How much small gov't is too much small gov't?

How much small gov't is too much small gov't?

How much small gov't is too much small gov't?

What's happening in our readers' forum.
Sept. 26 2003 11:28 PM

Fraysters wonder, how much small government is too much small government?

And Chatterbox is besieged by travel writers.

Who's on the Other Side of those DirectTV Screens? Travel guru, Edward Hasbrouck "The Practical Nomad", writes into Chatterbox ("Lay Off JetBlue") to huff, "I'm not sure why you are so obsessed with how the jetBlue Airways privacy scandal came to light." For those scoring at home, Hasbrouck claims to have scooped both Wired and the Times here

After posting my own story, I alerted reporters at both Wired News and the New York Times (among others) to the document I had found. Wired News picked up the story two days later, properly ackowledging me as the source: hereAP picked it up from Wired, a day later, and the Times a day after that. AP correctly credited Bill Scannell for "bringing attention to the issue on his Web site, DontSpyOnUs", which is true. The AP story said nothing about who uncovered the document or where the expose was first published.

Wired's Ryan Singel takes issue with Noah's attribution of the JetBlue story, as well. He enters the Fray to deliver his sequence of cries and whispers, stating that the first published piece by Wired on September 16 was merely an inchoate report. According to Singel, the info

came to light after a number of conservatives who are concerned about government surveillance met with the TSA's head, Adm. James Loy.

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Follow the trail from Free Congress Foundation's Paul Weyrich to Wired here.

Tim Noah responds to both claimants by setting the record straight here

Judge, Jury, Elocutioner: The thread of the day doesn't emanate from armchair analysis of the Democratic bloodletting at Pace, but from the virtues of an injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge Edward Nottingham on the Federal Trade Commission's "do not call" list.

"As a conservative," locdog applauds the decision. Why? 

[T]he heart of the judge's ruling was something that all conservatives can and should embrace: the FTC, a federal agency, overstepped its bounds and needed to be put back in its place.

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From the other side of the spectrum, raprap agrees – though citing it as a first amendment issue…so to speak:

It is the right of everyone, including charities like the Fraternal Order of Police and the VFW to be treated like the Assholes they are.

…and a principle of the free market:

Let the market kill telemarketing.

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DamnRight, a self-described conservative, sees it differently from locdog:

I detect less of a concern on your part regarding the similarly relentless intrusion of business and commerce into my life, as in their constant thumbing of their noses towards my continually diminishing right to some sort of privacy in my life.

[W]hat is the correct action to take towards preventing the invasion of my home by unsolicited calls from people I have absolutely no interest in talking with?

That, too, is a conservative/libertarian goal, no?

PubliusToo aptly points out that this is precisely when the populace should welcome the incursion of government:

Would you prefer to have the courts enforcing rules against telemarketers invading our privacy by means of individual or class action lawsuits? A do-not-call list makes so much sense, I find the cries of over-regulation difficult to understand. Apparently, an overwhelming majority of Congress, and at least 50 million Americans, agree with that assessment.

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How much small government is too much small government? … KA6:55 p.m.   

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Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Why go? What was accomplished? Is the coffee really that good in the coffee shop off First Avenue? 

On Tuesday, President Bush reiterated the case for the American invasion of Iraq, while inviting other nations—in a manner of speaking (his manner of speaking, to be certain)—to "contribute greatly to the Iraq self-government." The entirety of the speech can be found here.  

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Was it the right speech for the wrong reasons? The wrong speech for the right reasons?  J_Mann here:

The core question is whether giving the UN increased power over the fate of Iraq would actually help to transform Iraq into a stable state.

Bush obviously believes the answer is no—ruling by committee won't help, neither will allowing the UN member states, many of which have ulterior motives, to decide what happens in Iraq.

Now Bush may be right or wrong. Time will tell whether we can do it right under his plan, and, if we go with his plan, we'll never know if the UN would have done a better job.

Nevertheless, given Bush's premise, his speech was exactly the right choice diplomatically.

1) It made clear that the US means well in Iraq, and that we're going to do the job with or without the UN's help, but it did so in a way that wasn't openly confrontational.

