Thursday, May 31, 2007

Compassionate Conservatism

The inimitable FrankJ has come up with an international jujitsu of truly historical scope. Rather than waste manpower, resources, time, and most importantly, political wind power on trying secure the border with Mexico, Frank has found a way to turn the flood of illegal immigration into a cleansing undertow, pulling gently back to their homeland those who are not fully serious in the desire to be Americans.

Like many conservatives, Frank understands the value of immigration to America's soul, as well as the value of obedience to the rule of law, our foremost value. But his compassion shines through:

On the other hand, most illegal immigrants just came here for a better life. They had the horrible misfortune of being born in the dirt-poor and corrupt Mexico and wanted to come to America -- like any rational person. If someone truly wants to become an American, I would like to give him or her the opportunity. When immigration works best is when people have to work hard to be Americans and thus appreciate American values even more than those of us who were given our place here simply through birth.
Those words are stirring because they evoke the image of America as the Promised Land for generations of huddled masses. We are a nation of volunteers, people who have opted in to a set of ideals. In exchange for a better, more prosperous life than can be had in their native lands, we accept the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and demand no less from our peers. Those who will not stand with us must fall before us.

Some were not volunteers, but rather are the descendants of draftees, those captured by traders in human flesh on another continent and brought here for the use of their labor, for jobs Americans would not do. It took a war bloody beyond grief to purge that evil from among us. By that blood, the former slaves can have little doubt about their country's seriousness in respecting them as fully American. It will probably take a similarly bloody effort to settle the question of illegal immigration.
If the Mexicans we have here will go and slaughter their former country men, raze the villages of their former countries, I would punch anyone in the face who would doubt their loyalty to America.
Frank, you had me at "raze". But your hyperbole is duly noted: as if you would ever "punch anyone in face".

I don't know that Frank's unlikely scenario is the solution to the problem at hand. There is sharp disagreement on the problem posed by illegal immigration, both what the problem is and its solutions are. The issue has the feel of something that can explode into violence, whether the solution is to toughen our immigration enforcement or to do away with the laws entirely. We will have to wait to find out if the violence will be as mild as Frank suggests, or as bloody as the war fought to free those who were earlier brought here to do the jobs Americans would not.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

No Stinking Way

In regard to a smoking ban last week, Tbone at Redstate, never being one to dance around a point when kicking it in the teeth would do, asked :

Do I have the right to carry around a dead fish of three days passing?
That question presumes a public interest in regulating and assuring the pleasantness of life, not merely some vague public interest in regulating the indoor air quality in a place of business, which is to say, on private property.

Does a business owner have the right to allow his customers to stink like dead fish? And if it's really a problem for customers and employees, why would a business owner not put out a sign
  • No Stinking

and wait for the customers to start streaming in?

As a ruthless ex-smoker, I yield to no one in my distaste for cigarettes. And yet, without offense to Tbone, I am even more offended by those who would use the power of the state to deny people the right to stink, on their own property, or to charge others for the opportunity to smell bad as part of a business plan. As long as no one is force to endure stench or smoke, let us not grant government the power to dictate taste.

As for that waitress who claims that cigarette smoke at work gave her lung cancer: that's a bad deal. However, to the extent that she didn't think she would get cancer, neither did anyone else. That lack of knowledge played an equal part, therefore, in the thinking of the business owner and the waitress (even if one would have weighed it more heavily than the other). Any business owner from this point forward will have the spectre of cancer looming over his decisions.

By attempting to use this special case to ban all smoking in all work places, the anti-smoking crowd is using the government to limit our right to expose ourselves to long-term risk for short-term reward. How long before we're not allowed to drive vehicles for delivery, because that is too dangerous, too odorous, or too noisy?

Not long.

Are people allowed to smell like rotted fish? We can only hope! To paraphrase Voltaire, I may detest your stench, but I defend to the death your right to stink it.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Noble Path

[Updated; see page source]

Monday is Memorial Day. It is a day not just to remember the heroes of the past, but to look with awe on the path they followed. As we honor the heroes who have given their lives in service of our country, each of us looks at their gift to us in a different way.

As a veteran who served in peacetime, I am humbled.

Others, who never served, must have similar feelings of gratitude, knowing the untold valor that goes with the mere act of survival in wartime, and the price paid in blood so that we could have our way of life. Even those who believe that all war is wrong are held to account for that blood. It was given as a gift, not as a bargaining chip, but that lessens not the debt we owe to the giver.

The aged can look back on a long life of freedom, knowing that had those we remember today not been willing to give up their lives to protect it, the country in which they exercised those liberties could not have stood.

But it is the young who have the most to learn from Memorial Day. They can learn humility, duty, honor, courage, sacrifice, and gratitude. And they can know that as a nation we give praise to those who are willing to exercise those virtues. Perhaps by remembering the fallen of the past, those of us who will not be called upon for the ultimate sacrifice can ensure that the greater, higher and more noble path remains open for those who are inclined to take it.

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Friday, May 25, 2007


One of my favorite movies is Fargo, the light-hearted tale of kidnapping gone sour in North Dakota.

There is a scene in which anti-hero Jerry, a crooked car salesman, makes final delivery on a brand new car:

We sat here right in this room and
went over this and over this!

Yah, but that TruCoat -

I sat right here and said I didn't
want no TruCoat!

Yah, but I'm sayin', that TruCoat,
you don't get it and you get
oxidization problems. It'll cost
you a heck of lot more'n five
hunnert -

You're sittin' here, you're talkin'
in circles! You're talkin' like
we didn't go over this already!

Yah, but this TruCoat -

We had us a deal here for nine-
teen-five. You sat there and
darned if you didn't tell me
you'd get this car, these options,

Okay, I'm not sayin' I didn't -
The immigration bill reminds me of that scene. I substitute amnesty, guest worker programs, waived taxes, and "comprehensive plan" for "TruCoat", and it all sounds about the same.

"But this isn't amnesty. We're charging a fee."

Lawbreakers should not get amnesty, and that's what the current bill implements. I don't care that we "can't round them all up", because "can't" means "don't know how yet".

Illegal aliens should not pay taxes, because they are not citizens. No representation, no taxes. On the other hand, they shouldn't be here at all. I reject completely and on multiple independent but individually sufficient grounds the proposition that we can collect taxes from someone but can't buy them a bus ticket even from the proceeds.

"But this comprehensive plan..."

The "comprehensive" plans are always full of benefits for people who deserve only a bus ticket. We should secure the border and stiffen workplace enforcement. Once we control how many people come across the border, then we can talk about what to do with the people who are here.

"But this guest worker program ..."

The guest worker program is the worst of it all. It creates a permanent underclass of divided families and unattached young men, and reduces America to a temporary employment agency.

Ideologically, I want people here who want to be Americans. A guest worker program implies that the people in it have their first national loyalty to a foreign power. No economic benefit can outweigh that.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Mass Hysteria of Convenient Targets

Mankind has a certain way of finding scapegoats, a method which seems to assign blame for causes on a scale inversely proportional with the ability of the scapegoat to defend itself against the charge.

Why do we insist on assigning guilt for all troubles great and small to the bogeyman of the day? While Satan, demons, pixies, elves, gremlins, and other such creatures have often received more blame than is their due, there can be little doubt that they are involved in some of our many troubles. But we don't stop there; we take actual things and people we see in the world and assign other-worldly power to them.

  • Witches
    From as early as we can tell, witches enjoyed a special reputation for casting ruinous spells and unprovoked magicks on their hapless neighbors.

    These witches were so powerful as to control the climate, the economy, disease or war. That they chose in their omnipotence to live in a hut on the outskirts of some dirty little village ought to have given a thinking peasant reason to pause with his pitchfork. History being so woefully incomplete, we may never know whether the Cotton Mathers of the world gave that consideration.

  • Jews
    Like witches, the Jews represented a convenient target. A small minority, with "odd" ways, the Jews were also quite a bit smarter on average. But beginning with the Black Plague in the 14th century, Jews were blamed for various events which, with the benefit of hindsight, they probably wish they had not brought about.

  • Corporations
    At the turn of the 19th century into the 20th, a populist movement began to vilify the Trusts as controlling all economic activity and exerting undue influence on government. This fell short of attributing weather patterns to corporate greed, but not too far short of it.

