Friday, June 24, 2011

Jose Antonio Vargas and Susan B. Anthony

Photo by Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times

The name Jose Antonio Vargas has been in the news lately.  Mr. Vargas is a journalist and has written a New York Times Sunday Magazine article titled “Outlaw.”

The story he writes is about himself.  Mr. Vargas is an illegal alien.

The article, and most of the accompanying analysis, considers Mr. Vargas’ situation a “plight.”  His story exemplifies what is wrong with our immigration policy in America: It harms good people.

Nowhere in the press coverage was any reporting on whether or not Mr. Vargas votes in our elections.  While our culture might not consider his illegal immigration status a problem, is it a problem if he votes?

Susan B. Anthony, a strong proponent of women’s suffrage, was put on trial for voting illegally.  Should Mr. Vargas make a similar stand for the “rights” of non-citizens to influence our elections?

UPDATE 6/28/2011:
This story about Thomas James Ball (h/t Dr. Helen Smith) contrasts our cultural sensitivities in a rather dramatic fashion.  It is significant to note the level of emotional pain that gives rise to a story in The New York Times versus the level of emotional (and physical) pain that does not make the cut.  Our anti-Republican culture in action...

UPDATE 6/29/2011:
More from Dr. Helen...

UPDATE 7/1/2011:
Senator Dick Durbin holds hearings on the DREAM Act and celebrates those individuals attending the meeting of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security who are in the United States illegally.

Sec. 212. [8 U.S.C. 1182] makes an individual inadmissible for immigration to the United States if that individual "falsely represents, or has falsely represented, himself or herself to be a citizens of the United States for any purpose or benefit under this Act or any other Federal or State law." [Sec. 212 (C)]

Similarly, "Any alien who has voted in violation of any Federal, State or local constitutional provision, statute, ordinance, or regulation is inadmissible."[Sec. 212(A)(10)(D)]

The idea is that if you wish to become a U. S. citizen, and don't play by the rule of law, you won't become a legal immigrant.

However, exceptions will be made, and the rule of law need not be followed.

Senator Durbin took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, but his "support" is contingent upon whether or not it will lead to the greater power and authority of the Democratic Party.

UPDATE 10/8/2012:
One federal law enforcement agency (ICE) continues to give favorable treatment to Mr. Vargas.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Big Questions

NBC file photo courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle

As a public service, here is a transcript of my most recent interview with Elizabeth Docent...

Libby: It's good to see you again.
Howard: Likewise!
Libby: I've got another appointment, so I'm going to have to narrow the scope of this interview to just three questions.
Howard: I can handle that.
Libby: Are you ready?
Howard: Yes.  What's the first "Big Question?"

Libby: Why do they hate us?
Howard: Because they are taught to hate us.
Libby: I'll need you to amplify on that.

Howard: Political/Religious Groups (PRGs) increase their power and authority by selecting an adversary group and marginalizing it.  The adversary group becomes the cause of all that ails the members of the PRG.
The technique has been seen throughout history (even on the elementary school playground), but has been used with particular success in the Middle East.  Hatred of western culture is taught in the Madrasas and the Mosques.  When a PRG instills the intensity of emotion that incites a member of the group to strap on explosives and kill, that is a spectacular accomplishment.  We see it in the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan...
Libby:  Bring this back to America, if you would.
Howard: The widespread teaching of hatred is foreign to most Americans, and we don’t understand the political power of the technique.  However, we are becoming acquainted with its use.  Our soldiers in Iraq have noted how children act “like children” until they are teenagers, and then they succumb to the teachings of the Madrasas.  The older youngsters exhibit strong suspicion of Americans.

We also see elements of it in America.  Our political parties represent different policy viewpoints, but a powerful political tactic is to marginalize the opposing point of view by teaching that the person holding that view is a bad person: “a risky extremist.”  It may seem innocuous, but the application of the technique is devastating.

Cultures can teach a society to hate.

Libby: I'll have to think about that.
Howard:  That's fine.   What's the second "Big Question?"

Libby: Will President Obama be re-elected?
Howard: No.

Libby: Explain that.

Howard: Consider it the “Do as I say, not as I do” effect.  Many Americans are attracted to people who are steadfast in their principles.  We may not like that another individual thinks of taxpayer-funded healthcare as a “right,” but if the individual maintains that principle in resolute fashion, he or she earns our respect.

