5/02/2003

Capitalism - Church of Rome style:

The Church is offering several types of tickets for pilgrims.
Those including meals cost up to 40 euros ($45) for adults, and 30 euros ($33) for those under 16.
On Saturday meals can be taken at any McDonald's outlet in Madrid.
They consist of hamburgers, medium fries, and medium-sized drink and desert - either ice cream Sundae or apple pie.
All tickets also include an official "pilgrim's bag", containing a copy of St Mark's gospel, a baseball cap, a rosary, a map of Madrid's public transport system, and information about the new saints.


Yeah, this won't piss off the anti-globalization nuts.

I love it.
Back before Everything Changed, one of the hot international topics was Bush's renunciation of the ABM treaty in order to build a missle defense system. One of the chief opponents of that was Russia. They saw our ability to defend ourselves as a threat to their security and national pride. Another major issue and sticking point between the U.S. and Russia was the expansion of NATO. Russia was nervous about the military alliance spreading eastward to its borders. At the time, I thought a great compromise on these issues would be U.S. withdrawl from NATO in return for Russian support of dissolving the ABM treaty. As I saw it, there was no real benefit to us to continue to expand NATO. With a switch to coalitions of the willing and the tremendous American military advances, there wasn't a need for a NATO. Why have that as a sticking point when we could use it as a tool for compromise? Instead we went ahead with this devotion to a soon-to-be outdated international institution and lost the opportunity for potential points with Russia, especially considering the good terms that Putin and Bush were on. Instead, it is the French that have made the first real step for cooperation, including them in their anti-U.S. club and blasting the former satalites. I can't help but think what it would be like if we had made the first step. Perhaps Russia wouldn't have shared intelligence with a dictator or supported Chirac. Maybe we would be further along to isolating France from the rest of the world.
Mickey Kaus writes:

"Vouchers, of course, are the rare domestic issue where Democrats are highly vulnerable."

Although he goes on to explain why Dems are weak on vouchers, I was struck by a different part of this quote. Why is it - and I don't think he's wrong - that there are so few domestic issues where the GOP (except in very unique times - the late 70s and during Clinton's failed takeover of America's health care system) can sell its agenda?

It seems to me there are three potential answers:

1) They're right on domestic policy
2) They sell their domestic policy better
3) The two sides' constituencies have differing views of government

I think we must eliminate the first possibility, not because it's facially wrong, but because it's a non-starter. There have been many instances where domestic issues - socialism, Jim Crow laws - have been proven so wrong that the party backing them was forced to abandon the issue or face extinction. It's certainly possible that deregulation, lower taxes, and other conservative positions will one day be proven erroneous, but if we don't believe this to be the case today, we logically can't argue that this is why these positions don't have more popular support.

The second I definitely believe is a part of the GOP’s problem. Our solutions, while perhaps better for Americans as a whole, are easily spun as heartless or good for the rich. The left wants to feed children, the right want to starve them; the left wants more money for education, the right wants less. Certainly these are gross distortions of the reality of the situation and, as welfare reform proved, real solutions to serious problems often don’t involve throwing more money at a problem. Nevertheless, the right is still left with a much harder sell than the left on virtually its entire domestic agenda.

The central answer, however, lies in the beliefs of the two sides’ core voters. As I’ve argued before, one of the central differences between the right and the left is their diverging views on the limit of a government’s ability to affect the shape of America - for better or for worse. Liberals, generally speaking, see the government as a potential solution to most problems, and likewise believe bad policies will have serious repercussions. Conservatives in general don’t share either this optimism or this pessimism. Therefore it is not in our nature to fight as hard for (or against) a particular piece of legislation, as exemplified by the Bush tax cut. I support the cut, but do I really believe it will be a great stimulus for the economy? No, not really. But opponents of the cut, as liberals who believe in the government’s power to change the world, believe that this cut could cause great harm. Therefore the anger I’d feel for it not passing will be significantly less than that of liberals for it passing. Thus elected Democrats are far more incentivized to advance the liberal domestic agenda than Republicans are to advance the conservative one, creating this unfortunate vulnerability of Republicans on virtually all domestic issues.
Liberal Comedy:

Discussing the Democrats' filibuster of Conservative judges, Kos writes:

Clinton generally avoided ideologically controversial nominees."

