Doug Archives

Not-So-Free Press in Venezuela

“Give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile.” In Venezuela these days, that venerable saying could be morphed to, “Give Hugo a company, and he’ll take the industry.” Not content with RCTV, Chavez is gunning for one of the last independent voices in Venezuela.

President Hugo Chávez is trying to whip up public support to close down Globovision, the remaining Venezuelan television channel critical of his administration.

Chávez has called Globovision “an enemy of the Venezuelan people,” and fervent government supporters want the national tax office to investigate the station. Hundreds of them rallied outside of Globovision last month.

The threats against Globovision come less than a year after Chávez knocked RCTV, the country’s most popular television station, off the commercial airwaves. RCTV had broadcast unflattering news coverage of Chávez for years.

Alberto Ravell, a Globovision part owner who runs the 24-hour news channel, has come under personal attack.

“Ravell: Fascist, coup plotter, murderer, liar,” read signs held by Chávez supporters at one of the president’s speeches late last year.

One thought is that Chavez won’t really nail Globovision because, as Ravell notes, he needs the station as a foil; someone to blame and accuse. In fact, just accusing them of being an enemy of the people and reducing their credibility with rhetoric may be all he needs to do to marginalize them and effectively take them out of, or minimize their impact on, the equation.

Another thought is that Chavez is looking for a distraction from the (predictable) shortages that his utopia is failing to curb.

The tension between the news station and Chávez comes as the leftist president appears to have lost some of his popular support.

The pollster Datos, in a quarterly survey of 2,000 Venezuelans last month, found that some 34 percent said they support Chávez’s government, down from a high of 67 percent in early 2005, and the lowest level since 2003, the Associated Press reported.

Another survey, by Venezuelan pollster Alfredo Keller, found that 37 percent of Venezuelans queried identified themselves as Chávez supporters in February, down from 50 percent in mid-2007, AP reported.

I honestly hope that the Venezuelan people are turning against Chavez for something other than just not enough “free” amenities from this socialist experiment. Hopefully, this dose of authoritarianism, along with Chavez’s penchant to blame everything else but his economic policies, will help the people to see what a mistake they made.

But one of the most dangerous things in the world is an authoritarian who feels like he’s losing his authority. I am concerned for them.

The Religious Left

The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty has, as it’s quick mission statement:

The Mission of the Acton Institute is to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.

Among their web site’s many features is the Acton PowerBlog, and a podcast of the various lectures and radio appearances of Acton staff as well as their recently-started "Radio Free Acton" with a bit more production value (hosted by an old blogging friend of mine, Marc VanderMaas). 

Recently in the podcast stream was a talk by Acton President Rev. Robert Sirico entitled "The Rise (And Eventual Downfall) of the New Religious Left".  It is a 35 minute speech in which Rev. Sirico covers the fallacies of the Religious Left by noting history, scripture, and church writings.  He particularly notes the Left’s penchant for increasing the power of government (which history shows never ends well) in the name of caring, when the role of the church in society is to change hearts and allow human society to come naturally along. 

I’d like to suggest this quick listen to all my SCO comrades, and those, both on the right and the left, who would like to hear a well-reasoned examination of the role of government in Christian charity.  (The page linked above has an embedded audio player.)

Tough Times for Democrats?

Our contributor Tom said recently, "These are tough times to be a Democrat."  A commenter, noting that line, replied, "It still appears that McCain can’t even beat Clinton – with her huge negative ratings – much less Obama."

If you put your stock in opinion polls, McCain’s looking better all the time.

The poll showed Arizona Sen. McCain, who has clinched the Republican presidential nomination, is benefiting from the lengthy campaign battle between Obama and Clinton, who are now battling to win Pennsylvania on April 22.

McCain leads 46 percent to 40 percent in a hypothetical matchup against Obama in the November presidential election, according to the poll.

That is a sharp turnaround from the Reuters/Zogby poll from last month, which showed in a head-to-head matchup that Obama would beat McCain 47 percent to 40 percent.

Now, as I’ve said, I’m not a big fan of opinion polls.  They tend to judge emotion moreso that anything else, as I think this one does.  Nonetheless, I think Tom’s point stands, especially when you consider, as he did, the primary season debacle.

