Saturday, August 15, 2009

I am calmer now but Jim Webb is still an idiot

Ok. This guy goes to Burma to tell the junta he doesn't like sanctions on them either, and ends up engaged in a little hostage diplomacy with the military dictatorship. Who does this guy think he is anyway - Bill Clinton? Well, Than Shwe seems to be channeling Kim Jung Il, so why not. And he got to meet with Suu? She should have told him to go jump in Lake Inya, along with his new traveling companion, but she is way to classy for that. I hope that she was able to explain to him how he is being used by the junta, since he can't figure it out for himself. For instance:

"It is my hope that we can take advantage of these gestures as a way to begin laying a foundation of goodwill and confidence-building in the future," Webb said in the statement.

Riiight. I am really annoyed right now. What is wrong with Virginia? Also, remember that this guy was seriously being considered by The One as vice president material? God help us. And the left makes fun of Palin. This nitwit makes her look positively statesmanlike. And poor Suu having to sit across from this guy for 40 minutes. I suspect that 2 minutes into the meeting she was wishing she could go back under house arrest.
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Jim Webb is an Idiot

That is all.
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Seeking truth from facts

The International Campaign for Tibet highlighted an interesting Xinhua editorial earlier this week in a post on their blog. The Xinhua article was about "mass incidents" in China, specifically one at a steel mill in Jilin province, and criticized the government for saying that the reason for these incidents was that those who rose up against the authorities "don't know the truth." This editorial says that if this is the real cause of anti-government actions, then simply telling the citizens involved "the truth" should be sufficient to stop them from striking out against officialdom. Now, Xinhua is of course talking about the kind of localized protests and anti-government violence that occurs all over China every day (some 90,000 times a year, apparently), but ICT's Stewart Watters makes the point that:

One of the challenges that Tibetans and their supporters face is to reach a point where commentators like Huang Guan or Chinese officials or ordinary Chinese citizens can begin to draw parallels between their own mistrust of the way the government characterizes and responds to mass incidents, and the factors that lie behind the Tibetan mistrust of Beijing.
Good point!
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Friday, August 14, 2009

Xu Zhiyong

Great editorial today in Wash Post about Xu. The lede is priceless and a stinging indictment of the current US approach to China:

AT THE CONCLUSION of the Strategic Economic Dialogue on July 28, the United States and China issued a news release affirming "the importance of the rule of law to our two countries." One day later, Chinese police led prominent legal scholar Xu Zhiyong out of his apartment to be detained indefinitely.

I hope someone in the White House, Foggy Bottom or Treasury bothers to read it and takes a moment to absorb.

Here is a Xu quote that inspires me to have faith in the Chinese people despite their evil government:

"I strive to be a worthy Chinese citizen, a member of the group of people who promote the progress of the nation. I want to make people believe in ideals and justice, and help them see the hope of change.”

Obama is reportedly going to China in November. There are any number of ways he could either make this situation worse or better. If he did nothing but talk about this case, in excruciating detail, it would be a serious "teachable moment" for both the Chinese and the Chinapologists in the Administration. It really is China's human rights situation in microcosm.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

With Friends Like These

Further to my post yesterday on Aung San Suu Kyi's continued detention, the Washington Post had a good lead editorial today that called out the US admin for empty rhetoric. Here's a grab:

There are measures that could be tried: coordinated financial sanctions aimed at the leaders who profit from their compatriots' misery, for example, or a real arms embargo -- particularly apt given recent reports of Burmese cooperation with North Korea in nuclear affairs. A May report by the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, commissioned by eminent former judges such as Patricia Wald of the United States and Richard Goldstone of South Africa, compellingly laid out sufficient evidence of the junta's crimes against humanity to justify a U.N. Security Council Commission of Inquiry that could lead to charges in the International Criminal Court. Russia and China, defenders of despots, would be obstacles, but perhaps not insuperable ones, if the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe made this a priority.

And where is the United States? Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced early in her tenure a review of U.S. policy toward Burma. While the sham trial of Aung San Suu Kyi was taking place, that review was suspended, leaving the administration surprisingly unready to respond to Tuesday's events. The review will be resumed now -- with, we would hope, a sense of urgency that has been wanting so far.

Well said Fred. Sphere: Related Content

The Queen Strikes Again

Even by Sheila Jackson-Lee standards, which are about as low as they come, this is outrageous. She is on the phone during a constituent meeting on health care. Who does this? Seriously!

But, then again, what do we expect from a woman who has been banned from flying on Continental Airlines because of her outrageous behavior. How does someone this ignorant and arrogant get re-elected to Congress? Do her constituents have no self-respect? Un. Real.

