Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Despite his defeat, Cruz positioned himself perfectly to reassert his core argument in 2020

Ted Cruz Is Still Running for President, writes Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker:
Cruz is merely taking the next step toward the Presidency in a manner that he previewed when I profiled him for the magazine, in 2014. Cruz may be wrong about Republican and Presidential politics, but he’s consistent, and his rejection of Trump, when every other putative successor as Republican nominee has endorsed him, fits into his master plan. In simple terms, Cruz thinks that conservative Republicans win Presidential elections

 … despite his defeat, Cruz positioned himself perfectly to reassert his core argument in 2020. Assuming that Trump loses this year, Cruz can argue that Trump failed because he did not fully embrace conservative dogma. While Trump has taken conservative positions during the campaign, he has held a variety of less hard-line views over the years, including on such bedrock issues as abortion.
And Trump has, in any event, largely steered away from social issues during his campaign. In recent days, Trump even appears to be trying to moderate his views on illegal immigration, which had been the heart of his conservative appeal. The greater Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory turns out to be, the stronger Cruz’s claim will be. Without a political base of his own, a defeated Trump will be a deserted Trump; he will not be making a second run for President in his mid-seventies. Trump will be a scorned and discredited figure.

 … Cruz has built his career on repudiation of moderation—and on confrontation with his fellow-Republicans. On balance, it has worked out well for him. As a first-term senator, he nearly shut down the federal government single-handedly in a failed bid to end Obamacare. This kind of absolutism alienated his Senate colleagues, including Republicans, but it propelled him to a strong second-place finish in the Republican Presidential primaries—an extraordinary achievement for a politician who has won exactly one election in his life. For a party picking up the pieces after a catastrophic Presidential election (if that’s what it turns out to be), there will be great appeal in a politician, like Cruz, who can say, “I told you so.”

Friday, August 19, 2016

If Donald Trump is a courageous man who has the guts to say things that others won’t, why does he always backtrack what he said in the heat of the moment at his rallies?


I have a question for all the Donald Trump supporters who see him as a courageous man who has the guts to say things that others won’t
writes Jason Taylor in a Resurgent post entitled Hillary Clinton Ought To Be Eternally Grateful To Donald Trump:
Why does he always backtrack what he said in the heat of the moment at his rallies? And afterwards why does he send out his handlers to hit the airwaves to “explain” what he meant? Why doesn’t stand by the position he articulated in front of his adoring supporters? Where’s his courage when he’s questioned on his positions? Or does he only have “courage” when speaking in front of a like-minded crowd? That’s not courage, it’s pandering.
Trump’s most recent comments in re: the “very long vacation” indicates his resolve that his loss will be very large. Trump will then become the “biggest loser” in America which will haunt him and his family for a generation.
 … Here’s the bottom line: Trump has no interest in being president. He makes these constant ludicrous statements at his rallies because he’s all about the reaction he gets from his supporters. He says something, they go nuts, the media gets all riled up then he walks it back as a “joke” or “sarcasm”. He loves getting attention and that’s it. I’m sure when the election is over and he’s lost, he’ll say he never wanted to be president anyways and that it was all just a big joke. I would be very surprised if there will even be debates. Again, Donald doesn’t want to be president.

I’ve always disliked it when someone would use the term “hater.” Understandably, for all of us there are people or things we just can’t stand. Yet to use hater seemed hyperbolic.

I have, however, come to the conclusion that Trump’s followers perfectly exemplify that word. They are haters. Their hate eats away at them and at the threads of unity that should bind us all together as Americans. Donald Trump is the worse candidate for office in the history of our republic because he exacerbates that hate on a daily basis for his own gain. It’s not enough that he just lose to Hillary; he has to lose so that the vast majority of Americans let the haters know that their kind of angry vitriol and intolerance of others will not rule the day. That is not who we are.

At the start of recess, when the bully trips one kid, a fair number of kids will laugh.

But as recess goes on, and all the bully does is keep bullying over and over, by the time recess is over, fewer and fewer kids are finding it funny. By the end of recess, there are only a handful of kids who still find the bully amusing.

Simple playground politics.

Trump said today republicans had a difficult path to the White House but stressed that wasn’t his fault. Does this man ever take responsibility for anything?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

RIP Toughy the Cat

Today, my parents' cat died.
Toughy (or Tuffy) was 14 years old.

My parents thought he would grow to be at least 17 or 18, like most of their felines, or around 23, like their previous cat, Funny Face, who doubled as Toughy's friend — especially since Toughy fully deserved his name. (He loved nothing better than a being stroked fast'n'hard — back'n'forth, in both directions, the length of his body — like some kind of Oriental massage.)

My folks, who could be described as old-timers, have been having health problems for the past year.

My father went to a clinic last week and it was discovered that he thankfully had no (skin) cancer.

My mother also visited the doctor's this week and it was discovered that she had no (stomach) cancer either.

Toughy, who seemed in perfect health only two weeks ago, suddenly stopped eating, and would only lap up the juice of her cat food, incapable of swallowing the hard stuff.

Yesterday they took Toughy to the vet's where he spent the night.

After being scanned today, it was discovered that he had five tumors throughout his body, and there was nothing to be done.

