Saturday, January 28

"Stuck on 1968"

Arnold Kling has a PhD in economics from MIT. Recently he wrote a most enlightening piece called "Stuck on 1968" in which he looked at the core liberal beliefs of that year and how well--or poorly--they predicted actual outcomes.

Kling suggests that in 1968 liberals were convinced--beyond any need for further discussion--that:

* Capitalism was a far greater threat to the world than Communism;
* Food production couldn't possibly keep up with population, and by the end of the twentieth century millions would starve to death every year;
* Conservatives stood in the way of progress for minorities;
* The only way to lift people out of poverty was through government programs;
* The best way to help underdeveloped countries was to push huge capital-investment projects, financed by the developed nations.


In 1968 liberals were so totally convinced that these beliefs were true--indeed, that their correctness must be obvious to any sentient being--that they became convinced to a certainty that anyone who was not a liberal must be incorrigibly stupid.

Today--some 38 years later--these old icons of liberal belief remind us of resounding declarations that heavier-than-air machines could never fly. To anyone who came of age after around 1985 it's hard to believe anyone ever believed such nonsense.

In fairness, though, it's easy to forget that in 1968 the Berlin Wall ("what's that?") had been standing for barely 21 years. The Korean war, which divided a nation into a Communist northern and a free southern half--and thus accidentally began a near-perfect controlled experiment on the merits of each system--was concluded just 14 years earlier. And in the Soviet Union in 1968, Communism had reportedly created a worker's paradise that was pulling away from the capitalist-run West in every category--at least according to their propaganda.

And they were very good at propaganda. And building large rockets.

It may also be relevant that in the three years before 1968, American inner-city residents had burned half a dozen large American inner cities. Robert Kennedy--a United States senator and former U.S. Attorney General--had been assassinated, as had Martin Luther King. All these events suggested the American way of life was fatally flawed.

Of course, events since 1968 didn't exactly play out according to these dire predictions: Americans walked on the moon, while the Soviets let the Berlin Wall be dismantled, before disbanding the Soviet Union itself. North Korea's people sank into impoverished, cold starvation while their free relatives to the south--of exactly the same genetic stock--lived in comparative wealth.

Since 1968 we've watched people fleeing communist Cuba by tens of thousands--in rafts. People who had experienced Communism in communist-run VietNam were willing to brave a month at sea for the chance to escape...and did so by the tens of thousands.

The people of communist Romania revolted against the Ceaucesceaus and killed them in the street. The hermit nation of Albania gave Communism the boot. The Baltic states of the former Soviet Union--Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia--flourished.

Perhaps American liberals--famously selective in what they perceive--simply didn't notice these events. Heaven knows they tried their best to ignore them, and to pretend these events were not at all significant to world history.

And to an astonishingly large extent, they succeeded. Does anyone know of any public school that teaches the utter failure of Communism and Socialism? If you know of one, please get in touch.

Another quirk of liberals is their view that other people cannot be trusted to make their own decisions. Liberals often send their own children to private school but believe poor families should not be allowed (by vouchers, for example) to make that same choice. Liberals make their own choices regarding health care but believe others should have their health care decisions made for them by government.

Against the weight of history, American socialists and communists cling steadfastly to their belief that capitalism is evil, businessmen are evil, American soldiers are the equivalent of terrorists, office workers who were killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11 were--in the words of an infamous fake-native-American poseur professor--"little Eichmanns."

Meanwhile when it comes to real terrorists, liberals just get giggly--they men who cut off heads are simply "misunderstood," and are actually the equivalent of our own Minutemen. Well, except maybe for the decapitation thing.

The point is, liberals who'd come of age by 1968 don't seem to have let all the events that have occurred since then modify their worldview very much.

Kling's article is much better, and well worth the read.

Sunday, January 22

Does Hillary support Bush's Iraq policy?

Let's review: Virtually every member of the Democrat 'leadership'--cheered on by the entire lamestream media--lambasted the Bush administration for "not giving negotiations a chance" in Iraq, and later for "acting unilaterally" in deciding to take military action--with the excellent support of the British, Australians, Poles, Spanish and 50-some other nations.

