Archive for November 2008

Use the Banks to Identify the Savages

Black Friday earned its monicker when Jdimytai Damour, a 34 year old son of Haitian immigrants and retail employee, was trampled to death at a Wal-Mart in Long Island New York. He had opened the doors at 5 am to allow a crowd of 2,000 into the store and was knocked to the ground in the ensuing stampede. The shoppers also tore the sliding doors of their hinges, and kept store employees and police from reaching the dying man.

Amid the chaos in Valley Stream, shoppers were asked to leave by other store workers, some of them crying, said (Kimberly Cribbs, a shopper who arrived after the initial melee). Others ignored the pleas that they stop shopping, move to the front of the store and exit, she said. “They kept shopping. It’s not right.”

Ms. Cribbs also used the term “savages” to describe the crowd. Given the mindless brutality shown by people within the crowd  it’s an apt use of the term.

Photo courtesy Newsday
Shoppers at the Long Island Wal-Mart surge into the store. The man in a yellow jacket is attempting to help up a shopper who has fallen.

The shoppers had waited outside the store for several hours. In some countries similar scenes are witnessed when food or aid is handed out after a war or natural disaster. In still others stampedes are common during religious festivals.  But the throng was not waiting for food, clean water, or bedding; nor were they rushing thoughtlessly forward as part of a religious ceremony. Instead they waited for hours to pay $598 for a LCD HDTV and $2 for the movie Rush Hour 2, both of which could be had elsewhere for similar prices (anyone there ever heard of eBay?) without the wait in the cold.

This being America, of course it’s not anyone’s fault.

“... (I)ndividual judgement can melt away as people react to being jostled in a crowd, which in turn can shatter individual notions of personal space. Mary Kirby-Diaz, a sociology professor at Farmingdale State College, said average Americans need a space “bubble” of 27 inches.

“What happens is one’s individual identity becomes erased and you become part of the crowd,” said Danielle Knafo, associate professor of clinical psychology at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University in Brookville.

...
And Rebecca Curtis, a psychology professor at Adelphi University in Garden City, said bargain-hunting can get out of hand.

“The desire for material goods is so strong and probably most of the things people were buying [at Wal-Mart] were not things that were like food,” Curtis said.

“In effect, people are giving up their identity and becoming part of the crowd,” said Dr. John Kane, vice-president for behavioral health services at the North Shore- Long Island Jewish Health System. “As a result, they might do things and participate in things that they would not do on a regular basis.”


Rather it’s the Big Evil Corporation’s fault:
Shoppers echoed the sentiments of the Nassau County police detective supervising the investigation, who told reporters in the aftermath of Damour’s death that the store could have and should have better prepared for the large crowds that camped out as early as 9 p.m. the night before for the post-Thanksgiving bargains.

Bibi Raffik of Jamaica, Queens, a frequent Wal-Mart shopper, said she always feels safe at the store.

The 41-year-old said, “I’m very shocked by what happened.” She added: “There should have been more security here.”

Wal-Mart has defended its security, noting that it hired additional personnel—of whom Damour was one—and put up barriers in anticipation of the Black Friday rush.


Police are reviewing video of the crowd to find the identities of those who trampled Damour.  I think there’s a better way. According to a 2005 survey by the Association for Financial Professionals,  credit and debit cards are used in 47% of retail purchases, while checks are used 22% of the time. All three of these methods are traceable, meaning that roughly 7 out of 10 of the shoppers at the store that morning could be identified by name. That percentage is undoubtedly higher than the percentage of shoppers identified by police using closed circuit video.

Everyone who shopped that morning at the store is responsible in some way for the death of this man. At the very least each shopper should be identified and publicly humiliated for their loss of humanity that lead to this man’s death. A respect for life should not be so easily disregarded for a mediocre Jackie Chan comedy or substandard LCD TV set (the $598 set isn’t even full 1080P HD). Long Island prosecutors should subpoena Wal-mart’s receipts for that morning and force credit card issuers to divulge the names and addresses of those whose credit cards were used in the first few hours there. A public airing of the names along with some high profile meetings between the dead man’s family and those who so callously stomped him would do more than any lawsuit to prove that our society does not tolerate such behavior.

But unfortunately that is unlikely to happen. Wal-Mart will be sued by Damour’s family while the true perpetrators of this crime are free to enjoy their bloody Christmas loot. I suppose that’s what the true spirit of the season has become.

