June 27th, 2016

Phishing e-mail of the day

Since January you have neglected our notifications that your account needs reconfirmation. We detected that this account was registered using false identity which is against Yahoo protocols. Click here to confirm your details,if not this mail box will be trashed down permanently. You have been given 15hours deadline.

Thank you,
Support

Thanks so much for your “support.”

Interesting that the phishing folks at fake Yahoo “support” have forgotten the rules of English and seem to have intermittently neglected the space bar. And they’ve forgotten my name.

Well, they’re awfully busy. That must be it.

You might ask who falls for these transparently false things? Well, if you send out billions, and just get a .01% return, that’s still a lot of clicks.

June 27th, 2016

SCOTUS issues several rulings; strikes down Texas “abortion law”

Why did I put the words “abortion law” in quotes? First take a look at what occurred:
Continued »

June 27th, 2016

America ♥ Obama

I’m sure this means something. Maybe many things. I’m just not exactly sure what:

President Obama’s approval rating is at its highest level in more than five years, an ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Sunday shows.

According to the results of the survey, conducted in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., two weeks ago, 56 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of his job as president, compared to 41 percent who disapprove…

And according to that survey, also conducted in the wake of the nightclub massacre, Obama “ranks as the most positively viewed recent second term president.”

One thing I think it means is that in comparison to both Hillary and Trump, Obama starts looking better to a lot of people. Especially ironic to me, considering that Obama paved the way for the excesses of both Trump and Hillary, and for America’s acceptance of them as candidates.

Also ironic to me considering that Obama paved for the way for the rise of ISIS, which helped lead to the Orlando massacre which has apparently raised his stature in the eyes of many Americans.

And for contributions to the rise and fall of the approval ratings for any politician, there’s always cherchez la presse.

[ADDENDUM: Maybe I was being too cute in that last sentence, because a lot of people seem to not have caught what I was trying to convey. By “cherchez la presse” (a riff on this old saying) I meant to imply that (a) press coverage influences people’s opinions; and (b) the poll being reported on was commissioned by the press and therefore may have been designed to get a certain result.

However, I want to add a caveat to (b), which is that I think we are generally much too eager to dismiss poll results we don’t like with the idea that they are designed to be biased. No doubt some are, and of course polls are very imperfect instruments even when they are not purposely designed to create a certain result. But unless you can look at the poll’s actual design and convincingly point out the bias, I report on polls as though they are representing something real. In this case, for example, that would be a trend upwards for Obama’s approval rating.

I have noticed that although a lot of polls don’t predict results of elections all that well, a lot still do, and even the ones that don’t are often within the margin of error (which is usually fairly wide). This is particularly true for poll averages, which tend to be correct more often than individual polls.]

June 26th, 2016

On the seventh anniversary of FredHJr’s death

[NOTE: For those of you who don’t know who FredHJr was, please see this and this, as well as these. The following is an updated version of a post that has appeared previously on this blog.]

Unbelievable that it’s been seven years since commenter FredHJr died suddenly and tragically.

It was extremely tragic for his family. But it was tragic for this blog, too, because he was an invaluable and irreplaceable member of our community, a “changer” who knew a lot about the Left and a keen observer of politics, history, religion, culture—of life itself. I still think about him often, wondering what he’d have to say about everything that’s happened in these last seven years.

One thing I don’t think he’d say, though, is that he was surprised by much of it. Every year on the anniversary, I offer some excerpts from his many comments here.

This comment is from October 18, 2008, just a few weeks before Obama was elected president for the first time:

It’s the Marxist/Leninist ethics of expediency. No regrets. Whatever it takes to discredit anything the other side does and excuse the sins of your own side.

…this reveals a lot about who is about to take power and how they will wield it against the rest of us. They get away with it and many will not at all be troubled by it because they are shaped by the post-modernism, cultural Marxism that they imbibed during their formative and educational experience. If we as a people cannot name this accurately and expunge its corrosive influence over our lives, then down into the wages of perdition and disaster we go.

