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Saturday, February 26, 2005

IMAO: Top 10 Indicators You May Be Left of Liberal

Here's a sample of a hilarious spoof from spacemonkey (via Right Wing News) at IMAO: Top 10 Indicators You May Be Left of Liberal:
"10. You never could throw your full support behind John Kerry once you found out his first name is found in the Bible, of all places.

9. One of the few reasons you couldn't bring yourself to assasinate the president is you'd have to actually buy a gun.

8. Your opinions and values carry more weight than those that oppose you, because you care."

Kelo v. New London, Eminent Domain Abuse

There's an important Supreme Court case going on right now that you may have heard about, Kelo v. New London concerns a frightening, and increasingly threatening, aspect of government power: "Eminent Domain." A little background:

Back in 1981 Detroit found itself in a bit of pickle economically, and General Motors was willing to build a plant in a district called "Poletown." The city leaders looked at this and thought they saw a solution to their "problem" of economic development, so they brought out their eminent domain weaponry and gave General Motors a nice chunk of land in that district. Problem was, the people living on that land didn't take to kindly to being evicted by their elected officials. A legal battle ensued, culminating in a decision by the Michigan Supreme Court in favor of the city, and ultimately General Motors. About 1,400 homes and 140 businesses were swept away in the name of economic development.

Fast forward 19 years: an organization called the New London Development Corporation (NLDC) wants, through the city of New London, to evict another group of people (Susette Kelo among them), again in the name of "economic development," specifically for Pfizer (though why they need a boardwalk and more hotels is questionable). This time around though, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and arguments were presented on Tuesday the 22nd. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled last March in favor of the city and NLDC, using the Michigan "Poletown" case as justification. Ironically, just last July the Michigan Supreme Court reversed that case.

Unfortunately, these are hardly the only two cases of eminent domain abuse, it happens all over the country, but in all situations this procedure raises several legal and ethical issues:

To begin, the Bill of Rights states quite explicitly that "nor may private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." We could quibble all day over what constitutes "just compensation" (property value? moving costs? "pain and suffering"?), but it seems clear that private development does not qualify as public use (exception: unless of course, "Everyone has a share," See: Catch-22).

But beyond just legal definitions, what exactly is the use of expanding an area's economic power, if at the end of the day you've driven off all the workers/consumers? One might as well try to build a bird sanctuary by first burning down all the trees. New London (as well as Detroit) doesn't seem to realize this, to the detriment of themselves and all their citizens. Furthermore, these activities are a bastardization of private property rights, without which a market system cannot operate, let alone flourish as the proponents of eminent domain expound. Pfizer seems oddly unfazed in this whole affair, given that the sword the NLDC is swinging around so recklessly is very clearly "double-edged."

Of course these activities are usually the result of well-applied wealth and political clout, and it is unlikely that a company of Pfizer's substantial resources will find itself close to such a sword in the near future. With a little luck, the Supreme Court will rule in favor of Kelo and a firm precedent against this practice will be set. The reversal of the Poletown decision should factor into this as well but the battle is far from over. We encourage everyone to stay informed about this issue as it relates to their specific communities and others, for eminent domain is a power much better hidden, and much more dangerous, than those that normally draw ire from either the left or the right.

Read more.

Strongmen and Strong Language

A post by Roger L. Simon referred to Egypt's Hosni Mubarak as a "strongman." Not to pick on Roger, as this term has been in wide use for years, but the "strongman" label always makes us chuckle.

We can imagine Hosni there in the gym, dripping with sweat, working on his benchpress or clean and jerk. Or perhaps he prefers the Bowflex or one of those other, latenight abs-of-steel panaceas. What is the secret of his muscle mass development? Could he be training with Jose and Barry's pharmacists? No doubt we'll soon be seeing references to "California Strongman, Arnold Schwartznegger," or "Jesse Ventura, Minneapolis Strongman," in a publication near you.

Of course, the whole point of describing someone like Mubarak (or Khadafi, who was practically the original model for the term) in this way is to find a non-judgmental, neutral label. While accurate, "dictator" is so Cold War Era, and it might offend Hosni or Robert Mugabe to apply it to them. Clearly, "strongman" arose as an attempt to indicate in a "nice" way that the body builder rules by force.

