Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Presidential Speech quick take

I just got off of work so I only caught about the last five minutes of the speech. Afterwards, Brit Hume on Fox News asked Senator John Warner if President Bush is being inconsistent in saying the US is there to defeat the terrorists, but we're leaving the second Iraqis can defend themselves. Sen. Warner did not see the obvious answer to Brit Hume's question, which is if Iraqis are defending themselves, we did win. Would not the United States' exit and a competent Iraqi army defending free citizens and a democratic government be a huge victory for the United States and its allies?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A Warning to Europe

I came across this interview with reporter Oriana Fallaci (via Peaktalk), in which she assails Europe's slow demise. This demise has less to do with the religion of Islam as it does Europe's own cultural amnesia. The simple fact that Christianity was denied reference in the now rejected EU constitution (while a general statement on its history was made) is proof alone of Europe's refusal to acknowledge what made it great. While you can read the entire interview above, there are a few quotes worth special attention:

Ms. Fallaci speaks in a passionate growl: "Europe is no longer Europe, it
is 'Eurabia,' a colony of Islam, where the Islamic invasion does not proceed
only in a physical sense, but also in a mental and cultural sense. Servility to
the invaders has poisoned democracy, with obvious consequences for the freedom of thought, and for the concept itself of liberty."


Europe is most definitely not Europe anymore. I will not go as far as Ms. Fallaci to blame Islam alone for the demise of Europe. Europeans are to blame for Europe's transformation, mainly by their own indifference towards Europe's cultural destruction. While minorities who happen to be conservatives are considered "self-loathing" in the U.S., Europeans in general truly embody "self-loathing".

The impending Fall of the West, as she sees it, now torments Ms. Fallaci. And
as much as that Fall, what torments her is the blithe way in which the West is
marching toward its precipice of choice. "Look at the school system of the West
today. Students do not know history! They don't, for Christ's sake. They don't
know who Churchill was! In Italy, they don't even know who Cavour was!"--a
reference to Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, the conservative father, with the
radical Garibaldi, of Modern Italy. Ms. Fallaci, rarely reverent, pauses here to
reflect on the man, and on the question of where all the conservatives have gone
in Europe. "In the beginning, I was dismayed, and I asked, how is it possible
that we do not have Cavour . . . just one Cavour, uno? He was a
revolutionary, and yes, he was not of the left. Italy needs a Cavour--Europe
needs a Cavour."

Part of the problem in Europe is the success of cultural nihilism. In my opinion, nihilism breeds a lust for comfort... a life devoid of struggle. But is it not the inevitable struggle between right and wrong that is vital to any civilization's survival?

I argue that nihilism also leads to the diminishing of great men. To be great, one must struggle. However, great men have saved Europe time and time again. Churchill, one of the world's greatest statesmen and leaders, saved Britain and is partially the reason for the Allies eventual toppling of fascism. Those who rise up to defend what is right and fight what is wrong cannot simply yearn for comfort. If all Europe wants is comfort, who shall be the protectorate of their comfort? Europe cannot resist those who reject the European value system. Today Europeans appear to be unwilling to struggle with any new threat. A life of comfort, by its very definition, exempts struggle.

"You cannot survive if you do not know the past. We know why all the other
civilizations have collapsed--from an excess of welfare, of richness, and from
lack of morality, of spirituality." (She uses "welfare" here in the sense of
well-being, so she is talking, really, of decadence.) "The moment you give up
your principles, and your values . . . the moment you laugh at those
principles, and those values, you are dead, your culture is dead, your
civilization is dead. Period."

The values of the West (in particular, the values that have made it superior to all of the civilizations before it) are worth defending. While Ms. Fallaci is very critical of Islam (and with good reason in some respects), the West must clearly understand what it is defending.

The greatest threat to the West that I can see is nihilism. That is its own self-destruction. The West (and particulary Europe) no longer believes in anything... therefore all is embraced and not judged based upon merit. Islamic radicalism is merely feeding on Europe's own indifference; and indifference can be seen as Europe's new philsophical outlook. The problem of indiffernce can be seen throughout history: Europe's collective indifference towards Nazism led to a devastating war. Now again, indifference is leading to Europe's cultural and economic decline.

