Monday, August 31, 2009

[Cackling delightedly]

Barack Obama: in the words of Vodkapundit, "the first man to prove the Peter Principle over-optimistic."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

As I was just saying...

...if you want those of us who disagreed with Teddy Kennedy's politics to pipe down and not be so gauche as to raise political disagreements during a time of mourning and of spiritual significance, then you had bloody well not recruit a kid to pollute the Prayers of the People during the Mass itself (!!!!!!!!!!) with the following ever-so-cute little variant on the standard liturgy:

“For what my grandpa called the cause of his life, as he said so often, in every part of this land, that every American will have decent, quality healthcare as a fundamental right and not a privilege, we pray to the Lord.”

If every conservative in the church had simply stood up at that point and walked out, it would have been less than the Kennedy family deserved. And had the same thing happened at a conservative politician's funeral, I'd lay even money that at least some of the liberals present would have walked out -- and if Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton had been in the crowd, then I'd've given you ten to one on those two guys personally.


By the way, I won't link to this particular post because of non-family-friendly language, but Protein Wisdom also has the line of the day. Many of us non-fellow-travelers have been disgusted (though of course not surprised) by the shameless rush on the Left to use Kennedy's death as a way to push health care, as though there were any acceptable reason to vote for a bill other than that it is in the best interests of the country. (If you weren't going to vote for the bill on its merits, but now that Teddy's dead you'll vote for it as a sentimental gesture, then the place for you is not the Senate, but someplace far less congenial where you can have no influence whatsoever on the public policies of this great nation.) But nobody had found the perfect way to capture that disgust in a single pithy line...until Darleen pulled it off:

"[N]ot even 24 hours could pass without them shamelessly running Teddy’s corpse up the flag pole and demanding we salute it by giving up our liberty."

Pretty much sums it up for me. Well done Darleen!

De mortuis nil nisi bonum

"Speak no ill of the dead," is one way to translate that classic Latin tag; but I prefer, "If you can't say anything good about a dead guy, don't say anything at all." Which is an excellent reason to say nothing at all about Teddy Kennedy.

But there are two problems with staying silent about "the Lion of the Senate." (Excuse me for a moment...okay, back. Sorry about that; had to rinse the bad taste out of my mouth there.) First of all, public figures become part of history and lessons must be learned from their legacy, and anybody who has gone to the trouble that Teddy Kennedy went to in order to remain a public figure, cannot reasonably hope to avoid blunt commentary on what that legacy is, even after his death.

But the bigger problem is that the Kennedy hagiography industry wants to tell the rest of us not to say anything bad about ChappaTeddy; which I would personally be happy to do for a decent period of mourning, at least, as long as the hagiographers would agree not to say anything false (including false by fallacy of emphasis) about Kennedy. If the hagiographers would restrict themselves to things along the line of the Anchoress -- "May God have mercy on his soul, as I hope to find mercy myself," basically -- then there would be nothing I would want to contribute to the conversation until a few months from now, at which point I would simply comment on Kennedy the same way I comment on FDR or LBJ, ad hoc, depending upon the political issue that happened to be under discussion.

But to have to listen to the 24/7 glorification of one the most repulsive public figures of twentieth century American, that really tries one's patience. It is especially trying when you remember, for example, how artfully Teddy turned Mary Jo's death into a "Kennedy curse" (if you have never watched Teddy's eleven-minute exercise in please-pity-me-so-that-I-don't-have-to-suffer-consequences-for-my-action speechifying, which we now know was in large part composed of lies, then you certainly ought to), in a speech containing what I consider to be the single most shamelessly hypocritical utterance in Cold-War-era American politics:
It has been written, 'A man does what he must, in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures, and that is the basis of all human morality.' Whatever may be the sacrifices he faces, if he follows his conscience -- the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow man -- each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of the [sic] past courage cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look in his own soul. I pray that I can have the courage to make the right decision.
You have to admire a man who can speak so honestly about struggling with the decision of whether or not to come clean and tell the truth about his actions, actions that cost an innocent young woman her life...oh, no wait a minute, he's not talking about how he ought to have done what was best for Mary Jo instead of spending time concocting an alibi to try to avoid persona consequences, and he's not talking about how he now needs to come clean with the people of Massachusetts about what he's done. He's talking about...well, let's just let him finish:
Whatever is decided, whatever the future holds for me, I hope that I shall have -- be able to put this most recent tragedy behind me and make some further contribution to our state and mankind, whether it be in public or private life. Thank you, and good night.
In other words, he's hoping that he can muster the "courage" to "put this most recent tragedy behind me" (instead of going to jail like anybody with a different surname would have done) -- and keep his Senate seat, as of course he did. "A man does what he must, in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures, and that is the basis of all human morality." The fact that Kennedy, under those circumstances, could utter those words, leaves one wondering how it is possible to avoid suspecting Kennedy of being completely bereft of either conscience or shame.

