Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nancy, Laura - Pay Attention to these German Gals

Serap Cileli
Nancy Pelosi
Laura Bush

Angela Merkel

News coming out of Germany that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has joined a growing movement to criminalize forced marriages in Germany, which is growing less tolerant of practices among Muslim immigrants that clash with the nation's liberal social values. Angela Merkel said in a speech at a women's conference

I completely agree that forced marriages should be punishable as a criminal act

Sibylle Schreiber, a spokeswoman for the women's rights group Terre des Femmes responded to Angela's speech
We are thrilled that the chancellor has made such a clear statement. Finally she's given a signal to the people that forcing your daughter into marriage is a crime.

Serap Cileli, a Turkish-German writer whose book — "We Are Your Daughters, Not Your Honor" — documents her escape from a forced marriage at age 24, welcomed Merkel's initiative but said it was important to address the immigrant community directly.
As long as we don't teach the fathers, husbands and brothers to let the women live self-determined lives, this wound will never stop bleeding.

It is obvious that as the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel deserves to be paid attention to, but while Serap Cileli is not an elected official she has personal knowledge and understanding that must not be ignored. Serap is to Germany like Ayaan is to Holland. I found an in-depth interview that Serap gave in 2005 to a blogger, Chameleon. Here are just snippets from the interview.
Chameleon: How do you react to the talk of multiculturalism? Do you see it as an excuse to treat women as second-class citizens? What is your opinion of it?

Serap: This multicultural idyll, as it were, is a mere pretext for violating human as well as women’s rights, an excuse for looking away, for not wanting to face up to the realities for reasons of convenience. I always contend that those who stand up for this multicultural idyll and then frantically defend it in public debate are accomplices when human rights are violated next door.

Chameleon: What are your feelings about headscarves? Perhaps you could also say a few words about the recent attempt in Canada to introduce sharia law.

Serap: There has of course been a major debate about the headscarf. From my point of view the headscarf is a form of oppression of women. Now who can explain it to me when teachers at our state schools wear headscarves whilst they teach, that they have to cover up their charms in front of six, seven or eight-year-old Turkish or Muslim boys so that they do not sexually excite them? Who can explain this to me? Many women who wear the headscarf, for example, feel that they are only doing so for religious reasons. Now, if they are wearing it for religious reasons it means that they have to protect their feminine charms from men. That is the rationale. However, if we turn the argument on its head, this means that on the one hand men are being discriminated against, and on the other, that men do not have their sexual urges under control. I mean, if we are living in the 21st century it is a humiliation, a form of discrimination against the male sex, isn’t it? This is why I call upon enlightened men to stand up and be counted and speak out against the women who are in favour of the headscarf. What we don’t have is men standing up and rebelling against it. In Canada an attempt was made recently to introduce the sharia as law in the parallel societies. That would mean that if someone had stolen something he could have his hand lopped off. If someone committed adultery, like in Iran, for example, the woman, or both parties involved, could be stoned to death. It is absurd that in a democracy people wanted to accept a law as backward as sharia.

Sometimes it amazes me how people can call themselves liberal or progressive and embrace the multicultural moral relativism b$llcr@p. The German gals I am posting about do not consider themselves as political conservatives. Instead they believe there are modern social values that need to be defended instead of ignored.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What goes around - Comes around

Richard S. lowry, author of Marines in the Garden of Eden and The Gulf War Chronicles, received a press release from Baghdad. This press release is not going to be covered by the driveby media. This press release goes completely against their narrative that no good has come from the US involvement in Iraq. Liberal politicians complain bitterly that California wildfires are not getting enough support because the US is in Iraq. The isolationists don't have a retort to this press release.

RELEASE No. 20071026-01
October 26, 2007

Iraqi Army at Besmaya Installation Support San Diego Fire Victims
By U.S. Army Sgt 1st Class Charlene Sipperly
Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq Public Affairs

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Members of the Iraqi Army in Besmaya collected a donation for the San Diego, Calif., fire victims Thursday night at the Besmaya Range Complex in a moving ceremony to support Besmaya's San Diego residents.

Iraqi Army Col. Abbass, the commander of the complex, presented a gift of $1,000 to U.S. Army Col. Darel Maxfield, Besmaya Range Complex officer in charge, Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq, to send to the fire victims in California.

The money was collected from Iraqi officers and enlisted soldiers in Besmaya. In a speech given during the presentation, Col. Abbass stated that he and the Iraqi soldiers were connected with the American people in many ways, and they will not forget the help that the American government has given the Iraqi people. Abbass was honored to participate by sending a simple fund of $1,000 to the American people in San Diego, to lower the suffering felt by the tragedy.

Richard Lowry put it this way
Unfortunately, most Americans do not consider Iraqis as people. We see them as terrorists or victims, not as everyday people with the same values as our friends, neighbors and relatives. Yet, most Iraqis are decent human beings with the same concerns, dreams, and compassion as most Americans. They want peace and are concerned about their fellow man.

Thank you, Mr Lowry for calling our attention to this act of kindness by Iraqi soldiers.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Poles, Czechs, & Hungarians

President George W. Bush greets his guests Marlenis Gonzalez, right, and her daughter Melissa, center, Wednesday, October 24, 2007, after his remarks on Cuba policy at the State Department in Washington, D.C. Melissa's father, Jorge Luis Gonzalez Tanquero is currently being held in a Cuban prison after being arrested for crimes against the regime. White House photo by Eric Draper

In an excellent, and unfortunately underreported speech earlier this week President Bush spoke at the US State Dept. about the US Cuba policy. He specifically complimented the Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians for their support and encouragement of brave Cubans who oppose the Castro regime. An excerpt

Cuba's rulers promised individual liberty. Instead they denied their citizens basic rights that the free world takes for granted. In Cuba it is illegal to change jobs, to change houses, to travel abroad, and to read books or magazines without the express approval of the state. It is against the law for more than three Cubans to meet without permission. Neighborhood Watch programs do not look out for criminals. Instead, they monitor their fellow citizens -- keeping track of neighbors' comings and goings, who visits them, and what radio stations they listen to. The sense of community and the simple trust between human beings is gone.

Cuba's rulers promised an era of economic advancement. Instead they brought generations of economic misery. Many of the cars on the street pre-date the revolution -- and some Cubans rely on horse carts for transportation. Housing for many ordinary Cubans is in very poor condition, while the ruling class lives in mansions. Clinics for ordinary Cubans suffer from chronic shortages in medicine and equipment. Many Cubans are forced to turn to the black market to feed their families. There are long lines for basic necessities -- reminiscent of the Soviet bread lines of the last century. Meanwhile, the regime offers fully stocked food stores to foreign tourists, diplomats and businessmen in communism's version of apartheid.

Cuba's rulers promised freedom of the press. Instead they closed down private newspapers and radio and television stations. They've jailed and beaten journalists, raided their homes, and seized their paper, ink and fax machines. One Cuban journalist asked foreigners who visited him for one thing: a pen. Another uses shoe polish as ink as a typewriter ribbon.

Cuba's rulers promised, "absolute respect for human rights." Instead they offered Cubans rat-infested prisons and a police state. Hundreds are serving long prison sentences for political offenses such as the crime of "dangerousness" -- as defined by the regime. Others have been jailed for the crime of "peaceful sedition" -- which means whatever Cuban authorities decide it means.

As we speak, calls for fundamental change are growing across the island. Peaceful demonstrations are spreading. Earlier this year leading Cuban dissidents came together for the first time to issue the Unity of Freedom -- a declaration for democratic change. They hear the dying gasps of a failed regime. They know that even history's cruelest nightmares cannot last forever. A restive people who long to rejoin the world at last have hope. And they will bring to Cuba a real revolution -- a revolution of freedom, democracy and justice.

Now is the time to support the democratic movements growing on the island. Now is the time to stand with the Cuban people as they stand up for their liberty. And now is the time for the world to put aside its differences and prepare for Cuban's transition to a future of freedom and progress and promise. The dissidents of today will be the nation's leaders tomorrow -- and when freedom finally comes, they will surely remember who stood with them.

The Czech Republic and Hungary and Poland have been vital sources of support and encouragement to Cuba's brave democratic opposition. I ask other countries to follow suit. All nations can make tangible efforts to show public support for those who love freedom on the island. They can open up their embassies in Havana to pro-democracy leaders and invite them to different events. They can use their lobbies of the embassies to give Cubans access to the Internet and to books and to magazines. They can encourage their country's non-governmental organizations to reach out directly to Cuba's independent civil society.

