Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Dissent and Hate Speech

Apparently signs equal threats to some of our police:

An Oklahoma City police officer wrongly pulled over a man last week and confiscated an anti-President Barack Obama sign the man had on his vehicle.

firstamendment-757857The officer misinterpreted the sign as threatening, said Capt. Steve McCool, of the Oklahoma City Police Department, and took the sign, which read “Abort Obama, not the unborn.”

Chip Harrison said he was driving to work when a police car followed him for several miles and then signaled for him to pull over.

”I pulled over, knowing I hadn’t done anything wrong,” Harrison said in a recent phone interview.

When the officer asked Harrison if he knew why he had been pulled over, Harrison said he did not.

”They said, ‘It’s because of the sign in your window,’” Harrison said. 

When did cops start pulling people over for political bumper stickers or signs?

Anyway, Harrison tried to explain what the sign meant, they disagreed and he was issued a a slip of paper that said he was a part of some sort of investigation. They took his sign. Later, he’s contacted by the police saying the policeman misunderstood and asking him if he wanted his sign back. They had contacted the Secret Service about the sign, and they had told the police it wasn’t a threat. Except apparently they were blowing smoke:

”The Secret Service called and said they were at my house,” Harrison said.

”When I was on my way there, the Secret Service called me and said they weren’t going to ransack my house or anything … they just wanted to (walk through the house) and make sure I wasn’t a part of any hate groups.”

Harrison said he invited the Secret Service agents into the house and they were “very cordial.”

”We walked through the house and my wife and 2-year-old were in the house,” Harrison said.

He said they interviewed him for about 30 minutes and then left, not finding any evidence Harrison was a threat to the president.

Walk through my house? Uh, get a warrant.

Hate groups? They knew what the sign was about, what was the rest of this about?

Which segues nicely into the next portion of the post – hate speech.

Eugene Volokh has a very interesting post up about a UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center study titled Hate Speech on Commercial Talk Radio.

It’s a fascinating post which demonstrates how hard certain groups are working another angle aimed at talk-radio (and read the comments, where commenters take the study’s assertions aparat). Hate-speech is a lever that various groups on the left have been trying to enable for years. From the study, here’s their definition of hate speech:

Types of Hate Speech

We identified four types of speech that, through negative statements, create a climate of hate and prejudice: (1) false facts [including “simple falsehoods, exaggerated statements, or decontextualized facts [that] rendered the statements misleading”], (2) flawed argumentation, (3) divisive language, and (4) dehumanizing metaphors (table 1).

Hate speech or controlled speech

Hate speech or controlled speech

 

Then the examples:

Table 1. Analysis of Hate Speech from The John & Ken Show

EXAMPLE
“And this is all under the Gavin Newsom administration and the Gavin Newsom policy in San Francisco of letting underage illegal alien criminals loose” (from the July 21, 2008, broadcast).

TARGETS
Vulnerable group: foreign nationals (undocumented people).
Social institutions: policy and political organizations (city policy and mayor’s office).

FALSE FACTS
The sanctuary policy preceded Gavin Newsom’s tenure as San Francisco’s mayor, and neither Newsom nor the sanctuary policy supports “letting underage illegal alien criminals loose.”

FLAWED ARGUMENTATION
Guilt by association is used to make the hosts’ point. Undocumented youth and those who are perceived as their endorsers at the institutional level are stigmatized by being associated with criminality.

DIVISIVE LANGUAGE
Criminalized undocumented youth and their perceived validators (Gavin Newsom and the sanctuary policy) are depicted as a threat to San Francisco citizens, setting up an “us versus them” opposition.

ANALYSIS The language depicts the hosts’ targets (undocumented people, city policy, and Mayor Gavin Newsom) as dangerous, criminal, and collusive. In addition, the focus of that policy (undocumented people) becomes reduced to “underage illegal alien criminals.”

