Saturday, May 31, 2008

Never Ever Learned to Read or Write So Well...

The new Rolling Stone's cover feature is "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time."

These "greatest hits" compilations are completely arbitrary, but they can still be fun. The #1 guitar song is Chuck Berry's "
Johnny B. Goode," so let's let it roll:

Here's Rolling Stone's summary of Berry's classic:

"If you want to play rock & roll," Joe Perry told Rolling Stone in 2004, "you have to start here." Recorded 50 years ago, on January 6th, 1958, at the Chess Records studio in Chicago, Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" was the first great record about the joys and rewards of playing rock & roll guitar. It also has the single greatest rock & roll intro: a thrilling blast of high twang driven by Berry's spearing notes, followed by a rhythm part that translates a boogie-woogie piano riff for the guitar. "He could play the guitar just like a-ringing a bell," Berry sings in the first verse — a perfect description of his sound and the reverberations still running through every style of rock guitar, from the Beatles and the Stones on down. "It was beautiful, effortless, and his timing was perfection," Keith Richards has said of Berry's playing. "He is rhythm man supreme." Berry wrote often about rock & roll and why it's good for you — "Roll Over Beethoven" in 1956, "Rock and Roll Music" in '57 — but never better than in "Johnny B. Goode," a true story about how playing music on a guitar can change your life forever.
I've actually been mulling the question of history's greatest rock-and-roll hits, especially guitar anthems, since I've been writing my "lightening up" series.

It turn's out that #7 on the list is "
While My Guitar Gently Weeps," one of the initial songs I wrote about here.

Not included among the "100 greatest songs" are any of
Mick Ronson's power hits when he was David Bowie's sideman in the early 1970s. I've been planning a couple of posts on Bowie soon, but I'm not the only one who took exception to Ronson's exclusion:

OK, let me get this straight. No Mick Ronson, like "Moonage Daydream." A guy who did so many unbelivable things with the guitar...
The comment thread's got a few more folks getting much more animated.

The issues's also
got interviews with guitar heroes like Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen. Here's Van Halen on some of the classic bands, like the Kinks:

I just like songs. I don't mean to sound like a prick or nothin', but I've never really been that much of a fan of bands outside of Cream. And I don't really listen to anything nowadays. The last record I might've bought was Peter Gabriel's So. With Cream, I was more a fan of their interaction live. You know, they were an example of "What's the difference between jazz and rock & roll? We just play louder." That's all. We get 12 notes. Do what the f**k you want with 'em, you know.
I'll have more, so have a great night!

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Case for Conservatism and Ideas

Remember when Gabriel over at Ace of Spades said "if you're anything like me, [this is] really going to make you mad"? He was talking about how pissed-off he gets at widespread and despicable left-wing extremism and inanity.

It seems like I've been getting angrier every day, frankly, at the sheer
vacuity that's so common among those who are supposed to be the highly acclaimed opinion-setters of the Democratic left.

An outstanding case in point is the recent entry from "Kathy G" at Matthew Yglesias' page, "
Are "Ideas" the Cure to What Ails Conservatism?." Here's the introduction, plus a couple of key passages:

Lately, we've heard a lot about how conservatives are allegedly "out of ideas." Lack of ideas is supposedly the reason conservatives have recently been losing a slew of elections and scoring low ratings in public opinion polls, and why George Bush is the most hated president since the final days of Richard Nixon. What conservatives need, say some, are "new ideas." That's the ticket! Then their fortunes, currently in such spectacular free fall, will rally once again and stage a dramatic comeback.

I confess that talk of ideas in the context of American electoral politics long puzzled me....

Then I finally got it. By "ideas," by and large the pundits seem to mean a boutique-y marketing of a political agenda to the policy-making elites. As the historian David Greenberg once
wrote, the main task of the Heritage Foundation (and I would argue, of other think tanks as well) is to "flood politicians and editorialists with ready-made policies and easy-to-digest talking points." Many political "ideas" amount to changing the packaging, but not the basic product. Old wine in new bottles and all that. Because I don't believe there really are any big "new ideas" in politics. It's just the same old ideas dressed up in a fancy new set of clothes.

For example, an old idea that conservatives have is that markets pretty much always work better than the public sector. So they thought up school vouchers as a way to strengthen the private school system and weaken the public school system. They don't like government programs, so they've been trying, for years now, to privatize Social Security. They don't like progressive taxation, so they've advocated a flat tax. And on and on.

Conservative "ideas" tend to amount to policies that transfer resources out of the public sector and into private hands. On the other side of the coin, liberal "ideas" do the reverse: they take money out of private hands and put it into the public sector, for the purpose of helping the less advantaged or solving social problems. Often, liberal "new ideas" take the form of new government programs. For example, several years ago when Tim Russert
asked Rahm Emanuel what the Democrats' "new ideas" were, Emanuel mentioned enacting universal health care, significantly increasing subsidies so that more people can attend college, and creating a national institute for science and technology research.

The distribution of money and power in our society is basically what liberals and conservatives fight over. Liberals tend to want the money and power to be more equally shared, while conservatives want it to be concentrated in the hands of the corporations and the rich. But it's considered rude to speak publicly of things so vulgar as money and power, so when attempting to persuade elites, both sides find it helpful to talk about "ideas." That makes these things a lot more comfortable for all concerned -- we can all pretend that we're have a high-minded debate about ideals, instead of a grubby, down-and-dirty fight about power.

Greenberg noted that "In American politics, liberalism and radicalism have been the preferred ideologies of the intellectuals." With the glut of liberal intellectuals around, coming up with "ideas" -- new programs and policies -- has not been much of a problem for the left. Those ideas may not have been fashionable, and some of them -- like universal health care, for example -- are very, very old. But "ideas" have always been there.

Conservatives have had more of a challenge along these lines. For one thing, once upon a time there were very few conservative American intellectuals. As Greenberg points out, "So insignificant was conservatism a half-century ago that Lionel Trilling could claim there were no true conservative ideas in our culture, only 'irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.''' But it's not only that conservatives tend to attract fewer eggheads to their cause; while it's easy to frame a new government program as an idea, it's much harder to make dismantling such a program sound like an idea.

