Monthly Archives: February, 2016

Mexico and Jihadis, Pipeline and Payload

Unless we become a nation united, we will argue ourselves literally into oblivion.

 I am always surprised when my friends are surprised when I link together the chaos churning along the U.S.-Mexico border and the unrelenting Islamist pursuit of the destruction of the United States of America.To start with, even if Mexico were falling apart all on its own, the situation would be bad enough. Our southern border is completely out of control. Muslim men have been captured crossing among other illegals. One is too many, but the numbers, widely unreported, perhaps unknown, are probably more like hundreds per month.

It is a safe bet, though, that Mexico is not coming to such a violent state all on its own. Think for a moment about the increased incidence of beheading. To cut a long story short, you only have to think for a moment to realize that this signature technique of Islamists is on the rise and not by coincidence.

Think how much is gained for jihadis, by joining in the fray south of the border, in fact by ramping up the fray as much as possible. Continue reading →

What About Anthropogenic Global Warming?

My sister sent me a simple question: Global Warming – What do you think?

What I think is that there seems plenty of data to indicate slight warming trend, which may continue. There is also data to show that the Earth has been significantly warmer and colder in the past, long before humans existed.

What I don’t buy is that we know whether humans play a primary, moderate or even significant role in that trend. We don’t know either way, I would say. Of course the recently disclosed emails don’t help the proponents’ case, although some of the statement are less damaging than the opponents want to make them out to be.

I have had the impression for some time that the current passionate advocacy (I might even say frenzy) is more akin to religious fervor than scientific discussion. Have you ever heard anyone snap back, “The debate is over!” when the discussion was truly based in mutual respect and devotion to find the truth?

Part of the problem is that no one who advocates controls based on the assumption that global warming is serious and human-induced can accept anything less than 100% devotion to their view. You can’t, for instance, make much headway saying something like, “Well, I don’t think that the draconian measures you have in mind are necessary or merited, given the thin support available, but of course having cleaner air and water and using less energy are obviously desirable for their own sake, so we certainly should continue to innovate and motivate to achieve all of those goals. You just can’t commandeer the world’s entire economy, bring it to its knees, and install your own dictators (call them whatever you like) to decide who gets to use what when or how much and so on and so on.”

In a typical gathering of the acolytes of this new religion, you wouldn’t be able to get past the second comma in the first sentence. In hardcore gathering you wouldn’t get as far as the first comma.

In the first Star Trek movie, the silicon “life form” (maybe) V’GER takes over Lt. Ilia and through her talks about the “carbon based infestation of Enterprise.” Global Warming Fundamentalists have a similar view, sort of like modern day Puritans. We (humans) are the infestation. And accordingly, anything we do that makes life more enjoyable or easier must somehow be too energy-intensive and therefore wrong, and we must be stopped. We simply cannot be allowed to consume or emit anything beyond some meager amount that guess-who will decide.

It’s a mess. Like so many of our discussion these days. They aren’t discussions. They are sermons, delivered to opposing choirs (yes, the exact opposite claim – that it’s not serious and even if it is it has nothing to do with humans – is just as much a faith-based outcry), and with the loudest preachers taking control one after the other and yanking the rest of us around.

I guess I think that the Global Warming hysteria (yeah, that’s what I’d call it) is part and parcel of having raised a population for generation without the desire or ability to ask a good question, or if asking, without the desire or ability to listen respectfully to the answer and consider whether or not something useful was communicated, and if not to ask another question until both parties seem to understand each other. And then to ask a few more to see if the seeming understanding leads to anything productive. But you have to have that intent to begin with.

To correct the old boy from Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is not a failure to communicate. What we have here is a failure to intend to communicate. What we have here is a desire to control everyone who doesn’t agree with us, or at the very least have them dismissed as stupid.”

Scary.

Part of what’s scary is that we shouldn’t be surprised by this. History is full of examples. It is the rule, not the exception. And yet we continue to allow it take the reins again and again. What have we been teaching our children for 50 years that they should grow up behave like this?

