Friday, March 31, 2006

Chirac folding under Pressure

Fire of Liberty

Well it seems that French President Jacques Chirac has proven once again that he's not cut out for taking on the rowdy students and the rabble-rousers of the militant labor unions because he's stepped(After letting Villepin get tarred by the crowd - Makes Chirac look like the good guy)into the fray and has offered to water down the CPE law. The only problem with Chirac's gesture of goodwill is that he has demonstrated to the labor unions that if you can get lots of the folks in the streets protesting and call for a general strike you can get concessions from the government. As the Financial Times notes, the unions promptly rejected the offer by Chirac and have called for yet another strike. I guess they feel that if they made Chirac jump like he did this past Tuesday, an even bigger protest will cause the government to drop the CPE law all together. I hope the French government stands firm but from the looks of it, they're more than likely going to fold and face an economic death of high unemployment via the burdensome welfare state they keep on propping up.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Light of Freedom

Fire of Liberty

I think Jeff Jacoby's most recent column in the Boston Globe pretty much explains why I'm a big fan of Israel. Here's a sample:
Finally, Americans sympathize so strongly with the Israelis because both nations face a common enemy. Unlike Walt and Mearsheimer, who can find "no moral basis" for taking Israel's side in its war with enemies bent on its destruction, most Americans make a clear moral distinction between suicide bombers and their victims. If Israeli terrorists were deliberately blowing up Palestinian school buses, if rabbis were blasting Arabs as "the sons of monkeys and pigs," if it were Israelis who had danced in celebration on 9/11, American sympathies might not be so clear-cut. Most Americans are not confused, because most Americans understand what's at stake.
No matter how you look at it, we should always pride ourselves in supporting the various lights of freedom that struggle to stay lit in a sea of darkness.

Taylor dances UN Tango

Fire of Liberty

Well it looks like the former thug/warlord/dictator(More deserving than President) of Liberia, Charles Taylor, is probably going to have a real long trial at The Hague because the UN tribunal thinks it's too dangerous to have his trial in Sierra Leone. So once again the folks of the UN are going to haul Taylor thousands of miles away to the Netherlands to have his trial thus making it difficult for the families of the hundreds of thousands he helped kill by supplying rebels in Sierra Leone with AK-47's, bullets, safe havens, money, and Lord knows what else, see here. Instead of shipping Taylor off to the nice confines of The Hague to face international justice for years upon years (Look at mockery of justice and a waste of time that Milosevic and others who appear before this court have done so far.)they should keep him in the hell-hole of a jail cell in Sierra Leone and suffer the continued jeers from the folks he killed. He should have to be tried under the laws of the country in which he committed the crime or at least in his home nation of Liberia instead of facing a world court that really has no jurisdiction over this case. Until the folks in Africa wave off the crutch of the UN and start solving their own problems on their own, which means prosecuting warlords/dictators for starving, killing and maiming their people or others through their own doing or via wars/conflicts, they'll never raise above the fray and pull themselves out of the third world.

All in all, Charles Taylor will live a pampered life in The Hague where he'll have good food, comfortable surroundings, fine clothes and have a bevy of big name layers like Ramsey Clark defending him while at the same time teaching him how to stretch out his trial into years upon years of idiotic ramblings. And folks wonder why the US has repeatedly and loudly said no to ad hoc tribunals like the International Criminal Court.

Assimilation Breakdown

Fire of Liberty

Peggy Noonan has a good column out today over at OpinionJournal which makes a good point about the one issue of immigration (Illegal immigration is a big problem)that seems to be swept under the carpet during the whole debate is our lack of properly assimilating the immigrants to our society's history and philosophy. Now its true that the folks entering our country from places like Mexico and other southern points of departure are generally Christians who value family, hard work and tend to stay law biding(Except the 11 million who crossed the border illegally) but after you see the kids running around in the streets with Mexican flags you realize that they still haven't learned enough about their new home and what makes it so great. I'd say that Noonan handled it best when she notes the following:
We are not assimilating our immigrants patriotically now. We are assimilating them culturally. Within a generation their children speak Valley Girl on cell phones. "So I'm like 'no," and he's all 'yeah,' and I'm like, 'In your dreams.' " Whether their parents are from Trinidad, Bosnia, Lebanon or Chile, their children, once Americans, know the same music, the same references, watch the same shows. And to a degree and in a way it will hold them together. But not forever and not in a crunch.

So far we are assimilating our immigrants economically, too. They come here and work. Good.

But we are not communicating love of country. We are not giving them the great legend of our country. We are losing that great legend.

What is the legend, the myth? That God made this a special place. That they're joining something special. That the streets are paved with more than gold--they're paved with the greatest thoughts man ever had, the greatest decisions he ever made, about how to live. We have free thought, free speech, freedom of worship. Look at the literature of the Republic: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist papers. Look at the great rich history, the courage and sacrifice, the house-raisings, the stubbornness. The Puritans, the Indians, the City on a Hill.

The genius cluster--Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Madison, Franklin, all the rest--that came along at the exact same moment to lead us. And then Washington, a great man in the greatest way, not in unearned gifts well used (i.e., a high IQ followed by high attainment) but in character, in moral nature effortfully developed. How did that happen? How did we get so lucky? (I once asked a great historian if he had thoughts on this, and he nodded. He said he had come to believe it was "providential.")

We fought a war to free slaves. We sent millions of white men to battle and destroyed a portion of our nation to free millions of black men. What kind of nation does this? We went to Europe, fought, died and won, and then taxed ourselves to save our enemies with the Marshall Plan. What kind of nation does this? Soviet communism stalked the world and we were the ones who steeled ourselves and taxed ourselves to stop it. Again: What kind of nation does this?

Only a very great one. Maybe the greatest of all.
So maybe if the folks who are running in the streets would return to class and the teachers could find it in their minds to start teaching about the greatness of the United States, the folks protesting would understand what their display of the Mexican flag in our streets this past weekend bothers a lot of native and naturalized citizens of this country.

Go GMU Patriots

Fire of Liberty

While I'm not a big fan of Basketball, college or pro, in tend to find time to catch the excitement of March Madness in which David's like take on the Goliaths that the sports analysts, writers, and announcers have been gushing about how they're the best in the world. As for me I'm one of those folks who cheer for the little teams who enter the tournament with no chance to progress through the brackets but end up doing so because they have some scrapers who dig deep down in their being and pull out a win. Well it seems that this year I've been provided with an opportunity to see a tournament in which non of the number one seeds advance to the final four. As a big fan of the SEC, I'm thrilled to see two fine teams like Florida and LSU going to the big dance but as a Georgia fan I can't even think about cheering for the Gators or the Tigers(I'll be cheering for their win against UCLA but that's due to my dislike of the Bruins) so I'll be cheering for George Mason University(GMU) because of the fact that no-one expects them to advance and that their players seem to want the win more than others. The Patriots will have their skills tested once again by the Gators but I'm a wishful optimist and believe that in the long run the kids from this small school will rally and make it to the championship and face the Tigers of LSU.

Anyway, I wanted to share this piece on GMU by Bloomberg columnist Scott Soshnick, which pretty much sums up why millions of people like me are pulling for the Patriots. So Go GMU and get ya some Gator!!!(Tastes Like Chicken)

Two Stand-up Fellows

Fire of Liberty

As a loyal Reaganite I have to pay my respects to two of Ronald Reagan's loyal aides, Lyn Nofziger and Caspar Weinberger, who both passed away earlier this week. Instead of reading my accolades about these fine journey-men of the Reagan Revolution, I thought I'd share with you two recollections from folks who really knew a thing or two about these fine journey-men of the Reagan Revolution. See here and here, you won't be disappointed.

Here's hoping that they find their place in paradise and are catching up with their old boss and friend.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Avoiding the Issue

Fire of Liberty

Here's Jonah Goldberg's take on the whole illegal immigration argument and the recent protests in the streets of Los Angeles, Dallas and Phoenix. As Jonah notes, the folks who take to the streets and their supporters in Congress and the media seem to be confusing the whole debate. Now while these folks are going before the cameras saying that we're a nation of immigrants and that Congress is pushing a law that attacks such values but they fail to realize that the focus is on illegal immigration and the folks who continue to facilitate such actions by providing them jobs. I'd say Jonah sums it up when he notes:
Our border with Mexico allows for levels of illegal immigration that have no historical precedent. In 1970, there were fewer than 800,000 Mexicans in America, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. In 1980, there were 2.2 million. In 1990, the number reached 4.3 million, and by 2000 it had climbed to 7.9 million. In 2005, there were 10.8 million —— a spike of 37 percent in half a decade. Today, roughly a third of all undocumented immigrants in America are Mexican, and they make up a disproportionate share of low-wage immigrants.

