Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Headline of the Day

The headline in the Washington Times this morning: “Exclusive: Obama Agrees To Keep Israel’s Nuke Secret”:

President Obama has reaffirmed a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections, three officials familiar with the understanding said.

The officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they were discussing private conversations, said Mr. Obama pledged to maintain the agreement when he first hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in May.

With that headline you have to ask “what secret?” Admittedly it is probably one of the world’s worst kept secrets. But it is interesting given our present stance on Iran that we’re exempting Israel from the same sort of international inspection regime – if, of course, the “secret” is true. And if true, and I’m sure Iran believes it is, why would Iran give up their pursuit of a nuclear weapon. They would most likely believe their acquisition of one would restore the regional balance. So why wouldn’t they agree to allow inspectors into a facility they had just voluntarily revealed to the IAEA. Why else reveal it? It certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t more hidden away in the mountains of Iran.

And why wouldn’t they agree to talks? It gives them the room, without sanctions, to continue what they’ve been doing for decades with no further penalty. String along the US and EU with “talks” while pursing the bomb.

I’d guess right now, Iran’s pretty happy with the way things are going.


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Quote of the Day

Jonah Goldberg reminded me of this beauty by Harvey Weinstein concerning Hollywood’s defense of rapist Roman Polanski:

In an opinion piece in London’s the Independent, Weinstein Co. co-founder Harvey Weinstein, who is circulating the pro-Polanski petition, wrote: “Whatever you think about the so-called crime, Polanski has served his time. A deal was made with the judge, and the deal is not being honored. . . . This is the government of the United States not giving its word and recanting on a deal, and it is the government acting irresponsibly and criminally.”

In an interview, Weinstein said that people generally misunderstand what happened to Polanski at sentencing. He’s not convinced public opinion is running against the filmmaker and dismisses the categorization of Hollywood as amoral. “Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion,” Weinstein said. “We were the people who did the fundraising telethon for the victims of 9/11. We were there for the victims of Katrina and any world catastrophe.”

If Hollywood is the best moral compass, then there is no such thing as moral magnetic north.

While doing fundraising is appreciated, it shows much less of the needed compassion in those situations than a small rural church in Georgia which pools the resources of its parishioners, drives to coastal Mississippi, buys supplies from Home Depot and rebuilds houses for those made homeless by the hurricane.

Nope – the moral compass of this country resides where it always has, and those who possess it are calling BS on the Polanski charade.


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Thomas Friedman’s Selective History And Left-Wing Paranoia

I don’t know how else to describe this from Thomas Friedman:

I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish nationalist as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.

Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.

Really? Is your stomach turning Mr. Friedman? Because if so, it must be a very recent problem.

Change the name Rabin to Bush, remove the particular situation and add “during his presidency” and you describe the last 8 years and the behavior of the left to a tee. And yet I don’t remember a single column by Friedman or any other liberal lamenting the “poisonous political environment” that existed during that entire time.

Suddenly though, because the opposition is instead focused on Democrats and Obama, dissent is a serious thing that shouldn’t be “winked at” as it was lo those many years when the other side suffered it.

That leads to selective remembrances by ideologues such as this guy speaking about opposition to Obama:

Some of his opposition is politically predictable, since President Bill Clinton was under political attack from the day of his election and presidential candidate John Kerry was slandered in a way that turned voters away from him. Those who present no good ideas of their own can only resort to dubious, rumor driven attacks to generate fear and damage their opponents.

Notably missing is the “selected not elected” tenure of Bush who had eggs thrown during his inauguration parade, was booed by the opposition during a state of the union address and called “incompetent” by the most competent Speaker of the House we’ve ever had.  And signs depicting Bush as Hitler were ubiquitous.  All, apparently, right down the memory hole.

The Friedman’s of the world feigned no concern whatsoever about the atmosphere of hate engendered then possibly leading to violence when their ideological foe sat in the White House. They seemed to see nothing wrong with the demonization of Bush. The cries of “traitor, “war criminal”, “liar” and “loser” apparently didn’t coarsen the dialog or create a “poisonous political environment” like they do now.  And the Southern Poverty Law Center had nothing to say about the virulent hate that was evident then. This demand for respect for the President of the United States we hear today wasn’t at all evident in the left’s gleeful celebration of shoes thrown at the President of the United States during a press conference, was it?

