Sunday, June 27, 2004

A Reminder

Jose Contreras.

Recognize the name? If the answer is no, then I'll tell you. He is a starting pitcher for the New York Yankees who is currently working with a 5-3 record. But the purpose of this article is not to discuss his pitching, but to shed some light on his recent newsworthiness. Namely, his wife and two daughters' defection from the prison island of Cuba. The reunion of a man with his family, a family which braved the dangerous waters between Cuba and Florida on a small craft with the prospect of being brought back to Cuba if they didn't make it or dieing at sea which has been the fate of countless defectors, is a beautiful story, and one that is unique for America. What other country do people seeking a better life and freedom think to defect to? It certainly isn't Canada and definitely not Cuba. But will this reminder of what kind of place Cuba is and what kind of man Castro is mean anything to some seriously derranged people? Not likely. What follows are statements by the rich and famous about Cuba and the butchering dictator running it. This stands as a reminder that in our struggles against communism, islamist fanatacism, and whatever else may confront us in the future, it is not they who will win, but us who will lose.

"[Castro] has brought a greater equality in terms of wealth distribution than I guess any country in the world today." - Saul Landau, filmmaker

"[My time with Castro] was the eight most important hours of my life." - Steven Spielberg

"He [Castro] is a genius. We spoke about everything." - Jack Nicholson

"[Castro is] a source of inspiration to the world." - Naomi Campbell

"Socialism works ... [and] Cuba might prove that. I think it's conclusive that there have been areas where socialism has helped to keep people at least stabilized at a certain level." - Chevy Chase

"It was an experience of a lifetime to sit only a few feet away from him [Castro] and watch him relive an experience he lived as a very young man." - Kevin Costner

More from Saul Landau, this is an excerpt from an article by Marc Morano from December 17, 2002 The previous quotes are also from the article.

'Cuba is King'

Filmmaker Saul Landau, an Emmy award-winning filmmaker who produced four separate documentaries on Castro's Cuba for PBS and CBS, including a 1974 CBS documentary with Dan Rather, thinks Hollywood's assessment of Cuba reflects reality.

Landau rejects the idea that Castro is duping celebrities.

"How the hell is he duping them? They've got two eyes, they've got two ears," he told

"Cuba is the king of all of Latin American countries," Landau said.

He believes Hollywood stars have seen the truth in Cuba.

"You don't have millions of homeless people in Cuba, you don't have 42million people who don't have access to medical care," Landau said, comparing Cuba to the United States.

Cuba outperforms the United States "when you talk about the right to food, the right to shelter, the right to a job, the right to a retirement," according to Landau. These issues are "less than rigorously enforced in the U.S." he added.

Landau also believes Castro's detractors have exaggerated his human rights abuses.

"I have not seen any evidence that he is a sadistic monster or a brutal dictator," he explained, adding that he has little regard for Cuban American refugees.

"People in Miami who are running their anti-Castro lobby, are, in my opinion, not representative of the Cubans in the country," Landau said.

"Cuban human rights violations take the form of procedural violations. They involve legal and political rights rather than economic and social rights," he added.

Landau did not deny that Castro's rule has included suppression of a free press and multi-party electoral process, but said like in any revolution, "they broke a lot of eggs" to achieve their goals.

He also made it clear that he is no fan of President George W. Bush.

"It's very difficult coming from the U.S., to imagine a political leader with whom you could have an intelligent conversation. Well, I guess you could with Bill Clinton, but you certainly can't with the moron that is in there today," Landau said.

Castro has a "religious aura" about him, according to Landau.

"When he comes into room, a wind follows him. He intimidates people by his very presence, he emanates, he vibrates power," he explained.

"I am opposed to capital punishment by any country, by any persons. I disapprove of Mr. Castro's executing. I understand that the trial was very fair, that the death penalty is exercised in Cuba and therefore, by Cuban standards, the trial was fair and judicious even though I abhor the death penalty." - Ed Asner on the trial, conviction, and execution of three men who attempted to come to America by hijacking a boat.

"We should look to (Castro) as one of the Earth's wisest people, one of the people we should consult." - Oliver Stone

"For Castro, freedom starts with education. And if literacy alone were the yardstick, Cuba would rank as one of the freest nations on Earth. The literacy rate is 96 percent." - Barbara Walters narrating her interview with el presidente.

