Wednesday, April 30, 2008
A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters in which we have had negative economic growth. So far we have experienced none. That's right, zero, zip, zilch. Yet the MSM are filled with stories about recession, and some hysterical fools are even shouting "Depression!"
As the President has repeatedly said, we are in a period of slow growth, not a recession and, while there are certainly problems with the economy, they are not overwhelming.
So why all the hyperbole, anguish, panic? Oh yeah! It's an election year and the incumbent is a Republican.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Voting against the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts, you said: Deciding "truly difficult cases" should involve "one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one's empathy." Is that not essentially how Chief Justice Roger Taney decided the Dred Scott case? Should other factors—say, the language of the constitutional or statutory provision at issue—matter?Nobody does snark better than old G. W., but when you stop to think about it, these are damn good questions. Obama's positions on them so far reveal a staggering ignorance about the country he presumes to lead and the basic operation of its economic system.
You say John McCain is content to "watch [Americans'] home prices decline." So, government should prop up housing prices generally? How? Why? Were prices ideal before the bubble popped? How does a senator know ideal prices? Have you explained to young couples straining to buy their first house that declining prices are a misfortune?
Michelle, who was born in 1964, says that most Americans' lives have "gotten progressively worse since I was a little girl." Since 1960, real per capita income has increased 143 percent, life expectancy has increased by seven years, infant mortality has declined 74 percent, deaths from heart disease have been halved, childhood leukemia has stopped being a death sentence, depression has become a treatable disease, air and water pollution have been drastically reduced, the number of women earning a bachelor's degree has more than doubled, the rate of homeownership has increased 10.2 percent, the size of the average American home has doubled, the percentage of homes with air conditioning has risen from 12 to 77, the portion of Americans who own shares of stock has quintupled … Has your wife perhaps missed some pertinent developments in this country that she calls "just downright mean"?
Read the whole thing here.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Well, if anything, Wright on good behavior is even worse than the chanting fool of the videos. A few observations:
The guy is hard-core racist. He believes that blacks and whites have different mental and emotional capacities due to their different evolutionary history. Guess which genetic endowment he judges to be superior. This is the same Afrocentric nonsense we have been hearing from Black radicals for generations now and it arrives full-blown in the mouthings of the "moderate" minister.
Wright's talk of "reconciliation" between the races consists exclusively of Whites giving handouts to Blacks and begging them for forgiveness.
Wright's view of history is terribly restricted, consisting of a seemingly interminable listing of suffering inflicted by Whites upon Blacks. Essentially, it's nothing different from what you would hear from any of the other Revs. [Sharpton or Jackson]. The guy is just another grievance monger.
He also reaffirmed that Obama is just an ordinary politician who says and does what politicians do to get elected. In other words the fine young senator is not the transcendental figure his faithful believe he is.
The best response I can imagine to the outraged reverend is contained in this wonderful poem by my favorite contemporary poet, Jack Gilbert:
A Brief for the Defense
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
Praising the Devil indeed.
That's right. We are winning across a broad range of fronts in the war against terror. Fred Kagan summarized the successes in an article for the Weekly Standard.
What US leadership must do is convince people they are winning when in fact they are.
Today, al Qaeda has been driven out of Dora, Ameriya, Ghazaliya, and Adhamiya; out of Anbar almost entirely; out of the "southern belt" including the former triangle of death; out of much of Diyala; and out of most of Salah-ad-Din. Iraqi and coalition operations are underway to drive al Qaeda out of its last urban bastion in Mosul. Remaining al Qaeda groups, although still able to generate periodic spectacular attacks, are largely fragmented and their communications partially disrupted. Iraqi Security Forces have been on the offensive against Shia militias in the "five cities" area (Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniya, Hilla, and Kut) and have severely degraded militia capabilities and eliminated militia control from significant parts of this area; the attack in Basra resulted in a reduction of the militia-controlled area, including the recapture of Basra's lucrative ports by government forces; tribal movements in Basra and Nasiriya are helping the government advance and consolidate its gains against the militias; and Iraqi Security Forces, with Coalition support, are moving through parts of Sadr City house by house and taking it back from the militias.
The fall in violence in Iraq, therefore, reflects success and not failure. Enemy control of territory has been significantly reduced, and further efforts to eliminate enemy control of any territory are underway. Spikes in violence surrounding the Basra operation reflect efforts by the government to retake insurgent-held areas and are, therefore, positive (if sober) indicators.
As for the argument that this stability is based solely on the increased presence of U.S. forces, which will shortly end, or that it is merely a truce between the Sunni and the Shia as they wait for us to leave--we shall soon see. Reductions of U.S. forces by 25 percent are well underway. The commanding general has recommended that after we complete those reductions in July, we evaluate the durability of the current stability, and President Bush has accepted his recommendation.
Representative government. The Iraqi government is the product of two elections. The Sunni Arabs boycotted the first, with the result that Iraq's provincial councils and governors do not reflect its ethno-sectarian make-up. The second saw a large Sunni Arab turnout and the seating of a multiethnic, multisectarian government in Baghdad. The Iraqi government recently passed a law calling for provincial elections later this year, and the United Nations special envoy to Iraq, Steffan de Mistura, has been consulting with Baghdad about the details of the election, including efforts to ensure that the various committees overseeing it are not unduly influenced by militias or political parties. Surveys show that the Iraqis are nearly unanimous in their desire to vote, particularly in Sunni areas. The Anbar Awakening has turned into a political movement, introducing political pluralism into Sunni Arab politics for the first time. Similar movements, including the splintering of Moktada al-Sadr's "Sadrist Trend," are underway more haltingly among the Shia.
