April 30, 2013

Obama calls gay NBA player Collins. Why?

President Obama called NBA player Jason Collins after he came out of the closet yesterday.  Funniest quote I've heard so far was from a friend of mine who is an NBA fan:

"For a booty call?"

Nothing against Collins' preferences or decision to come forward - that's his business.  But to me this is a non-event and does not deserve a presidential call.  Shouldn't Obama be busy with the economy or North Korea, or the debt or the sequester, or Syria, or....

Handicapping 2016 yet?

It's early.  2016 is a political lifetime away.  But there are already some indications of what might happen in the next presidential election.  True, these indicators should be taken with a block of salt, but it sure looks like certain things will come to pass.  Other things are less clear, and of course nothing is certain this far out from the election. But the 2016 election already has me thinking and so far I'm not feeling warm and fuzzy.

Not my numbers - click for source odds.
In a series of recent polling and news items it looks like it's a fait accompli that Hillary Clinton will be the next Democrat presidential candidate. Others in the race who may have a chance to contend - Cuomo, Biden and Kerry - will all have their work cut out for them. As CNN noted, she's lapping the field. She probably has already locked up New Hampshire. She hasn't said she'll run, she's busy making gobs of cash in different ways. The sort of cash one might need for say a presidential run. She's going to run. I'm not suggesting she has an impressive list of accomplishments but that doesn't matter - the press was able to make a threadbare Obama resume into the greatest guy EVER for audiences. Clinton has no business answering the 3 a.m. call (Benghazi or Bosnia ring a bell?), but it just doesn't matter.  She's the next liberal superstar heir apparent.  She's going to run, and she's going to be the Democratic party's nominee.  She's going to be the press' nominee.

She's going to have to be beaten.  Unfortunately things on the Republican side seem muddled for the time being.  In the same poll extolling Clinton's extended lead, the Republican field is understandably unclear.  There are some apparent front runners - Rubio, Christie and yet another Bush among them.

As CNN noted,
While the race for the Democratic nomination is basically frozen until Clinton makes a decision, the hunt for the Republican nomination remains wide open. The new poll, as with past surveys, indicates that there's no front runner on the GOP side.

Eighteen percent of self-identified Republicans or those who lean towards the GOP say they support Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, with 16% backing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and 14% supporting New Jersey Gov. Christie. Nine percent back former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate who battled eventual nominee Mitt Romney deep into the primary calendar, with 21% preferring someone else and one in five unsure.

"Republican uncertainty mirrors the identity crisis the party is facing as it redefines its message in the aftermath of the 2012 presidential loss. Republican voters seem to be saying they remain on the lookout for their party's Mr. or Mrs. Right," says Krista Jenkins, professor of political science and director of FDU's PublicMind.
While the identity crisis may be an over-the-top misnomer gleefully perpetuated by the left-leaning mainstream media, it is not entirely without merit.  The 2012 primaries proved there was a rift between conservatives in trying to achieve what William F. Buckley advised - nominate the most conservative candidate in the field who can win the election.  No one clearly, has a solid understanding of what that actually means in the real world. Electability is an amorphous concept.  Was Sharon Angle electable before she lost her election bid? Was Pat Toomey before he won?  Similarly "most conservative" may mean entirely different things to different types of conservatives - social conservatives, libertarians, defense hawks, economic conservatives and other conservatives constituencies will have differing definitions.  Hence the confusion.

Another problem on the Republican side is timing.  Clinton will likely lead the Democrats wire-to-wire.  But for conservatives, is it better to decide the primary early in order to focus fundraising on the general election as early as possible?  That didn't work for Mitt Romney. But he also didn't spend effectively and clearly was not the technocrat, economic whiz he presented himself to be.  On the other hand, is it better to have a nominee determined as late as possible in order to avoid the slings and arrows of the left and media yet foregoing name recognition building opportunities at the same time?  I'm not sure but I'd lean towards doing the opposite of what both Romney and prior to him McCain did against Obama.

That means come out fast, furiously and unrelentingly as early as possible and sustain the message, and sustain the attacks on Clinton.  Not attacking Obama did not work for either GOP nominee.  Both were attacked and yet wanted to come across as above the fray and empathetic.  It worked for Bill Clinton and even more so for Obama. because they had the media on their side.

Getting back to the Republican field for 2016, I think that the party that wants to internally debate ideas may shift gears in the run-up to 2016.  It may come down to who they think is the best fighter and who can best undress Clinton (politically and rhetorically only please). Conservatives are not only sick of losing, they are sick of losing because their nominees aren't fighting tooth and nail for victory at every turn.  We are going to need a battler. Conservatives would do well to modify the Buckley rule to look for the most (effectively) combative conservative in the field.  At least that takes electable to a more granular level, right or wrong.

So who does that mean in the GOP contender field right now? Jeb Bush isn't made of that sterner stuff, but he will still poll well. He may win but I don't think he will at this point.  He's still too Bush, in an era when Bush 43 memories have not faded.  Marco Rubio on the other hand is very intelligent, and a likable conservative. But he may be too nice to dig in for a battle.  We haven't seen if he can win a street fight yet.  If my presumption is right, then the likely nominee will be electable, but not the most conservative candidate in the field - Chris Christie.  He wouldn't be my choice, but this early on, unless someone else better positions themselves as a fighter, he's the likely nominee.

