Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Deal With the Devil

Congress set up criteria to bail out the auto industry and the unions said no. They were unwilling to agree to a date certain where they would reduce their pay to what foreign companies operating in the US are paying their workers. The union seemed to be gambling that Bush would once again ignore capitalist principles and use TARP funds to keep the companies alive, and unfortunately, I think they are right.

In the press release the union president said those evil right wing Senate Republicans wanted the workers to shoulder the entire burden. This would be a reasonable complaint if only it were true. Actually the Republican plan required that all unsecured creditors reduce the amount of their debt by two thirds, costing several billions of dollars and replacing it with equity. If they didn't agree by March 15, the companies would declare bankruptcy (in which case the creditors would get far less, if anything). It sounds like they were shouldering part of the burden to me. The equity holders would get diluted beyond recognition, all but wiped out, because of the plan to replace debt with equity. That sounds like they would have done their share.

OK..So the UAW president lied. Still I have a problem with congress financing any bailout, but the argument may be correct that a chapter 11 bankrupcy is not practical. The argument is with the complexities involved at GM Chrysler and Ford, bankruptcy as a viable option that could create healthy companies (the normal procedure) is all but impossible. It would result in chapter 7 liquidation. Plan B (aka the Republican plan) has congress acting like a bankruptcy judge, and therefore it could work.

But Bush's weakness will undermine that plan getting passed. Unions are betting he will fund the autos with TARP, and the money will flow from the government through the companies to the union. Of course in two or three years and 40 or so billion later everyone will return to the scene of the crime..and they will go bankrupt.

This brings up an interesting question. Do the workers in Detroit live better than those in Mississippi (Mercedes plant) even though Detroit earns 50% more money? The answer is no. Because the cost of living is so much higher in Michigan, their workers probably don't live as well.
The sales tax, state income tax, state corporate taxes that pass through to consumers, school taxes, fees etc. are all higher in the north. People pay more taxes, pay more for consumer goods (because of taxes and regulations foisted upon them), pay more for services (because the service providers pay more taxes), and pay more for health insurance (because of mandates, regulations and their support for trial lawyers).

The point is, if government were more responsible and spent less, a 50% reduction in wages might be acceptable. But under present conditions, given the same amount of money, the lifestyle in Michigan is far inferior to that in Mississippi. This is because long ago the unions chose to throw in with the socialists/ Democrats, and like any deal with the devil, it looked great, had momentary benefits, but now the devil is calling in his note.

Marx and Lenin said the workers should revolt, they have nothing to lose but their chains, and I agree. But the revolt should be against a government that uses its power to tax unconscionably, pick and choose winners and losers, use massive amounts of money attempting to stop the creative destruction of capitalism, thereby inflicting far more pain than would otherwise occur, and in the process squanders the fruit from the labor of millions.

An addendum..Ben Stein weighed in on TV today and said those of us opposed to a bailout are un-American..This from a would be conservative who gave Al Franken money for his senate campaign (now that's really un-American), whose father was an economist but he can not even understand supply side economics. I kid you not. With every financial crisis, or crisis of any sort, he advocates raising taxes, buying into the Democratic insanity that money can be extracted from the economy without any effect. Earth to Ben: The life blood of an economy is capital...raising taxes is no different than bleeding a sick patient. Every economy in every part of the world proved this. It is not only that he is wrong, but he is arrogant and has now slandered those of us who disagree.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Capitalism 101

A few weeks ago Treasury secretary Paulson told the congress that if he didn't have 750 billion dollars that weekend catastrophes would occur. The implication was if he got it, the economic ship could be righted. He got it, and then a couple of weeks later completely trashed the plan he was going to implement, and decided on an entirely new one. Think about it. We were "on the precipice," but had a plan to save the world. Congress appropriated an astronomical amount of money for it, and then Treasury rethought things and decided the first plan wouldn't work, but a new one they dreamed of would....sure..

The economic insanity has reached record levels. Nearly every state, municipality, industry and home owner is looking for a bailout, and every politician, pundit and economist has an idea how to save us from the pain of the recession. None of them have a clue.

There is a history of government action, and it isn't pretty. See Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae for details. They were arguably the start of the cancer that grew into the present crisis.

Do you remember the stimulus package a couple of months ago? I do. I just can't see where it helped.

Although Roosevelt is given credit for bringing us out of the depression, the fact is he and his predecessor, Hoover, caused the severity and length of the depression. Obama's public works initiative is modeled on Roosevelt public works policies, and although suggesting that such policies brought us out of the depression makes for romantic liberal storytelling, the reality is that a stock market crash partly due to a bubble created by 10 to 1 leverage began a recession, but failed monetary policy, trade barriers, and increased taxed got us into the depression. The reversal of at least some of these got us out, not Roosevelt's huge public spending.

No one today knows the effect of the policies they are proposing. The forces in the economy are so complex that we can only make educated guesses. History fails us as a guide for the future because new forces constantly enter the equation, and since we don't understand things very well to begin with, we certainly can't understand things with a constant flow of new variables. If we could get it right, we would all be rich. The attempts to influence the economy through government action can never be proved to have failed either. There is no control group to measure it against, so no matter how bad things go, it can be argued it would have been worse without the action.

In Washington perception is reality. If the auto bailout fantasy is to be believed, it will save millions of jobs, it will create a viable healthy industry that will wean the country off fossil fuels, repay bondholders in full, and possible even profit shareholders. I'd laugh out loud except it is so tragic.

This bailout shows that once congress is involved, political considerations trump everything else. The auto executives told congress what they wanted to hear, not what the industry needed to be profitable. The auto companies were going to concentrate on green cars. Right.. they will sell a lot of them with $1.50 or $2.00 gas.

The congressmen said the unions (their consistent supporters and contributors) have already given up a lot, and shouldn't bear the entire burden. This is code meaning the industry must keep the union wages at twice what foreign manufactures pay for their US labor. That will sure help a lot..Not only can't this approach actually will make a bad business model worse.

