Thursday, June 29, 2006

Muslim Women -- Not Blameless

Until recently I have felt very sorry for Muslim women in general -- considering them to be relatively innocent and helpless victims of their brutal and repressive societies. But the more I read, the more I see that many have bought into and actively advocate the ideology responsible for their situation, with quite a few even participating in the physical horrors and repression. For example, in the story below, an aunt was instrumental in trapping the murdered girl, just as women were the traps in the Halimi case. Consider also the wives of the recently arrested Islamic terror suspects in Canada who made thousands of internet postings supporting jihad and violence in the name of Islam. Similarly, Palestinian mothers who are so proud of their murdering suicide spawn -- and extol their example for others to follow -- are actively promulgating the most evil of ideologies and actions; they are not simply innocent victims of a monstrous society. Or take this recent case in Thailand where twenty Muslim women are charged with beating and clubbing a teacher to near death. You can find similar examples of Muslim women actively involved in the horrors of their society daily, not to mention the almost universal tacit support that they show for their religion and its consequences -- all of which leads me to feel much less sympathy or pity for the average Muslim woman than I once did.

Of course, those few women who do stand up to their societies are among the most admirable of heroes, but sadly women like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Wafa Sultan are not exceptional primarily because of their immense courage (though it is obviously exceptional), but more so for their intellectual independence -- a trait which gradually allowed them to see and challenge the evils of their faith-based societies. This type of independence is very rare in Muslim society precisely because the basis of a religious society is the very antithesis of independence and objectivity: blind faith and acceptance. Thus I see little reason to feel optimistic about the likelihood of change coming from within the Muslim world (particularly given that an essential part of the Muslim faith explicitly condones the use of violence to suppress and eradicate any intellectual dissent).

(HT LGF for the story on the wives of the Canadian Islamists.)

Some Good News from Denmark

Gates of Vienna reports that 9 members of a Muslim family in Denmark are being held accountable for an "honor" killing in which they all had a role. This is newsworthy because previously only the actual person pulling the trigger had any risk of being charged in such crimes. HT: Isaac Schrodinger

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

New Orleans Revisited

An editorial in today's NYT's detailing the waste and fraud which has marked the hurricane Katrina disaster relief corroborates the observations which Robert Tracinski made at the time. Be sure to re-read Rob's excellent article in its entirety, but here are his concluding paragraphs:
What Hurricane Katrina exposed was the psychological consequences of the welfare state. What we consider "normal" behavior in an emergency is behavior that is normal for people who have values and take the responsibility to pursue and protect them. People with values respond to a disaster by fighting against it and doing whatever it takes to overcome the difficulties they face. They don't sit around and complain that the government hasn't taken care of them. And they don't use the chaos of a disaster as an opportunity to prey on their fellow men.

But what about criminals and welfare parasites? Do they worry about saving their houses and property? They don't, because they don't own anything. Do they worry about what is going to happen to their businesses or how they are going to make a living? They never worried about those things before. Do they worry about crime and looting? But living off of stolen wealth is a way of life for them.

People living in piles of their own trash, while petulantly complaining that other people aren't doing enough to take care of them and then shooting at those who come to rescue them—this is not just a description of the chaos at the Superdome. It is a perfect summary of the 40-year history of the welfare state and its public housing projects.

The welfare state—and the brutish, uncivilized mentality it sustains and encourages—is the man-made disaster that explains the moral ugliness that has swamped New Orleans. And that is the story that no one is reporting.
I think that Rob's analysis helps explain why fraud after this disaster was more than 5x greater than what one expects historically in areas where the welfare state doesn't predominate. Rather than being grateful for the charity and assistance of others, many people sought to abuse the kindness, presumably thinking it was their "right" to do so. And as Rob also observed, in this case the immorality engendered by the welfare state extended beyond individual citizens to include government officials as well.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Chipping Away at Freedom of Speech

Given that our government has so miserably failed to uphold the right to freedom of speech unequivocally and on principle, Islamists have now become emboldened enough to try to use the government's power to censor their critics. Charles Johnson reports that CAIR has begun filing complaints to the FBI about comments left on LGF and other blogs.

