Posts Tagged: Thoughts

Aug 10

Thoughts on Afghanistan

We started out as warbloggers, largely, and over the years we’ve no doubt written more about the war against Islamic terrorism than anything else. So it’s a little disorienting to see the war in Iraq winding down, and the war in Afghanistan ramping up, without having a great deal to say about either conflict.

Will the war in Iraq be judged a success? Ask me in 20 years. While Doug Feith tells us the Department of Defense was never focused on bringing democracy to the Arab world, I’m pretty sure that was a big part of President Bush’s motivation, as it was of mine. I base this on the fact that Bush said so, repeatedly, in his speeches. Liberals either paid attention or didn’t, depending on how they evaluated their tactical interests at the moment.

As for Afghanistan, this is the kind of story that makes us want to take to the battlements: “Taliban take comfort in US withdrawal plans: general.”

Taliban insurgents have been given hope they can prevail in the war as a result of President Barack Obama’s July 2011 deadline to start withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan , the top US Marine said. …

“In some ways, we think right now it’s probably giving our enemy sustenance,” Conway said of the July 2011 target date.

“We think that he may be saying to himself — in fact we’ve intercepted communications that say, ‘Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long.’”

That’s red meat for us conservatives. Still, we have been in Afghanistan since, what-the end of 2001? It is understandable that most Americans want some sort of a resolution. I fully support our current “surge” efforts in Afghanistan, and I think it is a good thing whenever a Taliban fighter is killed. At the same time, it seems obvious that the primitiveness of Afghan society and the Afghan economy limit, rather severely, the results we can achieve there. On no account do we want the success of our policy to be held hostage to the sheer perversity of Afghan culture. Our soldiers are great at shooting bad people and blowing up their infrastructure, but bringing Islamic fundamentalists into the 10th century is beyond their ken. Or anyone’s.

At the American Interest, Peter Berger has a perceptive analysis of the options open to us in Afghanistan, titled “American National Interest and the Stoning of Women.” None of our options, he argues, is good.

As to the United States, it is certainly in its national interest to separate the Taliban from al-Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates-after all, this is why the American invasion of Afghanistan took place to begin with. It is doubtful whether the national interest means preventing executions by stoning or other traditional Islamic penalties-or for that matter the whole panoply of women’s rights as understood in Western democracies. …

It seems to me that the American national interest is unclear on the question of whether to stay in Afghanistan or to look for an exit as quickly as possible. There are reasonable arguments on both sides. On the one hand, an American exit which will be widely seen as a defeat would have potentially catastrophic consequences, not only on the international position of the United States, but in the wider Middle East and beyond-destabilizing Pakistan, encouraging radical Islamism everywhere, enhancing the power of Iran (more so, of course, if it develops atomic weapons)-and encouraging adversaries beyond the region, such as North Korea and Venezuela. On the other hand, Bob Herbert might be right that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable, and that it will require years, maybe decades, of a useless expenditure of lives and resources, which will serve to destabilize American society itself.

A realistic assessment of the costs and benefits of policy alternatives is one thing, a moral assessment quite another. …

Both critics and supporters of the war in Afghanistan bring up the Vietnam analogy-the critics by seeing Afghanistan as a comparable “quagmire,” the supporters by saying that the anti-war movement at home was the major cause of the American defeat. …

However, in a moral perspective, there is a disturbing similarity, brought out by the horror described in the opening section of this post: the departure of the United States from Vietnam in 1975 was probably in its national interest. It had some terrible consequences in the region-the brutal re-education camps in South Vietnam after its occupation by the North, the many deaths on the sea of the “boat people,” and, most terrible of all, the “auto-genocide” by the victorious Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. When all is said and done, are we once more going to abandon to their enemies those who trusted in us?

A very old insight has to be relearned many times-that one cannot act politically without getting one’s hands dirty, often enough with blood.

This put me in mind of probably the most searing post we’ve ever done here, by Scott, which tells the sad story of Sirik Matak, former Prime Minister of Cambodia, who made the mistake of trusting the United States government:

Dear Excellency and Friend:

I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you, and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it.