  • Drugs
    At about the same time, Prohibition Fever caught hold of Americans, especially activist Christians. Opiates, marijuana, and alcohol were each vilified as ruinous to good living, and banned. This was at about the same time that self-propelled vehicles became common, allowing unprecedented leverage. Prior to this time, what a person drank or smoked was a matter of taste, with social benefits and consequences, but no concern of the government. With modern machinery came modern restrictions on freedom.

    Today the hysteria continues in certain circles, but it must be noted that drug use has not tapered off, despite laws to the contrary.

  • Jews again
    The Nazis incorporated antisemitic hysteria into their governing philosophy.

  • Commies
    In the United States at the height of the Cold War, the Red Menace was thought capable of any evil imaginable, and so communists were held responsible for even the evil they didn't do.

  • Jews again
    What a surprise it is that the Islamofascists blame the Jews for their troubles. And what a shame that some Western dhimmis agree.

  • Corporations
    Those evil corporations are said to be keeping a lid on 200-mpg cars, electric cars, a cancer cure, an AIDS cure, and the like.

  • Global Warming
    But perhaps the all-time winner in the Mass Hysteria Sweepstakes, or at least giving antisemitism a runner up, is the Global Warming hysteria. Perpetuated by science worship and a willing media, the global warming myth plays on the fallacy that if something happens, there must be a human cause.
So if you start to think the Witches have unleashed the Jews on us with their Evil Corporations peddling Drugs and leading to Global Warming, just relax. It's really George Bush's fault.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Why America Needs One Language

America, from her birth, has had as a common bond a single language. It's not the only language in the world. It wasn't even invented here. But in hard times and prosperity, safety and danger, through political struggles and wars, the single language has allowed Americans of all origins to take full part in public life. Without the ability to speak a common language, we are a mere collection of colocated tribes, soon to disintegrate and be cast into the dustbin of history.

If they share a language, the poorest child can converse with the wealthiest financier, should the need arise. Without a common tongue, the rich and powerful can easily ignore even a mob in the street, a mob much more likely to turn to violence when its well-spoken, cogent and passionately delivered points are, through lack of understanding, ignored as gibberish.

Several factors contribute to the necessity of a common language. I apologize for the lack of scholarship here; your refund is in the mail.

  • Efficiency

    The amount of waste and energy required to accomodate multiple languages is staggering. Teachers, government workers, and really everyone would be asked to communicate in the language preferred bythe few, at the expense of the many. While the elitist would suggest that is good and proper, it is no more realistic than it is just, and it is even less just than it is efficient. Far better to have a single standard and let everyone conform than to have as many standards as are required, which is to say, no standard at all. Taken ad absurdum, we would strain efficiency if all official functions had to have the capacity to be conducted in Esperanto or Klingon for the two people with those as their native languages.

  • Psychology

    Language is not just a tool for communication, it is a mapping of ideas into reality. Language introduces an historical bias in favor of its roots. While both Spanish and English are European, and thus impart a European viewpoint on their speakers, the differences are pronounced. Americans have an ingrained trust and loyalty toward the United Kingdom, stemming initially from our common language and smelted in two world wars. We say we share a common history with the British, but we really mean a common language.

  • Safety

    When a call comes to a 911 dispatcher, safety demands clarity, and clarity is shattered by a language barrier. The same applies to any interaction with police, fire rescue and emergency medical technicians.

    Captain's Quarters
    has the horrific story of a group of illegal immigrant women forced into prostitution by the "coyotes" with whom they had contracted for passage across the border. It turns out that the coyotes were actually pimps who took their identification and forced them to be used in a way so inhuman that 'prostitution' doesn't quite cover it. The business apparently was conducted all in Spanish. I make no attempt to create a bogeyman here: I believe the business was conducted in Spanish to obscure its purposes.

    Not speaking English, the girls were unable to call for help or explain their circumstances.

  • Trust

    People who speak the same language trust each other more. Traveling in a foreign country and meeting a person who speaks your language, a level of trust is established immediately. Conversely, speaking in a private language engenders distrust among those who are excluded.

    Without a shared language, we rely on translators. Translators must not only convey the nuances of thought between two languages, but they must avoid the temptation to insert their own bias. So we must trust the group speaking the foreign language, and also the translator.

  • Economy

    Encouraging a person to speak a language that most others do not is not doing it a favor. Those who cannot fluently speak the dominant language are destined to a life in the underclass.

  • Unity

    Employers and employees, lawyers and waitresses, cops and prostitutes are united together in communication. A nation is united by history, culture, and defense of shared territory -- all of which for all practical purposes require a shared language.
We must resist all attempts to characterize monolingualism as racism, nativism, or any kind of intolerance. It is necessary. Without it, sooner or later we all end up working for the coyotes, or unwittingly becoming them.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Just Say No to Mixed Vegetables!

Apparently the moral philosophers of Al Kaiduh cannot abide cohabitating vegetables.

Avert your eyes! Have you no shame? There are children present.

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Budget Buster

Friends, you know that I'm not usually one to bring up the Federal budget. It's a subject of only vague interest to me, and probably to you. But it has occurred to me that while we have been busy being vaguely disinterested, the other side, whose interest in such things is acute, has been formulating something of an 'end around', to use a football cliche. Football: now there's something to catch our interest!

And speaking of interest,

In Fiscal Year 2006, the U. S. Government spent $406 Billion of your money on interest payments* to the holders of the National Debt. Compare that to NASA at $15 Billion, Education at $61 Billion, and Department of Transportation at $56 Billion.

While that site pushes a balanced budget amendment as a solution, the real solution is to change the conversation toward ways to shrink the Federal budget, and keep it shrunk. Those departments may be smaller than the debt, but while paying less on the debt causes greater expense in the future, paying less to DoEd and DoT can help us pay the debt down.

The people know that government is too big, and growing bigger all the time. We should be talking about ways to make the government smaller, not make it bigger. But an obscene growth in the Federal budget is what the immigration bill (which I shall not name) would accomplish.

As Mr. Redrum points out a The Minority Report, The Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector has crunched it out for us:

According to Rector’s numbers, the US Government acquires an additional $500K in lifetime deficit (for the sake of this estimate, lifetime = 25 years of welfare expenditures) for every current illegal alien given a class Z visa. Assuming a conservative estimate of 10M illegals currently, and assuming the bill’s security features work so well that no new illegals ever get in, that’s a bill of $5T
To put this financial disaster in proper perspective, the US Government currently owes about $8.8T in current obligations. If we assume our budget will balance every year for the next 30 years, with the exception of this immigration bill’s new expenses, we will have a deficit on the order of $13.8T. All alone, this bill adds 36% to the US national debt.

Redrum's piece is a worthwhile read, being a nice takedown of a race-baiter, so head over to TMR to check it out.

When government grows, taxes grow and liberty recedes. But then, proponents of the bill probably find that encouraging.

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Why Is This Amnesty?

Democrats want to get the illegal immigrants legal, so they can eventually register them to vote. And the left wants social justice, which is of course the opposite of actual justice.

Republicans are:

  • Afraid of being called racists, so much that they do it themselves
  • Afraid of letting the Democrats get all the credit with the new voters
  • Afraid of making business mad by ruining the labor market
  • Afraid of their new Democratic Overlords
As a result, Republicans find themselves twisted into rhetorical pretzels trying to explain how letting someone off the hook for a crime is not amnesty, as long as they have to pay a penalty.

It's because if it were a penalty, you would make them stop doing the illegal thing they were doing. It's amnesty, with a new user fee -- a tax increase, by any other name. Unfortunately, no one would ever pay this new tax.

There will be no incentive to send $1000 to the government instead of sending it home. They will not pay it, because no one will make them. If anyone had any intention of enforcing this new law, they would already be enforcing the existing laws.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Alll She is Saying ... Is Give Fleece a Chance

It appears that Pennsylvania Democrat (and also Congressman) Jack Murtha's problem with the war is it's in Iraq, not in Pennsylvania.

According to the Washington Times (w/t Powerline), Murtha is willing to break House rules to get military pork sent to his district:

During a series of House votes Thursday, Murtha walked to the chamber's Republican side to confront Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., a 43-year-old former FBI agent. Earlier this month, Rogers had tried unsuccessfully to strike a Murtha earmark from an intelligence spending bill. The item would restore $23 million for the National Drug Intelligence Center, a facility in Murtha's Pennsylvania district that some Republicans say is unneeded.

According to Rogers' account, which Murtha did not dispute, the Democrat angrily told Rogers he should never seek earmarks of his own because "you're not going to get any, now or forever."

