The Babe Theory Of Political Movements.
Mar. 21, 2005 11:50 AM
Iran's Sham Election In Houston.
June 20, 2005 5:36 AM
Yes, Kanye, Bush Does Care.
Oct. 31, 2005 12:41 AM
Health Care vs. Wealth Care.
Nov. 23, 2005 3:28 PM
Americans Voting With Their Feet.
Nov. 30, 2005 1:33 PM
Idea Majorities Matter.
May 12, 2006 6:15 PM
Twilight Zone Economics.
Oct. 17, 2006 12:30 AM
The "Shrinking" Middle Class.
Dec. 13, 2006 1:01 PM
From Ashes, GOP Opportunities.
Dec. 18, 2006 6:37 PM
Battle Between Entitlements & Pork.
Dec. 21, 2006 12:31 PM
Let Economic Freedom Reign.
Dec. 22, 2006 10:22 PM
Biggest Health Care Moment In Decades.
July 25, 2007 4:32 PM
Unions Antithetical to Liberty.
May 28, 2008 11:12 PM
Right To Work States Rock.
June 9, 2008 12:25 PM
Social Security Reform Thursday.
March 13, 2008
Caption Contest: Enter Today!
Due: July 29, 2008
The Carnival Of Classiness.
Mar. 14, 2006
Quotational Therapy: Obama.
Apr. 4, 2008
Mainstream Melee: Wolfowitz.
May 19, 2007
Pundit Roundtable: Leaks.
July 9, 2006
A WILLisms.com(ic), by Ken McCracken
July 14, 2006
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Minorities Want Social Security Reform.
Previously, WILLisms.com noted how Social Security reform would benefit minorities. Unfortunately, the elites of "the Left" are knee-jerkedly mounting powerful opposition to reform.
Andrew Roth, of SocialSecurityChoice.com, notes that Congressional Democrats opposing Social Security reform are not listening to their own base.
Senators like John Kerry, who claim that "President Bush is hyping a phony crisis" on Social Security, are woefully out-of-touch with their supporters.
Pollster John Zogby notes that "Democrats are very busy turning 48 percent of the vote into a free fall, and that's not easy to do. They are not talking to their own base, let alone to the rest of middle America."
Republican pollster Whit Ayres agrees:
"The personal accounts have enormous appeal, whether Republicans or Democrats. That's going to create some challenges for the Democrats who are standing foursquare in opposition to the president's proposal. They stand to alienate a lot of younger people who would like more control over their retirement assets."
"Democrats are missing the boat on a number of issues that can be of appeal to their own base. On Social Security reform, you are looking at younger voters, union members and minorities that find this idea popular."
The Washington Times reports:
"An Annenberg poll in December showed that 54 percent of Hispanics supported the concept of 'allowing workers to invest Social Security funds in the stock market.'
While the liberal media establishment and the left hemisphere of the blogosphere confidently forecast that Republicans split over Social Security, that Bush has finally met his match, and even that liberals have already won the debate, this is simply not the case.
Eric Pfieffer, writing for National Review, notes, "Talk of a House GOP-White House split on Social Security are premature." He reports:
"While reform opponents enjoy their fractured-party fantasy, the president and congressional Republicans are getting down to business."
WILLisms.com will continue to follow the debate on Social Security reform. Look for the dynamic to change significantly following the President's State of the Union Address this Wednesday night.
Toppling Kim Jong-Il.
The Times of London has an interesting piece on North Korea, titled "Chairman Kim's dissolving kingdom."
The article, by Michael Sheridan, argues that the North Korean dictator is weak, his power is in jeopardy.
"We had already witnessed one sign that North Korea’s totalitarian system is dissolving, even as its leaders boast of owning nuclear weapons to deter their enemies.
Previously, WILLisms.com noted:
"One disadvantage of a free society in dealing with a dictatorial regime is that time is usually on the dictator's side. The dictator can usually just wait for elections in America before negotiating. Kim Jong-Il, through 2004, believed President Bush might be replaced by Senator Kerry, and accordingly, a strong foreign policy stance toward North Korea replaced with a weaker one.
"Bush’s re-election dealt a blow to Kim, 62, who had gambled on a win by John Kerry, the Democratic candidate. Kim used a strategy of divide and delay to drag out nuclear talks with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea through 2004.
The CIA was surprised by the swift fall of the Soviet Union; North Korea, too, could surprise experts with a sudden regime change, but this remains unlikely due to the intense and ubiquitous brainwashing campaign Kim Jong-Il's regime employs.
Birmingham, Alabama, at the middle of the 20th century, was among the most segregated cities in the country. It was also a primary battlefield in the American Civil Rights struggle. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned perhaps his most famous correspondence, while sitting in a Birmingham jail for civil disobedience:
"I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Graeco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid."
Scott Johnson, of Power Line, writing in The Weekly Standard, asserts that Dr. Condoleezza Rice's confirmation as U.S. Secretary of State "closed a loop, even if no one seemed to notice." As Johnson points out, Dr. Rice was 8-years-old at the time Dr. King wrote the Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
Condoleezza Rice faced adversity, growing up in a place of great intimidation, where everyone and everything was stacked against her, just because she happened to be born black.
"On September 15, 1963, Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was holding its annual Youth Day when a bomb exploded in the basement and killed four girls who had slipped out of Bible class early to lead the adult services later that morning. Among the four dead was Denise McNair. Had she lived, Denise McNair would be 53 today."
Denise McNair was a friend of Dr. Rice. Of the bombing, Rice noted recently:
"The crime was calculated, not random. It was meant to suck the hope out of young lives, bury their aspirations, and ensure that old fears would be propelled forward into the next generation.
Imagine little Condi Rice, not a decade old, being exposed to that kind of evil, that kind of hatred, that kind of horror. Dr. Rice's personal story is inspirational enough, but what she represents is even more profound. Dr. Rice is a symbol of how far America has come; she is the embodiment of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream that one day little girls like Condi Rice would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
"The bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church had been the handiwork of former members of the Ku Klux Klan--brothers under the hood to former Ku Klux Klan Grand Kleagle and current Democratic United States Senator Robert Byrd. Byrd of course opposed Rice's confirmation as Secretary of State last week. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Byrd and 11 other Democratic senators in opposing Rice's confirmation was Democratic senator Mark Dayton who is, oddly enough, the occupant of Hubert Humphrey's seat in the Senate. History takes strange turns and politics makes strange bedfellows."
But what to make of Byrd's opposition to Rice? Was it a bit of warm nostalgia for the Senator? Did it ignite latent racist feelings in his heart, the comforting feelings of his youth? Perhaps the thought of a black woman from Birmingham--- a Republican, no less! ---rising to the top, stirred up confusing passions. Perhaps Byrd's opposition to Dr. Rice, a powerful and independent woman who has rejected the notion that African-Americans must be obedient Democrats, was a kind of instinctive plantation-owner reflex.
Perhaps, feeling spurned by a small-but-growing number of upwardly-mobile black individuals like Dr. Rice, observing the loss of control over their political monopoly on minorities, anticipating the gradual-but-impending destruction of their national electoral coalition, Democrats voting against confirming Dr. Rice were merely demonstrating their overall frustration. Afterall, Dr. Rice ought to share their ideology; she ought to be a Democrat, she ought to belong to them, so they think.
Or perhaps opposition to Dr. Rice by a former KKK member is just, yet again, symbolic of how America loves to forgive (and sometimes forget). Perhaps Senator Byrd and his fellow Democrats truly judged Dr. Rice for the content of her character, not seeing her as an African-American woman, but rather, just as an individual.
If this is the case, it still does not let Democrats off the hook. Dr. Rice's professional credentials are impeccable; her character is above reproach; her values and her worldview are inspirational. For those who voted against her, it calls into question their judgment; their very character must be of dubious quality. Opposition to Dr. Rice is yet another Profile in Disgrace for Democrats in recent years.
"In ascending to the first among cabinet offices Rice becomes the first cabinet officer in the line of presidential succession. Rice's ascent represents fulfillment of a 'promise' that Martin Luther King offered in the form of his 'dream' in the summer of 1963. The promise traced its roots back to the Emancipation Proclamation and, Lincoln and King both insisted, to the Declaration of Independence. In 1864 Lincoln wrote in response to prominent Democrats who urged him to rescind the Emancipation Proclamation: 'The promise, being made, must be kept.' The fulfillment of the promise represented by Rice's ascent is one in which all Americans can rightfully take pride."
Dr. Condoleezza Rice, rising to greatness, breaking through the oppressive bigotry of her youth, has become the redemption of Birmingham, indeed, the fulfillment of America.
Tom Wolfe: Bush Doctrine Monroe Doctrine's Fourth Corollary.
Last week, WILLisms.com commented on Americanism.
Tom Wolfe, an intellectual hero of WILLisms.com and recent author of I Am Charlotte Simmons, writing in today's The New York Times, notes that Bush's brand of Americanism is the fourth corollary to the Monroe Doctrine.
Mockingly, he writes,
"Surely some bright bulb from the Council on Foreign Relations in New York or the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton has already remarked that President Bush's inaugural address 10 days ago is the fourth corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. No? So many savants and not one peep out of the lot of them? Really?"
For Tom Wolfe, President Bush's Second Inaugural Address is an echo reminiscent of the words of T.R., Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt.
'The steady aim of this nation, as of all enlightened nations,' said the Echo, 'should be to strive to bring ever nearer the day when there shall prevail throughout the world the peace of justice. ...Tyrants and oppressors have many times made a wilderness and called it peace. ...The peace of tyrannous terror, the peace of craven weakness, the peace of injustice, all these should be shunned as we shun unrighteous war. ... The right of freedom and the responsibility for the exercise of that right cannot be divorced.'
While the Monroe Doctrine included only the Western hemisphere, and dealt specifically with European influence, it has been updated thrice over time. However, through its varying permutations, it has always maintained its core philosophy of Americanism. Wolfe asserts:
"By Mr. Bush's Inauguration Day, the Hemi in Hemisphere had long since vanished, leaving the Monroe Doctrine with - what? - nothing but a single sphere ... which is to say, the entire world.
Promoting liberty is not Imperial Hubris, or even anything new; it has always been America's purpose; it is what has made America the greatest force for good in the history of the world.
President Bush did not invent, but he has revived, America's purpose, after years of vacation immediately following the fall of the Soviet Union. Bush has resurrected America's mission. Today's elections in Iraq are the tangible manifestation of Americanism.
While liberals like John Kerry believe Americans should not "overhype" the election in Iraq, the bravery demonstrated by the Iraqi people is inspiring and encouraging. What a great day in the history of freedom.
"The People Have Won"
Mohammed and Omar, Iraqis, of the blog Iraq The Model, are overjoyed at the voting taking place there today.
"How can I describe it!? Take my eyes and look through them my friends, you have supported the day of Iraq's freedom and today, Iraqis have proven that they're not going to disappoint their country or their friends.
We must all remember joyous days like these, for the insurgents surely have not given up just yet. They hate freedom, they hate democracy, and they hate modernity. Some of the insurgents want to return Saddam Hussein and/or the Ba'ath Party to power; some are Islamic fundamentalist extremists (Islamofascists); some are nihilists; some are agents of neighboring countries, whose rulers fear democracy. They all hate what Iraq is becoming, a beacon of hope for the region, a free and pluralistic society, part of the community of civilized and cooperative nations.
Iraqis turned out to vote in numbers, in the face of violence, in the face of threats, perhaps larger than typical turnout rates in America.
More from Iraq The Model:
"Could any model match this one!? Could any bravery match the Iraqis'!? Let the remaining tyrants of the world learn the lesson from this day."
Powerline has some great pictures from Iraq.
Hope. Optimism for the future of Iraq. Liberty smashing tyranny. That little girl is a witness to history. We're all witnesses to history.
The Friends of Democracy blog interviews a member of the "Iraqi street":
"Q: Is voting a religious or a national obligation?
"The Iraqi people, themselves, made this election a resounding success. Brave patriots stepped forward as candidates. Many citizens volunteered as poll workers. More than 100,000 Iraqi security force personnel guarded polling places and conducted operations against terrorist groups. One news account told of a voter who had lost a leg in a terror attack last year, and went to the polls today, despite threats of violence. He said, 'I would have crawled here if I had to. I don't want terrorists to kill other Iraqis like they tried to kill me. Today I am voting for peace.'
