Thursday, July 31, 2008

Nancy Pelosi, Co-Redemptress

Look who wants in on Obama's messenger from heaven routine--its Nancy Herself Pelosi, who was until recently merely Speaker of the House. Now, in a daring--might we say audacious?-act of self promotion, she has promoted herself to Co-Redemptress. Brooking no backtalk from miserable, kvetching, menial Republicans, Nancy has declared her mission is... to Save the Planet! and she will not let constitutional objections, or any kind of objections, stay her from her God given quest.

Perhaps we'll see something like a scene from a comic book, where the super heroes join forces to vanquish evil. BAM!! POW!! Short sighted, greedy and evil Republicans with no regard for the safety of the whole world must stand aside and let eco-righteousness flourish. In their fabulous capes and tights, the Lord Obama and his spunky semi-divine sidekick St Nancy join forces to lay low the reactionary forces of capitalism, free markets, and individual freedom. After they cause the seas to recede and chase unworthy breathers of our air away, they will usher in a new era of shared responsibility, global taxes, and top-down control by Those Who Know. And saving this planet is only the beginning!
So many worlds, so little time!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Health Care Driven GOP Victory in November

President Bush's military success in Iraq may cast voter attention back to domestic concerns which, even the war notwithstanding, are considerable. The economy. Immigration. Health care. Of course, these are inter-related.

The conventional wisdom is that a domestic focus means a Democratic victory. In 2008, that is not so obvious. When the Democratic candidate want to repeal the Bush tax cuts, giving us the largest tax increase since World War II, when gas is over $4 a gallon and the Democratic candidate opposes tapping into American sources of oil and natural gas, and when he wants to (in effect) nationalize the health care system further inflating the deficit, crippling the economy and deteriorating the quality of health care, and when the Republican candidate advocates the opposite of these stands, an opportunity presents itself for the GOP to win on an domestic agenda. In other words, McCain's ticket to the White House is (1) keep taxes low, (2) drill for oil, and (3) reform the health care system with a market-driven approach.

In this month's issue of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society, James C. Capretta will give you a comprehensive, clear and not numbingly detailed summary of the history of the issue and of the plans coming out of the two parties ("Health Care 2008: A Political Primer").

Capretta sees the audacity of hope on the Republican side, if Sen. McCain would only realize it and explain it convincingly to the American people. He concludes, "...we may well be witness this year to the emergence of the next great conservative reform effort. Indeed, health care reform just might turn out to be what tax reform was in the 1980s and welfare reform was in the 1990s: a platform for a focused conservative effort to achieve through market forces and economic incentives what the left has failed to do through government." Yes we can!

James C. Capretta is a New Atlantis contributing editor and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He also writes a health care policy blog, Diagnosis.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Is Obama the Best We Can Do?

Can you imagine Obama making a hard decision? That is arguably the essence of the job of the American chief executive, and yet we have the most celebrated of candidates jetting around talking like the whole world is Oprah's audience. Exquisite sensibilities; impeccable style; pinache; elan; elegance;...the list of fashionista superlatives goes on and on. But except for the brief holiday from history that Reagan's stunning defeat of communism bought us, the world the American president faces is not like Oprah's audience; it is not looking for healing, or hope, or undefined "change"; it is full of bad actors who lurk in the darkness like wolves outside the light cast from a camp fire, who become bolder as the fire dims.

Do you trust Obama, the New Age Sensitive Man in his smashing suit, the "Light Bearer", to meet the high standard of decision-making achieved by FDR in taking us into WWII, Harry Truman in facing down the Soviets with the Berlin Airlift, Reagan in winning the Cold War, or Bush Jr in staying in Iraq and insisting on victory? The Democrat left, in all these instances, advised retreat, "soft" or "hard" diplomacy, and defeat. A hard left president like Obama, unchecked by a responisble (read Republican) Congress, would steer the American Ship of State exactly broadside to our enemies in very short order. Viet Nam continues to be the model; they apparently prefer a shamed, second-rate America to a world-leading hegemon.

Jeff Jacoby gives just one reason Americans are going to be doing a slow burn over Obama's shameful performance in Berlin in his analysis of that soon-to-be-infamous speech.

In "Missing From That Berlin Speech" Jacoby notes the deliberate evasion of what actually took place:

"But not once in his Berlin speech did Obama acknowledge Truman's fortitude, or even mention his name. Nor did he mention the US Air Force, or the 31 American pilots who died during the airlift.
Indeed, Obama seemed to go out of his way not to say plainly that what saved Berlin in that dark time was America's military might. Save for a solitary reference to "the first American plane," he never described one of the greatest American operations of the postwar period as an American operation at all. He spoke only of "the airlift," "the planes," "those pilots." Perhaps their American identity wasn't something he cared to stress amid all his "people of the world" salutations and talk of "global citizenship.""

