Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jonah Goldberg on Capitalism

Capitalism... Biting the hand that feeds you.

Adam Sandler Loves the Troops

Hearing the typical rabid, anti-American dribble that comes from Hollywood, you'd think that everybody feels that way. Not so! The celebs who don't feel antipathy to our country keep their opinions to themselves, so as to avoid conflict with their colleagues I suppose.

I was touched to learn that Adam Sandler, the same goof ball who never ceases to amuse on the big screen, has much love for the troops. Here are some of his messages from his website. I wish there were more like him. Maybe I'll go see Zohan now.. show my support for Sandler.

Sandler loves the troops

Things are looking up...

Here's an update to the post I made the other day, 'Prevarication'

An Inconvenient Fact

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Trans fat Terminator

Last week, Governor Schwarzenegger of California signed a bill that will ban restaurants from using trans fats. This bill comes after a strategic, decentralized campaign waged by various groups over the last few years to raise awareness about the deleterious effects of trans fats (a kind of fat found in hydrogenated oils, vegetable shortening and the like). California's ban of these damaging lipids follows the example set by New York City when in 2007 legislation passed to ban trans fats in all restaurants.

When I lamented about this new law to my little brother, he said, "But Alex, isn't this a good thing? Aren't people better off now? There are lots of people who don't know that trans fats are bad for them, so this will help them."

I admit, it is very difficult to defend opposition to a bill like this given that trans fats have been demonstrated to be quite damaging. Prohibiting their use in foodstuffs will likely lead to benefits for consumers. However, it is the implicit principle on which legislation like this is passed that is so vexing to me. Bills such as this assume that the role of government is to protect people from themselves as much as it is to protect people from each other. It confers powers onto do-goody bureaucrats that none of us would ever want to give. In this case, there is no outcry or indignation because there is nobody (at least who I know of) who defends these dangerous fats. So, legislation like the bill in California gets passed with almost no obstructions.

But one has to ask, was this bill even necessary? For the last few years, as the fact that trans fats are damaging to our health has become pretty common knowledge, consumers have been demanding trans fat-free foods. Producers, pressed to meet the demands of their customers, have willfully removed the trans fats in so many of their products, and they advertise it proudly on the packaging to attract health-conscious shoppers. This is the way the market takes care of things. Sooner or later, the makers of foodstuffs would all elect to make products without trans fats, as the early experimentation with trans fat-free production would likely lead to innovative alternatives, improved methods, and lowered costs. Firms that then resisted the move to trans-fat free products because of costs incurred would now find it profitable and feasible to offer the same trans fat-free products as their competitors. In other words, the market works dummy.

Still, what is most concerning to me is the precedent that this kind of legislation sets. If the government deems that something is harmful to you, it has the right to tax it, regulate it, and in the extreme case, ban it altogether. In the case of trans fats, no one cares. It is a victory for public health advocates and politicians, and likely, in the long run, for consumers. But what if this were something to which people are more attached? Say starbucks coffee? Imagine if some scientist publishes a study saying starbucks coffee is damaging to public health. Should the government then impose its will on us and ban it? Or, should we trust individuals to judge what is best for them, and to take their chances in light of the risks?

My concern is, where does the power to prohibit end? How could you stop the legislature from banning anything it deems dangerous? What justification would you have? What makes trans fats any different from cigarettes and alcohol besides the fact that these last two are things people actually crave, while trans fats are tasteless and unattractive? There is no difference really, and so, it's really a matter of leaving ourselves open to the whims and wishes of our politicians.

Practice What You Preach

To advocates of redistributive justice, fairness means taking from those who have and giving to those who do not have (as much). The implicit assumption here is that individuals would not provide material assistance to the less fortunate by their own accord. The idea of philanthropy and goodwill never comes into the equation. Moreover, it assumes that government bureaucrats have bigger hearts and bigger brains than the rest of us, for only they know how to direct the assistance to where it's truly needed. The idea that individuals, who go into their own pockets to fund a charity that they think worthy, could bring about the best use of their alms does not even cross the minds of those who wish to show their compassion with government largesse.

Perhaps these advocates of redistribution - people coming almost exclusively from the left - advance such a doctrine because they know all too well that their own disposition is to keeping instead of giving. So, the same people who tell the rest that we must be taxed by the government on behalf of the less fortunate are unwilling to dig into their own pockets to effect that end. Don't believe me?

