Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

An Interesting Point And An Interesting Question

Marty Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic, has some interesting things to say about the Obama Olympic trip. He too seems to have come to the conclusion many of us have about our new Commander in Chief:

What I suspect is that the president is probably a clinical narcissist. This is not necessarily a bad condition if one maintains for oneself what the psychiatrists call an “optimal margin of illusion,” that is, the margin of hope that allows you to work. But what if his narcissism blinds him to the issues and problems in the world and the inveterate foes of the nation that are not susceptible to his charms?

Chicago will survive its disappointments and Obama will, as well. It is the other stage sets on which the president struts–like he strutted in Cairo and at the United Nations–that concern me.

To the point:

If Obama could not get Chicago over the finish line in Copenhagen, which was a test only of his charms, how will he persuade Tehran to give up its nuclear weapons capacity or the Arabs, to whom he has tilted (we are told) only tactically, to sit down without their 60 year-old map as guide to what they demand from Israel.

Good question. To this point, “persuasion” seems to be the sum of our foreign policy strategy. What’s our alternate strategy if that doesn’t work? Or is our “clinical narcissist” beyond the “optimal margin of illusion” besides seeming to be in way over his head?

~McQ

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Krugman – Another “History Began January 20th, 2009” Moment

Of course, it is a rather simple and transparent ploy to establish a basis for his broad brush defamation of the GOP (not that the GOP isn’t capable of doing that all by itself).  He begins by calling the failure of the US and Barack Obama to secure the Olympic bid “a teachable moment”.

Interesting.

Of course, for 8 years I don’t recall Krugman et. al, ever once finding similar teachable moments in the invective or demonstrations aimed at the Bush administration. Anyway, he wanders on with:

“Cheers erupted” at the headquarters of the conservative Weekly Standard, according to a blog post by a member of the magazine’s staff, with the headline “Obama loses! Obama loses!” Rush Limbaugh declared himself “gleeful.” “World Rejects Obama,” gloated the Drudge Report. And so on.

So what did we learn from this moment? For one thing, we learned that the modern conservative movement, which dominates the modern Republican Party, has the emotional maturity of a bratty 13-year-old.

When, exactly, did the “Weekly Standard”, Rush Limbaugh and the Drudge Report come to comprise “the modern Republican Party”?

Conflation is a favorite device of those who are really reaching to make a point and Krugman is reaching here. I’m not suggesting that the three cites he gives don’t indeed act with the “emotional maturity of a bratty 13-year-old” at times, I’m simply wondering how Krugman managed to make the leap from those three to “the modern Republican Party”?

Of course he did it to try to suggest they are representative of the GOP today and, in fact, this is the way the GOP has always been – unlike Democrats. And for those gullible enough to swallow his premise whole, he then throws his rewrite of history out there in an attempt to make his point that unlike Republicans, Democrats are and always have been the adults:

In 2005, when Democrats campaigned against Social Security privatization, their arguments were consistent with their underlying ideology: they argued that replacing guaranteed benefits with private accounts would expose retirees to too much risk.

In actuality, Democrats acted with “the emotional maturity of bratty 13-year-olds” by Krugman’s own standard:

* NW Progressive Institute, March 2005: “a boisterous crowd which frequently interrupted the discussion with shouts and hard nosed questions. … Democrats in the audience who were interrupting the panel…. the crowd erupted in anger… Democrats in the audience started shouting him down again.”

* Savannah Morning News, March 2005: “By now, Jack Kingston is used to shouted questions, interruptions and boos. Republican congressmen expect such responses these days when they meet with constituents about President Bush’s proposal to overhaul Social Security.”

* USA Today, March 2005: “Shaken by raucous protests at open “town hall”-style meetings last month … Santorum was among dozens of members of Congress who ran gantlets of demonstrators and shouted over hecklers at Social Security events last month. Many who showed up to protest were alerted by e-mails and bused in by anti-Bush organizations such as MoveOn.org and USAction, a liberal advocacy group. They came with prepared questions and instructions on how to confront lawmakers.”

Using Krugman’s logic above, the fact that MoveOn and USAction plus others shouted, heckled, disrupted and booed at these events (the “Weekly Standard”, Rush Limbaugh and Drudge Report equivalents on the left), his “bratty 13-year-old” characterization should easily extend to the Democratic party as well, correct?

Krugman then asks:

How did one of our great political parties become so ruthless, so willing to embrace scorched-earth tactics even if so doing undermines the ability of any future administration to govern?

