Archive for February, 2010
23 Feb 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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Ten rules (sometimes fewer) for writing fiction from Elmore Leonard, Dianna Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, P.D. James, AL Kennedy, Hilary Mantel, Michael Moorcock, Michael Morpurgo, Andrew Motion, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Will Self, Helen Simpson, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson.

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Col. George Washington, Foxhunter (Ralph Boyer, aquatint, Fathers of American Sport, Derrydale Press, 1931)

One day belated notice of the birthday of our neighbor and compatriot in the hunting fields of Clarke County, George Washington.

When he was 14 or 15 years old, George Washington copied out by hand 110 “Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.”

Washington’s maxims came from a translation of a treatise Bienseance de la Conversation entre les Hommes produced by the pensonnaires of the Jesuit Collège Royal Henry-Le-Grand at La Flèche in 1595. René Descartes studied at the same college just a few years later, 1607 to 1615.

The case of George Washington, I would suggest, can be taken to demonstrate that residence at Harvard, Yale, or even La Flèche is not an absolute requirement for leadership success or good manners.

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WSJ comments on the Obama plan to ram the health care bill through, damn the rules of the Senate and the wishes of the public.

The larger political message of this new proposal is that Mr. Obama and Democrats have no intention of compromising on an incremental reform, or of listening to Republican, or any other, ideas on health care. They want what they want, and they’re going to play by Chicago Rules and try to dragoon it into law on a narrow partisan vote via Congressional rules that have never been used for such a major change in national policy. If you want to know why Democratic Washington is “ungovernable,” this is it.

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David Brooks discovered that something has gone wrong with the meritocratic revolution, and wonders if this might have something to do with the new elite not being quite so meritorious as had been supposed.

[H]ere’s the funny thing. As we’ve made our institutions more meritocratic, their public standing has plummeted. We’ve increased the diversity and talent level of people at the top of society, yet trust in elites has never been lower.

It’s not even clear that society is better led. Fifty years ago, the financial world was dominated by well-connected blue bloods who drank at lunch and played golf in the afternoons. Now financial firms recruit from the cream of the Ivy League. In 2007, 47 percent of Harvard grads went into finance or consulting. Yet would we say that banks are performing more ably than they were a half-century ago?

Government used to be staffed by party hacks. Today, it is staffed by people from public policy schools. But does government work better than it did before?

Journalism used to be the preserve of working-class stiffs who filed stories and hit the bars. Now it is the preserve of cultured analysts who file stories and hit the water bottles. Is the media overall more reputable now than it was then?

The promise of the meritocracy has not been fulfilled. The talent level is higher, but the reputation is lower.

23 Feb 2010

The Liberal Double Standard

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Victor Davis Hanson admires the liberal double-standards by which Sarah Palin is a bumptious uneducated rube and John Edwards is a poor boy who made good, the war in Iraq was formerly a catastrophe and a failure and is now an major Obama Administration achievement, and locking up illegal combatants at Guantanamo was a crime against humanity, but increasing use of predator droneas in the role of judge-jury-and-executioner is perfectly fine. And he thinks he can explain.

So what explains the treatment of an Edwards versus Palin, or a war as lost versus one as necessary and well conducted, or Guantanamo for confessed terrorists as gulag but execution for suspected terrorists as legitimate, or Obama as principled hyper-partisan suddenly principled bipartisan?

The Usual Suspects

1) Egalitarianism and equality trump all—whether freedom, individualism, or personal liberty. Usually a great deal of education, or capital tends to convince us that in a perfect world, people like us who have money or have wisdom, could make others like us, rather than allow them to continue to suffer in poverty and ignorance.

This drive transcends the desire to contribute to charity, or to befriend the poorer neighbor or relative, but is cosmic in nature, overarching, all powerful, all-wise, and so by needs remote, So note here—and this is critical—the anointed utopian usually lives in a world—a better world— not subject to his own strictures. (Have Sarah Palin support abortion, call for cap and trade, or talk about the need for socialized medicine, and we would see inspirational stories of her fishing in waders to feed her below-the-poverty-line noble brood, not that she makes lots of money speaking).

Tax avoidance, ample square footage, ample energy use, networking, insider influence, prep schools for one’s progeny? All these are no more common or rare among crusading egalitarians than among elfish elitist conservatives. That raises the question—is utopianism naïve, or is it a psychological mechanism that serves not just to alleviate guilt, but perhaps even to contextualize one’s own privilege? E.g., “my riches are really used to help others and only incidentally provide me with an ample lifestyle, that of course, allows me to be an even more effective advocate.” Angels need ample wings.

