Thursday, July 31, 2008

Light Blogging

The Tempest opens on Saturday, so I'm too busy this week to spend much time blogging.

I did find time to watch Yaron Brook and Onkar Ghate speak on "Cultural Movements: Creating Change." It is well worth the time spent.

As a side note, I found it interesting that Brook is not an unqualified fan of the internet. He cautions us that just because information gets out fast does not mean Objectivism is therefore spreading fast. He observes, as I recall, that the internet reinforces a short attention span. Internet users often use a kind of subliterate short hand in their messages to one another -- "Do U C?...LOL!" People are not reading Atlas Shrugged on the internet, and we need more young people who are capable of reading a long, serious novel.

I recently asked a retired high school teacher if he thought young people were dumber than they were when he was young. Without hesitation, he answered yes. I asked him if they could read a long serious novel like War and Peace. Again, without hesitation, he said no. They sit around watching TV, which is an entirely passive pastime. This is a real problem.

And speaking of widespread mindlessness, how about the adoration of the Messiah, Obama? It's the strangest phenomenon in politics since Ross Perot. He can reverse himself on anything and nothing sticks; he is the ultimate Teflon politician. Ideas and policies don't matter -- only Obama's personality seems to matter.

I enjoyed this passage from Robert Tracinski in TIA Daily:

Barack Obama has decided on a straightforward general election strategy: he will simply begin acting as if he is already the president and the actual vote is a mere formality.

That was the point of his overseas trip, during which he was received with pomp and circumstance by foreign leaders, and he amplified the message upon his return by scheduling meetings with the Federal Reserve chairman and the Treasury Secretary—an official from the cabinet of the actual, current president (George W. Bush, in case you forgot).

But here's the kicker: it seems that last week, Obama ordered his staff to begin preparations for his transition to the Oval Office—more than 100 days before the election.

One wonders if Obama's confidence is another case like Pauline Kael in 1972 when she said she didn't know anyone who voted for Nixon -- life within the liberal cocoon -- or if he really can't lose. It almost makes a vote for McCain seem like an act of justice in defiance of arrogance. Almost.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Around the World Wide Web 72

1. Caroline Glick argues persuasively that Bush is worse than Clinton in foreign policy. Among her many interesting points is this:

Moscow apparently interpreted Bush's decision to dispatch Burns to kowtow to Jalili as a sign of American weakness. In the wake of Saturday's embarrassing exchange, senior Israeli defense sources told Reuters that Russia is planning to begin shipping its advanced S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Iran in September. The S-300 batteries can track 100 targets simultaneously and fire on planes 120 km. away. Once they are operational, it will be far more difficult for Israel or another military force to attack Iran's scattered, hardened nuclear installations from the air. It is hard to imagine Russia would go through with the controversial deal if Moscow believed that the US would do anything to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

2. Penn and Teller on creationism.

3. John Bolton makes some excellent points about Obama's one world speech.

4. Yaron Brook on Fannie and Freddie.

(HT: Brad Harper)

5. Sounds to me like Barack Obama's brother is the one with all the smarts in the family.

From this piece I get the impression that the brother in China is far more independent and intelligent than Barack.

At a rather tense lunch, Obama quoted “Mark” – his family name is never given away in the book - as saying Kenya was “just another poor African country” to which he felt little attachment.

Mark added: “there’s not much work for a physicist, is there, in a country where the average person doesn’t have a telephone.”

According to Obama’s account, Mark looked him in the eye and said: “You think that somehow I’m cut off from my roots, that sort of thing. Well, you’re right.”

“At a certain point I made the decision not to think about who my real father was. He was dead to me even when he was still alive. I knew that he was a drunk and showed no concern for his wife and children. That’s enough.”

Can we elect Mark as President?

6. John McCain blames the Fannie and Freddie mess on "crony capitalism." But since these institutions were created by the government and are still backed by the government and are thoroughly controlled by government, wouldn't crony socialism be a more fitting term?

John McCain does not understand, as Reagan seemed to, that the problem is government, not freedom. All his efforts to "reform" government will be exactly as effective as Al Gore's project to "reinvent government" was in the 1990's. And you know how effective Al Gore was at cleaning up government.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Two From Obama

Let's look at two rhetorical products of Barack Obama, his initial response to 9/11 and his speech given yesterday, "A World That Stands As One." Like everything Barack says until he flip-flops for political expedience, these two effusions are leftist cliche.

The 9/11 response was revealed in a long piece on Obama in the New Yorker -- the one that goes with the satirical cover in which Obama failed to see the humor. Here it is in full:

Even as I hope for some measure of peace and comfort to the bereaved families, I must also hope that we as a nation draw some measure of wisdom from this tragedy. Certain immediate lessons are clear, and we must act upon those lessons decisively. We need to step up security at our airports. We must reexamine the effectiveness of our intelligence networks. And we must be resolute in identifying the perpetrators of these heinous acts and dismantling their organizations of destruction.

We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.

We will have to make sure, despite our rage, that any U.S. military action takes into account the lives of innocent civilians abroad. We will have to be unwavering in opposing bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle Eastern descent. Finally, we will have to devote far more attention to the monumental task of raising the hopes and prospects of embittered children across the globe—children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and within our own shores.

This response is the worst possible one that any serious person could have at that time. Every point he makes is wrong, and more, it is deeply stupid. No one but the postmodernist philosopher Jacques Derrida could more misunderstand 9/11 than Barack Obama.

First, to make a minor point that illustrates my major point, 9/11 was not a tragedy. You can call cancer, car accidents and earthquakes tragedies, but a terrorist plot that kills thousands is an atrocity. To call it a tragedy takes focus off of the injustice and puts it on the suffering; it gives the terrorists a break, just as the rest of Obama's statement does. And of course the focus on suffering fits the altruist view of a world in which all must sacrifice to all and self-reliance is a myth.

The killers of 9/11 did not lack empathy for their victims. After all, they killed themselves too, and surely they empathize with their own selves. They were driven by an ideology, Islamism. They want to destroy the non-Islamic world and replace it with a global caliphate and Sharia law. They are at war with us.

