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

Freedom's Fidelity

Monday, February 28, 2005

Telling Headlines

Here's some headlines/stories that I've seen over the last week or so that paint a rather encouraging picture of our world.

First we have some *ahem* allies that may be changing their tune a bit:

Canada will contribute up to 30 soldiers to a NATO-led force that will help train the new Iraqi army, senior federal officials confirmed Friday. The formal announcement will be made when Prime Minister Paul Martin gathers with other leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting Tuesday in Brussels.
The EU
The European Union agreed Monday to open an office in Baghdad to coordinate the training of Iraqi judges, prosecutors and prison guards in a step hailed as a sign of unprecedented unity over Iraq within the 25-nation bloc. ... "We are for the first time really united on Iraq," said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. "That without any doubt is going to be very important to the meetings we are going to have ... with President Bush."
I don't want to overhype this until we see some action, but it sure beats the obstructionism that's been served up over the last couple years.

Elsewhere Ed Morrissey links to this Telegraph report that says we may be seeing the end game in Afghanistan:
One of the Taliban's most senior and charismatic commanders has become a key negotiator as more and more members of the Islamic militia in Afghanistan give up the fight against the Americans.

The commander, Abdul Salam, earned the nickname Mullah Rockety because he was so accurate with rocket propelled grenades against Russian troops.

...Now he is a supporter of President Hamid Karzai and is tempting diehard Taliban fighters to accept an amnesty offer and reconcile themselves to Afghanistan's first directly elected leader.

"The Taliban has lost its morale," he said, speaking by satellite phone from the heartlands of Zabul province, a Taliban redoubt.

...After the Taliban's three-year struggle against a superior US force, there is growing optimism among the Americans and Afghan government that the end is close.
More than 1,000 people have died in violence in the past 18 months, but attacks have tailed off since the guerrillas failed to make good their vow to disrupt the presidential election in October, which saw a huge turnout and was won by Mr Karzai.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Afghanistan, said yesterday that a group of Taliban militia including senior officials will soon join the Afghan government's peace initiative.

Quagmire? If so, then more of these please.

On the diplomatic front Bush and Chirac are pretending to be friends again, and are in lock-step, at least when it comes to Lebanon. But the highlight of Bush's Euro trip had to be this:
Only months after he criticized countries "like France," President Bush was lavish in his praise of French President Jacques Chirac, one of the sharpest critics of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. "I'm looking for a good cowboy," Bush said Monday when a French reporter asked him whether relations had improved to the point where the U.S. president would be inviting Chirac to the U.S. president's ranch in Texas.
And the Vodkapundit commenters make the following observation:
There's only one word for such a barbed, multilayer zinger:

Nuanced in Spades, with Bells, Whistles, tapdancing Elephants and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

"Bush has delivered a compliment, an insult, a sincere offer, an invitation combined with a challenge, and a really pointed zinger, all in five words."
As I said, Nuanced.

If you've been wondering about the "Arab Street" that we've been sternly warned about over the last several years, they are starting to make some noise, but not about what you think.
Protests in Egypt
About 500 protesters gathered outside Cairo University Monday to urge Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to abstain from seeking a fifth term. The protest was organized by the Egyptian Movement for Change, which warned Mubarak against grooming his son, Jamal, "to inherit him." The protesters shouted anti-Mubarak slogans and called for amending the constitution to allow the election of the president by universal suffrage instead of a referendum on a single candidate approved by Parliament.

BEIRUT -- Presidents and diplomats piled on the pressure for Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon yesterday, but for the hard-line Ba'athist leaders in Damascus, the most worrisome pressure may be coming from a scruffy tent camp near the Beirut waterfront.

In a land where civil war is endemic but political protest is almost unknown, long-feuding Muslims, Christians and Druze are camping out just blocks from the parliament saying they will not leave until either Syrian troops leave their country or the government falls....

...But regional analysts say Mr. Assad is most likely to be unnerved, not by foreign political pressure but by the unprecedented protest movement sparked by the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The tent city rose up near the immense crater created by the blast that killed Mr. Hariri and 16 others, peopled by protesters who refused to go home after a demonstration Monday described as the largest anti-Syrian protest ever held.

