Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reverse the Red-State-Blue-State Color Designation

In his column in Human Events today, Michael Barone, author of The Almanac of American Politics, writes that he has produced a map of the 50 American states showing which political party leads in public opinion polls in each of the states, with the Republican-leaning states colored in blue and the Democratic-leaning ones colored in red. Thus, he has reversed the color designation practice that has been used by the media and political commentators since 2000. This welcome shift is long overdue.

Red and blue are symbolic opposites, as they are two of the three primary colors (with yellow) and are nearly at opposite ends of the visible light spectrum. Blue is symbolically associated with good and red with evil. For example, in a blockbuster film released just three years before that watershed election, the hero of Star Wars used a blue light saber, while the villain working for the evil “Empire” (like the “red” Union of Soviet Socialist Republics United States President Ronald Reagan referred to as the “Evil Empire”) used a red one. Throughout the Cold War between the Soviets and the West, the Catholic Blue Army fought the Communist Red Army through prayer for the conversion of communist Russia from atheism to Christianity.

The media, especially the three television broadcast networks, began coloring the states whose presidential electors were won by each of the parties either blue or red on maps at least as early as 1980. Although not all of the broadcasters used the same color designation, the majority colored the states won by Republicans blue and Democrats red. This designation seemed fitting at the time because the GOP’s Reagan-Bush ticket made the media’s maps turn mostly blue, while the Democratic Party’s Carter-Mondale ticket succeeded in turning only a few states red, the color of socialism and communism, as their party platform favored welfare statism and a more conciliatory approach to the Soviet menace.

The liberal media was not indicating any support for Reagan in its blue coloration for him, as it did not expect him to win, especially with such a large 40-state electoral mandate. Indeed, it established a practice of alternating color designation in order to be fair to the parties, so that each election year the designation would be reversed, with the Democrats represented by blue and the Republicans red, and so on. The new cable television networks joined in participating in the alternating color designation custom, which continued through the 2000 election.

The disputed 2000 election for presidential electors significantly raised the public consciousness of the color designation as the media and political commentators referred to this or that states as “blue” or “red.” Such references to the states continued over the next election cycle. In 2004, the media and political commentators ended the practice of alternating the color designation. They have now permanently fixed the color designation as blue for Democrats and red for Republicans, thereby abandoning all fairness.

Republicans and conservatives should demonstrate their independence of the liberal media by following Barone’s example and coloring Republican states blue and Democratic states red, especially now that the creeping socialist platform of the latter party is becoming ever more clear.

More Language for Conservatives to Avoid

“Progressives” vs. “Liberals

Liberals prefer to refer to themselves as “Progressives,” as if to imply that while they are in favor of progress, conservatives are against it. By progress, however, they do not necessarily mean improvement, but sometimes mean any kind of change, regardless of whether that change represents reform, while they sometimes oppose changes that conservatives support which do represent reform. While conservatives favor conserving that which is good, they also favor reform that causes progress, whereas liberals are for radical changes (e.g. statism), regardless of whether such a change represents an improvement over what it replaces. Gradually over the decades, liberals have become relatively conservative and anti-progressive by supporting the welfare state or public education, for example, while resisting any significant reforms. Although the words liberal and conservative are not accurate, they are less misleading than progressive and anti-progressive. Furthermore, conservatives ought not to oblige liberals by using the left’s name for itself of choice.

“Gaming” vs. “Gambling”

Those who support the legalization of gambling refer to it euphemistically as “gaming.” At first, gaming was a shibboleth for supporters, but they have succeeded in incorporating the word into legislation and public discourse to such a degree that often those who favor more restrictions and regulations on gambling or even those who oppose it altogether have been using the word, as well. However, gaming is less accurate than gambling. Gaming refers to hunting (the prey is referred to as “game”), but also can mean the playing of any game, not necessarily for money, but for entertainment. It is not the playing of these games, but the betting on them, that causes concerns. Therefore, “gaming” is not the issue, but “gambling.”

