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Friday, October 31, 2008
 
The Birth Of The Black Helicopter Party
During the 1990's, the most wild-eyed and spittle-flecked of the wild-eyed, spittle-flecked wingers earned themselves a nickname: the Black Helicopter Wing of the Republican party.

These were the mouth-breathing kooks who believed that the Clintons killed Vince Foster, Ron Brown and hundreds of other people. That the government was planning to "take over" America and was quietly establishing prison camps to house the good God-fearin' Christian gun-owners. That the National Guard was placing secret messages on the backs of highway signs on America's interstates. That the U.N. and the American government, working in concert, were planning to deploy their sinister black helicopters all over the USA to establish -- once and for all -- the New World Order!

Call them what you will -- cranks, charlatans, lunatics, fools. They were tolerated by their party, because they were useful idiots who could be relied upon to vote but who wielded no power. They were, and would always remain, on the fringes of the party.

Not anymore. Now the lunatics have taken over the asylum; with the current meltdown in the Republican party, with people like Powell and Duberstein and Kmiec and Noonan and Will turning against them -- the Black Helicopter Wing of the Republican party has become the Republican party.

Call it the Black Helicopter party. You might as well. Because they are the only ones left.

Exhibit A is Scott Johnson's astonishingly paranoid rant on Powerline, in which he argues that, because Barack Obama has no real connection to Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison, the two must be close allies, co-conspirators in a plot to remake America into an Islamist caliphate!:

Despite the natural alliance that should exist between them, Obama has scrupulously avoided Ellison. The New York Times reported in a June article by Andrea Elliott, for example, that Ellison had volunteered to speak on Obama's behalf at a mosque rally in Cedar Rapids, presumably before the Iowa caucuses in January. Prior to the event, aides to Obama asked Ellison to cancel the trip. An Obama aide appeared at Ellison's Washington office to explain that Obama has "a very tightly wrapped message."
Johnson goes on to remark that this non-association is like "the dog that didn't bark" in the famous Sherlock Holmes story. Mmm-hmm. This is the point at which most people would back slowly out the room, making soothing sounds.

Oh well. Guilt by association didn't work -- might as well give guilt by non-association a try.


Thursday, October 30, 2008
 
Strange Days

Sunday, October 26, 2008
 
Fisking Mark Levin
We are now eight days from the election, and at the moment the right wing is freaking out. Given the poll numbers, it's not hard to blame them. Obviously, nothing can be taken for granted in an election year as weird as this one has been. But at this point, things are looking uniformly awful for the wingnuts, and of the vaunted Seven Stages of Grief, the denizens of The Corner have only mastered the first one or two. Here's a peek into Mark Levin's fevered imagination:
I've been thinking this for a while so I might as well air it here. I honestly never thought we'd see such a thing in our country - not yet anyway - but I sense what's occurring in this election is a recklessness and abandonment of rationality that has preceded the voluntary surrender of liberty and security in other places.

It's grimly amusing that a supporter of John McCain accuses critics of "recklessness", and "abandonment of rationality" -- especially when that supporter has been cheerleading for George W. Bush for the last eight years. By the way, what historical precedents is Levin citing? What nations have voluntarily given up "liberty and security" in electing a figure like Obama? Is he implying that Obama is the next Hitler? The next Lenin? (Assuming that the Weimar or Kerensky governments could be counted on to champion liberty, that is.)

I can't help but observe that even some conservatives are caught in the moment as their attempts at explaining their support for Barack Obama are unpersuasive and even illogical. And the pull appears to be rather strong. Ken Adelman, Doug Kmiec, and others, reach for the usual platitudes in explaining themselves but are utterly incoherent. Even non-conservatives with significant public policy and real world experiences, such as Colin Powell and Charles Fried, find Obama alluring but can't explain themselves in an intelligent way.

This is a charge repeated endlessly by the McCain dead-enders: that the reasons Powell, Adelman, Fried, et al have offered for supporting Barack Obama are somehow bizarre and unfathomable.

