This is your old friend, BTL, signin’ out for a couple of weeks. See ya late on the 14th. Meanwhile, stop by and keep Miss Aggie company. She’ll leave the light on for you and a pot of coffee on the stove.
Archive for July, 2011
Yesterday, analysts thought the economy was expanding by 2.5% a year. This morning, they learned GDP grew by only 1.6% in the last four quarters. This is a remarkable discovery. It’s the difference between thinking we’re expanding at a decent, if disappointing, pace, and knowing we’re growing around half our historical norm.
The chart above is for unemployment.
This chart covers economic output:
The new numbers are going to drag that line down a bit, I’m afraid. Obama’s wreckovery will no longer be the worst since WWII, but the worst by a wide margin.
Like we been tellin’ you.
Thanks to Judi for sending us this. I weigh in below, so don’t scroll down too far
The NY Times wrote about it last year here.
My take: it’s very sweet and beautifully made, but how representative is it? Maybe that doesn’t matter in art. But it clearly tries to make us feel something, and I just have to ask what and why. A Hitler Youth boy does something noble for a Jewish girl, both in their youth and then later when they’re both old. I’m sure that happened. Occasionally. But the old woman lives in the same house she hid in as a girl. How often did that happen? Were there other people in hiding there, or were they taken away?
I guess I’m too cynical. I did choke up a bit, but I felt so manipulated, it seemed my tear ducts were being massaged to produce a drop.
So Peggy Noonan wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal saying that nobody loves Obama, people will vote for him out of hatred for conservatives, but they don’t like the guy anymore.
Noonan said she asked Democrats who supported Obama how they felt about him. She got a lot of comments that backed up her claim. But she didn’t talk to my ex, Giuseppe, an Italian who came to this country to pursue the American Dream and fell head over heels for Barack Obama in 2007. He was the first person I heard speak about the then-Illinois senator in Messianic terms that made me uncomfortable. As a result, Giuseppe has become my Obama barometer. If the president loses Giuseppe, he’s sunk.
Giuseppe remains firmly in the president’s corner.
I asked him to read Noonan’s op-ed and to send me his reaction. Read it for yourself.
Don’t believe her!
I LOVE the guy, and I LOVE the family.
Instinctively. I connect to him like I have never connected with any politician EVER before .?.?. here or in Italy.
The man could be my friend. He speaks my language, he is smart, he is funny. I could hang out with him any time. I feel I would talk to him or share my life with him like he was you, or Marques, or Willie, or Maurice or ada!
I guess Noonan doesn’t know nobody like us! Or more simply she is just practicing the most popular sport among conservatives. .?.?. which is ganging up on him .?.?. cause he is too smart, real and genuine in a way that they could never be ..?.?.because they live in another reality, one that is shrinking up around them.
It’s time for these people to start realizing that this country and this world do not revolve around them and that they DEFINITELY are NOT the future of this country! And what they believe in and want will matter less and less, it’s just a matter of time.
Take that, Peggy!
Hama is a Syrian town in which at least 20,000 citizens were murdered by the Syrian government when Assad’s father was the dictator. Today they are under attack again.
Before we start, is it random to wonder what’s going on in Libya? And if we are part of a bombing campaign to remove Khaddafi, why are we silent about Assad?
At least 45 civilians were killed in a tank assault on the city of Hama on Sunday to crush pro-democracy protests, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, quoting hospital officials in the city.
Scores of people were wounded and blood for transfusions was in short supply, a doctor who did not want to be identified said by telephone from the city, which has a population of around 700,000.
“Tanks are attacking from four directions. They are firing their heavy machineguns randomly and overrunning makeshift road blocks erected by the inhabitants,” the doctor said, the sound of machine gun fire crackling in the background.
Hama was the scene of a massacre in 1982 when Assad’s father, the late president Hafez al-Assad, sent his troops to crush an Islamist-led uprising, razing whole neighborhoods and killing up to 30,000 people in the bloodiest episode of Syria’s modern history.
We don’t hear much about any of this, do we? I wonder why not?
Won’t see this among the bitches on the pitches of Saudi Arabia:
Following are excerpts from a TV program on women’s sports in Saudi Arabia, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on July 8, 2011.