Obama bends over backward to make excuses for the killers, but has stern words for the victims (America). Despite our "rage," we must not respond with all-out war, but with multiculturalist understanding of the other and welfare state handouts for the poor around the world. Our enemies could hardly expect a better response from an American politician: not only does he advocate appeasement, but maybe they can get some of the hand-out money Obama wants to throw at the world. Stupid Americans! Not only do they long to be wiped out, but they will pay their killers to do it!


John F. Kennedy went to Berlin when it was a divided city at the height of the Cold War to give a speech in which he said "Ich bin ein Berliner." Ronald Reagan went to Berlin when it was still a divided city to give a speech in which he said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

Barack Obama went to Berlin yesterday to give a speech in which he called himself "a fellow citizen of the world."

Kennedy and Reagan went to Berlin to reaffirm America's commitment to resisting the spread of tyranny. Obama went to Berlin to speak because Kennedy and Reagan made it a prestigious thing to do.

Obama's speech, vague and a little flat as it was, essentially makes a "one world" argument of the altruist-collectivist left. Because modern communications bring the world closer together and because of the threat of global warming, we must all sacrifice for the biggest collective, the world.

At the risk of being called a McCarthyist, I must note that the ideal of transcending nationalism was also shared by the communists. The USSR's national anthem was the "Internationale."

Obama's speech has nothing in it about individual rights, but much about individual sacrifice. The communists whom Kennedy and Reagan opposed could find nothing to disagree with in Obama's words. They too believe the individual has a duty to sacrifice for the world.

Unfortunately for Obama's one world vision, you cannot get rid of the state. If you don't have nations directing all this sacrifice that so inspires Obama, then you'll have one big socialist state ordering everyone about. Either way, the prospects for freedom are bad, but with individual states there is a chance that some states such as America will be somewhat free and oppose the outright dictatorships.

Does Obama understand this, and is he cynically mouthing this one world ideal in his quest for power? Or does he naively believe what he says? My money is on the latter. I think he has been fed leftist bromides since he was a red diaper baby and he has never questioned what he has been taught. As religionists pass their mysticism and conventional morality on to passive, unthinking children, so leftists pass their worship of the state on to the same type of mind.

Obama manages to blame America in this speech for unspecified wrongs:

I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

He apparently thinks these statements are self-evident and uncontroversial, as he gives no examples of what he is saying. It seems remarkable to me that a man running for President would go overseas and criticize America without fear that Americans, the only people who can vote for him, might object. If he is willing to say this, he cannot be trusted to fight for America's national self-interest in a hostile world.

The Berlin speech has taken a lot of criticism, so I'll leave it at that. Obama continues to speak in such gaseous generalities that one can find things on which to comment only by examining the logical implications of his words. But this is common among American politicians, who expect their dumbed down audience not to think critically, but merely to soak in the emotional vibes of what their leaders say.

The Kennedy and Reagan speeches in Berlin became defining moments of their Presidencies. Obama's speech should become known as the moment America had second thoughts about Obama and asked, "Is that all there is?" -- but don't count on it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More Brilliance From Bush

Bush speaks on the economy:

Explaining the current economic downturn to a closed-door fundraiser last week, President Bush said, "Wall Street got drunk."

"There's no question about it," Bush said. "Wall Street got drunk, that's one of the reasons I asked you to turn off the TV cameras. It got drunk and now it's got a hangover. The question is how long will it sober up and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments."

Huh? What does this mean? "Wall Street got drunk" is a metaphor. So what exactly is this man saying? Who knows? Does he know? I doubt it.

What exactly is wrong with "fancy financial instruments"?

The implication of Bush's statement, which he is too stupid to understand, is that the market failed because there's just something wrong with capitalism. And the logical implication from there is that we need more government regulation of Wall Street. No, of course Bush didn't say this; he never thinks out the logical implications of his statements. He just speaks, like his favorite political philosopher, in woozy metaphors that can mean anything.

Bush's statement indicates that he has learned nothing in his Presidency. He does not understand what a disaster it has been.

As Mises and the Austrian economists taught us, boom and bust cycles result from distortions in the economy caused by government intervention. When government printing presses create credit expansion, eventually some bad things will happen. But Bush doesn't give a damn about that because he oversaw a boom as he sent inflation through the roof to fund his Presidency -- and the next guy will have to worry about the bust.

So if Wall Street got drunk, it's because the Bush administration kept serving drinks on the house -- long after closing time.

For Bush to criticize Wall Street is like, to use another analogy, a pusher pointing to a bunch of addicts and saying, "Look at those junkies. Disgusting! Why don't they live a clean life?"

What American freedom we still have has survived much in the last two centuries, but I don't think it can survive another moron in the White House.

UPDATE: Wolfgang, a German blogger, translates a few passages from this post into German. It's the first time I've read my words translated into a foreign language -- a minor thrill, but a thrill nonetheless. Thank you, Wolfgang!

George W. Bush, Man of Steel

Boortz castigates Obama for his arrogance:

After General Petraeus tells Obama that a timetable for withdrawal would be wrong – that withdrawal should be based on conditions and results, not a calendar. So what does Our Savior do after his meeting? Well, he basically says that Petraeus is wrong and he is right and that as commander in chief a timetable it will be.

All well and good, but for one little snag -- Bush agrees with Obama, not Petraeus!

U.S. President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki have agreed on "a general time horizon," not an "arbitrary timetable" for a drawdown of U.S. forces, the White House said Friday.

Now, is a "general time horizon" any more based on conditions and results than an "arbitrary timetable"? They are both deadlines set in advance of any future conditions and results, but "general time horizon" allows Bush to pretend his timetable is not a timetable.

