Your Lying Eyes

Dedicated to uncovering the truth that stands naked before your lying eyes.

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30 June 2008

Who's a Patriot?

Barack Obama has announced that he is indeed a Patriot, and that he will never question another candidate's patriotism nor tolerate anyone questioning his own. This represents the latest in the continuing effort to make presidential campaigns as uninteresting as possible by making sure that no one actually gets to know anything about the people actually running. Obama then went on to concur with John McCain's whining about Gen. Wesley Clark's pointing out that getting shot down over North Vietnam and held prisoner has little to do with being qualified for President.

I contend that politicians' (and others') patriotism isn't questioned enough. Indeed, what could be more important for Americans in selecting an individual for the most powerful job in the world than how that individual feels about America? And that is what patriotism is all about. Is what's best for America and Americans your #1 priority? If not, then I'd say your patriotism is in question.

Now honest people can obviously disagree over what's best for America. During the Vietnam War, patriotic Americans were convinced that the future of America depended on subduing the communist advance in Southeast Asia. Other patriots were convinced that fighting another country's war 8,000 miles away weakened America and we should get out. On the other hand, many openly sympathized with the communist insurgents and viewed the U.S. as an imperialist nation deserving of defeat. These people's patriotism was questionable, in my opinion - at least it did not appear that what was best for America informed their stand. Still others supported the war because it was profitable - these people obviously are not patriots.

Is George Bush a patriot? There's little to suggest he is. While his anger and determination after 9/11 gave us some hope, his invasion of Iraq in order to transform the Middle East is certainly questionable. The Iraq war was clearly misguided, but it's not even clear Bush's motivation was America's long term health. His determination to transcend national borders with our southern neighbor suggests he has wider loyalties than just to the United States as a political unit.

Another group of people who fail my patriotism test are free-market economists (who, along with Bush, are typically labeled as 'conservatives'). In particular, their constant trumpeting of free trade is hard to reconcile with keeping America's interests as their top prioriy. As academics, they would argue that patriotism would be an inappropriate concern - which is fine, but then you've got candidate McCain parroting their un-patriotic policy prescriptions. Shouldn't Barack Obama be questioning McCain's patriotism in supporting the bankrupting of America in favor of some academic theory that has the only obvious benefits of increased profits for importers and increased growth in other countries? Admittedly, Obama himself would have to be against free trade to pull this off, but he's got plenty of time to re-reverse himself on that one.

And why not question Obama's patriotism? Does he typically do or say anything suggests that the United States, as a nation, informs his worldview? In his two best-selling books does he give the impression that he is concerned about America's future and keeping it strong? Or does he instead pledge allegiance to the "principles" that America stands for, which usually gets translated into taking money from productive people to give to unproductive people (not necessarily un-patriotic in and of itself, but clearly not a "patriotic" concern). His original anti-Iraq war speech in 2002 probably has one of the most patriotic utterances I've heard from him:
"What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne."
But the rest of the speech is mostly a muddle of liberal boilerplate (" distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income - to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression"). He's more concerned that we "make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people", i.e. terrorists.

On immigration, Obama clearly does not have the interest of America or Americans in mind when he announced his opposition to requiring new immigrants to have skills, rather than merely being related to an existing immigrant. Obama put the interests of non-citizens above those of American citizens as well as America's future. But of course McCain has is on very thin ice in attacking anyone for being too pro-immigrant.

McCain has been openly belligerent towards Iran's nuclear program, clearly preferring war over diplomacy. But whose interest is he serving here, America's or Israel's? It's hard to tell with McCain whether he understands that the security of Israel is not coterminous with the security of the United States. During the cold war, when the USSR was successfully courting Arab nations, this might have had some truth to it. Now, it's hard to see it. Nevertheless, we give Israel enormous support in arms and intelligence. But to go to war just because Israel feels threatened is really beyond the pale - yet it's hard to see any other basis for his militaristic stance. Unfortunately, Obama gave up any high ground on this issue with his shameless pandering before AIPAC earlier this month. Mickey Kaus discusses this general topic here.

Funny, it seems as though on every issue where one of the candidates is unpatriotic, the other doesn't fair much better. It kind of makes the no-questioning-patriotism pledge seem less like a high-minded clean-campaign pact than a cease-fire agreement.

27 June 2008

Gun Rights - What's the Story?

If you found the arguments of the two sides in yesterday's gun-rights case confusing - who to believe? One side says the Second Amendment is clearly about individual rights, the other insists it is obviously only intended to protect state militias - and you are one of the 3 or 4 readers of this blog who don't come here via the iSteve blogroll - Steve Sailer provides the most straightforward and accurate analysis you'll find anywhere.