Life will not improve for Cubans under their current system of government. It will not improve by exchanging one dictator for another. It will not improve if we seek accommodation with a new tyranny in the interests of "stability." America will have no part in giving oxygen to a criminal regime victimizing its own people. We will not support the old way with new faces, the old system held together by new chains. The operative word in our future dealings with Cuba is not "stability." The operative word is "freedom."

In that spirit, today I also am announcing a new initiative to develop an international multi-billion dollar Freedom Fund for Cuba. This fund would help the Cuban people rebuild their economy and make the transition to democracy. I have asked two members of my Cabinet to lead the effort -- Secretary Rice and Secretary Gutierrez. They will enlist foreign governments and international organizations to contribute to this initiative.

And here's how the fund will work: The Cuban government must demonstrate that it has adopted, in word and deed, fundamental freedoms. These include the freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of press, freedom to form political parties, and the freedom to change the government through periodic, multi-party elections. And once these freedoms are in place, the fund will be able to give Cubans -- especially Cuban entrepreneurs -- access to grants, and loans and debt relief to help rebuild their country.

The restoration of these basic freedoms is the foundation of fair, free and competitive elections. Without these fundamental protections in place, elections are only cynical exercises that give dictatorships a legitimacy they do not deserve.

The Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians know about the living conditions promised by a communist dictator and the actual living conditions because they lived it when they were part of the former soviet union. When freedom finally does come to the Cubans they will surely remember those who stood with them and those like the leftist American Library Association who didn't. Those US politicians who are not in solidarity with the Cuban dissidents Unity of Freedom effort should be ashamed of themselves.

Recently another diary at RS reported about freedom and economic growth in Estonia. I used the sources to compare the Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians to a protege of Cuba, Venezuela.

Foreign Policy Globalization Index Rank out of 72 countries
USA #7
Czech #19
Hungary #24
Poland #41
Venezuela #68

Heritage Economic Freedom Index Rank out of 161 countries
USA #4
Czech #31
Hungary #44
Poland #87
Venezuela #144

Transparency International Corruption Perception Index
Rank out of 179 countries
USA #20
Hungary #39
Czech #41
Poland #61
Venezuela #162

Friday, October 19, 2007

Revolt Against The Daddy State

I recently read an article at the Brussels Journal titled The Fatherless Civilization. The questions are asked

Have we become a civilization of Peter Pans refusing to grow up? Have we been cut off from the past by disparaging everything old as outmoded?
The welfare state encourages an infantilization of society where people return to childhood by being provided for by others. This creates not just a culture obsessed with youth but with adolescent irresponsibility.

Then the article provides Theodore Dalyrmple's thoughts:

What we are seeing now is a society in which people demand to behave more or less as they wish, that is to say whimsically, in accordance with their kaleidoscopically changing desires, at the same time as being protected from the natural consequences of their own behaviour by agencies of the state. The result is a combination of Sodom and Gomorrah and a vast and impersonal bureaucracy of welfare.

The welfare state deprives you of the possibility of deriving self-respect from your work. This can hurt a person's self-respect, but more so for men than for women because masculine identity is closely tied to providing for others. Stripped of this, male self-respect declines and society with it. Dalrymple also worries about the end of fatherhood, and believes that the worst child abusers are governments promoting the very circumstances in which child abuse and neglect are most likely to take place: "He who promotes single parenthood is indifferent to the fate of children." Fatherhood scarcely exists, except in the merest biological sense:

"I worked in a hospital in which had it not been for the children of Indian immigrants, the illegitimacy rate of children born there would have approached one hundred per cent. It became an almost indelicate question to ask of a young person who his or her father was; to me, it was still an astounding thing to be asked, 'Do you mean my father now, at the moment?' as if it could change at any time and had in fact changed several times before."

This is because "women are to have children merely because they want them, as is their government-given right, irrespective of their ability to bring them up, or who has to pay for them, or the consequences to the children themselves. Men are to be permanently infantilised, their income being in essence pocket money for them to spend on their enjoyments, having no serious responsibilities at all (beyond paying tax). Henceforth, the state will be father to the child, and the father will be child of the state."

To FrontPage magazine Dalyrmple offered this little nugget about political correctness:
Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

the article concludes
The elaborate welfare state model in Western Europe is frequently labeled "the nanny state," but perhaps it could also be named "the husband state." Why? Well, in a traditional society, the role of men was to physically protect and financially provide for their women. In our modern society, part of this task has been "outsourced" to the state, which helps explain why women in general give disproportionate support to high taxation and pro-welfare state parties. According to anthropologist Lionel Tiger, the ancient unit of a mother, a child and a father has morphed from monogamy into "bureaugamy," a mother, a child and a bureaucrat. The state has become a substitute husband. In fact, it doesn't replace just the husband, it replaces the entire nuclear and extended family, raises the children and cares for the elderly.

"In considering the strong links between an increasingly paternalistic nanny state and the death of the grown-up, I found that Tocqueville (of course) had long ago made the connections. He tried to imagine under what conditions despotism could come to the United States. He came up with a vision of the nation characterized, on the one hand, by an 'innumerable multitude of men, alike and equal, constantly circling around in pursuit of the petty and banal pleasures with which they glut their souls,' and, on the other, by the 'immense protective power' of the state. 'Banal pleasures' and 'immense state power' might have sounded downright science-fictional in the middle of the 19th century; by the start of the 21st century, it begins to sound all too familiar. Indeed, speaking of the all-powerful state, he wrote: 'It would resemble parental authority if, fatherlike, it tried to prepare its charges for a man's life, but, on the contrary, it only tries to keep them in perpetual childhood.' Perhaps the extent to which we, liberals and conservatives alike, have acquiesced to our state's parental authority shows how far along we, as a culture, have reached Tocqueville's state of 'perpetual childhood.'"

The question, which was indirectly raised by Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1830s in his book Democracy in America, is this: If democracy of universal suffrage means that everybody's opinion is as good as everybody else's, will this sooner or later turn into a society where everybody's choices are also as good as everybody else's, which leads to cultural relativism?

I don't know the answer to that. What I do know is that the current situation isn't sustainable. The absence of fatherhood has created a society full of social pathologies, and the lack of male self-confidence has made us easy prey for our enemies. If the West is to survive, we need to reassert a healthy dose of male authority. In order to do so we need to roll back the welfare state.

The article reminded me of the Elian Gonzales episode. Many were so much in favor with reuniting the Cuban father with his son Elian, but the Cubans living in Miami knew this was not going to happen. In Cuba the government is the father and everyone else is a child of the state. The same thing in Venezuela and Bolivia, and the Hollywood liberals just love these despots who by brute force keep their people in a state of perpetual childhood. So when you hear somebody talking about 'nanny state politicians' just remember the 'nanny state' is really the 'daddy state'. We must fight this political correctness cultural relativism slouch toward Gommorah

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Family Values Matter a LOT!

Lately there have been a lot of blogs critical of Rudy Giuliani because of his political stands on Roe v Wade and his support of gay civil unions. And a lot of Rudy supporters are upset about it because they like his tax cutting and crime fighting record. They want all of us critics to just shut up and let Rudy beat Hillary.

Fights between different parts of the GOP is not a new phenomenom. It happens a lot when the incumbent is not running for POTUS. Sometimes it happens when the incumbent IS running. This is the case in 1976. One difference, however is that President Ford was not an incumbent by virtue of winning an election. In the year, 1976 the big issue was not family values. The big issue was relations between the US and the Soviet Union. Pres. Ford believed in detente, peaceful coexistence, and appeasement policy with the Soviets. Governor Reagan believed the Soviet Union needed to come tumbling down. The fights between the Reagan faction and the Ford faction of the GOP over this issue continued all the way through the August convention in Kansas City. Reagan was able to give a great speech at the convention calling on unity, but it was too little too late. Voters did not see much difference between Ford and the Democratic Party on this issue. It was a "Do I vote for twiddle dee dee or twiddle dee dum?" feeling for many voters in November of 1976.

John Rhodes wrote an excellent book about the 1976 GOP convention. In an excerpt he tells some of the Washington insider goings on at that convention.

Gerald Ford was president, and many of us felt that he had done a good enough job to be our convention’s choice for a full term in that office. But a rising tide of support was evident for the governor of California, Ronald Reagan.

