Archive for January, 2010
26 Jan 2010

Obama Statue Under Fire in Jakarta

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Statue of ten year old Barack Obama in Menteng Park, Jakarta

Indonesia authorities announced yesterday that they are considering acquiescing to demands that a statue of Barack Obama as a little boy, erected by relatives and friends in a Jakarta park “to motivate children to study hard and dream big,” be removed. 56,000 Indonesians have signed a petition calling for the ouster of Obama’s statue. The location ought to be used for the statue of an Indonesian, critics contend. Obama lived in Indonesia for only four years as a child.

AFP

26 Jan 2010

Let’s Hope the Health Care Bill Is Dead

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Megan McArdle doesn’t believe the progressive commentariat can cheerlead congressional democrats into a desperation move involving getting the House to pass the Senate bill on the basis of written pledges to amend it later to meet House requirements then ramming it through the Senate by cheating and using reconciliation (as described by Dick Morris).

Health care’s popularity drops any time Congress discusses it. With respect to Nate Silver, who argues that the bill would be popular if they ever passed it and could discuss what’s in it, you cannot “prove” that voters like a bill because various bits of it poll well on their own. Do I want a sous vide machine? Certainly! I could take a poll that would show nine or ten wonderful things I would love about owning a sous vide machine. Am I going to buy one? No I am not, because it costs hundreds of dollars I need for other things.

Almost everything polls well on its own, except tax increases. …

I think Yglesias is right that this process was always more fragile than it appeared. As I read it, majorities of both houses do not want to pass this bill–otherwise, they wouldn’t have run for the exits so quick. They were looking for an excuse that they could deploy without risking retaliation from the leadership–and what the Massachusetts election showed, is that they don’t have all that much to fear from the leadership, because the leadership may not be there after November. Reid’s almost certain to lose his seat, and Pelosi may lose her majority in the house.

They don’t want to say they want to kill it, of course. So instead, they’re doing pretty much what I expected: putting it on the back burner. We want to pass health care, but we just have a few things to do first . . .

Once it goes on the back burner, it’s over. As time goes by, voters will be thinking less and less about the health care bill they hated, and more and more about other things in the news. There is not going to be any appetite among Democrats for returning to this toxic process and refreshing those bad memories. They’re going to want to spend the time between now and the election talking about things that voters, y’know, like.

26 Jan 2010

Krauthammer on Obama and the Democrats

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Barack Obama told ABC News that he is determined to continue to try to pass the health care bill, even if it hurts him politically. “The one thing I’m clear about is that I’d rather be a really good one term president than a mediocre two term president.”

Charles Krauthammer responds that “Well, there is a third option he didn’t consider. He could be a mediocre one term president, and that’s what he been thus so far in his first year. And because mediocrity does not usually encourage the electorate to re-elect you that might account for being a one termer.”

Krauthammer describes the democrat response to their defeat in Massachusetts as “a marvel of obliviousness, of obtuseness, and of unbelievably condescending arrogance.”

3:04 video

25 Jan 2010

Question of the Day

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What world leader is so lame that he requires a teleprompter to address a class of 6th graders?

Hat tip to Gateway Pundit.

Remember Iowahawk’s message from Obama’s teleprompter video?

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CORRECTION:

Photos exist of his Obamatude actually interacting with the kiddies ex tempore. It turns out he brought the teleprompter to use to announce a program incentivizing school districts to adopt federal curriculum guidelines.

(From Dan Riehl’s commenter Ozwitch:)

What is even more disturbing than the need to whip TOTUS out to talk to school kids is the purpose of Obama’s visit to that school. He was announcing his desire to put billions more into his program “Race to the Top” (RttT in Obamaland cutespeak) and also create a means for school districts to bypass the authority of their State Boards of Education in order to apply for federal RttT funds. What is so disturbing about this? One of the requirements of winning this federal grant money is that local school districts must contractually agree to adopt federal curriculum guidelines, even those that have not yet been defined by the Obama Administration. Yup….the federal core curriculum issue rears its ugly head again.

25 Jan 2010

Democrats’ Dilemma

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Noemie Emery, in the Weekly Standard, relishes the cruel dilemma faced by congressional democrats, trapped between their party’s base demanding do-or-die passage of the health care bill and a massive public backlash.

