dislogue

Books, culture, fishing, and other games

November 19, 2004

The Ahnold Amendment

I was listening to Michael Graham on 630 WMAL on the way out of the D.C. area a bit ago and his topic was whether we should amend to Constitution to allow non-native born citizen to run for President. There were the usual range of strong opponents and strong supporters, and a few between, but one point never came up, and I haven't seen it made elsewhere.

I knee jerked in opposition to an amendment myself. Partly this is due to my standard knee-jerk against amendments in general. That's an inherently conservative response. But Machael's point that we should trust the voters to decide on a case-by-case basis is a good one.

The point that hasn't been made, that I've heard, is that we aren't talking about setting precidents when we talk about allowing non-native-born citizens to be elected President. By my count we've had eight already. In fact, we didn't have a "native-born citizen" President until Martin Van Buren, who was born in the state of New York in 1982. All of his predecessors, and his successor, William Henry Harrison, were born in colonies of England. Most were born in the Colony and Dominion of Virginia, the two Adams in Massechisetts Bay Colony, and Andrew Jackson in the Carolinas. So the point clearly isn't meant to be a technical one, of being born as a citizen of the United States, since close to twenty percent of American presidents were not compliant with the technicality.

The issue is either one of loyalty, or one of cultural upbringing. The former cannot be guaranteed by mere accident of birth. In fact, it can be argued that one who chooses to become citizen of a country, rather than being born into it by chance (or through the will of God), has more vested in that country she chose. So it doesn't seem rational to expect accidental citizens to become better public officials than those who choose consciously to join a country in which they see real advantages.

That leaves then the issue of cultural upbringing. There are certainly arguments that someone who understands the country should lead it. Those first Presidents were born and brought up among the people they grew up to lead, even if they were not technically born as citizens of that country that did not yet exist (the Forefather clause?) But America was then, and has remained, a meltingpot of cultures. The Massechusetts Yankee was very different in many ways from the Virginian planter or the Carolinas backwoodsman.

But even if we allow that they shared many significant common values, which would not have been the case with, for example, a Chinese peasant, this hardly justifyies excluding the man who immigrated to the United States from Pakistan as a babe in arms, or the woman who was adopted as a two-year-old infant from Zambia. They too were brought up in the United States. I may well share more core values with them than I do with many who were born in this country.

This law is arbitrary. While such can serve reasonably useful purposes (order is often somewhat arbitrary), any law that is arbitrary should be examined carefully if it stands in the way of reasonable outcomes. What may have made sense at one time, may not make sense now.

But I'm still not anxious to amend the Constitution. The possible harm from excluding a small percentage of the population from the possibility of becoming President is not large. They can still serve in posts all the way into the White House in advisory roles. We do not lose much of their expertise or abilities.

But neither am I opposed to amending the Constitution in this case. I see little potential harm in allowing those not born in the geographical lines of the United States to run for the highest office. They do, as Michael Graham points out, still have to convince the electorate that they are the best person for the job. I don't even really see any reason to put any constraints beyond citizenship. If an 18-year-old can convince the electorate that they are the best choice, why should they not be president?

I could push that to farther extremes, but I'm not aiming at satire (and it would begin to look like satire if I did). Why do we need to exclude legally what the voters will exclude in practice? As a conservative with libertarian leanings I must fall on the side of less is more on this issue. Don't have the law exclude what the voters wish to include.

The voters get what they deserve.

Posted by dan at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

November 16, 2004

Terrorists as Piranhas

There are a lot of fishermen missing pieces of toes or fingers in the Amazon. Some of the hand wounds result from a local affinity for fishing with dynamite, but the overwhelming majority come from that most notorious of Amazon fish: the piranha. My right index finger has a faint crescent scar to prove my experience in dealing with the nasty things. My Dad actually lost a quarter of an inch of one finger to one. This doesn't result from swimming in the Amazon or the lakes, though that's the common perception of the dangers of piranhas. No, the real threat is after they are caught (or to nets used for fishing!) and tossed into the dugout canoe along with the rest of the catch. Everyone fishes barefoot, both because of the heat and because your feet are gonna get wet in a dugout anyway. And those fish flop around. And they gasp for and chomp and, well, anything in the way of a piranha's teeth are soon removed from the way: toes, fingers, shoes, chunks or other fish, carelessly stowed lines, you name it, they chomp it. All but machete blades, at least.