The Mexican government aids and abets illegal immigration in myriad ways, including giving prospective entrants to the U.S. a how-to guide for how to slip across the border, telling them not to wear heavy clothes, to drink plenty of water, and to keep your professional smuggler-guide in sight at all times. There's much less in the booklet about how to fill out the right forms and pass the naturalization exam.

The Mexican government is being perfectly rational. Mexico depends on the billions of dollars its fellow countrymen send back home, and it benefits — or hopes to — from the political clout Mexican-Americans have in our political system.

This isn't an anti-Mexican observation. It is, in fact, merely an observation, and an irrefutable one. But it flies in the face of a lot of idealistic abstraction. Most Americans are proud, to one extent or another, of America's status as a "nation of immigrants." That's why the protest organizers were desperate to have a lot of American flags and "We are Americans" chants. The more illegal immigration from Mexico can be seen as consistent with the "story of America," the better it is for people who want to either maintain the status quo or expand illegal immigration.
You'd think that we could have an honest debate about illegal immigration but then again the folks on the other side of the argument still think that the uproar is over immigrants in general. Go figure.

**For more on the illegal immigration problem in the US see here, here, and here.

Cutting Hamas Off

Fire of Liberty

I have to give it to the White House for pushing through a measure that cuts off all relations and communications between the US(Officers or Representatives) and the terrorists of Hamas who now control the Palestinian government(We're still talking to President Abbas and non-Hamas parliamentarians). Now folks can say that this is cruel and a slap in the face to President Bush push for greater democracy in the region but as he pointed out in a gathering before Freedom House, he supports a two state entity but will not talk our help out a government that continues to call for the destruction of the other like Hamas has said repeatedly about Israel. I have to say that President Bush is taking a realistic assessment and knows that by cutting off money and communications with Hamas we can make them sweat and have to figure out how to get things like the budget, water, power, telephones, roads, healthcare and meeting payrolls done with their own limited funds thus eliminating the extra money they had to fund further acts of terrorism. By Hamas having to take over the show their voters will get to see what happens when vote for a group like Hamas who refuse to recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by peace accords. The whole point about a democratic system is that ideas and actions have consequences and the actions by the US is what happens when folks made the mistake of elevating Hamas to a seat of power. All in all, President Bush has made a right decision on this one and Hamas and the Palestinians are the key to creating rapprochement with the US. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Springtime in Paris

Fire of Liberty

I for one think that the militant unions and their accomplices from the universities are creating greater problems for their cause within France with today's actions. Just imagine what could be accomplished at a negotiation table instead in the streets of France.

Standing athwart Shariah and yelling Enough is Enough

Fire of Liberty

William F. Buckley Jr. has a good column out today that provides a little food for that about Abdul Rahman faced death at the hands of the mullahs in Afghanistan because he had converted to Christianity some 14 to 16 years ago. Now while Rahman has was eventually let go by the courts after they deemed him insane and ordered him to seek medical help, WFB notes that this use of such technicality in the law shouldn't become a standard operating procedure for a nation that we expended treasure and the deaths of two-hundred plus individuals to expel the Taliban and their al Qaeda friends to ensure a modicum of freedom in Afghanistan. I think he sums this up best when he noted:
ThatÂ’s right. And the hell with Afghan supremacy. If an occupying military force whose presence every day continues to be critical to keep Afghanistan free cannot protect one citizen who embraces the faith of our fathers, then the government of Afghanistan should pause for a moment to worry not about the indignation of the Afghan people if Rahman is kept safe. Thought should be given to the indignation of the American people, who will stare in disbelief at the phenomenon of a country recently liberated by the expenditure of American lives and money failing to protect from the wrath of the mob a 41-year-old citizen whose crime was having chosen Christ.

It is a tough challenge. It is tempting to say: Get this guy out of Afghanistan and put him away somewhere and let'’s move on. But the bureaucratic escape does not reflect the passions of the leaders of the world. Australia'’s prime minister wants the Afghan government to renounce the thought of executing someone for exercising religious liberty. So do prominent leaders in Germany, Great Britain, and Italy. The Afghan court sidestepped the main issue by releasing Rahman on a technicality. If it arises again, the challenge for the United States will be to devise a means of saying to the Afghan government: You cannot do this. Not while we'’re around.
I'm all for letting nations doing their own thing their own way but when they start denying their people G-d's given rights and the a pretty basic concepts of democracy then they've gone to far. Thankfully, we have folks like WFB manning the barricades and fighting the good fight.

The Virtues of Manliness

Fire of Liberty

Here's a good book review by Joseph R. Phelan in the Washington Times on Professor Harvey C. Mansfield's new book Manliness. Now if you've saw the end segment of ABC's This Week(Sun, March 26, 2006) and the comments of Naomi Wolfe(Feminist and advisor to Gore, who told him to wear more earth tones to appeal to women- It seemed to work for Tipper in the 2000 convention) you'd think that this book was some kind of handbook for men to return our society back to the stone age thus sending women out of the workforce and back into the home but in reality the book is an insightful look at what it means to be manly. As the distinguished Harvard Professor notes, one has to look at the actions of individuals throughout history and the philosophy of individuals within the Western Canon and you'll discover the true nature and definition of manliness. While I haven't had the privilege of reading the book yet, I've got to say from what I've read so far and got out of Mansfield recent appearance on C-SPAN's After Words(He was interviewed by Naomi Wolfe who was more concerned about expressing her agenda or how this or that passage in the book made her feel instead of focusing on the book - Mansfield still held his ground(Has a lot of practice being a conservative at liberal Harvard)) the book is a must read for young men and men to get a better understanding of what it's meant to be a man. This segment of Professor Phelan's review also sold me:
As one would expect from the author of seminal studies of Machiavelli, Bolingbroke, Burke and the American Presidency, Mr. Mansfield is at his best here tracing the development of ideas about human nature and the masculine soul in the history of modern philosophical speculation. Mr. Mansfield shows how Hobbes, Locke, and Spinoza sought to eliminate "the quarrelsome and contentious" from their reconstructed political orders and therefore of necessity had to devalue manliness as the deepest root of political factionalism and "civil broils."

Finally Mr. Mansfield turns to the classic or traditional view of human nature as is to be seen in Plato and Aristotle. Those who study assertiveness today fail to relate it to the much older concept of spiritedness or thymos, which was very much at the core of the Greek philosophers' reflections on the human things. Spiritedness induces manly men to risk their "mere" lives for the sake of their "quality" lives. For the classics spiritedness came to sight as indispensable to the political community given the rapacious nature of international politics and the need for vigorous citizenship in the public square of free republics. In consequence they made it the foundation stone of paideia or the education of youth as well as of their system of gentlemanly ethics.

Mr. Mansfield's book moves from that with which we are most familiar, which is to say the contemporary stereotypes of manliness as an offensive expression of a "macho" mentality often associated with a "redneck" attitude to women and minorities, to that less familiar perspective which we need now more than ever, which is to say the wisdom of the great tradition of Western civilization.
So head on over to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and pick up a copy of Harvey C. Mansfield's book Manliness today.

Germany's Baby Deficit

Fire of Liberty

Suzanne Fields has an interesting piece in the Washington Times which points out how Germany's continued fall in fertility rates is placing some great strains on the Germany economy and culture in general. I'd say that they've got to do something after reading these paragraphs:
A new survey finds that Germany has the lowest birthrate in the European Union, but you wouldn't know it here. However, these women are running against the trend. Last year, Germany suffered the steepest declines of births in 15 years, a drop of 4 percent or 30,000 births, from 2004. The Berlin daily Die Welt ran the news under the headline: "Baby Shock: "'We Germans are Dying Out.'"

Germany is not alone as a prosperous country with births falling far below replacement levels, but it has its own reasons. High unemployment creates insecurity, and many professionals don't want the responsibility of balancing work and family. Germans tend to stay in college longer than students in other countries, and young people get used to a carefree life paid for by Germans with jobs. Germans call a university the nation's most effective form of contraception.

Before the decade of the '90s, almost 60 percent of German women between the ages of 25 and 29 had had a baby. That figure is closer to 30 percent today. The birth dearth has relentless implications; 100,000 more Germans die than are born every year. Pessimists estimate that the current population of 82 million could fall to 50 million by 2050, giving new meaning to the phrase "Old Europe."
As I've said time and time before and as Fields notes in her column, the only way the German people(and Europe for that matter) to pull themselves out of this birth dearth is not via the government's intervention but for the young families to take the initiative and start making children. Let's hope they start soon or Europe will see some fundamental changes in the near future.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Ideology Overload

Fire of Liberty

Here's a good column by Peter Worthington in the Toronto Sun on the recent rescue of three members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams who were held captive in Iraq by a terrorist group called the Swords of Righteousnes Brigades. I found this part of Worthington's column very interesting:
Their salvation was American, British and Canadian soldiers, working with the RCMP, who risked their lives to rescue these clots who seem to despise their liberators.