The Council Has Spoken: November 28, 2008

 Congratulations to this week’s winners:

Council:

The Colossus of Rhodey - Culture of Whine (a rant)

Noncouncil:

Serendituous Altruism - American troops in Afghanistan through the eyes of a French OMLT infantryman

Complete results here.

Destination North Carolina

In my mind I’m goin to carolina
Cant you see the sunshine
Cant you just feel the moonshine
Maybe just like a friend of mine
It hit me from behind
Yes I’m goin to carolina in my mind. – James Taylor

Victory in Iraq

Michael Yon describes it:

When the barriers went up, it was a sign that we were trying to get a grip on the civil war, and it was “exciting news” to some in the “further evidence of failure” camp. But when I stood and watched some of the barriers being taken down, the only camera there was mine.

The Council Has Spoken: 11/21/2008

Congratulations to this week’s winners:

Council:
Joshuapundit - The Afghanistan Blues

Noncouncil:
American Thinker - How the Academic Left Elected Obama

Full voting here.

COIN of the Realm

After reading Michael Yon’s latest on a steadily improving situation in Iraq, I think it’s time that I admit that I was wrong about Iraq. In my heart of hearts I never really believed in the Counter Insurgency (COIN) strategy. In fact, even after the hard-earned success in Iraq I’m not sure I fully understand it. As I wrote here six years ago, for me there is one kind of war, Total War, and the idea of the “Three-Block War” of fighting insurgents on one block, working as peacekeepers on the next block and leading humanitarian on the last is a good example of why my military strategies are confined to video games. Although the Mainstream Media hasn’t reported it directly, the strategy in Iraq has paid off and we are victorious – mission finally accomplished. We can now shift our forces to Pakistan where the real war against terrorism is being fought (Afghanistan is a symptom of a “disease” that thrives in Pakistan. I do not believe it is possible to defeat Islamic Fascism without successfully turning Pakistan and the less populous but more influential Saudi Arabia against it.)

As an amateur military historian I have studied texts on warfare, from Sun Tsu through von Clausewitz to the US Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, 2007 ed.  The latter’s reliance on “soft power” always struck me as a bit overly Politically Correct – an attempt by the military to conduct warfare at the behest of the American people who lacked the stomach for it. COIN seemed an alternative to relentless savagery that brutally destroyed our enemies quickly and mercilessly, making war with us an unappetizing prospect for all but the most suicidal of adversaries.

Fortunately for most of our enemies throughout history – the Indian wars the being the sole exception that comes to mind – the American people have usually tempered their warfare with morality. The US citizenry tolerated massive civilian enemy casualties during Sherman’s March to Atlanta, and a century later in the firebombings of Dresden and Hamburg. In both of these cases the United States was fighting a war of survival, whereas counterinsurgency wars in Vietnam, Latin America and the Middle East seem less threatening to our way of life and therefore the public was less tolerant of non-combatant casualties. As the smoke from the fires of 9-11 fades into distant memory it becomes increasingly difficult to sell the war against the Islamofascists to the American populace because we do not feel under siege. Therefore a counterinsurgency strategy is the only way forward if we are to prevent a repeat of 9-11 while avoiding massive civilian loss of life.

The strategy has evolved over time and has its roots in the jungle thickets of Vietnam, where it was first successfully applied (albeit too late in the war to make a difference; the American people and Congress had enough of the war by the time a successful COIN was developed in the early ‘70s). It was refined further in the streets of Mogadishu and the rolling hills of Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990’s. However it wasn’t until Iraq that the counterinsurgency strategy evolved to achieve hard earned battle-tested success thanks to its masterful application by General David Petraeus. While the MSM has yet to recognize and the American public fully appreciate the successful application of COIN in Iraq, it is clear that over the last few years we have witnessed the birth of a combat strategy that will serve as the model for military action for decades to come.

I’m glad I was wrong about Iraq and the counterinsurgent strategy worked. My mistake serves as a reminder that our armed services are dynamic: they change with the times and aren’t wedded to a particular doctrine or strategy. The success is proof of the creativity of our men and women in uniform, an aspect of the services that I never fully appreciated until now.

