Friday, June 03, 2005

WFB on Social Security

William F. Buckley's column in the latest National Review Digital discusses the corrosive effect of social security and Keynesian economics has had on American society and politics. He explains first that the phrase he uses, "I lost it at the Astor" referred to be seduced after getting drunk at a bar and losing one's virginity. He notes that Americans lost theirs economically when they bought into the idea that we could spend ourselves out of the depression,
John Maynard Keynes as the great seducer — so that one can ruminate, with appropriate melancholy, on the theme of, “I lost it with Keynes.” What was lost was the innate sense . . . that deficit spending was wrong. Why? Because it was simply wrong — not moral — to spend money you hadn’t set aside.. . .

[W]hat crept into the act, with the acceptance of deficit spending, was an attitude of detachment toward the old principle that you should not spend what you do not have. And this detachment is degenerate, as witness popular political attitudes on the matter of Social Security.
As Jefferson noted, such spending is a burden on following generations. And if spending moeny you don't have is the sin, Social Security is absolute libertinism.

But libertines don't take kindly to being reminded of moral values. So when Bush tries to propose reform, he can't say that the whole scheme is wrong because it pays people more than they put in plus interest or that it does this for people who don't need it. It would be the the Third Rail of politics. That doesn't affect him, because he's not running for anything else after this, but it scares pols who covet their offices white, even if he's only pointing out that the options at the final point where the funds fall short will be very limited.
What Mr. Bush might have said, summoning the moral authority of lost norms, was that Social Security payments correctly do two things. The first is to repay the American 65-year-old the money taken from him during his working life, plus interest. The second, to provide insurance against such emergencies as bring on destitution.

Before losing it at the Astor, an American listening to this explanation would have found it entirely reasonable. But in the effusive economic pattern of welfare-state thinking, he has come to accept Social Security as a kind of bonanza. There is no movement by any organized body of Americans that is prepared to say: Just give us back what you borrowed from us and we’ll call it quits. You can’t successfully appeal to Americans to reason in that way. If the accounting goes forward as it now threatens to do, Social Security will give the retired American who lives to age 80 two or three times what he invested in the Social Security program.
Maybe by the time the wheels come off, the politicians won't have to depend on the Boomers to get elected and will find the courage to say what they don't dare today, that Social Security is a form of pyramid scheme, but they also may find out how vicious old people can be once they become tax eaters.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The eternal whine

John Kerry has joined the chorus of Democrat whiners complaining about the power of the right wing media: Jeff Jacoby pops their bubble:
What Kerry and the others object to is not that there are only conservative voices in media circles these days but that there are any such voices. The right-of-center Fox News cannot hold a candle to the combined left-of-center output of ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, and PBS. Scaife, Bradley, and Olin money helps leverage Republican messages, but its impact is dwarfed by the Ford, Rockefeller, Pew, Heinz, MacArthur, Carnegie, and Soros fortunes. The Washington Times is conservative? Yes, but The Washington Post is liberal -- and its circulation is eight times as large.
The problem, as I see it, for Democrats is that they assume that everybody knows they're the ones who really should be in power. All they ever do is make personal insults and bald assertions. They don't make arguments in support of their positions, and when they know the public disagrees with them, they avoid the issue.

Posner for SCOTUS

Glenn is for him. Bainbridge is against.

I wouldn't insist on a conservative litmus test. I just want someone who would throw out the right of privacy and believes in judicial restraint. I'm for a court that keeps its nose out of policy issues, but I don't know whether Posner could resist the temptation.

What a legacy.

John McCain should be tarred and feathered, not spoken of as a presidential timber, for the travesty he produced.. . .

In my speech at the Politics Online conference, I noted that in my opinion President Bush violated his oath of office by signing McCain-Feingold.
Ouch! and indeed.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

True Colors

Tom Maquire has a roundup of links on the NYTimes outing of the CIA's airlines. What on earth makes them think that anybody except terrorists and their sympathizers want this information or would want it made public. As Instapundit likes to say, they're not against the war, they're on the other side.

Tim Golden, the author of the story, compounded his stupidity by dismissing Glenn Reynolds:
I am reluctant to respond to people who call themselves by names like "Instapundit." I certainly support scrutiny of the press; the Times is a big, powerful institution and I think it should be accountable to the public. But a lot of our self-appointed critics don't make much of an effort to base their opinions on facts. Nor do they seem to understand much about the way that newspapers work.
Well, I'm reluctant to comment on a newspaper with a patently false motto like "All the news that's fit to print," but I will. Golden seems to think that, while his paper should be accountable, it should not be accountable to "self-appointed critics." How do you get any more factual than by linking to the story itself. Nobody has said the story is false. The criticism is that the story was published in the first place, also one which many people made about Newsweek's retracted story about Koran desecration.

I suppose you could argue that this was "fit to print," I wouldn't say so. Who needed to know this stuff and what makes it news? The standard seems to be "All the news that will make things more difficult for the Bush administration."