Each of Iraq's elections has been more inclusive than the last. Each has seen more enthusiasm for voting among all groups. Political pluralism is increasing within both sects. Whatever the popularity of the present government of Iraq, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis see elections as the correct way to choose their leaders, believe that their votes will count, and want to participate. The provincial elections this fall--and the national legislative elections next year--will be important indicators of the health of representative government in Iraq, and we should watch them closely. So far, all indications in this area are positive.
Control of territory. The restoration of large urban and rural areas formerly held by insurgents and militias to government control is a key indicator of Iraqi progress. And there are others: the Maliki government's determination to clear Basra and Sadr City of militia influence; Iraqi operations to clear Mosul of al Qaeda fighters; the dramatic growth of the Iraqi Security Forces in 2007 and the further growth underway in 2008. There is anecdotal confirmation of this progress, such as the dramatic decline in the number of illegal militia-controlled checkpoints, most of them set up in and around Baghdad in 2006 for purposes of control, extortion, and murder. Although some war critics claim that the Anbar Awakening has simply put the province into the hands of a new militia, the truth is that the first stage of the movement saw more than 10,000 Anbaris volunteer for the Iraqi Security Forces. Two divisions of the Iraqi army remain in Anbar, and they are mixed Sunni-Shia formations. The Iraqi police force in Anbar, paid for, vetted, and controlled by the Iraqi government, has also grown dramatically. The "Sons of Iraq," who are the security component of the awakening movement, are auxiliaries to these government forces, supplemented by the presence of American troops. In Baghdad's neighborhoods, Sons of Iraq are dwarfed in number by the two Iraqi army divisions stationed in the city (in addition to the mechanized division based just to the north in Taji) and the numerous police and national police formations, all supported by American combat brigades. The Iraqi government is steadily extending its control of its own territory, and has demonstrated a determination to retake insurgent-held areas even from Shia militias.
Orientation toward the West. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Iraq in March 2008 and was warmly received, prompting concern in the United States that the Iraqi government was tilting toward Tehran. War critics, attempting to spin the Iraqi government's offensive against Shia militias in Basra, argued that Iran "supports" both the militias and the principal Shia parties fighting them--the entire operation, they claimed, was simply "Shia infighting" among groups already devoted to Tehran.
A closer examination shows this to be false. While it is true that Iran "supports" both ISCI and Dawa, the two leading Shia parties in the government, with money, and it provides the Sadrist militia not only with money, but with lethal weapons, training, trainers, and advisers inside Iraq to support the militia's fight against the United States and the Iraqi government--nevertheless, Iran does not provide such support to the government of Iraq or to the Iraqi Security Forces, which the United States and its allies have worked hard to develop into effective fighting forces, at the behest of the United Nations and the request of the legitimate government of Iraq. This is not simply "Shia infighting" in which the United States has no stake.
More to the point, we might ask what the Iraqi government itself has done to show its preferences. It has asked the United Nations to endorse the Multinational Force mission supporting it, a mission that includes American forces--but not Iranian ones. It has requested a bilateral security agreement with the United States--and not with Iran. It has determined to purchase American weapons and equipment for its armed forces, to replace the Warsaw Pact gear it had been using--and has not requested equipment from Iran or its principal international suppliers, Russia and China. Baghdad is organizing, training, and equipping its military and police forces to be completely interoperable with the United States--and not with Iran. For a government accused of being in Tehran's thrall, the current Iraqi government appears to have demonstrated repeatedly a commitment to stand with the United States, at least as long as the United States stands with Iraq.
An ally in the war on terror. Al Qaeda has killed many more Iraqis than Americans. Iraq has eight army divisions--around 80,000 troops--now in the fight against al Qaeda, and another three--around 45,000 troops--in the fight against Shia extremists. Tens of thousands of Iraqi police and National Police are also in the fight. Thus, there are far more Iraqis fighting al Qaeda and Shia militias in Iraq than there are American troops there. Easily ten times as many Iraqi as Pakistani troops are fighting our common enemies. At least three times as many Iraqi soldiers and police as Afghan soldiers and police are in the fight. And many times more Iraqi troops are engaged in the war on terror than those of any other American ally. In terms of manpower engaged, and sacrifice of life and limb, Iraq is already by far America's best ally in the war on terror.
These facts will surely not put to rest the debate over definitions and measures of success in Iraq. Certainly, the American people have a right to insist that our government operate with a clear vision of success and that it develop a clear plan for evaluating whether we are moving in the right direction, even if no tidy numerical metrics can meaningfully size up so complex a human endeavor. As shown here, supporters of the current strategy do indeed have a clear definition of success, and those working to implement it are already evaluating American progress against that definition every day. It is on the basis of their evaluation that we say the surge is working.
Read it here.
The extent of the success has been chronicled in the foreign press. The Times, in particular, has detailed the recent actions of the Iraqi government to subdue and control independent Shiite militias.
When Nouri al-Maliki launched his surprise attack against the main Shia militia in Basra, the operation appeared to be a disastrous miscalculation pitting inexperienced Iraqi soldiers against well-armed and battle-hardened street-fighters of the Mahdi Army.
When Nouri al-Maliki launched his surprise attack against the main Shia militia in Basra, the operation appeared to be a disastrous miscalculation pitting inexperienced Iraqi soldiers against well-armed and battle-hardened street-fighters of the Mahdi Army.
Read it here.
And the Times has noted the salubrious effects of containing these rogue militias.
Young women are daring to wear jeans, soldiers listen to pop music on their mobile phones and bands are performing at wedding parties again.