"The worst that could be said is that, in Cuba, you were in jeopardy of receiving free health care whenever you needed it, an excellent education in one of the few countries that has 100% literacy, and a better chance of your baby sister being born and making it to her first birthday than if she had been born in Washington, DC." - Michael Moore in an Open Letter to Elian Gonzales on the virtues of going back to Cuba.

Congratulations if you made it through all that. Should these people succeed we will surely collapse as a country, for they are explicit communists and communist-sympathizers. But for the Contreras family Cuba is but a fading nightmare, as it is for other celebrities who escaped and now rail against the "worker's paradise," people like Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan. Hopefully when Fidel dies he will be torn apart so that no funeral will take place for all of his friends, people like Michael Moore, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton to pay homage and lament that they could not be as powerful as their departed comrade.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Beheading People in the Middle East

This is the common punishment for murder in such countries as Saudi Arabia, but it is quickly becoming the punishment of choice among terrorists for their western captives. It makes no difference to the dead people how they are killed or subsequently mutilated, as they are dead all the same. A gun shot in the head or having one's head cut off makes no difference except perhaps in pain if one is alive when the beheading begins. The point is to frighten the living with the prospect of being beheaded. It is not unlike Vlad the Impaler's efforts to frighten his enemies by impaling defeated armies on pikes and letting the impaled die a slow painful death which all would witness in one way or another, either by sight, sound, smell, or combination of the three. The news coverage and the sheer terror that strikes most people at the idea of having one's head cut off will no doubt have some effect. Whether the effect is to harden people's resolve or to make them fearful and wish to cut and run is not clear yet. But given the general decline in the masculinity of society at large, the unwillingness to act and not look back tends to suggest that more people will become weak-kneed as opposed to becoming more resolved.

I would suggest that we retaliate in kind. When we kill terrorists we should do everything to their bodies that is out of keeping with their fundamentalist Islamic faith. I'm not exactly sure what this would entail in full, but I know that Muslims, like Jews, need to be burried quickly and that they are pointed in specific directions (i.e. towards Mecca). Terrorists should not be afforded any of this treatment. We should find out what the most disdainful thing that can be done to a dead muslim body and do that to the dead terrorists. Use their own irrationalism against them. It won't stop them from their jihad, only death can do that, but it will show them that we will ruin their chances to go their afterlife when they are dead and that will count for something.
What the Hell is Britain Going To Do About Its Men?

A very underreported incident occurred a couple of days ago in the straits of Hormuz when the Iranian government abducted eight British seamen for allegedly violating Iran's territorial waters. Now the Iranians are going to prosecute these men. WHAT is Great Britian going to do about this affront to its citizens by a terrorist state that certainly has no right to prosecute its own citizens, let alone British citizens. Talk about emboldening the terrorists. If the British do nothing about this all they and we can expect is more affronts to our citizens and our security.
Giant Leap For Mankind

Private space travel got a boost yesterday with the remarkable sub-orbital space flight of "Starship One." For $25 million, much of which was contributed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, a complex and brand new space vehicle was developed and successfully put into space. NASA would be lucky to purchase the fuel for one shuttle mission with such a sum, let alone design a new space vehicle. Not to say NASA has never achieved anything, but one thing is certain as of yesterday's flight, NASA's days are numbered. Private space entrepreneurship, spurred by the funding of individuals like Allen and the consortium of groups and individuals who are underwriting the X-Prize (a $10 million prize for launching a man into space twice in two weeks through private means), is clearly what is going to advance man's exploration of space. The commercial possibilities of space, not just tourism and the novelty of weightlessness, but resource exploration and scientific experimentation are what will drive more flights, more vehicles, and more men beyond the gravitational bonds of the Earth and into the cosmos.

Burt Ratan and Paul Allen are heroes (they were already heroes for different reasons) and I salute them!