All we can hope for is that those who know (that hunger for power is insatiable in those who give in to it) do not give up resisting the tide.

Hang in there.

What About Socialism?

In the middle of campaign debate season, for the 100th, or maybe 200th time, I saw that graphic which ask us which part of socialism is it that scares us so much?

Is it Public schools? Is it Fire Departments? Is it Medicare? Is it Social Security?

Admittedly tired of seeing this utterly uninformed attempt to sell something as wonderful which has been shown historically to fail, time and time again, I could not bring myself to say more than this: “Here’s a fun fact. We already have those things, and we are not a socialist state, and those are not socialist activities. Under socialism, the state owns the means of production. You are confusing delivering social services, which we do in abundance, with being socialist, which we should never be.”

Well, didn’t take long before I was chastised for my lack of understanding, not for the first time. My shortcoming was addressed in a short, clear sentence, which in itself is a good and admirable way to accomplish things. “I think you have to read up again ……. what socialism is.”

Well, I have read up on what socialism is, perhaps more than once. It was exceedingly easy to find a number of ways of stating it:

Would Merriam-Webster do? “\Full Definition of socialism: 1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods”

Is the Oxford English Dictionary acceptable? “Definition of socialism in English:
noun: 1A political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”

Will American Heritage Dictionary do? “socialism: noun, Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.

“The stage in Marxist-Leninist theory intermediate between capitalism and communism, in which the means of production are collectively owned but a completely classless society has not yet been achieved.”

Finally, I wondered if Wikipedia would be sufficient? “Socialism is a range of social and economic systems characterised by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production; as well as the political ideologies, theories, and movements that aim at their establishment.”

There seems to be a constant press for socialism, from an appreciable, certainly a noticeably large, segment of our population, who do not seem to understand what it is that they are actually pressing for. It is one of the strangest phenomena going these days, to my way of thinking. Decades of scholarship be damned, the proponents are damned proud to push for the thing and insist that it is not what it has been clearly defined to be for decades. It certainly had exactly these meanings fifty years ago already, and the books describing it were already decades old.

Is it just because some folks cannot distinguish between capitalism ( a way of organizing ownership) and greed (a malignant impulse to acquire more than you can possibly need, regardless of how or from whom)? Is it that inability to distinguish that produces such an odd result, which is that they cannot simply say, “We would like to police things better so that capitalism can work free from the corruption and crony influences that infect it too often.” Can they just not allow such a thought to escape through their own mouths? Is it because that would mean admitting that capitalism, properly administered and policed, could be a good thing? Maybe a thing that creates, you know, cars, stereos, CDs, movies, iPhones, fantastic variety at the grocery store, in abundance, you know, stuff like that.

Well, if that’s the reason, that these champions of “socialism” (but not really) cannot allow a statement such as “capitalism could be a good thing”, they need not feel alone. Even so-called champions of capitalism cannot seem to mount a clear defense of it these days, or draw the boundaries with any clarity. If you cannot draw boundaries well, then you it is difficult to point and say, “There, that’s capitalism. That’s the system we’ll use. Over there, that’s the law, and we’ll use that to police capitalism and try to push greed out of our dealings. And there, over there, that’s the human heart, from which we will do our best to inspire everyone around us to banish greed and work honestly for decent ends.”

If there is someone saying any such thing among the most vocal champions of capitalism right now, I haven’t seen it lately. Somebody just point me to him or her. Meanwhile, I suppose we can expect a stream of continued rapture over the joys of socialism, notwithstanding the enraptured are actually enjoying the fruits of capitalism (which they apparently hate, largely through ignorance), coupled with the use of some of the wealth it generates to accomplish socially desirable ends.

It will end better for everyone if we could just fold into our public discourse that little element of seriousness that would lead us to have some clue what we’re talking about before advocating for it. Unlikely, I know, but you have to have a dream.

What About “Obamacare”?