And so he was put to sleep this morning.

Call me silly if you want, or superstitious, but doesn't it seem that, in some manner, deliberately or otherwise, consciously or not, Toughy took on the diseases of the masters whom he loved (and who loved him in return) and sacrificed his life for them?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Every 4 Years, Scandinavians are "scared shitless' by whoever is campaigning for the GOP

Reality sometimes gets distorted by distance, as when, eight years ago, several Danes informed me that the United States would never elect a black man as President
writes Jeffrey Frank in the New Yorker.
This year, the visit [to Denmark, the country into which I’ve married and where, over the years, I’ve often been asked to explain what’s happening back home] was a chance to express the belief that, though Americans may practice political brinksmanship, we are not about to let loose a bomb—or probably not.

I was uneasy about this trip, because I knew that I would hear a lot and be pushed to say a lot about our Presidential election and about the bomb in question: the inescapable Donald J. Trum …

 … Friends and relatives, though, would rather talk about Trump, and want assurance that he is an aberration, even more so when his words are translated without subtlety into Danish. (A headline in the widely distributed Metroxpress read “Trump: Gun owners Should Stop Hillary Clinton.”)

 … As for the view from Denmark, when I asked a favorite member of my extended family if she was really worried about the rise of Trump, she seemed uninterested in a possible Clinton landslide, or in Trump’s bad polls, but rather, with an alarmed look and speaking perfect Americanese, said, “I’m scared shitless.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Preparing for Elections and Examining the Issues: "Let us have both sides at the table" said Lincoln—"Each is entitled to his day in court"


Widespread voter ignorance is a serious problem in our democracy,
writes Ilya Somin in the Washington Post
including in the current election. Scientific American has a new article offering several helpful suggestions on how to be a better voter:
#1 Don’t just go with your gut. Voting well means making your choice from a standpoint of informed consideration and with an eye toward the common good, says Jason Brennan, a political philosopher at Georgetown University and author of The Ethics of Voting. “Suppose you go to a doctor and ask for advice about an illness—you’d expect the doctor to have your interests at heart and to think rationally about your symptoms,” he says. “Voters owe the same thing to each other and the electorate. Vote for everyone’s best interest, and when you’re forming your political beliefs, form them based on information and learning, not on the basis of quick thinking, anger or bias….”

#2 Don’t get all your news from social media. Most of us have unfollowed, unfriended or muted contacts on Facebook, Twitter and other networks because their political views make us mad. Doing so can give rise to narrowed political views and groupthink…

Try broadening your news sources by tuning to channels or sites, papers or magazines that have a different slant than you do….

#3 Watch the next debate with your eyes closed. A recent study by Joan Y. Chiao, then at Northwestern University, a founder of the new field of cultural neuroscience, found that voters perceive male candidates as more competent and dominant than female ones, based on facial features alone. What’s more, voters of both genders tend to prefer physically attractive female candidates, whereas attractiveness doesn’t matter for male ones….
 
#4 Know when to abstain. I have a confession to make: I didn’t vote in the presidential primaries. I’m not used to the mail-in ballots in my adopted home state of Oregon, and I sent mine in too late to be counted. Looking back, I think perhaps it was for the best: I’d been waffling for months about which candidate to choose and hadn’t taken the time to firmly ground my choice in facts and information. “We’ve found that having more information changes people’s policy preferences,” Brennan says. “We can specifically predict what the American public likely would choose if it were better informed….” 
All four of these points are good advice. The real significance of No. 2 is not so much that social media is bad, but that most people make too little effort to consider views opposed to their own. Too often, voters act like “political fans” rather than truth-seekers, overvaluing any information that supports their preexisting views, while ignoring or dismissing anything that cuts the other way. A responsible truth-seeker would make a special effort to seek out information sources with views opposed to his or her own. They are the ones most likely to provide a counterweight to his own biases, and to present information and arguments he has not heard before.

Suggestion No. 4 is particularly well taken. If you know little or nothing about the issues at stake in an election or referendum, you can often serve the public interest best by abstaining. It isn’t necessarily wrong to be ignorant about politics. But it is wrong to inflict that ignorance on your fellow citizens. As John Stuart Mill put it, voting is not just an exercise of personal choice, but rather “the exercise of power over others.” The people elected by ignorant voters will rule over the entire society, not just those who cast ballots for them.

 … Even relatively conscientious voters will often find it difficult to effectively combat their biases, or to learn enough to understand more than a small fraction of the issues addressed by the large and complicated modern state. Also, because of the very low chance that any one vote will make a decisive difference in an election, it is often rational for individual voters to be ignorant, even though there is a terrible systemic effect if large numbers of voters behave that way. For those reasons, among others, I am not optimistic that we will overcome the problem of political ignorance any time soon. In the long run, the most effective potential solution is to reduce the size and complexity of government, and and make more of our decisions in settings where we have better incentives to seek out information and use it wisely. Nonetheless, the situation might improve at least somewhat if more voters follow Scientific American’s excellent advice.
While a lawyer in Springfield, Abraham Lincoln was asked by his partner why on Earth he subscribed to pro-slavery newspapers such as the Richmond Enquirer and Charleston Mercury
We must be tolerant of the Southerners, and learn to live with them…
the rail splitter answered William Herndon (as illustrated below by Dan Greenberg in his and my upcoming The Life & Times of Abraham Lincoln);
Let us have both sides at the table, Billie…
… Each is entitled to his day in court.
(Something the Democrat Party, then (150 years ago) or now, as well as the 20th/21st century MSM, are not too keen upon, if they can help it…)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Do both communism and liberal democracy call for people to become New Men by jettisoning their old faith, customs, arts, literature, and traditions?

