Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Back in Business

Greetings!  It's a new year, and a lot has changed since I was in the habit of blogging regularly.

I don't know if I'll be blogging regularly now... but I keep finding that I have things I want to say, and I'm missing my old soapbox (and both of my regular readers).  So let's dust off the soapbox and see where we stand.

If you read this blog previously, welcome back!  If you're new here, thanks for coming, and I'll try to make it worth your while.

-- DiB


Monday, May 21, 2012


So Call Me "Birther"

We seem to have a problem, sometimes, with stating the obvious.

Breitbart.com has been doing utterly invaluable work, digging up hitherto-undiscovered details about President Obama's past.  (It's invaluable because virtually no one else is willing to do it -- meaning that, for a great many things about the President's past, we know nothing other than what he has chosen to tell us.)  Yet even breitbart.com is mincing their words in order to avoid the "birther" controversy:
Breitbart News’ discovery of the 1991 biography distributed by Barack Obama’s then-literary agency, which stated (incorrectly) that Obama had been “born in Kenya,” confirmed what we have been saying for months as we pursued “The Vetting” project. 
(emphasis added)

"Incorrectly"?  On what basis do they make that claim?

Follow that link, and you'll see the same story:
Note from Senior Management:
Andrew Breitbart was never a "Birther," and Breitbart News is a site that has never advocated the narrative of "Birtherism." In fact, Andrew believed, as we do, that President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961.
Yet Andrew also believed that the complicit mainstream media had refused to examine President Obama's ideological past, or the carefully crafted persona he and his advisers had constructed for him.
It is for that reason that we launched "The Vetting," an ongoing series in which we explore the ideological background of President Obama (and other presidential candidates)--not to re-litigate 2008, but because ideas and actions have consequences.
It is also in that spirit that we discovered, and now present, the booklet described below--one that includes a marketing pitch for a forthcoming book by a then-young, otherwise unknown former president of the Harvard Law Review
It is evidence--not of the President's foreign origin, but that Barack Obama's public persona has perhaps been presented differently at different times.

This is all quite factual.  That a literary agent for the young Barack Obama reported him as having been born in Kenya is not evidence that he was.  Rather, it is evidence, as Breitbart says, that President Obama has felt free to identify himself in divergent and contradictory ways over the years.  (It makes little sense that BHO's biography of the time was written by anybody but him; it makes even less sense that a publicity-hungry young Harvard graduate, eager to make a name for himself, would not read a press release about his as-yet-unwritten first book, or would fail to correct an error in that bio.  In other words, we can be sure that BHO read the bio stating he was born in Kenya and was comfortable letting it stand, just as a few years later he would read the proofs of Dreams From My Father, stating that he was born in Hawaii, and was comfortable letting that stand too.)

But still we've tiptoeing around the issue here.  breitbart.com is bending over backwards to avoid suggesting, even for a moment, that he was born anywhere but Hawaii, according to the accepted narrative (i.e. the one provided by the President).


(Please note: I'm not claiming that he was born in Kenya, because I haven't seen a Kenyan birth certificate.  By the same logic, I'm not claiming that he was born in Hawaii, because I haven't seen a legitimate birth certificate from there either!  Neither the much-ballyhooed short form certificate, nor the belatedly-released long form, pass the smell test.)

It's painful to say this, but at this point, I have no reason to believe much of anything the President says, merely because he says it.  This goes beyond his many broken campaign promises (closing Guantanamo, not raising taxes on anyone making less than $250K, and so on).  But he also claimed, many times, to have lived with his mother and father in Hawaii, which has been thoroughly debunked.  He claimed that his dying mother was denied health-care coverage, when in fact she was covered.

It is simply not enough to believe the President's word with respect to anything about his own past.  We have now seen that he was comfortable claiming to have been born in Kenya, when it suited him to do so.  (He is also on record as being challenged, during his 2004 Senate race, as not being a natural-born American, to which he supposedly retorted, "So what?  I'm not running for the Presidency.")

