May 16, 2012

The Guns of History Visit My House


This week, following his Eagle Scout Court of Honor, my 18-year old son announced that he was using some of his gift money to “buy a rifle.” He returned with a Mosin-Nagant Model 91/30, a main infantry weapon of the Soviet Union during World War Two. This one was made during 1943, and sports a subtle but genuine “Hammer and Sickle” stamp in the gunmetal. Holding it brings a powerful sense of both history and irony for his father.

The rifles that came off the line with this one were often placed in the hands of terrified and reluctant conscripts fighting for one “evil empire,” and used to kill terrified and reluctant draftees fighting for another.  Soldiers of many ages fought on that Eastern Front, the largest battlefield in history.  It is easy to envision that there were many instances of 18-year old Russians using Mosin-Nagants to kill 18-year old Germans.

There were lots of cases where neither 18-year old survived. But ironically, just fifty years later, the regimes they were killing each other for no longer existed either.

What did survive was the weaponry. There were more than 17 million Model 91/30s produced during the War, and the collapse of the Soviet Empire dumped the surplus on the world market. The one Nathan Braun brought home this week could have been destined for the hands of one of those 18-year old Russian kids who wanted nothing at all to do with it in 1943.

Instead, almost 70 years later, it was voluntarily and eagerly scooped up by an American kid for $160 from the East Lansing Dunham’s. He wants it for target shooting and for the sense of history that comes at the bargain price. But it’s still pretty sobering to see him hold it and imagine that a Russian father many years ago and a world away might not have smiled at witnessing the same sight.

Mar 28, 2012

Treyvon Martin and the Failure of Policing

In all the overwrought drama about who should be arrested and for what in the Treyvon Martin matter, I think something more fundamentally important is being ignored. George Zimmerman's record includes resisting arrest (in a bar) and an allegation of domestic battery. And all of this … since 2005. Yet he's allowed into some pseudo-cop training program, the neighborhood watch people applaud him for going out and fighting crime, he makes no fewer than 46 calls to the police last year, AND the state of Florida lets him carry a gun.

With 46 calls to the cops in one year – 46 more than most of us will make in a lifetime – at what point does somebody in the cop shop get curious and look up the background of this over-earnest crime fighter? And upon doing that and discovering what they are dealing with, when do they decide to have the po-po roll around to convince young George that maybe he shouldn't be carting around a loaded pistol while he's wearing his Batman cape and mask?

That little talking to, had it happened, would probably have prevented the meaningless loss of one entirely innocent life and the senseless wrecking of another.

I suppose you can't do all of that while also fighting the War on Drugs and staking out otherwise law abiding citizens who creep a few miles over the legal speed limit. But this could be a vastly safer society at significantly less cost if we just simplified our priorities in some obvious ways.

Mar 14, 2012

Sex Strikers Who Matter

The "Liberal Ladies Who Lunch" have decided to deny sex to the men in their lives by going on strike until so-called Conservatives surrender and hand over mandatory employer-funded birth control. They also believe this will "turn America Blue one plate at a time."

Not usually considered a huge friend of organized labor, I must say that I stand in total solidarity with this cause. Stand strong, LLWL: If Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore don't get any after a while, then it's only a matter of time until Romney, Santorum and Gingrich give in.

If it comes to it, I will encourage denunciations of any traitorous "Liberal Ladies with Logic" who fail to link arms and cross legs with their courageous sisters.

And one week isn't enough. Threaten total celibacy for four years if President Obama loses. Or to only sleep with Europeans. I really think this could catch on.

This might yet become the best election year ever.

I'm only trying to help.

Mar 8, 2012

Justin Amash Votes “Perfect” for Economic Growth

GOP Congressman Justin Amash of West Michigan is one of just three freshmen in the U.S. House to nab a perfect score for economic sanity on the Club for Growth’s very discerning 2011 Congressional Scorecard. He is one of just nine out of the 435-member chamber to score 100 percent, and the only one from Michigan to do so. The score is more than four touchdowns above the average for all Republicans in Congress, regardless of state, and double that of the weakest-scoring Republican from Michigan.

Club president Chris Chocola says the annual ranking is “intended to help our members and the general public differentiate between those who talk a good game about economic growth, and those who actually vote for pro-growth policy.”

