Archive for March, 2010
31 Mar 2010

Pursuing His Legacy

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Shelby Steele reflects on the irony inherent in Barack Obama’s need to pursue his personal star by ramming socialism down a center right nation’s throat.

Of the two great societal goals—freedom and “the good”—freedom requires a conservatism, a discipline of principles over the good, limited government, and so on. No way to grandiosity here. But today’s liberalism is focused on “the good” more than on freedom. And ideas of “the good” are often a license to transgress democratic principles in order to reach social justice or to achieve more equality or to lessen suffering. The great political advantage of modern liberalism is its offer of license on the one hand and moral innocence—if not superiority—on the other. Liberalism lets you force people to buy health insurance and feel morally superior as you do it. Power and innocence at the same time.

This is an old formula for power, last used effectively on the presidential level by Lyndon Johnson. But Johnson’s Great Society was grasping for moral authority after the civil rights movement. I doubt any white president could use it effectively today, and even ObamaCare passed by only a three vote margin in the House and with no Republican support at all. Worse, in the end, it passed not to bring the nation better health care but to pull a flailing Democratic presidency back from the brink.

There has always been a narcissistic charge around Mr. Obama, the sense that in embracing him one was embracing something special in oneself—and possibly even a larger idea of human perfectibility. Every politician wants this capacity to attract identification. But it is also a trap. What happens when people are embarrassed for having seen themselves in you?

The old fashioned, big government liberalism that Mr. Obama uses to make himself history-making also alienates him in the center-right America of today. It makes him the most divisive president in memory—a president who elicits narcissistic identification on the one hand and an enraged tea party movement on the other. His health-care victory has renewed his narcissistic charge for the moment, but if he continues to be a 1965 liberal it will become more and more impossible for Americans to see themselves in him.

Mr. Obama’s success has always been ephemeral because it was based on an illusion: that if we Americans could transcend race enough to elect a black president, we could transcend all manner of human banalities and be on our way to human perfectibility. A black president would put us in a higher human territory. And yet the poor man we elected to play out this fantasy is now torturing us with his need to reflect our grandiosity back to us.

31 Mar 2010

Anonymous Democrat Senator: “Health Care Bill Was Political Folly”

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Howard Fineman, at Newsweek, notes that polls confirm democrats will pay a terrible price for their leaderships hubris in enacting a major radical measure in defiance of public sentiment.

A Democratic senator I can’t name, who reluctantly voted for the health-care bill out of loyalty to his party and his admiration for Barack Obama, privately complained to me that the measure was political folly, in part because of the way it goes into effect: some taxes first, most benefits later, and rate hikes by insurance companies in between.

Besides that, this Democrat said, people who already have coverage will feel threatened and resentful about helping to cover the uninsured—an emotion they will sanitize for the polltakers into a concern about federal spending and debt.

On the day the president signed into law the “fix-it” addendum to the massive health-care measure, two new polls show just how fearful and skeptical Americans are about the entire enterprise. If the numbers stay where they are—and it’s not clear why they will change much between now and November—then the Democrats really are in danger of colossal losses at the polls.

31 Mar 2010

“Tune in, Iran”

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An unnamed (presumably liberal) official working in non-proliferation comments with indignation about Iran’s refusal to stop building nukes despite futile efforts by the current administration to bribe and cajole them into cooperating. The new CIA Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center 721 report makes it clear that they are ignoring the Obama Administration, the UN, and bien pensant liberals everywhere and going right ahead with developing all the WMD and delivery systems they can. Members of the comfortable and contented Western haute bourgeois establishment consistently indulge in the fallacy of supposing that foreign adversaries of the United States are at heart reasonable, well-meaning people like themselves who underneath it all really just want to get along with everyone. Of course, despotic totalitarian regimes don’t want to get along, they want to win.

Bill Gertz reports:

Iran is poised to begin producing nuclear weapons after its uranium program expansion in 2009, even though it has had problems with thousands of its centrifuges, according to a newly released CIA report.

“Iran continues to develop a range of capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so,” the annual report to Congress states.

A U.S. official involved in countering weapons proliferation said the Iranians are “keeping the door open to the possibility of building a nuclear weapon.”

