Day By Day

Monday, January 31, 2011

What a Difference A Few Years Makes

Just a few years ago Democrats were all foreign policy "realists" avidly denouncing those naive "neo-cons" who insisted on regime change in the Middle East. Stability, they argued, should be the primary goal of U. S. policy in the region and they phoo-phooed Bush administration arguments that support for repressive regimes only bred anti-Americanism, the primary example being Al Qaeda.

Well, now there is a Democrat in the White House and a second wave of democratic turmoil is sweeping through the Arab world and, mirable dictu, Democrats are lining up to say the very thing that, just a few years ago, they denounced Republicans for saying. Writing in Slate Anne Applebaum argues:



Politicians like stability. Bankers like stability. But the "stability" we have so long embraced in the Arab world wasn't really stability. It was repression. The benign dictators we have supported, or anyway tolerated—the Zine al-Abidine Ben Alis, the Hosni Mubaraks, the various kings and princes—have stayed in power by preventing economic development, clamping down on free speech, keeping tight control of education, and above all by stamping down hard on anything resembling civil society. Every year, more books are translated into Greek—a language spoken by 11 million people—than into Arabic, a language spoken by more than 220 million. Independent organizations of all kinds, from political parties and private businesses to women's groups and academic societies have been watched, harassed, or banned altogether.

The result: Egypt, like many Arab societies, has a wealthy and well-armed elite at the top and a fanatical and well-organized Islamic fundamentalist movement at the bottom. In between lies a large and unorganized body of people who have never participated in politics, whose business activities have been limited by corruption and nepotism, and whose access to the outside world has been hampered by stupid laws and suspicious bureaucrats.
So suddenly democracy promotion is a good thing and should become the guiding principle of American Middle East policy. What a difference a few years have made!

I guess somebody owes Paul Wolfowitz or even Dubya an apology. But don't hold your breath.

Read it here.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Good President (continued) -- The Arab Revolts

Once again history has shown that the much reviled George W. Bush was essentially right in his assessment of the world and his highly "credentialed" critics wrong. Elliot Abrams writes in the WaPo.
The massive and violent demonstrations underway in Egypt, the smaller ones in Jordan and Yemen, and the recent revolt in Tunisia that inspired those events..., are exploding, once and for all, the myth of Arab exceptionalism. Arab nations, too, yearn to throw off the secret police, to read a newspaper that the Ministry of Information has not censored and to vote in free elections. The Arab world may not be swept with a broad wave of revolts now, but neither will it soon forget this moment.
He points out that President Bush raised this very issue time and again, asserting that the desire for freedom was a human, rather than merely a "Western" imperative and that he was widely denounced by foreign policy elites for doing so. Abrams writes:

All these developments seem to come as a surprise to the Obama administration, which dismissed Bush's "freedom agenda" as overly ideological and meant essentially to defend the invasion of Iraq. But as Bush's support for the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon and for a democratic Palestinian statemarked the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy, an institution established by President Ronald Reagan precisely to support the expansion of freedom. showed, he was defending self-government, not the use of force. Consider what Bush said in that 2003 speech, which

"Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe - because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty," Bush said. "As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export."

This spirit did not always animate U.S. diplomacy in the Bush administration; plenty of officials found it unrealistic and had to be prodded or overruled to follow the president's lead. But the revolt in Tunisia, the gigantic wave of demonstrations in Egypt and the more recent marches in Yemen all make clear that Bush had it right - and that the Obama administration's abandonment of this mind-set is nothing short of a tragedy.
That could be said in so many areas. Bush had it right, and to the extent that the Obama administration has abandoned Bush's policies and perspectives, it has produced disaster and tragedy.Fortunately our fine young president has begun to show signs that he and his party's former denunciations of President Bush have been both misguided and unjustified. At least his tacit and belated embrace of Bush era initiatives would seem to suggest so.

