31 December 2007

Thanks

I wanted to take a moment and say thanks to the folks who have taken the time to read my blog over the past year and a bit. I hope that you've found it interesting and thought provoking. I've had a fine time writing it, especially because writing is a craft which is never really perfected.

If you have any thoughts on this blog in general - where it has been, where you'd like to see it go - or you'd just like to say hello, please leave a comment here or drop me an email here.

Thanks again, and I hope that you and yours have a happy and prosperous New Year.

30 December 2007

Thompson’s Refreshing Non-Ambition, Thoughtfulness

Senator Fred Thompson is eager to get out one message before the Iowa caucuses: he’s not running for president to fulfill personal ambition. That message was loud and clear on Fox News Sunday this morning, and he apparently delivered the message at a town hall meeting as well.

In a campaign where some candidates have had arguments about how young their adversaries were when contemplating a run for president (see Clinton v. Obama), it is more than a little refreshing to have a candidate state simply that he’s doing it because he and others think that he would govern well. I would tend to agree.

Another interesting comment Senator Thompson made was that “Nowadays, it's all about fire in the belly. I'm not sure in the world we live in today it's a terribly good thing that a president has too much fire in his belly.” Again, I would tend to agree. Where other candidates pop off about this or that (Obama would, theoretically, invade Pakistan; Huckabee isn’t sure about much on foreign affairs; Clinton would “take those profits” and has no rudder on illegals and driver’s licenses), Thompson appears to calmly consider things.

His only downside on FNS this morning was his overuse of “um” during the interview. Where that may come across on television poorly, on closer examination (and in comparison with other candidates) it shows consideration of a question in lieu of launching into a memorized answer that may or may not relate directly to the question posed.

I hope that Senator Thompson is still in the picture when the Texas primaries finally roll around. According to the pundits, the race may be all over by the time I get to vote.

29 December 2007

Thoughts on Pakistan

Over the past two days, there has been much fallout concerning the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Much has been written about the matter, must reported on television, and yet there seems to be little in the way of clarity. From what I’ve read about the history of the region, no one should be surprised by that. Trying to impose our (Western) logic and order on the situation is to depart from reality.

Al Qaeda reportedly has claimed responsibility for the attack, but there is more than a little dissent concerning that claim. Regardless of the truth, I don’t think there is much doubt that al Qaeda benefits from the chaos in Pakistan. Just as Sunni versus Shia violence worked to destabilize Iraq, so will pitting rival political parties against each other destabilize Pakistan. As is oft noted, a destabilized – or worse, Islamofascist controlled – Pakistan is a serious concern given the location and weapons capabilities therein.

That being said, one wonders if the elections in Pakistan scheduled for January 8th ought to go on as planned or postponed. Holding them as planned might lend some stability to the situation if Musharraf wins. Given the amount of blame flowing toward him from within Pakistan, that’s not a given.

The most clear and concise point I’ve read yet about the situation comes from Andrew Walden at American Thinker:

Western-friendly Pakistani governments are just a billion-dollar veneer with mostly theoretical control over the Pakistani military and its nukes. With Musharraf out as army chief, his control becomes even more theoretical. Pakistani reality is not so dissimilar to that of pre-9-11 Afghanistan, Iraq before the surge, Somalia, Gaza, Chechnya, Sudan, or other failed Islamist states. The only difference is that the state has not yet failed. If the PPP is knocked out of the picture, the end is a lot closer than many realize.
Indeed.

Senator Clinton Wants International Investigation

Senator Clinton, Breitbart.com reports, wants “a full, independent, international investigation” of the Bhutto assassination. She wants this because she “[doesn’t] think the Pakistani government at this time under President (Pervez) Musharraf has any credibility at all.”

Nothing like a presidential candidate attempting to undercut the regime of an important – or at a minimum, a necessary – ally against Islamic terrorists. Somehow I think that involving the international community would politicize an investigation more than simply allowing the Pakistanis to do it themselves. Ironically, Pakistan is probably no less dysfunctional than the “international community” is.

28 December 2007

Stand By for More Bad News

The murder/homicide bombing of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan is a rude reminder of just how ugly the motives of some highly motivated folks really are. In the closing moments of a year when it appeared that the fight against the barbarity of Islamic fascists turned a corner, Ms. Bhutto’s death presents a new complication, a new, open front in that war.

