Thursday, April 29, 2010

The German conspiracy to make Greece ruin itself

'In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Mr Papantoniou blamed Germany for holding up a deal, saying "forces within German politics" were seeking to push Greece out of the single currency.

He called the current economic situation in Greece "very dangerous", and blamed Europe's slow response to the crisis so far for "sending confused signals to the market".

"We have lost a lot of time," he said. "The reputation of the eurozone has been hurt [and] the stability of the euro has been impaired.

"But even at this late stage it is important for the eurozone to show its determination and effectiveness in dealing [with the crisis].'

Pub quiz question: who are the worlds worst diplomats, the Russians or the Greeks?

Time and again during the Greek fiscal collapse, the Greeks have managed to blame the people who won't lend them money for the crisis. I'm not sure if it is a function of the Greek national psyche, or yet another retrograde result of being thoroughly imbued with Marxist claptrap. But whatever its root, the Greeks are virtually guarunteeing that even the Germans and Frenchmen who were predisposed to lending Greece the forty five billion euros it is asking for are now having second thoughts.

Forces 'within German politics' are seeking to kick Greece out of the Euro? That is unbelievably cheeky. Giving enormous numbers of Greeks cushy government jobs and plush pensions has nothing to do with Greeces plight, apparently. It is simply the victim of a German conspiracy.

You might want to read 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' again, Mr Papantoniou.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What do we 'do' about conspiracy theories?

'Governments do sometimes lie, and the "official theories" often turn out to be wrong. So where do we draw the line between healthy critical oversight and corrosive conspiracism?',0

Interesting ommission from this article: Anthropogenic Global Warming. For many people with a good high school or first degree level of education, AGW sounded bogus from the very first. The idea that within a few years of first having the possibility of studying the global climate we would identify a man-made apocalypse-in-the-making seemed both highly unlikely, and just too convenient given the policy prescriptions required by the theory. The fact that these policy prescriptions were identical to prior policy prescriptions of 1970's enviro/lefties didn't seem coincidental at all.

And once ClimateGate broke, and the modus operandi of the AGW cabals became public knowledge, public trust in AGW was demolished. It turned out that the conspiracy theorists weren't the Global Warming Deniers but the AGW propagators in the universities, research labs and NASA. And interestingly, genuine scepticism, supposedly the bedrock of science, was shown to be almost entirely absent from the AGW cabals.

And yet... it doesn’t warrant a mention here.

Let us for a moment consider the wider view. In the contest between utopian idealism and materialist empiricism, the former seems to be winning. There 'ought' to be AGW, so that the socialist utopia can be brought into being. And if the evidence can't be found, it must be manufactured.

I believe utopian idealism, especially that implacable enemy of classical liberalism, progressivism, is bound inextricably to conspiracy theories like the Jewish Plot for World Domination, and the 9/11 Plot to Blacken Islam and Steal the Oil.

Because utopian fantasies are impossible to bring about on earth, there must be some deep underlying conspiracy (or conspiracies) to cause their failure; the alternative, that utopian fantasies are self-defeating and fail because the world obeys its own internal logic without regard to the wishes of utopians is just too hard to bear.

That is why utopian idealists like Obama switch with blinding speed to enraged conspiracists- because it just can't be true that with no help from the International Jewish Plot or The Rage Filled Tea Partyers or the Glenn Beck Fascists or the Rush Limbaugh Nazis America is spurning his New New Deal.

The lefties take on America at the moment, and I would include the article quoted above, is confused. And that is because their premises are so, so wrong.

Premise number one: Nazis are a right-wing phenomenon.

Premise number two: Rallies by white people against a black president are inherently racist, and can't have anything to do with public policy

Premise number three: Not only are Progressive economics the only true economics, the evidence from the twentieth century supports that

Premise number four: Most conspiracy theory kooks are on the right

Premise number five: Our consipiracy theories are healthy scepticism, your conspiracy theories are deranged kookiness

Everywhere recently-scalded idealist utopians are found, conspiracies abound. I'm not sure why, but the name Charles Johnson suddenly sprang to mind.

One very large constituency seems to be permanently uninterested in, and unpersuaded by conspiracy theories- classical liberals. The messy, disorganised, often random world observed by classical liberals militates strongly against conspiracy in favour of chance. Classical liberals understand that there are conspiracies, occasionally, but because of the aforementioned character of the world (messy, disorganised, random) they mostly backfire, or fail, or are pyrrhic. Lets take the CIA assassination of the Iranian Prime Minister Mosaddegh in 1953. How well did that work out? Yeeeeeeessssssssssssss. Let's take another example- the assassination of Hafizullah Amin, Afghan President by the Soviets in 1979. That turned out well. Or the British assassination of Rasputin in 1916. I could go on.

But the point is obvious. Mostly, when conspiracies do occur, their outcomes are abysmal and very often militate directly against the ends desired. So don't bother.

Conspiracy theories are not just about ignorance. Many ignorant societies exist without discernable conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories are about frustration and disappointment, of a heavy feeling of having been denied; of having the good stuff withheld.

Is regular history boring to you? Do you feel that out there somewhere the historians and past-merchants are keeping the real stories about how the world works to themselves, and laughing at you? Same with the scientists who have the keys to the cupboards where the alien bodies are sitting? Same with the politicians who take all the big decisions in the back of their Rolls Royces, while you vote for nothing like a schmuck? Or the Republican oligarchs who keep all the money between themselves, and never let a poor guy have a break?

Conspiracy theories can fix that fer ya! In a second, there you are, in the know, sitting at the big boys table. Important because you are a Truth Bearer. You hold the sacred chalice of REAL KNOWLEDGE. A schmuck no more.

Are conspiracy theorists dangerous? Occasionally. Timothy McVeigh comes to mind. Are they dangerous to democracy? Only when progressivism dominates. Then they absolutely are, as the Nazis demonstrate most effectively. In a country demographically and electorally dominated by classical liberals, no.

Britain, America, Australia and New Zealand have been dominated through most of their history by classical liberalism, and it shows by their unmatched success on the world stage. Living in the real world, messy and random and disorganised though it might be, has huge payoffs.

Britains decline is in perfect correlation with its abandonment of classical liberalism in favour of utopian idealism and collectivism. To the extent that the other three have done so, decline has been evident.

Freedom is messy, disorganised, random- and spectacularly fruitful. Utopian idealism has a fantastic brochure and millions upon millions of PR agents, but when you get there it seems awfully like a stuffy depressing poverty-stricken dictatorship. But that doesn't stop people from dreaming- and ignoring all the evidence from around them.

I still think there is no gain from engaging with conspiracy theorists. Utopean idealists are psychologically incapable of realistically judging evidence. Have you read Paul Krugman? You are far better off trying to guaranteeing the presence of at least some classical liberals in the next generation, and ignoring utopean idealists completely.

Dead heat in the polls

As of five past one on the 27th of April, the polls had:

Conservatives - 33%
LibDems - 30%
Labour - 27%
Other - 10%

Which is a statistical dead heat as far as I'm concerned.