Fannie and Freddie are a recent example of government involvement in business. Congress created these monsters under the guise of expanding home ownership. They gave them implicit government guarantees on the money they borrowed. This created a squeeze on other lenders because without a similar guarantee they couldn't borrow as cheaply. Congress then used Fannie and Freddie as a depository for their political cronies. In order to beef up bonuses for the cronies (among others), the companies borrowed far too much, were too leveraged, (it couldn't have happened without that government guarantee.. no one would have loaned them the money), and committed accounting fraud. Franklin Raines, a Democratic political operative (Carter and Clinton administrations), was appointed the CEO of Fannie Mae. During his term earnings were overstated by 2.7 billion dollars, and he earned over 90 million dollars for himself. He settled the civil suit filed against him for a couple of million dollars and gave up his then worthless options. It pays to have friends in high places. But I digress. Congress later passed the Community Reinvestment Act. It said that Fannie and Freddie should make every effort to lend to non creditworthy borrowers, with insufficient equity (down payment). They also said that other banks would have to lend in poor neighborhoods (spell that non creditworthy borrowers with insufficient equity) or they would be prohibited from getting federal approval for mergers. As to profits..well really, what does congress care.

It is laughable that now that the entire thing has blown up, congress accepts no responsibility, and instead invents "predatory lending" as the culprit. This fantasy says that lenders who lost huge sums of money, were guilty of conning poor unassuming honest middle class families into borrowing more than they could afford to repay. The lenders may have been stupid, but predatory? No no..The borrowers may have foolish as well.. but victims? I don't think so.

We don't know where our attempts to solve this will lead, but we do know government action always enlarges the problems and creates new ones rather than solving anything. Let us first do no harm. Get the government out. Nationalizing industries has consistently been disastrous. We may not know what allowing these failures to occur would do, but we do know that although the market place is often painful, it corrects bad behavior as quickly and painlessly as possible. I don't know on what course the market will take us, or how bad it will be. I just know that it is the best choice from an obviously bad menu.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Racism 101

Many people are making the mistake of thinking an Obama presidency will put the race issue to rest, or at least soften the intensity of feelings. They are wrong..

The race hustlers have already staked out their turf, and lest anyone believe that Obama's election reflects racial progress, every black leader from the left is on the record trivializing the election's racial importance. According to them this shows only modest progress, but a lot more is needed. I disagree.

Black race problems are vastly overstated. What racial problems there are, are not much different than normal problems between any two different racial, ethnic or geographic groups. There are real bigots, but far fewer than the left and most black leaders would have you believe, and those bigots have lots of targets, not just blacks.

My children are more important to me than my brother's children. His children are more important to me than my next door neighbors children. American children are more important to me than European children. Does this make me bigoted towards my brother or my next door neighbor or European children? My point is that the more removed someone is from my life, the less concerned I am about him. This is human nature. There is nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing can change it. When we hear about ten Iraqis killed in a terrorist attack, we are less upset than hearing that one American soldier was killed. If a terrorist explodes a bomb in town near where we live and a dozen people are injured, we will be more distraught than if a tsunami kills 500 people in some far away country. These are examples of the human condition, not bigotry.

Lots of jokes are made about blacks. Lots are made about Jews, Irish and Italians. No group is spared. Snide comments are made which stereotype blacks, but Jews do the same to gentiles, and wasps make them about Jews. Every group makes them about every other group. It isn't nice and it isn't pretty, regardless of who is speaking. But it happens to everyone. We should never accept it, but neither should we act as if the only group that it happens to are black. Are blacks more abused than most? Perhaps, but that is no justification for the growth of the cottage industry of black victimization.

The industry leaders include Reverend Al Sharpton, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Reverend Louis Farrakahan and Reverend Jeremiah Wright. In reality they are themselves hate mongers. Listen to their message. The white enemy/ oppressor (Jews are especially guilty) caused blacks all manner of problems, has prevented their social and economic advancement, and continues to do so.

The hustlers claim to find bigotry everywhere. Harold Ford is a black Tennessee politician from a very successful political family. He ran for an open Senate seat in 2006 and lost by three percent. Every pundit and publication in America decided that he would have won were it not for his being black. It was the accepted wisdom. Of course it is patently silly. None of the facts support the conclusion. The last Democrat elected to the Senate from Tennessee was Al Gore. The state even went Republican when their home boy Gore ran for president. Ford is a very likable, skilled politician, ran in a year when Democrats did very well, and so he did better than any Democrat since 1988. He came closer to winning than any other Democrat since Republicans took over congress. So to suggest he lost because he is black flies in the face of common sense, and all of the evidence.

Obama won 97 percent of the black vote, and large percentages of the white vote. Certainly there is more evidence there that blacks voted just because of race (aka racism). I have no problem with why they voted as they did. Still, I have yet to hear any outcry of bigotry coming from this group of leaders.

In our everyday lives we can only make judgments on the evidence available to us, and sometimes there is very little of evidence to go on. If you were walking down a dark empty street late at night and a man appeared carrying a gun, you would be scared to death and try to get off the street. If you were in the middle of a street and on one side was a man in a coat and tie, and on the other was a man who looked drunk, dirty and threatening, you would cross over to the side with the well dressed man. Are you bigoted towards gun toting or shabbily dressed men? I don't think so. I'd say you have common sense. If a black and a white man are on this street and you have nothing to go on but the color of their skin, for the same reason you reacted as you did to in the prior two examples, you would cross over to the white man's side. The black man might be a high class gentleman, and the white man a rapist, but you don't have enough information to understand that or the luxury of time to find out. You can only act on the information you have.

Black men commit crimes at a higher rate than white men. That alone justifies your decision. Obama recounts a story about his grandmother where she says she was gripped by fear when a black man came near her when her surroundings made her feel vulnerable. He offers this up as racism. I would suggest it is another example of common sense.

Instead of the race hustlers making the absurd argument that this is bigotry, perhaps they should tell the black community that they may have been dealt a bad hand, but how they are viewed by others can only change when their behavior changes. Jews are stereotyped as being money hungry and cheap, Irish as drunks, Italians as mafia members etc. Looking at people as groups, the charges may or may not be true. Individually however they are not. As individuals people have to deal with their group's stereotypes. Such is life for everyone, not just blacks. In the meantime those who suffer most from the high crime rate by blacks are blacks themselves. If instead of blaming whitey for some real or imaginary transgression, the leadership pushed the community to improve itself, everyone would be better off.

