Thursday, August 31, 2006

Today: Wealthier (maybe not wiser)

. . . . But I ask: would you prefer to live in 1967 with today’s real median household income ($46,326) or live today with 1967’s real median household income ($35,379)? (These figures are expressed in 2005 dollars, by the way.)

Given these two options, I’d choose to live today with only 1967’s real median household income. The reason is that the economy today offers so very many more options than did the economy in 1967 – or even the economy of that halcyon year, 1973. Today I can buy cell-phone service; today I can buy cable television with hundreds of channels, including ones that specialize in sports, cooking, history, and science; today even the cheapest automobiles are safer and more reliable than were the finest cars for sale in 1967; today I can buy telephone answering machines (with caller-ID), microwave ovens, CDs, personal computers, Internet service, and MP3 players.

[ . . . . ]
Read all of his observations about today and see if you don't agree with him.

Why Do Americans Hate their Fabulous Economy?

I often tell my students and others that they shouldn't trust "the news." "News" of the economy over the course of the tenure of President Bush seems mostly to have portrayed a bad economic situation. There is a post by an ECONOMIST AT BACK TALK that illustrates why you should not trust "the news":
Polls consistently show that Americans are rather negative about the economy, and many have wondered why that might be considering that our economy is the envy of the world (as well it should be). The source of our pessimism is a bit of a mystery, and it is one that I am going to pursue. For the moment, I'll simply note that I have identified what may be a contributing factor to our unwarranted despair: reporters rarely use charts, and that allows them to wax poetic about the 'jobless recovery,' 'worrisome signs of inflation,' 'record setting deficits,' and other such nonsense. Charts anchor the mind to the raw data, which makes it hard to use bumper-sticker slogans that mislead (and demoralize) more than they clarify. In any story about the economy, there is never an excuse not to use a chart, but reporters almost never do.
You should read the entire piece, and pay attention to the charts which lead to conclusions such as:
What you can see is that unemployment has been relatively low all throughout the Clinton and Bush administrations. Thus, all of the obsessing about the "high" unemployment rate during the last presidential campaign was so much nonsense. It was made possible because reporters avoided using charts like this one.
I also recently posted another illustration here.

[Via Instapundit -- Via Powerline]

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Germany & Economic Liberty

An article at tells of Germans fleeing unemployment:
Thomas Koerber, an engineering technician from Viernheim, Germany, was looking for a new job. He found it -- 4,700 miles away, in Canada.

``I looked around, found a job I liked in Canada, and left Germany within two months,'' Koerber, 39, said in a telephone interview from Calgary. ``If I can get a better job abroad, and if I'm being treated better, I'm gone.''

Koerber is one of 145,000 Germans who fled the fatherland last year amid record postwar unemployment, pushing emigration to its highest level since 1954 . . .
Why the exodus?
For Koerber, the decision to leave was largely one of taxes. In Germany, where the highest tax bracket starts at 52,152 euros ($66,600), he would have to pay 42 percent of every euro above that level. In addition, the German value-added tax -- a kind of national sales levy -- is 16 percent, which is scheduled to rise three percentage points next year.

``I only get 25 percent deducted from my salary and that includes everything,'' said Koerber of his pay packet in Canada. ``And I'm in the highest tax bracket!'' The goods and services tax in Alberta is 6 percent, cut from 7 percent in July, he said.

[ . . . ]

Other German expatriates cite what they say is the over- regimentation of the labor force. ``Life in Germany is totally over-regulated,'' said Christian Kaestner, 38, an attorney who moved from Munich to Cape Town, South Africa, in 1997. ``There are hardly any freedoms left, and you keep bumping into regulations and prohibitions.''