Half a century ago, at the dawn of the conservative movement, conservatives faced another, even deeper problem: their political aims were viewed with distaste by many of the elites -- policymakers, middle- and high-brow journalists -- that they were trying to appeal to. Racism and class warfare have an ugly edge to them, after all. So it was all the more important that conservatives come up with some high-minded "ideas" to sanitize their more controversial and unsavory goals.

In this respect, Milton Friedman was God's gift to the conservative movement. Friedman was a great economist and a world-class intellectual who, like the conservatives, believed in a radically deregulated state and in free markets as the best (or least bad) solution to virtually every social or political problem. Better yet, his ideology implied that screwing over the working class was not only the most economically efficient way to run our society, but conformed to the highest ideals of cosmic justice.

Eureka! in Friedman-style economics, conservatives had at last found their "ideas." Friedman-omics provided the figleaf of intellectual respectability which covered the moral depravity of much of their politics. Friedmanesque ideologues began to prevail in economics departments across the country, so many of the policy elites the conservatives sought to influence were already thoroughly schooled in the "magic of the market." Economics-based appeals flattered the elites by making them feel smart, and also by implying that their worldly success was entirely deserved, earned by the dint of their hard work and "human capital," and not by the luck of the draw of what class they happened to be born into.

No doubt that, once conservatives captured the policymakers and the elite opinion-making journals like The New Republic, it became much easier to get their policies enacted. Why, all the right-thinking people were united in their belief that dismantling the welfare state was the way to go; it was so uncool, so déclassé, so retro to believe otherwise. Only those dirty f**king hippies at The Nation would disagree.

It's a mistake, though, to believe that conservatives, or liberals, win elections because of "ideas." I've long believed that the power of "ideas" in politics to be way overrated...

There's lots more at the post, but the basic gist really does confirm the left's pedestrian logic that conservatism can be broken-down to economic greed. This is truly a case of postmodern reductionist nihilism.

This reductionism to be expected or lamented - as Matthew Yglesias is a trained philosopher, from Harvard - so either he completely endorses "Kathy G's" essential claim that ideational progess has reached some final endpoint - that debates on ideas are really just jockeying to better package archaic notions of static right or justice - or his break from blogging's ending up totally giving away the store.

As Captain Ed notes in a post tonight on conservatism, dicussions of the philosophy of ideas really need to begin with first principles. The Captain gets right into a discussion of such basic points of classical conservatism as the notion of limited government, and he goes on to suggest, essentially, that calls for being "compassionate" ineluctably tend to expand the scope of government, rather than limit its reach and protect the rights of the individual.

This is good, but according to "Kathy G's" basic point, conservatism versus liberalism's alleged to be more about the distribution of wealth and social obligation. Certainly there's that element in ideological debates over equity and opportunity, but that's not a first principle in the sense of ideological fundamentals (conservatives, in wanting to limit the state, essentially keep property rights as basic to human freedom, and thus to be conservative is accordingly to limit the confiscatory power of goverment, which inherently threatens liberty).

So, when we talk about political ideologies, when we get down to first prerequisites, the key concern is the pace and scope of change.

Liberals and conservatives can be placed along a continuum of ideological orientations as those positions correlate to demands on the pace and reach of social transformation. The continuum is more complicated if we include the major ideological concepts of radicals, liberals, moderates, conservatives, and reactionaries. We move from left to right when discussing these terms, and the further to the left one places oneself on the spectrum the more radical (essentially revolutionary) is the degree of change (contemporary groups like the Stalinist
International ANSWER would be placed at the extreme left).

At the other end of the continuum are the forces of reaction, who are opposed to change in its own right, and who would like to take society back to an earlier period in history - indeed, some of the extremist fringes of reaction often seek some kind of
millenarian utopianism, often identified in racialist terms (Germany's Nazi Party, and its obsession with early Germanic mysticism or Teutonic Aryanism, is the obvious example of such extreme right-wing millenarianism, but even today's neo-confederate ideology can be characterized as such to some degree).

Everyday conservatives, on the other hand, support incremental change in the social order, changes that reflect custom and traditions preserved through the ages, but accepting of progress when the preservation of human, universal right is at stake.

Thus it's extremely simple and condescending to refer to modern conservatives as a bunch of "Archie Bunkers," crass simpletons insistent on holding their place greedily in some placement of lumpen working class identity.

But note further the language deployed by "Kathy G": Conservatives are seen as promoting markets to weaken the social realm, to "transfer" resources out of the "public sector into public hands." Nothing better illustrates the mindset of today's American left-wing than its orientation toward society's wealth. The "public sector" does not produce resources - private markets do. This is not an argument against governmental intervention or a strong state, for as economists like
Douglass North have shown, private markets can become too anarchic and Darwinian in the absence of legal frameworks of regulatory and institutional norms.

The contemporary left, as seen in countless
blog posts and articles in journals like the American Prospect, advocates a dramatically interventionist domestic agenda, one that seeks to move the United States more toward the European social democratic model, and with leftist calls for trade protection and multilateralism in interanational security, modern day "progressives" have shifted even closer to the radical position on the continuum than left-liberals of the 1970s and 1980s.

What's interesting is how "Kathy G's" notion of "ideas" consists essentially of expanding the ways to enhance state power and increase distribution. Indeed, those things she lists as novel (and moral) - Emanuel's universal health care, greater subsidies to education, and money for R&D in science and technology - are not new.

The fact is that conservatives are not out of ideas. Greater reliance on markets has shown in recent decades to be a far superior approach to expanding fairness and opportunity than have been efforts to resurrect the paternalistic liberalism of the great society. Take social policy, for example. In the last twelve years the notion driving anti-poverty policy is that people should work rather than rely on the state for support. That is, the traditional solutions to poverty as supporting workfare over welfare, and liberating the classic individualism of self-sufficiency, has been far superior to straight cash handouts to the poor or disadvantaged.

Take social policy further, the GOP can be faulted for not pushing well-enough an incentive-based approach to helping the poor. Society needs to find ways to provide incentives for purposive behavior, like getting kids to school on time, establishing consistent patterns of attendance, or paying the rent on time. We are seeing some "incentive-based" programs at the state level, for example, in the "
Pathways to Rewards" initiatives, currently being used in cities like Chicago. Programs like this, also used to assist to the poor transitioning to work, have shown real results.

