Saturday, December 11, 2004

Affirmative Action: An Alternative to Race-Based Preferences

One of the most stirring examples of oratory in our national heritage is Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream Speech'. It is a fact that the Democratic administration of Lyndon Baines Johnson championed the Civil Rights Act, but it is a myth that Republicans formed the opposition to its passage. A significantly higher percentage of Republicans in both the House and the Senate supported passage than their Democratic counterparts. In fact, not a single Democratic senator from the South supported the Act. Not exactly something you learn in school, is it?

The guiding principle behind conservative opposition to race-based preferences is in fact contained in MLK's great speech. "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," said the great activist, and an inspirational dream it is. I have never understood how racial discrimination could be the solution to racial discrimination.

Does this imply a lack of concern for the less fortunate? I contend that it need not be so. A person's race is an accident of should be no more relevant to our nation's policies than eye color or height. (I'm not turning a blind eye to cultural differences between different races and nations, nor am I denying that real racism exists. However, because an ideal - in this case a colorblind society - doesn't exist, should we then fail to strive for it?) A more equitable solution to a permanent underclass would be to replace race with economic factors in our affirmative action programs.

The disadvantages of poverty are undeniable, for all races. The poorest half of the population provides only 10% of the students at our nation's top 146 universities. Richard Kahlenberg, author of 'The Remedy: Class, Race, and Affirmative Action', suggests that universities could look at the following factors:
  • parental income;
  • parental occupation(s);
  • parental education;
  • family structure;
  • wealth or net worth;
  • neighborhood poverty rate;
  • school concentration of poverty.
He argues that all of these are quantifiable, but I would strike out parental occupation, education and family structure. This would leave four hard statistical categories: a parent's income and net wealth, the poverty rate of the applicant's neighborhood, and the concentration of poverty at the applicant's school. These factors provide a much more reliable indicator of a disadvantaged background than a person's skin color.

What about the workplace? What kind of quantification could exist there? Should affirmative action policies exist in this realm? I think not. I can't fathom how a person sitting on an interview board is supposed to have the knowledge and wisdom to determine which job applicant has the right economic background in comparison to the company as a whole, nor can I believe that that same person can rationally choose the right man or woman for the job if the need to meet a racial quota is stressed. The marketplace has a way of ensuring diversity, by punishing those companies with exclusionary policies by way of boycotts and negative publicity.

One added benefit, though not the primary one, is that economic affirmative action is popular. The aforementioned Richard Kahlenberg points out in the Chronicle of Higher Education that broad majorities in three seperate polls oppose race-based affirmative action, but support preferences based on economic disadvantage.

In Election 2008, the Republican Party should embrace true affirmative action to help all poor Americans, regardless of racial background. The time has come to bring Dr. King's dream to fruition.

Miscellanea: Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Edition

You know, Barbra Streisand has one of the most intelligent, thoughtful sites on the Internet - FOR ME TO POOP ON! This time, Babs writes on the 'so-called' liberal media (a surefire sign that something is true is when liberals precede it with the phrase 'so-called'). I find the whole thing amusing, but her alternate reality take on Dan Rather and the National Guard memo is laugh-out-loud funny! (Streisand says the memo is 'in question' - sure, if that means a laughable fraud that exposed the long-suspected bias of Dan Rather, pompous blowhard)...

James Taranto's Best of the Web Today is just essential reading, day in and day out. On Wednesday, he took a look at the ridiculous notion that the reason Democrats aren't winning is because they aren't hiding their agenda in artful enough language. Friday's post included a devastating critique of the notion that racism and gay-baiting are okay if approved by the black and gay establishments...

Captain Ed shares Roger Simon's suspicion that Nannygate is a convenient cover story... reports on an internal struggle over the release of the Memogate report. The Instapundit says that shows CBS is worried...

Colin Powell - Candidate Profile Five

A recent Gallup Poll shows Colin Powell is the early choice of 7% of Republicans for the 2008 nomination. The outgoing Secretary of State has long been one of the more admired politicians for his grace, intellect, and moderation. Some desperate Democrats even want to claim him. Powell would be a formidable candidate, but not without some glaring weaknesses.

Colin L. Powell - official biography

I don't know of an unofficial campaign site, but there is considerable chatter out there about a Powell candidacy.

Resume - four-star general in the United States Army, former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former chairman of America�s Promise � The Alliance for Youth, 65th Secretary of State of the United States, recipient of two Presidential Medals of Freedom, the President�s Citizens Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal, the Secretary of State Distinguished Service Medal, and the Secretary of Energy Distinguished Service Medal

Colin Powell could have probably been the Republican nominee in 1996 had he truly pursued it. He surely would have been a more realistic choice than Bob Dole proved to be. I don't think he has the right stuff for 2008, and here's why:
  1. Guilt by Association - Some of the independents and Democrats who would have backed Powell in 1996 would surely not do so in 2008. In their eyes, he completely lost his integrity by not resigning over a war he opposed, and, even worse, making the WMD presentation to the United Nations.
  2. Not ALL Things in Moderation - Alas, some of my fellow conservatives behave like Democrats at times and refuse to support anyone who doesn't follow the 'correct' conservative pattern. His support of abortion rights and affirmative action would doom him with these elements of the conservative base.
  3. Take My Wife, Please - It is widely believed that Alma Powell discouraged her husband from making the 1996 run that he might have won. I also recall a lot of talk about whether Alma's treatment for depression would be an issue, though I think the stigma of anti-depressants has largely disappeared in the intervening years.
  4. Old Soldiers Never Die... - he doesn't look it, but Colin Powell will be 72 in 2008. The last two presidents and most of their predecessors have been younger and more dynamic. Powell himself has mentioned this as a reason he won't make the run.
  5. Powell 2006 - Many Republicans would prefer that Powell challenge Hillary for the New York Senate seat in 2006. I don't share their enthusiasm. First, I don't think Powell could win that race, and second, please, oh, please, let Hillary be the 2008 Democratic nominee. A true-blue Republican has to salivate at the prospect.
For all his accomplishments, and they are many, Powell's political career will be looked upon some day by historians who will wonder what could have been, if only...


