Thursday round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesFor reasons that make no sense to me, in the past week my daily readership has almost trebled. I suspect a bot has targeted my site but, when I allow myself to pretend that it’s actual people checking out my site, I feel really quite good. And now let’s see if I can make all of my real and robotic readers feel good with some interesting links:

It turns out that I’m not the only one who has noticed that the only thing exciting the Left right now, from Obama on down to the most insignificant Facebook user, is gay marriage. Syria? Sad, but boring. Ukraine? A little scary, so best ignored. North Korea? Really scary, so best ignored. Economy? We have a Democrat president, so we pretend it’s good. But gay marriage? Wow! That’s a hot issue, so hot that it should be the administration’s most pressing issue, the states’ most pressing issue, and social media’s most pressing issue.

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Putting gay marriage aside, what sensible people should be excited about is the fact that the current administration has deliberately chosen to subvert the law and to use supposedly non-partisan administrative agencies (most notably the IRS) to destroy the current administration’s political opponents. Bradley A. Smith spells it out, and there are smoking guns everywhere. Unfortunately, true believers on the Left are just going to look at that evidence and say, “Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.” They’d do that even if Lois Lerner got her immunity and spilled the beans.

Few on the Left have Democrat Prof. Jonathan Turley’s insight or integrity:

And what we’ve been seeing is the shift of gravity within that system in a very dangerous way that makes it unstable, and I think that’s what the president is doing. I think that we’ve become a nation of enablers. We are turning a blind eye to a fundamental change in our system. I think many people will come to loathe that they remained silent during this period.

Incidentally, I wonder if Mr. Smith has been reading my blog. To conclude his masterful summary demonstrating administration complicity with the IRS, he wrote this:

In 1170, King Henry II is said to have cried out, on hearing of the latest actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” Four knights then murdered the archbishop. Many in the U.S. media still willfully refuse to see anything connecting the murder of the archbishop to any actions or abuse of power by the king.

If that seems familiar to some of you, I wrote the same thing (although at greater length) back in May 2013.

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Hillary Clinton spoke in Florida yesterday to defend Obamacare. For a good analysis, go here. The short version is that she’s adopting the Democrat party line, which is that Obamacare is slightly flawed, but should be fixed, not undone. I’ll just chime in quickly with a little extra info that may explain why many people will be inclined to save, not jettison it: the venue at which she spoke was a massive annual medical technology convention. The wealth concentrated there — wealth created because Obamacare has mandated computerizing all medical records — probably equals the wealth of several small and mid-sized countries. Exhibitors weren’t just giving away pens and mouse pads. They were giving away Kindle Fires and other fancy swag. Follow the money….

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I love it when my politics and my dieting efforts converge: No Girl Scout cookies for me this year. The Girl Scouts are absolutely free to continue their leftward drift. I just don’t have to help fund it. If I had my own personal Marine Sergeant Major monitoring my diet, none of this would be an issue.

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Just a reminder that if you want a bird’s eye view of probable election results, check out Scott Elliott’s Election Projection. Working on a state-by-state basis, he has amassed a vast and highly accurate database of predicted election outcomes.

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North Korea is one seriously scary place. It’s scary inside, because it is a vast, brutal concentration camp. I mean, think about it: It’s so bad that the UN has actually taken time off from persecuting Israel to castigate North Korea for a few days.

It’s also scary outside because it’s got a vast armory of conventional weapons aimed at South Korea, and a probable armory of nuclear weapons aimed at God knows where. Andrew Keller recommends actually enforcing sanctions against it, so that the West is no longer complicit in propping up this government. (Our excuse for propping it up, starting with Madeleine Albright, is always that we’re preventing mass starvation. We haven’t done anything of the sort.  The NoKo government just takes the money, buys caviar, and lets the people starve anyway.) My only worry with Keller’s recommendation is that North Korea is not the kind of country that will go down easy. It seems to me that one of its last gasp efforts will be to take large parts of the world, or Asia, down with it.