So I'm perfectly willing to believe that the President was born in Hawaii... but so far I've seen no conclusive evidence I was willing to accept.  And frankly, given that the President has already claimed as his a birth certificate that is a transparent fraud, should I trust him if he produces another one that looks better?

 Much as I respect and admire breitbart.com and the work they're doing, I think they're dropping the ball here.   Let's say it again: THE BEST EVIDENCE WE HAVE THAT THE PRESIDENT WAS BORN IN HAWAII IS HIS OWN WORD... and that's just not good enough.

What would it take, at this point, for me to believe that Barack H. Obama II was born in the United States?  Frankly, I'm not sure... but it would have to come from somewhere other than the White House.  They've muddied the waters enough already.

And if we did find convincing evidence that the President was born in Hawaii, as he now claims he was, the question would still remain -- why did he go to so much trouble to hide, up to and including the production of a fraudulent birth certificate?

If, on the other hand, we find convincing evidence in the other direction -- well then, the reasons for the hiding become clear, don't they?


Tuesday, May 15, 2012


President Zelig

What do you call an American leader who rewrites the history books, simply to insert his own name on practically every page?

Apparently, we should call him President Obama.

The Heritage Foundation’s Rory Cooper tweeted that Obama had casually dropped his own name into Ronald Reagan’s official biography on www.whitehouse.gov, claiming credit for taking up the mantle of Reagan’s tax reform advocacy with his “Buffett Rule” gimmick. My first thought was, he must be joking. But he wasn’t—it turns out Obama has added bullet points bragging about his own accomplishments to the biographical sketches of every single U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge (except, for some reason, Gerald Ford).
 Oh, come on.  Did he really?

Yes, he did.  Check out http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/, and click on the biography of any President you like, from Calvin Coolidge onwards.  Every single one, with the exception of Ford, has a new "did you know?" trivia paragraph added that mentions Barack H. Obama.  The other biographies don't have such a trivia section, leading me to believe the trivia was added solely as an excuse to mention our exalted leader's name.

As The Anchoress comments: "Pity the President.  he is such a small and insecure man."

I hope he continues to pull stunts like this.  If he does, Mitt Romney might become America's first unanimously elected president since George Washington.

UPDATE:  This seems relevant.  If President Obama hasn't yet described the Osama bin Laden operation this way, it's probably just a matter of time.


Friday, May 11, 2012


Movie Stars and Politics

Jennifer said it.

And she's perfectly right.  Why is a movie star's opinion on politics worth more than, say, a cab driver's?  Why should I care what they think?

It's not like being famous automatically earns respect for anything other than that which got you famous.  That's why Albert Einstein, for example, went on record with high-minded gibberish in re politics (which was not his area of expertise by any means).

So we can respect actors, say, who are good at what they do, for being good at what they do.  Respect in other areas (such as opinions on international politics) will need to be earned separately.

For what actors are good at, quite frankly, is lying -- pretending to be someone they're not.

So I need not care what they think, and indeed I don't.  But they ought to care about what I think... because they're selling a product -- their ability to entertain me -- and I don't need to buy it if I don't feel like it.  If I can't see an actor's face without getting upset about something stupid he said, I won't pay money to see him.  (Did the entertainment industry learn nothing from the Dixie Chicks?)

As Samuel Goldwyn is reported to have warned his scriptwriters: "You gotta message, use Western Union".  Or, to put it even more directly, there's this lovely exchange from Inherit the Wind:

Hornbeck: May I ask your opinion, sir, on Evolution?
Shopkeeper:  Don't have any opinions.  They're bad for business.



On Israel and Iran

Charles Krauthammer hits it out of the park with his latest Washington Post essay, comparing Israel's security situation now to that just before the Six-Day War in 1967.

