Archive for November, 2009
26 Nov 2009

The Meaning of Thanksgiving

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Mike Franc, at Human Events in 2005, identified the real reason for celebration at the first Thanksgiving.

Writing in his diary of the dire economic straits and self-destructive behavior that consumed his fellow Puritans shortly after their arrival, Governor William Bradford painted a picture of destitute settlers selling their clothes and bed coverings for food while others “became servants to the Indians,” cutting wood and fetching water in exchange for “a capful of corn.” The most desperate among them starved, with Bradford recounting how one settler, in gathering shellfish along the shore, “was so weak … he stuck fast in the mud and was found dead in the place.”

The colony’s leaders identified the source of their problem as a particularly vile form of what Bradford called “communism.” Property in Plymouth Colony, he observed, was communally owned and cultivated. This system (“taking away of property and bringing [it] into a commonwealth”) bred “confusion and discontent” and “retarded much employment that would have been to [the settlers’] benefit and comfort.”

Just how did the Pilgrims solve the problem of famine? In addition to receiving help from the local Indians in farming, they decided allow the private ownership of individual plots of land.

On the brink of extermination, the Colony’s leaders changed course and allotted a parcel of land to each settler, hoping the private ownership of farmland would encourage self-sufficiency and lead to the cultivation of more corn and other foodstuffs.

As Adam Smith would have predicted, this new system worked famously. “This had very good success,” Bradford reported, “for it made all hands very industrious.” In fact, “much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been” and productivity increased. “Women,” for example, “went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn.”

The famine that nearly wiped out the Pilgrims in 1623 gave way to a period of agricultural abundance that enabled the Massachusetts settlers to set down permanent roots in the New World, prosper, and play an indispensable role in the ultimate success of the American experiment.

A profoundly religious man, Bradford saw the hand of God in the Pilgrims’ economic recovery. Their success, he observed, “may well evince the vanity of that conceit…that the taking away of property… would make [men] happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God.” Bradford surmised, “God in his wisdom saw another course fitter for them.”

The real story of Thanksgiving is the triumph of capitalism and individualism over collectivism and socialism, which is the summation of the story of America.

And it looks like we’re about to receive another lesson of the same kind. For what we are about to receive, may we be truly thankful.

25 Nov 2009

Feeling Paranoid Today?

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Barack Obama and the democrats in Congress did not turn the economy around with their massive spending stimulus package. Unemployment rates are high. They have not fixed the credit markets with bailouts. A new wave of foreclosures is underway. Home real estate prices are still in decline, nearly a quarter of American home owners are underwater on their mortgages, and the commercial real estate market is headed for complete disaster. Small businesses are experiencing a credit squeeze, which some economic authorities argue is attributable to government soaking up available credit for federal deficits.

As the US economy sinks, the democrats controlling Washington are attempting to hand it an anvil in the form of a staggering new health care entitlement. If a deficit burden reaching to the sky is not enough, we know that Congress has every intention of allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, and proposals for new forms of taxation, a V.A.T. and even a special wartime surtax, have been floated. Coming up as well are plans for even yet another massive federal tax scheme involving mandatory purchases of carbon credits (at least for business not favored by federal exemptions) and dollar transfers to international bodies and/or Third World countries.

Most of us assumed that leftwing democrats want to do all these economically unfortunate things because they are clueless, childish, and subscribe to a worldview whose economic theories have everything backward. They are reckless, irresponsible, and just plain dumb.

But, it turns out there is a more sinister theory out there.

According to James Simpson, writing at American Thinker, democrat bad economics is deliberate. There is a conspiracy, and they have a plan.

The methodology is known as the Cloward-Piven Strategy, and we can all be grateful to David Horowitz and his Discover the Networks for originally exposing and explaining it to us. He describes it as:

    The strategy of forcing political change through orchestrated crisis. The “Cloward-Piven Strategy” seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse.

Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven were two lifelong members of Democratic Socialists of America who taught sociology at Columbia University (Piven later went on to City University of New York). In a May 1966 Nation magazine article titled “The Weight of the Poor,” they outlined their strategy, proposing to use grassroots radical organizations to push ever more strident demands for public services at all levels of government.

The result, they predicted, would be “a profound financial and political crisis” that would unleash “powerful forces … for major economic reform at the national level.” …

The real goal of “health care” legislation, the real goal of “cap-and-trade,” and the real goal of the “stimulus” is to rip the guts out of our private economy and transfer wide swaths of it over to the government to control. Do not be deluded by the propaganda. These initiatives are vehicles for change. They are not goals in and of themselves except in their ability to deliver power. They and will make matters much worse, for that is their design.

