Date ►►► August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin, How's By You? How's By You?

Hatched by Dafydd

Over on Power Line, both John Hinderaker and Paul Mirengoff have reacted very negatively to hints that John S. McCain may be about to select Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Both are long-time boosters of Mitt Romney, and recently both have been hopeful that either Romney or Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty would get the nod. Alas, I believe both Power Liners may be allowing their perfectly respectable bias in favor of Romney and Pawlenty to taint their reaction to Palin's political and substantive potential. (If the lads at Power Line have any flaw at all -- and I'm not sure they have -- it's an almost irresistable tendency towards conventional thinking.)

What John and Paul see as a mere stunt, equivalent to Walter Mondale picking Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, could instead be seen by voters as a very exciting selection. It doesn't smack of "desperation" or a "Hail Mary," as John predicts, so much as a willingness to make a bold statement of change.

As I read through Palin's Wikipedia entry, I'm struck by how many elements of her life and career would play extremely well in the campaign:

  • She's very pro-life and very conservative on many issues, but she is not a scary hard-core conservative.
  • She ran an extraordinary campaign, knocking off the incumbent governor and former senator Frank Murkowski in the primary, then walking all over the Democrat former governor Tim Knowles with hobnailed boots in the general. And she did all this in the teeth of a deliberate and vindictive effort by the Alaska GOP establishment to engineer her loss... even though that would mean the Democrat's victory.
  • One of the Democrats' traditional attacks on Republicans -- and the Republicans' worst nightmare recently -- is ethics; Palin owns this issue, having ridden it into the governor's mansion (probably a Quonset hut; this is Alaska).

    She went against her own, highly corrupt Alaska Republican Party to do so (which is why they worked to defeat her, even in the general election: The old guard was enraged). Since then, she killed Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-A, 64%) "bridge to nowhere," rejected earmarks slated for Alaska, and gained an enviable reputation of honesty and independence from monetary interests.

  • She's especially good on energy issues, which is either the hottest (sorry) or second hottest campaign issue this year. She supports drilling everywhere; but she's also a global-warming gal. This doesn't impress me, of course; but it's certainly more in tune with the electorate today than am I.
  • She also happens to have a stunning approval rating in Alaska... upwards of 80% or so.
  • Sarah Palin would simply remove the Democratic issues of ethics, energy, and especially "change" from the campaign. What will that leave them?

I think she would be an excellent running mate. To forestall the accusation of "affirmative action," McCain should openly admit that the fact that she was female influenced his decision; but he should reiterate over and over that his bottom of the ticket pick is certainly more qualified to the presidency, in terms of executive experience, that the Democrats' top of the ticket.

I picture McCain saying something like, "I started thinking about Sarah while Sen. Clinton was still battling Sen. Obama for the nomination; it's about time we broke one or the other longstanding electoral barrier by guaranteeing either a black president or a female vice president."

And besides... Palin stands for something -- and she has excellent judgment.

He could also turn her relative lack of significant experience into a positive: "At least, between the two major parties, we'll have somebody running who isn't a member of the world's most exclusive club, the old-boy network of the United States Senate!"

I don't know how well she debates, but Joe Biden is no powerhouse there. The attacks he would make are very predictable, and she can be drilled (sorry) on the answers. For example, if he demands, "When have you ever dealt with a foreign leader, voted on going to war, or held committee hearings on a proposed treaty?" then she can respond, "When have you ever met a payroll, balanced a budget, or authorize a new oil pipeline?" She'll get the cheer -- not he.

If Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska turns out to be McCain's pick, she will energize the campaign and attract a lot of younger voters, voters who will probably be repelled by the ultimate "Beltway boy," Joe Biden. And while she doesn't strike me as immediately plausible as president, neither does Biden or Obama himself; but give Palin a term or two as vice president, and few would deny that she would then be qualified to run for the big office herself (assuming she acquits herself well at the Naval Observatory).

Then Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal could run against each other; and if the former wins the nomination, the latter could serve his own turn on the griddle.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 29, 2008, at the time of 8:11 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 28, 2008

Some Very Heartening Numbers That Aren't Getting Nearly Enough Attention, You Know

Hatched by Dafydd

Most of the polling buzz seems to center around the Gallup tracking poll -- which for the first time during the Democratic National Convention shows a small bounce (up to +6) for Barack H. Obama. But there are some other numbers that belie the idea that the convention has spawned a significant -- or even noticible -- surge towards the Democrats (yet).

Gallup notes that the pre-convention tracking poll found Obama and John S. McCain in a dead-even tie, 45-45; so this represents a 6-point bounce on this particular poll. But -- and this is a very big but -- Obama's support still remains below 50%; he has a 48-42 lead over McCain.

This is significant because, in the history of this tracking poll, from the end of March until today, Barack Obama has never been above 50%; and John McCain has never been below 40%. In fact, Obama was up to 49% in late July -- a point higher than today -- and McCain was a point lower then. So the so-called "bounce" is still within the cosmic background noise of this particular poll. (And bear in mind, Gallup is polling registered voters, not likely voters; we have no idea how much of the increased support comes from people unlikely to translate that mini-surge into actual votes two months hence.)

It's entirely possible that tomorrow -- or by Monday, when the first fully post-convention number are released -- Obama will be up to 54% or 56%; nobody has a working crystal ball (especially not Larry Sabato). But at the moment, at least, Obama is doing no better than he generally has in the months before the convention.

And this is only one poll: According to Real Clear Politics' polling aggregation today, the other major tracking poll, Rasmussen daily tracking, shows no bounce at all so far. In the final three-days before the convention -- the poll released on Monday the 25th, showing polling from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday -- Obama was ahead by 4% (46-42) without leaners and 3% (48-45) when leaners were added in. The poll released today shows Obama ahead by only 1% (45-44) without leaners -- and dead even (47-47) with leaners added. Thus according to Rasmussen, Obama's lead has declined by 3% during the convention (again, so far).

As with the Gallup tracking poll, Obama has never been above 50% going all the way back to early June (not including leaners; he had three days of exactly 50% in early June if you include leaners). Similarly, he has enjoyed an 8% or 7% lead many times in that tracking poll... far better than the 1% (0%) he has right now.

We also have some puzzling non-tracking, pre-convention polling. The USA Today/Gallup poll in late July had McCain up by 4; and just before the convention, it had Obama up by 3, a 7-point gain for the One; but over that same period, the CNN poll had Obama up by 7 in late July, and just before the convention, it had them dead even -- a 7-point loss for Obama! Such the "science" of polling.

But I find some other numbers even more encouraging: the polling on the "generic congressional vote." This number derives from pollsters who ask variations on "do you plan to vote for the Democrat or the Republican in congressional races this November?" with no specific candidate names mentioned. It measures party strength... rather, it measures people's feelings about each party's "brand name."

Democrats usually do much better on this poll -- especially this far out -- than they end up doing in the election itself. And even the raw election numbers favor Democrats more than the actual results do, since the raw data include huge leads for seats with Democratic incrumbents.

At the moment, averaging across all polls conducted entirely within this month, the Democratic advantage on the generic poll is in single digits, a scant 8.4%. To put this in perspective, for all the polls conducted in July (in whole or in part), the generic advantage for Democrats was 12% -- it has dropped 4% in one month. This includes polls that have not yet been released this month, such as the AP/Ipsos, which might come in stronger for the Democrats (AP usually does); but even comparing the August polls to the previous versions of the exact same set of polls (USA Today/Gallup then and now, Fox News then and now, NBC-Wall Street Journal, Battleground, Rasmussen), the generic advantage for Democrats was 11%... so it's at least a 3% drop no matter how you cut it.

This is very, very important; even if McCain is elected president, if there is a huge surge of Democrats into Congress, he will be forced to work with them and will perforce shift left; if there is not -- if Republicans in the Senate still have enough reliable members to filibuster, for example, and if there is no chance of a veto-override in either the House or Senate -- then more than likely, ultra-liberal legislation won't even land on President McCain's desk.

Finally, one more number that made me smile. The RCP average of President George W. Bush's job approval is now up to 30%, having been as low as the mid-twenties earlier. He's on a roll!

(Congress, led by Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid, D-Caesar's Palace, 85%, and Squeaker of the House Nancy "NARAL" Pelosi, D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%, is now down to an RCP average of 17.3% approval. If this number continues to drop as we approach the election, I'll have to ask -- is it possible for measured job approval to be a negative number?)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 28, 2008, at the time of 5:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Ditto

Hatched by Dafydd

Here's an eye-opening comparison. First, read this:

The international community collectively held their breath waiting for the reaction of Russia after the savage, brutal, criminal attack by Georgia on South Ossetia. After having offered a cease fire in hostilities, the back stabbing Georgians immediately violated the cease fire, invading South Ossetia and causing massive destruction and death among innocent civilians, among peacekeepers and also destroying a hospital....

Georgian troops attempted to storm the city [Tskhinval] much as Hitler‘s Panzer divisions blazed through Europe. Also noteworthy is the fact that Georgian tanks and infantry were being aided by Israeli advisors, a true indicator that this conflict was instigated by outside forces....

Relating what has become common practice among war criminals, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reported: "A Russian humanitarian convoy has come under fire. Panic is growing among the local population, and the number of refugees is increasing. There are reports of ethnic cleansing in some villages... The situation is ripe for a humanitarian catastrophe...."

Ask anyone in the Caucasus region, and they will tell you never to trust a Georgian because they would shake your hand with a smile and then stab you in the back. On Friday morning, we saw a perfect example of this treachery, when hours after declaring a ceasefire, Georgian military units launched a savage attack on the civilians of South Ossetia.

Hours after Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili, the pro-western Washington-backed anti-democratic stooge (attacks on opposition policians in Georgia are rife) declared a unilateral ceasefire, the Georgian army lanched a savage attack on the capital of the province of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, with tanks and infantry, while the air force bombed a village and strafed a Russian humanitarian aid convoy.

And now tell me if you don't detect a certain similarity of style here:

Tonight, WGN radio is giving right-wing hatchet man Stanley Kurtz a forum to air his baseless, fear-mongering terrorist smears. He's currently scheduled to spend a solid two-hour block from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. pushing lies, distortions, and manipulations about Barack and University of Illinois professor William Ayers.

Tell WGN that by providing Kurtz with airtime, they are legitimizing baseless attacks from a smear-merchant and lowering the standards of political discourse...

Kurtz has been using his absurd TV appearances in an awkward and dishonest attempt to play the terrorism card. His current ploy is to embellish the relationship between Barack and Ayers.

Just last night on Fox News, Kurtz drastically exaggerated Barack's connection with Ayers by claiming Ayers had recruited Barack to the board of the Annenberg Challenge. That is completely false and has been disproved in numerous press accounts.

It is absolutely unacceptable that WGN would give a slimy character assassin like Kurtz time for his divisive, destructive ranting on our public airwaves. At the very least, they should offer sane, honest rebuttal to every one of Kurtz's lies.

The first is a pair of propaganda pieces anent the Russian-Georgian war, taken from Pravda, as you probably guessed. The second is an e-mail sent out by the Barack H. Obama campaign to activists in Chicago.

One thing is clear: Those many years Obama spent poring over the purple prose of Saul Alinsky have certainly paid off.

But what has the rest of us gotten ourselves into?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 28, 2008, at the time of 6:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 27, 2008

That Ain't No "Temple"

Hatched by Dafydd

The Weekly Standard published this photograph of the set for Barack H. Obama's grand speech Thursday night at Denver's Invesco Field:



Set for Obama speech at 2008 Democratic National Convention

Set for Obama's speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention

Everybody, including the Standard, has described this set as "a miniature Greek temple;" the post above is titled "the Temple of Obama." Alas, everybody but me has it all wrong.

Here is a zoom on that section of the photograph showing the ersatz colonnade:



Colonnade set

Colonnade set

That's not a Greek temple at all. But it certainly seems quite familiar, doesn't it? Imagine viewing it from the grandstand... do you get it?

If you're still uncertain, take a look at this picture. See any similarities?



White House

White House, Washington D.C.

Yes sir, having previously designed his own Obamic presidential seal, B.O. now constructs his own, private White House. But like everything else in Obama's campaign, it's nought but a pretty facade with nothing behind it... half of a soap bubble.

There's a moral in here somewhere, but darned if I can suss it out. However, I do wonder what comes next. Starting next week, will Obama begin delivering his airy-fairy, canned speeches from his very own knock-off of the Oval Office?

I'm reminded of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer rescues the set from the old Merv Griffin Show from the dumpster, sets it up in his living room, and proceeds to create mock talk shows with Jerry, Elaine, and George, just as if he really were Griffin (a weird and bizarre Griffin). Eventually, Kramer becomes so consumed by the fantasy that he cannot stop.

Isn't there something more than a little creepy about one of the two major candidates spending hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars playing "dress-up" with the trappings of the presidency?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 27, 2008, at the time of 6:18 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

More Lizardian Drinking Games

Hatched by Dafydd

Here are a few more, taken from two of my favorite contact sports: movies and politics. Play them at your own risk.

To the king

Take a shot every time Barack H. Obama exhibits classic symptoms of megalomania.

To the queen also

You must drink whenever Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham says anything condescending.

We, the lying

Watch the elite media's coverage of a political event -- a convention, a debate, a fundraiser, etc. Toss back a shot every time one of the unbiased reporters accidentally refers to the Democrats in first person plural.

Straight-up express

Have an Irish whiskey (neat) every time John McCain refers to his audience as "my friends."

Edward the red-nosed senator

Have a cocktail whenever it appears that Ted Kennedy has had a cocktail.

Captain left-turn

Listen to Dennis Kucinich speak and have a shot whenever he starts sounding like Marvin the Martian.

Southern comfort

Watch the Republican National Convention. Take a drink whenever you hear anything depressing or defeatist.

Geneva Convention definition of torture

Watch the Democratic National Convention. Take a drink whenever you feel the urgent need to do so.

Liver of the thin man

Watch any William Powell, Myrna Loy movie. Have a drink whenever either one of them does (if you're a real mensch, have the same drink they do).

Wheel in the sky keeps on turning

Take a drink whenever you hear about another Hollywood remake of a classic move. Or a cult movie. Or a successful comic book, videogame, or amusement-park ride.

And finally...

Mojave

Watch any Hollywood musical made post 1970. Have a shot whenever any principal sings three bars on key. (This one is safe for minors, pregnant women, and alcoholics.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 27, 2008, at the time of 3:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 26, 2008

Doesn't Anybody Have Obama's Cell?

Hatched by Dafydd

According to Real Clear Politics, Team Obama just released a press statement that begins thus:

I condemn Russia's decision to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states and call upon all countries of the world not to accord any legitimacy to this action. The United States should call for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to condemn Russia's decision in coordination with our European allies. The U.S. should lead within the UN and other international forums to cast a clear and unrelenting light on the decision, and to further isolate Russia internationally because of its actions.

I am astonished that Barack H. Obama still, even today, doesn't know that Russia is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council... and as such has veto authority over any "condemnation" the United States might push in the UNSC. Evidently, even after his last UN-Russia gaffe, nobody on his campaign staff picked up the phone and called the principal to enlighten him.

Alternatively, perhaps the One is so enlightened anyway that such illuminating calls from the rabble are discouraged.

I also find it illuminating that even now, the only concrete action Obama suggests to put some teeth into his condemnation is to call an international forum and wag our finger at Vladimir Putin. Perhaps the One We Have Been Waiting For has been spending too much time with the One Who Did Not Have Sex With That Woman.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 26, 2008, at the time of 1:40 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 25, 2008

Does a "Pakistani Awakening" Forthcome?

Hatched by Dafydd

The Taliban in Pakistan has begun to behave as bloody-mindedly as did al-Qaeda in Iraq, when it seized control over the Sunni areas of Iraq under Musab Zarqawi in 2004, when he publicly declared his allegiance to the main al-Qaeda.

The more AQI practiced indiscriminate human sacrifice upon the Iraqi Sunnis, the more desperate the victims became; in the end, they turned on AQI with the ferocity of the damned. We now call this moment the "Sunni Awakening," and it played a crucial role in our victorious counterinsurgency strategy against the insurgent forces in that country -- as Gen. Petraeus and his top COIN advisor, David Kilcullen, along with COIN architects Fred Kagen and Gen. Jack Keane, always knew it would.

Simply put, they realized that if you give fanatic death-worshippers like al-Qaeda power, life under its rule will inevitably turn intolerable, even impossible. The Sunni will revolt, and that would be the perfect opportunity for us to recruit them to the side of Iraq and the United States.

It looks to me as if the Taliban has devolved into the same pattern of mindless devastation right now in Pakistan -- and I believe it will produce the same results:

Concern that the turmoil was distracting the government from tackling urgent economic and security issues was borne out Thursday when twin Taliban suicide bombers killed 67 people at an arms factory near the capital.

Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik announced Monday that the group responsible for the attack, the Tehrik-e-Taliban, was banned. He said the militants had "created mayhem" in the nuclear-armed nation.

Anyone caught aiding the Taliban in Pakistan - which will have its bank accounts and assets frozen - faces up to 10 years in prison.

