Wednesday, September 30, 2009

There Will Be Anarchy

When last we discussed the swine flu. . . er, H1N1, you may recall the World Health Organization’s marketing-driven declaration that we were all going to die. Well, they’re back. Apparently, the nebulous death threat wasn’t working, so now they’re warning that the H1N1 not only brings death, it brings anarchy -- the two swine of the hampocalypse -- and they’ve included a ransom demand. I’d tell you all about this, but I’m still feeling too lazy, so I’m just going to reprint this article too. . .
“UN Report Says Hamdemic May Result In Anarchy”
“Demands £900m In Small Unmarked Bills”
The swine flu hamdemic could kill millions and cause anarchy around the world unless rich nations pay the United Nations £900m, says a UN report leaked to the UK Observer. The report notes that while only 28 people have died in India, 36 in Britain and 80 in Australia so far, the World Health Organization is confident that the swine flu will improve its potency.

Said, Gregory Hartl of the WHO, “[the swine flu]’s been underperforming, but we think it will step up its game soon and present us with a real shakedown opportunity.”

When asked if he thought rich world health ministers would fall for the obviously false report and pay the money, Hartl noted, “Those guys are some of the dumbest ministers in government, rock stupid. They wouldn’t know the difference between a flu and a flute. They’ll fall for anything.” He then added that most health ministers spent their time getting drunk and trying to count their toes.

“What we need to tell them,” Hartl continued even after being told he was on tape, “is that this hamdemic will cause anarchy. We made a mistake earlier telling everyone that they were going to die. If no one survives, then no one can blame the minister. So we adjusted our data.”

When asked how they came up with the £900m figure, Hartl said that it sounded like a nice round number, and he thought he'd really like to have that much money.

To ensure that health ministers are good and scared, the report paints a disastrous picture of the hampocalypse:
“Countries where health services are overburdened by diseases, such as HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, malaria, megalomania, and type II aggressive jock itch, as well as every other country, will have difficulty managing the surge of cases. This will force workers to stay home, where they will die without health care. As they die, the electricity and water sectors will not be able to maintain services. Zombism is only a hop skip and a jump away at that moment.”
The report continues, “IF suppliers of fuel, food, telecommunications, finance and transportation stop working, the effect could be disastrous. Could? And IF everyone caught swine flu and died, then this could certainly be a scenario one could envision. Naturally, the blame would fall squarely on health ministers, who could have stopped all of this if they’d only sent £900m in small unmarked bills to the office of Gregory Hartl at the WHO. A small price to pay indeed to prevent anarchy.”

But would anyone buy this? Unfortunately for the WHO, no. When the report was first released, Sir Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer of Britain’s Health Protection Agency misread one of the footnotes in the report, causing him to believe that the most likely carriers of the swine flu would be children.

“They’re really insidious, leaving snot everywhere. . . very unsanitary creatures.” Thus rather than pay their share of the £900m, Sir Liam and the National Health Services have instead embarked on a campaign to eradicate children, which they view as a root cause of the disease. “We need to stamp out children.” He then demonstrated how to protect yourself from the swine flu should you come in contact with a child by covering your face.

Sir Liam also warned, “Don’t let one of the diseased little creatures touch you.”

Part of the funding Sir Liam has requested will go toward an education campaign to teach adults about the dangers posed by children. The rest will go toward the cost of traps. “We will be putting traps anywhere these creatures congregate. . . schools, arcades, theme parks. If you see an I-Pod lying in the middle of a large metal trap, do not attempt to reach the I-Pod.”

Sir Liam claims that if the government can successfully eradicate this childhood menace, government estimates of swine fly casualties could be lowered from “everyone” to “most everyone.” Said Sir Liam, “It’s them or us, and I vote for them.”

In the United States, HHS Secretary Sebelius was not so quick to blame children. She tried instead to blame former President George Bush. “If he had taken action against this menace and rounded up the children, no one would need to die now. I hate him. I really hate him. My shrink says I shouldn’t talk about this, but how can you not. I just hate him so much. He caused my irritable bowel syndrome.”

She then demonstrated how to cover your face should you encounter the former President.

When asked if this was really good advice, Sebelius flew into a rage and ended the press conference by fleeing the room, screaming. This forced President Obama to issue a statement promising to eradicate the swine flu personally, “I, uh, plan to sit down with the flu in a genuine discussion of all issues. After that, I think, uh, that it, uh, won’t infect anyone else.” President Obama said that he would next meet with the regular flu, which kills an estimated 30,000 Americans a year.

Vice Messiah Biden could not be reached for comment, as he was out distributing flutes to turkeys.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

The Problem With "Megan’s Law"

Several weeks ago, I read an article in the Economist that criticized the way sexual offenders are registered in the United States. With the arrest of Roman Polanski yesterday in Switzerland on an American warrant, I figured this might be a good time to talk about this.

First, some background: in 1994, in response to popular outrage over the kidnapping, rape and murder of seven year old Megan Kanka by repeat sexual offender Jesse Timmendequas, the Federal Government passed the Sexual Offender Act of 1994 (informally known as “Megan’s Law”). This law requires that all sexual offenders register with the police and that this information be made publicly available. As a result of this law, anyone can now find out where all of the sexual offenders live in their town.

And that’s where the Economist article comes in. The Economist took the position that this law unfairly stigmatizes lesser offenders by lumping them in with more serious offenders. According to the Economist, this is unfair to these criminals, thus, the government should amend the law to remove lesser offenders from the list of offenders who are reported.

Now I’m not sympathetic to that position. Even lesser sexual crimes are a reason to be concerned. And I certainly don’t like the idea of the government deciding for us what constitutes a dangerous sexual offense and what doesn’t. But there is something to the article, and that something was revealed to me during this past month as I watched a friend of mine shop for a house.

Every single house she found seemed to have a sexual offender somewhere nearby. Indeed, in a town of around half a million people, every single neighborhood had at least one sexual offender in it.**

Now as a decent sized, single male, this doesn’t bother me. But for your average female or a family with kids, this has to be a terrifying prospect. After all, who wants to live near someone who might be looking to rape them or their children? Indeed, my suspicions were confirmed when my friend reported that anyone who she told about a sexual offender living near any house would instantly say: “I wouldn’t buy that house. That’s not safe, and you’ll never be able to sell it.”

And this is, in fact, very rational. If there is one thing I’ve learned working as an attorney, it’s that most criminals are repeat offenders and sexual criminals all the more.

So what does the Economist have right? They’re right that you can’t tell what exactly the individual offenders did. Why does this matter? Because there are many types of sexual offenses. Some of them clearly are more dangerous than others: are you living across the street from a serial rapist or child molester or was this guy convicted of having sex with a sixteen year old when he was nineteen? Was the crime fifty years ago or last week? Was there more than one crime? In some states, doctors (particularly psychologists) or attorneys who are caught having sex with their clients can be charged with sexual offenses. Are such offenders dangerous to their neighbors?

Unfortunately, all the police reports will disclose is name, address and title/felony class of the conviction. And while this may sound sufficient to sort out who is dangerous and who isn’t, the truth is that most sexual crimes are lumped together into one or two felony classes, and thus are completely indistinguishable without details. For example, in one state in which I’ve practiced, a violent rapist who got out of prison last week for crimes he committed five years ago would appear as John Doe, 123 Main Street, Convicted of Sexual Assault Class 1. But a man who was convicted of sleeping with a sixteen year old when he was nineteen in 1902, would be described the same way. One is clearly a danger, the other is not. Yet, you can’t tell, so you need to assume the worst to be safe.

In another state in which I’ve practiced, a psychologist who sleeps with a patient might be described as Sexual Assault Violation of Position of Trust, the same description that would be given to a teacher who raped a seven year old student. Again, one is a clear danger, another is not, and you would have no way to know which is which.

By failing to provide this information, not only does it become extremely difficult to buy homes (and to sell certain homes), but it becomes impossible for people to make rational use of the information provided. Rather than knowing if your neighbor is a true danger, you currently need to assume the worst and act accordingly. And with sexual offenders living everywhere, that can become quite expensive and quite destructive for society at large -- and forget selling your house if you live next door.

The only way to solve this problem is to either remove the lesser offenders from the list, as the Economist urges, or to add the details needed to make rational judgments and let people evaluate the danger for themselves.


** In response to a question from Jed, here are some statistics to consider. According to DOJ numbers, in 2008, there were about 700,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. That works out to about 425 per 100,000 people. That means in a town of 500,000 people, you're talking about 2,100 spread around town. The town I'm in right now is officially 194 square miles. That means there are just over one sexual offender per square mile if you average it out.

