"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt


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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Going on Trip-- Break from Blogging for a Week and Change



I'll be away from Critical Narrative for a while. My wife and I will soon be visiting her parents in the Ark-La-Tex area for a week, and I need to get ready for the trip. Amazingly my in-laws still have dial-up (and slow dial up at that-- are they still using 14.4 I wonder? LOL), so I won't be doing any blogging while I'm there. And honestly I could use the break from writing about politics for a time. Having so little trust in the people running the government right now can really wear you down.

Anyway, I'll be back in the first week of October and will be posting again soon after.

Check out any of the sites on My Blog List to the left there. They're all highly recommended.


Back Blogging Soon,

Yukio Ngaby

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Russians Warn that North and South Korea on the Brink of War



A Russian diplomat is claiming that North and South Korea are one step from conflict.


"In Moscow's bleakest assessment of the situation on the Korean peninsula yet, Russian deputy foreign minister Alexei Borodavkin said tensions between the two countries were running at their highest and most dangerous level in a decade.

"'Tensions on the Korean Peninsula could not be any higher. The only next step is a conflict,' he told foreign policy experts at a round table on the subject in Moscow.

"His prediction came two months after North Korea vowed to wage 'a sacred war' against South Korea and its biggest backer, the United States.

"Tensions bubbled over in March after Washington and Seoul concluded that a North Korean submarine had sunk a South Korean naval vessel in the Yellow Sea. Mr Borodavkin called for the investigation into exactly who was responsible for the sinking of the vessel, the Cheonan, to be urgently closed in order to remove an obvious source of tension."

Maybe. Maybe not. North Korea is frustratingly difficult to analyze and great fans of brinkmanship. The people within the government seem to be completely uninhibited by logic and practicality, and continue to perpetrate some of the stupidest provocations possible-- from kidnapping a 13-year-old Japanese girl (and many others) to kidnapping South Korean movie directors and actresses. Is something a little more conventional, like the torpedoing of a South Korean warship, a sign of increasing bellicosity? Hard to say.

Whatever the case, Obama's penchant for downplaying American military might and his outright disinterest in protecting American allies has done nothing to help the safety of South Korea and other American allies in Asia.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Silliest NYT Editorial Ever? Or When Sheltered Professors Go and Write Bad Op-eds

What shall humans do about the "evils" of animal predation-- in other words animals eating other animals? This is the premise of what is quite possibly the worst op-ed I have ever seen in The New York Times... at least the worst op-ed that was not overtly political.

Russell McMahan is a professor of philosophy at Rutgers. This fact may not be evident in the meandering, drunkenly aimless essay that passes, at least in the view of the NYT's editors, as an opinion piece. Yet, two other facts are made abundantly clear very soon within this essay-- (a) that McMahan's degrees are not in biology, and (b) that he has tenure.

From McMahan's laughable display of what is wrong with America's institutes of higher education (with my comments added-- I simply could not resist):

"Viewed from a distance, the natural world often presents a vista of sublime, majestic placidity. [Well, at least from a modern city dweller's perspective. The vast majority of humanity living either before modern Western civilization or outside of Western urban areas have had (and continue to have) a different view of the natural world. But hey they're outside of modern Western cities... what do they matter?] Yet beneath the foliage and hidden from the distant eye, a vast, unceasing slaughter rages. Wherever there is animal life, predators are stalking, chasing, capturing, killing, and devouring their prey. Agonized suffering and violent death are ubiquitous and continuous. This hidden carnage provided one ground for the philosophical pessimism of Schopenhauer [Ah yes, Arthur Schopenhauer-- for those who find Silvia Plath's The Bell Jar too optimistic], who contended that 'one simple test of the claim that the pleasure in the world outweighs the pain…is to compare the feelings of an animal that is devouring another with those of the animal being devoured.'

"The continuous, incalculable suffering of animals is also an important though largely neglected element in the traditional theological 'problem of evil' ─ the problem of reconciling the existence of evil with the existence of a benevolent, omnipotent god. The suffering of animals is particularly challenging because it is not amenable to the familiar palliative explanations of human suffering. Animals are assumed not to have free will and thus to be unable either to choose evil or deserve to suffer it. Neither are they assumed to have immortal souls; hence there can be no expectation that they will be compensated for their suffering in a celestial afterlife. Nor do they appear to be conspicuously elevated or ennobled by the final suffering they endure in a predator’s jaws. Theologians have had enough trouble explaining to their human flocks why a loving god permits them to suffer; but their labors will not be over even if they are finally able to justify the ways of God to man. For God must answer to animals as well [Huh... I was unaware that God's duty was to answer to man. In fact, and I'm no theologian here but, it seems a little more like man must answer to God-- you know God being the ultimate source of universal morality, and judgement, and all that stuff. Silly me. McMahan does amply demonstrate one of the falsehoods perpetrated by current moral philosophy (to charitably allow the subject to retain the name), and that is that God must answer to man's sense of self-righteousness. Setting aside the illogicality (according to the common Western definition of an omniscient and omnipotent God) and hubris of such thoughts, this has caused to horrific misreadings of philosophers such as Kant and Kierkegaard and branches of straw man-like nonsense that this essay exemplifies.] .

"If I had been in a position to design and create a world, I would have tried to arrange for all conscious individuals to be able to survive without tormenting and killing other conscious individuals. [And McMahan cried out "Let there be Vegans!" and behold there were vegans, and McMahan's sense of propriety had been self-fulfilled.] I hope most other people would have done the same. "

I wonder how many hours a day McMahan fantasizes about creating his own world? I mean is this a passing musing or more of an obsession? It doesn't really matter.

"We should start by withdrawing our own participation in the mass orgy of preying and feeding upon the weak. [One might think that we have the found "ah ha!" moment-- that point in which the true purpose of McMahan's odd ramblings reveal themselves. One might think (as I did at this moment) that this was some sort of weird PETA tract. Having become tired blaming celebrities' "odd" behavior and mental problems on an omnivorous diet, rather than drug addictions, PETA (or some such organization) has trotted out McMahan to give some Vegan screed, which he is only partially successful at. *sigh* If only that were true... Had this been the case, we might be able to assign some purpose to this scrawl of words confronting us. But no. His ranting against people eating animals is relatively short, and just arbitrarily thrown in without any real point except to condemn eating meat.]

"Our own form of predation is of course more refined than those of other meat-eaters, who must capture their prey and tear it apart as it struggles to escape. We instead employ professionals to breed our prey in captivity and prepare their bodies for us behind a veil of propriety, so that our sensibilities are spared the recognition that we too are predators, red in tooth if not in claw (though some of us, for reasons I have never understood, do go to the trouble to paint their vestigial claws a sanguinary hue) [Yeah! Way to throw in some weird dig on women's nails. My how clever...]. The reality behind the veil is, however, far worse than that in the natural world. Our factory farms, which supply most of the meat and eggs consumed in developed societies, inflict a lifetime of misery and torment on our prey, in contrast to the relatively brief agonies endured by the victims of predators in the wild. From the moral perspective, there is nothing that can plausibly be said in defense of this practice [LOL]. To be entitled to regard ourselves as civilized, we must, like Isaiah’s morally reformed lion, eat straw like the ox, or at least the moral equivalent of straw [Really? First of all, since when has being considered "civilized" an entitlement? It seems that the term "civilized" has a definition, and that a form of human society either fulfills the definition or does not. Entitlement has little to do with the process. Perhaps McMahan should gift us with his definition of the term civilized. It apparently has something to do with eating habits and specifically a Vegan lifestyle of eating moral straw. Odd. I don't recall that being in any of my anthropology, sociology, or history texts. In fact, I recall a written language being required for civilization, but that idea has been largely discredited or ignored-- the conviction that being considered "civilized" is an entitlement has perhaps grown out of that void.].

