The Obama Watch

My car is dead as a doornail so, while I’m waiting for a tow truck, I thought I’d publish a list of some of the best anti-Obama posts I found this morning.

The Economist’s Hope and Fear, about Obama’s depressingly populist economic prescriptions.  (H/t:  Captain’s Quarters)

Big Lizard’s Chicago Rules, which tracks the bizarre coincidence that Obama’s political opponents are always destroyed pre-election by the leak of privileged information.

Michelle Malkin’s “Fauxbama” and the Race Mongers, which examines the absurdity of Saturday Night Live having a debate as to whether a mixed-race actor is black enough to parody Obama on TV.

Hot Air’s confirmation that Obama blatantly talked out of both sides of his mouth when it came to NAFTA.

Tow truck’s here.  Bye.

Thumbing our noses at tyrants

One of the things that puts the Kumbi-ya crowd into an absolute frenzy is President Bush’s refusal to deal directly with murderous dictators. Forgetting the example set by Neville “Peace in Our Time” Chamberlain, this crowd is certain that, if they can just wrest a smile from someone evil, they’ll be halfway to ending all the wars in the world. To that end, Nancy Pelosi gets pally with Syria’s Assad, Columbia rolls out the welcome mat for Ahamdinejad, the New York Philharmonic makes beautiful music for Kim Jong-Il, and presidential contender Barack Obama announces that dictators of the world should line up at his office, because he’d just love to have a chat with them.

Right off the bat, it’s apparent that, for a supposedly smart man, Obama is pretty damn stupid. Negotiation works when both parties have a goal that, in a rational world, can be achieved without destroying the other party to the negotiation. Each side may have to give a little to get a little, but both will walk away have achieved their primary ends. But how do you negotiate with someone whose primary end is your own destruction? What Neville Chamberlain learned, and what Israel demonstrates daily, is that it is impossible to have a good faith negotiation with someone like that. There are only two outcomes in such negotiations: either the other party will lie through its teeth to set the preconditions for your destruction, or you’ll just have to agree to shortcut the whole process by committing suicide.

Such statements about an open door policy for negotiation with any and all comers are especially stupid coming from a man who is not only (at least in theory) a lawyer, but also a law professor. It’s a fundamental principle of law that negotiations, to be valid, have to be in good faith. Otherwise, as any person with on the ground experience knows, they are, at best, a waste of time and, at worst, terribly destructive.

Faced with Obama’s manifest idiocy, George Bush, showing himself to be a smart and righteous man, got all hot under the collar:

At a news conference where Bush showed unusual passion for a president in his waning months, he said “now is not the time” to talk with Castro.

“What’s lost … by embracing a tyrant who puts his people in prison because of their political beliefs?” he said. “What’s lost is, it’ll send the wrong message. It’ll send a discouraging message to those who wonder whether America will continue to work for the freedom of prisoners. It’ll give great status to those … who have suppressed human rights and human dignity.

“The idea of embracing a leader who’s done this, without any attempt on his part to … release prisoners and free their society, would be counterproductive and send the wrong signal.”

Warming to the subject, Bush continued: “Sitting down at the table, having your picture taken with a tyrant such as Raul Castro, for example, lends the status of the office and the status of our country to him. He gains a lot from it by saying, ‘Look at me. I’m now recognized by the president of the United States.’”

Good old horse sense, which is sorely lacking on the academic Left, demonstrates the truth behind Bush’s words — you don’t validate evil by treating it as ordinary and respectable. But I don’t need horse sense alone to reach this conclusion. I have testimony from someone who lived under one of the world’s most evil regimes — Communist Russia — and who writes with deep conviction about the strength it gave the Russian anti-Communist opposition to know that, out in the wider world, there were people and governments who willingly and loudly called out evil when they saw it. The testimony of which I speak comes from famed Soviet dissident and political prisoner Natan Sharansky, and is found in his book The Case For Democracy : The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror.