As funny as this statement is, it's indicative of the left-wing mindset that allows them to believe that any-abortion-any-time is actually a mainstream viewpoint. It also prevents them from seeing any liberal bias in the media while simultaneously attacking Fox's conservative slant. Many liberals, as so aptly demonstrated by Kos, actually believe that their positions, no matter how far removed from mainstream thought, are not ideological in nature. Their positions, unlike those of conservatives, are arrived at by logic and their genuine compassion for the common person (who would all vote Democrat if they weren't so damn stupid). Thus it is only conservative judges and conservative news outlets who can be "ideologically controversial."
A nice bit of common sense on the Abu Mazen appointment:

The approval and appointment prove nothing. He calls for concrete concessions from Israel while we still only have words and promises from the Palestinians. That is not the way this is to work. Abu Mazen must prove he is more than a title and that his cabinet is loyal to him and not to Arafat. On paper Arafat's power has been diminished but I will believe it when we see evidence of it. When terrorists are arrested and tried and truly jailed, when terrorist groups are disarmed, the PA Charter amended and the language in the media in schools begins to change we will know that the Palestinians have chosen the path of peace. Just making some gestures in an unelected Parliament mean very little at this point.
Al Aqsa and Hamas claimed responsibility for the recent attacks. Let's see Abu Mazen act and we will know that reform is possible. To call for Israel to start making concrete concessions before that is very premature.
Victor Davis Hanson's articles are always very good. Often they are superb. Like today:

Nor are fits of continental craziness, both real and abstract, even new. Napoleon was willing to risk the lives of millions for the idea of a pan-European dream, its scary, pretentious adages not unlike those now emanating from Brussels or from the mad M. Villepin. The rise of German Nazism, Italian fascism, and continental Marxism at times turned Europeans away from the liberal tradition and drew them to darker and more authoritarian promises, with roots from Plato’s Laws to Oswald Spengler. Too many Europeans still cherish the belief that they are close to an end to war, hunger, want, and meanness — ideals inseparable from a light work week, cradle-to-grave care, protection by an uncouth American military, and a steady stream of fertile, darker, unassimilated peoples to take out their trash and clean their toilets.
The fact is that the absence of Russian divisions has meant an end to both a common threat and unity with the United States. It is not just that Europeans have forgotten two World Wars, the Berlin Airlift, America’s willingness to expose its cities to Soviet nuclear attack to protect the continent, or our support for German reunification. They resent even the mention of past beneficence and, if history is to be contemplated, prefer to bring up Hamburg and Dresden rather than Auschwitz.
Looks like a pretty good day for the Tories.


UPDATE: Although Chris Bertram disagrees.
Interesting poll found by Iain Murray:

The research, carried out at the tail-end of the conflict in Iraq, shows three quarters of Britons (73%) consider America to be Britain's most reliable ally - with Australia getting the second highest poll position with one in 20 (four per cent) naming it. European countries do not fair so well, with France, Germany and Ireland considered Britain's most reliable ally by just one per cent each.
When asked to name Britain's least reliable ally, France is named by 55%, with America named by one in 17 (six per cent) and Germany and Russia each named by three per cent.


When over 55% of people call France your "least reliable ally," doesn't it almost by definition cease to be an ally? I'd be interested to see a similar study here in the states. Anyone want to bet which country would win?
One follow-up thought on communists and creationists:

Why are the people who insist that we listen to anti-War or pro-Castro factions simply because they have "good intentions" the very same folks first in line to kill creationists on the alter of logic and science?
Andrew Sullivan has an interesting story about a gay San Franciscan's attempt to get his fellow leftists to acknowledge that there's something wrong with how Comrade Castro runs his little island.

The left's refusal to recognize the fact that Ho Chi Minh, Castro, and Mao were, in fact, psychopathic monster's is their version of right wing creationism. While I'll grant that many on either side may have good intentions, their refusal to even consider evidence is simply comical. Both groups even have a similar style of argumentation, shifting the debate back to an attack on the moderate's theories while never willing to actually address their own principles.

A response from one of the women in Sullivan's story nicely demonstrates this method of debate:

"Are you a Republican, or something? Bush is also killing innocent civilians. We're more concerned about his crimes."