As John LeBoutillier notes, Bush also caved on negotiating with Iran unless they cease trying to build nuclear weapons, thus leaving McCain out on a limb all by himself:

They sent the Under Secretary of State, William Burns, to join the ongoing talks the EU was having with Iran. This sudden change of policy - granted, Secretary Burns was instructed to ‘listen’ and not to say anything - has sent shock waves throughout the foreign policy community. (At meetings like this there is much off-the-record conversation in hallways and back-rooms; this is where real breakthroughs happen - and where real communication takes place. Undoubtedly Burns had private face-to-face talks with Iran.) It is viewed as a total reversal by a lame-duck Bush White House which is now trying to patch up a badly damaged legacy.

Obama has for over a year advocated a dialogue with Tehran.

On the heels of this shocker came another: the Bush White House again reversing itself and agreeing to something called - and it sounds utterly Clintonian - ‘Time Horizons’ with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. Let’s face it, these Time Horizons are the very same Time Lines that Bush - and McCain - have been blasting for years. But Bush has now just - like Bill Clinton - used semantics to flip his previous position. Bush is now on the same page as Obama who, for years, has advocated a timetable of withdrawal.

So we are left wondering once again: is there a dime's worth of difference between the two parties?

Around the World Wide Web 71

1. Batman's arch-villain the Penguin might want one of these.

(HT: Instapundit)

2. Watch the moon orbit the Earth -- from the outside.

(HT: PrestoPundit)

3. It turns out that both Laura Ingraham and Keith Olbermann are assholes to their coworkers. Jerkdom knows no partisanship.

4. Time Magazine is now lobbying for national service:

Time magazine isn't satisfied with reporting the news. It wants to play both journalist and lobbyist. Their website announced: "TIME is helping to lead a major push to make national service a priority in Washington. And we want you to get involved". In his "To Our Readers" article this week, Time Managing Editor Rick Stengel announced that Time has joined in a lobbying group called "Service Nation" to promote legislation for more federal government programs of volunteering. If the phrase "more federal government programs of volunteering" sounds strange, you're not on Time's wavelength.

The idea of "national service," like environmentalism, is so uncontroversial to statists that a news magazine thinks it can lobby for it without raising complaints about their bias. And why not? Both McCain and Obama want more servitude among Americans. Anyone who mumbles about freedom these days is just a fringe wacko.

5. Obama knows how to buy votes in Michigan: Obama pledges $4b in aid for Detroit automakers. This is the road to fascism.

6. "We are emancipating human imagination."

(HT: Charlotte Capitalist)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Of Cabbages and Kings

Are there two candidates in this presidential race? Or is this election just an extended publicity trip for Obama before his coronation in November?

What's the other guy's name again? Oh, yeah. McCain. Ugh. Maybe it's just as well he's being ignored.

Obama is going to Europe to speak to his people. His constituency: people who think the world would be better off if America was weaker. Too bad for him Europeans can't vote in American elections.

Recently I read "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor. I won't spoil it by going into the plot, but my first reaction was: this story is evil. Not bad -- in fact, it's quite well written -- but evil. Flannery O'Connor was one twisted sister.

As I write I'm working on an Urban station in my day job. Urban is what the radio industry calls stations listened to by inner city minorities. Lots of other people listen to it too, even people in small towns, but it's called Urban, perhaps to distinguish it from Country.

Urban is Hip-Hop and R&B. So I'm a 51-year old white guy listening to Lil Wayne and Rihanna. If I didn't have this job and you had asked me to identify Rihanna, I might have guessed it was a sports car or maybe an Italian fashion designer. Rap music depresses me.

But then, I don't like any format much. Country is unbearable. Top 40 or "Hits" is rap with white artists in the mix. Adult Contemporary is a soporific, "soft rock," which is an oxymoron. (John Tesh, anyone?) Hot Adult Contemporary is mostly songs that people are used to, up to 15 years old, with some newish songs, but no rap. Rhythmic plays Top 40 songs remixed with that constant disco beat that says "dance" to contemporary ears. Oldies and Classic Rock play the same songs over and over and over. Active Rock is heavy metal. Alternative is usually heavy metal, but some stations feature more indie artists -- those are my favorite stations.

Adult Album Alternative is "world class rock" and often features whiny singer-songwriters with a little blues and reggae thrown in; these stations often make their image heavily environmentalist, as they equate morality with environmentalism. The idea seems to be that they have honesty and integrity in the music they play, and these virtues compel them to be environmentalist. Environmentalism is the secular left's substitute for religion. When they stick to bands and not singer-songwriters so much, these stations can be good.

Variety Rock is mostly '80s, but some '60s, '70s, '90s and today. These stations always have a man's name, like Jack or Charlie or Doug. Usually Jack. Jack says hip, funny things and "plays what he wants." It's like Jack is an individualist who stands up to the corporate suits and ignores their playlists. Of course, Variety Rock has been thoroughly market researched, despite their image, and they have a playlist just like every other format.

When I get in the car and turn on the radio, what do I listen to? Classical music, except when they do their pledge drives and beg for contributions, and sports talk radio, some political talk and some Classic Rock.

Some young people hate classical music so much that convenience stores have been known to pipe Mozart through their speakers just to discourage mindless youth from hanging around on the property. Like Black Flag to roaches is Vivaldi to young idiots.

Flibbertigibbet says he does not go for women because of this. Of course, Flibbertigibbet understands that it's funny because women don't act like that. Women never fart.

UPDATE: I forgot one of my favorite formats, Urban Adult Contemporary. They play today's R&B and old school classic soul. You get the good stuff from the '60s and '70s -- Delphonics, Marvin Gaye, Earth, Wind and Fire -- tasty tunes.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Around the World Wide Web 70

1. Slavery lives in the 21st century. Of course, the worst offenders worship the Religion of Peace.

2. World's oldest blogger dies at 108. Let's see, if I'm still blogging in 2066, I could break her record.

3. Quote of the day:

"Well, you could be serious and still have fun. In fact, he believed it was the secret of a happy life, if anybody wanted to know a secret."

Elmore Leonard, LaBrava

4. Some stunning pictures of Martian valleys. Also, Rick Moran is wary of "active SETI" -- sending signals into space that would announce there is a technological civilization on Earth.