Sharansky’s book is a sustained attack against “detente” or normalization of relationships between dictatorships and democracies.  (And isn’t that what Obama is really proposing?)  After detailing the various sophistic arguments (many well-intentioned) that supported the broad detente policy the West adopted vis a vis the USSR, Sharansky explains why it was such a bad policy when it came to dealing with a totalitarian dictatorship:

Fortunately, there were a few leaders in the West who could look beyond the facade of Soviet power to see the fundamental weakness of a state that denied its citizens freedom.  Western policies of accommodation, regardless of their intent, were effectively propping up the Soviet’s tiring arms.  Had that accommodation contined, the USSR might have survived for decades longer.  By adopting a policy of confrontation instead [as Reagan did], an enervated Soviet regime was further burdened.  Amalri’s analysis of Soviet weakness [Andrei Amalrik’s 1969 dissident treatise explaining the fatal cost to a dictatorship of having to “physically and psychologically control[] millions of its own subjects”] was correct because he understood the inherent instability of totalitarian rule.  But the timing of his prediction [that the Soviet Union would not outlast the 1980s] proved accurate only because people both inside and outside the Soviet Union who understood the power of freedom were determined to harness that power.  (p. 11.)

Obama preaches pabulum from the ivory tower; Sharansky speaks truth learned the hard way in a totalitarian society.  Who are you going to believe?  I’m with George Bush, who accepts and understands a Democracy cannot and should not prop up dictators by treating them before the world as if they are just “regular guys.”

Make a difference to the troops in Afghanistan

The New York Times has attacked veterans at home as homeless people, substance abusers and killers.  Apparently those attacks have not sated its blood lust.  Instead, the Times has directed its demoralization efforts at paratroopers in Iraq, troops who are already suffering under very difficult field conditions.  Fortunately, as Blackfive explains, you can help with some morale building:

Please send an email of support to skysoldiers173rd@gmail.com

Or you can mail cards to:

    Leta Carruth
    P O Box 100
    Cordova, TN  38088

Due to security reasons in Afghanistan please do not put addresses or phone numbers on any correspondence.  All emails will be printed out here in the US and mailed to Afghanistan as they do not have the resources to receive a large number of emails.  All letters and emails will be vetted to make sure there are no negative comments.  These are letters of support, so please keep them positive and uplifting.

Sounds like a plan to me.

All lawbreakers, please come to San Francisco

Last night, I was discussing with my mother the British woman I met in Florida who said that the situation in England, vis a vis Muslims, is much worse than even the papers describe. Aside from pointing to political correctness as the culprit, I also also laid the blame, as did the British woman, on Britain’s unlimited immigration problem, hatched at Oxbridge and imposed on the rest of the nation. My kids, who were listening, asked what unlimited immigration meant.

I explained to them that it’s healthy for a country to take in new people, because it brings in new ideas and new energy. However, I said that a country should be able to control how many come in, and should be able to ensure that the people are healthy and are not criminals. They looked blank. I sought an analogy. Imagine, I said, if we went into downtown San Francisco and announced that anybody who wanted could come and live in our house. All they had to do was show up. And imagine, I said, that the ones who showed up were drug addicts and crazy people and criminals, as well as some nice people. Their eyes widened. I went on to explain, and they agreed, that within minutes of this policy, our house would be trashed, stinky, and minus all its nice stuff. They agreed that a country, just like a homeowner, ought to have (and exercise) control over those whom it invites in.

Why does this involve San Francisco? Because I just read today that San Francisco, in violation of federal law, is again inviting criminals into its borders and to use up taxpayer funded resources:

San Francisco’s “sanctuary” policy for illegal immigrants, which has drawn sharp criticism from conservatives, will be promoted in an advertisement campaign complete with multilanguage brochures and radio and TV public service announcements.

The city-funded outreach campaign is expected to roll out this spring and build on San Francisco’s response to last year’s federal immigration raids, which city officials said scared undocumented immigrants into not accessing city services, reporting crimes or sending children to school.

City officials Wednesday were not able to provide The Examiner with a cost breakdown for the campaign.

“We have worked with the Board of Supervisors, Department of Public Health, labor and immigrant rights groups to create a city government-wide public awareness campaign so that immigrants know The City won’t target them for using city services,” said Nathan Ballard, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s spokesman.