Preaching blacks are victims has multiple effects, none good. Shelby Steele discusses one. He describes hypothetical black and white youngsters who go into business (individually). They both fail. The white boy picks himself up and thinks, what did I do wrong and how can I do it better. He then jumps back into the fray. The black boy says, I failed because I'm black. I failed because of whitey. He then decides trying again is hopeless. He thinks this way because that is this deadly message the race hustlers have given him all of his life.

The last thing anyone needs is an excuse for failure. If we provide enough such excuses to anyone, rest assured, he will fail. If however he receives the message that there is opportunity, he has the talent to succeed, and that it is up to him to capitalize on it, he has a chance. Perhaps one group has to try harder than another. So what? There are only two choices. Try to get over that higher bar, or don't try and be assured of failure?

One of the hustler's approaches is to argue that slavery is the cause of slower black social and economic development, the government was complicit in slavery, and therefore the government must do something to correct it. Our constitution protects individuals, not groups, and individuals, not groups, have rights, one being redress. There are no individuals alive who were slaves. Therefore no one is entitled to redress for slavery. Being born with less opportunity than someone else does not create an entitlement. If it did, anyone could find a reason to justify a petition for help. What every citizen is entitled to is equal treatment under the law, and we must be diligent to insure that.

Obama thinks differently. He says he does not support reparations (payment by the government to descendants of slaves) but he does say that special programs need to be set up for blacks because of slavery. What he means is that cash payments to blacks should not be made, but special services and programs for blacks should. It sounds like "in kind" reparations to me. But the scary thing is he doesn't understand the harm such a policy does to the very group it intends to help. It reinforces the fictional and hurtful idea that blacks are less qualified, they need and are entitled to help. Does anyone think affirmative action has helped anyone other than a very few individuals. I can't get into that here, but affirmative action is not only unconstitutional, but like reparations, like blaming whitey for black individual failures, like anything where the government treats people differently based on race, it hurts everyone, and especially the people it is trying to help.

The race hustlers make their living fanning the fire of racial discord. For those who think Obama's election will ease the problem, just remember, these professional agitators are at the core of his constituency.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

McCarthy by Kathryn Sall

Below Is a speech my daughter Kathryn gave to her high school. As you will note it contradicts conventional liberal wisdom. None the less it is accurate. The sources used are unimpeachable. Interestingly, a few teachers approached her privately after the speech and expressed how wonderful it was to hear what she said. However, those feelings could never be expressed publicly in an academic environment, lest the speaker risk a career catastrophe. So much for the assembly of differing ideas. That is what academics say..not what they do..

"Like Hitler, [Joseph] McCarthy was a screamer, a political thug, a master of the mob, an exploiter of popular fears… He was a master of the scabrous and scatological; his talk was laced with obscenity. He was a vulgarian by method as well as by instinct. He made little pretense to religiosity or to any species of moral rectitude. He sought to manipulate only the most barbaric symbols of America—the slippery elm club, the knee in the groin, and the brass knuckles. He was a prince of hate".

This statement by Richard Rovere is typical of most descriptions of former Senator Joseph McCarthy, Republican from Wisconsin. Almost everyone you will meet would agree with him. There is only one small problem. Every word is a lie. Statements like these were commonplace and still are. Half of the Congressional leaders and every mainstream media outlet, today and in the past, on front and editorial pages, have made similar statements. Our generation's ideas have been shaped by these falsehoods, and therefore most of you probably share a similar opinion. In telling various people about my assembly topic I was met with raised eyebrows, followed by an incredulous, "you're defending Joe McCarthy?!" My advice for them and everyone is believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.

For some reason most people assume that the printed word is accurate, as if the mere fact that something is published authenticates it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Nothing can be assumed to be impartial or factual simply because it is in print. Historical inaccuracies and lies are as common as the lies we listen to every day. While I could give you a long list of examples, time constraints allow me to focus on only one.

Good morning. My name is Kathryn Sall and I am here to set the story straight about this heroic Senator, Joseph McCarthy, whose very name has become a malediction.

The United States allied itself with the Soviet Union to defeat the fascists in World War II. During that time the communist threat both abroad and domestically grew exponentially, but was largely ignored because of the war. Communists had infiltrated all branches of our government. Imagine if today, Al Qaeda operatives were advising president Bush while taking orders from Bin Laden (Coulter). Communist ambitions were to take over the world, and we, the capitalists, were their main target.

As one example of the level of infiltration, President Franklin Roosevelt had a member of the Communist party and a Communist spy, Alger Hiss, advising him at the peace conference at Yalta. Is it any wonder that the Allies gave away most of Eastern Europe and left the people imprisoned by the Soviet Union for the next fifty years? Throughout the forties a few Senators and Congressmen addressed the growing threat, but little action was taken. At best this was benign neglect by the Roosevelt and Truman administrations.

Joe McCarthy took up the cause of getting the Communists out of the government. For this he was attacked relentlessly by both the media and the opposing party. As historian M. Stanton Evans points out, the oft repeated charge by his opponents that these were "stale, warmed over charges" (he was making) did not make them "false, irrelevant, obsolete, and unimportant," as McCarthy's critics claimed. To the contrary, the communist threat remained very menacing. In fact we now know that most of the charges were true, and most of the suspected spies and sympathizers were exactly what they were thought to be. They were throughout government, working to undermine this great democracy. (Evans)

In the United States it has always been legal to be a communist. But it has always been illegal to be a communist spy. Today it would be legal to philosophically support Al Qaeda, but quite illegal to spy for Al Qaeda. Legal or not, I doubt anyone would want active al Qaeda members working in our government. But many communists in the post war government of the 40s and 50s were working in government, literally hundreds of them.

It is commonly believed that Senator McCarthy was a member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, then charged with investigating the Communist threat. In fact he was never even in the House of Representatives, his only national elected office was to the US Senate. McCarthy's detractors claim he made reckless charges, ruining innocent people's lives with unsubstantiated evidence or no evidence at all. To the contrary, the congressional record shows that during the investigation he fought to not release any names, pointing out these people were not yet guilty of anything and could be unfairly hurt if the were innocent. He chose to speak on the Senate floor using code names like case #1 and case #2 (Coulter). But his opponents seem to have thought it in their best political interests to demand that the names be made public. During one exchange, Democratic senator Scott W. Lucas of Illinois interrupted him 60 times stating, "I want him [McCarthy] to name those communists" (Evans). McCarthy offered instead to go into a closed committee hearing so only the senators would know the names, but his offer was denied, and some innocent people were unfairly tarred. But who used that "knee in the groin?" Who was barbaric, McCarthy or his opponents, those same people for whom history has now been rewritten?