There's something to be said for neutral language, particularly in news reports that are nominally objective. One way is to simply use the official title the dictator has chosen for himself: president; chairman; king; premier; or whatever.

The problem with this is that it allows the dictator to define himself, and these kinds of people rarely choose a title that really describes them. Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, is the exception that proves the rule, obviously due to a defective Irony Detector in the Dear Leader.

Frequently, the search for a neutral descriptor ends with the term "leader." In our view the generic "leader" should be strictly reserved for small-d-democrats. It is not a neutral term at all, as it connotes legitimacy. Even "strongman" is better than "leader" for these president-for-life types.

The word "autocrat" is certainly accurate, and it doesn't carry quite the same baggage as "dictator." "Pakistani autocrat, Pervez Musharraf," seems fair and balanced to us.

If a strictly neutral term must be used, we suggest that "ruler" measures up nicely. It is accurate and descriptive without being judgmental. Of course there's nothing wrong with being judmental in an opinion piece, so we can put aside politcal correctness and call a spade a spade.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Gannon Saga and Hypocrisy

We must admit to largely ignoring the Jeff Gannon "story." For one thing the Eason Jordan affair was unfolding at the same time, which was (and still is) far more significant and interesting. Moreover, we just have a hard time seeing anything about the precipitating events of "Gannongate" to get worked up about. In fact the real story is the way those events have been blown so ludicrously out of proportion. The key elements of the story, if you can call it that, have already been well-dissected by Hindrocket. What's really needed now is a thorough dissection of those pushing the story, and who better for that role than Ann Coulter?

Ann Coulter: Republicans, bloggers and gays, oh my!:
"Liberals keep telling us the media isn't liberal, but in order to retaliate for the decimation of major news organizations like the New York Times, CBS News and CNN, all they can do is produce the scalp of an obscure writer for an unknown conservative Web page. And unlike Raines, Rather and Jordan, they can't even get Gannon for incompetence on the job. (Also unlike Raines, Rather and Jordan, Gannon has appeared on television and given a series of creditable interviews in his own defense, proving our gays are more macho than their straights.)"
Read the whole thing, but put down your drink first.

There's a huge load of hypocrisy in the Loony Left seizing on the gay connection as the lever to bring Gannon down. Isn't that supposed to be the tactic of the Wing Nuts of the right, not those fighting the good fight against the Evil GWB and KKKarl? Not any more.

The new rule is "Gay-Bashing in the Service of Virtue Is No Vice," just as racist speech and cartoons directed against Condi Rice and Colin Powell are fair game. Anything that works; the ends justify the means. Got to keep those gays and blacks on the Political Plantation. These are the core principles of modern liberalism.

A Downside of Don't Ask/Don't Tell

The GAO (via The Boston Globe) reports that exclusion of gays from the military is cutting the supply of people with vitally important skills in the WoT (hat tip: Chris).
"WASHINGTON -- More than 300 foreign language specialists considered critical in the war on terrorism have been forced out of the military in the past decade because of their sexual orientation, according to the first government study to assess both the warfighting and financial impact of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy that prohibits openly gay servicemen.

These soldiers had 'some skills in an important foreign language such as Arabic, Farsi, and Korean,' according to a report by the Government Accountability Office to be published next month. At least 54 of the 322 language specialists spoke Arabic -- more than twice as many as previous estimates. At the same time, more than 400 additional soldiers discharged under the policy had what the Pentagon considers 'critical occupations,' including Navy code-breakers, Army intelligence specialists and interrogators, Air Force air traffic controllers, and Marine Corps counterintelligence specialists."
Hmmm. People with critical skills, who want to serve, being turned away in a time of war. That doesn't make much sense.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Muqtada Al Sadr Up to His Old Tricks

