Sean's Blog

A Guide To Online
Opinion And Current Events

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Wow. 110 economists, including three Nobel Prize winners, endorse President Bush's tax proposal.

This won't be reported in any newspaper because it's not exactly news in the traditional sense, but it appears that New York City is slowly returning to the pre-Guiliani acceptance of crime. Guiliani's idea was that "broken windows" signaled a society in decline and fostered an environment where crime flourished. "Broken windows" were not just broken windows, but in fact they were other signs of a disintegrating society such as hookers and drug dealers doing their work on street corners without concern that they would be arrested. Seemingly petty crimes such as graffiti and minor vandalism were also important tell-tale signs. Now it appears that New York City Mayor Bloomberg is relaxing and the criminals are returning. Too bad.

Friday, January 17, 2003

The Washington Times is calling Lebron James a cliche in the making:

"How did James and his mother decide on three TVs? Why not two TVs? Or four? Or five? However many TVs, James, in a Hummer H2, is working from a tired script. What's next with James, the 400-pound bodyguard or the barbed-wire tattoo on the bicep? The barbed-wire tattoo is almost as mandatory as the tattoo with the Chinese lettering, one or the other, or both. Then again, it is hard to keep up with NBA fashion. One day the crotch of the pants are required to fall below the knee and the next day they are required to fall just above the knee."

"James already has a tattoo, God bless him, plus the obligatory male figure in his life who is going to prison. He also has shown potential with the bad-man strut after making a play in the first quarter, and now he has the shocking, just shocking, Hummer H2.

Gold chains, anyone? Where is the 18-year-old basketball flavor of the moment on the issue of gold jewelry? A serious player can't have enough gold jewelry, starting with the 50-pound medallion that leads to lower back strain, irritable bowel syndrome and assorted other health problems.

James is expected to land a staggering endorsement deal from a shoe company. No word yet on when he will make his first rap video, star in his first motion picture and be named in his first paternity suit. This is all part of the maturation process, and in the case of James, the process is in overdrive. No one seems to mind too much, least of all the officials at his high school.

It also is important that James surround himself with a quality posse, crew or entourage, or whatever it is hangers-on are being called nowadays.

Some people think life in the NBA is glamorous. Believe it or not, NBA players have their problems just like everyone else, like the requisite marijuana farm a hanger-on cultivates in the backyard of a player's home. What can a player do? He goes away on a 10-day road trip and comes home to a court appearance after the pizza-delivery guy notices the bales of marijuana stacked to the ceiling in the living room.

James is not there yet, fortunately, just in an awful hurry in his Hummer H2."

Brian Kennedy in Tech Central Station makes the prediction that the Iowa caucus will go a long way towards getting President Bush reelected because of Iowa's famous isolationist, anti-war beliefs.

Here's how Kennedy sees things panning out:

"By caucus night Dean, Senator John Edwards or even McGovern's old campaign manager, Gary Hart, will likely surge to the front of the pack by mobilizing a few thousand war-wary caucus goers behind a neo-isolationist message favoring foreign policy prescriptions based on economic sanctions and multilateral dialogues led by Kofi Annan. Campus precincts in dependable liberal bastions like Iowa City, Ames and Grinnell will produce large votes for the anti-war candidate who polls well among the faculty, elements of the student body, and the aging National Public Radio listeners who populate Iowa's small towns.

Then talking heads and the New York Times will trip over themselves hyping the significance of the insurgent candidate's surprising third place showing. The national media's gushing exuberance will lead to a late developing groundswell of support for the insurgent being charted in nightly tracking polls in New Hampshire......."

This all ends up helping President Bush because it will give the false image that there is a realistic chance for the anti-war candidate to win. This is just one scenario, but I can definitely see the New York Times doing it's part.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

I don't use the words "brilliant" or "excellent" easily. When I adjectively describe someone's work that way I mean it in the most passionate sense of those words. I felt like I had to make that clear because I just gushed over James Lileks piece and I am about to do the same with a piece by Victor Davis Hanson.

