Saturday, June 25, 2005

Rolling Stone and Kewl Christian Virginity

A friend sent me a link to a Rolling Stone piece that is absolutely the best secular media piece I've seen on young, hip Christian types I've ever seen. The focus is all on the strange Christian appetite for virginity.

I recall telling a friend in grad school I was waiting for marriage. His reply: "I thought you people were like unicorns . . . you don't exist." This article captures the unicorns pretty well and reminds me a lot of what it was like rooming with a bunch of Christian guys struggling with the purity issue.

The Rolling Stone writer comments that these Christians talk about sex all the time and he's right. We were the same way. But that's sort of how the Christian life is. You talk about the major tempations and when you're young, sex is the one. Money and possessions are usually far lower down the scale at that point.

I strongly advise anyone who wants to better understand the freaky Evangelicals and Catholics to read this article. It'll be good for you, like reading National Geographic.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Pressing Ahead in Iraq

As public doubts about the wisdom of the War in Iraq increase, the Bush administration and the American public are left with two options: cut and run, or press ahead. As Clausewitz pointed out and Gen. George S. Patton confirmed, defending territory is a formula for disaster. The forces that win conflicts are those that are mobile and take the battle into the enemy's domain.

For this reason, I think that the War in Iraq is definitely winnable, because the international coalition forces led by the United States have heretofore refrained from taking the war to the enemy since the extremely successful original invasion.

That invasion was a great success precisely because it took the battle drectly into the domain of the enemy: Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Since then, however, coalition troops have been stranded in that country, defending territory. Most of the American casualties in Iraq have occurred since the original hostilities ended with the expulsion of Saddam Hussein.

The same principle that made for a successful end to the Saddam Hussein regime should have been the premise behind the postwar (or civil war or what have you) period. Toward this end, it is important to bear in mind that the great majority of the damage to coalition troops is being done by foreign jihadists.

As Barbara Lerner notes in National Review Online, "Foreign jihadists are responsible for almost all suicide bombings, and suicide bombings cause a disproportionate share of American and Iraqi casualties. Worse, because foreign jihadists come from all the Arab states as well as Iran, there is an endless supply of them. If we confine ourselves to hunting them down, one by one, only after they infiltrate Iraq, we will be there forever."

That is a highly astute observation. Echoing Clausewitz's principles (though without directly citing him), Lerner correctly identifies the appropriate strategy for this point of the conflict:

"Far better to act forcefully to stop the infiltration, and do it in a way that sends a message to all terror-succoring states: The free ride is over. The price for continuing to aid and abet the war against us and against a free Iraq has gone up."

This is made simpler by the fact that most of the jihadists are coming from a single source:

"[A]lthough foreign jihadists come from all over the Middle East, most of them enter Iraq from only one country: Syria. Syria is a police state, a small, economic basket-case of a country that hosts a multitude of terrorist groups and terror training camps, and which is working to defeat democracy in Lebanon as well as Iraq."

Lerner goes on to note that another country—one far less powerful than the U.S.-led international coalition now in Iraq—successfully closed this spigot in the recent past:

"Syria could stop the foreign terrorist influx into Iraq if it wanted to, and we could make Syria want to. The Turks did it in 1998, when Syria hosted the PKK terror group and sent them across the border to murder Turkish soldiers and civilians. Then as now, Syria claimed it was doing no such thing, but instead of spluttering impotently, Turkey massed her army on the border and made it clear that if Syria didn't end PKK infiltration, Turkey would invade. Surprise, surprise, PKK infiltration from Syria suddenly stopped."

I would add that an effective campaign to do this would achieve the additional benefit of slowing and eventually stopping the flow of foreign jihadists into Iraq from countries other than Syria: first by intimidation (as worked so well in stopping Libya's Khaddafi refime from sponsoring terrorism and moving forward to obtain nuclear weapons), and second by allowing coaltion forces to concentrate their efforts on these other jihadists, a much smaller number.

