Saturday, January 30, 2010

Obama and Republicans

Just watch it.

This sort of thing just doesn't happen anymore in America today, where politicians stand face to face and debate each other on camera. No scripts, no talking points, just argument and reason. The founding fathers knew this was central to our democracy, and so did many of the founders of the modern conservative movement. People like William Buckley, and Ayn Rand. These are people who didn't seem to believe that you should build a political base by appealing to the lowest common denominator in American society. The main protagonist in Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" is John Galt, a man who has infinitely more in common with Barack Obama than he does with populists like Sarah Palin.

I hope this sort of thing continues to happen. My speculation is that it won't. I imagine the Republicans will realize that their political fortunes are better served by issuing cheap talking points than by challenging a demonstrably more adept mind than apparently the sum of their own.

**** Update ****

After watching the video of Obama talking with House Republicans, view this one minute clip from Fox News and ask yourself whether they are doing their job, which is to keep the American people informed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I love technology.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Spending freeze?

I like the renewed focus on the deficit. But I have two major points:

1. 250 billion over ten years is almost nothing.

2. We're still in a recession. Whether or not we should do a second stimulus, at least we can agree that a spending freeze is the opposite of economic stimulus.

If Obama really wants to fix the deficit, I have three major proposals:

1. Pull out of Afghanistan.

2. Reform medicaid reimbursement and benefits.

3. Raise social security age to 70.

THOSE would take political courage.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

RIP Democrat Supermajority

Here are my thoughts on the looming defeat of the Democrat agenda. If the democrats are so incompetent that they cannot pass legislation while controlling the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate with a veto-proof majority, then why on earth would I assume they are competent enough to write a good health care bill?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Should we invade Yemen?

Its interesting that, among all the discussion about the "new front" in the War on Terror that is apparently Yemen, military solutions are the only ones being discovered.

Everyone pretty much agrees that Afghanistan got to where it did in September 2001 because of what happened after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. Namely, a failed state in a perpetual civil war which allowed radicals to take over and attack the United States.

If we could build a time machine and go back to 1990, what advice would you give President Bush (senior) about Afghanistan? Certainly the advice would not be "invade". Rather it would be something along the lines of, negotiate peace between warring factions, provide aid to build infrastructure and for education, encourage economic growth.

Yemen right now has a functioning government, which means it is in much better shape than Afghanistan was in 1990 (or is now, for that matter). There is some civil unrest going on, however, and that unrest seems like it could become more civil war-ish. Meanwhile, the country is as economically stagnant as anywhere in the world and is only going to get worse as oil exports out of Yemen plummet (and perhaps cease by 2017). The population is exploding with one of the highest growth rates in the world.

So here is an opportunity to prevent a rough, tribal Muslim country from becoming Afghanistan. If we brought diplomatic and economic forces to bear, we could really have a positive impact over the next couple of decades in Yemen. But pretty much all we hear on TV is whether we should be bombing or invading Yemen.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The GOP solution to fighting terrorism

Is, paradoxically, to enable terrorism.

New York Rep. Peter King on Good Morning America:

"You are saying someone should be held accountable. Name one other specific recommendation the president could implement right now to fix this," host George Stephanopolous said to King.

"I think one main thing would be to -- just himself to use the word terrorism more often," said King, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee.

The whole idea behind terrorism is that its really not an effective means to "change the way we live" by force. Rather, terrorism gets us to change things by ourselves. It tempts us into over reacting to every incident by starting a war, or bombing someone, or having a terrorism alert meter, or suddenly thinking its OK to torture people. So this whole emphasis on a "war on terrorism" and opening a new front in the war on terrorism in Yemen is quite literally empowering the enemy. The more we inflate them, the more we enable their only real means to affect us - fear, and thus the more tempting terrorism becomes because we have made it more effective. Its a positive feedback loop that starts with idiotic government officials and the mainstream news cycle.

The truth is, all of the terrorist incidents against Americans over the last several years could have been prevented had we just not allowed guys to get on airplanes with knives or bombs. That's it. The Europeans, Pakistanis, Yemenis, and others have a different set of problems than we do here in the states. Our terrorism problem is far easier to manage because very little of it is actually home grown. And furthermore, if we really wanted to save American lives, we'd declare a War on McDonalds, not a War on Terrorism.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Ugh, here we go again

Charles Krauthammer:

It [Yemen] is not a place we want to go and invade. It is like Afghanistan. It is a wild place. It’s like the northwest territories of Pakistan. It’s never had a strong central government. It’s got secessionist in the south, Houthis in the north who are Arabian clients. It is so complicated it’s almost incomprehensible.

All we can do is have our weaponry in place, like the predators, gather intelligence, give intelligence, and work with the unreliable central government. It is not a place where you want to start a war.

But remember, the Saudis and Jordanians are in that area and they are on our side. I would rather have the locals involved in a war than a direct involvement of the United States.

