Friday, June 30, 2006

T.R. Envy

Gene Healy at CATO's sums up my thoughts on President Teddy:

T.R.’s enduring appeal is an enduring mystery. What, after all, is so attractive about Roosevelt’s political philosophy, such as it was: a loudmouthed cult of maniliness; a warped belief that war can be a good tonic for whatever ails the national spirit; and a contemptuous attitude toward limits on presidential power?

I have never understood the Republican deification of Theodore Roosevelt. Lincoln I can understand, Reagan, check. But, trust-busting, empire-forging, tax-proliferating T.R.? What gives?? But, on second thought, Healy's characterizations sounds a whole lot Dubya, huh? Very interesting...

Jeff Flake

I like this guy:

Arizona's Jeff Flake is a political guerrilla with a smile, a ringer for actor Owen Wilson who crashes not weddings but his own Republican Party.

Since May, the Republican congressman has grabbed the spotlight with the "Flake Hour" -- a tradition at the end of debate on spending bills, in which he asks colleagues to come to the House floor and explain why taxpayers should pay for pet projects in their districts.

The White House isn't immune to the attention of Mr. Flake, who helped force House votes challenging the administration's Cuba policy and the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance of some communications. And like no one else, he has taken on the scandal-plagued House Appropriations Committee, a Republican power structure assigned the task of earmarking billions of dollars for home-state projects among members this election year.

"I don't think our leadership fully appreciates the trouble we are in," Mr. Flake says, explaining that Republicans are cutting their throats politically by continuing to sanction earmarks as part of an "all politics is local" re-election strategy. The approach, he says, sacrifices the party's credibility with voters who want more control of spending. "What's just mystifying is the sense of entitlement now: You have the right to have your projects and to ask for it through the process without anyone else knowing about it or being able to challenge it. That's your inherent right as a member of Congress."

I think the Republicans could use a few more Jeff Flake's in their ranks.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

All Hail Old Glory

The Flaggots just won't quit. Geez. Does anyone else find all of this flag-based idol-worship a bit on the creepy side?
So now we have Congress legislating itself into the middle of a private, voluntary contractual relationship because some of the people involved do not like the import of their self-imposed obligations. Here's an idea. If you don't like the policy of the homeowner's association with respect to flying 'ole Glory or your favorite holiday flag, move away. But of course, I am sure that the agitators involved are the very rent-seeking sorts that always run to the government to to address their ills, line their pockets and wipe their collective asses at the expense of the rest of us (in terms of dollars and freedom).
And while I'm on the topic, note the list of U.S. Senators that voted for the Flag Burning Amendment this week. Apparently only 3 Republicans actually believe in the absolute right to express your political opinion (Bennett, Chafee and McConnell). Obviously we all knew Mr. McCain's opinion on the matter, but what about all of those Republicans that claim campaign finance reform violates the First Amendment? Mind boggling. PS - Feinstein voted for it. Nice company...

Yugoslavia and Iraq

George Will almost sounds like an old-school self-determinist in his receipt Newsweek piece discussing the ever-growing hopeless wastefulness that is the U.S. policy in Iraq. Consider Will's parallel:

...a development 1,500 miles northwest of Baghdad, one almost lost in the welter of last week's news, deserves contemplation: Montenegro completed its dissolution of the union with Serbia. With that, the last bit of Yugoslavia was gone.

Yugoslavia and Iraq were created at the same time, in the aftermath of World War I, and for the same reason—to cope with that war's destruction of empires. Yugoslavia was assembled from shards of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; Iraq was carved from the old Ottoman Empire. Both were artifacts held together always largely, and often only, by force.

As the sad and often bloody story of Yugoslavia comes to a close, the question of whether Iraq has a future as a single entity, let alone as a democratic one, remains open.

