April 18th, 2014

Obama to Republicans: My friends, let us work together

What a guy:

President Barack Obama used his Thursday press conference to diagnose Republicans as fear-mongering, spiteful, obstinate, petulant and obstructive…

Obama coupled his passive-voice diatribe with his more-in-sorrow-than-anger promise that he “would much prefer a constructive conversation with the Republicans about how do we get some stuff done.”…

“This does frustrate me: [GOP-led] states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid for no other reason than political spite,” he said, while denying that the states would actually have to tax state residents billions of dollars to fund government-run healthcare for millions more people. “You’ve got 5 million people who could be having health insurance right now at no cost to these states — zero cost to these states — other than ideological reasons,” said Obama…

GOP activists are deceptive, he suggested. “We see accusations that the law is hurting millions of people being completely debunked — as some of you in the press have done,” he said.

What a nasty piece of work he is. And the press is his willing handmaiden, as he acknowledges in that last sentence I quoted.

Presidents used to think they had to take a high tone when they spoke in public, and at least pay lip service to respecting their opponents and crediting them with some sort of goodwill. Obama’s blown that idea out the water.

[NOTE: States will have to pay for 10% of the Medicaid expansion by 2020:

The federal government would pick up the tab for most of the Medicaid expansion when it is implemented in 2014, but states would be required to pay for 10 percent of it by 2020. Though a countrywide expansion would provide coverage for some 17 million Americans who otherwise do not qualify for Medicaid, some states, including Florida, Mississippi, Colorado, and Pennsylvania, say that paying for even 10 percent of the expansion is too much for their tight budgets.

Remember also that, unlike the federal government, states are required to balance their budgets.

Plenty more here and here.]

April 18th, 2014

Airline food: it’s the altitude, stupid

So now they’re saying that airline meals taste as bad as they do because at high altitudes people’s tastebuds go numb:

No matter what it is—fish, chicken, even pasta—every meal served in the air seems to taste undeniably worse than its on-the-ground counterpart. To get to the bottom of this dilemma, we consulted Grant Mickels, the executive chef for culinary development of Lufthansa’s LSG Sky Chefs—who had some surprising revelations. Namely: That the food’s not really the problem here.

“At 35,000 feet, the first thing that goes is your sense of taste,” explained Mickels. He explained that the quality of the food and its ingredients isn’t to blame, it’s the way you experience it. It’s even been tested: The Fraunhofer Institute, a research organization based in Germany, did a study on why a dish that would be delicious in a fine dining restaurant could be, as Mickels put it, “so dull in the air.” In a mock aircraft cabin, researchers tried out ingredients at both sea level and in a pressurized condition—and the differences in taste were startling.

The tests revealed that the cabin atmosphere—pressurized at 8,000 feet—combined with the cool, dry cabin air “makes your taste buds go numb, almost as if you had a cold,” explained Mickels.

Well, they can explain all they want, and research all the want, but none of it’s going to convince me. Although I haven’t actually eaten an official airline meal in many moons, I’ve certainly had plenty of them in the past, and they were uniformly abominable. What puts the lie to their research is that those nuts and pretzels they give out taste perfectly yummy, and that sandwich I got in the airport (the one with the chicken salad and cranberries, that cost about double what it would have cost had it been purchased anywhere else but another airport or Disneyland) tastes pretty darn good too.

So I’m not buying it. The research, that is, not the sandwich.

April 18th, 2014

The candidate as grandmother

Will Hillary Clinton’s impending grandmotherhood become a campaign issue, as in “softening” her, and adding “a compassion thing”?

I must admit that the mere notion puzzles me. I assume that Andrew Ross Sorkin, the NY Times financial columnist who suggested the idea, meant that the additional compassion would be by Hillary rather than for Hillary.

Makes me think of all the compassion the left showed Sarah Palin for her impending grandmotherhood back in 2008.

My sense of Hillary Clinton is that attitudes towards her are pretty much set in stone by now. There’s not a lot of play there, grandchild or no grandchild. But commentators have to talk about something, don’t they?

As do I. As do I.

April 18th, 2014

Planet resembling earth found

Is Kepler-186f The One? At 490 light-years away, we may never know:

“This is the first definitive Earth-sized planet found in the habitable zone around another star,” said Elisa Quintana of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute at NASA. “Finding such planets is a primary goal of the Kepler space telescope.”…

…Kepler had observed five planets approximately the size of Earth and in the habitable zone.