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I don’t understand why people are so fussed about reliably Left-leaning Ronan Farrow winning a journalism award after only two days on air at MSNBC. After all, Barack Obama won the once-prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, not because he actually did anything on the job, but simply because he got hired. Eric Wemple illustrates that in the modern journalism world, everyone is good enough, smart enough and, gosh darn it, entitled to endless accolades and awards.

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Eric Holder was briefly hospitalized for chest pains, but seems to be okay. I wonder if he had a panic attack, which can mimic a heart attack. He’s got a lot of balls in the air now, and it must be nerve-wracking to keep them spinning. You know what I mean: Urging state Attorney General’s to refuse to enforce their own state laws regarding gay marriage; arranging for gun-running into Mexico, and then having to cover it all up; hiding administration documents about everything from the IRS to Benghazi; working to turn felons and illegal aliens into registered voters; and so on. I’d be stressed too with all of that on my plate.

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In a typically thoughtful, detailed post, Daniel Greenfield examines Obama’s decision to put America into a forced retreat from the world stage. His last paragraph reads like the final epitaph for a once great nation:

Post-American America exists to destroy itself. Until that changes, it has nothing to offer the world except membership in a suicide pact.

Obama’s despicable role in the Ukraine (or, rather, his absence of any role, other than some meaningless Kabuki theater) perfectly illustrates how he’s got America crawling away on her hands and knees, with her national butt nicely poised in the air for some final kicking.

The Left assured us in 2008 that the world would be a better place without all that nasty American influence. The world’s citizens are discovering what you and I already knew: The world is a much less nice, stable, safe place without an American influence. Moreover, the Left’s talk of compassion was a fake.  For example, even as apocalyptic scenes play out in Syria, the Left manifestly doesn’t care.

A bouquet of stuff from all over

Quick Link and Open Thread imageThere’s so much good stuff out there on Mondays.  All the pent-up writer’s instinct and energy from the weekend seems to pour over into this day.  Here’s some of that good stuff:

Camille Paglia points out the obvious:  it’s false that a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.  Men are necessary to women’s survival and well-being.  The important thing, as I frequently point out, is to cultivate men’s virtues — and, as my readers have pointed out, to raise women who appreciate men’s best qualities.

And while we’re on the subject of men’s importance, did you know that the majority of crazed mass shooters in the past decades have come from single-mom homes with no stable male role model?  Guns are just tools.  What’s interesting is to see the dynamic social forces that lead young men to those tools:  my list now includes boys and young men who take psychotropic drugs, have Democrat or other leftist backgrounds, and were raised in broken homes usually headed by single moms.  Those are the types of people who use tools destructively.

I keep saying that Charles C.W. Cooke is rapidly becoming one of my favorite pundits.  Posts such as this one, about the media’s endless efforts to pin mass shootings on the Tea Party (instead of on the shooter, or psychotropic drugs, or Democrat backgrounds, or single moms, all of which actually tie in to mass shootings) explain why I like him so much.

Whatever Al Qaeda touches, it turns to shattered human flesh and bones.

Lawlessness at the top of an institution invariably filters downwards.  In Obama’s America, sheriff’s are now refusing to enforce gun laws.  Actually, though, to the extent that this “lawlessness” involves sheriff’s refusing to enforce new laws that violate the Second Amendment, I’m inclined to say that the nation’s sheriffs aren’t being lawless.  They are, instead, engaging in the time-honored American tradition of righteous civil disobedience.

Of course, the lawlessness isn’t just at the top.  There’s also a deep dishonesty that permeates the Left from top to bottom, with its most malevolent outlet in the American media.

North Korea is looking increasingly unstable.  While I’d love to see Kim’s government collapse, I worry that, given North Korea’s massive dysfunction, and the result of 60 years of national brainwashing, anything that is able to topple the Kim dynasty will be worse than the Kim dynasty (assuming that’s possible).

Good for ESPN’s Stephen Smith to speak out against the pariah status imposed on conservative blacks.

Obama’s efforts to polarize America for political ends have resulted in something very dangerous:  a polarized America.