There's my worthless way-too-early prediction.  Modifications will undoubtedly follow.

April 28, 2013

More blogservations on growth

A few days ago I wrote about how I was doing something wrong on my blog and I wasn't sure what it was.  The problem, is that I don't get traffic like I think is possible.  Perhaps that is hubris, but I don't think so.  I know there are some changes ahead that I need to make in order to more consistently get traffic to my blog. But I came across something that is relevant and telling on Legal Insurrection (a great blog worth reading regularly).  Since it tied in to my point before, I thought I'd share what Professor William Jacobson had to say on the subject of blog growth in the conservative blogsophere. He notices some problems with the empire building and empire protection  mentality in the blog universe.

Here are some of the more salient observations, but I'd urge you to read the full article, as well as the linked articles if you are a persistent conservative blogger who feels at times like you are banging your head against the wall trying to grow your blog.
I previously have posted about doom and gloom for the small conservative blogosphere, first in response to a post by John Hawkins about how bloggers need to go big or go home, Is there a place for me?

Later as to what I was sensing leading up to and after the 2012 election, Whither small conservative blogs?:
When I first started blogging in 2008, there was a vibrant group of small independent conservative blogs, many if not most composed of newbies like me…. We survived emotionally on the kindness of bigger blogs which generously spread not just traffic, but more important, attention….

There is no way Legal Insurrection could have grown without the help of others. I have done my best to pay back that kindness by spreading links to smaller conservative blogs.

I’ve noticed a change.

There has been a corporatization and consolidation of the conservative blogosphere, and the kindness to strangers seems to be waning.
Professor Jacobson has always been generous to other smaller blogs and it is an admirable quality.  He's linked to this blog in his blogroll.  If that doesn't scream magnanimity then I don't know what does.  But he points out something I hadn't considered consolidation may have been a hindrance to smaller blogs, many of whom cam later to the political blogosphere than some smart or lucky enough to get in prior to the wave of conservatives who got started in reaction to a liberal progressive president. Like me.  I've always been political - well, since I was a kid - but I didn't blog until 2008. But according to an insightful post from John Hawkins on Right Wing News, I'm outta luck.  I might as well stick a fork in my blog, it's done.

The insight is helpful, if not somewhat distressing. If you like my blog, you'll be pleased to know that I'm stupid enough not to give up.  In fact, next fall my blog turns 5 years old.  I am not only going to continue (I've extended the domain name for two more years), I have set some goals for SEO, site redesign (yet again) marketing efforts and also some benchmarks that I want to achieve. Meanwhile, the blog post that I posted here that has still less than 100 pageviews, is approaching 3000 views on Left Coast Rebel, and I don't even consider it one of my better posts.  That result is encouraging if not somewhat baffling.

Oh Well.

April 27, 2013

Bush in retrospect? Not yet.

I was never a huge fan of either Bush presidency.  Both men, Bush 41 and Bush 43, were decent and honorable men.  Both  had some core conservative principles.  But both were definitely not standard-bearers of true conservatism the way that Reagan or Goldwater were.  Both had some significant lapses in stewardship and conservative consistency.  I had a lot of issues with Bush 43 as president (from the national debt, to Harriet Myers) even as I realized any Democrat alternative would be far worse.  Nevertheless, Bush did do some good things and he was certainly far better than his successor.

In that regard, his popularity has been rehabilitating over time to the point that his approval ratings have climbed to the point where they are on par with the current president's.  Granted that is no longer a high bar but it says something about him as much as it says about president Obama.

Recently George W. Bush's presidential library was opened and all the living former presidents and the current president attend, as is custom.  Rather than provide a full retrospect - it's still too early for that - here is Bush's speech from that gathering.  It's a nice reminder of his decency.

April 26, 2013

Blog economies of scale

I am a contributor over at Left Coast Rebel.  It's a great site, more libertarian than conservative (I hope that's a fair assessment). But I guess I have enough in common in terms of viewpoints that the blog owner over there, Mr. Left Coast Rebel himself, was gracious enough to invite me to be a contributor.  Mostly I just cross post my posts from here over there because I've been too busy over the last 6 months to be able to create enough content for one blog let alone two.  As a result of posting some of my posts in both places I have noticed there are some economies of scale* between the two blogs.

April 24, 2013

Why Are Food Stamps A Growth Industry?

Today in the Washington Post there's an article about how states are trying to grow their Food Stamps (SNAP)  programs to get as many people as possible onto food stamps.  Something is terribly wrong with society when states see Food Stamps as a growth engine.
...In fact, it is Nerios’s job to enroll at least 150 seniors for food stamps each month, a quota she usually exceeds. Alleviate hunger, lessen poverty: These are the primary goals of her work. But the job also has a second and more controversial purpose for cash-strapped Florida, where increasing food-stamp enrollment has become a means of economic growth, bringing almost $6 billion each year into the state. The money helps to sustain communities, grocery stores and food producers. It also adds to rising federal entitlement spending and the U.S. debt.