Speaker-In-Law™ Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) defended Murtha, saying she had
"[N]o idea what actually happened" during a noisy exchange in the House chamber last week between Reps. John P. Murtha, D-Pa., and Mike Rogers, R-Mich.

"What I do know is that Congressman Murtha has — enjoys — an excellent reputation in the Congress on both sides of the aisle," said Pelosi in a broadcast interview taped Friday and aired Sunday.

"He writes the defense appropriation bill in a bipartisan way each year and with the complete involvement of the Republicans as to who gets what on the Republican side," she said.

Democrats are doing everything they can "ethically" do to avoid funding the actual mission of the Department of Defense, but when it comes to pork for their top sloppers, it's no holds barred. And the defense she gives for larding up the Defense appropriation is that Murtha slops both ends of the trough, so what's the complaint here?

According to Democrats, we should not fund the war in Iraq, which has a direct benefit for the security of the nation. Don't fund the war in Iraq, because the troops in the field need to know where our priorities are. Don't fund the war in Iraq, since that would interfere with funding projects in Murtha's district. And don't complain about wasteful spending, or we won't slop your end of the trough any more.

So the Speaker-in-Law is not defending Jack Murtha, really. She doesn't know whether he has broken any rules, after all. All she is saying, is give fleece a chance.

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On Living in Shadows

As Mark Steyn points out, living in the shadows is not such an awful deal.

But, in fact, if you wanted to construct the perfect arrangement for modern life, it would be to acquire:
  1. just enough of an official identity to be able to function - open bank accounts, etc - and to access free education and health care; but
  2. not enough of an official identity to attract the attentions of the IRS and the other less bountiful agencies of the state.
I've often toyed with the idea of just dropping out and squatting on a piece of land, growing vegetables and telling the IRS to pound sand. The missus won't go for it (something about a mall), so I'm sort of stuck enjoying the fruits of my unshadowy existence instead of those shadowy veggies.450 days for a visa?

But Steyn also jests that those of us who are documented too thoroughly for comfort should apply for Z-visas. [Update: as BBK attests at The Minority Report, it could take a while to get one.]

I think this is a fabulous idea. Probably there will be no part of the application form(s) which will require certifying that you are currently undocumented -- in fact, there will be all demands to show a stable address, previous address, employer, and other forms of identification such as insurance numbers and the like, all of which most of us can fill out without perjuring ourselves. With any luck, they'll make it possible for me to bring my wife and family with me to my squatter's parcel. I should mention them when I apply for Welfare, AFDC, Dislocated Worker stipend, or whatever the nice lady tells me I'm elibible to collect.

I can practically taste the sweet corn.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Tyrannum Bureaucratis

When Congress has a thorny problem, they inevitably "solve" the problem by creating a layer of bureaucracy between the problem and any effective treatment of it. Witness the following thorny problems and the operational sludge through which Congress insists the thorns be raked:

  • Law Enforcement

    The amount of paperwork a law enforcement official has to do to wipe his nose makes it a wonder they aren't constantly cited themselves for poor hygiene.

  • Immigration

    Immigration law as currently practiced forces Border Patrol and other immigration official to hop over a series of legal hurdles before a single illegal immigrant can be deported. Court precedent has begun to apply laws and decisions intended for American citizens to apply to the citizens of foreign powers. There is little doubt this trend will continue.

    As Hugh Hewitt points out, the current immigration bill relies on the slow workings of government being unable to butter toast in a single day, so that any immigrant who applies for a Z-visa and not red flagged in a day becomes untouchable by law enforcement. The rules of evidence being what they are, thre will be no way for law enforcement officials to interdict criminals who happen to be Mexican citizens without having their cases subsequently thrwon out on technicalities.

  • Education

    While conservatives and liberals alike have wanted for years to disassemble and disband the Federal Department of Education, it keeps on growing, issuing edicts and providing a safe breeding grounds for programs which do no good for students but do keep bureaucrats employed. The DoEd is small enough when compared to other Federal departments that axing it doesn't seem like it would save much money, relatively speaking. But it would help immensely in the education of children across the nation not to have rules set in Washington D.C. made to apply in Springfield, Butte, and Oahu. The rules, goals, procedures and the structure of the system are designed to thwart any change that will attack the real enemy of education, which is bureaucracy.

  • Health Care

    The "crisis" in health care is a crisis of health care paperwork. Doctors need higher fees to pay for insurance; patients need insurance to cover the higher fees; and all of them spend more time doing the paperwork of health care than the actual care. They are fools who want the government to take over the health care business, or even the health care insurance business, or even the business of ensuring that everyone has insurance.

  • War

    From poor supply and logistical lines to convoluted command and control, when it comes to war, bureaucracy kills. Commanders can't make decisions without approval from higher ups, and troops can't engage the enemy without applying a series of tests to determine how it will look on the news.

    The inevitable creep of bureacracy will inexorably pursue and eventually overtake any military organization. That will lead to defeat in some future war, unless that bureaucracy can be actively and consistently reformed with policies focused on getting rid of anything that doesn't help fight.
Bureaucracy can act as a buffer against tyrannical rulers, thwarting their attempts to exercise their will. In doing so, however, it stymies the tyrant's wise moves as well as his unwise; the beneficial along with the harmful. Bureaucrats likewise exercise their functions and carry out their procedures regardless of whether those operations are on balance good or bad.

But the lefties have it wrong: when their revolution comes, the only winner will be the pasty little man in his office on the seventh floor, who will gladly but impatiently explain to them exactly what their revolution allows them to do. If they fill out the correct forms, and have their request signed by proper authority.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

A Nation For Sale

Over at Redstate, Nathan Nelson has what purports to be a plea for common sense in the immigration controversy. Ordinarily, Nate's posts do exemplify reasonableness, within the framework of his basic tenets. This time, however, while he employs a tone of reasonability, the substance is somewhat less reasonable.

You can read my analysis of that in a comment there.

But that wasn't so bad.

Then I happened onto this post at Captain's Quarters which attempts to frame the arguments against the current immigration bill.

Argument 1: Congress will never enforce the border-security provisions/triggers.

[...] Republicans insisted on security-first triggers before any of the rest of the plan can proceed.

Some say that Congress will just ignore the law anyway. If so, then you can't trust Congress to do anything, so even if they passed a border-security-only plan, you still can't support it. That's an argument for futility, where one does not believe in the legislative system any more.

With the amnesty component, the border enforcement will be made all the more difficult, and there is no guarantee that this Congress or any other and this President or the next will implement or maintain that border enforcement. Once the amnesty goes through, there will no longer be any way to get enforcement, especially once the former illegals start voting. They're already being pandered to now; just wait till they can punch out a chad.

But more to the point, we have years and years of evidence that border and workplace enforcement will be ignored. Let's see that addressed first, and in that order, and then see what needs to happen. The trigger mechanisms may or may not work, but not implementing amnesty at all until enforcement works definitely will work, and at the very least won't do any harm.

Still, not so bad. The bill is starting to sound "reasonable".

Argument 2: It will prompt a flood of illegals.

What do we have now? What have we had for the last 21 years? Doing nothing won't slow it down, which is why we've been screaming for a border-security bill. This compromise tries to move from the status quo. It may not have enough, but it does provide exponentially more resources to the border than anything we've ever seen, and we can add to it in subsequent Congresses if necessary.

This is something of a straw man, but none the less the idea that the current flood justifies the new flood is reprehensible. The choice is not between doing nothing or accepting this bill. We ask for enforcement before amnesty.

But still, so far all would not seem lost if the bill passes, because as bureaucratic nightmares go, it would really not do much damage, as the Captain points out, that is not being done already.

But then I saw the White House Position Paper on the bill, and was appalled:
No Amnesty For Illegal Immigrants: Illegal immigrants who come out of the shadows will be given probationary status. Once the border security and enforcement benchmarks are met, they must pass a background check, remain employed, maintain a clean criminal record, pay a $1,000 fine, and receive a counterfeit-proof biometric card to apply for a work visa or "Z visa." Some years later, these Z visa holders will be eligible to apply for a green card, but only after paying an additional $4,000 fine; completing accelerated English requirements; getting in line while the current backlog clears; returning to their home country to file their green card application; and demonstrating merit under the merit-based system.
So citizenship is now for sale. If you have acquired $1000 (by whatever means), you can stay. If you don't have the money, you will have to remain an illegal immigrant, working for cash, or whatever arrangement you can make, until you an come up with the money. Continue doing what was illegal, and come up with the rest of your bribe, and for $4000 you can get right with the law. All you have to do is come up with the money.