There is one difference between supporting creationism and communism, however: creationists have never sent anyone to Siberia.

5/01/2003

Brilliant:

"Are Democrats really not only the 'Glass is half full' party, but the 'Glass is half full, too small to begin with, held by the wrong person, and I don't like what is in it' party?"
James Taranto points us to this story about Governor Dean's explanation of his recent prediction for America's imminent decline:

He said that in arguing against what he regarded as Mr. Bush's emphasis on military action rather than diplomacy, he had been discussing historic trends in which powers that resorted to unilateral military action rather than diplomacy--including the British and Roman empires--had inevitably been overtaken by other nations.
"Of course we're going to have the strongest military as long as I'm alive, and probably as long as my children are alive," he said today. "But at some point, if we continue to push only military options, we're not going to have the strongest military because other countries will overtake us."


Taranto makes some interesting points about this statement, but two other things struck me as odd:

1) OK, so the Roman and British Empires eventually fell because of their reliance on military might over diplomacy. Can the good governor name an example of a historic power who, through diplomacy, maintained global preeminence yet lasted longer than these two civilizations? Let's not forget that the former's dominance over the Mediterranean World lasted for over 200 years more than America has even existed. Does Dean really believe that if Rome had played nicely with the Germanic tribes that we'd still be speaking Latin today?

2) Dean says that if we "push only military options, we're not going to have the strongest military" at some point in the future. Isn't the corollary to this point that if we do pursue other, diplomatic, options on foreign policy, that we will have the strongest military in perpetuity? How exactly will this happen? The most reasonable argument why America will loose her military edge at some point is a simple demographic one - once China is able to spend even a quarter as much as America on defense per capita, its military outlays will indeed be larger. But how does giving Beijing diplomatic love in the present day counter this trend? Does Dean really believe, once he's able to convince Chinese leaders America poses no threat to them, that Beijing will suddenly realize that they have no need for a large military and be happy to allow America to remain the supreme power throughout the world. Seems to fly in the face of both history and, well, logic, doesn't it?

I sure hope this guy gets the Democratic nom.
Domenico Bettinelli, on the Vatican's choice not to break off relations with Cuba due to the hope that Fidel "will lead his people toward democracy:"

On what basis do they have that hope? What has Castro done in the past 40 years to lead you to believe that he will lead people to democracy? What progress has been made? The few freedoms thrown to the Church before the Pope’s visit in 1998? Many of those have been revoked and the others are held over the Church’s head as a warning not to rock the boat.
The Cuban people have been kept as slaves and poverty-stricken serfs for decades by Castro’s regime. They have been imprisoned and executed for the “crime” of trying to escape the country. They have been imprisoned for wanting to practice their faith freely. You can’t open a business in the country except under the most extreme regulations and that business will exist at the whim of the government. People tout free health care and 100% literacy, but what good is free health care when the system is so corrupt there is nothing for your free doctor to prescribe you? What is the point of free education when there is not opportunity for a decent job of your choosing?
But the real point is that the Vatican seems to think that despite massive evidence to the contrary, Castro is going to suddenly wake up some day and declare free elections. I don’t discount the power of a miracle and I don’t fault the Vatican for continuing dialogue with Castro, but why pander to this false hope rather than continue with the hard line of condemning the Communists’ actions.


To be fair it's not just Cuba - this statement universally applies to left's entire head-in-the-sand view of foreign policy.
A hopeful sign that Mugabe may be stepping down?

Mr Mbeki's spokesman denied it, telling Reuters, a news agency, that “It is not for the president of South Africa to go to another sovereign country and tell the leader to step down.” But many Zimbabweans think that something is afoot. Mr Mugabe encouraged such speculation this week with a cryptic remark on state television. He seemed to say that now that he had redistributed white-owned farm land to blacks, his work was done. His exact words were: “It was mainly the land issue actually that needed to be addressed before getting to a stage where we say fine, we have settled this matter and people can retire.” His information minister insisted, however, that Mr Mugabe had every intention of staying in office until his term expires in 2008.
SARS Paranoia:

