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Tag Archive: HotAir

The go-to tool for a go-to method of simply killing as many jihadis as possible

Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 (9:42 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Tuesday, September 27th, 2011:

 

J.E. Dyer, posting over at HotAir’s Green Room, on the implications of the increasing and expanding reliance of the United States’ military efforts in the Middle East on assassination via drone strike:

To use this kind of force, the implication is that you don’t need to have a traditional-warfare justification.  Alternatively, you could say that this kind of force – drone-targeting; anti-personnel tactics untethered to the idea of securing a “better peace” – is now a way war can be defined.

In either case, these suppositions raise questions in terms of the Geneva Conventions and the law of armed conflict.  More fundamentally, they raise questions as to what we are, in effect, doing.  It’s one thing if drones are used as an adjunct to an overarching strategy of closing in on militant jihadism by denying it territory and transforming the political conditions in which it has thrived.  But it’s something else when drones become the go-to tool, for a go-to method of simply killing as many jihadis as possible.

The latter model begins to resemble the methods of guerrilleros and the bloody conflicts of crime syndicates.  What those models presuppose is the absence of a possibility of strategic resolution:  a felt need to keep killing because, when baseline conditions aren’t expected to change, it’s the only option for harassing, culling, and deterring the enemy pack.  Is that the light in which we see this “war on terror” conflict?

Accountable nations fighting to win – fighting for what B.H. Liddell-Hart called a “better peace” – fight differently.  Their objective is not to kill as many people as possible but to transform the conditions of people on the territory they inhabit.  Bill Roggio is right:  if you don’t transform what’s going on on territory, the important things – the things that produced the need to fight in the first place – will not change.  That transformation need not involve forcibly changing foreign regimes, but it unquestionably involves changing foreign regimes’ will and intentions.

As usual, Dyer has produced a well-thought-out piece, and she asks some very important questions. It’s worth reading the entire (short) piece. Even the discussion in the combox is worth reading – and I don’t find myself able to say that too often!

Myself, I’ve been troubled for quite some time, from a strictly moral perspective, by this administration’s clear preference for using assassination techniques – whether by unmanned drones or more conventional tactics – to achieve its goals. I’ve been reluctant to say anything publicly because I don’t want to come across as a partisan hypocrite. A partisan, maybe; a hypocrite, sure; but not a partisan hypocrite, please.

It’s true that the Obama administration can pretty much do no good in my eyes, but the simple fact that this drone issue might be just another platform from which to clobber Obama with fault does not change the fact that it is so for morally valid reasons – perhaps especially since it appears to me to be of a piece with his overall approach to moral reasoning. One could reasonably ask why I didn’t similarly criticize George Bush for similar techniques, but the truth is, I can’t remember how drones and such were used during the Bush administration, and I haven’t bothered to find out. I simply don’t remember what I thought – assuming I paid attention. Beyond that, I will only make three brief points: (1) If I had said anything at all, I would have been similarly critical of their use by Bush in similar circumstances, though regarding circumstances, see Dyer’s main point on the strategic imperative, and also my following point. (2) For all his failures and mistakes, I understood Bush to be a fundamentally good, decent, and moral man who grappled deeply with the moral implications of his decisions, whereas I understand Obama to be the most cynical, calculating, and utilitarian politician to occupy the White House since Richard Nixon. I trusted Bush; I don’t trust Obama, and so my antennae are up – what can I say… (3) Neither Bush nor his supporters ever tried to pass him off as a “peace candidate” – talk about partisan hypocrisy!

Anyway, getting back to Dyer, she hits the nail on the head when she reminds her readers that, regardless of what they may think, either strategically or morally, of the use of this tactic in the current crises, it is behavior that is opening up a Pandora’s box of payback and proliferation of pre-moral, savage violence, untethered to anything remotely resembling just war.

The way things are done now makes us importunate, dependent, and increasingly unfit to govern ourselves

Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2011 (11:18 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Thursday, May 26th, 2011.

The always-readable J. E. Dyer, published in the Green Room over at HotAir, on the burgeoning bloat of judicial control over the character and content of America’s social order:

When the law is in proper relationship to the people, the scope of the judiciary is very limited, but actually more meaningful to the enterprise of “good government.”  Today, we have a body of law so huge and burdensome that it has started going 15 rounds with itself on a regular basis, and the judiciary acts as a referee on intricate and inherently political questions of policy.

It is possible to think in different terms, and to conceive of a regimen of law and jurisprudence much more like that envisioned by the Founders.  Americans need to wake up and recognize that accepting the way things are done now makes us importunate, dependent, and increasingly unfit to govern ourselves.

This short article provides a fascinating glimpse into what is threatening to become the perpetual silly season of legal posturing and social engineering by examining a convoluted “environmental” (Cap ‘N Trade) law and related lawsuit in California. Dyer’s concern regarding the foolishness of modern approaches to such problem solving is made all the more poignant by the fact that she’s happy, from a practical perspective, for the imposition of the injunction that provides the jumping-off point for her article, yet she is wise enough to understand, from a principled perspective, at what cost a “victory” obtained in such fashion must come.

