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Neo-Neocon

Neo-Neocon is a New England-based blogger.
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Yeah, What Difference?

Thursday, January 24th, 2013 - by Neo-Neocon

The more I think about Hillary Clinton’s question yesterday—”what difference does it make?”—the more important it becomes; a sort of leitmotif, not only for this administration, but for our times in general.

For the moment, let’s not talk about Benghazi itself. Let’s just mull over the fact that the priorities of the majority of Americans seem to have shifted. If the public doesn’t care about a certain tree falling in the forest, does it actually make a sound, even if the right is fussing about it?

The right has been outraged by a sequence of events and statements that have occurred under Obama’s watch, beginning with his 2008 campaign. Some are rather trivial (“corpse-man”) and some important (“bankrupt” the coal plants; “spread the wealth”). All have gained traction only on the right, because a majority (perhaps a small majority, but a majority nonetheless, and I believe a growing one) has answered the question “what difference does it make?” with the words “none at all.”

These are things that would have outraged an earlier generation. In fact, they have outraged an earlier generation; older people did not vote for Obama in large numbers (among voters 65 and older, Romney won 56% to 44%). But Hillary is correct; to most voters, Benghazi, and a host of other things that used to be considered important, make no difference at all.

One reason, which may seem somewhat paradoxical but really is not, is widespread cynicism. If the public doesn’t expect integrity or truth from what used to be called our public servants (what a quaint phrase!), then lies and strategic stonewalling will not bother most people at all. What matters is what those public servants can get for you, and what they can scare you into thinking the opposition will take away from you (tampons, anyone?)

Another big factor at work here is our decades-long education in moral relativism. What is truth, and can it be determined? Way way too many people answer “no,” and so they’ve given up trying or caring. And if they don’t care, why should our public officials answer inopportune and potentially embarrassing questions? No; what’s important is feelings, and so it made perfect sense for Hillary to act as though the best way to show concern about the deaths in Benghazi was to raise her voice in frustration and anger at the questions and cite her determination to “figure out what happened,” rather than actually exhibit that determination by answering questions about her own possible negligence in fostering conditions that may have contributed to those deaths. As for the subsequent cover-up of the reasons for the deaths, she’s implying that it’s just political business as usual, no biggee. And most Americans will nod, if they’re paying attention at all.

This administration has been stonewalling right from the start on whatever it just doesn’t feel like answering. Although previous administrations have done a bit of that here and there, with Obama it is his recurrent m.o., made possible by the MSM’s abdication of its traditional role as questioner and challenger, and its adoption of the mantle of enabler.

A terrible development, to be sure. But it would not be possible if the American people didn’t allow it.

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Obama’s outrage

Saturday, November 17th, 2012 - by Neo-Neocon

Try as I may, I cannot recall any president prior to Obama implying that criticism of the statements of an ambassador to the UN, acting in his/her official capacity as spokesperson, should be off-limits — and especially the approach Obama took, which was to say that the men who criticized Rice (McCain and Graham) were somehow “besmirching” her reputation (Rice is a vulnerable little woman, not just a gender-neutral official, when it suits Obama’s political purposes) and that such comments are “outrageous” and beyond the pale. Should those on the left who criticized Colin Powell for presenting information about WMDs to the UN, information “based on intelligence that he had received,” have been admonished to shut up because they were “besmirching his reputation” in an “outrageous” manner? Of course not, as they’d be the first to tell you. But Rice is apparently off-limits, because Obama says so.

Has any other president even hinted that his appointed officials are beyond reproach, and that anyone who would question them is a lout? There’s something truly imperial about Obama making such a suggestion, and anyone in the press who fails to call him on it is complicit.

It wasn’t just an isolated statement, either. Obama said something very similar during the second debate:

And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president, that’s not what I do as Commander in Chief.

I really can’t imagine how anyone could hear statements like his and not think: This is a dangerous man. But I’ve learned that most people do not seem to hear the warning bells that are sounding so loudly. The fact that his is a new and alarming attitude, one that is different from that of presidents on both sides in the past, presidents who understood that it was the job of the press and the opposition to criticize them and their administrations, including UN ambassadors, and certainly including women — seems to have been utterly lost. Perhaps this is due in part to the fact that the press hardly ever does criticize Obama, so it has become unthinkable to him and to his supporters.