I’m no expert (obviously), but nothing good will come of this in the short or medium term. In the long term, perhaps this one act will open up for attack the tribal areas in Pakistan which need some serious “spring cleaning”.

But for the time being, I’m braced for more bad news to come from Pakistan. I hope and pray that our trusted government leaders have, as is reported, long ago taken steps to secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal – though that program is not be something that I would want “exposed” by the New York Times or 60 Minutes. Securing that arsenal, in my opinion, is the most beneficial thing the U.S. can do in the short term to assist the rest of the world as Pakistan goes through the necessary convulsions following Ms. Bhutto’s assassination.

26 December 2007

Governor Huckabee’s Written Words

Two sentences from Governor Huckabee’s essay in the January/February 2008 edition of Foreign Affairs has gotten a lot of attention. While the reader might be able to take them with a grain of salt if they were only written once in the introduction summary, they cannot be ignored when Gov. Huckabee repeats them, though swapping the sentence order, in the second paragraph of the essay. The sentences, in the order presenting in the summary, are:

“The Bush administration’s arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad. American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out.”
While I’m not sure what an “arrogant bunker” is, I would have predicted these statements from one of the Democratic candidates. Perhaps Governor Huckabee is attempting to perform a shock-differentiation between his potential foreign policy and that of President Bush. However, his rhetoric sounds like gratuitous divisiveness; it is more than a bit over the top.

That out of the way – both for the Governor and the reader – he divides up what remains of the essay roughly into five sections: diplomacy, use of force, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. While I won’t go through all of the sections here, each section is worth reading so as to understand Governor Huckabee’s ideas and point of view.

One thing that Governor Huckabee is an advocate for is a full explanation of what jihadists believe and why they want to kill Westerners. He rightly says this is something that the Bush administration should have been doing for a long time, but has not – probably because of the flawed belief that doing so might either offend some group or that the American people would not fully understand the explanation. Both of these are erroneous.

At that point, though, Governor Huckabee’s ideas concerning diplomacy break down for me. He says that “we cannot export democracy as if it were Coca-Cola or KFC,” but he also says that we should “do the right thing to improve life in the Muslim world,” which would include improving “education, jobs, a free press, [and] fair courts”. Three of the four of those are foundational to democratic nations. How would that not be seen as exporting democracy?

Governor Huckabee introduces the idea of making the military and civil forces more robust, though he does not go into detail concerning what the civil force would look like. He advocates adding more troops to the military, boosting defense spending to 6% of GDP, but does not discuss the civil side of his build-up.

On the topic of Iraq (opening statements notwithstanding), Governor Huckabee shows clarity on some points while seeming deluded on others. His contention that bottom-up reconciliation will end violence faster is a good thing is spot on. His view of Turkish use of force against the PKK seems as ill-informed as he claims President Bush is on the matter. Why does Governor Huckabee think the Turks would trust Kurds to fight Kurds? Does the governor really think that the Turks have not been conducting operations against the PKK for some time? Why would they need our “actionable intelligence”?

But it is on the subject of Iran where Governor Huckabee really loses me. He would seemingly simultaneously re-establish diplomatic ties with Iran while encouraging the EU and other international players to strengthen sanctions against Iran. Governor Huckabee also makes contradictory statements concerning Iran. He says in a very straight-forward manner that “Many Iranians are well disposed towards us.” This statement comes on the heels of his contention that the U.S. invaded an “imaginary country” (Iraq) created from “information that was out of date” and “longtime exiles” who provided erroneous accounts of the Iraqi state. How is it, then, since we have not had an ambassador in Iran for 30 years that we can be sure of the attitudes of the Iranian people? Governor Huckabee also claims that the U.S. should be ready with incentives for a non-nuclear Iran. He then lists the same kinds of incentives that were tried in North Korea.

But one wonders why, again, Governor Huckabee would be deluded to think that Iran is a rational actor. While he claims in his essay that his potential administration would stand by Israel, he would become friends with a pre-nuclear, vocally anti-Semitic Iranian regime.

