Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Around the World Wide Web 80

1. George Reisman on the notion that laissez-faire capitalism is responsible for the latest economic crisis.

2. Renee Katz of Adventures In Existence has a You Tube page of her own. Somehow she survived 12 years of lower education with her ability to think independently intact. Maybe there's hope.

3. This magician/comedian is hilarious.

4. The most benevolent and revered One has been embarrassed recently by Joe the Plumber and the broadcast journalist Barbara West. Both people had the poor judgment to ask Obama or Biden tough questions. Now Joe the Plumber and Barbara West's husband are being investigated. This is what life under Obama will be -- anyone who does not toe the line will find himself subject to intimidation and character smears.

5. Interesting insight into the mind of Bill Ayers by Larry Grathwohl, an FBI informant who infiltrated the Weathermen.

If you read the whole interview, it becomes apparent that, at least to Grathwohl, Ayers is an egoist — but one who placed others at risk, counting on them to do much of the dirty work. Grathwohl notes that oftentimes Ayers left the heavy lifting to the women in the movement, while he himself wanted nothing more than to be in charge.

Power at all cost. Attack by proxy. A sense of entitlement. The arrogant notion that of course he should be in charge of the revolution and the refiguration of the country and all its citizens. A cadre of sycophants willing to follow his lead, oftentimes without question. A complete and utter disregard for the bourgeois rules of the “Establishment” — be it the law, the courts, or the principles upon which this country was founded.

Sounds to me like he built Obama into a polished, improved (in the Alinsky sense), multicultural likeness of himself — and has taught him to play the system and build his own army of political golems.

It remains to be seen just how radical Obama is, but if the worst fears of the right turn out to be justified (and if Obama wins next week), then we'll be living through the most remarkable political story our our time: a leftist radical gains the ultimate power in America in order to destroy capitalism. That's pretty damned dramatic.

6. Michael S. Malone is embarrassed to call himself a journalist.

If the current polls are correct, we are about to elect as president of the United States a man who is essentially a cipher, who has left almost no paper trail, seems to have few friends (that at least will talk) and has entire years missing out of his biography.

That isn't Sen. Obama's fault: His job is to put his best face forward. No, it is the traditional media's fault, for it alone (unlike the alternative media) has had the resources to cover this story properly, and has systematically refused to do so.

Why is this happening?

Picture yourself in your 50s in a job where you've spent 30 years working your way to the top, to the cockpit of power & only to discover that you're presiding over a dying industry. The Internet and alternative media are stealing your readers, your advertisers and your top young talent. Many of your peers shrewdly took golden parachutes and disappeared. Your job doesn't have anywhere near the power and influence it did when your started your climb. The Newspaper Guild is too weak to protect you any more, and there is a very good chance you'll lose your job before you cross that finish line, 10 years hence, of retirement and a pension.

In other words, you are facing career catastrophe -- and desperate times call for desperate measures. Even if you have to risk everything on a single Hail Mary play. Even if you have to compromise the principles that got you here. After all, newspapers and network news are doomed anyway -- all that counts is keeping them on life support until you can retire.

And then the opportunity presents itself -- an attractive young candidate whose politics likely matches yours, but more important, he offers the prospect of a transformed Washington with the power to fix everything that has gone wrong in your career.

With luck, this monolithic, single-party government will crush the alternative media via a revived fairness doctrine, re-invigorate unions by getting rid of secret votes, and just maybe be beholden to people like you in the traditional media for getting it there.

And besides, you tell yourself, it's all for the good of the country...

Journalists in the tank for Obama because of the self-interested desperation of a dying industry? Could be.

28 comments:

madmax said...

You say"

"This is what life under Obama will be -- anyone who does not toe the line will find himself subject to intimidation and character smears."

Wouldn't that then imply that it is necessary to vote for McCain? Also you write:

"a leftist radical gains the ultimate power in America in order to destroy capitalism. That's pretty damned dramatic."

Again, wouldn't the mere possibility of that suggest that it is imperative to keep Obama out of office? I'm starting to think that it does.

Bill Brown said...

That's exactly what I don't get either, madmax. In the long run, the religious right is the biggest threat to America. Kerry was probably the right choice back in 2004 (though I will never say that Gore was the right choice in 2000). But you can't get to the long term if the economy's cratered and we're in the midst of another Great Depression. Or if I die because Obama's rammed through universal health coverage and I can't get proper medical treatment.

