Thursday, January 31, 2008

No Romance Between Blumenthal and Clinton

Mark Davis of Channel 8 News, wise in the ways of provocation, created a momentary stir awhile back when he asked Sen. Hillary Clinton whether she had ever dated Connecticut’s Attorney General Dick Blumenthal while the two were students together at Yale.

The question hit the usually scripted Hillary between the eyes, and she seemed for a moment genuinely surprised. But she quickly recovered, flashed her signature toothy smile, and momentarily dodged the question, which she thought “very personal.” Then she said “No, we were friends. We’ve been friends for a long time, and I think he’s a great public servant, and he’s done such an amazing job for the people of Connecticut, and I look to relying upon him and having his advise going in to my campaign and into the White House.”

Asked the same question, Blumenthal said, “I never had the nerve to ask her, especially after Bill was involved.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Not NOW: Camelot’s Defection

The reaction in the New York sector of the feminist jungle to Sen. Edward Kennedy’s defection from Sen. Hillary Clinton has been somewhat intemperate.

“Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal,” according to the National Organization for Women’s New York chapter:

“Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard. Women have forgiven Kennedy, stuck up for him, stood by him, hushed the fact that he was late in his support of Title IX, the ERA, the Family Leave and Medical Act to name a few. Women have buried their anger that his support for the compromises in No Child Left Behind and the Medicare bogus drug benefit brought us the passage of these flawed bills. We have thanked him for his ardent support of many civil rights bills, BUT women are always waiting in the wings.

“And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton (they will of course say they support a woman president, just not “this” one). ‘They’ are Howard Dean and Jim Dean (Yup! That’s Howard’s brother) who run DFA (that’s the group and list from the Dean campaign that we women helped start and grow). They are Alternet, Progressive Democrats of America, democrats.com, Kucinich lovers and all the other groups that take women’s money, say they’ll do feminist and women’s rights issues one of these days, and conveniently forget to mention women and children when they talk about poverty or human needs or America’s future or whatever.

“This latest move by Kennedy, is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation - to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a President that is the first woman after centuries of men who ‘know what’s best for us.’”


The reaction to the reaction of Sen. Edward Kennedy’s defection has been one of mock-shocked surprise.

“So, that's it—an endorsement of any candidate but Hillary is a betrayal of the feminist cause?” says Slate, noting with some bemusement, “Lots more fury follows—enough to prompt John to wonder if the name Mary Jo Kopechne was in the original draft of NOW's press release."

The hubbub has forced Kim Gandy. NOW’s president, to issue the following clarification:

“Statement of NOW President Kim Gandy

“January 28, 2008

“The National Organization for Women has enormous respect and admiration for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D- Mass.). For decades Sen. Kennedy has been a friend of NOW, and a leader and fighter for women's civil and reproductive rights, and his record shows that.

“Though the National Organization for Women Political Action Committee has proudly endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton for president, we respect Sen. Kennedy's endorsement. We continue to encourage women everywhere to express their opinions and exercise their right to vote.”


There has been no speculation in feminist quarters that the senator’s defection from feminist orthodoxy will endanger his long reign as Massachussetts’ senior senator, about which Gore Vidal once quipped that he didn’t mind the senator’s lock on the seat, because every state in the union” should have in it at least one Caligula.”

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Great Left Wing Conspiracy

Behold – the great left wing conspiracy to overthrow the Clintons begins to unfold.

John Kerry on the Clintons: “Well, I think you had an abuse of the truth, is what happened. I mean, being an ex-president does not give you license to abuse the truth, and I think that over the last days it's been over the top. Things have been said about Barack Obama's positions that are just plain untrue. It was said in Nevada, it's been said about Social Security, it's been said about Yucca Mountain, and it's been said in South Carolina. I think it's very unfortunate, but I think the voters can see through that. When somebody's coming on strong and they are growing, people get a little frantic, and I think people have seen this sort of franticness in the air, if you will. My sense is, Barack Obama offers a better opportunity to pull America together than any other candidate in the race.”


The New York Times catches Ex-President Bill Clinton in a revealing Freudian slip. Rising to the defense of Hillary, ex-President Bill Clinton inadvertently takes on a Nixonian coloration: “Bill Clinton just staged a passionate defense of his wife here, after a voter asked how Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton could unite this country when it is so split, politically and racially, and when she is such a polarizing figure. The question unleashed an attack against the Republicans and an unusual assertion that Mr. Clinton had somehow escaped those attacks (has he forgotten so quickly?); he said he understood the right-wing bullies because he grew up with them. And he said that when they ‘didn’t have me to kick around anymore,’ they went after his wife.”


The Washington Post discloses that Sen. Edward Kennedy is preparing to hoist a petard against the Clintons: “Kennedy's decision came after weeks of his rising frustration with the Clintons over campaign tactics, particularly comments by the couple and their surrogates in South Carolina that seemed to carry racial overtones. Kennedy expressed his frustrations directly to the former president, but to no avail. He came to his endorsement decision over the past week, after speaking to numerous family members, especially younger ones, and gave Obama the word on Thursday, people familiar with the endorsement said.”


Politico reports that Patrick the executioner has mounted the scaffold: “Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), youngest of three children of Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), will join his father and his cousin, Caroline Kennedy, in endorsing Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) at American University at lunchtime today, sources said.”

Also Monday, Obama picked up the endorsement of author Toni Morrison, who once labeled Bill Clinton as the "first black president." Morrison said she has has admired Obama rival Hillary Rodham Clinton for years because of her knowledge and mastery of politics, but cited Obama's "creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom."

And just when it has become darkest before the storm, left wing radio talk show host Colin McEnroe pulls down the blinds: “I know she [Hillary] needs black faces and white faces together in perfect harmony (and this is not all that easy to do in Jim Crow Greater Hartford). It's also quite possible that, with the performing arts school right there on the grounds, Diane Mower can whip up some nice little jazz vocal piece for the kids that will make great audio and video. But how do you solve a problem like Eddie [Perez, whom McEnroe expects to be indicted by a grand jury]? Maybe Blumenthal and Wyman -- who did endorse him -- can persuade him to lie low. But I doubt it.”

SCHIP, TOWARDS MORE GOVERNMENT-RUN HEALTH CARE

What divides the Congress is the attempt by some to transform SCHIP into an expensive precursor of universal government mandated health care -- Senator Trent Lott

National health care is a fraction of the cost and has much better outcome [than our present system] -- Noam Chomsky

Last week the House of Representatives failed to override the President’s veto of the SCHIP bill for the second time. He objects because the bill is a step towards more socialized medicine, because it is too expensive, because it is supposed to be for poor children but allows adults and families with income at 400% of the poverty level ($83,000) to enroll. .

Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards call for universal coverage, which is well received. Listening to the presidential candidates debate, the audience may believe that there is only one type of insurance, universal, and that it is free. But universal is not free and not the only choice. The issue is not settled, only ignored by the Congress, which is not interested in improving health-care, only in controlling it.

The first thing to establish is that universal means everyone in the country (or state). It does not mean single-payer, though it is likely to lead to a single-payer system, as in Canada and England . Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine says, “What we need is a national single-payer system that would eliminate unnecessary administrative costs, duplication and profit.” (Like the Post Office? Like central planning in the Soviet Union?). It is attractive because it is simple.

But when a sick person needs care, there is endless waiting. From the time of the visit to the family doctor in Canada, it took an average of 17.7 weeks in 2005 to get to the specialist --time to die in.

There is no satisfactory way to fix the system. There are no deductibles or user fees, so there is no way to restrict demand. Therefore, the restrictions must be on supply: rationing by extending waiting periods, decreasing reimbursement to doctors and hospitals, cutting the number of medical graduates (since training doctors is costly); holding back on buying new costly high-tech equipment. The German system caps spending, and doctors go on strike.

Everything is free, little is available. But what happens if you are a patient? Outcome in terms of patient health is far superior in the U.S. Of course it is more costly. Equipment is newer and better, more expensive new drugs are prescribed.

