The Truth Is Inconvenient
The Anti-Man Alliance
The Iran Charade
The Domestic Muslim Terrorist Threat
The Return of the "Winter Soldier"
But what if some people were "gouging"—whatever that means? Is it a crime—is it even morally wrong—for a seller to raise his prices precipitously to reflect a sudden shortage? In this piece, John Stossel asks that question and presents a moral defense of "price gouging" as a form of entrepreneurial initiative. His most important point: "Making money isn't evil, it's good."
"Mississippi Has a Place for Heroes: Jail," John Stossel, Jewish World Review, May 24 After Katrina, Jim Hood, Mississippi's attorney general, launched a crusade against "price gouging." "For people to take advantage of those in need," he said, "violates every biblical standard of morals that I'm aware of."
The Bible does say, "Give to him that asketh," and if Sheperson had donated those 19 generators and had hauled them down to Mississippi as an act of charity, it would have been fine with Jim Hood. But the attorney general considers making a profit by selling to the desperate at so-called "gouging" prices immoral and illegal.
But making money isn't evil, it's good. Modern life is made possible by people working to make money. And making a profit by "taking advantage" of people in need by meeting their needs is even better….
"Gouging" prices are made possible by extraordinary need—by times when people decide that it's so important to get a generator that they're willing to pay twice the normal price. This free trade makes both parties better off, or they wouldn't agree to it: taking advantage of someone's extreme need means meeting someone's extreme need and getting fairly compensated for the unusual effort you had to make in order to do it….
You may not believe me or Roberts when we say "gouging" is good, but will you believe three Nobel Prize-winning economists? Nobel Laureate (1992) Gary Becker says "gouging" is the "fairest and best" way to get supplies to those who need them the most. "That's a good thing," added Vernon Smith (2002). And Milton Friedman (1976)?
"The 'gougers' deserve a medal."
2. The Truth Is Inconvenient Patrick Michaels, a distinguished University of Virginia climate scientist who has led a lonely crusade to fight back against the global warming hysteria, strikes at one of the environmentalists' worst sins: their view that it is acceptable to distort the truth to gain political attention.
It is a resurrection of the old Platonist notion of the "noble lie," the idea that it is acceptable to lie to cajole the masses into complying with some "higher truth" grasped by the elite. This is one of many similarities that the "First Church of the Warming Globe" has with more established religious sects.
"Gore's Inconvenient Lie," Patrick J. Michaels, Washington Times, May 24 So here's what Al [Gore] told Grist Magazine about global warming: "I believe it is appropriate to have an overrepresentation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience."
It would be nice to think he came up with this de novo. But exaggeration of global warming has long been considered virtuous.
Consider NASA's James Hansen. He has claimed the Bush White House muzzled him on global warming…. Here's what he wrote in 2003 from his Broadway office, in the online journal Natural Science: "Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decisionmakers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue." In fact, in 1989, he told the Washington Post he felt it was his duty to bring global warming to the attention of the political process. Apparently it was also "appropriate" to exaggerate it for political effect.
Stanford's Stephen Schneider, interviewed by Jonathan Schell in Discover magazine later that year, spoke of the need to "capture the public's imagination." Scientists would have to "offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.... Each of us has to decide what is the right balance between being effective and being honest."…
That's "The Inconvenient Truth" about global warming. Prominent scientists feel it's perfectly fine to exaggerate, and so does the former vice president.
3. The Anti-Man Alliance The political left has a reputation for being secular, which is one of the reasons that it tries to dress up its environmentalist religion with pseudo-scientific jargon (just as they used to dress up egalitarianism with Marxist and Keynesian pseudo-economics). But the left is beginning to shed its secular cover and emerge openly as a religious faith.
The article linked to below covers one aspect of that story: the left's attempt to reach out to evangelical Christians. The author, a liberal columnist, warns that the Democrats might be selling their souls for votes, but the left and religion share much more profound common ground than she realizes: both are hostile to individual judgment and to the individual's freedom to pursue his own happiness here on earth.
The left has traditionally said you are supposed to sacrifice your judgment and your interests to "the common good," which was defined in strictly materialist, economic terms—which is what put the left at odds with religion. But the latest trend on the left—Hugo Chavez is a leading example—is an unholy alliance: collectivists and religionists, united against the individual's life here on this earth.
"The New Temptation of Democrats," Ruth Marcus, Washington Post, May 23 When mega-pastor Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church opened last year in its new Houston home, the city's former professional basketball arena, a most unlikely guest was on hand for the celebration: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)….
