Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Libertarians for higher taxes

One of the reasons that Libertarianism drives me nuts is the Libertarian tendency to act as a Liberal "fifth column" undermining the Conservative movement. In this article, the Libertarian journal "Reason" actively encourages these suspicions by arguing against proposals for a summer gas tax holiday, here citing Liberal economist Dean Baker:
Actually, almost all economists would agree that the tax cut proposed by Senators Clinton and McCain would save consumers nothing. With the supply of gas largely fixed by the capacity of the oil industry (they claim to be running their refineries at full capacity), the price will not change in response to the elimination of the tax. The only difference will be that money that used to go to the government in tax revenues will instead go to the oil industry as higher profits.
Here we have the argument that Libertarians should oppose a gasoline tax cut on the grounds that it will put money in the pockets of the people who actually went to the trouble of investing the time, capital, and labor to produce the gasoline in the first place! If this makes you suspect that the Libertarian movement has been abducted en masse and replaced by shape-shifting alien skrulls, then you're not alone.

The comment board at "Reason" even raised this exact point, which the article actually goes to the trouble of rebutting:
Clinton and McCain aren't challenging the existence of the tax: They are implicitly saying it's a good tax that we should all relish paying in the non-summer months. Clinton is doing this and arguing that higher taxes on energy companies should be part of the bargain. It's phony populism in the service of a "tax cut" that would fund one meal for two at Applebees, which may or may not include dessert.
If you read between the lines, you can almost sense an elitist disdain for the bitter, economically frustrated people clinging to their tax cuts.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright for president!

One aspect of character that people look for in a president is "tough-mindedness". The ideal president needs the intelligence and flexibility to change and adapt to events, certainly, but he also needs the mental fortitude to formulate a long term plan and see it through to completion.

Republican presidential nominee presumptive John McCain has tough-mindedness to the point where the man's name is virtually synonymous with this trait. Hillary Clinton has tough-mindedness, insofar as she has been widely accused of dragging the Democratic Party into a Götterdämmerung for ambition's sake. Whatever else you might think about the controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright, you have to admit that he is tough-minded as well:
In a defiant appearance before the Washington media, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright said Monday that criticism surrounding his fiery sermons is an attack on the black church and he rejected those who have labeled him unpatriotic.
So how does Barrack Obama fit into the scheme of things, according to the Reverend:
Wright seemed to relish the chance to speak out after weeks of being derided in the press. He reveled in his retorts, high-fiving an audience member, pointing and winking at his supporters and mocking descriptions of him as Obama's spiritual mentor.

"I'm a pastor, he's a member. I'm not a spiritual mentor. Voodoo," he said, leaning into the microphone and wiggling his fingers in the air like he was conducting a seance.

Wright has been Obama's pastor for more than 20 years. Wright brought Obama to Christianity, inspired the title of his book "The Audacity of Hope," officiated at his wedding and baptized his daughters. Wright also told reporters Monday that he prayed privately with the family right before Obama announced he was running for president, although he didn't appear with them publicly.
The Reverend Wright is the outspoken titan of his community while Barack Obama is, basically, "this guy" who started showing up at the great Reverend Wright's sermons one day. Of course, they're both equally liberal, so you probably won't see much difference between them policy wise. When it comes to negotiating with foreign leaders and restoring America's place in the world, however, the Reverend Wright brings a rhetorical firepower to the table that Barack "Flinchy" Obama just can't match.

Consider, for example, the situation between Colombia and Venezuela. If Barack Obama is president when Hugo Chávez sends troops over the Colombian border, then you can pretty much say hello to the new People's Republic of Colombia. On the other hand, I think poor Hugo might rather suffer the indignity of a democratic Colombia on his border rather than risk receiving a tongue-lashing from a President Wright.

Even Andrew Sullivan (otherwise known as "Mister Barack Obama Supporter") is conceeding that Reverend Wright has almost destroyed the Obama campaign (embedded hyperlink removed):
Obama needs not just to distance himself from Wright's views; he needs to disown him at this point. Wright himself, it seems to me, has become part of what Obama is fighting against: the boomer, Vietnam era's obsession with its red-blue, white-black, pro and anti-America fixations. That is not what this election needs to be about; and Wright's massive, racially divisive and, yes, bitter provocation requires a proportionate response.

