Monday, September 28, 2009

War Photos

Here is a round up of the war photos that changed history.

Here is an article about Eddie Adams and the effect of his most famous photo.

Here is NPR's archive of Adams' photos from Vietnam. As a former Marine he had unprecedented access.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mark Bowden on Afghanistan

Mark Bowden writes that Obama should learn from what Bush did right on Iraq.

It is interesting that liberals are the ones turning away from counter-insurgency in that the whole theory of CI is "as warm and fuzzy as war can get." It is about protecting people and improving their lives. Half of it is stuff they do in the peace core. Of course, the ultimate goal of being nice to people is to get them to tell you where the people you want to kill are hiding so you can kill them. Still, since the main alternative advocated by the opponents of the counter-insurgency approach in Afghanistan is to let the Taliban have the villages, let them send girls back home to be traded like cattle or have their faces splashed with acid if they dare to learn how to read and at the same time have our soldiers stay off shore and call in the occasional air strike to assassinate the heads of the Al Qaeda organization from un-piloted drones, these reservations about the morality of a counter insurgency strategy seem misplaced.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Comparative Protests

Don Surber compares the protests of the left and the right as well as the mass media coverage thereof. A half million conservatives show up on the capitol mall only to leave the place cleaner than they found it and the Republic is under threat of violence, but a bunch of guys some of whom are wearing masks and throwing stones at the police protest and it is described as "generally peaceful." Double standard? With all the hand wringing that has accompanied the stray overwrought piece of rhetoric from the tea party movement we can only imagine the furor that would have attended a few assaults on the police.

Wrong Title

This LA Times blog piece notes the irony of the Obama policy and asks if Hillary wasn't right? But shouldn't the title be "Was Bush Right?"

The Pope on Capitalism

David Nirenberg looks into the Pope's new encyclical on the economy and finds that, yes, the Pope is Catholic and Nirenberg seems to find that a bit quaint. Still, Nirenberg takes the Pope's central argument seriously. And what is that argument? That capitalism requires love, not only self-interest, to function.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Three terrorist plots

Three terrorist plots foiled in the same few days. It seems like the Obama effect has not solved all our problems. Maybe Obama needs to apologize more?

In the meantime our administration is busy convincing itself that abandoning the people of Afghanistan to the tender mercies of the Taliban. Obama's commitments apparently mean nothing.

The great story our elites are telling themselves is that the Afghan government is lacks legitimacy. Legitimacy is the key to winning the counter insurgency. Since the government is not legitimate because some votes were stolen then there is no sense stretching this out. The great Oneness has decided that the facts on the ground have changed.

Our entire liberal elite and a good portion of the conservatives are convincing themselves of a story. They are constructing a narrative for themselves to justify cutting and running. they have found a villain to ease their consciences.

But what has changed really? was the government there not always corrupt? is there a third world government that is not? It seems a bit odd to be all the sudden worried about the propriety of elections when for years we have kowtowed to autocracies of various stripes.

They are asking the wrong question. Whether the people of Afghanistan voted for Karzai or not they certainly voted against the Taliban. The other major candidates were if anything more anti-Taliban than the Karzai government. There is no sense or suggestion that the people in Afghanistan are for the Taliban or for easing up on them.

Nor is there any sense that the reason that people who hesitate to cooperate with us are motivated by dissatisfaction with the electoral process; they are afraid of people coming and cutting their throats.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I listened to a report on NPR on the Honduras situation we have created but the interesting thing was that in their discussion they constantly referred to it as a military coup without ever mentioning the Constitution, the Supreme Court Order or the Parliamentary vote. "When they own the information, they can bend it all they want..."

An item from the Contentions Blog.

Work incentives

Giving benefits to the middle class based on earnings can create worse work disincentives than taxes. Here is a story about a woman who is facing a 79% marginal tax rate on her income above 60,000 because of foregone middle-class benefits like mortgage relief and college subsidies.

