Monday, May 30

Is there a "social tipping point"?

In watching the relentless struggle between Right and Left, it seems to me that one of the defining characteristics of Leftists is that they claim one can take away all standards for responsible behavior, all requirements for personal responsibility and accountability, all rewards for hard work and playing by the rules, and all disincentives for criminality and brutality, without any negative consequences for society.

The Left's shining stars and talking heads tell us (usually by inference, but sometimes explicitly) that what this country needs is more tolerance for crack sellers and users, more leniency in sentencing habitual criminals. They tell us that anyone who opposes homosexual marriage is a bigot; that it's okay for a major television network to use obviously-forged documents to throw a presidential election to the party it favors; that anyone who opposes unlimited immigration is a racist; that the U.S. is an evil nation that invaded Iraq to grab that nation's oil; that it's all right for unmarried teenagers to have babies; that it's a violation of an individual's rights for a state to require sex offenders to register after they've served their jail terms;

It's not my intent to debate each of these points here. Intuitively, I think they're all *way* wrong-headed, but for now I'd like to address two slightly different topics: First, is it indeed the position of most of those on the Left that there is no social or quality-of-life cost of doing the things listed above?

And second, if this is indeed the position of most on the Left, do less-biased analysts agree that this assertion is true?


As far as I can determine, Leftists consider themselves the avant-garde --their thinking and lifestyles lead the rest of the country toward a more "progressive" (thus presumably better) society. As they see things, conservatives are reactionary Neanderthals who reflexively oppose all change. In the Left's view, change (more specifically, change they suggest) is good, and only a fearful bigot would oppose it.

By contrast, most conservatives seem to believe in what I'll call the Law of Consequences: that whenever one disregards sound principles (derived from at least a century or so of experience), there's a price or consequence. Of course sometimes it can be difficult to agree on just what those 'sound principles' are, but history is full of examples of societies that have been foolish and have paid the price.

Let me try to fine-tune that just a bit: The folks who design buildings and airplanes and bridges design them with a lot of excess strength, mainly so they can withstand the occasional failure of a bolt or rivet--or an unintended high load--without collapsing. This is the well-known "factor of safety," and one of its effects is that you could cut part-way thru lots of structural steel and never notice it. But take away one ounce too much and the failure is sudden and catastrophic.

It's the same way with flying: when a plane is on final approach for landing, by regulation it's flying 20-30 knots above the "stall speed," just in case. If you're a good pilot on a calm day you can edge this approach speed down a bit (which lets you turn off the runway closer to the terminal). But if you reduce your approach speed, you're using up that factor of safety. And again, if you cut one knot too many the result is sudden and catastrophic.

Sociologists are familiar with a concept called the "tipping point:" You can slowly weaken a community or neighborhood for years by allowing graffiti to accumulate, cutting police patrols, losing successful families, positive role models, legitimate jobs, with almost no detectable effect. But at some point, when some invisible line is crossed, the collapse is devastating, and happens in a matter of days.

One of the significant points to note here is that before the collapse the "warning signs" are generally intangible statistics. As a result, there's always enough 'wiggle room' for the so-called experts to rationalize away any alarm if that's what the political leaders want.


I don't know whether the Law of Consequences applies to societies. But I do know that it applies in so many other fields that it would be surprising if it didn't apply to societies as well.

But even if the law does apply, there still may be a loophole: Unlike flying, structural engineering, personal health and most chemical systems, the heterogenous nature of large social entities may mean that even if we stray past the "tipping point", the collapse will initially be limited to the most unhealthy communities. If so, there *might* be enough time for us to pull the larger society back behind the invisible line to relative safety.

Then again, there might not be.

Aww, don't worry about it: it'll probably be okay.

In Memoriam...

On this Memorial Day my thanks go out to all those now serving on the "frontiers of freedom"--and to those who manned those posts in their turn in prior years.