"But ought we to go further? Suppose that we could arrange the gradual extinction of carnivorous species [LOL], replacing them with new herbivorous ones [LMAO]. Or suppose that we could intervene genetically, so that currently carnivorous species would gradually evolve into herbivorous ones [LMFAO], thereby fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy. If we could bring about the end of predation by one or the other of these means at little cost to ourselves, ought we to do it? [Why are we supposed to do all of this again? Oh that's right, because animals eating other animals upsets McMahan misplaced sense of self-righteousness (to steal a line). And by the way "at little cost to ourselves"? WTF? So drastically manipulating the genetic code of every predatory species on the planet turning them into herbivores won't cost that much?! Clearly McMahan's degrees are not in economics either. And by the way, since when has doing the right thing been dependent upon cost? You know I would be a moral person, but it's just too expensive...]

"I concede, of course, that it would be unwise to attempt any such change given the current state of our scientific understanding [Duh, no! Really?! Do you think?!]. Our ignorance of the potential ramifications of our interventions in the natural world remains profound. Efforts to eliminate certain species and create new ones would have many unforeseeable and potentially catastrophic effects."

But that last admission doesn't stop McMahan. Oh, no. Admitting that we can't do anything that McMahan suggests doesn't stop him from continuing to argue that we should.

"Yet our relentless efforts to increase individual wealth and power are already causing massive, precipitate changes in the natural world [That's right. Just go ahead and ascribe all ecological damages in this world to individuals' lust for wealth and power. We all know that those moral Socialist governments never cause any ecological damage... I mean look at the air quality of Beijing, or those super clean Chinese coal plants, or just visit Eastern Europe and look around a bit. And by the way "What is this 'Chernobyl' of which others speak?"]. Many thousands of animal species either have been or are being driven to extinction as a side effect of our activities. Knowing this, we have thus far been largely unwilling even to moderate our rapacity to mitigate these effects. If, however, we were to become more amenable to exercising restraint, it is conceivable that we could do so in a selective manner [Is it really conceivable for us to do this? Did you talk to an economist about it? Or a biologist? Or a psychologist? Or a sociologist? Or anyone?], favoring the survival of some species over others. The question might then arise whether to modify our activities in ways that would favor the survival of herbivorous rather than carnivorous species [Because we all know that eating other animals is just plain evil]."

I'm going to skip ahead now, because McMahan's silly essay is very long, and I don't want to reprint the whole thing here. Suffice it to say that McMahan anticipates a few cliched objections taken from from 1950s science fiction movies (meddling in God's domain, and his suggested actions being "against nature"). He then dismisses the first by using the tired and equally cliched argument that any act that infringes upon a completely deterministic universe would be against God (straw man argument anyone?), and then declares that there isn't a God anyway ("The second response to the accusation of playing God is simple and decisive. It is that there is no deity whose prerogatives we might usurp."). So there. Problem solved. McMahan then counters the second objection with the same strategy saying that there is no personified nature, and the one that exists is changeable anyway-- so, why not eradicate all those immoral carnivorous species. There. Problem solved, again.

McMahan then goes on to clumsily address the value of various species with an intentionally narrow focus. I'm not going to bother with it. Read it if you want to watch a contemporary academic doing what so many contemporary academics do best, narrow down definitions and then warp them to fit their arguments. Ah, that scholastic march toward truth...

I will quote a very small porttion of this argument here, because I will reference it soon. McMahan writes: "Again, the claim that suffering is bad for those who experience it and thus ought in general to be prevented when possible cannot be seriously doubted."

McMahan then concludes: "Here, then, is where matters stand thus far. It would be good to prevent the vast suffering and countless violent deaths caused by predation. There is therefore one reason to think that it would be instrumentally good if predatory animal species were to become extinct and be replaced by new herbivorous species, provided that this could occur without ecological upheaval involving more harm than would be prevented by the end of predation [that's not just a thick rug, that's a flying carpet.]. The claim that existing animal species are sacred or irreplaceable is subverted by the moral irrelevance of the criteria for individuating animal species. I am therefore inclined to embrace the heretical conclusion that we have reason to desire the extinction of all carnivorous species, and I await the usual fate of heretics when this article is opened to comment."

Heretic is far too grand a title to bestow upon McMahan, by way of his essay. Instead this piece makes him simply seem like a babbling shut-in; a man unencumbered by reality, untouched by academic subjects beyond his own area of "expertise," and so withdrawn into his self-created, academic world, that even common sense has fled him in favor of superfluous musings stemming from his own fevered theories (I will not call them principles).

Even dismissing this ridiculousness as a mere philosophical exercise, which McMahan seems somewhat unwilling to do, the incredible shallowness of his thinking is breathtaking.

First and foremost, McMahan accepts the basic premise that "the claim that suffering is bad for those who experience it and thus ought in general to be prevented when possible cannot be seriously doubted. [emphasis mine]"

This blanket statement underlies all of McMahan's inane ramblings. It is the basis from which all his weirdly dreamy talk about doing away with immoral carnivores, etc. begins. Yet, McMahan offers no basis for justifying this premise, expecting the mere mention of the concept (replete with "colorful"-- i.e. manipulative-- diction: "vast, unceasing slaughter," "prepare their bodies for us behind a veil of propriety," "inflict a lifetime of misery and torment on our prey," "continuous, incalculable suffering," "mass orgy of preying and feeding upon the weak," etc.) to be proof enough. This basically asserts that suffering is immoral, thus it stands to reason preventing suffering is moral. McMahan says as much when he writes: "we do have a moral reason to prevent it [animal's suffering], just as we have a general moral reason to prevent suffering among human beings that is independent both of the cause of the suffering and of our relation to the victims [emphasis mine]." Lazy, lazy. Lazy and ignorant.

On a personal scale, suffering (as defined as undergoing or being subjected to pain and distress) is often times beneficial. As a simple example, when you runs track, you undergo discomfort. If you push yourself, you'll feel pain. Is this suffering? Maybe. It depends. Do we have a universal pain scale that can tell exactly when mere discomfort ends and suffering begins? Do all humans feel pain to the same degree as all others? Of course not. However, if you push yourself even harder past the pain and keep going, you'll suffer by most people's definition-- anybody who's had an Achilles tendon snap can testify to this. Yet, running is beneficial to the person prior to injuring oneself. You feel better afterwards, exercise your heart, your lungs, your muscles. You live longer. Suffering, in this case and others, is a conduit to greater health and mental happiness.

Would popping a tendon be a bad act, an immoral act? Is a woman suffering through childbirth another example of immorality?

In fact pain itself, like much in life outside of conscious awareness, is neither intrinsically good nor bad, moral nor immoral. Burning your hand on a hot stove teaches you that heat is damaging to your body, that heat can kill you. Would our lives be more moral if we never learned this? Does that question even make sense?

In the realm of religious thought the idea of suffering as sacrifice or penance is common, and surely McMahan would dismiss such thoughts as superstitious and unenlightened. Butchering a lamb or a goat to eat is to participate in an orgy of death or something, so butchering one as a religious sacrifice is right out (a subject that I notice McMahan avoids. Sure, you can invoke scripture to back up your argument. But once it has served it's purpose, it's just foolish superstition from a "decisively" non-existent deity.).

Yet, what of the belief that self-inflicted suffering can lead to spiritual enlightenment? Various Native American tribes indulged in self-torture (body lifted by hooks, self-starvation, walking in place while staring into the sun, etc.) as a way to get a glimpse into the spirit world. Japanese artists (martial and otherwise) would meditate beneath freezing cold waterfalls or remain half-submerged in chilly water for hours contemplating their subject. Hindis can participate in the Thaipusam holiday by piercing their bodies with hooks, skewers, vel, and then sometimes pulling chariots and heavy objects with their hooks. Others can sometimes pierce their tongue to impede speech and focus their attention on Lord Murugan. Are these practices not immoral by McMahan's scheme? Should we, as observers, not be compelled to stop their suffering? Like many utilitarian moral plans, they work best and with less obvious contradiction when dealing exclusively with Western cultures.

Granted, McMahan might argue that he only said that suffering is "bad" and that the prevention of suffering is moral. This is an inauthentic argument, which I will quickly address below.

Without examining it in any way, McMahan seems to have basically set-up an odd variation of Jeremy Bentham's concept of utilitarianism. Instead of pleasure and happiness being the yardstick by which we measure morality, it is the prevention of suffering that defines morality-- a strangely unpleasurable variation of hedonism.

