Archive for November, 2010

Blind to the evidence: The Korean experiment

Andrew Thomas:

It is apparent that a full 30% of the citizens of the U.S. are completely divorced from political reality. … We have drifted way off course in this country. Socialism is becoming revered and capitalism reviled by many Americans … there are some ways the stark differences between the two economic philosophies can be presented…at least to those who have not been completely blinded to fact-based evidence. A perfect example of this is to present the evolution of the once-unified country of Korea as if it were a science experiment. … The question to pose is this: How do you explain the incomprehensible disparities in the quality of life between the two Koreas other than by the economic systems they chose and the consequences of those systems?

There is an attempt to rationalize this blindness to the evidence as the result of a propaganda campaign expressed in the U.S. education system. That may be a bit simplistic. For instance, the picture of the Korean peninsula at nuight, while intended as a comparison and contrast of wealth and prosperity as seen in the night lights, would more than likely create thoughts of profligate carbon footprints in the ‘blind to the evidence’ crowd. From there is might go to outrage that the south has so much compared to the north and that is unfair and something must be done to “share the wealth.”

Comments about history are instructive, or could be. The Korea’s are just one example. There is also the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. China’s efforts in recent history to walk the line between central control and capitalist principles is also instructive. Then there’s California. It is always possible to bend the mind, to take only a superficial look at contrarian examples from history, and to fit that round peg into a square hole. That may create immediate gratification but it isn’t really an expression of intellectual integrity.

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Trying to understand: derangement

Neo-Neocon describes an experience described in “some remarks from commenter “kolnai” describing the attitude of a group of liberal friends of his toward Bush” and others on the same topic. It is well worth a careful read through with some introspection about one’s own beliefs and behavior.

Time has not dulled the sharp edge of Bush-hatred, as many of us have discovered. And I think that all of us stand with Mrs Whatsit in saying that we don’t “get it,” not really, not totally. … Bush-haters actually do believe that he lied about Iraq, that he is a troglodyte who is against science, that he loves war and seeks it out, that he stole the 2000 election, that he is stupid and perhaps even mentally handicapped, and that he evaded his National Guard service.

Perhaps the reason this came up is the book just released and President Bush’s book tour. You can see the Bush Derangement Syndrome in some of the headlines for reviews of the book in some outlets.

The belief that does not fit well with reality in regards to the subject is only a part of the story. There is also a belief used to rationalize and normalize the irrationality. That is the ‘if I am deranged about Bush, then you are deranged about Obama’ school of thought.

These same people believe not only that their hatred of Bush is every bit as rational as hatred of Hitler, but many of them also believe that we on this board and others like it have an irrational hatred of Obama. That is one of the reasons that every criticism of Obama is met with charges of “racist,” rather than a focus on the policy arguments being made (the latter are too rational). That is why the more irrational segments of the birther movement are emphasized so much by the left.

This is a first step. That is, being aware that something isn’t right and meeting the dissonance head on. The question is whether this political dissonance will be resolved via growth or will need a more painful confrontation. When a people refuse to grow out of their fantasies and bring their desires into the grim world of reality, the outcome can indeed be painful and costly. We can hope for growth and a resolution of the emotional dilemma driven by a blind hatred so that it becomes something more benign.

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where does this fit?

Brendan Bernhard describes an autobiography, Keith Richards: Musician, Author, Military Man Manqué, at Pajamas Media.

Life is a book of surprising richness, no more so than in the part most people dread when opening a biography, auto — or otherwise: the early years, or “all that David Copperfield kind of crap,” as Holden Caulfield memorably phrased it. Not that Richards lays it on too thick, but he has an excellent memory and a novelistic eye for character, or rather “characters” — his mother, father, aunts, uncles, school teachers, playground bullies, etc. He was drawn to eccentricity as eccentrics were drawn to him. Born in 1943, he grew up amid the deprivations of post-war England and captures the flavor of the time with a skill many professional wordsmiths would envy. He was conceived, appropriately enough, during an air-raid in the war: it was “Gimme Shelter” from the start.

This is, perhaps, a perspective on the baby boom generation from the point of view of one of its heroes who indulged in excess. The book appears to be a bit more solid than a surface reaction might indicate.

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The establishment reaction to antiestablishmentarianism

The post election 20:20 hindsight effort is in full swing. This is mostly an establishment activity, either political or media, to try to ‘explain’ losses and cast aspersions and blame on what they don’t like. In the most recent election, they have a nice label to put on their enemies or opponents. Rob Port describes the situation in addressing the question Did The Tea Party Cost Republicans The Senate?. He comments on a Michael Gerson column.

You have to love the condescension. Tea partiers are all well and good at rallies, I guess, but we should leave candidate selection up to the experts. The threat to the future of Republicans doesn’t lay with Sarah Palin but rather the establishment demoralizing their base by expecting them to get in line behind milquetoast, not-that-conservative candidates.