By whatever means.

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Encourage Integrity

People in government don't seem to understand that it is their duty to regulate immigration, at least in the sense of being able to count how many people are entering. In an era of constant terrorist attacks, allowing even a handful of people to cross the border without in the minimum identifying themselves is indefensible.

Like Diana Irey (who opposed Jack Murtha in '06), I want a 'tall fence with a wide gate'. Right now, the whole fence is a gate.

The law and all policy should encourage honesty and integrity, not reward its absence as this bill would. Or at least, that's the rumor, because as of this writing there is no bill.

  • Do not give amnesty, nor a reward by any other name, to people who break the law. That only results in more lawbreaking.
  • We must know, by fingerprint, every single person who enters the country, by whatever means they choose to enter.
  • If anyone in the country is subject to a law, everyone must be subject to that law.
  • There must be no second-class citizens.
  • If anyone is willing to give up allegiance to his native land and any other, speak our language, and take up our common cause, I want him as a countryman.
  • Economic concerns are of secondary importance
  • No illegal alien should be allowed citizenship while there is anyone who followed the rules still in line for it.
Secure the borders.

Secure the workplaces.

Defend the defenders, not the attackers.

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Winning the Last War

It's not a new observation: military men fight each new conflict using the tactics and principles that they learned fighting the most recent few. It often takes a while before the new situation presented in the latest conflict becomes clear, and even longer before they get permission to abandon losting tactics, and eventually hit upon a strategy that will be successful. This process takes even longer for the folks back home.

The approach of military men is dictated by years of convincing superiors that the old tactics from Generation A no longer work, and training themselves to believe that a certain method will be needed in Gen B of warfighting. But wars are never the same, and the previous war fought with Gen A tactics, and the subsequent peace, teaches the enemy how to overcome Gen A tactics as well as those in use in prior conflicts. The enemy believes that his own cause is best served through fighting, and that some new set of tactics (and the ones our side never successfully countered during the Gen A war) will be more successful.

But the Last War Syndrome also affects civilian decision-makers, and civilians generally, perhaps even more than the soldier. The military man has as one of his top aim continuing to breathe, along with the compatible goal of defeating the enemies of his country. To those ends he is highly devoted, and highly motivated toward success. The particular method he chooses and policy he follows to stay alive while faithfully serviing his country are of secondary importance.

The civilian, on the other hand, is at least one step removed from personal danger, allowing elegant theories about root causes to trump the evidence of the senses. In particular, those with neither career nor skin on the line can demand that tactics and strategy conform to a theory of human action with no connection to reality. Those whose decisions actually affect the conduct of the war have motivation more like the military man's: being wrong can be deadly, and will certainly have a negative career impact.

So lest I be accused of reverse-chickenhawking, let me be clear: in the fight against Jihad, we all have skin to lose, this is nothing like Desert Storm or Viet Nam nor any other conflict, and it's a good thing that the civilians in charge are listening to the people with the most to lose should their collective plans go awry.

But to the civilians in Califongress, reared in communes and inculcated with the prism of Viet Nam, multiculturalism, and giving peace a chance, only the last war matters.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cruelty and Cowardice

Ralph Kinney Bennett , writing at TechCentralStation:

"The beheadings are still happening, but we have an order not to broadcast them. Everything is videotaped but we can't broadcast them. We do seek to capture and imprison American soldiers, but you have to understand that it is very difficult to do so because they patrol in groups, at least 15 soldiers at a time. We hope and pray to capture them."

-- Al-Qaida fighter Abu Adam al-Maqdisi, interviewed on a radical Islamic website, April 27, 2007.

Even as we pray for those three missing American soldiers we are prepared for the worst.

And when we find them, I hope their captors, or murderers, put up a fight. In fact, I don't care if they put up a fight or if they've killed the captives or not, I want the terrorists dead. No trial, no questions, just dead. A reasonable alternative would be "extended interrogation" in which they are, ah, forced to use un-bouncy basketballs and not allowed to play video games.

("Oh, but what if you're wrong? What about the value of the rule of law ...")

Everything in its season, friends. It's a war against people who do not ascribe to the Geneva Conventions, and thus we are not obliged to offer anything except a limit on how many vultures we'll allow to feast on their rotting corpses.

Mustn't be cruel, after all.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Gauntlet is Thrown

I agree with haystack. Click the title to go to Redstate and see it all.

I have been told being left alone to live my life with as little Governmental intrusion as possible was my right until the Government deemed it necessary to intrude just the same; from marriage being redefined to satisfy a constituency to citizenship being redefined to satisfy a constituency to allowing unborn babies to be killed to satisfy a constituency to allowing criminals who have come here to profit from my generosity be called "Americans" to satisfy a constituency to giving more of my hard-earned money to "Americans" who are deemed more in need than I to satisfy a constituency to being told I am allowed to defend myself with a gun that I am not allowed to have to satisfy a constituency.

How often do we read things and say, "I wish I'd said that!" because it is what we were just thinking? He concludes:
Attention political parties. The party is get no money from me, and you are all open game.

Attention America, you are being had and you are losing your heritage, your history, your past, and a future you are already being deprived of.

Attention Politicians. I will do everything in my power to get you fired...can you say term limits and recall?

Attention US Government. You will be forced to give me back my country, or arrest me before I go too far.

I have your shield arm, sir.

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Oh, the Humanity

(WARNING: This may be too graphic for some. Be so advised, and I apologize in advance to those who are overcome with horror.)

As the transcript (pdf) of his Combatant Status Tribunal shows, Khalid Sheikh Muhammed alleged acolyte Mr. Mahjid (or Majid) Khan is one tough cookie. To have endured the treatment to which he has thus far been subjected and still be alive is enough, but to selflessly stand up for the rights of conspirators in mass murder and jihad sympathizers everywhere to receive name-brand personal care products is truly the stuff of legend.

Some Facts How They Are Mentally Torturing Us:

They them self use the best kind of stuff but they give us cheap branded, unscented deodorant soap to wash ourselves with. Also, same goes for shampoo, toothpaste, and deodorant, etc.

This camp gives us only twelve to fourteen pages of newsletter only once a week. Most of the stuff is crap; only few pages are worth of reading it.

In main rec no weight lifting machine, no toilet, no sink, no hoops, and even balls them self have little air in them; they hardly bounce.

In the end of January 2007, they brought us a big fan which makes noise, which makes more noise than produce air in main hall. It drives us crazy. They have since turned the fan off and I have been move to A19 on 6 April 2007. The fan itself is still there.

They know how we feel about family members. They intentionally make our ICRC mails delay - very, very delay in so call censorship issues.

We only get one our of communal rec and only one hour of main rec per day, 2 books per week, and that's it. No mind stimulations, no solitary games, no DVD players, no entertainment, and you know how small and cozy our cells are in size. It has been seven months like this, no improvement.

[REDACTED] So please, before making any decision on me, please read this report of torture and then think yourself if these people can go that far how hard it is for them to make something up, [REDACTED] I affirm these are my word and the truth as I know it.
(w/t Redstate)

We don't know, for security reasons, what is in the redacted part. Perhaps his pajamas were only imitation silk, or his lemonade had too much pulp.

These are serious charges. He is charging the United States Government with treating someone who is not covered by the Geneva Conventions as if he were.

And that would be wrong.

(Again, I apologize for the unsettling material. Truth will out, you know.)

However, on reading the rest of the transcript, another thing becomes clear. Mahjid Khan may not be guilty of anything more than being a Muslim from Pakistan. And forging immigration papers. And being an incessant whiner. With a casual acquaintance with the truth.

And without seeing the classified evidence against him, it is hard to call him an enemy combatant. As he says, he didn't threaten to blow himself up to kill the President of Pakistan, and besides, he didn't actually do it yet.

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Finally, A Use Found for Diversity

While trolling Classical Values (one of the services I provide to the web)(the trolling, not the site), I noted a piece from Simon, who said:

It looks like the biofuels guys have plans for our future. Biofuels are supposed to be he great panacea for the burning problem of the day - man made global warming. Hey not so fast. It turns out biofuels could cause food shortages.

