Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Who Will Help Flatten?

There is little doubt that Friedman is a Democrat, but one wonders as he looks at the key challenges to the US relative to globalization … education, willingness to move to new industries and ideas, take risks, and the “creative destruction” of whole industries, how does he ever expect that to come out of the Democrats? He quotes Jerry Yang, cofounder of Yahoo! as saying “Where people have hope, you have a middle class”. Friedman agrees that the “middle class” is really a state of mind, but what does one hear Democrats preaching? “The system is unfair”. ”The deck is stacked against the little guy”. “Corporations and the rich are the only ones that can succeed”. The Democrats are the cheerleaders for “victim society”, not the “ownership society” or the “opportunity society”. A nation of victims has no hope in the global ecomomy.

He understands the anti-globalization movement as driven by 5 forces:

  1. Upper middle class American liberal guilt at the incredible power that America had amassed in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dot-com boom
  2. A rear-guard push by the Old Left – socialists, anarchists, and Trotskyites- in alliance with protectionist trade unions.
  3. People protesting the speed at which the world was changing to flat … the “anti-change” folks.
  4. Anti-Americanism.
  5. “Serious and constructive groups” … NGOs, environmentalists, trade activists, etc. He claims they were more there to “help globalization work right” … I suspect his liberal roots have a bit too much faith.

I liked his comment about “the Old Left”; “These Old Left forces wanted to spark a debate about whether we globalize. The claimed to speak in the name of the Third World poor, but the bankrupt economic policies they advocated made them, in my view, the Coalition to Keep Poor People Poor.” If he would take a closer look at the left wing of his own party, he would find much the same kind of coalition right here in the good old US of A.

He also correctly figures out that the terrorists are not really after any specific target, or any specific action of the USA. They hate us because we are who we are and we are successful. He calls them “Islamo-Leninists” because what they are after is a form of “idea conquest” that has to do with the defeat of America and the rise of a “perfect Muslim state”. Much like the original Leninism, it is short on methods that are likely to work to create that state, but unfortunately, not short on concepts that motivate young Arab men to suicide missions.

One of his “summary phrases” is “There are two ways to flatten the world. One is to use your imagination to everyone up to the same level, and the other is to use your imagination to bring everyone down to the same level.”. The second is of course the Osama way, but I’d argue that the first is not possible. It is VERY possible to do things that “raise everyone” (or by far the majority), BUT, it will not be equal. Whatever mechanisms are created for benefit, some will be able to avail themselves of them more than others. The age old problem is that it is FAR easier to make sure that everyone has nothing than it is to get the virtuous cycle of economic growth to begin.

My hope is that there is enough “left” in this book to get some of the left side of the middle reading and understanding as well. In general, these are concepts that could help move America off the “parked on polarized” spot we are in. If we understand the challenges and the potentials of globalization, it should be something that center, as well as center right and left can reach agreement on and find a way to move the country forward to be a more competitive and successful player.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Edge of Flatness

Finished up “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman, a NYT columnist, originally from Minnesota

One of the things that strikes me from the book is the fact that there are only two political parties, and if you want to be seen as an “intellectual” and hang out with folks that the NY Times, there is really only one. I’m sure Friedman would swear to his dying day that he is a Democrat, but while 97% of the book sounds like a Republican free trader, the only places he actually mentions US political parties are the 5 times he mentions that “The Republican Led Congress” cut funding to the NSF, which he takes as a hugely foolish thing to do. The other is that he gets a couple of Bush bashes by name in, one for Bush’s failure to do the “obvious thing” and start an “energy Manhattan project" , and the other when he claims that history will show that Bush shamelessly used 9-11 to promote a right-wing Republican agenda. 

I hope those small fig leaves are enough to allow the lefties to consider a lot of the highly factual information in the book on globalization, the futility of socialism, and how important it is for us to understand that we are in a global economic competition, and the only way to maintain our standard of living is to compete successfully. A little Republican bashing is a small price to pay for the rest of the book.

Friedman Lists 10 “flatteners”:
  1. 11/9/89 – The Fall of the Berlin Wall … no walls, open world, capitalism won.
  2. 8/9/95 – Netscape goes public, the birth of the “Internet Platform”
  3. Work Flow Software – Breaking work up and controlling it.
  4. Open Source – Self-organizing collaborative communities
  5. Outsourcing – Y2K … the Indians got a foot in the door, specific pieces
  6. Offshoring – Moving whole major parts of business overseas
  7. Supply Chaining – Horizontal collaboration
  8. Insourcing – UPS, hiring other companies to be part of your company.
  9. In-Forming – Google, Yahoo, Information at EVERYONEs fingertips
  10. The Steroids – Digital, Mobile, Personal, Virtual
These flatteners, along with the “Triple Convergence”:
  1. At Y2K, all ten of the flatteners made the global playing field level.
  2. Businesses and individuals adopted new habits, skills, and processes to make use of the flat world. Vertical to horizontal.
  3. A whole new group of people walked out on the playing field from China, India, and former Soviet Union.
The core messages of the book are:
· Technology, in the form of transportation, communication, computers, software, standards, the internet, bandwidth, etc creates a “flat world” where distance is hardly a factor, and even barriers like language and local government policies are less important than the “global competitive platform”.
· In a flat world, the barriers to competition are small to non-existent. People at computer terminals with phones in India or China can compete very well with people at computer terminals with phones in Ohio or Utah.
· As has been happening for 1000’s of years, the effect of this in the globe is that the size of the economic pie is increased … drastically. When more people create and compete with better tools and less barriers to competition, the economic pie grows for everyone. (failure to realize this is one of the reasons that some fight globalization, just as they fight capitalism)
· All of this means change, and change is never smooth. The growth won’t happen in all the same places as it does today, income will be distributed differently, economic and political power is changed … shifted, different players “win and lose”. People that are in the business of “keeping things the way they are” will be very angry. Socialists and Islamic Fundamentalists have a lot in common as far as being against globalization. Both lose a lot of power if it is successful.
· Free markets and capitalism go hand in hand with globalization. Tom seems to not particularly like that fact, but accepts that once people are seamlessly connected by something that you can’t, and likely don’t want to stop (the internet), the fact that they will “compete” is sort of like gravity coming with mass. Trying to stop it is a waste of time.

That covers a lot of the key points, more commentary in the next post.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Dark Side of Acting

The remainder of the family finally made the pilgrimage to see “Revenge of the Sith” tonight. The effects get better all the time, and the film is obviously a pivotal point in what is probably great film saga of my lifetime, but one wonders if there is a limit to how bad acting can get.