The problem is that only a small number of these people are dangerous, but you have no way to know which ones that would be because the disclosures do not give enough information to decide. That's why I'm saying they need to give people more details.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rebuilding The Republican Party: Minority Outreach

Today we return to our Rebuilding the Republican Party series. One of the issues that has befuddled the Republican Party is minority outreach. There is no inherent reason that half of all minorities should not be Republicans -- most racism occurs on the left (as it has historically), Republican policies are not anti-minority, and Republicans can hardly be called unwelcoming to minorities. Yet, Republican outreach doesn’t work. Here’s why and how to fix it.

Why Republicans Fail At Minority Outreach

The Republicans make three critical mistakes when it comes to minority outreach. First, they do it rarely and cynically. Secondly, and more importantly, they stupidly buy into the idea of identity politics and they play right into Democratic hands -- this is critical. Third, they are cowards when it comes to issues of race.
Rare And Cynical Effort Cannot Win You Friends
Every election cycle, the Republicans wring their hands about minority outreach. They talk about it. They appoint committees. They look for black people they can do photo-ops with. Sometimes they even find a candidate who can speak pigeon Spanish. Then the election comes and the outreach ends. Oooh, those minorities must be lining up to vote for us now! See the problem?

People aren’t stupid, even if they speak another language. They know when you’re pandering to them and when you’re genuinely interested. Showing up in a minority neighborhood once every couple of years for a photo-op not only does not convey the message that we are interested in you, it probably offends because it comes across as cynical.

For any effort to be worthwhile, it must be genuine, it must be constant, and it must be sustained. Otherwise, it is counter-productive even to try. So what do the Republicans need to do?
Stop Buying Into Identity Politics
The primary reason Republican outreach fails is that the Republicans have bought into the Democratic idea of identity politics and they are playing on Democratic terrain.

The Democrats want everyone to see minorities as monolithic communities. They want blacks to see themselves as black first and everything else second, and to associate themselves with the “black community.” They want Hispanics to associate themselves with the Hispanic community. And so on. In this way, they can influence the people within these communities, through peer pressure applied by community leaders, by getting these people to see the world through the filter of those communities and the community grievances -- again defined by the community leaders.

The Republicans buy into this hook, line and sinker. When they think about minority outreach, their first thought is “how do we attract members of the ____ community.” They then look for ways to satisfy the grievances laid out by the community leaders. And in so doing, they not only miss the mark -- because they are being misled by the leaders, but they confirm the view that individual minorities are nothing more than members of their collective and that their leaders have accurately defined the desires of the community.

This is horribly destructive thinking by the Republicans. They need to stop seeing minorities as clones. They aren’t. Take Hispanics, for example. Republicans see Hispanics as “Hispanics.” They don’t realize that these people come from two dozen countries. They have a variety of religions, or flavors of religions. They speak in different languages and different dialects, and they came here for different reasons. And most importantly, they have different goals.

Think about it this way. If I asked you to come up with an outreach plan to reach Europeans, could you come up with one plan? And even if you broke it down to different plans for the English and the Germans and the French, could one plan really reach out to an entire country full of people? Could a “white outreach” reach white America? No, it can’t, because we are all different with different beliefs, backgrounds, stations in life, and goals. Yet somehow, when the issue switches to Asians or Hispanics, those differences vanish and people start seeing them as monolithic. That’s the result of falling for the identity politics propaganda of the left, and it needs to stop.

So what do the Republicans need to do? Start looking at the people as individuals. If you want to reach Hispanics, don’t aim for “Hispanics,” aim for individuals who might be receptive to what you have to offer. For example, Republicans should make a push for minority small business people, because our policies are vastly superior for small businesses. We should reach out to their churches, to their middle class workers, to their property owners, their farmers, their home owners, and show them why the Republican Party suits them. Only by winning over the real community leaders, by showing them respect as individual human beings -- not by buying into the idea that they are clones -- can we make significant inroads into these communities.

Again, I’m not saying race can or should be ignored, but it should be a secondary concern, incidental to the reasons the Party is using to reach out to these people.

Further, this effort needs to be undertaken by Republicans everywhere, not just by some committee run by the party. Every Republican officer holder should do the exact same outreach they already do in their white communities in their minority communities as well. This means helping minorities get small business loans and resolving problems with social security and passport issues and other deeds that elected representatives normally do as “constituent services.” It may also mean getting bilingual or trilingual or tailoring specific services. But that’s no different than representatives do right now for other ethnic communities, like German-Americans or Polish-Americans.

That is what Republicans need to do. Stop playing the game created by the left to force these people into these communities. Start treating these people like friends, neighbors and partners, and not as just statistics or “communities.”
Stop Being Cowards On Race: Fight Back On Racism Charges
Finally, Republicans need to stop being cowards on race. The Democrats yell racism and every Republican in the room ducks for cover. It is time for Republicans to call this bluff. Republicans are not the racist ones, the Democrats are. Consider:
• The Democratic Party gave the country slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, segregation, violent opposition to the Civil Rights movement and opposition to civil rights legislation.

• Liberal labor unions worked for years to keep minorities out.

• Liberals dominate the biggest cities, which happen to be the most segregated parts of the country. Despite all their talk, liberal whites simply will not live in minority neighborhoods and they will not send their children to schools with large numbers of minority kids.

• Liberal policies related to race are premised on the racist idea that minorities are inferior to whites. Consider affirmative action. Take away all the flowery language and affirmative action is based on the idea that equality of opportunity is not enough, the law must enforce equality of result. Said differently, affirmative action is premised on the idea that minorities need government help to compete with whites even if they get the same opportunity. That’s racist thinking.
And let me add two other thoughts to this. First, having lived in liberal and conservative locations, I can say without hesitation that liberals are far more likely to use racists words, make racists statements, and tell racists jokes. But when this is pointed out to them, to a one, they respond that their racism isn’t racism because they (liberals) aren’t racists. That's delusional and hypocritical, and is an argument they would never accept from a conservative.

Secondly, liberals claim to see racism everywhere around them. But as we’ve all seen, liberals clump together. They live in communities of other liberals (look at big cities for proof of this), they select liberal friends (maybe with a token conservative now and then), and they insulate themselves with liberal media, liberal entertainment, and liberal news sources. So where are they hearing all this racism? Either it’s in all their heads or they hear it from other liberals.

Republicans need to stop being afraid of the racist label. They need to learn to turn it back on the Democrats. They need to start using it themselves. Don’t be afraid to speak the truth about race. Until we begin speaking the truth, the Democrats will keep using their web of lies to keep minorities on the Democratic plantation.

The emperor has no clothes and it’s getting time that someone called him on it.

Conclusion

The party needs to get serious about attracting minorities. And that's not going to happen if our outreach continues to consist of token appointments and sending stiff, terrified white guys into minority communities for a yearly photo-op. It's time to break the lock of identity politics.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Leadership From Dummies: Eric Cantor

I want to be a Republican. I believe in much of what the Republican party stands for. But they make it so very hard. Our party seems to be cursed with a leadership that consists of weak-kneed hacks, incompetent bumblers, and fools. I wouldn’t hire a single one of them to represent me in my personal affairs, yet I am stuck with these idiots representing my views in politics. This does not make me happy. The latest example of their endless stupidity? Heir-to-the-throne Eric Cantor.

Many of you have never heard of Eric Cantor, which is an indictment in and of itself. Cantor, the House Minority Whip, is a youngish, five-term Republican from central Virginia. He is the only Jewish Republican in the House and, by all appearances, he is being groomed for bigger and better things by the party machinery. Whether that means Speaker of the House, leader of the party or President is not clear. But what is clear, Cantor does not understand politics.

Cantor first appeared on my radar screen in August 2008, when Cantor’s name was raised as a possible running make for joke-candidate John McCain -- though apparently McCain never actually considered Cantor (which does go in Cantor’s favor).

Since that time, the party seems to have made a special effort to put Cantor forward as the part-time face of the party (except when they found other obscure party members who were willing to deliver poor speeches). For example, Cantor took the point in the Republican opposition to the Stimulus Bill. And he seems to have had some sort of role in the health care debate, though it’s not clear that the Republicans actually took a position in that debate.

But Cantor really hasn’t distinguished himself. Indeed, despite many public appearances it is unlikely the public could pick him out of a one-person lineup. And this has to do with his incredibly underwhelming performances. His delivery is flat and indifferent, his knowledge suspect, his points are bland and meandering, and his commentary is about as biting as a stuffed Snoopy doll.

Consider, for example, his stirring opposition to Nancy Pelosi’s plan to appoint a car czar. Cantor called her plan. . . wait for it. . . “bureaucratic.” Whoooo hoooo! Who’s ready to grab a pitchfork and follow Eric into the gates of hell?! Nobody huh? Maybe Eric should have said:
“The use of czars upsets the constitutional balance of powers. It allows the Executive to make law and it eliminates judicial review. This is illegal under the Constitution, it violates our agreement with the government, and it leads to the types of abuses the Constitution was meant to prevent. Our government is a government of laws, not of men. The use of czars flips this on its head and makes our government totalitarian in nature.”
Or, if he doesn't like quoting me, he could have said:
The rapid and easy accumulation of power by White House staff can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances. At the worst, White House staff have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate-confirmed officials.