Then you hear a friend of his, who is trying to praise Kennedy with the standard line you get so often about how, "He wouldn't want us to be sad; he would be here making jokes to make us feel better..." Pretty standard thing to say at a wake, right? And Ed Klein is running along these lines, and he gets carried away since he's in a room full of fellow far-Left Kennedy-worshippers, and then...well, here's a transcript:
KLEIN: I think he'd be the last person who would want us...those he's left and, and full of bathos; I think he, he'd be...

DIANE REHM [hostess]: [helpfully, as Klein seems to be struggling to find words] He would come in with a big guffawing laugh and make us laugh too.

KLEIN: He would, and...yes, and he, you're so right, he would, and he'd probably have a joke to tell, as well...

REHM: [chuckling] At his own expense.

KLEIN: Well, you know, he'd...[starts to chuckle happily, having just thought of something that will show what a cool guy his buddy Teddy was] I don't know if you know this or not, but one of his favorite topics of humor was indeed Chappaquiddick itself. And he would ask people, "Have you heard any new jokes about Chappaquiddick?" [in tones of fond admiration] I mean, that is just the most amazing thing. It -- [suddenly realizing what he has just said, as the producers, presumably in horror, hit the button to play the "we're going to commercial now" music, and then desperately trying to salvage the situation] it's not that he didn't feel remorse about the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, but that he still always other side of everything and the ridiculous side of things, too.

REHM: [firmly, no longer chuckling] Ed Klein, former foreign editor of Newsweek and author of a new book on Teddy Kennedy; we will be taking more of your questions after this short break...
You may think I have transcribed this bit unfairly and imputed tone and motivations unreasonably; so by all means listen yourself here and draw your own conclusions. But I see no reason not to think that Klein has let a perfectly legitimate cat out of the bag -- and the imagination reels.

By the way, if you want to say, "That was a long time ago, why can't you let it go?" -- well, if there was the slightest bit of evidence that Kennedy had ever genuinely repented for what he did at Chappaquiddick and in the weeks that followed, I would say simply, "The man did an evil thing; he repented and confessed and sought forgiveness; and I say it should be granted to him." I have, for example, not been able to get out of my mind these past few days the example of John Profumo, onetime up-and-coming politician, who was discovered to have cheated on his wife. (And it turns out that I'm not the only one; Mark Steyn compares Kennedy's behavior to Profumo's in this column.) In Profumo's case, unlike Kennedy's, the girl he was amusing himself didn't wind up dead. But still, Profumo made his public confession of guilt, after a brief period of trying to wriggle out the noose -- and then resigned his public office, walked away from his political career for good, and...let's let wikipedia take it from here.
Shortly after his resignation Profumo began to work as a volunteer cleaning toilets at Toynbee Hall, a charity based in the East End of London, and continued to work there for the rest of his life. He "had to be persuaded to lay down his mop and lend a hand running the place", eventually becoming Toynbee Hall's chief fundraiser, and used his political skills and contacts to raise large sums of money. All this work was done as a volunteer, since Profumo was able to live on his inherited wealth.
. Now, that is what an honorable man does when he commits an uncharacteristically evil action. One feels that Lord Longford was reasonable in feeling "more admiration [for Profumo] than [for] all the men I've known in my lifetime." And had Kennedy reacted by living a life of penance and good works, rather than using political connections and dishonesty to keep a grip on a position of immense personal power that he clung to grimly literally for the rest of his life, then I would say of Kennedy, as I say of Profumo, "I hope that when I find myself face-to-face with my own sin, I respond to it with the courage and honesty and humility that man showed." Probably I wouldn't; probably I am much more like Kennedy than I am like Profumo...but to be compared to me, is not to be complimented.

