Archive for July, 2011
31 Jul 2011

Peggy Noonan on Obama: “Nobody Loves a Loser”

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Peggy Noonan has her faults. She runs with the herd, she is totally incapable of standing up to a solid elite consensus, and she has a tendency to specialize in bathos and sentimentality. You can tell that’s she’s Irish, alright. But one has to hand it to Peggy Noonan: when she decides to put in the boot, she does it right. Nobody can annihilate a deserving politician, leaving only scorched earth behind, like Peggy Noonan.

Mr. Obama seemed brilliant at politics when he first emerged in 2004. He understood the nation’s longing for unity. We’re not divided into red states and blue, he said, we’re Big Purple, we can solve our problems together. Four years later he read the lay of the land perfectly—really, perfectly. The nation and the Democratic Party were tired of the Clinton machine. He came from nowhere and dismantled it. It was breathtaking. He went into the 2008 general election with a miraculously unified party and took down another machine, bundling up all the accrued resentment of eight years with one message: “You know the two losing wars and the economic collapse we’ve been dealing with? I won’t do that. I’m not Bush.”

The fact is, he’s good at dismantling. He’s good at critiquing. He’s good at not being the last guy, the one you didn’t like. But he’s not good at building, creating, calling into being. He was good at summoning hope, but he’s not good at directing it and turning it into something concrete that answers a broad public desire.

And so his failures in the debt ceiling fight. He wasn’t serious, he was only shrewd—and shrewdness wasn’t enough. He demagogued the issue—no Social Security checks—until he was called out, and then went on the hustings spouting inanities. He left conservatives scratching their heads: They could have made a better, more moving case for the liberal ideal as translated into the modern moment, than he did. He never offered a plan. In a crisis he was merely sly. And no one likes sly, no one respects it.

So he is losing a battle in which he had superior forces—the presidency, the U.S. Senate. In the process he revealed that his foes have given him too much mystique. He is not a devil, an alien, a socialist. He is a loser. And this is America, where nobody loves a loser.

I bet the White House didn’t enjoy reading this one.

31 Jul 2011

An Independent Future

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George Will suggests for summer reading Reason Magazine’s Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch’s new book, The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America

Think of any customer experience that has made you wince or kick the cat. What jumps to mind? Waiting in multiple lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Observing the bureaucratic sloth and lowest-common-denominator performance of public schools, especially in big cities. Getting ritually humiliated going through airport security. Trying desperately to understand your doctor bills. Navigating the permitting process at your local city hall. Wasting a day at home while the gas man fails to show up. Whatever you come up with, chances are good that the culprit is either a direct government monopoly (as in the providers of K-12 education) or a heavily regulated industry or utility where the government is the largest player (as in health care).”

Will thinks these authors are really on to something.

A generation that has grown up with the Internet “has essentially been raised libertarian,” swimming in markets, which are choices among competing alternatives.

And the left weeps. Preaching what has been called nostalgianomics, liberals mourn the passing of the days when there was one phone company, three car companies, three television networks, and an airline cartel, and big labor and big business were cozy with big government.

The America of one universally known list of Top 40 records is as gone as records. When the Census offered people the choice of checking the “multiracial” category, Maxine Waters, then chairing the Congressional Black Caucus, was indignant: “Letting individuals opt out of the current categories just blurs everything.” This is the voice of reactionary liberalism: No blurring, no changes, no escape from old categories, spin the world back to the 1950s.

“Declaration of Independents” is suitable reading for this summer of debt-ceiling debate, which has been a proxy for a bigger debate, which is about nothing less than this: What should be the nature of the American regime? America is moving in the libertarians’ direction not because they have won an argument but because government and the sectors it dominates have made themselves ludicrous. This has, however, opened minds to the libertarians’ argument.

The essence of which is the common-sensical principle that before government interferes with the freedom of the individual and of individuals making consensual transactions in markets, it ought to have a defensible reason for doing so. It usually does not.

31 Jul 2011

Exactly Who’s Driving Here?

