Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Terrorist attack in India

MUMBAI: Terror struck the country's financial capital late on Wednesday night as coordinate serial explosions and indiscriminate firing rocked eight areas across Mumbai including the crowded CST railway station, two five star hotels--Oberoi and Taj. (Watch)

At least 80 people were dead and over 300 injured in the terror attacks, hospital sources said.

ATS chief Hemant Karkare was killed during attacks in the financial city. Additional Commissioner Ashok Tampte and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar died at attack in Metro Cinema.
(The Times of India)
Perhaps I can expect an upcoming column from Robyn Blumner (The St. Petersburg Times) explaining how the attack stems from detainee treatment at Gitmo.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Racist dog-whistles

The past election campaign helped restore the concept of the "racist dog-whistle" to the public debate, for better or worse. Some comments by David Gergen some months ago touched on the issue, for example.
"There has been a very intentional effort to paint him as somebody outside the mainstream, other, 'he's not one of us,'" said Gergen, who has worked with White Houses, both Republican and Democrat, from Nixon to Clinton. "I think the McCain campaign has been scrupulous about not directly saying it, but it's the subtext of this campaign. Everybody knows that. There are certain kinds of signals. As a native of the south, I can tell you, when you see this Charlton Heston ad, 'The One,' that's code for, 'he's uppity, he ought to stay in his place.' Everybody gets that who is from a southern background. We all understand that. When McCain comes out and starts talking about affirmative action, 'I'm against quotas,' we get what that's about."
As a fellow native of the South and a Republican, I completely missed the coded message, except for the part about Obama not being "one of us" in the sense that his history and rhetoric are well left of the political mainstream in the United States.

Am I a freak or something? Am I unusually hard of hearing?

I don't think so. Over the course of the year I've seen plenty of buzz about the racist dog-whistles from the left and combined scoffing and perplexity from the right.

Note the commentary from the left and Melissa McEwan:
The dog whistle piques them with something the average person won't see as bigoted, but that the constituency for which they advocate (and/or of which they're a part) will expect them to call out, because they instantly spy it and recognize it for what it is; they've heard the tune of that particular string being plucked their whole lives. Then whoever calls it out is marginalized as a hysteric, over-reactionary, looking to get offended, etc.
The average person doesn't see it as bigoted.

The constituency for which they advocate (and/or of which they're a part) will expect them to call out because they instantly spy it and recognize it for what it is.

If I'm interpreting McEwan correctly, I'm the constituency for which the McCain campaign advocated. But I missed the message and so did the rest of the conservatives to whom I pay attention--unless we're just a bunch of liars (I'm willing to give us the benefit of the doubt). And the average person doesn't get the message anyway. And if the average person doesn't get it then who does?

In McEwan's mind, I'd guess that racist Republicans get the message. Perhaps McEwan thinks a large percentage of Republicans are racist. I don't happen to think so, simply because that is not my experience. But more importantly, I have no evidence that racist Republicans received any such message. The only people that received the message, as far as I can tell, are David Gergen and other people on the left. But for McEwan, I might have thought they were average people in spite of their leftward tilt.

Now an example that hits closer to home.

I've written before about how I like to visit other blogs as well as message boards. Lately I've been having discussions on the Center for Inquiry's message board. The dog-whistle issue recently came up over there, using Rush Limbaugh as an example:
But, did these local guys say anything more tacitly racist than their idol - Rush Limbaugh said when comparing the “backbone of America” Iowa farmers response to their flood with the disaster after the flood in largely black New Orleans? (worth noting that the flood waters in Iowa didn’t leave a city under water):

Limbaugh: I want to know. I look at Iowa, I look at Illinois---I want to see the murders. I want to see the looting. I want to see all the stuff that happened in New Orleans. I see devastation in Iowa and Illinois that dwarfs what happened in New Orleans. I see people working together. I see people trying to save their property...I don’t see a bunch of people running around waving guns at helicopters, I don’t see a bunch of people running shooting cops. I don’t see a bunch of people raping people on the street. I don’t see a bunch of people doing everything they can...whining and moaning---where’s FEMA, where’s BUSH. I see the heartland of America. When I look at Iowa and when I look at Illinois, I see the backbone of America.

Am I not supposed to be one of the ones who hears the dog-whistle? I frankly didn't get it. If New Orleans is the independent/cooperative region and Iowa and Illinois are the source of nanny-state dysfunction then is the example therefore anti-white racism? Is that a useful way to detect racism?

Or perhaps I should say, is that an accurate way to detect racism?

So to that portion of the post, I responded:
Eh? What’s racist about that? Try to be specific.
The far-left Balak stepped in to help:
Jesus made the deaf to hear, but apparently forgot to include dogwhistles.
Miracles aside, how does one rationally detect a dog-whistle communication, I wondered?


You perfectly illustrate the bankruptcy the racial thinking of many.

In Limbaugh’s statement, there is no mention of race at all.

By analogy, let’s suppose that I interview two job candidates. Candidate A has an excellent resume and references and interviews well. Candidate B has a poor resume and lacks critical skills required for the position for which he applied. Plus candidate B interviewed horribly.

I hire candidate A and not candidate B.

If candidate B is black, then apparently I am a racist.
Am I also a racist if I hire candidate B instead of candidate A?

Limbaugh’s comparison concerned patterns of behavior, not race. The comparison to job qualifications is apt.

Back to workingprogress:
This is why you don’t want to discuss the previous article exposing the rabble-rousing techniques of talkradio hosts - the refugees in New Orleans were mostly black, and every listener to his show can make the comparison between the response of blacks and whites to flooding! Since Limbaugh didn’t bother to point out the extenuating circumstances such as the numbers of people trapped on their rooftops for days on end in New Orleans, or crammed into the Superdome for several days, it doesn’t take a codebreaker to follow the trail of breadcrumbs to his implicit conclusion that blacks are naturally lazy, immoral and violent!.........and it’s worth pointing out that this is an example of how hate-speech can discreetly dodge any rules as long as the host uses careful language and doesn’t shoot off his mouth like an idiot, such as Michael Savage or Don Imus!
Comparing the response to flooding in the two regions is racist unless you point out the supposed extenuating circumstances. I thought the extenuating circumstance was dependence on the government.

Balak returned to the fray:


I should apologize for using the term ‘dog whistle’, as Bryan is evidently unfamiliar with it.

Perhaps we can improve his understanding using the famous words of Lee Atwater. Atwater was the political architect of Nixon’s racist ‘Southern Strategy’ during the late 1960s… (The technique has been effectively used by both wings of the Property Party ever since, and is a staple fare for Limbaugh and all the other right-wing talkers).

ATWATER: “You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘N-----r, n-----r, n-----r,’ ”By 1968, you can’t say ‘n-----r’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

I'm customarily drawn to the use of quotations in argument, since I see them so often taken out of context. This one was no exception, as Atwater went on to say that the latter issues were so abstract that they do away with racism. It ends up sounding like a sound and ethical political strategy used to lure Southern Democrats (the party of slavery). I should note that the strategy does not do away with the racism of voters. Rather the message dispenses with racism. Balak had used Atwater's words to argue the opposite, that the message itself carries that altered-frequency message of racism.

The discussion thread devolved from there into personal attacks after I quoted Atwater without editing out the offensive "n" word.

The dog-whistle. The average person doesn't hear it. Atwater argued that "racist" issues, once abstracted down to taxes and state rights and the like, emptied the message of racism. So what of the supposedly racist messages? Some people, such as Gergen, apparently hear the messages. If Atwater is correct, then how does that work?

Melissa McEwan offered a clue during her discussion of McCain's Spears/Hilton ad, even if in a rather clueless way:
Obama, dog whistles the ad, hitting old racists in the sweet spot, could (have sex with) these white girls – it's practically a Democratic tradition … JFK, Clinton, heck even Carter lusted in his heart – and we don't want that, now, do we?
If the ad communicates the idea that Obama could have sex with Britney Spears and/or Paris Hilton, then that thought cannot have been far from the viewer's mind in the first place, from what I can tell. Perhaps some enterprising scientist should devise an experiment to see whether the ad was capable of eliciting that type of response.

But let's suppose that the message could occur on some like basis. "Mr. Davis," an old racist, thinks he doesn't want Obama sleeping with white chicks after he sees the ad, leaving alone for now that ads aired by Obama featuring the candidate in the company of white women might well have the same effect.

Where the message is abstract, as Atwater noted, the supposedly racist message depends entirely on the subjective impression of the recipient.

