Archive for November 2010

America’s China Problem

To paraphrase Gordon Chang writing in Forbes magazine, we don’t have a North Korean problem, we have a China problem. Chang made this observation over a year and a half ago after North Korea tested a second atomic bomb, and it applies even more today. So far this year North Korea has killed 50 South Koreans in unequivocal acts of war – 46 in the sinking of the South Korean destroyer Cheonan and 4 in the shelling of Yeonpyeong island.

China’s continued support of North Korea is self-defeating. It would like nothing more than to drive the United States out of the western Pacific, yet paradoxically China’s unqualified support of North Korea’s belligerence pushes South Korea and Japan closer to the United States and sucks America deeper into the region. Protests in Seoul against the American presence have been replaced by protests demanding immediate retaliation – with American involvement.

China is worried about two events: a mass influx of refugees in the near-term and a unified Korea allied with the United States in the long-term. By propping up the Kims they may have created the conditions where both outcomes are likely.

But the truth is that neither South Korea or the US want the North Korean regime to collapse. The south isn’t in West Germany’s position in the early 1990’s when it could afford to integrate East Germany. The integration cost more and took longer than expected even with Germany’s deep pockets and East Germany’s relatively educated and informed population. South Korea won’t have either luxury when North Korea falls. Its prosperity is new and still shallow, and the North Korean population is in a feudal state and brainwashed. A unified Korea would require more resources than South Korea is itself capable of marshalling; it would need support from the world community but especially Japan, the United States and yes even China. It would also take decades.

Unification in Korea would be much messier and more expensive than Germany’s – and that’s not even considering the mechanics of the collapse of the Kim regime. Such an event would likely happen swiftly and violently – exactly the kind of event South Koreans living in the shadow of artillery and Japanese within missile range fear most. Add in nuclear, biological and chemical tipped missiles and North Korea becomes a true Pandora’s Box that no one in the region wants to open.

But someone is going to have to, and that someone is going to be China. China alone has the capability of stabilizing the situation and can do so without causing a flood of refugees or the collapse of North Korea. China must accept that it is possible to destroy the Kim regime without sacrificing the state the regime has built – and that it must act.

So far China hasn’t been willing to do this because it has benefited from North Korea’s poking of South Korea and the United States. North Korea is a very big stick it can use to bully Japan, South Korea and the United States. It has had this stick for 60 years and has not had a good reason to give it up. Both SK and the US have allowed themselves to be manipulated by refusing to accept the more painful realization that they don’t have a North Korean problem – they have a China problem.

This realization is more painful because it recognizes that China is an adversary – not an ally in world affairs. It is coming around to the Chinese perspective which has always viewed the US and Western nations through the historical prism – successors to the nations that divided and pillaged China during the 18th and 19th centuries. Chinese memories – and the paranoia they breed – run deep, much deeper than Western memories. China sees trade as a zero-sum game that benefits it by providing resources and funds which it can then use to increase Chinese political and military power. In exchange it provides relative trinkets that cannot be used to boost the strength of its trading partners (more about that here).

Neither the US nor South Korea can continue to accept a status quo whereby North Korea commits one act of war after another, killing South Koreans without punishment. Both states must make it clear that while neither can retaliate against the North Koreans directly, they can hold China responsible for the North’s actions. It is time for these nations to make China understand that its support of North Korea has consequences and that while are retaliation options are very limited with the Hermit Kingdom, that isn’t the case with the Middle one.

Imagine the following situation:
Kim Jong Il has died suddenly but before his son takes power he is arrested by one of North Korea’s generals acting on behalf of the dead Kim. The son would be charged with treason for deviating from the Socialist path or something (see the communiqué issued by the Hungarian Communist party requesting assistance from the Soviets in 1956 for details) – and would be executed – along with the rest of the Kim clan who hadn’t fleed beforehand. This general then requests that China send its People’s Army to North Korea to help North Korea maintain order, and China complies – sending tens of thousands of troops in to support the new regime. These changes are for the most part invisible to the outside world; the only difference would be the uniforms worn by the soldiers on the north side of the DMZ.

How would the world react? With relief. The fact that China may not believe that the US and South Korea want stability more than a unified peninsula does not make it less true. All regional powers would much rather see the North Korean military and its nuclear weapons under Chinese control and its populace under an authoritarian rule that can at least feed it.