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30 Jul 2011

Homeless Harassed For Game Poaching in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park

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Prospect Park

Anatole France remarked sardonically that “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges.” In Brooklyn, it forbids both evidently also to harvest fish or game in Brooklyn’s 585-acre Prospect Park.

A year ago, federal agents gassed 400 Canada geese resident in the park, which were considered to represent a hazard to planes using nearby La Guardia Airport. They had their reasons. In January of 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 ran into a flock of geese and would up crash landing in the Hudson River.

But can New York turn a blind eye as former Lehman and Bear Stearns executives now also resident in the park reduce the nuisance population of grey squirrels, pigeons, and geese or take panfish from the lake? Perish, forbid.

The New York Post reports that what my friend from Yale, Mr. Brewer, describes as “an awesome locavore experiment in living off the land” was rudely interrupted by “spoilsport cops.”

Cops have busted a group of oddball poachers in Prospect Park — a band of vagrants that was trapping and eating ducks, squirrels and pigeons.

Parks officers wrote four tickets — two for killing wildlife and two for illegal fishing — totaling $2,100 in fines during a two-day period last week. …

“This is a dodgy group,” said park-goer Peter Colon, who spotted one of the men catching a pigeon while his friend started a fire. “They are the most threatening people in the park.”

The disheveled — and possibly homeless — tribe in question uses “makeshift” fishing poles and traps to catch the critters, then grills them over the fire, according to park watchdogs.

“One woman uses a net to bag the ducks,” said wildlife advocate Johanna Clearfield.

The kind of person you or I would call a busybody or general nuisance always gets promoted in the conventional journalistic parlance of our time to some form of “advocate” or “activist.”

Lots of luck collecting those fines, New York City. I bet the hobos used the tickets to light their evening cook fires.

30 Jul 2011

The President’s Approach to the Debt Ceiling Negotiations

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Michael Walsh explains the president’s game plan in the current negotiations over debt increases. The democrats are simply trying to blame Republicans for risking default, and doing everything possible to get a debt ceiling increase running past next year’s election in order to try to minimize their own vulerabilities on the issues of excessive spending and the deficit.

I liked his metaphorical comparison to the double dealing and intrigue in the Coen Brothers’ gangster movie Miller’s Crossing (1990). I guess the contrived and systematic insincerity must make Obama Bernie Birnbaum.

By now, the Obama “leadership” style should be blindingly apparent: Do nothing, lie in wait, and then counter-attack. Never present a plan if you can possibly help it, but deal exclusively in bromides and platitudes as you stake out the moral “high ground” and get ready to ambush the other guy. …

Meanwhile, have your media allies, talking parrots, and court lickspittles prepare the ground with standard-issue talking points — “The Tea Party Republicans are terrorists,” for example. …

Adamantly refuse to be pinned down about the specifics of anything, and have your platoon of Baghdad Bobs continue to insist (as good liberals always do) that up is down, black is white, and wishes are really horses, if not actual unicorns.

So the later Boehner walks into the trap, the quicker Harry Reid trumps him, and the sooner Obama can can declare for the umpteenth time that the time for talk is over, emerge as a hero — and get the debt-ceiling debate safely past the shoals of the next election, which is all he really cares about. Because, in case you hadn’t noticed, running for office is the only thing the Punahou Kid knows how to do.

30 Jul 2011

63,000 Paintings

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Alfred Munnings, A Huntsman on a Grey in a Landscape, Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum, Dedham
click on the image for larger version – The huntsman has paused and is having a nip from his saddle flask.

The BBC has uploaded nearly 63,000 images of paintings in British collections. They are planning to get to 200,000, and they are inviting volunteers to assist in tagging the images to assist future searchers, which as a pastime to fiddle with on one’s PC may even beat Freecell.

30 Jul 2011

Rep. Paul Ryan Destroys Reid Bill in Blistering Speech; ‘Let’s Cover the Moon with Yogurt!’