It did not take a political expert to predict that the two factions were likely to collide in mutually damaging fashion at the national convention.

The Reagan people were intent on doing everything they could to embarrass President Ford. One of their tactics was to contest much of the proposed Republican Platform. A portion of the platform had to do with the foreign policy of the Ford administration. They tried to amend it in the Platform Committee to make it appear that the Republican platform was critical of important elements of the Ford foreign policy. These amendments were not adopted.

The floor debate on the platform waxed hot and heavy. Midnight came and went. At 2 A.M. it appeared that we finally were about to vote, unless there were other amendments offered. Then I was informed that the North Carolina delegation would definitely offer the amendment against the Ford foreign policy which had been voted down in committee and demand a roll call vote. This, despite the late hour and the fact that many of the delegates had left to go to their lodgings.

I felt that this was a ridiculous thing to do. So I sent my son Jay, who was at my side, to try to find Jesse Helms, who was then the national committeeman from North Carolina. I had a good relationship with Jesse from the days of the Goldwater campaign, and I believed he could help me head off this damaging tactic.

When he came to the podium, I told him that it would be very helpful if he could get the North Carolina delegation not to offer the amendment. I pointed out the obvious: that it was very late, and we were going to look silly to the country if we haggled over this point in the wee hours of the morning.

Mr. Helms said, in his familiar southern drawl, “John, how good is your eyesight?”

I told him I believed it was reasonably good for about 100 feet.

“Well” he said, “I believe that the North Carolina delegation is farther away from you than 100 feet.”

I got his point.

“I think you are right,” I responded with some enthusiasm.

So, when the time came to call for further amendments and then to proceed to adoption of the platform, I asked if there were any amendments. The chairman of the North Carolina delegation, I am told, was standing, yelling, and waving his banner. I will maintain to this day that I did not see him. So I immediately gaveled the platform through and adjourned the convention for the night.

In certain parts of North Carolina I am still known as “Blind John.”

After the voting was completed, President Ford came to the hall to make his acceptance speech. Before he arrived, I kept calling the Ford headquarters, asking them if they had invited Ronald Reagan to speak. I got various answers, most of them in the negative.

Finally, I said to Senator Bob Griffin, one of my oldest and best friends, “Bobby, I just wanted you to know that I will not adjourn this convention until Ronald Reagan has appeared on this platform. I suggest you get with it immediately and make sure that he is invited to be here with President Ford.”

The rest is history. When President Ford came onto the platform, I went to meet him. The first thing he asked was, “Where is Ronald Reagan?” I pointed to the Reagan box and President Ford went over to the side of the platform nearest that box and motioned to Governor Reagan to “come on down.”

I had already sent my sergeant-at-arms and my son Jay to escort Governor Reagan to the platform. He came down, made a great speech for party unity and did everything we had hoped he would do.

Thus ended one of the most tense and unpleasant chapters of my political life. I was extremely relieved when at last my gavel fell for the adjournment sine die.

I have strayed far afield from my original title about family matters, but I wanted to put it out there that the GOP as a fractious divided family is not good. It is also not a good healthy continuation of a community for no restrictions on abortions, and no qualms with people of the same sex pairing up. These practices do not lead a community to be vibrant, young, and strong. Instead they lead to a community becoming dull, aged, and weak. The most obvious example of socialism run amok is in Russia. The demographics are so dire for Russia that a regional governor has declared a holiday named "Family Contact Day". This holiday was first declared in 2005, and the object for Mom and Dad to make a baby instead of go to work on 9/12. This is 9 months before the Russia Day state holiday on 6/12. They have all this propaganda baggage hangover from their Communist past that they are floundering with a 'Price Is Right' gimmick to improve family values. Here is a good article with comments from Russians about this holiday. The headline of the article is that Russia may need to make this a national holiday. I hope the US does not slouch toward Gommorah to this level. I believe if held firm to our conservative we will be OK.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Pilgrim’s Progress on Taxing Issues

I’ve been lurking around on some of the blogs concerning US tax policy. I don’t claim expertise on this subject, but from what I’ve read so far, not claiming expertise is better than claiming to be the smartest one in the room. I get a lot of the principles from an Estonian, Mart Laar.

Stage 1 - Shock Therapy

1. Eliminate budget deficits. The priority placed on elim¬inating budget deficits is not only well grounded in economic thought, but also, more practically, the only way out of a desperate situation. Balancing the budget requires radical cuts in all kinds of subsidies and reducing the size of government. Reforms must be pushed through, not piece by piece, but in the biggest chunks possible. Political resistance to both small and big reforms is the same.
2. As part of this momentum, subsidies for state-owned companies are identified as a poor policy, and they are cut. This is important for the devel¬opment of new private companies because subsi¬dies preserve old and often outdated production structures and hamper structural change in the economy.
3. Any movement toward pros¬perity therefore demands the elimination of old, inefficient, artificially supported economic activities and the establishment of the "invisible hand" of the market economy.

Stage 2 - Life Liberty & Pursuit of Happiness
1. Encourage personal responsibility. Success in the second stage requires involving a much broader group of people in the process, touching their hearts and changing their attitudes. In the sec¬ond stage, it is necessary to give them new hope, new prospects, and new opportunities.
2. Many have to be shaken free of the illusion that somehow somebody else would solve their problems for them. It is necessary to energize people, to get them moving, and to force them to make decisions and take responsibility for themselves. The government declares that it can only help those who are prepared to do something for themselves.
3. Free Trade. Openness provides many advantages for a smooth and rapid transition to a market economy. It provides a rational set of mar¬ket-determined processes for resource allocation, introduces more competition, allows countries to specialize according to their comparative advan¬tages, and lets the market rather than the govern¬ment pick the winners. A policy of openness also establishes an environment of transparency, with clear market-based signals for producers. Reduce trade tariffs and non-tariff barriers and abolish all export restric¬tions, making the nation a free-trade zone. One rea¬son for creating a free-trade zone is that tariff protections primarily favors sectors that are politically organized rather than those that are in the most need.
4. Regulation reform. The rule of law is especially important in fighting corruption. Corruption thrives when public officials and private agents have much to gain and little to lose from taking a bribe. Uncer¬tain or non-transparent rules, heavy regulation, and pervasive controls give officials exceptional power, many opportunities to seek bribes, and a wide scope for appropriating public wealth. Any reform that increases the competitiveness of the economy will reduce incentives for corrupt behavior. Reducing controls on foreign trade, removing entry barriers to private industry, and privatizing state companies in a way that ensures competition supports the fight. If the rules are transparent and clear, and if the state has no author¬ity to license businesses or restrict exports and imports, there will be no opportunities to pay bribes in those areas. Eliminating subsidies, "soft" loans, and all other such privileges removes another inducement for bribes.
5. Flat tax. The entire tax system should favor savings and investments and encourage people to create new wealth. The tax system has to be simple, inexpensive to apply, and transparent and understandable to the taxpayers. The tax base should be as broad as possible with a minimum number of exemptions, minimizing incentives for tax avoidance such as the underground economy. The tax rates have to be low, encouraging the activity of people and cre¬ating more growth. The best solution to all these goals is a flat-rate personal income tax. The tax system is simpler and easier to understand for both taxpayers and tax collectors. Taxpayers can easily fill out their tax forms and avoid overly complex calculations and bureaucracy. Tax collectors can avoid a lot of unnecessary work and concentrate on those who are not paying their taxes at all.

Flat rate tax systems have two rates – zero per cent for low income families and one fixed rate for all others – with exemptions primarily for the number of children. In reality, most exemptions in existing progressive systems are not so much helping low income families but middle income and high income families who actually do not need social support. Progressive systems make taxation so complicated that you need a specialist to fill in your tax declarations – it is quite clearly an economic burden. And at the same time it provides incentives for avoiding taxes.

Some argue that flat rate income taxes lead to more inequality of disposable income. A research paper about testing the flat tax in the US concludes that a flat tax would be a boon for the income poor in the US.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Conservatives Are More Tolerant Than Lefties

I have a little bit of a libertarian streak in me, and I occasionally like to visit Reason Magazine and read about freedom of speech and civil liberties etc. My libertarian streak is grounded in a principle that civility is a necessary ingredient with respect to free expression. In other words I only respect another persons freedoms of expression when they are not combined with violence. Some people think that other peoples freedom of expression must be respected even if they are violent. I read an interview between Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is libertarian like myself, and a Reason staff interviewer who is not like me. There was some interesting tricks the interviewer used to trip up Ayaan, and she smacked him down every time.

