Monday, May 28, 2007

Cindy Finally Get It

Cindy Sheehan celebrated Memorial Day by retiring from the anti-war movement. On her way out she posted a scathing rebuke to the Democrats. Her complaints include that they were mainly interested in her while she was attacking the Republicans. When she started doing the same to the Democrats they lost interest in her. She even noticed that the "Democratic Underground" is partisan.

No kidding. Cindy originally got attention when she camped out near Bush's farm. She was demanding that he meet with her and explain what grand reason her son Casey died for. The press gave her a lot of coverage and the left drooled over her. Here was someone who came across as an ordinary woman motivated by understandable outrage. Pundits announced that she had moral authority over the President. She quickly became the face of the anti-war movement.

Then the Summer ended. Camp Casey was dissolved. Cindy had served her purpose. She no longer had the press lining up to cover her.

Worse, her real politics came out. An old email surfaced indicating that she was anti-Israel and possibly anti-semitic. She started hugging anyone who was anti-Bush including neo-communist Hugo Chavez. By this point she was no longer someone who helped the Democrats.

Then the Democrats took over Congress. This is where they broke completely with Cindy. She is anti-war. They are against "Bush's war" but they also have to look at the bigger picture. If they pass an immediate surrender resolution they will lose a lot of support.

The surprising thing is that it took until now for Cindy to recognize all of this.

Plus, Cindy discovered that the anti-war movement is as much about personalities as anything. Again, this is true of any ideological movement.

It is probably a measure of Cindy's devotion to her cause that she managed to ignore reality as long as she did.

This, along with the recent compromise on the emergency funding bill, is good news for President Bush. For the last three years the anti-war movement made common cause with the Democrats on the basis of Bush hatred. Now that is no longer enough. The anti-war Democrats are not strong enough to force an end to the war. The anti-war people cannot forgive them for this. The anti-war movement is collapsing on itself. That makes Bush stronger.

Possibly it will give him enough time to actually win the war, or at least make enough progress as to make withdrawal undesirable.

A Free Press?

There were protests this weekend in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez pulled the broadcasting license from the nation's most popular TV station because it consistently spoke against him.

The Senate Foreign Relations committee has passed a resolution condemning this action and, to their credit, both senators Clinton and Obama voted for it.

One wonders how the senators feel about freedom of the press in their own country? For some time the Democrats have been hoping to revive the Fairness Doctrine. This required that equal time be given to both political sides. Under this, a radio station could lose its license for carrying Rush Limbaugh unless it also carried an equal number of hours of Air America programming.

Liberals say that this is needed to bring balance back to AM radio. At least, that's what they say in public. In private they call this the Flush Rush Act and admit that their aim is to break up a conservative power base.

How is this different from the actions of Hugo Chavez? In both cases, a political party is taking action against broadcasters for giving a voice to the opposition. Granted, the Fairness Doctrine has not actually passed yet and is not likely to survive a presidential veto. On the other hand, if the Democrats take the White House and hold onto Congress then this measure is a near certainty which brings us back to Chavez.

They should think twice, maybe three times, before foisting this on the public. As the Heritage Foundation points out, the original Fairness Doctrine was used by both sides to silence their opponents. Neither side should be trusted with this much power. It is too likely to be abused.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Olbermann Over the Top

MSNBC Countdown's Keith Olbermann is easily outraged. When this happens he does a special commentary, often with bits of spittle flying from his mouth and often containing the words, "How dare you?" A few weeks ago he launched one of these at Condi Rice after she made a Nazi reference to Saddam Husein. Olbermann pointed out that Iraq was no Nazi Germany. Ok, Condi's off-the-cuff statement was a bit of a stretch although not on the scale Olbermann would have it.

Dr. Rice spoke 42 words. She may have made more mistakes in them, than did the President in his State of the Union Address in 2003.

There is, obviously, no mistaking Saddam Hussein for a human being, but nor is there any mistaking him for Adolf Hitler.

Invoking the German dictator who subjugated Europe; who tried to annihilate the Jews; who sought to overtake the World -- is not just in the poorest of taste, but in its hyperbole, it insults not merely the victims of the Third Reich, but those in this country who fought it. And, defeated it.

Saddam Hussein… was not Adolf Hitler.

More recently he wrote about Congress's compromise on the emergency funding resolution for the troops in Iraq. After more than three months of posturing, Congress passed a measure that does not end the war. Everyone should have seen this coming from the beginning. Bush made it clear that he would not accept any bill that set a timetable for withdrawing the troops and the anti-war Democrats do ot have enough votes to override a veto. Congress only had three possible resolutions - continue to stall and be accused of abandoning the troops, refusing to pass legislation without a demand for withdrawal (which again would open them to accusations of abandoning the troops) or to pass the law that Bush asked for from the beginning.