Whether pain is being inflicted or simply observed McMahan claims we are morally compelled to act (Remember that "[e]ven if we are not morally required to prevent suffering among animals in the wild for which we are not responsible, we do have a moral reason to prevent it, just as we have a general moral reason to prevent suffering among human beings that is independent both of the cause of the suffering and of our relation to the victims. The main constraint on the permissibility of acting on our reason to prevent suffering is that our action should not cause bad effects that would be worse than those we could prevent."). Effectively this equates the concept of empathy with morality, or perhaps confuses the two would be a better way of putting it. After all, the reason that we should care about another's suffering is because we ourselves have suffered-- thus the sensation of pain takes on (im)moral significance as it is the substance forcing empathy with the sufferer. Yet, any other reason for moral action becomes murky in this pleasure/pain world. Once this is done, it really makes little to no difference as to whether pain is merely "bad," or is in itself immoral, or merely the conduit toward immoral inaction, as we are expected to act upon it as though pain were in itself immoral-- as McMahan asserts we should.

In fact, Jeremy Bentham argued (more concisely) much of McMahan's ludicrous idea in the 18th century. In Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789) Bentham wrote:

"Other animals, which, on account of their interests having been neglected by the insensibility of the ancient jurists, stand degraded into the class of things. ... The day has been, I grieve it to say in many places it is not yet past, in which the greater part of the species, under the denomination of slaves, have been treated ... upon the same footing as ... animals are still. The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may come one day to be recognized, that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps, the faculty for discourse?...the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?... The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes..."

Hmm. Does that sound at all familiar, like maybe something written by a certain professor from Rutgers? Too bad that McMahan gives no credit, nor even mentions Jeremy Bentham in his lengthy essay... Indeed McMahan's conclusion, in which he offers himself up as a "heretical" martyr seems to suggest such ideas have never been expressed before.

Let's be fair, however. Bentham was advocating laws protecting animals from wanton cruelty. He was not suggesting that human beings eradicate carnivores in the name of morality. That distinction is specifically McMahan's.

Criticizing Bentham's blatantly hedonistic ideas, John Stewart Mill famously said "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question." This point holds true to McMahan, of course.

So, as so many recent philosophy teachers have asked, would you rather be a satisfied pig or an unsatisfied Socrates? Amazingly, McMahan's argument favors the satisfied pig and the fool-- as long as they're both Vegans.

I have not devoted this amount of my time (only a few hours to be fair) and this blog's space merely to argue with McMahan's repackaged, "new-and-extreme!" Bentham. His argument is so cartoonish, it's like arguing with Woody Woodpecker, or the philosophical equivalent of the narrative in an episode of the 1960s action cartoon "Birdman." Things begin, things end, stuff happens, the plot is mostly absent and really none of our business anyway.

No, what I find bothersome about all this, and the reason I chose to address it, is two-fold. First, and more practically, McMahan has exemplified what so often passes for higher education in this country. Without once crediting Jeremy Bentham, McMahan mashed together Veganism with Bentham's utilitarian creed, threw in some "colorful" language and set it out among the NYT readers while staking himself out as some sort of intellectual martyr. This is your philosophy department at your local university at work. Hurrah.

More important, but less practical is addressing the argument that McMahan espouses-- not the nonsense about genetically altering carnivores and destroying the eco-system as we know it to satisfy some weird combination of Vegan/survivors' guilt. What I'm talking about is the idea of imposing moral order onto the world around us (in this case the animal kingdom). Instead of looking about and deciding what is, McMahan arbitrarily arrives at a moral conclusion (suffering in general is bad) and then seeks to radically alter the world to fit this ridiculously generalized and simplistic viewpoint.

Look at what McMahan attempts to do in his essay (the fact that he fails is not really all that important), and the lengths that he goes to try to impose his sense of moral order. McMahan tries to place God at the feet of man to judge Him. He tries to define all of human morality around a distinctly American/modern lifestyle of Veganism. He attempts to put man in the exclusive role of passing moral judgement on not just all animal species, but on nature itself. He attempts to impose his will, disguised as empathic morality, upon the very nature of the universe. Hubris? Yes. Beyond that, however, is a very real danger in opening up a totalist mentality-- a mentality that declares that all things are capable of being judged as acceptable or unacceptable.

This is a very dangerous attitude based on nothing more then ego camouflaged as empathy, and intellectual gymnastics disguised as morality.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Former Marxist Rebel Dilma Rousseff Poised to Be Elected President of Brazil



Wow. This story went beneath my radar. (h/t Donald Douglas at American Power)


"Locked up and tortured by the dictatorship which ran Brazil during the 1970s, she was once branded by a prosecutor as the 'Joan of Arc of subversion'.

"Yet in less than a month's time Dilma Rousseff is on course to become Brazil's first woman president, entrusted with running the largest and fastest-growing economy in Latin America.

"Her first election campaign has gathered the apparently unstoppable force of a steamroller and Ms Rousseff is likely to win the first round of voting outright.

"If she pulls it off, it would seem like a miracle for a 62-year-old apparatchik who has never before been elected to any political post and who was unknown to most of Brazil's 192 million people a few months ago - until you look to see who is behind the wheel of the steamroller.

"Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the most popular president in Brazilian history, is ineligible to run for a third four-year term, and has given Ms Rousseff, his former political adviser, his unflinching support."

[...]

"If the election were held today, according to recent polls, Ms Rousseff would pick up 50 per cent of the vote, putting her far ahead of her main rival José Serra, a former health minister, on 28 per cent.

"Her extraordinary success, despite her own lack of pzazz, owes much to slick, Hollywood-style television advertisements which have linked her firmly to Lula - and made a powerful first impression in a country which still has high levels of illiteracy.

"In Ms Rousseff's first such 10-minute broadcast the camera soared over scenes of Brazil until she came into focus, declaring: 'With Lula, we learnt to move forwards... Now we must continue advancing. Brazil doesn't want to stop, and can't stop.' On banks of the Amazon, Lula was shown declaring a new era – and Ms Rousseff the person to lead Brazil.

"'The Oscar for best supporting actor certainly goes to Lula,' said Dr Timothy Power, director of Oxford University's Latin American Centre.

[...]

"For someone who was once an active member of an armed Marxist group, fighting to overthrow the dictatorship, it is quite a change.

"The daughter of a middle class Bulgarian immigrant and a schoolteacher in Belo Horizonte, southeastern Brazil, she realised upon leaving a privileged school that the world was 'not a place for debutantes'.

"She was 16 when Brazil fell prey to a military coup in 1964 and like many was soon drawn into the world of underground opposition.

"Introduced to Marxist politics by the man who became her first husband, Claudio Galeno, she helped build up one of the guerrilla organisations trying to overthrow the government - at one point spending three years in prison.

"After democracy was restored she had a daughter, Paula, now a 33-year-old lawyer, with her second husband Carlos Araújo, a revolutionary leader who had met Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. She trained as an economist she entered conventional left-wing politics and professional public service.

"In 2001, by now divorced again, she joined Lula's Workers' Party and her experience in the country's energy ministry quickly impressed the new president. A cabinet job as energy minister followed before she was appointed his chief of staff in 2005.

"But many have questioned how she can be running for the presidency.

"Critics say she was simply the last senior Lula crony standing since one aide after another was forced to quit in scandals over alleged slush funds, bribery or blackmail - including, last week, her own former aide who had followed in her footsteps as Lula's chief of staff.

"Her lumbering speaking style and lack of personal charisma do not make her an obvious candidate and - in what was seen as a thinly-veiled attempt to protect Ms Rousseff - the government made it illegal for television and radio broadcasters to make fun of the candidates [Hmm...].

"Others wonder whether she has the skills needed to hold together the 14 parties of Lula's business-friendly coalition, dominated by his Workers' Party, or to keep it to the pro-business approach that Lula, a former trade unionist, adopted."

[...]

"Yet in the latest poll of the province's almost 40 million voters, Ms Rousseff was seven points ahead of her rival.

"'I don't think she is particularly nice, she doesn't come across as pleasant and she isn't charismatic,' said Gabriel Malard, 39, a trendily-dressed photography teacher in the central business district of São Paulo. 'Her success is entirely down to Lula. But I'm still going to vote for her.'