You leave, and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under this sky. But, mark it well, that if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is no matter, because we are all born and must die. I have only committed this mistake of believing in you [the Americans].

Prime Minister Matak was shot and left to die by Communists. A worse fate awaits a great many Afghan women, and no small number of Afghan men, if we decide that we are tired of dealing with such a backward culture.

Power Line

Aug 10

Further Thoughts On Philadelphia’s So-Called “Blogger Tax”

Vivian Paige, a Virginia blogger who also happens to have a background in accounting and tax preparation, makes this observation about the so-called Philadelphia “blogger tax” that I wrote about yesterday:

The devil, as always, is in the details:

After dutifully reporting even the smallest profits on their tax filings this year, a number — though no one knows exactly what that number is — of Philadelphia bloggers were dispatched letters informing them that they owe $ 300 for a privilege license, plus taxes on any profits they made.

Let me guess: each one of these people filed a Schedule C (pdf). Probably did so to claim expenses, like their internet service, or to deduct the cost of a computer, most likely on the (bad) advice of a friend or even an accountant.

A Schedule C is entitled “Profit or Loss from Business” for a reason. From the instructions (pdf):

An activity qualifies as a business if your primary purpose for engaging in the activity is for income or profit and you are involved in the activity with continuity and regularity. For example, a sporadic activity or a hobby does not qualify as a business.

So by completing Schedule C, you are acknowledging that this is not a hobby. And guess what most localities – including every one in Virginia – require? A business license.

So, what we’re dealing with here is a generally applicable law that requires all persons operating a business in the city to obtain a license and pay a fee. It’s not an effort to “go after” bloggers, and considering the fact that the people quoted in the article had already declared themselves as operating a business with the IRS, I honestly don’t see what the story is here.

Outside the Beltway

Aug 10

Initial Thoughts on America and Its Elites

by Conor Friedersdorf

Over the weekend, I spoke with two people whose take on the Park51 mosque and community center, quite apart from the merits of their respective positions, can only be described as aggrieved. One argued that the mosque should be moved farther from Ground Zero, the other that a location two blocks removed presents no problem. But their upset sprang from a deeper place: a conviction, expressed more emotionally than anything, that their insights aren’t shared or even respected by those in “the other America.”

Said the man, a wealthy fifty-something executive, “Seventy percent sees what is wrong with this, yet we’re called bigots! If the people in charge don’t change their cosmopolitan attitudes we’re going to lose this country.”

The woman, a top tier business school student in her late twenties, insisted that if demagogues manage to mess up even this, “I’m seriously moving abroad. Ever since 9/11 I just don’t know what’s wrong with people.”

These laments aren’t exactly surprising.

The right generally lashes out by asserting that its ideological opponents are out of touch elites, disconnected from traditional American values and common sense. More common on the left is for aggrieved participants in the national debate to bemoan what they regard as the perversion of values being perpetrated. Opponents are cast as pawns being manipulated into irrational or even bigoted positions by powerful interests who benefit from the world that results.

What I found interesting is that these two people, who’ll both enjoy far more wealth, influence and power than the average American in the course of their lives, both earnestly conceived of others being in charge. The executive saw cosmopolitan liberal elites as exercising control, so much so that he feared the loss of what makes America exceptional; whereas the liberal business school student understood herself to be part of the elite, given her educational credentials, but felt that people who share her values haven’t been running the country since 9/11, making her complicit in policies that she abhors.

Is the United States home to a liberal elite that basically runs things except when its power is checked or overruled by the larger population? That’s the way a lot of people talk on the right and the left, but I think it’s a misleading frame. In reality, there are a lot of different elites in America, ideology is but one factor that distinguishes them from one another, and ordering them to reflect their relative power is literally an impossible task.