When McCarthy was elected America was in complete denial of this threat. Supposed cold war expert David Caute said, "There is no documentation in the public record of a direct connection between the American Communist Party and espionage during the entire postwar period" (Coulter). Like many of the supposed certainties on this subject, he couldn't have been more wrong.

Whittaker Chambers was a disillusioned former Soviet Spy who admitted his guilt, and named Alger Hiss, an assistant Secretary of State under FDR, as a co-conspirator, a spy with whom he had worked. This caused a heated debate, and as you might expect, the complete trashing of Chambers and his reputation. Although there was a wealth of evidence pointing to Hiss's guilt, the government only convicted him of perjury for lying about his relationship with Chambers. Little did anyone know at the time, incontrovertible proof of his treason did exist. and would come to light in the form of the Venona papers.

Venona was a project undertaken in the 1940s to try to decipher a code used in secret transmissions by the Soviet Union. The code was cracked, but for fear of leaks the FBI did not share the information with other branches of government. The transcripts were finally released after the fall of the Soviet Union. They showed that the White House, the State Department, the War Department (today's Department of Defense), the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the CIA), and the Treasury Department, were completely infiltrated by communists taking direct orders from the Kremlin (Coulter). We know for certain there were over 300 soviet spies that were in government. If anything, the Venona Papers prove that McCarthy underestimated the communist problem, rather than the common belief today that he had vastly overstated it.

It has become fashionable in certain circles to argue the innocence of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, spies executed for transferring nuclear secrets to the Soviets. Two cohorts from their inner circle fled the country when they were arrested. Ethel Rosenberg's brother in law testified to their guilt, there were other eyewitness accounts, and there was the jury's verdict, but nothing is enough to convince some people. As Ann Coulter, leading political writer puts it, they had "spied on their own country and turned over atomic secrets to a grisly totalitarian regime that would threaten American citizens for the next 50 years." Nikita Khrushchev wrote in his memoirs that the Rosenbergs gave "very significant help in accelerating the production of [The USSR's] atomic bomb." The Venona papers combined with several Soviet archives that were also released after the fall of the Soviet Union, proved that not only were Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs spies, but Harry Dexter White, assistant secretary of the treasury under FDR, Lauchlin Currie, administrative assistant to FDR, Duncan Lee, the equivalent today's CIA chief of staff under FDR, Harry Hopkins, FDR adviser, Owen Lattimore, senior State Department official, and Joseph Davies, US ambassador to the USSR were also Soviet spies. (Evans) Davies once declared that "Russia… [had] every moral right to seek atomic bomb information through military espionage" (Evans). Think about that. That came from a man with vast powers as a representative of the United States government. He was saying that our sworn enemy had the right to steal our plans and develop weapons meant for our destruction.

Everything uncovered in the last 50 years is consistent with most of what McCarthy said. In addition to Chambers, ex-communist spies Elizabeth Bentley and Louis Budenz came forward to confirm what the Venona papers recorded.. One Soviet spy, Judith Coplon, a Foreign Agents Registration government worker with regular access to counter-intelligence information, was apprehended in the act of handing a US counter-intelligence file over to a KGB officer (Coulter). The list goes on and on.

One of the most famous quotes from McCarthy's hearings was that of the army special counsel Joseph Welch, who ended a heated exchange with McCarthy by saying, "Have you left no sense of decency?" (Schulz). He was attacking McCarthy for exposing communist front organization member Frederick Fisher, with Welch claiming Fisher was simply a young family man and lawyer trying build a career. However, what is conveniently left out of textbooks today, is that Welch himself fired Fisher from his law firm six weeks earlier because Fisher was a member of the very Communist front organization McCarthy had referred to. (Schulz). Obviously, his attack on McCarthy was pure theatrics. Unfortunately, this same play is oft repeated today as if it were factual.

There was a real threat facing America, and Joe McCarthy came forth to fight it, at the expense of his good name and career. Although he proved right in almost every instance, if you listen to any account given today, you would understandably believe that he was some depraved individual trying to advance his career by attacking innocent, law abiding citizens. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most books about McCarthy repeat the same story of his villainous, rabid rampages. But in all these books the sources are key. Look at them. The footnotes all cite academics, who cite other academics, which all trace back to anti-McCarthy press who positively loathed him (Coulter). Few actually cite primary sources like the congressional record, eyewitness testimony, or even contemporaneous notes. That is until now. For the past 8 years historian M. Stanton Evans has been rifling through "hundreds of thousands of pages of records, reports, transcripts, and other documents" (Schulz) and has finally released the first accurate account of this period, Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and his Fight Against America's Enemies. I have not even scratched the surface of the falsehoods accepted as fact in this matter. For the whole truth I encourage you to read this book and see for yourselves. Evans cites primary sources and footnotes everything. You be the judge. He concludes with, "In the end, [McCarthy] perished, politically and otherwise, in the rubble he pulled down around him. Yet when the final chapter in the conflict with Moscow was written, amid yet another pile of rubble, he was not without his triumph" (Evans).

It is important to give McCarthy the credit he deserves in his defense of America and the treason he exposed. But the most important point I have tried to make is that history can be and is re-written with relative ease. McCarthy had a great deal of support at the time, certainly within his own party, but also a majority of the public. Still, after his generation passed and the witnesses had died, people were free to rewrite history as they chose. If someone were not born at the time, and was told one version, any version repeatedly, it would become their truth.. The next time you hear the word McCarthyism, or are told of this dark period of persecution and denial of individual rights by our government, think about what I told you today…We will all be better for it..
Thank you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Legacy

I have heard several times that George W Bush will go down in history as one of our worst presidents. This comes mostly from the Bush is stupid crowd, Cheney is evil, and the only ethical thing anyone could do in the last election cycle was vote for Obama. Still, there is a growing consensus that he will be treated harshly by history, and although it may be right, it may be colossally wrong.