Accuturated's Mark Judge. has been reading The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies. The book,
by Polish scholar Ryszard Legutko …  is an intense read that argues that liberal democracies are succumbing to a utopian ideal where individuality and eccentricity might eventually be banned. As liberals push us towards a monoculture where there is no dissent, no gender, and no conflict, the unique and the great will eventually cease to exist. No more offbeat weirdoes, eccentric crazies, or cults. No more Nation of Islam there to call me a cracker. No more of the self-made and inspired figures of the past: Duke Ellington, Hunter Thompson, Annie Leibowitz.
 
Legutko’s thesis is that liberal democracies have something in common with communism: the sense that time is inexorably moving towards a kind of human utopia, and that progressive bureaucrats must make sure it succeeds. Legutko first observed this after the fall of communism. Thinking that communist bureaucrats would have difficulty adjusting to Western democracy, he was surprised when the former Marxists smoothly adapted—indeed, thrived—in a system of liberal democracy. It was the hard-core anti-communists who couldn’t quite fit into the new system. They were unable to untether themselves from their faith, culture, and traditions.

Both communism and liberal democracy call for people to become New Men by jettisoning their old faith, customs, arts, literature, and traditions. Thus a Polish anti-communist goes from being told by communists that he has to abandon his old concepts of faith and family to become a member of the larger State, only to come to America after the fall of the Berlin Wall and be told he has to forego those same beliefs for the sake of the sexual revolution and the bureaucratic welfare state. Both systems believe that societies are moving towards a certain ideal state, and to stand against that is to violate not just the law but human happiness itself.

… Legutko argues that, of course, there are huge differences between communism and liberal democracy—liberal democracy is obviously a system that allows for greater freedom. He appreciates that in a free society people are able to enjoy the arts, books, and pop culture that they want. Our medical system is superior. We don’t suffer from famines. Yet Legutko argues that with so much freedom has come a kind of flattening of taste and the hard work of creating original art.

We’ve witnessed the a slow and steady debasement of our politics and popular culture—see, for example, those “man on the street” interviews where Americans can’t name who won the Revolutionary War. Enter the unelected bureaucrats who appoint themselves to steer the ship; in other words, we’re liberals and we’re here to help. Inspired by the idea that to be against them is to be “on the wrong wide of history,” both communism and contemporary liberalism demand absolute submission to the progressive plan. All resistance, no matter how grounded in genuine belief or natural law, must be quashed.

Thus in America came the monochromatic washing of a country that once could boast not only crazies like Scientologists and Louis Farrakhan, but creative and unusual icons like Norman Mailer, Georgia O’Keefe, Baptists, Hindus, dry counties, John Courtney Murray, Christian bakers, orthodox Jews, accents, and punk rockers. The eccentric and the oddball, as well as the truly great, are increasingly less able to thrive. As Legutko observes, we have a monoculture filled with people whose “loutish manners and coarse language did not have their origin in communism, but, as many found astonishing, in the patterns, or rather anti-patterns that developed in Western liberal democracies.” The revolution didn’t devour its children; progressive-minded bureaucrats did.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Dogs don’t make cats (??) — French Expressions Even The French Don't Understand


French is not just the language of France, 
writes Marion Maurin,
but of 29 countries around the world. Check out these French expressions from all over Europe, Africa and the Americas that even the French would struggle to understand.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Waiting 3 to 4 Years for Surgery: The UK's State "Rationing Will Cripple Patients"


Leading surgeon warns that waiting times [in the UK] may swell to years, leaving many people in agony
summarizes Laura Donnelly about the main story on The Daily Telegraph's front page, which, with a tongue in cheek, could be called Bravely Taking Health Care Towards a Glorious Future in the Path of Venezuela.
Growing numbers of patients will be left to endure "crippling pain" as rationing spreads across the [National Health Service], one of Britain's most senior surgeons has warned.

Stephen Cannon, vice-president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said that bans on all but the most urgent treatment would become "commonplace" without major changes to the funding of the health service.

The NHS is in the grip of the worst financial crisis of its history, with rising restrictions on cataract surgery and growing waiting times for hip and knee operations in most areas.

St Helens clinical commissioning group (CCG) in Merseyside took the unprecedented step on Monday of suspending all non-urgent treatment for four months, in an attempt to tackle overspend.
 … Mr Cannon, an orthopaedic surgeon, said such bans would become widespread without a "realistic" increase in funding.  He also called for changes in the way existing funds are spent, to divert more money away from bureaucracy towards front-line care.
Reminder: Barack Obama does not read The Daily Telegraph, in fact the most intelligent and the most outstanding and the most visionary president in modern times reads nothing but the New York Times.
"This is not a one-off, this is a growing problem across the NHS," [Stephen Cannon] said.
"We are deeply concerned, it is bad enough having to put up with crippling arthritis as waiting times get longer, but these sorts of delays can mean the hip crumbling away so the patient can't even take a step. It also means that when patients do have surgery, it is infinitely more complex."