WILLisms.com understands elections are not an immediate panacea for the situation in Iraq, but they are a powerful indicator that Iraqis support freedom, not the insurgency. They support representative institutions, not terrorists and jihadis. Iraqis have taken an important step toward what will become an important ally of freedom in the Middle East.
A WILLisms.com MEET THE PRESS Moment, With John Kerry
One line that always stands out as typical John Kerry is when he talks about abortion:
"I am actually personally opposed to abortion. But I don't believe that I have a right to take what is an article of faith to me and legislate it to other people. That's not how it works in America."
Why does it have to be an article of faith, opposing abortion? With all the rapid advances in knowledge regarding prenatal development based on science and medicine, why can't one base opposition to abortion upon both faith and science? It takes quite a bit of faith to ignore the emerging research on the subject.
"...we were rising in the polls up until the last day when the tape appeared. We flat-lined the day the tape appeared and went down on Monday."
Looking at the Real Clear Politics tracking chart of the average of polls, Kerry's version of events simply does not match reality. One could even make the case that the bin Laden tape even helped Kerry gain ground at the end of the campaign.
During John Kerry's last appearance on Meet The Press, he promised to release all of his military records, something he never did. This prompted this exchange:
"MR. RUSSERT: Many people who've been criticizing you have said: Senator, if you would just do one thing and that is sign Form 180, which would allow historians and journalists complete access to all your military records. Thus far, you have gotten the records, released them through your campaign. They say you should not be the filter. Sign Form 180 and let the historians...
Not that it matters. John Kerry is a has-been. Nobody is going to hold him to his promise. But he is on record, now, for the second time, this time specifically promising to sign Form 180. If he does run for office again, he will have to live up to that promise.
On one point, however, Kerry showed a clear understanding of the 2004 race. When Russert grilled him on his leftover money at the end of the race, Kerry rambled for a moment in his typical Thurston Howell III tone of voice, before stating clearly,
"...money was not an issue in the outcome of what happened in this race."
Indeed, the Kerry campaign, Democrats, and their unofficial auxillary groups vastly outspent Bush and Republican groups. Democrats went overkill on spending at nearly every level, so each additional dollar spent would have produced miniscule, perhaps negative, marginal utility. An additional campaign commercial or two, extra flyers, extra signs, more campaign staff, it probably wouldn't have mattered anyway, as Democrats already had more than they needed, at nearly every level. They were swimming in money provided by individuals like George Soros and Peter Lewis.
"Karl Rove really had six years to prepare for Election Day. We in many ways had only a few months..."
So Karl Rove was preparing for 2004 back in 1998? But the poor Democrats only had from the summer of 2004, on?
Tim Russert is normally fair, but comments like these require a stern and swift challenge. He failed to do so, here.
The nomination process for Democrats was earlier and longer than any in recent history. The entire primary season was a free anti-Bush infomercial, where, rather than attacking one another, the Democrats staged a "who can be the best Anyone-But-Bush (ABB) candidate?". Because of this, John Kerry emerged from the primaries virtually unscathed.
In the meantime, Republicans expected Howard Dean to be the nominee, so whatever preparation there was, would not have been geared toward John Kerry. Karl Rove, in no way, shape, or form, had 6 years to prepare for 2004, and Democrats had far more than a few months. Kerry's version of history does not even make any sense. Senator Kerry's comment was simply absurd, and Russert should have called him out for it.
"MR. RUSSERT: You're saying raise taxes by rolling back the top bracket. You're raising taxes on richer Americans to pay for Social Security.
Raising taxes is raising taxes, period. Liberals love to talk about "rolling back tax cuts," as if the Constitution itself ordained a higher rate, and we're currently just at a temporarily lower point. Just because taxes were higher at one point in time does not mean they ought to be higher now. Kerry seems to think the former, higher rate is the reference point against which all other rates are compared. As long as liberals maintain their love for higher taxes, they will be out of power for some time to come.
PoliPundit is holding John Kerry to his promise.
Sister Souljah Moment For Michael Moore, and Ted Kennedy?
Very few Americans have ever heard the rap music of Sister Souljah; in fact, Ms. Souljah's music is almost entirely inconsequential.
However, her name, now a verb (one can "Sister Souljah" someone else) is ubiquitous in the annals of modern political trivia, defined as an out-of-the-mainstream radical whose politically-damaging views are rebuked by a mainstream political figure.
In 1992, then-Presidential candidate Bill Clinton delivered an unexpected rebuke of Ms. Souljah, following Souljah's comments regarding the acceptability of black-on-white violence.
Mark Leon Goldberg, of The American Prospect, writes,
"The genius of Clinton’s rebuke of Souljah was that it was geared not to the assembled black leaders seated in front of him but to moderate whites, who needed to see that Clinton was not some patsy of narrow left-wing interest groups. It was cold, calculated, and effective."
Clinton's comments in 1992 were politically and strategically brilliant; Democrats in power today do not seem capable of such tactical smarts.
Flash forward to 2004. Michael Moore made a movie that insinuated, among other things, that President Bush stole the 2000 election, that the President and his family profited financially from 9/11, that the primary motivation for the war in Afghanistan was a desire to build a natural gas pipeline through the region, and that the President was on vacation, disengaged from leading, most of his first term.
When Moore released his movie, did leading Democrats pull the brakes? Did they say, "woah, now, this thing is over the line and does not speak for us," or did they wholeheartedly embrace the paranoid propaganda?
Democrats opted to become the party of Michael Moore, the party of conspiracy theories, the party of anger, the party of divisiveness, the party of nonsense. Tom Daschle, in 2004, was the most powerful Democrat in the country. As Senate Minority Leader, he controlled the agenda for Democrats, and stymied the Republican agenda, with the power of the Senate filibuster. He also attended the premiere of Fahrenheit 9/11, praising (and even hugging) Michael Moore afterward.
Mr. Goldberg refreshes the story of former General Clark, and his missed "Sister Souljah" opportunity:
"Shortly after Wesley Clark enthusiastically accepted Moore’s endorsement in January 2004, the two took the stage together at a New Hampshire campaign stop. During the rally, Moore leveled the charge that President Bush is a deserter based on the curious gaps in his National Guard service record. The press seized on this statement -- after all, desertion is a crime that used to be punishable by death. Clark, perhaps due to his character or his political inexperience (or both), could not bring himself to repudiate Moore."
Following Clark's failure to "Sister Souljah" Michael Moore, his campaign imploded. Whatever national security credentials General Clark possessed were eroded instantaneously. In a post-9/11 America, Americans want leaders who are credible, not soft, on national security issues. Clark apparently wagered that his experience as a General would balance any kind of association with the radical anti-war wing of his newfound party.
He was wrong. The negative effects of Michael Moore's readily-accepted endorsement were too powerful.
One would assume that Democrats learned something from 2004, that it would be time to moderate a bit, to eschew the radicals, to try to regain some credibility on defense issues. Peter Beinart's December 2004 piece, "A Fighting Faith," in The New Republic, which argued that Democrats need to rehabilitate their soft image on terrorism, set off a debate, particularly among liberal bloggers, but has thus-far failed to produce any changes.
Democrats seem to be more angry than ever, more appeasement-minded than ever, and the rhetoric of Michael Moore has continued to be championed by formerly mainstream figures within the party.
In some ways, it makes sense, the Democrats embracing Moore. He has quite a bit in common with the current de facto leader of the party, Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy.
Republicans will benefit from the failure of Democrats to "Sister Souljah" individuals like Michael Moore, but WILLisms.com believes putting crass partisanship before country is unacceptable, thus we urge Democrats to get a grip, and soon. Democrats, in the meantime, may need to purge more than Moore from their ranks in order to regain national security street-cred.
While electorally, the Democrats' poor choices advance the philosophy of WILLisms.com, their last-ditch effort to resurrect the the shrinking donkey is ultimately bad for America. The Democrats' inflammatory rhetoric helps Republicans at the ballot box, but does so at the expense of American clarity of purpose on the war against terror. In short, it sends the wrong message to the wrong people.
Democrats seem poised in 2005 to be even more obstructionist than ever, more combative than ever, and, unfortunately, more "Vietnam-era" than ever. Ted Kennedy sounds more shrill, more radical, and more irrational, with each passing day. The Wall Street Journal writes,
"His message is that the recent election essentially meant nothing. 'We as Democrats may be in the minority in Congress, but we speak for the majority of Americans,' declared the man who has four fewer Democratic Senate colleagues than he did before November 2.
One wonders if, in 2008 (or even 2006), a Democrat running for office will have to "Sister Souljah" both Michael Moore and Ted Kennedy to gain credibility. From that point on, "Ted Kennedy" would become a verb, synonymous with "Sister Souljah."
Liberals Thinking They've Already Won On Social Security.
Kevin Drum, writing for The Washington Monthly magazine's blog, "Political Animal," describes Social Security reform as if it were merely some kind of decoy or distraction for some other initiative, because, "it now looks pretty certain that George Bush's private account plan isn't going to fly."
Drum, one of the more influential bloggers on the liberal side of the blogosphere, believes Social Security reform is merely posturing, but he can't figure out why:
"Bush has smart people advising him, and they must realize that the odds of getting Social Security privatization passed is virtually nil. My guess is that it can't even pass the House, and there's zero chance of it getting enough votes to cut off a filibuster in the Senate. So why expend so much political capital on such a quixotic venture? There's got to be something else going on."
Oh, gee, I don't know, Kevin, maybe, did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, President Bush really wants Social Security reform. Is it possible that the public actually wants reform?
Let us suppose that reform fails due to filibuster by, say, former KKK member and current West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd. Did the Democrats not learn a single thing in the 2004 South Dakota Senate race? Good grief, obstructionism was a decisive reason why South Dakotans threw out Tom Daschle, their easy ticket to federal pork, and replaced him with John Thune.
Next, as Adam Doverspike, who has been tracking public opinion on the issue, notes at SocialSecurityChoice.com,
"62-71% of the country thinks there are at least major problems with Social Security. 9% of the country thinks no changes are needed. And 62% of the country believes that either major changes or a total rebuilding is necessary."
"Another idea to help keep the Social Security system funded would let workers put some of their Social Security savings into stocks or bonds if they wanted to. That could produce higher or lower benefits depending on how the investments perform. Would you support or oppose this stock-market option for Social Security?"
In response to the above statement, 71% of those 18-30 agreed, 75% of Republicans agreed, and even 41% of Democrats agreed. The Midwest, home of most of the battleground states where Bush campaigned extensively on personal accounts in Social Security, supported the statement 62% to 34%. College graduates supported reform 61%-38%, while those with "some college" supported reform 57%-41%. Those with a high school education or less supported reform 51%-44%, with 5% still undecided.
Overall, the public agreed with the above statement to the tune of 55%-41%.
One wonders if Drum's hubris on this issue is a conscious bit of overcompensation for his party's weakness, much like an athlete talking trash before a game, or if he is really that deluded. For one to think the reactionary, reform-hating Democrats have already won the Social Security debate is mind-boggling. The fight is going to be difficult, to be sure, and it is not a guaranteed win for either side, but the actual battle has not even yet begun.
Right now, the debate is still in Spring Training. Bush's State of the Union address will mark opening day. Campaign season will then begin, all over again.
WILLisms.com will follow the Social Security debate every step of the way, so stay tuned.
Americanism versus Anti-Americanism.
Anti-Americanism seems to be a favorite pastime of Islamofascists, snooty Europeans, and even much of "the Left" in the United States. We see anti-Americanism in the news on a regular basis. Some prefer to blame American policy, rather than what America stands for, as the cause of anti-Americanism. Some prefer to believe that terrorism is a result of, and perhaps merely a mechanical reaction to, the arrogant projection of American power, rather than hatred for the core philosophy of America.
WILLisms.com understands that anti-Americanism is fundamentally a manifestation of hatred against America's values.
Abu Musab Zarqawi, lead terrorist in Iraq, proved this point in recent comments:
"We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology," Zarqawi declared in a statement. "Democracy is also based on the right to choose your religion," he said, and that is "against the rule of God."
Indeed, anti-Americanism is a concept most can grasp. It is somewhat intuitive. But what about Americanism? What is it that people are so "anti," anyway?
David Gelernter, writing in Commentary, "America's premier monthly magazine of opinion," asserts that Americanism is not merely,
"American tastes or style, or American culture— that convenient target of America-haters everywhere. Nor do I mean mere patriotic devotion; many nations command patriotic devotion from their citizens (or used to).