All across Iraq’s second city life is improving, a month after Iraqi troops began a surprise crackdown on the black-clad gangs who were allowed to flourish under the British military. The gunmen’s reign had enforced a strict set of religious codes.
Yet after three years of being terrified of kidnap, rape and murder – a fate that befell scores of other women – Nadyia Ahmed, 22, is among those enjoying a sense of normality, happy for the first time to attend her science course at Basra University. “I now have the university life that I heard of at high school before the war and always dreamt about,” she told The Times. “It was a nightmare because of these militiamen. I only attended class three days a week but now I look forward to going every day.”
Read it here.
The key phrase [highlighted by me] is "sense of normality." This is a battle that has already been won.
For more see Deborah Saunders' blog Inside Iraq, where she chronicles her experiences as a Times reporter in the field.
To return to Wretchard's statement with which I opened this post, the task now that military and civil successes are beginning to mount, is to convey to the general public the immense good that has been accomplished in Iraq. Kagan, in his article, makes a first step toward such an understanding when he challenges critics of the war to specify just what they would have us do differently and to face up to the likely consequences of alternative courses of action.
The U.S. has scored a major success against al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Pakistani tribal areas.
Syed Saleem Shazhad explains:
But that's not the end of the story.
KARACHI - The Taliban and their al-Qaeda associates, in what they considered a master stroke, this year started to target the Western alliance's supply lines that run through Pakistan into Afghanistan.
Their focal point was Khyber Agency, in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a key transit point for as much as 70% of the alliance's supplies needed to maintain its battle against the Afghan insurgency.
The spectacular blowing up on March 20 of 40 gas tankers at Torkham - the border crossing in Khyber Agency into Afghanistan's Nangarhar province - sent shock waves through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led (NATO) coalition.
When the Taliban's new tactic emerged, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - which Pakistan's intelligence community says maintains its biggest South Asian presence in Pakistan - sprung into action and staged a coup of its own.
Last week the Taliban captured two officials of the World Food Program in Khyber Agency, intending to hold them for ransom. Then things began to fall apart.
What had happened was a fascinating account of military and espionage thrust and counter-thrust. It's far too complex to summarize here so read the whole article and see how the counter-terrorist tactics refined in Iraq are being applied and having an effect in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Unlike in previous Taliban attacks in the area, local paramilitary forces chased the Taliban after this incident. The Taliban retaliated and five soldiers were killed, but then their ammunition ran out and they surrendered the two workers and tried to flee, but they were blocked.
The Taliban called in reinforcements, but so did the paramilitary troops, and a stalemate was reached. Eventually, the Taliban managed to capture a local political agent (representing the central government) and they used him as a hostage to allow their escape.
They retreated to their various safe houses, but to their horror, paramilitary troops were waiting for them and scores were arrested, and their arms caches seized.
Read it here.
Greg Sheridan, foreign affairs editor for the Australian, writes:
He cites an analysis by Michael Green, who holds the Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which notes that:
THE US war in Iraq has strengthened its strategic position, especially in terms of key alliances, and the only way this could be reversed would be if it lost the will to continue the struggle and abandoned Iraq in defeat and disarray.
The US's three most important Asian alliances - with Australia, Japan and South Korea - have... been strengthened by the Iraq campaign. Each of these nations sent substantial numbers of troops to help the US in Iraq. They did this because they believed in what the US was doing in Iraq, and also because they wanted to use the Iraq campaign as an opportunity to strengthen their alliances with the US.And that doesn't even mention the enormously important strategic alliance Bush has forged with India.
Sheridan also notes:
And let's not forget the recent return to office of pro-American Italian President Silvio Berlusconi.
More generally, in a world supposedly awash in anti-US sentiment, pro-American leaders keep winning elections. Germany's Angela Merkel is certainly more pro-American than Gerhard Schroeder, whom she replaced. The same is true of France's Nicolas Sarkozy.
More importantly in terms of Green's analysis, the same is also true of South Korea's new President. Lee Myung-bak, elected in a landslide in December, is vastly more pro-American than his predecessor, Roh Moo-hyun.
Even in majority Islamic societies, their populations allegedly radicalised and polarised by Bush's campaign in Iraq and the global war on terror more generally, election results don't show any evidence of these trends. In the most recent local elections in Indonesia, and in national elections in Pakistan, the Islamist parties with anti-American rhetoric fared very poorly. Similarly Kevin Rudd was elected as a very pro-American Labor leader, unlike Mark Latham, with his traces of anti-Americanism, who was heavily defeated.
Even with China, the Iraq campaign was not a serious negative for the US. Beijing was far more worried by the earlier US-led NATO intervention into Kosovo because it was based purely on notions of human rights in Kosovo. Such notions could theoretically be used to justify action (not necessarily military action) against China over Taiwan and Tibet. Iraq, on the other hand, was justified on the basis of weapons of mass destruction, a justification with which the Chinese were much more comfortable.
Further, the Chinese co-operated closely with the Americans in the war on terror, especially in tackling what they alleged was extremism among some of the Muslim Uighurs in the vast Xinjiang province.
The overall picture is infinitely more complex than the anti-Bush narrative of the Iraq war would suggest.Read the whole thing here.
There seems to be general agreement among experts [for what that is worth] that in the future Asia will eclipse Europe as a focus of international relations. If that is the case, Bush has laid an excellent groundwork upon which his successors can build.
Scores of children and babies have been locked up in filthy prison cells in Harare as Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president, sinks to new depths in his campaign to force the opposition into exile before an expected run-off in presidential elections.
Twenty-four babies and 40 children under the age of six were among the 250 people rounded up in a raid on Friday, according to Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Yesterday they were crammed into cells in Southerton police station in central Harare.