The anointed ends always justifies contradictory means.

2) Power. The administration of mercy and compassion requires a properly gifted technocracy, often one well paid and quite influential. If hundreds of millions are to receive entitlements, millions must disperse them, and thousands must administer the millions, and hundreds must oversee the thousands—and that usually means a lot of money and power accrue to a very few. You object that those good billets only pay $150-200,000. Well, maybe, in theory, but there are perks, all sorts of tenure, and inside contacts that come with them—and none of the grief of running the furniture store or putting on braces all day. Big government can house all sorts of needy philanthropists.

The progressive impulse is often tied to career advancement.

3) Words matter, deeds don’t. The talking heads, the lawyers, the professors, the actors, the politicians the journalists, like the background of the president and most of his cabinet, mostly all work with words. If they sound smart, presto, they must be. Take a brilliant tongue-tied engineer and he is an ignoramus compared to an idiotic smooth talker. Much of the apparent hypocrisy derives from the best and brightest being smart because they advance that impression so well. John Edwards and Barack Obama are cases in point; they exude ignorance so smoothly. And that, in this often zero-sum game, beats real intelligence and experience that are so often hidden.

Abstract utopianism is best advanced is theory by those who worry less about implementation.

4) The tragic view is, well, tragic and hard to endure and does not excite. The notion that humans don’t surprise us in their selfish appetites is nothing to become excited about. The Enlightenment notion that we are all good and prove ourselves so with education and capital is something to sing, even yell, slander, and slur for. In contrast, accepting the need for military preparedness and deterrence, or removing the incentives for humans to become idle, is not something to write enthusiastically about. What teen-ager wants to hear from his dour father that you can’t print money, and that he must pay back his maxed out credit card?

It is fun and nice to be therapeutic, unpleasant and mean to accept tragedy.

Add all this up, hypocrisy vanishes, and revolutionary pigs walk on two legs in the farmhouse—an Edwards is mellifluous, puts his energy on behalf of those in the “other nation”, and is devoted to promoting a society where we are all about as wealthy as John Edwards, who uses his wealth for proper contemplation and preparation for further good deeds, and thus needs a castle of compassion. Given that, who cares that he is a congenial liar, lives one way, lectures another, helped destroy the practice of obstetrics in his home state, and took a great deal of money for doing very little? The former considerations alone count, the later are mere right wing talking points.

22 Feb 2010

Modernism, Not Workable Again

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I couldn’t find a decent photo of the interior courtyard of Morse, featuring the Morse Tower. They’ve planted some little trees, which get in the way now.

Morse College (along with Ezra Stiles) is one of two new residential colleges at Yale built circa 1961 featuring back-then very fashionable designs by Eero Saarinen, who whipped up a curious melange, alluding to medieval hill towns in Tuscany via a late 1950s marriage of George Nakashima to a comfy Disneyesque-version of Brutalist modern concrete architecture.

Students wound up receiving a basically ugly, somewhat industrial-looking modernist college with the sort of interior that might have been designed by communist hobbits… if communist hobbits had a lot of money. Their consolations were single rooms, and lots of expensive built in wood. The grain of the corridor doors in Morse was very striking, and I can tell you that back in the early 1970s at least half of the hirsute crowd of stoners in the Morse TV room could normally be found sitting facing away from the set engrossed in the grain patterns of the door. You could get wrecked just walking through that TV room.

One drawback of life in Morse was the fact that Saarinen had an aversion to right angles (too uncreative, I suppose), which produced peculiar room shapes. Two rooms in Morse College were notorious for having eleven walls, none of which was long enough to put the standard issue Yale bed against, while still allowing the resident to open the door.

Over the last decade, Yale has been “remodeling” (read: gutting and completely rebuilding) its residential colleges, completely revising floor plans and installing new PC green mechanicals, doubtless with an eye to packing in more students into less generous spaces.

At the present time, Morse is receiving its remodeling, which the Yale Daily News reports, once again, demonstrates just how feckless and irresponsible architects and the institutional administrators in the prosperous and happy 1960 era of Brutalism really were.

Though the college is built in the Modernist style, its aged facilities were anything but modern, [Evan] Yassky [of the Philadelphia-based architecture firm KieranTimberlake] said. Many of Morse’s internal systems, from electrical to fire safety, needed to be upgraded or replaced. An unexpected challenge was the difficulty of upgrading heating mechanisms inside the college because of the irregular angles of the buildings, Yassky said.