Careful what you dream

The Europeans have told themselves for years that their problems were caused by America's confrontational attitudes and actions. The corrallary is that if only we would unilaterally conciliate our enemies the Europeans' security troubles would go away. Now that the Obama administration is putting that theory into practice, though, they are starting to get worried. The decision to give up missile defense without getting anything in return has left some of them sounding a little worried.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

They can get anybody

Harvey Silvergate's new book on how the definitions of crimes and torts have expanded so greatly that the average professional commits three crimes a day. Moral: anyone who talks to a fed without a lawyer is a fool.

Don't worry, he went to Harvard

So it turns out that all the cash for clunkers program did was move sales around the calendar. Purchases that would have been spread out among a few months were bunched up in August. Most of the 3 billion went to foreign auto makers (though a hefty percentage made their cars here) and the dealers that were the main objects of this largess? They are now having cash flow problems because they are not getting reimbursed by the government for the cars they had to pay for to put on the lot to sell. These people can't even give away money. It is a sort of a corollary to Orwell's dictum that there are some things so self-evidently absurd that only an intellectual could believe them: There are some things so simple that only a team of Harvard trained lawyers and economists could screw them up.

Ee Tu Swen?

Sweden slashes income taxes to spur growth.  Now there is an idea from Sweden we could endorse.

Our legal system at work

Insane killer escapes on furlough to county fair. Just a little tidbit to file away for the next time someone complains about the obtuseness of such results of popular referendums like 'Three Strikes and Your Out' laws asks you, "Why won't we let our judges use their expertise?"

Reading Saul Alinsky

I have had a great time reading Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals". He is a terrific writer and a serious thinker.

His theorizing is very relevant to studying and understanding terrorism not because he believed in violence--though he appears to have been threatened by it on more than one occasion--but because he sees the world as conflict between the good guys and the bad guys and thinks that whether an action helps the good guys or the bad guys should be the standard by which the morality of all other actions and adherence to all other norms should be judged. The similarity of this doctrine to that of terrorists is obvious enough. It is explicitly Machiavellian and indeed he describes his book as a Machiavelli for the have nots.

Also, though there is no advocacy of violence in the book there is a lot of bending and breaking of rules and norms of good manners.

He also has lots of great suggestions and principles for any political conflict whether it is with the haves or with anyone else. An underlying principle is that what you are doing in a conflict is trying to get the other side to react. It is the reaction or over reaction of the other side that helps your side. Ridicule is a great weapon from this point of view. For one thing it is fun. for another it makes the other side mad and more likely to do something stupid.

I have been thinking of this as I have been watching the tea parties and the reactions to them. Everyone has focused on the shouting at the town hall meetings as evidence of the right using the left's tactics. That is a dumbing down of the Alinsky's theory (I know less about his practice). He does advocate a form of Mau Mauing in a circumstance where the have nots are completely disorganized and convinced of their own powerlessness but it is only a minor part of the work, only a couple of pages. What seems more in the spirit of Alinsky is the use of humor.

Here is a link to some t-shirts for sale with slogans from the signs at some of the recent tea-parties. I particularly like the one that says, "It doesn't matter what this sign says, you'll call it racist anyway." I also liked, "Obama lies, Grandma dies." That seems to me to be Alinsky-like in spirit and result. It is taking aim at one of the main pretenses of the government party's legitimating myths, that the real reason anyone opposes it is because of racism. And the result, the angry accusations of racism from some of the left commentariate following Jimmy Carter's statement has been just what Alinsky would have predicted and hoped for. "We do not call anyone that disagrees with us racists, you racists!"

Finally, one of the people that best understands and uses Alinsky's principles, the current occupant of the White House, has declined to take the bait. That is just what Alinsky would have recommended it seems to me. Good thing the left doesn't have Alinsky's street smarts anymore.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Fight for Afghanistan

Our friends in Afghanistan.

I watched a report on CNN with Christian Amanpore with which I completely agreed. (at least with the part I saw). there is a large group of young people that want to join the modern world. They hate the Taliban. they want to join the free world and are willing to fight for it "if only issued the invitation."

