February 22, 2006
Jiim Geraghty has some background on how the conservative blogosphere got scammed
So it looks like the AP and Chuck Shumer floated some very misleading comments around, and some big-time bloggers took the bait.
The controversy over this port sale have been driven by a great deal of vague, ominous and sloppy language thrown around by lawmakers, the media and bloggers. Had this discussion been marked by precision and a focus on just what was at stake, this would not have turned into the brouhaha it did. One almost wonders if the misleading language was deliberate.
Declaring that the UAE “has financial links to the 9/11 hijackers” makes it sound like the country’s government itself backed the attacks instead of some of its citizens; if that were the case, we would have invaded them.
Just what does it take for a country to have, as a New York Post editorial put it, “ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers?” The editorial observes that the country’s “banking system - considered the commercial center of the Arab world - provided most of the cash for the 9/11 hijackers.” Terrorists look to financing in Dubai for the same reason Billy the Kid robbed banks; that’s where the money is. I’m sure terror financing runs through Dubai; financing for just about every economic activity in the region runs through Dubai.
“Much of the operational planning for the World Trade Center attacks took place inside the UAE.” Well, the Hamburg cell planned a lot in Germany. Are we to distrust German companies? Does this fact outweigh the fact that our military leaders credit the UAE for cooperation and help in the war on terror, and call them “very, very solid partners”? Do we suspect that Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace are lying, and putting American lives at risk because they really want to see this deal go through?
Here's a WashPo rundown on the development of the story.
I myself would fault President Bush for many failings, but lax interest in security is not one of them. When I saw reports that Bush had "sold our nations ports to the Arabs," implying, of course, "Arab terrorists", my first reaction was, "that can't be correct." The news these days is absolutely full of misleading BS, so why believe this?
The more you look at this story the less there is there. We'll get hammered in the Muslim press, of course, only this time we'll deserve it.
Technorati Tags: Ports
A reminder on why I'm a centrist
Yes, the Left is insane these days, but its also good to remember that the Right has its own blockheads.
These people got rolled. Someone whispered a shocking revelation about the Bush administration, that is not the least bit true, and they bought it, hook, line and sinker. Then they ran to the microphones and put into the permanent record the evidence of their own gullibility and knee-jerk bigotry. As we get closer to the mid-terms, look for the Democrats to "leak" news that Bush has secretly sold all American children to space aliens to be kept as slaves. Watch the Right go bonkers protesting the "secret deal."
February 21, 2006
The RINO sightings has been released to an anxious public, and can be viewed at AllThingsJennifer.
The "Crunchy Cons" get some organization
Rod Dreher, an editor at the Dallas Morning News and contributor at The Corner, has been writing about what he calls "Crunchy Cons" or conservatives who have a bit of environmentalism and perhaps a touch of social ethic about them. Rod has turned this idea into a book and now has a permanent blog location on NRO for the Crunchies.
I may not be conservative enough to qualify as one of Rod's Crunchy Cons, but I sure like their ideas and approach. The new site features a "Crunchy Con Manifesto" (gotta get me one of those "manifesto" things.) Item number two summarizes the whole movement nicely:
2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
I think you could same the same about most of modern culture, not just the conservatives.
Personally, I'm whole-heartedly on board for most of the ten points, except perhaps for #6 and #7, which deal with reverence for the "Small, Local, Old, and Particular" and a suspicion of the drive for efficiency. I'm not going to argue against these ideas, but as much as I revere the old (much of the music on my iPod is more than 300 years old) I have a lot of faith in the new as well. I also like efficiency, but like any positive drive, it an be twisted to bad ends. Perhaps I am too technophilic to qualify as a true Crunchy Con.
In any case, the best thing here is someone taking a stand for the very old-fashioned conservative idea of stewardship and preservation. That the stewardship of the earth and its resources has become somehow associated with Leftist thinking is a mystery and a great shame. I would toss in concern for the climate as well. These issues ought to transcend politics, but, having been captured by the crafters of partisan "spin" have been terribly distorted and abused.
Rod indicates a suspicion of "Big Business" as well, linking it to "Big Government." There is some truth in this view, a lot of truth actually, but Rod should be careful to avoid the "anti-business" label. The environment and the climate have been unfairly characterizes thusly and it clouds the discussion. There is a lot of opportunity for business in the environmental challenges and also a great risk. Climate change is not good news for the agriculture industry, which despite lack of "coolness" is a very big dollar industry for the U.S. and others.
I have ordered Rod's book and will report on it. In the meantime, keep an eye on the new blog.
