Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Frederic just can't understand punishing child rape

'Mitterrand continued with a jab against the United States: "In the same way that there is a generous America that we like, there is also a scary America that has just shown its face."'

Punishing child rapists is scary? Allowing famous film directors to rape thirteen year old girls is 'generous'? Who the fuck are these people in charge of our neighbor?

Living for others

'It was with sad acceptance that I read your passages . . . I say acceptance because I have seen all too often that [a priority on self] is the way all too many people feel they must live their lives. I am sad about it because this attitude is so determinedly self-defeating. Here’s the seemingly contradictory truth about being human: You can get anything you want by helping other people get what they want. True joy is found only in serving others, not in serving yourself.

I’m a fairly successful man in his forties with a wife and two kids. I am steady, calm, and blissfully happy in my life. I know what I’ve got going for me; sometimes I revel in it. I’m a good father and a good husband, if I say so myself. However, in order to be those things, I had to realize that it’s not about me. It’s about them. As I live my life for them, the rewards that I get back far outstrip the minimal, immediate cost to me.

Living your life for yourself is like squeezing a handful of sand: The harder you clench, the faster it slips through your fingers, leaving you with nothing. But if you open your hand up flat, you can hold that sand all day.

This is a fundamental human truth that our current social structure is working hard to deny. Everyone’s working for self-actualization, self-gratification, and self-realization, when all one needs to do is step back and take the focus off self, putting it on others. Do that, and the rest falls into place. Amazing, innit?'

Quoted in

Do you think Obama is President because he wants to help the poor and afflicted, or because he wants Barack to be President? Some of both? I wouldn't judge too harshly. Although President Obama is unbelievably vain, it is possible to be vain and have good intentions. Just thought I'd make my views known.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I canz have pron on the NHS?

'Preventive health care update [Mark Steyn]

Given the President's claims about the cost savings of preventive care, I do hope he will consider acting on the results of this research and instituting a mandatory program:

A study by German scientists showed that 10 minutes a day of ogling women’s breasts by men was as good at warding off heart disease, high blood pressure and stress as 30 minutes of aerobic exercise.

By the way, this wasn't just some nickel'n'dime, fly-by-night survey. Two hundred men participated in this survey, for five years. Which is a lot of breasts. Or a lot of work-outs, if you drew the short straw.

Weatherby found that a mere 10-minutes of staring at well-endowed females is roughly the equivalent of a 30-minute aerobics workout, because sexual excitement gets the heart pumping and improves circulation...She added:

“Our study indicates that engaging in this activity a few minutes daily cuts the risk of a stroke and a heart attack in half. We believe that by doing so consistently, the average man can extend his life four to five years.”

Now that's affordable health care.'

I love Mark Steyn. Not in the same way I love women's breasts of course.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

New York Times knows what is best for you to know

Further to the last post:

'...Some conservatives think O’Keefe and Giles were doing work that should have been done by the mainstream media. But most news organizations consider such tactics unethical — The Times specifically prohibits reporters from misrepresenting themselves or making secret recordings...'

WTF? Are they serious???? Undercover videoing is a staple of both broadcast and print journalism in Britain. Without it, the proof of many many important stories would be absent. If you don't video, even if you go straight from discovering some pertinent information and write it in a notebook, you could misremember, leave out important details and be subject to the standard 'its my word against yours' defence. Even WITH video, the lefties in the states have tried to both deny that what was said was said, and call into question the editing of the tapes. Without the video, this story would have been NOTHING. The ACORN people would simply have accused the two individuals of inventing everything out of malice for the organization.

The BBC constantly try to find pockets of racism and fascism round Britain and get it on secret video. Its their favourite pastime. They have NEVER tried to find pockets of communist or anarchist activity because they are politically approved of, but the tactic itself is valid. A few years back, it was an internet truism that it doesn't exist if its not on video.

Mark Steyn constantly rails about how utterly boring American newspapers are. Perhaps now we know one of the reasons why.

'And the two were sloppy with facts. One Acorn employee who bragged about killing one of her former husbands said she knew she was being scammed and was playing along. The police said they found her ex-husbands alive.'

Eh? Talk about garbage reasoning- because one of the Acorn employees bragged about killing her husband, the two investigators are sloppy? No assertions have been made about the contents of the tapes- they have simply been published and allowed to speak for themselves. The feeling I got from that particular incident mentioned was that she was a pathetic fantasist who enjoyed telling gratuitously over-the-top lies for dramatic purposes; to brighten up her terrifically boring life and job with some soap-opera glory. Her after-the-fact self-justification just adds a little more pathos to the sad incident. It does add to the overall impression from the tapes, however, of a highly disfunctional workforce who have no judgement and no morals.

'Dean Baquet, the Washington bureau chief, said, “We did not ignore the Acorn story, so I don’t think it’s fair for people to say we blew it off.”'

Er, you did ignore it you lying liar. For the longest time it was possible to ignore this story, you sat on it like pompous old school marms pretending that the annoying scuffle in the corner will simply sort itself out. You completely failed to perform your basic function. Wanker.

'Baquet said people need to keep Acorn in perspective with other Washington stories: health care, two wars and the deep recession.'

Oh my God! Can you listen to yourself for a moment? YOU CAN'T DICTATE TO PEOPLE WHAT STORIES THEY THINK ARE IMPORTANT (any more). Millions upon millions of people find it perfectly easy to discern in what way this story is important- Obama and ACORN have been linked at the hip for decades, or had you forgotten? Scandal at ACORN is scandal for Obama.

If George W Bush had been linked over decades with some barely legal scam outfit like ACORN, the NY Times would be running above-the-fold splashes about any whiff of scandal there every other day. Hell, they even invented scandal about the completely not corrupt President Bush anyway. And McCain. And Palin. But when real live demonstrable scandal hoves into view, suddenly the NY Times has bigger fish to fry, because its Saint Obama in the crosshairs.

'Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, agreed with me that the paper was “slow off the mark,” and blamed “insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio.”'

Trust me Jill, there's a whole lot more than those two you are not tuned in to. Day was when a story which broke on ABC would be on CBS and NBC within a few nano-seconds. Why not? All is fair in love, war and ratings. The fact that it was which broke the story is completely by the by. The NT Times in its haughty grandeur doesn't consider the whole vast array of right-leaning media legitimate, so it ignores it and its stories. THAT is a story in itself. Where is the newshound spirit of the muckrakers? Long long gone. Replaced by a prim fastidiousness which is contrary to all known cultural aspects of traditional Anglo-American journalism.

'Despite what the critics think, Abramson said the problem was not liberal bias.'

That's right, there is no track record of liberal bias at the New York Times. Nuh uh. Nada. Rien. Nil. Zippo.

'Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, said he has studied journalists for years, and though they are more liberal than the general population, he believes they are motivated by the desire to get good stories, not to help one particular side.'

We love him.

'Conservatives who believe The Times isn’t critical of Democrats forget that the paper broke damaging stories about the personal finances of Representative Charles Rangel and the hiring of prostitutes by Eliot Spitzer.'

I don't know about the Spitzer story, but the Rangel claim is complete shite. Local journos in Harlem have been digging dirt on Rangel from pretty much day one, but he is a protected species. Here is a question for the NYT: and what effect has your reporting on Rangel had? I didn't notice him losing his job... or his influence... or anything...

'And Republicans earlier this year charged that the paper killed a story about Acorn that would have been a “game changer” in the presidential election — a claim I found to be false.'

Not going to tell us what the story was? Not going to back up your judgement with facts, reasoning or evidence? How surprising. Not only is the claim true, the courts in thirteen states are investigating voter registration fraud. They don't do that for fun. Most Americans don't find organizations like ACORN interesting to read or talk about- for good or ill. But that doesn't mean if they were given the facts it couldn't have changed the outcome of the 2008 election. It may well have done. But we'll never know, because the NY Times suppressed the story.

'“If you know you are a target, it requires extra vigilance,” Rosenstiel said. “Even the suspicion of a bias is a problem all by itself.”'

Yeah, that's right- its all just faked-up suspicion by the Rethuglicans, right!

A winning formula

'The conservatives thought they had a “winning formula,” the article said, mobilizing people “to dig up dirt,” then trumpeting it on talk radio and television.'

What a crazy idea - 'mobilizing people to 'dig up dirt' and then trumpeting the results via some mass outlet. I'm sure I've heard that idea before somewhere but I must have been wrong. Certainly the people at the New York Times would never deign to do such a thing.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tired of being right

'President Obama is unlikely to close the much-maligned detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in time to meet the self-imposed deadline of January, as his administration runs into daunting legal and logistical hurdles in moving the more than 220 detainees still being held there.'

There are legal and logistical hurdles to closing Gitmo? Who Knew?