McCain is bad, but I'm pretty sure we'll live to fight another day. Obama, coupled with Bush's trailblazing in the imperial presidency, could make things very difficult after 4 to 8 years in power. I'm trying to avoid sounding conspiracy theorist or overly dire, but I can't shake the feeling: these people are power lusters and inveterate statists who may just get what they want.

Abstention in such circumstances seems utterly unwarranted. McCain is not the religious right. Sarah Palin is and we can worry over her when she makes her run for the presidency. "Those who fight for the future live in it today."

Myrhaf said...

I don't think Obama will get away with as much expansion of government as Bush did in his eight years. Bush had no resistance; Obama will have resistance.

Obama looks like he will be especially dangerous in the area of free speech. The Dems are out to shut up Limbaugh and the rest of the right-wing talkers. If Michael S. Malone is right, then the MSM also wants them shut up. I look for Obama to abuse the IRS, FBI and Justice Department in persecuting his enemies -- all of which Clinton did in the '90s.

I just heard something that supports Madmax and Bill Brown on the Michael Medved Show, as I was driving to get lunch (at a fast food restaurant -- I don't eat as healthy as the Hsiehs). McCain's tax plan is apparently a radical restructuring of the system that simplifies it and makes it something like a flat tax. This sounds worlds better than Obama's redistribution plans.

Liriodendron said...

Come now, some of us survived 22 (!) years of lower education with the ability to think intact. :) So there is definitely hope. For a few "educated" people, anyway....

madmax said...

"Abstention in such circumstances seems utterly unwarranted. McCain is not the religious right. Sarah Palin is and we can worry over her when she makes her run for the presidency. "Those who fight for the future live in it today.""

Bill,

I disagreed with you at first, but now I have pretty much come to agree with your position. I know many Obectivists are eager to impede the growth of the Religious Right. But electing a Communist, Racist, America-hater like Obama is not the way to do it. I guess that makes me an "anti-McCainite for McCain." And I say that as someone who is not a fan of Tracinski.

Bill Brown said...

Sadly, if McCain were elected, I think we've not seen the last of Obama. We're going to be facing this choice for years to come, I'd wager.

madmax said...

"Sadly, if McCain were elected, I think we've not seen the last of Obama. We're going to be facing this choice for years to come, I'd wager."

I think there is great truth to this. Even if Obama should lose and retire from politics, I think the door has been opened for more explicit socialists to walk through. All Democrat presidential nominees are going to be like Obama in the future. I can't see what would force the Democrats away from the far Left and to the center. And if all the Republican nominees we get are moving to the Left as well then freedom and prosperity in America is approaching an end.

Jim May said...

Sadly, if McCain were elected, I think we've not seen the last of Obama. We're going to be facing this choice for years to come, I'd wager.

And that's the nasty aspect of a McCain presidency... almost like the bailout, all it might do is postpone the inevitable, at the price of making it worse when it does happen. The Leftist wave that is coming, is IMO unavoidable in light of the culture; our only hope is that enough people grasp it and its horrors for what it is, before it swamps us.

Bill Brown writes:

"But you can't get to the long term if the economy's cratered and we're in the midst of another Great Depression."

And there's the rub that I tried to make clear in this discussion on Diana Hsieh's blog: the long term is not necessarily the best tactical focus at the moment.

Suppose you are in a fight with two attackers. One of them is fresh, getting stronger, and if he gets his hands on you, it's curtains -- but he is farther away, still getting his weapons ready.

The other attacker is running out of steam; his weapons are worn, some of them broken. He is weak enough that his best, last blow may not be enough to kill you. But it might be -- and even if it isn't, it might still be enough to cripple you, leaving the distant attacker all the room and time he needs to finish you off.

Which one do you focus on? The much stronger attacker who will certainly kill you when he's good and ready -- or the one who is still dangerous and in your face?

It should be clear that this is a tactical sort of decision, yes?

Option #1 is to take down the nearby attacker, even though doing so runs the risk of losing the crucial seconds and/or strength needed to engage the faraway attacker before he is ready.

Option 2 is to let the nearby attacker do his worst while you focus on the other guy, in hopes that you will come through it sufficiently unscathed to deal with him. But if you are wrong, the nearby killer may kill you himself -- or cripple you, which insures death at the hands of the second attacker.

The faraway killer is religion; the nearby attacker is the Left. Those Objectivists who focus on the religious right have effectively decided on option #2. If a Great Depression is the worst that the Left can do to us, they might be right.