February 20, 2006
The angry extremes
Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University writes a short piece in the Opinion Journal today on the dangers of political anger. Brooks doesn't provide the source research for the claims he makes in this oped, but I'm not going to argue. The professor is "preaching to the choir" as far as I'm concerned.
To begin with, there is abundant evidence that extreme political opinions lead to the personal demonization of fellow citizens. Consider, for example, how those on the far left and far right respond when asked for a zero-to-100 score of their feelings toward people with whom they disagree politically. Political scientists find that scores below 20 on these so-called feeling thermometers are very unusual--except on the political fringes. Indeed, according to the 2004 National Election Study, one in five "extremely liberal" people gave conservatives a score of zero, a temperature you or I might reserve for Osama bin Laden. The same percentage of "extremely conservative" people gave liberals a zero.
Ironically, these angry folks tend to feel that they are more compassionate than others--while their personal actions tell a different story. Take people on the far left. According to the General Social Surveys in 2002 and 2004, those who say they're "extremely liberal" are 20 percentage points more likely than moderates to say they feel concern for less fortunate people. But this doesn't appear to translate well to a deep concern for any individual: This group is also 20 points less likely than moderates to say they'd "endure all things for the one I love." To some, this might support the stereotype that the far left loves humanity--but only in large groups.
Like extreme liberals, extreme conservatives are more compassionate in theory than in practice: They are slightly more likely than centrists to say they "feel protective of people who are taken advantage of." Unless, it seems, they are the ones taking advantage: It turns out they are substantially less likely than moderates to act honestly in small ways, such as returning change mistakenly given them by a cashier.
These results certainly square with my personal experience. I also agree with Brook's assertion that the number of Americans out on the angry extremes is growing, and that this is bad news for America.
A candidate winning a governorship or the presidency usually mutters a common platitude to the effect that they intend to be the "President of all the people." A few of the more centrist-minded might even mean it. Of course, it is literally true; G.W. Bush is the President for all Americans including Democrats. We know that they are unhappy about that, but the more interesting question is how does Bush, or any such political leader, feel about the people who opposed him in the election.
Does winning the election mean "it's pay-back time!" or is it a call to relax the ideological barriers and try to appreciate and integrate the ideas and desires of all one's constituents. I'm not so naive to believe that the highly partisan candidates of today will magically transform into centrist coalition builders upon election, but I do not think it unreasonable to ask that leaders feel respect for all the people they lead, not just those that donated to the campaign war chest.
There are powerful voices in our political debate who make a point of bragging their depth of hatred for a large chuck of Americans. I hope I am not alone in finding that distressing. Even more distressing is the thought of such people gaining power over the country. In the heat of a campaign it can be difficult to remember that the "other-guys" are fellow Americans, neighbors, whom we supposedly respect and even love. Difficult to do but vital. If the guy I didn't support wins the election, I am disappointed. That's natural, but I can remain calm and constructively involved in the community if I believe that the new leader takes my well-being seriously. But if the new leader openly expresses his hate for me, because of my religion, or race, or because I have tended to vote for people with different priorities and ideas; well then I might get pretty nervous, and be less eager to cooperate.
As bad as things are in the U.S., they seem worse abroad. "Sowing the wind" seems the common practice throughout the Muslim world, and we all dread the harvest. Our old friends in Europe argue over whether it is better to hate the U.S. for doing too much in the middle-east, or for doing too little. Being clever fellows, perhaps they will find the means to hate us for both.
I take refuge, in my less rational moments, in a happy dream about a candidate and a party who are not defined by hatreds and anger, and a country that tires of bile and snarling, turning, perhaps in boredom, to the "refreshingly-new," old idea of American optimism. Some of us can remember how the Reagan campaign in 1980 felt after a decade characterized as 'malaise." Are we too cynical now to be moved by such a corny approach? Have we become sophisticated like the Euro's, expressing the customary pleasantries and believing none of it?
As I said, it's just a day-dream, but it keeps me moving these days...
Technorati Tags: political anger
January 21, 2006
When its "liberal" to conserve
This week in The Corner, Rod Dreyer, author of the soon-to-be-released, Crunchy Cons, has been engaged in a mini-debate with his fellow Cornerites. Rod wonders why conservatives, and the Republican party, have allowed themselves to become the anti-environment party. (see other entries on this subject here and here.)
