would be a major step toward that goal, imperiling the existence of moderate regimes--from the Middle East to the Magreb and Southeast Asia.
It seems to me that this is a concept that is lost on everyone in the world except for the neo-cons. Critics of the war like to pretend that Saddam was absolutely unconnected to broader terror, had no means or potential to enable it - financially or otherwise - and was too secular to cooperate with any Islamo-fascist organizations.

So we have the neo-cons and this Nobel Laureate that get it, anyone else? Oh right, the Islamo-fascists themselves get it too:
It is not the American war machine that should be of the utmost concern to Muslims. What threatens the future of Islam, in fact its very survival, is American democracy." This is the message of a new book, just published by al Qaeda in several Arab countries.

...The goal of democracy, according to Al-Ayyeri, is to "make Muslims love this world, forget the next world and abandon jihad." If established in any Muslim country for a reasonably long time, democracy could lead to economic prosperity, which, in turn, would make Muslims "reluctant to die in martyrdom" in defense of their faith.
So there you go, strait from the horses mouth. The choices could not be more stark, democracy offers prosperity and the will to live, the Islamo-fascists promise poverty and death. The lines are drawn, choose your side.

Here are the links to the articles again, one, two, three.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Not Exactly Convincing

Top officials alerted the public to seven suspected Al-Qaeda operatives yesterday. One of them, Adnan El'Shukri-Jumah, is being defended by his mother as a peaceful man who loves America, but then makes this curious comment:
"You know something, he and I used to say, 'If this country had Islamic law it would be the best country on the Earth.'"
Yeah, that's what bin-Laden says too. Arrest him already!!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Moore Stereotypes

(Via Andrew Sullivan)

"But speaking here in my capacity as a polished, sophisticated European as well, it seems to me the laugh here is on the polished, sophisticated Europeans. They think Americans are fat, vulgar, greedy, stupid, ambitious and ignorant and so on. And they've taken as their own, as their representative American, someone who actually embodies all of those qualities." - Christopher Hitchens on Michael Moore
Ever the iconoclast Chris Hitchens nails it here. Allow me to generalize, despite their claims of nuanced sophistication, the (Old) Europeans seem to have an incessant need to compartmentalize their thoughts and then, when confronted with a contradiction, they conclude it is the real world that needs changing, rather than their notions. Michael Moore, as described above, lends comfort to this sense of noble rightness so he is embraced by them, he is their mascot.

And they criticize us for our simplism.

Or maybe it's just because Moore is sooo damn sexy!!

One more thing, here's a FATasticly amusing psychological profile of Michael Moore. Check it.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Milton Friedman - Four Transaction Situations

I got this email from a former professor of mine who attended Freedom Fest in Vegas - short, simple, and powerful, all good characteristics for a blog post:

"DJ and I went to the FreedomFest in Las Vegas. Dinesh D'Souza, Charles Murray, John Stossel, Harry Brown, Nathanial Brandon, Steven Moore (Club for Growth), Libertarian Congressman Ron Paul, bunch of CATO guys and American Enterprise Institute fellows, Arthur Laffer was a no-show. Interesting time.

Couple of quick items from conference: There is now a 99% re-election rate in Congress. "It used to be that voters selected a politician to represent them. Today Congressmen pick a group of voters that they will represent." (gerrymandering).

(Milton Friedman simple but powerful analysis) There are four types of purchasing sitations:

1. Individual spends his own money to buy something for himself. Right item is bought and right price is paid. Right thing; right price.

2. Individual spends his own money to buy something for someone else. Wrong item is frequently bought but buyer tries not to overpay (wedding gift). Wrong thing; right price.

3. Individual spends someone else's money to buy something for himself. Right item is bought and price paid is often to high -- you spend employer's money to buy you lunch. Right thing; wrong price.

4. Individual spends someone else's money to buy something for a third party. Wrong item is frequently bought and price paid is often too high -- Congress. Wrong thing; wrong price."

