October 31, 2004

Krauthammer: Bush's Taliban success

Printed Editorial--

In 2001, we had nothing [in Afghanistan]. What had the Clinton administration left in place? No plausible military plan. Virtually no intelligence. No local infrastructure. No neighboring bases. The Afghan Northern Alliance was fractured and weak. And Pakistan was actively supporting the bad guys.

Within days of 9/11, the clueless airhead President that inhabits Michael Moore's films had forced Pakistan into alliance with us, isolated the Taliban, secured military cooperation from Afghanistan's northern neighbors, and authorized a radical war plan involving just a handful of Americans on the ground, using high technology and local militias to utterly rout the Taliban.


Bush put in place a military campaign that did in two months what everyone had said was impossible: defeating an entrenched, fanatical, ruthless regime in a territory that had forced the great British and Soviet empires into ignominious retreat. Bush followed that by creating in less than three years a fledgling pro-American democracy in a land with no history of democratic culture and just emerging from 25 years of civil war.

Most amazing of all, John Kerry has managed to transform our Afghan venture into a failure in which Bush let Osama bin Laden get away because he "outsourced" bin Laden's capture to "warlords."
- Charles Krauthammer

This is an excellent point from a very perceptive and intelligent man. As an IR major, I feel boneheaded for not realizing the depth of this achievement earlier. The Afghan campaign was a vindication of Bush's Administration and of Rumsfeld's innovative, if still controversial, military theory. This issue also displays Kerry's lack of ideology and his emphasis on simply criticizing whatever Bush does - obviously suggesting that he would be an incompetent leader since he lacks any real plans of his own.

The same place that had given the British quite a bit of trouble and repelled the Red Army was successfully liberated by the United States. Why? Because we used a very small force on the ground, focused on targeted airstrikes against military targets, but used the North Alliance to spearhead the ground campaign. The effectiveness was that we convinced enough Afghans to side with us and not against us. This is part of Rumsfeld's strategy, to use a small, mobile, high-tech force in place of a huge troop commitment and 'overwhelming force' doctrine. Perhaps a similar strategy in Iraq, including smart bombings of the Republican Guard, hiring the non-IRG military forces to fight after they had defected, and emphasis on Iraqi control, would have worked more effectively than the plan they decided on.

In retrospect, everyone assumed that Afghanistan would be a horrible quagmire, a mass of mountain holdouts, cave redoubts, subterranean tunnels, and vicious, xenophobic opposition to American interference. Yet the election took place with 10 million registered voters, the vague disputes over voting processes were dropped in favor of strengthening the foundation of Afghan democracy, and the whole process went off without a terrorist incident.

I think we have to pause and realize how amazing this was. This was an American victory. Although the President deserves the strategic and diplomatic credit here (as do FDR and Truman for WWII, Wilson for WWI, and so forth) this is something that both the Democrats and Republicans deserve credit for. Pacifists, the very far left and the nutso right aside, everybody supported this war. The Senate bill was sponsored by Daschle and the vote was, I believe, 99-0. The House bill was sponsored by Armey and had only Barbara Lee's nay vote. This is something that both parties, if not all ideologies, can truly take pride in. This was something achieved together even if the actual implementation was by the Bush Administration. Hence, there ought to be no petty partisan squabbling over success in Afghanistan.

Now, obviously the administration seems to have somewhat neglected aid funding to Afghanistan in some ways, and there's a lot more to be done there - not to mention finding bin Laden who's likely just over the border trapped in a heavily anti-Musharraf, anti-Western mountainous region of Pakistan.

What gets me about Kerry, though, is that he's criticizing the use of 'warlords' in Afghanistan. That's a rather harsh slur for a group of men who just fought heroically to depose a viciously anti-American government and liberate their own country from totalitarian zealots, Islamist extremists of the worst and most murderous order. It would seem that Kerry doesn't like allies until Bush has lost them.

Either: 1) Kerry is suggesting that the Afghans, who successfully repelled the behemoth Soviet army with US assistance in the 1980s, who know the confusing and largely unmapped terrain of their landlocked country, who have spilled their blood in a cause next to American soldiers, and were capable of being trusted (perhaps manipulated, if Kerry had his way?) to fight one critical conflict, but now cannot be trusted to fight another;

OR 2) he's of the opinion that only Western countries make halfway decent allies. His disturbing and insulting betrayal aside, Kerry is missing a good point: we trusted these men to fight a war alongside invading US troops, to build their own democracy, and to police themselves. Now that they've done about as much as the best optimists could have hoped, he suddenly ceases to trust the exact same people.

He calls it 'outsourcing the war on terror to warlords.' It's a clever ploy that lets him stir up a delightful hint of xenophobia with the use of the charged 'outsourcing' term but it also allows him to diminish the Afghans. Why would they be called warlords? These men were not 'warlords' to Kerry when they died alongside Americans. Once he needed to be anti-war to win the White House, suddenly the same people went from valuable allies and freedom fighters to apostate thugs, traitors and tyrants.

And yet he wants us to have more foreign allies in Iraq at the same time he wants more reliance on US forces in Afghanistan. He wants multilateral talks to Iran but bilateral talks with North Korea. The man is clearly a gross opportunist and as an IR major I find his foreign policy doctrines, ideology and positions are all either largely ineffective, cribbed from Bush's platform, or flatly idiotic.

What's hilarious, naturally, is his support now for the Gulf War coalition as an example of international cooperation. Forget for a moment the fact that he was against the war and quoted Communist Party USA anti-WWII propaganda in his floor speech against the war in 1991 (Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Get Your Gun). There were 39 members of the 1991 Gulf War coalition, 9 or 10 without troops; there were 48 members of the 2003 Coalition of the Willing and more than 30 have had troops in at one time or another. The casualties for the US for the Gulf War represented 82% of the total - and that jumps to 92% if you remove deaths from Arab forces, which were poorly trained, equipped and led. The casualties for the US in 2003 and 2004 were as of a few weeks ago 89% of the total.