The experienced fisherman knows: before you boat a piranha you first club it to death or pierce its brain with a knife. Then you chop its lower jaw right off. Even dead they are dangerous because touching their tongue or mouth seems to trigger a reflexive chomp, even when they've been dead a while. That one that got the tip of Dad's finger made it back from the lake to the house, a 15 minute plane flight in the middle (and it was in no live well! What's that?), before doing its final damage. (We ate it anyway.) A toe can still get slashed by the upper teeth, but a cut is different from a chomp. The cuts are so clean they heal almost scarlessly. My scar is faint.

Hearing today's news from Iraq reminded me of this for some reason.

That wounded 'captive,' or death feigner, was not wearing a uniform. Before anyone starts screaming war crime, or Geneva Convention, or any other such nonsense, they might actually stop and think. The rules of war are pretty clear about combatants out of uniform.

That we don't execute them all on the spot says good things about our country and our military. We are in our rights to do so.

Based on their standard modus operandi, not only are we allowed, we should. Before you say that's uncharitable of me, I consider our first charity to go to their potential victims. Once those are safe, then I will consider charity to the victimizers. In this case the potential victims are not safe as long as these terrorists live. They have proved that over and over again, and on camera.

Save a child: kill a terrorist.

More good commentary (and read the comments too) on this in "Fool Me Once" Means You Don't Get A Chance To Fool Me Twice."

Posted by dan at 07:39 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2004

Relief and Disgust

Though we should pray for a change of heart in our enemies, that they might turn from the wrong path to the right one, it is very hard not to feel relief that Yasser Arafat is dead. The disgust I feel, however, is by no means limited to Arafat's evil deeds, the pain and suffering be brought to others and his own people, the billions he stole, nor even his carefully hidden sexual perversions, it more aimed at the response of much of the so-called "liberal" masses in the West. Arafat is hailed as leader of the freedom-seeking Palestinian people, not as the terrorist oppressor of those same people. He's been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for what? For turning down an offering of 90% of what he demanded because it did not include the dissolution (read: "distruction") of Israel?

Lest any forget who was this man, let me offer one example of his known deeds to stand in for the many other unknown or unproven deeds at his hand, his orders, or with his complicity by his minions whom he refused to restrain.

Before being "elected" as head of the Palestinian people, Yassir entered many of our consciousnesses as the head of the Black September organization. This group of terrorists, among their other atrocities, abducted several Americans from a reception at the Saudi Embassy in Khartoum in early 1973. One of those men was U.S. Ambassador Cleo A. Noel, Jr. Black September demanded the release of the Palestinian assassin of Robert Kennedy, Sirhan Sirhan, as well as terrorists held in prisons in Europe and Israel, as condition of the release of the Ambassador and George Curtis Moore. President Nixon refused to negotiate with terrorists.

As recorded on the Arlington National Cemetary Website:

Their lives hung by a thread, a thread that Yassir Arafat ordered cut. His words ordering the execution of these top American officials and a Belgian diplomat were recorded by the Israelis who gave the tape to the State Department and President Nixon in March 1973. This was later confirmed by Gen. Ariel Sharon.

Cleo A. Noel Jr. and George Curtis Moore were among a group of men seized by Black September terrorists during a reception held at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Khartoum [Sudan]. The terrorists demanded the release of Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian assassin of Robert Kennedy, as well as terrorists being held in Israeli and European prisons. President Nixon refused to negotiate. The tape was of conversations between Arafat in Beirut and his thugs in Khartoum. Execute the diplomats, ordered Arafat. The terrorists obeyed, machine gunning the unarmed, hapless Noel and Moore. They also killed a Belgium diplomat. The authenticity of the tape was verified in U.S. laboratories by both the State Department and the White House.