If Obama actually believes his own account of that historic showdown, and that "people coming together" is what brought down that symbol of Soviet aggression in Western Europe, I shudder to think of the position we will find ourselves in, vis-a-vis the Iranians, the North Koreans, Hugo Chavez, the Chinese, and our erstwhile allies in the EU, as he attempts his Oprah act on real players on the international scene. I suspect many older Germans were disgusted by such weakness, since they know American might and will saved West Berlin from the 50 years of imprisonment the East Germans enjoyed at the hands of their Soviet benefactors.

What benefactions can we look forward to under a President Obama?

God help us.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What Is and What Should Never Be

As the Obama World Tour reached its apex in the soaring (but as usual, empty) Berlin speech, I was reminded of a line in an old Led Zeppelin song:

And if you say to me tomorrow, oh what fun it all would be.
Then what's to stop us, pretty baby? But What Is And What Should Never Be.

The foreign policy world, and perhaps the entire human world, is roughly divided between realists and idealists. Robert Plant in the lyric above manages to navigate the boundaries between the two, moving from a dream-like idyll to the real world and back again, questioning the dictates laid down by the world as it is, but cautioning knowingly about the power of What Is, as well as the moral constraint of What Should Never Be. Of course the point of rock and roll and the associated sexual and political revolutions was always to defy convention and go with the dream. Thus the Obama as rock star meme, the political messiah, the One we have all been waiting for, the change we can all finally believe in--the sense that the dreamworld of idealism is about to break into the real world and save it, is not something new, but is in fact by this time quite long in the tooth as cultural artifacts go. Political Idealism is a hardy plant--going back at least as far as Dante Alighieri's dream of one world government, and the many others that have followed--Immanual Kant's Universal Peace, Woodrow Wilson's League of Nations, the United Nations, the EU, the World Court, and the trans-nationalist Democrat party all point to and long for a world at one. And now Obama is the electrifying new voice for idealism ascendant.

Yet our present day dreamers miss the subtlety of Robert Plant's lyric exploration of the moral ambiguity of the world we live in. Dreaming of What Might Be, chafing at What Is, they, child-like in their naivety, dismiss or disregard What Should Never Be. The hard knowledge of what the world is really like is inconvenient; it impinges on the dream. But the lessons from the real consequences of idealist benders are strewn throughout history for those realist enough to look; that trajectory is seen is small in the lives of so many rock stars--like shooting stars, they burn brightly and then fall to earth as cinders, or worse, completely incinerated.

Rush Limbaugh has stated categorically that we cannot afford an Obama presidency. The reason is this foolhardy brand of idealism that stands back of Obama's pronouncements, which is given so much currency and presence in pop culture--that is the real danger to the US as the leader of the free world, and to the world as a whole. For when idealism attempts in its sleepwalking to make the dream real, the evil among us are unleashed to establish a new world order of their own. One century of totalitarianism ought to be have been enough to have taught that lesson...but that Ur-realist, Friedrich Nietzsche, did he not, prophesied two centuries of world-wide tumult from the decision to invite God to leave.

What Is, and What Should Never Be--world builders ought to consider these things.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lo. He is Now World Citizen-Messiah

Barack Obama's world tour has gone so splendidly well that there is a good chance that he will solve all the world's problems while he is still only a candidate for president. That would leave him with only domestic issues to address once in office. If in the course of this short tour he can pacify and unify the world with his spellbinding charisma and remarkable good sense, he will surely accomplish the same thing here at home within the first one hundred days of his administration. If Obama is elected (and why wouldn't we elect him?), I expect that he will be a voluntarily one term president simply from the prospect of the sheer boredom of a second term with nothing left to do.

These are truly inspiring times. What we thought was an American Citizen-Messiah has revealed himself to be actually a World Citizen-Messiah! How did we not see that he is too good to keep all to ourselves? But you don't know that half of it. After you read "He Ventured Forth to Bring Light to the World" by Gerard Baker in TimesOnline, you'll grope for words to express your thanks for being alive at this Great Historical Turning Point. (Excuse me. I have to cry.)

And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.
The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.
When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”
Read on. It gets better. Much better. You can see a video version here.
The fellow believers over at Power Line give a synopsis of what the Prophet of Unity said in the Unified City. They end by concluding, "this is a speech about turning America into the European Union more than anything else." Isn't that good news.
John McCain, on the other hand, does serious harm to the prospects for World Evolutionary Advance by focusing people's attention on these unflattering facts about the Peace Child's words and deeds concerning Iraq over the last couple of years. Don't read it. It will just make you mad. Or confuse you. Or something.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Buzz on Critical Elections and Obama

When a remarkable presidential candidate emerges talking about "change," people start speculating about a "critical election" and "re-alignment." The theory of critical elections was developed by Walter Dean Burnham and you can read about it here. (Yes, you do the work.)

