Thursday, February 13, 2003

Doh! Where's the Balanced Budget Protest?

After reading this post by Brad DeLong, I'm ready to attend any balanced budget protest. I'd even go if the protest sponsored by A.N.S.W.E.R. (Well, not really on that A.N.S.W.E.R. part, but I'm very upset).

Unfortunately, Bush seems to be eating the Democrats' lunch on taxes, so I'm not sure what can be done to turn this around. Maybe I'll write angry letters to my congressmen or something. . .
Towards a Positive GOP Policy on Race

Here's a piece I wrote for Slate's Fraywatch, about what I wish President Bush had put in the State of the Nation Address. (Unfortunately, Slate split it in half). I've edited and reformatted it a little.

Placement: near the end of the domestic policy laundry list.

My fellow Americans, I would like to talk about the ongoing problem of race in America.

I know that many Americans are concerned about the current debate in our courts about affirmative action. Together with majority of Americans, including the majority of African-Americans, I believe that addressing our racial history by granting preferences solely on the basis of race should be a last resort, if any. I promise to do my utmost to bring us all together as Americans by doing everything I can to reach the underlying problems that separate us -- discrimination, poverty, unequal education, and unequal opportunity.

We know that government can only do so much to address this problem, and that most of the work that must be done is in the hearts and minds of all of us Americans of every race. Nevertheless, I pledge that what government can do, it will do.

Over the next six months, my administration will be announcing a series of initiatives - mentoring, targeted tax initiatives, educational scholarships, worker retraining, and welfare reforms - that are designed to make it easier for every person of goodwill to improve his or her lot in life.

To Americans that are sceptical of affirmative action or quotas, I issue a challenge. I agree that it is wrong to favor one person over another because of her race, so long as there is an alternative. I challenge you to look into your hearts and find understanding for people who look at the white faces in this room and other like it and conclude that they don't have a chance. It's our job as Americans to show them that they do, through programs that give all Americans in need some help changing their lives for the better.

To Americans who are sceptical of the government, I say give us a chance. We will be announcing a "report card" of statistics, including the relative educations and incomes of black, minority, and white America, police shootings, and other statistics. If that report card doesn't show that we are closing the gap in America, we will reevaluate what else we can do to make this nation's promise of equal opportunity for all a reality. And through it all, we will be listening for new ideas in the town halls, churches, synagogues, mosques and public streets of America.

Together with the drive and dynamism of the American people, we pledge to continue the legacy of Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and so many others to bring the opportunity for the American dream to every American.

Here's what I have been thinking:

  1. Affirmative action and other race-based programs do hold us back. They encourage people to see the government as a racial spoils system. If there is an alternative, we should consider it.

  2. That said, America (and especially the Republican party) shouldn't ignore the significant portion of the population that feel that the deck is stacked against them. Any time a child gives up on school because she thinks she can't make it, it weakens the country. It's also a personal tragedy that we shouldn't allow.

  3. In fact, I don't think we are kidding ourselves about race in America, I just don't think we're talking about it. Most of the conservatives I know are frustrated by victim politics and affirmative action, but they also feel terrible that there are people left out of the American dream. They just don't know what to do to fix it. George Bush could challenge conservative America on race the same way that he has on AIDs.

  4. The Republican party also needs to get stronly out in front of racial healing as a matter of both conscience and public relations. This means more than just proposing a "top 10%" plan or faith-based initiatives - it means we need to think hard about why people feel that minorities aren't given a fair shake and what we can do to address those concerns. If we believe that affirmative action is actually bad for the county, including for minorities, we need to propose a serious set of alternatives, both so that we can crack the Democratic stranglehold on minority votes and because we need to convince the country that we're right.

  5. In other words, the GOP should be proposing aggressive programs that address the root causes of racial tension. Where possible, we should do this in a race-neutral fashion. Worker retraining or welfare reform helps everyone. To the extent that minorities are disproportionately poor or on welfare, it helps them more. Similarly, we need to have an honest conversation about racial profiling. In cases where we need it (national origin as a factor in terrorist profiles, for example), we should be honest, and in cases where we can do without it, we should.

  6. I think an essential element is that we offer a "scorecard" of statistics to grade our progress. One untold secret is that things are basically getting better for race in America - the disparity between black and white salaries is improving, violent crimes committed against minorities are dropping, police shootings are dropping, etc. It would be great to have a State of the Union or a presidential debate where Bush could say "two years ago, I gave you a scorecard. We have work to do, but on 7 of the 8 statistics, we're better off as a country. I promise to keep working to improve things.

  7. Another essential element is "listening." We should be flexible about which numbers to use in the scorecard, and keep community leaders in the loop. (Hillary's "listening tour" was a great example of this). We should also make clear that as part of the bargain, if our proposals don't work, we're committed to exploring other ideas until we get it right.

  8. As a final step, and particularly if he could establish some credibility on this issue, Bush could use the platform and the statistics to challenge individual Americans. Companies - outreach to find qualified minorities. All Americans - make an effort to make friends with someone you now just say "hello" to. Minorities - make a connection with your police department, and vice versa.

  9. There would be some serious opposition to any groundbreaking program. People receiving government patronage now won't want a change, and the Democrats may oppose anything that has a serious risk of breaking up one of their core constituencies. Most importantly, plenty of people don't trust the GOP on race. However, George Bush is actually pretty good for this. He expresses compassion well, and I believe he feels it. With Karl Rove behind him, he's turned out to be a very savvy politician. I think he could pull it off.

