Thursday, December 11, 2008

Obama's Popular. Can We Rid Ourselves of Affirmative Action Now?

An article today in the Wall Street Journal discussed a recent poll that almost 75% of Americans feel positive about President Obama.

This would seem to put a fly in the ointment for those who still cling to the notion that America is inherently a racist country. There will always be a residue of racism in the human heart but the notion that racism is systemic in America and cannot be overcome as part of the body politic should be put to rest. Obama’s election has clearly demonstrated that racism in America is no longer systemic to the degree it may have when these policies were born. American blacks no longer need to maintain a “twoness” as W.E.B. Dubois called it where blacks had to act one way with whites and another way with blacks.

It has always seemed to me during my lifetime (b.1972) that America is more concerned with merit. Americans are very happy to support anybody, regardless of color, who does the job well. We respect and admire people who achieve their goals in life. Of course the “everybody gets a trophy” liberal mentality goes against this. But the idea that everyone should win because the loser’s feelings may get hurt is ridiculed by most Americans.

Conservatives should support affirmative action only if it is based on a non-color, means-based income threshold. It should not be the color of your skin that gives preferential treatment. On the other hand, if you are poor but talented you deserve an opportunity. It is a fact that there are bright pupils in poor school districts, for example, who suffer. There is no way to argue that students in underperforming schools have the same opportunities as students in more affluent school districts or those whose parents can afford good private schools. We all suffer when flowers like these can’t blossom. Certainly we can advocate a policy that gives potentially excellent students the opportunity they need to excel.

Perpetuating affirmative action flies in the face of what America is about and Obama’s election is just one more piece of an already long running trail of evidence that should mark the final end of a preferential racial policy. Affirmative action does more harm than good and actually perpetuates stereotypes at this point. Conservatives have a winning issue if they advocate means rather than race as a just way to advance the future of affirmative action.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ethics in Illinois

While the term "Ethics in Illinois" seems a bit of an oxymoron, I am still be-Elmer-fuddled by what Illinois' governor is reported to have done. For more info about specifics go to Apparently Governor Rod wanted to essentially offer Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder.

Even for Chicago politics, this one's a dandy. He joins New York's governor as having to resign over the past year for something so ridiculous. I'd pursue the "what were these guys thinking?" track if it were worth pursuing. But there's really no way to figure this stuff out and answer that question when these types of reports come out. All I can do is paraphrase the SNL skits and ask "REALLY?"

It does make me think that Conservatives have an opportunity to reclaim the mantle of good, ethical government. Democrat money machines are quite an ugly thing when you look up close at them. And we have some ugly Dems in the House. Conservatives should be for open, transparent government. Unfortunately, folks like Ted Stevens, Duke Cunningham, and Larry Craig have mucked ethics up in recent years.

However, in the future Conservatives need to have the strength to take the high road on ethics and accept consequences if need be. If it means voting out members who have even a whiff of scandal and losing a seat, so be it. In the long run, big city Dem politicos seem to get away with this sort of stuff. Conservatives need to stay away from it because they don't have a lock-step, "we've stopped thinking because we are all progressives" urban base. This can help restore the trust we've lost with our spending sprees and our own corruption during 12 years of GOP congressional rule. Behaving ethical, rather than just spending the next two years throwing darts, would be one small way for us to get out of the wilderness.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Obama Smokes! String'm Up

This recent article about Obama's on-again, off-again smoking habit struck me as yet another example of misplaced liberal, politically correct moral outrage.

This is truly ridiculous. I am not a cigarette smoker. I love smoking cigars and I'll confess I don't understand the appeal of cigarettes. I never got into the whole cool factor about it in High School.

The article cites stats about how cigarettes cost billions in health care costs and cause one in five deaths. Shall we do away with old age, McDonalds, desserts, fat food in general, and driving cars? They are probably the leading contrubutor to the other four in five deaths.

This sort of moral crusade is what I've always hated about the whole PC movement. It seems PC moral outrage is over things that aren't all that moral. When this happens eventually the outrage loses its effectiveness and we become numb to moral outrage in general. I mean cigarette smoking! When will we move beyond these stupid type of pseudo-moral crusades?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen: Give it up for Israel and Iran

The Drudge Report, one of my favorite sources of quick news, links to an article in the Jerusalem Post stating that Israel is preparing options for an Iran strike.

My hunch is that Israel has probably already war-gamed different “Bomb-Bomb-Bomb Iran” scenarios to exhaustion by now. At this point, America seems to have a wait and see attitude with respect to Iran going nuclear. “La-Da-Da-Da Life goes on” and “time keeps on ticking”, to paraphrase the Beatles and Pink Floyd. But, to paraphrase the Rolling Stones, “time is not on our side”.

Waiting for Iran to get full-scale nuclear capabilities will irreversibly change the world as we know it. This is probably the most serious, though understated, international issue of our time.

The most obvious ramification of Iran going nuclear is that it will trigger like-mindedness among its neighbors. There will be an arms race where every country in that region will rush to acquire the same capability. For many obvious reasons a nuclear armed middle east is dire for everybody. Nuclear weapons aren’t intended for in-house enjoyment. They travel well across borders. Even, maybe over an ocean that separates them from us.