The ban came 24 hours after Pakistan rejected a Taliban cease-fire offer in Bajur tribal region, a rumored hiding place for Osama bin Laden, where an army offensive has reportedly killed hundreds in recent weeks.

"This organization is a terrorist organization and created mayhem against public life," said Malik.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella group of militants along the rugged Afghan border set up last year, has claimed responsibility for a wave of suicide bombings in the last half year that have killed hundreds.

Its leadership is formally separate from the Taliban movement which was swept from power in Afghanistan in 2001.

However, some of its members are believed to help recruit, arm and train volunteers for the Taliban-led insurgency against government and NATO troops on the Afghan side of the frontier.

Bear in mind, this is the same fragile Pakistan coalition government -- which collapsed today -- that earlier cut a deal (brokered by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) with the Taliban militants in the Waziristan and Balochistan areas of Pakistan, allowing them autonomy so complete it verged on independence in exchange for a promise not to engage in suicide attacks inside Pakistan.

Now that agreement is clearly ended: The Pakistan army is going after the Taliban hammer and tooth, while the terrorists are busily sacrificing as many Pakistanis as they can cram into the mouth of their blood-and-soul eating Moloch idol.

In poker, when you have the worst hand, the only way to win is to raise and try to buffalo the player with the best hand into folding. The Taliban understand this principle, even if they've never played Texas Hold 'Em in their lives; and they know they have the weaker hand. The only chance they have to win is to go all out to seize the country before the fractious, now fractured government can respond.

That means total terrorist war against Pakistan. And that, of course, is exactly the scenario that created the Sunni Awakening in Iraq: No matter how anxious people are to avoid a fight, no matter how afraid they are, if you back them into a corner and then try to take away even that last refuge -- they will fight for their lives.

And being cornered, they will fight with the ferocity of a stag at bay, with complete abandonment of any scruples about killing, maiming, or torturing captured Taliban death-worshippers.

The current -- rather, the former government of Pakistan, now fallen, will be of little help; the two major figures are former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the author of the deal with the Taliban devil, and presidential front-runner Asif Ali Zardari, widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto -- and perhaps the most corrupt man in Moslemdom, which is saying an awful lot. Zardari is colloquially known as the "Three Billion Dollar Man," the amount he is believed to have stolen, embezzled, and otherwise squirreled out of Pakistan, Switzerland, Poland, France, and many other countries. He spent eleven years in prison for corruption and was only released under heavy pressure from Nawaz Sharif.

But Sharif now believes that Zardari has betrayed him:

The main problem between Mr. Sharif and Mr. Zardari was a profound disagreement over the future of the former chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, who was fired by President Musharraf in March 2007, reinstated by the court in July, and placed under house arrest in November. He was finally freed in March of this year, but has yet to be restored to the bench.

Mr. Sharif has insisted that Mr. Chaudhry along with some 60 other judges, who were also fired in November, when Mr. Musharraf declared emergency rule, should be restored to the bench.

To drive home the point about broken promises, Mr. Sharif, a former two-time prime minister, released an accord signed by the two men on Aug. 7.

The document shows that Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif agreed that all the judges would be restored by an executive order one day after Mr. Musharraf’s impeachment or resignation. But Mr. Zardari stalled.

In an interview with the BBC Urdu-language radio service on Saturday, Mr. Zardari defended his position, saying agreements with the Pakistan Muslim League-N were not “holy like the holy Koran.”

And why does Zardari not want to allow Chaudhry to return to the high court? Asif Ali "Mr. Bhutto" Zardari is only free and able to run for the presidency because he was granted amnesty from still more corruption charges after Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, allowing him to return from exile. Zardari believes that Sharif and his favorite judge Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry intend to revoke that amnesty and immediately arrest Zardari -- clearing the way for Sharif's own presidential puppet-candidate, former Chief Justice Saeed-uz-zaman Siddiqui. With Siddigui as president and (likely) Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister, the latter would be the de facto dictator of Pakistan -- more or less just like his arch rival Pervez Musharaff did, but without the backing of the military.

This could easily precipitate a real civil war (not the ersatz "civil war" the Democrats periodically rediscover in Iraq)... a bloody civil war between three sides -- the Pakistan Muslim League-N ("N" for Nawaz Sharif), the Pakistan Peoples Party (formerly Bhutto, now her husband Zardari), and of course the Taliban -- where the grand prize is control of the nation's demonstrated nuclear arsenal.

But there is a fourth side none of those three has yet taken seriously, and that is the Pakistan people themselves. If, as I expect, the oceans of blood unleashed by each of the three players in the main event leads to a widespread revolt against them all -- a Pakistani Awakening -- then we may actually see real democracy, not dictatorship, kleptocracy, or theocratic totalitarianism, come to Pakistan for the first time in its short existence as an independent state.

That is probably the only outcome that might avert a nuclear catastrophe. We indeed live in interesting times.

I wonder what Barack H. Obama's plan is for dealing with the Pakistan perplexity?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 25, 2008, at the time of 6:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 23, 2008

The Fortitude of a Lizardette

Hatched by Dafydd

My little sister Julie is just about due to give birth to her first child (she and her husband have already picked out the name Madison, which I like a lot -- especially as the obvious nickname is Maddy). I just called to see how Julie is doing, and the following high jinks ensued:

Dafydd: Are you planning to use anaesthetic?

Julie: Oh yeah; I'm not a big fan of pain. I'm definitely getting an epidural. I'm a little nervous about a spinal injection, but I'm going for it anyway.

Dafydd: A lot of women like to experience every sensation of giving birth; you're not one of those?

Julie: Dafydd, if I could be in the other room when Maddy was born, I'd go for it!

I'll announce here when the Madster enters the world. Sachi and I are too old to have kids now (theoretically we could adopt, but they don't like adopting kids out to older parents), and my brother Boffo and his better half have no interest in kids so far; so this is as close as it will get. (Of course, determinations can change, and the latter pair are younger than Julie.)

Maddy can be our rent-a-kid, returnable the moment novelty wanes...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 23, 2008, at the time of 2:58 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

The Real Reason POW Phillip Butler Won't Vote for McCain

Hatched by Dafydd

The Democrats have trotted out their own Vietnam POW, Phillip Butler, who was shot down over Vietnam (like John S. McCain III), was a prisoner of war for eight years (McCain was a POW for five and a half years), and has now written a small piece telling us why he won't be voting for McCain.

It boils down to something very simple: Phillip Butler opposes McCain because Butler is a liberal Democrat.

There is nothing wrong or disreputable about this; but of course, it's hardly surprising, either. Heck, I won't be voting for Barack H. Obama because he's a liberal Democrat. In Butler's entire piece, he offers only one reason why anybody but a liberal Democrat might consider voting against McCain:

I can verify that John has an infamous reputation for being a hot head. He has a quick and explosive temper that many have experienced first hand. Folks, quite honestly that is not the finger I want next to that red button.

Well, all right. But for me, McCain's temper is vastly overbalanced by Obama's fecklessness, grandiosity, narcissism, radicalism, and willingness to cozy up to America's bitterest enemies, from Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright to Vladimir Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But then, I'm not a liberal Democrat.

And oddly, for the rest of the piece, Butler paints us a portrait of an honorable, courageous, loyal, dedicated, and conservative John McCain. Does he think this will appall or turn off the electorate? Did the Democrats even read anything beyond the title? Here are some excerpts from what the Democrats think is an "attack piece" on McCain:

John was a wild man. He was funny, with a quick wit and he was intelligent. But he was intent on breaking every USNA regulation in our 4 inch thick USNA Regulations book. And I believe he must have come as close to his goal as any midshipman who ever attended the Academy....

John's treatment as a POW:

1) Was he tortured for 5 years? No. He was subjected to torture and maltreatment during his first 2 years, from September of 1967 to September of 1969. After September of 1969 the Vietnamese stopped the torture and gave us increased food and rudimentary health care.... John allows the media to make him out to be THE hero POW, which he knows is absolutely not true, to further his political goals.

Butler offers no evidence that John McCain controls the media.

2) John was badly injured when he was shot down. Both arms were broken and he had other wounds from his ejection. Unfortunately this was often the case - new POW's arriving with broken bones and serious combat injuries. Many died from their wounds. Medical care was non-existent to rudimentary. Relief from pain was almost never given and often the wounds were used as an available way to torture the POW....

3) John was offered, and refused, "early release." Many of us were given this offer. It meant speaking out against your country and lying about your treatment to the press. You had to "admit" that the U.S. was criminal and that our treatment was "lenient and humane." So I, like numerous others, refused the offer....

But it must be remembered that [McCain] was one hero among many -- not uniquely so as his campaigns would have people believe.

Butler offers no evidence that McCain's campaign has claimed that he was the only hero of Vietnam.

John McCain served his time as a POW with great courage, loyalty and tenacity.... He was a POW who surmounted the odds with the help of many comrades, as all of us did....

Senator John Sidney McCain, III is a remarkable man who has made enormous personal achievements. And he is a man that I am proud to call a fellow POW who "Returned With Honor." That's our POW motto. But since many of you keep asking what I think of him, I've decided to write it out. In short, I think John Sidney McCain, III is a good man, but not someone I will vote for in the upcoming election to be our President of the United States.

But again, the last few paragraphs of Butler's piece make clear why he won't: He complains about McCain's support for "Bush's war in Iraq" and even trots out the "100 years" canard without seemingly understanding what McCain clearly said; Butler attacks "John's views on war, foreign policy, economics, environment, health care, education, national infrastructure and other important areas," equating them with those of President George W. Bush; he's afraid that McCain will appoint judges who believe in judicial restraint, which would surely lead to "continuing loss of individual freedoms, especially regarding moral and religious issues;" he argues that McCain is too comfortable with "some really obnoxious and crazy fundamentalist ministers;" and he attacks McCain for treating Bush decently... as opposed, I assume, to spitting in Bush's face, as Butler evidently would like to do.

In short, Butler is simply a true, blue liberal... and he is convinced that McCain is a true conservative -- just as McCain says he is. Is that a persuasive reason to vote against the man?

If this is what the Democrats are relying upon to turn the public away from McCain and towards Barack Obama, then -- as I said in an earlier post -- bring it on.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 23, 2008, at the time of 3:17 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 22, 2008

Do You Really Think Obama Will Get That "15% Bounce?"

Hatched by Dafydd

That's what Huge Hewgitt said today, echoing what Fred Barnes said yesterday and the McCain campaign has been pushing for a week or so now. But I think it's nonsense on stilts.

Why do candidates traditionally get a bounce from their parties' conventions? Because until then, they've barely been seen by ordinary (non-activist) voters; they've popped up in occasional televised clips from some speech on the nightly news, in a campaign ad, maybe a newspaper interview. In ordinary elections, the convention is the first time that a whopping, huge segment of voters actually tunes in to see what the candidate is all about: Thus, many of them form their first impressions during or after the convention.

If the candidate has anything at all going for him, he gets a bit bounce, as people say, "So that's who he is! Nice feller." Of course sometimes, the reaction is, "So that's who he is -- what a pompous jackass!" Then you have the Kerry Phenomenon... a 1-point "bounce" in the polls (otherwise known as a 1-point dull, sickening thud).

But season we've seen wall-to-wall coverage of every last prophetic revelation by the One. The TV and radio stations follow him around with cameras and microphones, and they broadcast every utterance that trickles from his lips.

Breathes there a man or woman in America today who hasn't had his brain saturated, even oversaturated, with lashings of Barack H. Obama for the last twelvemonth? We've all been force-fed his vapid speeches, his cheap audacity, his empty-suited hope. Everybody knows virtually everything about the man -- and many of them are already annoyed at his grandiosity, his hyperinflated self-esteem -- "We are the Ones that we have been waiting for," sooth! -- and his ludicrous pretensions and self-delusions:

Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that, generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war, and secured our nation, and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth!

Who in this last, best hope on Earth -- apart from those actively working on his campaign, who are probably already in his corner -- is burning with curiosity to see Obama give a speech? How many more are burning with exasperation that they can't hardly swing a dead cat without hitting Obama making yet another speech carried live by all eighteen networks? Who besides yellow-dog Democrats is going to breathlessly tune in to the Democratic National Convention from Monday through Thursday to be transported across Elysian fields by the transcendent rhetoric of Senator B.O.?

I have a feeling this is going to be a very disappointing "bounce" for the Democrats this year, just as I (correctly) predicted the same for 2004. I think Obama's bounce is going to be no more than a jumping flea... say, 5% at most; and it will be gone by the time the GOP convention begins on September 1st, just four days after the Democratic convention ends.

Contrariwise, a lot fewer people know anything about John S. McCain, other than the disrespectful and risible caricature pushed by the elite media and by Obama himself in campaign ads. I suspect that a lot more truly undecided voters will watch the Republican National Convention, many of them moderate Republicans, independents, and even moderate Democrats; and they will come away much more favorably impressed by McCain than they were beforehand. Therefore, McCain will get a bigger bounce from the GOP convention than will Obama from the Democratic convention.

Who's with me on this? Do you all think this is going to be a blowout bounce for Barack?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 22, 2008, at the time of 6:55 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

A Wicked Prank - Oh, How I Wish!

Hatched by Dafydd

With Barack H. Obama coyly dragging out the naming of his running mate, I just thought of a truly inspired way (if I may toot my own kazoo) that John S. McCain could ambush the inexperienced senator from Illinois.

Imagine if today, McCain were to call a press conference -- and name his own running mate before Obama names his!

That would turn today into a huge McCain-news day, forcing Obama to put off naming his VP, lest it have no impact at all. But he can't wait; the convention is starting Monday, I think. So either Obama has to withhold the unveiling until the convention speech... or else he has to name his "fellow traveler" tomorrow, in the wake of McCain's announcement. Either way, McCain takes the initiative, and Obama is reduced to saying "me too!" like Rudy, the little joey of the Sour Kangaroo in Horton Hears a Who.

And think how it would throw the Obama campaign into a quagmire, as the Democrat begins second-guessing his own pick. Can he un-invite someone from the ticket? Or would he be forced to stick with his choice, even if McCain's choice makes some other Democrat more strategic?

Alas, it'll never happen. Steve Schmidt, McCain's campaign capo di tutti i capi, isn't that clever. Or perhaps not that wicked.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 22, 2008, at the time of 1:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 21, 2008

John McCain: Safe As Houses - minor update

Hatched by Dafydd

So John S. McCain is "rich" and "out of touch" because he didn't know offhand how many residences he and his wife own. Right? Well, perceptions sometimes overrule reality; but for this post, let's talk about the reality.

Cindy McCain inherited a vast fortune, today worth possibly as much as $100 million, from her beer-distributing father, James Hensley; Hensley & Co. is one of the largest distributers for Anheuser-Busch. When you have what Friend Lee's grandfather calls "a lotta hell money," you would be a fool to manage it yourself. You have a veritable army of accountants, probably at several different firms, each specializing in a different aspect of money management.

Anybody who has ever had a 401K or IRA account and chosen to let professionals manage it -- which includes a great many middle-income Americans who are not by any stretch of the imagination "rich" -- understands McCain's dilemma... do all those people really know, offhand, exactly what stocks, bonds, commodities, or real properties in which their accounts are invested?

Cindy McCain probably knows; Politico should have asked her. But the question they asked McCain wrongly implies that McCain has so many residences in which he lives that he doesn't know how many... kind of like Saddam Hussein and his palaces.

In fact, the McCains own eight properties; but five of them are investment properties, some of which their kids (and one elderly aunt) are allowed to occupy in the meantime. John and Cindy McCain don't live in those properties themselves.

McCain knows exactly how many houses they have for personally living in; two: a condo in Phoenix, Arizona, and a house in Arlington, VA (used when the Senate is in session). (The Obamas also own at least two properties, one in Illinois and one near D.C.) They also have a ranch in Sedona, AZ, that McCain uses for Senate-related business, and which Cindy sometimes uses for entertaining business clients. The other five properties -- two condos in Phoenix, two in Coronado, CA, and one in La Jolla, CA -- are for long-term investment and for their kids, with one condo for Cindy McCain's aunt.

McCain made the mistake of trying to answer the question honestly and completely when Politico asked; he didn't know how many properties his wife had for investment purposes, and he said so:

Q: How many houses do you and Mrs. McCain have?

A: I think -- I'll have my staff get to you. It's condominiums where -- I'll have them get to you.

It's a classic "gotcha" question: Politico didn't ask, "how many houses do you and Mrs. McCain have as your own personal residences;" so rather than give the dishonest answer of "two," he was honest and included the condos they own as investments. That was a figure he wouldn't know (Cindy has bought several recently)... and likely neither would Sens. John Kerry (D-MA, 95%), Ted Kennedy (D-MA, 85%), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 90%), Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%), or any other very rich person who had investment portfolios managed by accountants, know exactly how many real-estate investments they have.

(Had McCain answered only as to his personal residences, the headline would have been, "McCain Lies About Number of Houses He Owns!")