And to those who made the ultimate sacrifice--whether in combat or in training for that eventuality: we salute you. Skip Jackson, Snake Johnson, Denny Haas, Mike Umbarger...the whole list is a very long one, and includes some of the finest men I've ever known.

Damn proud to have known you guys.

Sunday, May 22

Why do U.S. Leftists hate our military?

Bill Whittle is an extraordinary writer. This time he was thinking about the whole, huge problem of why so many people seem to hate America--before as well as after U.S. troops went into Afghanistan and Iraq to put down madmen and murderous thugs.

Bill is particularly distressed by the fact that so many American Leftists agree with them. In the following excerpt I've adapted a few 'grafs of Bill's excellent work (mostly to compensate for missing antecedents). Hopefully his message remains intact. But without hesitation, I suggest you RTWT.

Why do so many U.S. Leftists--people of seemingly normal intelligence and education--so despise and detest American society?

Why would the Left oppose the U.S. seeking to bring the blessings of freedom and individual rights to people who have spent thirty years cowering in dark places, fearful of letting the slightest word slip lest they condemn their entire family in an unguarded moment?

Why would anyone who has the great fortune to live in freedom be so vehemently opposed to helping free a people who have spent 30 years living in total, abject fear?

It’s because American Leftists have never lived in such fear.

How many American Leftists would be opposing the war in Iraq if they had to watch--to actually witness, live--a dozen Iraqis being shot in the head by Saddam's secret police in front of their families?

Now imagine three- or four-hundred-thousand so executed. Imagine Saddam's thugs fatally shooting one person every single second--one unique, irreplaceable life extinguished every tick of the stopwatch.

Doing that around the clock, one life terminated per second, it would take three and a half days to kill as many people as Saddam's thugs killed.

Bang.
Bang.
Bang.
Bang.
Bang.

Every face unique, every one someone’s son or mother or precious grandchild.

Bang.
Bang.
Bang.

All night, all day, every second for three and a half days. How long to wipe out your entire family? Four seconds? Eight? Thirteen? We have found that many in Iraq, and more will be found, believe me.

How many 12-year-old daughters do you need to see raped in front of you before you change your mind about whether we should have forcibly removed Saddam and his psychopathic sons? Would a dozen sobbing girls be enough? A hundred? Would a thousand make a dent in your smug Bush=Hitler belief system? How many people, begging for mercy in prison basements, will it take to change your mind? Ten thousand? Ten times ten thousand? They were there.

Saddam's ghastly torture happened.

It just didn’t happen to you.

Not in Berkeley. Not in Manhattan, nor Santa Monica, nor Columbia University. Not in your wonderful Sanctuary.
Like many Americans, I've been trying to understand the reason(s) for the hostility the American Left (including 90 percent of those who voted for Kerry) seems to have for the U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Certainly war is terrible, but the Left seems curiously selective in its loathing of military actions. For example, many commenters on the Left briefly protested that the U.S. should send troops into Liberia (remember that tempest? No?) and Haiti--which strongly suggests they're not opposed to the idea of American military operations as such.

Like many non-Leftists, I suspect much of the explanation is pure hatred for George W. Bush and any Republican idea or program.

Another part of the puzzle is probably a visceral dislike of all things military. To a Leftist, the idea of (gasp!) armed men actually using force on people is just...too...awful...to contemplate. The fact that Saddam's thugs were certainly heavily armed and shot hundreds of their own people each week seems to be lost on them.

[Editorial alert] Most Leftists strike me as naive and mostly undisciplined--the kind of people who still think Communism is a wonderful idea that would certainly work if people would just give it an honest try.

The kind of folks who would happily vote to disband the U.S. armed forces because they feel the American military is the source of almost all the world's problems.

The kind of people who see nothing at all wrong with perjury--as long as the perjurer is a Democratic president and the subject involves sex.

But mainly, as people who are happy to delude themselves that the world would be a far happier place if George W. Bush and company weren't in the White House.