Rima Abdallah: It was about six years ago. At first we would play in closed areas behind fences, so nobody would know. At some point, I realized that this must be developed, so I turned to the media to make the authorities see that there are women who have the right to represent the country one day, in a manner pleasing to Allah, in keeping with our traditions and the shari’a. We kept on playing this way. We paid all the expenses out of our own pockets. We did not have our own soccer fields, so we had to rent them. We looked only for secluded soccer fields, so that men would not go there.
About a year ago, a women’s soccer tournament was held in Bahrain, and I’m sad to say that the only team that did not participate was the Saudi team.
Host: Among the Gulf countries?
Rima Abdallah: Among all the Arab countries. Kuwait, Oman, and some other Gulf states participated, as well as Arab countries.
Host: Except Saudi Arabia?
Rima Abdallah: Right. We asked to participate, but because we are not recognized by FIFA or the Saudi Soccer Association, our request was denied.
The entire Saudi people must be made aware of the fact that Saudi women have been ranked as having the highest obesity rate due to immobility. In addition, 94% of Saudi women suffer from diabetes.
I hope with all my heart that one day, I will participate [in a soccer tournament] and raise my country’s flag, in a manner pleasing to Allah. There are Arab women’s teams in which they all play with hijabs and long clothing, which fully covers the body, but does not affect their performance on the field.
They like to play hoops, too:
Host: What do you wear when you play?
Hadir Sadqa [Basketball player]: If it is a closed court, with only women present, we wear this.
Host: Can you show us… It has no sleeves…
Hadir Sadqa: True, but anyone who wants to wear
Host: What about the bottom part of the costume?
Hadir Sadqa: We wear shorts.
Host: Regular shorts, up to the mid-thigh, right?
Hadir Sadqa: No.
Host: That’s what you wear when you are with women only?
Hadir Sadqa: Yes.
Hadir Sadqa: Down to the knees. The same goes for the Al-Ahli and Al-Hilal clubs.
Host: But only in the company of women.
Hadir Sadqa: But when we appear in the media or when the audience includes men, we wear long white clothes, and dress according to the shari’a, in addition to sports clothes
Host: You wear a hijab?
Hadir Sadqa: Yes.
Host: Like the black one you’re wearing?
Hadir Sadqa: A white one.
Host: What if during the game, your head-covering falls off?
Rima Abdallah: There are special head-coverings, like masks. Our Syrian sisters have head-coverings like masks. Nothing can budge them.
I’m not unsympathetic (up to a point): A Jewish girl wanted to wear a t-shirt under her uniform out of modesty, and she was nearly disqualified for it.
Heck, I’m old enough to remember when the college guys wore t-shirts under their unis because they thought it was cool.
One of our favorite subjects: there is the Israeli way of handling illegal immigrants, and there is the Egyptian way:
The vehicle of an IDF regiment commander was damaged early Friday after Egyptian forces apparently fired at a group of infiltrators trying to cross into Israel.
No injuries were reported in the incident.
The unusual incident took place some 30 kilometers north of Eilat. The IDF force, which was made up of reservists, was engaged in anti-infiltration operations and spotted a group of some 10 people, apparently Sudanese, trying to enter Israel.
Egyptian troops in the area fired at the infiltrators, wounding a female lightly and hitting the regiment commander’s jeep.
Military officials in the IDF’s Southern Command launched a probe into the incident early Friday, initially believing that the soldiers were shot at by criminals engaged in smuggling operations. However, later it became increasingly apparent that the Egyptian army was responsible for the fire.
What was unusual about it? Maybe that no black people were killed. Usually the Egyptians nail at least one in the back. I guess shooting practice has slacked off under the new regime.
PS: It’s not that Israel wants illegal immigrants infiltrating its territory; it’s just that Israel has different methods of dealing with them.
That’s okay, dude. They called Samuel Adams a terrorist, too:
It has become commonplace to call the tea party faction in the House “hostage takers.” But they have now become full-blown terrorists.
They have joined the villains of American history who have been sufficiently craven to inflict massive harm on innocent victims to achieve their political goals. A strong America has always stood firm in the face of terrorism. That tradition is in jeopardy, as Congress and President Barack careen toward an uncertain outcome in the tea party- manufactured debt crisis.
