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  • Archive for June, 2009

    No Enemies On the Left

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th June 2009 (All posts by )

    The Honduran legislature, judiciary and military, acting in support of the rule of law, have removed President Manuel Zelaya from office, and US President Obama wants none of it. Obama and the media have mischaracterized the events as a “coup d’etat” when they were really a last-ditch attempt by the Honduran political establishment to block Zelaya — who is being aided by Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez — from holding an illegal referendum in an attempt to circumvent term limits on his office. The Obama administration is siding with Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega and Chavez against the democratic Honduran government in an attempt to get Zelaya reinstated. (Mary O’Grady’s excellent column is a good summary of the events and issues. Fausta and Gateway Pundit have much additional information and links.)

    The best that can be said about our president’s involvement in this issue is that it risks transforming a difficult situation into a disaster. Absent US pressure (never mind US support) the Honduran political scene would likely return to something like normal, with popular and media focus shifting from the deposed Zelaya to the coming elections. By getting involved in support of Zelaya we probably make a drawn-out crisis inevitable, and we green light further subversion of Honduran democracy by Chavez and Ortega. In the worst case a military insurgency or civil war supported by the dictators is conceivable. That would be a catastrophe.

    Honduras is small, poor, weak, generally pro-USA and depends heavily on our trade and goodwill. The Obama administration may figure that it can push the Honduran government around, and that may be true. But why should we get involved at all? Obama could say that he supports Hondurans’ right to representative government, and that we will help if asked, and leave it at that. That would be prudent. Why does he instead prefer to step into mud of unknown depth?

    I think the likely answer to this question is either that the Obama people don’t know what they are doing or that they are acting out of ideological bias. Ordinarily I would assume incompetence, and I think that Obama is indeed incompetent. But as with Obama’s hostile treatment of Israel — another small, pro-American country — the Obama administration’s incompetence in Central America follows a clear ideological pattern. Anyone who does not see by now that Obama is a determined leftist radical with a transformative national agenda that most Americans don’t want is either blind or not paying attention.

    Seablogger puts it well WRT Honduras:

    The terrible precedent will in fact be set if this would-be dictator and ally of Hugo Chavez is returned to power through US meddling, just days after Obama spurned any meddling with Iran.
     
    Obama’s true affinities are now exposed for all to see. Take a look, Obama voters. Do you really want the US aligned with Castro and Chavez — actually doing their bidding? Do you want the US siding with the blood-stained regime in Teheran, for the sake of imaginary future diplomacy?

    (See the Seablogger post for full context of the above quote.)

    We are on course for disaster, all because so many American voters have had it so good for so long that they thought it would always be so, and that they could afford to throw away their votes on an attractive cipher.

    UPDATE: See also this post at Power Line, and Babalu is on fire with many excellent posts about Honduras.

    UPDATE 2: Caroline Glick reaches similar conclusions:

    The only reasonable answer to all of these questions is that far from being nonideological, Obama’s foreign policy is the most ideologically driven since Carter’s tenure in office. If when Obama came into office there was a question about whether he was a foreign policy pragmatist or an ideologue, his behavior in his first six months in office has dispelled all doubt. Obama is moved by a radical, anti-American ideology that motivates him to dismiss the importance of democracy and side with anti-American dictators against US allies.

    UPDATE 3: Andy McCarthy on Obama and Iran:

    The key to understanding Obama, on Iran as on other matters, is that he is a power-politician of the hard Left : He is steeped in Leftist ideology, fueled in anger and resentment over what he chooses to see in America’s history, but a “pragmatist” in the sense that where ideology and power collide (as they are apt to do when your ideology becomes less popular the more people understand it), Obama will always give ground on ideology (as little as circumstances allow) in order to maintain his grip on power.
     
    [...]
     
    It’s a mistake to perceive this as “weakness” in Obama. It would have been weakness for him to flit over to the freedom fighters’ side the minute it seemed politically expedient. He hasn’t done that, and he won’t. Obama has a preferred outcome here, one that is more in line with his worldview, and it is not victory for the freedom fighters. He is hanging as tough as political pragmatism allows, and by doing so he is making his preferred outcome more likely. That’s not weakness, it’s strength — and strength of the sort that ought to frighten us.