I think the fact that we have never seen alien life is evidence that FTL is impossible. If FTL were possible, wouldn't aliens be popping into orbit around Earth daily? The speed of light is the speed limit and interstellar travel is hugely difficult, expensive and time-consuming.

5. They don't make 'em like they used to -- unless they're Alicia Keys. Her latest hit, "Teenage Love Affair," has a '70s sound to me.

6. Inflation highest in 27 years.

UPDATE: A local paper did an article on me. The quotes are all taken from acting posts on this blog. (The headshot also comes from this blog.) I was never actually interviewed by a reporter. Just another way the internet makes life more efficient!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Liberal Hatred

If you ever heard Tony Snow do a radio talk show, you know he was one of the most sweet-natured hosts ever. He never mocked or insulted anyone. You might disagree with him, but any fair person would have to judge him as a genuinely nice guy.

So let's take a look at some of reaction to his death from those paragons of morality, the reality based community, the benevolent, bleeding heart liberal-leftists.

Liquidstoke, a diarist at Daily Kos writes:

I'm sorry but it just sickens me to read diary after diary of silly, bleeding-heart little condolensces to Snow and his family.

I swear some of you weak-kneed progessive brethren of mine have no clue about the vicious nature of the ideological battle we are in. When a bad guy dies, we should rejoice, not sing his praises of wish him anything by scorn.

There is a fundamental reason why the progress/liberal movement is so often impotent in delivering effective blows to the right-wing machine-- it has to do with "toughness".

Tony Snow was a co-conspirator in probably the largest know fraud ever perpetuated and executed on the American public by it's own elected executive branch.

He was Fox news anchor in the likes of Hannity, Cavueto, & Wallace. This guy was a practiced liar and propagandist before he ever stepped foot into the White House Press briefing room. The precise reasone Bush chose him was for his ability to so effectively lie and dance around tough questions that the American people demanded answers to.

So now he's dead. I said "good riddance" and hell, some of your are falling over each other to condem me for it...

But you know what? I DON'T GIVE A FUCK what you think of my "heartless" comments, because what i see is a parade of soppy condolensces for a co-criminal that far outpaces and far outnumber any conversations about the death of our own innocent citizen soldiers nor the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis.


How do we win this generational ideological battle when we've got silly sissies on our side wailing over a another scumbag's death?

I suppose when Karl Rove kicks the bucket, i'll have to endure more of the same weepy, hysterical, gullible eulogies....


Little of this screed has anything to do with reality, but it is interesting that Liquidstoke makes the "ideological battle" the standard for moral judgment. To the left morality is essentially collectivist and statist. It is because conservatives (supposedly) oppose socialism -- because they are not as willing as the left to use the power of the state toward altruist ends -- that they are evil.

When it comes to personal morality, leftists are relativists and generally lack passion about the matter; but get to politics and they spit fire and brimstone as well as any Baptist preacher (if in cruder language).

Patterico finds the following comments on a Los Angeles Times piece:

There is special place in hell for Mr. Snow. As a co-conspirator of the Bush administration, I have no special sympathy for him. I only wish his suffering were more prolonged.

I hope he suffered at the end. Just a terrible person.


You might get some of this nastiness on the right from time to time, but it is much more common on the left. The people capable of writing this stuff are totalitarians in waiting. Like the Bolsheviks and the Nazis, all judgment, all morality must report to their collectivist politics. If someone can wish more suffering on a political enemy who died of cancer, do you think he would bat an eye at consigning his enemies to concentration camps?

Modern philosophy has been at war with reason for centuries, and it has won the war (for now). When reason is no longer practiced, it is replaced by force. We see in the ugly quotes above people who are ready to move on to the next stage, that of force.

Around the World Wide Web 69

A joke from my childhood. First Hippie says to Second Hippie, "Hey, man -- turn on the radio."

The Second Hippie says, "Radio, I love you."

Ah, the 1960's. You had to be there to misunderstand them.

1. Watch this video of Obama talking about private security contractors, then read the analyses in the rest of the post. Obama's understanding of the issue sounds about as good as your average Democrat who skims posts about Blackwater on leftist blogs. Leftists mock George W. Bush for his lack of intelligence; Obama is just as bad as Bush, but from a left-wing point of view. Obama is like Oakland, California: there's no there there. Somehow the welfare state works so that the stupid and the mediocre get to the top.

2. The description of this Shakespeare Festival makes me wish I were living in New York again.

3. Barack Obama looks at America like a Swede on vacation here (slumming because all the good hotels on the Riviera were booked up):

Senator Barack Obama marveled at the view here in Big Sky Country. He discovered that the gumbo in New Orleans was far tastier than in Chicago. And he was pleasantly surprised that he loved Austin, Tex., and its music — but who doesn’t?

The presidential campaign has not only given the country a chance to meet Mr. Obama. It has also given Mr. Obama a chance to meet the country, taking him to large swaths of the United States that he has never seen before.

Obama discovers that Texas is actually a nice place. Meaning, I assume, that before this campaign he thought it was not nice. This is a man who has spent his life deep in the liberal cocoon. His worldview is an amalgam of leftist bromides that have stuck in his mind over the years like gobs of plaque in his arteries.

Oh, and here Obama laughs at Americans because they can't speak foreign languages. The man is a walking liberal cliche.

4. Phil Gramm calls us a "nation of whiners" because of all the complaining about the economy. The liberal Bob Herbert calls Gramm "a remarkably out-of-touch former senator." All the talk about the weak economy is not so much whining as it is media bias. The postmodernists in the MSM have decided that since all news is merely "narrative" from one point of view or another and there are no objective facts of reality -- and since Rush Limbaugh and the rest of right-wing talk radio poison America with the conservative narrative -- that it is their job to be the propaganda arm of the Democrats. If the nation thinks we're in a recession, Obama benefits, thus only bad economic news gets reported.

5. The Imminent Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Debacle. Maybe things are worse than Phil Gramm thinks. Greg Ransom blames Bush.

6. Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party candidate for President. She joins her fellow Georgian Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate. To paraphrase the Jack Nicholson movie line, go sell crazy somewhere else than Georgia -- they're all stocked up there.

Let them in the debates. This election is such a joke, we might as well make the debates a perfect zoo. These fringe party lunatics would be more entertaining than listening to Obama and McCain compete on how they will spend money stolen from the Americans who produce that money.

Friday, July 11, 2008

If It Seems Too Good to Be True...

When I lived in New York, my roommate at the time -- let's call him Phil -- was approached by a stinking drunk on Second Avenue. The drunk asked him to buy a paper bag containing some rare coins for $100. Phil, sensing the goods were stolen and maybe he could rip off this drunk, took a look at the coins. He was no numismatist, but they were obviously old coins in those cardboard holders, with prices in the thousands written on them.

But there was something else written on the paper bag. "If found, please return to Dr. [name] for a reward." There followed a telephone number.

Phil was struck by pangs of conscience. He gave the bag back and told the drunk to call the number for the reward. The drunk would not have any of it: he wanted 100 bucks and he wanted it now.

Phil then convinced the drunk to let him call the number to get the reward. The doctor at the other end of the line, a woman, was relieved and thankful that Phil had found her lost coins that had been her father's and meant even more to her family than the thousands they were worth.

At this point the drunk got skittish and started to walk away. The doctor pleaded with Phil to give the drunk what he wanted and when she got there she would give Phil a reward of $400.

So Phil told the doctor what street corner he was on and described what he was wearing. Then he ran after the drunk and paid him $100 for the bag of coins. At this moment he felt quite pleased with himself -- not only had he been a Good Samaritan and secured the return of the doctor's coins, but he would make $300 that day. Not a bad day's work!

He waited for the doctor to arrive.

And he waited.

No doctor. Phil called the number again. Someone else answered and told him he had called a pay phone on the street.

Yes, Phil had been conned by some very smooth, big city confidence artists. He paid $100 for a paper bag full of trash.

I think he should have been tipped off by the note. Who writes on a paper bag full of rare coins, "return to so and so for a reward"? And who keeps rare coins in a paper bag?

Moreover, Phil should have remembered this basic rule: if a perfect stranger wants you to give him money now in exchange for more money later, no matter how good the deal sounds, you are being conned.

UPDATE: Welcome Geekpress readers!

Sui Generis

A few years ago a teenage girl asked my sister, who is a high school librarian, for books by authors "who write like Ayn Rand." My sister knew who to come to for advice.

I named the romantic realist authors I could think of, then paused and said, "Actually... there's no one who writes like Ayn Rand."

I can sympathize with that girl, because I too would like to read books written like Rand's. I've never read anyone quite like her. She writes about this world, not some medieval fantasy land or space opera, yet she makes it exciting, with fascinating characters and a plot as good as any detective novel. And both character and plot are integrated with a philosophic theme and ideas that give the novels weight and depth. It is serious literature that is also a page-turner.

Her style combines logic and passion in a way that is her own. As Leonard Peikoff writes in The Early Ayn Rand, she unites concretes and abstractions, something most novelists never think of because they are not also philosophers.

Best of all, Ayn Rand is in no way "modern." Her stories are not about the depraved and the neurotic, the naked and the dead. There is no ambiguity of meaning, or worse, no absurdist dismissal of meaning. No plotless navel gazing.

Her fiction is romantic realism, the rarest and most difficult writing to achieve, fiction that integrates serious thought and exciting plot, fact and value, mind and body.

If that girl tries Dostoyevsky, she will find great fiction, despite Nabokov's contempt for the author. However, she might be disappointed by the emphasis on characters who are immoral, disgusting and, well, Russian. Also, Dostoyevsky's style takes some getting used to. Has there ever been a great novelist so little interested in descriptive passages? His novels read like massive plays and the description is little more than stage directions just to give the reader a perfunctory idea of the set behind the actors.

If that girl tries Victor Hugo, she will find great fiction, but again, she will have to put up with Hugo's loggorheic style. If you think Shakespeare is bad because he can pile metaphor on metaphor, on and on, Hugo is even worse. He especially loves to elaborate paradoxes: it was night, but it was day; it was black, but it was white; it was good, but it was bad. It's a great technique because it is dramatic -- the paradoxes are about the value conflict -- but after a few pages, this reader is ready to move along with the story. If I recall correctly, Paul Johnson called Hugo the greatest writer who had nothing to say. Perhaps that is an unfair exaggeration.

I don't know what other famous writers could be called romantic realist. I've heard Arnold Bennett categorized thus, but his fiction is much less interesting than the great stuff. I'm not familiar enough with George Eliot to give an opinion. Middlemarch is on my shelf, but I have not gotten around to it. Same with Walter Scott. Dumas is a lot of fun, but he lacks seriousness and depth of thought.

There are a lot of great plays, by authors such as Schiller, Ibsen and Rostand, but reading plays presents the reader with challenges. Some enjoy reading plays, but most people prefer fiction. As an actor I've always been the opposite -- not only do I love reading plays, but I read novels like they were plays. When I read The Idiot as a young man, I kept thinking, "That's a good monologue" and "I could play Mishkin." When I read The Fountainhead I desperately wanted to play Peter Keating; I acted the lines in my head as I read and had him cold.

Maybe I failed that girl looking for books by authors who write like Ayn Rand. What would you have told her?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Recent Acquisitions

A good guitar is a thing of beauty. Recently I bought a Gibson Les Paul Special, a 1976 Gibson S1 and a Fender Stratocaster Plus on Ebay. Each guitar went for a reasonable price.

I have not yet played the Strat or the S1 but I got the Les Paul today and it feels in my hands like I was born to play it. The first thing I played was "Who Do You Love" in honor of the recently deceased Bo Diddley. Unfortunately, I live in a condo, so I have to listen on headphones or people start banging on the walls. It makes me wish I lived on a farm someplace where I could crank up a Marshall full stack by the barn and terrorize the chickens.