Usually, I'd have a take on these numbers, but I just don't. Cameron is doing all the things everybody said he should do- he has a Green halo, he talks constantly about inclusiveness, he has replaced all the cantankerous old Englishmen with young ethnic girls, he has tacked his colours to the great hulk of the NHS, he has praised the hard work and devotion of public workers (stop giggling at the back), and done everything in his power apart from a public exorcism to get rid of the legacy of Margaret Thatcher and 1980's Conservatism.

And yet... he is only a couple of nosehairs in front of the callow youth Clegg.

You could make the argument that if the Conservatives are exactly like the LibDems, why bother voting Conservative? After all, the LibDems have been like the LibDems for much longer, and at least have the (dubious) benefit of consistency. Ok, their policies are risible, but then what of the Conservatives constantly humping the leg of the enormous public sector? I thought Conservatives at least sort of wanted fewer public workers, and more private ones? I thought Conservatives at least sort of didn't like state ownership of the means of production? What happened? Did somebody change the definitions of classical liberalism quietly on the side?

I think there is a distinct possibility that Cameron, like the Generals are alleged to do, is fighting the previous war. And getting this one completely wrong. My sense, admittedly based on tiny amounts of anecdotal information, is that there is a brand new hunger in the country for a bit of hard-edged genuine Conservatism. Caused, I believe by the gentle drift of New Labour towards Old Labour destinations, like allowing enormous numbers of foreigners into the country and bulking up the public sector workforce like a himbo on steroids and ratcheting up the anti-wealth-creator rhetoric and policy.

A vague collective sense of where Old Labour took us last time, to bankruptcy, riots in the streets and open class warfare- has arisen like some ghostly wraith. And there is definitely a whiff of Stalinism to Gordon Browns clunking bullying. Enough to remind people of those mini-Stalins of the TUC.

But Cameron is a chameleon whose current colouration is determined by his usual environment- Notting Hill- where pretty much everybody is solidly green, hates real Conservatives, has no solid link to the economy and thinks the EU is just spiffly-wiffly. Seen from Notting Hill, there is no attaction whatsoever in the old Thatcherite Conservative Party policies or styling. The multi-culti soft left cultural takeover is complete. But, well, then there is the rest of Britain, which is mostly not Notting Hill. Where people are still keen to get rich, drive a V-8, build a swanky mini-palace and use as many of Mother Earths resources as possible.

Cameron is no champion of the potential wealth creator. In fact, there is nobody to vote for in this election who is a champion of the potential wealth creator. So I guess thirty-all is about right.

So last year

'Young voters were enthusaistic about voting for President Obama in 2008, but a new Gallup survey finds that excitement for heading to the polls may have dissipated this year. That hasn't gone unnoticed at the Democratic National Committee and Obama's Organizing for America, which e-mailed a video of Obama spelling out the importance of the midterm elections.

"Today, the health insurance companies, the Wall Street banks, and the special interests who have ruled Washington for too long are already focused on November's congressional elections," Obama says in the video. "So this year I need your help once more. ... It will be up to each of you to make sure the young people, African Americans, Latinos and women who powered our victory in 2008 stand together once again."'

Have you noticed something about teen crazes? They last maybe six months, but with an inexorable power akin to glaciers travelling downhill, they move on. And once they've moved on, no power in the universe can make them go back.

Apparently, the Obama administration functionaries are the last people in the world to realize this. Ever since Obama stopped being the dazzling, cool black guy who was going up against The Man and The Woman and became just another government employee, his star appeal has been on the wain. And you can ask for it back, but talk to any poptastic songstress from three years ago how far that'll get you.

Sorry, dude, you are just so last year.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Brave, brave Molly Norris she bravely ran away away...

'In declaring May 20th to be "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day," Seattle artist Molly Norris created a poster-like cartoon showing many objects -- from a cup of coffee to a box of pasta to a tomato -- all claiming to be the likeness of Muhammad...

On Friday, Norris told a radio talk show host in Seattle that she came up with the idea because "as a cartoonist, I just felt so much passion about what had happened..." noting that "it's a cartoonist's job to be non-PC."...

...Her stark website today reads: ""I am NOT involved in "Everybody Draw Mohammd [sic] Day!"
"I made a cartoon that went viral and I am not going with it. Many other folks have used my cartoon to start sites, etc. Please go to them as I am a private person who draws stuff," she writes...

...Once it became a national story she reeled back, asking Savage -- in an email he provided to The Ticket -- if he would "be kind enough to switch out my poster" with another one -- a much tamer version which has no images attributed to Muhammad.

"I am sort of freaked out about my name/image being all over the place," her e-mail reads...

...She doesn't appear to be alone. The creator of a Facebook page dedicated to the day has bowed out as well. Jon Wellington told the Washington Post (before abandoning ship) that he created the page because he "loved [Norris's] creative approach to the whole thing -- whimsical and nonjudgmental."

While he was still associated with his own event he said: "To me, this is all about freedom of expression and tolerance of other viewpoints, so I hope you'll help make this a sandbox that anyone can play in, if they want. I don't think it'd be right under the circumstances for me (or anyone) to censor inflammatory posts *ahem*, but let's be welcoming and inclusive, mmkay?"

Apparently the posts weren't "welcoming" enough, as on Sunday morning he announced his departure from the cause. "I am aghast that so many people are posting deeply offensive pictures of the Prophet," he writes. "Y'all go ahead if that's your bag, but count me out."'

A simple, every-day tale of lefty luvvies living inside a bubble, a hazy mazy dream world where getting in peoples faces and being challenging is a good, peaceful, loving affair.

Naturally, at some point, the realization breaks in that angry young men with bushy beards will show up at some point with stabby knives and/or rusty swords, and procede to reveal these luvvies gastro-intestinal tracts in quite unhygenic ways.

And suddenly, making disgusting jokes about Jesus and Buddha seems perfectly satisfactorily 'challenging'...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Slightly missing the point

'Ambinder lives is a fantasy world where left-wing commentators (including Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow) are serious policy wonks, while all conservative commentators are "entertainers shouting slogans;" where hyperbole is the exclusive refuge of the right-wing; where the vile language and defamation hurled at George Bush for eight years never existed; where the equally vile attempts by Democratic leaders to equate health care protesters to terrorists never happened.' [Hat Tip: Instapundit]

Bill Jacobson was obviously pretty angry when he wrote this; and like me when I get a bit of red haze, his thinking is not all that clear.

I read the Ambinder piece, and my reaction was not 'you are projecting' and 'you are worse at this than us'. What is most striking, at least to me, is how detached Ambinder is from the actualities. I don't think Ambinder has ever watched the Tea Partys, listened to the Tea Party speeches, watched Fox news, listened to Rush Limbaugh or watched Glenn Beck. I don't suppose, apart from a few outtakes on YouTube, he's ever watched a whole speech by Sarah Palin.

To analyze anything, to have anything interesting to say about a subject, you have to pay attention to it. In the old days, say thirty years ago, most politics happened between politicians. They debated between each other, and with journalists and policy wonks. That was about it. The public did not get a voice. Policy was debated, decided and put into legislation in a very tight circle of people. And certainly much more than now, people paid attention to the points made by the other side. Very often, if the opposition made valid points, those points would immediately be stolen!

Now that the debate has broadened massively, there is a tendancy on all sides of the American political spectrum to just ignore and caricature the opposition. Perhaps it is just that there are now so many voices, so many blogs, so much news output, so many political magazines, that to try to do all of that debate justice is impossible for anyone other than people with no job and fanatical devotion.

