Archive for September, 2011
27 Sep 2011

Hunting Season

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Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

27 Sep 2011

Ne Comprehend Pas Department

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Jim Geraghty forwards Jim Lileks’ tweeted comment on a new song titled “Moves Like Jagger” by a group called Maroon 5, and marvels himself that today’s youth sings tributes to the masculine appeal of a (once androgynous) geezer.

You kids know Mick Jagger is 68, right? I’m sure he’s in relatively limber, perhaps drug-preserved state for a near-septuagenarian, but really? Tim Noah’s nephew [Adam Levine] is singing that he can dance like him and Kesha’s only interested in guys collecting Social Security? Did our pop culture get stuck on “pause” at some point?

It seems a bit strange to me that he still performs and that people so young even know who Mick Jagger is. The Stones ought to be, at this point, headlining on Cruise ships and in Florida retirement homes.

Personally, I have a suspicion that on very damp mornings like this, I move exactly like Jagger (before he’s had plenty of meds).

NSFW

26 Sep 2011

Obama Supporter’s Atavistic Message

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Some of us always thought that the left’s political philosophy inevitably arrived at cannibalism.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

26 Sep 2011

Near Miss

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This video shows a nearly fatal accident which occurred in the course of the ceremonies celebrating the 700th anniversary of the founding of the city of Wałcz in western Pomerania in 2003. One sees a sign reading “Wałcz 700 years 1303-2003” atop a kiosk at the end of the video.

The salutes were being fired by the honor guard (“kompania honorowa”) of the city of Wałcz. The city’s coat of arms can be seen on the lower corner of the flag.

Some commentators blame the thick gloves worn by the city guardsmen for the rifle firing prematurely. Others blame lack of proper training.

Thanks to Leon Stevens.

Hat tip to Roger de Hautville.

25 Sep 2011

Short Quotations

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From Claire Berlinski:

[During the Korean War,] the North Koreans were shocked that Americans with our critical-thinking, multiple-perspective stuff were the easiest to brainwash? Pretty much 180 degrees from what they expected. The opposite end of the scale? The Turks. They were totally impossible to turn. Their perspective was: “I’m a Turk, you’re my enemy, if I had a pointy stick, I’d kill you right now.”

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“Socialists,” said the Senior Usher, “can never leave anything alone. That’s the trouble. They start with one or two things that badly need reforming, and jolly good luck to them. But then it gets to be a habit. They can’t stop. And that’s what’ll do them in. As Macauley has it, we can make shift to live under a debauchee or even a tyrant; but to to be ruled by a busybody is more than human nature can bear.”

— Simon Raven in Fielding Gray (1967).

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James Delingpole
: A Conservative friend of mine has a favorite exasperated phrase for our political class: “There just aren’t enough bullets.”

25 Sep 2011

Picture of the Day

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The photograph seems to come from Go Moose via Theo.

25 Sep 2011

End of the World as We Know It

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Mark Steyn looks at the pre-2012 political jockeying taking place in America these days and the European economic mess and feels in the mood for a little doom and gloom.

I mentioned in this space a few weeks ago the IMF’s calculation that China will become the planet’s leading economic power by the year 2016. And I added that, if that proves correct, it means the fellow elected next November will be the last president of the United States to preside over the world’s dominant economy. I thought that line might catch on. After all, we’re always told that every election is the most critical consequential watershed election of all time, but this one actually would be: For the first time since Grover Cleveland’s first term, America would be electing a global also-ran. But there’s not a lot of sense of America’s looming date with destiny in these presidential debates. I don’t mean so much from the candidates as from their media interrogators — which is more revealing of where the meter on our political conversation is likely to be during the general election. On Thursday night, there was a question on gays in the military but none on the accelerating European debt crisis. It is certainly important to establish whether a would-be president is sufficiently non-homophobic to authorize a crack team of lesbian paratroopers to rappel into the Chinese treasury, break the safe, and burn all our IOUs. But the curious complacency about the bigger questions is disturbing. …

In a perfect snapshot of this administration’s witless banality, the president traveled last week to the Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River and claimed that, despite the fact that the structure connects the home states of the Republican House leader and the Republican Senate leader, the meanspirited GOP is going to kill the jobs bill and thus all prospects for a new bridge between their two states.