I try to intellectualize, and think that MAYBE if we didn’t know what was going to happen and have all our expectations built up for it, the acting wouldn’t seem so bad … but then I’m forced to conclude, nah, it would still be horrible. The moment of conversion to the dark side would seem to be worth a re-take or two, but I have to wonder if Lucas didn’t just let them stumble through it and hit the showers without ever bothering. At least I HOPE so, it would be an awful shame to be one of the actors and have given that “their best”.

Some ado has been made about the supposed “lines that sound like Bush” from the fledgling Darth Vader. One item is supposedly a little mix of “those that are not with us are against us”. However, Bush didn’t exactly invent that concept, one place to read it is Luke 11:23 “He that is not with me is against me”. I suppose I could try to put some meaning into Darth’s promises to “end the war”, “provide safety, and FREEDOM” … and some comments about “democracy”, but it seems like a stretch to me. The use of the term “freedom” did seem a bit odd for Darth, he never really struck me as that sort of “free and easy” kind of guy, but if the Lucas eye for acting will let some of the things pass that did, I would guess that dialog precision for characters isn’t something he wakes up at night over.

There are plenty of Evangelicals out there that get pretty excited over the whole “force thing” as being dangerous for kids to play with. It certainly has a bit of a Zen flavor with it on the “attachment is a bad thing” front, and “don’t become a control freak” … which of course Vader is hard to beat as en embodiment of. On the other hand though, it does seem to pretty starkly identify the concepts of good and evil, which is somewhat rare in the modern world. It also lets a vast amount of the secular world play with the idea that there MIGHT be “something more” than just matter and technology.

It seems to me that the answer on most of these things is “it’s only a movie after all”. The light saber fights were great, lots of special effects, and what had to happen happened … even if the acting did make that part rather painful at times. I remember sitting in the theatre and watching the first one in Eau Claire WI the summer of ’77 before my senior year of college. Not many movie tales play out over that much of our lives. Better acting would be nice, but I still tip my hat to the genius of George Lucas. Star Wars has become one of the shared experiences of nearly all Americans and most of the world, and on balance, it has been a pretty good force.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Extraordinary Times

On the way into work this AM I heard the joy on NPR that “compromise had been reached, crisis had been averted”. Whenever I hear NPR happy, I’m pretty sure that something bad has happened, but in this case I’m more and more thinking that they just don’t know what happened.

They were interviewing their darling, John McCain. With the press, the quickest way to be a darling is to be a “maverick” Republican (an endearing term for “weasel”, or “Republicans acting like Democrats”). This is an area they are 100% consistent … the quickest way to be insane, a pariah, the filthiest scum alive, is to be a “maverick” Democrat (someone that a Democrat would see as a “weasel”, acting like a Republican). Zell Miller is a great example of a Democrat like that. All he did was SPEAK at a Republican convention. When McCain was being courted by Kerry as a potential Democrat VP CANIDATE, he was treated by the press as the closest thing to divine as could be found on this earth. Just one of the 1000’s of examples where press bias is completely clear.

This AM, King John was in fine form. I suspect that the biggest single element in this “compromise” is a calculation by McCain relative to his ’08 run. His MIScalculation is always that he discovers too late that it is REPUBLICANS that vote in the Republican primaries … the kind that actually believe in what the party stands for, and think that if they vote for Republicans, they will get folks that act like Republicans. Very odd concept to McCain, but he enjoys press adulation just too much to remember that when a primary isn’t actually on. He was a happy camper, and who wouldn’t be, when you get to be the main guy to pick what a suitable judge is, rather than having to have it come up to a vote for 100 guys in the Senate? You get to lead your little merry band of “moderates”, and at BEST, 14 guys hold the power. Actually, since you are their leader, and setting up for ’08, you hold the most sway. PLUS, you get some nice free press adulation for being such a super guy. It is good to be King.

However, all that really happened is that three Bush nominees that the Democrats hate, get to be voted on and nearly certainly approved. True, 2 guys that very few people have ever heard of are denied the up or down vote that every nominee has gotten in the last couple hundred years (with the exception of the LBJ stunt). That is of course a new height of partisan obstructionism, but if you are a liberal press, you just use the looking glass, and call it the other way around. Doing something that has NEVER been done (filibustering a judicial nominee that made it through committee) is “normal”, PREVENTING that new tactic, is “a threat to the Constitution, and UNPRECEDENTED”. Things look different through the looking glass.

The Democrats preserved the right to go where no minority has gone in obstructionism by promising not to go there … unless of course it is “extraordinary”. Democrats have a huge problem with words like “is”, so my faith in their understanding of “extraordinary” is quite limited. On the odd case that they mean what they say, and unless Bush does something really extraordinary, like appointing a liberal, one might fall for the idea that this deal means that they aren’t going to filibuster judicial nominees. Somehow though, I suspect that extraordinary times are ahead.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Byrd Option

Having just returned from a highly successful walleye fishing trip to Lake Mille Lacs, I return to the Blog. Walleyes of 27”, 24”, 23”, and 21” were my big catches, but the numbers of big fish were even well exceeded by another guy on the outing. Great way to spend a long weekend.

I’ve been generally away from the news, but couldn’t help hearing a bit as we turned on a show this AM that had Joe Lieberman on it. In ’95, Joe argued that the filibuster not be allowed to block judicial nominees, and proposed a sliding vote scale that would allow the cloture vote to eventually get down to 51, so the Senate could give the nominee an up or down vote. They had him on tape arguing that it was wrong to filibuster nominees, and when asked what he had to say. He got away with “the situation has changed”. The biggest change of course is that the guy doing the nominating at that point would have been a Democrat, Bill Clinton. Lieberman is about as good as the Democrats come, it is sad to see him reduced to being just another partisan hack.

There has only been one case where a judical nominee was filibustered before, and that was Abe Fortas in ’68, a truly odd case of LBJ trying to deny Nixon appointment of the new Chief Justice, and appointing a shady guy that both sides agreed was not qualified. He was filibustered by the bi-partisan group of Democrats and Republicans, and resigned rather than face the music of financial his financial dealings. Hardly a precedent for what we have now.

It has been argued that the Constitution says something about the 60 vote super-majority and appointments, but it does not. Treaties, impeachment, and amendments to the Constitution are the only things that require 60 votes. The only thing that drives filibuster is “tradition”, but of course the “tradition” of “advice and consent” was that an elected President had the right to an up or down vote on his nominees … until Abe Fortas (discussed above), and of course now.