It's a simple comparison to make.  Israel faced an existential threat then (from Egypt's Nasser, threatening to destroy Israel and making it clear that he had the means to do so), as now (Iran's Ahmadinejad, ditto).  And then, as now, Israel responded to a looming threat with an interesting political move -- the establishment of a National Unity Government by inviting in the opposition.  (Imagine if, in response to the threat of war, President Obama were to appoint Republican party leaders to key Cabinet positions.  Yes, this is a big deal.)

But Krauthammer goes on to point out that Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu has done this when he had a powerful incentive not to.   Negotiations had already been underway to advance early elections -- far from unheard of in Israeli politics -- with the expectation that Netanyahu's Likud would win those elections handily.  So why would Netanyahu turn down a chance for an easy election and four more years in power?

Because, as Prime Minister Eshkol understood in 1967, and as Ariel Sharon advocated more recently, at a time of national emergency you want as broad a base as possible.  Israel's Knesset now represents an astonishing 78% of voters... and Israel's government, for now at least, is on the same page vis-a-vis Iran.

Prime Minister Menachem Begin didn't do this when he ordered the destruction of Saddam's nuclear reactors in 1981, just weeks before a national election.  It was difficult not to see this as a cynical political move, intended to guarantee re-election, and Begin took a lot of heat for that.  But Netanyahu now has the country behind him, tangibly and dramatically -- and he did so in a way that was obviously not a re-election ploy.

Further, since the mandate of the current coalition expires in 18 months, we can expect some sort of resolution of Iranian nuclear ambitions before then.

Israel -- and her allies and supporters worldwide -- can take heart, knowing that the man leading Israel is a brave and clever man who knows exactly what he's doing -- and who has demonstrated that Israel's survival is more important to him than his political career.

Read the whole thing.

(Hat tip: Power Line.)



News Flash: US Military Calls For Violent Measures

Does that headline seem as ridiculous to you as it does to me?  I would have thought that this can be simply assumed.  It's like saying that the Pope has come out in favor of people going to church on Sundays, or that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced that he doesn't like Israel.  This is supposed to be news?

Apparently it is.  Wired.com writes breathlessly about about a course, taught at the Joint Forces Staff College by Lt. Col Matthew Dooley, that suggests a war with Islam may be coming, and that extreme measures may need to be taken in such a war.

I'm having difficulty seeing what all the excitement is about here.  First of all, Wired reports that the Pentagon has already canceled the class; furthermore, "The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently ordered the entire U.S. military to scour its training material to make sure it doesn’t contain similarly hateful material, a process that is still ongoing".  That seems pretty thorough to me.  But Wired complains that Lt. Col. Dooley is still at his position (although he is under investigation).

Okay, so a teacher is found teaching material that his higher-ups find objectionable.  The class is canceled, the teacher is put under investigation, and a nationwide search is conducted for similar class materials so that they can be purged too.  And this is somehow not enough?  Was the U.S. Army supposed to execute Lt. Col. Dooley without trial, or something?

Furthermore, why the uproar?  We have seen incendiary lectures given in the US Military before, which were not condemned by anyone.  (Not until the lecturer decided to commit murder, that is.)  And why paint with such a broad brush?  The Wired headline reads "U.S. Military Taught Officers: Use ‘Hiroshima’ Tactics for ‘Total War’ on Islam", blaming the entire US Military for the actions of a single instructor, as though he was teaching official US Army doctrine.  (The fact that his class has been so thoroughly repudiated by the top brass should indicate that, on the contrary, Lt. Col. Dooley was working on his own here.)

The reasons, of course, should be obvious.  Dooley's lectures were harshly critical of Islam and Muslims, something that is not to be tolerated in any form today.  (By contrast, Maj. Hassan's lectures on the superiority of Islam, and on the need for Muslim US soldiers to disobey orders, were perfectly acceptable.)

But let's take a closer look.  Granted, Lt. Col. Dooley was teaching about the possibility of an all-out war against Islam as though it was a distinct possibility, and he explored the connotations of that in ways that many might view as distasteful.  But isn't that what military planning is all about?  Any competent military has detailed plans, written up and ready for immediate execution, to deal with situations that are unlikely in the extreme.  We can rest assured that the US Military has war plans for what to do if aliens attack us from the moon, if a volcano suddenly appears in the middle of Yellowstone National Park, if Alaska declares independence and cuts off all connections with the rest of the US, and so on, and so on.

