Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My Precious!!!

Today for the first time I traveled through the fever swamps of the liberal blogosphere. It is an unpleasant place that is overflowing with paranoia, rage and despair. While there is no shame in briefly enjoying the sight of one's enemies writhing in pain it is not a vision civilized people would care to dwell upon. My tour was relatively brief as it will take me some time to become accustomed to the unbridled expression of hatred. Nevertheless, I came away with some strong impressions that tempt me to speculate about the future.

Sites like moveon.org and democraticunderground.com have done a splendid job of fostering an online community of disaffected leftists. They have created a large auditorium where people can shout together rather than alone. And, at every turn, they can find affirmation for their bizarre belief systems. The Left can now be mobilized in a way hitherto impossible. Its members are no longer the rats in the rafters of the Democrat Party. They are becoming a powerful movement. However, their power is confined to their ability to shape the policies and agenda of the Democrat Party. They stand for nothing that most Americans are for and are against what most Americans favor regardless of party affiliation. Their over the top rhetoric has little appeal to the 85% of Americans who are strongly or very strongly patriotic and are hard pressed to find evidence in their daily lives that they live in a fascist, racist, theocratic, imperialist police state.

Samuel Alito's successful ascension to the Supreme Court has engendered on the Left a response that reminds me of Gollum's response to Frodo's assertion that he intended to destroy the one ring that ruled them all. NOOOOoooo! My Precious! The Left in its collective sense of entitlement, outrage and hunger for power has increasingly come to resemble the character of Gollum in Lord of the Rings. It has become something unwholesome and deformed by an obsession that has driven it to madness. However, the outrage of the online Left now appears to be directed towards the Democrat Party because it failed to filibuster Alito's nomination.

I see here the possible makings of a third-party movement. It would not be any more viable than the communist-led Progressive Party that bolted from the Democrat Party during 1948 national election or Ross Perot's short-lived Reform Party assembled out of who knows what for the 1992 election. The tinder is there. For it to burst aflame it will take a leader with a match. If Republicans win the Presidency in 2008 and retain control of both House and Senate the subsequent emergence of a left wing third party seems more likely than not. The re-emergence of left wing terrorist groups in the tradition of the Weathermen may also occur. The Left wants its Precious back -- by any means necessary.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Hamas Uber Alles

The obligatory stream of punditry retailing explanations of and prognostications about the Hamas electoral victory in Gaza has been depressingly eurocentric. Some analysts argue that the Hamas victory was in large measure the result of a general distaste for Fatah's corruption. However, all Arab governments are inevitably corrupt by Western standards. Every Arab country consists of tribes and clans competing with one another to get more than their fair share of everything while enhancing their power and prestige. The special welfare of tribal coalitions trumps the general welfare.

Yassir Arafat was a master at dispensing money favors in a way that insured that competing tribes would not bite the hand that fed them. He was no less masterful in his use of Arab shame and honor rhetoric to soothe the wounded pride of Palestinians. Furthermore, he had perfected the art of emptying the pockets of those credulous foreign governments who swallowed his lip service to peace and ignored his prosecution of terrorist war against Israel. The same cannot be said of his successor, Mahmoud Abbas.

To understand the dynamics of the last Palestinian election one must disabuse oneself of the notion that there is a major Palestinian political constituency that favors a peaceful, two state solution to the conflict. Approximately 30% of Palestinians are pessimistic enough to accept a two state solution but it is unlikely that there is single Palestinian who would prefer that outcome to the annihilation of Israel. There is a profound difference between grudging acceptance and endorsement.

Eurocentric pundits perceive the political conflict amongst Palestinians as one of practical secularists versus idealistic Islamists. In fact, it is a confict between tribal coalitions for privileged access to the public trough and the honor of continuing the forever war against Israel. Behind the scenes are foreign contributors and Hamas has cornered the Saudi and Iranian markets. Furthermore, Hamas will soon have at its disposal funds from the European Union. Those monies will be used to purchase the support of additional clans and tribes in order to consolidate Hamas' power. The remainder will be used to finance the continuing war against Israel with a smidgeon spent on conspicuous public works to maintain the illusion of responsible government.

The best way to weaken the Hamas tribal coalition is to starve it of funds and the Bush administration appears to favor this approach. Although this will not fill the pockets of the Fatah tribal coalition it will nonetheless help preserve it thereby setting the stage for a Palestinian civil war. It would not be a war between ideologies but instead a war between factions. It matters not who wins. It matters greatly that Palestinians be sick of war when the struggle is concluded.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Writer's Envy

I consume a vast amount of expository writing on a daily basis. I do a bit of it myself. However, there is only one modern writer who writes about public affairs so well as to put my poor attempts at prose to complete shame. I am not alone in that regard. He trumps us all.

Ordinary good writers know how to punctuate, spell, paragraph, organize a piece and make a point or two in so doing. Our writing is no more interesting than that which we write about. The same cannot be said of truly brilliant expository writers and the brightest light of the current generation is Theodore Dalrymple. You know that you have encountered a truly great writer -- a creative genius -- when the joy of reading his or her prose transcends the subject written about. That came clear to me when reading an essay in Dalrymple's "Our Culture or What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses".

One of Dalrymple's earlier essays describes nothing more than his reflections on visiting exhibitions of Mary Cassat's work and Joan Miro's later works in New York on the same day. I am not a fan of either painter. I had no interest in the subject matter whatsoever but was entirely enthralled by the writer's prose. I read it through for the simple pleasure of reading English language expository writing at its best and the subject matter be damned. The same held true throughout. Dalrymple's writing was better, to me, than what he wrote about. His observations and analyses were to me persuasive and affirmative but in the end the way in which he expressed them utterly awe-inspiring.

