The Bookworm Beat — trying to be upbeat and failing edition (and Open Thread)

Woman writingThe last few days have been perfectly nice, but without repose. My brain churns frantically, but I don’t get the time to process the information through my keyboard. My apologies.

I think things will even out a little in the next few days (although that may just be wishful thinking on my part). Still, as frantic as the last few days have been, I actually have something to show for my efforts, right down to my dogs’ unusually fresh breath (I added carrots and yogurt to the usual routine of brushing their teeth).

On that happy note, to the news!

Another dissatisfied Obamacare customer

My son spent some quality time with our neighbors who are just about the loveliest people you could ever hope to find. They’re also ardent Democrats and Obama supporters. Or at least, they were ardent supporters. My son told me that one of the parents was grousing furiously about Obamacare, which is costing their family an extra $4,000 this year — and that’s $4,000 that they don’t have.

Add their personal tale to the long list of Obamacare woes, including the fact that Obamacare is not generally a hit, with enrollment numbers coming in far below administration projections.  I only wish, as I always do, that people would have realized that it’s all a con before the 2012 elections, not after.

It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it

Lots of my Leftist Facebook friends recently ran a poster showing that George Bush actually took more vacations than Barack Obama. I’m sure this is true. The problem, though, is that Obama and his family vacation like Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, something taxpayers find tacky. No quiet time at their own remote property or at Camp David for the Obamas.  Instead, they’re jaunting off to multimillion-dollar hotels and estates all over the world. Even worse, when it comes to Obama himself (not his family), Obama is heading off for ostentatious vacations just when he should be looking busy. Jonathan Tobin sums it up nicely:

While no one can say that Obama—or any president for that matter—doesn’t work hard, he has a habit of acting as if the normal rules of political behavior don’t apply to him. This president has spent more days golfing than any of his recent predecessors. While George W. Bush spent more days away from the White House—principally at his Texas ranch or at the family compound at Kennebunkport, Maine, both of which functioned routinely as little White Houses—Obama has never shown he cares much about the optics of being seen recreating while terrible things are happening. Bush stopped playing golf in 2003 after the war in Iraq began principally because he believed it didn’t look right for the president to be strolling the links while Americans faced death abroad. Obama has no such compunctions.

The timing is also a problem. It can be argued that there is something bad happening somewhere on the globe every day of the year. But there is something particularly egregious about Obama loafing around while the successful outcome in the Iraq War that he inherited from Bush is transformed into a victory for Islamist terrorists.

As I’m constantly saying to the kids, it’s not always what you do, it’s also how you do it.

Is Obama bringing identity politics to the Middle East?

Maybe Paul Mirengoff is being picky . . . and maybe he’s not. He’s wondering why, with ISIS slaughtering everyone in its path, Obama was moved to act mercifully only towards the Yazidi. Mirengoff’s conclusion: identity politics strikes Iraq. The Yazidi are more “genuine” and “ethnic” than run-of-the-mill Christians and “apostate” Muslims caught in the maw of the ISIS killing machine.

Yes, ISIS looks bad in its PR, but that’s its point

Ian Tuttle is correct that ISIS is not doing itself any publicity favors by boastfully publishing pictures of its horrible depredations, everything from mass slaughter, to crucifixions, to small children proudly portraying severed heads. I’m less sanguine than he, though, that these pictures will help defeat ISIS. In the theater of battle, the images are doing a good job of making opponents run away. Moreover, here in the West, we’ve already proven that, if Islamists threaten and protest, we will instantly back down. These pictures are only going to increase our spinelessness.

Can you compromise with religious absolutists?

I’ve tried as hard as possible to ignore the appallingly vapid, self-serving, viciously partisan interview Barack Obama had with Tom Friedman, a sycophant in chief. What I couldn’t ignore, though, was the terrible agreement between the two about victory, or its absence. Friedman summed up Obama’s view as follows:

Obama made clear that he is only going to involve America more deeply in places like the Middle East to the extent that the different communities there agree to an inclusive politics of no victor/no vanquished. (Emphasis added.)