Plamegate's ridiculous conclusion

Plamegate began many months ago. So long ago now that I suspect relatively few will pay attention to what is now known to be true about the whole deal. And, what is now known to be true is nothing at all like what was asserted early on in order to wage political war against the President. Christopher Hitchens has continued to watch the unfolding truth for us:
As most of us have long suspected, the man who told Novak about Valerie Plame was Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's deputy at the State Department and, with his boss, an assiduous underminer of the president's war policy. (His and Powell's—and George Tenet's—fingerprints are all over Bob Woodward's 'insider' accounts of post-9/11 policy planning, which helps clear up another nonmystery: Woodward's revelation several months ago that he had known all along about the Wilson-Plame connection and considered it to be no big deal.) . . .

[ . . . ]

What does emerge from Hubris is further confirmation of what we knew all along: the extraordinary venom of the interdepartmental rivalry that has characterized this administration. In particular, the bureaucracy at the State Department and the CIA appear to have used the indiscretion of Armitage to revenge themselves on the "neoconservatives" who had been advocating the removal of Saddam Hussein. Armitage identified himself to Colin Powell as Novak's source before the Fitzgerald inquiry had even been set on foot. The whole thing could—and should—have ended right there. . . .

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Campaign Finance Reform? NOT

Mark Tapscott:
With a 3-3 vote featuring Democrat commissioners supporting the silencing of political speech against congressional incumbents and Republican commissioners in favoring of allowing it, the Federal Elections Commission has now made it official - As required by the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002, there can be no paid political broadcast ads criticizing incumbent Members of Congress for the two months prior to the Nov. 7 election.

This is the ultimate form of Incumbent Protection Act, short of repealing elections.
I'm with Tapscott. Either you believe in freedom with respect to political speech or you don't. I DO!

In defense of secret holds

Tim Chapman:
"More often than not it is conservatives — anti pork, limited government types — who employ the secret hold. They use the hold to slow down legislation that is incessantly offered by liberals in the Senate. Legislation that would appropriate x amount of billions of dollars to this or that socially acceptable and politically popular cause is often the target of these holds. Why? because without a hold the bill goes to the Senate floor and passes with unanimous consent for fear of opposing a politically popular piece of legislation that is often either not constitutional or further bloats the federal government. In this case, unamous consent is often anything but…it is more like unanimous ignorance."
I'm not buying it. One member of the Senate should not have the power to stop or delay deliberation and approval or denial of proposed legislation. Recalling the practice of holds with respect to Presidential appointments, neither should one Senator be allowed to prevent the entire Senate from voting for or against (and in public for all to see) a presidential appointment. Don't we elect responsible leaders? If we do, and if they have staffs, then why would we think a secret hold is necessary to shine a public light on the legislation? Why would we think our elected representatives would cast an ignorant and uninformed vote? I'm not buying it.

The News Industry & The Economy

Russell Roberts tears apart a front page NY Times story on the economy. He starts with this assertion found in the story:
"The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period."
Read the whole critique. You will discover, contrary to the Times story, that real hourly compensation has increased since the recession of 2001. The Times story says labor's share of the economic pie has been decreasing, but this share has actually been about 70% of national income since World War II. Since real hourly compensation has been increasing since 2001, the Times assertion that workers can't keep up with inflation makes no sense.

Does the news story reflect economic illiteracy? Perhaps. Or, as Roberts notes only one economist, Jared Bernstein, is quoted in the article, and Bernstein is employed by the Economic Policy Institute. Here is what Roberts points out about the Economic Policy Institute:
There's a chart accompanying the article. It tells the reader that the median hourly pay data are from the Economic Policy Institute. The Economic Policy Institute has a policy agenda. Their main issue is the stagnant or falling standard of living of American workers. They support a higher minimum wage and the strengthening of labor unions.
What is the moral of this story? Be very, very careful when you read the news.

Self-Service Gasoline

I ran across the following in a piece by Don Boudreaux:
"Consider the response of a New Jersey woman to my suggestion that the Garden State's prohibition on self-service gasoline stations be lifted. 'Oh, no!' she cried, 'that would be disastrous! People here don't know how to pump their own gasoline. They'd spill it all over the place!'"
I just can't imagine why anyone would think there were legitimate reasons for government to ban self-service gasoline stations. Could it really be because politicians said customers would spill gasoline all over the place? There must be some rent-seeking explanation for government to force a prohibition on self-service gasoline stations. Would we also expect such a prohibition to suggest government is corrupt? I've heard others assert that New Jersey government was the most corrupt in the country. Or is this just a law that is oppressive?