In the wake of the stunning debacle (in their view) in the Bay State last Tuesday, Democrats find themselves with two thrilling alternatives: They can drop their unread and unreadable 2,200-page monstrosity of a health care reform bill and be labeled as wimps, jerks, and hapless losers who wasted a year and couldn’t deliver. Or, they can try to ram the Senate bill through the House (which hates most of it) in order to pass a bill that two-thirds of the country now loathes with a passion. They can either jump off the ship or stay on and sink with it. Either way, they end up in the drink.

There’s an interesting split among Democrats as to which courses to take. Those edging their way toward the lifeboats are those members of the House and Senate who sooner or later have to be in touch with the voters. Those who want the bill passed (i.e., pushed down the throats of the howling public) are White House officials and pundits, bloggers, academicians, talk show hosts, and others who don’t face reelection in this year or any, and will even find their business improving if the bill passes and all hell breaks loose. The pundits, who have no skin in this game since they will not get fired, have transferred their soaring contempt for the American people to their beleaguered House members. “Jump! Jump!” they cry to the quivering congressfolk. No sacrifice is too great for others to make for their dreams. …

Administrations have screwed up before, but this, in one of Obama’s pet words, is truly “historic” in terms of unforced self-destruction: No party before has wreaked such havoc upon its own members, created such division among its supporters, or sowed so much widespread despair. The fact that one year ago it stood on the pinnacle makes it still more amazing. As Jay Leno put it, “It’s hard to believe President Obama’s now been in office for a year. And you know, it’s incredible. He took something that was in terrible, terrible shape and he brought it back from the brink of disaster: The Republican party.”

25 Jan 2010

Who Mishandled Abdulmutallab?

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George Smiley notes ironically that the Massachusetts special election did the Obama Administration one big favor. It soaked up all the news coverage, preventing anyone paying attention to some very damaging congressional testimony by Admiral Dennis Blair.

Appearing before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair admitted that intel officials bungled the handling of Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber who tried to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day.

Specifically, Mr. Blair told the committee that Abdulmutallab should have been interrogated by a special team that handles high value targets. But the spooks never got a crack at the Nigerian suspect. As Blair told Congress, he was never consulted about how the suspect should be handled.

Indeed, the nation’s intel apparatus was apparently out of the loop as the FBI decided to treat the would-be bomber as they would a criminal. Mr. Blair’s lieutenants were out of the loop as well. Then, after less than an hour of questioning, Abdulmutallab was read his Miranda rights and provided with legal counsel. At that point, he stopped cooperating with authorities, leaving key questions unanswered.

And, it gets worse. Remember that team that’s supposed to interrogate high-value suspects? It was hailed as a key element of Mr. Obama’s plan (unveiled last year) to end the “torture” of terror detainees and shut down the facility at Guantanamo Bay. But as Blair informed the Homeland Security panel, that highly-touted team has never been formed.

For his candor, Blair is in trouble with Congressional Republicans–and the White House. According to Newsweek’s “Declassified” blog, administration officials have described the DNI (a retired Navy admiral) as “misinformed,” and have ordered him to correct his remarks. Sure enough, Blair released a statement only an hour later, claiming that his comments were “misconstrued.”

In other words, Admiral Blair is feeling the heat for telling the truth. The nation’s intelligence chief was never consulted in the aftermath of an attempted terrorist attack that could have destroyed an airliner and killed hundreds of passengers. He also claims that the (limited) FBI interrogation provided important information, although you’ve got to wonder just how much Abdulmutallab divulged in hour before FBI agents advised him of his “rights.”

There’s also the troubling matter of why the High-Value Interrogation Group (or HIG as it’s known) still isn’t in operation. Months after the President ordered its creation, attorneys are still devising a charter for the group, suggesting that it is months away from achieving operational status. Until then, who’s in charge of interrogating suspected terrorists? After being pilloried by politicians and the press, both the CIA and the military have grown skittish; we’re guessing that most of the questioning will be conducted by the FBI, until the HIG–staffed by experts from intelligence and law enforcement–becomes operational.