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Hopeful Signs: Israel and Iran

The Iranian state is rushing headlong into disaster and I'm not referring to an iminent invasion by the United States. Iran is developing nuclear weapons and is attempting to filibuster international agencies which are attempting to monitor Iranian actions. For the security of the United States this situation is intolerable in the long term because the Iranians could use terrorists to attack the United States with nuclear weapons. However there is another country under an even more immediate threat from Iranian actions, a country that has not shown much reluctance in the past to take unilateral action to prevent its enemies from destroying it. The country is, of course, Israel.

Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke reported June 19 on their Fox News show "The Beltway Boys" that the United States has sold giant refueling tankers to the Israeli Air Force. The timing of this sale is very encouraging and it portends good things because the only real enemy Israel has that would require such equipment is Iran. The Israelis have done this kind of operation before against another of their arch-enemies, Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The value of that hardly seems worth argueing and it seems more than likely at this point that the Israelis are about to do it again. It's unfortunate that we don't do this ourselves, but thank God that someone is going to pick up the ball on this issue. The question is, I believe, a matter of when and not if. Perhaps after the next round of meetings between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations, which is bound to achieve nothing, the Israelis will begin destroying the various sites that are believed to be the centers of the Iranian nuclear program. I think the true question is whether the Israelis will use nuclear weapons in their strikes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

By Michael Marriott June16, 2004

When I worked in Saudi Arabia as a technical consultant in the 1990s, my coworkers and I were astounded upon receiving our first paycheck: we actually were paid the full amount we had earned. Gross pay minus net pay equaled zero. Never before or since in my lifetime has such a thing happened. Since every working person in the United States deserves such a delightful, fulfilling experience I would like to submit the following proposition.

Let us together repeal the sixteenth amendment to the Constitution by the year 2013. This infamous income tax amendment was passed in 1909 by “progressive” republicans as the best method to collect government revenue, ensure “fairness” and get around the pesky Supreme Court. The latter had the gall to rule in the late 19th century that such levies on income were unconstitutional. Undaunted, the politicians of the era decided that an income tax amendment was necessary. It required four years for the states to ratify the amendment, which became part of the Constitution in 1913.

Hence 2013 presents a nice target date for the amendment’s repeal (rather then a year of mournful reminders, 2013 could become a jubilee year that strikes a majestic blow in favor of individual rights). Further, we all can participate in the nine year debate to determine if our country is to be truly free. Repeal of the 16th amendment would be a real and symbolic reaffirmation that our government is truly limited; no other single act we could possibly perform would so effectively reinforce the idea that America is a country dedicated to individual happiness.

Consider some of the travesties the 16th amendment has spawned in the last one hundred years. The power to tax has become the ultimate politician plaything. The progressive nature of the tax code allows permutations uncountable as politicos raise, then lower, individual tax rates. The tax code can tailored to benefit specific special interest groups to garner bloc votes. As seventy five percent of government revenue is made possible by this insidious amendment, great sums become available to wage war, pay premium prices for toilet seats and allow certain folks to sit and do nothing for a living.

Upon approval of the 16th amendment, a new agency was sired to “help” reticent citizens “volunteer” personal, private income data, the Internal Revenue Service. And such a service it provides! If the IRS suspects tax cheating it can: garnish wages, freeze bank accounts, seize assets and in general make life hell for its “customers”. Over the amendment’s existence, citizens of the United States have been harassed, hounded, and in some cases, driven to suicide for failing to pay their “fair” share to the government. Never mind due process, innocent until proven guilty or other such tripe. The 16th amendment horribly contradicts other parts of the Constitution, such as depriving citizens of property without a trial. These things make one yearn for the good old days of taxation without representation under Great Britain.

The diminution of individual rights is sordid enough but by no means the only effect of the 16th amendment. The income tax has served to raise costs on the very people made poorer by paying the taxes in the first place. The government is able to finance great agencies that cause prices to increase artificially: milk subsidies raise the price of dairy products as do a whole host of similar subsidies in other industries; medical care costs have spiraled since the inception of Medicare and Medicaid; housing costs have ballooned astronomically, in part due to government support of unions, underwriting of loans and special tax write-offs for mortgage interest. I could mention OSHA, EPA, minimum wage and a thousand other regulations but you get the point. The tax system often makes us pay twice.