Nerios prefers to think of her job in more simple terms: “Help is available,” she tells hundreds of seniors each week. “You deserve it. So, yes or no?”

In Florida and everywhere else, the answer in 2013 is almost always yes. A record 47 million Americans now rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, available for people with annual incomes below about $15,000. The program grew during the economic collapse because 10 million more Americans dropped into poverty. It has continued to expand four years into the recovery because state governments and their partner organizations have become active promoters, creating official “SNAP outreach plans” and hiring hundreds of recruiters like Nerios.

A decade ago, only about half of eligible Americans chose to sign up for food stamps. Now that number is 75 percent.

April 22, 2013

Train Terror Plot Thwarted in Canada

Via CBC, something that looks like it hasn't yet made much traction in the U.S., a bomb plot involving trains between Canada and the U.S.
Canadian police say they have arrested two men and thwarted a plot to carry out a major terrorist attack on a Via passenger train in the Greater Toronto Area.

The two accused are Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, 35, from Toronto. They have been charged with conspiracy to carry out a terrorist attack and "conspiring to murder persons unknown for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group."

The two men arrested are not Canadian citizens, police said Monday, but would not provide any details about their nationalities.

The RCMP accused the two men of conspiring to commit an "al-Qaeda-supported" attack.

Police said the two accused were getting "direction and guidance" from al-Qaeda elements in Iran. There was no information to suggest the attacks were state sponsored, police said.
In light of  the recent Boston Marathon bombings and the false sense of security the Obama administration has tried to peddle to Americans, this should be raising more alarm bells than the Boston Marathon did because it shows that there could be a lot more attacks in the works.

UPDATE: CNN is on it. At least the media isn't burying the story.

The irony of being out of work

I haven't posted about what I'm about to discuss because this blog is not about me, it's about ideas, and this post is going to be somewhat personal.  But not totally, there is a bigger point to be made.  Last November I lost my job.  It was the second time in just over two years that I've lost my job.  The first time it was about downsizing.  This time it had more to do with things like salary and differing viewpoints on corporate culture.  In any case, the reasons are not important.  What is important is how the layoff has impacted me, and whether it has affected my views on the social safety net.  The short answer is - it has.  But it's not in a way you'd expect if you 're worldview is that of a liberal.

April 19, 2013

Psy video banned in South Korea

Here are a couple of quick social observations about Psy (Gagnam Style) and his latest video, which has apparently been banned in his native South Korea.

First the reason for the ban, via Miss Malini,
KBS has banned the new video from airing, due to Psy’s less-than-gentlemanly treatment of public property in a scene where he kicks down a traffic cone and laughs. In a statement, the broadcaster noted,

KBS’s review standards … are different from the Internet, online broadcasters or cable channels. This is because network TV is watched by everyone regardless of gender and age. Infants or children haven’t fully developed a standard for judgment and tend to believe and follow what’s shown on television.
If you take a look at the video, it is pretty tame compared to a lot of other music videos you see on MTV.  Despite all of the executive orders issued by the president, the continual over reach of the Congress and all the judicial activism in the United States, the banning of a video like this would not happen.

That says a few things.  It says that freedom of speech is still alive in the United States.  It says that Korea has a more interventionist approach to child-rearing.  It says that South Korean sensibilities are different from American sensibilities.  South Korea is turning itself into an economic powerhouse.  If they have a more puritan approach to society than America now does, does that mean that their rise corresponds to America's rise during more puritan times?  Is there a correlation?  Is Korea right to limit free speech to this extent? 

Another observation - It seems like not everyone in South Korea is really worried about the threat posed by North Korea.  After all, they've got time to consider whether kicking over a pylon is safe for kids to watch.

April 17, 2013

Top 10 Worst Celebrity Dictator Endorsements (Part 2)

I promised this a few days ago and didn't get a chance to post it.  Here's the top 5 of the Top 10 Worst celebrity endorsements.  You can find #6 through #10 here.  As a bit of a spoiler, there are no endorsements of Obama in the Top 10 despite the fact that he's damaging America, perhaps in a permanent way; and despite the fact that a lot of celebrities have endorsed him and that their endorsements made a big impact.  In that regard, perhaps Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of Obama would rate a Top 5 mention.

Unfortunately the full scope of president Obama's damaging policies has yet to be felt and he certainly doesn't rate the pure evil intentions of the sinister bunch below.  He's naive, Utopian, and progressive, but he's not committing genocide or thuggishly beating down his own countrymen.  He just allows it to go on selectively in other countries.  In other words, he's voting "Present" on doing something about brutal dictators around the world.

Another spoiler, there are no celebrity endorsements of losing candidates as that's more of a Most Ineffective Endorsement category, perhaps deserving of it's own post eventually.  No losing candidate however, can be regarded as a dictator simply because they lost.

And now, the Top 5 of the Top 10 Worst Celebrity Endorsements:

Best-est buddies.
5 Dennis Rodman parties with Kim Jong-un. Kim Jong-un is a not only the third communist dictator in a family string of crazy despots, he's also a basketball fan.  By day he starves his people and threatens to start a nuclear war, by night he parties with his idols.  He'd probably invite Michael Jackson if he could.  But he also fancies basketball and apparently is a now a friend of Dennis Rodman.  Not only did Rodman party with the madman, he's going back to do it again.

