A Speech for the New Year

Senator Gordon Smith (who?) recently gave an excellent speech on the Iraq situation. MuckRaker.com has a transcript here.

Many of the posts on this topic focus on the fact that Smith is Republican, that he’s broken ranks with Bush, that Ted Kennedy congratulated him on his speech, and other armchair gamesmanship. The preening, masturbatory nature of the media and the blogosphere is both inevitable and irritating. Why focus on what was said when analyzing the effects on the “great game” of politics is so much more (self) gratifying?

I find this statment interesting:

Iraq is a European creation. At the Treaty of Versailles, the victorious powers put together Kurdish, Sunni, and Shia tribes that had been killing each other for time immemorial. I would like to think there is an Iraqi identity. I would like to remember the purple fingers raised high. But we can not want democracy for Iraq more than they want it for themselves. And what I find now is that our tactics there have failed.

In particular, this, “we can not want democracy for Iraq more than they want it for themselves”, sums up the situation succinctly. That insufficient numbers of Iraqis care is self-evident: the results have been in the newspapers and blogs every day of the past year.

Now Saddam Hussein is dead, hanged for one of his many crimes. Few seem to care, in or out of Iraq, for the fight has moved on, or backward, to the issue of forced multi-culturalism. In this Iraq is an interesting parallel to Israel in that both nations are creations of western powers and exist in unnatural forms that could never have come into being in the absence of foreign influence.

Israel has, of course, been fighting since its inception 58 years ago and is barely more secure today that she was then. Will Iraq follow a similar pattern? Why is it that American leaders are so focused on the artificial borders of Iraq? Consideration has been given to the creation of seperate states for the various cultural/religious groups that exist within the present boundaries, but has it been given its due? What logic dictates that Shia and Sunni must co-exist in the same nation? Would an India/Pakistan model make more sense?

I think so. I don’t see the importance of maintaining the status quo when the existing situation is unsustainable. Kurds should be governed by Kurds and Sunni likewise; their cultures should have a place in the region to live and prosper in peace, if they wish peace, just as Shia should have its place. Governments and borders exist, or should exist, for the protection of people of like minds, not for their own ends.

Governments are mere tools. They exist to serve us. They are not the end but a means to an end – prosperity. Each culture defines prosperity in its own way. America regards posession of property and money as its ultimate measure of success. Other cultures might value spirituality or good breeding or artistic creativity more than we do. That these differences exist is as it should be. From a purpose of government perspective we ought to be pursuing an agenda that optimizes the creation of like-minded spaces and places rather than demanding strict adherence to the status quo.

Given a chance, George Bush might argue that this was his aim with the Iraq war (for it surely had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction). But I find this highly unlikely. If true, the effort was botched in part by failing to embrace the model more fully; i.e., by insisting on a single, united Iraq. Can one unite oil and water, after all? Should the attempt even be made? It is an expensive, difficult, and ultimately futile effort, as we’ve seen.

Consider: Why should the Kurds in Iraq be governed by Shia in Baghdad? Because the Brits said so back in 1918? Because Saddam said so in 2002? No. Because the Turks say so now? Well, maybe. Turkey is afraid of in independent Kurdistan or equivalent because of the population of its southern region. But why should Turkey demand the allegiance of a people who long to govern themselves? They shouldn’t. Not if their leaders are rational, thinking people.

This realization, I believe, was part of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev epiphany regarding the Soviet Union. Not only was it a failing social and political system, it was a nation made up of disparate, non-integrated parts that would be better off operating on their own. One can argue the amount of success that Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, et al, have had during their brief existence but I don’t think that many people in these countries would care for a taste of Vlad Putin’s government today.

Sounds pretty good, right? Maybe. The flies in the ointment are our flawed human natures and the tendency of the most unfit to assume leadership roles, usually by force, in national governments. I wonder, though, if this common failure wouldn’t be mitigated in nations whose populations and religious and cultural norms were more heterogenous?

Local Immigration Laws

The ACLU and Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund say:

Farmers Branch’s ordinance prohibiting apartment landlords from leasing to illegal immigrants discriminates against Latinos…

Yes, it does.  So what?  Latinos represent the overwhelming majority of illegals; it’s correct that the law should target them.  Note that this isn’t because Americans are inherently anti-Mexican or that Hispanics are bad people.  It’s simply a reflection of reality:  most illegals are from Mexico; therefore, immigration law impacts Mexicans more than any other nationality.  So I have no sympathy whatsoever for this position.  It’s posturing for the press and for the Latino vote by people who are too smart to believe their own hot air.