That’s an accurate summary. What Obama, always yeasty and puffy in his wording, said was this (and I’ve included the preceding self-serving Friedman riff):

The only states doing well, like Tunisia, I’ve argued [says Friedman], have done so because their factions adopted the principle of no victor, no vanquished. Once they did, they didn’t need outside help.

“We cannot do for them what they are unwilling to do for themselves,” said the president of the factions in Iraq. “Our military is so capable, that if we put everything we have into it, we can keep a lid on a problem for a time. But for a society to function long term, the people themselves have to make decisions about how they are going to live together, how they are going to accommodate each other’s interests, how they are going to compromise. When it comes to things like corruption, the people and their leaders have to hold themselves accountable for changing those cultures…. … We can help them and partner with them every step of the way. But we can’t do it for them.”

Obama seems unable to contemplate an absolute ideology that doesn’t believe in compromise. For him, the only allowable absolutist ideology is his own, which sees a supine West yielding gracefully to the “reasonable” demands of an ascendant Third World.  For radical Islamists, however, the only game in town is total military victory. To them, compromise is weakness, inviting more attacks. It’s very frightening to have a president who is so rigid in his belief system that he’s unable to acknowledge that there’s an enemy out there even worse than the Republicans.

Is it real or is it satire?  Only the Obama administration knows for sure

With a president such as ours, one who has a State Department that believes that hashtags actually accomplish something, it’s often hard to separate satire from real news. I think that if you go to this link regarding the prayer campaign the administration is starting, you’ll be able to determine whether it’s satire or not but, nowadays, maybe I’m wrong in that supposition.

The very real power of prayer

Still, prayer can have quite a power beyond anything we can imagine. In a report about the attack that killed Lt. Hadar Goldin in Israel’s war with Hamas, comes this most amazing and moving story:

In the midst of this attack, a second force of IDF soldiers–which had gone into a mosque looking for weapons, explosives, and rockets– encountered a female suicide bomber who was about to detonate the belt she wore, which would have resulted in the deaths of the soldiers. One of the soldiers instinctively recited the opening words of the holiest Jewish prayer “Shema Yisrael”. The female suicide bomber hesitated and began trembling, giving the soldiers a chance to grab her and disable the device.

The soldiers then took her prisoner and turned her over to a counter-intelligence unit. Their investigation uncovered that the female suicide bomber’s mother was a Jew who had married a Palestinian in Israel and, after the wedding, was smuggled against her will into Gaza. There she lived a life filled with abuse and humiliation, and was basically a captive. In addition to the female suicide bomber, there were two smaller children as well. An armored force went in and rescued the two small children.

For more on the Shema, go here.

Hillary Clinton would have been different, but probably just as bad

Megan McArdle thinks Hillary Clinton would have been a better president than Obama simply because she’s more willing to play with the other kids on the playground. That is, says McArdle, she wouldn’t have been as dismissive of Republican and Tea Party concerns. I often agree with McArdle but in this case I wonder. After all, it was Hillary who thought up the whole “vast right wing conspiracy.” The Clintons are just as corrupt and paranoid as Obama. Certainly Hillary would have made different decisions, and these might have been less doctrinaire and more intelligent, but she’s not any more interested in true partisanship than Obama is.

Shovel — or spoon — ready jobs

Milton Friedman, when asked about “shovel ready jobs,” famously said if the point is just to keep people busy, the government should be handing out spoons, not shovels. The Welsh were apparently listening closely, since they’ve created make-work jobs that are the functional equivalent of tiny little teaspoons to dig big holes.

Incidentally, if that image seems familiar to you, think back to Norton Juster’s wonderful The Phantom Tollbooth. There, our intrepid heroes, Milo, Tock, and the Humbug, meet the Terrible Trivium, who wastes their precious time having them do such meaningless tasks as filling buckets with eye-droppers or digging holes with needles. As he says, “If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you’ll never have to worry about the important ones which are so difficult. You simply won’t have the time, for there is always something to do to keep you from what you should really be doing.”