I would dearly love for some member of the MSM to ask Obama exactly why such criticism is “offensive” when it’s directed at him or at someone in his administration, and yet it was inoffensive (and even laudable) when it was directed at his predecessor George W. Bush and those in his administration. But no, I’m not foolish enough to expect to ever see that day.

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Obama voted against Katrina waiver

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 - by Neo-Neocon

It comes as no surprise to learn that Obama was one of a small minority in the Senate who voted against the bill that sought to waive the Stafford Act in order to make assistance funds available to the New Orleans Katrina victims without their having to match them with a 10% contribution.

See this for a list of those who voted for and against the bill. You’ll note that Obama’s “nay” vote was one of only 14 cast against the act, almost all of them liberal Democrats. No doubt he would say he knew the act would pass and so he felt okay voting against it in order to protest the Iraq war funds that were also part of the bill. But there’s something profoundly distasteful and almost grotesque about him voting against the waiver, knowing the bill had passed despite his vote, and then misleading the audience to make them angry that the waiver hadn’t happened.

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Do-gooder Romney

Friday, August 31st, 2012 - by Neo-Neocon

We’re used to sob stories about politicians, meant to tug at the heartstrings, both to laud politicians and to attack them. But usually they are about the supposed results of policies those politicians have promoted or blocked: Romney’s Bain caused the death of my wife; Obamacare meant I got health insurance despite my pre-existing condition. That sort of thing is standard

But the stories told at the Republican Convention last night about Romney’s extraordinary kindness and caring were not the usual tales about how his policies have helped people; they were personal, and specifically religious in nature, because they described hands-on (in some cases, literally) acts Romney performed in the service of his Mormon faith and his position as a Mormon lay minister.

I have never seen a politician use that sort of approach before. Perhaps it’s because few if any politicians have a record like that they might point to. Perhaps it’s also because Romney may have needed to point it out more than most would have, because of his naturally cool demeanor, and because the campaign against him has relied so far almost entirely on character assassination.

Whatever the reasons, the degree to which Romney has been a practitioner of personal kindness and good works is extraordinary. Whether he wins the election or not, it’s clear that Romney is a very unusual human being, with a combination of brains, hard-nosed business sense and competitiveness, and personal kindness that goes way beyond anything most people consider necessary or even possible. For a politician, this is so unusual as to be unique.

So far, the Obama campaign’s “narrative” about Romney has been rather simple: out of touch, flip-flopping, women-despising, rapacious exploitative capitalist (pig, although they don’t say it). But the funny thing about lies is that all it takes to refute them is the truth, and there’s plenty of refutation available in the true story of Romney’s life. If people could learn those things, Obama’s Romney narrative would be blown out of the water.

But will people be allowed to learn them? If the stories had been about Obama, they already would have been hyped to the skies. But of course that’s not the way the MSM rolls for Romney.

There’s another thing about these tales. They seem almost too good to be true—very corny, very touching. In our cynical and ironic age they are almost unbelievable, like some sort of parody. What a square, goody-two-shoes—although the kind of square you might want to have around in a crisis.

People keep saying about Romney, “the more I know of him the more I like him.” It strikes me that Obama is just the opposite—the more people know of him the more they dislike him.

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More on that ‘Trickle-Down Fairy Dust’ Business

Thursday, August 9th, 2012 - by Neo-Neocon

Bridget Johnson points out that Obama has a new catch-phrase that he’s used five times in recent speeches, “trickle-down fairy dust.” A typical example:

We know better than this. They have been trying to sell us this trickle-down, tax cut fairy dust before. We’ve seen this before.

Yes, we have—at least we’ve seen the fight about it before. It goes back at least to William Jennings Bryan, who used the phrase “leak through” in 1896, in his famous “Cross of Gold” speech:

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.