Yet we do not issue the invitation. We assume these unspeakable brutes speak for the true Afghanistan.

I think we have been somehow sucked into a belief system that views the cleavage in world politics as being between authentic indigenous cultures and the false, capitalistic, exploitative, phony cultures of the West (or imposed by the West). So when the Taliban attack those manning the voting booths we interpret it as the authentic Afghanistan rejecting the false, inauthentic democracy of the West.

If it happened here we would surely be open to (or indeed, be certain of) the proposition that the people trying to undermine the conduct of an election were not representative of us, indeed it is precisely because they are unrepresentative that they resort to such methods.

The fact is that a small, unrepresentative fringe is trying to impose a 14th century system on a struggling country that has done a lot for us. If ever there were a case for human rights motivated intervention that lined up clearly with real-politic considerations lined up with liberal internationalists principles surely this is it. And yet we have both ends conspiring against the middle to come up with good reasons to abandon the fight.

Make no mistake about what inference the Jihadis will draw from our retreat.

The Fight for Afghanistan

Our friends in Afghanistan.

I watched a report on CNN with Christian Amanpore with which I completely agreed. (at least with the part I saw). there is a large group of young people that want to join the modern world. They hate the Taliban. they want to join the free world and are willing to fight for it "if only issued the invitation."

Yet we do not issue the invitation. We assume these unspeakable brutes speak for the true Afghanistan.

I think we have been somehow sucked into a belief system that views the cleavage in world politics as being between authentic indigenous cultures and the false, capitalistic, exploitative, phony cultures of the West (or imposed by the West). So when the Taliban attack those manning the voting booths we interpret it as the authentic Afghanistan rejecting the false, inauthentic democracy of the West.

If it happened here we would surely be open to (or indeed, be certain of) the proposition that the people trying to undermine the conduct of an election were not representative of us, indeed it is precisely because they are unrepresentative that they resort to such methods.

The fact is that a small, unrepresentative fringe is trying to impose a 14th century system on a struggling country that has done a lot for us. If ever there were a case for human rights motivated intervention that lined up clearly with real-politic considerations lined up with liberal internationalists principles surely this is it. And yet we have both ends conspiring against the middle to come up with good reasons to abandon the fight.

Make no mistake about what inference the Jihadis will draw from our retreat.

The most intellegent thing said by Obama so far

"He's a jackass."

Obama's sister Souljah moment? Are his complaints real or part of the Kabuki?

In any case, since when have pre-interview comments been off limits? Reagan's "We begin bombing in five minutes," comments weren't treated as off limits.

Fox and the Hen House

I have argued before that the financial crisis played out as if the fox were not only caught robbing the hen house but had been given an award for rescuing the chicken.

Now that may be ending.

It seems that the ACORN scandal may be giving people a reason to take a second look at the financial crisis. The reason the financial institutions failed had nothing to do with breaching the Glass Stengal "Chinese Wall" between investment banking and commercial banking. It had everything to do with the bad housing loans that were made to people that could not pay those loans back. What caused evil bankers to suddenly start making loans to people that could not pay back. they were told to stop being so "evil." they were told to stop "red lining" to stop having such high standards for making loans. They were told to start making more loans and they found that with Freddie and Fannie they found that they could sell the loans to the people that insisted they make them--the government.

ACORN's role in this was probably peripheral but it was almost certainly bad. All of the sudden the idea that the bad loans that went out might have had something to do with the role played by ACORN in pressuring banks to make them and in doing the paper work that originated them does not seem so far fetched. The noble community organizer story is no longer serviceable as a shield for the left.

New development: don't worry acorn, help is on the way. the public employment union has decided to endorse ACORN and denounce the organization's attackers'.

The story could be even larger. the president brought the census into the whitehouse for the first time in history. They then decide that ACORN will be one of the prime subcontractors. Gee, what could go wrong? Most of the arguments about ACORN had been rather esoteric until now, but this is something anyone can understand. whatever one may think of the organizaiton, the idea of turning over the census to these people strikes most people as being absure.