Sowell Insight on Global Warming

Tom Sowell:
"Climate statistics show that, with all the 'global warming' hysteria today, our temperatures are still not as high as they were back in medieval times. Those medieval folks must have been driving a lot of cars and SUVs."

Monday, August 28, 2006

More Senate Corruption

GLYNN REYNOLDS is wathcing the Senate hold on the porkbuster legislation. It is worth taking a look at his post this morning. He points out a few things from articles by others. Here are a couple of things I think worth noting:
"It could be anyone -- Democrat or Republican -- Darling said. To place a hold, senators merely have to inform their leader that they don't want the legislation to move forward," he said.
The same Senate rules prohibit those party leaders from disclosing which of them did this dirty deed, and at which senator's behest. It's treated like classified information.
It seems to me patently wrong in our system of political economy for an elected representative, in this case a Senator, to be able to act in an official way in secret. Even when issues concern national security, in general, I think the actions of those we elect (as well those in the bureaucracy) should simply be publicly announced and identified.

Further, in this case, we see that in our Senate it is apparently the case that one person is allowed the power to veto legislation. It simply makes no sense to me that one person can say legislation cannot move forward. Of course, it is even worse that this power is allowed to be exercised in secret. I suggest this is an enormous corruption of our system of government. I suppose it is ironic that this sort of corruption is being exposed because of a bill that would end the corrupt practice of allowing individual senators to secretly earmark government monies for expenditures directed at very specific projects and very specific people and businesses.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Threats To Liberty

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS was on the Bill Mayer show last night. He was jeered by the audience because of the following:
"Christopher Hitchens: “Who wants a Third Word War? The Iranian President says that one member state of the United Nations should be wiped physically from the map with all its people. He says the United States is a Satanic power. Members of his government, named members of his government have been caught sponsoring deaths squads. He's lied, he's lied to the European Union about his nuclear program-”"
The interchange between Mayer and Hitchens, as well as with the audience, suggests that many disagreed with Hitchens that Islamo-fascism is a serious threat, and Hitchens asserted the audience was frivolous. Hitchens said:
“Cheer yourself up like that. The President has said, quite a great contrast before the podium of the Senate, I think applauded by most present, in his State of the Union address, that we support the democratic movement of the Iranian people to be free of theocracy -- not that we will impose ourselves on them, but that if they fight for it we're on their side. That seems to be the right position to take, jeer all you like.”
I agree with Hitchens.

Glynn Reynolds comments on the incident:
. . . Should things go badly with the war, Maher's audience -- and, for that matter, Maher himself -- will be cited by historians as evidence of the American opposition's unseriousness.

UPDATE: Rand Simberg emails: "I suspect that historians will judge Democrats unserious regardless of the war's outcome. In fact, if it goes badly enough, history of the era will be written in Arabic." And even those historians won't respect Maher and his audience, though they may be grateful for their petty Bush-hatred.
Is there a serious threat to liberty today? Is Iran and Islamo-fascism a serious threat? It seems to me the answer is yes. The worldwide nature of the attacks against freedom seems obvious to me, but apparently not to many others.

Could it be that there is a grave threat to liberty right here in our system of political economy? As I think Hitchens and Reynolds comments suggest, those in our country who are frivolous with their petty Bush hatred may pull our system of political economy away from confronting the challenge to liberty posed by Iran and Islamo-fascism.