Olberman must have seen this but instead he did a commentary accusing the entire government of betraying the American people.

The interesting part is here:
"We seem to be very near the bleak choice between war and shame," Winston Churchill wrote to Lord Moyne in the days after the British signed the Munich accords with Germany in 1938. "My feeling is that we shall choose shame, and then have war thrown in, a little later…"

That's what this is for the Democrats, isn't it?

Their "Neville Chamberlain moment" before the Second World War.
All that's missing is the landing at the airport, with the blinkered leader waving a piece of paper which he naively thought would guarantee "peace in our time," but which his opponent would ignore with deceit.
The Democrats have merely streamlined the process.
Their piece of paper already says Mr. Bush can ignore it, with impugnity.

If I read this right, Olbermann is saying that the deal with Bush is comparable to Chamberlain's agreement with Hitler.

I could launch into a "Mr. Olbermann, how dare you?" but the whole Bush/Hitler thing is so widespread that he isn't the slightest bit original. A poster of Bush as Hitler poster was hanging in a BBC newsroom for months.

Never the less, Olbermann's objections to Condi apply to Olbermann himself. Saddam killed thousands of political opponents, some with poison gas and  killed millions more in his war with Iran. Bush has  He openly admired and emulated Hitler. If it is an insult to compare Saddam to Hitler then how can Olbermann compare Bush with Hitler?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It's not all about Bush

Jimmy Carter recently claimed that Bush was the worst president ever, in part because of international relations. Obama is insisting that he is the person to rebuild the international trust that Bush shattered. The rest of the Democratic candidates are saying similar things.

But is there anything to all of this? Not really, for several reasons.

When liberals talk about international relations, they usually mean two countries - France and Germany. Interestingly, both France and Germany have changed governments and now have more US-friendly people in charge. This was especially true in France where the opposition labeled Sarkozy as the "American" in order to discredit him. Instead, he embraced the title.

Canada changed governments a couple of years ago and went from anti-US to pro-US. In their last elections, both Britain's Blair and Australia's Howard had to run in elections that were seen as referendums on their pro-US and pro-Iraq war policies. Both won.

Even China has warmed since Bush took office in 2001.

So what's going on?

Some of this is a failure to distinguish between anti-American rhetoric and actual policies. The US is too big for the rest of the world to go off in a snit.

Some of it was France's Jaque Chirac. He dreamed of elevating a French-dominated Europe as a counter-weight to America's status as the world's only remaining super-power. This started years before Bush came to office.

Then there is the Kyoto treaty. Supposedly we lost the respect of the world when we failed to ratify the treaty. The fact that it was never submitted under Clinton is always overlooked and Clinton is never criticized.  Everything is laid at Bush's doorstep.

A common complaint is that we had the world's sympathy on 9/11 but lost it because of Bush. Again, this is untrue and unfair. Yes, the world was shocked and expressed sympathy for the US (except for groups like the Palestinians who were shown dancing in the street). This didn't really change anything. Within days, most of the world had returned to normal.

The problem is a side-effect of the well-documented Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS). People suffering from BDS tend to view the entire world as fellow-sufferers. Since Bush drives them crazy in general and the war in Iraq makes them particularly loony, they assume that this reflects the rest of the world's priorities.

The MSM which as a profession is heavily infected with BDS tends to slant coverage on foreign nations to match their expectations. This is reinforced by foreign intellectuals who, like their domestic brethren, do despise Bush. As the elections I quoted make clear, this attitude is not shared by the majority of the population, at least not enough to tip an election.

The point is that not everything is about Bush or Iraq. The Democratic candidates think that all they have to do for foreign policy is to not be Bush. If one of them wins, he will be in for a surprise. The rest of the world may dislike Bush's Iraq war but they strongly prefer his trade policies to anything the Democrats are floating.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Worst President?

Last week Jimmy Carter suggested that George Bush is the worst president. This is ironic when Carter's own administration is examined.

Carter is best remembered for the peace he negotiated between Israel and Egypt. While this was significant, he was the least important of the three involved. Also, the peace has held to the extent that no Egyptian tanks have tried to invade Israel but most of the violence in Gaza is committed with arms smuggled in from Egypt, a fact that the Egyptian government does little to stop.

What else happened in the world during 1977-1980? Three million people died in Cambodia. South America became generally unstable due to communist rebels and coups. Many of these were inspired by Catholic missionaries who taught "liberation theology". This held that Christ was the first Marxist and that his talk if heaven was actually a call to create a secular heaven on earth through communist revolution. Carter did nothing to stop any of this.