But whatever Ambinders excuse is, his analysis of the goings-on of every part of the political spectrum other than the one he inhabits is reminiscent of a guy giving a commentary on a football match using a pair of binoculars, from near earth orbit. There are vague forms, a bit of colour here and there, but essentially he has no clue what is going on.


'It is absolutely a condition of the age of the triumph of conservative personality politics, where entertainers shouting slogans are taken seriously as political actors, and where the incentive structures exist to stomp on dissent and nuance, causing experimental voices to retrench and allowing a lot of people to pretend that the world around them is not changing. The obsession with ACORN, Climategate, death panels, the militarization of rhetoric, Saul Alinsky, Chicago-style politics, that TAXPAYERS will fund the bailout of banks -- these aren't meaningful or interesting or even relevant things to focus on. (The banks will fund their own bailouts.)'

You will note that there is no mention of the Federal deficit- the single most talked about topic at Tea Partys. No mention of the nationalization of health care and the car industries. No mention of the destination of stimulus funds. No mention of the grotesque growth of the Federal Government in a way explicitly foreseen by the Founding Fathers, who wrote the Constitution to specifically prevent it. These are the core issues for 99% of legitimate Tea Party folk.

Ambinders list reads like a campaign leaflet from eighteen months ago. All that is missing is the Birther libel. It really is the most pathetic mis-characterization. The fact is, the Tea Party folk not only disagree with specific policies- they understand that the Obama/Ambinder intention is to fundamentally change the United States into something alien from what has gone on for the last 234 years.

And Ambinder thinks we should be 'grilling ... administration economic officials', 'hectoring ...Democratic leaders on the public option', 'criticis[ing] Elena Kagan', churning out 'keepin'-them-honest perspectives on health care', chit-chatting about 'detainees and Gitmo', and funniest of all, furrowing our brows over 'derivatives'. Fun and interesting though these small potatoes are, they are not the survival-of-the-Republic-in-its-constituted-form important. And every one of them has received extensive attention on Fox news, especially health care. I know that, because I watch Fox news. Not only does Marc Ambinder not watch Fox news, he almost certainly has a fastidious distaste for it worthy of a Victorian grand dame. That is the prevailing snobby view of those on the left, who believe Fox is for NASCAR watchers and people who chew Skoal.

Fine. But then don't launch into some faux analysis of it. You are going to get it wrong, and everybody who knows better will just laugh.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spiro Agnew 2

'Presidents speak to all of America and they best build consensus through argument and persuasion—not by singling out political targets, cultivating resentment, questioning motives and mocking differences of principle or political philosophy. Mr. Obama's bellicosity is no more attractive than Sarah Palin's attempts to pit "the real America" against the big-city slickers. And his rhetorical method seems especially discordant coming from a President who still insists, in between these assaults, that he is striving mightily to change the negative tone of American politics.

If the President and his advisers are wondering why his approval ratings are falling even as the economy is recovering, they might look to his own divisive conduct and the contempt he too often shows for anyone who disagrees with him.'

From the very beginning, I had a sense that Obama was a small man. A small, vain, pompous man extremely good at camouflaging those traits. The trouble is, when Obama relaxes, like he does in front of black crowds or trade union meetings or Democrat fundraiser crowds, the mask slips. His bile, his anger and his disdain come pouring out.

Perhaps a billion articles have been written in the legacy media extolling the cool, calm, scholarly, detached Obama. And that is just Newsweek. His fanatical acolytes don't seem to notice when Obama isn't like that.

Which brings us to the nature of Obama acolytes. Judging from their blog comments, blog posts and purple-faced rants, they are full of hate and rage. I recently scanned through a compendium blog post reminding people of what went on at the 'anti-war' rallies- the disgusting lies and vitriol, the violent language and treasonous signage. Those people have not gone away. Their hatred is still just as raw. But there is no Bush now. They have to direct their rage at something else.

For them, Obama is not nearly angry enough. Despite his extreme lack of class, despite his obvious disdain for the traditions and folkways of the presidency, despite his demonisation of opponents acting in good faith, it is not enough. His acolytes want him to tear the Republicans and Tea Partyers limb from limb, take all their money, humiliate them. They want to change the country irrevocably and stand before the people of America with a big grin on their faces, laughing with triumphalist glee. You wanted your country free and rich and capitalist, and look what we did with it! We smashed it to pieces.

A couple of years ago, I watched a travelogue/history about Alexander the Great. I'd always admired Alexander... until I watched this series. When Alexander got to the capital of Persia, he burnt down the glorious temple at its heart simply because no one could stop him. When I watched this episode, I burned with anger. This is not the behaviour of a creator, of a builder, of a contributor. It is the behaviour of an ignorant despoiler, a selfish arrogant bully.

I don't believe in my heart that Barack Obama wants to build a successful, bountiful, harmonious America. There is too much hate in him. He wants success and bounty and harmony for his people, for progressives, for campus marxists, for trade union leaders, for radical agitators, for liberal lawyers and unionised teachers and public workers. But he hates the other. He hates the working white poor, and the small business owners, the bread-and-butter Americans with whom he has never spent any time and who embody for him alienation, non-acceptance and quiet hostility. He doesn't care if they rot. He will not act in their interests.

He said he would. He gave lots of speeches saying exactly that. But it was an act, a ruse. The real Barack Obama is quite seriously unpleasant. And Americans have noticed. I wouldn't put Obama quite at the level of Alexander the Great, but I don't doubt that his presidency will be used by future historians as a warning about not paying attention to presidential candidates.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Your right to shut up and pay the bill

'The European Union has declared travelling a human right, and is launching a scheme to subsidize vacations with taxpayers' dollars for those too poor to afford their own trips.

Antonio Tajani, the European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry, proposed a strategy that could cost European taxpayers hundreds of millions of euros a year, The Times of London reports.'

Ever have that nightmare where you are running along the train tracks, pursued by a train that you know will in just a few seconds run you down and squash you like a bug?

Just me then.

Those few remaining satirists in the world today must feel very much like my dreaming self. I mean, no matter how deranged and nutty your latest wizard bit of satire, reality quickly overtakes it, nullifying your brilliant work.


I remember back in the '70s when mocking the whole human rights lark was in its infancy. Many a comic did a bit about some hilarious 'right' which would be granted in the future- the right to an eight-bedroomed council house for you four wives and 16 children, or the right to porn in your prison cell.

Of course, because the whole 'rights' game is a semantic trick, there is never an endpoint to their relentlessly expanding scope. Anything which any socialist believes some 'greedy rich bastard' can be extorted to pay for becomes a 'right'. Even things which nature will not allow become 'theoretical rights'.

It's all very tiresome really. And the jokes fall flat because these people aren't kidding.

Obama: Making the tough decisions in the Class War

Continuing on from the prior post:

'And then he connected this argument to the struggle over financial reform, aimed at changing "a situation where people are allowed to take wild risks and all the downsides are socialized even as the profits are privatized." Obama said that "some of the rhetoric that's coming out of the other side of the aisle" suggested that Republicans "so far, at least, don't seem to acknowledge that we're going to have to make some tough decisions and reform the system."'