Talk about over-analysis. The bottom line is this matrix of assessment is based in pure biased opinion disguised as objectivity. Hate speech, in this case, is nothing more than saying “letting underage illegal alien criminals loose” is wrong.

As Volokh says:

The vagueness and potential breadth of the phrase “hate speech” is a pretty substantial reason — though just one among many — to resist the calls for a “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment. And the vagueness and potential breadth is also a reason to be skeptical of uses of the phrase even outside the law: It’s very easy to define “hate speech” as you like (or leave it undefined, as some arguments do), and use it to condemn people who express a wide range of views that you disapprove of.

One of the most defining phrases in the history of America free speech is “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

It has never been “I don’t like what you say and it sounds like “hate speech” to me so you should be silenced”.

~McQ

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AGW – Settled Science? Hardly…

It seems like everyday more and more is discovered that affects the climate and it is clear those touting the “science” of AGW being settled were clueless about it. For instance:

Whether devastating faults, dank caves or mud cracks on a drying desert plain, Earth’s surface is riddled with fractures.

Now a new study had found that the cracks exhale large quantities of gas, perhaps enough to affect global warming.

Now, I’m not saying this overturns their arguments, but one thing I can say without contradiction is this isn’t modeled in their climate models. And, while at this point there is still not enough information to determine if it is indeed enough to affect global warming, its obvious the AGW crowd didn’t even know this problem existed.

Here’s what scientists found:

Noam Weisbrod of Ben Gurion University of the Negev and a team of researchers monitored a crack about 2 meters long (6.5 feet) and 1 meter (3.3 feet) deep for two years in the Negev Desert is Israel. Each night, they watched as warm air in the crack drew water vapor out of the surrounding rock, and lifted it into the cold evening air.

If air in the crack is just 7 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature, it is buoyant enough to rise out of any crack in the ground bigger than 1 centimeter (0.4 inch) across, bringing with it any gases that leak out of the surrounding soil or rock.

But the team was surprised to find that the crack they studied gave off water vapor up to 200 times faster than areas without fractures.

The next time one of the AGW crowd tries the “settled science” canard, remind them of this little beauty and ask them how it affects the theory. I hope you enjoy the sound of crickets chirping.

~McQ

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Cartoons, Chimps, and Scared White People

Who is that poor, dead ape?

Who is that poor, dead ape?

Yesterday, in a surprisingly foolish move, New York Post cartoonist Sean Delonas attempted to somehow use the story of the Unfortunate Chimpanzee Incident in Connecticut as a visual segue to some sort of commentary on politics.  Although, I’m not entirely sure what point was being made.

The reference to writing  the next stimulus bill seems to me to be a clear reference to Pres. Obama.  He is, after all the guy the guy who’s been out pushing for the thing since day one.  They guy who tried to get Republicans and Democrats together to vote for it a bipartisan fashion.  The number one cheerleader.  He is inextricably linked in the public’s mind with the stimulus bill.  We even call it the Obama Stimulus Bill.  So, who, then are we supposed to think this cartoon is referring to?  Who else could we reasonably infer it refers to?

Now, Obama isn’t the first president who’s been the butt of Chimp references.

He is, however, the first president whose racial heritage includes centuries of invidious comparisons to the great apes.

Which is a shame, actually, because for reasons entirely unrelated to his race, Pres. Obama has a physical feature that is perfect for comparison to a chimp.  His ears.

Chimpy McHaliburton Bushitler

Chimpy McHaliburton Bushitler

I mean, have you seen them? They are Ferengi-class ears. Lyndon Johnson’s soundhorns were practically unnoticeable by comparison.  Sarah Palin may be able to see Russia from her place in Alaska, but with those satellite dishes Mr. Obama carts around on his skull, I bet he hears the occasional Da, and Khorosho! from the bowels of the Kremlin while sitting in the Oval Office.  I don’t think Mr Obama is Jesus, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to learn that he does hear it every time a sparrow falls.