Why not ask the Democrats of the last 8 years? Ask them how calling the president a “liar”, a “loser”, “incompetent” and many other things did anything but “undermine the ability of any future administration to govern”?

Another “history began January 20th, 2009” moment for the left.

~McQ

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“Furious”? Really?

This article by the UK’s Telegraph is typical of the poor journalism we’re subjected too anymore. The headline blares:

Barack Obama furious at General Stanley McChrystal speech on Afghanistan

The subhead claims that Obama and McChyristal’s relationship has been put under “severe strain” since a speech in the UK.

But when you get into the body of the article, here’s what you find (HT: Mudville Gazzette):

According to sources close to the administration, Gen McChrystal shocked and angered presidential advisers with the bluntness of a speech given in London last week.

[…]

An adviser to the administration said: “People aren’t sure whether McChrystal is being naïve or an upstart. To my mind he doesn’t seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly.”

[…]

The remarks have been seen by some in the Obama administration as a barbed reference to the slow pace of debate within the White House.

[…]

A military expert said: “They still have working relationship but all in all it’s not great for now.”

[…]

Some commentators regarded the general’s London comments as verging on insubordination.

Not once is Obama identified by name as being “furious” with McChrystal. As for the “insubordination” charge, I have no idea where they get the idea that dismissing a strategy as one he wouldn’t favor is insubordination. Especially since no one in his chain of command (no, the VP isn’t in the chain of command) has recommended it. However this is one of two placees in the article where a name is named:

Bruce Ackerman, an expert on constitutional law at Yale University, said in the Washington Post: “As commanding general, McChrystal has no business making such public pronouncements.”

He added that it was highly unusual for a senior military officer to “pressure the president in public to adopt his strategy”.

What Ackerman contends isn’t true – generals often remark on strategy and what they think will and won’t work in their particular situation. That’s what they’re paid to do – assess strategies and pick the right one. The fact that he finds a particular strategy wanting doesn’t mean he’s attempting to apply pressure in public. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and in this case, as I understand it, he didn’t bring the subject up, he was answering a question.

But to the larger point – not one of these people seems to say anything that supports the headline or the contention in the sub-head. The Telegraph even goes to the extent of trying to make the 25 minute meeting with the president into something that was “awkward”, without anything to support that contention:

The next day he was summoned to an awkward 25-minute face-to-face meeting on board Air Force One on the tarmac in Copenhagen, where the president had arrived to tout Chicago’s unsuccessful Olympic bid.

Gen James Jones, the national security adviser, yesterday did little to allay the impression the meeting had been awkward.

Asked if the president had told the general to tone down his remarks, he told CBS: “I wasn’t there so I can’t answer that question. But it was an opportunity for them to get to know each other a little bit better. I am sure they exchanged direct views.”

I’m sure they did. As stated though, Jones wasn’t there so while it is technically true he didn’t “allay the impression” of an awkward meeting, he didn’t confirm it either. He said he didn’t know. He said he couldn’t “answer that question”.

This is a perfect example of a “journalistic” attempt to spread dissension, or at least claim it exits, where it isn’t clear it exists at all. Afghanistan is tough enough nut without manufactured rifts and dissent being thrown into the mix.

Of course the left has jumped all over this supposed bit of “insubordination” and the “rift” as a reason to get rid of McChrystal – something which would be useful to those who would prefer we not do what is necessary to be successful in the ‘necessary war’.

~McQ

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Podcast for 04 Oct 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the Obama Enigma, the current state of politics, and Iran’s progress towards nuclear weapons.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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BlogTalk Radio – 8pm (EST) Tonight

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.

Subject(s): The economy, stupid! New unemployment figures. The Olympic bid and whether that is as big a deal as some are trying to make it. Polanski, Iran and anything else we can jam into the podcast. Join us.

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The Post-American Presidency?

Elliot Abrams, with a sense of deja vu, reviews Carter era foreign policy as one of weakness and accommodation leading to disaster. He’s seeing some eerie similarities in the foreign policy the Obama administration seems to be fashioning.

One begins to wonder how far we will drift into a new period of generalized disaster. In Honduras, we back the Hugo Chávez acolyte and say we won’t respect November’s free elections. In Israel, we latch on to the bizarre theory that settlement growth is the key obstacle to Middle East peace and try to bludgeon a newly elected prime minister into a freeze that is politically impossible–and also useless in actually achieving a peace settlement. In Eastern Europe, we discard a missile defense agreement with Poland and the Czechs and leave them convinced we do not mean to fight off Russian hegemony in the former Soviet sphere.