Arugment ad Hitlerum

The ruling out of the Hitler argument as being automatically out of order, as being "hateful" (whatever that means) is a great disservice to our public discourse. When ever one makes a note of similarity between a contemporary figure and the policies of the Nazi/Fascist regime one is assumed to be imputing anti-semitism and genocidal intentions to a political opponent. But the are reasons to feel uneasy about similarities with the national socialists are disturbing for reasons having nothing to do with civil liberties, let alone genocide.

For the record I would like to say that those who compared Bush to Hitler not only had every right to do so they had a duty to do so. If they genuinely thought that was what Bush was and where his policies were tending they had a duty to point it out to their fellow country men.

I think the excellent book by Jonah Goldberg was ill served by some of his own writing. it is a very subtle and i think very profoundly true point.

There are in fact a lot of things to be learned from the example of Nazi Germany but we are not allowed to learn or even investigate them because any analogy involving the Nazi's is automatically viewed as illegitimate and an attempt to demagogue the issue.

One thing that is worth noting is that a lot of Hitler's power came not only from his willingness to use extra legal violence but his control of large parts of the economy. His resource dependency based power gave him a low cost way to stifle political dissent.

The rationales and rhetoric surrounding this expansion of government power was explicitly anti-capitalist, a fact that is often lost because the rhetoric was also explicitly (vociferously) anti-communist. Today his policies would be called third-way. He brought the power into the government while allowing private ownership. This makes sense. The good part was the power, what fun is it running a shoe factory? By expanding the power of the government to set prices and control market entry and exit the Nazi's were able to extract rents from productive businesses. It also gave them to power to have the noisome critic frozen out of the economy. It was the best a dictator could ask for: power without responsibility.

The transfer of power and decision making authority from the private sector to the federal government, the cult-like aspects of the Obama administration and the insouciant attitude toward rules, procedures and constitutional checks and balances, the affinity they seem to show for Claudioism in Latin America--all of these are in some important and disturbing ways similar to the National Socialist movement. We should be able to talk about this and consider the implications.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Seducitons of Bureaucracy

Denis Cortese is on C-Span here at Pizza Shack attempting to make an argument for Obama care but really making the argument for greater privatization if anything.

He outlines how the Mayo Clinic saved a lot of money and increased the quality of life with some older patients with chronic conditions by switching to a wellness, nurse based outpatient model of preventive care rather than an in hospital treatment model.  then he comes to the payoff--this better and cheaper outcome was not compensated for by medicare.  In fact they did not make a dime.

he goes on to highlight a number of other programs that have achieved the same thing. The interesting thing is that examples he gives are private providers.  He thinks this is an argument for taking what the best providers and insurance companies do and imposing it through medicare. But that assumes that all of this can be captured in a rule book and put in to practice by a bureaucracy that faces no, and will under Obama care face even less, competition.  Wouldn't most natural inference from his story be to say that we should have lots of different insurance providers competing on the basis of cost and quality and let the government provide its assistance to consumers in the form of vouchers?  In any case, how can a story about the perverse incentives created by a government program, shown to be perverse by contrasting those outcomes with those of a government system, be an argument for a government system?

Obama Care--Michelle Style

Fausta’s Blog
Obama, in her brief speech to the vendors and patrons, handled the affordability issue by pointing out that people who pay with food stamps would get double the coupon value at the market. Even then, though, it’s hard to imagine somebody using food stamps to buy what the market offered: $19 bison steak from Gunpowder Bison, organic dandelion greens for $12 per pound from Blueberry Hill Vegetables, the Piedmont Reserve cheese from Everson Dairy at $29 a pound. Rounding out the potential shopping cart: $4 for a piece of “walnut dacquoise” from the Praline Bakery, $9 for a jumbo crab cake at Chris’s Marketplace, $8 for a loaf of cranberry-walnut bread and $32 for a bolt of yarn.

