I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them - Isaac Asimov
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Andrew Sullivan (yeah I know, boo, hiss, et cetera) examines the politics of resentment that now dominate the conservative movement.
The American conservative era owes just as much to Goldwater’s libertarianism and Reagan’s pragmatic freedom agenda. It’s also bundled up with Buckley’s erudition, Gingrich’s populism, and the first Bush’s realism and prudence. But Gabler is surely onto something in seeing the McCarthyite strain in American conservatism being more tenacious and transmittable, because human resentment is more common and politically potent than agreement about limited government. The resentment theme also tends to get stronger when there is too little raw political talent around: when you have the limited grasp of the world of W and Palin, a resort to McCarthyism is often helpful, even necessary.
This year revealed how almost all the positive arguments in American politics have come from the left. The exception was Ron Paul. On the right, the collapse of governing coherence led to a campaign and a party of almost pure ressentiment.
I would disagree that all of the positive arguments came from the left, but the ones who tried to make a difference on the right (Chris Buckley and his late father, et al) were shunned by the Resentmanists, as they might be called, for breaking with the party line.
McCain lost (and lost big) partly because he tied himself to these people. The fact that they can’t or won’t see that they are part of the problem shows how limiting their resentment worldview really is. When all you’ve got left is anger and spite, you turn into what you used to be against. You turn into, well, angry Democrats circa 1980. After that loss, it took them a long time before they could get over it and get somebody electable in the White House again. It will probably take the conservative movement longer unless they start getting their act together.
Posted by West Virginia Rebel
on 11/30/08 at 10:58 PM in Politics
George M. Docherty died this Thanksgiving. If you’ve never heard of Rev. George Docherty, he’s the one who gave us the “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegience.
On Feb. 7, 1954, with President Dwight D. Eisenhower sitting in Lincoln’s pew, Rev. Docherty urged that the pledge to the flag be amended, saying, “To omit the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance is to omit the definitive factor in the American way of life.”
He borrowed the phrase from the Gettysburg Address, in which Lincoln said, “this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”
Rev. Docherty’s inspiration for the sermon came from his son’s schoolroom experience of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, which was written in 1892 by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy. When Rev. Docherty realized that it had no reference to God, he later said, “I had found my sermon.”
Without mentioning a deity, Rev. Docherty said, the pledge could just as easily apply to the communist Soviet Union: “I could hear little Muscovites recite a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag with equal solemnity."…
But in 1954, with Eisenhower in the congregation and the threat of communism in the air, Rev. Docherty’s message immediately resounded on Capitol Hill. Bills were introduced in Congress that week, and Eisenhower signed the “under God” act into law within four months.
Then as now, legal scholars questioned whether a reference to a deity in a patriotic pledge violated the First Amendment separation of church and state. In recent years, there have been several court challenges to the phrase.
But Rev. Docherty remained unmoved. The phrase “under God” could include “the great Jewish community and the people of the Muslim faith,” in his view, but he drew the line at atheists.
“An atheistic American is a contradiction in terms,” he said in his sermon. “If you deny the Christian ethic, you fall short of the American ideal of life.”
But did he intend for it to be used by fundamentalists as part of their agenda to make America a “Christian First” society? And would he have been welcome in their circle now? After all, today’s social conservatives would probably have taken issue with Docherty in other areas:
During his 26 years as pastor, he became better known for his liberal social activism than for his quest to alter the Pledge of Allegiance. He promoted racial equality and led outreach efforts to feed and educate the city’s hungry and poor. His church was often a staging point for civil rights and antiwar demonstrations, and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached from its pulpit. Rev. Docherty was with King on the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the “Bloody Sunday” civil rights march in Selma, Ala., in 1965.
Rev. Docherty often spoke out against the Vietnam War in his sermons, even when Robert S. McNamara—defense secretary in the 1960s—was present for services.
I have to wonder if Docherty realized the influence that moment has had on the religious right. Would he have done the same thing today?
Where does the Governator go from here?
With his governorship entering its final years and his ability to attract the spotlight intact, the question is arising more frequently: What will Arnold do?
Will he share the stage with Al Gore as a global environmental crusader, promote green technology for an Obama administration, run for the U.S. Senate? Or might he pursue political reform on a broader scale, as he has hinted in appearances with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who shares Schwarzenegger’s independent streak?
I’m guessing Arnold gets offered a job in the Obama administration as one of those Republicans Obama would reach out to. Say what you will about some of his more liberal views, Arnold has been one of the saner high-profile Republican leaders we’ve had over the last few years.