UPDATE 01/02/05 10:37 pm central: Powell, already considered a longshot for 2008, appears to be shutting the door even tighter, after firmly ruling out a run while making the rounds of the Sunday Morning talk shows today. I had him at 23-1, but now I'll move the marker even further down.


UPDATE 03/19/05 10:47 am central:
Powell has virtually disappeared from the 'chattering class' radar, so a downgrade is in store.


UPDATE 07/24/2005 10:56 p.m.:

see here...

Miscellanea - Breaking News Edition

To date, I have not posted one word about the outrages in the Ukraine - for which oversight I should be flogged in the public square at high noon. The confirmation of Viktor Yushchenko's poisoning provides a convenient excuse to rectify that. Look for a Unkrainian-themed essay soon...

Lorie Byrd at PoliPundit is worried that the latest Nannygate scandal might result in a Janet Reno clone (hat tip to Instapundit)...

Roger Simon suggests the nanny thing might be a beard for a bigger problem....

Soon-to-be-former UN ambassador John Danforth says the U.S. does not support calls for Kofi Annan's resignation and looks forward to working with him in the future. A complete cave? Not quite...Danforth also says there is a cloud over the UN. The message seems to be let's wait and see what the investigations show...

Friday, December 10, 2004

'Progressive'? Not by a Long Shot...

Self-definitions are often delusional. Human nature dictates that we see ourselves as we would like to be. Consider this definition from hyperdictionary:

Progressive:[n] a person who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties.

Now who would have a problem with that? Hold on a minute, though - here is the definition of liberal from Collins Concise English Dictionary (found via the Democratic Underground):

Liberal: adj. 1. relating to or having social and political views that favor progress and reform. 2. relating to or having policies or views advocating individual freedom. 3. giving and generous in temperament or behavior. 4. tolerant of other people.

Aside from the fact that one is a noun and the other an adjective, do you see any real difference between the two? Is there any reason the Left has labeled themselves 'Progressives'*? You're smart enough to know the most obvious one - since the Reagan era, liberalism at the national level has been ballot-box poison. Did you even once hear John Kerry embrace his liberalism? I'm talking about the John Kerry whose voting record made him perhaps the most liberal U.S. Senator, the John Kerry who said in 1991 ,"I'm a liberal and proud of it", the John Kerry whose liberalism Michael Moore shouted to the rooftops in a misguided attempt to win last-minute votes. The difference between 1991 and 2004 for John Kerry was the difference between Massachusetts and the United States.

What I'm trying to refute, though, is the whole idea that 'Progressives' are progressive. If we parse our two definitions above, we find the follow mistaken notions:

  1. The 'Progressive' favors progress and reform. Examples abound of the hypocrisy of this assertion. Our current president is leading the charge to initiate real reform of the safety net and the tax code, and the liberal reaction is to deny that a problem exists. When a big corporation makes a genuine advance that could literally save the lives of millions, the liberal response is to label it 'Frankenfood'. More damning still is the 'Progressive' silence greeting the undeniable progress and reforms taking place in Afghanistan now.
  2. The 'Progessive' fights for civil liberties. Have you noticed how the Left loves everything about government but law enforcement? Security measures to avoid terrorism are not the second coming of the Nazis, as liberals would have us think. The most basic civil liberty is the right to live; the right to own property is also paramount. We live in a society that is woefully ignorant of true facism. Read a history of the Warsaw Ghetto before crying 'Nazi', folks.
  3. The 'Progressive' is generous in temperament and behavior - no need to spend long on this one. This earlier post will direct you to some of the giving, generous statements posted at the Democratic Underground in 2004.
  4. The 'Progressive' is tolerant of other people. Provided they have the 'correct' ideology (scary thought, that, if you know anything about Stalinist Russia). I've dealt with this subject at length - the Left's famous tolerance simply does not extend to those who hold conservative ideologies. For proof, you need look no further than the current liberal hate speech directed at Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

I firmly believe that most Democrats mean well and would agree that 'Progressivism' has gotten out of hand. If this is to remain a two-party country, I suggest the Dems listen a little more to Zell Miller and a whole lot less to MoveOn.Org...

* Readers of this blog will note that I always put the snarky scare quoutes around 'Progressive'. I don't accept the labeling scheme for the reasons outlined above, and because, since I am diametrically opposed to 'Progressive' policies, acceptance would mean labeling myself as 'Regressive'.

Miscellanea - TGIF Edition

Lord, did work suck today! Let's see what's going on around this crazy ol' place we call the Internet...

Armstrong Williams in USA Today (hat tip: RealClearPolitics) writes about a subject that I've touched on several times: the intolerance of the 'progressive' community to those that don't think the same...

Charles Krauthammer wonders why the Afghanistan Miracle isn't getting more attention (funny how the Lefties were more excited about protecting Clinton's right to lie about sex than they ever were about our liberation of the oppressed Afghan women - come to think of it, see the above, this is really the same issue) (thanks to RealClearPolitics again)...