Then there were two events whose repercussions are still with us. The first was the Iranian revolution. This was in two parts. The first part overthrew the Shah and created a democratic government. This was in 1978. In January, 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini announced that he was returning to Iran. The new government ordered the army to stop him but, at Carter's insistence, Khomeini was allowed in the following month. The democratic government collapsed immediately and the current theocratic government was created. In a few months and with Carter's encouragement, Iran went from a pro-US government to an anti-US one.

A major news story over the weekend was about violence between the groups Fatah and Hamas. Violence between the PLO and Hamas has been going on in Gaza for the last few weeks, also. This is relevant because Hamas was created and is funded by Iran

Then there was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Carter's only response to this was to boycott the Moscow Olympics and to cancel a said of grain to the USSR (which hurt US farmers more than the Russian army). The invasion of Afghanistan started a chain of events that led directly to 9/11. Many liberals have tried to blame President Reagan for supporting the Islamic groups that eventually created the Taliban but Carter was the first to aid them.

No discussion of the Carter years would be complete without mentioning the US economy. Inflation was the highest in my lifetime - around 12% annual with monthly surges of 1.5% (18% annual). Inflation has been below 3% for so long that people forget how devastating high inflation can be to a lifetime's savings. Productivity was at a low point and unemployment was high.

It is hard to think of a president who had so many failures during his administration and whose successes have been so mixed. Carter's current reputation as the best ex-president comes mainly from his work building houses for Habitat for Humanity. His recent book "Peace not Apartheid" and his recent comments about Bush show that the years have not increased his understanding of world affairs.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jamestown and Christianity

I did a Google News search on Jamestown a couple of days ago and I ran across a complaint about the festivities (actually there were several but most were from Native Americans). This site WorldNetDaily complained that President Bush had ignored Christianity in his speech about Jamestown.

A friend of mine refers to some people as "perpetually outraged". These people are already upset over something and spend their time looking for justification. WorldNetDaily spends time and energy looking for slights to Christianity.

This is a case where there is no slight. Jamestown was founded by private investors with the goal of making money. Along the way they were given a list of goals including spreading Christianity (specifically the Church of England) but this was not a priority nor was it practiced until years after the colony was founded.

This does not mean that the colonists were not religious. They were. Their first act when they reached the Chesapeake was to plant a large cross. Shortly after deciding on Jamestown Island, they constructed a make-shift church from a large piece of canvas which they held a service in. Short services were held daily and long services were held on Sunday. There were harsh penalties for missing a service.

Despite these actions, they were slow to try to convert the Indians. When some natives asked why they had nailed a cross to a tree (it was meant to mark the English territory) they told an outrageous fiction about the arms of the cross symbolizing the meeting of the two cultures.

Because the best-known colonists were the Pilgrims, there is a tendency to see all English colonists as extensions of that group. Even the Pilgrims were not as religious as is often believed. Only half of the Mayflower passengers were Separatists. The rest were Church of England people who wanted to seek their fortune in America. The Pilgrims never made a serious attempt to convert the Indians. The Puritans of Massachusetts Bay did include an Indian school as part of Harvard which was to teach interested Indians about Christianity.

Like the New England colonies, Maryland was founded on a religious basis but it was intended to be a refuge for English Catholics.

The French were probably the most serious about bringing Christianity to America (rather than just bringing Christians). Catholic missionaries were given control of the fur trade through the 1660s. They used this to finance a series of missions. Other missionaries branched out from the missions.

Even here, there is a little question about motives. Many of the missionaries were hoping to become martyrs. One sure way of doing this was to be killed while spreading the word of God. This led some of them to take great risks, often meeting a grisly end.

In the meantime, the English at Jamestown were more likely to display Indians than convert them.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

America at 400

400 years ago a group of Englishmen on three small ships were looking for a place to settle. On the 13th they settled on a swampy but defensible island and started building a fort. The settlement was originally called James Fort but as it grew the name was changed to James City or Jamestown.

Our government is a direct result of this settlement.

It is unfashionable today to speak of American exceptionalism. According to modern multicultural thought, no nation is better than any other and anyone who says otherwise is a nationalist which is first cousin to being a racist.

I don't accept this. I think that America is unique and is better in most ways than other countries. A lot of this comes from our unique heritage.

When the English landed in 1607 they had no concept of religious freedom, freedom of speech, or the other freedoms that make upp the Bill of Rights. They didn't come here to found a new nation or even for religious freedom. They came here to make money.