You know what else is difficult? It's especially difficult to sit in silence when you remember the unprecedented venom and dishonesty of his unspeakable and inexcusable personal attack on Robert Bork, a speech which marks a stark and apparently irreversible turning point in the way Supreme Court nominations in particular and Washington politics in general were carried out. Only a man utterly without honor and utterly without ethics could have said the things Kennedy said with a straight face, knowing them, as he did, to be lies and grotesque exaggerations; only a man dedicated to partisan politics at the expense of all else including simple human decency could have launched that attack.

And it is especially difficult to sit in silence when you hear the likes of Melissa Lafsky say things like this:
So it doesn't automatically make someone (aka, me) a Limbaugh-loving, aerial-wolf-hunting NRA troll for asking what Mary Jo Kopechne would have had to say about Ted's death, and what she'd have thought of the life and career that are being (rightfully) heralded.

Who knows -- maybe she'd feel it was worth it.
Um...I find myself speechless.


Okay, here's the deal. If you want to take the line the Anchoress takes, I'll happily take it with you: Teddy Kennedy is somebody God loved, and there was no doubt a priest with him most of the way in his final months, and we may hope that he found his way to the repentance and mercy that we all will have to find when our time comes. And if that's all you want to say, then that's all I'll say, and we can be in agreement. And you can stop here; the rest of what I have to say, is not addressed to you.

If you want to try to convince me that Teddy Kennedy's life is being "rightfully heralded," in the sense that you want to try to convince me that Kennedy was a good man and a good Catholic, then the politest thing that I can tell you is that you are passing judgment on him when you call him good, in apparent refusal to weigh his actual behavior by any standard that I consider to be moral or rational, and that I can only do my best to refrain from passing my own judgment -- given that all the evidence available to me points to the conclusion that he spent most of his life as an evil and manipulative man, and therefore only the knowledge of my own ignorance of his spiritual state can stand in the way of my condemning him unservedly. His actions in personal life were, when he thought he could get away with it, shockingly often downright evil actions, and I know of no evidence that he repented of them. I can only plead ignorance of the psychological pain and motivations that lay behind those actions (any son of Joe Kennedy could hardly escape psychopathy of some sort), and my further ignorance of what happened spiritually in Kennedy's last days...which is to say, I can at best say, "I do not know for sure that Kennedy was an evil man, though he did many evil things." But then by that standard you cannot possibly say, "I know for sure that Kennedy was a virtuous man, for he did many virtuous things." I will agree not to spend the next two months saying that Kennedy was a sociopath, if you will agree not to spend the next two months saying that he was a nice guy once you got to know him. Fair enough?

But of Kennedy the politician, we most certainly can pass judgment. There is hardly a piece of catastrophic legislation from the past fifty years that doesn't bear his fingerprints, and insofar as he has influenced the way in which politics are done, that influence has been disastrously negative. It is not possible to calculate the price in personal devastation that has been paid by the citizens of this country, and especially the poorest and most vulnerable among us, by the folly and influence of this deeply wrongheaded but deeply powerful man. I cannot speak with confidence to the question of whether Kennedy's impact on those he knew privately was a net positive or a net negative, though certainly he would have to do a great deal of private good indeed just to get back to break-even after what he did to Mary Jo, and to his wife, and to the powerless waitresses and star-struck political groupies he used and discarded along the way. But I know that those harmed by all the statist legislation that Kennedy's hagiographers assure us would not have been passed without Kennedy's influence, number in the tens and perhaps hundreds of millions.

