Monday, July 31, 2006

Wars: Past and Present

Here is a mindless attack on Pat Buchanan by a fellow Christian. Don Feder brands Pat with the scarlet letter, too. Read the column by Pat that spurred these spite-filled diatribes and see who exactly is filled with hate.

More from Pat: "If Israel is not in violation of the principle of proportionality, by which Christians are to judge the conduct of a just war, what can that term mean? There are 600 civilian dead in Lebanon, 19 in Israel, a ratio of 30-1 – though Hezbollah is firing unguided rockets, while Israel is using precision-guided munitions."

According to one Rabbinical Council, there are no innocents during a time of war: "According to Jewish law, during a time of battle and war, there is no such term as 'innocents' of the enemy. All of the discussions on Christian morality are weakening the spirit of the army and the nation and are costing us in the blood of our soldiers and civilians."

Is it true that Hezbollah hides among civilians? This article claims otherwise. "My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters -- as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers -- avoid civilians. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators -- as so many Palestinian militants have been."

"We want a Lebanon free of militias and foreign interference," says Mr. Bush. Just a second. Didn't I just read that the Syrians need to reign in Hezbollah? In any case, the administration sees a "moment of opportunity" for broader change. Condi Rice says events in Lebanon are "the birth pangs of a new Middle East, and whatever we do, we have to be certain that we are pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old one."

The Christian Axis of Evil. Laurence Vance names names. One name he forgot to mention was Richard Land. Check out some oldies from me discussing Land here, here, and here.

John Denson on the Hiroshima myth:

The stark fact is that the Japanese leaders, both military and civilian, including the Emperor, were willing to surrender in May of 1945 if the Emperor could remain in place and not be subjected to a war crimes trial after the war. This fact became known to President Truman as early as May of 1945...

Another startling fact about the military connection to the dropping of the bomb is the lack of knowledge on the part of General MacArthur about the existence of the bomb and whether it was to be dropped. Alperovitz states "MacArthur knew nothing about advance planning for the atomic bomb’s use until almost the last minute. Nor was he personally in the chain of command in this connection; the order came straight from Washington. Indeed, the War Department waited until five days before the bombing of Hiroshima even to notify MacArthur – the commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces in the Pacific – of the existence of the atomic bomb."

Another oldie from the vault. My thoughts on Hiroshima--from last year.

William Lind--who is simply a must read--defends the Prussian monarchy: "As both a cultural conservative and an historian, I realize that the last chance of survival our Western, Christian civilization may have had was a victory by the Central Powers in World War I."

We bomb because we love

Conservative Movement, RIP

The latest issue of The American Conservative contains a symposium on Left and Right in America and whether such terms have any meaning. There were a few interesting pieces in the issue, but all I could think of is how much I miss Samuel Francis. Francis minced no words for the American Right, particularly the neocons, a movement of "Beautiful Losers":

Nearly sixty years after the New Deal, the American Right is no closer to challenging its fundamental premises and machinery than when Old Rubberlegs first started priming the pump and scheming to take the United States into a war that turned out to be a social and political revolution. American conservatism, in other words, is a failure, and all the think tanks, magazines, direct-mail barons, inaugural balls, and campaign buttons cannot disguise or alter it. Virtually every cause to which conservatives have attached themselves for the past three generations has been lost, and the tide of political and cultural battle is not likely to turn anytime soon.

Read the rest by clicking here and scrolling to May. The essay originally appeared in symposium in Chronicles magazine in 1991. I miss Sam.

If you are interested in my much less insightful musings on the state of conservatism, click here, here, here, and here.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Attacking Lebanon?

Dave Black has written a short essay on how the church imitates the world in the way it "hires" leaders. A constant thread in Dave's writing is the importance of localism and attachment to place. Dave understands implicitly that the rootlessness of 21st century American life (of which I am in many ways a prime example, unfortunately) isolates us even more from the truth of Christian redemption. (Dave has also written recently about what he has learned from gardening). If you aren't already, visit the blog regularly.

I can't believe I missed the International Christian Retail Show. Flip-flops that leave the message "Follow Jesus" in the sand, golf balls with Bible verses, and "Scripture Candy." All in the name of fulfilling the Great Commission. "You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name."

Are Americans going into Lebanon? Maybe THAT'S where Saddam hid those nasty WMDs!

This women is bored to tears by her kids. How sad. I recently read a book called Love and Economics by Jennifer Roback Morse. Here is one quote:

As for the claims that freeing women from the drudgery of child care frees them to do productive and satisfying work, these claims are packed with hidden assumptions. Not all work in the market is really so glamorous and fulfilling. Instead of an intelligent and educated woman staying home to enrich a few members of the next generation, she is stuck in a law office doing house closings and title searches. Instead of introducing her own children to great literature and world history, she is stuck in a university office, grading a pile of illegible midterms written by other people's children. The work of providing direction and guidance to young people requires knowledge and intelligence far more subtle than a great many jos in the paid labor force.

Heather McDonald on Immigration

A lengthy essay by Heather McDonald in City Journal (here is a shorter essay in NR). A few relevant snippets are below:

On importing poverty:
"From 1990 to 2004, the number of Hispanics in poverty rose 52 percent, accounting for 92 percent of the increase in poor people. The number of poor Hispanic children rose 43 percent, reports Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson. By contrast, the number of poor black children has declined 17 percent since 1990."

On illegitimacy:
"Half of all children born to Hispanic Americans in 2002 were illegitimate, twice the rate for American whites and 42 percent higher than the overall American rate. The birthrate for Hispanic teens is higher than that for black teens. In Santa Ana, California, which has the highest proportion of people who speak Spanish at home of any large U.S. city—74 percent—the teen birthrate was twice the national teen average in 2000. This predilection for out-of-wedlock childbearing among Hispanics cannot be blamed solely on corrosive American culture, since the illegitimacy rate for foreign-born Hispanics is 40 percent. The illegitimacy rate in Mexico is 38 percent; in El Salvador, it is 72 percent."