As presidential assistants and advisors, these White House staffers are not accountable for their actions to the Congress, to cabinet officials and to virtually anyone but the president. They rarely testify before Congressional committees, and often shield the information and decision-making process behind the assertion of executive privilege. In too many instances, White House staff have been allowed to inhibit openness and transparency, and reduce accountability.
That’s Robert Byrd (D-WV) schooling young Eric in how to be a Republican.

When the health care debate began, Eric waited and waited and waited and then he promised that the House Republicans would release an alternative health care plan. They didn’t. Instead, he went on a listening tour. . . a listening tour. Despite having months (if not years) to prepare a Republican counter proposal, Eric went on a listening tour. Listening tours are public relations distractions intended to make people think that you aren’t a clueless moron with no ideas.

And what did this listening tour lead to? Nada. Eventually, the Republicans released a four page list of bullet points instead of a plan. Consequently, Cantor continues to get his butt handed to him at town hall meetings because the Republicans don’t have a health care plan alternative. Strangely, he seems content with this.

But none of these failures precipitated this article. This article came about because of an interview Cantor gave the other day to the Politico. Cantor was asked about Nancy “da Freak” Pelosi’s ludicrously insane and disingenuous comments that “vitriol” injected into the health reform debate could end in violence akin to the assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone in the 1970s. No doubt, he’ll shoot down this stinking pile of Pelosi, right? Let’s look at his response:
“I think she’s living in another world -- I really do.”
Ok, sort of good. Except, why are you weakening your statement by including the words “I think” and then backing up this far-from-bold assertion with the pathetic “I really do”? Insecurity in a politician is a horrible thing Eric. And if you’re afraid to speak your mind without tossing in caveats and qualifiers, then perhaps you should consider another line of work, like becoming a librarian.
“I’m not condoning any of the things that, you know, the media may catch in terms of messages on the signs and what have you.”
W. . . T. . . F?! So right after accusing Pelosi of kind of sort of maybe living in another world, you turn around and *%$&# admit that Pelosi is right about the level of “vitriol”? And not only that, you imply that it’s hidden, and you make the media the arbiter of truth? My advice to you, shut the heck up now Eric. What’s that? You have more to say?
“But I have not run into any violence.”
That’s great Eric, anecdotal evidence is for fools. Besides, you just admitted that it’s out there and the media is finding it, so what’s your point?
“I have not run into crowds running over people. We should want spirited debate, although civil, and I’ve not been anywhere over the last several months where I would even think such a situation where violence is in the offing exists.”
More anecdotal evidence Eric, and no one cares because you already admitted that it’s going on, just like the media said it was. Maybe you should have said, "that's a cheap political tactic used by desperate politician, a failed Speaker of the House, to demonize the American public and I find it disgusting. . . I think. . . kind of. . . and stuff."

Cantor was then asked if he had personally heard any racist remarks. No doubt, this is the moment he shines and redeems himself. This will be the moment his backbone stiffens and his political instincts kick in and he will say:
“This charge of racism disgusts me. These are decent, average, hard working Americans expressing their point of view. And the media and the Democrats are slandering them. The Democrats have nothing to offer except socialism and the people have seen through it. They don’t want what the Democrats are offering and they are making their voices heard. And the Democrats, in a panic are using false charges of race to demonize the American people as a smokescreen for their own failures. You see it in New York, where Patterson is claiming racism to cover up his failures, you see it with Charlie Rangel who is trying to hide his problems behind false charges of racism, and you see it in the desperate attempts of people like Jimmy Carter and Nancy Pelosi to change the terms of the debate. It’s despicable. Even the President has rejected that charge.”
Let’s see. . .
“I’ve certainly seen it on the television screens — but I have not personally run into it.”
F. . . and the horse you rode in on Eric. You just threw several hundred thousand Americans under the bus. But it gets worse, doesn't it Eric, because you kept flapping your lips:
“Certainly, if I did [run into it], I would be as turned off as you would be — it’s abhorrent and it has no role in this discussion. That’s why when Jimmy Carter stepped out and said this about the president’s race, my comment was, ‘That’s abhorrent, that’s living in another world, another time.’”
Yes, what Jimmy Carter said was abhorrent, but then I know that’s not what you meant, is it Eric? Indeed, it’s not. You just sold out your side, Eric. You just helped demonize millions of Americans, Eric. And you did it on the basis of crazy, Jimmy Carter’s opinion. I am too angry to be snarky at this.

Eric, resign.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gadhafi Carol

Today, I’m going to be a little lazy. I seem to be suffering the effects of the Lawyer Flu (H1N2). Unlike the H1N1, which will kill us all, this one only annoys the heck out of you. In the final stage, I hear it sues your colon, but I don’t know about that yet.

Since I’m being lazy, I’m just going to re-print something interesting I read. I figured you could all stand to learn a little more about our friend Moammar Gadhafi. Enjoy. . .

AP -- New York

In his long and dramatic address to the UN today, Libyan leader and noted Swiss-hater, Moammar Gadhafi aired various eyebrow-raising complaints. Among his targets:
• The UN Security Council, which he called the “Terror Council” for failing to prevent conflicts around the world since 1945, including his own coup in Libya.

• Everyone who says he looks like Michael Jackson.

• Switzerland, because he’s lactose intolerant.

• The premier of China, who keeps saying “nice dress” whenever he sees Gadhafi.

• The UN delegation from Kongo Bora, who keep calling him Gadhafi Duck.

• New York. He wants the UN moved from New York because New York is an inconvenient location for him and it causes him to suffer from jetlag. He also ranted for several minutes about the difficulties inherent in getting camels to board airplanes.
Gadhafi also whined about the Iraq war, which he described as the mother of all evils, and about General Mills, which sold him a box of Lucky Charms that contained the mother of all weevils.

He accused the Fed of being part of an international conspiracy to destroy the Libyan currency -- the Turd. He said that Oliver Stone killed JFK, who is not really dead, but instead lives on the moon deflating world oil prices. And he claimed that swine flu was some sort of plot by non-Arab governments, though he mumbled so badly that no one is sure exactly what he said.

At one point, he tossed the UN Charter fourteen feet across the floor, coming close to the record of fourteen feet three inches set by S'mdum Bastrd from Tossilvania. His throw was enough to place him second, however, just edging out the former Chancellor of East Germany.

Many have speculated as to what caused Gadhafi’s erratic behavior. Some suggest Gadhafi was upset from lack of rest. He had planned to set up his tent on Donald Trump’s property in Bedford, NY, home to Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren, who also live in tents. But Trump wasn’t home or didn’t answer the doorbell when Gadhafi rang. So he ended up staying at a U-Store-It in Englewood, New Jersey, where he had no access to water or electricity, and he lacked the necessary southern view to get satellite television.

During the night, Gadhafi apparently also experienced difficulties when he was visited by three guests. First, came Louis Farrakhan, who discussed the past with Gadhafi, reminding him of how happy he was before he seized power. Then he was visited by two unknown young African American men in “Raiders” jackets, who showed him what life was like for average New Jersey residents, meaning they stole his tent and graffiti'd his camel. Finally, he was visited by a vagrant who spoke to him of the future, before sexually assaulting him. The vagrant has been charged with sexual assault on a foreign dignitary, which carries a penalty of three days in prison.

In any event, Gadhafi’s speech hasn’t gone unnoticed. As of this writing, most news organizations have reported on his erratic behavior. CNN called it “shockingly insulting,” CBS News referred to it as “Moammar’s Rant”, while MSNBC described it as “a brilliant tour de-force that continues to prove the evils of Bush administration policy.”

The White House had no comment on the content of the speech, though they did congratulate him on his second place finish in tossing the UN charter. They also promised to cut down the trees blocking his satellite view at the U-Store-It.

Tomorrow, Gadhafi plans to unleash a plague of locust at the UN, where he warns prophetically that they will destroy every crop in New York City, starving the people of Manhattan.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why Obama Is A Failure. . .

In Sunday’s article, I outlined Obama’s long list of failures and showed how this supposedly talented wunderkind of a President has been a total bust at getting his policies implemented. Despite the massive advantages Obama currently enjoys, including being virtually unopposed politically, Team Obama has failed to get any of his policy goals put into law. Let’s talk about why. . .