No, according to the left, it is now worse than it has ever been. And that’s because the right is engaged in spirited opposition. The left can deal this sort of thing out, but they simply cannot take it when it is returned in kind. So the entire dialog changes and what was recently the “highest form of patriotism” and “speaking truth to power” is now “dangerous and hate filled rhetoric” and a threat to all that’s decent and good. You have to wonder if the left suffers from a chronic case of political Alzheimer’s disease, because their short-term memory is completely gone.

The conventional wisdom, sold by the left over the years, is that the right is the violent side of the ideological spectrum. And again, those ignorant of history seem to buy into the meme. Never mind that the last two politicians who suffered assassination were killed by a communist and a Palestinian nationalist and the last assassination attempts made on presidents were made on Republican presidents.

It is a sight to behold the left, after an 8 year tantrum, suddenly projecting their behavior and history on the right and calling it dangerous, disrespectful and poisonous.  In comparison to their behavior, what is happening now is both mild and warranted.  But don’t expect this orgy of leftist whining to end anytime soon.  Like a goose does every day, they seem to have awakened in a new world and have absolutely no memory of their own recent behavior or of the recent history of violence toward politicians here.  Instead, they prefer to invent their own version as they go.


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Our Olympic Pitch? “Do It For The Fat Kids!”

Here’s how the White House blog introduces Michele Obama’s words about the 2016 Olympics to Chicago:

First Lady Michelle Obama brought American pride to the Danish capital today …

Really? “American pride?” Does this hit you as a good dose of American pride?

We need all of our children to be exposed to the Olympic ideals that athletes from around the world represent, particularly this time in our nation’s history, where athletics is becoming more of a fleeting opportunity. Funds dry up so it becomes harder for kids to engage in sports, to learn how to swim, to even ride a bike. When we’re seeing rates of childhood obesity increase, it is so important for us to raise up the platform of fitness and competition and fair play; to teach kids to cheer on the victors and empathize with those in defeat, but most importantly, to recognize that all the hard work that is required to do something special.

Funds are drying up so kids can’t engage in sports, learn how to swim or even ride a bike? Funds? Like government funds? My learning to swim certainly had nothing to do with funding and riding a bike? Please. That consisted of a shove from my dad down a small hill.

It is America the poor – we can’t afford to keep our children fit – and America the fat – childhood obesity is increasing. What it isn’t is American pride. I can’t imagine anyone calling it that. And I certainly can’t imagine a representative of this country using that paragraph and believing it really represents “American pride”.


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Quote Of The Day

I love quotes like this because it gives you a little hint about the level of the left’s self-delusion and intellectual bankruptcy.

“A Primer on Reconciliation,” put together by Ken Strickland of NBC at First Read does a nice job of explaining the arcane process and some of the limits that will make it both difficult and risky to push health reform through that process, despite the appealing feature that it can bypass Republican obstruction.

Although the “Primer” is quite instructive (you can find it here), the point of the post is to highlight the typical nonsense the left loves to try to run by everyone. The only reason reconciliation is being considered has nothing to do with “Republican obstruction”. It has to do with the fact that the Senate’s Democratic Caucus numbers 60 – all the votes necessary to invoke cloture in the Senate and avoid a filibuster. But they cannot be sure of their own caucus. So the easy and lazy thing to do is blame it on the opposition party which hasn’t the ability to stop anything.


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A Military Coup Here? Really?

Apparently, someone named John L. Perry posted a blog post at NewsMax about a military coup that was quickly taken down.  Bob Owens at Confederate Yankee has the whole article and a disclaimer from Newsmax as well.   It has, of course, set the left on fire.  What Perry wrote deserves to be seen for no other reason than its absurdity.  And while the left thumps the right over this “whack job”, keep in mind Perry’s biography says he worked for both LBJ and Carter Administrations and LeRoy Collins, a former Democratic Governor of Florida.

Here are the salient parts of Perry’s blog post:

There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem.” Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.

America isn’t the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn’t mean it wont. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it.


Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a “family intervention,” with some form of limited, shared responsibility?

Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.

Military intervention is what Obama’s exponentially accelerating agenda for “fundamental change” toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama’s radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.

Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem. Just don’t shrug and say, “We can always worry about that later.”

In the 2008 election, that was the wistful, self-indulgent, indifferent reliance on abnegation of personal responsibility that has sunk the nation into this morass.

A non-violent solution to the “Obama problem”? It is called an election you idiot. You cut the rug out from under him by taking the majority in Congress away from the Democrats in 2010 and then you do a voter’s “coup” in 2012 and elect someone else to the presidency.