The former U.S. basketball star said at a charity event in Miami Beach over the weekend that he's keeping plans to visit North Korea again in late summer to have "fun" with the country's dictator, the website "Gossip Extra" reported. 
"I’m going back August 1," he told the website. "We have no plans really, as far as what we’re going to do over there, but we’ll just hang and have some fun!" 
Rodman raised eyebrows when he became the first American to meet the reclusive young leader in a visit to Pyongyang in February. 
Weeks after the controversial visit, Rodman, 51, described Kim as a friend. 
"I don't condone what he does, but he's my friend," Rodman said in a March interview with North Dakota's KXJB. Rodman continued to say he will be "vacationing" with Kim in August.
I'm sure everyone is glad that Rodman doesn't condone what Jong-un has done.  That's a relief.  Back when Paul Simon created the album Graceland with South African musicians (1986) he was pilloried.  Dennis Rodman hasn't been embraced by either the left or the right over this because as it turns out, nobody is crazy enough to embrace Kim Jong-un.  Except Rodman.  It's a terrible endorsement - and yes it is an endorsement, his actions speak louder than his words - but it doesn't rank higher because despite the evilness and danger of Kim Jong-un, nobody is going to have a more favorable opinion of Jong-un as a result.

4 Sean Penn mourns Hugo Chavez.  Sean Penn makes his second appearance in the Top 10, the only celebrity to do so, marking him as an uber-leftist.  He visited the Castros and wrote about it.  Buth with Hugo Chavez, he embraced him, lionized him and went so far as to mourn his death by attending his funeral.  That's hero worship, not journalism (the guise Penn uses as his cover for his embrace of Chavez).
The mourners lamenting the death of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez included the presidents of Iran and Cuba, a Spanish prince and a man that Chavez himself once floated as a possible American ambassador to Venezuela: Hollywood actor Sean Penn.

Penn flew to Caracas for the Friday funeral, where he was filmed among the mourning crowd. Earlier this week, he called Chavez “a great hero to the majority of his people.”

"Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion," Penn wrote in a statement sent to the Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday.
That's an endorsement. Sean Penn has a lot of celebrity clout, but he's clearly a socialist.  It matters because he can still influence the vast swaths of low information voters in America and that makes a difference.  Making Chavez likable is not a good thing - he was a thug, he cheated his way into office forever (or at least until he died) and he was an enemy of the United States, cozying up to the likes of Iran and Russia, not exactly friends.  Penn couldn't be more wrong, or more blind.

Robson, left confused civil rights with communism.
3. Paul Robeson morally defects to the Soviet Union. Wait, who? Robeson was a multi-talented artist and athlete  having played football at Rutgers but he was also was a singer and actor;
At the height of his popularity in the 1930s, Robeson became a major box office attraction in British films such as Song of Freedom and The Proud Valley about Wales. Briefly returning to the US he reprised his title role in Dudley Murphy's film version of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones in 1933. 
The 1936 Universal Pictures film Show Boat was a box office hit for Robeson, and the most frequently shown and highly acclaimed of all his films. His performance of "Ol' Man River" for this film was particularly notable. He was also King Umbopa in the 1937 version of King Solomon's Mines.
Later he would become the grandfather of all celebrity dictator endorsements being the first high profile celebrity to do such a thing, and he did it on a grand scale, embracing Stalin and communism in a big way.
Robeson first visited the Soviet Union in 1934, during a genocide in which the Soviet government intentionally murdered some 14 million of its own citizens through deliberate starvation in an engineered famine. Upon his return, the official Communist Party organ The Daily Worker published an interview with Robeson, in which he gushed about the "workers' paradise": 
“I was not prepared for the happiness I see on every face in Moscow," said Robeson. "I was aware that there was no starvation here, but I was not prepared for the bounding life; the feeling of safety and abundance and freedom that I find here, wherever I turn. I was not prepared for the endless friendliness, which surrounded me from the moment I crossed the border. I had a technically irregular passport, but all this was brushed aside by the eager helpfulness of the border authorities. ” 
Robeson was asked about Stalin's then-ongoing bloody purges: 
“Commenting on the recent execution after court-martial of a number of counter-revolutionary terrorists, Robeson declared roundly: "From what I have already seen of the workings of the Soviet Government, I can only say that anybody who lifts his hand against it ought to be shot!

"It is the government's duty to put down any opposition to this really free society with a firm hand," he continued, "and I hope they will always do it ... It is obvious that there is no terror here..."
Robeson often exhorted African Americans to consider communism.  His impact overall was small, but it was high profile and the impact has the added weight of additional generations to its sphere of influence.  Stalin was not likable in any way.  But communism was something he could sew the seeds of belief in his community and he did so vigorously. He made it celebrity chic to bash democracy and capitalism in favor of a Utopian alternative.