I do not totally agree with Ms. Fallaci. My take on her is the same as Friedrich Nietzsche: correct diagnosis and observation, but incorrect cure. Europe must awaken out of its cultural coma. It is very similar to what I believe is America's amnesia in defining freedom. Europe cannot truly define what makes it great. One can only mutter "freedom" so many times before the obvious response is "how?" Since this is the case, where is the rush to defend European freedom? Certainly there are no Churchills (although Tony Blair gets pretty close) who can define why certain values must be defended. Europeans instead rationalize terror: "One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist." Excuses are made for those who would deny basic rights to women and support the abridgement of speech and thought. Somehow, it is the fault of the "imperialists" and their values that have made so many mad at the West. There is no reflection as to why European values are hated by Islamic radicals. The values of the West are worth defending. The problem facing Europe is that no one is willing to defend them and call radical Islam what is is: wrong.

Europe's denial of objective values will further delay the destruction of radical Islam. I am not a fatalist... Europe will survive. It will survive in spite of the likes of Chirac and Schroeder. Once Europe reaffirms the general values that have made it full of political freedom, economic prosperity and cultural richness, it will defeat the very ideologies that wish to end individual liberty.

UPDATE: Reader AlanK comments that Tony Blair has given a speech about the state of the EU. I went ahead and read the entire speech and want to point out a few things. I truly admire Tony Blair's courage in battling international terroism. He has truly been a great statesmen (I'd go as far to say he'll be judged VERY favorably by our generational successors).

Blair mentioned three words that I was happy to read. He mentioned "values", "ideals" and "idealism" several times in his speech. All European leaders must reaffirm what they believe in and give them a sound footing. Only then can they be successfully defended. The problem is, many Europeans still deny there is objective truth and agree with the statement "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." The words listed above have little meaning if they are to be interpreted on a person by person basis.

Also, I do not believe the EU Constitution as written (pdf link) is really a constitution. It appears to be an attempt to enumerate as many rights and privileges to the various groups within Europe as possible. The problem with that was seen by the US Founding Fathers; it is impossible to enumerate all of man's rights. That is why the ratified US Constitution was left without the Bill of Rights but when added, James Madison included the Tenth Amendment. I might add that I disagree with many conservatives' ire over the created "right to privacy." It may not be enumerated, but simply because it is not written does not mean it is not a right to be enjoyed by women. The goal of a national (or in the case of Europe, multinational) constitution should be to specifically lay out what the powers of the EU are, then give the remaining powers to the individual nations.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Welcome to the New Vagabond!

I'd like to extend my appreciation and welcome to Grimacer, another vagabond poster here in Vagabondia. Although we've never actually met, I've been discussing politics with Grimace for a few years now, for about three years now if I recall correctly. Please join me in welcoming him to Vagabondia. I hope you find him as insightful and knowledgeable as I do.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Speech Denied

Following up on my previous post of America's amnesia on natural rights, Iran's government goes a long way in proving my point:

TEHRAN (AFP) - The use of text messaging by Iranians to send often highly
acerbic comments on their presidential election choice has worried the
authorities, who are threatening to prosecute mobile-addicts who insult the
candidates.

The use of election text messaging had already become something of a craze
in Tehran ahead of the first round of the vote, where young phone users sent
messages languidly reflecting their cynicism with the whole process.

...

Iran's ultra-conservative judiciary has now threatened to prosecute people who
send text messages with the aim of "denigrating" candidates.

"Unfortunately, the messages are circulating to tarnish the candidates in
the presidential election, which is illegal and constitutes an attempt to
disrupt public order," it said.

State television on Tuesday was regularly broadcasting a statement telling
viewers that to send messages promoting the cause of a certain candidate was an
offence.


It is a self-evident truth that Iranians and anyone else who joins them in the human specie have an inalienable right to communicate with one another. The arbitrary way in which Iran's government would deny them that fundamental natural right under the guise of "public order" should again reinforce America's efforts to promote the religion neutral concept of natural rights.