Ah yes, this will be political gold once the price increases from Cap and Trade, the "or pay" part of health care and the inflation from the Obama spending spree hits.  Imagine the people with jobs watching the value in their pay checks getting chewed to nothing by the consequences of Obamanomics being told "Don't worry, when you are on food stamps you will get two-for-one a the organic grocery store."  

Irving Kristol

Irving Kristol has died today at the age of 89. He was known as the Father of what goes by the name of Neo-Conservatism. He was my personal hero. He will be greatly missed.

Here is an archive of all of his articles for Commentary.

Saying things that aren't true

So it turns out that some of the anecdotes used in Obama's speech were, what is the word, untrue.

The interesting thing that I would like to know is in how many other countries is the life-extending stem cell treatment that was delayed for three weeks by the evil insurance company available at all? My guess is that there are few socialized medicine countries that are paying for this kind of treatment at all. I would be quite surprised if they paid for it in Britain for instance.

And even if the treatment is available elsewhere is it available in three weeks? Most of the waiting times I hear about even for simple tests seem to be that long or longer abroad. Of course someone could do so real research and prove me wrong. I would welcome their comments on the blog if they do. I suspect their resume might be welcome at the white house as well.

I wonder if the Congress will reprimand the President for making false statements in from of Congress? Maybe that Joe Wilson guy would be willing chime in?

Keep your friends close?

Maybe it is some kind of deeply, well thought out maneuver?  We sell out Poland and convince the Russians that our relationship is secure so that we can find out who the traitor is in our family?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chris Matthews: heads we win, tails you lose

Maximum feasible wackiness.

He begins the program asking how it could be that the atmosphere of hate created by right wing hatred of Kennedy could have somehow prompted a leftest like Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate the president. But isn't it more likely that one had nothing to do with the other? How can the right wing get blamed for acts of violence committed by people on the right that don't happen and also get blamed for acts of violence committed by people on the left that actually do happen?

Later he says something to the effect of how should we deal with people that call people Nazis and compare them with animals? Now I didn't much mind it much at the time, but I remember the Bushitler stuff starting pretty early on and seeing the "Bush is a Chimp" side the morning he was elected. I must admit the last one was pretty funny.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It just gets better and better

Update: From instapundit, it turns out that the ACORN story has been picked up by John Stewart. Now you know this will be a real story. The NYTs can keep the lid on something that is on Fox but it can't shut John Stewart up.

Update: the link above may not work because of the volume of traffic. Here is a link to instapundit where I originally found it (just scroll down).

The Acorn Scandal: You cannot make this stuff up. I can't even make myself write what is in the latest Acron video.

Here is a link to Stanley Kurtz' piece in the National Review from last year about Obama's ties with Acorn.

Today, here is a round up of what is being said in the MSM about the scandal. NPR think it is just about being in a poor neighborhood and needing more training.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Off Shore Balancing

Tom Donnelly argues that the British did not keep their empire by off-shore balancing, drawing on Brenden Simms' argument in "Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Just in case you were wondering

Huffington Post piece on the modern filibuster, or "How come we never talk anymore?"

The Rancor and Asperity of Party Politics

Churchill's private dinning club had in its bylaws a rule that nothing shall be done to abridge the rancor and Asperity of party politics.

Rancor has gotten an unjustifiably bad name in politics. Show me two people having a civil and constructive disagreement and I'll show you two people discussing trivia, or worse, an academic conference.

Most of the time when people make decisions about what policy to support it has little to do with our estimation of the substance of the policy and a lot to do with whether or not we trust the people proposing the policy. Therefore, it is perfectly natural and understandable that practical politicians question the motives and integrity of their opponents. Doing so is not partisan bickering, but the very meat of politics. The question people are asking themselves is "Do I trust these guys?" Asking a politician not to address that issue is to hobble their ability to speak to the real issue at hand. Thus, to ask the president to be a dignified and unifying figure and at the same time stump for his own policies, is unfair. The requirements of being a dignified head of state and effective political leader contradict one another. Needless to say, the requirement that it places on his opponents is to treat him with polite deference is equally burdensome, unfair and impractical.

