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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 Do 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
Ace of Spades
Social Security Reform Thursday.
January 29, 2008
Caption Contest Archive
Jan. 21, 2009
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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Sandy Berger Pleads Guilty In Trouser-gate.
More "Burger" humor, from Wizbang blog.
Michelle Malkin has a great round-up on the Berger business.
Reform Thursday: Week Nine.
Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.
That's why WILLisms.com will display a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform. The graphics are mostly self-explanatory, but we include commentary on some of them where and when necessary.
Today's graphic comes to us from the left-wing Economic Policy Institute:
The very left-leaning Economic Policy Institute opposes Social Security reform, yet they display the graphic (which needs some minor updating following the new Trustees Report) on their website), one might suppose, to make the case that there is no impending crisis.
However, as 15-year-old Alex Binz points out, the time between now and 2041 is not as wonderful and carefree as groups like the Economic Policy Institute want us to believe. Beginning in just about a dozen years (very much the short-term), in 2017, Social Security will begin to have more benefit obligations than revenues. It will owe more than it takes in.
What will sustain the system another two dozen years beyond 2017 is the "trust fund." This "trust fund" is a troubling misnomer: the money in the so-called "trust fund" is actually being spent each year by the federal bureaucracy, not put into any kind of Algorian "lock-box."
Furthermore, once the storm does hit and the government IOUs run out, in 2041, the promised benefits for the WILLisms.com generation drop drastically, without any rebound in sight.
Why, then, does a liberal anti-reform organization display today's Reform Thursday image, which, although partially misleading, is actually consequential evidence for reform?
Blind ideology/partisanship, perhaps?
Or maybe the Economic Policy Institute truly wants to "gut" promised benefits for those now in their 20s. Someone born in 1981 will see a major slash in benefits, guaranteed, if Congress does not act soon to reform the system.
Terri Schiavo Has Passed Away.
Rest in peace, Terri.
A 15-Year-Old's Brilliant Social Security Analysis.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (what a cool word, "intelligencer") has this guest commentary on Social Security from 15-year-old Alex Binz (via the AlphaPatriot blog). Here is a taste:
The trust fund is "invested" in special-issue bonds and government IOUs. In other words, the trust fund money is separated from the general fund, loaned to the federal government and then spent on all kinds of programs through the general fund. Bureaucrats get the best of both worlds: They can claim (rightly) that the money is set aside in bonds but they still get to spend it freely.
Fantastic. Send that kid to Washington. Quick.
Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 2 -- Oldest Senate Ever.
Today's trivia tidbit:
The average Senator serving today is 60.4 years of age.
-From the Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball, March 24, 2005.
Zimbabwe: Voting Underway (Brace Yourselves).
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the opposition to Mugabe's ruling party (ZANU-PF):
Looks like some of the women voting are probably dressed in their "Sunday best":
More good stuff, as usual, at Publius Pundit.
Another blog, Sokwanele, has rapid-fire updates.
Gateway Pundit is also following events in Zimbabwe.
By the way, Mugabe is looking way stylish in those threads:
The Babe Theory Goes To Kuwait.
If you have yet to read up on The Babe Theory of Political Movements, take a moment to do so. Otherwise, you might be lost.
Kuwaiti Babes Following "The Blueprint," literally (click pictures for more):
Blue is the new Orange.
CHE = WAY LAME: "...being impaled by a Bolshevik isn't pretty."
Bridget Johnson, a.k.a. "GOP Vixen," writing in OpinionJournal, has a great piece on Hollywood's unfortunate love affair with Ernesto "Che" Guevara:
Annoying as the Che adulation is, a recent comment by a 14-year-old on an online movie message board was truly disturbing: "I just saw The Motorcycle Diaries, which further made me question: Why is communism bad? . . . Young people are told how bad communism is, but we are not told why. . . . The Motorcycle Diaries showed me how Ernesto Guevara wanted to help people. . . . But this did not explain why he was such a 'bad' person and apparently deserved to be murdered by the U.S."
This touched off a mini blogswarm.
Dean's World has this great take on Che:
Oh thank you Che! You helped replace a brutal thug named Batista with an even more brutal thug named Castro! And in the process you helped make the poor of Cuba even poorer, helped further suppress free speech, and were proud to institutionalize torture and terror for everyday Cubans! On top of all those glorious things, you wrote poetry!
I'm seeking suggestions as to how I should deal with a student who is very smart, quite leftist, who has a Che Guevara patch on his backpack -- and yet shows up to class wearing a Polo sweater? I suppose I could just call him Che Lauren, but maybe that's too obvious. Let me know if you can think of a way to tease this kid without being too harsh.
I wont editorialize any further on Hollywood's love for dictators and murderous Marxists. All I will say is that they would be hardpressed to express any of their "artistic freedoms" in a country like Cuba, whose government sees the stifling of individuals' freedom as the number one priority.
Everyone (except me) immediately jumped in and started raving about what a great country Cuba was, compared with the U.S.: better health care, lower infant mortality, and the music!!! Plus, Fidel, Che, and the revolutionaries — how romantic!
Earlier comments by Jay Nordlinger on "Che Chic":
Listen to what Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the Miami congressman, has to say about Che... : "Guevara was an Argentinian loser who alleged he was a doctor even though he couldn't give a simple flu shot. What he was good at was killing people, and he became one of history's cruelest serial killers. He was Castro's primary henchman, murdering hundreds of innocent people without due process, usually finishing off the work of the mass-production firing squads with shots to the back of the neck. He was and will always be the most despicable, disgusting figure of the Castro killing machine, the foreigner who was made a serial killer of Cubans by Castro, and got great pleasure from his role."
Many kids wear these ubiquitous Che shirts without really knowing what they mean.
I was at the mall recently, when I spotted a kid, no more than 11 or 12 year old, purchase a Che shirt from one of those t-shirt kiosks.
I went over to him and asked him, "why did you buy that shirt?"
Kid: "Because it's cool."
Me: "Do you know who that is on the t-shirt?"
Kid: "The Doors?"
It's Che. With a Groucho Marx look, the glasses, the nose, the eyebrows and moustache. Get it? Che, the Marxist? And he's lame. It says it right there. Moderately funny, at least, but more importantly, it makes a statement.
Apparently this image was against the policies of cafepress.com, our gift shop, which is unfortunate.
The above image breaks absolutely no American copyright law (which is derived from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution), as it falls under "fair use" rules. It is both parody and important social commentary, important aspects of the "fair use doctrine."
Still, because of a lawsuit in a British court a few years back, cafepress.com goes out of its way to avoid litigation against it. They made the image "pending," which just means it cannot be used.
The photographer who snapped the famous image, Alberto Diaz Gutierrez, or "Korda" (now passed away), joined Cuba Solidarity Campaign's copyright infringement suit five years ago against Absolut Vodka in London's High Court and won:
"As a supporter of the ideals for which Che Guevara died, I am not averse to its reproduction by those who wish to propagate his memory and the cause of social justice throughout the world," he said. "But I am categorically against the exploitation of Che's image for the promotion of products such as alcohol, or for any purpose that denigrates the reputation of Che."
Well, we care all about "social justice," but our definition does not overlap much with the socialists' definition. But, honestly, what Gutierrez wanted before he died doesn't matter. In the United States, we are allowed to use a famous image of someone like Che and alter it to make a political statement. If we want to denigrate the reputation of Che (and boy does his reputation deserve denigration), we are allowed to do so.
That's part of what makes this country so great.
President Bush's Popularity.
Liberal blogs are giddy at what they believe is a negative political fallout for President Bush and Republicans over the past couple of weeks. The media polls seem to indicate that the American public, collectively, is irritated that certain officials would have the audacity to try to save a woman from being starved and dehydrated to death (by the way, if Terri Schiavo was really a "vegetable" on "life support," how is it that she has fought to stay alive for these past two weeks?).
Katie Naranjo, writing at The Burnt Orange Report, a liberal Texas-based blog, puts it this way:
Bush's Public Popularity Down!!! Slightly Happy.
She shouldn't be so excited. Only 37% of Americans approve of the Democratic leaders in Congress, a number below both George W. Bush and Republican leaders in Congress.
Another liberal blog also seems thoroughly giddy at the prospects of a backlash in Florida against Republicans over their actions in the Terri Schiavo case.
The recent polls are missing all those Bush supporters (and not just Bush supporters, but the specific hardcore conservatives who are fired up over the Schiavo issue), just like the polls missed the President's support right before the election.
WILLisms.com has a few theories on why this happened:
I. The polls are using increasingly unrepresentative samples.
Two main reasons for this.
1. First, there is something called a "response rate" in polling, which has declined precipitously over the years. In the 1970s, the response rate would commonly be in the 70% range; today, the response rate is often as low as 25%.
Because telemarketers have become so ubiquitous, an individual is less likely to answer the phone and talk to a pollster.
We have a hunch, although it has not been proven scientifically, that Republicans are less likely than Democrats to want to chat with a total stranger on the phone for half an hour about their opinions.
Why? Well, Republicans are more likely to have houses (which require maintenance) than Democrats, more likely to have children than Democrats, more likely to be involved in actual things (church, sports, hobbies) than Democrats [note: This comes from actual political science research. Just about the only activity Democrats do more than Republicans is watch television.].
Thus, Republicans are more busy than Democrats with life.
Also, Republicans tend to have adversarial attitudes toward "the media," and polls are part of that media. This effect has actually been demonstrated empirically in exit polls in particular, with Republicans less likely to take a survey.
2. Second, pollsters are not factoring in the trend toward Republicanism we've seen in this country in recent years, the "realignment" of politics away from a Democrat-dominated majority to a Republican-dominated majority. Some are not even willing to admit this is happening.
Partisanship is amazingly stable for individuals, although at the aggregate level, political scientists have witnessed a slight Republican realignment (a rolling realignment), or, at the very least, a steady loss of New Deal Democrats to generational replacement.
We know all this from solid political science scholarship. But in some of these polls, the proportions of Republicans or Democrats wildly fluctuates, week by week. In the recent polls, this is the case, almost certainly inclusive of too many Democrats and too few Republicans.
Maybe people are changing their party ID based on the events surrounding Terri Schiavo, but that is supremely doubtful. It's amazing how persistent party attachments are at the individual level, especially during highly polarized times (and we're in one of those times now). At the aggregate level, rapid fluctuation really doesn't happen like that over the period of a week, and definitely not on something like the Schiavo issue.
So, the polls have failed to sample the proper levels of Democrats and Republicans, on purpose. Not all are doing this maliciously, necessarily, but all are doing it on purpose.
For some liberals, this is perfectly fine. Public opinion, they argue, ought to include the entire population, and when it does, it is the true manifestation of that ideal we call "democracy."
In polling conducted during off-years (when there is no major election), it is even more difficult to determine who is really a voter and who is not.
There is a very real problem with polling everyone, regardless of whether they are likely to vote or not. There are large segments of the population that do not vote, because for them, voting is an investment of time and other resources they are not willing to pay. It requires learning about the candidates, learning about the issues, talking with others about it, and so forth; voting is much more than waiting 5 minutes to pull a lever or punch a few buttons.
Many people choose not to be engaged in the process, and, if that's their decision, that's their decision.
But when a pollster puts those apolitical people on the spot and asks often leading questions (bordering push polling many times), they are going to offer uninformed, perhaps even random, answers. This can distort the policy equation because of the elite's (politicians, journalists, etc.) addiction to polling.
WHY LIBERALS ARE GIDDY-
Having suffered so many electoral setbacks in recent years, liberals yearn for something, anything, that might get their fortunes back in order. Some liberals still cling to the notion that Democrats deserve to win, because they are "for the people." Some Democrats have not yet given up on the mentality, developed over nearly half a century of political dominance, that they are the majority party. Whatever it takes to get that status back, they will pounce on it.
Make no mistake, liberals want to make President Bush into a lame duck as quickly as they can, and they will trumpet any poll that proves that point, no matter how "off" the sampling is. Meanwhile, the media will continue to manufacture polling outcomes to fit their narratives of events.
One problem with pinning the alleged backlash on President Bush or Republicans is that this is not a partisan issue or a religious conservative issue, despite what Paul Krugman might say.
It is a moral issue, and many Democrats, including ultra-liberal Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, plus activists like Ralph Nader and Jesse Jackson, and even The Village Voice, have all come out against what is being done to Terri.
Another problem with pinning some kind of "blame" on the GOP for overreach on the Terri Schiavo situation is the fact that many Congressional Democrats supported the emergency legislation intended to save Terri's life. This should never have been a partisan political issue, but the far-left blogs and groups like moveon.org have politicized it beyond repair. That now-discredited fake "GOP memo," widely reported at the time, probably made the far-left feel it had the obligation to turn this into a partisan issue. That fake memo, allegedly written as some kind of political blueprint for Republicans, probably looked like a green light for both the media and the far-left (sometimes it is difficult to distinguish) to excoriate Republicans for their "pandering," "grandstanding," and the like.
It never crossed their minds that maybe, just maybe, those supporting Terri against her forced starvation/dehydration, actually cared about her life, as well as the broader culture of life at stake in America today.
The bottom line is that, right now, President Bush's popularity is probably within one or two percent, no more or less, of what he received in November. Partisan movements in the American electorate occur over the long-term, not after a two weeks of extremely slanted media coverage.
Trivia Tidbit Of The Day, Part 1 -- Generational Turnover.
New Feature here at WILLisms.com.
We're going to have a daily trivia tidbit, usually pertaining to politics. Maybe you'll learn something, who knows.
-Page 114 of American Public Opinion: Its Origins, Content, and Impact, written by Professors Robert S. Erikson and Kent L. Tedin.
So, half of those voting in 1985 have been replaced, as of this year. Likewise, we may see an escalation of this phenomenon over the next 20 years.
Something to think about when dealing with issues like Social Security reform, which, at its core, is a generational issue.
George Felos: Litigation As Spiritual Practice.
Litigation As Spiritual Practice, by George Felos, Michael Schiavo's lawyer:
More, from National Review.
Johnny Cochran Has Passed Away.
Classiness, All Around Us.
In no particular order, WILLisms.com presents classiness from the blogosphere:
The SCOTUS blog notes that the Supreme Court is conflicted over file-swapping on the internet:
The Supreme Court put on public display Tuesday two conflicting reactions to the apparently widespread practice of downloading copyrighted songs and movies from the Internet: a concern that software makers may be too enthusiastically encouraging the habit, and a concern that copyright law not be made so restrictive that it stifles new surges of technology creativity. The Court also showed some signs of unease with the adequacy in the Internet age of the central precedent at issue, the 1984 ruling in the Sony Betamax case.
It reveals the full extent of the partisan cynicism of the Democrats' blocking strategy against Social Security modernization, and the full extent of the risk if the Democrats get control of the process.
Chrenkoff offers "Three cheers for Albania":
...a better ally than France and Germany.
Hyscience looks at "Michael Schiavo and the autopsy scam":
Michael Schiavo and George Felos now say that they want an autopsy to "prove" the extent of Terri's brain injuries. Can anyone please tell me why a rational person wouldn't have found out for sure through PET and MRI scans before they starved and dehydrated her to death?
In the Agora looks at the left-wing tilt on college campuses:
Howard Kurtz reports in today's Washington Post that "[c]ollege faculties, long assumed to be a liberal bastion, lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined." 72 percent of college faculty describe themselves as "liberal," with only 15 percent labeling themself "conservative." 50 percent identified themselves as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans. Disparity at so-called "elite" schools, it seems, is even more pronounced. The report offers percentage views on specific issues as well.
The California Patriot blog takes a look at Ward Churchill's visit to Berkeley:
I was able to get the gist of the whole discussion: the White Man is bad (it’s good to be reminded sometimes), we live in a police-state, and that identity politics is the name of the game. The forum focused so much on the racial differences and antagonisms between whites and non-whites that it seems Ethnic Studies likes to feed off from the conflict between the two groups, and that continuing to emphasize the conflicts is the only way to stay relevant in political discussions.
Patrick Ruffini asks, "Who's Gambling With Social Security? Not Republicans":
They're gambling that Social Security doesn't have a problem, and doubling down that the economy will just fix everything.
Austin Bay predicts a fraudulent election on March 31 in Zimbabwe:
Here’s a very safe prediction: Zimbabwe’s dictator, Robert Mugabe, will cheat. Why not? He’s done it before and gotten away with it.
PoliPundit looks at "Dog Whistle Politics" in the U.K. and U.S.:
“Dog Whistle” politics is all the rage across the pond. The phrase means “putting out a message that, like a high-pitched dog-whistle, is only fully audible to those at whom it is directly aimed.”
Captain's Quarters blog believes Bhutan could be next on the democracy chain:
We may have started the most potent political movement in Asia since Mao wrote his Little Red Book -- and this movement could bring peace to an entire continent once it runs its course.
WILLisms.com offers a classiness roundup as a weekly feature, every Tuesday, with 10 posts deemed classy. If you would like to nominate a post on your blog or another blog for inclusion, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com. Write "Classy Nomination" in the subject.
At some point in the future, we're also going to introduce a roundup of lameness, which will provide examples of shrill, angry, extremist, anti-American, self-loathing, intentionally misleading, and other unclassy posts from blogs. Again, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com to submit nominations.
Lebanon's Young People Power.
Young demonstrators this week in Lebanon have continued to urge the complete removal of Syrian presence in Lebanon, demanding free and fair elections (click images for larger versions):
The Associated Press notes:
Lebanese opposition protesters hold portraits of slain former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri as they march during a pro-opposition demonstration in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday March 28, 2005. More than 5,000 women belonging to pro-opposition groups walked about one kilometer (0.6 mile) from the bombing site near the seafront Saint Georges Hotel to Martyrs' Square a few meters (yards) from Hariri's grave, shouting anti-Syrian slogans, singing patriotic songs and waving Lebanese flags and Hariri's pictures.
Syria has cut back its troops in Lebanon to the lowest level in three decades as 2,000 more soldiers returned home in recent days, the Lebanese military said Monday.
In The Daily Star, Samir Khalaf writes that "Lebanon's youths are now writing their own future":
For almost four decades of my active life as a social scientist and humanist I have been documenting Lebanon's enigmatic and contested existence; this is the first time I feel more than just a flush of elusive enthusiasm....
Indeed, a great deal of the story of Lebanon's recent democratic rumblings is a story of youth. Much of the coming story of freedom in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa will be written by youth, as well.
The median age of a Lebanese citizen is 26.9 years (25.9 for males, 27.9 for females).
Other Middle Eastern countries-
Iran's median age is 23.5 years (23.3 for males, 23.7 for females), coinciding with the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. In Bahrain, the median age is 29 years (31.9 for males, 25.3 years for females). Egypt's median age is 23.4 years (23 for males, 23.8 for females). Saudi Arabia's, meanwhile, is 21.2 years (22.8 for makes and 19.1 for females).
Africa, Asia, and the U.S.-
In Zimbabwe, the median age is 19.1 years (with both males and females at 19.1).
In Taiwan, with a median age of 33.7 years (33.3 for males, 34.1 for females) the recent demonstrations were unique and not dependent on youth. The Taiwanese have been living as a free society for decades now, and their recent pro-freedom demonstrations were a reaction to unnecessary rhetorical belligerence on the part of China.
Comparatively, the median age for the United States is 36 years (34.7 for males, 37.4 for females).
In Kyrgyzstan, the median age is 23.1 years (22.2 for males, 24 for females). In Tajikistan, the median age is 19.5 years (19.2 for males, 19.8 for females).
Belarus, meanwhile, faces another potential hurdle (other than brutality on the part of its government against democratic opposition), as its median age is 36.9 years (34.2 for men, 39.5 years for women).
However, Ukraine's Orange Revolution last year proved that a country can achieve democracy with a more mature populace. Yushchenko's victory was all that much more astonishing, given Ukraine's high median age (38.1 years overall, 34.8 for males, 41.1 years for females). Ukraine's situation had been building for more than a decade, as it struggled to find its identity following the Soviet era. Ukraine also was never as culturally oppressive as certain countries in the Middle East, and its Orange/Chestnut movement was largely spurred by religious groups.
The median age is just one way of measuring the youthfulness of a country. Sometimes age is an indicator of low or high birth rates, wars, disasters/famines, demographic bulges, while sometimes it is just a harbinger of wealth. A high median age can simply mean a society is prosperous and its citizens generally survive childhood and live into old age.
For example, Ukraine's under-15 population is 15.9% of its population, while in Iraq that age group is 40.3% (in the U.S. it is 20.8%; in Lebanon, that figure is 26.9%; for the entire world population, that number is 28.2%).
In most African countries, the under-15 segment of the population is over 40%. Zimbabwe is a relatively old African country, with 39.4% of its population under 15.
A variety of factors contribute to this bulge, found mostly in the third world, including high childhood mortality, diseases like AIDS, high birthrates, wars and other violence, and inadequate adult health care.
When too many of a society's citizens are under 15, the youth become a burden on families and on the state. There are simply resource procurement and allocation issues when such a large part of the society is under 15 and mostly not able to earn a living.
In the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the proportions of 0-14 year-olds are 43.8% and 49%, respectively. These enormous youthful bulges are undeniable sources of instability.
Other countries of note (under 15 proportion of population):
We might conclude, then, that a country with a young population, but not too young, is good. A little stirring of the stagnant pot happens with a youthful population; serious instability, and indeed very real hurdles to democracy, come from a too-youthful population.
Youth have the power to lead the next great wave of democratization, but they also have the potential to become a ticking time-bomb of disgruntled resentment, diverted away authoritarian regimes by skillful government propagandists toward the U.S. (or Israel, or "the West"). The demographic bulge of youth many nations have today has very real power to breed instability. Whether democracy and freedom arises from the instability will depend on many factors, and the United States can only control a portion of them.
Ultimately, everyone in the world wants the same basic things. They want peace, stability, and prosperity. They want to be able to raise and provide for a family. Rampant unemployment among the youth populations in the third world can undermine the achievement of these basic goals and serve as a font of fundamentalism, even outright terrorism.
Extremist-fomenting imams and clerics can turn their mosques into factories of anti-Americanism, channeling the youth into a destabilizing force. Sometimes it is not a religious group doing the indoctrination, but the government itself. As Natan Sharanky explains in The Case For Democracy, authoritarian regimes must create external enemies "to slow down the natural process of alienation within fear societies."
We see this kind of deflection of internal problems and youthful angst onto external enemies, in Saudi Arabia and Egypt today.
As we can see from the positive example of Lebanon, however, youth movements have the power to transform a society for good. The key is directing the energies of the youth toward the right solutions. As technology proliferates around the world, including cell phones, satellites, and the internet, the youthful populations in even the most repressive countries are discovering that they want a piece of this democracy they are observing in the United States and elsewhere. These same young people also want the prosperity and stability that flows from democracy.
More from Samir Khalaf on Lebanon's recent youth-driven democracy movement, describing the March 14 rally:
Lebanese youths, often berated as quietist, disaffected and wedded to ephemeral pleasures and consumerism, reawakened with a vengeance. They are emerging as the most recalcitrant opponents of those undermining the sovereignty and wellbeing of their country. On their own, without the support of political parties, blocs and mainstream voluntary associations, they are forming advocacy and emancipatory grass-roots movements to shore up national sentiments and sustain modes of resistance. Most refreshing is the new political language they offer, which is in stark contrast to that of bombs, the intelligence services and the lethargy of family and tribal dynasties that continue to beleaguer the region's political landscape.
Bravo to Lebanese youth power. While the growth of democracy still has a long way to go, with much yet to overcome, Lebanon has proven that the power of young people can be put to work for good. Reformers in other countries in the Middle East and elsewhere, with similar demographics (hint, hint, Iran), may learn a thing or two from the course of events in Lebanon.
A few reasons to root for a Kyrgyzstan free of political tyranny (click images to see larger versions, courtesy of TrekEarth):
A beautiful place.
Meanwhile, here is the latest:
An editorial in The Washington Post explains:
...neighbors such as China, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan aren't likely to welcome the creation of a genuine democracy in Central Asia.
Some would say that democracy can only flourish in rich countries, or in countries with Judeo-Christian roots, or in countries with English-speaking people, or in countries with highly urbanized populations. Some of those factors certainly might make transitions to democracy easier, but their absence in no way precludes freedom from taking root.
Similarly, some believe that free enterprise systems, based on true market capitalism, free of cronyism and corruption, can only emerge in certain types of countries, with certain types of people.
They are wrong.
Don't expect Hamilton, Madison, and Jefferson, reincarnated, in Bishkek or Chivhu, debating the nature of freedom and tyranny, crafting a compromise to last the ages, but do expect profound and meaningful steps forward.
If we expect any less, if we do not support those nascent democratic movements around the globe, it would sell the sincere forces of democracy short.
Terri Schiavo's Fight: A Roundup.
I'm neither a Floridian nor a lawyer, and, for all I know, it may be legal under Florida law for the state to order her to be starved to death. But it is still wrong.
“Terri has been without food or water for nine days now, and she’s still fighting for life.
Just from a purely legal standpoint, it seems that Michael Schiavo has violated his marriage contract.
Make no mistake: Michael Schiavo had every right to move on with his life. It seems that he could have granted Terri's parents custody of Terri long ago and sought a legal end to his marriage contract with Terri.
But the media's portrayal of Michael as "the husband" (and therefore this is a "family matter" on which politicians are intruding) seems more than a little ridiculous. Michael Schiavo is the husband of someone else now; he has not been Terri's husband for more than a decade. Why was he legally able to decide her fate?
Then there's the parallel (or lack thereof) between snatching Elian Gonzalez and snatching Terri Schiavo (via Professor Bainbridge):
The sad case of Terri Schiavo has raised passions not seen since five years ago. Then another bitterly divided family argued in Florida courts over someone who couldn't speak on his own behalf: Elian Gonzalez.
Michael Barone believes the fight to save Terri was not posturing or some kind of cynical ploy:
...the response of elected officials reflects one of the great strengths in our country: a confident belief in moral principles that stands in vivid contrast with what we see in much of Europe and in the supposedly sophisticated precincts of this country.
(1) The memo itself conveys no information about its source. (2) It is very poorly done, containing a number of typographical errors, failing to get the number of the Senate bill correct, and using points cribbed word-for-word from an advocacy group's website. (3) The politically controversial statements are out of place in a talking points memo, and seem, on the contrary, ideally framed to create talking points for the Democrats. (4) Somewhat bizarrely, after the contents of the memo had been reported, someone corrected those typographical errors--but only those errors that had been pointed out by ABC. (5) No one has reported seeing any Republican distributing the suspect memo; the only people confirmed to have passed out the memo were Democratic staffers.
Amtrak and Liberalism.
Essentially, the left has responded, on cue, to the President's budget, which cuts certain programs and freezes funding for others, by proclaiming Bush is out to get the poor, that he is "gutting" essential programs and so forth.
One program the President targeted was Amtrak, which caused much gnashing of teeth from liberals.
This, to David Bernstein, shows an
...inability to distinguish between government spending that actually serves liberalism's purported goals, and wasteful government boondoggles that receive reflexive support because they exist outside the market is an endemic problem that modern liberalism has yet to adequately address.
Good point. Some Republicans and conservatives sometimes do this, too, but liberals are all too eager to jump on any slowdown in entitlement growth as a "cut," and any actual cut as some kind of sinister and coldhearted act. Democrats have been complaining about deficits for the past couple of years, but when pressed on which programs they would trim from the budget, they divert attention to tax cuts (although tax relief often generates more government revenues).
Testing The Limits Of "The Blueprint."
In recent weeks, the world has seen a subtle domino effect of pro-democracy demonstrations, some more meaningful than others.
Heartened by the march of freedom around the world, dissidents living under fear societies are now asserting themselves. When opposition groups are supported by the international community, particularly the American president and his administration, there is very little (short of physical brutalization of the opposition) that an unrepresentative government can do to halt the inertia of democracy.
There is an arc of tyranny spanning across much of the globe, and notwithstanding the amazing progress of freedom over the past few decades, the most important work remains ahead of us. Freedom House explains (.pdf):
At mid-century, there were 22 democracies accounting for 31 percent of the world population and a further 21 states with restricted democratic practices, accounting for 11.9 percent of the globe’s population.