In "Our Robed Rulers," James Stoner's review of Keith Whittington's Political Foundations of Judicial Supremacy: The Presidency, the Supreme Court and Constitutional Leadership in U.S. History in the Claremont Review of Books, Stoner mentions critical elections but neither of the candidates by name. Presidents are either reconstructive, affiliated or pre-emptive. This theory began with Stephen Shrowronek's The Politics Presidents Make (1993) and Whittington refines it. The reconstructive ones are transformative leaders, like Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln and FDR "who changed the terms of political debate, modified the structure of the state and its activities, and, yes, realigned the people's partisan identification." The affiliated ones follow the reconstructive ones and perpetuate their changes. George Bush relative to Ronald Reagan. The preemptive ones, like Eisenhower and Clinton, merely interrupt but do not fundamentally challenge the "regime" established by the reconstructive predecessor. And he applies all of this to the struggle since the Founding between the judicial supremacists (Federalist, Daniel Webster, Stephen Douglas) and departmentalists (Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln) in American jurisprudence.

The day after reading this is in the CRB, I was treated to John Steele Gordon's thoughts on critical elections in his Wall Street Journal essay, "2008: A Watershed Election?" (July 10, 2008).

Is the 2008 election likely to be a repeat of 1932 and 1980, remaking the political landscape in the process? That's unlikely. For one thing, while the incumbent is unpopular, he is not running. And the economy, while certainly dicey right now, is a long way from the desperate problems of 1932 or the very serious ones of 1980.

Gordon finds parallels with 1896, an election that does not come up even in learned conversation as often as, say, 1960 or 1980. That was William McKinley (R) versus William Jennings Bryan (D).
McKinley too was a genuine war hero (distinguished service in the Civil War) who then entered politics. He served several terms in the House and became chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. In 1891 he was elected governor of Ohio. His opponent's political résumé was a lot thinner, with only two back-bencher terms in the House. But at the Democratic convention of 1896, Bryan electrified the crowd with his "Cross of Gold" speech. It instantly became an American classic and propelled him to the nomination at just 36 years old, by far the youngest man ever nominated by a major party. Like Mr. Obama, Bryan promised a new politics aimed to benefit the common man, not the capitalists.

Of course, young William Jennings Bryan lost to old McKinley who convinced America of the value that experience brings and that the young fire brand would ruin the economy. And, of course, Obama is Bryan and Ole John McCain is McKinley (who, if this is true, should stay out of Buffalo).

Read the whole article. (I know when you don't follow the links. I have secret ways of seeing these things.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Free Society and the Niqab

No matter who you look at in this story, something should tell you that you're not in Kansas, Toto.

The New York Times reports today ("A Veil Closes France's Door To Citizenship") that a French immigration court has denied citizenship to a 32 year old Moroccan woman, Faiza Silmi, because she wears the Muslim veil. It is actually one of the more extreme forms of the veil, a niqab (pictured above). The woman is stunned that she would be denied citizenship "because of what I choose to wear." But the ruling has "almost unequivocal support across the political spectrum." The French concern is not only for laïcité, or the publicly secular character of French society, but also for egalité, the perpetuation of the democratic character of French society and government. “It is not a religious insignia but the insignia of a totalitarian political project that promotes inequality between the sexes and is totally lacking in democracy,” said Fadela Amara, the French minister for urban affairs, who is also a practicing Muslim of Algerian descent. She called the niqab “a prison” and a “straitjacket.”

For her part, Faiza Silmi, said, “They say I wear the niqab because my husband told me so. I want to tell them: It is my choice. I take care of my children, and I leave the house when I please. I have my own car. I do the shopping on my own. Yes, I am a practicing Muslim, I am orthodox. But is that not my right?”

Just as an aside, I found a photo this 1995 Iraqi passport [see correction below, 2/23/09]. Given how strictly Muslim life is regulated not only by Sharia law but also by various customs, it is questionable whether a Muslim of this sort can live outside a Muslim country. Assimilation is certainly questionable. You can explore the questions on your own.

Peter offers this comment (Feb. 23, 2009): Hello, Interesting picture which You found in the net. Indeed, this document is even more interesting than You may imagine. In fact it´s a driver´s license and not a passport. And in fact it was given by authorities located in Europe and not in Iraq, where it may be nothing outstanding in this time. It´s a croatian one, given in 1995 to a woman coming from Kirkuk in Iraq to Zagreb. A great difference, I guess, but I´m nearly sure, that also the croatian authorities wouldn´t give such a license again nowadays.

My response: Peter, thank you for pointing that out. But you shouldn't have had to. If I had looked for closely at it in the first place, it would have been obvious. But I could not have known it was a driver's license, not a passport. Of course, my point is the same, but thanks for taking the trouble.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Let's Hear From a Cartooning Expert

Cartoonist Daryl Cagle explains how The New Yorker's Barry Blitt cartoon on their recent cover fails, and thus why it has got them into such deep do-do.

