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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sick and Tired of Blogger Burnout Stories

Okay, blogging is tough.  We get it.  Great Grandma and Grandpa had it easy, with rotary phones and all ("You mean your Great Grandparents had a phone?").

If I hear another blogger complain about blogger burnout, I'm going to scream:
I'm taking the evening off from blogging; I'm worn out. After a solid week off from work (Thanksgiving break), it took less than two days to wear me down again. It's not my job so much but more of a "not enough hours in the day" thing. I'm back to running 12 solid hours every day and by the time I get home, this week anyway, I just want to collapse.
Let me guess, you worked the fields all day, so you don't have the strength to push down on the keyboard with your bloodied, swollen fingers?

What's next, a co-blogger to ease the burden of cutting and pasting cut-and-pasted blog posts from other similarly exhausted bloggers? 

Haven't you figured it out, there is only one original blog post which, like the source yeast at the Guinness brewery, has been kept alive for generations so that others may cut from and paste to it.

It's not rocket science.

You obviously do not have what it takes to make it in this business.  Unlike me.

(Note: This post was edited from the original.)

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Tea Party "Resonates With Human Dignity"

In response to a " a dear friend who runs a large charitable foundation" and who branded the tea party movement "a group of racists, xenophobes and bigots," Rabbi Shmuley writes in The Jerusalem Post, Why the Tea Party resonates with human dignity:
Lost in the debate about the morality of the Tea Party is any discussion about its underpinnings in human nature. The principle purpose of government is to provide the optimal conditions under which human beings can acquire their most important necessities, the highest of which is dignity.

Governments provide many essentials for their citizens, from law and order to social services, from good roads to education. If it’s a socialist government, it may even provide cradle-to-grave benefits, or if it’s a more Right-leaning government, it may emphasize robust national defense. But the one human essential that government cannot provide is human dignity.

Dignity is something acquired through personal effort. Dignity is the human aura that comes through self-reliance....
Maimonides famously lists levels of charity, with the provision of a vocation being the highest. The Tea Party is far from perfect, but in emphasizing self-reliance, it taps into a hidden human desire to live a life crowned with self-esteem.
Rabbi Shmuley understands the essence of the Tea Party movement, while his wealthy, self-righteous and ignorant friend remains nothing more than wealthy, self-righteous and ignorant.

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Trolls, Heal Thyselves

The New York Times had an Op-Ed yesterday complaining about anonymous trolls on blogs who post inflammatory messages to get a reaction:
Trolling, defined as the act of posting inflammatory, derogatory or provocative messages in public forums, is a problem as old as the Internet itself, although its roots go much farther back.
What do we call non-anonymous trolls who post inflammatory, derogatory or provocative messages in public forums to get a reaction?
Frank Rich
Maureen Dowd
Gail Collins
Nicholas Kristof
Paul Krugman
And what do we call the place which pays for such non-anonymous trolling?
The Gray Lady
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A Step in the Right Direction

Showing some semblance of sense, President Obama proposed a two-year freeze on salaries for most federal workers yesterday. (Excluding those in the military, who account for roughly half the workforce.) This cancels their scheduled 1.4% pay increase in 2011.

As Josh Barro of the Manhattan Institute noted in February, "private-sector employment [has fallen] sharply in the last two years, [while] the public-sector, civilian workforce continued growing until mid-2008. It has since remained essentially flat. As a result, while private-employment rolls are nearly 7 percent smaller than they were three years ago, public-employment rolls have grown by nearly 2 percent.[1] (Approximately 17 percent of U.S. civilian employment is in the public sector.)"

Barro updated his critique in light of Obama's recent announcement. The President's solution is a step in the right direction, but "federal workers only account for about 10 percent of the public sector civilian workforce. The real battle is going to be at the state and local level." When one looks at the backlash against leaders like NJ Gov. Chris Christie, who have cut state and local budgets, it's quite evident that it will be a heated battle.

Hopefully, though, measures like this will restore the title 'civil servant' - someone who sacrifices a very competitive salary for job security (as they used to) - for those who work on behalf of our tax dollars.


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And Now I Insult Joe Scarborough

There is a lot which could be said about Joe Scarborough's very personal and demeaning screed against Sarah Palin, but I'll rest on this response:
"You are the Alan Colmes of MSNBC, and I mean no offense to Alan Colmes."
On second thought, maybe I just insulted Alan Colmes.  Sorry.

Update: Must read.  The following was not written in reaction to Scarborough, but takes the Scarboroughs of the world apart, Is Sarah Palin Is Too Dumb To Be President?:
Whoever emerges as the winner of the 2012 GOP nomination is in reality in line to be Palinized. Painted as the next Republican too dumb to be president.