He said: "We could end up going back to the days when patients waited three or four years for operations."
Reminder: Barack Obama does not read The Daily Telegraph, in fact the most intelligent and the most outstanding and the most visionary president in modern times reads nothing but the New York Times.
Three in four CCGs are now imposing restrictions on cataract surgery, limiting it to those in most desperate need, using criteria such as whether the patient has suffered falls as a result of their vision loss.

Mr Cannon … said too much money was being spent on bureaucracy, including on wrangles over which patients would be funded.
Reminder: Barack Obama does not read The Daily Telegraph, in fact the most intelligent and the most outstanding and the most visionary president in modern times reads nothing but the New York Times.
"We are seeing decisions being made purely on a financial basis, when these should be clinical judgments, made in the interest of patients," he said.

"These rationing processes are often adding in an extra layer of bureaucracy, which is using up more resources."

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's GP committee, said blanket suspensions of "non-urgent" treatment risked lives.  Diseases such as cancer were often only detected when doctors investigated ailments that had not been identified as urgent, he said.
Reminder: Barack Obama does not read The Daily Telegraph, in fact the most intelligent and the most outstanding and the most visionary president in modern times reads nothing but the New York Times.

But as we can see, the good thing about all the above is that it leads to drama and to crises, which is of course what, in this era of the drama queen, keep the said drama queens alive, and (constantly) at the front of the scene, in the first place, as call multiply for more intervention from said drama queens, and their bureaucrats.

Addendum: In another article, The Daily Telegraph reports British hospitals as saying the NHS needs to “take a reality check” and limit what it funds, in view of the fact that almost 10% of patients who go to the emergency are seen after four (!) hours (an NHS goal was for 95% of emergency patients to be seen within four hours).
"We need a systematic and planned approach to this and we need to build a national consensus about what the priorities are,” he said.

“We can no longer do everything with the money that we have. We have to look at all the options – whether it’s restricting access to some treatments, changing the [waiting] targets, reducing the workforce, letting the deficits slide or deciding that we can no longer keep an Accident & Emergency department open, or that we can’t run two hospitals 20 miles away from each other,” he said.

The senior figure said most hospital chief executives opposed NHS charges for treatment, but many felt that greater rationing of free treatment was required, to prioritise the most essential care.
The data from NHS England shows a near doubling in the numbers of elderly patients stuck in hospital, for want of care at home, or help to get them discharged, in the past five years.
Overall, 115,425 bed days were lost to delayed discharges in June – almost 80 per cent more than the same month five years ago.

Just 90.5 per cent of patients who went to Accident & Emergency departments were seen within four hours, against a target of 95 per cent – the worst June figures on record.

Ambulance response times were also a record low for the time of year, with just 69.2 per cent of the most urgent calls receiving a response within eight minutes, against a target of 75 per cent.

Charities said a funding crisis in social care meant thousands of vulnerable people were being left in hospital, when they should have been cared for in their homes.
Update: cheers to Harrison for pointing out a recurring typo (now fixed)…

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

It’s always “mammograms this” and “back-alley that,” but never do the pro-abortion activists talk about that thing they’re sucking out of the womb with a shop vac


National Organization for Women (NOW) President Terri O’Neill doesn’t care when life begins
writes Benny Huang on Freedom Daily.
As someone who speaks, writes, and advocates incessantly on the abortion issue you’d think she would have given it more thought; but you would be wrong. Professor O’Neill, who is rabidly “pro-choice” (on abortion at least), is blithely unconcerned with when a developing fetus is actually a person deserving of protection from lethal violence.

O’Neill sat for an interview at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia with Jason Rantz, a radio host from Seattle’s KIRO. When the topic turned to abortion she became belligerent, calling out Republicans for being “viciously anti-women” because of their stance on abortion. When Rantz asked her a hypothetical question—whether she would oppose abortion if it could be proven scientifically that a fetus is a human life—she replied: “I don’t care. Of course I would support abortion.”

Yes, that’s pretty much the same attitude I have encountered over and over again among the stridently pro-abortion. They generally refuse to ponder when life begins, a question that isn’t difficult to answer and doesn’t have anything to do with religion. It’s always “mammograms this” and “back-alley that,” but never do they talk about that thing they’re sucking out of the womb with a shop vac.

When I heard Terri O’Neill’s “I don’t care” remark I was reminded of Planned Parenthood’s yearly advice to its fan club about how to discuss abortion over Thanksgiving dinner. For several years in a row the abortion giant has warned that “Debating when life begins…may get you nowhere.”

Yes, that’s true. Once the pro-abortion fanatics concede that there is no meaningful difference between a child five minutes before birth and a child five minutes after birth, the debate is basically over and they lose. They prefer to steer the conversation elsewhere, usually toward non-sequiturs and straw man arguments.

Planned Parenthood had yet more advice for your dinner table. “Instead focus on your shared values and the big picture; for instance, talk about how you believe everyone should be able to afford to go to the doctor, or how the decision about when and whether to become a parent is a personal one.”

