Friday, November 12, 2004

Europe Has a Long History of Appeasement

Here's an interesting bit of European history.

Did you know that there was a point in time when (it is estimated) there were 20,000 Europeans being held hostage by a group of Muslims in one city alone in North Africa? This period - 1600 to 1650 - is known as the golden age of the Barbary Pirates. These marauders operated out of the coastal regions of what is today Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria, attacking Mediterranean commerce for its wealth, ransoming rich Europeans, and kidnapping innocent passengers and selling them into slavery.

How did the powerful European countries react to this menace? Did they gather their armies and destroy these relatively innocuous bands of cut-throats and brigands? Did they launch assaults on the coastal cities and towns of Africa in order to defeat those who threatened their citizenry? No. They paid ransom hoping that the threat would simply go away.
... all traders belonging to nations which did not pay blackmail in order to secure immunity were liable to be taken at sea. The payment of blackmail, disguised as presents or ransoms, did not always secure safety with these faithless barbarians. The most powerful states in Europe condescended to make payments to them and to tolerate their insults. Religious orders, the Redemptionists and Lazarites, [What we would call appeasers today, like the World Council of Churches] were engaged in working for the redemption of captives and large legacies were left for that purpose in many countries. (link)
There was even a good bit of maneuvering on the part of various European powers at different times to cultivate relationships with the Barbary pirates in order to gain advantage over other European adversaries.
The continued existence of this African piracy was indeed a disgrace to Europe, for it was due to the jealousies of the powers themselves. France encouraged them during her rivalry with Spain; and when, she had no further need of them they were supported against her by Great Britain and Holland. In the 18th century British public men were not ashamed to say that Barbary piracy was a useful check on the competition of the weaker Mediterranean nations in the carrying trade.
It wasn't until the mid-nineteenth century that the pirates of North Africa were finally subdued. After nearly 300 years of unrelenting depredations.

Why is this relevant today?

There are millions of people in Europe in 2004 that would be perfectly content if the death toll resulting from acts of terrorism - the murder of innocents - by Islamists was kept to some tolerable level. The recent Spanish election and Zapatero's triumph there underscore this.

There are governments in Europe today (the French) who have used - and continue to cultivate - relationships with terrorist states (Saddam's regime, Iran) in order to gain political power (and reap monetary rewards) over what they consider to be a greater foe - us.

Some wonder why we don't have the support of the French and the Spanish in the struggle the rest of the world sees as being critical to our freedom in years to come; the War on Terror.

The answer? The French and the Spanish have a revealing - and long - history that tells the story.

Incumbency Victorious

I'm still trying to figure out what motivated the voters of southwest Virginia to reelect - overwhelmingly - our Congressman Richard Boucher. The ever-growing problem with poverty in the district can't be blamed directly on President Bush; he doesn't care about what happens here in our little mountainous corner of the country. And Governor Warner, whether right or wrong, has his focus elsewhere as well. No, if there is one person that we would have directed our frustration, anger, and despair toward, it would have been Boucher. After all, he is responsible for only one region of the country - us.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal seem to believe - rather simply - that Boucher, and 98% of his fellow members of Congress, won because of "the perks of incumbency" and on gerrymandering (the drawing of district boundaries by the party in power in order to assure election victory for the greatest number of candidates from that party). (link)

I read the many post-election quotes in area newspapers attributed to voters, most of whom seem to like what Boucher is accomplishing. I got the impression that there were some that voted for him only because they recognize his name, but if there is criticism in that, it has to be directed at Boucher's opponent for not doing whatever was necessary to get his name out there well enough often enough.

I also went back and compared the rates of unemployment in the various counties in District 9 with Boucher's margin of victory. It would seem to make sense that those counties with higher levels of unemployment would be more inclined to "throw the bum(s) out." Sure enough, one finds that in Patrick County, with an unemployment (2003 annual) rate of 11.5%, Boucher actually lost to his opponent by 4%. That makes good sense to me.

But how to explain Dickinson County (coal country) with an unemployment rate of 14.5% and a margin of victory for Boucher of 24%? Or Henry County (farming country) with an unemployment rate of 14.0% and a Boucher margin of victory of 13%? Buchanan County (coal) 8.0% unemployment and 44% margin of victory(!)?