Mr. Pritchard added: "We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by multinational forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping, and so much pain and suffering in Iraq."

Not a word of thanks or gratitude to the soldiers who carried guns and were prepared to shoot or be shot to save them.

Not a word about Saddam Hussein, who, more than any, is the "root cause" of misery in Iraq. Not a word about the suffering Saddam inflicted on Iraqis -- the mass graves, genocidal bio-chemical attacks on Kurds, wars against neighbouring countries, torturing Iraqis, homicides and fear that was imposed.

Christian Peacemakers didn't protest the 30 years of Saddam's imposed "insecurity ... pain and suffering." Why?

Because they'd have been gobbled up, that's why.
I guess when you're so blinded by ideology and you cause and aren't willing to make a more introspective look at yourself, you begin to talk such nonsense. It's refreshing to have folks like Mr. Worthington.

French PM holds Firm: At Least For the Moment

Fire of Liberty

Maybe I spoke too soon about PM Dominique de Villepin bending to the will of Chirac and the labor unions. It seems that instead of having a reasonable sit-down with de Villepin(who surprisingly seems to be standing on principle and continues to push a seemingly free-market policy) they prefer to push their agenda of life-time employment, a 35 hr. workweek, 4 month vacations, early retirement, and a system that places heavy restrictions on management when they try to fire workers, which has resulted in the labor unions calling a general strike Tuesday. So once again the kids are going to shut down the schools (preventing folks who want to earn a degree from going to class) and the unions are going to shut down the trains, buses and whatever else they control(Keeping the citizens of France from getting to their jobs thus affecting commerce and people's earnings) so they can go to the streets once again and cause more chaos in the street which causes more problems than solutions thus demonstrating why France's overall unemployment is some 10% amongst and 23% amongst the 18-26 year olds. I just hope that de Villepin stands his ground and don't become a whipping boy of the militant unions in France.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Be Wary of ETA

Fire of Liberty

Rafael L. Bardaji has a good piece over at National Review Online that expands in greater detail my argument about why the people of Spain and its government should being wary about ETA's "permanent ceasefire."

France's Silent Majority?

Fire of Liberty
It looks like there's some young students in France who are a tad bid angry with their fellow students shutting down the universities in order to raise hell in the streets against the newly formed First Job Contract. Here's what the Times had to note about the students who prefer their studies rather than act like complete fools:
SEVERAL hundred students packed into the hall, cheering and clapping as one speaker after another urged a blockade of their philosophy faculty. Then Félix Lambert took to the podium and said he did not agree. The audience erupted in furious booing and whistling.

Meet the new French revolutionaries. Lambert, 20, is in the second year of a philosophy degree course at the Sorbonne, the focus of student protests against a new youth employment law. He does not throw Molotov cocktails or attend demonstrations and sit-ins — all he wants to do is to get on with his studies.

"“The protest is so undemocratic,"” he said last week. "The students are being manipulated by the unions."

Lambert's 18-year-old sister Lily, in the first year of an economics and management course, is also a dissident. She opposes the law making it easier to sack young people but not, as the protesters argue, because it will promote insecurity in the workplace. In her mind the law does not go far enough. "“What we need in France is a lot more employment flexibility for everybody, not just the young," she said.
Its about time we hear more about these brave souls who are trying the best to better themselves but can't because some idiot is burning a newspaper stand or holding sit-ins.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Same Ole' Qadhafi

Fire of Liberty

Seems to me that Col. Qadhafi's regime in Libya still has a long way to go before it can ever be removed from the "Outpost of Tyranny" list. It wouldn't hurt matters if the US stepped up and applied a little more heat on the regime.

Pushing Forward into the 21st Century

Fire of Liberty

Here's a good piece by Melana Zyla Vickers which notes how Japan is pushing forward a strategic regroup that moves beyond the self-defense/pacifist posture that has been the norm since the end of WWII to a more reality based defense posture that meets the challenges of aggressive neighbors like China and North Korea.

Hearts and Minds of Iraq

Fire of Liberty
Ralph Kinney Bennett has a good piece over at TCS Daily that demonstrates why our presence in Iraq provides a sense of normality and hope for all the folks who endured the hell of Saddam's rule. Check this out:
They roared up in a couple of amphibious assault vehicles.

But they didn't kick down the door. They knocked.

The family inside was surprised, but they weren't frightened. Greetings were exchanged. The small group of Marines seemed to be holding back smiles and anxious to get to the point.

While on that patrol back in January they had noticed this large Iraqi family and particularly the cute little girl propped awkwardly in a big old rusty adult wheelchair. So, well... a bunch of the guys got together back at Camp Smitty and...

The Marines unloaded a shiny new pediatric wheelchair from one of their vehicles and rolled it into the house.

The little girl had suffered a severe spinal injury in a car accident two years ago. The old wheelchair was the best the family could do for her.

Until the Marines came.

The family's faces lit up with the smiles. The incredulous father picked up his daughter and immediately placed her in the new wheelchair. He shook the Marines' hands, saying "Thank you," again and again.

"They seemed pretty happy about it," said Cpl. Matthew Rivera.

"We knew we had to help out in some way," said Staff Sgt. Charles Evers.

The Marines didn't stay long. There were smiles and a few tears and then they jumped back into their assault vehicles and headed back to Camp Smitty.
It's great to read such wonderful stories like these. Keep it proud you Devil Dogs.

A Fighting Chance

Fire of Liberty
While the MSM and foreign policy experts from the Democratic side of the fence and some on the right keep on demanding that President Bush and his administration start withdrawing US troops out of Iraq because they seem to be causing more resentment amongst the citizenry as well a providing fuel for the terrorist's attacks (At least in their mids.). The only problem is that these individuals fail to realize how our presence in Iraq provides a sense of stability rather than discord amongst the various factions in Iraq. With some 130,000 troops and US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad entrenched in Iraq, the various factions within Iraq are able to avoid fighting for power and push forward in forming a national unity government than fighting a a Civil War(Contrary to what the MSM claims). Our presence also helps in providing the Iraqi military and security with a much needed helping hand in securing their country. One could only imagine what shape that Iraq would be in if they didn't have our troops filling the void as their army and security forces come online after spending some time getting professional counter-terrorism training and techniques from our soldiers.

All in all, no-one is happy in having another nation occupying their territory but the folks in Iraq are also well aware of what their nation could turn into if our forces just up and quit. Now folks will still argue that all these things are good and well but is still a adventure of pure fantasy for a predominately Christian and Western society to even think that about getting bogged down in a Muslim society but I guess they forgot that we've been achieving great success in keeping the peace between various factions in the Muslim heavy Kosovo. Luckily, Bloomberg columnists Amity Shlaes has written a good column on how the presence of US troops provide a sense of security and serves as an honest broker for the people of Kosovo. Here's a sample:
What's interesting about this powder keg, at least to someone thinking about Iraq or Afghanistan, is the broad enthusiasm for the U.S. soldier. I'm traveling with a U.S. foundation, the German Marshall Fund, on whose board I sit. We also visit Belgrade -- a Serb city where yellow construction equipment is still pushing around rubble from the months of bombs that NATO dropped on the city.

We discover that the experience has not damped the faith in the GI. How long must the U.S. stay in Kosovo, we ask? ``At least 10 or 15 years,'' says one Serb official. Can NATO go? ``Not now,'' says another. Firmest of all is the foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro, Serbian Vuk Draskovic, who says: ``Americans must stay there.''

Serbians and Kosovars long for entry into the European Union; that's their plan for economic stability. But they look to the U.S. for military support, and one senses, a cultural and economic presence.

`Slow and Slower'

One member of our group, thinking of the ``troops-out'' mood at home, asks whether Europeans soldiers might replace American ones in Kosovo. No, the reply comes again. ``Europeans are good fellows,'' one official says. ``They operate in two speeds. Slow and slower.''
Now Kosovo is probably not at the scale of Iraq but it does demonstrate that their is still hope in Iraq as long as our troops stay and finish the job. Maybe those folks who write and say "Let's get out, the faster the better," should take a look.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Illegal Immigration vs An Invasion

Fire of Liberty

Jonathan V. Last has a good piece over at the Weekly Standard that notes that while we have a big problem with illegal immigrants crossing our borders and inhabiting our various cities along the border and in the South-West, it pales in comparison to the immigration problems that our friends in Europe are currently confronted with. While we're worried about illegal aliens taking our jobs or causing a great burden on tax payers (free education, healthcare, and public assistance), the folks of Europe are be inundated with immigrants from Northern Africa, who are slowly but surely transforming European society and culture from a predominately Christian and Western society(500 years and going) into a predominately Muslim society much like they ones that they left behind. I think Last pretty much makes our complaints about immigration look like child's play compared to the Europeans when he notes:
That's not nothing, but, still, it could be much, worse. Demographers note what are called channels of migrations, meaning that particular groups of people tend to migrate to particular destinations for an array of logistical, cultural and social reasons. America gets Hispanics. Europe gets Arab and African Muslims. According to Robert Leiken, the director of the Immigration and National Security Program at the Nixon Center, Muslims comprise "the bulk of immigrants in countries such as Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Spain." The numbers are comparable across the rest of Western Europe, too.