When the college was completed nearly 50 years ago, it was heated by means of hot water pipes cast into the concrete of the college’s floors. But some time in the 1980s, the pipes failed, and because they could not be pried out of the concrete, the University put together a slapdash set of above-ground heaters throughout Morse, said Chris Meyer of Turner Construction Company, the general superintendent of the current renovation. These were neither dependable nor particularly effective, he added.

Determined to get it right this time around, the University asked the architects at KieranTimberlake for a thorough overhaul of the heaters. But Morse’s irregular interior corners have turned the otherwise simple task of installing radiators around the rooms’ perimeters into a costly puzzle.

“It’s a challenge that I didn’t quite appreciate when we first started the project,” Yassky said. “It’s not like, instead of 90 degree angles, Saarinen used 70 or 80 degree angles. Every angle was different.”

Fitting each crooked corner with custom pipes would cost millions, Yassky said, so the firm modified the majority of the rooms to include more square corners for the heating. These new perpendicular walls are particularly noticeable inside the college’s new common rooms, where some walls have been opened or removed to create the suite-style residential spaces typical of Yale’s other colleges.

“It’s been a fascinating experience and intellectually stimulating to engage with Saarinen’s design,” Yassky said.

The most prestigious architects of that era could not be bothered to care about how someone a few decades down the road would have to effectuate a repair. Budgets were extravagant, the sky was the limit for materials and designs costs. “Let them tear it down and rebuild, when they need to fix a leaky pipe!” thought the great architect. The administrators never deigned to critique the genius’s design with an eye to how exactly someone was going to change the light bulb placed 50′ in the air or how anyone could repair heating pipes buried in concrete.

Modernist architecture was to buildings a lot like what liberal policy was to society: grandiose, gestural, dismissive of the past, narcissistically self-promotional, staggeringly costly, and totally impractical.

22 Feb 2010

Freedom Reduced to “New Dawn”

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An exhausted US soldier

David Bellavia, author of a combat memoir of the battle of Fallujah for which his platoon received a Presidential Unit Citation, House to House, served as a Staff Sergeant in the First Infantry Division, and was awarded personally the Silver Star and the Bronze Star.

Bellavia reacted with some emotion, in this must-read blog posting, to the decision, reported in the New York Times, of the current administration (most of whose members opposed the war in Iraq) to change the name of the US military mission in Iraq from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn.

In my house I have a desk that is almost never opened. I think the last time I looked at it was around three years ago. I opened it as soon as I read the New York Times article yesterday.

There this giant scrapbook sits, still with the pricetag across the top. My wife had made this book for me that contains just about everything I have ever done in the Army.

And every picture of my friends. The living . The dead. …

[A] page in the scrapbook has a clear acetate pouch. Stuffed inside is a thick, folded sheet of blue paper. An Iraqi ballot I stole on January 30th 2005.

The sound of mortar fire fills my ears. The desk dissolves. Suddenly, I’m kneeling on a road, a palm grove to my front. Iraq. Election Day 2005.

The bullets are flying.

My squad runs through the searing heat and forms a wall of flesh and Kevlar between the incoming fire and the citizens standing in line behind us. They’ve turned out in their finest clothes to wait for the opportunity to cast a vote. For most, this moment is a defining one in their lives. They’ve never had a voice before. This means something to them, and they have used the moment as an object lesson for their children. They appear nervous and take photos. The kids stand with them in line, viewing first hand this revolution in Iraqi civics.

As they came to line up earlier that morning, the men thanked us and clasped their hands over their heads, striking a triumphant pose. Some of the women cried. The kids were on their best behavior.

The gunfire began that afternoon. Insurgents started to shoot them. My unit ran to the road and formed a protective position between the killers and the citizens going to the polls. As we scanned the palm grove in front of us, bullets cracked and whined, then mortars start thumping around us. My squad pushed into the palm grove. I stayed on the road, overseeing their movement and coordinating the heavy fire from the Bradleys.

The firefight ebbs. The mortar fire ceases. A few last stray rounds streak past. A cry from behind causes me to turn. Lying in the road is a young Iraqi woman. I run over to help. She’s caught a round just below her temple. Her stunning beauty has been ruined forever.

She cries, “Paper! Paper” over and over until the ambulance arrives to take her away. An old lady emerges from the schoolhouse-turned voting site, sheets of blue paper in hand. She gives one to the wounded girl, who clutches it to her like a prized possession even as the ambulance carries her away.