“Trickle” and “leak”—the picture conjured up is almost inevitably that of wetting one’s pants, or of urinating on the masses. The phrase has virtually always been a pejorative used by the Democrats; as Thomas Sowell has pointed out, it’s not used by those on the right, and the theory the left critiques is not the theory under which the right is operating:

The point, however, is not simply to move money around but to change behavior in a way that will result in more economic activity. Tax cuts have a long track record of doing that, resulting in rising national incomes and rising employment.

But there is no way that some people are ever going to admit that what they call “tax cuts for the rich” are tax cuts for the economy. As far as they are concerned, this is all just an excuse to “give” something to the rich, in hopes that it will “trickle down” to the lower income brackets.

A year ago this column defied anyone to quote any economist — in government, academia, or anywhere else outside an insane asylum — who had ever argued in favor of a “trickle down theory.”

Many people quoted David Stockman as saying that others had made that argument. But David Stockman was not even among the first thousand people to make that claim. What is crucial is that not one of those who made the claim could provide a single quote from anybody who had advocated a “trickle-down theory.”

The “trickle down theory” has been a stock phrase on the left for decades and yet not one of those who denounce it can find anybody who advocated it. The tenacity with which they cling to these catchwords shows how desperately they need them, if only to safeguard their vision of the world and of themselves.

Sowell wrote that in 2006. And Obama is proving it’s still all too true.

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One More Thing About Obama’s ‘Polish Death Camp’ Remark

Thursday, May 31st, 2012 - by Neo-Neocon

The official citation for the medal, as described by the White House, read that Karski had “worked as a courier, entering the Warsaw ghetto and the Nazi Izbica transit camp, where he saw first-hand the atrocities occurring under Nazi occupation.”

So Obama’s speechwriters, and Obama himself, must have ignored the information present in their own citation when writing Obama’s remarks. Not only was the death camp not “Polish” (although it was in Poland), it was actually a transit camp and not a death camp–and that information was already known to them, or should have been.

Maybe Obama should fire his speechwriter and hire the citation-writer to fact-check his speeches.

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Liberal tunnel vision: why vote for Romney?

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 - by Neo-Neocon

In the latest New Yorker, John Cassidy writes:

In my neck of artisanal, hormone-free Brooklyn, the latest CBS News/New York Times poll, which shows Mitt Scissorhands leading “The First Gay President” by three points, landed with a nasty thud. “I can’t believe he might lose,” my wife said when she spotted the offending numbers on the Web. “People are really willing to vote for Mitt Romney? They hate Obama so much they’d vote for Romney?”

The rest of the article is an attempt to fire up the troops, an exhortation to liberals to take the threat seriously but not to be afraid, because it doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot yet. But I focus on the paragraph above because I think it captures the essence of a certain liberal mindset, what we might call the Pauline Kael syndrome.

You may remember that Pauline Kael, film critic at that very same New Yorker, whose lengthy tenure there (1968-1991) was extremely influential in shaping the viewpoints of the cognoscenti, was supposed to have said, in response to Richard Nixon’s 1972 landslide victory, “that she ‘couldn’t believe Nixon had won’, since no one she knew had voted for him.”

Kael’s real quote appears to have been more nuanced. As best we can tell, she may have actually said this:

I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.

That’s a more interesting statement because it owns up to its own insularity. The speaker is well aware that she lives in an echo chamber in which she not only is not exposed to other viewpoints, but can’t even fathom them. Whether she would like to understand better or not is another question; my impression is that the speaker is rather proud of only associating with the elite, and really isn’t interested in finding out what the great unwashed might think, or why. I read into her remarks a certain disdain for those who voted for Nixon; whatever their reasons might be, they certainly couldn’t have been good.

That’s where Cassidy and his wife come in, all these long years later. There’s the same kneejerk dismissal of the views of others, the same concomitant inability to understand them and reluctance to try (conservatives may be intolerant of the views of liberals, or even hate them, and certainly can misunderstand them, but my distinct impression is that they spend an inordinate amount of time at least trying to fathom them, and tend to know many liberals rather well).

The assumption is that no one could possibly have rational reasons to vote for the obviously—obviously what? hateful? incompetent? evil?—Romney, and so the only impetus for supporting him must be hatred of Obama. Which brings us to another interesting point: people who will be voting for Romney are assumed not to merely disapprove of what Obama has done or not done as president, but to hate him. The motive is personal, malevolent—and quite possibly racist (although the article doesn’t say that). Politics as pure emotion.