But of course, they aren't. In fact, the reasons cited by these dissident Republicans fall pretty consistently into one or more of the following:

1. In the course of his campaign, John McCain has betrayed the principles for which he has been righted lauded by the American people, namely honesty, prudence and decency;

2. During the campaign, McCain has exhibited a worrying enthusiasm for impulsive tactical shifts and a predilection for throwing the Hail Mary pass on 3rd down and 5, which leads us to;

3.McCain's primary leadership decision of the campaign -- the selection of the Vice President -- was squandered on the baffling choice of Gov. Sarah Palin, an astonishingly superficial and inexperienced politician, after having met with her only twice -- briefly -- and never having vetted her.

There is a cult-like atmosphere around Barack Obama, which his campaign has carefully and successfully fabricated, which concerns me. The messiah complex. Fainting audience members at rallies. Special Obama flags and an Obama presidential seal. A graphic with the portrayal of the globe and Obama's name on it, which adorns everything from Obama's plane to his street literature. Young school children singing songs praising Obama. Teenagers wearing camouflage outfits and marching in military order chanting Obama's name and the professions he is going to open to them. An Obama world tour, culminating in a speech in Berlin where Obama proclaims we are all citizens of the world. I dare say, this is ominous stuff.

Yes, the letter "O", which is the first letter of the man's name, is round, as is the globe. Obama did indeed speak in Berlin, where the Nazis once ruled. So did John F. Kennedy, who also used the phrase "citizen of the world". The National Review saw that as ominous as well; they called Kennedy a socialist and a quisling and a radical, all the things they're calling Obama now.

Even the media are drawn to the allure that is Obama. Yes, the media are liberal. Even so, it is obvious that this election is different. The media are open and brazen in their attempts to influence the outcome of this election. I've never seen anything like it. Virtually all evidence of Obama's past influences and radicalism — from Jeremiah Wright to William Ayers — have been raised by non-traditional news sources. The media's role has been to ignore it as long as possible, then mention it if they must, and finally dismiss it and those who raise it in the first place. It's as if the media use the Obama campaign's talking points — its preposterous assertions that Obama didn't hear Wright from the pulpit railing about black liberation, whites, Jews, etc., that Obama had no idea Ayers was a domestic terrorist despite their close political, social, and working relationship, etc. — to protect Obama from legitimate and routine scrutiny. And because journalists have also become commentators, it is hard to miss their almost uniform admiration for Obama and excitement about an Obama presidency. So in the tank are the media for Obama that for months we've read news stories and opinion pieces insisting that if Obama is not elected president it will be due to white racism. And, of course, while experience is crucial in assessing Sarah Palin's qualifications for vice president, no such standard is applied to Obama's qualifications for president. (No longer is it acceptable to minimize the work of a community organizer.) Charles Gibson and Katie Couric sought to humiliate Palin. They would never and have never tried such an approach with Obama.

This is more unhinged rant than argument, but nothing Levin says here would stand up under scrutinty. Obama's association with Rev. Wright was bandied about for weeks in the media during the summer; several commentators on The Corner opined at the time that Obama wouldn't survive the resulting furor. The Ayers charges were only brought up by McCain after all else had failed; and John McCain doesn't mention Ayers anymore because it never got him anywhere, in spite of a good deal of media attention. The question of Obama's qualifications has also received an enormous amount of scrutiny; it was, after all, McCain's central argument for voting for him rather than Obama. In fact, McCain's own selection of Sarah Palin undermined the entire argument. Obama has endured questioning far more hostile than the lob questions proffered by Gibson and Couric; the problem with Palin is that she humiliated herself. Asked even the gentlest questions about policy, she was suddenly in over her head. The media cannot be expected simply to ask nicey-nice questions about Palin's home life. She is not running for senior class president. She is running for Vice-President of the United States, and people want to know her take on the important issues facing the country. If she doesn't know what the Bush Doctrine is, or can't name a single publication that she reads, or what are the actual duties of the office she seeks to hold, that's not Gibson or Couric's fault, it is hers: she is simply unqualified to govern. These are not trick questions.