According to Kerry, apparently, 82% of the casualties is a stunning success of international coalitions while 89% is a miserable, arrogant failure of unilateralism. What's even sillier is the idea that somehow, while bashing the war in Iraq as a mistake and criticizing allies as bribed and coerced, he could somehow find large numbers of troops to send to Iraq if only we'd elect him. Don't trust him, he'll say anything to be President. Don't buy that snake oil.

Kerry's a cynical opportunist that will say or do whatever it takes to win.
He's an inept candidate and a boring speaker. He wants to end the critical strategy of democratization in the Middle East that is absolutely indispensable for the people of that region and for victory in the War on Terror. He lacks any consistent vision, any real commitment to human liberty, and any backbone when it comes to either friend or foe. His short-sighted focus on winning at politics instead of liberating people and securing peace in the world is unacceptable. Consider this my anti-endorsement for Kerry's uninspiring, selfish, pseudo-isolationist, pseudo-protectionist campaign.

Now my candidate is Badnarik (much more anti-war than Kerry, but honest and principled about it) and I'm proud to support the LP. I'm a libertarian, and as long as I think the LP and its candidate are at least salvageable for my politics and morality, I will back them. I'm not a mindless Bush booster, a posthappy freeper or whatever else; I just hate the people who bash him mindlessly, and I think his foreign policy is visionary, effective and far-sighted.

I'm rather surprised he champions it, I expected typical nationalist bluster and drum-beating without any heart or soul. He espouses the same thing I already believed: free trade, free markets and democracy, defended by force when necessary, are the only effective methods to secure lasting peace. I'm not voting for him, but he has a kickass foreign policy in concept if not always in implementation (Russia, especially). I flirted with the idea of voting for him, largely for foreign policy, plus social security reform (I want my money back before Congress steals it and spends it on 17-lane deluxe highways conveniently located near members' houses). But in the end the Patriot Act, the deficit, the FMA, the lack of a single veto and the Medicare splurge are too big to ignore. I'll be happy when he wins because at least it's not Kerry, but Bush has done too much to deserve my vote.

I just have to end with congratulations to Afghanistan. I wish you people well, I hope that you can avoid the systemic corruption so many new democracies suffer. I hope you can show the world that you're no less freedom-loving or democratic than any other ethnicity, religion or nation. America may have offered indispensable assistance in the war, but the fiercesome support of Afghan freedom fighters - in bullets and blood - was no less critical to Afghan liberty. Good luck with your future, Afghanistan.
Corporate Charters?

As happens in groups of smart, philosophical types who like political science, libertarians often discuss corporations. Most are not very interested in the discussion but come down pro; a vocal minority is anti-corporate charter. I am pro for the reasons in the thread linked and the post to follow. I think this is an interesting subject, so I'm poaching it from where I wrote it on the FSP board.

I have no interest in removing corporate charters and protections, and neither do most people to the right of Chomsky or less than anarchist in beliefs. I think a charter recognizes a pre-existing entity: a group, a government, a business, an army, whatever. Groups exist in the state of nature, under anarchical conditions, and they deserve to have civil protections under government. Welfare and subsidies are one thing, as well as tariffs, but recognizing the existence of the corporation is fine and good in my eyes. That's the philosophical point of view.

[They do not exist in the way a person exists, however, since there is no such thing as 'society' or a club that you can talk to, kill or rape. They exist in the state of nature but only due to social conditions; the intercourse of humanity (hee hee, Chris said intercourse!) brings about corporations and clubs. Since they are not humans, they have no natural rights - which are rights stemming from the condition of the universe or the state of merely existing, dependent on no person, contract or government. They are, however, clearly social creatures and deserve civic rights -rights stemming from government- to recognize that fact. So while they do exist in the state of nature, and thus I do not view them as wholly artifical creations because they have a reasonable basis without any central organization, I do not view them as having the same rights that human beings have, natural rights. For the purpose of applying law and legislation, the difference is almost never important.]

My nuts and bolts policy point of view is that calling charters 'welfare' and eliminating them would be very difficult to implement in theory (somebody has to own those Wal-Marts, and in essence you took away legal recognition of a pre-existing corporate person, so who gets it?). I also think it's a real threat to the economy, to the access to consumer goods for the state populace, and the ability to get jobs.

Furthermore, you can't revoke corporate charter protections without running afoul of the Supreme Court, which has protected the rights of corporate persons for well over a century. You'd have to win this case. Frankly, I don't like the idea and so I'm certainly not interested in pushing it to the SCOTUS in order to make it legal.


*****

I'm with most of the country and most libertarians I've met in that I think corporations should be legally recognized. State governments, the federal government, foreign government, cabinet-level departments, federal agencies, PACs/527s, clubs/societies and business partnerships would all still be recognized, it seems silly to me to quibble over the club because it's supposed to be bigger and make more money than all the other types of groups that people organize into.

In another way, corporations are merely for-profit versions of governments: groups of individuals clustered together with a common goal, but the whole of the group is not owned by any one person and exists separately from any single member. Perhaps more accurately, corporations and governments are two different categories of clubs. A government seeks to enforce the rule of natural law and protect liberty (in THEORY, at least) and to monitor the legitimate use of force (so sayeth Weber). A corporation is a club that seeks to make money.

Now, if one member, even the leader, leaves a club of any sort then the club does not necessarily cease to exist. It's created by the grouping of individuals but it's not dependent on them. Therefore, philosophically, it seems to me to be perfectly good and right to recognize clubs as separate from individuals.