It started out with a question of how she came to the US and AEI. She told him that the US ambassador to Holland had offered to show her around the think tanks in the US. She went to Brookings, John Hopkins, RAND, and she balked at going to that religious and conservative AEI.

Reason: Why the initial aversion?

Hirsi Ali: Because I thought they would be religious, and I had become an atheist. And I don’t consider myself a conservative. I consider myself a classical liberal.

Anyway, the Brookings Institution did not react. Johns Hopkins said they didn’t have enough money. The RAND Corporation wants its people to spend their days and nights in libraries figuring out statistics, and I’m very bad at statistics. But at AEI they were enthusiastic. It turns out that I have complete freedom of thought, freedom of expression. No one here imposed their religion on me, and I don’t impose my atheism on them.

Reason: Do you see eye to eye with high-profile AEI hawks such as former Bush speechwriter David Frum and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton?

Hirsi Ali: Most of the time I do. For instance, I completely and utterly agree with John Bolton that talking to Iran is a sheer waste of time.

This is at the beginning of the interview, and I am already warming up to her answers, but the very best part of the interview was at the end when the interviewer started asking her questions about tolerance.
Reason: Tolerance is probably the most powerful word there is in the Netherlands. No other word encapsulates better what the Dutch believe really defines them. That makes it very easy for people to say that when they’re being criticized, they’re not being tolerated—and from there it’s only a small step to saying they’re being discriminated against or they’re the victims of Islamophobia or racism or what have you.

Hirsi Ali: We have to revert to the original meaning of the term tolerance. It meant you agreed to disagree without violence. It meant critical self-reflection. It meant not tolerating the intolerant. It also came to mean a very high level of personal freedom.

Then the Muslims arrived, and they hadn’t grown up with that understanding of tolerance. In short order, tolerance was now defined by multiculturalism, the idea that all cultures and religions are equal. Expectations were created among the Muslim population. They were told they could preserve their own culture, their own religion. The vocabulary was quickly established that if you criticize someone of color, you’re a racist, and if you criticize Islam, you’re an Islamophobe.

Reason: The international corollary to the word tolerance is probably respect. The alleged lack of respect has become a perennial sore spot in relations between the West and Islam. Salman Rushdie receiving a British knighthood supposedly signified such a lack of respect, as did the Danish cartoons last year, and many other things. Do you believe this is what Muslims genuinely crave—respect?

Hirsi Ali: It’s not about respect. It’s about power, and Islam is a political movement.

Reason: Uniquely so?

Hirsi Ali: Well, it hasn’t been tamed like Christianity. See, the Christian powers have accepted the separation of the worldly and the divine. We don’t interfere with their religion, and they don’t interfere with the state. That hasn’t happened in Islam.

But I don’t even think that the trouble is Islam. The trouble is the West, because in the West there’s this notion that we are invincible and that everyone will modernize anyway, and that what we are seeing now in Muslim countries is a craving for respect. Or it’s poverty, or it’s caused by colonization.

The Western mind-set—that if we respect them, they’re going to respect us, that if we indulge and appease and condone and so on, the problem will go away—is delusional. The problem is not going to go away. Confront it, or it’s only going to get bigger.

Today especially I have seen a lot of criticism directed at conservatives because of some critical articles about Ann Coulter. It was a refreshing breath of fresh air for me to read this interview with Ayaan, and take some comfort in this Somali lady's insightful remarks about her religious conservative colleagues at AEI.

Moby Critters Graze in Congress

From LGF:
moby - An insidious and specialized type of left-wing troll who visits blogs and impersonates a conservative for the purpose of either spreading false rumors intended to sow dissension among conservative voters, or who purposely posts inflammatory and offensive comments for the purpose of discrediting the blog in question. The term is derived from the name of the liberal musician Moby, who famously suggested in February of 2004 that left-wing activists engage in this type of subterfuge: “For example, you can go on all the pro-life chat rooms and say you’re an outraged right-wing voter and that you know that George Bush drove an ex-girlfriend to an abortion clinic and paid for her to get an abortion. Then you go to an anti-immigration Web site chat room and ask, ‘What’s all this about George Bush proposing amnesty for illegal aliens?’” The strategy has been frequently attempted on LGF and elsewhere, but has not been nearly as effective as Moby envisioned, since false rumors are easily debunked by fact-checking minions, and cartoonishly extreme commenters often get immediately identified as mobys and banned from LGF.

Yesterday the House Foreign Affairs committee passed by 27-21 a resolution to declare the Ottoman massacre of Armenians as genocide. I call moby on this behavior. They are doing this resolution to discredit and disrupt the alliance between the US and moderate muslim countries like Turkey in the GWOT. Some people might say ‘what’s the big deal?’. It’s history, over and done with. Those people do not understand how most Muslims look at history, and how conscious they are of the past. OBL after 9-11 had this to say
…for more than eighty years now we have been suffering the burden of shame and humiliation…

He was referring to the Ottoman Empire around the time of the massacre, only he was referring to the demise of the empire. Bernard Lewis explains it this way
When he was talking of the eighty plus years, what he was clearly referring to was the final defeat of the Ottoman Empire. In 1918, the end of World War One, the Ottoman Empire, like its allies, is defeated, but unlike its allies, it's destroyed.
The capital was occupied, the ruler imprisoned, the provinces partitioned between the victorious allies and at about the same time infidel rule was consolidated over almost the whole of the Muslim world.
It was almost the whole of the Muslim world was under direct or indirect foreign rule, and this was seen as the low point in their struggle.

They lost their empire. Do we really need for mobys to track mud into the floor of the House, and then take our Turkish allies and rub their noses in it? There are currently splits and divisions in the Islamic world that help in the war to prevent a future Islamic Empire ruling the world. Actions being taken by some mobys in the House could make divided Muslims more united. Not a good thing to happen.

The reaction of this action by the President of Turkey
In a midnight statement to semi-official Anatolia news agency President Abdullah Gül denounced as “unacceptable” the endorsement of a measure branding as “genocide” the alleged Ottoman massacres of Armenians by a key U.S. House panel.
“This unacceptable decision of the committee... has no validity and respectability for the Turkish people. Unfortunately, some politicians in the United States ignored appeals for common sense and once again moved to sacrifice big issues to petty games of domestic politics," Gül said.
A group of protestors marched to U.S. Embassy in Ankara to protest the development.

On the bright side, the President of Turkey described it as petty games of domestic politics. I translate that to be he calls moby also.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

How a Successful Economy Works!

The Republican Debate today about economic issues inspired me to surf the web for something about a country that has produced a remarkable success story, Estonia. Known as the Baltic Tiger, Estonia has consistently experienced 8% economic growth, dramatically reduced inequality, and is the home of world leading technology development, including the internet telephony service, Skype.

Historian, twice Prime Minister of Estonia (1992-94 and 1999-2002), and current member of the Estonian Parliament, Mart Laar is widely recognized for his leadership in bringing his country from economic and social ruin under communism to being one of the most vibrant societies in the world today. When he first became Prime minister at age 32 he initiated wide ranging reform of the economy including privatisation, unilateral free trade, a technology savvy government, and the world’s first introduction of flat tax. He is now credited with Estonia’s astonishing economic turnaround.

I found an interview that a Canadian, David Seymour, had with Mart Laar in August, 2007.
I laughed when I got to end of the interview because the liberal Canadian heard some things that kind of shook him up. I encourage everyone to read the entire interview.
Here is a little sampling of it.

David: Mart could you please give the people of Canada an overview of how you changed the government and economy in Estonia in your two terms as prime minister, and what have the results been for ordinary Estonians?