This time, in addition to overwhelming the government with demands for services, Obama and the Democrats are overwhelming political opposition to their plans with a flood of apocalyptic legislation. Their ultimate goal is to leave us so discouraged, demoralized, and exhausted that we throw our hands up in defeat. As Barney Frank said, “the middle class will be too distracted to fight.”

I was smiling ironically, as I began assembling what I thought would make an amusing posting identifying a colorful and extremist line of accusation. But, as I reflect on the peculiarly self-destructive aspects of recent democrat political behavior, their strange willingness to defy the polls and ram through controversial measures in defiance of public opinion, I wonder if looking upon what they are doing as a form of the Cloward-Piven Strategy does not make sense.

It was the stock market crash that doomed Republican chances to defeat a relatively unknown, radical democrat last year. Chaos, fear, and uncertainty were precisely the reason that independent voters were willing to vote for Change, any kind of change, and took a flyer on Barack Hussein Obama. Chaos and economic bad news have been Barack Obama’s friends so far. Rahm Emanuel is famous for observing that he saw an empowering opportunity for the left in a serious crisis and was resolved not to waste that opportunity.

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That Barney Frank “the middle class will be too distracted to fight” quotation may be a warning sign, though. I’ve been unable to verify it as a real statement made by the Congressman from Massachusetts. It turns up in large volume as a search result, but always from this same body of text.

25 Nov 2009

Hide the Decline

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2:41 music video from Minnesotans for Global Warming commenting on the University of East Anglia CRU email scandal.

Hat tip to Kate.

25 Nov 2009

Justice in the Age of Obama

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In a less politically correct century, a humane commander would have invited the women and children to leave Fallujah prior to leveling the city and putting all of its adult male inhabitants to the sword for the atrocities committed upon four American civilian contractors who were ambushed while delivering food, dragged from their vehicle, beaten, and burned to death, after which their mutilated bodies were displayed as trophies on the side of a highway bridge over the Euphrates.

Today, as Fox News reports, we arrest and try Navy seals for roughly handling the organizer of the atrocity.

Ahmed Hashim Abed, whom the military code-named “Objective Amber,” told investigators he was punched by his captors — and he had the bloody lip to prove it.

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Michael Goldfarb is rightly disgusted.

They could’ve executed him in the desert and left him in a shallow grave for all I care…

A fat lip? That’s enough to get you rough military justice from the Obama administration, but blow up the World Trade Center and you get all the due process rights of the civilian criminal justice system. Sounds fair, right?

24 Nov 2009

Climategate Deserves Investigation

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The Wall Street Journal finds the evidence provided by the hacked emails of scientific malfeasance too troubling to be overlooked. The principals’ response to reporters’ inquiries are also extremely eloquent.

    ‘The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the U.K., I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone. . . . We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind.”

So apparently wrote Phil Jones, director of the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) and one of the world’s leading climate scientists, in a 2005 email to “Mike.” Judging by the email thread, this refers to Michael Mann, director of the Pennsylvania State University’s Earth System Science Center. We found this nugget among the more than 3,000 emails and documents released last week after CRU’s servers were hacked and messages among some of the world’s most influential climatologists were published on the Internet.

The “two MMs” are almost certainly Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, two Canadians who have devoted years to seeking the raw data and codes used in climate graphs and models, then fact-checking the published conclusions—a painstaking task that strikes us as a public and scientific service. Mr. Jones did not return requests for comment and the university said it could not confirm that all the emails were authentic, though it acknowledged its servers were hacked.
(E)ven a partial review of the emails is highly illuminating. In them, scientists appear to urge each other to present a “unified” view on the theory of man-made climate change while discussing the importance of the “common cause”; to advise each other on how to smooth over data so as not to compromise the favored hypothesis; to discuss ways to keep opposing views out of leading journals; and to give tips on how to “hide the decline” of temperature in certain inconvenient data.

Some of those mentioned in the emails have responded to our requests for comment by saying they must first chat with their lawyers. Others have offered legal threats and personal invective. Still others have said nothing at all. Those who have responded have insisted that the emails reveal nothing more than trivial data discrepancies and procedural debates.