The comment is from October 28, 2008. The election is getting close:

Obama is part of a nexus of interests. What the American dopes who will put him in office are getting is a NETWORK of alliances and interests, running the gamut from Finance (Soros) to academia to media to law. Thus far, in order to appeal to the Middle Muddle he has been packaged as a moderate or centrist. But once in office the venomous swarm of this network will burst out of the nest and devour the host. You wait and see. And I’m not eager for the moment to say “I told you so.” I really would it be the case that it never happens at all. Why? Because the lives of tens of millions of human beings hang in the balance of this and mushroom clouds on the horizon. I put the value of human life far above my own frustrated rantings.

This was a comment of Fred’s from the very beginning of the Obama presidency, but I think it’s worth mulling over today:

For me, Western Civilization is an incredibly complex work that has eclectically and also seamlessly borrowed the excellence and the virtues of Athens, Jerusalem, Rome, and the Enlightenment. The High Middle Ages and the Renaissance also made important contributions. In its totality it is a meritocracy and a liberation of humanity that has resulted in ever greater learning and material prosperity and health for most of the people who live under it. It is not an unblemished history. Yet in its totality it gleams with advancement when juxtaposed against civilizations which enslave humanity.

I think the beginning of the end of our civilization began with the French Revolution and The Terror. It was the beginning of the elaboration of totalitarian thought and throughout the 19th century this kept on finding newer permutations of elegant, intellectual terror. The 20th century was the culmination of the barbarity of totalitarianism.

Islam, to me, is a separate civilization and ideology of enslavement. Once they were stopped at Poitiers and later at Vienna, we were safe from its predations, and Islam began to collapse into a miasma of ever greater corruption and backwardness. Prior to that point, whatever prosperity it did have was the result of plundering non-Muslims of their property, wealth, and intellectual powers.

Now, with the latter part of the 20th century behind us and the dawn of a new millenium, the totalitarians in both civilizations have mated and allied, creating a very large and powerful force. We are only now just beginning to grasp the enormity of what this is and what it is accomplishing. This combined Beast is relentless in its pursuit to destroy our legacy and put us all under their boots. Also, you can be sure that these two erstwhile allies will fight each other in the future for dominance. To me, Moscow is the epicenter now of the totalitarian forces and alliances within our civilization. In Islam, it is Tehran that is the center of their power. Right now, Moscow and Tehran are allied against the West.

I almost want to say that they have won this war already, because the West is caught at a moment when most of its people do not even know about the existence of this combined Beast, much less have the will to fight it. They are ahead of us. Way ahead across many dimensions. What most helps their cause is the willful self-loathing of our people for their own civilization and heritage. It is very difficult to win this struggle when you have this enervating, entropic force that is like a millstone around the neck.

These are chosen somewhat randomly, but so very much of what I looked at that Fred had written was on target.

RIP Fred, and may your family be comforted in their grief. We miss you.

[NOTE: There are other commenters here who may have died, and I would like to mention them too, but for no one else did I actually get official word of that person’s death. One commenter who comes to mind is “strcpy,” who announced that he was very ill and then disappeared shortly thereafter, about five years ago. I wrote him an email but never heard back, and I fear he’s gone. But I don’t know for sure. Another prolific commenter who disappeared was Occam’s Beard.

There may be others, as well. I wouldn’t necessarily find out. Sometimes people just stop commenting, but it stands to reason some of them will have died. So I’ll take this opportunity to say RIP for all of them, whoever they may be.]

June 26th, 2016

Megan McArdle on Brexit

McArdle writes:

The inability of those elites to grapple with the rich world’s populist moment was in full display on social media last night. Journalists and academics seemed to feel that they had not made it sufficiently clear that people who oppose open borders are a bunch of racist rubes who couldn’t count to 20 with their shoes on, and hence will believe any daft thing they’re told. Given how badly this strategy had just failed, this seemed a strange time to be doubling down. But perhaps, like the fellow I once saw lose a packet by betting on 17 for 20 straight turns of the roulette wheel, they reasoned that the recent loss actually makes a subsequent victory more likely, since the number has to come up sometime.

