July 31, 2008
July 31, 2008
For the last 8 years President Bush has been accused of allowing his religious faith to influence his decision making. Progressives and some media pundits have been positively frothing at the mouth, loudly insisting that religious beliefs ought not influence policy. He has been accused of a Middle East foreign policy predicated on Christian doctrine.
Along comes Barack Obama who asks
Lord – protect my family and me. Forgive my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.
No word yet from the progressives and media pundits who are outraged at the idea that Obama asked to be an instrument of God’s will.
July 31, 2008
Couldn’t the House give us an apology for creating more entitlement programs than the people can possibly fund, then adding even more on top of those, then promising to add even more if re-elected this fall? The national debt is approaching $10 trillion. And despite the House’s paygo rule requiring any new spending to be paid for, the deficit spending continues unabated. Each newborn American baby enters the world a little more than $30,000 in debt thanks to runaway spending. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress are directly responsible for this. But we won’t get an apology any time soon because then they’d have to stop spending.
On Wednesday the U.S. House of Representatives apologized for slavery. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Steve Cohen, a white Democrat from Tennessee who represents a majority-black district and faces a black primary challenger. Or in other words, the U.S. House apologizes for slavery and Jim Crow not as a sincere gesture of the feelings of the American people, but to help a white incumbent beat a black challenger in a Democratic primary in Tennessee. Wonderful.
Then there is the additional irony that the current membership of the U.S. House apologized for an evil for which it was not responsible and that was ended in the century before last. The apology also included Jim Crow laws, so at least on that point some Americans who helped enforce those laws are still alive. (Perhaps some former Jim Crow enforcers are in the House.) But still, the electoral politics behind the bill — that its primary consequence will be to help a white incumbent defeat a black challenger — render its content meaningless.
If you’re wondering whether the vote really was scheduled to help Cohen, don’t. Politico.com wrote this yesterday: “But asked whether there was a link between the vote on the resolution and Cohen’s primary, a Democratic leadership aide was unequivocal: ‘What do you think? This just didn’t happen by accident.’”
And yet as offensive as this is, it raises a good issue. And that is, as long as the House is making apologies, it should offer some for the damaging acts for which it is actually responsible. Such as:
* Bankrupting the country. Couldn’t the House give us an apology for creating more entitlement programs than the people can possibly fund, then adding even more on top of those, then promising to add even more if re-elected this fall? The national debt is approaching $10 trillion. And despite the House’s paygo rule requiring any new spending to be paid for, the deficit spending continues unabated. Each newborn American baby enters the world a little more than $30,000 in debt thanks to runaway spending. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress are directly responsible for this. But we won’t get an apology any time soon because then they’d have to stop spending.
* Refusing to lower oil and gas prices. Congress could lower the price of oil and gas tomorrow by passing legislation opening more of the outer continental shelf to oil and natural gas drilling and allow more nuclear power plants. The commodities markets would respond to the anticipated future supply immediately. Just as the price of oil dropped earlier this month after OPEC announced that the rise in next year’s demand would be lower than expected, it would drop again if Congress increased future supply by allowing more drilling and reduced future demand for home heating oil and natural gas by paving the way for more nuclear power plants. Instead, House leadership blames speculators and tries to force oil companies to drill where there is little or no oil.
* Leaving our borders dangerously insecure. If Congress wanted to secure our borders, it could quickly pass legislation fencing and putting under video surveillance every inch of the lines separating the United States from Canada and Mexico, putting Border Patrol agents along the whole thing and inspecting every cargo ship that docks at a U.S. port. But it won’t. If it couldn’t do that after 9/11, it’s not going to do it now. So untold numbers of illegals pass into our country daily, and there’s no telling what is smuggled into our ports. We have little control over our own borders, which is a huge national security risk, and they simply don’t care. It’s not on anyone’s agenda.
* Atrocious, indefensible pork-barrel spending. Every year, House members help themselves to our money in the name of helping us all. They spend millions collectively on things like teapot museums supposedly to help the people of their districts and to make sure they get something in return for all the money they send to Washington. But everyone knows it’s all about re-election. And yet they get away with it year after year because the folks back home just love getting federal funding for that local youth program or arts collective. The vote-buying is done in broad daylight, even with accompanying press releases. People are struggling to pay their gas and food bills, and yet Congress continues squandering millions on pork.