Is McCain very rich today? Absolutely yes; he married an heiress. But Barack H. Obama is at least quite rich himself, earning millions of dollars a year on royalties that are, to a large extent, driven by his presidential candidacy. And unlike Obama, McCain has never argued that wealth is a sin that should be punished by confiscatory taxation.

How about the other question: Is McCain "out of touch" with concerns of the typical voter? That question, coming from somebody with the background of Obama, is laughable. Let's take a look at a few side-by-side comparisons:

Birth and childhood

  • First, Barack Obama was born in Hawaii to parents who both went on to earn advanced degrees -- his father as Harvard economist, his mother as a PhD anthoropologist.
  • John McCain was an Army brat who moved numerous times during his childhood, as his father was deployed to various military bases (McCain was born at the Coco Solo Naval Air Station's base hospital, in the Panama Canal Zone, during one of those deployments). One of his grandfathers was an admiral; the other was a bootlegger and illegal gambling-den owner.
  • McCain was shunted to one military base school after another, and was also home-schooled by his stay-at-home mother. For his junior-high years, McCain attended a religious school, St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, VA; then his father was transferred again, and McCain naturally followed. All in all, McCain attended 20 different schools... at most of which he got in disciplinary trouble for fighting and talking back.
  • Obama's family moved to Indonesia for a number of years; then at age 10, Obama moved back to Hawaii (joined by his mother the next year), where he enrolled in an elite, new-leftist, private prep school, Punahou School, for his junior-high and high school education.

Higher education

  • Obama went for two years to Occidental College, then shifted to ultra-liberal Columbia University in New York City for his bachelor's degree -- in political science and international relations, of course.

    After graduation, he worked for a few years as a "community organizer" in Chicago (he has never adequately explained what that meant); then he attended Harvard Law School... where he was selected as editor of the Harvard Law Review without ever having written (or submitted) an article to that legal journal. [Actually, one anonymous "note," said to be written by Obama, has been found; it doesn't appear to amount to much. See Power Line for details.]

  • McCain attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria, where he took two letters in wrestling and played junior varsity football and tennis. He also got in trouble for fighting, earning two nicknames -- "Punk" and "McNasty."

    He had mediocre grades, but he got into Annapolis on the basis of an entrance exam. He managed to graduate, despite frequently getting in trouble for rebeliousness, being a maverick, and fighting (do we detect a pattern here?) But despite the many Naval Academy traditions he violated, he never violated any tradition related to honor, courage, or duty; he was just a frequent jackass.

Military service

  • John McCain served honorably in the United States Navy for 27 years, rising to the rank of Captain (the Navy equivalent of Colonel in the other branches). During that time, he was awarded 15 medals and decorations from the United States Navy and two from the Republic of Vietnam. The former include the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Legion of Merit with Combat-V and one gold star, and of course a Purple Heart for wounds that nearly killed him when he was shot down, shot, beaten, and bayoneted in the belly.

    He was held as a prisoner of war for five and a half years, during which he was tortured, beaten, starved, and confined in appallingly unhygienic conditions.

    Upon return, he attended the U.S. Naval War College; later he commanded the largest aviation squadron (50 A-7 Corsairs) in the Navy, RAG VA-174 "Hellrazors." He got his final promotion to Captain, then was assigned to head the Senate Liaison Office within the Navy.

  •  

     

     

     

On beyond college and service

  • After getting his J.D. at the ripe, old age of 31, Barack Obama was hired by the University of Chicago, where they paid him to write his voluminous memoirs. After several years writing, he and Michelle jetted off to Bali for a number of months for some peace and quiet.

    The memoirs of Obama's adventurous life were eventually published as Dreams From My Father. For twelve years, before and after writing Dreams, he was also a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.

    While being paid as a full-time lecturer, he also served in the Illinois State Senate, was briefly employed by a law firm, and sat on seven boards of directors for various left-wing foundations, funds, and committees. Then he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

    Certainly nobody could call such a curriculum vitae "elitist!"

  • After leaving the Navy, McCain served two terms as a U.S. Representative from Arizona, then was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he is now serving in his fourth term. As you can clearly see, John McCain grew up and lived his life almost exactly like the little guy with the top hat and spats in the Monopoly game.

Now that I think about it, I believe John S. McCain is more "elite" than Barack H. Obama, at least in one respect: McCain has the eliteness of merit, talent, duty, sacrifice, military service, and above all, honor... while Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.

Yeah. A fight between these two gentlemen over who is more in touch with ordinary people? Bring it on.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 21, 2008, at the time of 7:08 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 20, 2008

The McCainville Nine-Pointer

Hatched by Dafydd

Back in June, I wrote a post, Obama Campaign More or Less Concedes Ohio and Florida to McCain, in which I finished with an obscure reference that I think needs amplification:

All in all, I believe McCain has many more paths to victory than does Obama; and I also believe that if John McCain will finally take off the gloves and start fighting Obama in the center, this will not even be a close race:

  • McCain can make an excellent start by aggressively pushing to drill for oil everywhere that he has not already taken off the table -- which only includes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the actual coastal waters of states that reject drilling.

    That still leaves the outer continental shelf on both oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, the Bakken shale-oil formation, and other shale-oil sites. He can also push for liquification of coal, natural gas, and continue his quest for more gasoline refineries and nuclear power plants... "Drill here, drill now, pay less." Surveys show that Americans now strongly favor drilling, drilling, and more drilling;

  • He can aggressively pursue a constitutional amendment to undo the horrible Supreme-Court decision last week in Boumediene and dare Obama and the Democrats to oppose it: "Obama and his Democratic friends think foreign terrorists fighting America deserve more rights than our own soldiers," he can argue;
  • He can hammer Obama on the staggering taxes he plans to raise, on Obama's complete indifference to gasoline prices, his refusal to visit Iraq or meet with Gen. Petraeus before yanking the troops out, his wildly liberal stances on abortion, same-sex marriage, and guns, and his complete ignorance of how most people in the United States live and worship;
  • And he can tie Obama more directly to the latter's prediction that the counterinsurgency strategy would be a complete failure and disaster: If we had followed Obama's strategy, we would have withdrawn from Iraq in defeat. Fortunately, we followed McCain's judgment... and we have pretty much won, with some mopping up left to do.

...

If McCain gets ahead of the power curve on the issues listed above, I believe this will be a 9-point election... and we won't have to worry about this or that little state: McCain will take many states that Kerry held last election.

So what do I mean by a "9-point election?" I don't literally predict that John S. McCain will win by exactly nine points; a "9-pointer" is like a "quarter pounder": It's just a name, not a precision measurement.

But I do mean that I conditionally predicted -- and since the condition has by and large been met, I now turn this into a full-scale prediction -- that McCain is going to win this presidential election by a fairly substantial margin: More than 6% nationwide and around 350 electoral votes. Maybe more.

In the entire twentieth century, how many presidents were elected by less than 5%? Only four, I believe: Woodrow Wilson in 1916, John F. Kennedy in 1960, Richard Nixon in 1968, and Jimmy Carter in 1976. There were, of course, 25 presidential elections from 1900 through 1996 (I cut it off there, not at 2000, because the 2000 election was for a term that began in the 21st century) -- so 16% of 20th-century elections were really close.

And then, 24 years after the Carter election, we had back to back "really close elections" in 2000 and again in 2004. It's not normal to have such close elections, and I don't believe we'll see one in 2008; so the only question is who ends up on top.

For a number of reasons -- none related to polling, though that too is starting to confirm my sense of flow -- I do not believe that Barack H. Obama is about to surge. In fact, I believe he already peaked, and it will be John S. McCain who surges right into the White House. Putting A and B together to get 4, I believe that McCain will win the election by more than 5%.

But in fact, Obama is a particularly bad candidate who is woefully underperforming the "generic Democrat," while McCain is very much outperforming the "generic Republican." So I'm giving him that extra edge: If I must pick a number, I'll say he wins by 7% over Obama, or 52.5% to 45.5%, with 2% going to other candidates.

That isn't a landslide, by the way; Ronald Reagan beat Carter by almost 10% and Mondale by more than 18%. Still, 7% is a substantial win with no wiggle room for Democrats to cheat or sue their way into the White House... and so decisive that they cannot even whine about it. (Well, maybe that's going too far.)

That big a win translates into a lot of close states going to McCain -- Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and many others; the Electoral College tends to magnify victory. So I predict 350 electoral votes for McCain, leaving 188 for Obama. (As a subsidiary forecast, I prognosticate that Larry Sabato's "Crystal Ball" will prophesy that Obama will win... until about a week before the election, at which point Sabato will abruptly reverse himself, jumping aboard the gravy wagon.)

Also, a substantial win in the presidential race should translate into a number of victories in the congressional races; we'll likely still lose some seats, but it won't be anywhere near the debacle that "pundants" are predicting today.

I'm staking my claim now, once again cutting against the conventional wisdom. I'm often right -- as when I predicted more than a year and a half ago that Hillary Clinton would not be the Democratic nominee; but I have certainly been wrong, as I was about the 2006 elections, when I failed to take into account the GOP's astonishing talent at self immolation.

We'll see. At the moment, I think I'm the only person predicting a "9-pointer." Even the McCain campaign is saying it will be razor-close... though I think they're just playing the expectations game. So write this day in your diary, as it will either mark the point at which the Lizard demonstrated his political prescience... or the day he went off the rails on the crazy train!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 20, 2008, at the time of 6:29 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 19, 2008

One Day in the Life of Barack Barackovitch

Hatched by Dafydd

After the Saddleback fiasco for Barack H. Obama, the first meme floated by Obama surrogates (in particular by Andrea Mitchell) was that the only way John S. McCain could have sounded so prepared, so confident, and so well informed was that -- he must have cheated.

He was outside the "cone of silence;" he heard the questions beforehand; he had an unfair advantage because Obama had to go first. But that has been pretty definitively debunked; guest blogger DRJ, for one, at Patterico's Pontifications has a timeline that pretty much rules out that possibility.

So now the desperate Democrats have floated a new meme: McCain's "cross in the dirt" story is "hauntingly like" a story told by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. McCain stole it! It never happened! Sure, John McCain may have done better answering the questions... but all that is negated because he's a serial plagiarist. After all -- didn't he also steal Jackson Brown's "Running on Empty," and didn't he insert a few words from a Wikipedia entry into some speech?

(Of course, if Barack Obama selects Joe Biden as his running mate, the accusation of plagiarism might be quietly dropped.)

Well. Let's take a look at this charge...

In the first place, when did this Solzhenitsyn story appear? It dates from a 1997 article, but it is not even a direct quotation from Solzhenitsyn; instead, it's a retelling by Fr. Luke Veronis, "an American priest serving in Albania," of a moment when Solzhenitsyn had hit a nadir during his long incarceration and had given up all hope:

Laying his shovel on the ground, he slowly walked to a crude work-site bench and sat down. He knew that at any moment a guard would order him to stand up, and when he failed to respond, the guard would beat him to death, probably with his own shovel. He had seen it happen to many other prisoners.

As he waited, head down, he felt a presence. Slowly, he lifted his eyes and saw a skinny, old prisoner squat down next to him. The man said nothing. Instead, he drew a stick through the ground at Solzhenitsyn’s feet, tracing the sign of the Cross. The man then got back up and returned to his work.

As Solzhenitsyn stared at the sign of the Cross, his entire perspective changed. He knew that he was only one man against the all-powerful Soviet empire. Yet in that moment, he knew that there was something greater than the evil that he saw in the prison, something greater than the Soviet Union. He knew that the hope of all mankind was represented in that simple Cross. And through the power of the Cross, anything was possible.

Note the most significant difference: In the Solzhenitsyn story, it's not a guard but rather another prisoner who makes the sign of the cross. If McCain stole the story, why would he change the actor from prisoner to guard? After all, if he's trying to show the fortitude they all displayed, it makes more sense if the prisoners themselves keep each other alive and hopeful, as in his other story about his fellow prisoner who sewed a small American flag out of scraps of cloth.

Second, much is made (e.g., by Andrew Sullivan) that in McCain's first full account of his captivity, written in 1973, he doesn't mention this story. But of course, one could equally well note that in Solzhenitsyn's first full accounting of his story, the Gulag Archipelago, also first published in 1973 (in French; the first English version dates from 1974, I believe), he evidently neglects to tell his own "cross in the dirt" story as well. Lot of that going around.

The story does not come from the Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn's seminal work about his many years in the Soviet political prison system. If someone can find this story there, please let me know, and I will correct this post. I don't think the book is available online in a searchable format (it's probably still in copyright), and I have no intention of thumbing through each page of both volumes of the book to find a single short anecdote. But nobody so far has claimed that the account appears in that work... just in the Veronis article.

Various liberal commentators insist that McCain first told his own story in 1999, two years after the Veronis article. But what they mean is that 1999 was when he first used it publicly as part of a campaign stump speech. But we have a very different claim by one of McCain's fellow POWs, Orson Swindle, held in the Hanoi Hilton at the same time, sometimes in the same cell with McCain:

"I recall John telling that story when we first got together in 1971, when were talking about every conceivable thing that had ever happened to us when we were in prison" Swindle told me a few minutes ago. "Most of us had been kept apart or in small groups. Then, in 1970, they moved us into the big cell. And when we all got to see each other and talk to each other directly, instead of tapping through walls, we had 24 hours a day, seven days a week to talk to each other, and we shared stories. I vaguely recall that story being told, among other stories." [1971 would be 26 years before the Fr. Veronis story first appeared, and even three years before the Gulag Archipelago itself was published in English, just in case the new claim is that the story appears there. I find it unlikely that McCain would have obtained a review copy while in the Hanoi Hilton.]

"I remember it from prison," Swindle continued. "There were several stories similar to that in which guards -- a very few, I might add -- showed compassion to the prisoners. It was rare, and I never met one, but some of the guys did."

So now, for the Democrats to maintain this meme -- vital to proving that Obama really won the Saddleback non-debate, no matter what ignorant, uninformed voters may have thought -- they must pursue one of the following options:

  • Orson Swindle, who is campaigning for McCain, is a big, fat liar. McCain never told him any such story. Swindle, like his name, is just lying to save McCain from the consequences of the senator's own serial prevarications, lies, slanders, and vicious Swift-Boating of the One, "the leader that God has blessed us with at this time," as Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%) said last Sunday.
  • Swindle is simply addled and confused, probably dating to the days of his nightmarish confinement. He's just like Ronald Reagan, whom we now know began suffering the symptoms of his unusually slow-progressing Alzheimer's disease around 1947, when he became president of the Screen Actors Guild and developed an incomprehensible loathing of Communists. Swindle is senile and befuddled and, well, he's just a bundle of nerves. He can't help it... he probably really does hallucinate that McCain told him that story in 1971. But of course, we know that's impossible -- because Solzhenitsyn himself didn't recount the original until 1997. [The wheels on the bus go round and round...]
  • All right, so maybe Swindle is right and McCain really did tell it to him and other prisoners in 1971. But all that proves is that McCain was a serial fabricator even back then. Look at all the other lies that he has told through the years: That the surge is a success, that an embryo is a person from the moment of conception, that we should lower taxes... the man is obviously a pathological liar, and you don't become one of those overnight. Therefore, the evidence is overwhelming that McCain was simply lying about that, air quotes, "cross in the dirt" story as long as 37 years ago. How can even Republicans possibly elect such a corrupt, Bible-thumping Nazi to the presidency?

So, Democrats, what's it to be then, eh? Which explanation do you pick to keep the Meme Team alive?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 19, 2008, at the time of 3:46 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 18, 2008

Obama's "No Child Left Alive" Policy

Hatched by Dafydd

I rarely do this, as you know -- publish a post that simply repeats the reasoning of somebody else's article. But David Freddoso on National Review Online has an article that is so powerful and urgent that I'm inclined to emphasize it here, following the lead of Scott Johnson at Power Line.

According to Freddoso's research (along with that of the Springfield, Illinois chapter of the National Right to Life Committee), Obama voted against a bill that came before his committee in the Illinois state senate in 2003 that would simply have declared that any baby who survived an abortion attempt, and was accidentally born alive instead, shall be considered a human person with all the rights of any other baby born alive. The bill was in response to Chicago hospitals that were taking second shots at such improperly born children, making sure the "procedure" was successful, no matter how many times it took -- and no matter whether the abortion was finished before or after live birth.

But now he has realized that this vote may come back to haunt him in his quest for the presidency... so he's brazenly lying, claiming the bill was instead an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade.

What makes this even more flagrant (and vile) is that the bill included language -- which Obama and every state senator on the committee, unanimously inserted -- explicitly avowing that it only affected the rights of babies that had actually been born alive and would have no impact whatsoever on foetuses still in the womb.

It would not even have forbidden partial-birth abortion, since the body of the bill explicitly defined a live birth as "the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of that member [of the species homo sapiens];" as partial-birth abortion means an incomplete extraction (as the name implies), its legality would not have been affected by this bill.

(What it would have affected is a botched partial-birth abortion, where the doctor accidentally delivers the entire baby, rather than everything but the head. It would have prevented hospitals from picking up the fully born baby and continuing with the "procedure" -- prying open the infant's skull and sucking out her brains with a vacuum.)