In international relations one of the most powerful ideas offered this season is the notion of the league of democracies. Think about it: John McCain has borrowed
strands from both sides of the political spectrum in offering a new and different approach to great-power organization compared to anything we're seeing from the Democratic candidates. This is fresh thinking, seeking the establishment of international institutions that can be unshackled from the 60-year straightjacket of the United Nations, to work toward a new concert of interests working together among the great powers to effect real change internationally, either independently of existing multilateral organizations, or in tandem with them when traditional power politics doesn't impede cooperation.

Leftist foreign policy writers and bloggers
routinely attack to notion of a concert of democratic powers, frankly, because it really is new, and it would shake up the radical shibboleths that American power needs to be restrained and "legitimized" by suffocating it within overlapping institutions and norms of a liberal international order.

I imagine I could go on - precisely because there are so many good ideas! But wait! Social Security privatization? We need it, but it won't be coming soon, not because it's a bad idea, but because the safety net of America's social democratic state is indeed entrenched. President Bush was onto something with his calls for private retirement accounts, as part of his vision toward reorienting American politics to an "opportunity society." If a Democratic president, say, Bill Clinton, had proposed such a program, we might not see the same kind of vitriol and utter demonization that we see in the type of commentary found in the "Kathy G" essay.

But let me close with Milton Freidman, since "Kathy G" makes him out as a foil for evil conservative venality. In the YouTube below, Freidman leaves far-left talk show host Phil Donahue utterly helpless, completely flummoxed in his inability to respond to the simple logic of market rationality:

Liberals and conservatives fight over way more than the "distribution of money and power."

In addition to the rationality of markets - and the personal moral authority of individual responsibilty - conservatives respect tradition as the way societies preserve historical goodness and, frankly, the divine right guaranteeing that all men are created equal.

In a post discussing far left-wing foreign policy,
Mere Rhetoric suggested that "spoiled liberal Ivy kids are not ready to talk to adults yet."

I'd add that they're not ready to talk like political philosophers either.

Obama Campaign: Never Claimed Surge Wouldn't Work

In a sure sign that Barack Obama's quaking in his boots over the Iraq issue, the campaign's top strategist is claiming the Obama never disputed the likelihood of success under the new counterinsurgency strategy (via Flopping Aces):

This would be shocking, if it weren't so pathetic.

Next to
Harry Reid, Obama was the perhaps the biggest Iraq detractor in the Senate in 2007.

I've posted a bunch on this, but see the New York Times, "
Obama Sees a ‘Complete Failure’ in Iraq."

See also, Ace of Spades, "Hope and Change: Top Obama Strategist Changes Obama's Previous Position on the Surge, and Hopes You Won't Notice."

The Neoconservative Case Against Obama

American Thinker's got a great piece up by "Bookworm," who's a self-proclaimed "neoconservative."

Bookworm says she understands the handwringing on the right over John McCain's presidential bid, but he says the conservative case for the election's not about the Arizona's Senator's credentials:

You see, from my point of view, this election isn't really about John McCain at all. It's about Barack Obama. Of course, it shouldn't be about Barack Obama. During a time of war and economic insecurity, one of the two presidential candidates should not be a man who has no life history, beyond a remarkable ability at self-aggrandizement, and no legislative history, despite a few years paddling about in the Illinois State Legislature and three years (count ‘em, three) doing absolutely nothing in the United States Senate.

That Obama is a man of no accomplishments or experience, though, doesn't mean that he hasn't managed to acquire some bad friends and bad ideas. The friends are easy to identify: Comrade . . . I mean Rev. Wright; Michelle "the Termagant" Obama; the explosive Ayers and Dohrn duo; Samantha "Hillary is a Monster" Power; Robert "Hamas" Malley; Zbigniew "the Jews are out to get me" Brzezinski; etc. Over the years, he's sought out, paid homage to, and been advised by a chilling collection of people who dislike America and are ready to give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who talks the Marxist talk and walks the Marxist walk.

Obama's ideas are as unnerving as his friends. To my mind, the Jihad that Islamists have declared against us is the fundamental issue of our time. Thanks to the nature of modern asymmetrical warfare, the fact that these Jihadists number in the tens of thousands, rather than the millions, and that they're often free operators, not formal armies, does nothing to lessen the serious threat they pose to American freedoms. We've seen with our own eyes the fact that, using our own instruments of civilization, 19 determined men can kill almost 3,000 people in a matter of hours.

Nor was 9/11 an aberration, committed by the only 19 Islamic zealots on planet Earth. Whether they're using the hard sell of bloody deaths, or the soft sell of
co-opting a nation's institutions and preying on its well-meant deference to other cultures and its own self-loathing, the Jihadists have a clearly defined goal -- an Islamic world - and they're very committed to effectuating that goal. And while it's true that, of the world's one billion Muslims, most are not Jihadists, the fanatic minority can still constitute a critical mass when the passive majority either cheers on the proposed revolution from the sidelines or does nothing at all. As Norman Podhoretz has already explained, this is World War IV.

I understand this. You understand this. McCain understands this. Obama, however, does not understand this. He envisions cozy chit-chats with Ahmadinejad and loving hand-holding with Hamas. There's every indication that, given his world view, he'll take Clinton's "Ah feel your pain" approach one step further, and engage in a self-abasing "I -- or, rather, America -- caused your pain." That approach failed when Carter tried it, and it's only going to fare worse the second time around.

Obama is also bound and determined to withdraw instantly from Iraq, even though the momentum has shifted completely to the American side. Even though another famous Illinois politician spoke scathingly of General McClellan for "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" at Appomattox, Obama has not learned from that painful lesson. He is adamant that he will repeat McClellan's errors and enshrine the snatching method as national policy. Every five year old understands that you don't leave the fight when it's going your way; Obama, however, does not. That is scary in and of itself.
This is a good argument, but of course we're still seeing cases of McCain derangement, precisely at the time Barack Obama's preparing to launch his general election campaign (from the arena where the GOP will hold their convention, no less, in a cold slap at conservatives, who he thinks he'll master in the fall with his on-high rhetorical flourishes).