Divided into small groups according to affiliation -- the Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) in one area, the followers of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt in another -- the camp has been growing daily since Monday.

Inspired by December's Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia a year earlier, the protesters have begun to call their action the "Cedar Revolt" in a tribute to the tree that adorns the Lebanese flag.

A member of the banned FPM, who identified himself only by the pseudonym "Pascal," said the protesters were considering another large demonstration tomorrow, "but the plan is to remain peaceful until Monday."
It seems that the Ukraine is not the only place the Lebanese are drawing their inspiration:
The leader of this Lebanese intifada [for independence from Syria] is Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria's occupation. But something snapped for Jumblatt last year, when the Syrians overruled the Lebanese constitution and forced the reelection of their front man in Lebanon, President Emile Lahoud. The old slogans about Arab nationalism turned to ashes in Jumblatt's mouth, and he and Hariri openly began to defy Damascus...

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

So, the Arab Street is out in full force. But they are protesting against their own tyrants, not American Imperialism.

Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq have seen successful elections recently and citizens of the region seem to be taking note. They want self-governance too. It's no longer just a dream, free and fair elections are actually happening in the Middle East. Four years ago, that was implausible.

War opponents warned that we can't invade everywhere and impose our vision by force. They were right, but their warnings were irrelevant as it was never in the plans. Iraq was invaded so we would not have to invade everywhere else, so it could become a 'beacon of freedom' and a source for hope. It's working, rather than striking back at the Syrian occupation with suicide bombs or the like, the Lebanese people are demonstrating. After decades long absence, people power is a force again in the Middle East. We do live in interesting times.

Carnival of the Capitalists

This week's issue of the Carnival of the Capitalists is up. As always it covers a wide range of all things business/economy related from marketing strategies and business theory, to tax codes, regulation, and health care.

My post on Property Rights and Eminent Domain is also a part if the issue. As well the host, Coyote Blog, has a nice post with further elaborations on the misuse of eminent domain. Check it out.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Another Important Court Case

If a woman performs oral sex on a man, leaves the room, secretly uses that sperm to impregnate herself, then sues the man for child support, is that "extreme and outrageous" conduct?

That's from today's front page of the Chicago Sun Times, and yes, what follows are real quotes and yes it's even funnier if you read them with a that ethnic south-side Chicago accent.
"If he ejaculated and had semen on her or near her through a sex act and somehow it got into her fallopian tubes, up through the ovaries, too bad -- he's got to be more careful what he does with his semen," said Chicago divorce lawyer Donald C. Schiller.


"She asserts that when plaintiff 'delivered' his sperm, it was a gift -- an absolute and irrevocable transfer of title to property from a donor to a donee," Hartman wrote. "There was no agreement the original deposit would be returned upon request."

Both plaintiff and defendant are doctors at Chicago hospitals by the way.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Property Rights and Eminent Domain

Private property rights are just as important as free speech or any of the other inalienables. You get property because you use your effort, creativity, personality to produce it and trade for it. In that sense property is an extension of self. If you had no property, you'd have little privacy. Where would you change clothes? Sleep? Shower? Hide your stash? Property rights help secure a place to freely exercise your other rights.

With that in mind the U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear a case that will have far reaching implications on the scope of the state's power for seizure. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Lawyers for the homeowners say the case [Kelo et al v. City of New London] is the most important property rights dispute to reach the court in 50 years, because it could limit the government's ability to condemn property for economic redevelopment under its power of eminent domain.

Governments have relied on that power to condemn land for traditional public uses, such as railways, roads, public utilities, schools, waste treatment plants and the like. But they also have used condemnation powers to assemble large parcels of land for redevelopment--be it for an automobile manufacturing plant or a speedway or a baseball stadium.

A few things here, eminent domain is the government's right to take your property for 'public use.' This power is tempered somewhat by the 5th amendment which provides that 'just compensation' must be paid when eminent domain is invoked, and a 'public use' for the property must be demonstrated. That leaves two questions. What constitutes 'just compensation' and what constitutes 'public use'?

