Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Fence, part II

In Part I of our story, we happened on a certain country in which the people built fences to separate themselves from danger. The name of this land was Youdopia.

The specialists in charge of the fences had performed their duties superbly -- so well, in fact, that the Fence-Builders created more fences and of such intertwined delicacy that Fence-Keepers no longer could be satisfied with inspecting, adjusting, and repairing the fences. They had begun tearing down old ones and building new ones with parts from the old, as well as with parts imported from foreign lands and parts they created themselves with their own wonderful Ethics -- from whole cloth, as it were -- having set aside their former Restraint. We saw that the Builders welcomed this new type of Fence-Keeping, praising it to preserve the faith the people had placed in the fences. They eluded controversy if someone else built a fence.

But trouble was afoot in our happy land. In a far away country, one most of the Youdopians had only read about, another people had fences of their own. These fences were not compatible with any other kind. The leader of the foreign land, one Moe Anita-Nutjob, saw great things ahead for his brand of fence. So happy with his fence was he, and so attentive to the needs of his fellow man, that he insisted on every country using the kind he did. It was only fair.

Part of the allure of his type of fence was a united class of Fence-Makers. Rather than listen to the people in the creation and repair of fences, the Fence-Makers demanded the people use the ones that were made for them, or die. It was better for the Fence-Makers that way. These were the only fences that anyone would ever need, and would never need to be replaced, repaired, or altered.

But with so many fences and such division among the people of Youdopia, there was no way to build fences to protect the people when this enemy attacked. The people had become too accustomed to the easy safety of their many fences. They did not know anything but fences, and most had forgotten how to build for themselves.

They had also forgotten the post of Fence-Master. The Fence-Master appointed the Keepers, and approved the fences built by the Builders. In times past of great tumult, the Fence-Master had been able to make superb fences of short duration, swiftly creates unusual fences of terrible power. Some of the fences built by previous Fence-Masters had even been used against the Youdopians themselves. This Fence-Master rallied the people, and stood fast against the evil Moe Anita-Nutjob.

When the Fence-Master began making his fences against the enemies, the people rejoiced. Then, over time, some of the people began questioning the Fence-Master's workmanship. "This is just like the fences they built in the ocean!", they cried, and they began protesting and singing songs, chanting "No more Oceania!", and calling for the Fence-Master to be replaced for building his powerful fences on foreign soil.

Some of the more enlightened Keepers, in their wisdom and skill, decreed that the foreigners were really not foreign, because one fence is as good as another. They began making modifications to the Fence-Master's designs, removing as many as they could from use, in order that the fences follow the vital technical rules the Keepers had developed.

Finally, the people decided that the Fence-Builders allied with the Fence-Master should be replaced with others, those who remembered how things were before Moe Anita-Nutjob and his allies came. The new Builders would fix things so that the people could sing songs and march in protest in peace, with no worries about offending their enemies by building fences where a civilized people would not build. "Our fences will protect us," they said.

And Moe Anita-Nutjob smiled at his good fortune. His fences were designed just for the lands the new Builders would soon abandon. After that, he would be the only Fence-Master anyone would ever need.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Fence

Around a certain country there were a series of hazards which, over the course of time, had been understood to be dangerous. There were cliffs, active and unstable volcanoes, crags with falling rocks, areas of parched desert prone to flash flood, streams filled with crocodiles, and dense jungles patrolled by carnivores. The people of the country knew the dangers, but periodically someone would be attacked by a shark or eaten by a grue.

The people began erecting fences all over and around this land, and posting signs on the fences declaring the consequences for breeching them. In some areas, the fence was to keep the danger out, while in others the people themselves were the danger.

Sometimes the fences didn't meet correctly on their edges, or raised other quality concerns. The people wisely appointed specialists to represent them in regard to the fences. There were Fence-Builders to make new fences as new conditions arose, and Fence-Keepers charged with inspecting the fences. The Fence-Keepers carried tools which they called Restraint and Ethics, which allowed them to work around and even outside the perimeter fence with minimal risk to themselves and others. Some of the Fence-Keepers came to be appointed Supreme Fence-Keepers. The Supreme Fence-Keepers soon declared that they had the final say in how the fence should be kept.