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The Romney-Christie Show

Monday, January 9th, 2012 - by Neo-Neocon

The crowd was huge and enthusiastic and grassroots. The obligatory hecklers were heckling obligatorily. The locust-like press attended in multitudes.

What was it? The Romney-Christie (or, depending on your preference, the Christie-Romney) Show in Exeter, NH yesterday. More description and photos here.

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The Cain allegations: notice the word “or”

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

It’s interesting to see how Ginger White’s cell phone history with Herman Cain has morphed. Think he’s on record as making late-night or early morning phone calls or sending late-night or early-morning texts to her? So do a lot of people.

But think again. These are the actual allegations as originally reported:

She showed [Fox in Atlanta] some of her cell phone bills that included 61 phone calls or text messages to or from a number starting with 678. She says it is Herman Cain’s private cell phone. The calls were made during four different months– calls or texts made as early as 4:26 in the early morning, and as late as 7:52 at night.

So, if we’re going to talk about this, let’s get it straight. The messages were calls or texts, and they were to or from Cain. And unless you think 7:52 is late at night, the only late ones were so late they were early. We do not know whether those were made by Cain or by White, either; it certainly might have been White herself doing the off-hours calling or texting.

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The Naked Memo

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Memo to politicians such as Louis Magazzu, Democrat of New Jersey: not really such a good idea to send naked photos of self to online acquaintances.

Memo to people in general: not really such a good idea to take photos of self in mirror while holding camera, standing naked in front of unmade bed.

Memo to everyone over 35 who’s not in fabulous shape: getting naked with your honey in real life is just fine, but digital photos can be much less forgiving than the eye of a loved one.

Memo to men: women are not generally as keen on naked photos of men as men are of naked photos of women. Sending a woman one, unless it’s specifically requested, is a bit like gifting her with a power saw. It may be something you want. But she might be happier with some earrings.

Magazzu, however, can’t be accused of violating that last rule: the lady in question asked for naked photos. But alas, he failed to be suspicious enough of her motives, and violated the other rules.

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Weiner: damaged goods

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Now that Weiner is damaged goods, the Democrats’ knives are coming out. Case in point, this Salon article by Steve Kornacki, which digs up an incident from the beginning of Weiner’s political career in which he won his first Democratic primary with an attack against his opponents that appealed to racism. The incident reminds me—not in its charges of racism, but in its implication that Weiner was probably a ruthless bastard from the start—of another story you don’t hear much about, involving Obama’s political beginnings: how he managed to knock previous mentor Alice Palmer and all his other Democratic rivals off the ballot in his very first primary.

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Gulf oil spill anniversary question

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Today’s the one-year anniversary of the Gulf oil spill, and here’s my question: so, if scientists couldn’t even foresee the effects of the oil spill on the Gulf, how are they going to figure out what’s going on with climate change?

Actually, although the above-linked Time article ignores it, there were a few lonely voices saying fairly early on that the spill would naturally repair itself. One of them, interestingly enough, was that of none other than Rush Limbaugh (not a scientist, nor does he play one on radio). Another was British geologist Michael Welland, who even managed to specifically mention the oil-eating bacteria in a post that bears full reading, entitled “Alcanivorax borkumensis – oil-eating bacteria, where are you?”

Welland is careful to differentiate himself from the hated Limbaugh, lest he be tarred with the same brush. He writes in a disclaimer [emphasis mine]:

Given that there are hundreds of natural oil seeps in the northern Gulf, spewing out an estimated 70,000 tonnes (roughly equivalent to 20 million US gallons) of oil every year, why do we not see a more oil-polluted Gulf in normal circumstances? One big reason is the natural activity of bacteria like Alcanivorax borkumensis. No, I’m not supporting Rush Limbaugh and his demented and twisted interpretation of facts, but one fact is that natural processes can help in the kind of catastrophe we are facing. But those natural processes don’t have the critical mass to deal with events on this scale – they need help.