Look! Squirrel! Of course procreative decisions are personal but the fact remains that if you’re pregnant that ship has already sailed. The kid already exists and you’re already a parent. The question is whether you and your doctor may legally conspire to snuff out the child’s life.

Not surprisingly, Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, doesn’t want to talk about when life begins either. Despite overseeing the world’s largest abortion provider she seems to have given the question very little thought. In the wake of last year’s Center for Medical Progress (CMP) undercover videos she appeared on “America with Jose Ramos” to engage in a little damage control. Ramos posed what he erroneously called a “philosophical” question: “For you, when does life start? When does a human being become a human being?”

Richards talked around in circles for about a minute without giving a straight answer so Ramos pressed a little harder. “But why would it be so controversial to say…when do you think life starts?” he asked. “Yeah. Well, I don’t know if it’s controversial,” she replied. “I don’t know that it’s really relevant to the conversation.”

Not relevant to the conversation! Yes, she really said that. The central question of the abortion issue is completely irrelevant to Cecile Richards. I don’t think it would be unfair to summarize her position as “I don’t care”—just like Terri O’Neill’s.
 
“For me, I’m the mother of three children,” Richards continued. “For me, life began when I delivered them. They’ve been probably the most important thing in my life ever since. But that’s my own personal decision.”

Her children’s lives began for her at birth. For some other woman life may begin at another time, earlier or later, but for Cecile Richards her children only became children when they ventured down the birth canal. Before that they were goo or an invasive parasite or something; anything but children. The reality of another person’s humanity is apparently a big mystery which we must all figure out for ourselves—or, more accurately, for other people who happen to be our offspring.

For people who say they want to keep religion out of the debate they sure seem to be stuck on the metaphysical. Their approach is at least “philosophical,” to borrow a word from Jorge Ramos, if not downright religious. They speak as if the genesis of life is a profound mystery, as if no one’s answer is wrong as long as it is sincerely felt and never pushed upon another woman. That’s quite simply insane. Other than the unborn, no one else’s humanity is discerned through the personal feelings of another person.

Most people, I believe, know in their heart of hearts that abortion is killing. Not all people, of course. There are a few people who don’t know much about biology or haven’t given the issue much thought. These people are easily swayed through relentless propaganda that a fetus is just two microscopic cells and remains in exactly that state until birth when it magically sprouts into a baby.

… But plenty of other people know better—particularly people who are intimately involved in the macabre procedure. These people have no illusions about the humanity of their victims but, like Terri O’Neill and Cecile Richards, they just don’t care. For example, two abortion industry figures seen in last summer’s CMP videos discussed children being born alive before an abortion could be performed. (See the third and sixth videos featuring Savita Ginde and Perrin Larton respectively.) That’s a good thing from their perspective because whole babies are very saleable.

In the third video, “Dr.” Ginde is seen parsing through baby parts in a petri dish. “Was that just the little bits of the skull?” asked the undercover videographer David Daleiden. “Mmm-hmm,” says Ginde. “I only see one leg. Here’s a foot. It’s a baby.”

It’s. A. Baby. She said the word that no Planned Parenthood shill would ever use in a public forum.

For those who insist on denying the humanity of the unborn I would ask that you defer to the experts—namely the people who kill them for a living. Don’t ask them the question on a talking heads show, of course, because they’ll lie. Ask them in the comfort of their own death chambers. When their guard is down, when they think they can trust you, they will drop all pretenses and tell it like it is.

A Planned Parenthood employee in Freehold, New Jersey spilled the beans in 2008 to a young female activist who was conducting an undercover video sting. “Is the baby born alive?” asked the young woman who was pretending to be 22 weeks pregnant. “Usually, for the most part no,” the nurse replied. “But it does happen where it’s still alive.” The young woman asked if such a procedure is really an abortion, to which the employee responded, “No, it’s an actual delivery. But it wouldn’t be able to survive on its own. So eventually the baby does die.”

This is the way people really talk inside abortion clinics. “Fetuses” are suddenly referred to as babies and “tissue” becomes feet and legs.

Abortion is a gruesome procedure that kills the most innocent among us. Most people instinctively know this and none more than the contract killers who perform abortions for a living. Yet the killing goes on and on with no end in sight.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Smart Diplomacy: Knowing who America's, and who the world's, true enemies are

Following a few remarks I read in a discussion on Facebook about how the money provided to Tehran was only Iran's to begin with, I wrote back with four points, as follows:

To provide you with an answer concerning Iran, we need to go back to the Cold War…

1) THE SOVIET UNION & RONALD REAGAN

Back in the 1980s, we heard — both from within the US and from people throughout Europe — what a terrible danger America was, what a danger this reactionary president, this clueless cowboy, represented to the world, why we should instead seek to find understanding with the Soviets, who were no worse than we in the West were, they are peaceful just like (in fact, more than) we are/were (remember the Sting song?), and why can't we all live together?

In other words: The problem was not the Soviets — don't be so silly — the problem was… that horrific peril, the United States of America (or the West in general) — more specifically, those monstrous American conservatives!

