Thursday, May 28, 2009

Response to Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson submitted an op-ed column in the Washington Post regarding the ongoing flap between Colin Powell and the Republican Party. I contacted him by email with the following response...

Mr. Gerson,

I've heard of you, but I've never read any of your columns before. So I have no preconceptions of your ideological biases. However, I must take serious issue with at least one paragraph from your Colin Powell/Dick Cheney column in the Wasington Post (emphasis mine).

Obama's party has assembled its current majority among groups of growing demographic (and thus democratic) influence -- particularly nonwhites, the young and college-educated voters. It is difficult to imagine Republicans regaining momentum in these groups without an aggressive, unexpected message of social justice, inclusion, environmental stewardship and social mobility -- in addition to the economic and moral conservatism that will motivate much of the Republican coalition for the foreseeable future.

I have two problems with the above paragraph: 1) the suggestion that a Party's platform should be subject to change based on the fickle tastes of specific market segments and, 2) the use of trite, disingenuous euphemisms to describe "values" that Democrats and "moderates" allegedly possess and Conservatives apparently don't.

First, I understand the Washington Beltway's obsession with demographics. The use of market research and focus group data has helped the Democrats craft messages that have led them to victory in the last two National Elections. Furthermore, the exploitation of market segmentation (i.e., "NASCAR Dads", "Security Moms", "Values Voters", etc.) is often credited for George W. Bush's re-election in 2004. But in reducing the last several election results down to marketing, you are ignoring the fact that the success of the winning campaigns was down to changes in packaging, not changes to product. In the last two election cycles, the Democrats weren't offering anything new in terms of policy, they were re-presenting old policy in new ways. Do you actually believe that Obama is a moderate? Well, he was certainly packaged as a one. Meanwhile, some "Republicans"...the Powells, the McCains, the Grahams, the Schwarzeneggers, etc...suggest that the way to respond to the last few election results is not to re-package Conservative ideas so that they better appeal to the masses and to market segments, but to change the policy to appeal to fluctuations in taste. It's a bit like asking an advertising agency to market Pepsi and having the creative director respond with "make it taste more like Coke". Well, that's just great...on one hand you screw your own loyal customers by giving them something they don't want, while on the other, you may attract some fence sitters to sample your product. But are there going to be enough of them around to offset the loyal customers you have lost? Meanwhile, how loyal are they going to be to the New Coke-like Pepsi, when they can always switch to the Real Thing?

But my real problem with your column is in reference to the phrase I underline above. Define "social justice". Define "inclusion". And, most of all, define "environmental stewardship". As you employ these expressions, they serve as nothing more than platitudes. By presenting a message of "environmental stewardship", are you actually suggesting that the Republican Party should at least partially buy into that Al Gore moving target of "Global Warming"/"Climate Change"/"Environmental Sustainability" by encouraging more over-regulation of "carbon emissions" and punitive taxes via the "Cap-and-Trade" scam? How do you reconcile economic and moral conservatism with regressive energy taxes that may temporarily feed the entitlement beast but will add more cost to everyday purchases across the board (leaving families with less and less disposable income and inevitably leading to wealth and employment erosion due to "belt tightening")? Let me give you a hint: you can't. Economic conservatism and the kind of "environmental stewardship" you champion are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.

At the end of the day, Colin Powell is emotionally symbolic but ideologically irrelevant. He's an incoherent empty suit...kind of like our current President. The less time wasted on the implications of his shallow rhetoric, the better.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stephanopoulos Questions Schwarzenegger from the Left, Asks if Gray Davis is Owed an Apology

Fresh from ramrodding at least $12 Billion in new taxes down the throats of Californians, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made an appearance on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" to congratulate himself for what he seems to believe was a job well done. During the interview, Stephanopoulos played clips showing Schwarzenegger promising never to raise taxes. Perhaps predictably, Stephanopoulos implied that the Governor should be apologetic…not for breaking his pledge not to raise taxes, but for making the pledge in the first place. Stephanopoulos proceeded to exhibit an ignorance borne of ideological bias and/or Beltway provincialism when he asked California’s Chief Executive if he owed his predecessor, Gray Davis, an apology.