Its almost like its a problem. You know, a difficult problem. Fucking idiots.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Choir master of the hate chorus

1000 Posts!!! Whoo hoo!!! Right, now we've got that out of the way...

'...The continued flow of criticisms of the previous administration and Obama's apologies for the actions of the United States are becoming more than unseemly. The president observed, "I came to office at a time when many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and distrust." He allowed that "part" of this feeling about the U.S. was due to "misperceptions and misinformation." But apparently another part was a justified—or at least justifiable—response to American actions, or so he invited his audience to infer...'

'The president seems to hold a fixed view that he can mitigate anti-American feeling by conceding the truth of what the anti-Americans say.'

They will like Obama more, that's all. Hatred of the United States, based on envy, shadenfreude and rivalry is going nowhere. Of course, Obama's belief is also steadily alienating the people who voted him into office.

Can you say 'cult of personality' children?

'Nearly 20 young children are captured in an online video as they sing songs that overflow with campaign slogans and praise for "Barack Hussein Obama," as they repeatedly chant the president's name and celebrate his accomplishments.'

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How huge are the negatives?

'From Holly Merrigan on September 24, 2009 at 10:07 am. IP Logged, 70.104.12.x Report Abuse

I love Sara Palin and all she stands for but, unfortunately, I think she is unelectable. There are too many people who despise her...we need someone who starts out with no huge negatives. And I agree that adult supervision is a good thing. I like Petraeus. He has actually successfully run something.'

There will be endless discussions in the next three years about this exact subject. For the record, here are my thoughts.

The 'huge negatives' with Sarah Palin substantively are? She's a woman? You really wanna go down that road? She has a sense of humour? She didn't go to an Ivy League circle jerk? She hunts? She has a big happy family? She doesn't pander to the right-on holy cows? She was the object of probably the most vile hatefest in the history of Democrat politics (admittedly there are many rivals for that)?

Objectively, most of those are positives or neutrals for your average American. The last one- well what does that have to do with Sarah Palin? Nothing. Three years is a long time in pretty much any business. The crazed accusations that the Democrats spat at Ms Palin will have lost all their ability to influence by 2010, let alone 2012. Ms Palin has three plus years to introduce herself, the real person, to the American people.

If Ms Palin has real negatives, they are a lack of depth of understanding of some of Americas most pressing issues. But now she isn't running a state, she has lots of time for reading up and talking to the pertinent knowledgeable people. What she has in spades is guts, charisma and steely resolve. I would have given my left testicle to have seen her at the UN shindig yesterday rather than President of the World Obama. I can just imagine her taking on the motley rabble of dictators, psychopaths and lunatics with devastating grace; a twenty first century Margaret Thatcher.

Obviously, the road to the White House is long and tortuous and pretty much anything could happen in the interim, but I think Sarah Palin has a real shot. I'll drink a toast to her success!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


'The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee lashed out at McConnell's charges Wednesday, saying, "If there was ever any doubt who Republicans are looking out for in the health care debate, Mitch McConnell has offered conclusive proof: the insurance companies.

"Republicans jeopardize their own credibility when they choose to defend big insurance companies trying to make false claims about senior citizens," the DSCC said in a press release.'

Lets put aside the grammatical and logical mistakes for a moment, and consider here what is being said. Obama keeps on repeating that he is all about reducing costs, enhancing choice and enlarging the numbers covered by insurance- when did crushing and destroying big insurance companies get to the top of the agenda?

How am I going to keep my insurance, which I like, a promise Obama has made in that skin-crawling 'I'm going to talk to you like you're first graders' way about a billion times, if the Democrats destroy my insurance company on behalf of the little people?

You know, some of this talkin' not makin' sense to me.

F. U. Republicans

'Obama, at U.N., Sets New Tone for U.S.'

And that tone is? Fuck you Republicans. You didn't keep to America's values, you killed my people, and now I'm gonna do things the Democrat way. Gaddafi likes it, Chavez likes it, Ahmadinejad likes it. You'll get used to it!

Jutting chin, absolutely no sense of his own rediculousness

So Bill Clinton compared Al Gore to Mussolini? That is spot-on. The more I think about the comparison, the funnier it is.

The usual bollocks

'Olivia Bailey, womens' officer for the NUS, said: "I am appalled that a university vice-chancellor should display such an astounding lack of respect for women.
"Regardless of whether this was an attempt at humour, it is completely unacceptable for someone in Terence Kealey's position to compare a lecture theatre to a lap dancing club, and I expect that many women studying at Buckingham University will be feeling extremely angry and insulted at these comments."'

Doesn't matter what he ACTUALLY said, its what it kinda sorta if you are half-paying attention you think he MIGHT be saying that makes this COMPLETELY unnacceptable. Love that line '...I expect that many women studying at Buckingham University...'. I haven't bothered to call any and check, so I could be completely wrong, but I expect...

Bring on those elections

'Among those most angry are Republicans -- 90 percent of whom say they are somewhat or very angry. Seventy-seven percent of independents are angry and just 44 percent of Democrats are peeved.'

77% of independents are angry. Thats a bad bad number. Of course, 44% of democrats is a bad number too. Among them, probably many who voted for Hillary, the REAL centrist Democrat candidate.

Can't WAIT for 2010.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A stupid proposal

'A Modest Proposal [John Derbyshire]

I suggest a Constitutional Amendment to the effect that the United States not engage in any war longer than the Revolutionary War. That was 8 years and 137 days, Concord to the Treaty of Paris. The Afghanistan War would then be unconstitutional after February 21 next year.

We've been thrashing around in that worthless sinkhole of a country for eight years — twice as long as it took us to defeat Germany and Japan. And the Taliban is busily active in 80 percent of the place? HEL-LO . . .'

I think he's serious. Wait, let me amend that- he is seriously making this completely arbitrary trivial point. The United States went to war in Korea on the 25 June 1950. There is still no peace treaty in that war, only a temporary cease-fire which has held (pretty much) since 27 July 1953. Thats fifty nine years.

It seems almost too obvious to need pointing out, but you fight wars until they are won. Five years, ten years, fifty nine years. Every war, every circumstance is different. How long would the war against Japan have rumbled on if a) there hadn't been any nukes and b) if the Japs had followed through on their decision to fight for every square inch of their islands? It could be still going on!

The Iraq intervention was over within weeks; except that a three-cornered fight broke out in the political vacuum created by the collapse of the Ba'ath party. Predictable? Yes. Was it predictable that the combatants would carry on fighting long past any possible chance of success? No. In Afghanistan, the Taliban/tribes are now used to fighting all year every year. Young men grow up in Afghanistan with the tension and fear of war as a constant. They seem addicted to it. My guess is, they will carry on fighting until most of them are dead.

I'm pretty phlegmatic about that, but are the people who run the US? There does not seem to be any clear distinction in Afghanistan between 'civilians' and the people who do all the shooting and bomb-laying. Especially in the Pakhtun areas, pretty much everybody is hostile. But the rest of Afghanistan is not able to escape from the Pakhtuns malevolent orbit. What to do?

My sense is that there is no opportunity in Afghanistan to separate the civilians from the combatants cleanly. How do you run a counter-insurgency when that is true? You can't. The only alternative is what the British used to do, which is punish areas which disturb the peace outside their own borders, and leave them to their own devices. Rope them off to the extent that that is possible, and do something very positive with the Hazara and Uzbek areas of the country. Oh, and destroy every last poppy field and heroin processing facility.

The righteousness game

'China will increase efforts to improve energy efficiency and curb the rise in CO2 emissions, President Hu Jintao has told a UN climate summit in New York.

Mr Hu gave no details about the measures, which should mean emissions grow less quickly than the economy.'

The Chinese have sussed this game. Like all the bullshit signatories of Kyoto, they have no real intention of cutting their actual CO2 emissions. They don't need to. They will get a huge blaze of positive publicity from the overexcited puppies of the world media anyway. For the latter, saying something is just as good, if not better, than doing something. You just have to show you care. That you are a paid-up believer.

They know that none of the puppies can be bothered to do all that dreary after-the-fact checking to see whether there are more or fewer coal-fired power stations, whether scrubbers get fitted to the ones that have already been built, whether CO2 rules are kept to when building new factories etc. In China, where a bribe takes care of just about any business that needs transacting, even if the documents say that CO2-limiting technologies are in place, you would probably be well served to go take a look with your own eyes.

I could be wrong about this, but I don't think I am.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Where can you go to find freedom?

'Last Monday dawned clear and bright in the nanny state of New York City. The newspaper brought word that the city's new health commissioner was working on ways to get residents to exercise more. That same morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his latest assault on unhealthy behavior. By 2012, the mayor hopes "to lower the proportion of adults who drink one or more sugar-sweetened beverages each day by 20 percent." Tuesday's news was about plans to forbid smoking at public parks and beaches.'

I always liked 'Brazil' as a movie title. The not-so-subtle subtext: what will the world be like when even the wildest places on earth are not just tamed, but locked down and tormented like Russia under Stalin?