In terms of who does more to shape the country and its future, try ranking Leon Panetta, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, an exceptional high school English teacher, David Foster Wallace, Barbara Streisand, Rick Warren, a successful small business man, Lynn Cheney, Haley Barbour, the mayor of Omaha, Nancy Pelosi, Kobe Bryant, Ezra Klein, Bill Keller, Sarah Palin, Chick Hearn, the scientist most responsible for Lipitor, Rush Limbaugh, a federal circuit court judge, the CEO of the biggest employer in Cleveland, a veteran police officer on the streets of Chicago, the Governor of Nevada, Rupert Murdoch, Malcolm Gladwell, Donald Bren and L. Ron Hubbard.

Were there an objectively correct ordering known only by God, what percentage of humans would arrive at it? And this is but an insignificant fraction of elites from a few different categories (it includes a lot of journalists, despite the fact that I think Americans generally attribute more power to individuals in my profession than we actually possess.)

The beliefs Americans form about the forces that shape this country matter. It’s unhealthy for a polity when an increasing number of people are alienated from a prevailing order they feel powerless to influence. Over the course of this week, I hope to delve deeper into this question of America and its elites. As always, e-mail on the subject is welcome.

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United State - Sarah Palin - Rupert Murdoch - Oprah Winfrey - David Foster Wallace

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Aug 10

More Thoughts on the Prop. 8 Stay Motion Before the Ninth Circuit and (If Necessary) the Supreme Court

(Eugene Volokh)

Prof. Rick Hasen (Election Law Blog) has some interesting analysis. The conclusion is,

First, though the standard for reviewing a trial court’s decision on a stay is quite deferential, in ideological (or hot issue) cases, these appellate courts [circuit courts and the Supreme Court] show a lot less deference. Second, even if the Supreme Court stays Judge Walker’s decision (assuming the Ninth Circuit does not and the question gets to the Supreme Court), that does not necessarily mean the Court will reverse Judge Walker’s opinion if and when the case ultimately gets to the Supreme Court.

He gives more details, and specific precedents, in his post.

The Volokh Conspiracy

Aug 10

A Couple More Thoughts on Cordoba House

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To illustrate that the whole world hasn’t gone mad, here’s a nice Josh Barro post in NRO about why conservatives are nuts on the Cordoba House question. Except as a conservative he doesn’t call anyone “nuts” or accuse any of the bigots and opportunists of bigoted opportunism. Which is how it goes. Anyway, read his post.

The other thing is that over the weekend some kind of hair-splitting distinction opened up between the idea of publicly and forcefully acknowledging the legal and constitutional right of the organizers to place their community center at 51 Park Place in Lower Manhattan and supporting construction of the mosque. I sort of see what the distinction is. People have the right, legally speaking, to go stand on the sidewalk outside my office and scream obscenities at me when I go to lunch. But I really wish they wouldn’t do that, and I think sensible people would condemn the decision to behave in that manner.

But when it comes to matters of religion, I think this distinction gets a bit confusing. I’m after all not a Muslim. And if pressed, I’d have to say that I think Islam is a false doctrine. It’s not the case that there’s is no God but Allah, nor is it true that Mohammed is his prophet. If everyone collectively decided that nobody should ever build a mosque anywhere again, that would be fine by me. Which is just to say that people simply don’t actively support the construction of other people’s religious monuments. Yu don’t expect Jews to stand up and applaud the construction of new Mormon temples, but I do expect them to acknowledge the right of Mormons to build temples and to stand up to demagogues who would try to abridge that right. And this is what we have going on in Lower Manhattan today. A completely legitimate undertaking that’s being stymied out of a mixture of geographical ignorance, a slanderous attribution of collective responsibility for 9/11 to all Muslims, and political opportunism. On the other side are people standing up for non-discrimination and religious freedom.

There’s no real need to introduce dozens of new layers of nuance into it.

Matthew Yglesias

Aug 10

Right Online, Vegas: Thoughts On The Conservative Movement

What a fine group of happy warriors! Right Online 2010 turned out over 1,000 like-minded activists from over 30 states. These passionate folks walked the over-100 degree streets of Las Vegas to educate voters that November Is Coming.

