Archive for June, 2010
30 Jun 2010

The First Female President

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Kathleen Parker reminds Americans the Bill Clinton was the first black president, and Barack Obama is really another kind of first.

If Bill Clinton was our first black president, as Toni Morrison once proclaimed, then Barack Obama may be our first woman president.

Phew. That was fun. Now, if you’ll just keep those hatchets holstered and hear me out.

No, I’m not calling Obama a girlie president. But . . . he may be suffering a rhetorical-testosterone deficit when it comes to dealing with crises, with which he has been richly endowed. …

When Morrison wrote in the New Yorker about Bill Clinton’s “blackness,” she cited the characteristics he shared with the African American community:

“Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.”

If we accept that premise, even if unseriously proffered, then we could say that Obama displays many tropes of femaleness. I say this in the nicest possible way. I don’t think that doing things a woman’s way is evidence of deficiency but, rather, suggests an evolutionary achievement.

Nevertheless, we still do have certain cultural expectations, especially related to leadership. When we ask questions about a politician’s beliefs, family or hobbies, we’re looking for familiarity, what we can cite as “normal” and therefore reassuring.

Generally speaking, men and women communicate differently. Women tend to be coalition builders rather than mavericks (with the occasional rogue exception). While men seek ways to measure themselves against others, for reasons requiring no elaboration, women form circles and talk it out.

Obama is a chatterbox who makes Alan Alda look like Genghis Khan.

The BP oil crisis has offered a textbook case of how Obama’s rhetorical style has impeded his effectiveness. The president may not have had the ability to “plug the damn hole,” as he put it in one of his manlier outbursts. No one expected him to don his wetsuit and dive into the gulf, but he did have the authority to intervene immediately and he didn’t. Instead, he deferred to BP, weighing, considering, even delivering jokes to the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner when he should have been on Air Force One to the Louisiana coast.

His lack of immediate, commanding action was perceived as a lack of leadership because, well, it was. When he finally addressed the nation on day 56 (!) of the crisis, Obama’s speech featured 13 percent passive-voice constructions, the highest level measured in any major presidential address this century, according to the Global Language Monitor, which tracks and analyzes language.

Granted, the century is young — and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Obama’s rhetoric would simmer next to George W. Bush’s boil. But passivity in a leader is not a reassuring posture.

30 Jun 2010

Alleged Gore Victim: “He’s a Sick Man!”

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The National Enquirer says Al Gore’s alleged victim has DNA samples, video evidence and witnesses. She is telling all, and describes Gore as “a sexual predator.” That means that Al Gore really did have essentially everything in common with his running mate.

“He’s not what people think he is – he’s a sick man!”

30 Jun 2010

It Does Not Require An Einstein

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“[N]othing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this.”

–Albert Einstein on Alcohol Prohibition, 1921.

To understand that the War on Drugs is bad policy and is not working.

3:57 video

30 Jun 2010

The Secret Journolist Archive Revealed

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Iowahawk claims Andrew Breitbart’s $100,000 reward and defiantly skips the anonymity offer.

KEITH OLBERMANN: I can’t tell you how shocked and appalled to hear that there may have been some kind of compromising leak of off-the-record conversations from Journolist, involving David Weigel. Is this true, David?

DAVE WEIGEL: ya i guess so

KEITH OLBERMANN: I can only imagine the career damaging consequences of such a terrible breach of journalistic confidentiality! I suspect that your job at the Post is in serious jeopardy.

DAVE WEIGEL: look man can u come back later?

KEITH OLBERMANN: I’m only here to give you my help, David. Sensing your plight I asked my producers at MSNBC to offer you a recurring job as a contributor on Countdown.

DAVE WEIGEL: srsly??

KEITH OLBERMANN: Absolutely! And at the same pay. All you have to do now is tender your resignation at the Post before they have a chance to fire you, and we’ll have you on the air as soon as we can locate a makeup technician skilled in your condition.

DAVE WEIGEL: wow keith! what can i do to thnk u?

KEITH OLBERMANN: Oh, I’m sure it will all work out splendidly. I’ll drop by in my van to pick you up tomorrow at 11 pm sharp.