On academic failure:
"It would be useful for open-borders optimists to spend some time in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is 73 percent Hispanic, and where just 40 percent of Hispanic students graduate. (Nationwide, 53 percent of Hispanics graduate from high school, according to the Manhattan Institute’s Jay Greene—the lowest rate among all ethnic groups.) Of those Hispanic students who do graduate, just 22 percent have completed the course work necessary for admission to a four-year state college—which means that of all Hispanic students who enter in ninth grade, fewer than 15 percent will graduate ready for college. Immigrant advocates have fiercely opposed in court a long-deferred California high school exit exam, which would require students to answer just over 50 percent of questions testing eighth-grade-level math and ninth-grade-level English. The California Research Bureau predicts that if the exam becomes a reality, Hispanic graduation rates would drop well below 30 percent."

On crime:
"Open-borders conservatives point to the relatively low crime rate among immigrants to deny any connection between high immigration and crime. But unless we can prevent immigrants from having children, a high level of immigration translates to increased levels of crime. Between the foreign-born generation and their American children, the incarceration rate of Mexican-Americans jumps more than eightfold, resulting in an incarceration rate that is 3.45 times higher than that of whites, according to an analysis of 2000 census data by the pro-immigrant Migration Policy Institute...A whopping 28 percent of Mexican-American males between the ages of 18 and 24 reported having been arrested since 1995, and 20 percent reported having been incarcerated—a rate twice that of other immigrant groups."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

More Middle East Muddle

Robert Dreyfuss chronicles a bloody July in Iraq:

What is unfolding in Iraq is a staggering tragedy. An entire nation is dying, right in front of us. And the worst part of it is: It may be too late to do anything to stop it...

A United Nations report released this week says that the death toll among Iraqi civilians since January 2006 is 14,338. The number killed has been rising steadily each month, from 1,778 in January to 3,149 in June. That report significantly understates the actual totals. The U.N. relied on official data reported by the Iraqi government, which is prone to omit some of the dead. But in any case the situation in Iraq is so chaotic that it is impossible to count their numbers, especially in far-flung provinces. Still, the U.N.’s figures far surpassed previous estimates of casualties from any source.

What’s shocking—especially if you’ve been paying more attention to the destruction of Lebanon by the Israeli armed forces and missed it—is that things in Iraq has gotten qualitatively worse in July. In June, Iraqis died at the rate of nearly 1,000 per week. In July, we can only speculate—but it’s not impossible that the toll is at least twice that, 2,000 per week. The word genocide comes to mind.

In a number of right-leaning media outlets, I keep hearing the charge that we're handcuffing the Israelis as they barrel into Lebanon. I'm not sure what to make of that charge when I see that the House has passed a resolution condemning the "enemies of the Jewish state" by a vote of 410-8.

An interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the invasion of Lebanon has been planned for years:

"Of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared," said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. "In a sense, the preparation began in May 2000, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal, when it became clear the international community was not going to prevent Hezbollah from stockpiling missiles and attacking Israel. By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it's been simulated and rehearsed across the board."

More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail. Under the ground rules of the briefings, the officer could not be identified.

In his talks, the officer described a three-week campaign: The first week concentrated on destroying Hezbollah's heavier long-range missiles, bombing its command-and-control centers, and disrupting transportation and communication arteries. In the second week, the focus shifted to attacks on individual sites of rocket launchers or weapons stores. In the third week, ground forces in large numbers would be introduced, but only in order to knock out targets discovered during reconnaissance missions as the campaign unfolded. There was no plan, according to this scenario, to reoccupy southern Lebanon on a long-term basis.

Meanwhile, U. S. arm manufacturers are speeding delivery of precision-guided armaments to Israel: "The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon."

Alvaro Vargas Llosa has a thoughtful commentary in The Independent:

Israel's pursuit of Hezbollah in Lebanon is a mistake. It is unwittingly targeting the best hope of civilized life in the Middle East (outside of Israel itself) and creating the kind of moral and institutional vacuum that engenders sectarian violence.

As I traveled in Lebanon two weeks ago, four things struck me: the almost miraculous reconstruction of Beirut; the free-thinking cosmopolitanism of its middle class; the spirit of peaceful coexistence among the various religious groups, thanks in part to the open-mindedness of much of the Sunni population; and the resentment against Hezbollah among Christians (who comprise more than 35 percent of the population) and Muslims almost everywhere except the Bekaa Valley and southern Lebanon.

Read the whole thing.

A blistering salvo from Paul Craig Roberts on the shame of being an American. Charlie Reese on the disaster we're currently witnessing.

Over at Counterpunch, Alexander Cockburn reviews some "ancient history:"

Let’s go on a brief excursion into pre-history. I’m talking about June 20, 2006, when Israeli aircraft fired at least one missile at a car in an attempted extrajudicial assassination attempt on a road between Jabalya and Gaza City. The missile missed the car. Instead it killed three Palestinian children and wounded 15.

Back we go again to June 13, 2006. Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a van in another attempted extrajudicial assassination. The successive barrages killed nine innocent Palestinians.

Now we’re really in the dark ages, reaching far, far back to June 9, 2006, when Israel shelled a beach in Beit Lahiya killing 8 civilians and injuring 32.

That’s just a brief trip down Memory Lane, and we trip over the bodies of twenty dead and forty-seven wounded, all of them Palestinians, most of them women and children.