So now Democrats find themselves in a thoroughly uncomfortable position. Their nominee will ultimately be selected by the party’s elite, unelected delegates rather than by the millions of voters who turned out in during the primary season. Depending on which way they go, they run the risk of alienating a huge portion of their base. They could potentially disenfranchise millions of voters (particularly if they cannot resolve the Michigan/Florida problem). It’s rather ironic that the same party that since 2000 has routine accused Republicans of disenfranchising voters may do the same to their own base. How they solve these issues in selecting their nominee could mean the difference between a huge victory in November and utter self-destruction.

It ain’t over ’til it’s over, right Yogi?

[tags]politics,Democrats,John McCain,Hillary Clinton,Barack Obama,presidential primary,disenfranchisement[/tags]

New Poll: The Religious Wright

Senator Barack Obama gave a speech in Philadelphia yesterday on race issues.  The speech was precipitated by connections being drawn between Obama and his black liberation theology pastor of 20 years, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Many people have been turning to the Internet to view statements by his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who suggested in one sermon that the United States brought the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on itself and in another said blacks should damn America for continuing to mistreat them.

Obama rejected Wright’s divisive statements but still embraced the man who brought him to Christianity, officiated at his wedding, baptized his two daughters and inspired the title of his book "The Audacity of Hope."

Not disown, perhaps, but much of that association has been scrubbed from Obama’s website and elsewhere on the Internet.  And that’s begging the question; are Rev. Wright’s view extreme for black liberation theologySee here for Mark Olsen’s look into this.  If they are extreme, what does it say about the candidate who supports that church by his attendance and, likely, his money?  If they aren’t extreme, what does it say about the theology, in addition to the candidate?  [UPDATE: James Taranto reports that they may be more mainstream than some would like to think.]

So then, are a candidate’s pastor’s views fair game for consideration on the campaign trail?  Before you answer, consider how the occasional words of Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell have been used to paint evangelical Christians with a broad brush, both in the media and in the blogs.  But Falwell wasn’t, and Robertson isn’t, the pastor of the vast majority of those people for whom the Left likes to suggest they speak for.  Obama, on the other hand, attends by personal choice.  If the Left wants to make Robertson the spokesman for millions who may have not heard him speak, doesn’t that standard then apply to someone with a 20-year, close association with a presidential candidate? 

Or is there one standard for the Religious Right, and another for the Religious Wright?

Please vote in the poll on the right; do you think it’s fair game?

[tags]Barack Obama,Rev. Jeremiah Wright,race issues,Jerry Falwell,Pat Robertson,Religious Right,Christianity[/tags]

The Slave Who Returned

He was captured at 16 years of age and forced to be a slave in a foreign country.  He was a herdsman for 6 years until he believed God told him to escape, which he did, back to England.  A few years later, he had a vision of someone from that foreign country asking him to return to spread the Gospel of Christ, which he did.

As you wear your green today, spare a thought for the country of Ireland, the country to which Saint Patrick was taken, and back to which he went to lead them to Christ.  St. Patrick’s Day isn’t about shamrocks and green beer any more than Christmas is about reindeer and Christmas trees.

[tags]Saint Patrick,Ireland,St. Patrick’s Day[/tags]

Eliot Spitzer and Me

Scott Ott, writer at the fantastically funny Scrappleface, also has a more serious blog at the Townhall website.  Today’s entry is a sobering look at the situation with Eliot Spitzer and the prostitute.  The money quote: "The difference between me and Eliot Spitzer is largely this: I have never been elected governor of New York."

Please read the whole thing before you, Republican or Democrat, pass judgement.

[tags]Eliot Spitzer,Scott Ott,politics[/tags]

The "Identity Pileup"

When Maureen Dowd finally sees the problems brought on by identity politics, and calls it like it is, you can just see the chickens coming home to roost.  However, in the entire article, there’s something missing.  We’ll get to that, but first…

Dowd lays it on the line as to the choice that Democrats have to make.