For me, this explains the dog-whistle phenomenon with elegant simplicity. The "coded" message isn't really there at all. But subjectively inclined persons can receive the message anyway. Mr Davis gets it because he's always thinking that he doesn't want black dudes with white chicks anyway. Melissa McEwan gets it because of course Republicans are racists and of course they campaign like this.

Don't they?

It's just another front in the battle over words. If people like McEwan get can you believing that McCain ads juxtaposing images of Spears and Obama are racist, then you're just hearing a different note on the dog whistle.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Force Protection earns UK "Wolfhound" contract

Force Protection's going to the dogs. That is, Force Protection vehicles are delivered to the Brits and given canine nicknames. First, FPI won the contract to provide the "Mastiff" vehicle to Great Britain. Then the company won a contract to make a Cougar 4x4 called the "Ridgback." Now, they will make another modified version of the Cougar, dubbed the Wolfhound.
Force Protection Inc.’s agility and speed of response to customer requirements is playing a key role in winning new orders for its range of mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Moody, pointed to Force Protection’s selection by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) as the Preferred Bidder for the Wolfhound Tactical Support Vehicle (Heavy) programme as an example of the way his company is strengthening its capability to respond to urgent operational requirements. “We completed design work and built two prototypes for Wolfhound, which is based on our highly successful Cougar vehicle, in just 90 days. During this time we also carried out blast tests and mobility trials.”

Defence of the Realm has a photo believed to represent the Wolfhound, along with some information about the program.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Combating moonbat math at Iraq Body Count

The latest editorial column posted at Iraq Body Count exemplifies my objection to that project.

The author, Lily Hamourtziadou writes with her neural blinders on in service to her ideology.

After noting the bare facts regarding the recent agreement between Iraq and the United States to keep U.S. troops in Iraq through 2011, Hamourtziadou veers into the weeds of illogic:

Sadly, for every step forward achieved, a step is taken back with every innocent death, with every civilian that is shot, blown up, tortured. This week 133 civilians lost their lives in violence; 9 of them were children. US forces shot dead 3 men resisting arrest.

That’s many steps back.

This woman is incoherent. If every step forward results in many steps backward then logic dictates that no progress in Iraq is possible at all. The best we can hope for is no steps forward resulting in no steps backward. Obviously that is nonsense, and perhaps I should give Ms. Hamourtziadou the benefit of the doubt by crediting her with hyperbole.

The big problem with her analysis, of course, consists of the fact that insurgents--perhaps the three who resisted arrest among them--are causing most of the civilian deaths by far. Extremists carry bombs into downtown markets. Is that supposed to target the United States somehow? One could plausibly argue that the aim of insurgents is to wear down the U.S. and force its withdrawal, but that ignores the fact that peaceful conditions in Iraq would allow the U.S. to withdraw its troops much faster. Moqtada al Sadr made that realization, so why can't Hamourtziadou?

At the bottom line, the number of deaths is decreased by aggressive opposition of violent extremists. Iraq Coalition Casualty Count prominently posts the numbers that Iraq Casualty count omits. Civilian deaths are way, way down in Iraq, and a huge amount of credit goes to the work of coalition forces.
At least 3 more years of American occupation then. A lot more people will die during those 3 years. It is doubtful Iraq will ever recover from this war, now that terror has come to its streets, now that its society has been divided so deeply.
I imagine if people like Hamourtziadou had their way that U.S. forces would have withdrawn instead of instituting the surge strategy. Let's suppose that had happened. I know that many take it as an article of faith that the violence in Iraq was caused entirely by the presence of foreigners, but let's be realistic. Sectarian violence is not the product of the U.S. intervention. Saddam Hussein repressed the Shiites and Kurds very brutally, and those groups have a sharp-edged axe to grind against their past oppressors. Add to that the hatred and distrust of the Iranians who are trying to influence the Iraqi government.

The truth is that the violence would very probably be worse if the U.S. had vacated Iraq. And perhaps people like Hamourtziadou would count every death on a ledger of Western blame. But that would just show that she is a moonbat.

The math works like this: Coalition troops risked their lives to decrease casualties stemming from sectarian violence and insurgent activity. The net result is a radical decrease in civilian casualties. The radical decrease in civilian casualties, combined with the strengthening of a central and plausibly non-sectarian central government charts a course toward a stable, unified and non-repressive Iraq.

And that's a giant leap forward.

Video: the MaxxPro Dash

Navistar bigwigs describe the MaxxPro Dash at one of those defense hardware show & tell conventions.

The video is hosted at the Navistar Web site. Click download to download the .wmv file or visit the Web site first if you're the more cautious type.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Protected Vehicles Inc. keeps plugging

The U.S. manufacturing partner for the Golan MRAP, Protected Vehicles Inc., had gone for so long with no media buzz that I stopped checking on them for a time. PVI had filed for bankruptcy protection nearly a year ago and was purchased in August by Patriarch Partners LLC. PVI announced plans to continue production of its Protector and Beast vehicles. The company has also produced a vehicle it calls the Argus, which looks a bit like a cross between a Golan and a Force Protection Cougar.

If the Argus is not intended to aim for the M-ATV niche, at least broadly, then I'm not sure that the company's product has a market.

Force Protection earns modest MRAP order from Canada

Force Protection continues to make good on its goal of garnering vehicle contracts from nations other than the US in order to make up for its trouble securing domestic sales.
Force Protection, Inc. today announced that it has received a modification under contract M67854-07-C-5039 for the delivery of 14 of its Buffalo A2 route-clearance vehicles and 34 of its Cougar vehicles to the Canadian Government. The undefinitized contract modification carries a dollar value not to exceed $49.4 million and includes vehicles, spare parts and field support. The vehicles are scheduled for delivery in 2009.
While the numbers aren't exactly impressive, it's enough to offer hope that FPI can stay in the armored vehicle game. By way of comparison, Blackwater recently cut its armored vehicle programs after losing the key first round of the JLTV competition.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

An adult Obamaniac's gloating rant

Oops. I'm a week behind with my Blumner bashing.

St. Petersburg editorial columnist Robyn "Blumñata" Blumner's column last week constituted the rant of a Obamaniac, which squeezed a good bit of irony out of the title: "The adults are back in charge."

Even the ramp-up is over the top:
It started as a revolution. Three-million people didn't take to the streets with placards or pitchforks; they took to the Internet with credit cards and pocket change.

Then, democracy won.
Blumner must be referring to Obama's fantastically successful online fund-raising. Fund-raising so effective that it caused Obama to renege on his early pre-campaign promise to seek public financing for his campaign. The adult thing to do, I suppose, is break a commitment if doing so will help one win election. If by "democracy won" Blumner refers to the type of democracy most feared by the framers of the Constitution--government directed by popular whim--then perhaps Blumner is on target. Obama's amazing fund-raising effort combined with a big boost from a mainstream press apparently cut loose from the tradition of objectivity proved a winner with voters and put a notably inexperienced politician in our nation's highest office.
I am brimming with goodwill toward my countrymen who pivoted on this electoral dime and moved us in a new direction. The United States of America has elected a president who is a constitutional scholar, a man of supreme eloquence and sound judgment who also happens to be an African-American.
One might initially take Blumner's goodwill as spread broadly to all her countrymen. But really she's just talking about people who voted Democrat, if her words mean anything. Her goodwill is, in her words, for those "who ... moved us in a new direction," that is, voted for Obama. The rest of us may still receive her ill will vibes.
Now it is time for adults to begin the great cleanup. And on Tuesday, America voted for a public servant with the intelligence, capacity and the will to do the heavy lifting.
One of the big cleanups, for Blumner, probably involves kicking the coalition supports out from under the Iraqi government. A big step forward if that nation sinks again into sectarian strife or allies with Iran or China?

The other big cleanup involves the U.S. economy. Past analysis of Blumner's columns convinces me that she is ignorant of economics. So perhaps she believes what she writes. Obama's policies would worsen the economy, as even he has recognized when he suggested he might delay increasing taxes on the rich. Democrat Charlie Rangel this week (after Blumner submitted her column) supported a tax plan that would lower the tax on capital gains. That represents surprisingly good sense from a modern Democrat, and most likely Blumner won't understand the sense of it. And if Obama signs on with Rangel she will have to reconsider Obama's willingness to engage in heavy lifting. The adult thing, in all probability, is to try to balance the budget by hampering the economy with higher taxes in spite of the present economic difficulties.

There was a time when I thought my countrymen would never see the true venality of Karl Rovian conservative rule. I thought these pols and their operatives, many of whom made their way into John McCain's campaign, had a winning formula for success, by dividing us on diversionary cultural issues and sliming opponents until something stuck.