    Posted in Americas, International Affairs, Leftism | 27 Comments »

    Feelies, Live, Millenium Park, Chicago

    Posted by Lexington Green on 29th June 2009 (All posts by )

    I did not even know the Feelies were playing in Chicago tonight. The boss was on the way out of the office, and said he was going to walk over and see them. I said, “tell me about it tomorrow”. I wanted to finish something up, and I was working away. The phone rings. The boss says, “you should come over here”. Groovy.

    They were excellent. I never saw them play before, but I had their first album, Crazy Rhythms, which I probably got in 1981 or 1982. “Have”, actually. It must be in the basement with the rest of my vinyl.

    They played mostly songs from later albums which I did not know. Then, for an encore they did “Boxcars” by REM, “Fa Cé-La” off of the first album, then a killer cover of What Goes On by the Velvet Underground. I was thinking, the only way they can top that is with a Stones cover. What a musical genius I am. The crowd shouted them back for a second encore and they did “Paint it, Black”.

    I was hoping they would do Moscow Nights, but I cannot complain.

    The crowd was sitting down in the seats. Then near the end of the set, this skinny, intense, young guy comes running down front and starts dancing frantically all by himself. The ice is broken, the space in front of the stage and the aisles fill up with people.

    A beautiful, cool evening in Chicago, at the Pritzker Bandshell in the very lovely Millenium Park. It was a large, happy, well-behaved crowd. It is good to see a band like the Feelies getting that much love. They were never big “back in the day”. They are a great band and they deserve the affection and the big turnout.

    UPDATE: Greg Kot’s review from the Trib.

    UPDATE II: Thank you, mysterious gangly kid! — Agreed. (Lots of photos)

    Posted in Chicagoania, Music | Comments Off

    Iran and Prognosticators

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 29th June 2009 (All posts by )

    One of my favorite quotes (I don’t even know if it’s true) is supposedly from Jack Welch and it is about how he got rid of his forecasting department:

    We might be surprised, but we won’t be surprised we’re surprised

    Businesses are often surprised by changes to the environment, even while they tout their ability to master the situation. One company I used to work with had a joint venture with CISCO in the dot.com era – at the time CISCO was touting their advanced financial capabilities, their ability to close the books a few days after quarter end, and most importantly their supply chain mastery that allowed them to accurately forecast demand. Almost immediately after that period of boasting, CISCO had a big inventory write down since they built too far ahead of demand and had to scrap the unsold goods and materials.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iran, Media | 4 Comments »

    State Tax Update – California

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 29th June 2009 (All posts by )

    State Tax Review:

    Given the recent financial events that have hit Wall Street, real estate, and the average American consumer, the purpose of this post is to look at how our largest states have responded to this fiscal crisis with regards to tax policy. Let’s start with California.

    For some background – here is a high level overview of state income taxes (circa 2006, hasn’t changed much since then on a relative basis). If you go to this section at LITGM you can see all of the tax posts we have put up over the years that cover similar topics.

    California:

    California is governed by a solid Democratic majority with a Republican governor. The California situation is different than most states in that a 2/3 majority is needed for tax increases, meaning that tax increases are difficult to pass through the legislature. California also has a “proposition” culture, where items are put directly to the voters (such as the famous “Proposition 13” which limited growth in property taxes).

    California has a very high “graduated” state income tax (meaning that it is tied to the Federal tax liability, with some exceptions) and this forms a significant portion of their total tax collections. Per this very helpful site, in 2008 47.5% of their total tax revenues came from the state income tax, above the average of 35.7% for all states as a whole. However, this percentage is lower than its total impact – some states (like Illinois) have an essentially “flat” 3% state income tax (at 32% of Illinois state tax burden), but California’s is graduated so that they are taking 9.3% on all “taxable income” > $47,000 and another 1% on all income > $1,000,000, making their total tax burden at 10.3% for the highest earners. California is proposing to increase this rate (highest in the US of major states) by an additional 0.25% with their latest budget proposals, to a high of 10.55% (the 0.25% increase was part of Proposition 1A, which was defeated).

    Reliance on a high, graduated state income tax is a two-edged sword – during “boom” times (such as the latest economic expansion) high income payers contribute a disproportionate amount to the budget (relative to other states) – but when the stock option gains evaporated starting in 2008, this portion of the state receipts is hit harder than other sorts of taxes (sales taxes, property taxes, gasoline taxes) because income and gains can fall rapidly which immediately reduces collections.