I'd have to be an anarchist to philosophically justify eliminating corporations, since the federal government and state governments are declaring those rights and granting club status to 527s and non-profits in their jurisdiction.

I'd have to be a communist to justify it economically, since if I were a communist I'd be flippin' nuts anyway and any stupid idea that came into my head to screw a) the rich, b) businesses, c) the industrial-technological system, or d) the US would probably pass my commie threshhold for acceptance.

Politically, it's easy as hell to justify since it would be:
- very difficult to sell (even aside from corporations' influence, nobody believes this besides the Greens)
- very unconstitutional (according to the SCOTUS, at least)
- very agonizing to administer (who gets the stuff from the corporate persons we just erased?)
- and very disruptive for the economy and the citizenry as goods [would become] much more expensive (goodbye economy of scale) and the international economy tanked

Plus, if we did eliminate corporate charters, it's very possible that only those already uber-wealthy would be able to take over their place. Since they would own these businesses, the end result is that a very tiny percentage of people would suddenly have massive wealth because we BANNED the easiest method for regular people to group together and compete with them. That's not an automatic side-effect, but it is a very likely outcome since the risk would be too great for anybody else to really compete. This outcome would be ironic, since most of the people who support the move are anti-wealth and almost all dislike concentration of power and money in the hands of business.

I view it overall as somewhat provincial and primitive (I hesitate to say backwards, but I do view socialism itself as backwards and anti-innovation in most forms) to start eliminating corporate charters. Like backwoods people who hate the change and development that corporations bring and don't mind less access to luxury items and low-cost goods because they're already living very simple lifestyles. It seems especially silly since it only eliminates protections for the groups that make a lot of money. Low-level partnerships, non-profits, 527s and so forth are all exempted and surprise, they're not making money.

You have to be basically an anarchist or a communist to get into that area - or trying to appease one of the two.

*****

But I will say that the corporations are engaged in a system of handouts and welfare with the state that we have to eliminate. It's a multi-faceted assistance program.

The state gives them direct subsidies, usually as pork barrel and sometimes as post-development, special-exemption patents.

The state gives them direct protections by punishing foreign opponents, usually as tariffs but sometimes as anti-dumping laws and import quotas.

The state gives them decreased competition by taxing and regulating small businesses to the point where entry into a market is inhibited more greatly for small businesses than large ones, thanks to economies of scale.

Ultimately, I think we have to free up trade, cut out the welfare, standardize all patents so that single products rarely (if ever) get special exemptions - especially after introducing it to market and as the deadline approaches - and we need to strongly scale back the taxes and regulations on small businesses (and loosen up minimum wage laws for part-time and teenage workers) so that they can compete on a fairer playing field with the big boys.

I believe in corporate charters, but that's just a 'recognizing reality' type thing. Not a compromise, but a matter of fact, 'clubs and groups exist separate[ly] from their leaders' issue. That doesn't mean I think corporations get to extort all sorts of hideous protections and subsidies from the government that taxpayers fund and [end] up hiking prices on taxpayers in the end anyway.


October 30, 2004

Tax-Switching Proposals

Plenty of people, notably libertarians and libertarian-Republicans, have fantasies about switching tax schemes from income to sales or from property to income or from sales to property. I dislike these plans, and I gave a rant on it to the Free State Project in that thread. I liked the rants and I wanted to reproduce them here for posterity and visibility. It's easy for discussions to get lost in the fog of netboards, so I figured this would differentiate them and archive them. Here we go:

Here's what we should emphasize in all policy discussions:

1) NO INCOME TAX. NOT NEGOTIABLE.

2) NO SALES TAX. NOT NEGOTIABLE.


Most people in New Hampshire, especially the ones who would not consider suicide better than voting libertarian, revere their lack of income tax. Businesses prosper and poach business from VT and MA for the lack of sales tax. I couldn't foresee any spending needs that could justify starting these taxes. Once started, it would be impossible to get rid of them.

It's almost problematic to suggest eliminating one type of tax (say property tax for NH) and replacing it with another (sales or income tax). Your opponent can ALWAYS just mention the part where you raise taxes and neglect to mention the cut. It'd have to be wildly popular and VERY well known for us to make a tax switch. I personally don't think it's a good idea, especially since income taxes are so confiscatory and sales taxes dampen business profits.

So I think we should always pledge to NEVER EVER make a sales tax or an income tax. We could, in theory, add some proviso that we'd change it out if it became very clear that switching completely from one type of tax to another were a good idea. Again, I think tax-switching is politically stupid and I like the way NH is with regard to which taxes I'd least like to endure.

3) REDUCE PROPERTY TAX AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

This is self explanatory. Vermont shows how bad property taxes can get, and I really hate the idea of people being taxed right out of their homes.

4) BALANCE THE BUDGET IN ALL CASES TO PROTECT AGAINST ANY NEW TAXES

Democrats in New Hampshire sometimes suggest (I'd say 'threaten' to be honest) raising taxes or creating new taxes in order to balance the budget. This was part of the reason Benson (hooray for him) vetoed the budget, it wasn't balanced and could have lead to an income tax.


As a companion issue, I've been kicking around two other ideas, perhaps not as popular in NH, but they would allow us to cut propoerty taxes but still balance the budget.

The first is marijuana decriminalization. This is where it's not legal, but if they catch you with it they don't waste time or prison space on you, they just confiscate the weed, maybe a fine or something. I really like this not just because it would allow a reduction in the exorbitant costs of arresting and incarcerating potheads, but also because it frees up police to go out and catch kidnappers, rapists and violent criminals.