Only in the liberal press land of American can we see ex-KKK Klegal, Robert Byrd, who talked for 14 hours to prevent civil rights legislation, and has used and threatened to use Senate rules in the past to limit debate, now talk about such limits being “like Hitler”. The comedic skills of the Democrats never cease to amaze. Byrd himself has used, and threatened to use, the very same mechanism that the Republicans now hope to use to limit debate. It is very odd to listen to the media on this subject. One senses that with the Democrats in the minority, they have a very strong desire for “minority rule”, something which was ALWAYS considered 100% “obstructionism” in ’92 – ’94 when the Republicans were in the minority.

While Dick Morris is often a flake, this is one time I fine myself in perfect agreement with him. In his article at http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1393564/posts , he argues that the Republicans need to quit being a bunch of pansies and get an honest to goodness 24x7 filibuster going over some of these circuit court nominees. It is a great opportunity to see what the left wingnut Senate minority thinks are important issues vs the economy, the war, Social Security, roads, etc. I personally would relish seeing the ex-hooded knight of the South, Byrd, reading a phonebook to block a Black Woman CA Supreme Court Justice, elected with over 70% of the vote. It is the kind of picture that can only happen in America.

At least there should be some fireworks to watch this week!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Fake But True

We used to call the Minneapolis Start Tribune the “Red-Star Tribune” in honor of it’s Pravda like adherence to the Communist line of thought, but the world has changed since Reagan destroyed the Evil Empire. With the rise of “Red State / Blue State”, the “Red-Star” could be confusing. Maybe the “Blue Flame” since it is certainly on the side of Blue, it’s anger is constantly flaming. For example, http://www.startribune.com/stories/1519/5409054.html “Newsweek, It doesn’t Deserve the Diatribes”.

The old saying “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” comes to mind pretty rapidly when a Republican says anything critical of the press. It is definitely different with a Democrat … there was a lot of press hand-wringing about “are we being too critical” during the Clinton serial affairs. In 2002 after the Republicans won seats in Congress in an off year, old Billy C chided the press on “not being critical enough post-911”. They fell all over themselves with recrimination and got on the “Bash Bush” theme with haste.

One wonders if there isn’t some “central casting” somewhere that gives liberals their ideas. The piece picks up the wacko; “Bush was wrong about WMD, so what is the big deal about Newsweek being wrong” comparison. Let’s see … the UN, UK, both houses of Congress, including Hillary, Kerry, Edwards, McCain, … every paper in the US (how many times did we read of concerns about Saddam using chemical weapons against our troops in ’91), etc were “wrong”. Of course there is the uncomfortable fact that Saddam actually USED chemical weapons against the Kurds.

The fact is, we never FOUND chemical weapons (in quantity … we did find some, plus shells to use them, and suits for protection during their use). If it wasn’t for the DNA stain on the blue dress, liberals would still be chortling that there was never any PROOF that Clinton walked the halls of power with his pants around his knees. I sometimes suspect that there is nothing that makes a liberal more happy than a bad guy that “gets away with it”. Saddam of course didn’t EXACTLY “get away with it”, but their level of glee that he managed to escape getting caught with incontrovertible evidence of WMD seems to be one of their only remaining sources of joy. Well, I guess that and Abu Grab.

So what is the difference between going to war with a known killer that has used WMD in the past, claims he still has it, everyone believes he has it, and with intelligence that he plans to use it on our nation, and writing a piece in a weekly rag claiming some new horrible atrocity committed by the troops of your own nation when you have very little evidence that it is true? I don’t know, the two seem VERY similar don’t they? I mean think of all the potential downside of Newsweek NOT publishing that piece? What if they hadn’t published it and it WERE true? Maybe there would be less anti-American sentiment around the world? I suppose when you are Newsweek, or a lefty, one just can’t pass up an opportunity to increase anti-American sentiment.

The Star Trib couldn’t even leave Dan Rather’s sorry memos lie in their grave. No, it seems that the lefties are hard on the “fake but correct” standard of journalism these days. If you are a lefty and you can make up a plausible story (or even an IMplausible one that is bad for Bush), fake some evidence, and print it, you should “stand your ground”. Anyone that tries to question such tactics is “Nixonian”. The wagons seem to be circled and the lines drawn. The good point is that unless you are completely blind, what side the media is on is pretty clear.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek Lied, People Died

To any American awake enough to realize that the mainline media has been left-biased for years, the Dan Rather story with the fake memos last fall was no surprise, other than for the level of incompetence. Dan and CBS thought that a one hour prime-time special that was completely one-sided anti-Bush would be a great way to help their buddy John Kerry. Mainstream US media works to get Democrat elected … no news there, except of course that the memos were faked. Golly, what a shame.

It seems however that Newsweek as stepped over a new line. Their May 9th issue carried a story that US forces were defiling the Muslim holy book, the Quran, by flushing it in a toilet. This story spread across the Arab world, including Afghanistan and has apparently been a major factor in the latest round of violence, which have included at least 15 deaths. We know the press is anti-Republican, and the far left tends to be anti-American. What we are seeing now is the mainstream press moving more to the anti-American side.

The whole Abu-Grab story is an exercise in attempting to create as much of a problem for the US in Iraq, or other Arab countries as possible. When the NYT had it on their FRONT PAGE over 40 times last year, one could at least hope it was just another thinly veiled attempt to defeat Bush. This years “celebration” of the “anniversary” (of the story breaking, not the event) lets us know that it runs deeper than that.

Anyone with a couple firing neural circuits knows that the whole prison abuse story is going to help inflame Arabs. The media and the left has CONSTANTLY pointed out that one of the key reasons that the war in Iraq is a bad idea is because “it makes terrorists faster than we can kill them”. They must be a bit concerned as to the truth of that assertion, since their treatment of Abu-Grab and now the Quran desecration fable one year later show that they feel that there may need to be an “assist” in the minting of new terrorists. Newsweek is deliberately printing a story that has every potential of getting people including US soldiers killed … if it was true, that would be bad enough. When it isn’t true, it is unconscionable.

The mainline media is of course going to back off this as fast as they can, it is already off the CNN headlines, replaced by “Looks Like a Bad Hurricane Season”, but it is still available at http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/05/15/newsweek.quran/index.html.

I wonder how quickly it would be buried if Rush Limbaugh or Fox news made an “error” of similar import? "We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst," Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker wrote in the magazine's May 23 issue. Touching.