For his part, Schwarzenegger maintained his position in the alternate universe by suggesting that opposition from both Democrats and Republicans to the new budget was proof that he had done the right thing.

Stephanopoulos introduced the segment by highlighting the fact that a petition denouncing Schwarzenegger had been circulated at California’s Republican Convention over the weekend. Having secured reelection as Governor in November 2002, Gray Davis virtually ensured the Recall Election that led to his political demise by signing a bill tripling the State’s annual Vehicle License Fee in 2003. Schwarzenegger exploited Davis’ tax increase to its full potential, and promised to roll the car tax back to previous levels as soon as he took office. Among Schwarzenegger’s very first acts as Governor of California was the repeal of the increase in the car tax. However, in signing this budget, Schwarzenegger reneged on his promise never to increase taxes by, among other things, doubling the car tax. Stephanopoulos seized on that irony with a rather bizarre question:

STEPHANOPOULOS: So do you owe Gray Davis an apology?

Why would Schwarzenegger owe Gray Davis an apology? In agreeing to triple the car tax, Gray Davis tied the hands of the State’s car dealerships. The new car tax essentially devalued existing inventory by adding hundreds of dollars of excess cost to the purchase of each new vehicle. Dealers were forced eat the cost or risk inventory pileups due to decreased consumer demand. And would the revenues generated by the increase in the car tax even offset the corresponding losses in sales tax and income tax revenue? Gray Davis ran up a huge deficit, padding the coffers of his biggest supporters, the state public employee unions. This tax only exacerbated the deficit problem. The premise of Stephanopoulos’ question was entirely bogus. Schwarzenegger doesn’t owe Davis an apology for using the car tax increase to run him out of office. He owes Californians an apology for increasing that and other taxes after promising never to do so.

Beyond misrepresenting the massive tax increase he passed by referring to it as a “revenue increase”, Schwarzenegger answered with his standard dodging cliché about “bringing Democrats and Republicans together”. As an aside, the terms “tax” and “fee” have more than rhetorical significance in this debate. In California, 2/3 of the State Legislature must vote in favor of tax increases in order for them to pass to the Governor. However a fee increase only requires a simple majority of the State Legislature and the Governor’s signature. State Democrats have often misused the word “fee” (as in Vehicle License Fee) to make an end around the 2/3 requirement. A simple majority of the State Assembly and State Senate passed the tripling of the Vehicle License Fee, and Davis signed it into law. When Schwarzenegger reversed the Vehicle License Fee, Democrats in California howled over the loss of “tax revenue” to the State.

Not simply content to admonish Schwarzenegger on Davis’ behalf, Stephanopoulos hinted that Schwarzenegger’s mistake was promising not to raise taxes, not breaking that promise.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But back in 2003, you were unequivocal, "I will not raise taxes." You ran that car tax issue so hard. So -- so as you look back, was it wrong to make the promise?

After Schwarzenegger made the ridiculous claim that it wasn’t wrong to make the false promise because he supposedly “hates” tax increases, Stephanopoulos responded with a whopper of epic proportions…

STEPHANOPOULOS: But so did Gray Davis. And he just felt the budget crisis made it necessary.

Anyone with even a passing interest in California politics knows that far from hating tax increases, Gray Davis saw tax increases as a first resort, not the last one. It was Davis who negotiated the unsustainable contract with the State Prison Guard Union, who expanded the Cal Grant program, who earmarked the hiring of 40,000 new state employees, who signed a bill granting driver licenses to illegal immigrants and who campaigned for increased school and environmental spending. Gray Davis did not hate tax increases. However, with that misrepresentation still dangling out there, Stephanopoulos further pushed Schwarzenegger to reject his Party’s position on tax increases.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So when you -- we're looking at a similar budget crisis in the coming years here in the United States. Does the Republican Party have to re-think its absolute opposition to tax increases of any kind?