Unfortunately I am not the only one making this mistake. Evidently Gen. David McKiernan, the general in charge of thecampaign in Afghanistan, is unaware of COIN’s success in Iraq too. Maybe Gen. Petraeus should send him a copy of the manual.

The Council Has Spoken: 11/14/2008

Congratulations to this week’s winners:

Council:
Bookworm RoomReaching new demographics

Noncouncil:
Big Lizards The Great Leap Forward: How the Heck Can We Win Anyway?

Full voting here.

Comfort

I imagine sitting next to a roaring fire in a cabin somewhere in a cold and beautiful place listening to Neil Young’s Harvest.

Return to First Principles

Even prior to last week’s election it was clear to me that the Republican Party needed renewal. In this post I suggested that it reconsider it’s anti-gay stances, and in this one I turned a critical eye to the party platform.  As part of my own research into what a new party should like, I discovered Jeffrey Nelson’s “Ten Books That Shaped America’s Conservative Renaissance.” (PDF, HTML) This book lays out the most influential books in modern conservativism and discusses the four different groups that are allied at the movement’s core.

Libertarians: “The principles libertarians believed should guide government were free markets, private property, individualism, and limited government, in short laissez-faire.” Anti-Communists: “Anti-communism, especially opposition to Soviet imperialism, was another powerful force affecting the development of American conservatism after 1945.”  And Traditionalists:

... Russel Kirk traced an impressive intellectual genealogy of Americans and Britons that included Edmund Burke, John Adams, John Randolph, James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and T. S. Eliot. In contrast to mainstream academic thought, Kirk persuasively demonstrated that conservatism has in fact been central to the American experience, and in doing so gave American conservatism, according to HenryRegnery, its “needed unifying concept.” “In essence,” Kirk wrote, “the body of belief that we call ‘conservatism’ is an affirmation of normality in the concerns of society. There exist standards to which we may repair; man is not perfectible, but he may achieve a tolerable degree of order, justice, and freedom….” To uphold these norms and standards is a concern of every conservative.

Neo-conservatives joined this coalition in the 1960’s. “... this group of disillusioned liberals, claiming, as one of them put it, to have been “mugged by reality,” migrated to the conservative cause. Reacting in part to the social uprisings of the 60s, in part to the isolationism and perceived “anti-Americanism” of the New Left, and in part to the consequences of liberal activism in government, these gifted newcomers came to realize that good intentions do not guarantee good or effective government.”

It’s been close to forty years since the neocons joined the coalition. Since that time Communism has breathed its last, having been replaced by the multiple threats of Russian exceptionalism, Chinese mercantilism and Islamofascism. None of these by itself constitute the scope of the threat posed by Communism during the Cold War, although each presents a formidable and unique challenge to freedom.

Does the anti-communist bloc still exist or have events made anti-communism unnecessary? Russian exceptionalism might appear at first glance to be the logical successor to communism. However Russia’s actions do not have the transnationalist goals that lay at the core of Communism. Chinese mercantilism is aided and abetted by the pro-business elements of the libertarian wing; any significant shift towards viewing China as an enemy is quickly resisted by business using China as a source of labor or a potential market. Islamofascism has roughly the same transnationalist elements of Communism, but lacks its broad scope.

Neoconservatives  share with the left a belief in internationalism, and isolationism – the traditional default state of America – is only found among the paleocons of the Libertarian Party. After nation building in Bosnia, Kosovo, and especially Iraq, does the internationalist view of neocons really make sense?

As for the Traditionalists, the concept of the family has changed throughout the history of the Republic. We have evolved from multigenerational households to single parent, and mixed ones. Yet no matter how the family has changed, it has not disappeared or become irrelevant.

The nuclear family existed briefly between World War 2 and the rise of the feminist era of the 1960s. I do not think it’s a stretch to declare it dead – and as Conservatives who are revisiting our first principles it’s critical to see it for what it is. We will not resurrect it by legislating morality and risk appearing hypocritical (“Republicans hate government everywhere except in the bedroom.”)

Is it possible for the coalition to expand and allow gays into the fold? The Gay Community has discovered that it is not the heir to the Civil Rights Mantel that it thought it was, as Proposition 8 was supported 2-1 by the black community. At the same time gay rights touch upon many of the civil liberties supported by libertarians. If not for the Traditionalists, the gay community would be a natural fit for the Conservative movement.