This chart, taken from the Catologue for Philanthrophy website (via Michelle Malkin's site) ranks the 50 states based on how much they donate to charity per annum. One can't help but notice a clear trend. The red states dominate the first half of the chart.

Mississippi? Arkansas? Oklahoma? Aren't these the same thumb-sucking, brain-dead, bigoted rednecks that liberals love to mock? Aren't these the gun-toting, homophobic, xenophobic, simpletons that Monsieur Obama (French is so much more elegant than English) meets in the small towns he visits while he crosses the country? So much for the idea that the more educated, more wealthy, intellectual elites in New York, California, and Massachusetts have a monopoly on compassion. Rather, it's these 'backwards' bumpkin states that show the greatest generosity. Do these facts matter at all to the people who call conservatism an ideology of greed and avarice? Perhaps the people who clamor for the rich to bear the burden of lifting up the little people ought to look in the mirror before they keep making such claims and demands.

The Presumptuous Nominee

Premature Self-adulation

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sports Induced Coma

It is so nice in this coach bus. The air conditioning is on, and I need it. We all just got done sweating a few pounds off at the Yankee vs. Orioles baseball game.

I do a lot of thinking at these sporting events. I think about people, places, and ideas, but always come back to the same question:
“Why are people so knowledgable about sports, but have no idea who the vice president is?”

It seems as if our nation is in a perpetual sports induced coma. People can rattle off statistics, great moments, and histories of any sporting athlete. However, when asked to place Iraq on a map, they shoot blanks. Obviously sports is something to be admired and enjoyed. It should be for everyone, so people can stay in shape as well, but it is the total imbalance between sports knowledge and current events knowledge that is worrisome.

In a world filled with Muslim jihadists hell bent on destroying western civilization, with liberals and their Republican cooperatives aching at the thought of opening Americans’ wallets, and with increased moral depravity and decadence, it is important to stay on the up and up on daily events and happenings, so people can make better daily decisions.

Is this all a coincidence, that we are constantly bombarded with music, ads, sports, and movies? Is it any coincidence that we have been bred to be walking encyclopedias of sporting knowledge, and nothing but cavernous abysses when it comes to political, social, and economic issues? I think not.

There is no excuse. In a world of blazing terabytes and easily acessible infomation, it is simply astonishing that so many in our country are so ignorant that they are fooled by the populist doublespeak that the Democrats spawn from their forked tongues.

The brave new world has been upon us. It should have never been a question of when, but of how bad it currently is. We are taking our soma with willing mouths. Instead of gnashing our teeth and refusing to accept the administered dose, we let ourselves be drugged by sports, music, clothing, and movies. Things that are to be enjoyed are used with extreme excess. These things are all the product of a free market, but we need a free mental market as well.

While the government picks our pockets, and expands, we are glued to the game.

While the Muslim terrorists detonate bombs in cities around the world, we are glued to the game.

While the world burns, we are glued to the game, in a sports induced coma.

-Posted by Conor Harrigan

Fixing bad credit with bad credit

I was debating a friend of mine a while back about the current financial problems. He was arguing against my ‘hands off’ policy, saying that in times of economic downturn the government borrowing and spending money is a good thing. Operating in debt will help jump start the economy, and the money can be paid back after we’re experiencing growth again.

At the time I didn’t have an answer, but I finally thought of a response.

Lets say we’re talking about a person who’s just lost their job and has some money put in the bank. Now, if this person opens up a line of credit he can continue his usual lifestyle until he can find a new source of income. This seems like a sound financial plan, except it ignores a property of human behavior, in that we don’t plan well for the future. If you have a credit card, chances are this person could get caught up in purchasing unnecessary luxuries which he’s not going to be able to pay back if he doesn’t find another well-paying job soon.

Similarly, operating the federal budget at a $10 trillion deficit is a sure way to screw ourselves in the future. Who knows if and when the economy will pick back up? Especially since the current problems are caused in part by bad credit practices in the first place.

What Washington politicians are offering is basically more of the same. They want to fix problems caused by bad credit with more bad credit. These giant investment banks which are going under because they thought they could take advantage of people who wouldn’t be able to pay their credit card bills are now being saved by congress and the Federal reserve. And how does the Fed bail them out? By borrowing and printing money, which causes inflation and devalues the dollar.

