While Christmas is officially a celebration of the birth of Jesus, for much of the Western world December 25 has come to be a celebration of family and community. No other time of the year is so thoroughly saturated with images pointing to our highest hopes for such relationships - and no other time of the year so effectively highlights the difference between our ideals and the world as it really is. Jesus came to Earth to bridge not only the chasm between humanity and God, but also that rift that separates people from each other. Christmas reminds us that we live in a broken world, and it seeks to encourage us by showing us through religious and even many secular trappings how that brokenness can be fixed.
I've finally gotten around to fixing the archives problem. Blogger is no longer supporting its archive template, and didn't bother to notify those of us who had been using it. The generic code for displaying monthly archive links (in this case, in boldface and centered) is as follows:
The key provision of the 2006 bill was its redefinition of grassroots lobbying to include small citizens groups whose messages about Congress and public policy issues are directed toward the general public, according to attorneys for the Free Speech Coalition.
All informational and educational materials produced by such groups would have to be registered and reported on a quarterly basis. Failure to report would result in severe civil penalties (likely followed soon by criminal penalties as well).
In addition, the 2006 bill created a new statutory category of First Amendment activity to be regulated by Congress. Known as “grassroots lobbying firms,” these groups would be required to register with Congress and be subject to penalties whenever they are paid $50,000 or more to communicate with the general public during any three-month period.
In other words, for the first time in American history, potentially millions of concerned citizens involved in grassroots lobbying and representing viewpoints from across the entire political spectrum would have to register with Congress in order to exercise their First Amendment rights.
But some political speech is more equal than others:
There is even more bad news here, though, because the Pelosi-Claybrook proposal includes loopholes big enough to protect Big Labor, Big Corporations and Big Nonprofits, as well as guys with Big Wallets like George Soros. Big Government, you see, always takes care of its big friends.
THE U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has just fined well-known filmmaker Oliver Stone for violating the laws of what they euphemistically refer to as an embargo, actually nothing more than a barbaric, brutal, systematic blockade, universally recognized as such and condemned by an overwhelming majority in the United Nations.
Stone and the production company Ixtlan were accused of having traveled to Cuba in 2202 [sic] and 2003 to shoot footage for two films on the leader of the Cuban Revolution.
If I wanted to film a movie about Castro in Cuba, it wouldn't be just my government standing in the way...
The Notable Quotables of 2006 are out. This is Media Research Center's annual recognition of outrageous media quotes. Here's the Quote of the Year:
"It wasn’t supposed to be this way. You weren’t supposed to be graduating into an America fighting a misbegotten war in a foreign land. You weren’t supposed to be graduating into a world where we are still fighting for fundamental human rights, whether it’s the rights of immigrants to start a new life, or the rights of gays to marry, or the rights of women to choose. You weren’t supposed to be graduating into a world where oil still drove policy and environmentalists have to fight relentlessly for every gain. You weren’t. But you are. And for that, I’m sorry." — From New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.’s May 21 graduation address at the State University of New York at New Paltz, shown on C-SPAN May 27.
As if the war in Iraq had nothing to do with human rights.
"When the Falcon escaped Hoth, Darth Vader made it a priority to have it captured. Vader posted a reward, and dispatched a number of bounty hunters. One of them, Boba Fett, eventually captured [Han] Solo at Bespin's Cloud City. There, Solo was taken prisoner by Darth Vader, and underwent carbon freezing for transportation back to Jabba the Hutt."--description of "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980), StarWars.com
"Gore Plans to Initiate a Grass-Roots 'Carbon Freeze' Movement"--headline, Reuters, Dec. 10
I had summarized the concept several times on this blog (such as here):
Tolerance means getting along with others despite real or perceived shortcomings.
In his Townhall.com article, Greg Koukl puts it like this:
Be egalitarian regarding persons. Be elitist regarding ideas.
"Egalitarian" was a new word for them. Think "equal," I said. Treat others as having equal standing in value or worth. They knew what an elitist was, though, someone who thought he was better than others. "Right," I said. "When you are elitist regarding ideas, you are acknowledging that some ideas are better than others. And they are. We don't treat all ideas as if they have the same merit, lest we run into contradiction. Some ideas are good, some are bad. Some are true, some are false. Some are brilliant, others are just plain foolish."
Moral relativists use the reverse formula:
Be egalitarian regarding ideas. Be elitist regarding persons.
If you reject another's ideas, you're automatically accused of disrespecting the person (as the coed did with me). On this new view of tolerance no idea or behavior can be opposed—even if done graciously—without inviting the charge of incivility.