The number of uninsured, always stated as 47 million, is overstated. It includes 10 million who are not American citizens, are probably illegals, and should not be included in the calculation. Another 14 million are qualified for Medicaid or SCHIP and haven’t signed up. Another 10 million have households earning over $50,000 and probably could afford it. (A second estimate says 18 million have households earning over $75,000.) About a “quarter of the uninsured” (of 47 million? of 13 million?) have been offered employer-provided insurance but have declined coverage. That reduces the 47-million figure to under 13 million. However many, they are provided for in the federal block grants to the states.

(A related question: Should taxpayers have to pay the costs of those who can afford to provide for themselves but decline to do so?)

And it is very costly. Because the insured do not pay for their own health care, they cannot make the choices that would lower costs.

There are many ways of reducing costs: retail walk-in clinics in busy places; promoting generic drugs; shifting care to nurse-practitioners; allowing doctors to practice and patients to secure insurance across state lines; giving refundable tax credits to help the uninsured buy individual Health Savings Accounts (in states where they are allowed); electronic record-keeping. A government study involving electronic record-keeping finds that if 18 percent of doctors in Medicare adopt e-prescribing, government would save $4 billion and nearly three million adverse drug events could be prevented over five years.

The Congressional Budget Office points out that higher-spending does not generate better health care. For example, delivering an underweight baby costs $1,800 at Cambridge’s Mt. Auburn Hospital and $5,300 at Massachusetts General Hospital (though both are affiliated with Harvard University).

Dr. David Gratzer, a psychiatrist with knowledge of medical practice in Canada and the U.S., has written THE CURE, a very clear and thorough book. He subtitles it, “How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care. Health-care is an excellent issue for comparing capitalism and socialism. He observes:

But the direction of change is clear: toward a market orientation, away from central planning. American academics may rhapsodize about the triumph of socialist health care in other countries. But in the streets of Stockholm and London, it’s the ideas of Adam Smith that percolate.

By Natalie Sirkin
C2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rowland Rising, Two

The response to Rowland’s re-entry into the political sphere has been both predictable and uninspiring.

Bill Curry, a Hartford Courant columnist and gubernatorial wannabe who was bested by Rowland, seized the occasion to engage in some ego-stroking chest thumping.

“In 2002,” Curry began his column, “I held a press conference to show how John Rowland broke the law to award no-bid building contracts to his pals… The story didn’t make the front page of any newspaper, nor did any bother to editorialize on it.”

There are reasons for this. Curry’s press conferences were sparsely attended because only his mother and his fast friend Colin McEnroe thought he had a good chance to beat Rowland. Newspapers generally are not in the habit of bathing prospective losers in ink, a policy that rightfully should be and has been abhorred by others – for example, me -- in below the salt newspapers that Curry would not likely notice. Then too, it was not obvious at the time that anyone in politics – except angelic types like Curry – would very much object to politicians dividing the spoils among their political acquaintances. In the past, such upright politicians as Ella Grasso and Abe Ribbicoff did the same, which is why they ended their careers up to their eyeballs in friends and plaudits. Though I’ve been writing columns for more than a quarter of a century, I don’t recall many complaints from the purists when the spoils were being distributed to their bums. Ethical probity is a late arrival on the political scene.

But all this palaver is a lead to Curry’s explosive and stirring last paragraph: “In this life we withhold forgiveness at our peril; someday, everybody needs a second chance. But this isn't rehabilitation, it's recidivism — and I mean us, not him. To break every rule of hiring and management to do a politician a favor sends a clear signal: This is still a state where membership in the club means everything and ethics nothing at all.”

But the truth is: We extend forgiveness at our peril, if we are political columnists, editorial writers and political reporters. No one in Curry’s profession is in the forgiveness business. And in any case, there is no question here of forgiveness. Rowland has not been forgiven his offenses: He has been punished for them.

He went to Jarjura as a penitent ex-felon, a tag he will never shed. The open question is: Should he be permitted to redeem himself?

Curry, puffed up with the milk of human kindness, says no. Waterbury – the whole damned city, pretty much – said yes.

It is an open question which, of the two, is more humane.

Curry should ask himself the question: What would Buddha do?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Where the WMDs Went: Told You So

According to a recent CBS News report, “Saddam Hussein initially didn't think the U.S. would invade Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction, so he kept the fact that he had none a secret to prevent an Iranian invasion he believed could happen. The Iraqi dictator revealed this thinking to George Piro, the FBI agent assigned to interrogate him after his capture.”

Not often do political commentators have a chance to say “I told you so.” But I told you so, way back in May 2007. And then again in September of 2007.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rowland Rising

Convincing businesses to move to depression lite Connecticut may be a punishment more exquisite than any suffered so far by ex-Governor John Rowland. The coming recession will not make the job arranged for him by Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura any easier, and it will spur on his critics who just might consider passing in the legislature a one strike and you’re out bill for delinquent politicians, provided they are a) Republicans who are named b) John Rowland. A bill so limited just might pass the sniff test of Democrats who cannot abide three strikes and you’re out legislation for violent criminals.

The Hartford Courant, at least editorially, has given a green light to the appointment. Rowland, like any other ex-felon, deserves a chance to make good, the paper averred in an editorial: “Mr. Rowland has a second chance. We hope he uses it wisely and well.” But the Courant also warned, “The job does carry liabilities. Mr. Rowland's administration set the standard for political corruption in Connecticut. He will be scrutinized for signs that he has returned to his old unethical ways.”

Aye, there’s the rub. Rowland’s critics in the media and in other quarters outnumber those in Connecticut who think the ex-governor, having ascended from Hell after his release from prison, would be a little cautious in the company he keeps.

Caution may not be enough. Among his critics will be business competitors and FBI agents armed with RICO legislation that makes it fairly easy to set up and catch former felons in their toils. Former Waterbury mayor Joseph Santopietro, newly released from prison and working as a consultant for Diversified Waste Disposal of Danbury, was very quickly pressured in a plea bargain to admit that he had participated in a scheme in which trash haulers conspired with each other to arrange routes that would not overlap each other’s territory. The prison doors he walked through after having done his time and paid his dues to society now once again have clanged shut on the former mayor, who seemed startled by his arrest.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Republican Prospects: The McCainiacs

The Republican mythology of the upcoming presidential election has put Fred Thompson center stage as the sole true conservative candidate; Rudy Giuliani , John McCain and George Romney are moderate Republicans.

Thompson’s withdrawal therefore represents a setback for conservatives. The dirges are only just now beginning. When Bill Buckley, running for mayor of New York, was asked what he would do if he actually won, he responded that he would string a net around one of the floors of the New York Times building. Nets are being strung, and the left in the United States may now safely expel its held breath: There will be no conservative candidate for president this year.

Not everyone on the right is down in the dumps. Political commentator and classicist David Hanson, author of “A War Like No Other,” an account of the Peloponnesian War, has written favorably about McCain, producing cat calls from his usual cheering section.

McCain, Hanson says, is no Ronald Reagan. But he reasonably points out that, at times, Ronald Reagan was no Ronald Reagan.

Prisoners of their own mythology, Republicans have forgotten that Reagan “facing spiraling deficits, sinking poll ratings and a hostile Congress — reluctantly signed legislation raising payroll, income and gasoline taxes, some of them among the largest in our history. He promised to limit government and eliminate the Departments of Education and Energy. Instead, when faced with congressional and popular opposition, he relented and even grew government by adding a secretary of veteran affairs to the Cabinet.”

“Two of his Supreme Court appointments, Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, were far more liberal than George W. Bush's selections, the diehard constructionists, John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

“Reagan's 1986 comprehensive immigration bill turned out to be the most liberal amnesty for illegal aliens in our nation's history, and set the stage for the present problem of 12 million aliens here unlawfully.”

In a perfect world, such accommodations would have been unnecessary, but the world is far from perfect. The conservative folk in South Carolina, who gave the nod to McCain, seem to be aware of this, and it will not be long before the deep thinkers in the Republican Party rethink McCain, as McCain has rethought McCain.

The fear about McCain is that, as a moderate, he lacks conservative ballast, and those who are lighter than air blow with the wind. Conservative naturally do not want their birthright sold for a mess of pottage. Necessary compromise is one thing; traitorous behavior quite another.