The reason for this should be obvious.  When faced with a military emergency, or an emergency with military implications, we don't want to be making it up as we go along.  We want to have plans in place, ready to go.  If a preposterously unlikely event happens and the US Military isn't prepared for it, then someone hasn't been doing his or her job.

So we can expect the military to have all sorts of plans, including some non-politically-correct ones.  But we're not even complaining about that.  Wired protests that a course was taught to military officers, exposing their delicate ears to negative depictions of Islam.  This is not policy; this does not in any way change current US military planning.  It's just a class.  And this is supposed to be a scandal?

Yes, apparently it is... one requiring inaccurate headlines to scare as many people as possible.  (The headline puts quotes around Hiroshima, i.e. "use 'Hiroshima' tactics for 'total war' on Islam".  Did Dooley teach that?  He didn't have to; all he had to do was mention the word 'Hiroshima'.  Could they not find a single direct quote from Dooley that was incendiary enough for them?)

I can see reasons for people to be upset by this class, certainly.  But I don't see why hysteria of any sort is justified here.

(hat tip: Ed Driscoll, writing at Instapundit.)


Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Concerning Terrorists and Tea Partiers

Dear Vice President Biden,

These are terrorists:

These are Tea Party supporters:

Any questions?


Wednesday, November 24, 2010


TSA searches

There's been a lot of talk lately about the new TSA guidelines for inspecting air travelers.  (Briefly, submit to an invasive X-ray scan -- which has unknown risks for radiation exposure, and is known to produce de facto nude pictures, which the TSA have tried to keep off the Internet with limited success -- or submit to an invasive pat-down, which is apparently thorough enough to warrant an instant sexual harrassment lawsuit anywhere else.)

Since I'm an Israeli citizen, you already know where I stand on such nonsense.  Israel has a proven system, which has worked extremely well for the past forty years, in which the security risks are the only ones getting the pat-downs -- with human beings deciding who the security risks are, and on the whole doing an excellent job.

It's true that the Israeli system -- described in detail here -- is difficult to scale, and is in fact well-suited to the thousands of travelers Israel might see on a given day, not the tens of millions who pass through American airports every day.  Personally, I think that this is a excellent opportunity for hi-tech solutions.  (We already have, so I hear, computers smart enough to recognize a particular human face a high percentage of the time.  So we ought to be able to scan crowds at airports, looking for the faces of known terrorists, and alerting a security officer if one is spotted.  Could we enhance such systems, so as to identify suspicious behavior?  I think we could.)

I hasten to add that such electronic systems should never do more than alert a human being, who would then go to double-check.  But such solutions, so far as I know, have not been attempted yet.  I think it's worth a try.

Here's another thought or two, inspired by Glenn Reynolds' recent Popular Mechanics article on the subject.  The current American system looks for objects that could be used as weapons; the Israeli system looks for people who might employ such weapons.

It seems obvious to me that the latter approach is the correct one, since people are the bottleneck... and since just about anything can be used as a weapon.  (I wouldn't like to think about what new procedures the TSA would put into place, after a skyjacking carried out entirely by unarmed black-belt terrorists.  Would we then have to be handcuffed to our seats for the entire flight?)

And let me observe this -- keeping an eye on the potential weapon, and not on the person wielding it, is the philosophy of gun control.  This is the school of thought that says people are good, but weapons are bad, and that we must remove all weapons in order to deal with violent crime.

This philosophy sounds good, but has never been borne out by experience.  Communities with heavy gun control tend to have higher rates of violent crime, because armed criminals know that their victims will be unarmed.