Hanson's piece is about the pschological roots of anti-Americanism. This is a must read:

"As in the medieval church or among Soviet apparatchiks, the pull of groupspeak is always strong among compliant and opportunistic elites. For today's intellectuals, professors and artists, being on the team pays real dividends when it comes to tenure, promotion, publication, reviews, lecture invitations, social acceptance and psychic reassurance. And the dividends are compound: One is a lockstep member of one's crowd and one enjoys the frisson of dissidence, of being at variance, but always so comfortably at variance, with one's benighted fellow citizens."

"Worse yet, because America is still a plutocracy where riches and not education, ancestral pedigree or accent bring status, it can be galling for a sensitive professor of Renaissance literature to find himself snubbed at dinner parties by his own university's president in favor of the generous but (shall we say) less subtle owner of a chain of Taco Bells. From there it is but a step to seeing the face of that same smiling and unapologetic plutocrat before him whenever he gazes upon the likeness of George W. Bush or Richard Cheney."

"And what is true of students is too often true as well of their pretentious professors, as can be seen whenever Noam Chomsky pontificates about war ("Let me repeat: the U.S. has demanded that Pakistan kill possibly millions of people . . .") and in place of references to historical exempla or citations from the literature raves on with "as I have written elsewhere," "there are many other illustrations," "as would be expected," "it would be instructive to seek historical precedents," "as leading experts on the Middle East attest," and all the other loopholes and escape clauses that are the mark not of a learned intellectual but of a calcified demagogue."

Hanson's piece is an absolutely brilliant examination of the mindset of the irrational, illogical, dishonest, and conspiratorial left. As I said, a must read.

John Le Carre is a lying, despicable piece of crap.

I'm not familiar with any of his work, but Le Carre wrote a particularly vile, carelessly inaccurate, and wildly conspiratorial piece for the Times of London a couple of days ago in which he basically accused the US of everything that is wrong in this world. Leftists were probably gleeful over his article. Never mind that it isn't rooted in sanity or reality; they are inclined to believe anything anyone says about the evil US.

Thank God for James Lileks. The man is a brilliant writer and he on the side of reality and truth. The whole piece is excellent, but since I can't cut and paste the whole thing I want to highlight some of the most interesting facts:

" TOTAL U.S. Government Humanitarian Assistance for 2002 - $186,545,775

TOTAL U.S. Government Humanitarian Assistance for 2001 - $183,107,625

TOTAL U.S. Government Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan for 2001/2002 - $369,653,400

This is about three times the amount of money the Federal Government spends on the National Endowment for the Arts. Now comes a big cut & paste job from a government site; believe or don’t believe. I know enough people working for agencies of this nature, so I believe. Anyway, here’s the US-government supplied data. If you want some visual info:

http://www.usaid.gov/afghanistan/timeline.html
http://www.usaid.gov/afghanistan/before_and_after.html

What the site says

Fact Sheet
U.S. Agency for International Development
Washington, DC
September 6, 2002

Afghan Humanitarian Relief and Reconstruction

Afghanistan was the number one recipient of U.S. humanitarian assistance before September 11, and America continues to lead the international community today. Poverty, famine, a devastating drought, and years of war and civil strife have created a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan , which has been aggravated by years of Taliban misrule. The people of the United States, through USAID, have responded.