Lest we overlook another point regarding taxpayers: they pay taxes so that others can have material things that the taxpayer himself may not be able to afford. Housing instantly springs to mind. Poor folks (i.e., unproductive folks) move into government subsidized housing while the hapless taxpayer struggles to save for a down payment, a process made more difficult by the act of paying taxes. Many persons work but have no health care coverage. Not so with those refusing to work at all. Still other taxpayers struggle to capitalize a business while their fellow citizens stop at the Small Business Administration for government financing of their start-up costs. Poor mom and pop farmers feed at the government trough to save their acres of land while a struggling taxpayer in the big city lives on a sliver of land called an apartment.

At the philosophic level there is something morally repugnant in forcing people who get off their butt and work for a living to pay for that privilege. Life can be trying to say the least but when one works, prospers and finally succeeds it is a travesty to levy a tax on that person’s “good fortune”. No working person should have to look over their shoulder to see where the taxman is hiding. The income tax system makes citizens angry at their government, and distrustful to boot. It makes enemies of people who vie to place tax burdens on their fellow countrymen. It divides the nation into permanent classes of the “haves” versus the “have-nots”, divisions that accentuate envy and ill will among the populace.

Finally I note that taxing income is hardly fair as it fails miserably as a barometer of who should pay what. With great envy (see above paragraph) I calculate that for the year 2003 I paid a higher income tax rate than ketchup nabob Theresa “Heinz Inheritance” Kerry (me, 20% average rate on income of 200k, Ms. Kerry, 11.5%, on income of 5.1M). Her fabulous wealth immune from government pillage, she smugly endorses taxation on others so that all below her can be equally poor. I marvel continuously that such a system would ever employ the term “fair” as an adjective.

Of course the income tax system is not fair, has never been fair, and indeed can never be fair. As the Ms. Kerry example demonstrates, our tax system is based on the faulty premise that a person’s income can be arbitrarily classified to produce a tax that affects all taxpayers equitably. A person making $200,000 in San Francisco may be worse off financially than a rustic living in Idaho on an income of $30,000. Net worth is the true measure of wealth, not income.

The solution to these systemic injustices is not to tweak the tax code so that Ms. Kerry pays more. The solution is to scrap the entire system. Anything that has had one hundred years to prove itself and fails to do so is, well, a failure. Dismally so. The efforts of our great people must be directed toward invention, business and improving life rather than filling tax forms, hiring accountants and fighting the government. Work must always be rewarded. So let us begin the fight against freedom’s enemies by finally making gross -minus net-pay equal to zero.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Can John Kerry Be Better Than Bush?
By Alexander Marriott June 11, 2004

Can John Kerry be better than our current president, George W. Bush? This question begs another, better at what? The principle issue of importance in the 2004 election is the War on (Islamic) Terrorism. George Bush’s negatives on this topic are many. Principally, he has failed to properly identify the enemy, referring to the terrorists as guided by a totalitarian political ideology instead of being guided by uncorrupted (by reason) Islamic philosophy. Some have speculated that it is this failure, possibly caused by his own religious faith (though this creates problems discussed below), which prevents him from attacking Iran, attacking “secular” Iraq instead. Tactically he has blundered in an immoral regard for civilian lives to the detriment of American soldiers, also presumably caused by his religious beliefs, rooted in altruism. I readily admit these are grievous mistakes and that they are all hurting the war effort, but in the context of the upcoming election what will be the alternative offered by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry?

It has been suggested that Bush is essentially a religious zealot and hence his running of the war is compromised by that zealotry. However, does this square with historical and current example? Do religious zealots typically care about the lives of people of different religions? Certainly no crusader ever gave any thought to the women and children that were slaughtered to reclaim the holy lands from Muslim caliphs. But in more modern times we are fighting religious zealots. Osama bin Laden subscribes to a religion than literally means “surrender,” specifically of oneself to God. Does he sacrifice himself or his followers to save Americans and infidels? No, obviously not. The point here is not to say Bush isn’t religious or that his religious faith is inconsequential to his outlook. But if he were a complete zealot he would be nuking the Middle East and extolling God’s name to justify the slaughter as would Osama if he had nukes and used them against the United States.