As for the "self-appointed critics" crack, think about it a little. Who appoints critics? Is there a registry of critics Golden can check to see if they're self-appointed or not? Basically, it boils down to the "no editors" argument against bloggers. But when people like Glenn Reynolds, James Lileks, Hugh Hewitt and the guys at Power Line write, they don't need editors. (OK, sometimes Hugh could use a proofreader.) Do we really need editors to tell us whether we can have opinions or what they should be?

Romney in 2008

Hugh Hewitt points to this piece by Terry Eastland about Mitt Romney's chances for the Republican nomination in 2008. Eastland is fair toward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a.k.a. Mormons, but doesn't make it the center of the discussion. Hugh quotes John F. Kennedy's response to concerns about his Catholicism, when he ran in 1960. Kennedy won in a squeaker, with some help from organized crimes, the Daley machine in Chicago and LBJ's organization in Texas. I suspect that there was a strong component of anti-catholicism in the votes against him, but in hindsight, most people think that a religious test for a candidate is unamerican. Of course, there is so much misinformation about the LDS faith floating around, that it will probably still play a part. Most of the anti-mormon sentiment today comes from protestant ministers who are aware of the church's growth through proselyting and see it as a threat to their own livelihood.

There's a Baptist "street preacher" who hangs around Temple Square in Salt Lake City and harangues people entering the temple through a bull horn. He used to harrass wedding parties who had just come from the temple, interfering with photos and generally trying to disrupt their family moments. He's now excluded from doing this on property owned by the church, but it has taken a court battle and at least $10,000,000 to get to this point. He's now limited to public sidewalks around Temple Square. Others hand out leaflets denouncing the Mormon faith.

At each General Conference, held each April and October, a number of people congregate outside the Conference Center and carry signs, chant antimormon slogans and generally form a gauntlet that members heading to and from the sessions must pass.

So, I expect a resurgence of anti-Mormon rhetoric if Romney runs, and that may hurt him. It doesn't make him a bad candidate though. Mormons have been treated like this since before there was an LDS church. The name of the church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, yet protestants and presumably Catholics still claim that we're not Christians because we don't believe in doctrines which were adopted in the fourth century and later, and because we believe that Christ has only one true and living church on the earth. We don't hold with a number of traditional doctrines, such as the doctrine of the trinity or the unembodiment of God, but that these should lead to such vehemence suggests that there is another reason not being stated. Still, Romney ran strong against Ted Kennedy, who, despite his brother's earlier remarks, "Today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you -- until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril," made a campaign issue of Romney's religion. Then Romney was elected Governor in Massachusetts, quite a feat for a Republican. So stranger things have happened than his running for president. Time will tell.

Update: Bill Hobbs says he's and evangelical Christian and he'd vote from Romney, if he's the candidate, and adds this:
Here's a prediction: Should Romney mount a serious candidacy, the vast majority of any vilification of him based on his religious affiliation, his faith and the sometimes peculiar history of the LDS church will come from the Left, not from the Right.
I think that one of the best testimonials for Mormonism is the amount of persecution it has had from the begining and the fact that it continues to growth despite it. The reason is that conversion is based on seeking an answer, and receiving a confirmation, from God about its truth.

One thing I learned on my mission is that converts aren't aren't made by argument and quoting scripture. You can't argue someone into believing. All you can do is bear your testimony and invite him to listen and then pray about it.

I think people respect those who have principles and stand by them, but not scolds and people who try to build themselves by tearing down others. If the left smears Romney by attacking his religion, I think it will blow back in their faces. As for the religious right, all I can do is hope that they realize he's one of them.

Update: John J. Miller has a profile of Romney in the new National Review. The link is to NRO, but the full article requires a subscription.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Byron York. Why haven't I been reading his columns?

I have to admit that I don't read as much as I should. My eyes bother me lately, and I suffer from ADD. But Byron York is that most rare thing in media, a reporter. He digs through the records and unspins the news. His piece about the history of the filibuster in opposing judicial nominees in National Review compacts the whole story, and clarifies the claims by the Democrats that Republicans established a precedent for using the filibuster to prevent nominees from coming to a floor vote.

Personally, I'm not sure whether Bush's nominees will perform as expected even if they do get on the court. A lot of Republican nominees, thought to be moderate when nominated, have turned out like Justice Souter. I think that Bush's nominees have been more carefully vetted, but the absolute power of a Supreme Court justice can do strange things to a person. Power corrupts. And the power of the Supreme Court today is practically unlimited, since we have allowed it to be the final word on what the Constitution requires. That power is based on acquiescence, but it has become so entrenched and amending the Constitution has become so difficult that there is practically no way to overrule the court. Until there is some practical way to do so, the courts will continue to provoke all out battles in the Senate, which hurt the whole government, but the public's trust in SCOTUS is its most precious asset, and that is now in danger.

