(part of) You Are Here: Explorations in Search of Current Reality

My Blogs Why write 4 different blogs? Good question, but it seemed to make sense at the time. Most energy is going into The Real Truth Project

The Eisenhower Socialist ; The Real Truth Project ; What Was the Cold War? ; The Ontological Comedian

See also Tales of the Early Republic, a resource for trying to make some sense of early nineteenth century America.

(Just to clarify things a little, Eisenhower wasn't really a socialist though he could easily get labeled one today, as could Abraham Lincoln or most every other Republic president until recently. And I'm not really a socialist either.)


Sunday, June 27, 2010

One Point of View (Jefferson's) on "the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations"

Some borrowed citations from: http://fraughtwithperil.com/cholte/2010/03/14/the-american-corporate-monster-part-2-corporate-personhood-history/

Thomas Jefferson wrote in a 1816 letter to George Logan:[11]

“I hope we shall… crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

“A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible,” Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in an 1819 case. “It possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it.

Jefferson and Marshall were not friends, or in tune politically, and that seems to be reflected here.

What do you suppose Jefferson, or even the more pro-business Marshall have said about the need to protect the "Freedom of Speech" of corporations?

Comment on a Proposal to Make Corporations Democratic

See http://fraughtwithperil.com/cholte/2010/06/25/proper-corporatism/ for context.

There was also a time in America in the 19th century when Joint Stock Companies were seen as an exciting means of implementing communal utopias like Brooke Farm and Oneida.

[The all important "So what?" question]
One question I have is what is the next step beyond saying "if this happenned, it would be an improvement", or a more strongly worded "this needs to happen"? I am beginning to think that collective action aimed at reform might be usefully imitate the structure of the scientific community. The problem is bridging the gap between the present state and the vision of (1) in the one case, perfect understanding of the universe, or (2) perfecting the social order. Prior to the Enlightenment, there was a plethora of speculative philosophical systems which tried to be "theories of everything" (a phrase that I think expresses the drive behind even the most 'primitive' religions).

He talks a lot about the "Social Corporation" which is neither the traditional "nonprofit" nor "for profit" enterprise. There is no very good legal framework for it, so he is putting forth a template for the consideration of governments. He sees no reason why such corporations, while explicitly *not* having maximization of profits as prime directive cannot make sufficient profits to grow without the need of continual infusions of charity money. I think what he'd really like is the ability for a corporation to have a *legally defined purpose* such as "to improve health outcomes (more specifically defined of course)
by X% in the areas in which they operate within such and such a time frame, with profit and growth being perhaps the goal *once that is accomplished*. He thinks they can go head to head with traditional corporations, like maybe a certain amount of good will and some vibrant quality that such an enterprise might have, might offset failure to follow what today are considered "best practices" for maximizing profits. Yunnus has been working at this (not just micro-lending but a broad array of enterprises) for over 30 years, and his enterprises are now certainly on the scale of billions of dollars.

I think there is immense potential in that, whereas I can't imagine an attempt to change the rules of corporations IN GENERAL any time in the forseeable future.

A Time to be Wonkish, and a Time to Put Away Wonkish Things (comment on Paul Krugman: A Dark Age of macroeconomics (wonkish)

Paul Krugmen points out - quite reasonably - the solipsism of drawing any conclusion from the correlation of two things that are the same by definition (see Paul Krugman's A Dark Age of Macroeconomics - Wonkish). For example, I always wondered about a study that showed a remarkable - possibly too remarkable - correlation between body weight and sense of balance. Well, we know exactly how to measure weight, but "sense of balance"? Evidently the experimenters had created some kind of sense-of-balance-o-meter. Now the idea that overweight people have a harder time staying balanced is intuitive, OK, but knowing something about how complex things are measured, I wondered whether the the balance-o-meter what little more than a Rube Goldberg-ish measurement of weight, with some informational impurities that made it vary enough to keep the correlation line from being perfectly straight (a tell-tale sign). So I relegated the study to the category of "not sure it means anything". Only by mastering the meaning of measuring "sense of balance" could I have decided whether the study meant anything or not.

This reminds me a bit of people being mesmerized by graphs of X vs Y where we don't know what either of them mean, but the experts provides something intuitive that he claims is an analogy and we nod out heads.

Well, Prof. Krugman, if pulling some profound "fact" out of the magician's hat of an accounting identity (his phrase), seems like a rich source of nonsense, consider the sort of creation ex nihilo some very smart people indeed - people I know who belong to Mensa (a bad sign in my opinion) have swallowed. Ayn Rand puts at the root of her supposedly deep "objectivist epistemology" the identity "Existence exists" (c.f. John Galt's interminable speech in Atlas Shrugs, or Ayn Rand's book called Objectivist Epistemology.

To fight such speciously derived paradigms on their own ground (or what seems to the believers to be their ground) is a losing battle.

Instead, I think we need to propose alternate ways of looking at things that can be understood by people without a college degree.

[and just how are we supposed to do that, you may wonder]Link

The Long Run, the Short Run, and the Ugly

In response to Paul Krugman's article "In The Long Run, We Are Still All Dead"

In the medium run, in democracies, what happens will be determined by how the average citizen sees the world. If that's a scary prospect, consider how well the alternatives (to democracy) have worked. Right now, "the money has to come from somewhere" seems like the last word to too many people.

Too many of the intellectuals have taken the bait of the ideological terrorists, and succumbed to name calling and preaching to the choir. I am making an analogy here. When peace talks between Israelis and Palistineans start to seem thinkable, somebody on one extrem of the other, for whom compromise seems like the most despicable outcome, throws a grenade; the other side overreacts, a new cycle of violence begins, and the moderates who might have tried to solve the problem feel irrelevant again and tune out.

If world peace depends on Palistineans and Israelis talking to eachother, maybe it (or the economy which is tightly coupled with world peace) also depends on "Tea partiers" and liberals talking. Which seems more improbable?