There is another ideology at work on Bush, and it is the same ideology that has softened up Europe and the rest of the industrialized “free” world. Namely it is the secular morality of socialism, which is also altruism, but it has different justifications in this form and makes different demands upon those following it. Remember that the zealot considers nothing save his own holy texts and anyone who disagrees is automatically condemned. Twelve hundred years of Christian slaughter certainly prove that Christianity is no more immune than Islam to wholesale killing of ones opponents. In the context of our current war against fanatical Islam, a zealot, as Bush is purported to be, might actually be preferable to at least get some dangerous countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia eliminated. Of course the downside to a zealot is that he would then proceed to convert, or at least try to convert, everyone to the same irrational zealotry he believes in. We would replace fanatical Muslim terrorists with fanatical Methodist (insert whatever sect) terrorists.

John Kerry represents that ideology which has feminized (for lack of a better word) the world. Whereas most countries used to impose the death penalty without guilt, most of them now prohibit it and prevent extradition to countries where fleeing criminals might get the death penalty. Whereas most countries used to have armies to defend themselves, most of them now have puny defense forces and rely more on other countries or organizations (principally the United States, NATO, the UN) to defend their sovereignty for them. These changes in other countries accompanied a marked decline in religious activity and loyalty, except in the United State where, from 1916 to the 1990’s, church membership increased from 53 to 63 percent. To give some idea of how much the country changed from the founding in this statistic to 1916, church membership in the United States at the founding was 17 percent. Bush’s religion on his sleeve approach is nothing tremendously new of politicians. Woodrow Wilson, a college professor who was also a practicing Presbyterian, vigorously pushed self sacrifice upon Americans and declared he would fight World War I for no benefit to America. (Bush doing some of this, though not rhetorically to the same extent has gotten nearly 800 men killed in a year in Iraq. Wilson got over 120,000 men killed in an almost identical amount of time on the Western Front.) The difference from 1916 to now, aside from the modest increase in church going, is that the power of government has been greatly expanded by irrational jurists, nearly all of whom were appointed by Democrats, to allow for expansion programs that were also pushed by Democratic congresses and presidents.

Bush has certainly failed to identify the enemy, but has John Kerry achieved this goal? No, in fact Kerry’s big critique of the Bush foreign policy is that it is unilateral and too ideological! It was Bush, for all his faults (which are many), who identified Iran as part of the Axis of Evil with Iraq and North Korea. North Korea is probably the least significant of the Axis, since the North Koreans are just trying to get Bush to capitulate like the Kerry prototype Clinton did for food and oil to keep their system running. Iraq, it has been theorized, was invaded over Iran because Iraq is a “secular” country as opposed to Iran which is a theocracy. This is so because of Bush’s commitment to religion. But, again, there is a logical problem. Assuming Bush is a Christian zealot, an Islamic theocracy is more of a threat to his belief system than a “secular” Arab state. Contrary to John Kerry’s attempts to make Bush look better, Bush is not a unilateralist, nor is his foreign policy very ideological. His foreign policy is run by Colin Powell, far from the standard bearer of the religious right, and as such Bush picked the country which already had a “clear” international reasoning in place to go to war. Were he a unilateralist, as John Kerry derides him as, he would have gone to war when the Iraqis fired a missile at one of our planes as they used to do on a nearly daily basis. A zealot would not have cared about international law or formalities; he would have gone to war immediately without thought for any opinion other than God’s. Bush is not a zealot; he is, unfortunately, much more like John Kerry, an internationalist who must beg permission from the international community before he can defend his own country. The zealot that Bush supposedly is is looking a lot better.