Have you checked food prices lately? When the price of corn goes up, it affects not only the price of corn itself, but others, especially beef and pork. But it also creates a longer-term incentive for farmers to grow more corn, rather than soybeans, which creates a need for more chemical fertilizers and pesticides when farmers grow corn-over-corn, rather than using good crop rotation. And that puts demand on soybeans, wheat, and other crops, as fewer farmers crow those crops in favor of corn.

Higher corn prices will have an effect on illegal immigration, as well. Food prices in Mexico, where corn is a big part of the diet, have gone way up. That makes leaving Mexico to come to the US more attractive.

But it turns out that in producing biofuel (either alcohol or diesel), corn and other cultivated crops (except sugar cane) are not as good as untended prairie.

Cultivated crops require more fossil fuel to grow than they produce. But when you don't cultivate the crop, and just let it grow, weeds and all, two nice things happen.

First, you don't have to buy pesticide, fertilizer, or seeds, since the stuff just grows. Costs plummet.

Secondly, it turns out that the more types of plants you allow to grow, the more overall mass per acre that grows. It's this little thing called diversity, which is overrated in committees but works really, really well for growing biofuel, 3 times better than a monoculture.

I don't think biofuels are the answer to our energy needs. But they are a useful alternative to buying oil from people who want to kill us. Nuclear power and electric vehicles, or hybrid electric/diesel or electric/hydrogen vehicles would help a lot, as would using our own off-shore oil fields.

But an unhealthy (but highly diverse) coalition of farmers wanting grain subsidies, oil companies, ag companies, and environmentalists afraid of both nuclear power and oil spills has kept us from being weaned of foreign oil.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Give a Man a Fish

Socialism comes in two flavors, the kind practiced in democracies in which the people have discovered how to vote themselves free bread, and the kind practiced in dictatorships in which the dictator or oligarchs have discovered how to starve the people on it.

There is an old liberal saying:

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day;
Teach him to fish, and he will never be hungry.
The arrogance implied in that statement is astounding. Which came first, the starving poor or the liberal? Come to think of it, it's a harder question than I thought.

Socialism gives the people bread, fish, or whatever the government decides they "need". Since the people do not have the ability under socialism to feed themselves, tomorrow the government must continue to give the people bread, while enduring their whining compaints. The bread is baked from flour ground by those who will never bake or till. The grain is grown by those who will never grind or bake. And eventually everyone pays for it in blood, since the system falls apart without someone holding a gun.

Capitalism teaches the people to fish, or bake their own bread, or figure out their own health care. It requires no one to force the people to till, or grind, or bake, because the people will do these things with the hope of wealth but with the knowledge that they will be rewarded for the cleverness and diligence with which they do so.

Socialism is the enemy of capitalism not just because the two economic systems are incompatible in their methods and goals, but because socialism demands more and more control over its subjects, while capitalism does not want to control. Socialism requires stifling dissent, for if people remember that they don't need the government, they will rebel.

Socialism, and its sister communism, require thinking of the world as a zero-sum proposition, in which a person can become wealthy only by impoverishing someone else, and the world is composed of competing groups out to enslave one another. In fact, wealth is most often created by the mutual benefit of two or more parties, and the less they try to enslave one another, the more mutual benefit they can accrue. When one of those parties is a health care provider, one of them gains health, which is more valuable to him than the mere money gained by the other.

Capitalism, by contrast with socialism, works best when people are free to decide all aspects of their own affairs, whether they till, grind, bake, join the Marines, or become a doctor. When decisions are made for people, their initiative dries up, and the initiative of the people is the life blood of capitalism. Capitalism is freedom.

Socialism has no life, only the blood of its dissenters.

Will people try to steal from one another without some kind of government to resolve disputes between them? Universally. But socialism requires them to steal from one another.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Acceptable Electronic Voting

H.R. 811, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (pdf), would mandate a "paper trail" for electronic voting machines and provide for public access to the source code for programs that control voting machines. I am withholding endorsement of HR811, because I want to be sure that the wording of the Act doesn't cause more problems than it solves, but on the surface the steps look positive.

This is a fairly long treatment of the subject for a blog post, but is far from a complete one. First I will give some background on information systems and security, followed by some specific principles that affect electronic voting. I'll give what should be non-controversial, or at least apolitical, policy statements, and then combine all of that together to show what an acceptable voting system would look like.


To see why the things the bill addresses are important, we need to explore the basics of information security, as it applies to electronic voting. My goal is to introduce the topic to people who understand voting from a political or legal perspective, or that of a citizen, but who may have very little exposure to the technology at issue.

Electronic voting is an information system, a collection of processes arranged to transform, transmit, or store data. Information systems should be robust. A robust system is one which operates correctly and efficiently under a wide range of conditions, even under conditions for which it was not specifically designed. In particular, a robust system resists attempts to make it operate incorrectly.

In the subfield of information security, several principles are acknowledged by experts to help achieve robust and "secure" operation. "Secure" is in quotes there because it must be defined for each system. It has been noted that security is an emotion(), which is an attribute of people, not of systems, but the feeling of security is engendered by some practices and endangered by others, and those practices can usually be analyzed without regard to why a certain result is desirable. A secure system is one about which the designers, implementers, and users feel confidence in its protection of their assets, within acceptable margins of risk. As in any risk analysis, the likelihood of a particular attack or failure must be balanced against the value of a given asset. It is meaningless to label a system secure without specifying the expected level and type of risk, and the assets to be protected against those risks.

While there is no perfect system, there are practices and principles which lead to secure operation. We try to anticipate problems and design to eliminate, or at least mitigate them. I'm going to get to the voting part soon, I promise.

The Principles

The hallmarks of secure operation are generally recognizable by anyone familiar with the concepts:

  1. Economy of Mechanism - this means to keep things simple. Simpler processes are easier to understand and generally more robust.
  2. Fail Safe Design - Erroneous input should result in the least harmful action.
  3. Open Design - The reliability of the system should not depend on keeping its workings hidden.
  4. Complete Access Control (Mediation) - Access to assets should be allowed only to those authorized to access those assets.
  5. Least Privilege - Access to assets should be given only as required.
  6. Separation of Privilege - Access to assets should be based on multiple independent criteria.
  7. Least Common Mechanism - Shared means of operations should be minimized.
  8. Psychological Acceptability - If the perceived inconvenience associated with system safeguards is higher than the perceived value they allow, users will tend either to circumvent the safeguards or to bypass the system altogether, and use something less effective but more accessible.
There are some principles to bear in mind when creating correct, robust systems:
  1. Input should be validated before it is used.
  2. Efficiency: when possible, the resources (typically time and space) used by a process should not grow faster than the size of the input.
  3. Special cases signal that a design can be improved.
  4. Hope is the enemy of "is".
OK, Now the Voting Part

There are two fundamental resources in voting, the physical ballot and the information contained on the ballot, the votes. The ballot is important as a physical record of the intention of the voter, but the information on the ballot is far more important to the process. A ballot may contain several votes, one per contest (except for multiple-choice board races, ballot initiatives, etc.).

Voting must be done in secret, or maintaining confidentiality.

Voting must be done with assured information integrity, so that no one can alter data or exert influence over the process itself in order to alter the outcome.

Voting must work, or be available. It is unacceptable for voters to be delayed longer by process failure as they are waiting to vote than it takes them to cast their ballots. Preliminary results must be known soon after the polls close in the last polling place (e.g., Hawaii).

Counting all votes should be a feature of any system, but there are several ways in which votes could fail to be counted properly:
  • Individual ballots could be mangled, rejected, or lost by the voter or by the system
  • Blocs of ballots could be mangled, rejected, or lost by the system
  • Individual or blocs of votes could be unused or used multiple times by the system
Let's take the general principles in order, produce some policy statements, and then wrap those policy statements into a high-level outline of a system.
  1. Fail Safe Design - All legal votes should be counted. It should be difficult to present erroneous input. It should be impossible to make one ballot choice that is counted for another ballot choice. Input on one ballot choice should not affect other choices.

  2. Complete Access Control - Only the voter should know what choices he made in the voting booth. The system should allow authorized voters to vote one time per election.

  3. Least Privilege - Individuals should be given only the access to ballots their role requires. For instance, those counting votes do not need to know which election they are counting.

  4. Separation of Privilege - Access to ballots, vote tallies, and control data should be based on multiple independent criteria.

  5. Least Common Mechanism - Votes and ballots should be separated as soon as possible. That is, the transmission of votes must not rely on shipping physical ballots.