Yet all of these nonresponses manage to underscore what may be the most revealing truth: That these scientists feel the public doesn’t have a right to know the basis for their climate-change predictions, even as their governments prepare staggeringly expensive legislation in response to them. …

(W)e do now have hundreds of emails that give every appearance of testifying to concerted and coordinated efforts by leading climatologists to fit the data to their conclusions while attempting to silence and discredit their critics. In the department of inconvenient truths, this one surely deserves a closer look by the media, the U.S. Congress and other investigative bodies.

Hat tip to Michael Lawler.

24 Nov 2009

Iowahawk Geographic Goes To East Anglia

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The ever-hilarious Iowahawk scripts a Nature documentary visiting the East Anglian habitat of the Common Climate Researcher (Pseudoscientis grantopophagus), and reaches a startling conclusion:

The climate researcher is in some sense a milestone in evolutionary biology. Ever since Darwin, we have understood that a particular species adapts to its environmental reality. Now for the first time, we are seeing evidence that environmental reality is adapting to a particular species.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

24 Nov 2009

Yes, She Could

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Matthew Dowd has some very bad news for liberals. Sarah Palin, he argues, has a real shot at winning the presidency in 2012.

Gallup polls over the past 60 years show that no president with an approval rating under 47 percent has won reelection, and no president with an approval rating above 51 percent has lost reelection. (George W. Bush’s approval rating in the weeks before the 2004 election hovered around 50 percent.) The 2012 election will be primarily about our current president and whether voters are satisfied with the country’s direction.

Who the Republican candidate is, and his or her qualifications and abilities, will matter only if Obama’s approval rating is between 47 and 51 percent going into the fall of 2012. Interestingly, in the latest Gallup poll Obama’s approval rating was at a precarious 49 percent.

Second, America is still (unfortunately) politically divided and polarized, and Palin benefits from this dynamic. While Democrats love Obama, Republicans look on him with real disfavor. The gap between Obama’s approval rating among Democrats and among Republicans is nearly 70 percentage points — a higher partisan divide than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush experienced. Obama’s agenda and actions this year, and some mistakes, have solidified this divide.

Polls show that Palin’s favorability numbers are a mirror image of those of Obama. She is respected and loved by the Republican base, while Democrats despise her. Granted, independent voters have significant reservations about her capability to be president, and this would be a hurdle in the general election. But to win the Republican nomination, Palin needs only to get enough support from the base to win early key states. Already, in nearly every poll today, she has a level of support that makes her a viable primary candidate. Just look at the crowds and the buzz her book tour is drawing. …

Like it or not, if Sarah Palin decides to seek our nation’s highest office, she has a shot.

23 Nov 2009

Quos Deus Vult Perdere, Dementat

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“Those whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes mad.”

Rich Lowry looks on with astonishment as the democrats march on determinedly toward assured destruction.

This will long be a case study in the annals of abnormal political psychology. Tax hikes undid George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton (Bush lost his presidency, Clinton his congressional majority), and Medicare cuts undid Newt Gingrich (taking the air out of his “Republican revolution”). Obama’s Democrats are prescribing themselves a strong dose of both, in an exercise in self-destructive quackery.

They believe that Obama can’t afford failure, that’s it’s the defeat of ClintonCare that killed the Democrats in 1994. But such are the grave political and substantive flaws of ObamaCare that Democrats can’t afford success or failure.

If they pass it, they have tax hikes and Medicare cuts around their necks, as well as the increased insurance premiums the bill is sure to cause. If they fail, they’ve demonstrated their own ineffectual ideological fervor, while still putting themselves on record in favor of tax increases and Medicare cuts.

The Democrats got themselves into this hellish dilemma by not taking the obvious step of scaling back the bill once it became clear it engendered fierce public resistance. Take half a loaf, disarm your critics, call it victory, hail yourselves at the signing ceremony — and come back for more later. It’s not complicated.

Instead, they’ve stayed on a maximalist course. They’ve pushed to the point where the effort could collapse — and, even if they succeed, they’ll have done themselves and the nation’s fiscal future grave harm.

This is the other element of the drama that inheres in the health-care debate: If it passes, people years and even decades from now will look back and ask, “What were they thinking?” It’s a rare opportunity to see a train wreck at its inception, as the conductors make the decisions with malice afterthought that will ramify disastrously.

