Friday, April 30, 2010

A Lovely Respite: Liotard's Portrait of Maria

One of the most delightful attributes of great art is its ability to make us forget the world we live in, and live - however temporarily - in a much better one.

To my eyes, there are few better examples of that than Jean Etienne Liotard's Portrait of Maria Frederike von Reede-Athlone, painted in 1756.

Much of Liotard's work is very dry, the output of a court painter who was simply making a living from the patronage of the day. But here he has really achieved something unusual. There's a life in her, a gentility, a reality that is rare in his work or any portraits of the genre.

Having visited the original J. Paul Getty museum in Malibu a dozen times, I was privileged to see it in person. It's one of the few portraits the Getty possessed I could stare at for hours and never get bored.

I hope you'll have the same reaction.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

On David Frum and Pragmatism

This will probably be the last post I'll ever make about David Frum. Neither he nor his views are important enough to spend much time on. But recently, and more than once, it's been suggested that Frum is really just a huckster, looking for a buck he couldn't earn honestly. Perhaps, I don't know him well.

But, it's at least worth considering that he - like David Brooks and similar creatures - is really nothing more nor less than what he appears: a Progressive with a conservative pastiche. People do, after all, come to believe a philosophy that drives their values and choices. The Pragmatism of the sort oozing out of Frum, Brooks, and others is a great facilitator of that. It makes it easy to embrace the opposite of what you once believed and never feel you've contradicted yourself at all.

But that change of viewpoint is almost always very superficial. That's one of the signs of a Pragmatist, since it enjoins us not to have any fundamental beliefs. To have them is, according to the Pragmatist, a sure sign of 'rigid', anti-empirical, dogmatic thinking.

So, they are led ultimately - despite the Pragmatist's disavowal of a 'rigid' law of cause and effect and denial of all 'ultimates' - to embrace the beliefs of those whom they entirely disagreed with earlier. That's the nature - despite the Pragmatist's claim there is no such thing as 'a' nature - of the beast.

By all means, a healthy skepticism (i.e. a policy of avoiding hasty judgments and a willingness to embrace new evidence) is wise. In my view, though, an open mind is like an open trash can - people tend to put garbage in it. Better to have, as Rand described the alternative, an active mind.

To have no firm beliefs is, sooner or later, to be open to all comers, regardless of the strength (or lack) of their arguments. Too often, that leads to the lazy-minded refusal to make judgements about truth and falsehood, good and bad.

Keep that up long enough and you wind up becoming David Frum.

Is Obama Lying or Just Deluded?

Commentators to Jacob Sullum's article at try to analyze whether Obama is a liar or just self-deluded. I've made some efforts along those lines myself and confess I have no set-in-concrete conclusion.

True, he does lie from time to time (ok, often), but do they rise above and beyond the usual politician's dissembling? Only his hairdresser knows for sure.

What we can say with certainty is that he is a Progressive and a Pragmatist. Both those philosophies make distinguishing between fantasy and reality very difficult, since Pragmatism implies there is no such distinction and Progressivism provides a moral motivation for not feeling compelled to make the effort.

So, the search for the real Obama continues...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kerry Set to Foist Cap and Control On Country

Despite AGW taking some huge knocks this past year, certain politicians are still determined to foist carbon control legislation on the country.

As with the health care bill, even without having seen the effort from Kerry, et al I'd bet my entire savings that this one is also immoral, impractical, and unconstitutional.

I wrote some months ago that once Congress cleared the health care bill hurdle they would attack the country with this totalitarian monstrosity. You've no idea how much I wish I'd been wrong.

Apparently, they are only delayed by some jabbering over immigration and Sen. Graham's latest attention-grabbing stunt. But Kerry is promising it will be temporary. For once, that's a politician's promise you can take to the bank.

Brazilian Health Minister Says: "Have More Sex"

The title says it all.

But here's a snippet, anyway, just so you don't think I made it up.
"People need to be active. A weekend football game must not be the only physical activity for a Brazilian. Adults need to do exercise: walk, dance and have safe sex," said Jose Gomes Temporao.

"Dancing, having sex, keeping weight under control, changing dietary habits, doing physical exercise" all help keep blood pressure down, he said.
Now, why can't we get politicians like that? I mean, if you have to endure nagging health nannies, this is the way to go.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Another Navy SEAL Acquitted

David Forsmark has a few words for the prosecutor in the trial of the Navy SEALs accused of misconduct for allegedly punching a jihadist.
The prosecutor had the nerve to tell the Navy panel to convict Keefe in order to show “we are better than the terrorists.”

Umm, I’m thinking you should save that argument for when Navy SEALs ambush Iraqi citizens, drag them through the streets, hang their bodies from a bridge, and then do a happy dance.
So far, two SEALs have been exonerated. In my view, this still doesn't let their superiors off the hook for letting this absurd trial get started in the first place. But, in the end, trying senior Admirals for political correctness is not the way to solve that problem.

