Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

God died today. We murdered Him.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


There are many differences between Liberals and Conservatives, and frankly sometimes these differences are important to the health of Society. Traditionally, Conservatives speak for the rights of the majority and for mainstream values, while Liberals stand up for minority opinions and positions of social outcasts; both voices matter in a functioning civilization, especially in a leading culture in the world. There is, however, a limit to the range of opinions which may be held without cost. After a certain point, assuming certain things incurs a cost, even a penalty, and to some degree represents a growing threat to the society making the assumption. The present piracy problem off the coast of Somalia is an example where certain boundaries have been crossed, and conditions have changed under which effective measures may be utilized. In short, pirates are terrorists and should not be confused with common criminals, nor treated as such.

In yesterday’s discussion, some readers chose to describe the Somali pirates in distinctly gentle tones, trying to get readers to consider the lack of economic opportunity in Somalia, or the oppressive conditions in that part of the world which could induce young men to follow illicit courses of enterprise. These readers chose to portray the pirates as criminals, deserving of some punishment certainly, but also as individuals to be considered in the light of their circumstances. This is an argument seen commonly in sociology classrooms, as well as various opinion pieces on news channels. America, after all, is expected to be more restrained in the use of our force, and more considerate of the conditions and rationale of our enemies.

As you may have guessed, I regard these as specious arguments. While studying environmental influences in a life decision may be valid and useful in a forensic sense, the salient question is what to do to punish unacceptable acts and prevent their recurrence. To that question, the most effective strategy in history has been to bring overwhelming force against the perpetrator, to completely eradicate any group which acts in a manner outside tolerable boundaries. Therefore, boundaries need to be discussed here.

Suppose someone robs a business, and in that crime takes hostages. Clearly, this situation has escalated beyond common criminal behavior. Also, the situation has a series of thresholds. Weapons and their type, whether anyone has been injured, and whether anyone has been killed all factor into the way that authorities address the situation. That a crime has been committed is not in dispute; the question is the way the situation is addressed. A domestic dispute where a man holds his wife hostage with a handgun is dangerous, but on a much different level from a hostage situation involving a group of radicals using automatic weapons and bombs, who have already killed a hostage as a sign of their determination. When certain events happen, the situation irrevocably changes.

With that in mind, let’s consider the way the Royal Navy dealt with pirates. Summary execution, folks. The British, you may recall, are quite the paragon for order and respecting rights, and a long history of long court cases, but where pirates were concerned, the Brits wouldn’t mess about for a moment, it was get a rope and hang ‘em high. That’s even more striking when you consider what it did for future pirates considering surrender – why surrender if you’d be executed, anyway? The British hated piracy so much that they established a fierce rule for such acts. Regardless of what you may have seen in ’Pirates of the Caribbean’, pirates were considered the worst of the worst; even the Americans at the start of the Nineteenth Century regarded piracy as an evil to be obliterated; remember that line in the Marine Hym about the ‘shores of Tripoli’? That’s when President Jefferson sent them into Libya to rout out the pirates there. Even though relations between the U.S. and the U.K. were not nearly comfortable after the War of 1812, by 1823 American and British navies were cooperating in sweeps of Caribbean and Atlantic waters to find and destroy nests of pirates. It was that important to both nations, and it should be so today.

The argument has been made that the pirates from Somalia are just trying to survive their economic conditions. That argument ignores history – many places in the world and throughout the ages have endured deprivation and suffered from want, but their people did not turn to violent crime to support themselves. Chinese immigrants throughout history, for example, have been remarkable for both their industry and their ability to conform to local conditions. No less can be said for the Jews, who despite persecution for more than a thousand years in almost every nation where they settled, have flourished and grown everywhere. The same for Italians, the Irish, the Russians, et cetera – you don’t hear many pirates named O’Reilly or Battaglia, hmm? Come to that, the historical model for pirates is often men who have some education, ambition, and experience as sailors. Since Somalia does not have a navy or coast guard and no universities to speak of, the strongest likelihood is that the bozos carrying out these attacks are recruited by men from other parts of Africa who see the region as an enterprise zone of sorts. So, we see from this a need to address two levels of pirate activity, those who commit the direct attacks and those who plan and support them.

It comes down to making them choose life or death. That is, whenever a pirate attacks a vessel and crew, armed forces respond in force, killing anyone who resists. Those who wish to surrender will be given the opportunity to give up the identity and location of their sponsors. Refusal to do so will result in immediate execution, those few who agree will be given life sentences. The locations of the “mother ships” will be reconnoitered, and once confirmed will be destroyed without delay. Planners and organizers will be hunted down by Marines and confronted – those who resist will be killed, those who surrender will be given trial by military tribunal.

Sound harsh? That’s the idea. Piracy was nearly extirpated in the 19th century, because the message was made very clear that any pirate anywhere would be hunted down and killed, period. Make it that undesirable and no one will even think about it.