The terrible trivium

Robin Williams never let politics blind him to our common humanity

John Nolte almost gets it right:

Williams was political — a heavy donor to Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, and Al Franken, but never offensive. Politics would sometimes rear its head in his stand-ups, but the jibes at Republicans were good-natured, not caustic; the kind of jokes Johnny Carson told.

In fact, when I last saw Williams on stage here in Marin (he showed up unexpectedly at a local comedy club), his anti-Bush and anti-Cheney jokes were just as nasty as any other Leftist comedian’s. Even worse, they weren’t funny.

What made this mindless political attack almost irrelevant I thought was that Williams never let his politics prevent him from seeing the troops as people in need of laughter, rather than monsters in the Bush war machine.  Nolte has a lovely quotation to support this principle:

When the wars came in 2002, without seeking personal attention or publicity, he was overseas with The Boys. Over the course of the decade he would visit 13 countries and entertain 90,000 service men and women. A retired General told ABC News:

After his shows, he’d stick around, making personal connections with service members. Retired Gen. Carter Ham respected Williams’ character.

“He would go to the guard towers, he’d got the dining facilities, he’d got the security police who couldn’t come to the shows because they were on duty. And he would spend time with them individually. That was very moving,” Ham said.

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  • JKB

    Yeah, I saw a couple bits where Williams was going after Bush, the audience laughed but I thought he killed his routine. In one, he comes out with lots of congratulations for Obama then it went downhill.

    In another, he did make a prophetic joke. In a bit starting on the premise that everyone was waking up from being on all the drugs people take. Not bad, it starts with the response that Clinton was impeached. Why, Blow Job. Who’d he blow Putin? No, he got one form a Jewish girl. I got distracted as it was Obama who is servicing Putin.

    Another was about Canada and Quebec wanting to separate but keep the currency. “That’s like your teenager moving out but still wanting money”. I thought of that girl who sued her parents for support after she left home Turns out, DemProg behavior took all his material and made it real life.

  • bkivey

    Apropos of nothing, every time I see the image of the earnest young woman at the head of each post, my eyes involuntarily pause at her hair. Can we have the posie back?

  • Blick4343

    Re Shovel ready jobs. Having worked with community public works development for 30 years there were almost never any projects engineered just setting on the shelf waiting for funding. There were plenty of projects that had preliminary engineering done with rough cost estimates. But the hard engineering math, surveying , land acquisition, environmental review and detailed cost estimates always waited for the funding to be in hand before starting. A state highway project could take up to 3-5 years for these items to be completed before bidding and the symbolic ground breaking shovel is turned. Small city sewer and water projects could take a year or two to get it ready for bidding and construction. Simple projects such as paving overlay, replacing curb and gutter, replacing water and sewer lines can be readied fairly quickly say 3 to 6 months. then there is always winter shut down of construction in the northern states.

    RE Obama is technically right that you cannot help if somebody is not ready for help. However that is naive in world politics. It is not always about helping but about protecting your self-interest or protecting a minority ethnic party or heading off a foreign instigated takeover. For Obama to say this, is typical strawman politics that he is so good at. It is not a thoughtful, consider all the angles, policy making.

    RE Robin Williams. I enjoyed some of his humor and acting. But i suspected his ad lib humor to be a shield. His manic humor was hiding the real person from the public while the real person was hurting, depressed and addicted. In reality he was the sad clown.

  • Ymarsakar

    “Lots of my Leftist Facebook friends recently ran a poster showing that George Bush actually took more vacations than Barack Obama. I’m sure this is true. ”

    No, it’s not.

    When are people going to figure out that what the Left claims is only true of themselves?

  • Danny Lemieux

    My introduction to Obama’s shovel ready jobs was driving along a newly resurfaced semi-private road in the adjoining village, where the median household income is $150,000. Not like Chicago’s low-income South Side neighborhood, of course, where potholes qualify as historical registry sites.

