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May 29, 2007

Thanks, Michael!

I've long believed that Michael Moore may very well be more valuable to the right than to the left. In this vein, Moore's recent publicity stunt for his movie "Sicko," which involved transporting sick 9/11 first responders to Cuba for treatment, seems to have provoked a long overdue dialog.

As a result, the New York Times (which is certainly no friend to the American health care or drug industries) throws some cold water on the hard left's most cherished articles of faith -- the deluded belief in a utopian Cuban health care system.

“Actually there are three systems,” Dr. Cordova said, because Cuba has two: one is for party officials and foreigners like those Mr. Moore brought to Havana. “It is as good as this one here, with all the resources, the best doctors, the best medicines, and nobody pays a cent,” he said.

But for the 11 million ordinary Cubans, hospitals are often ill equipped and patients “have to bring their own food, soap, sheets -- they have to bring everything.” And up to 20,000 Cuban doctors may be working in Venezuela, creating a shortage in Cuba. . . .

Until he had to have emergency surgery last year, Fidel Castro -- who turned 80 this year -- was considered a model of vibrant long life in Cuba. But it was only last week that he acknowledged in an open letter that his initial surgery by Cuban doctors had been botched. He did not confirm, however, that a specialist had been flown in from Spain last December to help set things right.

Hey, it's about time that someone said it. Someone in the mainstream media, that is.

Thank you for that, Michael. Without you, the New York Times would have had no impetus to run such a piece.

And thank you as well for your forthrightness as to what exactly your agenda really is regarding America's health system: the complete destruction of private health insurance in this country. If we'd accused you of wanting to do that, we'd have been dismissed as paranoid reactionaries. Thanks for being upfront about it and saving us the grief.


I first made Annie Jacobsen's acquaintance two years ago, after a family member of mine lived through a terrifying and unexplained ordeal on a flight from London's Heathrow to Boston's Logan airport. She and I corresponded for a while and had a few nice chats over the phone. I really appreciated her efforts to shed some light on what I've come to believe are semi-regular occurrences in commercial aviation that would otherwise go unreported. She was intelligent and charming, and was kind enough to mention yours truly and this humble blog in her book.

For her efforts, Annie took a lot of stick from critics who dismissed her as a paranoid hysteric, which is hogwash, as anyone who'd spent more than 30 seconds speaking with her could attest. Now, however, Homeland Security stands poised to issue a report that says Jacobsen's infamous "Terror in the Skies" flight was indeed a terrorist "dry run."

I don't find this at all surprising, and I have to wonder why so many people seem to have invested so much in trying to discredit her account. I'll grant you that there are some elements on the right who deliberately exaggerate the terrorist threat for political ends, but what's less acknowledged is the equally significant number of people on the left who willfully downplay the reality of terrorism, also for political reasons.To hear these people talk, you'd think the mythical Islamist terrorist is as elusive or nebulous a creature as bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. But they're wrong, of course, and all I need do to prove it is to step over to my window and look out East across the Hudson.

PS -- I've lost quite a bit of respect for Snopes. Oh well.

May 25, 2007

New York sucks for guns

In a stupid, meaningless gesture, 32 New York women lay down in the street to protest the Virginia Tech massacre. This was a fleeting protest, however, symbolizing "the few minutes it took the shooter to get a gun in Virginia."

Wonder why they didn't lie down for the whole umpteen hours it took incompetent cops and campus security to arrest the guy before he shot up the whole goddamn campus? Seems like that'd be something to protest, doesn't it? But probably woefully inconvenient if it risks making you late for your pilates class, or if it might cause your decaf soy vanilla latte to get get cold.

Why are New Yorker's so goddamn obsessed with Virginia's gun laws? The New York that I fell in love with was a city that prided itself on minding its own business. How would New Yorkers feel if Virginians regularly engaged in demonstrations to protest New York's treatment of abortion, or gay rights?