The bridge has nothing to do with the jobs bill. Work on a new bridge is not scheduled to begin for four years and wouldn’t be completed until 2022 at the earliest. Because in the Republic at twilight you can run up another seven-and-a-half-trillion dollars of new debt in less time than it takes to put up a bridge. Even as cheap political showboating the president’s photo op was a pathetic joke, with the laugh on you.

If this is the best America can do, there won’t be a 2022, not for the United States, or anything that would be recognizable as such.

Read the whole thing.

24 Sep 2011

Even the Innocent Pay in Massachusetts

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The same Supreme Judicial Court that concluded a few years ago that the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 mandated Gay Marriage has recently concluded that the Bay State can enhance its revenues by charging drivers for contesting traffic tickets.

The Newspaper.com:

Motorists issued a traffic ticket in Massachusetts will have to pay money to the state whether or not they committed the alleged crime. According to a state supreme court ruling handed down yesterday, fees are to be imposed even on those found completely innocent. The high court saw no injustice in collecting $70 from Ralph C. Sullivan after he successfully fought a $100 ticket for failure to stay within a marked lane.

Bay State drivers given speeding tickets and other moving violations have twenty days either to pay up or make a non-refundable $20 payment to appeal to a clerk-magistrate. After that, further challenge to a district court judge can be had for a non-refundable payment of $50. Sullivan argued that motorists were being forced to pay “fees” not assessed on other types of violations, including drug possession. He argued this was a violation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause, but the high court justices found this to be reasonable.

“We conclude that there is a rational basis for requiring those cited for a noncriminal motor vehicle infraction alone to pay a filing fee and not requiring a filing fee for those contesting other types of civil violations,” Justice Ralph D. Gants wrote for the court. “Where the legislature provides greater process that imposes greater demands on the resources of the District Court, it is rational for the legislature to impose filing fees, waivable where a litigant is indigent, to offset part of the additional cost of these judicial proceedings.”

The court insisted that allowing a hearing before a clerk-magistrate instead of an assistant clerk, as well as allowing a de novo hearing before a judge constituted benefits that justified the cost. Last year, the fees for the clerk-magistrate hearings generated $3,678,620 in revenue for the courts. Although Sullivan raised the issue of due process during oral argument, the court would not rule on the merits of that issue.

It’s easy to see why Elizabeth Warren is a viable candidate in that state.

24 Sep 2011

Splitscreen

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I really don’t think New York City compares terribly well to Paris, but the maker of this cleverly crafted little video, shot entirely on the Nokia N8 mobile phone does a heck of a job at trying. Not surprisingly it won the Nokia Shorts competition 2011.

Hat tip to Inés Bagration.

24 Sep 2011

Reading Mark Steyn in the Light of Ortega

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Jose Orgetga y Gasset

Mark Anthony Signorelli turns his review of Mark Steyn’s After America: Get Ready for Armageddon into an essay supplementary to Steyn’s book, arguing the author’s view of cause and effect can be improved by reading a much earlier (1930) attack on the same forces of dissolution by the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset.