I am currently going through a burst of enthusiasm for moving to the US, something which periodically assails me. I have to say, though, that its not nearly such an enticing prospect as it would have been fifteen or twenty years ago. And that's because the growth of the cradle-to-grave state has rumbled on, sadly under George W Bush and now Obama (less surprisingly). Tax rates are creeping up, entitlements are growing like some genetically mutated horror, and the state feels freer and freer to clamp down on your life and tell you what to do.

I guess there's always Alaska...

He's not an American, he just plays one on TV

'It's Not That He's Black. It's That He's An Enigma.
The more I think about it, the more the townhall anti-Obama anger isn't explained completely by the issues (sorry, Frank ). There's also something about Obama himself-. But that something (or the main something) isn't his race. It's that he's a relative newcomer, as Presidents go--an unknown quantity, an enigma, with a short track record and patches of that record left fuzzy. That means opponents can fill in the blanks with ominous possibilities. It makes paranoia more rational, if you will.'

Yes, or as they say, no. I agree that the dissatisfaction with Obama goes considerably beyond the laws he has so far enacted, and the ones he is trying to enact right now. There are other things that mainstream, non-partisan Americans don't like about Obama personally. But I don't believe he is an enigma. How can he possibly still be an unknown quantity for heavens sake?

You are an enigma right up until you start taking actions- and Obama has a raft of those already. I read this piece with great anticipation, because I thought Mickey Kaus was going to get specific. But he doesn't, not really. What is it that people instinctively don't like about the whole Obama fandango?

I believe it is fundamentally his persona. He is about as American as Udang Pete Balado. All the aspects of his life story add up to 'NOT AMERICAN'. He can't throw a baseball. He likes poncy Grey Poupon rather than French's plain ole mustard. He has a very foreign sounding name. The policies he loves are French, German and Russian in origin. He seems to be more at home talking to muslims in Egypt than Americans in Peoria. He doesn't consider America exceptional, apart from in bad ways. He doesn't respect American political traditions. He doesn't respect traditional American allies; indeed, he seems to mildly despise them. In a contest between 'them and us', you get the distinct impression he'd drift towards them. The man sat in a church that constantly spews anti-Americanism that 99% of Americans find disgusting and abhorrant for twenty years without apparently caring.

The gut feeling of millions and millions of Americans is that he just isn't one of them. Forget the birth certificate and the 'he's a muslim' canard; the bare facts do enough to mark the man out as an outsider. To paraphrase an old commercial, he is not an American- he just plays one on television. And so when it comes to defending American interests and the American way of life, they absolutely don't trust him to do the business. And I totally understand.

Like I said before, Bill Clinton, even in his darkest days, never lost the deep and abiding affection of tens of millions of especially poor working class Americans. So he ate too much, shagged as many women as he could and was not particularly dependable- those are badges of honour is some parts of the American population! The contrast with Obama is severe. What is most shocking to me though, is the extreme racist slant of the black population in the US. Over 90% support Obama; who isn't an 'African-American' by definition at all. His mother was white, and his father was African. The only presumption which can be made is that it is not his IDENTITY with which they identify, but his skin colour. That is truly disgusting. Martin Luther King would be weeping. What happened to 'judge a man not by the colour of his skin but by the contents of his soul'? Not only is it disgusting but it bodes very ill for future race relations in the US. Rather than finally once and for all rejecting a retrograde black American identity, and joining the vastly richer and more successful mainstream, it signifies a deepening and concretion of a competitive and confrontational separateness. Down that road leads poverty and violence.

Nothing Obama says will stop millions of Americans from seeing him as foreign. And that is because psychologically its true.

I hear what you say... but

'It strikes me that there is a giant, overarching difference between veterinary care and regular medical care, and that is that the former is barely regulated by the government, while the latter is so regulated that even now -- without socialized health care -- many doctors feel as if they spent most of their time being bureaucrats. Is that it? I'm sure my vet kept records for Puff, but I'd be willing to bet they consisted of little more than a couple of paragraphs summarizing the diagnosis, the procedure, and his recovery. And I'd also be willing to bet that for the same procedure on a boy, if all of the records were all printed out they'd be a stack of documents inches thick.'

Trouble is... and I hate myself even as I type these words... if you look at where many of the high paying jobs are in the US, where manufacturing has been shedding millions and millions of jobs, it is in Health Care management and such related boondoggles.

To me, one of the great unanswered questions of the post-manufacturing economies is, what can we do?

We can't all be plumbers, bin-men, doctors, roofers, golf commentators or firemen? Can we? Doesn't somebody somewhere actually have to, you know, make stuff? And what about all the dunderheads who are too stupid even to be a plumber? The ones who used to be the cannon fodder for large-scale manufacturing? Are they going to sit around in their council houses taking heroin FOR EVER?

Perhaps somebody with an economics degree could point me in the right direction...

Some questions

'As Japan's new ruling party begins to question its military alliance with the U.S., one freshman lawmaker whose personal history reflects the longstanding ties between the two nations is already pressing the issue.'

First question: how can you write an article about Japan's military 'alliance' with the United States without mentioning once how it came to be?

Second question: how can you write an article about Japan's military, without mentioning the Japanese constitution which expressly limits the country to spending 1% or less of its GDP on its armed forces?

Third question: what does this half-Jap half-American MP have to do with squit?

Fourth question: Japan is occupied by the United States. Wouldn't it have to therefore grovel on bended knee for US bases to be removed? Rather than say, demand?

This shit-for-brains Japanese MP needs to crack open a few history books, starting with the ones about the glories of the Japanese empire. Start with the Rape of Nanking, is my suggestion.

Motes and Beams #3,689

"The easiest way to get 15 minutes on the news or your 15 minutes of fame is to be rude. ... That's something that I think needs to change," Obama said, lamenting the habit of "plucking out a sentence here or a comment there."

First of all, Obama has been on every TV station every day since he became President, whenever he wanted, free. Now that's a bully pulpit.

Secondly, all the big US media outlets other than Fox are pro-Obama, and can be counted on to put out any PR puffs the White House wishes them to.

Thirdly, from 2001 to 2009, there was a constant barrage of rudeness, from Code Pink to Hillary Clinton (who pretty much told General Petraeus he was lying to her). Nobody said they couldn't say what they wanted to say, although many many people including me made judgements about those people based on what they said. Even BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome) was not deemed beyond the pale as far as political comment was concerned, although many (including me) saw it less as political comment than borderline psychosis.

Lastly, plucking out a sentance or a comment here or there is EXACTLY what he and Nancy Pelosi do when making their swingeing judgements about the Tea Partiers, Town Hall attendees and congressional Republicans. In many respects Obama is much worse than selective- he has said repeatedly that the Republicans have no health reform policy to counter his, which is a blatant lie.

As usual, the Democrats who accuse are the worst transgressors. For shame.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why Obama won't condemn Acorn

'STEPHANOPOULOS: How about the funding for ACORN?

OBAMA: You know, if -- frankly, it's not really something I've followed closely. I didn't even know that ACORN was getting a whole lot of federal money.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Both the Senate and the House have voted to cut it off.

OBAMA: You know, what I know is, is that what I saw on that video was certainly inappropriate and deserves to be investigated.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're not committing to -- to cut off the federal funding?

OBAMA: George, this is not the biggest issue facing the country. It's not something I'm paying a lot of attention to.'

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the 'I have more important things to do' defence. Quite often, it is the appropriate response. But you can't keep on going back to the well indefinitely. Not only that, the public tends to judge high profile public figures via the soundbites they hear from them- rightly or wrongly. Here was a perfect opportunity for Obama to dish out a soundbite placing himself squarely on the side of goodness and truth.

There is absolutely no way to get around those Acorn videos- people getting federal funds colluding with child prostitution is just NEVER going to be something the vast mass of people will shrug their shoulders at. Here was an easy win for Obama- how often do you get the opportunity to side with 95% of the population? Its an absolute no-brainer. So why come over all 'too busy to have an opinion' about it? How long do you have to think about something THAT obvious?

There is NO political gain to being luke-warm about the Acorn self-immolation. Obama already has the job he coveted. He isn't going to EVER win another Presidential election- I am willing to bet $1,000,000 with anyone on that. You can't fool the rubes twice like that. Everybody knows now what and who Obama is- a far left ideologue. But if Obama wants any kind of success for his legislative program, he will need to be as right-wing on as many trivial issues as he can find. That way, he might just retain enough support to get reluctant centrist Dems and moderate Repubs to vote his way on upcoming bills.

But Obama seems to be the worst of all possible worlds- a cynical ideological purist. I don't believe he will do what I'm recommending because he is too fastidious about his lefty tropes. He just can't criticise his people in Acorn. They are emotionally too important to him. He would rather take the political hit, and refuse to denounce them.

Oh well, its his funeral.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Feel... head... exploding

'Treasury documents leaked to the Conservatives this week dramatically redefined the economic landscape and the political possibilities for whoever is running Britain next year. The documents suggest that Britain is in as perilous a financial state as any since the Labour Government went cap in hand to the IMF 30 years ago.'

Really? That is shocking!! Shocking! Nobody predicted that!