Before we begin, I’d like to give a little shout out to loyal Commentarama reader New York Governor David Paterson, who chose this week (no doubt after reading Sunday’s article) to echo my sentiments. Says the good Governor:
“If you look at it from [Team Obama’s] perspective, they haven’t exactly been able to govern in the first year of their administration in the way that other administrations have, where you would have, theoretically, a period in which the new administration is allowed to pass the needed pieces of legislation.”
Oooo, buuuuuuurn.

So why has Obama been less successful governing than your average megalomaniac cannibal who ran on a platform of eating us all? It’s actually not that hard to understand. Yet, as more and more articles start asking this question -- or at least a similar question -- it is clear they don’t get it:
• Laughably, the leftist Guardian UK blames Republicans.

• The Jerusalem Post wrongly claims it’s because the economy is so weak that people believe Obama won’t get re-elected, and thus they think he won’t have any power until after he’s re-elected (when he becomes a lame duck).

• Jimmy “the Jackass” Carter blames racism, and the flying elves that keep touching Jimmy’s stools when he doesn’t take his medication.
So what’s the real story? The real story is that Obama is the classic example of a spoiled child. He grew up without anyone challenging him and without ever having to solve his own problems, but with everyone telling him how special he is. Now he’s full of self-esteem, full of petulance and anger, unable to relate to other people, and unable to admit that he can make mistakes, but without a hint of the talent or experience needed for the challenges he faces.

Consider Obama The Empty Suit

During the election I remember thinking how much Obama reminded me of many of the young lawyers I've met. They are super sure that if they just get the chance to “do their thing”, they can solve any problem. Of course, they can’t tell you what that “thing” is or how it will work, or how it differs from what others have already tried. Yet, that inability to detail a strategy doesn’t change their arrogant belief in their own irresistibility in the slightest, nor does it warn them of the flaws in their plans. And as one would expect, time and time again, these cocksure kids get their rears handed to them by their more experienced foes.

Obama struck me as just another of these arrogant kids, a judgment that seems to have been borne out, and this has destroyed him both in foreign policy and domestically.
Foreign Policy Failures
Obama assured us that he could just sit with the Iranians or the “moderate” Taliban and through sheer force of personality, he could bend them to his will. Yet he could never explain exactly what he was going to say. And this was because there was no plan. The entire plan assumed they would accept his offer and all would be forgiven. But they didn’t accept his offer, and he didn’t know how to deal with that rejection. Thus, he walked away from both.

What he never understood was that they might not believe him, or might not want what he was offering. And rather than learning from his mistakes, as an experienced or more humble or more talented politician would, Obama was handicapped by years of unearned praise that kept him from learning how to deal with rejection. . . how to deal with failure. . . how to turn failure into success. So, confused and unhappy, he fell back on his inherent petulance and he walked away. If they weren’t going to accept his gift of words, he would not be bothered with them.

And because he will not learn, this has become the hallmark of his foreign policy. He offered to talk with the North Koreans, the Chinese, the Indians, the Russians, the Arab World, and the Hondurans. He expected each to fall to their knees, giddy at the chance they were being offered to reset their relationship with the United States through him, and soon they would cry out “what oh irresistible one must we do to please you?” But it never happened. Like the arrogant young lawyers, his experienced foes saw through him in a heartbeat and wiped out his game plan by denying his irresistibility. With his plans in tatters, he walked away in each instance, causing the foreign policy failures outlined on Sunday.
Domestic Policy Failures
The same dynamic destroyed his domestic agenda.

When Obama came to power, he had stratospheric approval ratings, a working super-majority, and a disorganized opposition (if you can even call it that). He could have gotten a bill to change the name of the country to “Obamaland” through the Congress if only he’d had one ready. But he had no legislation ready, because he had no plan.

Once again, Obama believed that all he had to do was flash his irresistibility, and the Congress (a collection of hyperselfish creatures) would come together in harmony and quickly, efficiently, and without opposition assemble a series of bills putting together his agenda.

He never understood what it takes for politicians to convince others to support their plans. He never understood the need to build personal relationships and to form coalitions. Instead, he told the Republicans “elections have consequences” and “I won.” He made the blue dogs vote on cap and trade, even though it could never pass the Senate, and it could cost them their seats. He refused to resolve the dispute within his own party over how to pay for health care reform, even as the bill was bleeding support. And he utterly failed to grasp the need for subtlety in the application of public pressure, instead demonizing all who opposed him, no matter how minor, and insulting vast swaths of the American people. In each instance, when things went wrong, he walked away, leaving others to clean up the mess.

As a result of this, Obama drove down his own poll numbers with his lack of leadership, his insulting tactics, and his compounding failures. As his poll numbers fell and the number of people hurt by his tantrums grew -- and as he showed himself to be an unreliable ally, his power to push through anything became less and less.

Can Obama save this sinking ship? In all honesty, I would have to say no. He has shown no ability to learn from his mistakes or even to handle the slightest resistance. And now that he’s made so many enemies and he’s revived the opposition and awoken the public, he will face increasingly greater opposition on all issues -- something he is not psychologically prepared to handle. Could this change, possibly. But, at this point, he hasn’t even shown that he’s aware of the problem.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

You Want A New Drug. . .

From the top of Commentarama Towers (right), the Commentarama Science Division has done it again! With the assistance of stimulus dollars and secure in the knowledge that air travel is safe now that little old ladies can no longer smuggle nail scissors onto planes, the CSD has come up with the perfect pill to treat the symptoms of liberal angst: Placebocort™.

Are you worried about things? Does stuff seem kind of dangerous to you? Do you find yourself wondering why nobody does something to fix these things?

Well don’t let your liberal angst ruin your life. Ask your Congressman about Placebocort™. Placebocort™ is the little red pill from the makers of the Guaranteed Security Device, the Cost-Free Bail Out Pill, Unearned Respect, and the Self-Esteem vaccination.

Don’t let the real world keep you down. Take Placebocort™ and feel better. Placebocort™ works by making you think that liberal policies will actually improve your life. Afraid that the economy is in the tank, Placebocort™ lets you believe that spending “government money” will fix that right up. Afraid that terrorist will turn your city into a smoldering heap of ash with an Iranian bomb, Placebocort™ lets you believe that endangering Poland will make Iran change its ways. Afraid your kids aren’t being educated, Placebocort™ lets you believe that paying the same failing teachers more will make it all better. Take the pill. . . ignorance is bliss. . .



“I don’t have the intelligence to comprehend cause and effect, and I want someone else to solve all my problems, and that makes Placebocort™ a good choice for me!” -- Joe B.


Placebocort™ is not intended to treat liberalism, though it gives temporary relief to liberal angst. Symptoms will return in an intensified way with Placebocort™. Placebocort™ should not be taken by conservatives, by women who are pregnant, have been pregnant, could become pregnant or could have become pregnant, or by anyone with a will to live.

Placebocort™ is not intended to replace actual, workable policies, and it may interfere with your learning reflex.

Side-effects are generally considered moderate to heavy, at first, and grow in intensity over time. Symptoms may include unintended consequences, confusion, delusions, euphoria, intensified stupidity, increased deficits, decreased security, loss of opportunity, worsening health, diarrhea, and even death, though other symptoms generally lessen following death.




“I’m enjoying life again because of Placebocort™.” Hillary C.






Do not drink alcohol to excess with Placebocort™, but do drink alcohol.

If you go blind while taking Placebocort™, just keep taking more until sight returns.

See your doctor if liberalism worsens.



“Placebocort™ helped me see my opponents as Nazis, which is nice, but I don't like the moderate to heavy diarrhea.” Nancy P.







** These statements not evaluated by the FDA.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

The Elves Went To The Opera

By the Boiler Room Elves

Little known fact about elves: In addition to hammering away at toy trains, luring hobbits off forest paths, and baking cookies, our list of favorite hobbies includes --- opera. So when we snuck out to DC for the protest, we did our best to score some tickets to the Washington National Opera's performance of Rossini's The Barber of Seville, a bel canto comedic opera. It's one of our long-standing favorites, and this production did not disappoint. Great singing, fantastic staging, and a plethora of honest-to-goodness laugh-out-loud moments made this one of the best we've seen.

The Barber of Seville is a great intro opera for non-opera goers. . . think of it as a gateway opera. It's light-hearted, relatively fast-paced, and full of Bugs Bunny music. "Bugs Bunny music?" you ask? Sure. Cartoons in the olden days used to do a great job of prepping kids to become literate adults, familiar with cultural treasures long before the kids hit the age when classic literature, music and art become boring and irrelevant... but we digress.

Adults who have never been to an opera are often surprised to find themselves in the middle of one suddenly humming along and saying, "I know that piece!" From where? Kids' cartoons generally. Most everyone will recognize "Kill the Wabbit, kill the wabbit, kill the waaaaabbit" from Bugs Bunny, but not as many would be able to identify it as Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" from Act 3 of Die Walkuere. Most of us have seen The Rabbit of Seville, which is taken directly from The Barber of Seville. And there are many, many more.