Newsweek lied, people died. BUT, they said they were “sorry” … but why did they need to do this story in the first place? It turns out they used some of the same logic as CBS used to “verify” the memo story. They asked officials, and they “didn’t deny it”. There may be a couple of flaws in that logic. Dan Rather was duly accused of being the Queen of All Space Unicorns on the Internet last fall, and is yet to deny this serious charge. If the logic of “failure to deny means it is true” works, the Space Unicorns can rest, their Queen as been found!

We have an American press that is trying to give Al-Jezeera a run for it’s money on being anti-American and inciting Arabs against America and Americans. Fox news is considered biased because their position on the War is to attempt to provide a “pro-American view”. Isn’t it just as biased (and a bit harder to understand) to go out of your way to provide and ANTI-American view?

It would be nice if something could be done here. Freedom of speech doesn’t include the freedom to yell “fire”! in a crowded theatre (when there is no fire). I’d argue that Newsweek as crossed that line. Had the story been true, it would have just showed a short-sighted interest in not caring about what was likely to happen, including loss of life. Since it is turning out to NOT be true, Newsweek lied about a story that cost lives. We could do with one less left-wing pamphlet.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Retiring Models

Anyone that reads this Blog will get sick of “models”. Partially because of the computer software background, and partially because of reading too many books on the brain and how we think, I am tied to the thought that we NEVER work with “reality”, as humans we are ONLY able to work with a model of reality in our brains. A common way of saying this is “the map is not the territory”. Note that this does NOT mean that I find “truth” or “reality” to be “relative”. Your “model” may be that you can jump off a 100’ cliff without being injured, but reality will show you that model is flawed. One definition of “intelligence” is “how predictive are your models”? Unfortunately, that often means changing models to conform to reality.

Today’s model to be explored is the “retirement model”. Prior to FDR, many folks hoped that they would die before they were FORCED to “retire” by ill health, or that they could find some way to “slow down easy”. FDR created Social Security with the model that if you lived beyond the average life expectancy, you would be able to stop working and have enough of a “pension” from the government to get by. There were two fundamentals to this model:

1). The average person would never use it, since they would be dead before they were eligible to receive payments.

2). Since the set of people that received the money was small, and the set of people paying in was large and growing, it would never cost workers very much.

Like all government programs, Social Security became an institution. What is more, businesses bought into the model as well and came up with ideas like “30 and out” … again, with roughly the same assumptions. Much like the lottery, younger people could be motivated (by business), and votes could be bought (by the FDR Democrats) with the idea of a sweet deal at the end of the working years. Both parties had the expectation that most of the employees would never see the money, and both the Social Security programs and the Pension programs were set up so that you didn’t “own the pot”. The business or the government “had the money”, the government of course had NONE, and just kept moving it from younger workers to the elderly, business funded the pensions and some percentage, assumed to be “enough”.

Both of the assumptions of these programs have of course turned out to be FALSE in very large ways. The life expectancy has shot up and shows signs of shooting up more, the population growth as stalled, so less and less workers are making payments to more and more retirees. But, like typical humans, we would rather wail and wring our hands than look at the situation that we are now in. Unfortunately, the signs have started to show up that indicate that the fallacy of the kind of retirement model that FDR bequeathed on the nation is coming unraveled faster than the Social Security program.

United Airlines declared Bankruptcy last week and their retirement plan was too under funded to pay out the rates that retirees had counted on. It sounds like their pensions will be cut by 40%. When IBM declared disappointing results the first quarter, a major part of the reason was the need to put $250 Million in the pension fund, and it sounds like that will be done every quarter this year for a cool 1 Billion $ drained off profits. GM and Ford have had their bonds reduced to “junk” status, and a major reason is the cost of funding their pensions. This has been coming for some time of course … IBM has NO pension plan for people starting out today … they have a nice 401K plan and they do some good matches, but YOU carry the task of saving for your retirement. The model of retirement that we were sold is simply not possible with the changes to reality.

The old model has been broken for a long time, and if we were honest with ourselves, we would have seen it long ago. We rarely are that honest though, we LOVE “wishful thinking” … some folks have been able to retire with pensions and Social Security, so it isn’t “fair” if we can’t too. I certainly know the feeling VERY well, I signed up for “30 and out” when I came into IBM, just as I signed up for “Lifetime Employment”. Both of those are gone now. There is still some chance that I might be able to do “35 and out”, but an honest appraisal would indicate that while I may well be out of IBM at that point, being out of the workforce will be more problematic.

We ought to enjoy a good laugh at ourselves. What we are complaining about is:

1). Living longer

2). The population not growing as fast

I won’t waste effort trying to convince anyone that living longer is a good thing, if you aren’t convinced already, my efforts won’t help. On the population, when I was in school, the idea of the population growing too fast was a HUGE problem … mass starvation, lack of room, horrible pollution, and general disaster were a “certainty” before the millennium. Having a relatively stable population, growing as much because of the elderly living longer than because of the birthrate, is supposed to be completely wonderful.

It is very human to “feel entitled”, to want reality to conform to our mental models. When we see reality failing to conform to our models, our natural reaction is to behave much like a child … to bluster that “someone in charge” needs to CORRECT this RIGHT NOW! We need to have our way! We need to have models, but when reality changes, we need to change our models to conform or things tend to be much more painful.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Flattening to the Middle

“The World Is Flat” by Thomas Friedman is going well. Another “globalization book”, I liked his “Lexus and the Olive Tree”, but since he has come out with this one , anyone with an interest can just as well skip that one and move directly to this. Lot of the same ground with some more advanced thought and information.

One of the things that I like about Freidman is that he seems to be a voice that both the “middle left” and the “middle right” can at least understand, and in many cases, come to agreement on. There is a lot of discussion of “polarization” of the country (not in the book, this is a “meta-discussion”, the book will come on other days), and there is a lot of truth to that as well, since we live in a time where what used to be “shared values” are not nearly as well shared as they once were. I’d list; Christian faith, commitment to family and moral values, basic support for the US system as being “very good, or the best”, belief that individuals need to have personal responsibility, and a strong value to hard work as a good thing. Pre-1960, I see these basic values as holding an 80/20 kind of majority in the US. The 60’s changed that, and a significant part of our country turned “hard left”, with their list of values being; there is no God, little commitment to traditional family, strong commitment to personal gratification, lack of individual responsibility (I’m a victim), basic animosity to the US system as being “unfair”, and a sense of “right”, or “entitlement” rather than value of individual work.