Everyone agrees that the nation is on an unsustainable fiscal path. So Democrats will add a $2.5 trillion entitlement to hurry us further along the path. Tax hikes that could go to reducing the deficit they’ll plow into the new entitlement. Medicare cuts that could shore up Medicare’s own shaky finances, they’ll plow into the entitlement too (if the cuts happen at all). The new entitlement will grow at a projected 8 percent a year, and it’s only through gimmickry it’s made to look deficit neutral in the first decade. The cost curve of health care will be bent up, and insurance premiums, too, will rise. For all of this, ObamaCare will still leave 24 million people without health insurance.

If nothing else, watching the Democrats sacrifice so much on behalf of this monstrosity is fascinating, appalling — and dramatic. Common sense suggests that they shouldn’t do it. The basic laws of political physics say they can’t do it. And yet on they march.

What do Americans think? They’re against the Health Care Bill: 56% to 38%. Rasmussen.

23 Nov 2009

The Thrill Is Gone

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MSNBC’s Chris Matthews used to feel a thrill running up his leg at the sound of Barack Obama’s voice. Things have certainly changed. More recently, Matthews began finding Barack Obama reminding him of Jimmy Carter.

Newsbusters
even includes the video.

The word these days is optics, visuals, signals. In the Carter presidency, the optics were not exactly robust, and Ronald Reagan rode that to a big victory in 1980. Is the Obama White House sending some Carteresque signals these days? Some see that in the deep bow to the Emperor of Japan, an unforced error say critics. Then there was, there was what happened in China: Obama got nothing in the way of concessions over there in spite of playing the polite visitor. And his effort to speak directly to the Chinese was jammed by the government. Third, that decision to try the terrorists up in that federal court in New York City. Again, nothing that had to be done, and critics say it shows that Obama, his team doesn’t understand this is a war we’re in. David, that’s the question. These optics are everything in a president. Carter used to carry that garment bag over his shoulder. This president is he making mistakes like in China like in Japan?

23 Nov 2009

New Zealand Antique Dealer Hopes For Earldom

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Arms of the Duke of Northumberland

A New Zealand representative of the Percy family is attempting to claim the earldom and estates of the ancient Percy family of Northumberland on the basis of a supposititious descent from a male-line overlooked at the time of the death of Josceline the 7th Earl in 1670.

No male heir was discovered at that time, and the Percy estates went to his only daughter, Lady Elizabeth, who married three times, becoming by her last marriage Duchess of Somerset.

Her granddaughter, also an Elizabeth, married Sir Hugh Smithson in 1740, causing him to inherit the Earldom of Northumberland upon her father’s death. Smithson obligingly changed his name to Percy, and received the extinct title of Duke of Northumberland via a third creation in 1766.

Kevin Percy of Napier, New Zealand believes that the commonality of the personal name Thomas, Edward, and Francis between his own (formerly) Pursey family and that of Thomas Percy, great grandson of the 4th earl of Northumberland and one of the principals of the Gunpowder Plot suggests the identity of his own ancestry with one of the cadet lines of the famous Percys of Northumberland.

All of this is explained at a web-page devoted to the Percy family of New Zealand and its genealogical theories.

Mr. Percy hopes that DNA testing of exhumed Percy bodies will be able to prove his own descent from the Gunpowder Plotter and confirm his own theories making him rightful heir to the Percy family titles and estates.

As the Dominion Post (Wellington, N.Z.) reports, were he to be successful, the rewards would be awfully good.

A Napier antiques dealer has claimed that his family are the rightful heirs to one of Britain’s most famous dynasties, which owns the castle used in the Harry Potter movies.

Kevin Percy, 74, believes his family was cheated out of inheriting the Earl of Northumberland’s massive estate, now conservatively valued at $685m.

He has started a bold bid asking British authorities, including the Queen, to exhume the bodies of two suspected relatives for DNA tests, which he says would prove or disprove his claim. The two men died in 1560 and 1716.

His bid targets one of Britain’s most celebrated noble families, which dominated the Middle Ages. The earldom owns nearly 50,000 hectares of land in Britain.


Alnwick Castle

23 Nov 2009

An Inconvenient Scandal

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Ed Driscoll describes how we are experiencing another major attempt by the liberal mainstream media to resist covering a story harmful to the political agenda of the left.