I could go on, but you get the point. (You can even come up with your own list.) As America’s economy reels, Congress ignores urgent matters such as dealing with high energy and food prices and instead passes resolutions apologizing for historical wrongs that ended before the average American (the median age is 36) was born. And as if designed to illustrate the blatant hypocrisy of Congress, that resolution was brought up solely to damage the electoral prospects of one of the people to whom the apology was directed.
Yes, Congress owes apologies, lots of them. But the American people will never get the meaningful ones. Congress isn’t done screwing us just yet.
Barack Obama is very persuasive when he talks about race, class and what it means to be an American.
He likes to speak about those things mostly because we like to hear about those things. When we talk about race and class and nationhood, we flex our identity muscles and in doing so we touch that most emotional side of ourselves- our existence. No matter how hard we want to talk about these things, emotions always end up dictating the discussion or the discussion on what the research really means. The attempt to deal with important issues rationally and reasonably goes out the window.
From early childhood on, we are taught about the social class structure as being ‘problematic.’ Somebody might have something you don’t and that becomes or is a problem. Your neighbor might have something you don’t- and we are taught that there is something inherently unfair about that.
In particular, Americans, most often by way of education, believe that the social class system is a tragedy that is unique to them (one would have to conclude that teachers are the group least likely to have traveled or have any experience with groups or cultures other than their own, or have absolutely no idea about anything beyond our shores).
If you ask most Americans to which class they identify with, they will almost always answer, ‘Middle Class.’ It matters little if they work in the coal mines or law office. Americans know that even if they aren’t really of the Middle Class they aspire to be. For them, that iconic station in life is achievable and within reach. ‘Next year in the Middle Class’ means a lot more to most people than ‘Next year in Jerusalem.’
Barack Obama knows this very well. His variation on ‘next year in the Middle Class‘ is a tried a proved slogan that has worked it’s magic time and time again. The slogan works because ‘Middle Class’ can be defined any way you like.
For some, Middle Class is defined as the college educated manager/teacher/engineer types. Most doctors, lawyers and accountants see themselves as ‘Middle Class.’ Others see the ‘real’ Middle Class as the small business people who employed others in small offices, factories or retail shops. Still others see the Middle Class populated with skilled tradespeople or unionized factory workers, Still others see the real Middle Class as the highly motivated group of people with pickup trucks who place classified ads stating they will do anything, anytime, anywhere and have enough skills to get the job done. Others clean 2 houses a day, 5 days a week for $150 a day, cash ($1500 a week, tax free- not too shabby).
Then there are the ‘others’ of another and parallel Middle Classes- blacks, Asians, Jews, and so one.
What do these Middle Class groups have in common? Absolutely nothing. They don’t mingle socially, culturally or even politically. This begs a question: To whom is Barack Obama (and others) talking? The answer is simple and unadorned. Obama, et al, are talking to the Middle Class consumers in all of us. What unites the disparate Middle Class is consumerism. We want the same fashions and the same cookware and the same replacement windows. We buy the same greeting cards and we root for the same team and mascot and listen to and buy the same music.
To be sure, determined and frenzied consumerism is a disease, brought on by a virus that attacks a community with little or no common culture or values. Despite the decades of efforts of well meaning social engineering projects that dwarf the Hoover and Aswan dams, what divides the Middle Class is as deeply entrenched as ever.
There are now disparities in the various Middle Classes in terms of overall health, disease and longevity- and that with the blessings of all the best technology has to offer. Death, like Lady Justice, used to be blond and indiscriminate.
While people in the inner cities might have the exact same TV, central air, DVD, dishwashers, computers and internet access as their fellow Middle Class citizens in the suburbs, their health and longevity are markedly different. While the state mandates identical educational standards for all, even within the Middle Class, there are huge disparities in who succeeds and who does not. The number of people with marketable skills and education are dwarfed by those who do not have such skills (and a college or university degree is no guarantee of possessing relevant skills).
