Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Redefining Freedom

A couple of weeks ago, Thomas Frank, the WSJ’s resident leftist op-ed writer produced a column titled “The Left Should Reclaim 'Freedom'”. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203917304574415232884495424.html

As a general rule, so I won't be tempted to throw a baseball through a (closed) window, I tend to ignore left wing opinion pieces. However, I was intrigued by the title of Frank's piece. The fundamental premise of “liberalism” or “progressivism” today is the expansion of state power at the expense of individual freedom. It takes a village and all that. Yet Frank’s complaint is that the term “freedom” has been hijacked by the right and should be returned to its rightful owners on the left.
Frank tries to contrast the morally repugnant freedoms promoted by conservatives, “the rights of banks to be unregulated or capital gains to be untaxed” with the high falutin’ ideals of the left, “standing up for human liberty, the noblest cause of them all”.
This is why I shy away from reading these things. Frank is ascribing views to his opponents that either are outright false or greatly exaggerated in importance. I would like Frank to name one (responsible) conservative who says banks shouldn’t be regulated. And while there are conservatives who believe that capital gains should not be taxed – to promote the risk taking and innovation that have given us the high standard of living that we currently enjoy – this is at best a minor component of the essential characteristics of freedom, which are, 1) life; 2) liberty; and 3) the pursuit of happiness.
Webster defines freedom, as “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action; liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another”. There is no way any rational person can say that the Democrats’ agenda meets that description. That sacred triad of progressive policy making – regulation, taxation, and litigation – necessarily requires coercion and constraint; necessarily requires individuals to be subject to the power of others. So Frank needs to engage in some linguistic gymnastics to try to wrestle the terms freedom and liberty over to his side. He does this by utilizing a secondary definition, (again from Webster), “the quality or state of being exempt or released, usually from something onerous”. In other words, freedom means the absence of bad things. Bad things that (conveniently) only the government can eliminate.
So, by this reasoning, freedom means freedom from hunger, freedom from homelessness, freedom from low wages, freedom from inadequate health care, freedom from ocean levels a few inches higher than they were last century, freedom from (fill in the blank). Indeed, Frank invokes FDR’s “freedom from want”. (Wisely eschewing the other three – two of which are legitimate freedoms mentioned already in the Bill of Rights – speech and religion – and the other, “freedom from fear” meaning freedom from fearful armaments - this from the man who, correctly and responsibly, initiated the program to develop the most fearful armaments ever assembled).
Frank writes :

Strange though it might sound, this is a form of freedom (from want) that pretty much requires government to get involved in the economy in order to "secure to every nation," as Roosevelt put it, "a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants."

Actually this does sound strange because it’s not true. Government is not responsible for the astonishing improvement in our health, quality of life and prosperity over the past century and a half. Private enterprise (aka – free market capitalism) is. This is explained quite nicely in the 2006 WSJ op-ed piece that I’ve cited previously,

Frank is referring not to freedom but to policy outcomes. And putting aside whether they’re desirable (many are), achievable (some may be), or can best be realized through liberal programs (no), they are separate from the topic of freedom. Advocating for programs that may or may not bring about endpoints that may or may not be worthwhile is not the same as advocating for freedom.
And what about Frank’s emphasis on “human liberty” as opposed to mere economic liberty? He writes :

Even such pits of statism as Britain and Canada remain free societies, generally speaking, despite having gone skipping blithely down the universal-health-care road to serfdom decades ago.

Oh really? Do free societies deny licenses to major news networks as Canada has to Fox News? (While allowing Al-Jazeera – all hate, all the time - to operate). Do free societies ban journalists, as Britain banned Michael Savage from visiting in June? Or bring charges against another as Canada did to Mark Steyn for “offending” the Canadian Islamic Congress with an article published in Maclean’s magazine? (Steyn, who was born in Canada and raised in England, now chooses to reside in New Hampshire. Libertarian P. J. O'Rourke also lives in the "Live Free or Die" state). How about the Brits refusing to allow Dutch Freedom Party MP Geert Wilders into their country to show his controversial film “Fitna”?
Compared to societies which exert even more state control like Russia and China, Britain and Canada are relatively free. But Frank shouldn’t smugly assume that economic intrusion by the government is not related to the level of liberty it grants its citizens. It is.

Two recent articles, by (who else?) Mark Steyn in National Review (9/21) and Theodore Dalrymple (9/26) in the WSJ, testify to the level of decrepitude to which Britain has sunk. This is what happens, Mr. Frank, when freedom, in its correct sense – the conservative sense, the classical liberal sense, is restricted.
And calling an apple an orange doesn't make it so.



Saturday, September 26, 2009

Obama At The U.N. (Cont'd)

Mark Steyn's take on the President's inane foolishness.