Seeing as they each impact key pillars of what today passes for liberalism, there seems to be more than a few connections between the recent ACORN stings by Giles, O’Keefe and Breitbart, and the recent hacking of the emails of the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit, or “Global WarmingGate”, as Charlie Martin dubs it elsewhere at Pajamas. Not the least is that they each sent the legacy media into full gatekeeper mode, hoping to prevent exciting, important news of current events from ever reaching their readers. Or perhaps, like the scandal last year involving John Edwards, sitting on the stories for so long, while making claims that they have to endlessly research them to verify their authenticity — Keep rockin’! — that when the legacy media decides to go “public” with news that everyone already knows, they can dramatically dilute the ultimate impact of these stories.

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Michael Goldfarb, in the Weekly Standard, quotes the New York Times, which has suddenly discovered standards of disclosure preventing them from publishing secret documents contrary to the wishes of their authors.

With the release of hundreds of emails by scientists advocates of global warming showing obvious and entirely inappropriate collusion by the authors — including attempts to suppress dissent, to punish journals that publish peer-reviewed studies casting doubt on global warming, and to manipulate data to bolster their own arguments — even the New York Times is forced to concede that “the documents will undoubtedly raise questions about the quality of research on some specific questions and the actions of some scientists.” But apparently the paper’s environmental blog, Dot Earth, is taking a pass on publishing any of the documents and emails that are now circulating. Andrew Revkin, the author of that blog, writes,

    The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.

This is the position of the New York Times when given the chance to publish sensitive information that might hinder the liberal agenda. Of course, when the choice is between publishing classified information that might endanger the lives of U.S. troops in the field or intelligence programs vital to national security, that information is published without hesitation by the nation’s paper of record. But in this case — the documents were “never intended for the public eye,” so the New York Times will take a pass. I guess that policy wasn’t in place when Neil Sheehan was working at the paper.

22 Nov 2009

Now It Gets Difficult

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Harry Reid paid 20x the price that Thomas Jefferson paid for the entire Louisiana Territory for Mary Landrieu’s vote yesterday.

Byron York explains that getting the votes to bring ObamaCare to the floor for debate was, comparatively speaking, the easy part, and the democrat leadership barely succeeded.

(J)udging by the statements of four moderate Democrats — Lieberman, Lincoln, Landrieu, and Nelson — it will be far, far harder when the process comes to the really important vote, the one that would bring debate to a close and move on to an up-or-down vote on the Democrats’ health care plan. On Saturday, all four of those Democrats publicly threatened to side with Republicans and kill the bill before it can move to a final vote, unless their concerns are met.

“If the bill remains where it is now, I will not be able to support a cloture motion before final passage,” Sen. Joseph Lieberman said. “I’m prepared to vote against moving to the next stage of consideration as long as a government-run public option is included,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln. “My vote to move forward on this important debate should in no way be construed by the supporters of this current framework as an indication of how I might vote as this debate comes to an end,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu. And Sen. Ben Nelson said he will “oppose the second cloture motion — needing 60 votes — to end debate, and oppose the final bill” if major changes are not made.

Some of that is the normal positioning and bargaining that takes place when big bills are considered. But the Democrats’ problems in keeping their side together, in the face of united Republican opposition, are an indicator of how public opinion is beginning to dominate the health care debate. Dozens of polls show that Americans are deeply divided over the issue, with a slight plurality opposing the Democratic health care plans currently under consideration in Congress. Clear majorities of Americans don’t believe their health care will improve under the plan, and do believe the plan will increase the deficit. Given that, Democrats are trying to pass the biggest piece of legislation in decades, one that will create an enormous and permanent new entitlement, with less than majority support among the public. And they’re racing to do it with less than a year to go before mid-term elections that most observers believe will result in fewer Democrats in Congress. No wonder it’s hard.

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Shameless giveaways of tax dollars were needed to get this far. All of Washington is laughing about how much it cost to buy Senator Mary Landieu’s vote, Dana Milbank has details.

Staffers on Capitol Hill were calling it the Louisiana Purchase.

On the eve of Saturday’s showdown in the Senate over health-care reform, Democratic leaders still hadn’t secured the support of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of the 60 votes needed to keep the legislation alive. The wavering lawmaker was offered a sweetener: at least $100 million in extra federal money for her home state.

And so it came to pass that Landrieu walked onto the Senate floor midafternoon Saturday to announce her aye vote — and to trumpet the financial “fix” she had arranged for Louisiana. “I am not going to be defensive,” she declared. “And it’s not a $100 million fix. It’s a $300 million fix.”

It was an awkward moment (not least because her figure is 20 times the original Louisiana Purchase price).

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