“Resignations/Vacancies” for Congressional Retirements

A member of the United States Congress, or, indeed any public officeholder, who chooses not to seek reelection, but continues to hold his office until the expiration of the term, is properly said “to retire,” not “to resign” from office. A public announcement of such a choice creates not a “vacancy” in the office but only an “open seat” for the congressional election. Both errors have been committed in the media, which increases confusion.

“Lame Duck” for Officeholders Who Have Not Been Defeated for Reelection

A lame duck is a public officeholder who has been defeated for reelection, but who is continuing in office until the expiration of the term. He is said to be “lame” because of his loss of political legitimacy, even though he retains his legal powers until he completes his term of office. Lame duck has been increasingly expanded to the point that it has come to mean the opposite of what it was intended. At first, the term was expanded to refer to elected officials continuing to serve in office after the election, but before their successors take office upon the expiration of the term, including officeholders who were reelected to that term but chose not to seek reelection or who were term limited. Gradually, lame duck has been expanded even further to refer to any public officeholder during his final term, or at least to the final two years of a president’s term, instead of referring to such an officeholder as an “outgoing” official. Thus, instead of referring only to defeated officeholders, lame duck is now being used to refer even to reelected officeholders – the opposite of its meaning. Liberals called former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush “lame ducks” in order to delegitmatize them during their second terms, for example, even though they were never lame ducks because they were both reelected. Thus, as soon as a term-limited president wins a popular mandate for continuing his policies into a second term, he is being deligitimatized, as if the results of the election are being dismissed.

Lame duck has been misused to such a degree that these expanded uses of it appear in modern dictionaries. Defenders of non-standard usages of words cite dictionaries as authoritative legitimacy for the non-standard usage. However, lexicographers must include non-standard words and usages. The inclusion of such words and usages does not make them standard. The first usage listed, like the first pronunciation, is the preferred one. It is especially important for conservatives to defend the language against liberals who change the meaning of words in order for activist liberal judges to change the meaning of the written law by ignoring the principal of original intent instead of winning the public discourse and elections. No one has a right to change the language for such a purpose. Additionally, the more clarity in language there is, the easier it is to communicate and the better informed the people will be.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

More Lessons from Abroad for Obama and the Congressional Liberal Democrats

In my August post, A Lesson from Italy for Obama and the Congressional Liberal Democrats, I observed how Italian voters had voted for Italy’s conservative government in local elections as a referendum on its pledge of reducing its budget deficit without raising taxes.

In Sweden, the liberal party that has ruled that most famous welfare state for most of the last several decades failed to win a majority in the recent parliamentary election over the ruling conservatives. The Swedish conservatives had succeeded in cutting taxes and spending, as they had promised during the previous election. However, they were unable to win an electoral majority this time, which has resulted in a hung parliament. A handful of Green party and independent members of parliament holding the balance of power are likely to join the minority liberals in a leftist coalition government.

The results in Sweden were similar to the election last month in Australia, where the ruling liberals failed to win a majority in parliament. The liberals had promised to raise taxes on Australia’s significant mining industry to finance welfare. Three independents and one Green party member broke the tie and formed a leftist coalition with the minority liberals in order to form a government. Thus, in both Sweden and Australia, the main liberal parties were unable to win a majority outright and had to depend upon a coalition in order to govern.

These results, combined with the elections earlier this year in the United Kingdom, where the ruling liberal party lost to a conservative party that was able to form a coalition government that pledged to reduce the British deficit, suggest public anxiety over excessive government spending, borrowing and taxing, and the willingness of an increasing number of voters to elect conservatives promising to reduce spending.

It is not surprising then, that there has been a rise of tea party movements abroad, as the Conservative News Service recently reported. According to CNS, Tea party protests against big government welfare statism have occurred in Italy, Australia and the United Kingdom, along with the Netherlands.