Once I finish the play I'm currently rehearsing, I hope to spend more time making music.

 les paul


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Sail to Catch the Wind

With Jim May's permission I repost below a post he made to the private HBL. (I have reformatted it for this blog, with minor stylistic changes such as putting book titles in italics, but the content is unchanged.) The post makes an interesting point about demagoguery I had not seen before. Usually we think of demagogues manipulating the emotions of large crowds -- but who is controlling whom?

UPDATE: Welcome Two-Four readers!


Obama, the Empty Vessel

Robert Tracinski wrote:

If you were fooled by Obama's secularist rhetoric, don't feel too bad. He described the essence of his political modus operandi in his campaign book The Audacity of Hope: "I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views."

I just finished reinstalling my jaw after reading that. This is why: Consider the following quote, where I substituted "THE DEMAGOGUE" for its actual subject. I predict most, if not all list members, will recognize who is being discussed before I reveal it at the end of the quote.

No, evidently propaganda is not just the trick of "always saying the same thing" -- that would be too simple. . . Actually, propaganda changes and irradiates like swamp water in changing weather. The facts must constantly be interpreted, invented, falsified anew; overnight, friend must become foe; good, evil -- and always the force of faith must gleam through the veil of shifting truths. Without this power of faith, the propagandist cannot make people believe even the simplest truths, much less a tissue of contradictions and lies! . . .

The truth is irremediably buried beneath these deceptions and contradictions. How, then, can the speaker expect to put through a single incisive, suitable lie, when from speech to speech, from sentence to sentence, he changes even the lies? Whom does he expect to persuade that he himself believes a single one of those mutually contradictory lies? And to what purpose does he try to spread an opinion among the people, when on the very next day he is going to sacrifice that opinion?

Such questions are asked by those who do not understand propaganda, who understand propaganda as the art of instilling an opinion in the masses. Actually, it is the art of receiving an opinion from the masses....

THE DEMAGOGUE did not hammer the same simple statement into the minds of millions; on the contrary, he played with the masses and titillated them with the most contradictory assertions. It is this art of contradiction which makes him the greatest and most successful propagandist of his time. He does not dominate the minds of millions, his mind belongs to them. Like a piece of wood floating on the waves, he follows the shifting currents of public opinion. This is his true strength.

The true aim of political propaganda is not to influence, but to study the masses. The speaker is in constant communication with the masses; he hears an echo, and senses the inner vibration. In forever setting new and contradictory assertions before his audience, THE DEMAGOGUE is tapping the outwardly shapeless substance of public opinion with instruments of varying metals and varying weights. When a resonance issues from the depths of the substance, the masses have given him the pitch; he knows in what terms he must finally address them.

Rather than as a means of directing the mass mind, propaganda is a technique for riding with the masses. It is not a machine to make wind, but a sail to catch the wind.

(Emphasis mine.)

I have, until now, held that the Obama phenomenon has been about his followers signalling their readiness for a Maximum Leader, more so than about Obama himself. I did not know that he actually describes himself in terms that the quoted author, Konrad Heiden, uses to describe THE DEMAGOGUE, who is Adolf Hitler.

I am still shaking my head that Obama openly confesses to being the same sort of selfless banality as Hitler was. I do not necessarily believe that Obama will be the next Fuehrer; the antidote, as weak as it is, remains active in the culture, unlike Weimar. But it is nonetheless disturbing to see this particular pattern show up so clearly, so soon, at the level of a presidential election.

Quote source: pp137-140, Der Fuehrer by Konrad Heiden, 1944, 1st edition, Houghton-Mifflin, translated by Ralph Mannheim.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Bit of Spin

Paul Krugman is in the wrong line of work. As a pundit for the New York Times, he is mediocre at best and usually much worse. He should be working for the Democrats as a guy who presents their case on the cable news shows, for his latest column reveals him to be the ultimate spinmeister. Titled "Rove's Third Term," the piece is a defense of General Clark's attack on John McCain's war record.

The fact that he would defend a smear that even Obama has distanced himself from tells you something about Krugman. Like the rabid partisans at Democratic Underground and Daily Kos, Krugman never condemns a Democrat attack on Republicans, no matter how outrageous.

First, he fudges about what Clark said, implying that all the attention it got is just Republican propaganda:

What General Clark actually said was that Mr. McCain’s war service, though heroic, didn’t necessarily constitute a qualification for the presidency. It was a blunt but truthful remark, and not at all outrageous — especially given the fact that General Clark is himself a bona fide war hero.

But here is Robert Novak's description of what happened:

Clark, along with other Obama surrogates, followed the campaign's line of downgrading McCain's performance as a Vietnam War POW. But Clark was particularly insulting. ("I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.")

Clark is in fact the eighth prominent Democrat to attack McCain's war record, evidence that the Obama campaign feels the need to attack McCain's character. McCain spent 22 years as an officer in the United States Navy, which Clark chose to belittle as "riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down." Yes, Clark's statement by itself is true, but is it a fair portrayal of McCain?

Here is another blunt, true statement: John Kerry threw away his medals after he got home from Vietnam. Now, if Bush had sent surrogates on TV to argue that true statement, don't you think Paul Krugman would have been the first to object?

But we have not even got to the outrageous spin yet.

Yet the Clark affair did reveal something important — not about General Clark, but about Mr. McCain. Now we know what a McCain administration would represent: namely, a third term for Karl Rove.


But the McCain campaign went beyond condemning General Clark’s remarks; it went out of its way to distort them. “This backhanded slap against John as not being a worthy warrior because he just got shot down is one of the more surprising insults in my military history,” said retired Col. Bud Day, who participated in a conference call organized by the campaign. In fact, General Clark had said no such thing. [BS. Clark's comment is an obvious insult. Day's characterization of Clark's meaning is accurate. Krugman is being too cute by half when he pretends Clark's statement was merely an innocent statement of fact. -- Myrhaf]

The irony, not lost on Democrats, is that Col. Day himself has done what he falsely accused Wesley Clark of doing: he appeared in the 2004 Swift boat ads that impugned John Kerry’s wartime service.