Israel regrets… But no! Israel doesn’t regret in the least. Most of the time it doesn’t even bother to pretend to regret. It says, “We reserve the right to slaughter Palestinians whenever we want. We reserve the right to assassinate their leaders, crush their homes, steal their water, tear out their olive groves, and when they try to resist we call them terrorists intent on wrecking the 'peace process'"

A group of Southern Baptist missionaries who were participating in various summer ministries with Lebanese Baptists have been evacuated from Beirut. Hey, I thought they were all Islamic militants.

The UN, not necessarily the most reliable source in the world, says that 1/3 of the casualties in the Hezbollah-Israel flare-up are children.

"Conservatives" who are still looking vainly for Saddam's WMDs are heaping praise on conspiracist druggie Oliver Stone, director of the soon to be released "9/11."

Friday, July 21, 2006

Should Christians Be Optimistic, Part III

I’m finally returning to the question of how Christians should view history, particularly the future.

I want to turn very briefly to the humiliation and sacrifice of our Lord and ponder just how it should change or shape our outlook of the future. Jesus suffered greatly, both as man and God, for the sins of His people.

First, he laid down His divine prerogatives to take the form of a humble servant. Paul writes that Jesus "made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:7-8)

Second, not only did Jesus die for us, He lived a perfect life for us, too, in the face of great temptation. As the Second Adam, Jesus had to face and overcome the temptations and machinations of Satan (Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). The author of Hebrews says that, "we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). Jesus had to face and conquer temptation on behalf of His people as a man, to win victory where Adam had fallen.

Third, in His physical being, Jesus had real, human, physical limitations. He hungered (Matt. 4:2), thirsted (John 19:28), and became physically tired (Mark 4:38). Additionally, Jesus had real human emotions. At various points, Jesus is described as troubled (John 12:27), sorrowful (Matt. 26:38), and compassionate (Mark 1:41).

Fourth, before going to the Cross, Jesus suffered slapping and scourging by His Roman tormentors and was mocked and cursed by His own kinsmen of the flesh. He endured harsh physical and emotional pain on our behalf.

Fifth, on the Cross, He became Sin for us. The Bible says that he became "a curse." "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'" As God, Jesus was without sin, and yet He willingly became sin to save His people from the coming wrath and judgment of God. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (II Cor. 5:21).

Finally, Scripture says that the only begotten Son of God, who shared perfect fellowship as the second member of the Godhead, was forsaken by the Father. “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).

Christ's suffering begs the question, was it all in vain? Did Jesus do all of this so that only a small percentage of men would be saved? Did he suffer so that the world would fall increasingly under the reign of Satan? Moreover, is Jesus’ victory at the cross and His ultimate exaltation primarily, if not exclusively in the spiritual realm?

It seems reasonable to assume that because His suffering, humiliation, death, burial, and ultimate triumph occur in rather than outside histor--and as a real, physical man--that His ultimate victory likewise will be visible and on earth, in history, not as the result of a post-historical discontinuity.

W. G. T. Shedd puts it this way:

It is utterly improbable that such a stupendous miracle as the incarnation, humiliation, passion, and crucifixion of one of the Person of the Godhead, should yield a small and insignificant result. On a priori grounds, therefore, we have reason to conclude that the Gospel of the Cross will be successful, and the Christian religion a triumph on the earth and among the race of creatures for whom it was intended. But this can hardly be the case, if only a small fraction of the human family are saved. The presumption, consequently, is that the great majority of mankind not the small minority of it, will be the subjects of redeeming grace.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Newsworthy Notes

Pat Buchanan wonders why Christians have reacted with silence to the bombing of Beirut: "But where are the Christians? Why is Pope Benedict virtually alone among Christian leaders to have spoken out against what is being done to Lebanese Christians and Muslims?"

In a discussion on the Albert Mohler Show and from his Henry Institute weblog, Dr. Russell Moore defends the Israeli response. "I, for one, support Israel's response (so far) to the terrorist attacks against it. It seems to me to be well within the framework of Romans 13 for a state to defend itself against aggressive evildoers in this way," writes Moore.

Moore's view is restrained and reasonable compared to most of the callers to his show. It is clear that a Dispensational reading of Scripture vis a vis Israel is the majority report among Evangelicals sitting in the pews of our churches.

Moore, and his listeners, completely neglects the issue of proportionality. As Buchanan writes, Israel "is imposing deliberate suffering on civilians, collective punishment on innocent people, to force them to do something they are powerless to do: disarm the gunmen among them. Such a policy violates international law and comports neither with our values nor our interests. It is un-American and un-Christian."

Pat's morality is obviously confused. He should talk to US United Nations ambassador, John Bolton. Commenting on the deaths of 8 Canadian citizens in southern Lebanon as a result of an Israeli strike, Bolton said, "It's simply not the same thing to say that it's the same act to deliberately target innocent civilians, to desire their deaths, to fire rockets and use explosive devices or kidnapping versus the sad and highly unfortunate consequences of self-defense." OK, just a second. What was the act that precipitated the most recent action by the Israelis? It was the kidnapping of two SOLDIERS by Hezbollah. Soldiers are legitimate military targets, civilians are not.

Meanwhile, numerous eggheads in "conservative" think-tanks are upset with the Bushies. Apparently they're not being quite aggressive enough. What we need, they say, is more war. Invade Syria, Iran, North Korea...blah, blah, blah. Newt Gingrich says, "We have accepted the lawyer-diplomatic fantasy that talking while North Korea builds bombs and missiles and talking while the Iranians build bombs and missiles is progress. Is the next stage for Condi to go dancing with Kim Jong Il?" Ken "Cakewalk" Adelman says, "What they are doing on North Korea or Iran is what [Sen. John F.] Kerry would do, what a normal middle-of-the-road president would do," he said. "This administration prided itself on molding history, not just reacting to events. Its a normal foreign policy right now. It's the triumph of Kerryism." From his perch at the Weekly Reader, Bill Kristol says that what's happening in the Middle East is "our war." "For while Syria and Iran are enemies of Israel, they are also enemies of the United States. We have done a poor job of standing up to them and weakening them. They are now testing us more boldly than one would have thought possible a few years ago. Weakness is provocative. We have been too weak, and have allowed ourselves to be perceived as weak." At least George Will is beginning to come around. In his column yesterday, he wrote, "The administration, justly criticized for its Iraq premises and their execution, is suddenly receiving some criticism so untethered from reality as to defy caricature. The national, ethnic and religious dynamics of the Middle East are opaque to most people, but to the Weekly Standard -- voice of a spectacularly misnamed radicalism, "neoconservatism" -- everything is crystal clear: Iran is the key to everything."