Friday, May 20

If it's really a showdown...

Indications are that a showdown is approaching on President Bush's judicial nominees. As most Conservatives (but few Democrats) know, in Bush's first term Senate Democrats filibustered ten of his nominees to keep them from getting a vote by the full Senate (which would have confirmed them). While the filibuster is a legal tactic, prior to its use by the Democrats it had only been used one time on a judicial nominee, when a bipartisan group of senators blocked Lyndon Johnson's appointment of Abe Fortas--a man widely considered as corrupt--to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Here it's worth noting that Fortas--who was already a member of the court--subsequently resigned that powerful and prestigious position. And after he resigned, his former law firm wouldn't give him his old job back. Draw your own conclusions.

In any case, Senate Republicans are now considering a change to Senate rules that would ban use of the filibuster on judicial nominees only. The MSM have printed and broadcast many stories depicting this as a violation of the sacred rules of the Senate, and as an abuse of power by the Republican majority.

I think the real showdown here is the campaign by the MSM to defeat the GOP's effort to prevent filibusters from being used on judicial nominees. Virtually every story by the MSM has depicted the Republicans as eeeevil schemers bent on oppressing the poor Democrats.

Now Senate minority leader Reid is threatening to effectively shut down the Senate if Frist moves to invoke the "Constitutional option." Back when Newt Gingrich and House Republicans naively tried the same thing on the House side after President Clinton refused to compromise, the MSM wrote that cold-hearted Republicans were causing poor senior citizens to starve because their Social Security checks were delayed. Ultimately the Republicans gave up, and the MSM crowed for months.

If Reid does shut down the Senate, anyone wanna' bet how the same MSM will spin that story?

Tuesday, May 17

This is a compromise?

With a showdown looming, a group of Senate Democrats floated a compromise on the President's judicial nominees, offering to clear five for confirmation while scuttling three others.

Under the proposal Republicans would have to pledge no change through 2006 in the Senate's rules that allow filibusters against judicial nominees. For their part, Democrats would commit not to block votes on Bush's Supreme Court or appeals court nominees during the same period, except in extreme circumstances.

Three other nominations would continue to be blocked under the offer: those of Henry Saad, Priscilla Owen and William G. Myers III.

Now that's one very strange attempt at "compromise"! As many have noted, that "except in extreme circumstances" reservation is big enough to drive an army through. Who determines what constitutes an "extreme circumstance"? What would keep an extremist Dem senator (surely there can't be any! ) from claiming "extreme conditions" existed, and starting his or her own filibuster?

The GOP should spend whatever it takes to keep running that ad that says "Three years ago, for the first time since America became a nation, Democratic senators used the filibuster to block a president's judicial nominees from a full vote, even though they had been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. This is unprecedented, and wrong. The Constitution explicitly names the few times when a supermajority of congressional votes is required, and confirming judicial appointees isn't one of them."

What? You say the GOP hasn't run such an ad?

Gosh, how strange.

Friday, May 13

Vote fraud found in Milwaukee (Kerry 71%)

Powerline has this, and it's understated dynamite. Do read their original, which has lots of links to source material:

A joint federal-state investigation of last November's election in Milwaukee has found incontrovertible evidence of voter fraud.

A couple of the guys at Powerline are attorneys and they don't use the term "incontrovertible evidence" lightly.

Fraud seems to have permeated the election in Milwaukee, which went for John Kerry by more than two to one; Kerry took Wisconsin by a total of just 11,000 votes.

The Milwaukee investigation has revealed that the number of ballots counted there exceeds, by 4,609, the number of people recorded as voting. There is no evident explanation for this other than ballot-box stuffing. In addition, investigators found "more than 200 cases of felons voting illegally and more than 100 people who voted twice, used fake names or false addresses or voted in the name of a dead person."

And that's just the fraud that has been specifically identified. Approximately 70,000 voters registered in Milwaukee on election day, and they voted overwhelmingly for John Kerry.
Kerry received 71% of the 277,000 votes cast in Milwaukee....