“This is ruthlessness of the worst kind. How can you incarcerate children whose mothers have fled their homes hoping to give their children refuge?” asked an emotional Chamisa yesterday. “In Mugabe’s Zimbabwe even children are not spared the terror that befalls their parents.”
The families were rounded up from MDC headquarters, where they had sought refuge from violence in the countryside.
Read the whole thing here.
This is what terror regimes do. From Robespierre, through Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, to Hitler, then Mao and Pol Pot and all the rest. They rule by being insanely ruthless. And intellectuals dress up their depravity in the clothes of ideology. Republican Radicalism, Communism, Nazism, Anti-colonialism, Wahabism -- they're all the same, excuses for perpetrating acts of terror in the name of the common good.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
This shot was taken inside the Philadelphia Convention Center. It was late afternoon, the place was closed and dark, sunlight was slanting in through the west windows. The sight reminded me of scenes in "The Conformist". I approached the barred entrance, snapped off two quick pics [without flash], then the guard noticed me and shouted "No pictures". With "The Conformist" on my mind, I wasn't about to argue and left promptly.
This one was taken yesterday at the Baltimore Museum of Art. "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I were attending a lecture by Rena Hoisington on "American Photography: 1900-1960" keyed to a current exhibit. Good lecture -- superb exhibit. After the lecture we wandered through the exhibit. I snapped some pictures and [unlike my Philadelphia experience] none of the guards objected. I used the preset "museum" settings on the camera -- it worked out pretty well.
This was originally a full-length picture of a young woman standing beside one of the photographs on display. "She Who Must Not Be Named" urged me to crop it down to these dimensions to make it look like Max Burchartz' famous picture of Lotte's Eye. The attempt was only partially successful -- I couldn't get the same proportions -- but I included it here because it gives you a sense of the amount of noise in the image when you expand it.
I love this piece and visit it every time I walk through the museum. I didn't crop the image and if you click on it you can see how much noise I got.
This was taken in a well-lit hallway right outside the photo exhibit. For some reason I can never appreciate the artist's intent. To me it looks too much like a lava lamp.
After wandering through the exhibit for a while, we went to brunch at a nearby restaurant. This picture was taken in a deeply shaded part of the structure, again using natural light. Again I was inspired by a famous work of art -- Manet's refraction studies. Again I failed to approximate his genius.
So, what's my assessment? The F100 is a superb camera for taking snapshots in a variety of lighting conditions, but due to the amount of noise don't expect to do much enhancement or cropping. So, think before you shoot.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama's problem. America is Mr. Obama's problem. He has been tagged as a snooty lefty, as the glamorous, ambivalent candidate from Men's Vogue, the candidate who loves America because of the great progress it has made in terms of racial fairness. Fine, good. But has he ever gotten misty-eyed over . . . the Wright Brothers and what kind of country allowed them to go off on their own and change everything? How about D-Day, or George Washington, or Henry Ford, or the losers and brigands who flocked to Sutter's Mill, who pushed their way west because there was gold in them thar hills? There's gold in that history.Read the whole thing here.
John McCain carries it in his bones. Mr. McCain learned it in school, in the Naval Academy, and, literally, at grandpa's knee. Mrs. Clinton learned at least its importance in her long slog through Arkansas, circa 1977-92.
Mr. Obama? What does he think about all that history? Which is another way of saying: What does he think of America? That's why people talk about the flag pin absent from the lapel. They wonder if it means something. Not that the presence of the pin proves love of country – any cynic can wear a pin, and many cynics do. But what about Obama and America? Who would have taught him to love it, and what did he learn was loveable, and what does he think about it all?Another challenge. Snooty lefties get angry when you ask them to talk about these things. They get resentful. Who are you to question my patriotism? But no one is questioning his patriotism, they're questioning its content, its fullness.
One can hardly fault Sen. Obama for being alienated from America -- he and his entire generation have been taught since they began school to resent the American past. The lesson was well learned, and today we see its consequences in the form of a candidate for president who sees the country he seeks to lead as a mere arena wherein contending groups vie for advantage.
One year ago today in Portsmouth, N.H., John McCain launched his latest bid for the presidency.
Here's some of what he had to say.
[O]ur differences are... sure to be sharpened and exaggerated. That's the nature of free elections. But even in the heat of a campaign, we shouldn't lose sight that much more defines us than our partisanship; much more unites us than divides us. We have common purposes and common challenges, and we live in momentous times. This election should be about big things, not small ones. Ours are not red state or blue state problems. They are national and global. Half measures and small minded politics are inadequate to the present occasion. We can't muddle through the next four years, bickering among ourselves, and leave to others the work that is ours to do. Greatness is America's destiny, but no nation complacent in its greatness can long sustain it.
Those are grown-up sentiments. Too bad the Democrats don't share them.
Read the whole thing here.
I particularly liked this part:
"We're not a country that prefers nostalgia to optimism. We're not a country that would rather go back than forward. We're the world's leader, and leaders don't pine for the past and dread the future. We make the future better than the past.
No declinist he.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Whoops! The Rev did it again.
From Rev. Wright's upcoming PBS interview with Bill Moyers:
BILL MOYERS:[emphasis mine].
In the 20 years that you've been his pastor, have you ever heard him repeat any of your controversial statements as his opinion?
No. No. No. Absolutely not.
I don't talk to him about politics. And so he had a political event, he goes out as a politician and says what he has to say as a politician. I continue to be a pastor who speaks to the people of God about the things of God.