But, irrespective of the comedy gold that could be mined from Pres. Obama’s unfortunate auricular appendages, and unlike Mr. Bush, who had some relatively chimp-like expressions, a major newspaper can’t make those same references to any African-American, much less the president of the United States, and expect to elide past the deserved criticism for it.

How then could the cartoonist possibly be blind to the possible inferences that would be drawn?  And for that matter, what of the vaunted “layers of editors” the mainstream media employs?  The cartoon didn’t raise any red flags in the mind of the Page 6 Editor?  the Op/Ed Editor?  The Managing Editor?

Apparently not.

I simply can’t believe that the staff of a major newspaper were blissfully unaware that even an oblique Obama/chimpanzee reference would be…troublesome.  And even if they did, you’d think the dead president reference might raise a red flag or two in the publisher’s suite, wouldn’t you?

Combining that into the dead chimpanzee president has to be almost the apex of bad judgment by a major media outlet.

But, once the cat was out of the bag, the Right couldn’t leave it alone.  Instead, the defenders of the cartoon jumped in with their explanations.  Her, for example, is John Hinderaker at Powerline:

Readers of the Huffington Post and–who else?–Al Sharpton construe the cartoon as a possibly racist attack on President Obama…There are several problems with this critique. Most obviously, Obama didn’t write the “stimulus” bill. If anyone is being called a chimp, it is Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

And yet, we don’t call it the Pelosi-Reid Stimulus Bill, do we?  How terribly odd.  This defense of the cartoon is little short of obtuse.

And Post Editor-n Chief Col Allen isn’t any more convincing.

“The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut,” Allan said in a statement. “It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist.”

I yield to no man in my contempt for Rev. Sharpton, but this is terribly lame.  How, in fact, does this broadly mock the stimulus effort.  It can’t be a reference to the bill itself.  that bill, unfortunately, is not only not dead, it is now the law of the land.  From a political point of view, the passage effort was successful.  And why the reference to the person who “wrote” the stimulus bill?  That person–if not the actual writer, the primary cheerleader for it–is comfortably ensconced in the Oval Office, savoring his victory on this issue, and moving on to mortgage relief.

The only part of Mr. Allen’s statement with which I agree is that it is, in fact, “is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee”.  But to what end?  If we assume that it is not a reference to the president, then what, exactly is it about?  And why do so many people seem to think it is a reference to the president?  Why is there no label on the dead ape so that we can know what it is supposed to represent?

"Hi There, Eric. I Can't Help But Notice You're Black. Let's Talk About How Black You Are."

"Hi There, Eric. I Can't Help But Notice You're Black. Let's Talk About How Black You Are."

You see, the thing about one-panel political cartooning is that it takes an extraordinary amount of talent to provoke a complicated train of thought from a single, hand-drawn picture.  You have to be clear, concise, and often humorous, and make a clear, polemical point in one panel. Somehow, the average person thinks the point is entirely different from what Mr. Allen says it is.  And that is, as our Soviet friends used to say, “no coincidence.”

Yesterday morning, before this thing had blown into a full-scale brou-ha-ha, The guys at the Opie and Anthony Show had seen it, and they had their producers out on the street, showing the cartoon to the morning commuters on 57th Street in NYC, and asking them, “What do think this cartoon means?”

What they got was a collection of nervous mumbles that amounted to, “Uh, I don’t really know.”  “I can’t say.”  “Er, uh, I can’t talk right now”.  Oh the passersby had time to read it, but when given the chance to express an opinion about it publicly, all of the sudden it was to dense for them to take in, or they had pressing engagements elsewhere.

Which is an interesting reaction, considering Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech on race, coincidentally given yesterday.

“Though the nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” Holder said.

“Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we average Americans simply do not talk enough with each other about race.”

The funniest response to that came from a  Jeff Emanuel piece at RedState, which was titled, “Hi There, Eric. I Can’t Help But Notice You’re Black. Let’s Talk About How Black You Are.”

