Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

More blacks running as Republicans

More blacks are running for Congress as Republicans this year than at any time since Reconstruction.  32 in fact.  And, as the article notes, these aren’t the “fringy” types , but experienced legislators or military veterans, etc.   Almost all of them attribute their desire and possibility of success to the fact that Barack Obama was elected president:

Princella Smith, who is running for an open seat in Arkansas, said she viewed the president’s victory through both the lens of history and partisan politics. “Aside from the fact that I disagree fundamentally with all his views, I am proud of my nation for proving that we have the ability to do something like that,” Ms. Smith said.

Democrats, of course, are skeptical:

But Democrats and other political experts express skepticism about black Republicans’ chances in November. “In 1994 and 2000, there were 24 black G.O.P. nominees,” said Donna Brazile, a Democratic political strategist who ran Al Gore’s presidential campaign and who is black. “And you didn’t see many of them win their elections.”

Tavis Smiley, a prominent black talk show host who has repeatedly criticized Republicans for not doing more to court black voters, said, “It’s worth remembering that the last time it was declared the ‘Year of the Black Republican,’ it fizzled out.”

And of course there’s the little problem of race – not necessarily from the right as Democrats would like to portray, but among blacks themselves. Walter Williams has a few words to say about that:

What about blacks who cherish liberty and limited government and joined in the Tea Party movement, or blacks who are members of organizations such as the Lincoln Institute, Frederick Douglass Foundation and Project 21? They’ve been maligned as Oreos, Uncle Toms and traitors to their race. To make such a charge borders on stupidity, possibly racism.

After all, when President Reagan disagreed with Tip O’Neill, did either charge the other with being a traitor to his race? Then why is it deemed traitorous when one black disagrees with another, unless you think that all blacks must think alike?

What about these candidates relationship with Tea Parties? Again race is brought into the question:

Many of the candidates are trying to align themselves with the Tea Partiers, insisting that the racial dynamics of that movement have been overblown. Videos taken at some Tea Party rallies show some participants holding up signs with racially inflammatory language.

A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that 25 percent of self-identified Tea Party supporters think that the Obama administration favors blacks over whites, compared with 11 percent of the general public.

The black candidates interviewed overwhelmingly called the racist narrative a news media fiction. “I have been to these rallies, and there are hot dogs and banjos,” said Mr. West, the candidate in Florida, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army. “There is no violence or racism there.”

However, the media will continue to try to make them “racist” events despite all evidence to the contrary.

The Obama election was signficiant in many ways, but one of the ways least anticipated was seeing conservative blacks empowered to run as such and be considered serious main-stream candidates. It also demonstrates that the black vote is maturing and becoming both more sophisticated and a more fractured vote – no longer a single bloc that will unquestionably vote for the candidate with a “D” by their name. Again, Walter Williams points out that if any group ought to be distrustful of government and want a smaller and less intrusive one, it should be blacks:

Having recently reached 74 years of age, if one were to ask me what’s my greatest disappointment in life, a top contender would surely be the level of misunderstanding, perhaps contempt, that black Americans have for the principles of personal liberty and their abiding faith in government.

Contempt or misunderstanding of the principles of personal liberty and faith in government by no means make blacks unique among Americans. But the unique history of black Americans should make us, above all other Americans, most suspicious of any encroachment on personal liberty and most distrustful of government.

[...]

The most serious injustices suffered by blacks came at the hands of government, at different levels, with its failure to protect personal liberty. Slavery was only the most egregious example of that failure.

Williams points out that government aided and abetted slavery – the Fugitive Slave act of 1850, Dred Scott, Jim Crow Laws, and Plessy v. Ferguson as only the most egregious examples. But, as he further notes, perhaps the biggest and most damaging government failure has been the public schooling blacks have been delivered which, for the most part, has failed to deliver on its promise for decades.