I mean, nobody has at any point delineated the political pattern of the twentieth and twenty first century where Labour get voted into power, spend enormous sums of taxpayer money, bankrupt the country, are voted out, replaced by the Conservatives who laboriously resurrect the public finances, industry, civic life etc. only for a few years later to be voted out, have Labour voted back in and repeat the same stupid fucking process.

Nobody has EVER pointed this out. Ever. At all. Because its just too difficult to figure out. Way too complicated. I mean, I have read a daily newspaper in Britain for most of the last twenty years, and I have yet to read that analysis. So it must be too difficult for the GENIUS class to figure out.

I have to go away and lie down in a darkened room now...

The most important debate of our time

'The Giessen Raw Food study, conducted by German nutritionists in 2005, studied more than 500 people who ate a diet that was 70 to 100 per cent raw (vegetables, fruits, cold-pressed oil and honey, plus dried fruits, meat and fish). All the raw-foodists lost weight, sometimes dramatically; the scientists concluded that “a raw diet cannot guarantee an adequate energy supply”. And this in the well-fed West, where the supermarket rather than the forest floor is our larder. Our ancestors would surely have suffered more parlously.

But most damning of all was the finding that many women on the study stopped menstruating. Others saw their cycles become irregular. Conception and pregnancy — that most natural of biological processes — would be a rare feat on an uncooked diet. Wrangham’s message is clear: “I’m impressed by its potential to be a healthy diet but we must be aware of its limitations. I’m amazed at the willpower of some raw foodists but some are deluded; they are wrong about it being natural. If you are cast away on a desert island and you say, ‘I won’t bother cooking’, you will die.”'

Of course, this sheds light on the most important debate of our times- whether steak should be rare or well done. It is fashionable to have your steak mostly raw, dripping with blood. But in evolutionary terms, that's a disaster. People like me, who like their steak cooked all the way through with no blood will live long happy prosperous lives, full of energy and gusto. While the poor deluded fools who eat their steak raw are destined for misery and poverty. Hah hah!

Friday, September 18, 2009

When blogs go mad

'TIME Magazine’s David Von Drehle asks: Is Glenn Beck Bad for America?

I don’t know why anyone would think a far right populist demagogue who rants and weeps in front of millions of people and spreads conspiracy theories straight out of the canon of the John Birch Society would be a bad thing.'

Little Green Footballs used to be a tolerably useful blog. There was the excellent work on the fake George W Bush Air National Guard documents, and on the Palestinian fauxtography. Always perceptible just off stage was the the towering ego of Charles Johnson, sole owner and proprietor. Once people began name-checking his blog on the national scene, he became convinced of his own genius and inordinately proud of his lizardoid army, the fanatical followers of his mimblings on LGF. From the beginning, Johnsons pronouncements were always stentorian and didactic, bombastic and without nuance.

His work is subject to wild changes of direction seemingly un-anchored in principle or evidence. Once a wild change of direction occurs, Johnson can be heard railing with equal bombast AGAINST something he very recently was FOR. The only really important thing in LGF-world is the Solomonic judgement of Charles Johnson. Once he has adjudged, the lizardoids must follow like the lemmings they are. Or be cast out.

His latest judgement is that the world is full of fascists. Anti-islamist in Britain? Fascist. Anti-stimulus spending in America? Fascist. Anti-healthcare reform in America? Fascist. Tea Party participants? Fascist. Watch Glenn Beck? Fascists. Don't approve of Obama foreign policy? Fascist. Fascists fascists everywhere. Charles Johnson can sniff out a fascist from thousands of miles away, and with no credible evidence. Apparently, there is a narrow way, extremely narrow, along which a person can walk politically, without being damned by Charles Johnson as a fascist or an extremist.

Its rather pitiful to watch. As Johnsons ego inflates to ever more comical proportions, his screeching denunciations become more and more bizarre. Its like Muamar Gaddafi has a blog. Sad really.

Retreating on all fronts

'Adding Fuel to the Russian Fire [David Satter]
President Obama’s decision not to deploy an anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic is intended to improve U.S.–Russian relations. In fact, it will make them worse.

The missiles were never a threat to Russia. This has been acknowledged by Russia’s own experts. Russia’s ICBM force is designed to attack the U.S. over the North Pole and the missiles intended for deployment in Poland are too slow to catch them and designed for a totally different purpose. The constant anti-western propaganda around this issue was referred to in the Soviet Union as “information for fools.” It served to consolidate the support of the population around a corrupt leadership by directing its frustrations against an external foe.

Russia opposed the missile deployment for a completely different reason. Had they been deployed on the territory of the former Warsaw Pact they would have demonstrated that this region was once and for all part of the defense architecture of the West. By using propaganda to induce Obama to back down, Russia has divided the NATO alliance into those countries where Russia has a veto over deployments and those where it does not with serious negative implications for the cohesion of the West.

The Obama administration undoubtedly hopes that the next step will be Russian cooperation over Iran. But having achieved a major strategic victory at no cost, the Russians are not likely to take steps that would alienate the Iranians and strengthen the West. Support for Iran gives Russia weight in international politics because, in the absence of any willingness on the part of the West to penalize Russia, it compels worried Western countries constantly to court the Kremlin. At the same time, a corrupt and criminalized regime whose stability depends on the price of oil may actually welcome tension in the Middle East capable of raising oil prices to stratospheric levels.

Officials in Washington have insisted that the decision to cancel the missile deployment was dictated by a new understanding of the threat posed by Iran. This is not the way it is being seen in Russia where officials are delighted by the demonstration of Russian strength which they think it represents. Russian news agencies recently reported that Russia will detain Georgian ships off Abkhazia in legally recognized Georgian territorial waters. As Russian “strength” becomes more self confident we can expect more such reactions to Russian success in the months ahead.

Up until now, Obama's missteps in foreign policy have been mostly sins of ommission rather than commission. He said virtually nothing to encourage the still magnificently defiant opposition in Iran, he has given no aid to the somewhat beleagured democratic majority in Honduras, he has given photo ops to dictators all over the world, but these are not strategic game-changers.

Throwing the Czech republic and Poland to the Russian wolves is entirely on a different order. The one huge message it sends is that America will not be robust and proactive in its allies defence. Add this most recent action to all the other Obama actions, and its a very good time to be an American enemy.

Obama is EVEN being tentative about shoring up the Afghan front- the only war America is fighting which it could still lose given enough stupid decisions. Will Obama snatch defeat from the jaws of victory there too?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hip new ideas from Barry and Nancy

'As Reason contributing editor David Weigel wrote in 2008, NAFTA was "a New Democratic victory over the old union elements of the party." But free-market Clintonism is dead, and the old union elements have returned to their traditional place in the party.'

I would amend that last sentence slightly- the old union elements have been returned by Barack Obama to their traditional place in the party. Very early on in the Presidential race, probably mid-2007, Mark Steyn did a piece about how underneath the Obama veneer was all the same tired statist/socialist claptrap circa 1950. From that point on, that became my template for measuring Obamas policies. Sure enough, if you ignored the occasional tactical divergence/lie Obama told specific groups to persuade them he was one of them, his policy positions were exactly of a piece with the mid-twentieth century orthodoxies. Talk about lipstick on a pig- how that dreary crap can represent Hope and Change I can't figure at all.

From his antipathy to NAFTA, his support for laws which would make unionisation of businesses vastly easier (and harder to get rid of), his support of nationalisation, his continued bashing of profit-making business, his gleeful anticipation of sitting down with Americas enemies and talking to them without preconditions, his support for using massive amounts of taxpayers money for supporting cherry-picked industries and causes, and his support for tariffs to 'protect' American industries; Obama is an old-school statist who believes the government just can't be wrong. That big labour should dominate big business. That the government knows better how to use taxpayer money than taxpayers do. And all the other useless, hoary old formulations of the mid-twentieth century.

Despite hauling down both the British empire and the Soviet empire, these catastrophically stupid ideas are still current, at least in one large White house in America. And one large domed building up the road from it. How truly truly pathetic.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Don't bother talking to them

'A war of words opened up at the United Nations this afternoon with the release of a scathing U.N. report on alleged war crimes committed by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian militants during fighting in the Gaza strip earlier this year.

The 574-page report from the U.N. Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict is particularly tough on Israel which invaded Gaza after years of enduring thousands of indiscriminate rocket and mortar attacks from Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups. Israel dismantled Jewish settlements in Gaza and withdrew its forces from the territory in 2005, leaving it under Palestinian rule.'

There is almost as little point Israel defending itself at the UN as there is engaging a die-hard conspiracy theorist about their pet theory. To a very large majority of the UN, an Israeli war IS a war crime. The existence of Israel is a crime. There is pretty much no point arguing with these people.

I have, and as you dig down into their arguments, what is laid bare inevitably is that they don't believe Israel should exist at all. It's 'muslim' land for Arabs, you know. If you ain't an Arab, you got no right! If you are a Christian or a Jew or a Druze, you shouldn't be there at all. Just muslim Arabs. Because once you've invaded a place, you get to keep it forever, right! And the Arabs invaded Palestine and took it so now its theirs. Because they say so! And nothing can be more legitimate than an Arab saying so. They would never lie. It just goes against everything in their culture. Got that? Good.