Oh, no...Krugman is already back! Krugman says Argentina's privatization reforms threw their economy into chaos, but JustOneMinute is skeptical (uh, Paul, keep that vacation going, really, it's o.k.)...

Scrappleface gets Bill Moyer's departure exactly right...

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Miscellanea - Al Sharpton Edition

It isn't just the Village Voice wagging their tongues about the Reverend Al these days...

Captain Ed asks, 'Sharpton: Shakedown or Sellout?'...

Anybody else got the sneaking suspicion this guy might be a rip-off artist? (hat tip to Pejmanesque)...

Can this article be true? It shows Marjorie Fields-Harris gaining support (a fisking of Marjorie here)....

On the other hand, this editorial from the same source shows a certain, shall we say, pro-Sharpton bias....

Finally, for you youngsters out there, a little jog down Memory Lane with Tawana and Al...

Privatization in Action: Reform in Chile

In a meeting with Social Security trustees, President Bush declared that an increase in payroll taxes is off the table as a funding source for Social Security reform. That's too bad, because it would seem to effectively kill Senator Lindsey Graham's plan, which I thought had a lot of merit. So where does that leave us? Seemingly with two choices: raise the retirement age or pay the transition costs through debt. Forget how to pay for it, though, are Private Savings Accounts even the way to go?

For an answer, let's turn to the real world. Pejman Yousefzadeh at Pejmanesque links to this New York Times article by Jose Pinera, Chile's former Secretary of Labor and Social Security. In 1980, Chile did just what we are contemplating: they reformed their system by allow workers to opt out of the government's pension system and contribute to personal retirement accounts. (Actually, this goes far beyond the 2-4 percent payroll tax diversion we are talking about). 10% of a worker's pre-tax wages are deposited in a personal account monthly, and the worker may optionally contribute up to 10% more. The account is tax-free until withdrawal upon retirement.

Much more detail is needed to understand Chile's system in its entirety, so I refer you to the article. However, here are some of the benefits this plan provides the workers of Chile:
  • Portability (the account is tied to the worker, not the company or job)
  • Flexibility (the worker has several withdrawal options at retirement)
  • Preservation of the safety net (if a worker has contributed for 20 years yet his fund is unable to provide a defined 'minimum pension', the government covers the gap)
  • Choice (only brand new workers were required to use the private accounts - those already in the workforce were given the option to remain in the government plan)
How did the government confront what Pinera calls a cash flow issue rather than transition costs? And how did the workers make out? Pinera answers:

We used five "sources" to generate that cash flow: a) one-time long-term government bonds at market rates of interest so the cost was shared with future generations; b) a temporary residual payroll tax; c) privatization of state-owned companies, which increased efficiency, prevented corruption and spread ownership; d) a budget surplus deliberately created before the reform (for many years afterward, we were able to use the need to "finance the transition" as a powerful argument to contain increases in government spending); e) increased tax revenues that resulted from the higher economic growth fueled by the personal retirement account system.

Since the system started on May 1, 1981, the average real return on the personal accounts has been 10 percent a year. The pension funds have now accumulated resources equivalent to 70 percent of gross domestic product, a pool of savings that has helped finance economic growth and spurred the development of liquid long-term domestic capital market. By increasing savings and improving the functioning of both the capital and labor markets, the reform contributed to the doubling of the growth rate of the economy from 1985 to 1997 (from the historic 3 percent to 7.2 percent a year) until the slowdown caused by the government's erroneous response to the Asian crisis.

Of course, you can hear the chorus of naysayers: America is not Chile, for example, and that is true enough...but our plan is much more cautious than this (is that a good thing? Stay tuned...). Regardless of the sizes of the relevant economies, though, the idea here is to give workers an opportunity to realize some real capital appreciation in their retirement plans, and thus a greater stake in the economy, and at the same time, begin the first steps of fixing a system that is irretrievably broken (and whose socialistic origins are not indicative of our nation's values). One of the great democratizing forces in recent American history has been the increase in investors due to low minimum investments in mutual funds and online much more so that would be under Chile's plan! (hat tip to bebere)

No Social Security Crisis? You Could Have Fooled Me

The Radical Left just loves to have their cake and eat it, too. The ability to believe in two opposing ideas simultaneously is no problem for those wearing ideological blinders (War is Peace, Love is Hate, Ignorance is Strength) . We were told in the campaign that President Bush wrongly outsourced the Afghanistan War, but we should turn Iraq over to the United Nations. We were asked who would be the last to die for a mistake, by those who recommended more troops. The latest doublespeak comes on Social Security.

I've already commented on Paul Krugman's most recent screed, and today Donald Luskin has some more thoughts at National Review. Krugman and most other liberals would now have us believe that the Social Security crisis has been invented by pro-privatization forces, after years of claiming otherwise. Luskin has the goods on Krugman's prior crisis warnings, but you see, that was before it became clear that George Bush plans on ensuring real reform. As Luskin rightly notes, the sudden appearance of the 'non-crisis' meme is a sure sign both that Bush will succeed, and that the Left is frightened by the prospect. Why? Because the essence of socialism is control by the 'collective'. Give a little freedom to the taxpayers through partial Private Savings Accounts, and the next thing you know, they might just want to control all of their money...and that would be the end of the Social Security bureaucracy.

Look at this page from the Democratic National Committee and contrast its assertions with this laughable post praising Krugman's editiorial (he's AN ECONOMIST! - guess what folks, I have a B.A. in Economics myself). This would all be another shining example of Democrat-inspired hilarity if it weren't for one spotlights a dangerous trend - the wish for political gain at the country's expense. If only the war would go badly, if only we had a serious recession, if only we didn't reform social security - who cares about the consequences, WE'RE LOSING ELECTIONS HERE!!! Someone should just shut the doors on the Democratic Party and start from scratch...anything would be better than this.