The differentiation is indeed very thorough. The average score for the entire U.S. House was 44 percent, and the average Republican score was just 70 percent. Lawmakers were graded on 37 separate criteria throughout the year, including 34 different roll call votes. The range of issues ran the full spectrum of economic policy battlegrounds, including votes to expand free trade, kill ObamaCare, slice out ethanol subsidies, cut Amtrak funding, dial back labor union excesses, and more.

The average score for Michigan’s nine Republicans was 73 percent, slightly above the national average of 70 for all Republicans, but that is somewhat skewed due to Amash’s rare perfect score.

Strong numbers were also turned in by two others. Congressman Bill Huizenga, another freshman from West Michigan, nabbed a 90 percent which – like Amash – will qualify him for the Club’s “Defender of Economic Freedom” designation if he maintains an average of 90 percent or better throughout his career. Congressman Tim Walberg, now on his second career in Congress after a brief departure, posted an 86 percent, which is coincidentally his lifetime average as well.

Scores for the rest of Michigan’s GOP delegation were considerably less remarkable when compared against Republicans from other states.

Freshman U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek and veteran Thad McCotter both posted a slightly above-average 72 percent, while Mike Rogers and Candice Miller slid in with slightly under the average scores of 66 percent each.

Bringing up the rear and coming in well under the Republican national average were Congressmen Fred Upton of St. Joseph at 52 percent, and Dave Camp of Midland at 50 percent.

The highest-scoring Democrat in the nation was U.S. Rep. Daniel Boren of Oklahoma, who posted a 42 percent.

Upton’s lifetime score is 54 percent, and Camp’s is 66 percent. Both men have been in office since at least 2005, the first year that this scorecard was tabulated. Camp scored a 56 that year, and Upton nabbed a 48.

Voting to increase the debt limit, voting to save Amtrak grants, voting against a cut in funding for the controversial National Labor Relations Board, and failing to support rolling back federal spending to 2006 levels were just some of the actions that led one or more of the Michigan Republicans to lose points on the 2011 Club Scorecard.

None of the six House Democrats from Michigan scored higher than 15 percent.

The Club tabulates a similar scorecard for the U.S. Senate. Neither of Michigan’s two Democrat Senators scored above 10 percent and neither has a lifetime score above that level. Former GOP Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who hopes to unseat Democrat Senator Debbie Stabenow this year, has a lifetime score of 78 percent.

Feb 26, 2012

'China Girl' Puts Hoekstra Higher Above GOP Pack

A new poll shows that Pete Hoekstra’s “China Girl” Super Bowl advertisement helped him score a big bump in his primary “race” for the U.S. Senate. I will remove the scare quotes from “race” when a poll shows any of his other GOP primary opponents closer than seven touchdowns behind him – and this one doesn’t.

Well, so much for the helpful advice that he should abandon the China theme. Perhaps we should anticipate more girls on bikes talking about “Debbie Spend It Now.”

But is it out of bounds or racist for him to do so?

Conservative agitator and comedienne Ann Coulter recently noted that President Obama will be hard to dislodge because he is so damn likable. “He’s the guy everyone would love to have living next door,” she says. “Unless you’re Chinese, and then you’d probably get sick of the constant borrowing.”

This is hardly racist, and the young lady portrayed in the Hoekstra advertisement also clearly asserts that China is shrewdly capitalizing on the American spending orgy. There is no question that the orgy is real; that it is horrible for the U.S. economy; that the Chinese are the largest creditor fueling the binge and that they hope to gain some benefit out of the deal. On its central facts, there is no dispute.

Is it accurate or racist when the girl thanks “Debbie Spend It Now” for selling the debt, weakening the American economy, and moving American jobs to China? And implying that the loans were offered by China with this specific malicious intent toward the Americans?

Reasonable people can disagree on whether creditors will always have a rooting interest in the boundless prosperity and success of their borrowers. If the world is viewed purely as benign bankers and businessmen operating together in a market economy, then you say yes. I am inclined mostly to agree.

But while bankers are human and have their downsides, slaughtering students by the thousands in the streets of the cities where they operate is not their style. Yet this is the behavior of the U.S. government’s primary banker – the authoritarian rulers of China. If your bankers are gangsters, then it’s hardly out of bounds to wonder whether or not you’re in hock to a loan shark who wants his mark just strong enough to make larger and larger interest payments, but never so prosperous that he stops borrowing and starts paying back principle.