But the “previously discovered worlds are larger than Earth, and consequently their true nature — rocky or gaseous — is unknown,” the SETI Institute said in a written announcement on Thursday. “On the basis of the observed dimming of starlight from Kepler-186, the authors estimate that this newly discovered planet is roughly the same size as the Earth.”

Theoretical models and observations tell scientists that planets the size of Kepler-186f likely have a composition of iron, rock and ice, like Earth, Quintana told reporters Thursday.

And speaking of resemblances, doesn’t this newscaster look quite a bit like Candice Bergen in her more mature years?

April 18th, 2014

Rage against the Republican nominee

As a still-rather-newish ex-Democrat (I’m not a Republican, but I vote that way), I remain surprised at the persistence of opinions such as this one on the conservative side. Yes, I understand the frustration with the Republicans and share it to a fair extent. But no, I don’t and won’t be railing against a candidate like Romney and asserting that Goldwater was a much better candidate than Goldwater actually was.

It’s a very human tendency to be angrier at the internal enemy at the expense of the external and far-more-important one. It reminds me of the common tendency, when one parent has abused a child, for the victim to blame the other parent even more, and to direct the greatest amount of anger against him/her for not sufficiently protecting that child by stopping the abusing parent.

The truth about Goldwater is that he was an awful* candidate. Go back and look at videos if you don’t believe me. The other truth is that he was the victim of an unfair smear campaign. Go back and look at videos if you don’t believe me. And the other truth is that I don’t think any other Republican candidate who might have run in 1964 could have beaten Johnson. All three things are true.

All three things might have been true of Romney in 2012, as well. You may not believe the third one, but rememberthat I’m comparing Romney (as I have from the start) not to an imaginary ideal other Republican candidate, but to the actual candidates who declared themselves. And let’s throw in the fact that internal warring in the Republican Party hurt him, as well. That sort of split could doom whoever is the Republican nominee in 2016, too, moderate or conservative, and enable a Democrat victory.

Moderate Republicans often like to say that, when conservative Republicans have lost, it was because they were too conservative. Conservatives like to say that, when moderate Republicans have lost, it was because they weren’t conservative enough. Most of the time, neither is true. Most of the time, the losses were because of the three reasons I listed, whether the Republican nominees were conservatives or RINOs.

I fully expect quite a few people to disagree with me.

[NOTE: *By the term "awful candidate" in this context I mean mostly in the sense of personality---in other words, whatever is usually meant by "uncharismatic" or "unexciting" or "unappealing" in the personal sense. We sometimes like to pretend that elections are won and/or lost solely on principle, but that is very far from the truth. You may not like that fact, but it doesn't change it.]

April 17th, 2014

All Things Scottish

After I posted that video about voice recognition systems and accents, a reader kindly sent me a link to this one:

The Scots accent is inherently funny (is that un-PC to say, or is it okay because they’re white?) because of its strange mixture of sentimentality and truculence. The sentimentality is also captured in the fact that traditionally speakers have liberally sprinkled their speech with cute diminutives—for example, “wee,” and the addition of “ie” to many words. Both tendencies are almost perfectly exemplified by the first two lines of the famous Robert Burns poem “To A Mouse,” one of my personal favorites:

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

Only a Scotsman would dare to rhyme “beastie” with “breastie” and come out on top.

But on YouTube one video leads to another, and so I found this one next, which I think is pretty funny as well:

But the granddaddy of them all is this classic from Saturday Night Live:

If It's Not Scottish, It's Crap!!! by shundriad

If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap.

April 17th, 2014

The census takers

The last couple of days the census has been in the news. I wrote about my suspicions regarding the timing of the census changes and the figures about health insurance enrollment under Obamacare here. I also recommend Ace’s piece about the Obama administration’s clever and duplicitous use of statistics, as well as the article by the usually calm and collected but-now-agitated Megan McArdle that inspired Ace to write his. And this one goes into some of the history of Obama taking the census under his wing, and the initial reaction to his move.

That was one of Obama’s initial acts as president, and some of the commenters here understood that it was a rather big deal. For example, from “rickl” in February of 2009:

I’ve been saying for a few years now that if the Left ever gets back in power, they will never relinquish it. They will make certain that no conservative can ever again win an election at the national level.

With the money for ACORN in the Porkulus bill and the White House takeover of the census, we are seeing the first steps in that direction.