Bottom line - the notion that anyone in 1789 thought that people shouldn't be able to have guns in their homes is preposterous - that concept wasn't even on the table. The concern was that the new Federal government would try to suppress state militias by disarming the population. The whole point of the Bill of Rights of course was to restrain the Federal government. But the Constitution is now a hollow shell of its former self - it's a senseless exercise even attempting to interpret in today's world.

25 June 2008

McCain - Always on Target

A fine example of John McCain's demented approach to policy is that he supports drilling for oil off America's coasts where millions of families look forward to frolicking on the beaches for their only vacations each year while opposing it in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where maybe a few thousand people will ever visit even once in their lifetimes.

24 June 2008

Has Global Warming Stopped?

Has global warming stopped? There's been much discussion of this lately, and in particular in the context of a fairly quiet Sun that we have seen of late - sunspot activity has been limited for a relatively extended period. So what do the temperature measurements say?

There are 4 main world temperature indexes that track global temperatures - two using land and sea-based (surface) temperatures and two using satellite and balloon measures. The land based measures show higher temperatures than the satellite based measures. Astonishingly, the index maintained by global-warming alarmist James Hanson (NASA GISS) shows the highest temperatures, while that maintained by warming-skeptics Roy Spencer and John Christy (UAH-MSU) shows the lowest temperatures and flattest trend. Intermediate are the RSS-MSU satellite measures and the Hadley Centers HadCRUT surface-temperature index. Here are how the four measures trend since 1979 (based on least squares regression of monthly anomalies), when the satellite measures began:

All measures show a clear warming trend over the last 28+ years, though clearly the satellite measures show less extreme warming. So let's look at the less extreme surface temperature measure (the Hadley Center's index) to see how the temperatures look beginning in 2001:

As we can see, while the overall temperature trend is positive, there is a clear negative trend over the past 7+ years. So global warming has clearly taken a break, no?

Well, maybe not. Let's divide the temperature record into 4 evenly spaced periods of 7+ years, and see what the Hadley Center data tells us.

Well, look at that. Over the last 28 years, 3 out of 4 seven-year periods show no warming - two of them slope negative and one is flat. Out of a 28-year stretch, only one seven year period shows a positive temperature trend! Yet the overall trend is quite clearly positive. The record looks like an ever-ratcheting up temperature trend with multi-year periods of non-growth. The best guess, looking at this graph, is that we can expect another big temperature bump-up fairly soon.

Now perhaps this is really it - maybe the warming is all over. Maybe the quiet sun will send temperatures plummeting - though we have a long way to go if that's the case - temperatures are still above the mean of the last 28 years.

While few things in this world (other than my own personal enrichment) would give me more pleasure (for a number of reasons) than clear evidence that global warming doesn't exist, I fear there's little reason for such optimism. The insufferable scolds will not be going away, nor can we blissfully ignore the effects of burning fossil fuels - we'd need to see a number of more years of this kind of data before this controversy can be put to bed.

Data sources:

12 June 2008

Time to Get Out

Of Afghanistan, that is. I know, I know - that's the "good" war - the war we're supposed to be fighting, the war Obama promises to concentrate on once we pull out of Iraq.

But we are seriously overstaying our welcome. We didn't go there to kill Pakistani soldiers (however corrupt they may be) and certainly not to kill Afghani civilians. We went there to punish the Taliban for giving sanctuary to Al Qaeda - we did that. We drove them from power, and killed lots and lots of them. But this wasn't enough - we needed to re-make Afghanistan - to transform it into a fully-flowered democracy and respectable citizen in the world community. Revenge for the killing of 3,000 of our citizens wasn't enough. In the weeks leading to the invasion, we were shown videos of women being executed in soccer stadiums built with U.N. money, and reporters dressed in burkhas with secret cameras so we could see the horrors of a medieval, Islamist state. This way we wouldn't just be satisfied with dropping a few bombs, but would get behind a drawn-out effort to re-make the evil land.

The Afghan campaign actually went very well, and was very competently managed (leading us into a false sense of our powers of nation-building, unfortunately). But beyond overthrowing one government and installing a friendly one in its place, how can we imagine we could effect such change in another, very foreign land? Our purpose there is ended.

And I fear that driving this determination to continue the bloodshed there is the belief that it's the only way we can be safe. But we'll never be safe as long as we allow potential terrorists into our country to work, study, and live among us.

From Dennis Dale: The key to gaining the world's trust and respect still lies in being seen as strong, fair and worthy of emulation, and not dictating to them how they should order their societies--but above all, in not destroying their cities and killing their children.

05 June 2008

Does Red Wine Slow Aging?

Not the way I drink it.