There are rules to political cartoons that allow cartoonists to draw in an elegant, simple, shorthand that readers understand. Exaggeration is a well worn tool of political cartoonists; we use it all the time. I've drawn President Bush as the King of England, to exaggerate his autocratic tendencies. I've drawn the president as a dog, peeing all over the globe to mark his territory. I exaggerate every day, and I don't expect my readers to take my exaggerations seriously -- but when I draw an absurdly exaggerated political cartoon, I'm looking for some truth to exaggerate to make my point. A typical stand-up comedian will tell jokes about things the audience already knows or agrees with, "it's funny because it's true," or true as the comedian sees it. It is the same for cartoonists -- our readers know that we're exaggerating to make a point we believe in....

There is no frame of reference in The New Yorker's cover to put the scene into perspective. Following the rules of political cartoons, I could fix it. I would have Obama think in a thought balloon, "I must be in the nightmare of some conservative." With that, the scene is shown to be in the mind of someone the cartoonist disagrees with and we have defined the target of the cartoon as crazy conservatives with their crazy dreams.

Since readers expect cartoonists to convey some truth as we see it, depicting someone else's point of view in a cartoon has to be shown to be someone else's point of view, otherwise it is reasonable for readers to see the cartoon as somehow being the cartoonist's point of view, no matter how absurd the cartoon is. That is where The New Yorker's cover cartoon fails.

Cagle himself offers this parody that clearly expresses his own point of view:

Matson at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch makes the same point about context with this:

How could a magazine so well known for such excellent cartooning make such a fundamental cartooning blunder?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Blaspheming The Prophet Obama Is No Joke!

Liberals are squawking about how "offensive" the cover of the recent New Yorker is. Since when were liberals concerned about about whether or not an image is offensive? They don't think they're free unless they are "edgy" and "pushing the envelope" and generally drawing gasps from decent folk.

Jack Shafer at Slate is a better liberal on this point. "Only weak thinkers fear strong images. The publication that convenes itself as a polite dinner party, serving only polenta and pureed peas, need not invite me to sup." ("The New Yorker Draws Fire") He quotes Boss Tweed of Tammany Hall, who actually had a good point that pertains to this flap. The great 19th century cartoonist Thomas Nast would skewer him with caricatures in the newspapers, inciting Tweed at one point to exclaim, "I don't care so much what the papers say about me. My constituents can't read. But, damn it, they can see pictures!"

Ronald Reagan had an opposite response to a journalist who did a report quite critical of him. When he saw it soon after it ran, he congratulated her on it, explaining to the confused journalist (I think it was Andrea Mitchell) that while no one would remember what she said, the images she used were quite complimentary. (No doubt the Gipper was smiling, and there was likely a flag.)

To get The New Yorker's joke, you have to think about who they are and what they intended to ay with the cover. But the image itself reinforces or sows impressions that are unhelpful to the Obama campaign. But the liberals are in no position to complain about "offensive" cartoons. Again, look at Michelle Malkin's sampling of what liberals tolerate in political imagery.

Liberals seem to view any humorous treatment of Barack Obama the way Muslims view jokes about the Prophet Mohammed. Now admittedly, they're not murdering over it. We know that there are some things you just don't joke about. The holocaust and the rape of Nanking, for example. Apparently Barack Obama and the enlightenment of the human race that he is sure to bring us is another such topic. Maureen Dowd is motheringly concerned about Obama's "chilly earnestness" in her column today ("May We Mock, Barack?").

If you need to lighten up, take at look at this Jib Jab video lampooning the election thus far.

3 p.m. update - I just walked around midtown Manhattan looking for this infamous issue of The New Yorker and it is sold out everywhere. I have no doubt that the artist Barry Blitt and the magazine's editors meant to jab the right, not the left, but whatever they did has certainly paid off, judging from street level. We'll see what happens to subscriptions. Supposedly "shocking" covers like the June 17 1996 Barry Blitt cover depicting one sailor kissing another in a homosexual allusion to the 1945 Alfred Eisenstaedt picture on the cover of LIFE magazine certainly don't ruffle any feathers among The New Yorker's established readership, even though they are "offensive" to others. Perhaps we'll see this magazine testing the liberality of liberals more frequently. Nah.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The New Yorker Botches Obama

People have been anticipating that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is going to be too hot to handle on account of the explosive sensitivity of the race issue. The trip wire for setting it off even quite unintentionally will be impossible to avoid.

But then there is this New Yorker magazine cover. Perhaps they assumed that their solidly liberal credentials would help enlightened readers understand that it is not the Obamas they are ridiculing but the Obamas' right-wing detractors who peddle these slanderous fictions. But the BBC reports Obama spokesman Bill Burton saying, "The New Yorker may think... that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create, but most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree." You can see this particular issue of The New Yorker here.