Throughout his book, Steyn catalogues the demoralizing effects of unlimited government upon the American citizenry. No one can ignore the power of the case he presents. But as much as government overreach erodes the character of a people, the debased character of a people manifests itself in arbitrary government. Bad institutions make bad people, but bad people also make bad institutions. Our ugly politics is every bit a reflection of our cultural failings as are our worthless schools. Steyn is not unaware of these facts; one of the passages I found most compelling in his book was when he argues that the truly horrifying thing about the rise of Obama was the fact that the majority of the American people had been duped by such an evident buffoon. Our folly created his administration, and all of its works. So Steyn clearly understands the way a people’s faults can manifest themselves in inept government. Still, the obvious emphasis of his book is on the causal relationship which runs opposite, on the way that inept government debases the character of a people. I think that emphasis is misplaced; I think the effects of a people’s character on the character of their government are more fundamental, more decisive to their happiness, and more subject to reform than the effects which flow from a corrupted government upon the citizenry. Or, to put the point in a different way, I believe that culture is far more consequential for the maintenance of a well-ordered community than politics. Steyn himself advises that, “changing the culture is more important than changing the politics,” but since the emphasis of his book is on the way that bad politics has changed our culture for the worse, he actually seems to undermine this bit of advice.

The book that most effectively delineates the ruinous social mechanisms of liberal democracy is The Revolt of the Masses, by the early twentieth-century philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset. For Ortega, modern western society was marked by the rise to power of the “mass-man,” the unqualified or uncultivated man, who, lacking all necessary intellectual and moral training in the duties of civic life, had nonetheless asserted his immutable right to impose his own mediocrity of spirit upon society: “The characteristic of the hour is that the commonplace mind, knowing itself to be commonplace, has the assurance to proclaim the rights of the commonplace and to impose them wherever it will.” The mass-man is not bound by any traditions or maxims of prudence; he cares only about having his own way in the world. And when he is taught (as all modern political theory teaches him) that the state is a manifestation of his own will, he freely grants it an unlimited scope of action, just as he (theoretically) grants himself a perfect freedom of action: “This is the gravest danger that today threatens civilization: State intervention, the absorption of all spontaneous social effort by the State…when the mass suffers any ill-fortune, or simply feels some strong appetite, its great temptation is that permanent, sure possibility of obtaining everything – merely by touching a button and setting the mighty machine in motion.” The consequences of this trend are catastrophic:

    The result of this tendency will be fatal. Spontaneous social action will be broken up over and over again by State intervention; no new seed will be able to fructify. Society will have to live for the State, man for the governmental machine. And as, after all, it is only a machine whose existence and maintenance depend on the vital supports around it, the State, after sucking out the very marrow of society, will be left bloodless, a skeleton, dead with that rusty death of machinery, more gruesome than the death of a living organism.

Exactly as Steyn describes it in his book, some eighty years later. But what Ortega makes us see is that “big government” results from the prior moral corruption of the people, in particular from their unbounded self-love and self-assurance. It destroys them in the end, but at the first, it was their creature.

Read the whole thing. This one is a must-read.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

23 Sep 2011

Dropping the Mask

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Charles Krauthammer explains the president’s recent tax proposal. This is politics, but it’s not only politics, this is the real Barack Obama.

A most revealing window into our president’s political core: To impose a tax that actually impoverishes our communal bank account (the U.S. Treasury) is ridiculous. It is nothing but punitive. It benefits no one — not the rich, not the poor, not the government. For Obama, however, it brings fairness, which is priceless. …

Obama has actually gone and done it. He’s just proposed a $1.5 trillion tsunami of tax hikes featuring a “Buffett rule” that, although as yet deliberately still fuzzy, clearly includes raising capital gains taxes.

He also insists again upon raising marginal rates on “millionaire” couples making $250,000 or more. But roughly half the income of small businesses (i.e., those filing individual returns) would be hit by this tax increase. Therefore, if we are to believe Obama’s own logic that his proposed business tax credits would increase hiring, then surely this tax hike will reduce small-business hiring.

But what are jobs when fairness is at stake? Fairness trumps growth. Fairness trumps revenue. Fairness trumps economic logic.

Obama himself has said that “you don’t raise taxes in a recession.” Why then would he risk economic damage when facing reelection? Because these proposals have no chance of being enacted, many of them having been rejected by the Democratic-controlled Congress of Obama’s first two years in office.

Moreover, this is not an economic, or jobs, or debt-reduction plan in the first place. This is a campaign manifesto. This is anti-millionaire populism as premise for his reelection. And as such, it is already working.