Now, most people knew where the dangers were, and where the perimeter fence was, but there were areas of danger inside the fence, and areas of safety outside it; a constant debate took place among the people of the land as to where the fences should be made tall or short, or where the perimeter should be moved out to enclose new areas thought now to be safe for a modern, well-educated people, or where it should be moved in to protect against areas now known to contain danger.

Some of the dangerous areas, such as the shark-infested waters of the ocean, had an allure for the people. They were willing to brave the danger, and over time the fence moved closer to the beach, then into the water, and into deeper water, until fully submerged. Signs were posted, but no one was quite sure where the fence actually was, for the Fence-Keepers kept moving it to satisfy the needs of their own technical requirements, which were sometimes not related to the primary mission of separating the people from danger. The fence was underwater and invisible in these areas, but the Fence-Keepers went right on arguing among themselves and changing its location to meet their own arcane criteria. The people decided where they could go in the water, sharks or not.

Special soundproof fences were built to keep the people from hearing one another speak an offense, which had the unforeseen side effect that the people could not hear each other at all.

Gradually, the Builders built more fences than the Keepers could keep, even with their advanced Restraint and finely-tuned Ethics. There were fences on the sidewalks, fences in the street, fences around churches and in the schools. Wherever the people went, the Builders had put a fence. The Keepers, Ethics and Restraint in hand, maintained them as best they could. With so many fences, it became difficult to tell which ones should be given priority; the Keepers just waited for the people to complain, and then argued among themselves a while.

Many of the Supreme Fence-Keepers had realized that they needed their Ethics much more than their Restraint. They set aside their Restraint, and began ordering that some fences be moved, torn down, or altered. They began taking the old fences, since there were so many that were used so little, and with judicious use of Ethics made entirely new fences. The people were just as happy with the Fence-Keepers' fences as with the Builders', even when the Keepers began using imported fence parts. To keep the people trusting the fences, the Builders allowed the Keepers to build, and then went back to counting.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Rangelian Dreams

Over at Redstate, blogger Steven lampoons Charlie Rangel (D-Oceania) for calling for a draft. Steven's plan would

...remove liars, cheats, thieves, and whoremongers from Congress and replace them with Midwestern farmers, New Jersey mechanics, Texas ranchers, and various small businessmen from all the other states.

But really, that proposal barely scratches the surface of the wonders available if the world only operated the way Charlie Rangel thinks it does.

In the Rangelian world, we would have not only Congressmen picked at random from the population (as is only fair), but government employees at all levels would be assigned based on a lottery system. In particular, police and firefighters would not have to go through the humiliation of testing to get their positions, but anyone who met the basic requirements could potentially be put in those slots. There's not much to being a cop, fireman, or EMT, after all.

In the Rangelian world, since medical treatment is a government function, people would be picked off the street to become doctors, nurses, rape counselors, and forensic technicians. Just imagine: a fellow could be selling drugs on the corner one day, and filling prescriptions the next! There's not much to being a doctor, counselor, or pharmacist, after all.

In the land of Rangel, graduates of our finest schools, with advanced degrees in nuclear physics, biomechanics, and history would have the opportunity to study the complex operation of a toll road from the inside, as booth operators.

Former students of philosophy, currently underemployed as stock analysts and salesmen, could put their years of study spent to gain mastery of deep subjects to better use, laying down a layer of covering fire for the repositioning of a rifle squad. There's not much to military work, after all.

The simple beauty of Rangel's plan leaves only one question.

Hey, Charlie! What color is the sky in your world?

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Friday, November 17, 2006

The Faustian Verses

(This was combined with other material and cross-posted at

In 1988, Salman Rushdie wrote a book he entitled The Satanic Verses. The work was historical fiction, analogous to The Da Vinci Code, but without so many Masons.

Because the book suggested the fallibility of the Prophet, it angered many Muslims. The Ayatollah Khomeini put a 72-virgin price on Rushdie's head, resulting in the United States breaking off diplomatic relations with Iran. For the better part of 20 years, Rushdie has known as well as any the fury of the dark side of Islam.

To combat a bout of insomnia, I happened to catch part of a Rushdie talk on C-SPAN just before the elections. Watching him liberally finger his liberal goatee as he liberally peppered his talk with the usual liberal code words, with my insomnia almost cured, I almost missed him making a most interesting point.