No less a liberal icon as Jesse Jackson has also had to apologize to Sen. Obama. CBS reports, "Noting Obama's speeches in African-American churches, which have placed a heavy emphasis on the responsibilities of African-Americans rather than noting the pressures created by high levels of unemployment, home foreclosures and violence, Jackson offered a private gripe to United Health Group executive Dr. Reed V. Tuckson. Unaware that the Fox microphone was on, he said, 'See, Barack's been talking down to black people ... I want to cut his nuts off.'"

It's going to be an interesting ride.

The Bookworm Room has noticed that Obama whines every time anyone attacks him. I had the same impression, but the Jesse incident was the only one I could remember off hand.

The latter directs us to Michelle Malkin's documentation of the far more extreme lashing of distasteful "humor" directed at Condi Rice, Colin Powell (they are particularly unmerciful toward Republicans who are black) and, of course, President Bush.

Friday, July 11, 2008


"Let us imagine that Chancellor Angela Merkel was a former officer of the SS rather than a former professor of physical chemistry. And let us imagine she went before her parliament and people and proclaimed the collapse of Nazi-occupied Europe the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century. Such a remark would have produced a furious response from the German press, the German political opposition, and the German people. Germany’s neighbors would have twitched with anxiety. Ambassadors would have been recalled. Editorial writers would have wondered whether the Nazi beast was reawakening.
And imagine, too, that the SS and the Gestapo, under new, benign-sounding names, were still responsible for internal German security. And that they still worked from their old headquarters buildings. That scenario, as preposterous as it sounds, is exactly the situation in Russia today. The FSB, Russia’s Federal Security Service, occupies the KGB’s old headquarters building in Lubyanka Square. Many Russians don’t even bother to call the FSB by its new name. They still refer to it as the KGB"

This from a piece by novelist Daniel Silva ("Comrade Lenin Alive and Well"), whose visit to Moscow to research a new book brought forth this invitation to reflect on why Marxist-Leninists mass murderers are acceptable on the world stage, whereas their National Socialist brothers-under-the-skin have long since been made a by-word for political evil. Imagine, while you're at it, what a President Obama's stance vis-a-vis Putin and his newly resurgent Russia might be. Recall the elegant, sophisticated, well-intentioned JFK as he walked into the windmill that was Nikita Khrushchev. How'd that work out for us?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Obama, the Janus-faced Candidate

The ancient Romans famously had a god for everything, including, for example, every discernible part of an ear of corn. Janus, the origin of the name for January, is the god of thresholds, or beginnings. He is depicted looking forward and backward--two-faced, straddling, ever remaining at the brink, neither moving into the new, nor abandoning the old. The analogy with the ever-changing positions of Obama, a list of which appears below, does some injustice to the venerable old god, which I regret; however, since Janus' status as a deity matches that of Lord Obama, I escape the charge of blasphemy on both accounts.
Obama has raised the practice of political cynicism to new heights--or depths, as one views these things. Take the general tone of his self-presentation. While his latest ads show him the son of Kansas, middle American values, an aw shucks kind of home town boy, he has cultivated and allowed an overwrought hagiographical treatment in the press that routinely moves in the range from the mere suggestion of messiah-hood, to the outright proclamation of his deity, a topic both David and I have been alert to in these pages. I'll wait while you check.

But unlike the Christian Messiah which is the immediate referent for all this, Obama finds he cannot hold a consistent line on anything. Well, perhaps he could if he wanted to; but he is forced by the nature of left-liberalism and its distastefulness to the broad spectrum of middle America's bitter clingers to tack to and fro depending on the needs of the campaign week. What new twist will this week bring? Be assured there will be a response from Lord Obama, but one which will have no necessary relation to anything he has said or done previously. Like Janus, he is able to look both ways at once, selecting from the contradictory alternatives with no psychic discomfort or cognitive dissonance. The Pennsylvania GOP has put together the following list of turn-abouts which would have snapped the neck of any ordinary mortal. Perhaps there is something to the proclaimed god-likeness of Obama after all.

CHANGE #1: Despite Pledging To Withdraw American Troops From Iraq Immediately, Barack Obama Now Says He Would "Refine" His Policy After Listening To The Commanders On The Ground

CHANGE #2: Despite Pledging To Accept Public Financing, Barack Obama Has Reversed His Position And Opted Out Of The System

CHANGE #3: Barack Obama Is Backtracking On His Support For Unilaterally Renegotiating NAFTA

CHANGE #4: Barack Obama Is Considering Reducing Corporate Taxes Despite Having Called Corporate Tax Cuts "The Exact Wrong Prescription For America"

CHANGE #5: Barack Obama Has Changed Positions On The D.C. Handgun Ban

CHANGE #6: Barack Obama Has Shifted From Opposing Welfare Reform To Celebrating Welfare Reform In A Television Ad

CHANGE #7: As A Presidential Candidate, Barack Obama Criticizes The Administration's Energy Policy Despite Having Voted For The 2005 Bush-Cheney Energy Bill