Typically 'just compensation' means 'fair market value' but this inherently under-compensates the owner. Why? Because if the owner valued his property at or below fair market value, he would have already sold it. In other words, the owner is never compensated for his subjective value of the property.

The second question, and this is really the crux of the case, is what constitutes a 'public use.' Historically 'public use' was reserved for projects like roads, bridges, railroad tracks, schools, etc. Over time, however the definition expanded, culminating with the landmark case in 1981 of Poletown Neighborhood Council v. The City of Detroit where the government essentially took the whole town (churches and all) in order to turn the land over to General Motors for a new plant. With GM threatening to leave Detroit if the land for the new plant was not appropriated, the court essentially held that a private entity's pursuit of profit did in fact fall under the umbrella of 'public use' because that entity's profit maximizing abilities contributed to the general health of the economy as well as the government's tax base. Over the next several decades, this precedent was used to seize private property nationwide. Though it was finally struck down this past August by the Michigan Supreme Court, the real test lies in the parameters that the U.S. Supreme Court sets in Kelo vs City of New London.

The City of New London is looking to the U.S. Supreme Court to definitively widen the scope of eminent domain. If the court agrees, and 'public use' is re-defined in such a broad sense, it's hard to imagine what would not fall under the government's right of eminent domain. After all, one would only have to make the speculative argument that confiscation and redevelopment would make the public richer, by making the tax base larger. It's not too difficult to make a case that almost anything would bring in more revenue to a city than a particular private residence. Could low cost housing in a gentrifying neighborhood be forcibly confiscated and replaced with mansions? Could an Arby's be forcibly demolished to put in a 5 star restaurant if the government so desired? Is it so difficult to imagine a bribery scenario where the government threatens to replace an existing business with one that will pay more taxes? The 'public use' economic argument applies in all of these scenarios.

This also gives any nefarious government official a legal weapon to punish specific citizens, business groups or political opponents with threats of seizure at a whim. It's difficult for me to come up with even one reason to hand over property rights carte blanche to the government, especially when there are already institutions in place to deal with such situations. They are called free markets and if a business wants to expand and needs property, they can freely negotiate a purchase price with the current owner and the owner can decide to sell or not sell. If he doesn't sell, then the answer is to offer more money or find another location, not have the government (a third party) step in and substitute it's desire for that of the individuals. Kelo et al. vs. City of New London has just those implications, and the city lawyers are making no mystery of it:
A lawyer for New London argued that state and local governments should be able to condemn property if its redevelopment would substantially enrich the public coffers, even if the property were not blighted or neglected…..

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor asked a lawyer for New London, "For example, a Motel 6. The city thinks it should have a Ritz-Carlton, [to] have higher taxes. Is that OK?"

"Yes, Justice O'Connor, that's OK," attorney Wesley Horton said.

"You can take from A and give it to B, if B pays more in taxes?" a dubious Justice Antonin Scalia asked.

"If it's a significant amount," Horton said.

Fortunately over the last 15 years or so the Supreme Court's decisions have been decidedly libertarian, I would be awfully surprised if the city of New London wins this case - it would be a significant blow to individual rights if they did. Keep an eye on this one.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Hawkish Hillary

Austin Bay links to this AP story:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - As 55 people died in Iraq on Saturday, the holiest day on the Shiite Muslim religious calendar, Sen. Hillary Clinton said that much of Iraq was "functioning quite well" and that the rash of suicide attacks was a sign that the insurgency was failing.

Clinton, a New York Democrat, said insurgents intent on destabilizing the country had failed to disrupt Iraq’s landmark Jan. 30 elections.

"The concerted effort to disrupt the elections was an abject failure. Not one polling place was shut down or overrun," Clinton told reporters inside the U.S.-protected Green Zone, a sprawling complex of sandbagged buildings surrounded by blast walls and tanks. The zone is home to the Iraqi government and the U.S. Embassy...

...The fact that you have these suicide bombers now, wreaking such hatred and violence while people pray, is to me, an indication of their failure," Clinton said.