The only trade off is that China would lose its puppet – so it must be made to understand that it will lose more by supporting the Kim regime than it would by replacing it. Until it accepts this, and is made to believe it through the concrete actions of the United States, Japan and South Korea, then North Korea will continue to kill and threaten civilians.

The Council Has Spoken: Nov 26, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Joshuapundit--JCS Mullen: ‘We Can Stop Islamic Extremism by Teaching People to Read The Qu’ran…’

Noncouncil: Stop Shouting - My Rebuttal to a Progressive who Admonished Me to Play Nice ….

Full voting here.

Fix Bayonets

Time to fight back...

“Burn down the House”.

Yes, in your world, graphic or martial imagery is only to be exploited by the Left.

“We bring a gun”

“Get in their faces”

Oh yes, your side “went there”. Not only was there no outcry about the “violent imagery”, there were claps and cheers of agreement. You framed the imagery. Own it.

“Retreat and Reload”and “Burn down the house”. Get used to it. Don’t think for a moment you’ve earned the right to open your mouth in protest.

Here’s some more martial imagery for you.

Yes, we will burn down the house of Progressive Democrats and lay waste to the entire construct of the welfare state. It will be a long, decades-long battle, but we will prevail because we learned the consequences of not teaching our young ourselves. We delegated that to you, and that was our first mistake. We assumed you were honest brokers, but now we know better.

Carthago delenda est.

I accept that’s the intellectually lazy response, but I have to work with what you can understand.

My preference is more of a “Thucydides account of the no-mercy overthrow of the oligarchs at Corcyra” type of historical reference.

Either way, I am confident you can deduce the “tone”of my rebuttal.

Realizing that you are losing your grip on the public schools, that the youth that propelled the boy-king to victory have abandoned you, that the bitter, blue collar white workers are now Tea Party grandmas and grandpas, that you have lost control of the federal checkbook and the legislative calendar,

now you want to petition for peace?

now you cry out for civility and consensus?

I have a message for you:

Go. To. Hell.

When you retreat back to the comfort and safety of your salon filled with like-minded Hopeium addicts, perhaps you can rouse them from their stupor long enough to send them this message.

We don’t want civility.
We don’t want to “play nice”.
We don’t want to “compromise” with you.

From coffee shops to soccer fields and everywhere in between, the message has been clear.

Draw a line in the sand.

Those who we have sent to Washington this January who yield will be removed from the field and replaced. Make no mistake about it.

We came to you with ideas and a sincere intent to find common ground.

Our emissaries were told,

“I won”.

We tried to engage you and bring alternative solutions to the health care crisis. We met in good faith at Blair House. Our concerns and our emissaries were rudely dismissed.

So, this is our message to you:

The scorched earth policy is in effect.

A court of accounting will be convened.

Fix bayonets.

Why Two Friends Hate Sarah Palin

I belong to Facebook and the vast majority of the friends that I have accumulated over the years happen to be liberals. While I’ve learned to avoid discussing politics there, most of my Facebook friends don’t and neither do their friends, providing me a window into the average liberal’s mind. Granted since the Left dominates the Media there is a veritable sea of glass out there exposing every Leftist feeling, half-baked idea and inkling, one really doesn’t need another portal into their bipolar world. Still, it’s the world conservatives live in and at the very least provides fodder for lengthy essays and diatribes.

Recently, one of my friends – an independent and budding libertarian – wrote a very vulgar comment about Palin. Several of his friends added to it, as did another friend of mine, a future conservative that is in the process of getting mugged by reality. I’ve worked closely with both and held many deep conversations about politics with them. While they aren’t anywhere near as liberal as some of my college friends who border on the anarchist and Stalinist fringes, both detest Palin as much as my hard-core leftist friends – so I asked them why. Here’s what they said.