But beyond the elites and the media, my greatest concern is whether this election will show a majority of the voters susceptible to the appeal of a charismatic demagogue. This may seem a harsh term to some, and no doubt will to Obama supporters, but it is a perfectly appropriate characterization. Obama's entire campaign is built on class warfare and human envy. The "change" he peddles is not new. We've seen it before. It is change that diminishes individual liberty for the soft authoritarianism of socialism. It is a populist appeal that disguises government mandated wealth redistribution as tax cuts for the middle class, falsely blames capitalism for the social policies and government corruption (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) that led to the current turmoil in our financial markets, fuels contempt for commerce and trade by stigmatizing those who run successful small and large businesses, and exploits human imperfection as a justification for a massive expansion of centralized government.

George W. Bush has expanded the reach of the federal government, more than any president since Roosevelt. But on this point there has been an eerie silence from NRO.

Obama's appeal to the middle class is an appeal to the "the proletariat," as an infamous philosopher once described it, about which a mythology has been created. Rather than pursue the American Dream, he insists that the American Dream has arbitrary limits, limits Obama would set for the rest of us — today it's $250,000 for businesses and even less for individuals. If the individual dares to succeed beyond the limits set by Obama, he is punished for he's now officially "rich." The value of his physical and intellectual labor must be confiscated in greater amounts for the good of the proletariat (the middle class). And so it is that the middle class, the birth-child of capitalism, is both celebrated and enslaved — for its own good and the greater good. The "hope" Obama represents, therefore, is not hope at all. It is the misery of his utopianism imposed on the individual.

Levin can't make up his mind, even in the confines of a single paragraph. Obama starts out as a "charismatic demagogue", who is cynically using populist rhetoric to get elected; then he suddenly morphs into a fanatical Marxist who wants to replace the American Dream with a faceless collectivist utopia. Not mentioned in this paragraph are the other tropes that have been fitfully peddled by the McCain camp: Obama is an Islamic sleeper agent; Obama is a corrupt, cigar-chomping Chicago political boss; Obama is an unreconstructed 60's radical; and Obama is a space alien who craves the blood of virgin white women.

Unlike past Democrat presidential candidates, Obama is a hardened ideologue. He's not interested in playing around the edges. He seeks "fundamental change," i.e., to remake society. And if the Democrats control Congress with super-majorities led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, he will get much of what he demands.

This argument loses a lot of its punch owing to the fact that the Republicans routinely paint every Democratic presidential nominee as a hardened ideologue. Until Obama arrived on the scene, Hillary Clinton was touted as The Socialist Who Would Destroy America and who was more dangerous than any Democrat in history. John Kerry, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Mike Dukakis, Walter Mondale and Jimmy Carter also got similar treatment.

The question is whether enough Americans understand what's at stake in this election and, if they do, whether they care. Is the allure of a charismatic demagogue so strong that the usually sober American people are willing to risk an Obama presidency? After all, it ensnared Adelman, Kmiec, Powell, Fried, and numerous others. And while America will certainly survive, it will do so, in many respects, as a different place.

Again, Levin cannot accept that any sensible, well-respected, well-connected Republican could possibly favor Barack Obama over John McCain. For him -- as for the rest of the Republican bobblehead crowd -- there are only two possibilities: they are either craven opportunists who are hoping to curry favor with what they believe is an inevitable changing of the guard in Washington; or else that these men, most of whom have been Beltway players for decades, have been suckered in by a fast-talking 47-year-old from Chicago.

You do the math.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008
 
The Ultimate October Surprise
The Daily Record reveals all:

Worried bookmakers have stopped taking bets on aliens showing up on Earth.

It follows a flurry of bets amid internet buzz that a massive intergalactic spaceship will appear tomorrow.

Videos and messages on YouTube, blogs and UFO websites are buzzing with predictions that a vessel from the alien Federation Of Light will be visible in our skies for three days.

It may all sound more oddball than odds-on - but bookies William Hill are taking it seriously enough to temporarily suspend betting on proof of the existence of intelligent alien life being confirmed by PM Gordon Brown.

It follows a rush of bets, including one punter who wanted to place a s3000 bet at odds of 1000-1.

Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said: "This is the first time an internet phenomenon has affected our business.