“That’s in spite of strong international pressure not to do so, and some difficulties they themselves seem to be having with their nuclear program,” the official said. “There are powerful incentives for them to close the door completely, but they are either purposefully ignoring them or are tone deaf. You almost want to shout, ‘Tune in Tehran.'” …

During the first 11 months of last year, the main uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz produced about 1.8 tons of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride, compared with about half a ton the previous year.

The number of centrifuges at Natanz increased from about 5,000 to 8,700 last year, although the number reported to be working is about 3,900, indicating the Iranians are having problems with the machines. The centrifuges enrich uranium gas by spinning it at high speeds.

Last year, Iran disclosed it is building a second gas-centrifuge plant near the city of Qom that will house an estimated 3,000 machines. U.S. officials have said the Qom facility, which was discovered in 2007, is a clear sign Iran’s nuclear program is geared toward producing weapons, because the facility is too small for nonmilitary uranium enrichment.

Iran also continued work last year on a heavy water research reactor.

On missiles, the report said Iran is building more short- and medium-range ballistic missiles and stated that “producing more capable medium-range ballistic missiles remains one of its highest priorities.”

Three test flights of a new 1,240-mile-range Sejil missile were conducted in 2009, the report said, noting that assistance from China, North Korea and Russia “helped move Iran toward self-sufficiency in the production of ballistic missiles.”

The report also said that Iran has the capability of producing both chemical and biological weapons, and Tehran continued to seek dual-use technology for its bioweapons program.

30 Mar 2010

How Much Do Liberals Resemble Terrorists?

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Quite a lot, Frank J. Fleming opines:

[B]oth groups employ the strategy of suicide attacks. Terrorists will kill themselves to hurt Americans for the promise of sexy dames in the afterlife. Liberals in Congress appear willing to commit political suicide by cramming an unpopular health care bill down America’s throat for the promise of later living in a utopia where all the smart people like them get to make all the big decisions for everybody — the secular version of paradise.

Read the whole thing.

30 Mar 2010

The New Rules of Racial Tolerance

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Victor Davis Hanson notices with alarm all the changes a year under the current regime as produced in America. It’s like waking up in an Invasion of the Bodysnatchers movie for him. Part of the strangeness is a new bipolar concept of racial tolerance, entirely different for Republicans and democrats.

There is a new racial tension not present a year ago, one having nothing to do with the election of the nation’s first President of partial African ancestry. Instead, never in my experience have officials of the federal government, both in the campaign leading up to their governance and once in office, so deliberately chosen to polarize the country along racial lines.

In retrospect, it seems a sort of nightmare these now serial outbursts of our officials — “typical white person,” “clingers,” “cowards,” police who “stereotype” and act “stupidly,” “wise Latina,” “white polluters,” framed by the President’s pastor and once spiritual Audacity-of-Hope mentor screaming “God D— America,” bookended by hyper-racial comments of a Harry Reid or Joe Biden about Negro accents and cleanliness.

And, of course, soon followed the slurs and smears of those in the media accusing almost every opponent at sometime of being a “racist,” a word that now has as much currency as a German Mark around 1929.

Opposition to health care, cap and trade, illegal immigration, everything I think soon, is being reformulated as antipathy to some sort of Civil Rights issues akin to the legislation of the 1960s. Almost daily now a major media columnist writes an essay alleging someone is racist, or there are subtle racist thoughts behind a type of opposition or protest. “Racist” is a 1950s sort of allegation, an instantaneous judge/jury/executioner/no-appeal condemnation. How Orwellian that the most racist members of American society, who built entire careers of fabricating evidence and defaming opponents — an Al Sharpton, for example — have become go-to national referees of suspected bias. How weirder that one just pledges allegiance to the new agenda, and suddenly one is both more likely to say something racist in Reid- or Biden-fashion, and yet it is not racist at all.

30 Mar 2010

Two Song Parodies

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“You Picked a Fine Time to Lead Us, Barack”

3:16 video

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“Banking Queen” – a song tribute to Barney Frank by Paul Shanklin.

3:16 video

30 Mar 2010

National Healthcare Passed and Repealed Before

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W. James Antle III reminds us that a complex, poorly understood national health care bill was already passed only to be repealed, decades ago.