Very soon, we'll take a look at privatization in action with a real-life case study...

Miscellanea - It's Nearly Friday Edition

Peter Beinart follows up his influential TNR article with a Washington Post piece again calling for a more muscular liberal response to terrorism (via RealClearPolitics)...

Jonathan Franzen and I have something in common - a love of Peanuts...

Dick Morris joins in the post-election elite bashing (again, thanks to RealClearPolitics)...

Via Instapundit, the Unpopulist 2004 Weblog Awards...

More on Social Security and tax reform from JustOneMinute...

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Miscellanea - Ayn Rand Edition

So you've devoured Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, We the Living, and even The Romantic Manifesto, and you don't know where to get your Ayn Rand fix? Don't worry, I'm here to help...

Actually, a Google search for Ayn Rand results in 428,000 hits, so let's narrow it down just a tad. What follows is just a sampling of the feast that awaits you:
That should keep you busy for a while. What's my take on Rand? Atlas Shrugged was a revelation to me when I first read it in college. I suspect literally millions of others have felt the same. I find the whole Objectivist subculture a little creepy, though, and I think Rand, not unlike good ol' Christopher Hitchens, proclaims her atheism to the point of making a fetish of it. Still, for the inspiration that she brings to so many (and for influencing Alan Greenspan), I salute her.

"A is A" is a brilliant statement. How can you reconcile that with faith? Ah, that's a matter for another post...

Is Nero Fiddling While Rome Burns?

Kofi Annan gets a standing 'o' from the General Assembly...

In Praise of George W. Bush

James Trotter by way of PoliPundit has a list of accomplishments for the first Bush term that are worth your while (I agree with all of them except the last by Joe. If anyone gets credit for exposing Oil-for-Food, it should be Claudia Rosett). Bush's accomplishments are impressive indeed- clearly he is a man who understands how to be an executive in the Executive Office. It's not accomplishments that I love about George W. Bush, though - it's ideas.

Now, our leftie buddies would scoff at this - in their minds, it's a wonder Bush can tie his shoes. I'm not talking about debating points or mental gymnastics - I'm talking about principles. In 2000, then-candidate Bush was asked in a debate who his favorite political philosopher was. His answer was stunning - "Jesus, because he changed my heart". To the left, it was stunning because it confirmed all their fears about Bush - look, he believes in that junk! He doesn't know any political philosophers! He's beholden to the Religious Right! To the majority of Americans, and particularly those who knew a little about Bush's younger days, the answer stunned because it was so direct and honest. This directness came through again in this year's debates when Bush talked about his family and faith.

This is not about Church and State, and I'm not out to convert anyone - this is about conviction. While Michael Moore and his ilk worry about the seven minutes Bush spent in a Florida classroom (would Moore have us believe if Bush had jumped up, dashed out of the room, and onto Air Force One, that a single person who died would not have? What a non-argument!), most Americans were paying more attention when the President gave his now-famous "Axis of Evil" speech, or when he stood on that rubble at Ground Zero and swore the terrorists would hear all of us soon, or when he gave in my mind the greatest speech of my lifetime to a joint session of Congress in the early aftermath of that horrible, horrible day.

This is a president who recognized evil and called it by name, who provided the essential comfort to a shocked nation that we would no longer be complacent, we would no longer settle for appeasement. This is a president who has led the world with an unprecedented funding campaign to combat the AIDS catastrophe in Africa. This is a president who believes in the transformative power of democracy and the eventual triumph of freedom over tyranny. This is a president to thank God for every day.

Miscellanea - Hump Day Edition

I was wondering why my Marjorie Fields Harris post was getting so much traffic, now I know - here's some pretty interesting allegations from the Village Voice...

Here's more on Al Sharpton from Jay Nordlinger (hat tip to the Big Trunk at Power Line)...

Is Harry Reid calling Clarence Thomas an Affirmative Action hire, wonders Noam Screiber? (hat tip to RealClearPolitics)...

Jayson at PoluPundit links to the above slap at Reid from the left, and this one from the right...

Wictory Wednesday Redux

A reminder that on Wednesday, I have joined PoliPundit's Wictory Wednesdays, so check out his post and the blogroll at right. This week, we're asking for Republican volunteers to observe the Washington governor's recount (don't let 'em steal this one from us!)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Weekly Jackass Number Two - Noam Chomsky

This was a no-brainer. To not honor Chomsky in this forum would be a disservice to the Weekly Jackass concept. Noam Chomsky is a Professor of Linguistics at MIT and possibly the very personification of the America-Hating Radical Left. He has been accused of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, though he denies both charges, insisting that he is only a critic of Israeli and American policy. This is a famous trick of Chomsky's - blanket criticism of an entity (America, Israel) while claiming he is not against the entity. I submit to you - if you describe yourself as a critic of Israeli policy and American policy without qualification, without regard to current or past administrations, without mentioning specific policies - then what prevents me from seeing you as an anti-Semite or America Hater? What if I threw in a little Holocaust Denial as well?