Medvedev has the diagnosis but not the cure

'More than a year after being plucked from relative obscurity to succeed Mr. Putin, the 43-year-old Mr. Medvedev has remained in the shadow of his 56-year-old mentor. He has tantalized Russia's beleaguered liberals with rhetoric about freedom, rooting out corruption and modernizing the economy. Few of his initiatives have been implemented.'

First and only question: how are you going to get from 'Russia's "primitive" resource-based economy, systemic corruption and lack of pluralistic democracy' to any other state?

Everything else is just blather.

Is using the race card racist?

'Former US President Jimmy Carter says much of the vitriol against President Barack Obama's health reforms and spending plans is "based on racism".
Mr Carter told a public meeting there was "an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president".'

This seems racist to me. Apparently, if Barack Obama was pursuing a fiscally prudent centrist agenda, refusing to intervene in markets with taxpayer money and standing robustly against the governments who hate America and everything it stands for; there would still be millions of white Americans protesting in the streets, yelling stuff at Town Hall meetings and interrupting his speeches. And if he leaned even further right in his policies, he would STILL be getting exactly the same response.

Why is that racist? Because it implies that no matter what Barack Obama does, no matter what his behaviour is, it is of no consequence. He can never succeed or fail on his own merits. His fate is solely determined by his skin colour. That is what Carter the intellectual giant wants us to believe.

In my view, if a white man was doing the same things, he would be getting almost exactly the same barrage of angry outcry. More, probably, as race sensitivity is a factor in some peoples minds when they berate a black politician they don't agree with over policy.

I have seen two or three placards at anti-Obama rallies and town halls so far that I would deem racist. One of the racist placards calls into question Obama's intelligence as a factor of the race he belongs to, and another suggested he become president of Kenya (the implication being he should be leader of black people not white). There was another one, but I forget now what it said, but it immediately struck me as racist. Three out of tens of thousands of placards is a pretty phenomenal record. Imagine the same crowds in Russia, for instance, where black people live under siege from racist lynch mobs. I haven't heard a peep out of Carter about this real racism, but then America is uniquely evil to many progressives.

The problem for the Democrats is that the opposition to their ideology is purely ideological. Its a straight fight between tried and busted socialism and tried and tested small-state capitalism. That's why their anger is so white hot. If the opposition was racist they could legitimately ignore it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Do we really need to be polite?

'...The solution, of course, is for the majority to simply say enough is enough, and declare a personal code of decency: “I will not stoop to smear and slur, won’t interrupt a speaker, won’t call anyone a Nazi, won’t do to others what they’ve done to me.” Only that sort of code will end the craziness...

...No one needs to become Pollyanna or shocked at occasional tough hits (I’ve been booed and shouted down at a few public lectures by mostly middle-class students parading as “the people” on the barricades), but instead simply refrain from calling your enemy a Nazi or screaming at an official in the middle of a speech, or, like Maureen Dowd, dreaming of kicking Dick Cheney at a reception...

In my mind, the essential element here goes back to an inter-blog discussion which was prompted by an email from a guy who went to a concert in New York; to his surprise he had to sit through a twenty minute rant by the conductor damning President Bush. He felt it was a completely inappropriate use of the public space, but also felt completely constrained to do anything about it. Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit tartly observed that he would have booed. Without having seen Glenn Reynolds comment I said pretty much the same thing here.

There seems to be two distinct schools of thought here- the Victor Davis Hanson dignified silence and the Glenn Reynolds 'yell right back' approach. Knowing as I do the robust and noisy nature of much democratic 'debate' in America historically, I find it hard to agree VDH's contention that to be civilised we have to sit still and listen quietly while people rant and tell lies. The Westminster parliament is an example of a 'debating chamber' where great amounts of scorn have been heaped, interruptions are a constant, and biting sarcasm is the delight of onlookers. I don't think there has EVER been a time when it was a quiet, genteel meeting house for the polite exchange of opinions, and pray God it never will be. Perhaps being conditioned to approve of my own parliament, I can't understand this business of not shouting out 'you lie' if someone is, well, lying. Actually, calling another Honourable Member a liar is forbidden by the Parliamentary rules, but its happened zillions of times anyway.

But it is a vestige of a certain kind of American gentility to wish to debate politics only in the most bloodless and unconfrontational ways possible. And to look down with haughty disdain on the more anglo saxon and rumbustious debaters and debates. I feel Mr Hanson also conflates at least two things- roughhouse debate, and the creepy, disturbing murder-fantasies that progressive Americans indulge in towards their political opponents. And I'm not talking about a few fringe nutters off in their skanky bedrooms, but high-profile pundits, filmmakers and politicians. Calling Republicans 'assholes' like Van Jones did is of absolutely no consequence in my view; whereas fantasising murdering George W Bush is not far from a certifiable psychosis.

There is no sliding scale that starts off with yelling out during a public meeting, and ends at pulling the trigger of a snipers rifle. The people who yelled at the Town Hall meetings yelled because they had the profound sense that their elected representatives were not listening to them; that polite queries and requests to change course over long periods of time had yielded absolutely no acknowledgement, let alone response. You could feel the frisson of reasonable people driven to unreasonable lengths to get their views listened to. The eloquence may have suffered somewhat from the nervous tension and the long-term build-up of irritation, but the utter authenticity was unquestionable.

My already extremely low opinion of the Democrats shot down to vasty subterranean depths when they began to blackball the Town Hallers and the Tea Partiers. But I also felt that it was a fatal mistake, one which electorally they will regret for a LONG time. People who got up in public for the first time in their lives to express their outrage at what the lefty ideologues were doing to their country, only to be slandered by the President, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi will not be assuaged. Their wrath will last for many day. And their friends and neighbors wrath too, I'm guessing. 2009 could be a really really bad year for the Democrats, even if Saint Obama did take over in the White House this year.

He called me a Niger

'A human rights group has suspended its senior military analyst after revelations that he collects Nazi memorabilia.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said Marc Garlasco was on suspension with pay "pending an investigation".
Mr Garlasco's hobby was revealed by Mere Rhetoric, a pro-Israeli blog which said the activities reflected "an anti-Israeli bias".
Mr Garlasco said he was interested in military history and was not pro-Nazi.'

I have mentally catalogued this incident along with the stories of pediatricians attacked by mobs in Portsmouth who thought they were paedophiles. Close enough. Guy collects nazi memorabilia- thats almost a nazi right? I don't know what that makes men who collect stamps...

Sometimes life is just too crap for words.

BBC Website priorities

Today in the news:
- there is the startling and somewhat suspicious news that UK economic growth has resumed
- there is the terrible news that BAE are cutting 1100 jobs
- there is the U-turn on spending cuts announced by Gordon Brown
- the appeal to the MOD that when soldiers die they 'should offer extended families the same aftercare as wives'
- and another sex allegation at a children's nursery

But they all pale into nothingness in comparison to the Shocking, Shocking news that the shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist was tortured while in prison. I'm sure its true; I'm equally sure that it is completely inconsequential. Every week, hardened criminals and terrorists murder more innocent people in Iraq. That is consequential. This stupid man and his self-inflicted personal tragedy are beyond trivial.

Worth every penny of that £3.2 billion, really.

Not just the old right versus left yawnathon

'A growing protest movement on the small-government right is remarkable development. As we've noted many times in the past, the left has had an extensive protest culture and infrastructure for decades. The right, with the exception of abortion opponents, had nothing of the sort until this year.'

I don't think this is quite right. I think its even more astonishing than the WSJ would have it- I don't think this movement is of the right necessarily. It is a movement of the centre. Not all of it- some of it is quite obviously conservative and right-wing, but the centre-of-gravity of this movement, its major component, is the centre of American life. To my eye, they are the working stiffs who never read the political stories in the paper, never gave politics a second thought (until very recently), voted out of a sense of civic duty rather than partisan animus, and spent the vast majority of their time working hard, being good members of their community and doing normal stuff with their families. To get THOSE people off their sofas and out into the street is to my knowledge unprecedented.

It is a testament to how NOT NORMAL the things Obama is trying to shove down Americas collective throat are. He has no sense of it. But then, he is a stranger to America, the America I saw, lived in, lived around. Huntsville, Alabama, where I spent five years, is the 100th largest city in the United States. About 250,000 people working mainly for two employers, NASA and the US Army Missile Command. Many of the rest worked in the cluster of high tech industries that feed work into NASA and the military. It is split about fifty fifty Democrat and Republican, but really most people don't give much of a crap about partisan politics. They are, however, extremely patriotic and civic-minded in the old school way. Its a good place to see the America that never ever shows up in the Hollywood movies- normal, hard-working, Christian and very much happy to be itself.