Two on Kerry:  (1) His horrible, awful, dreadful, truly horrible (did I mention horrible?), self-defeating diplomacy; (2) and the fact that he never shuts up, but just keeps spouting nonsense.  In England’s Restoration period, the Earl of Rochester got himself banished from King Charles II’s court when he wrote this little doggerel:  “Here lies our sovereign Lord and King, whose word no man relies on; Who never said a foolish thing, nor ever did a wise one.”  Had I a knack for rhyme, I would rewrite that for Kerry, emphasizing both foolish talk and dangerous action.

Add the University of Maryland to the list of schools that wants to have all students pay $15 more per year for insurance so that a very small number of transgendered students can get free surgery.  On the one hand, $15 is only about 1% of the total cost of student insurance.  On the other hand, if you keep adding in these small amounts, you end up with big amounts.  And to show you how that works, I had a poetry book when I was young that included a poem in which the narrator describes  how Jane would offer him some pie.  “‘Will you have some pie?’” asked Jane.  Said I, ‘Just a little bit.’”  The narrator and Jane repeat this pattern several times.  Eventually, the narrator decides not to wait for Jane to ask him if he wants some pie.  Instead, he asks her for a slice of pie.  To his chagrin, Jane tells him that there’s none left:  “Little bit by little bit, I’d eaten every bit of it.”  And so it goes with trying to insure for every eventuality, including politically correct ones aiming at making everyone feel included in the insurance pie — at the end of the day, there’s nothing left.  Little bit by little bit, insurance costs have became unsustainable and no one can be insured.

Maybe the US hasn’t quite fallen into the “cult of personality” trap

I was heartened today to see that President Obama’s approval rate has dropped significantly.  That’s not just because I think Obama has been a lousy president, destroying the economy at home and substantially interfering with our relations and security abroad.  It’s also because it’s a healthy sign that Obama’s approval can drop.

We’ve often talked about the cult of personality the mainstream media built around Obama.  He was the “hope” and the “change”, he was the “magic negro”, and he was the politician whom photographers loved to capture with a halo image around his head:

Obama halo

This type of adulation for a politician — a “cult of personality” — is terribly dangerous.  It overrides democratic checks and balances, and leads to tyranny.  Scary stuff.

But here’s the good news, from a Weekly Standard article about Italian fascism in the 1930s and 1940s.  (The article is behind a pay wall, but you can currently get a 30-day free trial of the Weekly Standard, which I highly recommend. ).  Italian fascism has gone unexamined until recently because Italians, by overthrowing Mussolini, kept their own records (and hid them).  Now that the records are finally becoming open for analysis, they show that Italians strongly supported Mussolini, and that they did so long after his policies were shown to be disastrous.  This is normal for totalitarian regimes built around a demagogue:

Charismatic leaders are not immediately blamed for the failures of their regimes: “If Stalin only knew” was a commonplace during the worst years of the Soviet era. The ruling party is blamed—whether Communist or Fascist—as are underlings, but the supreme leader is long given a pass.

Thankfully, according to the latest polls, Obama is not getting a pass.  As long as the media kept a tight control on information, Obama got a pass because ordinary voters were ignorant about is failures.  Now that the dike has broken, though, revealing Obama’s many failures as a leader at home and abroad, Americans are turning on him.  If this had been a true cult of personality, his poll drops probably wouldn’t have happened.

I’m going to do something pretty outrageous for me here and recommend an HBO show.  VICE is an investigative reporting show.  It comes from a strong Leftist slant, but even Leftists have a hard time supporting North Korea (never mind that North Korea is the logical end point of personality-driven, socialist statism).  Anyway, VICE did an episode about Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea and it is fascinating.  You can see photos and clips here.  Obama’s tried to create a cult of personality, but he’s no Kim Jong Un, for which mercy we should all give thanks.