In fairness, Stephanopoulos did press the Governor about his splits with his own Party, even asking him why he remained a Republican given those rather significant differences. But he failed to elicit more than the typical self-serving platitudes from Schwarzenegger. He never challenged the Governor on how these taxes will cost the State more private sector jobs, on why Schwarzenegger conspired with the State’s public unions against the interests of California’s citizens, about why he ran away from his responsibilities to the taxpayers and instead embraced the job-killing environmentalist “Global Warming” agenda. Stephanopoulos even let Schwarzenegger get away with using Antonio Villaraigosa, the failed Mayor of Los Angeles, as a prime example of why the open primary provision in the new budget was worth the back breaking tax increase.

Whether Stephanopoulos knows it or not, he passed up a significant opportunity to better inform the public about this budget fight. While scolding Republicans for attempting to hold the line on tax increases, he failed to address all the profligate government spending that led to the crisis in the first place. The public sector unions, the trial lawyers, the unreasonable environmental regulations, the punitive sales taxes and resulting earmarked “public interest” slush funds, the legalized theft of those revenues from the slush funds to the general fund, the wasteful infrastructure and social welfare programs and the freebies doled out to illegal immigrants all caused the financial disaster in California. Schwarzenegger’s budget only makes the crisis worse as businesses, taxpayers and their tax revenues continue to leave the State. In failing to address these symptoms, Stephanopoulos was either masking these concerns because of his ideology or avoiding them due to his regional ignorance. Either way, he committed journalistic malpractice and it’s fair to ask whether a former partisan spokesman has any place moderating an ostensibly objective news program.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Reid Drops Federal Judge Pay Raise Trojan Horse Into Auto Bailout Bill, AP Spins, Calling it “Important”

Just when you thought Congress had learned its lesson from the last two national elections, frivolous “earmark” bill riders are back. It might seem foolhardy for the Senate to even consider granting pay raises to Federal Employees in the midst of a deep recession, but that’s exactly what Harry Reid intends to do. In what appears to be a brazen maneuver to reward political allies for their ongoing support, the Senate Majority Leader is attaching an upward Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Federal Judges to the $14 Billion Auto Bailout Plan.

An inquisitive journalist might question Reid’s wisdom in using the already unpopular, but seemingly inevitable, “Big 3” Rescue Bill as the vehicle for a bold political payoff. After all, District Judges currently make close to $170,000 per year, far more than the average American taxpayer earns. Given the current state of the economy, an honest reporter could conclude that the last person worthy of a pay increase during a recession is a high-salaried Federal Employee whose compensation is not tied to any economic growth. Unfortunately, AP’s Andrew Taylor made no such determination.

Instead, Taylor went through the contortions of justifying this abuse of power. Apparently Federal Judges are supposed to earn salaries on a par with Members of Congress, but while annual Congressional Cost of Living Adjustments kick in automatically, a floor vote is required for judicial pay increases. According to the article, the Senate voted in favor of the upward adjustment for Federal Judges in a stand-alone bill in November. However, the House, citing populist concerns, failed to act accordingly. Taylor picks up from here (emphasis mine)…

As a result, Reid has taken the unusual step of linking the obscure but important judicial pay issue to the unpopular auto bailout.

Suggesting that a pay rise for Federal Judges is “important” is ridiculous enough on its face, especially during a global economic crisis. Yet Taylor proceeds to dig himself into a deeper hole (emphasis mine)...

There is concern among many policymakers that judges are not paid enough relative to the importance of their offices, and in six of the past 13 years, judges have been denied their pay raise as lawmakers opted not to take their own COLA.