CHANGE #8: Barack Obama Has Shifted Positions On Nuclear Power

CHANGE #9: Obama Adviser Said Obama Was Not Opposed To An Individual Health Care Mandate Despite His Opposition During The Primary

CHANGE #10: During The Primaries, Barack Obama Pledged To Filibuster Any Bill Which Contained Immunity For Telecommunications Companies Involved In Electronic Surveillance, But Now Backs A Compromise Bill

CHANGE #11: Barack Obama Disagreed With The Supreme Court Decision Striking Down The Use Of The Death Penalty For A Convicted Child Rapist Although In The Past He Opposed The Death Penalty

CHANGE #12: Barack Obama Has Backtracked From His Earlier Commitment To Meet With The Leaders Of State Sponsors Of Terror "Without Precondition"

CHANGE #13: After Saying Jerusalem Should Be "Undivided," Barack Obama Has Since Backtracked

CHANGE #14: As A Presidential Candidate, Barack Obama Has Backed Away From His Earlier Support For Normalized Relations With Cuba And Ending The Embargo

CHANGE #15: Barack Obama Is Against The California Ballot Measure Banning Gay Marriage Despite His Assertion That Marriage Is Between A Man And A Woman
(Did you notice as you read through this list how many of these have to do with foreign policy; this sort of political calculation and triangulation, able to be written off domestically as calculation or triangulation by the cynical and sophisticated, mixes into our serious business when foreign leaders, friend and foe, try to discern what the hell is going on. An Obama presidency would show the American Ship of State rudderless, and without a captain familiar with the seas he is in.)
To read a closer analysis of these points, see

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pickens Has an Oil Plan. Who'll Pick It Up?

Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens has entered the energy debate that is becoming an ever deeper concern for American voters as the price of gas and eventually home heating oil climb. In today's Wall Street Journal ("My Plan to Escape the Grip of Foreign Oil") he presents his plan "to reduce America's foreign oil imports by more than one-third in the next five to 10 years." You can find it more fully elaborated on his website,

"Foreign oil," he says, "is at the intersection of America's three most important issues: the economy, the environment and our national security." Though he mentions new jobs and the "carbon footprint," his concern is primarily national security. "With all my experience, I've never been as worried about our energy security as I am now. Like many of us, I ignored what was happening. Now our country faces what I believe is the most serious situation since World War II." Our oil imports have gone from 24% of consumption in 1973 (the year of the OPEC oil embargo) to 42$ in 1990 (the year of the first Gulf War) to 70% today. Of course, the economy has multiplied in size whereas domestic oil production has likely decreased. He reports that over the next ten years, America will transfer $10 trillion to foreign nations. He does not mention that much of will flow to people who are trouble for America, international evils and curses on their own people.

His plan is to develop a diversity of energy sources--wind in the Midwest, solar in the Southwest, drilling offshore, batteries and fuel cells, and encouraging the use of natural gas powered trucks and buses. He relies largely on the private sector with certain government mandates such as for the formation of wind and solar transmission corridors. It requires "no new consumer or corporate taxes or government regulation."

The question for students of American politics is: which candidate will come forward with the most convincing plan to address this issue. The rhetorical task is to convince the unconvinced that there is a problem, and persuade the convinced that your plan is feasible, relatively swift in it's delivery, reasonably sensitive to the environment, cost efficient and government lite. The Pickens Plan is quite convincing to this energy layman.

Power Line ends a post on the recent AP/Yahoo poll on the presidential race with this: "The Presidential race polls as a dead heat. The tie-breaker is the price of gasoline. Of all issues, it is rated highest by respondents, with 66% saying it is 'extremely important.' If John McCain quits paying lip service to the global warming myth and runs as the candidate who wants to expand our access to energy, he will win rather easily in November."

Monday, July 7, 2008

Puppy Manages to Outrage Brit Muslims

John O'Sullivan today shares another story of Muslims forcing Western people to live like Muslim's for sake of Muslim sensibilities.

In a campaign to promote their non-emergency phone number, the Tayside (Dundee area, Scotland) police featured an irresistibly cute German shepherd puppy on a postcard advertising the phone number. O'Sullivan tells us that "a local Muslim councillor...pointed out that Muslims considered dogs ritually unclean and asked for a police apology. The Tayside police promptly conceded that they should have consulted their 'diversity officer.' ...[T]he police withdrew the ad, and everyone agreed to be more sensitive in the future." But he presents the situation as a few radicals stirring up strife and division. If only those in charge would stand up to this power play and to the left wing cultural anthropologists who stand blindly and suicidally behind it.

If you go the story in Britain's Daily Mail, however, you get a fuller picture. Always go to the source!

First, the Muslim city counciller is Mohammed Asif who said, 'My concern was that it's not welcomed by all communities, with the dog on the cards." Councillor Asif is also a member of the Tayside Joint Police Board and he raised the matter with Mr Vine at a meeting of the board.