I don't know if Wisconsin requires folks registering to vote to declare a party affiliation, but if so it would be interesting to learn what percentage of those who registered to vote on election day were Democrats. Can anyone shed any light on these two questions?

As we've said before, it is only a matter of time until voter fraud determines the outcome of a presidential election. (Indeed, this may well have happened in 1960.) It could have happened last fall; that it didn't was entirely a matter of luck.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Republicans are trying to adopt a photo ID requirement for future elections. So far their effort has been...blocked by the Democrats.

Hmmm...let's review: 1) 70,000 Milwaukee voters registered on the day of the election (too late to allow election officials to verify their self-declared information before accepting their ballots); 2) roughly 200,000 votes in that city went to Kerry; who 3) won Wisconsin's electoral votes by a total of 11,000 votes state-wide; and the Democrats are trying to block a photo-ID requirement intended to cut voter fraud??

Is anyone surprised by this?

It's a measure of how accustomed we've become to corruption that virtually no one except bloggers considers this an outrage--not just the "incontrovertible" evidence of vote fraud, but also the efforts of Democrats to block any reform measures.

It's been said that people get the government they deserve.

Enjoy.

Update: Reporter Greg Borowski at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel did a good job of summarizing the findings of the investigation. It's encouraging to see at least one member of the MSM publicizing this scandal.

While it's bad enough that election officials allowed hundreds of people to register--and vote--even though they didn't even write a name on their registration card, or gave a home address that was outside the city (thus logically making them ineligible to vote in Milwaukee), the really large (and completely untraceable) element of fraud is buried 2/3rds of the way down the article:
Although city election officials initially blamed postelection data entry for the flaws, the newspaper found gaps existed at dozens of wards, with more votes counted than people tallied in log books.

This is the real bomb: The easiest way to steal an election is to literally stuff ballots into the box, typically after the polls close. Of course the problem with this approach is that you end up with lots more ballots than "logged" (i.e. live, real) voters.

On the other hand, plain ol' stuffing has the advantage of not being vulnerable to the sort of paper-trail verification that's so far found thousands of apparently-bogus registrations.

Hey, Sentinel-Journal, how 'bout telling us how many precincts had more votes tallied than voters; how many more votes were tallied than logged voters; and how many votes in these precincts went for each party's candidate?

--sf

Saturday, May 7

Chris Hitchens gets one right!

I've never been a fan of Chris Hitchens, but sometimes even he gets one right. This one happens to be about North Korea: Hitchens visited the Slave Kingdom, and here's his take on things. (h/t Desert Rat, via Belmont Club) http://politics.slate.msn.com/id/2117846/

I thought Hitchens criticizing a communist government surely meant the world was about to end. But just as I was leaving for my island refuge Hitch returned to his regular form with this typically clueless piece, in Opinion Journal (http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110006649). (I've edited his piece to concentrate the goofy parts.)

Why I'm Rooting Against the Religious Right
--Save the Republic from shallow, demagogic sectarians.

I hope and believe that, by identifying itself with "faith" in general and the Ten Commandments in particular, a runaway element in the Republican leadership has made a career-ending mistake. In support of this, let me quote [an] authorit[y]:

"Thou knowest the commandments: Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother."

And he said, "All these have I kept from my youth up."

Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, "Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me."
I am neither a Republican nor a Christian, and I don't propose that there is any congruence between Sen. Goldwater's annoyance [quote omitted] and the alleged words (which occur in similar form in all four gospels) of the possibly mythical Nazarene. Yet two things are obvious. The first is that many conservatives appreciate the value of a secular republic, and do not make the idiotic confusion between "secular" and "atheist" that is so common nowadays.

The second is that no "Moral Majority" type has yet proposed that the most important commandment, the one underlined by Jesus himself, be displayed in courtrooms or schoolrooms. It turns out that the Eleventh Commandment is...a demand for the most extreme kind of leveling and redistribution.