And the Gipper calling the USSR an "evil empire" — what a joke!
What a scandal that someone ought to be so backwards-thinking:
Don't The Russians Love Their Children Too?

After the wall came down — during which it turned out that all of Moscow's satellites couldn't get out of the Kremlin's sphere fast enough — Eastern Europe's new governments brought Soviet war plans to light: Poland "published a Warsaw Pact map showing detailed plans for Soviet nuclear strikes against western Europe" (no, not Fox News; the Guardian, the UK's most leftist daily).

One Soviet military map of Denmark had "only" five targets destroyed by nuclear bombs… Others featured 27 to 52 mushroom clouds.
"During the Cold War, the Soviet military mapped the entire world, parts of it down to the level of individual buildings. The Soviet maps of US and European cities have details that aren’t on domestic maps made around the same time, things like the precise width of roads, the load-bearing capacity of bridges, and the types of factories … The Soviet map of Chatham also includes the dimensions, carrying capacity, clearance, and even the construction materials of bridges over the River Medway" [Wired]
Most ominously, perhaps, Moscow had published common city maps (not military maps) of main cities for future use — all with the new names that the streets were going to get once they were in commie hands (Karl Marx Straat, l'Avenue Lénine, etc)…

In other words, might not the West's leftists have been wise to show a bit more skepticism with regards to Soviet-signed treaties and to the Kremlin's assurances of peaceful intentions?

2) "SMART DIPLOMACY" & IRAN etc…

What is the point of this?

Well, this brings us to today…

(No, I'm not comparing Reagan to Donald Trump, in no way — no way whatsoever — except perhaps for one detail: to point out that every four years, it turns out that whoever is the Republican nominee is described as a "fascist" and compared to no less than Adolf Hitler; finally, after 70 years, when one single candidate does seem to happen to come close to fitting the bill, it turns out that the electorate is unimpressed, due to the opposition having cried "wolf" too many times.)

No, I'm not addressing Donald Trump at all here; I'm talking about the most intelligent president ever to grace the Oval Office with his presence and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's second-to-none smart diplomacy

Of course, hasn't the above been the apologizer-in-chief's main contention for 8 years: that nobody is America's enemy, nobody is the world's enemy, except for… America itself, specifically its despicable conservative extremists?

And so we cozy up to countries like Cuba and Iran; don't the Cubans and the Iranians love their children too?

And again we hear the same type of refrain;
Oh, Obama's Iran move is no big deal; remember, it was Iran's money to begin with; it was just unfrozen; the Iranian nuclear program has been stopped.

This is The Russians Love Their Children Too narrative.

This is again the "it's all (or mostly) America's fault" scenario.

We must try to understand the Iranians, for America (and/or the West) was — illegally (!) — keeping Iran's money, suggesting that the only thing Iran's leaders wanted to do was use it like Western governments use it, building schools and hospitals, etc…

Reminder: the Iranian régime's assets were frozen for a very specific reason: because the Mullahs took over 50 diplomatic personnel (never mind whose country they belonged to) hostage in the late 1970s. During which time the ayatollahs, and the masses, chanted Death to America and Death to the West — cries that continue with as much alacrity today as they have done, continuously, for 40 to 50 years… In all that time, the ayatollahs have not hesitated to provide support for terrorists in the West, while their nation, the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, has showed no more concern for diplomatic niceties with Western governments and, indeed, a total lack of respect for same…

Besides, people who don't trust the Bushes, Ted Cruz, and… Ronald Reagan and their ilk suddenly become deeply trusting when it concerns foreign leaders, whether they be from Havana (believe us, Cuba has a far better education system than under Batista) or from Tehran (no nuclear weapons — we promise):
DISPATCHES FROM AMERICA’S NEWEST, FRIENDLIEST, MOST CURIOUS ALLIES:
“Cops have caught ‘hostile’ Iranian snoops shooting pictures and video at key city sites at least six times since 9/11 — twice the number previously reported.” Not to mention “a man named Mohammed Alavi was arrested for providing Iran with the floor plan of America’s largest nuclear power plant.”
Gosh, someone should tell Ben Rhodes and John Kerry about this stuff. I’m sure the president would want to know. [Instapundit]
As for Iran's nuclear program having been stopped, where have we heard that before? Oh right, in the 1990s, when another non-warmongering president in the White House sent a previous non-warmongering president to Pyongyang to "successfully" negotiate the end of North Korea's nukes.

Fast-forward to January 2016, when Kim Jong-un boasted that Pyongyang had just detonated its first hydrogen bomb…

If the New York Post is to be believed,
For all this, thank Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. North Korea couldn’t have done it without their gullibility.

Back in 1994, President Clinton prepared to confront North Korea over CIA reports it had built nuclear warheads and its subsequent threats to engulf Japan and South Korea in “a sea of fire.”

Enter self-appointed peacemaker Carter: The ex-prez scurried off to Pyongyang and negotiated a sellout deal that gave North Korea two new reactors and $5 billion in aid in return for a promise to quit seeking nukes.

Clinton embraced this appeasement as achieving “an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula” — with compliance verified by international inspectors. Carter wound up winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his dubious efforts.