Lerner points out that this matter of taking the war directly to the most dangerous bases of the enemy could be as successful, in military-strategic terms, as the original invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq:

"We can make Syria stop too, and do it without putting additional strain on our hard-working ground troops. . . . We can use our air power to bomb the rat lines that feed terrorists into Iraq, and blow up all the terror training camps and weapons sites in Syria and Lebanon, hitting enemy targets from the Bekaa Valley to the Iraqi border in a new shock-and-awe campaign. That would end the easy re-supply of suicide bombers in Iraq, and reduce our casualties significantly. It would, equally, send a clear message to terror-harborers everywhere: Stop."

Lerner observes that the Bush administration seems to be contemplating this very plan:

"Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has been asking President Bush for a go-ahead to strike back at Syria from the start of the Syrian campaign against us, but has yet to get one. The president's toughening rhetoric toward Syria in recent weeks suggests he may, now, be considering it; and the excellent new tone set by our new ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, reinforces that possibility."

From a military-strategic point of view, the approach Lerner outlines is a highly likely winner. The entry of suicide bombers into Iraq is not such a simple thing that it can be done without the support of neighboring states. Stopping the state sponsorship of the jihadists presently invading Iraq would effectively end that threat.

Setting aside questions about whether the United States should be in Iraq at all, I think that for the sake of the international coalition troops now stranded there, especially our U.S. forces, a return to the successful principle of attacking the real and most dangerous enemy is the only honorable course at this point.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Dukakis Campaign Manager Defends Fox News

For the less political history-minded, I'm talking about Susan Estrich. Read her comments about what it's like to work for Fox.

Tantalizing Speculation

William Kristol (a very well-informed fellow) has suggested in his Weekly Standard that O'Connor will resign the Court within a week and Albert Gonzales will be the nominee to succeed her.

Very interesting. I have a hard time seeing the Dems filibuster Gonzales as the midterm elections come up.

As far as the complexion of the Court goes, Gonzales is maybe a little more conservative than O'Connor and is considered wobbly on pro-life, which if the past is any indication, means pro-Roe. It should be a rule: Every wobbly pro-lifer goes pro-Roe.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Fighting in Iraq has yet to peak, McCaffrey says

In an article in today's issue of the Washington Times, retired U.S. Army general Barry McCaffrey is quoted as saying that the violence in Iraq has yet to peak. His remarks were made after his third trip to Iraq, from which he recently returned.

McCaffrey says that the War in Iraq will not peak until this coming January, and that international and Iraqi forces will have to kill approximately 20,000 highly dedicated insurgents among the Sunni minority, "adamant fighters," in his words, along with one or two thousand foreign fighters, before the trouble dies down. McCaffrey predicts that after next January, in "the following six months we will see much of the energy start to drain out of that process," meaning the insurgency.

McCaffrey described the U.S. forces as the best the nation has ever fielded, but is quoted as saying the U.S. is reaching the end of its capacity: "[I]in Iraq the fighting forces are superb. Morale is high and the troops are courageous."

The Times story also noted that "Political negotiations with the Sunni minority have failed to stop a wave of bloody suicide bombings," and quoted new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad as saying, "Foreign terrorists and hard-line Ba'athists want Iraq to descend into civil war. Foreign terrorists are using the Iraqi people as cannon fodder," after his first meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

President Reagan argued that a nation cannot negotiate with terrorists, and that only a willingness to go to war can advance freedom. Regardless of one's opinions of the merits of U.S. involvement in Iraq, the recent events do seem to bear out Reagan's principles.

Laffer Curve and Seven Nobel Prizes

In his June 20 post on “The Laffer Curve” below, Hunter asks me to weigh in on Steve Moore’s piece noting that recent tax receipts have been much larger than expected, in the wake of substantial reductions in marginal tax rates in 2003.

