December 30, 2009

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Nile Gardiner blogs in the Telegraph, UK, about Obama’s disappointing comments about the Iranian revolution.

…Obama made no direct challenge to the illegitimate authority of the Iranian government, and spoke of its actions “apparently resulting in injuries, detentions and even deaths.” He was careful not to use the word freedom in describing the ultimate goal of the protesters, nor did he name any of the people detained. There was no mention of any consequences for Iran’s rulers or a shift in US policy.

As Charles Krauthammer eloquently observed on Fox News last night (transcribed here at NRO’s The Corner), referring to the president’s less than convincing statement:

…He talks about aspirations. He talks about rights. He talks about justice in the statement he made. This isn’t about justice. It isn’t about a low minimum wage. This isn’t about an absence of a public option in health care. This is about freedom. This is a revolution in the streets.
Revolutions happen quickly. There is a moment here in which if the thugs in the street who are shooting in the crowds stop shooting, it’s over and the regime will fall. The courage of the demonstrators and their boldness isn’t only a demonstration of courage, it is an indication of the shift in the balance of power. The regime is weakening.

This is a hinge of history. Everything in the region will change if the regime is changed. Obama ought to be strong out there in saying: It is an illegitimate government. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people in the street. He talks about diplomacy. He should be urging our Western allies who have relations [with Iran] to cut them off, isolate the regime, to ostracize it. He ought to be going in the U.N. — at every forum — and denouncing it. This is a moment in history, and he’s missing it. …

…If he is serious about the plight of the Iranian people, Barack Obama must have a Reagan moment, where he makes it clear that the United States stands shoulder to shoulder with the brave dissidents who are laying down their lives for freedom, and will do all in its power to help tear down the walls of oppression that enslave them. This is not an opportunity for more dithering and endless political calculation, but a time for real strength and leadership from the American President.

Tony Blankley discusses the reaction to Obama’s policies over the past year, including the emergence of the Tea party.

…But all is not solidity on the right. In one of the more remarkable entrances into American politics, the tea-party movement, which did not exist until spring, already has gained a second-place affiliation status in Scott Rasmussen’s poll last month: Democratic Party, 36 percent; tea party, 23 percent; Republican Party, 18 percent. …

…Keep in mind: They have no national leaders – no billionaire Ross Perot-type nor nationally admired Barry Goldwater-type. Of course, individuals are stepping up across the country to help organize, but they are the purest example of what Thomas Jefferson might have called an aroused yeomanry (back then, the small freeholders who cultivated their own land). They are a reaction (in the very best sense of the word) to the ongoing attempted power grab by Washington of a free people’s wealth and rights.

In the aftermath of the economic collapse and the election of a glamorous new, young president who seemed to many people as a fresh force, unentangled with entrenched special interests (emphatically not my view, during the election or afterward) – the country could have gone one of two ways: Fearing the rigors of economic hard times, people could have sought shelter under the wing of a stronger government (as Americans did during the Great Depression), or, fearing the power of government, they could seek shelter in freedom – come what may economically.
It may turn out to be one of the most important facts of the 21st century that the American people – as exemplified by, but not limited to, the tea-party fighters – came down on the side of freedom over fear. I don’t know if there is another people on the planet who would have had a similar impulse and judgment. …

Richard Epstein, in Forbes, responds to a New Yorker article from Atul Gawande which posits that the government can use the same interventions used in agricultural markets to support health care reform.

…Worse, by far, is how Gawande ignores the disastrous policy mistakes in the economic regulation of agricultural markets over the past 100 years. The standardization of agricultural commodities could have facilitated the rapid emergence of efficient competitive markets. Alas, the commoditization of agricultural goods allowed Congress to cartelize and subsidize the industry at the worst possible time.