Obama is just disgusting. A horrible, disgusting man.

The downsides are socialized while the profits are privatized.

Remember now, the poorest 47% of Americans pay not one single red cent of income tax. That's right, zero.

Whereas the top 10% of Americans pay 75% of all income tax.

So, a bailout of banks paid for with income taxes would be... money from rich people bailing out other rich people.

What Obama means is, the rich greedy bastards of Wall Street chucking another fifty billion down on some crazy bet, and then when it doesn't pay off, getting the working schmoes down at the dockyards to pay another fifty bucks a week each in income tax to bail them out.

Which goes down a storm in the student union and the trade union headquarters, where facts are not really considered important.

Obama calls reforming Wall Street a tough decision? Tough like eating a banana; not tough like doing a twelve hour shift down on the coal face.

But then Obamas life has always consisted of tough things like this decision about Wall Street reform. Tough tough tough. What a Trojan.

Wall Street Regulation to the rescue!

'If health care legislation had to fight uphill against a public mood that is skeptical of government's capacities, the financial reform bill Democrats are pushing has the advantage of flowing with a public view devoutly critical of Wall Street, bankers and all their works.

And for the first time in Obama's presidency, Republicans are uncertain as to whether resolute opposition to a Democratic idea is in their political interest. There are strong indications that the GOP would prefer to avoid an all-out confrontation over re-regulating the financial system, and several Republican senators are saying that they would like to negotiate with Democrats on this one. Suddenly, it's Democrats -- and, in particular, the often conflict-averse Obama -- who are relishing a fight.

This raises what may be the essential question for the campaign: Can Democrats finally put the Republicans on the defensive?

Obama is betting that they can. His speech at a fundraiser for Boxer in Los Angeles on Monday offered a template for a new Happy Warrior president. After a year in which he repeatedly and almost apologetically insisted that he was -- really, really -- trying as hard as he could to work with Republicans, he turned the beat around and asked why Republicans weren't willing to work with him.'

Interesting phrasing. The first time I read this, that sentance read quite definite. But on second reading, it says '[Obama] repeatedly and almost apologetically insisted that he was ... trying as hard as he could to work with Republicans'.

Not, you will note 'Obama tried hard to work with Republicans'. Of course not, that would be silly. Not only did Obama ignore all the Republican suggestions about possible reforms of health care delivery, he repeatedly and insultingly insisted that the Republicans hadn't suggested any actual reforms of health care delivery. And called opponents of his specific reforms liars and shills for big pharma.

So the phrasing of this supporter of Obama is very interesting '[Obama] repeatedly ... insisted that he was ... trying as hard as he could to work with Republicans'. He did do that a lot. He did go on TV and drone on and on about how he was trying to work with the Republicans- almost as often as he went on TV and denounced the same people as liars and obstructionists.

But nobody outside the closed bubble of Democrat lackeys and dupes bought it. I haven't seen polling figures for how many Americans consider Obama a bipartisan figure, but I bet you dollars to donuts that he would score below Tricky Dicky. Even the big government Republican RINOs couldn't get on board with Obamas proto-socialism- and that is saying something.

As for the main point of this piece of dull propaganda- that somehow smashing Wall Street over the head with a big piece of straitjacket legislation is going to win back all those disillusioned Americans- go ahead and see. I think we all know that Wall Street regulation sets as many pulses racing as Nancy Pelosi in a leotard.

"In this entire year and a half of cleaning up the mess, it's been tough because the folks very responsible for a large portion of this mess decided to stand on the sidelines," Obama declared. "It was as if somebody had driven their car into the ditch and then just watched you as you had to yank it out, and asked you, 'Why didn't you do it faster -- and why do I have that scratch on the fender?' And you want to say, why don't you put your shoulder up against that car and help to push? That's what we need, is some help."

Eye-watering. Simply eye-watering brass. If you make a list of the problems which Obama had to face on becoming president, and rank them by urgency and importance, where would 'fix Americas not-broken health care provision' be?

Most peoples list, prioritizing the most important things first, would have been something like:

1) Unemployment, how to reduce

2) the US banking sector, how not to further screw up

3) US federal debt, how to reduce

4) US dependence on foreign sources of energy

As I've said before, Obama really had very little on his plate when he became president. Iraq? Sorted by Bush. Afghanistan? Easily manageable. The Bank bailouts? Already done. The recession? They fix themselves every single time.

The idea that America was completely broken, and that Obama has spent a year fixing it is laughable. If you take my list, here is what Obama has done:

1) loaded more taxes, regulation and debt onto the already laboring US economy, thereby causing lots more unemployment

2) continuing the dismal interventionist policies of Bush via the terrible bailouts

3) passed the 'stimulus', which will hand over almost a trillion of taxpayer money to Democrat constituencies up and down America; passed a very expensive healthcare boondoggle; cut no government programs of any kind

4) done nothing whatsoever to alleviate US dependence on foreign sources of energy

Just for laughs, he introduced cap-and-trade to thrash the US coal and steel industries.

So, lets try a slightly different metaphor.

Imagine you crashed your car into a ditch. A nice, personable, sauve guy in an expensive suit stopped by. You thought he would help you get your car out of the ditch. Instead, he took everything out of the glove compartment, polished it with windex, and buffed it with a chamoix. He then wanted you to give him a standing ovation, a nobel peace prize and medal for best roadside assistance ever given.

But you kick him in the pants and tell him in short, anglo-saxon phrases how much his help was appreciated.

Hey, at least that image is better than Nancy Pelosi in a leotard.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Government and its relationship to immutable economic laws

'...the political establishment continues to argue that the market needs to be prevented from delivering rough justice to sinners. President Obama, who one year ago gave us a worst-case scenario in which an unstimulated economy might hit 8 percent unemployment by this year, now presides over 10 percent unemployment but tries to bamboozle us with counterfactuals like this doozy from the 2010 State of the Union address: “If we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today.”'

King Canute knew that the tide would come in, even if he commanded it not to. Our very much sub-King Canute rulers don't know this simple truth. They think they can change the laws of economics by fiat.

'...The current recession has become the economic version of The Fantasticks, a show that keeps running long after the audience wants to move on. It’s becoming increasingly clear that by not letting anything collapse, by not allowing sweet, beautiful failure to happen, the government is helping to drag out the pain. That may not be indicative of anything new, but it’s enough to make you want to bulldoze a house or two.'

This seems both fatalistic, and a bad use of anger. The crucial thing about governing nations is that innumerable lessons have been learned during the last three or four thousand years- and codified into constitutions and laws. Successful constitutions, like that of the United States, work with human nature to ensure both effective and non-tyrannical government. It is time to codify general economic rules into our constitutions.

Here are a few off the top of my head:

1) The government role in the economy is that of umpire, never participant.
2) Government shall never provide goods and services, except those which no other institution can provide.
3) No asset shall ever be deemed to be the property of the Government by default.
4) Taxes will be renamed 'Appropriated Citizens Money', just so we're clear.
5) No government employee should ever recieve higher remuneration than an equivalent worker in the private sector.
6) All government hirings go before citizen juries for scrutiny. Once the government debt ceiling goes over a specified level, no further hiring can take place.
7) Every year, the government will publish its accounts, to the standards of public companies, in a format understandable to at least 75% of the population. This must include all liabilities, including pensions and benefits provided to anyone in the public sector; plus future liabilities which are predictable.
7) Education, Training welfare and Health care are services, and can be provided by institutions other than government. Government shall have no role in the provision of these services, other than the normal umpiring of their provision.