It wouldn't take a lot of cyncism to conclude that Hillary is a shrewd opportunistic politician and just about everything she says and does these days is done with an eye on the 2008 nomination. But lets give credit where credit is due, since 9/11 Hillary Clinton has pretty consistently come down on the hawkish side of things and she has resisted taking on the defeatist tone of Ted Kennedy or even John Kerry.

The Democratic party is in a bit of dissarray right now, and the selection of Howard Dean as chairmen of the DNC is a but curious to me. They have allowed the Michael Moore/George Soros/Ted Kennedy "we went to Afghanistan to build a pipeline" conspiracy peddlers to become the avatar of their party and suffered a couple of sound electoral defeats as a result. The Democrats essentially put themselves in a position where they could benefit only if the American public could be convinced that Iraq and the economy were in shambles. On the other hand, George Bush was out saying he is fighting for the causes of freedom and democracy world wide, while the Democrats - through their defeatism and absence of a coherent alternative policy - almost come out against those causes by default. Only bad news was good news, and GWB now had a monopoly on the freedom/democracy rhetoric.

During the feel-good Clinton years you didn't see that from the Republicans. When the economy was booming and it seemed (incorrectly of course) that we were at the end of history, you didn't see Newt Gingrich and the bunch try to convince the electorate that Communism was actually coming back and the economy was actually doing awful. Instead they tried to take credit for the good by touting their congressional policy, the "Contract with America", welfare reform, etc.

"Things are improved because of us!" sounds better to me than "see we told you the world is a mess!" I bet it sounds better to a lot of swing voters too.

While I definitely lean towards Republicans more so than Democrats, I would prefer to see a functioning two party system. The Republicans have proved that, regardless of their platform of fiscal conservatism, they can spend with the best of them when they have control and it's their pet bills in search of funding. (And it would be nice to see George Bush use his veto pen at least once this term since he decided to leave it capped for the first four years.) A few more Democrats in Congress could help put them back into a state of gridlock where nothing gets done, and that is when our government is at its best - doing nothing and leaving us alone.

Some have speculated that if the Democrats don't get their act together that they'll eventually slip into irrelevance and cause a Republican party split between the social conservatives and the more libertarian wing. Wow, now that is a real comforting thought for me, but also one that is highly highly unlikely I am afraid. The two parties in America are really good at shifting right or left depending on the mood of the electorate - we still set the parameters. The Democrats just got a little over excited and shifted far left (chasing the Soros/MoveOn money), and now it appears that Hillary Clinton is poised to step in and move them back to the center. We'll see, but I'll take that over the obstructionism of Kennedy and Dean.

Of course, as was the point of Austin Bay's column, this whole Hillary thing likely signals a defining moment in the Iraqi campaign. After all, when one of the most opportunistic political figures in the country runs to Iraq to "bask in the light of its success", you know better times are ahead.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

"Racism" From the Left is OK

Via Vinod comes this little nugget from the new DNC chairman Howard Dean:
During a meeting Friday with the Democratic black caucus, Dean praised black Democrats for their work for the party, then questioned Republicans' ability to rally support from minorities.

"You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room?," Dean asked to laughter. "Only if they had the hotel staff in here."

His style ever will be blunt: "We have to never be afraid to say what we believe," he insists.

Now, don't get the wrong impression from this excerpt. The above comment is not even close to the focus of the article, no reference is even made to the perhaps offensive nature of it. Furthermore, I am in no way offended, but I am awfully surprised that the PC police haven't jumped all over this one. Wait... no I'm not. A Democrat made this comment, not a Republican so there will be no uproar. I'm not much for conspiracy theories and I don't think one is at work here, but it is hard to believe that if a Republican made a similar comment it wouldn't have garnered much more attention along with acidic charges of racism. I mean imagine if Karl Rove made such a comment, would the black caucus be laughing?

Lets look at some recent history. Trent Lott was rightfully forced out when he praised Strom Thurmond at his 100th birthday and said something to the effect of 'if Thurmond had been elected in 1948 we wouldn't have the problems we do today.' (Thurmond ran on a platform of opposing the end of lynching, segregation and poll tax, etc.) I'm certainly not implying that what Howard Dean said is anywhere close to that - it isn't. But if you are looking for further evidence of double standard, look no further than what Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said last April on the Senate floor.
Dodd said of Byrd, "You would have been a great senator at any would have been right at the founding of this country, right during the Civil War....I can't think of a single moment in this nation's 220+ year history where you would not have been a valuable asset to this country."