Apparently, although Welland was one of the few who was correct about the oil-eating bacteria, he was wrong about that last point—it turns out they didn’t need help.

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Mubarak & Sons

Thursday, April 14th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

are now in prison (sons) and hospital detention (father).

I can’t help but think that the message received by dictators around the world is that it’s much better to be a US enemy than a US friend.

Here’s more about what might be going on in Egypt:

The arrest of Mr Mubarak has been a key demand of protesters. Many analysts believe the latest moves against the Mubarak family are a politicised bid to mollify angry demonstrators, who have recently shifted their attention to the titular head of the military, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, a long-serving Mubarak-era minister.

”I seriously doubt that after all this the Mubaraks will be released,” said Ragia Omran, a human rights lawyer and pro-change activist. ”There’s been a lot of anger in the Egyptian street over the demands of the revolution not being met, and the ruling generals have arrested the Mubaraks in an effort to calm the people. To let them go now would be political suicide.”

It will be interesting to see how the new government shapes up in terms of revenge against the former regime. Will there be a Reign of Terror? Or amnesty? Or something in-between?

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Putting the Fukushima threat into perspective

Thursday, March 17th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

The Christian Science Monitor is trying to calm the panic today with an article that tells what the anti-nuclear forces do not want to hear: that even Chernobyl wasn’t all that bad in terms of lives lost.

That sounds cold and heartless, as well as misinformed: didn’t Chernobyl cause thousands to a million deaths, as is so often quoted? The answer is “no,” as even the UN’s UNSCEAR, tasked to study the effects of atomic radiation, found:

Among the residents of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, there had been up to the year 2005 more than 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer reported in children and adolescents who were exposed at the time of the accident, and more cases can be expected during the next decades. Notwithstanding the influence of enhanced screening regimes, many of those cancers were most likely caused by radiation exposures shortly after the accident. Apart from this increase, there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure two decades after the accident. There is no scientific evidence of increases in overall cancer incidence or mortality rates or in rates of non-malignant disorders that could be related to radiation exposure. The incidence of leukaemia in the general population, one of the main concerns owing to the shorter time expected between exposure and its occurrence compared with solid cancers, does not appear to be elevated. Although those most highly exposed individuals are at an increased risk of radiation-associated effects, the great majority of the population is not likely to experience serious health consequences as a result of radiation from the Chernobyl accident. Many other health problems have been noted in the populations that are not related to radiation exposure.

The Monitor points out that even those thyroid cancer cases in children were preventable, if the Soviets had merely warned parents not to have their children drink contaminated milk. In addition, thyroid cancer has a very high cure rate in young patients: about 97%.

That’s not to say that Chernobyl was nothing. It was most definitely something: a frightening event that shone a light on a large number of mistakes (especially in Soviet power plants, and in the Soviet Union’s dissemination of information to the public) that needed to be righted, and a tragedy from which people and the immediate environment suffered. Lives were lost, including but not limited to those who died in the original accident and its immediate radioactive aftermath, usually quoted as numbering 57. It is clear, however, that Chernobyl was nowhere near as destructive as the vast majority of people have been encouraged to think it was.

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Michael Crichton on Science and Fear

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Highly relevant to the current nuclear reactor crisis in Japan and worth watching, it’s part of a much longer speech that the late Michael Crichton gave a few years ago. The entire speech can be watched at Crichton’s site, or by clicking on the video below:

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Peter King as McCarthy

Thursday, March 10th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Just Google “Peter King McCarthy” and you’ll get tons of links making that comparison.

One of the first articles that comes up is this piece by Joanna Molloy, which appeared in the NY Daily News back in December of 2010, when the King hearings were already being discussed. Its headline, not atypical of the genre, is “Pete King’s plan to grill Muslims is flashback to Joe McCarthy’s Hollywood witch hunt for Communists.”

Okay, what’s wrong with this picture? Well, Molloy may write for the Daily News and I may be just a lowly blogger, but even I know that Molloy (and, presumably, the entire editorial staff of the Daily News, which not only did not catch her error but highlighted it in the headline) is confusing McCarthy’s investigations with the work of the House Un-American Activities Committee, with which McCarthy was completely uninvolved.