Wright went on to elaborate:
“He’s a politician, I’m a pastor,” he said. “We speak to two different audiences. And he says what he has to say as a politician. I say what I have to say as a pastor. But they’re two different worlds.”
He added, “I do what I do. He does what politicians do. So that what happened in Philadelphia where he had to respond to the sound bytes, he responded as a politician.”
Gentlemen of the press -- start your engines.
Read it here.
In other words, Obama is lying to us, telling us comforting things he doesn't really believe.
Isn't this pretty much what Rev. William Sloane Coffin, the radical Yale cleric, said about Bill Clinton -- that he would say anything that would get him elected, regardless of what he believed.
At the least, this suggests that rather than representing a new style of politics, Obama is just another Clintonoid creep.
Last Friday Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, gave birth to her fifth child, a boy named Trig. The child was diagnosed with Downs syndrome but Sarah refused to have an abortion. She is strongly pro-life and lives by the principles she advocates. Her attitude toward a situation many would think of as a burden or tragedy is refreshing and absolutely admirable.
"Trig is beautiful and already adored by us," Palin said in a statement LifeNews.com obtained.
"We knew through early testing he would face special challenges, and we feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift and allow us unspeakable joy as he entered our lives," she said.
'We have faith that every baby is created for good purpose and has potential to make this world a better place. We are truly blessed," the 44 year-old governor added.
Read about it here.
What wonderful sentiments. What a wonderful lady.
On Monday she was back at work, meeting with her pipeline task force preparing for an upcoming legislative session. [here]
The child was born about a month prematurely. Sarah had been in Texas, delivering the keynote address to the National Governor's Association energy conference when she felt labor pangs. She delivered her speech and then flew home to Alaska where Trig was born.
This gal is tough.
Palin is a former athlete, musician, beauty queen, journalist and mayor. She has been governor for two years and has approval ratings above 80%. She is a lifetime member of the National Rifle
Association, she fishes and hunts, she eats mooseburgers and rides snowmobiles. She is an enthusiastic porkbuster, has led the fight against corruption in Alaska's State government, advocates strong emission controls to clean up the environment but also wants expanded development of domestic energy resources.
What's not to like? Why is she not on everybody's short list for Vice President.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Gen. Petraeus has been named as the next CENTCOM commander. All I have to say is, "Excellent choice!"
Read about it here.
Note that the Navy's stooges in Congress are already worrying that Petraeus will focus too much on land actions in Iraq and Afghanistan [which don't help the Navy come budget time] and will ignore the growing threat of China [which requires a naval buildup]. Pushing the Navy's line on China was Admiral Fallon's undoing. The Navy is getting nervous.
Everywhere Bradford pears are blossoming. I took this picture close-up with a zoom lens to blur the background.
This is what the yellow background would have looked like with a deeper focus. Yep, the dandelions are back with a vengeance. The people who own this field have tried to fight them, but it's a losing battle.
A dear friend of ours has a thing about red barns. This one is for you, Lucille.
Closer to home, the pink azaleas have peaked, the reds are just budding [soon, soon], the daffodils are all [that's a Pennsylvania Dutchism], but the tulips are out and they are glorious.
And, before you know it, the dogwoods will be in full bloom.
It's nice to live in paradise.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
So it's Earth Day! Big Whoop! Anyway, since a lot of people seem to be paying attention to it, I should point out that things aren't going the way the Goracle crowd assured us they were. According to Fat Albert and the IPCC stooges, we are in a period of rapid and extreme global warming. But, as the Australian reports:
Disconcerting as it may be to true believers in global warming, the average temperature on Earth has remained steady or slowly declined during the past decade, despite the continued increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, and now the global temperature is falling precipitously.
All four agencies that track Earth's temperature (the Hadley Climate Research Unit in Britain, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, the Christy group at the University of Alabama, and Remote Sensing Systems Inc in California) report that it cooled by about 0.7C in 2007. This is the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record and it puts us back where we were in 1930. If the temperature does not soon recover, we will have to conclude that global warming is over.
There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence that 2007 was exceptionally cold. It snowed in Baghdad for the first time in centuries, the winter in China was simply terrible and the extent of Antarctic sea ice in the austral winter was the greatest on record since James Cook discovered the place in 1770.
Read it here.
This might be disturbing news to the true believers, but undeterred by inconvenient contrary truths, they simply start prattling on about "climate change".
A lone starling. I tried to get closer for a better shot, but away he flew. No worry, there will be a lot more before the season is over.
This is a "Least Flycatcher". He kept flying back and forth between a tree overlooking our driveway and our roof. Nesting? We can hope.
A lone crow in flight. He burst from a tree in my neighbor's yard, flew west toward a line of trees, then looped back to his original perch. About a minute later he traced the same course, returning again to the tree. Then he appeared again, this time with two companions. The three of them passed overhead and beyond the treeline. I wandered over to see where they went, but by then they were long gone.
Now this is a real nasty guy -- a brown-headed cowbird, one of three foraging on my neighbor's lawn. Cowbirds are parasites, dumping their eggs in other birds' nests to be raised by them at the expense of the other birds' hatchlings. I was going to make an analogy to contemporary human society, but won't. Not everything has to be political. I'll just make the point that nature is nasty and cruel.
There were other birds -- robins, sparrows, etc. but I didn't bother taking pictures of them. I see too many of them every day.
Monday, April 21, 2008
They scheduled elections in Zimbabwe. There was widespread corruption of the process as well as intimidation on the part of Mad Bobby Mugabe's ZANU-PF thugs directed against the opposition. Even so, the opposition claimed victory, but no official vote count was ever produced. Mugabe demanded a recount. The international "community" demanded an honest accounting, but was ignored.