With Obama saying the hour is upon us to elect a black man and Hillary saying the hour is upon us to elect a woman, the Democratic primary has become the ultimate nightmare of liberal identity politics. All the victimizations go tripping over each other and colliding, a competition of historical guilts.

People will have to choose which of America’s sins are greater, and which stain will have to be removed first. Is misogyny worse than racism, or is racism worse than misogyny?

As it turns out, making history is actually a way of being imprisoned by history. It’s all about the past. Will America’s racial past be expunged or America’s sexist past be expunged?

My question to this is; in spite of all the common cause the Democrats have made with Martin Luther King, whatever happened to "the content of their character"?  Or their policies, given that this is the highest office in the land?  Instead, Democrats are fixated on race and gender.

Oh, and age, too.

But Hillary — carried on the padded shoulders of the older women in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island who loved her “I Will Survive” rallying cry that “I am a little older and I have earned every wrinkle on my face” — has been saved to fight another day.

And so we wind up with the very thing Democrats accuse Republicans of doing; voting (or not voting) for someone based on their gender or race or age or some other external characteristic rather than their positions.  This leaves Democrats in the unenviable position,and one of their own making, of seeming racist or sexist even if their true motives have nothing to do with either.

Welcome to our world, folks, where Republicans get accused by the Democrats, the media and the blogs of being racists and bigots regardless of how we explain our positions and our votes.  Stinks, doesn’t it?  So here’s what I see as missing from the article; can we possibly hope that this will be the end of identity politics?

I’m not so sure.  Dowd’s article, while noting the disaster awaiting Democrats…

Just as Michelle Obama urged blacks to support her husband, many shoulder-pad feminists are growing more fierce in charging that women who let Obama leapfrog over Hillary are traitors.

Julie Acevedo, a precinct captain for Obama in Austin, noticed that things were getting uglier on Friday, during the early voting, when she “saw some very angry women just stomping by us to go vote for Hillary. They cut us off when we tried to talk about Barack.

…doesn’t really seem to renounce it.  The sooner Democrats get rid of it, the sooner Spelman students will be able to make an informed decision as to whom to vote for.

[tags]Maureen Down,New York Times,Democrats,identity politics[/tags]

*Now* They Want to Negotiate

Where were you fellas for the past 2 years?

Former US president Jimmy Carter and former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan wish to arrive in Israel in the coming months in order to help negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Army Radio reported.

(Hat tip: Meryl Yourish, where she lists a number of other new stories worth your time.)

Kinda’ gives you a peek into their heads. A ceasefire is to get combatants to stop firing. But apparently hundreds of Qassam rockets aren’t considered “firing” to these guys. Or, more likely, it’s only “firing” if Israel is doing it.

And this is revealing as well.

According to the report, Israel is opposed to the initiative, but officials said that Jerusalem would be well advised to try and channel the visit into a positive track so as not to damage the country’s image in the media.

Don’t know who these officials might be, but it’s interesting to note that Carter and Annan are just shills, knowingly or not, for the Hamas PR machine. Are these the kinds of naive negotiators we need in the Middle East? (Hint: No.)

I know I’ve been on this kick the past few days, but this sort of foolishness and outright bias doesn’t seem to get enough notice generally.

[tags]Israel,Hamas,Jimmy Carter Kofi Annan,Middle East[/tags]

High, on Mount Sinai

An Israeli researcher, Benny Shanon, claims that Moses was doing drugs on Mount Sinai when he heard God tell him the Ten Commandments.  We find the crux of the matter in paragraph 3.

"As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don’t believe, or a legend, which I don’t believe either, or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics," Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.

Essentially, this "research" started from a conclusion and worked its way back to the explanation.  It’s "very probable" because the researcher dismisses everything else out of hand.  No evidence, just inference based on his own presuppositions.

Oh, and there’s also a bit of projection going on there, too.

He mentioned his own experience when he used ayahuasca, a powerful psychotropic plant, during a religious ceremony in Brazil’s Amazon forest in 1991. "I experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations," Shanon said.

He did drugs, so Moses must have.  There’s "research" for you.

[tags]Moses,Mount Sinai,drugs,Benny Shanon,Hebrew University of Jerusalem,Judaism,Christianity[/tags]

UN Rises From Its Slumber

…to, of course condemn Israel.  But first, some background.

