Sep 182009

Way to go ABC news! It’s good to obsess over whether President Obama is overexposing himself with his media blitz. Because otherwise people might be tempted to talk about whether he has come up with any good arguments for his health reform program, yet. When you don’t want to talk about the substance, the style is always a safe topic.

Jake Tapper on Obama’s Media Blitz

Sep 162009

Here are some zingers that I posted for Lenore Skenazy to use. She asked for some for her ammo bag to be used on occasions when people say, “But even if we save ONE LIFE isn’t it worth it?”

I blame the Iraq war on Bush’s pandering to people who had a pathological obsession with safety.

If we raise our kids to put safety above all else, we’ll raise a generation that wants to drive big SUVs and Hummers for safety’s sake, which will mean more carbon in the atmosphere and more young soldiers coming home from the oil wars in body bags.

If we raise our kids to put their personal safety above all else, we’ll raise a generation that will be silent when the Jews are sent to the gas chambers. It will be a generation that will stay home when people in the south are marching for their civil rights, or when their grandparents are sent to meet the death panels at their local hospitals.

Sep 152009

It looks like the news media are now in the levitation business. Two items on the same Google News page:

  1. Questions of race hang over House vote to rebuke Wilson.
  2. Fallout From ACORN Scandal May Hovers [sic] Over Other Community Groups. FOXNews

Sorry, no URL for the first item. If you click on the link you get a different article on the topic.

Wikipedia describes what’s happening here:

Levitation (from Latin levitas “lightness”)[1] is the process by which an object is suspended against gravity, in a stable position, without physical contact.

It is also a conjuring trick, apparently raising a human being (or other object) without any physical aid. The illusion can be produced by clever mechanics, lighting arrangements and other means.

I presume it also covers of the case of smearing someone without making actual fact-based accusations.

Without physical aid or physical contact, Wikipedia says. And to think that until now I thought it was done with slime.

Sep 142009

The headline on Eric Greene’s Sunday article in the Battle Creek Enquirer says, “Outburst shows lunacy of reform opposition.” That is not true. If anything, Greene’s article and its headline show the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of mainstream journalism, as well as its professional incompetence.

Joe Wilson was guilty of bad manners. But even worse than bad manners is the failure to speak out against our President’s disinformation campaign.

Greene doesn’t use the word “unprecedented” to refer to Wilson’s heckling, which is good, because it isn’t unprecedented despite what the White House says. An investigative reporter (or anyone else) can go to YouTube to watch a replay of the loud heckling and booing that President Bush received during his 2005 State of the Union address. And I recall that back in the days when I used to watch these speeches myself, there was Tip O’Neill at the SOTU making fun of President Reagan behind his back while he spoke.

But Greene insinuates that this kind of opposition is something new when he says America’s discourse “has veered into the surreal these past few months” and “It’s time to shove this insanity back into the dark recesses where it belongs.” Greene doesn’t mention the celebrity lunatics who were hinting broadly that Bush should be assassinated, or the members of Congress such as Nancy Pelosi who encouraged disruptive dissent when it was directed against Bush.

And just because the Bush-hating left were out of their minds doesn’t mean every one of their criticisms of Bush’s war policies was wrong.

One can be suspicious that it isn’t really Wilson’s bad manners or the methods of public discourse that Greene is criticizing. It’s not just the headline writer who has a bigger agenda. Greene gives himself away when he writes:

Although Wilson quickly apologized for his outburst, I’m not convinced of his sincerity since he was ordered to do so by his Republican bosses and since he continued to call the president a liar afterward.

Nor do I think Wilson’s emotions erupted in a vacuum. Some Republicans throughout the speech made it obvious they were more interested in their cell phones or in the theatrics of holding up paper copies of GOP legislation. Many also defended Wilson’s charge while wagging their finger at his method of delivery.

In other words, not only is it bad manners for Wilson to interrupt the President, but it’s bad even to disagree with his statement.

Greene writes, “Journalists and researchers widely agree that Obama spoke truthfully in his speech.” But journalists are hardly objective observers. These are the same people who throw Obama the softest of softball questions during his press conferences. Their abdication of their professional duties is what makes it necessary for people like Joe Wilson to do something to draw attention to what they have ignored.

Since Wednesday night Senators Kent Conrad and Max Baucus have decided that the provisions about illegal immigration should be tightened up a bit anyway. In other words, there was a point that needed to be addressed, one which the media had failed to tell us about.

Not that it’s anything new for something like this to happen. We are used to political partisanship on the part of the mainstream media. But Greene is taking it to new extremes, using authoritarian language of a type that Russian thug Vladimir Putin uses to tell the opposition to shut up and get out of the way:

Some viewed these carnivals of cacophony as freedom of speech in healthy action. Others saw them the same way they do street performers: entertaining for a time, but ultimately just an obstacle on the sidewalk.


losing one’s cool in front of the guy who’ll ultimately sign the law that may change everything about health care is quite another.

In Russia one may need to write that way to avoid becoming one of the many journalists who have been gunned down or pushed out of an upper story window. But that kind of talk is not appropriate for a journalist in a democratic republic.

Sep 132009

Very perceptive of Steve Chapman to point it out: The Republicans once again have blown a chance to enact real health care reform.