Perhaps it’s a stretch, but it is critical to learn from our experience in the political wilderness, and the first step is to revisit our first principles and conduct a thorough inventory of what it means to be a conservative.

Chris Matthews Becomes Obama Propagandist

Mark Finkelstein at Newsbusters reports on the following exchange…

The “Hardball” host (and presumptive candidate for U.S. Senate from PA) was equally unwilling to see the Emanuel episode as evidence of a lack of planning and discipline in the nascent Obama administration. Matthews eventually explained why.[H/t multiple NB readers.]

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Yeah, well, you know what? I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work, and I think that—
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Is that your job? You just talked about being a journalist!

MATTHEWS: Yeah, it is my job. My job is to help this country.

Matthews wasn’t done with his odd new job description . . . An incredulous Scarborough kept pressing, astonished at such a complete 180 from Matthews’s repeated insistence during the Bush presidency that he had to hold the government accountable.

SCARBOROUGH: Your job is the make this presidency work?

MATTHEWS: To make this work successfully. This country needs a successful presidency.


So much for speaking Truth to Power, dissent being the highest form of patriotism, etc…

Congratulations President-Elect Obama

Now Iraq is yours.
You own Afghanistan.
The Economy? Yours.
Terrorism? North Korea? Nukes in Iran? All yours baby.

You won’t be able to run against Bush in 2012 but it will be quite easy for my team to run against yours in 2010.

Go ahead, celebrate. But if you make a single misstep, if there’s one terrorist attack on US soil while you are president, or if you haven’t delivered on half of what people are expecting you to, then it’s over and you will suffer the indignity of serving a single term as president. This night of elation will be brief, and politics will continue.

I hope you are what your supporters think you are, but I suspect that you are what I’ve said you were all along: a cipher, a blank screen upon which people project their hopes and dreams. At the same time I think you change who you are depending on your audience. Put you among leftist academics and you sound like a campus radical. Place you at a dinner amongst businessmen and you drone on about markets and competitiveness.

We will soon learn what you are. You cannot continue to be a chameleon amongst those greater than you. You will expose who you are, and as you do your popularity will wane.

Along with your skills to be everything to every man, you have ridden a series of remarkable and fortuitous events to power. You have proven that you are truly a man of your time. But times change and events that have favored your rise can conspire just as easily to contribute to your downfall.

You have come to power wearing the mantle of change, but people often must be reminded that change is not always good. We have enjoyed a level of personal safety that we couldn’t have imagined on Sept 12, 2001 – 7 years without a single terrorist attack. 9/11 has become a joke to you and your supporters, the heartbreak and helplessness this nation experienced during that day now forgotten or derided as childish. But our enemies are very real and will strike. When they do you will be held personally responsible in a way that George Bush and his predecessor Bill Clinton never were.

UPDATE:
My political mentor Steven Den Beste has a similar view of Obama’s election.

The main reason this will be a “coming of age” moment is that now Obama and the Democrats have to put up or shut up. Obama got elected by making himself a blank slate, with vapid promises about “hope” and “change”—but now he actually has to do something. Now he has to reveal his true agenda. And with the Democrats also having a majority in both chambers of Congress, now the Democrats really have to lead. And they’re not going to do a very good job of it. It’s going to be amusing to watch.

And the people who fell for the demagoguery will learn an invaluable lesson.

Let it be known…

That I voted for John McCain knowing well that he will most likely lose tonight.

I pushed the button next to his name because no matter what the Obamanistas say, John McCain was the better man in this election. He is a true American hero who deserved to be elevated to the presidency, much more than the cipher the American electorate has chosen.

But this is America, and I have faith that come what may, the Republic will survive.

If Obama Wins… Part 3

This is the final part of a three part series.
Part 2 can be found here.
Part 1
can be found here.
A satire of the Obama presidency can be viewed here.

Regardless of whether Obama wins on Tuesday or not, it is clear that Democrats are dominating the national landscape – from holding a majority of governorships to a solid lock on both houses of Congress. In such a hostile environment, can the Republican party hope to recover? Can there be a conservative renaissance as GayPatriot believes?

The Republican Party has been the primary vehicle for conservativism in America, but the party itself is on life-support. Since President Bush has been the defacto head of the party for the last eight years, the calamitous state of the party rests with him and his administration. Having come to power as a stalwart conservative in 2000, the President turned his back on the conservative base by pursuing policies anathema to it; he’s now leaving office with a larger government in place than he found in 2001, and a federal budget deficit that is worse than that of any Democratic administration since FDR. Of everything the president has been blamed by the Left, this is the one criticism that sticks.

