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Showing posts from June, 2010

Kathleen Parker: Obama is just like a woman. Not in a good way

Seems like it was just last week that Kathleen Parker was complaining that conservative women can be feminists too, darnit! Since then, of course, she's agreed to host a TV show with America's most famous patron of prostitutes. And today she offers up the theory that President Obama is a bit of a girl.
I say this in the nicest possible way.Well, sure. She just doesn't mean it in the nicest possible way, though she tries like the dickens to act like she's not being, well, terribly sexist.
Generally speaking, men and women communicate differently. Women tend to be coalition builders rather than mavericks (with the occasional rogue exception). While men seek ways to measure themselves against others, for reasons requiring no elaboration, women form circles and talk it out.Well, that doesn't sound so bad does it? But that's not really what Parker's getting at. Obama's not like a woman because he talks things out. He's like a woman because he's ... pas…

A brief thought about Al Gore's alleged sex assault

Byron York prints plenty of disturbing details from the police complaint against Al Gore, but this is the one I find most infuriating:
Finally she got away. Later, she talked to friends, liberals like herself, who advised against telling police. One asked her "to just suck it up; otherwise, the world's going to be destroyed from global warming."To that "friend" let me offer up a piece of advice: Go to hell.

Snarky folks at The Corner are treating this revelation as being run-of-the-mill Democratic politics, but honestly the problem here -- as is often the case -- is of power generally. You can see an almost carbon-copy dynamic at play when people angrily defend the Catholic Church against accusations of widespread child molestation. Victims are urged to hush up, to go away, because their truth threatens The Mission of whichever person or movement or institution is involved.

And while it's often true that sacrifices must be made in order to advance a worthy ca…

Lies, damned lies and the Daily Kos poll

Back in February, when Daily Kos released a poll showing that nearly a quarter of all Republicans believe their state should secede from the Union, I scoffed:
I’m no expert on polling, but: nearly a quarter of Republicans think their state should secede from the Union?* Really? Something doesn’t add up here. It makes for a rather convenient narrative from a liberal-Democratic point of view, but is it actually true? Sorry, but I can’t imagine that it is. And if that’s not true, then the rest of the poll results are questionable, to say the least. I’d like to believe the GOP is this crazy, but I don’t.Turns out I was right:
Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas announced today he will file a lawsuit against MD-based pollster Research 2000, alleging that polls Research 2000 was conducting for the liberal blog were fabricated.

Moulitsas today published a report by three readers he describes as "statistics wizards" that he says shows "quite convincingly" that Research 2000 w…

Those out-of-touch elitists at the New York Times don't know a 'Blazing Saddles' reference when they hear one

In a story about RNC chief Michael Steele's visit to San Francisco, reporter Jesse McKinley offered up this quote-and-observation about Steele:
And, of course, he quoted Cole Porter. Sort of.

“It’s time to let you do that voodoo that you do very, very well,” he said.It's true that those lyrics originated in the Cole Porter song "You Do Something To Me." But seriously: Almost every American male under the age of, oh, 50, probably knows the line a little better from this.

One more thought about the Weekly Standard piece about Tea Parties

One has to give credit to Matthew Continetti for appraising Glenn Beck's ideas thusly:

This is nonsense. Whatever you think of Theodore Roosevelt, he was not Lenin. Woodrow Wilson was not Stalin. The philosophical foundations of progressivism may be wrong. The policies that progressivism generates may be counterproductive. Its view of the Constitution may betray the Founders’. Nevertheless, progressivism is a distinctly American tradition that partly came into being as a way to prevent ideologies like communism and fascism from taking root in the United States. And not even the stupidest American liberal shares the morality of the totalitarian monsters whom Beck analogizes to American politics so flippantly.
Maybe there's hope for rational civic dialogue, yet.

Tea Partiers look just like America. Except they're richer.

Matthew Continetti's piece about the Tea Party movement replays -- like so many similar pieces before it -- Rick Santelli's famous CNBC rant from 2009. But this quote leaped out at me like it hadn't before:

In Santelli’s opinion, American elites had neglected the people surrounding him, the commodities traders who made up “a pretty good statistical cross-section of America, the silent majority.
We already know that Tea Partiers are wealthier than most Americans, but it's worth pointing out that the median income for a commodities trader in 2008 was $68,680. The median household income nationally the same year was $52,029.