But it turns out that irresponsible governance does eventually get its comeuppance. The consequences of the Bush administration's indefatigable efforts to enrich its friends and dismantle protective regulation has finally come crashing down on the rest of us so very hard that it could no longer escape notice.

In spite of a pretty good story in her own newspaper regarding the causes of the economic crisis, Blumner probably does not at all feel that it was irresponsible for the government to encourage the housing bubble that led to the current credit crisis. Adults, I suppose, ignore their own failings in favor of pointing the finger of blame outward.
Lucky for us that waiting in the wings was a man of remarkable qualities. Barack Obama is a historic figure not just because he is the first African-American to win the White House. He is a leader like Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who has come along just when his nation needed him.
Doubtless Blumner is aware that Churchill was a conservative who opposed Neville Chamberlain's diplomatic dealings (appeasement) with Nazi Germany. Most likely she is not aware that FDR's economic policies probably prolonged the Great Depression, which was ultimately relieved by what might be called "an unnecessary war." The United States could have negotiated deals with both Germany and Japan. Roosevelt's diplomacy was on the cowboy side, informally aiding Germany's enemies in plain view while angering Japan with an embargo of badly needed trade goods. In the language of the modern adult leftist, Roosevelt forced Japan to war with the United States. But that assumes an awareness of history.
Unlike the cynical line of George Bush who claimed to be a "uniter," Obama's message of unity was a defining theme of his campaign.
Willful blindness in action. Obama has coupled his bipartian rhetoric with dishonest and persistent attacks on Republicans. Blumner should visit a fact-checking site some time--one other than the sharply partisan Media Matters. Judging Obama's level of bipartisanship while in office should wait until after he has assumed the office.
Here is a man who stood up to the politics of personal destruction and rose above it by responding in measured tones, then calmly brushing the dirt off his sleeve. Even as they tried to paint him as a socialist and a terrorist sympathizer, he hewed to the higher road.
Blumner could show Dave Barry a thing or two about humor. It's hard not to laugh out loud at this stuff.

At least half the dirt on Obama's sleeve dropped from his own hand as he flung it at others. The "higher road" in this case meant that Obama could allow informal surrogates in the press, such as Blumner, to carry out the dirtiest attacks on his Republican opponent.
In the end, Obama proved that we are one nation. He won a huge mandate by taking more than 50 percent of the vote. He tore down barriers in the Old Confederacy by winning Florida, Virginia and North Carolina.
I wonder if Blumner felt that Bush had won a huge mandate in 2004 by capturing 51 percent of the vote? Somehow I doubt it. It is also doubtful that Obama broke down any barriers in the "Old Confederacy" without extensive icebreaking beforehand. All three states won by Obama are now populated extensively by people who moved from elsewhere. Again, it remains to be seen what Obama will accomplish in terms of racial reconciliation. The sum total through the present moment is probably scarcely above zero. Obama's long term association with Rev. Wright has seen to that.
The impossible was possible. Appealing to America's best aspirations turned out to be the best way to win. He will govern with those same instincts.
I guess we're not counting the lies about Medicare or Obama's repeat of the notion that McCain wanted the war in Iraq to last for an additional 100 years. We don't talk about those instincts. Not during the process of adult gloating, anyway.

"I will listen to you, especially when we disagree," Obama said to those who might worry about his plans for change. This is what thinking people do. They invite opposing views, knowing that they do not have a lock on wisdom.

Obama will be a president of our common values. He is not a man of vendettas and cronyism, who will use his election as an opportunity to grab what he can for narrow interests. Obama will govern with an eye to the future. He will choose investment over quick fixes and sober reflection over reflexive action.

This will be the sea change coming to Washington much more than a shift in political ideology.

The challenges going forward will be immense, but serious people who care about good governance are back in charge. It is just what we needed.

For those who cannot see the situation with the same pair of rose-tinted glasses that Blumñata wears, see my post on the likely fortunes of the Obama presidency.

We're probably getting four more years of Jimmy Carter, with an uncooperative Congress, bad economic decisions and inept foreign policy. That is not what we need.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Oshkosh Sandcat in action (video)

I located a video of the Oshkosh Sandcat on YouTube. The action is sedate, for I doubt the vehicle exceeds 15 mph at any given point in the filming, but it does show the Sandcat negotiating some moderately unfriendly terrain.

The vehicle fails to impress at these low speeds, aside from a fairly tight turning radius. Videos of the Force Protection Cheetah and even the Golan MRAP, both moving at a good clip, offer a better impression on behalf of those vehicles.

Mid-month Iraq casualty update, November 2008

An unusual case affects the graph this month. More on that later. First, the graph:

Though I neglected to label it as such, this graph represents the average number of fatalities per day. That figure offers a reasonable mid-month projection of how the month will stack up on the whole. The final figure could drop by as much as half (to 0.3) or potentially rise far over the current estimate if a large number of fatalities occur late in the month.

The general downward trend continues for fatalities. If the average keeps steady at its current level, it will represent the third-best month since the surge began.

Friday, November 14, 2008

MRAP lite is M-ATV

Kris Osborn of DefenseNews reports a Pentagon decision to ramp up the call for a version of the MRAP better suited to off-road use. In other words, a version more useful in Afghanistan.

Navistar scored the first big win in that program earlier this year with an order for its MaxxPro Dash (link shows image of the MaxxPro Plus and MaxxPro Dash side by side). The program has been dubbed "MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles," or M-ATV.

This development suggests a longer development period for the JLTV coinciding with the delay imposed by the Northrop Grumman/Oshkosh and Boeing/Textron protests. Vehicles such as the Force Protection Cheetah, BAE Systems (Armor Holdings) Caiman LT and the Oshkosh Sandcat will remain in play, and companies who succeed in the M-ATV competition will have the opportunity to bolster their chances in the JLTV competition.

On a related note:

BAE Systems has posted a .pdf at its Web site describing the Caiman 4x4. Given the copyright date (2008) and the description of the vehicle's weight ("2/3 the weight of the Caiman"), it seems reasonable to see the vehicle as the CLT despite the absence of that acronym from the document. Page one includes a photo of the the truck.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

InsideDefense: Boeing/Textron to file JLTV protest

InsideDefense reports that the Boeing/Textron JLTV partnership has joined Northrop Grumman/Oshkosh in appealing the Army's winnowing process for the development phase of the program.

Both partnerships protesting the Army's decision went with unconventional drive systems. Tim W, an industry insider, provided a useful description of the two systems in a commentary thread some days ago.
The Boeing and Northrop systems were quite different. As I understand it the Boeing vehicle had some sort of hybrid that they described as a parallel/series system. A parallel hybrid is like the Prius where there is a mechanical connection between the engine and wheels and the engine is aided or switched for an electric motor as needed. A series hybrid has an engine running a generator which charges batteries that power a basically electric vehicle. The Millenworks prototype that formed the basis of the Boeing JLTV had I think an engine mechanically running the rear wheels and an electric motor powering the front. This might explain the peculiar and contradictory parallel/series description.

The Northrop/Oshkosh vehicle was not technically a hybrid but a much simpler diesel-electric as used for many years on trains. It is similar to the series hybrid but doesn't have significant batteries and has no silent running ability - the diesel would be constantly running, its generator supplying power directly to the electric motors.
(Sublime Bloviations/Haloscan)
Can the Army shrug these off or is a delay in the JLTV program in the offing?

Clintonian glib, courtesy of Obama

William Jefferson Clinton acquired a well-deserved reputation for expertly parsing his language in order to mislead listeners.

Keep an eye on Barack Obama. Religion writer Cathleen Falsani recently published the full transcript of an interview she originally had published in The Chicago Sun-Times:

Do you still attend Trinity?

Yep. Every week. 11 oclock service.

Ever been there? Good service.

I actually wrote a book called Dreams from My Father, it's kind of a meditation on race. There's a whole chapter on the church in that, and my first visits to Trinity.

The interview was conducted in 2004. As noted at CNS News, this account appears to contradict statements Obama made to Newsweek while trying to distance himself from the controversial Rev. Wright.

Apparently Ed Laskey noticed the descrepancy right away, even without the entire interview being published.

This latest Obama spin does not square with a more honest portrayal he himself gave in a 2004 interview where he stated that he "regularly attended weekly services at Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ" and indicated that had been his regular schedule since joining the church 16 years before (1988). He did not indicate any scheduling problems or absences back in 2004, no scapegoating of his daughter. Now he has to deal with Pastor Wright controversy and he just dreams up a different history-and Newsweek helps him along.