Then there’s the grossly fraudulent education delivered by the government schools that serve most black communities. The average black high school senior has a sixth- or seventh-grade achievement level, and most of those who manage to graduate have what’s no less than a fraudulent diploma, one that certifies a 12th-grade level of achievement when in fact the youngster might not have half that.

If the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan wanted to sabotage black academic excellence, he could not find a more effective means to do so than the government school system in most cities.

This new crop of black political hopefuls represent a change in thinking that black voters should welcome and support. They represent an awakening and a rejection of the situation that past bloc support of blacks has enabled. They represent a group which are saying no to the Democratic plantation and the “government is the answer” crowd. They’re pushing self-reliance and individual liberty over dependence. And let’s face it – that’s the way our of poverty or a disadvantaged situation – not depending on nameless and faceless bureaucrats to lift you out or change your circumstances.

So I see this as an important and welcome change among black voters. Whereas Barack Obama’s election did indeed signal the fact that America can and would look beyond skin color for the highest office in the land, the election of a number of black GOP candidates this year would be similarly significant and help shatter a very carefully crafted and decades old myth about the GOP.

~McQ

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Words to live by or “do as I say, not as I do”?

President Obama at the University of Michigan over the weekend:

The… way to keep our democracy healthy is to maintain a basic level of civility in our public debate…. we cannot expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question someone’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism. Throwing around phrases like “socialist” and “Soviet-style takeover;” “fascist” and “right-wing nut” may grab headlines, but it also has the effect of comparing our government, or our political opponents, to authoritarian, and even murderous regimes.

… The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It prevents learning — since after all, why should we listen to a “fascist” or “socialist” or “right-wing nut?” It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things out. It robs us of a rational and serious debate that we need to have about the very real and very big challenges facing this nation. It coarsens our culture, and at its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.

So what can we do about this?

As I’ve found out after a year in the White House, changing this type of slash and burn politics isn’t easy. And part of what civility requires is that we recall the simple lesson most of us learned from our parents: treat others as you would like to be treated, with courtesy and respect.

President Obama last November:

President Obama is quoted in an November 30, 2009, interview saying that the unanimous vote of House Republicans vote against the stimulus bills “set the tenor for the whole year … That helped to create the tea-baggers and empowered that whole wing of the Republican Party to where it now controls the agenda for the Republicans.”

Yesirree … no “coarsening of the culture” with that slur. No negative signals sent out to the most extreme elements of the left with that, by George.  Certainly no “vilification” and “over the top rhetoric” contained in those few words or “slash and burn politics”, right?

This is one of the things the current president seems impervious too – understanding that he is as big a part of the problem as those he decries.

As Peter Wehner points out:

Here is the rather unpleasant reality, though: our president fancies himself a public intellectual of the highest order — think Walter Lippmann as chief executive — even as he and his team are accomplished practitioners of the Chicago Way. They relish targeting those on their enemies list. The president himself pretends to engage his critics’ arguments even as his words are used like a flamethrower in a field of straw men. It’s hard to tell if we’re watching a man engaged in an elaborate political shell game or a victim of an extraordinary, and nearly clinical, case of self-delusion. Perhaps there is some of both at play. Regardless, President Obama’s act became tiresome long ago.

For those with the ability to see it, that is.

~McQ

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Libertarians – More popular than Socialism and Militias … and Indies love us

Here’s a somewhat entertaining survey by Pew. In it they asked various people to give a positive or negative reaction to a group words they were given. The words were socialism, capitalism, libertarianism, progressive, civil liberties, civil rights, family values, militia and state’s rights. Interestingly, conservative was left off the list.

As it turns out, libertarians scored a split verdict, with a 38% positive and 37% negative.

Now again, realize that people are being asked to react to the words based on how they understand them. There’s apparently no context given – for instance “progressive” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “liberal” if the person so chooses to consider it by an alternate meaning.

On the other hand, capitalism, socialism and libertarianism pretty well have a single meaning or context. What they actually mean to each person remains a mystery, obviously, but the most negative of the 3 was socialism, followed by libertarianism and then capitalism. That says to me that many people still think of libertarianism to be the realm of the blue skinned guy who refuses to carry a driver’s license and is worried about the gold fringed flag. But it also says that the image may be changing and becoming both more acceptable and more mainstream. Good.