"We now have seven-figure liabilities if the ship does appear. We have decided to duck any more big bets until the 14th has passed, hopefully without incident."

Hmmm, only a few hours away. Still, John McCain can hope, can't he?


Monday, October 13, 2008
 
Dumb And Dumber
Dumb:

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile. -- John Hinderaker, July 28, 2005

Dumber:

It must be depressing to be Paul Krugman. No matter how well the economy performs, Krugman's bitter vendetta against the Bush administration requires him to hunt for the black lining in a sky full of silvery clouds. With the economy now booming, what can Krugman possibly have to complain about? In today's column, titled That Hissing Sound, Krugman says there is a housing bubble, and it's about to burst. -- John Hinderaker, August 8, 2005.


Saturday, October 11, 2008
 
The Financial Crisis: Explained

Really, they explain it all here in eight minutes. You don't need to look anywhere else.

Trust me on this.


 
Shock After Shock
The more the punditocracy declares this election over and done with, the more nervous I get. This campaign has been as strange as any in my lifetime, with more improbable twists than an episode of Law and Order.

Consider where we were just a year ago: Barack Obama was the young-man-in-a-hurry, foolishly trying to cut to the front of the line before he was ready; the unstoppable Hillary juggernaut was expected to easily dispense with him. Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson were regarded as the front-runners for the GOP nod. John McCain, his operation underfunded and larded with high-priced consultants, found himself broke and was widely expected to drop out before the first primary votes were cast.

The reversals in both parties have been remarkable: Obama slugged it out with Clinton until the very end of the primary season, wearing down her operation with a smart, nimble campaign strategy. Conversely, McCain won simply by not losing. One by one his opponents flamed out, leaving him a clear path to the nomination.

Through the summer and into fall, the conventional wisdom refused to materialize into fact: the PUMAs, the white working class, the hockey moms -- none of it has played out the way the pundits expected it to.

And the greatest disappointment for beltway journalists has been John McCain himself. In an almost Shakespearean turn of events, he has traded away his most prized possession -- his precious sense of personal honor -- in order to win an election he now seems all but certain to lose.

One can only imagine how he feels at the town hall meetings now, listening to his nitwit supporters parrot the rage and vitriol they've learned from two decades of talk radio. This is his base now -- not the American people, but this tiny debased subset of it.

He must see it now; he must recognize this is how history will remember him. Otherwise he wouldn't have tried to buy back his honor at his Lakeville, Minnesota rally yesterday:

But your honor is kind of like your soul, isn't it? You can sell it, but you can't buy it back.

Just ask this fellow:

The world's full of people like that. And John McCain is one of them.


Monday, October 06, 2008
 
McCain's Secret Weapon
For a minute there, I really thought Obama was going to pull it off.

I honestly thought he was going to win this election and forever put the lie to the sleazy tactics of Rove and Co.

It would have been sweet. And he would have done it, the McCain camp's last-minute squawking about Ayers / Wright / et al notwithstanding.

There were only a couple of things that could have turned the race around this late in the game. One would be the sudden capture of Osama bin Laden.

The other is the video you see below: Michelle Obama's long-rumored "Whitey" video.

It is bad. More than bad: it is worse than I imagined. In all likelihood, McCain was sitting on this all along, waiting for the worst possible time to spring it. That is to say, right now.

Sorry to say it, friends: game over. There's no way Obama can recover from this one. See for yourself:


Saturday, October 04, 2008
 
Nebraska Is The New Florida

Back in the fall of 2000 I remember studying an electoral map and wondering how Al Gore could possibly win. Today I've been looking at a similar map and wondering how Barack Obama can possibly lose.

Here's why: battleground states Michigan and Pennsylvania suddenly seem out of reach for John McCain; he is behind by double digits in Pennsylvania, and he's pulled his resources out of Michigan entirely, an astonishing admission of weakness.

That makes the math a lot harder for him. If you spot Michigan and Pennsylvania to Obama, and assume he will hang on to Minnesota and flip New Hampshire and Nevada (and I do), that puts him at 269 electoral votes, only 1 away from victory. By comparison, John McCain would have only 163 at this point. He couldn't win. But he could tie. He would have to basically run the table on the remaining battlegrounds: win Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri and Colorado.