He is shameless-and Newsweek is increasingly becoming so. Does the magazine even bother fact-checking?

What? And risk harming "The One"?

Obama the bipartisan?

The St. Petersburg Times wonders if president-elect Barack Obama can keep his promise of bipartisanship.

He didn't exactly promise bipartisanship, did he?

(P)artisan posturing is so ingrained in the capital's culture that Obama faces a huge challenge to overcome it.

The 24-hour news cycle and blogosphere are fueled by smash-mouth politics. President Bush and the Democrats who run Congress made their own promises about bipartisanship but rarely practiced what they preached. And spoiling the other guy's plans has become an end in itself.

Bush's record is, I think, better than the Times suggests given his efforts to encourage bipartisan legislation such as "No Child Left Behind" (co-sponsored by Ted Kennedy), McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform and the Medicare drug benefit program. Add to that the rare exercise of the Bush veto pen. But it's fair to point out that Bush has also been at odds with Congress on a number of issues (and not surprising since Congress is at odds with itself on a variety of issues). Yet even in those instances Bush has tended to encourage compromise.

But this is really about Obama.
Yet there are signs that Obama could tame the partisanship.
That one caught me by surprise. "Like what?" I thought in reply.
He has shown a willingness to work with Republicans in the U.S. Senate and in the Illinois Senate, and to entertain dissenting views.
Bush was notable for his record of aisle-crossing in Texas, where admittedly the average Democrat is not like the average Washington Democrat. Entertaining dissenting views means nothing unless you find a compromise position. Otherwise it does not lead to taming partisanship but rather an additional source of frustration for the other side, like a delicious cherry Pop-Tart kept tantalizingly close but ever out of your reach.
He has built a career as a consensus builder.
When? Where? Places? Names? Consensi?
When he became the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review, he angered liberal black friends by promoting conservatives to top jobs.
I'm sure that's very laudable, but at the same time wouldn't Obama have created the potential for a lawsuit if he had promoted employees based on ideology rather than according to qualifications? Not that a law student would allow such a thing to cross his mind, of course.

Writers Wes Allison and Bill Adair (yes, the PolitiFact guy) say Obama could overcome challenges to his promise of bipartisanship, and that Obama needs to pick a few Republicans for key positions in his administration. And then pick his fights.

Unlike 1992, when Bill Clinton was intent on reinventing health care, or 2004, when President Bush was intent on creating private accounts for Social Security, the items at the top of Obama's agenda aren't polarizing in and of themselves.

Americans may disagree with how to address them, but there's little disagreement they need addressing: bringing the war in Iraq to some sensible conclusion, promoting energy independence and, first of all, stabilizing the housing market and restoring confidence in the U.S. economy.

"(B)ringing the war in Iraq to some sensible conclusion"? That's already been largely accomplished by his predecessor in office. It's easily done if Obama relaxes his push to get troops out of Iraq because of the now-absent civil war. He can follow the advice of his generals and provide logistic support for Iraqi security forces until they are ready to stand entirely on their own. And if he does that he will anger the fringe of his own party.

Promoting energy independence? Obama's plan frowns on nuclear power, clean coal, and development of domestic oil and gas reserves. What's left? Wind? Solar? An investment in an engine that propel a vehicle at a rate of 100 mpg? Tire inflation? The keystone of the Obama plan seems to be conservation. Free ourselves from foreign dependence by using less, and if that damages the economy--shhhhhhh. Not so loud.

And the number one priority, according to the Times? Stabilize the housing market and restore confidence in the U.S. economy. Newflash: The housing market is pretty much stabilized, in terms of value. New houses won't get any cheaper, and that will largely sustain the value of existing homes. The problem with credit remains. If you can't get a mortgage, you're not likely to buy a house. The credit problem, we hope, was addressed reasonably well. The remaining problem, assuming the availability of credit, is the business climate.

For Obama, that may be a huge problem. Many of Obama's policies will make things more difficult for business. He plans to mandate employee health coverage for all businesses above a certain size (as yet undetermined unless he's just keeping it a secret), raise tax rates on capital gains, raise the top marginal income tax rate and raise the payroll tax on income over $200,000. Those policies are not business-friendly, for they increase costs and shrink available capital. If Obama keeps his campaign promises then he probably can't address the biggest problem successfully.

In fact, Obama will probably end up pinning his hopes on something else entirely--something that has some chance of success. And his choice will determine very quickly the degree of bipartisanship we'll see from this president. He will receive great pressure from the hard left to make good on his most left-leaning apparent promises. Conservative congressional Democrats--and there are a good number who ran on conservative issues in 2006--will fight him on those issues if he aligns with the hard left.

Obama is likely to find himself in the same trap that President Jimmy Carter encountered in 1976. Running as an outsider/reformer, one can easily make an enemy of his own party. Perhaps Obama can learn from Carter's mistakes, but it won't be easy unless he strays from the lines drawn by his campaign rhetoric.

If Obama can avoid one of the shortest honeymoon periods of any president, then he will have a chance at presidential greatness.

No offense to the new president, but I'm expecting the short honeymoon. Obama's choices will determine whether he starts getting hit hard first from the right or to the left. He will need to choose brilliantly to preserve any appearance of bipartisanship while also avoiding the Carter trap.


I doubt I'll have time to create it, but I had in my mind earlier this week a polital cartoon featuring Obama seated sidesaddle on a Democratic donkey version of the push-me-pull-you. The rider would be saying "Giddyup!" while both heads of the creature labeled "Unified Government" look him askance. This president will have a difficult time of it.

The GOP strategy for next year

My reflexes are a bit slow on this one.

On Monday night, Michael Medved spent a portion of his radio program talking about ways the GOP might improve its election prospects. He mentioned things like encouraging marriage because married folks tended to vote for McCain (52 percent, if I remember correctly).

I hope he's kidding, since Medved usually provides excellent arguments.

There's pretty much one way to win elections. Convince people that your party will do the sorts of things they want done in office. Now, that might appear to feed into Medved's argument, since the GOP has a somewhat friendlier view of traditional marriage (the type that dominates the married demographic), but support from that demographic is fluid. Suppose, for example, that three percent of the U.S. population is homosexual, homosexual marriages are legally recognized and all three percent get married. Abracadabra, the demographic shifts.

It isn't marriage per se that results in an electoral edge for the GOP among marrieds. It is the ideology more likely associated with marriage, at least for now.

So, the GOP strategy is simple to identify and challenging to implement: Identify the (conservative) actions that our center-right nation is after and then communicate that to the electorate. Hand in hand with that, educate people as to why voting themselves into the pockets of the rich is ultimately a bad idea. The latter is a traditional key appeal of the Democratic Party, and the work of educating people will be difficult. Our educational system and our entertainment industry tend to reinforce socialistic thinking. Both are huge influences.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Food assistance as economic stimulus?

Reuters is hosting a report that the government may be considering food assistance as part of an economic stimulus package.
The lead article in the most recent Foodlinks America newsletter says that food assistance benefits might be included in a new round of economic stimulus.
Another Stimulus Plan Under Consideration

Congressional leaders are contemplating a new and bigger stimulus package to help pull the U.S. out of its economic doldrums. Regardless of the Presidential vote outcome, Democrats in the House and Senate are expected to return to Washington, D.C. for a post-election, lame-duck session to try to jump-start the sagging economy.
One must admire the creativity of legislators when it comes to giving a new name to something in order to make it more palatable to voters. Here we thought that President Clinton had reformed Welfare in cooperation with the Republican Congress. Now we're seeing the legislature turn the tax code (the Earned Income Credit, which Obama plans to grow) and "economic stimulus" into giveaway programs.

Can the two day work week be far behind?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Iraq violence update, November 2008

The numbers from September, with the numbers coming from and the graphs by me (forgive the crude renderings--I'm working with primitive graphics programs).

The numbers of dead for Iraqi civilians and security forces continue to trend lower. This is a mild surprise given the relaxation of travel restrictions in Baghdad, though it is also important to point out that violence in Baghdad did increase in some respects according to news reports, as with a several bombings during one day late in October.

The mainstream press easily beat me in reporting the very low fatality total for coalition troops. I could hazard the guess that Obama's proposals for withdrawing troops might help spur such reporting. With fatalities lower, one might reason, the time for phased withdrawal has arrived. performed a late update on its figures, so my numbers differ slightly from mainstream news accounts derived from the same source.