Blair’s disturbing admissions also raise another question, namely, who made the call to treat Farouk Abdulmutallab as a criminal suspect, rather than an accused terrorist? The administration claims the decision was made by agents from the FBI’s Detroit field office, who met the plane when it landed. But that sounds a bit suspect. Would you, as a Special Agent in Charge be willing to stake your career on the handling of a suspected terrorist–a decision you made without consulting your superiors in Washington?

There’s little doubt that senior FBI officials (and probably, Attorney General Eric Holder) were alerted when Abdulmutallab was removed from that Northwest flight. And the decision to “Mirandize” was likely made by high-ranking officials at the bureau, if not Mr. Holder himself.

25 Jan 2010

Wording of Bin Ladin’s Latest Recording May Signify Imminent Attack

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The French news service AFP quotes an important news release from the Washington-based Intelligence subscription IntelCenter.

Osama bin Laden’s word choice in the latest audio message attributed to him is seen as a “possible indicator” of an upcoming attack by his Al-Qaeda network, a US monitoring group warned Sunday.

IntelCenter, a US group that monitors Islamist websites, also said that manner of the release and the content of the message showed it was “credible” that it was a new release from the Saudi extremist.

“The Osama bin Laden audio message released to Al-Jazeera on 24 January 2010 contains specific language used by bin Laden in his statements in advance of attacks,” IntelCenter said in a statement.

The group said it considered the language “a possible indicator of an upcoming attack” in the next 12 months.

“This phrase, ‘Peace be upon those who follow guidance,’ appears at the beginning and end of messages released in advance of attacks that are designed to provide warning to Al-Qaeda’s enemies that they need to change their ways or they will be attacked,” the group said.

In a statement carried by Al-Jazeera television, bin Laden praised the Nigerian man who allegedly tried to blow up a US airliner approaching Detroit on Christmas Day.

He warned the United States that, “God willing, our attacks against you will continue as long as you maintain your support to Israel.”

IntelCenter said the audio statement “appears to be exactly what it purports to be, an audio message from bin Laden.”

“The manner of release, content of message and other factors indicate it is a credible and new release from bin Laden,” it said.

The center said similar language attributed to bin Laden was made in a March 19 2008 condemnation of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed which was followed by an attack on the Danish Embassy in Islamabad on June 2, 2008.

The phrase also was used in bin Laden’s April 15, 2004 European truce offer, which was followed by Al-Qaeda attacks in London in July 2005, according to the IntelCenter, which said the 14-month lapse could be explained by the “difficulty” in actually putting an attack into operation.

Audio releases were bin Laden’s normal vehicle for statements, with video statements having been very rare since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that killed almost 3,000 people, IntelCenter said.

24 Jan 2010

Hubris Punished

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Willem-Adolphe Bouguereau, Liberal Democrat Pursued By the Furies, 1862, Chrysler Museum of Art

Jay Ambrose takes on the role of Greek chorus, chanting about the lessons “Progressives” should have learned when they were turned out of office last time and didn’t.

Go back some decades, and it looked as if liberals were going to be the death of America. They wanted to take it really easy on criminals. They favored welfare programs that destroyed families. They backed foreign aid that buttressed tyrannies. Their way of dealing with enemies was unilateral disarmament. Still other proposals could have spent, taxed and regulated us into oblivion.

The voters didn’t like all of this, the L-word became a curse, and so liberals went into something akin to a witness protection program. They changed their name to “progressives” and if they did not quite hide out, they became less obtrusive with some of their views. Yes, they griped, fumed, engaged in numerous sneak attacks and thumbed their noses at the opposition, but they did turn the lights dimmer than before on their grand vision of free-enterprise destruction and runaway statism.

Ah, but then after their surprising 1990s ascension came the self-destruction of earmark-happy, spendthrift congressional Republicans who seemed to assume power was theirs forever, even if many of their principles were proving strangely evaporative.

So first off, the Democrats took back Congress. Then Barack Obama used unexcelled rhetorical skills, a recession, an unpopular war in Iraq and George W. Bush’s deep decline in public estimation to capture the White House. Conservative values had supposedly been rejected, and behold, it was the liberal hour, a time for the enlightened few to strike back, to fix things – glory, glory hallelujah!