The Barber of Seville also should appeal to anyone who enjoys a nice Shakespearean comedy. Operas fall broadly into comedies and tragedies, much like Greek plays and Shakespeare. In the comedies, the young lovers need to overcome some obstacle to get married and the bad guy needs to be properly embarrassed and learn the error of his ways; in the tragedies we like to have a nice high body count on the stage, preferably singing a long aria before shuffling off this mortal coil. You'll also notice two types of singing - the arias which are sung for the beauty and tune, and the recitatives which tell the story and move the plot along. The arias are Shakespeare's soliloquies - they contain the most beautiful and memorable pieces, and they're arguably the reason why we go, but the basic plot is complete without them.

The Barber of Seville does not disappoint - a man sees a woman locked away on her balcony, she sees him, they immediately fall into undying love. He must disguise himself to free her from her "evil" guardian who plots to marry her himself. Oh no! Enter the barber Figaro (yes - Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Fiii-ga-roooooooooo) who lives to help young lovers unite against all odds. Figaro helps our hero disguise himself so we can have a series of mistaken identities and funny situations. (Shakespeare again, or perhaps Three's Company, anyone?) Our hero, by the way, conveniently happens to be the local rich Duke, unbeknownst to our lady fair, who thinks she has fallen for a poor man. This way she can be justly rewarded for not being a gold-digger, but for being true to her heart. Ahhhh... And of course, at the end, after much mayhem, the "evil" guardian comes around and gives the young lovers his blessing, and Puck-- I mean Figaro! - gives us our lesson and we all sing ourselves off into the night.

Please note, we elves have not had a chance to study music theory or the history of opera. We're hardly experts, but we know what we like, and we like The Barber of Seville. If you ever have a chance to see it, it's a great one to start with. You can watch a clip from the DC production HERE.

And if you're interested in seeing some really great opera, but either don't have access to a decent company close by or just don't want to get all gussied up and pay that much, check out the NY Met's broadcasts. They have recently started to broadcast their operas in high-definition to participating movie theaters all over the country. Opera while munching on popcorn and wearing your favorite pair of green tights at relatively cheap prices? Now that's something to sing about. Of the upcoming season, the elves would recommend Carmen in January for lots and lots of Bugs Bunny music with a great plot and no boring music.


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Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Real Obama, Master of Failure

By now we’ve all heard the view of Team Obama as a disciplined machine working according to a secret plan laid out by an evil genius to make the United States a socialist workers’ paradise. We’ve heard about Obama, the greatest politician of all times, the silver-tongued antichrist who is slowly, inexorable putting a dagger into the heart of capitalism, Christianity, freedom, and America itself. Ha! Let’s talk about the real Obama, the tone deaf politician Obama, the man with no political instincts. Let’s talk about Obama the failure. . .
To begin, let us recognize that Obama has advantages that few prior presidents ever had. He has the good will of being a Democrat at a time when the Republican brand has been so tarnished by it’s prior leaders that most people would rather identify themselves as child molesters than Republicans. He has the good will of most Americans, who want to see the nation’s first black president succeed. He has a sycophantic media that shares his every belief and has lost any pretense of being impartial, and who willingly shade the truth to support him and his causes. Finally, on the most practical level, his party has control of both the House and the Senate, and in such overwhelming majorities that the Republican Party is all but irrelevant. In other words, he is essentially unopposed.

With all of these advantages, he should be both supremely popular and should easily be able to get his agenda through the Congress, no matter how radical. Yet, something has gone wrong. Consider Obama’s major legislative goals:
• Stimulus I: Obama’s first act was to sign a huge “stimulus” bill into law, a bill that was drafted by the Congress long before he became involved. Still, we have to call that a Pass. . . but there’s a caveat. The bill did nothing to help the economy. Unemployment is the worst it’s been since the Great Depression, the economy continues to worsen, and the stimulus has become an albatross for supporters. It’s so bad that Obama had to send Joe Biden to assure the country that the stimulus really is working, despite the total lack of evidence.

• Stimulus II: D.O.A.

• Cap and trade: Cap and trade, one of Obama’s big initiatives, limped over the finish line in the House, possibly ending several careers. The plan is considered a non-starter in the Senate. D.O.A.

• “Card Check”: The unions wanted Obama to push through the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have taken away the choice of employees to remain union-free. This law would have allowed the Federal government to essentially impose a union on companies while the employer “negotiated” with the employees. Neither the House nor the Senate is willing to bring this one to a vote. D.O.A.

• Assault Weapon’s Ban: Team Obama promised their gun control friends they would get the assault weapon ban re-instituted. . . until Eric Holder announced they would do no such thing. D.O.A.

• Banking Regulation: Team Obama was handed the worst banking crisis in American history and carte blanche to re-make and regulate the industry as they saw fit. Not only that, but everyone, even the banks, agreed it was necessary. Barney Frank’s still working on it, but the will to pass this has been lost as a result of the health care debate. Stalled.

• Health care reform: The big red cherry on top of the Obama’s “socialist agenda” was supposed to be health care reform. Obama promised his supporters that the government would run health care. That was a non-starter. So he promised a “public option.” That died too. Now he’s promising “health care co-ops”, which the left hates. He promised price controls on drug makers, he got some price cuts for Medicare patients. He promised to extend coverage to 46 million Americans, now he’s talking about a couple million -- after ten years. He promised subsidies for most Americans, now he’s talking about hardship exemptions. And he can’t even get those things passed. ObamaCare: D.O.A. A face-saving version of health care reform-lite: Stalled

• Iraq: Obama was going to pull our troops out of Iraq on Day One of his Presidency. They’re still there, he’s just redesignated the combat troops as advisors. Fail

• Guantanamo: Obama was going to close Guantanamo on Day One and give these poor terrorists more legal rights. Not only did that not happen, but he tried to make them non-persons with no legal rights. . . something dictators do. Fail
That’s quite a poor record for our secret communist, genius President and his master plan. I guess his plan didn’t prepare him to deal with a willing Congress? In reality, he and his team have mishandled every one of these issues.

But those are just the beginnings of his failures. Let’s consider foreign policy, where he can do as he pleases without consulting a pesky, interfering Congress:
• Afghanistan: Obama told us he would fix Afghanistan, which Bush had neglected. He even tossed out the generals Bush had chosen so as to make sure he had the right team in place. We are now told by the generals (and our allies) that Afghanistan is a loss. Fail

• Iran: Obama would sit with Iran and stop them from wanting the bomb. They flipped him the bird of non-peace. They even put down a revolution as he watched, cluelessly. Fail

• North Korea: Obama would abandon this six-party talks stuff and fix this sucker right up. Nothing changed, except that North Korea started lobbing missiles in the Pacific. Fail

• China: Obama would change our relationship with China -- no more dumping, safer products or no imports, and he wasn’t going to put up with their currency manipulation. Unless you count begging the Chinese keep buying our bonds, there’s been no progress here. Fail

• India: Obama would get India onto the non-proliferation train and get them to sign up to climate change legislation. They told him no, and he praised them. Fail

• The Arab-Israel Conflict: Obama planned to use his “special” background to show the Arabs our sincerity (and our desire to leave them alone) and thereby solve this deep-rooted conflict. So he gave a speech telling the Arabs that Americans are jerks, and . . . um, that’s it. Now the Israelis are building more settlements and getting ready to bomb Iran, Obama sent more troops to Afghanistan, and he’s agreed to send more American anti-missile hardware to the Middle East to compensate for his sell out of the Eastern Europeans. Fail

• Honduras: Obama tried to bully little Honduras. They told him to take a hike. He did. Fail

• Eastern Europe: Obama sold out Poland and the Czechs by cancelling a missile shield that was supposed to draw them closer to us to protect them from the Russians. Fail

• Russia: Obama sent a re-set button to Putin, who punched it and reset the present to the Cold War. Now Putin’s helping Iran finish their nuclear dreams and he’s stationing troops in Venezuela. Fail
Hmm. That’s not very good for a messiah, who promised to bring peace with the mere joyous chords produced by his voice. At least he’s got good political instincts, right? Actually, he and his team have been remarkably tone deaf:
• Nominations: Obama’s nominations have repeatedly blown up in his face. Right out of the gates, several were caught not paying their taxes. And his claims to not allow lobbyists into his government were shown to be false. Post racial Obama appointed Van Jones, a racist communist, and Justice Sotomayor, a racist embarrassment. His attorney general choice infuriated the left because of his prior advocacy of torture, and then everyone else when he called us cowards on race.

• CIA Investigations: Obama’s plan to investigate CIA agents has drawn fire from both the right and the left, and recently from every head of the CIA dating back decades.