Perhaps one thing that leads Governor Huckabee astray is his choice of analogies. Twice in the article, he equates international diplomacy with interpersonal relationships. But the U.S. is not a “top high school student” who is looked on kindly when he helps other, less fortunate students. Diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran is not akin to a family spat. These kinds of false analogies can lead one astray, away from reality.

In the final analysis, while I appreciate Governor Huckabee’s sober comments on certain topics (bottom-up reconciliation, open and frank explanations on the true nature of jihadism), his lack of specifics and use of false analogies indicates a need for him to spend more time developing his foreign policy plan. The capper, though, comes at the beginning. The U.S. does not, in my opinion, need to “open up and reach out.” The U.S. needs to stick to its guns, stand as a beacon of liberty for the world, and build strength upon strength, continuing the fight against those who would destroy the West.

24 December 2007

Senator McCain’s Written Words

If Senator Clinton’s essay in Foreign Affairs is long on bombastic rhetoric and short on specific plans, Senator McCain’s is its antithesis. He spends little time gratuitously reviewing the past and instead focuses on specific plans, policies and directions he would take American foreign policy if he were to be elected.

One of the most interesting and possibly most transformative ideas in the essay deals with reorganizing civilian and military coordination, presumably between the departments of State and Defense. Senator McCain wants “a civilian follow-on to the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, which fostered a culture of joint operations within the military services.” This would not be small potatoes, nor would it be accomplished quickly. The long term upside is increasingly better coordination, something which was reportedly horrible in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion.

One thing of note here is that this is a big, far reaching idea which aims at a goal that will probably not be realized during a McCain presidency; probably not even a two term McCain presidency. Nevertheless, Senator McCain puts the idea out there, and it is certainly not the only one.

Senator McCain would also initiate a “League of Democracies” to “compliment” the United Nations. This is an idea which I feel is long overdue. The United Nations is overrun with less than democratic members who do not hold the same values as Western democracies.

He would also increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps by 150,000 troops. Again, this is a long-term project; a fact which he admits to in the essay and says “must be done as soon as possible.” Another project would be the creation of a “Army Advisory Corps of 10,000 soldiers to partner with militaries abroad”. A third would be the recreation of the U.S. Information Agency “with the sole purpose of getting American’s message to the world”.

Throughout the essay, one gets the idea that Senator McCain has put a great deal of thought and consideration into his foreign policy plan. Nothing in the essay feels half-baked or off the cuff. He sees and delineates clearly between allies (democracies), outright enemies (Islamic terrorists), not-so-nice actors (Russia), and those which could lean either way (China). Even regarding the environment, he makes what is an ultra-sane statement: “I will also greatly increase the use of nuclear power, a zero-emission energy source.” He immediately follows this statement up with a defense of free market development of future energy sources: “Given the proper incentives, our [American] innovators, scientists, entrepreneurs, and workers have the capability to lead the world in achieving energy security; given the stakes, they must.”

While I may not agree with Senator McCain on many domestic issues, particularly illegal immigration, I feel pretty comfortable with his positions on foreign policy as described in the essay. There has been some talk that if Senator McCain does not win the Republican nomination that he would be a shoe-in for Secretary of Defense. Perhaps a better spot for him would be at the Department of State, where a lot of heavy lifting will have to be done. Either spot would allow Senator McCain to lean on what I consider his strong suit: foreign policy.

23 December 2007

Cheap Oil: Just Add Hillary

Reported in the New York Daily News this afternoon:

When the world hears her commitment at her inauguration about ending American dependence on foreign fuel, Clinton says, oil-pumping countries will lower prices to stifle America's incentive to develop alternative energy.

"I predict to you, the oil-producing countries will drop the price of oil," Clinton said, speaking at the Manchester YWCA. "They will once again assume, once the cost pressure is off, Americans and our political process will recede."
I would have never guessed that making a speech about being serious about not being energy dependant would possibly have such an effect! Given this new, revolutionary phenomenon, perhaps President Bush will try this on Christmas Eve. What a Christmas present that would be: energy independence and low oil prices – all at the cost of words alone. With this revelation, perhaps I should now reconsider points of view regarding negotiating with terrorists and their supporting countries – since words alone are the cure. Or serious words, I should say. Or words uttered by Senator Clinton.