Rushdie's point transcends the liberal and conservative labels, calling us back to our common heritage in the value of liberty, reason, and some of these really big and hard to pronounce words.

According to Rushdie, Western liberal intellectuals have become accustomed to believing that those the world over with darker skin are oppressed by the lighter-skinned ones. That almost instinctual belief is so intertwined with what it means to be a good liberal that all an African or South Asian demagogue need do is decry Western imperialism or oppression, and Western liberals will buy it hook, line, and lead-free sinker.

So Muslim extremists, with very illiberal points of view, engage the Western liberal media as willing allies simply by asserting the common enemy of Western dominance.

A parallel development is equally troubling to Rushdie, and that is the growth of multiculturalism. There is a pointed difference, Rushdie says, between rejoicing in the many and varied cultures we find thrown together in an increasingly global, mobile, interconnected world, and refusing to place boundaries of acceptability around behavior. Well, I think that was me, but Rushdie said something like that and I found it quite refreshing, coming from his perspective.

What Rushdie actually said was that multiculturalism gone awry has caused liberals to deny the value of their own culture and beliefs, raising an inherent contradiction. While the values of other cultures must not be judged, our own values must be not only judged, but often repudiated.

These two parallel developments have resulted in the tacit acceptance by liberals of the positions held by Muslim extremists that they would never accept from their own countrymen: women as chattel, Sharia law as a viable alternative to civil law, and the propriety of violence against civilians to advance a political cause (otherwise known as terrorism), as long as the cause is fighting Westerners.

Dr Faust has company, it seems. Often the enemy of my enemy is not my friend, after all.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What I want

It seems that everyone is proclaiming what the voters meant on November 7. I won't speak for everyone else, at least not this time. This time, all I have to offer is what I want. I did vote, after all, for all the good it did us.

I want my leaders to display loyalty to no party, no race, no bloc of voters; nor to the media, nor to bloggers, nor to campaign contributors, nor even to me. I instead demand that they display in their every word and action loyalty to our nation and its historical values.

I want a government limited both in the services it provides and in the obedience it demands.

I want leaders who encourage individualism in self reliance, self control, self defense, and self expression.

I want wars that are fought in defense of American interests and ideals, but I want those wars fought to the end. I want leaders who have served under arms when young, so they will dread war when they are old.

I want my government to be limited. This is not some empty slogan; the limits are written down for all to see. And yet some choose to ignore those limits.

I want judges who leave to the legislature the power to legislate. I want no attempt to anticipate exceptional and hypothetical situations, or to base our law on their fancy of what might happen. I want judges who will decide cases.

I want the Federal government to interpose itself only when there is a clear conflict between States. I don't want it to assert its authority based on some hypothetical economy of action, implicitly relying on the legendary efficiency of the Federal government.

I want a government that knows that "interstate commerce" means commerce between states, not the tip I give a waitress in my own neighborhood diner, and not the grain a farmer grows to feed his own cows.

I want a government that defends life, from the moment of conception to the last sweet breath of an old man in his bed. I want no one, neither parent nor doctor, neither judge nor thug, to bring about the death of another. I want that decision left to a jury after a good long trial, though I have qualms about it, even then.

I want a government that defends liberty by ignoring what it can ignore, supporting only what it must, and asking only what it has a need to know.

I want leaders who obey the laws they pass, not defend the right of a corrupt official to store bribe money in his freezer.

I want the freedom to carry a gun on my person in whatever public place I choose.

I want the borders secured with a tall fence and a wide gate. I want anyone who will be loyal to my country and obey its few, simple, laws to make my country his own. I want to know who those people are who come in the wide gate, but as soon as I know they are Americans, I want to forget their origin.

I want to be able to offend someone and not end up in jail. I want the right to write in public what I would speak in private without being dragged in front of a judge for the content of my crazy ideas.

I want a government that ignores the color of a man's skin, and not to care generally whether that man is a man or something else.

I want the government to ignore what happens between consenting adults behind closed doors. I also want my government to recognize only marriages between a man and a woman.

I want a government that balances it budget by cutting taxes and by cutting spending.

And if I don't get all of that soon, there will be hell to pay on November 4, 2008.