I also think we should look at making the state UNH system base itself more heavily on tuitions. Most of the STATE education budget's controversy is in the university system, though. Reagan as Governor in California deregulated there in 1960s and since then the UC schools are almost all some of the best schools in the country - public or private. I don't think we need either Reagan or California as a model, but certainly if there's a way to cut the budget costs of a program and to increase its prestige, it's worth exploring. Sidenote, I'm actually looking at attending UNH for grad school and later for employment, and still think dereg and higher tuitions are a great idea. We could introduce higher tuitions for half the students, let low-income students get good scholarships and I think the reform would pass.

There are other ways we can cut state budget costs and thus cut taxes, but I think those two are biggies.

********************

-- End number one. I also gave a second one to emphasize why tax-switching is a bad idea for a third party in New Hampshire to waste time with. I should also point out that when third parties get elected, it's because they ride popular issues into the center of the debate. When they try to ride new issues in without a base that cares, then they're screwed. Almost everybody hates taxes, and if libertarians can stress taxes and just a few other issues really, really hard in their appearances, it could propel them into influence. If they watse time with obscure tax-switch plans (only income dervied from property sales! :P) then it really dilutes almost the entire appeal it has to the center. So here is that one:

Also, to reiterate on taxes:

Any change wherein we introduce a tax on sales or income, even if it reduces the overall amount of taxes paid, can be attacked as a new tax and a tax hike. We have to be VERY cognizant of this danger, because it happens to better organized groups than ourselves. Rather than endorsing the best policy absent all political considerations, we have to adopt the best strategy we can get the state (the courts, the Governor, the legislature, the voters) to accept.

That means we have to ignore all of these bright ideas for major tax changeovers unless we can be positive everyone will get the entire message. I don't believe that's possible until there's a Libertarian Governor (assuming the LPNH achieves that), since a Governor has the most power to address the media and the populace on matters of state policy. Short of that, and perhaps even including that, we need to stick to a very simple, easily communicated and easily understood policy - yet one we are positive still works.

KISS- Keep It Simple, Stupid. The easier it is to explain, the easier it is to sell. We can take a complex plan to eliminate old taxes in favor of whole new ones, we need to stick to ideas that, though they may seem boring to some of you, are both effective and easily illustrated.


Everybody can understand "no new taxes; cut old taxes" and more importantly, it's easily explained in a 30-second (or even 15-second) spot on TV and radio. It doesn't require a complex analysis or a detailed description. Best of all, it doesn't take any further explanation to get people on our side.


It takes more time to explain any tax-switch proposal because a) you have to explain that overall taxes will not go up, b) people have to trust this isn't yet another swindle, c) people have to trust the fact that there's a whole new tax but they're paying less, d) even if they believe all of the above, they have to believe that it betters to change what they're used to based on the strength of your evidence and arguments. That means D) will require a great deal of time and research to get all the evidence necessary to show the benefits.


It's silly for us to take one of the most popular libertarian positions, cutting taxes, and then mess with it by trying to get all fancy with tax-switching proposals. People want the government to stop screwing them over. They don't care very much about the way the government is screwing them over as long as it's doing less screwing.

Let's stop discussing these tax-switching proposals and focus our political energy on easily achievable, ALREADY POPULAR goals: cutting the taxes as they exist now. Please trust me on this one.

Business-Owners for Liberty?

In a fit of archiving rage, I'm saving some of my strategic statements from the Free State project. I want to keep them separate before I forget them. I can revise and improve them at a later date, but I'd rather pick up old ideas than recreate them froms cratch.

This one is on integrating business-owners, particularly managers and small business-owners, into the LPNH. This is probably one of the single most important things we can do as strategy goes. We can't have a strictly ideological base from nothing. We need to show demographic groups that liberty is in their interest, hence loyalty to and membership in the Libertarian Party is in their interest:

To realistically win in any chance we need to engage in a game of demographics. We need to address certain groups' needs and interests and have them understand why liberty is the best method to get what they want. The best group here is probably small business owners, who don't like a lot of stupid restrictions, hate taxes, want fewer regulations, are usually more than willing to accept all races and creeds if they work hard, and aren't overly interested in social controls.

We need an alliance with Chambers of Commerce and the business community. Small business owners and managers are politically interested, economically productive, and in my experience most are all-around good people. We need to show them why their ideas are already compatible with most (or all) of what libertarians want.

If we could get small business owners into the LP, involved in its leadership and running on its ticket, we could become a force in NH and eventually elsewhere. Besides having many of the ideas we do, they have the financial strength to offer contributions to the candidates they support.

We need to make it so that we can refer to business owners not as 'our allies' but as simply ourselves - the point where business owners and non-business-owning libertarians are looking for others to ally with because we've gone from 'alliance' to simply a seamless group or party.

Otherwise we're sticking it out with Republican-extra-strength and a bunch of academics with not a lot of money to contribute. We'd be left without a demographic. Democrats have unions and minorities. Republicans have the middle class and white males. We'd have students and modern-day philosophers and not a whole lot else. I'm probably biased, I admit that I see a lot of issues from a small business owner perspective despite never owning one.


Business owners already join groups like Chamber of Commerce and so forth, so there's already something of a point of reference at which to address them. They already have well-developed ideas about the government because moreso than most Americans, small business owners are regularly screwed over by uptight, stuffshirt Democrats.

I really think we need to look at seriously at not just allying with the business community, but encouraging them to run on our tickets and with our resources. It's easy to ask somebody to vote for you, but it shows we mean business if we start asking for libertarian business owners to run on our ticket. I'm not saying we sell out become a business party, or that we let just anybody with a shop run on our ticket. I am saying that 1) by and large business owners ARE libertarian-minded, and 2) we should recruit libertarian business owners, already popular in their communities, to run on our ticket with our support.