But in 2002, the North Koreans ’fessed up: They’d begun violating the accord on Day One. Four years later, Pyongyang detonated its first nuke.
In other words, 12 years after this historic deal, Pyongyang showed that it had never had any to follow the piece of paper it duly signed, whether in spirit or in letter — and, as it were, that it had never had any respect for America or, for that matter, for any of America's politicians, especially the two presidents involved in the deal.

Are we allowed to ask the following question: What does the Iran deal bode for, say, 2028?

And how does it feel to get lectured by a Saudi citizen?
Saudi Prince Bandar: The U.S. nuclear pact with North Korea failed. The Iran deal is worse.
“Writing for the London-based Arabic news Web site Elaph, Badar suggests that President Obama is knowingly making a bad deal, while President Bill Clinton had made a deal with North Korea with the best intentions and the best information he had. . . . The Saudi prince says the new Iran deal and other developments in the region have led him to conclude that a phrase first used by Henry Kissinger – ‘America’s enemies should fear America, but America’s friends should fear America more’ – is correct.”  [Instapundit]
Meanwhile, Cuba was never asked to release a single political prisoner (indeed, Americans were told that they have lessons to learn from the Castro brothers' single-party political system) while Iran's Green Movement was allowed to be ruthlessly suppressed in 2009 with not a peep from the White House.

We keep hearing about the sins of America and of the West. Everyday "evidence" that show that women are allegedly not equal and the ignominy of a couple of U.S. bakers refusing to bake a cake for a wedding that they (rightly or otherwise) do not agree with; all the while, not a peep about Iranians engaging in honor killings and hanging homosexuals from cranes or throwing them off the rooftops of high-rises. (Well, maybe it's not a double standard; apparently, the standard is that the only country that must always, constantly, be demonized is America—or the West broadly depicted.)

3) THE ADMINISTRATION'S "SMART DIPLOMACY" ADVISER & THE PRESS

Must we ignore the New York Times magazine's interview with Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications — or as they dub him, “The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru,” who all but tells the Grady Lady that their reporting — and that the news we all of us read to stay informed — is basically worthless?

Lee Smith:
In Rhodes's "narrative" about the Iran deal, negotiations started when the ostensibly moderate Hassan Rouhani was elected president, providing an opening for the administration to reach out in friendship. In reality, as [the NYT's David Samuels] gets administration officials to admit, negotiations began when "hardliner" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was still president. It was Rhodes who framed the Iran deal as a choice between peace and war, and it was Rhodes who set up a messaging unit to sell the deal that created an "echo chamber" in the press.
"In the spring of last year," Samuels writes that
legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters. "We created an echo chamber," [Rhodes] admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. "They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say."

When I suggested that all this dark metafictional play seemed a bit removed from rational debate over America's future role in the world, Rhodes nodded. "In the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this," he said. "We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else. So we knew the tactics that worked." He is proud of the way he sold the Iran deal. "We drove them crazy," he said of the deal's opponents.
Gleefully blowing raspberries at U.S. conservatives: another example of geniuses knowing who America's, and who the world's, true enemies are!

And isn't that what Obama's policies, domestic as well as foreign, have been all about for the past eight years?


Should we ignore that with Obama's "peace in our time" in his second inaugural address, the Nobel Peace Prize winner echoed Chamberlain's hailing the Munich agreement with der Führer in 1938? Perhaps it doesn't matter, you think…
 … as William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection writes about Obama's maximum Kinsley-esque gaffe, "Obamaphiles can’t have it both ways. "Either, as they say, he’s the most brilliant speech writer ever who carefully crafts his texts to bring forward historical analogies — in which case he used the phrase deliberately which is frightening – or he’s way overblown and did it without realizing the significance."
4) SMART DIPLOMACY & RUSSIA

And this brings us back to the Soviet Union — or, rather, to Russia…

How has this wonderful new "smart diplomacy" worked out?

How about that Obama and Hillary reset with Russia (now that Russian warplanes buzz U.S. Navy vessels)?

Eight years ago we were told that once the crazy cowboy was out of office, and with someone of Obama's stature in the White House, the world (including Iran and North Korea) would respect America again and a new dawn of peace would arise…

Four years ago, Mitt Romney was mocked by Obama — and rebuked by, among others, the New York Times — for calling Russia America's "No. 1 geopolitical foe." "The 1980s, they're now calling to ask for their foreign policy back" sneered Barack Obama, "because, y'know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years."

(Reminder: Back during the 2008 election campaign, the foolish Sarah Palin was vilified for saying another incredibly dimwitted thing, that the election of a pacifist like Barack Obama to the White House "would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next." Gratefully, more intelligent people than the clueless Republicans, like those writing for Foreign Policy, were around in 2008 to remind everybody that in fact, such an invasion was, and is, "an extremely far-fetched scenario.")