**UPDATE: The Queen talks to Rick Sanchez at CNN and makes a bizarre claim the video is doctored. Seriously - the woman is unhinged.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Where is American Leadership on Burma?

Well. The Burmese junta sent Aung San Suu Kyi back to house arrest for 18 months today. This is, of course, just long enough to keep her out of circulation for the 2010 sham elections. She was actually sentenced to 3 years hard labor because an idiotic American broke into her house, which was surrounded by junta henchmen because she was -- wait for it -- under house arrest. Senior General Than Shwe personally commuted her sentence to house arrest. He must be clairvoyant, because the Burmese Home Minister showed up in her court room right after the sentence was announced with a note from Than Shwe. Here is what the Guardian had to say:

A diplomatic source who witnessed the verdict said Aung San Suu Kyi looked "unfazed" after the first sentence was read out. "It didn't seem to catch her by surprise at all," he told the Guardian on condition of anonymity. "She was unfazed by it. She did not look like someone who had just been sentenced to three years' hard labour."

The announcement minutes later that her sentence had been commuted to 18 months' house arrest was "a choreographed attempt to get us to witness the leniency, clemency and humanity of the general [Than Shwe]", the source said. "But if the aim was to keep her out of circulation for the elections, then that is what they achieved."

Before being led from the courtroom, Aung San Suu Kyi walked over to the diplomats and thanked them for attending her trial. "I look forward to working together for the future prosperity of my country," she was quoted as saying.

Girlfriend has got a pair. That kind of thing must just drive the regime crazy - the Lady has just been put back under house arrest, saved from hard labor (and it is hard) by the benevolence of Than Shwe, and she tells the dip corps she'll be working with them like she's gonna be in charge or something!

Of course, the idiot who broke into her house gave the ogres this opportunity on a silver platter; but even beyond the damage that this idiot did to Suu personally, he has done a broader disservice to the other 2100 political prisoners in Burma. He got 7 years hard labor for his foolishness, and until the day he is released, the US consulate general (we don't have an embassy in Rangoon) will have to devote resources to getting this yahoo released that could otherwise be devoted to getting Min Ko Naing or Nilar Thein released.

It has already started, judging by the two sentences devoted to this nitwit in Secretary Clinton's statement on the trial. And about that statement - how weak was it? Well, the French and the Brits made us look pathetic. Both called for an arms embargo against the regime, something that was absent from HRC's remarks. I guess she is too busy haranguing African college students to keep up. Or maybe she thinks that Senator Webb will deliver a tough message to the junta when he travels to Burma this month. No, wait - he is opposed to sanctions and wants to engage the junta. Nevermind.

This is a truly sad commentary on how far US leadership has fallen on Burma. Last year, the US was pushing the Europeans to toughen their sanctions; today, France is making us look weak and confused. On a human rights issue we used to own. Again.

While critics of the Obama administration will point to the litany of realpolitik engagement with the dictator-of-the-month strategies they have rolled out, I genuinely am flummoxed by Secretary Clinton's behavior on this one because she was so good on Burma before. I can only believe that the "we must do the opposite of whatever the Bush Administration did" mantra has wiped out her instinct to stand with Aung San Suu Kyi and push a tough policy forward. The truth is HRC should be taking lessons from Suu on how to be one tough b!+@# with style and grace.
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Friday, August 7, 2009

Shutting down the internet to block a single dissident

Yesterday's outages at Twitter, Facebook and Live Journal were apparently the result of an effort to target a single blogger in the Republic of Georgia who is a well known critic of Russia. That the Russians would take down several of the most popular sites on the web just to shut down one guy says something really scary. This and the Chinese DDOS attacks on the Melbourne International Film Festival because of a documentary about Rebiya Kadeer remind us that we are dealing with criminal regimes. This remains true no matter that their leaders are invited to the G8 or G20 or their countries are veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council. Sphere: Related Content

Ferris: "We'll drive home backwards"

This moving tribute from a woman who was pen-pals with Hughes as an 80's teenager is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. The man was a genius and growing up in the 80's would have been a much lamer experience without him.

And then there is this:

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

wOrst president ever?

Remember those bumper stickers with the big "W" and "worst president ever"?

Well apparently not..if you believe this new CNN poll

A rather surprising finding from the newly released CNN poll. Question three on the national survey of 1,136 adults (which includes an oversample of African-Americans) asks, "Do you consider the first six months of the Obama administration to be a success or a failure?"

Thirty-seven percent (37%) said they believe the Obama administration is a "failure," while 51% consider it a "success" and 11% say it's still "too soon to tell."