I'm sure I can improve on these, and indeed increase them. But they'll do for now.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!

From the Nelson Muntz school of humour:

'Mugabe urges end to violence on Zimbabwe anniversary

Mr Mugabe addressed supporters on Zimbabwe's 30th anniversary
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has called for an end to political and racial violence as the country celebrates 30 years since independence.

Speaking at a ceremony marking the anniversary, he urged Zimbabweans to "foster an environment of tolerance".'

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Who can't tell the difference between anti-government and anti-big-government?

'For the past several years, especially since the Oklahoma City bombing, the national media have focused a lot of attention on “anti-government” extremists. Libertarians, who are critical of a great deal that government does, have unfortunately but perhaps understandably been tossed into the “anti-government” camp by many journalists.

There are two problems with this identification. The first and most obvious is that many of the so-called anti-government groups are racist or violent or both, and being identified with them verges on libel.

The second and ultimately more important problem is that libertarians are not, in any serious sense, “anti-government.” It’s understandable that journalists might refer to people who often criticize both incumbent officeholders and government programs as “anti-government,” but the term is misleading.

A government is a set of institutions through which we adjudicate our disputes, defend our rights, and provide for certain common needs. It derives its authority, at some level and in some way, from the consent of the governed.' [Hat Tip: Instapundit]

For me, this CATO editorial is just too wiffly. This is a very easy point to clarify. Libertarians don't hate government; they hate big, tyrannical government. See how easy that was?

Only idiots and anarchists believe it is possible to have civilisation without government. And libertarians are neither of the above. Lumping libertarians in with idiots and anarchists is called 'politics', and can be dealt with quite handily through the use of more 'politics'.

And the trouble for the soi-disant arbiters of normality in northern Virginia and Washington DC is that a huge chunk of Americans now associate themselves with the core of libertarianism. It is almost as if it were their birthright...

The left in American politics have always had such an unpromising future that desperate lying had to be utilised to give them even a little bit of go-forward. And give them their due, desperate lying over a hundred years has put them into pole position in US politics eventually. But the trouble with lying is if the sun comes out and reveals the lies to be lies.

'Vote Democrat and get paid much more than you should, for much poorer quality work than you do now, have your job guarunteed for life, and be protected from all external reality' has gotten them an awful long way.

But do Americans really want to live in the inevitable aftermath of that philosophy? Have Americans finally put two and two together, and associated Democrat policies with the depressing failure and terrible outcomes all around?

I think so. Many observers of the political realm have a sense of a watershed being reached; a final Rubicon being crossed; of the electorate rising as one to smite down the snake oil salesmen and their terrible tinctures.

Not because they hate government. They hate these governors, which is both highly reassuring, and terrible, terrible news if you are an incumbent, or the soiled handgoods of one.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

NASA and the BBC

'I’VE BEEN A DEFENDER OF OBAMA’S NEW SPACE POLICY, but Neil Armstrong thinks I’m wrong. “The first man to walk on the moon blasted President Barack Obama’s decision to cancel NASA’s back-to-the-moon program on Tuesday, saying that the move is ‘devastating’ to America’s space effort. . . . The letter was released to NBC News just two days in advance of Obama’s trip to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a space policy summit. Obama is expected to flesh out his vision for the space agency’s future during his speech at the summit. . . . Armstrong and his fellow astronauts emphasize the bigger implications, however, and say in their letter that the decision would put the nation on a ‘long downhill slide to mediocrity.”'

I see this debate through the prism of the BBC. The BBC is an agency of the British government with some bureaucratic paraphenalia intended to mask the fact that it is an agency of the British government.

NASA is likewise an agency of the US Federal government.

What is the impact of these enormous, publicly funded agencies?

They totally dominate their respective industries, sucking up much of the available talent, distorting the marketplace and using the deep pockets of the public to create insuperable barriers to entry for that marketplace.

I have a problem with the lefty slant of the BBC, but that is only ten percent of why I want the BBC broken up and privatised. The other ninety percent is because it does not allow the broadcasting marketplace in the UK to operate naturally. This baleful situation is made even worse by the existence of the ITV network, which was ALSO a creation of the state, and which is governend by bureacratic strictures. The BBC fills so many of the available niches for media in the UK that most of the time nobody contests them. And because of the cross-media possibilities for promotion, a private local radio station is not just going up against the local BBC radio station, it is also going up against BBC regional and national TV, print and web. So much of the time, nobody bothers to contest.

NASA does the same thing in the US for space-related industrial activity. NASA does the Shuttle, it does rocket delivery of satellites, it does manned space exploration, it does unmanned probes to the solar system and beyond, it does climate research (very badly), it does a million other things. And all on the taxpayer dime.

If NASA didn't exist at all, the commercial possibilities of space would soon drive the creation of viable replacement activity in most, perhaps all of these areas. And if no commercial outfit chose to do pure science space activity, a tiny version of NASA could be created to do simply that, and nothing else.

To me this all seems perfectly obvious and self-evident. Under Mrs Thatcher, Britain dispensed with numerous BBC-scale bureacracies, and the world didn't end. In fact, the privatisations were an amazing revelation to everybody willing to pay good attention. They have resulted in many new markets which hadn't previously had a chance to exist.

I can imagine that for the old guard like Neil Armstrong, the image of a strong, successful America is forever wedded to those enormous government agencies. Just as for many Russians the vast Soviet machine of state represented true power and prestige.

Unfortunately, they are both wrong. The laws of economics don't change from decade to decade, and vast government agencies have never been anything but vastly inefficient engines for achieving economic success. I feel for these ageing greats, and I honour their spectacular achievements, but NASA is not worth keeping just because of that sentiment.

I long for the day when Britain has a thriving, competitive broadcasting sector freed from the lowering presence of the BBC. I know that it will be much better, much more interesting, and much more useful.

And the American space industry will benefit in like kind from the disappearance of an all-powerful NASA.

Could you use any more adjectives?

"'No malpractice' by climate unit

The row surrounds e-mails hacked from the University of East Anglia
There was no scientific malpractice at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, which was at the centre of the "Climategate" affair.

This is according to an independent panel chaired by Lord Oxburgh, which was convened to examine the research published by the unit."

"We found absolutely no evidence of any impropriety whatsoever..."

UEA's vice chancellor Edward Acton said he welcomed the report.

"It is especially important that, despite a deluge of allegations and smears against the CRU, this independent group of utterly reputable scientists have concluded that there was no evidence of any scientific malpractice," he said

This is the academic equivalent of using all-caps.

Why is it that the more definite they sound, and the more hysterical their denunciations of 'smears and allegations', the less credible they appear?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

BBC reports Israel story straight shocker

'The Israeli military says it hit a group of Palestinians laying explosives near Gaza's perimeter fence.

Islamic Jihad, a radical Islamist group, said the Israeli troops entered the Gaza Strip and fired from a helicopter and tanks.

