Category Archives: Politics

Israel, Gaza, and America’s Jacksonians

I subscribe to a lot of blogs, but rarely have time to read most of the posts that come across my reader. Walter Russell Mead’s stuff, however, usually make the cut if I have any time at all to spare. A couple days ago, he posted this piece about the current war between Israel and Hamas and the stark differences between America’s reaction and, well, the rest of the world’s reaction. He nails it. Anyone that looks at America’s response and is just flabbergasted that we’re not up in arms about the invasion needs to read this. You may disagree with the result of these attitudes, but this describes a large swath of Americans attitude on the subject. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the people whose reaction is “What took Israel so long?)

The Ruining of Red Dawn

I’ve been meaning to post this for quite a while, and this lunch I feel the need to write a bit. As some of you may know, the classic 80’s anti-Communist movie Red Dawn was recently remade for a new generation. There was a lot of hype for this movie while it was being made. Lots of ink spilled about how this was going to be a defining pro-American, patriotic movie for kids, like the original was for my generation. Then… nothing. Well, now we know why: MGM got bought out by new interests, and I guess the Chinese market’s pretty important to them. You see, to bring the story line up to date, you can’t have the Russians and the Cubans be the invaders — it’s the Red Chinese that are the bad guys.

I can only paraphrase so much. Go read this and come back; it’s well worth it.

Back now? Good. I heard recently that the movie is set to be distributed next year, and haven’t heard word if it’s still hacked to pieces by bean counters. If it is, I vow not to see the movie. If you don’t understand why this is a Bad Thing, then I’m not sure if I could explain it to you.

By the way, if you feel like multi-national interests have too much control over the major movie industry, and would like to see a revival of American movies (and yes, there are such things as German movies, French movies, Chinese movies — and this isn’t a bad thing for the target audiences), check out Declaration Entertainment. I give regularly.

This a “Partner for Peace”?

Michael Totten has been in Egypt for the past few weeks scouting around, talking to people, and doing general journalistic investigations. He was lucky (!) enough to get an interview with a high ranking member of the Muslim Brotherhood there, and posted the word-for-word transcript. I finally got around to reading it today: BRAVO. I was laughing at parts and shaking my head at others. It’s definitely worth a read, if you’re curious to who might be having a large part of running Egypt someday soon.

I can see why both the US and Israel really, really doesn’t want these guys having much say in the foreign policy of their country. Ick.

25 Years of the Columbia Gorge Commission

Thank God for Google Alerts. I have an alert setup to send me, up to once a day, a list of references on the Web to “white salmon”, the town I grew up in. Even though I haven’t lived there for (wow) almost 20 years, I try to keep up on the goings on. Google Alerts forwarded me an article in the Columbian newspaper about 25 years of the Gorge Commission, created from the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act, signed by President Reagan.

It’s a long piece, with lots of background, and an obvious attempt at balance. I’d love to hear reactions from people in the Gorge that have lived through the Commissions reign. They have some, and the comments afterwards touch upon it, but it’s only scratching the surface. No other single event has impacted the lives of those living in the Columbia River Gorge as much in my lifetime.

What made me post this? This paragraph here:

Counties were given a choice: Adopt their own ordinances implementing the management plan or let the Gorge Commission oversee development. Eventually five counties adopted ordinances. The holdout was Klickitat County. To this day, Gorge Commission staff reviews all applications for development in the part of Klickitat County that lies within the scenic area. Because it chose to ignore the law, Klickitat is not eligible to receive economic development money.

That’s the county that White Salmon’s in. Who would have thought that the county would have been a den of rebels!

Walter Russell Mead on the American Dream (Part Three?)

One thing that Walter Russell Mead is very good at is flying above it all and laying out a broad picture of events, in the context of our shared history. I almost always learn something (or a lot of things, for that matter) when I read his stuff. He always makes me think and reconsider things I thought I knew in a new light. If you find an author like this, bookmark them and read them.

I’m personally convinced that we’re seeing a slow motion collapse of the old, post WW2 order of things, to be recreated as something, well, unknown at this point. So, when I saw his two part series on “The Death of the American Dream”, I read it immediately. It’s very compelling and insightful. He talks about what we all know — the catastrophic drop in housing values throughout America.