And this, from the same commenter a few days later:

Obama is the most extreme leftist we’ve EVER had as President. And the Democratic leadership in Congress is pretty far out there too.

Obama’s first three weeks didn’t surprise me in the least. It’s what I’ve been expecting all along. I have to admit, though, that I didn’t expect the political takeover of the census. That was an imaginative touch, and frightening as hell.

In McArdle’s article yesterday, she wrote the following about the timing of the sudden change in the census questions just when consistency was needed most in order to evaluate Obamacare’s effect:

I just don’t get it.

I mean, I can certainly think of explanations, but I can’t quite bring myself to believe the worst of them.

That’s one of the things tyranny counts on. A lot of people expect a villain to look like Hitler or Stalin. But as Shakespeare wrote, “one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” Count on it.

Speaking of Hitler, there’s also this, about a census-like request in eastern Ukraine:

Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to “register” with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia, according to Ukrainian and Israeli media.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website.

Denis Pushilin, the politician in whose name the leaflets were distributed, has disavowed any connection to them. But whatever the truth or falsehood of that, it’s no secret that anti-Semitism has been part of the Russian push in eastern Ukraine.

The echo of WWII that all of this evokes is clear to anyone aware of history:

So in defining Jews through the Nürnberg Laws, the Nazis were ready to begin the next form of identification through a census system. All Jews were required to fill out a census. The information on the census included age, sex, religion, home address, type of employment, and number of Jewish relatives (Seltzer). It is important to note, however, that although religion was usually used to identify Jews, the Jews were not considered a religious group, but as an actual race of Jewish people. The Nazis were not the only ones to implement these census systems. Local governments, such as in France, also made use of the census (Ryan). France was convinced through German propaganda to make use of a census to keep track of its Jewish population. The census made is possible to not only identify Jewish peoples, but allowed the Nazis to identify where Jewish populations were located, and how many were living in one area. Information like this allowed them to instate a quota system to keep track of the number of Jews sent to concentration camps and the number that were remaining in any one area. According to the population concentration of Jews, the Nazis moved to assimilate the area numbering the greatest in Jewish numbers. In addition, the census information allowed the Nazis to know the exact location of each Jewish family, which in turn made the collection of Jews to be sent to concentration camps much more efficient. Finally, the information of the Jewish jobs allowed the Nazis to contact employers with propaganda to convince them that employment of Jews was not a very favorable practice. Jews attempted to avoid the census by moving to another area, or just not taking the census at all. If Jews moved, they were required to fill out a census in their new place of residence. Failure register for the census in a new residence, or refusal to take the census resulted in the person being arrested, and deported to a concentration camp (Ryan, pg 39). In the Netherlands, a dot-map technique was used in 1941 to track populations of Jews in and around Amsterdam. This composed of taking a map and using dots to mark a certain increment of the number of Jews living in an area. In the Netherlands the cataloging of Jews was established through the Dutch administration services’ population registration system, which was in essence the same as a census, but was a more technically advanced process (Seltzer).

After being identified through census systems, the Jewish population was forced to carry or wear a form of identification, and change their names to make identification easier…

The requirement of Jews to carry identification on them fit into the four step plan of the Final Solution in which the entire Jewish race would be eradicated. First off, identification of Jews took place using racial laws that defined what it was to be Jewish, and requiring them to participate in a census. Secondly, the identification and population data extracted from the census was used to take hold of Jewish property, kick Jewish peoples from certain higher paying and more influential jobs. Third, because of the lack of resources for money and food, the Jews were forced to move into much more concentrated conditions in inner city ghettos, where they were much more easily controlled by the Nazis. In these places, rent was cheaper, and food much more available, if not the best possible food. The Jews were much more easily controlled after being concentrated in these ghettos, as they were no longer able to do anything to support themselves or their families. This isolation also kept the Jews away from any supporters who might take them into hiding to prevent any harm from befalling them. Most of all, it made for easy and quick identification of any Jewish people. Finally, the Jews in these inner city ghettos were rounded up and shipped off to concentration camps, where they were put into heavy labor or systematically executed.

Prior to WWII, Ukraine was the area of the USSR in which most of its Jews resided. The pre-WWII population there was much reduced by mass killings by the Nazis (not concentration camps, but shootings), and the much-smaller post-WWII population of Jews was further reduced by persecution and then emigration. There’s some history and a chart here (scroll down just a bit; the chart’s entitled “Historical Ukrainian Jewish population,” and I can’t seem to reproduce it).