I really want John S. McCain and the GOP to jump on this: It's so obviously mendacious a denial, about an issue that is so fundamentally repulsive to real Americans -- letting living, born babies die of exposure in order to punish them for surviving an abortion attempt -- that I cannot see how he can weasel his way out of it.

And please bear in mind... I am pro-choice on abortion up to about two-thirds of the way through pregnancy. Nevertheless, I am not pro-choice on infanticide, which is what this bill was designed to prevent. And there is no way anybody living in a civilized culture (anybody but a lunatic liberal) can justify killing a post-born infant by deliberate neglect (starvation, dehydration, cold)... just because the mother originally wanted it removed from her womb.

All right; it's out. Why must they slay it as well?

Obama's policy itself is murderous, and his vain attempt to lie his way out of it deeply offends my intelligence and shocks my conscience.

(I have put the full text of the law in the "slither on," along with the modifying amendment unanimously adopted by the committee.)

Here is the complete text of SB1082, introduced on February 19th, 2003, into the Illinois state senate; the unanimous "neutrality language" amendment is shown in blue at the end, replacing the crossed-out section immediately above it.

AN ACT concerning infants who are born alive.

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly:

Section 5. The Statute on Statutes is amended by adding Section 1.36 as follows:

(5 ILCS 70/1.36 new)

Sec. 1.36. Born-alive infant.

(a) In determining the meaning of any statute or of any rule, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative agencies of this State, the words "person", "human being", "child", and "individual" include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.

(b) As used in this Section, the term "born alive", with respect to a member of the species homo sapiens, means the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of that member, at any stage of development, who after that expulsion or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion.

(c) A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law.

(c) Nothing in this Section shall be construed to affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any point prior to being born alive as defined in this Section.

Section 99. Effective date. This Act takes effect upon becoming law.

Here is the history of the bill. "Session Sine Die" at the end means that Illinois state senate term expired without any further action on the bill (meaning it was killed in committee).

And here is a list of the members of the senate Health and Human Services committee in the 93rd General Assembly; note that Barack Obama is the "chairperson."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 18, 2008, at the time of 3:12 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 17, 2008

Bigfoot Shows Some Leg; Reporters Get the Shoe

Hatched by Dafydd

So there's these three guys, right? And they're tramping in the woods when they happen to stumble across the corpse of a Bigfoot. And -- no, wait; they were in hot pursuit of an escaped felon, who shot a Bigfoot -- evidently mistaking him for a Fulton County sheriff -- which ran into the forest -- the Bigfoot, not the felon (or the sheriff) -- and these three guys followed hoping to render first aid. Oh, wait a minute; that's a different story. I meant to say these three guys were tracking a herd -- pack -- pod? Tracking a heel of Bigfeet. Bigfoots? And they saw one die, so they quickly stuffed him into the giant-sized freezer they always carry along on backpacking trips.

Yeah, that's the ticket:

[Matt] Whitton, ["an officer on medical leave from the Clayton County Police Department"] and Rick Dyer, a former corrections officer, announced the discovery in early July on YouTube videos and their Web site. Although they did not consider themselves devoted Bigfoot trackers before then, they have since started offering weekend search expeditions in Georgia for $499. The specimen they bagged, the men say, was one of several apelike creatures they spotted cavorting in the woods. [I picture a dozen or so Bigfeet, dressed in English regency costume, dancing a lobster quadrille through the underbrush.]

As they faced a skeptical audience of several hundred journalists and Bigfoot fans that included one curiosity seeker in a Chewbacca suit, the pair were joined Friday by Tom Biscardi, head of a group called Searching for Bigfoot. Other Bigfoot hunters call Biscardi a huckster looking for media attention.

I don't get this, I really don't. I don't understand how intelligent, supposedly common-sensical people like Michael Medved can so passionately believe in cryptozoological hoaxes so inherently implausible: How could a gigantic mammal -- much bigger than a human, about the size of a small bear (which, incidently, is my nominee for what animal, if any, is actually in the Sasquatchic freezer) -- roam the hills and hollers of the American Southeast, Middle West, Northwest, and the frozen Himalayas for all of human history... without leaving a single unambiguous trace of its existence?

No body. No skeleton. No identifiable tracks. No fur scraped off on a tree. No teeth. No poop. No blood, saliva, or DNA. And of course, no clear and untampered video -- that isn't obviously a brown bear balanced precariously on its hind legs, or some fat guy in a gorilla suit, balanced precariously on his hind legs.

And why just those places? I might understand if it were found only in the United States -- but only in the United States and Tibet? Why not Andalusia, the Black Forest, the Amazon, or the French Riviera? Why don't we find Yetis in the casinos of Monte Carlo, Sasquatches in Sierra Leone, and Bigfeet on Brighton Beach?

Whitton, Dyer, and Biscardi (sounds like a cross between an Italian biscuit and a Puerto Rican rum) showed up at the press conference; but they inadvertently neglected to bring the body itself for examination, as they had previously promised. Big surprise.

Instead, they brought an e-mail from "a scientist" (I'm surprised they didn't say "egghead"), which they insisted was clear evidence that they really had found the elusive, hirsuit humanoid... but I'll let our sagacious readers be the jug of that:

Biscardi, Whitton and Dyer presented what they called evidence supporting the Bigfoot theory. It was an e-mail from a University of Minnesota scientist, but all it said was that of the three DNA samples sent to the scientist, one was human, one was likely a possum and the third could not be tested because of technical problems.

For the love of Harry and the Hendersons, didn't those nitwits even read the e-mail before forwarding it to the media? As Charlie Brown would say, "How humiliating!"

By the way, I absolutely love this exchange between Tom "Bigfoot" Biscardi and the press:

Biscardi fielded most of the questions. Among them: Why should anyone accept the men's tale when they weren't willing to display their frozen artifact or pinpoint where they allegedly found it? How come bushwhackers aren't constantly tripping over primate remains if there are as many as 7,000 Bigfoots roaming the United States, as Biscardi claimed?

"I understand where you are coming from, but how many real Bigfoot researchers are out there trekking 140,000 miles a year?" Biscardi said.

Gee, Tom, I don't know. But how many Bigfoot researchers ever shot a Sasquatch in their pajamas?

Why doesn't Tom just answer the questions? Because there is no answer, of course; at least nothing coherent (or sober). One can ask similarly pointed questions about "Nessie," the mythological Loch Ness Monster, which is supposed to be a plesiosaur:

  • How did one dinosaur manage to survive for 65 million years -- wouldn't there need to be a breeding population?
  • Given the paucity of fish in Loch Ness, what does Nessie eat?
  • How does a cold-blooded reptile survive in a frigid freshwater lake in northern Scotland, which in winter approaches freezing?
  • Plesiosaurs don't live forever: Where are all the bloated, floating Nessie bodies and skeletons from the hundreds of generations which must have died just in the last few centuries?
  • Since Loch Ness is only about 10,000 years old, having been carved out by glaciers during the last ice age, where did Nessie(s) live for the 64,990,000 years before that?
  • While we're on the subject, how did cold-blooded Nessie survive that ice age, and the hundreds of previous ice ages, in the first place?
  • Since plesiosaurs were air-breathers, they had to take frequent breaths, as do whales, dolphins, walruses, and every other air-breathing, water-dwelling creature; why don't tourists see Nessie popping up to breathe constantly, day and night?
  • Finally, if Nessie is a plesiosaur, how does it stick its head out of the water? I suspect Wikipedia is probably correct in its Plesiosaur entry:

    "Contrary to many reconstructions of plesiosaurs, it would have been impossible for them to lift their head and long neck above the surface, in the 'swan-like' pose that is often shown {Everhart, 2005; Henderson, 2006}. Even if they had been able to bend their necks upward to that degree (which they could not), gravity would have tipped their body forward and kept most of the heavy neck in the water."

Intelligence is not just cramming a lot of facts into your head or memorizing formulas or somesuch; it also requires synthesizing old information into new information -- or in popular terms, using your head. There is no Nessie; there is no Sasquatch; there is no Mothman and no crashed alien spaceship in Area 51.

We know these creatures do not exist because if they did, we would have found them. The common (and foolish) retort from cryptozoologists is, "What about the coelacanth and the giant squid?" But in fact, this is an argument against the cryptozoologists' position:

We always knew that coelacanths existed; we just thought they were extinct. But we found the first live one 70 years ago, and we have studied them extensively since then (even using submersible vehicles to study them in situ).

And as far as giant squids, we have literally thousands of intact corpses on file in various marine biology labs. So for these two unquestionably extant "monsters," we have ample evidence for them -- including living and freshly dead specimens.

So where are Nessie and Bigfoot?

Unless Messrs. Whitton, Dyer, and Biscardi can actually produce a bona-fide Bigfoot bod, I think we can answer the question above: Their only known habitat is our fevered imaginations.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 17, 2008, at the time of 5:03 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 16, 2008

New Obama VP Speculation...

Hatched by Dafydd

For months now, various yahoos have offered wild guesses as to who John S. McCain will name as his running mate. Generally, the putative "inside information" seems more designed to freak out Republicans and send them running around in circles with their hair on fire... sort of like Homer Simpson at a typical Simpson barbecue (if Homer had hair, that is).

Nameless wretches have variously suggested Joe Lieberman, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Ridge, Lincoln Chafee (whose middle name is Davenport, aptly enough), or that woman who claims Don Siegelman was railroaded. At each new and increasingly bizarre claim, more and more Republicans froth at the mouth, chew broken bottles, and bay at the moon.

Evidently, however, some wag named Jon Keller, who works out of some television station in Boston (WBZTV), believes turnabout is sauce for the gander. Keller speculates on his blog that Barack H. Obama has short-listed for VP a chap with a familiar name, face, and loser history... yes, Mr. Keller suggests -- I rib you not -- that Obama is seriously considering bringing Sen. John F. Kerry onto the ticket as running mate... though I cannot guarantee that Keller isn't ribbing us all:

So why would Obama reach out to Kerry as his choice?

Kerry brings more money and name recognition to the table than any other name on the Obama list so far. Americans do tend to love a comeback kid and this would be the most amazing political comeback since Richard Nixon came back from the dead forty years ago....

Polls show many voters question Obama's foreign policy credentials to be a wartime president. As a decorated veteran and longtime member of the senate foreign relations committee, Kerry could fill that gap. [Oh please, oh please...!]

Obama suffers from being a new face on the political scene, but Kerry -- warts and all -- is well known to the voters [I'll say he is!], and in 2004, he did draw more votes than any democrat ever has. [But of course, considerably fewer than the already unpopular George W. Bush.]

Apart from the obvious boost it would give the Republicans -- and the long-awaited return of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- I have another, more personal reason why I dream of just such a cockamamie choice, as implausible and unlikely as I find it.

I so desperately want to hear some constipated conservative call up Hugh Hewitt, hyperventilate about the possibility, and finally threaten -- "If that jerk Obama picks John Kerry as running mate, I'll... I'll just vote for McCain, I swear to God I will!"

That alone would be worth the price of admission.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 16, 2008, at the time of 2:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 14, 2008

"A Plot to Stop Barack Obama"

Hatched by Dafydd

Pravda and the little pravdaniks have a new party line on the rape of Georgia:

Russians were told over breakfast yesterday what really happened in Georgia: the conflict in South Ossetia was part of a plot by Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, to stop Barak Obama being elected president of the United States....

The Obama angle is getting wide play. It was aired on Wednesday by Sergei Markov, a senior political scientist who is close to Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister and power behind President Medvedev.

So I begin to wonder: How long before this same Kremlin meme begins showing up in the unbiased, nonpartisan elite Western and American media?

At least it's quite clear which presidential candidate the Kremlin favors. Is it not fascinating that virtually every enemy of America is hoping against hope for Barack H. Obama to be elected president -- not John S. McCain?

Here's another juicy bit from the Soviet -- whoops, Russian news agencies:

A classic of Soviet-speak also came from Vasili Lickhachev, a former Russian Ambassador to the EU. “The West has spent a lot of time, energy and money to teach Georgia the tricks of the trade... to make the country look like a democracy,” he said.

“We and many other nations see through this deceit. We understand that the seditious tactics of the so-called colour revolutions are a real threat to international law and the source of global legal nihilism.”

And this one is particularly jolly:

The coverage goes down well in developing countries that want an alternative to CNN and BBC World Service, a Russian official said. “We have learnt from Western TV how to simplify the narrative.”

Thank you, Ted Turner; we're now to be inundated by "McPravda."

A very chummy bilateral relationship is developing between the Russian establishment "press" and the paranoid Left in America... between the Cossacks and the Kossacks, if you will: Each feeds off the other's conspiracy theories, citing its counterpart as a "source" for its own recycled insanity. They're a pair of cannibals, each consuming the other; when do they finally run out of meat?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 14, 2008, at the time of 10:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Sweet Georgia Blown

Hatched by Lee

Russia and its supporters within the Democratic Party constantly charge that Georgia engaged in "provocations" that justified at least some military response by Russia, if not quite as severe a one as it actually undertook. Yet among the provocative actions that Russia itself committed was issuing Russian passports to large numbers of separatists and sympathizers in South Ossetia. In fact, this is what finally gave Russia its pretext for this operation, as it claimed the need to protect "its citizens in South Ossetia."

This would be equivalent to Mexico offering Mexican passports to any "Aztlan"-supporting Hispanic-American radicals living in the American Southwest, then sending Mexican troops into Arizona to stop ICE raids, calling them war crimes against Mexican citizens.

A majority of Ossetians gleefully accepted these passports; and as John S. McCain noted, there are billboards across South Ossetia and Abkhazia reading "Vladimir Putin is our president."

Russia insists it was acting as a peacekeeper in South Ossetia, rejecting Georgian accusations that it has been supplying arms to the separatists.

But it has vowed to defend its citizens in South Ossetia -- of which there are many. More than half of South Ossetia's 70,000 citizens are said to have taken up Moscow's offer of a Russian passport.

Clearly, residents of those provinces think of themselves as Russian citizens (of Iranian descent), not Georgians; and they declare all of Ossetia (North and South) and Abkhazia to be independent and sovereign nations... notwithstanding the fact that no country, not even Russia, has recognized that independence.

The ceasefire, brokered by Nicholas Sarkozy, between Russia and Georgia -- which Russia has already violated -- calls on all military forces to return to the status quo ante. When (if) the Russians do withdraw, and if Georgia is somehow able to gain control of the breakaway territory, I would not like to see the passport fiasco ignored.

What should be Georgia's response? Very simple: Accepting a Russian passport should be considered the same as renouncing Georgian citizenship. I'd like to see Georgia begin deporting every Ossetian or Abkhazian who took Russia up on its offer.

Peacekeeping forces from NATO may be able to help them implement this. The inevitable charge of "ethnic cleansing" will ring hollow; their deportation would not be based on ethnicity but on self-selection: The deportees willingly renounced Georgian citizenship and were being deported as "undesirable aliens" who knowingly participated in activity that destabilized South Ossetia and promoted secession.

The Ukrainians are probably planning to sit tight and hope their turn doesn't come before the US election. If McCain wins, Ukraine should take a good hard look at NATO and EU membership. The alternative may be a return to vassal status under a new Evil Empire.

Hatched by Lee on this day, August 14, 2008, at the time of 3:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 13, 2008

AP Charges McCain with Democracy Mongering

Hatched by Dafydd

The Associated Press, in the body of Pete Yost, has made serious accusations of impropriety against presumptive Republican nominee John S. McCain... charges that surely warrant federal investigation and possible disqualification from the presidential race:

McCain stands charged with deliberately and maliciously supporting democracy over the increasingly progressive, humanitarian, and laudible People's Federation of Russia.

More serious is the accusation that the senator, who is older than dirt, took onto his campaign staff a man, Randy Scheunemann, who willfully and with malice aforethought accepted money from the liberal democracy of Georgia -- but pointedly refused to do the same for Georgia's progressive neighbor to the north, which we can unanimously agree he should have done, in all fairness. To discriminate between democracy and progressivism, as McCain continues to do, is to engage in out and out discrimination.

Finally, the most serious charge: Before McCain hired Scheunemann, he was a paid lobbyist, frequently granted access to McCain's inner office; this allowed Scheunemann to argue in favor of democracy over progressive, peaceful consolidation and internationalist coalition-building -- without McCain ever giving the latter equal time, as the Progressive Fairness Doctrine-Plus (soon-to-be introduced in Congress) requires.

These astonishing lapses call McCain's judgment into serious question and raise ethical concerns. Concern at the highest levels about McCain's moral qualification are mounting, as Yost elucidates:

John McCain's chief foreign policy adviser and his business partner lobbied the senator or his staff on 49 occasions in a 3 1/2-year span while being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the government of the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

The payments raise ethical questions about the intersection of Randy Scheunemann's personal financial interests and his advice to the Republican presidential candidate who is seizing on Russian aggression in Georgia as a campaign issue.

The implication that a sitting United States Senator's position on an important issue might be influenced by a paid lobbyist is disturbing enough; but when the issue is the conflict between the so-called "elected" "President" Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia and the progressive, action-oriented, people's government of Vladimir Putin -- and the lobbyist in question (Scheunemann) is paid by one of the parties to the conflict (the wrong one) -- it raises the moral stakes to EthCon 4.