On the minor point of the supposed secular nature of Iraq under Saddam Hussein which is a point of some Bush critics, that he attacked secular Iraq as opposed to theocratic Iran because of his supposed zealotry and therefore paradoxical avoidance of confronting his hated religious foes. No Arab country that I know of can be characterized as secular by the understanding of any Westerner. Saddam ran, initially, an Arab Nationalist (fascist) regime in the model of Nasser’s Egypt, which is what the Baath Party is based on. Just because he ran a socialist economy, doesn’t mean he then accepted Marx’s condemnation of religion. No Arab leader could do that and expect to still be alive for very long, especially after the example of Anwar Sadat who was assassinated by Islamic fanatics simply for recognizing Israel as a country. After the first Gulf War Saddam threw his lot in with Islamic fundamentalists, putting a religious invocation on the Iraqi flag after his defeat and becoming friendly with terrorist groups since they represented his only means of attacking the United States. Iraqi intelligence was tasked to engage in terrorism, notably the first World Trade Center attack and the foiled plot to assassinate former President Bush. Saddam’s other terror activities included housing Abu Nidal, raising money for suicide bomber’s families in Palestine, and helping Abu Al-Zarqawi after he was wounded in Afghanistan. Note that Zarqawi is credited with beheading Nick Berg, and that it was not theocratic Iran that he went to for care, an oddity considering Iran is far closer to Afghanistan than Iraq. Iraq, while it may have been slightly “secular” at one point in its recent past, has not been for quite some time simply because a true secular state would not have an official religion and Iraq has always declared Islam as its official faith, as all Arab states do.

Bush has engaged in a morally bankrupt policy of sacrificing American troops in restrictive rules of engagement in order to prevent civilian casualties. This is morally evil, but is it true that this is entirely attributable to religious self-sacrifice? Again, it is not the move of a religious zealot who would never sacrifice his own forces to save his (and his God’s) enemies. It is reminiscent of how American policy makers fought the war in Vietnam. Dean Rusk, a man who admired socialism and former Secretary of State under Kennedy and Johnson, admitted in his book As I Saw It that when planning bombing raids against North Vietnam the Johnson administration purposely picked bombing routes that would take the planes nearer to SAM sites than necessary to avoid the potential of civilian casualties. I see this as more grotesque than even Bush’s policy. While Bush is ostensibly fighting a war of occupation in Iraq, and thus putting policeman rules of engagement on our armed forces (wrongly), those in the Johnson administration did the same for an enemy population. Granted some may argue that the Iraqis are an enemy population, but Bush does not see them as such while Johnson did see the North Vietnamese as enemies. While both are awful, Johnson was not a religious zealot, and either is Bush, at least in this particular case. They both subscribe to the egalitarian morality of socialists who claim that all lives are equally important (including murderers, enemy combatants, etc.) and that sacrifice for others is noble in all activities. Religious zealots don’t believe this, those who don’t accept their fanatical beliefs are an affront to God who don’t deserve to live. Bush is wrong on this front, but has Kerry critiqued this practice? No, he has uttered no word of criticism on this. Why would he alter it?

So could Kerry be better than Bush? Would he feel compelled, in the effort to be all things to all people (which also drives Bush, which is not the feature of a zealot who is uncompromising), to be tough on Islamic terrorists and states? Going by his own statements the answer is no. He has stated that, due to Bush’s “unilateralism” and “ideological” foreign policy, he will not do anything without our allies, which should be taken to mean France and Germany given that Bush already wasted months to get nearly every other major ally on board. Also, Democrats have a bad track record with being proactive in “looking tough” which John Kerry is all too familiar with. The Vietnam War was created by Democrats who were afraid of looking weak and loosing another country to communism like Harry Truman in 1949. John Kerry experienced first hand the effects of looking tough. He also has the example of Bill Clinton, who essentially did nothing to any of America’s enemies and was able to have a successful and fairly popular presidency (save for the disgrace of impeachment and his attempt to undermine the rule of law). There is no reason for John Kerry to look tough if he is elected. Bush has been timid in his dealing with the problem, but he has certainly been far more proactive than Bill Clinton who fought from afar with missiles. If he is rejected for John Kerry it will be interpreted, as the only way it can be, that Americans don’t approve of Bush’s timid actions and have chosen to go with the no response candidate. I don’t approve of Bush’s timid actions, but in the context of an election it is either some response or no response at all.

As for the hyperbolic talk of religious dictatorship being thrown about by some (which is sometimes unfortunately marked by ad hominem reasoning and irrational outbursts) as the logical consequence of Bush’s presidency, it is absurdist in the sense that it ignores that the other party is just as likely to start a dictatorship. Dictatorship, religious or otherwise, cannot take hold without the rule of law being done away with along with the remaining attachment to the constitution. Both parties are culpable with hastening the latter, but the most recent assault on the rule of law was made by Democrat Bill Clinton who broke several laws and conspired to obstruct justice by having his administration officers lie in his stead. This development was more fundamentally serious in the long run than anything George W. Bush has been able to do yet.