Re North Korea, the PowerLine guys think we’re being taken to the cleaners, but we won’t end up dead

I’ve been wondering whether North Korea’s unusually heightened war rhetoric means that the missiles will really start to fly.  Over at PowerLine, Steven Hayward has a different theory, which is depressing, but less worrisome.  He thinks that Kim Jong-Un is no fool, and that he recognizes that the troika of Obama, Kerry, and Hagel is the negotiating equivalent of the Three Stooges.  He will push them around until their little spines flop over completely, and then come back with unusually excessive demands, to which they will gratefully acquiesce:

Skip past Barack Obama for a moment, and just take in the secretary of defense, and the secretary of state.  Chuck Hagel.  John Kerry.  Take a deep breath here. Put yourself in the shoes of the Norks.  These guys make the British appeasers of the 1930s look like Chuck Norris.  Think the Norks haven’t paid attention to these guys?  Add in Obama’s obvious liberal guilt and what conclusion would you reach?  Even a 28-year old Kim, educated in private schools in Switzerland but moreover schooled in the Nork blackmail drill, will draw the obvious conclusion: time to go for broke and take the U.S. to the cleaners, because its leadership right now is ripe for the plucking.  Far from being crazy, Kim Jong Un may be the most rational person around right now.

That actually makes sense.

To which Paul Mirengoff adds that the Swiss-educated Jong-Un might be trying to make reforms to the country’s economy.  This is best done if he appeases the hard-liners while getting some hard cash from the United States.

Both those scenarios make more sense than North Korea willingly destroying itself, and they make sense in terms of the team that Obama has assembled over in the Foggy Bottom, and foggy brain, neighborhood.

Only time will tell, of course.  We little people can’t influence events; we can just watch them unfold.

What does North Korea want? And should we be scared?

I haven’t yet decided whether I’m unnerved by North Korea’s saber rattling.  We’ve seen this before, starting in the 1990s, when the North Koreans figured out that, if they made the West sufficiently nervous, the West would bring offerings of food and money to the destitute totalitarian prison state, in hopes that feeding the beast would render it docile.  Things seem a little different this time, though, so maybe I’m getting more nervous.

First, North Korea has never been so open in its aggression.  If I remember past situations correctly, the North Koreans shot missiles here and there, made the usual threats against South Korea, and had the propaganda news station heighten the rhetoric a little bit, but that was it.  This time, however, North Korea has made public carefully posed photographs showing Kim Jong-un clustering with his generals as they blot nuclear missile attacks, not just at Seoul, but at specifically named American cities — Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Austin, Texas.  Specific threats tend to be more worrisome than generic Communist hate-speech.  (And I don’t mean to imply that the past threats against Seoul were meaningless.  Regardless of meaning, they were also part of North Korean ritual.)

North Korea plan to attack US mainland revealed in photographs - Telegraph - Mozilla Firefox 3292013 71051 AM.bmp North Korea plan to attack US mainland revealed in photographs - Telegraph - Mozilla Firefox 3292013 71003 AM.bmp

Second, North Korea is under new management.  Kim Jong-un is a totally unknown quantity.  Maybe he’s just using his youthful zeal to bring new optics into the stale ritual blackmail . . . but maybe not.  As ancient Rome showed, the tyrants tend to get crazier as time goes by. (Think:  Caligula.)  Maybe Jong-un, who has never known anything but the insane hot house of North Korean politics, actually thinks attacking South Korea and the United States will work to his country’s benefit.  Megalomania doesn’t breed rational thought.

Third, North Korea has the nuclear weapons this time, and they’ve given every indication that they’re crazy enough to use them.  No mutually assured destruction doctrine will hold them back.

Fourth, it’s peculiar that North Korea hasn’t made any demands yet, despite a month of threats.  And not just threats, but escalating threats.

Fifth — and this is the really scary one — this may all be a red herring as they ship nuclear arms to Iran.  I read today (and for the life of me I can’t remember where) that this may all be a shell game, with Iran keeping our focus on its ability to build nuclear weapons, while North Korea keeps our focus on its ability to use nuclear weapons.  In fact, Iran may not be building, and North Korea may not be using.  Instead, it’s quite possible that North Korea is building the weapons for Iran’s use.  And that’s a very scary thought indeed.

That’s my brain spill about North Korea and its escalating threats.  What do you guys think?

 

When it comes to North Korea,it’s good to know that our military has its priorities straight

The headlines have been deeply disturbing:  North Korea, led by an unstable 20-something, has reinstated war against the United States and South Korea after a fifty-plus year hiatus in active hostilities.  Admittedly, North Korea hasn’t fired any shots yet, but its rhetorical volleys have been incendiary.  Just yesterday, it cut the single communication line that ran between North and South Korea.

