Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

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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The Post-Modern Liberal Mind

David Warren, writing in the Ottawa Ciitzen, takes a look at some of the “Gorbachev/Obama” comparisons that some are doing and finds them wanting.  But, he does find one thing the two men seem to share in common.  Something he calls a characteristic of the post-modern liberal mind:

Yet they do have one major thing in common, and that is the belief that, regardless of what the ruler does, the polity he rules must necessarily continue. This is perhaps the most essential, if seldom acknowledged, insight of the post-modern “liberal” mind: that if you take the pillars away, the roof will continue to hover in the air.

Or a complete and utter disconnection from reality as it functions in this world. We tend to write that seeming disconnect off to arrogance or ignorance, or both.  But in fact, it is a belief based in the following:

Gorbachev seemed to assume, right up to the fall of the Berlin Wall and then beyond it, that his Communist Party would recover from any temporary setbacks, and that the long-term effects of his glasnost and perestroika could only be to make it bigger and stronger.

There is a corollary of this largely unspoken assumption: that no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally.

A variant of this is the frequently expressed denial of the law of unintended consequences: the belief that, if the effect you intend is good, the actual effect must be similarly happy.

Very small children, the mad, and certain extinct primitive tribes, have shared in this belief system, but only the fully college-educated liberal has the vocabulary to make it sound plausible.

Ok, I admit I laughed out loud at the final emphasized statement, especially given who we have here regularly trying to do exactly what Warren points out. The difference is it has never sounded as “plausible” as our commenter might think he’s made it sound.

But I think Warren is on to something here. When you confront those who believe as our current political leadership does,  the “economic laws of gravity” have no real relevance to them. You get a blank stare and then an assurance that all will be well, just wait and see.  In their ignorance, be it practiced or real, they actually believe that “no matter what you do to one part of a machine, the rest of the machine will continue to function normally” and thus continue to provide the rest of what we enjoy today.

So you can run the economy off the cliff with cap-and-trade and we’ll somehow survive and be “bigger and stronger”. Or you can use a health care model that has or is failing all over the world and because their intention is good,  it will work differently here. The cosmic laws of economics that have only worked in a certain way since the world was formed will now work differently because their “intention” is good.  Human behavior will modify itself once the people understand how wonderful the world they envision will be.

Suddenly the presentation of their version of reality, when based on the premise Warren identifies, makes a sort of cock-eyed sense, even if it has no actual basis in reality. That’s why the uninformed are susceptible to sales pitch.  That “vocabulary” that only a “fully college-educated liberal” can bring to bear soothes them into believing that competent hands are at the wheel and all the nonsense they’ve heard about the laws of gravity and economics don’t apply anymore.  The Hope and Change express sold that and the unassuming masses ate it up. It sounds wonderful.  However they soon discovered (or will discover) the roof still falls in as the pillars are knocked away.

With an incredible rapidity, America’s status as the world’s pre-eminent superpower is now passing away. This is a function both of the nearly systematic abandonment of U.S. interests and allies overseas, with metastasizing debt and bureaucracy on the home front.

Given the dithering over Afghanistan and the naive game-playing with Iran and Russia, the 9 trillion in promised debt on top of the trillions already owed and the continuing and planned takeover of more and more of the economy by government, it is hard to wave off Mr. Warren’s point or insight.

The good news? Well Warren thinks we’re big enough and strong enough to shake the effects of our first post-modern president off, although what’s left won’t be at all like it is today:

And while I think the U.S. has the structural fortitude to survive the Obama presidency, it will be a much-diminished country that emerges from the “new physics” of hope and change.

“The ‘new physics’ of hope and change” – I love that phrase, but I’m not as optimistic as Warren. Unless we can stop the new physics of post-modernism in its tracks, I believe we will be less than a “much-diminished country” when this is all over with. We might be on our way to redefining “third world country” if we’re not careful.  If the Democrats were at all competent, I’d bet on it.

No cap-and-trade. No government run health care. No Democrat majorities in 2010. Otherwise, “Katie bar the door”.

~McQ

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UK’s NHS In Deep Financial Trouble (update)

The IMF has called out the UK’s NHS as “unsustainable”.

Gordon Brown was warned last night to raise the retirement age above 65 and introduce NHS charges to tackle the soaring state deficit.

In a devastating intervention, the International Monetary Fund called for radical changes to the pension system and spending cuts that go far beyond the plans outlined by the Prime Minister this week.

The global watchdog said root and branch changes to public sector spending would be necessary to ‘help keep a lid on the debt’ and restore financial stability.

And yet despite that example and the fact that our “pension” and government run health care system (Medicaid/Medicare) together have some 57 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities and are riddled with waste, fraud and abuse, we’re considering allowing government to intervene in more of the market?

Brilliant. Just freakin’ brilliant.

UPDATE: I didn’t mean to step on Michael’s post, I just flat missed the fact that he’d posted on this.  I’m not sure how I missed it but I did.  He and I have done this before. Be sure to read his take as well.  Obviously we both came to the conclusion that this story was important.

~McQ

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Laugh of the Day

We’ve had the “Quote of the Day” and the “Headline of the Day“, now its time for the “Laugh of the Day”.

It starts with McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt saying that it would be a catastrophe in 2012 if the GOP picked Sarah Palin as their candidate.

My question is compared to what?

John McCain?

Which segues perfectly into the laugh of the day – John McCain has decided he’s going to remake the GOP:

Fresh from a humbling loss in last year’s presidential election, Sen. John McCain is working behind-the-scenes to reshape the Republican Party in his own center-right image.

Good lord … that’s like Jimmy Carter wanting to reshape the Democratic party.  McCain stands for everything that is wrong with the GOP today.  If ever there was someone who found the wrong message for presenting the GOP to the voters, it was John McCain. And the economic problems the country has gone thorough since his defeat have only made his message less acceptable. Schmidt can bellyache all he wants about Sarah Palin, but without her McCain’s election night returns would have been much more dismal than they were.

Smaller and less intrusive government, fewer taxes and much less spending is what the GOP must put forward as its platform. John McCain, despite his claims to the contrary, does not represent that platform. And he’s not much of a friend of the First Amendment either. He is a big government Republican.

John McCain was rejected because he was seen as a light version of the Democratic candidate. Why compromise when you can have the real thing? Well now we’ve seen the real thing and voters aren’t going to want anything to do with the toned down “moderate” Republican model. And the base certainly won’t be enthusiastic about him. This is not the time for the GOP to even consider someone like John McCain or a surrogate if the GOP is at all serious about 2012. It’s time for a principled stand to reduce the size and intrusiveness of government and to let the citizens of the US retain more of what they earn and more control over their lives than they now do. Find a candidate to articulate that and lay out the freedom and liberty platform and the GOP has a decent shot in 2012 if what I think is going to happen happens.

John McCain is certainly not the candidate for that platform. Thank goodness, his day has passed. Where and even if Sarah Palin plays into this for Republicans remains to be seen. To many, she’s yet to prove she’s ready for the job. But it certainly isn’t too early now for the GOP to say ‘no’ to John McCain.  It’s time for the GOP to take a chance and stand up as the party to return us to our small government roots.  Maybe it’s just me, but it sure seems like the timing is right.

~McQ

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