William Lind wonders if we are about to re-play the summer of 1914.

In political news, Ralph Reed took it on the chin in Georgia, dragged down by his connection with Jack Abramoff. Well, at least Ralph can go back to ringin' up the cash register. McPaper asks, "Will Christian right embrace — and support — one of its own?" Speaking of Sam Brownback's potential presidential run, SBC bigwig Richard Land says, "I love Sam Brownback. Sam Brownback is a great man, and Sam Brownback is a great senator. Whether he is a credible presidential candidate is up to Sam to prove." Brownback would like to apologize for slavery--and possibly open the till to pay reparations, he supports unlimited immigration, and seems prepared to send American troops into Darfur. To top it off, Richard Land says he's "a great man." Doesn't this give you some idea what's wrong with the "religious right?"

The war is going so well in Iraq that the Pentagon thinks we can leave--in 2016. Meanwhile, the civilian death toll in Iraq has climbed to 100 a day, with nearly 6,000 dying in May and June. Recall that this is a country 1/8 the size of the U. S. If you extrapolate the numbers, they become even more dire.

Monday, July 17, 2006

John Hagee Comes to Town

John Hagee is coming to Sin City next week for a "Washington/Israel summit," the inaugural gathering of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which will showcase a deeper cooperation between evangelical Christians and Jews looking to advance Israeli interests in the Middle East.

Hagee says that a pre-emptive strike of Iran is necessary and American evangelicals must provide cover for Israel when the attack occurs.

The Executive Director of CUFI is David Brog, former chief of staff for Senator Arlen Specter. Apparently, one's position on abortion, civil rights for sodomites, stem cell research, etc. is no impediment to working closely with Hagee--as long as you have the "right" position on Israel.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Hagee has been calling on Jewish groups across the country, assuring them that his group will not be proselytizing. "There would be absolutely no proselytizing or missionizing associated with Christians United For Israel," says to the JP.

But don't trust the Jerusalem Post. Just listen to the words of Brog: "All activities of CUFI are strictly non-conversionary. Christians who work with Jews in supporting Israel realize how sensitive we are in talking about conversion and talking about Jesus. So those who work with us tend not to talk about Jesus more, but talk about Jesus less. They realize it will interfere with what they are trying to do -- building a bridge to the Jewish community to insure the survival of Judeo-Christian civilization."

Does Hagee look askance at Christ's command to His followers? Jesus said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."

Jesus has a word, too, for those who are ashamed of Him: "For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38, see also Luke 9:26).

Do we really love war more than Christ?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

More on Economists, "Conservatives" and the Wall Street Journal

I often marvel at my own stupidity. Yeah, I like to fancy myself a moderately bright fellow, but in truth I seldom see how the world really works until some much wiser person smacks me over the head.

I started reading a book by Brian Robertson entitled Forced Labor: What's Wrong With Balancing Work and Family. (At the moment, you can purchase this little book for $5 from Spence publishing.)

In the preface, Robertson examines recent policy proposals to alleviate work-family pressures. Of course, conventional wisdom is that the GOP is the party looking out for our families and sharing our conservative values. Surely, as you read that last sentence, your inner monologue was dripping with sarcasm.

In any event, Robertson, who I believe works for the Family Research Council, says, "Republican proposals, though perhaps less motivated by an affinity for commercial daycare, have been worse in many ways." Robertson continues:

In the name of doing away with the marriage penalty--itself a result of tax policies that neglected to take account of the effects that changes in the tax code have on families--President George W. Bush has proposed a sizable new tax deduction available only for two-earner married couples. Is this penalty to single income families with one parent at home inadvertent? By no means: Bush economic advisor Martin Feldstein wrote in the Wall Street Journal that "by lowering marginal tax rates, Mr. Bush's plan will change taxpayers' behavior in ways that make up for much of the revenue loss...[It will] induce people to work and earn more. Married women are particularly sensitive to lower rates, responding with higher labor-force participation rates and greater average hours of work per week." Another of Bush's economic advisors, Lawrence Lindsey, has argued that luring more married women into the workforce with lower tax rates for two-earner couples is necessary to maximize economic growth and tax revenue: "Economic studies clearly indicate that women's decision to work is quite sensitive to their after-tax wage. High taxes on working women are very detrimental to the labor supply."

Supply-side economists like Lindsey and Feldstein argue that individuals typically respond to incentives. In this case, lower tax rates will induce more people into the workplace, more entrepreneurial activity, and a general increase in economic growth. The consequence is that though tax rates may decline, revenues will increase. In short, though the government is taking a smaller percentage of the pie, the pie is growing.

There were few professional economists who bought this argument in the 1970's. But an enterprising congressman named Jack Kemp was influenced by the work of Arthur Laffer, and I guess Robert Mundell as well, and began to champion supply-side economics in the political sphere.

Supply-side economics was extremely useful as a political tool. In the past, there were some Republicans that actually believed in balanced budgets, fiscal restraint, that sort of thing. Ah, those were the good old days. But according to Kemp, you could not only cut taxes, but increase spending because the tax cuts would spur economic growth.