Impassable gorge? Blame amnesia...

Personal Note: As this is my first blog entry, I would like to thank The Indigent Blogger for the opportunity to post on this fine blog.

Representative government is without a doubt, the very best governing device man has created. I might personally add the concepts of natural rights-as outlined in the first paragraph of the American Declaration of Independence-is the proper energy for self-governance. But as that decays in our very own system and nihilism runs rampant in Western society, the gap between the West and Middle Eastern civilizations continues to impede political change.

Western civilization values life in a myriad of ways. First, there are those who simply desire comfort and a life devoid of struggle. A term I use to describe this and hope to coin is the "perverted ascension of dopamine." There are those who value life from a more religious perspective... man has no authority over life and death. Only the divine may be the arbiter. Regardless of which category here, or unwritten one belongs to, life has a certain value that cannot be bartered with.

This cannot be said for the radicals currently engaging many fronts in Southern Asia. This story in particular (via AndrewSullivan.com) is the blaring example of the cultural clash that is inevitable:


SHIKMA PRISON, Israel (AP) - A badly burned Palestinian woman
was alternately defiant and tearful Monday after Israeli soldiers caught her
trying to enter Israel with 22 pounds of explosives hidden on her body.

The woman, who suffered serious burns on her hands, feet and
neck in a kitchen explosion five months ago, had been granted permission to
cross into Israel from the Gaza Strip for medical treatment when she raised the
suspicion of soldiers at the Erez checkpoint.

Video released by the military showed 21-year-old Wafa al-Biss
taking off articles of clothing on the orders of soldiers searching for
explosives, and rubbing her disfigured neck with her burned hands and screaming.

The military said she tried to blow up the explosives Monday but
failed and was not injured.
The story goes on to add interesting tidbits. First, she claimed to have wanted to do this. Secondly, she then asserts that it was planted on her "without her knowledge." Either way, this explains the entrenched psyche and philosophy of a minority, but significant portion of Muslims. Either way, be it her individual action or an involuntary plant (such as this), there are those whose sole purpose is to murder anyone who does not share the same standards as fundamental Islam.

Most reading this will feel insulted... all know this and many claim this is exactly why geopolitical change is necessary in the Middle East. Enter Secretary Rice. She recently spoke at the American Univerity in Cairo about the need for change in the Middle East. The changes spoken are presented merely as political, but they must bleed in the cultural fabric of the said region. This push for the liberalization of Middle Eastern doctrine is vital to the success of the War on Terror. On this noble push, everything is hinging.

But while the goals of this administration are indeed noble, unfortunately results have nothing to do with just cause. America's biggest obstacle is the need to reconcile Islam and the self-evident rights of man. This problem of representative government and its implementation into Islamic societies can only be remedied through a political and social philosophy that is religion neutral yet at the same time can be religiously inspired. This brings this post back to the case laid out in the DoI.

Thomas Jefferson, a Deist, tested and proved how to reconcile many reiligious sects with natural rights of man. Natural rights, "the laws of nature and nature's God" universalize basic rights while allowing one to adhere to individual religious persuasion. This would allow Muslims to continue to reject nihilism, but simultaneously reject fundamentalist Islam that would deny so many their basic human rights. America's biggest problem is amnesia... our own forgetfulness.

American, and more particularly all of Western civilization, has far too long flirted with this dangerous belief in nothing. In the process, our most valued treasure, freedom, cannot even be properly explained to those we wish to bring into the 21st century (both for our own security and their own liberation). America has forgotten its very own values that have united it for so very long and made it so very free. Nothing can better explain our failure to present what freedom is to those who need it the most.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

If Amnesty International Was Right...