Should the Democrats be worried? No. They should be resigned. The real worry-warts should be Republicans consistently intent on selling out their principles. Be worried. People are mission-focused.

A couple highlights from the conference: Here’s my favorite speaker from the group, Emery McClendon:

Emery McClendon at RightOnline 2010 from AFPhq on Vimeo.

Did you watch that? Yep. A black (shhhhh) Tea Party organizer. Don’t tell the mainstream media. Their brains will go tilt. Another great speech was given by Ann McElhinney of “Not Evil Just Wrong” fame. Didn’t those folks turn out to be prescient about the Global Warming scam?

Ann McElhinney at RightOnline 2010 from AFPhq on Vimeo.

I also enjoyed watching my friend Stephen Kruiser do stand-up on Friday night. Righties get knocked for being humorless. Anyone who saw Stephen perform knew that wasn’t true. He did a great job.

The best part, though, was what is always the best part: meeting fellow activists dedicated to returning America to the values, and the fiscal policies that will ensure its future success.

There were some interesting meetings. Tammy Bruce called a women’s round table. Participants included Terri Christophe, founder of Smart Girl Politics, Tabitha Hale of Freedom Works, Christine O’Donnell the conservative Republican running for Joe Biden’s open seat, Nansen Malin, the Republican Twitter activist from Washington state, Pamela Gorman running for U.S. Congress from Arizona and me. Tammy said that she felt that we were doing something historic at that meeting-that we would look back and remember this moment. It’s certainly possible.

Women have been such a force in both the activism and the political runs this year. At risk of sounding Obama-ish, many observers feel that an historic shift is happening. The leftist feminists certainly see it and seem miserable that Republican and conservative women may be poised to claim the historic mantle this year.

Here’s the audio from the round-table. Thanks to Tammy for including me with such an esteemed bunch of women.

The conference ran seamlessly. That’s a huge credit to founder and director of the conference, Erik Telford. The break-out sessions were informative and helpful. This year, there were two tracks-one for novices and one for pros. This was very helpful. Of course, I always learn something new at these things no matter the track.

Overall impression:

Ever been swept away by a riptide? The best way to fight it is to not fight it, but go with it. In some respects, the current political climate feels that way. People are motivated. I thought they might be tired by now, tired by fighting. And, in fact, I still worry about fatigue-emotional and physical. So many people have been fighting non-stop for over a year now. And yet, people are still waking up, and joining. Reinforcements seem to be added daily.

I guess that’s why it’s starting to feel like it’s bigger than any one person and it feels like “it” is happening despite us…and because of us. There’s lots of talk about leaders, but there are no leaders. There are just people attending, learning, connecting, reconstituting, marching, calling, knocking, reconstituting, writing, sharing, running, reconstituting, tweeting, reading, watching…and eventually voting, and finally, governing.

It’s the governing part that’s going to test the movement. The Republicans, Trent Lott speaking the hushed subtext “co-opting”, will fight until the bloody death to hold on to power, to continue to suckle at the big interest teat that have bought the government over the last few years. Remember when Democrat lefties thought the Democrats wouldn’t operate this way? Well, yeah.

The war here isn’t really against left or right, well, there is that ideological fight, but that’s really a fight over solutions. The real fight is against established, entrenched power-brokers who believe they know what’s better for the American people than the American people. President Barack Obama is the poster boy for this philosophy.

Anyway, the battles will be bloodier after November, I fear. And so these conferences are important to fortify the workers. There are some upcoming gatherings: Redstate meets in Austin in September (I’ll be there), 9/12 will bring another march on DC (I’ll be there), Smart Girls Summit in DC (I’ll be there). Go to something and participate.

In the meantime, call your Congressman. Do not back down. Their latest screw-up is the Financial Regulation bill. Between the Financial regulations and the health care reform bills, DC pretty much owns you. Unless you like being at the mercy of soulless bureaucrats, fight!

Liberty Pundits Blog