How does one think that a military coup would put us in a better place Constitutionally? He’s certainly done his best to dress up those who would be involved in such a coup as the second coming of the founding fathers, but it is much more likely that wouldn’t be the case if an actual military coup took place.

Look, I’m no happier with Obama than Perry, but a military coup as a solution? Heaven forbid.

The military coup nonsense is just a delusional fantasy. In fact I’d rate the chance of a military coup here on the same level as an inexhaustible and non-polluting energy source being found within the next 30 seconds. How this boob figures that it is “gaining possibility” is beyond me. Unless he’s polled the upper leadership of the military recently in such a way that allows him to discern this “gain”, he’s blowing this out his posterior. Certainly there may be many in the military who are not happy with Barack Obama. But that was also true when it came to George Bush. And Bill Clinton. But, the military is not about to engage in some vast conspiratorial effort to “restore and defend the Constitution” any time soon. They have a pretty full plate right now with 2 wars and all the other missions they carry on throughout the world.

There may indeed be a true Constitutional crisis at some point in our future where such a thing is actually contemplated, but this isn’t it.

I’m sure someone, in defense of Perry, is going to claim that this was all a farce and just something thrown out there in good fun to solicit a reaction. If so, then you have to wonder why it “disappeared” from Newsmax’s website faster than a bottle of beer in a frat house. It was a stupid post, with no basis in fact and injurious to Newsmax’s credibility. They apparently figured that out quickly and issued a statement in which support for the post is not at all evident (something TNR never did during the Beauchamp debacle – there by further tarnishing their reputation). Good for them.

Owens does wonder something I too thought about:

The simple fact of the matter is that author seems to have come unhinged, and for reasons perhaps structural to the site’s editorial process, the column made it to print without a sanity check by the editors.

Any bet that will change?

And you also have to wonder what a guy who lists work with three democratic administrations is doing writing blog posts for Newsmax. That and why he’s now so disillusioned with a Democratic president?


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The Public Option: When Competition Isn’t Really Competition

It is, instead, a prelude to monopoly.  That is the case with the “public option” in the health care reform desired by the left:

The problem is that government, by definition, isn’t just another economic player, and will always tend to want to control markets for its political purposes. That threatens economic as well as political liberty.

And that’s precisely what a government run entity in a private market will be directed by – politics and an outcome favorable to the goal of politics – the accumulation of power. So there’s a basic level of dishonesty going on here when those in support of a “public option” talk about “competition”. Rep. Paul Ryan calls Kathrina Vanden Heuval on just such a use:

What’s concerning about this debate with me is that you’re using capitalist rhetoric to try and move a plan that is inherently anti-market. The problem is that the facts tell us this: A public plan option quickly becomes a government-run monopoly.The actuaries are telling us is that in a few short years, the public plan option displaces the private sector, employers dump their employees on the public plan, and then they have no choices but the public plan. And so, lets not try to sell a government-run plan using free market rhetoric.

Redefining “competition” to mean nothing more than the introduction of another entity in the field is the ploy.  Relying on the economic ignorance of most Americans to carry it off is also part of the plan.

Instead competition is the battle of private entities with the same goal – market share and profit.  In a free market system that goal is attained through winning the preference and loyalty of customers for their product at an acceptable price for both consumer and producer. It is the existence of other producers and their products which keeps the other producers “honest”.   But the introduction of a government entity into such a market introduces a “competitor” which is only interested in one aspect of that competition – obtaining the preference and loyalty of customers. It has no interest or need to have that price acceptable to the producer since it doesn’t have to seek a profit to provide the product.  In fact, it can run a loss as long as it takes to clear the market of other “competitors”.  Such predatory pricing will be supported by whatever subsidies are necessary from the US Treasury.  It will end up distorting the market to the point that those who must have a profit to continue to serve their customers and produce their product (actually pay for it with money they earn) will leave the market.

That’s not “competition” by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. And, in fact, with the ability to absorb as much loss is necessary to drive private firms out means government will indeed, at some future point, enjoy a “single payer” monopoly. They’ll be the only game in town.  It seems that our government is unfriendly only to private monopolies, not public ones.

So, in summary, defenders of the public option are being blatantly disingenuous with their rhetoric and stated intent when they claim that the “public option” would introduce “competition” and keep insurance companies “honest”. In fact it won’t do that at all.  It will, instead,  evolve over time into a “market” in which the only insurance entity standing will be the government run one which will enjoy monopoly status and give the liberal left the “single payer” system it so badly wants to see enacted here.