We need a speech or statement from Obama in which he utterly repudiates this poison, however personally difficult that may be, however damaging the impact will be. The statement today will not do it. This is no longer about cynics trying to associate one man's politics with another. It is now about Wright attempting to associate himself and some of his noxious, stupid, rancid views with the likely Democratic nominee. Wright has given Obama no choice - and he has also given him another opportunity. He needs to seize it.
Let's face it, when even Andrew Sullivan is conceeding that Reverend Wright has driven Barack Obama into a near-total disintegration of his public persona, we have a conclusive case against the Obama candidacy.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The top 10 worst elements in the original Star Wars trilogy

The challenge was offered in the comments to the previous post and accepted. It took a major internet groupthink to come up with ten items, but we finally did it. In no particular order, we have:

  • 10. Chewbacca's Tarzan yell in "Return of the Jedi"
    Keep in mind that Lucas was convinced that "Howard the Duck" was an obvious green light at about the time that the Tarzan yell escaped out of the blooper reel.

  • 9. Yodasprach
    Yoda had to have a non-english speaking pattern because a little green man was not alien enough for Lucas. Yoda also had to speak a form of language meaningful to Lucas' tiny-tyke fan base. Thus, we end up with a language pattern that sounds just like German being translated word-for-word into English, only different.

  • 8. Darth Vader's penis-shaped helmet
    This is self-explanatory.

  • 7. Ewoks
    The Ewoks were ruthless, aboreal, carniverous little bastards who also made ideal companions for even the tiniest of children.

  • 6. Jabba the Hutt
    Jabba the Hutt was actually an interesting, "gritty", somewhat true-to-life mobster type. He sends teams of hit squads around the universe to take out his enemies. He feeds his enemies to the great and mighty Sarlacc so they can suffer for millenia as they are slowly digested. He keeps slave girls in chainmail bikinis chained up with slave collars. In other words, if Jabba had been a human being, he would have been the most seriously bad-ass gangster boss in the history of film.

    Obviously Lucas was therefore compelled to screw this up by making Jabba a giant slug. Remember kids: Lucas says, "Don't be evil."

  • 5. Luke's vision of the future
    Important tip: if you ever have a vision that involves you chopping your friends and family into little bits with a lightsabre before turning yourself into an evil, Dark-side, Force-puppet, it is just the Dark side of the Force f*****g with you.

  • 4. C3PO and R2D2 play space-chess with a wookie.
    Chewbacca is cute, cuddly, warm, tender, and rips off arms just for the fun of it. Remember, "Star Wars" is a children's movie.

  • 3. The small thermal exhaust port on the original Death Star
    The Death Star has a central reactor capable of reaching a temperature of 1 million degrees. Unfortunately, the small moon containing the reactor has a melting point of 999,999 degrees. Thus they had to put a one thousand mile-long, perfectly straight shaft from the outer surface directly into the reactor core in order to vent a few kilojoules of waste heat, or the whole Death Star immediately explodes. It's all perfectly logical.

  • 2. Yoda and Obi Wan push Luke to kill Vader.
    Somone pointed this out to me, and in hindsight it makes perfect sense. This is, after all, what Luke's vision in the cave of Degobah was warning him not to do.

    To Lucas' credit, there is a suspicious connection to the new prequel trilogy here. In "The Empire Strikes Back", Luke gets instructed by Obi-Wan Kenobi's ghost to go to Degobah to complete his training. Except that nobody in the Rebel Alliance had ever heard of Degobah (they had never heard of Ewoks either, by the way). Of course, we know from "Revenge of the Sith" that if a planet isn't listed in the archives, then it must not exist. Except Debogah does exist. We also know from "Revenge of the Sith" that only a master Jedi has the ability to erase an entry from the archives without setting off a warning, and Yoda, of all people, seems to be happily persisting on Degobah without any trouble when Luke arrives there. It does therefore seem suspiciously likely that Yoda might have been planning his Degobah back-up plan much sooner than we had been led to believe.

  • 1. The death of Boba Fett
    You can tell that 5-year-olds hate Boba Fett because Lucas killed him off in the most humiliating and stupid possible way: having a near-blind Han Solo pull a "Forrest Gump" and rocket Boba Fett into a wall like a crash test dummy before dropping him into the almighty Sarlacc.