Taylor may want to consider that while a handful of unnamed “policymakers” claim that judges are underpaid, the average American (especially now) harbors no such concern. Besides, isn’t a bit rich to be asking Americans to make personal sacrifices, to accept tax increases and to learn to “spread the wealth” around to close a deficit when an action like this only serves to increase that deficit? And certainly the question of what constitutes greed might be appropriate, given the circumstances? Oddly, Taylor laments that judges have been denied “their” pay raise, as opposed to “a” pay raise, in 6 of the last 13 years…as if the judges were entitled to an annual increase. So, Congress decides to put the interests of the American taxpayer above its own interest in less than half of the last 13 years, but the real tragedy is that a bunch of judges on six-figure incomes only got pay increases more than half the time? But wait, there’s more…

Even with the raise, judges earn far less than lawyers at big firms, just as members of Congress make less than many lobbyists.

Some might argue that judges actually earn far less than they are paid. The incomes of private attorneys and of lobbyists are usually tied to the revenue their efforts generate. Not so with judges and Congressmen, their salaries constitute net costs. If judges are so concerned about how little they’re making relative to lawyers at big firms, they may want to consider joining one of those practices. But isn’t public service supposed to carry an intrinsic value that trumps any monetary reward? The simple fact is that some people prefer job security, implied authority and an impressive title to the opportunity to maximize their incomes…that’s why they choose to be judges or Members of Congress rather than litigators or lobbyists. Why bother hustling for business or chasing down delinquent clients when you can enjoy the fruits of a steady, guaranteed six-figure income and the public deference granted to those in positions of power? But even if Reid’s Trojan Horse tactic fails, taxpayers are probably still going to be on the hook for the pay raise…

If the pay measure fails to go through this year, judges are likely to get the increase as one of the first pieces of business next year.

While one might be inclined to congratulate Andrew Taylor for taking on the nearly-impossible task of justifying Harry Reid’s cynical earmark, his efforts fall short. Reid’s flagrant indifference to the will of the people cannot be spun. Expect the media to bury stories like this over the next two years. After all, Reid is up for re-election in 2010.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


When comparing the state of affairs in California now to those in 2003, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Gray Davis Recall was unnecessary. The people of California removed Gray Davis from office in 2003 largely due to his mismanagement of the State Budget. Having failed to account for the eventual collapse of many .com companies, Davis signed a number of budgets that increased government spending to levels beyond the revenues the state took in. When faced with a choice between cutting spending and raising taxes to close the revenue gap, Davis opted for the latter. Californians, who had grown weary of seeing businesses leave the State, were no longer prepared to subsidize wasteful government programs through increased taxes. A voter revolt was on, and Gray Davis faced a Recall Election.

Much was made of the historic nature of the Recall Election. Pundits throughout the country viewed the Recall as something of a temper tantrum, and they laughed when they learned that the open nature of the election allowed personalities like Gallagher, Gary Coleman and porn star Mary Carey to seek the State’s top job. While many in the news and commentary business viewed the Gray Davis Recall as a joke, Californians knew that it was serious business.

Unfortunately, the effort to remove Gray Davis appeared doomed in the days immediately following the certification of the recall petition. Davis, while heavily unpopular, was still the best-known candidate in the election. And he only needed to win a simple majority in the Yes/No portion of the ballot to maintain his position. Serious candidates like Congressman Darrell Issa, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, State Senator Tom McClintock and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan emerged as potential frontrunners in the battle to succeed Davis, but it seemed that the recall would fail unless a major star entered the race to turn the election on its ear. Then Arnold Schwarzenegger made a surprise announcement on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and the recall was on.

At first, Schwarzenegger made all the right noises. He was going to stand up to the State Legislature, to the public employee unions and to others who had crippled the State’s economy by piling onerous spending obligations on to the taxpayer. He was going to close the budget deficit by borrowing in the short term and using the extra time this bought him to convince Californians that the State Government had to start living within its means. He promised that he would never raise taxes to balance the budget. Schwarzenegger, seen as too moderate by many Republicans, was able to convince enough conservatives that he provided the State’s only hope in getting rid of the incompetent Davis. Riding the wave of popularity and purpose, Schwarzenegger swept to victory in 2003 and was sworn in as Governor in January 2004.

