Archives for: December 2016

Year in Review

They year hasn’t ended until Dave Barry posts his Year in Review. And you know this one’s going to be a humdinger:

Let’s begin with the gruesome train wreck that was the presidential election. The campaign began with roughly 14,000 candidates running. Obviously not all of them were qualified to be president; some of them — here we are thinking of “Lincoln Chafee” — were probably imaginary. But a reasonable number of the candidates seemed to meet at least the minimum standard that Americans have come to expect of their president in recent decades, namely: Not Completely Horrible.

So this mass of candidates began the grim death march that is the modern American presidential campaign — trudging around Iowa pretending to care about agriculture, performing in an endless series of televised debates like suit-wearing seals trained to bark out talking points, going to barbecue after barbecue and smiling relentlessly through mouthfuls of dripping meat, giving the same speech over and over and over, shaking millions of hands, posing for billions of selfies and just generally humiliating themselves in the marathon group grovel that America insists on putting its presidential candidates through.

After all that, the American people, looking for a leader, ended up with a choice between ointment and suppository. The fall campaign was an unending national nightmare, broadcast relentlessly on cable TV. CNN told us over and over that Donald Trump was a colossally ignorant, narcissistic, out-of-control sex-predator buffoon; Fox News countered that Hillary Clinton was a greedy, corrupt, coldly calculating liar of massive ambition and minimal accomplishment. And in our hearts we knew the awful truth: They were both right.

It wasn’t just bad. It was the Worst. Election. Ever.

This is the one thing right before New Year’s I always look forward to. And Barry doesn’t disappoint.

Obama Whacks Russia

By comparison of Obama to Michael Corleone at the end of The Godfather is looking more and more apt:

President Barack Obama took unprecedented steps Thursday to retaliate against alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, prompting vows from Russian authorities that Moscow will respond in kind.

The administration described Russia’s involvement as “Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities” and sanctioned six Russian individuals and five Russian entities, as well as ordering dozens of Russian diplomats to leave the country. This is the first time the names of Russian officials involved in the hacking have become public on the sanctions list.

Obama said 35 Russian diplomats have been ordered to leave the country and two Russian compounds are being closed under Thursday’s actions.

“Russia’s cyberactivities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in US democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the US government,” a White House statement said. “These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

According to statements from the White House and the Treasury Department, the government has sanctioned nine entities and individuals over their alleged interference in the election: the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s operations. The US also sanctioned two Russian individuals for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information.

I think this is appropriate, assuming the CIA is correct about Russian interference. The point is not that Russia “won” the election for Trump. The point is that they are sewing doubt and discord and trying to humiliate the US. It also, again, is about boxing Trump into a corner where he will have to actively lift the sanctions if he wants to kiss Putin’s butt.

The Obama-Israel Kerfuffle

The last week has been a bit fraught for US-Israeli relations. Last week, the US abstained from, rather than veto, a UN resolution condemning settlements in the West Bank. The US has abstained from or even supported condemnations of Israel before. But this one was unusually harsh. The Administration’s actions were condemned by Israel and Trump. Israel began expansion of the settlements in retaliation. And, today, Kerry gave a speech blasting the settlements as a threat to peace.

The Right Wing has gone with their default explanation (encouraged by Netanyahu) that Obama just hates Israel. If so, this hatred is hard to see. Obama has continued to give Israel $3 billion a year in military aide, was practically the only leader to support them during the War on Hamas and has, until now, blocked any UN actions against them. There is a profound disagreement between Obama and Israel on the Iran Deal. But the GOP seems to think that the proper relationship with Israel is to give them money, support everything they do and maybe go to war with Iran. As often I disagree with Obama’s foreign policy (such as it is), the alternative the GOP seems to prefer is just as silly. And let’s get some perspective here. The Administration has firmed up their opposition to the settlements which every Administration, Republican or Democrat, has opposed and which every Administration, Republican or Democrat, has seen as a problem for creating peace. Not as a big a problem as Palestine’s refusal to let Israel exist, but a problem nonetheless.