  6. Economy of Mechanism - We should use the simplest system satisfying all of the requirements

  7. Open Design - A standard for voting machines should be produced, so that a machine from any manufacturer could be put through exact, reproducible tests. Security should not be used to justify hiding the operation of the system. The overall system must be documented clearly and simply enough for anyone to understand.

  8. Psychological Acceptability - The voting process should change as little as possible from the voter's perspective. The voting process should also be understandable to all voters, or at least should present no obstacle between the voter and voting. Safeguards should not appear to prospective legitimate voters to be more trouble than they are worth.
Now For The Tricky Part

With policy statements in hand, we can now see what sort of system would meet the requirements of those policies.

If voting is seen to be difficult because of the security measures, the measures will be worked around, or people will simply not vote.

Only those authorized to access ballots that have been cast should be able to do so. There really should not be an argument against this, but some have demagogued this issue saying that identification is an attempt to exclude poor or minority voters, or that it is psychologically unacceptable as a security measure. As long as the difficulty of obtaining identification for purposes of voting is low, and the identification of who voted does not show how they voted, vote suppression is a red herring.

As quickly as possible, the information on the ballot should be copied from the physical ballot, or a physical ballot ("paper trail") created from an electronic ballot, and if possible the voter should verify a correct copy. Both the physical ballot and the electronic ballot should be transmitted to their secure destinations, by separate means. In no case should the public Internet be used as a means of transmitting official ballots, because this introduces too much shared mechanism: an Internet denial of service would jeopardize voting availability.

While some would step away from anonymous ballots or even away from the secret ballot altogether, the problem of voter intimidation is still a bigger enemy of democracy than voter anonymity. That is, balanced against the ability for others to punish or reward a particular vote, the secret ballot allows the potential of multiple votes per voter or ineligible people voting. Non-secret voting does not completely cure these problems, and introduces many others, besides. The secret ballot follows the principle of Least Privilege: no one but the voter knows how he voted.

The source code (what the programmers edit) for a voting machine really should be available for everyone to see. But companies are wedded to the idea that keeping their code hidden gives them a business advantage, and we must rely on businesses to produce the machines, or rely on the government to make them, a truly intolerable situation. H.R.811 addresses these concerns by mandating that source code be given to election officials, but it is not clear whether citizens "inspecting" the source code would be allowed to do anything useful with it, or merely inspect it visually on paper. Inspecting the code without being able to execute it in a debugging environment is an unacceptable half measure.

The principle of Open Design does not require that the source code be revealed, however. While hiding the source code makes the attacker's job more difficult, it also lowers overall confidence in the system. If the attacker cannot force the system to behave in an unauthorized way even with the source code, the system can be assumed to be more secure than an equivalent system with hidden code. Hiding the source therefore should not be relied upon as a security measure. Companies who hide their source code should assume that the attackers have somehow obtained it, and design their countermeasures accordingly.

An electronic voting system should validate entries before a physical ballot is created, to catch the error early and allow for a good ballot to be taken. Processing two votes should take only twice as long as one vote takes. There should be no special handling required for the elderly or those for whom typical voting procedures are physically difficult: it should be easy for everyone.

The above can be accomplished in two basic ways, each of which has advantages and disadvantages:
  1. Scanned Ballot: A voter fills out a human-readable form and drops it into a scanner. The scanning process can optionally allow the voter to confirm the ballot, or it can simply acknowledge that the ballot was read properly. The scanner tallies and transmits the votes.
  2. Printed Ballot: The voter interacts with a machine to make his ballot choices. The machine prints out the ballot for the voter's inspection. The voter confirms his choices for the machine, and then drops the ballot into the ballot box. The machine tallies and transmits the votes.
In either case, Votes are tallied, batched, and the unofficial electronic results are transmitted automatically when the polls close. The physical ballots in the ballot box are counted when the polling places close, and the official results transmitted by a different means than the unofficial electronic ones were. The physical ballots are retained indefinitely, for recounts and academic analysis.

The Scanned Ballot method is simpler and more familiar to voters, and can be mimicked with a purely manual method and minimal communication infrastructure. The Printed Ballot method has better error detection and correction, and removes any doubt about what a ballot actually says, which is sometimes a problem in recounts.

In either case if there is a serious discrepancy between the official and unofficial results, an audit can be performed to uncover the problem, but the physical ballots should be considered authoritative unless there is sufficient evidence of tampering. By gathering and transmitting the unofficial and official results separately, errors (whether accidental or intentional) become very unlikely to affect the result of the election.

Thanks for reading. Those wanting to know more could do worse than to start with Bruce Schneier, who also blogs about squid on Fridays.

()I first heard that thought expressed at SANS'99 by a presenter from, and I'm sorry I don't have a better cite than that.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

America is Good

IlliniPundit had the temerity to suggest that contrary to the assumption of many, America is a force for good in the world, and not of evil.

That brave suggestion presupposes agreement on the meaning of "good", however. In today's climate of Carrolinian redefinition, attaching meaning even, or perhaps especially to the simplest words requires a foundation built laboriously on the eroding sands of common understanding, subject always to the deconstructionist's indignant retort.

Words do have some meaning, as even the staunchest post-modernist would agree (though "post-modernist" is perhaps itself not well-defined). I submit that while it may not be possible for America's critics and her apologists to agree that any one particular thing is "good", we can at least agree that there is an adjective we use to mean we prefer one result to another, or one thing to its opposite.

But what does it mean for a nation to be "good"? Are we only saying that we prefer its existence to its absence? I think it's more than that.

When struggling to define "good" for a nation, it is tempting to fall back on what it means for an individual to be good. though nations are not individuals and must be held to different standards. On indulging the temptation, and recalling that almost all people everywhere have seen selfless giving as a high good, we can suppose that a pattern of selfless giving on the part of a nation, if such were possible, would tend to put that nation in line for the label "good".

The difference between personal morality and national goodness is that in a nation, people do not all hold the same views. That is part of why nations cannot be judged by the same moral standards as individuals: national governments must seek the good of all, if they are to last, and in doing so are often praised for things which would redound sharply against an individual, or criticized for that which would exalt an individual.

So does that conflict between standards for individual and national virtue apply to goodness? A national government cannot be as selfless as an individual, any more than a father or mother would be right to deprive and neglect his or her children to care for those outside the family. A single person can choose to live in abject and unhealthful poverty. The needs of a family, or those of the citizens of the nation, intervene.

Perhaps attractiveness in nations is a good meter for goodness, though here the bar is set so low for my argument that I may feel foolish completing it.

People don't allow themselves to be stuffed into the hold of cargo ships to get into China, or France, or Belgium. They come to America. But that only says that some people like the idea of America more than the reality of their homeland, which is not quite the same thing as being "good".

People come to America as they always have for two separate and inseparable reasons: the promise of prosperity, and the lure of liberty. Perhaps in the many generations who have journeyed here over the past four centuries there have been some who came only for liberty, or only in search of wealth, but each and every one of them also knew that if they were free to worship in their own way, they would likewise be free to turn their hand to whatever they wished. Similarly, those seeking wealth cannot but have known that here they would be free to worship, speak, write, and travel largely as they wished. One can hardly expect to prosper otherwise. And despite the growing tyranny of political correctness, in America one can still largely believe, say, and do whatever it is that strikes his fancy.

At present, we are still free. And that is a good thing about America.

America has for the past hundred-odd years been wont to engage in foreign wars not to gain territory or resources, but in defense of others. In particular, American lives have been expended to the ideals of others, and most especially their right to govern themselves. Sometimes our mission has been clouded in a kind of international conflict of interest, in which our dual goals of defending liberty and securing something else of value has been seen to sully our moral authority.

And yet this defense of liberty and the use of military force to extend commercial influence are similar, and in fact no different, from the desire of those emigrating from some impoverished or tyrannical country. For the desire to extend freedom to others and the desire for favorable trade climate are also inseparable. We cannot extend the social freedoms without also creating a free economy.

America has shown the world that a democratic republic could not only survive, but flourish. She has come to the rescue of nations beset by their own ill-constructed economies, natural disasters, and by other nations. And all America asks in return is that people be free.

America is good. It's almost a tautology.

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Governments tax, exercise eminent domain, put down riots, enforce laws, and even wage wars in order to please the many at the expense of the few, or to do things which most of the people find abhorrent, yet are necessary for their freedom, prosperity, or even survival.