    Again, to Lucas' credit, there is a connection to the prequel trilogy here as well. As we know from "Attack of the Clones", Boba Fett's father was cloned by the millions in order to populate a clone army. So it is highy ironic that Boba Fett is killed by a method that will involve him suffering for many, many times longer than a single human lifetime.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The top 10 worst elements in the Star Wars prequels

I was doing some spring cleaning today and decided to clear out some old items in the idea bin. Without further ado, 10 things from the Star Wars prequels that should never have been.

  • 10. Count Dooku's acrobatic flip in "Revenge of the Sith"
    In one of the early battle scenes of the film, Jedi knights Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are trying to rescue Chancellor Palpatine from captivity on a starship as a prisoner of Count Dooku and General Grievous. Obi Wan and Anakin finally discover Palpatine tied to a chair at the far end of the ship's observation deck; at this moment, Count Dooku emerges at the top of a staircase to confront the two Jedi.

    This gives George Lucas two options. He could offer some respect to an 83-year-old actor playing an aristocratic character and allow Count Dooku to walk down the stairs, or he could add in a cheesy special effect to beat us over the head with the fact that, yes, Count Dooku has Jedi powers. The end result is simply one of the worst CGI effects ever: Count Dooku doing a front flip off of the stairway landing.

  • 9. Elan Sleazebaggano
    Wanna buy some deathsticks?

  • 8. Queen Amidala gets demoted. Jar Jar Binks gets promoted.
    This post could really just have been 10 things that I hate about Jar Jar Binks given how completely Jar Jar symbolizes George Lucas' brain-damaged directing style. In the interest of differentiating this post from an anti-Jar Jar rant, I'll restrict attention to a single Jar Jar screw up.

    In "The Phantom Menace", Amidala is Queen and Jar Jar Binks is getting his head stuck in active power couplings. In "Attack of the Clones", Amidala gets demoted to Galactic Senator while Jar Jar Binks is promoted to Representative. Later in the film, Jar Jar gets to replace Amidala as Senator when she gets shipped back to Naboo. Despite the massive amounts of mind-numbing stupidity required for anyone to appoint Jar Jar Binks, of all beings, to a position of responsibility, Jar Jar Binks does something even more stupid -- something that will make his name a galactic house-hold word synonymous with stupidity for all time.

    In Lucas's defense, it could be argued that Jar Jar's moronic Senatorial behavior was intentionally inserted into "Attack of the Clones" in order to destroy this character beyond the possibility of redemption.

  • 7. Anakin Skywalker built C3PO
    By all rights, Darth Vader should have converted Luke Skywalker to the Dark side of the force, crushed the Rebellion, and gone on to rule the universe with his son at his side. That he utterly failed to do these things is due to a single, highly ironic fact: building a protocol droid and teaching it how to speak "Chub-Chub" in case it ever got shipwrecked on Endor seemed like a great idea when Vader was 5-years-old.

    Yes, that's right. The tragedy of Vader was that, if he had never created his child-like android pal back in his overly cutesy, pod-racing childhood, the Rebel commandos would have been barbecued by Ewoks long before reaching the Endor force field generator.

  • 6. Dex
    A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there was a diner just like the ones we have on Earth. The diner was staffed by wise-ass waitresses just like the waitresses in some real diners. The head cook was a big, hulking alien who looked like he had served in the Navy, just like some of the real head cooks here on Earth. Just like our Earth conspiracy theorists, our alien short order cook knew everything there was to know about the secret alien planet that nobody else ever heard of - and it was all totally real! What a amazing happenstance!

  • 5. Anakin rides the giant ass monster of Naboo.
    He only did it to impress his girlfriend (6:19 into the clip).

  • 4. The Death of Mace Windu
    Actor Samuel L. Jackson swore a blood oath to Star Wars fans that his character, Mace Windu, would go down fighting when he dies.

    If this made you suspect that Mace Windu was going to suffer the kind of undignified bodily harm typically reserved for comedic duo "Tom & Jerry", you were right (2:23 into the clip). In Lucas' defense, in this scene he does successfully resist the temptation to give Mace Windu the "Wilhelm Scream" when he gets nailed by Force-lightning.

  • 3. Midi-chlorians
    Supposedly these were some kind of microscopic life form that inhabited living cells, thus allowing their host organisms to access the Force. Even though this idea is a massive retcon of the entire "Star Wars" universe, for the sake of argument lets accept this for now. We are thus left three facts, any two of which logically negate the third:

    A. A being with a high midi-chlorian count is invariably a potentially powerful Force user, and vice versa.
    B. The Jedi test anyone and everyone looking for high midi-chlorian counts.
    C. The Jedi can't figure out that Chancellor Palpatine is a powerful Sith Lord.