In closing, George W. Bush is not the ideal president by any stretch of the imagination. He leaves numerous things to be desired in every realm of policy, including that which is most important to this election, the War against Islamic Terrorism. He doesn’t identify the enemy properly, he has not been proactive enough in eliminating his own stated enemies of which Iran and North Korea remain intact, he has jeopardized American lives with foolish rules of engagement that give terrorists on the ground more of chance than they should have, and contrary to Kerry’s criticisms he has not been unilateral or ideological in his foreign policy as he ought to be. But to be so desperate as to think John Kerry would somehow be tougher on terrorism is ridiculous. He has shown no proclivity to do so and his party abandoned that impetus in 1968. Bush is not a Torquemada or Bin Laden, and to insinuate that he is somehow like them is foolish and ill-informed. Far from being a consistent religious disciple or zealot, Bush is a nuanced politician not unlike John Kerry. He flip flops on issues (steel tariffs, 9/11 commission) and is not at all a break from recent historical traditions in American politics, which of course are almost entirely all bad. But if George W. Bush looses it will be seen as an incredible mandate for John Kerry’s policies. This is so because it will mean that in the middle of a war, three years after an attack, after two separate campaigns that in the annals of military history (and even with the dumb policies in fighting) are nothing but phenomenal successes, after tax cuts, after the identification of Iran as an enemy, and after the proof shown to the terrorists that the United States is willing to invade countries to undo governments and kill tens of thousands of terrorists, we are willing to give it all up, all our gains, modest though they are for some fear of the future that is entirely unrealistic and unfounded.

Who do the terrorists want to win in this election? Can anyone seriously think they are more afraid of John Kerry than they are of George W. Bush? Though he is not doing all he can or should he is doing more than his predecessor and more than John Kerry thinks he ought to have done and more than John Kerry proposes to do if elected. As to the tactical fighting of the battles, this is a moot point when you have a Clinton/Carter Democrat in office who won’t even fight the battles to begin with and even if he were President right now, John Kerry would not alter the rules of engagement in any rational way. If anything they could become more restrictive and more closely resemble United Nations rules of engagement. No, if we’re ever to have any chance at all in winning this war we cannot take four year breathers in the hope that someone better will be nominated by one of the parties or that more people in this country will ever wise up in time to save it during these hiatuses. It is going to be either Bush or Kerry and, unfortunately, Bush is the best we’ve got.

Monday, June 07, 2004

The Mixed Legacies of Ronald Reagan
By Alexander Marriott June 7, 2004

The hyperbole of remembrance that follows the death of any President, as has certainly followed the death of Mr. Reagan, will subside eventually and it will be left to historians to analyze what it was he did as President and whether or not that had any value. The Reagan presidency, which was marked by many crucially important events like the continuing salvos of Islamist war against the United States by Libya, Iran, and Syria and the deterioration of Soviet power in the Eastern bloc and within mother Russia, is as partisanly remembered today as it was when it was happening. Republicans claim Mr. Reagan was the greatest President of the latter half of the twentieth century, if not the entire century (often deferring greatest status to FDR), while Democrats claim that while he was a nice guy, his policies were all wrong, which they are sometimes correct about but almost always for illegitimate reasons.

Ronald Reagan entered office with a substantial mandate for undoing the harm of his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, who was entirely unable to deal with the problems that confronted him, be it Iranian revolution and American soil being violated in Tehran or stagflation at home caused by governmental interventionism in the economy. On January 20, 1981, the first inauguration of President Reagan, the hostages in Iran were released and sent back to the United States. Presumably this occurred because Reagan was an unknown entity to the Iranians who didn’t want to risk having their infant state squashed. Whether this is so is entirely ahistorical, except by looking to the other terrorist acts committed against Americans under the Reagan presidency and then guessing what Reagan might have done. One thing is clear, conditions for war existed whether the hostages were released or not, and we did not go to war with Iran during the Reagan presidency.