Section 6 of the Clayton Act largely immunized agricultural cooperatives from the antitrust laws. When these broke down, the U.S. passed a string of Agricultural Adjustment Acts during the 1930s that allowed the U.S. to limit quantities for production in order to keep commodity prices at their high levels during the bounty years of 1910-14. “Excess crops” were often destroyed, put into storage facilities or sold off at bargain prices outside the U.S., even as the caloric consumption for welfare families in U.S. sunk to dangerously low levels during the dark days of the depression. At the same time, foreign agricultural economies were wrecked by the importation of subsidized U.S. goods. …

…These dreadful agricultural reforms are cut from the same cloth as the Democratic health care bill that will shortly become law. But Harry Reid’s hodgepodge legislation contains every gimmick imaginable to regulate the services sold and the prices charged in health care markets. As I have argued elsewhere, it is a disaster of constitutional proportions to run a system that pumps up the demand for health care services with huge subsidies only to strangle firms by closely regulating the services they must supply and limiting the profits that they can earn. Our lawmakers have learned all to well from their forays into agricultural markets. Far from encouraging Congress to tighten the noose on health care markets, Gawande should have urged a removal of many of the senseless barriers to entry that systematically impede the operation of health care markets. David Hyman and I have pushed hard on this libertarian approach, which tragically has fallen on deaf ears. All too predictable, given the spirit of the age.

Thomas Sowell clarifies Congress’ and Obama’s disregard of the will of the American people.

…What does calling this medical care legislation “historic” mean? It means that previous administrations gave up the idea when it became clear that the voting public did not want government control of medical care. What is “historic” is that this will be the first administration to show that it doesn’t care one bit what the public wants or doesn’t want.

In short, this is not about the public’s health. It is about Obama’s ego and his chance to impose his will and leave a legacy.

…Legislation is not the only sign of this administration’s contempt for the intelligence of the public and for the safeguards of democratic government.

The appointment of White House “czars” to make policy across a wide spectrum of issues — unknown people who get around the Constitution’s requirement of Senate confirmation for Cabinet members — is yet another sign of the mindset that sees the fundamental laws and values of this country as just something to get around, in order to impose the will of an arrogant elite.

That some of these “czars” have already revealed their own contempt for the values of American society in the things they have said and done only reinforces the point. In a sense, this administration is only the end result of a long social process that includes raising successive generations with dumbed-down education in schools and colleges that have become indoctrination centers for the visions of the left. Our education system has turned out many people who have never heard any other vision and who can only learn what is wrong with the prevailing vision from bitter experience. …

Maureen Dowd gives her column over to her brother, Kevin, for a Christmas present to all conservatives.

…Here are some reflections for 2009:

To President Obama: Thank you for saving the Republican Party and for teaching all of us that too much of anything is a bad thing.

To Bill Clinton: You did too much work on Northern Ireland for the Nobel committee. Next time, do nothing.

To Harry and Nancy: “The Twilight Zone” once had an episode where the town got the exact opposite of what it wanted. Farewell, Harry!

To John McCain: Thank you for your chivalry in banning Palin attack dogs — including my sister — from the campaign plane.

To Sarah Palin: Keep up the good work. Anyone who annoys Keith Olbermann that much is a friend to all of us.

To Glenn Beck: Thanks for being the only journalist interested in stories that used to win Pulitzer Prizes. …

Ed Koch responds to Jimmy Carter’s letter to the Jewish community asking for forgiveness.

Former President Jimmy Carter recently sent a letter to the JTA, which is a wire service for Jewish newspapers. The letter was made public by the JTA on December 21st, along with the following statement:

“Jimmy Carter asked the Jewish community for forgiveness for any stigma he may have caused Israel. In a letter released exclusively to JTA, the former U.S. president sent a seasonal message wishing for peace between Israel and its neighbors, and concluded: ‘We must recognize Israel’s achievements under difficult circumstances, even as we strive in a positive way to help Israel continue to improve its relations with its Arab populations, but we must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel. As I would have noted at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but which is appropriate at any time of the year, I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so.’ ‘Al Het’ refers to the Yom Kippur prayer asking G-d forgiveness for sins committed against Him. In modern Hebrew it refers to any plea for forgiveness. Carter has angered some U.S. Jews in recent years with writings and statements that place the burden of peacemaking on Israel, that have likened Israel’s settlement policies to apartheid, and that have blamed the pro-Israel lobby for inhibiting an evenhanded U.S. foreign policy.”

Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, a leading advocate for the Jewish community, responded as follows: “We welcome any statement from a significant individual such as a former president who asks for Al Het. To what extent it is an epiphany, time will tell. There certainly is hurt which needs to be repaired.”

Having known Jimmy Carter when I was a Congressman and Mayor, I have a minimum of high regard for him. I believe that he has often used his position — most recently as a writer of books – to damage the State of Israel, and in doing so, he has injured the Jewish community worldwide. …

…My advice to Jimmy Carter is to come clean. I believe that we Jews are a forgiving people, but we are also a people who, having been brutalized through the centuries, are suspicious of those who at the end of their lives wish to make amends but have not demonstrated any repentance. What does President Carter intend to do with the balance of his life to remedy the harm and injury to the Jewish people that he has inflicted over the years?

Gerald Warner blogs in the Telegraph, UK, about political correctness that has run amuck once again.

Some help, please, for the latest victim of cretinous municipal politically correct tyranny. John Sayers, aged 75, is the bingo caller at a weekly charity event at Sudbury town hall in Suffolk. Now council officials have told Mr Sayers, a former mayor of Sudbury, that terms such as “Legs Eleven” are sexist, and “Two Fat Ladies” could offend obese players and these phrases have been banned, for fear of litigation.

So Mr Sayers now just calls the numbers by themselves, which players are denouncing as “boring”. Clearly, a new lexicon of politically correct bingo calls will have to be produced. We could start the ball rolling with “88 – crime of hate”; “Number 10 – Gordon’s Den”; “Number 2 – civil duo”; “47 – Aneurin Bevan”; “62 – for the many, not the few”… And so, tediously, on.

There is now no area of life, however trivial or frivolous, that is not controlled by the Thought Police. And whose fault is that? Ours, of course. Our fault for not snuffing out this tyrannical nonsense at its first manifestation. Our fault for submitting to it. Our fault for voting for any of the mainstream political parties, all of which subscribe to this madness. Our fault for not ejecting from office the jobsworths who enforce it. Our fault for tolerating the legislative busybodies in the House of Commons. First New Year resolution for 2010: Make Political Correctness History.

Richard Brookhiser reflects on the bagpipe after a recent encounter on a New York City street.

…The piper has taken up his position in the direction I am going anyway, but my steps quicken, as they always do when I hear a bagpipe. When I draw alongside him, I can’t see much. His legs are trousered (too cold for a kilt). If he has an open instrument case — immemorial stimulus fund of New York City street musicians — on the pavement in front of him, it is hidden in the shadows. He displays no sign (not that you could read one) and he is too busy blowing to make any pitch. So, within the limits of the urban cheek-by-jowl, he respects my privacy, and I do the same, hanging back to listen with the decorum and the thrill of a voyeur.

I have heard him a few times before, and I will hear him again after tonight, though when I have seen him in the light I realize he is multiple: one time he was a young man; on other occasions, he is pepper and salt, with a beard. Whatever his age, he plays a traditional Highland pipe. With the blowpipe in his mouth he fills the bag; the air he squeezes from the bag with his arm exits by four pipes, which make the music: three pipes above the bag like a marlin’s fin, two short (the tenor drones), one long (the bass drone); one pipe (the chanter) hanging from below, like an artificial teat. Fingers on the chanter pick out the melody; the drones produce the hypnotizing hum.

Bagpipe melodies have lots of tweedle-dee, imposed in part by the mechanism itself: Since the air leaves the bag in a steady stream, it is impossible to repeat a note without intervening grace notes. So even marches take on the swing of jigs. What stirs my innards is the drone. The drone turns a lone piper into an army. It adds distance to the sound, and therefore motion: We are coming. It also adds time, and therefore pathos: We have been here; you have heard us. …

Click here to hear the pipes.

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