McCain’s minuses have been spotted often enough in conservative publications. He’s an independista and, on some issues, a bit of a thickhead. Hanson ticks off the plusses:

“McCain is starting to show a certain attraction to many bedrock conservatives that must be based on his war record and service, and this trumps their worries about his less than conservative fides — or at least allows them to accept McCain's won't-make-that-mistake-again changed views on closing the border, tax cuts, etc. Privately many conservative voters have looked at the polls and know McCain does best against the Democrats.”

And Hanson has a message for “sit it out” conservatives. They should begin thinking about the consequences of “of Presidents Hillary and Bill. My guess is that McCain could still unify the party, if he (1) offers some informal assurances about illegal immigration and taxes, and does an "inoperative" on McCain-Feingold; (2) has frank discussions with the conservative media such as Limbaugh, Hannity, etc. and takes his medicine without losing his temper; (3) promises a hard conservative as VP. McCain's conservative ratings, after all, are in the 80s, he is rock solid on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he wants a balanced budget, and is now against blanket amnesty and "comprehensive" reform — and looks like he is the leader to gain the nomination and simultaneously infuriate base conservatives.”

If Hanson’s song is not a dulcet sound to rock-ribbed conservative ears, neither is it doleful nor despairing, except for the end note.

If the “sit it outs” persist in throwing the election to the Clintons, “…we are about 1/3 the way through a Greek tragedy, in which the fated catastrophic denouement is known, but can't be prevented.”

Will The Real Black President Please Stand Up

When Toni Morrison said that Bill Clinton -- who appeared to have some trouble staying awake during a stirring address on Martin Luther King Day -- was the first black president, she was using a metaphor, which meant roughly that Bill was simpatico with black ambitions. Poets use metaphors all the time. Who wudda’thunk back then that today another Clinton, Hillary, would be running for president against a non-metaphorical black man?

Sometimes, life pitches us an astounding curve ball.

Obama, surprisingly slow on his feet during this debate, probably should have said that the black experience seen from the inside is often different than the same experience seen from the outside, and that would have been an end of it.

The truly odd and wonderful thing about America is that we are having the discussion at all. Obama is running for president; he’s black; he’s good. Very likely Hillary’s success or failure will turn on other questions: Do we want another presidential dynasty; will either of these people make worse a situation in the Middle East that appears to be on the mend; are my taxes going up?

Those are the important questions. None of them will be answered – or even presented – in the primaries, which are a waste of time. The last question is: How will the candidate chosen by the Democrat Party hold up in the general election? It is not altogether certain that experience in office will decide that issue. Both Obama and, to be truthful, Hillary are light on executive experience. Time will tell.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Big Sleep

This sort of thing happens to the best of us, but not on Martin Luther King Day.

A View of Barack Obama from Outside the US

Oddly enough, those on the right in Europe and Latin America, according to a piece in TCS (Technology, Commerce, Society) DAILY by By Alvaro Vargas Llosa are more receptive to Obama than those of the left.

Coming to a State Near You: the Abolition of Freedom of Speech

The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said that he would rather be quickly shot than to be trampled to death by geese. That is exactly the way human rights are lost – not in one fell swoop, but by a slow insidious process of attrition, hardly noticeable at all.

The right of freedom of speech in Canada and elsewhere has now come under attack by an aggrieved group that – marvelous irony – is using the state, normally the guardian of the constitutional right of unfettered speech, to suppress free speech.

Ira Levant has already felt the tread of geese on his back, and now it is Mark Steyn’s turn.

Steyn, the author of “America Alone: The End of the World as We Know it,” is also a prolific, international conservative political commentator who has written for such publications as National Review, The New York Sun and The New Criterion.

Last month, according to a story in the Jan 14 edition of the Washington Times, Steyn became the subject of “a CHRC (Canadian Human Rights Commission) investigation when the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) complained about an excerpt Mr. Steyn had reprinted” from his book.”

Steyn’s book paints a rather dark view of the future of the West. Birth rate demographics, according to Steyn, place the West on a downward slope: "The Muslim world has youth, numbers and global ambitions," stated Mr. Steyn in an opening summary of his excerpted book in a Canadian publication. "The West is growing old and enfeebled, and lacks the will to rebuff those who would supplant it. It's the end of the world as we've known it."

The book was excerpted in the Oct. 23, 2006, edition of Maclean's, Canada's most-widely circulated newsweekly, under the title "The Future Belongs to Islam," where it fell under the eye of CIC's legal counsel, Faisal Joseph, who took offense on behalf of his client and issued a compliant to Canada’s Human Rights Commission, which can impose fines and issue orders of restraint.

"This article,” Joseph said, “completely misrepresents Canadian Muslims' values, their community and their religion. "We feel that it is imperative to challenge Maclean's biased portrayal of Muslims in order to protect Canadian multiculturalism and tolerance.”

Now, there are any number of ways to “challenge” a presumed biased portrayal, short of intimidating authors and using state functionaries to deprive them of their basic human rights.

Joseph, a former crown attorney, the Canadian equivalent of a US District Attorney, might have sued Steyn under relevant laws and brought him to a court for remediation; but apparently the statements made by Steyn that appeared in Maclean’s did not violate Canadian law. Or, stepping away from suits, the CIC, some of whose members are Islamic scholars, might have written a rebuttal of the claims made by Steyn in Maclean’s. Publications here in the West – but, ironically, not in that portion of the world criticized by Steyn -- usually are anxious to provide opportunities for differing points of view, and Canada has been a part of the Western world during its entire life span as a nation.

The CIC, however, does not seem to be interested in setting the record straight, and most, if not all, of the propositions offered in the magazine by Steyn are unexceptional. It happens to be true that Islamic parts of the world are out producing their Christian counterparts in both children and sharia laws that are incompatible with the Western tradition. If such statements were not true, it would be an easy matter to show, for instance, that the demographics provided by Steyn were faulty.

No, the CIC is not interested in refuting or correcting Steyn. It wants to intimidate and silence him. It wants to goose step over his rights as a free man at liberty in an – as yet -- free country. Its accomplice in this effort is the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the same quasi-legal entity that has taken a hatchet to Ira Levant.

Ironically enough, the attempt to suppress free speech in Canada furnishes further evidence, if any were needed, concerning Steyn’s claim that the enfeebled West is growing old and “lacks the will to rebuff those who would supplant it.”

Unlike Canada, the United States may rely on a constitutional First Amendment. But no one should suppose such attacks on liberty by those who use quasi legal governmental agencies to suppress long established rights may easily be rebuffed. Steyn's publisher is located in The United States, and books are citizens of the world. The history of fallen Republics will in the future be replete with instances of those "process constitutionalists" who have failed, in Ben Franklin’s immortal challenge, to “keep” their Republics.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Feminists Anesthetize Mr. Hardball

A group of feminists have stuck a sock in Chris Mathew’s mouth, extracting from the MSNBC blabbermouth what one might call an apology in full.

On January 17th, a day that will live in infamy, Mathews said about presidential candidate and feminist Hillary Clinton, the long suffering wife of runabout Bill Clinton, that the reason Hillary Clinton is a senator and a candidate for president "is that her husband messed around."

This provoked an acidic response from a bevy of feminists: Gloria Steinem, president of the National Organization for Women Kim Gandy, president of the National Women's Political Caucus Lulu Flores, president of the Women's Media Center Carol Jenkins and president of Feminist Majority Eleanor Smeal. David Brock – the author of scathing attacks on Hillary when he was writing for The American Spectator who has long since bent his knee to feminism -- was also a signatory to the letter. Mathews, said the group representing new-age feminist inquisitors, had “shown a pattern of sexism.”

Fie upon him! Burn the heretic!

The feminist thumbscrew produced a howl and a fulsome apology from Mathews. Others who have run afoul of the politically correct police will want to save Mathews’ groveling apology as a template in case they too should wander into heresy.

Mathews began with a no-holds-barred admission: "Was it fair to imply that Hillary's whole career depended on being a victim of an unfaithful husband? No.”

This was followed by a plea for mercy: “He said that while he has not always taken the time to say things right or be appropriate, ‘I will try to be clearer, smarter, more obviously in support of the right of women, of all people, to full equality of respect and ambition.’”