The Fed is opening a line of credit through the American dollar and isn’t providing a deadline in which it’ll pay us back. Instead, congress is giving the IRS permission to survey every credit card transaction Americans make, and expects the IRS to be able to solve our problems. As far as I’m aware, the IRS has created more problems than it has solved. While I do like new laws that protect consumers from being frauded by creditors, the problem isn’t going to be solved by giving the IRS more power and fingerprinting federal employees (yep, that’s in the new “Housing” Bill too).

At some point, we’re going to have to realize that more protectionism and spending isn’t going to fix problems caused by bad credit. Consumers need to realize that there’s no such thing as free credit. Investing in yourself (or in your future self, as it were) is risky just like investing in the stock market. If a market fails, or if you can’t pay their credit card bills, the government taking care of your investments is only going to create weaker markets, untrustworthy consumers and a weak economy.

A poor economy will only be fixed in the long term by tightening your belt, cutting out luxuries, saving money, and making safe investment decisions. The beauty of the free market is that while companies may go under from time to time, that will ultimately strengthen the economy because it is the weak ones that are going under.

You wouldn’t buy stock in a company that’s about to declare bankrupcy, so why should the government weaken the dollar in order to do the same?

Race baiters and Climate Change

Here it comes...

The 'P word'

Modern liberals squirm at the sound of the 'P word'. That is, Patriotism. One often hears them say, "Oh, I despise Patriotism." And then, like clockwork, they commit the dreaded error by adding, 'and Nationalism.' They say this with such conviction, so certain that these two words are one and the same. But are they?

To settle the matter, I go to no greater authority than George Orwell. In his essay, "Notes on Nationalism" he takes on the very issue I've brought up here. Even in 1945, people mistakenly took patriotism and nationalism to be synonymous, but Orwell is very clear - this is dead wrong.

Here is his definition of nationalism:
By "nationalism" I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled "good" or "bad." But secondly -- and this is much more important -- I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.

But to be clear:
Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved.

What then is Patriotism?
By "patriotism" I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseperable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.

The distinction between the two is quite clear. It is a commitment to a way of life, to a place, and a corresponding pride and admiration for the traditions, the people, and the customs of that place. It is not, however, a feeling that these things to which a patriot is devoted ought to be imposed onto those who do not want it. It is a misunderstanding of this part of Orwell's definition, that patriotism entails no desire to force itself on other people, that leads our liberal friends to cringe at the sound of the 'P word', when in reality, what they really detest are the sentiments, and the corresponding excesses of nationalism.

By their logic, a devotion to any one particular place or way of life is an admission that not all ways of life are equally good or desirable. That one is better than another It offends their relativistic worldview that they pride themselves on.

They also mistakenly believe that patriotism engenders the kinds of actions that lead to war. But they are wrong here again. As Orwell makes clear, it is nationalism that leads people to act in nefarious ways, but not patriotism. On the contrary, it is only patriotism, pure and simple, that can provide the citizens of a country with the necessary motivation and force to protect themselves against aggressors, against those who have imbibed the dangerous currents of the so-called 'blind nationalism.' It is only from the profound pride of place that arises in the patriot that could ever compel him to give his life in defense of his homeland. I cannot imagine anything more unreal and contradictory to human nature than to imagine the ambivalent soldier, filled not with any kind of feeling of unbreakable commitment to his way of life but with the neutral, effete, lukewarm feelings of internationalism.

The consequences of a lack of pride of place, of a commitment not to a way of life that one sees as the best and worth defending, but to a nebulous international community, are described quite accurately by Thomas Sowell in his recent article, Does Patriotism Matter?

Here Sowell argues convincingly that the uprooting of patriotism in favor of pacifism and internationalism in France after WWI was a deciding factor in the embarrassing defeat it suffered under siege from the Nazis. Here Sowell explains it best:
Did it matter? Does patriotism matter?

France, where pacifism and internationalism were strongest, became a classic example of how much it can matter.

During the First World War, France fought on against the German invaders for four long years, despite having more of its soldiers killed than all the American soldiers killed in all the wars in the history of the United States, put together.

But during the Second World War, France collapsed after just six weeks of fighting and surrendered to Nazi Germany. At the bitter moment of defeat the head of the French teachers' union was told, "You are partially responsible for the defeat."