This quote by David Horowitz (frequent Chomsky critic and co-editor of the Anti-Chomsky Reader) sums up Chomsky's following nicely:
...wherever young people manifest an otherwise incomprehensible rage against their country, the inspirer of their loathing and the instructor of their hate is most likely this man.
Too strong, you say? Consider this Chomsky quote from September 12, 2001 (and recall the nightmarish images in your mind of the day before):

The terrorist attacks were major atrocities. In scale they may not reach the level of many others, for example, Clinton�s bombing of the Sudan with no credible pretext, destroying half its pharmaceutical supplies and killing unknown numbers of people (no one knows, because the US blocked an inquiry at the UN and no one cares to pursue it).
Contrast what you were feeling on September 12th, 2001, with Chomsky's words. In one very small sentence, he barely acknowledges what has occurred and immediately starts bashing America with a ridiculous assertion for which he offers no proof. This is another frequent Chomsky technique: he is the master of the big lie. (Here is a link to Chomsky's September 12th comments and to Christopher Hitchen's rejoinder.)

There is a wealth of material out there exposing Chomsky for his knee-jerk anti-American reaction regardless of the issue involved. I refer you to just three of the many that are worth your time: Oliver Kamm, Horowitz's FrontPage Magazine, and Benjamin Kerstein's Diary of an Anti-Chomskyite.

I've again only scratched the surface of this topic, but I have the feeling we will be revisiting our 2nd Weekly Jackass, Noam Chomsky.

(hat tip to bebere for leading me to Oliver Kamm)

Miscellanea - They Just Keep on Coming!

Good piece by Joan Vennochi in the Boston Globe (hat tip to RealClearPolitics) on a Blue Stater's rationale for voting Bush...bottom line - he wasn't John Kerry. (ABK, anyone?)....

Instapundit points to a post by JustOneMinute about a Paul Krugman article - whew! For those of you who don't know, future Weekly Jackass Krugman is the economic equivalent of Maureen Dowd - his basic gig is to take some economic news, problem, or event and twist things around until Bush is to blame for it. This week, he laughingly insists that the pro-privatization people 'invented' the Social Security crisis. I join with JustOneMinute in asking Krugman if he has forgotten yet another Al Gore innovation - the 'lockbox'...

Speaking of Social Security, if this piece in the Washington Times is true, Bush has made it his number one second-term domestic priority (he's talking about four percent of the payroll tax as the amount that could be privatized). Man, I love this President! (tip of the hat to Jayson at PoliPundit)...

You need to read the whole article, but you may have to register first, so here's the UN dishonor roll from the WSJ's OpinionJournal (again, via Jayson at PoliPundit):

� Failing to enforce 17 resolutions against Saddam, tolerating his ejection of U.N. weapons inspectors, and even enabling him to stay in power by looking the other way as he exploited Oil for Food.

� Failing to use U.N. peacekeepers already in place to stop the Rwanda genocide in 1994, and, worse, handing over thousands of Bosnian Muslim men for slaughter by the Serbs at Srebrenica in 1995.

� Failing to act in Kosovo in 1999, amid the threat of a Russian veto, leaving NATO the task of preventing a bloody civil war on European soil.

� As recently as this year, failing to stop the massacre of African Muslims in Sudan's Darfur province.

� And failing even to bring up for formal debate, let alone action, North Korean and Iranian violations of non-proliferation agreements.

My, my, my...

Miscellanea - Pearl Harbor Day Edition

How is it the most liberal American institution is the most intolerant of diversity? (hat tip to the Big Trunk at Power Line...

I was going to share my thoughts on E.J. Dionne's new piece, but DJ Drummond at PoliPundit says it all...

Belmont Club has some good followup to this David Horowitz article on everyone's favorite liberal comedian, Al Franken (confession: I think Al Franken is screamingly funny at times)...

Here's a link to the Pearl Harbor Survivor's Association...we need to let our vets know how much we appreciate them, today and every day!...

Solve the Deficit Through Consumer Debt?

A Redder State of Mind has got me thinking today with this post. He suggests an idea that he believes will boost the economy, lower the deficit, and help consumers: get the U.S. government in the credit card business. His selling points are more credit equals more purchases of U.S. goods (he suggests giving cash back for purchases made in the U.S.A.), lower credit rates to help consumers, and the use of the funds generated to pay off the national debt.

Could it work? I'm skeptical about the cash back part, I think it's just too difficult to determine the manufacturing country in today's global economy. I don't think you would need that to market the cards, though - just lowering the rates would get the economy booming (imagine a credit card with an interest rate tied to 5 points above the Fed Funds Rate, for example).

I'm squemish about this being a direct government function, as well, for reasons to do with credit qualification and debt collection and fears of corruption. However, what about a Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSA) like Sallie Mae and Fannie Mae? To those who object to the government lending money, we do it already through bank, student, and mortgage loans. Privacy is an issue the post and its comments raise as well. Go read's an idea worth at least exploring.

More On Social Security Reform

Very good Bob Novak column (hat tip to RealClearPolitics) on Social Security Reform. It seems Lindsey Graham, Republican Senator from South Carolina, has tackled those pesky transition costs that Kerry and Edwards kept reminding us of. Graham's solution? Increase the upper limit of income subject to the payroll tax, current capped at $87,900. (Graham says he would reduce the payroll tax rate as revenues grow).

Novak feels that hard as it would be for Republicans to swallow an upper-income tax increase, harder still would be convincing Democrats to go for the Personal Savings Account idea (as Novak cleverly points out, every American invested in the markets is a Republican in waiting). Of course, Bush has clearly expressed a desire to spend political capital, and this is big domestic issue number one.