Is Sarah Palin dumb?
Of course not. What a dumb question. It's also the wrong question. Who's asking this question is a better question. And how dumb are they to be asking it? Or worse, dumber by simply asserting it as fact.
The only people who are dumb -- really dumb -- are those inside the Republican political-consultant complex who think that by nominating someone other than Governor Palin they will have a nominee capable of avoiding this particularly dumb fate.
The Republican nominee for president in 2012 is being prepared by the American liberal media to be presented as a woman -- or man -- who is too dumb to be president.
Prepared by the "American liberal media" to be presented as dumb?  But it's Joe Scarborough, who has nothing to do with the American liberal media.

Related Posts:
Blowhard Alan Colmes Calls Me A Blowhard
The Obsession With Liberals' Obsession With Sarah Palin
How Do We Say "Hail To The President Of Our 57 States" In Austrian?

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"I Litter and I Vote"

Taken by reader Ben earlier this month in a Schnucks' parking lot in south St. Louis.

I like Bobby Jindal, and a couple of years ago I thought this bumper sticker made sense.  Jindal has increased his national profile, but I'm not seeing a run for President in the offing, or particularly viable. 

Unless, of course, the plan is, well, never mind.  You know what I was going to say. 

The cigarette butt on the ground is a nice touch.  How about this for a bumper sticker -
"I Litter and I Vote"
Related Posts:
Bumper Stickers - The Series

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Monday, November 29, 2010

America Held Hostage - When To Start The Count?


Curious as to when you think the count should start.

Don't bother with January 20, 2009, too obvious and predictable, but if you must know, that would make it Day 679.

For suggestions, include start date and event which started it (and number of days, if you want - calculator here).

Related Post:
America Held Hostage - Day 599

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Howard Kurtz, Uncaged and Free-Range?

When Howard Kurtz was at WaPo, I wasn't a big fan.

I took Kurtz to task for being As Deep Inside The Beltway As It Gets for his slobbering love note to Chuckie T., notwithstanding that Kurtz did blow the whistle -- after the game was over -- on the Obamamania in the media during the 2008 election.

But I've made the observation before that Kurtz, who now writes at The Daily Beast,
"seems to me to be much more relaxed in his writing and worth reading since he left WaPo."
Kurtz's post today about Sarah Palin confirms my impressions, Palin's 2012 Media Game.  Kurtz gives a pretty fair assessment of how Palin manages to get her message out unfiltered, and how Palin could turn her perceived faults into campaign strengths:
As Palin writes in a broad-brush passage in her book: “Most of those who write for the mainstream media and teach at universities and law schools don't share the religious faith of their fellow Americans. They seem to regard people who believe in God and regularly attend their church or synagogue as alien beings, people who are ‘largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command,’ as The Washington Post once famously put it.” (That was in a 1993 article that produced a much-needed apology.)
Why keep picking at this scab? There is a method to this madness, as her conservative base loathes the media and cheers every punch she throws....
That message, naturally, rankles the journalistic elite, which nonetheless serves as a megaphone for Palin’s musings.
Is this the new, free-range Howard Kurtz? 

Or is it my perception which has changed, now that Kurtz no longer writes from inside the mainstream media cage?

Update:  Don Surber likes the new Kurtz, sorta, too:  "Howard Kurtz is a smart man. He knows why she is avoiding the press; for the same reason I avoid rattlesnakes."
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The One Tactic We Haven't Tried Yet With Wikileaks

Nasty demand letters aren't working

Tributes to "responsible, accountable, and open government" aren't working.

How do we stop these Wikileaks folks short of dropping a house on their heads?
  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener.  Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person's interests.
  6. Make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely.
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Your Morning "Too Good Not To Be True" Stuxnet News

Fox News had an interesting article on Friday about the stuxnet malware, and how it was ingeniously constructed to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program:
"In other words the worm was designed to allow the Iranian program to continue but never succeed, and never to know why."
But that is not what this post is about.

In other news, two senior Iranian nuclear scientists were just assassinated in Iran.

But that is not what this post is about.

This post is about the possible connection between the two events, as reported by DEBKAfile:
Prof. Majid Shahriari, who died when his car was attacked in North Tehran Monday, Nov. 29, headed the team Iran established for combating the Stuxnet virus rampaging through its nuclear and military networks. His wife was injured. The scientist's death deals a major blow to Iran's herculean efforts to purge its nuclear and military control systems of the destructive worm since it went on the offensive six months ago.


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Non-Whites Are Accustomed To Getting Their Junk Fondled, or Something Like That

This one cannot wait for a Saturday night. 