The ballot was her voice. All she wanted was a chance to exercise it, just once, before she died.

The old woman returns to the school house, but drops another ballot along the way. It drifts in a gentle breeze across the bloodstained asphalt. I stoop down and pick it up. It is all in Arabic, and I have no idea what each set of candidates advocate. That’s not my place, and it doesn’t really matter. I helped make this day happen. This ballot represents the reason why we’re here, why my friends had to die.

Carefully, I fold the ballot up and put it in my pocket. Even though I was 29 at the time , I’d only voted once.

I had taken something so precious for granted for far too long.

Now, in the safety of my own house, thousands of miles from danger and violence, this little blue paper, still with dark speckles of that woman’s blood, sits tucked away in this scrapbook.

That young woman wanted nothing else than the chance to explore her newfound freedom. She didn’t beg for help, or plead for her life. Voting would become her final act. In that moment, she matched our own sacrifices. Denfrund, Carlson, Sizemore. Iwan. Gonzales. Mock.

Our friends died to secure this day. And here on this road in Diyala, I saw proof that the blood spilled in this backward country had value. It made the cause noble and just. This may not mean much to someone who stands in opposition to our fight, but it is the legacy of our fallen. The honor of their sacrifice.

They gave their lives for others like me to come home. They died trying to preserve freedom for this woman.

They confronted those who wished to dominate a people in the name of violence and religion, who wished to destroy our culture and way of life. Even if most Americans may not understand who or what we fight, these men not only believed, many reenlisted to continue the fight until the war was won.

I came home in search of that woman’s spirit in the hearts of my fellow Americans. I came home expecting to find the sacrifice of these brave patriots revered at every turn by those who overwhelmingly sent us to war from Washington.

I’m still looking.

It would not be hard to come up with the right name for the American left’s consistent efforts to undermine the legitimacy of, destroy domestic support for, military efforts in which other American laid down their lives, either in the Vietnam era or during the war in Iraq. It’s easy to understand former Sergeant Bellavia’s bitterness at seeing his comrades sacrifices for the cause of freedom renamed and trivialized by precisely the same people on the homefront who did their best to ensure their failure.

21 Feb 2010

Skeet Shooting With a Tank

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An Australian “Carlton Dry Dreams” commercial for Carlton Dry beer. 0:59 Video

I think what they are doing is actually closer to Trap Shooting, but….

21 Feb 2010

Nobody Wants Obamacare Restrictions For Themselves

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Marc Schenker observes that New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, when stricken himself, did not actually follow the policies his vote in favor of Obamacare would impose on you.

After falling in his home—which was later confirmed was due to blood loss from an ulcer, which in turn led to a diagnosis of stomach cancer—he retained consciousness and so was able to call an ambulance. Here’s where his hypocrisy will enter into the fray in the most blatant way possible.

The directions he gave to the ambulance—to take him to Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Medical Center—failed to accurately reflect or fairly correspond to his vote for the deficit-raising disaster known as Obamacare that he voted for on December 24, 2009, in the Senate. You see, according to a Fox News senior judicial analyst—oh, no one credible…just judge Andrew Napolitano!—such a directive would’ve been expressly disallowed under Obamacare, were it to pass. The reason for said disallowance is the provision in the Obamacare bill that doesn’t let directions for ambulances stray outside their “local catchment area.” Such an area is defined, basically, as an area from which an individual service attracts visitors or customers. Ergo, an ambulance called by Lautenberg from Cliffside Park, New Jersey, would attract “customers” from the same region, so driving all the way to Manhattan would be a big no-no! What we have here is a clear-cut case of the Democrats shamelessly engaging in what they do best: Do as I say, not as I do!!!

Lautenberg voted for a disastrous bill that would’ve denied the right for every American to choose a hospital of their liking in just such a situation, yet he saw no problem with picking a hospital he perceived to be better than local ones in New Jersey.

21 Feb 2010

Mossad Hit Team in the Bedroom With the Current from the Lamp

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Al-Mabhouh approaches his room, a couple of tennis players just behind him.

Spite and malice time.

What do you do when a foreign intelligence service breezes into your capital, takes out a Hamas arms procurer, and disappears, leaving you with egg all over your face? If you are the security service of Dubai, you leak as many of the after the fact details of identities and tradecraft as you can to the international press. If you can’t stop them and you can’t catch them, at least, you can spill everything you know.