Having strayed from its core principles one could argue that the party should simply return to them and American voters would reward the party. Unfortunately the reality is not that simple. America of today is not the same that swept Ronald Reagan to power in 1980 and led to his landslide in 1984. America of 2008 is not that of 1994 when a generation of conservatives came to power led by Newt Gingrich and the Contract for America banner.

In order to take back power the Republican Party must change with the times yet stick to the core principles that unite the broadest segment of  conservatives as well as the independents the party needs in order to win elections. It’s a unique blend of new and old ideas that begins with a reassessment of what the party’s core values truly are.

What are they? Let’s start by taking a look at the 2008 Republican Party Platform. Here we find yet another example of how the party has strayed from its core principles. The platform looks and reads like an annual report from a corporation.  And does “Supporting Native American Communities” rise to the same level of importance as “Preserving America’s Property Rights” or “Ensuring Equal Treatment For All”? What exactly does “Ensuring Equal Treatment For All” mean anyway?

Buried within the values section of the platform are these gems:

  • Individual rights – and the responsibilities that go with them – are the foundation of a free society.

  • At the center of a free economy is the right of citizens to be secure in their property.

The primacy of the individual is the heart of the conservative movement and the core of the Republican Party. Everything that the Republican party offers should flow from these two values. So what about these values that are spelled out in the platform?

We uphold the right of individual Americans to own firearms – covered by Individual Rights.
We support freedom of speech and freedom of the press – ditto.
Our Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion – ditto.

However the following “values” in the platform don’t belong because they undermine individual rights and property rights. These are the party’s sacred cows and ones that must be carefully reconsidered and if necessary led to slaughter if the party hopes to remain the champion of individual rights.

The symbol of our unity, to which we all pledge allegiance, is the flag. – Who got this inserted into the platform – students of Carl Jung? America got along fine for over 100 years without the pledge of allegiance. The flag is a symbol, and burning it or desecrating it does not damage or tarnish what the flag symbolizes. Banning flag burning goes against individual rights. Besides, it didn’t get much traction in the 1992 election and gets even less today.

...we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed – What about when the mother’s life is in danger? What about cases of rape and incest? Except for the few at either extreme, abortion falls into a grey area that has not been accepted or recognized by the modern Republican party. This issue – and the Republican party stance – needs to be modeled to reflect the complex view that Americans have towards abortion. Most are appalled by it, yet are equally concerned about the government control over a woman’s body a ban would entail.

Because our children’s future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage, we call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage… - With the possible exception of flag burning, no plank in the Republican Party platform is as rotten and wormeaten as this one. By speaking of “our children’s future” the party is reaching for societal rights to trump individual rights – the antithesis of the core belief respecting the primacy of the individual. It also contradicts the “free exercise of religion” by continuing the tradition whereby the state meddles in religious affairs.

Marriage is a religious agreement, not a civil one, and should be decided by the religions themselves. If Christians want to ban marriages between two women or two men, then so be it; those same people can enter into legal agreements of incorporation that determine division of property. How about three women? A brother and sister? As long as everyone is of legal age and of sound mind then they can enter into any legal arrangement that they want. But they cannot marry – nor can the state force a religion to act against its own religious principles and conduct one.

As I have written elsewhere, the GOP needs to embrace gays not out of pure self interest but philosophy. Nothing is more personal, no right is as individual as the right to choose whom to love. Besides, it seems like the only place that Democrats don’t like Big Goverment is in the bedroom, so why should the Republicans embrace  it? Tossing this platform plank won’t result in large numbers of gays joining the party, but it will align the party better with its own principles.

A healthy and vibrant Republican Party is the best way to protect its core values. Over the coming years these values will be tested more than ever before, so its critical that the Party rejuvenate itself. In an Obama-dominated government it must

  1. Recognize that it cannot continue business as usual if the party and its principles are to survive.

  2. Respect the power of the electorate to make decisions in its own best interest.

  3. Conduct a fearless and honest inventory of its beliefs and values.

That’s only a start, but there will be plenty of time to take these steps over the coming months if Obama wins.