The progress over the past few decades has been stunning, there is still much work that remains. But, as President Bush noted in his Second Inaugural Address:
We are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.
The idea that the arc of tyranny is dangerous to world stability and therefore must receive a sturdy shake-up, an injection of liberty, from the United States, has transformed American foreign policy from one of strict adherence to realpolitik and stability for its own sake, to a more moral, long-term outlook. In the short run, America can buy off dictators to support our geostrategic aims, but that kind of policy leads to dependence and resentment over the long run, breeding extremism and hostility toward the U.S.
The Bush Doctrine, then, transformed long-standing American foreign policy operations. America is now betting on democracy as the cure for what ails the arc of tyranny.
As President Bush continues his drive for democracy all over the globe, critics of that policy believe that a potential side-effect of free elections is a democratically-elected extremist government, populated by America-hating fundamentalists and jihadis. The United States, then, would have created a monster. A legitimate government, of the people, which promptly diverts the full resources of the state to sponsor terrorism, or perhaps even institutes Shar'ia law, would be a nightmare for America and a significant setback to the advance of freedom around the world.
In Lebanon, for example, the American left quickly declared that, if Syria leaves Lebanon, Hizbollah would fill that power vacuum and make things far worse for the United States than the status quo.
Fortunately for lovers of freedom, the few hundred thousand strong Hizbollah rally in Beirut was dwarfed by well over a million of liberty-loving Lebanese just days later.
For the American left, which is now almost utterly devoid of any kind of moral clarity or idealism, bad news and setbacks in countries struggling for freedom prove their point that the "neocons" are a bunch of lunatics; good news in places like Lebanon might mean that Bush was right all along on that whole "spread of liberty" thing. Many of today's left-wing intellectuals seem pathologically reluctant to accept that the world can change for the better because of American words and actions; freedom spreading in the Middle East and elsewhere under (or, even worse, BECAUSE OF) a Republican president does not compute.
Publius Pundit offers some keen analysis on just how difficult democracy (a process, not an event) will be in Egypt, a nation percolating with fundamentalism, much of which is incited by the official media of the Mubarak regime (as we've noted here).
Publius Pundit's Kirk H. Sowell explains the stakes in Egypt:
...if there is a free election and the Muslim Brotherhood does win, the world could face its first democratically-elected terroristic government - since 1933.
Much of the spread of democracy depends upon a sort of still-being-drawn "blueprint." This "blueprint," which we've commented on here, here, here, and here, is not one-size-fits-all, nor is it codified. Right now, "the blueprint" is in BETA testing; the bugs are still being worked out.
But some of "the blueprint" is somewhat intuitive:
1. There must be a peaceful opposition force committed to the cause of free and fair elections.
The opposition cannot simply want to take power for themselves under the same rules, they must be committed to structural reform.
2. The opposition must effectively brand and market its cause to the people.
At demonstrations, it is a good idea to have a unified color and/or slogan, as well as attractive women, kids, and families on display for the international media.
3. The international community must support, if only rhetorically, the cause of the opposition.
Gene Sharp, in "Bringing Down a Dictator," describes more of "the blueprint," and factors that increase success:
* The clear determination of the issues and the selection of achievable objectives and careful assessment of the conflict situation, including the strengths and weaknesses of the two sides and then the dependencies between the two sides;
Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine's new Prime Minister believes "the blueprint" is worth giving a shot in other countries. In a recent interview, she told Ukrainian and Georgian journalists:
I am sure that your president and our president will share the wonderful experience of our revolutions with other nations that would also like to live in freedom.
The challenges include everything from a lack of international media attention, to a disorganized opposition, to the brutality of the regimes. Some freedom-loving groups may not be fully aware of the blueprint or have the resources to implement it. Some opposition groups, such as Hizbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, may not really desire freedom at all.
The United States may not yet have the resources to devote even adequate rhetorical assistance, let alone "blueprint" training, to dozens of democratic movements in diverse cultures, all around the world, simultaneously.
Democracy requires the respect for the rule of law and a long-term commitment to fairness and reform; this "fourth wave" of democratization we're seeing has the potential to usher in the dismantling of the arc of tyranny, leading to a higher level of global peace and prosperity than ever imagined. As key cogs in that purple arc, such as Iraq, emerge into the light of free markets and free people, neighboring populations will assuredly demand and assert liberty for themselves.
But we must also be aware that there will be setbacks along the way, and one major setback has the potential to derail the string of ongoing successes. Keeping the inertia of democracy going is the responsibility of free nations everywhere.
WILLisms.com will continue to follow "the blueprint" where and when we see it, so stay tuned.
HE IS RISEN
Happy Easter, from WILLisms.com.
Manufactured Polling Outcomes.
WILLisms.com has commented quite a bit on polling over the past couple of months.
One common thread in much of our analysis is the existence of push-polling and other manipulative forms of opinion polls that guarantee outcomes. There are many ways, some more under-the-radar than others, to rig a poll.
Push polls are simply polls with extremely leading and biased questions, usually with innuendoes. In the Social Security game, offering a litany of (mostly misleading) negative information about how hard reform would be an example of push polling. This technique has obvious potential to engineer certain opinion outcomes, and because few people understand how polling really works, few people are willing to stand up and challenge the "will of the people," these "oracles of truth."
Generally the term "push poll" is reserved for the most egregious kinds of rumormongering, even fraud, but it also seems perfectly applicable to some of the polling commissioned by the elite media in recent months. The media may take offense to that, but that's tough for them. They deserve to be called out for some of this recent garbage they have been passing off as "public opinion polling."
But push-polls are just one form of polling that ought to be discarded out of hand. Polls that sample too many or too few women, union members, Democrats, minorities, rich people, urbanites, young people, or other demographic groups can lead to wild divergence from the real collective opinion of the public. For example, if union members make up 15% of the population in a Congressional district, but the poll sample is 40% union, the results are obviously going to be incorrect. This will not necessarily show up in the poll's headline, either.
Polling is crack cocaine to the media; they are willing to pay just about anything for it, because consumers of news simply cannot get enough of them. Polling, however, is notoriously bad at measuring overall levels of public opinion; it is even worse at predicting close election outcomes. Polls are far better at measuring differences and similarities between and among demographic groups. When the media are exposed for their bad, biased polling, they almost always respond with some form of:
"...it's just a poll. Are you calling the opinions of the American people biased?"
And they normally get away with it.
Organizations, even "non-partisan, non-profit" ones, engage in shameful polling practices, as well.
AARP taught allied organization Rock the Vote a thing or two about manipulative push-polling, as well.
Recently, we've tried to unlock the mysteries of Social Security polling.
Polls are used all the time by the elite media to frame their stories. They often manufacture polls, quite overtly, to fit their existing narratives.
John Hawkins explains how the latest round of manufactured polls, used by the elite media to prove its narrative that Americans are angry that Bush intervened in the Terri Schiavo situation, are bunk (via PoliPundit):
...if you keep reading you find out the real cause of the dip:
This happened quite a bit during the months prior to the 2004 election. The party ID samples would fluctuate wildly, week-by-week. They almost always overestimated the numbers of Democrats in the sample. At one point, moveon.org ran a full-page ad (it's a .pdf) in the New York Times complaining that Gallup was oversampling Republicans; Gallup promptly adjusted its poll samples to include more Democrats. Polling pundits like Ruy Teixeira, of Emerging Democratic Majority infamy, called moveon.org's ad "rock-solid."
Turns out, Gallup, and every other polling institution that sampled more Democrats than Republicans, were wrong; the only poll that matters, the one in November, proved that point. Pollsters in 2004 were so surprised by the election outcome that it seems like they must have missed the memo on that whole GOP realignment thing.
When it comes right down to it, we live in a poll-driven era, but even many professional politicians do not understand how polls work. Many Congressional Republicans, for example, buying into the poor polling on Social Security, fear for their political lives.
One other important aspect of polling is that it tends to have an echo effect, meaning the public wants to be part of the mainstream, part of the winning team, part of the bandwagon. Thus, if a candidate "surges" in the polls in the final days before an election, simply because pollsters adjusted party sampling ratios, the (small number of) remaining undecided voters may actually hop on board the cool-kid bandwagon. The same thing goes for individual issues in non-election years, which is what makes some of the Social Security polling so frustrating.
What to take from all of this:
1. Polling in the media today is scandalous. Yes, scandalous. But very few are willing to call it such.
2. Never accept a poll's headline at face-value. If a poll does not list how many Republicans and Democrats it sampled, throw it out.
3. Throw out polls with loaded questions. Throw out polls with a single night of surveying. Throw out polls with samples under 600 people.
4. Understand that the media will continue to run biased polls, but it is the duty of the blogosphere to call out poor polls until the media collectively shapes up its act.
5. Included in any poll really needs to be a full disclosure of question wording, question order, demographic samples, and other pertinent information. Without all that, a poll is meaningless.
Linked with the Traffic Jam.
China Responds To Green People Power.
The Chinese view of today's events in Taiwan is humorous.
The Chinese have determined that the demonstrations are the work of a handful of extremists, not the will of the majority of Taiwanese. They have also tried to give the Taiwanese leadership, which took an active part in the demonstrations, a way out:
We noticed some political figures of Taiwan authorities openly instigated and directly participated in the so-called 'March 26 march'. We have a question to ask: in this crucial junction of cross-Strait relations, what will they do with the fundamental well-being of Taiwan compatriots and to where willlead the cross-Strait relations? Not long ago, they solemnly made 'pledges' and 'statements' on developing cross-Strait relations. Are these only empty words again?"
Also, while most Taiwanese would prefer independence to the extent that it would mean a formal recognition of the prosperity and freedom they have enjoyed over the past half-century plus, all Taiwanese would prefer to live. No Taiwanese citizen wants to see the island destroyed by Chinese military strikes.
Thus, public opinion in Taiwan is somewhat mixed.
But the rallies today were not about separation. They were not about formal independence. They were about sending a signal to China that Taiwan is unified behind maintaining their freedoms.
And they were most definitely not the work of "secessionist forces" or other fringe groups; they represent the mainstream of political thought in Taiwan. The leadership of Taiwan, including President Chen himself, joined the protest. Indeed, he promoted it in advance.
Let's look at the Freedom House ratings (.pdf format):
The scale runs from one to seven, with one being the most free and seven being not free.
Taiwan is rated "free," with a score of 2 for political rights, and a score of 1 for civil liberties.
China, meanwhile, is rated "not free," with a score of 7 for political rights, and a score of 6 for civil liberties.
How about Hong Kong and Tibet (also a .pdf)?
Hong Kong, under Chinese rule, has a score of 5 for political rights and 2 for civil liberties, giving it a classification of "partly free."
Tibet is rated 7 and 7, entirely not free (although it was not exactly a bastion of liberty before Chinese domination).
Taiwan doesn't want to become Hong Kong, or Tibet. It wants China to become Taiwan at best, or keep the status quo (two separate nations) at worst. Taiwan wants the free-enterprise system to flourish on the mainland. It wants political and civil rights to be respected. It wants freedom of expression, of religion, of transit. One thing Taiwan definitely does not want: to go from free to not free.
An important angle to remember here, as well:
Taiwanese capital has been funding much of China's recent economic explosion. The two countries have profound mutual interests; neither truly wants a war over this. Taiwan's "326" rally was in response to Chinese provokation, not the other way around.
The Chinese are pretending (or perhaps they actually believe) that the will of the international community is behind them:
The law has won widespread acknowledgment of the international community and sons and daughters of the Chinese nation both at home and abroad, it says.
Well, that's one way of looking at it. But it's also absurd and divorced from reality. To the extent that China's anti-secession law was acknowledged by the international community, it was scolded as unnecessarily bellicose:
...the United States and others have expressed concerns that Beijing may use the law to justify an attack on the island.
The bottom line is that Taiwan must remain free. China and Taiwan may or may not become a single, unified nation at some point in the future, but unification must not mean unwanted Chinese subjugation of Taiwan, militarily, or otherwise. The international community must not allow the Chinese to bully the Taiwanese into submission.
Following "The Blueprint" In Taiwan.
Last week, China passed "anti-secession" legislation in order to send Taiwan a signal:
WE OWN YOU.
Essentially, the Chinese law declares that if Taiwan asserts its independence formally, China reserves the right to launch military strikes against the island.
In response, the Taiwanese have decided to display their unity behind the values they have been living for decades now; Taiwan is sending a message back to China:
NO, YOU DON'T.
Some reports put the pro-democracy crowds at more than one million strong, while others claim smaller numbers.
One thing that is interesting to note is that the Taiwanese seem to be following "the blueprint" (which must mean that rascal Karl Rove is involved somehow). They are speaking not only to China, but also to the free world, the international community, to America:
This picture has particular significance:
It is vaguely reminiscent of Tienanmen Square, yet also looks like the "women-passing-flowers-to-military" scenario we've seen in other countries.
This demonstration is about a lot of things, primarily the idea that free people do not willingly acquiesce in reversal of long-held rights. Free people do not go along so cordially with tyranny:
The Taiwanese seem completely familiar with "the blueprint." They have the color, green. They have the slogans down. They have the babes. They have the cute kids. They have the street theater. They have the branding. They have the marketing. They have the moral cause.
How could they lose?
Despite what the Chinese bluster on about, Taiwan's freedom and independence will not lead to instability. China's sabre-rattling will.
Pubius Pundit has a great roundup of events in Taiwan, including more great pictures.
Here is a flashback editorial from John Bolton on the subject of Taiwan, from March of 2000:
...it is important for Congress to send Beijing a clear signal that congressional support for Taiwan remains undiminished.
You MUST check out this awesome 360 degree panorama of the protests in Taiwan.
She's almost gone. Terri's father:
Terri is weakening. She's down to her last hours.
The Associated Press has this graphic of what happens during dehydration:
Meanwhile, Powerline has this picture:
How can people be so cruel, so crass?
Two girls and a little boy getting arrested for trying to bring Terri water:
The Mysteries Of Social Security Polling.
One liberal talking point on Social Security is that "the more people know about Social Security reform, the more they oppose it." This is actually code for "the more the pollsters push people against Social Security reform, the more the people will oppose it."
Imagine knowing almost nothing about Social Security reform but someone conducting a public opinion poll on the matter asks you about it after running down the typical list of (mostly misleading) criticisms of reform.
The most dangerous omission from most Social Security polling questions today is the fact that guaranteed benefits do not exist. Without reform, those so-called guaranteed benefits are guaranteed to see a cut of between 1/4 and 1/3, guaranteed.
Most polling questions offer a dichotomous choice between "guaranteed benefits" (if we do nothing) and "less guaranteed money" (under reform). If pollsters quit telling people that if we do nothing these "guaranteed benefits" would remain unchanged, and instead started informing people on the facts, it is clear the public might react differently.
Another problem with most Social Security polling today is the idea that reform is somehow going to cost all of this money to accomplish. Pollsters ask questions such as this recent one from Time magazine:
Under the Bush plan, the federal government would have to borrow between one trillion and two trillion dollars or more over the next 10 years or so to provide Social Security to retirees in order to make up for the money going into the personal investment accounts. The money would be paid back later, over time. Would you now favor or oppose allowing some Social Security money to be invested in personal accounts and reducing benefits if the government had to borrow up to two trillion dollars in the next 10 years to pay for the new plan?
When asked the above question, only about a quarter of respondents support reform. If pollsters would inform people of this information (that the "transition costs" are really not new costs at all, just a recognition of existing costs, that these costs would be like paying off the mortgage earlier, that doing it this way would actually save trillions over the long-term, and that the benefits would vastly outweigh the negatives of doing nothing), support for short-term borrowing to cover the transition from a demographic pyramid scheme (pay-as-you-go) to a self-sustaining and perpetually-solvent funding system would rise dramatically.
Today, voters know so little about the details of Social Security and its reform that they will indeed respond to potential reforms in a superficial, partisan manner. Democrats who think Bush is an illegitimate president and opposed his Iraq war will reflexively oppose anything else Bush is behind, including changes in Social Security....
Hill also describes a more appropriate way to measure opinions and attitudes on Social Security than the current methods being used in the elite media polls:
At the beginning of each interview, I’d ask respondents where they stand on personal accounts. Then I would tell them that there is going to be a great debate on personal accounts during the course of this year. I’d say that I want them to hear arguments that supporters and opponents will make about personal accounts. Then I would read equal numbers of pro and con statements, asking how convincing each statement seems to be.
Wizbang blog explains polling, noting:
...there is an inverse correlation between the complexity of an issue and how well it polls in America.
When members of the administration talk about a long-term effort to educate the public on Social Security reform, they mean it. Because the issue of Social Security is so complex, the necessary level of support for reform requires laying the groundwork, piece by piece, bit by bit, as well as the big-picture. Laying the groundwork also includes the destruction of the myths that cause support for Social Security reform to drop.
The most important of these:
Older Americans must be assured that they will not see any change in their benefits.
So, how is the long-term march to reform going thus far?
Well, here are some encouraging polling figures:
From an RNC strategy memo:
More from the memo:
The latest Gallup poll shows that Americans think Social Security is now the most important domestic issue. At 12%, Social Security has increased by 8% since January and is a greater concern than the economy (10%), health care (9%), or terrorism (9%).
The RNC memo also notes that Bush has an advantage over Democrats in terms of actually trying to find a solution. If people believe there is a problem (which there is), and Bush is the one trying to do something about it, even if reform fails in the short-term, the public will blame the Democrats:
But isn't that a dubious source, the RNC?
Well, it can't be any worse than Ruy Teixeira's Emerging Democratic Majority analysis, which says that reform is dead in the water, people don't want it, the country doesn't need it, and so on.
Ouch on that name, by the way, "Emerging Democratic Majority": just how long will it take this majority to emerge? Teixeira has been predicting Democrats to take power for some time now. He's been wrong every election cycle, and he is wrong on Social Security as well.
Surveys conducted by Rasmussen Reports in 2005 show that between 36% and 48% of senior citizens believe their own retirement benefits will be cut by President Bush’s approach to Social Security. This concern exists despite the fact that the President and other advocates of reform have stated that they will guarantee all promised benefits to those 55 and older. This misconception is widely recognized by activists and journalists, although not many have focused on its impact.
Or take this, from The Washington Times:
Three-fifths of people 55 and older think Social Security private accounts for younger workers are a good idea, as long as their own benefits remain untouched.
Bottom line is that this Social Security reform journey will be a lengthy one, requiring education and reassurance of common doubts to pass, but the reform journey is more promising than many would have you believe.
Naming The Revolution.
Two commenters on the Kyrgyzstan story have brought up the fact that the "lemon revolution" in Kyrgyzstan is also the "tulip revolution," which is also the "pink revolution," although Iranian women might claim the trademark on that one.
The short-lived, so-called citizen's democracy in Hungary in 1918 is also known as the Michaelmas Daisy Revolution....
In Estonia in 1989, the liberation from Soviet rule was dubbed the "singing revolution."
When in doubt, turn to PAC-MAN for ideas:
The bell might be trademarked by the United States (Liberty Bell). The orange is already in use.
The cherry could work somewhere, maybe. Parts of the Middle East grow cherries.
The apple and strawberry would be nice names for revolutions, pretty much anywhere they are grown.
Pineapple could work somewhere tropical.
Unfortunately, the Galaxian (on the far right) might have to wait a few millenia. PAC-MAN can only go so far in supplying suggestions for revolution names.
In places like Saudi Arabia, perhaps dates or pomegranates would be in order. Ultimately, it must be something the people within the country can identify with, as well as something that can be packaged and sold to the international media.
All of this revolution-naming business brings up an important point, that of branding and marketing a revolution to the world. In an increasingly interconnected world, with satellites and computers linking and beaming information about as fast as the speed of light, democratic forces within fear societies must have a plan to market their cause to the rest of the world.
It helps to have hot babes along for the ride, to peak the interest of male photojournalists, but not every movement has that luxury.
Still, in the 21st century, for a democratic revolution to gain international support, it must have more than Madisonian principles; it also needs a minimal level of Madison Avenue thrown in. We might call this "the blueprint." Dissidents all over the world should pay attention to "the blueprint."
Certain symbols speak to elites in America and elsewhere. In order to garner support for your cause, you should follow "the blueprint," as best you can, fitted to your own culture and your own situation.
If the 21st century is truly liberty's century, who is next?
Purple represents nations that are not free, while yellow indicates partial freedom. Green countries are "free."
Notice the arc of purple ranging from Africa through the Middle East to Asia. Is it any wonder a democratic Iraq is such a crucial geostrategic point in the spread of freedom? Break that bow of tyranny in half, and freedom has a very real chance to flourish. The United States has great interest in the success of Kyrgyzstan because it is also a central pivot point in the dismantling of that vast, unbroken chain of despotism.
In Belarus, the tiny purple speck in Eastern Europe, we're starting to see signs of an emerging democratic movement. If the opposition forces in Minsk follow "the blueprint," their chances of success will drastically rise.
While democracy in Belarus would be an important step forward, Belarus is not a global menace or a sponsor of terrorism; Belarus becoming free and democratic is a wonderful thought, but the most significant positive effects of liberty's spread will be found in the Muslim world.
In Iran, for example, we know there are literally hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of young people, born right after the Islamic Revolution about a generation ago, who desire freedom. This generational bulge is coming of age in Iran (and elsewhere), politically and socially, and it will be the young people implementating "the blueprint" that will lead to success in transforming their societies.
And, while some caricature President Bush as a warmongering international ideologue intent on overthrowing government after government by external force, the current administration understands that, because of the liberation of Iraq, the seed of liberty has been planted in the Middle East. It has the chance to spread on its own with the help of a little tender loving care.
To paraphrase Natan Sharansky in The Case For Democracy, those who deny the power of freedom to transform oppressive, dangerous societies into prosperous, functional societies are denying the very nature of democracy. It is a great tragedy that so many Americans, for example, do not believe in the goodness, universality, and power of their own values.
America's best shot at a free Iran is not a war of liberation. Rather, the Iranian student population asserting themselves, following the examples of Ukraine and Lebanon, could prove to be a profound development in the march of freedom in the region.
Would Iran's Mullahs risk repeating Tiananmen Square? Would the world permit a massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators?
In his Second Inaugural address, President Bush spoke to the dissidents living under authoritarian regimes:
All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.
George W. Bush reiterated this call, specifically to the Iranian people, in his State of the Union speech earlier this year:
As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you.
How far the United States (and the rest of the free world) could and would go to stand with the Iranian dissidents in the event of a violent crackdown remains to be seen, but it is clear the supporting democratic opposition forces in undemocratic societies, even only rhetorically, can energize of peaceful political movements devoted to the advance of liberty.
Part of that support includes the branding and marketing of the revolution, something which we'll follow closely, so stay tuned.
Timeline of the Kyrgyz Revolution
Radio Free Europe offers one of the most comprehensive timelines of the Kyrgyz Revolution available. It is an easy way to get a better command of the situation that has received scat media attention since the disputed Parliamentary elections on February 27th.
Kyrgyzstan: Freedom Ahoy.
They're calling it the lemon revolution.
And it did not take long to reach its denouement. In fact, the climax of this story happened so soon, the ending still has yet to be written.
But the story goes on, carefully, cautiously, but with only a skeletal outline of a script.
Kyrgyzstan is a Muslim-major country in Central Asia, with a population of about five million people in an area roughly the size of South Dakota. Freedom House rates the country as NOT FREE; that lack of political and civil rights has sparked the most recent outburst of anti-regime sentiment. The Beeb notes why Kyrgyzstan matters, and why Americans ought to train a hopeful-but-cautious eye to the region as unrest continues.
Kyrgyzstan shares with neighboring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan the Ferdana Valley,
"the most densely populated and poor part of Central Asia, which is also known as the hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism in the region."
However, there is also no reason to believe Islamist radicals are behind the coup, or that they will benefit from a power vacuum.
Kyrgyzstan is exceedingly land-locked, but it also sits in a strategic location, bordering four unfree (at varying levels) nations. The advance of democracy in Kyrgyzstan is part of a greater wave (a 4th wave, perhaps?) of democratization sweeping the globe in recent years. Kyrgyzstan's opposition forces are motivated by many reasons, primarily the urge to actualize its independence from the remnants of Soviet rule.
Dr. Ariel Cohen of The Heritage Foundation notes that, following the fall of the U.S.S.R, Kyrgyzstan unfortunately did not completely and successfully make its transition to a free and independent nation the same way many countries in Eastern Europe did:
Kyrgyzstan today is a quintessence of everything that is wrong with post-communist Central Asian regimes. It did not have a "velvet revolution." Instead Mr. Akayev took over when the Soviet Union collapsed, but the elite remained Soviet in essence. Even the opposition leaders come from this elite, instead of being dissident figures like Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel.
Dr. Cohen explains the regional politics at play:
The leaders of neighboring Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are nervously watching these developments. As in Kyrgyzstan, both countries’ ruling regimes are prone to cut down opposition, mostly secular, as quickly as it appears. But a greater menace may be lurking in the wings: Islamic radicals who are amassing power and, for now, have been holding back from the political square. By cutting the secular opposition out of the picture, the region’s leaders may be pursuing a counterproductive—and ultimately destructive—strategy.
Thus, Cohen notes, the lemon revolution may or may not end up as lemonade. There is good reason to be cautious in declaring victory for freedom, given the geopolitical stakes. But there is also significant reason for hope.
With the resignation of President Ashkar Akayev, the possibility of free and fair elections taking place in Kyrgyzstan---and avoiding civil war--- has risen substantially.
Akayev's resignation left even his opposition stunned; few believed he would resign so easily. This remark from Novosti, a Russian news agency covering the opposition in Kyrgyzstan, seems appropriate:
What next? The opposition appears to be amazed no less than the others with the turn the developments have taken, so it is hardly able to offer an explicit answer.
1. Felix Kulov, a former vice president, jailed by Akayev.
2. Ishenbai Kadyrbekov, a communist leader.
3. Kurmanbek Bakiyev, former prime minister.
4. Roza Otunbayeva, female, once ambassador to both the U.S. and U.K.
The United States also has a keen interest in what is happening in Kyrgyzstan, as a key American military base used in the Afghan campaign is located within the Kyrgyz borders.
Secretary of State Rice explained that events in Kyrgyzstan have great promise if the transition remains free of violence.
The unrest in Kyrgyzstan shows that mass opposition to dictatorship can work in the "Stans" (the former provinces of the Soviet Union that became five independent nations; Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan). The Stans had never been democracies. When the Russians conquered them in the 19th century, the local governments were monarchies or tribal forms. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, former Soviet officials held elections and manipulated the vote to get themselves elected "president for life." But many people in the Stans want clean government and democracy. It appears that the same kind of mass, and generally peaceful, protests that liberated Eastern Europe from tyranny in 1989, could work in Central Asia as well.
Incidentally, as Gateway Pundit blog notes, Kyrgyzstan marginally passes the Babe Theory test, although clearly the moderate levels of violence could be attributed to not enough attractive female Kyrgyzstanis among the protesters:
Publius Pundit also notes that some Kyrgyzstanis are indeed following the Babe Theory blueprint, right down to the handing out of flowers to the onlooking soldiers.
Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more coverage of this emerging story.
Winds of Change blog has more in "A Kyrgyz Revolution... if we can keep it":
...the main thing I would watch for now that Akayev appears to be out of the way is what Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT) and the remnants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan/Islamic Movement of Turkestan (IMU/IMT) do now that he is gone.
While there is not a great chance of the fundamentalists seizing power outright in Kyrgyzstan, their existence ought to concern U.S. policy makers. Democracy is more than a one day event. It is grueling long-term process that will require continued follow-up (for perhaps even decades) on the part of free nations around the world. The United States ought to devote the necessary attention to helping Kyrgyzstan's civil society flourish, because it is in America's moral and strategic interests to see a free and democratic Kyrgyzstan.
Gateway Pundit has this great roundup of global reaction (or conspicuous lack thereof) the day after, including the U.K., Israel, Taiwan, China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, South Africa, Australia, the Arab world, Pakistan, New Zealand, and the United Nations.
Reform Thursday: Chart Eight.
Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.