And unlike America's Hispanic immigrants, many Muslim immigrants in Europe have conflicted feelings about the underpinnings of Western liberalism. In France, there are car burnings and clashes about laïcité; in Holland, Islamist immigrants have been making death threats against politicians and public figures; in Denmark, Muslims are unhappy with the idea of a free press; in Sweden, where T-shirts proclaiming "2030--then we take over" have become popular with Muslim youths, authorities are struggling to deal with the rise of honor killings.

In America, we have fights over bilingual education.

Yes, we have an immigration problem; but, as these things go, we've got it easy.
So at least we only have to deal with illegals crossing our borders to find jobs rather than to transform our society into the some new caliphate as in Europe. I'm still for curbing illegal immigration and support the House's measure on doing so but am not in a hysteria like Michael Savage or others because I can always point to Europe and say "at least we don't have this junk to deal with."

For more on Europe's problems see here, here, here and here.

The Rawness of the Crescent City

Fire of Liberty

Now while I'm generally no great fan of NPR, I have to hand it to them for their due diligence in keeping America updated on the recovery efforts and return to normalcy in post Katrina New Orleans. The only problem I have with NPR's reporting is that they seem to keep on finding efforts to lay the blame on the Bush administration or has some story or the other where someone is complaining about FEMA and other federal government agencies being lax or late in the response. (That's what happens when you believe that the Federal government can do a better job fixing things then the private enterprise, churches, charitable organizations, family, and state government(Well maybe New Orleans isn't the right city to depend on for help- The one defect of LA politics)). I realize that the folks at NPR are concerned about the fate of the folks in New Orleans and generally push an agenda but their stories and reports seem to lack the flavor and rawness of the Crescent City thus becoming a tad bit boring.

Luckily, Matt Labash of the Weekly Standard has published "Will the Good Times Ever Roll Again?," which is an extensive travelogue article on how folks in New Orleans are trying to rise above all the problems that lay before them and return the Laissez les bons temps rouler! attitude back to this great southern city. I might not tear at your heartstrings like NPR's reports do but I think it makes a much more powerful statement about human nature's desire to return to normalcy and optimism, even if the odds are stacked against you(At least that's what I got from it). Here something a sample of some of Labash's work that stood out the most to me:
Despite his pedigree, Kingfish knows the 9th Ward a bit. One of his several enterprises is a construction company. He's built homes down here, supposedly above the flood line, though as he points out, somebody missed the call on that one. They hadn't counted on the Industrial Canal levee being breached, which turned the whole neighborhood into an aquarium. He takes us by one of his houses, which has a pillow strapped to the railing, inscribed with Jeremiah 17:7. "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord." The rest of the house has been gutted for reconstruction, with nothing left but a crab pot in the rafters around the place the water line settled.

This makes Kingfish scratch his head. He doesn't understand why anybody would rebuild here, since it's proven hurricane bait, and the neighborhood was a crime and murder magnet even before the storm. This is a complaint I hear from both black and white New Orleanians about the city's largely black poverty centers. They are hoping their city becomes a safer place, since many of those who made it unsafe have taken up residence in other cities. Black city council president Oliver Thomas recently caused a stir, saying of public housing evacuees that are now residents of places like Houston, that New Orleans only wants people back who will work, not "soap opera watchers."

Kingfish is sick of all the media romanticizing of places like the lower 9th. "Give me a break with the lone kid blowing a trumpet on his porch," he says mockingly. "Look around, there ain't no f--in' porches left. That sounds harsh to some people, but they don't know what New Orleans is." It's as integrated as a city gets, he says, "the only place where a $2 million house can be two blocks away from your maid's." Spare him all the talk, he says, about how the city's entire identity is compromised.

New Orleans had problems before the storm, lots of them, says Kingfish. America just got a whiff of New Orleans's dirty laundry when even cops were shown shoe-shopping at Wal-Mart without hitting the checkout line. "You lose the 9th Ward and people say we're losing our soul. Horseshit," he grouses. There were a lot of good family people there, but it was also miles of urban decay which added nothing to the city. "Wynton Marsalis wasn't going around shooting people, being unproductive," he says. "And that kind of person will come back, and the culture will stay."
Now take what you will from it but it sure beats the hand-holding, "I feel your pain," reporting that comes from NPR. It's always good to see other aspects of the situation at hand.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Restoring a 230 Year Old Home

Fire of Liberty

Victor Davis Hanson has a good column out today that presents an observation about how the current generation is faring compared to what past generations have done in this country. To further his point, Hanson uses his current home and the home of five other generations as a metaphor to life in this country. I think Hanson put it best when he noted:
But the greatest difference is that those first four generations who lived and died in this house shared a certain tragic vision of man's limitations. Perhaps they lost too many crops before harvest. Or they grew to assume that optimistic weather reports and upbeat cooperative newsletters were hardly to be trusted as "intelligence." They considered the choices in their many wars only between bad or worse, and that the Americans who fought them did not have to be perfect to still be good.

Now this relic of a house has a TV dish on the roof and automatic garage doors. Yet otherwise it must look about the same as when someone, whom I seem to know but never saw, built it right after the Civil War. But while we can still recognize it as the familiar solid house of old, I wonder whether it would say the same of us now inside.
Maybe more people need to take a look at their community, family, and self and reflect on how we can reach the same heights and strengths that past generations achieved all those years ago. I'm game on promoting the "first principles" of Russell Kirk and the ideas of Professor Hanson, I just hope there's a silent majority out their willing to fill the void and prevent a further turn away from the wise counsel of our ancestors.

French Capitulation

Fire of Liberty
You know things have fallen apart for PM Dominique de Villepin's efforts to fix the high unemployment rate amongst the 18-26 year olds, when President Chirac, who supported this bill, dresses him down and makes him capitulate to the union bosses and the rioters in the streets.(I'd be wary of hiring these kids, who prefer to go to the streets instead of going to class.)Even his critics have started to pile it on the PM. Here's what the Financial Times had to note:
Critics suspect Mr de Villepin has fallen into the same trap as his hero Napoleon Bonaparte, ousted after leading France to military defeat at Waterloo.

Analysts, opposition Socialists and members of his own centre-right UMP party said he had tried to push reform too far, too fast, in pursuit of his personal ambitions.

"“President Chirac has told him to back down as he was leading the country to the wall,"” said Dominique Moisi, a senior adviser at France'’s Institute for International Relations. "“He tried to convince himself he could be France'’s Margaret Thatcher, but forgot he was only the number two."
It's rather interesting that the critics would say a man like de Villepin is following in the same path of Napoleon especially when the PM is a great admirer and biographer of the "Little Corsican." You'd think he'd learn about these faults and avoid. As for the Margaret Thatcher remark, the PM will never be like the "Iron Lady" because he's chooses to cleft to socialism rather than supporting the economic liberalism of Hayek and Adam Smith(He prefers small half measures.) and has no guts to stand firm to the militantcy of the French labor unions. To me the current PM has demonstrated that if he or his policies are challenged,in this case the unions, he'll take a beating and continue to bark "Thank you Sir, may I have another."(Animal House) I'm guessing that the government of France has just opened the flood gates and will see much more aggression on the side of the unions the next time a law dealing with the economy is passed that they don't like.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Fire of Liberty

If you're like me, then you've probably been disappointed about the countless films coming out of Hollywood that are just more remakes of the same films thus erasing any sense of originality that once was the gold standard of the Tinsel Town. (There are some good and original ideas but they seem to be on T.V.- Ex. Lost, 24, My Name is Earl). We'll it seems that a small gem has slipped out of Hollywood that seems to be an original and refreshing film, which is Thank You For Smoking. This interesting film is a film adaptation of Christopher Buckley's 1994 book by the same title and shows how the folks within the tobacco industry do what they have to do to promote their products while taking on the "do-gooders" activists, media and Congress who do what they want to do to completely eliminate the sale and use of tobacco within the US.

Now while we generally are presented with movies like The Insider, The Constant Gardener, Syriana, The Manchurian Candidate (The crappy Denzel Washington version) that presents all corporations as some evil incarnate that wants to control the world and do what it wills towards people, Thank You For Smoking shows the warts of both sides but presents a more libertarian plot line that advocates one's choice and discretion with regards to smoking and tobacco in general rather than the current "smoking should be banned" gambit.(For folks so used to calling people Nazis, Hollywood is more than will to side with the Nazis ban on smoking.) It's great to finally have a product that allows the viewer to think rather than experience two hours of an oh so predictable product of the Left Coast. If you want a more detailed take on Thank You For Smoking, then I suggest you check out Brooke Oberwetter's , great review over at Reason. I found this part of the review really interesting:
Although the movie doesn't stake out much new ground in the tobacco debate, Reitman delivers an explicit message of personal responsibility and individual choice that rarely comes from Hollywood and is almost never associated with smoking in polite company. Whereas the novel's version of Nick Naylor views personal responsibility as a convenient diversion from the unfortunate lethal side-effects of smoking, Reitman's Naylor comes to see that it's the other way around: The emotional nature of the health appeals obscures the importance of individuals taking responsibility for their own choices—and parents taking responsibility for teaching their kids to make informed decisions.