Now: $68,000 a year doesn't put silver spoons in your mouth. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with having a good income. But the Tea Partiers aren't a "good statistical cross-section of America" -- and the commodities traders who surrounded Santelli that day aren't either. Let's not pretend otherwise.

The myth of liberals hating Sarah Palin's motherhood

At the Washington Post, Kathleen Parker repeats a bit of business that I see often on the right, but have never seen much evidence for:
The reason Palin so upsets the pro-choice brigade is because she seems so content with her lot and her brood. One can find other reasons to think Palin shouldn't be president, but being a pro-life woman shouldn't be one of them.The idea is that Sarah Palin's fecundity -- particularly with regards to Trig, her special needs child -- is part of what makes her an object of particular scorn on the left. But -- the fevered speculations of Andrew Sullivan aside -- where's the evidence for this charge? I've never seen anybody say: "I'd like Sarah Palin ... but damnit, she's given birth waaaaay too often." I think conservatives have convinced themselves that the liberal contempt for Palin is born out of hoity toity cultural snobbishness. But it's not.

Guess what? Liberals have kids too. Maybe not as often as conservati…

The Weekly Standard doesn't think BP loves oil nearly enough.

If you read this Weekly Standard article, you might think it a shocking expose -- shocking, because it's in the Weekly Standard -- of BP's longstanding laxness with regards to safety issues. But what develops is something else entirely: An exercise in schadenfreude that a company that tried so hard to brand itself as "green" has enmeshed itself in one of history's more notorious environmental disasters.

The game is given away when describing Oberon Houston, an engineer who left the company a few years back after narrowly avoiding death on a BP rig. Andrew Wilson's article presents a litany of safety-related reasons for Houston's departure, but tacks this on:
And finally, he told me over the course of several interviews, he was distressed by an abundance of rhetoric—coming from the CEO—about BP going “beyond petroleum” and joining the environmental activists in campaigning for reduced carbon emissions. “To me and everyone I knew, it didn’t make any sense. We…

The Nook and Kindle drop below $200

So sayeth the New York Times. And that sounds like great news -- I have the Kindle and Nook apps for both my iPhone and my netbook; I'd really love to own a dedicated e-reader. On the other hand: If the price is coming down this much, this quickly, does that mean dedicated e-readers are about to become extinct? Choices, choices.

Who knew there was an Afghan warlord named Milo Minderbinder?

Washington Post:

The U.S. military is funding a massive protection racket in Afghanistan, indirectly paying tens of millions of dollars to warlords, corrupt public officials and the Taliban to ensure safe passage of its supply convoys throughout the country, according to congressional investigators.
It's really not a good day for Afghan war supporters.

Army Major Nathan Hoepner is an American hero

Perusing a recent issue of Military Review, I came across this (PDF) article about a debate (and the results of that debate) among U.S. soldiers working the "Sunni triangle" of Iraq in 2003. Some wanted "the gloves to come off" and to start hitting, beating and otherwise torturing suspected insurgents. But Maj. Nathan Hoepner opposed such efforts, and wrote in support of his position:

As for “the gloves need to come off” . . . we
need to take a deep breath and remember
who we are . . . Those gloves are . . . based on
clearly established standards of international
law to which we are signatories and in part
the originators . . . something we cannot just
put aside when we find it inconvenient . . .
We have taken casualties in every war we
have ever fought—that is part of the very
nature of war. We also inflict casualties,
generally many more than we take. That in
no way justifies letting go of our standards.
We have NEVER considered our enemies
justified in doing such…

And throwing up on cops is like saying "aloha" in Philadelphia

Favorite letter to the editor in today's newspaper:
South African soccer fans who blow that obnoxious and deafening vuvuzela horn are excused, even at the World Cup, because "it's part of their culture."