For Gelernter, Americanism is,
"...the set of beliefs that are thought to constitute America’s essence and to set it apart; the beliefs that make Americans positive that their nation is superior to all others— morally superior, closer to God."
"To sum up Americanism’s creed as freedom, equality, and democracy for all is to state only half the case. The other half deals with a promised land, a chosen people, and a universal, divinely ordained mission. This part of Americanism is the American version of biblical Zionism: in short, American Zionism."
The Americanists put great faith in the idea that America is a force for good in the world and that American principles are really universal, or God-given principles. President Abraham Lincoln hoped to be a “humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty and of this, His almost chosen people.” Ronald Reagan, a conspicuous revivalist of Americanism following the American malaise under Jimmy Carter, asserted,
"America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere."
"Some agreed with Ronald Reagan and some disagreed. Some approved of him and some disapproved. Yet, to a remarkable extent, those who hated him are the ones who hate America....
On the evolution of anti-Americanism, Gelernter notes,
"In the 19th century, European elites became increasingly hostile to Christianity— which inevitably entailed hostility to America. In modern times, anti-Americanism is closely associated with anti-Christianism and anti-Semitism.
While Europe has become increasingly secular, churches rapidly converted to bars and restaurants and shops and homes, religion in the United States remains a powerful, relevant, and positive force in society. But not all anti-Americans reside in Europe or the Middle East. Some prominent Americans, it turns out, believe in anti-Americanism, fearing, loathing, and distrusting American power, deriding those who believe that America has a divine calling to act as a force for good in the world.
"The President’s faith, said one prominent American politician in September 2004, is 'the American version of the same fundamentalist impulse that we see in Saudi Arabia, in Kashmir, and in many religions around the world.'
"Americanism is notable, of course, not merely for its spectacular ability to arouse hate.... it has also inspired remarkable feats of devotion."
Indeed, while anti-Americanism can be intense and frightening, this is only because Americanism itself is such a powerful and important force.
One lesson Democrats should have learned from the 2002 and 2004 elections is that Americans, naturally enough, prefer Americanism over anti-Americanism. This enough ought to be common sense, but apparently it isn't.
As long as Howard Dean, the current leader in the race for the chairmanship of the DNC, and Ted Kennedy, the current de facto leader of the party, continue to guide the Democrats down the path of hostility toward faith and mistrust of American power, they will have electoral problems for some time to come.
WILLisms.com has comments on a range of topics planned for the near future, including a look at the pending case before the Supreme Court dealing with interstate wine sales, a look at revolutionary icon and Communist guerilla Che Guevara, more inspection of the AARP, and a look at how Midland, Texas shaped the President's worldview and character. Stay tuned for these and many other thoughts in the coming days and weeks.
More On AARP's Manipulative Polling
WILLisms.com recently pointed out the disingenous nature of the public opinion polling data AARP released regarding Social Security reform.
It turns out it's even worse than we imagined. According to USA Next, the AARP did more than simply exclude those under 30 for its poll:
"* The survey includes no respondents under age 30 even though voters age 18 to 29 made up 17% of the 2004 electorate.
Christine Todd Whitman, the Republican Zell Miller?
Blogger Patrick Ruffini comments on the release of It’s My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America, by former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman.
In her book, Whitman essentially argues that the Bush administration won reelection at the expense of the long-term health of the GOP. Whitman seems to reserve a particular disdain for "the architect," writing,
"The Karl Rove strategy to focus so rigorously on the narrow conservative base won the day, but we must ask at what price to governing and at what risk to the future of the party."
Ruffini notes six dimensions of how Bush's reelection stacked up against Whitman's 1997 reelection as New Jersey Governor:
1. Growth of support:
"Bush was the first Presidential candidate since 1988 to win more than 50% of the vote, smashing Ronald Reagan’s popular vote record by nearly 8 million votes, and increasing his total vote by 20% from 2000. In winning re-election, the President’s support surged among the most Democratic-leaning groups: women, Hispanics, African Americans, Jewish voters, citizens of the Northeast.
62+ million votes, a record number of Americans to vote for any individual in a single election, is everything Whitman needs to know about winning elections.
2. Beating expectations:
"For most of Bush’s re-election year, the majority of the press corps expected him to lose. – especially if turnout exceeded 120 million. On Election Day, 122 million Americans voted, and Bush beat expectations with a solid 3 million popular vote majority.
One wonders if Whitman is "misunderestimating" Bush yet again.
3. A Party of Inclusion:
"When Bush was re-elected, his percentage of African American votes went up.
President Bush has the most diverse cabinet in American history, including several individuals with Horatio Alger-type stories. Bush expanded his numbers profoundly among Latinos and other groups traditionally not part of the Republican coalition.
"Bush was forceful in advancing a values agenda, and effectively put John Kerry on the defensive on abortion and gay marriage. He won handily.
President Bush learned a lesson from his father's 1992 candidacy: secure the base, first. Free market societies produce great change, powerful progress. When people feel the times are moving a little too rapidly for them, they want a party to gently pull the brakes, just enough to keep society from careering off the road. President Bush understands this. Furthermore, even among gays, the President's numbers did not fall off significantly from 2000 to 2004.
5. Campaign Finance:
"In 2004, Bush and Republicans were outspent by $113 million and won anyway.
Adding the hundreds of millions of dollars Democrats spent during their exhaustively drawn-out primaries, a time during which candidates rarely attacked one another but persistently, and with great unity, attacked President Bush, the President was outspent by far more than $113 million. WILLisms.com will comment on money in the 2004 race in the near future.
6. Party Building:
"Under Bush, Republicans regained control of the Senate, unheard of for an incumbent party in a midterm election. In 2004, Republicans gained four seats in the Senate and three seats in the House. Today, there are more Republicans on Capitol Hill than at any time since the 1920s.
President Bush's coattails are the most powerful since FDR. Meanwhile, just look at Whitman's New Jersey, a state practically off the table for Republicans in statewide and federal elections.
Ruffini asks, rhetorically,
"You’ve seen the record. Now, who do you trust when it comes to growing the GOP?"
WILLisms.com understands that the Republican Party is growing, and an agenda full of reform-minded initiatives over the next few years and beyond, coupled with demographic trends, will solidify a legacy of free-market Republican dominance for possibly decades.
One wonders if Whitman wrote most of her book prior to November, expecting the President to lose, so she could swoop in and claim that she knew what direction to take the GOP. When Bush won, one wonders if Whitman had to go back and edit the book to be less embarrassing to her.
Almost assuredly, Whitman will receive glowing treatment from much of the media establishment. "Moderates" are the darlings of the news, particularly when they are critics of the Bush administration.
Dueling e-mails on Social Security Reform
The Social Security debate is heating up.
WILLisms.com has received dueling emails on the issue.
First, the bad guys-
The AFL-CIO, "Working Families e-Activist network"-
Our friends at the AFL-CIO tell us:
"Schwab’s corporate philosophy description says its goal is to offer individual investors 'useful, ethical services at a fair price.' The most ethical service Schwab could provide for working families is to withdraw support for privatizing Social Security.
The email then tells us that "Social Security is America’s best-run, most successful family insurance program."
It ends, hilariously enough, like this:
The AFL-CIO becomes a caricature of itself when it sends e-mails like this. For the AFL-CIO, government reform creating positive externalities that may benefit a private interest, this time Charles Schwab, is reason enough to oppose the reform. For a corporation to benefit, according to the unions, it must assuredly be at the expense of the working class. If a business expands, even indirectly, as a result of government action, according to the unions, it must mean there is a nefarious conflict of interest. Privatization is always inimical to the goals of government collectivization. This irritates unions.
At their core, unions are anti-market, many times flirting with outright socialism. This is a good example.
In its entirety, with commentary along the way:
-WILLisms.com: "Oh, yes, we've got plans. We've got plans, all right. [EVIL LAUGH]"
DNC: "Today, the Democratic National Committee is launching a 'Million Dollars in Seven Days' Social Security campaign. We'll use those funds as the seed money for the most extensive, far-reaching, and effective grassroots issues campaign America has ever seen."
-WILLisms.com: Using the 2004 election as a guide, Democrats are not very good at grassroots, particularly when they have to go up against the Bush grassroots juggernaut.
DNC: "This week we have two key tasks. First, we need your help to launch our campaign with your donation today:
-WILLisms.com: Since when do Democrats favor preemptive strikes?
DNC: "President Bush knows that on February 2, he has an opportunity to shape the 2005 debate in favor of his reckless, radical Social Security plan. We can't let him get away with it. He will use the State of the Union speech to distort the facts about the current state of Social Security and to hide the disastrous consequences of his plan to dismantle this bedrock program that has kept generations of seniors out of poverty"
-WILLisms.com: Again, Democrats are more interested in flailing wildly and defaming the President than in having a real policy discussion. They are preemptively attacking the President's State of the Union address.
DNC: "Republicans want a vote within six months to break Social Security's fundamental guarantee, partially privatize the system, and turn it from an unbreakable promise into a stock market gamble. Bush's radical plan will add a trillion dollars to the already bulging Bush deficit."
-WILLisms.com: Fear of, and contempt for, free markets, and personal ownership therein, is not a very attractive quality in a political party.
Slot machines are gambling. Poker is gambling. The stock market, over any 30-year period during the 20th century, through depressions and recessions, through wars and disasters, always went up. Owning stocks and bonds is an investment in the American economy.
Gambling is gambling.
Doing nothing to reform Social Security is gambling.
Creating personal retirement accounts is common sense.
DNC: "We're going to make sure that, before they hear the President's words on February 2, the American people know the truth. It's a critical first step in sapping the strength from Bush's effort to use the power of the Presidency to break the back of Social Security."
-WILLisms.com: The "sapping the strength" rhetoric is interesting. At least they indicate an understanding that the President is popular and effective.
DNC: "We're counting on your active participation and your strong financial support.
-WILLisms.com: Why anyone would contribute money to such a proven loser, the DNC, is entirely mysterious. Doing the same thing again and again, but expecting different results, is supposedly a sign of insanity; contributing to the DNC after its dismal showing in 2002 and 2004 does not seem like a rational action.
DNC: "Together, we're going to stop Bush cold when he tries to mislead the American people about Social Security next week. And for anyone who votes to dismantle Social Security in 2005, we're going to stop them cold on Election Day in 2006."
-WILLisms.com: Is this a boxing match?
DNC: "Winning this struggle over the future of Social Security is essential. We've got to demonstrate our determination and our grassroots power right out of the box in 2005. Otherwise, Bush and the Republicans will try to roll over us on one issue after another for four long years."
-WILLisms.com: Bush and the Republicans are the majority party, so they are pretty much going to roll over the Democrats on everything in the near future. That is how democracies work. The winners get to govern.
DNC: "We will never let that happen."
-WILLisms.com: Unless you are contemplating a coup, yes you will.
DNC: "Let's set the tone right now in the seven days leading up to the President's State of the Union Address."
-WILLisms.com: A tone of bitterness, of hyperbole, of anger, and of anti-reform obstructionism? That one does not seem like much of a winner. This line is a good example of the modus operandi of Democrats during the past few years.
First, they say that Bush promised to change the tone in Washington, that he promised to be a uniter not a divider. Then they make the tone as bad as possible. Finally, they point at Bush and say he didn't live up to his promise.
DNC: "Thank you for adding your energy and passion to this critical initiative.
WILLisms.com: So, the gist of the letter is essentially, "we hate Bush, we hate reform, Social Security is perfectly fine now, give us money."
Also included is a graphic on the side:
DNC: "Stop Bush Cold
WILLisms.com looks forward to reading "the truth" as the DNC sees it.
DNC: "Act now to help sap the strength from Bush's effort to use the power of the presidency to break the back of Social Security."
-WILLisms.com: If only Democrats had some kryptonite, they might be able to "sap the strength" of the President.
Now, the good guys-
The George W. Bush Store now has merchandise related to Social Security reform. T-shirts, buttons, bumper stickers, yard signs. Everything you need to express your support for Social Security reform.
Here are some examples (you can click on image to purchase the item at the George W. Bush Store):
The George W. Bush store comments, in its e-mail, on why it now offers Social Security reform merchandise:
Let the games begin. May the best reform win.
If you are a merchandise person, you might also check out the WILLisms.com gift shop, where you can buy gear that promotes the Bush-led free market revolution:
Tort Reform Gaining Momentum.
The Economist reports that momentum is gathering behind tort reform in America.