Mart Laar: When we started, in 1992, our economic reforms, Estonia was in a state of economic collapse. Communism means a system which fails and the longer it lasts, the more it fails. The heritage of the communists is what we had, when my first government took power in '92 we had huge hyperinflation of 1000%, we had most of our industries and economy owned by the state, we nearly produced nothing that we could sell to the west, so we were dependent on the Russian market, and this was the worst. During the time of hyperinflation, social inequality and power inequality in the country raised tremendously. There was a small group of people motivated by the former communist regime who had access to the foreign currency, and during the hyperinflation, this was a source of very high inequality at the beginning of the reforms. And we had a very high poverty rate. So the task of the reforms was to really to get the country and the Estonian people out of this poverty. To do this, the only way was really a radical economic approach, starting with the macroeconomic stabilization, bringing the hyperinflation down and stabilizing the monetary system. And the last reforms were taking the power from the hands of the government to the hands of people. That was the main goal of the reforms because any government, any Prime Minister can’t change the country, the people can. So the government’s goal was to empower the people, and this was done by different reforms. Starting from the property reforms, privatization, liberalization of all of the economy, and the tax reform which was a very important part. We created the first flat tax in the modern part of the Western hemisphere.

David: Many Canadians would be surprised about flat tax reducing inequality. They generally believe that progressive tax gives more revenue to the government and makes sure that those who can pay more do so. What has been the Estonian experience of government revenue and equality with a flat tax?

Mart Laar: It is not now, anymore, only an Estonian experience because a flat tax has worked so well in Estonia it is now copied by more and more countries. So every year we have the next one or two countries joining the club and they are not only small countries, among them are quite big countries. The experience is, nearly everywhere, the same. First of all what happens is the government revenues will go significantly up. Lowering taxes often makes the economy grow, but especially the introduction of the flat tax, which makes the government revenue higher because progressive taxation with the huge amounts of exemptions is actually such a complicated tax system that it is very easy to avoid the taxes. Especially the very rich people can do this because they can hire the lawyers and tax experts, but for the poor people that is a possibility that doesn’t exist. With the flat tax the tax system becomes simpler. It is easy to understand for the people but it is very easy to understand for the officials as well, so it is very hard to avoid. The results will be not only that you get more revenue but you get a lot more revenue. There is very clear evidence in all the countries that have introduced a flat tax, especially when we compare to the countries that have done this to the countries in the same region that have not done it. Then you see the real change and the real difference. Then you see what it means to move to the flat tax.

The second part is the social equality question. Actually when you analyze the flat tax, the first evidence is that in every country that has introduced the flat tax, the Gini coefficient, which has been the important measure of inequality has come significantly down, not up, in every country that has introduced the flat tax. The second part is that the poverty rate has gone significantly down as well, so it is very clear, the result. And now many mathematical studies have been done on the flat tax. It has been found, very interestingly, that in the most used form of the flat tax where there is one exception, so there are two levels of taxation, zero and the flat tax rate, which means that a lot of groups, the most poor part of society, are actually liberated from the taxes. And in this [flat tax] system, the progressivity of the system, is actually higher than in the progressive system. As I said earlier, it is fair. These people who use the exemptions [in a progressive system] are not the people to whom the exemption is targeted, and most exemptions are not reaching the groups they are there for, but they are used by the richer part of the population. Which means, actually, that this [flat] tax system is actually more [progressive]. And the studies are really proving that the progressivity of the [flat tax] system is actually higher than the progressive system due to the large exemptions. So it is a little bit of a paradox but, when you look at the system it is quite easy to understand how it works. It is just fair.

David: Picking up on the fact the Skype was generated in Estonia, a lot of people in some provinces of Canada, particularly Saskatchewan and Manitoba are concerned that free trade agreements, even with other Canadian provinces, will make local industries victims, can you tell us a bit about how a country that had previously been wrecked by communism is able to compete with Western Europe?

Mart Laar: I think that was … one part of our economic reforms, in 1992 we abolished all custom taxes, making Estonia a free trade area. A lot of managers from the former Soviet factories came to me and said that I would destroy Estonian industry. I said it must be a very weak and uncompetitive industry which needs to be destroyed. I think this is such a perception in the minds of politicians that, they know what is competitive industry and business doesn’t know. It is not true. I think the task of the government is to create in your country the competitive industries which are really competitive, and free competition is the best source to do this. Estonia has been an excellent example of how this kind of competition makes the economy stronger. Countries around us who have used different strategies have gotten significantly smaller growth and less prosperity than countries that have opened themselves and moved to free trade. Competition decides which industries are efficient and which are not, so you have the industries that really can compete all over the world.

David: About privatization, again, it is a big concern in Canada that if certain government businesses are privatized, our energy, our telecommunications, even, in some cases, transportation –if we privatized those then the companies would be run for the owners rather than the people.

Mart Laar: Again, this is a very wrong perception because, if the [privatized] companies are not run for the people they are not competitive. Which means the private owners, these people are not stupid. They are not risking the taxpayers’ money they are risking their own money. And, to earn the money they must provide the services, in the open theory of competition, if they are not doing this they will fail. Whereas when the government can risk the taxpayers’ money and lose it, the private sector find they can’t do this. So in most areas they are significantly more competitive and reliable than the government owned company.

David: Two final quick questions, how hard is it to learn Estonian, and what is your immigration policy?

Mart Laar: Estonian is a little bit different from the other European languages, like the Nordic languages mostly spoken by the Finns, Hungarians, Estonians, so it’s complicated but it is absolutely doable. I have seen American Peace Corps members who have all learned within three months. The girls are beautiful and the beer is good, so it goes fast!

David: Well you might find you have a few more Canadians over there soon, thank you very much.

Mart Laar: We have, we have, thank you.

I also found another news article of Mart Laar speaking to a conference in Bulgaria. In his speech Mart emphasized that the free internet service in Estonia was a critical factor for success.

An important step in the radical reforms and the fight against corruption had been the establishment of e-government in Estonia. E-government had achieved higher transparency, holding public officials accountable for every penny spent while giving citizens access to the decision making process. People could read proposed bills online and have a public debate about them, before the bill would go to parliament to be voted into law. This process resulted in fewer mistakes being made in new legislation.

Maybe instead of wishing for a Republican President to be the next Ronald Reagan we need a President with the economic common sense of Mart Laar.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Success in Iraq More Important than in the 'STAN's

I'm watching, reading, and listening to a cacophany of noise about Iraq is the unnecessary place fo combat the enemy. They say the hi-jackers of 9-11 were not from Iraq. They say no WMD's were found in Iraq. They say Iraq wasn't where the terrorists were until the invasion. It's all just about shedding blood for oil. To paraphrase Bernard Lewis, all of this claptrap is imaginary; imaginary is the polite word.

The problem that a lot of people have in their thought processes is that they don't look at situations in historical terms from the enemy's POV, but instead look at finding an explanation that can put the most amount of blame on their political opponent. Bernard Lewis put it this way ,

Remember when dealing with Islam. This is a very historically minded society. In this country if you say "that's history," you mean it's finished, irrelevant, of no present concern. Muslims, generally, do not look at history that way, they are conscious of the past.

I'm not saying that their history is always accurate, it may not be accurate, it may be wildly inaccurate. But nevertheless it is the self-perception in a historical framework.

When Osama bin Laden, in one of his statements, said 'for more than eighty years now we have been suffering the burden of shame and humiliation,' we meaning the Muslim world. I'm quite sure everyone in the Muslim world knew exactly what he was talking about.

How many of us knew what OBL was about in saying for more than eighty years? Bernard Lewis explains to his interviewer
When he was talking of the eighty plus years, what he was clearly referring to was the final defeat of the Ottoman Empire. In 1918, the end of World War One, the Ottoman Empire, like its allies, is defeated, but unlike its allies, it's destroyed.

The capital was occupied, the ruler imprisoned, the provinces partitioned between the victorious allies and at about the same time infidel rule was consolidated over almost the whole of the Muslim world.

It was almost the whole of the Muslim world was under direct or indirect foreign rule, and this was seen as the low point in their struggle.

This is especially Iraq that we are talking about. This piece of real estate holds almost as much historical and religious significance to Muslims as Mecca. Many of the early Imams have died and been buried in places in Iraq like Najaf, and Karbala. This is a very important place to them even if we can't believe it.