If governments refused this role, they would have no reason to exist.

And if governments did not do these things, someone else would -- someone who we would quickly come to call the government.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Toward Better Work

I've caught myself straying from what I arrogantly see as my mission here, which is to advance the cause of liberty conservatism through thoughtful, careful use of the twin pillars of persuasive rhetoric and annoying snark.

To both my readers (and by the way, happy Mother's Day, Mom!), my humble apologies, and you can look for more persuasive rhetoric and even more annoying snark in the future.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Howard Dean: [Not Proven to be] Criminally un-Hippocratic

[Update: According to GatewayPundit:

** The Senator and Governor Never Spoke. **
I just got off the phone with Brian Hart a spokesman from Senator Brownback's office and he said that the conversation in question between Senator Brownback and Governor Sebelius did not take place. (Friday AM)

That's what I get for jumping in sandals first.
Howard Dean conspired with Kansas Governor Sebelius to delay emergency assistance to Greenburg, KS, tornado victims while Democratic Party officials decided how to blame President Bush for the disaster.

According to Quinn & Rose, appearing on the Sean Hannity radio show, Howard Dean called Kansas Governor Sebelius (D) and told her not to say or do anything about the tornado until she heard from Democrat leadership. She did as she was told, apparently. Q&R say Sebelius got another call, from "Dick" (probably famed Nazi hunter Dick Durbin), saying she should stress that there were no troops or equipment to deal with the disaster because it was all in Iraq.

Of course Dean, being a physician, will spin this to say he was just following the Hippocratic Oath to first do no harm.

This is the same Howard Dean who blamed President Bush for hurricane Katrina deaths. This man will stoop to nothing, even interfering in the proper operation of the government, to make cheap political points.

Howard Dean, Dick Durbin, and Kathleen Sebelius should resign.

Also blogging this are FreeRepublic, HotAir, and probably every blogger with a shred of decency.

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How the Jews Saved the World

Take that, jihadists.

The last bozo who tried to wipe out the Jews gave them not just a national identity, but Palestine. What will you give them, with your lust for their blood?

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The Democrat Manifesto

To be a Democrat in the 21st Century:

  1. You have to believe the AIDS virus is spread by lack of Federal funding.

  2. You have to believe that the school system that can't teach a fourth grader how to read is some how the best qualified to teach those same children all about sex.

  3. You have to believe that guns, in the hands of law abiding Americans, are more of a threat than U.S. nuclear weapons technology in the hands of Chinese communists.

  4. You have to believe there was no art before Federal funding.

  5. You have to believe that global temperatures are less affected by cyclical, documented changes in the earth's climate, and more affected by Americans driving SUVs.

  6. You have to believe that gender roles are artificial, but being homosexual is natural.

  7. You have to be against capital punishment but support abortion on demand.

  8. You have to believe that business creates oppression and governments create prosperity.

  9. You have to believe that hunters don't care about nature, but loony activists from Seattle do.

  10. You have to believe the Iraq war was started for the purpose of giving Halliburton a bunch of no bid contracts.

  11. You have to believe that Fox News is the root of all evil.

  12. You have to believe that the most important foreign policy objective is to is for the rest of the world to "like us" and to believe that is actually possible.

  13. You have to believe that Hurricane Katrina is an good example of how much George Bush hates black people.
Here are some more more suggestions.

(w/t: daveinboca)

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How can I Compare the Speaker-In-Law?

To the Nation's Mother-in-Law, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, whose strategy for moving the country forward has thus far failed to generate any actual new laws, to the Speaker-in-Law whose effort to move the country forward has thus far failed because: President Bush dares give voice to his opinion after signing (or as is becoming blessedly more common, not signing) the legislation she has finally finished reading.

The Speaker-in-Law™ is like that guy in the TV commercial flipping a light switch off, on, off, on ... "Honey, what's this doing?" She tells him it's not doing anything. Meanwhile, the garage door opener is whacking away at the neighbor's car.

The Speaker-in-Law is like a kid who finds an old tarnished oil lamp, and takes it to the junk dealer to trade it for some nice marbles. The junk dealer rubs the lamp, and out comes the genie.

The Speaker-in-Law is like an octogenarian driving to bridge club in one of these:

The Speaker-in-Law is like the Molecule Man, before he figured out that his power to control the molecules in everything around him meant he could control the molecules in everything around him.

The Speaker-in-Law is like a person with the power to read minds who finds no better use of that power than to win at Bingo ... and never figures out that Bingo is not a game of skill.

The Speaker-in-Law is like a game show contestant who disovers that the game is harder before a live studio audience than in the home version.

The Speaker-in-Law is like a baseball player who toughs it out in the minors for many, many years, and when he finally gets his chance at the Show, really is "just happy to be in the big leagues".

The Speaker-in-Law has more power than all but about 3 people on the planet, and trapped in the cramped quarters of her own mental prison, she has no idea what to do with it.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

In Which a Banana is Exposed

What an amazing feat of mental acrobatics.

Ali Eteraz knows that something is wrong in politics, and his answer is to throw out all religion under the guise of throwing out jihad:

When I say “religious supremacism” I mean the ideology of theocracy, which in the Muslim milieu agitates for the domination of political Islam, ...
(ok so far)
... and in the Western milieu agitates for infiltration of the government by religious (usually Evangelical) zelaots who then legislate on the bases of their religious belief.
Spellcheck aside, the only place that superficially fits his opiated description is the United States, albeit with a President who has never once, in his entire career as an executive, legislated.

But to be as charitable as possible, I will assume that what he meant to say was that he can't oppose religious extremism that wishes to destroy his civilization without opposing all religious involvement in government. This, despite the historical and prima facie evidence that religion is a civilizing influence, serving to keep men from tearing at each other's throats. Religious fervor has helped, along with the respect for science, logic and the rule of law, to create and sustain the very civilization he is so quick to abandon.

It is exceedingly rare for a Christian, Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, or even a Gaian to use force to advance his religion.

By applying the label "theocracy", he lumps jihad and social conservatism together. It's the same old brown moral equivalency banana, wrapped in shiny yellow paper.

He goes further and exploits without development a false choice, as Simon outlines in his post, that he must either oppose or support religious and ideological exclusion in unison. As far as I know, neither Republicans nor Democrats are planning to decapitate their opponents following a feisty episode of Meet the Press, or no matter what happens in a given election. The French may see things differently, but in the country with Evangelicals pushing their narrow religious agenda, political violence seems not to be part of the strategy.

I find it entertaining that the explanation he gives for opposing the institution of partisanship includes a justification by status quo of institutions generally.

That might confuse, except when seen in light of his unstated premise: all cultures and philosophies are equally valid. If one distrusts the adequacy of his own philosophy so much as to regard it the equal of those who openly advocate genocide for those who fail to fully agree, I see no reason to grant him even the smallest concession of insight. Perhaps I am wrong in this, for he also appears to believe quite strongly in the moral superiority of his position.

To sum up: Ali, reject the choices you have for political parties, if you wish. While almost any explanation would suffice for such a step, the one you gave did not.

w/t: Simon at Classical Values

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Justice Will Not Be Mocked

A drug smuggler shot by two jailed US Border Patrol agents is in a world of hurt.

"They (the agents) talk (to the media). I don't talk. So people don't know," he said. "I know it was wrong what I did, but I'm paying for it with my health. People don't know how it is for me to go to the bathroom, how painful it is."

Aldrete Davila's urethra was shattered by the bullet two years ago, and he still lives with a rubber tube sticking out of his belly button that connects his bladder to a plastic bag.

Boo. Frickin'. Hoo.

w/t : Sondrak

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Solution to Terrorism

The "homegrown terror cell" actually consisted of a half-dozen jihadists:

Six foreign-born Muslims were arrested and accused Tuesday of plotting to attack Fort Dix and slaughter scores of U.S. soldiers — a scheme the FBI says was foiled when the men asked a store clerk to copy a video of them firing assault weapons and screaming about jihad.
The clever, quick-witted clerk! Who could have put that one together?

Why is there no talk about a backlash against Muslims? After all, it's not clear what the link was between these fellows. Weren't they just hard-working immigrants out to make their way in the New World? It's hardly their fault they didn't know we would have a problem with indiscriminant mass murder on military bases.

So we must not blame these men, nor the Religion of Peace. Any day now, we'll surely hear about some non-Muslim terrorist.

Don't hold your breath.