On the other hand, when principles are used as political props, it strikes us as a type of insincerity.  If our President declares a standard for transparency in government action, and then doesn’t follow it, we are disappointed.  We accept one or two such indiscretions, perhaps as a “political promise” that was used simply for campaign advantage, but these indiscretions have an additive effect.

When there are real problems in the country, the electorate begins to compare expectations (based on political promises) against actions taken.  President Obama has shortcomings in this area that will not be overlooked.

Libby: OK, last question: Who will win the Republican nomination for President in 2012?
Howard:  I don’t have a clue.

Libby: But you seemed so certain on the other questions…
Howard: I can tell you that I’m still a big fan of Sarah Palin, but a lot will happen in the next few months.

Libby: There's that "Palin thing" again.  Why do you support Governor Palin?

Howard: She puts our country first.  She understands what makes America a great place to live, and doesn’t want to see it squandered to advance the power and authority of a political party.  That philosophical stance, plus the cultural persecution that she has gamely endured, make her an attractive political figure to me.  The Arctic Fox is our modern day “Davy Crockett.”

Libby: Pretty strong words for an obscure blogger…

Howard: Someone’s got to say it.

UPDATE 6/24/2011:
Mark Tapscott, writing in The Examiner, gives an example of the "Do as I say, not as I do" effect.  He shows how the Jones Act is used as a political tool, and how the representation of a "national emergency" is politically pliable.

As noted above, many voters are attracted to leaders with steadfast principles.  If President Obama's only steadfast principle is to increase the power and authority of the Democratic Party, he alienates a large group of American voters.

UPDATE 6/24/2011:
This BlackFive post demonstrates "Do as I say, not as I do" in an emotionally charged atmosphere.  President Obama represents that he is a capable Commander-in-Chief, but shows insensitivity for the sacrifices made by our armed forces.

UPDATE 6/30/2011:
Operation "Fast and Furious" at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has a whistleblower who is being terminated by the agency after 24 years of service.  Linda Greene has a story titled "Obama's War on Whistleblowers" at CounterPunch. It contrasts how President Obama pledged to protect whistleblowers in 2008 and is now doing the opposite:

Since he became president, Obama, acting under the Espionage Act, has indicted five whistleblowers who allegedly leaked sensitive government information, the New York Times reported on June 11. "In 17 months in office, President Obama has already outdone every previous president in pursuing leak prosecutions."

UPDATE 9/16/2011:
Stephen Moore in The Wall Street Journal provides a pretty good list of some of the "Do as I say, not as I do" proclamations of President Obama.

UPDATE 9/19/2011:
David Brooks in The New York Times gives voice to the emotional feel of "Do as I say, not as I do."

UPDATE 3/29/2012:
Peggy Noonan has a devastating take on the difficulty of President Obama's re-election.

UPDATE 10/10/2012:
Thomas Sowell gives a clear example of President Obama employing the "Do as I say, not as I do" effect.

UPDATE 10/27/2012:
Kimberley Strassel has a nice list of presidential "flip-flops."

UPDATE 11/7/2012:
President Obama wins re-election!  So much for my prediction...

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Monday, June 13, 2011

That's Not Me!

Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, Founder and Publisher of Daily Kos

It seems that the word "principle" is becoming a bit squishy.  There are principles, and then there are PRINCIPLES!
While philosophical principles are important, emotional principles are the ones that receive most of our attention.  These are the principles that are "personal."  We are invested in them.
Human beings are capable of compartmentalizing principles.  We keep "two sets of books."  We might say we are passionate about a particular cause, but our behavior often tells a different story.  Our passion is actually directed at personal gratification, not the higher principle.
We work at maintaining the charade.  And then … we are caught.
Our media finds this subject newsworthy: What do people do when they are caught?
Senator John Edwards has been involved in redirecting political gifts for secondary purposes.  Representative Anthony Weiner has indulged in a cyber life of intrigue that distracts from his congressional duties.  Both of them misrepresented their activities, and then they were caught.
Principles were violated.  Public trust and familial obligations were misrepresented.  The personal integrity of both individuals was severely compromised.
Our culture does not see the individuals as being at fault.  It is a problem associated with the larger grouping: men, public officials, etc.  Society must be held to account.
While that is for the convenience of public discourse, there appears to be a serious epidemic of introspection visiting our political pundits.  Janeane Garofalo is maintaining a tenuous hold on an increasingly untenable position.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz (always working the political calculus) is rethinking her pronouncements.  Markos Moulitsas is checking in to political rehab.
(OK, that last one is a spoof, but it’s fun to contemplate.)
Maybe it’s time for introspection from us all.  When we see political behavior that strikes us as hypocritical, should we see it as a time to “double down” in our support?
Or should we put it aside and simply say, “That’s not me.”
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Friday, June 3, 2011