Bush, said the Dems, was a dangerous cowboy who was bent on war from the outset. If we had a Democrat in the White House, you'd never never never see the U.S. acting like that. Really.

But of course, that was for Iraq--a country with a harmless, warm-fuzzy leader who had absolutely no animosity toward us and had never used, oh, poison gas on civilians. Uh, wait...

So now, three years after the U.S. deposed Saddam Hussein and company, the country on Iraq's eastern border--Iran--has started refining ("enriching") uranium. Iran's leader say they want to do this to fuel nuclear-electric powerplants, but of course enriched uranium is also the stuff of atomic bombs, so a number of western analysts are skeptical.

For example, one U.S. senator apparently views Iran as a serious threat:
I believe that we lost critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations. I don't believe you face threats like Iran or North Korea by outsourcing it to others and standing on the sidelines.
This senator is quite clear on what doesn't work: you don't "face threats like Iran or North Korea by
outsourcing it to others and standing on the sidelines."

Sounds like someone who would have been a strong supporter of Bush's out-front approach to the problem of Iraq, right?

Actually the speaker was Hillary Clinton, according to a transcript of the speech published by The Daily Princetonian.

Has Ms. Clinton suddenly seen the light and now believes that a) if a nation's leadership thinks it's crucial to achieve a certain diplomatic outcome, it's naive in the extreme to hope the EU will somehow achieve it for you; and b) with some heads of state, carefully crafted agreements are a waste of time, because they have no qualms at all about breaking agreements?

Of course, this would put her squarely in agreement with most conservatives--as well as with President Bush. So presumably this is not what she has in mind.

Or perhaps Iran--presumably unlike Iraq--is a real threat to the U.S. Perhaps Ms. Clinton is concerned that Iran might soon develop nuclear weapons--"WMDs." But again, this is precisely the concern that prompted Bush to order the invasion of Iraq to depose Hussein. So again...unlikely.

But if Senator Clinton doesn't believe what she said at Princeton, this would mean she was...um, a liar and a rank opportunist; a political whore, if you will, who would say anything--even the opposite of what she's advocated just days before--if she believed it would win her the presidency.

Perhaps one of our vaunted members of the lamestream press will ask Ms. Clinton to explain her apparent epiphany.

We won't hold our breath.

Friday, January 13

NYTimes defines hypocrisy

Last December--was it just one day after a former dictatorship called Iraq had hugely successful elections?--the NYT told the world that our NSA had a top-secret program that monitored specific cell phone conversations between U.S. numbers and foreign numbers suspected of belonging to terrorists.

The article noted that the government had asked the Times not to publish because doing so would damage national security, and indeed the Times sat on the story for a year. But eventually, seeing as how the Times has a better sense of the Big Picture than anyone in the intel biz, the paper decided to publish the story.

Two weeks later the paper's "public editor," Byron Calame, wrote an editorial noting that he'd been looking into this question. In fact he'd emailed the paper's executive editor (Bill Keller) a list of 28 questions related to this question.

Keller "declined to respond to them."

Calame then emailed the same questions to the paper's publisher, Arthur Sulzberger. (Can you guess the result?)

Sulzberger also declined to respond.

So let's see if I've got this: It's fine for the top management of the Times to keep their secrets away from prying eyes, but the same Times managers can--by exercising their implicitly superior judgment--decide to reveal secret programs of the U.S. government, even though the government has said such revelation will damage national security.

Hey Pinch, can you spell "hypocrite?"

Thursday, January 12

More evidence of the alleged compassion of leftists

Further to the "increasing polarization" theme: During the Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Alito, the judge's wife was so upset (by the nasty tenor of the questioning, perhaps?) that she began crying. The cameras broadcast the scene.

So how do several dozen commenters at Kos react? They call her every nasty name in the book. Really, you have to read it to believe it.

I realize one can always find posted comments that show the other side at its worst, but the Kos comments seem over-the-top.
On second thought, they're actually pretty normal for that crowd.

How can any rational, compassionate person deal with people who think like that? What's the driving motivation behind someone who would unleash a stream of invective against a nominee's wife because she shed tears on camera? What common ground can exist?

