Date ►►► February 28, 2010
The Democrats' New Map
Or, why I am not convinced that either Pelosi or Reid has the votes
The New York Times, of all venues, sculpts the slope the Democrats must scale to summit Mount Reconciliation:
Of the 219 Democrats who initially voted in favor of the House measure, roughly 40 did so in part because it contained the so-called Stupak amendment, intended to discourage insurers from covering abortion....
An additional 39, like Mr. Kratovil, are fiscal conservatives who voted no the first time around. Ms. Pelosi is hoping that she can get some to switch those no votes to yes in favor of Mr. Obama’s less expensive measure.
Let's run some numbers, shall we?
The House version of ObamaCare -- the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962) -- passed on November 7th last year in a vote of 220-215. Ordinarily, 218 Yeas are required to pass a bill in the House; but since that vote, three representatives have left Congress, one of them horizontally. With only 432 current members, the magic number for a majority is 217 (216 is only 50%, which is not a majority).
The three who left are all Democrats who voted for the House version of ObamaCare the first time around: retirees Robert Wexler (FL) and Neil Abercrombie (HI), and John Murtha (PA), who left feet first this month. In addition, Rep. Ahn "Joseph" Cao (R-LA, not yet rated), the only Republican to vote for the bill, has since repudiated that vote and says he will certainly vote against the Senate/reconciliation version of ObamaCare when that comes up for a vote. So Pelosi starts with only 216 of the necessary 217 votes.
We know for certain that unless the Senate agrees in advance to the Stupak Amendment, which bans any and all federal funding of abortion (and even funding of insurance carriers who pay for abortions), Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI, 90%) will also vote against it; he has too much "face" bound up in that prohibition to overlook it. I consider it virtually impossible that the Senate would agree to a Stupak Amendment, so that drops the number of Yeas to 215.
Thus the real question is this: Can Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) bully enough Democratic former Nays to switch to Yeas so that the total will be two higher than the number of Yeas who switch to Nays? In other words, if 20 of the 40 Stupakers vote Nay on the Senate version, then Pelosi must scrounge up 22 representatives who voted Nay last time to vote Yea instead. Otherwise, she has less than the 217 needed.
Looking ahead, it's hard to see why any representative who voted against ObamaCare before will be persuaded to vote for it this time: The cost differential between the House and Senate plans is negligible; the Senate version doesn't include the "government option," which the House Democrats liked; and in the meantime, voters have made their disgust with the government takeover of health care clear and vivid.
Scott Brown's election to the Massachusetts Senate seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy scared the bejesus out of many representatives, especially those who represent districts that went to John McCain in the 2008 presidential election; many will try to innoculate themselves from the consequences of the last vote by turning thumbs down on ObamaCare this time.
The only real hope Pelosi has is with those Democrats who voted against the bill last year, but who have decided not to run for reelection this year. However, at the moment, there are only three: Reps. John Tanner (D-TN, 89%), Bart Gordon (D-TN, 89%), and Brian Baird (D-WA, 80%). Even if all of them switch, that brings the total only to 218; if two or more representatives flip the other way, from Yea to Nay -- two out of the 40 who only voted for the bill because of the Stupak amendment, for example -- then Pelosi falls short.
My back of the thumbnail estimate is that at least 20 of the 40 Stupakers vote Nay, while only two of the lame-duck Democrats go the other way (Tanner has already said he will not switch to Yea); that would land the Squeaker into a 200-232 deficit. An AP article confirms this:
In fact, Democrats following the legislation say House Democratic support for the legislation has sunk to 200 votes or less in recent weeks, following the stunning GOP victory in last month's special Massachusetts Senate election and the bill's modest showing in polls.
Where "modest showing" has the tendentious redefinition of "catastrophic collapse." I would guess another five Democratic Yeas vote Nay when it becomes clear the votes aren't there anyway; why go down with a sinking ship?
It's hardly any better on the Senate side, where they must pass the "reconciliation" changes to the Senate bill that (they hope!) will keep some Democratic House members from desperately dog-paddling towards the shore. Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%) is not doing very well, despite only needing a simple majority to pass the package:
Under the Democrats’ tentative plans, the House would pass the health care bill approved in December by the Senate, and both chambers would approve a separate package of changes using a parliamentary device known as budget reconciliation.
The tactic is intended to avoid a Republican filibuster, but in the Senate, the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, faces challenges if he tries to use it. He is having trouble persuading a majority of his caucus to go along.
Despite their gigantic majorities in both chambers, despite a still-personally popular Democratic president who has made this his make-or-break issue, Pelosi, Reid, and the Democratic leadership still can't seem to round up enough Yeas to spit in the voters' faces. Funny, isn't it?
The calculus is fairly simple; AP quotes a couple of members of the House Democratic caucus explaining the problem:
"People who voted 'yes' would love a second bite at the apple to vote 'no' this time, because they went home and got an unpleasant experience" because of their votes, said Rep. Jason Altmire, a moderate Democrat from Pennsylvania. "On the other hand," he added, "I don't know anybody who voted 'no' who regrets it...."
Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., said he chatted at the House gym Friday morning with fellow conservative Democrats and found that Obama's session had produced no new momentum.
"I don't think it made a nickel's worth of difference," he said, adding, "It's fair to say the trend is going against the bill."
I don't believe that Scott Brown's victory alone redrew the Democrats' electoral map; but it definitely shone a spotlight upon it... and any Democrat who plans to run for reelection ignores it at his political peril.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► February 27, 2010
The Unbearable Slightness of Being Joe Klein
In Time Magazine, Joe Klein has a very eccentric response to the health-care summit:
[T]he tea leaves seem to indicate that Obama came out well ahead of the Republicans.
That's... unique. How does Klein score the "debate" to get that result?
[T]he President talked a lot -- actually, the President, the Congressional Democrats and Republicans each spoke an equal amount -- the Times of London found it boring and the networks turned to other programming.
Of course that ratio actually means that the Democrats talked twice as much as Republicans. But why should the number of minutes of speech, or how boring it was, determine who won the summit? The president can spout nonsense all day long (which he did) without letting the other side speak, but that doesn't mean he persuaded Americans to support ObamaCare (which he did not).
But I digress. Mr. Klein continues.
Reading between the lines, you can conclude that the Republicans had nothing very interesting, or clever, to say (and were never able to get the President's goat). And that the President was his usual, unflappable, well-informed self. You can also conclude that not much progress was made at the summit, as Karen reports here -- but that's a huge surprise, right?
Reading between what lines? The entire summit was carried on C-SPAN, and there is a lot of it now available on YouTube. If Klein actually watched the discussion, he would have known Republicans had a lot to say. For only one example, here is a six-plus-minute clip of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI, 84%) trying to break through Barack H. Obama's wall of separation between rhetoric and reality (hat tip to Power Line):
So, where did Joe Klein got the strange ideas that (a) the president routed the GOP, and (b) Republicans had little to say? What program was he watching anyway?
Perhaps this explains Joe Klein's take-away impression:
Shame on me. I was elsewhere yesterday and missed the health care summit. I'm catching up now, and the tea leaves seem to indicate that Obama came out well ahead of the Republicans. How do I know that? From Matt Drudge, of course.
As it turns out, Klein's entire sourcing for his conclusion comes from reading Drudge and the New York Times. ("All the news that fits -- our pre-existing story board!") In Klein's world, that trifling input is enough to justify his conclusions of who won and who had the better case.
So what other news did Klein pick up from his sketchy reading? Here's his take on how the GOP could have "won" instead:
I remain convinced that if the Republicans actually wanted to deal with this issue, they might have gotten some major concessions from the President -- malpractice reform, for sure; ....To get these things, however, the Republicans would have had to say yes at some point. As in, YES, I'll vote for the bill if you throw in malpractice and pay for it with the money you get from limiting deductability. That is what happens in a negotiation. That is what is supposed to happen in a democracy.
Joe Klein misses the central point: Republicans are not asking for a few concessions here and there. They, and majority of Americans for that matter, fundamentally reject and oppose a government take over of the health care system. There is a huge, unbridgeable gap between Democrats and Republicans. As Paul Ryan explains towards the end of the clip above:
The difference is this. We don't think all the answers lie in Washington regulating all of this. So the problem with the approach we are seeing that you're offering, which I do believe, Senator, is very different than what we're saying, is we don't want to sit in Washington and mandate all of these things....
We want to decentralize the system, give more power to small businesses, more power to individuals, and make insurers compete more. But if you federalize it and standardize it and mandate it, you do not achieve that.
Joe Klein might have understood this, had he actually watched the summit instead of reading the New York Times condensed and filtered version. (If he wasn't too busy retracting specious claims from earlier columns, I mean.)
But the obvious truth here is that the Republicans do not want any sort of health care bill to pass at all because they do not want to hand President Obama a victory.
Is Klein saying we Republicans don't even want our own health-insurance reform plan to pass? Or is he unaware that we have one? (Maybe the Times chose not to cover it, so Klein never heard of it.)
Republicans do not want to let Democrats use this artificial "crisis" to create a very real and irreversible nationalization of one-sixth of the American economy. Republicans (Americans!) do not want shockingly huge taxes, skyrocketing premiums, loss of choice, waiting lists, rationed care, and death panels... not even in a swap for unnamed (and never offered) "concessions" on a few things that might actually help ordinary people.
This isn't a game; we're talking about real people's lives, health, and liberty. We don't want fascism with the smiley face of tort reform and more catastrophic care policies, assuming ObamaCare's health-insurance exchange eventually decides to allow them.
Republicans actually have principles -- another point Joe Klein didn't pick up from the Times.
Date ►►► February 25, 2010
They Just Don't Get It - Number 2,317
Nominee for dumbest campaign idea of 2010 (so far)...
The Democratic National Committee's Organizing for America has quietly launched an initiative aimed at making Obama supporters' voices heard on the largely conservative airwaves.
"The fate of health reform has been a focus of debate in living rooms and offices, on TV and online -- and on talk radio. And since millions of folks turn to talk radio as a trusted source of news and opinions, we need to make sure OFA supporters are calling in with a pro-reform message," says the introduction to the online tool.
The online tool presents users with a radio show discussing political topics, to which supporters can listen live, and the phone number for that station, for when health care comes up. It also offers tips for callers and talking points on the issue.
So the DNC -- and its black-ops arm, Organizing for America (OFA) -- has the revelation that the reason talk radio is overwhelmingly conservative is that (wait for it) they haven't heard enough "talking points" from liberal seminar callers. (I'm uncertain how this explains the collapse of Air America.)
If only the Left could persuade more Democratic tools -- sorry -- could persuade more uninformed Democrats, who have never had to confront conservative arguments in their lives, to use an online tool to call Rush, Sean, or Hugh and portentiously intone a memorized spiel for ObamaCare or Crap and Tax, then surely talk-radio listeners will see the light, the 2010 election forecast will turn around, and all will be right (sorry, Left) in Obamaland.
What could possibly go wrong?
Good. Just keep thinking that, Rahm. Keep the tools moving through the rest of the year. And be sure to remind your tool-users to get right out there on November 3rd and vote, vote, vote!
Why the Rush to Blame Mossad - Other Than Anti-Israel Paranoia?
The world still roils over the assassination of Hamas senior commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai; perhaps a better word would be "hyperventilates":
Last week, Israel's ambassador to Britain was called in for an official reprimand by the Foreign Office. In Dubai, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, the chief of police for the emirate, has said he is "99 percent" sure that operatives of the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, killed Mr. al-Mabhouh.
But I still haven't seen a single shred of evidence that Mossad, Israel's premier agency for intelligence, covert ops, and counter-terrorism, was behind the bizarre scheme... and several tantalizing bits indicating that they weren't:
- In general, the hit job was too elaborate, too complex, too Byzantine. Gas? Guns? Electrocutions? This is silly.
- The 26-member hit squad was far too large for the job; that scrum was almost guaranteed to be found out!
- The killers were clumsy enough to be caught on surveillance video, which seems very unlike the highly professional Mossad.
- They stole the identities of real Israeli citizens. Far from pointing the finger at Mossad, I believe this curious fact points firmly away from that agency; why would they intentionally implicate their own citizens?
And a new piece of intel I'd not seen until today: According to Dubai intelligence, one of the best in the Middle East, two of the assassins chose a peculiar refuge to flee after the hit:Nonetheless, some details have emerged that do not track with traditional Israeli intelligence tradecraft. The Dubai authorities this week said two of the operatives fled to Iran.
Let's do a little detecting. We need a suspect group that (a) kills Hamas members; (b) doesn't mind implicating Israel; and (c) has some sort of affinity with Iran. Hm... that's a toughie; unless, just possibly, the hit was actually carried out by Hezbollah.
- Hezbollah is fighting Hamas for control of Gaza and the West Bank; they have ample reason to want to assassinate al-Mabhouh.
- Hezbollah takes its cue from Iran, and no country on Earth hates Israel more than Iran. Killing al-Mabhouh -- and ensuring that Israel would get the blame in the international community, which is always eager to blame the Jews for everything bad in the world, anyway -- would send a tingle down Hassan Nasrallah's leg.
- Hezbollah is Iran's private terrorist group, which they send out to other countries and regions, notably Syria and the Palestinian Authority, to enforce Iran's will. It makes perfect sense for Hezbollah assassins to flee to Iran for sanctuary.
To my thoughts, all signs point to Hezbollah, not Mossad, as the author of this plot. It seems that even the Devil can do a good deed now and again, albeit for his own nefarious reasons.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► February 24, 2010
My Soul Mate?
My favorite car-related television show -- well actually, the only car-related television show I've ever watched -- is the BBC's Top Gear, where three witty and acerbic Brits, ordinary blokes for the most part, get to test-drive hideously expensive autos (like the Bugati Veyron, base price €1,223,679 -- that is, £1,063,826 or $1,700,000); they either praise them to the heavens... or else make arch and sarcastic sneers.
One of them, Jeremy Clarkson, seems to be the head Brit; for one thing, he's the tallest. In this week's episode (broadcast on BBC America, probably weeks or months after its broadcast in the UK), I learned three things about Jeremy:
- He's a fan of the Simpsons TV show; he called the French "cheese-eating front-wheel-drive monkeys."