Or perhaps they were just unable to grasp what I noted in a column last week: that nationalism and place still matter, and that elites forget this at their peril. A lot people do not view their country the way some elites do: as though the nation were something like a rental apartment — a nice place to live, but if there are problems, or you just fancy a change, you’ll happily swap it for a new one.

In many ways, members of the global professional class have started to identify more with each other than they have with the fellow residents of their own countries. Witness the emotional meltdown many American journalists have been having over Brexit…

…the dominant [journalist] tone framed this as a blow against the enlightened “us” and the beautiful world we are building, struck by a plague of morlocks who had crawled out of their hellish subterranean world to attack our impending utopia.

June 25th, 2016

All Things Scottish

I noticed a lot of talk about Scotland and the Scots in several threads recently, so I thought it might be time to put up a video of one of my favorite SNL running bits:

June 25th, 2016

Was Thursday the moment when the rise of the left began to slow

Thursday’s Brexit vote was big. But it is potentially even bigger, depending on what follows.

Maybe the consequences will be disastrous, as so many “remain” advocates predict. But maybe—if the movement spreads to people in other European countries, who will cry, “We want our referendums, too!”—it will be the beginning of the end for the relentless march of the left in Western Europe.

I’m not saying that will happen. In fact, populist, nativist movements can have a nasty trajectory—and the history of Europe reminds us quite forcibly of that possibility. But this particular movement represented by the Brexit vote is one with which I’m in sympathy. It feels like love of liberty rising in an area that hasn’t been all that concerned about it for quite a while.

Critics of Brexit are fond of saying that supporters of it are “racist” or at the very least “xenophobic.” I’ve written about that “xenophobia” charge before:

Xenophobia indicates a general fear of what is foreign or strange, but it’s really being used here to describe a specific kind of fear of a particular kind of stranger—the kind who has vowed to either kill us or convert us and take over our culture and replace it with theirs. The culture the same people are trying, in a sort of reverse colonialism, to impose on us is not only opposed to many of our deeply-held beliefs and values, but it is intolerant of tolerance itself—except for the tolerance that is extended by the west towards it.

What’s more, Brexit isn’t just about that—not by a longshot. It’s about a nation (and we can still use that word) deciding it wants autonomy in making momentous decisions about its own present and future.

That said, I wonder about the wisdom of of making a decision as potentially momentous as this through pure democracy: a referendum. I’m enough of a republican (small “r”) to ask that question, and to consider that in this country we do not have national referendums to decide things of that nature. British Prime Minister David Cameron made the classic attorney’s mistake (not that he’s an attorney; he’s not) of asking a question to which he did not know the answer in advance, and the people gave him a different answer than the one he was seeking and expecting.

[NOTE: The title of this post is, of course, a riff on this famous speech by Obama.]

June 25th, 2016

The House unveils its Obamacare replacement plan—and have you heard about it?

A few days ago I wrote a post about Paul Ryan and the accomplishments of this GOP Congress under him. Now, a lot of people can’t stand either of those entities—Ryan, or almost all of the Republicans in Congress—and are quite vocal about that. I have my own quarrels and disappointments with them, as I have with pretty much all politicians over time. But in my continuing effort to look at what they’ve actually been doing or not doing rather than focusing on what other people would have you think they’re doing or not doing, I’m calling your attention to the fact that a couple of days ago they presented their plan to replace Obamacare.

Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on the fact that the lack of an alternative plan was a big big criticism of the GOP, from left and some on the right, and certainly from the press. In this post from about a year ago, I discussed the fact that although they lacked a single, agreed-on plan, they actually had a variety of them that had been proposed by different GOP factions over time. Back in January, right after Paul Ryan became Speaker, I wrote a post quoting his promise to release a “long-awaited replacement plan for the health care law” (he’s also promised “a tax reform proposal; welfare reform; and other major policy initiatives”). It could not have been the least bit easy for him to get them to agree on this, and if nothing else it represents a formidable feat of cat-herding.