2 Jane Fonda goes to Vietnam and becomes Hanoi Jane. During the Vietnam War, Jane Fonda, already a star, visited the North Vietnamese and betrayed her country, indelibly staining her stardom with the military community while cementing her image as a counter-culture hero for the liberal crowd.

Fonda visited Hanoi in July 1972. Among other statements, she said the United States had been intentionally targeting the dike system along the Red River. The columnist Joseph Kraft, who was also touring North Vietnam, said he believed the damage to the dikes was incidental and was being used as propaganda by Hanoi, and that, if the U.S. Air Force were "truly going after the dikes, it would do so in a methodical, not a harum-scarum way". 
In North Vietnam, Fonda was photographed seated on an anti-aircraft battery; the controversial photo outraged a number of Americans. In her 2005 autobiography, she writes that she was manipulated into sitting on the battery; she had been horrified at the implications of the pictures and regretted they were taken... 
During her trip, Fonda made ten radio broadcasts in which she denounced American political and military leaders as "war criminals". Fonda has defended her decision to travel to North Vietnam and her radio broadcasts. Also during the course of her visit, Fonda visited American prisoners of war (POWs), and brought back messages from them to their families. When cases of torture began to emerge among POWs returning to the United States, Fonda called the returning POWs "hypocrites and liars". She added, "These were not men who had been tortured. These were not men who had been starved. These were not men who had been brainwashed." Later, on the subject of torture used during the Vietnam War, Fonda told The New York Times in 1973, "I'm quite sure that there were incidents of torture ... but the pilots who were saying it was the policy of the Vietnamese and that it was systematic, I believe that's a lie."  Fonda said the POWs were "military careerists and professional killers" who are "trying to make themselves look self-righteous, but they are war criminals according to the law"

She may have been duped, or she may have been a sympathizer, but her impact was more profound than she lets on.  Her decision reverberates to this day. 

Fonda has apologized numerous times and tried to explain her actions.
In 2005, Fonda published her autobiography in which she described in detail her decision to go to North Vietnam. She said it was primarily motivated by her desire to document the U.S. bombing of important dikes that, if destroyed, could kill tens of thousands of people and devastate the lives of millions.  The U.S. had denied the bombings. In the book, Fonda is unapologetic about the trip or her participation in broadcasts on radio Hanoi but regrets the pictures taken of her at the gun emplacement.  She said it made it appear as though she was celebrating armaments aimed at American planes, which was not how she felt and was not the context in which the pictures were taken.  She reminds readers that the U.S. investigated her trip and found no reason to bring any charges against her.  She also describes her longstanding support of, and interaction with, U.S. military personnel and says her only beef was with the U.S. government, not the troops.
But many do not believe the sincerity of those apologies,

Were Jane Fonda's actions treason, or were they the exercise of a private citizen's right to freedom of speech? At the time, the legal aspects of this question were moot: President Nixon was engaged in trying to wind down American involvement in Vietnam and had to face another election in a few months, so politically he had far more to lose than to gain by making a martyr out of a prominent anti-war activist. (No requirement in either the Constitution or federal law states that the U.S. must be engaged in a declared war -- or any war at all -- before charges of treason can be brought against an individual.)
On the one hand, Jane Fonda provided no tangible military assistance to the North Vietnamese: she divulged no military secrets, she gave them no money or material, and she did not interfere with the operations of the American forces. Her actions, offensive as they were to many, were primarily of propaganda value only. On the other hand, Iva Ikuko Toguri (also known as "Tokyo Rose") was convicted of treason for making propaganda broadcasts on behalf of the Japanese during World War II (although she claimed her betrayal was forced and was eventually pardoned many years later by President Gerald Ford), and Fonda's efforts could fall under the definition of "giving aid and comfort to the enemy." It is also undeniable that some American soldiers came to harm as a direct result of Fonda's actions, an outcome she should reasonably have anticipated.
In 1988, sixteen years after denouncing American soldiers as war criminals and tortured POWs as possessed of overactive imaginations, Fonda met with Vietnam veterans to apologize for her actions. It's interesting to note that this nationally-televised apology (during which she attempted to minimize her actions by characterizing them as "thoughtless and careless") came at a time when New England vets were successfully disrupting a film project she was working on. It's also interesting that not only was this apology delivered sixteen years after the fact, but it has not been offered again since. More than a few have read a huge dollop of self-interest into Fonda's 1988 apology. (Finally, in an interview in 2000, almost thirty years after the fact, Fonda admitted: "I will go to my grave regretting the photograph of me in an anti-aircraft carrier, which looks like I was trying to shoot at American planes. It hurt so many soldiers. It galvanized such hostility. It was the most horrible thing I could possibly have done. It was just thoughtless.")

She clearly has not repaired her image because she really did some damage with her unjustifiable actions.