Ironically, it's the tobacco companies themselves that are to blame for letting health——rather than personal responsibility——dominate the debate. When the enormity of the lies the tobacco companies had told came to light in the mid to late 1990s, it was all too easy for the anti-tobacco advocates to frame the debate in terms of innocent victims (who were shocked, shocked! to learn that smoking was addictive and harmful) versus the evil tycoons who had sent them to their graves. The way anti-smoking activists continue carrying on about the lies, you'd think the tobacco executives were still plotting away——but the reality is that the tobacco companies are funding a significant number of tobacco control efforts in one way or another, either through state programs funded from the proceeds of the Master Settlement Agreement, or by direct advertising against their own products. This too is a nuance that the film ignores.
I'm looking forward to the movie and suggest you read this fine book as well.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Pools of Water

Fire of Liberty

Here's two articles, here and here, that folks should read to get a better understanding of the UN's World Water Day and the challenges that we face in the near future. Fortunately, these two articles provide a free market approach to these problems than the blame the "greedy American's" solutions that come out of feckless committees and conference rooms at Turtle Bay. Enjoy them with a nice cold glass of potable water.

Clear Vision

Fire of Liberty

Here's a good illustration by Michael Ramirez, formerly of the LA Times, that pretty much sums up the craziness that we see going on between foreign policy experts and the media. At least someone like Ramirez has so a good overview of the situation.


Hat tip to Peter Schramm at No Left Turns.

Beware of ETA's So-Called "Ceasefire"

Fire of Liberty

Now the socialist government of Spain might herald ETA's call for a "permanent ceasefire" as some breakthrough in the peace process but I'm guessing this is just another tactic on behalf of a gang of deadly terrorists to get the Spanish government off their back so they can regroup. (Let's remember that a ceasefire is a promise to stop fighting or aggression for a certain period and is far from a dissolution of the terrorist organization. They still reserve the right to resume fighting if they don't get what they want.) One only has to look at similar ceasefires announced on behalf of terrorist groups like the FARC, Hamas and Hezbollah in which they promised to lay down their arms and stop attacking their foes only to start up attacks some months or years down the road. The best bet for the Spanish government is to follow Ronald Reagan's mantra of "Trust but Verify" with the Basque terrorists, which is that they can listen to the terrorists peace gestures if they will but ETA has got to show that this is a true ceasefire and actually lay down their arms. My only problem is that ETA still looks and acts like a terrorist group when the appear before a pool of TV cameras and reporters dressed like this:

If they were really committed to peaceful solutions rather than blowing up cafes and people who they disagree with (They even tried to assassinate PM Jose Maria Aznar in the 90's. The jury's still out on this one and the government of Spain should be cautious to but then again we are talking about PM Zapatero, who is famous for appeasing terrorists like al Qaeda and ETA, see here and here just to get the accolades and votes of the public. I wish them well but wouldn't bet the farm on ETA calling their terror campaign to an end.

Foreign Policy At Work

Fire of Liberty
Andrew Ferguson has a good column over at that points out that while various foreign policy experts from the realist and idealist camps seem to be fighting with each other in the press and various functions about how President Bush is doing this or that thing wrong they seem to forget that the White House and the folks responsible for forging our foreign policy have been pretty busy. I'd say that after reading the following by Ferguson, we're in much greater shape than the experts that second guess the White House's efforts to secure this nation from outside threats like al Qaeda:
When those weapons weren't found, says Fukuyama, Bush switched his rationale to idealism -- the advance of democracy in the Middle East.

But anyone with a memory -- one unclouded by silly debates among intellectuals -- will know that Bush's rationale for the war was multi-pronged from the beginning.

Even New York Times editorial writers once knew this. ``President Bush sketched an expansive vision (in a speech) last night of what he expects to accomplish by a war in Iraq,'' said the Times in an editorial Feb. 27, 2003, on the eve of war. ``Instead of focusing on eliminating weapons of mass destruction ... Mr. Bush talked about establishing a `free and peaceful Iraq' that would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example' to the entire Arab and Muslim world.''

The document released last week, after three years of false critiques, tries once more to make Bush's case clear.

``Because free nations tend toward peace,'' it says, ``the advance of liberty will make America more secure.''

Even those who considered the Iraq invasion a bad idea on prudential grounds can appreciate Bush's attempt to transcend the false categories of foreign-policy intellectuals. He hopes to advance democracy in Iraq and elsewhere because it is the best way to fulfill what he calls his most solemn obligation: ``to protect the security of the American people.''

The idea is easy enough to understand. Only an intellectual could be confused by it.
I'd say that I tend to agree to with Ferguson on this one.

Waiting For April

Fire of Liberty

Here's a must read by George Will.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Guns Prevent Crime: Wise Wisdom

Fire of Liberty

Once again, John R. Lott Jr. of the American Enterprise Institute provides us yet another instance in which the possession and the mere brandishing of a gun via a law abiding citizen is a deterrent to criminal activity. The only problem is that it took a tragedy like Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans' police superintendent, Eddie Compass ordering his beleaguered police force to take up firearms from citizens of the flooded town, to show folks what happens when folks don't have anything to defend themselves with. One can only imagine how many folks who ended up being shot, robbed, raped or murdered because they had innocently handed over their guns just to be cooperative with the police during these trying times. As a greater supporter of the 2nd Amendment, the NRA as well as the occupant of a house that has many shotguns, rifles and pistols I can tell you that there's no better friend than blue steel in your hand to protect your family, possessions and you during a time of danger. I'd say Lott handles this argument pretty well when he noted the following:
Deterrence works. The United States has one of the world's lowest "“hot"” burglary rates (burglaries committed while people are in the building) at 13 percent, compared to the "“gun-free"” British rate of 59 percent. Surveys of convicted burglars indicate American burglars spend at least twice as long as their British counterparts casing a house before breaking in. That explains why American burglars rarely break into homes when the residents are there. The reason most American burglars give for taking so much time is that they'’re afraid of getting shot.

Even without a catastrophe like Katrina, it would have been a poor strategy for would-be victims in New Orleans merely to call 911 and wait for help. The average response time of police in New Orleans before the hurricane was eleven minutes. The Justice Department'’s National Crime Victimization Survey has shown for decades that having a gun is the safest course of action when a criminal confronts you, far safer than behaving passively.

It would be nice if the police were always there to protect us, but we don'’t live in a utopia and the police understand that they almost always arrive on the scene after the crime has been committed. What does New Orleans'’ Mayor Nagin recommend that people such as John Carolan and his granddaughter do the next time that have to fend for themselves? The city must know that there isn'’t much of a defense for taking citizens'’ guns; after all, it took them five months to admit to it.
It wonderful to see the anti-gun crowd falling on their face too bad folks in New Orleans and elsewhere had to suffer to demonstrate this.

EU Protectionist Busters

Fire of Liberty

It seems that the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, as well as Denmark, Ireland and Sweden are gathering steam in their efforts to call for the further elimination of economic nationalism and a return to Free Trade within the EU. Take a look at what the leaders within the EU had to say to the Financial Times about the upsurge in protectionism in the EU:
José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, on Tuesday urged the EU'’s 25 national leaders to drop their "“absurd"” talk of economic nationalism.

He said: "“By definition we cannot accept nationalisms. We cannot build barriers against each other in a single market – that would be absurd."

Charlie McCreevy, EU internal market commissioner, told French bankers in Paris it was useless building "political Maginot lines"” around a national economy – a reference to France'’s ineffective defences in the second world war.
I've never been a fan of countries in the EU dropping their own cultural, political, legal systems, and money under a single banner and constitution but I feel that the EU should be based on a common economic market that allows free trade amongst the various member countries like the founders of the EU intended it to be in the 50's. Hopefully this stand for free markets is a return to the true nature of the EU.

Continued French Obstinance

Fire of Liberty

Well it seems that the trade unions in France are so consumed with promoting their agenda that they prefer calling for more protests in the streets rather than sit down and have talks with the government on high unemployment. You'd think that a group that is so concerned about organizing workers, they'd be more willing to support a policy that creates more jobs and competition within the 18-26 year olds who currently face a unemployment rate of 23%. I guess this has a lot to do with a government that creates an enormous "nanny state" that holds the people's hands and allows the labor unions(They pretty much have the run of the country because almost all services like utilities, transportation, fire fighters, and police are still in the public sector and are heavily unionized thus they can shut down the country with a mere drop of the hat.) to have near autonomy within the nation.