All presidents presiding during wars have a difficult time politically. Lyndon Johnson didn't run in 1968 for a second term because of the Vietnam War. Harry Truman declined to run in 1952 because of the Korean War, and during his tenure Abraham Lincoln had serious political problems. Franklin D Roosevelt had few political difficulties, but the news reporting was almost entirely supportive, and fictional. Lincoln, Roosevelt and Truman were all treated kindly by history, and although Johnson was not elevated to their status, he was rehabilitated.

There are three things Bush did during his tenure that I agree with. In my opinion everything else was a disaster. Early on our "free trading" president imposed steel quotas. The attempted explanations for it were laughable. He looked into Putin's eyes and must have been blinded. He couldn't have read the man more wrong. He signed campaign finance reform, seriously curtailing free speech in America. He passed No Child Left Behind, a feeble attempt to improve education. The problem is it was guaranteed to fail once the Teachers Union learned how to game it..and they would..and they did. He supported an immigration bill that only an anarchist could love (in spite of the lofty rhetoric about compassion), and even worse, he signed a series of budget bills that would make a socialist blush. These were not his proudest moments.

On the plus side, he lowered taxes to the betterment of everyone, rich and poor. They created jobs, created wealth, and continued a long tradition of economic expansion. The current economic disaster has roots that are independent of the tax cuts, although tying the two together will probably become a political hammer for the left. He appointed two excellent Supreme Court justices (even if he had to be coerced into withdrawing Harriet Meirs and naming Sam Alito). However, neither of these things, nor the negative ones listed above, will affect his legacy.

What will determine history's judgment is Bush's prosecution of the Iraq War and the broader war on terror. This and only this is what will be noted by history. The reason I am so perplexed by those who "know" his legacy will be a disaster is because the jury is still out on these issues, and will remain undecided for some time. The middle east or Iraq may blow up and Bush will be blamed. But not until we know where the war takes the middle east and radical Islam will we know his legacy.

It is very possible things will play out in a way that could put the President on Mt. Rushmore (figuratively, of course). What if democracy really does take hold in Iraq and throughout the region? Is that impossible? Might not other Arab countries follow the Iraqi lead? What if moderate Muslims gain power and support the west in fighting the terrorists, much the way the Iraqis did during the Sunni awakening (the point at which the Sunnis joined the Shiites and American forces to get rid of the terrorists)? History has a way of fooling us all, and I make no claim to having any better insight than anyone else. But such positive developments wouldn't be shocking. The current success in Iraq might become a springboard from which great things could happen.

The left told us that Arabs could never live in a democratic state (they said the same thing about the Japanese after world war two). Iraq is proving them wrong. They said Iraq was a distraction from the war on terror. But Al Qaeda terrorists raced to get there and, to our surprise, gave us a target we could shoot at. It is true that this was never part of the plan when the war started, but surprises are the norm in a war. It is estimated that 12,000 Al Quaeda were in Iraq at one point. All but about 1000 have been killed or driven out, and those remaining are in hiding. Two years ago the liberals said the war was lost. When the surge reversed the tide of the war, they said the there was no political progress. Now that the political progress is moving along, they just don't talk about it. And the battalion on their left flank (aka the main stream media), has chosen not to mention it either. How much do you read in your news sources about what is going on in Iraq? If the accuracy of the past predictions from the left are any guide, our President has a good chance of making a big mark in history.

Don't misunderstand. Things could reverse themselves. But for now, at least the possibility exists that the bold action taken by Bush will change the world. If the middle east becomes a liberal society, it could be a greater transformation than all other societal changes in the twentieth century combined.

Let us pray...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Better Democracy

From the beginning of our great country there has been an ongoing debate. How should judges (the Supreme Court in particular) interpret the constitution? Should it be as a living constitution (the liberal view), or should it be according to the the framer's original intent (conservative view).

The Cliff Notes version of the supporting arguments are as follows. The living constitution theory says that it was created in accordance with the society norms of that time, but society has changed. Therefore judges must make commensurate changes, ones which will address modern society. The original intent group argue that the constitution has an amendment procedure already available, and it is adequate for needed updates and changes. They also argue that interpreting the constitution as a living document makes the law into a moving target, located wherever the individual whims of justices take it. If true justice for all is to be achieved, the law must be fixed.

There is one important point I think the debate completely misses. The assumption that the the constitution is based on the norms of society is not correct. The constitution is based on human nature. Society changes, but human nature does not, making that great document as valid today as it was the day it was written. The original intent of the framers is the only thing we can look to for guidance.

Liberals often cite the constitution's original voting requirements as an example of their argument that what was written then no longer is applicable. Only male land owners were permitted to vote. Women were entirely prohibited. They say that although that may have been acceptable in society when it was written, it would be unacceptable today.

First, the process proscribed within it allowed the document to be amended, and without the help of any judicial interpretation. The founding fathers believed as I do, that the long term welfare of our nation is best served by an informed, invested electorate. Thus, I question the assumption that the original intent fails at all. Women didn't qualify because they were not regarded as well educated or well informed. Only property owners were thought to have enough of a an investment in the long term welfare of the state to qualify. Is that unreasonable? Would we not be better off today if that principle were applied? It might have been better if the constitution were more clear, saying that only informed citizens with a vested interest can vote, but the idea is a sound one. If women today are regarded as well informed, and non land owners as vested, let them vote. But preserve the integrity of the system and put up some bar over which people must climb before voting. We will all be better off.

Instead it has been determined that anyone should be able to vote. But too many voters have no idea what policy or party serves them best. Far more people know who Paula Abdul is than know the three branches of government. This extension of voting rights to anyone and everyone has led to a huge bloc of people voting only for their immediate gratification, as opposed to what serves the country and themselves in the long run. These voters remind me of farmers who eat the seed corn, and are therefore unable to plant in the Spring.

The popular idea today is that the more people who vote the stronger our democracy will become, helping everyone feel he has a role in decision making. But more important for political stability is the economic welfare of the country. Hitler got just two percent of the vote in the election before the depression, but with economic hard times as a catalyst he won outright. Can you think of any similar situation? Long term economic welfare would be much better served in a system that filtered who can vote.