Because New York's meddling in Virginia's gun laws is not limited to these 32 twits. Mayor Mike Bloomberg, having completely solved all of New York's problems, recently hired some private detectives to go to Virginia and make illegal firearm purchases. The fact that Bloomberg's hires actually broke the law should be overlooked, of course, because Bloomberg was trying to... well... something. Whatever.

Anyway, Virginians were predictably unimpressed with Bloomberg's meddling, and hence we have the first annual Bloomberg Gun Giveaway (hat tip: Glenn)

Gotta love the cake.

as well as some of the attendees:

You know what? I owe an apology to Rudy Giuliani. When I watched his performance in the first GOP presidential debate, I was a little disappointed by some of his responses. At the time, I found his formulations of "that's what we thought appropriate for New York, but it might not be appropriate for the rest of the country" to be disingenuous.

Now, however, I think I know what he means. Because as someone who's lived in Manhattan under Bloomberg, I think he's a pretty good mayor for the city. The prospect of his running for president, however, fills me with dread and terror, given his penchant for dictatorial nannyism.

May 24, 2007

Pelosi vs. the gas gougers

Nancy Pelosi's House has just passed a bill banning gouging at the pumps, and it's about time.

As George Will points out, the greedy oil companies pocket some thirteen cents profit per gallon of gas. But it doesn't stop there, of course. The average American pays an additional 39 cents per gallon in combined state and federal taxes.

Yeah, we're getting "gouged," all right, but the oil company's four percent markup has little to do with it.

Live free or die

It's encouraging that freedom isn't going out of style everywhere.

John Edwards' pirate booty

I was going to Photoshop an eye patch on the above photo for this story, but I was too lazy, so just try imagine that he's wearing an eye patch, okay? And going "Arrrrrhhhhh" and stuff. You know, like a pirate.

Anyway, I'm less concerned about this booty than the booty Edwards is going to have his eye on if he gets elected, straps on the ol' cutlass and comes after my paycheck.

Actually, this story isn't really important at all. I just couldn't resist commenting on a news item that had "John Edwards" and "booty" in the headline.

May 22, 2007

Idol update

Randy's wearing a confederate uniform, Paula's drunker than I am, and I liked Blake's first song better than Jordan's. All signs point to I should just bag it and watch Sunday's Sopranos on TiVo.

May 21, 2007

Michael Moore does it again

Yeah, "Sicko." I think I saw that one. That's the documentary where the guy eats at McDonald's all the time and turns into a fat, disgusting, unhealthy slob, right?

Okay, that was wrong, if not implausible. Turns out that was someone else, so scratch that last sentence. There, I've now proven this blog has a greater commitment to intellectual honesty than does Michael Moore. That was easy, wasn't it?

Mind you, I haven't seen Michael Moore's latest documentary yet, but all I had to do was read the following Reuters piece to see that Moore is up to his old tricks.

Moore was asked by journalists why he painted such a rosy picture of other countries' health systems, including Britain, France, Canada and Cuba, and the implied criticism is likely to be raised again. But he defended his methods.

"I recognize that there are flaws in your system but that's not for me to correct, that's for you to correct," he told a Canadian reporter.

No, Michael, you aren't obligated to "correct" foreign health care systems, but if you're going to hold them up as a basis for comparison to our own, then you should feel obligated to at least present them honestly. I submit that's what a fair-minded documentarian would do. Instead, you have done what you always do -- you've stacked the deck. Moreover, you've admitted to stacking it, and defended said stacking with the non sequitur that it's not your responsibility to "correct" the flaws in foreign health care, and therefore you won't even acknowledge they exist.

His fan base, of course, will ask no tough questions of him, and will simply adore his movie and cover him over with praise and awards. Good for Moore, I guess, but he's merely preaching to the converted. If that's all he's aiming to do, he's an unqualified success. But if he's actually attempting to win converts and sway opinions, he'll likely fail, as he's always done, because his own intellectual sloppiness and fundamental dishonesty provides too many obstacles to effective proselytizing, and provides his critics with too many cudgels to attack his message and too many reasons to dismiss him altogether.