[snip]

Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who is working on the planned outreach campaign to undocumented immigrants, said it will ensure “a lot of deserving people” take advantage of city services. “To me, it’s a logical follow-through.”

Boy, am I glad I don’t live in San Francisco anymore. It would drive me into a frenzy to know that my money was being used to turn the City into a haven for criminals. (And I do believe that all illegal aliens, even if they’re not violent or criminally negligent, are criminals because, by definition, they’ve broken the law.)

More on the “don’t get sick” in a socialized medicine country

One of Obama’s (and Clinton’s) many sins is the desire to nationalize medicine, so that the government gets to decide who deserves treatment and who doesn’t.  Britain, as always, serves as a useful horrible example of what can happen under such a system:

A 61-year-old grandmother has been denied vital heart surgery for being too old – despite the guideline being out of date.

Dorothy Simpson branded NHS chiefs “heartless” after they claimed the operation should only be carried out on people aged 60 and under.

But her own specialist said he wrote the guidelines three years ago and that they had now been superseded by national guidelines, which set no age limit.

Dorothy, of Thirsk, North Yorkshire, has suffered from an irregular heartbeat for three years, which is having an increasingly debilitating impact on her life.

But NHS managers in North Yorkshire have so far refused to fund a £5,000 operation to treat the problem – despite patients older than her in Teesside, less than 30 miles away, having the treatment.

On a completely unrelated point, I’ve been in Thirsk, Simpson’s home, which when I saw it was not only a charming northern village, but was also home to James Herriott.

British police like the Archbishop’s idea

You recall the uproar a few weeks ago when the Archbishop of Canterbury said that it’s unfair for Muslims to have to follow British law and that it would be a good thing to incorporate elements of Sharia law into British law.  It turns out that he’s not the only one thinking these thoughts.  The British are now planning on teaching their police forces Sharia law, which they vaguely describe as a way to improve community relations:

Police will be trained on the importance of sharia law and the Koran to Muslim communities, under new plans to fight extremism.

The lessons in Islamic faith and culture will become part of the formal training of constables working in towns and cities across the country.

Chief constables say that, by understanding the community they are policing, officers will build better relationships.

These could prove crucial in rooting out extremism and preventing a terrorist attack, according to the Association of Chief Police Officers.

The plan’s opponents understand precisely what is going on:

But critics have described the plan as “politically correct thinking”.

Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, said: “Police officers are not there to implement sharia law. They are there to implement British law.

“This idea is misguided. We will only get community cohesion when everybody signs up to being British and following British law.”

You can read the rest here.

What we really need to fear about Obama. (Hint: it’s not his middle name) *UPDATED*

The headline caught my eye — “Right wing plays Muslim card against Obama” — since it was such an obvious attempt to smear all conservatives as, not racists, but religious-ists. As you now, while a conservative radio host did make a speech in which he emphasized Obama’s actual, real, true middle name, McCain was quick to reject the implications behind that speech. In addition, some of the earliest attacks on Obama’s Muslim heritage came from the Clinton campaign, not the Right.

Given all the nasty implications in a seven word headline, I was interested to see how the rest of the article stacked up. It pretty much matched the headline, since it was a patchwork of half truths, outright falsehoods, and sleazy innuendos. Here’s a little fisk of one of the Chron’s front page stories:

When a conservative talk show host introduced Sen. John McCain at an Ohio rally this week and referred to his possible opponent by his full name – “Barack Hussein Obama” – he highlighted a probable attack strategy, should Obama get the Democratic nomination: American xenophobia. [Please note my comments above, to the effect that the emphasis on Obama's religious heritage started as a Clinton strategy and that McCain has gone on record to distance himself from this approach. Also, while there is no doubt that Cunningham emphasized the Hussein part of Obama's name, this paragraph is so disingenuously written that it makes it sound as if any reference to Obama's middle name has become off limits.]