EZRA KLEIN: gee Keith ur really a pretty good guy after all

KEITH OLBERMANN: Don’t mention it, lads. Say, would any of you boys care to join me over at Chatroulette tonight?
SPENCER ACKERMAN has left the room
MATTHEW YGLESIAS has left the room.
ERIC ALTERMAN has left the room.
JOSH MARSHALL has left the room.
DAVE WEIGEL has left the room.
ERIC BOEHLERT has left the room.
EZRA KLEIN has left the room.

KEITH OLBERMANN: hello?

Read the whole thing.

29 Jun 2010

Jon Stewart (Of All People) Asks the Obvious Question

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Jon Stewart Asks David Axelrod: Has This Government Proven Itself Competent Enough To Regulate Industry?

4:58 video

JON STEWART, HOST: It’s clear that this administration believes that government can have a stronger hand in regulating Wall Street, in regulating energy, in doing these things. But, has government during this time proved itself competent? And are our only two choices sort of an incompetent bureaucracy that doesn’t quite regulate properly or free market anarchy? Before you can make the case that this administration and government can effectively regulate shouldn’t they, you know, the MMS case makes a pretty clear point that the regulatory system is somewhat broken, and you guys had a chance to…

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR OBAMA ADVISOR: The answer Jon is not to abandon the notion that there have to be rules and oversight. …

[E]verybody recognizes that government has to play a role. It shouldn’t be an oppressive role, but there has to be some firm oversight and some rules of people respond to. These, you know, it’s pretty clear the oil industry is not going to regulate itself.

STEWART: But do you think, I guess my point is before you have the opportunity, before you can earn the ability to go in and, and, and do that, don’t, don’t we have to show a certain baseline level of competence.

29 Jun 2010

Democrats

Bill Hobbs:

Son said, “Dad, what’s a Democrat?” I explained Dems like to take your money and spend it themselves. He’s a Republican now and forever.

John Hinderaker puts it even better:

A simple way to think about the Democratic Party is, you’re the human being, they’re the tapeworm. Yet they claim a weird sort of parasite’s moral superiority over you: if you point out that they have their hand in your pocket, you’re a “smartass.” The Democratic Party needs to be torn, root and branch, from our public life.

29 Jun 2010

Strike Coming on Iran?

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Gulf News (Bahrain), in English, passed along a report from its sister Arabic paper, describing a US/Israeli military build-up in preparation for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Israel is massing warplanes in the Caucasus for an attack on Iran, it was revealed yesterday.

Preparations are underway to launch the military attack from Azerbaijan and Georgia, reports our sister paper Akhbar Al Khaleej, quoting military sources.

Israel was, in fact, training pilots in Turkey to launch the strike and was smuggling planes into Georgia using Turkish airspace, they said.

However, Turkey was unaware of Israel’s intention of transferring the planes to Georgia, the sources said.

The unexpected crisis between Israel and Turkey following an Israeli commando raid on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza Strip hit Israeli calculations.

Azerbaijan-based intelligence units, working under the cover of technicians, trainers and consultants, have helped with the preparations, the sources said.

Military equipment, mostly supplied by the US, was transported to a Georgian port via the Black Sea.

Georgian coastguard and Israeli controllers are co-operating to hide the operations from Russian vessels, said the sources.

They point out that according to Israel, it will not be in a position to launch a strike on Iran without using bases in Georgia and Azerbaijan due to the limited capabilities of its nuclear submarines stationed near the Iranian coast.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Press TV reported that a very large contingent of US ground forces had massed in Azerbaijan, near the Iranian border. The independent Azerbaijani news website Trend confirmed the report.

Those reports came just days after the Pentagon confirmed that an unusually large fleet of US warships had indeed passed through Egypt’s Suez Canal en route to the Gulf. At least one Israeli warship reportedly joined the American armada.

—————————

DEBKAfile has similar reports going back to a week before today:

Iran has declared a state of war on its northwestern border, DEBKAfile’s military and Iranian sources report. Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps men and equipment units are being massed in the Caspian Sea region against what Tehran claims are US and Israeli forces concentrated on army and air bases in Azerbaijan ready to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. …

Other Iranian sources report that in the last few days, Israel has secretly transferred a large number of bomber jets to bases in Azerbaijan, via Georgia, and that American special forces are also concentrated in Azerbaijan in preparation for a strike.