If apparently self-evident statements like "the money has to come from somewhere" are stifling debate, maybe we need to focus on things that are more real than money, which is in a sense just numbers on computer disks. Like the real production capability of the nation, and the efficiency of transportation, or the continuity of the culture of work, or education and training. No stimulus means less debt, but years of atrophy of those real things that numbers on computer disks cannot summon into being -- mean less ability to repay debt when the business cycle starts to turn around. An inability to repay the (albeit lower) debt might very well mean in the medium run, more debt at some point in the "up" cycle, or more prolongued indebtedness.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Examination of a claim that Obama knew about the BP disaster in advance, and used it to gain $85 million dollars from insider trading

Here is the item, as it was forwarded to me by a certain very intelligent person (no sarcasm - it's true):

On Wed, 23 Jun 2010, ____________ wrote:

> From ______: Thought you should know: Obama is personally standing to earn $85 million or more from the BP oil spill...
> Goldman Sachs wasn't alone either in its seeming 'foreknowledge' of the
collapse of BP's stock value due to the Gulf disaster as BP's own chief
executive, Tony Hayward, sold about one-third of his shares weeks before
this catastrophe began unfolding too.
> But according to a report by the Financial Stability Board (financialstabilityboard.org)
the largest seller of BP stock in the weeks before this disaster
occurred was the American investment company known as Vanguard, which
through two of their financial arms (Vanguard Windsor II Investor and
Vanguard Windsor Investor) unloaded over 1.5 million shares of BP stock
saving their investors hundreds of millions of dollars, chief among them
President Obama.
> President Obama holds all of his wealth in just two Vanguard
funds, Vanguard 500 Index Fund where he has 3 accounts and the Vanguard
FTSE Social Index Fund where he holds another 3 accounts, all six of
which the FSB estimates will earn Obama nearly $8.5 million a year and
which over 10 years will equal the staggering sum of $85 million.
> The
FSB further estimates in this report that through Obama's 3 accounts in
the Vanguard 500 Index Fund he stands to make another $100 million over
the next 10 years as their largest stock holding is in the energy giant
Exxon Mobil they believe will eventually acquire BP and all of their
assets for what will be essentially a 'rock bottom' price and which very
predictably BP has hired Goldman Sachs to advise them on.
> Important
to note is that none of this wealth Obama, Goldman Sachs, and others are acquiring would be possible without this disaster. How did Goldman and Vanguard (among others) 'somehow' know what was going to
happen before it actually did, including the US energy giant Halliburton which 2 weeks prior to this disaster just happened to purchase the World's largest oil disaster service company. Boots & Coots'.
> Hmmmm...............

Yes Hmmmmm... -- I wonder what, if anything, in this article is true. Here is what I came up with (I got the gist of it in about 20 minutes and then spent an hour or 2 putting it down on "paper"):

I'm not sure, but I think this "Adam Dobson" blog is the primary source
for the claim I'm responding to:

There is an "evidence" link in the article (look for the text):
" [President Obama] holds all of his wealth"

which connects to a PDF of a document labeled "Executive Branch Personnel
conveniently discourage almost anyone from trying to read it. The only
thing I can easily make out is that it applies to Obama, and the largest
identified asset appears to be "U.S. Treasury Bonds" (see below).

Sandi Berns evidently put more work into reading the "evidence" on the
Adam Dobson web page. She posted the 1st comment I see (by the time you
look it may be several pages down the list) ON the Adam Dobson web page,
and she apparently enjoys Moderator status on the Dobson site:

"Sandi Behrns [Moderator] 2 days ago
Stupid, stupid, stupid. The actual documents cited & provided through
links indicate that the President holds nearly ALL HIS WEALTH is US
Treasury bills, NOT in Vanguard funds. As far as those Vanguard funds go,
they are highly diversified funds, not large holdings of individual stocks
(this is the reason Obama opted to not use a blind trust - because the
transparency is there & a conflict cannot be found.)
As for this "FSB report" that supposedly states that Obama will reap $85M
off these funds over 10 years - no link at all is provided. Hmmm.... that
would be an incredible return for retirement accounts currently totaling
at most $303,003 (yes that's ALL 6 accounts.) I know this site is not the
original author of this piece, but really - you should at least review the
purported evidence before posting."

She mentions an "FSB report" to which Adam Dobson provides no links.
Another source did supply this link: financialstabilityboard.org. The
site looks fairly intimidating to explore, and it looks to me like they
only do very high level reports; a newsflash on Obama's illicit stock
gains would look VERY out of place (not to mention I don't see one).

Now, if Rush Limbaugh doesn't mention this, we will know that it is a lie.
If he does, I'll take a 2nd look.

If none of the high visibility right wing commentators has the decency to
point out that such lies are being widely distributed[**] targeted to
their own audience, it will just confirm my impression that they are pure
"ends justifies the means" propagandists with no journalistic ethics.

I have seen this happen before with a hoax based on a misreading of a
scientific paper as claiming C02 content in the atmosphere had not
significantly grown in the last 100 or so years. If true, it would of
course be one of the biggest pieces of news EVER in support of the
anti-Admin people's position. But the big guys (i.e. those with
visibility and somethiing to lose) never touched it. If they had, all of
their audience would have been exposed to the refutations, and that would
not be a good thing for THE CAUSE. The result:
generally, the readers of such items NEVER see the miriad refutations or
at least not by anyone they trust, so millions continue to believe long
refuted claims with no merit whatsover.

I concluded after this that the strategy of the BIG right wing
commentators is to let such "throwaway" claims circulate (the Mainstream
Media never even notices them) and whether by design or otherwise, they
add powerful (though untrue) support to the claims by Limbaugh &c that
Obama is a corrupt ideologic fanatic who doesn't believe in anything, who
always voted for the most left wing bill (and also always voted "present"
on every bill), and a Marxist/Fascist.

Finally, I suspect the claim that Goldman-Sachs acted as if they knew
about the impending doom to BP Stocks may also be made up. Such claims
often are, to add the credibility of something "everybody knows" to the
main thing they are claiming.