"Next week Arlen Specter, a Republican senator, is set to introduce a bill that is intended to break the deadlock over asbestos litigation while limiting the exposure of firms and insurance companies to future claims. Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, hopes to bring a bill to change the rules on class-action lawsuits to the chamber’s floor by the week after. Yet more action is promised to limit pay-outs in medical-malpractice lawsuits.
The United States is probably the most litigious society in the world. People sue for the most absurd reasons. Some people sue for legitimate reasons but demand absurd sums of money.
The most significant and necessary part of tort reform is in the medical field. Doctors are natural prey for trial lawyers; sometimes it is deserved, when a doctor is clearly negligent and directly responsible for loss of health or life, but more often than not, good doctors are sued for simply having the misfortune to treat an individual with a penchant for suing.
The United States is losing many good doctors, particularly doctors who perform delicate, highly-specialized, and difficult procedures, because of skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance costs and a general fear of being sued. Imagine if John Kerry and John Edwards had been elected. Tort reform would have been dead upon inauguration.
WILLisms.com will follow the fight over tort reform in 2005 and beyond.
AARP Peddling Disingenuous Polling.
The Hill, "The Newspaper for and about the U.S. Congress," has obtained some interesting survey data conducted by The Winston Group, a Republican polling group, at the request of Congressional Republicans:
"In a poll that will be released during this week’s Republican retreat, 60 percent of the 1,000 respondents favored investing some portion of their Social Security funds into 'personal retirement accounts,' as compared to the 35 percent who opposed it."
In the Winston poll,
"... 78 percent of respondents believed 'we have to reform the Social Security system right now.' And 61 percent of respondents believed 'Americans are living longer, so in a few years there will not be enough younger workers to pay for the Social Security benefits of retirees.'
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), conversely, recently released a poll "that indicated only 43 percent of their 1,501 respondents favored 'private accounts.'" The AARP, one of the larger lobbying organizations in the United States, opposes personal market accounts in Social Security, and has joined the fight against Social Security reform.
However, putting aside the use of the radioactive term "privatization" by AARP pollsters, as The Hill notes, the AARP survey is not a representative sample of America, and therefore not really adequately scientific--- or useful. In fact:
"[The] AARP did not interview workers under 30 for its poll."
WILLisms.com is appalled at the Machiavellian underhandedness of this move, which is clearly an attempt to scare members of Congress into inaction. How unclassy of them.
Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more on the AARP, its strategies, its motives, and its unclassiness, in the near future.
Big Winners In Social Security Reform: Minorities.
Some Democrats opposing Social Security reform claim that Bush really just wants to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor. "Vermeer," writing at democraticunderground.com, argues:
"If you are middle-class or poor and support Bush's 'piratization' of Social Security, you have been brainwashed and bamboozled. If you work for a living and support Bush's 'piratization' of Social Security, you have been brainwashed and bamboozled.... Bush's 'piratization' plan for Social Security will harm all but the wealthy and elite investor class."
Sure, democraticunderground.com sometimes resembles a gurgling dungeon of wild-eyed crazies, and therefore a bit of a straw man, easy prey, but mainstream Democrats use the same disingenuous class warfare strategies found in the comments of "Vermeer." During the 2004 campaign, Massachusetts Senator John Forbes Kerry published a 9-page manifesto titled "George Bush’s Social Security Plan Benefits the Banks That Contribute To Him." Kerry argued throughout the campaign that Social Security reform was an excuse for a big Wall Street giveaway.
In reality, minorities, held back by the current system, are a group that could see some of the more profound benefits from Social Security reform.
"Perhaps no group has as much at stake in the debate over Social Security reform as do African Americans. Elderly African Americans are much more likely than their white counterparts to be dependent on Social Security benefits for most or all of their retirement income, yet the current system often works to their disadvantage.
National Review Online contributing editor Deroy Murdoch, who is, incidentally, African-American, believes "Personal retirement accounts are pro-black, too." He asks, rhetorically, "how raw a deal is Social Security for black Americans?"
African-Americans, Murdoch points out,
"...receive nearly $21,000 less on a lifetime basis from Social Security's retirement program than whites with similar income and marital status.
"A typical, two-earner couple born in 1970 can anticipate a 2.24% return on their payroll taxes, the Social Security Administration estimates. 'That's as close to lazy money as you can get,' laments Harry Alford, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. 'We can get better returns on investment than that.' In fact, according to a Chicago-based financial consultancy called Ibbotson Associates, the S&P 500 delivered average, inflation-adjusted, annual returns of 7.4% between 1926 and 2001, even accounting for the Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam, Watergate, that 1970s energy crisis, and the 1990-91 and 2001 downturns."
The Los Angeles Times reports that President Bush is intent on making the pitch to African-Americans:
"President Bush told African American leaders that the government retirement program shortchanged blacks, whose relatively shorter lifespan meant that they paid more in payroll taxes than they eventually received in benefits.
While the President's inroads into the African-American community are modest, at best, there are indeed some black leaders who understand that new solutions are necessary to address stagnating problems.
"I am, was, and always will be a catalyst for change."
One wonders whether Shirley Chisholm really meant that. Would Shirley Chisholm have accepted the dysfunctional status quo in Social Security, harmful to African-Americans, disadvantaging the poor, based on crass partisanship? Or would she have been a catalyst for change, an instrument for reform, an advocate for her constituents? Would Shirley Chisholm have taken the easy way out, avoiding necessary reform, using the issue to demagogue to her base? Or would she have broken ranks from her party to do something to help African-Americans?
What can an anti-reform reactionary like Sheila Jackson Lee (her website indicates "the Congresswoman is fighting the Republican plan to privatize Social Security") learn from Shirley Chisholm's philosophy?
Social Security reform could lift a generation of African-Americans out of poverty; it could help the poor accumulate wealth and pass it on to future generations. Republicans need to work on their sales pitch to African-Americans, but, ultimately, if Democrats remain devoted to the failed status quo on Social Security and other issues affecting African-Americans, Republicans won't need much of a sales pitch; if Democrats continue to take the black vote for granted, African-Americans in droves will come home to the party of Lincoln.
The question of why African-Americans continue to vote roughly 9-1 for Democrats, without demanding any results in return, is an interesting one, and one WILLisms.com will tackle in the future.
"Because every American should have their own nest egg."
The blog is already up and roaring with great content. For example, Adam Doverspike notes:
"So many Democrats have decided to discard the fact that Social Security is on the verge of a major crisis. I enjoy calling them the Flat Earthers. The Flat Earthers seems to believe we have the best system ever and it serves everyone wonderfully. Over here in reality, we face a real shortfall of finances in my lifetime and we need to fix the system before it hits the fan."
Doverspike also notes life expectacy rates for different demographic groups:
Demographic --- Life Expectancy
Essentially, because of the trends expressed in this data, not only does the average African-American pay a greater proportion of his income into Social Security over his lifetime, but African-Americans receive less benefits, on average, relative to groups with longer life expectancy rates.
Also of note is this post, which offers a "historical look at the OASDI portion of the FICA tax rate since Social Security was created. (OASDI - Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance)."
Calendar Year ---------> OASDI Tax Rate
Notice a trend?
Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more on why the greatest beneficiaries of Social Security reform will be minorities.
Introducing Guest Blogger Ian Pittman
From time to time, WILLisms.com will invite individuals to make contributions to the site. These contributions will focus on a variety of issues, some about which we care a lot, some about which we know very little. They will be from a variety of ideological and political perspectives, a variety of geographical locations, and a variety of races and religions.
Some of these people have their own blogs, some will down the line. Some may not want to mess with the administrative and computing side of the blogging, but they still have interesting and insightful things to say every now and then.
WILLisms.com's first guest contributor is Ian Pittman, a senior at The University of Texas at Austin. He intends to develop his own blog in the future, but in the meantime, his occasional contribution is welcome on WILLisms.com.
In 2001, the founder of WILLisms.com worked for John Cornyn at the O.A.G. (Office of the Attorney General), in Austin, Texas, while in college. Incidentally, we "blogged" for him, getting into work at bloody 5:30 in the mañana, every weekday, to prepare news clips on relevant issues to the agency. Occasionally, then-"General" Cornyn even solicited commentary and analysis from us, as he prepared for his Senate run.
Ian's comments are right on the money. Senator Cornyn is an effective advocate for, and representative of, Texas. He is a good man, and WILLisms.com expects even greater things from him in the future.
Regarding the issue of Senate rules and judicial filibusters, it is clear from the treatment of Dr. Condoleeza Rice that Democrats, despite the loss of their leader Tom Daschle due largely to his obstructionism, are looking to block the Republican agenda. That Democrats, a marginalized minority, can drag the confirmation process of one of the more uniquely qualified and gifted individuals in the entire country for such a crucial post:
WILLisms.com looks forward to more commentary from Mr. Pittman in the coming weeks.
Letters to the Editor
As a Texan, I suppose I pay more attention to lawmakers from this great state than others might, which is a shame when that lawmaker is the Junior United States Senator from Texas, Mr. John Cornyn. (I don’t know if he is still qualified as a freshman Senator, since he has been in office for two years, or one full congressional session, however since Senate terms span three Congresses, he might still be a “freshman” while his counterparts who were originally elected in ’02 into the House of Representatives and subsequently reelected are firmly entrenched in their “sophomore” term.)
But classifications aside, Senator Cornyn has actually turned into a capable public servant, which unfortunately isn’t always the case with United States Senators, or elected officials period. He was recently appointed the chair of the Immigration Subcommittee, and considering his prior job, Attorney General of the State of Texas (a border state last time I checked, which was this past weekend when I was in Mexico), he should bring plenty of practical experience. He supports President Bush’s Immigration Plan, and while some Republican lawmakers have publicly expressed doubts about it, I happen to applaud any effort to document foreigners currently living in our country, legally or otherwise.
Senator Cornyn has also taken it upon himself to express his beliefs in opinion pages of several different national newspapers. What is most striking about the Op-Ed pieces is that Senator Cornyn doesn’t resort to rhetoric or hyperbole when making his case, what he does do is show his grasp of the law governing the issue (now there's a novel idea).
Most recently, he defended Judge Alberto Gonzales' appointment to the office of Attorney General in an opinon piece in USA Today.
To quote Seth Cohen, "Oh... oh snap."
And Senator Cornyn’s response to Editorials in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times this past December in regards to support of the Judicial Filibusters employed under the watchful eye of then Senate Minority Leader and current former U.S. Senator from North Dakota Tom Daschle showed that in less than two years Senator Cornyn has mastered the complex rules and traditions of his peculiar house of Congress. And considering he sits on the Senate Judiciary committee, his insight into the matter is even more pertinent.
First, in his letter to the New York Times (which was never published, way to show some backbone there, NYT):
And next, his letter to the Los Angeles Times, which was published, albeit in truncated form
An op-ed in Sunday’s Times by two law professors, Erwin Chemerinsky and Michael Gerhardt, praised the use of filibusters to prevent the confirmation of federal judges, and criticized efforts to reform its unprecedented use against nominees [“Senate's 'Nuclear Option'”]. Their own academic writings, however, contradict those views.
Opinion pieces such as these don’t get enough play, and they show the depth of understanding of the law, the Senate, and the legislative process that Texans have representing them in Washington.
And that's just one more thing we have on New York.
Oh yeah, and thanks are due to Will, for inviting me to share my thoughts publicly in this great forum. Hopefully I will one day be able to return the favor.
Bush and Foreign Policy Realism
The powerlineblog.com folks have been noting "President Bush's Higher Realism" (here, and here), a phrase international relations guru Robert Kagan elaborated on following President Bush's 2nd Inaugural Address.
The latest exploration of Bush's articulation of a "higher realism" in foreign policy is by Joshua Muravchik, in today's Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal.com:
Indeed, as WILLisms.com noted immediately after the inauguration speech, "both an idealist and a pragmatist, President Bush is a reformer and a revolutionary, a visionary with a deep personal commitment to freedom and liberty."
The proof that liberty is spreading, and that the United States can promote liberty effectively, is out there. According to Freedom House, an organization founded by Democrats and Republicans more than 60 years ago, the number of free nations has grown significantly over the past generation.
Crisis, and opportunity.
High-ranking Democrats now claim there is no Social Security crisis, or that the problems are too far away or too theoretical to address them now, but in October 1998 the Clinton administration noted the profound and rare opportunity the United States has to preemptively fix a problem before it becomes a crisis:
"It is normally impossible for any democracy to tackle long-term problems while the crisis is still only on the horizon."