Well, we probably don’t talk enough about race.  We don’t have those frank exchanges of racial views.  Indeed, we don’t even have humorous public statements about race, even tangentially. Because all it takes is for Dom Imus to say something on the radio like, “That’s some nappy-headed hos right there,” and he’s done. Al Sharpton comes around with a group of lusty, gusty fellows to demand your firing, as soon as he hears about it.  And you lose your livelihood, because he’ll get it.

If you’re white, there’s no upside to having a talk about race.  You run the risk of accidentally or unknowingly saying something insensitive, at which point the best thing that can happen to you is that you’ll be publicly reviled as some sort of bigoted troll.  Why take the risk?

Is that cowardice, or simply the result of a prudent calculation of risks and benefits?

No, the only time we talk about race, is when some buffoon like Sean Delonas makes a public faux pas that can’t be ignored.  And I don’t see that changing any time soon.

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Is The Obama Mortgage Solution Just More Pain Avoidance?

As you recall, the following is partially blamed for getting us into the current housing crisis:

Ever since the credit crisis began, a lot of blame has been heaped on adjustable-rate mortgages, home loans that recalibrate according to market fluctuations. One brand of these innovative mortgages that have come under special criticism has been so-called “exploding A.R.M.’s” that lured borrowers with unusually low teaser rates that then reset skyward a few years later. These have often been derided as predatory, and lenders who offered them accused of luring homeowners into buying homes they couldn’t afford for the long-term.

So is the Obama administration, with its $75 billion mortgage bailout, any better than those previous lenders who were described as “predatory”? Well not according to the plan he’s put forward:

Critics of these might want to check out the Homeowner Stabilization Plan put forward by the Obama administration today. The plan would reduce mortgage payments and interest rates for homeowners who have seen their payments rise to more than 38% of their monthly income. But those reductions last just five years, after which they begin to reset to higher rates. In short, Obama is just drawing out the teaser rates a bit longer.

During the next five years, the Stabilization Plan will encourage lenders to lower loan payment below 38% of the owners’ income and provide subsidies for banks that lower the payments to 31%. The actual rate of payment will be even lower, since the government will also pay homeowners with the reduced rates $1000 a year to stay current on their payments.

After five years however, those government sponsored adjustable-rate mortgages will reset. The Obama adminstration promises they will reset at a moderate phased in level. But the loss of both the subsidy and the $1000 payment will automatically make the monthly payments much more expensive. What’s more, many market watchers expect interest rates will be much higher five years from now, putting additional pressure on mortgage rates. We could, in short, simply be prolonging the housing crisis.

Nothing like kicking the can down the road 5 years is there? The hope, obviously, is that Obama is safely in his second term when this new crisis hits, and, of course, by then he can safely denounce those who default on their mortgages again as people who were given a chance but didn’t take advantage of it.

Now obviously the people who get this “help” can sell their homes in that 5 years (and, of course, that was the idea when many of these people took out the low adjustable rate loans previously – a quick flip. But the market tanked.). However, it will be a buyer’s market in the coming years. So there’s a very good chance that in 5 years we’re going to see the very same problem we have now resurface.

So what are we doing with this 75 billion?

More pain avoidance which, it appears, will simply prolong the problem.

~McQ

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Entitlement, Pain Avoidance, Parenting And College (update)

It seems that college students have entirely different expectations than do college professors.  Or at least some college professors.  Apparently the students see it like this:

“I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,” Mr. Greenwood said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”

“If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?” he added. “If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher’s mind, then something is wrong.”

Sarah Kinn, a junior English major at the University of Vermont, agreed, saying, “I feel that if I do all of the readings and attend class regularly that I should be able to achieve a grade of at least a B.”

Essentially the argument is, show up, do the minimum (i.e. all you are asked to do) and you should get an “A”, or at least a “B”.

Merit? Above and beyond the “average” or the “expected”? They don’t seem to enter into their thinking at all.