Hey, I think he’s talking about me!
Or, as the ancient TV commercial might have put it: “That little old bomb-maker, me.”
But if I’m going to be called a “full-blown” terrorist (shouldn’t I be dead, then, having already fully blown?), much less a “hostage taker” and a “craven” villain, willing to “inflict massive harm on innocent victims to achieve [my] political goals”—and that’s in just two paragraphs!—I’d at least like to be introduced.
William Yeomans joined the faculty of law [American University, Washington College of Law] in 2009. From 2006 until 2009, he served as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s Chief Counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He has also been Legal Director of the Alliance for Justice and the first Director of Programs for the American Constitution Society, where he spearheaded the launch of its two publications: the Harvard Law and Policy Review and Advance. Prior to that, he spent 26 years at the Department of Justice where he litigated and supervised civil rights cases in the federal courts involving voting rights, school desegregation, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, hate crimes, police misconduct, abortion clinic violence, and human trafficking. He served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Chief of Staff, and acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.
If I’m ever in a jam, he’s going to be my first call, no doubt. “I ain’t talkin’, copper. Not until I talk to my lawyer—Mister William Yeomans, Esq. Till then, screw!”
But who is someone schooled in civil rights, hate crimes, and abortion clinic violence to call me a terrorist? I don’t hate anybody. (Is the polygraph on?) And the only violence at abortion clinics that concerns me is against the unborn—and that’s entirely legal!
So, again I ask what right or training does he have to call Tea Partiers terrorists? (I am not a member of any Tea Party, btw, but I’m supportive of and sympathetic to their political goals.)
To the extent that the Tea Party can be described as an entity, rather than a grass-roots movement, it was founded by like-minded Americans concerned at governments overreaching, the necessary spending to fund that overreaching, and the tax consequences from that spending. TEA has even been said to stand for Taxed Enough Already.
Terrorists? Hostage-takers? But he’s not kidding; in fact, he’s repeating:
As we stumble closer to Aug. 2, it has become clear that many in the tea party are willing to inflict massive harm on the American people to obtain their political objective of a severely shrunken federal government. Their persistence in rejecting compromise, even as the economic effects of the phony crisis they have created mount, has taken their radicalism beyond tough negotiating, beyond even hostage-taking.
If I’m a terrorist, who’s terrified of me? Saul? Joe? Carol? Ha!
But you know who I find terrifying? A so-called civil rights lawyer who sides with big government over the individual. What armies does the Tea Party command? What officers of the law answer to it? What czars does it appoint and what signing orders does it write?
Yet what are civil liberties, but rights against government? If I am mistreated by a company, I can sue. But I can’t take the government to court unless I can prove they violated my civil liberties.
This man, who is trained and paid to defend civil liberties, would sell out his fellow citizens to the whims and fancies of government fiat—Democrat government fiat—at the drop of a beret.
And what, pray tell, in his training demonstrates he knows the first thing about government finances and debt limits? He’s just another academic socialist (see service to Ted Kennedy above) shooting off his mouth. Don’t need a degree for that, although it doesn’t hurt.
Coalition-building among the Palestinians: it’s a bitch.
Former Fatah Central Committee member Mohammed Dahlan slammed Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, saying that he is a dictator and a bully.
Voice of Israel radio presented Dahlan’s remarks which he made to a Kuwaiti-based newspaper. According to the report, Dahlan said that Abbas is “trying to establish a dictatorship in a period of post-dictatorships. Those who cannot bend the law according to their liking turn to methods of bullying.”
Dahlan made the comments in the wake of Thursday’s raid by the PA on his Ramallah home.
During the raid, armed police locked Dahlan in a room and confiscated computers, 16 weapons and 12 of his and his bodyguards’ vehicles, including two bullet-proof cars.
Dahlan was the ruling kingpin in Gaza until Hamas overthrew the Fatah faction in a terrorist militia war four years ago. He has built a personal political and financial empire that Abbas sees as threatening to his power.
Dahlan has been banned from Fatah and has even been accused by PA officials of sending Israeli arms to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
A rabid hater of Israel, Dahlan has had his diplomatic privileges revoked by Israel.