(Cross-posted at

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Friday, November 10, 2006

To come to the aid of their country

Friends and neighbors, as you may know, I am not so much a Republican as a conservative, not so much a conservative as a libertarian, and not so much a libertarian as an unapologetic American.

And so it was with wistful disdain that I watched the Republicans cede the majority to the Democrats. Well, not so much the Democrats as the liberals, and not so much the liberals as the subversives, and not so much the subversives as the apologetic Americans.

And so I would now extend the hand of cooperation to the incoming Democratic leadership and to offer my best advice for how to lead the country.

But before I offer my unfettered wisdom in these matters, first let us conduct an overview of just a few of the challenges facing Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi.

1. There are almost two billion Muslims in the world, and if only one tenth of one percent (0.1%) of them hate the West, Christians, Israel and America enough to die for that cause, that's 2,000,000 potential rock throwers, suicide bombers, and TV news anchors. Luckily, these people hate us only because we don't understand them.

2. In the House, many of the Democrats ran as far to the right as they could plausibly run, using only code words ("social equality", "fighting hatred", etc.) to assure their base while reaching out to conservative voters with all they had. They ran against President Bush and Mark Foley, generally avoiding any actual platform.

3. The netroot ideological base of the Democratic Party was energized in this election largely by extreme distrust of the President. They repeated the charges over and over that President Bush is incompetent, approved torture, wants a theocracy, wants a police state, is a proxy for Big Oil, and cheated in the 2000/2004 elections.

4. Speaker Pelosi has made charges of incompetence, leading the netroots to believe she believes all the same things they do. Many of the Democrat leadership have made similar noises.

5. Because of 3 and 4, it will be very difficult to maintain credibility while assuring the base that working with the President, and not obstructing him, is an honorable activity.

6. Also ecause of 3 and 4, it will be very difficult to avoid impeachment proceedings, and hard not to hold some kind of Iran-Contra-style investigation into everything from the Cheney hunting accident to the Administration's conduct of the war in Iraq.

7. The economy is the worst since the Great Depression, with 4.4% unemployment, spiraling deficits, and inflation at almost measurable levels.

8. The middle class still has to pay taxes, which means they still have to work. This unconscionable state of affairs must be stopped; only the rich should have to work.

Fortunately for the incoming Speaker, I have solutions for all of her difficulties.

1. We must find Osama Bin Laden (how hard can that be?), allegedly responsible for the deaths of 3,000 Americans, and bring him to trial in California Family Court. He could not get a fair trial in New York, and there may even be concerns for his safety there. The trial will offer Americans the chance to learn about his peaceful intentions, and discover that he was really the victim and that it was really all our fault.

2. Since the campaign season led to so many Americans voting for conservative candidates, it's time to show them that their ideas are all wrong.

3. Since Americans uniformly believe with you that the President is the focus of evil in the world, you should channel all of your legislative efforts to protecting them from his incompetence by finally outlawing the torture of American citizens, stamping out Christianity, keeping police in check, taxing and regulating oil production to make it more expensive, and do everything you can to foster distrust in our election process.

4. Trumpet the ideas expressed in DailyKos, MyDD, and firedoglake. Completely ignore the right-wing blogs, which are simply Republican mouthpieces anyway.

5. Work very hard to show that you are in fact leading the country, and that the President is just a figurehead. You will have plenty of backup for this position from the traditional media and netroots.

6. Since the Bush Hearings™ are unavoidable, the best you can do is use them to show how the President was really at the mercy of the right wing nut cases who wanted him to defend our shores against terrorist attacks, convincing him that fighting on the enemy's turf was preferable to losing American cities. That way you get to show that you are now guiding the President, and that your words on the campaign trail should be ignored.

7. Hopefully, the economy will bounce back now that the Democrats have control of the Federal purse, which is the engine that drives the economy. If a few tax increases and minor regulations don't bring the economy back, blame the Republicans.

8. There really isn't much that can be done in the near term to keep the middle class from working. Despite your best efforts, I'm sorry to say, some of them will continue to try to emulate the wealthy, and will even try to hire other desperate people to work as well. Perhaps if the Democrats can win the House, Senate, and Presidency in 2008, laws can be passed to fix that.

I know that isn't everything, but if you keep to the spirit of my advice, I'm sure things will be fine.

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