"As with so many other long-term challenges, if we act now, it will be far, far easier to resolve the problem than if we wait until a crisis is close at hand. I believe we must save Social Security and do it next year."
Speaking to students at Georgetown University in 1998, Clinton noted the "looming crisis in Social Security:
Observing that the "fiscal crisis in Social Security affects every generation", Clinton argued that "we're going to have to rethink this whole thing":
"We can do this. President Roosevelt often called us to the spirit of bold, persistent experimentation. We will have to do that."
WILLisms.com believes Social Security reform is now years overdue. Democrats would be wise to pay heed to the words of America's most recent past president, their only winner in a national election in more than a quarter century. Squeamish, do-nothing Republicans sitting on the fence, worried about reelection, ought to pay heed, as well, to the words, energy, and the nearly-unprecedented coattails of the current one:
"...the problem is that some in Congress don't see it as the problem. They just kind of think that maybe things will be okay. But the structure of Social Security is such that you can't avoid the fact that there is a problem. And now is the time to get something done."
Social Security, the National Ponzi Scheme.
WILLisms.com supports a Social Security program that:
1. is economically healthy, financially solvent, fiscally responsible, and sustainable;
WILLisms.com understands that Social Security is a 20th-century program in need of reform to meet the challenges of a 21st-century economy. It is imperative to act now, while we still can, to rescue the retirement security of the WILLisms.com generation and beyond.
Social Security resembles a Ponzi scheme in its design, a type of pyramid scheme named for Charles Ponzi, who duped thousands of Americans in 1921. Ponzi schemes operate under the "rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul" principle, as money from new investors is used to pay off earlier investors until the whole scheme eventually collapses.
In 1950, there were 16 workers paying Social Security taxes for every retiree receiving benefits. According to the 2003 Social Security Board of Trustees Report, today, that number has fallen closer to 3, and it will fall even further, to only 2 workers per retiree, within the next two decades.
Indeed, over the years, even as payroll taxes have risen from 2% in 1949 to 12.4% today, the retirement age has been raised, the amount of income taxable by Social Security has been raised, and other superficial adjustments have been made, the system remains in jeopardy.
When Social Security was born, FDR and others assumed that Americans would always exponentially add to its population, thus ever-larger subsequent generations would be able to support smaller, older generations. Because of increased availability of birth control, women becoming more career-oriented, and other societal shifts in the meantime, there simply are not enough younger workers to adequately pay the benefits of the retirees. Compounding the effects of the Social Security pyramid scheme are the profound breakthroughs in medical technology that have allowed millions of Americans to live far beyond retirement age.
If Social Security were a private program, there is little doubt that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission would be investigating its accounting practices. If the Social Security Administration were a corporation, zealous Attorneys General such as Eliot Spitzer would have filed charges long ago in courtrooms around the country.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Flemming V. Nestor, 363 U.S. 603, 610–11 (1960), that Americans have no legal right to Social Security benefits. Social Security benefits are not guaranteed by the Constitution; Congress can slash benefits, raise the retirement age, impose means testing, and disqualify people from receiving their Social Security checks. Although critics of Social Security reform claim that privatization is a risk, the current insolvency of the system is the true risk.
WILLisms.com understands that for Social Security to remain an important part of American retirement security, structural reforms are necessary.
The Cato Institute has a detailed plan called "The 6.2 Percent Solution: A Plan for Reforming Social Security," which would provide workers ownership of, and control over, their retirement funds. The plan draws lessons from Chile's successful Social Security reform, implemented in 1981.
You can use The Cato Institute's Social Security Benefit Calculator to determine how the plan would affect you.
For example, a woman, 26 years of age, making $70,000, can currently expect an estimated annual benefit of $28,593 (in 2004 dollars), beginning in the year 2046. This assumes benefits are not cut or the retirement age is not raised by then.
Under the Cato plan, that same woman, in 2046, would own an account with $1,029,312 in 2004 dollars, and choose an annuity of $85,704. This assumes the average rate of return on a 60-40 Stock-Bond portfolio (5.27 percent) minus transactions cost (0.30 percent).
"Privatization" is kind of a dirty word in politics, because seniors (stoked by the alarmist rhetoric of Democrats) fear they will not receive their retirement checks under a privatized system. For the United States to compete effectively in the 21st-century global economy, Social Security reform is a must.
President Bush still must make the case for Social Security reform, convincing even skeptics in his own party, as Democrats have already launched an intense public relations campaign on the issue, arguing first that there is no problem and therefore no need of reform, and second, that market-based reforms are too risky. Democrats plan to stake everything they have on blocking Social Security reform. What a tragedy, for Democrats, to have become the party of obstruction, the party of strict adherence to early-20th-century programs, the party against reform, the party of the status quo.
Hopefully, Democrats fail to block Social Security reform, and that failure leads them to drastically rethink their ideology and ideas. Some Republicans, as well, have signalled a certain desire for timid reforms, or no reforms at all, and some Democrats are hoping for a split in the GOP on the issue, but as Brandon Miniter points out, "the theory of a coming split in the party is likely more of a myth than a reality, a myth meant to scare President Bush out of pushing for serious reform."
"Undoubtedly a few Republicans will break ranks. But if there is going to be a mass defection, look for it on the Democratic side of the aisle. Nothing moves politicians like pressure from their own constituents. After President Bush fires up his campaign machinery, look for more than a handful of Democrats to start looking for a compromise."
WILLisms.com will address Social Security reform, the policy and the politics, in greater depth in the coming weeks.
Gratuitous Marketing Pitch
WILLisms.com will soon have a new and fresh design, worthy of the way classy content seen here in the past week or so. Be on the lookout for that.
In the meantime, check out the gift shop, where you can buy all kinds of cool WILLisms.com gear. You'll be able to buy t-shirts and other merchandise with logos like this:
As well as other graphics seen on WILLisms.com.
Spread the word about WILLisms.com.
Shoot feedback to: WILLisms@gmail.com.
Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for the classiest commentary around. Check out the archives for in-depth analysis on a variety of issues, including comments on North Korea (part 1, part 2, part 3), Democrats, liberals, Ukraine, Bush's 2nd Inauguration (part 1, part 2), the 2004 election, and the politics of Roe v. Wade.
The Culmination of Ukraine's Orange Revolution.
Today Viktor Yushchenko was sworn in as the new president of Ukraine.
"This was a victory of freedom over tyranny. A victory of law over lawlessness. We have a single aim - a democratic and prosperous Ukraine. "
Meanwhile, it fits within the pro-freedom American foreign policy President Bush laid out in his inaugural speech:
"The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."
Indeed, while those of us at WILLisms.com are pleased with Yushchenko's inauguration, Yushchenko did promise during his campaign to remove the roughly 1,600 Ukrainian troops from Iraq. His election is therefore not entirely beneficial for American foreign policy in the short run, although the removal of the troops would be a more symbolic blow to the multilateral nature of the effort in Iraq than any kind of strategic handicap.
Make no mistake, however. While Ukraine's new president does seek greater integration of his country with Europe, including Old Europe, Yushchenko is no José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and if Ukraine removes its troops from Iraq, it will not be for the same reasons as Spain did (the March 11, 2004 train bombings in Madrid). Yushchenko is also, however, no American stooge, no Bush crony, although his Ukrainian-American Reaganite wife is a clear indication of where his heart lies. He intends to guide his nation to an independent position, free from Russian meddling, directed mostly toward the West, perhaps integrated with NATO.
To understand better the doctrine of President Bush, WILLisms.com recommends The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, by former Soviet political prisoner and current Israeli politician, Natan Sharansky. Because President Bush buys into Sharansky's thesis (you can get a feel for it here, here, and here) whole-heartedly, and because he is not alone, WILLisms.com has no doubt that the 21st Century will indeed be liberty's century.
"I am convinced that all peoples desire to be free. I am convinced that freedom anywhere will make the world safer everywhere. And I am convinced that democratic nations, led by the United States, have a critical role to play in expanding freedom around the globe. By pursuing clear and consistent policies that link its relations with nondemocratic regimes to the degree of freedom enjoyed by the subjects of those regimes, the free world can transform any society on earth, including those that dominate the current landscape of the Middle East. In so doing, tyranny can become, like slavery, an evil without a future."
The Captain's Quarters blog dissects the implications of the past few months of events in Ukraine, in the context of President Bush's Second Inaugural Address:
"If Bush operated under the old 'stability' doctrine, his choice should have been to support Putin and Yanukovych.... He could have shored up his relationship with Putin and assured a strong hand in the Caucasus against Islamofascists gathered there.
Indeed, when WILLisms.com declared Bush, following his inauguration speech, to be both an "idealist and a pragmatist," we meant it. Ukraine is the real-world manifestation of what some like Peggy Noonan argue was a too-idealistic, too-lofty, and too-theoretical Inaugural Address. Bush talks the talk, and walks the walk. In the short-term, the Bush doctrine may require ruffling some feathers and enduring modest setbacks, but in the long-term, the promotion of freedom and democracy in the world, above all, is in the best interests of the United States, as well as global stability.
Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more commentary on a variety of topics, including Ukraine, geopolitics, as well as domestic politics and policy.
Remembering Johnny Carson.
In our rapidly changing world, every generation has something, or someone, it can rely on, something dependable, constant, something that is always there. For millions of Americans growing up in a pre-cable television era, and during a time of particularly great societal upheaval, Johnny Carson was that reliable presence, always there, year after year, for three decades.
When Johnny Carson stopped doing the Tonight Show on May 22, 1992, it marked a cultural watershed moment in America. A generation that grew up knowing only Johnny Carson lost an abiding part of its American experience.
The WILLisms.com staff are saddened by his death.
What is the meaning of the L-word?
The editors of The American Prospect, a magazine "founded in 1990 as an authoritative magazine of liberal ideas, committed to a just society, an enriched democracy, and effective liberal politics," are apparently not even sure what liberal ideas are, so they are having a contest, taking suggestions from readers on what liberalism stands for.
WILLisms.com judges The American Prospect to be an abject failure in its stated mission. Since 1990, the country has become more ideologically conservative and more politically Republican; right-of-center publications like National Review and The Weekly Standard have helped conservatives win ideological battles, as well as battles at the polls. Blame it on bad timing, but since its inception, The American Prospect has witnessed a realignment of party politics in America entirely unfavorable to its aims.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of a realignment, it is essentially a relatively rapid shift in the dominance of one political party over another that endures for roughly a generation or two. There is quite a bit of political science literature on the subject, and the authority on the subject is Walter Dean Burnham, of The University of Texas at Austin.
Fred Barnes explains the realignment concept rather succinctly in an editorial for The Wall Street Journal:
"The Republican surge in recent years should not have been a shock. The 200-plus years of American political history have seen a series of realignments that shift power from one party to another (1800, 1828, 1860, 1896, 1932, now). The chief theorist of realignment, political scientist Walter Dean Burnham, says they occur when the dominant party is unable to cope with new demands from frustrated voters. That prompts a breakthrough election, the latest in 1994. If the new political arrangement 'turns out to be permanent,' it's a realignment that's likely to endure for decades. The 2004 election 'consolidated' the realignment, Burnham says."
The American Prospect editors realize that a party can rise from the ashes, that an ideology can come back from the grave. Sometimes a party must purge itself, cleanse itself, purify its philosophy, and suffer lopsided losses, like Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964, before it can eventually become dominant. But it takes time, it takes a clear articulation of both ideals and specifics, and it takes a lot of persuasion; circumstances, such as economic depressions and booms, wars and other geopolitical shifts, and other outside events play a role in realignments. Furthermore, demographic trends, such as older generations dying, as well as changing birthrates and immigration rates, can contribute to realignments.
First, though, the resurgence of a failing party (Democrats), and the reemergence of an out-of-favor ideology (liberalism), requires those who call themselves Democrats and liberals to know what they stand for.
WILLisms.com's advice: Know thy self. Then try to persuade others. The American Prospect is trying, at least, to take that first step:
"Anybody who's ever had to raise money knows the meaning of the phrase 'elevator pitch': You're in an elevator with a potential moneybags, and you have, say, seven floors to tell him why he should write you a check.
The contest requires a single sentence of no more than 30 words. You can email your suggestion to the editors of The American Prospect by clicking here, or you can post your suggestion in the comments section below.
The American Prospect is posting its favorite entries as they come in, and some of them are pretty decent, but some are not really very illustrative of "liberalism," while some are just plain atrocious as a 30-word sales pitch. For example:
"Equality for all, privilege for none. -- Mark O’Connor"
Equality over liberty? Equality at the expense of efficiency, at the expense of progress, at the expense of market forces? Equality of opportunity, or of results? Is equality code for Marxism?