In listing the reasons why people are upset with TSA screening procedures, The New York Times plays racial psychologist:
RACE AND CLASS.  Even though air travel is far from luxurious, it is a still a big expense during a time of significant economic upheaval, so the people affected tend to be a little better off and more entitled. While many nonwhite Americans have grown up in a country where they are sometimes searched while merely going about their business — unwarranted stop-and-frisks have gone on for decades — white people aren’t used to having the hands of the state on them without cause. Unfamiliarity breeds outrage.
Notice the implication that non-whites are among the not-so-well off who do not travel by air, and also the assumption that non-whites are not outraged at having their breasts and genitals fondled by strangers just to board an airplane.  Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.

I'll go with James Joyner's response:  "Uh huh."

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wikileaks Completes Obama's Transformation Into Jimmy Carter

The U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran on November 4, 1979, was the start of 444 days which came to define Jimmy Carter.  The U.S. government was revealed to be powerless and the President weak.  Those among us who were alive and conscious during those days have embedded the feelings of helplessness.

There have been many comparisons of Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter, focused on the economy.  But the continuing leak of documents by Wikileaks has become for Obama what the Iranian hostage crisis was to Carter.

The Wikileaks folks trot the globe with impunity and funnel documents to the press at will, for the purpose of damaging U.S. relations with other countries, our war efforts, and our intelligence capability.  And we do almost nothing about it.

Whether or not someone gets killed as a direct result of a  Wikileaks disclosure, the damage to our country is deep, as allies and sources among enemies will stop cooperating with us for fear of exposure, our diplomats will be hesitant to speak frankly with headquarters, and our intelligence on al-Qaeda and others will be compromised.

We are the laughingstock of the world, an impotent superpower whose response to those who aid our enemies is to write a letter asking them not to do it.  Yes, Harold Koh the State Department's chief lawyer, sent a demand freakin' letter to Wikileaks.  It went something like this (my paraphrase):
Dear Wikileaks,

Please give us our stuff back because it was really mean of you to take it and give it to all your friends.


Harold Koh
Here is the letter which should have been delivered months ago:
Dear Wikileaks,

If you publish any more material we will hunt you down no matter the cost, and you either will be killed while resisting arrest or you will spend the rest of your lives in solitary confinement in a Supermax prison, where the highlight of your day will be 1 hour spent in a cage instead of your cell.  Don't look up, that sound of propellers in the air is not a Predator drone.


Harold Koh
Want to get a clue how clueless is the White House?  Get this paragraph from the White House statement on the leak (emphasis mine):
President Obama supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal. By releasing stolen and classified documents, Wikileaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals. We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.
Oh yes, let's be sure to get in a pitch for "responsible, accountable, and open government." 

Have we lost our minds?  Wikileaks is about hurting us, bringing us down, damaging our relations with others, rendering us impotent.  This is not about open government policy, as if Wikileaks went a bit too far on its class project.

Julian Assange should have been indicted by now, and if the law did not allow more punitive measures in this circumstance, then the law should have been changed after the first document dump.  Assange is an enemy of our country and should be treated as such.

Instead, we're writing letters and lecturing on accountable and open government.

Stick a fork in Obama, he's Jimmy Carter.

Update:  Hmmm...

Update 11-29-2010:  Ben Smith gets it mostly right with this observation:

The first victims of the leaked cables released Sunday are anyone who shared secrets with American diplomats, especially Arab leaders who saw their private security deals - and their insistence that those deals be kept from their people - published online with undiplomatic bluntness.

But the main effect of the many details of American diplomacy revealed in the thousands of documents obtained and released by WikiLeaks was to deepen the damage to their intended targets: U.S. foreign policy, prestige, and power.

"The impression is of the world's superpower roaming helpless in a world in which nobody behaves as bidden," wrote Sir Simon Jenkins in the left-leaning Guardian, one of the publications that were given the documents.
Smith also invokes the hostage analogy, with the twist that these hostage takers have no interest in negotiation:

Still, the leaks catapulted the Obama administration into a new decade that resembles, in its outlines, the science fiction of the 1980s: Rogue hackers, led by a disembodied Australian with a vague resemblance to Max Headroom have - with the help of a single disgruntled soldier - daringly beaten the giant defense establishment.

They have generated the same kind of centripetal force as a hostage crisis, impossible to ignore, manage, or control. But this is a hostage crisis in reverse: The online anarchists who have possession of 251,287 American diplomatic cables have little interest in negotiations, and instead evidently plan to release the documents "in stages over the next few months."
It is interesting that some commenters, stoked perhaps by Dave Weigel, see this post as a call for "extra-judicial killing."  But that is not the case; I find it hard to believe that the resources of the U.S. government, from the NSA on down, could not have been used to locate the Wikileaks people for capture and prosecution, if the administration had the will to do so.  And if the laws were inadequate to prosecute these people, those laws could have and should have been changed long ago to cover this situation, as well as to provide a basis for the disruption of the networks handling and distributing the information.