That's why WILLisms.com will display a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform. The graphics are mostly self-explanatory, but we include commentary on some of them where necessary.
Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:
Today's graphic comes to us from April 9, 2003 Testimony before the Ways and Means Committee of the United State House of Representatives:
With all the talk about getting a handle on government spending, increasingly the spending is on entitlements, not discretionary spending. Even eliminating all pork from the budget would hardly put a dent in spending, relative to the enormous programs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
We applaud the Social Security reformers for taking on the task of at least one entitlement, that behemoth of mandatory spending, Social Security, because in the future, without reform, it will only continue to burgeon into a further unmanageable beast.
Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important supporting data supporting Social Security reform.
It's Rathergate all over again, and the same vigilant entities that brought about to the collapse of CBS News could now also cause heads to roll among Democratic Senate leadership staffers and further shame multiple news organizations that would appear to have fallen for another document hoax.
So writes The American Spectator.
An emerging scandal in all of this Terri Schiavo back-and-forth is the potential redux of Memogate. The elite media have been parading around this so-called "Republican memo" on Terri Schiavo, as if saving her life was really just a part of a cynical political game, electoral grandstanding for the moral values crowd. Well, as usual, turns out the memo was thoroughly misrepresented by a throughly biased media. Thank goodness for the dogged bloggers over at Powerline. They have extensive coverage (in chronological order) here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Fishkite blog has a nice timeline of the events.
On Wednesday evening (March 23, 2005), WILLisms.com received an email from moveon.org (ironically, a crass fundraising solicitation), including this line:
Bush, Frist, and DeLay claim that they're acting out of concern for Ms. Schiavo. But a memo intended only for Republican Senators—uncovered by ABC News—reveals Republicans' true concern: "The pro-life base will be excited...this is a great political issue...this is a tough issue for Democrats."....
Clearly, this alleged memo is making the rounds and having an impact on the fight to save Terri. Democrats are pouncing on the mysterious (and increasingly fraudulent-seeming) memo to paint the impression that Republicans are attempting to score cheap political points. Liberal bloggers dutifully point to polling data showing the American public turning against further intervention in the matter, and showing that most Americans believe Congress was just advancing a political agenda.
The media coverage and push-polling in this case have been egregious. The elite media, even Fox News, have consistently misrepresented the facts, portraying Terri Schiavo as a brain-dead vegetable on life support (when, in fact, she is very aware and currently feeling pain) and the Republicans as hypocritical, cynical opportunists. One expert, neurologist William Cheshire, notes in Terri:
...context-specific, sustained, and indicative of cerebral cortical processing that, upon careful neurological consideration, would not be expected in a persistent vegetative state.
Well, yeah. It doesn't take an expert to realize Terri is not in a persistent vegetative state. It just took one husband, Michael Schiavo, intent on his wife's death, paired up with one lower court judge, Judge Greer, willing to grant Michael his wish.
As we've noted before, it is unfortunate that appeals courts cannot reexamine the actual facts of the case, only the legal reasoning. We have no doubt that if a new finding of facts were allowed in a higher court, Terri would not be classified as being in a PVS (persistent vegetative state) based on the information available today. That lower court finding of fact is the biggest hitch in the fight to save Terri's life.
Another hitch is the (mis)perception among the public of Republican motives. The reporting of the latest possible fake memo allegedly circulated by Republicans, and the public's response to it, has made it difficult for Congressional Republicans to do much more than the nearly unprecedented steps they have already taken.
Ed Driscoll calls the latest Memo Misrepresentation The Return of the Son of Fake But Accurate.
Powerline on the possibilities:
The memo has three possible origins. The first possibility is that it was created by a low-level Republican staffer. This seems possible, but highly unlikely. Only a very dim-witted staffer would 1) copy word for word from the Traditional Values site, 2) get the Senate bill number wrong, 3) make a number of silly errors, including misspelling Mrs. Schiavo's name as "Teri," and 4) mix comments about political advantage into a "talking points" memo. Moreover, the Post and ABC have tried to create the impression that the memo is an official, high-level Republican strategy document. It clearly is not that.
Eternity Road's Francis W. Poretto writes:
Negative politics -- attacking one’s opponents’ putative sins instead of trumpeting one’s own virtues -- has become de rigueur in these United States. It syncs well with the popular distrust of politicians; people are quite willing to believe the worst about the men who vie for political office. Therefore, scandals like the "Killian memos" attack on President Bush, just before Election 2004, are powerfully appealing to the tacticians in the major parties. This could well turn out to be the latest venture of that kind.
While some people, conservative and liberal alike, seem agitated that Republicans have overstepped their legal bounds, we applaud all those on both sides of the aisle who have taken extraordinary measures to save the life Terri Schiavo, even their actions upset certain sentimentalities of legal jargonists, even if they bother people who still argue that this is a "family matter," even if it makes people uncomfortable just to see the images of Terri on television.
For us, the heroic efforts to save Terri, pulling out all the stops, getting creative, and otherwise acting boldly, do not represent any kind of abuse of power. They represent precisely the kind of moral clarity public servants ought to have. It's hard not to think of the famous scene in Schindler's List, where Oskar Schindler, played by Liam Neeson, having personally saved hundreds of Jews from certain death in Nazi Germany, but still plagued with guilt over those who perished, breaks down, telling his associate Itzhak Stern:
Schindler: I could've got more...I could've got more, if I'd just ... I could've got more ...
Indeed, the taglines of Schindler's List fit perfectly into the Schiavo (Schindler at birth) saga:
Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.
That "GOP" memo, that list, ultimately seems like it was lifted, at least in part, from the website of the Traditional Values Coalition. Whether it turns out to be an outright fraudulent dirty-trick or just a woeful media misrepresentation, ultimately, the actual memo was about saving Terri's life, not about scoring political points.
Bravo to those who have gone out of their way to save Terri Schiavo.
Bravo to those who have defied the contemporary and contrary polling and continued fighting to save Terri's life.
Bravo to those who have irked portions of their own parties in defense of Terri's life.
Bravo to those who have overstepped their bounds to save an innocent life.
Bravo to those who have trampled all over the legal system in order to get a favorable ruling.
Bravo to all those who have examined the facts of this story and determined that a human being's life is being taken, on purpose; bravo to those who have said this is unacceptable in America.
Bravo to those who have put the principle of life's sanctity above all else.
Bravo to the Oskar Schindlers, Republican and Democrat alike, who have done all they can to save Terri's life, even if it means bending or outright breaking the rules. They will have clear consciences, knowing they did all they could to save Terri Schiavo, an innocent life, from dehydration and starvation.
Ultimately, we fear, the Schindlers will fail in their cause, but their legacy, their energy, could give the pro-life movement nearly incalculable inertia.
Whoever saves one life, saves the world.
Also, full disclosure:
More than twenty years ago, my aunt Nancy was involved in a terrible vehicle accident that has left her paralyzed ever since. To be honest, when I see Terri Schiavo on television, I can’t not think of my aunt Nancy. Their situations are amazingly similar, but fortunately for Nancy, she has a family who values her life and protects her from harm (much like the Schindlers, Terri’s family, who unfortunately have no meaningful rights in her case). Nancy’s siblings, my aunts and uncle, in fact, have been true heroes to Nancy. Nancy’s brother, my uncle, essentially devoted his life to protecting her, overseeing nurses (almost literally full-time), and for that, he deserves serious praise.
Nancy’s condition has not been easy on the family. In fact, it’s been pretty difficult at times. But at no point has there been a serious discussion of euthanizing Nancy, of intentionally killing her by withholding basic food and water. That would be unthinkable. Nancy is very much in a similar medical position to that of Terri Schiavo: she breathes on her own but has a feeding tube in her abdomen.
It would be unfair to take the parallels much further. I have no way of knowing the extent of Terri’s brain damage, but I do know Terri and Nancy have similar appearances, physically. And Nancy watches television, responds to people and other stimuli, and displays emotions. Pain. Laughter. Anger. Frustration. Contentment. Joy. Real emotions.
In short, her life has worth. She is not a vegetable, nor is she deserving of death because she is a burden, just because she is not thoroughly pleasant to look at.
And nobody could ever tell me otherwise.
One thing I keep seeing in the media is discussion of whether or not Terri has the chance to fully recover, as if that matters. I hold out a glimmer of hope for Nancy, simply due to the rapid advances in medicine and technology, but ultimately I realize she will never go back to being the way she was before the accident. But that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that there is almost no chance she will hop out of bed one day and start dancing. Her life still has worth.
Thus, I feel like it is necessary to lay that on the table. My thinking on this issue might be clouded; I might be letting emotions get in the way of logic. But I can’t accept the idea of Terri being starved and dehydrated to death, her lips severely chapping, her throat gasping for moisture, her body shutting down slowly and painfully. I just can’t accept that as a remotely humane way of dying. I wouldn’t accept it for my aunt, and I can’t accept it for any other human being, even one I've never met.
Plus more from Powerline.
A Death Culture.
Peggy Noonan has an interesting take on the Terri Schiavo situation in this morning's The Wall Street Journal:
The chairman of the Democratic National Committee calls Republicans "brain dead." Michael Schiavo, the husband, calls House Majority Leader Tom DeLay "a slithering snake."
Is it revenge against what they perceive as an out-of-control moral crusade gone too far?
I do not understand why people who want to save the whales (so do I) find campaigns to save humans so much less arresting. I do not understand their lack of passion. But the save-the-whales people are somehow rarely the Stop stop-abortion-please people.
When a society comes to believe that human life is not inherently worth living, it is a slippery slope to the gas chamber. You wind up on a low road that twists past Columbine and leads toward Auschwitz. Today that road runs through Pinellas Park, Fla.
Consider this photo (via Ankle Biting Pundits):
Consider it for a moment.
A disgusting spectacle. Hateful.
What could motivate someone to spend time and other resources to create a poster like that, then spend more time displaying it for the cameras? For someone go to out of his way to support an innocent person's death, and then use that death to score a political jab, is disgusting.
Thoughts On Terri Schiavo's Final Days.
It does not look good right now for Terri Schiavo. After a few days of no food or water, her fate is all but inescapable this Easter week.
What is so tragic about this case is that, the way the United States court system is set up, there is almost nothing that can be done at this point.
A little lesson on the way the courts work:
The "facts" have been established in the lower courts. Those facts cannot be challenged in the higher courts; the appeals courts, by rule, accept the findings of the lower courts on the facts of the case, even as they may choose not to accept the way the case was ruled.
The lawyers for Terri's family can only challenge the legal reasoning, and they can only do so based on the same arguments they have made in lower courts.
This is why the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta rejected Terri's appeal. Judge Whittemore had to accept the factual findings of the lower court (those of Judge Greer).
If the case had been tried all over again (how most people believe appeals work), Terri might have had a better chance.
The main hitch in Terri's case is the factual finding that she is in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). The burden of proof, then, in the higher courts, falls on the parents to prove she is not in such a state. The second hitch is that, in the original case, the established fact became "Terri wanted to die," based on her husband's testimony.
In an entirely new trial, it could have been shown that Terri is actually not a vegetable. Her eyes are open, she responds to stimuli, she breathes on her own, she expresses herself. It might also have been possible to establish that Terri did not, as her husband asserted, express the will to die in such a circumstance. In short, on the evidence, Terri's parents would have won. On the legal reasoning, they never had a chance. Because the appeals were made on the legal reasoning and not the evidence, Terri's most recent fight was doomed from the beginning.
But there is no chance for a new trial, thus those "facts" stand in the way of saving her life.
It is our belief, from the images we have seen of Terri, that she is not in a persistent vegetative state. We believe that fact, now part of the record, was decided incorrectly. Secondly, we believe that taking Michael Schiavo's word the she wanted to die in such a circumstance is cloudy reasoning, at best, given Michael's obvious conflicts of interest.
Next, we believe that it is possible that she did express her wish to die if she were a vegetable, but is she a vegetable? It does not seem so.
She is severely handicapped, but denying her food and water, even by mouth, goes beyond the simple act of disconnecting her from a breathing device--or ceasing other "heroic" medical measures. A feeding tube in the abdomen is simply not what we would consider "life support."
But toss out all these legal definitions for a moment. The most important fact here is that Terri has a family that wants to take care of her, she can breathe on her own, she is alert, and yet she is being denied simple food and water.
This is why people are so upset about Terri Schiavo's impending death.
Why couldn't Michael Schiavo just hand off custody to Terri's parents and wash his hands clean of the entire situation? Why didn't he?
Right now the law says a disabled woman can be ordered by a court to be starved and dehydrated until she dies. The law says that even if she is able to take oral sustenance, it is illegal to give it to her. The law says a mother, a father, a sister, and a brother, as they sit beside their dying loved one, cannot offer her relief. This is the law now, and many people say we should obey the law because, well, it's the law.
We're not even so sure the law itself is wrong. The initial ruling on the facts may have been wrong, however. And, unfortunately, the higher courts cannot look at the facts again. They can only say whether or not the facts, established in the lower courts, match the law. To go out of their way to save Terri would be a case of judicial activism, something that shows the difference between liberal and conservative justices. In other words, no conservative judge is willing to step up to the plate, even if they agree that this case is a travesty; the conservative judges are worried they would be committing an act of judicial activism, setting dangerous precedents for the future.
Unfortunately, at present, Congressional Republicans and Florida Governor Jeb Bush have done just about all they can. Also unfortunate is the elite media's role in all this, which has turned public sentiment against intervention with its biased coverage and push-polling. National Review:
The mainstream media continues to use such phrases as “life support,” “coma,” “dying,” and “persistent vegetative state.” Let’s get something clear: Terri was not on life support. She breathes on her own and her brain can still keep her organs functioning. Terri wasn’t dying any more than the rest of us until her feeding and hydration tube was pulled on Friday. At that point, she started to die, just like you and I would if we were denied food and water for an extended period of time. Even those who willingly fast generally take water. But Terri isn’t even allowed ice chips for her cracking lips. And no mention has been made of pain relief for the agony that accompanies death by dehydration and starvation.
It looks entirely bleak for Terri at present. Some believe that this entire saga will hurt Republicans politically. Some say that Congress has overstepped its bounds, that Jeb Bush is making a fool of himself. Some believe that this is a family matter, and the GOP will pay at the polls for it.
We disagree. Even though polls may show support for Terri's death, the people who feel most passionately about this issue, and those who have the most information on this issue, are on the side of life. We do not want to make this a political (as in partisan politics) issue, but the people predicting a negative electoral backlash against the President or the Republican Party because of their inordinate efforts to save Terri Schiavo from starvation/dehydration, are severely mistaken.
Had to include this bit as well, by James Taranto:
Supporters of Michael Schiavo's effort to end his wife's life have asked how conservatives, who claim to believe in the sanctity of marriage, can fail to respect his husbandly authority. The most obvious answer is that a man's authority as a husband does not supersede his wife's rights as a human being--a principle we never thought we'd see liberals question.
Comparing Powell And Rice.
WILLisms.com lauds Secretary Rice for her new and aggressive direction for U.S. diplomacy. In such a very short time, Rice has already established herself among America's most effective Secretaries of State.
Colin Powell deserves credit for his diplomatic successes, but he could never be as effective as Dr. Rice already is today. The reasons for this are multi-fold.
Colin Powell, as The Washington Post explains, was an "independent operator, representing the views of the State Department in the foreign policy debate within the administration." Powell never fully bought into the President's vision for the world; he brought his own solidified worldview into the job, and nothing was ever going to make him believe, deeply, genuinely, that spreading liberty is the solemn obligation of American foreign policy.
On the other hand, Condoleezza Rice helped shape the Bush Doctrine, so there is very little doubt she believes in it. As any salesperson can tell you, believing in a product makes it far easier to sell it. The Secretary of State is a salesperson of American policy, American ideas. Powell never fully believed in it, so he was never as persuasive as he could have been.
Powell was probably focused too much on his legacy. He worried that his now-infamous UN presentation on Iraq's weapons programs would harm his credibility so much that he let it alter the way he went about his job. Concerned with how history would judge him, Powell focused more on damage control than actively advancing the President's global agenda. Powell, once one of those rare "bipartisan" darlings of the media, dreaded having liberals attack him, so he tried to speak their language, an old, failed language, a little too often.
It was apparently Powell who convinced the President to seek yet another United Nations resolution approving of the removal of Saddam Hussein. Powell was not fully on board with the policy, partly because the international community was not fully on board.
During that time, Iraq's Ba'ath Party was able to prepare for an invasion, potentially jettisoning whatever weapons of mass destruction were in the country while laying the groundwork for a future guerilla war campaign. The delay put the United States at a determined tactical disadvantage, as Iraq knew what was coming all along.
Powell's personality was a little too analytical for the task with which he was charged. President Bush is a vision president, a long ball kind of guy, not a detail-obsessed micromanaging small-baller. President Bush needed someone at State who would be comfortable, personality-wise, with articulating grand ideas. Bush needed a spokesperson to tell the world the profound meaning behind America's new foreign policy direction, and Powell, for all his strengths, was not that person.
Powell liked to believe he was a realist, and the notion that democracy and freedom could spread around the Middle East seemed a little too idealist for him. The job of the Secretary of State is to sell big ideas to, as well as settle minor diplomatic quarrels with, foreign leaders. Powell was woefully absent on this task, because he was not a big idea kind of guy.
The official historian of the State Department has calculated that Powell will have traveled less than any secretary in more than three decades. His three immediate predecessors voyaged abroad an average of 45 percent more than him. “Shuttle diplomacy” may well have been overpromoted by Henry Kissinger, but a politique de presence has an importance of its own, and Powell should not forget that it was very largely his own personality—large, affable, calm, and, yes, originally Caribbean—that landed him the post to begin with. I myself doubt that a diplomatic “offensive” by Powell would have melted the heart of the Elysee, but he incurs criticism not for failing, but for not trying.
Hitchens notes that Powell said as much in his 1995 memoir, My American Journey:
It was in those pages, incidentally, that he disclosed what has since become evident: “Having seen much of the world and having lived on planes for years, I am no longer much interested in travel.”
The first job requirement of the Secretary of State is travel. Secretary Rice loves to travel, and when she does, she impresses all with whom she comes into contact. Powell was not big on foreign travel while Secretary of State. The Post article notes:
Unlike Powell, who disliked tourism, Rice often schedules a quick visit to a cultural landmark because, aides said, she believes it demonstrates respect and an interest in a country's heritage. The pictures are more evocative than typical images of a Powell trip -- photographs of officials standing at news conferences and the secretary getting on and off his government jet.
Secretary of State Rice has already taken significant diplomatic trips, making a strong case for American policies at each stop.
Colin Powell is a believer in existing systems. Just play by the rules of the system and everything will work out. President Bush believes in shaking up systems he believes are not working.
Powell believed deeply in the old rules of diplomacy and was not willing to challenge them. He also believed, like so many others, that stability ought to be the paramount objective of American foreign policy.
Secretary Rice, on the other hand, shares President Bush's belief that shaking the tree a bit can rid its branches of dead and decaying leaves, making way for new growth. Ultimately, the world cannot change for the better if it does not change, period.
Is it absolutely guaranteed that creating a little bit of controlled instability in the Middle East will lead to positive developments in the march of freedom?
No. Of course not.
Buying into the Bush Doctrine takes a minor leap of faith, especially for stability-mongers.
But without taking that leap, there is nothing to be gained. Powell is more of a road-more-traveled kind of guy, not one to take a risk for profound gains.
Dr. Rice, on the other hand, sees the benefits of change in the Middle East.
Powell believed in leaks to the press. Leaks were simply Washington business as usual and an effective way to get things accomplished. Rice, on the other hand, is a firm believer in the President's anti-leak policy. Leaks are distracting. Staying on message is nearly impossible when unattributed factions are competing in the shadows of the front pages of the major media. Powell was lackadaisical in enforcing a policy of no leaks at Foggy Bottom, because he did not truly believe in it.
We respect Colin Powell for his accomplishments; his life story is truly an inspiration, a realization of the American Dream, but he was not as effective as he could have been while Secretary of State. Secretary Rice, on the other hand, shares the President's vision, loves to travel and articulate that vision, and otherwise serves as a logical and coherent extension of administration policy-making.
Some people argue that it was good to have a "voice of dissent" within the administration to keep those creepy "neo-cons" from going too far. The left-wing media lamented Powell's departure from State, believing he was the only remaining check on the implementation of that dangerous and anomolous Bush Doctrine.
Rice, to the left, would be nothing more than a parrot of the administration:
Well, a President has an obligation, based on rudimentary principles of democracy, to implement the policies he ran on, not to equivocate for the sake of the media or the losing party. While independent thought is necessary to check groupthink, the President should not have to compete with his own administrators on his agenda. The Secretary of State should not speak on behalf of entrenched (and often dysfunctional) interests of the employees therein to the President, he or she should defend and promote administration policy to the career employees at the Department of State.
We have every confidence in Condoleezza Rice that she will serve the interests of President Bush, but those interests include serving as a yield sign, an independent voice, when necessary. And when she does it, it will be in confidence, and she will have earned that much more credibility.
The Latest Trustees Report Is Out On Social Security.
We'll have more on this lengthy report over the coming days and weeks.
In perusing the report, it seems that Social Security is scheduled to go broke a year earlier than previously thought. Throw out 2018 and 2042; start using 2017 and 2041. The more we wait, the harder it gets to solve the problem the right way.
The Most Important UN Reform.
He is calling for an expansion of the Security Council, so that it better reflects the global realities of today—though he did not specify how the council’s membership and veto rules should be changed. The Commission on Human Rights would, he proposes, be replaced by a smaller human-rights council, on which it would be harder for tyrants to get seats. To avoid repeats of past stalemates, the UN would agree a definition of “terrorism”, which would be incorporated in a new anti-terror treaty. It would also adopt clearer principles on when military force is justified.
Color us unimpressed.
Watching Annan's press conference on the subject on C-SPAN, it is clear he is the wrong man to lead the U.N. When pressed by a reporter on the subject of unrepresentative governments having a legitimate voice at the U.N., and how that elevation of tyrants undermines global security, Annan told the man that his statement was "not entirely accurate." All the nations of the United Nations represent their people, Annan said.
No, they really don't, Kofi.
The most important reform the U.N. could undertake would be the immediate end to all moral equivalence between fear societies and free societies. Immediately stipulate that a Security Council veto (ahem, China and Russia) is contingent upon civil and political rights back home. No country with a rating of "Not Free" could stifle the will of the free world through its veto. Likewise, no collection of smaller tyrannies should ever stifle the will of the free world.
The U.N.'s most profound problem is that many of its members are not truly representing the free and democratic wills of their people, while the U.N. recognizes nearly all countries as relative equals. Elevating U.N. ambassadors of evil, corrupt regimes to the same level as those from countries where the citizens are free to choose their leaders only assists those illegitimate regimes remain in power.
Moral equivalence affords leaders of countries like North Korea, Cuba, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, and Rwanda an unfortunate legitimacy that arbitrarily boosts stature back home. The U.N. cannot pass meaningful resolutions urging the spread of freedom in the world, because there are too many fear societies obstructing such progress. Even when the U.N does pass important resolutions, there is no enforcement mechanism other than "unilateral" action by the United States. Lack of enforcement power is the second-most grave problem facing the U.N.; right now the U.N. is almost entirely carrot, without much stick. Developing a way to enforce U.N. sanctions is imperative to the U.N.'s credibility.
The U.N. at present has no moral compass; recall the U.N. Human Rights Commission booting the United States off in 2001, while serial human rights abusers Libya, Syria, and Sudan were all allowed on the Commission. Atrocities and genocide continue to happen in places like Darfur, because the U.N. member nations cannot agree on whether or not systematic mass murder really is "genocide."
Claudia Rosett has more in today's OpinionJournal.com, part of The Wall Street Journal:
There he goes again.
Rosett believes that part of the U.N.'s perpetual ineptitude stems from its central-planning mindset. She writes:
Mr. Annan's plan takes little practical account of a modern world in which competition, private enterprise and individual freedom are the principles of progress. He has his own agenda, which he would like the rest of us to follow and fund.
This is an important point. Mr. Annan and many of the other U.N. administrators do not believe in the values that have made the free world great, including the value of a free enterprise market economy.
Someone needs to remind Mr. Annan that every dollar taxed away from the citizens of the rich nations of the world is a dollar less that's available for these same private citizens to buy goods for which there is genuine market-driven demand--that being the real engine of development.
Kofi Annan could never admit such a thing. To do so would undermine his own view of the United Nations as the world's only legitimate voice. Part of Kofi's plan is to provide massive amounts (more than a trillion dollars over the next decade) of aid for poverty relief. Gobs of money doled out by a corrupt bureaucracy (the U.N.) to other corrupt institutions is not the answer. Marxist redistribution of wealth will not solve the problem of world poverty. In fact, large amounts of foreign aid may contribute significantly to long-term poverty because the aid distorts the market and makes people dependent on regular aid flows rather than initiative and true development.
One solution is a Democracy Caucus within the United Nations (a free-society-based solution might very well work without the U.N.). A coalition of truly free societies, with each member nation guaranteeing basic political and civil rights to its citizens, with free and fair elections and free markets, just might give international cooperation a purpose. These countries must also express a commitment to holding human rights abusers accountable; even some democracies such as India, Mali, and South Africa tend to align themselves with non-democratic regimes based on regional interests. Thus, even a coalition of democratic countries is not the panacea for what ails the U.N.
A coalition of true democracies might allow the U.N. to serve its original mission, but not by itself. The selection of John Bolton as United States Ambassador to the United Nations is promising as the United Nations begins looking at reforms, but it will require a herculean effort to fix the U.N's chronic dysfunction, so our optimism on Kofi Annan's reforms is tempered.
Secretary Rice Goes To Asia: Part Three.
Wrapping up our Three-Part Series (part 1, part 2) on Secretary of State Rice's trip though Asia, WILLisms.com now turns to an examination of how the Japan, South Korea, China segment of the journey went.
While in Japan, Secretary Rice dealt with beef importation issues, and the issue of North Korea, asserting American support for the 6-party talks, but she also turned the spotlight on Japan's tranformation since World War II into a full and free democracy.
At Sophia University, Secretary Rice iterated American unambiguous support for a permanent seat for Japan on the United Nations Security Council, which was an interesting point made in the wake of Kofi Annan's announced UN reforms. She also remarked:
President Bush often talks about how he feels when he sits across the table from Prime Minister Koizumi. I have heard him tell the story from Des Moines, Iowa, to Miami, Florida, to Portland, Oregon, and across the United States during the campaign. He talks of the difficult choices and sacrifices that were made after World War II, so that Japan could emerge not just strong and stable, but democratic and free. He talks about what it means to now sit across from not just an ally, but a democratic ally in Japan. He talks about the strength that he gains from working with a democratic leader like the Prime Minister and the people of Japan to solve the world's continuing problems, whether on the North Korean peninsula or in Iraq or in Afghanistan, or fighting disease and poverty. And he talks about the inspiration that he draws from it.
It is inspiring to think about young Marine Sam Franklin (grandfather, or "Pop") fighting across the Pacific Ocean against the Japanese six decades ago, nearly giving his life on the bloody island of Saipan. Within a millisecond of history, the United States and Japan went from mortal enemies to two of the closest freedom-loving allies on the planet, even increasingly sharing cultural ties, which was even more unthinkable just a few decades ago.
While in South Korea, one interesting aspect of the trip was Rice's conversation with internet journalists. In one exchange, she explained her "outpost of tyranny" remark, assuaging war fears, noting that the U.S. as a rule is,
...going to speak up for people who live without freedom. It is who we are. And the President has made very clear that he believes that freedom is a universal value. Look at what has happened here in South Korea. Look at what you're able to say and what you're able to do. That's the essence of human dignity, is to be able to say what you think, to worship as you please, to educate your children, girls and boys. This is the essence of human dignity. No one should be denied that.
While in China, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the trip was Secretary Rice's visit to a Beijing church, a symbolic way of expressing solidarity with those who desire freedom, including freedom of religion in a country rated "not free" by Freedom House:
...the United States hopes that there will be improved relations in religious freedom with the Catholic Church, with the Dalai Lama’s representatives, so that Tibetans can freely pursue their cultural interests. We also talked a good deal about the need for China to think about a more open political system that will match its economic openness and allow for the full creativity of the Chinese people.