These are the people I see at the Tea Party events, the town hall meetings and now at this huge march in Washington. They are not defined by party but by love of country, normality and a deep-seated appreciation of what America is. And by God they aren't going to let some sleek, smug hippy destroy what America is so he can write something on his resume. I am certain that the brighter Dems are just starting to get a nauseous feeling in the pit of their stomachs. What is going on right now is NOT the business-as-usual right versus left. If it were, there would be little to be nervous about. This is much worse than that.

The centre of American politics has woken up, and decided to take the wheel from the perpetual teenager who accidentally won the White House gig. They understand he is just too immature and can do too much harm without even knowing what he has done. A force of this magnitude will do what it wants- if you don't believe me just wait!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Room for Independents if they choose to play

' this trend going forward: the number of Americans who call themselves Independents has climbed to an all-time high -- 43% -- Republicans are still at their all time low -- 21% -- and Democrats have slipped from 36% in 2008 to 32% now.'

Toldja. One of the huge distortions of the healthcare 'reform' situation has been the senior Dems including Obama characterizing the anti-'reform' town-hallers and tea-partiers as Republican-inspired and Republican-led. There was virtually no evidence of this at any point. 'A plague on both your houses' has been in huge evidence, and as I've pointed out repeatedly, there is more disgust with the Republicans because THEY SHOULD KNOW BETTER.

How this will play out in actual elections remains to be seen. But if independents EVER want to play a constructive role in US politics 2010 would be the year.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb - walking cliche

'Climate Change. I am hyper-conservative ecologically (meaning super-Green). My position on the climate is to avoid releasing pollutants in the atmosphere, on the basis of ignorance, regardless of current expert opinion (climate experts, like banking risk managers, have failed us in the past in foreseeing long term damages and I cannot accept certainty in a certain class of nonlinear models). This is an extension of my general idea that one does not need rationalization with the use of complicated models (by fallible experts) to the edict: "do not disturb a complex system" since we do not know the consequences of our actions owing to complicated causal webs. (Incidentally, this ideas also makes me anti-war). I explicitly explained the need to “leave the planet the way we got it”.'

By the time you get to the word 'pollutants', you realise that this man does not use language like a philosopher. From the point of view of planet earth, and not from a human perspective, there is no such thing as a pollutant. There are simply the chemicals, minerals and organics that are on the planet. Just because they may be toxic to us in some concentrations and combinations is planet-wise of virtually no consequence. Which tells us that Taleb is talking about what is good for US and not what is good for the planet. I would agree with his point that disturbing FIXED complex systems is a bad idea; and counter that on planet earth there are very few FIXED complex systems. The tales of life over the past 250 million tells us that as far as life is concerned, the planet is in constant flux. Whole families of species evolve and disappear. It has happened thousands, possibly millions of times.

What does that mean for us humans? Well, hominid species have been around for about 3 million years. During that time, the earth has mostly fluctuated between long periods (100,000 years approx) of freezing, and short (10-15,000 years) periods of warming. We have been very good at tolerating the great switches in climate during these periods, apart from the near-extinction 84,000 years ago caused by a massive volcanic eruption.

In fact, we may well be the most successful species of the last 3 million years. Does that guarantee us ANYTHING? No. Does that mean that in 10,000 years from now there will be 8 billion humans living the same way they do in 2009? Very unlikely. Will there be some human beings? Almost certainly. Should we trash the systems which maintain human existence? Only idiots would approve. Do we know how this planet works? No, hardly at all. Are there a lot of pompous scientists/journalists /politicians going around claiming they DO know how the planet works, and we are in charge of it? Yes, sadly there are.

My sense is that no matter how we act, no matter what tinkering we do with the materials we find on the earth's surface and just below it, on a planetary scale it won't make much if any difference. Below that scale, we may well ruin some parts of the planet for human existence. Some parts of the planet are always very difficult for human existence, and some may even be impossible. Should we destroy the industrial capacities of the United States and Europe to 'make' portions of lets say Mali inhabitable? Will destroying the industrial capacity of our nations 'save' portions of Mali from becoming uninhabitable? Almost certainly not. Then why do we have political parties and mainstream politicians saying we should do exactly that; indeed that morally we MUST do exactly that. Or pay the people of lets say Mali enormous bribes for NOT destroying our industrial capacity...

Sometimes I despair of the level of discourse that goes on in our democracies. Oh, and by the way- a super-green anti-war arab intellectual? The man is just a walking cliché.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Putting yourself in harms way

'Jonah's reader alluded to it, but the passage in question (Luke 22:35-38) really does represent a setback for the people who think Christians waive the right to self-defense. Here it is in full (emphasis mine):

And Jesus said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

Some will try to get around this by claiming, "Oh, but Jesus meant a metaphorical sword!" This argument is weak, though, because it's obvious that the moneybag, knapsack, and sandals are meant literally, not metaphorically.

Now, I can think of at least one character in the Bible who makes the argument, "Put yourself in danger; after all, God will take care of you!" That character is Satan, in Matt 4:5-7:

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, "‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”'

My parents were dedicated pacifists. Despite living for almost six years in the middle of a shooting war, my father would not own or keep a gun. I fundamentally disagreed with them at the time, and still do. The idea of not protecting yourself from harm seemed to me morally wrong; as DH Lawrence would say, I felt it was wrong in my solar plexus.

I found this discussion very persuasive, and wish I'd had it to hand twenty five years ago. Surprisingly (or perhaps not) I've heard numerous Christians make the 'Put yourself in danger; after all, God will take care of you!' argument. I never realised before its true derivation. This has particular relevance given the recent rescue effort to save the moronic Irish journalist which cost the precious life of one of our paras. If your journalism is so important to you, by all means go into deepest darkest Afghanistan. But don't expect our soldiers and marines to come and extract you if the virtually inevitable happens.

Trutherism vs Birtherism

'...which one is more believable? For the record, I don’t believe either. But it seems to me the “birther” hypothesis is vastly more plausible than the “truther” hypothesis. Politicians lie to advance their careers. You can look it up. Whole governments rarely orchestrate incredibly complex acts of physics, logistics, and mass murder all the while pinning guilt on others (who boast that they acted alone).'

To enlarge on this point in a way that Jonah doesn't: what is the ultimate importance of the two theories?

Trutherism would have us believe that George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Carl Rove and thousands under them thought invading Afghanistan was so important to them that they risked treason and murder trials. It would have us believe that many thousands of people risked execution to murder fellow citizens en mass to accomplish a zany political goal of some Republican politicians; a goal which nobody could reasonably elucidate. A war for oil? There isn't any in Afghanistan. Strategic interests? To drive a wedge between... Pakistan and Russia? Iran and China? Would people murder (potentially) tens of thousands of Americans on behalf of a plot with such a ludicrous goal? And then keep quiet about it for eight years? To believe all that is to believe your countrymen are obscenely callous, murderous and stupid; That they don't value human life in any way at all; and that they would go along with a scheme which even if successful would bring the country nothing but cost and pain and war. The full import of what trutherism would have you believe about Republican politicians and thousands of federal government employees is staggering.

Birtherism, on the other hand, has miniscule import. Even if ALL the allegations of birtherism are true, virtually nothing would change. Would Obama be forced to resign if it was revealed he was born in Kenya? No. Would most Americans care if it was revealed he wasn't born in Hawaii? No. The worst thing about such a revelation would be the cover-up, but even that would almost certainly not be enough to cause Obama's impeachment. Apart from a few foaming-at-the-mouth blowhards, most people view birtherism as a curious artifact of recent American politics, and nothing more. Is birtherism inherently implausible? No. There is just enough evidence to make it tantalising. But a reasonable person would say that the heavy weight of probability is that Obama was born exactly where he and the government of Hawaii say he was born. Full import of believing in birtherism? Virtually none. Politicians lie all the time, often about trivial things like where they were born. Many people believe politicians are lying whenever they open their mouths. Is Obama like other politicians? Of course. So believing birtherism is both trivial and a commonplace of public discourse in the sense that I've just pointed out.

That is all I'm ever going to say about these issues because I believe firmly that talking about stupid conspiracy theories simply feeds into the extension of their shelf-life.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Gimme free health care now sucka

That is just beautiful. The sharp pointy stick of truth.

Dishonouring the Dead

If you only read one thing about the 9/11 anniversary, you could do much worse than this:

'Eight years ago today, our homeland was attacked by fanatical Muslims inspired by Saudi Arabian bigotry. Three thousand American citizens and residents died.

We resolved that we, the People, would never forget. Then we forgot.'

BBC is the 'pride of Britain'

And when I say, 'pride of Britain', what I really mean is un-patriotic, snide, metrosexual pansies.

Soldiers are 'pride of Britain'

'Thank you' BBC, for your highly 'patriotic' and 'balanced' coverage of our fight against our enemies, or 'enemies' as you would call them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Poor? You don't know the meaning of the word

'According to the government’s own surveys, the typical “poor” American has cable or satellite TV, two color TVs, and a DVD player or VCR. He has air conditioning, a car, a microwave, a refrig­erator, a stove, and a clothes washer and dryer. He is able to obtain medical care when needed. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry, and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs.'