I feel ya, Mohammed. In high school it was always enough to hate the same people. But then you learn there’s more to life than cliques and geeks and freaks.
But even though you lost your Gaza stash, 16 weapons, 12 vehicles (two bullet proof), and untold numbers of body guards aren’t bad for a guy on his second fortune. Ruling kingpin you were, and here’s hoping ruling kingpin you become once again.
Show us the look, Mohammed, please? Just once, for old time’s sake?
Oh yeah, baby! Killer. That look says “I own your Abbas!”
What do bullies and BTL have in common? Nothing. I just wrote that to remind myself to let you know that I saw a sheriff’s posse chasing him out of town. I think he can slip back in in a couple of weeks. I hope you hang around to keep me company, because it is lonely here without him.
I have been thinking about bullies lately. Who do you think will get the blame if the debt ceiling isn’t raised? Will your friends and neighbors blame you; will your Senator call you a Terrorist, as Al Franken, Senator from Minnesota recently did? I think that the ’60′s generation, in reaction to the bullying tactics of Richard Nixon, became the Dirty Tricksters of our time. What is a Community Organizer, after all? Isn’t that just a polite way to say bully?
The MSM actively tried to blame Jared Loughner on Sarah Palin! Now they are using an even broader brush to pin blame on conservatives for the actions of the Norwegian terrorist. But is that really just politics as usual?
First, I’d like to turn to the American Muslim who was stopped before committing an assault at Fort Hood, Texas this week. The media didn’t find him to be very interesting, but reader Jeannette fills us in a bit:
According to the Associated Press Pfc. Naser Abdo was born in Texas to a non-denominational Christian mother and a Muslim father. He said he became a Muslim when he was 17.
The father, Jamal Abdo, 52, is a Jordanian who lived near Fort Hood in Killeen for 25 years until he was deported from the United States last year after being convicted of soliciting a minor. Jamal Abdo and his wife divorced in 1993. Today he lives in Fuhais, Jordan.
Jordanians are usually Palestinians, BTW. And the young man was found with child porn on his computer, so we can say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Ok, back to our main feature, an interview with prison psychiatrist, Theodore Dalrymple.
Theodore Dalrymple worked as a prison doctor and psychiatrist in Britain for 15 years. He’s known serial killers, petty thieves and everything in between. As he puts it, with a mischievous grin, “I’ve probably spent more time in prison than the average murderer.”
It’s a beautiful summer day in the south of France, and Dr. Dalrymple is holding forth on what we can—and can’t—know about the mind of a mass murderer like the Oslo shooter, Anders Behring Breivik. “I don’t think we’ll ever understand” what makes a person capable of this kind of premeditated murder, Dr. Dalrymple tells me over lunch. What’s more, he says, “we don’t even know what it is to understand. At what point do you say, ‘Aha! Now I understand!’” he asks.
Dr. Dalrymple is the pen name of Anthony Daniels, author of more than a dozen books of scathing social commentary on everything from crime to travel to, most recently, what he calls “the toxic cult of sentimentality” in modern society. In his writing and in conversation, he returns frequently to the criminals he’s known and treated.
Your garden-variety convicts, he contends, are much simpler subjects than a man like Breivik. To ask them why they steal, he says, “is like asking you why you have lunch.” They want something, so they take it. “And since in Britain,” he adds with a smirk, “the state does very little to discourage [thieves],” or to incarcerate them when they are caught, “the question is not why there are so many burglars, but why there are so few.”
Tell us about the Norwegian Euro-Supremicist, please.
A Breivik is a deeper mystery. Of him, “you can say, ‘This man is highly narcissistic, paranoid and grandiose,’” and this may lead you to seek reasons for that in his past—”his father disappeared at the age of 15 and so on and so forth.” But uncovering such facts doesn’t solve the mystery because “whatever you find, you would also find among hundreds or thousands or even millions of people who didn’t do what he did.” There is, he says, “always a gap between what is to be explained and your alleged explanation. So there’s always a mystery, and I think that’s going to remain.”
And that’s the point, isn’t it? How many people read conservative blogs and don’t buy tons of fertilizer to make a bomb to blow up a building? Do you know anyone in your life that fits that description – reads conservative blogs, doesn’t make bombs?