"Yet others have not been swayed. Carloz Vereza, a popular actor and political blogger, told The Sunday Telegraph: 'Dilma doesn't have any experience. She has always made appointments on the basis of party allegiance, not merit.

"'Lula chose Dilma because Dilma means a third Lula term and the continuation of his populist-authoritarian project. She's only doing so well in the polls because his government ignores all the institutional limits on power and manipulates the population through welfare programmes.'"

Some in Rousseff's opposition are predicting her to adopt a Chavez style of leadership-- censoring media, further nationalizing industries, etc. I know very little about Brazil's politics, so I have no opinion on the matter. It should be very interesting to watch Brazil for the next several years though.

Dilma Rousseff wikipedia bio here-- I know, not the best source. But I couldn't find anything else in English longer than a blurb. I do admit I ran a pretty quick search, however.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Arab Electronic Newspaper Survey: 58% Against Building Ground Zero Mosque

As reported by Fouad Ajami's op/ed in The Wall Street Journal, a survey by Elaph an electronic daily in the Muslim world, showed that 58% of people polled objected to the building of the Cordoba Mosque. Additionally, in the aftermath of Pastor Terry Jones' Koran-burning threats, 63% of saw America as a tolerant rather than bigoted country.

These are some interesting numbers.

From Ajami's op/ed:

"The truth is that the trajectory of Islam in America (and Europe for that matter) is at variance with the play of things in Islam's main habitat. A survey by Elaph, the most respected electronic daily in the Arab world, gave a decided edge to those who objected to the building of this mosque—58% saw it as a project of folly.

"Elaph was at it again in the aftermath of Pastor Terry Jones's threat to burn copies of the Quran: It queried its readers as to whether America was a 'tolerant' or a 'bigoted' society. The split was 63% to 37% in favor of those who accepted the good faith and pluralism of this country."

Read all of Ajami's piece. It gives much food for thought.

As Prof. Jacobson at Legal Insurection points out, these numbers give little credence to Islamophobia being the main reason for objections to the Geound Zero Mosque.

From Jacobson's "Debunking the Islamophobia Card":

"So does that make 58% of the Arab world 'Islamophobic'?

"Something is going on here which was obvious even before this survey. The constant agitation over Islamophobia, like the constant use of the race card, is just another political tool to demonize people who happen to disagree.

"There certainly are some people opposed to the mosque who hate Islam, just like there undoubtedly are some people in favor of it who hate Jews and Christians, but in each instance that is a minority opinion.

"So the next time someone screams 'Islamophobia' once the topic of the Corboda mosque comes up, tell them to tell it to the Arab world."

Lachlan Markay at Newsbusters.org points out that these numbers pretty much exceed the American media's numbers on the GZM.

From Markay's piece "Survey Shows Arabs More Opposed to GZ Mosque Than American Media":

"Here's a fact you're not likely to see on tonight's evening news broadcasts: According to a recent poll, Arabs living abroad are more likely to be opposed to the "Ground Zero Mosque" than the American media are.

"According to a recent survey by the Arabic online news service Elaph (Arabic version here), 58 percent of Arabs think the construction should be moved elsewhere. And according to a Media Research Center study released last week, 55 percent of network news coverage of the debate has come down on the pro-Mosque side.

"The MRC study also found that on the question of whether opposition to the mosque demonstrated a widely held 'Islamophobia' among Americans, 93 percent of network news soundbites answered ion the affirmative. In contrast, when asked whether the United States is a 'tolerant' or 'bigoted' society, 63 percent of Elaph respondents chose the former."

Honestly, this isn't all that surprising. The American media has a very poor opinion of regular Americans, most likely a much poorer opinion then the rest of the world. I'd like to see a survey on that.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The O'Donnell Witch Project: Let the Circus Begin



Oh, this is just great...

The Delaware Senate race is shaping to be one of the more "entertaining" diversions this fall. After all, why should we all watch Jersey Shore, The Hills, or The Real World when we have less-scripted "reality," combined with ugly, Obama-like finger-wagging, barely mitigated name-calling, and political shuffling on this scale?

As I'm sure most people know at this point Bill Maher took some time off from essentially calling bi-racial people inferior (so much for my kids...) to release a clip of Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell (video here) saying:

"I dabbled into witchcraft. I hung around people who were doing these things. I'm not making this stuff up. I know what they tell me they do."

[...]

"One of my first dates was a with a witch was on a satanic altar, and I didn’t know it. I mean, there’s a little blood there and stuff like that. … We went to a movie and then like had a little midnight picnic on a satanic altar."

Now let the games begin.

Patterico's Pontifications and Powerline have both (rather prematurely) declared O'Donnell's political career to be dead. But many people hung their hopes on O'Donnell and, much like the movie Spartacus, they're now standing up and declaring "I'm Spartacus!"-- uh, I mean, that they too have dabbled in witchcraft because, you know, it was the 70s... or something. Not the best way to defend her guys... How about pointing out that this 40 second clip doesn't really say all that much. Is O'Donnell talking about Wicca or Satanism? It sounds to me like some form of Satanism with the blood altar and all that.

From RedState (sometimes the add at the top of RedState page is a pentagram advertising "The Ultimate Holistic Resource." LMAO.):

"Christine O’Donnell is more alike with a bunch of 40 somethings who came up in the late 70’s and early 80’s then these holier then thou types on the right seem to recognize. Why I bet a large portion of our Presidents who graduate from Harvard or Yale dabbled in blood oaths and other gruesome side games (could be called witchcraft) Don’t Stand in Judgment of That Which You Don’t Understand. Hell, I checked out witchcraft myself in my teens, I didn’t do the blood thing though, not to say I wouldn’t have but I just didn’t. In the waning days of the 70’s and early 80’s, this Country was kind of like it is today, sad, depressed and not sure that there would be a good future. My parents and I am sure a lot of parents, screamed and hollered every day about the precarious state of our existence. In those days a lot of people my age were looking for 'something' what was that 'something'? I didn’t know, I checked all of the major religions and then started looking at other types of 'religion'. In hindsight, after many years of marriage and grown children, it all seems rather silly but that doesn’t make it a jailable offense and it certainly does not preclude someone from running for Senate."

I found this post hilarious and I was convinced after a first reading that it was a satire (and I'm still not completely convinced it's not). People have seriously checked out Satanic witchcraft? Really?

There have been others, claiming that before they grew up they were Satanists or something. This comment at Legal Insurrection was a pretty amusing example. "Like Christine O'Donnell, I dabbled in the occult in my senior year of high school, and even my first year of college. Like Christine O'Donnell, I became an evangelical Christian in my late twenties. It's called spreading your wings, experimenting, and then real life begins to slap you across the head and you grow up. Any questions?"

Yeah, I've got a few questions. Where is all this happening? I haven't ever encountered bloody altars and witches before. And I don't believe that I've led a life all that sheltered from weirdness. In high school and college I've had friends and acquaintances who have believed:

1) in the ritual scarring of onself with a knife

2) that Western dragons used to live (and will return), but the reason we can't find any fossils or remains is because we don't believe in them (a collective consciousness determining reality, I suppose)

3) that Atlantis not only existed, but disappeared due to a warp in space/time (this fellow was a graduate student in physics)

4) that cats are this plane's manifestations of highly evolved and supremely intelligent inter-dimensional beings (this was in all seriousness... I started laughing thinking it was a joke and was stared down coldly. He forgave me for my outburst a week or two later.)

5) that you can increase your weight so much that four strong men can't lift you simply by concentrating

This is in addition to the standard New Age crystal power stuff, Illuminati/Free Masons/Black Helicopter conspiracy theories, UFOs, and Bigfoot, etc. Just to make everybody a little uncomfortable, I should add that all of these beliefs were held by people of high intelligence, all of whom were students and grad-students at well-regarded California schools such as UCLA, UCSD, and USC. To the best of my recollection, all graduated. Still with all these people claiming to have dabbled in witchcraft, I have to ask where are all these blood witches/Satanists hanging out? And yes, I have heard of Wicca. I've known several Wiccans and even briefly dated a believer just out of high school (no midnight picnics on bloody altars, as I recall).