My take is this: I'm not going to reject Graham's idea out of hand because it is a tax increase. I don't have the relevant figures in front of me, but what if it was packaged like this:
  • Make the first term tax cuts permanent
  • Raise the payroll tax income limit to $175,000 (about double the current cap)
  • Let Americans set aside 3 percent of their Social Security payments to Private Savings Accounts (1% less than Graham's bill)
  • After ten years, drop the 12.4% payroll tax to 11%.

I stress again that those figures are just pulled out of thin air - I'm just talking about an approach to sell this along those lines. I think I could go for such an arrangement - how about you?

UPDATE 12/08/04 12:56 p.m. - Here are some very deep thoughts on the subject from deona, posted at JustOneMinute (hat tip to Dicebucket).

Monday, December 06, 2004

Miscellanea - Checking in With Our Leftist Buddies

This might be the single best summation of the Left's reaction to the election I've seen. WARNING - plenty of foul language (the Radical Left's idea of persuasion). Be sure and bring some tissues...

Hog On Ice has a new design for the Seal of the Democratic Party that I'm kinda partial to...

This from Chomsky's Bio on his web page: critic of US foreign policy, anti-capitalist, and long time advocate of liberation and justice. See, folks? He doesn't hate America - just its foreign policy and domestic economic system (isn't it rich that he just puts 'critic of US foreign policy', no context, no mention of any party or administration - if it's a US policy, he's against it)...

More Miscellanea - What Liberal Media Edition?

Now this is interesting - a statistical study that confirms liberal media bias (hat tip to PoliPundit)...

More of that famous liberal tolerance (thanks to Oh, That Liberal Media)...

CBS is getting that sinkin' feeling (a doff of the hat to Dirty Harry)...

Victorino Matus shares my enthusiasm for U2 - get the new album! (okay, this last one has nothing to do with the liberal media)...

Miscellanea - I Don't Like Mondays Edition

You'll be shocked - SHOCKED, I say - to know that France, Russia, and Germany are supporting Kofi Annan (I'm a little surprised by the British, though) (hat tip to the Urban Grind)...

Larry Elder has more on race and the Left...

Aaron the Liberal Slayer is offering Blogopoly pieces, and they're cooler than cool...

I'm starting to like Tom Wolfe more and more - see why at Beautiful Atrocities (wonder if comments like these have anything to do with his recent bad reviews?)...

Two Views of the Red States

The New York Times has produced yet another future Weekly Jackass in Frank Rich. His piece this Sunday would have been funny as satire...but he actually meant it. Let's see if you can guess the tone by the title - "The Nascar Nightly News - Anchorman Get Your Gun". You really have to read the whole thing, but here are some choice highlights:

If Democrats want to run around like fools trying to persuade voters in red America that they are kissing cousins to Billy Graham, Minnie Pearl and Li'l Abner, that's their problem.

"The New York-Washington axis can be a journalist's worst enemy," [Brian Williams said,] promising to spend his nights in the field in "Dayton and Toledo and Cincinnati and Denver and the middle of Kansas." (So much for San Francisco - or Baghdad.)
I don't mean to single out Mr. Williams, who is prone to making such statements while wearing suits that reek of "New York-Washington axis" money and affectation. But when he talks in a promotional interview of how he found the pulse of the nation in Cabela's, a popular hunting-and-fishing outfitter in Dundee, Mich., and boasts of owning both an air rifle and part interest in a dirt-track stock-car team, he is
declaring himself the poster boy for a larger shift in our news culture. He is eager to hunt down an audience, not a story.

In a new spot for "World News Tonight," [Peter] Jennings tells us that
"this is a really hopeful nation, and I think there's a great beauty in that." This homily is...factually inaccurate - most Americans continue to tell pollsters that the nation is on the wrong track...

The idea, largely but not exclusively fomented by the right, that TV news might somehow soon be supplanted by blogging as a mass medium may remain a populist fantasy until Americans are able to receive blogs by iPod. (At which point they become talk radio.) The dense text in the best blogs often requires as much of a reader's time and concentration as high-end print journalism, itself facing declining circulation. Since blogging doesn't generate big (if any) profits, there's no budget for its "citizen reporters" to reliably blanket catastrophic and far-flung breaking news. (There are no bloggers among the 36 journalists thus far killed in the Iraq war.) Bloggers can fact-check documents (as in the Rather case), opine, organize, talk back, leak early exit polls and publish multimedia outings of the seemingly endless supply of closeted gay Republican officials. But if bloggers are actually doing front-line reporting rather than commenting upon the news in a danger zone like Falluja, chances are that they are underwritten by a day job on the payroll of a major news organization.

If full-scale Nascarization is what's coming next, there will soon be no pictures but those promising a mission accomplished, no news but good news. And that's good news only if you believe America has something to gain by fighting a war in the dark.

Did you get all that? Let's recap for the sake of clarity...Red Staters are hicks, you can't find the heart of America or a good news story outside of Washington and New York, America is a pessimistic country, bloggers are low-paid cowards (unless they work for big media), there is a 'seemingly endless supply of closeted gay Republican officials', and anyone who likes Nascar is an idiot (personnally, I don't care for Nascar, but it's big news and big business nowadays, and not just to Li'l Abner).

Now I want to highlight another view of Red States, by someone with an ear and eye for what makes this country tick. The song is 'Out Here in the Middle', by Robert Earl Keen. Notice how the imagery is similar, but one person condescends while the other is sympathetic, even wistful. I leave it to you to decide which is more thoughtful, accurate, and insightful.