President Obama said: “No nation can or should try to dominate another nation.”
Pardon me? Did a professional speechwriter write that? Or did you outsource it to a starry-eyed runner-up in the Miss America pageant? Whether or not any nation “should try” to dominate another, they certainly “can,” and do so with effortless ease, all over the planet and throughout human history.
And how about this passage?“I have been in office for just nine months — though some days it seems a lot longer. I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world. These expectations are not about me. Rather, they are rooted, I believe, in a discontent with a status quo that has allowed us to be increasingly defined by our differences . . . ”
Forget the first part: That’s just his usual narcissistic “But enough about me, let’s talk about what the world thinks of me” shtick. But the second is dangerous in its cowardly evasiveness: For better or worse, we are defined by our differences — and, if Barack Obama doesn’t understand that when he’s at the podium addressing a room filled with representatives of Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Venezuela, and other unlovely polities, the TV audience certainly did when Colonel Qaddafi took to the podium immediately afterwards. They’re both heads of state of sovereign nations. But, if you’re on an Indian Ocean island when the next tsunami hits, try calling Libya instead of the United States and sees where it gets you.
This isn’t a quirk of fate. The global reach that enables America and a handful of others to get to a devastated backwater on the other side of the planet and save lives and restore the water supply isn’t a happy accident but something that derives explicitly from our political systems, economic liberty, traditions of scientific and cultural innovation, and a general understanding that societies advance when their people are able to fulfill their potential in freedom. In other words, America and Libya are defined by their differences.

Steyn on the reaction to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech.

Some western nations walked out of Ahmadinejad’s speech: Canada was first; Austria stuck around; America left somewhere in between. “It is disappointing that Mr. Ahmadinejad has once again chosen to espouse hateful, offensive, and anti-Semitic rhetoric,” huffed U.S. spokesman Mark Kornblau.
Oh, come off it, you ludicrous poseur. President Obama's position is that he’s anxious to hold talks “without preconditions” with his Iranian colleague. How can you do that if you’re going to flounce out like a big drama queen at the first itsy-bitsy pro-forma judenhass?

But the most scathing and entertaining commentary regarding Obama at the U.N. comes from John Derbyshire on Radio Derb. Brilliantly funny, he targets Obama's silly metaphors, U.N. corruption, Moammar Khaddafy's appearance and Hillary Clinton's angst, among other things. Not to be missed! (The U.N. portion of the 34 minute episode lasts about 13 minutes).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Obama At The U.N.

Some NRO commentary on President Obama's "performance" at the U.N.

Hanson on the “surprise" announcement that Iran has an undisclosed nuclear facility. Obama's "diplomacy" coming home to roost.

Rich Lowry on Obama's moral equivalence on steroids.

More along the same line from Jonah Goldberg.

Goldberg makes note of Obama's preposterous self importance

“For those who question the character and cause of my nation,” the president pronounced Wednesday, “I ask you to look at the concrete actions we have taken in just nine months.”
America is 233 years old. Some think that there are ample accomplishments speaking to our character and cause that predate Obama’s ascension to the presidency.

Mona Charen further examines Obama's self worship and cites that same comment, noting,

He could have mentioned the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift, the billions spent on fighting AIDS in Africa, tsunami relief, the Green Revolution, and defeating Nazism and Communism, just for starters.

(As an aside - By Green Revolution Charen wasn't referring to the mostly misguided environmental movement. She was speaking about the monumental contribution of the recently deceased Norman Borlaug. This Nobel Peace Prize recipient (a rare good choice) developed high yielding hybrid crops to combat global starvation. Gregg Easterbrook in a WSJ piece last week wrote that Borlaug was arguably the greatest American of the twentieth century and saved more lives than any other person in history. Naturally, his methods are opposed by many environmentalists.)

And Charen takes a swipe at Obama's purported intelligence.

Obama is, we are told, the smartest man to sit in the Oval Office in many a year. And yet he is capable of truly flabbergasting fatuities like this: “In this hall, we come from many places, but we share a common future.” You don’t say? That’s right up there with Warren Harding’s declaration that “the future lies before us.”

On the Fox News Panel Thursday, Stephen Hayes (Weekly Standard) said that what Obama did at the U.N. was unprecedented for a U.S. President, leading the charge of that outfit's anti-American contingent.

For a stark contrast, here's the full text of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the U.N. Principled, substantive, courageous, wise - precisely what Obama's speech was not.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Barack Obama, BMOC

Victor Davis Hanson understands President Obama's problem - he thinks he's a university president.


Waylaid Conservatives

Not only liberals say stupid things. In the 9/21 issue of National Review, Florence King laments the lack of decorum among the Grassroots Right with its spirited opposition to the Democrats' socialist agenda.


King believes in the demure approach to debating issues. She cites

the 18th-century Whig salon, the cradle of classic conservatism, whose dictum was "Demolish your enemies without raising your voice.”

Then she goes on to relate the following anecdote,

In 1945, when Churchill lost the post of prime minister to Labourite Clement Attlee, the two spent the transition time in close quarters. They had to use the same men’s room, but if Attlee came in while Churchill was there, Churchill left immediately, not returning until he was sure he would be alone. The socialist Attlee was amused, interpreting it as a social snub from the grandson of a duke, and asked him, “Why so modest, Winston?” Whereupon Churchill, without raising his voice, demolished him with: “Because whenever you see something big, you want to nationalize it.”

Attlee was so devastated by Churchill's bon mot that he and his fellow Laborites proceeded to nationalize the coal, steel, electric and rail industries and create Britain's dysfunctional National Health Service (NHS). (For some insight into why the British electorate tolerates its welfare state system check out Mark Steyn's entry in the same NR issue).