1. Charles Lindbergh supported Adolf Hitler.  It's hard to imagine topping some of the other celebrity stupidity on this list but when you endorse the policies of Adolf Hitler, it almost doesn't matter what your own star power is, or what impact it might have, it's about as close to endorsing Satan as a person can get.  It's hard to imagine blowing celebrity like Lindbergh had:
In May 1927, a shy, handsome 25-year-old suddenly sprang from obscurity to instant world fame when he flew a small single-seat, single-engine airplane, called the “Spirit of St. Louis,” from Long Island, New York, to an airfield in Paris. In a grueling 33-hour flight that covered 3,600 miles, Charles A. Lindbergh became the first person to fly the Atlantic ocean, alone and non-stop. His daring flight, and his aviation pioneering afterwards, made him, for some years, the most admired man in America, and the most admired American in the world.
There;s no denying his infatuation with the Nazi leader.  Lindbergh, a decade plus later, was not shy though about sharing his admiration of Adolf Hitler, and his achievements.  He went so far as to almost move to Nazi Germany.

“While I still have many reservations,” he wrote to a U.S. Army officer who was also a personal friend, “I have come away with a feeling of great admiration for the German people. The condition of the country, and the appearance of the average person whom I saw, leaves with me the impression that Hitler must have far more character and vision than I thought existed in the German leader who has been painted in so many different ways by the accounts of America and England.” 
In a letter to another American friend he wrote: “With all the things we criticize, he [Hitler] is undoubtedly a great man, and I believe has done much for the German people. He is fanatic in many ways, and any one can see that there is a certain amount of fanaticism in Germany today. It is less than I expected, but it is there. On the other hand, Hitler has accomplished results -- good in addition to bad -- which could hardly have been accomplished without some fanaticism.” 
Lindbergh’s wife was Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a remarkable woman who was, in her own right, an accomplished aviator and a successful author. In a 1936 letter to her mother, she wrote: 
“Hitler, I am beginning to feel, is a very great man, like an inspired religious leader -- and as such rather fanatical -- but not scheming, not selfish, not greedy for power, but a mystic, a visionary who really wants the best for his country and, on the whole, has a rather broad view.” 
Charles Lindbergh was so impressed with Hitler’s Germany that he seriously considered moving there with his family. “I did not feel real freedom until I came to Europe,” he remarked in 1939. “The strange thing is that of all the European countries, I found most personal freedom in Germany, with England next, and then France.” After a search for a suitable place to live, he found a property in a suburb of Berlin that he came close to buying. But as the threat of war grew in Europe, he abandoned those plans.

That;s admiration. It's also completely wrong-headed.  It may have been less obvious to some at the time than it is today, but many people knew even then about the dangers that Hitler represented.  

Today far too many people associate Nazism with right wing fascism but the Nazi Party in Germany were socialists.

There you have it.  The worst celebrity endorsements of all time.  The lesson it seems is that celebrities should keep their political beliefs to themselves but we all know that's not going to happen. In the coming decade there are bound to be new entrants into the Top 10.  Look forward to that.

April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombing: Some Thoughts

Photo:  News.com.au
Yesterday a couple of bombs (IEDs) went off at the Boston Marathon.  I had a cousin running in that race for the first time in her life, after years of training. She made it to about the 34 kilometer mark and was stopped and put into lockdown in a church with a bunch of other runners in her immediate area.  The response from local authorities was effective and well done from what I hear.  My cousin, after a lengthy lockdown opted to leave the church and continue running to the finish area where her family was near.  They were also safe and she knew they were.  But she wanted to run and she wanted to get back to her family.  Ultimately she was reunited with her husband and children and able to run a full marathon plus, somehow extra distance. I watched the unfolding events on CNN and Fox (as well as Twitter and Hot Air) and followed her husband's updates on Facebook.  As I watched it all, a number of thoughts occurred to me.

April 12, 2013

Top 10 Worst Celebrity Dictator Endorsements (Part 1)

It seems to be happening more often these days, but history is replete with celebrities endorsing dictators  murderers and thugs, providing evidence that celebrity does not equate to intelligence or moral compass.  Here are the ten most egregious celebrity endorsements of dictators in the 20th and 21st centuries.  The definition of endorsement here is broad it includes deeds as well as words.  The ranking is based on a mix of three factors - the star power of the celebrities in question, the evilness of the endorsed dictator and the potential impact of the endorsement.

There are a few dishonorable mentions before we start with the list.  Hillary Swank and Jean Claude Van Damme attended a birthday bash held for Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya, responsible for torture, killings abductions and more by human rights groups.  Swank did later apologize but fell squarely in the camp of useful idiots at the time of the event.  Her apology was quickly accepted by the left, or at least at Huffington Post.  Useful idiots aren't as common as you think, and the left needs them. This doesn't make the list since attending the event was less an endorsement than just plain dumb.

Another dishonorable mention goes collectively to Beyonce, Usher, Mariah Carey, Nelly Furtado and 50 Cent for putting on a concert for the barbaric sons of the barbaric Libyan strongman Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and taking money for it.  They reportedly all agreed to donate the money to charity. Again, this is more a matter of not thinking through a situation rather than endorsing a dictator.  But to do business with someone so brutal and repressive, even through stupidity, is myopic and ill-informed.  In addition to donating the money, a clear no-brainer, condemning the leader would have been a courageous and meaningful distancing of themselves from the terrorist.