2) It also reminded the UN that there are a ton of issues on which the UN wants the US's help: aids, the sex trade, et al. This gentle reminder isn't necessarily a "harmless bromide" or whatever Kaplan calls it—it may well be a simple that the UN depends on the US, and that the UN's ability to accomplish its goals in the future depend on rapproachement with the US.

In short, it was classic diplomacy. A little stick, a little carrot, and a clear statement of our priorities.

Thrasymachus sees no relevant context to the United Nations address, nothing distinctly diplomatic other than the olive marble:

Why did Bush give this speech? He won no friends, but then he asked for none. He explained no errors, but then he admitted none. He changed no attitudes, but then he didn't really try.

He gave a speech that might have gone over well as an address to the American people, but the U.N. delegates wanted answers to some very specific questions, and they didn't get those answers today.

In the world of this speech, September 11, 2001 was "yesterday", and Bush just finished waging a successful war with the sanction and support of the United Nations, and was in the process of smoothly and efficiently rebuilding that placid and pacified nation.

If we really inhabited that world, there would be no need for Bush to address the U.N. at all. In the world we inhabit, he should have sent a different message.

The hawks in the Bush Administration still favor a unilateral approach to Iraq, and see no reason to seek or accept any help from the U.N. if it comes with strings attached. They won't be pleased that Bush addressed the United Nations.

The doves in the Bush Administration think that the U.S. is in over its head and needs all the help it can get if the price is bearable. They won't be pleased by the speech either, or by the fact that Bush just said "nucular" on the floor of the U.N.

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In rebuttal, J_Mann offers Thrasymachus this explanation:

I can't believe someone named Thrasymachus is even asking the question.

Why did Kruschev speak to the UN? Tarik Aziz? Yasser Arafat?

As I posted above, Bush's speech basically said (1) "We intend to go ahead in Iraq, and plan to do good there;" and (2) "Don't forget that the UN, with US help, does a lot of other important things."

It's good diplomacy - the UN is basically in the business of appeasing whichever country has the biggest stick. Bush said "Appease me, and we'll set up a free society in Iraq, fight AIDS, feed the world's hungry, etc. If not, well . . ."

Thrasymachus would have approved.

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Monday, September 22, 2003

Good Shill Ambassador? In Today's Paper Fray, O_Hellenbach goes to the wire to find this dubious designation for Paul Bremer:

A key official in the U.S.-led coalition told The Associated Press that Bremer would veto any move for sovereignty by the 25-member Governing Council. He would also block any council attempt to set up a militia to replace U.S. troops as Iraq's primary security force.

"Ambassador Bremer will definitely say no to both proposals if they're adopted by the council," said the official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

An incredulous OH pshaws,

I've been wondering for some time what his official title was. But tell me, to precisely what or whom is Bremer the "ambassador?"

Here, 1advocate "suggest[s] that we call him 'pasha' like the Ottomans." But Publius challenges OH's Bremer-bashing, citing that,

Bremer is a career Foreign Service Officer with 23 years in the State Department, including service abroad in a half dozen countries. In 1986, Reagan named him an Ambassador-at-large with the portfolio of dealing with other governments worldwide in issue related to terrorism.

Somewhat like "Judge" in American civil life, once an Ambassador, always an ambassador in international protocol.

Care to bestow a title on Mister Bremer? Head to O_Hellenbach's thread here.

Cut! Print It!RufRuf pastes Frank Rich's Sunday New York Times piece, "The Greatest Story Never Sold" into his top thread. After excerpting Athens, Georgia's R.E.M., RufRuf allows Rich to do the talking on The Passion. Rich takes the opportunity to include Mel Gibson's quote from The New Yorker, in which Gibson growls of Rich, "I want to kill him … I want his intestines on a stick. . . . I want to kill his dog."