And in case the inquisitors didn’t get it, Mathews provided a timely lesson plan for the future: "If I'd said that the only reason John McCain has come so far is that he got shot down over North Vietnam and captured by the enemy, I'd be brutally ignoring the courage and guts he showed in bearing up under his captivity. Saying Sen. Clinton got where she's got simply because her husband did what he did to her is just as callous and, I can see now, came across just as nasty, worse yet just as dismissive."

The more callous of the feminists above mentioned were not convinced of Mathews’ sincerity: “David Brock, president and CEO of Media Matters, called Matthews' statement on Thursday a step in the right direction.”

Media Matters is a group formed at Hillary’s insistence to off-set heretical conservative media watch-dog groups.

As of this writing, there are no plans afoot to rename Mathews’ program “Softball.”

Zell’s a Hoot

Sam Zell has just purchased a large chunk of the Times Mirror empire, the Tribune company, and is threatening to make The Hartford Courant profitable. Ordinarily, commentators at the liberal Courant, once a cog in the wheel of Times Mirror, are suspicious of profits, usually earned by grasping billionaires who relish grinding the faces of the poor. But hard times in the news business have convinced even the most aggressive amature Naom Chomskyites that as their profits go, so go their paychecks.

So, the folk down there at the Courant – and other information outposts attached to the paper by media umbilical cords – are understandably anxious.

Zell, dressed in his signature cowboy boots, addressed these nervous nellies at the Bushnell Memorial, and the day after his address, all present were attempting to decipher his oracular pronouncements.

What, for example, can be read into those cowboy boots? Of late, especially in the European press whose fertile ground Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger Jr. is busy tilling, cowboys have been somewhat spat upon, perhaps because most of Europe lies quaking under the crescent sword of Islam and President Bush is seen on this side of the ocean as the world's most reviled cowboy-in-chief.

According to a write-up in the Courant – now “owned,” sort of, by the employees – Zell “offered few specifics on what's in store for The Courant's readers and employees. That, in fact, was part of his point.

“Under Zell, after a leveraged buyout that leaves the company with $13 billion in debt, The Courant, WTIC-TV, Channel 61, and other Tribune businesses will fall under far less control from headquarters in Chicago, he said.”

So, a loosening of the reins is in the stars.

"Going forward,” Zell said, “by definition, there will be a lot of changes. I do not believe that anybody can grow a business by reducing the number of employees. It is not our game plan to, in effect, try and figure out how few people we can have run this business. The focus of everything that we're going to do is directed at one thing: generating more revenue."

Zell’s key lieutenant Randy Michaels, who oversees interactive publishing, broadcasting and most of the newspapers owned by Tribune, told the group that necessary change would involve a fundamental modification in business approach. The new news business would become "a 24-hour online interactive business that publishes once a day for the record."

When layoffs were broached, Zell lapsed into oracular metaphor: “A year from now, it's very likely there will be more people, but with different deck chairs.”

Ordinarily, if business is down, one attempts to capture a part of the market that has not been addresses in the business plan. In Connecticut, unfortunately, the interests of more conseravtive readers are not being addresses in the media. Zell, from what may be deduced from the Courant report, wants reporters to concentrate on the internet format for daily news and then republish newspaper stories in a more extensive and deeper format in the paper. But if the content is the same – which is to say, if the paper does nor reach out to readers it is not satisfying now – its readership will remain the same. To put it bluntly, the paper need to rethink who is sitting in those “chairs” that Zell wants to replace.

Oddments: Perot's Bumper Sticker, "Pinch's" Paper

In the midst of a report on Ross Perot’s distaste for John McCain, Jonathan Alter of Newsweek reports that “Perot isn't a Hillary hater, but he's not a fan either, relating the bumper sticker he received that reads: ‘Monica Lewinsky's Ex-Boyfriend's Wife for President.’”

The New York Time’s anti war push

Writing in National Review Online a few years ago, Stanly Kurtz opened a window on the mindset of New York Times owner Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger Jr.: “Pinch Sulzberger was a political activist in the Sixties, and was twice arrested in anti-Vietnam protests. One day, the elder Sulzberger asked his son what Pinch calls, ‘the dumbest question I've ever heard in my life.’ If an American soldier runs into a North Vietnamese soldier, which would you like to see get shot? Young Arthur answered, ‘I would want to see the American get shot. It's the other guy's country.’ Some Sixties activists have since thought better of their early enthusiasms. Pinch hasn't.”

Locally, Kurtz said, the New York Post was beating the pants off the NYT. But, under the anti-Vietnam War protester’s hand, the paper had gone global, and its outreach had improved the Time’s bottom line. All this suggest a modification of the old anti-war slogan of the Vietnam era: Make profits, not war.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

HOW TO OVERTURN WESTERN SOCIETY

During the 1960s, . . . the most influential thinker was Italian communist Antonio Gramsci. He grasped that the most effective means of overturning Western Society was to subvert its culture and morality. Instead of mobilizing the working class to take over the world, the revolution would be achieved through a culture war, in which the moral beliefs of the majority would be replaced by the values of those on the margins of society. And this would be brought about by capturing all of society’s institutions—schools, universities, churches, the media, the legal profession, the police, voluntary groups—and making sure that this intellectual elite all sang from the same subversive hymn-sheet.

In Britain , Gramsci’s revolutionary aims have been accomplished to the letter
-- Melanie Phillips, Londonistan


How about in the U.S.?

Schools.

Madrassas are schools for young Muslim boys whose learning consists of memorizing the Koran. Radical Muslims look to graduates of madrassas for recruits.

An Arab elementary school (one of several) has opened in Brooklyn . Attempts to view its curriculum have failed. Mayor Bloomberg sees no problem. “We have Russian language schools. We have many language schools. We need Arabic translators.”

Examples abound of Muslim indoctrination in schools around the country: for example, Nyssa , Oregon , schools include how to say Muslim prayers, dress up as Muslims. In Fairfax Virginia , non-Muslim students must remove their shoes in the schoolroom and be separated by sex when entering the prayer area. In the Irmo High School in Columbia , South Carolina , students are taught that the U.S. is a “Judeo-Christian-Muslim” nation according to the “beliefs of the founding fathers”; Muslim students are allowed to use the school library for prayer each day.

Seventeen universities have installed Muslim foot baths, Boston University and George Washington University among them. Nine including Stanford, Emory, and University of Virginia have prayer rooms for “Muslim students only.”

Mosques

Jihadist sympathizers attend mosques. British police won’t enter a mosque if they know there is a terrorist inside. Sahim Alwan, president of the mosque in Lackawanna , New York , was the first American to attend an al Qaeda training camp. A Los Angeles police official lamented, “We’ll come back from a Kumbayah meeting with a local mosque and realize that these guys who just agreed to help us are in our terror files!”

In Waterbury a five-year project to build a large mosque is under way. Its sponsors are pleased that it will be tall enough to be seen from Route 84. A madrassa will be in it.

Universities

Some Columbia University faculty plan to travel to Iran to apologize to Ahmadinejad in the name of Columbia .

At Michigan State University , Engineering Professor Indrek Wichman e-mailed the Muslim Students Association in response to their protest as “hate speech” the Danish cartoons portraying the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. (He did not know his e-mail would be publicized.)

Wrote the Professor, “I am offended not by cartoons, but by more mundane things, like beheadings of civilians, cowardly attacks on public buildings, suicide murders, murders of Catholic priests (the latest in Turkey), burnings of Christian churches [the latest in Kenya], the continued persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the imposition of Sharia law on non-Muslims, the rapes of Scandinavian girls and women (called “whores” in your culture), the murder of film directors in Holland, and the rioting and looting in Paris, France.

“. . . . I counsel you dissatisfied, aggressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading Moslems to be very aware of this as you proceed with your infantile ‘protests.’
If you do not like the values of the West—see the first amendment—you are free to leave. . . .” [That is also Australia ’s position.]

The Muslim students demanded he be reprimanded, the faculty be given diversity training, and the freshmen be given a seminar on hate and discrimination.