There are many reasons this has come to pass, not the least of which is the myopic and intoxication with individual identity as opposed to status, an earned place in society. From Identity And Status:
Our true and real identity, that visceral part of us that instinctively relates to our family and ethnic group is fundamental to existence. Our real identity defines not only our best values and beliefs, but identity also defines our center, the best of who we are and where we come from. It is in that part of our identity in which we find our greatest comfort and our greatest potential at the same time.
Identity should not be confused with status. That more ethereal idea also identifies us, but in a different way.
Status is less about an idea and more about a concrete and definitive expression of ourselves, outside the group. Some of us are recognized as more influential than others, some less so. Some are more educated, others are recognized for their skills. Some people are more charitable, others are more parsimonious. The individual ‘who we are’ is confers a kind of status on us and in doing so, establishes a social pecking order of sorts.
The ideology of multiculturalism has produced an unhealthy emphasis on the self- so much so that the earned ’status’ of an individual is deliberately subjugated and regarded as an expression of ‘class.’ As far as the dogged proponents of multiculturalism are concerned, earned status is an expression of human ugliness.
Barack Obama (and others) plays on the ‘unity’ of the Middle Class using shared consumerism as ‘common ground.’ Nothing of substance ever needs to be addressed because ‘hope’ and ‘change’ are packaged in a way that does not ask anything of us- other than to consume the idea. Issues of behavior (status) are glossed over in favor of trite and meaningless expressions (for example, HIV-AIDS could be dramatically reduced by changes in behavior, an idea rejected out of hand as ‘discriminatory.’ Peace in the Middle East could be achieved by changes in behavior as well, an idea that horrifies Palestinians inculcated with the notion that being victims is far more preferable to being successful. If it takes violence and death to maintain the identity of ‘victim,’ so be it).
To achieve a society that embraces both identity and status and achievement, the multiculturalists must concede to a common identity that can be shared by all hyphenated Americans. The emphasis must shift from the first part to the second. Black-Americans must see themselves as Black- Americans, first and foremost. Italian-Americans must see themselves as Italian-Americans and so on. This is not a counter intuitive or even radical idea. We each live layered and multifacted lives. We love our spouses and children in very different ways. We choose to believe in a higher power, each in our own way and we respect and worship together.
When it is all said and done, fierce devotion to multiculturalism, moral relativism and identity have only served to drive us apart. We live separate live with every incentive in the world not to integrate with others to find common grounds and values. What was meant to promote equality and tolerance has lead to divided and fractured societies. We pretend those things don’t exist, because rather than deal with real problems, we are only too happy to buy into the vague consumer ideals of ‘hope’ and ‘change.’ Demand that the real problems be addressed and you are labeled a racist.
Democracy only succeeds when real problems and disparities are addressed and dealt with Democracies fail when real problems and disparities are ignored. Promises of hope and change do not deal with problems and disparities- they camouflage them. Equality does not come about with the redistribution of wealth. Equality comes about with the redistribution of opportunity and shared common values.
When free speech is put at risk (see Mark Steyn) the problem will not be resolved with the redistribution of wealth. When non political endeavors become politicized or are forced to take sides, democracy is weakened. When political correctness becomes a purview of government bureaucrats and ethnic tensions are mediated as if they were engaged in a high stakes game, democratic and civil society becomes in danger of collapse.
When there is no emphasis on a common, democratic and national culture, implosion becomes inevitable. Political discourse becomes warfare with a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude (supporters say it’s OK for Obama to want to talk to Ahmadenijad, but heaven forbid he reach a compromise with Republicans). Religious groups become commandos in unspoken of battles and war, some fought as proxies for ideologues (or worse) in far away places and others fought to influence local culture and identity.
Trade unions, academia and professional organizations are involving themselves not in the name of values but in the support of a particular identity. Civil discourse is no longer the center of our culture, having been replaced with noise and the ‘look at me!’ expressions.
Instilling fear has become the priority over protecting freedom.
See the Anchoress post, The Widening Gyre: Liberty Edition for a smorgasbord of ideas on liberty, reality and what real hope and change looks like (taken from her superb post, The Art Of The Painless Coup).