Yet Philadelphia fans who go a little crazy and run onto the field - which is part of their culture - are tased and arrested. Doesn't seem fair.

Jim Acton, Collegeville

Will the BP oil disaster destroy Obama's presidency?

Well, I'm unusually harsh about President Obama in this week's column for Scripps:
President Obama might make a great senator someday.

That's the thought that occurred Tuesday night as Obama vaguely described a "set of principles" that would set America on course toward its energy future -- even as he lamely admitted to being "unsure exactly what that (future) looks like." Senators have the luxury of noodling around with legislation, haggling and negotiating until a bill comes into shape. Presidents, on the other hand, are supposed to offer leadership -- a concrete plan of action.

So far, Obama is failing the test.

Unfortunately, there's nothing new to this. Obama spent the first year of his presidency being overly vague about what he would and wouldn't accept in a health-reform bill. The result? Senators took the lead, spending months in confusing and nearly fruitless negotiations while an antsy public grew increasingly angry.

There's nothin…

Will the BP oil disaster destroy Obama's presidency?

Well, I'm unusually harsh about President Obama in this week's column for Scripps:

President Obama might make a great senator someday.

That's the thought that occurred Tuesday night as Obama vaguely described a "set of principles" that would set America on course toward its energy future -- even as he lamely admitted to being "unsure exactly what that (future) looks like." Senators have the luxury of noodling around with legislation, haggling and negotiating until a bill comes into shape. Presidents, on the other hand, are supposed to offer leadership -- a concrete plan of action.

So far, Obama is failing the test.

Unfortunately, there's nothing new to this. Obama spent the first year of his presidency being overly vague about what he would and wouldn't accept in a health-reform bill. The result? Senators took the lead, spending months in confusing and nearly fruitless negotiations while an antsy public grew increasingly angry.

There's nothin…

Talking Imprimis and Larry P. Arnn: America was built on the redistribution of wealth

I've recently become a subscriber to Imprimis-- the most influential conservative publication you've never heard of -- because A) I want to keep tabs on influential conservatives and B) it's free. It's published by Hillsdale College in Michigan, and consists mainly of reprinted speeches from notable conservative thinkers and writers. It's pleasantly old-fashioned, a throwback to the olden days of pamphleteering.

Just got my first issue in the mail today, and it's actually kind of a back issue, from back in December, featuring a speech by Hillsdale College President Larry P. Arnn. In it, he seeks to contrast the bullying and tyrannical nature of the U.S. government today -- exemplified by the mandates included in the Affordable Care Act -- with the liberating nature of the U.S. government in the early years of the republic ... as exemplified by the Homestead Act.

A quick primer on the Homestead Act, from Wikipedia:
The Homestead Act is one of several United States…

Conflicted about the Friends of Rittenhouse Square

One of my favorite things about living in Philadelphia is Rittenhouse Square. It sits in the middle of a big bunch of hoity-toityness -- the people who live in the towers surrounding the park have a much higher level of wealth than I ever will. But the park is relatively egalitarian, and on a nice day it's a joy to visit: musicians, dancers, businessmen on lunch breaks, sun worshippers, gutter punks, mommies and kids and so much more.

The park itself is pretty spiffy, and I gather that one of the reasons for that spiffiness is a group called the Friends of Rittenhouse Square. The city doesn't -- or won't -- spend all the money needed to keep the park in top condition, the greens manicured and the fountain running, so the private group raises the rest of the money needed to keep the place in shape to welcome that diverse range of humanity.

I appreciate their efforts. Really I do. But.

I'm also conflicted about the fact that the Friends of Rittenhouse Square have basica…

Friendship Socialism

This story in today's New York Times is more than a little disturbing. Apparently educators and adults are working feverishly to keep kids from having ... best friends.
Most children naturally seek close friends. In a survey of nearly 3,000 Americans ages 8 to 24 conducted last year by Harris Interactive, 94 percent said they had at least one close friend. But the classic best-friend bond — the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school — signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.

“I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults — teachers and counselors — we try to encourage them not to do that,” said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis. “We try to talk …

Federalist No. 22: Why the U.S. Senate and Jimmy Stewart both suck

Let's talk about the filibuster.