I am a bit surprised that, amid all the clamor over how everyone is going to “repeal Obamacare on day one,” we have not heard Dr. Carson say “First, do no harm.”

I have no doubt that Obamacare can and must go away. It was born in the Senate, and with assertions that it was not a tax, and later defended at the Supreme Court, on the grounds that it was in fact a tax, which means it was illegally begun in the Senate to start with. Also, we know that nobody who suported the thing read it, and that Ms. Pelosi even felt comfortable telling us that “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it”. If that isn’t the craziest thing anybody in Washington has ever said, I would love to know what is.

All of that aside, it is important to remember that you can cause just as bad a wreck by stomping on the brake as by flooring the accelerator.

Study it? Yes. Make plans to eliminate the egregious provisions? Yes. Get rid of the restrictions on selling insurance across state boundaries? They have nothing to do with Obamacare, but they should never have been put in place to begin with, and their presence almost certainly helped to cripple the development of a robust and competitive market based on nation-sized markets.

Design something better? Yes. Rely on markets and competition? Hell yes! Police the living daylights out of pricing practices to make sure that we guard against fraud, waste and abuse? Could we, please, finally? Wouldn’t that be wonderful!

See what’s left to cover and provide basic help for the indigent? Absolutely, and more if possible. We do present ourselves as a civilized nation, after all. That doesn’t mean that you can give everybody everything, but I’ve never known the American people to show any interest leaving someone in genuine need with no help at all.

It will take a bit of study and some leadership to present the case for what can and can’t be done, and how best to do it, but isn’t that the real job? Well, if it is, then let’s try doing that for a change – the real job.

What About Gitmo? What About Due Process?

In response to an article at FrontPageMag.com, which I shared around (War IIs Over, Prison Camp Closes), I received some pushback that merited serious comment. That exchange is shown below, edited for presentation.

I shared the link to the article, and included this extract from it: “…besides, the jihadi leadership ranks need replenishing…. Certainly Obama has replenished them a great deal already. With as many as thirty percent of prisoners freed from Gitmo returning to the jihad, one would think that the Obama administration would pause and consider their plan very carefully before releasing more or transferring them to far less secure prisons inside the United States. That is, administration officials would pause and consider if they had any genuine concern for national security, but it is increasingly clear that they do not. After all, in January, al-Qaeda bomb expert Tariq Mahmoud Ahmed al-Sawah was released from Guantanamo. ”

http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/261933/war-over-prison-camp-closes-robert-spencer

The question arose as to the application of the Geneva Convention. It was suggested that we need “a little due process”, as opposed to indefinite detainment.

My view on that is that I don’t believe that “enemy combatants” enter an arena where “due process” applies. My take is that that is a Constitutional protection extended to citizens and, I would think, only legal foreign visitors in the US. There might be some human rights issues to be aware of for all, whether due process applies or not, whether with jihadis or illegal foreign visitors, but not “due process” under the Constitution.

Beyond that, the Geneva Convention surely does not apply to jihadis, who follow no convention but the visitation of destruction on any unbeliever at any time in any method whatsoever. There is no such notion as noncombatants in their belief system, and so I see no reason to pretend that they somehow earn or merit Geneva Convention protections.

I would ask why we would apply such notions to that population of bad actors.

The point was then raised as to whether the “War on Terror” is a war or not, with the assertion that if it is then we must apply the Geneva Convention to anyone picked up as an “enemy combatant”, labeling such as a Prisoner of War (POW).  Even further, and in my opinion even more disputable, the claim was put that due process should be afforded to anyone detained by Americans, even non-state actors such as terrorists, simply because they were apprehended by Americans, and Americans insist on due process.

In my opinion, that leap meant taking the complications of dealing with nonstate actors and placing the entire burden on the shoulders of a nation that, along with many others, is on the receiving end of horrific acts and worse plans. We can certainly strive to do better than what we have allowed at Gitmo, but I am not able to share the sentiment that we are obliged to make up the entire difference in trying to deal with combatant populations that follow no rules or conventions at all.