This most recent speech by the president exposes the contradictions of hybrid approach. The president, as political leader, quite properly called his opponents liars. He has every right to do so.

But his position as head of state puts his audience an odd position. Obviously, the opposition cannot retaliate in kind.

We should go back to the old rule that there is no (or virtually no) applause during the head of state’s speech and the head of state saves his partisan policy advocacy for direct addresses and other venues. It is just strange to ask the opposition to sit there politely while their honesty and integrity is attacked while the rest of the room erupts in rapturous applause.

You mean, he was lying?

The link above goes to Megan McArdle's post on the sudden decline in the uninsured from 47 million to 30 million in the President's speech.

Now the difference is accounted for by the exclusion of aliens (illegal and legal). So this means that when they were using the 47 million figure they WERE including aliens, no? So that means that up until the speech anyone listening to the President talking about his plan to insure the 47 million uninsured "Americans" (as they were always described, meaning, apparently, only that they were residing in America) they would have had every right to assume that the President planned to insure illegal aliens, no? And unless Congressman Wilson had been given advance notice of the President's new plan he could have reasonably assumed that the plan, which had pointedly excluded any means for ensuring that the participants are not illegal aliens, did, in fact, cover illegal aliens. Am I missing something here?

What did you say Scoob? Mr. Jenkins is a racist?

I could link to an article claiming that the opposition to Obama is based on racism but why bother? It is practically every article.

It reminds me of Scooby Doo. It was a mystery cartoon where there would be this ghost terrorizing the people in an old house (or a monster or something) and in the end Scooby would stumble on to the secret: it would turn out to be old Mr. Jenkins, the kindly caretaker or something who was pretending to be a ghost to scare people away and take over the property himself. Around the time I turned 8 I started to notice that whatever the set up the ending was always the same. someone you had met earlier was faking the whole thing for their personal gain.

That is what every defense of Obama seems like to me now. The good people of the town are terrorized and confused by some clever sounding argument but Scoob stumbles on to the real reason: racism! It doesn't really matter what the set up is. You don't really think John McCain would be a better president, that the government won't run health care any better than it runs the post office, that terrorism isn't best dealt with as a criminal act--the real reason you take these positions is....They're racists!

Like I said, and then I turned 8.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Let's police our fringes

Krauthammer takes on the real fringe figure in American politics: the "Truthers."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obama for King!

The recent unfortunate outburst by the Congressman Wilson has brought renewed attention to the things that divide us as Americans, but it least highlights one issue on which we should all, as Americans, agree: the United States must become a monarchy.

Allow me to explain. United States differs from the great majority of democracies in having a presidential system. The President is both the head of state and a partisan politician. This creates an inevitable tension.

The head of state represents all Americans. He stands for all of us when he greets foreign leaders, presides over national ceremonies, issues proclamations of national thanksgiving and mourning, and lights the national Christmas tree. As he is the representative of all Americans, he should be revered by all Americans.

But he is also a practicing politician. He must take a side on the most contentious political and moral issues of the day. As they are contentious, in taking a position he must represent only some Americas. In saying that some Americans are right he must say that some are wrong. To do his job he must tell a great many, perhaps even a majority of Americans, that what they deeply believe is wrong. Indeed, he must often tell them that their interests are opposed to that of all Americans. He must tell them that the people they are following are misleading them, that they are liars.

And when he is in his role of practicing politician, telling a good portion of his fellow Americans that their most deeply held convictions are false and injurious, it is only natural that those Americans should not revere him. It is only reasonable to expect them to dislike him, be angry, to want to tell him that he is wrong, and that he is the liar.

A head of state is rightly revered; a head of government is rightly reviled. Combining the two roles in one person leads to problems.

Separating the jobs of head of state and partisan political leader would solve this problem. There would be a unifying figurehead leader to whom all showed deference and in return said nothing very important, and a scrappy partisan arguer who could call his opponents fools and worse and could be answered in kind.