Under our current system, one group can vote themselves another groups private property, something unlikely to occur if only property owners were voting. In the short run expropriating private property may benefit a few, but in the long run it is ruinous for everyone. The constitutional restrictions on voting (as they were written) should have been replaced, not eliminated. I won't speculate on what criteria should be applied, but real standards need to be set.

Our founding fathers were brilliant. They took the selfishness in human nature and through capitalism and private property harnessed it so as to do the greatest public good for the greatest number of people. We should listen closely to everything they said. After all, this experiment we call the United States of America produced the greatest country in the history of mankind.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gay Marriage and Activist Judges

There are many arguments for and against gay marriage. I have not heard compelling arguments either way, and I am not sure where I come down. However, given the approach supporters have used, count me among the opposition. The method being used by the pro gay marriage camp should be universally condemned, and because of it there is no resolution in sight.

Marriage is a legal construct. For over two hundred years, local, state and federal legislatures have passed thousands of laws granting married couples certain rights, privileges and responsibilities. In every case marriage was either explicitly defined as a union between a man and a women, or it was assumed that everyone understood it that way. There are absolutely no exceptions-not one.

Today we have groups that would like to be included under the umbrella of those laws (one comic agreed they should on the basis that gays deserve to be just as miserable as the rest of us). There is a process by which this might be done. They have the right to petition our law making bodies, federal state and local legislatures. In the event they garner adequate support, and those bodies agree (through the votes of the elected representatives), their hopes will be realized.

Instead the supporters have elected to try to change the law in the courts. They have been successful in getting some unelected judges to rule in their favor by redefining the word marriage to include them. There are plenty of arguments in favor of gay marriage, but defining marriage as anything other than a union between a man and a woman is not one of them.

The entire debate upsets conservatives, not just because many believe on religious grounds and others that it is wrong, but because it is another example of activist courts usurping the power and role of the legislature. Those courts supporting gay marriage have rewritten the laws, and the intent of the lawmakers, under the dubious claim that the current gender requirement is unconstitutional. In reality the "rights" the courts invented in order to justify their action is the only thing unconstitutional. As a democracy, our lawmaking must remain the exclusive domain of our elected representatives. Judges are charged with adjudicating the law, fairly interpreting it, but not undermining lawmakers authority by applying their social philosophy under the banner of dubious/invented constitutional claims.

As a result of all this we have proposition 8 in California (and similar ballot measures in other states), amending the state constitutions and banning gay marriage. These measures are partly due to these activist judges, but also to a federal law requiring all states to recognize all marriages in other states. The federal Defense of Marriage Act tried to remedy this (and protect against activist judges), but various local judges intervened and ruled it was unconstitutional. For them the game is to rule anything they don't like as unconstitutional. The only response available to the opposition is to try to amend the constitution.

The practical effect of the advocates course is to confuse the issue and prolong the debate. If a conventional approach to the legislature had been used, the country would be much closer to a solution. Think of Roe vs Wade. The Supreme Court used tortured logic and convoluted reasoning (logic and reasoning loosely defined here) to arrive at some sort of quasi right to abortion. They took an implied right, not written into the constitution (the right to privacy), as the basis for a new right (sort of an implied right mothering a new right), that being a woman's right to (their euphemism) choose. Had the court properly ruled what is obvious, that abortion is not the purview of the federal government, it would be legal in at least 48 states, and I believe one way or another legally available to everyone. At the time of Roe three quarters of the states had already legalized abortion, and laws legalizing it were in the legislatures of all but a few of those remaining. My point is that this judicial activism didn't accelerate a solution, it delayed one. But worse, because of its extra legal birth, Roe gained no acceptance by the opposition. The country is still torn apart. Had the matter been returned to the states as it should have, there would still be groups trying to change whatever policy they adopted, and with great passion, but it would be without much of the animus and anger existing now.

If those advocating gay marriage proceeded in a conventional way, prevailing legally in even a few state legislatures, the federal government would have to deal with the difficulty created by the law requiring recognition by other states. Every state they won over would create more pressure for recognition by all the states. I can't say for sure what would result, but I know that whatever got done would be fairer and more acceptable to everyone than anything coming out of judicial activism.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bail Us Out of Governments Help

Hank Paulson looks like a quarterback calling audibles. He determined the "old" 750 billion bailout plan won't work, so he decided to spend the money on an entirely different program than the one authorized by congress. Neither he nor anyone else knows what these programs will do. Doesn't anyone in government understand central planning doesn't work? See the former Soviet Union, Mao's China, and Castro's Cuba for details. I make no claim to knowing how things would play out if congress butted out, but I am sure no one else does either. One thing is for sure. History has taught us that whenever the government tries to do things outside of its basic and necessary functions, it does massive damage to us all.

Allowing the banks and other business to fail would undoubtedly be very painful. The question is not that, but will the "solution" be worse than doing nothing. When a business fails in a capitalist system, either the debt holders replace the equity holders, or the business is liquidated and the money recovered is divided among the creditors. If that happens, there is less competition in that industry, making it more likely that others will survive. This is a painful process, but it works. All you Darwinians out there should buy into that.

First the government decided it would save the banks, and later extended the rescue to all manner of businesses- the auto industry, credit card industry, business finance etc. Of course in its infinite wisdom (and Democratic majority-although Bush is guilty too) congress decided that the consumer needs help, so a second stimulus package is planned, including mortgage assistance and an increase in unemployment benefits etc.

Who wouldn't love to help every struggling person in America? But under the banner of help what we are really doing is shooting morphine into a gangrenous leg rather than amputate it. The pain will go away for a while, but soon after the patient will die.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Harvard and Myths

John Kenneth Galbraith was the chair of the economics department at Harvard for 30 years. He carried himself with an arrogance that would put Joe Biden to shame. The measure of any theory, or theoretician, is how successfully predictive he is. Galbraith got every prediction he ever made wrong. In one colossal blunder in 1983 he predicted that it was only a matter of time until the Soviet economy overtook ours. Of course 6 years later the Soviet economy and the nation itself collapsed. Only at Harvard can someone be wrong repeatedly, and at the same time be a celebrated department head. Cambridge really is in a fantasy world. Those fantasies continue today.

Last night I watched Marvin Kalb ( Emeritus Senior Fellow, Harvard University) interview Bill O'Reilly. I was once again reminded why Bill Buckley said “I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University." He was right. An ounce of common sense (the 400 phone book names) will outweigh a ton of intelligence (Harvard faculty) every time.