But then again, economic dislocation and stagnation is a fertile breeding ground for all sorts of nasty things... ask the Weimar Republic.

Watch the pincer movement...

Liriodendron said...

Good points, Jim. This is one of the reasons that I am no longer sure I can vote for president. I was previously of the opinion that option #2 was the best and was sure I would vote for Obama.

Unti the EPA's Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking came out.

Knowing what I know about current USDA beliefs and policies, I can't imagine that anything good is coming for my diet in the regulation of CO2, since I eat lots of meat to stay thin and healthy and since the production of it releases way more CO2 than producing produce. Ever since the EPA's statement came out that they plan to regulate CO2, I've become much more worried about the Dems than I ever have been before because I know they'll more actively seek CO2 regulation than the Republicans will. I am pretty confident they would try to shove their politically correct diet down all our throats.

A dietary prescription higher in grains coming from the EPA and USDA would be a death sentence for me. THere are all kinds of health problems linked to carbs that run in my family, including a ton of diabetes. On a basic biological level of being able to control my own body, I think diet now actually trumps abortion for me. Which means I don't think I can vote for Obama.

Jesus, what a terrible situation we are in.

madmax said...

"The Leftist wave that is coming, is IMO unavoidable in light of the culture; our only hope is that enough people grasp it and its horrors for what it is, before it swamps us."

This is a really good point Jim, and perhaps the best reason for voting for Obama. I have decided on your option 1 but I would never think poorly of anyone who chose option 2. This is an extremely difficult choice to make.

"Jesus, what a terrible situation we are in."

It sure is. After the election, I'm thinking of doing a 2 or 3 week news fast (outside of traffic and weather) to regain my sanity. Politics is just too damn depressing.

Bill Brown said...

The faraway killer is religion; the nearby attacker is the Left. Those Objectivists who focus on the religious right have effectively decided on option #2. If a Great Depression is the worst that the Left can do to us, they might be right.

What do you see as the long-term threat religion poses in America? Are you thinking we'd be a Christian Iran? Or an Inquisition? Or the Middle Ages? Or the Taliban? Each of which seems extremely far-fetched to my mind. Just curious: I've heard admonitions about a descent into theocracy but it's never resonated with me. But we know what American-style socialism looks like: the twentieth-century has been a gradual erosion of freedom.

This isn't your father's (er, grandfather's) Great Depression. First, there's no great war on the horizon that'll pull us out of the situation. Second, the Supreme Court isn't going to be an effective check against BHO's schemes. Third, Congress will dominated by the same party and the opposition will not be defending against BHO's programs from a position of liberty. Finally, the administration is going to be filled with the most liberal, environmentalist power lusters you've ever seen reporting to a president that's sitting at the pinnacle of presidential power. All in a culture that's more receptive to a power grab than ever before.

Next week will be momentous, to be sure.

Mike said...

I know it sounds tinfoil-hat, but the time really is coming, I think, to stockpile the guns and ammo and food/water supplies. Laugh if you like. If nothing comes of all this, I'll just have a little bit less disposable income. If the world goes south quickly, though...

Liriodendron said...

You are not crazy, Mike. I am doing just that. I have plans for a chicken coop and a vegetable garden at 8300 feet, believe it or not. I have stockpiled quite a bit of dry and canned food as well.

Bill Brown said...

It does sound tinfoil hat, but I know people buying up gold right now.

I just read this on reddit today. This is a geekier Digg.

What is this world coming to?

Andrew Dalton said...

In case you're not worried enough already, also consider this (very old) post in the unlikely event that McCain wins.

madmax said...

"I've heard admonitions about a descent into theocracy but it's never resonated with me."

Interesting question you raise. If Europe and Canada remain secular then one of two things could happen. America becomes a theocracy and thus some version of a Christian banana republic like Brazil (only more religious). This would be accompanied by a massive flight from the country towards Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Or the prospect of such a mass emigration keeps America semi-secular for the forseeable future.

Of course, if Europe should become Islamized, another questionable prospect, then there would be essentially nowhere to go. Perhaps you could get an Christian authoritarian state and an Iranian styled Europe.

I admit that like Bill it does seem difficult for me to imagine. A truly invigorated Christianity on a national, if not global scale seems far fetched. But if religion continues to grow and all that there is to counter it are Humean style skeptics, how could a religious authoritarian state be avoided?