... and Ali at Free Iraqi is all over him:
"Why is this happening and how should we react to it? I think the answer for both questions is not difficult to be found. This happened because Muqtada Al Sadr was allowed to escape all the horrible crimes he and the criminal half gangsters half Ba'athist militia have committed over the past months. Now after the elections we can see more clearly what may have been not that clear at the times Sadr started both his revolts. He and his gang were not defying the 'American occupation' as he claimed, but instead they were defying the vast majority of Iraqis who want freedom, democracy and peace. They were trying, with obvious generous aid from the Mullahs in Iran to kill our dreams of a better future. They spreaded chaos, looted government offices, killed and tortured Iraqis the way Saddam used to, and they did all they can to limit our freedom, a freedom that God gave us and the Americans helped us get it back. And now he's stepping on the flags of our allies and liberators. Do I thank God we were not liberated by a revolution of people like these or not!"

The Untold UN Scandal

In the midst of the scandals already swirling around the UN, Claudia Rosett contends worse things remain largely undiscussed:
"The true horror is the way in which the well-mannered nuances of U.N. bureaucracy, structure and management have combined to dismiss demurely the desperate needs of hundreds of thousands of human beings fleeing famine and repression in the world's worst totalitarian state."
In particular she is referring to the fate of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled North Korea to China. If captured, China will return them to near certain death, despite its obligations under the UN Refugee Convention:
"Where is the U.N. in all this? Under the U.N. Refugee Convention--which Beijing has signed and the UNHCR [UN High Commision on Refugees], with its $1.1 billion budget, is supposed to administer--these North Koreans refugees had rights. The convention promised them not a return to their deaths, but at least safe transit through China to a place of asylum.

The UNHCR keeps an office in Beijing, with a budget this year totaling $4.4 million, to which asylum seekers have no access. Four years ago, a family of North Korean refugees actually stormed the premises and gained asylum after threatening to eat rat poison from their pockets if forced back out onto the street. Since then, the UNHCR has allowed China's security agents to better defend the compound against further visits by the people the UNHCR is supposedly in China to protect.

For years now, the U.N. policy in dealing with North Korean refugees in China has been one of what its spokesmen call 'quiet diplomacy.' The hushed implication is that behind the scenes, the UNHCR is in deep and earnest discussion with the Chinese authorities. No doubt. And there has been some help for a small number, mainly by way of easing them quietly out of the country once they have risked their lives by storming foreign compounds other than the UNHCR's. But the broad picture, for the hundreds of thousands, is a quiet but dire absence of any help whatsoever."
Read it all.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Sun Setting on the UN Dream

In an article on the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal, Kofi Annan does his best to defend his institution, and especially himself. He makes about as good a case for the continued existence of the UN as can be made, but it is far from persuasive. Near the end of the article he even speaks directly to some of the UN abuses that will eventually bring him down:
"Of course the U.N. is far from perfect--even if some of the recent allegations made about it have been overblown. The interim report of Paul Volcker's independent inquiry has helped put the Oil For Food program in perspective. Some of the more hyperbolic assertions about it have been proven untrue."
Kofi is still in CYA mode here, hoping that Volcker's investigation under his control will keep the lid on things.
"Yet I am the first to admit that real and troubling failures--ethical lapses and lax management--have been brought to light. I am determined, with the help of member states, to carry through the management reforms which are clearly called for by Mr. Volcker's findings."
Actually, Kofi, you were the last to admit it, not the first.
"Even more shocking are widespread cases of sexual exploitation and abuse of minors by peacekeepers and U.N. officials in the Congo and other African countries. Both the U.N. Secretariat and the member states have been too slow to realize the extent of this problem, take effective measures to end it, and punish the culprits. But we are now doing so, and I am determined to see it through."
How much lower can the UN sink? Stealing the food from starving Iraqi children wasn't easy to top, but "peacekeepers" raping starving children manages the feat.
"In my eight years as secretary-general, I had already done a lot--with the support of member states, often led by the U.S.--to make the U.N. more coherent and efficient. Now we need to make it more transparent and accountable--not only to diplomats representing member governments, but also directly to the public."
It's too late. The system is so completely rotten that what is left isn't worth fixing. The UN sat on its hands during the Rwanda genocide, and now it's doing the same for Sudan. Talk is normally cheap, but even that isn't true for the UN.