This is but one of example of the terrible consequences that befall those places in which patriotism is besieged and eradicated by good-intentioned but ill-advised proponents of the bankrupt ideas of internationalism. To my liberal friends, I say, you are indeed right to abhor the cries of nationalism, but if you really care so much to oppose it, it is eminently foolish to attack the very antidote to the scourge of blind nationalism that you so ardently disavow - patriotism.

Monday, July 28, 2008


What angers so many on the right about the Democrats' stance and attitude to the War in Iraq is not so much that they disagree with it - dissent is a defining feature of a free society and of the kind of government that arises in such a society. But dissent and willful undermining are different things.

Indeed, the Democrats have taken the position that the War in Iraq was a grave mistake and that we should never have engaged in such folly in the first place. Fine. There were many Republicans who might have felt similarly at the get-go, and if not then, then probably more so now after five years fighting. But what is so disgusting to many Americans, of all political persuasions, is that the Democrats, in large measure, have put their political aspirations and egos above the most important goals of all - supporting our troops and leaving Iraq in a stable, if not better state than when we invaded.

What I have been wanting to hear from the Democrat leadership for a long time is something like this: "We still think it was wrong to invade Iraq, but what's done is done. The fact is, we ARE there now, and wishing we weren't will not change anything. At this moment, we will put our differences behind us and work with our colleagues and all Americans to bring about a positive outcome in Iraq. First and foremost, we care about the safety and welfare of our troops, and to the extent that we can secure that for them with support- financial and moral - we will do it. Yes, we want to get them out of there as soon as possible, but we will do it no sooner than is necessary to prevent Iraq from devolving into a state of total lawlessness and chaos, no matter how much we would benefit politically from an immediate withdrawal. We recognize that defeat in Iraq would vindicate us and our stance on the war, but no amount of political triumph is worth our wishing for the deaths of our countrymen. This is not a matter in which we want to be able to wave our fingers in the faces of our Republican colleagues and say 'See, we told you so.' War and the security of this country is a matter that transcends ego, that goes beyond who's right and who's wrong. God Bless America.'

With the exception of a few maverick Democrats, Senator Lieberman among them, the Democrats have aligned their political success squarely on the failure and defeat of our troops in Iraq. What's worse is that, even when we do make headway in Iraq, as verified by independent groups that are the liberal brethren of the Dems (Brookings Institute), they still cannot bring themselves to admit that certain measures by their opponents are actually working. It's like a sickness. To these people, for example, Barack Obama, the War in Iraq is a tool to be used to show us whose wisdom and judgment is superior. So beholden to this kind of attitude are they, that they can't even answer a straight question, yes or no, from one of their own liberal cronies, Katie Couric. Here is a recent interview she had with Barack Obama in Jordan in which she had to ask three times if the surge had worked. Obama's prevarication and intransigence in admitting that the other side had been right with regard to the surge is appalling. So much for the politics of change. A real change-agent would have said, "Yes Katie, it did work, and although I was against the surge in the beginning, I can no longer deny it's efficacy." Such an admission wouldn't cause Senator Obama to renounce his overall position that the War in Iraq was and is folly, but admitting when he was wrong would really show Americans that his aims and objectives transcend his own personal gain, that they are are one and the same with the aims of our nation.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Cancer's Lesson

The world has lost an incredibly talented, multi-faceted human being today. Tony Snow, author, radio host, T.V. host, musician, and press secretary for the Bush administration passed away last week due to complications from colon cancer.

What do we say? What a bright, shining light. What a positive person. What a talented man, who played the instruments of flute, guitar, and saxophone quite exceptionally. What a gem. What a diamond in the beltway rough. 

I have learned so much from Tony Snow. His struggles have been a constant reminder of how to properly live my life. I have to admit that I am quite stressed. I stress about a world gone mad, and the little things in my life. They eat away at me. The small things too often molest my peace of mind, and tear me from the inside out. If only my outlook were more analogous to his, I would like to think I'd be in a better mental place right now.

I watched Tony grow and accomplish things over the years. His voice was comforting on the AM dial. His command of Helen Thomas during press briefings at the White House was always humorous, and he always did such a great job on Fox News Sunday, or filling for Bill O'Reilly. I will most certainly, with a soreness uncanny, miss Tony's voice, his smirk, and his intelligence.