[**] "widely distributed": There are 755 quite diverse looking hits on
GOOGLE{obama bp "$85 million" "to earn" goldman-sachs} with very few
apparent accidental matches)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Response to Real WSJ Editorial "Alien in the White House"

I'm going the skip the early parts that seem to express some kind of gut feeling that I don't share, and try to deal with what more or less substantial claims Ms. Rabinowitz makes -- Except, I have to say the title is pretty striking. True, "Barack Obama" would have made a good name for an alien on a Star Trek episode, and except for the lack of the odd walnut-like pattern to the head and forehead and of bushy eyebrows, he does look a bit Klingon. Anyway, I think there is a widespread sense, disturbing to many, that he doesn't look like one of us or just doesn't look like a president, or something. I can't make a head to head comparison with how other presidents have been treated -- partly the media landscape has shifter so drastically, but in anti-Obama venues, it seems to me they just love to show his face, kind of like "doesn't this just say it all?" and they will run the same often doctored Obama image from issue to issue or day to day -- it becomes sort of a trademark of a publication - Michelle Malkin presenting him as a vampire; a great number of them presenting the same grinning idiot caricature, with or without doctor's gown and cap. And for a while at least, they liked to paint his face -- put him in green-face, say, looking like Batman's Joker, or some other clown with a mouth like a gash which sometimes reminded me of a lynched black man with a mutilated face that I saw pictured one time. I know, I know, "Lighten up".

OK, let me address particular parts of the editorial:
A great part of America now understands that this president's sense of identification lies elsewhere, and is in profound ways unlike theirs. He is hard put to sound convincingly like the leader of the nation

Again, there is this sort of "he doesn't look like one of us -- I can't quite put my finger on why." But she does say:

because he is, at heart and by instinct, the voice mainly of his ideological class.

What is an ideological class? And I thought it was Marxists who like to explain everything in terms of class. That was (is?) one of their worst and most destructive traits. They consistently raised the spectre of an alien class -- so intransigently and violently opposed to us, the good class, that there is really nothing to do but exterminate them or send them to prisons or reeducation camps. For graphic examples, read about the Chinese "Cultural Revolution".

One of his first reforms was to rid the White House of the bust of Winston Churchill—a gift from Tony Blair—by packing it back off to 10 Downing Street. A cloudlet of mystery has surrounded the subject ever since, but the central fact stands clear. The new administration had apparently found no place in our national house of many rooms for the British leader who lives on so vividly in the American mind. Churchill, face of our shared wartime struggle, dauntless rallier of his nation who continues, so remarkably, to speak to ours. For a president to whom such associations are alien, ridding the White House of Churchill would, of course, have raised no second thoughts.

Apparently there is one kernel of truth in all this. Bush was given a present or loan of a bust of Churchill to put in a special place in the Oval Office. I think perhaps they both shared the vision of Bush as lonely sentinal, trying to turn back the evil doers while the most rest of the world was saying "Come on, it's not really that bad".

Obama happens to find more inspiration in Abraham Lincoln, so Lincoln's bust was put in that special place, and I believe the bust was sent back to Tony Blair. Quite natural if it was a loan to GWB, or if it was a gift, why didn't Bush take it with him? Maybe I'm wrong, but I really don't think it was a grand nation to nation gift, like the Statue of Liberty, but was something Blair thought would have particular meaning for Bush. If someone knows something to the contrary, I'd be interested to hear it.
Far greater strangeness has since flowed steadily from Washington. The president's appointees, transmitters of policy, go forth with singular passion week after week, delivering the latest inversion of reality. Their work is not easy, focused as it is on a current prime preoccupation of this White House—that is, finding ways to avoid any public mention of the indisputable Islamist identity of the enemy at war with us. No small trick that, but their efforts go forward in public spectacles matchless in their absurdity—unnerving in what they confirm about our current guardians of law and national security.

OK, so it sounds kind of like the greatest preoccupation of the White House is "to avoid any public mention of the indisputable Islamist identity of the enemy at war with us". This is much more important to the White House than pushing the Taliban out of Kandihar, or steadily decimating the Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership holed up in the mountain areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And Obama's emphasis on regaining lost ground finishing the job in Afghanistan and pulling that country and Pakistan back from an advanced slide into anarchy -- that was all hiding "the indisputable Islamist identity of the enemy at war with us". Obama has prosecuted the two wars far more energetically than the core of his base supporters would have liked -- and I think at some expense to the prospects of his Health Care agenda which very nearly failed. Could that possibly be about doing the right thing as he sees it?

Consider the hapless Eric Holder, America's attorney general, confronting the question put to him by Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas) of the House Judicary Committee on May 13.

Did Mr. Holder think that in the last three terrorist attempts on this soil, one of them successful (Maj. Nidal Hasan's murder of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, preceded by his shout of "Allahu Akbar!"), that radical Islam might have played any role at all? Mr. Holder seemed puzzled by the question. "People have different reasons" he finally answered—a response he repeated three times. He didn't want "to say anything negative about any religion."

Numerous anti-administration sites and other venues have made headline news out of saying Holder refuses to say the phrase radical Islam. Perhaps not that exact phrase, but he was quoted saying "I certainly think that it's possible that people who espouse a radical version of Islam have had an ability to have an impact on people like Mr. Shahzad (the Fort Hood killer)." He also refers specifically Shahzad's apparent mentor: "I'm saying that a person like Anwar Awlaki, for instance, who has a version of Islam that is not consistent with the teachings of it and who espouses a radical version". The Rabinowitz editorial, like so many like minded sources is in serious spin mode when they fail to mention that while Holder avoided the phrase radical Islam, he did speak of a radical version of Islam. No doubt many anti-administration people consider this "pussy footing", and that the phrase "version of Islam that is not consistent with the teachings of it" is even more ludicrous, or "PC". But if the White House has studied the matter and concluded that some phrases, when translated (and keep in mind translation is tricky) seem to moderate Muslims to be sticking a thumb in their eye as well as that of the radicals, and given that whatever Holder says before Congress will be heard all over the world, what is the problem? Regarding the clearly carefully worded phrase "version of Islam that is not consistent with the teachings of it", that happens to be something I addressed in the blog article When Someone says Islam *IS* based on Tolerance, Charity, ... [It Really MIGHT depend on the meaning of IS, part II]. In a nutshell, I say that Islam, like Christianity is very largely what its self proclaimed practitioners say it is, and if if the majority of Muslims say Islam is not about Jihad and killing Infidels, etc., etc., then we had damn well better give them some credit for that. There are some who are saying this sort of thing in bad faith - Yassar Arafat was, I suspect, one example, but for the most part I believe Jihadists want to tell people what they are (except for a few on covert missions), and the vast majority of Muslims who say Islam isn't like that mean it, and by meaning it, they help to make it so. If you can't believe this, try reading something about Muslims who are trying to live normal lives. Read Three Cups of Tea, or Mohammed Yunnus' Banker to the Poor.