I can, how about the time when Senator Byrd was a leading kleagle for the Ku Klux Klan! These comments from Dodd were nearly identical in all ways to Trent Lott's, but Dodd is still sitting pretty in the Senate. So, to circle back to my original point, there is clearly a troubling double standard, and it seems that ideology, rather than a wish to condemn or stamp out racism, is the lead driver.

Update:Don't forget the left's treatment of Condi Rice, and the deafening silence that followed.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Save the Gay Penguins!

From Reuters:

BERLIN (Reuters) - A plan by a German zoo to test the sexual appetites of a group of suspected homosexual penguins has sparked outrage among gay and lesbian groups, who fear zookeepers might force them to turn straight.
"All sorts of gay and lesbian associations have been e-mailing and calling in to protest," said a spokesman for the zoo in the northwestern city of Bremerhaven on Friday.

He said the zoo concluded the penguins might be gay after seeing male penguins trying to mate with other males and trying to hatch offspring out of stones.
German media reported that female Swedish penguins would be brought to the zoo to test the theory, but when word got out about the plan, the phones started ringing.
"Nobody here is trying to break-up same sex pairs by force," the zoo's director Heike Kueck told public broadcaster NDR. "We don't know if the three male pairs are really gay or just got together because of a lack of females."
And you thought I was above gay penguin blogging. Shame on you. Happy Friday. ;-)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Reading Round-Up

I guess I haven't had much to say as of late and I've been dedicating some time to some good old fashion books - some of them rather heavy. But here are some good articles/blog posts I have come across in the last few days.

First, a couple of good posts from Vinod. The first one covers some brilliant psy-ops being used in Iraq by the fledgling Iraqi government, think modern day pillory and stocks.

The second post from Vinod links to a couple of great articles on the oil bogeyman. As Vinod notes:
"One of the things that turns people off about economic literature is its preference for abstraction and really weird aggregate measures. It's theoretically precise, perhaps but far from a real mass medium. By contrast, speak like a business man and your message rings clear and true."

Indeed, no economics degree is required to take away from the piece the lesson that oil is dirt friggin cheap and why starting an economic war with Saudi Arabia et al, by trying to reduce our oil dependency on them is, by a longshot, a losing proposition for us.

Born in Iraq, raised in America is a piece by an Army journalist on an American soldier, Razaq Almusowi, born and raised in Iraq until about 1991 when he was 11 years old. At the time his father, a tank commander in Saddam's army, was imprisoned for plotting to overthrow Hussein just before the first Gulf War. As his father was awaiting his execution, an American bomb hit local military facilities and allowed he and his family to escape through the desert amidst the chaos. They were eventually rescued by U.S. soldiers. When it became apparent that regime change was coming to Iraq in 2003 Almusowi enlisted, wanting to give back both to the United States for rescuing him and to help re-build his native country. A fascinating tale.

Now for some of the heavy hitters:
This is a delicious bit from Mark Steyn (via LGF)
The obsession of the anti-Americans misses the point: it's not about America. Surely even Fisk and the other "experts" aren't so obtuse that they can't see that the one undeniable fact of the election is that there are millions of Iraqis who want change. That doesn't mean they want to turn Basra and Kirkuk into Cleveland and Buffalo, only that they want something other than the opposing cul-de-sacs of secular pan-Arabist dictatorship and death-cult Islamism, which dead-end alternatives are all the region's had to offer for decades....

Now I take the point that "democracy" - as in elections - isn't every thing. In the development of successful nations, the universal franchise is usually the last piece of the puzzle, as it was in Britain. Anyone can hold an election: Mugabe did; so did Charles Taylor, the recently retired Psycho-for-Life of Liberia. The world's thugocracies have got rather skilled at being just democratic enough to pass muster with Jimmy Carter and the international observers: they kill a ton of people, put it on hold for six weeks and then, when the UN monitors have moved on, pick up their machetes and resume business as usual.