Danish Couple Attacked By Stag

Denmark is more dangerous than I suspected.
An unlucky middle-aged couple was run down by a large buck near the northern Zealand town of Hornbæk this weekend, reported Ekstra Bladet newspaper.

I've had moose around the property during winter on many occasions. In fact, a couple of years ago, my lovely but somewhat lacking in common sense Golden Retriever challenged one in the front driveway. She realized the contest was one sided when - after rolling over on her back in a submissive pose - it stomped her in the chest a few times. (Did you hear me screaming? If you live within fifty miles you might have.)

Anyway... The report doesn't say whether it was a deer, elk, or moose but my bet is on the latter. Fearless creatures and they can be very bad tempered. Always check before letting Fido out of the house when there is snow on the ground.

Thinking Makes It So?

I guess there are some situations in which the title is true.
According to Flink, hypochondriacs are suffering from a form of ‘health anxiety’ - a clinical illness where the symptom is an obsessive interest in symptoms. Some of his patients are afraid of shaking hands or sitting on a toilet for fear of getting sick.
Er, as Brian said in Monty Python's Life of Brian "What chance does that give me?"

Saturday, April 24, 2010

World's First Facial Transplant Shaves Beard

A man in Spain who recently received the world's first full facial transplant can now shave. Doctors say he'll soon be eating solid food. Amazing.

Swedes Return Danish Magna Carta

It's interesting to see how the sporadic and heroic efforts to formalize individual rights has occurred in history. Most everyone is familiar with the English Magna Carta ("Great Charter"), which enshrined some limited rights in Britain centuries ago. But, Denmark had something similar, a 1241 AD document they call the Jyske Lov (or Codex Holmeinsis in Latin). Captured centuries ago by Sweden as war booty, the two countries are now making arrangements to have it returned to a Denmark museum.

Here's a taste:
With law shall land [i.e. the nation] be built. And if all men would keep what is theirs, and let others enjoy the same rights, there would be no need of law. [...] If the land had no law, then he would have the most who could grab the most.
Not a bad start. Since Obama seems so determined to turn America into Scandinavia, maybe someone could get him to read this.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Larry Elder Fisks the Tea Party Critics

Larry Elder has a superb rejoinder to those who accuse Tea Partiers of racism.
An MSNBC reporter at another Tea Party rally actually asked a black man whether he "felt uncomfortable." "No," he laughed. "No, these are my people - Americans."
I once appeared on a television show where a black pundit accused former President Ronald Reagan of racism. When I asked for proof, he said that Reagan "was uncomfortable around black people." I replied, "I'm uncomfortable around you. What does that make me?"
I guess that doesn't count 'cause, don't you know, Larry Elder, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Clarence Thomas, and thousands of unknown men of African ancestry are just so many Uncle Toms.

Progressives never let blazingly obvious facts get in the way of a good smear.

Criminalizing the Middle Class

According to a Townhall report,
Nearly 4 million Americans, the vast majority of them middle class, will have to pay the new penalty for not getting health insurance when Barack Obama's health care overhaul law kicks in, according to congressional estimates released Thursday.
I'm reminded of the dialogue in Atlas Shrugged when Floyd Ferris was told that many would be unable to follow a recently passed law. His response (paraphrasing): "What good would that do us?"

The real criminals here are the rights-violating Feds who recently ramped up the stakes in the cold Civil War brewing. Here's hoping they end up in jail before anyone else does.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Danish Workers Strike Over Beer Ban

More interesting news from Denmark, my now-favorite European country.

According to the Copenhagen Post,
Brewery Workers Strike Over Beer Ban

Health expert calls it ‘absurd’ that Carlsberg warehouse workers are striking over fewer bottled beers in the refrigerators.

Warehouse workers at Danish brewing giant Carlsberg are striking because management has decided that the employees may no longer have their customary three free bottled beers a day at the workplace, reports

Carlsberg has implemented a new workplace alcohol policy that now limits employees to one bottle of beer a day at lunchtime.
If they keep that up, I may actually become sympathetic to unions. It seems eminently more sensible to me than getting riled over retirement benefits. I mean, life is uncertain, so making sure you've got your daily free beer strikes me as much more rational than whether you'll have sufficient funds in old age.

Maybe the Left is onto something after all when they claim that in many ways America lags Europe.

Sex Ed, The Danish Way

I've been learning a lot about Denmark lately. Apparently, my imagination was not far from reality. From the Copenhagen Post:
Sex ed classes supplemented with orgasm info

Sexologists are traveling to 50 schools in Zealand to give lessons on love, orgasms and the best environment for sex in an effort to round out the sex education currently being provided by teachers.