No op-ed can do justice to the distinction between a cyclical revenue rebound and longer-term incentives. Budgeteers at the CBO and OMB always underestimate cyclical revenue rebound in the early years of recovery (1985, 1995 or 2005), just as they overestimate future revenues at cyclical peaks (2000). Unfortunately, it is not self-evident whether decent economic growth over the past two years was mostly the result of lower tax rates or lowering the fed funds rate from 6.5 percent to 1 percent.

On the other hand, some serious statistical estimates showing that sensible reductions in marginal (not average) tax rates typically lose little or no revenue over time come from Greg Mankiw, a self-described neo-Keynesian.

When I borrowed the phrase “supply side fiscalism” from Herb Stein in March 1976, and gave it to Jude Wanniski at The Wall Street Journal, we had in mind a number of incentives that have since become associated with several Nobel laureates in economics -- including the unique “policy mix” solution to stagflation from Jude’s mentor Bob Mundell (who won the 1999 Nobel).

Ed Prescott (2004)now emphasizes the impact of labor taxes on work incentives. Bob Lucas (1995) emphasizes tax incentives to invest in physical capital. James Heckman (2000) and Gary Becker (1992) emphasize the way progressive tax rates weaken incentives to invest in formal education and on-the-job training. James Mirrlees (1996) and Joe Stiglitz (2001) emphasize the welfare and tax-revenue (Laffer Curve) gains from low marginal tax rates on highly-skilled individuals ("optimal tax theory").

One who has not yet received a Nobel Prize, Glenn Hubbard, emphasizes the effect of marginal tax rates on entrepreneurship. Another possible Nobel Laureate, Marty Feldstein, proved that income reported to the IRS by high-income taxpayers is extremely sensitive to changes in marginal tax rates -- which was always a key part of the Laffer Curve argument.

The original supply-siders combined all those effects, not just one or two. Much of what the actual and potential Nobel Laureates later discovered can even be found in Jack Kemp’s popularized 1979 book An American Renaissance, which I helped write. What Mr. Kemp's book said about the Laffer Curve and marginal tax rates has stood the test of time so well that bits and pieces of that message can now result in Nobel prizes being won without anyone remembering who started it all.

Jousting At Tourneys

For those folks who are concerned that I have advocated a new regime of fascism via oppressive prosecutions, I offer this reminder that I am also the author of the essay that I have herewith linked.

As for Jackson's prosecution, the evidence was certainly close enough to conviction that no one could possibly accuse the prosecutor's office of bad faith in the performance of its elected and appointed duty.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

News for the Whole Family

This was written by Melissa St. John who, among many other fabulous qualities, happens to be my daughter:

I have been known to hire a babysitter so that I can watch the evening news.

Don't get me wrong; it's not that I don't want my children to learn everything they can about current events, foreign policy, economic issues that affect our lives. I would like nothing more than to sit down on the sofa for an hour before dinner with my family, turn on CNN and see what's going on around the world. In this little fantasy of mine, my preschooler asks me what trade sanctions are and listens, rapt, to my reply. He learns about world markets and the history of Islam. We go grab the encyclopedia and are off on a journey merging past and present, solidifying his understanding of what we're learning from the TV news.

The reality, however, is that the educational benefits of watching television news together are way offset by frightening and (I believe) unnecessarily graphic images of bloody, dead bodies on stretchers, film clips of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie smiling while shooting at each other with semi-automatic weapons, and commercials for TV reality shows featuring what appear to be bug-eating swimsuit models.

Everyone today is talking about "tweens" and the unprecedented amount of money this social group represents to product marketers. According to various websites I've visited, we're talking about more than twenty million kids between the ages of 8 and 14 who spend more than $40 billion a year. For these kids, like it or not, television is a major medium.

Well, let's get a firm grip on the obvious: It's time for a TV-G news channel.