• Budge Buster: Obama immediately dwarfed the biggest complaint against Bush (that he vastly increased the deficit), when Obama gave us our first trillion dollar deficit -- and then tried to blame everyone but himself. Mr. Fiscal Irresponsibility also disappointed everyone when he signed a budget containing 9,000 earmarks after promising to end the practice.

• Stupid Cops: So in the middle of this melt down, Obama chose to wade into the race debate by slandering a white police officer who had acted reasonably and correctly. That killed his claims to be post-racial, and made everyone wonder why he felt the need to get involved in a local matter. Can you say, "bad judgment"?

• Fishy-Snitch: As the health care debate unfolded, Team Obama put out the word that neighbor should turn in neighbor for expressing impure thoughts, thus adding Team Obama to the infamous pantheon that includes the Stasi, the Gestapo and other secret police.

• Demonizations: And throughout his entire presidency, particularly health care, Obama has shown a knee-jerk tendency to react to opposition by demonizing his opponents. Be it evil insurers or greedy doctors or “those who would oppose us”, or the crowds of crazy, misled, angry, unhinged, racists who stood up to him in such vast numbers at town halls, tea parties, or the tea party protest on the Mall, Obama always made it clear that he does not see good faith in disagreement.
So much for the healer, for the man who would bring us all together. And this misconduct has been reflected in the polls, where Obama’s support has fallen steadily like a ski slope. He is now one of the least-liked, least-supported presidents since post-Watergate Nixon.

And while we’re talking about Obama being tone-deaf, let’s finally put to bed this idea that Obama is a gifted speaker. If he is such a great speaker or reader or whatever, tell me one thing he has said that’s memorable? Give me any line from any of his speeches that you remember. Even the left doesn’t quote his words. . . because he’s never said anything interesting.

Finally, even if he can’t get his legislation through, even if he can’t get anyone else in the world to obey his wishes, and even if he can’t convince the people to support him, at least his friends are benefiting from his presidency right? Wrong:
• The anti-war people got nothing. Iraq and Afghanistan are continuing as before.

• Gay groups got nothing. Obama’s justice department is still defending the Defense of Marriage Act, and Obama even refused to extend full benefits to gay partners of federal employees -- something he could have done without anyone’s approval.

• His friends at ACORN lost their role with the census and just got defunded by the Congress, all without a peep of protest.

• Immigration groups got nothing. In fact, the backlash from the health care bill may have set their cause back for a generation.

• Gun control groups got nothing.

• Minority groups got nothing.

• Only the unions got a few crumbs. They didn’t get nationalized health care like they wanted. But they did get one union member appointed to the New York Federal Reserve Board, though that means nothing to such a large body. They also got effective control of GM and Chrysler, but that’s probably a bigger problem than it’s worth -- not to mention they lost half their jobs in the process.
So where is this success I keep hearing about? Has he just not broken out the secret plan yet that will make him omnipotent and let him unwind capitalism, steal our freedoms and make America into Nazi Germany? Or is it possible he’s just not that competent and that Team Obama is just a group of poorly-skilled amateurs posing as professionals?

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why China Is A Danger To Us. . .

I wrote an article some time ago in which I pointed out that the obsession with China surpassing us economically was all a bunch of paranoid garbage. . . and it is. But that doesn’t mean that we should not be worried about China. Here’s what should concern you. . .

China: The Military Threat

About ten years ago, China came to an interesting realization. It knew it could not compete with the United States military as a world power. But what if it didn’t have to? After much rethinking, China concluded that it didn’t need to compete with the United States militarily as a world power, it only needed a strong enough military to outclass whatever the United States could bring to the region in the event of conflict. In other words, it didn’t need to prepare to fight the United States around the world, it only needed to be strong enough to intimidate the United States into staying out of whatever regional conflicts it chose to start, e.g. Taiwan.

Putting that plan into motion, China began modernizing its military with EU and Russian weapons. In 2002, when I first started paying attention to this issue, China began buying old Russian Kilo-class submarines. Those subs are equipped with long-range, anti-ship missile systems. The Chinese also bought destroyers, anti-aircraft missiles and fighter-bombers from the Russian at the same time. They also began building large numbers of missiles that could reach other countries within the region, and they began doing war games that involved simulating attacks on Taiwan.

According to experts at the National War College, those submarines would “very significantly enhance the Chinese navy's ability to influence events in the East China Sea. First, by enforcing a blockade against Taiwan, if Beijing adopts that course of action, and also by posing a serious problem for opposing naval forces attempting to operate in the area.”

Now Defense Secretary Robert Gates has acknowledged this threat. Said Gates on Wednesday:
“When considering the military-modernization programs of countries like China, we should be concerned less with their potential ability to challenge the US symmetrically -- fighter to fighter or ship to ship -- and more with their ability to disrupt our freedom of movement and narrow our strategic options. Investments in cyber and anti-satellite warfare, anti-air and anti-ship weaponry, and ballistic missiles could threaten America's primary way to project power and help allies in the Pacific -- in particular our forward air bases and carrier strike groups.”
Short of starting an arms race in the region, combating this threat will be extremely difficult, especially with an administration that pays no attention to world affairs. Perhaps discouraging further arms sales and allowing Taiwan to buy more modern American military hardware would be a good start? Of course, that could cause China to stop buying the bonds Obama needs to sell so that he can keep up his deficit spending.

China: The Foreign Policy Threat

At the same time, China has undertaken a much more aggressive approach to foreign policy throughout the rest of the world. Meet the “Bamboo Republic”:

Do you remember the banana republic? “Banana republic” was the term for countries that were essentially ruled by fruit companies. British or American companies would head to places like South America and set up banana and rubber plantations. They would then use their considerable wealth and power to shape/control the local governments to ensure that their investment was protected. The banana republics came to end as result of various means, most often revolution.

Now they are back, and China is the biggest purveyor. At a time when most governments in the world are content to step back and let NGOs -- non-governmental organizations -- address the problems of the Third World, China has stepped into the vacuum. Using hard currency, they have bought up massive amounts of resources in these countries, everything from oil, to minerals, to huge tracks of land. They also bought up the companies that were doing the extracting and they have created companies to manage the land. In this way, they are securing the oil, the copper, the iron ore, and the wheat that they need.

The question that remains unanswered is how this will affect the governments in those countries. Will this predispose them toward a favorable view of China? Will they feel held hostage to China’s demands? Will they become Bamboo Republics? And is this good for these countries, or have they simply traded white colonial masters for Chinese colonial masters? Moreover, how will this affect countries like the United States, as, for example, copper mine after copper mine comes under the influence of the Chinese government?

Like it or not, resources are limited and it’s time to consider the wisdom of letting a government like China monopolize the things upon which modern economies depend.

China And The Coming Oil Shortage Threat

Similar to the Bamboo Republic threat comes a threat of massive disruption to our oil supply. Everyone knows that oil is a commodity, and, thus, it doesn’t matter where you get it, right? Well, no.

In fact, there are different types of oil. Indeed, one of the reasons that Iran is seeking nuclear power even though it is “sitting” on a ton of oil, is that its oil is “sour crude”, meaning it contains a great many impurities -- particularly sulfur. Those impurities need to be removed before the oil can be processed. This makes the oil expensive to use and not well suited to being turned into gasoline (it tends to be used for heating oil or diesel).

A second, more important fact is that oil is not dumped into a market where it can be picked up by anyone like bread from a bin at a grocery store. Oil comes from certain countries and is often designated for specific countries. Indeed, the United States gets most of its oil from Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. But coming in a strong fourth, and providing around 1/6th of the oil supplied to the United States, is Venezuela.

And this rubs Hugo Chavez wrong. Thus, he has stated several times that if he could find other buyers, he would stop selling oil to the United States entirely -- thereby cutting off 1/6 of the oil supply to the United States. The reason he hasn’t been able to find too many buyers is that Venezuela also sits on sour crude, which not everyone can refine. Last week, China signed a deal with Venezuela to start developing oil fields in Venezuela.

This remains speculation at this point, but it will not likely take long after China develops the infrastructure needed to process and transport oil from Venezuela to China, before Chavez starts selling all of his oil to China instead of the United States. Where will the United States suddenly find enough oil to replace 1/6 of its requirement?

Conclusion

The Chinese are not fools, nor are they content with being second class. They have made it clear that they view the world now as bi-polar, with the United States on one end and China on the other, and everyone else nothing more than pawns. We need to make sure that we are not dependent on China in any way, and that China does not find a way to hold us over a barrel. We also need to think about balancing China’s power within its own region by fully supporting our friends, before they stop being our friends and instead fall under the influence of a new Chinese Empire.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Your Untrusted Source For News

As you may or may not have heard, a Pew Research poll just revealed that the public’s trust in the media hit a record low in July of this year. Imagine mah suhprise. Let’s discuss. . .