Jim May said...

Bill: the long term threat that religion poses is that it will move into the void left behind by the Left's cultural destruction of America. That is happening as we speak, no matter how big a last hurrah the Left will have under Obama.

Think of the Left as AIDS; it is destroying the immune system bequeathed to us by the Enlightenment thinkers. This negative is the Left's end of road, and once it is done, they will be finished as a cultural force. They are just about there now.

Religion is the opportunistic infection that follows behind, taking advantage of the breaches and holes in the defenses. They are already filling the void of historical ignorance with their active campaign to rewrite history. In their version, Christianity invented liberty and America is a Christian nation, and the Dark Ages were only called that by bigoted secular historians, and they only called it that because we knew little about that time period anyway, not because it was a pit of darkness and misery thanks to Christian rule.

(It reminds me of the part in "1984" where Winston Smith hears the Party claiming the invention of the airplane, when he distinctly remembers seeing airplanes before they came to power.)

Politically, I can't say how it will go; there is a lot of crossover potential between religion and the Left, and how the conventional political spectrum will be redefined in the coming era, I can't say. But culturally, religion and other such primitivisms are ascendant, and will be culturally dominant in 40 years no matter the political path we take. If they have opposition, it will be Objectivist, period -- the Left is done, and there isn't anyone else.

There is also no reason whatsoever to assume that the theocrats will craft a new power structure once they reach dominance. What for? The Left will have built it for them. There is no reason why the "socialism-in-the-German-model" fascist state apparatus can't be run by religious theocrats after they take it from the collapsing Left.

So don't be fooled by the likely eclipse of the religious bastards over the next several years. They'll be fulminating in the background, building on the resentments that Obama and his cohorts will spawn, and making plans about how they will utilize the Machine of State he builds once they get their hands on it.

That's assuming that this country survives that long, of course. As I wrote in my metaphor, there is no guarantee that the "nearby" attacker won't finish us off himself; the Left may reach its end of road... in which case, religion will dominate the ruins.

Boy ain't I a ray of sunshine lately? :P

Jim May said...

This would be accompanied by a massive flight from the country towards Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

That wouldn't work in Canada's case. During the Cold War, Finland had an agreement with the Soviets to turn away defectors fleeing across the tundra to their border. They didn't like it, but they made that deal with the devil so as to not end up like the Baltics.

Canada has one tenth the population of the U.S. and almost no military to speak of. If that were a safe place to go (and I didn't run the risk of becoming the next Mark Steyn), I'd be preparing a bolt hole there myself, as I have the advantage of citizenship there.

Australia and New Zealand might be options. It is worth bearing in mind that as America goes, so goes the world: if the Republic becomes the EMpire, the rest of the world will likely hunker down into police states of their own.

After all, they'd have to protect themselves... and the "great experiment", liberty, would have "failed".

Galileo Blogs said...

Both Left and Right are terrible threats, but remember that we *can* fight them, as long as we have a semblance of free speech and the rule of law left in this country. And we still have much more than a semblance, so far.

Near-term, things will get worse, but we can and will survive the near-term. Think of the 1930s or the 1970s as worst-case examples. These were awful periods, but people still created businesses, pursued careers, and built happy lives.

Personally, I think the 1970s is closer to what we face in the coming years. That was a period of a near doubling in the number of regulations, in terms of number of pages in the Federal Register that tracks them. It was a period of speeding, near-hyper inflation, which was only brought under control by Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker who was appointed by Jimmy Carter. It was a period of wage and price controls, imposed by Richard Nixon. It marked our self-imposed defeat in Vietnam (a war we should not have fought, but one we also ignominiously abandoned). It marked Watergate and the impeachment of our president, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and sundry alphabet soup regulatory agencies, created by Richard Nixon, etc.

We survived all that and afterward got Ronald Reagan, continued tight monetary policy by Paul Volcker and a two-decade-long reduction in inflation (now being destroyed again by the Greenspan/Bernanke Fed), a reduction of taxes, and an entrepreneurial flowering in computers, the life sciences, etc.

If we go through another 1970s, and in many respects we will, we will survive it, and many, if not most of us, will retain the political freedom and financial means to achieve our own individual happiness.

In the name of that happiness, we must fight for the political and social values that we depend on, but near-term success in such a fight is in no way necessary to achieve personal happiness.