Sorry, Florence. Sometimes it's necessary to stand up and shout, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"

I'm generally a big fan of John Derbyshire's witty, erudite musings on NRO's "Radio Derb", (broadcast from the 95th floor of Buckley Tower in NYC). Being a paleoconservative, however, Derbyshire supports an isolationist foreign policy, dangerous as that stance is. During last Friday's broadcast he voiced approval ("while biting down hard on a pencil") of President Obama's decision to suspend development of a missile shield in Eastern Europe. Derbyshire believes that the danger of irritating the Russians more than counterbalances the possible advantage of defending Europe from a potential Iranian missile attack.
This attitude was certainly not one held by President Reagan when he said in the 1980s, "Here's my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose." Reagan wasn't fearful of the Soviets' response when he deployed Pershing intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe. (And he certainly didn't concern himself with the millions protesting the deployment). The success of Reagan's policy of standing firm in response to the threats and provocations of a tyrannical superpower speaks for itself. So why cringe before Russia today when it retains only a vestige of its once formidable military and strategic strength?

Mark Helprin, that expert gadfly of all aspects of military and foreign policy, has an op-ed in the WSJ today excoriating Obama's latest shameful concession. Obligatory reading for Mr. Derbyshire (and others) reluctant to support the projection of America's benevolent power.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Getting It All Wrong

I haven't been posting much lately. It's mostly the overwhelming, relentless, deplorable activity of the Democrats in general and President Obama in particular, I think. Anyway, I've plenty of venting to catch up on so here goes.
Obama seems to be waffling now on one of the rare issues that he's gotten right so far - Afghanistan. On planning to close Guantanamo, supporting the extravagantly worthless "stimulus" package, allowing budget busting pork barrel spending, not extending the Bush tax cuts, supporting the cap and trade fiasco, working to socialize and wreck the world's best health care system, failing to support our allies, failing to oppose our enemies, nominating a substandard, racist Supreme Court justice, appointing innumerable unaccountable "czars", stifling free trade, proposing inadequate defense spending, threatening prosecution of dedicated, patriotic intelligence personnel, cutting missile defense, exercising blatant partisanship, indulging in racialism, providing weak leadership, etc, etc, etc, Obama has proven to be an incapable, incompetent, ideologically driven failure who, invariably, gets it wrong. In addition, he's a corrupt, preening, dishonest, humorless, self-absorbed so and so. I don't like the guy. (But then again, I'm just a racist Nazi).
At least with his previously stated commitment to Afghanistan and his continuation of most of President Bush's essential antiterror policies, Obama could claim a least a couple of correct policy choices. Now he's delaying the adoption and implementation of General McChrystal's antiinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. If and when he bails out on this important commitment, these words he spoke a few weeks ago should emphasized over and over again by his (bless them) opponents.

This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is a — this is fundamental to the defense of our people.

NRO's Jim Geraghty (among others) has noted that Obama's statements have expiration dates attached to them. For example, this listing by Geraghty on election eve last year.


An expiring commitment to a policy that is "fundamental to the defense of our people" is far worse than just typical Obama pusillanimity. It's criminal.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Acorn Test

The radical left wing "community organizing" group Acorn, an item in President Obama's resume, has been defunded by Congress. Yesterday's 345-75 vote in the House followed a 91-7 Senate vote earlier this week. The precipitating cause? Videos revealed Acorn members in five states offering assistance to a (fake) pimp - prostitute team seeking federal subsidies for a child sex ring. Apparently the extensive voter registration fraud the group has been involved in for several years didn't qualify for defunding. Even the current example of egregious corruption was not enough to detach some Democratic Congressmen/women from their benefactors. That there are significant numbers of lawmakers (that term should cause one to shudder) who continue to support this detestable gang provides a revealing insight into the standards of left wing politics.

Acorn's true purpose is promoting a massive expansion of government dependency. It is the modern iteration of the radical 60s outfit, the National Welfare Rights Group (NWRG). NWRG aimed at destroying America's capitalist system by flooding welfare rolls. Capitalism survived, but an entire generation of poor, mostly minority NWRG followers was devastated. Stanley Kurtz gave the details in a National Review article last year.


Putting ethics ahead of campaign funding and ideology by disowning Acorn should have been a no-brainer, particularly given the deplorable ideology involved. That 82 members of Congress failed this easy test shows that they lack the moral judgment necessary to inhabit even that flawed institution.

Senate Roll of Shame

Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.
Roland Burris, D-Ill.
Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Bob Casey, D-Pa.
Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Not voting were Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.
All are Democrats except for "independent" (actually socialist) Bernie Sanders. Obama's voting record was to the left of Sanders'. Wonder how he would've voted?
(Sen. Byrd's poor health may have been a legitimate excuse though he's a living example of the need for age limits for Senators).