The damage is heavy. For most Americans, their single biggest asset is the equity in their home. At the peak of the boom, total net home equity in the US (the value of owner occupied homes minus the remaining mortgage debt) stood at 13 trillion. Today it is down to $6.5 trillion. America’s home equity losses are greater than the GDP of Japan.

But he goes deeper than that, arguing that this isn’t a temporary drop, but a fundamental shift of what it means to be a successful middle class citizen of America.

But something has, I think, changed. Something big. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall. A social ideal has received an irrecoverable blow and the era of consuming our way to prosperity is drawing to a close. The country has maxed out its credit cards, and we are going to have to live within our means.

In the second essay, he goes ties together how shifting technology, societal norms, and demographics caused the death of the Family Farm as surely as it’s destroying this particular dream. We seemed to have solved the last shift. Maybe by looking back at those challenges and how we met them, we can find clues as to how to go forward now.

Here’s Part One and Part Two.

When Politics Are Personal

First off, I don’t think that political discourse has “reached a new low”. People have short memories — it’s always been this bad. Still it’s important to take a step back once in a while in our battles and take stock of what’s OK and what’s not. That is, unless you don’t care who gets hurt and what relationships are injured.

Political discourse is an attempt to find the way forward and to understand each other, even if you disagree with each other. Disagreeing about, say, what the most appropriate tax rate is or if we should extended unemployment benefits past a year is in the realm of polite political discourse. The statements of belief open up an opportunity to explain positions and to understand each other. Who knows? Maybe with a cogent enough argument, an agreement can be reached. This is what a healthy democracy is all about. People that take disagreement with their political positions as personal attacks are, for the most part, babies.

There’s another kind of discourse — an uglier one. It’s the personal attack. The ad hominem attack. The ones fully intended to belittle and destroy, and not to win over. I can’t say whether or not one side of the political spectrum has a monopoly on this sort of behavior. I do know, that as someone on the Right, I notice the attacks from the Left, so that’s what examples I’ll use. The classic one is “X is stupid!” As any good card carrying member of the Left knows, the combined IQ points of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin are barely above the moss growing on my back patio. It’s obvious! they would say. The same type of behavior is evident when referring to some figure as “crazy”.

Here’s the problem with that sort of attack, and is the point of this post: it not only attacks the political figure, but personally attacks those people that respect and look up to them. Let’s say Joe really respects Senator Fred. Sally comes along and says, “Senator Fred’s a moron! Boy, there must be some corporate group controlling him, because he’s way too dumb!” Essentially, Sally called Joe an idiot, too, right? Why would you look up to a moron? You must be dumb, too.

Now, if you don’t want to have a respectful, intelligent conversation, and want to strain relationships in the process, it’s a free country. There’s no law against this sort of thing, and it’s certainly effective at winning ideological wars. It’s right out of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, a playbook for the Left, and it’s there because it works. Out of Wikipedia:

According to Alinsky, the main job of the organizer is to bait an opponent into reacting. “The enemy properly goaded and guided in his reaction will be your major strength.

Out of the book itself:

RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.

and –

RULE 12: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

This sort of behavior was fine with Alinsky. He’s the type that if you don’t agree with his basic political position, you’re the enemy and are beneath contempt. If he burned some bridges, that’s OK — he’s not trying to make friends here. He’s in a war. If you desire to either initiate or pass along these attacks, just know what you’re doing.

A Necessary Anthony Weiner Post

First off, yes, there are a dozen things that should be absorbing the public’s imagination right now before a Congressman’s sexual idiocy (read: ridiculous public debt). Agreed. That being said, I see people still defending Anthony Weiner, making all sorts of excuses for his behavior. Two quick points:

1. The guy inadvertently made his issues public when he sent the pic on Twitter. At that point, any claim to “his business” goes out the door. End of story.
2. The guy blatantly lied to everyone, most importantly his constituents and the American people. If he can lie so easily about this, what makes you think he’ll tell the truth on other matters?

The sad part is that if decides not to resign, he’ll probably be re-elected, since he’s in one of the safest, most lopsided districts in the country.

State of the Union: Empty Words and Sadness

Matt Welch over at Reason Magazine really knocked this one out of the park, really mimicking my thoughts of the President’s State of the Union speech last night. It’s actually pretty rare for me to read something by a political writer and have them capture my thoughts so well. In this case, empty words with most of our political class:

Here’s a reality check: We will not have high-speed rail within Segwaying distance of 80 percent of the country, ever. We will not get 80 percent of our electricity from “clean energy sources” by 2035, unless someone far outside the halls of government invents a snail that eats trash and poops hydrogen. Obama won’t veto every bill that arrives on his desk with earmarks–re-watch that part of the speech last night; no one believed him.