Quite quickly, the Wall Street Journal (including the late, great Jude Wanniski and probably my favorite columnist, Paul Craig Roberts) latched on to supply-side economics and it has been an article of faith among conservatives ever since.

I have no interest in critiquing the theory itself, which I think has some merit. It has always been obvious to me, however, that conservatives largely accepted supply-side dogmatics for political reasons--they didn't really ever believe in limited government and had no intention of cutting spending.

But it never really occurred to me that the primary target of these policies was married women (hey, I'm stupid, right?). Most of the forces driving women into the workforce today are, I think, cultural rather than economic. But I'm not so sure about that.

In 1950, 88% of women with children under six stayed in the home. That was certainly an era of higher wages for working men, with companies providing pensions and health care as well. Moreover, the tax burden would have been low enough on the single bread winner that having a second income was seldom necessary.

Today, 64% of American women with children under six are in the labor force. Many women are there for economic reasons. Taxes (income, SSN, state and local, etc.) consume between 40% and 50% of family income, and often a spouse must work to provide health insurance.

All of this is much too complicated to sort out in this brief post. My point is simply to show how "conservative" economists (Lindsey, Feldstein and their supply-side brethren) conspire with "conservative" politicians (Bush) and "conservative" media (the WSJ) to drive women from their homes and children, into the marketplace where they can live "fulfilled" lives being cogs in the Big Machine.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Lies, Immigration and the Wall Street Journal

The editors of the Wall Street Journal recently published an editorial explaining why they support open immigration. Below is a brief critique of part of the editorial along with excerpts.

"The most frequent criticism we hear is that a newspaper called 'The Wall Street Journal' simply wants 'cheap labor' for business. This is an odd charge coming from conservatives who profess to believe in the free market, since it echoes the AFL-CIO and liberals who'd just as soon have government dictate wages.

Our own view is that a philosophy of "free markets and free people" includes flexible labor markets. At a fundamental level, this is a matter of freedom and human dignity. These migrants are freely contracting for their labor, which is a basic human right. Far from selling their labor 'cheap,' they are traveling to the U.S. to sell it more dearly and improve their lives. Like millions of Americans before them, they and certainly their children climb the economic ladder as their skills and education increase."

The Journal professes faith in the "free market" and argues that "flexible labor markets" demand open borders. Moreover, every one of the world’s six-billion-plus members has a "basic human right" to contract their labor right here in the good ole USA.

The rampant individualism on display here echoes former Journal editor Bob Bartley’s assertion that "the nation-state is pretty much finished." It seems that the WSJ can only accommodate fits of nationalism if we’re invading someone else’s country--spreading the “gospel” of freedom, democracy and free-markets to the four corners of the earth.

In any case, does a commitment to open markets and freedom of association necessitate support for open immigration? I was once under the spell of this delusion myself, the lie perpetrated by the Journal and scores of their libertarian friends that the free market is merely a universal abstraction written on the very heart of every man, divorced of ethnic or cultural considerations in any way.

But markets necessarily exist within a social framework, and some degree of ethnic and cultural coherence is almost certainly necessary for a market to function properly. Trust, a necessary ingredient of a free economy, is undermined by mass immigration, but the Journal seems unaware that culture matters. Mass immigration, the replacement of one people by another, necessarily undermines the cultural preconditions that make free markets possible.

The Journal goes on to confidently assure readers that, "Like millions of Americans before them, they and certainly their children climb the economic ladder as their skills and education increase."

Perhaps, though the evidence isn’t exactly overwhelming. But I want to consider something different. The problem with the WSJ’s radical individualism is that it makes no distinctions. I have obligations to some that supersede duties to others. For example, I have responsibilities to my own wife and children that I don’t have to my neighbor. Likewise, I have an obligation to my neighbor that exceeds my responsibilities vis a vis total strangers. Similarly, I should feel a sense of ethnic duty to my own countrymen before being too terribly concerned about the other 6 billion people inhabiting the planet.

As low-skill immigrants have flooded the labor market, opportunities for low-skilled natives among us have markedly decreased, and the most vulnerable Americans have seen their wages decline as a result. Indeed, immigration is responsible for half the decrease observed in the wages of high-school dropouts.

Mention this to Paul Gigot or Daniel Henninger and you are likely to get a shoulder shrug. Some immithusiasts appear to detest their own countrymen and impute to foreigners character traits that we natives are obviously lacking. I'm guessing that the Journal answer to the problem of "displaced workers" is to hand them a voucher so they can obtain vocational training.

"Those migrating here to make a better life for themselves and their families would much prefer to come legally. Give them more legal ways to enter the country, and we are likely to reduce illegal immigration far more effectively than any physical barrier along the Rio Grande ever could. This is not about rewarding bad behavior. It's about bringing immigration policy in line with economic and human reality. And the reality is that the U.S. has a growing demand for workers, while Mexico has both a large supply of such workers and too few jobs at home.

Some conservatives concede this point in theory but then insist that liberal immigration is no longer possible in a modern welfare state, which breeds dependency in a way that the America of a century ago did not. But the immigrants who arrive here come to work, not sit on the dole. And thanks to welfare reform, the welfare rolls have declined despite a surge in illegal immigration in the past decade."

So hard-working immigrants aren't on the dole, according to the WSJ. Methinks a few facts are in order. According to Steven Camarota, the 1996 welfare reform failed to cut overall immigrant welfare use. According Camarota, state governments spend an estimated $11 billion to $22 billion to provide welfare to immigrants. Camarota finds, not surprisingly, that welfare use remains high over time; immigrants in the country for more than 20 years still use the welfare system at significantly higher rates than natives. Similarly, Ed Rubenstein says that because of the social costs of importing poverty in the form of low-skilled workers, immigrants cost state, local, and federal governments some $25 billion dollars per annum in payments for welfare, Medicaid and a panoply of other social programs.