Does this tell us anything about human beings as a whole? First of all, we can conclude that most people just don’t have the desire to commit mass murder, whether they think Stalin was a great guy or Hitler is their hero or they are simply Red Sox fans. They just don’t behave that way. But, we know that some people do.
The human impulse to explain the inexplicably horrific is revealing, according to Dr. Dalrymple, in two respects—one personal, one political. First, it says something about us that we feel compelled to explain evil in a way that we don’t feel about people’s good actions. The discrepancy arises, he says, “because [Jean-Jacques] Rousseau has triumphed,” by which he means that “we believe ourselves to be good, and that evil, or bad, is the deviation from what is natural.”
For most of human history, the prevailing view was different. Our intrinsic nature was something to be overcome, restrained and civilized. But Rousseau’s view, famously, was that society corrupted man’s pristine nature. This is not only wrong, Dr. Dalrymple argues, but it has had profound and baleful effects on society and our attitude toward crime and punishment. For one thing, it has alienated us from responsibility for our own actions. For another, it has reduced our willingness to hold others responsible for theirs.
“Most people,” Dr. Dalrymple says, “now have a belief in the inner core of themselves as being good. So that whatever they’ve done, they’ll say, ‘That’s not the real me.’” He recalls an inmate he once encountered: “I remember one particular chap who’d thrown ammonia at his girlfriend’s face because he was jealous. He denied he’d done it. And the evidence was overwhelming that he had done it. So I said, ‘Why did you say you didn’t do it?’”
He delivers the convict’s response in a convincing working-class English accent quite different from his own, more refined, speech: “Well, I’m not like that,” the man told him. “I don’t do them things.” Dr. Dalrymple explains that “for him, his core was more real than what he’d actually done.” It turned out that the man had been to prison before—”and it was for throwing acid in his girlfriend’s face.”
So let’s talk about religion for a minute. I think that religion is terrific, but let’s face it, it doesn’t usually stop … shall we call it man-made horror. In some instances it encourages man-made horror. (And so does secularism, incidentally. See: Stalin)
Dr. Dalrymple suggests that a similar self-detachment could have been at work in the mind of Anders Breivik. As the world now knows, courtesy of his 1,500-page manifesto, Breivik “did actually have, perverse as it was, a political purpose.” He had a worldview and a vision, however deranged, of what was needed to achieve it. And, says Dr. Dalrymple, “I assume that when he was shooting all those people, what was in his mind was the higher good that he thought he was doing. And that was more real to him than the horror that he was creating around him.”
In itself, having a worldview that shapes our attention, informs even what we believe to be real, is perfectly normal. It may even be essential. “After all,” Dr. Dalrymple says, “having a very consistent worldview, particularly if it gives you a transcendent purpose, answers the most difficult question: What is the purpose of life?”
Having a purpose is usually a good thing. “One of the problems of our society,” Dr. Dalrymple says, “is that many people don’t have a transcendent purpose. Now it can come from various things. It can come from religion of course. But religion in Europe is dead.”
Dr. Dalrymple argues that the welfare state, Europe’s form of civic religion, deprives its citizens even of the “struggle for existence” as a possible purpose in life. One alternative, then, is “transcendent political purpose—and that’s where what [Breivik's] done comes in.” Such a political purpose doesn’t lead inexorably to fanaticism, violence and murder. “But my guess,” Dr. Dalrymple offers, “is that this man, who was extremely ambitious, didn’t have the talent” to realize his ambitions, whether in politics or other fields. “So while he’s intelligent he didn’t have that ability or that determination to mark himself out in a way that might be more—constructive, shall we say.”
Well, I respect that doctor and understand his need to find order in chaos. But I think what he’s saying is nonsense. If it were true, then in periods of deprivation we would see fewer mass murderers. But we don’t. And sometimes, out of severe deprivation, as in post WWI Germany, we see a mass movement to destroy millions of lives. Individual lunatics forming a government and the rest of the population joining in, gleefully.