(Here are the rest of Rabinowitz' words, to be dealt with later:)

And who can forget the exhortations on jihad by John Brennan, Mr. Obama's chief adviser on counterterrorism? Mr. Brennan has in the past charged that Americans lack sensitivity to the Muslim world, and that we have particularly failed to credit its peace-loving disposition. In a May 26 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Brennan held forth fervently, if not quite comprehensibly, on who our enemy was not: "Our enemy is not terrorism because terrorism is just a tactic. Our enemy is not terror because terror is a state of mind, and as Americans we refuse to live in fear."

He went on to announce, sternly, that we do not refer to our enemies as Islamists or jihadists because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam. How then might we be permitted to describe our enemies? One hint comes from another of Mr. Brennan's pronouncements in that speech: That "violent extremists are victims of political, economic and social forces."

Oh hell, if you care, just read what Brennan said at csis.org/files/attachments/100526_csis-brennan.pdf
and if you think the paragraphs above are fair and accurate, then please don't contact me.

Detailed responses to Fake "Wall Street Journal Article"

Dear Mom, (this is a followup to:
To My Not Really Right Wing Mom in response to the Forwarded Email "Wall Street Journal Sizes Up Obama - WOW)

Here are my long overdue comments on the fake "Wall Street Journal" article. As I showed in the previous email(post), the perpetrator deliberately lies in order the assume the authority of the WSJ. You might think it's an honest mistake, but when you've closely examined enough of these things, you can see they are not just thrown together by some concerned citizen agitated by something he/she saw on the web or elsewhere.

You (or someone else reading this) may wonder why take so much trouble. I've suggested to a fellow blogger to raise the level of dialogue, "Don't go looking for idiots to argue with". This writer though, isn't an idiot, but quite an effective propagandist, and taken paragraph by paragraph, this "email forward" is made of up claims that can be found echoing all over the world of anti-Obama blogging and radio commentary.

Lest you think I'm picking out the weakest arguments to respond to, I'm replying to every single word, and there is at
most one halfway legitimate point in the whole thing. Since so many of the claims are slippery, it takes some work to definitively nail them down. That makes this a very long posting.

> >
> > Article from the Wall Street Journal - by Eddie Sessions:
There is, apparently, no such person.

> >
> > "I have this theory about Barack Obama. I think he's led a kind of
> > make-believe life in which money was provided and doors were opened
> > because at some point early on somebody or some group took a look at
> > this tall, good looking, half-white, half-black, young man with an
> > exotic African/Muslim name and concluded he could be guided toward a
> > life in politics where his facile speaking skills could even put him in
> > the White House.
> >

This is a typical paranoid fantasy - the idea that some shadowy figure picks
out a nobody and invisibly guides them all the way to the white house.
Unfortunately it is too vague for counter-arguments.

> > In a very real way, he has been a young man in a very big hurry. Who
> > else do you know has written two memoirs before the age of 45? "Dreams
> > of My Father" was published in 1995 when he was only 34 years old. The
> > "Audacity of Hope" followed in 2006. If, indeed, he did write them
> > himself. There are some who think that his mentor and friend, Bill
> > Ayers, a man who calls himself a "communist with a small 'c'" was the
> > real author.
> >

No merit has been found in the claim that Obama did not write "Dreams from
(not 'of') my Father. I read the article making this claim. The writer
seems, to have submitted no more than two sentences from each book (Obama's
and Ayers') to a computer program used for authorship analysis (but not intended
to be used on only 2 sentences) I can say for certain that no experts in
such matters confirmed the claim, although a couple of such experts were
asked but told the amateur text analyst he had no case whatsoever.

W.r.t. the outrageousness of the very fact of his writing a memoir:

Browsing Amazon.com to Books->Biographies_&_Memoirs I get the impression
that maybe 20% or more of memoirs are written by people 30-something or

Some Examples:
* The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
* Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
* Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
* Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
* Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza
* Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Dana
* Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
* Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave Written By Himself
* It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong

As to why, as I understand it, "In 1990, Barack Obama was elected Harvard
Law Review president over 18 others", and when he graduated, some people
thought he had an interesting story, and ability to express himself, and
encouraged him to write a memoir.

> > His political skills consisted of rarely voting on anything that might
> > be
> > deemed controversial...
> >

DOUBTFUL (examples taken from Wikipedia):
In the Illinois Senate, Obama supported Republican Governor Ryan's payday loan regulations and predatory mortgage lending regulations aimed at averting home foreclosures.[49]

He sponsored and led unanimous, bipartisan passage of legislation to monitor racial profiling by requiring police to record the race of drivers they detained, and legislation making Illinois the first state to mandate
videotaping of homicide interrogations.
Moreover he was one of very few Democratic presidential candidates who took a stand against the invasion of Iraq. He didn't have national office at the time, but does this sound like someone who always ducks controversy? What if, as many of us hoped, it had succeded, with minimal American losses, in planting a vibrant democracy in the middle of the Middle East?