Ross Terrill argues in The Weekly Standard that it is time for some democratic noise in Asia:
A major liberalization--even short of democracy--in China would rock the shabby dictatorships in Pyongyang and Rangoon. A tide of democracy in all three would do more for peace, human rights, and, yes, stability in East Asia than a decade of "six country talks" or a hundred sessions of the Asian Regional Forum of ASEAN....
In each of the Asian countries, Rice and the leaders of foreign countries expressed solidarity on the idea of a non-nuclear North Korea. Rice also called for the resumption of the 6-party-talks, because, after all, China holds enormous sway over Pyongyang.
All in all, Secretary Rice talked tough when necessary, but charmed the pants off of the Asians. Overall, a successful trip.
We look forward to covering Secretary Rice's travels more in the coming weeks, months, and years, so stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more. In fact, tune in tomorrow for a comparison between Secretaries Powell and Rice.
"We're Not Gonna Protest"
“Not that they just liked to protest, but that they actually got paid by liberal interest groups to travel the country protesting. Here they were, sitting in the airport TGI Friday’s having a burger and getting ready to travel to New Orleans for another protest. They were good kids and wanted to talk. We tried discussing some of the benefits of Social Security reform. They listened, but weren’t too interested. Not because they had opposing views, they just said they weren’t too educated on the details. They even admitted they didn’t know who it was they were going to protest in New Orleans.”
Having waded into the crowd at many of these protest events, trying to learn what makes these people tick, this story seems entirely probable. Professional protesters are more common than people generally acknowledge. It happens on both sides of the political aisle, to be sure, but the left has been far more effective at raising the requisite money to pay these young men and women. On campuses across the country, there are postings on bulletin boards that say things like,
"JOBS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT! The most fun you'll ever have on the job."
"GET PAID THIS SUMMER TO PROMOTE PEACE AND JUSTICE. Do you like travel? Need some cash this summer? Call ...-...-.... or email .....@.... .com for more."
Then there are the LaRouchers. You can find them on every campus. They epitomize the misplaced angst of youth, getting paid to travel around recruiting and propagandizing.
The difference between the LaRouchers and many of the other professional protesters is that the LaRouchers begin to deeply believe the things they are saying, whereas many other groups simply are about the social scene, getting some action, scoring some weed, having a summer job not in the service industry, and the like.
In the movie PCU, there is a great scene where the main character "Droz" gets a crowd of hyper-politically-correct, perpetually protesting left-wing students to chant, "we're not gonna protest, we're not gonna protest..."
If you haven't seen PCU, it's worth a viewing, just for the way it makes fun of the modern campus activist left.
And be on the lookout for professional protesters while you're at it.
"Goon" Chaney Announces Return Next Season.
Now, Chaney has announced he will return to coach the Temple Owls basketball team next year. Temple University President Dr. David Adamany:
"As far as I'm concerned, the events of this past basketball season are now behind us,” said Adamany in a phone interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer Monday. “Coach Chaney publicly acknowledged his serious mistake, and publicly apologized, and privately apologized to John Bryant and his family. He has been suspended from coaching for a period of time for a mistake he made. This matter has come to rest."
What a sham. Temple ought to be ashamed of itself for minimizing Chaney's actions, especially in the context of a lengthy career of dishonor. This rapid eschewing of responsibility tarnishes Temple University's reputation dramatically.
Hopefully Chaney faces fierce and intense heckling everywhere his team plays next year. Throughout his career, John Chaney's words and actions were that of a stubborn goon and a cowardly thug; history must judge his legacy accordingly.
Classiness, All Around Us.
In no particular order, WILLisms.com presents classiness from the blogosphere:
The proliferation of dubious election observing organizations is not a coincidence, nor is it new. Governments in the region benefit from having a menu of statements from which to choose the most glowing report card.
LaShawn Barber takes on the issue of Life:
Despite liberals’ lament that the rule of law is being trampled on, an unjust law is no law at all. A law that deprives the innocent of life should be no more enforceable than one legalizing human bondage.
Tim Blair comments on Vietnam obsession at the BBC.
Captain's Quarters offers a look at Ayman Nour, the face of Egypt's democratic opposition to Hosni Mubarak. He also looks at how Mubarak is trying to stifle Nour through corrupt courts:
I suspect the move will backfire on Mubarak in the end. After decades of strongman rule, dissident groups in Egypt have been poorly organized and fractured into hostile factions. With Mubarak targeting Nour so openly, he risks creating a central figure around which this fractured dissent will coalesce. Nour's persecution may well unite the Egyptian opposition, creating both a martyr and a rallying figure while remaining in the race against his oppressor.
Chrenkoff notes this poll out of Iraq:
"Are you in favor of implementing Islamic Sharia and an Islamic government? Yes - 12.5% No - 83.9% Dont Know - 3.6%
Social Security Choice asks: "Would Social Security be legal if it were sold by a private company?"
If any private investment or insurance company were to market a plan with the same specifications and terms as Social Security, the FTC would shut them down so fast, their heads would spin on the way to prison for the dozens of types of fraud that we routinely accept when they are done by our high and mighty rulers in DC.
SCOTUS blog notes 3 reversals of the infamous 9th U.S. Circuit Court by the Supreme Court, also noting Rehnquist's comeback:
The Chief Justice, who returned to the bench on Monday for the first time since October, announced his opinion in the Mena case.
The Political Calculations blog offers this neat online tool for "Calculating Election Accuracy" (or inaccuracy, as the case may be).
John Hawkins looks at "The Idea Gap" between conservatives and liberals:
...the American public, after hearing the same tired shtick from the left year after year & gaining access to more sources of information that don't always toe the liberal line, has wised up to the tricks & spin.
WILLisms.com offers a classiness roundup as a weekly feature, every Tuesday, with 10 posts deemed classy. If you would like to nominate a post on your blog or another blog for inclusion, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com. Write "Classy Nomination" in the subject.
At some point in the future, we're also going to introduce a roundup of lameness, which will provide examples of shrill, angry, extremist, anti-American, self-loathing, intentionally misleading, and other unclassy posts from leftist blogs (and even right-wing blogs, if it is bad enough). Again, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com to submit nominations.
Better Late Than Never: Europe Listens to Euro-Bush.
According to the New York Times, the President's Eurotrip (covered extensively last month by WILLisms here, here, here, here, here, and here) is paying dividends. This story on the front page-above the "digital fold" no less-reports that the European Union has decided to put off lifting the arms embargo against China, clearly a win for President Bush and America on the diplomatic front.
John Bolton Doesn't Do Carrots.
When John Bolton was announced as President Bush's choice to become America's new UN Ambassador, knee-jerk sentiments popped out of the mouths and keyboards of liberals everywhere.
They reflexively screamed things like:
"BUT, HE HATES THE UN! HE WANTS TO DESTROY IT!"
Matthew Rothschild, in "John Bolton, Neoconman," writes:
I hope you're enjoying the second term of the Cheney Administration.
Ah, the neocon cabal. Gotta love that cabal reference. Always relevant, it seems.
Oh, but there's more. Geov Parrish argues that Bolton's
...nomination is impossible to view as anything but a shot across the bow of the U.N. in particular and international diplomacy in general, a warning that the Bushies will do as they please and to hell with international allies or sensibilities.
Ooh, a shadow government. Sounds dark and conspiratorial. And Cheney, that rascal is behind it all!
Molly Ivins, via The Guerilla News Network, in "Move Up the Date For Armageddon," explains:
I must confess, I have sadly underestimated the Bush administration’s sense of humor. Appointing John Bolton ambassador to the United Nations: Boffo! What a laff riot! Hilarious comedy, a delicious romp, great setup for a sitcom.
Ivins is cracking up, before our very eyes.
Listing Bolton as one of the President's "cronies" (a word truly indicative of a lot of critical thought), The Truth About George explains Bolton's opposition to the International Criminal Court as if it were a bad thing.
So, yeah, clear disdain for Bolton from the left.
What was Bolton's offense?
Mostly just sticking up for U.S. interests, plus his criticism of failing international institutions.
On the other hand, Cathryn J. Prince of The Christian Science Monitor writes, in "Tough-talking Bolton: just what the UN needs":
Many Americans rightly have little faith in the organization that sits on the East River in New York City. So it's refreshing to think the UN might soon have someone in its midst who will have the moral courage to speak plainly. For far too long Washingtonhas been appointing ambassadors who sugarcoat the truth. Bolton has shown he will not mince words....
Meanwhile, The Weekly Standard has this to say about Bolton:
("I don't do carrots" he famously said, when asked about taking a carrot-and-stick approach to North Korea.) One might call him prescient. But many Democrats and newspaper editorials are lamenting his nomination. Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid called the nomination a "disappointing choice." A Los Angeles Times editorial called it a "severe setback" to Bush administration diplomacy. Kerry said the nomination was "inexplicable." Senate Democrats last week gave every indication that they intend to fight the nomination....
Also noteworthy in the Standard article are these comments, written by Bolton in 1997:
Some Americans simply want to withdraw from the United Nations, believing that it can never really be fixed. I understand the frustrations and disappointments that lead to that view, even though I disagree with it. We should tell the world community instead, "Let's make one last effort to put things right in the U.N. And make no mistake, our patience is not unlimited."
Bolton is a far more nuanced intellectual than the left is caricaturing him as. He is also more qualified to promote the Bush Doctrine, the guiding value that won the President reelection, at the UN, than any other individual today. He is a first-rate appointment and nothing less.
Take this piece, written by Bolton in 2000 on Taiwan, for example. He has a sharp mind and a vast store of experience and knowledge.
David Keene has serious qualms about calling Bolton a "neoconservative," explaining:
The idea of Democrats' mounting a filibuster to stop Bolton on the grounds that he has too steadfastly stood up for his country's interests over a long and distinguished career and that he has not expressed the total faith in the UN and world opinion that so dominates their actions is something that only someone as out of touch as Kerry could even contemplate....
Helms was, in fact, a strong critic of the UN, but he also saved the UN from extinction during the 1990s. At the Helms Center in North Carolina, one of the centerpieces of the Senator's legacy is a large and prominent tribute to his UN reforms. Helms was proud to save the UN from itself. Whether Bolton is a "neo-con" or a regular conservative doesn't matter much to liberals. To the left-wing, Bolton's unequivocal promotion of America and its values over the decades has earned him a negative classification.
Amity Shlaes has a great take on the Bolton and Wolfowitz double-team:
Multilateralists around the globe ought to be thrilled about these choices. These men are not going to endanger the future of the UN or the World Bank. Those futures are already in danger. Rather, the new candidates may turn out to be the institutions' salvation. For both men are strong enough to bring about change when change is necessary. Theodore Roosevelt gets cited too often in the context of the Bush administration but this time the comparison is apt. "Speak softly and carry a big stick." If Messrs Bolton and Wolfowitz get their jobs, they will practise muscular diplomacy....
The Washington Times notes a tough battle ahead, but ultimately Bolton is perfect for the job, because the UN's credibility at present is so damaged:
Sen. Norm Coleman, Minnesota Republican, said Mr. Bolton is the right man to push the United Nations from within to restore its credibility.
Meanwhile, National Review calls the selections of Bolton, Wolfowitz, and Hughes, a winning trifecta.
And they are. While liberals think the President must be playing some kind of practical joke on them, what's really happening is the President is installing his people into critical positions. The President believes in international institutions, but he wants to make them work on behalf of the interests of the United States. The President wants to make them work on behalf of the universal ideal of freedom.
President Bush also wants to make institutions like the UN and World Bank work, period. At present, the UN's dysfunction is responsible for proliferation and instability; the UN has very little credibility when it issues sanctions. After all, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and others have been under UN sanction at one point or another but have continued their weapons programs, unimpeded.
President Bush, in nominating John Bolton, is sending a clear signal to the UN:
The UN can be effective, but as it is structured today, it is counterproductive to its mission(s). Bolton is on a mission to apply some tough love to the UN. The UN must clean up its act.
Otherwise, why should we be a part of it? Why should anyone?
Expect a tough nomination battle. Expect Democrats to try to discredit Bolton. Expect grandstanding. But expect for Bolton to the pass Senate's inspection. Bolton's task, knocking some sense into the dilapidated UN, will be almost impossible, but it is worth a shot.
OpinionJournal has more today (March 22):
Mr. Bolton will bring a sharp focus to corruption, waste and left-wing ideology at the U.N.--precisely the matters the U.N. would rather not dwell on. His supporters insist he'll serve, once confirmed, in the tradition of Ambassadors Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeane Kirkpatrick, both sharp critics of the U.N. Mr. Bolton, however, is even more hostile to business-as-usual at the U.N. than they were, is considerably more conservative, and is a tough political operative besides.
More On The Babe Theory of Political Movements.
In 1830, French artist Eugène Delacroix painted an image that endures today in the hearts and minds of freedom-lovers everywhere, an image of a bare-breasted woman in all her glory, representative of the greater concept of liberty, leading the charge in an epic revolutionary battle (thanks to Frank Warner).
Most art historians believe that the image of the woman is strictly symbolic, but could it be that Delacroix had a particular woman in mind when he painted Liberty?
The values Liberty embodies are so universal, that when both men and women see her resemblance in modern times, we cannot help but connect the dots psychologically, deep down in our very souls. One of America's most enduring symbols of liberty is New York harbor's Statue of Liberty.
The Babe Theory, first described by P.J. O'Rourke in his Parliament of Whores book:
"Best of all, there were hardly any beautiful women at the [Housing Now!] rally. I saw a journalist friend of mine in the Mall, and he and I pursued this line of inquiry as assiduously as our happy private lives allow. Practically every female at the march was a bowser. "We're not being sexist here," my friend insisted. "It's not that looks matter per se. It's just that beautiful women are always on the cutting edge of social trends. Remember how many beautiful women were in the anti-war movement twenty years ago? In the yoga classes fifteen years ago? At the discos ten years ago? On Wall Street five years ago? Where the beautiful women are is where the country is headed," said my friend. "And this," he looked around him, "isn't it."
Look for the babes, and that's where the social action is, that's where the success will be.
While taste in women changes over time and across cultures, there is something fundamental and universal about a beautiful woman. We might call this the universal sign language of babealiciousness.
In recent weeks, Beirut, Lebanon has seen an outpouring of beautiful, sometimes busty women in support of freedom, sovereignty, and the rapid withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon (we have covered this phenonmenon here, here, here, here, and here).
Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution," or alternatively, its "Gucci Revolution," has been fueled by a moral cause, international circumstances, and an effective media strategy.
The babe theory of political movements essentially holds that:
Where and when there are hot babes, an exponential number of men will show up. If 100 cute girls with voluptuous bodies are protesting for freedom, you can count on a thousand men being there as well.
If sexy babes are involved in a peaceful political movement, it has a far greater chance of succeeding. If there are no good-looking women involved, the odds of a successful (and peaceful) movement fall dramatically.
Where and when alluring women are excluded from demonstrations, you can expect greater chances of strife, rioting, and failure.
In Lebanon, women have been leading the charge for freedom, and not by accident. In some ways, the Lebanese women are as much the symbolic embodiment of liberty as Delacroix's Liberty Leading ever was.
If and when Lebanon has free and fair elections and achieves its sovereignty from Syrian tyranny, credit will largely fall on the determination of the Lebanese demonstrators, in conjunction with the Bush Doctrine. As images of attractive Lebanese are beamed around the world via the internet and satellites, the international community has no choice but to rally behind the babes of Lebanon.
In Lebanon, the democracy movement has flourished, and because of the abounding sexiness, the anti-Syrian protestors have added hundreds of thousands of otherwise disengaged, apolitical, apathetic males to their ranks. In Jordan, on the other hand, the opposition needs an injection of sexy.
The Orange Babe Revolution.
In its peaceful and successful political movement late last year, you had Princess Leia look-alike, the ultra-babealicious vixen Yulia Tymoshenko (now Prime Minister) leading the public relations charge on behalf of poison-stricken Viktor Yushchenko:
But Ukraine's Orange Revolution had other prominent babes than Yulia:
In recent years in the United States, the left's electoral success has diminished, just as the concept of "hot left-wing chicks" has gone from a nostalgic abstraction to a flat-out laughable oxymoron.
At left-wing protests in America today, it is more common to see this:
To be sure, there are hot left-wingers out there at these anti-war rallies, but they are generally the exception that proves the rule.
Similarly, in Lebanon, one babe does not make a successful pro-Syrian rally:
Is the Babe Theory of Political Movements rock-solid? Is it even a real theory?
Maybe. Maybe not.
There have been successful (but mostly violent) political movements throughout history in which women have been marginalized, and there have been political movements with good-looking women that have failed.
Isn't this theory more than a bit shallow? Afterall, women are more than an assemblage of ample breasts, nice legs, cute faces, and flowing hair. Women have always provided necessary and relevant viewpoints; through history, women have been at the forefront of important moral causes such as the abolition of slavery.
Women are increasingly finding themselves in positions of power and authority, and very few Americans today would have a problem voting for a woman for president. There are even more women than men in college today in the United States. Is it any wonder that many pundits are predicting a Clinton versus Rice battle in 2008?
So, is the Babe Theory itself shallow, or does the Babe Theory merely describe a certain shallowness, perhaps even chauvinism?
Well, yeah, it is shallow, all around, both the theory itself, and what it describes, but in the end the Babe Theory describes whether a movement will be successful, not why the men are attracted to a movement.
Recently, in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, elections were marked by severe irregularities, but with no babes showing off for the cameras, speaking to the international community in the universal language of babealiciousness, the media attention of the protests in those two countries was scant, at best.
It's shallow. But it's reality.
The Babely-Come-Lately Sub-Theorem.
An alternate view of the Babe Theory holds that attractive women are drawn more to successful political movements than to fringe movements. In other words, if the ideas behind a political movement has value, if the fight has a noble purpose, if it has worth, it will attract lovely young ladies, who then become the face of the movement. Women (babes), then, are discerning consumers of political movements, and when there is a worthwhile one, they buy into it whole-heartedly. Under this view of the Babe Theory, sexy women just happen to be found at successful demonstrations; the sexy women are not actually responsible for the success of the movement, babes at political rallies are but a symptom of success, an effective heuristic for prognosticating, an augury of what is to come.
The Babe Prerequisite Corollary.
Another view of the Babe Theory holds that a society will not be ready for democratic reforms if it does not have babes. Babes, you see, are a sign of a certain minimal level of affluence. In international relations circles, there is a belief that a society must have a certain level of wealth before it can truly become free and democratic. Folks like Fareed Zakaria argue that a democracy is nothing special, and perhaps even inimical to the world, if it is "illiberal." Zakaria uses wealth as a short-cut for determining whether a nation is ready for true democracy.
So, if there are babes, it means the country is ready for democracy, because babes are a sign of wealth and progress.
...the "babe theory" is actually a clever way of expressing a profound point. The edifice of Middle Eastern autocracy and its particularly virulent outgrowth--terrorism--rests upon the repression of women. Liberate female energies from political cage of tyranny and the religious prison of Islamic doctrine and the authority of the bearded mullahs and "pious" terrorists and sexually repressed holy men will crumble like the desiccated dust of the mummies they are.
Future democratic revolutionaries take note. The key to protest in the 21st century will be the photo. Get your flag, you signs, put your hot women out front and change the world.
If babes must lead the democratization of the Middle East, then lead on, babes. Lead on.
Lame, Unclassy Attempted Rocking Of The Vote.
The decidedly Democratic-leaning program featured U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, and Jehmu Green, president of Rock the Vote, which for more than a decade has pushed MTV's music-loving audience to get politically active.
WILLisms.com has commented before on the sheer and utter left-wing partisanship of Rock the Vote, and how it teams up with other far-left causes, many specifically antithetical to the political hopes and dreams of young people.
Rock the Vote is selling young people out. Jehmu Green and Hans Riemer and the gang are displaying a weird adherence to ancient liberal orthodoxy, rather than looking out for the needs of the WILLisms.com generation and the future of Social Security. Rather than take a stand on behalf of the under-30 crowd, Rock the Vote has decided to become a de facto wing of the DNC. It is sickening, and Rock the Vote ought to be ashamed of itself. While those over 50 are far more likely to oppose personal accounts and Social Security reform, those under 50 are far more likely to want reform ASAP. Part of the left's strategy, then, is to try to change as many young minds as it can to fall in line with the AARP's "in 1935, they knew what is best for us today" position.
At least Rock the Vote's town hall meetings seem to be less than effective, even venturing into completely lameness. Young people don't want liberal dogma from Rock the Vote, and the less-than-enthusiastic reception described above in Michigan emphasizes that point.
Oh, how these must be flying off the shelves:
Rock the Vote, shame on you. Shame for becoming an instrument of old left-wingers in their game to maintain a broken status quo. Shame on you for putting partisanship above of concerns of the MTV crowd. Shame.
Err On The Side Of Life.
They say this is an issue of federalism, a matter to be left to the states. Some liberal bloggers go one step further, asserting that Republicans are using Terri as a pawn in their morals game. For much of the left, Terri is just part of a a "trumped-up culture war," a "circus" in which the Christian Right has decided to "play their part as hack partisans rather than genuine advocates for the culture of life."
Another left-wing blog tries to compare the Terri Schiavo situation, in typical liberal fashion, with Medicaid "cuts," arguing that Republicans are really the big meanies for wanting to slow the explosive growth of Medicaid benefits and calling those who support Terri Schiavo living are really just part of a "cult."
Another left-wing blog posing as the ideological heir to Teddy Roosevelt believes "Congressional Republicans are engaged in an orgy of grandstanding" in all this Schiavo stuff, and, even more, "Frist has his eye trained on the Iowa caucus rather than the Hippocratic oath."
Ever-cynical, another liberal blogger believes the hubbub over Terri Schiavo is really just an attempt to change the subject from Tom DeLay's fundraising questions, that Karl Rove must have concocted this whole thing as a way of "setting the stage for a possible exercise of the filibuster-quashing 'nuclear option' in the full Senate."
...the GOP's Schiavo intervention is of a piece with other cynical efforts by Bush and his supporters to signal support for a "culture of life" without much regard for logic and consistency.
Indeed, readers of the same blog are upset that some Democrats would support legislation to save Terri Schiavo.
The head honcho of liberal blogs angrily attacks Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a pro-life Mormon, for supporting the Schiavo bill:
This base political game from Republicans was, if something needed to be said, to be denounced, not to be praised. You, Sen. Reid, have just snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, letting the GOP off the hook for this sheer abuse of power and lunacy. This is simply a terrible terrible decision, not because it will hurt Dems, but because it doesn't allow the American people to have a clear view of how extremist and out of the mainstream the GOP is.
Later, after its cognitive dissonance had been resolved, the blog issued somewhat of a retraction and apology to Reid.
Wizbang blog explains:
So for all their posturing and complaining, the leadership only got 53 of their fellow Democrats to vote for Terry Schiavo's death sentence. The vast majority of the Democrats were smart enough to stay away from this one. 112 Democrats refused to vote at all.
A conservative blog offers pictures of some of the Congressional Democrats so intent on death in this case (via blogsforterri.com).
Why, though, is the clear human case of Terri Schiavo a partisan issue at all?
This is not about "letting her die" this is about actively withholding food from a human being.
Captain's Quarters explains how Democrats in the House blocked a voice vote, forcing a difficult-to-achieve weekend quorum, tackily delaying the bill they knew would pass eventually anyway.
Some on the conservative side of the aisle believe that, while the case may be tragic, Congress overstepped its Constitutional bounds.
Today The Wall Street Journal shreds that argument, taking on the legal side of this issue:
The conservative Republicans leading this effort--Senators Bill Frist and Rick Santorum, Representative Tom DeLay--are taking hits for supposedly abandoning their federalist principles.
What is lacking in this matter is not the correct set of jurisdictional rules but a decent set of moral imperatives. That moral imperative should be that medical care cannot be withheld from a person who is not brain dead and who is not at risk for dying from an untreatable disease in the near future. To do otherwise makes us recall Nazi Germany where retarded people and those with serious disabilities were "euthanized" (that is, killed). We hear around the country echoes of this view in the demands that doctors be allowed to participate, as they do in Oregon, in physician-assisted suicide, whereby doctors can end the life of patients who request death and have less than six months to live. This policy endorses the right of a person to end his or her life with medical help. It is justified by the alleged success of this policy in the Netherlands.
National Review calls the Schiavo case one of "Too Vigorously Assisted Suicide":
...opponents of the bill were left with various complaints of hypocrisy. The conservatives who wanted to save Mrs. Schiavo were said to be trampling on their traditional beliefs in federalism and the sanctity of marriage. The complaint about federalism would have more force if we had reason to think that the people of Florida, acting through their legislature, had prospectively blessed the decisions of Judge Greer. But Judge Greer has twisted the state's law; and the legislature has enacted a law designed to save Schiavo's life, which the states' courts set aside. The sanctity of marriage, meanwhile, has never been held to be so absolute that authorities could not take action to prevent someone from killing a spouse.
Fred Barnes offers three key facts of the case which make Congressional review completely warranted:
* Terri Schiavo is brain damaged but not brain dead. She is not on life support. She breathes on her own. She occasionally laughs. She reacts to stimuli. She responds at times to her parents. She is not dying, though she needs a feeding tube. A doctor diagnosed her as being in a "permanent vegetative state" but other doctors have disputed that view. Indeed there are legitimate questions about her initial diagnosis.
You can listen to Terri and her father from Friday, here (in .mp3 form):
You can also listen through here (it is heart-breaking).
When President Bush signed the bill potentially saving Terri's life, he commented:
Today, I signed into law a bill that will allow Federal courts to hear a claim by or on behalf of Terri Schiavo for violation of her rights relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life. In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. This presumption is especially critical for those like Terri Schiavo who live at the mercy of others. I appreciate the bipartisan action by the Members of Congress to pass this bill. I will continue to stand on the side of those defending life for all Americans, including those with disabilities.
Err on the side of life.
This case seems so simple. Let Michael Schiavo have his freedom to move on with his life. If he is worried about having to be responsible for her medical care in the future, allow him to fully and legally separate from his wife. Remove any obligation, past, present, or future, and let him marry the mother of his new children. Let all that happen.
Meanwhile, allow Terri's real family to protect her. Let her parents have medical custody over her. Let them take care of her. They want to, desperately.
Everyone can get what they want here, but Michael Schiavo and his lawyer seem intent on seeing Terri dead. Michael Schiavo can go and live his life the way he wants, while Terri lives under the care of her parents.
How is that so hard?
A Certain Slant of Light blog has more on the federal judge who will review the case: "JUDGE WHITTEMORE PROTECTS EAGLES, SO SURELY HE'LL PROTECT TERRI."
Sweet Sixteen March Madness Bracket.
Hopefully you've been enjoying your official WILLisms.com 2005 NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket.
Here are the updated brackets after the first two rounds:
This bracket is fully printable, fully free, and fully classy. Just click on the image and make sure your printer is set in landscape mode.
Congratulations to all the teams in the Sweet Sixteen.
As far as our picks go, we were very correct on some, very wrong on others. It's fun to be wrong, though, when teams like Syracuse and Kansas are losing to teams like Vermont and Bucknell.
Here are the teams in the Sweet Sixteen:
The American Empire.
People often refer to the United States as the world's greatest existing empire. Some even assert that America is the most powerful empire, relative to the rest of the world, since the Roman empire two millenia ago.
Unlike other empires, past and present, however, the American empire is built mostly on its wealth creating capacity (as opposed to, simply, its static quantity of physical treasure), on its liberty, and on its diversity and freedom of thought and expression, not on the insatiable lust for control over finite resources that characterized so many empires before ours. Unlike the Roman empire, the American empire is about ideas and values that people around the world are eager to embrace.
For some, spreading liberty and democracy, promoting free-enterprise, and otherwise advancing the ideas and ideals that made America so great is equivalent to spreading tyranny. For many, especially on the left, there is a sad and unfortunate lack of belief that American values are ultimately universal values. For some, America is hypocritical and imperious when it advances its values throughout the rest of the world. Cultural and moral relativism on the left often go too far, even to the point of refusing to take a stand on clear moral issues. For much of the left, George W. Bush is as bad as or worse than Adolf Hitler.