We must repeat, over and over, that Liberty is the means by which we created creatures are meant to live and to grow and be. That Liberty lives in the Truth. That Liberty lives where people can speak freely, without fear of injury or reprisals. That Liberty lives only when the press is free and unencumbered – when it is detached from events instead of entwined in them. That Liberty lives when people refuse to be intimidated into silence or acquiescence, whether in the workplace or within the community. That Liberty is the fragile thing that diminishes whenever one refuses to acclaim it for oneself.
Portions of this post have been previously published.
July 31, 2008
July 31, 2008
Hi, my name is John. I’m a hopium addict.
It’s true. Yes, I’m a journalist. And that led to the harder stuff. Then one day, Barack phoned the Tribune and called me “bro.”
Now, I’m addicted to hopium.
So if you’re addicted to hopium, or you’re worried that your loved ones might fall prey to its power, then please click on this link for the hard left’s Moveon.org commercial for Barack Obama
“I never thought it could happen to me,” says a shaggy blond-haired surfer dude in the ad, a guy who should have carried a bong.
“I’ve been living with it for a while now,” says a young woman, talking as if she’d contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
That’s how they discuss hopium. Like a disease. But they have nothing to be guilty about. It’s not some disease that cranky old Republicans can’t get because they stopped having sex.
Once you see it, you won’t be the only one addicted to hope. You’ll all become addicted—you, your family and friends, even your pets, except for various crustaceans in your aquarium, which are immune. But you and yours are not immune. You’ll all become hope-heads, together.
It’s America’s most powerful drug. Once on hopium, you won’t care if Iran has nukes or if taxes are raised during a recession or whether Obama keeps flipping and flopping on everything from foreign wiretaps to withdrawing troops from Iraq.
Who cares? Relax. Hopium is your friend.
Just ask Republicans. They sure could use some, especially now that Republican Sen. Ted Stevens was indicted on corruption charges on Tuesday. But like lemmings, Republicans are stubbornly jumping off his bridge to nowhere.
Like today’s liberals, yesterday’s conservatives were also hopped up on hopium. This was years ago, when they yearned to believe in “big government conservatism,” the Rule of Law Except for Scooter Libby and the Rovianization of federal prosecutors.
Now, John McCain is suffering the aftereffects, because most journalists are hope-heads who portray him as if he’s the angry Scottish janitor guy on ” The Simpsons.” And most journalists—judging by their frenetic denials about liberal media bias—are obviously too far gone in the grip of hopium to remain rational.
“This is your brain,” says a woman in the Obama ad holding a hard-boiled egg. She’s an actress who once killed sexy vampires on TV.
“This is your brain on hope!” says an angry fellow sitting next to her, another actor, who played some random guy on “Boy Meets World.”
He’s still angry, holding a newly hatched chicken. It looks like a Peep, only alive and fluffy.
Alive. It’s alive. Hope is alive.
“Hope. It could happen to you,” says the narrator with a deep voice.
Then the screen is filled with Obama ’08 and you realize it’s a campaign commercial for Obama and you start to cry, like when you cry at Kodak commercials, or life insurance spots. We Americans are so emotional these days.
Obama hopium was so powerful, that that first rush of it, well, it sent a tingle up my leg. Or down my leg. Then up. So now, when I read newspaper stories about Obama’s political history, like a recent gooey, puffy profile in the Washington Post and it didn’t mention Obama as a willing member of Chicago’s Daley machine, well, I didn’t get angry.
Why? Because I’m a hope-head.
Now, I don’t get upset when foreign and national journalists fail to mention Tony Rezko, or the Daley boys, or how the Chicago machine plans to staff the Department of Justice, and the new Department of Homeland Casinos.
Who cares? I’m numb with hopium.
“I mean, this could happen to anybody,” says a man in the ad.
“Anybody,” says a doctor in scrubs.
“I’m sorry, Mom, I’m sorry,” cries the stoned surfer dude.
For eight years—while the Republicans ran things—they thought hope was gone. Now, they think it’s back.