Although the full scope of North Korea’s nuclear capability is a mystery (indeed, the full scope of its entire military is a mystery), we know that it’s spent the last fifty-plus years building weapons aimed at Seoul.  Even if 90% of them are duds (entirely possible given North Korea’s fizzled rocket exercises living standards), the 10% remaining could wreak havoc on the densely populated South Korean peninsula.  Japan would also be in North Korea’s cross hairs.

With the war drums beating, the United States Navy is hard at work keeping a sharp eye on the most significant threat to the United States — climate change.

No, that’s not one of my typos.  That’s really what Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III said.  Even the très liberal Boston Globe seemed taken aback:

America’s top military officer in charge of monitoring hostile actions by North Korea, escalating tensions between China and Japan, and a spike in computer attacks traced to China provides an unexpected answer when asked what is the biggest long-term security threat in the Pacific region: climate change.

Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, in an interview at a Cambridge hotel Friday after he met with scholars at Harvard and Tufts universities, said significant upheaval related to the warming planet “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.’’

“People are surprised sometimes,” he added, describing the reaction to his assessment. “You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level. Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.”

Put aside the fact that huge bodies of new, verifiable evidence show that all the hysterical climate models were grossly exaggerated.  Nature is just doing what nature has always done.  But even if you too believe that climate change is imminent and apocalyptic, right now you  need to stay focused on the fact that, with North Korea threatening imminent nuclear hellfire, our Navy is concerned focusing its efforts on hypothetical threats twenty or more years down the line.

Since I’m a big fan of the Navy, I absolutely refuse to believe that Admiral Locklear has drunk that deeply of the Kool-Aid.  This must be some elaborate double-blind technique.  I can think of two sneaky reasons to explain this idiocy:  The first is that the Navy is deliberately ignoring North Korea in order to show that the U.S. is a strong big dog, disinterested in a little dog’s inane yapping.  In other words, Locklear is engaged in an elaborate power play.  The second is that this is a ruse to hide the fact that the U.S. is planning a major and immediate response if North Korea sends so much as a toy dart over the Demilitarized Zone.  Even as the North Koreans think that we’re dumb as rocks, we’re planning a big defense or assault.

I hope I’m right.  Otherwise, our nation is in deep doo-doo.

Hat tip:  Ace of Spades

Yes, Obama is a Marxist, but the MSM has blunted America’s ability to care

At YID with LID, you get to see proof of something we all knew intuitively:  Obama is now and long has been a Marxist.

The problem is that this news, which ought to be staggering, doesn’t matter.  Even if one strips away the MSM’s reflexive denial about Obama’s Marxism, the fact that he is a Marxist still doesn’t matter.  I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, that forty years of Leftist education and media indoctrination have resulted in an America that views the word without fear.

After forty years of being taught aggressively that America is an evil imperialist; that American values are not only no better than other values but are actually worse; that women and all non-white races are superior to men and the white race (a form of reverse racism, rather than a step toward true equality); that capitalism destroys humans and the planet; that traditional religion is a form of white capitalist dominance; and on and on.  America may not yet be a Marxist nation in fact, but it will be because we’ve had two generations that have been inculcated in Marxist ideology.  It’s what they know and where they go.

I was the first generation.  I struggled with the cognitive dissonance of “the Communists are people just like us, and they want happy families, and they have elections, and we’re the warmongers, and fairies and unicorns,” even while contrasting that with meeting people from the Soviet Union, or getting reports out of China, the Soviet Union, Cuba, and other Marxist paradises putting the lie to these assurances.  Since 1989, though, Communism has been on the decline at the national level.  The Soviet Union is gone, China has gone to a weirdly capitalist economy, and we’re told that Cuba is a happy, sunny, laid-back, 50s-car driving Caribbean paradise, while the horrors in North Korea aren’t because of Communism, but simply because the Kim family is evil.  It’s Peyton Place on steroids, rather than the logical outgrowth of an evil ideology.  The cognitive dissonance with which I struggled is gone, because the past few generations have had no truth to balance against the lies.