    California immediate reached for the lever of increasing sales taxes as soon as the recession hit, raising the state portion from 7.25% to 8.25%, with local additions rising it up to 10.25% in some areas. Raising sales taxes is generally viewed as a “regressive” tax measure, because it hits the poorest hardest because they consume a higher percentage of their total earnings than the rich (the 1% increase was also defeated with proposition 1A).

    California also has a very high corporate tax, at 8.84%, which makes up 10% of their total tax receipts. This rate is the highest in the nation, making it a dis-incentive for businesses to move into the state (unless they are able to reduce their Federal tax burden, which will result in tax relief, through various tax strategies).

    The Tax Foundation (a non-profit group) wrote an excellent analysis of the California tax situation here. Per the Tax Foundation:

    These tax increases are estimated to raise $10 billion, with the extensions from Proposition 1A generating a further $6 billion. California has been struggling to close a $40 billion budget gap between desired spending and expected revenues in its $92 billion 2009-10 budget.

    Proposition 1A was defeated, leaving the state’s finances in a precarious state as far as balance of payments, although the state faced a huge budget gap in any case.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Taxes | 2 Comments »

    My Solar-Powered Flashlight and My Wind-Powered Fan

    Posted by Shannon Love on 29th June 2009 (All posts by )

    While reading this story about changes in the water rights laws of western states, [h/t Instapundit] this bit at the end caught my eye.

    Ms. Fitzgerald, an associate professor of sociology at Fort Lewis College in Durango, still lives the unwired life with her own family now, growing most of her own food and drinking and bathing in filtered rainwater.
     
    Rain dependency has its ups and downs, Ms. Fitzgerald said. Her home is also completely solar-powered, which means that the pumps to push water from the rain tanks are solar-powered, too. A cloudy, rainy spring this year was good for tanks, bad for pumps.

    *Sigh* Somebody actually designed a solar powered system to pump water out of a rain filled system. Somebody voted for Obama. 

    The entire point of energy systems is to shift work in time and space to when and where we need it. Weather-dependent energy sources can’t shift work in time and space. Instead, the work happens when and where the weather wants it to happen. Weather-dependent energy systems cannot perform this most basic task of shifting work and that is why they are worthless for any large-scale use. 

    I mean, if weather-dependent power can’t meet the needs of a hippy college professor, why do people think we can run factories, transportation and hospitals with it? 

    [By the way, the water rights laws of the American West might seem bizarre but they do make sense in the context of the region's historical development.]

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation | 9 Comments »

    ChicagoBoyz Makes the Village Voice

    Posted by Shannon Love on 29th June 2009 (All posts by )

    Or perhaps I should say we got dragged into the Village Voice. They linked to Jonathan’s post:  Michael Jackson’s Death: A Media-Driven National Disaster. Apparently, the Village Voice is amused that non-leftists are upset that Jackson’s death is distracting the media away from more real concerns.

    Posted in Media | 11 Comments »

    Soccer vs. Baseball

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 28th June 2009 (All posts by )

    When I grew up I played a little bit of soccer. This was a long time ago and I was not particularly talented. Our team was better than most in the Chicago area because two German-born children of the coach of the long-defunct Chicago Sting also played alongside us and clearly led the team. I’m sure as actual German soccer players 30+ years ago they must have thought our soccer skills were absolutely pathetic, in contrast with European standards of the day.

    There have long been debates on the (low) popularity of soccer in the United States, along with hand-wringing about the cause and various opinions on all sides. I haven’t paid too much attention to the debate but I was on vacation in Italy when the US team tied Italy in 2007 and I did feel good at the time (it was quite a shock to the locals, I’ll tell you).

    Over the years soccer has grown as a youth sport and also as a competitive sport. The Chicago Fire soccer team actually is able to draw a decent crowd. In Chicago we have a vast foreign born population and whenever there is an important match on overseas our local bars pick up the games on satellite and are packed full of hard drinkers in bar wear for their favorite team.