"The real claims that illegals make on public services are education, which can't be withheld because of a 1982 Supreme Court ruling (Plyer v. Doe), and health care, especially emergency rooms. Since denying urgent medical treatment is immoral, the answer again is to legalize cross-border labor flows and remove government obstacles to affordable health insurance. As for education, even illegals pay for public schools through the indirect property taxes they pay in rent. Overall, immigrants contribute far more to our economy than they extract in public benefits."

The Journal doesn’t see fit to deny that there are actual costs to immigration. However, they assert that "immigrants contribute more to our economy than they extract in public benefits." No evidence supporting that claim is proffered by the Journal. Instead, readers are asked to believe on faith that immigration adds substantial benefit to the economy.

Actually, immigration adds precious little wealth to the American economy. In Heaven’s Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy, George Borjas, America’s foremost expert on the economics of immigrations, says, "All the available estimates suggest that the annual net gain is astoundingly small, less than .1% of GDP." In real terms, that translates into approximately $10 billion dollars added to the overall economy, just $30 per person. It has also been estimated that between $6-$10 billion dollars is remitted to Mexico by immigrants working in the U.S.

There are also displacement costs impacting native-born workers. Illegals make up about 3.5 percent of the labor force. According to Borjas, "every 1 percent rise in U.S. labor force due to immigration reduces native-born wages by about 0.35 percent."

One consequence of the reduction in wages for natives is that government coffers aren’t quite as full. Ed Rubenstein says, "it follows, then, that illegal immigrant workers reduce wages of U.S.-born workers by approximately 1.2 percent (3.5X0.35). If politicians don’t care, they should. Assuming native-born federal, state, and local tax payments fall by the same percent, native workers cough up $26 billion less taxes due to unfair competition from illegal alien workers."

Furthermore, much of the health insurance crisis, and spiraling medical costs, is also driven by mass immigration. The WSJ says that all we must do is "remove government obstacles to affordable health insurance" and everything will be dandy. Heck, just give everyone crossing the border their own portable Health Savings Account and all of our problems will be over!

Unfortunately, the Journal "solution" leaves much to be desired. According to a report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, one out of every four uninsured Americans is an immigrant. Furthermore, 1/2 of immigrants have no insurance or have it provided at taxpayer expense. Unfortunately, the problem of uninsured immigrants is on the rise. According to FAIR, immigrants (legal and illegal) who arrived between 1994 and 1998 and their children accounted for 59 percent of the growth in the size of the uninsured population in the last ten years.

Likewise, immigration is causing school overcrowding and states are speeding $7.4 billion annually to educate illegal immigrants--which doesn't account for the massive expenditures undertaken to educate the children of legal immigrants.

Unlike Journal editors, I’m not a proponent of what Pat Buchanan has called "Big Rock Candy Mountain Conservatism," and I don’t by the myth of economic man--that individuals effectively do little more than respond to economic incentives. An economic cost/benefit analysis should not drive immigration policy. However, the WSJ is presupposing without any proof that immigration produces economic benefits in excess of its costs. That seems a dubious proposition at best.

I am more concerned about the cultural and political costs, but the WSJ informs me that no such costs exist.

"But the good news is that these newcomers by and large aren't listening to the left-wingers pushing identity politics. Mexican immigrants, like their European predecessors, are assimilating. Their children learn English and by the end of high school prefer it to their parents' native tongue. They also marry people they meet here. Second-generation Latinos earn less than white Americans but more than blacks and 50% more than first-generation Latinos."

"Which brings us to the politics. Contrary to what you hear on talk radio and cable news, polls continue to show that the conservative silent majority is pro-immigration, and that it supports a guest-worker program as the only practical and humane way to moderate the foreign labor flow.

According to the most recent Tarrance Group survey, 75% of likely GOP voters support immigration reform that combines increased border and workplace enforcement with a guest-worker system for newcomers and a multiyear path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here--provided that they meet certain requirements like living crime free, learning English and paying taxes. 'Support for this plan,' the poll found, "is strong even among base Republican voter demographics like strong Republicans (77%), very conservative Republicans (72%), white conservative Christians (76%), and those who listen to news talk radio on a daily basis (72%).'"

I’ve dealt with the political consequences unleashed by the demographic tsunami of the past three decades. Here, here, and here, Steve Sailer has discussed the various ways that polling data related to immigration is contorted.

What of assimilation? Writing about Hispanic immigration, Samuel Huntington expresses concern that Mexican immigration differs markedly from prior immigrant waves:

"Mexican immigration differs from past immigration and most other contemporary immigration due to a combination of six factors: contiguity, scale, illegality, regional concentration [in the American Southwest], persistence, and historical presence... Demographically, socially, and culturally, the reconquista (re-conquest) of the Southwest United States by Mexican immigrants is well underway."

Critiquing Huntington, the always Pollyannaish Michael Barone says, "I believe the likelihood is strong that Latinos will eventually become interwoven into American life. With luck, it will take less than 100 years." Oh, 100 years, huh? Is that supposed to be the good news?

Reviewing Huntington in the New Republic, Daniel Drezner pooh poohs Huntington’s concern about growing bilingualism. "According to Richard Alba and Victor Nee's Remaking the American Mainstream," writes Drezner, "60 percent of third-generation Mexican-American children speak only English at home. A 1990 Census study showed that only 5 percent of first-generation Mexican immigrants spoke English at home. Another study showed that 30 percent of second-generation Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles spoke English at home." More good news?

Over time, the immithusiasts claim, the English-speaking, U.S.-born descendents of today’s Mexican immigrants will blend seamlessly into the mainstream. But commenting on a 2005 Public Policy of California report entitled "Second-Generation Immigrants in California," Rubenstein says there is "a widening gap in the academic, economic, and linguistic achievement of second- and even third- generation Latinos and the overall population."