As a stressed out, angsty 20-year old, I have learned so much from Tony's suffering. When his diagnosis of colon cancer was announced, I brushed it off, figuring he had the best care available, and would be good to go in a short time. When he was thought to have beaten the disease, my soul leaped with felicity. What great news.

However, the scourge of cancer reared its ugly head and returned. It began to devour his colon, and eventually moved to his liver. I saw him appear on television. The graying of his hair, the hollowing of his eyes, and the paling of his skin all pointed in a very unwelcome and unwanted direction: death. I saw death in his face.

How could a man remain upbeat in the face of such insurmountable odds? Death is so frightening. The dark unknown is enough to put one's heart into palpitations. Can someone really be a beacon of bravery in defiance of death's inevitable calling? Death has it's tax collector, and he is always looking for more.

Snow's positive attitude, in defiance of death has shown me how to live. Instead of worrying about money, relationships, work, and whatever else that plagues me, I should live for the moment. I should live for the people that I love, and who love me. To stay focused on the small things that bite away at one in life is to be ungrateful for the very life you have been blessed with.

Make it count:
Life is a blur. As my father says, tomorrow, I am going to wake up and be forty. The day after that, he will be gone into the vast darkness of the universe and I will be an old man myself. It is so fast. The speed of light has NOTHING on the speed in which a man's life can transpire. Tony Snow's death has shown me that I need to make it count. I cannot waste my time being angry. I need to make it worthwhile. I cannot throw the gift of life away.

Tony's long bout with cancer has taught me so many lessons that I have decided to take seriously. I cannot worry about minute things. I will literally kill myself doing so; stress is a heart-killer. Money, relationships, and other things are important, but should not bring one down. Tony has shown me that I must live my life, stay positive, and make it count.

I leave you with some audio words of Tony's from when he discovered he had stage four cancer:

"Tony Snow Has Stage Four Cancer, Says He's Feeling Great!"

"When all is said and done in this life, it doesn't matter what you do, the question is, who did you touch? Who did you love? What difference did you make? I don't know what difference I've made, but I'll tell you, a lot of you have made a difference in my life. It has made it better, and wonderful, and richer, and happier. So when people ask me how I'm doin', I'm tellin' ya I'm doing great. My voice is a little raspy today, but I've been through cancer! I'm doing great!"

Please read his article here in Christianity Today.

"I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care. It is what it is—a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.
But despite this—because of it—God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.
Second, we need to get past the anxiety. The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere.
To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life—and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many nonbelieving hearts—an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live—fully, richly, exuberantly—no matter how their days may be numbered."

Rest in sweet, everlasting peace, Tony Snow. I will miss you.

-Conor Harrigan

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Benefits of a Free Society

Lately, it seems, people have nothing but animosity towards the United States. This hatred does not end, however, at our country's borders. Everyday citizens complain about how expensive things are, but they tend to forget what freedoms they have. Elaborating on the ideas of my fellow blogger, Americans are spoiled, and take their freedoms for granted. If you ever feel like you need to brush up on your Constitutional freedoms, breeze through the Bill of Rights and see how many you remembered. But if you are looking for another way to remember your freedoms, here is a short list of things we have (or do not have, comparably) that other countries' citizens do not:

1. Conscription- The United States for several decades carried a policy of a military draft. First instituted during the Civil War, the policy was discontinued in 1973 under growing pressure from young people and outrage against the Vietnam War. In the map of the world shown above, the color red denotes countries that have mandatory military service, while blue shows countries that do not. Note that the red states include Germany, Greece, and Russia. While the ratio of draft countries to non-draft countries is approximately 1:1, we are one of the lucky nations where the choice exists to enter the military or not.

2. Capitalism- The United States has for its entire existence been a free-market society. Every United States citizen owns the right to buy and sell almost anything with limited government interference. We are one of the extremely few countries to employ such an economic system. While other nations may be capitalists, the United States and a handful of other countries can truly call themselves hands-off, economically. Now, I will be the first to tell you that I have absolutely no economic knowledge, nor do I feel the faintest desire to obtain any. But I find myself intelligent enough to identify those nations where the people are economically free, and the United States tops that list.