Many people have commented on the trend toward incivility in our politics that has culminated in Mr. Wilson's rude outburst. But there has been a trend even more deadly to democratic politics, something I call hyper-civility. Standing in the well of Congress the president's role as head of state is the most salient. As our head of state we have to applaud for him. This dreary necessity of applauding for everything the head of state says has gotten more and more onerous over the last few decades. Listen to FDR's address on the bombing of Pearl Harbor or Winston Churchill's speech to Congress. The applause spontaneously breaks out at a couple points in the speeches but is mainly held till the end.

Today we politicians seem to be obliged to applaud every other sentence. The more vacuous the platitude the greater the obligation to stand and clap or risk being called unpatriotic. If the President mouths some inanity about “the future of America’s children,” everyone must stand and applaud, since who could be against the future of America’s children. The applause signifies nothing but compliance with the ritual.

And the ritual is boring. In Great Britain the shouts of approval are just as ritualized and meaningless. But in Great Britain the Prime Minister is merely another politician, so the ritualized shouts of support can be, without loss of decorum, answered with hoots of derision. No one is accused of being disloyal or petty for standing up for his beliefs, let alone for refusing to stand up for one’s opponents. They are professional politicians who have devoted their lives to fighting for something. They suffer no criticism for acting like it.

A return to monarchy would solve all of these problems and confer many new benefits. The elected president would be free to be a practicing politician. He could come out and say his opponents are lying without having to go through all of the "let us work together as Americans" wind up in his opponents could answer in kind. It is likely to be more informative and certain to be more entertaining.

As for the monarch, the benefits of having a queen or king are myriad. Tourists love royalty. So do magazines and journalists. We could all enjoy the next good sex scandal without having to worry about interrupting the operation of government as it did during the Clinton years. And it would be a great tourist attraction.

Obama would be perfect. True he would have to give up some power, but he's shown precious little interest in the actual details of legislation or in serious policy debate. Whenever he has gone off teleprompter in the health care debate he has resembled nothing so much as an undergrad called on in a class discussion for which he has neglected to do the readings. They have ranged from dubious and out of date—doctors skipping preventive care because amputations and tonsillectomies pay better—to just plain weird—red pill/blue pill? Even with the teleprompter there have been a few slip ups. The uninsured seem to have gone from 47 million to 30 million over night and without explanation—One might almost wonder if the previous figure weren’t, well, a lie.

On the other hand his talent for giving speeches is universally acknowledged.

Reading speeches from a teleprompter full of platitudes that delight foreigners—now there's a job for which we can all agree Obama is perfect.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A useful look at how our national debt got out of control

Hint: It involved both parties.

This article from the Heritage Foundation not surprisingly puts more blame on Democrats than on Republicans, but the main story is institutional. The Congress has fewer incentives to control spending and what few it had were undermined by the demise of the seniority system. As the Congress has gained power at the expense of the Presidency in budgetary matters the result has been greater deficits.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Media Bubble Beware

Mickey Kaus has a great, short post on the NYTs and the media bubble. The mass media have not covered the story of Van Jones even though the story has been on the web for a couple of weeks. Now, the day after he resigns, readers of the NYTs and other mainstream outlets have no real idea why he resigned. The description in the NYTs story as Kaus outlines it seems particularly distorting.

This is an unforeseen by-product of the media's liberal leanings. They did not cover the Van Johnson story either because it did not reflect well on the Obama administration and they did not want to be seen as helping the enemy or because the associations that Van Jones had with organizations seen by many as being extreme just did not strike them as being that offensive or important. Either way, the media's solicitude for the Obama administration has done their readers and particularly the supporters of the Obama administration a disservice. If you really wanted to help the Obama administration you would be on these stories, vetting these guys and giving those who would support them a heads up so they can prepare and help defend the administration.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The judicialization of international relations

Why is it that Pinochet must be pursued to his dying bed in the interests of international justice but the guy who murders hundreds get to be sent home after serving about 10 days per life? The thing seems to be to have a trial but once you have had the trial who cares about whether the guy serves his sentence. Doesn't this point to a central problem with using courts to address the challenges of international relations and human rights? Even if you do catch the guy that is "responsible" how does his sitting in a jail cell solve anything? Massive violations of human rights should be dealt with by massive applications of force to stop them at the time they are happening. And mass murder at the behest of a state leader should be treated as an act of war upon the states in which the victims reside.