JH:When i first heard of Palin I thought her biggest blessing was her biggest curse…the fact that she’s from AK and not the lower 48. I thought she would have a fresh outlook on DC and the political system being from there (which, honestly, might as well be Mars) and that might help her as she would lack the preconceived notion of “how things are done”...then she opened her mouth. I have no tolerance for anyone who cannot speak well, and even less for someone who speaks and makes unintelligent statements (I zone out on executives here once they say “um” more than twice during an announcement). Her speeches are mainly composed of good ole’ boy euphemisms and she panders to the lowest common denominator of intelligence level; that might work in AK but it doesn’t work here. Now, being part of the “intelligentsia” is not anything to write home about either, as evidenced by BarryO and his “highly academically educated staff” (Geithner, et al), but Palin’s whole “folksy” approach gets on my last nerve. Just because you hunt and fish doesn’t mean you’re a “down home normal person”, and I think she keeps trying to work that angle and she’s created more of a cult of personality (Dear Sarah?) than an actual political stance. When asked about issues she seems to parrot the GOP hyper conservative party line, which I can’t tell if that’s what she really feels or if that’s what she thinks she needs to say to keep her constituency behind her.

The other friend offers his view:

DS: Everything about her bothers me. Specifically, though, she does a horrible job of presenting herself as a leader. She gave a few interviews in ‘08 that made me literally turn off the TV and take a long walk. She comes from a state that is barely American, and that the culture – while awesome – does NOT translate to the majority of the lower 48. Alaska is far more Canadian than American. She has a daughter who had a child with a douchebag out of wedlock, but speaks out loudly for abstinence (rather than the more practical education of sex). It’s the blatant hypocrisy there. She’s just another puppet for backroom Republican power whores, like Bush was for Rove/Cheney, and Obama was/is for his far left masters. She’s the antithesis to Pelosi, which, in my opinion, is just as bad.

What’s interesting to me is that my friend JH’s chief criticism of her is her style. It isn’t until the end of his commentary that he mentions his disagreement with her “hyper conservative party line,” and because of his trouble accepting her style he admits that he cannot determine whether Palin’s policy statements are genuine or not. The problem with his focus on her style instead of Palin’s substance is that it can easily be manipulated by an antagonistic media and “intelligentsia”. Consider the way Palin has been mocked and pilloried by the likes of Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg – not for her stances or positions but for her style and her verbal gaffes – and it’s easy to see how one could form a negative opinion about her. Even the Dessicated Carcass known as Cher spouted nasty things about her. It’s not that JH is being shallow; it’s just that his opinion of Palin has been filtered through the mass media that has completely ignored her executive experience (more than the current occupant of the oval office) while focusing solely on her gaffes (which are fewer in number than those made by our current vice president.)

DS’s criticism is subject to the same filter, but he suggests that Palin isn’t a good leader because the culture of Alaska and her experience there differs too much from the mainstream in the Continental 48. He’s also disturbed by the hypocrisy of a spokesperson of “family values” having a libertine daughter who then preaches abstinence in public service announcements. Both of these criticisms have their merits, but he ends with the common assumption on the Left (and the lunatic libertarian fringe) that Palin is just a puppet Bush – who in turn was himself a puppet of Cheney, who was himself the puppet of Bush I, who was himself the puppet of… If we go back far enough I’m sure we end up with the Illuminati or the Knights Templar. This ignores the fact that Palin has had considerable trouble with the Republican establishment in her home state of Alaska – as represented by her long-running feud with the Murkowski family and the recent salvos by Karl Rove questioning the suitability of Palin for the presidency. Even Charles Krauthammer, a favorite among neo-cons (yours truly included) and the Republican establishment does not view Palin as a serious candidate.

But as her support among Republicans continues to grow, the antipathy of the media coupled with her outsider status with the Republican establishment are formidable obstacles that Palin will have to overcome if she seriously intends to make history on January 20th, 2013. The views of my friends, two independents that will decide the presidency in 2012, merely reflect this challenge.

The Council Has Spoken: Nov 19, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Bookworm Room-Our de-aspirational society; or a society aiming for victimization and tawdriness

Noncouncil: American Front - One Of Many American Military Heroes

Full voting here.

A True American Hero

I didn’t know about United States Marine Corps Sergeant Brad Kasal until tonight, but I’m glad I know about him now. Hat tip: Bookworm Room

The Council Has Spoken: Nov 12, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Joshuapundit – Jews, Democrats And ‘Progressives’

Noncouncil: Sultan Knish - A Smiling Obama Returns to Bloody Jakarta

Full voting here.