I have also read Dalrymple's "Life at the Bottom" and found it to be the most compelling piece of social commentary I have either read or can imagine. It is utterly brilliant. His prose is not florid or clever or poetic. I cannot recall a turn of phrase. Dalrymple's prose is a partially open window into his mind and soul and a gateway to some of the realities he has experienced. It is one thing to tell people what you have seen. We can all do that. Making people see what you have seen through your eyes is a truly magical gift. Dalrymple is in that respect truly gifted. I pray for his health and longevity. I hope I go to my final resting place before he has written his final word.

A Deadly Embrace

Before the 1968 Democrat National Convention in Chicago there really wasn't a great deal of difference between our major national political parties. Both were committed to containing the Communist menace abroad and strong on national defense. We had the choice of a slightly center-right national government and a slightly center-left one in terms of domestic policy. Politics was not then a matter of good versus evil. It was a matter of which party could do the most good or the least harm. The changes in the national political landscape since are both monumental and profoundly disturbing.

Democratic politics bears a striking resemblance to marketing. In order to maximize your market share and then defend it you must offer a mix of products and services more promising than that of your competitor and then insure that it does not fall so far short of expectation as to greatly erode consumer confidence. Your primary constituencies must get at least a little of what they wanted and that must be more than they would expect from your major competitor. You also must provide some return on investment to your financial contributors who are, in effect, your party's stockholders. It isn't a pretty picture but all of the idealistic alternatives to the crude workings of democracy have, when applied, proven to be dreadful failures.

Before 1968 the fundamental issue in contention between the Republican and Democrat parties was what was good for America. There has been no change since then in the Republican Party. Its foreign policy shamelessly aims at furthering American economic and security interests. Its domestic policy is oriented towards fostering economic growth and it is, on average, no more socially conservative than the average American. It has become a big tent. The same cannot be said of today's national Democrat Party.

While it is possible in a few strokes of the brush to characterize the Republican Party I find it impossible to do the same with the Democrat Party. While one need not look far to find a mountain of complaints directed towards Republicans in general and the Bush administration in particular it is impossible to find a mole hill of positive substance. Where do Democrats, in the main, stand on national security and foreign policy? What are the primary domestic policy initiatives that Democrats, on the whole, favor? Who, if anyone, speaks for the Democrat Party? Howard Dean? John (by the way, he served in Viet Nam) Kerry? The Daily Kos? Moveon.org? George Soros? Hillary Clinton?

Vagaries about doing some unspecified nice thing or things for "working families" or giving lip service to "social justice" simply will not do. Invoking class warfare isn't helpful when so many Americans have invested either directly or indirectly in the stock market in order to secure a comfortable retirement. Lot's of Democrats drive light trucks and SUVs and an energy policy aimed at punishing the owners of both is not successful party platform material.

For a successful center-left party to succeed it must have a center to anchor it in political reality and a left that pulls it no further left than the center can tolerate. Where, in the name of God, can one find a national Democrat center these days? The ever more demanding Left representing at most 20% of American voters is flourishing while the Democrat center has failed to hold. This is not a good thing because it vitiates the Democrat Party and in so doing artificially strengthens a Republican Party that needs a strong challenge to keep it focussed and honest.

The gradual erosion of the Democrat center that began in 1968 appears to be close to having run its full and catastrophic course. Like the Balrog in "The Two Towers" plummeting into a void the Democrat Party will very likely pull its adversary down with it. I do not look forward to an America governed by a corrupt and complacent Republican Party opposed by a small, leftist party of little popular appeal.

Politicians are to me almost all cut from common cloth regardless of party. They are, on the whole, easily bought if the price they must pay is that of re-election. They are no wiser or honest than the average American and in many cases much less so. The few conservative idealists who make it to Congress are soon disillusioned. Politicians on the edge and uncertain of their political futures are those most responsive to their most important constituencies. If the center of the Democrat Party loses to its Left conservatives will lose, proportionately, their influence on the Republican Party. The Republican Party will in turn lose its heart and soul.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Much Ado About Nothing

I have for nearly all of my adult life entirely rejected the notion of the objective existence of human rights. I cannot accept the proposition that human beings, alone amongst all other life forms, are imbued with the natural right to more of anything than a hamster or racoon. God-given rights are a matter of faith rather than reason and have no traction with those, like me, who are devoid of religious faith. Furthermore, I think that our Bill of Rights is better understood if we think of it as what it really is: a bill of restrictions on government power. Nevertheless, I cherish liberty and would like to see its blessings conferred on the people of all nations. I recognize this as a personal preference. The best objective argument I can make for liberty is that where it flourishes so do economies, political stability and individual lives.

No fair and straightforward reading of our Constitution leads to the conclusion that it confers on American women a "right" to abortion. Nor does the same reading lead a rational person to conclude that the Constitution forbids abortion. In that regard Roe versus Wade was a thoroughly dreadful decision and should be reversed as soon as possible because it was an act of judicial fiat rather than a legitimate Constitutional ruling.

The reversal of Roe versus Wade would make abortion, as it always should have been, a matter to be decided by the states or their subordinate political units. If that were to occur we could expect all blue states to quickly eliminate any residual statutes forbidding abortion. Most red states would soon follow suit and at the end of the day a few states would inconvenience female residents desirous of an abortion by making it illegal within their borders. The worst possible outcome is that some women might have to cross a state line to secure an abortion. NARAL and its various affinity groups could then spend their millions of dollars of donations assisting them rather than hiring lobbyists, running TV ads and harrassing Congress.

The Supreme Court has never had a dog in this fight. The whole matter is a tempest in a teapot. It is much ado about nothing.