As part of the ‘Young Hearts’ project, the seven sexologists will visit schools and act as guest lecturers for children as young as 12 to teach them about all aspects of sex, not just the birds and the bees.

‘There’s more to sex than anal sex and STDs. There’s pleasure, games and respect for your own and others’ boundaries. But students don’t know this as their parents don’t talk about sex. Teenagers are often abandoned to shy teachers’ scary pictures of unwanted pregnancies, the boasting of friends or to porn films,’ said sexologist Jenna Harragaard Christensen to Urban newspaper.

Christensen is acting as a guest lecturer at a number of the schools to try to dispel myths associated with sex by young students, saying that many boys she encounters are disappointed not to have ’20cm between their legs’. [ed. note: 20 cm is about 8 inches]
The question is: is Ms. Christensen disappointed?

Can't wait to visit and find out.

[Update: A friend asks if they're going to have group study sessions. At least he didn't make any jokes about lab demonstrations or student-teacher conferences.]

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Moe Lane Nails the Left

Moe Lane at is a clever guy. Remarking on the FDA's idiotic proposal to legally limit the amount of sodium in food, he writes:
Look, I understand that the nanny-state Left doesn’t trust its own judgment and ability to make informed decisions, and that’s fine. In fact, I agree with them: I don’t trust their judgment or ability to make informed decisions, either. But why do they insist on trying to interfere with my judgment or ability to make informed decisions? - Aside from them generally being annoying neo-Puritan gloom-magnets, of course.
Exactly. Or, as the wonderful joke in Rob Roy describes them, "RRRRob, why do Calvinists fear shaggin' standin' oop? (pause) 'Cause they fear it'll lead to dancin'!"

Go dance now.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cass Sunstein, Most Dangerous Man In America

I've claimed elsewhere that Cass Sunstein may well be the most dangerous man in America. (Progressives are always more dangerous when they are the most sincere and scandal free.) Here is more evidence, from Salon, not exactly a right-wing site, by any stretch:
In 2008, while at Harvard Law School, Sunstein co-wrote a truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-"independent" advocates to "cognitively infiltrate" online groups and websites -- as well as other activist groups -- which advocate views that Sunstein deems "false conspiracy theories" about the Government.
The paper discussed needs to be read to be believed. Here is a short, telling sample: "Government can partially circumvent these problems if it enlists nongovernmental officials in the effort to rebut the theories." If that isn't pure Stalinism, it's hard to know what would qualify.

Keep in mind as you read it, that Cass Sunstein is not just some obscure, off-the-wall academic. He is one of the most respected legal academics in the country and the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

But, then, I guess all this will just get me put down as another conspiracy theorist. Fine. But if Sunstein's actions are a conspiracy, it's the most open in history.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Right Again, And Not Happy About It

It's no fun being prescient, honestly.

I wrote recently that Obama would emulate FDR and try to buy elections to compensate for his (and his party's) plummeting popularity.
As Republicans show new momentum in their fundraising, White House officials are promising congressional Democrats about $50 million in support to shore up their reelection bids this fall.
White House officials cast the strategy as the first time that Obama's massive online fundraising capacity will be brought to bear in a significant way to help the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Organizing for America, the entity created by the Obama political team in the wake of the 2008 presidential campaign, is also planning to send staff to the states with competitive races to help on the ground. That aid is estimated at $30 million.
I was wrong about one thing.

I should have known this government was bold enough to do in the open what was done behind closed doors in the past. What I don't understand is why this is even legal.

Mark Steyn Nails Obama's Middle East Policy

Mark Steyn once again demonstrates why he is one of the best political commentators around today.
[Obama] and his Secretary of State have made it very clear that they regard a few dozen housing units in Jerusalem as a far greater threat to Middle East peace than the Iranian nuclear program.
If there is any one man who is a menace to the Middle East peace process, I would put Obama second only to the chief mullah in Iran. No member of the Israeli government even breaks in to the top ten.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Obama Bashing Banks Again

Powerline has reprinted an alleged (but likely genuine) email from Obama requesting support for Wall Street 'reform'. To wit:
It has now been well over a year since the near collapse of our entire financial system that cost the nation more than 8 million jobs. To this day, hard-working families struggle to make ends meet.

We've made strides -- businesses are starting to hire, Americans are finding jobs, and neighbors who had given up looking are returning to the job market with new hope. But the flaws in our financial system that led to this crisis remain unresolved.

Wall Street titans still recklessly speculate with borrowed money. Big banks and credit card companies stack the deck to earn millions while far too many middle-class families, who have done everything right, can barely pay their bills or save for a better future.