Phantom Comparisons

Do you understand phantom comparisons? Maybe you have seen the classic example where a product is offered at “50% off.”

The problem is in determining the product’s original price. If that price is a “phantom” and the product never actually sells in the store at that price, then the business could be involved in deceptive practices and subject to sanctions.

That seems pretty straightforward.

Unfortunately, we don’t see the same standard applied to the operation of our federal government. Here are some examples:

--A spending program is advertised as “saving jobs” when there is no measure of the potentially “lost jobs” and no recognition of the cost of displaced resources.

--A spending increase is characterized as a “budget cut” when it only reduces the rate of cost increases.

--A government program is considered a success because any negative outcomes are “unexpected.”

Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York City, has a document on “False Advertising” that gives New Yorkers advice on what to look for in deceptive practices.

It’s too bad our federal legislators don’t have such a document to help them manage our government.

But then, maybe some of them are actually the problem.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Three Questions for Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Doug Powers is on Michelle Malkin’s Web site, tracking the actions of Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Congresswoman Schultz represents the 20th Congressional District in Florida, an area between Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

Ms. Schultz is now the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. As such, she provides leadership for the Democratic Party in America. Her viewpoints and goals are on display in this YouTube video.

It is interesting to contrast Debbie Wasserman Schultz with John Stuart Mill. Mr. Mill was a 19th Century British Philosopher (1806-1873), best known for his book “On liberty.” His work covers principles of freedom, including the moral and economic freedom of the individual when it is in conflict with the authority of the state.

Mr. Mill saw danger in society and government, and expanded on Alexis de Tocqueville’s concept of the tyranny of the majority. He verbally fought against the suppression of individual freedom that is incidental to the expansion of governmental power.

One of the issues that Mr. Mill saw as significant was the conduct of debate when dealing with these controversial issues. His point was that societies will support one point of view over another, and that the less popular view is too easily ridiculed. Regarding intemperate discussion (invective, sarcasm and the like) he had this to say in “On Liberty:”

The worst offense of this kind which can be committed by a polemic is to stigmatize those who hold the contrary opinion as bad and immoral men.

Keep that in mind as you read this transcript from comments made last week by the DNC Chair:

I think the president was clearly articulating that his position — the Democrat position — is that we need comprehensive immigration reform. We have 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country that are part of the backbone of our economy. And that is not only a reality but a necessity. And that it would be harmful if — the Republican solution that I’ve seen in the last three years is that we should just pack them all up and ship them back to their own countries, and that in fact it should be a crime and we should arrest them all. I mean that was the legislation that Jim Sensenbrenner advanced a couple of years ago.
Republicans are clearly portrayed as bad people, wishing to arrest all undocumented immigrants and “ship them back to their own countries.” Ms. Schultz also invokes the moral authority of the Democratic Party to ensure “the Republican solution” is stopped.

I have three questions for Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

--If you found that undocumented immigrants vote for Republicans, would you still see them as “the backbone of our economy?”

--If 12 million undocumented immigrants are “a necessity,” what number would be optimum?

--Why do you find John Stuart Mill’s philosophy misguided?

UPDATE 6/2/2011:
Roll Call has a story that profiles American immigrants (no, not the undocumented sort championed by Ms. Schultz).  These Americans philosophically align with the Founders rather than Progressives.  My first question to Ms. Schultz may not be so far-fetched...

UPDATE 6/5/2011:
Not to encourage guilt by association, but here is an article about the police tactics being used in what appears to be Congresswoman Schultz's district.

UPDATE 7/27/2011:
Noemie Emery has a defense of Allen West in The Examiner.  Her remarks are in response to a political attack (now becoming idiosyncratic) by Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

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