What the story calls a postcard appears to be a cardboard sign that was distributed to local businesses to display in their shop windows. The statement in the story that the image of the dog, considered ritually unclean by Muslims, on the cards "has sparked such anger that some shopkeepers in Dundee have refused to display the advert." The statement is ambiguous in its meaning. At first I thought it was the Scottish shopkeepers that feared violent reprisals from Muslim neighbors, but there does not appear to be reason to go beyond understanding simply that Muslim shopkeepers were angry that the police would insensitively ask them to post this image in their store windows, and they refused to comply with the request. Well, that's understandable.

Councillor Asif said, "People who have shops just won't put up the postcard. But the police have said to me that it was simply an oversight and they did not seek to offend or upset."

Of course, there is no reason that the rest of the Dundee area can't use the signs. O'Sullivan appears to be right that the police timidly overreacted. Bernard Lewis points out in What Went Wrong that it is hard for a strict Muslim to live in a non-Muslim land, a land not governed by Sharia law. There is a certain kind of Muslim (by far most American Muslims are not of this sort) that will constantly crow about violations of Islamic Sharia law by the wider non-Muslim society until the Western majority has submitted itself ("Islam" means submission) to Sharia law, effectively transforming itself into an Islamic state. While making the sort of concessions that civil decency requires, Western democracies will otherwise have to stand up to such demands and in so doing help these recent arrivals understand the liberal character of the world in which they have chosen to live and, yes, its Christian character.

On this last point, see Without Roots: the West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) and Marcello Pera, president of the Italian Senate.

You can still follow the Puppy Training Diary on the Special Units page of the Tayside police website.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Black Nationalism Re-emerges As An Issue

At Denver mayor John Hickenlooper's recent State of the City address, it was announced that jazz singer Rene Marie would sing the national anthem. But she stepped forward and sang what is known as "the Black National Anthem." View it here.

As she begins to sing, we hear the familiar tune, but the words are different. They aren't the words of the national anthem at all. Instead, they are the words of a hymn written by the celebrated black poet, James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938).

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee.
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.

The mayor was light on outrage, saying only that, "If anyone has got a right to be angry it's probably me. I guess what I feel most is just deeply disappointed," Fox News reports. He then went on to defend her: "What she said was that she was very sorry, that she meant no disrespect, that she was trying to make a creative expression of her love for the country."

What I find most striking in the video is not this renegade jazz singer substituting an ethnic anthem for the national anthem, implicitly rejecting the nation and declaring her higher allegiance to her social subgroup. Watch the video. As she sings, no one on the stage even bats an eye. There is no puzzlement on anyone's face. No one is looking around the room to see if anyone else is noticing that these are not the words of the national anthem. Then the camera gives us a view from the back of the room. Again, we see no heads turning to neighbors with questions or concerns. We hear no murmurring. We certainingly hear no one shouting, "That's NOT the national anthem!" In fact, when the singer is done, the assembled dignitaries APPLAUD! If I were a Denverite, I would make that an election issue.

But every American should be concerned about this response. Once again, what does it say about the culture that has formed Barack Obama? I would not connect this Denver incident with the Illinois Senator from Chicago were it not for similar attitudes we have observed in the church he has attended and cherished for the last twenty years. But America's concern should also extend to the horse (or donkey) he's riding in on. The man brings his party to office. The party is the well from which he draws his administration. If the well is poisoned, how will the nation fare under an Obama administration?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Milk Bag Culture

Canada and the United States are English speaking neighboring countries in North America with British roots. The differences between the two countries can be comparable to differences within the United States, say between Wyoming and Oregon or even between Vermont and New Hampshire.

Nonetheless, there are huge differences, for example the significant differences in political culture (see, for example, "Steyn's ThoughtCrime in Canada"). But the minor differences are intriguing. Canadians use electric kettles. Americans prefer to put their kettles on the stove top. The closest you get to a plug-in kettle in America are little "hot pots" for the office where there is no stove.

Perhaps even more interesting is the Canadian use of bagged milk. I have found little reliable information on this practice (on the internet; it has not been worth my time to visit the library on this matter, but I welcome any informative comments). I have these questions: When were they introduced? Why were they introduced? Who introduced them? Why have they never caught on in the United States?

When I was a child in Georgetown, Ontario, and later in the eastern suburbs of Toronto, we would get our milk in heavy plastic, refillable one gallon jugs. We would pay a deposit on the jug and return it in exchange for the next gallon. The dairy would sterilize and re-use them. The advantage of the plastic was not that it was disposable, but that it unbreakable in normal use.

It was perhaps in the later 1970s that plastic milk bags were introduced. These are tall, lightweight, clear plastic bags that hold about 1 litre of milk. You slip it into a plastic jug and snip off the corner of the bag that is opposite the handle. The bags come in larger bags of three.