I've been a relentless info-maniac ever since the September 11 attacks in 2001. In my search for information on various topics, from the alleged U.S.complicity in a massacre of POWs in Afghanistan... I'm sorry, what's that you're asking? How could we be accused of such things before President Bush, in the words of Senator John Kerry, "squandered the goodwill of the world" by invading Iraq? The film was a so-called documentary named Massacre at Mazar and was shown to adoring audiences in Europe. This and a host of other similar stories wasn't picked up by the corporate media in the States because at the time, unlike folks in Europe and the Middle East, a significant majority of Americans supported the war in Afghanistan. Do you see how what WE believe shapes the news that is televised rather than the other way around? But I digress...

Suffice to say, the old Soviet global propaganda machine was weakened by the collapse of the Soviet Union, but neither it nor Communism is close to being dead. Now, where was I? Oh yes, if Amnesty International was anwhere close to being correct in their analogy of a U.S. operated Gulag Archipelago, then they would all be in one right now! You all know about Amnesty International's Irene Khan comparing the Prison Camp at Guantanamo Bay to the Soviet Gulag. You all heard Amnesty International's William Schultz try and back away from that analogy by characterizing U.S. military detention facilities around the world as an "archipelago of prisons". Your Indigent Blogger has cleverly combined the two words into Gulag Archipelago, which is the name of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's book detailing his own incarceration, and that of others with him, in the real Soviet Gulag.

Today, Pavel Litvinov is afforded page A19 by the Washington Post Company to relate his experience with Amnesty International's desperate attempt to justify and back their claims about the camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Several days ago I received a telephone call from an old friend who is a longtime Amnesty International staffer. He asked me whether I, as a former Soviet "prisoner of conscience" adopted by Amnesty, would support the statement by Amnesty's executive director, Irene Khan, that the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba is the "gulag of our time."

Litvinov continues in his article, No American 'Gulag', to describe why he sees a significant literal and philisophical differences between American military detention facilities and the Soviet's global system of labor camps.

The word "gulag" was a bureaucratic acronym for the main prison administration in Stalin's Soviet Union. After publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago," it became a symbol for the system of forced-labor camps that have been an integral feature of communist countries. Millions of prisoners confined in the gulag had not been involved in violence or committed any crime -- they were there because they belonged to a "wrong" social, national or political group or expressed a "wrong" opinion.

The cruelty and scale of the gulag system are described in numerous books, so there is no need to recount them here. By any standard, Guantanamo and similar American-run prisons elsewhere do not resemble, in their conditions of detention or their scale, the concentration camp system that was at the core of a totalitarian communist system.

Where I disagree with Pavel Litvinov is the part of the article he devotes to heaping praise and gravitas upon Amnesty International. As I was starting to say at the beginning of this post, you won't find me linking to any Amnesty International reports or using them as a source of facts because, simply stated, they're not. In my quest for knowledge since 2001, Amnesty International habitually relies upon hysterical "accounts" and flimsy "studies" to bring attention to issues that may otherwise be worthy of concern. I'll close by reiterating that if Irene Khan and William Schultz were correct about U.S. military detention facilities being the Gulag Archipelago of our time, they'd both be in one right now, breaking rocks at an undisclosed location.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Wine of the Week - June 17

This week I'm savoring a surprisingly mellow California Pinot Noir (2001) from Sutter Home Family Vineyards. It served quite nicely with my Steamed Dumplings dipped in spicy Soy Sauce. I bought the wine on sale for $3.35 and I believe the Steamed Dumplings are $5.99 at the local Chinese take-out place. On a scale of "Swill" to "Superb", this 2001 Pinot Noir falls solidly in the middle with a rating of "Good". I would certainly add this wine to the collection in the cellar, but I wouldn't displace any wines to make room for it there.

Now we get to this week's indulgent exercise in gratuitous self-pity by none other than yours truly. As many of you may have guessed, I was offered and accepted full-time employment. This getting up every morning, at the crack of dawn, shedding my pajamas for suitable "workplace casual", and putting in eight straight, day-in and day-out is really exhausting. On the positive side, I know 90% of everything I need to know to perform my job duties. Most jobs I had taken on a contracting basis, I was learning 60% of what I needed to know and just making the other 40% up as I went along. Now, that was certainly exhausting as well, but I was doing all of that from right here at home in the comfort of my own computer chair.