And in the House

Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif. Robert Brady D-Pa. Corrine Brown, D-Fla. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C. Mike Capuano, D-Mass. Andre Carson, D-Ind. Kathy Castor, D-Fla.Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. James Clyburn, D-S.C. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. Danny Davis, D-Ill. Diane DeGette, D-Colo. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass. Mike Doyle, D-Pa. Donna Edwards, D-Md. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa. Bob Filner, D-Calif. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio Al Green, D-Tex. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii Rush Holt, D-N.J. Mike Honda, D-Calif. Jesse Jackson, Jr. D-Ill. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Tex. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Tex. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio Rick Larsen, D-Wash. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. John Lewis, D-Ga. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass. Markey, D-Mass. Betty McCollum, D-Minn. McDermott, D-Wash. McGovern, D-Mass. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va. Gwen Moore, D-Wisc. Jim Moran, D-Va. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. Richard Neal, D-Mass. John Olver, D-Mass. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. Donald Payne, D-N.J. Jared Polis, D-Colo. David Price, D-N.C. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif. Bobby Rush, D-Ill. Linda Sánchez, D-Calif. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. David Scott D-Ga. Bobby Scott, D-Va. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y. Brad Sherman, D-Calif. Albio Sires, D-N.J. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. Pete Stark, D-Calif. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. Diane Watson, D-Calif. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Robert Wexler, D-Fla. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.
All are Democrats
A notable missing name is Barney Frank, a big Acorn fan, who managed to sneak away less than half an hour before the vote was taken.

Monday, September 14, 2009

We're Number One

About the best argument I've seen (it's tough to choose - there are a lot out there) against the Democrats' assault on our health care system is provided by Fred Barnes in the current Weekly Standard. Barnes explains how our system is the best in the world.
Here's a sampling.

The United States has 27 MRI machines per million Americans. Canada and Britain have 6 per million. The United States has 34 CT scanners per million. Canada has 12 per million, Britain 8.

A little-known fact: Out-of-pocket expenses by American patients amounted to 12.6 percent of total national health spending ($2.24 trillion) in 2007.
That's one of the lowest percentages of private out-of-pocket spending among the world's advanced countries--lower than Germany, Japan, Canada, and most countries in Europe, including those with government-run health care systems. Why do Americans get more and pay less? Because their insurance policies provide broader coverage than most government plans, says Tom Miller of the American Enterprise Institute.

Private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid cover most of the high cost of treating critical illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. And those are the ones in which the survival rates in the United States are significantly higher than in Europe or other countries. There are clinical data substantiating this. Two major studies (EUROCARE-4 and a study by the National Center for Epidemiology, Health Surveillance, and Promotion, in Rome, both published in the September 2007 issue of Lancet Oncology) were used to compare five-year survival rates for Americans and Europeans diagnosed with cancer.
For all cancers, 66.3 percent of American men and 63.9 percent of women survived. In Europe, 47.3 percent of men and 55.8 percent of women survived five years. Those are statistically important gaps.
And the survival rates were higher in the United States for the most common cancers as well. More than 99 percent of men with prostate cancer had survived in the United States after five years, 77.5 percent in Europe. Those with colon or rectal cancer survived at a 65.5 percent rate here and 56.2 percent in Europe. The rates for breast cancer showed a similar difference, 90.1 percent for Americans, 79 percent for Europeans.
Dr. Atlas cites a different set of results that underscore the same point: Your chances of living longer are better with treatment here. "Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany than in the United States and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom," he reports (see "Here's a Second Opinion," Hoover Digest online). "Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the U.K. and 457 percent higher in Norway. The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher."
Canada, whose single-payer health system is admired by many liberals, fared better but still trailed the United States. "Breast cancer mortality in Canada is 9 percent higher than in the United States, prostate cancer is 184 percent higher, and colon cancer among men is about 10 percent higher," according to Dr. Atlas.

In treating heart disease, Americans have far more access to statin drugs that reduce cholesterol. "Some 56 percent of Americans who could benefit from statin drugs .  .  . are taking them," Dr. Atlas wrote. "By comparison .  .  . only 36 percent of the Dutch, 29 percent of the Swiss, 26 percent of Germans, 23 percent of Britons, and 17 percent of Italians receive them."

"Wildly successful" is the way David Brown of the Washington Post has characterized the transformation of heart treatment. "Today, someone having a heart attack who gets to a hospital in time is likely to get cardiac catheterization, angioplasty, the placement of a medicated stent, therapy with four anticoagulant drugs and, on discharge, a handful of lifetime prescriptions," he wrote. These are innovations over the past half-century.
The results are in. "In the 1960s, the chance of dying in the days immediately after a heart attack was 30 to 40 percent," Brown wrote. "In 1975, it was 27 percent. In 1984, it was 19 percent. In 1994, it was about 10 percent. Today, it's about 6 percent."
These results are matched by the success in dealing with all heart disease. "In 1970, the death rate from coronary heart disease was 448 per 100,000 people," according to Brown. "In 1980, it was 345. In 1990, it was 250. In 2000, it was 187. In 2006, it was 135."
Cold numbers don't capture the breathtaking drama of what's happened. The transformation of heart care "has saved the lives of millions of Americans," Brown wrote. ".  .  . It is safe to say that almost everybody who has a heart attack wants the best treatment available. Nobody wants to turn back the clock." Nor should they, despite higher costs.


Whatever the shortcomings of our system, they can be fixed by reducing government intrusion not by expanding it as the Democrats are attempting to do. The Wall Street Journal last week likened the Dems efforts to the old Marx Brothers' joke - "The soup is terrible - And such small portions".

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Risking Excommunication

Meteorologist Matt Rogers exposes some "global warming" fallacies in the Washington Post of all places. Very brave.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Because...It's A Tradition!