- He's a fan of Fawlty Towers, John Cleese's follow-on show to Monty Python; he said, "I made a reference to Agincourt, but I think I got away with it."
- And when he was urging another host, James May, to win a race in order to stand up for the "prog-rock generation," the very first band he mentioned was... King Crimson!
Now I know why I like Jeremy so much. Well... that and this.
Sounds Good; But Can We Believe It?
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA, 92%) makes the firm claim that Democrats "[don't] have the votes" to pass the Senate version of ObamaCare, which is the necessary first step down Reconciliation Road:
“The buzz around Washington right now is the inevitability that this healthcare bill is going to pass, that we are somehow going to go to this healthcare summit and there will be a decision on the part of Speaker Pelosi and Harry Reid to go ahead and jam this bill through,” Cantor said.
“Speaker Pelosi doesn’t have the votes in the House. That’s just where we are, and it’s indicative of the fact that the American people don’t like this healthcare bill.”
In a memo to the Republican caucus Wednesday morning, Cantor wrote that House Democrats are farther away from securing the votes to pass a government healthcare bill today than they have ever been, and that they will never be able to muster the votes needed to pass a Senate reconciliation bill in the House.
On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI, 90%), he of the Stupak Amendment against federal funding of abortion, agrees that Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) is woefully short of the votes she needs. In a radio clip of an interview he gave, Stupak said that "15 to 20 Democrats" have already told him that they will not vote for the Senate version because it funds abortions and insurance companies that pay for abortions, and there is no correction in the President's follow-on "fix-it" bill.
These representatives would be among those who actually voted for the previous version of ObamaCare, precisely because they first passed the Stupak Amendment. That means that if they make good their threat, that's a whopping huge hole in Pelosi's previous bare-majority victory.
It all sounds great. I hope it doesn't turn out to be "sound and fury, signifying nothing," with all these Democrats under siege bowing their heads and accepting Party discipline for the sake of the Vision.
Date ►►► February 23, 2010
God v. State: Steel Cage Death Match, Loser Leaves Town!
Dennis Prager has a wonderfully insightful -- and technically inciteful -- column in today's Town Hall schmeer. Do you recall that I recently contrasted Prager to Michael Medved by saying the former was sometimes profound? This is one of those times.
Profundity doesn't always mean enunciating a brand new revelation; it can also be found in expressing a well-known point in a particularly succinct, understandable, apt, illuminating way. In this case, that:
For the right, the primary moral authority is God (or, for secular conservatives, Judeo-Christian values), followed by parents. Of course, government must also play a role, but it is ultimately accountable to God and it should do nothing to undermine parental authority.
For the left, the state and its government are the supreme authorities, while parental and divine authority are seen as impediments to state authority.
Prager performs magnificently in this piece; it would be difficult for even a leftist to argue against his central point... where "argue" means saying more somewhat than, "You're wrong! And you're a racist!"
Really, who could argue anyway? Lefties would be better served by skipping the unbelievable denials and straightforwardly defending their de facto policy: "Of course we want to undermine the authority of your parents and your 'god'... parents represent old, bourgeois thinking, unsuited to the demands of modernity and the New Soviet Man. And your invisible king in the sky is a throwback to the caesars of antiquity, sitting on his cloud-throne and pronouncing so-called 'eternal' rules that are inflexible and unable to deal with the flowing, inconstant chaos of today!"
For all their faults -- and I admit they had a few here and there -- at least Nazis and Stalinists had the courage to enunciate their philosophy clearly.
But ever since the sixties, the New Left has operated from the shadow world of deceit, conspiracy, and code. Rather than forthrightly say, "We want to supplant your parents and raise you to think our way," they say that your Dad and Mum are too "uptight" to understand that today's kids live by different moral rules than previous generations; your folks are just packed full with envy-cheese, like an overstuffed manicotti, because their parents (Granny and Old Grand-Dad) never let them have any fun... so they don't want to let you have any.
Besides, your parents didn't have the advantages of a real education; when they were in school, universities were all run by Reaganites with Alzheimer's who made your parents stupid! You're much more intelligent; you should be telling them what to do, the retarded, ugly, old ingrates.
And rather than say "God is dead, long live the State," which would at least tell you where they really stood, they hide behind the First Amendment prohibition on the "establishment of religion." Certainly we all agree that allowing a Ten Commandments plaque to lurk somewhere on government land or keeping the phrase "In God we trust" on the coinage is perfectly equivalent to Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, butchering Catholics by the bushel. It's just a short skip from holding Bible study classes to banning all books but the Bible in schools and libraries.
If you guide your life by the divine principles of traditional Judeo-Christian thought, you're a religious fanatic who should be barred from public office, if not locked away where persons in white coats can take care of you (under ObamaCare). If you follow the wishes of your parents, you're positively Mediaeval!
It may seem as though I've wandered far afield, but no; this is the subject of Dennis Prager's column, though in less hysterical terms than I use. As that fellow blogger oft says, read the whole thing.
Date ►►► February 22, 2010
Many Democrats now pugnaciously assert that, no matter what voters think, the Left is going to pass ObamaCare anyway... and you'll jolly well like it, see!
Under this scenario, the House will simply pass the Senate version. Then, by abusing a procedure that is little understood (even by members of Congress) -- and never intended to pass controversial legislation under the radar anyway -- they will "fix" (that is, rewrite) every faint nod towards fiscal responsibility that snuck its way into the bill, turning it into another corrupt, trillion-dollar boondoggle.
Using this technique, called "reconciliation," no fillibuster is allowed; the fixes can be enacted with a simple majority in House and Senate.
The only fly in the pudding is that the House Democratic caucus hasn't the votes. What with retirements and untimely deaths, they lose four or five votes right off the bat. Also subtract the lone Republican who voted for it last time, Rep. Anh "Joseph" Quang Cao (LA, As yet unrated); he now says he won't vote for it ever again. That brings the 220-vote majority down to a 214- or 215-vote minority.
Finally, a group of 64 Democrats (plus 176 Republicans, but they're irrelevant here), led by Rep. Stupak, voted to ban any kind of federal funding of abortions. Alack and woe are they, full federal funding for abortions is one of the late (and Catholic) Teddy Kennedy's crowning achievements, and Democratic senators aren't about to knock the rug off the feet of that legislative memorial to the Lion of the Senate. If even 10% of those Stupakers meant what they said, that means the bill falls short of passage by 10 or 11 votes.
So they appear to be Stupaked -- a portmanteau word I just created by combining "stupified" and "stuck" in a particle accelerator. Thus, now do I offer what may be the perfect end run around the new obstacle, a House of Representatives that can't find its way to 218 votes. To complement the reconciliation process, we now offer the irreconciliation process.
All the Democrats need do is enact a House rule change: Henceforth -- until January 2011 -- a majority of 38% will be sufficient to enact any controversial legislation designed to remove and replace any program supported by Republicans or created by George W. Bush. That is, when trying to undo Republican ravages against the Vision, 161 representatives will, by rule, constitute a majority of the full 435.
It's pointless to argue; it just is. Do the math, remembering to take the traditional five-finger discount for Democrats.
The time for bourgeois voting is over; we need action, action, action!
Much as I would love to be able to cite Gen. David Petraeus as favoring the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) and supporting gays serving openly in the military, I can't; Petraeus did not go that far. (Not yet, anyway.)
However, he did allow that no significant problems occurred when other countries, including Israel, jettisoned DADT:
General Petraeus, who said that allowing openly gay service members in Britain and Israel had in the end been “uneventful,” declined to give his own view on the merits of allowing openly gay members of the United States military. “I support what our secretary and our chairman have embarked on here,” he said, adding that he would offer his own opinion if he was asked in a hearing on Capitol Hill.
Note that one of the countries Petraeus has experience with --before and after repealing their version of DADT -- is Israel. This is a particularly strong analogy, as the major argument against considering the experiences of foreign lands has generally been that America is more religious than other countries. Opponets of repeal say that allowing gays to serve openly may work all right in atheistic, socialist countries in the European Union, which generally have only a joke of an army anyway; but the policy could never work in a religious country like the United States.
However, Israel has a much greater rate of religious observance than most European countries, though not as many as in America. By consequence, Israel is a significantly closer match for the religiosity of the United States.
The same Times article reports a survey of those other countries' experiences transitioning from a ban on gays or a program similar to DADT to a military that allows gays to serve openly:
A comprehensive new study on foreign militaries that have made transitions to allowing openly gay service members concludes that a speedy implementation of the change is not disruptive. The finding is in direct opposition to the stated views of Pentagon leaders, who say repealing a ban on openly gay men and women in the United States armed forces should take a year or more.
The study, “Gays in Foreign Militaries 2010: A Global Primer,” is to be released Tuesday by the Palm Center, a research group at the University of California, Santa Barbara....
The report concludes that in foreign militaries, openly gay service members did not undermine morale, cause large resignations or mass “comings out.” The report found that “there were no instances of increased harassment” as a result of lifting bans in any of the countries studied.
In addition, the report says that none of the countries studied installed separate facilities for gay troops, and that benefits for gay partners were generally in accordance with a country’s existing benefits for gay and lesbian couples.
On implementation, the study said that most countries made the change swiftly, within a matter of months and with what it termed little disruption to the armed services. Mr. Frank said the study did not look at what happened if the change was implemented gradually because, he said, “I don’t think any of the militaries tried it.”
I'm afraid that demanding gays be barred from military service, or else forever forced to conceal their sexual preference from their friends and associates, has become a "shibboleth," an ideological test to weed moderates out from the scrum of true believers. Among conservatives, that ideological position has slowly morphed into adamant: Today, I doubt that any amount of any kind of evidence would ever convince movement-conservatives to accept gays serving openly.
It's a sad era when capitalist, individualist keepers of the conservative flame are no more willing to listen to their political opponents than the climatologists and atmospheric scientists caught up in Climategate.
We will certainly follow up on David Petraeus' personal opinion, when (if!) he testifies before Congress.
Date ►►► February 21, 2010
George Bush's Five Worst Mistakes
President George W. Bush famously refused to answer the asinine and offensive demand that he iterate all of his worst mistakes as president. I applaud him for that firm refusal.
But I'm happy to enumerate them here myself.
I do this for remedial and salutary reasons; I want future GOP presidents not to make the same mistakes, lest we suffer the same horrific consequences... the election of a leftist to the presidency and left-liberals to Congress, followed by years groaning under the yoke of Euro-socialism.
In general, I think Bush-43 was America's best president since Reagan; but that's not a very high standard. I'll go farther: He was America's fourth-best president since Abraham Lincoln. (The three presidents who were better during that period were, in chronological order, Calvin Coolidge, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan.)
But he had five nigh-catastrophic whoppers that left his presidency flawed and incomplete:
I Spree live spree
He failed to veto even a single Republican spending bill. Bush had it within his power to save the GOP from itself: Had he vetoed the first few spending bills that exceeded rationality, I think the party would have pulled itself up by its own bootstraps -- and we (and Bush himself) would have been spared the ignominy of the 2006 and 2008 election defeats. Further, America would have been spared Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%), Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%), and of course President Barack H. Obama.
Alas, the president used up all his courage facing down al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, leaving nothing left to face down Denny Hastert, Trent Lott, and Bill Frist.
II Speech screech
In a fit of insanity, Bush signed the McCain-Feingold conspiracy to suppress political speech shortly before elections. Bush claims that he signed it expecting that the Supreme Court would strike it down as patently unconstitutional; but that's such a transparent evasion that it embarasses Bush's legacy.
(Eventually it did; but only after first upholding it, allowing the partial repeal of the First Amendment to wreck havoc on Republicans, as Democrats leveraged their paid union "volunteers" and "apolitical" news media into electoral gains.)
Bush should have vetoed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 and warned the Republican Congress not to try to legislate away America's most precious constitutional rights.
III A cathartic constitional crisis
The Hamdan and Boumediene cases -- Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006) and Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. ___ (2008) -- sparked the mother of all "separation of powers" decisions: For the very first time in American history, a sharply divided Supreme Court held that Article III civilian federal courts had actual jurisdiction over military commissions and tribunals during wartime (Hamdan), and that prisoners and detainees of war, captured on a battlefield in the midst of a war, enjoyed habeas corpus rights (Boumediene)... even foreigners held on foreign soil. That is, unlawful enemy combatants can now challenge their military detention in civilian courts; and when tried by military tribunals must receive all the same rights as would American military personnel being tried at courts-martial.
This is insanity on stilts. Under this reasoning, even ordinary prisoners of war captured in combat can file writs of habeas corpus, and some federal judge could order them all released back to their military units (since no arrest warrant was issued), whence they could take up arms again and kill more Americans! Also, any federal judge can curtail any interrogation of unlawful combatants, because that violates the Fifth Amendment -- which evidently now applies to foreigners living abroad.
Such supposed rights had never been found or even imagined since 1787; but perhaps every legal scholar prior to the coming of the Lord of Light, Justice Anthony Kennedy, was a dope and a dupe.
But back to the president. George W. Bush had before him a principled (though ballsy) option: He could have announced, in response first to Hamdan, then again after Boumediene, that:
- Civilian federal courts have no power to strip the President of the United States of his constitutional authority to be "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States;"
- That the disposal of prisoners of war and other wartime detainees is an essential function of the Commander in Chief;
- And that therefore, the president alone has authority over such detainees, subject only to the constitutional power of Congress to impeach and remove the president from office.
He should have told the Supreme Court, in the immortal words of Horace Greeley (claiming to be quoting President Andrew Jackson), "[The Chief Justice] has made his decision, now let him enforce it!"
Or even more succinctly, paraphrasing either Josef Stalin or Adolf Hitler or Napoleon Bonaparte (depending who you ask)... "How many battalions does the Court have?"
Would such a direct rejection of a Supreme Court ruling have triggerd the much-dreaded "constitutional crisis?" You betcha! Is that a good thing? You betcha! Constitutional crises yield constitutional comprehension: Sometimes a crisis is vital in resolving whether the separation of powers really is an essential element of Americanism, or whether one branch of government should rule über alles... in this case as a modern-day kritarchy.
Oh... and it would also have serendipitously sharpened the ability of the president -- including successors to George W. Bush -- to fight and win the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda Axis.
IIII Nuke nuke... who's there?