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From Teamsters To Transvestites

That’s how an acquaintance once described the constituency of the Democrats. In other words, it is really a collection of diverse special interest groups vs. a homogeneous political group of any sort. And keeping that collection of special interests in line is almost impossible as health care insurance reform debate has proven.  The Democrats in both the House and Senate are their own worst enemy.  While the Republicans form a fairly solid base of opposition it is a minority base – Republicans can’t defeat a thing in either house of Congress.  Yet health care insurance reform legislation is in real trouble, not because of the minority party, but because of the majority party’s internal dissension.

On the one side are progressives (formerly known as liberals until liberal became a pejorative term). On the other are the much more conservative Blue Dogs. The fight is in the middle and over the public option. The reality is the Blue Dogs are Democrats that come from very conservative districts which voted for both Bush and McCain. Political reality says that voting for a bill with the public option may be hazardous to their political health – i.e. they may have to find a new job after the 2010 midterms. Progressives have staked out a position saying they’ll not vote for any bill without a public option. Republicans will be happy to add their “no” votes to whichever Democratic caucus ends up not getting their way.

Que the 300 pound tub o’ lard that thinks he’s an 800 pound gorilla – Michael Moore:

“To the Democrats in Congress who don’t quite get it: I want to offer a personal pledge. I – and a lot of other people – have every intention of removing you from Congress in the next election if you stand in the way of health care legislation that the people want,” Moore told supporters of women’s groups and unions gathered at the headquarters of the government watchdog group Public Citizen. “That is not a hollow or idle threat. We will come to your district and we will work against you, first in the primary and, if we have to, in the general election.”

One has to ask, what if it is the progressive caucus that kills the bill, Michael? For whatever reason, I don’t think that’s who he’s talking about here. I think he’s making the assumption that it will be the Blue Dogs he and the rest of the “mob” will be going after (just using a little Democratic lingo here – don’t get excited).

And you’ll love this:

“You think that we’re just going to go along with you because you’re Democrats? You should think again,” he told the Tuesday crowd in a speech that was carried to members of the media dialed into a conference call. “Because we’ll find Republicans who are smart enough to realize that the majority of Americans want universal healthcare. That’s right. That’s absolutely right. Don’t take this for granted.”

So the gauntlet is thrown and Moore is sure the hills are teeming with Republicans “smart enough” to vote in government run universal health care. In Blue Dog territory? Where that’s most likely enough to get a Democrat voted out of office?

Moore may have a talent for making fiction appear as reality, but I think his grasp of how the politics thing works might be slightly wanting. My guess is Republicans would welcome Moore as a comrade in arms in the races he and his “brownshirts” (more Dem lingo – it’s ok, they approve) choose to enter to unseat the incumbent Democrat. If health care insurance reform really stalls out and he takes this “un-American” action to defeat Democrats it will also have the side benefit of making Rham Emanuel apoplectic – and who wouldn’t enjoy that?

Yup – from teamsters to transvestites – a collection of special interests in which common interests are difficult to find, much less act upon. The Democrats find themselves in a position they haven’t enjoyed in decades and, like the dog which finally catches a car it chases, they have absolutely no idea what to do with it.  Pogo’s famous line never better described a situation than now: “we have met the enemy and he is us”.


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More Dissension

It can’t be hate or racism because both of these guys are huge Obama supporters:

Sooner or later it is going to occur to Barack Obama that he is the president of the United States. As of yet, though, he does not act that way, appearing promiscuously on television and granting interviews like the presidential candidate he no longer is. The election has been held, but the campaign goes on and on. The candidate has yet to become commander in chief.

Those are pretty strong words, again alluding – no not alluding – flat out stating that there has been a whole lot of rah, rah going on and no leadership exhibited. And it is WaPo’s Richard Cohen uttering them. He goes on to describe the incident at the G20 meeting which he calls one that had “a faux Cuban missile crisis quality to it”. Lots of drama and stern visages, but not much substance as the leaders revealed something their countries had known about for years and only did so because Iran had made it known the previous week.

Cohen then advises:

For a crisis such as this, the immense prestige of the American presidency ought to be held in reserve. Let the secretary of state issue grave warnings. When Obama said in Pittsburgh that Iran is “going to have to come clean and they are going to have to make a choice,” it had the sound of an ultimatum. But what if the Iranians don’t? What then? A president has to be careful with such language. He better mean what he says.

Indeed. And as we all know, the Secretary of State has been missing in action. If there is TV face time to be had, this president is going to elbow his way to the front. And that’s something else Cohen is tired of – seeing him on the tube. He says we should see much less of him. Frankly I agree, but am hoping he ignores the advice and continues to over-expose himself.