Ryan knew that Obama will veto any bill based on these measures if it ever passes, but he wanted to “go on offense in 2016 and we have to offer a bold agenda…The people of this country who do not like the direction America is heading, which we don’t … we owe them an alternative.”

And yet I wonder how many people on the right even know of any of this. And I wonder how many people on the right hate Ryan and Congress so much—for whatever reasons—that they’re not interested in anything they say or do at this point, and dismiss it automatically. I also wonder whose interests this serves.

It was easy to miss the news of the rollout of this plan, wasn’t it? You can blame Paul Ryan for that, too, or you can reflect on how very difficult it is to get coverage for your wonky proposals from an MSM that’s largely against you, and to compete with all the sexier and more dramatic news of the Trump statements du jour and the Brexit upheaval.

Oh, and if you’re interested in learning some of the details of Ryan and the GOP’s proposal (which you will no doubt find imperfect, as all such things are), go here and here. IF you’re feeling especially ambitious and thorough (not to say OCD), the entire 37-page document can be found here.

[NOTE: I have been impressed by how relatively little attention this has gotten. Even I, who follow the news closely, didn’t know this had happened (on June 22) until today, when I noticed an email about it in my Inbox. The fact that the GOP Congress actually did repeal Obamacare—a repeal that Obama then vetoed, of course—has been relatively unknown and unappreciated, as well.]

[ADDENDUM: I just noticed that Megan McArdle has written a piece discussing the plan.

Something I think is especially attractive is this: “Getting rid of…a lot of the regulatory mandates for benefit levels.” Obamacare took away the option of buying catastrophic insurance, for example, something people with good health often have found to be a very good deal and should be allowed to select, IMHO.]

June 25th, 2016

Sometimes it might not be a bad idea to be a little bit afraid

You know that expression “I’d walk over hot coals for you”? Well, these people took it literally—and got burned:

More than 30 people who attended an event with motivational speaker Tony Robbins have been treated for burns after Robbins encouraged them to walk on hot coals as a way of conquering their fears, Dallas fire officials said…

The hot coals were spread outside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center as part of a four-day Robbins seminar called “Unleash the Power Within.”…

…”Unleash the Power Within” is described on his website as “designed to help you unlock and unleash the forces inside that can help you break through any limit,”…

It’s possible that the people who prepared the coals did something wrong, perhaps not letting them cool enough at one point. There could have been other reasons some people got burned, too; you’ll learn some of the possibilities if you read the Wiki article on firewalking. There is a physics to the activity having to do with the heat of the coals, the relative coolness of the feet, and the speed at which a person walks.

The laws of physics are not repealed for the firewalkers, and it is not a case of mind over matter, although to step on visibly hot coals certainly requires conquering fear. Here’s a summary of the science by a physics professor:

It would seem then, that a firewalk of short length is something any physically fit person could do and that it does not need a particular state of mind. Rather, it is the short time of contact and the low thermal capacity and conductivity of the coals that is important, and it is not necessary for the feet to be moist nor callused, although either may be of slight benefit. Longer walks appear to be possible if a layer of insulating ash is allowed to build up on a well packed down bed, where the temperature has been allowed to fall significantly from what it was when the coals were at their hottest.

So Robbins should actually be saying something like this: “You can conquer your fear of doing an activity that looks very dangerous but is not, if you trust me to have prepared the bed of coals in the proper manner, and if you follow the instructions.”

Granted, it’s not quite as socko or as empowering. But it’s still something I’m not going to be doing.

June 24th, 2016

Neo-neocon, roving beach photographer: studies in sand

I’m not much of a photographer. And I almost always forget to bring a camera, so I just rely on my cellphone.

But I think these are pretty fine. They were taken recently in Ogunquit, Maine, by yours truly on a very lovely day.