It's just a dream, but it's one I would love to see come true. I would feel even more proud to be a Republican and an American if we could take the lead in improving the racial conditions in American for a third time in our country's history.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Some European Mind-Reading - The House of the Rising Sun

Last night, Steven Den Beste considered some reasons why European popular sentiment might be trending so strongly anti-American. I'm sure it's a combination of factors, but I suspect it's primarily one that Den Beste touches on.

Inferiority. I think it's easy for Americans to forget how strongly people take "humiliation." We can't take seriously Palestinian claims that the "humiliation" of checkpoints or of the existance of a non-Muslim country in the Middle East is so strong that it forces them to kill Jewish children in their beds. We don't see the problem in telling France "you're with us or you're with the terrorists."

I don't mean to say that we're wrong, because humiliation is not a good reason to make life or death decisions. However, we haven't really had to deal with it since the 80s.

Back in the 80s, there was a period where people began to believe that the Japanese economic system and culture, (and to a lesser extent, German economics and culture) were superior to the US economic system and culture. People thought that the US auto industry was dead and the computer industry was next, that the Japanese would soon own every entertainment company, office building, and Picasso to be had in the USA, and that within 50 years, we'd all be speaking Japanese. (Don't believe me? Watch Blade Runner).

Of course, most people kept living their lives, but on the margins, Americans started getting a little squirrelly, and reacted in one of two ways - with anger or imitation. In the (rare) worst cases, anti-Japanese sentiment led to violence. On the other front, it seemed like every third movie was about ninja or Japanese-US cultural conflicts, and every executive seemed to be reading >A Book of Five Rings or The Art of War.

Ultimately, I think Europe is stuck in the same situation we were in during the 80s. Their economy is stagnating relative to ours, their geopolitical influence is waning, and the EU has turned out to be something of an unstoppable bureaucratic monster instead of the economic and political powerhouse they were promised. In response, the Europeans are experiencing the same reactions we did during the "Rising Sun" era - resentment or imitation. "Old Europe" is trending mostly towards resentment, and "New Europe" is trending mostly towards imitation, but I'm sure there's some of each in every country.

Of course, none of this analysis tells us what to do about European resentment, and I don't have any ideas, except to encourage countries to emulate the best things about the US.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Warbloggerwatch-Watch, Part II

A few weeks back, "Warbloggerwatch" hammered Glenn Reynolds for repeating the claim that A.N.S.W.E.R., a truly hateful group involved in the "peace protests", prevented Michael Lerner from speaking at a San Francisco peace rally. WBW's main criticisms were that Reynolds linked to the story despite a "lack of substantiation" and that "A.N.S.W.E.R.'s claim on the anti-war movement amounts to little more than having secured permits and chartered buses."

Yesterday, stated that (1) A.N.S.W.E.R. shut out the undeniably anti-war Lerner for the crime of trying to publicize the fact that there are anti-war Jews and Israelis and (2) the other peace rally organisers, Not in Our Name and United for Peace and Justice, didn't oppose A.N.S.W.E.R.'s decision to blackball Lerner.

How about it, Warbloggerwatch?

Is the story sufficiently "substantiated" for you now?

More importantly, care to explain why the peace movement is letting the "bus driver" pick who gets to speak, and why the rest of the movement is letting the "bus driver" suppress the message that there are anti-war Jews? (It sounds to me as if you're saying that A.N.S.W.E.R. may be shutting out anti-war Jews from the movement, but that's an acceptable price to pay if the alternative is getting the permits and buses yourselves).

I'll be watching Warbloggerwatch for the correction, together with anyone else who's still reading it.

Monday, February 10, 2003

The Iraq-alQuaida Link Revealed!

It's so obvious.

Saddam has let the press know he enjoys sipping Johnny Walker scotch. (Scroll down a little in the linked story, or search for "scotch.")

The most famous American Taliban - Johnny Walker Lindh.

Do I have to spell it out for you people! Either Saddam is sending a signal to al-Qaida or the other way around. Either way, we need to invade now before Saddam begins to make overtures to Hollywood by stocking his palaces with Paul Newman salsa!
Reuters: 6 Million "People" Killed in Germany During World War II

James Tarranto correctly describes this statement by Reuter's as "jaw-dropping."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has angered the Bush administration with his outspoken opposition to a war in Iraq, a position that has widespread backing in Germany where six million people were killed during World War II.

(Emphasis added). Apparently, Reuters believes that because the Germans lost six million people during their attempt to conquer Europe, they now believe that Iraq should be subject to the same kind of inspections that famously failed to prevent the Germans themselves from arming for war.

The point I would like to make is that when Reuters adds up the butcher's bill from World War II, they apparently don't count the Jews or other victims of the Holocaust. According to Microsoft Encarta, not counting the deaths from the Holocaust, Germany lost about 3.5 million soldiers and 3.8 million civilians during World War II. Granted, most German soldiers probably died outside of Germany, and some allied soldiers probably died in Germany, but Reuter's "6 million figure" seems to more or less be the number of German dead during World War II, excluding Germans killed in the Holocaust.

Granted, only about 160,000 German Jews died in the Holocaust, so it's possible that the passive phrase "six million people were killed" in Germany is meant to include the 160,000 the Germans killed themselves, but not the people that the Germans murdered across the border in Poland and the Ukraine. Still, it would seem appropriate at least to mention that six million or so Jews, together with about 3.5 million Sovier prisoners of war "were killed" by the Germans before the allies finally got around to imposing regime change.

How that equates to an argument against unseating the world's monsters we'll have to leave to Reuters and the Germans to figure out . . .