Back up: There's no discussion of the U.S. Senate or the filibuster by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 22. Hamilton's wrapping up a long discussion of why the Article of Confederation are a bad way to run the United States -- and while he touches on a few topics here, he spends most of this essay talking about one particular evil: Under the Articles, it's all too easy for a minority of states with a minority of the U.S. population to obstruct the will of the majority.

And what becomes clear is this: If the pre-Constitution U.S. government was unworkable because of such problems, well then: Today's U.S. government is unworkable.

Under the Articles, see, each state -- no matter how thickly or thinly populated -- had an equal voice in the national governance. What's more, it took the consent of two-thirds of the states to pass major legislation: In an era where the United States comprised just 13 states, that meant that five state…

Deborah Solomon answers questions!

In the New York Times Book Review. An excerpt noted without comment:

How does one train to ask good questions?

It’s probably not a learned skill so much as a personality defect.

President Obama's tin ear about BP

Well, this is just dumb:

President Barack Obama said Friday that some members of Congress should share the blame for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

In an exclusive one-on-one interview with POLITICO, the president said: “I think it’s fair to say, if six months ago, before this spill had happened, I had gone up to Congress and I had said we need to crack down a lot harder on oil companies and we need to spend more money on technology to respond in case of a catastrophic spill, there are folks up there, who will not be named, who would have said this is classic, big-government overregulation and wasteful spending.”
Dumb. Transparently dumb. I know you're taking a lot of heat right now, but blaming Congress for its hypothetical reaction to your hypothetical proposal is ... dumb. You might be right about the hypotheticals, but here's the problem: You never actually took any such proposal to Congress.

Let's remember: I'm someone who wants to support you!

Maybe because of that…

George Washington and Abe Lincoln: Founding Gay Bashers?

Via Andrew Sullivan, a little bit of patriotic gay-bashing:
Yuma Mayor Al Krieger said he spoke from the heart in a Memorial Day speech at Desert Lawn Cemetery. Krieger said, "And I cannot believe that a bunch of limp-wristed, lacey-drawed people could do what those men have done in the past."

Over a week after those comments, Krieger said there's nothing he would change. "I'm reluctant to compare myself to George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, but I did get some feedback, and I don't think I said anything different than what they would have said."Well sure, who can forget the stirring climax to Lincoln's Second Inaugural?
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting p…

What's more important? Cutting the deficit or spurring job growth?

That's the question for this week's Scripps Howard column. I take a slightly fatalistic approach:
Actually, the debate is already over. Americans may be worried about their jobs, but it's possible they're even crankier about the growing national debt. Politicians in Washington D.C. are responding accordingly, with President Obama even calling on most federal agencies to reduce their budgets by 5 percent. With a bipartisan deficit commission now on the job, those cuts may just be the beginning.

Perhaps that's as it should be: The bill for decades of deficit spending – in good times and bad, under both Republican and Democratic presidents – was going to come due sooner or later. It appears now may be the time. But Americans should understand one thing about the belt- tightening: It's gonna hurt.

Federal spending doesn't just prop up unpopular programs, after all: Right now, it's helping keep teachers and police officers on the job while states and cities d…

Federalist 16-20: Alexander Hamilton's hopey-changey thing

Here we are, once again: The shadow of the Civil War -- about 70 years in the future -- keeps popping up as we make our way through the Federalist Papers. Why? Because Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison keep making the case that the United States under the Articles of Confederation is prone to such a war.

Hamilton revisits this theme in Federalist 16, suggesting that the states under the Articles have so much latitude to act on their own -- instead of falling in line under a central government -- that conflict is more likely to arise between the states. "The first war of this kind," he warns, "would probably terminate in a dissolution of the Union."

There's another possibility, though, as Hamilton admits: If one state went its own way in defiance of the national government, the other states would probably do likewise -- rather than make a big deal and incite war. "And the guilt of all," Hamilton writes, " would become the security of a…

You know what? I hope that Sarah Palin runs for president. And loses. Badly.