> > He was in the U.S. Senate so briefly that his bid for the presidency was
> > either an act of astonishing self-confidence or part of some greater
> > game plan that had been determined before he first stepped foot in the
> > Capital. How, many must wonder, was he selected to be a 2004 keynote
> > speaker at the Democrat convention that nominated John Kerry when
> > virtually no one had ever even heard of him before?

In 2004 when selected to give the democratic convention speech, he was a young black man with a Harvard Law degree about to be elected U.S. senator - something Democrats might well look on as a good omen in a very difficult year. Moreover, someone must have noticed he was a very good speaker. At any rate, the speech made him well known instantly.

Parlaying 4 years in the senate to the presidency is certainly unusual, though not as unusual as the path of another Illinois State Senator named Abraham Lincoln who served in the House of Representatives only 2 years from 1848-1850, and held no office for the 10 years before he ran for president.

I also don't see how George W. Bush's resume was any more impressive when he was elected president, being a governor for a few years of a state which gives the governor relatively weak authority.

On the other hand, 8 years in the Illinois Senate doesn't sound that much like an egomaniacal "man in a hurry" being propelled by mysterious and powerful forces. To me it sounds more like someone without excessive asperations who wants to make a difference. Though clearly at some point, he came to believe he was capable of more.

I think a good source for understanding why Obama surprized himself and everyone else by gaining the presidency in 2008 is the book The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory (Hardcover) by David Plouffe. He had achieved some fame by being perhaps the brightest spot for the Democrats in the 2004 presidential campaign with his convention speech. In 2006 he was doing book tours for his 2nd book, "The Audacity of Hope" - a bestseller and a very complete presentation of his views (useful for those who've been told he's a Marxist). On the book tour he was being told by many people he should run for president. He was the kind of person who, hard as it is for anti-Obamaists to imagine, struck many as the smartest person they ever met. I think the book The Audacity to Win gives a lot of insight into WHY many people saw Obama as extraordinarily gifted, in a way that any book written by Obama himself could never convey.

> >
> > He outmaneuvered Hillary Clinton in primaries. He took Iowa by storm. A
> > charming young man, an anomaly in the state with a very small black
> > population, he oozed "cool" in a place where agriculture was the
> > antithesis of cool.

"Oozed"? "Agriculture is the antithesis of cool?" What does any of this mean -- this sounds like someone in the middle of an argument coming up with phrases off the top of his head.

> > He dazzled the locals. And he had an army of volunteers drawn to a
> > charisma that hid any real substance.

Substantially, there is nothing bad about this, except that "dazzled" tends to insinuate a sort of cheap appeal, and the unsupported phrase "charisma that hid any real substance".

> > And then he had the great good fortune of having the Republicans select
> > one of the most inept candidates for the presidency since Bob Dole. And
> > then John McCain did something crazy. He picked Sarah Palin, an unknown
> > female governor from the very distant state of Alaska . It was a ticket
> > that was reminiscent of 1984's Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro and
> > they went down to defeat.
> >

I agree Palin was a crazy choice which helped bring a number of strong Republicans around to supporting Obama, but she did electify a lot of people and indeed wake up a tired campaign, and has surely had one of the best "after" career of any defeated vice presidential candidate. It is also not clear to me who would have done better against Obama -- someone LESS easy to associate with Bush?

> > The mainstream political media fell in love with him. It was a
> > schoolgirl
> > crush with febrile commentators like Chris Mathews swooning then and
> > now
> > over the man.

TRANSLATION: A whole lot of people were more impressed with Obama than with any recent democratic candidate for the president. You can use words like "swoon" and "schoolgirl crush", but that is pure spin.

> > The venom directed against McCain and, in particular, Palin,
> > was extraordinary.

I just don't get this. Palin was treated harshly because she simply appalled so many people, including many shocked
Conservatives. It was pretty spondanious -- Obama didn't control Christopher Buckley or Colin Powell -- and didn't the writer just say Palin was a crazy choice?

> >
> > Now, nearly a full year into his first term, all of those gilded years
> > leading up to the White House have left him unprepared to be President.

I see very little justification for "gilded years". He started out at a so-so college, worked hard enough to get to Columbia, and with more hard work was able to get into Harvard Law school where he graduated with distinction. Back in Chicago, he also taught at the University of Chicago, not the purist of liberal bastions, since it is most famous for the "Chicago School of Economics" of Milton Friedman.

> > Left to his own instincts, he has a talent for saying the wrong thing at
> > the wrong time.

I can't think of much evidence of this, and think it is being claimed just to support the next statement:

> > It swiftly became a joke that he could not deliver even the
> > briefest of statements without the ever-present Tele-Prompters.

Yes, it became a joke. Obama seems to be an odd mix of super caution and audacity and his heavy reliance on teleprompters reflects, I think, his cautious side.

But if you don't believe Obama CAN speak without a prompter, go back to his
discussion / debate with the whole Republican caucus on their own ground at:


> > Far worse, however, is his capacity to want to "wish away" some terrible
> > realities, not the least of which is the Islamist intention to destroy
> > America and enslave the West. Any student of history knows how swiftly
> > Islam initially spread. It knocked on the doors of Europe, having gained
> > a foothold in Spain .
> >

"Islamist intention to destroy America and enslave the West" seems pretty hysterical and not within the realm of possibility -- and if it could conceivably grow into a possibility in a few decades, I think Obama's approach has a better chance of heading that off than Bush's.

The next sentence ("Any student of history knows ...") seems like another "off the top of his head" bit. Yes, Islam spread incredibly quickly for a couple of centuries but it didn't continue that rate of expansion and was largely stagnant or declining in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Besides which, Obama has been in my opinion doing an extremely capable job
of moving two wars towards completion, NOT wishing them away.

> > The great crowds that greeted him at home or on his campaign "world
> > tour"
> > were no substitute for having even the slightest grasp of history and
> > the
> > reality of a world filled with really bad people with really bad
> > intentions.