Then there's the people attacking Bill Maher while downplaying O'Donnell's comments.


"The better question is, is it really ehtical for Maher to be digging in his own archives in an attempt to damage someone running for office ten years later? That looks pretty despicable to me. The message is, if you disagree with him politically, never go on what is his unserious show and have some laughs, because he will use it against you down the road. That's actually pretty pathertic."

Yes, Bill Maher is pathetic for reasons too numerous to bother to list here. Yet, what was O'Donnell doing on a show in which the main premise is Maher surrounding himself with Hollywood liberals and then mocking the conservative guest for an hour or so. People like Andrew Breibart can handle that sort of grilling. O'Donnell clearly could not. That's probably why Maher had O'Donnell appear on his show so often.

Mark Levin has responded by drawing some sort of moral equivalence to Obama's cocaine use and various other liberal scandals to O'Donnell's 40 seconds of weirdness.


"Barack Obama dabbled in cocaine.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/02/AR2007010201359.html

"Remember this? Somehow, it didn't disqualify Obama for 'high' office. In fact, it didn't even seem to affect his image at the time Obama made it public. Obama even explained his revelation as altruistic -- the public appreciates honestly and openness of this sort, he insisted."

[...]

"But at least O'Donnell didn't kill anybody at Chappaquiddick (Ted Kennedy), join the Ku Klux Klan (Bob Byrd), 'allegedly' commit rape (Bill Clinton), or, like Harry Reid's pet, Chris Coons, dabble in Marxism."

Levin makes a couple of decent points:

"But now, Bill Maher, a true sleaze ball, releases some unused clip from one of his programs where Christine O'Donnell talks about witchcraft and her youth (frankly, it's not even clear what, exactly, she had to do with witchcraft in any real way, other than dating some guy who may have been into it). CBS considers this newsworthy."


From Althouse:

"Maher obviously knows her well and likes her. 'She's nice,' he says. She was on his show a lot, and he's just exploiting the clips he has, which, he tells us, he's going to keep doing until she comes on his show. He's blackmailing her and giggling about what he's doing to this nice person he likes."

Ouch. Not terribly unusual for Hollywood, but still... Ouch.

And this was a "hit job" that will get far more press than it merits. As Michelle Malkin points out, among Bill Maher's motives is an attempt to take credit for her popularity and to get her back on his show.


"Narcissism. Blackmail. Distortion. All wrapped in his trademark smirk of pallor. Yes, it’s tired old liberal 'comedian' Bill Maher trying to get Senate GOP primary candidate Christine O’Donnell to come on his show by baiting her with a brief video clip in which she mentions having 'dabbled' in 'witchcraft' and hung around people who practiced it."

[...]

"She [O'Donnell] has nothing to be ashamed of — except, perhaps, for going on Maher’s show so many times. He promises to release 22 more clips until she sits down with him in front of the cameras and brags, in typical TV chauvinist fashion, that he 'created her' and that she 'owe[s]' him.

"Ignore the Hollywood attention troll. Focus on the campaign, the voters of Delaware, and the bearded Marxist opponent who’s the real out-of-touch extremist in the race."

Probably Malkin has the sanest take on the issue, and she brings up that O'Donnell's comments were both unaired and taken out of any sort of context.

"At 1:03 in the video, one of the panelists on the show criticizes O’Donnell for criticizing Halloween — 'Wait a minute, I love this, you’re a witch, you go "Halloween is bad," I’m not the witch, I mean wait a minute.' She responds by explaining that she opposes witchcraft because she has had first-hand experience with what they do.

"So, she tried it. She rejected it. And she learned from it."

Well, that's not exactly what it appears like to me. O'Donnell does not seems to be explaining why she opposes witchcraft (although it is impossible to tell in a clip that's about 40 seconds long), but rather defending why she opposes Halloween.

This is one of those issues that annoys me personally. I have paid little attention to the O'Donnell/Castle/Coons topic, so I have no idea what O'Donnell herself actually thinks, but many people I've met personally who oppose Halloween (and yes, I have not met O'Donnell and I will restate that I don't know O'Donnell's view on this) look to the government (usually some local form) to pass laws making trick-or-treating and such difficult. I don't like people who use the government to force or set their specific values onto people (as opposed to generally agreed upon laws equating that thievery, rape, and murder = bad etc.)-- which is incidentally the main reason --of numerous reasons-- that I reject the political Left of this country and Marxism/socialism everywhere.

I don't believe that this unease I have about people opposing Halloween is terribly unique, and O'Donnell's reputation (unfair or not) as being a religious kook seems reinforced by this. Amusingly, it seems rather telling that Maher et al felt that releasing a clip of O'Donnell portraying her as a witch would be more politically damaging then releasing a clip of her opposing Halloween. You know how those idiotic, self-righteous Righties will go nuts over her "dabbling in witchcraft" but not over her imposing her moral views on others... Right?

As ridiculous and amusing as the fallout of this hit job is, we need to remember that this is an actual Senatorial race. So, do I believe that this will hurt O'Donnell's chance to win? Did she really have much of chance to begin with? Prior to this, Coons possessed a 53% to 42% lead according to Rasmussen polls. Personally, I never felt there was much hope for O'Donnell to overcome that lead in the first place. So while some were pronouncing O'Donnell's career dead and others dismiss it, the fact is that O'Donnell would have needed a pretty incredible surge to win anyway. And this "issue" will not help her get that. Can it be overcome? Sure. Will itbe? I don't know. I don't know Delaware at all, so it'll be interesting to watch and see.

Lost in all of this is a more important issue for the Right. Mike Castle was predicted to be sure thing for the Delaware Senate seat leading the polls over Coon 48% to 37%. Yet, Delaware Republicans rejected Castle mostly on the basis of his fiscal conservatism, or rather his lack of it. If O'Donnell had managed to focus merely on fiscal issues (pretty much an impossibility at this point), she would've moved up substantially in the polls, though now winning is probably not likely. But who knows...

Fair or not, Castle was cast as a RINO and anyone defending him or expressing doubt at O'Donnell's chances, from Karl Rove to Charles Krauthammer, were attacked as either political elitists (the blunt truth is that you need political professionals on your side) or RINOs themselves. This has highlighted a basic problem within the political Right. Being made up of various factions from Old Conservatives to Classical Liberals there is not a great deal of consensus as to what the Right necessarily represents. I've written about this before. Add to this the fact that the Tea Party basically represents fiscal responsibility, and an anti-big government platform-- not merely a ringing endorsement of Republicans who have, in the past and present, often not measured to the Tea Partiers' standards, and we can begin to see the divisive problem the American Right faces.

Should the Right divide itself over differences such as this, Obama and the Left-- with the help of a sympathetic media-- could hold onto the 2012 elections and the repeal of the economically fascist ObamaCare travesty (among other nonsense) will be far more unlikely in the farther future.

Meanwhile, even the issue of fiscal responsibility is lost in the race for Delaware's Senate seat. Politics have devolved into non-issues and the voters of Delaware are left with the choice between a man dabbling in Marxism and a woman dabbling in witchcraft. Such nonsense for such an important seat...

UPDATE: Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has probably the best post about the way forward for O'Donnell.

From Jacobson's post "Memo to the Right: 'The Lombardi Rule' Is In Effect":

"Yet some of our leading bloggers and pundits are on a mission to prove that they were right, and that O'Donnell was not the best pick. To that end, they regurgitate every snippet of gossip and every tape from the 1990s without context or reflection, much less waiting until the O'Donnell campaign has a chance to respond.

"They must have a pretty dim view of the voters in Delaware to think that some sophomoric videos from the 1990s outweigh the national issues hovering over the race, not to mention Coons' recent problems, like multiple tax increases and an exploding budget deficit in his county."

[...]

"Does high blog traffic trump our collective national desire to see our kids grow up in a nation in which the state is the servant not the master (h/t Margaret Thatcher)?"

[...]