The arrogance was suffocating. Resurrected liberals were practically smirking as they instructed us to sweet-talk our way out of terrorist threats, advised we should quickly duplicate Europe’s semi-socialist mistakes and condescendingly dished up all manner of other liberty-smothering ideological inanities that would transform America into a poor imitation of what it once was. …

Ordinary Americans have caught onto all of this, and so, I am sorry, liberals, but the word of the day for you is “lose.” Your side has lost elections in New Jersey and Virginia, and now your side has lost the Senate seat previously held by the very liberal Ted Kennedy in very liberal Massachusetts to Scott Brown, a Republican.

The message to the Democrats is simple. Either give up your liberal ways and veer toward the center or face political catastrophe in November’s general election. The message to liberals generally is also simple: Get back into your witness protection program.

No, Senators and Congressmen, the message of 2008 was not, “Go ahead and repeat the New Deal.” What 2008 really proved is that Americans are, for the most part, pragmatic and apolitical. When politics gets too noisy or too scary, when things start going to pot economically, they throw out the incumbents and send in the other team.

The Clintons alarmed America with Hillarycare, and the voters took away their Congressional majority. So Bill Clinton pulled in his horns and tried to govern competently, making noises like a Centrist. The economy caught fire as the Republican Congress favorably impacted economic policies, and Bill Clinton ironically even escaped removal from office, despite the Monica Lewinsky scandal and his perjury, because the public was decidedly content with a divided government featuring a competent democrat administration (however corrupt) as long as the economy was good.

Barack Obama has a very undeserved reputation for high intelligence. He is so stupid that he never even understood that there has come to exist, post the unhappy 1970s, a fundamental and unspoken contract between voters and leaders in American national politics: Don’t screw up the economy and you can be in office.

24 Jan 2010

“Proportionality in Modern Asymmetrical Wars”

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I would give the following paper by Amichai Cohen, International Law professor at Ono Academic College, Israel, a gentlemanly C.

Excerpt

Armed conflicts of this type have sometimes been termed “asymmetrical” –- an adjective used principally with reference to the fact that the protagonists are a state, with all its might and force, and an organization with few heavy arms and a limited number of fighters. But such conflicts are also asymmetrical in a more complicated sense: they are fought between a state, in possession of sound reasons for following the laws of armed conflicts (LOAC) or international humanitarian law (IHL), and a high incentive and organizational obligation to do so, on the one hand, and on the other hand, an organization that almost never follows these rules and has very little incentive to do so.

States involved in these conflicts mostly attempt to follow, or are expected by the international community to follow, IHL as detailed in customary international law, in the Geneva Conventions, and in other sources of applicable international law. However, it has become increasingly difficult to abide by these laws, mainly because of the novel nature of the problems that constantly arise. This brief review will only deal with two of the most prominent of such problems:

    The first is how to apply the rule forbidding indiscriminate attacks on a civilian population when the enemy deliberately operates from within that environment. Direct attacks against civilians are of course always forbidden. However, what are
    the appropriate norms that a state should apply when the only possible way of fighting the enemy involves risking the lives of civilians whom the enemy is using for its own protection?

    A second problem arises from the fact that non-state actors are not susceptible to the range of formal and informal sanction which may be used against states. Since international law is not policed effectively, non-state actors may readily assume
    that their violations of the laws of war, including those mentioned above, will not be punished by law. For example, they may target civilians of the state actor in the knowledge that there exists very small chance that they will be punished for
    doing so by any international judicial body. Consequently, while one side to the conflict behaves in accordance with IHL, the other considers itself to be free of the limitations imposed by these rules.

Read the whole thing.

My criticism is that, although Professor Cohen does a workmanlike academic job of dividing alternative perspectives into models, his fundamental approach is fundamentally far too abstract, unempiric, and ahistoric.

Restricting consideration of the practical responses to terrorism, guerrilla warfare, and violations of the laws and customs of war to a small number of very recent, poorly handled examples which occurred under the leadership of democratic governments, which obviously failed satisfactorily to implement or articulate clear policies, was a fundamental mistake.