  • 2. The virigin birth of Anakin
    In the original "Star Wars" trilogy, the Force was a mystical energy field while Darth Vader had an ordinary, rational, bilogical origin. This was and is a wildly popular concept of the films. In the new prequel trilogy, the Force has an ordinary, rational biological origin while Darth Vader has the mythological conception. This was and is b******t.

  • 1. Anakin's Oedipus Complex
    In Lucas' mind, the "Star Wars" movies are childrens movies about a little boy who was born with an evil destiny to become one of the galaxy's most psychopathic genocidal maniacs. Except that to say that Anakin was born evil would actually imply that something like good and evil could objectively exist in a universe governed by midi-chorians. Lucas was therefore forced to rationalize away Darth Vader's madness, and, in typical Lucas fashion, he decided to explain away evil in a way that his tiny-tyke fan base wouldn't have much trouble wrapping their minds around. In other words, Anakin went bad because those mean Jedi took him away from his mommie!

    The decision to give Anakin an Oedipal complex ultimately has a decisive and highly negative effect on the rest of the films. Take "The Phantom Menace" as an example. Here Anakin needs a virgin birth because having Skywalker senior in the films would screw up the highly reductionist child psychology that Lucas needs to turn Anakin into Darth Vader. Thus, we have the conveniently sperm-sized midi-chlorians entering the storyline. Lucas also needs Anakin to bond with Padme Amidala in order for her to become his mother surrogate. Thus, making Anakin a child genius, super-reflexes pod-racer at age 5 gives him plenty of away-time from both his mother and his day job as a menial slave laborer. Except that the Jedi are supposed to be guardians of law and order, which means that they have rules that prevent people with potentially deep-seated neuroses from getting highly dangerous Jedi commando training. Thus, we have the ancient Jedi prophecies of the Chosen One to muddy up the waters and give the other Jedi an incentive to depart from their moral principles when dealing with Anakin.

    The cumulative effect of all of these events is to make roughly two-thirds of "The Phantom Menace" the saga of a singularly improbable happenstance.

    Saturday, April 19, 2008

    An entirely disposable proposal

    One of the favorite observations of many Right-wing pundits is that the Vietnam protest era coincided with the Vietnam draft era, so that the major protests began to disappear around the time that Nixon began the transition to an all-volunteer military. This leads some Right-wing pundits to the further idea that the failure in Vietnam was caused by the birthing of a generation of selfish, shallow, cowardly weaklings who just couldn't be bothered to discontinue their self-gratification in order to serve their country.

    In other words, these pundits view nerds as the most serious civilian-military problem in our civilization.

    Here we have an instructive proposal for a reinstituted draft, in this case consisting of a universal social draft into a national "Work Corps" which would also be used as a pool of recruits for a volunteer combat military. The main purpose of a social draft will be to eliminate nerddom:
    First off, it will get whiny American kids out of the house and introduce them to honest, sweat-of-the-brow work. For the benefit of their nation.

    Drafted youth who don’t choose the military option will be assigned to Work Corps units dotted across the country, and as far as possible from wherever they are from, with a good geographic, social, and multicultural mix. The units will be sited on military bases or other federal land, convenient for busing to job sites but remote from temptations.

    To help the Work Corps draftees bond and give them a running start on cooperation and work skills, their first task will be to build their own low-carbon-footprint plywood barracks. They’ll be heated by “green” woodstoves which will require details to chop and haul sustainable firewood, ultimately from forests planted by earlier Work Corps generations. They’ll have “green” composting outhouses, and also haul their own water, to encourage husbanding of water resources.

    If they are ingenious enough to build functioning windmills out of packing crates and baling wire, then they get electricity. They may also have one pay phone per barracks, and free paper and mailing privileges, to encourage contact with family. It might be worth considering movies, projected onto outdoor screens, as a weekly reward for high-performing groups. But Internet, TV, video games, all verboten.

    Monday, April 14, 2008

    He was the best of politicians. He was the worst of politicians.

    Al Gore will be known throughout history for several of his achievements. He was one of the few mainstream Democratic politicians to be for the first Gulf War but against the second Gulf War instead of the other way around. He was elected to the United States vice-presidency and very nearly became one of the few vice-presidents to succeed to the presidency. He also accomplished the unthinkable dream of centuries -- becoming the very first president of the world-- through his personal charisma and leadership of the environmental movement.