Privatizing Prisons?

Posted: Saturday, January 29, 2011 (11:24 pm), by John W Gillis


Jazz Shaw has a troubling post on the blog over at HotAir.com, dealing with a recent suggestion from Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner to freeze new prison construction funding in PA. As the Entitlements Chicken comes home to roost, states are likely to begin looking at their corrections systems for ways to save. Nothing wrong with that in theory, but I have a hard time seeing how the typical alignment of political squabbling will produce a good path forward. To wit, Shaw’s two-cent’s worth on available options:

Wagner is excluding the ranks of murderers, rapists and their ilk, as previous, sensible plans have done. And rather than some sort of catch and release scheme, he’s examining alternate options including half-way houses, electronic monitoring for home detention, and evening – weekend release programs (which free up beds) for the well behaved.

All of these have potential, and I hope he’s not too badly excoriated solely for political gain over this. But the one item which seems to have been left off the table is privatization. While such plans have hardly been problem free, some have shown a great deal of promise. Getting the prison system off the state government’s books entirely and turning it over to a for-profit organization which will be motivated to do the job in the most economically efficient manner possible should also be considered.

Let me be blunt: the notion of privatizing prisons is inane – and perhaps insane. Securing the public order is one of the few unquestionably legitimate functions of government, and that includes the administration of punishment for wrongdoers. In fact, in one of his more famous and widely-quoted passages, Saint Paul tells us in Romans 13:4 that it is a sacred duty of the state; that the ruling authority “is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.” Trading this duty for a price break is grossly irresponsible. Furthermore, it establishes a dehumanizing institution wherein human punishment – human degradation – is undertaken as a for-profit enterprise, which while not as completely evil as, say, the abortion industry, nonetheless flagrantly flouts decency’s law against the objectification of our fellow human beings, in ways more than a little reminiscent of slave trading. Yet, I fear this idea is likely to gain traction within certain circles.

Before this gets too far, I hope we can have a serious public discussion (ha!) about the meaning and purpose of punishment for crime. We seem to take the prison system as being essentially synonymous with the idea of a penal system, as if there aren’t any other serious alternatives except for options that could be bundled under the rubric of leniency – this despite the historical reality that the ubiquitous use of prison time  for punishing crime is relatively new. I realize the prison-focused model was implemented as a humanitarian alternative to older forms of punishment, but I’m not convinced prisons aren’t often very expensive means for completing the social alienation of men (and women) who are obviously already at least tending anti-social – further coarsening them, and facilitating and/or creating a criminal sub-culture that in turn facilitates permanent alienation from whatever virtue “straight” culture can manage to foster in its conforming members.

It’s also true that some people get their lives turned around in prison. But I suppose there are prisons and there are prisons, and again, there are prisoners and there are prisoners. For every prisoner that gets his life turned around doing time, how many become conformed to an anti-social norm that mitigates against their ever being prepared to function properly in virtuous society, and how is this related to the unmistakable and steady decline of virtue in an “outside” culture that lionizes moral transgression as a kind of counter-cultural bravery? At any rate, it should be clear enough that the actual consequences of the prison movement have not produced the results liberal society expected to achieve in its penal system.

Any serious conversation about this issue would require that civic leaders and other concerned parties understand the overall purpose of criminal punishment in American society; its intended goals from both a societal perspective and that of the individual offender; the relation of punishment to rehabilitative purposes in modern penality; the breadth of content of the actual practices of incarceration in America; and the effects of both actual and threatened incarceration on various elements of the population.

No small task that, but America has a ridiculously large prison population, and people are about to start arguing over whether or not we should turn its administration into a profitable business for someone – in order to expand that population even further, without interrupting tee times.

“I’m sure the panel did what it was asked to do, but it was asked to do the wrong thing.”

Posted: Friday, December 3, 2010 (6:00 am), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Friday, Dec. 3rd, 2010:

J.E. Dyer, posting in the Green Room over at HotAir (cross-posted here), on the misplaced priorities of the Presidential Debt Commission, in an article titled: Debt Reduction Versus Government Reduction:

Members of the public who object to the proposed measures will be denigrated as whining and irresponsible. Some of them probably are. But that’s not the point. The point is that, in the debt-reduction panel’s plan, gouging American households to pay down the debt is being done instead of reducing the size of government.  We should eliminate whole federal agencies and many pounds of regulatory tomes before we ask Americans to choose between saving for retirement and buying a home, or between paying for medical care and sending kids to college.  Life by itself imposes choices on us; but when government gets into the business of picking and choosing, or forcing canned choices on us, the silly, subjective question of who’s “being a big baby” actually starts infecting our political decisions.  That is 100% detrimental to communal life.