What is privilege? Is affirmative action privilege? Is working harder, being smarter, or being more talented than others privilege? Is making a lot of money privilege?
A good 30-word pitch should not provoke so many questions, and it certainly should not be so vague as to lead one to believe that liberalism is synonymous with utopian and/or heavy-handed socialism.
The WILLisms.com staff has many ideas on liberalism, and we plan to blog on them quite a bit in the future, but first, a crack at the 30 word sentence:
Liberals are skeptical of market forces, disapprove of American power, love higher taxes, obsess over Vietnam/the 1960s, and are hostile toward any faith that isn't their preferred orthodoxy, Marxism.
Unfortunately for the word liberal, which has a proud history, especially outside of the United States (Australia's Liberal Party, for example), it has become a pejorative in the American political arena. The dictionary definitions of liberal and liberalism certainly do not match the political philosophies of the leaders or rank-and-file of the Democrats.
Thus, WILLisms.com supports The American Prospect in its effort to understand just what the heck liberalism even means. It is just mildly humorous that a magazine with 15 years devoted to advancing liberalism doesn't even know what liberalism is, or at least that it can't effectively articulate it.
Roe v. Wade turns 32.
Today marks the 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade (read the full-text of the decision: here), the U.S. Supreme Court case that recognized abortion as a Constitutionally protected right and overturned several state laws prohibiting abortion.
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice advocacy group, whose mission is "to protect the reproductive choices of all women and men in the United States and throughout the world," from 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade, to 2000, more than 39 million legal abortions occurred in the United States. With roughly 1.3 million abortions annually, WILLisms.com estimates that in the United States close to 45 million abortions have been performed since Roe v. Wade.
But, does it? Does abortion stop a beating heart? Some pro-choice groups like to portray all pro-lifers as being far-right, religious zealots, relying exclusively on faith and morals to oppose abortion. If, however, science and medicine can prove that abortion takes a viable life, the political and legal equation changes rapidly. A pro-life coalition made up of both the religious and scientific communities would mark a profound shift in abortion politics in the United States.
As technology continues to advance, the scientific and medical community has a perpetually greater understanding of pre-natal development. G.E.'s 4-D Ultrasound, for example, is changing the way people think about unborn babies:
"George Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility rates, and 25 of the top 26. John Kerry won the 16 states with the lowest rates."
Additionally, states with the lowest rates of abortion are all Republican-leaning:
South Dakota (6.4 per 1,000 women), Utah (6.6/1,000), North Dakota (6.9/1,000), Kentucky (7.5/1,000), West Virginia (7.9/1,000) and Idaho (9.9/1,000).
The states with the highest rates of abortion are mostly Democrat-leaning:
New York has the highest abortion rate (38.1 per 1,000 women) followed by New Jersey (36.5/1,000), Maryland (32.5/1,000), California (31.1/1,000), Nevada (30.6/1,000) and Florida (29.9/1,000). The abortion rate in Washington, D.C. is 39.7/1,000.
Perhaps because Democrats are more likely than Republicans to have abortions, and the greatest influence on one's partisanship is parental influence, American society is becoming more pro-life. Indeed, a Pace University study indicates that younger voters in 2004 were more pro-life (54%) than pro-choice (43%). The Pace poll matches other polls that show Americans becoming more pro-life over the years.
A January 2004 Zogby poll indicated that "by a 53% to 36% margin, the public supports the statement, 'Abortion destroys a human life and is manslaughter.'"
Additionally, an October 2003 Washington Post-ABC News poll found that a majority of Americans believe abortion is "morally unacceptable."
32 years after Roe v. Wade, and the abortion debate rages on. In 2005, however, the real policy debate over abortion focuses not on whether abortion should be banned entirely or not, but rather whether partial birth abortion should be legal, whether parents of minors seeking abortions ought to be notified, whether the government should fund abortions, and other peripheral political issues. These "fine-tuning" decisions on the abortion issue typically favor Republicans at the ballot box. Overturning Roe v. Wade outright could hurt Republicans politically, and help the currently politically handicapped Democrats.
As The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto notes, the incoming Senate minority leader Harry Reid, himself a pro-life Mormon from Nevada, believes "it would be pretty difficult for everybody" if the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 ruling.
"Actually," Mr. Taranto argues, "it would be far more difficult for the Republicans, for the continued existence of Roe allows the GOP to have it both ways on abortion while forcing the Democrats to take politically untenable positions." Indeed, currently, Democrats are forced to defend taxpayer-funded abortions, abortions for kids, and partial-birth abortions. Take away Roe v. Wade and the calculus changes drastically.
Liberal interest groups commonly assert that if Republicans are elected, Roe v. Wade will surely be overturned. WILLisms.com recognizes that these kinds of comments have been made, year after year, without coming true, and they are unlikely to come true at any point in the near future. Indeed, the inflammatory nature of the pro-choice groups' comments has more to do with fundraising than actual policy concerns.
The average age of justices on the Supreme Court is near an all-time high, thus President Bush will have a chance to nominate anywhere from one to four new justices over the next four years. Chief Justice William Rehnquist is the most likely to resign first, due to his ailing health. Incidentally, Rehnquist does not support the majority holding of Roe v. Wade, so even if President Bush replaces him with a staunchly pro-life justice, it will not affect the balance of the court.
WILLisms.com makes one prediction for President Bush's 2nd term you can take to the bank: NARAL, NOW, Planned Parenthood, and other pro-choice groups will claim, probably erroneously, that Bush's nominees are intent on overturning Roe v. Wade. Overturning Roe v. Wade, by the way, would not immediately make abortion illegal, but it would send the issue back to the political arena and almost certainly ramp up the rhetoric to a fever pitch.
Tomorrow WILLisms.com will comment on the inauguration of Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine. Stay tuned.
North Korea: Axis of Roneriness ready to talk
"Why is North Korea so lame?" you might have pondered to yourself at some point over the past few years. "What is Kim Jong-Il's deal?"
Well, let's explore these questions a little, right here and right now.
First, the Korean War. Following World War II, a Communist Korean peninsula was a strategic aim of Mao's China, as well as Stalin's Soviet Union. A Communist AND united Korea was the goal of Kim Il-Sung, thus through the sheer force of numbers, the Communists overran the entire peninsula, which provoked the United States, along with the United Nations, to respond. The war never really ended conclusively; there still is no peace treaty. Officially, a cease-fire created the demilitarized zone (DMZ) along the 38th parallel. WILLisms.com suggests a book such as The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953 for a more detailed look at the conflict.
North Korean leaders still hold an obsessive grudge about this war from more than 50 years ago, and they have never given up hope on a unified Communist Korea. America's military presence in South Korea, for leaders of North Korea, means they can never see a single, Communist Korea.
Now flash all the way forward to January 29, 2002-
President George W. Bush, delivering the first post-9/11 State of the Union address, declared:
"North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.
States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world."
The President's "axis of evil" comment did a lot of things. It rocked (purposely) the American foreign policy establishment, it irritated Carterites, it allowed Clintonites, already in a patronizing and defensive mood over its failed Agreed Framework policy, to squirm and feign deep concern. It put rogue and hostile regimes on notice. It signalled to the UN and foreign governments that America is not going to allow threats to fester and gurgle and gather. The 2002 State of the Union address articulated the still-emerging Bush doctrine, recently affirmed democratically as American policy on November 2, 2004.
The North Korean regime is in many ways more Stalinist than anything in Stalin's wildest imagination, more Maoist than any Maoist revolutionary ever could have contemplated, more Marxist than Marx could have probably stomached. It is the closest any nation has ever come to the Platonic ideal of Communism. Its "Communist-ness" is unparalled in history.
Lots of reasons. Its mountainous terrain, its history, its ethnic and cultural homogeneity, its relatively small population, its prominent role in the Soviet sphere of influence, its relative geographic isolation- North Korea is now but a bizarre relic of the Cold War. North Korea, much like other Soviet satellites, survived for decades under a nonsensical economic and political system thanks to heavy subsidies from Moscow and a potent propaganda campaign, detailed here and here by WILLisms.com.
When the U.S.S.R. collapsed, so did its system of foreign aid distribution. By the early 1990s, North Korea was on its own, abandoned by its patron, left to fend for itself in the real world.
Shortly thereafter, in 1994, Kim Il-Sung, "Great Leader," passed away, leaving the North Korean fiefdom to his son, Kim Jong-Il, "Dear Leader" (pictured below).
About the same time Dear Leader inherited the North Korean throne, the perfect storm hit North Korea, both literally and figuratively. The weather alternated between flood and drought, and Pyongyang failed to respond to crop losses. At the same time, decades of a stifling central planning, an isolated economy, and the lack of rudimentary investment, all came to roost.
Malnutrition swept North Korea. Millions starved to death, while millions more survived on a couple hundred calories per day of "alternative food," such as ground-up cabbage and pumpkin leaves.
In 1999, the executive director of the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP), Catherine Bertini, said:
"DPRK [North Korea], does not produce enough food, it never will. It is not constructed in a way that it can be self sufficient."
Not only is North Korea incapable of producing enough food for itself, it has almost no foreign trade by which to purchase enough food. Its exports primarily include refugees, ballistic missiles, and illicit narcotics, and its trading partners are few and far between.
Exacerbating the food shortages is North Korea's maintainance of the world's 5th largest active-duty military, with 1.1+ million members (not to mention a 5+ million member reserve force) and enough missiles pointed at Seoul to kill millions of people in a matter of minutes [its lofty military capacity put in context, North Korea has roughly the 50th largest population (a little more than 20 million people) and approximately the 100th largest GDP (a little more than 20 billion dollars a year), in the world].
Thus, North Korea relies on gargantuan levels of foreign aid, at regular intervals, just to prevent widespread starvation. A more cruel and calculating nation than the United States might not have provided the assistance America has over the past decade. In a game of pure realpolitik, severe famine in North Korea could lead to regime destabilzation, a positive development on the geopolitical Risk board; however, the United States is a compassionate nation, genuinely concerned with human suffering.
"Just what made the Agreed Framework so lame, you ask?"
"Mutual Obligations -The United States and North Korea committed to move toward normalizing economic and political relations, including by reducing barriers to investment, opening liaison offices, and ultimately exchanging ambassadors.
-Both sides commit not to nuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
North Korean Obligations
-Reactor Freeze and Dismantlement: The framework calls for North Korea to freeze operation of its 5-megawatt reactor and plutonium-reprocessing plant at Yongbyon and construction of a 50-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon and a 200-megawatt plant at Taechon. These facilities are to be dismantled prior to the completion of the second light-water reactor.
-Inspections: North Korea must come into "full compliance" with IAEA safeguards when a "significant portion of the [light-water reactor] project is completed, but before delivery of key nuclear components."
-Spent Fuel: The spent fuel from North Korea's 5-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon is to be put into containers as soon as possible (a process called "canning") and removed from the country when nuclear components for the first light-water reactor begin to arrive after North Korea has come into full compliance with IAEA safeguards.
-NPT Membership: The Agreed Framework requires that North Korea remain a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
-Establish and Organize KEDO (The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization): essentially, the U.S. is obligated to play power company for North Korea.
-Implement the Light-Water Reactor Project: The United States is to facilitate the construction of two 1,000-megawatt light-water nuclear power reactors.
-Provide Heavy-Fuel Oil Shipments: KEDO and the U.S. is to provide 500,000 metric tons of heavy-fuel oil annually until the light-water reactor project is completed."
"Wait a minute," you may be saying, "how could the U.S. have agreed to give an axis of evil member half a million metric tons of heavy-fuel oil every year? Why did the U.S. box itself into bilateral relations, which put the paranoid North Korean regime on equal footing with the United States, weakening the American position in the long-run? Why didn't the United States demand more from the North Koreans in terms of joining the civilized community of nations? And, most importantly, what kind of appeasement-minded wuss did America have negotiating for it when it agreed to build them two nuclear plants, albeit light-water reactors?"
If you answered "Jimmy Carter" to that last question, you are absolutely correct. Prior to the death of Kim Il-Sung, in 1994, former President Jimmy Carter inserted himself into the failing negotiations.
Afterward, John McCain and other Republicans on Capitol Hill were vocally frustrated with the conclusions of the talks. "If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck," McCain commented, "it's appeasement. It was bribery."