Progressive law professor Stephen Gillers puts the whole issue on the back of his hand:

"Scheunemann's work as a lobbyist poses valid questions about McCain's judgment in choosing someone who -- and whose firm -- are paid to promote the interests of other nations," said New York University law professor Stephen Gillers. [Particularly nations that cling to the discredited political theory of "democracy."] "So one must ask whether McCain is getting disinterested advice, at least when the issues concern those nations."

"If McCain wants advice from someone whose private interests as a once and future lobbyist may affect the objectivity of the advice, that's his choice to make."

But the choice McCain has made about Herr Scheunemann speaks volumes.

Gillers' credentials and wisdom are certainly beyond reproach; he was, for example, the first unofficial John Kerry advisor in 2004 to suggest that he pick former President Bill Clinton as his running mate. The raised eyebrow of Gillers alone should provoke an investigation by the appropriate congressional committee; does the fact that John McCain allowed himself to be lobbied by a democratic nation, while rejecting the support of nondemocratic, illiberal nations, legally disqualify him from the presidency?

Even McCain's own spokesman was forced to admit that the senator has an unhealthy obsession with democratic nations... and a well-known bias against progressive people's republics, such as the People's Federation of Russia, the Joyful Worker's Friendship Republic of Cuba, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam:

McCain has been to Georgia three times since 1997 and "this is an issue that he has been involved with for well over a decade," said McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers.

McCain's strong condemnation in recent days of Russia's military action against Georgia as "totally, absolutely unacceptable" reflects long-standing ties between McCain and hardline conservatives such as Scheunemann, an aide in the 1990s to then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

The ongoing collusion between McCain and Scheunemann -- first pointed out by the campaign of Barack H. Obama -- has now drawn the scrutiny of the fourth branch of the federal government, the Associated Press; RICO charges have been considered, as well as accusations of conspiracy:

Scheunemann, who also was a foreign policy adviser in McCain's 2000 presidential campaign, has for years traveled the same road as McCain in pushing for regime change in Iraq and promoting NATO membership for Georgia and other former Soviet republics.

While their politics coincide, Russia's invasion of Georgia casts a spotlight on Scheunemann's business interests and McCain's conduct as a senator.

Scheunemann's firm lobbied McCain's office on four bills and resolutions regarding Georgia, with McCain as a co-sponsor or supporter of all of them.

AP unearthed a bombshell when they reported that McCain personally telephoned the putative "Mikheil Saakashvili" under highly suspicious circumstances involving $200,000 changing hands -- and then again yesterday; sensing the possibility of skulduggery, Barack Obama made his own follow-up call to begin the investigation into the potentially unethically and possibly even criminal behavior of his rival, behavior which could, in theory, result in John McCain being disqualified for the presidential run, clearing the way for Obama's ascension:

Four months ago, on the same day that Scheunemann's partner signed the latest $200,000 agreement with Georgia, McCain spoke with Saakashvili by phone. The senator then issued a strong statement saying that "we must not allow Russia to believe it has a free hand to engage in policies that undermine Georgian sovereignty."

Rogers, the McCain campaign spokesman, said the call took place at the request of the embassy of Georgia. And McCain campaign spokeswoman Nicolle Wallace added that the senator has full confidence in Scheunemann. "We're proud of anyone who has worked on the side of angels in fledgling democracies," she said in an interview.

McCain called Saakashvili again on Tuesday. "I told him that I know I speak for every American when I said to him, today, we are all Georgians," McCain told a cheering crowd in York, Pa. McCain's Democratic rival, Barack Obama, had spoken with Saakashvili the day before [obviously in an investigative capacity only, which has not been denied so far by either campaign].

The McCain campaign has likewise issued no statement whatsoever answering the unasked question of whether yesterday's call also involved hundreds of thousands of dollars going into the pocket (or pockets) of person (or persons -- or people, even) unknown.

The extent of Scheunemann's treacherous lobbying of McCain is jaw-dropping... always on behalf of democracies, and actually specializing, it appears, in those which have turned perversely against progressivism and the will of the people by rebelling against centrally planned, rational, scientific authority:

In addition to the 49 contacts with McCain or his staff regarding Georgia, Scheunemann's firm has lobbied the senator or his aides on at least 47 occasions since 2001 on behalf of the governments of Taiwan and Macedonia, which each paid Scheunemann and his partner Mike Mitchell over half a million dollars; Romania, which paid over $400,000; and Latvia, which paid nearly $250,000. Federal law requires Scheunemann to publicly disclose to the Justice Department all his lobbying contacts as an agent of a foreign government.

After contacts with McCain's staff, the senator introduced a resolution saluting the people of Georgia on the first anniversary of the Rose Revolution that brought Mikhail Saakashvili to power.... [!]

In 2005 and 2006, McCain signed onto a resolution expressing support for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia; introduced a resolution expressing support for a peace plan for Georgia's breakaway province of Ossetia; and co-sponsored a measure supporting admission of four nations including Georgia into NATO.

It hardly comes as a shock, then, when that same pair, McCain and Scheunemann -- now conspiring in the open to deny the American presidency to yet another progressive hero of the people -- issue utterly biased, partisan propaganda speeches opposing the reunification of Georgia with the motherland. In stark contrast, the response of Obama has been measured, uncertain, and far more nuanced; he has consistently supported both sides in this conflict, thus exhibiting perfect fairness and cultural relativism, magnificently positioning himself for his upcoming coronation over the pretender.

The aged and increasingly cranky McCain, who personally witnessed the destruction of Pompei, may not himself be as culpable as Scheunemann; many of McCain's Senate colleagues have said for years that something funny happened to him during his lengthy prison term, and he may just not be quite right anymore.

But there is no such extenuating circumstance that can explain Randy Scheunemann's persistent refusal to give the same benefit of the doubt to progressive people's republics that he routinely extends to democracies that hold "elections" -- elections that rarely produce the popular unanimity that accompanies the true elections found in the People's Federation of Russia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the Free and Progressive Islamic Republic of Iran.

Scheunemann is widely suspected of being a neoconservative, leading a cabal of neoconservatives who are trying to impose their crabbed and narrow worldview on the rest of the country. Troubling questions about McCain's moral fitness to lead -- which were already mounting -- continue to mount, as AP enumerates:

  • Scheunemann "relentlessly pushed for war in Iraq;"
  • Scheunemann and his neoconservative cronies relentless called for phony "regime change" in Iraq to create a new "world order;" yet now they hypcritically oppose the honest regime change in Georgia;
  • Scheunemann and his co-conspirators have the temerity actually to defend the supposed "surge" in Iraq... even having the gall to expropriate the noble word "progress" to describe it;
  • Scheuenemann has been described (for example, in this sentence) as the "fuhrer" of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which nakedly called for the overthrow of a popularly elected government by force and violence -- though Scheunemann himself may have remained clothed;
  • Scheunemann has been linked to the Project for the New American Century, which propagandized about various alleged "links" between Iraq and "terrorists;" yet a massive investigation by a blue-ribbon federal commission clearly debunked PNAC's purple prose, finding that Iraq and al-Qaeda never carried out any joint operations simultaneously commanded by senior officers in both organizations under an order signed by both Osama B. bin Laden and Saddam O. Hussein at a signing ceremony held in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Not even once;
  • Most damning, Scheunemann has been connected to "a Who's Who of neoconservative luminaries including William Kristol and Richard Perle." Confronted with this evidence, Scheunemann was utterly unable to deny it.

While it may be eye-opening, mind-boggling, and astonishing, it should not be surprising that a creature like the Scheunemann is able to seduce a man with the questionable history of John McCain (whose first forray into the Senate required him to wear a toga) into supporting a brutal democratic regime like Georgia, that has engaged in some of the most aggressive, warmongering behavior that we've seen since the dark days of Ronald Reagan. Consider these accounts from a highly respected news agency (hat tip to John Hinderaker at Power Line, who is evidently just as concerned about this neoconservative unilateralism and democracy-mongering as I):

War between Russia and Georgia orchestrated from USA

Russian officials believe that it was the USA that orchestrated the current conflict. The chairman of the State Duma Committee for Security, Vladimir Vasilyev, believes that the current conflict is South Ossetia is very reminiscent to the wars in Iraq and Kosovo.

Russia: Again Savior of Peace and Life

The international community collectively held their breath waiting for the reaction of Russia after the savage, brutal, criminal attack by Georgia on South Ossetia. After having offered a cease fire in hostilities, the back stabbing Georgians immediately violated the cease fire, invading South Ossetia and causing massive destruction and death among innocent civilians, among peacekeepers and also destroying a hospital....

Georgian troops attempted to storm the city [Tskhinval] much as Hitler‘s Panzer divisions blazed through Europe. Also noteworthy is the fact that Georgian tanks and infantry were being aided by Israeli advisors, a true indicator that this conflict was instigated by outside forces....

Relating what has become common practice among war criminals, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reported: "A Russian humanitarian convoy has come under fire. Panic is growing among the local population, and the number of refugees is increasing. There are reports of ethnic cleansing in some villages... The situation is ripe for a humanitarian catastrophe."

The two-faced, underhanded foreign policy of Georgia

Ask anyone in the Caucasus region, and they will tell you never to trust a Georgian because they would shake your hand with a smile and then stab you in the back. On Friday morning, we saw a perfect example of this treachery, when hours after declaring a ceasefire, Georgian military units launched a savage attack on the civilians of South Ossetia.

Hours after Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili, the pro-western Washington-backed anti-democratic stooge (attacks on opposition policians in Georgia are rife) declared a unilateral ceasefire, the Georgian army lanched a savage attack on the capital of the province of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, with tanks and infantry, while the air force bombed a village and strafed a Russian humanitarian aid convoy.

That a member of "the world's greatest deliberative body" would align himself with such "democracy" against a progressive people's state is deeply troubling. That he would do so on the advice of a being of pure, existential evil, who used to accept filthy lucre from the bloodstained hands of a democratic state, to conspire against historical inevitability... is despicable.

I stand foresquare with the Democratic Party, the presidential campaign of Barack H. Obama, and the progressive supermajority of Americans in demanding that John S. McCain, firstborn son of Cain the fratricide after he betook himself to the land of Nod and got himself a wife, be ruled ineligible for the high office of President of the United States. And that the Republican Party, as punishment for knowingly nominating a man with such a disgraceful and stomach-turning predeliction for democracy over progressivism, be disallowed from substituting any other criminal, thuggish Republican for such an august office.

The only appropriate response to these staggering revelations from AP is for Obama's path to be cleared, so the vast majority of the American people do not have to spend months on tenterhooks, worried that the Republican-Diebold axis might once again saddle the country with one of their mindless orcs.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 13, 2008, at the time of 6:23 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 12, 2008

The Expert Testifier on the Hot Tub

Hatched by Dafydd

Here's a how d'ye do...

When I saw the tag-line in the Excite feed for this New York Times story on expert witnesses here and abroad, my immediate, naive response was negative. The tag was taken from this early graf in the story:

In most of the rest of the world, expert witnesses are selected by judges and are meant to be neutral and independent. Many foreign lawyers have long questioned the American practice of allowing the parties to present testimony from experts they have chosen and paid.

My instant impulse was to cry foul: In most of the rest of the world, expert witnesses are meant to reflect the opinion of the judge, which is why he chooses them in the first place... resulting in judges having even more power in Europe than they do here.

I do believe that's true; but on the other hand, I recalled that I, too, have railed against the American system of both sides hiring "their" expert witnesses, each of whom testifies in lockstep with that lawyer's theory of the case. As I calmed down and actually read the article, I found it reasonably balanced as such things go.

Here is the problem; whoever selects the expert witnesses at trial, whether civil or criminal, thus exerts tremendous influence over the outcome. George Orwell wrote, "Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." We could as easily say, Who controls the "expert" testimony controls the trial; who controls the selection controls the testimony.

The Times continues, putting the Euro-view of such testimony in a nuthouse:

The European judge who visits the United States experiences “something bordering on disbelief when he discovers that we extend the sphere of partisan control to the selection and preparation of experts,” John H. Langbein, a law professor at Yale, wrote in a classic article in The University of Chicago Law Review more than 20 years ago.

Partisan experts do appear in court in other common-law nations, including Canada, Singapore and New Zealand. But the United States amplifies their power by using juries in civil cases, a practice most of the common-law world has rejected.

First point:

  • I find it very illuminating (if true, and I have no reason to doubt) that "most of the common-law world has rejected" trial by jury in civil cases. I believe the reason is obvious: Euro-elites simply do not trust the judgment of their own citizens.

Clearly we sometimes get runaway juries, as with the cases against Big Cigarette or some of the loopy personal injury cases tried by such corrupt ambulance chasers as John Edwards. But I honestly think we're much more likely to get a runaway judge.

In the European system, a lawyer with a bad case doesn't need convince 12 jurors in a criminal case, or even some lesser amount in a civil trial, to go along with his insane theory; he only needs to persuade one, single feller in a black robe; the judge then selects the expert the lawyer suggests and refuses to call any experts suggested by the opposition.

This process is particularly easy if the corrupt lawyer cleverly went judge-shopping before the trial, making sure to get one who already leaned towards the lawyer's case:

Some years ago, we managed to get a strong, bipartisan majority of the voters in California to pass Proposition 209, Ward Connerly's citizen initiative that outlawed racial discrimination for or against any race in state employment, school admissions, and contracting decisions.

But it took only one federal district-court judge, Thelton Henderson, to rule that banning racial discrimination was racially disciminatory... a judge who was "shopped" by the anti-209 forces. I'm very skeptical that a jury of ordinary citizens would have been ideologically blinded enough to pull such a whopper.

Second point:

  • There is no obvious correlation between allowing a judge to select an expert witness and said witness being unbiased; it just shifts the bias from being blindingly obvious (a witness brought and paid for by one side) to having the illusion of nonpartisanship: an equally biased witness who is called by the judge himself.

As above, the whole idea founders on the fallacious presumption that the judge is actually a neutral arbiter with no bones in the dog.

When a John Edwards-like lawyer brings a fraudulent case, he invariably puts on the stand his own pet professional testifiers, all of whom are guaranteed to say that whatever the defendant did caused whatever injury the plaintiff suffered -- no matter how unconnected those two things are in the real world.

These very highly paid "experts" may in fact be widely considered jokes in the relevant field; but they are very, very good on the stand, always coming across as sincere, believable, competent, fatherly, and above all, certain and emphatic. Thus I agree that our system is imperfect.

But we're not comparing our system to perfection; we're comparing it to other systems we might plausibly adopt. With that in mind, how is the European system any better? At least in America, the defense can also put on expert witnesses -- even professional testifiers. They have a fighting chance; both sides get their at-bats.

In European and other foreign courts, judges, not lawyers, appoint experts; but a judge with a grudge can still appoint professional testifiers who actually know little to nothing about the issue (but whose testimony can be relied upon to parrot the judge's own opinon).

Under the European system, the other side isn't even allowed to put its own expert witnesses on the stand. ("Why do we need to allow the -- ugh -- other side to put its own lying exaggerators on the stand? It would only confuse matters.")

Either way, it's a dilemma, especially when the expert testimony is scientific in nature: Science is the least understood discipline among both juries and judges; people are far more likely to embrace some crazy theory about, say, power lines causing testicular cancer than they are to embrace the idea that electric blankets are inherently unsafe.

Most people have no experience with scientific concepts or the manner of scientific debate; they can easily be fooled by a "scientific expert" who is emphatic and absolutely certain. But real scientists are more often tentative and cautious, traits that jurors and judges alike frequently mistake for incompetence and shiftiness.

It drives me nuts, for example, when a judge allows testimony by an "expert" in the "scientific" field of parapsychology -- who then proceeds to testify that the plaintiff's ESP powers were "destroyed" by a CAT scan. ("And they never even warned me that I could lose my telekinetic abilities!")

(The galling part is that the plaintiff has no difficulty whatsoever demonstrating that she does not have any extrasensory perceptions right now... so she wins her case.)

I have longed for some way to keep absolute rubbish like that actual case -- or like John Edwards' testimony (unsworn, during his summation) that he psychically "heard" a brain-damaged baby demanding a caesarian section -- out of the courtroom. But how, without shifting to the Euro model?

One helpful step has been taken by several states: banning testimony that invokes "junk science" rejected by the mainstream scientific community.

The grounds for this are clear: If even the relevant scientists in the field don't believe that, e.g., CAT scans destroy ESP powers that don't exist anyway, then how can we expect a simple doctor, nurse, or clinic owner to think of "warning" a patient that it might? If you can't at least demonstrate that significant papers are being published in respected, refereed scientific journals supporting your outré "scientific" principle, you shouldn't be able to base your legal theory on that thoroughly rejected principle.

Still, this is a stopgap measure that doesn't get to the real problem: How is a jury to decide between a pair of dueling experts?