Pirates do not have civil rights. Pirates do not have a right to counsel, or a trial by jury or a plea bargain. Each and every one of them chose to commit violence on the open sea, and so brings upon himself the full fury of any authority with the backbone to defend its flag.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

This Is A Test

About two hundred miles off the coast of Somalia, a U.S.-flagged freighter has been seized by pirates, in the fifteenth recorded instance of high seas piracy since March 1.

The situation would appear to be a simple one for the American commander in chief – the vessel and crew are American, they were attacked without provocation in international waters, and the attackers are non-aligned with any nation in the world. It would seem a simple matter for Obama to order the Navy and Marines into the area to do the world a favor and eliminate these pirates, and in so doing confirm the precedent that America will defend its own. Less than a week ago, President Obama clearly stated that rules exist for a reason, and North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile required “severe consequences”. Certainly a direct attack on a U.S.-flagged vessel and American citizens deserves as much as a missile test which sent the rocket into the Sea of Japan.

It remains to be seen how President Obama will answer this test.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The American Right to Be Rich

I don’t know who first started the phrase ‘there’s two kinds of people …’, but it really gets on my nerves. It’s oversimplifying things, and what’s worse, it encourages people to generalize and broadbrush. And then these people are surprised when groups take such behavior further and begin acting like mobs, often racist and xenophobic in their mood.

Imagine that.

I start with that obnoxious twaddle, because it reflects a rather nasty sort of groupthink. And as happens all too often, that kind of mob mentality plays out in politics. It is the bane of democracy, when an emotional swell carries the people to a mad decision. And in the current climate, it’s that recurring poison of class warfare and hatred of success in others. In recent weeks we have seen public attacks of a most unreasonable vituperance against executives of public corporations, banks, and a wide range of successful individuals. While the targeting has been selective – no one seems to ask why it is reasonable to challenge AIG executives for receiving bonuses that they can prove they earned, while ignoring, say, the millions of dollars paid to Freddie Mac and Fannie executives. No one seems to consider it just a tad hypocritical for wealthy politicians like Ted Kennedy and Harry Reid to complain about the wealth of people who actually worked for their money.

And then there is our President, Barack Obama. Obama made $22 million dollars writing books, and somehow believes that qualifies him to tell the rest of us that we’re greedy. Madness is when people start telling us that this is an appropriate moral position, especially when the man telling us how bad it is to be rich, takes such pains to protect his own wealth and make sure his own comforts are provided. I wonder if he’s tweaked the thermometer at the White House down to the levels he told the rest of us to set, yet? Not likely.

Let’s be clear – the problem is not that Obama is rich, it’s that the President of the United States thinks its only OK for some people to be rich, and on that point he is not only wrong, but walking down a morally corrupt path. And he leads a mob of self-righteous morons, who neither comprehend nor care about the moral iniquity of their hatred.

I have a right to be rich. I am not rich, so far as money is concerned, but if I ever become rich, no one has the right to deny me my wealth. You have that same right, to have and hold what is your own, the same as every man. It has been played down as a mean source of motivation to say so, but the American Revolution was fought, in part, to protect wealth from being stolen by men who did nothing to earn it. ’No taxation without representation’, at its heart, is defense of individual wealth. To pretend that our nation’s forefathers fought and died for the right to create progressive tax rates, set a maximum wage, or for politicians to harass honest individuals simply for personal success is to lie, and there’s no denying it.

That is not to say that I should be miserly, or count it a virtue if I am cold to the needs of others. But virtue comes from choice, just as does evil. What you choose to do defines you, and your worth comes from your deliberate effort. Someone who claims another person should pay his debt is of no account, and so too a man who pays for his dreams with the work and wealth of other people compelled to pay against their will is a thief. It is necessary for government to levy taxes to pay for those needs to which the public has agreed, and to meet those responsibilities specified in the Constitution, but it is theft to take money for advancing a personal agenda and the special interests of one party. If it was even marginally valid to argue morally against the cost of the war in Iraq, then it is many times more imperative to stand against crippling our children’s future in order to give ACORN and the AFL-CIO a stranglehold on industry and the election system. And for government to even hint that someone is morally wrong for financial success is so foul in spirit that it beggars the imagination to come up with strong enough condemnation.

I started by condemning the stratification of whole demographics, and now I return to it. While there are legitimate means of studying group dynamics and cultural mores at work influencing behavior and social interactions, it must be understood that every person is an individual, and their personal condition is the result of both environment and choice; to deny one force is to invalidate the conclusion of your analysis before it starts. Polarization of wealth-hate is in like fashion an exercise of fascism, because the government is commonly brought to bear on a targeted class through no offense of their character. In practice such actions are no different from racially-based or religious persecution, and history offers an appalling record on how deep and vicious such pogroms can become.