I have never understood why conservative entrepreneurs are so...pious and Bible-thumping, let alone why so many of them claim Jesus as their best friend and personal savior.

This is hugely revealing, and explains a great deal about the Left's confusion: Hitch admits "I have never understood why...so many [conservative entrepreneurs] claim Jesus as their personal savior."

The Old Testament is bad enough: The commandments forbid us...to envy or covet our neighbor's goods, and thus condemn the very spirit of emulation and ambition that makes enterprise possible. But the New Testament is worse: It tells us to forget thrift and saving, to take no thought for the morrow, and to throw away our hard-earned wealth on the shiftless and the losers.

At least two important conservative thinkers, Ayn Rand and Leo Strauss, were...nonbelievers and...contemptuous of Christianity. ...[I]s the Republican Party really prepared to disown such modern intellectuals as it can claim, in favor of a shallow, demagogic and above all sectarian religiosity?

Perhaps one could phrase the same question in two further ways. At the last election, the GOP succeeded in increasing its vote among American Jews by an estimated five percent. Does it propose to welcome these new [GOP voters] by...demanding biblical literalism and by proclaiming that the Messiah has already shown himself? If so, it will deserve the punishment for hubris that is already coming its way. (The punishment, in other words, that Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson believed had struck America on Sept. 11, 2001.

How can it be that such grotesque characters, calling down divine revenge on the workers in the World Trade Center, are allowed a respectful hearing...among patriotic Republicans?

So, Chris, did you call Ward Churchill "grotesque" for claiming the workers killed in the attack on the WTC were "little Eichmans" and deserved to die? If you didn't, aren't you being a hypocrite here?

Then again, hundreds of thousands of young Americans are now patrolling and guarding hazardous frontiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Is there a single thinking person who does not hope that secular forces arise in both countries, and who does not realize that the success of our cause depends on a wall of separation, in Islamic society, between church and state? How can we maintain this cause abroad [i.e. advocate separation of church and state] and subvert it at home?

Well, Chris, for one thing the religion whose adherents we're fighting advocates the killing of those who won't convert to it. Do you see even a *tiny* bit of difference between this and the principles of Christianity? Second, the religion whose followers we're fighting advocates flogging or stoning women who are so bold as to appear in pubic sans veil, or without a male relative as an escort. See any difference yet, Chris? Certainly a lot of your Lefty friends don't!

It's hardly too much to say that the servicemen and -women, of all faiths and of none, who fight so bravely against jihad, are being **stabbed in the back by the sunshine soldiers of the "crusading" right.** What is one to feel but rage and contempt when one reads of Arabic-language translators, and even Purple Heart-winning frontline fighters, being dismissed from the service because their homosexuality is accounted a sin?

It takes a *lot* of experience to be able to get that many slurs into just two sentences! Clearly Hitchens must be a "professional journalist".

The need of the hour is for some senior members of the party of Lincoln to disown and condemn the creeping and creepy movement to impose orthodoxy on a free and pluralist and secular Republic.

Hitchens' article clearly shows that Hitch and others on the Left almost totally misunderstand Christianity. Not that this is any great surprise.

Friday, May 6

Will Islamic terrorists nuke a city?

I am not trying to fan anti-Islamic feelings with this post. Really.

Start by recognizing that Islamic theology contains great support for the idea that all non-Muslims must either convert, submit, or be killed. Let's call this "Militant Islamism."

Reportedly, not all Muslims believe this to be a commandment of their religion, but for those who do no compromise seems to be allowed. Thus unless a non-Muslim is prepared to accept one of the three alternatives noted above, there can be no possibility of peaceful coexistence with *these* Muslims.

The Left--both in America and elsewhere--doesn't recognize this as true. Leftists claim that all problems can be resolved by peaceful means. (It's likely that not all on the Left actually believe this, but it's what they profess.) So the second point to be recognized is that the Left will try to block all useful preparations and actions by Americans who recognize the first point above.