Unlike President Obama’s recent health care handiwork, the 1988 law was a genuinely bipartisan achievement passed by lopsided margins. It was signed into law by a Republican president, Ronald Reagan. It offered all kinds of new benefits, including expanded coverage of hospital stays, at-home care, and prescription drugs (the act was in some respects of a forerunner of Medicare Part D).

The Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act was nevertheless repealed a year later. No change in partisan control of Washington was necessary—the repeal was passed by a Democratic Congress and signed into law by another Republican president, George H.W. Bush. The repeal turned out to be most popular with the elderly voters who had demanded the new benefits in the first place.

Why? In addition to creating new benefits, the reform also imposed staggering new costs. Those costs fell most heavily on the senior citizens who were supposed to be the program’s biggest constituency. But, congressional Democrats were astonished to learn, many of these seniors were happy with their existing coverage and resented having to pay a new tax to fund this expansion of government—costs which kicked in before many of the benefits.

Sound familiar? The similarities don’t end there. Members of Congress also had to hear from angry mobs opposed to the legislation, otherwise known as their constituents. The most memorable such incident occurred on Aug. 17, 1989, when House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) held a meeting in his district to sell seniors on the benefits of the catastrophic coverage act.

Instead of being won over by their powerful congressman, the angry seniors waved protest signs and ran him out of the room. As Rostenkowski fled, they shouted “coward,” “recall,” and “impeach.” One elderly woman wearing heart-shaped glasses even threw herself on the hood of Rostenkowski’s car to keep him from leaving.

Rostenkowski got out of the car and tried to escape on foot. The crowd chased him for about a block before his driver came to whisk him away. Imagine what would be said if the Tea Party movement did something like that. Instead the protest was organized by one Jan Schakowsky, then director of the Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens, now a Democratic congresswoman and chief deputy whip for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The protest made the national news and graced the front pages of newspapers. It also had its desired affect—the catastrophic coverage act was repealed within three months.

The 1988 legislative debacle did not resemble this year’s bill with respect to partisanship or initial public support. Democrats had no problem getting Republican votes, and the public was behind it.

However, 1988 does resemble 2010 with respect to the same kind of irresponsible drafting of a dreadfully large and complex bill that was voted into law without serious consideration of its costs and effects. It backfired then, and a lot of people would predict that the new health care bill will prove in practice similarly distressing to many of its intended beneficiaries.

30 Mar 2010

Just Like Europe

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There are certain little details that bring home to traveler the fact that he really is in a foreign country. One of these which frequently strikes Americans is the way, in European countries where the citizens are typically completely legally disarmed, the cops stroll around carrying machine guns.

The American thinks of his own police armed normally only with a pistol, and feels something akin to the way the Edwardian Englishman did about living in a country in which police officers only carried a truncheon.

Well, the recent Moscow subway bombings provoked New York City authorities to leap into action and dispatch an elite squad of officers with helmets, goggles, and fully automatic M16 assault rifles to ride the city’s subway trains.

That will show those terrorists! Try reaching under your clothing to detonate your suicide vest, and that Hercules squad stormtrooper will pull his goggles down, check to see that his body armor is securely fastened, and then spray the entire car with high velocity .223 rounds. After that, it won’t even be necessary to use the bomb.

I find the machine gun-toting cops on New York subways development symbolically appropriate. We are, after all, now just one more European-style welfare state committed to cradle to the grave benefits for everyone. We prefer equality to opportunity and growth. The state is our keeper. Our cops should all have machine guns. The state is our master and they are its representatives. They require enormous firepower to keep all of us in line.

New York Post

29 Mar 2010

Why Is It That…?

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Retriever asks:

Why do the Democrats always blame America for whatever we did to provoke it when terrorists attack us, but fail to look to themselves when Americans are righteously angry about Democratic policies…

29 Mar 2010

54% Favor Repeal

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Remember how the commentators on the left were predicting that the voters would change their minds and start liking Obamacare, once it was passed?

Rassmussen‘s latest poll demonstrates otherwise.