I would expect that military tribunals should be well equipped, if conducted properly, to mete out justice in a reasonable fashion to such a population.

Remember, as to due process, that these are not thieves knocking over the store down the street, or even street thugs from among our own citizens visiting violence on those around them. We are constrained by the Constitution, and rightly so, to afford our own citizens the protections of the due process requirement.

The folks we are talking about are operating outside any norms of the modern world, dragging ancient religious war along with them right into the modern world, as they have for 1400 years. To pretend otherwise is a bit naive.

Thinking of the situation at Gitmo, I have not understood yet the value of having no proceedings or tribunal hearings across years, but I am not outraged that there are folks seized in combat operations and held under military authority.

The summary should go somewhat along the line of “investigate fully and with some alacrity, though not in haste. Then, either determine that the prisoner is not a continuing threat, and release, or convict and detain for cause or execute, depending on the level of offense.

Near the end of the exchange there came the assertion that, absent clearly just actions, for instance with the detainees in question, America cannot say that it occupies the high ground or wears the White Hat, and that such lack has played a role in bringing respect for the US to a low around the world. Moreover, to act in a just fashion we should send anyone guilty of committing or working to commit crimes on our soil through our justice system.

I do agree about our lowered standing, and the most relevant act I would choose in this discussion was undertaken by Mr. Bush: a very ill-considered move into Iraq. That invasion cost us political capital that I knew at the time would take a generation or more to earn back, if it were even possible. I would say that question is still on the table. Much since then has gone badly from a kind of dithering over what exactly we’re doing and whom we’re are pursuing and, as a result, much confusion over what to do about whom, where, when, or how.

That does not obscure for me, though, the fact that if we are dealing with terrorists, even on our own soil, they should be treated as something more than criminals, and less than POWs. In other words, as enemy combatants with human rights but no claim to the protections of either the Constitutional or the Geneva Convention.

Political correctness has interfered with both discussion and action in this and many other arenas. In this area of action, it leads some to assert that someone is “merely a criminal”, when he or she is clearly something else, or that someone is a soldier conducting what we should consider “legitimate warfare” (we can meditate on that idea another day), when he or she is clearly not.  The resulting confusion leads to the dithering uncertainty we have seen with regard to the Gitmo detainees from the beginning. Such muddled thinking must be put aside if we are to address enemy combatants in a sensible manner. More importantly, it must be put aside if we are to have any prospect of  solving even the moderately serious problems we face on many fronts, never mind the truly difficult, complex and dangerous problems that we must address.

We don’t need, as Mr. Obama apparently intends, to do something willy nilly, just for the sake of doing something. First, do no harm. And we don’t have to address this item before everything else, but we do have to address something first. Let us put politically correct fantasies aside, discuss everything, evaluate everything, and have adult discussion about everything, so that we can prioritize, identify the legitimate first, and maybe even second and third, thing, and get something intelligent done.

If closing Gitmo is on that short list, so be it. If not, leave it alone and tend to what matters most, first.

The League of Liberal Democratic Republics

What is wrong with the United Nations? Should it be fixed? I suspect that the answer to the first question is that the UN stands for nothing in particular, except talk, and more and more often serves as a legitimizing venue for talk about approaches to the world that should curl the hair of any supporter of modern, liberal ideas about constructing democratic republics based on value for individual liberty and security. The answer to the second question is that it might be smarter to learn from our  mistakes and craft a new organization, one which does not treat all possible state visions as equal, but openly and confidently promotes the formation of modern, liberal, democratic republics.

There seems little purpose to insisting that all visions of state organization are equally valid, since following that line of reasoning leads, and  has led, to accepting that very repressive states should have equal standing in assessing and addressing the world’s repressive regimes. It means not being able to say, as a founding principle, that slavery is wrong and should be abolished, actually abolished, that suppression of women’s voting, education or other rights is just wrong, and should be eliminated. Or anyone’s voting, education or other rights.