Instead, we have an impotent government which writes demand letters, as if this were a civil litigation over a copyright infringement, and tempers its conduct with a politically correct homage to "responsible, accountable, and open government."

And, Powerline notes the hypocrisy at The New York Times, which refused to publish the climategate e-mails because they were stolen, but has no problem publishing stolen diplomatic cables.

And, The Hill reports that there is building Congressional pressure for the Justice Department to take legal action against Wikileaks, and also to have Hillary Clinton declare Wikileaks a terrorist organization, which would give the government sweeping power to shut it down:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should review whether WikiLeaks can be declared a terrorist organization, according to a senior Republican.
Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called for U.S. officials to get aggressive against WikiLeaks after the website published highly sensitive, classified diplomatic cables that reveal frank assessments of foreign leaders and the war on terror.
"I am calling on the attorney general and supporting his efforts to fully prosecute WikiLeaks and its founder for violating the Espionage Act. And I'm also calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare WikiLeaks a foreign terrorist organization," King said on WNIS radio on Sunday evening.
"By doing that, we will be able to seize their funds and go after anyone who provides them help or contributions or assistance whatsoever," he said. "To me, they are a clear and present danger to America."
Instead, we are sending demand letters and waxing poetic about open government.

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Whipaholic Drinks

After the Four Loko craze a few weeks ago, it was only a matter of time before someone created an actually tasty, potent alcohol. According to the Daily Mail, alcohol-infused whipped cream is the latest sensation among college kids. "Whipahol Drink Toppings come in different flavours, and the alcohol content is fairly high at 18 per cent - more than three times the amount in most beers." Worse yet, it goes well with the infamous Jello-shot!

It should be interesting to see how this unfolds. I can't wait to see the political argument against this, because some college kid will inevitably have too much - just as they do with any other alcohol. ("We can't have people mixing dairy with liquor --- it might not taste bad!") When you read of that legislative nonsense, just remember that you heard it here first!


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The Obsession With Liberals' Obsession With Sarah Palin

Charles Krauthammer has lambasted the mainstream (i.e. liberal) media for its obsession with Sarah Palin.

That goes double for liberal entertainers and academics, and triple for the left-blogosphere, which is nuts-in-the-head (that's a precise medical term in Austrian) when it comes to Palin.

But this obsession is not a one-way street. 

Admit it, many of us in the right-blogosphere are obsessed with liberals' obsession with Palin.  Or more specifically, we are obsessed with defending against the relentless, irrational, and untruthful attacks.

I have 93 posts (94 with this one) in my Palin tag, most of which are devoted to responding to Palin Derangement Syndrome.

Andrew Sullivan wants a virtual inspection of Palin's uterus to verify if Trig really is her son - I post on it.  A multitude of left-blogs claimed Trig was being used as a prop - I post on it.  They PhotoShop and generally mock Trig - I post on it.

They make up tales about Palin's childhood health care, whether she had a boob job, make jokes about her giving hand jobs, claim she "rolled her eyes" when told someone was a teacher, examine the color of her bracelet to claim she dishonored war dead, falsely claim she advocated war with Iran, distort polling about her, attack her intelligence, berate her for recommending followers read a Thomas Sowell column, move next door to her to snoop on her, go after a blogger who defends her on MSNBC, claim her success is because men are aroused by her, go nuts because of her (first) book tour including counting the number of non-white people in crowds, blame her for a turkey farmer's problems, suggest she contributed to a swine flu outbreak in Alaska, turn her into a pin-up girl for a news magazine, misrepresent her comment about "death panels," claim she is "too sexy" to be a national politician, concoct the hoax that she didn't know Africa was a continent, and hang her in effigy -- and I post on it.

And it goes on and on.  And I am not alone.

It didn't start out this way.  But it has developed not because of who Palin is, but who the Palin haters are.  Palin never did nothin' to nobody, so to speak.

I've put forth the proposition that the best way to defeat Obama is to put forward a conservative but non-controversial candidate who will keep the election focused on Obama.  Because the Obama record and devolving persona are the equivalent of a death panel for Obama's reelection. 

And nothing matters more than defeating Obama because the damage he is doing to the country is generational.

But as I reflect back on the past two plus years since Palin's nomination, I'm wondering if an all-out, knock-down, drag-out fight with the Palin haters is just what this country needs most, not least.  And whether that is just as likely to be successful in defeating Obama as the "safe" route.