Amazingly, the Times article actually has something positive -- or at least interesting in its novelty -- to offer in place of the either-or of the expert witness... a system with the improbable name of "hot tubbing," and which can help a judge or jury discriminate between real experts and professional testifiers:

[Dr. Leonard Welsh] might have preferred a new way of hearing expert testimony that Australian lawyers call hot tubbing.

In that procedure, also called concurrent evidence, experts are still chosen by the parties, but they testify together at trial -- discussing the case, asking each other questions, responding to inquiries from the judge and the lawyers, finding common ground and sharpening the open issues...

Australian judges have embraced hot tubbing. “You can feel the release of the tension which normally infects the evidence-gathering process,” Justice Peter McClellan of the Land and Environmental Court of New South Wales said in a speech on the practice. “Not confined to answering the question of the advocates,” he added, experts “are able to more effectively respond to the views of the other expert or experts.”

I don't know if this is the perfect solution, but I think something rather like "hot tubbing" would be better than what we have now:

  • We retain the right of opposing counsel to call their own experts;
  • We retain the right of trial by jury;
  • But instead of dueling experts testifying to completely opposite points, each being questioned only by attorneys who don't understand the point in the first place, the experts would have to interrogate and debate each other.

In my mind, truth, and the distinction between competence and nuttery, is much likelier to come out when the experts ask each other expert questions. It's the difference between a "Lincoln-Douglas" debate and a townhall meeting.

As a potential juror, I would much rather see a hot tub debate among experts -- or "concurrent evidence," if you prefer the stuffy label -- than either the system we have today or the model they prefer in France and Sweden.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 12, 2008, at the time of 7:50 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 11, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

Hatched by Dafydd

I admit up front my innate antipathy for Russia, dating from the days of the Soviet empire. I took a wait and see attitude following the breakup of the USSR, and I certainly cheered on that drunken sot, Boris Yeltsin, as he climbed atop a tank and dismantled Communism. I was even fooled at the beginning by Vlad "the Impaler" Putin -- who evidently fooled President George W. Bush as well. But for a number of years now, I have thought that Putin's spy-eye view of Russia made it the second gravest threat facing the United States, ahead of China and North Korea and second only to the Iran/al-Qaeda Axis.

Thus, the moment I heard about Russia's invasion of the democratic, free-market nation of Georgia, I knew who was the aggressor and what side I was on. I'm quite gratified that John S. McCain is on the side of the angels. I'm not shocked that Barack H. Obama cannot make up his mind but leans towards the creeping totalitarianism of Russia, in which he perhaps sees a good model for America under himself. And I'm sympathetic to the frustration felt by many Americans that we seem unable to do anything about the barely concealed Russian re-expansionism.

The most urgent point, however, is not who started the war... it's that we cannot allow Russia to slip back across the border unobstructed, their goals accomplished. Putin must pay a severe price -- enough to make him think twice about trying it again. We cannot even allow it to end in stalemate, like the Israeli-Hezbollah-Hamas war of 2006; in the case of such well-planned "spontaneous" aggression, a tie goes to the aggressor.

KGB rules

In a monument to poor timing, Georgia did actually poke the Russian-identifying separatists in South Ossetia; but the Russian separatists have been aggressively pushing the Georgians ever since the bloodless Rose Revolution of 2003, which booted the corrupt former Soviet foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, out of office and brought current Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to power.

And the Russian response has been out of all proportion -- in fact, beyond all sanity -- and too swift and effective to be spontaneous. The logical conclusion is that they have been planning this invasion for a long time, only waiting for the eyes of the world to be turned elsewhere (the Olympics did nicely), and for some action on Georgia's part that Russia could seize upon as casus belli.

Russian troops have squatted in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another ethnically Russian enclave in Georgia, since 1994; and Russia has encouraged the separatists in both regions to launch terrorist attacks against Georgia citizens, engage in ethnic cleansing, and in general, to aggress towards Georgia about like the Chechens aggress towards Russia. So in the realm of "who provoked who first," I don't think any fair-minded person can dump the major blame anywhere but on the heads of the resurgency-minded Russian emperor, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

(Yes, I know that the current president of the Russian Federation is Dmitry Medvedev; but as I've said since the "big switch" this year, and as has now conclusively been proven, Putin leaving the presidency and becoming prime minister was just a ruse to get around term limits. He still controls Russia; Medvedev is simply Putin's catspaw.)

Putin still operates by the philosophy of the KGB, in which he was a rising star, in the Soviet Union he used to serve. Their strategy has always been to:

  1. Provoke trouble in some state or region they coveted;
  2. Then, in the guise of riding to the rescue of some Russian enclave somewhere, send an army to overturn an election;
  3. Then install their own man on the throne and dare anybody to do anything about it.

Thus, to me, it has been pretty clear from the first thrust that Russia desires nothing less than to reconquer Georgia, turning it once again into an unwilling satellite state to Russia, a slave-state run by a puppet government (or perhaps even directly by Russia itself).

Putin has expanded the war far beyond the borders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and has even bombed Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. And as John Hinderaker at Power Line noted over the weekend, Russia tried mightily -- and unsuccessfully, so far -- to destroy the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which runs from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey, connecting the Caspian oil fields to the Mediterranian Sea, thence to the international oil markets.

But what to do, what to do? I know you're shocked -- but I actually have a suggestion: We need to accelerate NATO membership for former Soviet slave-states -- those that have now reorganized as democratic powers (not including Georgia until the war ends, since that would oblige us to immediately enter the war). And if current NATO member states threaten vetos, then we need to put as much pressure on them as it takes to change their minds... up to and including a counterthreat to veto any future action that member state might want.

I especially suggest accelerating membership for a few particular nations:

Ukraine

Ukraine is probably the most important of the breakaway Soviet states, and they're already on track to submit a "membership action plan" at the end of this year. Let's speed that up -- get our ambassador there, William B. Taylor, to go into marathon meetings with them to resolve any outstanding issues. The goal would be immediately to offer them either full membership or -- if Ukraine still wants to hold a national referendum -- some sort of "interim membership."

The threat is immediate and urgent: Ukraine is one of Russia's primary international seaports (on the Black Sea); in fact, Russian navy ships have left Ukrainian ports to launch attacks on Georgian ships. If Russia succeeds in reconquering Georgia, it would be tempted to turn around and seize the main Ukrainian naval base of Sevastopol as well. And possibly Odessa.

The Ukrainian ports of Odessa and Sevastopol are shared by Russia, and they're Russia's main access to the Mediterranean -- through the Strait of Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles (all controlled by Turkey, a NATO member since 1952) to the Aegean Sea. If Ukraine were to deny Russian access to Sevastapol and Odessa -- and if Ukraine could make it stick, which would be much more plausible if they were members of NATO themselves -- this would be a staggering blow to Russia's military power... and a fitting punishment for starting a war of aggression against Georgia.

If Russia began threatening them anyway, despite NATO membership, then we certainly could decide to engage in joint Naval and Marine maneuvers with our newest military ally, right?

I think we have a very good entre to the current Ukrainian president, Viktor Andriyovych Yushchenko: During the 2004 presidential election, Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin by political allies of his main rival, Prime Minister Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych... who is widely considered to be Putin's toady. I suspect that President Yushkenko does not feel particuarly friendly towards Russia nowadays... especially if he looks at what's happening in Georgia and wonders, rationally enough, whether Ukraine is next on the menu.

Moldova

Moldova is nowhere near as important as Ukraine; but it's also saddled with Russian "peacekeeping" forces. They have settled like a miasma in Transnistria, another breakaway Russian-leaning province or republic (the status is not yet settled). It is one of the four main "frozen conflicts" of ethnic Russian regions (or ethnic Armenian, in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh) which are trying to break away from their current countries and join Russia (Armenia) instead:

  • South Ossetia (Georgia)
  • Abkhazia (Georgia)
  • Transnistria (Moldova)
  • Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan)

I certainly don't think we should weigh in on the side of Moldova and Azerbaijan in their conflicts with their ethnic separatists; but we could offer expanded trade deals and military cooperation, both to cushion the blow of losing those regions -- and more important, to negate any military advantage the Russians might gain from separation.

In particular, we must slam the door on Russia's main plan: Using the Russian-leaning regions in the "frozen conflicts" as springboards for an attempt to reconquer the former Soviet satellites, as they appear to be doing in Georgia. NATO membership is a very quick and unambiguous way of doing so, since an attack by Russia on a NATO member would bring other NATO members into the war, including the United States, Great Britain, and of course Turkey.

Azerbaijan (and Armenia)

As above, Azerbaijan is another country with a "frozen conflict." In addition, Azerbaijan is the other victim in Russia's attempting bombing of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (Baku is the largest port, the largest city, and the capital of Azerbaijan): Without that pipeline, Azerbaijan would have no way of bringing their oil to market other than turning to Russia, which would charge a horrendous price. The Azeri are not stupid; they know what a Russian victory in Georgia would do.

Then there was the war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. Initially, the Soviet Union seemed to favor Azerbaijan; but after the collapse of the USSR, Russia increasingly supported the Armenian separatists, both with regular forces and with mercenaries. (In fact, both Armenia and Azerbaijan accused the Russians of playing both sides to keep the West from extending NATO into the Caucasus.)

Azerbaijan is problematical as a NATO member. It's a Shiite Moslem country, though not part of the Iranian axis; it appears more aligned with Turkey and Georgia than Iran, working with them on both the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the South Caucasus natural-gas pipeline.

More dicey is the autocratic rule of "President" Ilham Aliyev, son of Soviet-era strongman Heydar Aliyev who came to power in a coup d'état against democratically elected President Abulfaz Elchibey in 1993. Aliyev the lesser continues rattling his scimitar against Armenia and has recently escalated the military clashes.

However, Armenia also is moving towards NATO membership; so we could probably mitigate any bad feelings by pushing to induct them both simultaneously. This would probably give Putin a myocardial infarction... or at least a serious case of acid reflux.

The G8

John McCain called for Russia to be expelled from the Group of Eight, the international economic-political forum that is held every year. Barack H. Obama, continuing his reactionary campaign -- McCain speaks, Obama hems and haws, then finally gainsays whatever McCain said -- came out against expulsion, on the grounds that we need Putin's cooperation, Obama says, in the fight against "nuclear proliferation"... though in the most urgent of such cases, it sure appears to many that Russia is more on Iran's side than on the side of non-proliferation.

McCain wants to strip Russia of G8 membership not only because of its invasion of Georgia, but also because of the steady and accelerating erosion of fundamental rights and liberties within Russia itself. But it certainly is another, rather more drastic action we can take. (It's more drastic to try to kick Russia out of an international organization to which they were just formally admitted 11 years ago than to invite Russia's intended victims into an alliance that was formed to counter the erstwhile Soviet Union.)

As an aside, Obama's floundering on this issue demonstrates beyond all doubt that the man is simply not prepared, or equipped by nature, to lead the United States of America. When an emergency arises, the president must respond swiftly; we can't wait around for Obama to decide which liberal special-interest group to kow-tow to this time.

Bram Stoker rules

So we do actually have a number of actions we can take against the resurgent Russian empire, so long as we can induce our longtime allies to go along with us. With the increasingly brazen invasion of Georgia, that looks a lot more likely now than it did even just a week ago.

But if we do nothing, if we allow Vladimir Putin to get away with such naked aggression and empire building, then in a very short period of time, the Soviet Union itself will rise again, vampire-like, from the dead past... a very apt and worrisome image in the land of Vlad.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 11, 2008, at the time of 5:35 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

The "Virtue" of Suffering

Hatched by Sachi

I was just unceremoniously kicked out of a diet topic on a Japanese-language Yahoo bulletin board, where I'd been posting for the last couple of months. "How the heck can you be kicked out of a topic so benign?", you might ask. Well, I made an unforgivable mistake: I suggested that maybe the goal should be to lose weight without suffering.

That did it.

If you want to read this silly, sorry tale and learn why (liberal) dieters generally intend to fail, then follow the "slither on" to the rest of this post...

~

People as a rule tend to think that in order to gain something, they need to give up something. This concept is ancient and universal: "No pain, no gain;" "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch;" "good medicine tastes bitter." Such proverbs exit in every culture, and they reflect a common belief: If a story sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

A healthy suspicion is a good thing. We don’t want to be gullible, do we? However, some stories really are as good as they sound.

Who says losing weight has to be an act of self-flagellation? Why can't there be a way to eat anything you want and still lose weight? Plenty of people do; we all know someone who eats anything he wants but never gains an ounce. What's his secret? (Trick question; there isn't one.)

But what if someone invented a magical diet pill that would solve all your weight problems; would you take it? I suspect that an awful lot of people would not, even if believed it would really work. In fact, some of them would become violently angry: The very concept of easy and craving-free weight loss offends them, just as some people are outraged by the idea that we might somebody be able to solve our energy needs without any conservation ("making do with less") at all, or cure smoking-related diseases without forcing the entire country to quit smoking.

There is no such magic diet pill (yet!) But there really is a weight-loss system that works remarkably well for most people who try it; and it doesn't require buying special food, attending support groups, embarassing yourself on national TV, or spending any money at all. I made the mistake of alluding to it in the Yahoo topic -- and the reaction of the other posters was exactly as I said above; they were irate.

~

Recently, Dafydd and I both lost a lot of weight using a system promoted by British motivational speaker and hypnotherapist Paul McKenna. We first saw his four lectures on the Learning Channel (for free); we were skeptical, but we tried it... and without depriving ourselves or having any "forbidden foods," we lost a lot of weight.

For serious food lovers like us, this was an incredible solution. But McKenna didn't invent the program; all he did was observe the eating habits of NTPs and generalize to four basic rules. His real talent is actually getting people enthusiastic enough to give it an honest try.

I'm not an agent of McKenna, paid or volunteer; forgive me if I don't go into the details. If you're interested, I recommend you go to his web site and investigate it yourself. If you want to buy the book or DVD set, buy it. If not, then don't. (We bought a copy of the latter just to lend to friends and family who noticed we were suddenly much thinner and wanted to know how.)

But let me at least explain the four basic rules of McKenna system:

  1. When you are hungry, eat.
  2. Eat what you want, not what you think you should eat.
  3. Eat consciously, savoring every bite.
  4. When you even think you might be full, stop eating.

That's it. Too simple to work, right?

There are reasons why each rule supports the others; you need to practice them all, but that shouldn't be too hard. Anyway, since we weren't risking anything, we gave it a shot; and for us, the results were both quick and dramatic.

~

All right, enough about the program. Here's the point that leads to the story of the diet topic: The most refreshing thing about McKenna's program is that you don't have to suffer. You never go hungry; in fact, if you let yourself get too hungry, you're violating rule number one.

Since you know you can eat when you feel hungry and you're not stuck eating nothing but celery sticks and seaweed, you're under no pressure. You can easily do this for rest of your life; and that's the key.

For the past ten or fifteen years, I'd been battling ever-increasing body weight. I tried the Atkins diet, the 1000-calorie-a-day diet, the Slim Fast diet; you name it, I tried it. I always lost some weight, a few pounds, while I was dieting; once I even lost 25 pounds. But as soon as I went off the diet, the weight came back and then some. That's typical of most people's experience, as anyone who has ever dieted can tell you.

Most of the time, a diet fails because you think of it as a diet, something you're going to do until you get down to your "target weight;" and then you'll stop. It's too hard to maintain a diet forever; you're depriving yourself of everything you like to eat. So your diet is always temporary; when you lose X pounds (or get tired of dieting), you start eating like a ravenous wolverine again... and it starts all over.

But the problem isn't what you eat, it's how much you eat. There are no foods that are inherently bad; there are only bad eating habits. In fact, we eat the same food we always used to eat -- Chinese, Italian, sushi, pork chops, steak, pasta, tiramisu -- but we eat a whole lot less of it... literally half to a third of what we used to eat. What McKenna's program does is teach you how to eat what you want without eating more of it than you really need.

It worked amazingly well (along with exercising, which was never our problem; we always exercised). As my weight loss progressed, as I lost ten, twenty, thirty, forty pounds, I naturally wanted to talk about it with other people. But I understood that nothing is more boring than listening to someone else's weight loss story, unless you're also trying to lose weight. So I figured the best place to talk to others would be a (Japanese language) weight loss bulletin board. There, I figured, I could discuss various weight loss experiences with like-minded people, without boring everybody else.

~

There are many such boards. I tried a couple and immediately ran into a problem: Nobody had any interest in hearing about my experience. As soon as I said, "You can eat anything you want...” they tuned out. If they said anything at all, it was, “There's no such thing” or “It never works.” The fact I lost over 40 pounds didn't seem to impress them; some even called me a liar.

After b-board hopping for a while, I finally settled in a topic run by a woman who lost over 100 lbs in one year. Her handle name translated to “Three Digit,” because she used to weigh over 100 kilograms (220 pounds).

3D runs a blog called "Stoic Diet;" her method is the polar opposite of McKenna's. 3D was a huge eater as well as a heavy drinker; she used to eat an entire chicken for dinner and drink an entire bottle of sake. Her weight-loss method was to give up every food she liked -- and all alcohol.