Friday, August 25, 2006


AMIR TAHERI explains that Hezbollah lost:
Far from representing the Lebanese national consensus, Hezbollah is a sectarian group backed by a militia that is trained, armed and controlled by Iran. In the words of Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the Iranian daily Kayhan, 'Hezbollah is 'Iran in Lebanon.' ' In the 2004 municipal elections, Hezbollah won some 40% of the votes in the Shiite areas, the rest going to its rival Amal (Hope) movement and independent candidates. In last year's general election, Hezbollah won only 12 of the 27 seats allocated to Shiites in the 128-seat National Assembly--despite making alliances with Christian and Druze parties and spending vast sums of Iranian money to buy votes.

Hezbollah's position is no more secure in the broader Arab world, where it is seen as an Iranian tool rather than as the vanguard of a new Nahdha (Awakening), as the Western media claim. To be sure, it is still powerful because it has guns, money and support from Iran, Syria and Hate America International Inc. But the list of prominent Arab writers, both Shiite and Sunni, who have exposed Hezbollah for what it is--a Khomeinist Trojan horse--would be too long for a single article. They are beginning to lift the veil and reveal what really happened in Lebanon.

Having lost more than 500 of its fighters, and with almost all of its medium-range missiles destroyed, Hezbollah may find it hard to sustain its claim of victory. "Hezbollah won the propaganda war because many in the West wanted it to win as a means of settling score with the United States," says Egyptian columnist Ali al-Ibrahim. "But the Arabs have become wise enough to know TV victory from real victory."
The rest of his commentary fills in many more details. I think it is important to understand Iran's part in Lebanon, and perhaps it is encouraging that Taheri can point to so many in Lebanon who do not seem to want to follow Iran.

Even so, it seems that removing Hezbollah and the meddling of Iran will require a force, and unfortunately the government of Lebanon may not be able to do this by itself. Of course, that seems to be the reason for the UN force. But given the delays, we can't expect the removal of Hezbollan and Iran from Lebanon any time soon.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Minimum Wage

There is an interesting story in the Vallejo Times Herald:
"'Maybe this will mean I'll be able to get my own place.'

That's what Jason Thomas of Vallejo said California's $1.25 per hour minimum wage increase could mean for him and his fiance, Alize Valintinno. The couple is living in the Christian Help Center and expecting a baby in about five months. Both are unemployed now, working for room, board and a small stipend at the center while they search for regular jobs, they said.

California's minimum wage will increase by $1.25 an hour over the next two years, under a deal struck by state officials Monday.

'My last job was for minimum wage at Pizza Hut,' Valintinno said. 'It's not enough. It was hard. I have two kids I had to help support.'

A raise - to $8 per hour by 2008 - will help Valintinno feel more secure, she said.

'People have medical bills, housing, utility bills. It's too much on $6.75 per hour,' Valintinno said." [Emphasis added]
Yes, of course $8 for an hourly wage is better than $6.75. But, if you are one of the people who will become unemployed, or unemployable, at the hourly wage of $8, it can't be any easier to make ends meet. No work means your hourly wage is decreased from $6.75 to $0. Do you suppose waiting for the minimum wage increase will improve their chances of leaving the rolls of the unemployed?

Budget Secrets & Senate Corruption

"In an ironic twist, legislation that would open up the murky world of government contracting to public scrutiny has been derailed by a secret parliamentary maneuver.

An unidentified senator placed a 'secret hold' on legislation introduced by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., that would create a searchable database of government contracts, grants, insurance, loans and financial assistance, worth $2.5 trillion last year. The database would bring transparency to federal spending and be as simple to use as conducting a Google search.

The measure had been unanimously passed in a voice vote last month by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. It was on the fast track for floor action before Congress recessed Aug. 4 when someone put a hold on the measure.

Now the bill is in political limbo. Under Senate rules, unless the senator who placed the hold decides to lift it, the bill will not be brought up for a vote.

'It really is outrageous to do this in the dead of night as Congress is recessing,' said Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, a budget watchdog group based in Washington. 'The public has a right to know how the government spends money.'"
Be sure to check out Porkbusters where you can find photos of all the Senators who have been "cleared" of placing the hold and of all those Senators who are still suspects.