An identical question was asked of the Bush administration in an August 2001 CNN/Gallup/USA Today survey. At the time, 56% said the Bush administration was a "success" while only 32% considered it a "failure."

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The vast right-wing conspiracy, cleverly disguised as concerned citizens participating in representative democracy

I don't even know where to start. I guess this Weekly Standard piece is as good a place as any.

The Democratic Party will pay far lower a price for their immature rhetorical abuse of voters than the Republican Party would, thanks to many friends in the media who will take the press release at face value and investigate the "mobs" forthwith. The White House will pay a lower price than a Republican White House would have for asking citizens to report their neighbors to the administration for spreading anything "fishy" about the President's plans, even via "casual conversation." (Do you remember when local police directives to "see something, say something" to prevent possible terrorist attacks and Homeland Security suggestions to "report suspicious behavior" were a cause for civil libertarian outrage on the Left? But those were designed to protect mere buildings, not the vital mission of Medicare cost-savings and government-run health care, you see.)

But surely there will be some price to pay for equating nearly 60 percent of the voting public with "mobs of extremists." According to a new Qunippiac poll:

In the Quinnipiac survey, 55% (including 54% of the key independent voter bloc) said they were more concerned that the overhaul would increase the deficit than that Congress would not pass some kind of overhaul. That same 57% (and 59% of independents) disagreed with the following statement: “Overhauling the nation’s health care system is so important that it should be enacted even if it means substantially increasing the federal budget deficit.”

The poll also contains another piece of the public opinion puzzle that Mr. Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership may find problematic: Voters by a large margin don’t want a health care overhaul if it can only garner Democratic votes. In other words, even though Democrats control both houses of Congress, voters are suspicious of a bill that only has Democratic support.

The poll found 59% of the public disagreed (and only 36% agreed) with the following statement: Congress should approve a health care overhaul even if only Democrats support it.”

It's utterly probable that some—even many— of the concerned folks showing up at health-care town halls are the kind of older, white, Middle America Democrats Obama went to great pains to woo. The rows of VFW ballcaps and suspiciously well-dressed protesters bespeak a contingent of Hillary Democrats and even the ballyhooed Obamacans, convinced by Obama's moderate shtick and now left wondering what they got themselves into. And, if such folks are not in those crowds, they are in the 60 percent of voters who identify with them, as are the all-important Independents.

When there were suggestions from certain right-leaning quarters that questioning or criticizing President Bush during wartime was somehow unpatriotic, I found that deeply offensive. I really do believe that reasonable people can disagree (but should do so reasonably -- i.e. using their powers of reason -- and without being disagreeable), and that our country is founded on the right of every person in it to hold whatever belief they want no matter how much I may disagree with it or even find it offensive. It is right there in the First Amendment.

Now comes the Democratic party and White House itself basically saying that citizen activism, if it is in the form of objecting to Obamacare, is the behavior of an "extremist mob", and calling on their supporters to be on the lookout for those "fishy" people who might *gasp* have a different view on what needs to be done to reform America's health care system.

Now I am just a consumer of health care and, I think, a relatively intelligent person. I am not a doctor or an economist or even a government bureaucrat (anymore). But, based on what I know about Obamacare from reading the paper and other "reputable" sources in the public domain: I am concerned about the costs of the plan as currently composed. I am skeptical of claims that the "public option" will not directly compete with (and destroy) private insurance. I am alarmed by Members of Congress whose sole job it is to legislate but who claim they are too busy to read, wait for it, legislation. I have other concerns about the Dems' proposed health care "reform" (lack of tort reform and other serious cost control measures, remaking the whole system rather than taking practical steps to insure the uninsured who want insurance, etc.). I guess this officially makes me an extremist wing-nut of the most dangerous sort (along with such well-known crazies as Doug Elmendorf, head of the radical Congressional Budget Office). I suppose I should be expecting a visit from the FBI or the DNC (or maybe ACORN) any day now. If this blog goes silent, you'll know why.

UPDATE: Senator Cornyn has written to Obama calling on him to knock it off with the enemies list. TWS blog has the letter here.
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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gibbs on A'jad: "He's the elected leader"


Video of Gibbs saying that A'jad is the "elected leader" here.

This is just unbelievable.

But I guess it should not be surprising coming from an Administration that is asking people to inform on their neighbors. It annoys me that these people are turning me into a wingnut.