As one of the original neo-cons who underwent his enlightened conversion more than four decades ago, Norman Podhoretz puzzles over the question, "Why Are Jews Liberal?" (WSJ - 9/10). A good question, one that I assume he addresses in greater detail in his book of the same title.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thanks Tom

It turns out that that oh so reasonable, oh so wise, ever so slightly left of center (riiiiight), New York Times journalist, Tom Friedman, is an ardent admirer of the Chinese Communists. Yes, that highly respected pundit, the one who inspires reverent awe in liberals who gravely nod in assent when he speaks or writes his sagacious musings on the state of the world, is a big fan of Hu Jintao and his merry gang of fellow oppressors. (Newsweek correspondent, Fareed Zakaria elicits similar respect among leftists. This is the same guy who recently advised Yale University Press to cave in to Islamists, ignore the first amendment and refuse to publish the accompanying cartoons to Jytte Klausen's new book, "The Cartoons That Shook The World.").
Friedman doesn't just favor the ChiComs relative to other repressive regimes. No. He believes that their system is better than ours.

Watching both the health care and climate/energy debates in Congress, it is hard not to draw the following conclusion: There is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy, which is what we have in America today.
One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power. China’s leaders understand that in a world of exploding populations and rising emerging-market middle classes, demand for clean power and energy efficiency is going to soar. Beijing wants to make sure that it owns that industry and is ordering the policies to do that, including boosting gasoline prices, from the top down.

Our one-party democracy is worse....

Since Friedman's cherished viewpoints on climate change and health care are opposed by a majority of Americans, we need to emulate the Chinese and "impose" these "critically important policies" on the dumb masses who don't know any better.

Advocates of American style freedom and democracy (aka - conservatives) were quick and unsparing with their criticism of Friedman.

Here's Jonah Goldberg (NRO) (In a better world, Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" would be required reading in every high school government class in the country) :

So there you have it. If only America could drop its inefficient and antiquated system, designed in the age before globalization and modernity and, most damning of all, before the lantern of Thomas Friedman's intellect illuminated the land. If only enlightened experts could do the hard and necessary things that the new age requires, if only we could rely on these planners to set the ship of state right. Now, of course, there are "drawbacks" to such a system: crushing of dissidents with tanks, state control of reproduction, government control of the press and the internet. Omelets and broken eggs, as they say. More to the point, Friedman insists, these "drawbacks" pale in comparison to the system we have today here in America.

I cannot begin to tell you how this is exactly the argument that was made by American fans of Mussolini in the 1920s. It is exactly the argument that was made in defense of Stalin and Lenin before him (it's the argument that idiotic, dictator-envying leftists make in defense of Castro and Chavez today). It was the argument made by George Bernard Shaw who yearned for a strong progressive autocracy under a Mussolini, a Hitler or a Stalin (he wasn't picky in this regard). This is the argument for an "economic dictatorship" pushed by Stuart Chase and the New Dealers. It's the dream of Herbert Croly and a great many of the Progressives.

I have no idea why I still have the capacity to be shocked by such things. A few years ago, during the worst part of the Iraq war, I wrote a
column saying that Iraq needed a Pinochet type to bring order to Iraq and help develop democratic and liberal institutions. To this day, I get vicious hate mail from liberal and leftist readers for my "pro-dictator" stance. Meanwhile, Thomas Friedman, golden boy of the NYT op-ed page, is writing love-letters to dictatorships because they have the foresight to invest in electric batteries and waterless toilets or something. It looks like there's reason to hope I was wrong about Iraq (I certainly hope I was). But at least I favored a dictatorship of sorts — for another country! — because I thought it would lead to a liberal democracy. Here, Friedman lives in a liberal democracy but has his nose pressed up against the candy store window of a cruel, undemocratic, regime and all he can do is drool over the prospect of having the same power here.
It's disgusting.

A side note - Goldberg's disdain of G.B. Shaw apparently was shared by Aldous Huxley who hurled a barb towards his contemporary in "Brave New World". (A book I'm presently re-reading - it's appropriate to revisit these days, I think.)

...Little Reuben woke up repeating word for word a long lecture by that curious old writer ("one of the very few whose words have been permitted to come down to us"), George Bernard Shaw, who was speaking, according to a well-authenticated tradition, about his own genius.

Anyway, back to comments about Friedman's column

Kenneth Anderson :

Let me just say for the record that this is a monstrous column. When faced with American public defection from elite-preferred outcomes on certain policy issues that involve many difficult tradeoffs of the kind that democracies, with much jostling and argument, are supposed to work out among many different groups, Friedman extols the example of ... China's political system, because it's both enlightened and autocratic? Who among us knew?


And Blogger John :

In addition to being monstrous, the column is dumb. Friedman says we have "one-party democracy" in America. What is that supposed to mean? His explanation makes no sense: "The fact is, on both the energy/climate legislation and health care legislation, only the Democrats are really playing." No, what is happening is that Republicans and Democrats disagree. Republicans are opposing the Democrats' health care and carbon tax legislation because they believe--correctly--that both represent terrible public policy. When Republicans proposed Social Security reform and Democrats opposed it, were we a "one-party democracy" because "only the Republicans were playing"? I don't remember Friedman yearning for fascist solutions during the Bush administration.
Actually, as should be obvious, the fact that the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats may need some Republican support to enact sweeping changes in the health care system or a destructive cap-and-tax system is proof that we are a two-party democracy.
If Tom Friedman isn't the most overrated man in America, he's a strong contender.