Cohen has also caught on to the “tell ’em what they want to hear at the time and then change your mind later” rhetoric that is common with Obama:

The trouble with Obama is that he gets into the moment and means what he says for that moment only. He meant what he said when he called Afghanistan a “war of necessity” — and now is not necessarily so sure. He meant what he said about the public option in his health-care plan — and then again maybe not. He would not prosecute CIA agents for getting rough with detainees — and then again maybe he would.

What Cohen is dancing around actually saying is something which was said of Bill Clinton, “he’s a particularly good liar”.

Cohen ends his lament with this:

Most tellingly, he gave Congress an August deadline for passage of health-care legislation — “Now, if there are no deadlines, nothing gets done in this town . . . ” — and then let it pass. It seemed not to occur to Obama that a deadline comes with a consequence — meet it or else.

Obama lost credibility with his deadline-that-never-was, and now he threatens to lose some more with his posturing toward Iran. He has gotten into a demeaning dialogue with Ahmadinejad, an accomplished liar. (The next day, the Iranian used a news conference to counter Obama and, days later, Iran tested some intermediate-range missiles.) Obama is our version of a Supreme Leader, not given to making idle threats, setting idle deadlines, reversing course on momentous issues, creating a TV crisis where none existed or, unbelievably, pitching Chicago for the 2016 Olympics. Obama’s the president. Time he understood that.

But he doesn’t. He doesn’t at all. He has no reason to understand that because he has no experience in the type job he now holds. He’s a firm believer in his ability to persuade in a job that, like it or not, requires leadership and the use of power, intimidation and action.

And that brings me to the second of the dissillusioned – Marty Peretz at The New Republic’s “The Spine”:

The secretary of defense, Robert Gates, revealed two hush-hush secrets on television this morning.

1. that Iran intended to develop nuclear weapons. No sh*t!

2. that the matter of closing Guantanamo was “more complicated than we thought.” Surprise, surprise.

The first of these revelations is especially significant. What does it say about the president’s adventures in sympatico diplomacy? This is hard to say: but I believe it’s an utter failure.

And why is that? Because international politics is a form of anarchy, and that sort of an approach is seen as a sign of weakness to be exploited. So Iran, as it usually does, will make all the right noises at the appropriate time to try to lessen sanctions, but whether successful or not, it will continue to pursue its nuclear goals. As for Gitmo – has Obama learned that posturing is much easier than governing yet? The answer is no. In his UN speech he lauded himself for “ordering Guantanomo closed” on his first day and then a few days later it is announced that it won’t close on his extended deadline.

That is a perfect example of what Richard Cohen sees as problematic with this presidency. Obama considers the fact that he  “ordered” something done to be an accomplishment. The rest of the world won’t consider it one until Gitmo is closed. He doesn’t seem to understand that difference.

See health care reform.  Heck, see just about anything.


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If The Public Option Is Dead The Democrats Killed It

Not that I’m complaining.

Max Baucus’ Senate Finance Committee voted on Jay Rockefeller’s public option amendment. No joy for public option supporters:

After five hours of debate, the Senate Finance Committee this afternoon voted down Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s proposal for a public option to compete with private insurers.

Though a majority of the committee’s Democrats supported it, the amendment was defeated overwhelmingly, 15-8. The proposal sought to create a public health insurance option that would set rates like Medicare does.

Now as I understand it, there are 13 Dems and 10 Reps on that committee. So it is important to understand that all that is required for anything to come out of that committee the Democrats want is to vote the party line. 10 Republican cannot stop a thing.

Which brings us to the second public option offering and vote:

The Schumer market-responsive public option amendment has now failed. It was called at 3:50.

The vote was 10-13. Three Democrats opposed.

Two Democrats (Bill Nelson of Florida and Tom Carper of Delaware) voted for Schumer’s amendment after opposing Rockefeller’s.

But Sens. Max Baucus, Kent Conrad and Blanche Lincoln still opposed.

Baucus has been quoted as saying his job is to fashion something that will draw at least 60 votes (and a public option won’t do it).  Ben Nelson feels that they need 65 votes (meaning 5 Republicans have to go along) on any Senate bill to make it “legitimate”.

Of course this doesn’t mean some other Democrat won’t try to offer a public option amendment to the bill, but my sense is if Schumer can’t get it done, it’s not going to get done. I guess the Senate is left to talk co-ops and triggers instead while the leftosphere and the House Progressive Conference does a slow burn.


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