Kalb asked O'Reilly why he had supported the invasion in Iraq. The answer given was because he thought there were weapons of mass destruction that could be used against us, particularly if they were given to terrorists. When asked what made him so sure the weapons were there, O'Reilly said because of our intelligence reports. Kalb then asked how he knew the reports were genuine, and had he ever considered that he may have been lied to. Between the question itself and the visceral anger on Kalb's face, it was obvious what he thought.

Think about this. Kalb is an supposed to be an intelligent man, teaching at one of the worlds most prestigious universities. Yet he is buying into a myth that any half thoughtful cockatoo would understand was a fiction. Why am I not surprised? The most interesting part was the anger on Kalb's face. I hate to assign motives, but I wonder if it was a dramatic touch intended to add authenticity to a false charge, or if he really is that ignorant.

Every intelligence agency in the world, many through independent investigations and independent evidence, drew the same conclusion- Saddam had the weapons. We know he had them at one point. After the Gulf War the inspectors found them. He used them in the Iraq Iran War and on his own people. Were all the intelligence agencies lying? Were they all in a conspiracy? Almost every member of congress, at least those with the requisite security clearance, examined the intelligence reports and drew the same conclusion. The point is there is virtually no evidence the administration lied, save some conspiracy theorists nonsense, but there are mounds of evidence that a reasonable conclusion was drawn, albeit a wrong one.

Common sense itself, something sorely lacking in the hallowed halls of our universities, made any other conclusion hard to imagine. Why would Saddam throw the inspectors out? What was he protecting if he had nothing to hide? His pride may have been an obstacle, but he was a realist, and injuring his pride versus losing his kingdom and his life doesn't seem like a hard call. That and other questions remain unanswered today.

Let me bore you for a second with my personal theory as to why Saddam acted as he did. Why would he not yield to the demands that the inspectors be let back in? Certainly Bush made the consequences very clear. Did he think it was an idle threat? I doubt it. Did he think he could win a war? I doubt that even more. Probably the most corrupt organization in the world is the United Nations (the organization Obama will cede decision making to over US foreign policy). Prior to the invasion the UN was engaged in its typical day to day bribery and corruption, partnering with Saddam in what became know as the oil for food scandal. There were business people, and British, French and Russian political figures and journalists, "dipping their beak" into Saddam's well. Take note of where the favorable press and political support he received during the lead up to the war came from. I believe he may have received assurances from those political people involved in his web of bribery that they could control the United States. If so, it was a tragic error. I realize this could be miles off the mark, but it does rationalize an otherwise very strange set of facts.

But I digress. "Bush lied, kids died" (not exactly Shelly or Keats) was the mantra of many anti-war activists at our elite universities. The myth of having been lied to has gained currency among most liberals, even though it defies logic. Constant repetition will never change the facts, but it might change the historical record. In a generation or two the history books could easily state this myth as fact. Those of you who know the real history of FDR, Augusto Pinochet, Alger Hiss and Joe McCarthy understand what I mean.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's the Philosophy Stupid!

Before I begin let me apologize. My rhetoric yesterday towards the President elect may have been a bit harsh. Certainly I wish him well, as I do for us all. His past associations are frightening, but every sinner has a future, and I hope his future and ours will be bright.

Sarah Palin has been criticized by the left, and although I think it was over the top, slanderous in some cases and bogus in others, I expected it from the opposition. However critics like Peggy Noonan, George Will, and David Brooks (and others) are different. They are supposed to be on our team. If they were correct in what they said, it would be forgivable. In fact it might even have been constructive. However the attacks (criticism is far too mild a word) were unfounded, wrong and showed a complete blindness as to what makes a great leader.

The correct experience and preparation for any politician seeking the presidency does not exist. Most of our greatest leaders had little experience and even less knowledge of the job. What the great ones did have was sound character, a solid philosophical grounding, and the willingness to make decisions based on the those principles, doing it boldly without fear of contradiction.

No matter what choices a president makes, there will be critics. Ultimately, he must depend on himself. He need not know who the president of Kazakhstan is, or for that matter France. He must however know that capitalism, although imperfect, works. It permits maximum freedoms, and produces the maximum goods and services. It provides the best health care, the best lifestyle, and the best of everything to whomever faithfully follows its dictates. Leaders must not be tempted by the siren song of socialism, no matter how loudly the media and academia preach its virtues. They make it sound like nirvana, but a great leader must know a priori, socialism corrupts. It is a cancer on our freedoms and our productive capabilities. That leader must not worship at the alter of public opinion, but have the convictions to stand strong when enemies mass at his front, and they will. He must resist the temptation to yield ground because capitalism, like democracy, like any system, is less than perfect. In politics the imperfect becomes the enemy of the good, because it gives pretenders a weapon. They point to singular failures (not systemic ones), taking the spotlight away from the overall good the system they are attacking does, and they can ignore the far worse system they advocate.

Which of the four presidential and vice presidential candidates has these characteristics? Obama is saddled with no experience and all the wrong ideas. Biden has decades of experience, all of which taught him self aggrandizement, bloviating, and to never say anything of substance. Add to that he comes down on the wrong side of every issue, and it is clear there are few people on the planet less qualified. McCain has fine character, decades of experience, he lacks Biden's pompousness, but he is not a very thoughtful man. He is all over the map philosophically, giving support to several tragically wrong ideas.

Then there is Sarah. She has very little experience, but during her time in office she demonstrated she is on the right side of every issue, and equally important she held her ground in some very tough turf battles. She is principled in a way that many people wouldn't even understand. The thing that allowed her to make so many right decisions was her application of common sense free market principles. Academics are so often blind because they focus on a few trees, never seeing the size and shape of the forest. It really is the sign of a genius to make a complicated thing simple. When Lincoln decided to keep our country in tact and free the slaves, he didn't use linear equations. What he did use was his common sense, character and fortitude, sticking with it no matter how tough things became. It may be inconclusive, but everything Sarah has done in her short career indicates she has the requisite philosophy, common sense, character and toughness to lead.