So, the agreement itself was flawed. Only the lamest president of the 20th century (and even more lame ex-president) could have agreed to that kind of weak-kneed blackmail. Looking back, Jimmy Carter and his Carter Center posse played the Clinton administration like a fiddle.
Near the end of the 2nd term of President Clinton's administration, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright paid a diplomatic visit to North Korea.
In the hours and days after Albright left North Korea, the DPRK propaganda machine cranked out "news" commemorating the 50th anniversary of U.S. "imperialism" and "aggression," using its typical hostile and aggressive language.
This is where a 6-party multilateral agreement could have been helpful. China, in particular, could have shaken a little sense into North Korea.
Just for reference, here are the members of the 6-party talks:
2. North Korea- For obvious reasons, there are no talks without North Korea.
3. South Korea- Yearning for reunification, it would probably suffer the worst casualties in a hypothetical war on the peninsula. There is an attitudinal chasm between generations in South Korea, the older citizens respecting the presence of the United States in Seoul, the younger generation blaming the United States for hindering reunification. South Koreans have strong cultural bonds with North Koreans, and they are increasingly hostile toward the American occupation of such prime real estate in Seoul.
4. China- The closest "ally" North Korea has, it is the destination for floods of refugees and the source of a great deal of aid to North Korea. China is an emerging superpower, perhaps viewing itself as a counterweight to American unipolarity, so it would rather resolve the North Korean situation than give the United States pretext for escalated military presence in the region. On the other hand, China would like to watch the United States squirm a little bit while it tries to play catch-up, militarily and economically.
5. Russia- Bordering North Korea, and Pyongyang's former patron, it has an interest in matters of war and peace, particularly nuclear matters. Already-tested North Korean missiles could hit Russian targets, today. Like China, Russia is another power with notions of (again) becoming a superpower. The Bear's pride is wounded, its world power status diminished, but it seeks to regain its dignity through oldschool embarrassment of the United States.
6. Japan- A regional power, former colonial master of Korea, Japan is also well within range of North Korean missiles. Japan will "go nuclear" and otherwise build up its practically non-existent military forces if it believes the U.S. cannot provide appropriate deterrent against the North Korean nuclear threat. Japanese citizens have also been the target of numerous abductions over the years, perpetrated by the North Korean regime.
Recently, North Korea allowed a U.S. Congressional delegation into its country, giving it unprecedented access to sensitive sites. Additionally, Pyongyang agreed to initiate Six-Party talks, according to KCNA, North Korea's official news site.
One disadvantage of a free society in dealing with a dictatorial regime is that time is usually on the dictator's side. The dictator can usually just wait for elections in America before negotiating. Kim Jong-Il, through 2004, believed President Bush might be replaced by Senator Kerry, and accordingly, a strong foreign policy stance toward North Korea replaced with a weaker one. The Financial Times even reported that North Korea, short of endorsing John Kerry, gave the Democrats' presidential nominee a warm reception in its state-run media. From the March 4, 2004 Financial Times:
"North Korea's state-controlled media are well known for reverential reporting about Kim Jong-il, the country's dictatorial leader.
During the September 30, 2004 Presidential Debate, the topic of North Korea came up, with John Kerry supporting bilateral talks similar to the negotiations held during the Clinton administration, and President Bush supporting multilateral talks.
With the election now decided, and President Bush's foreign policy affirmed by more than 62 million voters, a record number for an American election, North Korea has signalled it may be ready to return to the table, under Bush's 6-party terms.
Representative Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican, said talks could resume in "weeks, not months or years."
White House spokesman Scott McClelland told the press corps, "We remain hopeful that North Korea will come back to the six-party talks very soon."
"It's important that we move forward on the multilateral approach that this administration is pursuing," McClellan said. "All countries in that region have made it very clear they want a nuclear-free peninsula and they're sending the same message to North Korea."
It appears as if North Korea has determined that it is in its best interest to get back to the negotiating table. Maybe the North is just ronrey and wants someone to talk to?
While the United States should be skeptical of promises made by North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs, the signs are promising for some kind of temporary resolution. The only permanent resolution, afterall, would be the emergence of a free and democratic society in North Korea.
WILLisms.com will have more on North Korea in the weeks ahead, but we expect to focus more on other issues in the immediate future.
Democrats In Permanent Campaign Mode
Inauguration days, for mainstream political actors, are supposed to be one of those rare feel-good times when everyone drops the bitter, partisan politics and just tries to get along.
Democrats today, even at the very highest levels, however, seem to be stuck in permanent campaign mode. "Campaign mode," when it comes to Democrats, is a thoroughly embarrassing and insulting phrase, due to their recent track record. As Democrat leaders spew hatred and vitriol, provoking irrational fear of Bush and boasting unprecedented obstructionism of the majority party's agenda, this must reasonably indicate that the base of the party has itself become rather extreme and out of the mainstream.
Democrats, from top to bottom, rather than immediately dismissing him as some kind of unstable Republican secret agent, should pay more heed to the prophetic warnings of lifelong Democrat Zell Miller, rather than the (expensive) ravings of George Soros.
Not only has the Democrats' liberal base become out of touch with the rest of America, it is angry. Angry with Bush, first, but also angry that its leaders have failed to articulate their vision. Angry that its candidates keep losing. Sometimes just angry at life in general.
Terry McAuliffe and John Kerry, as well as the major political interest groups, play to that base of angry liberals, many of whom they cultivated during the 2004 campaign.
The WILLisms.com staff likes to have the greatest possible breadth and depth of information, from an array of diverse sources. In our quest for knowledge over the years, we have signed up for online updates from a variety of liberal interest groups and individual candidates. On January 20, 2005, the day of President Bush's 2nd inauguration, WILLisms.com received the following interesting emails from four of them.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union:
"Through their actions, President Bush and his Administration have made it clear that they want us to surrender our freedoms."
WILLisms.com certainly welcomes a reasonable discussion of post-9/11 anti-terrorism measures such as the Patriot Act, but the ACLU seems incapable of communicating without using hyperbole, distortion, and exaggeration. Most Americans see right through it, too, and it backfires. The recipe for a good cause degenerating into irrelevance and marginalization can be found at ACLU.org.
In its entirety:
"A new term began today for President George W. Bush. The inauguration may or may not have been for the candidate you wanted, or maybe politicians in general have let you down.
Well, Jehmu, thanks for that wonderful pep talk. I am glad to know that although I did my job in November, the media did not give me credit for anything.
If you follow their link regarding the bracelet, you will find yourself here:
Included on the "Never Surrender" corporate blacklist are ANY Fox News advertiser, plus Wal-Mart, General Electric, Kraft, Disney, DKNY, Weyerhauser, Monsanto, Caterpillar, Comcast, and Ford.
Rock the Vote operates as a non-partisan group, but its interests and causes, other than being ideologically far-left, are incredibly immature and lame. During the 2004 campaign, Rock the Vote did its best, along with other Democrats and liberal interest groups, to keep the threat of a military draft alive in the minds of young voters. Rock the Vote is anything but non-partisan; it is a mouthpiece for the far left wing of the DNC.
Emails from outside interest groups and weirdo protester types are one thing, but the head of the party and the recent candidate for president ought to remain in an entirely different realm, particularly on Inauguration Day.
As WILLisms.com discovered, Terry McAuliffe and John Kerry both appreciate a little bit of pandering to the crazies.
In its entirety:
First of all, the rhetoric is just amazingly angry. "Cronies?" Again, when hyperbole is applied too liberally, it quickly loses its effectiveness. It becomes predictable and a sort of lampoon of itself.
Secondly, taking apart the three major claims made in the email:
1. Tax policy-
WILLisms.com is not sure if the DNC Chairman considers the creation of the 10% tax bracket "disastrous," but it is hard to argue that the new low bracket has not benefited the working class. If anything, income taxes are still too high, especially for upper-middle class wage-earners, and the system remains too complicated. WILLisms.com looks forward to the upcoming discussions of tax reform.
2. Social Security-
Like tax reform, Social Security reform is a passion of WILLisms.com, so stay tuned for more in-depth commentary on the subject.
"Overall, the President’s appointees handed down 36.1 percent liberal rulings, ideologically about the same as previous Republican presidents. In comparison, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and the elder Bush scored at 38.1, 43.5, 35.8 and 37.0 respectively. Presidents Johnson, Carter and Clinton were at 51.9, 51.6 and 44.7."
Among other things, Kerry's email explains his vote against confirming Dr. Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, presumably because he was still holding out for his own bizarro version of Dr. Rice.
Additionally, Kerry took his trademark tackiness a step further:
"Over 700,000 people have called on President Bush to fire Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.
Yikes, man. The campaign is over. Seriously. You lost. By more than 3 million votes.
WILLisms.com chalks most of the evident tackiness up to Democrats not understanding how to cope with their loss, over the past decade, of the permanent majority party status they had held since the 1930s.
This incessant sore loser mentality is unbecoming of leaders of a mainstream national party, and although WILLisms.com is not in the business of administering pro bono political advice to Democrats, here is one suggestion:
DEMOCRATS, STOP BEING LAME.
A reminder this inauguration day of just how significant the 2004 elections were. A truly record number of Americans voted for President Bush in 2004, more than 62 million in the final tally.
For reference, according to the CIA World Factbook, France has only 60,424,213 people total.
Ohio, interestingly enough, was only the 5th closest state, with Bush winning by a margin of 118,599, or 2.11%.
Wisconsin had the closest margin of victory, with Kerry winning there by a mere .38%, or 11,384 votes.
WILLisms.com will have more on the 2004 election in the coming days and weeks, as well as other political analysis.
Bush, the anti-Marx.
In 1848, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels published The Communist Manifesto, one of the more influential publications throughout history. The above copy was printed in 1973 and has seen more than one generation of use.
One of the core philosophies of WILLisms.com is that of anti-Marxism. Communism was responsible for more misery, suffering, and death, than any other ideology in the 20th century.
But socialism is more than a poor political and economic system merely in practice, it is destructive in its very theory. Often, otherwise reasonable individuals fall into the trap of arguing, "well, socialism is great in theory, but it just can't work in the real world because of x, y, or z."
Avowed Marxists typically substitute concepts like "greed," "corporations," and "racism" for x, y, and z, or they claim that Lenin or Stalin or some other administrator just didn't implement Marx's vision correctly. Someone such as Leon Trotsky, they say, could have guided the Communist ship to the land of wonderfulness and harmony.
They are wrong.
WILLisms.com understands that socialism not only produced and perpetuated great evil in its tangible, earthly form, the theory itself is flawed beyond repair. Unfortunately, despite the spectacularly rapid fall of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago, socialism lingers. Marxism remains a prevailing (and often dominant and relatively unchallenged) philosophy today in many universities, union halls, political party headquarters, government buildings, media institutions, and other centers of power around the world.
One important basic tenet of socialism is inevitability: that events in history are inevitable; that class-based exploitation and class warfare are inevitable; and that the eventual rise of the proletariat is inevitable. "The history of all hitherto existing society," the Communist Manifesto begins, "is the history of class struggles."
In his Second Inaugural address, President Bush took a subtle but clear jab at Marx's view of history.
"There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom."
The President believes in the transformational power of liberty, rather than the temporary dictatorship of the proletariat.
"We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner 'Freedom Now' - they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty."
The speech clearly articulated that history is not inevitable; our actions (or inaction) today will lead directly to the consequences of the next generation. Mankind's ancient desire for freedom, not class warfare, is the driving force of history, according to President Bush.
In 2005 and beyond, America has a unique opportunity to advance freedom around the world, to burn the Marxist shroud of inevitability and replace it with hope and liberty. Marxism, when dealing with a region like the Middle East, asserts that trying to affect change is hopeless; afterall, history is inevitable. Nations such as France adhere to this pessimistic view of the world.
President George W. Bush argues that the 21st century is liberty's century, but only if the United States acts to fulfill its solemn duty as the greatest force for good in the world.
"America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength - tested, but not weary - we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom."
President Bush is revolutionary in many ways. His anti-Marxism is clear and succinct. His optimism is transforming the world for the better, and his trust in the American people will lead to a greater opportunity for all in an "Ownership Society."
WILLisms.com supports president Bush in his vision for spreading liberty abroad, and expanding opportunity domestically. Expect more on these ideas in the days and weeks to come.
"We are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom."