I'll have more later!

(See also, "
African Connection? Questions of Character Surround Barack Obama.")

Taking Nuclear Jihad Seriously

Nuclear Jihad

Earlier this week, major media outlets reported on recent intelligence warnings of a new Al Qaeda videotape calling for WMD attacks against civilians. It turns out that the threat, labeled "Nuclear Jihad, The Ultimate Terror," was bogus.

The political reactions to the reports reveal quite a bit about how those on the left and the right perceive the current war on terror.

Upon hearing of the reports, Shakesville wrote:

In a world, where fear can only be conquered by being more afraid ... A ragtag group of fear-mongering fascists will do their best to STOP YOU FROM NOT BEING AFRAID!!!!

The post is illustrated with drawings of blood-splattered zombies screaming "BrainSSSS...!!!!", and the entry also includes a photoshopped image of John McCain morphing into George W. Bush.

Note again that the entry does not mention the jihad web threat being bogus, and thus this type of mockery is being offered when constitutionally-legitimated governmental agencies are working to prevent an attack on the country.

The Shakesville reaction's frankly mind-boggling, and it's not just isolated extremists on the far-left who harbor this type of sentiment (it's not a leap from the whacked-out imagery of Shakesville to the "journalism" of Spencer Ackerman or to the acclaimed "liberal institutionalism" of Matthew Yglesias).

Rick Moran wrote about this on Wednesday:

We've heard this tune before from al-Qaeda before so I'm not sure about the real threat the message might contain. But along with other factors - including open talk on al-Qaeda websites of defeat in Iraq - it may be significant that we are hearing about terrorists using WMD's at this time....

There is the usual criticism on the left about "scare tactics" but frankly, I wish they'd give it a rest. They have the good fortune of knowing that if they are wrong and we are attacked, no one will remember them belittling the idea as they shift their attack from the Administration scaring people to blaming Bush for any disaster.

Not only that, were a genuine attack to occur, the administration would be smeared remorselessly by the left for failing to stop the next attack (through alleged incompetence, or by diverting resources to the fighting in Iraq, which is not the "real" terror war, etc., etc...).

Note further that the Daily Mail has published an apocalyptic story on the nuclear jihad, "
Al-Qaeda's Terrifying Vision of a Devastated America in the Wake of a Nuclear Attack."

The photo of Washington, D.C., in rubble, reproduced above, was distributed in the Al Qaeda video, as the Daily Mail reports:

Washington is laid to waste. The Capitol is a blackened, smoking ruin. The White House has been razed. Countless thousands are dead.

This is the apocalyptic scene terrorists hope to create if they ever get their hands on a nuclear bomb.

The computer-generated image ... was posted on an Islamic extremists' website yesterday.
It appeared as rumours swept the Internet that the FBI was warning that an Al Qaeda video was about to be released urging militants to use weapons of mass destruction to attack the West.

The information was said to be coming from 'groups that monitor Islamic militant websites'.

The FBI was quick to point out that it had not issued any warning and that the video was not an official Al Qaeda release through its media arm, Al Sahab, but simply an ' amateur' collection of old footage spliced together and posted on the Internet.

U.S. analysts said a lot of effort had been put into the video - entitled Nuclear Jihad, The Ultimate Terror - with graphics, music, and clips of different leaders and groups.

The same expertise seems to have gone into creating this image of a devastated Washington.

Al Sahab puts out more than 80 'officially sanctioned' videos a year to keep up the propaganda on the West. And the Internet shows how easy it is to stir up militancy. One message with the Washington picture said: 'The next strike's in the heart of America. When? When? When? And How?'

To ridicule conservative "wingnuts," the liberal blog "First Draft" wrote:

The Freepi froth over this story from the Daily Mail ... Most of the Freepi lose their minds ...
The "Freepi" is a macabre reference to the participants in a web forum at Free Republic.

"First Draft" hammers the "Freepi" for their ignorance, as according to the post, the radioactive image of the nation's capital flattened is said to be from a video game known as "Fallout." And after the proprietary nature is identified by commenters at the thread, "First Draft" slams the "Freepi" some more, noting that the commercial orginins of the image "does not deter the crazy in the slightest." The "crazy" reference" is to this comment from the thread:

Wherever it comes from, it looks like Muslim Jihadists love the picture. It’s their dream come true.

What's interesting is this last comment from the thread hits the nail on the head - and that's the point: It does not matter if the image of flattened Washington, D.C., was generated by Pakistani militants or some software programmers in Banglaore.

It's the intentions of the terrorists that matter. The global anti-American jihad would love nothing more than to level the United States in a flash of nuclear hell blessed by Allah himself.

But it's all a bunch of "fascist fear-mongering," to hear it from those at the barricades of the hard-left hordes.

The threat of catastrophic nuclear terror is not unreasonable to experts in security studies, however. As Harvard's Graham Allison has written:

If a terrorist nuclear attack did occur in the United States, the first questions asked would be who did it, and where did they get the bomb? Bin Laden would top the list of probable perpetrators. But the supplier would be less certain; it could be Russia, Pakistan, or North Korea, but it could also be Ukraine or Ghana. Russia would probably top the list not because of hostile intent but because of the enormity of its arsenal of nuclear material, much of it still vulnerable to insider theft. Pakistan would likely rank second due to the ongoing links between its security services and al Qaeda, and the uncertain chain of command over its nuclear weaponry. North Korea, the most promiscuous weapon proliferator on earth, has already sold missiles to Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia and so would merit suspicion. As would Ukraine and Ghana, which operate Soviet-supplied research reactors with enough heu for one or more nuclear weapons. Interestingly, Saddam-era Iraq would not have even made the top ten.

With so much left-wing criticism of the administration's handling of America's alliance relations with Pakistan - a state currently facing a political crisis of epic proportion - one would think that analysts and commentators on both sides of the partisan divide would take these jihadi terror reports seriously.

While this point may hold when it comes to professional experts, that's certainly not the case around the leftosphere - which is an unsettling prospect, given how much influence these folks are likely to have under a Democratic administration.

African Connection? Questions of Character Surround Barack Obama

Politeia offers a thought-provoking article on Barack Obama's pattern of questionable associations, penetrating especially into the Illinois Senator's African ties: "Obama's Character and the Kenya Association."