UPDATE:

Jay Nordlinger, over at the Corner, also note President Bush's prescience. He writes:

Today, as Egypt explodes, I can’t help thinking of George W. Bush. I think in particular of an appearance he made in Sharm El Sheikh, in May 2008. I wrote about that appearance here. Before a conference of Middle Eastern elites, and their Western associates, Bush gave a speech that stood on the side of the men and women in the prison cells. And the people throughout the region who were hoping for a more democratic, freer, worthier life.
I will quote from my piece (written in the present tense, journal-style):
In due course, Bush slaps down the notion that democracy is a Western value, which America seeks to impose on unwilling people. “This is a condescending form of moral relativism,” he says. “The truth is that freedom is a universal right — the Almighty’s gift to every man, woman, and child on the face of the earth.” 
This was the sort of talk that drove many Middle Eastern elites crazy. (They worried for their positions, for one thing.) It drove many Westerners crazy, too. In America, the Left hated any talk from Bush about freedom and democracy. They thought it was bigoted, dangerous, ethnocentric, theocratic, insensitive, self-congratulatory, hypocritical, warmongering, McCarthyite, crude, etc. As for conservatives, many of them harrumphed, as only conservatives can: “‘Freedom’! ‘Democracy’! A desire ‘beating in every human heart’! What a crock!”

Read the whole thing here.


The Old Order Passeth

Victor Davis Hanson argues, quite cogently, that the fundamental assumptions upon which people of my generation -- those who came of age in the middle third of the Twentieth Century -- organized their existence no longer hold. Things have changed in a fundamental way. The things in which we trusted have ceased to be trustworthy. News sources, universities, pensions, international relations, all have changed, almost beyond recognition, and those who benefited from the old system are not happy about it.

In response to this topsy-turvy world, the traditional media, tenured professors, well-paid public employees, rigid ethnic and racial lobbies, unions, organized retirees, open-borders advocates and entrenched politicians all are understandably claiming that we live in an uncivil age. 

We well may, but we also are seeing the waning of an old established order. And the resulting furor suggests that the old beneficiaries are not going quietly into that good night.
Indeed, today's "progressive" coalition is the new reactionary force in American political culture and attempts attempts to reassert the old verities by which their members have lived are best described as pathetic.

Read his piece here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Geraghy's History Of the Tea Parties

Jim Geraghty, in his "Morning Jolt" e-mail relates his understanding of the origin and development of the Tea Party Movement. I cite it in full because I don't have a link to the source.

Yesterday's D.C. meeting was spurred by a foreign lawmaker who wanted to get a sense of how the Tea Parties came about (with, I suspect, an interest in facilitating a similar movement in his home country). What follows is the gist of what I told him, from an unfinished article idea:
The modern incarnation of the Tea Parties is a spectacularly sober movement, inspired by animating spirits that seemed dormant for the better part of a generation.

For decades, conservatives watched large rallies in Washington for gay rights, opposition to Middle Eastern wars, the Million Man March, gun control, and dozens of other trendy lefty causes, and consoled themselves with the idea that the grassroots of the Right just weren't the kind of folks who attended big rallies. (Pro-lifers, with their annual March for Life held in bitter January weather, made a striking exception.) Unions often secure the day off for their members; college students and professors find it all too easy to skip or cancel class. If you didn't see the demographics that make up the GOP base -- small businessmen, parents, members of the military -- marching and waving signs, it's because they were too busy working for a living.

The libertarian magazine Reason has noted that Americans who subscribe to a socially liberal, fiscally conservative philosophy are the ideological demographic most likely to own jacuzzis and hot tubs. Couple this with a preference for individualism over broad-based group action, and one can quickly understand why you don't often see giant libertarian rallies: They're mostly at home having fun in their hot tubs. In fact, it takes a dire threat to their liberties to get them out of their hot tubs.

Enter the Obama administration.

Like most successes, at least a thousand figures are claiming fatherhood of the Tea Party phenomenon, but certainly a key moment came
Feb. 19, 2009, from an unlikely source: CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli, who launched into an off-the-cuff rant when asked to evaluate the initial moves from the Obama administration to deal with a housing market that had plummeted. "The government is promoting bad behavior!" Santelli shouted, accusing the administration of a plan that amounted to "subsidizing the losers' mortgages."

 
"This is America!" Santelli shouted. "How many of you people want to pay for your neighbors' mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills? . . . President Obama, are you listening?"

He articulated the concern that drove welfare reform, the most significant policy achievement of Bill Clinton's presidency: Government was taking from the responsible in order to save the irresponsible from the consequences of their own bad decisions. Americans are a charitable people, but they quickly anger when they suspect they're being played for a sucker.

The first national "Tea Party" day, held April 16, 2009, ran into the usual trouble; if you're trying to rally big crowds of squeezed and harried taxpayers, it's probably a mistake to hold the rally the day that federal taxes are due. But a Tea Party skeptic, liberal blogger Nate Silver, went through accounts of crowds from Denver (5,000) to Bound Brook, New Jersey (20) and came up with a minimum number of estimated attendees nationwide:
111,899, a number he granted was "reasonably impressive."