Shiite Islam originated as a political movement supporting Ali (cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam) as the rightful leader of the Islamic state. The legitimacy of this claim, as initially envisioned by Ali's supporters, was based on Muhammad's alleged designation of Ali as his successor, Ali's righteousness, and tribal customs, given his close relation to the Prophet. Ali's right passed with his death in 661 to his son Hasan, who chose not to claim it, and after Hasan's death, to Husayn, Ali's younger son. The evolution into a religious formulation is believed to have been initiated with the martyrdom of Husayn in 680 at Karbala (today in Iraq), a traumatic event still observed with fervor in today's Shiite world on the 10th of the month of Muharram of the Muslim lunar year.source

Shi'as believe that Muhammad al-Mahdi will reappear when the world has fallen into chaos and civil war emerges between the human race for no reason. At this time, it is believed, half of the true believers will ride from Yemen carrying white flags to Mecca, while the other half will ride from Karbala, in Iraq, carrying black flags to Mecca. At this time, Muhammad al-Mahdi will come wielding God's Sword, the Blade of Evil's Bane, Zulfiqar (Arabic: ذو الفقار, ðū l-fiqār), the Double-Bladed Sword.source

I'm not disagreeing with anyone who thinks that this is some really whacked out stuff to believe. I'm just saying it is important to remember that some of our enemies believe this stuff fervently enough to die for it. For them the threat of death from bombings is not a deterrent but an inducement.

Bernard Lewis also makes an excellent point about this common expression in the Muslim countries of the 'US is the great satan and Israel is the little satan.
The jihad against infidels means non-Muslims. The jihad against apostates is very much an issue at the present time for Al Qaeda because their struggle is not primarily directed against the outsider, but against what they see as the renegade Muslims who rule much of the Muslim world.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other countries. In their perception these are not true
Muslims. They are Muslims who have abandoned Islam, and while posing as Muslims, have introduced infidel laws, infidel customs and infidel ways into the Islamic lands. You remember Sadat of Egypt was murdered.

It was commonly assumed at the time here that he was murdered because he made peace with Israel, because he opened friendly relations with the United States. The evidence is entirely to the contrary.

And we know these were what we now call Islamic Fundamentalists and their grievance against Sadat was that he was introducing infidel ways, he was disestablishing Islam, destroying Islam from within, opening the country to pagan influences.

Now this is precisely the same reasoning as the Islamic revolution in Iran. Khomeini made it very clear when he describes America as the great Satan. Now what is Satan? Satan is not a conqueror, he's not an exploiter, he doesn't set up factories or administer provinces. He seduces, he's a tempter and a seducer. Knomeini and his various successors have made it quite clear that what they fear is the seduction of American popular culture, the fact that to this day millions of Iranians use their satellites to watch television and their favourite program is Baywatch.

On the significance of middle eastern oil Bernard Lewis gives an interesting and quite unusual analogy.
Imagine that the Ku Klux Klan suddenly becomes the ruler of Texas, and has at its disposal all the wealth acquired from the sale of Texas oil. They then use this money to build up a network of well-endowed schools and colleges all over Christendom to preach their particular brand of Christianity. You will have an approximate idea of what has happened in the Islamic world. Because of oil money, the Saudis, who are Wahhabi, they use this money to establish a whole network of schools and colleges all over the Islamic world. And you get an approximate idea of what has happened from my Klux Klan.

I think it is a fair analogy in the sense that it's a radical, violent, extreme doctrine, and without oil money it would have remained a lunatic fringe in a marginal country. Thanks to oil money it has spread all over the Islamic world.

Mr. Lewis offers a refreshing contrast to the doom-mongers who extrapolate feverishly from every shootout in Fallujah, every dustup in which an American soldier is shot, or an Iraqi killed. Mr. Lewis has high hopes for Iraq. Why? Their "cultural and intellectual standards"--set high in the years before Saddam--have "miraculously, if precariously, survived his ravages." Also, the status of women is high in Iraq. As Mr. Lewis puts it--perhaps paraphrasing a desert proverb--"women are half the population and mothers of the other half." In the early formative years, it makes "a great deal of difference to have an educated mother." But his main reason for optimism is that "Iraqis have gone through everything, and are much less likely to be taken in by the fanatical groups in the region."

Although we "keep voicing fears that democracy won't work in Iraq, that's not what they're saying in the Middle East." There's a real terror there among the despots "that democracy in Iraq will work."source

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Bernard Lewis is a Genius!

I stumbled across an interview that Bernard Lewis had in February 2007 with the Jerusalem Post.

Seating himself in the center of The Jerusalem Post's conference room, Prof. Bernard Lewis preferred to eschew any kind of opening remarks, and instead simply invited our questions. Arguably the preeminent Islamic historian and scholar of his age, Lewis, who turned 90 last May, handled the resulting avalanche with absolute equanimity.

I had no idea that he is 90. I knew he was getting up in his years, and I knew he has so much more knowledge about the ancient history of Islam than anyone else I've ever read. This article showed me how he has so much more knowledge than anyone else I have read on present day circumstances in the Islamic world. This is when I realize he is a genius. One of the key parts of this interview is when he answered the question
How do you see the Arab-on-Arab violence in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories being resolved?

I have put boldface type on the parts of his answer that really wowed me.

The developments in the Middle East are both alarming and encouraging, depending on the angle of vision. The bad news on the general situation now is the increasing violence, the increasing support which the various extremist and terrorist movements seem to be getting. Most alarming of all is the steady increase in the area [in which] they have influence or dominate, which before long will probably include Europe.

A Syrian philosopher published an article not long ago in which he said the only question about the future of Europe is: "Will it be an Islamized Europe or Europeanized Islam?" And I am inclined to agree with him about that. In that respect, it is discouraging. Particularly alarming is the apocalyptic mood, which we see in Iran now.

This is something which Jews in particular should be able to understand very well. The messiah is coming. There is a well-known scenario of the course of events, the battle of Gog and Magog and so on and so forth. There is a final struggle ending with the final victory. Muslims generally believe that one can somehow expedite the process.

I have no doubt at all, and my Iranian friends and informants are unanimous on this, that Ahmadinejad means what he says, and that this is not, as some people have suggested, a trick or device. He really means it, he really believes it and that makes him all the more dangerous.

MAD, mutual assured destruction, [was effective] right through the Cold War. Both sides had nuclear weapons. Neither side used them, because both sides knew the other would retaliate in kind. This will not work with a religious fanatic. For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement. We know already that they do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers. We have seen it again and again.

In the final scenario, and this applies all the more strongly if they kill large numbers of their own people, they are doing them a favor. They are giving them a quick free pass to heaven and all its delights, the divine brothel in the skies. I find all that very alarming.

We turn now to the encouraging signs, the good news, such as it is. I would put it at two levels. One is that a number of Arab governments are coming to the conclusion that Israel is not their most serious problem and not their greatest danger.

This is very similar to what happened with [former Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat. If you go back to the Egyptian peace process, Sadat didn't decide to make peace because he was suddenly convinced of the merits of the Zionist case. Sadat decided to make peace because he realized that Egypt was becoming a Soviet colony.

The process was very visible. There were whole areas of Soviet bases and no Egyptian was admitted. Sadat, I think, realized that on the best estimate of Israel's power and the worst estimate of Israel's intentions, Israel was not a threat to Egypt in the way that the Soviet Union was.

So he took the very courageous step of ordering the Soviet specialists out of Egypt, facing the danger they might do what they did in Czechoslovakia or Hungary. They didn't, fortunately. Then he hoped that Washington would help him, instead of which Washington produced the Vance-Gromyko Agreement, a sort of diplomatic carve up, in effect giving Egypt back to the Soviets. That was [former president Jimmy] Carter's real contribution to the peace process. All the rest of it is imaginary; imaginary is the polite word.

That persuaded Sadat that he had to go to the Israelis.

I think that a number of the governments in the region have been through a similar process of reevaluation. During the recent war in Lebanon, it was quite clear that several Arab governments were quietly hoping that the Israelis would go in and finish the job. They were very disappointed that they didn't. That disappointment was certainly not a help, but that mood is still there. There is a willingness to reach some sort of a compromise to enable them to deal with what they see as the more pressing and more dangerous problem. That could be a short-term advantage. It might even lead to some sort of a peace process.
The other encouraging sign, very faint and very distant, is of a genuine change of mood among people in some Arab countries. Talking to people in Arab countries in the last few years, some of those people express attitudes which I have never met before. I do not know how deep this goes and how strong it is, but it is there and it never was before. That is a good sign.

There is a Syrian migr group called the Syrian Reform Party, headed by a man called Farid Ghadry. He publishes a journal and also has a Web site. He makes no secret of his admiration for Israel and his very positive attitude toward Israel. He lives in Washington, D.C.

The fact that a man who has ambitions, [who] hopes to lead a revolution, makes no attempt to pursue an anti-Israel, anti-Zionist line, but on the contrary he has a friendly one, that in itself is quite remarkable.