One week after the House of Representatives passed the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats, 54% of the nation’s likely voters still favor repealing the new law. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 42% oppose repeal.

Those figures are virtually unchanged from last week. They include 44% who Strongly Favor repeal and 34% who Strongly Oppose it.

Repeal is favored by 84% of Republicans and 59% of unaffiliated voters. Among white Democrats, 25% favor repeal, but only one percent (1%) of black Democrats share that view.

Only 17% of all voters believe the plan will achieve one of its primary goals and reduce the cost of health care. Most (55%) believe it will have the opposite affect and increase the cost of care.

Forty-nine percent (49%) believe the new law will reduce the quality of care. Sixty percent (60%) believe it will increase the federal budget deficit. Those numbers are consistent with expectations before the bill was passed.

29 Mar 2010

New Front Yard

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View from driveway near house looking toward gate

My wife and I had a bit of bad luck. When we moved to Virginia about three years ago, the real estate market was still high, and we had to pay through the nose for our current house. Values have plummeted, we’re a lot poorer than we used to be, and we concluded we would do better to take our losses on this particular real estate deal and move on.

Happily, we have found a new place. We’re moving to a smaller, but much older, house. The good news is that we are leaving six acres and moving to 131 acres, and the new place is a lot cheaper. You go through some stone gates and drive a few hundred yards before you even see the house. Karen was over at the new farm the other day, getting the invisible dog fencing installed, and along came the Old Dominion Hounds, hunting across our new property. (We know them and have been out with them on joint meets before).

Old Dominion descends from a private pack which used to be called Mr. Larrabee’s Hounds. Their button bears a griffin because they used to hold opening meets at the Griffin Tavern in Flint Hill. Mr. Larrabee founded his hunt back in 1924, at which time there was a shortage of foxes down in Fauquier County. So Mr. Larrabee imported a male European red deer, and proceeded (in the English fashion) to hunt the carted stag. I’ve run into old people who could remember the stag and the pack of hounds trotting home to kennels, companionably together, down the dirt roads after a day of hunting. Old Dominion’s country today includes the former territory of the Cobbler Hunt, whose MFH before WWII was George S. Patton, Jr. Our basset pack hunts the same territory. Appropriately for a skeptical person like myself, I will be moving to a town called Hume. We are still marveling at having moved so recently to Virginia, and finding ourselves not only hunt members but owners of a fixture. We’ll get to serve port and ham biscuits to the Old Dominion crowd when they meet at our place.

I have already concluded that Confederate forces could very possibly have bivouacked on our place on the way to the Second Battle of Manassas. I look forward to bringing in the metal detecting crowd. I’ll be a short distance from the Rappahannock (the shad and striped bass run into the river in the Spring) and there are brook trout in the upper reaches of the Rapidan. We may be in an economic depression and living in Obamistan, but things could be worse.

29 Mar 2010

GE Celebrates Ronald Reagan Centennial

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Ronald Wilson Reagan, February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004

General Electric is airing a very nice and truly well-deserved tribute to the greatest president of the last century.

0:32 video

I remember the scene as Ronald Reagan’s funeral cortege wound its way up the narrow road to his resting place at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. One local woman was filmed by the news cameras holding up a sign which spoke for all of us. It read “WELL DONE.”

29 Mar 2010

Moving

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Stucco over fieldstone Antebellum Virginia farmhouse

We’re moving deeper into Virginia, leaving our current home with six acres atop the Blue Ridge for a 131 acre farm in Fauquier County not far from the Rappahannock. The moving process is a bit of an ordeal, and I’ll be busy sorting books and packing up breakable collectibles myself for days. Blogging will be intermittent and sparse, I’m afraid, pretty much all week. My apologies.

28 Mar 2010

Evil Minds Museum

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Serial killers have become enormously successful entertainment themes in popular fiction, films, and even an HBO series. These days, the FBI is operating a museum featuring the letters, art and artifacts associated with serial killers, called the Evil Minds Museum.

It is discussed in this FBI Podcast by the FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit.

Unfortunately, the museum is not open to the public and is only intended to be used by criminal investigators, intelligence professionals, and academic researchers. Dr. Lecter could get in, but not you.

Via MindHacks.

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