And of course there's Mark Steyn (NRO) with a demography angle :

...what does Thomas Friedman have to say about what's surely the most obvious example of the enlightened autocracy's "Bam! Just like that" one-size-fits-all far-sighted centralized planning? I refer to the Politburo's one-child policy as a result of which (as I've said for years):
(a) China will get old before it gets rich;
and (b) it already has the most gender-distorted population cohort in history — and, as a rule, tens of millions of surplus young men with no gals to hand is not a recipe for social stability unless you're planning on becoming the first gay superpower since Sparta.

And Steyn again :

...the technocratic argument — that there are no legitimate philosophical or policy differences, merely correct solutions that all experts agree on and that democratic politics merely obstructs — has been used to justify totalitarian regimes from Germany and Italy to the rinky-dinkiest post-colonial African basket-case backwater.
But what's even weirder about Friedman's valentine to the Politburo is that on his big bugbear — "climate change" — the Chinese have explicitly rejected the cap-&-trade/emissions reduction regime he urges upon us. Having no public opinion or Friedmanite media to worry about at home, the ChiComs told the "international community" to go take a hike.

I could go on and on but you (should) get the point. What I haven't seen mentioned is that Friedman has provided opponents of the Democrats' socialist agenda with a great gift. Here is a highly respected, oft-cited spokesman of the left admitting that he's enamored of a Communist - Fascist (same difference) form of government. Why not use the technique utilized by the Democrats when they proclaimed that (the unaffiliated, independent, John McCain disparaging) Rush Limbaugh was the voice of the Republican Party? And unlike Limbaugh and Republicans, Tom Friedman really does speak for Democrats. More than that, he is a near perfect manifestation of the progressive mindset - believing that all or most of the world's social problems can be engineered away by adopting the proper public policies - government enforced, of course.

In a recent column, Jonah Goldberg recalled a line from an old Star Trek episode, "Behold, a god that bleeds!!" In that spirit,
Behold! Tom Friedman, mouthpiece of the Obama, Pelosi, Reid agenda...a Fascist sympathizer!!!
(The RNC approved this message).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wrecking The System

Holman Jenkins takes a satirical look at the Democrats' true goals for health care reform in today's WSJ by presenting an imaginary, yet brutally honest (except for one instance - see below) speech given by President Obama. The main point Jenkins makes is that the "reforms" proposed by the Democrats actually take everything that is wrong with today's health care system and expand them. Republicans are afforded their share of the blame, though Jenkins spotlights Obama's dishonesty concerning their policy proposals.

I know my Republican friends say families should not have health care. They believe we can save money by lying down before rapacious insurance CEOs. They say the indigent should be encouraged to practice self-surgery...


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cowardice, Cultism, and Unconscionable Hypocrisy

The current controversy concerning the publication of the book, "The Cartoons That Shook the World" by Jytte Klausen is right in Mark Steyn's wheelhouse and he doesn't disappoint. In the September 7 issue of National Review, Steyn derides the publisher of the book, Yale University Press for not including the actual cartoons. Other free press advocates have done that, but Steyn has a different take on their motivation. YUP claims it was the fear of violence that drove their decision, but Steyn points out that it was driven more by a fear of losing the support of wealthy Muslim benefactors.

"...the honchos seem to be using fear of violence as a cover for the appetites of their endowment. In other words, they’re merely posing as contemptible Euroweenies. Which, when you think about it, is even more contemptible".


And Steyn has another gem on NRO examining the perverse cultism that's inspired by President Obama. He first notes that the NY Times misrepresented a quote he made (as is their custom) comparing the Obama phenomenon to the governing approach of dictators like Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il.

On Friday, I had the rare honor of appearing in the pages of the New York Times, apropos President Obama’s plans to beam himself into every schoolhouse in the land in the peculiar belief that Generation iPod will find this an enthralling technical novelty. As Times reporters James C. McKinley Jr. and Sam Dillon wrote: “Mark Steyn, a Canadian author and political commentator, speaking on the Rush Limbaugh show on Wednesday, accused Mr. Obama of trying to create a cult of personality, comparing him to Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader.”
Oh, dear! “A Canadian author”: Talk about damning with faint credentialization. I don’t know what’s crueler, the “Canadian” or the indefinite article. As to the rest of it, well, that’s one way of putting it. Here’s what I said on Wednesday re dear old Saddam and Kim: “Obviously we’re not talking about the cult of personality on the Saddam Hussein/Kim Jong-Il scale.” Close enough for Times work.

(Update - Sept. 9 - The Times admitted its error on its front page.)

Then Steyn dives right in and makes the case for Obama, The Omnipresent Leader.


An ascerbic column by Jay Nordlinger appears in NRO today. He compares the treatment of protesters of Obama with that of President Bush. Also targeted are leftists' charges of hate mongering by conservatives.

They say that “hate” is rearing its head, and that President Obama and the Democrats are the victims of it.
Let me make a couple of predictions: I predict that the chairman of the Republican National Committee will never say, “I hate the Democrats and everything they stand for. This [politics, basically] is a struggle of good and evil. And we’re the good.”

Howard Dean said that about the GOP: “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for. . . .”