April 10, 2013

Obama's Comments on Thatcher Surprisingly Unsurprising

Sound of crickets - sums up my reaction to Obama's faint praise.
For President Obama, praising Margaret Thatcher in the wake of her recent passing is a no-lose proposition.  Given the president's ill-managed meeting with the Queen, her gift, and his less than warming early engagements with Prime Minister Brown, and Obama's siding with Argentina over the Falklands (an anti-Thatcher stance if ever there was one), conservatives were probably expecting to see him provide tepid praise of the conservative icon at best.  His actions indicate he is no friend of Great Britain.  His comments on her death however turned out to appear to be better than lukewarm. But because it was a no-lose proposition, it's 'surprisingly' unsurprising.

With carefully worded verbiage, Obama was able to appear to proffer kind words for the Iron Lady, when in truth, he mixed facts together in such a way as to seem to be praise.  He likely did not offend liberals, while being able to seem gracious to conservatives and Britons alike.

April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher, Great Britain's great leader

In the 1980's we were lucky enough to have two great conservatives at the helm. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were towering giants of freedom and prosperity. Margaret Thatcher has died. Her legacy is profound, having dragged England back from the brink of steep decline.
“It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother, Baroness Thatcher, died peacefully following a stroke this morning,” a statement from her spokesman, Lord Tim Bell, said, referring to her son and daughter.
I have shared this video before, but it is worth sharing again. Thatcher understood, and articulated what everyone should know, and did so eloquently.

She also set about governing by those principles and arguably saved Britain in the process.  She will be missed.

April 6, 2013

Pope Socialist, I am NOT cool with that.

Socialist Cristina Fernández Kirchner with the then future Pope.
FULL DISCLOSURE:  In the spirit of full disclosure, let me start by saying that I was baptized Catholic, but my father was (is) a rabid atheist.  As the story is told to me, my paternal grandmother had me baptized without my father's knowledge.   I grew up in a home where religion was absent.  My maternal grandmother was profoundly religious, and I spent a lot of time with her as a child.  Consequently, most of my exposure to Christianity was through her.  She was a member of the United Church, a Protestant denomination.  It may explain my consternation with the idea that anyone of a Christian or Jewish faith does not have a significant tolerance for anyone else in any of those particular subsets that is different from their own - or indeed any other religion that does not foster hatred or tolerance of religious liberty, or the choice to be an atheist or agnostic. I myself identify as a Christian, not a Catholic, or Lutheran or United Church parishioner. I try to live a Christian life but am far from perfect.   I bring all of this up because there may be people who believe I am, because of my religious self-identification (or lack thereof), I am not qualified to disagree with the Pope, or more accurately, that in this case my opinion does not matter.

That is their prerogative.  I respectfully disagree.   I was a great admirer of Pope John Paul, and just because I disagree with a Pope does not mean I disagree with all of Catholicism.

Alright, this post may p*** off a number of my readers because I am about to disagree with the Pope.  The Pope it seems, is a socialist.  He has a fetish for social justice.
The former Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio's "resume" is open to interpretation. The first Jesuit pope, he is known to share his religious order's passion for education and social justice, particularly as it concerns the welfare of the poor and oppressed. In a speech last year, he accused fellow church officials of hypocrisy "for forgetting that Jesus Christ bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes," according to the Associated Press.

It seems like this guy sees the Pope as a useful idiot.

Coming from South America, where socialism is the predominant notion when it comes to political philosophy, it is not surprising that he would seek to marry his religious beliefs (which I am sure are heartfelt) with his political beliefs (which I'm sure are equally heartfelt).  Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Evo Morales, Che Guevara are some high profile examples of South American politics.  In nations where poverty is rampant and the gap between the wealthy and the poor is so vast, socialism is an easy sell.  Priests of the church are not immune to the political speeches of men.

Indeed the Pope can turn to the Bible to find scripture that can reinforce the notion of social justice.  But here's the problem I have with that approach.  It is not the responsibility of government to impart social justice from a Christian perspective.  To require the government to impart social justice is an abrogation of one's own duty as a Christian.  It is in a sense a way of saying I cannot do it myself so I will get the government to force me, and others to pay for social justice.  It is both sloth and greed that lead to this mindset.

Secondly, while working through the church to do such things creates a similar quandary,  a church is still a voluntary membership organization.  You are not required to attend church and even upon attending you are not compelled to donate, the way you are with an income tax.  You still have freedom of choice, an inalienable right given by God.  

Thirdly, as a Christian, it is more responsible to be involved directly with the social injustices you see.  I'm sure that will be seen as more important and more charitable by God.  I could be wrong, but paying an extra dollar in tax is less altruistic than helping a person on your street who needs a hand.  Raising funds for 

Fourthly, the question of whether the church should be involved in affairs of state at all is debatable. It is one thing to say help the poor, it is another to say the government's austerity measures are bad.    I also find it quite ironic that liberals in the U.S. who will hammer the table for the separation of church and state from the perspective of government would feel quite happy to accept the views  of the church and feel that it is okay for them to espouse a progressive cause like social justice. I guess the separation of church and state only works one way for them. At least, while it's convenient with Pope socialist.