To Rich's claim that Gibson is resorting to his own brand of revisionism in The Passion, based on "Anne Catherine Emmerich, notable for her grotesque caricatures of Jews," JV-12 retorts,

Who is it out there invalidating the apparitions of this mystic? And based on what? And what do you mean by revisionist? … The facts behind the revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich are astounding! As is the other mystic, a 17th century Spanish nun, Mary of Agreda. She had visions and locutions of the Virgin Mary and was instructed to write down all she was given, albeit this is an uneducated nun. Well her book, The Mystical City of God, is no less than 2600 pages. It was scrutinized and analyzed by all of the leading theologians and universities of that time in Europe. None of them were able to call it on being bogus or unscriptural or any other disclaimer. Aside from some very minor points (such as nails being in the palms, not wrists) this book itself remains almost a miracle. And since the authorities of the time could not disprove its authenticity, I am not waiting for anyone like People Magazine to give us their imprimatur so we can move ahead.

Inkberrow goes even further:

Rich is a classic example of the "modern secular Jew" … those for whom their Judeo-Christian religious heritage is at best of academic or historical interest only, and at worst an antiquated superstition that is nonetheless responsible for the greater part of the world's ills over the last two millennia. For such anti-religious American Jews, it is a mark of their own sophistication and Pharasaical public morality that they decline to subject Islam to the same rigor, even at the expense of their own people.

Inkberrow here and MikeBeers here bring Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ and its extra-cinematic response into the debate. Inkberrow accuses Scorsese of having an "axe" to grind as a "lapsed Catholic" here, thereby portraying "Jesus as thoroughly human in all senses of the word."

The congregants have gathered en masse at this thread. "Talk About the Passion" and the other stuff here ... KA 2:50 p.m.

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Friday, September 19, 2003

But Is It Good for the Jews? Steven Waldman's "Passion Misplay," in which he suggests that it's high time that Jews fess up and "admit that some of their forefathers probably helped get Jesus killed," has rattled the groggers over in the  Faith-Based Fray.

The Contextualist: gtomkins

Citing centuries of misappropriation of the Bible, gtomkins explains that the narratives and

the four Evangelists could not have been anti-Semitic. They were Jews themselves, as was Christ, and at a time when Judaism and Christianity were not mutually exclusive alternatives.

Gt alludes to specific instances in the book, such as Hansen's Disease mistaken for leprosy, as well as a general "reckless over-translation by these later generations" of conditions and concepts that lacked a heretofore context or meaning. Because "[t]here was not, in fact, a word for 'government' in the abstract in common use in the koine Greek of New Testament times," the proceedings of the Sanhedrin and Praetor can be filtered only though our present-day understanding of governmental structure. Gt explains it all here

The Evangelical: locdog

While locdog finds himself in "general agreement" with Waldman, he takes issue with Waldman's inference that

no one who is intellectually engaged in the world around them, according to Waldman, could possibly believe the Bible is factually accurate.

In response, locdog provides a lengthy rebuttal, taking issue with John Dominic Crossan, one of Waldman's theologians of choice in parsing the Gospels. Locdog performs a cogent summary of the books in question, then concludes that

the solution to Christian anti-Semitism doesn't lie in revising or ignoring the story of the crucifixion. Blaming things on the conveniently defunct Romans is a helpful lie, but it's a lie nonetheless. What's needed, I believe, is to look towards the Bible rather than away from it: there's no way one can read the Bible in its entirety and reasonably conclude that God approves of anti-Semitic hatred.

locdog would say that's true of all forms of hatred.

The Symbolist: doodahman

A confessed reformed Catholic, doodahman eschews a rigidly literal prescriptive Bible in favor of something more narrative, if not devotional:

Seems to me the better view of the Gospels is not literal, but symbolic. It is a symbol laden, icon heavy revelation about the new relationship created between God and men through Christ. The characters are representations of all kinds of human relationships with God—Peter, as wanting to be faithful, but filled with fear and doubt; Barabbas, who represents every sinner whose ass is saved by Christ's sacrifice; the Thieves, who represent the rewards of faith versus skepticism; Pilate, the representation of earthly authority which operates in an entirely different realm than God.

When reading the The Passion, to get the right import, one ought to cast oneself in the role of the Jews, who represent all unsaved people—pagan, Jewish, whatever. The Jews of Jerusalem at that time are described as, like all people of all times, ignorant, fearful, prejudiced, intolerant, fickle and easily herded about. They reflect all people, then and now, not the descendants of Jews. The "Jews" in the Gospel stand in for all humanity and its sinful rejection of God. I don't know if Mel Gibson is astute enough to make that point clear.