Posted by West Virginia Rebel
on 11/30/08 at 04:24 PM in Cullyforneah
Researchers are challenging the view of cities as centers of urban alienation:
In American lore, the small town is the archetypal community, a state of grace from which city dwellers have fallen (thus capitulating to all sorts of political ills like, say, socialism). Even among die-hard New Yorkers, those who could hardly imagine a life anywhere else, you’ll find people who secretly harbor nostalgia for the small village they’ve never known.
Yet the picture of cities—and New York in particular—that has been emerging from the work of social scientists is that the people living in them are actually less lonely. Rather than driving people apart, large population centers pull them together, and as a rule tend to possess greater community virtues than smaller ones. This, even though cities are consistently, overwhelmingly, places where people are more likely to live on their own.
I think the issue here is the quality of life. Any community can alienate people and become moribund if it stagnates and goes into decline, as many cities as well as rural areas have done. But if we look at those cities and towns that have become revitalized, it’s partly because they offer residents something more than just a place to work, or party after hours. It’s about whether you can call the place where you live home or not, and that’s up to the people who live there if they want it to feel that way.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Some stories are coming out about acts of bravery by the hotel staff in Mumbai. Read the whole thing.
Right now, Norm Coleman is holding a narrow lead in the Minnesota Senate recount. So what will the Democrats do? Guess.
Minnesota’s U.S. Senate showdown is veering down a path toward the courts and possibly the Senate itself after a panel’s ruling on rejected absentee ballots dealt a blow to Democrat Al Franken’s chances.
For the first time, his campaign on Wednesday openly discussed mounting challenges after the hand recount involving Franken and Republican Sen. Norm Coleman concludes. That includes the possibility of drawing the Senate into the fracas.
The state Canvassing Board denied Franken’s request to factor absentee ballots rejected by poll workers into the recount. He sought to overturn the exclusions in cases where ballots were invalidated over signature problems or other voter errors. Coleman’s campaign maintained the board lacked power to revisit those ballots.
Franken entered the recount trailing Coleman by 215 votes out of 2.9 million ballots. As of Wednesday night, Coleman was up 292 votes, including results from Nov. 4 and recounted ones.
All told, 86 percent of the ballots have been recounted. However, about 4,740 ballots have been challenged by the two campaigns that could fall to the canvassing board to rule on.
It’s the 2004 Washington governor’s race all over again—only this time the US Senate is threatening to step in:
The board’s decision drew a response from the Senate’s top Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid, who called it a “cause for great concern.”
“As the process moves forward, Minnesota authorities must ensure that no voter is disenfranchised,” Reid said in a statement. “A citizen’s right to have his or her vote counted is fundamental in our democracy.”
The Senate has in rare cases inserted itself into elections, including a 1996 Louisiana race and a 1974 New Hampshire contest. The body has the power to determine its members’ qualifications.
It will be interesting to watch all the Democrats who screamed about the SCOTUS selecting the President praise the Senate if they select Minnesota’s representation.
Posted by Hal_10000
on 11/29/08 at 08:40 PM in Election 2008
China has a growing (and huge) gender gap.
China’s “one child” policy (to halt population growth), and the unanticipated appearance of cheap sonograms (enabling parents to determine the gender of their child while there was still time for an abortion) has caused an imbalance in the gender ratio. There are now 115 boys for every 100 girls. Young men are having a problem finding wives. Wealthier urban males attract more women from the rural areas (where 70 percent of Chinese still live), leaving a lot of lonely, poor and angry young men in the countryside. The smaller generations means that the proportion of elderly (made wealthier and healthier by the booming economy) is skyrocketing, while the workforce is shrinking. Both these trends are bad, and will have negative social and economic impacts.
China wants its Capitalist/Communist cake and eat it, too. But there won’t be enough mouths to feed if this keeps up. As a country that depends on China for so much in imports from their labor force, this is something that we’d better start paying attention to.
Posted by West Virginia Rebel
on 11/29/08 at 07:52 PM in Politics
Brian Ulrich examines the power of the Internet in oppressive societies:
In societies with high internet penetration, blogs can have a democratizing, community-building function. Although we’ve seen this in the United States, its occurrence in politically closed societies such as Bahrain is significant because of the nexus of people it can bring together in certain types of interactions. I don’t know all the ramifications that the term “public sphere” has in political science, but it sounds like a local one may have emerged in certain Gulf states of a type that would have been unlikely prior to the internet.
From China to Iran, authoritarian governments have been trying (in some cases without much success) to stop the spread of online communities. Perhaps what we need now is a “Voice of America” for the Internet, a way to allow dissidents in these countries to let them know that we’re on their side. This is a form of “Soft power” that would be readily available to the U.S. and would be much easier than invading someone.