DEBKAfile
also notes that the US has stationed a third carrier group in the vicinity of Iran.

Debkafile’s military sources report that Washington has posted a third carrier opposite Iran’s shores. It is supported by amphibious assault ships and up to 4,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel, bringing the total US strength in these waters to three carriers and 10,000 combat personnel.

And also notes in its paid-subscription version that Hillary Clinton will soon be making whirlwind visits to Azerbaijan, Georgia an Armenia.

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It is very difficult to picture the Obama Administration reaching an internal consensus allowing it to initiate a preemptive military strike on another country. If Barack Hussein astonishingly ate his Wheaties one morning and suddenly experienced an attack of testosterone, any attempted serious US action would almost certainly be preceded by tearful resignations, leaks to the Washington Post and New York Times, and aggrieved editorials on FireDogLake. But… life is strange, human nature is unpredictable, one never really knows.

More likely, all this represents a calculated bluff intended to force Iran to resume negotiations.

—————————

Ha’aretz quotes Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as telling reporters on Saturday that “the members of the G-8 are worried and believe absolutely that Israel will probably react preemptively.”

29 Jun 2010

Russian Spy Ring Arrested

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The New York Times has the initial report.

I did a quick pass through the best on-line sources on Intel issues, but no one at the moment has any more information.

They had lived for more than a decade in American cities and suburbs from Seattle to New York, where they seemed to be ordinary couples working ordinary jobs, chatting to the neighbors about schools and apologizing for noisy teenagers.

But on Monday, federal prosecutors accused 11 people of being part of a Russian espionage ring, living under false names and deep cover in a patient scheme to penetrate what one coded message called American “policy making circles.”

An F.B.I. investigation that began at least seven years ago culminated with the arrest on Sunday of 10 people in Yonkers, Boston and northern Virginia. The documents detailed what the authorities called the “Illegals Program,” an ambitious, long-term effort by the S.V.R., the successor to the Soviet K.G.B., to plant Russian spies in the United States to gather information and recruit more agents.

The alleged agents were directed to gather information on nuclear weapons, American policy toward Iran, C.I.A. leadership, Congressional politics and many other topics, prosecutors say. The Russian spies made contact with a former high-ranking American national security official and a nuclear weapons researcher, among others. But the charges did not include espionage, and it was unclear what secrets the suspected spy ring — which included five couples — actually managed to collect. …

The defendants were charged with conspiracy, not to commit espionage, but to fail to register as agents of a foreign government, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison; 9 were also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years. They are not accused of obtaining classified materials.

Read the whole thing.

28 Jun 2010

Collapse of European Economy Explained in Under 3 Minutes

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2:45 video

Hat tip to Amy Alkom.

28 Jun 2010

Supreme Court Incorporates Second Amendment Rights

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The Court’s decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago was handed down this morning.

Erin Miller, at SCOTUSblog, live blogged the announcement:

Erin:
Alito announces McDonald v. Chicago: reversed and remanded
Monday June 28, 2010 10:04 Erin
10:04

Tom:
Gun rights prevail
Monday June 28, 2010 10:04 Tom
10:05

Erin:

The opinion concludes that the 14th Amendment does incorporate the Second Amendment right recognized in Heller to keep and bear arms in self defense
Monday June 28, 2010 10:05 Erin
10:05

Tom:
5-4
Monday June 28, 2010 10:05 Tom
10:05

Erin:
Stevens dissents for himself. Breyer dissents, joined by Ginsburg and Sotomayor.
Monday June 28, 2010 10:05 Erin
10:05

Tom:
The majority seems divided, presumably on the precise standard
Monday June 28, 2010 10:05 Tom
10:06

Erin:
The majority Justices do not support all parts of the Alito opinion, but all five agree that the 2d Amendment applies to state and local government.
Monday June 28, 2010 10:06 Erin
10:06

Erin:
Alito, in the part of the opinion joined by three Justices, concludes that the 2d Amendment is incorporated through the Due Process Clause.
Monday June 28, 2010 10:06 Erin
10:07

Erin:
Thomas thinks the Amendment is incorporated, but not under Due Process. He appears to base incorporation on Privileges or Immunities.