This month, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean—yes, that would be the Howard Dean who dismissed Republicans last year as "pretty much a white, Christian Party"—went on Pat Robertson's "700 Club," asserting that Democrats "have an enormous amount in common with the Christian community, and particularly with the evangelical Christian community."…
Democrats these days are a party on a mission that might sound impossible: to persuade evangelical Christian voters to consider converting—to the Democratic Party….
[T]he Democrats' discussion with evangelicals has to get beyond linguistic "reframing" to substantive areas where the Democrats and evangelicals can find common ground: poverty, the environment, Darfur….
So, by all means, let Democrats woo evangelicals and cast the message in a way that speaks to religious voters. But in doing so, keep in mind: what does it profit a party to gain a demographic but lose its soul?
4. The Iran Charade I haven't covered the swirling daily rumors over a possible UN Security Council resolution against Iran, because the UN resolution is not really important. By itself, it won't accomplish anything; it is only important if and when the Bush administration uses it as diplomatic cover for some kind of action against Iran.
We're on the verge of one of those important steps: it looks like the Security Council is about to approve a resolution that would allow for sanctions but would not directly allow for military action if Iran doesn't back down. The significance is that this will mean further diplomatic delays, forcing the US to "give sanctions a chance to work"—indefinitely—before we came back to ask the UN's permission to use force.
Worse, Iran is demanding "direct talks" with the US. This is a clear gambit to further slow down the diplomatic process by scrapping one set of fruitless negotiations (between Iran and the Europeans) and starting up a whole new set of fruitless negotiations. Let's hope that the administration stands firm against the State Department's alleged "experts" and rejects this ploy.
Meanwhile, Iran can't seem to resist making itself look more and more like Nazi Germany, with new rumors (denied by the Iranians, but not convincingly) that Iran is planning to force Jews to wear a yellow star, just like Hitler did. The best response comes from Israeli official Avi Dichter: "Whoever makes Jews anywhere wear the yellow star again, will find themselves in a coffin draped in black."
"US, Others Discuss Latest Iran Proposal," George Jahn, Los Angeles Times, May 24 Among the issues at a meeting in London grouping the five U.N. Security Council nations and Germany was a compromise proposal for possible sanctions against Iran should it refuse to halt uranium enrichment, diplomats said.
The compromise—which would drop the automatic threat of military action if Iran remains defiant—is part of a proposed basket of incentives meant to entice Iran to give up the activity, a possible pathway to nuclear arms. It also spells out the penalties if it does not. It is meant to get support both from Russia and China, which fiercely oppose any suggestion of force in pressuring Iran.
France, Britain and Germany discussed the final form of the package Tuesday ahead of submission for hoped-for approval Wednesday at a formal meeting of the five permanent Security Council members and Germany….
If accepted, the compromise would resolve wrangling within the Security Council since it became actively involved in March, two months after Iran's file was referred to it by the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency….
If Iran remains defiant, the proposal calls for a Security Council resolution imposing sanctions under Chapter 7, Article 41 of the UN Charter. But it avoids any reference to Article 42—which is the trigger for possible military action to enforce any such resolution.
And in an additional reassurance to Moscow and Beijing, it specifically calls for new consultations among the five permanent Security Council members on any further steps against Iran. That is meant to dispel past complaints by the Russians and Chinese that once the pressure on Iran is increased, it would automatically start a process leading to military involvement.
5. The Domestic Muslim Terrorist Threat Political correctness has imposed a de facto news blackout on any story indicating that we might face a terrorist threat from domestic Muslims. But here is new evidence from an old case: the DC sniper trial. There was some speculation that John Allen Muhammad was only using his political cause as a cover, that his intention was to use the sniper spree as cover for the murder of his ex-wife.
But new testimony from Muhammad's accomplice, who is now cooperating with the prosecution, indicates that Muhammad had planned a grandiose scheme to finance a terrorist training camp, motivated by the teachings of the Black Muslim group Nation of Islam.
"Malvo: Muhammad Planned Extortion," Stephen Manning, Associated Press, May 23 John Allen Muhammad had grand plans to extort millions of dollars from authorities in the 2002 Washington-area sniper shootings so he could set up a camp to train children how to terrorize cities and "shut things down," accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo testified Tuesday….
Malvo, who had never before taken the witness stand against his fellow sniper, gave the most detailed account yet of the planning that went into the three-week shooting spree that left 10 people dead at gas stations and parking lots….
They planned to place explosives on school buses in Baltimore, kill a Baltimore police officer and then set off explosives packed with ball bearings at the officer's funeral….
Midway through the spree, Malvo said, Muhammad described the plans to take money they would extort from authorities to end the sniper shootings and establish a Canadian commune to train 140 homeless children in terrorist shooting and bombings to "continue the mission" in other cities….