It’s a common misconception among the uninformed, and a common assertion among the propagandists on the left who would make use of their ignorance. Lost in the fray, of course, is the fact that the abrasive McCarthy was often correct in the hearings with which he actually was involved: there were a great many Communists in the government who were seeking to undermine this country, and almost all of McCarthy’s accusations turned out to be true when the Soviet files were opened and confirmed them.

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What is collective bargaining, anyway?

Friday, March 4th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

All those recent polls asking people if they’re in favor of reducing the collective bargaining “rights” of public service workers make me wonder whether most people have any real idea what the term actually means. But a couple of days ago, Harvard economics professor Robert Barro obliged by offering a short primer in the WSJ:

Labor unions like to portray collective bargaining as a basic civil liberty, akin to the freedoms of speech, press, assembly and religion. For a teachers union, collective bargaining means that suppliers of teacher services to all public school systems in a state—or even across states—can collude with regard to acceptable wages, benefits and working conditions. An analogy for business would be for all providers of airline transportation to assemble to fix ticket prices, capacity and so on. From this perspective, collective bargaining on a broad scale is more similar to an antitrust violation than to a civil liberty…

Remarkably, labor unions are not only immune from antitrust laws but can also negotiate a “union shop,” which requires nonunion employees to join the union or pay nearly equivalent dues. Somehow, despite many attempts, organized labor has lacked the political power to repeal the key portion of the 1947 Taft Hartley Act that allowed states to pass right-to-work laws, which now prohibit the union shop in 22 states. From the standpoint of civil liberties, the individual right to work—without being forced to join a union or pay dues—has a much better claim than collective bargaining.

My guess is that, if most Americans knew what this was all about, they would be standing with the Governor of Wisconsin. It’s a good bet that they aren’t aware, however, and that much of the MSM is dedicated to the proposition that it stays that way.

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Sirhan Sirhan: again

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

RFK’s assassin Sirhan Sirhan came up for parole today. It’s the 14th time this has happened, and the hearing is likely to go the way of all the rest and end in denial.

When I heard the news, my first thought was, “Why is this man still alive?” After all, he assassinated a presidential candidate in full view of a crowd of people.

The answer is that, although he was sentenced to death at his trial, the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972, before his execution had taken place. Even though he was sentenced when executions were allowed, the later ruling was retroactive. And even though executions were re-instituted in California in the late 70s, his re-sentencing to life in prison (with possibility of parole) during that small window of opportunity stands.

By the way, because Sirhan was a Palestinian whose motive was apparently anger at RFK’s pro-Israel stance, many people assume that Sirhan must have been a Muslim. He was not; his parents were Palestinian Christians who had brought him to this country when he was twelve.

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Bolton’s primer on how to encourage democracy in Egypt

Friday, February 25th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

John Bolton has written an article suggesting ways in which liberal democracy (rather than the siren song of “one person, one vote, one time,” or Islamiscist control) could come to Egypt.

Neocon thought is often ridiculed as being the simplistic idea that all you need is the right to vote, and all will be well. That’s not it at all, as I’ve devoted quite a few words to explaining. Bolton offers quite a few more that are well worth reading.

None of this would be at all easy, even with behind-the-scenes pressure and influence. What’s more, Egypt is probably a walk in the park compared to Libya if the rebels manage to depose Qaddafi. Paradoxically, if the Iranian opposition were somehow successful in getting rid of the mullahs, Iran might have the best chance of becoming the closest thing to a liberal democracy in a Muslim country in the region (including the nascent and tenuous democracy in Iraq), simply because its people have had such a long and gut-wrenching experience of enduring the opposite after a revolution that briefly promised otherwise.

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More from Nir Rosen, expert on Mideast sexual assault

Monday, February 21st, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

It turns out that the Lara Logan incident was not the first time journalist Nir Rosen had opined on the subject of female journalists being assaulted in the Middle East. On August 2, 2010, during an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review about Wikileaks, Rosen had offered another nugget of trenchant observation on the topic:

[Q]Women have an easier time getting around?