When taxes are cut our economy experiences increasing instances of situation 1 and less of situation 4. Resources are allocated to a higher valued use, money is spent more efficiently and more wealth is created. Tax cuts work.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Treatment, Impact, and Tradition

In a business law class I took we discussed two types of employer discrimination, both illegal. The first and more direct, is "disparate treatment" - Individuals are treated differently because of who they are i.e. "We won't hire you because you are black." This is the most obvious form.

The second, is "disparate impact" where everyone is treated the same but it results in different impact on one group because of their minority status. The example in class was a grocery store that required employees to be clean shaven. Blacks, being much more likely to suffer from skin irritations and 'shaving bumps,' were more adversely affected by this policy than were whites, hence the policy had a disparate impact and was therefore discriminatory.

Some of the more vocal in the gay rights movement like to draw comparisons between their contemporary struggle to wed with those of American blacks during the civil rights movement. They are wrong. Unlike Jim Crow laws there is nothing in the law today that expressly treats homosexuals differently than heterosexuals. A gay man can marry a woman just as I can marry a woman, a gay man cannot marry another man just as I am prohibited. There are no rights that I have that are denied to a homosexual. The gay marriage issue is clearly one of disparate impact, not disparate treatment that is often cited, with the aim giving their case a rhetorical boost.

I make no value judgment on this, it's just an observation. I wholly support gay marriage, (previous columns here and here) I just get tired of the overblown rhetoric coming from both sides.... I suppose that is politics, but I don't have to like it!

I think the "it's tradition" argument is really lame too. Arguing that we should keep the institution of marriage as it is for the sake of tradition is just as hollow as arguing for change for the sake of change or diversity for the sake of diversity. Are there truly any original traditions left in the world that have been preserved since man's incarnation? No, today's traditions only exist because at some point in the past they replaced other traditions. There is no reason to keep doing something strictly on the grounds that that's what we've always done. Especially when it isn't what we've always done. In the strict sense of the word the tradition of marriage was lost long ago, it's time for the next step in its evolution.

No Yuppies II - Follow up

In response to this post an artist who is not starving sends some astute observations on Wicker Park and gentrification:

was just checking your blogs, read your thoughts about yuppies while jogging.
it's funny to someone who lived in wicker park in 1977 to see how
things are 25 years later. the starving artists are the ones who pushed the latino families out of this neighborhood years and years ago. they were able to pay more than the starving families, so out they went, presumably further west on division street. in way less than a generation. and i'll bet most of the "artists" bitching about gentrification weren't the ones who started it,
but the irony is still thick. they're bitching about "preserving" a neighborhood that they infested, a community they evicted. and they'll join the corporate world soon as the school loan runs out, probably buy/build a condo next door to a nightclub and then complain about the traffic and noise.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

What's This Called?

It's not irony, it's certainly not humor.... not even dark humor:
The Bin Laden Construction group recently won a bid to build the tallest skyscraper in the world in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The announcement made front-page news in most major Arab media outlets, including the Arab News, the Gulf News and the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

According to Asharq al-Awsat, the building will be over 2,300 feet high, with 160 floors in addition to a parking garage and the ground floor. The Bin Laden skyscraper will outstrip by more than 820 feet the current contender, Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and will house a hotel wing, apartments, offices, entertainment centers and restaurants, according to the report.
I know the bin-Ladens have disowned little middle child Osama - he's #7 of 50 children... not the mathematical middle but if the shoe fits.... In any case the whole scene makes for an interesting familial juxtaposition, I wonder if Osama will truly live up to his idealogy and knock these buildings down?

Monday, May 10, 2004

Tax Cuts Work

The jobless recovery is dead. April saw the addition of 288,000 jobs, on the heels of over 300,000 jobs created in March. That's two big months of additions in a row and 867,000 jobs created this year. That's a trend.
So what's John Kerry going to do? With the release of Richard Clarke's book, Woodward's book, over 100 dead in Iraq, and the prisoner abuse scandal it has been probably the most potentially damaging month for the Bush administration. Buoyed by his primary victory Kerry entered April with a slight lead in the polls, but utterly failed to capitalize on any of these opportunities and ended the month behind Bush by a about 3 points. Kerry really needed this election to be about the economy. With unemployment ticking down to 5.6% (what it was when Clinton was re-elected) and jobs continually being added, he is going to have to turn towards more pedestrian issues like the environment, Medicare and drug prices and then convince the electorate that they are important. Against the background of a growing economy and the high stakes in Iraq this will not be easy.