    He is also partly responsible for one of the greatest f**k-ups in the history of mankind:
    The EU Commission on Monday rejected claims that producing biofuels is a "crime against humanity" that threatens food supplies, and vowed to stick to its goals as part of a climate change package.

    "There is no question for now of suspending the target fixed for biofuels," said Barbara Helfferich, spokeswoman for EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.
    "You can't change a political objective without risking a debate on all the other objectives," which could see the EU landmark climate change and energy package disintegrate, an EU official said.
    Even liberals are acknowledging that the global environmental movement has exacerbated a global food crisis:
    The subsidized conversion of crops into fuel was supposed to promote energy independence and help limit global warming. But this promise was, as Time magazine bluntly put it, a “scam.”

    This is especially true of corn ethanol: even on optimistic estimates, producing a gallon of ethanol from corn uses most of the energy the gallon contains. But it turns out that even seemingly “good” biofuel policies, like Brazil’s use of ethanol from sugar cane, accelerate the pace of climate change by promoting deforestation.

    And meanwhile, land used to grow biofuel feedstock is land not available to grow food, so subsidies to biofuels are a major factor in the food crisis. You might put it this way: people are starving in Africa so that American politicians can court votes in farm states.
    The wealthy, enlightened, environmental elite are watching a global food panic develop right before their eyes, yet their only recourse is spending a few hundred more megadollars on the illusion of power along with a firm pronouncement of "Let them eat cake."

    The key blunder here is, of course, perfectly obvious. The environmental movement assumed that it could benevolently govern all of human civilization through a standing public relations campaign. Inevitably, it failed. Inevitably, it will continue to fail unless revolutionary change is brought to it.

    Friday, April 11, 2008

    Vox Day and the Euthyphro dilemma revisited

    The Euthyphro dilemma is based upon a line in Plato's dialogue "Euthyphro" in which Socrates asks, "Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?" The dilemma for that the theist is that he seemingly must choose one of these two options (asserting both simultaneously is a circular definition of piety), and that each of the options is associated with philosophical pain for him.

    Note that the choice is clear for the atheist: something is pious (or in modern terminology, moral or good) because it is choosen to be pious. That is to say that that morality is necessarily a personally contingent classification of actions, not a real property of actions. Obviously there are still questions of free will versus determinism associated with a "personally contingent classification", but these go beyond the scope of the discussion here.

    The theist, on the other hand, is free to choose his position. In "The Irrational Atheist", page 281, Vox Day makes his choice as follows (author's overcapitalization and italics):
    In this context, the Bible is clear on OBEDIENCE being God’s priority, not piety, as there are several examples of pious sacrifices to God being rejected due to their being rooted in disobedience one way or another, beginning with the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis. And Jesus Christ’s low opinion of the pious Pharisees is proverbial.

    From the Christian perspective, the question “Is obedience loved by God because it is obedience, or is it obedient because it is loved by God?” only poses a problem for omniderigistes [those who believe in an all-acting God] who reject free will and believe that God is directly controlling those who exhibit the behavior He loves. (As well, one is forced to assume, of those who behave in a manner He does not love.) So, unless one subscribes to the notion of an omniderigent god, there is no contradiction whatsoever involved in positing a god who holds obedience dear, who loves that which conforms voluntarily to His will.
    Vox has made it clear (in a recent response to a reader) that this is not merely redefining piety as obedience:
    You're skipping over the extremely relevant section wherein I distinguish between refuting the Euthyphro dilemma on its own terms and refuting its mistaken application to Christian morality because the definition of that morality precludes the second horn of the dilemma. Ergo, no tautology and no dilemma. One cannot simply change Socrates's definitions and claim to be attacking the dilemma on its own terms, while one cannot apply the dilemma to a specific morality without changing those definitions accordingly.
    The first negative consequence is the admission that any resemblance between God's will and any human understanding of morality is a happy coincidence. As Vox puts it ("The Irrational Atheiest", p.282):
    If it were Moloch who were the Creator God, then no doubt child-killing would be considered a virtue;...
    The second negative consequence is that defining the task of the Christian as being voluntary obedience to God's will does nothing to distinguish God from non-divine beings such as ourselves. The act of willing a course of action for others to voluntarily adopt is perfectly within the capabilities of limited beings such as ourselves.