Reagan said Republicans need bold colors, not pastels. He demonstrated that the principled is also the political. Act in a principled way and political benefits accrue. The press attacked him relentlessly, calling him stupid (as they do all conservatives), dangerous (all conservatives), and disengaged (all conservatives). Yet he won elections in landslides and today is much loved, even by many who opposed him. Who is more like Reagan than Sarah Palin? She understands and advocates for the goodness and the absolute need for capitalism, individual responsibility, less government, free trade, a strong defense, the sanctity of life, and free enterprise in schools, public utilities, energy and health care. Can anyone out there imagine Sarah Palin supporting a nonsensical unscientific theory like man made global warming? She is clear in her thinking, and willing to articulate it without apology.

Nothing listed above relates to experience. It all relates to an individuals philosophy and character, and that is all that is important. Although I only know Sarah Palin from what I read in the newspapers, all the evidence I have is that her character and philosophy could not be better grounded. As to her three conservative critics listed above (along with many others), they owe this emerging leader of our movement a very humble apology.

Monday, November 10, 2008

President Elect Obama

Leave it to a Brit to phrase things so eloquently...and perceptively:

"You have to pinch yourself - a Marxist radical who all his life has been mentored by, sat at the feet of, worshiped with, befriended, endorsed the philosophy of, funded and been in turn funded, politically promoted and supported by a nexus comprising black power anti-white racists, Jew-haters, revolutionary Marxists, unrepentant former terrorists and Chicago mobsters, is on the verge of becoming President of the United States. And apparently it's considered impolite to say so." - Melanie Philips, The Spectator (UK) 10/24/08

She is right of course. Ever word of the charges there can be easily defended. It is all so frightening. I am still in denial. Looking at the news and hearing "President elect Obama" makes my blood run cold.

There is a certain irony that such a far left politician as Obama should be elected in the same week that marks the 70th anniversary of Krystallnacht (night of broken glass- one of the beginning dates for the Holocaust where 90 Jews were killed by Germans rampaging through the ghettos). The far left throughout the world have been constant supporters of the Palestinians, either charging the Israelis with Nazi like crimes, or at best drawing a moral equivalence between the Jews and their Arab neighbors. It is as if they are saying that the rapist and his resisting victim are the same because they both use violence. The Left has convinced Great Britain to eliminate all references to the Holocaust from all of their public school text books. It seems to offend their Muslim population. If the world keeps supporting this racist bigotry, "Never again" (the Jews pledge to never forget the Holocaust and never let it happen again) will go the way of "Just say no" (Nancy Reagan's all but forgotten slogan for fighting drugs).

The left argues that there is a difference between anti Israel and anti Jew. If so, it is lost on me. The Germans didn't need help rounding up Jews in France after the invasion, the locals did it for them. Don't misunderstand. There are countless stories of heroism where Europeans from every country, France included, helped Jews during the war. But there was also a virulent strain of anti-semitism throughout Europe that has grown even stronger today, particularly among the political left. Hitler wanted Europe "Judenfrei" (free of Jews), and he nearly succeeded. Today, in "polite" far left society in all the capitals of Europe, anti- semitism is perfectly acceptable. Anyone who supports the Arabs against the Jews in the Mideast, is either completely ignorant of the history of the region, including current events, or simply a Jew hater. No fair minded person could possibly draw any moral equivalence between the Jews and Arabs, much less condemn the Jews, unless they were one or the other.

Of course "fair minded" is a relative term. For example: A British journalist was kidnapped a while back by Arabs while in the Palestinian territories. After a few months in captivity the British journalists association condemned Israel. That's right- Israel, on the theory that if Israel weren't "occupying" (very loose useage of the verb to occupy) the Arab land, the terrorists wouldn't have kidnapped him. Of course there is no bias, racism there.

This is the philosophical camp that Obama belongs to, as demonstrated by his attendance at a farewell party for a PLO fundraiser, where the speeches understandably spewed vitriol towards Israel. Was he surprised by that? Would you be? The LA Times has a tape of the evening but won't release it claiming the person who gave it to them asked it not be released. Think about this. Someone gave them the tape, and without violating any agreement they were able to write a story about it in April. But if they are to be believed, that same person who wanted a story written, doesn't want the proof released. Sure. I get it. And this from a press core that routinely releases information (as in the foreign wire tap program) that compromises all Americans lives.

I will deal with the 75-80 percent support Jews give to Democrats and the far left another day. Let it suffice to say that they are similar to those Jews who wouldn't leave Germany because they couldn't believe Hitler meant what he said.

Obama has made himself perfectly clear, through his word and deed, and although what he intends to do is not as draconian as Hitler, he could wreak havoc that will take generations to repair. I say could, because we can pray I am misreading his intent, and like Bill Clinton, everything he has said and done is only for his political advancement, and he is sort of a ship that flies no flag. If so, the damage his administration will do is limited to extremists like Pelosi and Reid (still moderate by comparison to Obama). It is saddening that that is the best we can hope for, but I fear it is true.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

What Went Wrong?

The post-mortums on the election are endless. There are countless strategic blunders McCain made, but in this cycle even a perfectly run campaign would have lost. When things are bad, no matter what the cause of the trouble, or what the policies of the incumbent party, they get voted out. In 2006 the Republicans lost their majorities in congress because of an unpopular war. By 2008 we had won the war, although you would never know if your information comes from the main stream media. Politically it was off the table. But with polls showing McCain ahead and climbing, the year long brewing financial meltdown got ugly and went public. With that the election was over.

During the depression every western government, conservative and liberal, with radically different philosophies and policies, got voted out of office. The point is that policies don't matter when things reach an extreme. This does have some logic to it. Conservative economic ideas are not perfect, but will do much better for the economy than liberal ideas. I have studied these things in detail for a long time (too much time perhaps), and the general concept is absolute. But an average voter doesn't know if big government is good or bad for his wallet or his freedom for that matter. One thing he does know however, is if things go sour, he wants to try something new, anything new.

Of course this risks disaster. It is as if you knew nothing about how a car runs, so when you had engine trouble you decided to replace the gasoline with water. After all, you know it is not working properly with gas, so you are trying something different. Needless to say, any chance your car did have for a recovery becomes nil.

And so we have 4 years coming of Obama. I wish him well. I pray for his success. I also know that anyone who thinks raising taxes, big government, and protectionism will help is in a dream world.