So at the end of the day, no one in America cares that Obama is a Marxist.  The concept has been leached of meaning.

But, just so you know, he is a Marxist.

All of which gets me back to the point I made in the preceding post:  Andrew Breitbart got that the problem isn’t Obama.  He’s a symptom.  The problem is a media establishment that’s created a virtual Newspeak world.  It’s that ideological hegemony that we need to destroy, so that future generations of America can actually struggle with cognitive dissonance, rather than being fed a pure diet of lies and misinformation.  Then, if they’re lucky, they can choose actual facts rather than Marxist unicorns and fairies when they make the political choices.

Yes, #OWS is antisemitic. Bill Whittle explains why. And I explain why there is no 99%.

This is as pithy a summary as any I’ve seen about the antisemitism permeating Occupy Wall Street, and binding together the Left, the Islamists, and the White Supremacists:

(If the video isn’t showing up, watch here.)

By the way, why is no one commenting on the fact that the so-called 99% are not a monolithic block, but range from the 1% crazy guy eating food out of a garbage can, all the way up to the 98% gal who was raised in poverty, but worked her way up to splendid financial independence?

This whole 99% versus 1% thing is insanely stupid.  The American reality is that we don’t live in the Middle Ages, we don’t live in a totalitarian dictatorship such as North Korea or Cuba, we don’t live in pre-Revolutionary France, or in any other time or place where the vast majority of citizens are or were a monolithic block of nasty, brutish and short lives, rules over by a few vastly wealthy despots.

Yes, there are some vastly wealthy people in America, although the ones such as Bill Gates and Larry Ellison are singularly disinterested in political power, instead just wanting toys (Ellison) or to save the lives of Third World children (Gates).  Mostly, America represents a rare economic continuum.  There is no 99%.  Instead, in America, we have the 1%, 2%, 3%, 4%, 5% . . . 50%, 51%, 52%, 53% . . . 87%, 88%, 89%, with the vast majority living in the middle of the percentage bell curve, a bell curve that has nothing to do with either Wall Street wealth or Zuccotti homelessness or even spoiled brat student loans.

Hat tip:  Ed Driscoll

Leftist thinking out of England

Two stories at the British Guardian caught my eye.  The first is the Guardian’s announcement that its readers think Private Bradley Manning deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.   You’re not imagining things.  Britain’s Left — at least that portion that answers unscientific online newspaper polls — thinks that the man who stole thousands of classified U.S. government documents and gave them to a man hostile to America, who in turn published them, leading to lots of boredom and, unfortunately, many deaths, is deserving of a “peace” prize.  The only thing that makes this logical is that you and I understand that “peace prize” is a misnomer.  What it really should be called is the “Nobel Hate America, Individual Freedom, and Capitalism Prize.”  Called by its true name, Manning is a perfect recipient.

The other story is one that’s both unbelievably tragic and that highlights the Left’s moral blindness.  The story is about a terrible famine affecting North Korea.  Here’s the Guardian’s take on the famine:

Footage of malnourished North Korean orphans and official warnings over failed harvests have given a rare glimpse at the scale of devastating food shortages in the country following a harsh winter and widespread flooding.

[snip]

North Korea has struggled with its food supply since the crippling famine of the 90s, and its biggest donors – South Korea and the US – have yet to decide whether to resume aid suspended in 2008, while rising global commodity prices have exacerbated its problems.

[snip]

The Reuters AlertNet humanitarian news service, which shot the new video, was allowed to make a tightly controlled trip to South Hwanghae, a farming province in the country’s arable heartland. The team reported signs of severe malnutrition in children and medical staff said they lacked the drugs they needed.

“The natural disasters of last year and this year have forced the people to live on potatoes and corn. Because people aren’t taking in proper nutrition, the number of in-patients has increased. While in May the number of inpatients was about 200, we have had around 350 inpatients each month from July to September,” said Jang Kum-son, a doctor.

Kim Chol-jun, paediatrician at a school for orphans, said heavy rainfall and flooding had also contaminated water supplies, leading to digestive diseases.

