Sunday, October 12, 2014
A Western Heart
Most of what I put online in my blogs is commentary and news reports written by others that I find interesting from a libertarian/conservative point of view. So I could possibly be seen as a sort of Readers Digest for libertarian/conservatives. In fact, however, on most days I do put up commentary somewhere on one of my blogs that I have written myself. When such comments stretch to more than a sentence of two, therefore, I put them up on the blog A Western Heart (AWH) -- as a convenient way of keeping together my own writings for my own reference.
The blog was originally created by a group of Australian bloggers but the rest of them all gradually burnt out -- leaving me as the only surviving blogger. I am persistent if nothing else.
But another important reason for using AWH has to do with a certain search engine whose name begins with G. For some reason not clear to me AWH gets a much higher priority in searches than do any of my other blogs. If I search for some content that I have put up in more than one place, the AWH entry comes up first by far. I don't know why but I am glad to take advantage of it
A little history, Thomas Jefferson Started A War Against Fundamentalist Islam Over 200 Years Ago
Most Americans are unaware of the fact that over two hundred years ago,the United States had declared war on Islam, and Thomas Jefferson led the charge! At the height of the eighteenth century, Muslim pirates were the terror of the Mediterranean and a large area of the North Atlantic. They attacked every ship in sight, and held the crews for exorbitant ransoms. Those taken hostage were subjected to barbaric treatment and wrote heart breaking letters home, begging their government and family members to pay whatever their Mohammedan captors demanded.
These extortionists of the high seas represented the Islamic nations of Tripoli, Tunis, Morocco, and Algiers - collectively referred to as the Barbary Coast - and presented a dangerous and unprovoked threat to the new American Republic.
Before the Revolutionary War, U.S. merchant ships had been under the protection of Great Britain. When the U.S. declared its independence and entered into war, the ships of the United States were protected by France. However, once the war was won, America had to protect its own fleets. Thus, the birth of the U.S. Navy.
Beginning in 1784, seventeen years before he would become president, Thomas Jefferson became America's Minister to France. That same year, the U.S. Congress sought to appease its Muslim adversaries by following in the footsteps of European nations who paid bribes to the Barbary States, rather than engaging them in war.
In July of 1785, Algerian pirates captured American ships, and the Day of Algiers demanded an unheard-of ransom of $60,000. It was a plain and simple case of extortion, and Thomas Jefferson was vehemently opposed to any further payments. Instead, he proposed to Congress the formation of a coalition of allied nations who together could force the Islamic states into peace. A disinterested Congress decided to pay the ransom.
In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met with Tripoli's ambassador to Great Britain to ask by what right his nation attacked American ships and enslaved American citizens, and why Muslims held so much hostility towards America, a nation with which they had no previous contacts.
The two future presidents reported that Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja had answered that Islam "was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Quran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman (Muslim) who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise."
Despite this stunning admission of premeditated violence on non-Muslim nations, as well as the objections of many notable American leaders, including George Washington, who warned that caving in was both wrong and would only further embolden the enemy, for the following fifteen years, the American government paid the Muslims millions of dollars for the safe passage of American ships or the return of American hostages. The payments in ransom and tribute amounted to over twenty percent of the United States government annual revenues in 1800.
Jefferson was disgusted. Shortly after his being sworn in as the third President of the United States in 1801, the Pashaof Tripoli sent him a note demanding the immediate payment of $225,000 plus $25,000 a year for every year forthcoming. That changed everything.
Jefferson let the Pasha know, in no uncertain terms, what he could do with his demand. The Pasha responded by cutting down the flagpole at the American consulate and declared war on the United States. Tunis, Morocco, and Algiers immediately followed suit.
Jefferson, until now, had been against America raising a naval force for anything beyond coastal defense, but having watched his nation be cowed by Islamic thuggery for long enough, decided that it was finally time to meet force with force.