I was thinking last night, after re-reading my previous post on Senator Clinton’s Foreign Affairs essay that perhaps I had piled on a bit much regarding her “words without plans” tendency. Then this gem pops up, solidifying my previous thought that this woman will say anything, no matter how outlandish, to play to the masses and gain the election. I believe, however, that the American people are not so dim as to really believe her claims about oil or other matters.

22 December 2007

A Free Dominion Against the HRCs

A Free Dominion Against the HRCs

This short post is in reference to the HRC case against author Mark Steyn. A bit ago, I wrote a short piece on it.

Please make an effort to at least sign the above petition and/or write an email to the HRC regarding the issue. Again, you can reach the HRC though this link. Here is another link to a blog about the matter.

Again, please make some sort of noise about this matter, lest free speech - and intellectual debate - suffer a serious defeat at the hands of "the offended ones."

Senator Clinton’s Written Words

In order to spur myself into reading and writing more during the Christmas break, I thought I would pick up something that I would probably disagree with – Senator Clinton’s essay in the November/December edition of Foreign Affairs. Disagreement is a good way to stir thought.

Senator Clinton ends her essay with the claim that if the nation is lead in her way that “we can make America great again.” This statement implies that America is currently not a great country. Her reasoning has everything to do with President Bush. In her mind, he has driven America away from allies, waged war unilaterally and neglected diplomacy entirely. Her statement also implies that just before G.W. Bush became president, the country was great. Her husband, of course, was president then.

And it is through that lens that I read Senator Clinton’s essay. Her current aspirations and plans (what there is of the latter) cannot, and should not, be separated from her two-term husband.

Senator Clinton claims that America’s “unprecedented course of unilateralism” with reference to the Iraq war was detrimental primarily because we “diverted” energies (military and otherwise) better spent in Afghanistan. She leads that paragraph with the statement that America “refus[ed] to let the UN inspectors finish their work in Iraq.” One must remember that it was President Clinton who oversaw eight years of no-fly zone enforcement, including an air-ground conflict which began in December 1999 and ended only with the invasion of 2003.

Truth be told, America had more allies with it during the 2003 invasion than it did during the no-fly zone years, particularly after the French stopped playing in 1999.

But in an attempt to at least try to let her statements stand alone and not tie everything to her husband, here’s a list of glib statements which receive no thoughtful consideration or give the reader a real understanding of how they might be achieved (my comments in italics):

1. “Make international institutions work, and work through them when possible.”
Make them work? Is she going to ask nicely, say pretty please and hope?

2. “…a rapidly growing China that must be integrated into the international system.”
I thought they were a part of the international system, with a seat on the Security Council and all.

3. “…we will have to replenish American power by getting out of Iraq…”
This statement is so counterintuitive that it makes my head spin. While Senator Clinton does later spell out a sort of plan of withdrawal, it will probably happen without her influence because of the dropping level of violence in Iraq. But saying that withdrawal equals power is a suspension of disbelief that I can not make.

4. “As we redeploy our troops from Iraq…I will order specialized units to engage in targeted operations against al Qaeda in Iraq… These units will also provide security for U.S. troops and personnel in Iraq…”
Why can’t U.S. troops provide security for U.S. troops in Iraq? Why should “specialized units” exclusively do this?

5. “Getting out of Iraq will enable us to play a constructive role in a renewed Middle East peace process…”
No, it won’t. Just as getting out of Saudi Arabia didn’t change a thing about how al Qaeda or others feel about America or Americans.

6. “That means doing a better job of building counterterrorist capacity around the world…and implement more stringent border controls, especially in developing countries.”
Somehow I don’t think she’s referring to the U.S. – Mexico border here, which is a shame.

7. “…if Iran is in fact willing to end its nuclear weapons program, renounce sponsorship of terrorism, support Middle East peace, and play a constructive role in stabilizing Iraq, the United States should be prepared to offer Iran a carefully calibrated package of incentives.”
That a pretty long “if” list. Should we really prepare for these things, or should we rather apply economic pressure on Iran? What am I thinking – if we just use diplomacy, all carrot, no stick, we can talk the Iranians into changing their trajectory.

As the reader can tell, I’m not impressed by Senator Clinton. She’s long on anti-Bush rhetoric – regardless of how it plays with the history of her husband’s time in the Oval Office – long on seemingly thoughtful, counterintuitive statements, and short on how. But I suppose inevitability can trick a person into thinking that the how doesn’t matter so much.