ASHKELON, Israel (AP) – Residents of this beachside city are still coming to terms with being on the front lines of Israel’s battle against Hamas militants.

A dozen long-range rockets slammed into Ashkelon over the weekend, marking a significant turning point in the conflict and compelling Israel to strike back hard.

"Until yesterday, I never would have believed that I would see the things I saw," said Rachel Shimoni, 66, as she stood amid shards of glass, blown out of the front window of her clothing store. "All of a sudden, the reality has changed."

Palestinian militants fire rockets nearly daily at Sderot and other Israeli border towns near Gaza. But by reaching Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 people about 11 miles north of Gaza, Hamas raised the stakes considerably. It is one of the largest cities in southern Israel, home to Mediterranean beaches, a college and strategic installations like an electric plant and a water purification plant.

Gaza militants have managed to hit the outskirts of Ashkelon in rare instances in the past, but the latest fighting was the first time they’ve been able to do it on a regular basis.

The intent is clear; Sderot is small potatoes, so with the help of Iranian rockets, the Palestinians have upped the ante and can now fire at a larger population center. 

Rockets have been raining down in souther Israel for 2 years, and when does the UN start the loud condemnations?  On the very day when Israel returns fire.

GAZA (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Israel for using "excessive" force in the Gaza Strip and demanded a halt to its offensive after troops killed 61 people on the bloodiest day for Palestinians since the 1980s.

Addressing an emergency session of the Security Council in New York after four days of fighting in which 96 Palestinians have been killed, many of them civilians,

And, oh yeah, …

Ban also called on Gaza’s Islamist militants to stop firing rockets.

But that call didn’t come until Israel defended itself.  Odd, that.  But now, what should this august body do?

Diplomats said the Security Council was unlikely to adopt a Libyan resolution that condemns Israel’s killing of civilians but makes no mention of the Palestinian rocket fire.

Can you say "blind spot"?

The United States, Israel’s closest ally and a veto-wielding member of the Council, made clear its understanding of the Israeli position, while regretting loss of life on both sides.

"There is a clear distinction between terrorist rocket attacks that target civilians and action in self-defense," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

European diplomats said they believed the world body should at least make some comment on bloodshed which some say jeopardizes the new U.S.-backed peace talks between Israel and Abbas, who holds sway now only in the occupied West Bank.

The UN once again demonstrates the term "self-parody" as they consider the possibility that they should make some comments on the bloodshed, again, after 2 years of rocket fire from Gaza.  Good morning, fellas, hope the noise of the bombs didn’t disturb your slumber.

And speaking of self-parody…

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said: "If Israeli aggression continues, it will bury the peace process."

Yes, well, it depends on your definition of "peace".  For the Arab world, and apparently for the UN as well, "peace" simply means bombing Israel with impunity.  It is this sort of inaction and selective action that has convinced me that the UN is utterly broken. 

[tags]Israel,Gaza,Middle East,Sderot,Ashkelon,Palestinians,United Nations,Hamas,Iran,Ban Ki-moon,Gordon Johndroe,Mahmoud Abbas,Saeb Erekat[/tags]

The Longsuffering of Israel

That’s all they can stands, they can’t stands no more.  (Apologies to Popeye.)

ASHKELON, Israel – Israel’s deputy defense minister warned on Friday of a disaster in the Gaza Strip after Israel activated an air raid system to protect a major city from increasingly threatening Palestinian rocket barrages.

As Israeli troops, tanks and aircraft went after Palestinian rocket operations, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio that Israel had "no other choice" but to launch a massive military operation in Gaza.

For over 2 years, ever since the good-faith move out of Gaza by the Israelis, the Palestinians have been flinging rockets from Gaza into southern Israel almost daily, mostly at Sderot.  But now, thanks to the ever-insistently-"peaceful" Iranians, the attacks are getting worse.

Israel evacuated its troops and settlers from Gaza in late 2005, but the rocket fire has persisted and this week became more ominous as Iranian-made rockets slammed into a major city.