I predict that an editor of a conservative magazine will never write a piece called “The Case for Obama Hatred,” beginning, “I hate President Barack Obama.”

A New Republic editor did this, about Bush.

And there is increasing worry about assassination: that someone will take a shot, not just at the president, but at the first black president, which would be extra-catastrophic for the country. A few protesters have carried signs urging violence against Obama, or smacking of violence. Let me make some more predictions:

I predict that a network talk-show host will not show a video of President Obama giving a speech and put the following words on the screen: “SNIPERS WANTED.”

Craig Kilborn of CBS did that to George W. Bush.

I predict that U.S. senators will not joke about killing Obama.

In 2006, Bill Maher had a conversation with John Kerry. He asked Kerry what he’d gotten his wife for her birthday. Kerry said he had treated her to a vacation in Vermont. Maher said, “You could have went to New Hampshire and killed two birds with one stone.” Kerry replied, “Or I could have gone to 1600 Pennsylvania and killed the real bird with one stone.” This is the same Kerry who, in 1988, said, “Somebody told me the other day that the Secret Service has orders that if George Bush is shot, they’re to shoot Quayle.” Then he said, “There isn’t any press here, is there?”

I predict that a New York official will not tell a graduating class about assassinating President Obama.Also in 2006, comptroller Alan Hevesi said to students at Queens College that Sen. Charles Schumer, his fellow Democrat, would “put a bullet between the president’s eyes if he could get away with it.”

I predict that no columnist for a leading European newspaper, and leading world newspaper, will write, “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. — where are you now that we need you?”

Charlie Brooker of the Guardian did that to George W. Bush.

I predict that no major writer will write a novel debating the morality of killing President Obama.

Nicholson Baker did that to Bush, with Checkpoint.

I predict that no filmmaker will make a “fictional documentary” that fantasizes — and I’m afraid that is the word — about murdering President Obama.

Some Brits did that to President Bush with Death of a President.

Dear readers, I have made very, very safe predictions. If a CBS talk-show host pictured President Obama and said “SNIPERS WANTED,” he would lose his job, of course. He would never work in the media again. I wonder what else would happen to him.


Friday, September 4, 2009

What Do You Call 5000 Dead Lawyers At The Bottom Of The Ocean?

The most noteworthy item in today's WSJ opinion pages is an op-ed by a physician, Richard B. Rafal who skewers the socialist health care plan presently being debated in Congress by offering a similar proposal covering the legal profession. His proposal has doctors making the rules for lawyers, reversing the usual state of affairs.


(And the answer to the riddle above isn't "A start" but "A setback for Democrats")

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Some Thoughts On Baseball

A while back my favorite economist (since Milton Friedman is no longer around) Thomas Sowell, (also an avid baseball fan) commented that had Lou Gehrig not contracted his eponymous disease, he could have been considered the best player ever. This is certainly true. Gehrig began exhibiting the effects of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) in 1938 at the age of 34. He was finished with baseball early the next year. (By way of comparison, Derek Jeter is at the top of his game and is presently 35). Assuming that Gehrig could have had six or seven more productive years - not unreasonable, since he kept in excellent shape - his final numbers might have looked something like this, (with his actual stats in parentheses) :
Games - 3000 (2164)
At Bats - 11500 (8001)
Runs - 2600 (1888)
Hits - 3850 (2721)
Doubles - 730 (534)
Triples - 200 (163)
Home Runs - 700 (493)
RBI - 2700 (1995)
Consecutive Games - 2500?, 2800?, 3000? (2130)
These stats are unmatched by any player to date and, without chemical assistance, will probably be unmatchable in the future. (Though Albert Pujols is making threatening noises). The only negative in considering Gehrig as the best ever was that he played a relatively undemanding position (first base) and was only considered an average fielder.
Another point (made by baseball statistics nut Allen Barra) is that had Ted Williams not missed a significant portion of his career due to his participation in World War 2 and the Korean War, his final numbers would be similarly off the charts.

The bane of televised baseball is the centerfield camera. It reduces the great panoramic game with nine fielders, four umpires, two coaches and a batter to a small area populated by four guys. It distorts the speed of the pitches by shrinking the distance from the mound to home plate, making them look slower and more hittable than they truly are. Presumably it's used so balls and strikes can be more easily discerned by the viewer, but it fails even that since the camera angle makes pitches look further to the right side of the plate (facing the field) than they really are. An occasional use of the centerfield camera would be alright, but it's used almost exclusively. More than anything else, I believe it's responsible for the relative lack of popularity of televised baseball. On the other hand, it makes watching a game in person much more desirable by comparison.

I don't read many baseball books, but I do enjoy reading just about anything written by Bill James. His unrelenting enthusiasm for the game's minutia is infectious. Anyone who would dedicate 34 pages of a book (Whatever Happened To The Hall of Fame?") debating whether Don Drysdale belongs in the Hall of Fame is a serious fanatic. (Conclusion - Drysdale doesn't belong).

When President Obama made his comment about "Cominsky Field" at the All Star game on national TV, he showed that he knows as much about baseball as he does about the economy or U.S. history. Maybe he thinks it's Kaminsky Field, named after David Daniel Kaminsky (aka Danny Kaye). Hillary Clinton, however, remains the greatest phony baseball fan in politics, who, while running for her New York Senate seat proclaimed that she had always been a Yankee fan. Hillary wouldn't know Bobby Richardson from Bobby Murcer from Bobby Jindal.