The body of a 23-year-old Islamic Jihad fighter was taken to a Gaza hospital immediately after the fighting. A second body was later retrieved from the area, it was reported.'

Something has happened to the BBC website! This article does a pretty effective job of a) reporting the news and b) not slandering Israel.

What has gone on? A huge cull of leftie droids at Television Centre? The belated imposition of actual editorial control on the BBC website?

Whatever it is, it is highly welcome. And not before time.

BBC shills for China

'China's "Shock and Awe" Fighter Jets'

'China has given the world a glimpse of its air force at a special performance by a display team.

Four Chinese-made J-10 fighters put on a show of aerial stunts at a military base just outside the city of Tianjin.

China hopes the manoeuvrability and price of the J-10 will make it attractive to buyers in other countries.

The BBC's Michael Bristow was at the show in Tianjin.'

Time was when journalists actually investigated claims and dug up information which might throw a more realistic light on propaganda. But not the BBC! No no.

If you watch the video, you might be disappointed with the 'arial stunts' touted by the BBC so breathlessly. They involve the planes flying slowly past and then- steady yourself- turning.

Left unmentioned by the BBC are any of these facts:

"Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad J-10?

January 30, 2007: The Taiwanese air force does not seem terribly concerned about China's new J10 fighters. In service for two years now, China only publicly announced the J10s status in January, 2007. What was not mentioned in the press releases was that only one J10 squadron was stationed where it might encounter Taiwanese F-16s or Mirage jet fighters. That squadron is sitting at a base just out of range (560 kilometers) of the F-16s and Mirages...

...the word out of China is that the J10 is a maintenance nightmare, and that the Chinese are having a hard time keeping the aircraft operational in reasonable numbers...

...Originally, the J10 used a Russian AL-31FN engine, but China has been working for a decade to manufacture their own version of this, the WS10A. China has been striving for decades to develop the ability to manufacture high-performance jet engines. The WS10A is something of an acid test for them, as it is a powerful military engine, and a complex piece of work. Russia refused to license China to produce the AL-31FN, so the Chinese stole as much of the technology as they could and designed the WS10A. This engine has been tested, but apparently still has quality control and performance problems..."

So, to sum up, the Chinese have little confidence in the J-10, it is a maintenance nightmare which means few are actually available for flying at any one time, and the engine design is based on a really successful Russian engine which the Chinese reverse-engineered totally illegally, and not very well. Oh, and it is WAAAAAAAAAY behind schedule.

But don't go looking for that information from the BBC. They are desperate for somebody to come along and knock the yanks off their perch. Somebody, anybody, preferably at least superficially commie...

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Who thinks Islam is great?

'There are seven of the structures on the range at Bellerby, which have green domed roofs. Ishtiaq Ahmed of the BCM said that they were undoubtedly meant to resemble mosques.

"The shape of the structures, the colour of the dome - the green dome - symbolises an Islamic place of worship," he said.

"Anyone looking at it will think about mosques and Muslims and think about them negatively."'

Yes, well if you add snake-like talking out of both sides of your mouth to murderous bombings and terrorist activity, what you get is... negativity.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Cuddly Dragons and real Vikings

'Which brings us back to How to Train Your Dragon. My daughter would have liked it less, but a refreshing and more realistic ending would have had the Vikings enlisting their new, fire-breathing pets in a massive invasion of Europe, laying waste to all they saw and bringing the hated Christians to heel. Because that’s really what Vikings do.'

This didn't evoke any great insight in me, but it did remind me of a conversation I had in an auberge-de-jeunesse in Normandy back in the early '90s with a very nice woman from Denmark. When she found out I grew up in Lincolnshire, she got very excited, and went off on a spiel about how much Danish influence there was in my home county. I didn't interrupt her, and thought it rude to mention that not only do we English not consider the Danish influence positively, we don't consider it Danish.

To us, the word Viking still has a frisson of hatred and fear. And whatever contributions they may have made to the English language, law and governance, they are remembered by common English folk as murderous thieving villains without mercy and without religion.

But the lady was nice, and I didn't want to spoil supper!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Extreme irrationality the hallmark of Lefties

'...Created in June 2008, HCAN raised more than $40 million from liberal foundations and unions...
...The largest actors in HCAN -- USAction, SEIU, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, ACORN, and MoveOn -- are all, in political scientist Theda Skocpol's terms, "federated" organizations. Each used its capacity to mobilize people at the local and state levels but also to coordinate strategy at the national level...
In the 15 months since Obama's inauguration, HCAN, a large and sometimes unwieldy coalition, was often uneasy about whether to be mainly a support group for the White House or a more assertive prod. But in the end it has played a very important role in rallying the base, smoking out the destructive role of the industry, and making it difficult politically for the administration to indulge its fantasies of a bipartisan deal...

I'm sure there must be someone out there so sad that they actually care who comprises HCAN. And I'm sure there must be a few sad sacks who think that 'rallying the base, smoking out the destructive role of the industry, and making it difficult politically for the administration to indulge its fantasies of a bipartisan deal' are real things, and even important real things.

But last time I checked- for the whole of the Obama administration's existence, the Democrat party has controlled the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate. For legislation to become law, both the House and Senate must pass it, and the President sign it. So why didn't they do that the day after the inauguration? Given that both Obama and Hillary Clinton had healthcare reform as a major plank of their platform, we all knew it was going to happen. So why was it such an abortion?

Nobody needed HCAN for anything. It was redundant, purposeless, pointless. '"The message we have is simple," says Richard Kirsch, director of Health Care for America Now (HCAN)... "Congress should listen to us, not the insurance industry."' Why? What have you got to say that is either meaningful, different and relevant?

What HCAN was asking for, Obama had already told them he would deliver. And he did. Why do you need to gather together $40 million, and a thousand existing groups to ask for something that has already been promised, and now delivered?

It was and is completely irrational. Without a single Republican vote, or a single dollar from HCAN, or a single email from the nutroots, the Democrats could have passed their healthcare abortion on the first day after Obama took power. So why was it a solid year of tortuous and clownish bickering and bitching?

And apart from endlessly reiterating their belief that the health insurance companies are Satan, what did HCAN do? Absolutely nothing. The Obama healthcare 'reform' bill ensconces the health insurers in a nice feather bed of 32 million more policies, from what I have read, which people by law have to buy. Win!

It demonstrates what enormous efforts lefties are willing to put into vacuous campaigns about pretty much nothing, as long as there is some Emmanuel Goldstein to hep everybody up with.

See, you all just want to be self-righteous

'Purging moral questions from politics is both impossible and undesirable. But today's tendency to turn every contentious issue into a moral confrontation is divisive. One way of fortifying people's self-esteem is praising them as smart, public-spirited and virtuous. But an easier way is to portray the "other side" as scum: The more scummy "they" are, the more superior "we" are. This logic governs the political conversation of both left and right, especially talk radio, cable channels and the blogosphere.

Unlike economic benefits, psychic benefits can be dispensed without going through Congress. Mere talk does the trick. Shrillness and venom are the coin of the realm. The opposition cannot simply be mistaken. It must be evil, selfish, racist, unpatriotic, immoral or just stupid. A culture of self-righteousness reigns across the political spectrum. Stridency from one feeds the other. Political polarization deepens; compromise becomes harder. How can anyone negotiate if the other side is so extreme?'