And independents are most positive about libertarians (stands to reason since libertarians don’t consider themselves Republicans or Democrats) while Republicans are least positive. In many ways we’re actually competition for Republicans and try to hold them to their principles and slam them when they don’t live up to them. But Republicans don’t like us on the social side of things. And that’s where some Dems love us.

Interestingly the terms which provoked the most warm fuzzies – positives – were civil rights, state’s rights, civil liberties and family values. I see that as a hopeful sign, and another in a long line of signals that say stand down the size of the federal government, respect the state’s rights and those of individuals as well.

The most negative word of the group? Militia. I’m not sure whether that’s a function of how the media constantly portrays them, but my guess is it is heavily influenced by that characterization. But militias are a very minor and insignificant problem in this country today. I have to wonder how conservative would have fared.

I’m not sure what to really make of all this other than taking it at face value – people react to these terms for a particlar reason in the manner they do. On the whole, libertarianism seems to be making a better impression now than it has in the past. That’s a hopeful and welcome sign to me.

~McQ

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Quote of the day – dumb politican edition, part II

Thank you for your service.  Now hush up and go home Sen. McCain:

“Obviously that would be a serious mistake…at least until we find out as much information we have,” McCain said during an appearance on “Imus in the Morning” when asked whether the suspect, 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen from Pakistan.

“Don’t give this guy this Miranda rights until we find out what it’s all about,” McCain added.

Really?  Is that the way it works now?

You may not like the law, Mr. McCain but that doesn’t mean you can selectively apply it – the SCOTUS has been very clear about doing such things. 

Of course, you have to remember, this is the same guy that was so concerned about campaign financing that he sponsored a law that trashed the 1st Amendment and then claimed he’d rather have clean elections than free speech.

~McQ

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Oil spill – a perfect storm (update)

I’ve been watching this oil spill story develop over the weeks since the April 20th explosion and sinking of the BP oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.

As an outspoken proponent of drilling for oil – both on-shore and off shore – I’ve watched happen what I had been convinced couldn’t happen.  A deep water platform, with cutting edge technology, blew up and sank.  A deep water well with the latest in blow-out prevention devices failed to function properly and stem the flow of oil from the well.  An  industry that had no contingency plan or equipment available to quickly cap such a leak.  And the result has been an environmental problem that the industry all but claimed couldn’t happen.

All that’s extremely disappointing and causes me great concern.  However, it doesn’t change the fact that oil is still critically important to our energy needs now and in the future, must be a part of any comprehensive energy strategy and must still be sought and recovered.  Period.  End of statement.

That said, the oil industry must seriously address what I’m sure most thought was unimaginable a few short weeks ago.  Obviously blow-out prevention technology isn’t fail safe.  Perhaps redundant systems are needed, or some easier method of manually addressing the failure of “automatic” systems, especially in deep water wells.  This particular well is at around 5000 ft. meaning divers couldn’t be deployed.  Robotic submersibles were unable to close the valves on the blow-out prevention device.  While that’s bad, what perhaps bothered me more was the fact that there was no industry backup plan in case such a situation presented itself.  They’re now fabricating a cap to put on the well and no one knows if that will work.

So this particular catastrophe’s continuance is on BP and the oil industry in general.  It seems they may have believed their own press a little too much and were caught flat footed when the worst case scenario unfolded.  Since BP is on the hook for paying for the clean up of this mess, not to mention losing a billion plus oil rig, I’m sure the lesson will be learned.

That brings me to the reaction by government to the growing disaster. It appears some lessons are never learned.  Slow to realize the size, scope and impact of the disaster don’t even begin to describe its reaction.  Certainly the Coast Guard has been on the problem almost from the beginning.  But, acknowledging the Katrina comparisons being made, that was the case then as well.  That doesn’t excuse the administration’s apparent lackadaisical response.  It doesn’t explain why a 1994 plan for such a disaster wasn’t implemented quickly as it was designed to be (it involves fire booms to burn off the oil – and the oil, light, sweet crude is very amenable to burning).  Had that been done, some experts believe the spill could have been contained soon after the accident.