"The left is doing to O'Donnell exactly what they did to Sharron Angle -- swamp her with accusations and nonsense in the days after the primary to keep her from organizing her campaign. The Nevada primary was months ago, so Angle had a chance to recover. O'Donnell doesn't have that luxury of time given the late primary. She needs to integrate millions of dollars in new cash, gear up with staff, and plan her attack."

[...]

"So [names of conservative blogs and pundits still dumping on O'Donnell deleted], get over it and get to work defeating Democratic rubber-stamp hack Chris Coons."

Good advice.

Will it be taken? It'll be interesting to watch and see.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mao Killed 45 Million People in Four Years


The British newspaper The Independent (h/t Jacobson at Legal Insurrection) is reporting that Mao's Great Leap Forward killed a staggering 45 million Chinese citizens.

From the article by Arifa Akbar:

"Mao Zedong, founder of the People's Republic of China, qualifies as the greatest mass murderer in world history, an expert who had unprecedented access to official Communist Party archives said yesterday.

"Speaking at The Independent Woodstock Literary Festival, Frank Dikötter, a Hong Kong-based historian, said he found that during the time that Mao was enforcing the Great Leap Forward in 1958, in an effort to catch up with the economy of the Western world, he was responsible for overseeing 'one of the worst catastrophes the world has ever known'.

"Mr Dikötter, who has been studying Chinese rural history from 1958 to 1962, when the nation was facing a famine, compared the systematic torture, brutality, starvation and killing of Chinese peasants to the Second World War in its magnitude. At least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death in China over these four years; the worldwide death toll of the Second World War was 55 million.

"Mr Dikötter is the only author to have delved into the Chinese archives since they were reopened four years ago. He argued that this devastating period of history – which has until now remained hidden – has international resonance. "It ranks alongside the gulags and the Holocaust as one of the three greatest events of the 20th century.... It was like [the Cambodian communist dictator] Pol Pot's genocide multiplied 20 times over," he said.

"Between 1958 and 1962, a war raged between the peasants and the state; it was a period when a third of all homes in China were destroyed to produce fertiliser and when the nation descended into famine and starvation, Mr Dikötter said.

"His book, Mao's Great Famine; The Story of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, reveals that while this is a part of history that has been 'quite forgotten' in the official memory of the People's Republic of China, there was a 'staggering degree of violence' that was, remarkably, carefully catalogued in Public Security Bureau reports, which featured among the provincial archives he studied. In them, he found that the members of the rural farming communities were seen by the Party merely as 'digits', or a faceless workforce. For those who committed any acts of disobedience, however minor, the punishments were huge.

"State retribution for tiny thefts, such as stealing a potato, even by a child, would include being tied up and thrown into a pond; parents were forced to bury their children alive or were doused in excrement and urine, others were set alight, or had a nose or ear cut off. One record shows how a man was branded with hot metal. People were forced to work naked in the middle of winter; 80 per cent of all the villagers in one region of a quarter of a million Chinese were banned from the official canteen because they were too old or ill to be effective workers, so were deliberately starved to death."

I knew that The Great Leap Forward had killed millions, but 45 million... It should be noted the later Cultural Revolution (approx. 1966 - 1976) also killed a multitude (likely millions) of people as Mao ruthlessly clawed his way back into political power.

So, does anyone remember Anita Dunn declaring her two favorite political philosophers were Mother Theresa and Mao Zedong? Oh, that's right. She was being "ironic." I suppose the Left's general admiration of Mao in articles, papers, books and classes are all meant to be ironic as well. Come on. Mao is on almost as many T-shirts as Che.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thomas Sowell: Misleading Political Labels

Thomas Sowell has an interesting essay about the terms "liberal" and "conservative." Check it out.

From Sowell:

"Among the many words that don’t mean what they say, but which too many of us accept as if they did, are those staples of political discussion, 'liberals' and 'conservatives.'

"Most liberals are not liberal and most conservatives are not conservative. We might be better off just calling them X and Y, instead of imagining that we are really describing their philosophies. Moreover, like most confusion, it has consequences.

"The late liberal professor Tony Judt of New York University gave this definition of liberals: 'A liberal is someone who opposes interference in the affairs of others: who is tolerant of dissenting attitudes and unconventional behavior.'

"According to Professor Judt, liberals favor 'keeping other people out of our lives, leaving individuals the maximum space in which to live and flourish as they choose.'

[...]

"Communities that have had overwhelmingly liberal elected officials for decades abound in nanny-state regulations, micromanaging everything from home-building to garbage collection. San Francisco is a classic example. Among its innumerable micromanaging laws is one recently passed requiring that gas stations remove the little levers that allow motorists to pump gas into their cars without having to hold the nozzle.

"Liberals are usually willing to let people violate the traditional standards of the larger society but crack down on those who dare to violate liberals’ own notions and fetishes.

[...]

"As for conservatism, it has no specific political meaning, because everything depends on what you are trying to conserve. In the last days of the Soviet Union, those who were trying to maintain the Communist system were widely-- and correctly-- described as "conservatives," though they had nothing in common with such conservatives as William F. Buckley or Milton Friedman.

"Professor Friedman for years fought a losing battle against being labeled a conservative. He considered himself a liberal in the original sense of the word and wrote a book titled 'The Tyranny of the Status Quo.' Friedman proposed radical changes in things ranging from the public schools to the Federal Reserve System.

"But he is remembered today as one of the great conservatives of our time. Great, yes. But conservative? It depends on what you mean by conservative.

"Conservatism, in its original meaning, would require preserving the welfare state and widespread government intervention in the economy. Neither Milton Friedman nor most of the other people designated as conservatives today want that."

Sowell is quite right about confusion having consequences. I've had many arguments with people over political labels, and very often people bring up conservatives in other countries as being somehow equivalent to conservatives in the US. My favorite is a person brought up old school conservative Soviets as being equivalent to American conservatives (a confusion Sowell directly mentions). Additionally one of my undergraduate Poli Sci professors had an entire Marxist world history based solely on the battle between conservatives and progressives. He was thus was able to equate Ronald Reagan with Oliver Cromwell. Of course that comparison is foolish on every level, but even held to the prof.'s own standards this was nonsense. Cromwell was actively attacking Charles I and set up the short-lived Commonwealth of England-- truly the acts of someone devoted to the status quo.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Airline "Saddle Seat" to Cram those Passengers Aboard



I've never liked plane travel. And for those of you who, like me are not afraid to fly but don't like being herded like cattle into tiny seats, the world just might be getting worse for you. The Telegraph is reporting on the new "SkyRider" seat that will be unveiled at a conference this week.

From the article by Andrew Hough:

"The new 'saddle' seat, to be unveiled at a conference this week, increases the number of seats an airline can have in its economy class.

"The design, named the 'SkyRider', allows just 23 inches of legroom, which is about seven inches less than the average seat's space of 30 inches.

"Shaped similar to a horse saddle, passengers sit at an angle, with their weight taken on by their legs. It allows seats to be overlapped.

[...]

"The makers say the seat would allow budget airlines, such as Ryanair, to cram more passengers into their tight cabins.

"The seat, designed by Italian design firm Aviointeriors Group, based in Latina, in the country's south-west, is to be unveiled this week at the Aircraft Interiors Expo Americas conference in Long Beach, California.

"But while the designers claim it does not affect passenger comfort, they say it would only be suitable for flights of up to three hours.

"'We feel extremely confident that this concept will ... have great appeal to airlines for economic purposes,' Dominique Menoud, the company's director general, told USA Today.

"'For flights anywhere from one to possibly even up to three hours ... this would be comfortable seating.'"

And now my favorite line delivered while hawking the cram concept:

"'The seat ... is like a saddle [Dominique Menoud continues]. Cowboys ride eight hours on their horses during the day and still feel comfortable in the saddle.'"

Yeah, baby! That's totally convinced me!

I wonder how many cowboys the Aviointeriors Group interviewed for design recommendations... I would think that a cowboy-- or pretty much anyone who has ever been on a horse for any length of time-- would've been able to tell them that it takes a lot of time (and a fair amount of soreness) to get used to being in a saddle-- training that most airline just don't have. I just sort of assume that the vast majority of airline passengers aren't going to be cowboys or horseback riding enthusiasts, but maybe I'm wrong. Still, cowboys will probably enjoy the SkyRider seating, as long as they don't mind their face being a few inches away from the seat back in front of them (see second picture).