Mugabe began to hand out favors to his followers and confiscated the few remaining white-owned farms to do so. He ordered arms shipments imported from abroad. You could see what was coming next.
And now it has begun.
Mobs loyal to President Robert Mugabe have forced about 3,000 refugees to flee their homes as a national terror campaign gathers pace across Zimbabwe.
Gangs from the ruling Zanu-PF party are ranging across rural Zimbabwe, hunting down supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Their victims are fleeing into the capital, Harare, seeking safety and treatment.
Read it here.
And so it goes..., and so it goes.
This weekend "She Who Must Not Be Named," some friends, and I drove from our mountain fastness down to Harrisburg for a program presented by the Chinese Arts and Culture Institute at the Whitaker Center. As is usual with such things there was a mixture of international/ professional and regional/amateur talent on display. There were competent performances by a juggler and a contortionist as well as some nice renditions traditional Chinese music and dance. The highlights of the evening were a performance of scenes from a Chinese opera "The Legend of the White Snake" [my ears are still ringing] and two superb dance presentations that featured Chinese talent but were not specifically Chinese. The first, "Between Moon and Woman" was choreographed and performed by Jim Tsou and set to "Stabat Mater no. 1, Dolorosa" by Giovanni Pergolisi; the second, "Falling Petals" was choreographed by Ting Ting Chang and perfomed brilliantly by an ensemble of dancers to "The Protecting Veil" by John Tavener and "Fratress for Violin, Strings, and Percussion" by Estonian composer Arvo Part. The last piece in particular was completely engrossing.
Afterwards one of our friends, a native of Taiwan, invited us to her house for a late meal [we had skipped dinner in order to get to the concert on time]. She makes an excellent stir-fry. Finally, early in the wee hours of the morn, sated and happy, we wended our way home.
All in all it was a typical night in the life of a bitter, frustrated, culturally deprived, rural Pennsylvania gun-clinger/snake-handler, who [Senator Obama reminds us] is utterly intolerant of other cultures.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Read about it here.
I particularly like his description of the KKK as "the terrorist wing of the Democratic Party".
Saturday, April 19, 2008
John Harris and Jim Vandehei, writing in the Politico are appalled at the "distressingly inappropriate" behavior of their colleagues.
The bias goes farther. Harris writes:
The shower of indignation [heaped] on Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos over the last few days is the clearest evidence yet that the Clintonites are fundamentally correct in their complaint that [Hillary!] has been flying throughout this campaign into a headwind of media favoritism for Obama.
Last fall, when NBC’s Tim Russert hazed Clinton with a bunch of similar questions — a mix of fair and impertinent — he got lots of gripes from Clinton supporters.
But there was nothing like the piling on from journalists rushing to validate the Obama criticisms and denouncing ABC’s performance as journalistically unsound.
The response was itself a warning about a huge challenge for reporters in the 2008 cycle: preserving professional detachment in a race that will likely feature two nominees, Obama and John McCain, who so far have been beneficiaries of media cheerleading.
[T]here was nothing [in the debate] to justify Tom Shales’s hyperbolic review (“shoddy, despicable performances” by Gibson and Stephanopoulos) in The Washington Post or Greg Mitchell’s in Editor & Publisher (“perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years”). Others, like Time’s Michael Grunwald, likewise weighed in against ABC.
In fact, the balance of political questions (15) to policy questions (13) was more substantive than other debates this year that prompted no deluge of protests. The difference is that this time there were more hard questions for Obama than for Clinton.
As one who has assigned journalists to cover Obama at both Politico and The Washington Post, I have witnessed the phenomenon several times. Some reporters come back and need to go through detox, to cure their swooning over Obama’s political skill.Read the whole thing here.
Now at last they are beginning to understand what Republicans have been complaining about for decades. Will it make any difference in coverage? I doubt it. Once the nomination is settled the MSM will turn on the Republican candidate with glee. Big Mac will no never again be a media darling.
Friday, April 18, 2008
This morning I wandered around the hill for a while taking pictures. Here's a bit of what I saw:
But why waste all that energy when I can just sit at my desk and see this.
First Sarko, now Pooty Poot. The Daily Mail reports [here] that Vladimir Putin is leaving his wife for a 24 year old actress/model/gymnast/politician [I'm not kidding, she really is a member of the Duma]. Her name is Alina Kabaeva and she has remarkable talents, for a politician that is.
Here she is in action.
This is becoming a trend among world leaders. Who's next?
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Billy Penn standing atop City Hall. For a long time no building could be constructed that would stand taller than Penn's Hat. Rouse corporation broke that barrier and now several office workers can look down on poor Billy. The new tall structures are nice, but somehow I miss the old skyline. Oh well, that's progress.
Revisiting another old landmark -- this is the gate to Chinatown. It used to be an exotic place. Now it's just another run-down neighborhood. Guess that's progress too.
And here is Claes Oldenburg's famous clothespin in its patriotic/corporate context. I remember when it went up. He claimed that it was actually a representation of two lovers embracing. Well..., maybe. I never cared much for pop art -- it always seemed to be sort of a scam -- but much the same could be said of all fine art. It's innocuous, and a lot of people like it.
And this is "Love Park" at the base of the Ben Franklin Parkway, featuring Robert Indiana's famous statue. Not the best photo, but I snapped it from a moving car. Not sure about the green water. Is it an environmental statement? Is it just that they haven't cleaned up from St. Patrick's day? Or have they completely lost control of the algae in the city's water system?