One of my Senators has cleared himself, but the other is still a suspect.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More on the NSA Opinion

ORIN KERR has an interesting essay on the NSA opinion:
"So imagine you're a Sixth Circuit judge, and imagine (to make the case interesting) that you agree with Judge Taylor that the state secrets privilege should not block the suit. What then? It seems to me that it's way too early to just resolve all of the legal issues in the case without briefing; presumably you would want to send it back to the district court for discovery and fact-finding, or for resolution of the many difficult procedural issues in the case.

What are those procedural matters? Well, a few come to mind. For example, does FISA permit injunctive relief? If not, does the Administrative Procedure Act permit courts to make an end-run around this failure to provide for injunctive relief? Article III standing aside, can a court grant injunctive relief for Fourth Amendment violations without first finding that the plaintiffs' own Fourth Amendment rights were violated? What about FISA and the Wiretap Act, which all incorporate the same 'aggrieved person' standard designed to mirror the Fourth Amendment standing inquiry rather than the Article III standing inquiry? If an injunctive remedy is permissible and merited, what is the proper scope of that remedy -- should the injunction stop the illegal parts of the program, or the program as a whole that happens to have some illegal parts? It seems to me that there were lots and lots of legal issues like this that had to be answered before Judge Taylor could reach the merits and (potentially) enjoin the program, even assuming that DOJ's defense on the merits is weak and the states secrets privilege doesn't apply.

What does this suggest about what the Sixth Circuit will or should do on appeal? Well, to me in suggests that the Sixth Circuit should reverse, whether on the state secrets privilege (if the judges agree with DOJ on that) or simply on the procedural impropriety of bypassing discovery and briefing on the law and all of the procefural and substantive issues raised (if the judges don't). Even assuming that DOJ's arguments are weak, there are still a lot of procedural hurdles to jump through in this case."
Of course, I'm not an attorney, and that means I can't claim any expertise concerning his essay or his questions and intuition. I'm struck by the nature of his questions when considered next to the press reports about the NSA program in question. My intuition is that his questions are relevant. This leads me to think it is likely that the opinion is premature and that it is pretty likely the next court down the line will return the case for discovery and determination of the relevant facts of the case. I add to this that I have read or heard at least 2 other commentators on this opinion point out that the judge in this opinion did not once mention the opinions they believe are precedent suggesting a different opinion than that written in the present opinion. In contrast, I think the press reports on the opinion leave the average citizen (and voter) with the impression that the NSA program has been determined to be unconstitutional, and this is end of story for the President. Yet, my sense, after reading Kerr and some others is that there is a very good chance the next court in line will say, not so fast, there is still much work to be done in court before we tackle the issues.

Could it be the recent opinion was written with a political agenda in mind?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Liberty & Prosperity

Don Boudreaux comments on an often heard, but mistaken, view regarding economic prosperity:
"But the quotation that most caught my eye and made my head shake with bewilderment is this one; here Shah is quoting favorably from a book by Vandana Shiva, entitled Stolen Harvest:

The gain in 'yields' of industrially produced crops is based on a theft of food from other species and the rural poor in the Third World. That is why, as more grain is produced and traded globally, more people go hungry in the Third World. Global markets have more commodities for trading because food has been robbed from nature and the poor.

Talk about a fixed-pie view of reality. Do people such as Shiva and Shah not realize that until very recently -- roughly the past three-hundred years -- the vast majority of the people in the world, as for almost all of human history, were routinely threatened with, and often actually victimized by, starvation? Do people such as Shiva and Shah not realize that the earth's population today (at about 6.2 billion) is nearly ten times larger than it was a mere 300 years ago (at about 625 million)? Given that today at least one billion of us spend our entire lives without worrying one minute about whether or not we will have enough to eat, how can anyone seriously argue that the amount of food now available daily to each of the more than one-billion citizens of western, industrialized societies is "stolen" from people living in less-developed societies? Is it even remotely plausible that the vast increase in the amount of per-capita food consumption for the entire world -- a world today with ten times more people than were alive in 1700 -- is made possible by our stealing this food from the mouths of earthworms and other species?

