Wednesday, April 29, 2009

100 Days of Apologies by our Esteemed President.

By Edward Mariscal

Since inauguration day, President Barack Obama has apologized to former first lady Nancy Reagan, the Special Olympics, former Senator Tom Daschle, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, reporter Peggy Agar, Senator Diane Feinstein, the citizens of New York City, the United States Military and the American People. All were warranted. But his apology tour did not end on American soil. Our esteemed President has also taken an international tour to apologize to the rest of the world.

President Obama’s willingness to criticize his own country, and unwillingness to defend it against vitriolic attacks from abroad, is starting to be more than a little worrisome. But most of us knew this during the campaign. 100 days into this Presidency, Americans have a right to have their president put our best face forward to the world. Instead, he has already traveled all over the world sending a message – an utterly false message – that we are to blame for many of the world’s ills. For that message to emanate from an American president is, frankly, outrageous.

The latest examples have come on his visits to Central and South America . First, President Obama said that the United States is responsible for a huge portion – as much as 90 percent – of the guns being used by Mexican drug smugglers. As a matter of demonstrable fact, that is absolutely, positively wrong. Second, President Obama warmly greeted Venezuela ’s radical leftist dictator, Hugo Chavez, and then indicated he would open a more extensive dialogue with Chavez. President Obama’s act looked terribly obsequious in light of Chavez’ “gift” to President Obama of a four-decade-old book (“Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent,” by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano) that virulently assails the United States .

After that, President Obama sat nearly mute as Nicaragua Communist leader Daniel Ortega made a rabble-rousing speech viciously castigating the United States . President Obama’s most forceful response to that was that Latin Americans shouldn't blame him personally for things (such as the Bay of Pigs fiasco) that happened way back in the year of his birth. In other words, the message wasn’t to defend the United States , but instead effectively to ratify the notion that the United States is evil while washing his own hands of any responsibility for the supposed evil. Again, this is not the behavior the American people have a right to expect from their president. Indeed, it is the polar opposite of what we have a right to expect.

All of these examples of undermining the reputation of the United States came on top of a trip through Europe in which Obama said the world recession is largely the result of Wall Street greed, apologized for supposed American arrogance and its alleged disrespect for Europe, and falsely indicated that the United States had not been fair to the Islamic world – ignoring, among may other things, the U.S. leadership to save Muslims from genocide in the Balkans.

Enough is enough, Mr. President. It’s time for you to be our advocate, not our scold. It’s time for you to be our leader, not our babysitter. It’s time for you to fulfill your promise of hope and not continue to suck up to the rest of the world just to get them to like you. Let’s hope for a better next 100 days.

Just a word of thanks to Edward for writing this. For long time I've wanted to have a variety of guest writers here at Diminished Expectations. Hopefully this is just the beginning of many posts from Edward.

If anybody else out there would like to contribute just let me know:

mstajduharATyahoo.co.uk
Note: I'm writing out "at" to cut down on spammers. If you email me use @.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Site of the Day: My First Dictionary



One of the chores of being a new parent in the early 21st century is spending time online looking for tools and resources to ease the rearing of children. Most of the sites you come across are a mix of the useful, the ridiculous and the overwrought. My First Dictionary is none of these...and that is a relief. Instead it's simply delicious, wicked fun. Check it out.

Torturous decisions about torture.

In assessing complex moral decisions in the real world, we must look not only at our acts, but at the consequences of our failures to act. Would it really have been more moral, for example, to have not waterboarded Khalid Sheik Mohammed, if the result had been a successful 9/11 type attack in Los Angeles? A person might answer “yes.” But it is disingenuous to assert that such a person is clearly and unequivocally in a position that is morally superior to that of the person who would answer “no.”

There are sins of omission as well as sins of commission. Are we morally responsible—and therefore guilty—for failing to stop an attack that might have been prevented by gaining information through a coercive technique such as waterboarding?

The people who drew up the rules about waterboarding seemed to have been cognizant of these and other moral complexities. They certainly did not intend or allow the United States to engage in the more extreme type of torture endured by Mr. Chen, for example. But they wanted to permit—and to give guidelines for the use of—something strong enough to extract vital information from terrorists, but weak enough to cause no permanent damage to them.

Read the whole thing.

The Country is in the Very Best of Hands.

The Obama administration declared a “public health emergency” Sunday to confront the swine flu — but is heading into its first medical outbreak without a secretary of Health and Human Services or appointees in any of the department’s 19 key posts.

President Barack Obama has not yet chosen a surgeon general or the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His choice to run the Food and Drug Administration awaits confirmation.

More here.

We're here, we're queer and we're hypocrites

On display at the Miss USA event was the activist left's pageant of selective bullying, a concerted strategy to go after low-hanging fruit like Mormons. But the left leaves off its hit list members in good standing of its normal coalition - its "rainbow" coalition. In California, one of the gayest places on the map, blacks and Hispanics - who disproportionately disapprove of same-sex marriage - get a stunning pass from outraged proponents of gay marriage.

Since 9/11, the highly organized gay left has also been deafeningly silent on Islam's anti-modern approach to homosexuality - let alone same-sex unions. The mullahs in Iran somehow get a major pass while the director of the California Musical Theatre in Sacramento is targeted for ruin. This contradiction is not subtle. Indeed, it's obvious and pathetic.


Some people are more interested in the pleasures of calling other people bigots than in actually advancing the cause of gay marriage.

More here.

Hope and Change!

When campaigning, Obama said he’d not rush to sign any bills. He’d put them online for five days, review, and make them open to the public. So far, he’s 1 for 11 on that promise.

Via Say Uncle.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

100 Days, 100 Mistakes.

The country is in the very best of hands.

2. "There is no doubt that we've been living beyond our means and we're going to have to make some adjustments." -- Obama during the campaign.

3. This year's budget deficit: $1.5 trillion.

4. Asks his Cabinet to cut costs in their departments by $100 million -- a whopping .0027%!

30. Timothy Geithner nomination as Secretary of Treasury was almost torpedoed when it was discovered he had failed to pay $34,000 in Social Security and Medicare taxes. He also employed an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper. He was confirmed anyway.

31. . . . Not so lucky, Annette Nazareth, who was nominated for Deputy Treasury Secretary. She withdrew her name for undisclosed "personal reasons" after a monthlong probe into her taxes . . .
32. . . . or Caroline Atkinson, who withdrew as nominee for Undersecretary of International Affairs in Treasury Department, with a source blaming the long vetting process. Geithner still has a skeleton crew at Treasury, with no one qualified -- or willing -- to take jobs there.


The Full list is here.

Charming.

Too Cool For Words.


Noteboek from Evelien Lohbeck on Vimeo.

The Crusades: myth and reality.

The Crusades issue is not so easy, after all. When correctly interpreted, it shows that there has been an over emphasis on what, on the Christian side, was wrong, negative, cruel, while what was positive and right has been kept quiet. And that Muslims and Christians did not only make wars.

It is also worth noting that several European authors claimed that not only did the Crusades era produce active intellectual exchanges between East and West in all fields of science and culture, but also that there has been direct, although discreet, contact between the spirituality of Islam and that of medieval Christian Europe, to say nothing about the supposed liaisons between Dante and the tradition of Arab mystical poetry, and between the so-called Christian “initiatory organizations” and the Sufism, which is generally understood to be the inner, mystical dimension of Islam.

More here.

California Politicians, to Citizens: It's Too Difficult to Tax You.


The state budget has jumped from $104 billion to $145 billion in less than six years, opening up an 11-figure (and technically illegal) budget gap. Spending growth has increased 6.8 percent a year under the current administration, compared to annual inflation-plus-population growth of just under 5 percent. Public sector unions dominate the political culture, fattening unstable pension programs and keeping public sector employment high. Sales taxes, income taxes, sin taxes, and various license fees have all recently been increased, and municpalities have been hiking their taxes and fees as well. And there are (insane) proposals on the table of a Democrat-led state legislature to do stuff like force resident businesses with websites–and their customers!–to pay sales tax on all e-commerce.So what's Calfornia gonna do?


Maybe launch a Constitutional Convention...to make it easier to raise taxes.


More here.

Bound to Burn.

Cut to the chase. We rich people can’t stop the world’s 5 billion poor people from burning the couple of trillion tons of cheap carbon that they have within easy reach. We can’t even make any durable dent in global emissions—because emissions from the developing world are growing too fast, because the other 80 percent of humanity desperately needs cheap energy, and because we and they are now part of the same global economy. What we can do, if we’re foolish enough, is let carbon worries send our jobs and industries to their shores, making them grow even faster, and their carbon emissions faster still.

More here.

50 Years of Stupid Grammar.

Geoffery Pullum takes on Strunk and White's The Elements of Style:

It's sad. Several generations of college students learned their grammar from the uninformed bossiness of Strunk and White, and the result is a nation of educated people who know they feel vaguely anxious and insecure whenever they write "however" or "than me" or "was" or "which," but can't tell you why. The land of the free in the grip of The Elements of Style.

I have to say I completely agree. I've always thought The Elements of Style was noticeably terrible. I've always preferred The King's English by Fowler (free online copy here) or his later Modern English Usage.

The rest of Pullum's article is here.

Shoes and Nazi Bazookas.

A key part of Adidas early product line.

The German army was on the retreat on virtually all fronts, bombs were raining down on German cities and resources were running short. December 1943 marked the final blow for the town's shoe production. Hitler's regime ordered a halt to all civilian business operations, and the shoe-making machines in the Dassler Brothers' production hall were replaced with spot-welding equipment for making weapons. Before long, nearly everyone in Herzogenaurach was working for the military. The local lederhosen factory stopped making the traditional Bavarian leather shorts and, instead, started producing bread bags and rucksacks for soldiers. A nearby family business made torpedo parts for the navy.

More here.

How Can the World Be Blind to Israel’s Existential Threats?

Hamas is a terrorist organization that condones and facilitates suicide bombings and will kill every Jew on the planet if they have the chance. Meanwhile, Israel is an energetic democracy with a vibrant press. I could sit right here in Jerusalem and write bad things about Israel and Jews, and nothing would happen. Maybe I wouldn’t get invited somewhere or would be called an anti-Semite, but that would be it. Neither the Jews nor the Israelis would harm me, though they likely would write bad things about me. I came to Israel with no press accreditation and at the airport they knew that I was a writer. Yet they let me in and have allowed me to freely roam the country. Today I was in very close proximity to Mr. Netanyahu. Mr. Netanyahu talked about how, in this very hotel, Rehavam Ze’evi had been murdered just a few floors above our heads. The security seemed incredibly lax by American standards. Bernard Lewis and other extremely smart people were there.

Israel is a free country that abides by the rule of law. By contrast, if a writer were to go to Gaza or Iran, for instance, and start writing bad words, he might wind up on the news, dead. Israel allows Christians and Arab Muslims to worship freely, while Hamas wants to see us all at the bottom of the sea. Hamas, supported by Iran, is clear about their goals: they want to wipe out Israel completely, utterly, with finality. But it’s not just Israel that Hamas wants to kill; they want to kill all Jews everywhere. Complete genocide.

Read the whole thing.

Why Doesn’t The Stimulus Include Money For Painting Roofs And Roads White?

Readers of this blog know that I'm anthropogenic global warming skeptic. I tend to believe that whatever changes in climate we may face in the coming years, they will be caused by variations in solar output. If anything, the current decline in sunspot activity strongly suggest we are headed toward a period of global cooling. That said, I find ideas like this to be fascinating:

[P]ainting 100 square feet of roof space white offsets the effect of one ton of CO2 emissions. So an American family of four could offset their annual carbon emissions with 8000 square feet of white space. If cities around the world lightened all their roads, parking lots and roofs, it “would offset 44 gigatons of CO2 emissions” — or about 18 months worth of emissions for the entire human family. Overall, the three scientists figure their plan could delay the effects of global warming by 11 extra years.

The idea has been around for a long time three scientists have put some very compelling data behind it — and found that the effects involved are much larger than most people had figured. The findings only put more weight behind arguments like the made in a 2007 Business Week article that the money we’re spending on building solar capacity as a way to address climate change would be far more effectively spent on white paint to be splashed across WalMart rooftops and Food Lion parking lots. It’s kind of threatening to the techno-fix “someday we’ll all be tooling around in tidal-powered Hummers” mentality that often drives the debate around global warming solutions, but I haven’t seen any arguments that take on the substance of it.

More here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Canadians Not Amused by the Director of Homeland Security.


I’ve sometimes felt we Canadians are too hard on the Americans. We make fun of them for knowing so little of us. That we’re all igloos and Nelson Eddy yodeling-Mounties. Then along comes someone like Janet Napolitano, a former governor, now a major player at the highest levels of the most powerful government in the world, a one-woman storehouse of misconceptions, pseudo-facts, stale rumours and flat-out ignorance.


Who Owns the Rain? It Depends.

Capturing rain may be one of humanity's most ancient methods of acquiring water, but now it's coming back in vogue. Rather than press their luck with drought, conservation-conscious homeowners are setting up rudimentary rain barrels and elaborate rainwater storage systems to catch precipitation for nondrinking purposes, such as watering their lawns.

But while rainwater may seem like a global common, nowadays it depends on where you live: By capturing rainwater, some homeowners are breaking the law. This has put city and state governments in an awkward position—smack in the middle of competing water users and advocates, often from within their own agencies, of conserving water to protect supplies.

Read the whole thing.

How big Jurassic flying reptiles got off ground.


What people think of as "flying dinosaurs" but are technically giant reptiles didn't launch into the air like birds. They leapt into the air off all four legs, said Mike Habib, of the university's Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution. Only vampire bats do something like that.

The flying creatures are called pterosaurs (the "p" is silent). They were a group of flying reptiles that could weigh more than 500 pounds and have bus-sized wingspans. Last year, researchers tried to figure out how they got off the ground by looking at the largest bird now flying, the albatross. They concluded that anything much bigger couldn't get off the ground the same way.

But Habib said pterosaurs shouldn't be compared to birds.

More here.

The Last of the Great Explorers.


In early 1925, British Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, having convinced himself, based on a mix of archival research, deduction and clairvoyance, that a large undiscovered city lay hidden somewhere in the Amazon, entered the jungle to try to find it.
He was never heard from again.
Therein lies the tale.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I saw Berlin on Friday...



I've been meaning to blog about it but I've been distracted with family obligations.

I wasn't really a fan back in the day and I didn't really know what to expect. If pressed, I would have remembered No More Words and possibly the love theme from Top Gun Take My Breath Away. Truth be told though, I really wasn't that familiar with their work. Apparently they were huge in southern California in the eighties...but I grew up in Chicago so I was listening to Material Issue instead.

Anyway the wife and I seized the opportunity to get out of the house and hang out with our friend Edward Mariscal and his fetching lady friend. It was our first trip to the House of Blues and we were both super impressed. It's a great venue and the opening act was fabulous...though their name escapes me. Must be mad cow.

Anyway, I was totally unprepared for how great a show it was going to be. Terri Nunn is a star. There's really no other way to describe her. There are probably a thousand female lead singers in L.A. with comparable or maybe even better talent...though she's a great singer. That's beside the point. She's transfixing. She had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand. The people in that room, that night adored her...and by the end of the night I did too.

If you get a chance go see them.

Here's their tour schedule.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sounds Perfect for my Friend Pat.

If the embed doesn't work click on the headline.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Tax Day!

Photo stolen from somebody...I forget who...probably Theo.


Today is the day that income tax filings are due here in the states. I've always found it ironic that it follows closely on the heels of St. Patrick's Day. One day dedicated to the wearing of the green, the other to taking it away from you.


During the Bush administration a number of my democratic friends bemoaned the out of control spending orgy going on in Washington. Too much of your money was being spent on frivolous things. The war aside, Bush was a bad financial steward of the country they argued. They were right. Liberals at the time could credibly claim that they had done a much better job under Clinton. This was true but deceptive. Clinton's fiscal restraint was helped by an uncooperative Republican controlled Congress (who was in turn kept in check by the threat of a Clinton veto). Thanks to divided government, cutting the defense budget in half, and spending every nickel they could from the social security surplus (anybody remember Al Gore's implicit criticism of this when he called for the "lock-box"?) the budget was balanced for the first time in my life. It was a major political accomplishment, driven in large part by voter outrage over out of control spending.


Today the federal government is engaged in a spending spree of literally unprecedented scale. If we continue on this course, W will be remembered as the last fiscally responsible President. This graphic sums it up nicely:







Remember, whatever you think of Bush and his policies, his deficits were run up fighting two major wars, giving free prescription drugs to seniors, and (partially) funding no child left behind. Whether these things were worth doing or not is something reasonable people can disagree about. They are however, the normal sort of big ticket items that governments spend a lot on: wars and social programs. This stands in sharp contrast to what Obama is doing. In an effort to stabilize markets (or take control of them, depending on your ideological bent) he's pouring money into the economy in a way that is largely without precedent.

Stimulus packages have been done before of course. Historically they have been political exercises to demonstrate to the nation that Washington cares and is trying to "do something". The fact that the vast majority of economists think they are a complete wast of money is beside the point. It makes people feel good and gets politicians names in the paper for something other than an indictment or having sex with an aide.

If previous stimulus packages were too small to change things (Michelle Obama was quite correct when she mocked the Bush stimulus as being meaningless), Obama's spending is so out of control it will likely cripple our economy for the remainder of my lifetime (I'm 38). Obama has been President for...what ...90 days? In that time, between bailouts and stimulus he's essentially taken trillions of dollars of your money and set it on fire. Results have been meager and and the costs have been jaw dropping. Above and beyond our existing debt obligations:


• If you’re a 50-year old-with a college degree, you will pay approximately $81,000 over your working life just to pay the interest on the debt in the Obama budget.

• If you’re a 40-year-old, you’ll pay $132,000.

• And if you’re a 20-year-old, just starting out after college, you will pay a whopping $114,000 just to service the interest on the debt created by the Obama budget.

Add to that the impending implosion of both social security and medicare. Basically we as a nation are at the point where we're getting new credit cards and taking cash advances, just to make the minimum payments on our other credit cards. It needs to stop. Now.

Across the country today there are a number of protests going on. If you're as outraged as I am by what's going on in Washington, go to one. Make yourself heard. Tell them your mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter Everybody.

28:5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

28:6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

Book of Matthew, King James Version.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: IS OBAMA PRESIDENT?


Ruters-Barack Obama acknowledged today that his critics, who have long claimed that he's ineligible to serve are, in substance correct. Choking back tears Mr. Obama spoke to American public:

"I regret the course of deceit I entered into so long ago. I apologize to the fine people who have put their faith in me. With the good lord's help we with all make it through this difficult time."

This bombshell disclosure sets off a sure constitutional crisis as Washington grapples with whether Obama is in fact president and if so what to do about it.

While most insiders argue that Obama is currently the Chief Executive and must now be removed through impeachment, some argue that since he was ineligible to serve he never assumed the office despite taking the oath. If true that would raise more questions than it would answer.
Normally Vice President Joe Biden would be the presumptive President. However given that John McCain was the only eligible candidate receiving electoral votes, some legal scholars believe he could mount a strong legal challenge. In effect overturning the results of last November's election. "Given the current make up of the Supreme Court, that outcome is not an impossibility" said Lawrence Tribe, a noted constitutional scholar.


I don't know what to say about this, on today of all days.
Read the whole thing.
Hope you all enjoyed this. April Fools!