While there is some progress between the first and second generations, children of Latino immigrants have lost ground relative to other immigrant children. Moreover, college graduates among Hispanics are sparse across the board. By the third generation, just 11% of Hispanics graduate from college. Crime and illegitimacy rates among Latinos also remain stubbornly high.

The demographic transformation of the United States has no historic parallel. Conservatives should prudently consider the wisdom of permanently changing the face of the nation. But the Wall Street Journal and chorus of Neoconservatives that populate its op-ed page are not conservatives. They are radicals.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Is the Media to Blame?

A US combat commander in Iraq recently suggested that anti-war news coverage could cost us the war in Iraq. "My personal opinion is that the only way we will lose this war is if we pull out prematurely," said Colonel Jeffrey Snow.

Snow claims that the news about Iraq isn't balanced, focusing on roadside bombings and kidnappings. In a flight of rhetorical flourish, Snow said, "Our soldiers may be in the crosshairs every day, but it is the American voter who is a real target, and it is the media that carries the message back each day across the airwaves."

A similar case has been made by columnist Jim Pinkerton. Pinkerton is a generally reasonable man, despite a bit of unbalanced libertarianism, and was opposed to the war initially.

According to Pinkerton, "the press turned on the Iraq war several years ago" and now frames the war in one of two ways. "One is, the U.S. military is evil," said Pinketon, and two, "the U.S. military needs to be carefully restrained with legal rules and procedures."

So is the media coverage of the Iraq war providing "aid and comfort to the enemy," an allegation heard from many on the "right?"

In an interview with Foreign Policy, former Newsweek Baghdad bureau chief Rod Nordland discussed the ways that the military is controlling and managing the news.

According to Nordland, the movement of journalists is severely restricted and circumscribed by the military. Moreover, the Pentagon has started censoring many embed reporting arrangements: "Before a journalist is allowed to go on an embed now, [the military] check[s] the work you have done previously. They want to know your slant on a story—they use the word slant—what you intend to write, and what you have written from embed trips before. If they don’t like what you have done before, they refuse to take you. There are cases where individual reporters have been blacklisted because the military wasn’t happy with the work they had done on embed."

Nordland reports that conditions in Iraq are rapidly deteriorating, and yet Americans aren't being told. "Living conditions have gotten so much worse, violence is at an even higher tempo, and the country is on the verge of civil war. The administration has been successful to the extent that most Americans are not aware of just how dire it is and how little progress has been made. They keep talking about how the Iraqi army is doing much better and taking over responsibilities, but for the most part that’s not true."

Another unnamed producer for Reuters said, "I was a mouthpiece for the American military." During 45 days in Baghdad, she was given full cooperation when writing a piece sympathetic to the imperial project, but when she asked to leave the compound to independently verify reports of attacks on civilians, for example, she was forbidden to exit the base on her own. "There was no balance," she said. "What we were doing wasn't real journalism."

Meanwhile, the violence proceeds unimpeded. NPR reported yesterday on the Baghdad morgue which received 1,600 bodies last month alone. During the Hussein regime, if the morgue received 5 to 7 bodies during a day it was considered unusual. Now, it isn't uncommon to receive 100.

The fact is that in an age of instant communication, it is ultimately impossible to keep the can of worms closed. Despite the best efforts to put a big smiley face on the Iraq war, on the ground it is an unmitigated disaster for the credibility of the United States.

But Neocons and administration supporters are unwilling or unable to admit to strategic errors, so instead they look for scapegoats. That the NY Times, Washington Post, NPR and rest of the media were complicit in doing administration bidding by peddling distortions about WMDs is completely forgotten in the rush to blame them for a lack of progress in Iraq when the real problem is a complete lack of sound strategic thinking on the part of war supporters.

Friday, July 07, 2006

On the Blindness of Economists

Having spent some time in graduate school studying economics, it was quite evident that though the dismal science provides some useful analytical tools, the toolbox of the economist is relatively empty. As a group, most of the professional economists I've come across seem to have very little grounding in history, or even a passing curiosity in political institutions, and not the slightest understanding of human nature.

As usual, Steve Sailer has provided a number of insights lately worth pondering.

In response to an open letter on immigration signed by 500 economists, Sailer penned an essay entitled, "Economists On Immigration: What's The Matter?" Economists, says Sailer, aren't "equipped by their training to think hard about the broad range of issues raised by immigration." He's right. Economists tend to simply assume away any and all problems and misapply various "universal" principles. "One apparent side effect of a Ph.D. in economics is the assumption that you can extrapolate from general principles without knowing enough facts to understand which principles apply to this particular situation," writes Sailer.

The immigration issue raises a whole host of concerns related to culture, politics and very idea of nationhood itself that economists seldom think, or even care, about.

Sitting in their ivory towers, writing technical essays for The American Economic Review that can only be understood by eggheads, economists have cut themselves off from the "real world."

Sailer notes that "economists are strikingly oblivious to the obvious in the world around them." He continues:

For example, Steven D. Levitt of Freakonomics fame made himself into a superstar among his fellow economists by arguing that legalizing abortion in the early 1970s cut the crime rate sharply in the mid-1990s. I pointed out to him in in 1999 that he had simply failed to notice that, in direct contradiction of his theory, violent crime among teens born right after legalization had soared during 1987-1994. Apparently, none of the prominent economists to whom he presented his theory before its public unveiling had recalled the crack wars, either.

Now, I'm not the world's worldliest man, but I did spend a week in South Florida during that summer of 1980. And even I noticed that in every bar I visited, the locals greeted rapturously a certain annoying Eric Clapton recording, which gave a clue as to why the local economy was booming ...