Schwarzenegger first got to work by repealing a tax increase that Gray Davis had just signed into law. Seeking new revenue sources to fund additional State spending, Davis had signed legislation that tripled the Vehicle Licensing Fee in California. Beyond soaking the average California motorist, the tripled tax hurt the automobile industry as consumer price sensitivity to the tax increase kept potential car buyers away from the lots. Schwarzenegger recognized how much this tax increase had triggered the voter revolt against Davis, so he strengthened his own political popularity by reversing the damage Davis had done. Schwarzenegger followed this up by leading the charge for a number of ballot initiatives that would allow the State to temporarily balance the budget through the issuance of bonds. Schwarzenegger’s ballot propositions passed despite concerns from some that borrowing to close a deficit would only defer the root problem until later. By then, the State was taking in record revenues, as an active residential real estate market generated more income and property taxes to the Treasury. However, an irresponsible State Legislature ensured that annual spending increases would continue to eclipse the record tax revenues the State was bringing in. Schwarzenegger was to embark on a new challenge, using his popularity to tackle the State’s spending problem.

In 2005, while still universally popular, he introduced a new set of ballot propositions designed to weaken the stranglehold union bosses had on rank-and-file union members, and, in turn, on all California taxpayers. Traditionally, union leadership employed a handful of intimidation tactics designed to prevent individual union members from fully exercising their voting rights in union elections. The leadership of the public employee unions had long established an unholy alliance with the Democratic Party and looked to ensure that the tie would remain unbroken. A portion of the dues collected from union members would be diverted to a political action committee with the stated purpose of representing the wishes of union members in political elections. This meant that a portion of each member’s dues would be sent to support Democrats, even though many rank-and-file union members are Republican. To maintain the flow of cash to Democratic coffers, union bosses set up an “opt out” system for those members who did not want to funnel their dues to support Democrats. Had the leadership used an “opt in” system, it would have been required to seek permission from the individual union members before contributing a portion of their dues to the Democratic Party. The “opt out” system allowed the union leadership to automatically funnel dues to its political action committees without the permission of the individual members. Should members not have wanted their dues to be diverted to the Democratic Party, they would be required to “opt out”, exposing themselves publicly and subjecting themselves to the implied threat of the kind of intimidation reserved for “self-interested troublemakers”. Schwarzenegger’s favored ballot initiatives were designed to abolish the “opt out” system and to ensure that union members were able to participate in union-related elections through a secret ballot system. Given the funding and organizational advantages the labor unions had, Schwarzenegger was going to have his work cut out for him.

The unions got off to a fast start in early 2005, noting that a special election would be employed to deal with these ballot initiatives. They ran ads that claimed that the special election was an expensive burden on taxpayers. Additionally, they alleged that Schwarzenegger was using the ballot propositions to scapegoat “hard working” Americans for the budget crisis and that the real culprits were Schwarzenegger’s “rich cronies” who were unwilling to pay “their fair share” of taxes to close the budget gap. Rather than honestly presenting the litany of useless, faceless bureaucrats to represent the position of the union leadership, the bosses employed sympathetic professionals like nurses, police, firefighters and school teachers to create the false impression that necessary services would suffer as a result of these initiatives passing. They encouraged the local news media to present the union bosses’ side of the story, and the news media cooperated by providing uncritical coverage of their position. Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger failed to respond to wave-after-wave of attack until September of 2005. By then, the unions had seized the popular advantage throughout the State, and Schwarzenegger launched a toothless defense in the hopes of salvaging the special election and maintaining the popularity he had come to enjoy. Needless to say, his efforts proved too little, too late. Schwarzenegger’s ballot initiatives failed, and he was left to consider how to position himself for his re-election battle in 2006.

Schwarzenegger caught a lucky break in 2006. The Democrats, seemingly emboldened by the Governor’s failure in 2005, nominated Phil Angelides, an unabashed tax-and-spend socialist to run against Schwarzenegger. Nationally, the Republican Party was taking a beating in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina coverage and a media-driven “Bush fatigue”. In an election year when the Democrats seized both Houses of Congress, Schwarzenegger was one of the very few nationally-recognized Republicans to achieve electoral success in November 2006.