What do these relationships say about Obama's character, integrity, and national values?

Senator Barack Obama’s character is an unknown. While the focus has been on his associations and their questionable character, another thought that surfaces is the question of Obama's character and whether it is more about his disloyalty than the specific purpose or principle of the associations we have so much trouble accepting. His character could be called into question by all sides. On the one hand, he appears to have a close association with Rezko, Wright, Ayers, Winfrey, and Odinga. On the other hand, whenever publically questioned, he appears to disown or disavow any shared purpose, principle or belief that these people hold so dearly as their life's cause. Which is it? With respect to character, either answer indicts Senator Obama as deceptive and disloyal. His "purpose" is self serving (if anything). His "principles" are compromised either way. His speeches together with his intelligence and charm have inspired millions and yet most of his followers have no idea of what he stands for except platitudes of “change” or he says he will “unify people to bring them together.” The power of speech from a charismatic person can be a powerful thing. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the American people to thoroughly examine what Senator Obama stands for along with his record before caving into his rhetoric from the campaign trail.

Obama Arab

For more information, see "The True Name and Mission of Obamessiah."

See also, Big Girl Pants, "
Observations From Africa On the Agent of Change...," and Karl Rove, "Obama's Revisionist History."

Image Source:
The People's Cube

Game Theory: Freeloaders Strike Back Against Society's Most Productive

I saw this piece on game theory in this morning's Wall Street Journal, but didn't consider posting on it. Neptunus has his take, so I'll let it rip after all with a cover post:

The WSJ has an interesting article in the front section about game theory, specifically a game which allows players to pool resources and receive rewards. In order to test how different cultures deal with collaboration - and, equally important - non-contributors, players are allowed to hoard their own resources and still share in the general spoils, thus becoming freeloadoers. The next twist is to allow contributors to punish freeloaders, which in many cultures shames them into contributing to the general fund.

Many cultures, but not all:

Among students in the U.S., Switzerland, China and the U.K., those identified as freeloaders most often took their punishment as a spur to contribute more generously. But in Oman, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece and Russia, the freeloaders more often struck back, retaliating against those who punished them, even against those who had given most to everyone’s benefit. It was akin to rapping the knuckles of the helping hand.


And perfect!

General McClellan: The Agony of Bush's Chief Propaganda Minister

Thanks to Edge for the heads up on Bob Dole's McClellan smackdown.

I noted previosly McClellan's self-aggrandizing betrayal, but Kimberley Strassel's got an unfiltered review of the book up today at the Wall Street Journal, and this passage is a nugget:

"What Happened" reads as a long, agonizing justification for time spent in what is now an unpopular administration. Just who Mr. McClellan is striving to get absolution from isn't clear, but it is absolution he seeks.
But check out the lead editorial today at WSJ as well, which argues that McClellan's a turncoat for the antiwar left:

Iraq is the reason this book is getting so much political attention. Mr. Obama has staked out a position for immediate troop withdrawal that looks increasingly untenable amid the success of the "surge" and improving security in Baghdad and Basra. John McCain was a key supporter of the surge, so Democrats now want to change the subject and claim the war was a mistake in the first place and sold under false pretenses. Mr. McClellan's confessions fit neatly into this political narrative.

The problem is that Mr. McClellan presents no major new detail to support his conclusions about Iraq, or even about the Administration's deliberations about how to sell the war. This may be because he was the deputy press secretary for domestic issues during the run-up to war and thus rarely attended war strategy sessions. His talking points are merely the well-trod claims that the Administration oversold the evidence about WMD and al Qaeda.

Three independent investigations have looked into these claims, and all of them concluded that political actors did not skew intelligence to sell the war. These include the Senate Intelligence Committee report of 2004, the Robb-Silberman report of 2005, and Britain's Butler report. They explain that U.S. – and all Western – intelligence was mistaken but not distorted. Saddam Hussein himself told U.S. interrogators that he kept the fact that he lacked WMD even from many of his own generals.

As for the "propaganda" claim, any U.S. President has no choice but to make his case for going to war. It is an obligation of democracy. In Iraq, the long march to the 2003 invasion included months of debate at the U.N. and in Congress. Far from rushing to war, Mr. Bush heeded Secretary of State Colin Powell and British Prime Minister Tony Blair and sought U.N. approval. That required longer debate and a heavy reliance on WMD claims because the U.N.'s Iraq resolutions were mainly concerned with WMD after the first Gulf War. That too was a mistake, but it wasn't a lie.

Mr. McClellan joins the queue of those who supported the war at first only to turn against it when it became difficult. The polls say most Americans now feel the same way, and that is no surprise: Long wars are rarely popular. But we continue to believe that a Middle East with Saddam ruling Iraq would be more dangerous than it is today. Saddam would again be pursuing WMD, in competition with Iran, and we might never have discovered Libya's nuclear program or unraveled the A.Q. Khan proliferation network. With the success of the surge, Iraq now has a chance to emerge as a stable, pro-American government.
A stable, pro-American government is the last thing the nihilist base of the Democratic Party wants. It's all about victory in November, damn the strategic consequences, and damn the sacrifices of so many Americans to the cause of expanding freedom in the Middle East.


Last-Minute Addition:
Astrological Musings on Scott McClellan:

Scott McClellan (2/14/1968) was born with the Sun conjunct Mercury in Aquarius, the sign of the radical - the revolutionary ... For McClellan, Mars is in Pisces where it tends to lose its aggressive nature and instead submerges in the will of the masses.
That sounds about right: McClellan's abandoned the Bush revolution in foreign affairs to join the revolutionary masses looking for a November overthrow of the regime!

Yo, Attackerman! C'mon bro, let the sun shine in!

Lamontian Postmodernism

I'm reading with amazement David Sirota's interpretation of Ned Lamont's defeat to Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut's general election to the U.S. Senate in 2006.