If I had to guess, I would say one of two things is going on here.

First, this may be Obama doing an end-of-the-Godfather settling of business. It’s no secret that Netanyahu has been a thorn in his side for the last eight years: opposing the Iran deal, which Obama saw a lasting legacy; expanding the settlements; meeting with the opposition party; interfering with … whatever it is Obama thinks he’s doing in Syria. So this may be one last slap in the ongoing slap fight between the two Administrations.

There’s another possibility and one I think is more likely: that Obama’s trying to tip Netanyahu out of office. Netanyahu’s approval ratings tend to be poor and he is currently mired in a corruption scandal. It’s possible that this could help tip him out of office, potentially putting someone in office who is less of a hardliner. Of course, it’a also possible it would make the Israelis rally behind him or replace him with someone who take an even harder line. But with Trump less than a month away from office, Obama might be trying to make Trump’s Israel policy, which includes moving our embassy to Jerusalem, harder to implement.

Or it may just be amateur hour. The problem with Obama’s supposed six-dimensional chess is that it’s often hard to tell the difference between six-dimensional cheese and just randomly bumbling around.

Enjoy your well deserved retirement, sir!

I was saddened today to find out that one of the writers and great minds I most respect has decided to call it quits:

Even the best things come to an end. After enjoying a quarter of a century of writing this column for Creators Syndicate, I have decided to stop. Age 86 is well past the usual retirement age, so the question is not why I am quitting, but why I kept at it so long.

It was very fulfilling to be able to share my thoughts on the events unfolding around us, and to receive feedback from readers across the country – even if it was impossible to answer them all.

Being old-fashioned, I liked to know what the facts were before writing. That required not only a lot of research, it also required keeping up with what was being said in the media.

During a stay in Yosemite National Park last May, taking photos with a couple of my buddies, there were four consecutive days without seeing a newspaper or a television news program – and it felt wonderful. With the political news being so awful this year, it felt especially wonderful.

This made me decide to spend less time following politics and more time on my photography, adding more pictures to my website (www.tsowell.com).

Looking back over the years, as old-timers are apt to do, I see huge changes, both for the better and for the worse.

Sowell was a genius. I will miss reading him because he was brilliant and able to convey great thoughts with few words. The wisdom share by this man helped me breakdown and understand many of the things I intuitively knew where wrong with the direction the world was taking. His wisdom will be missed, especially in these times when the lunatics are pissed they are losing control of the asylum they have run into the ground and are acting out on it.

Let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes of his:

Ain't that the truth

Thank you for your wisdom sir.

2016 Ending on a Low Note

Jesus:

Carrie Fisher, the actress best known as Star Wars‘ Princess Leia Organa, has died after suffering a heart attack. She was 60.

Family spokesman Simon Halls released a statement to PEOPLE on behalf of Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd:

“It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning,” reads the statement.

“She was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly,” says Lourd. “Our entire family thanks you for your thoughts and prayers.”

Fisher was flying from London to Los Angeles on Friday, Dec. 23, when she went into cardiac arrest. Paramedics removed her from the flight and rushed her to a nearby hospital, where she was treated for a heart attack. She later died in the hospital.

Within the last 48 hours, we’ve also lost Vera Rubin, who discovered dark matter and was an inspiration to generations of women who went into astronomy, and George Michael, whose music I didn’t particularly love but who meant a lot to many.

There’s been some arguing over whether 2016 has actually been that bad for celebrity deaths. The argument goes that we have more famous people than ever before and many of those are at an age where death is not unexpected (e.g., Rubin, who was 88). I can see that argument. And I won’t mourn too heavily for someone who lives to be in their 80’s or 90’s. But we’ve seen a lot of big names taken this year well before their time — Prince, Bowie and now Fisher. So I can see both sides of the argument.

Either way, Fisher was an icon to my generation and her presence in The Force Awakens was one of the many good things about it. I don’t know if you’ve seen Rogue One, but if you have, you’ll know why the ending of that movie is now particularly poignant (the movie is great, BTW, and you should totally see it).

RIP, Ms. Fisher. We didn’t have you with us nearly long enough.

