Saturday, January 3, 2009

Giving Peace a Chance

A recent Rasmussen poll shows that:

Sixty-two percent (62%) of Republicans back Israel's decision to take military action against the Palestinians, but only half as many Democrats (31%) agree. A majority of Democrats (55%) say Israel should have tried to find a diplomatic solution first, a view shared by just 27% of Republicans.

This is hard for me to understand. What do the people who think that Israel should have tried "a diplomatic solution first" think has been going on in that region for the last thirty years? How much effort must be expended in seeking a diplomatic solution while a nation's citizens are being daily terrorized by rocket attacks before the nation is justified in resorting to military measures to stop the terror?

It would have been helpful, I think, if Rasmussen had asked it's respondents to explain who Hamas is and where Gaza is. The answers the pollsters got to those questions might go a long way to explaining that 55%.


The Test of Loyalty

Think what you will about George W. Bush's policies, he has, in my view, set a standard for character that every president will henceforth be measured against. Despite being the object of continuous and reprehensible insults President Bush never once responded publicly in kind to any of his detractors. He has never shown the slightest animosity or desire to retaliate against his political foes. He ran a decorous White House which, despite the best efforts of his opponents to uncover some scandal, never really got embroiled in anything that in a less crassly partisan era would be thought to be trivial.

Notwithstanding enormous pressure to cave on Iraq, Bush refused to yield to the temptation to try to salvage his popularity and cast about instead, like Lincoln, for a general that would win the war for him, and he found one. He performed many acts of compassion both at home and abroad, especially in Africa, to little fanfare because he didn't want to be seen as exploiting the suffering of others for his own political aggrandizement. Unlike his predecessor's staff, which trashed the White House upon leaving it, the Bush/Obama transition has been handled, like everything the Bushes did, with class and courtesy. He always, as far as I could tell, did what he thought was right and not what was politically expedient, even though he would invariably get pummelled for it in the press.

He's a good man who is nearly universally loved by those who worked for him and who knew him best. Byron York at National Review writes a piece about just this affection and loyalty that almost everyone feels for him. It's a remarkable thing, maybe the crucial test of a man's character, and it speaks louder than any carping left-wing blog or sour New York Times editorial ever could of the man's inherent integrity and strength.

One reason so many hate him, perhaps, is that lesser people are often driven to rage when their own flaws are illumined by the light of a better person's virtue. Their weaknesses and paltriness are indicted by the superior man's opposite qualities, and their jealousy at having the dark places of their souls exposed by the comparison throws them into fits of irrational hostility. They're not infrequently overcome by an irresistible urge to deride and scorn the man in whose presence they themselves seem so puny and base.

George W. Bush didn't always make me happy, but I admire and respect the standard he set as an American and as a man. I hope Barack Obama follows his example.


Growth and Prosperity

A week or so ago I recommended a series of short lessons on economics by Chris Martenson. I was listening to one of them the other day in which Martenson said something I wish every township supervisor and county commissioner would take to heart: Growth does not equal prosperity. He was talking about economic growth, but what he said got me to thinking about the belief that land "development" is good for the economic well-being of a region.

I could never understand the argument that erecting more housing developments, more shopping malls, more apartment complexes, etc. makes a community more prosperous. In fact, I never could see how it doesn't have exactly the opposite effect. The more people who crowd into an area the more services - police, fire, schools, highway maintenance, etc. - that are needed to support them. This not only requires higher taxes, but it also results in an inevitable erosion of the quality of life that comes with more traffic, more crime, and fewer open spaces.

The rejoinder is, of course, that the more businesses there are in an area the more jobs it creates for the residents, but how is this so? If job opportunities increase, the expanded opportunities will simply draw people looking for work who will move in from elsewhere to fill the openings, and that just results in a demand for even more housing, more traffic, more services, higher taxes, etc. Yes, we are told, but with more people in an an area the businesses do better, but if a business profits it isn't long before more of the same type of businesses start up and the profit just gets distributed over more competitors.

Growth is often a wash, a treadmill. Whatever advantages accrue from having more people living and working more closely together are cancelled out by the higher costs they impose. The more growth there is in an area the more there is of everything else that diminishes those qualities which made a community a great place to live in the first place. This is, in my opinion, true of the county in which I live, York Co. in Pennsylvania, and I suspect it's true everywhere. Some people have benefited from the development of York Co. over the last thirty years, to be sure, but I don't see how the county as a whole is a better place to live today than it was, say, in 1970.