Small business owners are critical demographic that is always talked down to or up to but never given what they really need: government off their backs. Addressing their needs and our needs is mutually compatible and beneficial, I think this is the way to make an electorally viable Libertarian party in New Hampshire.

October 28, 2004

America to Blame?

Plenty of people seem to think that the attacks on America are a response to US policy or even Western antagonism toward Islam. Had the French and British handled the Sykes-Picot Treaty better or the League mandates, maybe it wouldn't have happened. Had US soldiers not set foot on Arabian soil, we'd be okay. If the Crusaders had just stayed home then there would be no Islamist threat.

Besides being wrong, those ideas are just plain retarded. You have to be uninformed or idiotic to believe that argument. Since many people ARE woefully misinformed and underinformed about these matters, I'll suspend the idiotic and assume everyone is merely underinformed.

To answer that fallacious argument (that the US caused the attacks against us), you have to understand the foundation of the Islamic community, the umma, and the nature of a Muslim's obligations under the shari'ah. Islamic law requires a hierarchy of loyalties and the most important one is religion. Those of your religion are much more important than your region or country.

That's why Muslims from anywhere in the world fight EVERYWHERE Muslims fight - Sudan, Spain, Albania, Chechnya, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq, and so forth. So the Islamists will go anywhere Muslims are fighting, even if they speak different languages or come from different countries.

You'll also notice that Islamists are currently engaged in conflicts with nearly every Muslim-bordered country, race and religion:

- black people, animists and Christians in Africa, the Sudan and Nigeria
- Slavic and Orthodox people in Russia, Serbia and Chechnya
- Jewish, Ashkenazic and Sephardic people in Israel
- white people, Christians, atheists, and Jews in the United States, Middle East, Iraq, the Balkans, Europe, Spain, England and France
- Indians and Hindus in Kashmir
- Communist-atheists, Buddhists and Chinese in the Uighur Autonomous Region of western China
- Hispanic, Southeast Asian and Catholic people in the Philippines
- Malays, Australians and other Southeast Asians in Indonesia
- Even Muslims and Arabs when they bomb hospitals in Iraq and hotels in Saudi Arabia

Radical, murderous Islamists are fighting nearly everybody everywhere. They are a small percentage overall, but when there are over 1 billion Muslims worldwide, even 1% is still ten million people ready to fight, kill and die for the cause.

If you were rude to a friend and he pushed you, you'd assume that you caused it with your rudeness. But if you friend pushed basically everybody he knew every day of his life, you'd begin to think that maybe it's just him. That's where we are in this situation.

Islamists fight everybody everywhere, and I really don't think that raping black Africans and blowing up Hindu Kashmiris has anything to do with the 1991 Gulf War or the Sikes-Picot Treaty. They attack because they can, because they want to, because it's their ideology. We cannot retreat, Al Qaeda specifically said as much. They offered Europe a way out of the attacks - withdraw from all Muslim countries and you won't be attacked, but they specifically excluded the US and the UK from the repieve offer. We're on the death list, we're #1, we cannot just pull out and hope that they'll change their minds.

It was not our fault that we were attacked. Although we have made many mis-steps and many errors and done things that are not acceptable in light of our values, that's not why we were attacked. These guys fight EVERYBODY and they fight the people who aren't invading their countries. The French got threats for banning headscarves in schools (religious symbolism in French schools is banned in general) and they had spent so much energy opposing the US invasion and cultivating a friendship with the Muslim world.

We cannot hide or cower, the two options are to accept Islamic dominion (but still live as Christians or Jews, if we so choose) or to resist it. This is their stated goal, this is how Muslims originally conquered their first empire.

That's just my pet peeve, please stop mis-stating clear facts. Whatever mistakes the US and West have made, the attacks were not our fault. Everybody in range of Islamists is attacked by them, every country, race or religion, and Islamists from everywhere will go anywhere. That's why we have to respond, because we're not dealing with live-and-let-live people who've been pushed too far.

We're dealing with the closest thing to religious totalitarianism, an extremist group of true-believers who will never cease trying to punish others for their own bad governments.
The Solution In Iraq

After a monumental victory that uprooted a dictator and war criminal from power, the country fell into disarray and chaos. Insurgents of a radical, totalitarian ideology sought to sway the would-be democracy into the column of ever-increasing aggressive, totalitarian states - those countries and people bent on denying freedoms and prosperity that are the right of every person. Street fighting, arms caches, terrorist cells, police murdered, sirens and chaos, disrupted social services, decimated economic infrastructure from years of disrepair, destruction and war. I'm speaking, of course, of France after World War II.

Yes, France. The Communists in France, particularly nasty revolutionary insurgents, sought to revolt and turn France Soviet. They wanted the sort of totalitarianism earlier imposed by the Soviet Union, their ally, and Stalin, their de facto leader. They waged a good battle and many observers say France and other European countries might have descended into communism had things gone differently. With the severe lack of markets and basic necessities, and a demoralizing insurgency after the horrors of a long conflict, the French and Europeans were ripe for Communist upheaval.

The US passed the Marshall Plan (European Recovery Program) to fight the poverty and despair that were gripping Western Europe. They sent massive infusions of aid in two large doses that successfully revitalized the country'[s economy and spirits - while propping up the police long enough to hold off the Communists. This was repeated in a number of Western European countries, where otherwise despondent peoples embraced capitalism after seeing its prosperity, security and freedom.

Obviously, the situation is beyond coincidentally parallel to the Iraqi Reconstruction. The scenario has some major changes, including some details about the nature of Islam, the geopolitics of Arabs versus Slavs, and the ferocity of Islamists. But it's the same where it counts: a country ready for a new start, needs a massive help up, and if it can make it to free market democracy the insurgents will naturally thin and eventually blow out of steam. That's got to be the solution.