Merry Christmas 2016

It’s been a log difficult year, but we are still around, here at the end of all things. Thank you all for your support and readership during the year. A very Merry Christmas (or Happy Hanukkah) to everyone! Let’s hope 2017 isn’t as awful as 2016 was.

The Soft Racism Of Low Expectations

Having a good heart is enough, right? As long as you are empathetic you must be a good person. Here is that empathy in motion, from the liberal perspective;

Probably the worse thing in the world for a progressive is to be called a racist or labelled as uncaring.

I remember years ago Rush got in trouble for calling liberalism a gutless choice. His position was that liberalism is easy in that all you have to do is be like everyone else in your group, to parrot what they say, so by transference you are already hip and cool. You don’t have to be a good person at all, just feel, feel empathy for others and boom, you are in, part of the club. A 3 step program; feel empathy, comment on it, and be heartbroken about it, do these 3 things and the lion will sit with the lamb. A trophy or gold star is attained by identifying plight, blaming others for that plight, then call attention to yourself for recognizing the plight, no concrete action required and you are instant member of the cool club.

The harangue against voter ID laws is so bogus, and it is usually the same bad actors that yell at you ,”Every vote should count”, the self proclaimed champions of the democratic voting system, these folks squeal the most about voter ID laws but have nothing to say when this happens.

It is this same racism of low expectations that foists affirmative action on us, namely that minorities are not smart enough to get into college, or can’t pass tests so lets promote them anyway.

Given the college culture (peer re enforcement and professor propaganda) being part of the club is no real accomplishment, it is group think, silence is construed as assent, the laziest of choices.

You have seen the lists before, all the things you need an ID for, yet “those people” somehow can’t get an ID and to question it is racist.

Something else to consider, Berkeley is a top notch world renowned school, look at any list of best colleges in the world, these kids are not dumb, yet they parrot the party line reflexively, like it is gospel.Do they really think black folks in lower income neighborhoods are less civilized, less able to partake of the political process? Only they can answer that honestly. Book smart life stupid, more parent cellar dwellers after graduation?

Israel to the Rescue

This seems like … a really smart thing to do:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the Foreign Ministry to explore ways of increasing the humanitarian aid that Israel provides to Syrian civilians wounded during the civil war in that country, particularly in the battle for Syria’s largest city Aleppo.

Netanyahu announced the move on Tuesday, during a reception for foreign correspondents based in Israel.

The prime minister added that he had instructed the ministry to find way of bringing wounded civilians from Aleppo to Israel for treatment in Israeli hospitals.

Israel has actually been doing this for some time now, bringing thousands of wounded civilians out of the fray, giving them medical attention in field hospitals on the border, then returning them to Syria. But given the appalling atrocities in Aleppo, it looks like they’re going to ramp up the program, transporting Syrians across Syrian territory into Israeli territory.

I have to give credit to Netanyahu, who is the only leader who has kept his wits about him during the Syrian crisis. He supports keeping Assad in power, fearing what might happen if Assad falls and some more radical group takes over (hello, ISIS). Israeli forces have been striking ISIS targets in Syria and he’s been working hard to make sure the Israelis and the Russians don’t accidentally end up shooting at each other. He has so far resisted calls to accept refugees, believing (correctly) that this raises the danger of Israeli Jews one day becoming a religious minority in their own country. I really can’t fault him in any steps he’s taken. And this one is just another opportunity to demonstrate that, for all the (sometimes justified) criticism, Israel is still the most modern and humanitarian country in the region. What other country in the Middle East would lend medical aid to the citizens of a nation with whom they are, technically, still at war? And yet, Israel is the only one with a huge Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement targeted against it.

This is what a coherent foreign policy looks like, incidentally. We haven’t seen one in a long time and I’m dubious that we’ll see it under Trump. But Netanyahu has identified his country’s interests — keeping the devil they know in power, avoiding conflict with Russia and lending humanitarian aide — and executed it. If the big powers had been so coherent in their foreign policy, tens of thousands of people might not have died so needlessly.