Ah, to be poor in America! Unmentioned in this list are the following: a working sewage systems, electricity, clean water, a police force to call on, and every hope that a court system will protect his or her rights should they need enforcing. Add my list to the one above and you have things that many RICH people in the world outside America don't have. Why do you think there is such an enormous queue of people trying to get into the United States, legally or otherwise?

I've been to countries where there are actual poor people- where people don't know what, if anything they will feed their children tonight, how long their newborn child will live given the river of sewage running past their hovel, and if they will ever have an electric light. In that context, the bitching and moaning especially from black Americans is quite disgusting. Slavery was an abomination, but in the 21st century its the Africans who were left behind by the slave boats who have by far the harder lot.

President Bush gave Africa ten times more money than Clinton, but it can't possibly plug the yawning chasm of need. Only genuine democracy, entrepreneurial activity and the wonders of the free market will ever do it. Poor Africa, it gets further away from those each year, seemingly.

The Republican party in 2010

Unnamed emailer, quoted at The Corner blog on National Review website:

'Sponsored a coffee last night for a Republican candidate [in Illinois]. People who never get involved in politics were eager to come. 2010 will be a huge Republican year.'

Yeah, I wouldn't count that chicken! One thing those of us who have been paying attention have noticed is that the Tea Partiers and the town hall attendees are non-partisan in their anger to a very high degree. Possibly more of them are angry with the Republicans than with the Democrats. They KNOW that the Democrats want to spend all their money and have the government intrude into every last corner of American life- it goes without saying. They are if anything more angry with the Republicans, who are supposed to hold the line against that; in which regard they are about as useful as a cardboard cutout.

Third parties are a recurring, if short-lived part of American political culture. Time for a new one? Probably not. But if I were one of the small rat-like creatures currently occupying a Republican seat in Congress, I'd be pretty worried. When Americans have looked to them for straightforward common sense, backbone and at least a passing acquaintance with conservative principles, there has been nothing and nobody. Michael Steele seems to be playing a game all by himself, which he invented. There are no standout figures in the Republican party other than Sarah Palin, who scares the bejesus out of most people in DC on both sides of the aisle. I think she's just too... American/normal to fit in. The only trenchant fearless conservative voices to be heard are either radio talk show hosts or online pundits- and its much easier to be trenchant and fearless when you don't have an elected post to get re-elected to.

So, what is to be done? If I were an American voter, I would probably try to oust the incumbent in 2010 by dint of a legitimate independent (no kooks or cranks). Perhaps a one-off tea party candidate pledged to rein in the hideous spending, get a fence built on the Mexican border, and try to return the United States to some degree of normality. That could well be a winning strategy.

Paying for news on the web

'This is also why I always counter arguments for micropayments with a push for macropayments. There are in fact people willing to pay for news content. But they’re a smaller share of your audience than you might think, and they’re also willing to pay more than a nickel or a quarter. If you’re going to try a paid-content model, to me it makes a lot more sense to make sure you’re getting all the revenue you can out of those bigger fish than to waste energy chasing after the folks who will never pay anything.'

The future provision of news is a subject I'm increasingly interested in. Two of the old models, the very large news agency and the traditional paper newspaper, are in perilous decline. For consumers of news like me, that is disturbing.

The crucial facts are that without a steady and voluminous supply of revenue, you can't get decent journalists and pay them proper salaries. somebody, somewhere, must somehow do that, or the steady flow of information we currently luxuriate in will dry up.

From what I have read (admittedly not very much) so far, I would go along with Joshua Benton. Micropayments for individual articles would make a newspapers worth of stories cost as much as a decent hardback book- nobody in their right mind will pay that. And although he mentions no actual mechanism for macro payments, I have an idea.

My idea is for an online news marketplace. Users could subscribe at a number of levels- from daily newspaper level (very low cost) right up to researcher level (much higher cost). Content would be provided by everyone; the large newspaper organisations, tv stations, news agencies would all submit content to the marketplace. Branding on content would be retained. Content would be graded by those submitting it to determine how low down the food chain subscribers would be allowed access a particular piece of content.

The databasing for the marketplace system would need to be industrial strength, but it would allow the accounting for payments to be done outside the sight of users- to them it would be blissfully simple to pay and access. All documents in the marketplace would need to be locked down to prevent copy and pasting- indeed all the technologies available to prevent copyright breaches should be deployed. To some extent this would interfere with 'reasonable use' usage, but the concept of reasonable use is currently deeply abused anyway.

There would need to be a corporate subscription available, so that smaller regional and local news providers could reproduce marketplace content on their own websites at reasonable rates.

There would be huge resistance and attempts to bypass the system at first- pretty much nobody is going to want to have to start paying for something they currently get free. But then again, many journalists are currently working who get very little reward for the hard work they do. That has to change. Rupert Murdoch is right. Good journalism costs money.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Afghans can learn from us if we try hard

'...It is perplexing that advocates of a long-term engagement in Afghanistan—folks who often reject social engineering as a tool of public policy—accept the idea that a nation with scores of ethnic groups, widespread corruption, no industry, and no bonding of language or nationality can be coaxed into constructing a stable and lasting democratic society...

'Naturally, the invasion made sense after the 9/11 attacks. Fighting terrorism with force makes sense. The subsequent military victory was worth celebrating. But if every military engagement includes an open-ended plan for nation building that pins our fortunes on the predilections of a backward nation, we are, indeed, setting ourselves up for failure.'

...conveniently ignoring that four decades ago Afghanistan was pretty much a normal, if backward state. Hirsanyi brings to bear some very odd arguments. 'If most of us agree that America has no business foisting its notions of wrong and right on other cultures, why, then, did we spend hundreds of millions of dollars eradicating poppy crops (one of the only productive crops of the Afghan farmers)?' Er, no they didn't. One of the shocking/surprising things about the Afghan campaign is that poppy eradication has NOT gone on in most of Afghanistan, specifically BECAUSE it would make the ISAF forces so unpopular. Very recently, this policy has been changed, and both poppy eradication and hunting down the drug kingpins have begun in earnest. Good. Just because Afghan farmers are poor gives them absolutely no right to earn a living feeding the habits of heroin users in London. Sorry, but no.

Oh, and also: if we have all the guns, the money and the political clout, our 'notions of wrong and right' are the ones which will be adhered to. Suttee anyone? Honour killings anyone? Murdering apostates from islam anyone? If we weren't so utterly feeble these days, we would be impressing forcibly on the Afghans how primitive their ideas are, and how much better for all concerned life is when you live like we do. Girls get to go to school! Women get to go outside all by themselves! People can worship whoever they please, or worship no god at all! People can live with people who are not like them without murdering them! Its great, really, once you get over the nostalgia for your old macho, murderous culture.

Think of it this way- the only reason the Afghans are muslims is because when the Mongols came the shock and awe was so impressive, even the Afghans took note and got with the program. That was pretty much the last time the Afghans took note of anybody. Lesson? They will accept teaching, but only from the biggest, baddest, meanest mofos on the planet. Set to, Marines!

Monday, September 07, 2009

We don't want THAT Turkey

'France, Germany and Austria are among the countries that object to Turkey having full membership of the EU, proposing instead a privileged partnership.

The report says a vicious circle has developed.

"Fierce opposition from some European politicians combined with growing public resistance to further EU enlargement in turn has deepened resentment in Turkey and slowed the necessary reforms," the report says.

It acknowledges that some serious obstacles remain to Turkish membership - not least, the impasse over the divided island of Cyprus.

Solving that frozen conflict would boost Turkey's membership bid - but the commission warns that talks are running short of time.'

Why are the accession talks running short of time? What process is ticking down?

About four years ago, you might have seen this film, but only if you were REALLY, REALLY hard up for things to do. Apparently, millions and millions of Turks are really hard up for something to do. Turkey, once cresting a wave of secular modernisation is now heading for over-populated islamist backwater at breakneck speed. Never underestimate the power is islam to ruin perfectly good country.

The idea of one hundred million ignorant, pissed off islamists safely ensconced inside the EU is one that should worry even the dullest and most spineless of Guardian readers. I'm not sure exactly what it is about islam that dumbs down a society and turns the populace into lazy, useless, resentful killers, but its track record is there for all who are interested to see. Islam is fundamentally contrary to modern life in free secular societies. Trying to mix it for the sake of economics or even worse political correctness is just downright irresponsible.

We don't want to join up with the real Turkey- the one retreating back into its awful, forgettable past. Last time Turkey was the location of the caliphate, 1.5 million Christian Armenians died. Thats why Turkey is 99% muslim- they killed all the people who weren't. And it is increasingly common for Christians in Turkey to find themselves on the end of summary injustice of one kind or another. Google 'turkey attacks Christians' if you don't believe me. Remember, long before muslims were a murderous twinkle in some arabs eye, Asia minor was the first place to get Christian missionaries. Muslims lands? Pah.