Manouchehr Mottaki, foreign minister of Iran, visited Washington, as noted, after such visits had been forbidden for a decade. High-ranking American officials have made six visits to Syria, even while the government of Iraq and our commanding general there complain of Syrian support for murderous jihadists. The highest ranking U.S. official to visit Cuba in decades recently toured Castro’s tropical paradise. The president won’t see the Dalai Lama, however, for fear of offending the Chinese.

This, of course, isn’t a particular surprise to those who listened to what Barack Obama said during the campaign. You really can’t hold something against a person who does what he says he’s going to do. The question is why weren’t enough listening to decide the possibility of disaster in the foreign policy arena was real enough to disqualify him from holding the highest office in the land? A question for a different post, I suppose. However, the most interesting part of the Abrams piece (Abrams, btw, used to work for Democrat Henry “Scoop” Jackson – sort of the Joe Liberman of his era when it came to foreign policy) was his take on the Obama UN speech:

See a pattern here? The president’s U.N. General Assembly speech tied all this together, perhaps unintentionally: Talk of allies and enemies and national interests was absent. Getting something for concessions we make is contrary to the new spirit of engagement. The president, transcending all such anachronisms, poses as the representative of .  .  . the world. So why would his country treat friends better than foes, and why would we bargain for reciprocal concessions? So old fashioned, so Cold War.

Former UN Ambassador John Bolton called Barack Obama the “post-American” president. Abrams analysis seems to agree with that characterization. So the question, then, isn’t “why would his country treat friends better than foes”, but “why would he put American interests before those of the world at large as he hopes to shape it?” If Bolton and Abrams are correct, he wouldn’t.   And his speech confirms that:

Instead, he told us, “I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world. These expectations are not about me. Rather, they are rooted–I believe–in a discontent with a status quo that has allowed us to be increasingly defined by our differences.” (Did speechwriters substitute “discontent” for Carter’s famous “malaise”?) So we will turn away from such thinking: “It is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009–more than at any point in human history–the interests of nations and peoples are shared.” Acting in the narrow interests of the United States and its friends and allies is passé: “Because the time has come for the world to move in a new direction. We must embrace a new era of engagement based on mutual interests and mutual respect, and our work must begin now.” This must sound to Ahmadinejad–or Putin or Assad or Chávez or Castro–rather the way Carter’s call to end our “inordinate fear of communism” sounded to Brezhnev.

Of course the key to the Obama vision is much like the key to world-wide nuclear disarmament. Unless all the players agree with the vision, it’s so much hot air. And nothing that is happening in the world today gives any indication that the players named by Abrams have any inclination at all to play Obama’s game.

In fact when I think of how Chávez and the rest must be reacting to this privately, Flounder from “Animal House” comes to my mind unbidden yelling, “Oh boy, is this gonna be great”. Naivete and narcissism (Count the unprecedented number of times he refers to himself in the UN speech. He did it 23 times in 13 paragraphs in his Olympic speech) in one package and the predators licking their chops and circling the prey, each trying to decide what piece they can tear off and get away with.

Unfortunately my guess is if we pursue this post-American foreign policy, as it appears we will, we won’t have long to wait to see the disasters begin to pile up as the world’s despots exploit the situations with which they’re naively presented.

~McQ

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Cuba: “Vaccine? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Vaccine!”

Because Cuba has soldiers, a single-payer system and authoritarian rule.

Wasn’t this the health care system Michael Moore touted as so wonderful in “Sicko”?

Cuba is ready to use just about everything at its disposal, from its well-oiled civil defense system to the soldiers of a totalitarian government, to keep swine flu cases to a minimum.

Everything but a vaccine.

As the U.S. prepares an extensive health survey for side affects from its extensive inoculation plans, Cuba’s No. 2 health official says relying on a shot to contain a world pandemic is risky as best — and demoralizing at worst.

“Nobody knows if it would work,” said Dr. Luis Estruch. “How safe would it be?”

Yeah, how safe? Obviously if Cuba didn’t come up with it, well then it must be suspect. And beside they have a plan:

Swine flu plans for the new season involve all ministries, including the armed forces. If necessary, the government will isolate neighborhoods or entire villages, shut down highways and dispatch medical teams to communities affected by swine flu, Estruch said.

Soldiers can go door to door to enforce mandatory quarantines and evacuations — and authorities think nothing of severing areas from all contact with the outside world.

“In a matter of hours, we can determine what resources to send,” Estruch said. “We’ve thought it out.  . . .  We’ve considered what to do if we have to paralyze a town, if we have to stop public transit, if we have to close the schools.”