Recall that Lamont, the Kos-backed candidate of the hard-left antiwar contingents, failed to upset Lieberman in the November contest. But to Sirota, this was a victory for progressivism:

Recall that two years ago, a little-known businessman named Ned Lamont mounted an anti-war primary challenge to Connecticut's warmongering senator, Joe Lieberman. Lamont's campaign, which I worked for, was controversial. It was just four years after many congressional Democrats voted for the war, and the Washington Post was reporting that Speaker Nancy Pelosi "said that Democrats should not seek a unified position on an exit strategy in Iraq." Though polls showed the public against the conflict, Democratic strategists insisted that opposing the war "could backfire on the party...."

Lamont, though he lost his own general election, showed that representing the public's anti-war sentiment and ignoring Washington's self-appointed gurus wins national elections. And as the current campaign unfolds, the Lamont Lesson is resurfacing.
Read that last sentence again: Although Lamont lost his election, he showed that the public's anti-war sentiment wins elections!

Yep, you read that right: Up is down, black is white, hot is cold, according to Sirota's logic. Talk about win for losing!

Certainly the election of many antiwar candidates in 2006 would provide support to the thesis that candidates can win office on the wave of "the public's antiwar sentiment," but Sirota's rewriting history to suggest that Lamont represents the course of change and progress.

If voters didn't like Joseph Lieberman in 2006 they would have thrown him out on his can.

Perhaps 2008 is the year for the Democratic Party's antiwar campaign agenda, and we'll see because we have a whole slate of candidates committed to an immediate end to the war. Here's Sirota on that:

Today's political landscape has not changed from 2006. America still opposes the conflict, and Democrats not only refuse to use their congressional power to cut off war funding, but have opted to insult the public's intelligence. Indeed, at the same time the party is airing ads attacking John McCain for wanting to continue the war, Democrats in Congress are championing a $165 billion military spending bill that indefinitely prolongs the occupation. The party's leaders are not debating strategies to end the war, but "the kind of pro-war Democrat[s] that we ought to be," as Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., said a few months ago.

Now, instead of one candidate crashing the party, there are more than 50. That's how many are backing A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq. Initially launched by Darcy Burner, a Seattle-area congressional candidate, this plan has been endorsed by the likes of retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who served in Iraq, and Lawrence Korb, former assistant defense secretary under President Reagan. It supports an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

As heady talk of "bottom up" politics fills the air, Democrats face a full-blown anti-war uprising - one that is beginning to act like a mature movement in putting its agenda before party.

Since the Iraq invasion, many anti-war groups inside the Beltway have made polite excuses for pro-war Democratic politicians, insisting that anti-war criticism be aimed primarily at Republicans. This is Washington's unspoken corruption - the kind that sees issue-based groups put their partisan affinity and cocktail party friendships above their stated agendas.

But the anti-war uprising outside of D.C. is done playing nice. Congressional candidates are now giving anti-war orders to their party, rather than taking pro-war orders from the Wise Men of Washington - and the Responsible Plan is just the beginning. Anti-war primaries in Maryland and Iowa have been mounted against pro-war Democratic incumbents. Meanwhile, the uprising is bleeding into the gears of commerce, as dockworkers this month shut down ports to protest the war.
Again, take apart these paragraphs, starting with that first sentence: The truth is not that the political landscape "has not changed."

Americans are tired of the war,
but they have not given up, and it's a stretch to suggest the current environment is unequivocally conducive to the radical agenda of the Darcy Burner-retreatists:

Five years after the start of the Iraq war, American public opinion has solidified around the notion that the war was not worth fighting and that the United States is not making significant progress toward restoring civil order there....

But not everyone has turned on the war, which most Americans supported at the outset. Republicans have remained strongly behind the war since the outset, with more than two-thirds saying the was worth fighting in the most recent Post-ABC poll. Only a third of independents and one in eight Democrats agree.
In other words, support for the war breaks down along partisan lines, and it's in the interest of hard-left Democratic activists to demonize people like Senator Lieberman and John McCain, who are clear about America's stakes in the war and the rightness of our cause.

Note further that's Sirota makes no mention of Iraq's military progress.

It's no surprise. As the U.S. continues to make gains, and Iraq's success in democratic consolidation evolves, the Democrats are left to devise bizarre theories to explain the outcome of events. Who would have thought we would credit the benevolence of Iran for the decline of violence and political progress in Iraq? Well,
Nancy Pelosi does!

All of this reflects the rise of "Lamontian Postmodernism," which can be seeing as an analytically descriptive term for
the utter rejection among today's antiwar left for societal progress and the greater striving for human betterment and meaning, and the attendant political program of denying and distorting reality in the furtherance of today's dreadfully nihilist antiwar.

Scott McClellan's Postmodern Truth

Peter Wehner suggests that Scott McClellan's memior epside illustrates old-fashioned Washington Politics:

I have a few preliminary thoughts about Scott McClellan and his new book. I want to draw particular attention to a paragraph that appears in his preface:

Writing it wasn’t easy. Some of the best advice I received as I began came from a senior editor at a publishing house that expressed interest in my book. He said the hardest challenge for me would be to keep questioning my own beliefs and perceptions throughout the writing process. His advice was prescient. I’ve found myself continually questioning my own thinking, my assumptions, my interpretations of events. Many of the conclusions I’ve reached are quite different from those I would have embraced at the start of the process. The quest for truth has been a struggle for me, but a rewarding one. I don’t claim a monopoly on truth. But after wrestling with my experiences over the past several months, I’ve come much closer to my truth than ever before. (p. xi)

[Emphasis in original.]

This is a very postmodern outlook that subordinates actual truth for “my” truth. And the validation for “my truth” is not anything objective; it is, rather, based on sentiments which — we see clearly in the case of Scott — can shift like the wind. But what appears to be Scott’s existential journey has led him to make sweeping and reckless allegations that are at odds with reality. He would have us believe that the Bush administration was, at bottom, massively and deeply deceitful and corrupt — but this has only dawned on Scott since he started writing his book, years after the fact. Let’s just say that for these revelations to spring forth as if truth were like a time-released capsule, in which things magically get clearer with the passage of time (and the signing of book contracts), is, well, suspicious. And my former colleagues are absolutely right to point out that Scott not only never raised any objections contemporaneously, in meetings or with his superiors; in fact, he said almost nothing at all, at any time, about anything of consequence.