The French

I wouldn't vote for a 485 page bureaucratic document as a constitution either. I don't know whether the vote reflects a desire for democracy and freedom or just unhappiness with what the EU has done for them so far. It would be nice if it meant an end to socialism in France, but that's probably not in the cards.

The linked editorial gives this great quote from an EU bureaucrat:
"They haven't read [the new constitution]. If they had read it, they wouldn't understand it. If they understood it, they wouldn't like it." Nonetheless, he thought that the French should vote yes anyway.
Ouch. Maybe they're smarter than he gives them credit for.

So they'll keep bringing up for votes until it passes. I doubt that anybody will bother trying to find out what's wrong with it and correcting it, though, because it was written by bureaucrats who see their role as introducing complexity, and get very nervous at the mere mention of freedom and personal responsibility.

Deep Throat

Anybody who was an adult in the 1970s will think it's a big deal that Deep Throat, the confidential informant who gave Woodward and Bernstein the most famous reporters of all time, has been identified as W. Mark Felt, "who retired from the FBI after rising to its second most senior position." That's the final shoe to drop in the Watergate scandal, but the two reporters won't confirm or deny the story, having given their word not to reveal who Deep Throat's identity until after his death.

The story is reported in Vanity Fair, apparently for a payment to Felt's family. He's 91, and doesn't feel especially proud of his role in bringing down President Nixon. He has previously denied being Deep Throat, and I imagine isn't particularly fond of the nickname.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day

I wonder why the ACLU hasn't sued to abolish Memorial Day yet. It's loaded with religious messages. If you believe that each human life is a flash in the pan, just an organism like a tube worm, what significance to we have? Why remember those who dies to make our lifes better? It's all just a con, and they fell for it.

If I really believed that there is no God, no afterlife, why should I care how I treat other people. My feelings for my wife and children is just a chemical reaction, why should I take them seriously? Why even have kids? Why care about society, history, politics or anything else? Why have cemeteries and head stones and flowers around them, when there are plenty of landfills around? The whole thing is just short, nasty and bruitish, so why not spend it on alcohol and sex and when it gets painful, sick or lonely at the end, have somebody withhold water and nutrients, or just give yourself a large overdose of insulin.

Memorial Day maintains a belief that the dead matter, that we matter and how we behave matters, and not just for the short run. It tells us to be thankful to those who went before and made the world we live in. Thankful that they sacrificed, built and built and invented.

I just watched an interview with Stephen Mansfield, author of The Faith of the American Soldier who talked about his conviction that our the vast majority of our troops believe that they are engaged in a good cause and see this enterprise as humanitarian. You'd never hear that from the MSM. What interested me more, though, was his discussion of the need for a Warrior Code like that written by Teddy Roosevelt for the New York Bible Society to include with copies of the New Testament which it provided to American soldiers heading for Europe in World War I:
“The teaching of the New Testament is foreshadowed in Micah's verse, ‘He has shown you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: but to do justice and to love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.’ (Micah 6:8)

Do justice; and therefore fight valiantly against those who stand for the reign of Molech and Beelzebub on this earth.

Love mercy; treat your enemies well, suffer the afflicted, treat every woman as though she were your sister, care for the little children, rescue the perishing, and be tender with the old and helpless.

Walk humbly; you will do so if you study the life and teaching of the Savior, walking in His steps.

Remember, the most perfect machinery of government will not keep us as a nation if there is not within us a soul, no abounding of material prosperity shall avail us if our spiritual sense is atrophied. The foes of our own household will surely prevail against us unless there be in our people an inner life which finds its outward expression in a morality like unto that preached by the seers and the prophets of God when the grandeur that was Greece and the glory that was Rome still lay in the future.”
It reminds me that despite all the hatred for religion being spewed by the left these days, religious faith is still that most effective influence that gives our troops a sense of duty, honor and good conduct. The soldiers who commit atrocities, humiliate and abuse prisoners or otherwise behave dishonorably are those without a moral compass. Religion makes men believe that if they die, life does not end and that there is a higher law than the mortal law of survivaal. Those who think that death leads to non-existence have no reason to think beyond it.

I like this line and so repeat it: Remember, the most perfect machinery of government will not keep us as a nation if there is not within us a soul, no abounding of material prosperity shall avail us if our spiritual sense is atrophied. That's why I'm not a libertarian. There is no real liberty, only license, without faith and a code of conduct.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Pajamas Media asks

How can we be an on-line Joe Friday? i.e. how can we get it straight and report it honestly?

Maybe start with clearly labeling facts and why they are reported as facts. And clearly labeling inferences, conclusions and opinions. That may not make for gripping reading, but it would be goood exercise and discipline for the writers. If they don't have to examine these elements of the story, they may forget the distinction or never learn it in the first place. It wouldn't hurt to identify one's known biases at the outset. I mean, we knew what Joe Friday's point of view was. He was a cop, and he knew his job: Stop criminals.

The formal stuff could be edited to make the story readable, but if the system isn't built on a sold foundation, it will drift.