The world did not suddenly spring into existence in 1993. “Assymetrical warfare” and the cynical exploitation of the chivalrous instincts and humanitarian values of honorable and civilized armies by outlaws and barbarians has always been part of the human experience. Military commanders from Classical Antiquity down to WWII frequently dealt with decisive effect with the same problems without scandalizing posterity by cruelty and excesses.

Professor Cohen is too satisfied with the classification of perspectives into “models,” and too cautious and timid about identifying explicitly the major and important role played in the fraudulent framing of the issue as presented to the public by dishonest and ideologically biased humanitarian organizations and the media.

24 Jan 2010

Cradle of Liberty, Grave of Obamacare

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Minuteman memorial near the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts.

Michael Goodwin thanks the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for change we can believe in.

We the people of the United States owe Scott Brown’s supporters a huge debt of gratitude. They didn’t merely elect a senator. They ripped the façade off the Obama presidency.

Just as Dorothy and Toto exposed the ordinary man behind the curtain in “The Wizard of Oz,” the voters in Massachusetts revealed that, in this White House, there is no there there.

It’s all smoke and mirrors, bells and whistles, held together with glib talk, Chicago politics and an audacious sense of entitlement.

At the center is a young and talented celebrity whose worldview, we now know, is an incoherent jumble of poses and big-government instincts. His self-aggrandizing ambition exceeds his ability by so much that he is making a mess of everything he touches.

He never advances a practical idea. Every proposal overreaches and comes wrapped in ideology and a claim of moral superiority. He doesn’t listen to anybody who doesn’t agree with him.

After his first year on the job, America is sliding backwards, into grave danger at home and around the world. So much so that I now believe either of his rivals, Hillary Clinton or John McCain, would have made a better, more reliable and more trustworthy president.

They warned us he wasn’t ready.

Yes, we’re stuck with him, but we’re no longer stuck with his suffocating conformity. The second Boston Tea Party opened the door to new ideas and new people of both parties.

Obama’s reactions were predictable. More self-pity, blaming George W. Bush, and claiming that the voter revolt is due to ignorance about the health-care plan they hate.

Blah blah blah. Hasn’t he heard? The magic is gone.

Massachusetts changed everything. America’s spirit of independence has been emancipated and the cult of Obama-ism is finished.

With the Brown victory over Coakley and the mighty Massachusetts democrat party machine, Massachusetts voters proved that no democrat seat is safe, and the radical Congressional democrat majority is cowering like a beaten dog.

The public had decisively rejected socialized health care and the completion of the transformation of America into a European-style welfare state for the second time. Nationalized health care has become the kind of third rail for democrats that Social Security Reform is commonly asserted to be for Republicans. Every time they try touching it, they get killed.

The 2000 election, in which Al Gore was so narrowly defeated losing West Virginia and his home state of Tennessee clearly because of his support for Gun Control, seems to have finally persuaded the democrat party leadership that Gun Control is simply too costly to be actively pursued in contests outside the most urban blue states. Perhaps the likely impending loss of control of Congress for the second time following a second power grab at health care will persuade them to put aside that long-cherished democrat platform plank, too.

When you come right down to it, it seems to me that it is possible to argue that, on the national level, when push comes to shove, the fundamental goals that democrat party politics have long been directed toward, socialism, central economic planning, the welfare state, bureaucracy, disenfranchisement of the individual in favor of officially recognized interest groups and estates, complete domestic disarmament, are all fatally unpopular with a decisive majority of Americans. When it reaches the point that voters really take a personal interest, pretty much all of the democrat party’s fundamental goals are third rails.

23 Jan 2010

No Liberal Transformation After All

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Peggy Noonan:

[I]ndependent voters… in 2008 voted like Democrats and in 2010 voted like Republicans.

Is it a backlash? It seems cooler than that, a considered and considerable rejection that appears to be signaling a conservative resurgence based on issues and policies, most obviously opposition to increased government spending, fear of higher taxes, and rejection of the idea that expansion of government can or will solve our economic challenges.

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The Financial Times looks at the Obama Presidency and concludes: There will probably be no health care bill. Obama has nothing to talk about in the State of the Union speech he recently postponed. This will not be a transformational presidency, and the White House needs to change direction and heads need to roll, or he’ll be in worse trouble next month.