Listen to a discussion of the debt and deficit at a Tea Party meeting, and you won't hear a lot of numbers; instead, it is articulated as a moral issue, and a national moral failure. The spending spree of TARP and the stimulus -- and a deficit exacerbated by plummeting tax revenues -- is spurring Americans to look at the debt as a great horror inflicted upon their children and grandchildren. Occasionally, you'll hear a bit of denunciation of the Chinese holding American debt, but by and large this is seen as an American failure to practice thrift, impulse control, and responsibility -- or more specifically, American lawmakers' failure to do so.


It's fairly standard for a conservative lawmaker to encounter angry liberal crowds. But during the summer of 2009, as Congress took up a massive health-care bill after passing massive spending bills, Democrat lawmakers returned to their districts to find huge angry crowds turning out at their public meetings. Democrats had never seen anything like it: overflow crowds, angry chants, and in one case, a lawmaker hung in effigy. Inside-the-Beltway veterans like David Broder of the Washington Post predicted a backlash, but none arrived. Americans concluded if you want to enjoy the relatively pampered life of a congressman, you had better be ready to listen to a constituent tell you why you're doing such a lousy job. Democrats largely responded to the challenge by refusing to hold additional public meetings.

Coverage of the Tea Parties mostly focused on the inevitable odd character who dressed up in Revolutionary garb, or signs misspelled, or worse. Gather a large enough crowd, and some yahoo will express their opposition to the president in a distasteful or racist manner. Much more ubiquitous was the Gadsden flag, one of the first flags of the United States, which
depicts a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike with the legend "Don't Tread on Me."

While the Tea Parties were being mocked, dismissed, and demonized, the ill omens for Obama piled up to an almost comical level: Republicans won two big governor's races in 2009; Scott Brown, a Republican, won the Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy; higher turnout in Republican primaries through 2010, for the first time in 80 years; the Gallup poll showing the largest enthusiasm gap between the parties they had ever recorded.

Their impact is decisive, but not overwhelming. Democrats hung on in a few key Senate and governor's races, and a few traditional Democratic strongholds resisted the Republican wave. But even President Obama called the results "a shellacking."

 
"The impact of the Tea Party movement cannot be understated. The energy harnessed by the movement helped mobilize Americans to support Republican candidates, and more importantly go to the polls to vote against the higher-tax, big-government, anti-business Obama agenda," said a Washington Republican helping coordinate strategy for the lower house of Congress. "Their energy and support helped push the number of competitive races from the usual 30 or 40 to well past 100 and turned a wave election into a tsunami."

As Obama stumbles, liberals are beginning to realize that he is the last hope for their movement; they will not elect a more progressive, more popular, more charismatic president by a wider margin anytime soon, and they will never enjoy a more perfect political environment than they did in autumn 2008. By contrast, the Tea Parties are asymmetrical warfare applied to the political realm. Sarah Palin, Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann, and Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky are all key figures in the Tea Party movement, but none are irreplaceable. Unlike most powerful organizations in Washington, there is no one main phone number for the Tea Parties, an incomprehensible development to many Washington reporters. There are quite a few groups claiming to speak for the Tea Party movement -- FreedomWorks, the Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party Express -- but in the end they're simply event organizers rather than directors. The whole point of this movement is that these people hate being told what to do.

Unlike the usual angry crowds of striking workers in France or pensioners in Greece, the Tea Party is the strange phenomenon of citizens demanding government spend less instead of more. For all of our flaws, Americans are waking up to the hard fact that when their government spends, they end up paying every cent, sooner or later.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Spreading the Jasmine Revolution



The success of Tunisia's "Jasmine Revolution" is inspiring protests throughout the Arab world. Some of them are of great significance. Here's an eyewitness account of the most important of these, in Egypt:

Wednesday, Cairo:

Tonight, protesters have surrounded the parliament building in downtown Cairo. There have been two deaths of protestors in Suez; one policeman has died in Cairo, hit by a rock. The protestors in Tahrir Square have been tear-gassed, and Twitter has been blocked within the borders of Egypt.

But this morning, as the sun burned a smoky haze off the face of this city, the streets were open and clear as I rode downtown at 8 a.m.