I've already noticed a lot of advance buzz about how Moore has "matured" as a filmmaker. So far, I'm skeptical.

May 17, 2007

Worst movie scenes ever

At least according to one guy. But I think he's probably right.

Worst Movie Scenes Ever - Watch more free videos

"Two Americas" update

John Edwards, as we know, is a tireless crusader for justice. By all accounts he's pretty successful at it, too. After his years as a high-dollar trial lawyer, he amassed enough "justice" to build a 28,000 square foot home. Then, of course, he decided the most efficient path to pursue justice for the downtrodden was to go work for a Cayman Islands-based hedge fund. I'm not sure exactly how much justice he received from the fund while there, but I'll bet it was enough to pay for 2 or 3 haircuts, at least.

So why would Edwards, the Tom Joad of our time, go to work for a hedge fund as opposed to, say, Habitat for Humanity? It's not like he needed the bucks. Well this AP Story has the answer:

[Edwards] has said his work for a fund that generally caters to the wealthiest of investors was designed to educate him about the relationship between poverty and wealth and should not overshadow his work for the poor.

Okay, truth or dare time here. Can anybody read that with a straight face and not feel embarrassed for the guy? Is there anyone in the Edwards campaign or anywhere else who didn't groan when reading that explanation? At least when Pete Townshend came up with the howler that he was just downloading child porn for "research" purposes, he was trying to keep his ass out of jail, and was desperate enough to say anything.

If it sounds like I'm unfairly ragging on my former senator, it's because I am. There's nothing wrong with working for a hedge fund or having a big house or getting expensive haircuts, but there is something incongruous about the man's lifestyle and the image he'd like to project. Edwards is vulnerable on this issue in the same way that religious conservatives are uniquely vulnerable to charges of sexual impropriety.

Republicans, for whatever reason, don't seem to get many $400 haircuts. But if they did, there'd be nothing particularly interesting or ironic about it, because Republicans aren't always nattering on and on ad nauseum about social justice this and two Americas that. They'd be like, "Screw you, I'm dropping four Franklins on a buzzcut," and that would be it.

And here's what really gripes me. Edwards is so ardently committed to fighting poverty that he's willing to raise our taxes to do it. Not "asking," for sacrifice, mind you, but demanding it. That means that in his view the social inequalities are so vast that he feels justified to confiscate, under pain of imprisonment, the private wealth of individual citizens who are worth a lot less than he is to finance his redistributionist goals.

That's fine and all, but if you really believe that's the situation we're in, then by what moral calculus can you possibly justify a $400 haircut? If social inequality is so bad that you're willing to take food from our tables to make it better, then don't you think it would be appropriate to at least consider whether you could dispose of that money in a better way? I'll bet that for a single c-note you could still get a bang-up trim (I spend sixteen) and you'd still have $300 left over to donate to the charity of your choice, help out a local family, contribute to your own campaign, or, hell, even give to a bum on the street. Can't you find some better use for that money? When you were allocating untold millions to construct a house that takes up the better part of an acre, did it even once occur to you that by scaling back to, say, 10,000 square feet, you could still have a frakkin' ginormous mansion, and simultaneously help deserving people who perhaps have no home at all? And lessen your carbon footprint to boot? Seems like a win/win to me.

Sorry I woke up in a "rag on John Edwards" mood, but he's fresh on my mind since I got a letter from his campaign yesterday asking me for my generous contribution to help end poverty. (God only knows how I get on these mailing lists.) And again, I don't have a problem with people building big houses or living lavish lifestyles. But if you're going to paint yourself as a tireless crusader for the downtrodden, flying around like a rock star lecturing people about how bad everything is, but you're still living in a house the size of Rhode Island and spending more on hair care than I spent on my first car, well... you're as big a lousy hypocrite as Al Gore on the environment. Lousy hypocrites, of course, are a dime or dozen, and I generally just ignore them. What's so pernicious about the Gore/Edwards variety, however, is their willingness, even eagerness, to compel us to live a lifestyle that they themselves decline to follow. People like that piss me off.