1) Build up the police and the army so they can at least hold the terrorists at bay. They very likely COULD win, especially if all the domestic Iraqis turn against the insurgents and terrorists, but a win by police force is a bonus, not a necessity.

2) Tariff and tax moratoria. Get as many countries as we can, even those no-goodniks, cheaters and cowards who unscrupulously opposed the invasion for their own enrichment, to declare deregulated or open trade with Iraq, if only for a limited while (at least five years, ideally ten, twenty or thirty). Get them to offer whatever applicable tax breaks to encourage their citizens and businesses to work in Iraq and help build its economy.

3) Grants, loans, bonds - in that order. Send the Iraqis grants in the form of naval construction companies. Spend a month on each major city, completely rebuild as much as possible given substantial budget caps, move to the next city and repeat. Then, after they start stabilizing after a few years, start giving more in low-interest loans, much of which we could later forgive if things turn bad. Once Iraq is doing better, bonds are a better way to invest in its improvement.

That's what we need to do: build the police to a point where they can match or exceed the insurgents and terrorists, then just declare, as Lieberman calls it, a Mid-East Marshall Plan. That's the key to success.

Now, I'm a Libertarian, but I support the war. Why on Earth would I support such a potentially massive spending venture? Well, first, I'd like it to be as voluntary as possible, raise money through donations, telethons, high-level philanthropists, and get Hollywood types to send money to fight disease and build water plants in Iraq. Focusing on tax cuts and not spending hikes is another way to deflect increased cash payouts.

But mostly, I genuinely believe in the power of freedom and democracy to turn around this war. Free speech and free elections are better in this fight than any bomb we could ever drop. If we can get democracy and freedom popular in the Middle East, we can start to turn this conflict around.

I'm unwilling to accept the massive regulation, nationalizations and pork barrel payouts to Kerry-friendly unions, like the Democrats want.

I'm unwilling to accept either the wholesale bombing of everybody in the Middle East, racial profiling at US airports, or the expansion of police powers, like the Republicans want.

The only alternative is to go abroad and fight proactively, to steal a corporate cliche, for freedom and democracy. Since tyranny and closed markets created these terrorist groups in the first place (a long-winded explanation I will not reproduce here right now) it's apparent to me that eliminating tyranny and closed markets will stop terrorists at the source.

That's why: because violent Islamism is a revisionist threat to everyone everywhere, and only freedom and democracy are capable of treating the cause and not the symptoms of Islamist terror.
Fear-Mongering On The Trade Imbalance

This is about as fashionable in politics as a confederate flag bumper sticker on a dingy yellow pickup, but it annoys me because people still like to reference it sometimes. So here's my take on it.

The trade imbalance is a manipulated political issue, the same with the people who desperately want a high dollar. We have a trade imbalance because they have stuff we want and we give them money to buy it. The deficit will level off as their standard of living rises with the influx of massive amounts of Western cash and they can actually afford the expensive-ass stuff we're selling. We have gobs of money so we can afford to buy all the cheap trinkets and pieces of plastic that factories in China and Indonesia sell. They don't have gobs of money lying around so they can't afford the stuff Americans sell.

Additionally, their factories are specifically targeted at selling us stuff, but nobody sells to poor-ass Asians because they don't buy enough yet; as China becomes a more and more attractive consumer market, we'll start targeting them for car, electronics and consumer goods sales and the trade deficit will level off - but in essence they're TRYING to sell us stuff and we're NOT trying to sell them stuff. Naturally that means a deficit in their 'favor.'

We have to realize that it would cost a lot to set up shipping routes to China and elsewhere. To do that, you'd want to be reasonably sure that you could sell what you send there and turn a profit at the end. Since there are millions of rich, luxury-purchasing consumers in the US, a favorable political environment for business and substantial legal protections for commerce, it's very attractive to do business here. So naturally Chinese AND US companies want to sell stuff here, if they possibly can turn a profit. Comparatively, the market -though enormous- is broadly impoverished in China, the political environment is less predictable, and the Chinese protections for commerce are based on short-term interest and not matters of settled, historic law. It's less attractive to sell to poorer people farther away in a country that's less safe for commercial interests.

Those are some of the major reasons we have an imbalance.

The best way to stop a trade deficit is to allow the dollar to devalue. Relative to Chinese or European currencies, a devalued dollar makes it harder for Americans to buy goods from non-$US countries and easier for non-$US to buy from us, owing in essence to exchange rates. Unfortunately, it's often the same people who gain some supremely shallow nationalistic pleasure from the idea of a trade surplus and a strong dollar. That's possible to have both, but unlikely the way things are right now.

If you really want to cut the trade deficit down, you need to devalue the dollar.

We shouldn't act on the trade deficit, it's a normal economic process so long as the government isn't artificially encouraging it. We should focus on balancing the budget and keeping interest rates low to help the economy, not on manufactured emotionalism like the trade deficit.

October 27, 2004

Understanding New Hampshire Elections: Structural

New Hampshire State House districts are often multi-member (MMD) so all you have to do is NOT lose. Some districts have only one elected Rep (SMD).

In Belknap County, the Reps with the fewest votes who still won were elected in 2002 with as few as 1769 votes and as many as 5076 votes.

In Carroll County, the Reps with the fewest votes who still won were elected with as few as 721 votes and as many as 4009 votes.

In Cheshire County, the Reps with the fewest votes who still won were elected with as few as 1573 votes and as many as 3175 votes.

In Coos County, the Reps with the fewest votes who still won were elected with as few as 1290 votes and as many as 2404 votes.

In Grafton County, the Reps with the fewest votes who still won were elected with as few as 1247 votes and as many as 4321 votes.