If the ascendancy of Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic race shows that Americans’ attitudes toward race and gender have evolved, the latest round of media images alluding – incorrectly – to an overseas Muslim upbringing for Obama will test the degree to which Americans fear foreigners in a post-Sept. 11 world. Obama is a Christian who never worshiped at a mosque and was raised in a secular household. [To the extent all the statements about Obama's non-Muslim upbringing are asserted as absolute, inviolate truths, this is simply wrong. While Obama was not raised as a strict Muslim, was not educated in a Madrassa, and does not now profess to be a Muslim, he was definitely given instruction in Islam during his time in Indonesia and attended mosques. This, coupled with his father's Muslim background is sufficient to make him a Muslim, if not in his own eyes, in the eyes of ] He attends the United Church of Christ.

Nevertheless, these allusions raise new issues for Americans accustomed to presidential candidates with WASP-sounding names. About 48 percent of the respondents to a February 2007 Pew Research Center poll said they would be “less likely” to support a candidate who is Muslim; 48 percent said it made no difference. The same poll found that 50 percent of respondents would be less likely to support a candidate 70 or older; McCain is 71.

The Muslim allusions “do resonate with people,” said Karen Hanretty, an unaffiliated GOP consultant who formerly worked for former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson. “The vast majority of voters are Protestant or Catholic, and it is unfamiliar to them.”

She predicted that the incorrect Muslim references to Obama will continue [Except for the debunked claim that Obama attended a radical madrassa, everything else this article refers to as an "incorrect" Muslim reference is, in fact, correct. Obama does have a Muslim middle name. He did receive Islamic instruction. He did attend mosques. While none of these statements may reflect the radical Christian he is today, none are incorrect.], but probably wouldn’t emanate from the McCain campaign or the national GOP. Instead, they would flourish anonymously on the Internet or be pushed by independent organizations not connected to the candidates. [Did you notice that the article, now in its fifth paragraph, never explicitly mentions the fact that Sen. McCain explicitly rejected any attempts to attack Obama by implying that he is a practicing Muslim?]

Rumors on the Web

The anti-Muslim baiting has shadowed the Obama campaign for more than a year, when a widely circulated, yet untraceable, e-mail stated he was Muslim. The Obama campaign thinks enough of the power of these rumors that part of the campaign Web site is dedicated to debunking them, using headings such as “Barack is not and never has been a Muslim.” [This is actually an interesting statement from the Obama camp. What religion is a child? His mother and birth father were committed leftists, so their God was probably Communism. He was raised in Indonesia at a school that gave him Muslim religious instruction. His stepfather took him to mosques. At any time, someone could accurately have referred to him as "that Muslim little boy" or, given his Mom's views, "that little atheist boy." The fact is, his childhood religious affiliations, imposed upon him before he reached the age of reason, are irrelevant given that, as an adult, he instead embraced radical Christianity, not Islam. The more accurate statement probably would have been that, "While Barack was exposed to some Muslim education as a child, he is and remains a committed Christian."] The contents of the anonymous e-mails also have been debunked by various media outlets.

Still, for much of the last year, the Muslim whispers have largely passed below the mainstream media radar. But the allusions and images have intensified in recent days, much of them expressed in a cultural shorthand for anti-Muslim sentiment and preying on post-Sept. 11 fears, analysts said.

A 2006 photo of Obama in Kenya wearing traditional Somali dress, including a turban, was leaked to the online Drudge Report, and quickly picked up by mainstream outlets. At a McCain rally Tuesday in Ohio, conservative talk show host Bill Cunningham three times referred to “Barack Hussein Obama” – a none-too-subtle reference to the late Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, analysts said. McCain denounced the remarks afterward. [Ah! At last, we've reached paragraph 8 and, considering that the article attempts to paint all right wingers as Islamaphobes ready to kill at the drop of a hat, we finally get what should have been in paragraph one -- the frontrunner's repudiation of smear tactics.]

This week, the Tennessee Republican party sent an online memo to supporters entitled “Anti-Semites for Obama,” saying Americans should be concerned about “the future of the nation of Israel, the only stable democracy in the Middle East, if Sen. Barack Hussein Obama is elected president of the United States.” [And this is absolutely true, not because Obama had some instruction in Islam as a 9 year old, but because he is a Leftist associated with an antisemitic, black supremacist church.]

The memo highlighted recent praise of Obama by Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, who has a history of anti-Semitic remarks. (Obama denounced Farrakhan in Tuesday’s televised debate with Clinton.) [But he's not denouncing Wright, is he?]