Market Failure

Glenn Woiceshyn has (what is to me) a new take on the idea that markets don't fail. As he points out:
A free market doesn’t guarantee that an individual will act in rational self-interest—errors are possible—only that he or she is free to do so. If a person fails to act as such, then it’s the person’s failure, not “market failure.” A free market can’t be expected to do what’s metaphysically impossible, such as make everyone equally wealthy regardless of ability and effort, or turn sloth into gold. If a person expects a bicycle to fly, and it doesn’t fly, then it’s not a “bicycle failure” but a mind failure.

Now if the activities of some people harm others, such as harmfully pollute their water or air, and if the harm can be objectively proven (a concept foreign to environmentalists), then it’s the government’s failure to protect individual rights—not “market failure.” And a tax on emissions is not a valid solution, because it implies that it’s okay to violate rights as long as you pay government for the privilege.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Enron vs. Fannie Mae

Dan Gainor at the Washington Post makes some interesting observations and raises some provocative questions regarding the media's treatment of the two scandals:
Then there's network news. When the Business & Media Institute looked into this last year, we found almost no network coverage of the scandal. Instead, ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN all focused hours and hours on the damage done at Enron.

Since last year's study period ended on Feb. 1, 2005, CBS has reported on the Fannie Mae scandal just twice -- both the same day of the $400-million settlement. NBC has mentioned it just once and ABC has been completely out to lunch. CNN has mentioned it just six times -- a decline in its coverage.

None of the stories discussed the roughly $30 billion in lost value to stockholders since this scandal has hit the news. None of them mentioned this was a Democratic scandal.

When it came to Enron, the media did everything they could to link it to Republicans or President Bush. Back in January, Anne Thompson of NBC's "Today" showed how it was done. "He was Houston's No. 1 corporate citizen who morphed into public enemy number one when Enron disintegrated: Ken Lay, friend of presidents past and present. Kenny Boy, President Bush called him, a powerful, influential man with a photograph album of famous figures." Being connected to President Bush was newsworthy. Being connected to President Clinton apparently was not.
HT Instapundit

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Religion of Peace Devotees Arrested in Plot To Blow Up Sears Tower

Here's a developing story worth keeping an eye on.

Predictably, the AP version of the story highlighted the fact that the suspects aren't linked to Al-Qaida, but completely omitted the fact that the suspects were all (black) Muslims.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

North Korea

Today's WSJ has a good editorial summarizing the threat which North Korea poses to us and our allies, and calling for the use of our missile defense system to knock the Korean test missile out of the sky.
As we went to press in the U.S. last night, morning was breaking at the Musudan-ri launch facility in the remote northeast of North Korea. It's possible we'll wake up to the news that Pyongyang has tested the long-range ballistic missile that is fully fueled and which U.S. satellites have monitored for more than a month.