I still like Camille Paglia's defense of Palin in October 2008, and Paglia's observation of how disruptive Palin was to standard liberal doctrine:
The hysterical emotionalism and eruptions of amoral malice at the arrival of Sarah Palin exposed the weaknesses and limitations of current feminism. But I am convinced that Palin's bracing mix of male and female voices, as well as her grounding in frontier grit and audacity, will prove to be a galvanizing influence on aspiring Democratic women politicians too, from the municipal level on up. Palin has shown a brand-new way of defining female ambition -- without losing femininity, spontaneity or humor. She's no pre-programmed wonk of the backstage Hillary Clinton school; she's pugnacious and self-created, the product of no educational or political elite -- which is why her outsider style has been so hard for media lemmings to comprehend.
And also Paglia's assessment of the Democratic Party (notwithstanding her adoration of Barack Obama at the time) and how Palin hatred fit into that scheme:
The witch-trial hysteria of the past two incendiary weeks unfortunately reveals a disturbing trend in the Democratic Party, which has worsened over the past decade. Democrats are quick to attack the religiosity of Republicans, but Democratic ideology itself seems to have become a secular substitute religion. Since when did Democrats become so judgmental and intolerant? Conservatives are demonized, with the universe polarized into a Manichaean battle of us versus them, good versus evil. Democrats are clinging to pat group opinions as if they were inflexible moral absolutes. The party is in peril if it cannot observe and listen and adapt to changing social circumstances.
Nothing and no one brings out the worst in the Democratic Party, in the liberal media, entertainment and academic establishments, and in the left-wing blogosphere, as does Sarah Palin.  Bringing out this worst may be the path to a lasting, generational conservative victory. 

Maybe this is the battle which needs to be joined, once and for all.

The path forward, or just obsession?

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday Night Card Game (Look Who's Calling Obama Racist)

This is the latest in a series on the use of the race card for political gain:
Cornel West is Professor of Religion and African American studies at Princeton University.

West left Harvard University in 2002 amid controversy, with accusations of racism and inadequate scholarship flying around.  The who's who and what's what of that tempest are not of much interest to me.

What is of interest to me is that West recently appeared on the Democracy Now program, and leveled a charge of "racism in effect" against Barack Obama (emphasis mine):
CORNEL WEST: Well, first I just want to say hello to my dear sister Amy, and I hope you’re staying strong, I hope you’re staying strong. No, I think Kanye West was actually right [that George W. Bush did not care about Black people], but we have to make a distinction between being racist in motivation and intention versus racist in effect and consequence. All you need to do is look at the history of the Bush administration and you will see policies that, in effect and consequence, generated levels of social misery among poor people, brown people, red people, but especially among working-class and poor people. So this is an important point. Now, if Kanye West had said he doesn’t care about the black poor, the evidence is overwhelming. But I think what happened was that President Bush understood this and individualistic way, which is the way most fellow Americans understand racism: "Do I actually hate black people individually?" No, I don’t think President Bush individually hates black people. His policies were racist in effect and consequence and especially classist in terms of generating misery among poor and working people, disproportionately black and brown.

CORNEL WEST: And I would say that even about the Obama administration. The Obama administration seems to have very little concern about poor people and their social misery. Look at the policies vis-à-vis Wall Street downplaying Main Street. Look at the policies of black farmers, a settlement already in place but they don’t want to executed because they don’t want to be associated with black folk too explicitly. Look at the dilapidated housing. We can go across the board. Look at the New Jim Crow system: the Prison Industrial Complex. We’re not talking just about individual presidents. We’re talking about a system that is tilted against poor people, against working people, disproportionately black and brown and red.

The statement that Obama's policies are "racist in effect" caused a stir in a segment of the blogosphere, but received no mainstream media and little mainstream left-wing blogosphere attention (the sole exception being Firedoglake).

One author at The Hinterland Gazette, who describes himself as a "black centrist," noted the political problem of Obama's policies being equated to Bush's policies:
So, on one hand we have Republicans like Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Mike Savage, Laura Ingraham and many others, feel President Obama is prejudiced against white people. Now we have Cornel West accusing him of being prejudiced against blacks. Er, Houston, we have a problem.
Another author, at Rolling Out.com, called it a "bombshell":
The small trickle of blacks speaking out against the policies of President Barack Obama is beginning to resemble something more along the lines of a steady stream. The latest “supporter” to speak out against the president is author and noted speaker Dr. Cornel West.... One can only wonder if the president will respond to the assertions put forth by Dr. West and how this will affect his support among blacks in 2012. This story is far from over …
Wayne Hodges writing in the Topeka Democrat Examiner, took exception to the accuracy of West's charges but noted the impact:
Keep in mind: West and Obama were supposed to be good friends. So, I’m totally shocked by the outburst.
That said, West’s opinion shouldn’t be discounted. The animated rascal sits on the executive boards of several prestigious organizations such as the National Parenting Association, the Fund for Community Leadership Development, Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble and International Bridges to Justice.