When I was in elementary school, we used to bring our books to school in the larger outer milk bags. We weren't poor. That's just what we did. Mothers would use the milk bags themselves (there is an awkward ambiguity in this phrase "milk bag") as storage bags for freezing. They would just cut off the tops, wash them out, and use a twist tie to seal them up.

It was not as if one company introduced this packaging, consumers latched on to it, and other companies followed suit with it. It all happened at once. Milk production in Canada is overseen by the Canadian Dairy Commission, established in 1966. "Canada adopted the system of supply management for industrial milk in the early 1970s.This system was established to address the unstable markets, uncertain supplies and highly variable producer and processor revenues that were common in the 1950s and 1960s." It's a little bit of Soviet efficiency in the midst of a capitalist economy.

It could not have been this government agency that co-ordinated the introduction of bagged milk however because the bags are not found in every part of Canada. Prior to the national agency, Ontario established a Milk Marketing Board which continues to regulate production, distribution and pricing. "In 1960, Ontario milk producer organizations were fragmented and lacked unity in purpose. Their bargaining position in the marketplace was very weak. Returns to the vast majority of milk producers for labour, management and investment were inadequate and there were numerous inequities and inefficiencies in the milk marketing system. Because of this chaos, the Ontario government commissioned a study in 1963 to determine how to solve what appeared to be an ever increasing problem." This "chaos" is otherwise known as the free market. Nonetheless, the OMMB was established in 1965. I don't know what the relationship is between the the CDC and the OMMB. But the Canadian approach is: "When in doubt, add another layer of government supervision." Otherwise, you might have "chaos" which leads to "inequity."

The introduction of bags could not have been for environmental reasons (or, as we would have said at the time, to reduce pollution). It was almost certainly to reduce packaging and distribution costs. The bags are lighter to ship and because they are disposable there are no retrieval and sterilization costs. From an environmental standpoint, Canadians toss less plastic than Americans do when they crush down and toss those light plastic jugs. The jugs can be recycled--though not always are, and the recycling itself burns fuel--but the bags can also be recycled as well as used for other purposes.

When I was living in Iowa for several years, a gas station food mart in Independence was promoting milk in bags and giving away the jugs, but it never caught on.

The other night, I saw some sort of twenty-fourth anniversary of the McKenzie Brothers'--billed as a Doug and Bob 2-4. They were touted as the internationally recognized emblem of Canadian culture. Even former Prime Minister Paul Martin was involved as host of the production. It was entertaining, but embarrassing and pitiful. After 140 years of confederation, that is the best we can do? I think that bagged milk tells us more about Canadians.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Armed, Polite, and Free

"An armed society is a polite society," as the saying goes. Of course, it's an American saying. Rasmussen tells us that after the Supreme Court upheld citizens' second amendment right to bear arms--hand guns in particular--that branch of government rose eight percentage points in popularity with the American people.

We continue to befuddle foreigners, even Canadians, our neighbors to the north who are becoming more foreign in their political culture all the time. Read Colby Cosh's description of Justice Scalia's defense of the right to own handguns--not just a reluctantly legal defense, but vigorously moral one--and how perplexing it is to Canadians ("In America, a Man's Home is Still His Castle").

While we're on the subject, it seems that love for individual liberty is doing very poorly in Great Britain, the land of its birth, so the Economist reports. Of course there are all those closed circuit cameras not only all over London but in many town centers.

Vast computerised collections of information have become popular too. Britain possesses one of the largest police DNA databases in the world, containing the records of over 4m of 60m citizens (including a third of the black men in the country). Records are kept for everyone who is arrested, meaning that many on the system have never actually been charged with any crime. The government's identity-card scheme, the first phase of which is due to start later this year, aims to record the fingerprints and biographical details of everyone in the land.
And of course parents cannot be trusted to govern and nurture their children.

Other big databases are justified on grounds of administrative convenience rather than crime-fighting and security. One such is a plan to centralise the records of all patients of the National Health Service. Another would allow social services to monitor every child in the country, including how parents spend their money and how many portions of fruit and vegetables they feed their offspring each day.

But if it saves even one child from escaping salad, isn't it worth it?

We can also learn from Canadian mistakes. My associate at Principalities and Powers, Harold Kildow, alerts us to Mark Steyn's recent difficulties with Canadian Star Chambers creeping into this country: "Beware my friends--there are many Democrats in Congress and abroad in the land who would like a way to threaten their opponents like the Canadians do--via kangaroo courts of various devisings. The imminent return, for example, of the "Fairness Doctrine", driven by Komissar Pelosi, is a step in that direction. But note well, it is only a first step. David Warren of the Ottawa Citizen ("The Resistance Must Continue") surveys the swamp Canadians have been force marched into--the one we will be looking at if we don't watch out."
Oh, by the way, happy Dominion Day up there!