The only solution, since banning Islam is out of the question, is to outlaw black market guns. In fact, this entire "black market" thing should be banned. From now on, all markets should be colored green. Or banned.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Lies About Cats and Dogs

Eric at Classical Values (click title to go there) has been baying for weeks about California AB 1634, a mandatory spay-neuter bill with the Orwellian name "California Healthy Pets Act". It would essentially force any pet owner who wanted to avoid spaying or neutering a dog or cat to register as a breeder, with whatever registration fee, by the time the animal is four months old. This post is only about dogs, but the law applies to cats, too.

The bill probably came about because the neighbor's mutt got busy with some snob's chihuahua, and the result was a whole litter full of dogs. Dogs! No particular breed, just dogs. So now they want to make sure there are no more mutts, but only overpriced and inbred products to market and sell.

There is a fundamental difference of opinion between those who believe that animals have inherent rights and those who believe that animals derive their rights from their relation to us. For instance, anti-extinction laws can be justified on the basis of the inherent right of a species to exist, or on the basis of maintaining access to that species for future generations.

A strange shift has taken place in the animal rights community: many have come to believe that it is better to kill or neuter an animal than to allow it to live in any but the best circumstances. It's similar to the "quality of life" standard for humans, in which euthanasia is justified on the basis of poor quality of life. Quality of life being subjective, the standard may as well be that without access to shopping mall and Starbucks, life is not worth living.

Many places have already made it a crime to shoot your own dog, though no one seems to be able to explain why ending a dog's life that way is more cruel than doing it with a needle. The animal feels no pain either way.

There is another fundamental split, between the collectivists and the individualists. Collectivists believe that property belongs to everyone, and individualists believe in private property.

In AB1634, we see an alliance between those who do not believe in private property and those who want
to control other people's pets, both for the "good" of the pets and to line their own pockets. It's government interference both in the personal lives of people and in the marketplace.

Owning and training a dog is one of the great joys of life. Whether it's a simple game of fetch or teaching a dog sign language, the mutual loyalty is something to be treasured. Knowing that my dog is the first line of defense for my home and family is reason to keep it intensely interested in protecting its turf, as only an non-neutered dog or a mother with pups can be. That the same creature who runs after a Frisbee would gladly risk its neck to protect us is enough to make me unwilling to let anyone near it with a scalpel.

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(A rare cross-post at Modern Sourcery)

What do housewives, Marines, and graduate students have in common with bloggers?

Completeness is more than thoroughly doing a job, it's doing the job so well that you know, without looking, that every part of it is done. Completeness is examining and addressing the hidden and parts of a task and those which adjoin it in order to know that all visible and assigned parts of the task are completed.

US Marines learn "attention to detail" in boot camp, and then should practice it every moment of their lives thereafter. For the Marine, that means acquiring the habit of going beyond what is merely necessary, and covering the parts of the mission or duty that do not show, whether that means removing old residue before swabbing a deck or checking the closets and attic when clearing a building of hostile combatants.

Completeness is not just practicing a maneuver over and over again until everyone gets it right. That's proficiency. Completeness is knowing all of the roles that make up the mission, and being ready to take up the slack for a buddy who for whatever reason doesn't complete his part. To the Marine, completeness means looking for trouble before it finds him. That's why he joined in the first place.

For anyone who does household chores, completeness means moving all of the furniture to clean underneath it, so that there will be no surprises should a guest come calling, and no chance that pests or children will find dirt to put to the various uses they would put it.

For a graduate student, completeness means studying things that are tangential to his field, and becoming proficient or even expert at things in his field which have become commodity knowledge. For instance, a computer science doctoral conferee should:

  • Have basic scientific literacy
  • Understand basic electric wiring, and use it in his studies
  • Have designed integrated circuits
  • Have designed electronic circuits using commodity chips
  • Assemble computers from commodity parts
  • Install and secure a variety of operating systems
  • Perform basic tasks using a variety of operating systems
  • Program in a variety of languages, including machine code
That is completeness on one level. In addition, the doctoral student specializes in a tiny sub-area of his field, and must be aware of everything that impacts that sub-area. To do that, he needs to examine all of the areas which surround his specialty, by looking in obscure outdated conference proceedings,the current popular press, and everywhere in between. Only then can he be assured that he has studied his whole specialty and is contributing something new.

Completeness for the blogger means approaching an argument with precision and depth, rather than simply to convince the convinced. The importance of sound logic cannot be overstressed. Citing sources for every fact and attributing every quote is not enough; that is mere proficiency. Completeness means fact-checking all statements, and verifying the authority and authenticity of every source, and taking on the burden of proof for every assertion and unstated premise. By going beyond the visible to the hidden and adjoining places, the work is made stronger and less likely to fall apart in an embarrassing mess.

I believe I have now identified my basic failing.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

War and Peace

The history of mankind is the history of war and waiting for war. Peacetime is a kind of stalemate, in which the cost of war is judged by all sides to be greater than the fruits of victory, or at least, greater than the cost of peace.

The search for new weapons and destructive power in warfare is the search for leverage. Leverage is the ability to exert a small amount of effort to command a large amount of force. The history of war is the history of learning to use leverage.

In The Balance Sheet, we saw a hierarchy of values, ranging from our ideals at the top, then our civilian lives and on down to enemy military lives and enemy ideals at the bottom. Depending on the situation, we might spend or compromise massive amounts of items lower on the list to preserve or obtain things at the top.

In case it isn't clear, the notion that we can't put a value on human life holds true only because we value the things ranked below it so much less than we value it. We can, however, engage in cold calculation when we weigh the cost in lives of our decisions against the return in lives saved, or ideals defended, or the return of something of greater value to us than the lives we anticipate losing.

The calculus of war is a kind of vector equation, in which that range of values interacts with a set of risks. In a given situation, we calculate the risk that we will be forced to lose too much of a higher-value item than we will likely gain in other items. More generally, we have

War =

(Risk to ideals)*(Value of ideals)*(Quantity of ideals) +
(Risk of civilian loss)*(Value of a civilian loss)*(Quantity of civilian losses) +
Risk*Value*Quantity{Our Territory
Ally Ideals
Ally Civilian Lives
Ally Territory
Neutral Civilian Lives
Enemy Territory
Ally Military Lives
Enemy Civilian Lives
Our Military Lives
Neutral Territory
Our Money
Our Resources
Ally Money
Ally Resources
Neutral Ideals
Neutral Military Lives
Neutral Money
Neutral Resources
Enemy Resources
Enemy Money} +
(Risk of killing enemy)*(Value of enemy soldier)*(Quantity of enemy losses) +
(Risk of civilian loss)*(Value of enemy ideal losses)*(Quantity of enemy ideals)

While many military thinkers have considered the goal of war to be ending the enemy's ability to enforce his will, that maxim has shown weakness as the cost to acquire leverage has fallen. In particular, the cost of leverage has gotten so low that we now face an enemy whose values place all of the terms in the above equation except his own values at zero. When we can't convince the enemy that his cost for imposing his will is too high, our end goal must be to utterly discredit the enemy's ideals that conflict with our own.

When a new technology comes on the scene, people are quick to exploit it for military advantage. A tiny change in weaponry, or a change in the availability of weaponry or training in the use of weaponry, can have a large impact on the conduct of war.

The tactics and armor needed to fight an enemy armed only with swords, spears, and bows are dramatically different than those needed against one armed with crossbows. The canon reduced mighty castles and fortresses to so much rubble. The musket altered tactics again, as did in turn the rifle, the repeating rifle, and barbed wire. But each of these technologies depended on advances in manufacturing technique and technology for non-military purposes.

Technology changes the calculus of war by changing the relative risks. When access to information is as easy as it is today, coordination of resistance and the ability to impose some amount of will is in reach of very small operators. Leverage is higher than ever before, and increasing with no end in sight.

History happens

Technology is not the only reason war becomes an option. Governments grow and change, tyrants come and go, reformers reform and burn out, and the people endure it all. Sometimes the government of some state or another will decide it needs to grow more than its territory will allow. When the desire for territory exceeds the value of the costs associated with taking it, we have war.

Sometimes a government will become so corrupt or incompetent that it fails. The resultant 'power vacuum' makes the decision to attack that territory easier, because it lowers the risk involved.

History waits for a technology, people, resources and tactics to come together. When the dreaded combination presents a lower risk to achieve a goal by military force, peace is soon only a sweet memory.

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