Saturday, February 19, 2005

Why Ward Churchill Doesn't Matter...
I know I'm late chiming on this, but I really wouldn't even have given this any more thought, but Bill O'Reilly is obsessing over it.

We can all agree that University of Colorado Professor of "Ethnic Studies" Ward Churchill is an imbecile. He's a college professor, after all. We can all agree that Ward Churchill is a rabble-rouser that didn't have the talent for a real job. You only need to hear the Marxist rhetoric and take a look at the hypocrisy that enables him to rail against capitalism while maintaining a comfortable income from one of it's cornerstones, the university.

The clues are everywhere: the hippie hairdo, the ever-present-but-feigned anger and angst, the seeming belief that he 60's never ended, the adoption of the identity of an oppressed minority, i.e. Cherokee Indian.

It's all an affectation. It's all a costume that Churchill wears because his target audience (i.e. dopey college kids pretending to be revolutionaries on Mommy and Daddy's dime) expect him to wear. I've seen his type too many times in the more upscale cafes and coffee houses of New York City to have any illusions as to what the man is all about. It's acting, it's ignorance, it's pretense, all wrapped up in one easy-to-open package. Engage Mr. Churchhill's type in anything resembling logical conversation and what you get is a lot of raw emotion dressed up with words like "trans-gendered", "jingoism" and "revolutionary". Mr. Churchill is like the croutons in your salad: it just might be stale bread, but hell, it sure does make the salad look fancier.

Now about a week ago or so in this space, I did in fact write that I found Mr. Churchill offensive and retarded, but I've changed my mind. I still don't agree with anything he has to say, but he does have a right to say it. After all, there is no law against being an idiot or having poor taste. But the media frenzy that has been whipped up over that "little Eichmann" phrase is way over the top.

Churchill, and others of his ilk, say such things not because they truly believe them; they say them because otherwise no one would pay attention to them. Churchill can write 9,000 books for all I care, and not more than a few thousand in the country will ever read them. Churchill and his cronies can run the country down all they want, but in the end, no one will follow them over the ramparts and engage in a serious plot to overthrow the government and the capitalist system. Churchill has no power, except to preach to the choir.

That choir, incidentally, will grow out of the phase that they're in ,in which socialist revolution is an appealing and romantic prospect. All his rabid little college students who live in the fantasy world that he creates for them will eventually run smack-dab into reality once the vacation of college ends, and they'll have to find a way to support themselves. Captialism will look pretty good to them them. In fact, I'll lay down money that says 99% of the do-gooder-socially-conscious crowd in his classroom eventually becomes the "little Eichmanns" he so hates. It's just that right now, the more attention he gets, the more he loves it. The more we try to convince his "legions" the more they will rebel and engage in further idiocy. Only the cold sting of reality in the world outside academia can ever cure the mild disease they suffer from. They'll fight anyone who tries to administer the dose of reality in the same way your child fights a dose of cough syrup-- it's a defect built into teenagers to be contrary for the sake of it.

So, we can stop worrying about all the "Little Churchhills" out there becasue in the end, they don't matter. They never reach a wide audience and the ones they do get to would have been predisposed to join the Manson Family anyway.

The First Amendment has been twisted into pretzel-like forms over the last 40 years, but three things about it are still recognizable:

1. You have the right to be stupid.
2. You have the right to shout your stupidity from the rooftops.
3. The rest of us have the right to tune you out.

And those are the reasons why Churchill doesn't matter; he's a lone voice, baying in the wilderness of stupidity, and getting very little response. Little, that is, until someone who bloviates just as much, manages to latch onto his story and stir up a hurricane where once there was nothing but a puff of hot air.

Ward Churchill is not the harbinger of doom. He is not the messiah of Leninist-Marxist thought (contradiction in terms, I know) that will lead a revolution. He's a jerk, plain and simple, given the rare advantage of a public forum. In that reagrd, Churchill is no better than the Senate or the House of Representatives, only the latter have the distinction of having been elected.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Those Were The Days?
I was helping a friend's daughter with her history homework last night when I had occasion to recall a very dark, and disgusting, period of American history.

Somehow, the conversation turned to how difficult it was to be a child in America in the 1970's. To begin with, we were told, literally every day, that the next breath we took could very well be our last. We lived in fear of nuclear holocaust, and if that wouldn't kill us then pollution would. Or overpopulation. Or red meat. Or another Ice Age, ad infinitum.