The Daily Mail, as the result, is able to publish the answers to the game of Clue being played by an amused international audience.

The hit squad behind the assassination of a Hamas commander in a Dubai hotel tried to make his death look like an accident by electrocuting him with a bedside lamp.

Police sources said the killers, who used fake British passports, tried to ‘induce the effects of a heart attack’ before smothering Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh with a pillow in his room.

It is understood that the lamp was taken apart and the wiring attached to a device that pulsed electricity into his body. …

[T]he fake British passports used by the killers had been secretly copied by Tel Aviv airport immigration officials.

The Israeli ambassador to London has been accused of ‘stonewalling’ all attempts to find out how the killers had the passports.

But the Foreign Office has been told that all six of the genuine passport holders – all residents in Israel – had their documents briefly taken away at the airport during routine checks.

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The London Times speculates that Meir Dagan’s job as head of Mossad may be in jeopardy as the result of the indignation of Western governments over the forged passports.

All the publicity is doubtless inconvenient, and Mossad will inevitably be obliged to lie low for a bit, avoiding the kind of Black Operations that would fuel the continuation of the Shocked, Shocked! meme, but in the long run a reputation for ruthlessness combined with competence, daring, and efficiency will not really do the state of Israel’s intelligence service much harm.

20 Feb 2010

Covert and Incorrect

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Paul Mirengoff, at Power Line, mocks the politically correct Pecksniffery on the part of certain Euopean powers about passports and the mysterious demise of Hamas weapons-runner Mahmoud-al-Mabhouh in Dubai at the hands of person or persons unknown.

Great Britain is unhappy that six of the 11 individuals thought to be part of the Mossad (or whomever) team used fake British passports bearing the names of Israeli citizens. Prime Minister Gordon Brown sniffed that “the British passport is an important document that has got to be held with care.” However, I’m confident that if the agents had possessed real British passports, they would have held them carefully.

The [Washington] Post also reports that Israeli citizens whose names appeared on the fake passports were “shocked to find themselves mentioned in the material released by the Dubai police.” No doubt. Israel’s position, though, is that “if there is concern about identity theft, those involved should consult a lawyer.” Always good advice.

But passport fraud and identity theft hardly exhaust the ways in which the slaying of Mabhouh affronts modern sensibilities. For example, the photos of the 11 suspects raise questions about the diversity of the team Mossad (or whomever) assembled. It includes only one woman (an attractive blond,naturally) and looks to be short on people of color.

There is also no indication that the team advised Mabhouh of his rights or offered him a chance to exculpate himself before he was killed. Indeed, from all that appears, no lawyer was present.

Finally, what about the carbon footprint of the operation? Did the team travel to Dubai in an energy efficient way? And how much electricity did they use once they arrived? Some reports say they used electricity to stun Mabhouh before killing him. Couldn’t he have been executed in a more energy efficient way?

A certain amount of nastiness is inevitable in today’s world. But this doesn’t mean that protocol, equal opportunity, and principles of good environmental stewardship should fall by the wayside.

20 Feb 2010

“It’s Back!”

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After the monster is finally dispatched in the dramatic climax of the conventional exemplar of Hollywood’s scary movie genre, when the nerves of the mass audience begin to relax, pulse rates slowdown, and theater-goers are expecting the final credits to arrive any moment on the screen, it has become traditional for directors to have a little fun by confounding expectations, setting aside all considerations of plausibility, and having the recently slain monster come right back to life and attack (and be dispatched) all over again.

One of the most impressive riffs on this by-now only too familiar trope is performed by Jon Voight, playing a murderous hunter in Anaconda (1997). Voight’s Paul Sarone comes a cropper, winding up in the coils of the giant anaconda. He is squeezed until his bones audibly break, and then ingested while the audience gets a view right down the alimentary passage of the giant reptile. We think we’ve seen the last of the heartless and relentless Sarone, but no, moments later, the snake regurgitates the villain, all covered with digestive juices, who –in one of trash cinema’s moments of genius, proceeds to wink at a truly horrified Jennifer Lopez.

2:14 (Spanish-subtitled) video

It appears that, in the same unappetizing style of curtain call made well known by Jon Voight, the health care bill may be coming back.

New York Times:

President Obama will put forward comprehensive health care legislation intended to bridge differences between Senate and House Democrats ahead of a summit meeting with Republicans next week, senior administration officials and Congressional aides said Thursday.