West certainly has clout, no doubt.
West did not always go so far as to call Obama's policies racist.  In an February 2010 interview, West refused to go there:
Kathleen Wells: You're saying this is a concerted effort, an explicit decision on the part of his administration, to exclude the interests of black Americans?
Dr. Cornel West: No, not to exclude, to downplay and to marginalize. We're not talking about exclusion. He's not a racist. You know what I mean? No, it's not exclusion; it's to downplay and marginalize.
Something has changed.

The person whose supporters so effectively played the race card against the Clintons and all subsequent opponents real and imagined, now is having the race card played on him.  By his own supporters.

The fall of an American Caesar, or left-wing race politics feeding on its own, or both?

Related Posts:
Race Card Cockroach Survived Democrats' Nuclear Winter
"Race" As Political Weapon
An Alergic Reaction To The Race Card

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The Fifth Lion

Friday evening, a Somali-born teen was arrested in Oregon for attempting to blow up a car bomb at a Christmas tree lighting. Predictably, he screamed "Allahu Akhbar" before his plan was foiled. Fox News reports:
According to a federal complaint, Mohamud was in regular email contact with the "unindicted associate' in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier starting in August 2009.The complaint states that in December 2009 Mohamud and the "unindicted associate" used coded language in an email in which the FBI believes Mohamud discussed traveling to Pakistan to prepare for "violent jihad." The document says in the months that followed Mohamud made 'multiple efforts" to contact another "undicted associate" to arrange travel to Pakistan but had a faulty email address for that person.

Appropriately, I saw this report as I came out of 'Four Lions,' a British comedy about four painfully stupid terrorists in Sheffield. The film was absolutely hysterical. As Duane Byrge of the Hollywood Reporter observed, "[they] are straight out of the Three Stooges, embarking on their grand quest of blowing up a marathon or, more crazy, blowing up a mosque 'to radicalize the moderates.'" It's a hilarious take on the imbecility of fanaticism and mocks the idiotic rationale of terrorists. ("When their ramshackle car breaks down, the leader of the gang of four declares it's because the spark plugs were made by Jews, which is part of their plot to control global traffic.")

Terrorist threats are, of course, not something to be taken lightly. However, it still feels pretty nice to take a satirical look at the insipid worldview that these nefarious goons harbor. After all, being the butt of a joke is the last thing they want to incite.


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When Will AARP, Consumers Union and AMA Be Held To Account for Obamacare?

The Daily Caller (h/t Instapundit) has an interesting post today on the push back by Tea Party supporters against corporations -- particularly in the pharmaceutical industry -- which cooperated and cut deals with the Obama administration to help pass Obamacare.  The Washington Post had a similar article just after the mid-term elections, focused not so much on Tea Parties but how the Republican establishment was taking note.

But what about AARP, Consumers Union, and the AMA, each of which provided invaluable cover and support to the administration, as documented in my prior posts:
In November 2009, as the House prepared it's Saturday night vote on Obamacare, I noted the role of the AMA and AARP:
Don't have much time this morning to comment further, but note the irony that today the jobless rate hit a 25-year high at 10.2%, and tomorrow night Democrats in the House of Representatives are planning to push through a health care restructuring bill that is guaranteed to kill more jobs. The Democrats refuse to wait until Monday for a vote and insist on a special session Saturday night....

Oh, and AMA and AARP - you people have no idea of the damage you are doing by supporting this last minute rush towards madness. Or maybe you do, but you don't care.
It is time to hold all institutions -- not just for-profit corporations -- which helped pass Obamacare to account for what they did.  AARP, Consumers Union, and the AMA would be a good start.

Update 11-28-2010:  For the record, I let my Consumer Reports subscription, which I had for many years, expire last year, and I throw out all the membership cards and info. from AARP which show up in my mailbox.  As my readers know, I'm not a big fan of organized boycotts, but that doesn't mean I have to give them my money.

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The Rain in Spain (Cuts Revenue)

I remember commercials about "naming" stars with the International Star Registry. I understood the sentimental significance, but I really questioned how it could be a better gift than, let's say, jewelry. Finally, though, a Spanish woman has made an investment claiming a star - and her ROI will be fan-tastic if she can figure out a way to enforce it.

"Angeles Duran, 49, told the online edition of daily El Mundo she took the step in September.... There is an international agreement which states that no country may claim ownership of a planet or star, but it says nothing about individuals, she added ... She now wants to slap a fee on everyone who uses the sun and give half of the proceeds to the Spanish government and 20 percent to the nation's pension fund."