    The US beat Spain recently in a huge upset that did get some press. To say the team from Spain was favored is to vastly understate the scale of the upset; some compared it to the US defeat of the USSR in 1980 in ice hockey.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Sports | 15 Comments »

    Just Because I Like It

    Posted by David Foster on 28th June 2009 (All posts by )

    A young lad loves a maiden
    she likes another one
    that other marries another
    whose heart and hand he won

    The maiden weds in anger
    the first man she can snare
    who comes across her pathway
    The lad is in despair

    It is an old, old story
    yet new with every start,
    and every time it happens
    it breaks a loving heart.

    –Heinrich Heine

    Poetry, of course, is notoriously difficult to translate. The Heine translations of which the above is an example (done by Max Knight and Joseph Fabry) are among the fairly rare examples in which the poem as rendered in the target language preserves much of the rhyme and rhythm of the original. This is done, though, at the sacrifice of precision of meaning: even with my mostly-forgotten high school and college German, I can tell that the line

    Dem bricht das Herz entzwei

    doesn’t say anything about “breaking a loving heart”–rather, if refers to “breaking a heart in two.” Also, the translation uses some rather strange English phrasings (new with every start?) Still, though, I think this kind of translation is a very nice supplement to the more-precise-but-drier translations which seem to be much more common.

    A few more Heine poems from the same translators:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Germany, Poetry | 9 Comments »

    Urban Wildlife Update

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 28th June 2009 (All posts by )

    There has been a bear sighting in the Cleveland area.

    Now, God bless ‘em, local TV crews need work too, but someone please tell me that this is a joke.


    As a side note, my grandmother still lives in the northwoods of Wisconsin and black bear sightings have been common up there for a very long time. They love garbage and even knock down my grandmother’s bird feeder from time to time.

    Posted in Environment, Video | 2 Comments »

    Was Michael Jackson Murdered?

    Posted by Shannon Love on 28th June 2009 (All posts by )

    I know I shouldn’t wallow in tabloid speculation but this profile of Michael Jackson [h/t/ Instapundit] suggests that he might have been. 

    If the story is true, Jackson would have been worth more alive than dead to many people including his entourage. If Jackson failed to perform due to ill health, the promoters of his upcoming series of 50 London concerts would lose all the money they put in. If he died, they could recover some or all of their investment from insurance. Someone in his entourage might have feared that Jackson would be sued and wiped out if the concert promoters had learned he had been too ill to perform when he made the contract. If he died, they at least would have the estate and children to pick over (or thought they would). His Nation of Islam bodyguards might be the obvious suspects because (1) no one can murder an individual easier than their own bodyguards and (2) they may have detested Jackson for his homosexuality. 

    As I wrote before, we see in superstars like Jackson all the psychopathologies that used to afflict the absolute rulers of old. Assassination would be just one more parallel. 

    Maybe we should issue an Intrade contract for when the first murder conspiracy book will be published. I’d put my money on 30 days.

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Diversions, Music, Predictions | 39 Comments »

    Comment Thread for Private Stock Exchanges

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 28th June 2009 (All posts by )

    Background is at Facebook, Twitter and peers for sale – privately.

    My initial impression is that this could be an ingenious adaptation to an obnoxiously overregulated environment. Or it could be crushed by regulators and their enablers; given that a Republican Congress and President were willing to saddle us with Sarbanes-Oxley seven years ago, it is not easy to imagine our current complement of parasites reacting dispassionately to private stock exchanges.

    Note that I do not meet the minimum qualifications (net worth $1M, annual income $200k for past 2 years); this is just to elicit discussion by knowledgeable people (the minimum qualifications for which I also do not meet).

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Entrepreneurship, Investment Journal, Markets and Trading, Politics | 3 Comments »

    Michael Jackson’s Death: A Media-Driven National Disaster

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th June 2009 (All posts by )

    The hysterical, unrelenting media coverage of Jackson crowded out almost all news reports of the Iranian massacres, of the terrible Congressional carbon-tax bill (which might not have passed the House or even been brought to a vote had it received more public attention), of North Korea and of who-knows-what other important issues at the end of the past week. Our corrupt, agenda-driven political leaders, not to mention this country’s enemies, are no doubt taking full advantage of the windfall.

    The people who wallow in Jackson’s death are foolish and self-indulgent and lack grown-up perspective. Even worse are the mass-media who cater to the wallowers. Since most of the media are already covering Jackson one might think an enterprising network would see competitive advantage in covering, for at least part of the day, some of the important things that are going on in the world. But no, they are lemmings, and the result is 24/7 Jackson. (And here let me send a special fuck you to Fox News. The self-proclaimed antidote to biased big media confirms itself to be just another bunch of ratings whores whose supposed patriotism and interest in serious news vanish at the first notice of a missing white child or a celebrity scandal.)