Democratic officials said the president’s proposal was being written so that it could be attached to a budget bill as a way of averting a Republican filibuster in the Senate. The procedure, known as budget reconciliation, would let Democrats advance the bill with a simple majority rather than a 60-vote supermajority.

Congressional Democrats, however, have not yet seen the proposal or signed on.

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I don’t agree one bit with Ezra Klein‘s claim of the public option being popular in the country, but here you see what the democrat party left is telling itself as it winks (from its current moribund position) at a horrified American voting public.

What you’re seeing here are the weird politics of the public option at play. It’s popular in the country. It’s wildly popular among the base. It’s the subject of obsessive interest in the media. There is little downside to supporting it publicly, huge downside to opposing it, and no one is allowed to ignore the issue, or even take a few days to see where the votes are.

But it’s divisive on the Hill. Bringing it back energizes all the narratives that Democrats fear most: That they’re cutting secret deals without Republicans in the room, that they’re building an extremist bill, that health-care reform is a government takeover. And this is all happening without 60 votes in the Senate or even certainty of simple majorities in the Congress. Democrats have spent the last month in a state of agonized confusion, and just as matters were clarifying, now this battle threatens to start up again.

No one I’ve spoken to — even when they support the public option — thinks that its reemergence is good news for health-care reform. It won’t be present in the package that the White House will unveil Monday. Everyone seems to be hoping this bubble will be short-lived.

But it might not be. The media is talking about it, liberals are organizing around it, none of the major actors feels politically capable of playing executioner, and Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson don’t have the power to do the job on their own. As of now, the strategy only has 20 or so supporters, and it’ll need at least another 20 or 25 to really be viable. But if it gets there, White House and Senate leadership are going to have some hard calls to make.

So, there you are. The democrat party base sees no downside, in ramming through a health care bill opposed by 58% of the American public via an unprecedented ultra-partisan maneuver around the conventional rules and procedures of the United States Senate.

It remains to be seen whether the parliamentarian of the Senate will permit the de facto elimination of the filibuster, and it is probably not altogether certain that Reid can muster even the 51 votes he would need to take that ultra-radical step.

If the democrats have the hubris to do all this, well, we will see just how well they like being in the minority in a Republican-controlled Senate with no filibuster. The first thing we should do is to repeal Obamacare, and kill the monster of socialism permanently and for the last time.

19 Feb 2010

Racial Socialism

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James Lewis, at American Thinker, identifies precisely what Barack Obama is all about.

The United States today has slipped toward race-based socialism: That’s the true name for an overwhelming bias for one race above others, in employment, promotion, and educational opportunities. Our media are constantly stirring the witch’s brew of racial grievances, constantly making black people feel aggrieved and white people feel accused. Our schools drive that lesson home with young and innocent kids in a totally ruthless way. Repeat that for twelve years of schooling and TV, and you have a brainwashed kid.

That is what European socialists have done with class envy for the last hundred years: whip up the poor against the middle and the rich. It’s in their standard bag of tricks. The American Left has just added racial grievances to class anger and resentment, always feeding more and more power to the racial socialists to buy peace for the very grievances they have whipped up in the first place. …

We are no longer a society run by talent, work, and opportunity. Like ancient Egypt and Sumer, we are a society where the ruling class exploits its productive workers by taxing their labor, talent, and ability to recognize and use new opportunities.

Barack H. Obama is the logical outcome of racial socialism. You can see it in his words and actions, and his very physical stance, all signaling his sense of superiority, the flip-side of feelings of inferiority he is reacting against. Obama’s core support came from the Leftist alliance of grievance groups in spite of his total lack of relevant experience. Obama is objectively the least qualified person to be elected to the presidency. But the media could not say that, because it would have been non-P.C. to tell the truth.

Obama’s election was a kind of guilt propitiation by the American people for the history of slavery. But that is bizarre. Living people are not responsible for what others did two hundred years ago.

Read the whole thing.

19 Feb 2010

“Assuming, Just For the Sake of Argument…”

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The Jerusalem Post is defiantly sarcastic in its response to indignation over the presumptive Mossad use of forged passports.

The pigheaded refusal to acknowledge that sometimes the ends justify the means reflects Europe’s moral impoverishment.

Dahu Khalfan Tamim now has a world-class reputation for detective work. The head of the Dubai police swiftly determined that Hamas’s Mahmoud Mabhouh did not die of natural causes at the five-star Bustan Rotana Hotel on Jan. 20. He was assassinated.