In Hillsborough County, the Reps with the fewest votes who still won were elected with as few as 780 votes and as many as 5399 votes.

In Merrimack County, the Reps with the fewest votes who still won were elected with as few as 1303 votes and as many as 3831 votes.

In Rockingham County, the Reps with the fewest votes who still won were elected with as few as 938 votes and as many as 6441 votes.

In Strafford County, the Reps with the fewest votes who still won were elected with as few 1268 as votes and as many as 5237 votes.

In Sullivan County, the Reps with the fewest votes who still won were elected with as few as 1132 votes and as many as 1485 votes.


So overall the minimum needed in the last election to win a seat was 721 votes. In the toughest race the last-place winner needed 6441 votes to take a seat. The way you do well is to get on the ticket. You can get on a ticket if you are written into another party's ballot line. In a party's primary, there are as many winners as there are seats in the district. If there are fewer people contesting the seat for the party than there are seats available, it's easy to get their primary endorsement. In such a case, you'd only need one primary voter's vote to get that line.

So if you ran as a Libertarian in a 6-seat constituency, and only 5 Republicans are running in the primary, you need only convince a few voters to vote you on their Republican primary ballot to be a nominee of the Republicans. If you get on, then in the general election you are a Libertarian-Republican. There are a lot of D-Rs and R-Ds and there's no reason there couldn't be L-Rs or L-Ds or L-R-Ds. If you are on the party's ticket, you get the best part - besides showing off your multipartisanship, you receive all of the straight-ticket votes. Anybody who votes straight-Republican automatically votes for all L-Rs and D-Rs. That's why it's valuable to do this.

Get enough straight-ticket votes, as well as enough community support, and you could win. That's one thing you have to do, though: make sure to compete in the other primaries by asking friends and neighbors in those parties to consider writing you in.
Al Qaqaa Thefts

After a little bit of research, I think it's appropriate to put the theft of 380 tons of high explosives into scale so that we don't draw false conclusions I think this graph is self-explanatory.

October 23, 2004

First 2004 Presidential Debate Transcript

"I mean, we can remember when President Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis sent his secretary of state to Paris to meet with DeGaulle. And in the middle of the discussion, to tell them about the missiles in Cuba, he said, 'Here, let me show you the photos.' And DeGaulle waved them off and said, 'No, no, no, no. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me.'" - John Kerry

Not exactly correct on two points, wildly misleading on a third.

1) He didn't send the Secretary of State, he sent Dean Acheson, former Secretary of State. That's a simple enough mistake, but it in fact changes the story. Acheson was a well-respected elder statesman, served as Secretary of State for Truman, had been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was widely held in esteem in western leadership circles. Taking a guy like that off the bench is very different from sending a political appointee to do your work. It would be a different thing to ask an Acheson to go lie to De Gaulle than to ask a current SecState to power-tag some facts. It's an understandable error, but it affects the story.

2) De Gaulle said that, but then [b]he looked at the photos anyway[/b]. He was being courteous, De Gaulle was big into pomp, circumstance, honor, all that old-France kind of stuff. He said it as a matter of courtesy, like asking if anybody else wants the last bread roll when really you just want it yourself. He looked at the photos and Acheson went over them.

3) The misleading point: while Bush and Blair were trying to sway people to support a cause and join a coalition, JFK was not. He had already gotten the OAS to back him up with unanimous vote (1 abstention) after much cajolery. He didn't need allies or a coalition. The decision was already made, Acheson was not asking for De Gaulle's help, his permission or his approval. It was a friendly notification, not a request.

It's somewhat misleading to let people make the obvious assumption that JFK asked for help and got it with a snap of the fingers. JFK had made the decision and he wasn't asking for help.

Anyway, I doubt anybody votes on this issue at all, but it's aggravating because it's incorrect. I don't even know that Kerry was lying about it, it's easy to be mistaken. It's important to be clear, though: De Gaulle apparently did need to look at the evidence and the US was acting unilaterally without allies or UN approval. The US did have the support of a group of nations that no doubt Kerry would've mocked if he were running in 1964.

October 07, 2004

Tag Der Einheit was October 3, I knew it was around but I figured I'd post on it. It means day of unity, but it's usually translated German Reunification Day. The issue of German unity brings up the symbol of disunity: the Berlin Wall.

Walter Ulbricht, an interwar MP in the German Reichstag for the Communist Party and leader of postwar East Germany, had been pushing for closing the border into West Berlin for years. He wanted to clamp down and stop people from basically escaping the horror of East Germany. During the occupation years, the Red Army soldiers had raped in excess of two million women - which Stalin had dismissed as over-worked soldiers having some fun. The Soviets took heavy reparations from the Soviet zone of Germany in compensation for the war. Aside from heavy machinery and currency reserves, the Red Army took cars, watches, pens, knives and furniture from the East Germans. Naturally, many Germans weren't inclined to stick around.

The East German Communists were also quite bad and it's often understated the degree to which communist oppression of East Germany was led, directed and inspired by the German leadership. Stalin tried to slow down the pace of socialization in order to keep open the option for a quick unification, but Ulbricht sped it up.

Some of the policies were smashingly successful, others met with strong popular support. The land reform was loved by most of the East Germans (except those who lost in the process, naturally) and even though Soviet propaganda hailed it as nationalization of land, it usually ended up being more or less sold off or granted to individuals and families. The socialist health care and art subsidy policies were also generally viewed as positive.

However, Ulbricht was no benevolent ruler. He wanted to be able to really crack down and punish people. Following communist policies, food shortages wracked East Germany and eventually food ration cards, used to get better foods and small luxury items, were restricted to workers and peasants. He wanted to really move things along, but any time something got hard the people left through West Berlin, which was perfectly legal.