I'm so tired of Sarah Palin's sense of grievance. But I know it's not going to go away -- it defines her. It is the reason, at this point, for her political existence. Don't believe me? Here's a Palin post offering President Obama advice on how to handle the BP oil spill.
My experience (though, granted, I got the message loud and clear during the campaign that my executive experience managing the fastest growing community in the state, and then running the largest state in the union, was nothing compared to the experiences of a community organizer) showed me how government officials and oil execs could scratch each others’ backs to the detriment of the public, and it made me ill.You'd think Barack Obama had never, ever been a senator -- one elected to federal office two years before Sarah Palin became a governor. But you know what? I'm not going to replay the resume pissing match that indeed was resolved by voters two years ago.*

*OK, one item: A big chunk of…

The Flyers and feminism

You don't have to be a Flyers fan or a feminist to think this Chicago Tribune "pullout poster" is simply stupid:

Get it? HE'S A GIRL! Hahahahahahaha!

Jeebus. Flyers play the Blackhawks tonight. Now I doubly hope the Flyers win.

Federalist 15: Do today's Tea Partiers know about this?

I had thought I'd be taking these Federalist chapters in big chunks, rather than one-by-one, but it turns out there's a lot to think about in all of these. So we're going to have to go slowly.

You might remember that I said -- somewhat near the outset of this project -- that I expected some of the context of the Federalist would reveal itself as we proceeded through the papers. I wasn't entirely wrong, because we're now at Federalist 15, and Publius is ready to start telling us why the Articles of Confederation stink.

Not, of course, that he needs to make the case. From what I can tell skimming through the Antifederalist Papers, there's no great love for the Articles among any huge segment of the nascent American society. And Publius -- Alexander Hamilton in this particular chapter -- acknowledges as much.
The point next in order to be examined is the "insufficiency of the present Confederation to the preservation of the Union." It may perhaps be asked …

Does your Miranda "right to remain silent" still exist?

That's the question for this week's Scripps Howard debate between Ben Boychuk and me, asked in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling this week that criminal suspects must speak up to claim their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. My take:

The Supreme Court's ruling boils down to this: Police get to assume you don't want your Constitutional rights. The Miranda warning -- the one you've heard cops say on TV a million times -- is now essentially meaningless."Today's decision turns Miranda upside down," Justice Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. "Suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so."Imagine if the government treated our other Constitutional protections this way. Federal agents would be free to shut down church services unless prayer was preceded by a pastor's public statement that churchgoers were exercising their First Amendment rights. …

Michael Smerconish's crazy, unfactual sympathy for BP and the oil spill

Michael Smerconish isn't joining a boycott of BP -- because if the boycott succeeds, maybe BP will go out of business. And if they go out of business, who will provide the money and expertise to fix the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?
I intend to drive out of my way to fill up at a BP pump.

Why? Because it's imperative that the company doesn't tap out before plugging the leak and cleaning up the tens of millions of gallons of crude oil marring the Gulf of Mexico.

If BP goes under before either of those tasks is complete - or if the company can't afford to complete them itself - the federal government will be sucked into picking up the tab. Or worse, actually taking the lead in trying to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf and mop up the mess.Here's the thing: the mess is proving very costly to BP -- both in terms of its stock market value and in terms of how much it's spending. And yet those enormous costs pale in comparison to how much money BP still has left o…

Bag O' Books: "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis' great talent is to take abstractly nerdy topics and turn them into bestsellers by grafting a compelling human narrative on them. "Moneyball" took baseball stats revolution and made Billy Beane into a hero; "The Blind Side" took a look at football's left tackle position -- a position that even most die-hard fans don't watch that closely, except in slow-mo instant replays -- and turned it into an Oscar for Sandra Bullock. So it's difficult to read "The Big Short" -- a chronicle of the subprime housing market collapse, and how it nearly took the entire financial system down with it -- ­and not  think of the movie possibilities.

Certainly there's characters aplenty, each with wacky distinctiveness but who share a common bond: They were the few people who saw the collapse coming -- despite the "nobody could've known" rationalizations afterward -- and who got rich because of it. There's Michael Burry, a one-ey…