It's said, correctly, that Babe Ruth had a revolutionary effect on the game. When he began playing as a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox in 1914, it was rare that a player would reach a double digit total of home runs during a season. In 1918 Ruth hit 11 homers. Then he hit 29 in 1919, 54 in 1920, and 59 in 1921. Even Wilt Chamberlain, when he scored over 4,000 points in the NBA in 1961-62, only roughly doubled the point total that would have led the league a few years before. Ruth's 1920-21 home run numbers quintupled the previous league leading numbers. For whatever reason (higher quality baseballs, prohibition of the spitball, a shift of focus to a power game) this trend spread throughout baseball and home runs became much more commonplace. It has stayed this way ever since. One effect this has had is that it distorts the relationship between the difficulty of getting a type of hit and the value of that hit. What I mean is the following. It may seem obvious but a home run is worth more than a triple, a triple is worth more than a double and a double is worth more than a single. But in baseball today, (and this has been true since the twenties), it is easier to hit a home run than a triple and in some cases easier to hit than a double. It should not be that way. In sports (as in life) the more difficult the achievement, the more it should be rewarded. In football a touchdown is valued twice what a field goal is since it's more difficult to achieve. Similarly, in basketball, a 3-point field goal is more difficult than a 2 point field goal which is more difficult than a 1 point foul shot. Shooting percentages correctly reflect these degrees of difficulty, (with occasional aberrations, like Shaquille O'Neal). Baseball is not like that. Until Ruth, every player, (as far as I could determine though I may have missed someone), had the expected pattern of singles, doubles, triples and home runs.
For example here's Honus Wagner's career statistical line.
1B - 2422, 2B - 640, 3B - 252, HR - 101.
And Nap Lajoie's.
1B - 2340, 2B - 617, 3B - 163, HR - 82.
And a lesser player, Harry Steinfeldt (third baseman in the Tinker, Evers, Chance infield).
1B - 1175, 2B - 284, 3B - 90, HR - 27.
Even Frank "Home Run" Baker, who played until 1922 (into the Ruth era) had more triples (103) than home runs (96).
Now look at Mickey Mantle's stats.
1B - 1463, 2B - 344, 3B - 72, HR - 536.
And Frank Robinson's.
1B - 1757, 2B - 528, 3B - 72, HR - 586.
For sluggers like Mantle and Robinson it was easier to hit a home run than even a double. It was much, much easier than a triple. Well Mantle and Sosa are sluggers. How about a contact hitter like Tony Gwynn?
1B - 2378, 2B - 543, 3B - 85, HR - 135.
Even a line drive hitter like Gwynn hit more home runs than triples.
Or Paul Molitor, a similar hitter to Gwynn with somewhat more power.
1B - 2366, 2B - 605, 3B - 114, HR - 234.
More than twice as many home runs than triples.
The statistical distortion reached a pinnacle (nadir?) with Mark McGwire.
1B - 785, 2B - 252, 3B - 6, HR - 583.
McGwire had almost 100 times as many home runs as triples and more than twice as many homers as doubles. In his final season (2001) he hit more home runs than singles, 29 vs. 23.
There were and are a few rare throwbacks to the pre-Ruth era. Former players such as Nellie Fox, Maury Wills, Luis Aparicio and Willie Wilson and current ones such as Christian Guzman and Juan Pierre have the "proper" hit frequencies of 1B>2B>3B>HR. However, post Ruth, this has not been the norm.
So what to do, if anything? Well people like to see home runs, (I do), so probably nothing. But it would be interesting to see the game played as it was a century ago by today's athletes. To do that you'd have to either a) make ballparks larger, or b) make the balls softer. Option b) would be more practical.

I have another complaint about baseball statistics, though this is more a bookkeeping problem rather than a fundamental flaw. Back on August 9, Andy Pettitte of the Yankees pitched seven scoreless innings against the Red Sox before leaving the game with a 1-0 lead. Phil Coke took over in the eighth and gave up a 2 run homer giving the Red Sox a 2-1 lead. Coke finished the eighth inning without any further damage. In the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees scored four runs, taking back the lead, 5-2. Mariano Rivera came on in the ninth and retired the Red Sox, preserving the win. Since Coke was the Yankee pitcher when they took the lead for the final time, he got the win. Rivera got a save and Pettitte, who pitched brilliantly, got no decision. I know that several years ago, official scorers had the discretion to award a win to a pitcher who normally wouldn't qualify. The circumstances by which it would be appropriate to do so are perfectly illustrated by the Pettitte-Coke example. Pettitte pitched quite well over a long period, Coke screwed up in a short period, so Pettitte should get the win, not Coke. I don't know if this scorers' discretionary power still exisits, but if it does, it should have been utilized in this case.

Frankly Outrageous

Kevin D. Williamson (National Review, 8/24) concisely details the corruption, hypocrisy, and destructive manipulation perpetrated on the American people by Barney Frank (assisted by his Congressional Democratic colleagues) as he led the way in devastating our economy. I honestly believe that if the mainstream media had done their job and disseminated this story before the election in a way the public could understand (admittedly, a tall order), we would now have a Republican controlled Congress and White House.