I’m not the only one attending Hope-Heads Anonymous. Millions of us every day—including those 200,000 hope-head Europeans at the Obama rally in Berlin—are caught in its clutches.
One colleague whose blood is clear of hopium watched the Moveon.org ad, and said she wasn’t hopeful. Rather, she was disturbed.
“The ad plays on irony, and at the same time, it supports the Obama propaganda about hope,” she said. “How is that done? Irony on one hand, while driving the Obama message about hope. It’s more than funny.”
What is it, then?
“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m waiting for you to tell me.”
I forgot. But then, they don’t teach civics in schools anymore, so young people targeted by the Moveon.org ad can’t tell me either.
What is this so-called “civics,” anyway? Is it a bone near the pelvis? An economy car? Or, is it an Indonesian cat that eats coffee beans from the tree?
Does it matter, really?
Not if you’re on hopium.
Before resting its recent case against Mohammed Momin Khawaja under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act, the prosecution presented Momin’s former fiancée, Zeba Khan, as the final witness via a video link from Dubai. Ms. Khan reportedly stated in her testimony: “You will not meet a young Muslim man in the world who is not angry about something. Anyone who watches the news, if he wasn’t mad then, a) there’s something wrong with him, or b) he’s ignorant.”
Obviously, not all angry young Muslim men are engaging in violence — nor, of course, are all Muslims terrorists. But many terrorists are found to be Muslims. Ms. Khan’s remark purports to explain the linkage.
It is perhaps no coincidence that Mr. Khawaja has Pakistani roots. In recent years, Pakistan has become a haven for al-Qaeda terrorists. For longer than that, jihadis have recruited Pakistani boys and men to fight in Kashmir and Afghanistan. These brainwashed men may be volunteers headed out to fight infidel “invaders” and “occupiers” of Muslim lands, but it cannot be said that they are acting entirely on their own initiative.
These Muslims are responding to the political values and religious ideology promoted and financed by influential radicals. These values — reflected in Ms. Khan’s comment — provide the framework for the wider political discourse in Pakistan and across much of the Arab-Muslim world, as well.
I know Pakistani society quite intimately from studying and living among the Pakistani people. The Pakistani culture is based on collective loyalty to faith, history and politics. This makes it difficult for the country to keep up with the demands of the modern world.
I have also travelled in various other Muslim nations — from Algeria to Indonesia. Many of these societies, I’ve come to understand, are essentially failed states. Their cultures are mostly closed, authoritarian and patriarchal. While Muslim men of all ages can be genuinely friendly to strangers, theirs is a culture of boasting and quick tempers.
But when one engages them individually (especially younger men) in polite discussions of politics and history — even in a place such as Qom, Iran, whose most famous product is the late Ayatollah Khomeini — the mask falls and there is much sorrow expressed over how greatly the Muslim world has degenerated into a pathetic shadow of its past.
What is privately admitted cannot be publicly affirmed or discussed. The character of Muslim society is exemplified by the mosque culture, whereby the authority of the man on the pulpit is final and public dissent is disallowed.
Similarly, inside of homes, most discussions flow in one direction from the patriarchal centre of power and influence downwards. Any critical review or independent examination of controversial subjects is frowned upon, if not repressed. Anger in such circumstances is mostly an effect of the pent-up resentment bred of life in a society without any sort of freedom.
Khawaja Momin’s former fiancée is likely just as immersed in this culture as are the angry young Muslim men she speaks of. These men are their parents’ “jewels,” and given special care by mothers as their future protectors in a male-dominant society — while their fathers and imams angrily condemn the world around them for corrupting their faith and way of living.
This culture has been exported to Muslim immigrant enclaves in the West, including parts of our own country. In a very revealing book, The Islamist, Ed Husain — a former jihadi born and raised in Britain by parents from Bangladesh — discusses the culture of such enclaves in the making of angry young Muslim men. In the end, some head out to kill innocent civilians, as did the 2005 London suicide bombers.
This sort of disaster has not happened in Canada — yet. But it may, if we are not careful to monitor the rise of radicalism amongst the likes of Mohammed Momin Khawaja.
July 31, 2008
Barack Obama, genealogical gunslinger?