Do people such as Shiva and Shah not know of the vast literature that shows a powerful and positive relationship between economic freedom and increased living standards? Are they unaware of the arguments (and, frankly, the data) that resources are augmented and largely created by human enterprise, rather than moved from point or person A to point or person B?"
I suppose the generous answer to these questions is that they must simply be ignorant, or unaware, of the relevant literature. Perhaps a less generous answer is that they are aware but choose to ignore the history of economic progress and prosperity? Or perhaps views such as these are founded instead on political motives?

NSA & Court Opinion

I like James Q. Wilson's commentary in today's WSJ ($$$) on the recent NSA court opinion:
"What is most striking about Judge Taylor's decision is that she nowhere discusses the approval of warrantless searches by other and higher federal courts. In 1980, the Court of Appeals for the fourth circuit held (U.S. v. Truong Dinh Hung) that 'the Executive need not always obtain a warrant for foreign intelligence surveillance.' That is because a 'uniform warrant requirement' would 'unduly frustrate' the discharge of the president's foreign policy duties. It would 'delay executive response to foreign intelligence threats' by requiring the judges instantly to make decisions about rapidly evolving events.

In 2002 the FISA review court itself held (In Re: Sealed Case) that the president 'did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information.' The Supreme Court has never spoken on this matter, but it is astonishing that Judge Taylor never discusses the FISA and appellate court decisions that bear directly on this question."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Domestic Surveillance Opinion:

ORIN KERR'S TAKE on the NSA opinion:
"I've just read through the Fourth Amendment part of Judge Taylor's opinion on the NSA domestic wiretapping opinion, and, well, um, it's kind of hard to know what to make of it. There really isn't any analysis; rather, it's just a few pages of general ruminations about the Fourth Amendment (much of it incomplete and some of it simply incorrect) followed by the statement in passing that the program is 'obviously' in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

[. . . .]

I can come up with explanations for why a district court judge inclined to rule against the program would put out an opinion that isn't quite ready for prime time. For example, Senator Specter's bill would take these issues away from the district court, so the choice might be to speak now or never. But at least based on the court's Fourth Amendment analysis, I suspect this opinion is important more for its political impact and its triggering of appellate review than for any analysis in the opinion itself."
Hmmm, very interesting.

More VDH on Middle East

Victor Davis Hanson:
"So never mind the trillions in petrodollars, billions in aid and concessions. Unless we change our very character, or the Middle East achieves success and confidence through Western-style democracy and economic reform, expect more tired scapegoating and violence from radical discontents, from Lebanon to London -- and well beyond."

Read the entire piece. I suspect this is correct.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What Is 'Islamofascism'?

Stephen Schwartz explains the meaning of Islamofascism:
"In my analysis, as originally put in print directly after the horror of September 11, 2001, Islamofascism refers to use of the faith of Islam as a cover for totalitarian ideology. This radical phenomenon is embodied among Sunni Muslims today by such fundamentalists as the Saudi-financed Wahhabis, the Pakistani jihadists known as Jama'atis, and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. In the ranks of Shia Muslims, it is exemplified by Hezbollah in Lebanon and the clique around President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran."
He describes some of the attributes of the fascist organizations of Hitler and Mussolini and explains similarities with the Islamofascist organizations of today. Schwartz writes that like the organizations of Hitler and Mussolini, "Islamofascism . . . pursues its aims through the willful, arbitrary, and gratuitous disruption of global society . . . "
"These are not acts of protest, but calculated strategies for political advantage through undiluted violence. Hezbollah showed fascist methods both in its kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and in initiating that action without any consideration for the Lebanese government of which it was a member. Indeed, Lebanese democracy is a greater enemy of Hezbollah than Israel."
He notes that German and Italian fascism rested on a resentful middle class, and of course, this is often heard about the Islamofacist organizations of today.