Let’s for the sake of argument grant that Israel did away with Mabhouh; that he was not killed by Iran or over some intra-Palestinian dispute, and that clues pointing to Israeli culpability are genuine.

Mabhouh certainly deserved to be assassinated by Israel. Hamas declared war on Israel. And he co-founded its military wing and was personally involved in the (separate) 1989 killings of IDF soldiers Ilan Sa’adon and Avi Sasportas.

Mabhouh was a key link in the unlawful syndicate which delivers Iranian weapons to Gaza. He was apparently tasked with importing an arsenal that would make life hellish for Israelis living in metropolitan Tel Aviv. He was, perhaps, Hamas’s equivalent to Hizbullah’s Imad Mughniyeh, whose car blew up in Damascus two years ago.

You can tell a great deal about the moral compass and political leanings of a society by observing its reaction to the Mabhouh liquidation.

There is unease in Europe because the purported assassins identified by Dubai were travelling under forged French, German, Irish and British passports; and identities of Israelis with dual-citizenship were utilized.

Even The Times of London, whose editorial page has been sympathetic toward Israel, expressed chagrin over the affair, saying this country had shown poor regard for the “future security of British passport holders overseas.” Frankly, there is little reason to think that the tradecraft employed in this assassination – which we will not second guess at this stage – jeopardizes anyone.

Actually, what troubles us is the question of whose passport Mabhouh was traveling under and why he was allowed to enter neutral Dubai on gun-running business.

Of course, that’s not how the British see it. The BBC’s Jeremy Bowen warned that if Israel had used British passports for “nefarious” purposes – meaning sending Mabhouh to his Maker – Bowen expected, or would it be more accurate to say, hoped for, “a crisis” in relations betweenLondon and Jerusalem.

The Guardian quoted a Foreign Office mandarin as gloating: “Relations were in the freezer before this. They are in the deep freeze now.” The paper then grumbled about the British government’s “supine” response to the assassination, editorializing against the government’s proposal to lift the threat of lawfare. The Guardian wants visiting Israeli ministers to continue to worry about facing Palestinian-inspired “war crimes” charges.

With the British media delighting in the assassination-passport kerfuffle – a Daily Mail headline screamed: “Dragged into a Mossad murder plot” – Menzies Campell, a routinely anti-Israel elder of the Liberal Democrats, declared that “Israel has some explaining to do.”

An anyway beleaguered Prime Minister Gordon Brown intoned: “We have got to carry out a full investigation into this. The British passport is an important document that has got to be held with care.” Sentiments echoed by Opposition Leader David Cameron. …

Perhaps the shrill reaction in some (though certainly not all) British quarters is not rooted purely in anti-Israelism. Chances are that at least parts of the British intelligentsia and media would have reacted similarly if the man in that hotel room had been Osama bin Laden… or Adolf Eichmann.

One has to admire especially the delightfullly humorous, cat-ate-the-canary “Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Israel did away with Mabhouh” line. I bet that champagne corks are popping still in secluded rest and recreation facilities used by Mossad operatives obliged by circumstances to remain in hiding and out of the public eye.

Of course, the Jerusalem Post is perfectly correct. The British and European press ought to be editorializing piously about how naughty people who traffic in weapons used to attack innocent civilians need to expect to come to premature ends at the hands of persons unknown, instead of striking poses of feigned indignation over the profaned sanctity of travel identification documents.

18 Feb 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

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That Skull and Bones balloting box was not actually sold. Apparently, Christie’s withdrew it from the sale late last month, IvyGate reports, after receiving a mysterious “title claim.” The Russell Trust has plenty of lawyers.

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Hot Air (one of the most important conservative blogs) has been sold to Salem Communications. Congratulations and good luck.

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As part of the Carnival celebration, preceding the beginning of Lent, in the Spanish village of Laza, “Peliqueiros” or ancient tax collectors, are portrayed wearing warning cowbells and prepared to beat the villagers with sticks. 39 Carnival photos.

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Stratfor: Tradecraft in Dubai Assassination
3:14 video

18 Feb 2010

No Rescues Contrary to Regulation

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The Telegraph reports that a week ago today, West Mercia police, obedient to safety regulations, left a five-year-old trapped in a submerged car for close to two hours waiting for properly-trained specialists to arrive.

The five-year-old girl, her-six year-old brother and their father Chris Grady were in the car when it plunged into the river Avon in Evesham, Worcestershire, on Thursday morning.

Mr Grady and his son Ryan, managed to escape from the submerged car. They were helped clear by police officers on the riverbank.