As President George W. Bush, America's 43rd Commander-in-Chief, is re-inaugurated today, January 20, 2005, all Americans ought to be proud of the U.S. Constitution's endurance and the robust, civilized nature of America's governance. In the United States, the transfer of power from one party to another, from one president to another, is peaceful. Inaugurations are celebrations of the republican form of government the U.S. Constitution guarantees to the citizens of America.
The 20th Amendment to the Constitution specifies January 20 at noon as the date and time of the inauguration; Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 2nd inauguration in 1937 was the first held on this date. Before the 20th amendment was ratified, the inauguration was held on March 4.
Each president recites the following oath, in accordance with Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution:
"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Presidents who took the oath of office more than once (not all served two full terms):
George Walker Bush
WILLisms.com highly suggests reading today's entire entire address, which makes a strong and striking case for freedom:
" Vice President Cheney, Mr. Chief Justice, President Carter, President Bush, President Clinton, reverend clergy, distinguished guests, fellow citizens:
If you are not inspired by that speech, so sweeping, so soaring, yet so succinct, so elegant, you probably are uninspirable. President Bush does not play "small ball." He pursues powerful aims, grand ideas, and he exudes character and strength in these transitional times. Both an idealist and a pragmatist, President Bush is a reformer and a revolutionary, a visionary with a deep personal commitment to freedom and liberty. WILLisms.com is proud to call George W. Bush President for four more years.
Can Cell Phones Break Through North Korean Propaganda?
Earlier this week, WILLisms.com commented on North Korean propaganda. Now there are signs that cell phone use among North Korean elites is contributing to a subtle loss of control for Kim Jong-Il.
PAST EXAMPLES OF NORTH KOREAN PROPAGANDA:
Before his death, Kim Il-Sung projected an affable image to his people. Among other things, he claimed to have the support and adoration of world leaders (where have we heard that before?).
Posters and murals similar to those above can be found all over North Korea. Textbooks in school also focus on the story of Kim Il-Sung, and now Kim Jong-Il, as benevolent, heroic, and beloved by all.
In recent years, the tone of North Korea's propaganda machine has become far more strident.
응징에는 무자비한 징벌로 Meet castigation with merciless punishment!
미제는 조선의 국력을 똑바로 보라 American imperialists, see the national power of Korea!
미국의 핵전쟁도발책동을 짓부시자 Let us smash the nuclear war provocations of America!
미제와 그 하수인에게 준엄한 심판을! Harsh judgment for the American imperialists and their henchmen!
Here is an example of a recent news release:
New Posters Appear
How classy do those posters sound?
All of this would be much more funny if U.S.-N.K. relations weren't so serious. North Korea is a dangerous force in the world, seeking nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology. North Korea maintains Soviet-style gulags for political prisoners. North Koreans continually face massive and unnecessary hunger.
Breaking through propaganda is difficult, but the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization explains how Chinese telecom companies, oddly enough, are inadvertently assisting North Korean dissidents.
Chinese businesspeople - whose incentive is profit, not the spread of ideology or regime change - have become the most influential agents of change in North Korea. And their most powerful instrument is the cell phone.
In 2003, Chinese cell phone companies began building relay stations along the North Korean border. According to accounts by North Korean defectors and Chinese traders, Chinese cell phones - and the prepaid phone cards needed to use them - are now a hot black market item, despite government efforts to ban them. The restrictions have been unsuccessful largely because North Korean elites require cell phones in order to conduct business with Chinese traders. Now, as many as 20,000 North Koreans are believed to have access to Chinese cell phones.
It will take much more than cell phones for North Korea to become a free society, but as a dam can fail because of a tiny crack, an evil regime's failure must begin somewhere, somehow.
Stay tuned for more on North Korea, as well as a variety of other topics, in the coming days.
The latest Jib-Jab animation: "SECOND TERM"
JibJab.com injected into the 2004 presidential campaign some of the better bipartisan humor out there. "It's Good To Be In D.C." and "This Land" were each remarkably funny, both taking jibs and jabs at nearly anyone in the political arena. While I would love to have seen less jibs directed at President Bush and more jabs directed at Senator Kerry, JibJab.com's balanced humor made their animations mandatory viewing in the months before the election.
Comedy Central's The Daily Show, and Jon Stewart (more on them in the days to come), for example, could take some notes from the creators of JibJab, mostly on how to be a little more 50/50 than 70/30 or 80/20 against Bush.
Definitely check out the latest JibJab animation:
Yes, I’m comin’ back to serve a second term.
Good God he’s comin’ back to serve a second term.
I will stabalize Iraq in my second term.
We cannot believe he won a second term.
We want peace on earth thoughout his second term.
Yes, we’ve been through stormy weather,
North Korean Propaganda: "Let us trim our hair in accordance with Socialist lifestyle"
Highly authoritarian regimes, for all their obvious and serious faults, can serve as fonts of unintended humor. Communist dictatorships, during the 20th century, very effectively harnessed emerging mass communications media such as radio, television, and film, to protect and advance their personal power, to affirm their historical legacies, to sugarcoat their undesirable and inferior circumstances, and to perpetuate their otherwise untenable political and economic systems.
To spread the most sinister, and most effective, kinds of propaganda successfully, the propagandist must have a monopoly (or close to it) on the means of spreading information. Examining propaganda from paranoid and delusional countries such as North Korea can be disorienting without proper context, but living in a free society with a panoply of available viewpoints allows one to cultivate the tools necessary to sift rumor from fact, lies from truth.
For those without adequate propaganda-discerning skills, difficult and confusing questions may arise. What if everything I know about America is just propaganda? What if Kim Jong-Il is right and America's leaders are wrong? What if Baghdad Bob is right and all those embedded reporters in Iraq are really just filming action sequences in the desert near Los Angeles? Did Neil Armstrong really walk on the Moon, or is that American propaganda? Is everything I know just part of The Matrix?
Unfortunately, many bright and educated people fall back on the old, reliable, comfortable cop-out: "The truth must be somewhere in the middle." Well, that may be a good rule of thumb when sorting out a schoolyard brawl between recalcitrant 5th graders ("he started it; no, he started it"), but history has shown that authoritarian regimes are masters of some of the more absurd, illogical, and nefarious propaganda. A message to the moral equivocators out there: it is okay to take a stand. It is okay to believe and declare the truth is clear, not somewhere in the middle. Appeasement of evil in exchange for fleeting peace is no virtue, and acknowledgment of clear wrongdoing is no vice.
Americans often struggle unnecessarily with exercises in moral equivalence, when sometimes right and wrong, good and evil, should be entirely evident. If one has the capacity to stand up for good but fails to take a stand against evil, history will judge such inaction cruelly. Rather than knee-jerkedly employing a doctrine of moral relativism in the face of unambiguous wickedness, America's greatest leaders have celebrated America's exceptionalism, articulating that the United States is the greatest force for good in the world. Celebrating America's unique position in the world does not mean failing to acknowledge past transgressions, but learning from mistakes and dwelling exclusively on them are two entirely different philosophies.
As Ronald Reagan said in his "Evil Empire" speech:
"Our nation, too, has a legacy of evil with which it must deal. The glory of this land has been its capacity for transcending the moral evils of our past. For example, the long struggle of minority citizens for equal rights, once a source of disunity and civil war, is now a point of pride for all Americans."
Cynics may ask: "Doesn't every country, even the United States, utilize propaganda to get its official version of the story on the record?" Every independent state has a right, indeed an obligation, to project its message, but in the 21st century, propaganda typically backfires. As individuals around the world have access to more sources of information, the marginal utility of each additional unit of propaganda approaches zero. If a government is caught in the act of propagandizing, each additional unit of propaganda may prove to be negative. People get burned by a source, they lose trust in it.
The Voice of America began broadcasting in 1942 with these guidelines:
(1) be accurate, objective, and comprehensive; (2) represent all segments of American society and present a balanced and comprehensive view of significant American thought and institutions; and (3) clearly present the policies of the United States.
The Voice of America definitely projects news from an American worldview, but if you have ever read or heard or seen VOA news, it is clear the VOA goes to great lengths to be objective and independent (maybe to the point of occasionally overcompensating). If the Voice of America lacked credibility, it would not have endured for 60+ years, growing to today's audience of many millions around the world. The U.S. has also had great success over the years with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio Farda, in Persian, Radio Sawa, an Arabic pop music station with a sprinkling of news and commentary, TV and Radio Martí, in Cuba, and more recently, Alhurra, Arabic for "The Free One," an attempt to counterbalance the incessant anti-American propaganda of al-jazeera.
All of these American broadcasts fall under the umbrella of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), an independent Federal entity, and together each week they reach more than 100,000,000 individuals around the world.
The BBG mission is succinct:
"To promote and sustain freedom and democracy by broadcasting accurate and objective news and information about the United States and the world to audiences overseas."
"Promoting and sustaining freedom and democracy" may be construed by skeptics as propaganda, but "broadcasting accurate and objective news and information" is the operative phrase and indicative of how free nations ought to operate. Actively fomenting the universal ideals of freedom and democracy around the world requires fighting back against dangerous propaganda. There is an old saying that goes, "it ain't bragging if it's true." Well, it ain't propaganda if it's true. The U.S. just happens to have the truth on its side more than lingering socialist and other authoritarian regimes.
Leaders of free societies do not have the luxury of Orwellian re-writes of history that totalitarian regimes have; their arguments must stand on their own merits. Nevertheless, even in 2005, free societies, perhaps because of weak leadership or weak ideology, feel compelled to project propaganda around the world. France, for example, approved $40 million in start-up financing for a global propaganda channel, to provide a rhetorical counterweight to what it calls the "American hyperpower."
As the information revolution continues, the quality and quantity of information normal people possess is unprecedented. Other than its willfully ignorant citizens, even younger Americans are remarkably sophisticated and learned on the issues.
The barriers to entry are very low on the internet; almost anyone can throw up a blog and take a crack at reporting, analysis, and commentary. Information is increasingly decentralized in the United States, thus malicious top-down propaganda in America is increasingly rare. With more independent fact-checkers than ever, our information is more independent and factual than at any time in history. A 21st century American who possesses all the requisite skills for deciphering truth from fiction, yet still succumbs to misinformation and blatant propaganda, likely takes on an important role in his own propagandizing; indeed, Americans increasingly must actively desire to be propagandized in order for it to take place.
The North Korean regime, on the other hand, has kept tight wraps on its information monopoly within its borders. Very few North Koreans even have access to television, let alone the internet.
Looking at this nighttime satellite photography of the region, it is clear North Korea is severely underdeveloped. Such a profound lack of modern amenities allows the North Korean regime to tightly control the flow of information. Leaders of totalitarian regimes often maintain power through "the cult of personality." North Korea takes this concept even further; the late Kim Il-Sung was a kind of deity to the North Koreans, and his son Kim Jong-Il continues to blur the line between human and divine being. North Korea, in many ways, represents the largest religious cult in the world, with the universe revolving around Kim Jong-Il.
In addition, North Korea exists within a bizarre time warp, an artifact of the Cold War.
Earlier this month, according to BBC translations of North Korean television programming:
"North Korea has launched an intensive media assault on its latest arch enemy - the wrong haircut.
A campaign exhorting men to get a proper short-back-and-sides has been aired by state-run Pyongyang television.
The series is entitled Let us trim our hair in accordance with Socialist lifestyle."
The DPRK TV program, according to the BBC, "stressed the 'negative effects' of long hair on 'human intelligence development,' noting that long hair 'consumes a great deal of nutrition' and could thus rob the brain of energy."
Completely absurd, this ought to serve as an example that even squeamish moral prevaricators can get behind. On the other hand, though, if Dear Leader has ever seen the 1960s-era rock opera HAIR, he may have a point.
Evidently Kim Jong-Il and his way unclassy posse are worried about western hairstyles leading to a breakdown in their centralized grip on the lives of North Koreans. Indeed, according to Reuters, a South Korean pro-democracy group obtained visual evidence of dissent activity in North Korea, directed against dictator Kim Jong-Il. One poster's text read, "Down with Kim Jong-Il. Let's all rise to drive out the dictatorial regime." A 35-minute video clip from inside a North Korean factory showed Korean writing demanding freedom and democracy on a portrait of Dear Leader.
"The gentle and ordinary people of North Korea need a new leader," a male voice narrates in the background as the clip showed the defaced portrait of Kim in full military uniform. "There is a great potential for democracy in this country."
Some screenshots of appropriate and inappropriate hairstyles:
Stay tuned for Part Two of WILLisms.com's look at North Korean propaganda.