In north Texas, the environment is not really a liberal vs. conservative issue, but a civic issue. I asked Judge Keliher yesterday why she, as a conservative Republican, has gotten active to fight industry for cleaner air. Now, Judge Keliher is very far from the kind of goo-goo Republican you find in--how to put this?--wetter climes. She replied that for one thing, it's about health, and health-care costs. For another, it's about creating a good business climate--companies don't want to move to a region that's got bad air and the health problems that go with it. And then there's the family values thing--Judge Keliher said that she's tired of seeing little children around here having to run to the sidelines during soccer games to use their inhalers. All of these are ways to think about the environment that resonate with conservative Republican voters. If I were sitting at the RNC in Washington right now, thinking about this fall's election, I'd spend a half hour on the phone with Judge Keliher and talk about this stuff. It's foolish to let the Democrats have this issue all to themselves--and by the way, enlightened environmentalists are starting to realize how foolish they've been to put all their hopes on the Democratic Party, and are now reaching out to conservatives. All to the good, say I.
I have said before, that I really don't understand why the time-honored traditional values of stewardship and conservation of resources came to be seen as "liberal causes." Most likely its just a reflex reaction to the liberal support of some of the environmental causes. Some of those folks are over-reacting, misguided and probably more politically motivated than ecologically motivated, that is true, but to be manuevered into an inti-environment stance is to fall into the same trap that the Democrats have dropped into on the war against terror. Wen you oppose something just because your opponent is for it, you allow your opponents to stake an easy claim to some important issues.
There are ways for Republicans, including the conservatives, to work for a healthier environment and good stewardship of the natios resources, and do it better than the eco-crazies. Don't attack the cause, attack your opponent's misguided efforts behind the cause. (In the same way, Democrats missed the opportunity to attack the administration's handling of the terrorism threat and have instead become enemies of American security.)
Commonly these environmental issues get framed as jobs and business issues, but that is often a narrow and short-term way of thinking. Preserving one business blocks the development of another, and businesses, like the neighboring residents, will eventually suffer the effects of environmental degredation and depletion of resources. Note the quote from Judge Keliher above, "companies don't want to move to a region that's got bad air and the health problems that go with it."
When you deplete your fisheries, the whole region loses jobs, when you draw down your aquifers, the local economy suffers, when resident realize that the the air and water in the town hur ttheir children, land values collapse. The west is filled with ghost towns where at one time unquestioned pro-business politics was practiced. Good businesses, long-lasting businesses, need political leaders who are sensible and capable stewards, not brainless yes-men.
Technorati Tags: Environment
January 20, 2006
Losing for the cause
Armed Liberal takes on an easy target, the California Republican Party. It is hard to imagine that this is the state that produced Ronald Reagan, the trends have all been towards the Democrats for some time, not due to any brilliance from the Democrats. The Republicans in this state are quite pleased to lose an election in order to remain ideologically pure. I put that question a while back to the party chairman and got that answer. They have long seen their mission to "represent conservatism" and not to "win elections." The truth is, being out-of-office is a comfortable gig. The big donors toss money your way, and you have little responsibility, you just oppose. Being in-office is hard work, especially in California, and tends to lead one into compromises and deals that upset the ideologues. "What's the point in winning", one said, "if you have to abandon your beliefs?" Why they cannot make deals in the legislature and still hold on to their beliefs I cannot say, but clearly the idea of making good policy that includes most but not all of your platform is not appealing to some folks.
The issue now is our current governor's willingness to work with people in the other party (you know, the one with the overwhelming majority.) Having blundered into victory they are eager to get back to their losing ways. Here's how Armed Liberal put it.
Here's the deal, Republicans. You've managed, in a historic accident, to elect a moderate to the governorship of California, a state where the money and concentration of votes are still in the deep blue Bay Area and core of Los Angeles. The likely candidates that will replace him are both liberals.
Either you share the Kossak's delusional belief that everyone secretly agrees with you, and that the masses, once led by your revolutionary ardor, will rise up!...or you just like getting your asses kicked.
I'm beginning to hope they do push Arnold out and he runs instead as an independent, or third party candidate. The Democrats would likely win a three-way, but Arnold could certainly out poll the loser these folks will run. Remember, this is the team that allowed Barbara Boxer into the Senate. A three-way could be nicely destabilizing. Make things interesting, that's for sure.
(And...speaking of delusional..how 'bout them House Republicans? They're going to abandon leadership and it isn't even about ideology! Just money and influence. Wow!
Technorati Tags: Schwarzenegger
January 17, 2006
Does the House leadership race matter?