It doesn’t explain why the EPA has taken almost 2 weeks to get involved or why the EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel “Bold” has yet to be deployed in support of the effort when it was in Miami, FL the 19th through the 23rd of April (OSV Bold has been deployed in the past to monitor and assist in other oil spills).

The White House is now in full spin mode and the modus operandi is the usual – blame others.   Stipulated – BP is to blame for the leak.  BP should pay for the damage it caused – all of it.  BP is the cause of the problem and they acknowledge it.  Got it.

Now – what has government, which we’re told is always the answer, done to protect our shores and waters from the disaster?  Well, it is appearing that so far the effort hasn’t been particularly well run, successful or timely.

Just as interesting is how little the press is howling about it.

Bottom line, this disaster points to inadequacies on both sides of the problem.  The oil industry needs to get its act together on this problem.  And government has been no better now than it has in the past.  I hold out some hope that the industry will learn from this disaster and do what is necessary to prevent it again.  Given its history, I hold little hope that government will improve its performance.  That said, it should be clear that it is up to industry to clean up its act since government seems inadequate to the job of cleaning up any mess industry makes (government will hold hearings, of course, and spout off about needing more regulation).  What shouldn’t end up being an option though is the abandonment of off-shore drilling.

UPDATE: Nice – the usual blame targets again emerge.  Huge surprise.

~McQ

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Quote of the Day – Dumb politician edition

Why is it some politicians seem driven to speculate out loud about things of which they’re obviously ignorant?

NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg:

“If I had to guess, twenty five cents, this would be exactly that,” Bloomberg said. “Homegrown maybe a mentally deranged person or someone with a political agenda that doesn’t like the health care bill or something. It could be anything.”

As it turns out, his guess wasn’t worth two cents.  And it doesn’t appear to be “anything” – it appears to be the same old thing.

~McQ

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Closing in on the Times Square bomber? (UPDATED)

Via ABC:

Federal authorities are closing in on the man they say is a person of interest in the Times Square car bomb attempt this weekend, who is described as a naturalized American citizen who hails from Pakistan and just returned after spending five months there.

There is growing evidence the bomber did not act alone and had ties to radical elements overseas, with one senior official telling ABC News there are several individuals believed to be connected with the bombing and that at least one of them is a Pakistani-American.

Attorney General Eric Holder said today the investigators had made “substantial progress” in tracking the man who drove a Nissan Pathfinder into New York’s Times Square with a crude bomb that failed to detonate.

UPDATE:

OK, so they really were closing in on someone. According to NBC:

Authorities arrested a suspect in the attempted weekend car bombing in Times Square, NBC News’ justice correspondent Pete Williams reported early Tuesday morning.

A U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, Shahzad Faisal, was arrested Monday night on Long Island, Williams reported.

Earlier, an official told The Associated Press that the potential suspect recently traveled to Pakistan. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the case was at a sensitive stage.

He seems like a helpful, chap, though, assisting the FBI by apparently leaving an email trail.

The officials said the man was a Connecticut resident who paid cash weeks ago for the SUV parked in Times Square on Saturday and rigged with a crude propane-and-gasoline bomb.

NBC’s Williams reported the man’s name was on an e-mail that was sent to the seller of the car last month, as well as other evidence suggesting he had a role in the attempted bombing.

And while he pulled the VIN plaque off the dashboard, he didn’t go through the trouble of removing the embossed VINs from the engine or axle.

Apparently this rocket scientist–always assuming the FBI has the right guy, and not another Richard Jewel–couldn’t have made himself easier to find if he’d dropped a yellow dye marker, and powered up a rescue strobe and homing beacon.