On March 2, 1973, around 8:00pm (local) --Abu-Iyad called Abu-Ghassan and gave him the Cold River [Nahr al-Bard] code: "Remember Nahr al-Bard. The people's blood in the Nahr al-Bard is screaming for revenge. These are our final orders. We and the world are watching you." The execution took place on 9:06. (Reportedly, about half an hour later than planned because Abu-Tariq let the Americans write last letters and wills.) A few minutes later, when the international media still did not report the killing, Beirut wanted to make sure that the executions took place. Arafat himself did the talking to Abu-Ghassan. He asked him if he received the code word Nahr al-Bard and if he understood what it meant. Abu-Ghassan assured Arafat that he had understood everything and that his -- Arafat's -- orders had already been carried out fully.

This was the man the media hails and for whom Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, ordered the U.N. flag flown at half mast.

Perhaps now that he is gone his people can find peace. If his poison has not too deeply injured them, perhaps some man of courage and integrity will step forth and lead. If so, I expect he will be no friend of the U.N. nor feted by Western media or liberal spokespeople. But facing them is nothing compared to facing what Arafat is facing now. Arafat is not spinning in his grave. There is no spin before the final judgment.

This National Review Online article by Andrew McCarthy, "The Father of Modern Terrorism," does better justice to the memory of Yassir Arafat than I can or wish to do.

Posted by dan at 02:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 03, 2004

I have been lax, but I'm happy

Despite seeing all the Kerry/Edwards signs, and inhabiting a workspace where I am looked at somewhat like an alien, for having no use for Kerry, unlike the local masses, I was only tired today, not tired and depressed.

And it was easy to find the other happy people. I'd forgotten the small cadre of geeks downstairs with whom I get along famously. Turns out it's more than simply geekiness. We had a small celebration in the cafeteria restaurant this morning. And two of the three are black, to boot. Geeks are smart; race doesn't matter.

I wasn't terribly shocked to find the Korean shopkeepers all extra happy today too. I hadn't ever talked politics with them before today. Today I couldn't resist asking if they were happy. Both to whom I posed the question lit up with smiles. I'd suspect it would be the case, the immigrant thing, but another important reason hadn't occurred to me. Mind you, both of these are guys who speak english with strong accents. I see them reading Korean papers. I wouldn't have expected them to be terribly aware of American politics... yet.

But the one downstairs who runs the little grocery and sandwich shop spelled it out: "As a small businessman, I know." Doh! Of course. We often hear that immigrant communities tend towards conservative, and that Asian ones tend to be aware of Vietnam, Islamic rebels, etc, which makes them side even more strongly with the more conservative party. But I don't see mentioned often, and it hadn't clicked in for me, that these communities are also predominantly small business owners and operators. And they embody the American dream of work hard, build, earn success. They know better than most native-born Americans how hard work pays off here.

I have developed friendly relationships with these folks, parents and kids, over the last (almost) year. We joke around a bit, chat, and exchange smiles. But I have a feeling our relationships just shifted more than a little. Now we're allies too. They also know they live in predominantly hostile territory. They know DC is the liberal heart of the country. They know the media is liberal and biased.

For me, I'm glad they're on my side. The girl with the ragged jeans and sandals with the Kerry/Edwards sticker on her pack was blonde, slim and cute, but I suspect I have more in common with Koreans who struggle to get their more complicated thoughts out in English than I do with the glib who've drunk the Koolaid and drool the liberal talking points without ever really considering the implications, or measurable results, of the policies they tout.

To all who voted for W, imperfect as he is, I thank you for reassuring me that America remains America, not a European colony.

Posted by dan at 06:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack