March 28, 2014

Friday Musical Interlude - The Ledge covered by The 88s

The 88s covering Fleetwood Mac's 1979 Tusk album non-single The Ledge fairly faithfully.  The 88s remind me of Vampire Weekend meets Mumford & Sons.

Great cover of a song that holds up well 35 years later.

Here's the original for comparison purposes.

March 27, 2014

Obama to meet progressive Pope

President Obama did meet with Pope Benedict, but his upcoming meeting with the much more progressive Pope Francis is a meeting he might actually be looking forward to having.

Via Time:
In the first year of his papacy, Francis has shifted the Catholic conversation toward Obama’s side of the court, lowering the heat on culture-war battles like gay marriage in favor of an emphasis on the least fortunate...

In 2009, Obama met with Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. The two talked for a little less than half an hour, nearly double the 15 minutes that had been allotted. In a conversation that seemed to be a search for common ground, the two discussed immigration, the global economic crisis and the peace process in the Middle East. Benedict raised the issue of abortion, and Obama pledged to do everything in his power to reduce their numbers.
The president and Pope Francis are aligned on a lot more than they are in disagreement over (for example,abortion). Expect this meeting to go longer than 30 minutes.

March 26, 2014

Obamacare delays - success is not an option

You shall not...commence?
Yet another delay has been announced in an on-going series of delays for the Obamacare rollout.  Politico has a list of the Obamacare delays.  But it's not a complete list.  If you combine it with the list from the New York Times and the delays that Hot Air notes the New York Times forgot to include, you get closer to the real number of delays.  Fox News today was quoting over 30 delays in total.

It seems that Democrats really don't want the ACA to succeed after all.  Anything they can do to delay the rollout until after just one more election cycle they seem to be quite willing to do.  Success is not an option.  Meanwhile they are claiming that it is the law of the land and that repeal will never happen so Republicans should just forget all about that.

While all of that is going on, the Hobby Lobby case against Obmacare's contraceptive mandate is being dumped on by Supreme Court justices appointed by Obama and if they get their way with swing vote justice Kennedy, they'll have more legal precedents with which to arm themselves.

Speaker Boehner summed it up best (for a change) with this:

March 25, 2014

Romney was right, Palin was right even earlier

If you are one of those Democrats who spent 2008 and 2009 being derisive of Sarah Palin as a dumb bumpkin, just remember, she saw the consequences of Obama's inaction on the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.  She saw what that sort of vacillation and non-action would embolden Putin.

Obama, your genius president, did not.

Ralph Wilson R.I.P.

Owner (and founder) of the NFL's Buffalo Bills has died at 95.  May he rest in peace.

March 24, 2014

Ungrateful Karzai sides with Russia on Crimea

Via Fox News, Afghan leader Hamid Karzai has sided with Russia on Crimea.  It may be self-serving out of fear of another Soviet style invasion in light of Putin's aggressive expansionism.  But given everything the United States has done for him, it's ungrateful and an unwarranted response.  Granted, it's not unexpected for Karzai to be completely self-serving.  But how about just shutting up and saying nothing?
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, already at odds with the U.S. over a vital security pact, snubbed western leaders once again by joining the likes of Syria and Venezuela in backing Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Karzai's office released a statement over the weekend saying Afghanistan "respects the free will of the people of Crimea to decide about their own future."

The statement said "we respect the decision the people of Crimea took through a recent referendum that considers Crimea as part of the Russian Federation."

Karzai weighed in on the Ukraine crisis shortly before President Obama flew overseas for meetings with European partners. The Obama administration and European allies have described the Crimea referendum, and Russia's decision to annex the peninsula, as "illegitimate."
I guess that being grateful would be too much to expect.

March 23, 2014

Quick thoughts on various topics

Some observational quick hits for today.

Sour Grapes:  Mitt Romney, we know you would have done better than the president as far as the Crimean crisis goes. Unfortunately continuing to blast him beyond your original op ed, will just come across as sour grapes.

Get it right guys: The White House blasted Matt Drudge for bragging about about paying the penalty for Obamacare when the penalty doesn't kick in until next year.  Except as a small business, the quarterly payments have technically started.  Get it right liberals.  Maybe you should read the 2700 pages of the ACA, and the 50,000+ pages of tax law to know what you have wrought upon the nation rather than just lashing out blindly.

Missing airplane, missing journalism:  I haven't said much about the missing Malaysian airlines 777 (if anything).  It's providing great cover for CNN to not talk about Obama's terrible response to the Crimean crisis.  And for them to speculate about black holes swallowing up the plane.  As far as the missing plane goes, my prayers are with the families of those who were on the plane.  The anguish must be immense.

Buffett of hypocrisy:  Warren Buffett offered a billion dollars to whomever could pick a perfect bracket in the NCAA college basketball tournament.  The odds of anyone getting it right are astronomically low, so he feels safe in doing it.  But from a guy who said he feels the rich don't pay enough tax, wouldn't the optics be a little better if he just paid the money in taxes?  Just saying.  The truth is that Warren Buffet's claims about the rich and taxes are ridiculously hypocritical.  He knew the odds were in his favor on the tournament (oops!), and it is no different with his taxes.  He doesn't want to give his money away in any way.

NSA gets a win, Snowden a loss

The NSA deservedly has a bit of black eye from the original Edward Snowden revelations.  But some of the work they do, while dirty, is still necessary.  China has been aggressively hacking and spying on Western servers for years.  So it's good to see that the NSA has more important work to do than tracking every domestic phone call and email ever.  It turns out the NSA has been spying and hacking China too.
erican officials have long considered Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, a security threat, blocking it from business deals in the United States for fear that the company would create “back doors” in its equipment that could allow the Chinese military or Beijing-backed hackers to steal corporate and government secrets.

But even as the United States made a public case about the dangers of buying from Huawei, classified documents show that the National Security Agency was creating its own back doors — directly into Huawei’s networks.

The agency pried its way into the servers in Huawei’s sealed headquarters in Shenzhen, China’s industrial heart, according to N.S.A. documents provided by the former contractor Edward J. Snowden. It obtained information about the workings of the giant routers and complex digital switches that Huawei boasts connect a third of the world’s population, and monitored communications of the company’s top executives.

One of the goals of the operation, code-named “Shotgiant,” was to find any links between Huawei and the People’s Liberation Army, one 2010 document made clear. But the plans went further: to exploit Huawei’s technology so that when the company sold equipment to other countries — including both allies and nations that avoid buying American products — the N.S.A. could roam through their computer and telephone networks to conduct surveillance and, if ordered by the president, offensive cyberoperations.
Meanwhile, this is where Snowden goes off the rails. Exposing American espionage is very different than letting the government know that it is spying on its own citizens and breaching privacy expectations to do so. Those who have argued that Snowden's actions are those of a traitor, have now had their claims justified by Snowden himself.  There is no domestic value in the U.S. of people knowing the government is spying on the Chinese.  People suspect that is the case but they don't really want to know about it. It serves no purpose for the public to know the details of covert action. But sharing that information with the world includes sharing it with China and potentially exposes an American asset.   Now they will have to come up with an alternative as the Chinese work to counter the existing abilities.  While they may or may not be successful, it is going to cost America time and money it cannot afford.  That is unacceptable,  and those who saw Snowden as a traitor initially*, are now having their opinions justified.

*Initially I was not one of those people.

March 22, 2014

Saturday Learning Series - Calculus so important

I enjoyed math in my school years and for the most part, excelled at it. Until I got to calculus. Probably the most powerful mathematical discipline, calculus eluded me the one high school course that covered it and my mandatory first year of university calculus. It wasn't until I had to re-take the compulsory course that it suddenly started making sense to me. After it clicked, it became fairly easy. But it doesn't always click since it is a conceptual math.

But the power is undeniable. My high school physics teacher once told the class that if we already knew calculus he could teach us the entire year's worth of physics in three weeks. I have no doubt he was right.

Calculus in 20 minutes, for those with some existing mathematical fundamentals:

March 21, 2014

Non-interventionism vs. Cowboy diplomacy

Self interest.
Foreign relations can be a contentious issue on the right side of political thought. In a recent post on Left Coast Rebel, there was an interesting exchange of views on U.S. involvement in foreign affairs, brought on obviously because of the situation in Crimea. The two positions stem from two different world views; one of interventionism, the other often unfairly referred to as cowboy diplomacy.

In actuality three different conservative positions have been identified on foreign relations.
Rathbun (2008) compares three separate themes in conservative policies since the 1980s: conservatism, neoconservatism, and isolationism. These approaches are similar in that they all invoked the mantle of "realism" and pursued foreign policy goals designed to promote national interests. Conservatives, however, were the only group that was "realist" in the academic sense in that they defined the national interest narrowly, strove for balances of power internationally, viewed international relations as amoral, and especially valued sovereignty. By contrast, neoconservatives based their foreign policy on nationalism, and isolationists sought to minimize any involvement in foreign affairs and raise new barriers to immigration.[26] Former Republican Congressman Ron Paul favored a return to the non-interventionist policies of Thomas Jefferson and frequently opposed military intervention in countries like Iran and Iraq.
Each position has strengths and weaknesses, but which one is the right foreign policy strategy for the United States?

Friday Musical Interlude - Thrift Shop 1920's style

More Postmodern Jukebox this week.  This might be my favorite cover they've done.  They've taken the Grammy winning Macklemore & Ryan Lewis rap hit and made it accessible to a broader audience with their 1920's jazz style cover.

The original is catchy no doubt.  But the cover does it better in my opinion.

And the original again for comparison (warning: language content)

Pay it Forward Friday - Kai Hou

This is not exactly a pay it forward video, but the acrobatic skill should still inspire you with what humanity is capable of doing when it puts its mind to it.

Acrobat: Kai Hou.

March 20, 2014

Thursday Hillary Bash - Doubting her Benghazi story

Busy, busy, busy.  I have fallen behind on the Thursday Hillary Bash due to a busy personal life right now.  But I don't want it to disappear.

So here's something via Guy Benson from last week about Americans doubting her story on Benghazi:
Hillary Clinton may be the early conventional wisdom frontrunner for 2016, but the American people don't seem eager to be party to an unquestioning coronation. A nationwide survey conducted by Bloomberg shows that a majority of voters do not believe the former Secretary of State's claim that she was unaware of denied security requests ahead of the 2012 Benghazi massacre...
Benson goes on to quote the report that says 51% don't believe Hillary Clinton's denials about knowing about security requests prior to the Benghazi attacks, while 41% believe her. That's a relief. If those numbers were reversed I would be very worried.

The GOP doesn't need this

It's a lot easier to agree on what is wrong than what is the right way to fix it.  But it is even more difficult it seems, to agree on the root cause of the problems.  Because of that, it's best to focus on what needs to be fixed when seeking elected office and when talking about solutions keeping it simple and talking in broad strokes rather than getting specific.  It's too easy to make mistakes or have something you propose picked apart in the media.

With Republicans in Illinois' 9th Congressional district about as  popular as typhoid (A Republican has not held the seat since 1949, you'd think they need a candidate who focuses on day-to-day issues of voters in a consensus-minded way.  The district is a challenge for the GOP to say the least.

So the candidate they have put forward from the primaries is questionable at best.  Believing in God is fine, being a deeply religious person is not a problem.  But tying God directly to politics is not a winning formula, particularly in a district like the one in question.

Via Mediaite,
Illinois Republicans opted to nominate Susanne Atanus as their party’s choice in the primary for that state’s 9th district by a margin of almost five percentage points. Earlier this year, Atanus drew attention by telling The Daily Herald newspaper that as a “God-first conservative Republican” she believes many of the plights of the last several decades, including droughts, tornadoes and diseases like autism and dementia are God’s punishment for gay marriage and legalized abortions.

“God controls the weather,” Atanus said definitively in January. “God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions. We are provoking him with same-sex marriage, gay rights, civil unions.”
Audio can be found here.

March 19, 2014

Want gutsy leadership? Look to Canada.

It's called backbone. Try it some time.

Vice president Biden has traveled to Poland to show support for Ukrainian sovereignty on the part of the United States.  Perhaps more aptly, he's trying to quell U.S. allies' fears since president Obama infamously cancelled the missile defense shield in Eastern Europe years ago to calm Russian nerves.  Actually, it has bolstered Russian nerves.  Putin has no fear of Obama or the United States because he sees only weakness.  Good job Neville Chamberlain.

No one can say they didn't see this coming.

Unless you've had your head in the sand, you can't possibly be surprised to hear the Congressional Budget Office statements on coming choices that will have to be made on Social Security.

In case your head has been in the sand, none of the choices are going to be pleasant ones:

Obama to salute Cesar Chavez (again) today

This is how I plan to fly below the radar...swish.
The Washington Post reports that the president will attend a private White House screening of the film "Cesar Chavez", a film chronicling the life of the labor activist.  The option to view this particular film is very telling about the president, but let's face it: it's going to go unnoticed.
The official D.C. premiere of “Cesar Chavez” will be held at the Newseum on Tuesday night. But on Wednesday the film’s director and stars will head down the street to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for a private White House screening. The biopic’s director, Diego Luna, told The Wrap that he hoped the president would tweet about the movie.
This isn't the first time the president has honored Chavez.  In 2011, Obama declared March 31st Cesar Chavez Day.  Some might argue that this is merely political pandering - appealing to a large voter constituency with an honor for a member of their community.  Certainly there is an element of that to Obama's deliberately visible actions.  But if it were merely a matter of honoring a member of the Hispanic community, there are a lot of other better options available. How about Cesar Millan or Jordi Muñoz?  Don't know who Jordi Muñoz is?  Maybe if Obama honored someone who succeeded from the ground up in a major way, you'd know about some very inspiring Hispanic individuals.

There's a marked difference between working for worker's rights in places where unfair practices are being employed and making the leap to espousing government control of the means of production.  Cesar Chavez was at a minimum, a socialist and more likely a communist.  Trevor Louden pointed this out in 2011:
C.S.O., under the leadership of Los Angeles leftist President Ed Roybal (father of current congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, mentor to far left congressman Xavier Becerra) and organizer Fred Ross, and with the financial backing of independent Chicago radical Saul Alinsky, became a major force in “progressive” politics in Los Angeles in the 1940s.

C.S.O. created the first broad-based organization within the Los Angeles Mexican-American community. It had also established ties to organized labor, the Catholic Church, the Jewish community and to individuals in both the Democratic and Progressive parties, creating a broad based coalition that succeeded in electing Ed Roybal to the Los Angeles City council and then later to the U.S. Congress.

C.S.O. pioneered, with the assistance of Saul Alinsky, the type of multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalition that would elect Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency some 60 years later.

Both Ed Roybal and Cesar Chavez worked closely with a leading Los Angeles Communist Party USA member and Democratic Party activist, Bert Corona.
(emphasis added.)

The optics of this film viewing doesn't make a lot of sense with the on-going crisis in the Crimea that Obama dedicated all of about 3 minutes to in a statement about sanctioning a dozen or so Russians.  But you won't hear about it from the mainstream media.  In fact, you probably won't hear much about this private screening at all.  CNN for example, has spent almost all of it's time talking about the minutia of the missing 777 in Malaysia.  It does nothing to make the president look bad or weak on Crimea.  The media also has no interest in letting you know about the president honoring a community activist with ties to communists.  They are aware that those who support progressivism and those in the Hispanic community will know about this event already.

March 18, 2014

Some Dems seeing the "Sink"ing ship

In light of Democrat Alex Sink's loss in the Florida special election where Democrats vastly outspent the flawed Republican candidate (and eventual winner) winner David Jolly, Democrats seem to be abandoning ship on the 2014 midterm elections.

John King of CNN is hearing things:

Invalid mockery: The 1980s called?

Remember that time, during the 2012 presidential election debates, between Romney and Obama, when Obama mocked Romney for saying that Russia was America's biggest geopolitical foe?  Yeah, so do I.  Guess who turned out to be right?  

It's not that the Crimean crisis alone proves the point, but  it certainly reinforces the notion that Russia hasn't really changed all that much when it comes to its leadership and its approach to world affairs.

So yes, the 1980s called.  But they can't have their foreign policy back just yet.  We still need it.

It's not really helpful imagine how different things would be if Mitt Romney were president right now but it sure is easy to imagine that Putin would not be quite so bold as he is with a president who has more flexibility since he won re-election.

Remember the time when Obama was telling Medvedev...never mind?

March 17, 2014

Obama's sanctions could have the reverse effect of intentions

The sanctions announced today by president Obama (if you blinked you probably missed it) , could end up having the reverse effect of that intended by the administration.  According to the Moscow Times, senior Russian officials envision a scenario where sanctions boost the Russian economy, or at least do no harm.  Certainly there would be no consequences from anything announced so far that would deter Russia's intent.
...But many commentators immediately said that the measures — which targeted senior officials including Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, Federation Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko, and longtime Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov — would not deter the Kremlin from reversing course in Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov indicated the same attitude, saying that Western criticism was "not a reason for any kind of adjustments" to Russia's foreign policy, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported late Sunday.
Whether Russian economists see it as no deterrent doesn't really matter. If that's the perception in Russian leadership, their actions, in the short term at least, are being aided by sanctions that 'might actually help' Russia's economy:
Some pro-Kremlin pundits said the sanctions could even have the opposite of the intended effect, saying they would help fight corruption by officials who are banned by law from having assets abroad and that broader trade sanctions, if imposed, could stimulate economic reforms in Russia.
President Obama may need to go back to the drawing board very quickly.

Obama reaction to Crimean crisis in 3,2,1..wait, what?

President Obama just spoke about the Crimean referendum and Russia's actions in the region.  Never mind that this was about 2 weeks late like his response to the BP oil spill was.  Never mind that it was short.  All of that pales in comparison to the fact that it was completely toothless.

Here it is in summary:
-diplomacy can still solve this.

Putin may have watched this news conference (though I doubt it), but at the end of it he must have been left scratching his head and laughing.  Is that all there is?

March 16, 2014

Crimean ballots don't matter

Crimean voters were at the polls today for a referendum.  The issue: to join Russia now, or join Russia later. That's the list of choices. 
Ballots were being counted, and the first numbers from the referendum on whether Ukraine's Crimea region should join Russia or become an independent state were expected in a matter of hours after polls closed Sunday night, an election official said.

Crimean Electoral Commission head Mikhail Malyshev said more than 80% of voters had cast ballots by the time polls closed at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET). Preliminary results will be announced at 10:30 p.m. local time (4:30 p.m ET) Sunday.