These are the Pennsylvania photos for this week. I saved some back for the future and will post them from time to time.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Ollie Johnston, the last of the "nine old men" has died. Never heard of him? Here are a few of his credits -- Snow White, Lady and the Tramp, Pinocchio, Bambi, Peter Pan -- now you're getting it. He was part of one of the greatest creative teams in film history --the men who drew the classic Disney cartoon features.
Rest in peace, Ollie. You were one of the greats.
Read about him here.
John Kenneth Galbraith... argued that the power of advertising to manipulate the bovine public is so powerful that the law of supply and demand has been vitiated. Manufacturers can manufacture in the American herd whatever demand the manufacturers want to supply. Because the manipulable masses are easily given a "false consciousness" ([a]... category, like religion as the "opiate" of the suffering masses, that liberalism appropriated from Marxism), four things follow:
Read it here.
First, the consent of the governed, when their behavior is governed by their false consciousnesses, is unimportant. Second, the public requires the supervision of a progressive elite which, somehow emancipated from false consciousness, can engineer true consciousness. Third, because consciousness is a reflection of social conditions, true consciousness is engineered by progressive social reforms. Fourth, because people in the grip of false consciousness cannot be expected to demand or even consent to such reforms, those reforms usually must be imposed, for example, by judicial fiats.
The iconic public intellectual of liberal condescension was Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter, who... pioneered the rhetorical tactic that Obama has revived with his diagnosis of working-class Democrats as victims -- the indispensable category in liberal theory. The tactic is to dismiss rather than refute those with whom you disagree.
Thomas Sowell notes:
Like so many others on the left, Obama rejects "stereotypes" when they are stereotypes he doesn't like but blithely throws around his own stereotypes about "a typical white person" or "bitter" gun-toting, religious and racist working class people.He ties Obama to an older intellectual tradition -- one that begins with Rosseau, continues through Karl Marx, George Bernard Shaw, down to today's Democratic Party leadership --that consists of:
being for the working class in the abstract, or as people potentially useful for the purposes of the left, but having disdain or contempt for them as human beings.Read it here.
Pat Buchanan has another point of reference [here]. Obama reminds him of John Lindsay, liberal Republican icon of the Nixon era.
The common theme here is clear to see. Republicans are arguing that, other than his skin color, there is nothing new about Obama. He is a garden variety Democratic "progressive" -- a tiresome sort of snob we have all seen before, time and again.
It's a plausible argument. But is there anything really different about Obama? I think there is, and it is not an attractive feature. His associates, Rev. Wright, former Weathermen, his wife, his inspirational idol -- Malcolm X -- all share a deep and abiding resentment of America as it is and has been, and in some of his statements Obama hints that he shares their alienation. This, I would argue, disqualifies him from the office he so ardently seeks. Lileks explains:
I’ve been trying to find the right words for a certain theory, and I can’t quite do it yet. It has to do with how a candidate feels about America – they have to be fundamentally, dispositionally comfortable with it. Not in a way that glosses over or excuses its flaws, but comfortable in the way a long-term married couple is comfortable. That includes not delighting in its flaws, or crowing them at every opportunity as proof of your love. I mean a simple quiet sense of awe and pride, its challenges and flaws and uniqueness and tragedies considered. You don’t win the office by being angry we’re not something else; you win by being enthused we can be something better. You can fake the latter. But people sense the former.Read it here.
He has a point -- a very, very good one. We do not need an alienated reactionary in the White House.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Consider this lineup for April 14th.
4:00 am -- Gregory's Girl -- one of Bill Forsyth's two perfect films; the best coming of age flick ever.
6:00 am -- Singin' In the Rain -- still the greatest Hollywood musical ever and a fascinating look into Hollywood's self image.
7:45 am -- North by Northwest -- Hitchcock at his best, Cary Grant as a study in befuddled suavity -- and a young Eva Marie Saint. It just doesn't get any better.
Or maybe it does:
10:15 am -- The Maltese Falcon -- Bogie, Astor, Greenstreet, Lorre, Huston and the stuff dreams are made of. Noir heaven.
Hey, it's not even noon yet. More to come.
12:00 pm -- Casablanca -- Play it again, and again, and again. It never gets old.
2:00 pm -- The Philadelphia Story -- Grant and Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart -- the ultimate screwball comedy.
4:00 pm -- Citizen Kane -- today's kids don't appreciate it, but placed in context it is still the greatest film ever made.
6:00 pm -- Adventures of Robin Hood -- Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and Basil Rathbone. One of the greatests swashbucklers ever.
All I can say is WOW!
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Last year Germany's arts community was bullied into canceling a production of Mozart's Idomeneo because it offended Muslim sensibilities. Now they have found a safe outlet for their idiotic protests -- capitalism and the United States. A production of Verdi's Masked Ball, is being staged as a deliberate protest against American capitalism. It includes blatant references to Hitler and asserts an equivalence between that monstrous period in German history and Bush's America. The high point of the production is a scene in which naked figures wearing Mickey Mouse masks cavort in front of images of the ruined World Trade Center. You see, Bush is Hitler and Americans are Nazis -- get it?
Read about it here. [warning -- not work or child safe]
Had an interesting afternoon yesterday. "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I joined the "Gang of Seven" for lunch, then we all headed off to the BMA for a Shriver Discovery Concert. This time it was ragas from India played by Nishat Kahn on the sitar and Nitin Mitta on tabla.
Kahn is a renowned performer and innovator who has experimented with a wide range of musical forms. Over the course of his career he has integrated sitar with Gregorian chants, classical music, abstract jazz, and Flamenco. He has worked with John McLaughlin, Philip Glass, Paco Pena, Evelyn Glennie and Django Bates as well as Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, and Jeff Beck. He is a terrific showman and his virtuosity is overwhelming. He warned us that his concerts sometimes last five hours -- I doubt that anyone in the audience would have objected if this one had gone that long.