My own experience in this regard is telling and not at all uncommon. When I was troubled by something during my White House years — whether it had to do with policy or other matters — I raised those concerns, often with a variety of high-ranking officials (usually Mike Gerson, Dan Bartlett, Karl Rove, or Josh Bolten). I once requested a private meeting to discuss Iraq with Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, a friend for whom I had (and have) enormous respect. I was deeply concerned at that point about what was happening to the war effort, the failures I thought we were making, and the personnel changes I thought needed to be made — and for more than 45 minutes Josh listened to me in his office, carefully, intently, asking questions and asking for clarifications. He seemingly had all the time in the world for me. There are other examples I could cite from my experience and from the experience of others. Scott seems to be that rare bird who kept those concerns suppressed, if he had them at all. And now, years later, he finally feels liberated to make arguments he didn’t appear to believe at the time.

Scott’s broader claim that “in some small way” his hope is to “move us beyond the destructive partisan warfare of the past 15 years” and that he wants to “contribute to [a] national conversation” about making our politics higher and better is not terribly persuasive. The same can be said about his complaints about his disdain for “the Washington game.” In fact, one of the oldest games in Washington is to turn against those in power who cared for you and gave you the greatest opportunity in your life to serve this nation — and to do so in a book, for which you received a hefty advance.

George W. Bush is an imperfect man, as are we all, and our administration certainly made mistakes over the course of two terms. Many of us, in fact, feel quite free to talk about them. But the president is, at his core, a decent and honorable man. His presidency will, I think, be judged much better by history than it is being judged right now, though of course much depends on how circumstances play out in Iraq and elsewhere (it’s puzzling that Scott seems to have turned against the war at a time when, thanks to the surge by the president and the leadership by General Petraeus and others on the ground, we’ve seen remarkable progress on almost every front and a good outcome in Iraq is achievable). But regardless of history’s verdict, what Scott McClellan has done — which is to both turn on the president and in the process to paint a false and misleading picture — is doubly dishonorable.

Scott claims he is on a journey to discover “his” truth. But what he has done is do injury to the truth. The vast majority of us who served in the White House and for President Bush are very glad and grateful we did — and we will always consider it to have been the professional honor of a lifetime.

Well, as I noted last night, McClellan's "intrigued" with Barack Obama, so perhaps the former press secretary envisions a partisan realignment of the electorate, and wants to get in on the action.

Still, it's simply amazing that someone who's main job was defending the adminstration from intrusive press inquiries and recriminations would flip so completely to embolden the very domestic enemies he was sworn by loyalty to combat.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Where's the McClellan Betrayal Headed?

Normally I don't pay attention to the he-said, she-said memoirist scandals, but I'm seeing something very significant about Scott McClellan's Janus-faced book-tour out this week.

I noted previously that McClellan wouldn't likely get a hearing from the implacable Bush-demonizers on the left, but sometimes you have to think again.

USA Today reports that McClellan, in an interview, suggests he's "
intrigued" by Senator Obama, so it looks like his volte-face reflects not just remunerative interests, but full-blown political opportunism.

Apparently McClellan's claim that
the media's to blame has hit a nerve, for example, in this YouTube featuring NBC's David Gregory, who firmly rejects the media-culpability hypothesis:

Perhaps there's personal shame and recrimination involved, but McClellan's turn against a sitting president strikes me as childishly craven.

But for the left-wing anti-administration extremists, as I'm starting to see, McClellan's moment is about more than simple gotcha politics. This is already a Democratic year, so McClellan is further ammunition for the push to war crimes indictments upon the accession to power of a leftist administration, presumably that of Barack Obama and his angry hordes (for more on this, see "
From Impeachment to War Crimes: The New Revenge Against BushCo").

Notice, for instance, the seemingly worn-out antiwar, anti-administration indignation in
this Daily Kos post:

So, the right-wing's response to McClellan's confirmations of deceit and duplicity seems to be coalescing around, "This sure doesn't sound like the Scottie I knew ..." I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean or how they hope it will provide cover for their man Bush: should Scottie's head be scanned for slithering alien worms and his closet checked for body-snatching pods? Whatever, we can slap it down right now: It doesn't matter if McClellan was motived by money or revenge or a whole chorus of little Gaelic voices singing in his head. The former press Secretary has merely confirmed what we all knew already by the embarrassing truckload and that has conservative apologists squirming like slimy, salted snails (Apologies to innocent mollusks the world over). Of course, McClellan actually has the temerity to blame the media for letting his boss get away with all that shit. David Gregory to the rescue! ...

Here we have a story with almost everything any 'serious news' outlet could possibly want right at the time they need it most. It's been reported already, so there's little work and no risk involved, it concerns the entire electorate on the most pressing foriegn policy issue facing the nation during an election year, Congress may soon conduct an investigation into it, if true it's at the very least unethical and perhaps blatantly illegal, it's organized and vast; most important of all for the media incredulity vis-a-vie the Bush administration and Iraq, it involves, well, the integrity of the media regarding the Bush administration and Iraq.
I haven't toured too many extreme-left blogs tonight, but this take - especially the push for congressional investigations - is startling in its similarity to earlier eras of political payback.

Jimmy Carter's Disastrous Legacy for Campaign '08

Jimmy Carter

I noted this morning that with the increasing attention to Barack Obama's ill-considered position statements on world politics, we're seeing the emergence of a "Carteresque" foreign policy.

Well it turns out that Paul Miller has a new essay up on former president Jimmy Carter's problematic legacy for the Democrats in '08:

It was a cold and rainy October night when my mother and I stood outside a Skokie, Illinois Synagogue to hear and hopefully meet Georgia Governor James Earl "Jimmy" Carter. My parents and most Americans were still sickened over Watergate, President Gerald Ford's unconditional pardon of Richard Nixon and the disaster of the Vietnam War. They hungered for "change" and "new hope". Many Americans believed they found what they desperately yearned for in a peanut farmer turned politician from Georgia.

Four years later Jimmy Carter's name couldn't be uttered by my father without being proceeded by four-letter expletives. My mother cried herself to sleep believing that Carter's school-busing program was going to take me from my elementary school down the block to a school and hour away on the southside of Chicago. Supporters of Israel began to distrust him as he began showing signs of an anti-Israel bias. The economy was devastating families with double-digit inflation and the Iran hostage crisis made Americans ashamed of their President.