There had been tweets that protests would be staged in Tahrir Square and in the downtown neighborhood of Mohandeseen. These tweets were received by Egyptian authorities monitoring the hashtag #jan25, and they deployed a massive security presence to deter any demonstrations. Officers stood in groups of 6 to 8, on nearly every street corner. They blockaded the entrance to the parliament building. The teams stood quietly with folded arms watching the empty streets as the sun rose over the Nile.

Around the block, I exited my taxi and sat down at a nearby hotel for coffee, waiting as the hours passed. I saw six trucks of police pass on the highway, heading south to Mohandeseen. I jumped into a taxi and followed them.
 Read the whole thing here.

In this report CNN notes the similarities between the Tunisian and Egyptian revolts, but also notes the significant differences between the two countries.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lies of the Left -- The Anti-war Veterans

Greyhawk over at the Mudville Gazette asks what happened to the anti-war movement that was so voiciferous and so much a part of the MSM coverage of the Bush administration. He then traces the decline of the anti-war "veterans", some of them complete frauds, to provide a partial answer to the complex question.

Basically he agrees with Glenn Reynolds' assessment that they were useful idiots who, once a Democrat was safely in the White House, stopped being useful.

Read about it here.


Is SF Getting Conservative?

Patrick Richardson asks some SF authors about it and gets some interesting answers. The general response is that nobody really knows, but the left-wing hegemony of the past few decades has given way to a more diverse set of beliefs.

Read the article here.

Admission: I used to be a fan, but was turned off by the rise of the Left and moved on. Maybe it's time to start getting interested again.


How Liberal Journalists Think

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Steampunk Palin


Yep, folks -- it's real. Sarah in a steampunk world. Read about it here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Good President [continued] -- The Tunisian Uprising

The overthrow of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali illustrates quite clearly the core dilemma facing the United States in he Middle East. The central debate is between "neocons" who consider that the long term interests of the US are best served by promoting democracy and a respect for human rights within the region, and "realists" for whom political stability is the overriding consideration and who view democratization as a destabilizing imperative that threatens American interests, at least in the short term.

Of course, in practice these two conceptual camps are not mutually exclusive. As Henry Kissinger [the ultimate "realist"] has frequently pointed out, realists are not totally insensitive to human rights and generally favor the promotion of democracy, and neo-cons are not oblivious to the dangers that attend policies based on regime change. The differences are more in tone than substance. Generally speaking during the early years of the Bush administration, neocons were ascendant, but their influence waned as the war in Iraq dragged on inconclusively. The Obama administration began with a strong realist bias, but that has slowly segued into general disinterest and non-involvement.

Tunisia has reignited the debate within the foreign policy community. On the one hand many in the West celebrate that country's "jasmine revolution" and hope that it presages a broader wave of democratization throughout the region [here]. They argue out that support for corrupt and oppressive strong man rule only heightens tensions that inevitably, as in Tunisia, produce revolt and radicalism. Others worry that opening the political process will provide opportunities for radical groups to gain influence [here]. Already Islamist groups are rejoicing over the opportunity presented to them by Ben Ali's overthrow. However, faced with a situation fraught with uncertainties and ambiguities the Obama administration has been unwilling to take a stand with either camp, signaling a general disinterest and uninvolvement. Once again the Won has voted "present".

This detachment has not met with general favor in the Arab world. In a fascinating dialogue Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institute and Issander El Amrani of "The Arabist" note that throughout the region there is a wakening nostalgia for George W. Bush, and a general dissatisfaction with Obama's policy of non-involvement. At least Bush, they argue, stood for something and promoted, if with limited effectiveness, desirable long-term goals in the region.


Nostalgia for Dubya in the Arab world. Imagine that!

A World of Cities

Parag Khanna, writing in Foreign Policy, argues that we increasingly live in a global environment in which cities, rather than nation-states, are the most important form of political and economic organization. He writes:
[T]he 21st century will not be dominated by America or China, Brazil or India, but by the city. In an age that appears increasingly unmanageable, cities rather than states are becoming the islands of governance on which the future world order will be built. This new world is not -- and will not be -- one global village, so much as a network of different ones.
Time, technology, and population growth have massively accelerated the advent of this new urbanized era. Already, more than half the world lives in cities, and the percentage is growing rapidly. But just 100 cities account for 30 percent of the world's economy, and almost all its innovation. Many are world capitals that have evolved and adapted through centuries of dominance: London, New York, Paris. New York City's economy alone is larger than 46 of sub-Saharan Africa's economies combined. Hong Kong receives more tourists annually than all of India. These cities are the engines of globalization, and their enduring vibrancy lies in money, knowledge, and stability. They are today's true Global Cities.
He argues that the growing predominance of urban areas will ultimately result in a situation in many ways similar to that of the Middle Ages outside Europe -- the golden age of Chinese, Muslim and Arab glory.
Now as then, cities are the real magnets of economies, the innovators of politics, and, increasingly, the drivers of diplomacy. Those that aren't capitals act like they are. Foreign policy seems to take place even among cities within the same country, whether it's New York and Washington feuding over financial regulation or Dubai and Abu Dhabi vying for leadership of the United Arab Emirates. This new world of cities won't obey the same rules as the old compact of nations; they will write their own opportunistic codes of conduct, animated by the need for efficiency, connectivity, and security above all else.
It's an interesting argument -- one that has much to recommend it. I suspect, however, that the nation-state is not going to wither and die anytime soon.