Unfortunately, Arnold Schwarzenegger learned all the wrong lessons from the unsuccessful special election of 2005 and his successful re-election of 2006. Ignoring the facts that he ran the 2005 campaign poorly and that he only managed to win re-election in 2006 because he was facing such a neutered left wing straw man, he viewed these results as signals of a sea change in political thought. He took those results to mean that Californians and the American people as a whole had decided that the Republican Party needed to shift to the left if it wanted to win future elections. He started embracing policies of the left wing socialists who created the very problem he was elected to solve. He now sees himself as a canary in a coal mine on the environment and has fully bought into the job-killing, economy-draining global warming propaganda popularized by Al Gore. Meanwhile, residential real estate, which covered for Schwarzenegger’s budgetary incompetence by generating record revenues to the treasury, is in decline. Schwarzenegger no longer has the revenue resources to support the overspending he’s enabled the legislature to continue throughout his tenure as Governor. He’s even open to the tax increases he promised never to enact, though he’s played dishonest semantics games to create the impression that he’s true to his word. He is out of budget gimmicks to paper over the cracks, but rather than face down the problems, he has chosen to increase his national profile by scolding his own party.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is an unmitigated failure as Governor. He has continued the State’s hostile attitude towards business that will lead to further job losses and a continual decline in the standard of living in California. Despite what he may think, back-breaking taxes and irresponsible government spending are too great a price to pay for nice weather and beautiful scenery. While I’m proud to have voted to recall Gray Davis, I, like many Californians, regret that I voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Are the Republicans Missing a Golden Opportunity?

In November of 2006, the Democrats, led by Harry Reid in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives, secured majorities in both Houses of Congress. Much of the credit for the Democratic victory in 2006 is due to the national media, who went beyond the call of duty to parrot DNC talking points while second guessing every move the Bush Administration made. The Democratic Party and the mainstream media sounded a constant drumbeat of negativity against the Bush Administration on issues from the war, to Hurricane Katrina, to the economy and gas prices. When the campaign theme of a Republican “culture of corruption” was added to the mix, the recipe for Democratic victory was complete.

Fast forward almost two years to July of 2008. We’re in the midst of a Presidential and Congressional Election cycle. Gas prices are at $4.10 per gallon and climbing. They were under $2.20 on the day that the Democrats assumed control of the House and Senate. The economy is in freefall in the wake of frivolous Democratic-led Congressional investigations and Democratic promises of future tax increases. The continued presence of Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and William Jefferson, among others, has ensured that the culture in Congress is as corrupt as ever. In fact, the only real success this term has been the surge in the Iraq War effort, and that progress was gained in the face of heavy resistance from the Democrats in Congress. In just about every area, the country is worse off now than it was two years ago, the Democrats are promising yet more of the same policies that have plunged the country into this malaise, yet somehow the Democrats are expected to gain seats in both the House and Senate.

It is a measure of the incompetence of today’s Republican Party that the Democrats are viewed as such heavy favorites going into the fall elections. The Republicans could easily go on the offensive by running true conservative candidates and policies against the unqualified failures of this Democratic Congress. They choose instead to go on the defensive, accepting the flawed premise that the failures of the last two years are the responsibility of the lame duck, moderate Republican who currently occupies the White House, not the liberal Democrats who currently run Congress. One of the major reasons that the Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006 was that the Party’s conservative base, having felt abandoned by the President and moderate Congressional Republicans on issues like illegal immigration, stayed away from the polls. Yet today’s Republican Party believes that it will somehow bring back that conservative base in 2008 by nominating a Presidential candidate who embraces the left’s views on immigration, the environment and the economy.