Evidently, the Court actually did rule that the 14th Amendment’s Incorporation of the Bill of Rights makes applicable the Second Amendment to the states, limiting the right of states and municipalities to restrict the right of Americans to keep and bear arms.

28 Jun 2010

Natural Seepage Could Be Leaking 500,000 Barrels

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Charles Simmons points to evidence that substantial natural oil seepage into the Gulf of Mexico occurs, and has been occurring from times immemorial, by one estimate as much as 500,000 barrels per annum.

Amidst the concern surrounding the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the subsequent leaks from the well it was working on, a few experts have been pointing to a far greater source of pollution. Oil and natural gas leak into ocean waters all the time.

Natural seepage is believed to account for 60% of the oil in North American waters. The National Academies of Science in a 2002 report estimated that 260,000 tons of oil were input into North American maritime waters annually, 1990-1999. 160,000 tons were from natural seepage.

Oil seeps occur throughout the Gulf of Mexico. In a 1972 paper titled Natural Hydrocarbon Seepage in the Gulf of Mexico, Researchers from Texas A&M University said this about the history of this seepage:

“Archaeological reports indicate that the Karankawa Indians were using tar in their pottery making in pre-Columbian times. Survivors of DeSoto’s group used tar found along the Texas-Louisiana coast to caulk their boats.

From 1902 to 1909 heavy oil slicks were noted in an area about 100 miles south of the Louisiana coast. Oil spouting into the air was reported in the same area in 1909. Oil ponds off the Sabine area are reported in a USGS publication in 1903.

Reports of seeps in the Gulf are numerous, and the Department’s study has located several general areas of seepage within and around the Gulf of Mexico.”

A Department of Energy website details studies that estimate that there may be as many as 5,000 active seeps in the northern Gulf of Mexico. In the Green Canyon area of the Gulf, they estimated at least 900 individual seeps.

In a paper presented at the 2000 Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, and titled Estimates of Total Hydrocarbon Seepage into the Gulf of Mexico Based on Satellite Remote Sensing Images, one researcher estimated that 500,000 barrels of oil seep into the Gulf each year, twice the result of the Exxon Valdez spill. (Actually, Wikipedia quotes estimates of 260,000 to 750,000 barrels for the Exxon Valdez spill) –JDZ). That seepage is not addressed by any government, and mitigation efforts are non-existent.

27 Jun 2010

Adidas Star Wars Commercial

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Adidas made a rather amusing commercial using a re-edit of Star Wars bar scene.

This is the longer 2:10 version video, adding David Beckham, Daft Punk, Snoop Dogg, Franz Beckenbauer, Noel Gallagher, Ian Brown, Ciara, Jay Baruchel, DJ Neil Armstrong (most of whom I have no knowledge of). I’ve seen a much shorter version on ESPN.

Poor Greedo.

27 Jun 2010

No Room on the Fence

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Dave Weigel, the Washington Post’s blogger in charge of covering Conservatism, resigned this week after Matt Drudge and Daily Caller leaked some of his emails from JournoList, a private listserv founded by Ezra Klein on which the left’s punditocracy compared noted and coordinated coverage.

Doctor Zero, at Hot Air, looked on with interest on the comedy following the Weigel resignation. The leftwing commentariat lamented how unfair Weigel’s ouster really was, remarked enviously what a great job he used to have, and its founder closed down Journolist.

There is little room left for neutrality in American politics these days, Doctor Zero reflects.

Weigel has spent the last few months working as an observer of the conservative movement for the Washington Post, whose readers must wonder about the identity of the vast Tea Party crowds occasionally blocking their view of the IRS building. As it turns out, Weigel really hates the people he’s been covering, and sees himself precisely the way conservatives see most dinosaur-media reporters: as a partisan operative of the Democrat Party. He expressed his hatred, and loyalties, in a series of communications posted to JournoList. These emails became an embarrassing burst of digital flatulence when they were made public. Weigel is out of a job at the Washington Post, and JournoList is gone.