So, then a plague on both their houses, but mainly the right; 'talk radio, cable channels and the blogosphere' are the widely used code for raving right wing lunatics.

Why are American politics so poisonous at the moment? Not for the first time, I would moot two likely reasons. The end of the cold war meant Americans had no external enemies worthy of the name, so all their psychic venom was reserved for 'internal enemies'. And because 'progressivism' has been so comprehensively debunked, and yet American lefties don't know it, and don't want to know.

Anybody with even a passing interest in the 20th century will have noted how the basic tenets of 'progressivism'- a massive state, state ownership of the means of production, central planning of the economy and society, high taxes, cradle-to-grave economic security guarunteed by the state, 'social justice' by fiat, the elimination of the free market, the complete absence of personal responsibility and the negation of individuality- have been tested to destruction. Over and over again, societies all over the world have tried them, and collapsed as a direct consequence.

All over the world, these progressive tenets are now in high disrepute- except in America. China, Russia, India, France and many other smaller countries have ditched progressivism because they tried it and it doesn't work.

So what millions of American independents, conservatives and libertarians can't understand is, why Americans lefties think these long-discredited policies will work in America.

If Obama, Pelosi and Reid were proposing ground-breaking new policies based on demonstrably sound economic and public policy research, would they be getting this response? Perhaps, if they interfered with the economic arrangements that have made America the worlds greatest ever economic superpower. But then again perhaps not.

But what was absolutely guarunteed was that interfering with American economic arrangements by implementing the tired failures of 'progressivism' was always going to provoke an intense reaction.

There is no question that lefties throughout the twentieth century believed that socialist/marxist/leftist meant supremely moral. No matter how many people were murdered by communists, no matter how much pain and suffering communist regimes caused, lefties always believed that they were on the moral high ground. Contrast the hysterical vilification of Agusto Pinochet (three thousand murdered) with the almost complete ignoring of Pol Pot (three million murdered). When communists killed people, there was always a queue of people with excuses at the ready to minimise, rationalise and legitimise. When anti-communists killed communists, there was a huge megaphone at the ready to denounce, vilify and excoriate.

This ability to skew reality in its favour allows communism to extend its shelf life as a viable system of governance in places like America, where it was never tried.

'A culture of self-righteousness reigns across the political spectrum. Stridency from one feeds the other. Political polarization deepens; compromise becomes harder. How can anyone negotiate if the other side is so extreme?

Dangers are plain, as political scientists Morris Fiorina and Samuel Abrams argue in their book "Disconnect: the Breakdown of Representation in American Politics." Using opinion surveys, they show that polarization is stronger among elites (elected officials, activists, journalists) than the broad public. About 40 percent to 50 percent of Americans consistently classify themselves as "moderates." By contrast, political activists tend to identify themselves as "very liberal" or "very conservative." But it is the political class of activists that "dominate the political agenda" and determine "how the debate is conducted."'

Only a Democrat or Democrat sympathiser could have written this. As a description of recent political events in America, is is garbage. There are not two extreme polarised elites. There is one extreme left elite, the Democrats, and one moderate, ineffective confused elite, the Republicans. Most of the Republicans long ago lost any contact with conservative ideals and policy positions. Most of them voted for the bailouts, medicare expansion, 'No child left behind' and many other bipartisan expansions of the role of the state in America. George W Bush was a big-government Republican, and most Republican senators and congressmen are too.

What has happened since the Obama disaster unfolded is unprecedented in US politics. A huge swath, probably sixty percent or more of the electorate, suddenly find themselves un-represented by either of the large political parties. They can not distinguish between the behaviour of the GOP and the Democrats. Only a few minor voices on the fringes voice their own concerns and beliefs, people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party leaders. These fringe voices have neither office nor lobbying power, and yet they reflect accurately the views of a large majority of Americans- in small government, proper free markets, low taxes and low public debt.

Their new-found voice may be strident and forceful, but it is neither ideological nor is it extreme. The content of their ideas is the core of what America has thought and done for hundreds of years. It is the antithesis of novelty fad ideology- it is the tried and trusted wisdom of hundreds of years of experience.

So it is highly disingenuous of commentators like Samuelson to paint the situation of two intolerant extremes engaging in pleasing posturing for the sake of psychic benefit. As far as I can tell neither side is doing that. The Democrats are genuinely ignorant, and genuinely passionate about their terrible defunct socialism; and the American people are genuinely knowledgeable about the tried and tested ideas that America is based on, and passionately want them re-instated to their hallowed place in national life. The GOP- well, who cares?

The Samuelson thesis, the 'politics of self-esteem' is at best a misreading of the situation, and at worst an attempt by one side in the debate to muddy the waters for electoral advantage. It fails completely to credit that sixty percent of Americans might have a concrete understanding of the public policy issues at stake, and refuse to amend that understanding at the behest of career politicians for whom it is inconvenient and awkward. Americans even understand that there is going to be pain attached to the greater gain- that to get their country back to something like fiscal and governmental health there are going to have be higher taxes to pay off the deficit, and a great reduction in government programs. Some programs will need to be eliminated completely. Are they willing to pay that price? You bet.

For both Democrats and Republican politicians, this is bad news. It means less opportunities for graft, and less important institutions to preside over. Boo hoo. I'm sure they'll get over it somehow.

It seems that every week, some new crackpot distortion of the state of American politics is generated by the great lefty intelligentsia as a means to explain the enormous distaste for lefty thinking and lefty policy. In sum, they all don't amount to a hill of beans.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Over-weening state is not the only culprit

'The core concept of human rights is the protection of the irreducible safety and dignity of the individual from the massive and arbitrary power of the state.'


'A man standing alone in front of a tank in Tiannamen Square -- there's a human rights moment. The multitudinous horror of ethnic cleansing, raging warfare in the Congo, the nightmare of North Korea, the acid-tossing at schoolgirls by the Taliban -- there are people all over this world trembling at the might of the state, seeing their lives foreshortened or ruined, subject to unspeakable horrors at the hands of warlords and tyrants and revengeful dictatorships -- these are the fields of real human-rights violations.' [Hat Tip: Instapundit]

While I'm sure Rex Murphy and I would agree with an awful lot, I just don't agree with his primary thesis here. And that he is mistaken in it is really evidenced by his list of human rights abuses. The man in Tianaman Square was indeed providing us with a tragic example of citizen at the mercy of the state. But two of the other three examples don't.

You could say about the Congo, not just now but for many decades, that it is an example of what happens to human rights when there is NO government (or commonwealth as Hobbes might have put it). Gangs of Rwandan murderers roam around murdering and raping as and when they feel the urge. And gangs of Congolese who are meant to be the army but aren't go around murdering and raping when THEY feel the urge. Many Congolese living in Eastern Congo probably spend every evening praying that the Congo will someday have a government which will protect their lives, their property and their dignity.

The Taliban were in no wise 'the government' of Afghanistan. They were a gang of religious fanatics who managed to take over Afghanistan for a few years, build nothing, develop nothing and produce nothing but discontent and quite a lot of dead bodies. But their control of Afghanistan was virtually zero outside of Kabul and Kandahar (and Bamiyan). Everywhere else people just got on with their unchanging lives.