United States President Barak Obama and the liberal Democratic majority in Congress should draw the lesson from these developments that the governed no longer consent as they once did to the redistribution of their wealth through government confiscation. If Obama and his allies truly want the U.S. to be more like Europe – especially Sweden – then they should start to reduce the size of government, or lose elections.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Federal Updates on Constitution Day: The Impeachment Trial of a Federal Judge and the State Lawsuit against the Federal Government

Today is the 223rd anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States of America in 1787 in Philadelphia, a day in which that great document is celebrated across the Union. It is a fitting time to provide updates on federal matters about which I have posted previously.

The Impeachment Trial of a Clinton-Appointed Federal Judge

U.S. Federal District Judge Thomas Porteous of Louisiana’s impeachment trial began in the Senate. See my post from March, House Impeaches Clinton-Appointed Judge. His defense has argued that his alleged misconduct occurred before his appointment as a federal judge. However, the pattern of conduct continued after Porteous joined the federal bench. He took federal office under the false pretenses of not having accepted gifts and not being a heavy drinker and gambler. For example, one witness who was later convicted of providing gifts to Porteous while he had been a state judge admitted to lying to the FBI on behalf of the judge during its background investigation of him. Therefore, Judge Porteous ought to be convicted by the Senate and removed from office.

The same standard ought to have applied to the man who nominated Porteous: former President Bill Clinton. The Electoral College should not have elected someone as Chief Executive and Commander in Chief like Clinton or President Barak Obama who could not have passed even the lowest level of security clearance. Clinton was elected under false pretenses of being a tourist in the Soviet Union in 1970, but likely was there in order to accept the thanks of the Communists for having participated in the KGB’s “Fall Campaign” against the U.S. involvement in the Vietnamese War, a propaganda effort that included anti-American protests on foreign soil. As president, Clinton appeased Communist North Korea and gave missile technology to Communist China. His opposition to the Vietnamese War contributed to his fear of losing popularity because of casualties, which caused him to not provide tanks to U.S. soldiers in Somalia and then to announce a pull-out after the Battle of Mogadishu which resulted in the deaths of 18 American servicemen at the hands of al-Qaeda backed militant Muslims. Al-Qaeda was thus encouraged to continue to inflict casualties on American servicemen as long as Clinton continued to fail to respond adequately to its attacks and those of other militant Muslims. In short, Clinton’s radical views as a youth that he has never renounced, apologized for, or even explained fully, carried over into his presidency, just as the predictions that Obama’s radical views and associations would be manifested in radical policies are being proven accurate.

Clinton and Obama are demonstrating that the American people should expect a minimum standard of character, such as the same standard as for a security clearance, which includes a lack of radical views or associations. Indeed, the only way currently for a radical to have access to U.S. intelligence secrets is to be elected president! Presidential candidates should also be held to the same standard for federal judges. Only a few federal judges have ever been impeached and removed from office in American history. Several of them were convicted on charges of perjury, as lying under oath is incompatible for holding a public office for which an oath is required. The House of Representatives impeached Clinton for perjury, but the Senate acquitted him, under the novel argument that the charge was not a “high crime or misdemeanor,” despite Senate precedent. One good standard for all federal officeholders would be whether or not they revere the Constitution.

Florida’s Lawsuit against the Obama Administration’s Violations of States’ Rights

A federal judge accepted most of Florida’s lawsuit against the federal government over the Obama Administration’s federalization of health insurance. Nineteen states have joined the Sunshine State in the suit. Separately, Virginia has filed its own complaint in federal court.

At issue, among other matters, is the federal mandate to purchase health insurance, which the states argue violates states’ constitutional rights by exceeding federal constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce. The states are seeking to protect their citizens’ freedom by objecting to such an imposition of a federal condition of citizenship to purchase a particular good or service. They argue that the decision to not purchase health insurance is not engaging in commerce, and, therefore, not subject to federal regulation.