Humanitarian Aid

-- Funds. The President pledged $360 million to help the people of Afghanistan . Since October 1, 2001 the U.S. Government has already provided more than $420 million in assistance, more than $220 million is through USAID.
-- Food . The United States provided 80 percent of all food aid to U.N. World Food Program (WFP) for Afghanistan last fiscal year, and already more than 50 percent this year. Our goal is to deliver 300,000 metric tons (MT) of food aid to the people of Afghanistan through the spring. (52,000 MT of food a month will feed approximately six million people.)
-- Supplies. To protect people from the weather, USAID is providing wool blankets and quilts; shelter kits, plastic sheeting and winterized tents. We're also distributing mattresses, clothes, stoves, cooking sets, firewood, coal, lanterns and water containers.
-- Medicine and healthcare. We've provided medical kits and funds for health centers and mobile clinics. We're sponsoring public heath education and programs on hygiene, obstetrics, maternal and childcare, and malnutrition. We're employing trained personnel to conduct educational outreach on basic health and nutrition, especially to women. We're helping expectant mothers, training local birth attendants and funding the distribution of vitamins and the immunization of young children.
-- Communications. Through the International Organization for Migration, we're distributing over 30,000 radios that allow Afghans to hear special broadcast bulletins concerning food distribution, security, health care and other information relevant to displaced people.
-- Transport. We've airlifted commodities from Pakistan and Italy to ensure there was no break in the Central Asian pipelines into Afghanistan , and funded the purchase of vehicles -- some equipped with snow plows -- to speed the delivery of supplies into villages."

One last quote from Lileks:

"I remember the Soviet dissident we put up in our house in '83; he'd been imprisoned for ungood wrongthink, and injected with a wide variety of chemicals to pacify his anti-Soviet tendancies. Contrast: I have a newspaper column in a quasi-major metropolitan daily. I could, if I wished, spend the next year railing against the Bush administration, three times a week. Nothing would happen to me. Nothing. My editors would not complain.The publisher wouldn't take me aside. The guvmint would not come calling. It would never occur to me that I'd suffer any professional repercussions from changing my happy-fun column into a 24-7-365 anti-war diatribe - and if you think I'm mistaken, trust me on this: you have no idea what you're talking about."

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Mark Steyn makes a persuasive argument that all that matters to the Left is ideological purity. His piece contains this jaw-dropping excerpt from a 10,000 word article on Ted Kennedy:

"If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age."

If he hadn't killed her, she would be living high on the hog now.

This sort of you-have-to-break-some-eggs-to-make-an-omelet mentality is a prominent feature of leftwing politics. Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot all had the highest ideals for humanity so it was ok for them to slaughter over a hundred million people. To be fair, the contemporary left does not go quite this far, but the idea is still alive. Bill Clinton was the prototypical sexual harrasser. He was exactly the person NOW was after when they insisted on workplace protection against sexual harrassment. But since he was a Democrat, he got a pass. Bob Packwood didn't.

Mark Steyn shows other examples of this same mentality:

"In America, generations of black children have drowned in the swamp of inner-city public schools because the Democratic Party subordinates their interests to those of the teachers' unions. Overseas, the hypothetical body-count of an Anglo-American war with Iraq exercises Bill Blaikie far more than the actual slaughter Saddam has already visited on his people. But then one of the curious qualities of the ideological left is its increasing imperviousness to reality. The uselessness of Canada's billion-dollar gun registry is not the point: Just having one, no matter how expensive, no matter how irrelevant, 'sends the right message.'"

The point is, to Leftists, it doesn't matter whether the idea in question is rooted in reality. All that matters is intent. Nearly all arguments for or against specific proposals are weighed against intent. What's the intention? And the left is more than eager to invent conspiracy theories to create intent based opposition. As in opposition to the Afghan war. See, the only reason we were going into Afghanistan was to secure oil contracts. Our intentions there were to have cheap oil so we had to be opposed. Never mind that Afghanistan was the base of operations for a mad man and his followers who wanted to kill us all; that war was about oil. Now the same idiotic conspiracy theories are being used to oppose our war against Iraq.

I loved this bit from the Opinion Journal:

"Reuters reports that songstress Sheryl Crow donned a T-shirt saying "War is not the answer" at last night's American Music Awards. "I think war is based in greed and there are huge karmic retributions that will follow," Sheryl crowed. "I think war is never the answer to solving any problems. The best way to solve problems is to not have enemies."

OK, that "karmic retribution" stuff is pretty daffy, and war often is the answer (much of Europe may be run by weenies, but that sure beats Nazis). Still, Crow has a point about the desirability of not having enemies. So let's kill them."