I've stuck with the convention of showing 13 months at a time, which enables me to show a detailed graph that clearly shows recent trends. Long term trends are no less important, however. This month, given the impending change of power in Washington, I'm showing a long-term graph for coalition fatalities. Also note that I got around to graphing the "non-hostile" deaths as determined by the Pentagon and duly reported at

Non-hostile deaths have no readily apparent correlation to hostilities or hostile deaths. I found myself amazed at the number, along with fact that the media haven't bothered to crunch the numbers much at all.

According to my count, over 20 percent of reported deaths were not caused by enemy hostilities (if a U.S. soldier murdered another U.S. soldier, which has happened, it would be counted as a non-hostile fatality).

The fourth graph is remarkable, in retrospect. It represents an amazing turnaround in Iraq. The surge strategy was chosen in January and the troop levels increased gradually, not reaching their peak until the summer. The strategy was not implemented all at once. Rather, it was done region by region starting in Anbar province where the surge tactics were already in place. As Anbar stabilized, the strategy was employed in other locations including the Baghdad region.

The spike in May 2008, of course, represents the crackdown on the Sadrist militias. That move was not part of the surge strategy, strictly speaking, since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki initiated the confrontation to both test Iraqi security forces and to politically marginalize the Sadrists. Al-Maliki accomplished his goal in spades, and inspired considerable unity in Iraq by confronting his own religious sect, the majority Shia. Sunni Muslims in Iraq took note.

May victory in Iraq endure whatever a President Obama decides to do.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Northrop Grumman/Oshkosh appeals JLTV decision

Not unexpectedly, the Northrop Grumman/Oshkosh JLTV partnership has appealed the Army's decision narrowing to three the JLTV bidding field.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Nov. 7, 2008 - Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) today filed a formal protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a review of the evaluation conducted by the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Source Selection Authority (SSA) to identify development teams for the technical demonstration (TD) phase of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program.

After careful examination of the data presented at the Nov. 5 debriefing, it is apparent that inconsistencies in the bid and evaluation process unfairly placed the Northrop Grumman team at a competitive disadvantage. Northrop Grumman requests that the GAO examine the process, which it believes is marred by unstated requirement changes and arbitrary maturity ratings.

(Northrop Grumman Corporation press release)

Though press releases are among the things least likely to draw a copyright complaint, I'll leave it to the reader to click the link in order to read additional details regarding the protest. If the argument is based on fact then it carries some persuasion.

I was pleased to locate additional representation of the Northrop Grumman/Oshkosh JLTV design.

If this protest succeeds, I wonder which winning bidder turns into a loser? BAE/Navistar was a bit of a dark horse candidate, albeit with good success in winning MRAP bids. Lockheed Martin/Armor Holdings (BAE) was a favorite, with congressional pork addict John Murtha in its corner. General Tactical Vehicles (AM General/General Dynamics) was an uber-favorite but with evidently poor sight lines for the prototype vehicle's driver.

One portion of the Northrop Grumman/Oshkosh appeal refers to a lack of clarity regarding the importance placed on demonstrator vehicles/prototypes. What does that mean? Lockheed Martin gets the inside track for producing the first prototype? AM General gets a pass for tiny side windows since it's just a prototype? The fate of three small defense contracts and one great big defense contract may hinge in large part on the answer.

Obama's domain

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air sounds the alarm on a story worth watching. Barack Obama has a new .gov Web site which shares quite a few features with the campaign Web site.

Why does the government need to collect e-mails and addresses from citizens in order to share their stories with the President-Elect? What purpose does the OPE have for this information? Are they hoping to build a list to sell to political allies, or perhaps just to telemarketers to help pay off the deficit? Since this is hosted as a government site, I think they need to explain what official use they will make of this information.

If we’re going to have a perpetual campaign in the next administration, they could at least have the decency to use their private-sector domain name.

Democrats have indulged in quite a number of government initiatives that tend to have the effect of enhancing re-election chances, such as ACORN's focus on registering poor voters and fostering among various groups a dependence on government. It wouldn't be surprising if this Web site turned out as more of the same.

But I'll look forward to the explanation with an open mind.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

St. Petersburg Times speaketh with Kool-Aid stained tongue

The headline: "Obama's victory, and America's"

The lead:
Americans on Tuesday turned a page of history, breaking through the partisan politics and racial barriers of the past to embrace the inspiring voice of a new generation.
Uh--how did partisan politics receive even a modest dent in this campaign?

Maybe this is supposed to explain it:
The 47-year-old first-term senator from Illinois tapped into the hunger for change and for candidates who unite rather than divide. Obama won Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia, states President Bush won four years ago.
I don't see how that counts as any kind of blow to partisanship. All it shows is ebb and flow of partisan power. Indicator no. 1 of Kool-Aid imbibement.
Throughout the marathon campaign, Obama remained focused and unruffled by smear tactics or shifting tides.
Huh? How so? By focusing on his own smear tactics in the Medicare attack ad? By shifting his own tide on the Iraq War by calling for withdrawal to avoid having our soldiers caught in a civil war to a rationale based on saving money and focusing on Afghanistan? Indicator no. 2 of Kool-Aid imbibement.

From the same paragraph:
He largely steered clear of hot-button social issues, and his plans to expand health care, overhaul tax policy and emphasize foreign diplomacy over military force resonated well beyond the Democratic base. Strong communication skills and intellectual vigor will be welcome in a White House that has seen little of either in the last eight years.
He steered clear of all those issues but still gets called a strong communicator? Indicator no. 3 of Kool-Aid imbibement.
In exit polls, an overwhelming number of voters said the country is headed in the wrong direction. The nation remains entangled in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The economic crisis shows no signs of easing, as mortgage foreclosures continue to rise and the big automakers in Detroit struggle to survive. There are demands for better access to health care and an ambitious energy policy.
A poll question simply asking whether voters think the country is headed in the wrong direction is worthless. You'll get the same answer from liberals who hate Bush's policy as you will from conservatives who don't like losing congress along with the prospect of a likely Obama win in the presidential election. That point may be set aside entirely pending consideration of the poll specifics. McCain offered better access to health care, and as for the electorate's wish for aggressive energy policy I'd wager that the dominant wish is not for a cap and trade system that will result in higher energy prices. That is exactly what they'll get, and I'll also wager that The St. Petersburg Times has been either entirely or substantially silent as to that aspect of Obama's campaign. In the know, you know.
The pressure on Obama as he transitions from campaigning to governing will be considerable. He must learn to say no to members of his own party in Congress and to the interest groups eager to capitalize on his victory. He should continue to avoid snap responses and aim for political consensus. He will need help, and he would be wise to recruit a Republican or two to his Cabinet and to continue to surround himself with seasoned advisers.
Great advice. If Obama is not the hard leftist that some clues from his history indicate he might be, then perhaps things will pan out that way. But Obama's associations are largely on the far left, and his power base within the Democratic Party is also hard left. It won't be easy to say no. But I like that the Times calls it a learning process. Fair and balanced.
Forty years ago, this nation suffered through the assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Rioting overwhelmed the Democratic National Convention in Chicago as police tear-gassed antiwar protestors in Grant Park. Tuesday night, Obama celebrated his historic victory with a half-million cheering supporters in that same park. For all of the continuing issues with race, it was a powerful reminder of how America has matured in embracing diversity and recognizing talent regardless of background or skin color.
Obama does deliver a nice speech. But I'm still not sure that's reason enough to vote for the man. Anything beyond that, and I'd like to see survey data in support.
These would be challenging times for any incoming president. At home and abroad, the nation has lost its balance.
Bingo. We're teetering left.

President-elect Obama

I kept loose tabs on the election results, enough to know that John McCain was sunk right around the time Pennsylvania was called for Barack Obama.

The positives, as I see them:
  • A black was elected president
  • An intelligent person was elected president
With apologies, I don't see much more than that at the moment. I count the first as a positive in spite of the racist undertone of voting for a person on the basis of race. That drawback aside, it is possible that racial reconciliation will progress in some manner as a result of the election.

With the second one I'm reaching. Not that Obama is merely borderline smart, it's just that presidential candidates are generally pretty smart (admittedly I have reservations in that department about Democrat Dennis Kucinich and Republican/former Libertarian Party member Ron Paul).

On the downside, I have grave misgivings about Obama's policies. His proposed tax and energy policies will work together to harm the economy. Worse, I believe he is viewed as a weakling by everyone abroad except for fearful Pakistanis. His foreign policy mettle will be tested, as Joe Biden predicted, and I think it will be easy to get inside his OODA loop. In other words, carefully deliberated action can have much the same effect as paralysis.