Painting of "Pirate Ship Burning in Tripoli Harbor" 1804 .. U.S. Navy Archive
He dispatched a squadron of frigates to the Mediterranean and taught the Muslim of the Barbary Coast a lesson he hoped they would never forget. Congress authorized Jefferson to empower U.S. ships to seize all vessels and goods of the Pasha of Tripoli and to "cause to be done all other acts of precaution or hostility as the state of war would justify".
When Algiers and Tunis, who were both accustomed to American cowardice and acquiescence, saw the newly independent United States had both the will and the might to strike back, they quickly abandoned their allegiance to Tripoli.
The war with Tripoli lasted for four more years, and raged up again in 1815. The bravery of the U.S. Marine Corps in these wars led to the line "to the shores of Tripoli" in the Marine Hymn. They would forever be known as "leathernecks" for the leather collars of their uniforms, designed to prevent their heads from being cut off by the Muslim scimitars when boarding enemy ships.
Islam, and what its Barbary followers justified doing in the name of their prophet and their god, disturbed Jefferson quite deeply. America had a tradition of religious tolerance; the fact that Jefferson, himself, had co-authored the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, but fundamentalist Islam was like no other religion the world had ever seen. A religion based on supremacism, whose holy book not only condoned but mandated violence against unbelievers was unacceptable to him. His greatest fear was that someday this brand of Islam would return and pose an even greater threat to the United States.
This should bother every American. That the Islams have brought about women-only classes and swimming times at taxpayer-funded universities and public pools; that Christians, Jews, and Hindus have been banned from serving on juries where Muslim defendants are being judged, Piggy banks and Porky Pig tissue dispensers have been banned from workplaces because they offend Islamist sensibilities. Ice cream has been discontinued at certain Burger King locations because the picture on the wrapper looks similar to the Arabic script for Allah, public schools are pulling pork from their menus, on and from in the newspapers….
It's death by a thousand cuts, or inch-by-inch as some refer to it, and most Americans have no idea that this battle is being waged every day across America. By not fighting back, by allowing groups to obfuscate what is really happening, and not insisting that the Islamists adapt to our own culture, the United States is cutting its own throat with a politically correct knife, and helping to further the Islamists agenda.
Sadly, it appears that today's America would rather be politically correct than victorious.
Footnote: The North African pirates were eventually wiped out when in 1830 the restored French monarchy sent 600 ships to the other side of the Mediterranean and took over North Africa. The invasion was chaotic but the defence was feeble so the French won
Campaign finance reform isn't about "getting money out of politics," it's about silencing political dissent
Senate Democrats recently tried to push through a constitutional amendment that would have repealed free speech protections in the First Amendment, making Congress the sole arbiter of what is and isn't political speech. Thankfully, this effort, backed by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) failed to get the two-thirds needed for a constitutional majority, killing the proposed amendment for the remainder of the 113th Congress.
Though this effort failed, there stands a good chance that Democrats will, at some point down the road, launch another attempt to repeal the First Amendment, and it will again come under the guise of the Orwellian phrase "campaign finance reform." This phrase may sound nice, but the consequence, as George Will explains in a new video, is the silencing of political speech.
"We Americans are disposed to think that the word 'reform' is a synonym for 'improvement.' But what is called 'campaign finance reform' is nothing less than a frontal assault on the first, the most fundamental of our freedoms -- the freedom to speak our mind and to participate in politics," says Will, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist. "This assault is always conducted stealthily by people who pretend that they only want to regulate money, not speech. They say they are only concerned about the quantity of money in politics."
"You must remember this: People who say there is too much money in politics are necessarily saying three very sinister things. First, they're saying there is too much political speech. Second, they are saying that they know just the right amount of political speech. And third, they are saying that government should enforce the limits they want on the amount of political speech. That is, the government should regulate speech about the government," Will adds.