We cannot delay action any longer. It is time to hold the big banks accountable to the people they serve, establish the strongest consumer protections in our nation's history -- and ensure that taxpayers will never again be forced to bail out big banks because they are "too big to fail."

That is what Wall Street reform will achieve, why I am so committed to making it happen, and why I'm asking for your help today.

Please stand with me to show your support for Wall Street reform.

We know that without enforceable, commonsense rules to check abuse and protect families, markets are not truly free. Wall Street reform will foster a strong and vibrant financial sector so that businesses can get loans; families can afford mortgages; entrepreneurs can find the capital to start a new company, sell a new product, or offer a new service.

Consumer financial protections are currently spread across seven different government agencies. Wall Street reform will create one single Consumer Financial Protection Agency -- tasked with preventing predatory practices and making sure you get the clear information, not fine print, needed to avoid ballooning mortgage payments or credit card rate hikes.

Reform will provide crucial new oversight, give shareholders a say on salaries and bonuses, and create new tools to break up failing financial firms so that taxpayers aren't forced into another unfair bailout. And reform will keep our economy secure by ensuring that no single firm can bring down the whole financial system.

With so much at stake, it is not surprising that allies of the big banks and Wall Street lenders have already launched a multi-million-dollar ad campaign to fight these changes. Arm-twisting lobbyists are already storming Capitol Hill, seeking to undermine the strong bipartisan foundation of reform with loopholes and exemptions for the most egregious abusers of consumers.

I won't accept anything short of the full protection that our citizens deserve and our economy needs. It's a fight worth having, and it is a fight we can win -- if we stand up and speak out together.

So I'm asking you to join me, starting today, by adding your name as a strong supporter of Wall Street reform.
It contains the now-familiar demonizing and distortions, but let that pass for now. Note instead the sentence: "It is time to hold the big banks accountable to the people they serve."

It is no doubt an exercise in futility, but perhaps someone would inform the current occupant of the Oval Office that bankers are not servants, they're businessmen. Their pursuit of profit, absent fraud, is perfectly morally legitimate. They do not have to justify their actions on the basis of 'the good they do for society.'

Note, too, in a related line, the total absence of any concept of the rights to property, to voluntary trade, and so forth. The man simply can not conceive of the justifiable pursuit of profit (or any other activity) for the good of self, not the collective.

It is this, as much as his explicit actions, that earns Obama the partly accurate moniker "socialist" in 'right wing' circles. It's well deserved.

'Supervising' Child Molesters

According to a story in the London-based Daily Telegraph,
Adrian Child, the director of Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS), told The Tablet that communities were better protected when the Church was able to supervise known abusers and manage their behaviour after the completion of their sentence.
Er, wouldn't it be safer still to have them supervised by prison guards? Whatever happened to the idea of locking people up forever for heinous criminal offenses? PC'd into oblivion, I guess.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

FDR - Obama, Another Ominous Parallel

Chapter 12 of Burton Fulsom's excellent book, New Deal or Raw Deal? contains some very scary material for anyone concerned about Obama's reelection chances.

The book is chock full of useful information about the horrendous effects of Roosevelt's polices — the AAA, the WPA, the NRA, and similar debacles. Those provide concrete evidence from which it's easy to see in principle why Federal interference in the free market is harmful.

But in Chapter 12 the author veers off course and raises some other interesting questions, ones relevant to our current situation in more concrete form. Why, Fulsom wonders, in the face of continuing high unemployment and an intractable economic depression, did Roosevelt get reelected so handily in 1936? (Roosevelt won almost 99% of the total electoral votes that year.)

Some historians have claimed he simply won people over with his charm. Perhaps, but (as we can see first hand today), that only goes so far when there's no money coming in the door. Others claim it was his ideas, but Progressivism put into practice has never been popular with the majority of voters.

Chapter 12 provides an alternative explanation: Roosevelt and his cronies deliberately directed Federal funds to certain districts to rig his reelection. Now, if there's anything Obama knows well, it's FDR's policies and actions. Playing copycat to win in 2012 is extremely likely.

Looking at some of Veronique de Rugy's recent work on how 'stimulus' funds have been distributed, you don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to think it might already be happening. (After all, it's hardly tinfoil hat analysis to peek behind the curtain at the lever wrenching of the Wizards in Washington.)

De Rugy provides strong evidence to suggest that funds are being preferentially directed to help Democrats, rather than where the money is needed. (That need should not be the standard, and that the entire 'stimulus' idea is impractical and immoral, we can leave aside for now.)

For those who might be a little overconfident that Obama's plummeting popularity spells his doom in 2012, all this is essential reading. Remember, despite his recent drop in the polls, Obama still coasts on an air of moral sanctity in the popular imagination. They may think he's naïve, inept, or any number of things. Most don't yet believe he's corrupt.