The Michigan chapter of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, assisted. CAIR keeps a stable of lawyers to charge hatred and discrimination and bring lawsuits. The University refused the demands.

Media

A Muslim group is suing Canada ’s leading national newsweekly because it published figures on high Muslim birthrates from journalist Mark Steyn’s book, America Alone. The Canadian Islamic Congress complained to the national human rights commission and the provincial rights commissions of Ontario and British Columbia that Stein is promoting hatred against Canada ’s 750,000 Muslims.

Radio host Michael Savage has discussed the Islamist threat on his talk show on WOR, AM 710. CAIR, to drive him off the air, has urged the CEOs of AT&T, JC Penney, AutoZone, Wal-Mart, Sears, and Universal Orlando Resort to stop sponsoring his program. CAIR has brought suit. He has countersued. Talk-show hosts on WABC have never, to our knowledge, alluded to this free-speech controversy.

Government

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission always, and the Federal Aeronautics Administration when relevant, strongly support CAIR even in cases bordering on national security.

In the Department of Defense, according to national security reporter Bill Gertz, pro-Muslim officials oppose Stephen Coughlin, the Department’s specialist on Islamic law and Islamist extremists. He met with Hasham Islam (a Muslims and a close aide to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England ). Islam urged Coughlin to take a softer line on Muslims, while disparaging Coughlin is a “Christian extremist with a pen.”

Coughlin found a document revealing that the Islamic Society of North America is part of the “pro-extremist” Muslim Brotherhood. Secretary England has hosted the Islamic Society, suggesting he is not aware of the nature of the Islamist threat.

Jan. 7: Stephen Coughlin has been fired. This leaves Defense in the hands of “a budding support network for Islamist extremists including front groups for the radical Muslim Brotherhood,” according to Reporter Gertz.

Voluntary groups.

In Phoenix , a Muslim publisher of two radical newspapers who unapologetically supports terrorists and attacks moderate Muslims who disagree with him, had been put on the Phoenix Human Rights Commission, whose function is to promote respect among all groups. But he is venomously anti-U.S., anti-Israel, pro-Hamas. He has since been removed from the Commission. CAIR, claiming his free-speech has been denied him, demands he be put back on and be given an apology.

The gurus of Political Correctness sacrifice free speech to placate Muslim immigrants. Myopic Britain has lost the culture war. We have the benefit of Britain ’s disastrous experience. Can we learn by it?

By Natalie Sirkin
c2008

This Is The Way Liberty Is Slain, By A Death Of A Thousand Cuts

Defenders of freedom of speech may want to mark January 11, 2008 on their calendars, for it was on that date that Ezra Levant, publisher of the Western Standard magazine, answered a complaint before a quasi-legal Canadian authority, the Alberta Human Rights commission, concerning cartoons he had published that originally appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The cartoons represented the prophet Mohammed, some in an unflattering light, and at the time, to put it mildly, they created quite a stir in the Islamic world.

Before the Alberta Human Rights Commission, Levant declared that the re-publication of the cartoons in the Western Standard was “the proudest moment of my public life.” He said, “I would do it again today. In fact, I did do it again today. Though the Western Standard, sadly, no longer publishes a print edition, I posted the cartoons this morning on my website.”

Not everyone, of course, felt similarly. The original cartoons inspired attacks on the Norwegian and Danish Embassies in Syria, which were set on fire, the storming of European buildings and the desecration of Danish, Norwegian and German flags in Gaza. Threats from anti-Catholic islamic bigots were made upon nuns in Gaza whose connection with the cartoons remains obscure.

Levant said he was brought before the Alberta Commission on Human Rights on a complaint issued by “a radical Muslim imam, who was trained at an officially anti-Semitic university in Saudi Arabia, and who has called for Sharia law to govern Canada.”

Levant's defense was, quite simply, that in demanding from him testimony that may be used to deprive him of his imprescriptible constitutional and natural rights, the Alberta Human Rights Commission was violating the 1960 Canadian Bill of Rights, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 250 years of common law in Canada and ancient precedent setting charters such as the Magna Carta.

Levant was not content to protest mildly this assault on hard won freedoms; he attacked the Alberta Human Rights commission in tones that recall prior historic defenses of liberty such as Milton’s Areopogitica, John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty," and Sam Adam’s boastful brag that I have proudly plastered on the top of this site.

There are clips of Levant’s interrogation floating around on the internet, most of which may be found on the site of a courageous moderate Muslim group, Muslims Against Sharia. Apart from the first clip, a prepared statement read by Levant, all the clips represent his spontaneous response to the indignity visited upon him by the Alberta Human Rights Commission, and they are, collectively, an eloquent defense of the ancient and primary postulates of our liberties as free men living under a constitutional government, the sort of spirited defense that would have set old Sam Adam’s soul on fire.

“I am here,” Levant said in his opening statement, “at this government interrogation under protest. It is my position that the government has no legal or moral authority to interrogate me or anyone else for publishing these words and pictures. That is a violation of my ancient and inalienable freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and in this case, religious freedom and the separation of mosque and state. It is especially perverted that a bureaucracy calling itself the Alberta human rights commission would be the government agency violating my human rights. So I will now call those bureaucrats “the commission” or “the hrc”, since to call the commission a “human rights commission” is to destroy the meaning of those words.”

From here on, the way pointed downward for the Alberta Human Rights Commission, whose representative at the table, officer McGovern, a bored, non-committal clerk jotting notes from time to time on a legal pad, was the very picture of Hanna Arendt’s “banality of evil.” Levant continually attempted, and failed, to provoke a response from her. Her indifference was unshatterable.

In such procedures, when the state is a party to deliberations, the accused always becomes a victim.

“Alberta taxpayers,” Levant told the harassing clerk, “pay for the prosecution of the complaint against me. The victims of the complaints, like the Western Standard, have to pay for their own lawyers from their own pockets. Even if we win, we lose – the process has become the punishment. (At this point, I’d like to thank the magazine’s many donors who have given their own money to help us fight against the Saudi imam and his enablers in the Alberta government.)

“It is procedurally unfair. Unlike real courts, there is no way to apply for a dismissal of nuisance lawsuits. Common law rules of evidence don’t apply. Rules of court don’t apply. It is a system that is part Kafka, and part Stalin. Even this interrogation today – at which I appear under duress – saw the commission tell me who I could or could not bring with me as my counsel and advisors.”

It is at the same time a cause for celebration and despair that somewhere the Western culture still produces a man like Levant willing to risk all in a splendid act of defiance to assert his ancient liberties before the same emasculated West that is unwilling to defend them.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Freedom Of Speech

Ezra Levant defends his decision to print cartoons before agents of the state.

His response to interrogatories by the Alberta Human Rights Commission should be shown in every journalism class in the (as yet) free West:

Video 1, Video 2, Video 3

The entire interview may be found here.

Ezra Levant's site may be found here.

A full account of these incidents from a moderate Muslim perspective may be fond here.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Obama, MLK and The Clintons

One of the shrewdest commentators of the American scene is British transplant, now an American citizen, Christopher Hitchens, whose sole blind spot is religion. Hitchens is a militant atheist.

Here is Hitch on the Republican field: “Only one of these men has any poetry about him. John McCain, the white-haired old lion in winter, embarking on his last hurrah, quixotically indifferent to money or polls, can still bring a lump to the throat. Stubbornly loyal to his comrades in uniform, adamant for victory in Iraq, he commands a certain respect of the kind that professional image-builders can only dream of. This may not turn out to be the year for old lions, but it’s nice to know, amid all the moisture and bogus emotion, that the country can still produce them.”

And on the Clintons: “The first-time voters started to gravitate to Obama in ever-bigger droves, as did a surprising percentage of the women. This was simply not the time or the place for a politician to be appearing cynical or offering disillusionment ("the couple from Hope campaigning against hope", as Maureen Dowd neatly put it in the New York Times). Things began to look exceedingly bad for the former first couple, and Bill himself was reduced to telling an audience, with appalling crassness, that "I can’t make her younger, taller or change her gender". And then, just as it began to appear that matters could not possibly get any more prosaic, Mrs. Clinton stumbled into an accidentally poetic moment of her very own.