Read this provocative article here.

Now, consider an alternative.

Joel Kotkin, also writing in Foreign Policy, argues that the future lies not with centralized cities, but with the suburbs, by which he means more decentralized forms of living. The basic reason is that for most of the population, life in the emerging urban conglomerates is hellish and people will seek more comfortable and secure environments. 
As unfashionable as it might sound, what if we thought less about the benefits of urban density and more about the many possibilities for proliferating more human-scaled urban centers; what if healthy growth turns out to be best achieved through dispersion, not concentration? Instead of overcrowded cities rimmed by hellish new slums, imagine a world filled with vibrant smaller cities, suburbs, and towns: Which do you think is likelier to produce a higher quality of life, a cleaner environment, and a lifestyle conducive to creative thinking?
He is bucking a trend here. A whole generation of urban enthusiasts has been telling us that suburban life is soul deadening and that concentration of population in urban areas is not only desirable -- it is inevitable. Kotkin disagrees:
[T]he rise of the megacity is by no means inevitable -- and it might not even be happening. Shlomo Angel, an adjunct professor at New York University's Wagner School, has demonstrated that as the world's urban population exploded from 1960 to 2000, the percentage living in the 100 largest megacities actually declined from nearly 30 percent to closer to 25 percent. Even the widely cited 2009 World Bank report on megacities, a staunchly pro-urban document, acknowledges that as societies become wealthier, they inevitably begin to deconcentrate, with the middle classes moving to the periphery. Urban population densities have been on the decline since the 19th century, Angel notes, as people have sought out cheaper and more appealing homes beyond city limits. In fact, despite all the "back to the city" hype of the past decade, more than 80 percent of new metropolitan growth in the United States since 2000 has been in suburbs. And that's not such a bad thing.

In the course of my life I have lived in central cities, in suburbs, in small towns, and in exurban areas. I certainly sympathize with Kotkin's argument that life outside central cities is superior to that endured by urbanites, although I have friends and relatives who would strongly disagree. Like him I hope that the global trend toward urbanization will be accompanied by local and regional decentralization, but as Kotkin realizes, the current political culture is heavily biased in favor of urban concentration. What will be interesting to see over the next few decades will be the social and political alliances that form over the question of urban vs suburban growth.

Read Kotkin's response to the urbanologists here.

The Rational Optimist

Brendan O'Neill has a terrific review of Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist in the American Conservative.

Why, he asks, are we so pessimistic about the future when the historical record shows that at no time or place in the past have so many people enjoyed as rich and rewarding lives as they do now. The record of the past few centuries has been one of constant amelioration of human want and suffering.



The contrast between how we live today and how people lived just a few decades ago should, by all rights, be enough to perk up even the most miserable of miserabilists. Yes, there’s still poverty, he writes, especially in Africa, but overall “this generation of human beings has access to more calories, watts, lumen-hours, square feet, gigabytes, megahertz, light years, nanometers, bushels per acre, miles per gallon, food miles, air miles, and of course dollars than any that went before.”

There are more people (or “mouths to feed,” as the pessimists insultingly refer to us) than ever, yet we are better fed and healthier than ever, too. Since 1800, Ridley points out, the world population of human beings has risen sixfold—from 1 billion to over 6 billion—yet in the same period, average life expectancy has more than doubled and average real income has risen ninefold. In just the past 50 years, the average human “earned nearly three times as much money (corrected for inflation), ate one-third more calories of food, buried one-third as many of her children, and could expect to live one-third longer.” 

It's a bracing read, one that should be kept in mind the next time you hear the gloom mongers pontificate on the state of the world. 

