Your Lying Eyes

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

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29 August 2008

Trouble Ahead for Obama?

Once the glow of the coronation fades sometime next week, there's a bit of reality that will soon confront Obama and he will not be able to squirm his way out of it. I'm talking about the revelations about Obama's close working relationship with far-left former terrorist Bill Ayers. National Review's Stanley Kurtz and other reporters have been investigating it, and the Obama camp has been playing Bolshevik-style hardball in trying to suppress the story. It won't work. Obama needs to confront the reality head on and defuse it before it gains Swiftboat-like momentum. (A Chicago radio appearance can be heard here).

The reality is, as Steve Sailer has repeatedly pointed out (here's his latest - the Chicago Way), is that Obama was involved with very far-left, anti-American groups during his days as a community organizer - people with the types of ideologies that horrify the typical undecided American voter. (The very job of "community organizer" is no doubt anathema to the average American. What this job entails is getting a bunch of people in the ghetto to protest some local business, institution or program until such enterprise agrees to toss some money the organizer's way - essentially, it's a bureaucratic shakedown artist.)

My own guess is that Obama is not particularly ideological but is single-mindedly interested in the wonderfulness that is Barack Obama. He's probably just as comfortable with Bill Ayers and Rev. Wright as he is with William Perry and Ben Bernanke. These are all people who can help him achieve his goals - whether it's achieving name recognition in Chicago or respectability in the black community or formulating foreign policy or managing the economy - who cares about what the ideas are - it's how the ideas make you look good at the time.

So here's how Obama should deal with this gathering storm:
I came to Chicago because I saw an opportunity to do something with my life other than making money on Wall Street. I wanted to help change things, to do something about [insert Obama-esque blah-blah-blah here]. But I couldn't do it on my own, and there were many others who had their own ideas, people who were there before me. Some of these people had some pretty far-out ideas, and were pretty way out there politically.

But if I wanted to accomplish anything, I had to work with these people. I wasn't much interested in their radical notions or their left-wing ideology - I was interested in helping single mothers find work, to...[insert more standard sob stories here]. No, I don't embrace the anti-American sentiments I found then - I reject them and all they represent. But I also reject the notion that we can accomplish great things without working with others, others with whom we may not always agree, others whose ideas we may at times find objectionable. We've had 8 years of those failed policies [insert tiresome litany of Bush failures here].
It's probably mostly bullshit, but it's a lot better than acting like the second-coming of Goebbels.

The Speech

For awhile there, I thought Barack might screw up big time - with all the huge buildup of expectations, he was doing little more than presenting a litany of standard Democrat whines (followed shortly with an attack on Phil Gramm's "nation of whiners" faux-pas - I wondered if anyone else heard the irony in that). He seemed to be stumbling a bit reading the text and on the verge of almost breaking down at some points as he struggled with the words. But then he got past the sob-story section and lit into the loss of American jobs overseas and the erosion of our manufacturing base with a powerful call for reversing that trend, and the speech started to turn around.

There were a few standard Democrat horror-shows, like "equal pay for equal work" and mandatory sick leave for waitresses, like small-businesses need anymore administrative overhead and government audits of their operations. And of course the education nonsense - how in God's name does anyone think it's possible to make college more affordable while having more students attend college? It's like saying we're going to make gasoline more affordable, then call for a doubling of the number of miles we drive. We can make college more affordable, but that would require us to admit that college is often a complete waste of money - but no politician will ever admit that.

Speaking of energy, here was a good example of Obama doing the Clinton triangulation thing. He didn't say we shouldn't drill for more oil, just that that's a "short-term" fix. He included nuclear energy among his alternative energy sources, and painted the issue in terms of a vast business opportunity for America. Very centrist.

I was most disappointed when he discussed foreign policy. This is where change is most needed, but his approach is very timid. Essentially, he's promoting a Bush-lite approach: a "responsible" exit from Iraq, more hawkish on Afghanistan, but otherwise business as usual, except that he'll be nicer about it.
I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression.
So now we have both nominees being very confrontational with Russia. I would classify McCain's foreign policy as insane. Obama's may not be certifiable, but it sounds awfully wrong-headed. The last thing this country needs is a protracted power struggle with Russia. Hopefully, Obama is just trying to deflect some nasty attacks and fears being labeled weak and naive. It appears some of his advisers have much more sensible views on the subject. But I didn't find it very reassuring.

His peroration was truly thrilling. Pat Buchanan, the only adult voice on MSNBC and a professional speech writer himself, was overwhelmed. (Here's video of Buchanan's reaction.) He has a gift for oratory - a great ear for the cadence and words that can inspire. I'm guessing that policy-wise he's still learning. He's not really sure where he wants to go. Events will probably dictate his presidency, and I feel confident that his intelligence and ambition (to be great) will lead him away from doing stupid things and will keep him attentive to the day-to-day job of managing the executive branch - a part of the job that's been neglected the last 8 years.

27 August 2008

Hillary's Farewell?

Kudos to Hillary Clinton for doing her best to support Barack Obama by assuring us all that we are so thankful that she is not the nominee. At least that was my takeaway. The thought of having to hear non-stop sob-tales about single-moms and homages to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits - not to mention watching her lugubriously whining followers who for reasons unknowable are certain she is the demonstrably superior candidate - not to mention that awful singsongy yet grating delivery of hers - for the rest of the campaign and god forbid 4 more years is beyond my tolerance. After last night's speech, all I can say is Bless You, Barack, bless you. Of course, we haven't heard from Barack himself yet - but I'm confident the wretch factor will be much lower.