The memo also featured the photo of Obama in the Somali outfit over a caption saying, Obama is “pictured dressed in Muslim* attire in a 2006 visit to Africa.” At the bottom of the Web page next to the corresponding asterisk, the Tennessee GOP admitted that it wasn’t actually Muslim attire but “rather Somali-tribal garb.” [That was, in fact, a stupid tactic, although it certainly made visual sense given the article's thesis. Travelers often dress in local garb and, unlike the Palestinian kufiyah, which has become a stand-alone political statement, other garb from Muslim communities doesn't have any political odor attached -- it's just local color.]

No response from RNC

Republican National Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay declined to respond whether the party would refer to Obama by his full name, saying, “This election will be decided on the important issues facing this country, and that’s how our party intends to win. At the end of the day, voters will reject the Democratic agenda of massive government spending, higher taxes and retreat in the war on terror.” [Get that? Again, Obama's given, legal name is off limits for the debate. This is PC gone mad.]

McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said Wednesday that “Sen. McCain has been clear that he rejects those sorts of tactics. He wants the campaign to be about the issues.” [At last! Given McCain's prominence in the campaign -- he is, after all, the inevitable Republican candidate -- the story took long enough to get around to this explicit statement about McCain's views on this subject.]

Still, even mainstream outlets are chiming in. This week, Time magazine blogger Mark Halperin outlined a 16-point analysis titled “Things McCain Can Do to Try to Beat Obama That Clinton Cannot.” Point No. 11: “Emphasize Barack Hussein Obama’s unusual name and exotic background through a Manchurian Candidate prism.” [Why can't Clinton do that? As I noted at the top of this article, she's already done so more than a year ago.]

“It’s Islamophobia,” said Dina Ibrahim, an assistant professor of broadcast studies at San Francisco State who is Arab and Muslim. “Stick a turban on somebody and call them a bad guy.” [Well, the fact is that certain Muslims do have a little problem with violence, but I freely concede that Obama is not a Muslim, and that my problems with him have nothing to do with his middle name or his childhood exposure to Islam.]

So what’s wrong with calling Obama by his full name? “Because Americans are overly sensitive of terrorists, and they’ve been trained to think that every Muslim is a terrorist,” said Ibrahim. [How dumb do they think we are?]

Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh – who often calls Obama by his full name – dismissed such fears as political correctness. On his syndicated radio program Wednesday, Limbaugh blasted McCain for apologizing about Cunningham’s remarks, saying, “What if John McCain’s middle name was Adolf instead of Sidney?” [You go, Rush!]

E-mails have legs

No matter what commentators left or right are saying, the Muslim-alluding e-mails continue to travel online. [The nature of emails like this is that we truly don't know their origin. Given Clinton's campaign tactics, it's just as likely that the come from her camp. Why does the article imply that the emails are an evil, racist, Right-wing phenomenon?]

Lori McKinnon, a 43-year-old suburban Dallas resident who nearly always votes for Republicans for president but is now volunteering for Obama, said, “Everyone gets that Muslim e-mail down here. It’s a really big deal.”

But Pew Research Center President Andrew Kohut said, “The remarks may be inflammatory, but there is such a broad acceptance of Obama that it’s doubtful they would do much harm to him. It could whip up the extreme right, but that’s about it.”

“I think the question (of such allusions resonating with voters) has already been answered. Voters have looked at that stuff and said, ‘Why are people talking about that?’ ” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute and a Democratic Party superdelegate who supports Obama. “He’s not anti-Semitic. He’s not a Muslim. But he respects the religion of Islam.”

It’s a lousy story and it’s a hit piece on the Right. More than that, it sets up a straw man that allows the media, again, to avoid actually looking at the real Obama: the man who wants to disarm America; who expressly rejects choosing judges who actually apply the law, as opposed to contemplating their liberal navels; who intends to spend America into a stagnant European style economy; who has the stench of Chicago politics and political favoritism hanging about him; who intends instantly to withdraw from Iraq, thereby snatching defeat from the jaws of victory; who deeply admires one of the loudest black voices touting antisemitism, anti-Americanism and black supremacy; who has a bad habit of speaking out of both sides of his mouth; whose wife and mother dislike America and all that it stands for; and who has the most liberal voting record in the Senate.