The Democratic candidate today invoked a distant — possibly apocryphal — cousin, Wild Bill Hickok, and suggested that he and John McCain forget the dreary debate-about-where-they-will-debate and just strap on six-shooters and meet at 60 paces.
(Note to the literal minded: The candidate was joking. We think.)
“If Senator McCain wants a debate about taxes in this campaign, I’m ready,” he told an audience here. “Wild Bill Hickok had his first duel in the town square here. And the family legend is that he is a distant cousin of mine.”
Sensing a hike of the collective eyebrow in the audience, he quickly added: “I’m serious, I’m serious. This is part of the family legend. I don’t know if it’s true, but I’m going to research it.”
Earlier in the campaign, Mr. Obama found out that he is a distant cousin to Mr. Cheney, a source of more than a few punchlines for the two of them. But Wild Bill Hickok was a new one.
Don’t be surprised to hear that Wild Bill’s middle name was Hussein.
July 31, 2008
…When a family is chosen to receive a home that’s extremely made over, we the viewing audience, hear a lot about the back story. The all vary, but tragedy and loss is the underlying thing…
I don’t downplay the gravity of their situations nor is my intent to make light of them. The stories are sad and tragic and that makes “Extreme Home Makeover”, a contemporary version of the old show, “Queen For Day”. We watch today as our mothers and grandmother’s watched that show. There’s this humanistic part of part of us that allows us to feel sorry for the family. We pity them for their hard luck lives. But if we’re honest, there’s another part that prompts us to think, “thank God it’s them and not us”.
And if we’re really being honest, we realize that that is the same part of our collective gray matter that makes many of us angry when we read about the Harper family’s abject fiscal irresponsibility. They lost their house because they put it up as collateral for a sizeable loan to start of construction company which failed. An industry in which, Mr. Harper (from an experience standpoint) was ill equipped to venture.
Another reason for our anger? Americans demand that our philanthropy and the generosity of our time and emotions spent, are well taken care of by our intended targets. In this case, there was neglect. The Harpers “squandered” what the ABC crew and all those construction volunteers did…PLUS, that damn family squandered our sympathy.
How dare they? What nerve!
Well, in reality, we have some nerve for feeling this way…
The Harper’s story–before and after “Extreme Home Makeover” got involved–is a classic American tale. That they lost a lovely, half million dollar home that was given to them with the best intentions, makes the perfect coda, if you will. This is what happens when the American dream is provided and not earned…
Here’s a family that’s lived right at or just above the poverty line for years; they barely had a proverbial pot to pee in. Hard times compelled them to submit their names and sad sack story to a TV network with the hopes of being selected to appear on a show that will result in their getting a big, beautiful new home built that’s given to them gratis. And not only that, they stand to get money, furniture and vehicles along with a mortgage that’s taken care of and sometimes, bought-and-paid-for college educations for their kids.
And in the course of one week and thanks to efficient digital editing, neatly condensed into a one hour TV show on Sunday evenings, they go from shack-dwellers to owners of a manse that merely to operate and live in with any degree of success, costs more than they make in a year, and we expect them to do just fine?.
…those who’ve been mired in the welfare system for generations–often believe in entitlement because that’s what they’re told to believe. This life is all they know. Receiving is their legacy. Their “earning power” has been and always will be attached to that mindset because many believe it’s far easier to extend a hand than use one to grip an implement. To do so, could lead to self sufficiency and independent thinking–two things that defy lower class thinking. Because in the big game of social bureaucracy, the players are divided into those who give and those who take. Being self sufficient is what the givers do.
This allows them to be givers.
It doesn’t matter why the Harper family fell on hard times. It’s not important what color they are. Fiscal irresponsibility isn’t based on the amount of melanin in one’s skin. But the reality is that their role as takers was defined a long time ago. The Harpers could break free of these bonds, but obviously, they haven’t learned what every hard working American knows for a fact: you can’t get something for nothing. It simply does not work and besides that, ain’t nothing free. There’s always a price to the paid…
…all things considered, how did we expect a story like this to end? . It ended the only way it could; it ended as it began.