NZ.Bear, of The Truth Laid Bear, has hosted a petition from what they describe as "Center-Right" bloggers to support a program of real reform in the House leadership. Rusty Shackleford of My Pet Jawa fame, has a counterproposal. Rusty feels that the premise behind Bear's petition is "silly and meaningless." If I am understanding him properly, he feels that influence and corruption are just not important, as long as they (the Congress) are doing the right things, "right things" in this case, being the policies that Rusty supports. It's not such a radical idea, I suppose. If I can put words into Rusty's mouth, he is saying, "what do I care if they get some lobbyist to pay for things, as long as they take care of the country's problems." Of course, on The Jawa Report he says it a bit more colorfully...
Give me 435 unethical, whoremongering, immoral, back room elected Congressman committed to limited government. Keep your transparency. I will gladly let my Congressman get away with just about anything in exchange for protecting me from the bad guys of the world and keeping his grubby paws out of my pockets. Let their paws remain in the pockets of whoever is trying to bribe them. Better their's than mine.
That quote is a bit unfair. It's the punchy soundbite of the piece, but Rusty's argument is a bit more "nuanced" than that. He argues that the current scandal grossly exaggerates the level of "corruption" involved, pointing out that these Representatives did not pocket money themselves, they spent it. Of course, they spent it assuring their own vise-like grip on power, so it's not like they used it to feed the starving.
What Rusty wants is a creature that does not exist, or is exceedingly rare. Politico's who are "immoral, back-room-elected" do not care about "limited government" except as a buzz-phrase for the stump speech. In office they care only for their own immoral backsides and the people in that back-room. You want to know why a supposedly conservative Congress can spend like a drunk? It's because they are drunk, drunk on lobby money and such.
Despite the regular calls to "throw the bums out!", there is virtually no overturn of incumbents these days. Voters are eager to see "the bums" turned out, but are equally sure that their guy is not one of the bums. Congresspeople are much nicer in person than their reputation would have you believe, and they work hard (their staffs work insanely hard). Americans generally do not send corrupt people to Congress, but the system that has evolved in Washington is terribly corrupting. People who ought to know better slowly get drawn into actions and behaviors and relationships that shame them. Some wake-up to it and quit. Others slowly change while the old friends at home wonder what happened to their champion.
And even if the Abramoff scandal is not all that real a crisis, perception matters a lot in politics. The other problem with the unethical and immoral is that they are eventually unelectable. Cleaning up the House leadership will not assure that the House will be "committed to winning the war on terror and getting the hell out of [Rusty's] life" (and mine), that's true, but failure to do so will assure that they won't be, 'cause they will be Democrats.
I don't know enough about Shadegg to support him with reasoning beyond the fact that he is new on the scene and an underdog. I suspect he's much more conservative than I, but there is no use wishing for a centrist majority leader, it isn't going to happen. Anything that upsets the overly comfortable applecart of the old leadership pleases me.
January 13, 2006
An appeal from center-right bloggers
Illness and other issues have kept me away from the blog for a while, but this is worth coming back for. NZBear and a crowd of distinguished bloggers from the right and center-ish part of the 'sphere have posted an online petition asking the House Republicans to find some backbone and try a bit of meaningful reform. I'm pleased to be able to add this blog to the list.
But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.
As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.
Follow the link above to add your voice. We may not have much influence, but at least we are speaking up.
November 17, 2005
Senate Republicans in Flight, an explanation?
I've spent days pondering what could possibly have convinced the Senate Republicans the way to respond to public concern over Iraq by cut and run. Golly, that's a real confidence booster! For a bit I figured that they needed to invest in some scientifically designed tin-foil hats, to protect themselves against the mind-control rays that were evidently being used by the Democrats, but now I think I have a more realistic explanation.
I wonder if this was not a defensive maneuver for the mid-term elections. Should things go poorly in Iraq, these Senators will have a CYA vote on record to use to deflect their opponent's claims that they were doing nothing to prevent the disaster. If things go well in Iraq, this vote will have faded into memory, and anyway, the Democrats are not likely to use it against them. I wonder if they were not "hedging their bets' a bit in case the war becomes an even more potent campaign weapon.
If that's the reason, their lack of courage is disheartening, if not entirely unexpected. Even if that is not the reason, there is a strong smell of cowardice in this action. But then, not that I want to defend these cravens, but it is the lack of stomach among the U.S. electorate that is the root source. Still, a sorry performance for the Senate Republicans (with the obvious exception of those who voted against the resolution, and recognizing that, as a Californian, I ought to be careful about criticizing any Republican that has actually won an election)