By the way, that’s just a partial list of things both conservative and moderate Americans should fear when it comes to Obama. The middle name issue is a straw man — it’s not the real thing. We don’t need to fear “Obama the Muslim,” who doesn’t exist, except for purposes of newspaper smears. We do need to fear Obama the uber-liberal and the man who surrounds himself by people who hate America, who hate capitalism, who hate whites, and who hate Jews.

(Incidentally, the only election attack that I know of that was truly a direct religious attack, as opposed to all the innunedo contained in this article, came from Democrats, not Republicans.)

UPDATE:  Wolf Howling, in addition to discussing the nexus between McCain’s financing problems and Obama’s political/legal manipulations, has a great round-up of articles explaining why Obama is a problem — and none of them involve his middle name.

I’ve been saying this for years

Frankly, I don’t know if I’ve ever said it on my blog, but both my mother and Don Quixote can corroborate the fact that I’ve been saying for years that mutually assured destruction is not deterrent when dealing with Iranian leaders because they not only believe in the Muslim equivalent of the Apocalypse, they also believe that it’s their responsibility to bring it about.  These same leaders, therefore, are not worried that sending off a nuclear bomb will result in one coming right back to Iran.  Instead, they think that’s a pretty darn good idea.  (Of course, it would be an equally good idea, at least from my point of view, if they’d just turn the bomb on themselves and leave us out of their end-of-days visions.)

Since this whole thing is a truly horrible thought, I probably shouldn’t be so pleased that noted Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis is now saying the same thing about Iran.  However, since I would believe the risk Iran poses to be true even if Lewis didn’t second it, it salves my intellectual ego to know that I’m in good company with regard to my end-of-the-world nightmares.

The women in Obama’s life and their effect on his personality and politics

Spengler, writing at Asia Times Online, has one of the more fascinating attacks I’ve seen on Barack Obama, and one that exposes some Obama history about which I was blissfully unaware. I knew that Michelle Obama, in her role as candidate’s wife, has forced herself to speak positively about America, to the point where she even grudgingly admitted that, given the positive response to Obama, she’s actually (and for the first time ever) proud of her country, although in a very limited way. I knew, too, that she likes to put him down in public, speaking denigratingly of his ineptitude at home and his morning breath, points that were perhaps meant to humanize him but that, in fact, just make her look angry.

What I didn’t know, though, was that Obama’s mother comes from the far, far Left, and raised him in a deeply anti-American environment:

Friends describe her [Ann Dunham, Obama's mother] as a “fellow traveler”, that is, a communist sympathizer, from her youth, according to a March 27, 2007, Chicago Tribune report. Many Americans harbor leftist views, but not many marry into them, twice. Ann Dunham met and married the Kenyan economics student Barack Obama, Sr, at the University of Hawaii in 1960, and in 1967 married the Indonesian student Lolo Soetero. It is unclear why Soetero’s student visa was revoked in 1967 – the fact but not the cause are noted in press accounts. But it is probable that the change in government in Indonesia in 1967, in which the leftist leader Sukarno was deposed, was the motivation.

Soetero had been sponsored as a graduate student by one of the most radical of all Third World governments. Sukarno had founded the so-called Non-Aligned Movement as an anti-colonialist turn at the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia. Before deposing him in 1967, Indonesia’s military slaughtered 500,000 communists (or unfortunates who were mistaken for communists). When Ann Dunham chose to follow Lolo Soetero to Indonesia in 1967, she brought the six-year-old Barack into the kitchen of anti-colonialist outrage, immediate following one of the worst episodes of civil violence in post-war history.

[snip]

Barack Obama received at least some instruction in the Islamic faith of his father and went with him to the mosque, but the importance of this experience is vastly overstated by conservative commentators who seek to portray Obama as a Muslim of sorts. Radical anti-Americanism, rather than Islam, was the reigning faith in the Dunham household. In the Muslim world of the 1960s, nationalism rather than radical Islam was the ideology of choice among the enraged. Radical Islam did not emerge as a major political force until the nationalism of a Gamal Abdel Nasser or a Sukarno failed.