Hey, when you have an army, use it. Don’t let them sit around getting fat, dumb and lazy. Send them from door to door to become infected and spread the virus when the go back home or to the barracks to enforce quarantine and evacuations (to where, pray tell?).  Beats the heck out of spending money on vaccines doesn’t it?

Yup, when the government runs health care, you’re just covered up with options, aren’t you?

~McQ

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Because The LA Prosecutor Should Be Spending His Time Pursuing Bin Laden

A rather long title to introduce probably the single most absurd rationalization for not bringing Polanski to justice I’ve yet read.

You have to read it just to understand how intellectually bankrupt some people can be.  The false premises and pretzel logic in this particular article is remarkable.  So is the moral relevance.  And notice too how he avoids the real charge (rape) in favor of a charge that was never made (statutory rape).  Note too he completely avoids the problem of lack of consent from the girl. All the way through you continue to think, “this has to be a farce”.  Frankly, for a while, I thought it was.  But it clearly isn’t.

I have no idea who George Jonas is, but I do know that’s the last article of his I’ll ever bother reading.

~McQ

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Why Did The US Olympic Bid Fail?

Commenter Steverino asks:

I’m wondering just what relations the Bush admin had with the IOC to begin with.

It’s very convenient to blame Bush for this, and I expect that will be the talking point for this issue.

Of course it will. But it is a point without merit. There are several reasons the US didn’t get the bid. But I think the primary reason was it was simply Brazil and South America’s turn. IOC president Jacques Rogge, speaking of the Brazilian effort said, “There was absolutely no flaw in the bid.”

As for the American bid, and speaking of Barack and Michelle Obama, French IOC member Guy Drut had this to say:

“He didn’t do too much. Michelle Obama was exceptional.”

In fact it appears that President Obama’s visit may have been counter-productive:

Drut said “an excess of security” for the Obamas unsettled some of his committee colleagues. He complained that he’d been barred from crossing the lobby of his hotel for security reasons, and he grumbled that “nothing has been done” to resolve the financial disputes between the IOC and the USOC.

[…]

“This morning the city was closed because of Barack Obama,” he added.

Note the other point in the comments of Drut – financial disputes between the IOC and USOC. Never a good thing when trying to get another Olympic games in your country.

But it appears the “excess of security” may have not been well received by a number of the delegates.

And, there was this:

Former IOC member Kai Holm said the brevity of Obama’s appearance — he was in and out in five hours — may have counted against Chicago.

“Too businesslike,” Holm said. “It can be that some IOC members see it as a lack of respect.”

A sort of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” situation. Had he not showed up, I’m sure IOC members would have seen that as a “lack of respect” as well. Of course that didn’t stop them from flocking to Obama for pictures during his 5 hour stay.

And last, but certainly not least:

[T]he IOC’s last two experiences in the United States were bad: the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics were sullied by a bribery scandal and logistical problems and a bombing hit the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

So, excess security may have caused many IOC members heartburn, some felt the president’s short stay showed a lack of respect, his pitch seems to have fallen flat, the IOC and USOC have financial disputes, and the previous two experiences with Olympic games in the US were not the best experiences for the IOC.

Plus it was just South America’s time!

But Bush – huh uh. Roland Burris notwithstanding, the failure of the bid seem to have had zip to do with him. Unlike Democrats, the rest of the world seems to have accepted that Bush is gone.

~McQ

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Burris Blames Bush For Olympic Bid Loss (You Knew Some Bonehead Would)

Senator Roland Burris has never reminded me of someone of towering intellect.  Instead he’s always hit me as a two-bit hustler who got lucky.  Real lucky.  Lucky enough to be in the right place, with the right connections to be the compromise candidate of a governor under fire to name a successor for a Senate seat Burris could never win on his own.

Yesterday he proved me right:

Senator Rowland Burris of Illinois, the Senator who was appointed to fill President Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat, blames George Bush for Chicago not getting the Olympics in 2016. Burris stated in an interview, shortly after the announcement, that the image of the U. S. has been so tarnished in the last 8 years that, even Barack Obama making an unprecedented pitch for the games could not overcome the hatred the world has for us as a result of George Bush.

First, Obama’s speech was not “an unprecedented pitch” and secondly, Chicago’s loss had nothing to do with Bush. Or Obama. As it turns out, it might actually have had something to do with Rio, for heaven sake.

I guess Burris had to fall back on blaming Bush because he couldn’t find an easy way to accuse the IOC of racisism.

What a grotty bunch we have leading this country – on both sides of the isle.

~McQ

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