The “new left” rose in power through the 60’s and 70’s, but likely never reached much over 30-35% of the actual electorate. Their power and influence however has been magnified by the fact that they are the voices of the mainline media, Hollywood, and Universities. They make of 90%+ of those elites, so their “values” (or lack of values) is constantly displayed and presented in a positive light. The vast majority of people feel much more comfortable to be on the “popular side”, so while many of the actual views/agenda of this group likely was never really espoused by more than 35% of the electorate, the left elite has always been able to package their agenda to appeal enough to make them very competitive politically.

When the media talks about “polarization”, it really means that it’s agenda is being questioned. From the 50’s to the 90’s we were a “majority Democrat” country, but during much of that time, the Democrats were far more to the center than they are today. A lot of the old Southern Democrats were quite conservative, especially on moral issues, so Democrat / Republican was largely a discussion about role of Government and Business Climate … the parties often agreed on “American values”, “American exceptionalism”, and “American Defense”. The big change in American politics is really just the Democrats moving left. Looking at most of the values of the Republicans, they are very little changed from “American Consensus” shared by BOTH parties in the 50’s.

One of the general topics I’d like to explore over the next few days or weeks are areas where Americans can “come together”. I see Friedman as a “center left” guy that can make sense on some of those things in a way that can bind people to the center, and hopefully shrink that angry, and often anti-American left wing.

Out of the Box, Cubicles

My six year cubicle nightmare is at end. Yesterday the boxes moved to my new 12x12 window office, and today I made major progress on “settling in”. Having been raised in a small farmhouse, living a lot of time outside in Northern WI hunting, fishing, and generally knocking around, I’ve always prided myself on being “able to deal with anything”. I guess I DID “deal with it”, but it was anything but easy. Today felt like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders and my steps were much lighter.

Being a solid member of the “Religious Right”, I’m one that believes that there are “absolutes”, but believing that SOME things are absolute, doesn’t mean that ALL are. A lot of human existence is very relative. How bad is it to work in a cube? In the overall scheme of things, not bad, BUT relative to my own office for ME, very bad. Much worse than I would have ever thought possible, and a bit of an exercise in “space based socialism”.

As I’ll cover too many times, one of the cornerstones of the left agenda is “equality of outcome”. Most often they mean “economics” when they think that, but space in a workplace is a pretty good metaphor. When I joined the company I very soon figured out that I would enjoy having my own office … at the time I really didn’t know why. I might have thought “status”, and there is certainly some status involved, but sometimes we “know” more than we think we know. Getting to a position where I would have my own office was a great motivator.

After 15 years in my own office, six years in the cubes has aught me that I’m WAY more susceptible to noises from the environment than I ever dreamed. I knew I had a preference for working on computer terminals in low light (out of the question in a cube). Today I realized that the worst of it for me was the “white noise”, the constant wind-tunnel effect that is supposed to make the din of cubeland bearable. I felt like I was on some good combination tranquilizer / brain focus drug today, feeling both more alert and more relaxed. I walked back over to the wasteland of people stalls, and the feeling of dread returned with the wall-o-noise. Once you have lived in hell, even a whiff of sulfur brings back bad memories.

Is any of this reasonable or rational? Probably not, but it is to ME! For all the liberals claims of “diversity”, “caring for people”, “paying attention to the human side of things”, etc, equality of outcome is the EXACT OPPOSITE OF THAT! I hate cubes, and had I not have spent 20 years with the company with kids in school, etc, I know they would have motivated me out of the company. They DID motivate me to work from home far more than I ever used to. If there was a ghost of a chance to be promoted out of them in the technical ranks at our company, then they would have encouraged me on that path. People are often driven by motivations that are “irrational”.

Cubes appeal to the socialist ethic. Everyone gets the “minimum”, so “nobody can complain”. No matter how hard you work, there is no way to escape … liberal nirvana. Does that really appeal to “human nature”? No, of course not, it appeals to some abstract concept of “fairness”. My left brain can spew out some rational reasons for hatred of working in a sterile box, but it is really my right brain that provides the emotional loathing. Can I “adapt” … well certainly, humans have adapted to concentration camps and still found some joy.“Man’s Search For Meaning”, byVictor Frankel is well worth a read … short, and would help you survive situations even worse than 6-years in a cube.

If the envy of your neighbor is more important than your own condition, or your potential to improve your condition, then you are a likely a socialist at heart. We all have to have a heart, and if that is yours, maybe it is just as implacable as I found my heart’s hatred of the cubes to be. Just don’t mistake such thinking as somehow “caring for people”. It is caring for some abstract view of people that will always have at least one voice in opposition as long as I draw breath.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Hundred to Zip, Iraq, North Korea

The Senate gave final passage yesterday to an $82 billion funding the war in Iraq. Spending this amount will push the cost of the war past $200 billion. Among the Senators voting FOR the bill were Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. Politics is of course a very strange sport, but this seems to require a little thought.

Kerry is easier to understand. It was pretty clear that he voted against the bill in ’04 because he wanted to improve his support on the left in case he needed it in the primaries. He famously wanted to be as firmly on both sides of the issue as he could so actually uttered on tape “Well actually I voted FOR the $87 Billion before I voted against it”. It is true that Bill Clinton was able to get elected after “I Didn’t Inhale”, but given the post 9-11 world, such a solid example of “Senator straddle” in action was probably the biggest single thing he did to hurt his election hopes.

He voted against before to shore up the left, he voted for it this time to be consistent (with himself). He has been on both sides of every issue during his entire Senate career, so this was just one more book-end. He voted against the first Gulf war, but he voted for this one … he just voted against funding it. Now he has voted FOR funding it (this time). He is absolutely consistently on both sides of every issue. What could be simpler to understand?

Kennedy on the other hand has gone out of his way to say any horrible thing he can dream up about the war, one would never suspect that he would vote for an appropriation for it, and enjoy having the chance to say more bad things about Bush. The only thought that crosses the mind is … he is up for re-election in 2006! It seems like that would be paranoid reasoning, but 60 or so years of alcoholism, womanizing, and drowning your secretary might make one paranoid after awhile. We have known of his insanity for a long time, paranoia becomes him.

We can be certain that voting for the money to fight the war won’t change the rhetoric, nor will anyone in the media point out that it seems odd to be completely against something, yet vote to fund it. They will blather on forever if the reasons for going in were good enough.

If N Korea were to nuke, say Tokyo, and threaten to nuke Los Angeles, Bush should come on TV with the following basic speech …

After consulting with my advisors, we see that there is no PROOF that N Korea is a threat to the United States. We studied our mistakes in Iraq, and realize that we were led down the wrong path by Saddam’s USE of chemical weapons as being an indicator of his HAVING chemical weapons. When the Russian Intelligence provided us with information that he was planning to attack US targets by “all means possible”, we believed he may use terrorist sources, or his own security forces to attack the US with chemical weapons. We have seen the error of our ways. He was “all out”.