Out here in the middle You can park on the street
Step up to the counter Nearly always get a seat
Nobody steals Nobody cheats
Wish you were here, my love
We got tractor pulls and Red Man chew
Corporate relo-refugees who need love too
And we ain't seen Elvis In a year or two
We got justification and wealth and greed
Amber waves of grain and bathtub speed
Now we even got Starbucks What else you need
Out here in the middle
Where the center is on the right
And the ghost of William Jennings Bryan preaches every night
Savin' lonely souls In the dashboard light
Wish you were here, my love
Out here in the middle
Where the buffalo roam
We're puttin' up towers
For your cell phone
And we screen all applicants
With a fine-tooth comb
Wish you were here, my love

Johanna McGeary - A Partial Fisking

Time has a laughable article about Kofi's travails - just a small example of the hilarious quotes (and my snarky comments):

...the metastasizing oil-for-food scandal...has grown from a fringe obsession among conservative ideologues to the subject of five separate
congressional investigations. All this has trained the hot lights on Annan, a second-term Secretary- General and Nobel Peace laureate...

Move on folks, nothing to see here, just those wacky conservative ideologues and their fringe dare they criticize a Nobel Peace laureate (putting Annan in the prestigious company of Yasser Arafat, failed former President Jimmy Carter, and this year's winner, conspiracy theorist Wangari Maathai)?

The only startling resignation at the U.N. last week was that of U.S. Ambassador John Danforth,who said he was quitting primarily to spend more time with his ailing wife.

True as far as is goes, but completely ignores Danforth's blistering comments about the utility of the UN the following day.

So far, there is no evidence that Annan's son did anything improper
or illegal, much less the Secretary-General himself.

Perhaps the legality of Kojo Annan's actions has yet to be determined, but can anyone seriously doubt their impropriety?

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former British Ambassador to the U.N., spoke
for many outside Washington's conservative circles when he said, "Of course Annan should not resign. It would be hard to find anyone as good."

Again, I'll make the assertion that only a conservative would be troubled by these trifling matters. I couldn't find any current ambassadors to back up my point, so I'm quoting this guy you've never heard of. Besides, who else could match Annan's record of corrupt family members, staff unrest, blindness to genocide, unwillingness to back up resolutions with the appropriate force, and blind opposition to the foreign policy of the United States?

The case against Kofi centers on the murk of fraud and mismanagement
that occurred during the seven years of the U.N.'s oil-for-food program... The U.N. was in charge of overseeing both sides of the trade, but Saddam managed to skim off more than $20 billion from the $64 billion program to prop up his rule. Records found in Iraq allege that government officials and others, notably in France, Russia and China; oil companies, including American giants; and individuals, among them the senior U.N. official appointed to run the program, received preferential deals to buy Iraqi oil at below market price. Many have denied it, and there is no hint of personal impropriety by Annan. Much of Saddam's stolen revenues came from oil sales to Jordan, Turkey and Syria, which the U.S. government and the U.N. Security Council knew about. "Should members of Congress resign," asks Senator Carl Levin, "because they turned a blind eye to illegal sales Saddam made with their full knowledge?"

I agree that Saddam managed to divert $20 billion of funds to support his
dictatorship, but I'll cloud that agreement with the term "murk" (how appropriate!). Despite the fact that this corruption included the senior UN official appointed to oversee the program, how could anyone but a conservative ideologue blame the UN? After all, you wouldn't ask members of Congress who ignored corruption to resign, would you?
As a matter of fact, I would - Mark.

...the scandal will, in the eyes of some, cast an indelible shadow over Annan's once glittering resume...Annan, born in Ghana in 1938, made his career as the quintessential insider. His tenure as head of U.N. peacekeeping in the 1990s was marred by the U.N.'s failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda and the massacre of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica.

I TOLD you he had a glittering resume...impressive, huh?

Well, as always, you be the judge...

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Arnold Schwarzenegger - Candidate Profile Four

The Terminator has been a pleasant surprise. I initially looked at his gubernatorial effort as one of those 'only in California' things, but his speech at the Republican Convention was the most fun I've ever had watching a politician. Clearly, his appeal is not to be underestimated. Still, there are some HUGE obstacles to a Schwarzenegger bid, the most prominent a constitutional one.

Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger - Official Biography

Unofficial almost-campaign site - (via Primary 2008)

Resume - Chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports from 1990 to 1993; former Mr. Olympia, Mr. Universe, and member of the Bodybuilder Hall of Fame; star of over 30 movies, many of them blockbusters; present Governor of California

This is all about Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution. More specifically, two issues are involved: (1) is it a good idea to change the amendment, and (2) is it a good idea to change the amendment for one man? The answer to number 2 is obviously that it is not, regardless of his popularity. What about the merits of the ban on foreign-born presidents? It's certainly not a popular idea to overturn the ban, but that hardly answers the question.

Two bills are hanging around Congress that would change the absolute ban to a requirement of 20 or 35 years residency, respectively. I don't see what difference an additional 15 years would make, so let's consider the Hatch bill with the 20-year requirement. Why 20 years? Is it a good idea at all? I like the 20-year requirement, personally. It would take a most patient plotter to live here for twenty years without arousing suspicion, if it's loyalty we're worried about. Besides, haven't Richard Reid and John Walker Lindh proved that treachery can come from within?

The best argument is that one can choose one's country of residence far more easily than one's place of birth, and most people who come to America do so because they fervantly believe in its promise. Amending the constitution in this manner would give them one more dream to pursue.

Having said that, though, I think Arnold's wife Maria is right on this one - we may elect a foreign-born president some day, but it won't be Arnold. A change this big will take years of debate to have a chance of passing.