This seems like just a very spurious and arbitrary way of making Obama's appeal to the rest of the world seem like a bad thing. The elimination of massive terrorism and the facing down of Iran and North Korea won't be accomplished without very tight discipline and cooperation among the world's more or less sane nations. Our adventure in Iraq did nothing but embolden these other two members of the "Axis of Evil" AND esp. w.r.t. Iran, cut off at the knees anyone NOT in favor of Islamic fanaticism and a strenuous military posture.

Meanwhile, North Korea under Bush, cut the seals on their nuclear works, sent the inspectors packing, and went full speed ahead with its nuclear program, AND built a clone of their own nuclear facilities in Syria while America hardly seemed to notice.

Teddy Roosevelt said "Speak softly and carry a big stick". The Bush policy was to yell and bellow and if you have a big stick, beat it to splinters against a convenient boulder because that will show people how serious you are. Sorry, but that's truly how it seems to me.

Take Iran and North Korea, two nations with more than a streak of self-image as heroic martyr nations -- declare these 2 nations part of an "Axis of Evil" -- along with a 3rd, weaker nation that you attack and destroy while basically leaving Iran and N.Korea alone, and what can you expect to get? A mess that will take a very long time to sort out is
what I would expect. And maybe the conclusion that a nuclear program, as costly as it might be, is the best way to avoid being crushed.

Getting back to the "problem" of those cheering crowds around the world: Yes, Obama may be getting some traction with the international community, getting Russia and China to come on board the effort to isolate Iran.

The approach of leading and coordinating more and more international pressure is ridiculed by the anti-Obamists, but what's the alternative?

Our track record in Iraq makes the idea of invading Iran, maybe 3 times as strong as an Iraq beaten down by the loss of one war and 10 years of sanctions -- makes such an invasion seem ludicrous - indeed we would have commanded much more fear and respect in the world if we'd stopped with Afghanistan, and then really, permanently transformed that nation.

Right after the invasion of Afghanistan, especially if we hadn't told most of the world "we don't want you as allies", the U.S. could have gotten more response out of Iran by raising an eyebrow than we can now.

And my impression is that experts on Iran are very doubtful of our ability to surgically take out all nuclear facilities that Iran possibly build. Also a strong attack on Iran of any sort might just make double or quadruple the appeal and size of Al Qaeda type groups, which with determined collaboration from an Iran with nothing left to lose, might just pull off the very sorts of WMD based terror attacks we've been dreading.

You can attack a nation, and even destroy most of its infrastructure, but unless you can occupy and control them, they may fight you with increasing effectiveness for years if not decades to come. The trouble with WMD terrorism is if there is one rogue nation or failed state or country like Afghanistan or one country like Pakistan with ungovernable provences left -- and we've done nothing effective to prevent that -- that is all it might take for assembling a "dirty bomb" or reengineered Russian missile warhead.

> >
> > Oddly and perhaps even inevitably, his political experience, a cakewalk,
> > has positioned him to destroy the Democrat Party's hold on power in
> > Congress because in the end it was never about the Party.

More free association it seems to me. Cakewalk? Maybe read "The Audacity to Win" to see what a cakewalk the run for president was. And was being trounced in his first run for national office a cakewalk?

And what is this phrase "Oddly and perhaps even inevitably"? The strange juxtaposition of "oddly" and "inevitably" might make it seem like deep analysis but I can see no justification for it -- just a sort of oracular tone.

> > It was always about his communist ideology, learned at an early age from
> > family, mentors, college professors, and extreme leftist friends and
> > colleagues.

This is just nonsense. If you really want to get Obama's ideology, pick up "The Audacity of Hope". If that book lies about his true sentiments then what has he done or said to get a crucial mass of "extreme leftists" behind him. By keeping on the previous secretary of defense and top general and continuing and a workmanlike way to fulfil our responsibilities to one nation we "broke" and leave Iraq and Afghanistan as no longer breeding grounds for terrorism, is that his way of courting "extreme leftists"?

And if he doesn't have that kind of extremist popular mass behind him, who is going to put him in the dictator's seat? The Army?

> > Obama is a man who could deliver a snap judgment about a Boston police
> > officer who arrested an "obstreperous" Harvard professor-friend,

Obama for once said what came to mind spontaneously when he heard about a famous black historian being arrested, handcuffed, and "taken in" because he lost his key and was trying to break into his own house. The professor was
60-70 years old, possibly older, and required a cane to get around. Ones impulse would be to think "surely the police could have confirmed his identity and that he lived in that house. Would they have been afraid to enter his house to see the pictures of him on the mantle? Would the same have happenned with an elderly white gentleman? OK, on the other hand, Prof. Gates reacted to the situation, or did he react to some rudeness on the part of the policeman? He became "obstreperous". On the other hand, he had just completed a very long flight, as I understand, and probably an hour
or two between what you have to do in the airport, and probably a taxi drive (I'm assuming he didn't have to fetch his own car from long term parking and drive through the heavy Boston traffic himself). He was exhausted and dying
to get into his house and flop on the bed, I suspect, and may have not had the most thoughtful perspective on the situation.

When Obama grasped the complexity of the situation he made a sort of public apology and invited the two participants in the drama to meet and talk "over a beer". It wasn't staged well, and may not have lead to much improved understanding between the policeman and the professor, but I can understand the impulse, and it is consistent with his (in my opinion very important) "race speech" given at the height of the Jeremiah Wright "God damn America"
business. He said there, and in other places, that many blacks need to get over a lot of automatic resentment of authorities, and do the best they can in their current situation whatever it may be. It was a remarkable thing for a black political leader to have said.

> > ... but would warn Americans against "jumping to conclusions" about a
> > mass murderer at Fort Hood who shouted "Allahu Akbar." The absurdity of
> > that was lost on no one.