So now we are trying this same failed philosophy on our airliners, by disarming the law-abiding passengers, so that in the process we'll also (hopefully) disarm any would-be terrorist hidden among them.  We're also inconveniencing the law-abiding in a major way by depriving them of anything that has been used before as a weapon... thereby basing our security on the notion that the terrorists won't come up with anything new.

And, in the process, we're seeing what gun advocates have always predicted we'd see.  It's impossible to remove all guns from society, they say... but even if you could, you'd then see the strong prey on the weak with knives, with chains, with iron bars, and anything else they can get their hands on.  No matter how many of these things you outlaw, the outlaws will find something they can use to overpower the innocent.

So we disallowed sharp objects on planes... and got a shoe bomber.  Then we got alerts about explosive liquids, so all liquids were disallowed.  Then we got Captain Underwear, causing the authorities to decide that they must now check our underwear.  Where does this process stop?...  It doesn't.

In what way does this make sense?


Thursday, November 11, 2010


On Gerrymandering

Zombie has a great primer up on gerrymandering -- also known as the Congressional practice of making your district contain only (or nearly only) the voters who support you, even if your district winds up looking like a pretzel.

(Or like a salamander... which is what Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts did, nearly two hundred years ago; hence the name.  See here for more background, and the cartoon that gave the practice its name.  It turns out that Mr. Gerry didn't originate the practice named after him; it was done in 1788, under the direction of none other than Patrick Henry, to keep James Madison out of Congress. )

This is a subject of some sensitivity to me, and not just because I live in the state that made gerrymandering famous.  Some of the most ridiculously gerrymandered Congressional districts in America are here in Massachusetts, and my own -- MA-04, the home of the unfortunately re-elected Barney Frank -- is one of the worst of all.

As Zombie points out, gerrymandering is by no means limited to one party, but it has been the specialty of Democrats for a long time.  This may now change; redistricting of Congress happens every ten years, after the decennial census required by the Constitution, and new districts for each state are drawn up by that state's legislature, where Republicans have made impressive gains.  So in 2011, Republicans will be in a position to get some of their own back.  (There's a spirited discussion going on in Zombie's comments, arguing whether or not Republicans should now gerrymander in their own favor.)

Could Congressional districts be drawn up in a more fair (i.e. nonpartisan) manner?  It seems that mathematicians have been arguing about that for some time, but aren't agreed on the best way to do it.

(I must say, I like some of the proposals offered in Zombie's comments.  This one looks promising -- restrict the census to what the Constitution requires, namely the number of people per household, without ethnic info or voting registration or anything else.  I think it's naive to assume that this would do away with gerrymandering... although it does mean that, if a politician wants to make a "safe" district for himself, he'll need to gather the demographic information on his own, instead of the Federal government doing it for him at taxpayer expense.  I'd like that.)

Personally, I detest the idea of "safe" seats.  There's a reason these people need to stand for re-election every few years, and it should not be a mere formality!  With very few exceptions, I refuse to vote in uncontested elections, and I wish we had a lot fewer of them.  So I'd be against a redistricting solution that preserved "safe" seats, even if the representation is fair (e.g. 45% of the state voting Democrat and 45% of the districts "safe" for Democrats).

Instead, I'd much rather we divvy up the districts themselves.  Every census comes two years after a statewide election, in which we can determine what percentage, statewide, voted for each major party.  Fine; let the redistricting, after the census, try to preserve that ratio, district by district, with a major priority being to keep each district as compact and geographically contiguous as possible.  If it's not feasible -- say, if a state voted exactly 50% Democrat and 50% Republican, and the best we can do for one district is to make it 55% Republican -- then let that be balanced out in another district, which would therefore be 55% Democrat.

Neoneocon has more to say on this, here and here.  And Zombie has posted Part II of the previous essay, listing ten of the worst gerrymandered districts, ten more that don't even bother to be contiguous (have they no shame??)... and some ridiculous honorable mentions.  (I'm surprised to see that only one Massachusetts district made the cut, and for an honorable mention at that... although sure enough, it's mine, MA-04.)


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