The governing People’s Committee said a bitter winter destroyed 65% of South Hwanghae’s barley, wheat and potato crops, and that rains, flooding and typhoons had destroyed 80% of the maize harvest. Officials added that they expected less than half the usual rice crop this month.

What’s missing from this story, with its focus on rainfall and flooding (some of which I assume affected neighboring South Korea) is that North Korea has had a perpetual famine problem.  This is not a weather related famine problem, although you wouldn’t guess it from the Guardian’s coverage.  Instead, it’s the same famine problem that affected the Ukraine in the 1930s and China during the Great Leap Forward:  It’s called a Communist-caused famine, and it occurs when a tyrannical centralized government destroys markets, designates food and farmland for favored citizens, diverts most of its resources to the military that props it up, and generally uses its citizens as servants of and tools for a small cadre of privileged people.

Did you notice, too, that the South Koreans are feeding their starving neighbors?  On the one hand, I totally understand it.  They don’t want hordes of hungry, nuclearized North Koreans swarming over the border.  On the other hand, it’s a shame that they’re propping up a dictatorship that’s systematically starving its own citizens.  I’m not exaggerating with the systematic starvation comment.  When I quoted from the Guardian, I left out a paragraph that provides the Guardian’s single nod to the fact that nature isn’t the only one at fault as North Korea’s children die:

Some suspect that Pyongyang may be hoarding crops to ensure there is plenty of food next year. The North has pledged that 2012 – the centenary of founder Kim Il-sung’s birth – will be the year it becomes a major power.

Political theater *REVAMPED*

One of the hallmarks of a modern totalitarian government is stagecraft.  Leni Riefenstahl made a whole movie dedicated to glorifying a totalitarian government’s meticulously staged extravaganza.  As a child in the 1960s and 1970s, I vividly remember footage of marches in the Soviet Union, with soldiers in perfect goosestep orderChina and North Korea are also much given to elaborate shows and parades, none of which originate with the people, and all of which are aimed at demonstrating the people’s alleged love for their leaders (and for the latter’s policies).

Would you be surprised to learn that Obama’s White House is carefully inching in that direction?  Obama is not doing anything as blatant as mass rallies or inhumanly perfect parades, of course.  In a way, he’s doing something much worse, which is co-opting a fundamentally American democratic institution and, without letting people see, turning it into a carefully staged political show.

The latest example of this propaganda impulse is the President’s “townhall” regarding healthcare.  Americans think of a townhall as a free exchange between a political leader and “ordinary” people.  We’ve learned over the last few years that audience members are more likely than not to be friendly to the candidate or president than not, but we believe that the questions are freely asked and unknown to the politician.  Obama’s changing this game and, worse, hiding that fact from the public.  His upcoming townhall, during which he plans to “sell” his government-controlled health care plan he will take only pre-scripted questions.  This is entirely new and it’s bad — so bad that even Helen Thomas, the liberal doyenne of the White House press corps and the one who never met a Republican she liked, is up in arms.

Obama’s reluctance to expose himself to unscripted moments isn’t surprising, of course.  It was when he went off script that he revealed his belief that the federal government’s purpose is to redistribute wealth.  And even when he’s not redefining the American dream to bring it closer in line with the Soviet dream, his teleprompter-free moments reveal him to be a man of few words, most of which are “uh.”

Thanks to an outraged press corp and the blogosphere, Americans are now learning about the perversion of the traditional townhall concept.  The new administration’s control over content, however, is even worse than staging completely fake question-and-answer sessions with “ordinary” members of the public.  In a move that more closely aligns it with North Korea than with North America, the Obama administration is forcing people to listen to his message, whether they want to or not.  This is the antithesis of the marketplace of ideas.

I have it on very good authority (an employee at US embassy in a major NATO country) that this year, in order to celebrate America’s (not Obama’s, but America’s) Independence day, all embassies have been ordered to install a big screen TV in a prominent location in order to play an endlessly looped Hillary Clinton speech for the duration of the festivities.