The AP reports this as terrorism, though if no one is hurt and they are only damaging property it seems more like eco-vandalism, no?

Obama advisor: only white kids do that

Van Jones states that only white kids commit mass school shootings. It sounds like the sort of thing that might be true, though the sample is so small that it might not mean much even if it is true. But it turns out not to be true. The link above leads to Helen Smith's "reality based" discussion.

Here is Mark Steyn's take on Van Jones' signing of a petition asking for investigation into whether the 9/11 attacks were an inside job. His take-away: if you really thought there was reason to investigate you wouldn't sign a petition asking for an investigation. After all, a regime ready to bump off 3000 citizens to justify a small war would think nothing of bumping off a couple of whistle blowers.

Never trust a reporter

An AP reporter has broken her agreement to not publish photos of the some of the Marines she was embedded with. What kind of person breaks his word to people that have protected him with their lives (though in this case the reporter was a woman)? Politico reports Robert Gates' reaction.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Death Panels--Don't be silly

The British are doing their part to kill Obama care. Here is a report about the growing dissatisfaction among the British public with the NHS's practice of cutting off food and fluids and sedating patients they judge to be near death. Turns out the sedation also suppresses signs of recovery and that judging the imminence of death is an imperfect science.

The Bureaucratic Politics of Pollution at the EPA

The EPA is unilaterally rewriting the law that it just got threw rewriting by means of implementing regulations. It has allowed itself to ignore the 250 ton threshold in the application of its proposed limits on CO2 in order to apply the limits to industries and to avoid having to apply the limits to politically popular institutions and groups (like, well, just about everyone else).

Today's Word: Iatrogenic

Really interesting discussion of how we should do expected value calculations in the case of exotic new cancer treatments from Megan McArdle. I am guessing that "iatrogenic" means a treatment that at least in some cases makes your disease or illness worse.

The Case for Government Provision

Kristof makes the argument for government run health care as well as I have ever seen it made. He cites a Rand corporation study claiming that the VA is better run than private hospitals on average as well as patient satisfaction surveys in which Medicare compares favorably with Private Health Insurance. These are the arguments opponents of Obama care should be addressing themselves to.

The People revolt against the whole governing class

Daniel Henninger argues that the world wide "lumpen electorate" is rising up against the governing class over the issue of indebtedness. The State and its dependents have increased the debt burden on almost all the industrialized countries to levels that strike the "little people" (the ones that actually pay their taxes as opposed to the ones that only collect them) as unsustainable.

Hope and Change from his oneness

I would find this a lot funnier if I weren't starting to look more and more like Kim il Jong the older I get.

Here is Mark Steyn's take on building the connection between American children and the Dear Changiness.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Rent Seeking 101: Its for the children

The toy makers that brought you the lead tainted toy scare have now gotten an exemption from the very the regulation that their malfeasance occasioned. Mattel toy company will not have to send its toys to be tested by third parties but will be allowed to use its own labs in Mexico and elsewhere. Small domestic manufactures of everything from books to clothes for kids will have to bear this burdensome expense while the big companies that caused the problem will get around it. Indeed, they profit from having another barrier to entry set up against their competitors. The most wretched rent-seeking schemes so often seem to involve children.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Socratic Method

Megan McArdle using the Socratic method to argue, tu guoque, that if the people calling Bush a Fascist should not be held responsible for any nut case that tried to assassinate him then neither should those applying similarly overheated rhetoric to Obama be held responsible for any one that attempts to use violence Obama. Note how she doesn't try to shout her interlocutor down and allows her to state her own case, and how McArdle uses her interlocutor's own words as much as possible in counter argument.