It is important to remember that South America has never had equality of opportunity, and this is not the fault of capitalism.  Everything from conquest to corruption and cronyism  have played much larger parts.  Certainly Puerto Rico has had some success with fledgling capitalism, and Mexico has put itself on a path to prosperity - assuming it's criminal issues can be resolved.  Capitalism is not the enemy of the poor and it certainly is not the enemy of the church. Ignorance is the enemy of both. Is there any place where the gap between the very wealthy and very poor is as bad as China?  The poor in the United States have televisions and air conditioners.  The poor in communist Cuba are more numerous than pre-Castro.  Oops.

Setting aside all of the geopolitical stuff, there are religious reasons to consider that perhaps the Pope is wrong on this one.  They are expressed pretty well in numerous places on the website Christian Capitalism, here's an excerpt from one such post:
Simply, God ordains governments for the suppression of evil.  In Genesis 9:5-6, the initial post-diluvian government was to be established upon capital punishment in order to suppress evil.  This was the extent of the affirmative directive from God.  It must be stressed ever so strongly, that the Bible never commands or mandates anything further for human government than to suppress evil.  Thus it is wrong to assert that God ordains active redistribution of wealth in a government. 
Jesus commanded us in Luke 10:37 to take our personal abilities, talents and possessions and use them in showing mercy to other individuals.  Jesus demonstrated this by taking His own abilities and talents (which were considerable since He was God on earth) and used them to show mercy to other individuals. 
Jesus never projected this command to any government. To take this command and extrapolate it to government is simply not in the text.  Let me repeat, the Bible makes no mandate whatsoever for a government to take the position of redistributors of wealth. 
“But does not Romans 13:7 order us to pay taxes?” one may ask.  Yes!  But these taxes are for the government’s duty to restrain evil.  No mandate for taxes for entitlement programs was ever given. 
Neither did Jesus compel or force His followers to give their wealth away.  Giving was to be voluntary and done cheerfully from the heart.  Those who gave with bad motives would lose their heavenly reward or, at worst, be struck down (Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-9). 
But did not the early Church of Jerusalem in Acts 4:32-36 sell all their goods and “distributed to each as anyone had need”?  Yes, they did do this.  But we must note again that their participation in this community was voluntary (Acts 5:4).
 Now, it's not a slam dunk that the Pope is a socialist, but there is plenty of evidence that he leans that way.  While that may be good for the Catholic church in South America or other socialist and communist countries, it isn't de facto good for Christianity and certainly not for the global financial situation.

Jeremy Irons is smarter than Mayor Bloomberg

What is going on?  An actor, Jeremy Irons blasts NYC mayor Bloomberg's "nanny state" soda bans and it happens on Hoff Post Live, a liberal media outlet?

I'm officially lost.  Aren't all actors liberals and isn't Huff post a far left media outlet?  What gives?

Maybe I'm not entirely lost.  He does veer into the idea of the government spending money to discourage behavior. That too is a questionable proposition, nevertheless it is a highly preferable idea to what mayor Bloomberg has done. Irons makes a lot of sense.

April 5, 2013

The math of a jobless 'recovery'

The labor force participation rate in the United States has hit it's lowest level since 1979.  1979 was a bad year and since then there have been a few recessions as well.  Yet today we have word that things are a lot worse in the labor market than any time in the last 34 years.  So is this a jobless recovery?  Can we even call it a recovery?  Let's go back to basics to find the answer.

April 3, 2013

North Korea is a problem guns might have to solve

This is a mobile post.  Don't expect any fancy formatting or an embedded photo.  I haven't mobile posted in a few years or a few phones. 

In any case, I don't have a lot to share except one observation.  Attention it seems has drifted from gun rights/gun safety to the apparently existential nuclear war threat from North Korea.   The irony is that there is a belligerent actor in the scenario and in order to prevent any dangerous attacks, the United States has ensured that it has armed itself effectively in order to counter any aggressive or hostile acts.

You know, because a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

April 1, 2013

Stockton Bankrupt. Big Whoop.

The City of Stockton California has become the largest city in the United States to go bankrupt.  It'd be a big story except for two factors: liberals don't want you to know about it, and conservatives saw it coming (at least a year ago).  Stockton, by the way is the canary in the coal mine for California, and perhaps the United States federal government.  So actually, it is a big whoop.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The people of Stockton will feel financial fallout for years after a federal judge ruled Monday to let the city become the most populous in the nation to enter bankruptcy.

But the case is also being watched closely because it could answer the significant question of who gets paid first by financially strapped cities — retirement funds or creditors.

"I don't know whether spiked pensions can be reeled back in," U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein said while making the ruling. "There are very complex and difficult questions of law that I can see out there on the horizon."

The potential constitutional question in the Stockton case is whether federal bankruptcy law trumps a California law that says money owed to the state pension fund must be paid.

In making his ruling, Klein disagreed with creditors who argued that Stockton failed to pursue all avenues for straightening out its financial affairs.

"It's apparent to me the city would not be able to perform its obligations to its citizens on fundamental public safety as well as other basic government services without the ability to have the muscle of the contract-impairing power of federal bankruptcy law," Klein said.
Here's an afterthought (for liberals) - maybe they were overextended on the pension funds,

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