The census seems like such an unexciting and prosaic activity. Most often it actually is innocuous, but it’s this very quality of dullness that makes it such a good vehicle for a wide variety of underhanded doings, if a government so desires.

[NOTE: And no, I'm not equating Obama's statistical shenanigans on health insurance with Hitler and the Holocaust. I'm pointing out the multiple and various uses that can be made of a census in the hands of someone up to no good.]

April 16th, 2014

A trip back in time: Joe and Eddie

I was having trouble with my iPod the other day, and while trying to troubleshoot it (it’s fixed now) I came across an entry in my iTunes library that was part of a reel-to-reel tape I had originally made in the early 1960s and recently duplicated for a friend. It featured some ancient tape recordings of phonograph records and from the radio—mostly the latter, because (like many teenagers back then) I’d owned very few records.

One recording was of a duo called Joe and Eddie, whom I had completely forgotten. Going to YouTube, looking at them and listening to them now, I still think they were fabulous. The sort of non-ironic and non-sexual (except that they’re very attractive, charismatic and accomplished guys) performance they specialized in wouldn’t wash anymore in the mainstream music business, although they might find a niche in the subset known as Christian music.

Joe and Eddie failed to achieve huge fame in part because Joe died tragically young in a car accident. Their glorious harmonies are of the Everly Brothers genre, but different (and they weren’t brothers). The tradition is gospel, with a smoky depth and richness to both their voices.

Here’s a video of their big 1962 hit. The audience (the show was reportedly “Hootenanny”) is a hoot. But Joe and Eddie are superlative:

April 16th, 2014

A timely quiz: are you a sociopath?

Or perhaps your friends might be?:

At heart, Hare’s test is simple: a list of 20 criteria, each given a score of 0 (if it doesn’t apply to the person), 1 (if it partially applies) or 2 (if it fully applies). The list in full is: glibness and superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, cunning/manipulative, lack of remorse, emotional shallowness, callousness and lack of empathy, unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions, a tendency to boredom, a parasitic lifestyle, a lack of realistic long-term goals, impulsivity, irresponsibility, lack of behavioural control, behavioural problems in early life, juvenile delinquency, criminal versatility, a history of “revocation of conditional release” (ie broken parole), multiple marriages, and promiscuous sexual behaviour. A pure, prototypical psychopath would score 40. A score of 30 or more qualifies for a diagnosis of psychopathy. Hare says: “A friend of mine, a psychiatrist, once said: ‘Bob, when I meet someone who scores 35 or 36, I know these people really are different.’ The ones we consider to be alien are the ones at the upper end.”

I took the liberty of filling it out for one Barack Obama:

glibness and superficial charm 2
grandiose sense of self-worth 2
pathological lying 2
cunning/manipulative 2
lack of remorse 2
emotional shallowness 2
callousness and lack of empathy 2
unwillingness to accept responsibility for actions 2
a tendency to boredom 2
a parasitic lifestyle 1
a lack of realistic long-term goals 0
impulsivity 0
irresponsibility 0
lack of behavioural control 0
behavioural problems in early life ?
juvenile delinquency 2
criminal versatility 0
a history of “revocation of conditional release” (ie broken parole) 0
multiple marriages 0
promiscuous sexual behaviour. 0

It’s interesting that he fits the bill on all the inner, character-driven (as in “character disorder) portions, but not in most of the behavioral ones. The adult Obama (not the adolescent one) has been marked by extremely low impulsivity and high control, as I stated here.

Call him what you will—sociopath or not—but that combination of traits is a dangerous one in a different way than for the conventional criminally-oriented sociopath. Obama can harness his energies in the conventional world to the point where he’s become president, and as such can give full vent to the first group of characteristics while in a position of great power.

Of course, you might say that the same list of traits could be answered in the affirmative for a great many other politicians, and you’d be right. I’ve never seen a politician who displayed them with such purity and intensity as Obama has, however.

But let’s get off the political for a moment. Do you have people in your life who would score high on this test? If so, beware.

[NOTE: If you're interested in a classic on the subject of sociopathy/psychopathy, read The Mask of Sanity. It's old, but it's very good.]

April 16th, 2014

Will the real Barack Obama please stand up?