Leave Those Torturers Alone
Uber-Bushbot Bill Kristol tops himself by arguing that those who used “Extra-legal measures” in the WOT deserve a medal:
Bush should consider pardoning--and should at least be vociferously praising--everyone who served in good faith in the war on terror, but whose deeds may now be susceptible to demagogic or politically inspired prosecution by some seeking to score political points. The lawyers can work out if such general or specific preemptive pardons are possible; it may be that the best Bush can or should do is to warn publicly against any such harassment or prosecution. But the idea is this: The CIA agents who waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the NSA officials who listened in on phone calls from Pakistan, should not have to worry about legal bills or public defamation. In fact, Bush might want to give some of these public servants the Medal of Freedom at the same time he bestows the honor on Generals Petraeus and Odierno. They deserve it.
A true believer to the last. I guess in his world, even questioning their methods is Un-Amurkan. And with regards to Petraeus, I think ol’ Bill needs to be reminded of this. Petraeus is an honorable man. The people that Kristol is defending aren’t.
Posted by West Virginia Rebel
on 11/29/08 at 04:08 PM in Politics
Friday, November 28, 2008
Bridget Johnson puts the blame on our “Ally”:
Out of the longstanding tussle for Kashmir, Pakistan unleashed the evil likely responsible for storming through the streets of Mumbai, breaking into hospitals to shoot patients, spewing gunfire on train commuters, and attacking any location where Westerners and Jews may be — after all, why should the jihad stop at India?
Out of its inaction against Islamic extremists, when politicians put personal preservation before the most crucial fight of our time, Pakistan has chosen to bed with the terrorists. There should be no complaints about their sovereignty being encroached by unmanned U.S. drones when they’ve molded and aided such a danger to the rest of the world, a terrorist group with the power and government support to pick up where al-Qaeda left off.
I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that we have some tough choices to make with regards to Pakistan. Do we cut them off, apply more pressure on them to reign in these thugs, or-as Obama was mocked for saying and which we have already done-use force?
Whatever the choice, we should, as defenders of civilization, make it crystal clear to Pakistan’s government that this enabling behavior is unacceptable.
Apparently even Bill O’Reilly’s boss thinks he sucks:
It is not just Murdoch (and everybody else at News Corp.’s highest levels) who absolutely despises Bill O’Reilly, the bullying, mean-spirited, and hugely successful evening commentator, but [Fox News chief executive] Roger Ailes himself who loathes him. Success, however, has cemented everyone to each other ... The embarrassment can no longer be missed. He mumbles even more than usual when called on to justify it. [Murdoch] barely pretends to hide the way he feels about Bill O’Reilly. And while it is not that he would give Fox up—because the money is the money; success trumps all—in the larger sense of who he is, he seems to want to hedge his bets.
Considering that Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Ailes are the ones who have kept O’Reilly on for as long as they have, I have to wonder how far their willingness to hede their bets really goes. After all, they helped create him-don’t they share some of the responsiblity for who and what he has become?
When it comes to searching, many are discovering that there’s more to life than Google:
How can we find what we want—the perfect job, just the right pair of shoes, exactly the news that’s important to us—amidst the maelstrom of information that’s available on the Web? Google, of course, is the de facto answer, it’s algorithms generating a ballpark guess at what we want when we type in a few search terms. But the burgeoning mass of data on the Internet is threatening to outmode such robotic tools. So a growing number of start-ups is putting forward another strategy for filtering the Web: Use human judgment first, computer power second.
The beauty of the Web has always been its versatility. Some might try to monopolize it, but it’s still a tool, and once you figure out how to use it with reasonable effectiveness, you don’t need the big boys anymore. The Web is a great teacher in free-market networking.
Posted by West Virginia Rebel
on 11/28/08 at 04:53 PM in Politics
We’re getting more details out about this attack, which seems to have been concentrated on westerners. RWN has some disturbing photos here. Meanwhile, Douhat notes something important:
One thing that’s worth noting, amid all the horror, is the resilience of Indian society in the face of terrorism - not just today, but every day of late. As the above suggests, these particular attacks are in a class by themselves, and the reports that the gunmen were targeting Americans and Britons - and Jews, perhaps - has obviously given them a worldwide resonance that they might not have otherwise enjoyed. But for Indians, this spasm of violence represents an escalation, rather than a rupture with what their country experiences day-to-day: As the L.A. Times points out, “2,300 people died in 2007 in attacks by various groups in India, making it perhaps the country most affected by terrorism in the world.”