3. Freedom of Speech- It wasn't long ago that somebody in the United States could be arrested for speaking out against the government. However, after the ratification of the aforementioned Bill of Rights, with one exception (the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, but we never really cared for John Adams anyway) citizens are free to speak their minds. Remember the phrase, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?" If a common link exists among all freedoms, this is it. The freedom of speech is elemental to a free society. The right to criticize the government is exploited countless times every day, but often is overlooked as a privilege, and taken for granted as part of the "American Way." In Nazi Germany, free speech was only free if it followed Nazi proclamations. In China, there is no such right, and merely thinking about fracturing that law can get one thrown in jail. Too often, people exercise free speech without remembering the billions of people in the world that do not have it, and at the same time forgetting what it cost to obtain it.

I admit that this list is very modest, and that it could go on forever if I wanted to enumerate every freedom we have. But I think I have made my point. The next time you want to denounce the Iraq War, be thankful that you are not forced to fight it. The next time you spend $80 to fill your gas tank, think of how expensive that gas was to someone who lost their life in pursuit of it. And the next time you and your friends engage in a little government-bashing, just stop for a moment and remember how lucky you are to hold that right. After all, it could be worse. Imagine communist China: A poor farmer is underpaid for his crops, forced to fight for the military, and cannot even criticize the government that treats him so poorly. Now that I think about it, $4.30 is pretty cheap, isn't it?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Can't get no satisfaction

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. May 21-25, 2008. N=1,505 adults nationwide
"All in all, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country

Satisfied: 18%
Dissatisfied: 76%

Nearly every week we hear that people throughout the country are unhappy with the United States. As this recent poll fro the Pew Research group, more than three quarters of Americans say that they're dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country today. 

To be fair, this is a very vague question and the causes of dissatisfaction are nearly infinite. The fact remains, however, that the majority of Americans are not happy with the status quo. But I ask, what right have we to complain. What exactly is it that everyone is dissatisfied with?

Is it the fact that most every person in this country can find food on his plate at least three times a day? Is it the fact that most households have a refrigerator to keep that food from perishing? Or a car to enable them to go that food? Or is it the supermarkets, which do the job of bringing the food to us, a luxury so recent to man that most people from other parts of the world still light up like a kid in a candy store when they come to witness our unparalleled abundance.

Are these people dissatisfied with the unmatched freedom they have to live as they want, do as they want, work where they want, associate with whom they want, and need be, to arm themselves for protection from aggressors? Are they unhappy with the incredible degree of choice they have in purchasing nearly every kind of good or service available to mankind, with the exception of the those few illicit goods that remain out of reach to the law-abiding consumer? And education? Yes, that's it, they're unhappy that virtually all Americans can count on receiving education all the way up to 18, and then after that, the ability to go to some of the finest universities in the world? 

Or perhaps they resent the fact that we can count on a remarkable degree of safety from our enemies abroad (and, indeed there are many). Maybe these people who are dissatisfied are the adventurous sort and want to wrestle with militant jihadists on American soil? I hear Afghanistan is very pretty this time of year. Go, have fun, but let the rest of us keep safe.

I could go on forever. And that's because there is so much more to be so grateful for than to be disappointed with. We are victims of our own success. Our unprecedented prosperity has made us soft and unable to recognize what spoiled brats we sound like when we proclaim dissatisfaction with our current circumstances. It was not so long ago that the general plight of mankind was, 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." Even today, millions around the world confront the perennial hardships of the human condition, and we, who have escaped so many of them, feel the right to complain about our comfortable conditions? Sometimes I think a mandatory stay of 6 months in a Third World country would do every American so much good. We'd be begging to come home on day 3, but when those 6 months are over, we'd kiss the ground for every single day we have to live in this country thereafter.

We have taken our blessed existence as Americans for granted. It is for this reason that 76% of Americans can claim dissatisfaction. But, this is the wrong way to look at things. Indeed, there are things to improve. There is no doubt about this. And, doing as we always have, we will improve. We will adapt. But despite our weaknesses, we have far too much to rejoice in, far too much to thankful for to be unhappy with our privileged position in the world. 

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

So. Today is July 4th. A day of hot dogs, hamburgers, and inebriation. 

What are we to be grateful for? For starters, I am grateful I don't live in a socialist or communist nation, where freedom is something that only exists in the minds of the hopeful, stuck in their corner of the world where totalitarianism reigns. 