The Survey

According Pew Research, 63% of Americans believe that the information they get from the media is not accurate. That’s six in ten! Only 29% thought the media was generally accurate. That’s not even an “F” on a standardized test, that’s a not to your parents and a good grounding.

Moreover, this isn’t some ingrained distrust of the press by the American people. This distrust was earned. In 1985, when this poll was first conducted, a full 55% of the American public thought the media generally got things right.

But that was then, when a lot of the old-schoolers still roamed the hallways of our journalistic institutions. Soon the numbers began to slide. By 1997, only 37% of the public felt that journalists were reliable. By July of this year, that number was down to 29%. That’s a loss of 26% in twenty-four years.

The Excuses

So what’s causing this? It couldn’t be the things I ranted about the other day, could it? Let’s see what the media has to say. . .

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, which we all know has never engaged in open and obvious bias, has never sold its sold for the all mighty peso, and has never been caught with an obvious plagiarist on staff for oh so long, contends that budget cuts are at the root of the problem.

Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. Keller identifies budget cuts as a potential problem. According to Keller, the budget squeeze “means facts don’t get checked as carefully as they should.”

But then he quickly assures us that this really is not a problem. Indeed, he goes on to claim that “many media outlets” still go to great lengths to get the facts right and own up their mistakes. (I wonder if that includes the Times?)

In any event, he soon fingers the real culprit -- everybody else:
“The great flood that goes under the heading ‘news media’ has been poisoned by junk blogs, gossip sheets, shout radio and cable-TV partisans that don't deserve to be trusted.”
That’s the irresponsible NYT we’ve come to know and dismiss.

So what does he think should be done about this? Nothing really, he doesn’t think there is a real problem. See, while you all complain about the media, you really do love your media:
“Just as polls routinely show that people hold Congress in low esteem but tend to like their own congressman, I think the public is suspicious of the media in general but tends to trust the particular news organization they turn to for news.”
So don’t expect any changes from the NYT.

But surely, the Associated Press has something more intelligent to say, right? Nope. Kathleen Carroll, the executive editor of the AP, blames the internet. Apparently, the problem is that the internet is full of misinformation, which gets passed around on discussion boards. And that causes people to view the media with such disfavor. Tisk tisk.

Journalists at large agree. They blame the poor reputation of journalism on cable talk shows (63%), the 24 hour news cycle (42%) and the internet (57%).

Of course, both Carroll, Keller, and their journalistic friends ignore the fact that the public’s trust began to deteriorate long before the industry began to cut costs, long before cable news became so prominent, and long before the internet become so ubiquitous. Indeed, in 1999 -- by which time much of the damage was already done -- only 6% of respondents said they relied on the internet for news. The vast majority (82%) reported relying on the nightly news, and 42% said they also relied on newspapers.

So What Is Really Going On?

The reality is that journalists have lost touch with the public, and they don’t get it. Let’s compare how the public sees journalism against how journalists see journalism.

As we note above, 63% of Americans believe that journalists make too many factual errors. But only 45% of journalists agree.

And while 75% of journalists agree that media bias is a bad thing, only 26% of the public think that journalists make any attempt to avoid bias.

And how about that bias? Let’s compare the attitudes of the public with journalists at large. First, take a look at the following chart, which compares the self-described political leanings of journalists against those of the public.


As you can see, journalists are 14 percentage points more liberal than the public and 26 percentage points less conservative. But does that mean anything? Absolutely. Look at the difference between journalists and the general public on various “wedge” issues:
• When asked whether a belief in God is required for a person to be considered moral, 60% of the general public agrees with that statement, but 91% of journalists disagree.

• When asked whether homosexuality should be accepted or discouraged, 51% of the general public said “accepted” and 42% said “discouraged.” By comparison 88% of journalists said “accepted” and only 5% said “discouraged.”

• Only 25% of the public felt that abortion should be legal under any circumstances, compared to 40% of journalists.

• Fifty percent of the public felt that stricter gun control laws were needed, compared to 65% of journalists.

• Only 34% of the public believe that the government should guarantee that no one is in need, compared to 42% of journalists. And 60% of the public want less government interference, as compared to only 49% of journalists.
Whether you agree with these propositions or not, it certainly shows a significant divergence of beliefs between journalists and the public on wedge issues.

This translates into significant differences in how journalists and the public view events. Consider the difference in how the public and the media viewed the treatment of Bush:


As you can see, the public thought the media was too hard on Bush by a ratio of three to two. The media, by comparison, felt the media was too soft on Bush by a ration of seven to one.

And if you look only at the self-described “liberals” and “moderates” in the media, these number become even starker:

Moreover, these numbers are all the more skewed because when the media talks about “bias,” it is talking about “conservative” bias. Indeed, when asked if they could name a news organization that has an “especially conservative bias”, 82% of journalists said they could -- and most pointed their fingers at Fox News. But when asked if they could name a news organization that has an “especially liberal bias”, only 38% of journalists said that they could name such an organization. Further, only 26% of self-described liberals could name a liberally biased news organization. Ridiculous.

So is the reason the public has lost faith in the media really the invent of the internet or cable television or budge cuts that happened long after that faith began to erode? Or could the reason be that journalists suffer from obvious bias and, even worse, are largely oblivious to their own bias?

Seems kind of obvious doesn’t it. . . unless you’re a journalist.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

It's Time To Stop Obsessing About The Tea Party Numbers...

I wasn’t going to write this article, but I am getting increasingly annoyed at how some talking heads on the right are misusing this Tea Party Protest in Washington.

What happened in Washington, D.C. on Saturday was amazing. A huge number of patriotic and dedicated Americans turned out to have their voices heard. They were average people, not activists. They were people who love America deeply and don’t like what Team Obama is doing to this country. For most, this was the first time they’d ever done anything like this. And they sent a powerful message.

Without any doubt, they won an incredible victory. Indeed, in my lifetime, I’ve seen dozens of these protests, and I have never seen the immediate response that this protest got.

On Friday, the Democrats were demanding a public option as part of health care reform. Public option or no deal, they told us. By Sunday morning, after the rally, they were in full retreat on the talk shows. Even Robert Gibbs said that Obama only wanted “competition” and he downplayed the need for a public option -- calling it only “one way” to go. A half dozen key Democrats agreed. Olympia Snowe said "no way" to the public option. Susan Collins rejected the “triggered option.”

This is a victory, and it belongs to the wonderful and patriotic Americans who showed up in D.C.

So what’s troubling me?

First and foremost, I am really annoyed at the numbers game that many of the talking heads are playing with this rally. The numbers don’t matter! Let me say that again, the numbers don’t matter! What matters are two things (1) that there were way more people than expected and (2) (more importantly) these weren’t professional protesters, these were average people.

Why does that matter? Because Congress knows what happens on the Mall. They send their aides to go mingle. They know when they are dealing with a flood of worked up Americans or with indifferent, paid protesters. And they know these were real Americans, very upset and very determined, but also very average. These were the kinds of people who may or may not always vote in elections, but who will vote now. They know it, and they know they need to listen to these people. The proof of that came Sunday morning.

But by obsessing about the numbers, the talking heads are simply giving people a reason to see the rally as a failure. If I insist that the rally was a success because two million people showed up, and you think only 100,000 showed up, then it becomes very easy for you to dismiss the rally as a failure because it couldn’t even overcome the hurdles I set for calling it a success.

And arguing over whether or not it was two million or less, just distracts from what these people achieved. We should not be whining about the numbers. Instead, we should be out there trumpeting the success, and talking about how the Democrats have already given in on the public option, and demanding more -- cut spending, reduce the debt, lower regulation, stop interfering with the economy! We should not be turning victory into defeat by, after the fact, setting up impossible hurdles for success.

And I can assure you that the numbers being bandied about simply cannot be supported. Lets take the two million number that most of the talking heads now treat as Holy Writ (down, I might add, from initial estimates by “anonymous sources” of 4.5 million). Consider these facts:

First, when the National Park Service used to estimate crowd sizes, the activists always complained that they were underestimating by a factor of two. For example, the Park Service estimated the Million Man March at 400,000 (activists insisted it was 850,000). The same was true with every single rally that took place during the many, many years I lived in the D.C. area.

Once the Park Service stopped estimating crowds, all of the estimates -- across the board, left, right and center -- went up by a factor of 10. Suddenly, a crowd the Park Service would have called 100,000 people became one million. Overestimating by a factor of ten is a longtime human tradition.

Secondly, do the math. Look at the chart Bev provided us. This chart is consistent with other numbers I’ve see for the square footage of the mall. According to this chart, only 1.1 million people can be at the Mall in ideal circumstances. So forget the 2 million and the 4.5 million figures right away. Sure, there is more room if the crowd flows over into the side streets, but nowhere near another 100% the size of the Mall.