This thing looks to me like something that would come out of the Age-of-Communism Eastern Europe (why am I reminded of the Yugo and the cloth East German car?) where they didn't actively hate their customers-- they just possessed a high degree of antipathy toward them.

The article mentions that Menoud claims several unnamed airlines are interested in these seats. Take heart however, as these seats are highly unlikely to measure up to current safety standards.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Obama the Boring Scapegoat?



From Rubin's piece:

"Obama’s public persona is so predictable and his image so overexposed that even the left is over him. He’s gone from fascinating and cool to a crashing bore in less than two years. Greg Sargent: 'Seems the consensus is that Obama’s presser [Friday] was way too boring, substantive and unemotional to produce an abrupt and massive enough turnaround in the polls to guarantee in advance that Dems hold their majority.' Ditto, hisses Maureen Dowd: 'How did the first president of color become so colorless?' Well, he ran out of catchphrases and revealed himself to be less articulate than George Bush. Dowd admits he sounds downright loopy at times"

[...]

"Why are liberals so bored all of a sudden? Conservatives, of course, rolled their eyes over his New Age-like campaign rhetoric and have begun to pine for Bill Clinton, who, at least, was intellectually creative and amusing. There are, I think, several things at work."

[...]

"Second, it is easier to admit that the candidate they swooned for is boring than it is to say he’s incompetent (or an empty suit). The former implies that Obama has lost his charm, the latter suggests that their own judgment was faulty. This also neatly sidesteps the troubling matter that Obama’s policies have tanked. (If he could only be more eloquent about the trillions spent, the public wouldn’t dessert him, the thinking goes.)"

I find that last idea particularly interesting.

Will the Left readily drop Obama to save the face of their agendas? Will they actively place the blame for the unpopularity of big government policies and laws on the president? Would America buy the attempt?

Certainly it's much too early to suggest that the Left is trotting out Obama as a scapegoat, although the Democrat candidates distancing of themselves from Obama does not demonstrate great confidence in the chief executive.

I think it's more likely the Left will blame the Republicans once their expected House takeover is completed. As ObamaCare, the bill for Obama's spending sprees-- er, um "stimulus packages"-- and the rest wreak havoc on the economy the Dems will blame Boehner and the rest of the House Republicans (the Party of No, remember?) for America's woes.
The next two years are going to be ugly, and the 2012 presidential campaign will probably be as polite and respectful as the Hillary Clinton/Obama race for the 2008 Democratic nomination. If the stakes weren't so incredibly high for the US at this point in time, all of this would be very amusing.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Poverty Numbers Jump to Record Gains in America


Not particularly surprising, but...


"Census figures for 2009 — the recession-ravaged first year of the Democrat's presidency — are to be released in the coming week, and demographers expect grim findings.

"It's unfortunate timing for Obama and his party just seven weeks before important elections when control of Congress is at stake. The anticipated poverty rate increase — from 13.2 percent to about 15 percent — would be another blow to Democrats struggling to persuade voters to keep them in power.

[...]

"Interviews with six demographers who closely track poverty trends found wide consensus that 2009 figures are likely to show a significant rate increase to the range of 14.7 percent to 15 percent.

"Should those estimates hold true, some 45 million people in this country, or more than 1 in 7, were poor last year. It would be the highest single-year increase since the government began calculating poverty figures in 1959. The previous high was in 1980 when the rate jumped 1.3 percentage points to 13 percent during the energy crisis [emphasis mine]."

So there was a jump of 1.3% (from 11.7 to 13) in 1980 during the energy crisis, but now we're getting ready for a possible 1.8% jump from 13.8 to 15%. So poverty is more widespread then during the energy crisis. Hmm. Yet after more than 18 months, Obama and the Dems continue to blame Bush. Funny. And exactly how long ago did Bush have a Republican Congress to work with?

Perhaps these accompanying news stories might add some depth to these numbers (h/t Tom Blumer [below] for first two links).

From myFoxNY: "Homelessness Up 50% In New York City"

"If you think you've been seeing more people sleep on city streets, statistics back up the perception. The homeless population living on New York City streets has gone up 50 percent in the past year, according to city statistics reported by the HellsKitchenLife.com blog.

"The New York City Department of Homeless Services conducts a yearly survey of the streets of the city to count the number of homeless who are not in shelters. The HOPE survey was conducted in January 2010.

"The number of homeless in the borough of Manhattan was up 47 percent in the past year, according to the count. The 2010 count had 1,145 people living in the streets. That is up 368 from 2009."

From blogs.courant.com: "Homelessness among youth up 41 percent in the last two years"

"First Focus and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth recently released a study that marks 'unprecedented increases' in the number of homeless children and youth nationwide."

And more locally:

From Ashland Daily Tidings: "In Oregon and Douglas County, homeless numbers rise"

"The two of them [Peggy no last name given and companion] are part of a growing homeless population in Douglas County and Oregon. Homelessness is on the rise in both the county and the state, according to the results of an annual statewide count conducted in January.
Results of the count were recently released by Oregon Housing and Community Services. The agency uses the data to bring state funding to programs that help the homeless in the areas needing it most.

"Partnering agencies in all 36 Oregon counties helped tabulate results. UCAN handled the Douglas County count.

"The survey showed 19,207 people were homeless in Oregon in January, up from 17,122 the previous year, according to a Oregon Housing and Community Services news release. In Douglas County, the homeless population increased from 818 people in 2009 to 989 this year. The county's 2008 results tallied 501 homeless people."

From the Mental Health Association of Portland: "Homeless numbers rise in Oregon, according to new report"

"A report released June 9 provides some insight into Oregon’s rising homeless population, and shows that mental illness and substance abuse are significant factors in a problem affecting 19,207 people statewide.

"The report, based on a one-night count by Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS), also indicates 31 percent of those experiencing homelessness are children. The number of homeless families with children rose 33 percent from 2009.

"OHCS deputy director Rick Crager said unemployment was a primary driver in Oregon’s 'unprecedented' level of homelessness. Mental illness and addiction, however, also play a huge role."


From Blumer's analysis:

"What's remarkable, though, is how a government report that the media, especially the AP, has traditionally treated as an indicator of society's alleged failure to take care of its neediest --with the blame often directly aimed at Republicans and conservatives -- is now primarily a political problem for the party in power. Yen and Sidoti engage in a presidential pity party, and in the process come off as indifferent about what the numbers, for all their imperfections (and they are substantial), might mean in human terms -- again, something the press normally obsesses over, especially when a Republican or conservative is president. This time, it seems that if Ms. Yen and Ms. Sidoti had their way, this unfortunate information would be held until at least November 3."

Hope & Change...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Not Forgotten




Friday, September 10, 2010

Obama Administration Levels Threat Against Health Insurers for Spreading "Misinformation"


From the Volokh Conspiracy comes this news release from the Department of Health and Human Services (an open letter from Kathleen Sebelius Secretary of Health and Human Services to Karen Ignagni President and Chief Executive OfficerAmerica’s Health Insurance Plans).

"It has come to my attention that several health insurer carriers are sending letters to their enrollees falsely blaming premium increases for 2011 on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act. I urge you to inform your members that there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases....

"According to our analysis and those of some industry and academic experts, any potential premium impact from the new consumer protections and increased quality provisions under the Affordable Care Act will be minimal.... Any premium increases will be moderated by out-of-pocket savings resulting from the law....

"Given the importance of the new protections and the facts about their impact on costs, I ask for your help in stopping misinformation and scare tactics about the Affordable Care Act. Moreover, I want AHIP’s members to be put on notice: the Administration, in partnership with states, will not tolerate unjustified rate hikes in the name of consumer protections....

"Already, my Department has provided 46 states with resources to strengthen the review and transparency of proposed premiums. Later this fall, we will issue a regulation that will require state or federal review of all potentially unreasonable rate increases filed by health insurers, with the justification for increases posted publicly for consumers and employers. We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014. Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections....

"It is my hope we can work together to stop misinformation and misleading marketing from the start...."