Did I mention that you have irrational clerical nuts in charge of Iran? The leader of Iran holds to a Shiite Muslim interpretation in which the Mahdi, a hidden prophet who walks among us in an occult state, is envisioned to return. Iran's leader, Mr. A, sees himself as an instrument of Allah’s Will in helping him along. As mayor of Tehran, it is said that the Mr. A had the streets of Tehran redone and beautified so that the Mahdi would walk on nice terrain for the glorious occasion. I wish this was a Stargate or Star Trek Next Gen episode I was describing. But unfortunately it’s not. People take this business quite seriously.

Because of what’s happening in Iran, I am very sympathetic to Israel. They are not in an easy position and nor are we. The case of Iran and Israel illustrates the complexity of our world and the fact that there are not easy or good options available.

On the one hand, I suppose we could support Israel and have them go in and try to destroy the sites. The problem with this is that the sites aren’t hanging out in the open. It’s not precisely known where they are, and even so, they are underground or hard to access because there are many spread throughout the country. In addition, Iran is about 4x the size of Iraq. It’s a big country and it’s got a lot of people. They are reasonably up-to-date on their stock weapons technology. Not on a par with America or Israel. But they’re not slinging stones from sticks either. They could effectively retaliate. There is a bit of a myth that Israel is invincible militarily. It makes sense for the myth to be perpetuated. But while they're strong per capita, the myth is still a myth and they are not invincible.

On the other hand, because of what’s happening in Iran, if we don’t do anything and hold back Israel we all but ensure a nuclear Iran and live with the consequences that follow.

Sometimes a nation and an individual feels they need to act. This is especially true for men. To sit back and watch events transpire appears to be unmanly. The old adage is that doing something is better than nothing, especially when the world is falling apart. We celebrate heroes of the past who had courage and took action and skewer those around them who urged caution in the face of danger.

I tend to think that with Iran we need to avoid trying to be heroes. We probably need to be cautious and wait and see what happens. I have not definitively made up in my mind about “doing nothing” because it goes against every instinct I have and my personal nature. I am not a person who sits on his hands nor am I a passive acceptor of the status quo. This personality trait has served me well but it has also resulted in me making some poor decisions over time.

But this may be a time when America should wait and see what God Himself is allowing to happen. I am not alluding to dispensational theology here, but God may have plans for that place that we can do nothing about. God’s Will may actually be for us to do nothing rather than to do something.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Tough Opponent and Major Challenge

Looking back on the majority of my posts, I’ve noticed my tendency to focus on Obama. I’ve looked at the silly policy proposals, his temperament, and his appointments. What I’ve not done is really outline many alternatives. I heard him yesterday say that while he has a cabinet and advisors with a broad range of views, he will make the policy decisions. I’ll confess that I'm very impressed by that answer.

This makes me realize that Obama is a tough opponent. He is not conservative obviously. But he poses a different kind of challenge to conservatives trying to reclaim an electable agenda. For too long, conservatives have defined themselves by what they’re against and not what they’re for. So if Obama is for Policy-X, we must be against Policy-X. The problem with this is that it’s not very thoughtful and it won’t work against a nuanced, subtle opponent. When you have an opponent who has sharp edges and takes clearly defined lines it is easier to do this. Obama is not what you would a call a crunchy leader. Instead he has a soggy leadership style because he is nuanced and not defined or straightforward in certain respects. You don’t really know what he stands for as opposed to say Reagan or even George W. Bush.

This does call for a different tack in conservative policy proposals. We tend to make proposals using generalities. For example, we call for tax cuts or argue that we’re for advocating vouchers as a way to improve education. Tax cuts are not a centerpiece of an economic plan. Nor are vouchers a means of improving education for the vast majority of public school students in subpar schools, especially inner city ones. We tend to fight battles that are a generation old. By now, it should be obvious that we cannot simply say we’re going to cut taxes and the liberals are going to raise them. We can’t ignore the public schools either just because we are against public bureaucracies and teachers unions. Public schools and teachers unions aren’t going away. They’re a vested interest. Plus, they aren’t all evil people. My son goes to a public school and his teachers are part of a union. I have a vested, personal interest in seeing the teachers, and my son, and his classmates succeed. These teachers do great work and are helping my 6-year old son to read.

What we should do is come up with proposals that are new or old so long as they are relevant. For example, one idea we should advocate is a flat tax with limited deductions. This is not a new idea. In practice this would likely be a tax increase for many Americans. And yet, they would still support it. It is fair, it is straightforward, and it is popular. It is a fundamentally conservative idea. It would also dramatically reduce government bureaucracy required to prepare, process, and audit taxes in the current system.

Another idea is for public schools to require classroom spending increases and cuts to non-classroom public school bureaucracy. This is not a new idea either. I have heard of one proposal where 95% of school funding goes to teachers and students and is spent directly on classroom materials and learning aides. Many cities have large county staff that does non-classroom activities. We should become pro-teacher, pro-student and advocate targeted spending where it counts in public schools and not to prop up bureaucracy. We can’t simply say we’re against public school spending. It’s like saying you’re against the idea of a Blackberry or Satellite TV. You can be against it all you want but the fact is that it’s not going anywhere. So we can at least try to make it work successfully.

In the end, there are both old and new ideas that we need to consider. These two are not exhaustive by any means. Conservatives can’t be so predictable or we become irrelevant. Unless of course we want to be the 40% minority party for the next generation. If we believe Conservative values mean anything we need to adapt and rethink our knee-jerk broad brush positions.