Last week, Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate Majority leader, was questioned on the current energy crisis. When asked about relieving cost pressures on the American taxpayer by loosening the restrictions on domestic supply, Reid gave the laughably inept answer that oil and coal are “making us sick”. Reid actually posited that his party’s pet issue of “Global Warming” was of greater concern in these economic times than the financial well-being of the American people. If the Republican Party was playing with a full deck, its operatives would have pounced on that remark and exposed Reid’s incompetence from now until a crushing victory in November. But the Party seems determined to learn all the wrong lessons from the election defeat in 2006. Perhaps it will take a resounding defeat in November and a disastrous two years of a war, an economy and a society run into the ground by a liberal Democratic President with a filibuster-proof Democratic Congress for the Republican Party to return to the low tax, low regulation, high productivity roots that once made this country so great.

Give Them an Inch, and They'll Take a Country

Earlier this month, Britain’s Daily Mail reported on the latest example of Western Culture meekly surrendering to the will of Islamic extremists. The local authorities in Dundee, Scotland released a public service announcement to inform residents of a new police telephone number for non-emergencies. The ad featured a picture of a black German Shepherd puppy sitting in a constable’s hat next to a telephone. This cute reminder would appear to have been an effective and non-threatening method of distributing important information to the community. The British are renowned for their love and appreciation of dogs, so a postcard featuring a puppy would certainly attract attention. In a strange twist, however, not all the feedback was positive.

Apparently, Dundee’s Muslim community took great offense to the ad. It is said that dogs are viewed as “ritually unclean” in Islamic culture, and local Muslim activists contacted Tayside Police to lodge a protest against the distribution of this public service announcement. Self-appointed leaders in the local Muslim community were angered that they were not contacted before the postcards were distributed to residents in Dundee. They alleged that had they been consulted beforehand, they would have had the opportunity to stop the production of this postcard before it was too late. Shopkeepers even refused to exhibit the ad in their stores so they would not offend local Muslims.

Like much of Western Europe, Great Britain has seen a steady increase in its Muslim population over the years. As the size of the Islamic community has grown, so has its influence. Liberal immigration policies in democratic nations have led to a rise in cultural diversity throughout the West, and the notion of tolerance appears to be the highest of all virtues. Not wanting to be seen as unwelcoming hosts, many Western democracies, including Great Britain and the United States, have been particularly sensitive to the customs of their immigrant populations. However, some in authority have permitted the tolerance of foreign cultural values to come at a great cost to those of the sovereign nation.

While it may be nice to welcome new cultural influences to one’s community, the virtue has its limits. Rather than inviting Muslims to exercise the free expression of their religion as part of a greater cultural mix, Western democracies, through political correctness have allowed the wishes of certain segments of the population to supersede those of the community at large. British citizens are expected to sacrifice an important part of their own culture in order to satisfy the wishes of those who are not British. Tolerance should cut both ways, but while we in Western democracies are required to sacrifice our unique cultural identities to placate those of other backgrounds, the same courtesy is not granted by them to us.

It is high time that we in the United States and Western Europe stood up to the bullies who demand that we surrender our culture for their comfort. As the expression goes, if you give them an inch, they will take a mile. Like parasites, Islamic extremists have infiltrated Western cultures and have weakened their hosts from within. If we continue to give ground and allow others to use their sensitivities to gain more power, we lose our own. We must stand up to preserve our own culture or we risk being annexed by theirs

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mission Accomplished?

As we approach the 2008 Presidential Election with a foreclosure crisis, $4.00 per gallon gasoline, failing schools, rampant illegal immigration, partisan Congressional investigations, no-growth energy policies and a bitter internal political war to go alongside an actual war, it appears that the country is coming apart at the seams. Under the circumstances, I often wonder if this was the outcome Al Queda had in mind when those terrorists were sent to blow up the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the White House. In his wildest dreams, could Osama Bin Laden have imagined the United States almost voluntarily cannibalizing itself before the world in an effort to determine which party would be employed to pick up the pieces?

If the 2000 Presidential Election taught Bin Laden anything, it had to be that many Americans are more concerned about the well-being of their political parties than they are in the well-being of the country. The level of aggression over the Florida election dispute ensured that the losing party was going to view the elected President as illegitimate. Surely this factor would make the U.S. more vulnerable to a major attack. A nation with an embattled new President facing an economic recession would undoubtedly have trouble dealing with a direct attack on one of its major financial districts, especially when transportation, the circulatory system of the economy, was used as the weapon. A rattled populace would undoubtedly shy away from air travel and certainly think twice before using subways, light rail, bridges and tunnels. An economy afraid to move would almost certainly succumb to organ failure. However, in the short term, the American people managed to put their fears and partisanship to one side in order to fight together against a common enemy: global terrorism.