He goes on to point out the self-contradictory maxim that others have summarized thus: there are absolutely no absolutes."
What he doesn't point out is that most self-proclaimed relativists really do believe in absolutists. It just takes some questioning to find out what those absolutes are.
Usually one can appeal to general rules of civility to make an effective point. Back in my days at the University of Texas at Arlington I wrote to the campus newspaper in response to a pro-relativism editorial, stating that relativism allows for everything, including (my exact words) "beating up gays for fun and profit." Oh, did I mention that the editorial had been written by a member of the Gay Lesbian Association?
Since a consistent relativist will have no opinions regarding government policy - and nobody entertains such neutrality - politically neutral, the quickest way to find out what those absolutes are is to talk politics. Odds are those political absolutes will be well into the left side of the spectrum. Including the doctrine "The absence of absolutes must absolutely be taught in school."
Update: There's another part of the article that really puts tolerance into perspective:
Notice that we can't truly tolerate someone unless we disagree with him. This is critical. We don't "tolerate" people who share our views. They're on our side. There's nothing to put up with. Tolerance is reserved for those we think are wrong, yet we still choose to treat decently and with respect.
To quote Wikipedia, Radio Farda is "a Persian language radio station based in the Czech capital Prague. Supported by the U.S. government, Radio Farda broadcasts political, cultural, social and art news with emphasis on Iran (Persia)." It is roughly analogous to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. But not sufficiently so, says S. Enders Wimbush, a former director of radio Liberty. He has a list of six stretagies he wants to see the station follow. Read the whole thing.
Couric opened her newscast: "Hi, everyone. President Bush today began another week of consultations looking for what he calls a new way forward in Iraq. And most Americans agree we need one. In a CBS News poll out tonight, a record 71 percent said the war is going badly. More than half say it's unlikely the United States will win [53%]. And a record number say the war is the most pressing problem America is facing right now [35%].
The poll begs for more questions:
Why is the war going badly? Some possible answers:
Because we're trying too hard to minimize collateral damage to do what we need to do - concentrate firepower in the hottest battle zones.
Because the majority of Iraqis don't want us there - it's a doomed cause.
Because we're not retaliating against Iran and Syria, whose governments are supplying the "insurgents."
Why is it unlikely that the US will win? Some possible answers:
Because the majority of Iraqis don't want us there.
Because the Democrats will betray Iraq the way liberals and Kissingerian realpolitik betrayed Vietnam.
Because Bush doesn't have the cojones to step up the attacks against the "insurgents."
Because it won't be over until Syria and Iran stop subsidizing the "insurgents" - and nobody has the cojones to take out those two countries.
Why is it the most pressing problem? Some possible answers:
Because we're wasting resources on an unwinnable war.
Because Democrats are gonna pull us out. Iraq's fragile government will be toppled. Everyone seeking that distinction is a declared enemy of Western civilization. There's even the possibility that portions of Iraq may be seized by Syria and/or Iran. Whoever takes over will abet anti-Western terrorists just like Saddam did.
While Democrats are not gonna pull us out, their obstructionism will make the war last longer than it has to. Thus the war will be more costly, thus we will have fewer resources to fight the next stages of the War on Terror.
In addition to the five Democrats, there were five Republicans on the ISG panel - James Baker (who has a history of cluelessness about the Middle East), Sandra Day O'Connor, Lawrence Eagleburger, Edwin Meese III, and Alan K. Simpson. I expect the Dems, the party of surrender monkeys, to be pessimistic about the war and optimistic about negotiating with bullies. But did all five Republicans sign on to this wishful thinking that two nations fighting a war through proxy against the United States could be negotiated with?
(For those who don't know, Syria and Iran are supporting Iraqi "insurgents" - see the Hinderaker post - and this March 2005 article by Bill Gertz, whose source was then-CIA Director Porter Goss.)
The report would have been a lot different with more thinking like this. I like item number 6 under the "Tactics" heading:
Announce that the Iranian nuclear program would be acceptable if Iran were to hold truly free elections and accomplish an orderly transfer of executive power away from the radicals (“there are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous men” -- R.A.H.). Make it clear that continued radical leadership imperils the existence of the program and the lives of everyone who works in it.