Failing to believe in the power of America's values is the left's greatest tragedy in recent years, and it explains why the moral underpinnings of the liberal movement are so depleted. For the sake of acceptance and tolerance, liberals have become hostile toward their own country, skeptical of American influence, even to the point of cheerleading for America's failure. Many on the left today believe the world would be better off with a marginalized and diminished United States; if America, the real axis of evil, went into a steep decline, it would mark a glorious and peaceful new day of harmonious cooperation for the world, they think.
The American empire has never been about colonization of foreign lands or subjugation of unwilling peoples. The American people were almost too isolationist for too long, before it became clear that the world is too interconnected to let threats from evil ideologies like Naziism and Communism fester and bubble. Some say that 9/11 shocked Americans out of the belief that two vast oceans protect the U.S. from hostile countries, but it was the two World Wars of the early-to-mid 20th century that shook Americans from their default penchant for isolationism (afterall, the Founders warned of entangling alliances). 9/11, perhaps, revived the idea that America has a duty to actively shape the world for the better, rather than allowing emerging threats to gather unchecked.
America became the power that it is today, though, not because of colonization of Africa or Asia or the Middle East. America became the premier economic power, of the world through innovation, creativity, entrepreneurialism, and trade. America's economy is so large that even with hundreds of thousands of troops deployed all around the world, and active conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, military expenditures total a mere 3.3% of the United States Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which ranks the U.S. at 37th in the world. However, in terms of actual dollars spent on military, the United States ranks first, with more money spent than the next fourteen nations combined.
This is a clear demonstration that economic might becomes political and military might; the United States can outspend China, France, the U.K., Japan, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Australia, India, Turkey, Brazil, Spain, Canada, and Israel, combined. Indeed, in some ways the global America military aegis during the Cold War has remained, allowing our allies to maintain smaller levels of forces without any negative impact on their own security. Afterall, the Americans will take care of business if anything bad happens; it's the classic free-rider effect.
When people complain about a lack of a broad coalition in Iraq or elsewhere, are they making a legitimate argument? Could France or Germany even do much to help out in Iraq?
Combined, the military expenditures of France and Germany are only about a fifth of American expenditures. Their actual active-duty forces available for deployment are even smaller, and France's troops and equipment are often tied up in post-colonial quagmires in Africa.
For whatever reason, people who view the world through Marxist lenses are not able to accept that the United States is truly a benevolent empire, a positive force in the world. The Marxists (and let's not pretend Marxist thought is not pervasive in vast segments of academia, the media, foreign governments, labor unions, and much of the Democratic Party, especially the grassroots) assert that America only fights cynical wars for oil; they say that globalization is really a sinister and dangerous form of American imperialism no less imposing and damaging than the Great Power colonialism of the 15th through 20th centuries; they say that America is the bourgeois holder of capital and the third world is the exploited "proletariat." Their solution is redistribution of wealth, which includes the dismantling of the American economy; Marxists do not believe, despite all the evidence, in the mutual creation of new wealth. Marxists refuse to acknowledge that global economic growth can be good for everyone. Meanwhile, mercantilism, the theory that one nation can only grow wealthy at the expense of another, still holds intractable sway with the LaRouche wing of the Democratic Party, and with the labor unions.
Wealth is not a zero-sum game. When America prospers, so can the rest of the world. Likewise, it is not necessary for the American economy to shed its wealth or its wealth-generating capacity for countries in the third world to emerge into economic success. President Bush's recent selection of Paul Wolfowitz to lead the World Bank is a clear demonstration of America's commitment to mutual economic success with the third world.
It is hard for the Marxists to get past their fear and loathing of American economic might, but if they did, they would see that the United States can and must lead the world economically, and when America leads, the world benefits. A prosperous world is a more peaceful world, and the ultimate long-term stability comes from economic growth.
One of the books WILLisms.com has certified as classy, An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, by John Steele Gordon, deserves a few words of praise from WILLisms.com for its examination of these issues.
The “empire” in the title comes from the fact that while the United States is, by far, the most powerful country in the world, it has no empire and never has had. The United States, after all, has only 6 percent of the world’s land area and 6 percent of its people, almost all of whom speak English and regard themselves as American. However, we conquered the world economically and have about 30 percent of the global gross product. While it was the Roman legions who Romanized the Mediterranean basin 2,000 years ago by force of arms, it has been U.S. entrepreneurs who have Americanized the modern world, through such means as blue jeans, Hollywood movies, Coca-Cola, rock ’n’ roll, automobile assembly lines, and computer chatrooms.
John Steele Gordon's book is worth reading for the big-picture ideas it advances, but it also provides poignant and relevant details of the American story. For example, you'll learn a lot of neat details about American life, such as James Gordon Bennett's blueprint for the modern American newspaper. Bennett coined the use of the word "leak" to describe stories slipped to reporters by politicians for their own purposes. Bennett also made newsboys hawking papers on the street a fixture of American society for generations.
The book is full of great examples of American entrpreneurialism and its contribution to the rising colossus. But it remains a book about the big picture, about liberty and free enterprise, about America's role in the world.
Gordon asserts, on page 15 of his book:
The relentless spread of democracy and capitalism in recent decades, to a large extent in the light of the American example, is a peaceful and largely welcomed conquest--at least by the people, if often not by the elites who have seen their own power slipping away. It is a conquest more subtle, more positive, more pervasive, and, in all likelihood, more permanent than any known before.
Gordon examines the history and development of ideas that made America great, explaining that many of the Founding Fathers were believers in Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. He also takes on Marxism, explaining why America never caught on to outright socialism, noting that while America is not purely oriented to the free-enterprise system, "the United States has consistently come closer to the Smithian ideal over a longer period of time than any other major nation."
Gordon explains why the Marxist view of history, summed up in Marx's own words found in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, is so pitiful:
"Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered and transmitted from the past." That is very true, almost tautological. Marx, however, never visited the United States. (For that matter he never visited a factory--all Karl Marx knew of the proletariat he claimed to champion was what he read in books written by his fellow intellectuals.) Had Marx ever ventured to the New World, he would have seen a country that, because of circumstances, did make its history as it pleased far more than any other Great Power.
WILLisms.com has noted that this Marxist view of the world and of history is shared by leaders of foreign governments, but not by effective American presidents, and certainly not by George W. Bush. If President Bush believed Marx's view of human helplessness in history, his vision for spreading liberty would seem absurd and unachievable. It's no wonder the French, for example, influenced greatly by Marx's view of history, find the notion of advancing democracy so incomprehensible. Under their framework for understanding the world, the Marxists believe there must be some reason (exploitation, empire-building, revenge, megalomania, etc.) for the Bush Doctrine other than liberty and freedom and everything else the President has said all along.
More Images From Lebanon's Cedar Revolution: Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy; Or Civil War?.
In the President weekly radio address this morning, George W. Bush advanced the issue of freedom in the Middle East, noting:
Today we're seeing hopeful signs across the broader Middle East. The victory of freedom in Iraq is strengthening a new ally in the war on terror, and inspiring democratic reformers from Beirut to Tehran. Today, women can vote in Afghanistan, Palestinians are breaking the old patterns of violence, and hundreds of thousands of Lebanese are rising up to demand their sovereignty and democratic rights. These are landmark events in the history of freedom. Only the fire of liberty can purge the ideologies of murder by offering hope to those who yearn to live free.
In some ways, the Lebanese demonstrations resemble a kind of supercharged, post-feminist pep rally at Stanford University.
No offense to the lovely ladies of Stanford, but Palo Alto would be lucky to have the kind of talent on recent display in Beirut.
Why does WILLisms.com continue to post pictures of Lebanese demonstrators, days after the demonstrations?
The Lebanese lovers of freedom need our support.
Syria is still trying to intimidate the forces of freedom and indepedence, a point the recent car bomb in a suburb of Beirut underscores.
Syria must not succeed.
One question you may ask looking at all these pictures: do women vastly outnumber men in Lebanon?
Light Seeking Light blog explains that Beirut does indeed have far more women than men, noting this tidbit from a Slate article:
Because the economy is so bad [in Beirut], and so many younger people, mostly men, are forced to emigrate to find work, the ratio of marriageable women to men, my friend Rouba explains, is something like 4-to-1.
Four-to-one seems way too lopsided, but it is probably true that there are slightly more women than men in Beirut due to economic pressures, although Lebanon's economy has been growing at a steady pace over the past few years. Women are more likely to attend college, and Beirut is Lebanon's capital of higher education, so that could have something to do with it.
More likely, the Lebanese opposition has been consciously highlighting its women, and that echo-chamber of sexiness has brought in other young women who want to see their faces on the covers of magazines like Newsweek, The Economist, and The Weekly Standard. Meanwhile, men otherwise relatively content with the status quo are drawn to the movement to meet (or merely gawk at) chicks.
Much more on The Babe Theory of Political Movements coming soon, so stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.
Weekend Political Humor.
A very funny set of comparison photos between President Bush and John Kerry (via Tim Blair) (via PoliPundit).
...which is similar to:
Scrappleface (satire site) explains:
Right-to-Starve Added to Feminism's Victories by Scott Ott
Another bit of satire, from IMAO. A (fake) statement issued by Condoleezza Rice:
I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea for calling it an "outpost of tyranny". I realize the phrase is insulting, and - even worse - lacks the memorable alliteration of phrases like Reagan's "Evil Empire". It occurs to me that I could've used other, better, phrases to describe North Korea, such as:
The Human Argument For Terri Schiavo.
[BUMPED TO TOP]
Her eyes are open.
Indeed, the hubbub we're seeing right now is not about Terri exclusively. It is about how our society values life.
...who dares say you have no right to commune with your gravely ill child? To comfort your child? To pray for your child? Who dares say you have no right to hope that she will recover no matter what the doctors say? Who dares say you have no right to comfort, commune with and pray for her even if you have given up hope? Yes, the woman is mortally ill. Who dares say that her life is therefore worthless, to be cut off at her husband's whim?
So does LaShawn Barber.
Blogs for Terri has more, and it doesn't look good.
Peggy Noonan has a column up on OpinionJournal.com:
But in the end, it comes down to this: Why kill her? What is gained? What is good about it? Ronald Reagan used to say, in the early days of the abortion debate, when people would argue that the fetus may not really be a person, he'd say, "Well, if you come across a paper bag in the gutter and it seems something's in it and you don't know if it's alive, you don't kick it, do you?" No, you don't.
UPDATE 5 [with bump to top]:
Tom DeLay speaks out:
WASHINGTON - House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) today condemned the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube and pledged to continue working for a legal or legislative means to save her life.
What Is Senator Reid's Solution For Social Security?
Social Security clearly faces problems down the road. Call it a crisis. Call it a looming crisis. Call it insolvency.
Call it whatever you like, but there is no getting around Social Security's problems.
Democrats are opposing President Bush on his reform efforts.
So what is their alternative? Where are their solutions?
What would Harry Reid do to fix Social Security?
Michael Tanner has the answer: Harry Reid has no plan for fixing Social Security.
Come clean, Senator. What's your plan? Or are you still pretending there is no problem to address in the first place?
Secretary Rice Goes To Asia: Part Two.
Earlier in the week, WILLisms.com offered a preview of Dr. Rice's trip through Asia.
So how is it going?
In India, Secretary Rice pressed India not to strike a pipeline deal with Iran, but also discussed how to bring America and India together closer as allies. The Dallas Morning News explains why the relationship between the United States and India is so important:
A prosperous, democratic India will help buffer any threat from China to Asia, where China's already an economic powerhouse. It's in America's best interest to keep China from becoming the dominant Asian political force.
In Pakistan, Financial Times reports:
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, yesterday concluded her first visit to Pakistan with a call to the country to continue down a "democratic path" by holding free and fair elections within two years.
“We have a long-term commitment to this country,” she said. “We learned the hard way what it meant to not have a long-term commitment. After the Soviet Union left I think it is well understood that we did not remain committed, and I said to the president earlier that in many ways Sept. 11 was a joint tragedy of the Afghan and American people out of that period.”
While in Afghanistan, a terrorist detonated a roadside bomb in Kandahar, nearly 300 miles away from Kabul, underscoring the challenge the world still faces there. Secretary Rice also pressed Karzai on the issue of the Afghan drug trade, another potential hitch in the road toward the fulfillment of a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic society.
The next leg of Rice's trip will include Japan, South Korea, and China. We'll keep you updated, so stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more.
Egypt: Freedom On The March?
WILLisms.com noted late last month that Egypt is showing signs of real democratization, as part of a greater wave of liberty splashing over the Middle East following successful elections in Iraq (and the U.S., for that matter).
Earlier this week, The Washington Post ran a piece noting that, while progress is being made, Mubarak is largely making symbolic and hollow gestures, and therefore the Bush administration must turn up the pressure on Mubarak to follow through with promised reforms.
One important and thoroughly significant gesture was the release of pro-freedom dissident Ayman Nour, head of Egypt's Tomorrow Party, following criticism from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for his unjust imprisonment:
AYMAN NOUR, the Egyptian opposition leader jailed in January while campaigning for democratic reform, is free on bail. Having angered President Hosni Mubarak by calling for a democratic presidential election this year, Mr. Nour can now launch his own candidacy under a constitutional reform the 76-year-old autocrat abruptly announced two weeks ago. It's too early, however, to anticipate a Cairo Spring. Mr. Mubarak's proposed reform, like his release of Mr. Nour, is an act of minimalism intended to deflect domestic and international pressure. The Bush administration, which played an important role in obtaining Mr. Nour's freedom, should join the Egyptian democrats who are telling the regime that its concessions aren't sufficient.
Salah Montasser, writing in Al-Ahram Weekly, a Cairo-based publication, is more optimistic, however:
I have talked to many of the new generation in our schools and universities and was surprised to discover that not one of them dreams of ever becoming president. When I asked them about their future plans they talked about being doctors or engineers, or working in the media or in cinema. Apparently, there is an invisible barrier holding the young from even thinking of running the country.
When Ayman Nour was first released from his political incarceration earlier this week, he declared to a lively crowd of supporters his candidacy to become Egyptian president:
We are here to spread freedom.
Freedom is on the march across the Middle East. There will undoubtedly be set-backs, but ultimately the journey will succeed because of people like Ayman Nour, and because of America's solidarity with the forces of liberty.
Why, then are we seeing the subtle-but-sure winds of change in places like Egypt?
1. The Bush Doctrine.
Also, the President has shifted U.S. policy away from coddling dictators automatically (because "he's our S.O.B.") to linking, slowly-but-surely, how the U.S. views and interacts with regimes, with how those regimes treat their citizens.
The United States has also begun to promote and support dissidents within countries like Egypt, perhaps not always officially or brashly, but it is certainly happening. When the President speaks, the world generally listens, and he has been increasingly vocal in his support for peaceful opposition groups in fear societies like Egypt.
2. The Arab world is getting younger.
There was a sort of baby boom in the Arab world about 20-30 years ago, and it is culminating today in a demographic bulge. Younger Arabs want freedom.
The internet and satellites have begun to slowly erode the monopolies tyrannical regimes have on the flow of information within their borders. The Arab world is infamous for the way information travels via rumormongering and inflammatory hyperbole. While the internet and satellites do not put an end to that (indeed, they may assist certain radical groups to an extent), it is harder and harder for Arab governments to control the images their citizens see, the words they read and hear, and the ideas they come across. When Iraqis went to the polls, Arabs saw it. They want a piece of that freedom. As the Lebanese people continue to assert their sovereignty from Syrian occupation, the Arab world is taking note. There is less and less Hosni Mubarak can do to stop Egyptians from seeing what freedom is about, and once they see it, there is no way to keep them from wanting it.
The Egyptian-controlled media is getting more desperate, more frantic, because they can see the writing on the wall. The Middle East Media Research Institute notes:
Egyptian diplomatic sources said that Egypt had expressed concerns about the "frivolous discussion in the [American] media" of Egypt's domestic affairs, which, according to them, is not appropriate in relations between two allied nations.
Freedom is not frivolous, and a nation's status as America's ally is increasingly dependent upon the level of freedom in that country. Egypt has received over $50,000,000,000 (that's 50 billion) in U.S. aid. The U.S. is expected to continue shoveling vast sums of assistance Egypt's way in the near future, but not without something in return.
In the foreign aid equation between the United States and Egypt, America is the oblivious parent who doles out a substantial allowance over the years to his teenager. Meanwhile, the teenager stops doing his chores and becomes increasingly antagonistic and hostile toward the parent. The money just keeps flowing without anything demanded in return, until one day the son, drunk and high and stupid, crashes his car through the front of the house. Suddenly, the parent "gets it" and begins demanding something in return from the son, beginning with simple respect. The son throws tantrums, talking about "privacy" and how "unfair" it is that he now has to do some chores and get his grades up in order to keep his car. If anything, the parent is still too lenient, but because of the long history of spoiling the teenager, the parent cannot lean too hard.
It will be hard to break the spoiled Egyptian diplomats from their conception of foreign aid entitlement, but the United States must continue to lean on Egypt, ignoring its absurd whining and demanding tangible results in exchange for continued support. America's support for Egypt must be contingent upon that support aiding free Egyptians achieve prosperity.
But in some ways, it seems like the message is getting through to the Egyptians, and in other ways, not at all. The release of Ayman Nour and the progress toward free and fair elections are steps in the right direction.
On the other hand, images like these have appeared in recent days in official Egyptian media outlets, such as Al-Akhbar:
With images like this the rule and not the exception, it is no wonder Egyptian attitudes toward the U.S. are so paranoid and resentful.
It's time for the U.S. to ratchet up the pressure on Mubarak, demanding real reforms, not empty promises and token gestures. No longer can the United States afford to allow our allies to incite extremist anti-Americanism. The festering boil of hatred in the Middle East must be removed, replaced by freedom and democracy. It will not be a quick or easy process, but it is a noble and necessary one.
The Latest On Terri Schiavo.
The case of Terri Schiavo raises complex issues. Yet in instances like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and concern. It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected - and that culture of life must extend to individuals with disabilities.
Andrew McCarthy, meanwhile, in National Review, expresses that terrorists get better treatment than Terri Schiavo:
In a last-ditch attempt to stop the court-ordered removal, a House committee on Capitol Hill here decided early Friday morning to start an investigation into Schiavo's case and issue subpoenas ordering doctors and hospice administrators not to remove her feeding tubes and to keep her alive until that investigation was complete.
**Exclusive Fri Mar 18 2005 00:50:07 ET** The Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee, Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) has requested Terri Schiavo to testify before his congressional committee, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned. In so doing it triggers legal or statutory protections for the witness, among those protections is that nothing can be done to cause harm or death to this individual.
The clock is ticking.
A Florida judge is temporarily blocking the removal of Terri's feeding tube, Fox News reports.
Compound Interest, The Rule Of 72, & Albert Einstein.
Do personal retirement accounts achieve solvency?
Is that the only reason to support them?
Personal accounts would also provide a better benefit for younger workers and create an ownership society in which lower and middle income earners could keep more of what they earn and ultimately pass it on to their survivors.
Personal accounts would tap the raw power of what Albert Einstein admired as one of the most powerful forces in the universe, compound interest and the rule of 72 (in which you divide 72 by the interest rate to see how many years it will take to double your money, so a 6% rate of interest would double your money in 12 years).
As WILLisms.com noted before, even AARP urges its members to harness the power of compound interest, on a page titled "Count on Compound Interest." AARP explains to its members:
Many years ago, someone asked Albert Einstein what he thought was the human race's greatest invention. His reply?
"Fatherflot" at the left-wing blog dailykos.com tries to debunk Einstein's often-cited awe of compound interest, following a casual aside on the subject in a speech delivered by Treasury Secretary John Snow.
"Fatherflot" and the other kos people, however, can't seem to come up with any contrary evidence on whether Einstein actually admired the forces at play in compound interest, nor on whether compound interest is really so great.
WILLisms.com will go ahead and assume that even if Einstein did not claim that compound interest is one of the greatest forces in the universe, the idea behind his comments remains solid.
The rule of 72 is one reason why personal accounts are so attractive for younger workers, and a reason why it is so imperative that we act soon to reform Social Security. Each day the system remains in its current form is a day younger workers are being robbed of compound interest.
It's time to put compound interest to work for Social Security and for American workers.
Reform Thursday: Week Seven, Bonus Graphic: Ryan-Sununu's Solvency.
Yesterday, we answered whether or not personal accounts achieve Social Security solvency (they do).
Now, how about a graphical representation of the argument:
Basically, under the Ryan-Sununu legislation, scored by Social Security's Chief Actuary, personal accounts would put Social Security into solvency and then some.
The only hitch is getting from here to there. While some estimate the transition costs at 1 or 2 trillion dollars, according to the actuarial analysis, it will cost 656 billion dollars (in today's dollars) spread out over several years to do so. However, for every year we wait to reform the system, the debt raises by an additional 600 billion dollars.
Let's assume the transition leaves a hole of 656 billion dollars.
We could cover those costs with (but not limited to) lower benefits, higher taxes, a broader tax base, a higher retirement age, or short-term borrowing.
The above graphic shows just how insignificant the short-term financing of the transition costs (which are not new costs, just an acknowledgement of existing obligations) would be compared to the potential problems we will certainly face if we do nothing.
One way to help solve Social Security's looming crisis and get over that hump is by slowing the growth of benefit increases. To do this, annual benefit adjustments would become based on inflation rather than wage growth (because wages almost always outpace inflation). Once we are beyond the transition, personal accounts keep the system self-perpetuating and solvent.
In the end, personal accounts (but obviously not personal accounts alone) do put Social Security into solvency. Every legitimate reform proposal on the table includes personal accounts along with some temporary way of transitioning the system until those personal accounts can assure permanent sustainability.
Personal accounts just make good sense; they are both smart policy and wise poltics.
Reform Thursday: Chart Seven.
Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.
That's why WILLisms.com will display a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform. The graphics are mostly self-explanatory, but we include commentary on some of them where necessary.
Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:
Today's graphic, like last week's, comes to us from the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) of Congress:
A steady march upward. Without reform, there may have to be further increases out of sheer necessity. But it doesn't have to be that way; we can reform Social Security now and make the system work better for Americans.
Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important supporting data supporting Social Security reform.
Constitutional Interpretation and Judicial Nominations
Justice Antonin Scalia gave a speech two days ago at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars on the topic of Constitutional Interpretation (read the transcript here, via Instapundit). This is a topic near and dear to my heart, as I am currently writing an undergraduate honors thesis that deals directly with Constitutional interpretation.
Scalia is regularly lambasted by those who don’t agree with his political ideology for being too conservative, but I have long been a fan of his written opinions; they are among the most logically consistent and easy to read examples of legal scholarship to be found. And yes, his opinions are works of legal scholarship, you may disagree with what he says but it’s hard to disagree with the facts and the cases he cites when making an argument.
Scalia ended his speech by talking briefly about how the current judicial nomination process is threatening to damage the Constitution. This topic was brought into sharp focus by Senate Minority Leader (and shaping up to be its chief obstructionist) Harry Reid threatened that Senate Democrats will stall any and all Senate business they can if the Republican majority modifies the Senate rules to disallow filibusters on Judicial nominations. The thing to remember is that this cuts both ways, it is seen as a “conservative” issue now, but a decade ago it was a “liberal” issue when it was Clinton's nominees that were meeting resitance from a newly elected Republican Congress. However, I can practically guarantee you that Justice Scalia’s remarks would have been the same in 1995 as they were in 2005:
You heard in the introduction that I was confirmed, close to nineteen years ago now, by a vote of ninety-eight to nothing. The two missing were Barry Goldwater and Jake Garnes, so make it a hundred. I was known at that time to be, in my political and social views, fairly conservative. But still, I was known to be a good lawyer, an honest man, somebody who could read a text and give it its fair meaning, had judicial impartiality and so forth. And so I was unanimously confirmed.
Justice Scalia's point is important. As John Marshal noted 200 years ago "It is a Constitution we are expounding," not some small piece of legislation. It deserves better than partisan vitriol and rancor. The rest of his speech is just as good, but not as topical to the current political climate. If you have time, I’d suggest you give it a read.
Alaska: Open For Business. Finally.
Today, the United States Senate voted 51-49 to reject Senator Maria Cantwell's amendment striking drilling in ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Reserve) from the FY2006 budget.
Breaking ranks, both Hawaii Democrats, Akaka and Inouye, voted to keep drilling in the budget, as did Louisiana Senator Landrieu.
Meanwhile, Republicans voting to remove the provision included, unfortunately, one of WILLisms.com's favorite Senators, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, as well as Senator Smith of Oregon, Senators Snowe and Collins of Maine, Senator DeWine of Ohio, Senator Chafee of Rhode Island, and Senator McCain of Arizona.
"Independent" Senator from Vermont, Jim Jeffords, also voted to remove the provision, which was really no surprise.
Every other Republican voted "nay" (which means keeping drilling) and every other Democrat voted "yea" (which means no drilling).
As one blogger puts it, this shows that elections matter.
More on ANWR:
In 1980, President Carter and Congress set aside 1.5 million acres of ANWR’s Northern Coastal Plain for potential oil development. The drilling was not to happen unless it could be done with no significant effects on the wildlife and environment. Clearly, the time has come, as the Caribou and other wildlife have flourished in other, similar parts of Alaska affected by drilling. ANWR is a nice rallying point for the environmental movement, but environmentalists would serve their cause better by focusing on actual environmental problems and solutions. Drilling in ANWR simply makes good policy sense, from a foreign policy standpoint, an energy policy standpoint, and an environmental policy standpoint.
More fun facts about ANWR:
If ANWR became a state, it would be larger than ten other states in land area. Yet, the part of ANWR to be used for drilling would be smaller than Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch.
1. Only 8% of ANWR Would Be Considered for Exploration Only the 1.5 million acre or 8% on the northern coast of ANWR is being considered for development. The remaining 17.5 million acres or 92% of ANWR will remain permanently closed to any kind of development. If oil is discovered, less than 2000 acres of the over 1.5 million acres of the Coastal Plain would be affected. That's less than half of one percent of ANWR that would be affected by production activity.
Some of those reasons for drilling in ANWR are better than the others, but overall, it just makes sense on so many levels to drill there.
Indeed, drilling in ANWR will provide prosperity to the local people:
So just how much oil is there in ANWR?
Left-wing environmentalists say 3.2 billion barrels, but other estimates put the amount at as high as 29.4 billion barrels, with 34 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The U.S. Department of the Interior currently estimates an "expected value of 10.4 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil." Liberals say that 3.2 billion barrels is only enough to last the United States for 6 months, but that is supremely disingenuous. One would have to shut off all other sources of energy and rely exclusively on ANWR for that to be the case. More likely, once up-and-running, ANWR would provide an additional 1 million barrels of oil every single day, for many decades, which is far from insignificant.
Won't drilling hurt Republicans politically?
A recent poll showed that 53% of Americans support the drilling. As the price of gasoline rises and the world's demand for fossil fuels rises, driving up American dependence on foreign sources of energy, it seems readily apparent that the United States ought to use the resources we have here at home.
Ultimately, this is the tiny part of Alaska that will be used for drilling, and when environmental groups work themselves into a lather over something like this, they really just look foolish:
How many times can the far left cry wolf on environmental matters before the general public begins to completely ignore their cries?
National Review's Jonah Goldberg has more on the desolation of ANWR, including pictures like this one:
Ben Lieberman of The Heritage Foundation explains that drilling in ANWR is long overdue:
Also: Right Wing News explains that we can learn a lot about the priorities of conservatives and liberals by watching their reaction to ANWR.
For Terri Schiavo: The Incapacitated Person’s Legal Protection Act
Florida's new Republican Senator, Mel Martinez, has introduced a bill in the Senate, The Incapacitated Person’s Legal Protection Act of 2005, to save Terri Schiavo from dehydration/starvation.
Martinez, in National Review, explains his legislation:
This bill would ensure that incapacitated individuals — like Terri Schiavo — would have their due-process rights of habeas corpus when a court orders their death by removal of nutrition, hydration and medical treatment. My colleague from Florida, Congressman Dave Weldon has introduced identical legislation in the House of Representatives.