Speaking of comfort, I have to do something about the keyboard, mouse, and chair they provided me at work. They're fine enough if I were doing a job that didn't require me to have my ass firmly planted in front of my computer typing code most of every hour of every day. For better of for worse, that's exactly the job I have, and their $10 Belkin Keyboard and Mouse econo-combo ain't gonna cut it. And because the programmers are lined up in narrow row of "stalls", they have the keyboards resting on the desktop instead of on a keyboard drawer, elevating the wrists above the elbows. My problem with the chair is pure personal preference. I don't like chairs with arms, because the arms of the chair almost always interfere with the keyboard drawer.

So, if ever you are considering hiring a programmer or someone else who will spend all day literally at a computer, here are my equipment recommendations:

    1. Ergonomic Keyboard/Mouse: Something like the Logitech Comfort or the Microsoft Natural at about $100 per combo are very decent.


    2. Keyboard Drawer/Mouse Pad: I'm not necessarily talking about the wonderful under the desk keyboard contraptions offered by Kensington, a simple keyboard shelf that slides on rails will suffice as long as it keeps the wrists slightly lower than the elbows. However, keep in mind that the keyboard drawer (or shelf) must be wide enough to accomodate the keyboard and the mouse, which is approximately 28 inches wide at a minimum. Also, head down to Staples and pick up a real mouse pad with a built-in wrist rest.


    3. Recessed Arms/Armless Chair: You might be able to find something to fit the bill for under $100, but more than likely, this item is going to run you between $100 and $150 at most stores. Remember, you're looking for a chair that has either no arms or arms that won't block the keyboard drawer from sliding to ideal typing position. The rounded, hoop-style arms on even the most expensive "executive" office chairs make them ill-suited for computer workers.

In summary, if you don't want to drive into the parking lot of your new business, only to find $1000 worth of executive office chairs piled in a useless heap outside the back entrance, then pay attention to detail and buy your computer workers the right equipment, not necessarily the most expensive equipment.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Wine of the Week - June 11

This week, I enjoyed a $5 bottle of a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon vinted in 2000 by Round Hill Vineyards and Cellars from a generic appellation. This is a stand-out product well-deserving of space in the cellar. It is surprisingly smooth for a cabernet sauvignon but has a "tang" that hints at a wine that has not yet reached its fullness.

I also sampled a most unsavory wine this week. The calls to close the prisoner camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba were started by the usually thoughtful but often overly sympathetic Thomas Friedman in his article in the New York Times named Just Shut It Down. He wrote the article because he was convinced more Americans were dying because of the negative impact the misrepresentation and misreporting of abuses at Gitmo is having on America's standing in the muslim world.
I am convinced that more Americans are dying and will die if we keep the Gitmo prison open than if we shut it down. So, please, Mr. President, just shut it down.

If you want to appreciate how corrosive Guantánamo has become for America's standing abroad, don't read the Arab press. Don't read the Pakistani press. Don't read the Afghan press. Hop over here to London or go online and just read the British press! See what our closest allies are saying about Gitmo. And when you get done with that, read the Australian press and the Canadian press and the German press.

This call to "Shut It Down" was picked up by Senator Joseph Biden, then by former President Jimmy Carter, and finally by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

I couldn't think of a more misguided or ill-informed suggestion. Later this week, I will be detailing how, according to the much cited Pew Research surveys of international opinions about the United States, American favorability is no lower in late 2004 than it was in early 2002 (except in Jordan). In fact, in one of the nations named by Thomas Friedman, Pakistan, America's favorability rating is five times higher in late 2004 than it was in early 2002. Until then, I urge you to avoid the sour grapes of forces that have failed to capture and hold our soldiers while we have captured tens of thousands of the enemy.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Made It to Second Interview...