I will fight so that when the next crisis happens after four years of Obama, it can produce a "Swing to the Right" response such as we saw under Reagan but one that is strictly secular. At the same time, I do this while enjoying what freedom does remain, and it is still quite substantial, in America and, indeed, in large parts of the earth.

Bill Brown said...

As I said somewhere else, an Obama victory could be the best thing that ever happened for the Republican Party. I know that I will spend the next four years agitating in the GOP for a principled platform of individual rights.

But the party leaders takeaway from an Obama victory could be that the American people clearly want handouts and bigger government. There's been plenty of movement towards that end in last decade. They're pragmatists and their goal is to get party members elected. If Obama's ascent is a landslide, the lesson that they weren't Goldwater conservative enough might not be at all evident.

I generally would share Raymond's optimistic outlook but I just see so much anecdotal evidence of Obama's cult of personality that reminds me of FDR. It makes me grouchy and think that the next four years (or, heaven forbid, eight) are going to be rough. I don't like rough.

Galileo Blogs said...

Yes, and I have to clarify my comments in the last paragraph. I hope for a Swing to the Right and one *can* happen, but it likely will take much longer than 4 years, if ever. The Republican Party is quite corrupt.

While I don't know for sure what will happen, I do believe that the Republicans must be thrown out of power and stay out until and unless they re-discover the remnants of their better principles.

The good thing about the Bush travesty, if there is one, is that he is the "compassionate" and the Big Government Republican. Look where it got him and the Republicans. The more dramatic the Republican loss, the more they will be forced to re-consider Bush's legacy and the meaning (if there can be one) of being a Republican. That could cause them to think they were not religious or socialist enough, or it could cause them to adopt a less socialist, more principled path. Either way, Republicans will be forced to think about what went wrong and what they need to do differently in order to regain their power.

Unfortunately, I think it is more likely that they will reject elements of socialism than that they will reject religion, but the dramatic Bush failure could cause them to re-consider both. (And they could decide they were not socialist enough, in which case "fasten your seat belts.")

My commentary is also animated by the facts, incredible as it may seem to some, that Democrats often deregulate more while in office than Republicans. That is also why I think Obama will get away with less than people think. He might be more like a Johnson or Nixon, which is seriously bad, but not like FDR, who was an utter catastrophe. What will hold Obama in check? It is the Republicans, and only because they are not in power and will fight Obama.

Myrhaf said...

I'm hoping the Republicans fight Obama.

The most contentious arguments in these comments are always about the future -- that which we don't know because it has not happened yet. It's a little frustrating, not to mention silly, to argue about what might or might not happen. No one knows for sure. We can predict broad cultural trends, but anything more specific is science fiction like Asimov's "psychohistory."

Galileo Blogs said...

I have to disagree. One can predict shorter term *economic* trends. It is difficult, but people do it successfully, and success only needs to be measured as a percentage just a little better than 50% to make money.

If one is using just philosophy as a guide, then I agree with you.

Regardless, everyone should try to have some view about the near-term economy as it can affect investment decisions, and even decisions regarding employment, education, and even where to live. (For example, if one could have foreseen the collapse of oil prices in the 1980s, it would have made no sense to move to Houston, all else being equal.)

The larger point, though, is that *regardless* of what happens politically and economically, most Americans still have a great deal of freedom that they can use to pursue individual happiness. Politics should not be an overwhelming concern, unless of course it is one's hobby or profession.

madmax said...

"We can predict broad cultural trends, but anything more specific is science fiction like Asimov's "psychohistory.""

Yes, but Harry Seldon was right. Well, except for the Mule.

Myrhaf said...

You know, I think Asimov got the idea for psychohistory from Stalin's five-year plans, which liberals like Asimov thought were "scientific" then. It's materialism (rationalism too) to predict the behavior of society with equations.

Mike said...

I personally don't recommend NZ.lots of socialists and xenophobes in the government. welfare is the norm and banning is the answer to various ambitious plans. I hate to say this but I might end up back in the Gulf countries. As much as I despise their system, I think I have a much better chance there than I have here sadly. I wanted to go to the USA but it seems more of the same.

Liriodendron said...

Hey at least they don't have 80 billion dollars a year in farm subsidies in New Zealand. That's something.

Mike said...

its not enough unfortunately. our economy is messed up and the idiots in parliament have no clue how to deal with the crisis. lots of welfare, because its a great system that magically solves people's problems and rationed care.good news is we got our first private radiology clinic so I guess that's something to cheer for.