Gosh, that sounds like a thinly-veiled threat to me. Sebelius seems to be esstentially saying "don't you dare blame the Obama Administration and its health care law or else." Considering that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was given a stranglehold on the health insurance industry by the passage of ObamaCare, this threat has real teeth behind it. Of course, these sort of threats seem to be a logical result of Obama's economically fascist law. Toe- the-line or pay the price, because we regulate you and we can destroy you.

I've got to agree with what Eugene Volokh says in his post:

"The precise nature of the threat — as with so many threats — is not made entirely clear, so the legal analysis of the threat is also unclear. For instance, if the 'zero tolerance for ... misinformation' policy simply means that the government will respond to misinformation with public criticism, that is permissible.

"But if the Administration is threatening to use its considerable regulatory power to retaliate against insurance companies that, in the Administration’s view, are conveying 'misinformation' — for instance, because their financial analyses disagree with the Administration’s financial analyses — that strikes me as quite troubling.

"I suppose the Administration could defend some such regulatory action on the grounds that the letters to enrollees are a form of commercial advertising, and are therefore constitutionally unprotected if they are 'misleading.' Still, even if such action would be constitutionally permissible, it would be quite troubling, as would threats that seem to hint as such action: It would involve the Administration’s deliberately trying to suppress criticism of its policies, under a 'misinformation' standard that sounds highly subjective and politically contestable. (Consider the reference 'to our analysis and those of some industry and academic experts' — what about the analysis of other industry and academic experts?)

"Perhaps I’m missing some important context here. But my first reaction is that this is ominous behavior on the Administration’s part, and seems to have both the intent and effect of suppressing criticism of the Administration’s policies — including criticism that simply expresses opinions the Administration dislikes, and makes estimates that it disagrees with, and not just criticism that contains objectively demonstrable 'misinformation.'"

Ominous indeed. Obama has made a regular practice of suppressing criticism to his administration from repeated attempts to box out Fox News to flagging "fishy" information received through rumors, e-mails, and blogs. Obama works very hard at stifling dissent. It seems to me that the HHS is just following through on the Obama's Administration previous heavy-handed and thuggish attempts to threaten and bully away criticism-- or in this case just plain facts.

ObamaCare must be repealed. No compromises.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

VDH: "Our Waning Obama Worship"


Check out Victor Davis Hanson's op/ed "Our Waning Obama Worship" at the National Review Online.

From Hanson:

"Apparently the liberal elite did not consider that perfect storm of events that elected a northern liberal in a way that had been impossible with George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, and John Kerry. Instead, they really believed that Obama’s election was proof that at last America had shed its odious -isms and -ologies. America was now ready for an updated FDR New Deal — as if, after seven decades, America had never tasted Social Security, unemployment and disability insurance, a 40-hour work week, and trillions in unfunded pensions and entitlements. In this 'never let a crisis go to waste' teachable moment, the cognitive elite was convinced that America had at last crossed the liberal threshold and so evolved from the passé equality of opportunity to the promised equality of result.

"But now a grouchy elite and a petulant president see that they were sorely mistaken about us, and Mr. Obama’s election was more flukish than predestined. Americans were given government takeovers of business, multi-trillion-dollar deficits, promised higher taxes, a path to socialized medicine, and an end to building the odious border fence — with, to top it all off, accusations from the likes of Van Jones and Eric Holder, apologies and bows abroad, and the beer summit. And yet the rustic ingrates are rejecting both the benefactor and his munificence."

Read the whole piece.

While many MSM columnists are conjuring every conceivable excuse for Americans not wanting to let Obama to run this country into the ground (either we're being racist and/or acting like spoiled brats), it's nice to see people not being cowed by the bullies in the media.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Man Arrested for Firing Gun to Defend His Family and House

From CBS News in New York:

"He was arrested for protecting his property and family.

"But it’s how the Long Island man did it that police say crossed the line.

"He got an AK-47 assault rifle, pulled the trigger and he ended up in jail, reports CBS 2's Pablo Guzman.

"George Grier said he had to use his rifle on Sunday night to stop what he thought was going to be an invasion of his Uniondale home by a gang he thought might have been the vicious 'MS-13.' He said the whole deal happened as he was about to drive his cousin home.

"'I went around and went into the house, ran upstairs and told my wife to call the police. I get the gun and I go outside and I come into the doorway and now, by this time, they are in the driveway, back here near the house. I tell them, you know, "Can you please leave?" Grier said.

"Grier said the five men dared him to use the gun; and that their shouts brought another larger group of gang members in front of his house.

"'He starts threatening my family, my life. "Oh you’re dead. I’m gonna kill your family and your babies. You’re dead." So when he says that, 20 others guys come rushing around the corner. And so I fired four warning shots into the grass,' Grier said.

Grier was later arrested. John Lewis is Grier’s attorney.

"'What he’s initially charged with – A D felony reckless endangerment — requires a depraved indifference to human life, creating a risk that someone’s going to die. Shooting into a lawn doesn’t create a risk of anybody dying,' Lewis said."

[...]

"You may think a person has the right to defend their home. But the law says you can only use physical force to deter physical force. Grier said he never saw anyone pull out a gun, so a court would have to decide on firing the gun.

"Police determined Grier had the gun legally. He has no criminal record. And so he was not charged for the weapon."

So what's the point of owning a gun if you can't use it? I suppose that the "correct" response in this case is to huddle fearfully inside your house and wait for the police to show up.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Obama Calls for Spending $50 Billion More on Infrastructure


Oh, great... Apparently $787 billion wasn't enough to keep unemployment in check, so $50 billion more should do the trick. Right?

That seems to be the upshot of Obama's speech according to The New York Times.


"President Obama on Monday is to call for as much as $50 billion in government spending to start up a long-term public works plan emphasizing transportation projects – roads, rail and airport runways – over the next six years.

"Mr. Obama will lay out the plan, which is intended to promote the quick creation of construction jobs but would require Congressional approval, during a trip to Milwaukee on Monday afternoon, where he will observe Labor Day by attending a union festival. The spending is one part of a broader economic recovery package that Mr. Obama is to unveil during a speech in Cleveland on Wednesday.

"With Democrats looking at a bleak election season, in large part because of high unemployment, the White House has been scrambling to find ways to jump-start the sagging economy."

I'm not so sure that announcing broad, new spending programs is really going to help the Democrats this election cycle. Yes, many voters are concerned about unemployment, but many are also concerned about deficits and government spending. Plus, most realize that the original stimulus package was an abject failure at accomplishing its stated purpose. Spending $50 billion doesn't seem to be the best idea for placating any of these concerns.

"White House officials said Mr. Obama wanted to rebuild 15,000 miles of roads, construct and maintain 4,000 miles of railway – enough track to span the continent — and rehabilitate or reconstruct 150 miles of airport runways while putting in place a system that would reduce travel time and airport delays."

That last line sort of sounds like Obama selling ObamaCare, doesn't it? The "travel times and airport delays at airports will be reduced while runways are rebuilt" line reminds me of the "expanding coverage and increasing subsidies without increasing the deficit" shtick. Sometimes I am convinced that the Obama Administration thinks we're all Mortimer Snerds or something.

"The $787 billion economic recovery act passed by Congress at the beginning of Mr. Obama’s presidency already included considerable spending on roads and other transportation infrastructure. But the White House says Mr. Obama’s new plan is different, because it would focus on a 'long-term vision' as well as create jobs in the near term."

Oh, good. This money will focus on "long-term visions." Well, I'm sure that the $50 billion will cover all of Obama's vision... And I guess this means that the $787 billion dollar stimulus was simply for short-term gains-- like keeping unemployment below 8%.

"Since the end of last year, when the long-term surface transportation legislation expired, infrastructure investments have been continued on a temporary basis, even as a trust fund that finances them has fallen into insolvency, the White House said. Mr. Obama’s plan would call on Congress to enact a long-term reauthorization of that bill."

Wait a minute. The long-term surface transportation legislation expired at the end of last year? How long did this long-term surface legislation last? Nine months? And they're already begging for more money to make busy-work construction projects to once again "decrease" unemployment? Talk about doubling down on stupid.