Another example on a very different level is the people in Jordan. In Jordan, Israel television is widely watched and they get the message of how a free society works. I have heard that the same thing happens elsewhere but for technical reasons it is more difficult.

As one fellow put it, it is amazing to watch these great and famous people banging the table and screaming at each other. They are used to people banging the table and screaming, but not at each other. They can get different points of view, but they have to tune in to different stations.

The sort of free debate on Israel television and, even more striking, the fact that Arabs can denounce the Israeli government on Israeli television, that has an impact. I have heard people mention this again and again. It doesn't go unnoticed.

I especially give him genius status for the remarks he made about Jimmy Carter's "contribution" to the peace process between Israel and Egypt.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Let's Play 'Name that Candidate'

Everybody remembers the game show 'Name that Tune' Well let's play 'Name that Candidate'. The rules are simple. I provide a direct quote from a candidate, as opposed to an interpreted report of what a candidate means according to Media Matters.
You guess which candidate it is and click the answers link. Let's see how knowledgeable you are about what they are saying instead of knowing so much about what others are saying about them.

We don’t merely tolerate diversity, we embrace and celebrate it.

The very, very wealthy would pay no taxes at all, none, under a flat tax. And so I think as people hear the term "Flat tax," they like the idea but then if they hear that some people will pay no taxes at all, the very wealthiest, they've say, ooh, there's got to be something to adjust it.

You have free speech so I can be heard.

I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government.

They want to drive the US out of the Middle East and they want to establish an Islamic Caliphate, or an Islamic dictatorship. If you want to know what a caliphate looks like, look at Afghanistan under the Taliban, or the Sudan today, which is on its 2nd genocide.We must win the war on terrorism. We must see it through. In Iraq, we must see it through.

Our elementary and secondary educational systems need to be restructured. Such restructuring can be achieved by privatizing a major segment of the educational system-by enabling a private, for-profit industry to develop that will provide a wide variety of learning opportunities and offer free competitive choice.

Please let me know how well you can 'Name that Candidate'.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Pilgrimage to gamecock's Serious RS Blog

In the spirit of gamecock’s blog to get a serious discussion going with respect to the race for 2008 President I have looked at 6 of these Republicans on 6 issues important to me. I have gotten quotes from these 6 on these issues in an attempt to avoid how others are describing them and take them at their own words. If I like it I put a plus sign (+) in front of their name. If I don’t like it I put a minus sign (-). If I see a mixed message I put both signs (+/-). So who did I give the least (-) signs?

Fred 0
Sam 0
Mitt -1
Mike -2
John -3
Rudy -4

If anyone posts about any other candidate than these 6, I will call threadjack on you.


When has a nation ever won a war when the constant discussion was: What kind of timetable are we going to set for our retreat? In order to win, you have to set an objective. The objective should be an Iraq that is going to help us in the terrorists' war against us. If Iraq is a battle in the terrorists' war against us, then the winning of that battle constitutes an Iraq that will help us, not an Iraq that will become a headquarters for Islamic terrorism.

We must win the war on terrorism, period. There is no substitute for this. We are in a long term battle.
The name 'war on terror' is a misnomer. Terrorism is a tactic. It's like a war on bombs. It doesn't say who it is you're fighting. We're fighting against a group of people who are dedicated to our destruction. An Islamic fascist militarized definition of Islam.
It is not everybody, it is not a majority of people who practice Islam. But it is a dedicated force. They're not only after us, they're after moderate Muslim regimes in the region. They're dedicated to our destruction.
it's very clear--look on their website to see what they seek to do. They want to drive the US out of the Middle East and they want to establish an Islamic Caliphate, or an Islamic dictatorship. If you want to know what a caliphate looks like, look at Afghanistan under the Taliban, or the Sudan today, which is on its 2nd genocide.
We must win the war on terrorism. We must see it through. In Iraq, we must see it through.

I think he's had a lot of struggles, particularly in managing the war in Iraq. We did a great job of going in and toppling Saddam Hussein. The tough part has been bringing some sense of stability there. I think the domestic agenda has also almost been ignored and overlooked because we have spent so much of a time on Iraq.

Our adversaries are weaker than us in arms and men, but weaker still in causes. They fight to express a hatred for all that is good in humanity. We fight for love of freedom and justice, a love that is invincible. Keep that faith. Keep your courage. Stick together. Stay strong. Do not yield. Do not flinch. Stand up. Stand up with Bush and fight. We're Americans. We're Americans, and we'll never surrender.

Well, I'm certainly not going to project failure, and those kind of circumstances that you would suggest would be projecting failure.
It is critical for us to remember that Iraq has to be considered in the context of what's happening in the Middle East and throughout the world. There is a global jihadist effort. Violent, radical jihadists want to replace all the governments of the moderate Islamic states, replace them with a caliphate. And to do that, they also want to bring down the West, in particular us.
They've come together as Shi'a & Sunni & Hezbollah & Hamas & the Muslim Brotherhood & al Qaeda with that intent. We have to recognize that what we're doing in Iraq has enormous impact on what's going to happen in this global struggle. And so it's critical for us to provide the stability to allow a central government to survive and thrive.

The specter of WMD in the hands of our worst enemies continues to grow, and still we have yet to really come to terms with the nature & extent of the threat we are facing from radical Islamic terrorism. These extremists look at this war as a long struggle that has been going on for centuries; they are willing to take as long as necessary to bring the US and our allies to our knees, while killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people, if possible. Iraq and Afghanistan are current fronts in this war and the world watches as our will is tested. Our courage as a people must match that of the brave men and women in uniform fighting for us.
In this broader war with this different kind of enemy, our success cannot always be measured by battlefield victories. Success will depend upon the determination of the American people and that's why we'll win. There is a courage that comes in unity. Now is the time to show that America united can overcome any danger, and America united can complete any mission.


: Would the day that Roe v. Wade is repealed be a good day for America?
It would be OK to repeal. It would be OK also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent and I think a judge has to make that decision.

Q: So it would be OK if they didn't repeal it?
I think the court has to make that decision and then the country can deal with it. We're a federalist system of government and states can make their own decisions.

It would be a glorious day of human liberty and freedom.

Most certainly.

A repeal.


I think Roe v. Wade was bad law and bad medical science and the way to address that is through good judges. I don't think the court ought to wake up one day and make new social policy for the country. It's contrary to what it's been the past 200 years... That's what happened in this case [Roe v. Wade]. I think it was wrong.


: Giuliani's record displays an intuitive appreciation for the vital role tax cuts play in growing the economy, as well as a deep-seated aversion to tax increases. Giuliani is also on record supporting $792 billion in tax cuts passed by the Republican-controlled Congress in 1999, as well as President Bush's 2003 tax cuts. After 9/11, Rudy even went so far as to criticize Fernando Ferrer's vow to raise taxes if he were elected mayor as
a dumb, stupid, idiotic, and moronic thing to do.

(+)Sam: Senator Brownback's voting record is further enhanced by his consistent support for replacing the current tax code with a flat tax. Even in his early days as a representative, Sam Brownback supported a flat tax, saying,
I'm for getting social engineering out of the system.
This commitment remained unflagging in the Senate. In 2004, Senator Brownback introduced legislation to eradicate the current onerous tax system by 2009. He also pushed for a voluntary flat tax system for Washington D.C. residents in 2006, arguing that a flat tax removes the double-taxation on money saved or invested.
I do not think that dollars on which wage earners have already paid taxes should be taxed again when those dollars are saved or invested. This double-taxation creates a disincentive to saving and investing.

(-)Mike:By the end of his ten-year tenure, Governor Huckabee was responsible for a 37% higher sales tax in Arkansas, 16% higher motor fuel taxes, and 103% higher cigarette taxes according to Americans for Tax Reform, garnering a lifetime grade of D from the free-market Cato Institute. While he is on record supporting making the Bush tax cuts permanent, he joined Democrats in criticizing the Republican Party for
tilting its tax policies toward the people at the top end of the economic scale
, even though objective evidence demonstrates that the Bush tax cuts have actually shifted the tax burden to higher income taxpayers.
Finally, Governor Huckabee opposed further tax cuts at a 2005 gathering of Iowa conservatives. On January 28, 2007, Governor Huckabee refused to pledge not to raise taxes if elected President, first on Meet the Press and then at the National Review Conservative Summit.
I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who need tax relief.