Over three million Germans escaped communist tyranny through West Berlin in the early years, where they were then flown by the Allies into West Germany. Stalin and the Soviets didn't want to close the borders because they hoped to create a unified, weak, neutral Germany and closing borders would antagonize the Allies. Ulbricht pushed for years to have the border closed and the wall built, even to the point of nearly threatening Khrushchev if he didn't get it. After a rocky summit with JFK in 1961, Khrushchev gave the go-ahead to close travel.

The wall itself developed slowly. At first, it was a guarded border and had barbed wire covering it. As soon as the barbed wire went up, Germans began fleeing in huge numbers. People just jumped right over it for a little while. As it was built up, people went to buildings right on the border and snuck over to the West. The guards sealed up the first floor windows with bricks, so people went to the second floor and jumped to the other side - often into waiting nets held by Westerners. The guards proceeded to brick up each level and the refugees went up a floor every time, jumping whenever they could. Eventually they started jumping off the roof to escape.

The Soviet engineers came in with the Red Army, knocked down the buildings near the border and built a proper wall. This too went by fits and starts, first a wall then other parts, including a no-man's land, several fences, more barbed wire, soldiers with dogs, machine gun emplacements, and floodlights. This is how it ended up:



If you have flash, here is a good animation of the wall, just click at the bottom "The Berlin Wall from East to West" to see it:
http://www.msnbc.com/news/wld/graphics/berlinwall_dw.htm

Officially, the wall was supposed to stop attacks from West Berlin and prevent infiltration of fascist agents into East Germany (the GDR or 'DDR' in German). This was ludicrous, however, since the barbed wire was very clearly pointed at the East side. Ulbricht laughingly titled the Berlin Wall the "Wall of Freedom" which would probably be accurate if he meant the freedom of the communist leadership to exploit and terrorize the population. Tanks sat near the wall at regular intervals, as did men with automatic weapons.

When it went up, it was like the 1956 Hungarian uprising - everybody expected the US to do something dramatic and heroic and save the Germans from this horrible injustice. Unfortunately, also like 1956, the US did little more than fierce rhetoric. It's unclear what they really could have done short of all-out war, and by this time the Soviets had developed fusion bombs so war could have escalated into nuclear apocalypse.

However, unlike 1956, the Soviet victory was privately a relief for the Kennedy administration. Kennedy, Ulbricht and Khrushchev were all relieved at the wall, since it seemingly calmed down the situation. In that pre-wall summit, Khrushchev tested out the young, new President and actually said to Kennedy, "If you want war, you will get it" in relation to the wall. Both the Soviet and American records had altered the record, however - the Americans softened it slightly and the Soviets switched it out with another sentence altogether. But the leaders knew how close war could have been, and they thought the Berlin Wall brought some stability to the situation.

The obvious effect of course, was that the East Germans got screwed and were now prisoners in their own countries. Travel between Soviet bloc countries was not permitted and travel to West Germany was now closed. The East Germans were trapped within viewing distance of the freedom, luxury and prosperity afforded their friends, cousins and countrymen. Kennedy defiantly pledged 100% support should West Berlin ever be invaded, but he could not promise any immediate support for those unfortunate enough to be stuck on the other side of the wall.

The next dramatic event for the Wall was of course Reagan's speech. Reagan's call for a worldwide democratic revolution and his to-the-point characterization of the Evil Empire is documented as having an effect on Soviet and East German citizens and even gulag prisoners had heard his words from newly arrived prisoners. His dramatic speech came in 1987, amid Gorbachev's leadership and Soviet policies of political openness (glasnost) and economic reform (perestroika). Here is perhaps the most poignant section, and of course the most famous quote.

"In the 1950s, Khrushchev predicted: "We will bury you." But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history. In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind--too little food. Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.

"And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control.

"Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.

"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"


The story of how the wall fell is at once climactic and anti-climactic. At first, Hungarians opened up the border in 1989. Germans went through Czechoslovakia into Hungary, into free (neutral) Austria and into West Germany. The wall guards became somewhat unmotivated and confused and they just started letting people through. Spreading at lightning pace, within hours and days throngs of people from around Western Europe and East Germany crowded around the wall. Soldiers were unsure what to do but didn't fire or stop people.

The government announced open borders and free travel through the Berlin Wall on November 9th, less than a month after mass demonstrations forced brutal East German dictator Eric Honecker to resign. Families reunite, strangers hug, celebrations are had. Millions of people were in the city, most of them drunk, many of them non-German, all of them ecstatic. East German TV became 100% unregulated, and showed anything from parliamentary speeches and nature documentaries to porno and music videos. The West German government announced a gift of 100 DM to every East German - GDR currency was worthless but 100 DM was two or three months' wages. For several weeks, nearly every East German went into the West to visit friends and relatives, emptying their section of the country.

And a quirky side-note, November 9th, 1918 was the proclamation of the Weimar Republic. November 9th, 1923 was the day of Hitler's failed beer hall putsch. November 9th, 1938 was the date of Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass when Nazi riots ransacked the homes and businesses of Jewish Germans. November 9th is the day the Wall opened. Quite a big day for the country.

This was the visible end of the Iron Curtain, the end of communism. Free elections and market reforms came in nearly every Eastern European country in 1989, before and after the Wall fell. It also signaled the end of German division. When crafting the constitution for the West German government, the natives insisted that it was a Basic Law and not a constitution. This very explicitly signaled that they were waiting to unify with the West, and until all of Germany was in the government, they could never have a Constitution.

Tag der Einheit is one of the single most important holidays in history not because the wall fell on that day, but because it represents the day, October 3, 1990, when Germany was unified, Europe was unified, and the communist empire that took the lives, livelihood and happiness of hundreds of millions of people was finally and officially extinguished.