So how can Judge Greer ignore the opinions of so many qualified neurologists, some of whom are leaders in the field? The answer is that Michael Schiavo, his attorney George Felos, and Judge Greer already have the diagnosis they want.
Indeed, a former nurse of Terri, Carla Sauer Iyer, recently explained that Terri is not in a vegetative state:
The nurses, including Iyer, interacted with Terri and daily witnessed her respond, laugh, and make requests. “We had her at the front of the nurse’s station… everyone loved Terri,” Iyer said.
Wolfowitz To Replace Wolfensohn As World Bank Chief
It is a great choice.
Liberal blogger Kevin Drum sighs at the selection of Wolfowitz, following the selections of Alberto Gonzales and John Bolton, as Attorney General and UN Ambassador, respectively:
...it's time to face the music. It's going to be a long four years.
Do Personal Accounts Achieve Solvency For Social Security?
One argument against personal accounts made in recent weeks is that they do not achieve solvency in the Social Security system.
So, do they? Do personal accounts solve the problems Social Security faces?
The Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration, Stephen C. Goss, a fiercely non-partisan career government employee, has crunched the numbers and come to this conclusion:
Personal accounts do achieve long-term solvency in Social Security over the next several decades and beyond... permanently.
When you think about it, personal accounts are really the only way to put Social Security on a course of permanent solvency.
Do they solve the crisis in a vacuum; do the personal accounts, by themselves, fix the entire problem without any other action?
That option (personal accounts as the one and only solution) would be called "add-on accounts." And add-on accounts are not what the President is proposing, although people do seem confused on that point. Indeed, misinformation is the single-most profound obstacle right now preventing reformers from gaining traction on Social Security.
Legitimate reforms would include personal accounts, but would find one or more ways of addressing the short-term transition. Issuing bonds would be one way. Changing the way benefits are calculated from wage-indexing to price-indexing would be another way. Raising taxes, expanding the tax base, raising the retirement age, and cutting benefits would be less attractive ways.
But those kinds of fixes would only get Social Security over the hump, at which point the self-sustaining personal accounts would have worked their way into the system. Those band-aid fixes become far more difficult to implement as time passes, because Social Security's obligations increase to the tune of roughly $600,000,000,000 (that's 600 billion) with each year that we do nothing.
Unfortunately, reformers have not effectively defended this idea in the public square.
While President Bush has only laid out principles of reform, a U.S. Representative from Wisconsin, Republican Paul Ryan, has offered a plan that matches those principles of reform.
Under Ryan's plan, Social Security would become solvent (not based on mere political hopes and dreams, but according to actual actuarial analysis)
Specifically, Ryan's plan would allow younger workers to redirect up to 6.4% of the 12.4% total payroll tax into a personal account. Individuals would have three account options, ranging from aggressive to very conservative. Workers would receive recognition bonds for the contributions they would have made up to the point of the program's implementation.
Goss, the Chief Actuary, had this to say about how the plan would affect Social Security's solvency:
...the Social Security program would be expected to be solvent and to meet its benefit obligations throughout the long-range period 2003 through 2077 and beyond.
But what about cumbersome administrative fees? Wouldn't the accounts just be a huge government kickback for Wall Street?
No. Goss estimates the accounts would have administrative costs of one-fourth of one percent (25 basis points).
These bonds do not involve new government debt, but just explicit recognition of the effective debt already existing in the unfunded liabilities of Social Security. These bonds could then be paid off over a 30 to 40 year period. The reform itself would ultimately produce surpluses that would help pay off the bonds.What, then, did Social Security's Chief Actuary say about Ferrara's plan?
Under the "Progressive Personal Account Plan," the Social Security Administration asserts:
...the Social Security program would be expected to be solvent and to meet its benefit obligations throughout the long-range period 2003 through 2077 and beyond.
But, Stephen C. Goss crunched the numbers and found that Pozen's plan would also achieve solvency.
Another plan involving personal accounts is Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel's "The Saving Social Security Act of 2005," which would allow for 4% personal accounts for those who are under age 45. Hagel, potential 2008 GOP nominee for president, would would also raise the retirement age to age 68 and modify early retirement and delayed retirement factors, providing incentives for individuals to delay benefit entitlement and work to a higher age.
Again, the Social Security administration's actuarial analysis (in .pdf format) shows that Hagel's plan would achieve solvency.
When reform naysayers claim that "personal accounts do nothing to achieve solvency in Social Security," they are, at best, just flat-out wrong. At worst, they are intentionally disingenuous.
Obviously, adding personal accounts by themselves do not fix Social Security's problems, entirely. But personal accounts must be a part of any serious long-term and permanently sustainable solution. The only hitch is finding a way to transition from here to there.
Obviously, from the options listed above, there are many options for covering this transition. Issuing bonds is an attractive option, because it would allow no changes for benefits, retirement age, or payroll taxes. But some worry that issuing too many bonds would spook the international markets and put the U.S. in a vulnerable economic spot.
Alan Greenspan and other economists have attempted to dispel this "the-sky-is-falling" notion by explaining that "debt is debt," and the Social Security obligations the government currently owes are already factored into the market. Right now, the debt is merely unfunded and unrecognized. Issuing bonds would merely recognize the debt on the government's balance sheet.
Other ways of getting over the transition hump without significant increased short-term borrowing would be the kinds of items Chuck Hagel and others have offered. Changing the way annual benefit growth is calculated from wages to prices, for example, would be one way to get over the hump, while personal accounts work their way into the system.
The bottom line, however, is that without personal accounts, Social Security will need major (and increasingly painful) reforms every generation or so. Scrapping the Bismarckian Pay-As-You-Go pyramid scheme system of funding Social Security and replacing it with personal accounts is the only way to fix Social Security permanently, short of completely eliminating the entire program (something no mainstream political figure today is calling for).
Thus, ACTUARILY, PERSONAL ACCOUNTS DO SOLVE SOCIAL SECURITY'S LOOMING SOLVENCY CRISIS. Social Security's Chief Actuary has said as much.
A Message To Squeamish Republicans On Social Security: Reform Is Good Politics.
To Republicans on the fence on Social Security:
You really need to snap out of it. Social Security reform is not only good policy, it is great politics.
Why would the president risk his political capital on a plan that appears doomed to failure? I think the answer lies well beyond the politics of any single reform plan. And the president may end up a winner if his call for personal accounts ultimately fails. After all, he has raised a serious issue that needs attention--the very solvency of Social Security--which Democrats have never touched. Huge majorities of voters understand that the current system is in trouble. He will, at the very least, get credit for trying to reform the program previously referred to as the "third rail of American politics"--even if he achieves more modest change than he now proposes....
Achieving effective Social Security reform should be based on sound policy, with the political effects in the periphery. As the system stands today, Social Security is bad policy. The system is broken and will become a crisis in the coming years without reform. Reform with personal accounts has the chance to put Social Security on the path to permanent self-sustaining solvency, boost benefits for retirees, ease the burden on the nation's GDP, inject research and development funds back into the economy, and increase America's savings rate. Despite what some naysayers believe, personal accounts do put Social Security into solvency in the long-run, with only a moderate amount of short-term borrowing to cover the "transition cost" (a cost which the government already owes anyway and only grows over time without action), without any benefit cuts or tax hikes for individuals. Reform is good policy.
But it is also good politics.
While achieving a long-term Republican majority is not the point of reforming Social Security, it can be an electoral windfall for the GOP.
But it will take the right reform. And it will take ambivalent Republicans to take a stand on their principles.
John Zogby is right on one point, at least:
Americans believe there are problems with Social Security. Republicans are the only party providing answers to the problems, while Democrats either claim there is no problem or that the answer to the problem is to do absolutely nothing. Even if the public mistrusts the GOP somewhat on Social Security, a program created by Democrats roughly seven decades ago (it's their baby), the American public is a pragmatic bunch.
Americans want their elected leaders to solve problematic programs. They want solutions, not obstruction. The American people want leaders who at least offer fixes to looming crises while we still reasonably can, rather than ignoring the crises exist. They want a vision for the future, not ideological adherence to a long-gone era and legacy. Democrats may or may not be able to rely on their thus-far effective demagoguery to scare seniors in the short-term, but they certainly will not be able to explain to the WILLisms.com generation why they chose to obstruct, flummox, stymie, and otherwise contravene necessary reforms.
There will be heck to pay at the polls for Democrats. But only if the fence-sitting Republicans snap out of it.
Right Wing News notes:
Steve Antler, tongue-in-cheek, observes that this confirms Marx: "One's political consciousness, the numbers say, is mostly informed by one's relationship to the means of production!" The chart matches up quite well, too, with Weber's Protestant work ethic.
Social Security: Luddite Reactionary Liberals Receive $50 Certificates For Stuffing Money Into Mattresses.
Some of those opposing Social Security reform seem to have a bizarre aversion to markets.
It's as if, despite their own assets actively earning compound interest in stocks, bonds, mutal funds, and other investments, they believe those options are too "risky" for everyone else.
Not only this, but no legitimate reform proposal includes allowing people to "gamble" their money, so their claims are even further disingenuous; the personal accounts would be more like the Thrift Savings Plan available to Federal employees, where individuals can choose among a handful of relatively safe options. In other words, the personal accounts would be safe. They would be broadly diversified and not at all susceptible to "another Enron." And they would certainly earn a better rate of return than the current system.
Democrat seem to believe that stuffing money away for retirement is better policy than allowing the greatest free enterprise system in the world to grow the money.
Well, Americans For Prosperity has decided to poke fun at the mattress-stuffing mentality of Democrats by sending key Democrats in Washington, as well as the head of the AARP, $50 gift certificates for Mattress Warehouse:
“The current Social Security system only provides retirees with a 1-2 percent return on the payroll taxes they have taken from them throughout their lives,” said Americans for Prosperity President Nancy Pfotenhauer . “That's like saving for retirement by stuffing money in a mattress instead of wisely investing in safe, diversified index funds over 30 or 40 years. If these officials are so enamored of ‘mattress-stuffing' retirement planning, I hope they'll use these gift certificates toward the purchase of mattresses in which they can store their own retirement savings instead of growing their money in sound, safe investments like mutual funds or 401(k)'s.”
Blogging's Awesomeness: The World Becomes One Community.
Examining WILLisms.com website stats for the past two months or so, and the following country codes have shown up on the list (there may be others, as well, that have not been tracked by mediatemple.net's software):
us (United States)
ae (United Arab Emirates)
A graphical representation of WILLisms.com readers in Europe (we'll update this as more readers in other countries log on to WILLisms.com):
If WILLisms.com is getting readers from all of those countries, some of the larger blogs must be getting even more broad coverage.
For example, in Lebanon, the use of American movie slogans on signs and putting lots of pretty, well-proportioned girls at the forefront of the demonstrations is completely conscious and purposive (UPDATE: see Wizbang's comment on "The babe theory of political movements"):
Those millions who oppose tyranny in the Middle East, previously silent for so long, are speaking directly to the people of the United States. They need our help.
If you are in Lebanon, or elsewhere in the Middle East, and you desire change in the troubled region, you desire sovereignty from corrupt and evil regimes like Bashar Assad's, you desire modernity and independence and freedom and prosperity, know that the American people, and its leaders, stand with you in your struggle. We hear you. Keep up your miraculous work.
In this new geopolitical environment, a product of the Bush doctrine, when lovers of freedom speak out, the United States will be there with them. President Bush said as much in his State of the Union address:
The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror, and replace hatred with hope, is the force of human freedom. Our enemies know this, and that is why the terrorist Zarqawi recently declared war on what he called the "evil principle" of democracy. And we've declared our own intention: America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.
And in the President's Second Inaugural address:
Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:
To the readers of WILLisms.com around the world, we're glad to have you. If you are reading WILLisms.com from a country that is not showing up on our list, let us know by shooting us an email at WILLisms@gmail.com.
Classiness, All Around Us.
In no particular order, WILLisms.com presents classiness from the blogosphere:
PoliPundit notes some good news on the public opinion polling front:
According to the new Washington Post/ABC News Poll:
Wizbang urges everyone to celebrate International Eat An Animal For PETA Day, complete with the "freedom grill" team:
Right Wing News catalogues the left-wing obsession with Karl Rove:
Karl Rove, George Bush's hired political gun, has been so successful that he has spawned a number of conspiracy theories in Democratic circles. If something bad happens to a Democrat, you can almost be certain that someone is going to try to pin it on Karl Rove.
Patrick Ruffini signals the "Loaded Question Alert" at the White House press briefing:
Remember when asking a "loaded question" at a White House press briefing was a cardinal sin? No more!
Captain's Quarters Blog, in "Pro-Syrian Demonstrators Short On Math," explains the ridiculousness of the Ba'athist supporters:
Let's see ... we have one American ambassador in Beirut, who probably has a staff of around 200 or so people, including security. Syria, on the other hand, has 14,000 armed troops and thousands more in military intelligence, plus its Hezbollah auxiliary.
Austin Bay looks back on the Eason Jordan and Rathergate stories:
It’s high time a voice of integrity in the legacy media noticed that both the CNN and CBS scandals remain open questions. They are corrosive issues– particularly for journalists who value credibility.
Blogs For Terri explains the race against time to save Terri Schiavo from euthanasia:
TALLAHASSEE - With emotions running high in the Terri Schiavo case, the Florida Legislature is poised to pass a new end-of-life law before Friday, the day a judge has ordered the removal of the Pinellas Park woman's feeding tube.
The post also has this video link: Barricades around the hospice where Terri Schiavo lives.
The Social Security Choice blog believes there are some dirty little secrets about Social Security that anti-reformers don't want you to know.:
Daily Demarche comments on Spain's 9/11:
March 11, 2004 was Spain’s 9/11. No strangers to terrorism and tragedy, both as Americans and as likely targets for terrorists due to our profile and official status, we here at the Daily Demarche offer, once again, out heartfelt condolences to the victims and survivors of those cowardly attacks.
An aging population brings dissaving, slower growth, less innovation, and a worsening of the government's fiscal position.
Starting today, WILLisms.com is going to make the classiness roundup a weekly feature, every Tuesday, with 10 posts deemed classy. If you would like to nominate a post on your blog or another blog for inclusion, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com.
In the near future, we're also going to introduce a roundup of lameness, which will provide examples of shrill, angry, extremist, anti-American, self-loathing, intentionally misleading, and other unclassy posts from leftist blogs (and even right-wing blogs, if it is bad enough). Again, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com to submit nominations.
Secretary Rice Goes To Asia: A Preview.
Today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is embarking on a week-long trip through Asia, beginning in India, then on to Pakistan, then Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea, and China.
South Asia and Asia are often overlooked in geopolitical analyses that show up in American media reports, as there is an obsession with Europe and the Middle East.
Because of their enormous populations and the economic growth potential, India and China (and the rest of the Asian countries) are worth serious attention. China and India both have the capability and the ambition to rise as global economic and military superpowers over the next generation. The United States cannot operate under the assumption that Europe is the center of the world any longer. A new world requires new thinking. Thus, Dr. Rice is training her attention on Asia early in her term as America's Secretary of State.
As long-time foes, India and Pakistan have each considered a gain in U.S. relations for one to be a setback to the other. The post-September 11, 2001, world can no longer afford such zero-sum thinking. Miss Rice should emphasize that U.S. promotion of nuclear nonproliferation, economic growth and democracy through closer ties to both India and Pakistan is a win-win-win solution for all sides.
The Heritage Foundation has another task for the freedom-loving Rice, while in India:
...an opportunity to make a joint U.S.-India statement on Nepal. Since King Gyanendra abolished the government and established his monarchy as absolute, the human rights situation in the country has substantially dropped from its already low levels. Capitalizing on Nepal’s sudden political isolation, China is supporting the king’s dictatorial impulses and appears to be constructing another outpost of tyranny on its frontier, similar to Beijing’s behavior with North Korea and Burma. A strong statement by India and the United States should warn the Chinese about interfering with Nepal’s independence and encourage King Gyanendra to restore democracy this year.
With regards to Pakistan in particular, The Heritage Foundation notes:
President Pervez Musharraf is a tested ally in the war on terrorism, but he is also a military dictator and many intelligence analysts still believe Osama bin Laden is hiding out somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Rice must continue to press for democracy and for the suppression of terrorism in Pakistan while recognizing Islamabad’s contributions to the war on terrorism.
Later in her trip, Dr. Rice will visit Afghanistan to examine how the U.S. can promote the full emergence of a free and democratic state there. After that, she will visit Japan, South Korea, and China, where North Korea's nuclear ambitions will top the agenda.
In other developments in diplomacy, Karen Hughes has been named Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.
Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for progress on Secretary Rice's trip across Asia.
John "Goon" Chaney To Return For NIT,
Essentially, to recap:
Chaney sent in a "goon" (his own term) to put a hit on the St. Joe's sixth man. That player broke his arm. St. Joe's, a number one NCAA tournament seed in 2004, was a bubble team for the NCAA at the time of the incident. As we said at the time of the incident, they needed to win the Atlantic 10 to guarantee themselves an NCAA bid. Losing their sixth man, St. Joe's was unable to get into the NCAA and now will play in the same NIT in which Temple will play.
Now, Chaney will coach the Temple Owls in the NIT against Virginia Tech Tuesday, March 15, 2005.
What a travesty. What an embarrassment to the city of Philadelphia, to Temple University, and to the NCAA. Chaney should have been fired immediately, not suspended for a few games.
Your Official WILLisms.com NCAA 2005 basketball tournament bracket.
Need a printable bracket for the 2005 NCAA basketball tournament?
Try the WILLisms.com version.
Just click on the graphic and make sure your printer is ready to print in landscape mode.
Our picks (we follow college basketball very closely but have only had a few good brackets over the years):
If some our picks make scratch your head, it's only because the seeds this year seemed so out-of-whack. For example, we think Kansas would beat Connecticut, but we think that Wisconsin will beat the KU Jayhawks before they get that chance. Or,
When our picks are way off base, you can make fun of us for our lack of college basketball prescience. When we're right on target, give us props accordingly.
By the way, we're not ACC homers at all, even though we have 3 ACC teams in the Final Four. That's just how our bracket went. For example, we don't really think Wake Forest is one of the top four teams in the country (although they are close), but because they have such an easy bracket, they will get to the Final Four.
There are some other puzzling choices for seeds, but there always are. One of better aspects of college basketball is that, unlike college football, the championship is decided on the court.
Gargantuan Anti-Syria Protest In Beirut.
In the past, WILLisms.com has noted the rumblings of democracy and freedom in the Middle East, in Egypt for instance, but especially in Lebanon.
Today, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese protestors turned out to demand that Syria full withdraw its troops immediately, chanting:
"Freedom, sovereignty, independence."
Some estimates put the size of the crowd at over one million strong. Whether the crowd was 800 thousand or 2 million, this demonstration was amazingly huge.
Crowds of this size are truly unprecedented in Lebanon. And they are going to be absolutely crucial to the cause of full Syrian withdrawal. Without the persistent efforts of masses of protestors and the pressure of the international community, Syria may attempt to only partially withdraw.
Pictures often can say it better than words:
This is precisely what the President's vision for shaking up the Middle East entailed. And it is coming to fruition beautifully in Lebanon. Freedom is on the march, and the Ba'athists and jihadis know it. There is very little they can do at this point to stop the inertia of liberty once it gets going.
Captain's Quarters Blog has more typically great analysis:
Westerners worried that the massive show by Hezbollah would intimidate the democrats in Lebanon, and in fact it appeared initially to stun them. In the momentary respite, Assad got Omar Karami back in charge of the Lebanese government through the efforts of pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud. Even with Syrian troops streaming eastward, it looked like Assad had reversed momentum.
Meanwhile, Wizbang blog jokes, "My Protest is Bigger Than Your Protest."
"...Or Does It Explode" blog offers more:
...when you have a group funded by Iran (i.e., Hezbollah) holding a gender-segregated rally with a blatantly contradictory message ("No to Foreign Intervention" and "Thank you, Syria") you are not the wave of the future.
Publius Pundit blog, meanwhile, has much more.
Light Seeking Light blog argues:
The model, of course, is Ukraine. The outcome might be far less satisfactory. All depends on what Assad and Hizbollah are willing to do to short-circuit the opposition.
Terri Schiavo: Scheduled For Dehydration, Starvation, Beginning Friday.
Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman in the headlines so often over the past couple of years, is scheduled to have her feeding tube removed this Friday.
Under such a scenario, she likely would die from dehydration before starvation, and the process would be slow and painful, drawn out over at least two days. Not only would the tube be removed, she would be denied food and water of any kind by mouth. This is not merely allowing her to die with dignity, this is direct euthanasia, as the Vatican's top bioethicist put it, a "cruel way of killing someone."
Judge George W. Greer of Florida's Sixth Circuit ruled that Terri is in a persistent vegatative state (PVS). This essentially means, under Florida law, that an individual:
...exhibits no voluntary action or cognitive behavior of any kind and is unable to communicate or interact purposely with the environment.
Ruling that she is in a vegetative state paves the way for her legal dehydration.
Wesley J. Smith, author of Forced Exit : The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder, writing for National Review, explains that the ruling was erroneous:
Mercifully, however, the law got in the way.
More from Smith:
Dr. William Hammesfahr, a world-renowned expert in cases such as Terri's — and a Nobel Prize nominee — testified that Terri is not in a PVS. He also testified that he believes he could help her improve her circumstances through proper medical treatment. Ten other physicians have testified or given statements that Terri is not unconscious. Judge Greer instead chose to believe contrary testimony by a doctor who rarely sees Terri and another doctor, who makes an avocation of testifying in cases such as Terri's throughout the country, always on the side of dehydration.
Indeed, Terri exhibits voluntary actions and cognitive behavior, and she does communicate and interact with her surroundings.
At terrisfight.org, you can download videos that show Terri clearly responding to music, her mother, and other stimuli. Terri may be severely handicapped, but she is no vegetable. You can also view videos at blogsforterri.com.
So why is Terri's husband so intent on her death? And why can't he just turn over her medical decisions to her parents and the rest of her family?
Money, perhaps. It is understandable that he would want to move on with his life, as he now has a new relationship and children. He would stand to inherit a significant amount of money if and when she passes on.
Michael Schiavo also contends that Terri told him she would prefer to die in this kind of circumstance. But that claim is not substantiated, and it seems that in the event of one part of the family choosing death and the other choosing life, that life should triumph. As a rule life should triumph.
Terri's family, the Schindlers, should be able to care for her; the solution seems fairly straightforward: Michael Schiavo turns over custody to Terri's family and moves on with his life.
A San Diego businessman, Robert Herring, offered Michael Schiavo $1 million to transfer the authority to determine his wife's medical treatment to Terri's family; other offers have been made in the past, including one of $10 million. Michael Schiavo firmly rejected the latest offer.
Herring, commenting on his offer:
"I believe very strongly that there are medical advances happening around the globe that very shortly could have a positive impact on Terri's condition," said Herring, who founded an electronics firm before launching the affluence-oriented cable network last year. "I have seen miraculous recoveries occur through the use of stem cells in patients suffering a variety of conditions."
Some common questions and answers about Terri:
If Terri hasn't recovered after all these years of therapy, why not let go?
This case hits WILLisms.com particularly closely. Our aunt Nancy faces similar health situation as Terri, following a horrific car wreck more than two decades ago now. Fortunately for her, she has a loving family, a family that protects her, cares for her, and would never purposely cause her death. While hope for a full recovery does indeed fade over time, there is always that glimmer of possibility, as science and medicine rapidly move forward.
Terri has very little hope left. A year and a half ago, the Florida legislature passed a law that allowed Governor Jeb Bush to restore Schiavo's feeding tube six days after it had been removed by her husband. That law was ruled unconstitutional.
What can you do?
You can start with these action items. Federal lawmakers may still have time to intervene to protect Terri, as well. Additionally, two issues remain alive in the Second District Court of Appeal, which said it will rule by Thursday evening.
Phony Social Security Reform: Adding On Entitlements
Beware "add on" accounts on top of the existing Social Security structure, instead of accounts as a replacement for payroll taxes. Add-ons are not real reform; they do not fix long-term solvency; they do not allow for better returns for younger workers; they do not diminish Social Security's burden on the economy; they do not create a true ownership society. Rather, they are merely an additional entitlement.
Beware the add-on account diversion. Although they may seem similar, they are not at all what the President is suggesting. And that's because they are bad policy.
The Wall Street Journal has a great editorial this morning about this misdirection, this red herring, on Social Security reform, and how the President's plan is different (and better):
The main virtue of Mr. Bush's proposal is that it would let individuals keep some of their own payroll-tax money, investing it for higher returns rather than turning it over to Congress to spend the way it is now. With annual payroll taxes expected to exceed annual Social Security benefits through 2018, the earlier these accounts begin the more money can be kept out of Congress's clutches. Think of this as Al Gore's famous "lock box," except that each worker would have his own lock and key.
The add-on accounts, like other "alternatives" proposed by the anti-reform forces, are part of a deliberate plan to muddle and confuse the debate. Don't get lost by these deliberately bad ideas. Don't settle for anything less than personal accounts, funded with part of the current payroll taxes. The discussion of add-ons is a purposive attempt by Democrats to confuse voters about the details of President Bush's plan.
To fund any of these add-ons, Congress would be taking money from general tax revenues. That means raising income or other taxes on some Americans to finance subsidies to others. Meanwhile, the politicians would get to keep spending surplus payroll taxes right through 2018, and they'd also avoid doing anything about Social Security's long-term financing shortfall. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is exactly right to call add-ons "a political cop-out."
The Wall Street Journal is also correct in pointing out that the White House must be more forceful in separating, rather than blurring, the lines between the two types of personal accounts.
Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with individuals creating add-on accounts for their retirement, but those add-on accounts already exist under other names. They are called investment portfolios, 401(k)s, mutual funds, and the like. They are important for individuals, but they do not fix Social Security.
Cheney On Social Security Polling.
For those getting nervous about Social Security polling, here is what Vice President Dick Cheney said:
"The notion that you can lay out something this important, this complicated, that touches hundreds of millions of people and then go take a poll and say, `Oops! Sorry, we're going to stop' makes no sense at all," he said. "A poll's a snapshot in time. We're involved in a major educational effort here."
That is definitely something to remember. A poll is, in fact, a very poor way of measuring levels of public opinion. They are marginally better, however, at measuring differences between and among demographic groups, changes over time, and so forth. Polls are easy to tinker with, manipulating the demographics to engineer outcomes. Question wording and question order can also markedly affect the results of a public opinion survey. Just this week, the Ankle Biting Pundits exposed another in a long line of fraudulent polls:
You'll notice that nearly 20% of the "adult" respondents aren't even registered to vote. Then, note that the partisan breakdown of the poll is 48%-43% Democrat to Republican, even though the national party ID is even at 37%.
An irritating part of the article:
"The position of someone like (Democratic Senate leader) Harry Reid, who said, `Absolutely no, heck no, we're not going to do anything'" would result in a "27 percent reduction in benefits for 30-year-olds by the time they retire," said Cheney, whose schedule may include a stop in Reid's home state of Nevada.
Democrats have not signaled a willingness to negotiate a compromise. Not at all. For that reporter, Tim Funk, to assert that, is absurd. Democrats saying they are willing to negotiate, as long as personal accounts are not part of the reform, is similar to a ski instructor negotiating a ski lesson package, as long as there is no actual snow involved. It would be the same as a team of engineers and architects negotiating the building of a modern skyscraper, but with absolutely no steel or glass. Or a landscaper negotiating the renovation of a golf course, but only as long as there is none of that pesky grass involved. Or, a teenager negotiating an allowance in exchange for doing certain chores, as long as no actual chores are involved.
You get the idea.
Without personal accounts, there is no long-term, permanent solution for Social Security, therefore taking it off the table completely is nothing less than completely ludicrous.
Also, to buy into the idea that Republicans ought to have to negotiate with Democrats in the first place is to dismiss America's political realignment toward a long-term Republican majority, confirmed in recent elections.