"She cried. Or rather, she trembled on the verge of tears. Eyes brimming with self-pity at a ladies’ coffee-morning, she let it be known and shown that she has a human side and is not the robotic, control-freak, frigid (pick your own keyword) persona that her enemies love to hate. All the exit-poll evidence is that this mammalian moment was when the tide began to turn, especially among female voters. Modern campaigning – devoid as it often is of real political drama or difference – often hinges on such little triumphs of style over substance."

The Clinton’s are constrained just now to make sharp distinctions between talkers and doers. Hillary is a doer, Obama a somewhat charming talker, a pale reflection of husband Bill, who stressed idealism in his candidacy against George Bush the elder because his experience as a doer was more shallow than that of his opponent.

This false dualism – little more than a political talking point, since Hillary’s practical experience as a political executive is rather thin -- now has led Hillary to value former President Lyndon Johnson, a doer, over Martin Luther King, a charming talker.

But there are multiple problems. The distinction, which requires people always to choose doers over talkers, would have left post-World War II Britain in the hands of Prime Minister Harold Chamberlain, an incumbent doer, rather than Winston Churchill, a sweet talker who later became a more aggressive doer than Chamberlain. Presidential incumbent Richard Nixon, a doer, was defeated by John Kennedy, a charming talker before he assumed office and later was annointed the king of Camelot. The Obama site on the internet is bursting with position papers detailing what he would do if elected president. Finally, the distinction Clinton has made almost certainly will not sit well among the 50% of black South Carolinians who have been moved, as was Lyndon Johnson, by Martin Luther King's words. Martin Luther King Day falls on the 21st of January; there is no Lyndon Baines Johnson Day on the calendar.

This is an ooops moment that would, had such a misspeak been bruited about by a Clinton aide, have required a spirited denial as well as the public humiliation of said aide. However, since it was Hillary who wandered into this thicket, she must be carefully plucked from the thorns and briars without doing damage to her suddenly thinning skin. Tears alone will not wash away this stain.

It seems that some iffing and butting might be necessary to repair the collateral damage done to Martin Luther King’ ruptured reputation.

On the 42nd anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Clinton said about King, “As a young girl, I had the great privilege of hearing Dr. King speak in Chicago. The year was 1963. My youth minister from our church took a few of us down on a cold January night to hear someone that we had read about, we had watched on television, we had seen with our own eyes from a distance, this phenomenon known as Dr. King. He titled the sermon he gave that night ‘Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.’”

Her praise then seemed fulsome enough, even though Hillary, or one of her speech writers, got the date wrong, according to a Washington Post fact-checker.

To err is human, it is said. But to aviod admitting error in presidential candidacies is divine.

The Museum Of Russian Icons

When I said to Mr. Gordon Lankton “Not every man has an opportunity to live in his dream,” he smiled disarmingly and later, as my wife Andrée and I were examining an icon of Saint Paraskeva, he wandered over and said, I don’t mean to interrupt you, but do you know her?”

The icon was of an imposing lady draped in Roman dress.

“She is one of my favorite characters,” he said.

“Because she is the patron saint of commerce?”

Lankton is no stranger to commerce. Twenty years ago, when everyone was moving West, he went East – to Russia , where he saw and was captivated by Russian Byzantine icons. His painstaking collection, a work of love, now fills a museum of his own making. Legend has it that Lankton’s wife, troubled by a metastasizing collection that was filling every corner of her house, gave her husband an ultimatum: Either the icons go, or I go. Thus are museums are born.

“No,” he answered, “not because she is the patron saint of commerce. Saint Paraskeva was a Roman lady whose parents were converts to Christianity at a time when such avowals were sternly punished by pious Romans.”

Saint Paraskeva ran afoul of the emperor of the day, Antoninus Pius, Lankton said, who attempted to correct her slide into impiety. So he prepared a bath for her of hot oil and demanded that she give up her Christian ways. She said nothing. He pushed her in and noticed the oil had no effect on her at all. He asked whether she had, through some sort of divination, managed to make the bath cool. In response, she cupped her hand and threw the oil on him, some of which got into his eyes, causing him to go blind. Later, having had second thoughts about Saint Paraskeva, the emperor asked her to cure him. And she did, converting him to the faith. She was a convincing early Christian preacher and converted many people. Saint Paraskeva received her martyr’s wreath in the year 180 and is venerated today both as the patron saint of commerce and as a healer of the blind.

The story Lankton told us especially impressed Andrée, who had her guide dog with her. But all icons are the repository of stories. They were the story books of the Middle and Latin Middle Ages.

The most productive period in the development of icon making was from the years 1350 to 1650. Containing more than 300 icons, the museum houses the largest collection of Russian icons in North America and spans six centuries, from the fifteenth century to the present.

That impressive span of faith and belief was interrupted from time to time by iconoclastic periods, when icon making was discouraged, most often by the sword of emperors.

Russian icon making originated in Greece but, as the Russia expanded six thousand miles to the Pacific Ocean, it developed its own unique style. The development of Russian icon making corresponds to the beginning of the Russian state in Kiev in Ukraine and the development of the Russian nation. By the late eighteen hundreds, the production of icons had reached such massive proportions that whole towns in Russia were devoted to icon making. Nearly every home in Russia during this period had in it an icon that was venerated.

There were in Russia, at the time of the Russian Revolution, more than twenty million icons. As the bloody revolution unfolded, Russia entered its most punishing iconoclastic period. The Communist state forbade all independent religious activity; the painting of icons was prohibited; and the people were ordered to burn their icons in great bonfires in public squares. The atheist ice in Russia did not thaw until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, which has now seen a resurgence of religion and icon making.

Surrounded by icons that had managed somehow to survive the bonfires of the official atheist state, Lanton must sometime wonder what Saint Paraskeva would have made of the madness of the 20th century. It is doubly ironic that the life of Saint Paraskeva, always in jeopardy, parallels the life of her icon, more durable but no less subject to destruction. But the icon, which will live in the imagination of those who have seen it, now has a home safe from hazard.

The Museum Of Russian icons is located in a historic nineteen century brick building, once a post office, adjacent to Clinton Park, the oldest public park in the United States. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11Am to 3PM. Admission for adults is $5, tour participants and groups $4, and students and children under 16 are admitted free. The museum’s address is 203 Union Street, Clinton Massachussetts 0150. Its helpful staff may be reached by dialing 978-598-5000. Its web site is http://www.museumofrussianicons.org/



Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hillary, Obama and the Media

The jury sitting on the meaning of the Iowa and New Hampshire canvasses is now in.

The Journal Inquirer

Following Hillary Clinton’s New Hampshire win, the editorial page editor of the Journal Inquirer unburdened himself in the form of a “Memo to Barack: This will not be easy.”

The editorial makes the following points:

• Barack has had to fight for what he is and has, while Hillary has had both her senate seat and her senate re-election “handed to her.”

• Hillary was President Bill Clinton’s “consort.” The words “wife” or “First Lady” apparently are not in the editor’s lexicon.

• The Clintons were not civil to the newly elected George Bush.

The editorial page editor, who has been around for awhile, was uncomfortable with early Polls after Iowa showing Barack defeating Hillary by 10 percentage points.

• “You mess with the Clinton’s at your peril.”


• “The Clintons see the presidency as their due - their property. Theirs. Their whole campaign has been: Restore the monarchy.”

• The Clinton’s are ruthless campaigners: “No velvet revolution for them. Politics is a blood sport to the Clintons, and they mean to show this youngster how to play the game.”

• The Clinton campaign in New Hampshire “was the most shameless 36 hours of politicking in recent memory. At one point - the lowest point in New Hampshire - one of Mrs. Clinton's surrogates explained what false hope really means: It means, he said, that Barack Obama, like JFK, could be assassinated. Mrs. Clinton stood next to him on the podium and did not blink an eye.”

• Even Hillary’s tears were vicious: “At her most vicious, Mrs. Clinton wept, and showed us she was just a woman after all. And you know what? It worked.”

• Variously, in their careers, Hillary or Bill or both have been “feral cats,” “Big Liars,” “monarchs,” “slash and burners,” “Rovians,” “addicted to power,” and nearly as bad, if not worse, than George Bush.