If so, we hope we'll also learn that the U.S. responded by testing its newly operational missile defense system and blowing the Korean provocation out of the sky. What better way to discourage would-be nuclear proliferators than to demonstrate that the U.S. is able to destroy their missiles before they hit our allies, or the U.S. homeland. Even a miss would be a useful learning experience all around.
After detailing the capabilities of various Korean missiles they go on to note that North Korea has also been selling the technology to some of our worst enemies:
Missile exports have also long been a major source of foreign exchange for Pyongyang, with customers in Pakistan (whose "Ghauri" missile is a renamed Nodong) and throughout the Middle East. Its longtime best customer is Iran, which last year was reported to have purchased technology that allowed it to extend the range of its Shahab-3 missile to 3,500 kilometers from 1,500. In the blunt words of the German daily Bild last December, "this means that the 'madmen of Iran' could reach targets in the whole of Germany."
Unfortunately, the editorial doesn't go far enough in asserting our interests or in analyzing how North Korea became the threat it is. They seem to think that the whole problem is that we haven't gone far enough in developing defensive weapons systems, which emboldens rogue nations:
As North Korea weighs a launch, it's a useful moment to recall how we got to this pass: Amid the arms-control era of the Cold War, the U.S. chose to defend itself against attack by plane or ship or ground but not by missile. One reason North Korea--and Iran--decided to invest scarce resources into developing nuclear weapons and ballistic-missiles is simply this: The U.S. was vulnerable.
Fortunately, Elan Journo at ARI also published an editorial today examining how diplomacy, i.e. appeasement, has brought North Korea to the point where it is a credible threat to the US and it allies:
Some twenty years ago, North Korea's nuclear ambitions became glaringly obvious. The West pretended that this hostile dictatorship would honor a treaty banning nuclear weapons. To get its signature took years of Western groveling and concessions. The North's promises to halt its nuclear program were predictably hollow. By 1993, after preventing required inspections of its nuclear facilities, Pyongyang announced its intention to withdraw from the treaty. Our response? More "diplomacy"--in the form of the "Agreed Framework," brokered in 1994.

For agreeing to freeze its nuclear program, North Korea was offered two light-water nuclear reactors (putatively for generating electricity) and, until the reactors were operational, 500,000 metric tons of oil annually (nearly half its annual needs). The United States, along with Japan and South Korea, paid for these lavish gifts. During these years of apparent tranquility, our handouts and assurances of security buoyed North Korea as it furtively completed two reactors capable of yielding weapons-grade fuel. By 2003--when the North actually did withdraw from the nuclear treaty--it was clear that Pyongyang had continued secretly to develop weapons-capable nuclear technology.

The pattern of America's suicidal diplomacy is clear: the North threatens us, we respond with negotiations, gifts and concessions, and it emerges with even greater belligerence.

Without economic aid, technical assistance and protracted negotiations affording it time, it is unlikely that the North--continually on the brink of economic collapse--could have survived. It is also unlikely that it could have built the fourth-largest army in the world. The North is believed to have sold long-range ballistic missiles to Iran, Yemen, Pakistan and Syria. By some estimates, North Korea already has the material to create eight nuclear bombs. As it doubtless will continue engaging in clandestine nuclear development, the North may soon be wielding--and selling--nuclear weapons.
Elan rightly concludes:
There is only one solution to the "North Korea problem": the United States and its allies must abandon the suicidal policy of appeasement.
I think it also important to note that North Korea is one of the most brutal dictatorships in existence today, and because it systematically violates the most basic rights of its own citizens, it has no rights or legitimacy of its own. As one observer describes it:
It's one of the most brutal governments on earth. ... It's a place where the level of sheer physical brutality is extreme and the psychic violence is constant. There is no such thing as individual rights of any kind. The state is ubiquitous and all-pervasive. There is no idea of privacy or of independent thought. To get a sense of how perfectly oppressive it is, it's worth realizing that there are no dissidents. They simply disappear -- they're sent to camps or executed. The system of social control is based on the idea that an entire family can be held accountable for any perceived slight by any single member of that family. So if you happen to be listening to a South Korean radio broadcast, or you say something like "Gee, I hear North Korea started the Korean War," your entire family can be purged--taken off to camps, and never heard from again.
Moreover, by its rhetoric and actions, including supporting terrorists and hostile regimes around the world, North Korea has shown itself to be an enemy of the US. This means that, assuming it is militarily feasible, it is completely moral not just to shoot down any test missile that North Korea happens to launch, but to pre-emptively destroy any military capability they have, including their reactors, missile factories and test bases. In other words there can not be any question of respecting their so-called national sovereignty, there can only be the question of what is required for us to secure our long-lasting safety from them.

(Here is some more background on the situation in North Korea. I obviously don't subscribe to the policies or interpretations put forth in it, but I did find the data which it contains to be of value.)