In search of common ground--if any

In the previous entry I looked at the problem of whether liberals and conservatives can find any common ground. Herewith a quick summary of what I consider some major ideals held by conservatives:
Democratic government;

Freedom, including the freedom to own property without fear that some bureaucrat or tyrant will seize it;

Equal rights for everyone, including women;

Honest elections--no one's allowed to vote twice in the same election, no matter what party he belongs to;
As I understand it, conservatives believe that if the above are in place, all other good outcomes will follow. Conversely, a society that lacks one or more of the above must necessarily spend so much of its energy working around the missing element that it will rarely have enough left for other good programs.

Unfortunately, in nations ruled by a dictator and/or other authoritarian form of government, those in power will almost never give it up.


Terrorism:

From the emergence of the nation-state until roughly the last half of the 20th century, wars have been prosecuted by nations. When the central government of one side surrendered, the war ended and life on both sides generally returned to whatever passed for normal.

For a small sub-set of people in a nation to continue to fight on after their government had surrendered--without the support of the government--would have been ludicrous, because the holdouts would have no hope of defeating the far larger standing army of the other nation.

But as technology made combat less dependent on individual strength and more on technical mastery, men found they could conduct tiny hit-and-run raids on an occupying force indefinitely. Eventually the trickle of losses would cause the populace of the occupying nation to demand an end.

In effect, a few thousand dedicated individuals could defeat an entire nation. It was a world-class paradigm shift.

These tactics eventually and forced a major military power--France--to withdraw in frustration from what was once called "French Indochina" and then from Algeria.

This was "guerilla warfare," and for it to succeed the fighters had to be able to live without the vast, expensive supply system of national armies. Instead, guerilla fighters had to blend in with the native population and be either covertly supported or at least tolerated by them.

This requirement eventually led to the discovery of the countermeasure, which was education: the more enlightened and educated of the locals eventually came to realize that communism didn't deliver prosperity.

Terrorism can be seen as a natural evolution of guerilla warfare in an age of international commerce. One key difference is that it's no longer necessary for those who want to change a government by force to live among the people whose nation they want to change. Instead they can live in any country that will tolerate their activities, and simply 'commute' to the target nation on commercial carriers.

In a free country there's probably no direct way to prevent someone from leaving a bomb in a public place, or cramming explosives into a car. But this doesn't mean there's no defense--because just as guerilla fighters had to have a sympathetic populace to operate, terrorists need a sympathetic host nation to allow them to operate--whether openly or pseudo-covertly.

When the host nation has a totalitarian government, it's naive to claim that government is unaware of the terrorists' occupations. Thus it seems reasonable that a totalitarian host nation could stop their activities if it were so inclined.

So here's my take on Conservative criteria on terrorism:
Nations must not support terrorism, nor allow terrorists to operate from their territory;

No one has yet shown an example of a free people under a democratic government supporting terrorism;

If a nation ruled by a dictator violates #1, we'll oppose that dictator by all peaceful means;

If a nation doesn't support terrorists, we have no problem with that nation having WMDs. However, WMDs in terror-sponsoring nations are much more problematical because of the possibility that the nation's leader will quietly allow terrorists to acquire those weapons, while claiming no responsibility. Obviously this is hugely destabilizing;

If there is evidence that that nation is taking steps toward providing terrorists with certain classes of weapons, we will give that nation's leadership ample time to rectify the situation;

If said dictator persists, you're liable to wind up like Saddam;

Enforcing this last point requires a well-trained, well-equipped military with high morale; we are grateful for--and humbled by--the sacrifices made by members of the U.S. armed forces and their families.
Anything above strike liberals as off base?

Calling all reasonable liberals--if any!

A lot of folks have noticed that Americans have become polarized to a worrisome degree over the past few years. Leftists seem to think those on the right are wingnuts, while lots of conservatives seem to think most liberals are moonbats.

Undoubtedly there are reasonable liberals out there. Unfortunately the leaders of the Dem/left are shown on the news almost every day making amazingly incendiary and stupid statements. Certainly there may be lots of people out there who can better articulate the liberal position, but the fact that the press doesn't seem to have found them seems telling.