This one is simple and heartbreaking. Bush promised that one thing he would never do is pass along the Iranian nuclear problem to his successor.
Worse, he passed it along to a habitual appeaser and waist-bower who has no intention of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear warheads to go along with its intermediate-range ballistic missiles. As Beldar, among others, points out, this virtually guarantees that we'll see a nuclear attack within our lifetimes.
Bush had a beautiful opportunity to implement the Herman Option, which we discussed before: Blockading Iran's importation of gasoline and seizing control of their few gasoline refineries, thus bringing the mullahs' government to a grinding halt in just a very few days.
We needed no U.N. vote, no sanction, no mandate from Congress, and no help from our allies; we already had the forces in the Straight of Hormuz. We lacked but the will for presidential action.
(We could have prevented Iran from undertaking its only defense -- blowing up and sinking an oil tanker in the Straight, thus blocking all oil exports to other nations -- by escorting all tankers in convoys with cruisers, minesweepers, and fast-attack subs.)
In any event, no matter how successful or un-, it sure would have beat doing nothing and letting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Hoseyni Khamenei get a pocketful of nukes to sprinkle around the civilized world.
V The Mary Poppins syndrome
Finally, Bush's greatest failing: Like Mary Poppins, he made it a practice never to explain anything!
Where Reagan was the Great Communicator, Bush was the Great Obfuscator. He never quite got the point that one of the primary duties of the POTUS is to explain to the American people what he and his administration are doing... and why they're doing it. In detail: Here is the problem; here are the options; here is one we've chosen; and this is why we chose it. Here are the potential upsides and downsides; and this is metric by which we'll judge its success.
I don't mean going to the U.N. for permission to overthrow Saddam Hussein, or testifying before Congress, or filing amicus briefs in the federal courts. I refer here to going before the people themselves, as Reagan loved to do, and speaking directly to them to explain the overall strategy and how all the niggling details fit into the big picture.
But Bush rarely did it, if ever. Rather than define himself and his tenure, Bush allowed his political enemies to define him in their own misleading terms. Needless to say, Bush came out the loser in that exchange.
Even such easily explained actions as invading Iraq and deposing the monster (and his monstrous spawn) were never really made understandable. It was left, too often, to us unrelated third parties, from politicians to journalists to bloggers, to explain Bush ourselves; and after eight years of such Delphic interpretation, I can tell you I grew damned tired of it!
Past performance no guarantee of future results -- thank goodness!
Let us hope -- no, let us demand -- that the incoming Republican president in 2013 reviews these great errors in the administration of George W. Bush... and resolves not to make the same stupid missteps. If he is vigilant against such apostasy to American ideals, I predict the New Republican Party, the Tea Partiers, and the American voters themselves will reward him with renewed financial support and reinvigorated poll numbers.
I think that the most common-sense principle that most Americans demand of he President of the United States is that he remember that he is the President of the United States, not the Compromiser in Chief or the CEO of the International House of Pandercakes.
Just stand up for common-sense and traditional American principles, and we'll understand if sometimes you lose the fight. At the very least, we want to see you go down swinging -- but swinging for us, not for the klepto-spenders, the silencers, the terrorists, or the candlelight vigilantes.
Date ►►► February 20, 2010
What Makes Lefty Run?
Sachi and I got to talking about the Tea-Party movement, and she asked me why the Left hated the Tea Partiers so much. "They don't," I said; then groping for an explanation of what suddenly seemed so clear, I made a slight correction: "It's the liberals who hate and despise Tea Partiers, mocking them as "tea baggers" and such. The hard-core Left isn't full of hate... it's full of terror: I believe they are more terrified today than they have been since thirty years ago."
The rest of this post is my attempt to analyze my mini-revelation, explain it, and justify it.
The Left is terrified because, more than any other political group, they know a growing popular front when they see one; and they're seeing one now.
A popular front is an extremely broad-based coalition of political forces that normally oppose each other. In rare moments, the stars align, and so do the groups; what results is a mass movement that can wash away the status quo like a burst dam. The movement doesn't have to include all or even a majority of the citizenry; but it is large enough to push aside any countervailing coalition -- which means whatever the front wants, it gets.
Lefties understand the unstoppable raw power of a popular front; that's why their own strategy for seizing control of a country and "communizing" it invariably includes creating a popular front of dissent and protest against the established government, local or colonial. But a popular front needn't be based on leftist ideology; there are several examples in recent history:
- The Khomeinist revolution in Iran depended upon a religious popular front that rose up against Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1979.
- The Communist revolution in post-WWII Vietnam was driven by a popular front against colonial France.
- The Communist revolutions in WWI-era Czarist Russia and post-WWII Nationalist China both depended upon international socialist popular fronts that turned into a general uprising against the established State.
- The National Socialist takeover in 1920s-1930s Germany included a popular front against Communism and for German monocultural nationalism and Fascism.
- The French Revolution required a popular front that arose against the jaw-dropping financial and dictatorial excesses of the Bourbon kings.
- And the American Revolution critically depended upon a popular front revolting against the loss of home rule and the attempted subjugation by Mother England, thousands of miles away.
In each case, political groups forged alliances with hereditary enemies that more often fought each other hammer and tooth -- for example, American aristocrats like Washington and Jefferson allying with lawyers and tradesmen (John Adams, Patrick Henry) against British rule. That kind of widespread movement is what defines a popular front.
The Tea Party front is the worst nightmare of the hard-core Left -- a patriotic, small-government, capitalist popular front. While Tea Partiers are not specifically Republican, leftists realize that GOP leaders (Sarah Palin) and candidates (Scott Brown) are far better positioned to appeal to Tea Partiers than are Democrats: All Republicans must do is match their words with deeds; but Democrats would have to (a) repudiate everything they have said and voted for in the past four decades, then (b) convince Tea Partiers that this time they're sincere!
The Scott Brown election is a perfect example of the relentless power of a popular front; I mean the timeline of the election itself, not its consequences. On November 4-8, a Suffolk University poll had Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democrat, ahead of state Sen. Scott Brown by 31% (58-27); in early January, the Boston Globe had her still ahead by 15% (50-35), while even Rasmussen had her 9% ahead (50-41).
Two weeks later, Brown beat Coakley by nearly 5%, 52-47. That represents a swing of 36% in just two months; and there is really nothing else to account for such movement other than a popular front. No terrible scandal engulfed Ms. Coakley, no state of emergency, no powerful or charismatic Republican leader turned the election into a referendum upon him- or herself; in fact, the closest analogy to that last is that Barack H. Obama personally went to Massachusetts two days before the election and campaigned with Coakley.
Tea Parties will likely have only a small (but significant) impact in 2010; what terrifies the prescient Left is the next election. Given another couple of years to build, and assuming nothing happens to destroy it, the popular front could produce a Noachian cataclysm on presidential and congressional elections then... as well as on state and local elections across America, which could lead to generational capitalist hegemony.
If the Tea Parties turn into a full-blown, patriotic-American popular front, which I think likely, Democrats, liberals, and lefties could go from winning it all in 2008 -- to being inundated and immolated by the tsunami of 2012.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Mighty Big of Them!
So the mountain hath labored mightily and given birth to -- a mouse:
An initial review by the Justice Department's internal affairs unit found that former government lawyers Jay Bybee and John Yoo had committed professional misconduct, a conclusion that could have cost them their law licenses. But, underscoring just how controversial and legally thorny the memos have become, the Justice Department's top career lawyer reviewed the matter and disagreed....
[Assistant Deputy Attorney General David] Margolis, the top nonpolitical Justice Department lawyer and a veteran of several administrations, called the legal memos "flawed" and said that, at every opportunity, they gave interrogators as much leeway as possible under U.S. torture laws. But he said Yoo and Bybee were not reckless and did not knowingly give incorrect advice, the standard for misconduct.
The DoJ reluctantly admitted that Bybee and Yoo did not in fact commit any crime by giving their best advice to the Bush administration, even though liberals have the uneasy feeling that somebody got the better of them somehow. Accordingly, after years of "investigation," they've dismissed all charges.
The worst the Left could lay at the feet of Bybee and Yoo is that they "gave interrogators as much leeway as possible." One can only conclude that the Left believes the only fair and honorable course would be to give the terrorists as much leeway as possible. Heck, it's not their fault that they don't yet have a terrorist-sponsoring superpower to supply them with modern armies, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and an air force, hence must engage in "asymmetrical warfare" against us. Give them time!
But other members of the administration of Barack H. Obama just can't let go of that bone. They still want to push beyond the unsatisfying, symbolic, show-trial denunciation the president offered as his parting shot; these zealots still hope to drive all the way and jug nearly every official in the Bush administration who so much as considered the question of enhanced interrogation techniques. These latter Obamatons still fear that Bush-era Justice lawyers will escape their just punishment for the crime of coming to a different conclusion than liberals about the legality of treating the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda Axis as if it were a war against the Iran/al-Qaeda Axis:
The Office of Professional Responsibility, led by another veteran career prosecutor, Mary Patrice Brown, disagreed.
"Situations of great stress, danger and fear do not relieve department attorneys of their duty to provide thorough, objective and candid legal advice, even if that advice is not what the client wants to hear," her team wrote in a report that criticized the memos for a "lack of thoroughness, objectivity and candor."
But what if the legal advice is not what the liberal bloc wants to hear? Is that allowed?
Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Jay Bybee and Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the OLC John Yoo gave actual legal and moral reasons why they believed that belly slaps and attention grabs, and even waterboarding, did not rise to the level of "torture." Does Ms. Brown give reasons why she thinks they do? More to the point, does she give such cogent and unanswerable reasons that no reasonable person could possibly dispute that making terrorist detainees stand at attention while being shouted at constitutes torture?
In a word, No; she gives not.
Lean close and press your ear to the monitor; that grinding noise you hear is the gnashing of liberal teeth. As Andy McCarthy asks at the National Review's group blog the Corner (hat tip to John Hinderaker at Power Line), "What exactly did the CIA do that [they] think was 'torture'?"
Earlier, he answers his own question:
Torture is the infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering. The physical kind must be excruciating and the mental kind must cause profound and lasting psychological harm. The law has always taken care to distinguish torture from lesser forms of abuse because it is the most heinous of acts. It is important not to trivialize it by applying the explosive label torture to acts that don't warrant it. Moreover, there has always been a demanding standard of criminal intent: the accused must specifically intend to torture his victim. The police officer who shoots a murder suspect in a gun fight may inflict severe pain, and know full well when he fires his weapon that severe pain is a certain result, but he doesn't commit torture -- indeed, he doesn't commit a crime of any kind.
And as too often happens in discussions of "torture," your concerns about morality are entirely one-sided. Officers of the executive branch have a solemn obligation to protect the American people. It is their highest responsibility. They are not good Samaritans. If there is a serious threat of a mass-murder attack, they are obligated to take all reasonable steps to stop it -- and what is reasonable depends on the circumstances and the exigency. It is immoral to assume that obligation and then fail to carry it out. Unlike your angry fellow parishioners, these officials don't get to be detached Monday morning quarterbacks. You condemn them for acting, but they will be just as vigorously condemned for failing to act if a preventable catastrophe happens.
In response to this, liberals, exemplified by the exemplary Mary Patrice Brown, construct an argument structurally identical to, "It must be torture, because it would be so convenient if it were torture!" Needless to say, this is about as convincing as "Shut up," she explained.
In short, we have an insoluble dilemma: On the one hand, liberals and the hard Left believe that Bybee and Yoo had a moral duty to "the Vision" to bend their hands backwards to find some reason to forbid every form of interrogation beyond politely asking for intelligence; on the other hand, Americans have the arrogant, ethnocentric notion that the first duty of the President of the United States was to protect... well, the United States and all it contains. Especially including its people. And to hell with the putative "constitutional rights" of unlawful enemy combatants who don't even obey the law of war, let alone the law of peace.
The Left vs. America -- what a shocker!
And now, having utterly lost the political and ideological argument -- for even the Obamacle Himself finds reason to create a "High Value Detainee Interrogation Group;" though as usual, he proudly pronounces the policy, then dawdles over the details -- the whiners think to win by criminalizing policy disagreement, stripping their ideological adversaries, whom they have never been able to outargue, of their livelihood and even imprisoning them.
Yet even this strategy will backfire, as Col. Oliver North demonstrated in July of 1987. I swear, enthused acolytes of the One would be out shooting conservatives in the streets, were it not for those pesky gun-control laws in our nation's capital.
Date ►►► February 18, 2010
On Taxes, Violent Revolution, Michael Medved, and the Late Mr. Stack
On today's show, Michael Medved said something fatuous.
Yes, I know this is hardly news enough even to raise an eyebrow; he has done it many times before, and he will continue to do it. To be fair, he also says things now and again that are unusually perceptive; but to continue our brutal fair mindedness, I have never heard him utter profundity, a feat Dennis Prager occasionally achieves.
Medved's dilemma is twofold, ideological and pragmatic. His first ideological impulse is often leftwards, towards collectivism, relatively big government, and a nanny state; then when he stops to think about it, he veers right. But too often, while trying to "justify" the thin veneer of conservatism that beshrouds his underlying urge towards liberalism, he stumbles into a fugue of semi-desperate defensiveness.
My gut feeling is that Medved, because of his left-liberal background, is always just a little bit ashamed about being a capitalist and a social conservative; so he must continually prove that he hasn't actually betrayed his idealistic roots. When his "liberal conscience" gives him an attack of the guilts, it drives him to launch into a hectoring, sometimes whiny explanation cum apology. Michael Medved is forever trying to prove to his old friends that he's not really a running-dog imperialist fascist.
Pragmatically, he may know what to do; but fear gets in the way. In the present case, he seems quite nervous that if he raises the question of revolution, even to shoot it down as completely unwarranted and risible in today's America, everybody will point at him, and through him, at conservativism itself, chanting, "shame, shame!"
But we're Americans; we're driven by courage and optimism, not fear and a soul-sapping premonition of defeat. We cannot be afraid to think about the "unthinkable," lest the day of the unthinkable come as a thief in the night. Courage, Michael; courage.