Pigs at the Trough

Ever wonder how big your state government is? Well if you live in California, you can find out thanks to Maggie’s Farm listing of California’s state agencies. Also, check out those of MA and WV in the comments. California isn’t the only bloated state in the union. For the accounting freaks, there’s an Excel list here.

California is running a projected budget deficit of $25 billion. Unlike our federal government, California can’t ignore its deficit or inflate it away; it has to deal with it. Tax increases are inevitable but should only occur with drastic cutbacks in the state budget.

According to the list there are 518 agencies in California. What’s the budget for the California Registrar of Charitable Trusts? Why does Cali need such an entity when the IRS exists? Or how about the California State Mediation and Conciliation Service? Could we live without it for a year or two? Would citizens of California miss having to put off being mediated and conciliated until the state could afford such a department? Or take the California Political Reform Division. Given the lack of any meaningful reform in the state since Proposition 13 shouldn’t these people do the honorable thing and commit suicide resign their posts immediately?

Of course the California state legislators. abetted by the state employees, will ignore these programs and threaten to release criminals and furlough firemen and police to scare Californians into swallowing tax increases without cuts to the size of the state government. They will also completely ignore the 9,000 state retirees who receive more than $100,000/year from the state of California and suck up over a billion dollars a year. That’s the equivalent of hitting a $2.2 million lottery and taking the payout as an annuity over 30 years, but the odds are much better by becoming a state employee. There’s even a database that tracks these lucky winners.

The Council Has Spoken: Nov 5, 2010

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Bookworm Room - NPR’s carefully crafted tales — and why I don’t listen anymore

Noncouncil: Big Questions Online - In Praise of Irrational Exuberance

Full voting here.

California: SNAFU

I guess things are so screwed up in California that the few Republicans left in the state had lost their minds. How else would they select Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina to run for the high-profile governorship and senate office? Whitman skated through eBay’s salad days and made its first stupid acquisition (Skype – the first of many), and Fiorina almost ruined HP. Fiorina was a particularly galling choice. Among IT circles she’s considered as the Outsourceress, sacrificing jobs in lunatic schemes that sent the venerable and highly respected company to the brink of bankruptcy. Replacing a bitch (“Madam” Barbara Boxer) with a witch (Outsourceress Fiorina) is not presenting Californians with much of a choice, and the day after the election one wonders why the state party selected both candidates to represent them. Since California has open primaries, is it possible that the Democrats sabotaged the Republicans by picking the best possible opponents for their standard bearers?

If so then perhaps the Republicans did the same by “helping” them select Jerry Brown – the epitome of 1970’s bad government. Why the Democrats seriously considered the geriatric Brown who led California to insolvency in the 1970’s to lead them again – and Californians voted for Brown to lead them to the same outcome nearly forty years later – is a mystery. What isn’t a mystery is the likely federal bailout of the state that looms on the horizon.

I wonder if the US could trade California to China for all the IOUs we’ve given them. Since Brown’s progressive politics isn’t much different than China’s domestic politics, and the way progressives like Tom Friedman idolize all-things Chinese, perhaps the trade might benefit Californians as much as it benefits the rest of the nation to free itself from its Chinese overlords.

The Morning After Midterms 2010

The morning after an election always reminds me of the day after a night of Spring thunderstorms. People wake up and begin to assess the damage, expecting to find the land scoured and the earth torn apart – but instead finding the landscape tranquil. Yes it has changed; an old treasured oak tree has fallen here, or a river has changed its course there – but for every loss there is a gain. The previous night’s winds have uncovered green shoots, and the calm air is crisp and clean – primed for new things.

Although I am very happy about the general outcome of the election and what it portends for the future of our nation, there were losses. The primary system has taken a hit by the successful write-in candidacy of Lisa Murkowski even though it survived in Florida with the failure of Charlie Crist. Some damaged trees that deserved to be felled by the storm are still standing: Barney Frank – co-engineer of the housing bubble and following meltdown, and Harry “The Iraq War is Lost” Reid. Reid’s pet raccoon Chris Coons won in Delaware – a weak sapling in the forest that is unlikely to withstand another storm. Then there is California with “Call me Madam” Barbara Boxer and the walking Avadart ad Jerry Brown… Weeds in the underbrush that the storm should have cleared but didn’t.