Despite the feel-good rhetoric Americans so frequently hear from so-called "campaign finance reformers," these efforts aren't about the presence of money in politics, but rather incumbent protection. Campaign finance laws are written by politicians to insulate themselves against criticism and accountability from constituents back home at the expense of one of our most cherished civil liberties.
How Government Creates Poverty
Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson declared "War on Poverty." It sounded great to me. I was taught at Princeton, "We're a rich country. All we have to do is tax the rich, and then use that money to create programs that will lift the poor out of poverty." Government created job-training programs for the strong and expanded social security for the weak.
It seemed to work. The poverty rate dropped from 17 percent to 12 percent in the programs' first decade. Unfortunately, few people noticed that during the half-decade before the "War," the rate dropped from 22 percent to 17 percent. Without big government, Americans were already lifting themselves out of poverty!
Johnson's War brought further progress, but progress then stopped. It stopped because government is not good at making a distinction between needy and lazy. It taught moms not to marry the father of their kids because that would reduce their welfare benefits. Welfare invited people to be dependent. Some people started to say, "Entry-level jobs are for suckers." Many could live almost as well without the hassle of work.
Despite spending an astonishing $22 trillion dollars, despite 92 different government welfare programs, poverty stopped declining. Government's answer? Spend more!
Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, points out that government measures "success" by the growth of programs: "based on inputs, how much money are we spending, how many programs are we creating, how many people are we putting on these programs—not on outcomes—how many people are we getting out of poverty? ... Many of these programs end up disincentivizing work, telling people it pays not to go to work because you'll lose more in benefits than you gain in earning wages."
That doesn't mean the poor are lazy. It means they respond to incentives. They are rational about choosing behaviors that, at least in the short term, pay off.
It's not only welfare that makes it harder for the poor to climb the ladder of success. Well-intended laws, such as a minimum wage, hurt, too. But most people don't understand that. Even Republicans, according to opinion polls, support a higher minimum wage. A minimum sounds compassionate. It's hard to live on $7.25 an hour.
But setting a minimum is anything but compassionate because that eliminates starter jobs. The minimum wage is why kids don't work as apprentices anymore, nor clean your windshield at gas stations. They never get hired because employers reason, "If I must pay $9, I'm not taking a chance on a beginner."
To most economists, the claim that the minimum wage kills starter jobs is not controversial. But it is among the general public. And so politicians pander.
On my TV show this week, Rep. Jim McDermott (D.-Wash.) says that people like Paul Ryan and I "just want to cut the size of government. And trust the private sector to do everything." Well ... yes. The private sector does just about everything better.
McDermott says, "This whole business about somehow raising the minimum wage causes a loss of jobs—if that's true, why don't we just drop the minimum wage altogether and let people work for a dollar a day or $1 an hour?"
OK, let's do it! It's not as if wages are set by the minimum wage. That is a great conceit of the central planners: thinking that only government prevents employers from paying workers nearly nothing. But the reason Americans don't work for $1 an hour is competition, not government minimums. Competition is what forces companies to pay workers more. It doesn't much matter that the law says they can pay as low as $7.25. Only 4 percent of American workers now make that little; 95 percent make more.
The free market will sort this out, if politicians would just let it. Left free, the market will provide the greatest benefit to workers, employers, and consumers, while allowing charity as well.
It would all happen faster if politicians stopped imagining that they are the cause of everything.
An alarming double standard
Beck asked: “Can you think of a reason, an honest reason, that we have not banned the flights from West Africa yet? Why we’re not stopping this?”
“No,” Levin responded. “I think this is absolute insanity. Well, it’s obviously Obama. The reasons are obvious, because he doesn’t want to appear to be conducting himself in a way that discriminates against that continent.”
“You know what’s really crazy?” Beck added. “It took him all of 30 seconds to ban flights to the state of Israel. He banned flights to Israel over a suspected rocket launch. … This time, we have actual Ebola in our own hometowns, and he’s not banning any flights. Won’t even consider it.”
For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.
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Posted by JR at 1:37 AM