Eh bien. So he was speaking about Joseph Andrew Stack III, that nutjob who unsuccessfully tried to murder his wife and stepdaughter, then flew his private plane into an IRS building in Austin. Evidently, some callers in the previous hour (I wasn't listening then) expressed some sympathy with Stack, either with his lunatic suicidal "protest," the hallucinations found in his mushroomy "manifesto" -- or merely with the idea that excess taxation is oppressive. Three paragraphs of Stackism are more than enough to get the general idea:
While very few working people would say they haven’t had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.
Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”. It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.
And justice? You’ve got to be kidding!
(This should put to rest any idea that Mr. Stack was a conservative; this reads more like a loony-left, anti-corporatist, populist screed, à la the Unabomber.)
Medved had to walk a tightrope in response: He agrees with the last point (taxes are too high) but of course rejects the first two. In his zeal to reassure America that Michael Medved is not a Stackist, that Stack isn't (I mean wasn't) a conservative, that the Tea Party movement isn't violent, and that Republicans don't stand for flying Piper Cherokees into federal buildings, the Sage of Seattle went a skosh overboard.
He stated that even discussing revolution crosses a "tipping point" where one's credibility is utterly destroyed; that it's dangerous and mad even to imagine resorting to violence to "make progress" in America. When someone called to remind him of the American Revolution, Medved was at great pains to lecture that our Founders weren't up in arms over taxation per se, but rather over the loss of local control over government, when Great Britain decided to wring us dry to pay for the French and Indian War.
True enough on the last; but doesn't that argument admit that there are, then, legitimate reasons to revolt? If not taxation, then when a remote federal government seizes sufficient power from the more accessible, local governments. That is, when government shifts from being of, by, and for the people to being an oppressive foreign element imposed upon the people from outside.
My impression is that Medved would shun talk of revolution even in the latter instance, at least within the United States. But I don't mean the America of today; we're nowhere near the point where revolution is a legitimate option... and I sincerely doubt we ever will be, to a large extent because of wonderfully American, government-limiting phenonomena like California's Proposition 13, the Reagan Democrats, and Tea Partiers.
But let's hypothesize; imagine if an American president signed a treaty making America a member of the European Union; and suppose a runaway Senate quickly ratified the treaty. Suppose we began overturning state and local laws, regulations, and protections to impose international diktats emanating from the unholy ménage à trois between Strasbourg, Luxembourg, and Brussels. Suppose the Constitution, its Bill of Rights, and American sovereignty itself remained as paper promises only, our sacred rights and liberties supplanted by what could only then be called one-world government; and that all peaceful means of reform were outlawed and made useless.
Would that be enough for Medved to consider the merits of violent overthrow of what our government had become?
I honestly don't know. It should be more than enough, in my opinion; but Medved imprinted "Summer-of-Love liberalism" at a very early age, and I don't think he'll ever entirely surmount it.
Liberals in the 60s almost invariably advocated for pacifism -- while their radical leftist allies urged bloody revolution. The former cannot have been unaware of what the latter demanded and frequently fomented; yet liberals still refused to break with their pals. I can only conclude that secretly, liberals saw the extremist left as their shock troops, their Basij; whether they admitted it to themselves or not, the idea, conscious or subconscious, was that the establishment should be passive while the Left rampaged through the streets.
Radical and revolutionary impulses can never be controlled by suppression; they can only be defused by responding to them... not just militarily but ideologically. We cannot win a war against radicalism without first winning the war of ideas. On the other extreme, unless we develop a general metric of revolution, we also cannot know when we have reached the real tipping point... the inflection point where revolution becomes not only thinkable for the huge majority, not merely inevitable, but a moral duty.
We see many examples in the world today; their follies and furies allow us to grope for our "general metric of revolution":
- Messianic fanaticism. Clearly Iran has passed that tipping point; can any honest advocate of American ideals dispute that theocracy in Iran is already odious enough that Persians are justified in seizing control, even violently, and hurling the mullahs into the abyss? With the will, they will have the strength; whether they have the will is debatable.
Military dictatorship. Ukrainian President-elect (pending the election appeal) Viktor Yanukovych says that Ukraine should not join either NATO or the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO); the latter -- comprising the Russian Federation, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- is the successor to the Commonwealth of Independent [sic] States, which arose from the ashes of empire in the old USSR in a desperate attempt to salvage Russian hegemony.
But suppose Yanukovych betrays his promise and signs the CSTO treaty, inviting Russian troops into Kiev... in essence, handing Ukraine back into servitude to the Russian bear. That would give Russia practical veto-power over any future change of government back to independence; and that too would give casus belli for revolution.
Economic oblivion. Zimbabwe is still "led" (cannibalized is the better term) by a madman, Robert Mugabe, even after the so-called "power-sharing agreement" with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Zimbabwe is in a state of true economic collapse, something that Americans have never experienced -- not even during the Great Depression, where unemployment never topped about 25%; in Zimbabwe a year ago, it ran about 95%.
They also have one of the worst cases of hyperinflation in human history, far more even than the Weimar Republic that immediately preceded the Nazi takeover of Germany; in 2008, Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate was estimated to be in excess of 230,000,000% (yes, I did indeed mean to type two hundred million percent). Just a year ago, Zimbabwe announced a "fourth" Zimbabwe dollar, which was to be exchanged at a rate of one new dollar for one trillion "third" Zimbabwe dollars.
Mugabe has responded to this crisis by trying to massacre all whites remaining in the country, seizing their farms and other property, and declaring that all of Zimbabwe's troubles stem from continued "colonization." In this case, the madness of Mugabe has metastasized, leading the entire nation into mass psychosis. This is another, albeit darker moral justification for revolutionary overthrow, no matter how violent: It's hard to imagine any new government that would not be infinitely better than the utter chaos, without form and void, that prevails there today. It truly is Hell on Earth.
I reiterate: America is nowhere near political discontinuity on the scale of the countries listed above; we are not at the point where "violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer," as the late and unlamented Mr. Stack would have us believe.
What do all three examples have in common? That the state has formally banned and violently suppressed all peaceful means of redress. That is the only case where, by defintion, "violence... is the only answer."
That must be our primary metric:
- If opposition candidates are allowed to run; and if they win, allowed to assume office;
- If dissidents and ordinary citizens are allowed to peaceably assemble, protest, petition the government, get on TV, and suchlike;
- If residents are still allowed access to the courts to appeal government decisions; if the Supreme Court still strikes down government power grabs, at least some of the time; and if those judicial decisions are accepted, however grudgingly, by the political leaders;
- If civil liberties are still protected at trial, in worship, in speech, and in other circumstances; if the police and military still feel bound by those limitations on their power and do not routinely ignore the law;
- If ordinary civilians are still allowed to possess the means of resistance, including arms;
- If interstate travel -- or in extremis, emigration -- remains unrestricted, thus allowing people to move or even leave the country...
Then you still have a free country. Redress of any set of grievances is still available, given sufficient support within the population; violence against the government is uncalled for; and terroristic acts against the symbols of society and ordinary people is a monstrous moral and social evil.
We cannot shy away from thinking about revolution, and we must not swallow our thoughts without voicing them. Without open, frank discussion, with no idea taken "off the table" before ratiocination even begins, we would have no defense against well-thought-out, cleverly articulated radicalism that demands a hundred RPMs, revolutions per minute. Without grabbing the bull by the tail and looking bloody insurrection in the face, nothing will stand between us and the Bill Ayers and Joseph Andrew Stacks of the world.
Regardless of Michael Medved's frets and fears, we must put on our manly gowns, gird our loins, and pull up our socks. Let's talk, and stop worrying that pondering revolution and concluding that it's preposterous in today's America is going to "destroy the credibility" of... Americanism.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► February 17, 2010
Were Iraq Election Candidates Blocked by Iran?
Gen. Ray Odierno, our top military commander in Iraq, has made a disturbing accusation that clarifies the previously inexplicable action by Iraq's Accountability and Justice Commission. In January, the AJC barred more than 350 Sunni candidates from the March 7th parliamentary elections, claiming they had "ties" to Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party.
While some of the banned candidates were high-ranking members, thus should be preventing from running, most were minor funcitonaries; during the reign of the Baathists, it was virtually impossible for Sunnis to serve in the government without joining, or at least having close ties to, the Baath Party... just as anyone wishing to progress in German politics under Hitler would have to be Nazi Party member or associate. By banning everyone who was in any way connected with the Baath Party, the AJC in effect banned every viable Sunni candidate from the election, a blatant political attack on the Sunni bloc.
Many Iraq-watchers were taken by surprise, because the action puts the entire election in jeopardy. Why would Iraqis want to throw a monkey wrench into their own political future? Gen. Odierno believes he has the answer; from the Washington Times article:
The Iraqi official in charge of a commission that blocked more than 300 politicians from running in next month's elections is working closely with Iran's Quds Force, prompting the top U.S. general in Iraq to voice concerns about Tehran's meddling in Iraq's fragile democracy.
Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, in a speech, accused Ali Faisal al-Lami, the executive director of the Accountability and Justice Commission along with Ahmad Chalabi, the panel's chairman, of being "clearly influenced by Iran."
Gen. Odierno said both men, according to intelligence reports, were in close contact with Abu-Mahdi al-Muhandis, the top Iraqi adviser to Iran's Quds Force commander. The Quds Force comprises Iran's unconventional military units, which have orchestrated anti-U.S. paramilitary and political operations in Iraq.
Ahmad Chalabi is working for Iran? Surprise, surprise, on the Jungle River Cruise tonight! But it's a grave turn of events that al-Qods is also working hand-in-sock-puppet with the Accountability and Justice Commission, who are running the election. As Odierno says, "It is disappointing that someone like [al-Lami] is put in charge of the de-Ba'athification commission."
Odierno says intelligence reports indicate that al-Lami, the AJC executive director, even planned an attack on American forces and Iraqi military and civilian officials in Sadr City.. which by strange coincidence happens to be the stronghold of Iranian minion Muqtada Sadr and his mighty "Mahdi Militia."
Here we see the dazzling genius of President Barack H. Obama's decision to pull troops out of Iraq according to a pre-determined timeline, regardless of facts on the ground: Iran's agents know that if they can ride out the next few months, America will quit the field. Iran will have a free hand to meddle in Iraq's internal affairs to their black heart's content.
Unless, of course, the Obamacle suddenly finds the huevos to stand up to Iran... as he has clearly shown so often in the past year.
But a military crisis may be about to overwhelm the Obamatrons; for Gen. Odierno plans to "re-evaluate the pace of troop reductions in Iraq within 60 days after the March 7 elections in Iraq." One presumes this will include a written report, the terms of which are sure to leak out.
If, as seems likely, Odierno recommends slowing the withdrawal and doing more to fight against al-Qods and other Iranian incursions into Iraq, then what will B.O. do? Will he cave, as he has so far on closing Guantanamo Bay, thus enraging the Left? Or will be be compelled by mounting leftist frustration to draw his foot in the sand, going ahead with the original withdrawal plan regardless of what his own top general says -- thus further eroding voters' respect for his military acumen and leadership (such as they are)?
Either horn of that particular dilemma will damage his political standing. But then, actions -- and particularly inactions -- have consequences. In an ironic twist, Barack Obama may soon be forced to announce that the Obama who insisted upon a firm withdrawal date... is not the Obama he knew.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► February 15, 2010
Excellent Post by Wolfie; Required Reading
I so rarely do this that many readers will not recall the last time; I don't!
Please click here and read a powerful post by GW at Wolf Howling; I cannot praise it highly enough. (Ignore the tyops; the content is vital.) In a very few words, GW identifies the problem with Salafi/Wahhabi Islam, limns the essential difference between that branch of Islam and other branches, and succinctly suggests what we need to do about it.
Get ye hence and read, cowboy, read!
And Another Dem Bites It. Like Flies, I Tells Ya! UPDATED
Now it's Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN, 70%) announcing he won't run for reelection:
In his remarks, Mr. Bayh expressed frustration at what he described as an increasingly polarized atmosphere in Washington that made it impossible to get anything done.
“For some time, I have had a growing conviction that Congress is not operating as it should,” he said. “There is much too much partisanship and not enough progress. Too much narrow ideology and not enough practical problem solving.”
This was a Senate seat that the Democrats already marked down as a dead-cert hold; but now it's just one more open seat in a state that went for Barack H. Obama by the narrowest of margins (50-49) in the heavily Democratic year of 2008. But that was thirteen months and a thousand years ago; a poll of Obama's support in Indiana today would find probably find 35%-40% job approval, with even lower marks for Congress.
Conservative former Republican Sen. Dan Coats (Wolf Howling's best friend!) was already edging his way into the race against Bayh; with Bayh out, the edging will likely turn into a sprint, and then a stampede, as several other Republicans join the wild hunt. Indiana is now an excellent opportunity for another Republican pickup.
Reading between the lines, I don't believe Bayh is leaving because he thinks he can't win; rather, he's leaving because he's disenchanted by today's Democratic Party:
He cited two recent examples of the Senate not stepping up – the voting down of a bipartisan commission to deal with the federal deficit and the stymied attempt to craft a jobs bill....
Mr. Bayh had been growing increasingly discontent with the Senate, an associate said, and told some advisers in 2006, when he briefly explored a presidential bid, that he did not know whether he would seek re-election to the Senate. He was seen by some fellow Democrats as someone who was not very active in the chamber on a daily basis. He often popped in for votes and was quickly gone, only occasionally giving floor speeches. He was also known to make time for the school and sports events of his children. [Great Scott, sounds like a conservative! -- DaH]
In the past two years, Mr. Bayh has been focused on budget and fiscal issues and frustrated some of his colleagues by balking at the Democratic budget proposals. According to analysis by The Times of Mr. Bayh’s voting history, he has voted with a majority of the Democratic caucus roughly 71 percent of the time during the 111th Congress — the lowest percentage of his career. (He has also been the Senate Democrat least likely to vote with the party this Congress.)
We may be seeing the beginning of a flood of disenchanted Democrats, the radioactive fallout of the Obamacle's scorched-earth radicalism: Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT, 85% Dem) was driven out of the party for being insufficiently belligerent and bellicose; Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%) has moved sharply to the left since the inauguration; Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) is practically running the Senate. Many Democrats who are not in Ted Kennedy-land must be finding the environment much like Yellowstone National Park: scalding hot and stinking like rotten eggs.