Now, God is able to bring good even out of great evil, and therefore my faith tells me that on that Day when all is revealed, we will be able to see how God has used Kennedy's folly and dishonesty and partisan malice to accomplish things Kennedy himself would never have imagined. But that is no excuse for Kennedy; "these things must come, but woe to him through whom they come." And these are great mysteries, of which we can but profess ignorance. If you are willing to say with me, "Whether the direct and humanly inferrable consequences of Kennedy's political actions was good or bad, Romans 8:28 still applies, and therefore we should focus on the good God will accomplish rather than on the harm that Kennedy did" -- well, I'm happy to go there with you, too; though that marks the end of the useful part of the conversation since the "good God will accomplish" is almost by definition something presently invisible to our fallen vision. But, yes, I'll very happily agree not to talk about how much harm Kennedy did to the country if you'll agree not to rhapsodize about how much good he did it.

But if you are going to insist on carrying on and on about what a wonderful human being Kennedy was and what a great Senator Teddy was, then at a certain point you had better be prepared to hear me eventually say two things:

1. On the humanly observable (non-8:28) level, the world in general, and America in particular, is a worse place today because Teddy Kennedy was born in 1963. He left the world worse than he found it, and his influence was profoundly negative. God save this nation from more politicians like that one.

2. God forbid that my personal life and my moral choices should remind anybody of Teddy Kennedy's, and may God forgive me for those times in my past where it already does.

On praise of Kennedy by Republican fellow Senators

Doesn't it strike you that almost all of the "he was a nice guy even though I disagreed with his politics" praise that Kennedy gets from his Republican colleagues, really reduces to nothing more than, "If you were somebody, like me, whom Kennedy found it useful to charm, then he could be very very very charming indeed?" It's as if Republican politicians have completely forgotten that charm and virtue have nothing whatsoever to do with each other, that charm is the indispensable requirement of every S.O.B. who wants to be able to get away with outrageous and sociopathic behavior, and that furthermore charm is the primary professional skill of the professional politician. Kennedy could charm you if he thought it worth his while. Okay. And that says what, exactly, about his character?

If I want to know what kind of person a man is, I don't ask how he treats the people he thinks he might need favors from later -- which would include, in Kennedy's case, pretty much every member of the media and every member of Congress. I ask how he treats the people whom he thinks he can treat as he wants without fear of repercussion...waitresses, for example, or starstruck young staffers whom he has gone to the trouble to get drunk, or young ladies who have been assaulted by his close relatives. If you tell me, sure, Kennedy left Mary Jo to a lingering death by asphyxiation and then spent the rest of his life collecting and being amused by Chappaquiddick jokes, but that's not so bad because when I arrived in Washington as a fellow Congressman he made an effort to charm me...sorry, but that doesn't make me think well of Kennedy's character. It just makes me think badly of your intelligence.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Delightfully, blissfully un-self-aware Democratic website of the day

Today we find ourselves over at Talking Point Memos, where I happened to notice a sidebar reference to John Mackey's outstanding op-ed on an approach to health reform that is quite different from (and quite a bit saner than) the One's. Now I've already pointed to that op-ed, and if you have read it, you will note the following points:

1. Mackey doesn't like the current system and wants to reform it. He is, therefore, emphatically in favor of health-care reform -- just not in favor of Obama's proposals, which he believes will make things even worse than they are now, and which upsets him precisely because he thinks it's really, really important to make sure Americans have access to good health care. To say that Mackey "opposes health-care reform" is...well, the most charitable description would be "clumsily misleading," assuming that one believes it is more charitable to believe that an adult person cannot read than it is to believe that he would deliberately create a false impression.

2. The one absolutely certain consequence of the Obamessiah's proposals is that the power of politicians such as Reid and Pelosi and The One Himself, would be immensely enhanced -- which is to say, that they would personally be vastly enriched in the only currency that politicans care about, which is political power. The conflict of interest that exists whenever a politician proposes laws that increase the power of politicians and reduces the individual's right to tell the politician to bugger off, is the elephant donkey in the room in every public debate involving Democratic politicans (and more than half the debates involving Republican politicians as well, Republican politicians being by and large politicians by essence and Republicans by chance). But the True Bara-meter Of All Virtue And Wisdom of course has nothing in view but the Good of the People. Well, the Good of the Right Sort Of People, at least.