Muhammad trained Malvo in weapons, kept him on a rigorous diet that allowed only one meal each day, and introduced him to the teachings of the Nation of Islam, Malvo said. Muhammad hated America and thought white people were "the devil."
6. The Return of the "Winter Soldier" The part of his record that most thoroughly disqualified John Kerry to become the nation's commander in chief was his history as a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a leftist revolutionary group that staged the "Winter Soldier" show trial, a series of fake testimonials in which alleged veterans testified about the war crimes they had committed in Vietnam.
Kerry repeated those claims in his 1971 testimony before the US Senate, but later investigation showed that most of the "Winter Soldiers" had never served in Vietnam, or hadn't seen combat. So Kerry was giving a respectable cover to leftist propaganda intended to slander American soldiers. If he were president today—and if he hadn't already retreated from Iraq—he would find himself faced with a re-run.
The "Winter Soldiers" are back, with a socialist organization's attempt to perpetrate the same fraud under the auspices of a familiar-sounding organization: Iraq Veterans Against the War. The left hasn't gotten any better at faking their war-crimes testimony. Fortunately, the military bloggers have gotten better, and faster, at debunking these slanderous claims, as recounted below by the Belmont Club blog.
"By Any Means Possible," Belmont Club, May 22 The perfect example of civilization at war with itself is provided an antiwar video featuring a possibly fake US Army Ranger. Lt. Smash thinks the video is bogus and enumerates the defects in the interviewee's uniform.
1. Special Forces Combat Patch (Wrong) 2. Two "Tabs" sewn above SF patch (Wrong- Only One) 3. No Ranger Tab 4. No Airborne Wings 5. No Unit Crest 6. No Sewn on Rank 7. No One in the Army rolls their sleeves like that. Bonus: 8. Mustache is out of regulation by extending past the corner of the mouth.
But this is all petty stuff. Let's give the alleged Ranger his full due. The interview text is posted in Socialist Alternative and reproduced in full here.
Jesse Macbeth, formerly a Special Forces Ranger in Iraq, is now active with Iraq Veterans Against the War in Tacoma, Washington. The Rangers are elite units sent door-to-door in Iraq to combat the insurgency. They were also sent into Fallujah to crush all opposition to the occupation of that city. Justice recently interviewed Jesse.
I grew up on the streets. I got into trouble for fighting. The same judge that I'd been dealing with my whole life told me that I wouldn't have to do adult time if I signed up for the military immediately. Sometimes I kinda wish I went to jail instead….
What did your division do?
I was in the Third Ranger Battalion. Our job was to strike fear in the hearts of the Iraqi people. We would go into people's houses and plow down entire families. We would interrogate people. If we didn't like the answers that they gave, then we would kill the youngest child. If they gave more answers that we didn't like, then we'd move on to the rest of the family. They could've been innocent people. We would leave the bodies in the streets and blame it on the Shiites or the Sunnis. [In Fallujah] we were ordered to go into mosques and slaughter people while they were praying. I won't go into full detail because I'm still haunted by the memories….
What do you think is the role of the US in Iraq?
The military is terrorists there. Soldiers thought we were going to fight terrorism, but we became the terrorists…. They used me. They messed me up. They didn't care about me. They turned me into a beast, a machine….
When I was growing up, everyone thought I'd be a criminal, but they were wrong. I'm gonna be one of the leaders of the revolution….
In an earlier post, I wrote that the defenses of civilization consisted not merely of arms, but of belief, culture, law, and commerce. The hallmark of a functional civilization is that these things are bulwarks against barbarism—and not portals for it—by common consent. Belief, culture, law and commerce were once used by civilization as a wall against savagery; not as means of providing their escalade.
7. Things of Beauty
Gateway to the City
This photograph shows us the view through one of the pylons of the ANZAC bridge in Sydney, Australia. There is a lovely contrast between the super-sharp focus of the bridge and the city in the background to the soft gradation of the sky and the delicately puffy clouds. But what I like best about this image is the composition.
Penned in by the network of steel cable stays, our focus is pulled through the bridge’s pylon to see the city skyline in the distance. Notice how the black cables almost force our eyes to stay in the place the photographer chooses. Even if we look up toward the sky, our focus is drawn back to the clear opening between the cable stays. The structure of the pylon and the lines of the cables create a gateway to the city beyond. From this photograph we get a sense of what it must feel like to cross this bridge. While on the bridge itself, the towering pylons and ever-present cables keep us on our path. But as soon as we pass through the final pylon and its cables, the entire city bursts open to us.