I’m not arguing that the sins of the father should be visited on the children. As I’ve frequently discussed here, my father was raised as a Communist although he was a solid Democrat during my life. He would never have voted Communist, but he did carry with him the anger and pessimism that characterized Communism, and he was really incapable of seeing America’s virtues, which he always viewed as instruments of oppression. However, I am not my father. I have explicitly disavowed those viewpoints and, indeed, I never did support his more Leftist leanings. I loved him dearly and respected him greatly, but I did not agree with his more radical political beliefs.  Further, to the extent that I’ve left my own generic Democratic past, I have attempted to explain where I feel that the Democratic party changed (abandoning me), and where I have changed (abandoning the Democratic party).

Significantly, Obama has never done what I have done; namely, rejected explicitly the more distasteful views of his family and associates.  With regard to Obama’s careful silence on these hot topics, Spengler makes a rather stunning point about Obama’s personality and techniques:

Barack Obama is a clever fellow who imbibed hatred of America with his mother’s milk, but worked his way up the elite ladder of education and career. He shares the resentment of Muslims against the encroachment of American culture, although not their religion. He has the empathetic skill set of an anthropologist who lives with his subjects, learns their language, and elicits their hopes and fears while remaining at emotional distance. That is, he is the political equivalent of a sociopath. The difference is that he is practicing not on a primitive tribe but on the population of the United States.

There is nothing mysterious about Obama’s methods. “A demagogue tries to sound as stupid as his audience so that they will think they are as clever as he is,” wrote Karl Krauss. Americans are the world’s biggest suckers, and laugh at this weakness in their popular culture. Listening to Obama speak, Sinclair Lewis’ cynical tent-revivalist Elmer Gantry comes to mind, or, even better, Tyrone Power’s portrayal of a carnival mentalist in the 1947 film noire Nightmare Alley. The latter is available for instant viewing at Netflix, and highly recommended as an antidote to having felt uplifted by an Obama speech.

America has the great misfortune to have encountered Obama at the peak of his powers at its worst moment of vulnerability in a generation. With malice aforethought, he has sought out their sore point.

Spengler’s language is even stronger than that which I’ve used (I’ve repeatedly called Obama a demagogue, but never a sociopathic), but fundamentally there is nothing in there with which I disagree.  I believe that Obama is a very scary political figure, and I devoutly hope that Americans will look at John McCain’s ebullient energy, his positiveness, if you will, and reject the scarily empty rhetoric that masks Obama’s deep dislike for America and its political and economic systems.

Hat tip: El Gordo

Government versus private business — and the dictatorship of one

In several posts over the last few days, I’ve commented about Disney efficiency.  Thousands of people are fairly painlessly shuffled from place to place; Fast Passes are a think of beauty, especially if individuals handle them well; everything is immaculately clean, including the overused bathrooms; the equipment functions superbly well considering the demands made upon it; and the people who work there are pleasant and handle their jobs with competence.  The whole place is a testament to corporate efficiency.  Many, however, think corporations are bad things (Obama, anyone?) and, if elected, assure us that they will see to it that the government will manage more and more aspects of our lives (healthcare, anyone?).

For those of you who think this liberal vision is a good thing, I’d like to give you a little example of how the government handles things, along with the added bonus of some insight into how disability advocates view society’s obligations to them:

Where else but San Francisco City Hall could a 10-foot-long wheelchair ramp wind up costing $1 million?

Thanks to a maze of bureaucratic indecision and historic restrictions, taxpayers may shell out $100,000 per foot to make the Board of Supervisors president’s perch in the historic chambers accessible to the disabled.

What’s more, the little remodel job that planners first thought would take three months has stretched into more than four years – and will probably mean the supervisors will have to move out of their hallowed hall for five months while the work is done.

“It’s crazy,” admits Susan Mizner, director of the mayor’s Office on Disability. “But this is just the price of doing business in a historic building.”