The folks in these labor unions can keep up their games if they want to but in the long run their strikes and calls for further protests just show you how unreasonable they have become. This inability to see the reasoning behind this law will just result in the further decline of the unemployment rate amongst the 18-26 year olds thus creating a bigger mess. Here's hoping that the French government demonstrates that they are able to stand up to the unions and pass some law or they'll never get anything done if they come to another impasse like this down the road.

Taking On A Violent Foe

Fire of Liberty

I'm believe that if a lot more folks within the Muslim community would stand up to jihadists and Wahhabists like this grouping of women have done, then we'll find our battle against Islamic terrorism half won.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Dubai's not the Problem

Fire of Liberty
Here's Mark Steyn's interesting take on the whole Dubai Ports World debacle that erupted in D.C. this last month. Very interesting:
But Dubai, with less oil than its fellow emirates, can't depend on the global oil jizya. It's had to diversify into banking and tourism: These days it's like Hong Kong with an en suite Lawrence of Arabia theme park. Unlike almost anywhere else in the Arab world, it's moving toward a non-deformed socioeconomic structure. Next to Morocco, it's about the best shot at real reform among the existing regimes. To be sure, they're not hot for Jews and there are some pretty disgusting books for sale in their stores. But so what? You can say the same about Paris and London.

And yes, DPW is a "state-owned" bauble, just as King Willem III of the Netherlands was a founding shareholder of Royal Dutch Shell petroleum, just as Prince Maurits of Orange founded the Dutch East India Company, the original Royal Dutch shell company and the Halliburton of its day. In monarchical societies, economic innovation often begins with royal protection.

So saying "Get lost, Dubai" isn't a new steeliness so much as a retreat into an unsustainable bunker mentality more sentimental than Bush's liberty promotion. My National Review comrade John Derbyshire has been promoting the slogan "Rubble Doesn't Cause Trouble." Cute, and I wish him well with the T-shirt sales. But, in arguing for a "realist" foreign policy of long-range bombing, he overlooks the very obvious point that rubble causes quite a lot of trouble: The rubble of Bosnia is directly responsible for radicalizing a generation of European Muslims, including Daniel Pearl's executioner; the rubble of Afghanistan became an international terrorist training camp, whose alumni include the shoebomber Richard Reid, the millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam, and the 9/11 plotters; the rubble of Grozny turned Chechen nationalists into pan-Islamist jihadi. Those correspondents of mine who send me e-mails headed "Nuke Mecca!" might like to consider the broader strategic impact on a billion Muslims from Indonesia to Yorkshire, for whom any fallout will be psychological rather than carcinogenic. Rubble is an insufficient solution, unless you're also going to attend to the Muslim world's real problem: its intellectual rubble.
I just wish some folks in Congress could look at the whole DPW thing and the world in general like Steyn.

Education Renaissance

Fire of Liberty
As I see various stories and books on the nature of academia and its assortment of classes in which professors yack on and on about their pet-peeves, the evils of the United States, how almost every minority are all victims of white males but in reality provide college attendees little or no academic worth. What's amazing to me is the fact some of the greatest colleges and universities of America seem to be garnering all sorts of accolades for their academics but in reality kids attending these vaunted institutions graduate with little or no knowledge of history, art, philosophy, literature, and economics compared to what students learned some thirty or forty years ago. While folks can dismiss my argument as being just more conservative hyperbole against academia, they should realize that we diminish our hold on Western values and reason in general the more we stray away from history, literature and philosophy.

If we are ever going to ensure that future generations of this nation will receive a well rounded education within our centers of higher learning then we have to guide the boat away from the shores of nuttiness and back into the deep waters of humanities and history. Thankfully, places like Harvard seem to still allow a certain amount of sanity to exist within its ivied walls. According to a recent column by Suzanne Fields, Harvard Press seems to find the time to publish some 20 volumes on the ideas and works on the various writers, philosophers and artists of the Italian Renaissance showing that academia of yesteryear has so much more to teach our young men and women than the current dreck they are learning today. Take a look at what Mrs. Fields had to note about these lights in the darkness of what is deemed higher education:
What's astonishing in these revived texts is how they testify to the changes in attitudes toward what we should learn. The humanist writers saw the study of art and literature as necessary for teaching virtue and building character. In that sense they were "useful," essential to the critical thinking that produces the wisdom for the whole of society.

They remind the reader of how precious a book can be, an appreciation that is swiftly evaporating in the age of the Internet. Printing books was once a labor of love, literally. Cosimo de' Medici, the rich ruler of Florence, hired 45 scribes who completed 200 volumes in 22 months. "Gold, silver, gems, fine raiment, a marble palace . . . such things as these give one nothing more than a mute and superficial pleasure," wrote Petrarch. "Books delight us through and through, they converse with us, they give us good advice; they become living and lively companions to us."

Petrarch might have been writing about politically correct professors when he observed that the more educated men become, the more aggressively perverse they become. It was more important to Petrarch to be a man of character than a learned man. "If You [cq] choose to grant me nothing else," he prays, "let it at least be my portion to be a good man. . . . If learning alone is granted us, it puffs up and ruins and does not edify."
If parents are going to pay a king's ransom for their child's education then they should at least have the confidence that their children are learning something meaningful. My best advice is that you should seek out these and other books on history, literature, art, and philosophy rather than wait on your professors(You still have some that offer good advice but not as many as you think) to offer any suggestions.

A Phoenix like Rebound

Fire of Liberty

While the business community of New Orleans is a giant leap from being the Hong Kong of the south it seems to be experiencing a slow but steady economic resurgence some six months after the devastation of Katrina. This just shows you that no matter what kind of problems are thrown at the shop-owners and restaurateurs of the "Crescent City,"(An America in general)they present an overwhelmingly sense of determination and pride that we all should be proud of. So keep up you're phoenix like return and show folks what the private sector and individual initiative can achieve when given a chance. This good news sounds better than the doom and gloom of New Orleans that you see and hear in the MSM and NPR.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A Stand-Up Fellow

Fire of Liberty

Kathleen Parker has a good column that notes how much of a stand-up man Paul Wolfowitz really is, compared to what the folks of Air America, the nation and the left would have you think. Take a look:
I introduced myself and asked who in the room required security. They weren't in the mood to say, apparently, but suggested that I'd probably be able to figure it out. In a room full of camouflage and amputees, it was easy to spot a man in a dark suit casually grasping a Corona neck. I wandered over to the group surrounding him and listened as Isaac Serna, a 21-year-old Humvee gunner, described how he had been wounded.

The man in business attire was Dr. Paul Wolfowitz, former deputy defense secretary and now head of the World Bank. Wolfowitz listened intently, asked a few questions, then joined Serna and others for a group photo. And so the evening went, with the former deputy quietly making the rounds -- listening and shaking hands -- and lingering for a while after the wounded were headed back to Walter Reed.

In fact, I learned, you can find Wolfowitz here most Friday nights -- at least twice a month -- meeting with the wounded and hearing their stories. No fanfare or fuss, which is why many outside of Washington don't know about it.

"Here" is Fran O'Brien's Stadium Steakhouse in the basement of the Capital Hilton Hotel a few blocks from the White House, where owners Hal Koster, a Vietnam vet, and Marty O'Brien began hosting free dinners for wounded troops a couple of years ago. Some may recognize the setting from the Doonesbury comic strip, which featured O'Brien's after creator Garry Trudeau attended one of the dinners.
I just wished he had stayed on at the Pentagon but then again he surely makes a better president of the World Bank than the last chap. For me, I applaud Mr. Wolfowitz for his devotion to our soldiers.

The Youth of France

Fire of Liberty


I'm thinking you can't use economic reasoning with the rioters of France when they parade around in the streets with banners of Che that proclaim "Justice For All"(Found photo on NY Times site). I'm guessing the "for all" crowd is very limited and have no idea about how many folks that their patron saint in responsible for killing.

France's Future

Fire of Liberty

If you've been watching the news lately, then you probably know by now that in France the 18-26 year old crowd as well as their labor union friends taking to the streets of Paris and elsewhere to protest laws that would make it easier to fire folks under the age of 26 from their jobs. Now I for have said for a long time that I'm no great fan French President Jacques Chirac and PM Dominique de Villepin and their love of socialism that clenches to growth killing concepts of economic nationalism as well government sponsored welfare(And these folks call themselves conservatives) but with regards to the passage of this law, I have to say that I'm in their corner.