They've seen Republicans retake seats that switched to the Democrats in 2008; and in some cases, like Scott Brown grabbing Kennedy's seat, winning seats that have been Democratic since the Cretaceous Period. Like the dinosaurs of that time, Democrats are starting to go politically extinct.
Keep watching the skies, and expect more and more defections, rejections, and insurrections over the next couple of months; 2010 could turn out to be a bigger year for the GOP than 1994.
UPDATE: John Hinderaker at Power Line passes along a rumor that the next Democratic senator out the door will be Barbara Mikulski (D-MD, 95%). The skies, I tells ya; keep watching the skies!
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► February 14, 2010
The Case of Amy Bishop: Curiouser and Curiouser
Questions swirl around the case of the female professor arrested for shooting six colleagues at the University of Alabama at Huntsville; but the controversy is less about the current shooting than it is about an earlier shooting 24 years ago in Baintree, MA, where Bishop lived with her parents at the time..
In the earlier case, the 20 year old Bishop shot and killed her younger brother Seth with a shotgun. One of the arresting officers at the time stated that she had fired three shots: one into the wall of her bedroom, one killing her 18 year old brother, and the third into the ceiling as she left. She was arrested later while hiding outside and brought in as a suspect; but when the mother later claimed that the killing was "accidental," then-Police Chief John Polio of Baintree either called or caused a captain to call at his behest ordering the police to cease all questioning and release Amy Bishop into the custody of her mother:
Frazier said Saturday he'd spoken to another retired officer who booked Bishop at the station.
"He said he had started the (booking) process when he received a phone call he believes was from then-Police Chief John Polio or possibly from a captain on Chief Polio's behalf," Frazier said. "He was instructed to stop the booking process. ... Miss Bishop was turned over to her mother and they left the building via a rear exit."
Frazier said another officer said the paperwork from the shooting went missing in 1988.
(Claims are swirling around the blogosphere that the DA involved was William Delahunt, D-MA, 100%, who is evidently considering whether to stand for reelection or not. I have no idea if this is true; or if true, whether Delahunt had anything to do with the decision to release Bishop without prosecution -- or even much questioning; or if he did, why he did. I only bring it up to prove that I am aware of its existence. If any reader has further information, please post a comment.)
When they were finally able to question her, she and her mother corroborated each other, and no charges were filed -- not even for the three possible counts of negligent discharge of a firearm, or for reckless endangerment, depraved indifference to human life, or even brandishing.
I wonder whether this seemingly abject failure to hold Bishop accountable for what she did in 1986, coupled with the apparent influence of highly placed friends and the subsequent cover-up, started Bishop down the same road that O.J. Simpson later followed, leading Bishop to believe that she was privileged and beyond the reach of the law.
Certainly such belief in recent times seems heavily concentrated within the activist Left; and while it hasn't gotten much airtime, it does appear as though Professor Bishop was an ardent liberal:
Bishop, her four children and her husband, Jim Anderson -- a sometime-collaborator in her research -- settled in a two-story house about 12 miles from campus. They were outspoken Northeastern liberals whose political yard signs stood out a little on their suburban lot facing a cul-de-sac called Scarlett O'Hara Circle.
However, the Los Angeles Times article that raised the issue seems to regard it as a reason why the killing spree was even less comprehensible than it would be if, say, she were a Tea-Party activist.
Following Thomas Sowell's seminal work the Vision of the Anointed, many liberals appear to believe that the law is for "little people" and doesn't apply to those who share "the Vision" and are involved in the urgent task of "saving the world."
The earlier claim that she may have shot her six colleagues because she was upset at being denied tenure is looking a bit shaky now; a recent article in the Huntsville Times reports that Bishop was denied tenure ten months ago; and even her final appeal was rejected months back. So the traditional "defense" of liberals who commit murder or other violent crimes -- that Bishop was driven over the edge by a cruel and heartless tenure decision by the (presumably conservative) University of Alabama -- would seem unlikely in this case. I have no idea whether the U of A at Huntsville is conservative, or whether, like most universities in conservative areas, it's a lonely redoubt of liberalism; but either way, the timeline makes the defense rather less viable.
So we're driven back to the idea of liberals seeing themselves as existing in a Nietzschean state of "beyond good and evil," so vital to the "progress" of the human race that they must be allowed their little peccadillos. We certainly don't have answers yet; but we do have questions and a clear line of inquiry that should be followed, either to establish or refute: Did "liberal privilege" play a role in this seemingly inexplicable shooting rampage?
Alas, I have no confidence in the leftstream media's ability or willingness to investigate any of these questions.
Date ►►► February 13, 2010
Obama "Responds" to Massachusetts Miracle
So the people have spoken, not just in Massachusetts but in Virginia, New York, and New Jersey; and via polling, throughout the rest of the country, with mounting majorities speaking out against virtually every element of Barack H. Obama's radical-revolutionary agenda. Voters and poll respondents reject "Obamunism" as an unAmerican government takeover of the economy, of health care, energy policy, manufacturing, technology, trade, banking, science, education, and the media.
The president has heard the cries of his people. Unlike the caricature of an aloof, unconcerned, disdainful king, the Obamacle actually responds to the will of the people -- with the back of his hand:
With much of his legislative agenda stalled in Congress, President Obama and his team are preparing an array of actions using his executive power to advance energy, environmental, fiscal and other domestic policy priorities....
Mr. Obama has already decided to create a bipartisan budget commission under his own authority after Congress refused to do so. His administration has signaled that it plans to use its discretion to soften enforcement of the ban on openly gay men and lesbians serving in the military, even as Congress considers repealing the law. And the Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with possible regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for climate change, while a bill to cap such emissions languishes in the Senate.
The Obama administration insists it's perfectly normal for a president to abandon Congress and rule by decree:
White House officials said the increased focus on executive authority reflected a natural evolution from the first year to the second year of any presidency.
So when Barack Obama's EPA orders America's manufacturing, technology, and service sectors to stop using energy, hurling our economy into a death-spiral -- in direct defiance of the expressed will of the American people, who overwhelming reject such revolutionary environmentalist schemes -- that's no different from George W. Bush tapping phone calls from foreign terrorists outside the U.S. to parties inside the country, in order to prevent another 9/11 attack.
After all, process is all that matters, yes? Any use of executive power by Bush, no matter how limited, no matter how well supported by voters, gives a green light to Obama to order fundamental policy changes that Congress, by popular demand, has already rejected. Any fool can understand that!
By the way, I make no secret of the fact that I support repealing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy (DADT) of allowing gays to serve in the military, but only if they don't ever let slip that they are homosexual. But Congress doesn't appear disposed to get rid of the policy. So isn't Obama's decision simply to stop enforcing it a perfect compromise?
No, it's even worse than the policy itself for two reasons: First, it's philosophically repugnant to keep laws on the books that are never enforced; Japan does that, as do many European countries. But it makes a mockery of rule by law.
Even worse, such an executive order (EO) is a devious trap laid for those service members gullible enough to believe B.O.'s grandiose promises of hope and change:
- Obama issues the executive order.
- Relying on the president's enunciation of his grand policy, thousands of gay servicemen "come out." They don't push their sexuality in their comrades' faces; but they do relax and stop sweating every word, lest the wrong pronoun sneak out; and they stop worrying that somebody might spot them in the mall and file an anonymous accusation.
- Everything goes well... until January 20th, 2013, when a Republican president takes over. He has the bizarre notion that legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president (Bill Clinton) is the law of the land and should be enforced... so he rescinds that EO and returns to enforcing the DADT law.
- Every one of those thousands who relied upon B.O.'s EO is quickly processed for discharge, based upon his or her own now-unguarded words, even if his unit is functioning just fine and was never disrupted by the admission.
Suckered by the Left... again!
One can imagine a similar problem with, e.g., Obama ordering severe limits on American businesses -- in energy use, banking practices, executive pay, labor relations, taxes, thousands of new OSHA regulations, and so forth. Companies painfully adjust to the new rules as they're battered in the international market by competitors who don't have to live by such onerous and stupid regulations.
They finally find their feet, only to be sent reeling again when the parting on the left becomes the parting on the right -- and the incoming president rescinds all those idiot EOs. In the long run, the restoration of commerce is vital; nevertheless, the to-ing and fro-ing makes for a completely unpredictable business climate, which devastates the economy.
And who should we blame -- the president who freed American business from Obamunism, or the One who imposed it in the first place, knowing that even after it ended, its disruption would live on?
"Obamunism by decree" is both better than and worse than when enacted by Congress. On the one hand, it doesn't last as long; but on the other, it introduces an level of uncertainty into American culture and the economy that is intolerant, especially during a recession and a war; and it's a loud, insistant, and abrasive note of tyranny in American life.
But that's the Chicago way.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► February 12, 2010
Dems Keep a-Droppin'
The latest electoral drop-out is (drum roll)... Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI, 100%), scion of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. P. Kennedy has just declared that he will not seek reelection... for a race in which he was a shoe-in for another (ninth) term:
The decision comes less than a month after a stunning upset by Republican Scott Brown in the race for the Massachusetts Senate seat his father held for almost half a century. Last week, as Brown was sworn into the seat, Patrick Kennedy called Brown's candidacy a "joke" and predicted Brown would betray his union supporters.
Kennedy did not give a reason for his decision, but he began the message by saying it had been a difficult few years for many people, then segued into the death of his father.
"Illness took the life of my most cherished mentor and confidante, my ultimate source of spirit and strength," he said, as a black-and-white photo of him as a boy sailing with his father appeared on the screen. "From the countless lives he lifted, to the American promise he helped shape, my father taught me that politics at its very core was about serving others."
This means that yet another Democratic congressional seat is up for grabs. Kennedy was so favored in the race, primary and general, that no other Democrat bothered to file against him for the primary; any Democrat starting now is already behind the power curve.
Republican John Loughlin is, for the moment, the cheese that stands alone in the race for RI-1:
The only Republican in the race, state Rep. John Loughlin, has been working with Brown's campaign team, the Shawmut Group, and was raising money. But Kennedy was heavily favored to win the race: Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 4 to 1 in Rhode Island. Loughlin has little statewide recognition, and Kennedy had four times as much campaign cash on hand coming into the year.
He told The Providence Journal shortly after Brown's win in January that he wasn't worried about Loughlin, saying "bring it on."
More and more, November 2nd is shaping up to be a very good day indeed -- for America.
Date ►►► February 11, 2010
If You're Wondering Why Posting Is Light...
...It's because Sachi and I are taking advantage of the "perfect storm" of very low interest rates and plummeting property values to buy a house. (It's small, but better than the condo we've been living in!) Of course, this being Southern California, even a small, two-bedroom, entry-level house goes for nearly half a million Samolians.
Escrow opened today, so we've been rather busy, running around like a pair of chickens with their legs cut off, trying to fill out loan applications and sign 48,994 copies of every document ever printed. For the last several days, we've been negotiating prices, making offers, reading counter-offers, dealing with the loan and real-estate agents, and so forth.
All of which is time consuming.
We hope to get back to our "normal" publication rate (whatever that is) real soon now...
Date ►►► February 10, 2010
Putin Orders Obama Not to Defend America
Why do I have the awful premonition that Barack H. Obama is about to bow deeply from the waist again?
U.S. missile-defense plans are a threat to Russian national security and have slowed down progress on a new arms-control treaty with Washington, Russia's top military officer said Tuesday.
Gen. Nikolai Makarov said that a revised U.S. plan to place missiles in Europe undermines Russia's national defense, rejecting Obama administration promises that the plan is not directed at his country.
"We view it very negatively, because it could weaken our missile forces," Gen. Makarov, the chief of the Russian military's General Staff, said in televised remarks.
Translation: The Russkies agree with Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush that ballistic missile defense (BMD) works; and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is terrified that if we implement it, Russia will no longer have the ability to destroy America. From Vlad the Impeller's point of view, that's a very, very bad thing.
So the big question is -- is it also a very, very bad thing from the Obamacle's point of view?
Gen. Makarov's comments are the strongest yet on the revamped U.S. missile effort and signal potential new obstacles to an agreement on a new nuclear arms reduction treaty to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [START], which expired Dec. 5.
I'd much prefer to rely upon American BMD than Russian BS in a new START. How about you? How about the president?
But I'm getting nervous, recalling how quick and servile Obama was in cancelling the Bush BMD plan. All that Putin, a "former" KGB agent, needed to do was hint that the missile-defense plans were an "obstacle" to a new arms reduction treaty, and our American president hopped to obey. Obama didn't even gain any concessions or promises; his appeasement was unilateral.
Experts have said the new plan is less threatening to Russia because it would not initially involve interceptors capable of shooting down Russia's intercontinental ballistic missiles....
Russian officials at first reacted calmly to U.S. plans to deploy Patriot missile systems in Poland, but have grown increasingly critical in recent weeks.
Romania last week approved a proposal to place anti-ballistic missile interceptors in the country as part of the revamped American missile shield.
Asked Tuesday about the plans in Romania and Poland, Gen. Makarov called the U.S. missile-defense plans a threat.
"The development of missile defense is aimed against the Russian Federation," he said.
Another translation: In this instance (and every instance from the Russian Federation), the term "Russian Federation" shall be understood to mean "reconstituted and reconquered Soviet Empire." When Gen.
Zod Makarov says missile defense threatens the Russian Federation, he means BMD threatens Russia's plan to reoccupy Poland, Romania, the Baltic States, and Eastern Germany.
Makarov, a sock puppet for Putin, demands that the BMD program be part of the START talks:
"The treaty on strategic offensive weapons we are currently working on must take into account the link between defensive and offensive strategic weapons," Gen. Makarov said. "This link is very close; they are absolutely interdependent. It would be wrong not to take the missile defense into account."
When Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, issued an identical ultimatum to Ronald Reagan in 1986 at the U.S.-Soviet summit in Reykjavík, Iceland, Reagan called Gorbachev's bluff: He refused to sign a treaty that threw the Strategic Defense Initiative under the Gorby bus. I can't remember the exact quotation, but Reagan said something to the effect that America must never be afraid to walk away from a bad deal.
Is Barack Obama prepared to walk away from an equally bad deal with Vladimir Putin? I worry that he is so desperate for a treaty that he'll accept any treaty, even a bad one, rather than finish his term empty handed.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► February 9, 2010
Et Tu, Breite?