    I am still kicking myself for not having taken a snapshot of the “paid for by your tax dollars” sign at the entrance of the village road that extolled Obama’s economic stimulus that went nowhere except into the pockets of crony contractors.

  • Caped Crusader

    “With a president such as ours, one who has a State Department that believes that hashtags actually accomplish something, it’s often hard to separate satire from real news. I think that if you go to this link regarding the prayer campaign the administration is starting,”

    This is serious in the same way this website is serious:

  • Earl

    I remember thinking (in 2008, when Hillary seemed inevitable) that the nation would probably be better off electing HER, rather than John McCain……

    That may have been wrong (no way to know) but the reasoning is as follows: McCain and Hillary would have very similar programs, although they’d likely be described in different words. The GOP would be falling over itself to support McCain’s RINO proposals, and we’d be in deep doo-doo rather quickly. Hillary’s similar proposals would be resisted and slow-walked for political reasons, and it would take longer to get to the bad places they both wanted to take us.

    I think this kind of thing is true of Obama and Hillary, too — the GOP would have had an easier time criticizing/resisting/attacking Hillary because she’s not the same “transformative figure” that Obama was sold to us as.

  • qr4j

    Facebook and Current Events and Deleted Posts: Last night I posted a response on FB to one of my own posts. The original post had to do with ISIS and the slaughter of Christians in Iraq by horrific means. The response was a follow-up based upon news I watched when I was at the gym. Specifically I mentioned ISIS’ practice of putting a letter N on the homes of Chrsitians. I compared that to what the Nazis did to Jewish homes. The N stands for Nazarene, which is what a Christian is called in that part of the world — because they follow THE Nazarene.

    The response was deleted.

    I was contacted by a Jewish friend on a comment I made on one of her posts: “They came for the Jews. Then they came for the Christians. Then they came for the gays.” That was deleted from her comment string.

    What’s up? I used no profanity. I didn’t denigrate Muslims. I only said bad things about ISIS. And to an ISIS person, they would be good things, I should think because they’re happy when Jews, Christians, and gays are torturously murdered.

    What’s up?!

    • Bookworm

      qr4j: I know that Facebook deletes posts and accounts. I hadn’t heard of them deleting comments, but I certainly wouldn’t put it past them. Has anyone else had this experience?

    • Ymarsakar

      If FB has content reporting systems, then propaganda teams will ping certain things to delete them. Propaganda is audience based. Western audience is not the Middle East audience.

      This has already been tested on Youtube vs Islamic propaganda that’s been translated into English.

  • JKB

    How long before, we Americans, are as jades as the Russians about the collapse of society:

  • raymondjelli

    Amazing that people couldn’t see the Obama dog and pony show. It was all there.

    He publicly lied that the pony was a unicorn that could cure all medical ills and privately he ate the dog.

  • Ymarsakar

    “In fact, when I last saw Williams on stage here in Marin (he showed up unexpectedly at a local comedy club), his anti-Bush and anti-Cheney jokes were just as nasty as any other Leftist comedian’s. Even worse, they weren’t funny.”

    People don’t want to see the truth. It’s always “the next gamble, I will get back all I lost”. Right.

    As for Williams, like most people that are either alone or afraid to die alone, he sought out the emotional support of his peers. In this case, Hollywood Democrats. He aped the anti Bush and Cheney stuff because they approved and lavished praise on him, which his ego liked.

    But it was no true emotional support. Williams had neither the True Hate nor enough life essence for other hates to burn up, to keep him living. Nor did he have True Love keeping him alive either, being in the Democrat camp of death and probably divorced (from the average whores of that clique, that is).

    The end, thus, typical Book. Fanatics and zealots love emotionally unstable people like Williams, but the one requirement was something he never hacked. Something to live for. Something to die for. Something to kill for. When he ran out, his end was there. Life is not such an easy thing as the Leftist cultists would like you to believe. They do not have its Secrets. They do not have Earth’s Secrets.