Money Flows and Stock Prices

One of my pet peeves is hearing people talk about money "flowing into or out of" stocks in an attempt to explain changing prices. Obviously for every seller there is a buyer, and vice versa, so money can't flow into or out of asset classes the way so many pundits assert. As such I was gratified to see John Hussman make this point in one of John Mauldin's "Outside The Box" newsletters [dated Feb 6th, and yes that is how far behind I am in my reading and blogging :-( ]. Here are the relevant paragraphs from the original piece:
Few arguments make me wince as reliably as statements that disregard the concept of equilibrium. The fact is that stock markets don't go down because investors withdraw money from the stock market and put it elsewhere, and they don't advance because investors take money from elsewhere and put it “into” stocks. Bear markets occur without any net removal or redeployment of funds out of the stock market. Likewise, bull markets do not rely on “net inflow” of funds from investors. A moment's reflection should make it obvious that for every person selling stock and taking money “out of the market” stands a buyer of the stock who is putting that exact same number of dollars “into the market.” The whole concept of “money flow” is nothing but an oversight of this fact.

Except for new issuance of stock, money never flows “into” the stock market – merely through it. Even in new issuance, what's really going on is that new savings – new income left over after consumption and taxes – flows directly from individuals to the corporations issuing the stock, in order to finance new investment. I say “new” savings because if the investor gets the funds to buy the newly issued stock by selling other securities, some other investor would have had to buy those securities with their savings, and that argument can be repeated indefinitely until the only source of the funds, at bottom, must be somebody who earned new income and didn't spend it. So stock issuance represents a transfer of income saved by individuals to corporations, who then deploy those savings by investing in factories, equipment, and other assets. As always, savings equal investment in equilibrium.

Similarly, except for buyouts, takeovers and net repurchases of stock, money doesn't flow “out” of the stock market when an investors sells. (I say “net” repurchases because the majority of stock repurchases made by corporations are executed merely to offset the dilution that occurs when corporations grant stock and options as compensation. So net repurchases represent a transfer of income saved by corporations to individuals who then deploy those savings.)

The idea that bear markets don't require a withdrawal of funds from the stock market, and that bull markets don't require an “inflow” of funds, can be difficult to accept at first. There's a natural tendency to think of the stock market as one big “representative” investor, and that this huge Gulliver allocates his pool of savings across stocks, bonds, T-bills and so forth, driving prices up and down as those allocations change. But that's not the way markets work. The whole concept of a secondary market (a market for securities that have been issued) is that all issued securities must be held by someone – when buyers meet sellers, the money held by the buyer goes into the hands of the seller, and the share held by the seller goes into the hands of the buyer. There is exactly the same number of shares outstanding after the transaction as before, and exactly the same amount of “money on the sidelines.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Clueless World

I thought that this Reuters piece was worth blogging for posterity:

World sees US in Iraq bigger danger than Iran: poll

Among Washington's traditional allies, Germany is the only country where more people say Iran is a bigger danger than the United States in Iraq.

Otherwise, the survey made grim comparisons for the Bush administration, including that 56 percent of Spaniards, 45 percent of Russians and 31 percent of Indonesians believe the United States in Iraq is the greater threat.
If that doesn't show how futile and ridiculous it is to look for permission from some "global consensus" before we act in our own self-defense, I don't know what would...

Cause and Effect in NY

Every time I read of Spitzer's heinous vendettas, I wonder to myself why any ambitious young person would want to live in a state where -- just by virtue of being in business -- you're guilty until proven innocent. So a story in today's NY Time's describing "brain drain" in upstate NY wasn't a shock, though of course it obviously isn't all due to Spitzer (I would guess that heavy unionization is also a factor). Here are a few key facts from the article:
From 1990 to 2004, the number of 25-to-34-year-old residents in the 52 counties north of Rockland and Putnam declined by more than 25 percent. In 13 counties that include cities like Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton, the population of young adults fell by more than 30 percent. In Tioga County, part of Appalachia in New York's Southern Tier, 42 percent fewer young adults were counted in 2004 than in 1990.