The willingness of the McCain campaign to engage in these tactics, employing such tainted spokesmen, tells us that the campaign has decided to go negative — specifically, to apply the strategy Karl Rove used so effectively in 2002 and 2004 (but not so effectively in 2006), that of portraying Democrats as unpatriotic.

So because the McCain campaign fought back against an attack on McCain's character, the candidate is going negative! In the world according to Krugman, Republicans must not only desist in any attacks on Democrats, but if they even defend themselves against Democrat attacks, they are guilty of Rovian unfairness!

Paul Krugman is a man who has, as the current phrase goes, "drunk the Democrat kool-aid." When Democrats smear a Republican's character, they are just being "blunt but truthful." When Republicans defend themselves, they are "going negative." Such is life in the liberal cocoon.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A New Era of Servitude

Barack Obama has given a second speech this week leading up to the Fourth of July. In this one he expands on his idea of national service that he mentioned in his previous speech. The speech is called, "A New Era of Service." Service to the state would be a priority in an Obama administration.

Fourth of July speeches are a time to celebrate what makes America great, to speak about America's ideals. It is notable that Obama can see nothing worth talking about but statist-collectivist-altruist ideals. For a holiday that celebrates America's independence, Obama focuses on the opposite, on our supposed dependence on on another. For a holiday that traditionally celebrates freedom, Obama advocates expanded service to the state.

I submit that there has never been a candidate for President of a major party who so grossly misunderstood the meaning of America as Barack Obama. Liberals can scream that I'm "questioning his patriotism" all they want, but I firmly believe Obama is the least American, most European presidential candidate ever. This little man has no idea what made America great. His vision of America's ideals is exactly what is destroying American liberty and individual rights.

If a speech called "A New Era of Service" had been given on Independence Day 100 years ago, the audience would have been baffled. Why, they would have wondered, is this man on the anniversary of American independence speaking about servitude to the state? The bafflement would have quickly given way to anger and outrage. The audience would have considered such a speech as nothing less than an evil, nihilist attack on the essence of America.

America has declined so far in 100 years that we are about to elect as President a man who personifies everything the Founding Fathers fought against. The Founders fought for individualism; Obama fights for collectivism. The Founders fought for liberty; Obama fights for statism. The Founders fought for the pursuit of happiness; Obama fights for individual sacrifice. The Founders fought for our national self-interest against foreign tyrants; Obama wants to appease our enemies so the rest of the world will think better of us. The Founders fought for lower taxes; Obama fights for higher taxes.

Even more: in the founding era saying what you mean and meaning what you say were held as virtues. The Plain Dealer of Cleveland was named in that spirit. Obama, on the other hand, has bragged that his words are a "rorschach test" -- they mean different things to different people.

Obama thinks that a life lived in the selfish pursuit of profit is a life without meaning. Only by sacrificing to the collective does one achieve noble values. Only by selflessly serving others is one moral.

Read his speech if you can stomach it. Obama proposes an array of new programs and expansion of old programs, none of which will do a damned thing but waste money. It will all be make work and symbolism. College kids will think of the 100 hours they must spend in "community service" as jerk-off time they must endure to get a degree. Obama's idealism will only lead to greater cynicism as young Americans learn that what our culture holds as a moral value is a useless waste of time, whereas the important, selfish values of pursuing a career and making money are sneered at. When drudgery is praised and meaningful work is belittled, people give up on morality and fall into cynicism and despair. From there it's a small step to booze, drugs, and a life of mindless, range-of-the-moment hedonism.

Obama's program for a new era of service must fail because the underlying morality, altruism, is entirely at odds with the requirements of man's life. Man must selfishly pursue his values to live and be happy, but altruism demands the sacrifice of higher values to lesser values. If followed consistently, which few can do, altruism leads to death. Altruists depend on people being inconsistent; it is a morality that depends on people being immoral by its own standards in order to remain alive.

And if you want to be really depressed, consider this: John McCain is just as bad. He extols sacrificing for something greater than ourselves. He has contempt for the profit motive. He is as ignorant of economics as Obama. Just about the only good thing that can be said about McCain is that he doesn't come off as an effete European like Obama. His heroism in the military is unquestionable.

Whichever fool lies and smears his way to the Oval Office, America will enter a new era of servitude.

UPDATE: Greg Ransom on Obama's program for a new American slavery:

THIS ISN'T THE ROAD TO SERFDOM, THIS IS SERFDOM. National service mandated by the state is what Europe had for centuries. It was called serfdom. For example, in France, citizens were required to perform public service building and repairing roads and other public projects for hundreds and thousands of hours a year. Serfdom wasn't eliminated in France until the French revolution, one of the "liberty" parts of that revolution. It was largely the American revolution which inspired this escape from serfdom. Indeed, the American revolution was all about escaping from the European model of servitude, with the American's insisting that even very moderate taxation without representation was a form of oppressive servitude. Incredibly, Barack Obama somehow believes that advocacy of a return to European style serfdom is a good way to celebrate the American Declaration of Independence from the oppression of English tyranny.

UPDATE II: I mistakenly wrote that Obama calls his words a "rorschach test." It would be correct to write that he thinks of himself as a "blank screen." Robert Tracinski used the whole Obama quote in HBL:

I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The America Obama Loves

At the same time Obama gives a speech in which he whines that his patriotism has been questioned, he sends General Wesley Clark out to question McCain's military service.

It's not the first attack on McCain's service:

Democrats have belittled it on several occasions now. In May, it was Bill Gillespie, another Obama backer in Georgia and a candidate for the House. In the same month, Senator Tom Harkin questioned McCain’s mental state for having willingly served in the military. In April, Jay Rockefeller accused McCain of being more or less a coward for being a military pilot, and again in May the New York Times quoted unnamed Senate colleagues of McCain suggesting that he didn’t understand the Vietnam War because he didn’t fight on the ground and spent most of it lounging around Hanoi in a POW camp.