In her closing, Senator Clinton says, “We must draw on all the dimensions of American power and reject false choices driven by ideology rather than facts.” Indeed. And for that reason alone I reject Senator Clinton’s ideology of “trust me, I’ll do a great job – because I’m not Bush.”

21 December 2007

More Dissent on Climate Change

Long after the debate was supposed to be over, but not long since Mr. Gore and the IPCC won the Nobel Peace Prize, there appears to be growing, published dissent on the idea that man is pushing the planet to a warmer future.

The obvious retort from Mr. Gore’s camp is that “25 or 30 of the scientists may have received funding from Exxon Mobil Corp.” Never mind who funds the Al Gore/IPCC point of view. Certainly that can’t be nearly as important as an evil, evil oil company spending money on research.

The response, per the article, provides a much more salient point:

"Recycling of that kind of discredited conspiracy theory is nothing more than a distraction from the real challenge facing society and the energy industry," he said. "And that challenge is how are we going to provide the energy needed to support economic and social development while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions."

Indeed. Time to lose the pseudo-religious ideology of Global Warming / Climate Change and develop – or revive – the idea of conservation, the careful utilization of a natural resource in order to prevent depletion (source – dictionary.com).

18 December 2007

Of Information and Single Issue Voting

As the presidential race (finally) begins to lean towards meaning – in terms of votes – there is going to be increasing volume concerning the candidates. Unfortunately, this volume doesn’t necessarily equate to usable information.

To get a better picture of each candidate, it’s useful to get information directly from them. Foreign Affairs has an excellent series of extended essays written by the candidates themselves. In them, the reader should get a fuller picture of what America might be like if (insert name here) were to be elected. I’ve read through most of them and commented on a couple. I hope to read the rest of them over the Christmas holiday. The only (now) serious candidate that hasn’t written an essay for the magazine is Mike Huckabee, but I think that will be published in the Jan-Feb 08 edition.

Which brings me to another point – single issue voting. While I don’t think it is my place to tell anyone what to do, especially with reference to voting – there is one mistake that I think perhaps too many people make, and that is single-issue voting. The idea that candidate (insert name here) doesn’t have lock-step views with me on (insert single issue here) so I will never vote for him/her is quite small-minded in my opinion. Leadership is not about single issues. Leadership is about vision, veracity and tenacity.

Decisions as important as a vote should not be made without the best information, a good understanding of positions (as many of them as possible), and full consideration. In what seems to be a sound-byte world, making a decision is a difficult task. But it is one required of us should we wish to maintain our form of government.

13 December 2007

gendercc - More Global Warming Nonsense

Just when I thought that the global warming / climate change discussion could not get any stranger (or pointless), I read about the gender aspects of climate change. I found it on Neal Boortz’s site first, and could not resist reading the press release myself. It reports that:

The women meeting in Bali with gendercc demand that a future climate regime be designed in a framework of gender equality and sustainability guidelines, instead of being driven by dominant economic factors.
Ulrike Roehr, presumably with gendercc, states:
“We need to question the dominant perspective focusing mainly on technologies and markets, and put caring and justice in the centre of the measures and mechanisms.”
One thing to notice here is that these two statements would purposefully replace more measurable things (economic factors, markets and technology) with feeling-based aspects (gender equality, caring, and justice – which I think probably is meant as social justice, a term of hydra-like definition). The bottom line of this kind of thinking is why should people attack a problem in measurable ways when feeling through them might make a group of people…feel better? What claptrap!

But what this is really about it money. One of the bullet points from the gender advocates (though one wonders why they use the word gender…one must suppose that women are the only sex with gender) states quite clearly what is at stake:

Allocate 20% of all donor funds to be earmarked for activities and projects addressing women and designed and implemented by women and gender experts.

Or, in the words of a Bali participant, "Don’t rely on the carbon market! Women have not benefited from it."

See, when it comes right down to it, the gendercc really wants the money that is being thrown at other “solutions,” like carbon trading and offsets. And they’re not asking for all of the money, just 20 per cent.

My question to the gendercc-ers is: how did you offset the carbon emissions you dumped while traveling to the Bali conference? Or will that be done, in some gender-friendly way, after you get your 20 per cent?