19 August 2008

Lower the Drinking Age

There's a movement among several big-name college presidents to push for lowering the legal drinking age to 18. Their argument is that the current limit leads to binge drinking because it pushes drinking into the shadows. They argue that drinking is happening regardless of the law, but the illegality of it makes it impossible to take steps to encourage more responsible drinking.

My own instinct is to support this effort, as I tend to oppose the use of the criminal justice system to intervene in normal human behavior (such as drinking), and I like to drink (and so feel a sense of brotherhood with my much younger fellow drinkers). But what about the central argument about the most effective way to combat young-adult drinking problems? Here's a list of studies on young-adult/teen drinking. There doesn't seem to be much there for to support these college presidents. One study in particular I found interesting: COLLEGE STUDENT BINGE DRINKING AND THE "PREVENTION PARADOX".

This study found that the amount of social harm caused by binge drinkers is minor because such behavior is actually quite rare. Instead, the greater harm comes from the more moderate drinkers, because these are so numerous. The study argues that steps to reduce drinking among those not identifiable as problem drinkers would pay bigger dividends to society. This study, I'm afraid, suggests that the college presidents and I are all wet on this issue.

But one important aspect of the 21-year-old drinking age is that it leads to zero-tolerance for driving and drinking among those under 21. Any measurable alcohol at all will lead to big trouble for the under-21 driver. So even if the drinking age is lowered, we should retain this zero-tolerance approach for those under-21.

18 August 2008


Should Russia actually end up honoring the cease-fire agreement arranged over the weekend, we can say she acted with restraint. Restraint sounds like some very noble quality, but it is anything but. Rather, it goes along with a keen sense of self-limitations and an acute devotion to self-interest. One who practices restraint is conscious of the consequences of certain actions and realistic about being able to handle them. On the other hand, failure to show restraint indicates that one is pursuing a higher - or at least different - goal than pure self-interest and is willing to take a real risk in this pursuit.

Take for example the guy just convicted in New Jersey of murder who stabbed his sister's boyfriend after the girl complained of abuse. He did not show restraint - and he certainly wasn't acting in his own self-interest nor did he carefully consider the consequences when he stormed over to the other fellow's apartment with a knife in his hand. Had he been more concerned about his own well being, he'd have told his sister to either take her lumps or find a new boyfriend. But he didn't and is now facing at least a couple decades behind bars.

What this reckless young man did is known as altruistic punishment, and is a bit of an evolutionary puzzle - why do people behave in ways that are against their self interest? In this case, the killer was defending his sister, who shares half his DNA, and so there's a greater motive than there would be with more distant relatives or just neighbors. But why would nations engage in this behavior? Whatever logic led the U.S. to bomb Serbs in Kosovo, self-interest was surely not paramount in the equation.

So by crediting Putin/Russia with restraint, I'm hardly slabbering them with praise. But it is an indication of self-interest at work, and this is a very important thing to know about a country. When you can be sure a country is merely acting in its self-interest, you've got something to work with and a basis for negotiation and diplomacy. One of the scary things about the old Soviet Union was that it appeared to have some very big goals in mind besides what was best for Mother Russia, such as International Socialism. It often over-reached internationally and in its devotion to socialism at home starved and enslaved its own people. We pretty much had to take it at its word that it sought world domination, and thus the Cold War.

But the Soviet Union is long gone. Russia no longer shows any interest in fomenting revolution abroad and imposing totalitarian rule on its neighbors. It does not threaten the United States or Western Europe or even the non-Soviet Iron-Curtain nations of Eastern Europe. It would clearly like to have less hostile countries on its immediate border. Imagine Chavez's Venezuela bordering the U.S. - I don't think we'd put up with that, quite frankly (as, for example, with Cuba). Yet both Ukraine and Georgia are openly hostile and pro-American, yet both remain independent. This is hardly the behavior of a reckless, dangerous, rogue state.

In its actions in Georgia, Russia is clearly making a statement about Western influence on its borders, and appears willing to back off provided this message is heard and respected. Thus the restraint. Putin doesn't want trouble with Europe or America, but he's not willing to be boxed in by an expansionist NATO, either. It is critical that the U.S. not escalate tensions with continued talk of NATO membership and anti-missile installations*. We have nothing to gain from an antagonistic relationship with Russia, and very little to gain from friendly relations with her neighbors. Self-interest and self-assessment suggest one thing is required on our part: restraint.

* Back in the Cold War, the weenie left used to talk this way all the time about the Soviet Union. But their assessment of the Soviets was naive. The Soviets were not all about narrow self interest - they were a powerful nation bent on world domination. The Soviets supported Marxist insurgencies all over the globe. The best evidence for this is the impotence of these supposed "indigenous movements" since the Soviet breakup. Also, not only did the U.S.S.R. control puppet governments in Eastern Europe, but ruthlessly enforced totalitarian socialist rule in these lands as well. We had much to fear in those days, and only through our persistence and dedication to this struggle were we able to prevail. Failing to appreciate our victory by continuing to behave like the Soviet threat still prevails is as delusional as the claims on the left that the Soviet threat was an illusion.

16 August 2008

I'm Back

I'm trying to get back in the swing of things. I just got back from a two-week vacation. Prior to that I had some domestic issues (domicile-type problems rather than marital-relationship - though the former is never too easy on the latter, either). For those actually interested in what I have to say, I will try harder to be a more diligent blogger.