What will she do with the remaining amount? Well, 10% will go to research, 10% to end world hunger, and of course, 10% will go to Ms. Duran. Finally, the Spanish government will cure its ills in an eco-friendly way!


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Pulling The Financial Mask Off The SPLC, Slowly

The Southern Poverty Law Center was a focus of my post earlier this week regarding SPLC's new "anti-gay" list and "hate group" list.

An important blog post (h/t Instapundit) by someone who describes himself as a "veteran gay and aids human rights activist" takes SPLC to task for its new list not because he agrees with the listed groups, but rather, because the lists are just another SPLC fundraising tool.

The blog post details some of SPLC's finances, including its Cayman Island's bank account and $170 million in listed assets (as of its 2008 IRS report).

I'll have more on SPLC's finances in coming posts.  But for now, read the linked article.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Gentlemen, Meet Your Worst Bumper Sticker Nightmare

Taken today by a reader in Ithaca, at the corner of Cayuga and State Streets, while stopped at a red light (please remember my caution about driving while photographing bumper stickers).

Gentlemen, meet your worst nightmare:

Not sure how to categorize this driver. Any suggestions?

Update 4:55 p.m.:  Before you jump to conclusions about the driver's politics, consider these two bumper stickers on the car:

Related Posts:
Bumper Stickers - The Series

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Government Progress Seen on the Site of 'Freedom'

Today, I'm in the Financial District of New York, recovering from my midnight shopping trip and yesterday's delicious Thanksgiving meal. Sitting blocks away from Ground Zero is always a sobering reminder of how our world has changed in the past few years. While I generally think this in terms of threats of terrorism, walking by the lunch hour at the construction site for the future Freedom Tower reminded me of another way our country has changed...

In March of 1930, the old Waldorf-Astoria was demolished to make way for a new skyscraper on 5th Avenue & 33rd St. Fourteen months later, on May 14, 1931, all 102 stories of the Empire State building were completed. The building was the tallest in the world for forty years, and remains a New York icon. Of course, since this was during a depression the amount of people working on this project was roughly 3,4000 daily. Though they did not have any of the advanced technology we do today, only five deaths were officially recorded during construction.

Okay, okay, I can see the comments from here. "So what? Anyone would have worked on any construction site during the 1930s, it was a depression!" (hey, wait!). Well, let's consider the building of the first World Trade Center in the 1960s. In the mid-1960s, the city of New York began to clear out businesses in lower Manhattan to make room for a new world trade center. (As an aside, my grandfather's first piece of property in America, a bar, was included in this.) Despite the immense amount of complex engineering necessary to create a slurry wall that would aptly ward out water from the nearby Hudson River (creating part of Battery Park City in the process!), the entire construction effort took only five years from groundbreaking until the official opening. Tishman Realty, one of the oldest and the best construction firms, was hired to oversee the project. The city had a vested interest in catering to the area that held the financial sector, as well as providing transportation to downtown New York directly from New Jersey.

Today, nine years after the World Trade Center was destroyed in an act of war, the buildings hardly stand above ground. Rumor has it that they will be finished around 2018, six years past the original 2012 deadline, but others say it may only be delayed by a year. The whole process, though, has been grossly politicized by state and local officials. Larry Silverstein, the head of Silverstein properties - which holds a 99-year lease on the site, gave this insight in a recent interview:
"The greatest challenge to date is dealing with [changing] political leadership. We have dealt with four governors of the State of New York, five governors of the State of New Jersey since 9/11... Every time a political leader comes into office, he wants to stop and look and examine. That does not bring certainty, that does not bring predictability, that doesn't give you a feeling of great comfort when everything you do is based upon a timeline that has very distinct requirements for completion of certain phases of a project. You can't stop and say, "Stop everything, I want to take a look," and shift gears. ‘Cause you got billions of dollars worth of contracts out there. To stop is horrendous. Sometimes it's difficult for people who are not business people - people who have not been involved in this kind of project to appreciate the magnitude of lead time that's required to order steel, to order elevators, to order curtain wall, to make design decisions - huge amounts of time. To come in after the fact, a year later or two years later, and say, "Stop, I want to look at everything," becomes hugely problematic.

How does working with effective political leaders help you on the development side?
A person who understands the need to get the job done, to move the process forward, to get it finished and get it built
. ‘Cause he wants to see this built in his lifetime, as do I want to see it built in my lifetime, as the mayor wants to see it in his lifetime."