It was a time when the country was just emerging from the chaos of the 60's; the hippies were becoming parents, the battle for civil rights had left the streets and entered the courtrooms, but the animosity those battles created was still everywhere. There was a divide created between black and white which has stgill not been bridged (at least in the manner of discourse on the subject).We were in the midst of the sexual revolution (which turned perfectly good women into men with breasts, in my opinion), and the changes this was bringing about were difficult to foresee. It was the era of the latchkey kid as Mom left the home to enter the workforce.

It was the age of disco, which was the second worst idea in human history (Communism having been first), an age of glitz and glitter and mirrored balls hanging from ceilings reflecting multi-colored lights. A cheap veneer that hid a society on the verge of blowing itself apart with it's selfishness, shallowness, rampant street crime and drug use. Instead of facing these issues head on, we procrastinated and dissembled mostly because the people who might have taken stands were, in fact, the one's who started the process of decay themselves; college professors, politicians, lawyers and all the rest of the "liberal" hanger's-on.

The period was even more difficult when you grew up in a place like New York City. A bankrupt city stuffed to the brim with unthinking zombies created by the times in which they lived, and in which the ultimate icons were the polyesther leisure suit and the pet rock.

The young lady I was speaking to had never heard of "Duck and Cover". She didn't know what a Fallout Shelter was. She didn' know about the Iranian Hostages,or the Neutron Bomb, or the Son of Sam. The more we discussed these things, the more I began to remember that at some point, I had probably made a conscious effort to forget.

And the 1970's were, ultimately, forgettable. But the damage done remains with us.

For people of my generation all those threats of nuclear holocaust have returned with a vengence as Iran and North Korea busily stockpile fissile material and turn it into weapons. In the bad old days we only hadto worry about the Russians, now the threats seem to come from even the remotest places, and from people with even whackier ideologies. I can now say this about the Russians: they may have been deluded by the utopian promises of communism, they may have been as ignorant of us as we were of them, but in the end, we still had the same roots, dug deep in the soil of Western Civilization. We could inderstand each other. Today we have lunatics running around under the impression that they are doing God's will by blowing up day care centers and office buildings. The Russians may have been barbaric in terms of their government, but I don't think they were ever as crazy as the murderers row we face now.

When you stop and think about it, just how nutty were they? They were in the same boat, but following a different ideology. We were just as guilty in the Cold War as they were, but that was the world of Realpolitik.

The planet we inhabit today is inherently more dangerous. We're living amongst people who suffer from an incredible range of deficiencies: colonialism was evil, anything Western is to be distrusted, God said that life is supposed to be this way. As crazy as it sounds, I almost miss the Cold War for at least in those days if were to be blasted to atoms, you could at least understand why. Nowadays, when your mortality finally arrives it does so with "American Airlines" painted on it, and your deliveryman probably expects 72 virgins as his reward.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Just Helping them Out...
The following is an exchange from The originator is someone who calls him/herself "The_Liberal_Person" and the response is from me, in my alter-ego of Wombat101.

A liberal - To the Republican community.
1. What are your goals as Republicans?
2. Is your goal to make Liberals to leave America?
3. If you want us to stay, when does this country go too far to the right?
4. If you want us to leave, will the US government pay for our plane tickets?

The response:

Our goals are to create a decent society without resorting to the forcible redistribution of wealth and mollycoddling perfectly able human beings. We also do not wish to live in a place where behavior and activities that we consider abhorrent are somehow elevated to the level of "Constitutional Rights". Perhaps if y'all stopped yapping like wounded poodles for five minutes and actually listened to us, you'd understand this.

As to whether you should leave or not, that's a decision you need to make. As to whether the gov't should pay for your plane ticket, I remind you that millions of legitimately poor and oppressed people routinely find their way into this country, many of them on foot. It's also enviornMENTALly safer that way. You also have a lot of nerve to ask the rest of us to pick up the tab for your relocation, since no one has actually forced you to leave.

How far right is too far right? Well, considering that the worst regimes in the planet's history have always been LEFTIST (i.e. Nazism, Communism, et. al.), I say you could never be too far right. Even at it's worst, Fascism was never a destructive system in the way that Nazism and Communism were, merely super-nationalist. By the way, it still exists, but not here in America. If you want to see Fascism first hand, I recommend a trip to France, perhaps taking a few days to visit your good buddy, Hugo Chavez.