The country recovered under a renewed sense of purpose and patriotism. Congress and the President set about orchestrating plans to retaliate for the 9/11 attacks and to prevent other such attacks from occurring again. But we soon reverted to the political tactics of old. A mid-term election was to take place in 2002, and both parties had to get to work contrasting themselves from the other in the hopes of picking up Congressional seats. Soon, President Bush, who had enjoyed a short period of almost universal popularity, was again cast as a clueless, partisan villain unfit to deal with the new political realities. The Republicans won in 2002, largely because of the disproportionate hostility directed by Democrats towards the still popular President, but it was only a matter of time before Bush’s popularity eroded.

The U.S. launched the Iraq War in 2003 as a second theater in the global war on terrorism. Technology and 24/7 news networks eventually brought a new dimension to media coverage of a war. The almost instantaneous delivery of information from overseas war zones gave viewers the opportunity to view conflicts in real time, yet failed to give audiences enough time to put the impact of battle losses in proper perspective. Victories were seen as less significant while casualty numbers were blown up beyond all proportion. Then activist media with the help of like-minded politicians began shining the spotlight on some American troops, accusing soldiers of torture and desecration of Islam. The accusations were meant to reflect badly on the Bush Administration, but they also gave Islamic terrorists an undeserved status as people with legitimate grievances against the U.S. Western Europe started to give militant Islam a larger say in matters through a pattern of political correctness. Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed were condemned while the disproportionate reactionary Islamic violence was excused. Meanwhile, the United States had a Presidential Election to run. By 2004, Bush was portrayed as an inarticulate, nefarious, draft dodging fraternity boy who employed smarter, more evil henchmen to carry out his liberty stealing, oil enriching policies. The Democrats ran John Kerry, who, by virtue of his status as a Vietnam Veteran, could be seen to present a solid case for the anti-war movement. Bush won re-election in 2004, but the margin of victory was close enough to allow Democrats to use “Bush fatigue” as an effective campaign issue.

Several partisan clashes ensued, from judicial appointments to gas prices and from illegal immigration to treatment of enemy combatants. Soon, Al Gore, the man George W. Bush defeated in 2000 reemerged with his film “An Inconvenient Truth”. Gore’s film, which linked future environmental catastrophes to Global Warming and linked Global Warming to American industry, became required viewing in many public schools. The destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina created a perfect backdrop for Gore and like-minded politicians to further sell the notion of Global Warming to average Americans seeking answers. Conservation and “alternative energy solutions” were to be employed at the expense of oil and other established “fossil fuels”. This meant that no further efforts to expand domestic drilling, refining and transport of oil were to be accepted. Many Americans, with the guidance of Democratic and even some Republican politicians rejected efforts to increase domestic oil supply “on behalf of the environment” and instead called on Congress to put domestic oil producers on the spot for “price gouging” and “windfall profits”. As more populace nations like India and China have become industrialized, worldwide demand for oil has reached unprecedented highs. Without additional supply of oil or any widespread comparable alternatives, the extra demand has driven the price of oil to new records. And the cost of fuel has been passed on to air transport, food prices and many of the industries that make this country work.

So I wonder, almost seven years after the 9/11 attacks, what is Osama Bin Laden thinking? An embittered nation with an unpopular President and a tenuous economy is entering another Presidential election cycle. At best, the two candidates are promising to enact more of the destructive economic policies that have caused the current crisis. Is this nation about to collapse under the weight of its own arrogance and economic stupidity? And if so, is this crisis the belated result of the 9/11 attacks or a bonus gift for Bin Laden and his minions? Either way, he must be enjoying this theater…wherever he is.