I haven’t the time or interest to wade through the entirety of this NY Times Magazine article on how Barack Obama’s views on gay marriage “evolved”; I merely briefly skimmed the first third of it. But Ann Althouse has done the heavy lifting and extracted this quote:

Despite the president’s stated opposition, even his top advisers didn’t believe that he truly opposed allowing gay couples to marry. “He has never been comfortable with his position,” David Axelrod, then one of his closest aides, told me….

“The politics of authenticity — not just the politics, but his own sense of authenticity — required that he finally step forward,” Axelrod said. “And the president understood that.”

So, let’s see if I got this straight. Everybody knew Obama was lying about his stated opposition to gay marriage, and that the lie was a strategic one in order to gain votes during a time when gay marriage wasn’t all that popular. But later on, when he dropped his pose, Axelrod would have us think that it was because Obama’s such an honest-type guy that he just couldn’t stand being inauthentic a single moment longer. And it was just an accident that he would now probably gain more political points than he would lose for supporting gay marriage.

It was all about the authenticity. Got it.

To its credit, the Times piece reveals how Obama weighed the political expediency of his choice to come out on the subject. His decision seems to have rested on (as I suspected at the time, because it was rather obvious) his need to shore up the under-30 vote and get out the base for the 2012 election. And the article also goes into how Byzantine Obama’s “evolution” on the subject of gay marriage has been: he was for it (in 1996) before he was “undecided” (in 2000) before he was against it (in 2008) citing his “Christian faith” as the cause of his opposition. Then somehow prior to the 2012 election he suddenly found gay marriage compatible with that faith.

But was there anyone on either side, liberal or conservative, supporter or opponent, who ever thought Obama’s 2008 opposition to gay marriage was authentic in the first place? Lies of that sort are so common among politicians that this one didn’t really draw a whole lot of fire, even from the right. And when Obama flip-flopped once again on the issue (the familiarity of that term underscoring how very widespread the practice is) it seemed almost inevitable, didn’t it?

But to claim the whole reversal was in some sort of service to authenticity is rich. Obama would have gone on being “inauthentic” without batting an eye if he’d thought it politically expedient to do so. The audacity of this claim of authenticity as Obama’s motive is what’s so special about the Obama phenomenon—his tendency to cloak himself in the mantle of sanctimonious righteousness while simultaneously being one of the more coldly duplicitous presidents in history.

April 16th, 2014

Annals of Republican racism, latest installment

Why, I hadn’t thought of that before:

…the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank suggests on Al Sharpton that [Sebelius] wasn’t threatened with impeachment (as Holder was) because she’s white.

Of course [slaps hand on forehead].

Or perhaps it’s because she has white hair?

Personally, I think it’s because she looks like Peter O’Toole, but I already failed to get much traction on that.

April 15th, 2014

For Passover: celebrate freedom

[NOTE: This is a repeat of a previous post. The sentiments still seem to me to be highly, highly appropriate. Maybe even more so, if anything.]

It’s the holiday season, and one of those rare years when Passover and Easter come close together, as they did during the original Easter. So I get a twofer when I wish my readers “Happy Holidays!”

In recent years whenever I’ve attended a Seder, I’ve been impressed by the fact that Passover is a religious holiday dedicated to an idea that’s not really primarily religious: freedom. Yes, it’s about a particular historical (or perhaps legendary) event: the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. But the Seder ceremony makes clear that, important though that specific event may be, freedom itself is also being celebrated.

Offhand, I can’t think of another religious holiday that takes the trouble to celebrate freedom. Nations certainly do: there’s our own Fourth of July, France’s Bastille Day, and various other independence days around the world. But these are secular holidays rather than religious ones.

For those who’ve never been to a Seder ceremony, I suggest attending one (and these days it’s easier, since they are usually a lot shorter and more varied than in the past). A Seder is an amazing experience, a sort of dramatic acting out complete with symbols and lots of audience participation. Part of its power is that events aren’t placed totally in the past tense and regarded as ancient and distant occurrences; rather, the participants are specifically instructed to act as though it is they themselves who were slaves in Egypt, and they themselves who were given the gift of freedom, saying:

“This year we are slaves; next year we will be free people…”

Passover acknowledges that freedom (and liberty, not exactly the same thing but related) is an exceedingly important human desire and need. That same idea is present in the Declaration of Independence (which, interestingly enough, also cites the Creator):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

It is ironic, of course, that when that Declaration was written, slavery was allowed in the United States. That was rectified, but only after great struggle, which goes to show how wide the gap often is between rhetoric and reality, and how difficult freedom is to achieve. And it comes as no surprise, either, that the Passover story appealed to slaves in America when they heard about it; witness the lyrics of “Let My People Go.”