Obama’s Democratic base is electrified. On the left, the new message is playing to rave reviews. It has rekindled the enthusiasm of his core constituency — the MoveOn, Hollywood liberal, Upper West Side precincts best described years ago by John Updike: “Like most of the neighborhood, she was a fighting liberal, fighting to have her money taken from her.”

Added Updike: “For all her exertions, it never was.” But now with Obama — it will be! Turns out, Obama really was the one they had been waiting for.

That is: the new Obama, today’s soak-the-rich, veto-threatening, self-proclaimed class warrior. Except that the new Obama is really the old Obama — the one who, upon entering office in the middle of a deep economic crisis, and determined not to allow “a serious crisis to go to waste” (to quote his then-chief of staff), exploited the (presumed) malleability of a demoralized and therefore passive citizenry to enact the largest Keynesian stimulus in recorded history, followed by the quasi-nationalization of one-sixth of the economy that is health care.

Considering the political cost — a massive electoral rebuke by an infuriated 2010 electorate — these are the works of a conviction politician, one deeply committed to his own social-democratic vision.

That politician now returns. Obama’s new populism surely is a calculation that his halfhearted feints to the center after the midterm “shellacking” were not only unconvincing but would do him no good anyway with a stagnant economy, 9 percent unemployment and a staggering $4 trillion of new debt.

But this is more than a political calculation. It is more than just a pander to his base. It is a pander to himself: Obama is a member of his base. He believes this stuff. It is an easy and comfortable political shift for him, because it’s a shift from a phony centrism back to his social-democratic core, from positioning to authenticity.

The authentic Obama is a leveler, a committed social democrat, a staunch believer in the redistributionist state, a tribune, above all, of “fairness” — understood as government-imposed and government-enforced equality.

That’s why “soak the rich” is not just a campaign slogan to rally the base. It’s a mission, a vocation. It’s why, for all its gratuitous cynicism and demagoguery, Obama’s populist Rose Garden lecture on Monday was delivered with such obvious — and unusual — conviction.

He’s returned to the authenticity of his radical April 2009 “New Foundation” address (at Georgetown University) that openly proclaimed his intent to fundamentally transform America.


In a 2001 NPR, State Senator Barack Obama complains of constitutional constraints on redistributive change.

23 Sep 2011

More on Elizabeth Warren

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Bookworm does a very nice job of putting Commissar Warren in her place.

There are so many things wrong with Warren’s statement that I really don’t know where to begin. Tonestaple sent me an email that certainly gets the tone right (which led to my post’s title):

    They [meaning the middle class Leftists who applaud the above statement] seem to think it is the ne plus ultra of common sense. I think it sounds like a gangster saying, “Nice factory you’ve got here – be a shame if anything happened to it.”

…Tonestaple perfectly nailed the reality behind Warren’s cutesy, nursery school-esque, “God blessy” statement that everybody should share with everybody else.” The reality is that, in Obama world, if you don’t make nice with the government, the government is not going to make nice with you. (The cutesy tone, incidentally, is classic Warren. She was one of my law school profs, and I found her invariably sweet in word, unintelligible in substance, and vaguely vicious in action.)

Tone aside, there are two major problems with Warren’s factory parable. The first is the assumption that the factory owner contributed nothing to roads, education, police and fire forces, etc. In Warren’s world, the factory owner is a pure parasite. Warren conveniently forgets that the factory owner pays taxes (hugely more taxes than all those people whom she posits paying for roads, education, etc.); that the factory owner provides work for and pays the salary of those employees who then pay taxes; and that a successful factory owner makes a product that provides a benefit to people.

The second problem with Warren’s statement is actually a much more profound one than her “forgetting” that it’s the employers who provide the goods, services and salaries that make all those useful taxes possible. Warren’s statement turns the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and everything else the Founders stood for upside down.

In Warren’s world, a socialist world, the government owns everything. (And don’t you love it when well paid Harvard professors advocate socialism?)

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

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