I'll be expecting the worst and hoping for the best. I applaud Hugh Hewitt's reaction to the election results. Congratulations to Senator Obama. May he enjoy safety and good health, and may he make wise (and timely) decisions on behalf of the nation he serves.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

More jaw-dropping stupidity from the political left

Massive hat-tip to Power Line, especially for the commentary following the video:

Schumer appears to make the astonishing claim that if the government can regulate anything, it logically follows that it can regulate everything. Schumer is a dope, but he and his fellow Democrats are probably serious about their threat to drive talk radio off the air. If they follow through, it could trigger one of the great donnybrooks of all time.
A sufficiently liberal Supreme Court could, I suppose, find that the First Amendment does not protect political speech that reaches large numbers of people. After all, the Constitution explicitly grants that Congress may "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this constitution."


Voting in Florida

It took me about a half hour to cast my vote, counting drive time round trip.

Lines were pretty much nonexistent. My precinct now uses the optical scan system for voting, and I was surprised at the size of the ballot, which rivals a page from a legal tablet.

I took my camera along, just in case something newsworthy might occur, but everything was perfectly humdrum apart from a discussion going on between two voters in the privacy booth to my left (I didn't put much effort into discerning their topic of conversation).

For the last presidential election the better half and I voted together in the morning and waited in line for a good bit of time. It's hard to say how election turnout will compare with 2004.

Will Northrop Grumman/Oshkosh appeal JLTV decision?

Oshkosh Truck officials held a conference call yesterday reporting on the state of the company.
Finally, we are disappointed that we are not selected for a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle or JLTV technology development contract with a partner in North of Roman (sic). We remain firm in our belief that the JLTV concept we presented was the best solution for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. needs for Light Tactical Vehicles and represent an innovative and proven design that leapfrogs current capabilities to exceed the customers' requirements for protection, payroll and performance. We expect to receive a de-brief from the U.S. government on our proposal and we'll determine at that time with our partner our next steps.
I'm as certain as could be that "North of Roman" is some kind of phonetic rendering of "Northrop Grumman." Somewhere there's a sheepish transcriptionist.

If it is true, as seems to be the case, that the diesel-electric power system was not the primary reason for rejecting the bid then I don't know on what grounds the team would appeal. The Army reportedly wants the JLTV to use a diesel-electric drive system. That's small consolation, if any, to the JLTV partnership that used that approach for its prototype.

Report: JLTV program to go with diesel-electric power

I'm not going to pretend that the Pentagon is listening to me, but this decision seems wise on its face.
The U.S. Army has been successful with field tests of the new version of its diesel-electric HEMTT (Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck). Now it is proposing that the humvee replacement use the same power system.
(Strategy Page)
Northrop Grumman/Oshkosh could have told the Army that. That JLTV partnership presented the Army with a prototype with just that sort of power system. Apparently it wasn't the power system that prevented their entry from successfully beating out BAE Systems/Navistar, General Tactical Vehicles or Lockheed Martin/Armor Holdings for one of the three development contracts.

The 2008 presidential election: Why McCain might win

Thinks look fairly bleak for the McCain campaign. Poll numbers favor Obama, and a late surge by McCain seems too faint, according to pollsters, to offer much chance of a McCain victory.

What chance does McCain have, realistically?

Assuming that the Democrats will not succeed in massive election fraud, McCain has a legitimate shot of overtaking Obama if poll numbers that show McCain more trusted on the economy late in the race are accurate.

Elections, according to many political scientists, tend to hinge on a combination of the issues most important to the electorate combined with the voters' perception of the candidate with respect to those issues. The economy is probably still the number one issue by a long shot, so the perception that McCain would better handle the economy provides a clear avenue for McCain to win the election.

I'll admit that I find it difficult to imagine how anyone could regard Obama as better on economics given average or better intelligence and a certain degree of political attentiveness. Obama's budget numbers don't add up and his tax policy might as well be a recipe for prolonged recession. He wants conservation of energy while instituting policies that make energy more expensive (the price of electricity will "skyrocket" in response to his carbon credit cap and trade proposal, in Obama's words). Think about the things one does in order to conserve energy. Do any of them stimulate the economy? How many of them tend to soften the economy?

My opinion of Sen. Obama has sunk to its lowest ebb as I have watched him simultaneously promote his energy policy while he promises to revive the economy. It seems to me that he could not possibly believe his own campaign rhetoric. It isn't plausible to reduce energy consumption and grow the economy at the same time, and I sense that Obama is well aware of the fact but refuses to give it to people straight because it would sink his election hopes.

If I'm right, Obama's campaign strategy is an infernal lie. If the rhetoric works, I predict disappointment for many Obama voters along with a concerted effort to blame his failures on the other party.

One last time: Vote McCain.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Blumneconomics IX: election version

St. Petersburg Times editorial columnist Robyn "Blumñata" Blumner is back again this week peddling socialist Blumneconomics.

The cluelessness oozes out right away.

The young woman who cuts my hair, a wonderfully smart and self-possessed 20-something who chose hair styling over a Ph.D. she once pursued, told me recently that she had to enter an experimental clinical trial to get the chemotherapy she needs. There is no social safety net for people like her.

"I feel like my government doesn't care about my life," she said.

That's right. It doesn't.

And every time you hear Sen. John McCain or Gov. Sarah Palin talk sneeringly about Sen. Barack Obama wanting to be "Redistributionist-in-Chief," know that what they are really saying is that government shouldn't care.

Blumner just doesn't get it, and she may well admit as much if asked.

A government that cares would want the best result from health care in terms of the overall society. Let's say that "Anna" needs a treatment that costs $200 trilion. Unless "Anna" has some special value to society beyond that of other persons, the government would be completely irresponsible to pay for her health care requirement. Society would be better off not paying for "Anna" to have her expensive medical care. Yes, of course the cost is unrealistic, but I chose the amount to drive home the point. The same type of value disparities exist in any system.

And here is the important point: Conservatives prefer for individuals to make the determination as to whether individuals get medical care. The government can only care if individuals care, since the government is made up of individuals. Moreover, the Constitution does not enumerate a role for the federal government in drawing from the pockets of some to pay for the medical care of others. Our society has a history of addressing such issues through private charity, whether by individuals or groups. Conservatives believe that this system serves the society better. Those with no argument against the good of society will tend to cast conservatives as favoring an uncaring government--a fallacious emotional appeal.
The "spreading the wealth" drumbeat is McCain's last-ditch effort to win the presidency. The boo-line is supposed to suggest that Obama's plan to tax America's wealthiest citizens at pre-Bush-tax-cut rates is socialistic and confiscatory.
Is it accurate or not? Barack Obama explicitly wants to focus taxation on the top 5 percent of wage earners, in addition to promising corporate tax increases. Many wage earners will receive a bigger tax refund than they pay in taxes, via the Earned Income Credit.
McCain is counting on the American people not being smart enough to make the next deductive step in reasoning, which is that a government that refuses to tax substantial wealth has three choices: It can tax the nonwealthy to make up the difference. It can slash spending and abandon promises made to citizens, such as providing national security, maintaining programs like Medicare and veterans benefits, keeping the national parks open, etc. Or it can borrow the money it needs from other countries and rack up debts until our nation starts looking like a bad long-term investment to the rest of the world — this would be the George W. Bush model.
Blumner's false trilemma (providing three solutions as though they exhaust the possibilities when in reality they do not) stems either from overt dishonesty or something along the lines of economic ignorance.

First, the government under McCain would not refuse to tax substantial wealth. It would simply attempt to keep taxes on wealth (such as capital gains taxes) from hindering the struggling economy. Investment stimulates economic growth, and free market investment has a far better record of real-world success than investment planned by the government.

Second, taxing the non-wealthy probably can't make up the difference. The wealthiest five percent already pay about 60 percent of federal income tax revenues. That number probably wouldn't change much under McCain. But it would probably grow substantially under Obama, to the detriment of the economy. Obama tacitly admits it.

Third, slashing spending does not necessitate breaking promises unless one stretches the definition of a promise to the point of finding a duty for the government to bankrupt itself. The government cannot endure the projected growth of entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare). If the growth of such spending is not slowed then the economy must pay the price. And that is the true dilemma. If taxes go up, the economy suffers. When taxes go down, the economy improves. Taxation can be described in basic form as a brake on the economy.
But McCain claims that he will eliminate the nation's soaring budget deficits by the end of his first term, and that he won't raise taxes on the middle class beyond taxing the value of their health insurance, which means gutting government is his only course.
Cutting government spending is necessary regardless, because the economy can't keep up with government spending as things stand. Closing down on the brake (increasing taxes) will result in less economic activity (such as job loss) and accordingly decrease revenue to the government. With less revenue, the government will feel more pressure to increase taxation, which can turn into a death spiral. Bankruptcy. Growing the economy increases revenue to the government since economic activity triggers existing taxes such as sales and income taxes (whether or not a net increase takes place with a tax cut should remain an open question).