I am grateful I don't live in an Islamic society, where Sharia' law controls all, and a religion that is incompatible with Western democracy holds control.

I am grateful for a country that has been a light in a room of darkness. I am also grateful for precepts of Judeo-Christian Western civilization as a whole. Not only for America, but the concepts of individual liberty that people before me have postulated in times of collective human agony. 

John Stuart Mill, Locke, Hobbes, Hayek. I am grateful for the ideas of these men, calling for freedom in contrast to the calls of people like Sayyid Qutb, who proclaim that Western civilization should be taken over and amalgamated with the Islamic world. I am grateful for these ideas which are in contrast to the precepts of Soviet Russia, Red China, and Cuba. Grateful for these ideas in contrast to countries when you cannot speak to outside media unless monitored by a government liason or inspector. 

However, I am ungrateful for the goons within our own borders who are trying to destroy America and any semblance of its axioms. I am continually disoriented and confused by those who wish to eradicate our borders (Democrat and Republican), by those who wish to silence freedom of speech by not letting you utter terrorism and Islam in the same breath, and by those who wish to expand the size of government and consolidate it in such a way that it becomes an unstoppable monster. I am disgusted at groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations, groups like La Raza (the Race), an open borders pressure group. I am horrified at the homosexual lobby that pressures and threatens individuals and corporations into toting their line. I am saddened at the politically correct culture in which we live, and all the BULLSHIT that comes with its territory.

i am grateful for the ideas of limited government. That is what our forefathers wanted. We need to return to those ideals. We must escape the pitfalls of modern American liberal progressivism. Progressivism has had its chance. Big governments have shown themselves, over and over, to be failures. The progressive ideas of social security, medicare, and medicaid are failing. 

Big government is a bloodsucker. 

Lets return to the ideals of our founders, that man's individuality is something that is nearly sacred, and that all of our talents and hard work are necessary for a free, prosperous society. Let us run, not walk, away from the ideas of big government, government consolidation, and the welfare state. Let us run from a big government movement that does not have respect for life. Let us avoid the abortionists, the eugenicists, and their utter distaste for imperfect and/or unwanted forms of life. Let us run from those who wish to enter our homes and confiscate our weapons. Even if only to satisfy symbolism, we must keep our weapons as our founding fathers and mothers did, in vigil against government. We all think politicians are so sleazy. Why let them be able to steamroll us? Home defense weapons are our answer to the underlying totalitarian habits of government in its inherent nature.

Let us run back to classical liberalism, and forever avoid the pitfalls of modern American welfare liberalism. That is the best way to truly celebrate Independence Day..

-Conor Harrigan

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Expensive Gas means alternative energy, if we would only let the Free Market be free.

As this image from the New York Times shows, increasing oil prices has a direct effect on demand, at least where the United States is concerned. This news couldn't be better for the environmental leftist, but they still aren't happy and want the government to do more, to subsidize alternative energy research.

What they don't get, is that subsidies led to our foreign oil dependence in the first place, and subsidies won't free us. As long as the government is paying Big Oil to drill overseas, they're going to do so.

These subsidies are keeping prices artificially low. This is bad, because its preventing the free market from doing its thing; investing in alternative energies. How can the left complain about prices to be lower, and expect us to also invest in alternative energies?

They now want to impose a windfall tax against oil companies, and use this money to decrease the price of gas. Yes, apparently, the 15% per gallon of gas the government already makes on each purchase isn't enough. They need to take more Big Oil profits, which could have been invested in greener technologies, to make gas cheaper, which further increases our dependency on foreign oil.

Then, instead of letting these companies invest in their own research and development for green technologies (which there is a huge demand for, by the way) they want government to subsidize energy even more, by promoting the development on green tech and imposing more restrictions on fossil fuels.

This is a great mismanagement of funds and an abuse of power by the government. Fossil Fuel technology was invented and perfected by market forces, and green technology will be done in the same way. Its just a matter of how badly the government will screw it up before we get there.

The graphs from the NY Times should be telling us something. The free market works; demand is decreasing when prices rise and supply drops off. If we want cheap gas, we can open up our domestic supply and if we want alternative energy, we have to stop interfering with market forces.