This is really starting to annoy me... and I'm not even a huge Sarah Palin supporter:
Palin spoke Saturday in Nashville and photographs and video show she had "energy," "tax" and "lift American spirits" on her hand. During one question, she looked down at the palm of her hand for a cue.
In her speech she mocked Obama's use of teleprompters.
Yeah. That's what her speech was about! I thought it was about the president's socialist policies, but I must have misheard.
Even supposing it's true that she mocked Barack H. Obama's use of teleprompters -- she may have, but if so, it was fleeting enough that I don't even remember -- I am nevertheless astonished that even Andrew Breitbart cannot distintinguish between using a note or two, whether on cards or one's hand, and reading word for word from a teleprompter. Worse, he read a speech obviously written by somebody else, which the president had not even troubled to rehearse. (Else somebody would surely have told him how to pronounce the word "corpsman.")
This AP squib, which Breitbart chose to run with the anti-Palin slam intact, as much as says, "What a fool and a hypocrite she is -- she mocks Obama for reading from a teleprompter, yet she herself had to glance at an occasional, one- or two-word note!"
Right, Andy; it's exactly the same thing. What a putz; not Palin, but whichever gnome at the Associated Press wrote this piece... and whichever bright-eyed Breitbart editor passed it along.
Date ►►► February 8, 2010
Here's Exactly What We Don't Need
One issue where we differ with probably 90% of our readers is the "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy for gays serving in military service. It was enunciated in 1993 by Bill Clinton, later endorsed by George W. Bush and John McCain, along with many conservatives. I suspect that for many conservatives, DADT is a compromise between kicking gays entirely out of the service, which they recognize as impossible (gays in the military don't wear neon signs), and open service, which they reject.
If you'll recall, number 12 in my list of conservative characteristics, "Belief in the legislating of virtue," included this example: "laws against 'sodomy' and other forms of unusual sex." I'm quite certain that most conservatives support the ban on gays serving openly in the military; but at least they try to make a utilitarian argument for it, which I have argued against many times on this blog.
But I hope we can all agree that what we don't need is exemplified by an e-mail I received from an advertiser on the Washington Times (not TWT itself), Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt; its subject line is about as deceptive as can be: Top Admiral Lies to Senate about Homosexuality.
Here is the beginning of Klingenschmitt's argument; I faithfully reproduce his emphasis, except that I use our normal blue highlight color, while he uses red:
CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS DEMANDS HOMOSEXUALS LIE TO MILITARY
Tuesday the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen deceived the Senate Armed Services Committee, repeating President Obama's demand to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) prohibition against open homosexual aggression within the ranks of the military. "We have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens," Admiral Mullen fibbed, revealing his personal belief that "allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do."
Sadly, the pro-homosexual Mullen has believed the lies of homosexual propaganda, and deceived himself, and now deceived Congress, all the while claiming he wants a more honest policy that discourages lying, when in fact Mullen actually demands homosexuals tell more lies to their military commanders when enlisting as open homosexuals. Here's a simple proof: Men who were created by God with male body parts are not women, and they lie to themselves, the world, and their commanders when they pretend to be, and act like, women. Women who were created by God with female parts are not men, and they lie to themselves, the world, and their commanders when they pretend to be, and act like, men.
Mullen's confused argument would permit men to deceptively act like women, and women to deceptively act like men, openly deceiving themselves, the world, and their military commanders, and boldface lying against God's very truth, that He created men to be men, and women to be women. But today's confusing homosexual propaganda equates "honesty" with men openly flaunting their femininity, and "truthfulness" with women openly flaunting masculinity. Who's really telling God's truth?
The Bible describes homosexual liars: "Who changed the truth of God into a lie...women did change the natural use into that which is against nature, and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error." (Romans 1). Thank God Senator John McCain (R-AZ) denounced the Admiral's deceptive plan as destructive to the military, but Senator McCain needs your help to fight this open perversion, and protect our troops from open homosexual aggression...[elipses in original]
Klingenschmitt continues at great length (very great length) in a similar vein, but it all boils down to the argument that we must prevent gays from serving openly in the military because they're evil sinners condemned by God (or at least by Paul, who seems to have a powerful lot of condemning in his epistles; were I his pen pal, I'd constantly be looking over my shoulder).
This is a dreadful approach, even for those who support DADT or wish for a stronger prohibition: It damages the conservative cause. I'll explain why:
Politics is the art of the possible.
If a man makes a series of demands on society that cannot possibly be met, due to prevailing social belief, he is not engaging in politics; he is an idealogue engaging in revolutionary agitprop. For example, if some Moslem group demands that Americans all convert to Islam and that we immediately institute sharia law, you cannot call that a political act; since it's not remotely possible we'll do so, and the speaker knows it, he's not serious about his demand. He expects it to be rejected or ignored.
He makes the demand for other reasons entirely, most likely to buttress his own standing among other radicals and revolutionaries, or even to encourage violent attack on civilians who didn't heed his warning. But whatever his motive, unless he's a complete dope, he's not trying to get elected or persuade legislators or regulators to enact his policy.
Anyone who is engaging in politics should steer well clear of such people; they are poison to a political campaign.
Most Americans rightly despise religious doctrine injected into politics
Note that I do not mean they reject moral principles in politics; I specifically mean political arguments taken directly from the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and so forth.
We worry, based upon bitter history, that when political factions demand we should vote for them because God is on their side -- then every political dispute has the potential to erupt into religious civil war.
The only political curse worse than factionalism is religion-based factionalism.
We are a nation of natural tolerators, not of haters.
Americans have a tremendous capacity to tolerate alternative and deviant views, far more so than the citizens of any other country, despite the fact that we're the most religious people in Western civilization. Is this a contradiction? Not at all -- because one of our most sacred community beliefs is the sanctity of the individual.
Americans have an underlying default in favor of minding our own business. The contradictory impulses towards controlling one's neighbors sit as an uneasy overlay atop this default, and they require constant rationalization to justify them to ourselves.
Thus any political screed that even appears to arise from the realm of hatred will be scorned, and anyone even seemingly associated with it will be shunned.
(I highlighted the most important words in the paragraph directly above.)
The Klingenschmitt argument against DADT fails all three tests.
Klingenschmittism embodies three fatal errors:
- It demands the impossible.
The same Bible that condemns homosexuality also condemns many other behaviors that Americans will never make illegal -- such as any sex outside of marriage, or even masturbation. Not even the military bans that; the UCMJ bans adultery but not sex between, say, a sailor and his girlfriend. (In theory, the ban on "sodomy" includes a ban on oral sex, even between husband and wife; when is the last time that was enforced, even in the Marines?)
If one accepts the Klingenschmitt argument, then its natural extension requires wholesale changes in the military that will never, ever happen. Thus the argument that the military should ban whatever "God" condemns -- or whatever one of His representatives on Earth claims He condemns -- is not political, it's revolutionary; America is not a theocracy. Even worse is the real argument, which is that the military should hide whatever God condemns.
- It injects religious doctrine directly into politics.
There are many sects of Christianity that do not believe that homosexuals should be excluded from life and society, or even the military, even if the sect agrees that homosexual activity is sin. There's that strain of "hate the sin, love the sinner" that permeates much of the Christian religion.
Other sects don't even buy the "sin" part. And of course, there are other religions and non-religious people.
But even those who agree with Klingenschmitt that gays shouldn't be in the military might still object even more strongly to making law on the basis of a particular religious doctrine. They rightly understand that "The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north": The sect in power today might not be in power tomorrow, and schismaticism is a pernicious precedent that may come back to bite them.
- His argument appears to arise directly from hatred of gays.
Klingenschmittism strikes me as full of hate, not only of homosexuality but of homosexuals as people; note, for one point, that he continually refers to the opposite of DADT -- that would be gays serving openly -- as "open homosexual aggression within the ranks of the military," as if a gay man mentioning his boyfriend is an act of aggression tantamount to sexual assault. (Frankly, Chaplain Klingenschmitt sounds as squirrely to me as Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church.)
But he won't be the only one to suffer the backlash; to the extent he can convince Americans that his is the conservative position -- not just the policy but the way he argues for it -- he will damage conservativsm far beyond this one policy. Even though I oppose the conservative position in this case, I still agree with conservatives far more often than with liberals; and I would hate to see voters turn against the party of somewhat more limited government, somewhat more robust national defense, a somewhat higher respect for the free market, and a great deal more respect for small business, property rights, lower taxes, gun rights, and individualism.
There are better arguments against repealing DADT, even if I don't buy them.
I fully support the repeal of DADT; I believe gays should serve openly in the military. But I do so primarily because I believe it would make our military stronger, not weaker. (My arguments are detailed elsewhere, recently in Martial Arts and Marital Darts.)
Conservatives should extend the same courtesy, restricting their arguments to the secular and utilitarian, rather than the religious and insulting; on the former plane, debate is at least possible. But the argument that gays should remain in the closet because 'God said so' is designed to shut down debate, not promote it. It's practically an invitation to a bar brawl, equivalent to "This town ain't big enough for the two of us!"
Hard-core conservatives would lose that brawl; moderates of both parties would join with liberals, libertarians, and even some conservatives to swamp the religion-based conservatives... to the detriment of the rest of the conservative agenda, which is far better for America than Obamunism.
As long as this is going to turn into a big magilla in November's election, which I'm sure it will, let's please keep the argument on grounds that will not discredit vital conservativism. To quote some recent interlocutor -- can't quite remember the feller's name -- "we can disagree without being disagreeable."
And Republicans desperately need to remain agreeable, optimistic, and inclusive heading into the most important congressional election since 1994. The infectious optimism of Ronald Reagan, "the great communicator," is as important for winning votes today as it was in 1966, when he won election as Governor of California, and in 1980, when he won the presidency.
Some of Us Do Not Believe...
...in the commandment of "de mortuis nil nisi bonum."
But we do still believe in keeping our mouths shut until we have something to say worth hearing.
We take note of the breaking story, but we'll discuss it at a later date.
Would He Ever Announce It? Obamic Options 007
Today's episode of Obamic Options is somewhat a corollary to Obamic Options 4, linked at the end. The explosion of the gas pipe in Middletown, CT triggered my cerebral susurration, as my thoughts softly whispered, but what if it was...?
The Connecticut blast appears to have been entirely accidental:
An explosion blew apart a power plant under construction as workers purged natural gas lines Sunday, killing at least five people and injuring a dozen or more in a blast that shook homes for miles, officials said.
But let's postulate, for sake of debate on the response of President Baracjk HY. Obama to future events, that a similar blast occurs; but in this future hypothetical case, the evidence is fairly strong that it was an actual jihadist terrorist attack.
Today's Obamic conundrum is quite simple: In such a case, would the president ever allow that conclusion to be broadcast to the general public? Or would he institute a massive cover-up to make it appear as though it was just an accident?
Please note, I'm not covertly hinting that this particular explosion was anything other than a bone-fide accident; I really think that's all it was. My question is purely a premonitory... if a devastating explosion on American soil in the future is determined by the FBI to be an act of terrorism, and if it can only be attributed to a militant Islamist -- not to a crazed George W. Bush supporter -- would B.O. allow that conclusion to be broadcast?
Or would he attempt, successfully or un-, to suppress it... say, in order to avoid an "anti-Moslem backlash?"
I honestly cannot say whether he would allow us, the people, to know the score; and that makes me very nervous indeed.
A desultory, semi-cardioided search discloses a few other samples of this decadent derision:
- Obamic Options 001
- Obamic Options 002: The Limits of Tolerance of Pinkos
- Another Noble Obamic Musing - Obamic Options 003
- Could He Ever Bring Himself to Say It? Obamic Options 004
- Extradition Indecision - Obamic Options 005
- Will B.O. Run for Reelection? - Obamic Options 006
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► February 5, 2010
Fallout from Rahm "F***ing Retarded" Emanuel's Incivility
First, read this.
Am I missing something? Or does the word "retarded" simply mean slowed, impeded, held back?
What is "crude," "demeaning," or "name calling" about the word? It seems purely diagnostic.
I understand that Sarah Palin has a child with Down syndrome, and she might be sensitive about Trig being teased or bullied. Still and all, words mean what they mean; you cannot make mental retardation go away by demanding nobody speak its name.
Who's with me on this?
Obama's Dysfunctional Disinformation Dilemma
I first learned about the "disinformation pyramid" from Robert Anton Wilson; Tim Leary later expanded upon the subject at a seminar I took from him about 25 years ago. Finally, I read a piece in a libertarian mailer titled "New Work for Idle Hands," or somesuch (it's in storage and unavailable to me for the moment); this piece developed several strategies for bringing the market to corporate structure.
You will see its obvious application to the present administration at the bottom of this post.
The basic premise is this: In a classically heirarchical structure, nobody benefits from passing only truthful communications. Contrariwise, everybody has an incentive to lie up, lie down, and lie sideways.
Information disincentive is disinformation incentive
Lying up: Because your boss has the power to fire you, demote you, or at the very least sideline you, and because many bosses love to "kill the messenger," it rarely works to your advantage to tell your boss something he doesn't want to hear, even if true.
Thus there is a great incentive to filter and edit your communications up the chain of command so that you make your boss happy... even if it's a false happiness. In fact, fooling your boss into believing in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus can work to your advantage: If he gets into trouble with somebody even higher up the chain, you can narc him out and possibly take over his job after he is removed.
Lying down: You know your subordinates are always out to get you (see above); if you tell them what's really going on, you've given them power over you: They know where the bodies are buried and which pressure points will hurt you.
In addition, since your job is probably phoney-baloney anyway, if your junior ever gets all the information, he can do your job alongside his own and not even have to stay late nights. You become vulnerable to redundancy disposal.
Therefore you have two good reasons to severely restrict communications flow to your underlings; not to let anybody see the Big Picture; to give disinformation to them (both to ensure loyalty and also to detect whether information has a way of escaping anybody); and in general to muck up the data flow, which only you know how to unravel, to maintain your own "irreplaceability."
Lying sideways: Your colleagues are not your friends; they are your most dangerous competitors. They work for the same boss; and since most businesses severely restrict either jobs themselves or at the very least power and authority within those jobs, advancement becomes a zero-sum game: You succeed by making your office friends fail -- and vice versa, naturally.