Yes, as the professors properly identified the problem, it is a false sense of entitlement.

So, now that the problem has been identified, can you pinpoint the source? Well the profs have various views about that.

Professor Greenberger said that the sense of entitlement could be related to increased parental pressure, competition among peers and family members and a heightened sense of achievement anxiety.

Uh, no, but nice try, professor.

Aaron M. Brower, the vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, offered another theory.

“I think that it stems from their K-12 experiences,” Professor Brower said. “They have become ultra-efficient in test preparation. And this hyper-efficiency has led them to look for a magic formula to get high scores.”

Wrong again.

James Hogge, associate dean of the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University, said: “Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’ “

Oh, oh, oh … so damn close. Where do they get that screwy idea that “level of effort equals quality work”, Dean Hogge? I mean it has to come from somewhere, and apparently it is widespread enough that it is a fairly pervasive phenomenon? Any guesses?

Well, in a nut shell, false entitlement often flows from false self-esteem. Yes, friends, I’m back on that. When little Johnny gets a trophy and a party for being on a 12th place Pee-Wee Baseball team – the very same reward the first place team gets – why in the world wouldn’t he correlate “effort” with “result”? In his case his effort landed him the same rewards as the first place team. So 12th is just as much an “A” as 1st to him, isn’t it? And he gave his all to end up in 12th, so that just has to be good enough, right?  Multiply that over a 18 year life time and it isn’t difficult to understand where this sense of entitlement comes from, is it?

When you’re rewarded at the same level as the real achievers throughout life – so you won’t feel like the loser you are and learn from that – two things happen: One, you don’t try to do better because there’s no incentive to do so and two, you feel entitled to the same results as those who actually did achieve something. So it certainly isn’t far fetched for someone to then believe that effort equals achievement and thus entitlement to the best rewards.

Heh … then you finally leave “soft America” and meet “hard America” as Michael Barone calls it. Suddenly reality slaps you in the face, calls you a loser and gives you the “C” you deserve for just doing the expected. The “average”.  The same thing you’ve always done and been rewarded with more.  

Your world is shattered. You either figure out how big a disservice those who cheered your stunningly average performance up till then have done you and do something positive about it or you wail and whine about how “unfair” you’re being treated and eventually drop out.

In reality, just like our economic remedy, it’s just another example of pain avoidance – something it seems the American public is addicted too these days. The pain avoidance that characterizes the building of false self-esteem can be crippling to a child because the child is given the wrong signals about their abilities and what reality and life expect of them throughout their early formative years. It’s a loser’s way of avoiding reality, except it isn’t the kid doing it to themselves – it’s usually the parents and other enablers who too are in the pain avoidance business.

But the one inescapable truth in this whole process , however, is the fact that reality always finds a way to get through the puny defenses that have been erected and eventually has its way. It’s a pity that many students first discover that in college and many don’t survive the discovery.  Had their parents just done their job as parents instead of trying to manage and avoid pain, the kids might be prepared to confront the reality of “hard America” and give it their best instead of being blindsided by it and crushed.

But of course, that smacks of common sense and as our experts are constantly telling us they know much more how our children should be raised than we do.  And trust me, given the results, that claim has little to do with common sense.  

UPDATE: If you don’t believe this translates into a real world problem all you have to do is listen to Bill Press – or not, as, apparently, most people choose.  Here he is in an interview describing why he wants government to ensure his reward via the Fairness Doctrine:

‘I know why I’m interested in it because I get up every morning at 3:45, I do three hours of talk radio every day from six to nine, that’s my life, it’s my business, I want to make money at it, and I want to be heard.

 
Translation: I make the effort and thus I should have the same rewards (listenership, influence and monetary) as Rush Limbaugh.

~McQ

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How Not To Handle A Recession, Yet Take Advantage Of A “Crisis”

Unproven science is apparently going to drive an administrative (instead of legislative) push to regulate carbon dioxide. In the middle of a “crisis” which President Obama calls the worst since the 1930s, the EPA is apparently going to drastically raise the cost to do business in critical sectors:

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to act for the first time to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that scientists blame for the warming of the planet, according to top Obama administration officials.