23 Jan 2010

Charles Johnson Makes the News

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Charles Johnson

Little Green Footballs’ Charles Johnson sold his share of Pajamas Media in 2007. (I didn’t know that! How come PJM, Glenn Reynolds, and Roger Simon never reported it? Could I possibly have somehow missed reading about it?)

Johnson is teaming up with Barrett Brown at Vanity Fair to start a new blogging consortium described as intended to expose the failures of establishment news outlets.

Charles Johnson seems to me to have gone off the deep end recently, devoting his blogging activities principally toward a crusade to enforce some particular notions of political correctness of his own, and a return to criticizing targets of wider interest strikes me as potentially a positive development, but Vanity Fair, home of the self-important windbag James Wolcott, is an unlikely venue for objective and intelligent news correction in the old LGF manner.

Still, let’s hope for the best.

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This New York Times magazine article describes Johnson’s rupture with the Right Blogosphere supplying some details that even those of us who followed all this had missed.

It notes that Johnson changed sides on Global Warming just in time to get blindsided by the Climategate scandal, which seems to have permanently tarnished the appeal of that particular delusion, and it even reveals the disturbing behavior pattern that puzzled and depressed those of us who had long admired Charles Johnson.

The soundest conclusion seems to be that he has indeed changed his mind — less about issues (though there are a few, global warming chief among them, on which he will admit to having gradually reversed positions) than about the people with whom he is willing to share the stage, or, perhaps, about his willingness to share the stage at all. Not that changing your mind, even in today’s political environment, makes you into some kind of intellectual hero. People change their minds all the time, for all kinds of reasons.

No one ever said L.G.F., or any blog, had to be about the free exchange of ideas. “It’s his sandbox,” Pamela Geller says simply. “He can do whatever he wants.” Still, if you read L.G.F. today, you will find it hard to miss the paradox that a site whose origins, and whose greatest crisis, were rooted in opposition to totalitarianism now reads at times like a blog version of “Animal Farm.” Johnson seems obsessed with what others think of him, posting much more often than he used to about references to himself elsewhere on the Internet and breaking into comment threads (a recent one was about the relative merits of top- versus front-loaded washing machines) to call commenters’ attention to yet another attack on him that was posted at some other site. On the home page, you can click to see the Top 10 comments of the day, as voted on by registered users; typically, half of those comments will be from Johnson himself. Even longtime commenters have been disappeared for one wrong remark, or one too many, and when it comes to wondering where they went or why, a kind of fearful self-censorship obtains. He has banned readers because he has seen them commenting on other sites of which he does not approve. He is, as he reminds them, always watching. L.G.F. still has more than 34,000 registered users, but the comment threads are dominated by the same two dozen or so names. And a handful of those have been empowered by Johnson sub rosa to watch as well — to delete critical comments and, if necessary, to recommend the offenders for banishment. It is a cult of personality — not that there’s any compelling reason, really, that it or any blog should be presumed to be anything else.

“This is one area where I did change,” Johnson admitted. “I realized you can’t just let it be free speech. It doesn’t work that way on the Internet. Total free speech is a recipe for anarchy when people can’t see each other.”

22 Jan 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

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And you a law professor!

Anne Althouse is at her best when she is cutting.

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Texian
, commenting at Breitbart, remarks: The scary part is that four justices think that this does NOT violate the First Amendment. Hat tip to the Barrister.

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Bird Dog, at Maggie’s Farm, recommends going to Yale so you can use the Yale Club of New York City, conveniently located on Vanderbilt Avenue right across the street from Grand Central.

It’s easier than that. They even let people who went to Dartmouth and University of Virginia have memberships, and a fair number of clubs in other cities have reciprocal privileges.

It is the cheapest hotel you’d want to stay at in NYC. The second floor lounge is a peaceful refuge where you can read the paper, sip your drink, and watch traffic bustle busily around the PanAm Building out the window. The bar serves generous drinks. Harvard’s New York Club has a larger bar with good big game trophies, but it’s much farther away from the trains and it has a lot fewer rooms to stay in.