In 2006, Marketplace radio gave a similar account of the difficulty of dealing with unions when construction delays first began. "[T]he managing director of the General Contractors Assn. of New York is quoted as saying that the basic pay scale for these [striking] operating engineers is between $72 and $82.65 an hour. Of course, they don't always work a lot of hours, if they get rained out or whatever. Well, the union has rejected a five-year contract with a 6 percent increase per year. The contractors say some of those workers do little more than turn lights on and off. The union has said that it wants to make sure that members who lose jobs get phased out and get adequate retraining."

Frankly, I'm disgusted with the way the reconstruction of the World Trade Center has manifested. (Don't even get me started on the design.) What is more saddening than the lack of monument, though, is the fact that I know we can do better.


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Israel Must Fear Tea Partiers, Or Something Like That

The New York Times ran a trolling article yesterday titled G.O.P. and Tea Party Gains Are Mixed Blessing for Israel:
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel came to the United States recently for another round of tense talks with the Obama administration, he got a decidedly warmer welcome from one of the rising Republican stars on Capitol Hill, Representative Eric Cantor, the incoming majority leader of the House.
But while Mr. Cantor and other newly empowered Republicans are eager to promote themselves as Israel’s staunchest defenders in Washington, the reconfigured American political landscape is a more complex and unpredictable backdrop for Middle East peacemaking.
Scores of Tea Party-backed candidates are entering Congress, many of whom favor isolationist policies and are determined to cut American foreign aid, regardless of its destination. Rand Paul, the newly elected Tea Party-backed senator from Kentucky, bluntly told the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, an influential pro-Israel lobbying group, that they were going to disagree about the need for foreign aid and suggested that they move on to other topics, according to a person briefed on the meeting.
This is much about nothing.  The only candidate to whom The Times points is Rand Paul, but that is not what it seems.  Rand Paul has distanced himself from traditional isolationist foreign policies of libertarians.

The details in the NY Times article actually contradict the headline and theme of the article, as incoming Tea Party backed candidates such as Allen West and Marco Rubio are portrayed as having made clear their support for Israel.

The "isolationist" policies which could threaten support of Israel come not from the Tea Party movement or the incoming Republican Congressmen, but from the left-wing of the Democratic Party and the foreign policy circles in the Obama administration.

And of course Jewish writers like Joe Klein and Glenn Greenwald who peddle the "Israel-firster" smear.

A lower-tier nutroot blog, The Booman Tribune, asks this question:
You might think that Israel's interests would be best protected by the party that actually elects Jews to high office. But, for some bizarre reason, Israel actually finds the party-of-no-Jews to be friendlier. Why is that?
That is a good question, which remains unanswered.

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National Opt-Out Day - Another Failed Boycott

I have written many times before about the risks of organizing a boycott, and I have detailed the many boycotts which have failed in the last two years.

The "National Opt-Out Day" protest, in which air travelers were to opt out of the full body scan in favor of the feel-up, feel-down, feel-all-around hand screening, was intended to tie up TSA lines at airports.

I never was in favor of such an organized disruption, although I agree that current TSA procedures seem mindless and the result of a bureaucratic unwillingness to single out people who may actually pose a threat.  Additionally, the TSA procedure seems futile because not all airports have the scanners, so someone who wants to do harm only need start the trip at a smaller airport with less stringent procedures.

The Boston Herald reports that the result of the failed Opt-Out boycott likely strengthened TSA, quoting one of the great intellects of our generation, someone with the sort of gravitas we normally only see in presidential candidates, whose opinions on a variety of subjects form the core of scientific consensus on all matters large and small:
National Opt-Out Day’s organizers are claiming success, but the apparent protest flop at airports across the country Wednesday — as masses of holiday travellers chose quick body scans over time-consuming pat-downs — handed the Transportation Security Administration a victory that may be hard for opponents of intrusive searches to overcome, observers said.

At OptOutDay.com yesterday, a statement said: “Despite claims to the contrary, National Opt-Out Day was a rousing success. The entire point of the campaign was to raise awareness of the issues of privacy and aviation safety at TSA checkpoints, with the ultimate goal of influencing policy — to ask the question, ‘Are we really doing this right?’ In that, the campaign was a success. It was always about getting attention to the issue.
But William Jacobson, a Cornell Law School professor who has blogged about the airport security debate at legalinsurrection.com, said, “I’m not sure the movement ever had momentum. I think it was somewhat self-defeating because the people participating in it were the ones most inconvenienced by it.”
Jacobson added, “Whenever you have a movement that fails, it actually empowers the entity you’re trying to boycott.”
Your thoughts?  (Remember, there is scientific consensus here.)

Update:  Forget science.  TSA has just made the mistake which could change everything, TSA Groin Searches Menstruating Woman.  Let me guess TSA's response.  "Intelligence information leads us to believe al-Qaeda intends on using menstrual pads to conceal explosives."

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