Listen, liberals (which is NOT what you are, by the way, but it's a convenient label) occasionally have a good idea. The problem is in the execution. Instead of debate, instead of making a clear and concise case for your ideals, you typically cram them down our throats by perverting the court system and circumventing the governmental process, usually because you know that if your idea were actually put to a vote, it would lose hands down. The point of a republic, like ours, is that the people, not Congress, not the courts, have the final say. For a bunch who claim to be committed to the will of the people, you have an incredible talent for ignoring that will when it's made known.

I say stay; America needs a dissident voice as any healthy society does, but learn to grow up. Just because we don't agree with you does not make us evil. Just because you cannot achieve your goals through legitimate Constitutional procedures doesn't mean you have to throw a hissy fit and throw brickbats. Just because you can never win an argument on logic, doesn't mean you have to get nasty and start calling people names.

Finally, learn to listen and give serious thought as to what we're telling you. The trick to understanding a Conservative is that he/she is typically drawing on the accumulated knowledge of 10,000 or so years of civilization, and not merely dreaming out loud.It may not always be fair, and quite frankly, it might not always be right, but it has worked for mankind up to this point. I submit as evidence the fact that we no longer live in caves, have open-heart surgery or have to spend most of our time chasing gazelles for sustenance.

Besides, you will eventually come 'round to our point of view. I quote Winston Churchill:
"Any man under 30 who is not a liberal has no heart. Any man over 30 who is not a conservative, has no brain...."
Driving A Stake Through Social Security...
And it does need to be killed, permanently.

The debate, as far as I can tell, revolves around three important premises that are consistently and unsurprisingly, unmentioned:

1. If this was a program invented by an Italian, the government would prosecute him with a RICO statute.
2. Pay-as-you-go no longer works when there ain't that many people left to pay.
3. All things eventually wear out or become obsolete. This is no exception.

The major stumbling blocks seem to revolve around the the issues of Republicans trying to tapdance around a program to which a great number of people have an emotional attachment , a population which despite the enormous number of financial programs on TV and which is supposed to be the "investor class" remains truly ignorant of economics. Your final obstacle is not being able (at this time) to just say, "Hey, it needs to go away because it doesn't work" because that would completely freak people out. So instead, you use the word "reform". Reform only works when applied to a system that already works and which can be saved. This one doesn't work and can't be saved anymore.

For democrats, the emotional attachment is even worse; this is not just any 'ol program, this is the Crown Jewel of the New Deal. This is the icon in the liberal temple. It's the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant and the Ten Commandments rolled into one. Saving FDR's legacy near on 70 years after his demise is somehow still important. There's also the issue of keeping a huge (and unionized) bureaucracy in place. Democrats have never met a bureacracy they didn't like. There's also the attempt to keep the issue alive until 2008, or at least until 2006, so that they can continue to scare the bejesus out of people in order to glean votes.

Of course, what neither party will tell you, is that the issue involves a very delicate and serious sub-issue: it involves not being able to raid the Social Security....ahem..."Trust Fund" in order to pay for military cranberry research in Massachusetts or to name another stretch of highway after Ronald Reagan. I'm also thinking that because the ...ahem...Trust Fund is mostly I.O.U.'s in the form of Treasury Bonds, what the wholesale conversion of those bonds might actually mean to the U.S. economy.

So, if we could dispense with the bullshit, smoke and mirrors for a few minutes, here's an interesting idea:

Say the Fed'ral Gub'mint was to stop collecting Social security taxes on an arbitrary date. Let's pick April 15, 2010. That'll be the day when most Americans file their tax returns. As of midnight on April 15, not one more penny of Social Security taxes will be collected in any way, shape or form. Now, we look at who has paid what into the system.

If you are 55 or younger, you should get back whatever it is you paid into the system (sans interest), in cash, and probably over a period of five to seven years. You will be issued checks, which can only be used specifically to fund a retirement program. You can't use it to buy a home, pay bills, get a new car, or buy grandma a new iron lung. It MUST be used for a retirement account (mutual fund, 401K, IRA, etc). This account, set up specifically for retirement, would be tax exempt.

If you are older than 55, you will receive what you would have gotten anyway from the money that's left over in the...ahem...Trust Fund, guarenteed by the government if there's a shortfall. This too should be tax free. The problem with this portion is what to do if there is shortfall. The answer: government spending must be reined in in some other area, preferably non-defense.