The decision, which most likely would play out in stages over a period of months, would have a profound impact on transportation, manufacturing costs and how utilities generate power. It could accelerate the progress of energy and climate change legislation in Congress and form a basis for the United States’ negotiating position at United Nations climate talks set for December in Copenhagen.

Note that none of the “change” appears to be good for the US or its consumers. Instead, we’re likely to see it put even further stress on families on the margin and drive more layoffs and higher unemployment.  But the world will love us, or at least the UN.

I don’t think there’s any question at the moment as to whether Obama is going to govern as a centrist or liberal, is there?

~McQ

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Be An Irresponsible Idiot And Make Millions

I‘m always a little amazed at stories like this.  I’m not sure why, given they happen quite often.  

A Manhattan jury awarded $2.33 million to a man who lost his leg after drunkenly stumbling onto the path of an oncoming subway train.

Now, you’d think, given that sentence, that there’s no way a jury could hold the subway folks liable because this drunk stumbled in front of their train right? Heck, he had a blood/alcohol level of .18. That’s smoked folks. That’s twice the legal limit if you’re on a highway. But check out the reasoning his attorney used and, obviously, the jury bought:

According to Dibble’s lawyer, Andrew Smiley, NYC Transit rather than Dibble bore primary responsibility for the accident because the subway driver had time to stop the train but did not.

Smiley added that Dibble’s drunkenness did not excuse the driver, who said in a court deposition that he mistook Dibble for an inert object.

“They don’t get a free pass as to why the person was on the tracks. They are trained to be able to look out for people on the tracks … and people are known to be intoxicated by night,” the lawyer said.

“Trained to be able to look out for people on the tracks”?  Uh, even if that’s true, how does that excuse Dibble of responsibilityfor being on the track?

That comes in the second line – “people are known to be intoxicated by night”?

No kidding? So tell me Mr. Smiley, had your client been on the road in the same condition, do you supposed a state trooper would have just said,  “aw forget it, sir. People get drunk at night. Take it easy?”

And you can bet your house (or the bailout you’re getting for it) that the state trooper would have only held one person responsible for the state Mr. Dibble was in at the time he stopped him.

In this case, my guess is two things happened. One – Mr. Smiley made sure that Mr. Dibble appeared in court looking as pathetic as one could look and used that to play on the sympathy of the jury. Emotional theater. And, two, the MTA was represented by lawyers (not victims) and was thus easy to ignore emotionally. And besides, I’m sure the New Yorkers felt the MTA had deep pockets or insurance or something with which to pay this pathetic creature, right? Of course if their fares go up because of this, they’ll be the first to bitch as well.

But back to the trial. This was my favorite part:

The jury ruled Tuesday that Dibble was 35 percent responsible for the accident, so his monetary compensation was also reduced by 35 percent — from $3,594,943 to $2,336,713.

Really? Good thing I wasn’t on that jury because at worst, it would have been a hung jury. I, unlike this bunch, would have found Mr. Dibble 100% responsible for being where he was and in the condition he was in when the train hit him, and he wouldn’t have gotten a red cent.

If that makes me a cruel and heartless you know what, well so be it.

~McQ

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Jack’s Friends

Political Wire writes that tomorrow might be an interesting day in Congress, corruption-wise.  It seems that some things have been going on around Congressman John Murtha (D-PA) which may not be entirely copacetic.

There’s a potentially big story brewing on Capitol Hill…  Apparently 104 members of Congress of both parties — 42 Republicans and 62 Democrats — secured earmarks for a lobbying firm linked to Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) in a single bill. The earmarks were inserted in a bill Murtha controlled as the defense appropriations subcommittee chairman.

It looks like business as usual, of course, until we learn that the company’s executives and clients seem to be big, big political donors to Rep. Murtha.