But — just as FDR used the IRS to go after his enemies and patronage to shore up support — it's easy to imagine Obama doing the same behind the scenes. After all, ACORN may be reeling but OFA is still alive and active. Obama's machinery has already proven it's perfectly willing to intimidate radio talk show guests, smear Tea Party protesters with unsupported accusations of racism, etc., all the while claiming it's the Right who are the Brownshirts-in-waiting.

I predict that in the years to come the full array of ugly, Chicago-style thuggery will come to light. Let's hope it happens this time inside two years, not 75.

Thanks to the Internet and the blogosphere, that's actually possible. Maybe if Larry Summers does finally leave the administration, as has been rumored, we'll see the first crack in the facade.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ruminations on Jefferson's Thought

The anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth always presents an opportunity to ruminate on his thought. The happy problem is that it was so rich it would take a book to even begin. So, I'm going to limit myself to commenting on one quote that is particularly apt these days:
"All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression."

- Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801
Given the recent amplification of assaults on liberty, viz. on individuals living peacefully and minding their own business without being forced to be a caretaker to others, it's useful to remind everyone that individuals have rights, not the mass.

While it's true that, in the case of HR 3590, a clear majority of citizens opposed its passage, one Progressive argued that we haven't had a Federal election since November, 2008. Therefore, anything the majority of Congress decided to do was legitimate, since the majority of people chose them. If those who disagreed didn't like it, they should shut up until November 2010, then express their views at the ballot box.

Nothing could be more pernicious, more injurious to liberty, or even more just plain false.

Let's ignore for the moment that this is wholly impractical advice. Pro-liberty advocates could never hope to elect anyone they favor if they remained silent and did nothing but vote. That Democrat certainly knew that, but nice try at intimidation.

Ignore, too, just now, all the dirty tricks Democrats pulled to pass the bill. Republicans' hands are plenty dirty in that regard, as well. And, anyway, such has always been the method of men given too much power in the first place, of any party.

No, I want to go farther and side with Jefferson, by recognizing that Democracy itself — while far from the worst possible method of choosing representatives — contains a serious flaw if applied to what those representatives may do.

When the majority come to believe — as it's safe to say today it does — 'anything goes', so long as it's done lawfully and by vote, then even the idea of a Republic is in great danger of ceasing to exist. (The fact was gone some years ago.)

Fortunately, there are more and more every day coming to recognize ever more clearly the nature and extent of that danger. Jefferson would unquestionably be troubled at what Progressives of both parties have done with his co-invention. But, if the pro-liberty faction continues to expand — and gets even clearer about the reasons it deserves to succeed — we may yet be able to celebrate a few more birthdays of the man who said:
A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse.

- Jefferson in a letter to James Madison, Dec. 20, 1787, and
"To preserve the independence of the people, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude."

- Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816

"Considering the general tendency to multiply offices and dependencies, and to increase expense to the ultimate term of burden which the citizen can bear, may it never be seen here that, after leaving to labor the smallest portion of its earnings on which it can subsist, government shall itself consume the residue of what it was instituted to guard."

- Thomas Jefferson: 1st Annual Message, 1801 [ibid]

"To take from one, because it it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others who,or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association "The guaranty to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it."

– Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, 6 April 1816 [ibid]

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reagan on Conservatism and Libertarianism

I was never a huge fan of Ronald Reagan. Still, as I've gotten older — and read more — I've learned to appreciate his good points. This 1975 exchange with Reason magazine brings out one of them very nicely: namely, his more than typical (for a politician) depth of understanding of political philosophy.
REASON: Governor Reagan, you have been quoted in the press as saying that you’re doing a lot of speaking now on behalf of the philosophy of conservatism and libertarianism. Is there a difference between the two?

REAGAN: If you analyze it, I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals. If we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories.

The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

Now, I can’t say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say, because I think that like in any political movement there are shades, and there are libertarians who are almost over at the point of wanting no government at all or anarchy.

I believe there are legitimate government functions. There is a legitimate need in an orderly society for some government to maintain freedom or we will have tyranny by individuals. The strongest man on the block will run the neighborhood. We have government to insure that we don’t each one of us have to carry a club to defend ourselves.

But again, I stand on my statement that I think that libertarianism and conservatism are traveling the same path.
It's tragic, not to say revolting, that even this small tip of the hat to liberty should be so rare among politicians today, but that's where we are.

The candidate field looks pretty weak right now, but with the right kind of continued commentary and public pressure, we just might be fortunate enough to find his like — or better — for 2012.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rahe v Steyn on The Future

Recently, Dr. Paul Rahe (author of Soft Despotism) and the venerable Mark Steyn exchanged views on the likely fate of Western Civilization.