May 16, 2007

Those who don't learn history's lessons

Hillary Clinton's view(s) on the war are a senseless muddle, becoming even less comprehensible as time goes by. It seems unbelievable to me that the Democrats would consecutively field two presidential candidates who are both wholly unable to formulate a coherent position on the most important issue of our day. Nevertheless, they seem well on their way to making it happen.

May 11, 2007

Oh, thank God!

When I first saw this post about Blair's resignation at Instapundit, I initially thought it said Tim Blair. Fortunately I erred. It's only Tony.

May 07, 2007

Why Sarkozy won

You want to know the real reason for Sarkozy's victory in France's presidential election? Throw away all the long-winded, in-depth analysis pieces. It can easily be explained by the final, throwaway sentence in the fifteenth paragraph of this AP report (emphasis mine.)

On election night, scattered violence was reported across France. Police reported that 270 people were taken in for questioning and that 367 parked vehicles had been torched. On a typical night in France, about 100 cars are burned.

When a hundred torched cars per night being is what passes for normalcy, the only wonder is that Royal even broke out of single digits. I swear, the next French person who tries to lecture me about America's social ills is going to get a boot up his ass (figuratively, of course -- my being nonviolent by nature and all.)

May 06, 2007

Sarkozy wins

You can bet I'll be having quite a few drinks this week to celebrate the departure of Jacques Chirac from the world stage. There won't be too many people to mourn Black Jacues, I don't think. His approval rating has languished in the single digits for a while, even sinking lower than George W. Bush's in one recent poll.

As for the future of France, we'll have to wait and see. The headline on Drudge was "Révolution!" which is a bit odd, but makes sense under the circumstances. French politics is, well, "different," and you can't let these candidates' party affiliations deceive you. Royal, not Sarkozy, was the candidate of the status quo -- the preservation of France's bloated welfare state and noncompetitive economic policies. Sarkozy, despite belonging to Chirac's party, is the candidate of change and reform.

France has lagged behind much of the rest of Europe in terms of market reforms, and its sclerotic economy shows it. I wish Sarkozy well, but he's got a tough row to hoe. It's one thing to promise genuine reform, but quite another to deliver. This is particularly true in France, where any hint that the welfare state might have to adapt to modern global economic reality is often met with rioting students throwing rocks. Still, it's a better chance than we would have had with Royal, who ultimately did little more than promise more of the same.

May 03, 2007

The GOP debate

So the Republicans are debating tonight, but I don't think I can bring myself to watch it. I forgot to watch the Democrats, so why bother with these guys? Yeah, I know Ron Paul is going to be on it and all, but if anything really cool happens it'll be on YouTube in five minutes anyway.

May 01, 2007

League of Democracies?

Shakes mocks it, but I happen to like John McCain's idea of a "League of Democracies".

Apart from some beneficial programs (largely U.S. funded, of course) to combat third world hunger and disease, my contempt for the United Nations is a matter of record. But whenever I assail the U.N. for being a corrupt, ineffectual sounding board for anti-Western dictators and thugs, people always get bent out of shape. They can't defend the U.N. on its abysmal track record, of course, so they stick to defending the idea of the world body: "We need a multinational organization like the U.N. to provide a forum for discussing international problems and staving off international crises."

Fine. Nobody's giving up that idea. Admitting that the League of Nations failed in its goal didn't mean abandoning the idea of a world forum. Likewise, admitting that the U.N. has fallen short in its stated goals need not mean abandoning the idea of a deliberative world body or the principles upon which the U.N. was founded.

To McCain's point, why not restrict voting membership to member nations whose governments are chosen by its people in free and open elections? I think that step alone would go quite a ways in addressing my particular concerns with the current makeup of the U.N., as well as being more in keeping with the body's charter. And where's the downside? It's not like the "people" of (say) Sudan or North Korea would be any more deprived of representation in the General Assembly than they are now. If anything, it would encourage such pariah nations to give their people an actual voice.

Anyway, I think it's an interesting idea. Plus it gave me an opportunity to link to Shakes' new digs.