The United States has already said it expects the Black Sea peninsula's majority ethnic Russian population to vote in favor of joining Russia. Moscow has strongly backed the referendum. The White House released a statement that said the vote was "administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law."
The referendum results don't matter. Threats aside, there's no 'NO' option for voters. The referendum is flawed. Even a weak foreign policy president can't ignore the escalation that will necessarily result from events in Crimea.  

The next step from the E.U. and the U.S. is likely to be sanctions.  Russia may yet feel emboldened to consider a similar soft invasion in eastern Ukraine.  But what happens next is still a matter of conjecture.

March 15, 2014

Brought to you by the Global Warming gurus

A comedy piece from Canada by Rick Mercer, about the national weather forecasting and the way they tweak results to make weather forecasts less gloomy.

It's funny, but there's a point in there made tongue-in-cheek about forecasting beyond 5 days being too difficult to get right.  It's a fair point that conservatives have long made.  Namely:  Why trust those who can't get a 7 day forecast right to tell you the world is going to smolder into cinders because of man-made global warming in 10-100 years? Really, why would you.

Saturday Learning Series - The Language of Coins (conclusion)

After being MIA for a couple of weeks, Saturday Learning Series continues with the conclusion of The Language of Coins (continued from here) in a double length post.  This week, episodes 9 through 16.

Episode 9 - channel capacity.

Episode 10 - measuring information.

Episode 11 - Law of large numbers, and more

Episode 12 - a mathematical theory of communication

Episode 13 - information entropy

Episode 14 - compression and Huffman coding

Episode 15 - error correction codes

Episode 16 - missing? or deliberate.

You decide.

March 14, 2014

Russia's connect the dots

Connect the dots on events in Russia.  I'm not talking about the Ukraine, but clearly all of this is related to the crisis in the Crimea.  We know that Putin is a totalitarian.  He wants Ukrainian territory.  He wants as much as he can get away with taking without consequences.  But I'm talking about connecting the dots with respect to something else entirely.  What I'm talking about are the covert actions that are going on while the Ukrainian crisis plays out. 

Pay It Forward Friday - Prepare to tear up

This story might make you tear up but only because it is a wonderful story about caring - in this case, about an older dog.

Friday Musical Interlude - Best Miley Cyrus Cover EVER

Last week I posted a doo wop cover of a Ke$ha/Pitbull song by Postmodern Jukebox.  They do an even greater job covering We Can't Stop - the Miley Cyrus song.  It's fantastic. Better than the original.  It goes to show you the talented writing behind a song can be brought out in the music if the 'right' creative thought is brought to bear on the song at hand.  

And it's still not even their best re-working.  Some of their flapper-era jazz covers are truly fantastic.  More of this innovative retro-style band to come in future weeks.

Here's Postmodern Jukebox's version.

And here's the original for comparison.

March 13, 2014

Chris Matthews comes clean on Democrat tactics

Scare tactics that is.  Matt Drudge linked to this clip featured on The Corner at National Review with the focus on the fact that progressive liberal stalwart Chris "thrill up my leg" Matthews has conceded the Senate to Republicans.   But that's burying the headline.

First of all, while it may be a bit of red meat for conservatives to see Matthews stewing over the midterm elections, there's an element on next-day defeatism to it that I'm sure will pass for Matthews.  By October he will be unashamedly running full tilt for Democrats and the defeatism will be gone for him (hopefully to return the day after the elections).

More importantly, in the clip below, Matthews comes clean about the tried and true tactics Democrats love to employ in getting out the vote.  Namely, playing the fear card by slandering their opposition. The confessional starts at about 1 minute into the clip.


I don't think Matthews was intending to betray progressives with this. It almost seems as if he was discussing the modus operendi as the thoughts occurred to him.  Besides, liberals already knew this, conservatives already knew this.  It's not as if it's a startling revelation, a new idea, or that having it exposed is a game changer.  It's not any of those things.  It's business as usual for Democrats.  It is however, nice to hear an admission that this is actually the way they think:  get voters on your side by scaring them about the boogeyman.

March 12, 2014

Florida Special Election Results - Good, Bad and Ugly

Republican David Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink on Tuesday in a Tampa-area House district where President Barack Obama's health care overhaul got its first test ahead of November's midterm elections and both sides spent millions auditioning national strategies.

With almost 100 percent of the vote counted, Jolly had 48.5 percent of the vote to Sink's 46.7 percent. Libertarian Lucas Overby had 4.8 percent. The election was to replace 42-year Republican Rep. CW Bill Young, who died in October of cancer, and the evenly divided district had been considered a toss-up.
Was it a precursor for the 2014 midterms like Politico seemed to think?  Or was CBS right in their call that it was not going to be predictive or deterministic for November?

March 11, 2014

Patriotism on display

Kudos to the young gentleman in this story.

Note to Florida conservatives: Go Vote today

Fox News is reporting that so far turnout in this special Congressional election is very low.  That means your vote matters even more than it normally would.  Go vote.  And tell your Republican friends to do the same. This is going to be touted as a referendum on Obamacare, particularly if Sink, the Democrat, wins.

While many pundits are saying that this special election won't be indicative of the November midterms, Politico has another take:
After almost $9 million in outside spending, a storm of attacks and counterattacks and endless speculation about its implications for the midterms, voters will cast their ballots in the Florida special congressional election on Tuesday.

The stakes are particularly high for Democrats. The party has bet big on Alex Sink, Florida’s former chief financial officer and the Democrats’ 2010 gubernatorial nominee, in the race for the swing 13th Congressional District, which encompasses part of the St. Petersburg area. A win, Democrats hope, will deflate the conventional wisdom that 2014 is destined to go south for them.

For the GOP, the race has been an opportunity to test-drive attacks on Obamacare, which are certain to be the centerpiece of its argument in this year’s midterm elections. And while national Republicans complain that their candidate, former Washington lobbyist David Jolly, has been lackluster, public polling suggests the race is tight.

The two candidates are vying to replace GOP Rep. Bill Young, who died in October after representing the seat for more than four decades.
Go vote today.

Russia's slow roll into Ukraine: 5 lessons for Obama

News today that Russia has it's eyes on eastern Ukraine is indicative that the former Soviet approach to world hegemony is back in vogue with Russian leadership - if it ever really even went away.  The notion that communism could not conquer the world in a single fell swoop meant for Soviet leaders during the Cold War that they had to move communism forward at a creeping pace, or a slow roll.  Country after country fell to communism for decades, typically not through a violent overthrow as espoused by Marx and Engels, but rather through subterfuge, aligning "useful idiots", planting seeds of discontent around the world and the occasional invasion when the time seemed right.

Nonsensible Quote

What they don't tell you, is that the early worm gets the bird.

March 10, 2014

My kingdom for an excuse

When George W. Bush made mistakes, and he made quite a few, conservatives were quick not to rush to his defense but to criticize him.  At least that was the case when they thought he was doing something wrong (remember the not so conservative Harriet Miers?).  Not so, liberals with Obama.  They defend Obama to the point of absurdity.  But it is more than just a defense of the indefensible, it goes as far as lionization of the president in his defense.  Still, to this day they do it, even in their "criticisms" of him.

Witness Ron Fournier's recent article in National Journal.  From the outset, he positions his criticism, as the title suggests as that of a man blinded by righteousness.  And Fournier means Obama's own righteousness.  He's making mistakes because he's too smart and to blinded by doing the right thing.
Days before Vladimir Putin's troops invaded Ukraine, National Security Adviser Susan Rice dismissed suggestions that Russia was about to pounce. "It's in nobody's interest," she said. Days later, President Obama declared the invasion to be illegal. "In 2014," he said, "we are well beyond the days when borders can be drawn over the heads of democratic leaders."

Two things strike me about those quotes. First, they were right. From the viewpoint of the United States and its allies, invading Crimea made no sense, legally or strategically. Second, it didn't matter: Putin plays by his own set of rules, and it's dangerously naive not to realize that.

Ukraine is illustrative of a flaw in Obama's worldview that consistently undermines his agenda, both foreign and domestic. He thinks being right is good enough. From fights with Congress over the federal budget and his nominations, to gun control, immigration reform, health care, and Syria, the president displays tunnel-vision conviction, an almost blinding righteousness. I'm right. They're wrong. Why isn't that enough?
With a scant mention that Obama isn't always completely right, Fournier skips ahead to explain the impact of Obama's self satisfied certainty.  In other words, Obama's simply hurting himself by being completely right, or mostly right, and not condescending to work with others.
With such certitude, Obama finds it hard to see why anybody would oppose him, which makes it almost impossible to earn new allies. He's also slow to realize when some fault lies with him. The result is Obama's legacy of "Right, but …" moments.
Fournier provides a litany of items on which he believes Obama was/is right but wasn't being political enough to bring his rightness on issues like immigration reform or health care reform.

Except Obama wasn't right on a lot of these issues. The public opposed a lot of these items, not just Republicans. The problem is having lionized Obama for so long, liberals now cannot even defend him properly because they start from a flawed premise that Obama's only flaw is that he can't deal with idiots. Clearly the real problem though is that the president, and many liberals just can't deal with reality.

March 9, 2014

No R-S-P-E-C-T? Deflect.

A lot has been made in conservative media and blogs about the president not being able to spell out the title of the Aretha Franklin song "Respect".  It's fair to say that the reaction has been overblown - clearly it was just a flub.  It's also fair to say that there's a double standard in the media when it comes to giving the president a pass on it versus say Dan Quayle having done the same thing decades ago and because he was a Republican, having it turn into a federal crime.

But what is truly insidious about how presidential defenders try to use the opportunity to lash out and denigrate conservatives.  Maureen Dowd is typical in her defense of Obama.  In a recent NYT column, she intertwines the spelling error with the Ukraine situation and then starts bashing conservatives as a den of vipers, starting with the asinine assertion that foreign policy has suddenly become non-partisan, by quoting the president of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. With a title like that, his comments have to be full of gravitas, don't they?
“What are you going to do, send the 101st Airborne into Crimea?” says Terry McCarthy, the president of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. “The way Republicans are dumping on the president, saying anything short of Armageddon shows that he’s weak, is silly. It’s kind of shocking that foreign policy, which used to be nonpartisan, now becomes partisan so quickly.”
Excuse me?  Did she forget all of the "Bush lied,  people died." stuff?  The warmonger denouncements were reserved for only Bush, when Democrats voted to support war in Iraq too.  That was totally non-partisan?  Please Maureen spare us the phony indignation.

But she doesn't and uses that as a jumping off point to deflect the discussion of Obama's flaws (be they spelling-related or foreign policy related) by denigrating his political opposition.
More calculating conservatives pounced. Trying to rehabilitate himself, Marco Rubio told a CPAC audience here that America must “stand up to the spread of totalitarianism.”

Sarah Palin, who seems ever more viperish, deployed her Yoda syntax with Sean Hannity: “People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates.”
To Dowd, Rubio is merely calculating rather expressing a legitimate concern, and Palin is "viperish". That is clearly assigning motive those individuals. Ridicule your political opposition - Alinsky would be proud, but now that people know who Alinsky is, it won't work quite so well.

March 7, 2014

Pay It Forward Friday - Homeless Lottery Winner

I'm starting a new Friday feature here on Nonsensible Shoes,  Pay It Forward Friday.  Sharing good news and positive stories is always a good thing.  Hopefully there will be enough good news out there to keep this feature going indefinitely.  This feature will supplement the Friday Musical Interlude rather than replace it.  

Our first one is something quite new, from Youtube user MagicofRahat. Here's something that will make you feel good about humanity, no matter what your political stripe.  A prankster who does something for a homeless man, set up like a prank, but not really a prank, just a good deed done in a moving way.

Very moving.  Let MagicofRahat know on Youtube, you appreciate this video, and pay attention to where you can make donations as well.

Please spread the word too.

Friday Musical Interlude - Timber - Vintage 1950's Doo Wop Pitbull / Ke$ha Cover

Postmodern Jukebox has talent, and a knack for creative re-working of songs into versions often far better than the original.  Improving a Justin Beiber song to the point it is likable is an enormous undertaking, but they've done that successfully.  Here, they've reworked Timber -a Pitbull / Ke$ha song, into a cool, 1950s Doo Wop tune.

It's amazing how different the same song can sound when produced, arranged and played with a different vision.

Here's the original for comparison purposes only:

March 6, 2014

Thursday Hillary Bash - On the record on Obamacare

Hillary Clinton has chosen to side with those behind Obamacare.  It's somewhat surprising.  She used the opportunity to unfairly portray Republicans as anti-people.  But to go on record in support of a government program that is losing ground in the battle of public opinion month after month, is somewhat odd. 

It's not as if she hasn't said anything in support of Obamacare previously.  But the timing seems odd, making statements about it now.

Via Politico:
Hillary Clinton showed more signs of flexibility Wednesday on how Obamacare is implemented, but she insisted the law is too important to “turn the clock back.”

In a question-and-answer session following a lecture at UCLA, Clinton suggested she’s open to different ways of achieving the health law’s goals. She praised Arkansas — the state where she and her husband rose to political fame — for carrying out a new approach to expanding Medicaid coverage, by using the federal money to buy private health insurance for more than 100,000 low-income residents....

“I think it’s important for people to realize what’s been accomplished. There’s been an enormous amount of, frankly, misinformation and disinformation,” Clinton said.

She also used a line of defense that other Democrats have encouraged: Obamacare will help end “job lock,” in which people hang on to a job they don’t like because they’re afraid their health problems will prevent them from getting insurance again if they move. “I have said many times that if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t have built an employer-based system,” Clinton said. But since that’s the system we have, she said, it’s important to make it work.
(emphasis added). 

Going on record, particularly with the piece emphasized above, is perhaps meant as a way to gain credence with the liberal base for the Democratic primaries, which she may assume, once won, will grant her a cakewalk to the White House against all comers from the GOP side of the election.  But with a shrinking percentage of the American people approving of the law, equivocating on the specifics is like the proverbial re-arranging of deck chairs on the Titanic.

Checkpoint: Americans still not digging Obamacare.

The latest Gallup poll confirms that Americans still don't like Obamacare.
This update is from Gallup polling conducted between Feb. 28 and March 2, just prior to the Obama administration's announcement this week that insurance companies will be able to delay until next year the requirement that they cancel or replace policies that don't conform to the provisions of the law often referred to as "Obamacare."

The 23% who feel the law has hurt them is the highest percentage for the question since Gallup began asking Americans about it in 2012, and is up from 19% in previous polling.
It's an interesting way of burying the lead that Gallup has used here. 23% doesn't sound so bad. Even in comparison to 10% who said that it has helped them it doesn't seem as terrible. The real story is that the majority of Americans disapprove of the law, by a significant margin.

March 5, 2014

Obama's wrong again: Crimea is a win for Putin.

Obama yesterday claimed that Putin was not being clever strategically in rushing into Crimea.  Obama is 100% wrong. Russian leader Putin claims he's interested in protecting ethnic Russians in Crimea which is why he's sent "plainclothes" Russian military into the region after Ukraine's recent .upheaval.  But Russia has ulterior motives.  It's about the money, and the strategic military value of the region.

Crimea has some strategic importance to Russia.  Consider:
The Black Sea is Russia's only warm-water port.

Though Crimea is recognized worldwide as a part of Ukraine, the Russian Navy has kept its Black Sea Fleet stationed at a naval base in Sevastopol (in southern Crimea) since the late 1700s. In 2010, Russia negotiated an agreement that allows the country to share the all-important Sevastopol naval base through 2042, in exchange for deep discounts of about $40 billion on natural gas from Russia.
The Ukraine, which is a very big producer of corn and grain, sends much of it's exports through Crimean ports.  Crimea also has it's own agricultural base and Crimea also serves as a tourist destination.  These things are important for Russia economically and for helping to feed Russians.  Having Crimea under Russian control benefits Russia economically, and reduces the dependence on the Ukraine.

And let's not overlook the fact that an international crisis increases gas prices, which Russia exports to Europe.  As tensions stay high, Russia can generate additional revenue as a result.  Obama  just doesn't understand geo-political strategy.  He's once again proving that for him, it's about making himself look good.  He's trying to save face rather than looking at the situation realistically and making decisions accordingly.

Lois Lerner. Obama administration. Transparency Gong Show

Remember the Gong Show?  This reminds me of that show.  Lois Lerner's refusal to testify about the IRS targeting the Tea Party is yet another example of the transparency of the Obama administration being negligible.

It set of a firestorm, for at least one Democrat Congressman:

March 4, 2014

It's not an invasion if Russia is "invited"

The calming effect of Putin saying that Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine is about as durable as Bill Clinton's "I did not have have sex with that woman."  Why?  Because it's the same game - semantics.

CNN (among other news outlets) is reporting today:
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia had every right to intervene in Ukraine if Russian-speaking people there asked for help, but he denied any plans to invade.

But both President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in separate news conferences today said Russia was violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and called for Russia to “de-escalate” the situation.
Of course Putin is denying any plans to invade - in his world, this is a liberation effort.  He's protecting Russians.  Whether he believes that or it's simply rhetoric doesn't matter.  The fact is anyone in the West who sees Putin's words as a de-escalation of tensions and action, is being naive.

Putin is of the Russian mindset that still sees Ukraine as part of Russia.  Any action taken to reinforce that while appearing on the surface to be honoring Ukrainian sovereignty is not just justifiable, it's practically obligatory.  Don't forget, he's from the Soviet KGB. 

This problem is not going away simply because president Obama has declared Russia's actions not legal.  Maybe he could put Putin on trial in New York...

March 3, 2014

Ukraine vs the 2014 elections.

A friend of mine thinks that what is going on in the Ukraine is the ultimate test for Obama. The way he sees it is that this will have worldwide geopolitical implications for the United States, all dependent on how Obama reacts to the crisis in the Ukraine with the Russians demanding they surrender Crimea to Russia.  He also postulates that Obama could use this opportunity to distract from scandals and failures of his administration for the past five plus years.

It's the latter point that intrigues me.  Obama by talking Putin down from the ledge of all out war, could come across as both diplomatic and strong at the same time.  This represents a golden opportunity for him.  If Russia does back away from it's demands that it may now be claiming it didn't really make, and Obama claims he talked them away from annexation of the Crimea, it could fundamentally alter the dynamics of the midterm elections.

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