Ogunquit2016 ripple sand 2

Ogunquit2016 shiny sand black rocks

June 24th, 2016

A few random observations about the Brexit vote and its aftermath

(1) In voting to leave the EU, the Brits voted to reclaim their own sovereignty. Now, EU-friendly Scotland may do the same vis a vis the UK and decide to have another go at voting for its own independence from the UK.

(2) For the most part, pollsters got this one wrong, having predicted a win for the pro-EU forces.

(3) Not surprisingly, Donald Trump was one of the few non-UK leaders (if we can call him a leader at this point, which I believe we can since he is the presumptive GOP nominee) who spoke up for the Brexit forces prior to the vote. But in his speech today in Scotland he didn’t play this up quite as much or as dramatically as I would have thought he would. And he talked a fair amount (at least, in the part I watched) about the original reason for his trip there—promoting his golf course.

(4) Obama continued his “kiss of death” track record in promoting foreign causes that end up failing. In April he had traveled to England to lend his assistance to Cameron and promote the UK’s staying in the EU.

(5) Hillary Clinton must be a mite nervous.

June 24th, 2016

The British people have spoken—but what are they saying?

To be quite blunt about it, a great many people in Britain have just given a big middle finger to leaders who have ignored their concerns about national identity and autonomy, and their right to make decisions within their own country about the nature of that country. These principles used to be the bulwarks of a democracy such as Britain, with a long and proud tradition that has not yet died. Although the EU plan was designed to weaken that tradition—and probably has to a certain extent—the tradition is still strong enough, and the provocation great enough, to cause a majority of British voters to give a big resounding “no” to an EU scheme they’ve found to be increasingly intolerable, with diminishing rewards and increasing drawbacks.

Anti-EU feeling among the people of member-states isn’t limited to Britain, although it may be strongest there because Britain was a relative latecomer to the EU and retains some of its non-continental island identity. But nationalist movements are afoot in France, and Donald Trump represents the American version (although of course we’re not in the EU and therefore have no need to vote to get out of it).

Movements often come in waves. For example, I remember the international nature of the 60s’ cultural changes wrought by my generation. Everyone thinks he or she is an individual, and that’s true. But we’re all subject to, and reacting to, universal forces that can at times sweep different countries and even different continents. The UK and the US have a closeness which means they are often in sync: for example with Roosevelt and Churchill, Reagan and Thatcher. Those are especially great examples, but being in sync doesn’t always involve greatness.

In recent years in both countries, it has been said that “elites” have ignored the voters, the common man, the working class, whatever term you prefer—ignored their protests, ignored their concerns, ignored their problems, ignored their opinions and needs about immigration and a host of other things. I’m not completely sure they were “ignored”—not exactly, anyway. Rather, I think it was assumed that enough people could be placated, cajoled, soothed by comforting words, made to agree with what those leaders wanted them to think. The leaders thought they knew better, and who knows? Maybe they did; maybe leaving the EU will be the disaster for Britain that Cameron and many others have predicted, although I doubt it in the long run. At any rate, “the people” didn’t think so, and they voiced their disagreement through the ballot box.

Cameron had suggested the referendum on EU membership several years ago because he wanted to placate potential defectors within his own party who were anti-EU. He was fairly confident that eventually he would win the referendum vote and keep Britain in the EU’s grip. He thought he could persuade enough people that he was correct that remaining in the EU would be best for Britain, but he miscalculated and now he’s on his way out. Cameron had said the vote would be “a great festival of democracy,” and the people have celebrated that festival by telling him—and the EU—to get lost.

[NOTE: Now it promises to get even more “interesting.” There may be a little problem, one which commenter “Caedmon” has pointed out:

Now it is a leap in the dark, because everybody who knew how to run an independent country is long dead.

Or at least very, very old—even older than I am.]

[NOTE II: I’ve used “British” and “Britain” for my Brexit posts because I’ve noticed that many of the British papers use the terms, and of course “Brexit” also implies a reference to Britain (British exit). But “the UK” is probably more technically correct for this vote, and some newspapers have used that instead. I’ll leave it up to you to duke it out in the comments, if you’d like.]

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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