Not impossible, I concede. But pretty damned unlikely.

But if McCain pulled it off, we'd be in a peculiar situation:

An electoral tie: 269 electoral votes for each, and both sides one electoral vote shy of the magic number. Assuming that all states certify the result, it gets thrown into the House of Representatives.

But wait! Nebraska's five electoral votes are allocated separately, so if the congressional district surrounding Omaha can be flipped to Obama, 270 electoral votes it is, even under this gruesome scenario.

So if you're wondering why Palin has been deployed to Omaha today, that's it. Obama is pushing hard to flip the district. Unlike the brainless Gore strategists in 2000, they're fighting for every vote -- even the electoral ones. That's got to be freaking out the McCain camp.


 
Ready From Day One, But To Do What?
This election season seems like it has been going on forever and will never end; yet of course it will end, in one short month.

John McCain has been slipping farther and farther behind in the polls, due in large part to his feckless "suspend-the-campaign-but-not-really" stunt and subsequent bailout posturing, not to mention his inexplicable choice of a brainless cheerleader for a running mate.

Sarah Palin has not proven to be the bold game-changer that McCain was hoping for. The novelty of her nomination has worn off, and in spite of her handler's best efforts to shield her from the press, she has said enough in public to demonstrate that her intelligence hovers somewhere between "stick insect" and "Antarctic lichen" territory.

Independents and disaffected PUMAs aren't swarming to her as hoped (in fact they seem to be moving pretty solidly over to Obama) so all Palin's really doing is making the base feel better.

This shouldn't be discounted, since the base isn't feeling very well right about now.

Here's Rich Lowry's take on Palin's dazzling economic and foreign policy acumen:

I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, "Hey, I think she just winked at me." And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America.

Yeah, I'm sure there were some guys who sat up straighter and said that -- Homer Simpson among them, no doubt. But probably not most guys.

Remember when these people were saying that Barack Obama was a substance-free celebrity, a guy who could make a stirring speech but didn't stand for anything? You should remember it, since that was just a month ago. Now Sarah Palin winks and smiles at them on television and they start panting.

Yep, they're ready to lead America, all righty.


Thursday, October 02, 2008
 
Un-Freakin'-Believable
Professional right-wing goofball Peter Robinson is all excited by how well Sarah Palin did in her latest interview:

In Hugh Hewitt's interview with her earlier this week, Sarah Palin proved lively, tough, smart and completely herself.

My, that was quite an achievement on her part, considering the hard-hitting policy questions Hewitt threw at her. By the way, here's a list of those questions:

Governor, your candidacy has ignited extreme hostility, even some hatred on the left and in some parts of the media. Are you surprised?

Now Governor, the Gibson and the Couric interview struck many as sort of pop quizzes designed to embarrass you as opposed to interviews. Do you share that opinion?

Have you followed the attacks on you, say, via Drudge or the blogs? Some of them are just made up and out of left field, others are just mocking. Do you follow those?

Governor, you mentioned the people who are struggling right now. Have you and your husband, Todd, ever faced tough economic times where you had to sit around a kitchen table and make tough choices?

Governor, when you say things are tight right now, is that simply because of Todd being off not working? Or is it because of extraordinary demands on the fiscal resources of the Palin family? What’s the situation there?

Governor, let’s turn to a couple of issues that the MSM’s not going to pick up. You’re pro-life, and how much of the virulent opposition to you on the left do you attribute to your pro-life position, and maybe even to the birth of, your decision, your and Todd’s decision to have Trig?

Do you think the mainstream media and the left understands your religious faith, Governor Palin?

Last question, Governor. Have you and Todd heard from your son? And how is it on your nerves having your son deployed?

Captain Kangaroo would ask tougher questions than that.

Look, I'm sure Palin will exceed expectations in tonight's debate, if only because the American people expect, based on her previous interviews, that she's got the I.Q. of a hamster.

But if this is the kind of deference Palin requires in order to come across as "lively, tough, smart and completely herself", I'd say the Democrats don't have much to worry about.



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