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The Global Climate Change Agenda vs. Prosperity & Freedom

Excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal about freedom, the poor and climate change. Money quote:

The real source of China’s pollution problem is a state-led industrial policy geared toward production, and state-owned enterprises (especially in “dirty” sectors like coal and steel) that strive to meet production quotas, and state-appointed managers who don’t mind cutting corners in matters of safety or environmental responsibility, and typically have the political clout to insulate themselves from any public fallout.

In other words, China’s pollution problems are not a function of laissez-faire policies and rampant consumerism, but of the regime’s excessive lingering control of the economy. A freer China means a cleaner China.

There’s a lesson in this for those who believe that the world’s environmental problems call for a new era of dirigisme. And there ought to be a lesson for those who claim to understand the problems of the poor better than the poor themselves. If global warming really is the catastrophe the alarmists claim, the least they can do for its victims is not to patronize them while impoverishing them in the bargain.

Having traveled the world - including India & China - I have to say that in my experience, the poorer a place is, the dirtier it is and the converse is true (Ever been to Geneva? Do those people even have trash?). Hard to imagine why poor countries and people should want to remain poor, or even accept an enormous one-time wealth transfer (we won't be able to afford another one since we can't even really afford the first one) from rich countries to clean up their environment if the trade off is that they have to stay poor in perpetuity because they aren't allowed to grow their economy, er I mean increase their CO2 output. Shocking that less developed countries aren't leaping onto the climate bandwagon!
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Monday, August 3, 2009

The Nork/SLORC connection

A few years back when I heard that the Burmese were getting help from the Russians to build a nuclear reactor, my thought was "Yikes, that is scary; those idiots couldn't run a fruit stand, let alone a nuclear reactor." Now there seems to be increasing evidence that Than Shwe and crew are trying to follow in the footsteps of North Korea, literally, and develop their own nuclear weapon. To say this is bad is like saying the mainstream media thinks highly of President Obama.

Apparently I was wrong to think of them as idiots. The Burmese junta formerly known as the SLORC (sounds like a bad-guy name out of Austin Powers or Get Smart, right?) is crazy, but they they are not stupid. They have watched the past decade plus of North Korean and Iranian nuclear brinksmanship -- and the corresponding attention, financial aid, business relationships, etc. it has earned for the rulers of those two regimes -- and decided "I gots to get me some of that." Their logic, which is irrefutable based on US policy responses over the past 15 years, is that if they get the bomb or even just make everyone think they are trying to or close or something, the West will stop picking on them and start showing respect.

Thanks Chris Hill - add another win to your column. And thanks also to China for all their "help" with Burma - couldn't have done it without you, as usual.
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Too big to pass: the death of American democracy?

This blog from Powerline, ostensibly about health care, but applicable to pretty much anything Congress is doing these days, is right on the money. The title is "Too Big to Fail" and it gets to the heart of one of the biggest problems with Congress today: members of both parties failing to live up to their most basic responsibilities as legislators. They don't read the bills they vote on. They don't think about the issues independently - they either do what their party, favorite lobbyists, or constituents tell them to do, rather than having a set of ** gasp ** core principles that they are able to clearly articulate to the electorate and use as guides for evaluating the various legislative proposals that come before them. Principled leadership is for suckers. To whit:

So I would propose a simple, bright-line rule. In recent months many observers have said that if a company is too big to fail (i.e., in a pinch the government will bail it out), then it is too big to exist. I think there is a lot of merit to that idea. Here is my corollary: if a bill is too vast for a Congressman to read and understand, it is too big to pass. If a Congressman can't read the bill, he shouldn't vote for it. The appropriate response to any such legislation is: just vote "No."

Abso-freakin-lutely. We are watching the destruction of representative democracy before our very eyes. The innovative vision of representative democracy that enlivens our Constitution has been hollowed out by a government that is so big that no one individual can possibly understand its component parts in a coherent way, which makes it possible for those who understand any one corner of the vast bureaucracy to set up a lucrative little empire based on doing so - be they legislator, bureaucrat, lobbyist, journalist, etc. Aggregated, these little empires grow and distort our government in ways that would horrify our founding fathers. The best hope for saving it is the promise of modern communication and social networking as tools for citizen activism. These tools have the potential to create mechanisms to absorb, comprehend and start shaping these complex systems in a way that individual citizens, acting alone or even in localized groups, cannot. On the plus side, technology moves faster than bureaucracy so innovation is on our side; liberals have embraced these technologies to advance an anti-freedom party and agenda, but the conservative side is starting to catch up. Will it be enough?

UPDATE *8-3-09: Mark Steyn at NRO agrees:

Rule by anonymous technocrats is a form of tyranny, however benign.

See the whole thing here.

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