For doodahman's more extensive interpretation of the story and an ironic bit on the "shotgun marriage" between Christian fundamentalists and the Israeli right wing, click here.

The Secularist: Josh_Pollack

Josh_Pollack can't figure out why Waldman chooses to "take Mark at face value, but read Matthew, Luke, and John critically?" Josh's read:

[I]f we are to treat all four as purely human documents, then we don't have a good reason to accept even Mark's claims about Jewish culpability (or that in Josephus, which bears the hallmarks of a later interpolation). I could be wrong, but I don't think any secular historian finds Mark's account of the crucifixion to be credible, when taken to be a human, historical document. The tyrannical Pilate who appears in the writings of his contemporaries, Josephus and Philo, doesn't resemble the mythological figure of Mark or the other Gospels.

Those who've spun their dissertations on Flavius Josephus or everyone's favorite Alexandrian should weigh in here.

The Skeptics: Freman, Iron_Lungfish

Freman challenges the very premise of the narrative sequence here:

The idea that "the Jews" would even need to go to Pilate and ask for Jesus' execution by crucifixion seems to have always been a dilemma which has been skillfully evaded by most if not all Christians for two millennia. The Jews had their own form of executing blasphemers, adulteress women and other Jewish criminals: usually by the method of stoning. They would surely not have needed to involve the Romans at all in their internal religious and cultural affairs, UNLESS there was a direct and provable threat to the Roman Empire on the part of the criminal.

Similarly, I.L. writes:

A reading of the Gospels reveals that the Romans' role in the execution is a perplexing one; they do all the legwork, but are curiously exonerated by the writers at every turn, to the point of incredulity: Pilate offers up another victim in a tradition that seems to have no precedent, his wife has a dream telling him not to execute Jesus (a dream sent by whom, since Jesus' role is ostensibly to sacrifice his life for man's sins?), a Roman centurion standing by the cross looks up and says "Surely this was the Son of Man."

More from I.L. here

The Defense Counsel for Pilate: Thrasymachus

Thrasymachus reminds us that the Gospel of Mark has taken plenty throughout history. That said,

The most important thing to remember when reading Mark is that the author, like Jesus, considered himself a Jew and Christianity a new and purified form of the "true faith" of Judaism.

On the issue of Pilate, Thrasymachus maintains some consideration:

Given the reputation that Tiberius had by then acquired (that is, as a Stalin-like paranoid psychotic bent on ferreting out "traitors" behind every hedgerow), Pilate was prudent to decide against going up against the priesthood a third time.

For more from T. on Pilate's tenuous relationship with the head honchos back in Rome and his "well-founded" fears, click here.

The Delineator: Nemo

Nemo wonders if "the ADL and like-minded individuals and groups found anti-Semitism in THE PASSION because they expected to find it."  Why?

Gibson is a "Traditionalist" Catholic. I suspect a lot of people simply think that means he is "old-fashioned" or "very devout." This is not the case. Traditionalists are a splinter group that reject the authority of Pope John Paul II and the changes made by the Second Vatican Council. Gibson is heavily into Traditionalism. ...

I very much doubt that the ADL or anyone else would have been particularly concerned about THE PASSION if Mel was a mainstream Catholic who supported the Pope and if his father was not a known anti-Semite.

To get in on the Traditionalist vs. mainstream Catholic discourse, click here

Jesus Had It Coming: The Fray editor expresses gratitude to historyguy for going into the back files and producing one of the Fray's most storied and prolific posts from April 2001. JoeyGiraud-13 elicited 507 responses for his incendiary post, by all accounts a Fray record:

this Jesus guy ...

1. engaged in property theft by cursing a fig tree, resulting in the loss of corporate profits.

2. disrupted market activities by attacking financiers engaged in lawful currency transactions.

3. stirred up class warfare among the poor.

4. stole intellectual property, by preaching a gospel that he didn't copyright.

5. subverted the capitalistic virtues of private property by advising people to give away possesions.