This is what throwing the kitchen sink at Hillary from your keyboard looks like. And even though some rose petals were tossed in the direction of John McCain at the end of the editorial – who was wrong, horribly wrong, concerning the war in Iraq but, for all that, an honorable man – one senses that the editorial page this year will be leaning towards Obama. Of all the pieces critiqued here, the JI was by far the least fearful of presenting a strong opinion.

The Boston Globe was less fierce.

The paper thought that the results on New Hampshire showed “Experience counts.”

• Voters in New Hampshire were “diligent” and took seriously “their role as focus group for the American electorate.”

• Hillary’s superior political organization helped her to pull out a win.

• New Hampshire provided an educational experience for Hillary: “Finding herself on the defensive may well have humanized Clinton. She fought hard in Saturday's debate, rather than presenting herself as the inevitable nominee. Her campaign got a much-needed reminder that voters seek to understand the instincts and the judgment that a candidate would bring to the office, and not just th’ candidate's issue positions. Her victory speech reflected that. ‘I listened to you," she said, ‘and in the process, I found my own voice.’”

• Obama should take heed: “Obama too can draw a lesson from Clinton's performance in New Hampshire. While his Iowa victory turned him into a political rock star, celebrity alone won't win him the nomination. He will need to flesh out his lofty rhetoric with better-developed policy proposals.”

The usually perceptive George Will, in a recent column, strenuously disagrees with this last point: “The wrong question about Obama has been "Where's the beef," "beef" meaning policy substance. Policy papers in profusion can be ginned up by campaign advisers, of whom Obama has plenty. The right question is whether he is a souffle — pretty and pleasing, but mostly air and apt to collapse if jostled. Presidential politics is an exhausting, hard, occasionally even cruel vetting process — necessarily so, given the stakes — and now that he has been bumped hard we shall see if there is steel beneath the sleek gray suit.”


The Los Angeles Times

The LA Times strattled the fence diffidently.

The message of the editorial was that experience matters except in those cases when it does not matter.

• With two strong showings in what the paper calles “white” states, Obama has demonstrated that he is electable.

• Hillary’s strong show of emotion may have provided the jolt needed to win in New Hampshire: “Clinton's comments revealed the passion she has for her country and the depth of her political beliefs. "I just don't want to see us fall backwards," she said, her voice tight. "This is very personal for me." She will be a stronger candidate going forward if she continues to express herself in such personal terms.”

• President Bush has given knowledge and experience a bad name, and this boomeranged on Hillary: “For Clinton, the trouble is not emotion but, perversely, President Bush. So badly has this president performed that he has discredited not just his own administration but the very idea of Washington knowledge. Voters frustrated by the war in Iraq and anxious about the economy have turned on the man who brought us those troubles and on experience itself -- and thus on Clinton. She still has time, but now she must confront an electorate that has its doubts -- and that has identified Obama with the future and Clinton with the past.”

Newsweek

Newsweek reported that the waterworks teared up on cue: “Bill Clinton felt the tide turn on Monday afternoon. 'Most of our people thought it was going to be a nightmare,' Clinton told NEWSWEEK, his eyes brimming with tears. 'I just had a hunch, though. The people of New Hampshire have never disappointed me, and they didn't tonight. But they sure did surprise me.'"

• Though wary of the press, Hillary put herself out there: “Asked who made the decision to put Hillary out there, Bill immediately responded, 'She did. It was her decision,' he said. 'The voters of New Hampshire demand it.' Wary of the press, Hillary nevertheless started interacting. At rallies she spent hours answering 25, 30 questions—far more than the two or three she typically fielded in Iowa. And at a Portsmouth coffee shop on Monday, she nearly cried. 'A lot of people who saw Hillary as one-dimensional saw her acting in a very human way, and they connected,' said Ann Lewis, a senior campaign adviser. Lewis claimed that the campaign was flooded with e-mails from women, especially young women, who 'finally' saw how a woman could be held to a different standard. 'All day long we heard from women saying, "Now I get it",' said Lewis. On stage last night Clinton seemed to get it as well, transforming her solipsistic announcement slogan—‘We're in it to win’—into something more generous: ‘We are in it for the American people.’”


The Huffington Post


John Neffinger, over at The Huffington Post, was smitten.

It was the clip showing Hillary’s soft and tender side that won his heart: “Many in the media wondered whether this was a fatal show of weakness, the emotional female cracking under the first sign of real pressure. Others, primarily conservatives, accused her of a cynically "calculated" play for sympathy. That only makes sense if you assume she is at her core a heartless ambition machine and any show of human emotion on her part is artifice. But if you understand her as a deeply committed activist who usually hides her emotions to avoid being perceived as weak, it makes sense that she might finally choose that moment to let more of her true feelings show. That decision may well have been a ‘calculation,’ but no matter how the media spun it, we saw the emotion in those images for ourselves, and it was the real deal.”

The Hartford Courant

According to the Hartford Courant, the primary campaign battles in Iowa and New Hampshire were surprising only to pollsters, who were, one again, wrong. They hadn’t counted on the fact that voters were people: “Poll-watching and premature analysis tend to reduce this quadrennial exercise in self-determination to the level of a sports contest. Thankfully, if New Hampshire is any indication, the voters take it more seriously.”

Newspaper editorials, always unsigned, also are written by people who are sometimes right, sometimes wrong, sometimes left, though rarely in Connecticut, sometimes right, sometimes cautious and sometimes spirited.

One thing is absolutely certain: In a democracy, people deserve the consequences of their votes.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Michael Yon, A True Account of the War in Iraq

Michael Yon may very well be the George Orwell of the Iraq War. For a short faithful account of the war, see here.

There will be a book.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Error Theory And The Nation

The notion that President George Bush should have committed more troops earlier on in the Iraq war to suppress jihadists runs up against something called “error theory.” All this is highly speculative, but worth thinking about.

Out Of The Mouths Of (Progressive) Children

The Nation, not a neo-conservative publication, is at least asking the right questions:

“But there are other crucial and less frequently mentioned topics to address: how will the next administration deal with a resurgent Russia, a rising China and a Latin America that has rejected the Washington/IMF neoliberal agenda, forging closer regional ties in its place? How will the United States handle rapidly growing world demand for oil and gas as reserves approach their peak? Is it a mistake to view the world primarily through the lens of Islamic extremism? How should the United States relate to Saudi Arabia and other autocratic Gulf states, and how should the United States address the Israel-Palestine conflict? How should we promote prosperity and stability in Africa? The foreign policy advisers in each Democratic campaign are still grappling with the answers.”

Pity the questions aren’t being asked of the candidates.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Obamamania

Obamamania is foaming and bubbling in America’s stew pot of opinion and commentary.

George Will, no progressive, views Obama as the only adult in a squabbling classroom of fossilized politicians caught in the imprisoning amber of yesteryear: “Barack Obama, who might be mercifully closing the Clinton parenthesis in presidential history, is refreshingly cerebral amid this recrudescence of the paranoid style in American politics. He is the un-Edwards and un-Huckabee -- an adult aiming to reform the real world rather than an adolescent fantasizing mock-heroic ‘fights’ against fictitious villains in a left-wing cartoon version of this country.”

Dick Morris, certainly not a progressive and no longer a boot licking Clintonite, agrees: “Suddenly, the Clintons have become old before our eyes. They are, as if by magic, now part of the past, no longer inevitable in the future. It took Obama and Huckabee to put them there, but they have become the couple that can’t stop thinking about yesterday.”

According to New York Time scold Maureen Dowd, even some Republicans have slipped by night into the Obama camp: “I interviewed three Republicans in the Obama section of the [Iowa] caucus who were ready for the red state, blue state merger. They said they didn’t want Hill and Bill back in the White House, and that John McCain was too much of a yes man for W, who had betrayed Republicans with his handling of the Iraq war and his fiscal irresponsibility.” On a sour note, one tends to dismiss airily the opinions of those who so joyfully fall into the clutches of new-age neo-pagans.

Grace Vuoto, the Executive Director of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal, certainly no progressive, thinks that Obama may have more than an even chance of becoming president, owing mostly to a propitious correlation of forces.