The states must not argue only the narrow grounds of whether or not a decision not to engage in commerce constitutes commerce subject to federal regulation, but the broader grounds that the federal power to regulate commerce is limited only to interstate commerce, not intrastate commerce. The Constitution authorizes the United States to regulate interstate commerce in order to prevent states from imposing tariffs on trade between them (i.e. in order to establish a free trade zone across the federal Union). It does not authorize the federal government to regulate intrastate commerce on the theory that such commerce is potentially interstate commerce, by which reasoning all commerce would be subject to federal regulation. The Constitution also does not authorize federal regulation on the theory that because all commerce affects the economy of the states the federal government has authority to regulate it. Commerce does not equate to the economy, which is not the responsibility of government at all, including the federal Union. Government does not have economic responsibility, which is why it has no authority over all economic activity, only indirect power, such as fiscal policy. Only socialist or fascist or other totalitarian governments establish “command” economies.

See my post from December of 2009, The Commerce Clause Limits Federal Power to Mandate the Purchase of Private Health Insurance and my post from January of 2010, the Liberals’ Limitless Limit. At stake in these lawsuits is whether there are limits any longer to federal power, as originally intended by the Framers of The Constitution who established the principle of federalism, which divides power between the federal government and the states for the sake of maintaining the liberty of the people.

Freedoms, Rights and Prudence in Regard to the September 11 Site Mosque and Koran Burning

This year, the observations of the anniversary of the September 11 Attacks were somewhat overshadowed by the controversies about the Mosque proposed at the site of the attack on the World Trade Center and the plan to burn a Koran, the Islamic holy book. The public debate was focused on freedom, rights and prudence.

Nearly every commentator accepts the rights of the individuals to build a mosque at the September 11 site or to burn the Koran, but many find these actions imprudent. I agree that these actions would be imprudent, but I am among those who doubt these individuals have a right or freedom to do as they wish.

Both individuals enjoy the freedom of religion and speech. They also have property rights. But neither freedoms nor rights are absolute. In these two cases in particular, I do not believe these individuals necessarily have the freedom or right to act in the manner in which they wish.

One cannot have a place of worship wherever one wants. For example, there are local restrictions on the use of buildings, such as zoning laws. In this case, the mosque would symbolize military conquest by militant Islam (See my August post, A Mosque at the September 11 Site Would Represent a Militant Islamic Victory), which would aid the enemy.

Although one also has the freedom to speak, one does not have the right to engage in whatever actions one desires, such as a violent act, in order to express one’s opinion. Like restrictions on property rights, municipalities also ban the burning of materials for safety reasons, regardless of any motivation to express one’s views.

Burning something is not an example of freedom of speech, but an act – a violent one, at that. It is incendiary both literally and figuratively. There is no broad freedom of expression that would include such acts. There is a difference between freedom of expression and specific freedoms to engage in certain forms of expression, such as speech (oral communication) or writing (the freedom of the press), assembly, petitioning, etc. Not all forms of expression are permitted and even the specific acknowledged freedoms may be limited for good reasons.

Some have argued, for example, that burning the Koran is like yelling “Fire!” in a movie theater – a famous example of speech that is prohibited. Because burning something is not speech, but an act, it is easier to make a case that it may be a prohibited form of expression. Nevertheless, the analogy does suggest that inflammatory actions, whether in the forms of spoken words or not, can be prohibited for good reason.

In this case, burning the Koran would aid the militant Muslim enemy, even if unintentionally, by providing it religious justification for opposing the United States for tolerating the desecration of the holy book of Islam.

One right we cannot claim is a right not to be offended. However, it is imprudent and unnecessary to desecrate the holy book of another religion or insulting its figures. Such actions would be true examples of provocations. One can express opposition to Islam without desecrating or insulting its figures. Thus, although one may not have a freedom to physically desecrate by burning, we have the freedom of religious expression, which includes the freedom to oppose another religion. However, one may make a point without going out of one’s way to offend others.

Although the freedom of religious expression may include the freedom to insult venerated religious figures, prudence should be exercised. Regardless of whether one has a freedom or right to say or do something, it may be imprudent to do it. We can acknowledge one’s freedom while expecting one to act responsibly. We have rights not to do what we want, but in order to do what we ought.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cynicism and September 11

Cynicism helped the terrorists carry out the September 11 Terrorist Attacks nine years ago. Militant Muslims engaged in jihad have continued to rely upon cynicism for their holy war. However, cynics are usually susceptible to the negative consequences of their own cynicism. These jihadis are no exception.