Last night I had my first real experience with a SARSaphobe. Waiting in a very long line at the refreshment stand at last night's Cubs-Giants game, I found myself coughing a bit. Not a major hacking cough - more of a throat clear because I had no beer yet. Every time I would do this, though, the young lady in front of me would turn around and stare at me with an absolutely terrified expression.
Did you realize that John Kerry and Tony Blair's positions on Iraq were one and the same? Neither did I, but Will Marshall tells us so. My favorite part:

The emergence of the Blair Democrats should be no great surprise. Historically, they are lineal descendants of the party's great internationalists: Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy. Recognizing that U.S. global leadership requires strong military forces and the will to use them, they reject the left's attempts to cast Democrats as a reflexively antiwar party. Indeed, the Iraq debate revealed a party that is moving away from McGovernism and back to its internationalist roots.
Tacitus, in response to Prof. Reynolds' call for a Gary Hart fisking of Mickey Kaus, writes:

"So no, Gary, don't respond by Fisking Kaus. Respond by improving your blog."

Instead of attacking, a liberal should take personal responsibility for his shortcomings? Asking a bit much, aren't we Tacitus . . .
The second part of this comment just made me smile:

Happy May Day to all you murderous Communists bastards, power-grubbing socialists, soft-headed lefties, and decent, hard-working American union guys.
It's a shame, blue collar folks, that your supposed political allies are all such shitheads.
Field of Dreams was on the other night, and I have two questions about the movie.

First, all Moonlight Graham wanted was an at-bat in the big leagues. In his one chance (assuming playing with the greats is the "big leagues"), though, he hits a sac fly, which does not count as an at-bat. Therefore, he never got an at-bat in the big leagues.

Second, in the first scene with Shoeless Joe, Joe complains about the lights on the field and makes a snarky comment about the greedy owners forcing worse playing conditions (losing the ball in the lights) in order to make an extra buck. Yet, throughout most of the movie, they play under the lights. It's not like the baseball players have anything else to do, so why are they choosing to play at night instead of during the day?

4/30/2003

Tim Blair, on what New York smoker should do about Mayor Bloomberg:

"All of them should march down to the Mayor's house and, as the saying goes, smoke him out. Then, as another saying goes, beat him up. And, to quote yet another, less well-known saying, attach him to a medievel catapult and fling him into Jersey."
Fighting against evil? Like Bush?
Does this mean I have to stop bitching about the Rox Sox pen costing them games?
Stephen Green, with whom I usually agree, writes:

“That same "moral consensus" would have denied women the vote, kept blacks under Jim Crowe, and -- here's that naughty m-word again -- kept married women as virtual slaves to their husbands.
Not every change is progress; I'll grant the conservatives that. But when it comes to human liberty -- whether to vote, enjoy equal protection under the law, or marry the loving partner of their choice -- tradition can impeed freedom just as often as it protects it.”


There is a fundamental difference between the state-sanctioning of homosexual marriage and the historical restrictions of freedom he compares it to. The right to vote is a cornerstone for a well-functioning democracy that should only be usurped when those people, such as is the case with minors or convicted felons, prove incapable of exercising that right responsibly. Other rights, such as those usurped to keep blacks down during segregation, are natural rights that simply not subject to governmental jurisdiction. Therefore sodomy, I would certainly agree, should not be regulated by the government (irrespective of its unconstitutionality under a supposed right to privacy, which I don’t believe exists anyway). Not granting marriage, however, is not the same thing as outlawing homosexuality. State sanctioning of marriage is not a right but a societal blessing upon a union that the community deems desirable to encourage. If you believe that homosexual loving partnerships are desirable to encourage, then you should certainly be in favor of granting such approval. But being against such licensing is not the same as being for other forms of discrimination as this is not a limitation of anyone’s fundamental freedoms. It simply means that you don’t want your community’s stamp of approval on the union.
Michael Ledeen has an interesting piece on NRO about the need to actively move against Syria and Iran if we’re to take advantage of the window of opportunity the liberating of Iraq opens to actually win our war on terror. The key section:

As in 1991, if we fail to pursue our maximum interests we risk defeat and humiliation. If the Iranians succeed in creating a rabid Islamic Republic in Iraq, we may be even worse off than we were with Saddam, and the various leaders of the terror network, from bin Laden to Mughniyah, from Zarkawi to Zawahiri, will gain new followers and resume their jihad with new fervor.
It is therefore disconcerting and discouraging to see the National Security Council's top man in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, sneaking off to secret meetings with representatives of the Iranian regime, and to see Secretary of State Powell enthusiastically contemplating a trip to Damascus. There is nothing to be gained from talking to the mullahs. They are declared enemies of everything we hold precious, and they are only trying to buy time, believing that once they have the atomic bomb we will be forever blocked from challenging them. And if the State Department is so desperate to talk to Assad, then make him swim the Atlantic and crawl to Washington to beg for survival. A Powell trip to Damascus will send a dangerous message to the region. By going there instead of summoning them, we will show weakness. And all will remember that, on the verge of a glorious victory in 1991, the same man called upon this president's father to stop short, turn around, and leave the forces of freedom at the mercy of the tyrants.


Now he’s absolutely right on this point, but I want to address his comparison of the opportunity that he says exists today and the failure to take out Hussein during the first Gulf War:

Instead, we stopped on a dime, settled for an inconclusive ceasefire, brought our troops home, and abandoned the Kurds and Shiites to Saddam's butchers. I called it "Desert Shame" and it laid the groundwork for the disastrous decade that followed. Having pressured the Saudis to cut off their traditional funding of the PLO, we soon implored them to resume it. The message spread throughout the region. Arafat regained his strength, those Palestinians who wanted real peace were enfeebled, and terrorism was revived. Having granted Saddam a stay of execution, we stood by as he reestablished his tyranny, crushed any remnants of the opposition, resumed support of the terror network, and reinstituted his weapons programs. We soon betrayed the Iraqi opposition forces in the north (the first of many betrayals of the several groups that compose the Iraqi National Congress), sending an unmistakable message to the region: The United States was not prepared to assert its values and its will in the Middle East.
Desert Shame was a pyrrhic triumph of legalistic technicality and diplomatic guile over the relentless pursuit of our national goals. The legalism was real enough, albeit only to those who wished to be prevented from achieving total victory: we had assembled a coalition to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait, and we felt obliged to stop at the borders of Iraq, even though many of our coalition partners encouraged us to continue.


As strange as this may sound, I don’t think a failed outcome necessarily indicates that the wrong choice was made historically. Stopping after GWI is a perfect example of this paradox. Ledeen laughs at the elder Bush’s lack of “the vision thing” but in this case, Bush really did see a profoundly different world: through the democracies of the world working for a greater good through the UN, the old balance of power metric for international affairs could be replaced. International order would not be established through military strength but by this international rejection of the pariah – as happened when Saddam was ejected from Kuwait.

Today, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, we see that France and the leadership of the UN had no desire to take the opportunity presented by the fall of the Soviet Union to enact Bush 41’s “New World Order.” They did not see an end to history, but instead merely an opportunity to advance their own power and wealth by filling the void left by the Soviet Empire. Yet, as only the most cynical - although, as it turns out, correct – observers would have predicted this series of events, wasn’t it worth taking this chance in 1991 to fundamentally reshape the global order?

Neocons, in fact, are urging that a very similar risk be taken today in the War on Terror. There is much that can go wrong in America’s efforts to build a free Middle East, yet we realize that it is only through such a transformation that the Fundamentalist hatred for America can be defeated. But if we fail in this effort, does that mean those who argued for inaction and the status quo were correct?
Interesting:

A public corruption task force searched the offices of Miami-Dade County's teacher's union, scouring computers and documents and leaving with boxes of records, officials said.
FBI agents and Miami-Dade County police officers went to the United Teachers of Dade offices to serve a sealed search warrant Tuesday morning and remained there well into the afternoon, FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said.


Obviously in the name of constancy the left will be just as outraged over union corruption as they were over Enron's issues.

Anyway want to bet whether that will happen?
Radley Balko, in his new TCS article on sweat shops, has a brilliantly clear summary of the superiority of free trade to feel-good protests in the effort to better the lives of the world's poor:

[B]oycotts, "fair trade" regulations and public pressure do nothing to punish the corporations who benefit from sweatshops. They punish only third world laborers and, to a lesser extent, western consumers.