I want to be clear that I am NOT talking about child reporters dishing on the Backstreet Boys' latest tour. At least not exclusively. We need serious news, with in-depth reports including background and context so that current events are driven home for young learners. I think the channel should be real news and weather reporting, something that adults will want to watch but also feel comfortable leaving on while their kids are in the room. Please somebody, let me get my news fix in the evenings without worrying that my son will inadvertently see or hear something that will have him up with nightmares for the next three days. Let us watch together so that I can talk with my kids about what is going on in the world and encourage them to be politically engaged and generally curious about the world outside their classrooms.

With a target audience from 8-14 years of age, advertisers will surely jump to support such a channel.

And I'll happily contribute the $10 per hour that I currently have to pay a babysitter to keep my kids out of the room while I watch the evening news.

Good News for the Right

Check out this article from a couple of Brits who write for the economist. They think the GOP and conservative future in the U.S. is very bright.

Here's an excerpt:

It is true that, since those glory days, the Republican Party has lost some of its discipline. Once-loyal members of Congress have defied a threat of a presidential veto on both highway spending and stem-cell research. It is also true that the liberal wing of the party is enjoying an Indian Summer. Opinion polls suggest that John McCain and Rudy Giuliani are the two favorites for the Republican nomination in 2008.

But is this loss of steam really all that remarkable? All second-term presidents face restlessness in the ranks. And the noise is arguably a sign of strength. The Democrats would give a lot to have a big-tent party as capacious as the Republicans'. One of the reasons the GOP manages to contain Southern theocrats as well as Western libertarians is that it encourages arguments rather than suppressing them. Go to a meeting of young conservatives in Washington and the atmosphere crackles with ideas, much as it did in London in the heyday of the Thatcher revolution. The Democrats barely know what a debate is.

Punishment for Michael Jackson

Jay Homnick has an interesting angle on the Michael Jackson case, in today's edition of The American Spectator Online. Jay observes that the very act of bringing a person to trial can be an instrument of punishment for a criminal who happens to be highly difficult to convict:

"Naturally we ask ourselves: Was [the Jackson trial] a waste? Did the Prosecutor, Mr. Sneddon, just dump a big load of taxpayer money down the drain?

"The answer strikes me as simple. It was well worth the expense. The situation is somewhat akin to the position of the police officer who knows that a certain fellow is definitely a criminal, although evidence is hard to come by. He can be excused for rousting and harassing and following this man, making it difficult for him to ply his illicit craft. As long as this power is not abused by stalking innocent citizens, we are comfortable with the use of intimidation as an instrument of policing.

"In much the same way, a prosecutor can arrive at a point where the guilt of a particular party is obvious. Sometimes he sits in his office and sees a traumatized rape victim fall to pieces at the merest mention of her attacker. He knows that he cannot subject this person to the ordeal of testifying. Whatever self-possession she clings to will be shattered by facing a sneering defense lawyer and seeing the man who hurt her simpering in his Sunday suit just a few feet away.

"That prosecutor is not without recourse. He has some weaker witnesses, some carpet fibers, some partial fingerprints, some fuzzy video. This is enough to take this rapist off the street for two years awaiting trial, put him through his paces and, if the man has a few dollars, make sure they end up papering the deck of some lawyer's yacht."

Thus, Homnick concludes, Michael Jackson's punishment for the transgressions Homnick believes the pop music star committed was accomplished by the trial itself, with the public humiliation and associated financial expense for the defendant. It appears to me that Jay is correct if we believe that Michael Jackson is indeed guilty of the crime for which he was indicted and tried, or similar ones of which it would have been impossible to convict him in a fair trial. In addition, to prosecute Michael Jackson in this instance was certainly within the letter and spirit of the law, or the judge would never have let it come to trial. Viewed from that angle, at least some little measure of justice for Jackson's purported victims was indeed achieved, as Jay says.

It is definitely an interesting argument, and one that has a certain elegance to it in a society where, for the wealthy at least, constitutional protections against reckless prosecution are highly effective. For most Americans, however, the notion that government prosecutors could destroy an individual citizen socially, financially, and psychologically without convicting that person of a crime is a chilling thought indeed. And it is most unfortunately true.