The terrorists who perpetrated the September 11 attacks relied upon cynicism in order to carry out the massacre successfully. Before September 11, 2001, there had not been a hijacking of an American commercial airliner in ten years, but public confidence in airline security remained low.

Contrary to the conclusions of most observers, the attacks suggested that airline safety was adequate at the time. The terrorists were unable to get guns or bombs aboard the planes. Indeed, the hijackers did not even try to get past the airline security measures that were in place at the time, as the terrorists concluded that the risk was unacceptable of trying to smuggle guns or bombs onto the planes. Instead, they feigned having bombs and used boxcutters, martial arts and ruthlessness in order to terrorize the crew and passengers into submission. The terrorists correctly believed that the crew and passengers would accept as true the hijackers’ claims to have managed to get explosives aboard the planes by assuming that airline security had failed – an assumption based upon a cynical lack of confidence in airline security.

Militant Muslims have continued to benefit from cynicism in the West that has caused a loss of public support for the War on Terrorism in a number of ways: 1) Westerners have dropped their security guard to a degree because of a cynical belief that the threat of terrorism was exaggerated in the first place (e.g. that it was the fault of the airlines or United States intelligence agencies or the Administration of President George W. Bush, all of which are based upon a cynical lack of confidence in U.S. and other Western governments and suggest that the terrorist attacks could be thwarted with minimal effort -- i.e. without a war of resistance to militant Islam), 2) Many Westerners have developed cynical conspiracy theories that the U.S. either knew about the September 11 attacks ahead of time and allowed them to occur because of political expedience or that the U.S. or its ally Israel actually perpetrated the attacks themselves; these theories have been used to justify opposition to the War on Terrorism and 3) A majority of Westerners lost confidence in the ability to win both the War on Afghanistan and the Liberation of Iraq, which has caused a loss of public support for these battles in the War on Terrorism, which, in turn, encouraged the enemy to continue to kill Western soldiers for the sake of turning public opinion further against the war; this loss of confidence of victory in these wars is in addition to those who opposed them from the beginning as unnecessary because of various cynical theories about ulterior American motives for the stated goal of removing state sponsors of terrorism from power. The loss of public support for the War on Terrorism attributable to cynicism has made the West more vulnerable to attacks by militant Muslims and encouraged new attempts, despite all of the successes achieved against terrorism because of the war.

On the other hand, cynicism has also hampered the terrorists’ cause, as cynics tend to project evil intent onto others. For example, some of the terrorists detained by the U.S. were made to believe that they were going to be extradited to foreign states that practice torture, or that the Americans themselves would torture them, which gave the terrorists the incentive to reveal intelligence secrets. One example where the U.S. exploited the enemy’s cynicism effectively was the case of a terrorist detainee who had a fear of stinging insects; the Americans put a harmless caterpillar in his cell and told him that it was a stinging insect, which encouraged him to reveal intelligence secrets. The U.S. has been able to take advantage of the cynicism of its terrorist foes who, after all, have been using cynicism to their advantage since September 11.

In general, we Westerners should test our own thoughts for cynicism and be open to the possibility of explanations for the motives of others besides malevolent ones, a practice which would be of particularly beneficial application to the War on Terrorism. As Christians, we especially should avoid being truly judgmental by assuming other people’s willful incompetence or bad intent. A better understanding of the nature of the threat of militant Islam would reduce cynicism about those whose responsibility it is to prevent terrorist attacks and lead to greater public support for effective counterterrorism measures, as well as necessary strategies in the War on Terrorism. Meanwhile, we should creatively find legitimate ways to turn the enemy’s cynicism against it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Iraqi Economic Stimulus

In my last post, I discussed the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I discussed the cost in blood, but also what was gained from the Liberation of Iraq, especially the victory it represents in the War on Terrorism. The purpose of this post is to discuss the cost and benefits of the war in terms of treasure.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the total cost to the federal government of Operation Iraqi Freedom was $700 billion – not the $3 trillion estimated several years ago by critics of the war.