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Paul Ryan debunks a standard kind of fraudulent budget-cutting which figures prominently in the democrat proposals. It is his ability, and willingness, to cut through the conventional financial obfuscations relied upon by professional politicians that makes Rep. Paul Ryan such a desirable choice for next year’s GOP nomination. I wish he’d run.

(not-embeddable) 1:42 video

29 Jul 2011

Federal Chicken Run

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Rebel Without a Cause (1955), dir. Nicholas Ray

“Buzz” Reid in his beige 1941 Chevrolet Special DeLuxe Coupe has challenged “James Dean” Boehner, driving a distinctly cooler black 1949 Mercury Club Coupe, to a Chicken Run straight at the abyss of financial default.

Which political leader will jump out his car first? Doesn’t Buzz realize that Jimmy Dean is the hero and is bound to win? Watch out for the cuff strap of your leather jacket on the car door handle, Senator Reid!

(not embeddable) 3:42 video

29 Jul 2011

Conservative Civil War!

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As the deadline approaches and the complete annihilation of the entire world financial system as we’ve known it looms, or not, we spectators sitting on the sidelines far from the action are growing tired of the whole thing. Hearing second-hand reports of loud crashes and animal noises coming out of closed rooms gets boring after awhile.

Doubtless Armageddon-on-the-Potomac is great fun if you are yourself a player, but the rest of us recognized a good while back that we have the House, they have the Senate and the White House, and they hate us and vice versa, so no major substantive reform of the entitlement state, no permanent long-term resolution of excess federal spending can be expected to be possible until, and unless, the American public gives us a decisive mandate in 2012 (which I think they will).

In the meantime, Republicans should resist raising taxes, avoid selling out to democrats, but also avoid letting conservatives and Republicans getting saddled with the blame for all this.

Jim Garaughty, in his emailed Morning Jolt today, was marvelling, and poking fun, at the way conservatives are presently quarreling among ourselves about how all this should be handled.

I think a lot of the discussion among conservatives on Thursday can be summarized in one Twitter exchange:

    Guy Benson: It would be awesome if people on our side would stop angrily questioning each other’s motives.
    John Tabin: WHO’S PAYING YOU TO SAY THAT?

    (John’s kidding.)

This isn’t the Civil War of Conservatism in the context of the Union vs. the Confederacy. No, that conflict looks simple and clear in its divisions: North vs. South, slaveholders vs. abolitionists, secessionists vs. unionists, etc.

No, this is messy, with lots of longtime allies and friends surprised to find themselves in opposition. This is the conservative version of the Marvel Civil War, a comic-book storyline in which all of the publisher’s most prominent heroes took sides on the institution of a “Super Hero Registration Act,” in which any person in the United States with superhuman abilities had to register with the federal government as a “human weapon of mass destruction,” reveal his true identity to the authorities, and undergo proper training. Those who signed also had the option of working for a government agency, earning a salary and benefits such as those earned by other American civil servants.

(Perhaps young, super-powered Americans have been listening to Derb’s “get a government job” lectures!)

Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four supported the act. Captain America and Daredevil opposed it. And the storyline tossed away the familiar story of heroes’ fighting villains to the surprising, unpredictable, and incongruous sight of popular, noble heroes’ fighting other popular, noble heroes — each convinced that his view is the right one and the best way to protect his values.

Not as outlandish a metaphor as it seemed two paragraphs ago, huh?

Now we have Rush Limbaugh vs. Thomas Sowell!

29 Jul 2011

Ramirez on the Debt Ceiling Negotiations

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Hat tip to Theo.

29 Jul 2011

Try This Headline

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Ann Coulter proposes a different headline for today’s Breivik-guilt-by-association story: New York Times Reader Kills Dozens in Norway

28 Jul 2011

“Even the Candidate Whose Heart is Pure And Says Her Prayers At Night…”

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The Onion: Bachmann Says Unexplained Blackouts From Which She Wakes Up Covered In Blood Won’t Affect Ability To Lead

Hat tip to Walter Olson.

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