Are you going to tell your rivals everything you know? Are you going to tell them only the truth and never a convenient (to you!) fiction? Everybody reading this post knows the answer to that question.
In a classic corporate/government bureaucracy, power is represented by a pyramid: At the tippy top is one boss, the CEO in a corporate setting, or the head of some branch of government (emperor, king, president, governor, mayor).
Below the boss is a small privy council -- the board of directors perhaps, or else the cabinet or the various department heads.
Each member of that board or council has his own set of advisors, lieutenants, direct subordinates, and so forth all the way down. With every step down the food chain, the pyramid widens. Because of the disinformation incentive above, with every step up or down the pyramid, information quality and reliabilty degrades. The farther information travels vertically or horizontally, the less it resembles the real reality of the outside world.
The surreality based community
In addition, to avoid information overload, nodes at the higher levels must cut off communications from those too far down the chain; if the CEO actually tries to read all the suggestions in the suggestion box himself, he will quickly be overwhelmed.
So each node insulates himself from all but the nearest nodes (up, down, sideways) -- and those above him do the same, more and more ruthlessly with each step up the pyramid.
Thus, the higher up the pyramid we go, the fewer connections do the nodes have to reality, and the more dependent they are upon their direct subordinates -- each of whose greatest dream is to kill the boss and take his place. (Picture the "Mirror Mirror" universe from the original Star Trek.) At the very top, the capo di tutti capi is functionally schizophrenic: fully divorced from reality and non-functional.
If you study multinational corporations and powerful governments, and you sometimes think they must be utterly insane, please be reassured: Your perception is 20-20. Such a top-down, heirarchical structure has in essence implemented an informational Ponzi scheme; and it will end as all Ponzi schemes end: in complete collapse.
This may take a while; as Adam Smith wrote, "there is a great deal of ruin in a nation" -- or a multinational corporation. But the fall of General Motors and AIG are two good examples that eventually, all the ruin takes its toll. Both companies were felled, I am convinced, because their disinformation pyramids drove each to madness. Neither could respond to the mutable real world outside the corporate headquarters; each ceased to function as an independent entity... its name was jacked up and a new regime rolled underneath.
Short-circuiting the disinformation pyramid
That's the bad news; the good news is that there are techniques a boss can use to get around this design flaw in communications theory:
- The first key is to cut through the isolation.
Each boss urgently needs sources of information and communications from outside the normal channels; that is, he needs spies and informants to tell him what's really going on. These spies must operate at a high enough level to get the necessary information, but a low enough level that they cannot expect to advance by knocking off their patron; rather, their fate depends upon the patron rewarding them.
The patron must make clear that the spies are rewarded for any information that checks out, good or bad for the patron: There is something to be said for getting a "heads up" about even the worst news! Let multiple spies compete, and give a cookie to the first to bring important information to the patron.
Naturally, each spy is also set to spy on the other spies, to guard against a double agent.
- The second key to cracking the disinformation pyramid is to engage an oversight panel.
The oversight panel must be entirely outside the corporate structure, not subject to the boss' whims or rages. The panel would be an independent agency with a long-term contract, subject to periodic renewal, to continually measure the governmental or corporate behavior against the outer realm, and to report back to whichever boss or bosses engaged the panel.
It's vital that this panel not be directly paid or employed by the boss but rather independently contracted, so there is little incentive for toadying to the boss' prejudice. Basically, the oversight panel would keep checking to see whether the bureaucracy is actually achieving real-world results.
- The third and most radical key is to decentralize the bureaucracy itself.
Instead of a corporate or governmental pyramid, the whole should be broken into independent corporate "business units" or governmental "service units."
- Each such unit is small, no more than twenty to fifty employees; that is about the largest group of humans that can be supervised by a single individual who knows how each member is actually performing.
- Each unit is functionally defined, by what it specifically does rather than by who is a member. (Individual employees can be in multiple units.)
- Each unit "communicates" with other units as in a free market -- by "buying" products from other units with budget funds, turning that input into a more valuable output, then "selling" the output to other units further along the production line. If a unit breaks down and is unable to pull its share, other units can reroute around the damaged unit until it is broken down and rebuilt.
- Each unit is modular and can be joined with other modular units into a functioning super-unit. The super-units can likewise be joined together. The entire corporation or government itself is nothing but a super-super...super-unit formed from many, many modules joined together.
- By analogy, think of a corporation as a mall made up of individual stores. Each store is a "business unit;" the individual mall is a super-unit comprising the individual stores, plus a rental unit, facilities unit, accounting unit, parking unit, security unit, and so forth. The chain of all such malls is a super-super-unit formed from the super-units, and so forth.
When a particular store fails to generate enough output (sales) to pay for its necessary inputs from other units (mall space rental from the rental unit, electricity and other services from the facilities unit, franchise fees, security costs, etc.), it's closed down; and a new mall store/unit is opened in its place.
The idea is to infect the feudal bureaucracy with the beneficial "disease" of Capitalism by turning a giant corporate pyramid into a hive of entrepeneurial business units, or by turning a dysfunctional government department into a network of functioning service units.
A government example
Note that the branch of the United States government that has already done the best job of implementing this decentralization is, oddly enough, the military service: America gives more authority to junior officers and senior NCOs -- and demands more accountability for results -- than any other country in the world. Under Donald Rumsfeld we made our military into an interlinked network of small, individual, self-contained combat units, which can join together or break apart into combined-arms forces of any size necessary (depending on the specific task).
It's a wonderful model for the rest of the government. And upon further thought, it's not odd at all: The military is the branch of government most forcefully and immediately impacted by the real-world result of its efforts, so it's not suprising that it has moved quickest to confront, on our own proactive terms, the fast-moving, adaptive, small, and independent enemy we have faced since the 1970s and Vietnam.
The case at hand
All right, with the prolog out of the way, let's turn our analysis to the current President of the United States, Barack H. Obama:
- Obama sits atop a heirarchy that is shaped like a classic pyramid.
- He considers himself a philosopher-king, so he surrounds himself with nothing but acolytes.
- He isolates himself from other information sources -- and even from his own closest advisors; he always knows best.
- He makes no effort to reach down the ranks to find out what the "little people" want or how they're doing. Subordinates' only function is to translate his vague pronunciamentos into action plans that more or less match what he said, or at least can be plausibly claimed to match it; they have no independent existence and should be seen but not heard.
- He does not accept external oversight even in theory; it's an affront to his own absolute moral and legal authority. It gives him a pain even to have to deal with Congress (a task he generally "delegates" to powerless flunkies who cannot even make deals).
- He certainly has no interest in or intention of decentralizing the federal government; rather, he would like to consolodate more and more power in his own hands, even to the point of nationalizing banks and corporations, allowing him to rule more of the economy by decree.
- He is not self-reflective enough to realize the pickle he has gotten himself into; he does not comprehend how damaged his own communications have become.
- Ergo, his is an administration that has become a classic disinformation pyramid.
- It is increasingly cut off from reality.
- Its isolation is a feedback loop.
- It is functionally insane.
See? Once one properly frames the early lemmas, the final theorem writes itself.
Date ►►► February 4, 2010
Rhetoritician, Heal Thyself
Another example of neoconservative Michael Medved fawning over an Obamic oration that simply isn't worth the... well, we'll get into that.
On his radio show today, Medved referred to a speech, which Obama gave today at the National Prayer Breakfast, as "great;" Medved enthusiastically compared it to Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. Medved was evidently so impressed by the subject of the speech that he failed to note the superficiality and hypocrisy of its execution.
The subject was civility, about which Barack H. Obama is a subject-matter expert -- for the same reason that Jack the Ripper was a subject-matter expert on human anatomy. Indeed, the president's violent assaults on civility are legion. In today's talk -- the same one where he referred (twice!) to a Navy Corpsman as a "corpse-man" -- he inexplicably neglects covering a number of points:
- Bearing false witness against one's rhetorical opponents; for example, the president accusing Republicans of saying "that they can insure every American for free, which is what was claimed the other day, at no cost" -- when they, or rather Rep. Tom Price (R-GA, 100%), actually said "he has a health-care proposal that expands health insurance coverage to 'all Americans... without raising taxes by a penny.'”
- Making rude and offensive gestures out of view of the target of such mockery; for example, when the president extends his middle finger, visible only to his own supporters, while pretending to rub his cheek during a debate.
Insulting one's debate partners with crude, adolescent epithets; for example, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY, 100%) calling Sen. Scott Brown a "far-right tea-bagger Republican," which is not only demeaning but drips with homoerotic inuendo. Are Democrats really saying we should despise Brown because Schumer thinks the senator from Massachusetts is homosexual? (Which, by the way, he most certainly is not.)
That would be a switch.
In fact, whenever Obama in his civility speech drifts away from vague platitudes --
And this erosion of civility in the public square sows division and distrust among our citizens. It poisons the well of public opinion. It leaves each side little room to negotiate with the other. It makes politics an all-or-nothing sport, where one side is either always right or always wrong when, in reality, neither side has a monopoly on truth.
-- into more concrete paeans to civility and condemnations of incivility, the good guys always seem to be liberal, while the black-hats are invariably conservatives:
That begins with stepping out of our comfort zones in an effort to bridge divisions. We see that in many conservative pastors who are helping lead the way to fix our broken immigration system. It's not what would be expected from them, and yet they recognize, in those immigrant families, the face of God. We see that in the evangelical leaders who are rallying their congregations to protect our planet....
We may disagree about the best way to reform our health care system, but surely we can agree that no one ought to go broke when they get sick in the richest nation on Earth. We can take different approaches to ending inequality, but surely we can agree on the need to lift our children out of ignorance; to lift our neighbors from poverty. We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are[.]
All right, we get it: Obama loves conservatives who support comprehensive immigration reform and Globaloney, and he despises any conservative who opposes universal health care, the government school system, and welfare for all. And he reserves especial hatred for anyone who "target[s] gays and lesbians for who they are." We take judicial notice that liberals by and large believe that any initiative which defines marriage as between one man and one woman falls into that "targeting" category.
Even his one feeble nod to lessons the Left must learn is innocuous, demonstrating their big-heartedness rather than small-mindedness:
We see it in the increasing recognition among progressives that government can't solve all of our problems, and that talking about values like responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage are integral to any anti-poverty agenda.
Yes, it would be nice if progressives recognized the former and talked about the latter. Soon, perhaps?
But where in the president's speech is any reference to the real-world examples where the incivility is entirely on the other shoe? Can we all agree that SEIU thugs shouldn't physically assault black conservatives at peaceful protests? Not until Obama and the Left recognize that it actually happens.
We can all take different approaches to environmental protection, but surely we can all agree that when climatologists who are global-warming alarmists conspire to sabotage the careers of their counterparts who reject global-warming theory, such shenanigans are at the very least uncivil.
Well, no; to most of the Left, the CRU's only mistake was getting caught by a hacker. As to fabricating evidence and suppressing inconvenient truths, the entire liberal spectrum relies upon the "fake but accurate" defense of Rathergate vintage.
Barack Obama seems remarkably averse to self examination. He is the most "do as I say, not as I do" president in my lifetime. Heck, he's the most "do as I say, not as I do" president of Sen. Robert Byrd's (D-WV, 79%) lifetime; and that takes us all the way back to John Quincy Adams!
The president is equally incapable of beholding the beam in the eyes of his allies in House and Senate, in the leftstream media, and on blogs like Daily Kos, Firedoglake, and the Hufflepuffington Post. (See, I'm keeping with the Biblical tone of the prayer breakfast.) When he says, "in reality, neither side has a monopoly on truth," he means neither the progressive nor the moderate Democratic side; he certainly does not extend such magnanimity to the GOP -- which indeed has a monopoly on mendacity in Barack Obama's world.
I understand (but reject) Michael Medved's urge to give the POTUS (and his TOTUS) the benefit of the doubt; but Medved and other former liberals really need to understand that at a certain point, all "doubt" is blown away by the hurricane of rank, uncivil partisanship that surrounds the current administration. At that point, it's far more urgent to extend the benefit of clarity.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► February 3, 2010
Failure Is Always an Option - Thank Goodness!
I was going to write about the curious fact that it's not only mathematically possible but now even somewhat plausible that Republicans could take over the Senate in November; but everybody and his monkey's paw is already going on about that. So I'm shifting gears: Instead, I'll argue against Michael Medved and every other conservative who repeats the stupid mantra that "Of course we hope President Obama is successful!"
That way, my only competition is Rush Limbaugh, whose explanation is kind of shallow, to tell the truth.
When some caller presses Medved on what the heck he means, he has a pat, memorized answer. Alas, it's a complete non-sequitur. Medved invariably explains that he doesn't mean he hopes Barack H. Obama succeeds in passing card check, implementing energy cripple and tax, closing Gitmo, ending the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda Axis, nationalizing more banks and other corporations, raising taxes, spending us into oblivion, and for dessert, foisting ObamaCare on the charred remains. Rather, Medved insists that by "I hope the president is successful," he means he hopes that Obama succeeds in leading America to prosperity, security, and liberty.
This explanation is nothing but Mueslix on stilts: nutty, flakey, and wobbly all at the same time.
Medved is engaging in what I call "Argument by Tendentious Redefinition." With that rhetorical trick, proponent takes an ordinary, simple English-language word (such as "success") and secretly redefines it to a meaning whose only purpose is to win the argument -- while still relying upon people imagining that he still means the generally accepted definition. In this case, the word "success" (meaning, achieving a goal one has set) is transmogrified to mean, achieving the goal diametrically opposite what one has enunciated, but which happens to be more congenial to the "well-wisher."
When Michael Medved or any of a score of conservative pundits says he hopes Obama succeeds, it's really code for saying he hopes Obama converts to conservatism. While that may be a laudible wish, it's definitely not covered by the word "success."
By the definition commonly accepted throughout the English-speaking world, what Medved, et al, really should say is that they hope B.O. fails miserably in his attempt to implement Obamunism, to remake America in the image of Sweden, Venezuela, or Cuba. That at least would be clear; one can disagree with the sentiment (though it's self-evident to any thinking person), but one cannot be confused.