I'm not really sure why this argument doesn't apply to Afghanistan. I mean, the fact that the 9/11 hijackers were partially trained in Afghanistan is incidental. They could have just as easily have been trained in Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, or Europe for that matter. Or in the United States, as they partially *were* trained, but we're not calling the USA an accomplice to Al Qaeda.

The lesson here seems to be that maybe nation building in really wild, lawless, difficult places isn't a great idea. So we shouldn't invade Yemen; great. But that argument applies to Afghanistan, too. Hence, I think we're wasting our time there.

The fact that the recent attempted airline bomber was trained in Yemen and Nigeria illustrates my point. Even if we take away Afghanistan, there are other safe havens. Even if we take away Yemen, there are other safe havens. Even if we take away Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, there are OTHER safe havens. Al Qaeda is going to plot from somewhere. The solution isn't to occupy the world. The solution, rather, is to prevent those operatives from getting to US soil or getting on US-bound airplanes.

And also, we need to keep things in perspective. We had one failed terrorist attempt in years, and we're suddenly asking whether we need to invade a country on the Arabian Peninsula; one which can't be located more than a few dozen miles away from Mecca itself. That is the utter definition of NOT keeping things in perspective. If we really wanted to save American lives, we'd declare a war on McDonalds or a war on Obesity, not a war on Terror.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Clearing my name

One of my ex-favorite bloggers is Glenn Reynolds, the author of the Republican blog "Instapundit", one of the oldest on the net. I had him pegged as an independent-libertarian voice during the Bush years; boy was I wrong about that. As soon as Obama got elected, Reynolds was revealed to be an epic partisan hack. I swear, after reading his blog you'd think Barack Obama is responsible for bad weather. Anyway, if you search for my name ["Nicholas Klemen"] on google, you'll find a bunch of results for several people but the top one is my name on an instapundit post. This was an email I sent to Glenn Reynolds, which he posted on his blog. Since his site gets a ton of traffic, that is the top search result you see on google for my name.

Reynolds was one of the driving forces behind the tea party movement. Presumably to diffuse claims of racism at tea parties, Glenn wrote this post, which includes pictures of 4 black people and some commentary (including my attached email at the bottom). This was Reynolds' attempt to disprove the notion that racist sentiment was a driving force behind the tea parties. Which, incidentally, a great deal of it obviously was. You just can't generate this kind of emotion and fear in people without a hefty dose of xenophobia and/or racism to supplement whatever else you're selling. The tea parties are a direct continuation of Sarah Palin rallies held in the 2008 election, with the same mob mentality, hysteria, and irrationality. This is still going on, with the "birther" crowd that is convinced that Obama isn't a citizen. Xenophobia and racism go hand in hand, but the former has less social taboo so it is the preferred anger outlet for PR-concerned tea partiers who don't want people to perceive them as racist. But I digress. So Glenn Reynolds puts my email on his blog:

Lefty reader Nicholas Klemen writes: "You found photos of 6 black people at tea parties! Thats proof that there isn’t any racism going on at the protests. Take that Dems! Keep up the good work."

Here was Glenns response:

"Well, there wasn’t any sign of racism at the Tea Party I attended, nor have I seen any reports from anywhere else. All I’ve seen are bogus claims of racism from apparatchik lefties who are — as Bob McManus predicted a month ago — hitting this note for lack of anything else to say, and because it’s their tired response to anything threatening. That’s not the moral high ground you’re standing on, Nicholas. It’s just a big ol’ pile of crap."

Keeping in mind that Glenn Reynolds is a law professor, notice that there is serious disconnect between my jab and Reynolds' response. Glenn spends his entire rebuttal to my email by arguing that there is not racism at the tea parties: he didn't personally see any racism, the left is making bogus claims, and Bob McManus had the foresight to cover their asses a month in advance. And hence, the disconnect - my email didn't claim that there was racism at the tea parties. I was just mocking his attempt to try to disprove such claims by posting pictures of minorities. If Joseph Goebbels had taken a few pictures of Jewish people at the Nuremburg Rally, does that somehow alleviate the Nazis from accusations of racism?

Anyway, it turns out that this is the guy who runs

Awesome. Palin 2012! Anyway, I am not certain that the guy in this photo is a racist. He certainly may be, but it's not like this sign is proof. However, what can be clearly deduced from this photo is that the guy is exceptionally stupid. First of all, he didn't spell the racial slur right. Although to be fair, phonetically it does look right, which is what we would expect in the case of a person used to hearing the word but who has never actually read it. Second, he thought that it would be OK for him to bring something like this out in public. Third, he didn't realize that this sign jeopardizes his political cause. A smart racist is going to recognize that the tea party movement will be taken more seriously if they are able to conceal the fact that it is racist. Clearly, this guy just didn't get the memo. He needs to read more Instapundit.