Besides Ukraine (are we also going to be told that, like the billions of dollars were Iran's to begin with, the Crimea was/is Russian land? How about the former Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe?), here are some other headlines from the past 18 months, all from the New York Times or from (left-leaning) mainstream media newspapers:

An American Military Convoy in Europe Aims to Reassure Allies

Steeling for Battle in Poland Against a Newly Aggressive Russia

Poles Steel for Battle, Fearing Russia Will March on Them Next

Norway Reverts to Cold War Mode as Russian Air Patrols Spike

NATO to Expand Military Presence in Europe to Deter Russians

A new appraisal names the United States as one of the threats to Russia's national security for the first time

Russia to increase nuclear arsenal as U.S. plans more firepower in Europe

Welcome to Cold War 2.0 The risk of the Kremlin rolling the dice against NATO is real

And don't get us started on China and its saber-rattling in the South China Sea — a Major Chinese state paper just called for a military strike on Australian ships that enter the South China Sea — or on Turkey, which, following the coup (or disguised purge), is operating a rapprochement with Russia and seems as likely as not to pull out from NATO in the near future…

Excuse me if, while comparing the international scene between 2008 and 2016, one might tend to raise a voice of doubt that the world (never mind the Middle East alone) has become anything close to safer, much less remaining just as safe, or that America, and America's president, aka the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is/are more respected than under the "crazy cowboy" and other previous administrations…

To conclude with the subject with which this comment opened:

Incidentally, it's not just Americans who are enamored — rightly or otherwise — of Ronald Reagan, the man who Polandin 1964 said that there is a simple way to have peace — you can surrender. (The Gipper might have added that the way to make the surrender palatable was to pretend that we are always to blame, to convince the people that the fault is invariably ours…)

There is a bust of a world leader in Budapest; there is another memorial in Prague; in Poland, there is not one statue of this world leader — there are two. It is not Mikhail Gorbachev; nor is it Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi. It is a US president and that president is neither John "Mr. cool personified" Kennedy nor Jimmy "détente with the Soviets" Carter nor Barack "détente with every single one of clueless America's alleged enemies" Obama…

For some reason, they are all memorials to a former Hollywood actor

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Forget that ‘Avoid the passive’ rule: It’s for kids

Warnings against the passive have in fact been getting increasingly extreme for about a hundred years
writes Geoffrey Pullum (for the evidence, see the Lingua Franca blogger's article “Fear and Loathing of the English Passive“; thanks to Eugene Volokh).
So when I encounter a book that’s a bit better than the average, as I recently did, it’s only fair that I should comment. The Handbook of Good English (1982), by Edward D. Johnson,  also known as The Washington Square Press Handbook of Good English, is a bit more sensible on the topic than most works addressed to the general public in the past half century.

Johnson does begin by serving up a small portion of the usual unappetizing gruel, perhaps because he felt it was incumbent on any usage writer to do so. The usual half-truths are repeated: that actives are “simple and direct” (some are, some aren’t); that the passive “takes more words than the active” (marginally true sometimes, but often false); and that it “can be cumbersome and distracting” (he makes it sound like an elephant, or a deep-sea diving suit). But then things improve, as he goes on to explain that the passive “has its legitimate uses.”

“Don’t be afraid of the passive voice,” he says firmly. Adults “can forget that ‘Avoid the passive’ rule”: It’s for kids. “The passive voice is respectable, is capable of expressing shades of meaning that the active voice cannot express, and is sometimes more compact and direct than the active voice.”

When does the passive express a shade of meaning that the active doesn’t? In what could be called the finger-pointing use of long passives. A passive with a by-phrase lays stress on the agent. In The money was stolen by a man, judging from those footprints, Johnson points out, the passive ensures that the agent (a man) is at the end of its clause, where it naturally receives stress. The active (a man stole the money) would be stylistically worse.

And when is the passive more compact and direct? One class of such cases comprises Johnson’s “trouble-saving passive.” If you were to take a sentence like Smith was arrested, indicted, and found guilty, but the money was never recovered and try to wrestle it into the active voice, as so many writing guides insist you should, you would have to find subjects for all the active verb phrases.

You’d need subjects for arrested Smith (the police department? the county sheriff?), and indicted him (a grand jury, as in the U.S.? the Crown Prosecution Service, as in Britain?), and for found him guilty (a judge? a trial jury?), and for recovered the money (the detectives? some bank or post office? the people whose cash had been stolen?). Implementing this pointless and clumsy elaboration would make the sentence nearly twice as long.

Johnson also notes the utility of what he calls “the pussyfooting passive,” which he says “is essential in journalism” because “often the writer does not know who did something or is not free to say who did it, but he wants to say it was done.”

This is all true. In fact it seems hardly fair to call it pussyfooting. Consider the Wikipedia article on John F. Kennedy: Section 7 begins: “President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas … “; “he was shot once in the back,” and so on. Using an active with Lee Harvey Oswald as the subject at this point would be a distracting and pointless anachronism (Oswald has no place in the narrative of the shooting and the minutes following it). The passive is exactly the right choice.
Elsewhere, Geoffrey Pullum concludes:
 … this is where modern American writing instruction has brought us. Totally unmotivated warnings against sentences that have nothing wrong with them are handed out by people who (unwittingly) often use such sentences more than the people they criticize. … It’s the blind warning the blind about a nonexistent danger.
• Related: 5 Punctuation Marks That Look Nothing Like They Used To
• 10 Obscure Punctuation Marks That Should Really Get More Play
Did the Serial Comma Take a Hit?
The Case Against the Misuse and Overuse of [Square] Brackets (and Parentheses)