He points out that the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini was imperialistic and that
"Islamofascism has similar ambitions; the Wahhabis and their Pakistani and Egyptian counterparts seek control over all Sunni Muslims in the world, while Hezbollah projects itself as an ally of Syria and Iran in establishing regional dominance."
The fascism of Germany and Italy was paramilitary and Al-Qaida and Hezbollah are paramilitary.

Since President Bush used the term there have been suggestions that the term is meant to tarnish and inaccurately portray adherents of the Islamic faith. Schwartz does not intend to use the term in this way, nor need the term be used in such a way:
"I do not believe these characteristics are intrinsic to any element of the faith of Islam. Islamofascism is a distortion of Islam, exactly as Italian and German fascism represented perversions of respectable patriotism in those countries. Nobody argues today that Nazism possessed historical legitimacy as an expression of German nationalism; only Nazis would make such claims, to defend themselves. Similarly, Wahhabis and their allies argue that their doctrines are "just Islam." But German culture existed for centuries, and exists today, without submitting to Nazi values; Islam created a world-spanning civilization, surviving in a healthy condition in many countries today, without Wahhabism or political Shiism, both of which are less than 500 years old."
I think it is important to thoughtfully consider Schwartz's commentary because I think it has not been very helpful to talk about "a war on terror." Since terror seems to me to be a tactic, the phrase "war on terror" seems to say we are at war with a tactic, and not at war with a defined enemy. The enemy is not Islam. The enemy are people who choose to use force to subject others, including those of Islamic faith, to submit to their particular view of how the world should work and be organized. The enemy in this war does indeed seem to me to be fascist in nature. I think we have a better chance of adequately confronting our enemy if we talk about the true character of those who seek to kill and subjugate others. The conflicts in this wider war do indeed seem to me to involve forceful efforts by some to take liberty from others. Perhaps we cannot protect our liberty if we do not adequately perceive the fascist nature of our enemy in this so-called "war on terror?"

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

VDH: A Clear View

Victor Davis Hanson writes that we should be concerned about our ourselves, not Israel:
"There is a depressing pattern here. The sources for Western erroneous reports and faked pictures always seem to exaggerate the damage to Lebanon -- but never to Israel.

Likewise, Western news agencies rarely list a precise number of Hezbollah losses, instead lumping them in with civilian fatalities. Does that mean that someone who launches a missile in Levis and sneakers is not a combatant?

In addition, the history and nature of Hezbollah do not matter to many in the West.

Knowingly or not, news outlets continue to spread Hezbollah's propaganda. One wonders if Westerners remember or know that, until Sept. 11, Hezbollah had killed more Americans than had any other terrorist organization.

Most ignore as well that Hezbollah precipitated the present crisis by kidnapping and killing Israeli soldiers, and launching missiles against Israel's cities.

In retaliation, the Israeli Defense Forces use precision bombs to target combatants and try to avoid civilian casualties (though the latter is nearly impossible against an enemy who doesn't wear uniforms and uses non-combatants as 'human shields'). In contrast, every random missile launched by Hezbollah is intended to hit a civilian target.

On one side of this conflict is a true democracy that was attacked. On the other are terrorists who hijacked the sovereign government of Lebanon, instituted theocratic rule over a third of the country -- and started a war.

[. . . .]

Still, when this is all over, we should not worry about the survival of Israel. For weeks, pundits have been lecturing how canny and adept Hezbollah has proved -- and how a clumsy Israel could only respond by destroying Lebanon's infrastructure. Yet, when the dust settles, the world will learn that Lebanon outside Hezbollah's domain is not destroyed. And, one hopes, those who have suffered in the Hezbollah-controlled south will reexamine their support for a terrorist organization that has brought them -- and itself -- to near ruin.

Instead far more worrisome is the moral crisis in the West itself. If so many of its politicians, intellectuals and media will not or cannot fathom moral differences in this war, they will hardly be able to see them anywhere else."