I guess the interview went well as I have been called back in for a second interview this afternoon. I was given the name of the person I'll be meeting with today and know he is the person in charge of the IT budget. The company was having a board meeting while I was there yesterday in a conference room with glass walls, much like a fish-bowl. Anyway, while I was filling out my job application, I was able to see the company organizational chart on the overhead projection screen. I didn't see names of anyone I knew personally, but I did make a mental note of the name of the person in charge of the IT budget.

This could be a routine second interview, just to let the man signing the checks feel comfortable his employees aren't bringing in an axe-murderer, or it could be a meeting to address a problem that was briefly addressed yesterday. This job starts at a salary just over half of what I made at my last contract position. The truth is that this job is probably more suited for a younger, less experienced programmer. I don't believe they adhere to any n-tier or even object-oriented design principles, but I am far from a purist in those areas myself. Anyway, I understand their concern about hiring someone only to have them take a higher paying job a few weeks later.

Face it, if I get the job and someone offers me double my pay a few weeks from now; that will be hard to resist. However, this company offers excellent health and dental benefits, and I have been private-pay on both since 2002. They also offer an education benefit that would go a long way to paying for my Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) training and Project Management Institute certification. I figure it'll take two years to get those completed and paid for at which time, all deals will have to be renegotiated (*wink*).

The fact is that I am not with my friends and former co-workers at the big defense contractor in town is for two, possibly three reasons; 1) I have no college degree and equivalent experience is not accepted, 2) I don't even have my high school diploma or GED but always lie that I do on my job applications, and 3) I doubt I could obtain any kind of security clearance. Now it's true that MCSD and PMI certifications are not going to make those problems go away, and I still wouldn't be hired at the big defense contractor, but those certifications would open a great many other doors locally.

I'll keep you all posted on how the interview goes this afternoon. I do plan on posting a Wine of the Week tonight.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

No Blogging - Job Interview

I have a job interview this morning, so I'll be brushing up on my interviewing skills (like bathing, using mouthwash and deodorant, shaving, etc.) instead of sitting here in my pajama bottoms pouring over political news. Phil Blair, CEO of Manpower Inc., has written a handbook titled Strategies for Success, which he gives away for free. It has lots of good advice about putting together a resume and interviewing tips. One of the tips is to develop short stories as answers to some common interview questions.

That reminds me of an interview I had years ago. The hiring manager had passed me off to one of the middle managers for a more technical one-on-one evaluation of my skills. Before the interview began, the middle manager asked me if I was going to give him canned interview answers, to which I responded, "Only to canned interview questions". I didn't get that job, but I don't necessarily attribute that to a rather awkward interview with the middle manager as he was only one of four persons I spoke to at that company during the interview process.

Anyway, one of the questions this book directs one to expect is "Have you had any problems with previous employers?" Fortunately, I've developed a wonderful little story with which to respond.
Q.: Have you had any problems with previous employers?

A.: Well, before quitting without notice, I had a terrible problem with my boss. In addition to being a full flaming Nazi... Oh, he said he was Austrian, but that's just what you'd expect a Nazi to say after we kicked their asses. Anyway, in addition to being a Nazi, the man stood all of 5'5" off the ground and had the worst case of short man's disease I've ever encountered. He would fly off the handle at reasonable responses to his directives, like "Keep your pants on, Napolean, I'm getting to it". I just couldn't take his unreasonable and violent nature any longer, so I left them high-n-dry.

Yup, I think that's a winner! Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Carter Supports Al-Qaeda Propaganda...

Perhaps I was a bit hasty in agreeing to voting a straight Republican ticket. After all, that could result in me voting for someone like a Pat Buchanan or a Lou Dobbs; and their protectionist and isolationist vision for the United States is just too outside my liberal leanings. So, I have come up with a better idea. I will work on campaigns and canvas neighborhoods for Republican candidates. I did that in 2004 as a response to the Democrats efforts to keep Ralph Nader off the ballot in California. I walked door-to-door on election night, not even in my neighborhood, getting people to come to the polls and handing out Republican Party voting literature, even though I did not vote their way in the Mayoral race or on many of the ballot initiatives.