Steyn, as you may know, is somewhat pessimistic. Rahe believes we are at a propitious moment for a resurgence. I'm not altogether sure where I come down — predicting the broad future is extremely difficult. Still, this comment from Steyn seemed highly worth reproducing.
It's not only a numbers game. Even in the 13 colonies, a majority of people were not of an actively "revolutionary" disposition. In the last 40 years, the left didn't hollow out every important American institution from the grade school to Hollywood because they represented mass opinion, but because they wanted it the most. The question is whether opponents of Obama's dependency culture are up to their own "long march".
A commenter on HotAir recently expressed the issue as well as I've ever heard it said:
Here’s a bit of harsh reality:

The Waxmans and Boxers and Pelosis (and Obama) infest public offices and wield power because they were voted in, over and over again, by our friends and neighbors and teachers and business associates who function as enablers. These enablers face little or no direct, personal consequences for their destructive behavior, so they will not change it. Spontaneous enlightenment is not in their future.

And we others, by being “nice” and “understanding” and “tolerant” towards these enablers become ourselves enablers. Until this changes, until we can truly see the enablers for what they are and treat them accordingly, face to face, along the lines of interventionist “tough love,” there will be no lasting movement back toward permanent sanity for this great country. [emphasis added]

OzzieMan on April 1, 2010 at 10:59 AM
I'm not sure what form that tough love should take — beyond the sort of recommendations I've already made but, clearly, radical action of some kind is warranted.

Two Cheers for Abraham Lincoln

I know almost nothing about the policies of Abraham Lincoln's administration. For all I know, he was George Bush, Jr. with brains. But after reading the following from the Joe Biden of 1860, I can't help but be grateful Lincoln acted.
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.

This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. - Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens
At minimum, we can be happy that this bit of excretum was not allowed to retain power.

[Hat Tip: Rich Lowry at NRO.]

ObamaCare, A Preview

Another ripped-off post, I confess, this time from Vulcan's Hammer:
The standoff between Massachusetts regulators and health insurance companies intensified yesterday, as most insurers stopped offering new coverage to small businesses and individuals, and state officials demanded that the insurers post updated rates online and resume offering policies by Friday.

People seeking to buy health insurance for the first time, or customers looking to change policies, found they could not do so, at least temporarily.

The confusion — or market chaos, as one insurance industry official called it — followed the state Division of Insurance’s rejection last week of 235 of 274 premium increases proposed by insurers. The increases were for policies covering what is known as the small group market, which includes more than 800,000 people across Massachusetts.

Insurance Commissioner Joseph G. Murphy said he has asked insurers to quote rates for new coverage through the state’s Health Connector website by week’s end, and reminded them that they are required by law to do so. The new quotes would use base rates set last year, plus additional factors such as the age and size of a company’s workforce, Murphy said.

“If we don’t see the rates posted by the end of the week, we have a variety of enforcement tools at our disposal, including the ability to fine carriers,’’ warned Murphy. “It’s imperative that consumers have information available to them as they consider their purchasing options,’’ he said.

Health insurers, however, said they could not calculate new rates until a judge rules on their request for an injunction to prevent the state from continuing to block increases for the coverage period that started April 1. Insurance carriers had proposed premium rate increases averaging 8 to 32 percent, which the state found excessive. The case is expected to go before a Superior Court judge in Boston as early as tomorrow.
I have just one question to the Progressives who argued over and over again that government could do it "better and cheaper." If that were true, why would it be necessary to make it illegal for anyone to compete with the Post Office?

[Thanks for doing the heavy lifting here, VH!]

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Playing the Pity Card

Mark Goldblatt, writing at The American Spectator, does a fine job of deconstructing — post-modern allusion irony meter turned on — the fallacy of the appeal to pity.
[A]rgumentum ad misericordiam, defined as a calculated appeal to pity or compassion for the sake of getting a conclusion accepted. It's a standard fallacy in that it doesn't address the necessity or practicality or even the morality of the conclusion.
The whole essay is well worth reading, particularly because he stands this foolishness on its head to argue against health care 'reform'.

But his finest moment is undoubtedly this line: "It is not the proper role of government to dry one person's tears by confiscating another person's tissues."

Now, that's good writing. Wish I'd thought of it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Are We Moral Yet?

During the debate over health care 'reform' supporters would trot out the talking point that America is the only advanced country that doesn't provide national health care for all citizens.

Obama raised the point again in a 17-minute response to a Carolina woman who asked him why, in these economically stressful times, Washington is raising taxes in HR 3590. He responded, along with other gems, "There is a moral imperative that is important."

Fine. Let's take the nationalist point of view for a moment and examine a few other facts about this — at least until March 21, 2010 — most immoral of advanced countries called America.
  • America is the only advanced country that has failed to make wide use of nuclear power for electricity generation. France: 76%, Japan: 25%, South Korea: 35%, Switzerland: 39%. Even the social democrats' darlings, Sweden and Belgium, are at 42% and 54%, respectively. The U.S.? Less than 20%.
  • More generally, when it comes to exploitation of natural resources — oil in particular, but the point applies to others — the U.S. is woefully laggard.