[A]In general in the Muslim world, non-Muslim women are at an advantage. There’s like a force field around them, people don’t want to come too close. Jill Carroll maybe was an exception, but there haven’t been that many women who I know of that have been attacked. Maybe groped here and there. Men are just maybe more uncomfortable around women, or don’t even see them.

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Rosen Agonistes

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Nir Rosen tries to frantically backtrack from his vicious remarks about Lara Logan’s attack:

The plan going forward is to redeem myself and show that my statements were not representative of my beliefs and that i am in fact committed radically to the rights of women…My career was dedicated to defending victims from oppressors and instead I now look like I mock victims and justify their oppressors.

Earth to Nir: the reason you look like you mock victims and justify their oppressors is that you did mock a victim.

Rosen has not even offered an explanation for his remarks other than that they are not representative of his beliefs. But do people usually make remarks—and repeated remarks at that—that are not representative of their beliefs?

Rosen doesn’t even seem to have Mel Gibson’s lame excuse, that he was drunk. One can only conclude that Rosen meant exactly what he said, and for some unknown reason forgot that Twitter was a public forum when he let slip his mask.

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Obama v. Mubarak

Friday, February 11th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Jake Tapper reports that it was pressure from Obama that caused Mubarak to give up and leave.

I have no idea whether that’s true or not. My guess is that it’s not the real reason, and that the real reason was that the army decided the civil unrest was growing too threatening and told Mubarak to skedaddle or else.

But I will make this prediction: if Egypt turns out badly, Obama will deny any role. And if it turns out well, he will take the credit.

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Unhappy Anniversary

Friday, February 11th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Hey, did you know that today is the 32nd anniversary of the victory of the Khomeini forces in Iran? It is celebrated there as the national holiday Islamic Revolution Victory Day, Iran’s un-Fourth-of-July.

If you follow the timeline of the revolution in Iran, you will see the following sequence of cascading events: huge demonstrations in late 1978, the Shah appoints Bakhtiar Prime Minister on January 3 of 1979, the Shah flees the country on January 16, Khomeini returns February 1 and affirms Bakhtiar as PM on February 4, Khomeini tells his followers on February 10 to ignore a Bakhtiar-imposed curfew and pandemonium follows, and on February 11 the regime collapses and Bakhtiar flees.

One very large difference between Egypt and Iran is that Iran had a ready-made and extraordinarily popular charismatic figure in Khomeini. Egypt seems to lack a similar figure—so far.

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Mubarak in translation

Thursday, February 10th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Here’s the full text of Mubarak’s speech.

There’s a lot in there about “dialogue,” or some Egyptian term that’s translated as dialogue. He already sounds like a democrat, doesn’t he?

And this part seems to be a slap in the face of President Obama:

And I tell you here, as a head of state, I do not find any embarrassment at all in listening to the youth of my country, and to satisfying their demands. But the embarrassment would only lie in the fact — and I would never permit — is that I would listen to any sort of intervention that would come from outside, from the outside world, whatever the source is, whatever the intention behind them are.

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Double standards

Saturday, February 5th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Wonder why the MSM scoured every Tea Party vigilantly for posters that exhibited any trace of racism and were disappointed to find almost none, and yet they seem to be mostly ignoring the seemingly commonplace anti-Semitic posters among the anti-Mubarak Egyptian demonstrators?

I think that was a rhetorical question.

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The Grand Inquisitor weighs in

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor had something to say about those two ideas at war in the human soul, the longing for freedom and the longing for acceptance:

In the end [the people] 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.

The turmoil in Egypt is a reminder that it’s not an easy task to create a functioning democratic state out of one that’s fallen on hard times and is used to despotism of one type or another. Such states, without a tradition of individual liberty or human rights guarantees, tend to swing between the Scylla of dictatorship and the Charybdis of chaos.

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That Sputnik moment

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Our Sputnik moment? Oh, that’ll pull the young folks in, all right.

I remember it well, although I was just a little kid. It meant that big bad Russia had beaten us, or something like that. It meant we kids had to learn more math and science, faster and better than our elders, so it wouldn’t happen again. Sputnik was thrown in our faces for years, as though we were personally responsible. Down with Sputnik!

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Both sides? Surely, you jest.