I certainly haven't investigated this, but it seems to me that most of the Republicans and self-labeled conservatives who say they hope the president is successful -- meaning they hope he turns his coat -- grew up as liberals and only came to conservatism later in life. Medved certainly fits this profile, as he was a left-liberal activist and protester back in the late 60s; he flip flopped (he would say "wised up") during the Ronald Reagan era, making him a "neoconservative" by the most classical definition.
By contrast, Rush Limbaugh has never been a liberal, so far as I know; and he brazenly hopes Obama fails. But why does one's political life-journey make such a difference in rhetoic? Let's look a little deeper...
The prime directive of the Left is that "Everything is political." For example, Karl Marx taught that the core of history is a class struggle between what Saul Alinsky would later dub the Haves and the Have Nots; and that this class struggle was ultimately political in nature. Contemporary liberals chant, "the personal is political," which is functionally equivalent to my phrasing above.
This axiom on the Left means that every question is answered by politics, that reality itself is naught but a convenient consensus of political accomodation. If the Indiana state legislature votes that π, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, is equal to 3.0, then that becomes the new consensus reality -- regardless of the fact that it's wrong, in a literal sense. (The constant ratio π is actually an irrational number that begins 3.141592653589793... and goes on like that forever in more or less random fashion.)
To put it bluntly, liberalism teaches that Reality is infinitely malleable: If the political power changes hands, reality itself shifts correspondingly. "Truth" to a leftist or liberal means that which advances the Vision; while a "lie" is whatever contradicts or damages the Vision. (See Thomas Sowell's the Vision of the Anointed.)
It's an easy step from there to the Argument by Tendentious Redefinition: If reality can be changed by political action, then words themselves (which are part of reality) can be changed by strident repetition... and this in turn alters the concept at which the word points.
Here's a really good real-world example. A liberal wants to continually grow the scope and reach of government; but that can be expensive, as we see with the Obamacle's budget proposal.
So the people, the voters, demand that the liberal-run government cut spending. "All right," say the liberals, "we bow to the will of the people." And they do proceed to cut... they cut the rate of growth of spending. They had planned to raise spending by 10%, but they raise it by only 8% instead -- and announce a 2% "spending cut."
The tendentious redefinition here is that spending cut, which used to mean a reduction in actual spending, now means a reduction in the increase of spending, or a reduction in projected spending. To the extent liberals can keep the redefinition secret, they can pose as deficit hawks and get themselves reelected.
Liberals and leftists are steeped in such tendentious redefinitions by their peer groups; they may already have used that rule of inference long ago, even as children, which might be what drove them to liberalism in the first place; but in any event, such thinking is reinforced and rewarded within lefty circles.
But even when they depart the Left for warmer climes, they often take such thought processes with them as excess baggage. This led me to my own definition of a neoconservative: a person who thinks like a liberal but usually arrives at conservative conclusions. People like Medved, David Horowitz, and Sen. Norm Coleman (to pull a few at random), who used to be on the left, still use the same thought mechanisms that they used back then... but now in service to a different master. And their reflexes are still knee-jerk leftist; they often must argue themselves out of a reflexive reliance on liberal tropes and back towards a more conservative position. (A lot of libertarians came to that philosophy from the left, and they too carry a lot of lefty thought-baggage.)
One particular piece of lefty thought-luggage retained by Medved and his Obama well-wishing pals is an overwhelming feeling of guilt at hoping someone, especially a black someone, fails. Even when they honestly do hope the man does not achieve his goals, they're afraid to say such a thing out loud. So they frequently fall back on yet another lefty valise or steamer trunk, and tendentiously redefine the word "success" as noted above.
But I have never in my entire life been a liberal; I was never trained to think of a black man or some other minority as a representative of some group, or that his failure was due to the white man "holding him down for 300 years," as many blacktivists insist. Consequently, I feel no guilt whatsoever wishing abject failure upon Barack H. Obama: Success as Obama defines it is anathema to me, so why on Earth would I wish for it?
In fact, one of our most important rights is the right to fail: By failing, we learn, we grow, we mature... or at least we can. And I would never be so cruel as to take away anybody's right to fail by, e.g., supporting a government Bureau of Bad Breaks, which tries to make good (at taxpayer expense) any setback or adverse result of poor judgment -- like not buying health insurance and then getting sick or injured. That's a liberal idea, and I despise it as unAmerican and infantalizing.
I will defend with my life Barack Obama's fundamental right to fail. But I just wish he would get busy and exercise it... soon!
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Date ►►► February 2, 2010
Environmental Activism in Russia - Different in Kind, or Just Degree?
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov -- personally appointed by Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin -- has ordered the wholesale demolition of houses in a Moscow neighborhood, based upon ambiguous land-title laws dating from the Soviet era; erstwhile residents are simply tossed into the street in subzero temperatures, while bulldozers obliterate their homes, whether "mansion" or "quaint cottage."
But here's the real kicker, Luzhkov's professed reason for decreeing such destruction:
Mr. Luzhkov, who in his 18 years as mayor has not been given to tolerating affronts to his authority, has stood firm. In an interview published Thursday in the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, he called the residents “impostors” squatting on land that he said was zoned to be a park. “These cottages are located in a protected environmental zone,” he said. “The city has been saying for years that construction in this area was forbidden.”
The reality is quite another story -- a story of corruption, greed, raw power, and tyranny. (Corruption and tyranny in Russia? Say it ain't so, Uncle Joe!) We continue quoting:
Critics have accused the mayor, whose wife is a billionaire real estate developer, of using ambiguous land laws to acquire prime property and resell it to private interests. Just over a year ago, several dozen similar homes were destroyed in a neighboring community that was in the same nebulous legal situation.
So let's add it all up. We have:
- A feigned and spurious exercise in environmentalist zeal by "watermelons" (green on the outside but red to the core) --
- -- designed to cover up what appears to be naught but a tawdry land-snatching scheme --
- -- enabled by corrupt but well-connected "nomenklatura," whose rank and whose friends in high places make them unassailable under the law, such as it is.
Say... sounds like tactics employed by every radical environmentalist movement in the world, from ELF to ALF to Greenpeace: They live for the chance to burn down a housing construction site or file a federal lawsuit expropriating private land to declare it a "preserve" for gnat catchers, snail darters, or Delta smelt.
Enviro-mental cases have colluded with the Obama administration and other Democrats to prevent us from drilling for oil in ANWR, in the Gulf of Mexico, in Colorado, or indeed anywhere else. They misuse and abuse litigation and "action directe" (fancy phrase for eco-terrorism) to stop nuclear-power plants, freeze construction, put the kibosh on animal testing of pharmaceuticals, ban the exhalation of carbon dioxide, and outlaw Capitalism.
In fact the only real difference I can see in the two situations, here and in Russia, is that in the United States, the watermelons have the ear of the government; whereas throughout Europe, the watermelons are the government.
Take a good look at Moscow, where the mayor throws Baba Yaga into the snow so Mrs. Mayor can buy the land for a song and make another cool billion. That's Barack H. Obama's America... if we let him.
Date ►►► February 1, 2010
Finally, Obama Has the Right Stuff! (Maybe...)
I'm just now picking my jaw up from the floor: Barack H. Obama has just decided to privatize -- space exploration?
The Obama administration today will propose in its new budget spending billions of dollars to encourage private companies to build, launch and operate spacecraft for NASA and others. Uncle Sam would buy its astronauts a ride into space just like hopping in a taxi.
The idea is that getting astronauts into orbit, which NASA has been doing for 49 years, is getting to be so old hat that someone other than the government can do it. It's no longer really the Right Stuff. Going private would free the space agency to do other things, such as explore beyond Earth's orbit, do more research and study the Earth with better satellites. And it would spur a new generation of private companies - even some with Internet roots - to innovate.
It's a wonderful idea, and I couldn't agree more: If we actually give a green light to private space exploration -- and a modest guaranteed market by renting space for our astronauts to fly on private launches -- then the Moon will come soon enough: Thar's gold in them thar craters! (Along with every other element we could possibly need to sustain an industry, and even extract breathable oxygen and create potable water for "Lunatic" colonists.)
Obama has underfunded it, of course, committing only $5.9 billion; but at least we're headed in the right direction. Here's the part where the president is bang on:
The White House said the program was too much like the 1960s Apollo mission and would require large budget increases just to get astronauts back on the moon by 2030.
The (unsourced) CBS report gets to the heart of the problem with the American space program (and everyone else's, to be fair) -- though even this piece misses the "why" of it. The "back to the Moon" proposal by President George W. Bush was a big-government, top-down, military-style reenactment of the Mercury-Gemini-Apollo program of the 1950s-70s: The govenment creates a massive bureaucracy (NACA/NASA), which throws billions of dollars at the project, achieves its goals in the worst way possible... and then cancels the entire program. And leave us not forget that it was a big-government Republican president, Richard M. Nixon, who killed it.
The legacy of the government monopoly approach to space explation is an aging Shuttle fleet (currently three  flyable birds), plus a misguided and mismanaged "International Space Station," as our entire space program for the last thirty-plus years.
By the time Nixon canceled Apollo, NASA's bureaucracy had become sclerotic, unimaginative, anti-capitalist (seriously -- they actively suppressed private space launches), penny-foolish and pound-foolisher (killing the Air Force's X-15/X-20 program, for example, so it wouldn't "compete" with NASA's Mercury program), and in many ways an impediment to space exploration and colonization, not a boon.
NASA still conducts desultory research into more long-term goals; but where are the solar sails for long-range manned space exploration? Where is a truly reusable space "taxi" for shuttling spacefarers up and down the gravity well?
Where are the alternatives to launching from ground to low-Earth orbit (LEO), something to replace the "disintegrating totem poles" of the Saturn V or the one-shot solid booster rockets used to lift the Shuttle? There are many remarkable launch designs out there, but NASA seems uninterested in developing them.
For that matter, where is such a simple vehicle as the unmanned orbital booster, which would orbit in LEO; then upon radio command, latch onto some cargo (like a satellite) in low orbit, and just boost it up to a higher one? That way we wouldn't have to put boosters on every satellite we launch, an incredible extra mass that must be carried up.
And as is obvious from the subject of this post, it's been thirty-seven years, one month, and 21 days since we last put a man on the Moon; and if everything went well, it would be an additional twenty years before we returned: More than half a century between Moon landings is unconscionable. Clearly, the big-government approach to space exploration, industrialization, and colonization is a complete flop... as is the big-government approach to virtually everything, with the possible exception of national defense and interstate highways.
But the Regulators already have their long knives out for the irregulars; back to the Long Beach Press-Telegram story:
But there's some concern about that - from former NASA officials worried about safety and from congressional leaders worried about lost jobs. Some believe space is still a tough, dangerous enterprise not to be left to private companies out for a buck. Government would lose vital knowledge and control, critics fear.
Yes, God forbid we should allow filthy capitalists out for a buck into the space program. Far better that everything be in the hands of altruistic federal bureaucrats -- out for a pension.
The Press-Telegram notes the example of the airline industry. Let's expand upon that: If the federal government were still in charge of air transportation, there would be one airline for the entire country. Every flight would originate from the same airport, and planes would depart once every three months; each would carry no more than eight passengers -- three of whom would be decorated military pilots or flight officers, and the rest would be Highly Trained Specialists™ certified by the "National Air Transportation Administration".
Every airplane flight would cost $800 million, and half the takeoffs would be scrubbed on the runway, with no refunds.
And upon getting airborne, each plane would jettison half its engines into the drink, requiring six months of maintenance and a total rebuild before its next flight. (That's why we need a massive fleet of three Shuttles.)
Why is private enterprise better for space exploitation? Manifold reasons:
- Cost: A private space-launch business has to turn a profit, so it must keep costs down; this in turn keeps the price down, and more and more customers can launch to orbit, creating a positive feedback loop dragging the human race into space.
- Reliability: A business must hit its schedule nearly every time, or it loses business to its competitors (think of FedEx); therefore, reliability becomes much more of a premium than with a government monopoly.
- Responsiveness: It must continually offer new services to stay ahead of said competitors; it must create markets, create and exploit opportunities, and move rapidily to seize the initiative.
- Wealth creation: It would open up whole new markets for orbital manufacturing of machine parts, pharmaceuticals, and very large structures that would collapse under Earth's gravitational pull (see next bullet); new markets mean new wealth for everyone.
Energy abundance: Entrepeneurs would quickly realize that the biggest market of all would be energy: solar cells in orbit -- outside 99% of the Earth's atmosphere and 100% of Earth's weather -- can generate orders of magnitude more electricity than terrestrial solar cells, and considerably more than even a nuclear power plant.
Remember, in orbit, you can make the collection surface as big as you want, several square kilometers; energy can be beamed back to Earth by microwave lasers or somesuch.
Here is where the conservatives' demand for large power availability and liberals' demand for non-carbon energy production can meet in the middle in a true bipartisan Kosmic Kumbaya!
Innovation: Finally, it's the private sector, not the government, that is truly innovative; if we want humans in space on a full-time, permanent basis, it's private enterprise or bust.
At the moment, we've got "bust."
It's a little odd that such a lover of big-government Obamunism and nationalization of private resources would suddenly go all capitalist over the space program; I worry that this will just turn out to be more empty rhetoric. But entrepeneurs can use even empty rhetoric to fly below the radar and actually bring about some of the dreams that Obama has woven, perhaps unintentionally and against the president's own better judgment. Certainly there is no lack of players champing at the leash to jump into a newly revitalized private space-launch industry:
The leading contenders - most are mum at this point - to build private spaceships include established aerospace giants, such as Boeing Co. of Chicago and Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., which built most of America's rockets and capsules.
Boeing and Lockheed Martin have existing rocket families in Delta and Atlas, which launch commercial and government satellites regularly and reliably, but for the moment aren't rated by the government to be safe enough for humans. That may change.
But it's the newer space guard that brings some excitement to the field. PayPal founder Elon Musk may be ahead of most. His SpaceX already has a Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule. Other companies being mentioned include Orbital Sciences of Dulles, Va., Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas and Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, Nev.
Republicans should seize this idea to show they're not just the "party of No," as Obama loves to claim. Here's a chance to champion science, space research, and private enterprise and entrepeneurship, all while showing some bipartisan flair! The GOP would have to be utter morons to let this fish loose.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
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