    Brazilians and Russians will suck oil from beneath the seas off the Florida coast before Americans will. The oil sands of Colorado and South Dakota are still off limits, and likely to remain so for some time to come. The next Ice Age will arrive before a tiny patch of mosquito-infested, Alaskan tundra is allowed to see a drill, if Obama has anything to say about it.

  • In fact, in one area — hydroelectric dams — the trend is negative. One smarmy git was featured in a major commercial recently boasting about how he had successfully worked to eliminate a number of them over the past 20 years. That's an effort fully supported by environmentalist Progressives.
Somehow, I don't think Obama will be pushing very hard to overcome that gap in morality any time soon.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mark Twain on AGW

Next time you hear some AGW supporter invoke consensus (thankfully, fewer all the time), hit them with this Mark Twain quote:
[I]n the drift of years I by and by found that a Consensus examines a new thing by its feelings rather oftener than with its mind. You know, yourself, that this is so.…

Do you know of a case where a Consensus won a game? You can go back as far as you want to and you will find history furnishing you this (until now) unwritten maxim for your guidance and profit: Whatever new thing a Consensus [bets against], bet your money on that very card and do not be afraid.

There was that primitive steam engine— ages back, in Greek times: a consensus made fun of it. There was the Marquis of Worcester’s steam engine, 250 years ago: a Consensus made fun of it. There was Fulton’s steamboat of a century ago: a French Consensus, including the Great Napoleon, made fun of it. There was Priestly, with his oxygen: a consensus scoffed at him, mobbed him, burned him out, banished him. While a Consensus was proving, by statistics and things, that a steamship could not cross the Atlantic, a steamship did it.

A Consensus consisting of all the medical experts in Great Britain made fun of Jenner and inoculation. A Consensus consisting of all the medical experts in France made fun of the stethoscope. A Consensus of all the medical experts in Germany made fun of that young doctor (his name? forgotten by all but doctors, now, revered by doctors alone) who discovered and abolished the cause of that awful disease, puerperal fever; made fun of him, reviled him, hunted him, persecuted him, broke his heart, killed him.

Electric telegraph, Atlantic cable, telephone, all ‘toys,’ of no practical value-verdict of the Consensuses. Geology, paleontology, evolution—all brushed into space by a Consensus of theological experts, comprising all the preachers in Christendom, assisted by the Duke of Argyle and (at first) the other scientists.

And do look at Pasteur and his majestic honor rolll of prodigious benefactions! Damned—each and every one of them in its turn—by frenzied and ferocious consensuses of medical and chemical experts comprising, for years, every member of the tribe in Europe; damned without even a casual look at what he was doing—and he pathetically imploring them to come and take at least one little look before making the damnation eternal.

They shortened his life by their malignities and persecution; and thus robbed the world of the further and priceless services of a man who—along certain lines and within certain limits—had done more for the human race than any other one man in all its long history; a man whom it had taken the Expert brotherhood ten thousand years to produce, and whose mate and match the brotherhood may possibly not be able to bring forth and assassinate in another ten thousand.

The preacher has an old and tough reputation for bullheaded and unreasoning hostility to new light; why, he is not ‘in it’ with the doctor! Nor, perhaps, with some of the other breeds of experts that sit around and get up the consensuses and squelch the new things as fast as they come from the hands of the plodders, the searchers, the inspired dreamers, the Pasteurs that come bearing pearls to scatter in the Consensus sty.

These sorrows have made me suspicious of Consensuses. Do you know, I tremble and the goose flesh rises on my skin every time I encounter one, now. - Mark Twain, On the Damned Human Race
[Ripped off verbatim from Peter Cresswell at Not PC.]

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I Control The Vertical

Those in middle age or later should remember the TV series that opened by claiming it had taken control of your set. (At the end, they politely gave it up.) Given my thoughts of late, something like that may have happened in a doctor's office down South.

A Florida urologist has gone Galt in a manner of speaking.
"If you voted for Obama ... seek urologic care elsewhere. Changes to your health care begin right now, not in four years."
Weird, in a wonderful way. This is pretty much what I fantasized the other day every hospital, doctor, and insurance company in the country should do after the passage of HR 3590. I hope it catches on.

It is, in fact, the sort of thing I've been advocating on multiple blogs that everyone should do vis-a-vis Progressives in general. (I admit that Ayn Rand thought of it long before me.) Just stop trading with them. Restaurateurs should refuse to serve them. Auto repair shops should decline to fix their cars. Realtors should forego selling them homes.