Friday, January 21st, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Bryan, speaking of both sides, do you remember this April 2010 MSNBC clip of Joan Walsh (she of the truncated Obama quote)? No heated rhetoric from pundits on the left; nope, none at all:

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Insurance “discrimination”

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Speaking of inflammatory speech, have you ever noticed how often people pushing HCR use the loaded (pardon the expression) word “discrimination” to refer to insurance practices such as failing to cover pre-existing conditions? The White House uses it, and Sebelius used it recently in a way that made the civil rights tie-in pretty unmistakable, “Americans living with pre-existing conditions are being freed from discrimination in order to get the health coverage they need.”

Wouldn’t a neutral word such as “denial” be more accurate? I guess not, if the motive is to imply that insurance companies are acting capriciously, cold-heartedly, and possibly maliciously rather than engaging in basic and time-honored insurance underwriting practices to reduce risk and keep their businesses viable.

And in late-breaking news, as the House passes the repeal of HCR, here we go again:

“Thanks to the new law, women do not have to worry anymore about being treated as second-class citizens or about being discriminated against for being a woman,” [Rep. Louise] Slaughter said, arguing that the health care law made it illegal for insurance companies to charge women higher premiums and would require that insurers provide coverage for victims of domestic violence.

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Pleistocene Park

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Pleistocene Park, here we come.

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Apocalypse Now?

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Apocalypse now, or later? Scientists believe that California is overdue for a “superstorm” of a magnitude seen in that region only once in about 150 years, which could flood up to one quarter of the homes in the state.

What’s the supposed cause? Why, warming temperatures, of course. No doubt the anthropogenic global warming folks will try to pin any such storm on the energy-guzzling habits of modern humans, despite the fact that there’s geological evidence that “larger storms happened in past centuries, over the dates 212, 440, 603, 1029, 1418, and 1605.”

And Bible scholars, take note, “The scientists built a model that showed a storm could last for more than 40 days…”

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Hands-on at the hospital

Sunday, January 16th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Excellent article in the NY Times (yes, the NY Times) on the medical response in the first hours after the Tucson shooting.

It was hands-on work, as you will see.

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Two types of assassins

Saturday, January 15th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Rick: yes, as I wrote in my most recent most recent piece for PJ, political assassins break down into roughtly two main types, and Oswald appears to have been a mixture of the two:

Political assassins tend to be of two types: the first is the coldly calculating killer (or co-conspirators) motivated by a strategic move for power and/or a political vendetta, and the second is the lone crazy person. Some, such as Lee Harvey Oswald and Sarah Jane Moore (remember her?) inhabit territory somewhere between the two (they also happen to inhabit territory on the left, a fact most leftist commentators tend to conveniently forget).

The first group do have primarily political motivations, but they are highly unlikely to have been motivated or even affected at all by casually inflammatory rhetoric. Their provocations are of a deeper sort.

How often have this first sort of killer or killers been behind political assassinations in the United States? Well, it depends who you ask; Kennedy conspiracists are adamant that such plotters were behind Oswald, and if theories about the mob’s involvement in the 1933 Mayor Cermak slaying are true, that would be another example of a group effect. Lincoln’s assassination featured a number of Confederate sympathizers who worked together and planned to take over the government, as well.

Loughner appears to be one of the purist examples of the second type — the lone crazy — that we’ve ever seen. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t sometimes spout statements that sound political. Nor does it mean that his craziness is necessarily of a degree that would afford him a defense in a court of law.

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Hezbollah blood libel

Friday, January 14th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

And speaking of blood libels, it occurs to me that Hezbollah’s Nasrallah has been committing one when he accuses the Israelis of having assassinated Rafik Hariri. This particular blood libel has the added twist of attempting to deflect the blame that he fears will fall on himself and Hezbollah for the act, so it serves a dual function.

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Noonan hearts Obama

Friday, January 14th, 2011 - by Neo-Neocon

Peggy Noonan sings “Now He’s Back in My Arms Again.” It seem that all it took was a smooth speech for Obama to get back into her good graces. But as a former speechwriter, she’s probably especially susceptible to his oratorical charms.

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