Anyway, all this might not be necessary if leading Democrats step up and voice some strong support of our troops at Guantanamo Bay and other areas of the world. Former Democrat President Jimmy Carter has weighed in on the subject. Unfortunately, rather than defending the exemplary work our men and women in service are doing in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq; he instead lends his weighty public voice to reiterate the propaganda from Al-Qaeda's training manual.
"The U.S. continues to suffer terrible embarrassment and a blow to our reputation ... because of reports concerning abuses of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo," Carter said after a two-day human rights conference at his Atlanta center. - CNN International

Yeah, if only those reports were all accurate and not based almost entirely on the testimony of released prisoners, many of whom have only recently began to recall their mistreatment at the hands of the Americans. If the government is going to start shutting down things that are bad for America's image abroad, I have a few suggestions to start with and none of them include the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Aid and Comfort for Our Enemies...

I've never voted a straight ticket in my life, let alone a straight Republican ticket. Indeed, 2004 was the first time ever that I had voted for a Republican candidate for President of the United States. However, I am on the brink of committing to voting a straight Republican ticket from now through 2008 as a result of the Democrats' unwillingness to triumph over our enemies.

James Lileks made the point on the Hugh Hewitt radio show that prisoner abuses and Koran desecrations led the news two weeks ago and, aside from Newsweek's departing bureau chief in Baghdad conceding victory to the reactionary forces in Iraq, Koran desecrations are leading the news today. Lileks asks if there is nothing else that may have happened in the global War on Terror in those two weeks? Are Koran desecrations and Newsweek's proclamation that "the question isn't when will we leave, but 'how bad of a mess can we afford to leave behind" the only significant events to take place in the entire global War on Terror over the last two weeks?

Democrat Senator Joseph Biden, who plagiarized Neil Kinnock, has called for the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay to be shutdown, presumably freeing 540 enemy combatants to return to the battlefield, according to the New York Times.
"This has become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world," said the senator, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, on the ABC News program "This Week." "And it is unnecessary to be in that position."

He added, "I think more Americans are in jeopardy as a consequence of the perception that exists worldwide with its existence than if there were no Gitmo."

Biden's admission that the enemy's propaganda machine has succeeded in creating a wholly negative perception of our troops at Guantanamo Bay, with the help of Newseek and other multinational conglomerate media corporations, is in itself a cause for celebration amongst the forces of militant Islamic extremists worldwide. A U.S. Senator, who wants to be President of the United States, has just called for the closing of the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. Now they have us pinned down in the same position as Israel. Any action by our troops is the equivalent of terrorism and a war crime that can only be assuaged by concessions such as prisoner releases; and Senator Biden has accepted those terms.

Democrats George and Jim McGovern are calling for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, much as we did in Viet Nam (hat tip: RealClearPolitics).

We were early opponents of the US invasion of Iraq. Nonetheless, once American forces were committed, we hoped that our concerns would be proven wrong. That has not been the case.

The United States must now begin an orderly withdrawal of our forces from this mistaken foreign venture. - The Boston Globe

And Democrats wonder why Americans don't trust them with our military? Compare the contrasts. Bush deployed the military to Afghanistan and Iraq because he knew it to be the right thing to do, and is committed to victory in those countries. While Democrats generally want a retreat (or orderly withdrawal if you prefer) from Iraq to create an Iraq-sized Somalia. Yes, let's look at Somalia from the high-level view. It was important enough to send in troops, important enough to have 13 of them lay down their lives, but as soon as the mission became difficult and unpopular; it was no longer important enough to stay.

Unless I hear a heaping portion of pro-American support for our troops and their efforts in Iraq and the War on Terror from Democrats this week, I hearby commit to voting a straight Republican ticket (candidates but not initiatives) from now through the 2008 presidential election.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Corporatism is not Capitalism

George Will contributed a great column to the Indianapolis Star over the weekend about the federal government keeping poor airlines in flight.
Ronald Reagan said that Washington's approach to intervening in industries is: If it moves, tax it; if it keeps moving, regulate it; if it stops moving, subsidize it. Regarding airlines, the policy is: If they are failing, keep them flying; if they are prospering, burden them. But surely Washington, although difficult to embarrass, is embarrassed enough to repeal the Wright Amendment.