How is not jumping to conclusions absurd? He was speaking at a time when he'd probably just been given a 5 minute briefing -- it was the very first announcement most people heard of the thing. Well, if you make up ridiculous versions of what sort of conclusions he meant, like another commentator: "Could we say that some Muslims are willing to kill and maim just about anyone that isn't Muslim in the name of God? Is that too harsh for anyone? Insulting, insensitive perhaps? What are we risking here, political correctness, someones feelings". But there were other conclusions that some people did jump to, like that there was more than one gunman, or there was an Islamic terror cell at Fort Hood. At worst, it's kind of a cliche -- words many a District Attorney on a TV cop show has mouthed. And have we never jumped to conclusions? E.g. when a handful of anthrax infected letters got shipped -- that had to be part of the Al Qaeda plot against America. Or when another crazy Muslim man and his young accomplice went around shooting people at random in the Washington area -- that must have been part of the great coordinated conspiracy whereas it was in fact one sick Muslim man who maybe took 9/11 as some kind of signal that the apocalyptic showdown between Allah and the Infidel world had come to America.

> > He has since compounded this by calling the Christmas bomber "an
> > isolated
> > extremist" only to have to admit a day or two later that he was part of
> > an
> > al Qaeda plot.

So I went to the speech in which he said the phrase "isolated extremist" conveniently given at conservative news site: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/59115 with the headline "Obama Describes Nigerian As 'Isolated Extremist' Despite Ties to Yemen". Yet Obama also said in that speech: "we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable". This clearly contradicts the idea that Obama had jumped to the wild conclusion that the man was an "isolated extremist". But he did use that phrase, didn't he?

Finally, look at the full sentence containing the offending phrase. Congratulating the passengers on the plane who physically prevented an explosion, he said it "demonstrates that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist". It is not a statement of policy that the man was not part of any plot -- but just that a single terrorist on a plane can be vulnerable to several Americans who rise to the occasion.

> > He is a man who could strive to close down our detention facility at
> > Guantanamo even though those released were known to have returned to
> > the
> > battlefield against America.

Guantanamo has for years been a potent symbol of the U.S. finding a legal no-man's land in which to ignore both U.S. law and international agreements, and it has been shown that a large percentage of the prisoners were random individuals grabbed and turned in for the princely (for most Afghans) rewards being offerred. A couple were turned in by stooges of a Mullah whom they had ridiculed.

> > He could even instruct his Attorney General to afford the perpetrator of
> > 9/11 a civil trial when no one else would ever even consider such an
> > obscenity.

The attempt to try KSM in New York was, I think a mistake but that doesn't change the fact that 95% of the criticisms in the article have no merit at all. I also think it was a mistake to simply hold him several years without any sort of legal closure until people no longer remember when he was captured.

> > And he is a man who could wait three days before having anything to say
> > about the perpetrator of yet another terrorist attack on Americans and
> > then have to elaborate on his remarks the following day because his
> > first statement was so lame.

Sorry, but does anyone know what this refers to?

> >
> > The pattern repeats itself. He either blames any problem on the Bush
> > administration or he naively seeks to wish away the truth.
> >
> > Knock, knock. Anyone home? Anyone there? Barack Obama exists only as
> > the
> > sock puppet of his handlers, of the people who have maneuvered and
> > manufactured this pathetic individual's life.
> >

Mostly no substance, so no comment, except I think he has been sparing in putting responsibility for currrent problems on the Bush Administration and has vigorously worked to deal with them in the present, and it is my opinion that Obama did in fact inherit the biggest mess of the kind since Buchanan handed over the presidency to Lincoln.

> > When anyone else would quickly and easily produce a birth certificate,
> > this man has spent over a million dollars to deny access to his. Most
> > other documents, the paper trail we all leave in our wake, have been
> > sequestered from review. He has lived a make-believe life whose true
> > facts remain hidden.
> >

A birth certificate has been produced and posted in the internet. Moreover, his birth was announced in two Hawaii newspapers at the time and these announcements are available on microfilm. If they are forged, that should be easily provable, and unless you think the conspiracy behind his presidency goes back to before he was born, that really should stop the argument.


"A birth notice for Barack Obama was published in both the Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on August 13 and August 14, 1961, respectively, listing the home address of Obama's parents as 6085 Kalanianaole Highway in Honolulu.[17][36] On August 3, 2009, in response to the growing controversy, the Advertiser posted on its Web site a screenshot of the announcement taken from its microfilmed archives. Such notices were sent to newspapers routinely by the Hawaii Department of Health.[36]

(For those who distrust Wikipedia, here is something from the Honolulu Advertiser's web site:


In an editorial published on July 29, 2009, the Star-Bulletin pointed out that both newspapers' vital-statistics columns are available on microfilm in the main state library. "Were the state Department of Health and Obama's parents really in cahoots to give false information to the newspapers, perhaps intending to clear the way for the baby to someday be elected president of the United States?" the newspaper asked sarcastically.[37]"

Has Obama really "spent over a million dollars to deny access" to more conclusive document than the one is out there for the world to see? I see several references to claims like this on the Internet, but on the anti-Obama blogs, once something has been said, it will be quoted forever without any sort of citation, so I'm highly skeptical.

> >
> > We laugh at the ventriloquist's dummy, but what do you do when the
> > dummy
> > is President of the United States of America ?"
> >

No substance, No comment.

Friday, June 11, 2010

To My Not Really Right Wing Mom in response to the Forwarded Email "Wall Street Journal Sizes Up Obama - WOW"

This is a general look at an especially dishonest anonymous forwarded email circulated back in mid-2010. "My Not Really Right Wing Mom" deliberately echoes "My Right Wing Dad" which is a great source for right wing (anonymously forwarded) emails in general.  It uses techniques found in many shady emails to make it  look like it came from a highly respected source, in this case, the Wall Street Journal.  Other emails have falsely "quoted" notable people like Lee Iacocca, Bill Cosby, and even Charles Krauthammer -- usually highly modified versions of something they really did say.  In the Iacocca (ex Chrysler CEO), a scathing critique of George W. Bush was modified by taking out all Bush references (from an excerpt of his 2007 book Where Have All the Leaders Gone?), and adding in one small implied reference to Obama -- just enough, and passed it off as Iacocca's warning to the nation about Obama.