Further, look at the legend on the chart. The 1.1 million figure assumes 2.5 square feet per person. Think about that. Go get a ruler and see if you aren’t more than thirty inches wide and twelve inches deep. Moreover, consider that to get the 2.5 square feet footage also means that people need to be packed in together, literally touching each other side by side, front to back. That doesn’t happen except at the very front of rock concerts.

If you expand the amount of area needed to just two feet by three feet, which is still only a couple inches apart on each side, the 1.1 million capacity suddenly falls to 450,000 people.

Now read the Elves again, about finding some place to sit down, and look at the pictures and see the spaces between people. These people are not stacked like cord wood. They are allowing several feet between themselves and the people around them. All of that space drops the number significantly. Moreover, as anyone who has ever been in a crowd can tell you, the further back you go into the crowd, the greater the open space.

So how many really showed up? I don’t know and I don’t care. And you shouldn’t either. . . it’s not the number that made this a success. It’s the fact that they came and who they were. And this is the point the talking heads are missing.

What’s more, many of these same people are using this event as a means to boost their own ratings by beating the drums of paranoia. They scream that ABC and MSNBC and the foreign press “confirmed” the two million number, and now suddenly are backing off “to only a few thousand.” The conclusion? Knowing suggestions that Team Obama called the press and got the number “suppressed.”

Wrong.

First of all, no one “confirmed” the two million number. If you don’t believe me, go find a link. Even Drudge hasn’t put a number on the rally because no media source gave an estimate. What they’ve all said instead was “estimates ranged from a few thousand to two million.” That’s not a confirmation of anything.

And where does this two million estimate come from? It’s from a quote by a Democratic aide, who spoke on Friday night, and said, “we don’t know how many are coming, it could be a few thousand up to two million.” That’s not confirmation either.

Nor are the media now saying “only a few thousand.” Almost universally, the media are reporting “tens of thousands,” which is the sort of thing media types say when they don’t know and they don’t want to be accused of over-stating or understating a large number. There’s no conspiracy to suppress “the evidence” here. There is bias -- they should have been covering this rally much more thoroughly, but there’s no conspiracy to hide the truth.

So what’s my point? My point is that a lot of people need to stop diminishing the victory won by these great Americans who showed up on the Mall. Stop playing this stupid numbers game. And stop spinning a misread quote into a vast conspiracy to suppress the truth. These protesters have won a great victory. Help them make it a bigger victory, don’t try to turn it into a failure.

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The Elves Are Back. . . And They've Been A Protestin'

By the Boiler Room Elves

Editor's Note: To our great surprise, we learned that the Boiler Room Elves escaped our basement and made their way to Washington, D.C. to participate in the 9/12 protest. Upon their return and after a savage beating, they produced the memo below explaining their absence. We thought you might find it interesting. . . (you can click on pictures to enlarge)


To: Management
Re: Unexcused Absence


We Boiler Room Elves often feel alone in our political convictions, locked away in the sub-basement of the building as it were. We thus found it extremely encouraging when, a mere hour into our half-day's sleigh ride along the interstate to the 9/12 Tea Party march on Washington, we had no fewer than 4 different cars wave at us to indicate that they too were heading to DC.

"BR-Elf-4" was decked out in its political best, and much to our pleasant surprise, a great many other people on the road seemed happy to see us there, waving, flashing headlights, and giving us thumbs up. One couple, who had travelled all the way from Colorado no less, went so far as to follow us off at a gas station and share their excitement about the rally.

Nevertheless, after cruising into the Elf Hostel in the suburbs in high spirits, we suddenly found ourselves concerned for the next morning. The lady who runs the Elf Hostel warned us - there had been no coverage of the event in the local media and the locals are usually given warning to avoid downtown when something big is coming up. We might end up downtown alone? Would we be accosted by Obama-mites as we sat all alone on the train? Would our signs create angry mobs of locals that would taunt us the entire journey? Would Acorn have taken over the trains and might we have one of our pointed ears bitten off?? The elf contingent dallied over morning Cheerios...

Imagine our surprise, then, when we walked up to the Metro stop and saw a man with teabags hanging off a straw hat. And over there - a woman with a giant red, white and blue star! A young man in a T-shirt with Reagan that said, "Old School Conservative!" The elves need not fear travelling alone. Indeed, we had to wait 30 minutes just to buy tickets for the Metro! Once on the Metro, it was standing room only all the way into town, and after a couple stops, no more people could get on at all. We might note, by the way, that the one passenger who appeared not to be headed to the Tea Party chatted on her cell phone and was quite irate that the local media had not told her to avoid downtown today.


We exited en masse at Federal Triangle around 10:45, with the march scheduled to start at 11:30. People were clearly moving down Pennsylvania Avenue already, though. A volunteer informed us that they had been forced to start the march 1-1/2 hours early because there were so many people already gathered there. They had been marching for 45 minutes and people were still streaming in.


We marched slowly down the avenue. We waved our signs. We chanted. We yelled and screamed.

"Yes we can - Vote you out!"

"U.S.A."

"Enough! Enough!"










As we came off Pennsylvania Avenue on the far end of the mall, we passed a pile of horse manure in the street from the DC park police horses, no doubt, with a volunteer warning us not to step on Congress! We found ourselves on the far end of the mall, in front of the pond that sits in front of Congress. The crowd at this point, perhaps 11:45 or 12:00, filled the area in front of Congress and reached about halfway into the first square of the mall between the Smithsonian museums. CNN and FOX had RV's parked there, but neither was interested in an elf's point of view. We worked our way through massive numbers of people around the pond to the area in front of the steps to the Congress building. We couldn't actually get closer than the street, but we did eventually find a small spot to sit and listen to speakers, even though we had no sight of the stage.





The speakers were mostly a collection of average Americans. A female Marine who had done 2 tours in Iraq. A man who had lost his car dealership when Obama created Gov't Motors. Organizers of local tea party events. A couple Congressmen. Rep. Mike Pence (IN) said that Pelosi could call us "un-American" but that to him, we looked like "the cavalry!" (THERE'S A COPY OF HIS SPEECH HERE) Speakers repeatedly asked Obama - "Can you hear us now??!!"



The speeches wound up around 4:00 and the crowd dispersed. We elves had some dinner, hoping to avoid the worst of the crowds on the Metro, but we still ended up in the thick of it around 6:00. On our way from the restaurant to the Metro, a woman - clearly not a protester - caught up to us and asked, "Are you here protesting?" Yesssss... It turns out that she lives here and works in a museum on the Mall. She looked out this afternoon, saw everyone and thought, "Oh a protest." Then she read the signs and realized she agreed with this one and that one and "wow, these are the GOOD people!" And guess what? She's a staunch conservative and hadn't heard a word about it before today either. She must read the Post.

We spoke with many people from all over the country. Organizers said that 450 busses had shown up. A person from Pennsylvania said that their local tea party group organized 1 bus to take some people who didn't want to drive, and it filled up overnight. So they ordered a second bus. That filled up, as did a 3rd, a 4th, and eventually they ended up sending 30 buses from their region because people kept calling to join in. A family from Atlanta had brought their kids and made a DC week out of it which was "breaking the bank but is worth every penny!" People on the Metro with us had driven in from all over and were staying with friends in the area.

It's clear that the majority of these people are still in their "rookie season" when it comes to protesting. Most had never been to a protest before. We elves only started this year ourselves, and we've learned much. Back on April 15th, the first time we snuck out, we showed up at the Tea Party empty handed and wearing our standard green tights and curly shoes. By early June, we'd learned to make signs and wear something patriotic. We quickly learned that it's helpful to attach your sign to some sort of pole rather than rely on your arms to hold it up for hours. By July 4th, we'd learned to make cleverer signs (we generally steal the ideas for the signs from the BossMan), wear buttons, and add bumper stickers to the sleigh. By now in September, well, we're not up to showing up dressed in American Revolutionary period garb, but we've added a Gadsden Flag to our repertoire and we've got the main points down. Another bridge we've not crossed yet is the handing out of pamphlets or stickers to further a cause, a book, or a website. Today we received a $1,000,000,000 bill with Obama on it and an Obama credit card with "no spending limit!" - each with a website to visit for more information. Maybe next time, Commentarama...

We elves are happy to report that it was an uplifting day. It's great to know that you are NOT alone. There are many people who believe like you do and are willing to stand up for those beliefs and for the country. We're even happier to know that these are just average people. They aren't professional protesters or activists, they were normal people who want their voiced to be heard.

We'll head back down to the boiler room now, content in knowing that others out there are fighting right along side of us. And when necessary, we'll hop on BR-ELF-4 and head right back here to make sure our voices continue to get heard.

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