Yes, in part this may reflect the deplorable failure of India’s counterterrorism efforts. And yes, even independent of terrorism, I suppose you could argue that the subcontinent’s extremes of poverty, disease and violence make Indians much more inured than the inhabitants of the developed West to extremes of suffering and horror jostling their way into everyday life. But still: If you try to imagine how the United States would bear up under the kind of horrific drumbeat of small and large-scale attacks that India’s experienced in the last few years, it’s hard to feel anything save admiration - and, on this day, thanksgiving - for Indian courage and resilience under fire.
By targeting westerners and Jews, I think the terrorist are hoping to split India and the West. That’s unlikely to work. The Indians are not stupid. They know that everyone who isn’t Muslim (and, in fact, many who are) is in the crosshairs of these goons.
We are not alone in the fight. India has its problems and its issues. Some of this extremism is domestic. There are large sections of the country which are still culturally backward even as they become more technologically advanced (e.g., the Missing Girls Problem). But it’s very clear whose side they are on.
Jesus Tapdancing Christ on a parquet floor:
A Wal-Mart worker died after being trampled when hundreds of shoppers smashed through the doors of a Long Island store Friday morning, police and witnesses said.
The 34-year-old worker, employed as an overnight stock clerk, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the Valley Stream store opened at 5 a.m.
Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him.
“He was bum-rushed by 200 people,” said Jimmy Overby, 43, a co-worker. “They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me.
They took me down too...I literally had to fight people off my back.”
The unidentified victim was rushed to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:03 a.m., police said.
A 28-year-old pregnant woman was knocked to the floor during the mad rush. She was hospitalized for observation, police said. Early witness accounts that the woman suffered a miscarriage were unfounded, police said.
Three other shoppers suffered minor injuries, cops said.
Before police shut down the store, eager shoppers streamed past emergency crews as they worked furiously to save the store clerk’s life.
This is the kind of story that’s easy to blog. It’s shooting fish in a barrel. Actually, it’s shooting fish that are in the barrel of the gun itself. So I’ll forgo the mouth-foaming rant and just note that I have never understood the Black Friday thing. I mean, at all.
The 2nd Amendment Need Not Apply
On the heels of Lee’s post (see below), California is hardly alone in having places that don’t think a Supreme Court decision on the right to bear arms applies to them. Take, for example, the Windy City.
When it comes to firearms, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is no slave to rationality. “Does this lead to everyone having a gun in our society?” he demanded after the ruling came down. “Then why don’t we do away with the court system and go back to the Old West, where you have a gun and I have a gun and we’ll settle it in the streets?”
From listening to him, you might assume that the only places in North America that don’t have firefights on a daily basis are cities that outlaw handguns. You might also assume that Chicago is an oasis of concord, rather than the site of 443 homicides last year.
So it’s no surprise that Daley refuses to make the slightest change in the handgun ordinance, preferring to fight the lawsuits filed by the National Rifle Association. He is not impressed that 1) the law almost certainly violates the Constitution, which elected officials are supposed to uphold, and 2) it will cost taxpayers a lot of money to fight lawsuits the city is bound to lose.
The Chicago ban dates back to 1983—a time when no one had to worry about the forgotten Second Amendment. The ordinance prohibited the possession of all handguns (except those acquired before the law took effect).
It had no obvious benefits: Homicides climbed in the ensuing years and by 1992 were 41 percent higher than before. But the policy rested undisturbed until last summer, when the Supreme Court ruled that Washington’s complete ban on handguns violated the individual right to use arms for self-defense in the home.
If that logic applies to the D.C. statute, it very likely applies to Chicago’s law. The city, however, notes that the nation’s capital is a federal enclave, and that the court did not say that states must respect the Second Amendment. That’s true. The court’s ruling also did not say that China is in Asia, which doesn’t make it part of South America.
I always find it highly ironic when cities controlled by liberal politicians raise a hue and cry during election time when they say that their citizens’ votes aren’t being counted because they’re Americans too, yet when it comes to certain rights suddenly the notion that they are subject to the same laws as the rest of us doesn’t seem to matter. (Bear in mind that Obama is a product of the same Chicago politics that got Daley into his dad’s fifedom, yet he is now President-elect and, despite paranoid rumors to the contrary, will as President honor the Second Amendment. See what I mean about irony?)
For me, this isn’t so much a states’ rights issue about gun restrictions as it is a Constitutional one about guaranteeing the rights of the people, everywhere. If the Constutition is the law of the land, as defined by the Supreme Court, then cities should respect it. Seeing as how they get their funding from the government mandated by that Constitution, you’d think they would. But I guess to Hizzonor the law only applies when you agree with it.