That’s right. I’m sure there are people out there that will believe this stuff, just as there were people with past President’s SotU speeches that ate it up. Until both the President and Congress are willing to not just “reform” entitlements, but actually get rid of them in the long run, and until the people of this country are ready for that same thing, we’re going to continue towards the cliff. It just depends on how fast we get there and how far down the drop is. Paul Ryan is on the right track, while a large minority of the country freaks out at the idea of cutting the National Endowment for the Arts or freezing discretionary spending, it’s a track that we’re not going to take.

GOA: No Compromises! (Except When…)

Just wrote this email to Larry Pratt, head of the Gun Owners Association of America, concerning this little story. Hopefully I’m missing something.

Mr. Pratt,

First off, I’m a card carrying member of the GOA. Concerning your statements about the current case with the person attempting to get a concealed carry permit in South Dakota. Your statements on the matter are unfortunate. The only reason why a state should ever have the right to deny any person a concealed carry permit (or interfere with their right to bear arms, for that matter), is if that individual has shown themselves to be a danger to society, and to have broken basic social contracts (a felon, by any other name).

Remember that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights sources it’s authority from universal human rights. It recognizes that these right were already inherent in being human: it did not grant these rights to it’s citizens. Where in that equation does it make sense to restrict this resident their right to self-defense?

No compromises! (Except when concerning a non-citizen.)

Update: 1/13/2011

I received a reply from Larry Pratt, and it makes me feel a lot better about the whole situation. How what he said to Fox News and to me can be reconciled, I have no idea. They seem to be from two different individuals. Here’s what I received verbatim, and note that yeah, that’s pretty much what I said above:

As a follow up it appears that there are a few who still do not understand GOA’s position, neither did Fox News. Mr. Pratt is contacting Fox News to correct their misunderstanding so I give it to you:

As much as I appreciate Fox News, they misstated my position on the Wayne Smith case arising out of South Dakota. So let me break it down:

1. As I have stated all along, I do not agree with what South Dakota is doing in denying the right to keep and bear arms to alien residents. Wayne Smith SHOULD BE ABLE TO OWN A GUN!

2. Our fundamental rights do NOT come from government, the Bill of Rights or the Constitution … they come from God. Hence, law-abiding citizens should be able to carry concealed firearms as a matter of right (without permission from the government) and that is why GOA has consistently supported legislation modeled after Vermont’s successful permitless carry law.

3. Aliens living in this country still possess their God-given rights. Note, however, that within our constitutional system of government, some rights of citizenship (such as the right to vote) are fully protected only for actual U.S. citizens. This is, perhaps, where the confusion has arisen. On the one hand, I argued that aliens should not be able to vote in our country. But fundamental human rights such as the right to self-defense as embodied by keeping and bearing arms, on the other hand, SHOULD MOST DEFINITELY extend to everyone, period.

4. As for the xenophobia that some have accused me of because of the misunderstanding relating to Wayne Smith … well, that’s laughable. I’ve been happily married to a Central American immigrant for nearly 50 years — and I fully support her right to keep and bear arms as much as I support Smith’s … and yours.

– Larry Pratt, Executive Director of Gun Owners of America

Where Did Oregon’s “Rich” Go?

I’ve still yet to read The Fountainhead (maybe someday — flip a coin), but I get what “going John Galt” means. If Government starts punishing the productive too much, the productive stops, well, being productive. Or they move:

So how’s is Oregon’s class-warfare approach working? Not surprisingly, the politics of hate and envy is generating poor results. Revenues are much lower than forecast, as anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the Laffer Curve could have explained. The most noteworthy result is that about one-fourth of rich taxpayers have disappeared. Does the name John Galt ring a bell?

Being an Oregonian, there’s some mixed feelings here. On one hand, the cuts and “shared sacrifices” that are bound to come will affect me, but on the other hand, this kind of class warfare needs to be stopped, and showing that politicians and the Left can’t produce on their promises helps that cause. As an aside, this is one of the main points of federalism. One state acts stupid, the constituents can go somewhere else, hopefully creating a self-correcting mechanism against the State’s worst excesses. All increases of Federal power over the States’ power undermines this mechanism.