I prefer to speak of "liberty" or, as Bush says, "freedom", or, as neither of us is quite bold enough to put it, capitalism - free market, property rights, law of contract, etc. That's why Hong Kong is freer than Liberia, if less "democratic". If I had six or seven centuries to work on things, I wouldn't do it this way in Iraq or Afghanistan. But the "war on terror" is more accurately a race against time - to unwreck the Middle East before its toxins wreck South Asia, West Africa, and eventually Europe. The doom-mongers can mock Bush all they want. But they're spending so much time doing so, they've left themselves woefully uninformed on some of the fascinating subtleties of Iraqi and Afghan politics that his Administration turns out to have been rather canny about.

There word urine appears several times, go read the whole thing.

And finally, a man who is becoming one of my favorite writers/thinkers/columnists, Victor Davis Hanson hits another home run. It's a rather lengthy article so here are some lengthy highlights as he relentlessly exposes hypocrisy and channels the frustrations of the left:
Do we even remember "all that" now? The lunacy that appeared after 9/11 that asked us to look for the "root causes" to explain why America may have "provoked" spoiled mama's boys like bin Laden and Mohammed Atta to murder Americans at work? Do we recall the successive litany of "you cannot win in Afghanistan/you cannot reconstruct such a mess/you cannot jumpstart democracy there"? And do we have memory still of "Sharon the war criminal," and "the apartheid wall," and, of course, "Jeningrad," the supposed Israeli-engineered Stalingrad - or was it really Leningrad? Or try to remember Arafat in his Ramallah bunker talking to international groupies who flew in to hear the old killer's jumbled mishmash about George Bush, the meanie who had ostracized him.

Then we were told that if we dared invade the ancient caliphate, Saddam would kill thousands and exile millions more. And when he was captured in a cesspool, the invective continued during the hard reconstruction that oil, Halliburton, the Jews, the neocons, Richard Perle, and other likely suspects had suckered us into a "quagmire" or was it now "Vietnam redux"? And recall that in response we were supposed to flee, or was it to trisect Iraq? The elections, remember, would not work - or were held too soon or too late. And give the old minotaur Senator Kennedy his due, as he lumbered out on the eve of the Iraqi voting to hector about its failure and call for withdrawal - one last hurrah that might yet rescue the cherished myth that the United States had created another Vietnam and needed his sort of deliverance.....

....Then there was our media's hysteria: Donald Rumsfeld should be sacked in the midst of war; Abu Ghraib was the moral equivalent of everything from Saddam's gulag to the Holocaust; the U.S. military purportedly tried to kill reporters; and always the unwillingness or inability to condemn the beheaders, fascists, and suicide murderers, who sought to destroy any shred of liberalism. Meanwhile, the isolation of a corrupt Arafat, the withdrawal of 10,000 Americans from a Wahhabi theocracy, the transformation of the world's far-right monstrosities into reformed democracies, and the pull-back of some troops from Germany and the DMZ went unnoticed.

What explains this automatic censure of the United States, Israel, and to a lesser extent the Anglo-democracies of the United Kingdom and Australia? Westernization, coupled with globalization, has created an affluent and leisured elite that now gravitates to universities, the media, bureaucracies, and world organizations, all places where wealth is not created, but analyzed, critiqued, and lavishly spent.

....There is something else to this shrillness of the global throng besides the obvious fact of hypocrisy - that very few of the world's Westernized cynical echelon ever move to the ghetto to tutor those they champion in the abstract, reside in central Africa to feed the poor, give up tenure to ensure employment for the exploited lecturer, or pass on the Washington or New York A-list party to eat in the lunch hall with the unwashed. Davos after all, is not quite central Bolivia or the Sudan.

First, there is a tremendous sense of impotence. Somehow sharp looks alone, clever repartee, long lists of books read and articles cited, or global travel do not automatically result in commensurate power. So what exactly is wrong with these stupid people of Nebraska who would elect a dense, Christian-like George Bush when a Gore Vidal, George Soros, Ben Affleck, Bruce Springsteen, or Ted Kennedy warned them not to?