So much for the trick of calling something a WSJ article when it wasn't.  The next posting: Detailed responses to Fake "Wall Street Journal Article" tackles its nonsense point by point.

Where are we headed?

I am deeply deeply depressed about where we seem to be headed as a country, and particularly the dismal level of debate.

I've tried to be jaunty and witty. For some reason it seemed like the thing to do. "Eisenhower Socialist" is a bit of nonsense I made up as sort of a protest against everybody to the left of Milton Friedman (or Rush Limbaugh) being called a socialist or better yet Marxist.

Has Obama seemed to have a problem with the phrase "War on Terror"? Well, I have a problem with it. If apocalyptic minded Islamic fundamentalists are scattered throughout the world, then the history of warfare doesn't give us much insight about what to do about them, or maybe it gives us very misguided insight: pick an enemy country and start bombing them. Where did 9/11 come from? From a failed state where warlords prevailed, and the official Talaban government was very compatible with Osama Bin Laden's bloodlust and desire to have a world dominated by a new Islamic caliphate (the good news for us is they have to conquer or convert the Sunni Muslim powers as well as the secular and/or Christian West, Hindu India, officially atheistic China, and so on and so on).

Anyway, the terrorist cells were spread around the globe in many different countries, and there was a mood of many countries wanting to participate in rooting it out that mostly went away when the "War on Terror" was used as an excuse to have a "regular" war with Iraq, which was mostly irrelevant to Al Qaeda style terrorism except that we turned Iraq into a new breeding and training ground for terrorists while failing to follow through on transforming Afghanistan so it would never serve that purpose again.

Basically, Bush's war on terror has left Afghanistan in a state where if we walked away today it might just welcome in a new Osama Bin Laden or start growing one of their own.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Radical Center Manifesto (or A Quick and DIrty attempt at one)

The legitimate object of Government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves in their separate and individual capacities. But in all that people can individually do as well for themselves, Government ought not to interfere. Abraham Lincoln

This is a very very incomplete "manifesto".

Most violent revolutions are unmitigated disasters. They mostly don't occur unless people are in a desparate state, but the provide too much of an opportunity for very bad power hungry leaders to climb to power, often over mountains of dead bodies. Something like what has been called a "velvet revolution" can have lead to a sane well-governed nation, but what does it take to make something like that happen? A subject to discuss some other time.

"Economic shock therapy" also tends to have terrible results, as far as I can see. When people think they have to dismantle a more or less working statist economy overnight, the results will probably catastrophic to people's well being; it is apt to create an ultra-rich class of people who are not good at running the enterprises they suddenly own, and as with Russia, it may reverse progress in the areas of democracy and freedom.

While I believe in mixed economies, socialism is at best a very dangerous experiment as it involved giving ultimate power to some central apparatus and just saying its purpose it to serve the people won't make it so. Extremely concentrated power is an invitation to the Stalins and Maos of the world.

If private enterprises become bigger and more powerful than the state, they are very likely to in effect become the state.

I favor "right sized" government, which is somewhere between a government you can "drown in a bathtub", and a government with sufficent power to arbatrarily seize and distribute property en masse. You cannot have socialism without a government that is just too powerful. People with extreme views are spared the embarrassment of being asked questions like "What do you mean by too powerful?" which don't have all-purpose answers, but that is not nearly enough reason, in my opinion for me to join their ranks.

Sometimes, and maybe very often, government needs to have a lot of fat cut out but this could better be accomplished by a lot of people seriously getting involved with the specifics, taking seriously what government needs to accomplish, and yes, sometimes asking is it time for govenment to be taking this job on at all?

Sometimes, government needs to grow, or even take on new things.
  • E.g. if you are fighting a war, you probably should be expanding the army, not hiring $1000/day contractors, and bleeding the reserves. If you're afraid of asking for money to expand military forces, you probably shouldn't be taking on that particular war.
  • Evolving technologies are apt to have an affect on what government should and shouldn't be doing.
  • E.g., in the first half of the 19th century, when some of the "founding fathers" were still guiding the government, the post office subsidized newspapers in the interest of having a better informed public. According to one source, they made up 95% of the weight of mail transported for 15% of the revenue. Most newspapers were one-man operations, and in place of a national reporting staff, they exchanged newspapers with printers in other parts of the country. Much of this exchange was carried free. Do you think that might have required some non-obvious interpreting of the constitution? But without the network of information provider/propagandists that that interpretation brought into being, voters in this country, where it took week for some congressment to get to Washington, would surely have been less well informed - perhaps fatally so (for the country).
  • In the 1960s and later, the interstate highway system was built, and the speed of automobile travel was more than doubled. Also, many private turnpike operations were put out of business.
  • The Internet was a product of DARPA (Research arm of the Defense Department), and various (mostly public) university computer programmers. The private sector gave us AOL and MSN.
  • The highly regulated monopoly, AT&T was until sometime in the 70s or 80s, the only reasonable way of providing national telecommunications. Its size, and perhaps its not being driven by quarterly profits enabled it to keep up a massive research lab which developed the transister and the laser. Other electronics and telecommunication companies got most of their early business from aerospace, a largely government driven enterprise.
If we maintain that government should only provide national defense, and protection of some people from others -- all through threat and use of force, the government will tend to solve problems through the threat and use of force regardless of whether they could be better addressed through other means. This was well addressed in the international sphere in The Ugly American, which was written not by "bleeding heart liberals" but by down in the trenches cold warriors, and addressed how we were losing Southeast Asia to Communism in the 1950s. E.g. in a "Factual Epilogue",
The Communists are not so restricted in their approach. In Yunan Province, China, they have a vast schooling system for students from Southeast Asia. The students, roughly 30,000 strong, come from Indonesia, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and the fringe areas of Vietnam. The term is eighteen months, and lectures are delivered in the native language of the student. Courses include agriculture, tanning, printing, blacksmithing, and other crafts which country people from small towns need. The students live in dormitories with their fellow countryment, and religious guidance is provided by clergymen of their own faith".