To continue to fund the system until everyone has been paid off, we'll have to raise the retirement age to 67. No way around it. But, since many employers like to ditch employees before they reach 67 (because of pension payments), stricter enforcement of anti-age discrimination laws must be the rule. We then eliminate the 25/75 rule. This rule states that if you have 25 years of service with the same employer, you can retire on a 75% pension. The problem with this fantastic loophole is this: what happens when you started working for your company at the age of 20, retire at 45, and then have to wait until mandatory retirement age for your Social Security payments? Eliminate the rule and this problem disappears.

Another issue; what to do with your private acount should you die prior to reaching retirement age? Well, since the government no longer has your money, you should be able to pass it on to those who survive you, free of inheritance tax, no less. You'll notice I keep saying "tax free" here. There's a simple reason: when you lower or eliminate the tax liability on an investment, people tend to do more investing. Investing reaps dividends far in excess of whatever taxes were cut. It's a proven proposition. In fact, the amount of money the Fed'ral Gub'mint steals would probably exceed the amount needed to actually run our mythical, stripped-down gub'mint. This used to be called "Voodoo Economics" but past experience in the 80's and 90's shows that it does, in fact, work.

We're also hearing a lot about "transition costs". What transition costs? The program should be self-liquidating and cost nothing. When we speak of transition costs what were really talking about is what the government used to skim off the top anyways. If we wish to keep the grubby hands of yer local congresscritter off what is supposed to be designated Social Security money, then pass a bill that takes Social Security off budget, and we can stop the fancy accountant's schemes that use that money to patch the holes in the budget process.
Why Howard Dean IS Important...
I'm about to make two counter arguments to the nonsense being circulated by the talking heads vis-a-vis Howard Dean.

If you're a Republican, you sit there in near-orgasmic ecstasy trying to tell yourself, and anyone who will listen, that Dean "represents" the far-left wing of the democratic party. You also believe that this alone will somehow translate into Republican votes in 2006 and 2008. Here are the problems with your theory:

1. Dean does not "represent" much of anything, except a vocal minority of true pinheads, mostly college kids and aging hippies, with a smattering of "metrosexuals". These are people with extraordinary amounts of free time on their hands, and apparently, a lot of money. The tie-dyed T-shirt business must be booming somewhere. Dean, in my opinion, ran a campaign based on a mish-mash of popular-sounding themes, which did not translate into actual votes -- he was a fad, the flavor of the month. His flash-in-the-pan appeal was so deadly to the established democratic party machinery that the dems wound up with John Kerry (to reassure the Kennedy wing of the party) who tried to play the part of Dean, and couldn't even do that. Any clear-headed person who still sees Dean as any kind of potential political threat to republicans is still dreaming. He only has this job because Hilary needs an open field. If you believe that Dean will formulate policy, have some sort of say on who runs where and on what, well, we'll follow the money and see where it leads.
2. Dean is a threat when it comes to money. His campaign proved that you can raise a buttload of money on the internet (any porn merchant coulda told ya that!), and that it's quite easy to fleece the 'socially-conscious-but-too-lazy-to-do-anything-substantial" portion of the democratic party. A democratic party with an enhanced warchest is something to think about.

If you're a democrat, you pooh-pooh the idea that Howard Dean is a) a liberal and b) all that important to begin with. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "people don't let the choice of party chairman dictate their politics" routine. You're wrong about Dean because:

1. You can't truly be honest about why he has become chairman (see money and Hilary above)
2. You cannot admit that this is, somehow, the best you can do.
3. While he may not represent the far-left in it's entirety, he does represent the noisiest and most financially capable part of it. In the end, he just might affect policy because he will control the pursestrings. And this does keep you awake at night, but you console yourself with the belief that the Hildebeest will actually be sworn in on January 20, 2009. Dean at the DNC is a small price to pay in order to get the Clinton-Care Eyedrops and Band-Aids plan.

The issue basically comes down to this: Republicans should have learned already, during two Bush campaigns, that it never pays to underestimate your opponent. The dems consistently underestimate Bush, and so they get smacked in the chops everytime he does what he says he will. Republicans underestimate Dean at their own peril. Dems, on the other hand, have to wipe that sly smirk off of their faces every time the issue of Dean comes up. It's obvious what is happening here when it comes to Dean and thinning the herd of potential candidates in 2008. They just want Dean (but not his money-machine )off the field when Her Heinous makes her run for the throne.

At the end of the day, Dean as DNC Chairman is nothing like the election of a new Pope, but it is somewhat akin to the election of a new Cardinal Richelieu; the distasteful, but neccessary, power behind the throne. After all, despite all the talk about "taking the money out of politics", it seems candidates need more of it than ever to get elected.