The truth is Republicans just can’t muster an interest in the subject until a Democratic president comes along and offers legislation, which is their cue to wake up and scream in horror. They solemnly agree the existing system has a host of serious flaws. But they can never get excited about fixing them — only about making sure Democrats don’t get to. [URL]

The town hall protestors created an atmosphere in which Republicans could have made major steps toward providing health care reform that would keep human rights intact. But being stupid and lazy as usual, they sat on their thumbs. They can work up enough energy to criticize one of their own for calling the President on his lies, but they can’t rouse themselves to enact any of the good proposals that have been waved about half-heartedly over the past several years. So the Democrats will get their way sooner or later and take us a huge step closer to a totalitarian welfare-police state.

Sep 132009

Joshua Claybourn at In The Agory has posted an article titled “Why Your Children Won’t Remeber 9/11“.

It immediately brought to mind the book I’m now reading, “The Stolen Village : Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates” by Des Ekin (2008). My daughter gave it to me on 9/11, for my birthday.

The sack of Baltimore in 1631 was in some respects like the attack on New York. The author describes it as “the most devastating invasion ever carried out by the forces of the Islamist jihad on Britain or Ireland” and says it “was recognized at the time as an unprecedented act of aggression by the Islamist empire.”

He might be overplaying the “jihad” and “Islamist” aspects of what happened in 1631, but there is also another possible similarity: I bet most people don’t remember it. I hadn’t even heard of it until a few months ago, when I was listening to book about Stephen Decatur and heard a brief mention of Baltimore. Time will tell in the case of New York. (Read the article for an explanation.)

The mention in the Decatur biography caught my attention because we had visited Baltimore ten years ago. I can’t find my own photos of the visit, but my wife took some snapshots.


That’s me, looking down toward the same Baltimore harbor to which the Barbary pirate ships had come.


This is more of the harbor. I’m not sure if it’s the same place where the ferry to Cape Clear docked. It doesn’t seem quite like it. The next day after this photo I let the others go on ahead to the island while I did some bicycling around Baltimore, than caught a later ferry to join them. I remember some confusion about when and where I should carry my bike onto the ferry, and this doesn’t quite seem like the place.


The ruins of the O’Driscoll castle are in view not only here, but also from the place where we sat overlooking the harbor and drinking Guinness. I remember wondering just briefly at the time of our visit about the history and the vulnerability of Baltimore on the extreme southwest of the Irish island. A few days earlier the wind had blown me to Spanish Point, where a part of the Spanish Armada had been destroyed in the famous but unsuccessful invasion of 1588. (I hadn’t intended to go there, but had gotten lost while riding my bicycle over some of the ridges toward the ferry at Shannon. I then took the course of least resistance and ended up at Spanish Point, from where I had maps to help me find my way.) Thinking about Spanish ships off the coast of Ireland in 1588 made me think of how exposed a place like Baltimore was.

Des Eskin’s book does a good job of connecting the story to the present. On page 65 he writes:

It was a profitable business, and no-one took more advantage of this trade than the Great O’Driscoll clan. They were a powerful mafia, one of three major sea-roving families who operated a racket of piracy, smuggling and extortion around the Irish coastline. The name still dominates the district: the joke is that you can’t throw a stone without hitting an O’Driscoll, and in view of their fierce temperament it wouldn’t be the wisest thing to do.

Last night I was informed that the B&B where we stayed on Cape Clear belongs to an O’Driscoll. I don’t recall that she was very fierce of temperament, but then I wasn’t throwing stones, either.

Sep 132009

Disagree. That’s not absurd. I detest just about everything Michael Moore says and does, but there is nothing absurd about Moore trashing capitalism while using it to become rich and famous.

The real absurdity here is that while Moore trashes Capitalism, it is Capitalism that has enabled him to make and sell books and movies, and to become a multi-millionaire. [Austin Hill: Michael Moore Economics is Driving Washington, at]

It’s no more absurd than Clarence Thomas using affirmative action to take him to a place where he can launch effective criticism of affirmative action. It’s no more absurd than taking Medicare assistance to help you afford going to town hall meetings to protest government involvement in health care — an activity that I strongly support. You have to work with the system you have.

Sep 122009

It looks like the congresional Democrats want to make Joseph Wilson a martyr for having spoken truth to power. I wonder if even as we speak there are parents who are naming their sons Joseph Wilson in honor of his action.

In the past a member of Congress was censured for telling lies. Now one is getting reprimanded for speaking truth.

Sep 112009

Toward the end of Alexander Goldfarb’s “Death of a Dissident : The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB,” Goldfarb reports how after Litvinenko’s death, Putin claimed Litvinenko was a small fry and didn’t know any secrets; therefore the Russian government would not have ordered his death. (I’m listening to an audio version and don’t have the exact quote.)

Putin’s reasoning is lame, of course. There are lots of other reasons a dictatorship might want to be rid of an expatriate dissident than to keep secrets from getting out. It wasn’t for the sake of protecting secrets that Trotsky ended up with the sharp end of an ice axe in his head, for example. Even if Litvinenko himself talked in terms of secrets doesn’t mean secrets were the reason for his murder.

What I wish I knew, though, is what Putin thinks he’s doing when he makes such statements. Is he trying to fool people into thinking his government didn’t order the killing? Or is he just trying to corrupt people into taking such excuses seriously when everyone knows the reasoning is bogus. If people can be made to pretend Putin somehow makes sense when he says these things, even though they know better, they are in some measure submitting themselves to his psychological control.

That can happen, but is it what Putin has in mind when he asks people to believe outlandish things? It would be nice to know.