It’s not out of bounds to note that bankers with blood on their hands may have mixed motives. To take just one commonly noted concern: Do the Chinese want an America barely strong enough to make payments and keep borrowing, but otherwise so burdened by the total debt that it cannot continue to support a U.S. Navy that rules the waves in the Pacific?

I think this over states this case and that despite its violent stranglehold on power the Chinese government believes strongly in America’s economic future and that buying our debt is a good way to profitably park their money on that assumption. And if we can stop our borrowing ways very soon and make some other fundamental reforms, the Chinese will have bet correctly and will justifiably share in the prosperity. The girl on the bike is also a big trading partner, and she will hopefully become a bigger one to the benefit of both nations in the near and long term future.

And if not the Chinese, then some other nation would be our primary creditor. If private French bankers rather than government banks in China held most of America’s loans, there’d be no basis for worrying about their malicious designs on American security. Perhaps Hoekstra would then have made his point about overspending by featuring a surly French waiter mocking his American customers for living beyond their means. It would have been just as on point about our spending binge, and just as clever … and nobody would have called it racist.

But all things considered, recent history provides some (albeit modest and probably not accurate) reasons to speculate about a more sinister motive for Chinese debt purchases. It certainly isn’t racist to ask that question. And it all misses the point anyway: The Hoekstra advertisement’s real criticism is aimed at the real degenerate gamblers at home, not the alleged loan sharks abroad.

That’s squarely on the facts and why his critics want to change the subject.

Feb 14, 2012

Iran: Here, There, and Everywhere

A decade past 9/11, the debate still rages on the Left and even the Right: Is Islamic terrorism a reaction against Enlightenment-inspired Western civilization or retaliation for the alleged meddling foreign policy of the United States, Israel, and other nations? More pointedly: Do they attack us because of how we live our lives or what we do with theirs?

The director of NYPD’s intelligence analysis division delivers a blast of cold water to the face of all this in the Wall Street Journal this morning. He argues persuasively that Iran – through its favored attack dog, Hezbollah – could very well be eyeing homicidal rage against New York City’s large Jewish population. More sinister is his description of how the Iranian government has historically used its diplomatic immunity in various nations as a cover for setting up the attacks.

Most of the crime scenes are familiar enough: Egypt,
Azerbaijan, Turkey, etc … But the author’s in-depth research on the Iranian method took place far away from all that:

~~~~~

Iranian agents were sent to Argentina years before the attacks, where they integrated into society and became Argentine nationals. Mohsen Rabbani is believed to have been in charge of coordinating the 1994 attack and is subject to an Interpol arrest warrant for his involvement. He first came to Argentina in 1983, where he subsequently became the main imam at At-Tauhid, an Iranian-funded mosque in Buenos Aires.

After traveling to Iran in August 1993 to participate in a meeting that allegedly gave the planned attack the green light, Mr. Rabbani returned to Argentina as a cultural attaché to the Iranian Embassy, conveniently providing him diplomatic immunity. Then, Hezbollah agents from abroad received logistical support from members of the local Lebanese-Shiite community and the Iranian Embassy to carry out the attack.

~~~~~

There were two bombings on Argentine soil against “Israeli and Jewish” targets as a result of this. Together, they killed 114 people. If you are of the school that assumes Islamic terror is a response to Western interventionism, rather than an aggressive war against the West in general and Jews in particular, then you need to ask yourself the following: What did Argentina do to Iran or Islam, other than allow Jews to live within its borders?

An astute reader of Argentine history will recall that Argentina lost a brief war against the British over the Falkland Islands in 1982. Also, there was suspected American complicity (most notably Henry Kissinger’s) in a coup that toppled an Argentine government in 1976. More generally, it is obvious that Argentina still has little ability to meddle in the affairs of far off nations. Indeed, much like Iran itself prior to the 1979 overthrow of the U.S.-backed Shah, Argentina is a solid example of the sort of nation that is often held up as the ‘victim’ of the foreign policies of the United States and other Western powers.

But this didn’t matter to Iran, and neither did the diplomatic immunity that is (sometimes grudgingly) respected by all of the civilized or semi-civilized nation-states on Earth. There were Jews to kill, after all, and when that opportunity arises the Iranians don’t hassle the GPS coordinates. This is something to keep in mind when considering what they might do if they can graduate from car bombs to nuclear bombs.