    Political bias is a big cause of the decline of the legacy media, but the inherent weaknesses of advertising-driven broadcasting shouldn’t be discounted. Broadcasters make money by generating traffic, which means they try to generate as much traffic as possible, typically by emphasizing the tawdry and the salacious and by ginning up controversy. On the Internet this is known as trolling and is derided. In the broadcast world this is known as the dominant business model. Our media status quo is better than having a government-controlled press (Fox is still superior to NPR), and the Internet now provides important alternative sources of information. Nevertheless, our broadcast media’s insane focus on Jackson’s death is an infuriating reminder of how much those media’s limitations may be costing us in the long run as a society.

    Posted in Media | 15 Comments »

    Have a Nice Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 26th June 2009 (All posts by )

    The underlying fundamentals are toxic: US gross debt as a percentage of GDP (currently at 375%) is still climbing, housing prices are still falling (wealth destruction as far as the eye can see), un/underemployment is still rising (an inability to service debt), the financial industry is back to its old tricks (bonuses are shooting through the roof again, etc.), China is still manipulating its currency (dashing prospects of future jobs), commodities (higher costs for daily life) are shooting up again, etc. Worse, what action has been taken is largely short term masking of symptoms and not a cure. Our government “brain-trust” is using all of its financial powder on deprecated 20th Century economic measures to prop up the industries that got us into this crisis: like the greasing of palms in the bloated construction industry (what relation that industry has to our future prosperity is a big mystery) and the flooding of a failing oligopoly (the financial industry) with free money.

    So where is it heading?

    “… a post-Westphalian century replete with neo-feudalism and global guerrillas is on an inexorable march.”

    John Robb.

    Posted in Business, China, Economics & Finance, History, International Affairs, Quotations | 11 Comments »

    The Farrah Fawcett – Ayn Rand Connection

    Posted by Lexington Green on 26th June 2009 (All posts by )

    No, really.

    Ayn Rand reached out to Farrah, and wanted her to play Dagny Taggart in a TV miniseries version of Atlas Shrugged, sounds like circa 1980.

    I can see it. Done in retro-40s costume, maybe? Or hypermoderne science fiction style?

    Either way would have been cool. A big budget, big-name miniseries would have been the best way to film the (very long) novel.

    Farrah would have been a very interesting casting choice, though not looking anything like the Dagny in the book.

    (I don’t think Angelina Jolie, does either, but she is going to play Dagny in the upcoming movie, apparently, if that ever actually happens. Now is the time for the movie, though. At the beginning of the Reagan Era, we did not need it as badly as we need it now.)

    Who would have played Hank Reardon, Francisco D’Anconia, John Galt, Midas Morgan and Ragnar Danneskjöld, circa 1980? Who should play them now?

    Those are just the names I remember without looking them up. And I last opened the book in High School. The book does have a way of sticking with you.

    I benefitted from exposure to Ayn Rand, but I never became a Randian. So it all worked out OK.

    Link via Dr. Frank

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Libertarianism, USA | 70 Comments »

    Demonizing Energy Producers

    Posted by David Foster on 26th June 2009 (All posts by )

    In a statement intended to help justify the proposed “cap and trade” energy tax, Barack Obama said:

    At a time of great fiscal challenges, this legislation is paid for by the polluters who currently emit the dangerous carbon emissions that contaminate the water we drink and pollute the air we breathe.

    There are so many things wrong with this that one scarcely knows where to begin.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Politics | 6 Comments »

    Farrah Fawcett, RIP

    Posted by Lexington Green on 25th June 2009 (All posts by )

    I was never a big fan. I liked Cheryl Ladd way better.

    I paid no attention to Farrah whatsoever since the ’70s, other than noticing tabloid headlines in the grocery store, from time to time, that indicated she was having a rough go of things.

    So I was surprised to find myself a little sad when I heard she died.

    It took me way back to the ’70s, and made me think of all kinds of long-gone people, places and things. I don’t miss those times. But they are part of me.

    I liked this video that I saw on Ann Althouse.