There is NO PROOF that N Korea has more than a single weapon, and until we have that proof, we simply can’t risk any action. Since the LA Times has been very instrumental in pointing out the error of our ways, we know this decision will meet with their complete approval. Even if N Korea does have a weapon, maybe they don’t have a long enough range missile, or maybe their targeting isn’t as good as it could be. Remember; always look on the bright side … EXCEPT, if you happen to see something VERY bright, take a look at your hands. If you see the bones, please make an exception and just hit the deck without looking. None of us like to be wrong, but we know that we all can be.

We made a horrible mistake in Iraq, we thought that using chemical weapons meant that they existed, and that threatening to attack the US by “any means” meant “any means”. Silly us, we blundered in, deposed great leader that had brought a lot of extreme order to the country, and now it is on a road where it could end up with a liberal press.

It has been said that the Bush Administration doesn’t learn from its mistakes, but that is not true. If it turns out that N Korea is able to take out LA, and some other suitable number of cities, and the polls turn in favor of doing something stronger than sending in Jimmy Carter and asking them to be nice, we will reconsider.

I’m thinking that I’d make a GREAT Presidential speechwriter.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Drunks and CEOs

If I were a Buddhist, my principle of “we get to select our problems” might be called “the law of karma” or something sophisticated. I’m not a Buddhist, so I have to deal with problems. My favorite way of explaining this thought is to contrast the lowest drunk on skid row lying in the gutter with a wine bottle, and the Chairman of IBM, Sam Palmisano at 35K feet in his Gulfstream, winging his way to some important meeting.

Both these gentleman have very significant problems. The drunk started down a path where he decided that alcohol was going to be his selected problem. There are a zillion reasons he may have made the decisions he made, and no doubt he had some tendencies by DNA at birth, or upbringing that led him to where he is. Today, the problem he is likely most aware of is the need for more booze. His “circle of influence” or thought process has narrowed so far that his set of problems is small (although not desireable). An outsider can say that he COULD make all sorts of different choices … get off the sauce, get cleaned up, get a training, get a job, etc, etc., but for today he is choosing (in a very foggy way) to have a small set of problems, and to manage his life with a bottle.

Sam on the other hand, made a whole lot of different decisions, and certainly had some excellent breaks along that way as well. However, his set of problems is MUCH larger. No doubt there are high expectations, demands, and likely both on the part of the parties that he is headed toward, and on top of that, the last quarter didn’t look very stellar, so much more needs to be done on that front. He is leading an organization with over 250K employees across the globe, $96 Billion in revenue, and a ton of customers and stockholders, all of whom expect him to deliver. Sam is very well compensated, but his job is endless and the best he can hope for at the end of the day is “progress on the right things”. His list of problems borders on infinity. Selecting the wine list for the Gulfstream has to be a bear too ;-)

Most of us are in between these two extremes. Much of the media and what we are taught in school leads us down a path where “being the drunk is hard, being Sam is easy”. I’d like to argue that if one could register the “stress”, or “problem load” on either of them on a day to day basis, the answer might be a lot closer to “the same” than we would imagine. Sam has a lot of training, experience, and no doubt just God given capability to do what he does, but he is still “working very hard”. The drunk has come close to losing nearly all the capacity that he ever had, so to him, the daily challenge of getting the next bottle, finding a nice grate, and some scraps of food is indeed “working very hard”. We don’t get to run away from our problems, at best, if we are careful and lucky, we may get to select what problems we have.

“On the way up”, we have a tendency to look at people in higher positions and think “they have it made”. If they enjoy the job, they may indeed “have it made”, but once one has climbed a few of those rungs, nearly everyone realizes that they don’t “have it made for free”. They have decided to keep “working hard” when some others have decided “this is hard enough”. Much like muscles, I believe that many of us could do jobs at a very high level, but just like most of us deciding to not run a marathon, climb Mount Everest, or ride in the Tour De France, we decide to not challenge Sam, or even a good number of levels below him.

What is always strange to me though is that somehow we seem to think that money as a form of “winning” just isn’t fair. Very few people look at Lance crossing the finish line, some guy standing on top of Everest, or the winner of the Boston Marathon, and demand that some of his blood be removed before the attempt next time, he be forced to carry weights, or to “give some of his glory away” to those who came in second, turned around, or dropped out. We seem to understand that everyone gave it their best and someone made it to the top or came in first. We accept that as “fair”.

Each day the media and teachers in classrooms try to make our economic system out to be unfair because different people have different outcomes. We DESIRE different outcomes. The drunk fervently desires his bottle, and Sam desires his jet. There isn’t anything natural about “equal outcomes” any more that it would be natural for everyone in the Boston Marthon to come in first (last?). In the economy, we are certainly not all going to come in first, but we need to remember that it is very possible for us to all come in last.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Theocracy, American Style

An editorial worth a read was listed off Real Clear Politics this week. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/03/AR2005050301277.html

For those of you not able to link to it, I’ll comment a bit on it here. It is titled “When Columnists Cry Jihad” written by John McCandlish who as reported for the NY Times and the Washington Post. When he signed on at the NY Times he was the only evangelical Christian among the 275 news and editorial staff. His editors defended him, but many questioned the ability of a “deeply religious person” to do reporting.

He cites specific columns from Mareen Dowd and Frank Rich that use the terms “theocracy” and “jihad” to present their views of the “control” of the “Religious Right” in this country. Others are cited, including Paul Krugman who recognizes that even while this “jihad” is going on, the universities are staffed almost exclusively by liberals (try THAT in a real theocracy!), agnostic, and the atheist. Paul explains that the gullibility of those who believe in God disqualifies them from the dispassionate intellectual pursuit needed to teach at our major universities. At least that is explained!

John then goes on a very reasoned and well done description of why it is absurd to think that the “establishment clause” in the Constitution says anything about sweeping all mention of God or Church from every public place in the US. That is certainly worth a read, but it is easier than that. To anyone whose brain is operating at even the most rudimentary level, it is easy to see that appeals back to the “Founding Fathers”, or “The Constitution” with the claim that “we are being driven to a theocracy” are nonsense.

The changes that are being attempted now, gay marriage being the easiest to see, are being attempted by the left, not the right. The change being attempted is AWAY from what any Christian that observes the Bible would be in favor of. The changes made in the latter half of the 20th century, banning prayer in school and abortion were ALSO from the left and targeted to move the country AWAY from God.