Maybe the folks marching in the street should calm down a little and think hard about the PM's proposals a how it is intended on improving their lot by trying to find a way to get the economy to start on a path of growth by making the job market more fluid by removing the large hulking permanent employment barrier from the employers, thus initiating competition amongst the 18-26 crowd(Unemployment Rate 23%). They should think about the fact that if they have a more competitive job market that makes the folks looking for jobs or who have been hired recently to perform their job better than the next Jacques or Delores in an effort to stave off the other person who's looking for hire from getting their jobs. They can continue to protest a law that removes a "you can't fire me" block off the employer and makes the young folks do work instead of cashing in on a permanent job but in the long run their efforts will only make life harder and push the unemployment rate up even further if they happen to derail they law.

The events of this weekend has also caused a lot of people within France and the US questioning the type of economics and education in general that young folks in the elite universities of France are receiving in the first place. From my take, it seem that a lot of these college students are being educated by professors of the 68 generation who rattle on about all the "rights" that everyone haves in France, even the absurdities that a lifetime job is a right, and how capitalism is the bane to man's existence. In fact, Thomas Sowell makes a pretty good argument along the same lines in his most recent column "French Student Riots." See for yourself:
The law can create equal rights for inexperienced young workers and for older workers with a proven track record but the law cannot make them equally productive on the job or equally risky to hire. Nor is rioting likely to make employers any more likely to want young workers working for them.

Estimates of the damage done by the rioters -- called "protesters" or "demonstrators" in the mealy-mouthed media -- range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to over a million dollars, thus far. They have also shut down dozens of universities, including the Sorbonne, denying an education to other students.

The heady notion of "rights" -- and especially the notion that your rights over-ride other people's rights, when those other people belong to some suspect class called "bosses" -- is an all too familiar feature of modern welfare state notions.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who supports the new labor law, has seen his approval rating drop to 36 percent. That is what happens when you try to talk sense to people who prefer to believe nonsense.

It is elementary economics that adding to the costs, including risks, of hiring workers tends to reduce the number of workers hired. It should not be news to anyone, whether or not they have gone to a university, that raising costs usually results in fewer transactions.
Now this law is a start on economic dynamism within France but I'd argue that the French have got to tear down the walls placed on their economy via socialism. If they would eliminate certain barriers like their 35hr work week, protectionism, month long vacations, high taxes and other welfare state policies, I'd say they'd be on a better path in knocking down their high unemployment rates and creating greater growth. Rioting will never solve France's unemployment problems, well unless you're wanting a job on the Paris riot squad.

Carrying the Fight to Our Enemies

Fire of Liberty

I have to say that Cliff May pretty much sums up of reasons for taking the likes of al Qaeda and Iraq head on when he noted in an Op/Ed in today's USA Today:
It's easy to conclude we'd have been better off had we responded to Saddam Hussein's threats and defiance with continued inaction. But Iraq proves nothing. The battle isn't over. We may yet prevail. Or we may be defeated —— as we were in Somalia and Vietnam and other conflicts whose outcomes strengthened our enemies' conviction that America lacks the will to resist.

It is disappointing that the CIA didn't accurately appraise Saddam's capabilities. But even Saddam's generals were shocked to find that no VX nerve gas would be available to them.

We also know that Saddam intended to restock his arsenals. And we know he supported and trained terrorists, at such facilities as Salman Pak — now closed for business thanks to U.S. military forces.

It's easy to say that if we had left Saddam alone, nothing bad would have happened. But how is that different from what was said for years about Osama bin Laden? We knew his intentions. We didn't take pre-emptive action. Don't you wish we had?

If Americans have learned anything, it should be this: When people say they intend to kill you, take them seriously.
Well said Cliff. Thank G-d we have folks like Cliff May and his Foundation for Defense of Democracies leading the intellectual and public fight against Islamic terrorism and its supporters.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Playing an Oil Game With Iran

Fire of Liberty

You know that the Iranian government is starting to make things worse for themselves with regards to their refusal to stop their quest for nukes when various European and world oil and natural gas companies call off energy talks/deals with the mullahs. According to Thomas Catan and Roula Khalaf's Financial Times article "Oil groups shun Iran over fears of embargo," these companies are being scared off from dropping loads and loads of money into Iran because the UN might slap sanctions on Tehran thus freezing them out of their oil and LNG. Here's a sample of what's afoot in Europe and elsewhere:
BG, the UK-based gas company, held preliminary talks last year with Iran over participation in a liquefied natural gas project, but has since abandoned the effort. South Africa's Sasol, which was talking to Iran about building a gas-to-liquids plant, has also dropped its plans.

European companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, the Anglo-Dutch energy group, and Total of France, are still ostensibly in discussions with Iran over large LNG investments. But the companies are unlikely to commit the huge sums needed as long as the political tension continues.

An official from a company that has decided to put its plans on hold said: "“Obviously, regarding political considerations, geopolitical concerns, it hasn't been taken forward because you can'’t make a firm commercial decision on things."

Iran badly needs foreign technology and expertise to maintain oil production and develop its natural gas reserves, the second-largest in the world. The country has ambitious plans to build four LNG projects with partners including Total, Shell, Repsol of Spain and perhaps Gaz de France.
Now I know that these companies are only in it for the deals and would be willing to work with the mullahs had the folks in the UN Security Council not been talking about Iranian sanctions but it still shows you that they know things are getting dicey with Iran. Though I'm guessing the mullahs could care less what the West does, they'll eventually see that all of the oil and LNG they're sitting on doesn't mean a thing when folks aren't willing to give them money(That's if China and Russia don't play some tricks in the Security Council)because of sanctions. Let's hope that this hit on their pocketbook creates some movement on the mullahs giving up their nukes but I'm guessing it'll require knocking the mullahs off their thrones.

Getting floored for St. Pat

Fire of Liberty

For those of you celebrating St. Patrick's Day, I recommend Sean Higgins profile of Frank Kelly Rich, who is the founder and editor of Modern Drunkard Magazine. With a motto like "Say it loud, say it plowed," you've got to notice that its an interesting magazine.

We need a Flat Tax

Fire of Liberty

While I was visiting my good friend Jason Crosby's blog Midwest Ramblings I discovered that those wacky accountants at the IRS sent him a letter saying he owed them $45,000 dollars in taxes because they claim a client payed him $96,000 for some illustration work (Even though it was really on $960). While Jason's problems is one out of the many examples of American taxpayers getting scary letters from the IRS who claim that the taxpayer owes them some G-d awful amount of money, it still shows you that this behemoth and its 17,000 pages of tax codes needs to be pared down a notch or two via Congress passing a more simplified tax system that has smaller rates that makes it easier on the taxpayers come tax time. Now while we won't ever get Neal Boortz and Rep. John Linder's (R-GA) "Fair Tax,"(See their book The FairTax Book) which calls for a national sales tax and the elimination of IRS, passed on Capitol Hill anytime soon, we could eliminate the problems with the IRS by pushing through the Flat Tax that sets out one set rate for all tax payers pay. I'd say that we'd make life a lot easier on the American public if we gave them a tax system in which all they had to have is their W-2 and a set rate on a 3x5 rather than having a nerve racking time in which you have to decipher technical mumbo-jumbo in the tax forms of today.

Now folks might say that such a policy is unfair to the lower incomes but in fact it's a way of poor folks rising out of their problems and not have to worry about bumping into a higher tax bracket as they move up the income ladder. Even better, they wouldn't have to worry about going to H&R block and paying someone to run them through the tax gauntlet before April 15th. I'd say that it's about time that folks in America start pushing a more simplified tax system like the Flat Tax in an effort to free us from the nightmare of tax time and let us get on with our life. Now while we haven't seen the White House pushing forward a Flat Tax system, we're seeing a movement within Congress by Senator Sam Brownback(R-KS) that is calling for a Flat Tax trial balloon to be launched within Washington D.C. to demonstrate how beneficial that a flat tax is for poor folks living in the high tax inner city of our nation's capital. Here's what Senator Brownback had to say to about the his flat tax proposal in D.C.:
"If people are given a chance,"” he said, "they will abandon the current burdensome system."”

The District, Brownback said, would provide a great real-life experiment with the flat tax.

"Doing it in the District,"” he told the Washington Times, "would give a real-world venue where we could witness what it could do for the country."

Brownback believes a flat tax would have wondrous affects on the District economy.

"A flat federal income tax would create more economic activity and jobs in the District, which would enhance the District'’s ability to raise revenue while actually lowering its own high local taxes."
If the leadership of D.C. would allow such a policy to be applied much like they did with vouchers, they'd discover that the taxpayers would see a dynamic growth in their income via a low tax regime. So for the sake of low income earners and the sake of people like my friend Jason, let's simplify our tax system to something like the Flat Tax.

Also check out this editorial in the Washington Times on Senator Brownback's flat tax prposal as well as Steve Forbes' book Flat Tax to learn more on this dynamic tax proposal.