The Tea Party is a movement and not a party. It is a movement in the classic hippy 60’s antiestablishmentarianism ethos except it isn’t hippies, it is ‘middle America.’ It is the grass roots speaking to the establishment. The evidence is that the establishmentarians are having a tough time with their listening skills. The common thread with the ‘populist’ or tea party movement candidates losses is that, while they won their political party nomination, they did not gain their political party establishment support. In some cases, such as in Alaska, the establishment political party support went to the candidates that lost the party nomination. That is evidence of denial, not listening and acceptance.

But for all Gershon’s whining about the tea party having cost Republicans the Senate, it’s worth noting that Republicans actually did better in the Senate, relatively speaking, than they did in the House

The denial or dismissal of simple facts such as this also indicate that acceptance of the grass roots is not in evidence. Sometimes acceptance of reality can require time. The patience of the grass roots may limit that time and if the political establishment does not get a proper grip on reality soon, they may suffer the outcome of confrontation in a situation where suffer significant damage will be likely.

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The America bashing pastime conundrums

Consider the never-ending narrative of American decline. My historical knowledge isn’t super-deep, but I know for certain that that drum has been kicked at least since Sputnik (’50s), continuing through the Vietnam War (’60s), the closing of the gold window and the oil embargo / stagflation (’70s), the rise of Japan (’80s), European integration (’90s), and now the rise of the BRICs, especially China.

Seeking Alpha thinks It’s Time for the U.S. to Recognize Its Place in the World.

The entire industrialized world is concerned that a relatively small program in the U.S. is going to threaten their entire economies. … The U.S. needs to recognize its place in the world, and act like a hegemon should. … The U.S. should not set policy out of fear of decline.

Thoughts often lead actions. So far, the U.S. has been able to avoid following the thoughts of those very vocal folks who insist the U.S. is in decline. The worries as to whether this will continue to be the case are gaining notice. The recent election showed that. The economic stress is providing opportunities, too.

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Screams of horror? Federal budget cut ideas

The Heritage Foundation has a suggestion about How to Cut $343 Billion from the Federal Budget that lists nearly a hundred programs in six areas as targets.

With Congress adding over a trillion a year to the national debt, saving a third of a trillion seems to be rather small. But it would be a start towards a change in direction.

Almost all of the proposed cuts in federal spending will provoke strong objections from constituencies that benefit from having Members of Congress give them taxpayer money taken from someone else. Yet the difficulties caused by each of these cuts should be measured against the status quo option of doubling the national debt over the next decade, risking an economic crisis, and drowning future generations in taxes.

Governing involves difficult choices, and Congress simply cannot continue to court long-term disaster for all merely to avoid short-term difficulties for some.

There are some states that have taken this issue to hand. The governor in New Jersey has achieved some fame for his efforts here. Texas has managed to avoid most of the financial mayhem. California, on the other hand, has decided that banning Happy Meals in San Francisco and taxing business not in compliance with ideological goals is the way to go, still.

We will have the opportunity to see the results of these decisions one way or the other.

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A confused electorate

CBS News reports on exit polling in Nevada to determine Harry Reid Wins in Nevada: How He Did It. It appears that the white, elderly, and middle class tended to vote for Angle while the non-white, academic elite, and young votors put Reid over the top.

About 2/3 cite the economy as the most important issue and that group leans towards Reid. 42% think that government can create jobs so they supported Reid. Those unhappy with the government or seeking change went for Angle.

Overall, it appears that the Republicans picked up about 60 house seats and 6 Senate seats. That big a shift last happened in the immediate post WW II years.

Then there’s California … it appears a continuation of the path they have been following is one they choose to continue following. This state is going to be interesting to watch as the path it is choosing is very costly and its direction is determined by the coastal towns where the very rich or isolated elite hold sway. The farmers are not heard and the middle class is leaving. The debate has already started about whether or not the federal government should provide bailout assistance when (not if) it will be needed.

Both the Nevada exit polling and the California voting patterns tend to add fuel to the concerns about social segregation between those who produce wealth and those who depend upon that wealth for their lifestyle.

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Re-writing history: academia at work

Scott says Investigate this. It is about where funds for the National Endowment for the Humanities is going.

As one of the 25 American scholars chosen to attend the workshop, Professor Penelope Blake anticipated an opportunity to visit hallowed sites such as Pearl Harbor, the Arizona Memorial and the Punchbowl Cemetery and engage with scholars who share her interest in studying this often neglected part of World War II history.

Instead, Professor Blake was treated to the most disturbing experience of her academic career, a conference which she found to be driven by an overt political bias and a blatant anti-American agenda. Professor Blake has forwarded to us the following letter dated September 12, 2010, to Illinois Rep. Donald Manzullo, her congressman, documenting examples of what transpired at the conference. Copies of the letter were also sent to members of the NEH Council and to Leach. Professor Blake writes (all emphases are in the original):

There are some things to note, part of a pattern, in professor Blake’s letter. One is that, while she mentions names as sources, she sticks to the subject matter and behavior and not to characterizations of people with derogatory labels. Compare and contrast to, for instance, (S)He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense. The pattern about manner of dialog correlates well with a set of political or ideological beliefs. The Anti-American meme is found at the basis of many of them. This correlation is an indicator of the manner by which the belief or viewpoint is held. It should not be ignored.

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