'Human rights' is a very poor tool for analysing society, and whether that society is healthy and free. But I would think even people who disagree about exactly how important the concept of 'human rights' is, would agree that human rights as commonly understood can be threatened by many more things than an over-powerful state. Here is a list off the top of my head: a sadistic oligarchy (medieval Japan), sadistic local warlords (medieval China), uncontrolled criminal gangs (Mexico), ethnic civil war (Sri Lanka and Bosnia), communist insurgencies (India, Columbia), islamist insurgencies (long list, but take Iraq and Thailand as exemplars), class warfare (the Cheka in Russia during the revolution and post-revolution), socialist dystopias (Malawi, Cuba) completely ineffective police (Venezuela, Brazil), extreme poverty aggravated for political reasons (Haiti).

There is no question that human rights, as average people would think of them, are seriously threatened in the circumstances described above. In some of those cases, the government machinery plays at least some role (socialist dystopias) but not because it has complete control of the society in question. Indeed, far more often these situations arise because the state is incapable of effectively policing its own territory.

In America, a big part of the story of the human rights struggles of the fifties and sixties was Federal US power being used to force states to stop trashing the human rights of their black populations. Was that illegitimate? Who would argue that it was. On many occasions in history, centralised power has been more benign than local tyranny.

Blaming a powerful central government for ALL violations of human rights is both over the top and contrary to much of what history tells us. Unfortunately, the real situation is much more troubling. If the wrong men get into power, any effective power structure will give them the capability of ruining peoples lives. They may have power over five thousand people, or fifty million, but for the poor bastards at the receiving end the effect is pretty much the same.

The situation from about 1991 until 2008 was that the world had one superpower, and we were extremely fortunate that it was a benign one. But as human nature is wont to do, many kicked away at the shackles (such as they were) anyway.

What will come next? Will it be a nirvana of socialist/islamist/environmentalist freedom and joy? Or will it resemble the Congo? Who knows... but you better start praying anyway.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Atlas Shrugged coming to a town near you soon

'The ironic part of Waxman's abuse of power is that he also demands that CEOs show up with "any documents, including e-mail messages, sent to or prepared or reviewed by senior company officials related to the projected impact of health care reform."'

We all know what 'living up to a stereotype' means. But what about 'acting out somebodies novel'?

Having just bulldozed my way determinedly through 'Atlas Shrugged', it seems that America is determined to re-enact the novel in glorious 3-d. Henry Waxman is so obviously stealing lines from Wesley Mouch, there may well be a case for prosecuting him for plagiarism.

I discounted much of Ayn Rands signature novel as over-dramatised and implausible- but the Democrats are determined to bring it to life! Sadly missing from the book, though is a Nancy Pelosi figure. She'll just have to make do.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure there is no Galt's Gulch in their version...

The countries in the very best of hands

'...on a visit to Ottawa to discuss Arctic policy with Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly criticized the Canadians for failing to invite all eight members of the Arctic Council to the consultation. Iceland, Finland and Sweden were miffed at being excluded. This was all very well and no doubt deserved; the next day, however, the Canadian Foreign Minister rejected Secretary Clinton’s pleas and announced that Canada will be ending its Afghan mission next year.'

Hillary Clinton- worst secretary of state ever? 'Bull in a China shop' doesn't cover it; after all, bulls are strong and dangerous. 'Drunk at a temperance meeting' doesn't either; drunks often have a superficial charm.

She is just phoning it in. In the most cack-handed way imaginable. And with bad grace. Wow.

Shrill gloating and its natural timespan

'The signposts in the Republican universe have been abruptly altered. So don't let yourself become desensitized to the sight of conservatives stumbling, lost in the night, the way you avert your eyes when passing poor homeless souls on the sidewalk. Suffering is subjective. There are people on the street who really think they are Jesus. There are Republicans in our midst who really think Obama's version of Romneycare equals socialism. There but for the grace of God -- and maybe a little less sloppy thinking -- go we.'

I'm going to break my own number one rule of blogging, and make a comparison between this post and Nazi era propaganda. Nothing to do with content, but the tone and the psychological motivations of the piece. It has always struck me that Nazi propaganda tried too hard. It was shrill, it was bombastic, and it desperately wanted to convince people that the German Volk were indomitable, resolute and all the other things. But underlying it was a hidden fear, the fear that unless these things were screamed, shouted at top volume, the flaws in the arguments might start to show. Perhaps it isn't just a characteristic of Nazi propaganda but all propaganda. I don't know. But Nazi propaganda is where I noticed it.

This propaganda piece by Matt Miller is basically a schoolyard 'nyah nyah nee nyah nyah, we won you lost, you pitiful losers' taunt. For many Democrats whose whole political existences have revolved around the single fact that America is by a huge majority (approx 80%) conservative and deeply resistant to socialism, it must be terribly tempting to give in and rub salt in the supposed Republican wounds. And yes, many are succumbing to temptation.

What is not clear from either the passage of the Obama healthcare bill or the subsequent orgy of gloating, grandstanding and whooping-up is whether this is really a permanent victory won over the 'Republicans'. I say 'Republicans' because of course, the Obama healthcare bill applies to all Americans (except Senators and Congressmen).

Why should the Democrats be fearful? They are in charge of all branches of government, and the legacy news media are their shills. What could go wrong?

If in 1979 the average pundit in Britain had been shown by some magic the same country in 1990, I think most of them would have refused the evidence of their own eyes. The idea that all the nationalised industries, the huge centrally planned British state would be swept away by one woman and her determined band of ideologues would have been beyond comprehension.

But that could never happen to the vast statist constructions of the Democrats in America, surely?

OK, then, riddle me this: Do most Americans believe in socialist solutions to their problems in 2010? In voting for Barack Obama, did they believe that they were voting in a hard-left ideologue? I'm pretty sure they voted for a nice, well-spoken chap with a nice family who talked all the time about healing divides, making politics transparent and reforming the way business was done in Washington DC. He promised to revive the image of America in the world, and other pleasant things.

Who knew he would be the most partisan president ever? Who knew he would enact the most far-reaching transformations of the US economy since Franklin Roosevelt? Who knew he would enact these transformations in the middle of a very severe economic recession with utter disregard for the consequences?

Not even dogged sceptics like me. I had no idea that he would pursue his leftist agenda with such complete disregard for the economic situation and the political one too.

The reaction has been extreme and instantaneous. For many millions of Americans, they fear for the first time that Washington DC is going to pull the rest of the nation down into the abyss, and they feel a personal need to stop that from happening.

The brazen and provocative misconstrual of the Obama mandate by Democrats has not gone unnoticed by the majority of Americans. The polls tell this story very clearly. And with the rising tsunami of anger about this bait-and-switch comes the ever greater likelihood that Obamacare has a short life expectancy.

So perhaps the flaws in the arguments in pieces like Matt Millers, the truths peeking out from behind the bombast, are these: that while the statist, centally-planned government in America has grown and grown over 75 years, it has never provoked a reaction from Americans like the one we see now; and that when Americans come to scrutinise the real state of their nation, they will see how far down the road to a statist, centrally-planned dystopia they are already. And they are quite likely to hate it. And plan is dismantling.

If you think that is crazy, and could never happen, ask Margaret Thatcher.