But for each of these losses there are gains. Gov. Nikki Haley in South Carolina. Senator Rand Paul in Kentucky that sent commentators on MSNBC into a frothing fit last night. Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois. Sen. Pat Toomey in the Keystone State. Even sentimental favorite former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jon Runyan successfully switched careers to win a house seat in New Jersey, exemplifying the most under-reported story of the election so far: the massive sweep of state legislatures by the Republicans.

Yes the general contours of the political landscape are there; storms don’t move mountains – at least in one go – but things have changed regardless.

Life in the Echo Chamber

One of my colleagues brought up the meme that bloggers are echo chambers, reading like-minded blogs, sharing similar ideas, and amplifying the importance of an opinion within a small group that doesn’t withstand outside scrutiny. This is a common idea that has even been proven by analysis that looked at the agreement vs. disagreement in the comments sections of various blogs. I too have noticed that in general the first comments of a post tend to agree with each other, with dissent appearing later followed by a period where dissenters outnumber supporters and finishing (if the comments thread is long enough) with a mix between the two.

But does analysis of the comments section accurately indicate the existence of an echo chamber? My colleague questioned whether an echo chamber could exist across a group of blogs, in particular the Watchers of Weasels Council that I belong to. Members of the Council pointed out that while there is broad agreement on key issues such as the war on terror, security of Israel, and the failings of the Obama administration, the blogs varied in tone, points of view, and a divergence of less important issues.

But her comment was a good one, and as a writer I believe that it is important to question one’s assumptions at times – to do a “gut check” and consider whether our little coven of malcontents was kicking the same ideas back and forth between ourselves. Then as I read about an elderly drag queen’s opinion of Sarah Palin, it dawned on me that we conservatives already lived in an echo chamber – a huge one that dominates our lives.

Conservative writers are in the minority on the Web. The Left-wing blogosphere is vastly larger than the conservative one, and Leftist blogs like the Huffington Post and ThinkProgress outrank conservative sites like HotAir and RedState according to Technorati. HuffPo was used in the analysis cited above, and in it did support the echo chamber thesis of the paper.

Moving off the web, Conservatives have Rush Limbaugh on the radio, Fox News on cable and the Wall Street Journal newspaper. But the Left has NPR, PBS, MSNBC, CNN, the three networks CBS, NBC and ABC, the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, most big city dailies including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, the Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Boston Globe. Leftist politics dominate smaller newspapers in St. Louis, Kansas City, Hartford, San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle.

Liberals dominate pop culture. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert from Comedy Central held a Government Doesn’t Suck rally over the weekend where Republicans were portrayed as Nazis and conservative Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell made the butt of sexist jokes that had Republicans made similar jokes about Hillary Clinton or “Madam” Barbara Boxer would have lead to NOW-led boycotts and editorial page rage. Republicans and conservatives are regularly portrayed as crazed and violent anti-abortionists (as on Weeds) to immoral fascists (Oliver Stone’s Wall Street 2). Oprah pushes her leftist agenda on day time TV, and members of the View won’t even listen to Bill O’Reilly.

Rolling Stone has had Barack Obama on six of its covers. Vanity Fair regularly attacked President Bush and has taken the fight to Republican leaders including most recently Sarah Palin.

Liberals dominate academia – from pre-school through graduate school. Surveys have shown upwards of 87% of Ivy League professors and 72% of professors overall identify themselves as liberals. I have butted heads with my child’s teachers on everything from the banning of the sale of marshmallow shooters (a toy – not a drink) to most recently the celebration of Memorial Day which his school did not observe. And I live in one of the most conservative parts of the Bible Belt.

Conservatives live in a society dominated by leftists from the members of their local school board all the way up to the presidency. We live in a cacophony of leftist ideology from TV, radio and newspapers. Yet for all of the attacks, the constant barrage of post-modern liberalism, we continue to exist – even thrive. President Obama has been one of my greatest inspirations as a writer, which my productivity on this site since his election will attest. The liberal echo chamber even manages to pump out conservatives. I’m an ex-Lefty and I’m in good company. Dennis Miller, PJ O’Rourke, and David Horowitz are all ex-liberals who found themselves on the Dark Side.

So yes we conservatives live in an Echo Chamber, but it’s not the one that liberal elite thinks. And it is nowhere near as effective as the elite would like it to be.