How about the inverse? Montgomery County (Virginia Tech country) had an unemployment rate of 2.4% but still went for Boucher by 26%. "Well, that's because of the liberal college types turning out in great numbers," you say. Bland County has no college, an unemployment rate of just 3.9%, and a Boucher margin of 14%. Craig County - 3.2%; 20% margin of victory.

And if it made perfect sense that the Democrat lost in Patrick County because of the bleak employment outlook, why was he defeated in Roanoke County? Unemployment there is just 2.5%.

There are, I'm sure, explanations for each of these. But I cannot find a trend.

There are a few individuals out there that will argue that it is because Rick Boucher is such a dynamic politician with fresh new ideas and broad, powerful leadership capabilities that are taking us boldly into the 21st century and beyond. Yeah. If you study his accomplishments over the last twenty two years and his proposals for the future, you come to the undeniable conclusion that the man has no record of accomplishment and no clue as to how to solve the problems we face.

That leaves me with only one thought. Yes, name recognition is huge. As is the power of incumbency. Gerrymandering plays a part also, if you look at the way the 9th district is drawn. But beyond all that, I'm left with the idea that the biggest reason the Democrats won here is because they were better organized. "More boots on the ground," as the popular saying goes these days.

Something for the local Republican Party to consider. As if they don't realize it already.

Pardon My Skepticism

For reasons cited below in "Newt Gingrich Seeks a New Contract With America," I am skeptical of this ever coming about:
Republican gains in the U.S. Senate on Election Day have changed the politics of the estate tax, anti-tax activists said, greatly increasing the chance for a permanent repeal early next year. By increasing its number of seats to 55, the GOP moved four votes closer to the 60 needed to abolish the tax beyond 2010. (link)

It's funny how politics works. When Republicans had a 51 to 48 majority in the Senate, they always came up just ever so close to repealing this onerous tax on dead people. Now that Republicans have a sizeable majority in the Senate, watch what happens. They will come just ever so close to repealing this onerous tax on dead people.

Newt Gingrich Seeks a New Contract With America

From an article BY Luiza Ch. Savage, staff reporter of the New York Sun:

WASHINGTON - Newt Gingrich is preparing to unfurl a new Contract with America.

The last time he did so, the ideas catapulted Republicans to a majority in the House for the first time in a half century. Now the former House speaker is plotting a way to keep conservatives in power "for a generation or more." Yet it is Democrats who are being urged to look to him for inspiration as they contemplate their future in the minority.

I'll support the new contract when old Newt and the Republican majority in Congress apologize for voiding the first one. It read, in part:
1. THE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: A balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item veto to restore fiscal responsibility to an out- of-control Congress, requiring them to live under the same budget constraints as families and businesses. (Bill Text) (Description) (link)

The same people who came to power decrying the out-of-control spending are now spending more than ever.

So, please Newt. Stop. I'm laughing so hard, I hurt.

ABC On The Wrong Side Of America - Again

"November 12, 2004 -- A group of ABC stations refused to air last night's Veterans Day broadcast of the gritty World War II flick "Saving Private Ryan" — fearful of incurring indecency fines from the newly hyperactive FCC for the movie's profanity - laced dialogue and graphic battle "scenes." (link)


A group of executives in charge of a handful of ABC stations are pouting. And trying feebly to prove a point. They're still upset with the fact that George Bush got reelected and, with Bush's reelection, they know that the FCC will continue to enforce a modicum of discipline on an industry that forfeited any kind of self-restraint years ago.

"'Some of the stations weren't willing to take the risk,' said Richard Wiley, a lawyer and former general counsel for the FCC. 'In effect, the FCC ruled [after Bono] that the F-word was out at all times. But one would think that, given the artistic nature of 'Saving Private Ryan,' the issue would be moot.'"

So the movie contained bad language; therefore these geniuses decided not to air it. Please. Do I need to list all the profanity-laced movies that have been shown on the networks this year? All of a sudden these guys have never heard of dubbing?

No. A group of eighteen liberal executives decided to make a point on Veterans Day by not showing a patriotic - and uplifting - movie about World War II veterans.

Shame on them.