Check it out here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Palinoia

James Taranto, over at the WSJ, has a thoughtful piece on Palin Derangement Syndrome. The piece inspired hundreds of comments, some of them pretty good. Check it out here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Iowahawk's Latest -- CSI Tucson

The funniest man on the internet strikes again:

CSI: Tucson

Fade in. Chaotic supermarket parking lot, strewn with bodies in aftermath of shooting spree. Amid lights and sirens, a bearded man in black windbreaker and sunglasses ducks under the yellow police tape.

COUNTY DEPUTY
Sir -- sir! Please remain behind the cordon. This is an active crime scene investigation.
KRUGMAN (flashes New York Times OpEd badge)
I know. Krugman, CSI. This is my partner Lt. Matthews.
MATTHEWS
Who's in charge here? And where are the donuts?
DEPUTY
He's over there sir -- Sheriff Dupnik. He's in charge of the donuts, too.
Krugman and Matthews cross the parking lot, deftly stepping over sheet-covered corpses
DUPNIK
Krugman. Matthews. I was wondering when you two would get here. We've already booked a perp. Cruller?
MATTHEWS
No thanks, I'll take those two bear claws though.
KRUGMAN
What do you got with white icing? And what do you got on the perp?
DUPNIK
White male, 22, close cropped hair. Goes by the name of ‘Lucidfer Matrix Dreambrain.’ Another typical college Republican

Read the whole thing here.

The Re-election Campaign Is Underway

William Jacobson over at "Legal Insurrection" notes that the recent media frenzy sparked by the Tucson shootings, with its wild inaccuracies and libelous charges against Sarah Palin and the Tea Partiers, is nothing less than a test run for the Obama re-election campaign.

Read it here.

The Good President [continued] -- Cheney Vindicated

Uberlefty Glenn Greenwald, to his great dismay, finds that the new "orthodoxy" in Obama's America is that Bush-era defense and counter-terrorism policies, defended by VP Cheney but bitterly denounced by Democrats during the campaign, have been shown to be wise and prudent. Why? Because they have been largely adopted and even extended by the Obama administration.

What is most surprising is not that Bush's policies turned out to have been correct -- a lot of us have known that all along -- but that an article titled "The Vindication of Dick Cheney" could appear in a hard-left publication like Salon. 

Read his complaint here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Adventures of President Hu

A Taiwanese take on President Hu's visit to Washington:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Don Surber Isn't Interested in Civil Discourse

He explains why here.

P. J. O'Rourke on the End of the "Times"

He writes:

Judging by what I’ve heard from my fellow conservatives, the issue is decided. The New York Times is a worthless, truthless, vicious institution. But I disagree. I think things are worse than that.

Read it here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lies of the Left -- Michelle's Contribution


Michelle Malkin has expanded her litany of lefty horrors. Check it out here.

And she has now added "Blame Righty", a compendium of leftist lies about conservatives. 

Coup in Tunisia


When "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I were in Tunisia recently we were impressed by the ubiquity of unemployed youth who sat all day, every day in cafes watching the world pass them by. One person with whom we spoke put the unemployment rate at around 30%.

Tunisia is a land of extreme economic contrasts. On one hand you have a number of gorgeous Mediterranean resorts such as Hammamet, where the nation's elites congregate and wealthy Europeans flock. On the other there is widespread poverty as bad as anything we seen anywhere in the world. Also prominently on display were the symbols of authoritarian rule -- police, heavily armed guards, and portraits of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali whose image was prominently on display everywhere.

The potential for social unrest was palpable and bothered me the whole time we were in the country. One could sense resentment in the stares of the idle young men who lined the streets of villages, towns and cities. This week that resentment erupted into full-blown revolt. A diplomatic cable, exposed by Wikileaks, exposed the corruption of the current regime and crowds took to the streets in Tunis, Hammamet and other cities. Today comes news that Ben Ali has resigned and fled the country and the Prime Minister, Mohammed Ghannouchi, has assumed presidential powers. Twenty-three years ago Ben Ali deposed the republic's first President, Habib Bourghiba, and proclaimed that the era of one-man rule is over. Let us hope that after a third of a century, that promise will finally be fulfilled.

Read about it here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sarah Responds to the Censors

Sarah Palin: "America's Enduring Strength" from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.



If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.
....

Just days before she was shot, Congresswoman Giffords read the First Amendment on the floor of the House. It was a beautiful moment and more than simply “symbolic,” as some claim, to have the Constitution read by our Congress. I am confident she knew that reading our sacred charter of liberty was more than just “symbolic.” But less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.