But here I agree completely:
Some have sought to link Breivik’s violence to his political thinking. The New York Times ran a story Monday about Breivik’s fondness for certain American anti-Islamist blogs. And a parade of politicians on the European right have felt compelled to step forward and condemn Breivik’s killing spree—as if afraid that silence might somehow imply sympathy. Dr. Dalrymple himself, he says, is quoted indirectly “several times” in Breivik’s manifesto, “and that,” he says, “is slightly anxiety-provoking.” In the first place, it’s never pleasant to find yourself in the company, however unwillingly or unwittingly, of a man like Breivik.
He has another worry, “that what he’s done will be taken as a reason to close down all kinds of debate,” or to delegitimize the views of anyone who, as Dr. Dalrymple puts it, “question[s] anything that the current prime minister of Norway says or believes.”
“Here is a man,” Dr. Dalrymple says, “behaving like this and quoting all kinds of people, some of whom I admire or agree with.” But to suggest that the views of those thinkers (including himself) somehow contributed to the killing in Oslo, he argues, makes no sense. “It’s like somebody saying that if you believe, for example, that bankers were irresponsible during the [2008 global financial] crisis, you are leading inexorably to the killing of three bankers in the bank in Athens,” as happened during one of the recent anti-austerity protests there.
Another modern impulse in trying to understand men like Breivik is what Dr. Dalrymple calls “a kind of neuroscientific investigation combined with Darwinism, which tries to persuade us that we understand something that perhaps Shakespeare didn’t understand” about human nature. “And of course,” he allows, “there are things we understand that we didn’t understand in Shakespeare’s time. But the idea that we have finally plucked out the heart of the mystery of existence is drivel.”
The media are essentially playground bullies. They are attempting to establish and control the conversation, to limit coverage of events that don’t support their rhetoric and to pound on events that do support it. That’s why the first time I’ve heard about the three murdered bankers in Athens is just now, and its why we won’t learn much about the attempted attack on Fort Hood. Bullying is part of us and it ebbs and flows. The amount of social bullying going in on the media today reminds me very much of the 1950′s in the United States, the McCarthy era.
And, Dr. Darlymple is a European, and therefore is closer to imagining a world of state-sponsored bullying. Get a load of this:
“Supposing,” he says of Breivik, “you examine him and you come to the conclusion that this, that and the other factor went to create the situation. You wouldn’t have any more than a statistical generality.” But if that statistical correlation could be verified, could it lead to “locking up people before they’ve done anything”?
This is not quite as far-fetched as it might seem, according to Dr. Dalrymple. At one point, “the British government . . . wanted doctors to speculate on what people might do” and to offer law enforcement their views about who was likely to become dangerous. But human knowledge, and even more so human judgment, being fallible, “any factor you find that makes them likely to become dangerous isn’t going to be 100%. It’s unlikely to be even 20%. So in order to prevent one incident, you’d probably have to lock up hundreds of people.
‘So actually there’s a potentially extremely totalitarian or at least authoritarian aspect to this drive to understand what essentially is not finally understandable.”
There would also be a human cost to achieving that kind of understanding. Perfect understanding, if it could be attained, would allow perfect manipulation of others—we could “play on each other like a pipe,” Dr. Dalrymple says, echoing Hamlet’s accusation toward Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
And that would not be a change for the better. What’s more, if we understood each other perfectly, “we’d know exactly what each other are thinking—and that would be horrific,” he insists. “At least if my thoughts are anything to go by.”
Lots of nuance here; Leftists should love it. Or would they rather just continue to batter their political enemies in the pages of the NY Times?
Turn that frown upside-down, friends. Put on a hopey-changey face.
And bury your money in the cellar.
The economy expanded at meager rate of 1.3 percent annual rate in the spring after scarcely growing at all in the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department said Friday.
The combined growth for the first six months of the year was the weakest since the recession ended. The government revised the January-March figures to show just 0.4 percent growth — down sharply from its previous estimate of 1.9 percent.
High gas prices and scant income gains have forced consumers to pull back sharply on spending in the spring.
Stock futures fell after the report was released.
“These numbers are extremely bad,” said Nigel Gault, an economist at IHS Global Insight. “The momentum in the economy is clearly very weak.”
The sharp slowdown means the economy will likely grow this year at a weaker pace than last year. Economists don’t expect growth to pick up enough in the second half of the year to lower the unemployment rate, which rose to 9.2 percent last month.
Huh. I am flabbergasted. Who could have predicted this sad state of affairs?