Score One For The Second Amendment

The United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last week to strike down the District of Columbia's handgun ban. In doing so, the Court maintained the Second Amendment's guarantee of the right of the people to keep and bear arms. So Charlton Heston joined the Founding Fathers in applause and D.C. brass was left with egg on their faces. More seriously, the Court ruled that the Constitution is not to be sidestepped in matters of personal freedom. The existing ban on handguns in the capital was unconstitutional, as per the Court.

Justice Scalia, who wrote the opinion of the court, interpreted the right of the people to bear arms as an individual right, contrary to a previous ruling where collective right was guaranteed. The Second Amendment now guarantees the right of gun ownership to individuals. Scalia wrote that the two parties to which the Second Amendment refers, the people and the militia, are two separate entities and are to be treated as such when interpreting the amendment's purpose. Scalia said the the militia is a specific subset of the population. The people, on the other hand, are individuals and are not to be included in a subset population. This, in effect, guarantees gun ownership to both groups and individuals, alike. Keeping with this interpretation, the Court ruled the handgun ban unconstitutional because it suppressed the right of individuals to bear arms. Scalia was joined in opinion by Justices Thomas, Alito, Kennedy, and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Scalia's opinion, dealing first with interpreting the Second Amendment, turned to the law. He wrote, "The handgun ban amounts to a prohibition of an entire class of "arms" that is overwhelmingly chosen by American society for [self-defense]." Scalia continued to say that handguns are the most preferred weapon for self-defense, and any law banning their use is "invalid."

Justice John Paul Stevens drafted the primary dissenting opinion. Stevens, along with Justices Ginsberg, Souter, and Breyer, viewed the handgun ban in question as legal pertaining to the Second Amendment. "Specifically, there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution," wrote Stevens. Stevens' dissent explicitly states that the "people" referred to in the Second Amendment are restricted to the "well-regulated militia" also included in the amendment text.

Justice Steven Breyer joined Stevens in drafting a dissenting argument. Breyer contends that the Court must prove that the handgun ban is "unreasonable or inappropriate in Second Amendment terms," which, he says, they cannot.

Owing to the thin margin in the Court's opinion and the public outcry that has erupted as a result, gun-control is a hotly contested issue in politics. It is safe to assume that the two sides of the argument are split right down the middle, with half on each side. However, regardless of individual opinion of handguns, the Constitution is absolute. It exists as the axis around which this nation was founded. In a sense, the argument isn't about handguns, but rather about the flexibility of the Constitution. As a tangible object, it is merely a few pieces of paper with ink scattered about. But as an institution, it is a megalith as old as old as the country it built. Centuries after its inception, the Supreme Court continues to uphold the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution -- and for good reason.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Is Turkey Too Chicken for Religious Freedom?

It seems as though all the politics Americans care about that goes on in the Middle East is about oil or war.  Tension between American and Iranian leaders has pushed another important issue out of international news, going on in a different Persian nation.  

For those of who don't know, Turkish politics is a unique blend of European and Middle Eastern.  Though the ruling party (the AK Party) is in control of the parliament and has the PM seat, which it won in a landslide victory in the last election, the courts and army are largely secular.

The issue now is one of the display of religion in public places.  The fiercely secular wing of the government has been adamant in its support of the headscarf ban.  Seeking to distance itself from the religion-controlled governments of the surrounding region, Turkey is probably hoping to impress the EU, which it is currently seeking to join.  

However, the AK Party is notorious for its desire to ease the ban of tradition head scarves, which Muslim women wear.  Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of the AK Party, in a recent decision by the Constitutional court of Turkey that he must dissolve his party, because acting against the ban is unconstitutional.

The problem is one of battling ideology.  The secular roots of the government wanted to ensure that Islamic fundamentalists could never take over the government, which has lead to global conflict and controversy in almost every other nation in which this has happened.  However, if Turkey wishes to present itself as a democracy, to the eyes of the world, it has to risk this in order to allow its people to have religious freedoms.

In America's own constitution, the freedom to practice religion and the separation of government from religion is a fundamental right.  Every American should feel free to display their religion without fear, in any place public or private.  

However, this fundamental right is missing in the otherwise free nation of Turkey.  To force a political party to self-destruct based on its core beliefs is a violation of everything a democracy should stand for.  

If the Turkish government goes fundamental because they granted religious freedom, which is unlikely anyway, then at least the world will know it was the people's choice.  This is a fundamental and essential part of any democracy.  
- Zachary Kurtz