John Mackey, however, is a business owner, and therefore presumptively evil. Sure, he has catered for years to a market sector consisting heavily of urban liberals who happen to have quite a bit more money than your average Joe, but there's always been something fishy about him that we can't quite put our finger on...oh, yeah, he's a business owner. And he's rich, like, he has more money than your average upper-middle-class urban liberal. Now, I mean, being rich can be forgiven if you're a Kennedy or a Kerry or an Edwards or you work in Hollywood and say the right sort of things about the wrong sort of people (namely Republicans), but you have to be suspicious of anybody who got money by identifying things other people need and figuring out how to meet those needs reliably and at low cost, rather than by inheriting it or being bribed by lobbyists to confiscate it on their behalf from taxpayers. I mean, these businessfolk are such bastards.

Now, Mackey's salary is $1 per year because he decided a while back that he didn't want to work for money any more. Furthermore, most of his arguments keep coming back to, "I've paid attention to what my employees say they need and want, and one thing they need is really good health care, and this is how we think we need to get there, because experience shows that going the direction Obama wants to go takes you to a place where people can't get the health care they need." Furthermore, by openly taking a position opposed to Obama while knowing perfectly well that most of his customer base will have a knee-jerk "boycott the bastard" reaction while spending precisely as much time on reading his actual op-ed as the average Democratic Congressman will spend reading the health-care bill he votes into law, Mackey knows perfectly well that the impact of his op-ed on Whole Foods revenues will be negative.

So what does Talking Points Memos tell its readers is going on here? Pretty simple:

1. John Mackey is opposed to reform and doesn't think Americans need health care.

2. He is doing this not because, like The One, he is genuinely concerned for the welfare of Americans, but because, unlike The One, he is out to expand his personal corporate empire.
But conveniently, [Mackey] also includes the following advice: "Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat."

Translation: Whole Foods is the solution to all of America's health care woes.

Translation: Mackey is merely trying to boost his corporation's profits. By, um, openly taking a position certain to infuriate well more than half his customer base. Oh, the cunning of it all!

I'll leave it to you, Gentle Reader, to decide whether my translation of TPM's point is more or less accurate than TPM's translation of Mackey's op-ed.

In a related item, can you believe the way those awful swastika-carrying Astroturf mobs are pretending that the President is saying things he isn't really saying at all? What kind of scumbag could sink so low as to misrepresent his opponents' views?

[chuckling] I swear, sometimes I think the Democratic Party has an initiation ritual in which the pledge is required to locate the part of his brain that provides self-awareness and a sense of irony, and lobotomize it. Thank God I actually know some reasonable Democrats in private life, because if the only Democrats I ever heard from were the ones who make all the noise and get all the air time, I'd be absolutely convinced that 50% of our electorate had gone clinically insane.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A genuinely fascinating point embedded within the Whole Foods opinion piece

Whole Foods president John Mackey has written an excellent op-ed piece demonstrating the idiocy of leaping from "the current system is unsustainable" to "therefore you should support whatever insanity the President and his far-Left cronies wish to impose since anything is better than what we have." He demonstrates it by the simple act of listing common-sense reforms which go in exactly the opposite direction from President Obama's "reforms," which would go miles toward solving the actual problems that we actually have, and which I think would get lots of support from most people...except the main donor base of the Democratic Party, which is drastically Left-of-center and is far more concerned with imposing a New World Order than with, you know, actually helping people be healthy.

The part I find most fascinating is this one:
At Whole Foods we allow our team members to vote on what benefits they most want the company to fund. Our Canadian and British employees express their benefit preferences very clearly—they want supplemental health-care dollars that they can control and spend themselves without permission from their governments. Why would they want such additional health-care benefit dollars if they already have an "intrinsic right to health care"? The answer is clear—no such right truly exists in either Canada or the U.K.—or in any other country.
Exactly. The reason they want those supplemental dollars is, of course, that in these countries where health care is "free," you can't get a simple cholesterol exam unless you're willing to fork out $900. Welcome to the wonderful world of Something For Nothing. I mean, you did believe the liberals when they promised it to you, right?