Yes, the path to freedom is far from easy, and there are always those who would like to take it away. Sometimes an election merely means “one person, one vote, one time,” if human and civil rights are not protected by a constitution that guarantees them, and by a populace dedicated to defending them at almost all costs. Wars such as that in Iraq only give an opportunity for liberty, they do not guarantee it; and what we’ve observed there in recent years has been the hard, long, and dangerous task of attempting to secure it in a place with no such tradition, and with neighbors dedicated to its obliteration.

Sometimes those who are against liberty are religious, like the mullahs. Sometimes they are secular, like the Communists. Sometimes they are cynical and power-mad; sometimes they are idealists who don’t realize that human beings were not made to conform to their rigid notions of the perfect world, and that attempts to force them to do so seem to inevitably end in horrific tyranny, and that this is no coincidence.

As one of my favorite authors Kundera wrote, in his Book of Laughter and Forgetting:

…human beings have always aspired to an idyll, a garden where nightingales sing, a realm of har­mony where the world does not rise up as a stranger against man nor man against other men, where the world and all its people are molded from a single stock and the fire lighting up the heavens is the fire burning in the hearts of men, where every man is a note in a magnificent Bach fugue and anyone who refuses his note is a mere black dot, useless and meaningless, easily caught and squashed between the fingers like an insect.”

Note the seamless progression from lyricism to violence: no matter if it begins in idealistic dreams of an idyll, the relinquishment of freedom to further that dream will end with humans being crushed like insects.

History has borne that out, I’m afraid. That’s one of the reasons the people of Eastern Europe have been more inclined to ally themselves recently with the US than those of Western Europe have–the former have only recently come out from under the Soviet yoke of being regarded as those small black and meaningless dots in the huge Communist “idyll.”

Dostoevsky did a great deal of thinking about freedom as well. In his cryptic and mysterious Grand Inquisitor, a lengthy chapter from The Brothers Karamazov, he imagined (appropriately enough for the approaching Easter holiday) a Second Coming. But this is a Second Coming in which the Grand Inquisitor rejects what Dostoevsky sees as Jesus’s message of freedom:

Oh, never, never can [people] feed themselves without us [the Inquisitors and controllers]! No science will give them bread so long as they remain free. In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet, and say to us, “Make us your slaves, but feed us.” They will understand themselves, at last, that freedom and bread enough for all are inconceivable together, for never, never will they be able to share between them! They will be convinced, too, that they can never be free, for they are weak, vicious, worthless, and rebellious. Thou didst promise them the bread of Heaven, but, I repeat again, can it compare with earthly bread in the eyes of the weak, ever sinful and ignoble race of man?

Freedom vs. bread is a false dichotomy. Dostoevsky was writing before the Soviets came to power, but now we have learned that lack of freedom, and a “planned” economy, is certainly no guarantee of bread (just ask the Ukrainians).

Is freedom a “basic need, then? Ask, also, the Vietnamese “boat people.” And then ask them what they think of John Kerry’s assertion, during his 1971 Senate testimony, that they didn’t care what sort of government they had as long as their other “basic needs” were met:

We found most people didn’t even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning their villages and tearing their country apart…

So that when we in fact state, let us say, that we will have a ceasefire or have a coalition government, most of the 2 million men you often hear quoted under arms, most of whom are regional popular reconnaissance forces, which is to say militia, and a very poor militia at that, will simply lay down their arms, if they haven’t done so already, and not fight. And I think you will find they will respond to whatever government evolves which answers their needs, and those needs quite simply are to be fed, to bury their dead in plots where their ancestors lived, to be allowed to extend their culture, to try and exist as human beings. And I think that is what will happen…

I think that politically, historically, the one thing that people try to do, that society is structured on as a whole, is an attempt to satisfy their felt needs, and you can satisfy those needs with almost any kind of political structure, giving it one name or the other. In this name it is democratic; in others it is communism; in others it is benevolent dictatorship. As long as those needs are satisfied, that structure will exist.

I beg to differ. I think there’s another very basic need, one that perhaps can only really be appreciated when it is lost: liberty.

Happy Passover, and Happy Easter! And that was no non sequitor.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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