When critics of the Liberation of Iraq discuss the fiscal cost of the war, they only count the expenditure side of the ledger, without mentioning the receipt side, just as they count the lives lost from the war and not the lives saved and the freedom secured. These critics contradict themselves by claiming the war was based upon economic motives, but also arguing that the war was economically costly while dismissing any economic benefit gained from it. They cannot have it both ways.

Although wars are not economically efficient (e.g. creating bombs to explode), they are somewhat stimulative of economic growth – to the extent that spending by government, which must tax or borrow the money, is stimulative at all. World War II famously pulled the economy of the United States out of the Great Depression, for example.

Some people think that all of the money for the Liberation of Iraq was spent “over there,” but much of it was spent in the United States. The materiel was mostly purchased here, for example. More soldiers served in the armed forces, all of whom received combat pay. Much of that extra pay was sent home. In addition, there were thousands of American civilians contracted by the Defense Department working in Iraq, earning money to bring back to the U.S. Meanwhile, private American enterprises won contracts for Iraqi reconstruction projects. The increased spending in the U.S. helped offset the cost of the war to the economy, as well as to the federal treasury, as economic activity generates tax revenue.

When calculating the cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom, its expenses must be offset with the change in mission for U.S. troops. The cost of maintaining tens of thousands of troops in Saudi Arabia, other Arab Persian Gulf states and Turkey in order to defend Iraq’s neighbors against Iraqi aggression and to patrol the no-fly zones over both northern and southern Iraq was made no longer necessary by the Liberation of Iraq.

Operation Iraqi Freedom also benefited the American economy directly in a number of ways. The overthrow of the Baathist regime allowed the U.S. to lift the embargo on Iraqi oil. Libya’s resultant renunciation of terrorism and destruction of its weapons of mass destruction also allowed the U.S. to begin importing Libyan oil. The increase of supply from Iraqi and Libyan oil to the U.S. market undoubtedly prevented increases in the price of oil beyond its sharp rise in 2005. That rise matched the rate of inflation, after a long period of below-inflation prices, but the important point is that the price did not rise beyond what would be expected because of inflation. This lack of even higher inflation was not only beneficial for consumers, but allowed the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates at record-low levels in order to stimulate economic growth. Lower interest rates are good for borrowers (not only those who buy homes or cars, but also businesses large and small), which increases economic growth, as well as for the federal government, the largest borrower of all, and state governments. The lower interest rates are credited with contributing to the aversion of a depression in 2008. Americans also earned contracts to refurbish Iraq’s oil infrastructure. Additionally, with the lifting of the trade embargoes on Iraq and Libya are now markets for the importation of all U.S. goods while Americans can enjoy the fruits of Iraq’s Fertile Crescent, the Cradle of Civilization (e.g. Iraq is the world’s largest exporter of dates).

Finally, the prevention of major terrorist attacks in the U.S. since September 11, 2001 allowed the American economy to recover from that trillion-dollar blow and to prosper for several years until the Panic of 2008. Americans enjoyed robust economic growth with low unemployment, low inflation and low interest rates from 2002-2008 in the security that allowed commerce to take place freely. The overthrow of the terrorist-sponsoring regime of Saddam Hussein, the capture of his weapons of mass destruction, the defeat of al-Qaeda and other militant Muslim jihadis in Iraq and Libya’s resultant renunciation of terrorism all contributed incalculably to the prevention of terrorist attacks on Americans abroad and perhaps even domestically.

Just as it is impossible to know with certainty whether more American lives were saved than lost from the Liberation of Iraq, it is impossible to know the net effect of the war economically and fiscally to the U.S. The point is to note both what was lost and what was gained. The prevention of any loss of American freedom because of terrorists and other militant Muslims can, however, be observed and appreciated, thanks to the soldiers who participated in Operation Iraq Freedom.