Assuming that the liberals don’t believe that we lived in a “theocracy” from 1776 to 1963 when Abington Township vs Schemp outlawed bible reading and prayer in classes at school (it took longer for the left to do away with voluntary prayer, Christmas programs and such), it is absurd to argue that even “turning the clock back” by overturning Schemp would create a “theocracy”. First of all, reading the Bible and praying don’t even constitute a “religion”, which is what “Church and State” is all about. The Protestants and the Catholics of Northern Ireland may have a history of not following much of anything in Christ’s doctrine of dealing with each other, but both would call themselves “Christian”.

A quick look at Iraq would find that the big issue is how to get Sunni and Shiite Moslems go get along. The Moslem religion actually REQUIRES a “theocracy” … which is one part of what makes democracy in the Middle East such a problem.

Since our media in this country is so far left, questioning a “right” to gay marriage that has never existed before is often portrayed as “extreme”, or “radical”. Humans are generally quite susceptible to begin to believe things that they hear over and over. Marketing people know that if you hear “finger lickin good” enough times, you will tend to believe it is actually true, even if you have experienced no direct experience.

The only way that we are headed toward at theocracy is if we were already in one for 180 years, and it is obvious that if we were, the country lived on. When many only hear one side of the story, belief in the truly idiotic becomes commonplace.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Orange Sauce With Rich?

MPR was breathlessly reporting the Minnesota Senate proposal to solve their assumed financial problems of the state today. Raise the tax rates on those families that make over $250,000 from 8% to 11%, and a Billion dollars is raised “painlessly” from only 42K people. What could be simpler?
It isn’t hard to understand the mental models that bring one to these conclusions, and given human nature, it isn’t at all hard to understand why many people think it is a good idea. Envy is nearly a universal feeling, and given a lot of the left culture, when you can have a negative emotion and see it as a virtue, the “bargain” is hard to pass up.

The idea of “class warfare” is as old as man, but what has been “new” for the past couple hundred years is a country based on the idea that “class” isn’t destiny, and the size of the economy is far from fixed. America always been “the land of opportunity”, and part of that opportunity was the legitimate chance to make princely sums like a quarter of a million dollars, and maybe even keep a bit more than half of it.

Liberal articles and books often sneer that something like 70% of the population has “dreams of being rich”, with almost the same level of incredulity that they comment that someone “believes in God”. Believing that you have a chance to make it good in America is supposedly foolish since “only 2-3% will actually be rich”. The culture of envy is a very sad culture.

Actually, compared to most of the world, 100% of Americans are “rich”. The real issue that some are richer that others, and even WORSE, many of them that are richer are first generation rich that made that step by some combination of education, luck, hard work, and often thrift. If there WAS a “class”, and it could be seen that one was unable to move up the ladder, then there would be a lot less concern by the left. What they REALLY can’t stand is that there are hundreds of thousands of examples of people that “believed the dream, did the deeds, and reaped the rewards”. That is a sin that those on the left can’t stand at all. The idea that there is “merit” is completely unfair.

Their solution? If success can be made less desirable by removal of rewards, that is WONDERFUL. Like everyone in the envy business, their concern isn’t really for “the common good”, it is “knock down the top”. How much everyone has is of a lot less concern than the fact that some have more. Liberals seek “equality of result”, not “equality of opportunity”. If the opportunity is equal, and mostly unhindered, it is a certainly that the result will NOT be equal, BUT evidence shows that overall result will be the best for all by far.

http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/rankorder/2004rank.html shows the 2004 rankings for GDP per capita. Luxembourg is actually #1 with A LOT lower “capita” at $58,900. The USA weighs in at $40,100. It is hard to figure what nation one would really compare to the US, but in the “familiars, of reasonable size”, Norway is pretty amazing at 4th with $40,000, Denmark shows up in 12th at $32,200, and Canada shows up in 15th at $31,500. A study of what Norway is doing would be interesting … Finland is 21, and Sweden is 26th. I pray it isn’t due to lutefisk.

The US system produces a huge amount of “pie” for the liberals to salivate over dividing up. The problem is that the “pie production” is very much the result of the fact that producers are allowed to keep some of what they produce here. We pretty much peaked out on the “socialist approach” in the Carter years, and discovered that it is always possible to have less economic spoils to be divided. “The rich” are a strong sign that our system works, they are our “golden goose in the coal mine”. 

Having failed at even nursery school, it appears that the liberal thought remains; “Would you like orange sauce with that?”.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Changed Times

I have been hoping to get the time to go back and do some research on editorials and articles from the early ‘90s when Republicans would threaten an occasional filibuster, or bottle some things up with Senate rules. The time isn’t happening, but the true value of a blog is that I don’t need to check my facts nearly so closely as say, Dan Rather and CBS. Can we all agree that one word that was rather common in the whole ’90s, and certainly when a filibuster was threatened, was “obstruction”? Why is it we don’t hear that word in the media anymore?

Another huge lament from the ‘90s was “partisan politics”, and “the politics of personal destruction”. Now in Clinton’s case we know he had a long history of grope the help, dropping his trousers in front of subordinates, and actually having sex at the office. Of course, he at a lot of trouble with the definition of “is”, let alone the definition of “sex”. In any case, the media spent a lot of time on “why are we wasting our time on these personal matters”? “Why can’t we focus on the issues”? “How horrible it is that our politics have become so mean, partisan, and personal”. While they didn’t always spell it out who the culprits were, it was obvious it was those evil Republicans. As Hillary pointed out on the Today Show, her husband was beset by “the vast right wing conspiracy”. Actually, lack of good dry cleaning was also a significant problem, but “conspiracy” seems much more reasoned.

How times have changed. The sacred right of filibuster is suddenly the most important protector of America. The term “obstruction” has been removed from the language. Gone is the media whining about “the President was elected, why do we have a MINORITY in the Senate trying to thwart the will of the voters?”. Both the NY Times and the Minneapolis Star Trib called for a change to the filibuster rules when it was Clinton appointees on the line. Now, any attempt to work around the sacred device is a constitutional shop of horrors.

I understand that the standards for Ambassador to the UN are MUCH higher than those for a President, but are we REALLY talking seriously about “he yelled at me”? “He was intimidating”? This is from high level government employees. Aside from the fact that it is hard to imagine the embarrassment of whining about a former boss years after the fact when you weren’t able to stand up to him then, the level of “personal destruction” seems to have “kicked up a notch”.