    There is another one on there with the BeeGees singing. That is the correct decade, of course, the ’70s. But the Archies doing “Sugar Sugar” goes better, since there is something sweet about many of these images of the young Farrah that goes better with the ’60s pop song, that the ’70s disco song does not capture. I like especially where she is dancing at :31 and at :49. She looks young, normal and happy, except, of course, also being incredibly good looking. I get a kick out of seeing her with Danny Partridge, too. I grew up on the Partridge Family and the Brady Bunch, like a lot of people did.

    She was only on Charlie’s Angels for one year, and made one iconic poster, and she became this massively famous person. Everyone in the world knew her name and her face … and her hair. She really was the American face of the ’70s. A very Warholesque 15 minutes.

    Fame and youth and beauty and all worldly goods pass away.

    Rest in peace. We will remember you as young and beautiful forever.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Obits, USA, Video | 7 Comments »

    Michael Jackson Has Died…

    Posted by Shannon Love on 25th June 2009 (All posts by )

    … and the world just got a little less creepy.

    [update (2009-6-25-09:50): My spouse says I was overly snarky so here's a more nuanced view of Jackson from an old post from June 2005.]

    Posted in Media | 16 Comments »

    Sauce for the People is Sauce for the Politicians

    Posted by Shannon Love on 25th June 2009 (All posts by )

    One of the greatest dangers of socialism is the creation of a privileged class of wealthy political insiders who live under different rules than the rest of the citizenry. 

    Ed Morrisey suggests that Obama had a “Dukakis Moment” when he refused to say that he would leave his own family dependent on politically-managed health care. [h/t Instapundit]

    I don’t think we should leave him any choice. 

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Politics | 17 Comments »

    ABC “Only” 2/3 Biased So Far

    Posted by Shannon Love on 25th June 2009 (All posts by )

    I haven’t watched the ABC Primetime special yet but I did read ABC’s Web summary and I find it less biased than I feared. 

    Because of the way human memory and cognition work, the most important parts of any text news story are the headline, the first paragraph and the last paragraph. Indeed one of the cannons of print journalism is that you can summarize a story with just these three parts. 

    So let’s try that with this story:

    President Obama Defends Right to Choose Best Care 
     
    President Obama struggled to explain today whether his health care reform proposals would force normal Americans to make sacrifices that wealthier, more powerful people — like the president himself — wouldn’t face.
     
    “If the American people get behind this, this is going to happen,” the president said.

    The headline is positive towards Obama. It says that Obama “defends the right to choose” which is obviously a positive statement. A more neutral headline would be something like, “Obama explained his ideas for health care reform.”

    The first paragraph is negative in saying that Obama “struggled” and pointing out that he is a rich and powerful person who will never have to rely on the politically-managed health-care that he advocates for other people. 

    The last paragraph is positive towards Obama because it gives him the final word and does so in a quote. 

    So the summarized story that people will take away reads, “Obama defended people’s right to choose the best care, but he struggled to explain how that would work. The plan is going to happen.”

    I was surprised by the opening paragraph. Given my dim view of ABC’s built-in bias, I can only assume that Obama really did struggle. Even so, ABC spun the story to Obama’s favor.

    Posted in Media, Politics | 2 Comments »

    Obama, Liberty, and Iran

    Posted by David Foster on 24th June 2009 (All posts by )

    Joshua Muravchik, writing in Commentary:

    The most surprising thing about the first half-year of Barack Obama’s presidency, at least in the realm of foreign policy, has been its indifference to the issues of human rights and democracy. No administration has ever made these its primary, much less its exclusive, goals overseas. But ever since Jimmy Carter spoke about human rights in his 1977 inaugural address and created a new infrastructure to give bureaucratic meaning to his words, the advancement of human rights has been one of the consistent objectives of America’s diplomats and an occasional one of its soldiers.

    This tradition has been ruptured by the Obama administration. The new president signaled his intent on the eve of his inauguration, when he told editors of the Washington Post that democracy was less important than “freedom from want and freedom from fear. If people aren’t secure, if people are starving, then elections may or may not address those issues, but they are not a perfect overlay.”