If the American Left is furious over the loss of most of the nation's governorships and legislatures, the U.S. House, the Senate, the presidency, and soon the Supreme Court, the Europeans themselves are furious over America's power - as if Red America is to Blue America as America is to Europe itself. Thus how can a mongrel culture of Taco Bell, Bud Light, and Desperate Housewives project such military and political influence abroad when the soft, subtle triangulation of far more cultured diplomats and sophisticated intellectuals from France, Germany, and Scandinavia is ignored by thugs from Iran, North Korea, and most of the Middle East?

Why would the world listen to a stumbling George Bush when it could be mesmerized by a poet, biographer, aristocrat, and metrosexual of the caliber of a Monsieur Dominique de Villepin? Why praise brave Iraqis lining up to vote, while at the same hour the defeated John Kerry somberly intones on Tim Russert's show that he really did go into Cambodia to supply arms to the mass-murdering Khmer Rouge - a statement that either cannot be true or is almost an admission of being a party to crimes against humanity if it is.

Second, political powerlessness follows from ideological exhaustion. Communism and Marxism are dead. Stalin and Mao killed over 80 million and did not make omelets despite the broken eggs. Castro and North Korea are not classless utopias but thugocracies run by megalomaniac dictators who the world prays will die any minute. The global Left knows that the Cold War is over and was lost by the Left, and that Eastern Europeans and Central Americans probably cherish the memory of a Ronald Reagan far more than that of a Francois Mitterrand or Willy Brandt.

Perhaps the result of this frustration is that European intellectuals damn the United States for action in Iraq, but lament that they could do nothing in the Balkans. Democrats at home talk of the need for idealism abroad, but fear the dirty road of war that sometimes is part of that bargain - thus the retreat into "democracy is good, BUT..." So here we have the global throng that focuses on one purported American crime to the next, as it simmers in the luxury of its privilege, education, and sophistication - and exhibits little power, new ideas, intellectual seriousness, or relevance.

There's much more where that came from.

Friday, February 04, 2005

That Tribe Belongs to Me!!

Here's an article from yesterday's LA Times that I came across. It caught my eye because of my girlfriend's education in anthropology and some discussions we've had regarding how anthropologists often treat 'their' subjects of study.

The key grafs:

HUT BAY, India — Nine days after giant waves struck Little Andaman island, a child was born in a soccer stadium and the Onge tribe of hunters and gatherers took a step away from extinction.

The rain forest that surrounds the tribe, along with traditional Onge wisdom, saved it in a catastrophe that killed more than 150,000 people across southern Asia. Now some experts fear that the tsunami's aftermath will prove more dangerous than the waves.

Notice the language – they took a step away from extinction, but, BUT! the aftermath may prove more dangerous than the waves that took close to 300,000 lives. What is this dangerous aftermath? Flooding? Massive erosion of the fertile soil they depend on? Guess again.
The birth of a girl, at a makeshift relief camp at the stadium, raised the Onge population to 97. Although the outside help that arrived after the tsunami may have improved the odds of survival for the anemic mother and her newborn, activists fighting to protect the archipelago's indigenous people say the aid, including inappropriate shelter, food and clothing, is among several post-disaster shocks that have endangered the ancient societies.

"As far as the aboriginal tribes are concerned, they don't need aid," said environmentalist Samir Acharya, who runs the Society for Andaman and Nicobar Ecology in Port Blair, the Indian territory's capital. "It's a mindless thing to do. That's how we're spoiling them."

As far as Samir Acharya is concerned, he is the official spokesmen for the Onge tribe, and he will decide if they need aid. He'll make sure it's appropriate and mindful too. After all, why save people in need? If they want to live an antiquated lifestyle, why "spoil" them with our modernity?

There's more:

The deaths of Indian settlers in the tsunami, and the tribes' struggle to survive the aftermath, reminded Mukerjee of a young Onge man she met during her visits with the tribe in the late 1990s.

He was rare among the Onge because he spoke his mind to an outsider. He talked about what it meant to be a man in a forest on a small island in a vast ocean. Soon after Mukerjee finished her work there, her new friend drowned in the sea.