James Taranto cracks me up.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Dumb crook news:

"Three men who allegedly helped kidnap Connecticut's second-richest resident for a $5 million ransom were busted because of a pizza, a source told The Post."

Nick Cohen in The Telegraph has a piece titled, "The Left Betrays the Iraqi People by Opposing War."

I have yet to hear one leftist hope out loud that things go well in Iraq. In fact, I would say that Cohen probably has it exactly right:

"What is repulsive is the sneaking feeling that they want the war to be long and a post-Saddam Iraq to be a bloody disaster. They would rather see millions suffer than be forced to reconsider their prejudices."

Monday, January 13, 2003

China is spending (registration required) massively on infrastructure. The closer that nation moves to western style politics and capitalism, the closer they will come to dominating the world. However, as long as China is a communist country (with all that implies) they will fall short of their unbelievable potential.

I must have missed something because there is talk of Robert Mugabe stepping down as president of Zimbabwe. The last I heard from that country one of Mugabe's top advisors was talking about eliminating half of Zimbabwe's population. Now we have talk of Mugabe stepping down? I really did miss something.

Jonah Goldberg has a piece on "useful idiots" and their plan to defend Saddam Hussein to the death. I think they might more accurately be described as "useless idiots."

Sunday, January 12, 2003

I have read pieces by sanctimonious Canadians telling America how evil and racist we are while declaring that there is nothing in their past that could possibly cause anyone to question their "moral superiority." That's why I take extreme dee-light in linking to this piece at Instapundit.

One of Glenn Reynold's readers sent him an email in response to one of his posts that mentioned Japanese internments:

"It's interesting how the American internment of Japanese for 4 years during WWII is constantly used as an example of America's unique evil and racism. When revisiting the subject rarely, if ever, is the Canadian example brought up. At least in America the internee families were kept together, in Canada (which also rounded up Japanese Canadian citizens) the men and women were separated from each other and the men were sent into forced labor. And we all know, I hope, how Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria scored on the racial sensitivity scale during WWII. I find the ability of Europe especially to "misremember" facts so as to paint themselves as lilly-white angels and the US as brutish and uncivilized thugs to be quite remarkable.

Another of Reynold's readers sent this email:

"The Canadian record is much darker than Robin Goodfellow's post indicates. Japanese-Canadians were not only moved inland from BC and interned, their property was seized and sold off, the proceeds used in part to pay for their own internment. Worse, thousands were stripped of Canadian citizenship and deported ("repatriated") to Japan, even after the war had ended."

This is priceless. The New York Times sent a reporter to Austin, Texas to find a family of five to deride President Bush's latest tax proposal. The verdict according to the Moorhead family as quoted by the New York Times: "Unimpressive." This must have come as a complete shock to the NY Times. Yea, right.

The story may have ended there if not for the Washington Times. The Washington Times prepared a 1040 return for the Moorhead family to see what kind of tax benefits they would get from the president's plan. Bottom line: the Moorheads would realize about $4,000 in annual tax savings under the president's proposal. That's hardly "unimpressive." What is impressive is the bias at the NY Times. Wow.

The environmentalists are once again attempting to discredit Bjorn Lomborg's book, The Skeptical Environmentalist and Tech Central Station has come to his defense.

Newsweek is reporting in it's Conventional Wisdom section that "Even GOPs admit dividend break is DOA." This is conventional wisdom?

con·ven·tion·al ( P ) Pronunciation Key (kn-vnsh-nl)
adj. Based on or in accordance with general agreement, use, or practice; customary: conventional symbols; a conventional form of address.
Conforming to established practice or accepted standards; traditional: a conventional church wedding.

wis·dom ( P ) Pronunciation Key (wzdm)
n. The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight.
Common sense; good judgment: “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things” (Henry David Thoreau).

Nothing that I have read indicates that the dividend tax cuts are DOA. That doesn't mean it's not so, but I read a lot and if it were "conventional wisdom" I think I would know. I think Newsweek's leftwing bias is showing. Perhaps they will be vindicated in the next few weeks. We'll see.