Our contributor benefits are unsustainable. But they are part of a larger problem of unsustainability created by holistic, prophylactic government. We could actually afford both Social Security and Medicare a lot better if government regulation weren’t actively suppressing business formation today; if government regulation didn’t drive every aspect of the cost of medical practice up; if government regulation didn’t drive consumer prices up and make COLAs necessary; and if government regulation didn’t divert so much worker compensation from worker income to employers’ other mandated, per-worker remissions (non-Social Security/non-Medicare) to the government.

A presidential debt-reduction panel should not be proposing to us that Americans accept a reduced lifestyle so that the current footprint of government doesn’t have to change. As we say in the military, that’s bass-ackward. It’s what this panel has just done. I’m sure the panel did what it was asked to do, but it was asked to do the wrong thing.

I think she’s spot-on. Just as the TEA Party’s eponymous focus on taxation somewhat clouds the fact that problematical public spending is what drives the need for taxation, the current focus on debt reduction obscures the fact that the scope of governmental activity is what drives the deficit spending leading to debt.

The proposal put on the table is basically one that says: let’s try to do the same thing only cheaper (budget cuts), and by shifting some of the debt off of the public books onto the citizenry (increased taxation) by forcing them to either compromise their long-term financial security & independence by taking on personal debt and/or reducing savings, or to scale back their household spending and giving, therein shrinking the economy, and exacerbating the whole bloody mess.

An economically bright outlook depends on families investing in their futures and in their communities, not the machinations of a political class ready and willing to sacrifice everything else to secure the perpetuation of its own comfortable status quo.

the M stands for “magic”

Posted: Monday, November 29, 2010 (10:38 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Monday, Nov. 29th, 2010:

The ever-delightful Ed Morrissey over at HotAir, commenting today on Keynesian economics:

Think of it as a Cash for Clunkers economic plan on a larger scale.  The intention is to fool people into spending money in order to give the illusion of growth, and have that illusion somehow become reality through a process best known as FM; the M stands for “magic,” and you can guess what the F means.  The problem is that the interventions run out of steam quickly without addressing the actual issues of income and asset value that drives organic consumer spending.  Instead of increasing the size of the pie, we just cut it in different shapes.

Morrissey could  have added something about the long-term stifling effect of increased debt, or the ricochet effect of post-stimulus market forces tending back toward stabilization and equilibrium, but why quibble?

I couldn’t pronounce this woman’s name to save my life, but she does a serviceable job here of explaining how the politicians get it wrong. The next question is this: why do they so consistently get it wrong, and who is benefiting from that persistence? Honestly, I don’t see who does. Why the infatuation with consumer spending? Is there a political angle to that I’m not seeing? The pork angle I get. The consumer spending angle, I don’t.

 

Waiting for Permission to Do Good?

Posted: Sunday, November 28, 2010 (2:52 pm), by John W Gillis


So, the uber-wealthy Warren Buffett is complaining again that he pays too little in taxes:

“I think that people at the high end, people like myself, should be paying a lot more in taxes; we have it better than we’ve ever had it.”

Buffett on ABC’s This Week with Christiane Amanpour

The duplicity in all this is just staggering. As a commenter at HotAir noted, Warren Buffett makes a significant amount of money selling tax shelters, such as life insurance, through his Berkshire Hathaway vehicle, and would stand to make an additional personal fortune should the high-end marginal tax rates increase, leading the wealthy to (predictably) look to shelter more of their wealth.

Even more to the point is the fact that Buffett can give as much of his money to the Feds as he wishes right now; he doesn’t have to wait for Congress to tell him to. Fausta Wertz captures it perfectly in a post from Friday:

To the best of my knowledge nothing prevents anyone from writing a check to Uncle Sam for any amount, be it small or large. He doesn’t need to claim a tax deduction if he doesn’t want to. The IRS is not going to haul him off to jail for that. Correct me if I’m wrong.

So, if Warren Buffett thinks he’s not paying enough, let him show us, in a grand gesture to end all grand gestures, just how much he is willing to pay. He can put all his money – every red cent of it – where his mouth is, and leave the rest of us in peace.

Fifty billion ought to pay for a government program or two.

I have no way of knowing whether Buffett believes his own BS, or if this is part of a straight-up scam, but I do know for certain that he is more concerned about how the government can collect other people’s money than he is with how it can collect his own.  There’s no way around that, and his lack of unilateral action to correct what he professes to be an injustice is a stark indictment. What is he waiting for, after all? The whole point and purpose of implementing (or expanding) confiscatory taxation is to confiscate other people’s money, and assign its management to Those Who Know Better (or, more nakedly, to the power brokers).

The more I reflect on the social ramifications of taxation policy, the more I come to understand what a poison taxation is to culture once its level exceeds that of meeting the common requirement of civic duty. Cultures need virtue in order to thrive, not coercion and compulsion.