However, Mr Grady’s daughter, Gabrielle, was trapped inside the vehicle for 97 minutes before the closest police dive team, based in the next county, could arrive. The divers then took a further 12 minutes to rescue her.

The officers already on the scene were prevented from diving in earlier to rescue her by police safety regulations.

The little girl remained in a critical state in hospital yesterday while her brother yesterday began to make a recovery.

He was well enough to sit up in bed and talk to family at his bedside.

West Mercia police admitted last night that safety regulations barred normal police officers from jumping into rivers to try to save people.

A police spokesman said the closest available police dive team was Avon and Somerset constabulary.

“Their team arrived within 97 minutes of the original request being made.

“Once they had arrived it took only a further 12 minutes to rescue the child from the submerged vehicle.

“At the time of the original request Avon and Somerset Dive Team were involved in an underwater search for a missing person in Gloucestershire.

“Police officers are not trained or equipped to enter rivers in order to rescue people.

“They are trained and equipped to make rescues from riverbanks.

“The risk involved in untrained and ill-equipped officers entering the water in these circumstances are generally too high to contemplate.

The American Pseudo-Intelligentsia desires above all things that the United States should become ever more like Europe. The tragedy in Worcestershire demonstrates that the brave new Progressive world all tidily ruled over and arranged into order by centralized authority leaves no room for initiative, improvisation, and reckless courage, no room for humanity. Yet, in a real emergency, it is precisely the unruly individual, the human being willing to risk everything and to ignore the rulebook, that makes the critical difference. They’ve done an excellent job of eliminating people like that in the socialist bureaucracies of modern Europe, including Britain.

18 Feb 2010

Mount Vernon Statement

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Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.
— Horace, Ars Poetica, 139

A number of prominent big-time Conservative Movement figures have been working for over a year on the text of a new Conservative Manifesto, apparently intended to represent a set of defining principles for a new Tea Party Movement-associated national coalition.

One can tell exactly how old a lot of these people are by the fact that the new manifesto is an obvious take-off on M. Stanton’s Evans’s famous Sharon Statement, written in 1960 as the guiding principles of the newly founded Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). 1960’s YAF-ers are the senior citizens of 2010, and the Mount Vernon Statement is, by comparison, intentionally cagey and coy, trying to point eloquently in the general direction of some never explicitly identified “ideas of the American Founding” in as discreet and noncommittal a manner as humanly possible.

The Conservative Movement is, of course, already a tent covering an unruly collection of highly opinionated, intensely argumentative camels, representing very different libertarian and traditionalist strains of conservative opinion, who don’t necessarily like one another very much. Attempting to include an inchoate mass of centrist independents, mostly inclined toward fiscal conservatism but in general lacking any particular enthusiasm for censorious social conservatism was bound to represent a challenge.

One can sympathize with the difficulty of the drafters’ task, however, without being carried away with admiration for their results. The Mount Vernon Statement ended up proposing more syntactical than philosophical occasions for controversy. The fingerprints of an overly large committee are all over it, and though it carefully avoids affront (except to those who care about good prose), it also never particularly inspires.

Its intentionally marmorial, issued in a from-atop-the-mountaintop, inscribed-by-the-finger-of-God, style of presentation seemed a bit incongruous in the light of the missing line feed 8 paragraphs from the bottom. Doesn’t God proofread his tablets anymore?

Michelle Malkin
, who is today a lot more significant a conservative figure than just about any of the Mount Vernon Statement signers (except perhaps Richard Viguerie), raises the very valid issue of the appropriateness of David Keene and Grover Norquist appearing these days in this particular kind of role.

Dave Keene has been involved in questionable lobbying activities, supported Arlen Specter, and has come out in favor of civilian trials for terrorists like KSM.

Grover Norquist has moved in an alarming direction in recent years, developing ties to Islamist organizations, and (along with Keene) participating in the Constitution Project, a group taking liberal pro-jihadist rights positions.

The appearance of either Keene or Norquist in major Conservative Movement leadership roles at the present time is unacceptable to a great many Conservatives, and their participation in the drafting of Conservative manifestos was inappropriate.

I don’t happen to agree with Michelle Malkin on Immigration but, in my book, Michelle Malkin does speak for the mainstream Conservative Movement on the overwhelming majority of issues, and David Keene and Grover Norquist no longer do.

The Mount Vernon Statement

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Richard Viguerie agrees with me, describing the Mount Vernon Statement as “pablum.”

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