Suggesting that Democrats are a willing party to negotiations at this point, when they have asserted rather stridently that under no circumstances would they allow personal accounts on the negotiating table, is absolute nonsense.
The Blogosphere: Interconnected, But Segmented.
The study notes that liberal blogs linked to these five stories most:
1. CBS News poll of uncommitted voters shows Kerry winning 43% to 28%
Meanwhile, conservative blogs linked to these articles most:
1. CBS News article on forged memos
Other interesting stuff includes this figure, which shows how the conservative and liberal blogs differed in their coverage of Rathergate/Memogate:
Rock The Vote Strikes Again.
Yesterday, WILLisms.com received an email from Hans Riemer (who is incidentally nearing his mid-30s), of Rock the Vote, a group that makes increasingly laughable claims of non-partisanship:
Dear Rock the Vote Supporter,
WILLisms.com has noted Rock the Vote's oozing cynicism and blatant partisanship in a previous post. In predictable fashion, Rock the Vote begins with a trite little diddy that matches its standard talking point: "they" are out to get you.
But if you think that Social Security is going to disappear one day, you're falling for it. You see, a lot of politicians and special interests are trying to convince you that you'll never get yours.
What a patronizing, condescending, Al-Gorean schoolmarmish way to look at it! Hans Riemer and Rock the Vote are asserting here that if a young person has looked at all the facts and comes to the only reasonable conclusion (that the system is not solvent for the WILLisms.com generation), it's all a trick, and the duped invidual must not be smart or informed enough to see through it.
Fact is, they just don't want to pay your benefits. They want to spend the money on something else.
Ah, the ubiquitous and nebulous "they," always a nice scapegoat. Reformers do want people to receive benefits, and that's the whole point of reform. The guaranteed benefit cut that will happen without reform is what reformers want to prevent from happening.
Also, no reformer wants to "spend the money on something else." That doesn't even make sense. Seriously, what does that even mean? Most Social Security reformers want to unencumber that part of the economy, not merely shift it to some other program.
And if you don't get involved now, that's just what they'll do. They're sitting down now to make decisions, and they are counting on your staying quiet.
Actually, Hans, that's what you and your weird liberal colleagues are counting on. You are counting on the apathy of younger voters, the group with the most at stake, to prevent any kind of popular groundswell for personal accounts.
What better way to take your money away than to convince you that you'll never get it anyway? It's a masterful plan!
Hans, you're sarcasm is oh-so 1995. That must be because you are no longer part of any reasonable definition of the "youth cohort." Yes, Hans, you are out of touch. Old. No longer intimately connected to the feeling of the under-30 crowd.
Here's a fact you need to know. The current Social Security tax, left alone, brings in enough money to pay 75-80% of benefits for your entire lifetime. And its [sic] 100% paid for the next 40-50 years.
Here are some better facts:
1. In 2018, just 13 years from now, the projected OASDI tax income will begin to fall short of outlays, Social Security Trustees have said.
2. Also, by 2042, 37 years from now, the funds that will have been accumulating (in the "trust fund" in the form of government promises, not any kind of actual account) will be sufficient to finance only 73 percent of scheduled annual benefits.
This information is readily available from the Social Security Administration and the Congressional Budget Office. But you'd never know it from the news.
Yes, that conservative media just dominates the news.
Rock the Vote is so disingenuous. They say that "its [sic] 100% paid for the next 40-50 years."
Wrong. At best, they could argue it is paid for over the next 37 years, but that is still a very real stretch of the facts.
Rock the Vote also says the current system, "brings in enough money to pay 75-80% of benefits for your entire lifetime."
Wrong. Since when does 73% equal "75-80%"? And since when is that acceptable? Is the reader of the Rock the Vote email supposed to see that statement and say, "oh, okay, I will only take a hit of 1/5 or 1/4 of the benefits promised to me, that's no big deal," or what?
The fact is, there is no reason to allow that to happen. We could raise retirement age drastically, or raise taxes drastically, or cut benefits drastically, but why would we? Those solutions are not permanent and self-sustaining, and they would be lousy for the economy.
We can do better. And we will do better, despite the best efforts of Rock the Vote to derail reform.
Don't let anyone take advantage of you. Get educated. Learn the facts. http://action.rockthevote.org/ctt.asp?u=1710087&l=6393
The people most responsible for taking advantage of young people in this debate are people like Hans Riemer, over 30, purporting to speak on behalf of young people, when in fact, their agenda is harmful to the interests of those under 30.
Like clockwork, Rock the Vote points us to a "nonpartisan" but ideologically liberal think tank.
GET THE GEAR http://action.rockthevote.org/ctt.asp?u=1710087&l=6388
The gear is amazingly lame. They have a trucker hat, for example, which was so 2003:
If Rock the Vote really loved Social Security, they would want to reform it rather than excusing drastic guaranteed benefit cuts as no big deal. If Rock the Vote really wants to become the "AARP of our generation," they might want to start by representing the interests of our generation, rather than fighting so far to protect the old establishment orthodoxies that dominate left-wing politics today.
Social Security: A Sacred Intergenerational Pact?
David Hogberg of Social Security Choice calls the notion of an "intergenerational compact" nonsense:
...when did I, or anyone else, get to enter into the so-called “Social Security compact” freely? Last time I checked, I had no say in the matter—the money was forcibly drawn out of my very first paycheck. Call it an intergenerational government program. Call it an intergenerational forced payment. But don’t call it a compact....
We agree with Mr. Hogberg that the WILLisms.com generation never had the option of opting in or out of Social Security (as a program), therefore we should never be tied to any kind of poorly performing program designed by people who mostly already passed away long ago.
However, we have a slightly different way of looking at whether or not such a pact is good; Social Security as a program is a terrible, scandalous fiasco. As an idea, however, it represents an important part of a healthy civilization.
In the end, we come to essentially the same conclusion: Social Security must be reformed. We believe the principles behind Social Security are so important that the tangible manifestation of those principles (the earthly program called Social Security) must change dramatically. Without reform, the principle of Social Security is destroyed because of stubborn adherence to a fatally flawed program.
Ideally, there would not be much of a need for Social Security, because children would take care of their elderly parents. Families would provide Social Security for their own parents. This is how human societies have operated for millenia.
However, Social Security has provided hundreds of millions of grandmothers and grandfathers with enough money to live comfortably in their waning years, but it is an unsustainable mess that cannot feasibly continue on its present course. Because the sacred pact was intruded on by government bureaucracies, the intergenerational promise lost much of its significance. It lost its sacred nature.
The government providing Social Security inexorably led to conversations like this one:
"Shouldn't you look out for your mother, make sure she's okay? She's very old, you know."
But just because the government tampered with something that families have done for ages does not mean the underlying concept is entirely destroyed. Everyone who lives in a family, in a civilized society, enters the pact automatically. Parents raising and providing for their children is the most important part of the pact, more important, even, than retirement security. But a child's repayment to his parents for bringing him successfully to adulthood is the second part of the pact.
The intergenerational promise is indeed a sacred pact, just not in the way socialist-leaning Robert Reich views it.
The older generations of Americans, with their harsh resistance to Social Security reform, are on the verge of breaking their end of the deal. If they plan to leave a broken system in which the WILLisms.com generation takes the biggest hit in terms of both paying the benefits of the current retirees and inheriting an unsustainable mess that lowers our own benefits, the intergenerational contract is null and void.
But it doesn't have to be that way. There need not be this kind of age-based warfare. Shame on the Democrats for playing to the worst fears and vulnerabilities of our grandparents on the Social Security issue, scaring seniors into staunch opposition to necessary reforms.
Under nearly every Social Security reform plan, older Americans would not be affected by the changes whatsoever. Younger Americans, meanwhile, would have a choice whether to experience the changes.
Ultimately, when the government makes decisions that its citizens should naturally make on their own, the citizens lose an important part of themselves, of their very nature. The same idea applies to government-run health care, government-run child care, and so on.
Imagine if the government determined that parents were not meeting their end of the sacred pact and therefore implemented a mandatory government parenting scheme, found in the imagination of the distopian visions of Orwell and Huxley, and to a lesser degree in places like modern North Korea. It's a recipe for certain disaster.
We have a very real chance to reform Social Security, keeping the essential principles of the sacred pact together, while removing its Ponzi-like character and fixing the material program.
Thus, when liberals like Robert Reich talk about a sacred pact they are really talking about unnatural, centralized social engineering with unintended negative consequences, not the instinctive and truly sacred pact parents and children have with one another.
It's a very important system. It made a lot of sense to have a safety net for people when they retired. But the dynamics of Social Security have changed....
Reform Thursday: Bonus Graphic- The Undeniability Of Social Security's Problems.
There is a certain undeniability to the problems Social Security faces, which makes the "there is no crisis" folks seem more than a little dishonest.
Social Security was structured, from the beginning, like a Ponzi scheme, also called a pyramid scheme. These schemes do not have any real money-making capabilities, but they promise great returns down the road.
And they seem so wonderful! People, initially, make money faster than they can count it.
The only catch is that pyramid schemes involve finding an ever-increasing base of dupes to pay for the scam. Eventually, there simply are not enough new people to fund the scam, and the pyramid collapses.
Social Security, from the beginning, was set up like a pyramid scheme, destined to failure. Over the years it became a slave to demographic changes, with ever-growing numbers of beneficiaries outnumbering ever-shrinking numbers of contributors.
So why didn't the pyramid of Social Security collapse (in the 1950s or 1960s, perhaps)?
Basically, because of three fixes:
1. The government increased the tax rate dramatically.
In the future, the options will be less palatable, because tax rates have already gotten so high. Raising the retirement age by a few years between now and the crisis would not even make a dent in the real solvency issues. Thus, the most likely option would be some combination of large tax rate increases, substantially raising the cap on the tax, a higher retirement age, drastic benefit cuts, and frantic borrowing.
Not great options, really.
But there is a better alternative. Instead of applying the same old cosmetic fixes, which simply kick the can down the road a little further, we have an opportunity to reform the system fundamentally, removing its pyramidical nature and making it permanently self-sustaining. The only way that can happen is through personal retirement accounts.
Critics say the personal accounts would be too expensive, forcing the government to go into deep deficit borrowing.
This is simply false. Actuarily, the government has an obligation to pay out the benefits, either way. It's just a matter of less now or more (more than 11 trillion dollars) later. And the relevant markets have already priced in the cost of Social Security over the long run. Reforming it would not add additional burdens, it would merely recognize and take care of existing obligations, much like paying off the car or house earlier than originally planned.
On the contrary, personal retirement accounts must be part of any serious, long-term, self-sustaining solution.
Alone, personal accounts do not solve the entire crisis that already exists in the system. Over the long-run, however, personal accounts do make the system self-sustaining.
Additionally, personal accounts, on their own, without other changes, do not solve the entire crisis, but they are an important and necessary part of the solution. Part of the solution is that the government reduces the benefits it pays out in the traditional pyramid scheme method. But an individual will not see that reduction. The individual will go on receiving a check, and likely a larger check than he would have ever gotten under the Ponzi funding method. The government, under a reformed system, just does not have to find the money to cover that check.
The problem with these reductions in government payouts is that those against reform eagerly demagogue the issue, saying that the reform is a guaranteed benefit cut for retirees. This scares people, particularly the elderly, a group which derives much of its income from Social Security.
The personal retirement accounts, for younger workers, would allow an individual to essentially fund his or her own retirement. Many people are under the impression that when you pay Social Security taxes, that money goes into an account with your name on it, earning compound interest over time. Unfortunately, although that method would make absolute sense, Social Security just does not work that way. Personal retirement accounts would allow the government to "cut benefits" from its perspective by changing, from wage-indexing to price-indexing, the way benefit increases are calculated. But, from the perspective of the retiree, benefits would be cut not at all.
The reductions in benefits are on the government payout side, therefore personal accounts do solve much of the funding shortfall inherent in Social Security today.
Ultimately, the critics are disingenuous when they talk about benefit cuts. Not only would the personal retirement accounts almost certainly allow for greater, not lower, benefits, if Democrats have their way and nothing changes, there will indeed be a sizeable and guaranteed benefit cut for the WILLisms.com generation. Guaranteed. There's really no way around that one, even with massive tax hikes. Andrew Roth notes that those options would be "business as usual" for Washington. But personal accounts must be part of any effective solution; they are not a sideshow, they are THE SHOW. We cannot take personal accounts off the table entirely, as Democrats are demanding, if we're going to be serious about reform.
Many critics of reform like to compare personal account reforms against the status quo, but they conveniently leave out the important little detail that the status quo is absolutely broken.
The idea behind Social Security is noble. Our country's grandparents should never face the effects of extreme poverty, such as going hungry and lacking heat during the winter. Social Security represents an important promise between and among generations, and that is precisely why it must be reformed, to make it solvent, to make it work better for individuals, and to allow it to benefit (rather than harm) the free market economy.
Social Security Without Reform: An Increasing Drag On The Economy.
Often lost in the Social Security debate is the impact of reform (or no reform) on the character of the American economy.
What would happen to the American economy without Social Security reform?
Social Security would become a far greater drag on the free market economy than it already is, and America would become more socialist in the process.
From the 2004 Report of the Social Security Trustees:
On the converse, an ownership society with Social Security reform at its center can free up economic resources so that they may achieve their full potential in the vibrant free-enterprise system known as the American economy.
Louis Woodhill explains that "Yes, Personal Accounts Are About Dismantling the Welfare State," at SocialSecurityChoice.org. Woodhill asserts that the fundamental case on behalf of Personal Social Security Accounts (PSSAs),
...is not economic, but political. PSSAs would represent a major shift away from the Welfare State and toward an Ownership Society. This is the truth, and if we want successful Social Security reform, we will have to start telling this truth clearly, forcefully, and unapologetically....
America now has a choice on Social Security.
We can dig deeper into the abyss of the welfare state, where increasing levels of our resources are tied up under the auspices of government-controlled bureaucracies. That is what will happen if we fail to reform Social Security.
Or, we can choose to allow individuals to have more control over the economy, returning decisions about the allocation of resources to the people, to the free-enterprise system. With Social Security reform, this can happen.
Let's make it happen, people.
Reform Thursday: Chart Six.
Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.
That's why WILLisms.com will display a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.
Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:
Today's graphic, like last week's, comes to us from the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) of Congress:
Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important supporting data supporting Social Security reform.
AARP's Plan For Social Security: Massive Tax Increases.
Over the past two months, WILLisms.com has commented somewhat extensively on AARP and its mission to undermine crucial Social Security reform.
We even pointed out AARP's corrupting influence on MTV's Rock the Vote, which also used bad polling to try to advance its left-wing agenda (Feb. 24, 2005).
AARP's plan for solving the Social Security crisis (a crisis which they don't admit exists) is... get this... raising taxes.
AARP's plan would:
*Raise taxes for 3.6 million workers over the age of 50, who are eligible to be AARP members, comprising about one-third of the total workforce that would face higher taxes;
Is Vietnam the Next Iraq?
There's been a lot of talk since Sept. 11 about how President Bush's war-lovin' ways have galvanized terrorists, recruiting jihadis to the ranks. What's increasingly evident, however, is that the character suffering the real blowback is Osama bin Laden, who, as it turns out, jolted the U.S. into a global recruiting drive for democrats. Faced with an unprecedented attack on American shores, Mr. Bush smashed the mold for Middle-East policy, and with the invasion of Iraq lit a beacon for freedom-lovers in a part of the world that until quite recently was widely seen as having none.
That's pretty far east. But the really telling passage was this one:
Dr. Que does not have access to the daily diet of news that feeds the free world. But given the feats of modern technology to spread information, he knows enough about what is now happening in the Middle East so that he wished to share his views on how America's intervention in Iraq is like the war in Vietnam, and how it isn't. The similarity, he says, "is the same fighting spirit for freedom." The difference, he adds, is that in the fight for freedom, the side America is on "will triumph this time."
The world is changing indeed.
A nod to Instapundit for pointing out this article, and suggesting that someone print up a "Vietnam: The Next Iraq" bumper sticker.
[UPDATE- Will Franklin adds]:
Freedom is on the march. Maybe Vietnam can join Iraq in the family of free nations in liberty's century? Wouldn't that just be amazingly ironic, given the left's pathological obsession with framing Iraq as George Bush's Vietnam?
Classiness, All Around Us.
In a post titled, "Could Bush Be Right (The Left Reconsiders),"
Has been busy tracking articles that give the Bush administration at least some credit for the miraculous wellspring of freedom bubbling up in the Middle East today.
In a post called "Images of Sgrena's Car,"
Looks at the incident in Iraq involving Communist Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, completely shattering her absurd and inflammatory claims.
In a post called "The road to the White House leads through the Clyde Whataburger,"
Looks into the out-of-the-woodwork absurdity that led to Bill Burkett's fake memos regarding President Bush making it on air, which then led to Rathergate/Memogate.
In a post called "Saint John's Halo Slips,"
Examines John McCain's "do as I say, not as I do" attitude with regard to money-in-politics.
In a post titled, "We Won't Investigate The Election,"
Looks into how bizarre and shady the Washington (state) Governor's race (and recount) was, and how the mainstream media seem entirely uninterested.
In a post called "Hizbollah's Pro-Syrian Dog & Pony Show,"
Explains why the pro-Syrian demonstrators in Lebanon are far less significant than the pro-freedom demonstrators.
In an aptly titled post, "Chicken Howard Won't Debate,"
Points out Howard Dean's aversion to debating Ken Mehlman, RNC chairman.
In "John Kerry Steps Up Fundraising for 2008,"
Notes that Kerry is very much fighting to stay relevant now and for the future.
In "Massachusetts gets one right,"
Gives props to Massachusetts for its "safe haven" program, which Wizbang calls "the least worst solution to a terrible problem," where frightened young mothers can, rather than tossing their unwanted babies into dumpsters, drop off their babies into safe hands.
Previous Certifications of Classiness from WILLisms.com:
Starting next week (March 15), WILLisms.com is going to make the classiness roundup a weekly feature, every Tuesday, with 10 posts deemed classy. If you would like to nominate a post on your blog or another blog for inclusion, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com.
In the near future, we're also going to introduce a roundup of lameness, which will provide examples of shrill, angry, extremist, anti-American, self-loathing, intentionally misleading, and other unclassy posts from leftist blogs. Again, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com to submit nominations.
Many Thanks To The WILLisms.com Guest Bloggers.
Back from the journey.
A busy week ahead.
But ready to get back into blogging form.
Many thanks to Duncan, Ian, and Micah for contributing guest posts to WILLisms.com over the past few days.
And thanks to Sekimori.com. They did a great job designing the new look for the site.
Hate Is Not Activism?
March 2nd has always held a special place in my heart. Besides being the day before my birthday, it is also, and more importantly, Texas Independence Day. On March 2, 1836 the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed, declaring Texas an independent nation. Modeled on the Declaration Independence penned 60 years earlier, it signaled that the Texas Revolution from Mexico, which had started in 1835 with the battle of Gonzales and concluded in April of 1836 with Santa Anna’s defeat at San Jacinto, embodied many of the same egalitarian ideals of the American Revolution. In my opinion, it is a day that in these politically correct times does not receive the amount of attention it should, for fear of offending Mexican Americans (this, despite the fact that many of the Texans fighting for independence were native Mexicans such as Juan Seguin).
Last Wednesday, March 2nd, the Young Conservative’s of Texas (YCT), a student group at The University of Texas at Austin that is a lighting-rod for criticism (and usually rightfully so), held a celebration for Texas Independence Day on the West Mall of the University’s main campus. However, when they got there, instead of handing out cake in peace to passersby to celebrate the 169th anniversary of the Texas Declaration of Independence, the YCT was met by a crowd of angry, hollering, cussing, and physically intimidating students who were protesting their presence in the designated free speech zone (isn’t it sad that UT had to designate a zone for free speech?) on campus. Why all the outrage over a little cake to celebrate Texas Independence Day?
While the YCT was planning this event, rumors began to swirl among other (predominately liberal oriented) student organizations that the YCT was going to be staging an “Illegal Immigrant Hunt” on March 2nd to protest the Immigration Bill that President Bush has proposed. These rumors started because the University of North Texas chapter of YCT had staged a similar event a few weeks prior at their campus in Denton, and the UT YCT chapter had initially planned to hold a hunt here in Austin before coming to their senses. But that didn’t keep the rest of the University from jumping to conclusions, and staging a protest against the very presence of the YCT on Texas Independence Day, regardless of the actual content of the YCT event.
Let me take a moment here to say that most of the time, the YCT gets under my skin, and I’m a conservative. Their publicity stunts backfire more often than not, and provide examples of the negative stereotypes about conservatives and conservatism that are all to often bandied about in so called “civil discourse.” And honestly, the rhetoric of the YCT is often un-thoughtout, reactionary, and childish, but hey, they're a college group, not elected officials. Despite these facts, I still am happy to let them have a voice here at UT, just as I am happy to let the University Democrats, the Young Socialists, and even the crazy Larouche-ites have a voice here. And no group deserves to be physically and verbally abused for simply expressing their beliefs in a peaceful manner, no matter how absurd or personally repugnant you may find those beliefs.
The over reaction to a non-existent event was so extreme that it was even covered by several statewide newspapers. You can read about last week's events in the Austin American-Statesman, the Houston Chronicle, and the San Antonio Express-News. If you want a slightly less reputable source, you can also read about it in the University of Texas' school newspaper, the Daily Texan.
The greatest irony of the day was that the main protest against the-event-that-never-happened, which called itself “Hate is Not Activism,” actually spawned the secondary protests that involved the hollering and cussing groups who took it upon themselves to hurl any available objects at the YCT members present on the West Mall and threaten them with physical violence. The actions of these smaller groups, who were misinformed about the purpose of the YCT event on Texas Independence Day by the publicity for the “Hate is Not Activism” protest, showed that the only hate on display last Wednesday was being aimed at the YCT, not coming from them.
Finally a Rep. with guts.
Chuck Hagel will propose raising the retirement age. It is about time a Republican grew a pair.
But some leading Democrats said they could not support Hagel's plan because he would pay for private accounts by borrowing and increasing the nation's deficit.
It is fascinating how absurd they are acting. If we follow the Dem. plan, i.e. do nothing, we will still have to borrow massivly to keep the system solvent.
Rounding Third Base, Heading for Second
A preacher had great advice for me once, and it has never really left me. He told me that so many people get in trouble because they are so anxious to get to their goals, to round the bases, that they forget the order in which things must occur. It's like running to third base first. So many problems can be traced to folks just not putting first things first: credit card debt, children out of wedlock, high school dropouts. These indivduals create vaste societial problems, but it can usually be traced back to the cycle of poverty created by underachiving schools and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, which completely destroyed the inner-city family.
However, what happens when the government runs to third base first? What happens when the federal government puts the cart before the horse? Social Security is what happens. The government has been promising so much to so many, with money from so few, in a plan that just doesn't work. Instead of doing the hard work, like making education work, pushing pro-family policies, and creating an enviroment in which market forces and intelligence allows individuals to account for their own retirements. These would be hard endeavors to undertake, but they would be the only ones that would truly work. Instead of even trying, the government accepted failure at the outset, thereby betraying the American spirit. The officials and bureaucrats in Washington wanted to take credit for the results, but were unable or unwilling to take on the risk and the work.
Now we are saddled with a dying system, and once again, many are opposed the hard work we are faced with, many want all the credit, but none of the work.
Breaking News concerning Dan Rather
ScrappleFace has a breaking story concerning the esteemed Dan Rather. It turns out he was always one of us.
New Look For WILLisms.com
Hello, loyal WILLisms.com readers.
I had a second to get on the hotel's computer and announce the changes to the site. Hope you like them. I still need to tweak a couple things (searches, and adding a blogroll and links and so on), but it ought to be more enjoyable overall.
I'll be back in regular blogging mode soon. Thanks to Micah for holding down the fort so far.
The next democratic revolution
The New York Times, (as any good reactionary I truly loath the NYTimes), has a good story on what may be the next democratic revolution. This time in Moldova.
Hopefully we will soon have a new brother in the family of free nations.
Liberation will come to Damascus
Charles Krauthammer has a wonderful column on the democratization of the Middle East.
There are many on the Left who just do not understand what is going on in the Arab world. They told us that the Arabs did not want freedom, and probably did not deserve it (we will allow the horribly racist aspect of that go for now). Krauthammer points out there perfidy:
Flynt Leverett, your usual Middle East expert, takes to The New York Times to oppose immediate withdrawal of Syria's occupation of Lebanon. Instead, we should be trying to ``engage and empower'' the tyranny in Damascus.
How in the world do you "empower" a tyrant? Give him more people to abuse? How about more rape rooms? How about we give them economic benefits in the hope that they try to not to sponsor terrorists and build WMDs (which is what the Euros are doing with Iran). Trying to "empower" a thug tyrant just emboldens them as we saw in 1939.
The only answer to these regimes is to destroy them one way or another.
The Left still doesn't understand that the world is changing.
Dick Morris on Bush's Euro Trip
I'm a big fan of Dick Morris, though sometimes I think he is a bit self-serving and often flat-out wrong. His take on the President's trip to Europe is excellent.
Finally, Europe feels itself beset by the worst form of anti-Muslim prejudice. Assailed by self-doubt over their failure to do anything positive about Iraq, they watch the growth of neo-Nazi forces attacking the massive migration of Muslims into the European Union. Fanning this sentiment are doubts about the wisdom of admitting Turkey to the E.U., thereby opening the floodgates to massive immigration.
Maybe now they are getting it.
I have always felt that the EU, with its weak economic and population growth, overly generoius welfare state, and inability to remember its past strength, will be a dismal failure. Maybe it is time for America to realize that maybe the Europeans, who we had to drag kicking and screaming to the defense of their own civilization, are not our friends.
What has happened to our schools.
I was always aware of hazing: making guys wear pink jocks, or shaving their heads, but this is beyond the pale. It makes me sick to think that the coaches knew and did nothing. Where are we going, and where did virtue go?
Having fun with Propaganda
Those nutty North Koreans. If you have never read their news service give it a try.
I want to turn this into a drinking game:
Everytime you see the word:
imperialist - 1 drink
I think this is a good format for getting started. Plus the alcohol would make the tripe they publish funny. Now it is just exceedingly delusional
Changing Scope of Women's Rights
Recently the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) met in New York under the auspices of the United Nations. Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D, was there and her report is quite alarming.
It seems to me that the CSW is a waste of time. It seems to consist of alot of wealthy, left-wing, manhaters getting together to push an agenda that ignores the problems of the world's women.
The CSW has recently embarked on a crusade to make abortion a "human right." While millions of women are dying world wide from disease, slave traffiking, and so called "honor killings", the CSW wants to make sure that at least they can abort their unborn children.
As you can tell, I a quite pro-life. I wasn't always this way. As a young man I bought the line that it was a "choice not a child" and that women really did need to see a "trained professional" at Planned Parenthood in order to make a decent choice. That was until a friend of mine had an abortion.
Here story was wrenching. She went to a Planned Parenthood clinic for "counciling" and came out with an abortion. The way she described the session, it is a wonder if anyone comes out a PP clinic without an abortion.
Basically, she said that the counciler had her write down her dreams and goals. Then when she passed them to the counciler, the woman tore the paper up and threw it into the trash. She then told the scared young lady that her life would be miserable with a baby, and that she would be poor for the rest of her life. Obviously, the abortion went through after this session.
If this is what some call a "human right" or "choice" it makes me sad. It makes me worry that one day the United States, a bastion of humanity and freedom, will one day have to atone for the abortions our country has allowed to happen.
It reminds me of a qoute from Thomas Jefferson: "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever."
Education, an Autopsy
You see, boys forget what their country means by just reading The Land of the Free in history books. Then they get to be men they forget even more. Liberty's too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I'm free to think and to speak. My ancestors couldn't, I can, and my children will. Boys ought to grow up remembering that. -Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Bill Gates recently remarked that American High Schools are "obsolete." That’s an upsetting comment, only for that fact that it’s true. America is very used to, and very comfortable, being the top dog and the leader of the world. In our comfort though, we have gotten fat and lazy. Through celebration of mediocrity and grade inflation our population has been dumbed down, so much so that we are really a laughingstock in the world.