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said Tuesday that the issue went to the heart of liberal guilt that often drives the city’s decision making. He also choked on the price tag, and asked that the board take some more time to come up with an alternative, like maybe just getting rid of the president’s elevated seat.

The root of the problem dates back to when City Hall got a $300 million makeover in the 1990s that made just about every hallway, bathroom and office accessible to the disabled. The exception was the board president’s podium, which is reachable only for someone who can climb the five steps from the chamber floor.

The understanding was that the room would eventually be made fully accessible. But no one worried about the podium until 2004 when Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who uses a wheelchair, joined the board.

City architect Tony Irons and representatives of the state Office of Historic Preservation – which had to be consulted to make sure the city was sensitive to the building’s designation as a state landmark – were called in to take measurements.

Then preservation architects from the San Francisco firm Page and Turnbill worked up no fewer than 18 design options – at a cost of $98,000 – with ideas ranging from an electric lift to abandoning the president’s lordly podium altogether.

No one could decide which design to use, so after a year of arguing, the Department of Public Works was ordered to make 3-D computer models of all the options.

The ramp won, which means lowering the president’s desk, which means eliminating three of the “historic” stairs and tearing out Manchurian oak panels that are no longer available, which in turn will mean finding a historically correct replacement.

And because the ramp was going to encroach on the room’s sound equipment, officials decided they might as well use the opportunity to upgrade the board chamber’s entire audio-visual system, to the tune of $300,000.

Here’s what else is going into the million-dollar ramp:

— $77,000 for the city’s Bureau of Architecture project manager, design and construction fees.

— $455,000 for the actual construction, plus asbestos removal.

— $28,000 for a construction scheduling consultant.

— $3,500 for an electrical consultant.

— $68,000 for the Bureau of Construction Management to oversee the construction and various consultants.

— $12,000 for Department of Technology and Information Services oversight.

— $16,500 for permits and fees. (Yes, believe it or not, the city charges itself.)

— And as much as $65,000 for bid overruns.

All for a total of: $1,123,000.

And counting.

The supervisors considered signing off on the work Tuesday but put it over for another week. Even if the board gives its final blessing, however, construction of the ramp won’t be completed before the end of the year – midway through Alioto-Pier’s second and final term.

“I deserve equal access to every part of the chamber,” Alioto-Pier told her colleagues, adding that ending discrimination is worth the $1 million.  [Emphasis added plus this point:  One million in taxpayer money, that is.]

Incidentally, I am not unsympathetic to the hurdles the handicapped face in this world.  It’s also true that many handicapped access ramps and bathroom stalls extend an unexpected benefit to moms with strollers.  However, as I’ve blogged before, there has to be some cost/benefit analysis before we give over huge sums of public money, not to benefit all or most of the handicapped, but to benefit one person (as in Alioto-Pier, the only wheelchair bound supervisor ever) or, as is often the case with relentless bureaucratic initiatives, no persons at all.

Things I never knew

I’ve always referred to the numbers we used as Arabic numerals (as distinct from Roman numerals), and I’ve accepted that it was under Islam that medicine flourished during the Dark Ages.  Turns out I was wrong:

FP: So how about Muslim claims of accomplishment that aren’t real?

BetBasoo: Muslims claim many, many accomplishments we know they had nothing to do with. Arabic numerals? From India . The concept of zero? From Babylonia . Parabolic arches? From Assyria . The much ballyhooed claim of translating the Greek corpus of knowledge into Arabic? It was the Christian Assyrians, who first translated to Syriac, then to Arabic. The first University? Not Al-Azhar in Cairo (988 A.D.), but the School of Nisibis of the Church of the East (350 A.D.), which had three departments: Theology, Philosophy and Medicine. Al-Azhar only teaches Theology.

Speaking of medicine, Muslims will claim that medicine during the Golden Age of Islam, the Abbasid period, was the most advanced in the world. That is correct. But what they don’t say is that the medical practitioners were exclusively Christians. The most famous medical family, the Bakhtishu family, Assyrians of the Church of the East, produced seven generations of doctors, who were the official physicians to the Caliphs of Baghdad for nearly 200 years.

There are many more examples, but I think these are enough to make the point.