African Bootstraps

Fire of Liberty

As you know from my previous posts, I'm a great fan of Booker T. Washington's concept of one pulling themselves up by their "own bootstraps" with regard to escaping poverty or going about your life. The reason why I believe this is that if folks within this country let other folks take care of their ever waking needs(I make exceptions for the severely hadicapped and elderly) they begin to develop a dependency on that entity and will continue to retain the work habits and attitudes of life that got them there in the first place. Well it seems we should also apply the same to foreign aid to places like Africa. Now I'm not saying we should cut Africa off at the knees with regards to AIDS medicine or disaster relief but we've got to cut back on just shelling out money in hopes that this will pull them out of despair. Some folks like Jeffrey Sachs will argue all day long that if we just sent more funds to the region then we'd pull Africa up but he fails to realize that this money just creates a greater sense of dependency within these nations and their respected governments thus they never learn how to fix their problems or find a way to set their nation on an path of development that pulls you up. While others might note that such an attitude is typical of a conservative but I'm just noting what other folks within Africa are saying about the problems that seem to follow their country as tons of Western aid floods into their country. Just see here and here for the African perspective as well as these here, here, here, here, here from an American view and you'll see that direct aid from Western nations causes more harm than good for developing nations. What the folks in Africa really need to do is to develop a well working legal system, open up their country to foreign trade(The same goes for the west), create a more open government, learn how to grow crops to become more independent, allow more private charities to enter their borders (they help the people learn how to do things because the "Teach a man to fish".) and above all else they should avoid the massive shipments of cash. The main thing that needs to be said is that the only force that will bring about a change and push for greater development is the people within Africa and will on do so when they see that they're the only group they can fall back on for help. In fact you can read such an argument in greater if you head over to the UK's Prospect magazine web-site and look up Robert Cooper's essay "The mystery of development", which is featured in the February 2006 issue. Cooper pretty much validated my whole "bootstrap" argument when he noted the following:
Historically, development and modernisation have been inseparable from nationalism. The modernisation of Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries took place amid the creation of new states and the growth of national consciousness in old ones. Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and Japan tell the same story in different ways. So does China today. Nationalism can be a positive as well as a negative force. The weakness of national feeling——not to mention the lack of a settled idea of the nation——may be one of the factors holding back both Africa and the Arab world.

Perhaps it is more difficult to be a nationalist today than it once was. Not only is nationalism out of fashion, but the temptations of individualism are much greater. Our postnational, postmodern societies are more welcoming to Ethiopian doctors or Japanese intellectuals than they were 100 years ago. We offer an easy option for dynamic individuals. In earlier times they might have felt driven by rejection abroad to return to their own countries to force them into modernisation. If globalisation is a barrier to development it may be less through the power of corporations than because more open societies offer a soft alternative to the people who might otherwise drive modernisation forward in their own countries.

The political nature of development partly explains why aid does not bring development. It is difficult for outsiders to intervene in the political life of other communities. Politics, like poetry, is the part that doesn't translate. Outside interference doesn't work not because it is badly designed——though this can also be the case——but because it comes from outside. The leadership that enables change in society cannot be provided by foreigners. The constitutional compromises necessary to create a functioning state cannot be achieved or sold by outsiders; nor can outsiders mobilise the collective national will to overcome the difficulties together. All these are political questions and the meaning of politics is precisely that the solutions must come from within.
Let's just say that if folks in Africa and the people in the West who keep yammering about "sending more money to Africa," would read the advice against doing so in the above pieces they'd pull themselves out of the gulch they're in currently. I'd also suggest that they also read P.T. Bauer's Reality and Rhetoric: Studies in the Economics of Development, George Ayittey's Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Africa's Future, William Easterly's The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good and a basic economics book and they'll be safe are more aware of the dangers of foreign aid.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Europe's Demograhic Transformation

Fire of Liberty

Check out this LA Weekly review on Oriana Fallaci's new book The Force of Reason. You might not agree with everything she has to say(I'm one off them) but she makes a good point about the change in demograhics and the culture of Europe. Very interesting.

Israel's future

Fire of Liberty

Marvin Olasky has an interesting column out today that provides us a view and mood of the Israeli people as the count down the days to its general election. It seems that the people of Israel have become apathetic towards politics and seem to be ready to put all their security problems behind them by picking Ehud Olmert as their next Prime Minister. Olasky pretty much sums up that after years of trying to deal with the Palestinians and their terrorist byproducts, the folks of Israel have thrown up their hands and have developed an escapist attitude which rightly corresponds with acting PM Olmert's strategy. See for yourself:
Many Israelis are looking for not only an easy solution like that, but for "a political messiah," as Paul Wright of Jerusalem University College put it. In this election, with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon present in body only following a stroke suffered earlier this year, they're not finding one.

Sharon was the Andrew Jackson of Israeli politics: Just as a teenage Jackson fought in the American Revolution and in the 1820s was a living link to George Washington, so Sharon fought in the desperate wars at Israel's dawn. Both generals were crusty, larger-than-life leaders succeeded by pint-sized career politicians, Martin van Buren and Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Olmert, 60, spent 20 years in the legislature before becoming mayor of Jerusalem for 10 years and then Sharon's sidekick and successor. Opponents characterize him as a political chameleon who smokes big cigars, wears expensive suits and shoes, and -- according to the Jerusalem Post -- "oozes political experience and savvy."

He's the favorite to become prime minister for the next four years as head of the new party, Kadima ("forward" in Hebrew), that Sharon founded. Olmert mentions his predecessor early and often, the way John Kerry mentioned his Vietnam War service -- 'Oh by the way, did you know that I am the handpicked successor?' -- as he speaks in front of Goliath-sized photos of Sharon.

Olmert's key message is that he will complete construction of the wall/electronic fence, bending it around several large Jewish settlements that Israel will unilaterally annex. He will then turn over most of the West Bank to the Palestinians, and Israel will become, in Olmert's words, "a country that is fun to live in."
As for me, I prefer that the Israeli people shy away from this "do-nothing, close us off from all that stuff" approach being pushed by Olmert and Kadima and choose Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud due to the fact the former PM knows the threat of the terrorists that surround them and has had a good run at turning around Israel's economy. During the four or five years that Sharon was tough on terrorism, Israel suffered little or no problems and would do the same under Netanyahu. One can only foresee how things will be in Israel if they follow Olmert's centrist policy, especially with Hamas holding power over the Palestinian territories. The Israeli might want to think about before they cast their ballot.

2006 brings out the Nuts

Fire of Liberty
As we watch Rep. John Conyers(D-MI) natter on about setting up an investigative committee to see if President Bush's actions in Iraq are considered impeachable offenses(He's convinced from his own "investigation" that Bush is guilty as charge even though Congress gave the President the go ahead)as well as Sen. Russ Feingold calling on the Senate to censure President Bush for authorizing wiretaps on folks in the US who are talking to known al Qaeda agents within the world(Which is legal with regards to FISA), they tend to be playing up to the left-wing activists and saying to hell with what kind of message this sends to our enemies. Now while no-one doubts that the Democratic leadership in Congress would love to see President Bush fall, they're also afraid of being tarred as wild-eyed leftist during the 06 campaigns, which explains why they've begun to distance themselves from Conyers and Feingold by proposing their so-called agenda of the future, which includes things like providing all of America's households with broadband within five years or proposing economic protectionism like Senator Schumer is calling for.

I for one enjoy watching Democrats running away from Senator Feingold and Rep. Conyers because it keeps them divided and worried about losing their base and getting the votes to retake the House in 2006.(The Republicans also have to straighten their affairs and return to conservative principles like fiscal responsibility, limited government, ethics reform(lobbyists and earmarks.) What's even more funny is that Conyers, Feingold, and their supporters who call for President Bush's removal fail to realize that if Bush is gone then they would have Dick Cheney as the Commander-in-Chief. As Windsor Mann points out in this piece over a National Review Online, the protestors are so busy constructing their silly signs and attending all of the rallies but seems to have forgotten to take time to read the Constitution or they discover that they'll end up getting something worse(in the left's eyes) than they bargained for. Take a look at what Mann has to say about the whole nonsense:
Whether Bush were to step down voluntarily or involuntarily is not a trivial distinction. A Bush resignation would allow Cheney to accede, while a forced overthrow could conceivably expel them both. When lining up outside the White House, did any of the demonstrators contemplate the line of succession looks like?

After Cheney comes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, and after Hastert comes president pro tempore of the Senate, Alaska'’s very own Ted Stevens, then Condoleezza Rice, Treasury Secretary John Snow, Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and so on and so forth.

Since Hastert has no apparent ambitions of higher office, groups like WCW and CCR face an obvious dilemma. If it were up to them, which do they prefer: Ted StevensÂ’ bridge to nowhere or Dick Cheney'’s highway to hell? (Bill Clinton'’s bridge to the 21st century is no longer an option.)

Those in the pro-impeachment crowd are making it clear that they stand for change, but only that. And thanks to the Twenty-fifth Amendment, change starts with Cheney.
I suggest that these people get to reading real soon.