Interestingly, he appears to have been born and raised in Connecticut, although he is a fellow of Middle Eastern ethnicity.

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So is there a desire to pin the carbombing attempt on domestic terrorism?

That’s kind of the message I’m getting concerning the attempt Saturday to detonate a VBIED near Times Square in NYC.

Now, I’ve watched the video of the alleged suspect.  I’m having a tough time with a description of “furtive” to describe his activities.  Yes, he pulled a sweatshirt off and went with the T-shirt below, but he didn’t seem hurried, or “furtive”.  He could have been hot though.

And I don’t get this:

Mayor Bloomberg said the planned mayhem did not appear to be the work of al Qaeda or any other large terror network.

Really? Why’s that? Because the alleged perpetrator was a balding white guy? The mayor really ought to consider the term “outsourcing” and its implications.

The bomb certainly was crude. Bags of fertilizer, propane tanks, fireworks and gasoline. I know enough about fertilizer bombs to know that leaving it in the bag isn’t the way to make a bomb. However, had the propane gone off, it would have definitely had the potential to create a mass casualty situation.

Add to that the Taliban leader’s claim – in a video made before the attempt on Times Square – that he was responsible (that is to say he “commissioned” the job) and it is hard for me, at this early date to rule out “al Qaeda or any other large terror network”.

But authorities sure do seem intent on trying to do exactly that. Unless they know alot more than they’re saying, it isn’t clear to me at all that you can rule anyone or any organization out.

In fact, even more evidence turned up today suggesting that the Taliban are, in fact, involved in targeting US cities:

Two tapes were sent today to The Long War Journal by a group identifying itself as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. The same group sent a link earlier today to The Long War Journal to a YouTube video of Qari Hussain Mehsud claiming that the Taliban carried out the failed May 1 car bomb attack in New York City’s Times Square.

The two Hakeemullah tapes consist of a videotape of Hakeemullah flanked by two masked fighters, and an audiotape with images of Hakeemullah superimposed over a map of the US with explosions in the background. In both tapes, Hakeemullah claimed that the Taliban have infiltrated the US and that their operatives would launch attacks in American cities.

The videotape was produced on April 4, while the audiotape was produced on April 19, according to Hakeemullah.

While I think it is entirely possible that the man seen leaving the SUV on Saturday is indeed a “middle aged, balding white man”, I also think it is entirely possible that the Taliban claims of responsibility are real.

If so, watch for other attempts in other cities soon. As for the ostriches out there – pretend this isn’t a larger plot by international terrorist organizations at your own peril. Such thinking can blow up in your face fairly quickly – no pun intended.

~McQ

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Dropping two at a mile and a half

For those of you who understand and can appreciate this – two phenomenal sniper shots (from the same guy at the same target) from a British sniper in Afghanistan:

A BRITISH Army sniper has set a new sharpshooting distance record by killing two Taliban machinegunners in Afghanistan from more than 1 miles away.

Craig Harrison, a member of the Household Cavalry, killed the insurgents with consecutive shots — even though they were 3,000ft beyond the most effective range of his rifle.

“The first round hit a machinegunner in the stomach and killed him outright,” said Harrison, a Corporal of Horse. “He went straight down and didn’t move.

“The second insurgent grabbed the weapon and turned as my second shot hit him in the side. He went down, too. They were both dead.”

The shooting — which took place while Harrison’s colleagues came under attack — was at such extreme range that the 8.59mm bullets took almost three seconds to reach their target after leaving the barrel of the rifle at almost three times the speed of sound.

The distance to Harrison’s two targets was measured by a GPS system at 8,120ft, or 1.54 miles. The previous record for a sniper kill is 7,972ft, set by a Canadian soldier who shot dead an Al-Qaeda gunman in March 2002.

Now I don’t care how good a shot you think you are, that’s incredible.  As someone said, with the drop at that distance, those bullets must have almost been at a 45 degree angle.  And I can only assume “Kentucky windage” as his method since these shots are so off the charts.

~McQ

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