Next: Militant Islamists will inevitably acquire nuclear weapons, whether by purchase from a rogue state like North Korea or Iran, or on the black market. This is as certain as the sunrise. Strong antiproliferation action by civilized nations can probably delay this for a dozen years or so, but it can't be prevented forever.

At that point the question becomes, Will the people who have acquired the weapon use it? And if so, where?

Many Americans claim that not even a terrorist would be so foolish, because we would "know" who was responsible and would retaliate massively. I think this is misguided, both because of the difficulty of being absolutely certain (we were confident Saddam had WMDs, yet none of significance have been found) and more importantly because no U.S. president will want to take the responsibility for the decision to kill probably hundreds of thousands of mostly-innocent people just to get a few hundred bad guys.

But more significantly, I suspect the idea of provoking the U.S. into such a move is actually very appealing to Islamic militants. After all, hundreds have demonstrated that they embrace the idea of committing suicide for their cause, so the idea that they might personally die is clearly not a deterrent.

Of course if the situation were reversed, virtually all Americans--like most westerners--would hesitate at the prospect of doing something that might trigger the deaths of 100,000 innocent Americans. But there is no evidence that Islamic militants have any such concerns about their countrymen. In fact, quite the opposite is true: To the true believer, anyone who is killed in jihad is assured of going to paradise.

Thus I think it can be concluded with a high degree of confidence that when the bad guys get their hands on a nuke, they'll use it. So the only question is, who will be the target?

Some claim it will be a European city, both because delivery is easier and because this would avoid the possibility of nuclear retaliation. But as noted above, the prospect of retaliation is unlikely to be a concern. And deliverability to the U.S. isn't a significant problem. So the question of the "best" target then hinges on which target would have the greatest strategic benefit for the militants.

Now we're on familiar territory: The Madrid train bombings prompted scared Spanish voters to change governments, and the new government pulled the small Spanish troop contingent out of Iraq, as they had promised to do. While the loss of military support wasn't significant, the lesson was impossible to miss.

So targeting a European city would likely result in the EU making even more concessions to the Muslim world than at present (though some would wonder, considering current EU policies, how this would even be possible). Such concessions might involve allowing open financial support for terrorist operations, allowing known terrorists to live openly in European nations,
and allowing terrorists to openly recruit and train in Europe. Such concessions would be quite valuable--in addition to their propaganda value.

Moreover, if Americans saw the destruction a nuke would cause on a European city--and both the event and its years-long aftermath would certainly be video-documented in excruciating detail--there would be great pressure on our government to make any concession that might arguably keep an American city from suffering the same fate.

Of course, since such a nuclear threat would never disappear, the stream of concessions demanded would be unending. This would seem to be tantamount to surrender to one of the three choices listed at the beginning of this article.

By contrast, pulling the trigger on an American city first *might just possibly* anger American voters so much that the Leftist viewpoint would be overwhelmed--just as opposition to U.S. entry into WW2 virtually ceased after Pearl Harbor.

(For those who feel the "might possibly" is tongue-in-cheek, note that after the U.S. suffered 2,900 killed--and an economic hit approaching $40 billion--with the attack on the WTC, the Leftist viewpoints of "peace through negotiations", "we brought this on ourselves by [insert favorite rant here], "we can coexist with these people" and "peace in our time" have continued to capture roughly 48 percent of American voters.)

So a lot of points favor targeting a European city. On the other hand: The old saying about 'If you want to kill a snake, don't cut off its tail' is a common one in the Middle East. And certainly in unlikely case that the U.S. retaliated by turning, say, Damascus or Baghdad into glass, it would probably increase the number of Islamic suicide-bomb volunteers a thousand-fold.

So...European, American, or "won't happen." Anybody wanna' place a bet? And be sure to predict a date in case of a tie.