It is a good question as to how McCain would balance the budget in four years. Some promises of the government, such as ethanol subsidies, probably cause a net harm and as such should be eliminated. Obama, of course, suffers the same budget problem--only worse. His policy promises to both increase spending and shrink the economy. That is, more promises, and a bigger share of the GDP required to meet them.
McCain promises to be the next Social Darwinist-in-Chief. He would manacle government, ensuring that it does not have the revenues to make the lives of my hair stylist, the local waitress and yes, even most plumbers, better and more secure. McCain's plan is to put an exclamation point on the "Ownership Society" a.k.a. the "You're On Your Own Society" launched by Bush and his neoconservative backers, where your life is valued by the size of your bank account.
I don't know whether Robyn Blumner has engaged in significant self-sacrifice to help others less fortunate. I know I have, and as such I know that conservatives like me value preserving the freedom for individuals and groups of individuals to choose those who will benefit from their charity and good will. The "You're On Your Own Society" is Blumner's scare tactic. You're on your own if you don't have either money or a supporting social network of some kind. Making the supporting social network universal in a given nation encourages the free rider problem and as such is bad for society. Our government should encourage a healthy society by discouraging the free rider problem.

For what it's worth, I can't find any instance online of Robyn Blumner acknowledging a free rider problem.
McCain's demonization of Obama's comments to "spread the wealth around" also says that he would rather win than lead. It attempts to deceive people into thinking that government can run on pixie dust.
"(D)emonization"? At least Blumner knows hyperbole. McCain knows that the American people do not like socialism. Thus it makes good sense to point out those policies from Obama that run against the grain for Americans. That's what makes it an election issue. It is hardly "demonization." Obama, in fact, is the one disingenuously playing up populism. He promises big things to the 95 percent at the expense of the 5 percent (who are already paying 60 percent of federal income taxes). And though Obama has admitted that soaking the rich will take a toll on the economy, he has downplayed that drawback of his economic plan while promising lower taxes on the middle class and a better economy. That plan runs on a considerable supply of pixie dust.
Redistributing wealth is what all nations do to one degree or another. In fact, there is no other way to describe the recent $700-billion rescue of the nation's financial sector. Here, with McCain's support, we have redistributed wealth upwards from average Americans to the institutions that employ a big chunk of the nation's multimillionaires.
Again, Blumner's writing seems to present us with a dilemma. Is she that ignorant, or is she lying?

You can call a trip to the 7-Eleven to buy a Slurpee and a hot dog a case of redistributing wealth, if you like. But obviously, until Blumner attempts the sidetrack, we were talking about government efforts designed specifically to average out incomes and prosperity. Progressive taxation is one facet of aim. Government largesse (as with Welfare and the EIC) is another.

The government's support of credit markets benefits all, for the consumers at the bottom of the economic ladder suffer the ill effects of nonexistent credit as much as anyone. Doing the bailout at the bottom of the ladder would not fix the credit market. Funds at that level would be too widely dispersed to allow for bulk lending.

It sounds nice to want to give money to families in foreclosure, but it would not fix the financial market problem that affects the economy of the entire world. And, as already noted, it was already the rich who paid most of the taxes that are being used (supposedly) to bail out the rich. Blumner creates the impression that the lower 95 percent somehow subsidize government benefits received by the top five percent. It's a bit like me complaining that my $x paid to the local government went to help fix a culvert near the rich man's property. It might as well have gone to replace a traffic light along the route I drive to work--but of course government funds don't work like that. It's all more or less in one big indistiguishable pot, and the rich guy probably paid far more in taxes than I did. He paid for the culvert and then some.
I'm not saying that the bailout wasn't necessary, just that if McCain wants to rail against redistribution, this is a much more appealing target. Obama wants to spread the wealth by retiring those Bush tax cuts that benefited the wealthy in order to pay for reforms to the nation's pockmarked health insurance system.
Can Blumner be that uninformed? Obama wants to do far more than that. He need not act to retire the Bush tax cuts. They have a sunset provision. Obama specifically wants to increase the capital gains tax to levels not seen since the early Reagan administration (held over from previous administrations) and start applying the payroll tax to income over $250,000. And his spending plans carry a gigantic price tag. They are not merely a set of health care reforms, as Blumner appears to suggest.
So let's see, which is more deserving of McCain's puffed-up fury: saving the jobs of investment bankers who brought ruin upon themselves due to unbridled greed, or protecting the health of America's uninsured children?
Blumner appears to favor false dilemmas. She already admits that she is not opposed to the "bailout" (hopefully because she recognizes the broad benefits). Why are uninsured children the other side of the coin? Who knows? The private sector has the ability to tend to uninsured children who experience health problems.
Which smacks more of the "evils" of socialized government: taking part ownership in a raft of banks, essentially partially nationalizing the banking sector, or creating an affordable public health insurance program as an alternative for Americans who don't get health coverage at work?
The latter, since buying a share in a bank does not require any government regulation or redistribution of wealth. If the shares do well, then nobody in particular loses. The creation of "an affordable public health insurance program" means that somebody is being forced to share the risk of others, creating a climate for "free rider" abuse by preventing control of costs by controlling risk.

Apparently Blumner doesn't see it that way. I wonder why? Too bad she offers no cogent argument, for that might have explained things.
There was a time when McCain cared about responsible government. In 2001, speaking on the Bush tax cuts, McCain said: "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us." But that was when he was a redistributionist. Now he's just a desperate candidate in search of a winning strategy. Let's hope he hasn't found one.
On the contrary, let's hope he has found a winning strategy. McCain reversed on the Bush tax cuts because of the state of the economy. Obama's policies figure to make the economy worse (perhaps much worse) while McCain's should help.

Devil*Rays end season with World Series loss to Phillies

I've been dragging my feet on offering up my final thoughts on the 2008 baseball season. The foot dragging has not been so much because of bitterness but because most of what I'll write has already been said.

The Rays did not play to their potential in the World Series. The team beat the odds by staving off the worst disadvantages of youth until the final series, and I think the home plate umpiring serves as part of the explanation. A team inclined to press while in the batter's box is not going to easily get over it when the home plate umpire rules inconsistently. But who knows how large was the role of the umpires? I don't, so a hat tip to the Phillies, and some other gesture for any Phillies fans who engaged in, abetted, or tolerated the classless behaviors reported in the media.

The season was terrific for Rays fans--almost enough to forgive the idiotic name change. I would not have predicted this team would make the playoffs, and they exceeded expectations once they got there. I certainly would have predicted that the Rays would start contending next year, with a young, good, and maturing pitching staff and solid defense. I did question how the offense would perform without Delmon Young, who was shipped to Minnesota in return for key acquisitions Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza. Offensive production dipped, as a matter of fact, but next year remains difficult to predict. Many Rays players performed below their career numbers, with the notable exception of Dioner Navarro. It at least seems like a good bet that a healthy B. J. Upton will have a better season next year (more like his astounding playoff performance) and that third baseman Evan Longoria will take another step in figuring out major league pitching.

The Rays have a scary amount of potential, but the other teams in the AL East will gear up for them next season. I'm looking forward to it.

Obama on his energy plan: Prices will "skyrocket"

In his own words, Barack Obama's energy plan will cause the price of electricity to "skyrocket." But Obama is not particularly vulnerable on this issue, as I'll point out at the end.

You know, when I was asked earlier about the issue of coal, uh, you know — Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad. Because I’m capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it — whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, uh, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.
(Hot Air)
The drawback about hitting Obama with this one lies in the fact that John McCain also favors the cap and trade system for controlling carbon emissions, though Obama avers that his version of cap and trade will be as aggressive as any.

The issue ought to still hurt Obama with anyone not convinced the world is on the brink of a wholesale anthropogenic global warming disaster (rest easy, Al Gore) since McCain is not only likely to use a less aggressive version of cap and trade, but is also more likely to employ policies that will otherwise lower the cost of energy (such as drilling for domestic oil and gas resources).

As for nuclear power, that route will also cause prices to rise short-term because of the initial capital outlay required to get a nuclear plant up and going. In Florida, the state government is set to allow the electric company to start charging for construction of its next nuclear plant.