In this post he cites our current war with Syria and Iran (emphasis in original):
Here is the real "reality." We are at war with these countries [Iran and Syria], like it or not. They supply the troops and the weaponry that are killing our troops in Iraq, and who fire rockets (and missiles) into Haifa. In the case of Iran, in kidnaping our embassy personnel, they committed an act of war against us over a quarter of a century ago, for which there have never been any consequences against them. This was the beginning of the string of acts of political pusillanimity and weakness--followed by the Beirut Marine barracks, through the first WTC attack, and Somalia, and Khobar towers, and the Cole, that showed us to be paper tigers, encouraged the Islamists and ultimately resulted in drive-through skyscrapers. We've been at war with them since the Carter administration, and who knows how long the war will go on? Afghanistan was one battle in that war. Iraq is another. Where the next ones will be is not clear, but I suspect that they're on the borders of Mesopotamia.
It's of course much easier, and more convenient to pretend that we're at not at war. Harder to get people to the mall when we're at war, don't you know? But this fantasy will only make greater the final reckoning. Right now, they certainly understand that they're at war with us. What's more, they think they're winning. The only effective "negotiations" with the enemy will happen when the bombs are falling on them. Or at least, when they're hurting in some way, and feel truly threatened. Short of that, it's a repeat of the appeasement of the thirties--in Europe, in Manchuria, in China--that ultimately resulted in the sudden sinking of battleships in a tropical paradise on a quiet Sunday morning.
Note that Iran was involved with two of the attacks Rand cites: the US Marine barracks in Beirut (see here and here) and Khobar Towers.
Brink Lindsey ponders a libertarian-Democrat alliance (Link via Daniel Drezner, who links several analyses, and Truck and Barter). He is dismayed that "the [libertarian] movement's "fusionist" alliance between traditionalists and libertarians appears, at long last, to be falling apart." Logically, there are three choices. One is to abandon both parties, but as the Libertarian Party demonstrates, virtually no political power can be gained that way. The other choices are to choose between rebuilding the GOP alliance, or - as Brink postulates - to build a coalition with the Democrats. Actually there is a fourth, but I'll get to that later.
How does a Cato Institute guy come up with an idea like that? Is Brink Lindsey turning into Annakin Skywalker or something? A libertarian-Progressive alliance assumes that there is substantial common ground between the two. The most obvious problem with this is that liberals are enemies of free markets. The Democrats are the party of the Nixonian regulatory state and the Johnsonian welfare state, which collectively (no pun intended) represent the lion's share of policy issues. (Yes, Nixon was a Republican, but he wasn't a small-government conservative. And he didn't create those regulatory agencies all by himself - the Democratic Congress was a big part of it.)
Dems are constantly seeking to increase the tax burden, throwing an occasional bone to various pet constituencies (thus adding complexity to the tax code). As for free trade - a topic which Brink is quite familiar - the Dems are less reliable than the Republicans, given that unions are among the Democrats' staunchest supporters.
Libertarians want to reform education toward privatization of both ownership and the power to set curricula. The NEA and AFT want to preserve the power they derive from nationalized education, and their Democrat allies aren't about to turn their backs on that mission.
Libertarian ideas already have more inroads in the GOP than the Democratic Party, so libertarians would do better to keep their focus there. The Gingrich Revolution scored some early successes, but the Dems fought back and Republican conservatives eventually gave up on fiscal policy reform, aside from passage of Dubya's modest tax cut. The Democrat leadership has never aspired to fiscal sobriety.
Republicans are currently lacking two resources: courage, and a sufficient number of libertarians and conservatives. Conservative voter turnout has been eroding ever since 1996, because the GOP stopped fighting for lower taxes and lower spending. Bush sabotaged his party's future by turning into a spend-and-spend Democrat.
Setbacks don't have to be forever. The Republicans can make a comeback if they regalvanize conservatism. Libertarians should focus where antistatism is stronger, and that place is the GOP.
Or they can adopt the fourth alternative: work to influence both parties. Not all libertarians belong to the Libertarian Party, but it can play a key role. The LP needs to wake up to the reality that as a political party it cannot gain any significant power and this cannot effect any political reform. The LP must reinvent itself as an organization that recruits libertarian candidates to run for office in both parties. LP candidates can't win Congressional races, but libertarians can win as Republicans (like Ron Paul) or Democrats. Libertarians will find out soon enough which party is more amenable to their ideas.
There are certainly issues over which libertarians and conservatives disagree, one of which is also a bone of contention between libertarians and most liberals (the very existence of the War on Drugs). I will explore those at a later date.
See it here. Brings back lots of memories - and of how unmemorable television has been over the past two decades.
They missed one of the best sitcom moments, from Arthur Carlson in WKRP In Cincinatti: "As God as my witness I thought turkeys could fly." YouTube has the final scenes from that episode, concluding with those memorable words.
Somehow, "He's dead, Jim" from Star Trek didn't make the list, either. But "Hey now!" from The Larry Sanders Show did? Who even watched that show?