UPDATE 01/18/05 9:10 p.m.:
Rod Stanton, a visitor to this blog, suggested in a polite way that I was out of my mind putting Arnold at 35-1, given the difficulties of amending the Constitution. I tend to agree; my bookie instincts deserted me for a time. I'm bumping the odds up considerably.



UPDATE 05/18/2005:
The clock has about run out for Arnold; see comments here.


UPDATE 07/24/2005 10:56 p.m.:

see here...

Miscellanea - 12/05/2004

The InstaPundit argues that Kofi Annan more than fulfills the Secretary General's role of reflecting the UN's ideals over at the WSJ....

Also at OpinionJournal, Joseph Epstein says he simply doesn't have enough time or mental capacity to read blogs...but for me, that's one of their attractions...if you find a like-minded blogger, or even an interesting blogger of a different persuasion, you can find out about some interesting stuff you otherwise wouldn't...

George Shadroui at FrontPage Magazine takes Garrison Keillor to task for engaging in a cherished sport of the left, that is to say, demagoguery when talking about Republicans...

Joshua Frank and Merlin Chowkwanyun think the Left isn't radical enough yet, in an article guaranteed to have any sensible person rolling on the floor with tears of laughter gushing forth (one section of interest to readers of this blog will be the paragraphs referring to Bill Clinton's embrace of homophobic tactics - this is from the hardcore Left, folks)...

The Iraqi Elections - Go or No-Go?

United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says elections can't be held January 30th under the present conditions. President George W. Bush says we must not delay. Who's right? A little context is in order...

Let's deal with the credibility of Mr. Brahimi first. In the same interview, he says "...if the Americans and Allawi kill 50 people who they consider the enemy, they drive another 500 enemies into the resistance. That's not an improvement." Does that perhaps give you a clue as to his impartiality? "...who they consider the enemy..." - what can this possibly mean to any reasonable person? Here is a partial list of reasons we "consider" the "insurgents" the enemy:

1. They mutilate and rape men, women and children.

2. They are responsible for the deaths of over 1200 coalition troops post - major combat.

3. They killed a charity worker who spent her whole life working for the good of Iraqis.

4. They employ beheadings and other sadistic tactics (oh, and we're supposedly ignoring the Geneva Convention by holding terrorists at, hoo).

5. They are endorsed by Michael Moore.

Some more facts about Mr. Brahimi...he called Israel a 'poison' hindering progress in Iraq. He is pro-Sunni and not impartial. He has been accused of impeding the Oil-For-Food investigation in Baghdad. (Is corruption a requirement for employment at the U.N.?) I think the above allows us to safely ignore Mr. Brahimi's statements.

Still, the question remains: Can the Iraqis hold elections on January 30th? Should they? I believe they can and should, and here is my argument (look here for a different perspective):
  • We don't know when Iraq will be 'secure'. Holding off on elections until we are convinced that there will be no disruptions only gives the upper hand to the terrorists. The message would be: keep attacking, and democracy won't happen.
  • An elected Iraqi government will hold more credibility among Iraqis and other Arabs. No government that carries the stamp of U.S. control will ever be seen by the conspiracy elements of the Arab street as legitimate. Elections will help alleviate that.
  • The troops will come home sooner. A legitimately elected Iraqi government will give Iraqis a greater stake in protecting their country, and I suspect recruitment for the police and armed forces would increase accordingly.
I believe firmly in Bush's vision of a transformative, democratic Iraq. Freedom will defeat tyranny. The January elections will be a substantive step forward.

Maureen Dowd - A Weekly Jackass Preview

One thing that has become abundantly clear to me is I'm going to have no problem finding Weekly Jackasses to mock. The New York Times alone will keep me busy for a month.

Thanks to the miracle of digital video recorders, I was watching the November 21st This Week with George Stephanopoulos (who's really pretty good, mostly). The panelists were Walter Isaacson, George Will (his regular gig), Bob Woodward, and Maureen Dowd. Maureen Dowd????!!!!! Quick, name the last time she wrote a column on ANYTHING other than snarky (and I'm thinking definition 4 here) comments about the Bush administration....

I'm not gonna say too much about Dowd at this time, but here is just a taste of her scintilating observations (in response to George S.'s observation about the irony that Powell was beating the war drum on Iran without iron-clad proof after being such a stickler for good intelligence on Iraq):
I's bizarre, isn't it?
Now that's the kind of insight that earns her the big bucks...Wow!!!....

Miscellanea - Special UN Edition

Two items of interest in today's New York Times - a hilarious historical lesson from Steve Martin and an editorial on Oil-For-Food. How utterly sad and predictable is it that the Times considers calls for Annan's resignation "premature"? That hasn't been the case for at least 8 or 9 months now. And why is the headline "The UN Oil Scandal"? It's not an oil scandal, we're used to those. It's an oil-for-food scandal, food that was meant to feed the Iraqi people and was instead used for political gain by a dictator. SHEESH - the 'newspaper of record', indeed...

Meanwhile, Kojo Annan is even more of a shill than was first thought (link via Instapundit)...

An interesting candidate has emerged for Secretary General (another Instapundit hat tip)...

The Minneapolis Star Tribune thinks conservative bloggers are a bigger threat to the world than Kofi Annan's incompetence (hat tip on this one to Hindrocket at Power Line)...

UPDATE 11:34 am central: Belmont Club notes an LA Times piece that argues that the US is out to lynch the UN and not the secretary general - strong word, that lynch, a tipoff that you're not exactly looking at a reasoned argument. The larger point about the UN being the target of quite reasonable calls for its dissolution - well, others much more qualified than me have made that argument quite well, and I'm convinced (hat tip to bebere)...