I like to think of it as crips and bloods in the same jail cell. Or, perhaps a drunken Dawg and Gator fan in the same hotel bar on the Friday night before Halloween (i.e., the night before the world's largest outdoor cocktail party, for you lay-people). It ain't gonna work. Some people don't like to play nice. And they dislike being told that they must do so even less. GW tends to throw around the term "bigotry" with respect to his opponents who suggest that certain "nations" (I use the term loosely to designate geographical regions unified in name only) and the peoples living therein can not, and will not, embrace American-style democracy and freedom. This characterization is a mistake. In fairness, you have to look outside the box. Our American "Melting-Pot" is, and absolutely should be, a powerful example for the geo-political world to follow; however, to date, our success is a rather rare exception to an otherwise all too common rule. To be sure, for centuries, a large majority of the world's tribes have been mostly immobile and, during that time, they have chosen to remain ethnically and religiously homogenous, thereby resisting the reach and influence of their alien neighbors. Indeed, the French and Germans have been breaking each other's skulls for millenia and they are all, genetically, Frankish-brothers and sisters (give or take some mixtures of Goth, Vandal, and Visigoth blood here and there). Thus, even before the invention of the euro-modeled nation state, tribes within immediate proximity of each other could not resist the urge to kick one another around.
Viewed in this light, I think it is clear that our American experiment is quite unique, even today. Just look at a post-World Cup match celebration for instance. So, what is our secret? The melting-pot achievements of America, I believe, are largely based upon the progressively liberal, tolerant, and individualistic-tendencies of our ancestors who actively chose to pull up stakes and make a new life on the American continents. They actively chose to ditch the old, static and historically ethnocentric ways of their respective homelands and to necessarily embrace the heterogeneous melting-pot of America. We, for the most part, don't reflexively distrust those with different religious views and cultural outlooks. The key is choice. Of course, there are exceptions here at home - the anti-immigration crowd, ethnic-nativists, certain segments of the evangelical-movement, the hyphenization zealots, to name a few; but generally, most Americans accept the cultural, religious and racial differences of their neighbors and abstain from promoting civil wars between them. We are special and deserve recognition accordingly. At the same time, however, it is important to recognize our little utopia of tolerance is not going to immediately translate into the land of the Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites. I see nothing bigoted about realism.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Just in Time for Independence Day

It seems that every year around this time, the Congress tends to give this a shot. Pathetic.

Flashback to last year.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Test Your Freedom IQ

Here from the OC Register via Hit and Run.

Funny. I, of course, am a perfect-scoring, "flaming libertarian," but I am sure that we all knew that.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Dear Doctor...

... please help me, I'm damaged...
Now I realize that people will do, and believe, almost anything to get drugs. But c'mon. Road Rage disorder? I don't buy it. It's called being an a$$hole.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Why Whole Foods Rules

During his interview with Whole Foods founder, John Mackey, on 60 Minutes tonight, Dan Rather discussed the company's "Animal Compassion Standards." Such standards, which the company has implemented since its founding in 1980, entail the requirement that all of the company's animal product suppliers practice humane treatment of their animals (e.g., allow free-range grazing, minimize confinement periods, and shun the grotesque factory-farm practices of over-crowding and the administration of steroids and growth hormones). I particulary like this exchange:
Dan Rather: "In the end, what difference does it make whether you have a happy lobster or not? If the lobster's gonna be eventually dropped into boiling water, he's gonna be a dead lobster and it doesn't much matter."
John Mackey: "Oh, Dan, are you gonna die someday?"
DR: "You Bet."
JR: "Does the quality of your life not matter then? Since you're gonna eventually die? Get dropped in your own pot? At the end of the day, the quality of life is all we have, and it's just as important to that lobster, the quality of life that it lives - even if it's not as long - as the quality of your life."
Good stuff. I cannot agree more. I have a genius-friend in San Diego (a happy carnivore to boot) who insists that at some point in the near future, our ancestors will surely look back on our civilization as one inhabited by barbarians based upon our treatment of our furry and feathered friends. You said it, man.
For more bokononist insights on this topic, see here.

A Real 3rd Option?

I'll believe it when I see it, but I agree with Peggy Noonan that it is long overdue. Moreover, I think Peggy does a nice job analyzing what is wrong with the Big 2 and describing the culture of partisanship that dominates the scene:
Partisanship is fine when it's an expression of the high animal spirits produced by real political contention based on true political belief. But the current partisanship seems sour, not joyous. The partisanship has gotten deeper as less separates the governing parties in Washington. It is like what has been said of academic infighting: that it's so vicious because the stakes are so low.
The problem is not that the two parties are polarized. In many ways they're closer than ever. The problem is that the parties in Washington, and the people on the ground in America, are polarized. There is an increasing and profound distance between the rulers of both parties and the people--between the elites and the grunts, between those in power and those who put them there.
Of course, I am skeptical of the social-conservative lens through which Peggy gauges the disconnect between the powers-that-be and everyday Americans. Nonetheless, she is, in my opinion, wholly correct in identifying the existence of that disconnect. The guys and gals in Washington have become far too comfortable holding the reigns of power. As a result, I think a viable 3rd party candidate has a legitimate shot at winning a national election. All it takes is a charismatic figure with some name recognition. In 1992, Ross Perot won a whopping 19% of the popular vote for god's sakes. Ross Perot! (That number makes me gasp each time I read it.) Now, just think of the potential of a 3rd-party ticket with, let's say, someone with smaller ears and dozen or so more inches in stature.