11 December 2007

Al Gore, Please Be Quiet

At the behest of my wife, I read the Al Gore statement while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize which appeared in The Nation. I really shouldn’t have. Those are minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. But, seeing as they’re gone, I might as well write a bit about it.

Amid his opening invoking prophets and a not so veiled comparison of Bush to an appeaser of Hitler (left-wingers love those Nazi comparisons of any flavor), Gore pops out this gem:

We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency--a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst--though not all--of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.
The plot line for a special effects extravaganza from Hollywood, indeed. But it goes on, and it gets better. By anthropomorphizing the planet as either ill, our unwilling enemy or the victim of mankind, Mr. Gore attempts to gather all of his anecdotal evidence (storms threatening, droughts, species dying) under the face of the suffering earth entity. Woven within this sympathetic anthropomorphic waxing is another metaphor – the fight against Nazism and Fascism. Mr. Gore would have us believe that the earth (again, with human qualities) bears the brunt of collateral damage resulting from our greed.

And what would Mr. Gore have the world do? As one might guess, it has to be universal and comprehensive.

That means adopting principles, values, laws, and treaties that release creativity and initiative at every level of society in multi-fold responses originating concurrently and spontaneously.
“Spontaneously” is my favorite word in the above sentence. There’s nothing spontaneous about principles, values, laws or treaties.

But the crowning statement of the speech is the following:

We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action. At the same time, we must ensure that in mobilizing globally, we do not invite the establishment of ideological conformity and a new lock-step "ism."
Mr. Gore is the architect of the lock-step “-ism” known variously as environmentalism, global warming, and climate change. It is lock-step as far as Mr. Gore is concerned. He is the one who has trumpeted time and time again that the debate is over, that global warming is real – or climate change is real – and that humans are the cause. If those beliefs do not create a lock-step “-ism,” I don’t know what does.

If one wants a truly funny and accurate portrayal of Mr. Gore, I highly suggest watching the South Park episodes “Man-Bear-Pig” and the “Imaginationland” trilogy. They are a decent representation of how Mr. Gore probably sees himself. I won’t ruin it for the reader… have a watch.

10 December 2007

Targeting Mark Steyn

One of the most notable Canadian columnists, in my opinion, is Mark Steyn. His articles provoke thought – and many times laughter, however wry – about serious topics. His book, America Alone, is one to be read. I read it about a year ago and I think I ought to read it again, though this time I should look for some serious human rights abuses.

I say this after reading online that Mr. Steyn and Maclean’s (a Canadian magazine) have had complaints filed against them by the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) – Steyn for his book, Maclean’s for reprinting an excerpt of it in October 2006. According to the article in Maclean’s, the CIC called the Steyn excerpt "flagrantly Islamophobic."

The pity here is that freedom of speech will be a casualty, no matter what the outcome of the hearing before the Canadian Human Right Commission. As David Warren, another great Canadian writer, points out, these commissions are more about the hearing than the outcome. Mr. Steyn and Maclean’s will be required to defend themselves against (gasp) claims of offense. The CIC wins by filing the complaint. Mr. Steyn and Maclean’s can, at best, hope for public support to rally behind them.

But really, the act of filing a complaint against offense is repugnantly offensive. Anyone offended by Steyn’s book does not have the mind to consider it on its merits; the offended person would be just as put off by cartoons, the naming of teddy bears and intellectual speeches by eminent theologians. The goal of these offended people is to silence.

If you choose to not be silent, if you want your voice to be heard (or at least have the potential to be heard), you can contact the Canadian Human Rights Commission here.

05 December 2007

Thoughts on Thoughts About the NIE

I have not read the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) thoroughly yet, but there sure has been a lot about it on the television and on the internet. Whether or not Iran has the capability, capacity, or impetus to continue a nuclear weapons program – once a certainty – is now in doubt. It really is amazing what a few pieces of paper can do to opinion.

What should not be in doubt is the nature of Iran’s theocracy. It is a real theocracy; not like the one supposedly being built in the US according to some folks on the left fringe. Iran supports active terrorist organizations. Iran ships arms into Iraq which are used against US, Iraqi and Coalition troops, with civilian casualties, no doubt. Iran, like Hamas, has openly and repeatedly declared the removal of Israel as a state goal.