As for my gas price prediction, well, it's not looking good at this point, but that wasn't unexpected. Prices will probably continue to rise until (roughly) Memorial Day and then start falling. But it is pretty high right now, the national average is $1.89 and I even saw $2.27 in my area yesterday. But Saudi Arabia is nowasking OPEC to increase production and you can bet that some of the members will cheat. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Good News

I'm back from the Kentucky Derby, I'll have a summary of the trip up here eventually... well if I can edit away at least some offensiveness without compromising the integrity and entertainment value that is, 5 guys in an RV from Chicago parking in a legitimate - but friendly - crackhead's yard can make for an eventful weekend.

On to the Good News.
BAGHDAD -- He came running in his stocking feet, busting out of the mud-brick shed. He waved his T-shirt in the air wildly. He stumbled a few times and then focused on his goal: a platoon of U.S. soldiers in the Iraqi desert.

"I'm an American!" he shouted. "I'm an American POW!"
No one in the Army patrol knew quite what to make of this vision in the midst of a war zone. Then one sergeant recognized the face behind the scruffy beard.

"You're the KBR guy," he said.

That was the dramatic conclusion of the 23-day hostage ordeal endured by Thomas Hamill, a truck driver who went to Iraq to earn some extra cash after selling his failing dairy farm in Mississippi. He was taken hostage April 9 when his convoy was attacked outside Baghdad.

Here's how he escaped:
"What we do is an ugly business at times," Lt. Joseph Merrill said. "But this was a great day to be out there. It was a great day to be a soldier."

A platoon of about 35 soldiers was on foot, assigned to provide security for a team of civilians repairing a ruptured pipeline.

Hamill apparently heard the Humvees accompanying the platoon. It was the moment he had been waiting for, he told the soldiers. Hamill pried the door open and emerged in the sunlight. There was no guard, so he ran.

Hamill's captivity, it turned out, was not maximum-security. The door to the mud-brick shack had no lock; it was jammed shut with a piece of sheet metal and a wooden stick. An armed guard usually was outside.

"I could have escaped a bunch of times," Hamill later told Sgt. Forbes. "But where am I gonna go? I got one bottle of water. Where am I going? No map, nothing."

Sure seems like there's been a dearth of this flavor of news coming from the Middle East lately, it was nice to hear of this as we stopped in a diner on the drive back from KY.

But I got a kick out of Neal Boortz's thoughts so he gets the last word:
Despite some media efforts to downplay the escape of American hostage Thomas Hamill as being "freed, released, or discovered," make no mistake, this guy made a daring escape that is the stuff of Hollywood movies. He would still be captured or dead had he not taken action. He chose not to be a victim, and wasn't going to take anything laying down.

Late Sunday morning, Hamill was sitting in the house where he was being held and he heard a military convoy go by. At that point, he made a decision: do I sit here like a sheep and wait to be executed, or do I make a break for it? He chose the latter, and pried open the doors and ran a half-mile to catch up with the convoy. After identifying himself, the convoy went back to the house where he was being held, surrounded it, and arrested two of his Islamic terrorist captors. Hamill was flown to Baghdad, where he received medical treatment. A happy ending for sure.

But there is more to this guy's story. Thomas Hamill was a dairy farmer in Macon, Mississippi, and apparently the dairy farm business wasn't working out too well. Needing to pay off some debts, he sold his cows and signed up to go to work in Iraq as a truck driver for Kellogg, Brown and Root, a Halliburton subsidiary. It was a high-risk job, but it paid well and he needed the money for his family. He didn't sign up for government assistance, he went out and got a job. This should be an inspiration for all those loser types on welfare feeding at the government trough. Of course, liberals have already been saying that people are "forced" to go work in Iraq, because there aren't any jobs here. What a crock.

And so what did Mr. Hamill want to do after his escape? According to U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, "He has spoken to his family. He is now ready to get back to work." That's the American spirit. The rest of the world should take note.


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