Nishat Kahn is from one of India's legendary musical families. Here is a video of him performing with his father and brothers.
Mitta is a rising talent who has worked with many of the top musicians in India. Here is a short video of him and Kahn performing together in Chicago. It gives you some hint of what we saw and heard.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
This has the potential to be huge -- especially with the Pennsylvania primary coming up in nine days.
Barak Obama revealed his disdain for the common folk at a speech last week in San Francisco:
"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
It's an astounding display of elitist bigotry, and he's gonna pay for it.
Mark Ambinder writes:
Republicans sense an opportunity in the developing storm over Barack Obama’s remarks.
His comments have been distributed to allies on Capitol Hill, to members of the Pennsylvania press corps, to talk radio hosts across the country, to Republican state parties and to the congressional campaign committees. The National Republican Congressional Committee is using the statement to whack Chris Carney, a vulnerable frosh member of congress from Pennsylvania.
Read it here.
Michelle Malkin calls him “Snob-ama” — that name is likely to stick. [here]
The McCain campaign piles on:
The McCain campaign, finding a gift in its lap, tees off on the eye-opening comments by Barack Obama from a fundraiser last week in San Francisco (of all places).
Asked to respond, McCain adviser Steve Schmidt called it a “remarkable statement and extremely revealing.”
“It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking,” Schmidt said. “It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans.”
Read it here.
From the Ace of Spades [here]
“Obama To Rural Pennsylvanians: Vote For Me, You Corncob-Smokin’, Banjo-Strokin’ Chicken-Chokin’ Cousin-Pokin’ Inbred Hillbilly Racist Morons.”
Instapundit is all over it. [here]
The New Republic says Snobama’s comments are “None-too-bright”. [here]
John Hinderaker writes:
It sounds like Obama is scaling back on his effort to appeal to religious voters. And what’s this about the yahoos’ “anti-trade sentiment”? Would that be like opposing the Colombia trade agreement? Hypocrisy is not unknown among politicians, but Obama seems determined to set a new standard.
Read it here.
From Just One Minute: [here]
HALP US BROK O’BOMBA– WE R STUCK HEAR N ALTOONA.
And Hillary! responds: [here]
Pennsylvanians don’t need a president who looks down on them. They need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, and your families,” she said, implicitly casting Obama as an elitist.
This thing is not going away anytime soon. Snobama stands revealed as a narrow-minded bigot, and Hillary and McCain aren’t going to let anybody forget it.
Gotta go now — houn dogs needs feedin and there’s lots of chickens to choke, banjos to stroke, and my cousin’s comin over in a couple o’ hours. Lord knows what she wants.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Mickey demolishes the Times' account of the fighting in Basra and concludes:
I'm not saying that the Times editors are predictable anti-war, anti-Bush types who reflexively leaped to a pessimistic extrapolation from the muddled Basra fighting and imposed that unsupported conclusion on their reporters. But they definitely succeeded in producing the piece that predictable anti-war types would have generated given no more information than the news that Maliki had failed to take all of Basra. Arianna Huffington could have written it from her sofa after coming back from a party. Except it would probably be more convincing.
Read the whole thing here -- it's a masterful vivisection of a really bad news story.
Sagan's unspoken assumption was that a credentialed, scientifically trained, academic elite possessed sufficient integrity and intellectual authority to counter the demons of the popular mind. Well..., not any more.
The New York Sun reports:
On March 26, Richard Falk, Milbank professor of international law emeritus at Princeton University, was named by unanimous vote to a newly created position to report on human rights in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. While Mr. Falk’s specialty is human rights and international law, since the attacks in 2001, he has devoted some of his time to challenging what he calls the “9-11 official version.”
On March 24 in an interview with a radio host and former University of Wisconsin instructor, Kevin Barrett, Mr. Falk said, “It is possibly true that especially the neoconservatives thought there was a situation in the country and in the world where something had to happen to wake up the American people. Whether they are innocent about the contention that they made that something happen or not, I don’t think we can answer definitively at this point. All we can say is there is a lot of grounds for suspicion, there should be an official investigation of the sort the 9/11 commission did not engage in and that the failure to do these things is cheating the American people and in some sense the people of the world of a greater confidence in what really happened than they presently possess.”
Read it here.
Here is a guy with impeccable credentials -- an endowed chair at Princeton, former U. S. Ambassador to the UN, appointment to the UN Human Rights Council, and such not -- and he's a "truther."
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Nothing is more fraudulent than calls for a "dialogue on race." Those who issue such calls are usually quick to cry "racism" at any frank criticism. They are almost invariably seeking a monologue on race, to which others are supposed to listen.Read the whole thing here.
Whenever I see one of Barack Obama's smooth performances, it reminds me of a saying from my old neighborhood in Harlem: "An eel is like sandpaper compared to you."
What is more scary than any particular candidate or policy is the gullibility of the public and their willingness to be satisfied with talking points, rather than serious arguments.
Somehow I don't think he'll be voting for that nice, well-spoken, young Senator from Chicago. Come to think of it, neither will I. The Clintons may be loathsome, but they're not really dangerous -- Obama's naivete and glibness scares me. He could be worse than Jimmah Carter.
Sowell speaks for me when he writes:
Senator John McCain could never convince me to vote for him. Only Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama can cause me to vote for McCain.There is one thing McCain could do that would enthuse me, and that is to choose Condi as his running mate.
Note: this does not mean that I am giving up on Alaska's gorgeous guv, but her pregnancy seems to have taken her out of consideration.