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In the latest, Jan/Feb 2010, issue of the Yale Alumni Mag, the same chap was eulogized by two classes.

1968:

Don Masters started with us in Woolsey Hall in September 1964, served with distinction as an officer in the 82nd Airborne in Vietnam, and completed his Yale degree in 1972. He practiced law in New York City and in Denver through his career, as well as serving in entrepreneurial and general counsel roles. He was particularly active in the recovery community in the Rocky Mountain region. He loved touring on his motorcycle, and died August 31 at a beautiful location near Salmon, Idaho, doing what he loved.

1972:

On a sad note, I received notification that Don Masters was killed some time ago in a motorcycle accident in a remote part of Idaho. His body was only recently found, and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, having served with distinction in Vietnam.

Sounds like someone I would have liked to have known.

22 Jan 2010

Weeping into their Cappucinos in Amherst

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The Boston Globe reports from Amherst:

They filed in and out of coffeehouses, all but crying in their cappuccinos, barely touching their carrot cake muffins, still in shock that Scott Brown – a Republican! – had been elected to the US Senate in the state that pioneered universal health care, legalized same-sex marriage, and normally sends 12 Democrats to Congress.

In the days since the unthinkable happened, diehard Democrats have been forced to confront results that suggest Massachusetts votes much the way rest of the country does – blue on the edges with a big red swath in the middle. They have grappled with the possibility that the Commonwealth, until this week viewed by the much of the country as an outpost of extreme liberalism, may not be all that. And that has left them blue – in the other meaning of the word – over Martha Coakley’s defeat.

There is no better place to sense that mood than Amherst and Cambridge, two outposts of extreme liberalism in Massachusetts. They share a self-effacing nickname – “The People’s Republic.’’ They share (along with Provincetown) the distinction of being the most pro-Coakley communities, having handed her 84 percent of the vote. And they share the shock.

“I’m upset. I’m heartbroken. I just hate the idea that the Republicans have just won,’’ said Nick Seamon, owner of The Black Sheep, a bakery/bastion of liberalism on Main Street in Amherst. Yesterday, Seamon served up one of his best-selling Republican Party cookies (“because they are full of fruits and nuts’’), and summed up the jolt delivered by the vote.

“We tend to be a little insulated here. We don’t spend a lot of time in Central Massachusetts, or wherever they voted for whatever his name was,’’ Seamon said.

Across the Commonwealth, the Democrats’ dejection was no less palpable at the 1369 Coffee House in Inman Square.

“In Cambridge I’m surrounded by disappointed and upset people now so I’m not feeling that isolated,’’ Annabel Gill, shift manager at 1369, said Wednesday as she fashioned an elegant leaf design in the foam of a skim milk latte. “But it is a little unsettling to realize that more people in this state want to vote [Republican] than I would have suspected, so that does make me feel a little isolated.’’

This week, Coakley supporters in Cambridge gazed at the electoral aftermath beyond the Republic’s blue horizon and saw a political landscape they barely recognized.

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How liberal is Amherst? So liberal, reports the Telegraph, that the town has actually voted to welcome Guantanamo Detainees.

[The same Amherst is the first town] in the country to pass a resolution welcoming detainees from the prison on the US naval base on Cuba.

Amherst remains a liberal hot spot in a state that until the shock election of Republican Scott Brown to succeed Edward Kennedy in the Senate was regarded as reliably Democratic. …

Amherst wants to welcome any former terror suspects who have been cleared for release into its general population of 34,874.

It has set its sights on two men in particular who are languishing in Guantánamo unable prevented from returning to their home countries by the likelihood of maltreatment.

Ravil Mingazov, a former ballet dancer in the Russian army, said he was persecuted by the authorities because of his conversion to Islam. He travelled to Afghanistan in 2001 before his arrest in Pakistan in early 2002.

Also handed over to the Americans in Pakistan was Ahmed Belbacha, a 40-year-old Algerian accountant. Though deemed not to be a threat by the Pentagon in 2005, he asked to stay in Guantánamo because he so feared torture by his country’s security services. His lawyer has said he “would love to move to Amherst”.

Send them all to Amherst.

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