Population growth upstate might have lagged even more but for the influx of 21,000 prison inmates, who accounted for 30 percent of new residents. During the first half of the current decade, the pace of depopulation actually increased in many places.

In almost every place upstate, emigration rates were highest among college graduates, producing a brain drain, according to separate analyses of census results for The New York Times by two demographers, William Frey of the Brookings Institution and Andrew A. Beveridge of Queens College of the City University of New York. Among the nation's large metropolitan areas, Professor Frey said, Buffalo and Rochester had the highest rates of what he called "bright flight."

In 1999, upstate residents were asked in a poll for M & T Bank if they intended to move to another state in the next five years. Fully 40 percent of 18-to-30-year-olds replied yes. Most people said they would head to the South or the West. But among young adults, a high percentage said they were uncertain where they would wind up.
Buried among all these stat's was a very ironic paragraph:
It has already been injected into this year's campaign for governor, with both major candidates, Eliot Spitzer and John Faso, highlighting population stagnation there and the need to help spur business activity.
Maybe Spitzer plans to take a page out of Mr. Thompson's book (character in Atlas Shrugged) and further coerce businesses into providing jobs. Yeah, that should work.

(See also: More on Spitzer)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The West's Capitulation

The lack of any principles has once again torpedoed our foreign policy. In answer to Iran's threats to wipe Israel off the face of the map, and to destroy the 'Great Satan", we are now going to spare them the trouble of developing their own nuclear technology necessary to do these deeds -- and instead give it to them as a reward! Who ever said "threats don't work" sure never dealt with the modern West. Full story here.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Iran Diplomacy Works!

Fantastic news recently! It was widely reported Thursday that a diplomatic solution was finally found regarding the Iran nuke situation! Yes, the three years of apparently useless jibber-jabbering by Europeans has finally paid off big-time! (Shame on me for having ridiculed them.) Yes, a major breakthrough has been achieved: the US and its pseudo-allies have finally reached a diplomatic agreement on Iran.... amongst themselves!

Britain's new foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, announced: "We have agreed on a set of far-reaching proposals as a basis for discussions with Iran." Good, now they can finally get down to some serious negotiations with Iran. If only Iran would be so kind as to have them.

Meanwhile, one dour pessimist tried to pour cold water on events: "Another senior European official expressed fears that the process could allow Iran time to 'string this along for a very long time.'" Well! There certainly hasn't been any grounds over the past three years for that kind of sweeping generalization, has there?

On a more serious note, let's do a quick recap:
- Iran is clearly trying to develop a nuclear bomb. Everyone knows it; no one disputes it (besides Iran).
- Iran is an indisputable enemy of the West. Weekly prayers include "Death to America" chants. Its president openly calls for the destruction of Israel, and openly expresses his goal that Islam should rule the world.
- Iran would use a nuclear bomb. Iran is ruled by Islamic fundamentalists with a messianic vision about the coming end of the world. These are not rational people. They "love death", as they openly tell us (and as Islamic suicide bombers prove weekly). They would be exhilirated by the chance to martyr themselves, as long as they could take us with them. A strategy of "nuclear deterrence" doesn't work with irrational people who think death is great.
- "Diplomacy" with an irrational life-hating dictatorship is dishonest and self-defeating. It is grotesquely irrational and immoral to seek to reward someone in exchange for not killing us. Isn't it blatantly obvious what behavior that encourages?
- Nothing we say or promise is going to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons in any case. There is nothing in this world we could give them, or that they would want, that could persuade them to cease and desist. They don't care about "this world". Their focus is on the "next world"--which, according to their beliefs, a nuclear bomb will help to bring about.

Bottom line: Iran wants to destroy us. We don't want to be destroyed (well, I guess I can't speak for the Europeans). There is no middle ground here. There is nothing to discuss, debate, or negotiate.

There is only one "diplomatic message" that needs to be sent to Iran: Stop developing nuclear weapons, or we will destroy you. And we mean it.