    Observe, however, that Vox's position does not necessarily disprove the existence of God. Instead, it simply conceeds that Christian morality, on its own, cannot be distinguished in origin from atheist morality.

    Barack Obama is a hard-core leftist.

    Here's what Barack Obama had to say about small-town Pennsylvania recently (emphasis in original):
    You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

    And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
    This actually makes perfect sense from a socialist point of view: "the people" are inherently good, and therefore social pathologies are really caused by the machinations of oligarchs, "social wreckers", "economic royalists", conservative saboteurs of government programs, right-wing talk show hosts, etc.

    Wednesday, April 09, 2008

    The Olympics protests have finally jumped the shark.

    ABC news has finally issued the one, definitive fact that proves that the Olympics protesters are full of baloney. That's right, the Olympic torch contributes to global warming:
    Angry protesters, riot police, mass demonstrations, arrests for disorderly conduct -- it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for the Olympic-torch relay. If people are looking for another reason to be pissed at China, how about this: By the time this pyro parade is over, it will have produced about 11 million pounds of carbon emissions.
    Instead of demonstrating the moral superiority of the West, the Olympics protesters have instead demonstrated that the West engages in mob action just like Serbia:
    Some 3,000 attended the funeral for Vujovic, whose charred corpse was found in a part of the [U.S] embassy set on fire during Thursday's protest. Hundreds were injured or arrested during the protest. The embassy said its security staff never came into contact with Vujovic, and that his death was a tragedy resulting from the fire.
    For that matter, just like China as well:
    Thousands of students marched across town and besieged the Japanese embassy and ambassador's residence in Beijing, pelting them with stones and “breaking many windows and causing other damage”, the embassy said.

    The demonstrators, who organised the protest through e-mail, internet postings and mobile phone text messages, also attacked Japanese restaurants, signs and billboards advertising Japanese companies, and Japanese-made cars, it said.

    Tuesday, April 08, 2008

    The Democratic Party's Menshevik/Bolshevik split continues

    Jonathan Chait sums up the current Bolshevik position at "The New Republic" (author's emphasis):
    Almost nobody contends that Clinton has a chance to overcome Obama's lead in pledged delegates. The spin now is that Obama's delegate lead is "small but almost insurmountable" (USA Today) and that, since neither can clinch the nomination with pledged delegates alone, "the nomination is expected to be in the superdelegates' hands" (Los Angeles Times). These beliefs reflect the mathematical illiteracy that has allowed the press corps to be routinely duped by economic flim-flammery. A lead that's insurmountable is, by definition, not small. The very primary rules that make it impossible for Clinton to catch up--proportionate distribution of delegates that award tiny net sums to the winner--are exactly what made Obama's lead so impressive.

    The notion that the superdelegates will decide the race implies that pledged delegates won't matter--like a sports event that goes to overtime. Obviously, though, the pledged-delegate count determines how many superdelegates each candidate needs. Depending on how the remaining primaries go, Clinton will need about two-thirds of the uncommitted ones to break her way. Problem is, over the last month, superdelegates have broken to Obama by 78 percent to 22 percent.

    And the supers who haven't endorsed are even less likely to side with Clinton. Numerous reports on uncommitted superdelegates have made clear that they have remained on the sideline out of an exquisite fear of stepping on the results of the voters. As my colleague Noam Scheiber reported, "Just about every superdelegate and party operative I spoke with endorsed Nancy Pelosi's recent suggestion that pledged delegates should matter most" ("Slouching Toward Denver," April 9).
    What recipe does Chait offer for solving the party's factional split? He makes a veiled suggestion of a Bolshevik party coup:
    Last week, Senator Pat Leahy suggested that Hillary Clinton ought to quit the presidential race. How insensitive! How boorish! Pundits gasped, Clinton took umbrage, and even Barack Obama was forced to concede that Clinton has the right to run for as long as she desires.

    The persistent weakness of American liberalism is its fixation with rights and procedures at any cost to efficiency and common sense. Democrats' reluctance to push Clinton out of the race is the perfect expression of that delicate sensibility.
    In reality, the problem is not an overly punctilious observation of the rules of the election or the rights of the contestants, but a nearly complete disregard for them.