Paula Jones was considered WAY out of line to even bring up a charge that the then Governor had invited her up to his room, dropped his trousers, and asked for oral sex. The standard media line was “they were both adults” … in the Clinton case, that trumped the superior / subordinate factor. Today, we have have the same major media outlets that were willing to defend Clinton no matter what the charge, expecting us to see “he yelled at me” as being a disqualification for Ambassador to the UN. In the Clinton case, the world situation was so crucial, that ANY time taken away from the “work of the duly elected President” was unconscionable. Back then there were cruise missiles to be launched at camels, donations to be garnered, and felons to be pardoned … those kinds of key assignments were just too precious to interrupt. Today on the other hand, no charge is too small to slow or stop the business of Government … with Republicans in charge, not much the media likes is going to happen, so endless maneuvering and ethics dances are an excellent way to spend the time.

The sad thing about this is that even with Lexus/Nexus and 1000 quotes, those with a religious faith in the “no media bias” view would never see things this way. The left always finds the “faith” of the religious to be “scary / backward / closed minded”. The most conservative Christian out there is positively open minded compared to an average lefty on the subject of media bias.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Fully Slouched

In finishing up Bork back to back with Zinn, and receiving back “What’s the Matter With Kansas” that I read last fall, I have some more general observations. My first is that to some degree, there must be something “middle of the road” with the USA since BOTH liberals and conservatives see a lot of problems. It would seem to be clear that nobody has successfully achieved anything like a complete rout, and the general 50/50 nature of today’s electorate would tend to bear that out.

Kansas” has been a fairly darling book in liberal circles, so apparently they enjoy a non-stop whine from beginning to end that “anyone that votes on values rather than economics is an idiot”. It just took a lot of pages to say that over and over again and watch Thomas Franks (the author) shake his head and roll his eyes in text at the stupidity of the general population and inherent evil of the Republicans misleading the poor, backward, religious Kansans.

If Democrats really believe values issues are unimportant next to economics, they can quickly drop their stances on abortion, gay marriage, prayer in schools and obscenity. Once they made that “simple switch”, all the poor foolish Republicans would HAVE to vote for them on the economic issues, and since the values issues are a fools errand, the Democrats would have achieved it all without losing anything of “value”.

Of course, more and more people realize that it is business, not government that provides the jobs and economic growth. The idea that Democrats are going to “give you more” doesn’t necessarily follow from their PROMISES to give you more. One would have to not only “agree” with them that values are stupid, which is obviously lie #1, since they don’t really believe that for their values, it is just the opposite of their values that are stupid!

 Even assuming that belief, one would also need to believe that they would be able to follow through on providing more economically while at the same time tending strongly toward being anti-business. It is easy to see that guys like Franks are angry, what isn’t perfectly clear is if they are liars or just don’t get it. In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter … they aren’t likely to give up their side of the values issue, and their prospects for more goods to distribute are marginal as well.

Bork never mentioned Zinn, but Zinn mostly steps right up and agrees with everything that Bork has against the left. Zinn is happy to support the overthrow of the US Government, removal of standards from the university (they are all racist and capitalist anyway), increased violence and drug use (prisons are racist), the destruction of the family, the destruction of religion, and most of Bork’s other complaints. What our present state of education and media bias generally prevent is the masses realizing the true nature of people like Zinn. 

The media demonizes folks like Bork and sanitizes Zinn. In recent months, Fox news has gone after a few of the more egregious university charlatans … Ward Churchill being the most noxious, but for the general public it is unlikely that they have tumbled that for every supposed “devil” like Bork on the right, there are 100 like Churchill and Zinn that are indoctrinating the university students every day.

One of the major tasks comes down to dealing with the Supreme Court. If the two sides are just whining at each other about legislation, there is always the next election in which to change the tide and make the laws different. With abortion, and likely soon gay marriage, it takes enough of a shift in the court to overturn (or prevent) the court from changing the constitution and cutting off the ability of the people to govern themselves. The task of BOTH finding judges that are “conservative”, yet willing to overturn Roe is a daunting task on it’s own, but the likely 60 votes needed to get each of them through the Senate raises the bar even higher.

Despair is never a good option, and Bork walks perilously close at times. That is the biggest weakness of the book. It is true that having, maintaining, and restoring standards and morals are tough work, but most things that are worthwhile are. It is very possible to “slouch” to Gomorrah and a lot of other bad in life … those that don’t want to follow that route have to study, pray, and work very hard to counter our own and societies trend for forever slipping into greater entropy. It is a task we are equipped to handle, Bork gives a sober look at how hard the task really is.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

American Papacy

Unsurprisingly, Bork pays significant attention to the Supreme Court becoming as he calls it “the American Papacy”. Liberals have long realized that there are many parts of their agenda; abortion on demand, and homosexual marriage for example that the American electorate would not vote into law. The term “liberal” is an excellent cover since it belies the fact that liberals are perfectly willing to be authoritarian in their methodology when the route of democracy doesn’t allow them to have their way. The use of the Supreme court is one of their favorite levers.

Bork argues persuasively that once the Court has removed itself from the retstraint of the constitution as it clearly did in Roe v Wade, and Planned Parenthood vs Casey. In Casey, they put forth “the mystery passage”. “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, and of the universe, and of the mystery of human life”. Essentially, you have a constitutional right to be God … as long as you are living your life by “your concept” of what life, meaning, the universe, etc are, then you should be “free” … to abort, which is murder, so you are free indeed. The “mystery passage” was invoked again in the Texas case where a Constitutional right to sodomy was discovered. As Bork points out, once the authoritarian impulse took over in Roe, the stage was set for unlimited legislation from the court.

Modern liberals like to bray that “the framers could not envision our day, so they left it up to the court to find the law that is needed in the constitution”. The framers DID leave us a mechanism, it is called LEGISLATION. Both the state and Federal Legislatures have the power to make and UN-make laws on a great many subjects, abortion included. What the court has done is to decide that the populace should not be able to vote on a number of issues, so they have taken it on themselves to re-write the constitution to make the laws that THEY desire, rather than allow the people to govern themselves.

Bork has no faith that a majority can be attained to strike down even the most egregious of court legislation, as any potential nominee of enough conservative thought to be willing to take on the issue will nearly certainly be prevented by the conservative principle of precedent and be unwilling to overturn. He makes a case for a Constitutional amendment to allow legislatures to overrule the court. I didn’t find his proposal very likely to have any chance of happening. The unhappy case is that the court has crossed a line where future legislation by 9 is a virtual certainty.