04 June 2008

How McCain Can Win

Barack Obama is already complaining about the Republican election tactics and the campaign hasn't even begun.’s very hard for them to talk about where they want to take the country..."You know, he’s got a funny name. And we don’t know where he’s coming from. And, you know, he may be not sufficiently patriotic." I think that’s going to be the race they run.
He's got a point - McCain hasn't really managed to come up with anything that might excite voters. About all he's got going for him is that he is white and never belonged to a radical black church. But McCain doesn't seem to have the stomach for a hard fight - he'd clearly rather lose the election than risk losing his cachet with the style setters and opinion shapers. And so he is pretty much guaranteed to lose - unless he decides to take some bold positions on the campaign.

  • Iraq - this is one big loser issue for McCain. His 'No Surrender' bluster is great for winning Republican caucuses, but in the general election he'll get slaughtered. With some luck, Iraq may continue not supplying much distressing news over the summer, and things may well appear to improve as Iran manages to unite the various Shia factions into a relatively cohesive governing unit. This would give McCain an opportunity to announce, right before the convention, his intention to begin a concerted phase-out of US troops based on the need for Iraq's government to get serious about providing its own security. I'd much prefer that we simply just get the hell out and not linger at all, but this might be enough to deflect Obama's overwhelming advantage on this issue.

  • Health Care - McCain's preposterous plan to effectively phase-out employer provided group health insurance in favor of 'allowing' (i.e., requiring) individuals to shop around for the best coverage sounds like everyone's worst nightmare. A better alternative would be to proclaim the current system 'good enough'. But the quality of health insurance since Hillary's 1993 debacle has declined to the point where she now looks like a regular Cassandra. The public is fed up, and demands a change. I think Obama's plan is pretty crummy also - basically the current system with more taxes to pay for deadbeats. But the current system is lousy because it relies on private insurers whose only path to profitability is to control costs (i.e., screw the insureds and hold back on treatments). McCain should just toss out his (barely understood anyway) free-market principles (because they no longer operate in health care anyway) and join with Ted Kennedy (an old habit of his) to propose a Medicare-for-all health care solution. With just months to go before the election, there won't be enough time to really analyze it in any detail, so he can claim that administrative savings would more than make up for the increased coverage of the uninsured (as Paul Krugman already has). There's lots of reason to fear such a system, but we're going to have some crappy system in place anyway, and Canadians and Europeans do just fine (albeit with a different demographic). This would also neutralize an important Obama policy advantage.

  • Immigration - As bad as McCain is on immigration, Obama is even worse. He needs to continue to emphasize border-security first, moving to a point system for legal immigrants and away from a family-reunification system, and Obama's harsh and reckless language against those who are concerned about uncontrolled immigration.

  • Taxes and Trade - Americans are beginning to get the idea that big tax cuts and free trade aren't exactly windfalls for the working class and don't seem to do much to make America stronger, either. Here McCain would appear to be hopelessly out of touch with his support for more corporate tax cuts and his oblivious devotion to free trade. Fortunately for him, though, Obama isn't exactly William McKinley himself on trade issues. Perhaps McCain can 'see the light' over the next few months, predicated on visits with constituents on one of his free-publicity tours where he meets with disgruntled ex-manufacturing employees in various dive bars. Americans are willing to go along with corporate tax breaks if they believe they will be aligned with job creation, so perhaps some clever wonk can come up with a policy that would use tax breaks to encourage more manufacturing and increased domestic employment in good jobs. He should maybe pare back some tax cuts on the wealthy (drawing that line could be tricky, but few would argue with setting it somewhere around $250k.

  • Broaching the Taboo - McCain may not want to exploit the Reverend Wright opening, but he can still accomplish the same thing by proposing roll-backs in racial preferences, and in particular Obama's disingenuous suggestion that his own daughters perhaps shouldn't benefit from it (he'd have to repeal the Civil Rights act to accomplish that). McCain can easily take it one step further - why should anyone's sons or daughters benefit from preferences based solely on the color of their skin (well, more precisely one's continental ancestry, but no need to make too fine a point of it)? McCain should insist that merit alone should decide. That's a winner issue - especially among the swing voters he'll need to capture. Again, there's little McCain can actually do about it, but it's worth bringing it up for it's collateral benefits.

  • Judges, Judges, Judges - McCain's already on this one, and he needs to continue it. Americans still fear liberal judges, and it's easy to blame them for the terrible crime of the sixties, seventies and eighties while giving conservative judges credit for rolling it back. He should harp on this one endlessly - and let Obama babble on about how the ideal Supreme Court judge is one who can empathize with teenage mothers.

So it's doable, but McCain will have to be willing to redefine his message pretty dramatically, come up with plausible story lines explaining these shifts, and hammer home the key differences. Of course he won't do this, and he won't get rough on Obama's one obvious vulnerability, so he's no doubt in for a pretty harsh thumping come November. And I'm ok with that, since I think we need to repair our foreign policy ASAP, and while Obama strikes me as a bit naive with the whole "I'll meet with..." approach, McCain is downright delusional about American power.