This nation has not always been the sole superpower. We started out lonely, a small coastline republic on a vast, unexplored continent, but through the natural hardships we grew strong of will and character. That strength allowed the fortitude to grow a strong industry, a model of capitalism in which even a poor Abe Lincoln could become educated and rise to the Presidency.
We have, however, lost our way. The greatest minds of the past, the Einsteins, Edisons, Benjamin Franklins, and Adam Smiths share something. In their youth, they were educated by teachers who did not attend "education schools." Believe it or not, at one time teachers were required to learn subjects just like other students, and then teach. They were not simply enrolled in education schools and then sent to schools. Today, the education major is by and large, a joke. I do not mean to imply that there are not brilliant, highly dedicated individuals who are enrolled in such programs, but the data is overwhelmingly against the idea that they are anything but unusual.
For Science classes in high school, why not bring in individuals with a strong background in science, like say, a scientist? If they don't have a teaching certificate, that’s illegal in many places. That doesn't make sense.
What education in America needs is not new ideas, but to great rid of the new ideas, and get back to what always worked. Stress sciences and math. English is not social studies, and should not be treated as such. The workload in many cases need not be harder, but it should make more sense. I know when I was in high school, 2 consecutive English Classes discussed nothing but the Holocaust. It’s an important subject and must be covered, but do I need 2 years of high school devoted to it, and nothing towards the American Revolution? Our friends in the education business are not stupid; it’s just that they know so much that isn't so.
Competition is not bad for children and teenagers. It’s good for them. Canceling spelling bees and no longer having valedictorians serves only to diminish the drive to succeed, and does nothing to help those who fall behind. The world is full of competition, it would be good to get the youth prepared for it.
The rest of the world is catching up to America, and I would have no problem with this if we were in a position to compete, but as I see it today, we are not. We have too much television and not enough thought. Sure, we may be a wealthy country, but that doesn't mean we are going to remain a wealthy country. Education is the most important duty we have to the youth, and we are failing miserably.
The Middle East Is Changing
Hello everyone, I am Micah and I will be attempting to fill Will's large shoes for the weekend. This is my first time blogging so be gentle.
The Middle East really is changing if the Saudis are getting on the ball and demanding Syria leave.
The whole thing in Lebanon has me in a state of euphoria. The other day a friend of mine, a Lebanese Christian, told me something interesting. He said that he had not looked at a Lebanese flag and felt pride since he was 6, but when he saw the protesters in the streets this weekend, he finally felt proud to be Lebanese again. Almost moved me to tears.
Introducing Guest Blogger Micah Bynum.
I'll be out of town this weekend and unable to blog, but WILLisms.com will have guest bloggers taking care of business.
Our new guest blogger, Micah Bynum, is a political science major at the University of Houston, active in the College Republicans.
He's a 2-time cancer survivor and wants to be an attorney. He's got a good eye for finding interesting articles, so he'll take care of you, along with the other WILLisms.com guest bloggers.
Regular blogging will resume on Tuesday evening.
The Bush Jobs Boom.
This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced 262,000 new jobs for the month of February, higher than expected, with a slight downward revision for January, from 146K to 132K.
Classiness To The Max From Other Blogs.
"indications are strong that Governor John Hoeven will run against the incumbent Democratic Senator, Kent Conrad."
Points out the law of unintended consequences, in action. McCain/Feingold may lead to absurd limitations on political blogging in the very near future:
"John McCain and Russ Feingold have effectively created an American bureaucracy dedicated to stamping out independent political speech, and the courts have abdicated all reason in declaring it constitutional....
Challenges popular notions of just how many people are blog readers, which really just means there is A LOT of room to grow:
"Here's a validity check. We know an Instalanche typically produces somewhere between 800 and around 4,000 hits. Is the size of an Instalanche consistent with readership of 25,020 U.S. adults per day? I think so. In other words, if Instapundit were visited by, say, 75,000 - 100,000 people per day, I would expect the Instalanche to result in more than 800 to 4,000 hits.
Makes fun of MoveOn.org and its founders, Wes Boyd and Joan Blades:
"Rolling Stone Magazine sums up their existence thusly,
Site News: WILLisms.com joins the Social Security For All Blogger's Alliance.
WILLisms.com is now a member of the Social Security For All Blogger's Alliance.
"SocialSecurityforAll.com is run by Americans for Prosperity and is dedicated to creating a place where grassroots activists from across the country can come to get involved in the Social Security Reform fight. Social Security for All is dedicated to bringing you the latest news, inside information, and more than anything empowering you to make a real difference on Capitol Hill....
Check it out. We reformers must now get in the trenches and fight for the necessary reform that would be such a no-brainer if not for reform's negative longterm political ramifications to Democrats.
A Reinvigorated Case For Social Security Reform.
The case for reforming Social Security has begun to sputter, stalling out somewhat for the time being.
Young people, who get much of their news from Comedy Central's The Daily Show and MTV News, are too apathetic to fight for reform, while old people (the group that actually votes) are too susceptible to demagoguery and underhanded rumormongering by groups like AARP. There is a lot of misinformation out there right now, put out by Democrats and their interest groups.
President Bush decided that by stating a few broad principles for reform, he could first win the public over, then get into the nitty-gritty of an actual bill. Unfortunately, with no actual bill on the table, there has been a vacuum effect, in which Democrats like former Michigan State Trooper turned U.S. Representative Bart Stupak, for example (he's just one of many), can create a strawman bill for his constituents, scaring them about "Bush's plan." Another tactic of the Democrats has been to throw up non-sequiturs and red herrings about a potential loss of disability benefits (which would not change at all under any reform proposal out there today), or about raising the retirement age further (which is one of the very things good reform would prevent from happening), or about the government taking the Social Security money out of the mythical "trust fund" and investing it in "Enron," all ideas intended to confuse the muddle the debate.
Meanwhile, squeamish Republicans, even the President himself, have been busy negotiating with themselves.
Democrats have convinced much of the public that "there is no crisis," and even if there is one, it doesn't hit us until 2042 or some other far away number.
Thus, reform has stalled. For now.
But it is by no means dead, as it is entirely necessary for the long-term economic health of the United States. Polls do show that under 10% of Americans believe that Social Security is "not in trouble." Americans are just a little worried about the untrue things they've heard about reform. Nearly 3 out of 5 Americans said they need more information about the reform proposal. A new poll shows that younger voters urgently want Social Security reform, and by large margins (about 2/3 of those 18-29 want reform).
Thus, people are playing a game of wait and see, and in the meantime, reform of Social Security, a program created by Democrats, is being torn apart in the mainstream media, a forum dominated by Democrats. In other words, the game has been played entirely on the Democrats' turf thus far, with the Democrats' own equipment and referees paid off by the Democrats.
If the President and other reformers can produce a concrete proposal that destroys the myths out there today, addressing all the concerns people have about "privatization," explaining more forcefully that the new system would be as safe as the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) federal employees enjoy today, they can still win over the public. They must, because it is that crucial to the very functioning of American society over the longterm.
The President also needs to give all of those loyal and devoted Bush/Cheney 2004 volunteers, who have remained ready to jump into action, specific and meaningful tasks.
WILLisms.com is confident that Social Security reform will pass. It just needs a reinvigorated case.
The Wall Street Journal starts the process of selling reform to the public anew:
"Part of the problem is that Mr. Bush and his spokesmen have been promoting reform more as a kind of national forced march than as a great new opportunity for individuals to build and control their own retirement nest eggs.
Ultimately, the debate must not get bogged down in minutiae. It has to be about ideas. And senior citizens must realize that the reform will be entirely optional, and nothing about their precious Social Security will ever change for them. When the debate is framed in terms of providing people more options, more personal choice (yet giving people only safe options, so they don't "lose their money in Vegas"), when people realize the reform would keep the safety net for our elderly intact, and indeed expand wealth and quality of life, the reform proposals will pick up steam.
The largest advantage reformers have right now is that the facts are on their side. Sure, they have been mangled and distorted so far, but if reformers embark on a 5-or-6-week-long process of educating the public, dispelling the erroneous Democrat-floated myths, there is no way the American people, faced with the facts, cannot support reform of Social Security. No reform is a lose-lose proposition, while reforming it (the right way, not reform for its own sake) is a win-win.
"Is Social Security a problem? Does it need to be fixed?
And one last thing:
Reform Thursday: Chart Five.
Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.
That's why WILLisms.com will display a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.
Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:
Today's graphic, like last week's, comes to us from the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) of Congress:
Click on chart for full-size chart (it's a .pdf):
Jon Stewart's Cognitive Dissonance.
With freedom on the march in the Middle East, some of even the most ardent Iraq war skeptics are rethinking their opposition.
The New York Times, for example, editorialized this week:
"It's not even spring yet, but a long-frozen political order seems to be cracking all over the Middle East. Cautious hopes for something new and better are stirring along the Tigris and the Nile, the elegant boulevards of Beirut, and the impoverished towns of the Gaza Strip....
Indeed, Michael Barone explains that "Minds Are Changing" about the President's foreign policy at "breakneck speed" since the Iraqi elections.
Could one of those changing minds belong to Jon Stewart, the sometimes-funny host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show?
"Stewart: Do you think they're the guys to--do they understand what they've unleashed? Because at a certain point, I almost feel like, if they had just come out at the very beginning and said, 'Here's my plan: I'm going to invade Iraq. We'll get rid of a bad guy because that will drain the swamp'--if they hadn't done the whole 'nuclear cloud,' you know, if they hadn't scared the pants off of everybody, and just said straight up, honestly, what was going on, I think I'd almost--I'd have no cognitive dissonance, no mixed feelings.
Taranto then notes:
"Interesting... is Stewart's acknowledgment of his own 'cognitive dissonance' and 'mixed feelings' over the Iraq liberation. It's a version of an argument we've been hearing a lot lately: As our Brendan Miniter puts it, 'The president's critics never seem to tire of claiming that the war in Iraq began over weapons of mass destruction and only later morphed into a war of liberation.'
But WILLisms.com is not willing to let this argument stand. While not finding stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was embarrassing for U.S. (and British, and French, and German, and Russian, etc.) intelligence, a few facts are incontrovertible:
1. Iraq possessed WMDs at one point, including a nuclear plant that was destroyed by the Israelis in 1981.
Thus, using WMDs as justification for military force was completely reasonable.
However, the President's rhetoric about freedom in Iraq was not retrofitted after WMD were not found. It was not merely post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this). Draining the swamp of tyranny in the Middle East and paving the way for liberty to take hold, contrary to what Jon Stewart remembers about late 2002 and early 2003, were crucial, if not central, parts of the President's case for war in Iraq.
First, from September 12, 2002, the White House listed WMDs as its second reason in its case the Saddam Hussein was a threat to the international community, and WMDs were but one among many reasons:
"Table of Contents
It was a comprehensive case against Saddam Hussein, certainly not at all limited to weapons of mass destruction. The President's case also linked peace in the "Middle East" (e.g. Israel/Palestine) with freedom in Iraq.
More damning of the post hoc ergo propter hoc case is President Bush's address to the UN, also in September 2002:
"In the Middle East, there can be no peace for either side without freedom for both sides. America stands committed to an independent and democratic Palestine, living side by side with Israel in peace and security. Like all other people, Palestinians deserve a government that serves their interests and listens to their voices....
So clearly, the President framed potential conflict in Iraq as a way to stir up a stagnant pit of hatred, introducing freedom to the region as policy. And today, we're seeing the results of the Bush doctrine.
In his 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush further advanced the central concept of freedom:
"And as we and our coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan, we will bring to the Iraqi people food and medicines and supplies -- and freedom.
Then, there was what Bush said on February 9, 2003:
"And there's no doubt in my mind, when the United States acts abroad and home, we do so based upon values -- particularly the value that we hold dear to our hearts, and that is, everybody ought to be free."
On February 20, 2003, President Bush said,
"The Iraqi people today are not allowed to speak out for freedom, but they have a right to live in freedom. We don't believe freedom and liberty are America's gift to the world; we believe they are the Almighty's gift to mankind. (Applause.) And for the oppressed people of Iraq, people whose lives we care about, the day of freedom is drawing near.
Then, on February 26, 2003, the President commented:
"The current Iraqi regime has shown the power of tyranny to spread discord and violence in the Middle East. A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. America's interests in security, and America's belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq. (Applause.)
Of course, there was also the "ultimatum speech" President Bush delivered on March 17, 2003:
"Unlike Saddam Hussein, we believe the Iraqi people are deserving and capable of human liberty. And when the dictator has departed, they can set an example to all the Middle East of a vital and peaceful and self-governing nation.
When the President addressed the nation on March 19, 2003 to declare military operations had begun, he asserted:
"We will defend our freedom. We will bring freedom to others and we will prevail."
Less than a month after the war started, the President noted:
"We'll help the Iraqi people to establish a just and representative government, which respects human rights and adheres to the rule of law. These tasks will take effort, and these tasks will take time. But I have faith in the Iraqi people, and I believe that a free Iraq can be an example of reform and progress to all the Middle East."
Thus, the President made bringing freedom to the region (and explained the transformative power of freedom) central to his case, BEFORE THE WAR ever started, as well as during its beginning stages. The mission was even named "Iraqi Freedom," for crying out loud, not "Operation Petro-Grab" or even "Operation Iraqi WMD" [credit for that idea goes here]. And the above quotations are not the entire extent of it. President Bush and members of his adminstration talked extensively about the need to shake up and introduce freedom to a privotal part of the Middle East.
But persistent critics of the President, like Jon Stewart, cling to the false notion that Bush made up this whole "freedom" thing when other reasons didn't work out. He surely couldn't have been right all along.
Well, the President was right all along, and freedom is on the march in the Middle East today because of it.
Would all of the above evidence be enough to change Mr. Stewart's mind about how the war was "sold" to America and the world? Would it be enough to convince him (and other like him) that the war really was about freedom all along, and cause him to drop his petty cynicism about "Mess-O-Potamia"? Not likely. But we can hope.
More On Walid Jumblatt.
"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."
Just who is Walid Jumblatt, and why is what he said so significant?
Well, let's put it this way: Jumblatt has been more than a bit skeptical of U.S. actions in Iraq and around the world. The recent statements of Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon, are so meaningful, not because he was pro-U.S. all along, but precisely because he has been so outspokenly cynical about America. That even a man with such a hardened anti-American heart could change his mind should provide hope for freedom spreading to any nation. Jumblatt's conversion is startling and awesome. It is just one example of the astonishing transformative power of freedom.
Back in December of 2004, conservative Front Page magazine profiled Jumblatt:
"Jumblatt is known for his vehement anti-American statements and antagonistic stance toward the U.S. On November, 19, 2003, it was reported that the State Department cancelled Jumblatt’s diplomatic visa following revelations that he expressed regret that Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was not killed in a missile attack during a visit to Baghdad.
It is interesting to observe liberals, such as the blog at antiwar.com, try to delegitimize Jumblatt. Afterall, if he is right and the "Wall has fallen," then Bush may have been right all along.
"...it's so amusing to watch the neocons, who insist on denying any legitimate motives to the Iraqi resistance, legitimize and even celebrate Lebanese resistance leader Walid Jumblatt."
Other liberals have tried to paint Jumblatt as the next Ahmed Chalabi; he's surely just conning America for his own power.
They just don't get it. Nobody is celebrating Jumblatt as a human being, but his transformation from eternal skeptic to true believer in a "new Arab world" is worth noting.
When the U.S. kept its word, when America didn't just go in and install "our S.O.B." in Iraq, when we didn't just take all the oil, when Iraqis voted in a free election, it became clear to cynics like Jumblatt that the U.S. might actually mean what it has been saying over the past few years.
Today's foreign policy is a profound departure from the past; no longer is the cynical calculus of realpolitik dominant. America now favors free societies over artificial stability.
Only freedom can lead to peace and stability in the long run, and although Bush had been saying that, over and over, very few in the region believed him, given America's past record of Great Power politics.
With freedom on the march, even someone like Walid Jumblatt can see that the U.S. is truly devoted to the cause of freedom in the world. When faced with elections in Iraq and America's reluctance to colonize the region, how could he not change his mind?
And that's why people are excited about his quote. Nobody should make Jumblatt a hero for one comment he made, because he is far from heroic, but he is a relevant observer, and his comments, in the context of his previous seething cynicism so rampant in the region, should be proof of the transformative power of liberty.
Jumblatt alone is not the man on whom freedom's hopes rest. The hopes of a free Lebanon rest on the shoulders of the people of Lebanon:
And if you were thinking WILLisms.com only shows female protesters, here is evidence to the contrary:
Mark Steyn has more:
"In the space of a month, the Iraq election has become the prism through which all other events in the region are seen....
The Governors Get Their Report Cards.
Today, the Cato Institute released its 7th biennial report card for America's governors.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger fared best overall, while Ohio's Republican Governor Bob Taft fared worst (a contributing factor to the unnecessary closeness of the 2004 presidential race there).
Here are the grades:
And the veterans-
As one could easily imagine, states with lower tax burdens saw their economies flourish and populations expand, providing much higher levels of jobs and income, relative to the states with higher tax burdens.
Sweden's Demographic Crisis.
Sweden, once the poster-child for a socialist paradise, now (predictably) faces grave challenges to its very existence. Over the years, a brand of high-tech free enterprise, uniquely Swedish, has coexisted with a cumbersome welfare state. Sweden, always neutral, maintains no significant active military force (although it does has a large reserve force, so it reaps a constant peace dividend.
The Swedes, ever-generous, have given the world many gifts over the years. Sweden has supplied the United States, for example, with a steady flow of Sports Illustrated swimsuit models.
All of that is in peril today, and the Swedes are beginning to realize it. The Swedish bikini team, as mythical as it may be, could become but a curious abstraction, a relic of the past, as the Swedes lose their cultural (and indeed, national) sovereignty, slowly-but-surely, from within.
The Daily Standard has a great examination of Sweden's reverse-colonization problem:
"MALMÖ IS THE CITY IN SWEDEN most touched by immigration--but it's not unique. In a fit of absent-mindedness, Sweden has suddenly become as heavily populated by minorities as any country in Europe. Of 9 million Swedes, roughly 1,080,000 are foreign-born. There are between 800,000 and 900,000 children of immigrants, between 60,000 and 100,000 illegal immigrants, and 40,000 more asylum-seekers awaiting clearance. The percentage of foreign-born is roughly equivalent to the highest percentage of immigrants the United States ever had in its history (on the eve of World War I). But there are two big differences. First is that, given the age distribution of the native and foreign populations, the percentage of immigrants' offspring will skyrocket in the next generation, even if not a single new immigrant arrives, and even if immigrant fertility rates fall to native-born levels. But second, when America had the same percentage of foreign-born, many had arrived decades before, and were largely assimilated.
Sweden's generosity could lead to its own demise. Neutrality can be taken advantage of rather easily, as the Nazis proved to the appeasement-minded Swedes during World War II; similarly, despite Sweden's philosophical zeal for tolerance and diversity, which led to an explosion of immigration over the years, it has become an increasingly segmented, dangerously segregated society.
More from the article:
"TOWARD THE END of the Social Democratic reign that ran uninterrupted from 1932 to 1976, Sweden not only ranked among the world's handful of richest countries but also provided the world's most lavish welfare state. It married solidarity to prosperity. In the prevailing Keynesian climate, Swedes assumed that the solidarity created the prosperity. The state was generous with workers, who spent their money and kept the economy pumped up. Today, people are inclined to think the causality runs in the other direction. Johan Norberg, the young new-economy guru of Timbro Institute in Stockholm, notes that if Sweden were somehow to leave the E.U. and join the United States, 'we would be the poorest state in America.'
So Sweden was doing something right, at least, with its free trade policies. Perhaps, if Sweden had been highly protectionist through th 20th century, its socialist tendencies would have gotten the best of it, but it lucked out, owing its moderate-but-significant economic success to its unique cultural solidarity (now in jeopardy) and its liberal trade policies.
Another thing Sweden got right, more recently, was its decision to reform its Social Security system, along the lines of what President Bush is currently proposing. Market-based personal accounts were imperative for the Swedes, as it had vastly over-promised benefit payouts (like the U.S. is doing now).
The Swedes were smart enough to deal with one part of their demographic time-bomb, but they still must address the other part, assimilation of its immigrants. Whether Sweden reforms or not, and does so soon, will determine whether Sweden will remain Sweden beyond the next generation. Because the Swedes care so much for their status as the world's greatest "moral superpower," the outlook is not so great. But then again, never underestimate the power of a culture under fire to make hard-but-crucial choices.
The Not-So Supreme Court
Woke up this morning, went to check my email, and the most startling headline appeared on MSN.com. Apparently the death penalty for those under 18 had been abolished.
Now this was shocking to me because I am a political junkie, I follow congress and what is up for consideration, and I knew beyond a doubt that no bill was on the docket regarding the death penalty. Just to expound upon that, had there been a bill regarding the death penalty, it would have made it more sweeping and made more criminals eligible.
So how did this happen? How did the people speak on this issue and I miss all the warning signs? Simple, the people didn't speak; five people spoke, and changed the judicial process in 19 states. My issue here is not with the death penalty, although I do support it and feel that it is not used nearly enough, and should be an option for more than just murder cases. That having been said though, if the people of those 19 states had voted, or voted for representatives acting on their behalf, who decided against the death penalty for minors, I would have no problem with the process, because that is our constitutional process.
The Supreme Court cannot, and should not legislate from the bench, and their current acts are nothing short of bullying. In one act, the court swept aside standing legislation in 19 states. I wish this weren't as common as it is, but this happens all the time, and with each judicial travesty, the idea of state's rights is buried a little further. I have no idea why this case even made its way to the Supreme Court, unless it was just a ruse to start chipping away at the death penalty.
A few hours after the decision, the implications started dawning upon the talking heads on TV and radio. Apparently, minors are capable of heinous crimes that are deserving of the ultimate penalty. Lee Malvo, one of the DC Snipers instantly came to mind. Virginia and Louisiana prosecutors immediately suspended all the preparation work they had been doing to get ready for the death penalty case against Malvo, leaving it to Maryland, where they have no death penalty at all, to try him. They are suspending their cases in hopes that the decision will be reversed, and a monster like Malvo can meet his maker.
Hannity ran through a few cases of terrible, terrible crimes perpetrated by minors, which I don't need to rehash, because we can all agree that awful crimes can be committed by minors. Here’s the point at issue, are minors aware of the affects of their actions? Perhaps with some things, like speeding or poor study habits, no, they may not be. However, when it comes to pulling a trigger and ending someone's life, raping a woman, stabbing someone, I'm just not sure how you could not be aware of the effects of your actions, and any teenager that is capable of those crimes and not able to see the affects, well, they either need to be in an institution or no longer among the living.
Just don't tell the supreme court that though, they might make it illegal for state legislatures to pass a law, or maybe they will finally be honest and just get rid of the whole idea of "states." A state is more than just different rates of sales tax and license plates...or at least, that’s how it used to be.
Natan Sharansky's Case For Democracy.
If you have yet to read Natan Sharansky's The Case For Democracy: The Power Of Freedom To Overcome Tyranny & Terror, pick up a copy and read it. Do it.
The book is remarkably fair, stating, then responding to, an array of potential criticisms of the thesis. But, in doing so, the book is generally free of strawmen. Sharansky gives fair hearing of a variety of alternative viewpoints, even acknowledging validity in some of them.
Ultimately, though, Sharansky (former political prisoner of the Soviet Union, current Israeli politician) makes perhaps the most lucid, most convincing case, in print, on behalf of freedom in the world.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt allegedly coined a phrase used to describe American foreign policy over much of the 20th century. The Daily Standard notes:
"Sizing up Anastasio Somoza, Nicaragua's brutal (but pro-American) dictator, Roosevelt quipped, 'Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch.'"
While the United States is not in the business of toppling every dictator in sight, nor should we be, America now is beginning to link how regimes treat their own citizens with how the U.S. treats them.
President Bush read The Case For Democracy last year; the way he speaks about freedom in the world has become much more clear and confident since then. It confirmed what he believed already and helped him frame his case.
Indeed, Newsweek magazine notes:
"Natan Sharansky is George W. Bush's favorite author. Since his re-election, the U.S. president has used every opportunity to praise 'The Case for Democracy,' the new book by the former Soviet dissident, now an Israeli cabinet minister. 'That thinking, that's part of my presidential DNA,' Bush told The New York Times. Last Wednesday, appearing with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder in Mainz, Bush said: 'Sharansky's book confirmed how I was raised and what I believe.' Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice quoted Sharansky's ideas in her Senate confirmation hearing in January."
Sharansky's book is full of political philosophy, but it also has some great anecdotes. It grounds the ideas in events and history-- in the real world.
On Ronald Reagan-
Sharansky asserts that Reagan as a pivotal figure of history, a leader whose voice, heard behind the Iron Curtain, helped millions know they would one day be free, and whose actions made that freedom happen. Reagan also defied his nay-sayers.
The book points out this memorable Reagan speech:
"In an ironic sense Karl Marx was right. We are witnessing today a great revolutionary crisis, a crisis where the demands of the economic order are conflicting directly with those of the political order. But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist West but in the home of Marxism- Leninism, the Soviet Union. It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history by denying human freedom and human dignity to its citizens.
When Reagan said those words, in 1983, people cackled. In hindsight, yeah, obviously the Soviet Union was fragile, but in the 1970s and 1980s, nearly every expert at the CIA, in academia, in diplomacy, predicted the Soviet Union would last, indeed that it was growing in strength and would endure, that it would adapt. They ridiculed Reagan for his moral clarity.
In 1981, Reagan gave a speech at the University of Notre Dame, just months after taking office, in which he prophesied:
"The years ahead are great ones for this country, for the cause of freedom and the spread of civilization. The West won't contain communism, it will transcend communism. It won't bother to dismiss or denounce it, it will dismiss it as some bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written."
Meanwhile, his critics, in prominent publications like Foreign Affairs, said things like this:
"The logic of the Reagan Administration's policy toward the Soviet Union is based on one key underlying assumption: that Western policy generally and American policy specifically has the capacity seriously to affect Soviet internal developments. This assumption is simply fallacious and spawns maximalist and unrealistic objectives."
From the book:
"The distinguished historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., expressing the sentiments of nearly all of the Sovietologists, intellectuals, and opinion makers of the time, said that 'those in the United States who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse, ready with one small push to go over the brink are wishful thinkers who are only kidding themselves.'"
Critics called Reagan an "ideological crusader" and said his response to them was "dangerous" and "pathological," a "fatal form of Sovietophobia." In 1984, John Kenneth Galbraith, celebrated Harvard economist, noted:
"...for the first time in its history the Soviet leadership was able to pursue successfully a policy of guns and butter as well as growth. The Soviet citizen-worker, peasant and professional---has become accustomed in the Brezhnev period to an uninterrupted upward trend in his well-being."
Again, in 1984, Galbraith argued that "the Soviet system has made great material progress in recent years," asserting that "the Russian system succeeds because, in contrast with the Western industrial economies, it makes full use of its manpower."
In 1985, Paul Samuelson, Nobel Prize winner in economics, writer of economics textbooks all over the country, said:
"What counts is results, and there can be no doubt that the Soviet planning system has been a powerful engine for economic growth. The Soviet model has surely demonstrated that a command economy is capable of mobilizing resources for rapid growth."
Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright, the guy with the prestigious scholarship named after him, longtime chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, mocked Reagan's assertion that Gorbachev's reforms of the Soviet Union were "no more than the final, feeble, foredoomed effort to hold off the historically inevitable collapse of a wicked system based on an evil philosophy." On April 19, 1989 (just months before the fall of the Berlin Wall), in the Chicago Tribune, Fulbright said:
"We suspect that the reforms being carried out in the Soviet Union and Hungary may be evidence not of the terminal enfeeblement of Marxism but of a hitherto unsuspected resiliency and adaptability, of something akin to Roosevelt's New Deal, which revived and rejuvenated an apparently moribund capitalism in the years of Great Depression."
We all know how that turned out.
Sharansky credits Reagan for bucking the skeptics and pursuing a policy that led to the defeat of the Soviet Union.
But the book is not merely about Ronald Reagan. It has so much more.