Will focuses on the Wright Amendment, but I want to take this opportunity to voice my extreme displeasure over the post-911 airline bailout by the federal government.

The airlines are for-profit corporations and should be allowed to succeed or fail according to market risks and demands. When the government steps in to save one of the big anachronistic airlines to avoid loss of the income taxes, social security taxes, and medical insurance taxes paid by the employees; it places a greater value on that company than the market will bear. That, my friends, is not well-regulated capitalism. It is corporatism and that way lies anti-competitiveness and for-profit fascism.

Retirement...

No, even though it's been awhile since I've posted anything; I'm not talking about my retirement. But then again, if the government would implement personal retirement accounts, any discussion about retirement would be a discussion about MY retirement. I'm 36 years old and can name no males in my blood line that lived to see the current retirement age for Social Security. So, when Republican Senator Chuck "Ask Again Later" Hagel talks about raising the retirement age, he's not talking about my retirement. He's talking about robbing me of more than 50 years of breaking my back and bending my neck to pay money into a system that will be used for someone else's retirement. When Democrat Representative Robert "Disenfranchised" Wexler talks about increaasing Social Security taxes, I actually agree with him on raising the cap on taxable income for Social Security. However, he is talking about paying for someone else's retirement, not mine.

Michael Barone writes about the looming problems with retirement over at RealClearPolitics. Unfortunately, he is talking about my retirement. He makes some very good points about Social Security and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
Not to worry, say opponents of George W. Bush's proposal for personal retirement accounts. The federal government guarantees the benefits. But it doesn't. In 1960, the Supreme Court, in Flemming v. Nestor, ruled that there was no right to Social Security benefits. Social Security, wrote Justice John Harlan, "was designed to function into the indefinite future, and its specific provisions rest on predictions as to expected economic conditions, which must inevitably prove less than wholly accurate, and on judgments and preferences as to the proper allocation of the nation's resources which evolving economic and social conditions will of necessity in some cases modify."

In addition to Barone's evidence that Social Security is not a "right", I'd like to remind everyone just exactly what is the "full, faith, and credit" of the federal government that backs the non-existant Social Security Trust Fund.

full faith and credit -- a pledge of a government to commit its general taxing power to raise funds for payment of obligations. - U.S. Treasury Department

Barone goes on to point out the truly reactionary (or anti-progressive) nature of today's Democrats and the left in general.

Some Democrats attack this plan as hugely risky, because the stock market goes up and down. But the stock market has always gone up over the course of a typical lifetime. The Democrats' more serious argument is that Social Security should be a bedrock guarantee not subject to market risk. But this is antiprogressive: It leaves lower-income workers with less ability to accumulate wealth.

You're damned right it's anti-progressive! Only the well-bred, well-fed, and well cared for are ever going to live to see the retirement benefits promised by Democrats, at who knows what expense to the future worker imposed by the full, faith, and credit of the federal government.

No thanks. Just give me my personal Social Security account, so at least if I die at age 54 like my father, I can at least will my 40 years of hard work and contributions to my daughter, guaranteeing she won't need the government's full, faith, and credit in her retirement. Opposing optional personal retirement accounts is pro-establishment, pro-government, and anti-worker. There is no other explanation for it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

They Ban Books Don't They?

The California Assembly has passed legislation in a 42-28 vote along party lines to ban public schools from purchasing text books containing more than 200 pages (hat tip: Debunkers).
AB 756 would force publishers to condense key ideas, basic problems and basic knowledge into 200 pages, then to provide a rich appendix with Web sites where students can go for more information.

The text of AB 756 says it could reduce the cost and weight of textbooks. - Sacramento Bee

This bill will likely pass in the Senate since party lines are being held. I don't know what more I can say about this piece of legislation, it speaks for itself. I can only suggest that you go through your house and throw out all the books with more than 200 pages, and you will have an idea of the experience our students will be having in the California education system.