Moderate lib/left/Dems say "We've got people who are better than that--really." If that's true, bring 'em out! Send the current spokesmen to the showers.

We're looking for people--whatever their political label--who have specific, detailed plans for dealing with terrorism. We don't find many liberals even attempting that these days. Rather, the left's leaders seem to believe 'terrorism' is a concept fabricated by the neocons, and that 9/11 was understandable revenge for the U.S. invading Iraq.

Instead of offering specific recommendations, the left is devoting all their energy and airtime to trying to show that the neo-cons were all wrong.

The Dem leadership (including their last presidential candidate) offers glittering generalities about the international community or winning hearts and minds overseas, but don't say how this could be accomplished. You think pulling out of Iraq will make Islamic fanatics stop hating us? Well, were we in Iraq when they destroyed the twin towers and killed 200 Americans at the Pentagon? Thanks for playing.

If you've got somebody hidden back there who has *specific* ideas on how we can get radical Islamists to renounce violence and live in peace with the West, we'd love to hear it. All we ask is that your plan be well-grounded and *specific*. (And no, saying "If we'd just stop provoking them, they'd stop doing the suicide-bomb thing" doesn't qualify as "well-grounded.")

Conservatives don't just want our ideas [link] to win to prove how smart we are. Rather, we believe in our ideas because we're convinced they'll work, and that no better strategy has been identified for dealing with the world *as it exists*, rather than one you *wish* existed.

Similarly, we don't oppose liberal ideas simply because you guys came up with them, but because history and realistic analysis lead us to conclude that appeasement and pacifism in the face of an implacable opponent not only doesn't work, but amounts to conceding defeat.

Perhaps the left/lib/Dem side is willing to concede. We're not.

(h/t: "Assistant Village Idiot" on One Cosmos)

Tuesday, January 10

Left claims leaking the NSA monitoring story didn't do any damage

I've been seeing a lot of comments from the Left about the NSA phone-intercept story. The commenters claim the NYTimes' publication of the story couldn't have done any significant damage to our security because terrorists already knew the government might be monitoring their phones.

According to the Left, terrorists already avoided discussing sensitive information on the phone. Assuming, of course, that terrorists even exist.

This theory strikes me as absurdly naive. The availability of anonymous, pay-in-advance cell phones seemed to make it impossible for the conversation to be intentionally intercepted by the government. Without a physical address and a corresponding phone wire, how could anyone know which of tens of thousands of simultaneous conversations in a given city to monitor?

In other words, even though every terrorist with an IQ above room temperature knew that wired phones could be tapped, and of course everyone knows cell calls can be intercepted (since they're just radio), I would have thought using an "anonymous" cell phone would be about as secure as one could get. While the government (or a democratic staffer?) could obviously stumble on any given call by accident, it would be a million-to-one shot. And absent some sort of space-age technology, the odds of the government hitting my cell call more than once would be astronomical.

Before December 17th, almost no one knew that the NSA had brought together several pieces of technical wizardry to produce a computer program that could sift through thousands of phone conversations simultaneously, listening for specific words likely to be used by terrorists. And almost no one knew that if someone made a call from any cell phone in Iraq to a cell phone in the U.S., the NSA monitored that call.

You may have noticed that there hasn't been a successful attack on the U.S. since 9/11. How do liberals account for this fact? Have terrorists all decided jihad is overrated? Are they too busy assembling car bombs in Iraq? Have some of them tried to attack the U.S. but failed, and failed so quietly that it could all be hushed up?

While we probably won't know for 20 years or so, chances are good that one or two plots have been foiled, based on the NSA's overseas phone call intercept program.

Of course that was before two men at the NY Times--the paper's owner and its editor--took it on themselves to tell the world about the NSA's formerly secret program.

In a way it's kind of funny: during Congress's 9/11 investigation a key theme pushed by the Dems was how the Bush administration should have done more to deduce what was up before the hijackings. We needed better procedures, they said. Now that we've got better procedures in place, what does the left's favorite paper do? Tells the terrorists what those procedures were and how they worked.

Unbelievable.