....


America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week. We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner, and to unite in the knowledge that, though our ideas may be different, we must all strive for a better future for our country. May God bless America.
Read the whole transcript here.

Brooks and the Politicized Mind

David Brooks' recent column in the New York Times laments the condition of political discourse in America today and attributes it to "the politicized mind", in other words people who see everything and anything through a political prism. Unlike his colleagues at the Times, however, he does not blame "tea partiers", "extremists" or any of the other hobgoblins of the liberal imagination. His sights [if I may still use such a term] are trained on the MSM itself. He writes:
We have a news media that is psychologically ill informed but politically inflamed, so it naturally leans toward political explanations. We have a news media with a strong distaste for Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement, and this seemed like a golden opportunity to tarnish them. We have a segmented news media, so there is nobody in most newsrooms to stand apart from the prevailing assumptions. We have a news media market in which the rewards go to anybody who can stroke the audience’s pleasure buttons.

I have no love for Sarah Palin, and I like to think I’m committed to civil discourse. But the political opportunism occasioned by this tragedy has ranged from the completely irrelevant to the shamelessly irresponsible. 
 Quite right! Opportunistic, irrelevant, and shamelessly irresponsible are a pretty good description of today's mainstream media.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Moratorium on Sociology?

George Will, in a very nice column, calls for a "moratorium on sociology" as a means of explaining the terrible things that take place every now and then. What started out as an attempt to invoke a comforting illusion of rational explanation has become a despicable and disruptive political tool wielded almost invariably against conservative. Will explains
 A characteristic of many contemporary minds is susceptibility to the superstition that all behavior can be traced to some diagnosable frame of mind that is a product of promptings from the social environment. From which flows a political doctrine: Given clever social engineering, society and people can be perfected. This supposedly is the path to progress. It actually is the crux of progressivism. And it is why there is a reflex to blame conservatives first. 
And the blame has been rolling out for more than half a century. Will traces its beginnings to the Kennedy assassination when the "explainers" argued that
the "real" culprit was not a self-described Marxist who had moved to Moscow, then returned to support Castro. No, the culprit was a "climate of hate" in conservative Dallas, the "paranoid style" of American (conservative) politics or some other national sickness resulting from insufficient liberalism.
I would date it earlier, to the postwar fad for Frankford school pop-psychology and its nonsensical maunderings, but Will's point is clear. The left reflexively invokes bad social science as an explanatory device for bashing conservatives, something that Rush Limbaugh noted yesterday:
Here's a partial list of some of the incidents the left has tried to pin on conservatives.  The Columbine shooters. The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (specifically they tried to blame me for that).  The DC sniper.  The New York City Times Square car bomb attempt.  They tried to blame that on some Tea Partier angry at the health law, then we find out that was radical Islamists.  The February 2010 IRS plane attack in San Antonio. Remember that? It had to be an anti-government clown that flew that plane into the IRS office, had to be.  The Pentagon subway shooter. The Fort Hood attack. The Discovery Channel hostage taker.  And this guy [John Patrick] Bedell who went into the Pentagon and wanted to shoot these people up.  This guy, by the way, is a dead ringer for Loughner.  Amy Bishop who shot her colleagues at that Alabama college.
The list, as Rush writes, goes on and on. Will's call for a moratorium is well-founded, but the Left just can't help itself -- the impulse to declare critics mentally deficient is too strong, even though it ultimately operates to their detriment. Will writes:
Three days before Tucson, Howard Dean explained that the Tea Party movement is "the last gasp of the generation that has trouble with diversity." Rising to the challenge of lowering his reputation and the tone of public discourse, Dean smeared Tea Partyers as racists: They oppose Obama's agenda, Obama is African American, ergo . . . 

Let us hope that Dean is the last gasp of the generation of liberals whose default position in any argument is to indict opponents as racists. This McCarthyism of the left - devoid of intellectual content, unsupported by data - is a mental tic, not an idea but a tactic for avoiding engagement with ideas. It expresses limitless contempt for the American people, who have reciprocated by reducing liberalism to its current characteristics of electoral weakness and bad sociology.
Amen.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Left-Wing Hate Speech

Michelle Malkin is a treasure. She has the resources and determination to catalogue the lies of the Left and in doing so provides a valuable contrast to the facile falsehoods that permeate the MSM. Here she provides an extensive catalogue of left-wing hate speech threatening violence against Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, and other conservative figures.