If the mainstream media knows about the economic pain lying in wait with the implementation of cap and trade, I haven't seen the evidence of it.

Palin and WMAL: The free press goes random

The mainstream media have once again given consumers a funhouse mirror view of things through the media lens.

An interview with Sarah Palin was broadcast last week on Chris Plante's morning talk show on WMAL in Washington, D.C.

Then the media went to work.

ABC News' Steven Portnoy reports: In a conservative radio interview that aired in Washington, D.C. Friday morning, Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin said she fears her First Amendment rights may be threatened by "attacks" from reporters who suggest she is engaging in a negative campaign against Barack Obama.

Palin told WMAL-AM that her criticism of Obama's associations, like those with 1960s radical Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, should not be considered negative attacks. Rather, for reporters or columnists to suggest that it is going negative may constitute an attack that threatens a candidate's free speech rights under the Constitution, Palin said.

(ABC News blog)

Just one problem. This report is not accurate. Steven Portnoy's story provides his readers with gratuitously creative paraphrasing. Portnoy follows up the paraphrasing in his second paragraph with the Palin quotation from which he derived the paraphrase, with the construction making it appear that Palin was amplifying her comments.

That isn't what happened. Using a download of the radio show from the WMAL Web site, I've produced a transcript of the relevant exchange:

Well, Barack Obama was endorsed quite openly by a spokesman for Hamas and now it’s and and he there’s been sort of tacit endorsement from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and there’s been an outright endorsement from Hugo Chavez. I assume William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn will be voting for him. I, I, I uh, assume that Rashid Khalidi will be voting for him. The guy’s got quite the rogue’s gallery of supporters, does he not? And now we have, now we have Al Qaeda itself, al Qaeda central and Abu al-Libi uh, uh calling for the humiliation of the Republicans, um, that is, that’s pretty extraordinary, pretty outrageous. Isn’t that, I mean, isn’t that another endorsement in the Obama column?


Well, look it, as the time for choosing is coming closer and closer I think Americans are, are realizing, our voters are realizing that they’ve got to decide which man in this race has proven that he can protect us from al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and the prospect of, say, a nuclear armed Iran and the other grave threats in the world that we’re facing. The only man who fits that description is John McCain.


And when, uh, you’ve been , I know, talking about--since I brought up Rashid Khalidi--um, about the Los Angeles Times sitting on this videotape of Barack Obama singing the praises of Rashid Khalidi, who was of course a spokesman for the Palestinian Liberation Organization at a time when they were defined by our State Department as a terrorist organization. Uh, any movement from the LA Times on that? Do you think, I mean, is that a matter of the public, public’s right to know, or, or is the LA Times, you know, sitting on it for legitimate reasons?


Well, we never heard any even quasi-legitimate reason until just, um, I think it was yesterday where they came up with the reason that, Ah they’re protecting a confidential source, but before that, of course, there was no reason given at all but, um, yeah, that’s also very disturbing and I guess some politicians would love to have that luxurious position of having, uh, some in mainstream media protecting their interests like that, and can you imagine if it were John McCain who had been seen at, um, a, a party toasting somebody, perhaps, who was such a controversial figure. It, you know, major media would be all over this and, and forced him to go to the videotape. But, it--very disturbing there, but even more disturbing is that, um, Oba-, Obama’s not ready to lead—his, his own running mate in the primaries, were--he was reminding us, through the primaries, that Barack Obama is not ready to be the president. And then, of course, uh, Biden’s comment recently when he kind of got off script and was finally candid and stumbled upon the truth, saying that, uh, Barack Obama will be tested, our, our nation would be inviting an international crisis by July of 2009 if Barack Obama were to be elected. Now, contrast that with John McCain. He is, he’s been tested. He knows how to win the war, he understands that the greatest threat against our country is, and that is radical violent Islamic terrorists. That’s why he pushed so hard with the surge strategy that is proving to work in Iraq. John McCain knows how to win the war.


And of course Rashid Khalidi is not the only radical that, uh, Barack Obama’s associated himself with over the years, and you also have been kind of out there on the pointy end of the spear talking about William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, uh, to a lesser extent, perhaps, but William Ayers and once again the role of the news media in this campaign when it comes to Barack Obama’s relationships, uh, over the years with Rashid Khalidi and William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn and Father Pflager and all of these other people, is, um, is the news media doing its job? Are you getting a fair shake, the Republicans getting a fair shake this year?


I don’t think they’re doing their job when they suggest that calling a candidate out on their record, their plans for this country, and, and their associations is “mean spirited” or negative campaigning. If they convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations, then, I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of, uh, First Amendment rights, and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media. Look at Joe the plumber! Good ole Joe the plumber in Toledo, Ohio. He just asked a simple straightforward question and the media started investigating and attacking him. So, uh, you know, there is some fear there, and in those terms, no they’re not doing their job in that kind of context.

(Chris Plante radio program, WMAL AM 630)

In the context of the Los Angeles Times choosing not to release the Khalidi party videotape, and her observation that she has been ripped in the press for personal attacks on Barack Obama, Palin stated that she feared for the future of First Amendment Rights and, in effect, a chilling effect on free speech enabled by a mainstream media that attacks unapproved voices.

Yes, Palin expressed her point with some failing in artfulness. But not to the point where ABC News blogger can mangle the paraphrase as he did without getting called on it. That, fortunately, is the antidote for the failings of the mainstream media, at least until the voters Palin talked about get led by the nose to elect candidates who might reinstate policies such as the free-speech-inhibiting "Fairness Doctrine."

Palin wasn't saying that press criticism of her words constituted an attack on her right to free speech. She expressed concern that voters willing to believe that a candidate's associations should be off-limits because the press says so might help effect a radical change in the free speech landscape. And that concern has its basis in reality.
If they convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations, then, I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of, uh, First Amendment rights, and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.
In the terms used by the courts in ruling on free speech issues, the press has sometimes acted to "chill" free speech, as in the case of "Joe the plumber," not coincidentally the example subsequently used by Palin to illustrate her point.

Steven Portnoy's distorted paraphrase helped stimulate a new anti-Palin meme.

Glenn Greenwald jumped on the pile early:
Somehow, in Sarah Palin's brain, it's a threat to the First Amendment when newspapers criticize her negative attacks on Barack Obama.
Greenwald's profile at Slate indicates a history as "a constitutional law and civil rights litigator." With all due respect, it is hard to believe that one can possess competence in the law while making such logical leaps with the language Palin used. And Greenwald can't even use the excuse that he relied on Portnoy's paraphrase. From his third update:
Jonathan Schwarz has the audio of Palin, issuing her constitutional warning, here. It's actually more painful to hear it than read it, because you can hear her thinking about the analysis she's making as it leaves her mouth, and she clearly believes she's actually making an important and profound point about First Amendment rights.
Greenwald's claim that he "can hear her thinking" serves as effective notice that he is guided by his bias for purposes of his analysis. A real analysis would have used Palin's words to try to make the case that she believed her statement constituted something like what Greenwald detects in her words. He even goes so far as to detect her opinion of the intent of the Framers:
According to Palin, what the Founders intended with the First Amendment was that political candidates for the most powerful offices in the country and Governors of states would be free to say whatever they want without being criticized in the newspapers.
With that, Greenwald succeeds in outdoing even Portnoy's twisted paraphrasing.

Though Portnoy's and Greenwald's opinions might as well be opiate-induced, a collection of such can eventually give rise to a story purporting to be news:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Republican U.S. vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin says media coverage of her attacks on Democrat Barack Obama could threaten free speech.

Palin told Washington radio station WMAL Friday she is concerned that her First Amendment rights could be endangered by what she called "attacks by the mainstream media" in response to her political attacks on the Democratic presidential nominee.


Abracadabra. Whacking the story with the mainstream media magic wand transforms it into an objective news story. It isn't hard to see how the transformation took place. The UPI writer/editor apparently thought that Portnoy's blog was objective news reporting in the first place:
The Alaska governor said her criticism of Obama's associations with such figures as 1960s radical Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright should not be considered negative attacks, ABC News reported Friday.
We can probably expect other news sources to pick up on the story now that it has been transformed into objective reporting via repetition and careless reading.

I've said it before: The news reporting this election cycle staggers belief in terms of its ideological slant and lax standards. One outrageously horrible example of reporting is followed on its heels by the next. It's too late to stick a finger in the dike to stanch the flow. One does not stop a tsunami with even the best-placed digit.

It is over for the mainstream media in terms of its experiment with "objective" journalism.