"He clearly had the sense of being very trapped," Mukerjee said. "He felt that there was this large world outside that he couldn't enter, not so much because he wasn't allowed to, but because he knew that the stakes were stacked against him."

I suppose, as long as they live in the jungle naked they will never join the larger world. And that is their choice, but what is striking about this story is that it never occurs to anyone to see what the Onge may actually want, they are merely mascots for a larger cause. It seems that the anthropologists are determined to freeze them in time, to preserve what they see as the purity of their culture even if it is a detriment to some individuals living in that culture. In other words, the Onge are nothing more than their own personal living museum exhibit, and don't you come messing with it!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Reflections, Elections, and Questions for Progressives

You know, its funny how things work out. I remember in January of 2003 I found myself being slightly against the invasion of Iraq, but I thought it would happen never the less. After all, Bill Clinton made it US policy to affect regime change in Iraq, and with much of the left being driven by humanitarian ideals, coupled with their general opposition to sanctions, it would seem that going along with deposing one of the world's most brutal dictators would be a no brainer. Wow, was I wrong on both counts. I had no inkling that the left would sell out their values just because the guy in the White House isn't their guy. I had no idea that, under the guise of cultural relativity, they would become apologists for those wretched societies in the Middle East that stone gays, oppress women, and commit gross human rights violations on the whims of a dictator. Apparently the neo-Nazis have some company.

Much like Afghanistan, the dire predictions of the streets flowing with the blood of infidels and collaborators failed to materialize in Iraq. Instead, like Afghanistan, the election was an overwhelming success, and I am absolutely underwhelmed by the left's denigration of it all. John Kerry warns us not to "overhype" the elections, while Ted Kennedy calls for withdrawal, declares the war lost and elections impossible just days before they happen. This is the Democrats reaction to successful Iraqi elections?

If the left wants to hold Bush to his promise, hold him to the promise of freedom and liberation for the people of Iraq - it was a key element of the pre-war case. It seems to me that the only proposal coming from the left is abandonment. How does that come close to improving anything other than the gratification of their own anti-war egos? The more the so-called progressives allow an international push for freedom and democracy to become political property of the right, the further they marginlize themselves. For how is the advancement of human rights overseas not a progressive cause? How is it that reactionary support for a state that tolerates suicide bombings, but not homosexuality a progressive cause? It begs the question, does 'progressive Democrat' have any meaning at all, or is it simply a self-applied word in an attempt to dignify their own political identity? In two short years one of the worst nations in the Middle East has taken a major step towards becoming one of the best. The Iraqis seized their opportunity to join in the march of human progress - from living under tyranny to giving birth to democracy. It was truly an extraordinary event.

Perhaps Lee Harris best sums up what I am trying to get at (emphasis mine):

We are now living in a world where decent and sincere men and women attack the United States for removing Saddam Hussein, the archetype of the ruthless gang leader, who brutalized twenty million human beings for three decades. They condemn the United States president for declaring a war on terrorism -- which is simply the contemporary form of the age-old war on the cult of ruthlessness, a cult that is the enemy of all the diverse and distinct cultures of mankind.

Here is a good way to tell whether you are standing on the right side of history. Do you want to see the rule by gang go the way of slavery and be driven from the face of the earth, or do you believe that rule by gang is a natural right? Those who argued that the United States should not attack Saddam Hussein's Iraq because of the sacred right of national sovereignty should perhaps remember the reputation today of those who in the past justified the property rights of slaveholders. What is the difference, except scale? There may be good conservative reasons for preserving a wicked status quo, but there are no liberal progressive ones. And while it may well be prudent in some cases to try to contain ruthless gangs that are in power rather than to remove them, this can at best be an act of expediency, and never one of morality.

A fundamental test for slavery is this: Do you live under the will of another man or your own? Clearly the citizens of Iraq, lived under the brutal will of Saddam Hussein, if they lived at all. It would seem odd that progressivism would fall on the side of maintaining this status quo, so what principle of progressivism is it that provides the rationale? Or is it exclusively driven by Bush hatred?


                                                                                                                                                                             Meter Weblog Commenting and Trackback by This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?