Blogger Ace of Spades wonders why the Post couldn’t find a sympathetic correspondent to cover the “conservative beat,” and answers his own question by pointing out the Post has no interest in publishing material that might lead its readers to begin grooving to that conservative beat. The last thing they want is for their right-wing avatar to come back with a horde of angry natives behind him and lead a successful insurrection.

Here we cross the line between editorial decisions and bias. Why would an unbiased newspaper be afraid to honestly report news that makes one side of a political debate look appealing, instead assigning a reporter to highlight fringe material to cast them in the most negative light possible? Of course, they are biased, but it’s even worse than that. They’re subjective. They pretend to be commentators, but they’re actually players in the game… just like everyone else. Our fates are all controlled by the immense central government worshipped by the Post. They have a vested interest in ensuring its sustained growth, so they can make their fortune writing epic tales of its heroic deeds.

Big Government makes for bad journalism. As I like to point out whenever someone like David Frum gushes over “moderates,” there is no meaningful way to be moderate when a carnivorous super-State is chowing down on huge portions of the private sector, while dismissing bedrock Constitutional rights with an irritated wave of its hand. You either resist the onslaught of the State with all your might, or bear passive witness to its expansion.

At this moment in American history, there is no functional difference between a genuine “centrist” and Dave Weigel’s right-wing “ratf**kers.” If you think you should be allowed to keep your own medical insurance, and see your own doctor, you’re taking an extreme partisan stance. If you don’t think the government should be able to revoke the First Amendment or due process rights of private corporations at its convenience, you are a declared enemy of the State.

Read the whole thing.

27 Jun 2010

“A Good Communist”

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null
José Saramago

Jeff Jacoby, in the Boston Globe, quarrels with the establishment’s indulgence of intellectuals’ and artists’ communist affiliations.

The artist fascist is executed by firing squad, like Robert Brasillach, or hidden away in a madhouse, like Ezra Pound. Communists commonly receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

If José Saramago, the Portuguese writer who died on Friday at 87, had been an unrepentant Nazi for the last four decades, he would never have won international acclaim or received the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature. Leading publishers would never have brought out his books, his works would not have been translated into more than 20 languages, and the head of Portugal’s government would never have said on his death — as Prime Minister José Sócrates did say last week — that he was “one of our great cultural figures and his disappearance has left our culture poorer.’’

But Saramago wasn’t a Nazi, he was a communist. And not just a nominal communist, as his obituaries pointed out, but an “unabashed’’ (Washington Post), “unflinching’’ (AP), “unfaltering’’ (New York Times) true believer. A member since 1969 of Portugal’s hardline Communist Party, Saramago called himself a “hormonal communist’’ who in all the years since had “found nothing better.’’ Yet far from rendering him a pariah, Saramago’s communist loyalties have been treated as little more than a roguish idiosyncrasy. Without a hint of irony, AP’s obituary quoted a comment Saramago made in 1998: “People used to say about me, ‘He’s good but he’s a communist.’ Now they say, ‘He’s a communist but he’s good.’ ’’

But the idea that good people can be devoted communists is grotesque. The two categories are mutually exclusive. There was a time, perhaps, when dedication to communism could be absolved as misplaced idealism or naiveté, but that day is long past. After Auschwitz and Babi Yar, only a moral cripple could be a committed Nazi. By the same token, there are no good and decent communists — not after the Gulag Archipelago and the Cambodian killing fields and Mao’s “Great Leap Forward.’’ Not after the testimonies of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Armando Valladares and Dith Pran.

In the decades since 1917, communism has led to more slaughter and suffering than any other cause in human history. Communist regimes on four continents sent an estimated 100 million men, women, and children to their deaths — not out of misplaced zeal in pursuit of a fundamentally beautiful theory, but out of utopian fanaticism and an unquenchable lust for power. …

Saramago may have been a fine writer, but he was no exemplar of goodness. Good people do not embrace communism, and communists are not good.

Read the whole thing.

Saramago is a good communist now.

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