Today there is an eerie similarity to the election that led up to the disastrous Carter
administration. All the Presidential candidates are speaking the rhetoric of "change" and "trust" in government. However, assumed Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has based his entire bid for the White House with Carter-style ideas and campaign policy advisers stemming directly from the administration and school of thought of the Carter Presidency.

Obama has already begun running against GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (AZ). He is playing on the fears of Democrats, Independents and some Republicans that the Arizona Senator will be a third term for George W. Bush. While McCain has shown significant policy and philosophical differences then our current President, Barack Obama is a Democrat from the same far-left mold of Carter. I contend that Obama if elected, will be the second term of Jimmy Carter.
The first signs of an Obama/Carter similarity began early on the primary race when the Illinois Senator began hiring former Carter aides and cabinet members to be policy advisers. The biggest name that surfaced was former national security advisor under Jimmy Carter,
Zbigniew Brezinski.

Why Obama would want to be in the same room with Brezinski is mind-boggling. He was the first prominent politician to deny that Islamic extremism was or would become a danger to the world. In a February 2, 1979 memo to President Carter he claimed Islamic fundamentalism is not an imminent threat and will not gain prominence in the Middle East.

Like his former boss, Brezinski has the same "blame the Jews" mentality. The former national security advisor has publicly endorsed the views published in the John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt paper "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," which has provided endless ammunition for anti-Israel activists, Zionist conspiracy buffs and Holocaust deniers.

Continuing the Carter tradition of employing "blame Israel" advocates, Obama hired former special assistant to President Clinton, Robert Malley. Recently the British newspaper, The Times interviewed Malley in which he admitted that he had visited Syria and held discussions with the terrorist organization Hamas. Last month President Carter also met with the terrorist organization in Egypt and Syria.

As news began to surface about Malley and his meetings with Hamas, he resigned his position with the Obama campaign. Unfortunately the public will never know to what extent Sen. Obama was influenced by Malley. Obama has called for direct talks with Iran, a country that continously calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. Malley and Carter are also vocal advocates for direct talks with Iran, without any stipulations such as denouncing terrorism or their desire to murder millions of Jews.

One of the criticisms facing Obama is his lack of foreign policy experience. Carter was under the same scrutiny during his 1976 Presidential campaign. He relied on Brezinski, Anthony Lake and his eventual Secreatary of State Cyrus Vance. Today Obama also utlizes Brezinski and Lake as well as similar minded foreign policy advisors such as Susan Rice and until recently Malley and Samantha Power, who resigned from the campaign for referring to Hillary Clinton as a Monster. The fact that she was hired by the campaign in the first place shows a dangerous lack of judgement. A judgement that is comparable to President Carter.

Obama's trust of the above mentioned policy advisors has been well documented by the "alternative/new media," so most likely I'm not telling you something you haven't heard before. However it can never be stressed enough that Carter's foreign policy was a disaster for the United States, so it must be asked until properly answered, "why would Obama want advisors who have already demonstrated incompetence under a previous administration?" Maybe Obama doesn't believe Carter's policies were detremental to the America. Does he want to once again go in that direction? America must know before election day.

I'll have more later.

Image Credit: Investors Business Daily

Keith Olbermann: Off the Deep End of Moral Relativism

The few times that I've watched Keith Olbermann, I caught myself saying, "Hey, isn't this guy supposed to be a sports broadcaster, or something"?

is that, of course, but he's also turned out to be the Paul Krugman of the left-wing TV commentariat (my background reference is, "Paul Krugman's a Respected Economist in His Other Life").

I was thinking about Olberman this morning while reading Time's essay, "
Keith Olbermann Blows Last Remaining Gasket." The video at the entry is wild, and thus I agree with the argument that "... Olbermann is edging ever-closer to self-parody, or, worse, predictability."

But that was it - I had no plans to write anything about Olbermann's crazed anti-everything ramblings.

I changed my mind, however, after viewing another Olbermann video over at Robert Spencer's post, "
Keith Olbermann: Anti-Jihadists Are the "Equivalents of Jihadists":

Here's Spencer's commentary:

Recently Pamela Geller, Charles Johnson and Michelle Malkin pointed out that a new Dunkin' Donuts ad featured Rachael Ray wearing a Palestinian kaffiyeh.

What's wrong with that? People in the Middle East, including Arabic-speaking Christians, wore it long before the establishment of the State of Israel and the invention of the "Palestinian" nationality. But there is no doubt that it has become a symbol of the Palestinian jihad. Charles posts a piece explaining the kaffiyeh as a "symbol of resistance and solidarity with the Palestinian struggle." Michelle Malkin accordingly asks, "It’s just a scarf, the clueless keffiyeh-wearers scoff. Would they say the same of fashion designers who marketed modified Klan-style hoods in Burberry plaid as the next big thing?"

Dunkin' Donuts pulled the ad, causing the company to be named "Worst Persons in the World" by Keith Olbermann. In the course of his fulmination in the video above (thanks to the Constantinopolitan Irredentist), he says this:

They pulled the ad? Because of the possibility of misperception? By the right-wing equivalents of jihadists -- the people in this country who most closely share the mentalities of the terrorists. Who act the most like Middle Eastern nutjobs. Who rail against diversity, try to murder dissent, and care more about flags than about people. You know, the Michelle Malkins of the world....How about the rest of us boycott Dunkin' Donuts, for giving in to fascists like Michelle Malkin? And for giving weight to perhaps the most absurd idea the lunatic fringers have ever belched forth: that there are terrorist scarves! Terrorist scarves!

This is another example of the witless moral equivalence that I devoted a book to refuting last year. It's just stupid rhetorical overheating, but it is worth noting because it distracts from the reality of the global jihad, and that keeps us from defending ourselves against it. If American conservatives really were the "equivalents of jihadists," Keith Olbermann's head would some time ago have been separated from his body. But the obverse is even worse: if jihadists are just like American conservatives, why, then they're just "nutjobs" who "rail against diversity" -- worthy of mockery, but not of serious concern.

And so meanwhile, they continue to advance.

Be sure to watch the video.

Related: Jason Pappas' must-read essay, "Islam and Our Denial."