If he were doing this kind of stuff today, our conservative leaders would make sure he were properly punished. Three strikes and you're out, Jesus!

Responses would probably be superfluous. Please donate to your favorite house of worship. Your favorite house of pancakes. Plant a tree in Israel. Uproot one if you prefer. ... KA 10:25 a.m.

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Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2003

In the  History Lesson Fray, The_Bell ponders the potency of Gen. Wesley Clark's candidacy with an air of skepticism. He alludes to a story by Chris Suellentrop ("Wesley Clark: Is there a general in the house?") published back in January, prior to the Iraq war. For The_Bell, at the time, Clark's military credentials seemed insufficient, a priori, to mount a viable Democratic candidacy. That perception hasn't changed much, even in the postwar malaise. The_Bell's thoughts can be found here:

When Mr. Suellentrop first brought up the prospect of Wesley Clark as a potential Democratic candidate whose military record could give Democrats the missing edge on homeland security, I will admit that I was outright incredulous—referring to Clark as "Colin Powell in short pants." In that post, I wrote:

"I do not mean to discount Clark's many real accomplishments as a soldier. I genuinely believe that both former President Clinton and he deserve more credit for stopping the violence in the former Yugoslavia and bringing Milosevic to justice than they have gotten. But using Clark
to give the Democrats chops on the homeland security issue? Based on the Kosovo campaign? I think not. The problem here is not what is lacking in Clark as a soldier but, as Mr. Suellentrop neatly notes, what is lacking in the (voting) public's perception of him as such. ... Before he can even begin to convince voters that, as the Democratic nominee, he could conduct the war on terrorism more ably than President Bush, he first must convince them that he conducted the Kosovo campaign ably as a general."

I do not think much has changed about Clark himself in the past nine months but I will grant that two things HAVE happened that may have tempered public perception of him. First, there has been a bit of tarnish applied to Powell's reputation—if not so much a demonization, then at least a de-canonization—that was bound to happen as Powell became tangled up with Republican politics in ways that, as Mr. Greenberg points out, Clark
has yet to enmesh himself on the left.

Second, and perhaps far more important, all the way through the 2002 midterm elections, the American public seemed to prefer Republicans because on the issue of homeland security (the "war on terrorism"), they felt the GOP was more likely to show the necessary backbone to respond as aggressively as required. In plain terms, they distrusted that Democrats would ever go so far as to go to war. However, that was before the Iraqi War. The combination of the Bush Administration's stubborn and headlong rush to invasion coupled with the unresolved and stagnant environment of the postwar occupation may well have pushed some moderate swing voters away from mettle and toward moderation as the preferred trait of a Commander-In-Chief.

If in January, Clark seemed unlikely to prevail as painting himself more along the Zachary Taylor "Old Rough and Ready" than President Bush, today he just might appear more believable in the Cincinnatus "warrior statesman" model that Mr. Greenberg posits than Bush or even Powell.

It is also interesting that Clark shares one aspect with Howard Dean that is credited for Dean's ability to jump to the front of the Democratic pack—a large and extremely loyal Internet following. While Clark definitely has an uphill battle—Dean did not have to face an established frontrunner when he made his surge—Clark
might definitely cause a rift in the anti-Bush core that Dean has been building.

Still, looking at Greenberg's historical record, I come back to the same criticism that I raised about Clark back in January. His battlefield record might earn him respect among military experts but he lacks the perception of a major victory that propelled many of the highly successful generals with pure popular support. Democrats might like to consider Clark
the Eisenhower who THEY captured this time but Wesley Clark lacks not only Eisenhower's patina of victory, he lacks his mantle of easy affability and natural leadership as well. It is easy for him to "bask in the draft-Clark committees that are sprouting up" but how will he do when Republicans attack both his war record and his liberal leanings, as they are sure to do?

Still, a lot has changed since January and perhaps a soldier who is NOT famous as a victorious warrior is the image that may capture the hearts of the public. Perhaps Clark may sway voters by vowing "I shall go to Iraq" and running on a platform that the first, best way to ensure security here at home is to avoid entanglements halfway around the world whenever possible.