Another legal argument that will be made relates to the question of jurisdiction.  Lisa Graybill, legal director for the ACLU, says:

The power to regulate immigration belongs to the federal government; otherwise you’d have cities, counties, towns and other entities creating their own immigration laws, which would be unenforceable.

The first part of this point is valid, IMHO.  The Feds should set immigration policy and provide the enforcement framework along with some of the manpower needed to enforce the law, the remainder coming from local law enforcement as an extension of their normal duties.

However, when the federal government is utterly negligent in their duty, as it has been during the Clinton and Bush 43 years, are local communities simply to ignore their responsibilities to their constituents?  No.  Farmer’s Branch leaders should be commended for moving ahead with their local ordinances despite threats from advocacy groups and the federal courts.  If nothing else their initiative will force the issue to be heard at the national level.

Furthermore, I don’t accept Graybill’s assertion that local ordinances would be unenforceable.  Why would that be?  Local police enforce any number of local laws; why are immigration offenses any different?  They aren’t.  It may be that immigration violators end up in the federal court system after being arrested on local violations.  I don’t see that as a problem – we do it for other offenses already.

In a final tug at liberal heart strings, the suit indicates that the ordinance “will force families to separate”.  Again I ask, so what?  If the Feds weren’t asleep at the wheel they would be deporting the illegal portions of these families already.  As sad as this can be on a case-by-case basis, it’s really irrelevant to any logical examination of the argument.

To City Attorney Matthew Boyle:  Good luck, sir!

Robert Paterson on Web Communities

I’m not particularly a big fan of web-based relationships or communities.  But Paterson’s new essay on the topic is a good one.  Read it.

I think there are definite possibilities in the spaces he describes.  The question for me is whether our “forced” participation in the current system will allow enough of us sufficient time and energy to do the initial bootstrapping of the process of change.  It can happen; I’m just not convinced it will.

Illegal Immigration = Identity Theft?

Dave Navarrette wonders why La Migra is spinning their daring raid on several chicken plants as “a crackdown on identity theft“.  I don’t think this is any mystery:  it’s because the other branches of the government and a certain political party that benefits from illegal immigration don’t care about the root crime itself.  Immigration is simply framing their actions in a poltically favorable light.  What’s wrong with that?

Plenty, actually, as Dave says:

Of course, if this were presented as an immigration crackdown, people might ask: Why were no charges filed against the employer — Swift & Co?

It’s cynical, and it’s the sort of thing that makes it hard to believe that Americans are serious about combating illegal immigration. How can we be if we don’t address the problem at its source?

That is, at the businesses who employ illegals.  Demand begets supply, as always.

Guy’s Inspiring Business Story of the Year

Read Guy Kawasaki’s interview with Aziza Mohmmand, an Afghani female entrepreneur – wow. Prime Q&A:

Question: What did you like the most and the least about America?

Answer: What I liked was the discipline in driving, great roads, advancement in the infrastructure of the country, respect, cooperation of people with each other, the value of human beings, execution of the law, hard-working people, peaceful environment, and beautiful nature. During my stay in the US, there was nothing that I didn’t like.

Question: What would happen if America pulled its troops out of Afghanistan?

Answer: The US forces allied with the international peacekeeping troops are the major support for peace in Afghanistan. Without their active support, bloodshed will cover all the country and people of Afghanistan will no longer experience peace.

Makes me wish we’d kept our nose out of Iraq until we’d civilized Afghanistan (or forever).

Bad Liberal Ideas

Here’s a blog entry that shows, yet again, why liberals shouldn’t be elected dog catcher, let alone to a real job.  The prime quote:

Principal Paul Richards said a key reason for stopping the practice [ed. of printing the names of honor roll students in the local paper] is its contribution to students’ stress level in “This high expectations-high-achievement culture.”

Students’ stress level?  I’ve got a news flash for you, Paul:  Most kids don’t give a damn about your little grading scheme and the few who do are the ones who’ll be trying to keep the Chinese from kicking the hell out of us economically and technically in the next few decades.

So go ahead, make their jobs that much harder by not recognizing their achievements and by bringing them down to the level of Joe Average, the C student who never got his name in the paper.  That’ll definitely help things.

Happily, there is some good news:  87% of respondents to the related survey think this is bullshit.

MySpace to be Safer?

MySpace is trying to make itself safe for kids but it’s a waste of time and effort. Don’t be fooled – there is no reliable way to keep human trash from trolling for underage victims given the current state of the Net.

Do we really want to eliminate that sort of behavior? Sure, but at what cost? Doing so means the Feds mandating the use of biometric IDs to access the Net. And that, of course, would be the absolute end of what remains of our privacy.

How about just limiting your kids’ access? It’s a bit of a battle – they’re sneaky – but hardly impossible.