I didn't agree with her system, but I was impressed by her effort. In any event, I thought it would be interesting to talk about various weight-loss techniques. We're all aiming for the same goal, right? Surely it would be beneficial to exchange information.

But I was careful this time. Remembering how some people are not comfortable listening to my experience, I tried not to sound too preachy or like an advertisement. I was respectful to others and never denounced or criticized anybody's diet.

But even that wasn't enough. On Stoic Diet, everyone is supposed to report what she ate and what exercise she did that day. Since I don't have any forbidden foods, my menu naturally looks very different from the others', which is usually some variant on tofu, bean sprouts, brown rice, a diet shake, alfalfa (what Dafydd calls a "grass sandwich"), and so on. My list contained pasta, steak, pizza, fried chicken, tapas, dim sum, salmon -- whatever we happened to make or order in a restaurant that day.

I could tell 3D was getting increasingly agitated by my posts. I knew she never liked me; ever since I told her that I do not give up any food, she made her dislike plain. But since I was not violating the topic’s rules, she grudgingly tolerated me.

~

The fit hit the shan a few days ago, when another poster complained about not being able to control her appetite; her post sounded like she was in tears when she wrote it. Although I'd been careful not to discuss the McKenna system in any detail, I couldn't let this woman just suffer: I made the mistake of giving her few possible solutions from McKenna's lectures; in particular, I told her to try close her eyes while she ate.

(Medical dietary researchers have found that if you eat while blindfolded, you feel full after eating significantly less food than if you can see your food while you eat. The visual stimulus of food makes you feel hungrier and overwhelms your stomach's signal that it's full. McKenna suggests trying it a few times if you're having trouble stopping, until you learn to detect your stomach's "full" signal.)

That advice set off one of the other posters -- not even the person I was talking to, but a different woman. She told me my "stupid advice" to the other woman was a distraction, like an annoying noise. Also, she told me that she had been really irritated by my food list. She was especially ticked off by my lox and bagel with cream cheese breakfast. "This is too much!" She said. "How can you eat such a high fat, high calorie, and high carbohydrate food combination when you're trying to lose weight? Your posts create a hostile environment, and you make me sick!"

~

Her violent reaction shocked me; but I was even more astonished when 3D, the moderator, sided with the complainer and handed me a "red card" for violating one of her topic rules: I had dared to mention a different weight-loss method than her “stoic diet.” I was never even aware of such a rule, which was not written down anywhere.

When I told Dafydd about this, he immediately said, "With that absolute passion for freedom of speech, she must a liberal."

I told 3D I was merely conveying a simple trick to supplement her method. She tells people to eat less; if there's a simple, easy way to control appetite, why shouldn't people discuss it? Our mutual goal is to lose weight and keep it off, so what difference does it make how we achieve that goal?

"No!" she wrote; "that's not my goal. That's not this topic's objective at all. I am not simply trying to lose weight and maintain it: The goal is to change one's lifestyle forever. Your goal and my goal are completely incompatible. Don't think even for a second that we're heading toward the same place." (I'm translating from Japanese, obviously.)

What does she mean by “changing one’s life style?” Obviously not simply maintaining ideal weight and staying healthy; she can only mean something simultaneously more spiritual and more ominous.

As I read her past blogposts, I realized she has a lot of what my sister-in-law, the MFCC, would call "issues." She used to be an emotional eater, someone who eats to feel better after some emotional upset: You don't get a promotion, you eat a box of doughnuts; you break up with your boyfriend, you go to KFC and eat an entire family-sized bucket of chicken.

She talked about how her mother was an alcoholic and often drunk; then Mom was diagnosed as a diabetic; she ignored the doctor’s advice and kept eating sweets and drinking sake -- and (surprise) eventually she lost a leg and is now bedridden. 3D and other family members take turns caring for this selfish, self-indulgent woman in her final days... I can feel the anger in her blogging about her mother.

3D often emphasized that we must figure out why we got fat in the first place, she decided it was "over-indulgence." Therefore, she concluded, the only way to lose weight was to deny herself all foods she actually desired.

~

She seems to have taken a single quotation from the Stoic philosopher Epictetus and turned it into a dieting program:

“Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of one's desires, but by the removal of desire.”

Of course, she hasn't removed desire... she just denies herself any food she desires. I don't think she really understands the point of Stoicism. Instead, 3D is like a Buddhist monk who deprives himself of every earthly desire in order to achieve spiritual "nothingness" (what a goal!) For her, the hardship of dieting is more important than losing weight.

If I can use some psychobabble I don't really understand, I don’t think she ever really faced her inner demons at all. It's true she used to be over indulgent, a fanatic about eating and drinking; now she's a fanatic about dieting. But as the playwright Eugene Ionesco once said in an interview (about twenty-five years ago in World Press Review), "A fanatic can never be convinced but only converted."

Extreme eater to extreme dieter; same car, different plastic. She should have gone one step further; she should have figured out why she was over-indulging herself with food. It's obvious she was an emotional eater. But why, what vacuum was she trying to fill? Probably the emotional hole left by her drunken mother.

She often analogized that diet is like a mountain climbing; each step is important. But on her climb up that mountain, she only allows one route -- the hardest one. My mistake was thinking that her goal was to summit; so I pointed out an easier route. This infuriated her. "How dare you introduce an easier route! Don’t you understand ‘suffering’ is the only noble path?"

Or to slightly misquote Ring Lardner (the sportswriter father, not the Commie screenwriter son) -- "Shut up, she explained."

~

3D claims she understands there are many different ways to lose weight. She even respects my way (so she says). It's just that she doesn't want me to talk about it; she doesn't want me to tell anybody about it; and most especially, she doesn't want "her" dieters to hear anything about it. When I "insisted" on talking about it (once), she suggested I should go somewhere else. She's all for freedom of speech, except when the speech is "just plain wrong."

I think Dafydd has it right: She is a liberal.

If you think anyone on that board would side with me, you're sadly mistaken. Nobody said a word except one woman, who wrote: “Please erase all the things you wrote about easy appetite control. They make me feel uncomfortable.” Isn't that what liberals like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi said about the things that Gen. David Petraeus was trying to tell them about how we could (and finally did) achieve victory in Iraq?

I think most people really don't want to succeed in life; they want to fail, then wallow in their misery. It's so much easier; once you've embraced failure and accepted suffering as your lot in life, you never have to struggle again. (Of course, it's never the leaders like Barack H. Obama who suffer; they tell you to suffer for their sins.)

If that's where the posters on Stoic Diet are headed, I absolutely refuse to follow; if I see someone drowning, I'll throw her a rope; I won't jump in and drown alongside her.

I think this must be one of the biggest distinctions between liberals and conservatives:

  • Conservatives understand there are no "solutions," only trade-offs; so they cut the best deal they can, a trade-off that actually makes things better. Even if some trade-off sounds "too good to be true," they will at least investigate before rejecting it.
  • Liberals see "solutions" to every problem everywhere; but they will only accept perfection. Any solution that falls short is not even worth the bother; they'd rather do nothing.

What a miserable world this is for anyone who follows the latter philosophy.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, August 11, 2008, at the time of 4:46 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 7, 2008

Never Send to Know Whom the Poll Sells...

Hatched by Dafydd

...It sells Barack H. Obama -- by hook or by crook.

The aptly named CBS News -- when you watch the network, you CBS -- released a poll today showing Obama leading John S. McCain by a strong six points, 45 to 39. And mirabile dictu, it actually includes a bunch of internals!

Perhaps too many... for they even included a figure that, well, tends to cast a bit of doubt upon their objectivity -- and their polling results, past, present, and future.

The line that caught my eye (ouch) was right at the end. Here is what I read:

Party affiliation, unweighted and weighted
UNWEIGHTED WEIGHTED
Total Republicans 317 284
Total Democrats 381 406
Total Independents 336 344

Huh. So when they conducted the poll, they ended up with 381 Democrats and 317 Republicans, an advantage of 64 to the former. But CBS decided that wasn't heavily enough tilted towards the left... so they tossed in a multiplier that nearly doubled that advantage to 122 -- 406 Democrats and 284 Republicans.

Here's the same table, substituting percentages (out of 1,034 total respondents):

Unweighted, weighted party percentage
UNWEIGHTED WEIGHTED
Total Republican % 30.7 27.5
Total Democratic % 36.8 39.3
Total Independent % 32.5 33.3

In other words, CBS considers it a reasonable prediction that in November's general presidential and congressional elections, 39.3% of voters will be Democrats, while only 27.5% of them will be Republicans... Democrats will outnumber Republicans by half again as many.

The only possible explanation is that CBS predicts one of the greatest Democratic turnouts in post-WWII American history... coupled with one of the most dismal Republican turnouts ever.

Say, might this weighting equation might affect their conclusion that Obama led the race by six points?

Here is where the poll internals came in amazingly handy. Page 3 of the pdf breaks down the candidates' support by different groups -- sex, race, age, education -- but also by political party. It was the work of a couple of minutes to make an algebraic formula to see how changing the party percentage would affect the final results.

First, I used the weighted percentages; I got 45.4% for Obama and 38.7% for McCain... which by rounding turns into 45% to 39%, just as CBS reported. This confirmed that my formula worked.

Next I plugged in the original, unweighted party percentages; this changed the results to:

  • Barack H. Obama 43.6%
  • John S. McCain 40.6

Using the unweighted sample -- which already has a substantial advantage for Democrats -- reduces Obama's lead from six to three points... which by an amazing coincidence is exactly the margin of error.

So the CBS poll, using the raw sample, found Obama and McCain in a statistical tie... but after some quick manipulation of the party percentages, increasing the Democratic advantage markedly, they ended instead with a significant and fairly substantial lead for Barack Obama.

Just for giggles and grins, I also tried pluggin in the "null-hypothesis" assumption -- which I don't actually think very likely -- that just as many Republicans as Democrats will vote; I changed the Democratic and Republican numbers to 349 each, leaving the Independent figure at the raw level of 336. Under this scenario, the results would be:

  • Barack H. Obama 41.7%
  • John S. McCain 42.7 (McCain ahead by 1%)

Consider this the outside right edge of the CBS poll; I consider the raw percentage they actually found as the real outside left edge. So as far as I'm concerned, this poll's actual result is a range from Obama up by 3 to McCain up by 1, all within the margin of error.

Until, of course, one adds the appropriate weighting -- to get the "correct" result of Obama up by 6.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 7, 2008, at the time of 4:48 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 6, 2008

The Only Realistic Solar-Power System for the Planet

Hatched by Dafydd

In response to Dave Ross' post below... actually, we could power the entire planet's energy needs in perpetuity by solar power alone.

But only if we generate that power via vast solar arrays in high Earth orbit (HEO) and beam the power back to the ground.

The idea of solar-power satellites has been kicking around since at least the 1970s; Jerry Pournelle popularized it greatly back then (I presume he still supports the idea today). It would require a number of technological breakthroughs -- each of which would be a huge boon to Mankind in itself:

  1. A much, much cheaper way to put a pound of payload into low Earth orbit (LEO). It currently costs between $50,000 and $100,000 a pound on the soon-to-be-defunct Space Shuttle, somewhat less on disposable rockets, and we have no idea what it will cost on whatever eventually replaces the STS. We need to bring that down by three orders of magnitude to $50 - $100 per pound.

    Possibilities abound. My favorite is a laser-launching system, where a ground-based laser shoots an intermittent, high-energy laser beam into the combustion chamber of a rocket; this superheats the air that has been sucked into the chamber, causing it to expand out the nozzle. The advantage is that the rocket need carry no onboard fuel, thus making it tremendously more efficient. You need to complete boost before leaving the bulk of the atmosphere, of course; and you might not be able to launch through heavy cloud cover.

    (A "space elevator" is a really cool idea, but it could only be built out of Bolognium -- i.e., some unreasonably strong material that doesn't exist yet. And the "Ferris wheel" launcher is too dangerous, in my opinion.)

  2. An inexpensive way to boost payload from LEO to HEO. This is probably the easiest technology of the batch, requiring just a booster pack that can attach to payload in LEO, then navigate itself back down (or else bring payload down from HEO to LEO).
  3. Building a permanent mining, separating, refining, and smelting facility on the Moon. This is the only way to get sufficient raw materials to build solar-power satellites without taxing the capacity of Earthbound mines and refineries.

    This doesn't require much in the way of technolgical breakthroughs, given 1 and 2; but it does require burying the facility underground, to avoid cosmic radiation; and it requires quickly setting up the facility to extract oxygen from the lunar soil, so the workers can breathe without having to deplete whatever oxygen through brought with them. It also requires a truly spectacular recycling system, as workers must also, for the most part, consume their own, er, output.

  4. We need to build a launch facility on the Moon to send up the raw materials or manufactured items that we will need to build the satellites. This is a perfect opportunity for a linear-accelerator launcher, since the Moon has no atmosphere -- and since we're not going to be launching living creatures that way, so we can up the acceleration to 200-300 Gs.
  5. We need to perfect building very large structures in open space... because it makes no sense to build a solar array (say, 2,000 square miles) on the ground -- even the Moon -- and then launch it into orbit. We should use the launcher (4) to launch either very small components (but they cannot be fragile), or better yet, just raw metal and crystal; each larger structure can be built in orbit, in "freefall," where gravity is not a serious problem.

    The biggest problem here would be cosmic radiation: Either the facility would have to be deeply coated with lunar dust; or if you want to be more elegant, you can use the idea of T.A. Heppenheimer: Put a huge static postive charge on the hull to push away the big, slow, dumb alpha particles that cause the most damage... and then set up a strong magnetic field to push away the electrons that would otherwise be attracted to the positively charged hull.

  6. Finally, we have to decide how to broadcast the power back to Earth.

Each of these technological breakthroughs is admittely difficult; but nevertheless, none is impossible. And none even requires a significant scientific breakthrough: The science is there -- all that's left are the engineering details.

The advantages of a solar-power satellite system are obvious:

  • It collects power "day" and "night," since it's never in the Earth's shadow (or at least rarely and not for long);
  • Each satellite can be as big as necessary to produce enough power for our needs; the only limitation is that if you make any structure big enough, it will collapse under its own gravitational mass. But "big enough" is way bigger than we would ever need here;
  • It would allow us to dramatically reduce petroleum usage, along with coal... thus going a long way towards reducing world air pollution -- which is actually energy wasted. If we can invent a really, really good battery, we could reduce pollution even further;
  • And of course, the required technological breakthroughs will be tremendous boons to the American economy, as well as the economies of all our trading partners... as would the very process of developing them in the first place: Technology creation drives jobs.

Since we're adding more energy to the ecosystem, we might need to find a way to reduce the amount of energy that comes to Earth from the Sun directly. If we could create more cloud cover over the poles, that would help a lot.

The problem with virtually all sides in the energy debate is that they're looking at most 2 to 25 years into the future. I don't know about you guys, but I really do plan to live longer than that; and I'm even concerned with how our country and the world will fare even after I die, assuming I ever do. My short-term view is currently up to about 2250... but I'm thinking I may still be too precipitate.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 6, 2008, at the time of 5:23 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 5, 2008

The American Genius

Hatched by Dave Ross

I find it fascinating that, in spite of the fact that the U.S. has endured the body blows of the terrorist attack in 2001 and the current high oil prices, our economy isn’t actually in the toilet. Instead, it's merely teetering on the edge, not yet fallen into recession.

Neither of these causative events can be laid at the doorstep of the Republicans, although the Democrats would sure like to try. While both parties have been in the pocket of the environmentalists for decades, so that we have gradually allowed domestic production of energy to erode, it is demonstrably the Democrats who preach a policy of salvation through deprivation, of virtue by doing with less.

And they oppose any solution that doesn’t require us to “sacrifice” our way of life. Oil? We can’t drill our way out. Nuclear? Too dangerous. Mega acres of coal? Too threatening to the environment. Natural gas? Ditto.

Instead they suggest two technologies that can only make a slight dent in our energy needs:

  • Wind -- Even with all the hot air coming out of Washington, we will never have enough of that.
  • Solar -- The technology for efficient solar is just as far away as it has been for decades.

There’s nothing more plentiful in the universe than energy, yet small minds and small politicians constantly talk about how we have to learn to do with less of it. That’s not the American genius. The American genius is finding ways to make the impossible happen. That’s what we’ve always done. That’s what we have to do again.

Hatched by Dave Ross on this day, August 5, 2008, at the time of 11:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

An Army of Apathetics: Registration Legislation and Nonvoters

Hatched by Dafydd

The Democratic National Committee has found a "new" crusade -- that hardy, hoary perennial: voter registration of traditionally Democratic constituencies, such as blacks, Hispanics, unmarried mothers, and the homeless.

By targeting such "potential voters," notes the Wall Street Journal, groups such as ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), the National Council of La Raza ("the race"), the Urban League, and other partisan shills masquerading as civic-minded community organizers hope to pack the Senate with a filibuster-proof majority, the House with a conscience-proof majority, and propel fellow "community organizer" Barack H. Obama into the White House... all to usher in a new era of government of the downtrodden, for the downtrodden, and by -- the anointed elite.