Whoever is behind this strategy, it is idiotic and will backfire. Bringing up McCain's service at all makes Obama look bad. I'm sure I'm not the only American who has thought, "Who the hell is this leftist sissy to send out surrogates to attack McCain's military service?"

Is partisan revenge driving this smear campaign? The Swiftboat attack on Kerry was a phenomenal success that, as much as anything, defeated Kerry. The Democrats have not forgotten it and they desperately want to do the same thing to McCain. I suppose it would be too much for them to grasp that McCain and Kerry had rather different war experiences. McCain spent six years as a POW. Kerry spent a few months in Vietnam, then came back to America to throw away his medals, lie about US atrocities and compare our fighting men to Genghis Khan.

But don't question Kerry's patriotism. Sure, he made anti-American statements, but... look, just don't mention it. The rules are that any unpatriotic statements or gestures by any Democrat must not be identified. Do not say that the Emperor's dick is hanging out for all to see. If every last one of us does not evade reality, then we're "questioning patriotism," which must not be done.

Obama has laid down the rules in his speech:

I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign. And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.

He won't question the patriotism of a man who served in Vietnam and spent six years as a POW. That's awfully big of Obama. In return, any mention of the following is off limits: Obama's communist father; his communist mentor, Frank Marshall Davis; his terrorist friends, William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn; his days as a "community organizer," which some define as a leftist rabble rouser; his 20-year relationship with spiritual mentor and anti-American preacher, Jeremiah Wright; his teaching the ideas of leftist radical Saul Alinski; his wife's anti-American statements; his flag pin controversy; his reluctance to hold his hand over his heart during the National Anthem. Bringing up any of these could come under heading, "questioning his patriotism." It's not a bad deal for Obama.

But his high-mindedness is specious because he has questioned the patriotism of others:

...during the flag lapel pin flap, Obama said this:

"A party that presided over a war in which our troops did not get the body armor they needed, or were sending troops over who were untrained because of poor planning, or are not fulfilling the veterans’ benefits that these troops need when they come home, or are undermining our Constitution with warrantless wiretaps that are unnecessary?

"That is a debate I am very happy to have. We’ll see what the American people think is the true definition of patriotism."

Questioning one's patriotism is a horrible smear -- unless a Democrat questions a Republican's. Then it is valid.

The patriotism of leftists is questioned because they are unpatriotic. It's not like evil Republicans fabricate the issue out of thin air. If there were nothing there, the charges would not be so effective.

The whole patriotism issue is based on the more fundamental issue of leftist anti-Americanism, which is based on the yet more fundamental issues of leftist anti-capitalism, which is caused by leftist altruism, statism and collectivism. These are based on the more philosophical premises of moral relativism and subjectivism. Of course, political campaigns never focus on underlying philosophy, but on relatively trivial and symbolic subjects such as flag pins.

The shallowness of our political discussion works to the liberals' advantage. Obama can stop reasonable doubts about him with lines like: certain times over the last sixteen months, I have found, for the first time, my patriotism challenged - at times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears about who I am and what I stand for.

Instead of having to confront difficult, legitimate questions about leftist anti-Americanism and his life-long relations with communists and other radicals, Obama can dismiss it all as the patriotism issue. What a deal! Democrats must secretly wish another Joseph McCarthy would come along so they could make it all about him and deflect criticism from their candidate altogether.


Aside from Obama's defense of his patriotism, the rest of his speech on America is rather mediocre, welfare state boilerplate. Powerline has noted the gaffes that would make headlines if said by a Republican. After all of Obama's flip-flops and disassociating with long-time allies that become controversial, his words have little weight.

The implication of the speech's title, "The America We Love," is that there is another America we do not love, one we must never forget, even when we praise our country. Moral relativism won't let leftists think of America as essentially good; it has its good and bad, and neither is more important than the other. Obama, feeling magnanimous with the Fourth of July coming, focuses for the moment on America's greatness, but also notes the bad side for all his liberal friends who are uncomfortable with all that barbaric flag waving.

Obama equates patriotism with sacrifice to the state.

...the call to sacrifice for the country's greater good remains an imperative of citizenship. Sadly, in recent years, in the midst of war on two fronts, this call to service never came. After 9/11, we were asked to shop. The wealthiest among us saw their tax obligations decline, even as the costs of war continued to mount.

Obama sees 9/11 as a missed opportunity to expand the power of the state at the individual's expense. The "call to sacrifice" is the call of those in power to make the people voluntarily enslave themselves to the state. Those in power have nothing to lose from this! All the statists need is for people to accept the altruist premise that selfishness is bad. 2,000 years of Christianity make this a widespread idea in the West.

Obama expands on his vision of a new American slavery, a vision he shares with McCain:

In spite of this absence of leadership from Washington, I have seen a new generation of Americans begin to take up the call. I meet them everywhere I go, young people involved in the project of American renewal; not only those who have signed up to fight for our country in distant lands, but those who are fighting for a better America here at home, by teaching in underserved schools, or caring for the sick in understaffed hospitals, or promoting more sustainable energy policies in their local communities.

I believe one of the tasks of the next Administration is to ensure that this movement towards service grows and sustains itself in the years to come. We should expand AmeriCorps and grow the Peace Corps. We should encourage national service by making it part of the requirement for a new college assistance program...

Before long, no one but the children of the very rich would be able to afford college without suffering two years of servitude to the state. This is the moral ideal that excites Obama as the nation is about to celebrate Independence Day -- a holiday that originally celebrated the opposite of Obama's vision.

Obama is something of an undistinguished cipher. Geraldine Ferraro, though reviled by the left, was right when she stated the obvious fact that he got the nomination because he is black. Ideologically, Obama is just the latest mediocre representative of the collectivist counter-revolution to the American Revolution. The American Revolution stood for the Enlightenment values of individual rights, liberty and prosperity. The counter-revolution stands for collectivism, statism and sacrifice.