She points out that the Hillary Bill Clinton co-presidency has more skeletons in its closet than Obama: “…it is Mrs. Clinton, not Mr. Obama, who cannot be elected. In last week's Fox 5-The Washington Times-Rasmussen Reports poll, 40 percent of Americans state they will vote to prevent Mrs. Clinton from becoming president. She gets the largest "anti-vote" of any candidate in both parties: 64 percent of Republicans, 42 percent of third-party or independent voters, and 17 percent of Democrats insist they will vote against her. Hence, the Clinton camp's recent attempt to malign Mr. Obama as unelectable is pure farce. It is like telling Democrats to be afraid of a toy pistol while ignoring a bazooka which is being aimed at them. In a general campaign, Republicans will go nuclear against Mrs. Clinton.”

According to Vuoto, Obama’s view on illegal immigration, less punishing towards illegal immigrants than many Republican presidential contenders, exploits a division between Republicans and business people who have recoiled at the the rigorous enforcement of immigration laws. Many Republicans are understandably ticked off at the leaders of their party who have abandoned conservative principles and would vote for Obama if only to administer a lesson to backsliding Republican leaders.

“The secret among conservatives,” she writes, “is that many are rooting for Mr. Obama — and many will even vote for him in a general election no matter how liberal he is. Why? He will be heroic for defeating Hillary; he is authentic, and he is likeable even in disagreement.”

Lastly, there is the question of political dynasties and electability. Having struggled through a Bush dynasty, the country may understandably be averse to a Clinton dynasty. It is not always true that the evil you know is better than the evil you do not know. It has been known for some time that Hillary Clinton is a polarizing figure. According to a recent CNN/WMUR poll, New Hampshire voters tagged Obama as the Democrat candidate most likely to beat a Republican rival; Obama has a 42%-31% edge over Clinton on the issue of “electability.”

Dodd, The .02 Percenter

The conquering hero, US Sen. Chris Dodd, returned this week from the field of battle after having won .02% of the Iowa straw poll vote. He was warmly received by his friends in the Democrat Party, minus US Sen. Joe Lieberman, who were at some pains to account for what reporters are calling his dismal showing.

In blogdom, where Dodd is esteemed because of his adamantine opposition to the war in Iraq, the reaction to his poor showing was sympathetic and understanding. Home state Democrat politicians friendly to Dodd were churning out excuses to account for his rather dramatic loss; in the Iowa straw poll, Dodd won only 1 of 1,781 reporting districts, a total of 4 votes.

US Rep. Joe Courtney, who won office in a squeaker election against former Republican Rep. Rob Simmons, thought Dodd peaked too late in his campaign. Near the end of his campaign, Dodd waged a successful filibuster to block amnesty for those telecommunication companies that gave the administration of President George Bush in the absence of a court order phone records putatively relating to terrorist activity.

Dodd’s campaign, Courtney said, “found its voice around that moment and connected him to the insurgency feeling. But by then the die was cast.”

Dodd’s dedication to the anti- Iraq war effort was less acceptable to activists in the Democrat Party than that of Barack Obama, the Eugene McCarthy of the movement to end the war in Iraq, who is also running for president. The anti-war movement during the Vietnam war period crystallized around McCarthy, some of whose most ardent supporters, now writing for newspapers, consider Obama a more enticing presidential prospect than, say, John McCain, an early critic of President Bush’s strategy in Iraq who now is basking in the glow of a successful surge of troops that he said should have been introduced into Iraq much earlier in the war.

US Rep. John Larson thought the Dodd candidacy was swept under by the Obama surge in Iowa. “When you get hit by a tsunaimi,” – something that will affect Larson in the dependably Democrat 1st District only when Hell freezes over -- Larson said, “it’s hard.”

Virtually no one in Connecticut’s largely liberal media attributed Dodd’s crushing defeat to his ideas or his program.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Dodd Debacle

Post Iowa, it’s all over for the losers but for the gnashing of teeth.

US Sen. Chris Dodd’s gnashing, as was to be expected, was eloquent, his concession speech prettily put together. The most aggressive anti-war presidential candidate in the running, Dodd received less than 1% of the Iowa caucus vote. He did better at DailyKos, the Huffington Post and MoveOn.org, blog sites devoted to running the white flag up in Iraq and skedaddling. One of the polls at one of these anti-war cookie cutter sites rated Dodd in the high twenties.

Dodd probably will be remembered, if he is remembered at all, as the William Jennings Bryant of the anti-war movement.

The rest of the country will move on.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Hillary vs Obama Hit Job

The Iowa caucuses are important because the line up after Iowa will set the direction of Big Media predictions. They will provide the frame for political narratives until the next primary. Iowa is the first horse race determiner in the nation.

Appearing on Charlie Rose, David Yepsin, the Des Moines Register’s political columnist, has set the ball rolling.

Obama has managed to position himself as an agent of change by resurrecting motifs used by the inexperienced Bill Clinton in his first presidential bid.

Perhaps the most interesting Yepsin comment concerns Barak Obama’s positioning; in political horse races, positioning is determinative.

“Barack Obama’s message this year is pretty much the one Bill Clinton was using in the 1992 about the need to change,” Yepsin noted. If Mrs. Clinton comes in third in Iowa, that would be very damaging for her because, “it would energize all her challengers.” If Obama wins, Yepsin speculated, “you could see a repeat of what we saw when John Kerry came out of here and won, and he just ran the table.”

Former President Bill Clinton, it has been said, was the first “black” president. The first black president’s wife, Hillary Clinton, now finds herself in primary struggle for the presidency with a real black presidential contender.

What to do?

Attempts to blackening the reputation of the nation’s second black presidential candidate have flopped.

In the good old days, political opponents were dispatched by third parties leaking the dirt to the mainstream media. But when one of Hillary Clinton's operatives tried in vain to make much ado about Obama’s drug use, mentioned in a general way in his biography, he had his head served to him on a silver platter.

Syndicated Columnist Robert Novack has written an entertaining autopsy of the latest hit job. Through a spokesman, Howard Wolfson, Hillary Clinton has “accused Obama of running a ‘slush fund.’ In fact, the Clinton campaign was spreading that story privately months ago.”

So far, the dirt is not sticking. Clinton operatives are claiming it may stick when and if the Republican nominee meets Obama in the general election, an eventuality that the smears circulated by the Clinton husband and wife tag team are designed to prevent. Skeletons surface. Apparently, the silver tongued Clintons are confident they can deal with their own surfacing skeletons.

On the Republican side, some of the presidential contenders have shifted.

Mike Huckabee, and early surger, appears to have fallen a step behind, while John McCain is finding his second wind.

McCain’s surging prospects appear to be due to a) character and b) the success of the surge in Iraq. Very early on, McCain whacked the Bush administration for not having deployed enough troops in Iraq. He was right. The surge dividends now are paying off, and Democrats, apart from U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, have adjusted their rhetoric concerning a precipitous pull out of troops from the war theatre.

In the fever swamps of the left, Dodd’s stand is regarded as heroic.

On the other hand, while Dodd’s stocks have improved at DailKos and the Huffington Post, two on-line progressive watering holes, he was not chosen as the person of the year by the Sunday Telegraph, a British publication. General David Petraeus was.

“But the reason for picking Petraeus is simple. Iraq, whatever the current crises in Afghanistan and Pakistan, remains the West's biggest foreign policy challenge of this decade, and if he can halt its slide into all-out anarchy, Gen Petraeus may save more than Iraqi lives.

“A failed Iraq would not just be a second Vietnam, nor would it just be America's problem.

“It would be a symbolic victory for al-Qaeda, a safe haven for jihadists to plot future September 11s and July 7s, and a battleground for a Shia-Sunni struggle that could draw in the entire Middle East. Our future peace and prosperity depend, in part, on fixing this mess. And, a year ago, few had much hope.

It’s encouraging in the New Year to reflect that sometimes the good guys win.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Liberals, Conservatives and Evolution

A brief history of the Liberal and Conservative movements.

And the Ray Charles version.

A new blog, by one of the best political organizers in Connecticut.