None of the above has anything to do with nuclear arms.

So, the NIE with regard to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear arms is either good news (they really aren’t pursuing them), or bad news (that won’t be figured out until after something bad happens). Either way, the “revelation” about Iran’s nuclear program does not change the nature and goals of Iran’s theocracy. It does not mean that the Iranian theocracy is a rational actor. Folks who use the NIE to reach these conclusions delude themselves, potentially to dangerous ends.

03 December 2007

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Health Care

Some statements are just too obnoxious for to ignore. I found the following comment by Senator Clinton about health care while reading a George Will article on Real Clear Politics. I decided to Google it to make sure I could find it other places. That was easy. The tough part is picking my jaw up off the floor. Senator Clinton said:

“We can no longer tolerate the injustice of a system that shuts out nearly one in six Americans. Ultimately this is about who we are as a people and what we stand for. We can talk all we want about freedom and opportunity and life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But what does all that mean to a mother or a father who can't take a sick child to the doctor?”
My ears ring with the brave new world slogan from the revamped Superman – defending "Truth, justice and all that stuff." How silly I am to think that the American way (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) could ever trump something like funded health care, or all that stuff.

To use Senator Clinton’s own words, I don’t think that the system can be, essentially, just or unjust. If something is just, it is honorable and fair. A system that is based on payment to gain services, as the health system is, really isn’t fair or honorable. It costs money. The parents who “can’t take a sick child to the doctor” should read that they cannot afford to take the child. Their money is tied up elsewhere. Hence, government mandated health care – paid for so the parents supposedly do not have to worry, at least about the money end of it.

Regardless of what some folks seem to push concerning “universal health care,” it will cost. That money must come from somewhere. If costs are paid by the government, that means they are really paid by taxpayers. This push then for “universal health care” is not a push for better health care. Rather it strives to establish equality of service. Our tax dollars will be the vehicle.

There is nothing in life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness that demands equality of health care for all. What “all that” – all that trivia at the beginning of the Declaration of Independence – means, what “all that” is the foundation for is something that Senator Clinton does not seem to understand.

Pair health care with life, and one might come up with the Hippocratic Oath. Pair health care up with the pursuit of happiness, and one might consider preventative health care as one of the primary means of living a long life. Pair health care up with liberty, and one would most certainly come up with choice, personal responsibility and little or no government interference.

02 December 2007

Centralization or Decentralization

When thinking about domestic change, there appears to be an appetite for full-press, universal cures for big issues. From both the right and the left, to different degrees on different topics, there is pressure to adopt one or another slam-dunk cure, most of which require federal intervention in some way or another.

Given the nature of the union that is the United States and the wide ranging attitudes – sometimes found in pockets of strong opinion – across the land, it seems that the slam-dunk cure, the universal solution is exactly the wrong way to solve complex social issues.

For instance, as the 2008 presidential campaign drones on, the issue of abortion bobs above the surface from time to time. As might be expected, those on the far edges of both the right and left have drastically different views concerning abortion. Yet instead of allowing for wide variation of law between the states, Roe v. Wade has essentially set a standard from which the idea of “freedom of choice” has come into being with regard to “abortion rights.”

But when a more appropriate approach is suggested by Republicans, specifically repealing Roe v. Wade, right-to-lifers cry out that it would be capitulation. Any solution other than banning most, or all, abortion is anathema to them, it seems. However, as some have rightly pointed out, allowing states to implement their own abortion laws would more accurately reflect the character of those states and would probably result in more stringent rule regarding abortion.

All of the people can’t be pleased all of the time. Indeed, when the whole of the US population is taken into account (making it the “all”), it can never be completely pleased. So on complex social issues, like abortion, education, etc, the “all” should be leveled down so as to comprise a smaller group. This would make something like a consensus on issues more achievable. And what is more, if folks end up not liking the local rules regarding sensitive issues, they could move to a place where they would feel more at ease, more in step with the community. Now that would be a closer approximation of true personal freedom.

Instead of local level governance, what we’re most likely to see as time goes on is more centralizing of well-meaning social programs. These social programs are and will continue to be “franchises” of federal bureaucracy set up ostensibly to help the public. In reality, they are bastions of centralized power that grow over time and, in general, end up serving most those within the apparatus itself.