At first they didn't The colony lost money for years. By the time John Rolf bred a form of tobacco that would grow in Virginia but was mild enough to smoke, the King had revoked the charter and made it a royal colony.

While John Smith and Pocohontas make a good story, nether was around very long. In fact, most of the colonists died within months of when they arrived. Those who did come usually sold themselves as indentured servants for seven years to pay for their passage. Once that period was worked off, they often had to sign up for another seven years in order to earn land.

By the 1650s, the urge to leave England for new lands had passed. Virginia needed a constant supply of new farmhands so they started importng them from Africa. Within a couple of decades there were so many Africans that it started to change the ethnic balance. To keep the status quo, they stopped treating the Africans as servants and kept them as slaves.

Through all of this, they still thought of themselves as English and stayed current on English thought.

By the 1770s several new ideas were popular in England. A big one was that the government should be responsive to the people. The colonies learned from England's mistakes as well as its successes. Freedom of speech, religion, press, and assembly were considered fundamental rights.

Our government reflects the structure of the English government as it existed in the 18th century. Where it had a king and two strong houses of Parliament, we set up a president and two houses of Congress. We also added a separate judiciary.

In many ways I think that our system is better than when the English system evolved into. At its best, the parliamentary system gives a great deal of power to a single ruling party. At its worst, there is no ruling party, just a weak coalition government. Our separation of the White House and Congress  smooths over a lot of the lurches back and forth that the parliamentary system is subject to. In fact, our electorate seems to prefer dividing power between the parties.The Democrats held the House for most of the  20th century while the Republicans held the White House most of the time following FDR. The Senate has shifted back and forth several times.

The American system has avoided or minimized many of the problems that have crippled the rest of the world. Our version of the European social contract may seem harsher but the economy it produced is the envy of the world. Corruption in the US is minor and punished when found. In most of the world, it is the way things are done. Up until the last decade, we assimilated our immigrants and we continue to do a better job at it than Europe.

Slavery may have been a stain on American history but we ended it a century and a half ago. It continues on many countries to this day. Other nations may decry American racism but many of them have a permanent underclass.

The English, dying of hunger and foreign disease 400 years ago had no idea that their sacrifice would eventually build something the world had not seen before.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Why I Don't Trust the IPCC

I was reading a new climate blog hosted by Nature Magazine. One of the early entries is about examination of the Hockey Stick. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is in the process of releasing their fourth assessment report. The Hockey Stick was the center piece of their third report.

I started studying history, especially 17th century history, in detail in the 1980s and I was rather surprised to find out how variable climate has been. The world was in a warm state a thousand years ago. Starting around 1400, a long-term cooling period began. Known as the Little Ice Age, it lasted into the middle of the 19th century.

This is one reason that I have always been very skeptical about global warming. It isn't proving much to say that the world is the warmest now that it has been in the last 600 years if most of that period was colder than normal. It is like becoming alarmed because July is so much hotter than the previous six months.

Then the IPCC released their 3rd assessment report with the Hockey Stick. According to the new figuring, the Little Ice Age was just a localized phenomena limited to the northern Atlantic. When considered on a global perspective, it faded into the background. According to the new figures, the world's climate was amazingly stable until industry ramped up in the mid-19th century. After that, the world's temperature rose like the blade on a hockey stick.

Global warming was proved by the Hockey Stick. The IPCC was so impressed with their new graph that they featured it on the cover of their report and even on their letter head.

But people started questioning the hockey stick. Where had it come from and how did it go from obscurity to icon in a few months? Who did the peer review on it? What about conflicting evidence?

For a time these questions had to be asked quietly because no one would publish them. Finally the dam broke and the detractors had their say.

It turned out that the hockey stick was basically someone's doctoral thesis (specifically Michael Mann). It was never given a vigorous peer review. It was simply adopted.

The IPCC has stopped using the hockey stick as a symbol. Their newest assessment now uses a blended temperature chart.

The IPCC gains some of their credibility from their association with the UN but most of it comes from its reputation as a gathering of scientists interested in truth. The sad truth is that they are just people. While scientific method is supposed to provide a buffer to keep personal opinion from coloring results, it has to be applied.

When Mann presented his temperature reconstruction to the IPCC, they were so enchanted by the results that they didn't stop to check it. They needed it to be true and it confirmed their prior beliefs so they gave it a cursory check and made it their centerpiece.

This leads to the big question - how often have they done the same thing with other studies? How often have they accepted work that verified their mission or rejected something at odds with their pre-defined results?

The thing about trust is that once you know it has been abused, you are less likely to trust again. That's my position on the IPCC.