(-)Mitt:His strident opposition to the flat tax is most curious and difficult to explain since Romney wasn't a political candidate at the time. In 1996, he ran a series of newspaper ads in Boston, New Hampshire, and Iowa denouncing the 17% flat tax proposed by then presidential candidate Steve Forbes as a
tax cut for fat cats
. Even today, Romney continues to oppose the flat tax with harsh language, calling the tax

(+)Fred: Thompson was a forceful proponent of tax reform, lambasting
the IRS as mismanaged and wasteful,
and a strong supporter of the flat tax. In fact, Thompson was the only senator to vote to table an amendment proposed by Senator Dorgan that took the flat tax off the table during a budget debate.
The problem with the Dorgan amendment is simple, Thompson declared in a press release the following day, it puts you on record against a flat tax. I think a flat tax is one of the options that should be considered as part of the debate on comprehensive tax reform.

Free Trade
: In a 1993 statement that positioned the Mayor to the left of many Democrats, Giuliani said:
I continue to be concerned about the effect it [NAFTA] would have on the job situation in New York City...I haven't seen anything that's going to explain to me how, at least in the short term, it would improve the job loss which has been very, very significant.

(+)Sam: On the whole, Senator Sam Brownback has been one of the most consistent supporters of free trade in the U.S. Senate. He was deemed a "free trader" by the Cato Institute for the 105th Congress through the 108th Congress, a designation given to those who "consistently vote against both trade barriers and international economic subsidies."
(+)Mike: In 2003, he pushed for free trade with Mexico, calling for a
strong market of the Americas
and supporting NAFTA. In 2006, he signed an agreement between Arkansas and a South Korea trade group, calling for increased commerce between the southern state and South Korea.
(+)John: The Cato Institute aptly sums up his record on trade by designating him a "free trader" for the 105th Congress through the 108th Congress, a top accolade given out to those who "consistently vote against both trade barriers and international economic subsidies."
We must move ahead in technology and patents. I don't like losing any jobs but we'll see new opportunities created selling products there. We'll have a net increase in economic activity, just as we did with free trade. It's tempting to want to protect our markets and stay closed. But at some point it all comes crashing down and you're hopelessly left behind. Then you are Russia.

Romney was also a supporter of CAFTA, saying,
It does make me chuckle, when you see Congress struggling about whether we should open our trade with Central America. When Asia is looming off the horizon, we're worried about El Salvador and Guatemala?

(+/-)Fred: Over his eight years in the Senate, Fred Thompson voted for many free trade agreements and was a proponent of America's increased participation in the global economy. Although this strong record contains a trouble spot or two-such as his votes for nonbinding, symbolic measures in support of conditional tariffs on Japan in 1995 and to revoke normal trade relations with China in 1997 -the list of his pro-free trade votes is long and encouraging.

Free political speech:

I'm a very, very strong supporter of campaign finance reform. A very strong supporter of McCain-Feingold for a long, long time now.

Groups that seek to advertise a point of view should not, and I believe constitutionally can not, be limited from their participation in the political system. If provisions to hinder constitutionally protected free speech issue advocacy are added to the bill, I will vote against the final bill.

(+/-)Mike: Governor Huckabee is on record criticizing the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, though the majority of his criticism has focused on discriminatory measures that allows senators to transfer money from Senate committees to presidential runs, but deny governors the same freedom to move state funds into federal accounts. Governor Huckabee is also on record favoring limiting individual, PAC, corporate, and political party contributions to state candidates.

He [Michael Graham] also mentioned my abridgement of First Amendment rights, i.e. talking about campaign finance reform . . . I know that money corrupts . . . I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government.

I personally believe that when campaigns spend the kind of money they're now spending...and to get that kind of money you've gotta cozy up as an incumbent to all of the special-interest groups who can go out and raise money for you from their members, and that kind of relationship has an influence over the way you're going to vote...And for that reason I would like to have campaign spending limits and to say we're not going to spend more than this in certain campaigns...I also would abolish PACS. You probably have one. I don't like them. I don't like the influence of money-whether it's business, labor, or any other group. I do not like that kind of influence...

As a presidential candidate, Mitt Romney has pivoted drastically, abandoning his old anti-First Amendment stance and taking the harshest position on McCain-Feingold of all the candidates. He has called repeatedly for the legislation's repeal, and even labeled the bill
one of the worst things in my lifetime.
Now Romney is advocating
reforms that promote transparency and disclosure, preserve grassroots activism and protect the ability to criticize or endorse current officeholders and candidates.

(+/-)Fred: Since announcing his presidential aspirations, Senator Thompson has admitted that McCain-Feingold has become riddled with loopholes and has distanced himself from his previous support, saying,
I'm not prepared to go there yet, but I wonder if we shouldn't just take off the limits and have full disclosure with harsh penalties for not reporting everything on the Internet immediately.

More recently, when Sean Hannity asked Thompson if backing McCain-Feingold was the "right decision in retrospect," Thompson replied:
Part of it was, and part of it wasn't.
He elaborated, supporting repealing a ban on issue advocacy ads because "that's not working," but continued to support limitations on individual contributions.
While Thompson's recent pangs of doubt are somewhat encouraging, his doubts are not motivated by a strong First Amendment philosophy, but the realization that McCain Feingold isn't working. One has to wonder if this erstwhile supporter of McCain-Feingold has truly learned his lesson, or would he impose even harsher restrictions on political free speech to rein in the aforementioned "loopholes?"

Small Government:

: In 1996, Rudy Giuliani actively opposed federal welfare reform legislation, even suing the federal government over the matter. Again, Mayor Giuliani claimed to be motivated by local concerns, opposing features in the legislation that would "shift costs to local governments" and cut off assistance to legal immigrants.
On other federal issues, Giuliani's positions are conspicuously scant. In January of 2007, Giuliani called for fixing Social Security by allowing some investment in personal accounts, but has yet to embrace a comprehensive plan or commit himself to pushing for Social Security reform. His position on Medicare is more concerning. In 2000, Giuliani expressed a willingness to support President Clinton's proposal to provide "free" prescription drugs under Medicare, and in 2006, praised the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
(+/-)Sam: Senator Brownback has been an outspoken and brave supporter of Social Security reform. In 2006, he voted to stop the raid on the Social Security Trust Fund. In 2004, he co-sponsored the Ryan-Sununu bill to reform Social Security by allowing for large personal savings accounts.
On the other hand, Senator Brownback voted for and was an outspoken supporter of the 2003 Medicare prescription drug plan, which created a massive unfunded entitlement program, costing over $400 billion over ten years and totaling 1,162 pages in regulatory minutia.
(-)Mike: In 2005, Governor Huckabee defended President Bush's proposal for personal Social Security accounts. Unfortunately, however, Governor Huckabee qualified his support, saying,
I don't think anyone pretends it solves the long-term issue of solvency. It's trying to address methods to improve the system and broaden the base of how it is funded.
More disturbing is Governor Huckabee's support for the 2003 Republican-initiated Medicare prescription drug plan, a huge unfunded liability shouldered by taxpayers across America.
(-)John: On a February, 23, 2005 edition of Meet the Press, Tim Russert asked Senator McCain if he would support "as part of the solution to Social Security's solvency problem, that you lift the cap so that you would pay payroll tax, Social Security tax, not just on the first $90,000 of your income, but perhaps even higher?" Senator McCain answered,
As part of a compromise I could . . . I'm proud of the job that Senator Lindsey Graham has been doing in his leadership position on this issue and showing some courage.

It's really not possible for us to remain a superpower without restructuring our entitlements programs. Leaders from both political parties will have to come up with a solution in private. Sitting down, quietly, behind closed doors and having a full and complete discussion of various ways to bring the costs down and to keep it from getting out of control.

(+)Fred: Recognizing the need to reform Social Security, Thompson offered a bill in 1999 that would allow
all working Americans to divert a portion of their payroll taxes to a personal savings account that they will own and can pass on to their heirs.
This is especially praiseworthy, as it came at a time when conventional wisdom suggested that Social Security personal accounts were political poison. When few others would touch the subject, Thompson showed a willingness to take on a political sacred cow on behalf of a cause that is critical to the future of America's economy and to the goal of limiting the size of the federal government.
He also voted for a number of other measures that would encourage or create personal Social Security accounts.