FDRs boondoggles

'Fannie Mae was a child of the Great Depression.

The Federal National Mortgage Association was set up in 1938. A government agency, its job was to buy home loans from mortgage providers.

The mortgage providers would use the money they received from Fannie Mae to make more home loans. Freddie Mac, set up in the late 60s, did the same thing.

But once Fannie and Freddie held all these mortgages on their books they had to do something with them.'

Ok, I'm having a blonde day. From that description, it sounds like mortgage lenders could lend to people at NO RISK TO THEMSELVES. They hand off the responsibility to Fannie & Freddie, and its off to town with the loot. Surely nobody would set up something that stupid? The existence of a mechanism that takes risk OUT of financial dealing for a large, greedy group of people is automatically a risk to the financial system. That it took until 2008 for the birds to come home to roost is a testament to the generally good moral state of America.

'In plain language, these twin pillars of the mortgage market were being nationalised.' Praytell, how do you nationalise a government agency again?

Some people have tried to blame the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) for the crisis at Freddy/Fannie, but there is no need to go to those lengths. The very concept of removing from lenders the natural risk of default is enough to produce over time a catastrophically large number of unwise loans. After all, the US taxpayer will pick up the tab, right? So thank you, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for another disastrous, depression-prolonging boondoggle that almost brought down the financial system of America. You are lucky you were on the right side of WWII, or you would be remembered as the economically-challenged socialist you were.

Obama and the Children

As trivial issues go, this is one of the trivialist (sic).

'Not so long ago, it was the right's indignant lament that Democrats did not accord sufficient respect to the president of the United States. The president in question happened to be the right's president, and Democrats, it is true, were universally dismissive of him, treating him with a contumely that brought them no credit. Overheated sections of the right--first the "birthers," now the "speechers"--are meting out to Obama precisely the sort of disrespectful treatment they execrated when it was directed by the left at President Bush. (How refreshing it would be, I say, and how restorative of civic decency, if George W. Bush were to make a statement today urging his party to accept an American president's right to connect directly with America's schoolchildren. After all, what was Bush doing on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001?'

Responding to a pundit responding to pundits and politicians sounding off about something really quite unimportant is pretty daft, but here goes.

Nothing, I repeat nothing said about Obama so far in his presidency is even a smidge as bad as the horrific vilification of George W Bush. Things may get that bad in the future, but so far, they haven't. Contumely? That's a poor word to describe the hideous, hateful and vicious abuse heaped on President Bush. Indeed, most of the critics of TARP, the 'Stimulus' program, the automotive industry nationalisation and the attempt at health care nationalisation have been quite careful to avoid personalising the attacks- they have made their arguments about public policy, not Barack Obama.

Barack Obama lied about who he is and what his politics were during the election. He would never have got the office if he had been candid. That is the background to the criticism of this speech to the kiddies. Lately, people have stopped trusting Obama. They are afraid that he IS a communist, and that like all communists, he will proselytize like crazy. True, there is a sense that many of the commentators have lost their equilibrium somehow, but that makes complete sense. They trusted Obama, and now they found he lied to them. They have been confused and shocked by this. They don't know what to think, and their imaginations are going into overdrive.

Somehow or other, perhaps because he is a 'recent immigrant', Tunku Varadarajan hasn't noticed all that going on. He presumably wasn't around for 9/11 because on that day, President Bush wasn't giving a speech to school children- he was reading to them from a childrens book. Which is EXACTLY like giving a speech written by political staffers, isn't it Tunku?

I personally don't think Obama is trying to prosyletize the kiddies. But I can understand people who don't know what to expect from him anymore.

Win the damn thing, its worth it

'Today, the war is still worth fighting, yet the goal to reengineer one of the most backward, violent places on Earth, will require a century before a reasonable person can call Afghanistan "a developing nation." The war will not take that long - but the effort will.'–-but-we-still-can-t-afford-to-lose.htm

Before I say anything else, I have to say I am a huge huge fan of Michael Yon. And he has spent many months in Afghanistan, whereas I have only read about it. This latter remark also goes for the guy I will be talking about whose name I sadly can't remember. Some time back, there was a decent discussion on Newsnight about the military and social aspects of the war in Afghanistan. Most striking was a youngish guy who had lived for decades in Afghanistan, no mean feat for a white guy. He was very intense and focused. I'm pretty sure he was Oxbridge and public school. Anyway, he was VERY downbeat about the idea of creating a western-style democracy and civil society in Afghanistan. All the other contributors, and even Jeremy Paxman, listened to this young man intently and without interrupting. I was quietly amazed.

It was clear that this guy knew what he was talking about. Michael Yon too. And yet...

I can't help remembering an article from a couple of years back about Afghanistan in the late fifties and early sixties, really the last time Afghanistan was a reasonable place to live. Women worked and wore no head coverings. Public affairs were run tolerably well, and a lot of development work like dam building and irrigation projects were undertaken. The monarchy was highly regarded, and there seemed to be no conflict between the Pakhtun and everybody else. But the cold war took care of all that.

So when people talk about Afghanistan as if it had NEVER in its whole existence been anything but a non-state, and that it has to be brought up from stone age levels, and that the Afghans are decades away from even medieval societal norms, I twitch a bit. At the moment, very little development work seems to be going on, but exactly as I pointed out in Iraq, you have to win the war FIRST. Short wars are always preferable to long ones. The sooner the Taliban are crushed, annihilated, stamped out, the better for everyone. Nothing should be spared. If it can be done in a couple of years, it must be done. No more half measures. I'm sure the Afghans would be happy.

And I suspect that the Afghans are not as far from being civilised as we suspect.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Why do I bother?

'...Just look at Obama's behavior as president, beginning with his first address to Congress. Unbidden, unforced and unpushed by the congressional leadership, Obama gave his most deeply felt vision of America, delivering the boldest social democratic manifesto ever issued by a U.S. president. In American politics, you can't get more left than that speech and still be on the playing field.

In a center-right country, that was problem enough. Obama then compounded it by vastly misreading his mandate. He assumed it was personal. This, after winning by a mere seven points in a year of true economic catastrophe, of an extraordinarily unpopular Republican incumbent, and of a politically weak and unsteady opponent. Nonetheless, Obama imagined that, as Fouad Ajami so brilliantly observed, he had won the kind of banana-republic plebiscite that grants caudillo-like authority to remake everything in one's own image...'

Superb writing. Read all of it. I can't write like that- Mr Krauthammer is just so good. Maybe one day...

A tale of two conspiracies

'His investigative piece, published in the September American edition of GQ, challenges the official line on a series of bombings that killed hundreds of people in 1999 in Russia. It profiles a former KGB agent who spoke in great detail and on the record, at no small risk to himself. But instead of trumpeting his reporting, GQ's corporate owners went to extraordinary lengths to try to ensure no Russians will ever see it...

"Conde Nast management has decided that the September issue of U.S. GQ magazine containing Scott Anderson's article 'Vladimir Putin's Dark Rise to Power' should not be distributed in Russia," Birenz wrote.'

Given that there was good evidence quoted in major publications at the time of the bombings to indicate that they were the work of agents provocateur, it has never ceased to amaze me how disinterested people are in this story.

9/11 truthism has never presented a shred of material evidence to support its case, not a single morsel of detonator nor whiff of explosive. It has presented no eyewitnesses to attest to any pre-rigged explosions. Not one of the hundreds or perhaps thousands who would have had to participate in a 9/11 scale plot have ever come forward to reveal their part in the dastardly plan. No one has ever explained how the US government could organise the huge logistics of doing this without leaving one single piece of concrete evidence. 9/11 truthism relies only on invented 'engineering truths' to support its contentions; and a demented hatred of the people they say did the evil deed.

The bombings in Russia on the other hand have all the pieces of evidence that 9/11 truthism does not. Criminal investigators at the apartment blocks were prevented from taking evidence of what kind of explosive were used in the bombings, in case the trail led back to the GRU (military intelligence). People involved in these 'dark' ops have come forward to talk of their participation in them, presumably after feeling a bit of guilt. The logistics of these ops was easily within the capability of the GRU, as the targets were the ultimate in soft targets. The Russian bombs would not have had to be a huge sophisticated demolition job, like a putative 9/11 set-up. Sergei Stepashin, Russian Interior and Prime Minister for most of 1999, is quoted in the Independent newspaper as saying that the plan to send the Russian army into Chechnya "had been worked out in March" 1999. The bombs went off in August and September of that year. A few medium sized bombs were enough to bring down the very poorly built Soviet-era apartment buildings. And once the finger of blame was pointed at the Chechens, Putin was pushing at an open door. Many Russians already despise Kavkaz- Caucasians like Chechens and are ready to believe pretty much anything evil about them.

Put into the context of all the other behaviour of the Putin regime since it came to power, it is completely credible that the bombings were a provocation to allow the KGB and the other security services to take over the apparatus of Russian government permanently. World reaction? Big yawn.