The insertion of American troops into Lebanon to “mediate” the civil war going on there between native Christian Lebanese and Syrian/Iranian inspired Muslims resulted in the latter blowing up a Marine barracks in Beirut, killing nearly 250 American soldiers. It was clear then and now that Syria was directly responsible for this attack as it was the prime arsenal of the Islamic terrorists who were fighting the Lebanese government and later became Hezbollah and the puppet government that currently runs Lebanon. Reagan’s response was to withdraw troops. Certainly all military actions during the Reagan presidency were complicated by the Cold War, having to deal with Soviet protestations and threats with nearly all actions must have weighed greatly on all Cold War era presidents. War with Syria in 1983 would have been a tremendous international story because Syria, like Iraq, were armed almost exclusively by the Soviet Union (as opposed to the liberal myth that the United States was giving the Iraqis all their weapons), and who thus had a serious economic interest in Syria remaining a terrorist and totalitarian state. Regardless, any military action would have been preferable to running away.

By April of 1986 running away had been abandoned in favor of air strikes. Libya was bombed in retaliation for targeted attacks against Americans in Germany and the Pam Am 103 flight over Scotland. This response seemingly put an end to Libyan terror activities, but not to the source of the terror activities, Muammar al-Qaddafi’s government. That dictator was only redirected into weapons of mass destruction which he only recently gave up because another state similar to his was ended on that pretext, among others.

In the domestic sphere the American president is far more limited in what he can and cannot do, but he does have the ability to set the legislative agenda and propose a budget which the congress can debate on or entirely reject if it wants. President Reagan professed distaste for government programs, but in reality had very little ability to force the House of Representatives, which was run by Democrats through his entire presidency, to in any way endorse his wishes were he to push for them. Tax cuts were achieved after his election but Reagan assented to raising some of those taxes again during the middle of his first term as the economy struggled to correct itself from a decade of blundering policies by Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.

During his tenure in office many religious groups attached themselves, unopposed, to his name, image, and agenda. This included “Moral Majority” and the first groups formed by reverends Pat Robertson and Jerry Faldwell. All of these groups were born in opposition to a perceived assault on “tradition” represented in cases like Griswold v. Connecticut (striking down laws preventing the use of contraception between married persons) and Roe v. Wade. These decisions declared that there was a right to privacy protected by the constitution that prevented states from outlawing consensual sexual activity among adults. Religious groups saw the Reagan presidency as a clarion to reverse this trend and seemingly succeeded in the Bowers v. Hardwick case that upheld the right of a state to outlaw sodomy. This seeming contradiction was recently ironed out with the Bowers case being overturned in the Lawrence v. Texas case. The catapulting of obscure and, quite frankly, fanatical (and were they to insert Zeus for Jesus Christ they would be called insane) preachers to positions of prominence and power is a legacy the country could do without and with have to be exorcised over a long period of time and intellectual debate.

Ultimately, Mr. Reagan never attempted to get congress to dismantle the Great Society programs, let alone the New Deal. He would most likely have failed in this task, but even the attempt would have shown his firm commitment to freedom and individual rights in the United States and the rest of the world. His defense policies were ineffectual against the threat of Islamic fundamentalists. His build up of the military had positive results because it rebuilt morale, gave the United States a large force to deal with future threats and caused a slow down in domestic spending due to the large deficits created by the defense spending. The Grenada operation allowed the military to experiment with its equipment and pointed to serious problems in communications that were able to be repaired so that they would not cause mass American deaths when we fought a more capable foe.

Mr. Reagan’s place in the history of American presidents depends on how one breaks it up. Should one look at all presidents then he looks very poor, as most presidents do when they have to be compared to Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Jackson. If one compares him to his colleagues in the 20th century then he looks a bit better considering his competition consists of crooks like Warren Harding and Bill Clinton, and some of the greatest villains in American political history, men like Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. There are also a whole host of ineffectual blowhards and compromising fools like TR, Taft, Hoover, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Carter and George H. W. Bush. McKinley, Coolidge, and Ford had redeeming qualities, much like Ronald Reagan, and when compared against the other presidents of the 20th century they seem preferable.

But the world didn’t begin in 1901. This country once elected better men to office and getting back to those types of people should be what we hope for. Saluting the great men who led the country in its formative years should be given days of media laudations, not the persons who presided over the decline of this great country.