I lament with Burke: "The age of chivalry is gone. -- That of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded." Lord help us.

Sailer will apparently have more in a VDARE column tonight. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Original Intent?

Today, we celebrate our country's blowing small holes in it around the nation.

Pat Buchanan asks this morning whether we remain a free and independent republic. Paul Craig Roberts also pens another blistering indictment of Bushism. Be sure to take a look at both.

Recently, while flipping through a copy of The American Conservative, I happened across an interesting article by James Bovard on presidential signing statements.

A signing statement is a written proclamation issued by the President that accompanies the signing of a law passed by the Congress. Presidents use such statements to set forth how they intend the executive branch of the federal government to interpret and enforce the new law. Such statements were initiated during the Monroe presidency, but exploded only during the 1980's and 1990's, the era of the Imperial Presidency.

According to Bovard, Bush has added more than 750 statements to various pieces of legislation. Bovard writes that Bush is, "the first [President] to use signing statements routinely to nullify key provisions of new laws. He perennially announces that he will not be bound by limits on his power and that he will scorn obligations to disclose how federal power is being used."

In other, the President is asserting his prerogative to set aside any statute or law that conflicts with his interpretation of the constitution.

Writing in the Boston Globe, Charlie Savage enumerates some of the laws effectively re-written by the President: "Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, 'whistle-blower' protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research."

One egregious example is the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, in which Congress forbids torture. After signing the law, a signing statement was added indicating that enforcement would be conducted "in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power." In other words, the law will be binding when the President says so.

Interestingly, and I won't detail this here, the centralization of executive power has been enthusiastically endorsed by far too many Christians who purport to believe in original sin and total depravity. And so we return to the divine right of kings.

Writing of the reign of Elizabeth I, don't David Hume's comments sound remarkably like the current "conservative" view of presidential power proffered by the administration and their bootlickers at the Federalist Society? Hume writes:

It was asserted that the queen inherited both an enlarging and restraining power; by her prerogative she might set at liberty what was restrained by statute or otherwise, and by her prerogative she might restrain what was otherwise at liberty; that the royal prerogative was not to be canvassed, nor disputed, nor examined; and did not even admit of any limitation: that absolute princes, such as the sovereigns of England, were a species of divinity: that it was in vain to attempt tying the queen's hands by laws or statutes; since, by means of her dispensing power, she could loosen herself at pleasure: and that even if a clause should be annexed to a statute, excluding here dispensing power, she could first dispense with that clause and then with the statute.

Is this what Jefferson, Adams, Washington and Madison had in mind?

On Socialization

When my wife and I decided to begin homeschooling, we expected to get more than a handful of snide comments. To our surprise, most folks in our circle are supportive. In fact, virtually all the parents in my church with school-aged children have opted for some variation of homeschooling.

One of the questions I do get, however, has to do with socialization. When someone raises the issue, my first response is to ask how much time they spend with children, particularly teenagers.

Last spring, I recall taking my oldest son (six) to a high-school basketball game. Here in Indiana, HS b-ball is king, and the local high school has a gym that can seat something like 10,000. (Though I had seen 'Hoosiers,' I wasn't prepared for the basketball-mania that sweeps Indiana every winter.) As we took our seats, which are ticketed, I noticed that we were sitting in front of a gaggle of boys who appeared to be between the ages of 14 and 16.

Over the course of the first half, before we moved to an emptied out area of the facility, we were subjected to all manner of vile talk, sexually charged chatter, and even a bit of blasphemy.

This came to mind yesterday when I took two of my children to play at a nifty little spot with a bunch of inflatable trampoline-like toys and a miniature golf course. A group of "summer campers" from our local YMCA was on the premises. I'm not sure exactly what I expect from children who spend nine months of the year "socialized" in public schools and summers flitting about at the Y. After all, manners are externally imposed behaviors compelled upon young children by loving and caring adults (i.e., parents). Surely, a group of "counselors" (strangers) and peers at the YMCA cannot be expected to turn little children into responsible young adults.

Nonetheless, I tend to expect a certain level of behavior. Instead, I was subjected to children who looked like they were "socialized" along with Piggy, Ralph, and Simon in Golding's "Lord of the Flies." Pushing, shoving, cutting in line, taking twenty minutes to complete hole number seven while I stood glaring in the background, asking ME for money--all just the tip of the iceberg.

I'm not exactly clear how tossing a child into a group of his peers all day long is the best way to bring out his potential. Ultimately, parents have the responsibility to raise children to honor and glorify of God. To teach them about God, and to also teach them that a Godly order includes manners--opening a door for a lady, to take one example—is ultimately my duty, not the role of the State or some other institution. While I can and perhaps must rely on a community to educate and raise my children (it does take a village), the ultimate responsibility is still placed in my lap.

Part of the problem is our view of children. When I referred recently to my youngest son as a "bundle of sin," I was practically anathematized. I'm no expert on the matter, but it seems that generally, there have been two views of children. One, descending from John Locke, says that children are effectively blank slates and just need to be filled with the right "stuff." This seems to be at least part of what undergirds our theory of public education. Skilled technocrats at the behest of the State are going to "create," in God-like fashion, children who will become responsible citizens and take their place in the democratic, globalist machine.

Secondly, via Rousseau comes the notion that children are noble savages who should not be enslaved by institutions and authority. This is the theory on display at the YMCA summer camp described above and seems to be the theory driving “unschooling” as well.

But children are not blank slates. They are created in the image of God, although that image is marred irreparably by the presence of sin. Likewise, children are not noble savages, for youth is almost always associated biblically with folly. Our contemporary version of schooling, including Sunday School, merely creates an environment that could be described as folliness squared, foolishness on steroids. This is what my well intentioned inquisitors call socialization.