This is pretty good

In fact it's outstanding. You are welcome to suspect Crowder of special pleading; but then I've been interested in this subject for a decade and if anything he understates the problem. I'll vouch personally for the accuracy of his analysis; but he presents it far more entertainingly than I would be able to.

In particular, note that at two different government health care outlets, the staff there told Crowder's friend that the only solution available to him was to go pay $900 -- at a private clinic. I think my favorite bit is when the friendly helpful nurse at one clinic, in giving Crowder's buddy advice on how to go about getting a cholesterol test, tells him that he needs to put in his two or three years on the waiting list for a family doctor -- yes, you heard that right, two to three years on the waiting list to get a family doctor -- but that that's okay because "you're young, you have time." (This section runs from the 7:25 mark to 7:45, if you can't really believe that it's possible to be told such a thing by a woman who is actually well-intentioned and wants to be helpful.) Canadian health care is free, you see, in about the same sense that it's free for me to have the government send me on a joyride into space, which is to say that you don't get charged money to fail to receive a service...oh, wait a second, in Canada (thanks to those taxes) you do get charged money to fail to receive service. A helluva lot of money, in fact.

Or, as the nurse helpfully points out, he could pay $900 at the private clinic...if he happened to be one of the Canadians who had enough money left over after the exorbitant taxes Canadians pay, and the absurdly high cost of living, to have $900 spare dollars lying around to spend on a cholesterol test.

I also love the part with Diane...I mean, I don't love the fact that her mother unnecessarily lost her leg to the waiting list; that's exactly the reason that I think that whole system is evil in its end results as well as in its means, and I use that word "evil" in its full, literal, technical and carefully considered sense...what I mean is, I love the way Diane frames her disgust with the Amazing Wonderful Single-Payer System That We Americans Should All Emulate Even Though It Literally Treats People Worse Than Dogs:

DIANE: ...because I have a dog, and if I want to get a blood test for him at the vet, it takes me 15 minutes and costs ten dollars and I have the results.

STEPHEN: And it's private?

DIANE: Well, yeah, it's private -- he's a vet. I'd be willing to pay ten dollars to have my blood tests right away too.

If you aren't prepared to explain to me why you believe that Obama's health care program won't fall afoul of exactly the same economic laws that have savaged the NHS in Britain and the single-payer system in Canada, then don't bother wasting my time telling me about how our current system is "unsustainable" and that anything is better than what we have., frankly. You could make the system catastrophically worse than it already is. You could implement Obamacare.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mr. President, please add me to the list...

…of individuals who think that this whole health care plan of yours is either the lunacy of economic barbarians with the approximate cumulative IQ of a small school of goldfish who were oxygen-deprived at birth, or else a shamelessly dishonest attempt grossly to extend the reach and power and intrusiveness of federal government into private life, by persons with neither honesty nor honor who couldn't care less about how much irreversible damage they do to our health, our economy, and our liberties, so long as they can temporarily pacify their insatiable craving for ever more power. I will happily be expressing this opinion to anybody interested in it right up until your jackboots crush my windpipe. As this makes me by definition a liar and a member of the swastika-toting mob, your list would be incomplete without my name. As it is difficult to think of any roster on which it would be more honorable to appear, I demand to be placed thereon.

What an inconvenience that First Amendment must be for you and all of your fellow…I tell you what, I will generously allow you the opportunity to choose your own derogatory term to complete this sentence, stipulating only that it must be an extremely non-Baptist one.

And how utterly unfit to be the leaders of a free people you are. "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism..." Unless, of course, the Obamessiah is the One against whom the free citizen dares to direct his dissent. As my father always told me, nobody fears debate more than the man who knows he has no case. And not since Richard Nixon has this country seen a President less capable of facing disagreement with grace and equanimity.

I attach my name, Social Security number, address and telephone number for your Big-Brotherly convenience.

Yours most sincerely,

Darrell Kenneth Pierce, Jr.
Social Security # [omitted from the blog but not from the actual e-mail]
731 South Marathon Way, Stafford, Texas, 77477
Telephone number 832.643.8820