Nice job, MM.

And check out Rush's rant on the subject of media misreporting of incidents such as the Arizona shooting here

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Pornography of Climate Change and the Delegitimation of Expert Authority

Brendan O'Neill writes:

You couldn’t have asked for a better snapshot of the chasm that divides today’s so-called expert classes from the mass of humanity than the snow crisis of Christmas 2010. They warn us endlessly about the warming of our planet; we struggle through knee-deep snow to visit loved ones. They host million-dollar conferences on how we’ll cope with our Mediterranean future; we sleep for days in airport lounges waiting for runways to be de-iced. They pester the authorities for more funding for global-warming research; we keep an eye on our elderly neighbours who don’t have enough cash to heat their homes.
 This is not to completely disregard the science of "climate change" but to note the fantastic nature of the political program it has engendered. Time and again we are treated to apocalyptic fantasies dressed up in the clothing of "science".
[T]he world of difference between expert predictions (hot hell) and our real experiences (freezing nightmare) is a powerful symbol of the distance that now exists between the apocalypse-fantasising elites and the public.
What it really shows is the extent to which the politics of global warming is driven by an already existing culture of fear. It doesn’t matter what The Science (as greens always refer to it) does or doesn’t reveal: campaigners will still let their imaginations run riot, biblically fantasising about droughts and plagues, because theirs is a fundamentally moralistic outlook rather than a scientific one. It is their disdain for mankind’s planet-altering arrogance that fuels their global-warming fantasies - and they simply seek out The Science that best seems to back up their perverted thoughts. Those predictions of a snowless future, of a parched Earth, are better understood as elite moral porn rather than sedate risk analysis.
 Even more perverse is the elite's stubborn refusal to admit error.
Anyone with a shred of self-respect who had predicted The End Of Snow would surely now admit that he was wrong. But no. Perhaps the most revealing thing about the snow crisis is that it was held up as evidence, not that the experts were mistaken, but that the public is stupid. 

....


This reveals the stinging snobbery at the heart of the politics of global warming. Because what we have here is an updated version of the elitist idea that the better classes have access to a profound and complicated truth that the rest of us cannot grasp. Where we have merely sensory reactions (experience), they have reason and analysis (knowledge). Our critical reaction to the snow actually revealed our failure to understand The Truth, as unveiled by The Science, rather than revealing their wrongheadedness in predicting an ‘end to snow’. We are ‘simple’, they are ‘reasoned’. In 2011, we should take everything that is said by this new doom-mongering expert caste with a large pinch of salt....
And here we get to the core of the matter. Elite indulgence in pornographic fantasy and stubborn refusal to admit error on their part, accompanied by snobbish disregard for the real world in which ordinary people live ultimately operate to de-legitimize the elite status enjoyed by professional experts and policymakers.

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Continuing Collapse of Scientific Authority [updated]

Alan Caruba has a nice short summary of recent scientific scares that saturated the media but turned out in the end to be much less than the scientific/journalistic establishment made them out to be. They include global warming, the vaccine/autism linkage, the alar scare, the allegation that saccharine causes cancer, and the anti-BPA campaign.

He writes:

Aside from the fact that these claims always begin with a dubious “scientific” study and then escalate as other “scientists” climb on the funding bandwagon, the other element is always the role that the mainstream media plays in keeping the fraud alive until the sheer weight of evidence makes it impossible to do so.

Ultimately, this destroys the trust we normally accord to legitimate scientists, exhausting our ability and willingness to embrace the science that has prolonged and protected the lives of millions. 
Indeed! Read it here.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Good President [continued] -- Bush and WMD

Writing in Human Events, James Zumwalt notes that Wikileaks documents confirm Saddam's attempts to obtain "yellowcake" from Niger, thus falsifying the accusations made by Joseph Wilson, and also that WMD materials were exported to sites in Syria in anticipation of the U.S. attack. In other words, in the months leading up to the invasion Saddam either possessed or was seeking to acquire the means and materials to reconstitute his WMDs.

Of course, as Zumwalt notes, little of this has been reported in the MSM.

Read it here.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Continuing Collapse of Scientific Authority

John Paulos, writing at ABC News, summarizes a number of themes I have been posting about for the past few years -- the unreliability of scientific information presented in the popular press, the biases that undermine scientific investigation, and the dangers of basing public policy on scientific authority alone.

Read it here.