They plan to register an additional 1.2 million welfaristas, felons, and bums before the November election; the Times jubilantly announces that the efforts have borne much fruit, reporting a shift in voter registration towards the Democrats in many states since 2005:

Well before Senators Barack Obama and John McCain rose to the top of their parties, a partisan shift was under way at the local and state level. For more than three years starting in 2005, there has been a reduction in the number of voters who register with the Republican Party and a rise among voters who affiliate with Democrats and, almost as often, with no party at all....

In six states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, the Democratic piece of the registration pie grew more than three percentage points, while the Republican share declined. In only three states — Kentucky, Louisiana and Oklahoma — did Republican registration rise while Democratic registration fell, but the Republican increase was less than a percentage point in Kentucky and Oklahoma. Louisiana was the only state to register a gain of more than one percentage point for Republicans as Democratic numbers declined.

But what the Times doesn't see fit to print -- not until "after the jump," on page 2 of the story -- is that the shift away from Republicans nearly all comprises a shift not to Democrats but to "unaffiliated":

In the 26 states and the District of Columbia where registration data were available, the total number of registered Democrats increased by 214,656, while the number of Republicans fell by 1,407,971.

Thus, at most, 15% of Republicans who reregistered became Democrats; the other 85% changed to independent, unaffiliated, or some minor party. There is no significant trend towards the Democrats; more likely, reregistration is a protest aimed at the "spend everything and then some" Republicans, who controlled Congress prior to the 2006 elections.

Here is the biggest problem with the chimera of registration drives: It is so easy to register today -- with registration booths at supermarkets, post offices, malls, churches, missions, flophouses, schools, and street corners, let alone the near-automatic registration schemes like "motor-voter" -- that one almost has to consciously reject voting to remain unregistered. Thus, those people still not registered are disproportionately those who have simply dropped out of civic society.

They have dropped out, not because Bull-Connor Republicans are using whips and firehoses to prevent blacks, Hispanics, and bums from registering, but because those particular people are simply apathetic about voting. Thus, just because you register them doesn't mean they're any more likely to vote in November.

It's well known that voter turnout in the United States (unlike countries that compel voting) centers around 50%. Some localities have much higher turnout each election cycle; but in every election, a very large percentage of registered voters don't vote.

I don't think it's a stretch to posit that those qualified adults who remain unregistered until someone form ACORN rushes up to them, pushes a registration form at them, and tells them that if they sign it, they'll get money for housing... are precisely those newly registered apathetics who will not bother to vote on election day.

Why turn to something nebulous and impossible to measure like turnout among the newly registered, when there is a much simpler explanation for the 2006 GOP losses? Voters were turned off by the GOP they saw running the 109th Congress -- the Republicans of earmarks, drunken spending sprees, and Mark Foley.

But this election is about a different GOP, one that is now more in touch with the electorate than the Democrats; now the Democrats are seen as a "culture of corruption" and as wild spenders, ineffectual and inept, aristocratic, unconcerned, and aloof. It's the "Marie-Antoinette Democrats," as Hugh Hewitt now calls them, who won't do anything (or anything good, at least) about energy woes, taxes, the Iraq war, small business, or the economy in general. And there is no reason to believe that a "massive" increase in Democratic party registration (all of 3%!) presages a wholesale shift to liberalism on the part of the electorate.

In fact, the Times itself admits that one reason Democrats are doing better is that they are running candidates who are, on paper, more conservative... winning candidates like Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA, 85%) and Gov. Tim Kaine, also of Virginia. Webb ran as more conservative than incumbent Sen. George Allen... and even so, it took the "Macaca" gaffe to give Webb the narrowest of victories. And Kaine calls himself personally anti-abortion, he supports a ban on partial-birth abortion (with the Kerry exception, of course), gun rights, and is fiscally centrist.

And now Webb votes 85% of the time with the hard-liberal Americans for Democratic Action. I don't know how he would fare if he had to run for reelection this year, but he's going to have a lot of splainin' to do in 2012. And both Webb and Kaine endorse and campaign for leftist Barack Obama.

Here is another way to look at the question: If registration is such a big determinant, why is Barack H. Obama dropping and John S. McCain rising in the polls?

It's not just the horserace aspect: Look at the internals of the Rasmussen daily tracking poll, which has the candidates tied. The incredibly useful section they call "by the numbers" reports polling on specific issues and character questions:

Of the major issues, Obama is statistically ahead of McCain (outside the margin of error) only on three:

  • Environment - Obama + 8
  • Health care - Obama + 5
  • Education - Obama + 4 (right on the edge of the margin)

In none of these three issues -- typically Democratic issues -- does Obama even top 50%.

But McCain beats Obama on eight major issues, with two over 50% (in blue):

  • Iraq policy - McCain + 12
  • Immigration - McCain + 9
  • National Security - McCain + 8
  • Taxes - McCain + 7
  • Social Security - McCain + 6
  • Abortion - McCain + 6
  • Negotiating trade agreements - McCain + 5
  • Energy - McCain + 4

The candidates are tied (within the margin) on the economy, ethics, and who can better balance the federal budget. This is vastly better than McCain was doing against Obama just a month ago, when the tracking poll had him 5-6 points behind Obama and losing on most of the issues.

We see a similar pattern on character issues:

  • Who would be the better leader? McCain by 6 points;
  • Who will raise government spending more? Obama by 21 points;
  • Who will raise taxes more? Obama by 23 points;

And some really interesting ones... 27% see McCain as too old to be president, but 41% see Obama as too inexperienced. And respondents see McCain as believing in the fundamental fairness of our society by 70% to 15%... but they're split on the Democrat, with 43% saying Obama believes American society is fundamentally fair, while a plurality of 46% says he believes our society is fundamentally unfair.

Since the American people themselves believe our society is fundamentally fair by about 75% to 25%, that puts Obama on the wrong side by a whopping margin. Again, all these numbers were much worse for John McCain a month or two ago -- despite the fact that this massive registration drive has proceeded apace, and the gap between the number of Democrat and the number of Republicans is not narrowing significantly... whether you measure by actual registration, as the Times evidently did, or by voter perception of their party affiliation, as Rasmussen does.

On a nutshell, in recent elections, the number of registered voters in each party does not appear to correlate to that party's fortunes in the election. I suspect that earlier models that showed close tracking were based upon the correspondingly earlier registration rules, when it actually took some effort on the voter's part to get registered; this meant that back then, a registered voter was much more likely to be politically aware and active, hence more likely to vote. Since motor-voter especially, I believe voter turnout has been lower... as groups like La Raza and ACORN are registering a great many apathetics who simply don't turn out and vote anyway.

So worry not and pay no attention to voter-registration drives among society's dregs; that's not going to have any significant effect on future elections. But what will have a very great effect are the policies and legislation enacted by the two parties... and the campaigns they craft based upon those actual facts on the ground. On that playing field, the GOP is doing much better indeed than in 2006.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 5, 2008, at the time of 7:32 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 4, 2008

Justin Levine Compares American Revolutionary Patriots to Thieves and Leeches

Hatched by Dafydd

Yesterday, too-frequent guest poster Justin Levine, on Patterico's Pontifications, reiterated his oft-expressed opinion that copyright is somehow unAmerican and wicked... because "information wants to be free," you know. This is a position that Mr. Levine loves to pronounce but hates to debate; he prefers pontificating:

And so... these Learned Men, having Inquir'd deeply into the Case for the Opposition, discover'd that the Opposition had no Case and were Devoid of Merit, which was what they Suspected all along, and they arriv'd at this Happy Conclusion by the most Economical and Nice of all Methods of Enquiry, which was that they did not Invite the Opposition to confuse Matters by Participating in the Discussion.
-- Robert Anton Wilson

This time, Mr. Levine coupled his profoundly anti-capitalist rant against allowing artists and writers to profit from their creations -- which forces Mr. Levine actually to pay for his favorite books, music, movies, and software applications, an irksome demand that appears to make him positively irate -- with a new crusade: He now calls for a massive increase in file "sharing" (that is, theft of intellectual property), to steal away whatever small amount most of us make from writing and other creative endeavors. And in the process, he makes a rather jaw-dropping comparison:

That is why I have reluctantly rejected the centrism that Patry still desperately tries to embrace in this debate. I actually sympathize with it to an extent, but the world copyright cartel [!] has metastasized in such a way that it makes reasonable compromise all but impossible.

I suppose that the participants of the Boston Tea Party were law breakers whose actions were condemned in many quarters at the time. I see the file-sharing community in the same light and hope they can help lay the groundwork for a much needed revolution.

A "revolution" that would allow Mr. Levine to pick up copies of Blizzard of Oz, the Remains of the Day, and HALO 2 -- for free! Commercial entertainment products want to be free!

Let's think about this identification of Mr. Levine's. The participants of the Boston Tea Party were British colonists who were being taxed by the British Parliament -- without having any representation in that legislative body. It wasn't the tax itself; American colonists were actually paying less for tea than (some) British subjects living in England. It was the principle that no free Englishman ought to be governed by a body that refused to allow him the same voting rights that all other Englishmen have.

Justin Levine sees that as analogous to a fully representative government protecting the property rights of the creators of intellectual property, including their right to dispose of that property as they choose... including selling or leasing those rights.

In other words, Justin Levine opposes Capitalism and urges a wave of theft by a gang of moochers, parasites, and freeloaders... theft that targets writers, musicians, filmmakers, software designers, and other fairly vulnerable creative artists, who for the most part do not themselves have the wherewithal to go after the nihililst thieves.

And he compares these parasitical freeloaders to the Founding Fathers of the American constitutional republic... who, by the way, were so concerned about intellectual property rights that they actually included copyright and patent in the United States Constitution (article I, section 8, paragraph 8).

I strongly urge everyone reading this post to follow the link above to Justin Levine's post and leave a comment expressing just what you think of him leading a cheer for thieves and leeches and calling for more, more, and ever more theft, a veritable "revolution" of robbery.

Oh, wait; you can't: Reflecting his passionate devotion to the libertarian ideal of rational debate, Mr. Levine closed comments on the post the moment he posted it.

You know... that sounds remarkably similar to the rhetorical approach of Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%) and Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 85%). But perhaps that's just me.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 4, 2008, at the time of 5:38 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

Hamdan's Lawyer Admits Client Was Deep in al-Qaeda

Hatched by Dafydd

I consider this story to be a rather stunning admission against interest -- or at least against the interests of those who have steadfastly proclaimed the innocence of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver and the poster-boy for al-Qaeda suspects held "without charge" at the Guantanamo Bay military detention facility (where "without charge" has that special meaning of "without charges in an American civilian courtroom; and we ignore any charges made by military prosecutors at military tribunals, because the corrupt and incompetent Bushies just made that all up.")

During closing arguments at Hamdan's trial before a military tribunal, his lawyer, LTCDR Brian Mizer, has asked for leniency for his client because, he claims, Hamdan told military and CIA interrogators much valuable information... not only about bin Laden's whereabouts, but also details about specific al-Qaeda plots.

This rather undercuts the idea that Hamdan is but an innocent chauffeur caught up in the overly broad fishnet of post-9/11 hysteria:

Secret evidence at the war crimes-trial of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver, showed that Mr. Hamdan offered “critical details” to American forces “when it mattered most” in 2001, a defense lawyer said on Monday, during closing arguments at the first war crimes trial here....

It had previously been clear from testimony given at public sessions of the trial that Mr. Hamdan cooperated with his captors, providing detailed information about possible locations of Mr. bin Laden and even leading them on a tour of some of Mr. bin Laden’s homes and training camps in Afghanistan.

It was disclosed publicly during the trial that Mr. Hamdan had told interrogators about the role that a senior Al Qaeda operative, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, played in the 2000 attack on an American destroyer, the U.S.S. Cole, in which 17 sailors were killed.

Hamdan could have known bin Laden's haunts and hangouts simply by being his otherwise innocent driver; but nobody has ever suggested that Osama bin Laden was a chatterbox who liked to discuss details of terrorist operations with every Mohammed, Achmed, or Salim underling wandering about. Hamdan could only have known this information by being significantly higher up the totem pole than a mere "driver."

So evidently, even Hamdan's own lawyer admits that Hamdan was deep enough in the conspiracy to know details about previous al-Qaeda operations, including Nashiri's bombing of the USS Cole. Not only that, but during the time he was held "without charge," he was providing valuable information that helped us towards victory in the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda Axis... according to his own defense team.

So let us have no more moaning at the bar about all those innocent farmers, goat herders, and luxury chauffeurs, like Salim Hamdan, swept up by "mistake" and held "indefinitely" for "no reason whatsoever."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 4, 2008, at the time of 2:50 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 2, 2008

Sitemeter Problem Should Be Fixed...

Hatched by Dafydd

I was never able to rebuild the blog until today: This site gets so many hack attacks and spam and suchlike that our host server, Hosting Matters -- about whom I have no complaints -- keeps some piece of techno-wizardry in place to prevent much of this.

Alas, it also prevents intensive operations like rebuilding. I have to tell them when I want to rebuild, and they fiddle with the system somehow to allow it to rebuild while the shield thingie is still in place. Last night, I was unable to get a response right away (it was probably about three in the morning at Hosting Matters!), so was unable to rebuild then. This left some of the pages with and some without Sitemeter code.

But today, I looked and found that Sitemeter itself had fixed the problem (which was of course on their side, since it hit everybody from Instapundit to Big Lizards!)... thus, I took the commenting off of the Sitemeter code on Big Lizards. I'm now rebuilding, just on general principles... but you shouldn't notice anything different.

Full funcionality should now be restored. But for those of you who check such things as Sitemeter stats for Big Lizards, you might see a drop that is primarily attributable to the main page being without Sitemeter code for circa twelve hours.

Thanks,

the Mgt.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 2, 2008, at the time of 12:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Date ►►► August 1, 2008

Sitemeter Killing Internet Explorer 7

Hatched by Dafydd

I just heard from a friend of mine that, as of sometime this evening, something changed in Sitemeter that caused Internet Explorer 7 to curl up and die when some poor fool was unlucky enough to try to use it to view Big Lizards -- or any other blog with a Sitemeter display.

I have commented out the Sitemeter Javascript thingie on all pages; I will begin the rebuilding process, which should take about 45 minutes or so.

You should be able to view the main page of Big Lizards via IE now; and you'll be able to see the whole thing using IE whenever the rebuild finishes.

Once this is all sorted out, I'll uncomment the script and rebuild again.

Apologies for the inconvenience.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 1, 2008, at the time of 10:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Democrats to Drivers (Bus Riders, Truckers, etc): Drop Dead

Hatched by Dafydd

A most extraordinary exchange occurred yesterday in the august halls (thought it was still July) of the United States Senate. (Hat tip to Hugh Hewitt, who played this on his show today.)

It shows the Democrat in his natural environment: Complete disdain for working Americans, and utter indifference to their problems... but slavishly doting upon the various interlocking special interests that prop up the Democratic Party, like creeping vines holding a crumbling facade in precarious balance.

Just take a look-see:

 

 

Sen. Ken Salazar's (D-CO, 85%) message is stark: There is no gasoline price level, no matter how dear, beyond which Democrats will actually support drilling for more domestic oil. None. It could go to $100 a gallon, and they would still fold their arms and, like Khrushchev at the U.N., bark "Nyet!

Current projections from the "pundants" (as President George W. Bush calls them) are that Republicans will be slaughtered in November. Democrats are still talking about a "filibuster-proof majority" in the Senate, or even "veto-proof" majorities in one or both houses.

I say that's nonsense: If we can focus like a laser beam on issues like energy, taxes, the economy, jobs, winning the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, reforming immigration (including legal immigration), and confirming judges who won't rewrite the Constitution to fit the current fashion trend... then I say we can reduce the loses to negligible -- and maybe even nab a net seat in the Senate, if we can hold our own and pick off Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA, 80%). So far, the GOP is running a terrific campaign for the congressional races, and John S. McCain is running a pretty good campaign for president (still room for improvement there).

It's time, time for conservatives to come back and put country ahead of their own power within the party; it's time to come together, fight to take back Congress and retain la Casa Blanca -- then all Republicans must make reparations for their complete meltdown from 2004-2006, when they became as corrupt as the Democrats.

A good start would be for the GOP, either overtly or covertly, to support some other candidate other than incrumbent Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK, 64% -- poster-boy for the corruption of the flesh of swine) in the Alaska primary later this month.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 1, 2008, at the time of 8:25 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Barak the One

Hatched by Dafydd

I don't even have to bother checking other blogs; I know they've all linked this. But who are the Lizards to stand in the way of inevitability?

Here is the greatest political ad of this season, possibly the greatest since the tyrant Lyndon Johnson's evil "Daisy" ad (approved by the equally vile Bill Moyers, Johnson's de facto chief of staff and campaign mangler)... but this John McCain ad is on the side of niceness, not nastiness!

 

 

A light will shine down, from somewhere [or perhaps up]; it will -- it will light upon you; you will experience an epiphany; and you will say to yourself... I have to read Big Lizards at least four times every day.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 1, 2008, at the time of 4:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

© 2005-2009 by Dafydd ab Hugh - All Rights Reserved