    Consider how the Democratic Party's nomination contest is supposed to work. First, all of the viable candidates are expected to raise several megadollars of funds as well as spending weeks worth of face time to contend the Iowa caucuses. Some candidates will strain every fundraising sinew and practically relocate to Iowa in their effort to win. Second, the Iowa caucuses take place and a preliminary winner is announced. Third, the mainstream media then immediately launches into a psychotic, tsunami-like panic in an effort to destroy as many candidacies as possible before the New Hampshire primary is held. If more than one candidate contests the New Hampshire primary, the contest officially becomes a "quagmire". Actual rules and rights aren't even mentioned at this stage of the contest; it is purely a matter of who is raising the most megadollars -- and who gets hit by the media tsunami after Iowa -- until a quagmire has set in.

    Monday, April 07, 2008

    Democrats and foreign policy insanity

    In addition to their generally clownish governance of Congress, the Democrats have been specializing in shockingly stupid foreign policy blunders. Last year, the most notorious blunder was Speaker Nancy Pelosi's disastrous public support of a congressional condemnation of the Armenian genocide. Fortunately, Pelosi was willing to retract her support in time to dissuade Turkey from declaring war on the United States.

    Since this year is an election year, the international lunacy is being taken to the next level. The first victim this time around is Colombia:
    Her [Senator Clinton's] bizarre lie about the nonexistent sniper fire that threatened her in Bosnia was the first nail. The hurried departure of her chief campaign strategist, Mark Penn, is the second. It makes perfect sense that Penn has been defenestrated for doing something entirely sensible — meeting with representatives of a U.S. ally, Colombia, that wishes to pursue a closer trade relationship with us. Colombia is not only a friend of the United States; it is engaged in a battle with the worst player in the Americas, Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, which is trying to destabilize it. But because Hillary is engaged in a gross act of deception toward Democratic primary voters on the matter of free trade — which she has decided to oppose solely for P.T. Barnum reasons even as she would surely support it for every good reason once in the White House, — Penn had to go and go fast.
    The only bright side here is that Bill and Hillary Clinton's records on free trade are strong enough to suggest that they might give in and pursue more trade with Colombia once Hillary is elected. On the other hand, I think we can safely assume that the present government of Colombia is going to be totally screwed if Barack Obama becomes president.

    The next victim is China. There has been a growing call for Western heads of state to boycott the Olympics in order to protest China's oppression in Tibet and support for the government of Sudan in Darfur. How are the Western democracies choosing to demonstrate their moral superiority on this issue to China? By sending mobs to attack Olympic events, of course:
    Paris' Olympic torch relay descended into chaos Monday, with protesters scaling the Eiffel Tower, grabbing for the flame and forcing security officials to repeatedly snuff out the torch and transport it by bus past demonstrators yelling "Free Tibet!"

    The relentless anti-Chinese demonstrations ignited across the capital with unexpected power and ingenuity, foiling 3,000 police officers deployed on motorcycles, in jogging gear and even inline skates.

    Chinese organizers finally gave up on the relay, canceling the last third of what China had hoped would be a joyous jog by torch-bearing VIPs past some of Paris' most famous landmarks.
    Instead of demonstrating our moral superiority to China, our left-wing demonstrators are demonstrating that we are just like China.

    Tuesday, April 01, 2008

    The Clown Congress does it again

    The Power Line blog observes that House Democrats are responding to high gasoline prices with Congressional kabuki theater (embedded hyperlink removed):
    Today House Democrats appealed to ignorance, in their usual fashion, by summoning executives from the five biggest oil companies to berate them for high gasoline prices. This is fundamentally stupid in at least two respects.
    Personally, I would have thought that government by public humilation had gone out of style with the 19th century Manchu dynasty. The problem, of course, is that liberals blame all economic problems on oligarchs. Thus, there are two theories as to why gasoline prices are so high:
    1. High gasoline prices are caused by a complex mixture of insufficient supplies of oil and refined gasoline, an increase in demand for these products, instabilities in the supply chain of these products, inefficiencies in market structure or distribution, inefficiencies in government regulation, and general irrational behavior on the part of market participants.

    2. None of the above. High gasoline prices are entirely due to profiteering by oligarchs.
    Despite the fact that theory #1 is generally known as "reality" and theory #2 is generally known as "insanity", liberals nevertheless believe that theory #2 is correct. One can see the same general analysis in reporting about the ongoing banking crisis. Some people assume that speculative bubbles are caused by a complex mixture of market inefficiencies, deficiencies in government regulation, and irrational behavior on the part of market participants; many liberals suspect that the banking crisis was deliberately created by oligarchs in order to enslave poor people.