The best way to lessen the plight of sweatshop workers is more free trade, not less. If workers make 75 cents per day in factory A - the only plant in town - the best thing that could happen to them would be for a second factory to open up. If Factory B pays less than 75 cents, it won't attract any workers. If it offers exactly 75 cents, it might attract a few workers who couldn't get jobs at factory A. If it pays more than 75 cents, however, it might attract the best and brightest from factory A. Factory A then must decide whether to up its wages, or look for new labor - which means more jobs.

The alternative: force factory A to pay artificially high wages. That negates the advantage factory A had by investing in a developing country in the first place. Factory A packs up and returns to the U.S. Factory B never happens, because factory B's parent company sees no advantage (see: cheap labor) in investing in the developing country. Factory A's workers' wages go from 75 cents per day to nothing.

Instead of two factories paying twice as many workers higher wages, enabling them to inch their way out of poverty, a community is left with no factories, no jobs, and no hope.


It's beyond me how anyone fails to understand this logic. Is it a willful rejection of common sense? Are they thinking in an alternate paradigm that I don't understand? Whatever the answer is, the fact that the left produces no alternatives to free trade proves just how intellectually vapid their anti-Globalization arguments really are.
Bitter Bitch noticed this study of the most and least charitable cities in America.

As she points out, it's the heartland - home to selfish conservatives - that's home to the most generous citizens while the supposedly good liberals of New England are the most stingy with their charity.

Of the 11 most generous cities, 9 are in states that went for Bush in 2000, while 6 of the 10 least generous are in states that went for Gore.

Just more evidence that it is the right who now carries the mantle for "liberal" values.

4/29/2003

You know something, I just don't take Chirac's attempt at creating a European military force to compete with the U.S. credibly because in order to do so, he needs money. Where will the money come from, though? Either they will have to cut social programs (yeah, like France will ever do that) or raise taxes. Raising taxes (the most likely option for France) will only slow down even more their already beleaguered economy, reducing tax receipts, forcing them to cut something. The only way to compete with the U.S. is to have a thriving economy that can afford a large military. To get that, France will have to end its socialist tendencies, which I don't they will ever be able to bring themselves to do.
Interesting contrast between the left and the right's views on human rights. While Belgium is trying to arrest General Tommy Franks and Jacques Chirac continues to cuddle up to every dictator and third-world thug he can find, the center-right ruling coalition is actually working to make the lives of oppressed peoples better:

On Tuesday, the Italian lower house approved a motion calling on the government to halt Italy's economic aid to Cuba if dissidents are not freed and executions are not stopped.

4/28/2003

Iain Murray has a fascinating series on what's wrong with the Conservative Party in Britain.

4/27/2003

Cool - Tim Blair hates spiders as much as I do!
A WaPo account of a historian’s panel on Bush’s developing legacy gives an illuminating perspective on the left’s hatred of the President. One participant joked that the discussions’ subtitle should have been:

"This guy's crazy. Why is he so successful?"

Despite liberal disagreement over this, it seems that the left’s hatred of Bush is far more vicious than anything the right had for Clinton. Now this is not to say the personal animosity for Clinton was any less than it is for Bush as Clinton was seen by many as the ultimate personification of 60s excesses. But from a leadership standpoint, even during Clinton’s effort to nationalize America’s health care system.

Yet many on the left truly believe Bush wants to or at least will ultimately destroy America. Example:

Fred I. Greenstein of Princeton University, an authority on presidential leadership styles who organized the conference, said the consensus was that Bush has mastered the art of doing a few things well: He is very much in charge, sets a few priorities and sticks to them, and surrounds himself with very experienced people but is not intimidated by them.
"That might not keep him from driving the country off the cliff," Greenstein said.

What accounts for these feelings? It seems to be the answer relates directly to the two parties’ differing views of government. Republicans, generally speaking, are dubious about the affects government can have on society. America is made great, the right believes, by the unique character of her people. Problems manifest themselves when that character changes, hence the emphasis on “family values” and other such issues.

Democrats, in contrast, do believe government is the source for solutions – thus welfare, social security, and ever increasing demands for more money for education. But the corollary to this is that they also believe that what they see as bad policies – the tax cut, privatization of social security – can have very damaging consequences for America. Thus the belief that Republican initiatives can “drive the country off a cliff” while the right, while certainly seeing the danger of the left’s proposals, doesn’t believe that government has the ability to fundamentally harm America. Something cannot destroy what it did not create.