So, I guess it is business as usual.

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Russia Freezes Iranian Missile Sale

An interesting story out of Russia via the Jerusalem Post. And while good news, albeit of a temporary nature I’m sure, I’m betting there is much more to this than meets the eye.  This is about positioning in upcoming missile defense talks with the US:

Russia has frozen the sale of the state-of-the-art S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Wednesday.

Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar was reportedly informed of the decision by his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov on his visit to Moscow on Wednesday.

Russia said the delivery of the systems would be delayed at least until the upcoming meeting between President Dmitry Medvedev and his US counterpart, Barack Obama. Kommersant cited Russia’s wish to prevent hindering dialogue with the new US administration.

Military diplomatic sources were quoted by Kommersant as saying that the issue had been the focus of Najjar’s visit.

Of course the important point is the sale is frozen, not canceled. While that’s good news for both the US and Israel (the S-300 system is reported to be a very good air defense system against not just aircraft, but cruise missiles), it may not be any more than a temporary sop to the Americans and a reminder to the Iranians that Russia is their major backer and can pull that backing at any time. And, interestingly, there’s one other reason (or at least so Israel claims):

Israel Radio quoted Moscow sources as saying that apart form the gesture to the Americans, Russia also wanted to avoid ruining a $100 million drone purchase from Israel.

I say interesting because the S-300 sale is an $800 million sale. You jeopardize an 800 million sale for a 100 million purchase? Or do you grab the 100 mil buy because you know the 800 mil sale is in the bag? I’d say the latter, meaning the freeze is most likely for show only. Unless, of course, the Russians are just incredibly stupid businessmen.

I don’t think they are, although they’re not as clever in other areas as they sometimes think. This seems to me to be a very crude (but probably effective) set up for an “aw gee and here we made this great gesture toward working with you and this is how you act?” result of our first meeting with Russia. Absolute world opinion gold for Putin and the boys if they manage it correctly and, of course, the perfect opportunity to then unfreeze the sale.  Can anyone guess who’d end up being embarrassed by such a scenario?

~McQ

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The Culture Of Corruption On Steriods

The latest to be caught up in it is Rahm Emanuel:

News broke last week that Rahm Emanuel, now White House chief of staff, lived rent- free for years in the home of Rep. Rosa De Lauro (D-Conn.) – and failed to disclose the gift, as congressional ethics rules mandate. But this is only the tip of Emanuel’s previously undislosed ethics problems.

One issue is the work Emanuel tossed the way of De Lauro’s husband. But the bigger one goes back to Emanuel’s days on the board of now-bankrupt mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

So, lived free for 5 years and didn’t pay taxes on the gift (which, frankly doesn’t particularly bother me, but since Democrats would crucify a Republican official who did the same thing, I think hoisting a Dems on the same petard is perfectly acceptable), allegedly threw business into the lap of the person who was providing the gift, and fiddled while Freddie Mac burned.

To me the most serious of the three is the last. I see it as gross dereliction of duty. FM was fined 50 million bucks while Emanuel was paid $262,000 (speaking of fat cats) for obviously doing nothing as a FM board member during the time for which the fines were assessed. It isn’t a ‘golden parachute’ or a bonus for failure, but it is darn close.

I’d say a tax audit is called for, but then since Timothy Geithner would have to call for it, so nevermind.

Then there’s the ongoing probe into supporters of John Murtha which has now widened to include him.  Allegations have surfaced that he may have broken campaign-finance laws during a fundraiser held by the same people now under FBI investigation.  I’m just shocked, shocked I tell you!  Then there’s Charlie Rangel.

And Roland Burris? Heh … “Oh, yeah, um by the way, I did offer to raise money for the ex-gov.  Somehow that just slipped my mind during the hearings.”

Tell me again how it is now so much more ethical and honest in Washington DC since the Democrats took over?  Oh, and transparant.  That too.

“Just words …”

~McQ

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