World Magazine on Baylor

The leading Christian weekly has done a quick story on Baylor that will hopefully lead to more in depth writing later. Here's the link.

And here's a taste:

So now Baylor is in turmoil again. Evangelical graduate students who came to Baylor because of its growing reputation as a Christian university tell of being harassed by liberal professors now exulting in their victory. Evangelical faculty members supportive of Dr. Jeffrey are up in arms. The Board of Regents is now torn with new controversy, with some members angry at the apparent coup by the opponents of Baylor 2012.

"Why oust people and try to implant some committed to the 'old days,' when a new regime is about to begin?" asks Baylor professor Rodney Stark. "And why all the subtle attacks on faith?" Mr. Stark, a renowned sociologist of religion who came to the university because of Baylor 2012, believes that the vision is still alive, thanks to the nucleus of Christian scholars already assembled.

But, he warns, "It won't do to just continue to refer to Baylor as a Christian school. If, as Underwood seems to want, Baylor ceases to ask candidates for faculty appointments to make a confession of Christian faith, in very short order Baylor will be a formerly Christian school, just like hundreds of others—a place where students will soon encounter faculty who make fun of faith, or worse." But, he said, any new president who is willing to continue to require a confession of faith from new faculty members "will preside over the Baylor envisioned in 2012."

In July, the Board will choose that new president. The choice will determine whether Baylor will continue its quest to become, in Mr. Stark's words, "the only great Christian research university in the world." —•

Monday, June 20, 2005

Jaime Cardinal Sin, RIP

We once before pondered here the irony that Cardinal Law turned out to be a bad guy, papering over the tracks of serial abusers of children in his Boston archdiocese; by contrast, Cardinal Sin was a very good guy, who was instrumental in freeing the Phillippines from the clutches of the Marcos thuggocracy.

Today, Cardinal Sin passed on at age 76. Requiescat in pace.

Un-UN-confirmed Report

Dem damn Dems hammered a bolt in the coffin of the Bolton nomination.

Now it's a test of Republican gumption: will they start boltin' and runnin'?

The Full Scoop on the Hillary Book

NRO's Kathryn Jean Lopez interviewed author Edward Klein on his book about Hillary Rodham Clinton. The interview is surprisingly tough, particularly where Lopez cross-examines the author about the Drudge-hyped claim that Bill raped Hillary.

What makes this book really interesting and not another throwaway anti-Bill and Hill volume is that Klein is a journalist with all the right credentials (Newsweek, New York Times Magazine, etc.). Might be a must read.

More Shameless Self-Promotion

Comments welcome from all friends and foes:

The Laffer Curve

Stephen Moore has a nice column at Opinion Journal today on how Arthur Laffer has again been proven correct as we analyze the after-effects of the Bush tax cuts.

Ben and Alan, you're free market libertarian types with heavy-duty economic training. Was Laffer right? I think so. I once did a constant dollar analysis of the federal revenues post the first big Reagan cut and saw a real increase year by year. Rates were cut and revenues went up. No lefty can believe it.

One more thing. Let's assume the revenues would be the same for a 15% rate and a 70% rate (I believe you'd collect a lot more with 15%, but let's accept it.). Wouldn't it be de facto better to charge 15%? Why are the lefties so hell-bent on high rates?

Will Bank On Attention

The latest media star is Jennifer Wilbanks, the runaway bride. Interviews, books, you name it.

What happened to the time when you had to do something heroic or excellent to garner national esteem?

We have gone from Cool Hand Luke to Cold Feet Jennifer.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Between Republican Kudlow and Democrat Cramer . . .

Cramer has the more interesting show. If you haven't seen Mad Money with Jim Cramer at least once, you have to tune in. He stomps around the studio sweating and screaming while he takes calls from investors wanting instant feedback on stocks. Cramer flashes 'em the bull or the bear and moves on at high speed. BOOYA!

Would I take investment advice from this man? Not sure!!!