    There is, of course, some truth in Obama’s point. If people are starving, they are likely to care more about their next meal than about what may seem to them as the relatively abstract rights to voting, free speech, etc. But what Obama is missing here is that the cause-and-effect flows in both directions. Societies that have economic and political freedom are far more likely to develop economically–up to a point where people can think about things other than basic survival–than those that do not.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iran, Leftism, Political Philosophy | 20 Comments »

    Fix Military Health-Care First

    Posted by Shannon Love on 24th June 2009 (All posts by )

    Megan McArdle asks, if politically-managed health care is so great, why isn’t military health care a shining example to be emulated? [h/t Instapundit]

    It’s an important question to ask and answer because the military health-care system is a completely socialized system. If we can politically manage health care in the real world then the military system should be a shining example of medical care in America. Yet care for both for service personnel and their dependents sucks. 

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Leftism, Management, Military Affairs, Politics | 9 Comments »

    Power Down

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 23rd June 2009 (All posts by )

    Glenn links to an article at Extreme Tech by author Loyd Case, where the author discusses the results from a home solar power system that was installed a year ago. He is generally pleased with it, since now he only pays for about 1/3 of the electricity that he used to.

    Fine and dandy and good for him, but I was taken aback when I got to the part where he reveals just what his yearly cost happens to be. Now that he has the solar power system installed, it is down to $1,460.73. And he thinks that is great news!

    “That’s my power bill for twelve months.”

    So what was it before the fancy new sun-stealing gear was installed?

    “…our annual power cost for twelve months prior to installing solar power was $4,430.”

    You know, I pay less than $1,400 a year for both gas and electric combined. And I don’t have a solar power system installed.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation | 10 Comments »

    Prison Rape

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd June 2009 (All posts by )

    The existence of widespread rape in our prisons is one of the real black marks on our society. We could easily make prisons more humane if we had the political will. Americans are less tolerant of cruelty to animals than used to be the case. Perhaps we will eventually become less tolerant of cruelty to members of our own Untouchable class.

    (Via Instapundit and Rand Simberg.)

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Society, USA | 16 Comments »

    The Illusion of Government Competence

    Posted by Shannon Love on 23rd June 2009 (All posts by )

    Here’s three posts from Instapundit this morning:

    ENVIRONMENTAL SOLUTION becomes environmental problem. D’oh!  – Chemicals used to replace CFCs due to CFCs’ theoretical degradation of the ozone layer now seen as a significant greenhouse gas. 

    IF THIS HAPPENED IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR, WE’D BE HEARING ABOUT “GREED:” DC subway crash: Regulators had warned to replace aging fleet. — The DC Metro system fails to take unsafe cars out of service. 

    SACRAMENTO BEE: Dan Walters: Pension hike of a decade ago backfires. – Government-managed pension investment implodes.

    What do these stories all have in common? They all demonstrate that government organizations do not systematically make better decisions in the same circumstance than do private organizations. 

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Leftism, Markets and Trading, Political Philosophy | 31 Comments »

    Where Is Everyone?

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd June 2009 (All posts by )

    An article in the Israeli publication Ma’ariv wonders: Where are all those demonstrators who so loudly denounced Israel during its Gaza operation? Why aren’t they out there protesting the beatings and killings of Iranians at the hands of the Iranian government?

    All the peace-loving and justice-loving Europeans, British professors in search of freedom and equality, the friends filling the newspapers, magazines and various academic journals with various demands for boycotting Israel, defaming Zionism and blaming us and it for all the ills and woes of the world—could it be that they have taken a long summer vacation? Now of all times, when the Basij hooligans have begun to slaughter innocent civilians in the city squares of Tehran? Aren’t they connected to the Internet? Don’t they have YouTube? Has a terrible virus struck down their computer? Have their justice glands been removed in a complicated surgical procedure (to be re-implanted successfully for the next confrontation in Gaza)?

    and

    A source who is connected to the Iranian and security situation, said yesterday that if Obama had shown on the Iranian matter a quarter of the determination with which he assaulted the settlements in the territories, everything would have looked different. “The demonstrators in Iran are desperate for help,” said the man, who served in very senior positions for many years, “they need to know that they have backing, that there is an entire world that supports them, but instead they see indifference. And this is happening at such a critical stage of this battle for the soul of Iran and the freedom of the Iranian people. It’s sad.”

    via Robert Avrech and Soccer Dad.

    Posted in Iran, Israel, Leftism, Middle East | 18 Comments »