My employee contact notes that, at his particular embassy, people are appalled by this requirement.  They see it as “tacky.”  I see it as profoundly un-American.  Indeed, I can think of only two precedents for this kind of thing.  One is found in George Orwell’s 1984. In that book, as you may recall, all party members have in their living quarters TVs that may never go off and that sprout endless party propaganda (not to mention have cameras that watch everyone perpetually).

And lest any readers think to themselves “well, 1984 is just fiction,” think of North Korea’s struggles to ensure that its citizens hear only government-approved propaganda:

Until the mid-1990s, it didn’t make sense to broadcast to North Korea. Authorities since the 1960s had dealt with the “foreign broadcast problem”, which created so much trouble for other communist regimes, by outlawing all radios with free tuning. Radios sold in North Korea had fixed tuning and thus could receive only three or four official channels.

If North Korean citizens purchased a radio in one of the country’s hard-currency shops, which accepted foreign cash and had a wider variety of items, or when overseas, it had to be submitted to police where technicians would “fix” (disable) it, making sure its owners could only listen to ideologically wholesome programs about the deeds of their Dear Leader – Kim Jong-il.

This ban was enforced with remarkable efficiency. It was largely entrusted to the heads of the “people’s groups” or inminban, to which all North Koreans belong. Typically, such group consists of 30 to 50 families living in the same block, and is headed by an official. These low-level officials were required to regularly check all radios in their neighborhoods, making sure that they could not be used to listen to foreign or, more likely, South Korean broadcasts.

The punishment could be harsh. One official said in the 1980s she discovered that a family in the neighborhood under her supervision had a radio that could tune into foreign broadcasts. She duly reported her discovery, and the family was immediately exiled to the countryside.

Ironically, even as that situation has improved slightly in North Korea, Obama’s working on putting it into effect in North America.

I recognize, of course, that an endless loop of Hillary blathering away in the background is not the same as the total content control in either Orwell’s fictional Oceania or Kim Jong Il’s horribly real North Korea.  Nevertheless, the impulse is always the same:  force people to listen to a government message without the opportunity either to avoid the message or to hear alternatives.

Obama’s impulses are totalitarian in nature.  In a fight, although he affects an Olympian detachment, laboring always to position himself in the middle, the straw men he places on either side of himself ensure that his Solomonic cogitations always bring him down on the side of the antidemocratic group, be that Hamas, Chavez, Saudi Arabia, Ahmadinejad, or the American people’s right to tune out from government controlled propaganda.  And on the home front, true to these totalitarian impulses, Obama and his team will constantly search for ways to make his the only voice the American people can hear.

N. Korea tests Obama — and the world *UPDATED*

Clearly, predator nations smell blood in the water — and that blood is Obama’s manifest inability to cope with predator nations.  At least, that’s how I read this, from BNO News at 9:30 ish p.m. PST:

N. Korea says it is no longer bound to the armistice which ended the war and says the peninsula will soon be returned to the state of war.

Not quite 3 a.m. in the White House, but close enough, right?  The only thing I know with pretty perfect certainty right now is that BHO has absolutely no idea what to do.  Let’s hope (a) his advisers have some plans and (b) he picks a good plan from the options presented to him.

UPDATELorie Byrd reminds us that, while there’s every reason for us to continue to hope that Obama is unable to carry out his domestic agenda, we should all be at his back right now, praying for a good outcome.

UPDATE II:  This news story started running over the wire at about 9:00 pm PST last night (and I picked it up about a half hour later).   Shortly before 10:00, I told Mr. Bookworm that North Korea had announced that it was no longer bound by the armistice but was, instead, at war (which I think accurate represents the wire information).  Mr. Bookworm was flabbergasted and instantly turned on the news:  which didn’t mention this story at all.  Every single local station was obsessed with the gay marriage story and nothing short of Amageddon was going to dislodge it!  Mr. Bookworm concluded I was hallucinating, although I suspect today’s Drudge headlines might change his point of view.

As it is, someone who has a very good read on these situations thinks it’s still sabre rattling — and will continue to be so until China has a good read on Obama and, if Obama fails to impress China, moves in on Taiwan.

Again, let us join with Lorie Byrd in hoping that Obama passes this test.