To be sure, there are many practical difficulties with the idea and, of course, it can't be applied consistently. But it would be a great tool in the toolbox, and send a terrific message.

And I promise you can watch whatever you want Friday through Wednesday, provided only that you tune in to The Mentalist on Thursday nights.

[Hat Tip: Doug Bandow at The American Spectator.]

Friday, April 2, 2010

Reagan Returns, On Steroids

Rep. Paul Ryan gives a superb speech to the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.
The Democratic leaders of Congress and in the White House hold a view they call “Progressivism.” Progressivism began in Wisconsin, where I come from. It came into our schools from European universities under the spell of intellectuals such as Hegel and Weber, and the German leader Bismarck. The best known Wisconsin Progressive was actually a Republican, Robert LaFollette.
Progressivists say there are no enduring ideas of right or wrong. Everything is “relative” to history, so our ideas need to change. Progressivists say the Founders’ Constitution including its amendments, with its principles of equal natural rights, limited government, and popular consent is outdated. We should have a “living constitution” that keeps up with the times.

Progressivists invent new rights and enforce them with a more powerful central government and more federal agencies to direct society through the changes of history. And don’t worry, they say. Bureaucrats can be controlled by Congressional oversight.
Would you like an example of how successful Congressional oversight is? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Government-Sponsored Enterprises (or GSEs), underwrote trillions of dollars in junk mortgages. Year after year their officials and others from HUD, Treasury, and other agencies who supervise them marched up to Congress for hearings.

Red flags were raised. The oversight committees had other priorities and dismissed them out of hand. With the housing market already tanking, Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank said: “This ability to provide stability to the market is what, in my mind, makes the GSEs a congressional success story.”

Less than 18 months later, the ‘market-stabilizing’ GSEs went belly-up due to their shoddy business practices, collapsing the mortgage credit industry and sparking the worldwide financial meltdown. No one knows the ultimate cost to the taxpayers but it will be gigantic.

If Congress can’t control what a few mortgage finance bureaucrats do with your dollars, why would anyone trust Congress to control what tens of thousands of bureaucrats will do with your health?
They began by passing the first Stimulus, a taxpayer giveaway to their favorite special interests. The price tag was $862 billion. They pushed through a second stimulus bill that cost you another $18 billion.

Let’s see: since 4 million Americans have been unemployed since they passed these “stimuli,” that averages $220,000 per job lost. Think about that. Democrats can’t even put people out of work without spending near a trillion dollars!

Just to return to where we were at the end of 2007, 8.4 million jobs have to be created. To reduce unemployment to its pre-crisis level of 5 per cent by the end of President Obama's term, our economy needs to create 247,000 new jobs per month. But we are headed in the wrong direction … except in one field: the government is growing at breakneck pace in expanding federal payrolls.

Although millions of private sector jobs have been lost since the recession began, Washington is on track to add about 275,000 more people to the public payrolls – a whopping 15 percent increase. And we aren’t talking minimum wages here. More federal workers make over $100,000 than those earning $40,000 or less. The average government worker’s salary in 2009 was 21 percent higher than private sector salaries. The average federal worker’s compensation package, including benefits, was nearly $120,000 in 2008, twice the private sector at $60,000. One study shows the private sector benefit package averages $9,900 while the federal package averages almost $41,000.

Now the Administration wants Congress to privilege federal workers by writing off their unpaid student loans after ten years. People in productive private sector jobs would keep paying for twenty years. Progressivists would really like everyone to work for the government.
Aside: Elsewhere in the speech he makes a few minor errors.

For example, he suggests that Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson would disapprove of today's Progressives in the Federal Government, which is wholly mistaken. Both believed absolutely in the centralized control of business and their policies are indistinguishable in essentials from those Obama, Pelosi, Waxman, and the rest are pushing.*

But those are quibbles. The whole speech is well worth reading.

Anyone who has been wistfully longing for the return of Ronald Reagan — I'm not among them, but we could do far worse — may just be seeing that in Congressman Ryan. Regrettably, he appears to have no plans to run for higher office in 2012.

[Hat Tip Robert Costa, NRO.]

*For those interested in detailed evidence, read Woodrow Wilson's The New Freedom, or Teddy Roosevelt's What is a Progressive? in Dr. Ronald Pestritto's excellent anthology American Progressivism: A Reader.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Professor Obama Teaches Us a Lesson

Quoted in the Chicago Reader,
"In America, we have this strong bias toward individual action. But individual actions, individual dreams, are not sufficient. We must unite in collective action, build collective institutions and organizations.”
The 53 million voters who inflicted this 'centrist' on the rest of us are now learning what this view means in practice. The lessons are sure to continue.

[Hat Tip Gen La Greca, Marsha Enright in an essay on Not PC.]