Communities right over the Gaza border have taken the overwhelming brunt of the rocket attacks from Gaza, but militants firing longer-range Iranian rockets struck hit the town of Ashkelon several times on Thursday. One sliced through the roof of an apartment building and three floors below, and another landed near a school, wounding a 17-year-old girl.

The world gasps in shock whenever Israel retaliates in defense of their own people, aiming at military targets, but yawns in apathy when the Palestinians indiscriminately chuck explosives at civilians.  And at the UN, it’s all Israel’s fault.

Maybe, but only because they didn’t retaliate earlier.  Letting the bully continue to act out, without consequence, doesn’t stop the bullying.

[tags]Israel,Middle East,Gaza,Palestinians,Hamas[/tags]

Personhood and the Big Bang

That’s the title of a post by Russ Neglia on his Townhall blog "Pro-Life, Pro-Logic".  How does the determination a person relate to the beginning of the universe?  Click through and see his well-reasoned arguments (hence the blog’s name). 

While you’re there, read his excellent post on the language of abortion.  He really deconstructs some of the (sometimes contradictory) words and phrases used to justify the abortion position.

[tags]abortion,language,pro-life[/tags]

Global Warming Update

It’s snowing.  No, I mean really snowing.

Snow cover over North America and much of Siberia, Mongolia and China is greater than at any time since 1966.

The U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported that many American cities and towns suffered record cold temperatures in January and early February. According to the NCDC, the average temperature in January "was -0.3 F cooler than the 1901-2000 (20th century) average."

In just the first two weeks of February, Toronto received 70 cm of snow, smashing the record of 66.6 cm for the entire month set back in the pre-SUV, pre-Kyoto, pre-carbon footprint days of 1950.

And remember the Arctic Sea ice? The ice we were told so hysterically last fall had melted to its "lowest levels on record? Never mind that those records only date back as far as 1972 and that there is anthropological and geological evidence of much greater melts in the past.

The ice is back.

Gilles Langis, a senior forecaster with the Canadian Ice Service in Ottawa, says the Arctic winter has been so severe the ice has not only recovered, it is actually 10 to 20 cm thicker in many places than at this time last year.

Granted, as the article goes on to day, "one winter does not a climate make".  But you just know that if the numbers were in the other direction this would be trumpeted by Al Gore and his shills in the media.  You just know it because, well, they have.

This has got some climatologists rethinking things.

According to Robert Toggweiler of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University and Joellen Russell, assistant professor of biogeochemical dynamics at the University of Arizona — two prominent climate modellers — the computer models that show polar ice-melt cooling the oceans, stopping the circulation of warm equatorial water to northern latitudes and triggering another Ice Age (a la the movie The Day After Tomorrow) are all wrong.

"We missed what was right in front of our eyes," says Prof. Russell. It’s not ice melt but rather wind circulation that drives ocean currents northward from the tropics. Climate models until now have not properly accounted for the wind’s effects on ocean circulation, so researchers have compensated by over-emphasizing the role of manmade warming on polar ice melt.

But when Profs. Toggweiler and Russell rejigged their model to include the 40-year cycle of winds away from the equator (then back towards it again), the role of ocean currents bringing warm southern waters to the north was obvious in the current Arctic warming.

And then there’s always that major source of global warming, the Sun.

Kenneth Tapping of our own National Research Council, who oversees a giant radio telescope focused on the sun, is convinced we are in for a long period of severely cold weather if sunspot activity does not pick up soon.

The last time the sun was this inactive, Earth suffered the Little Ice Age that lasted about five centuries and ended in 1850. Crops failed through killer frosts and drought. Famine, plague and war were widespread. Harbours froze, so did rivers, and trade ceased.

Again, as the article says, while it’s way too early to start predicting a new Ice Age, it’s also way too early to be predicting catastrophic warming as well.  Thus it’s also way too early to make huge economic and policy changes based on what could very well be a flawed premise.

[tags]global warming,environment,climate change,National Climatic Data Center,Toronto,Kyoto protocol,Arctic Sea,Gilles Langis,Canadian Ice Service,Robert Toggweiler,Joellen Russell,Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory,Princeton University,University of Arizona,Kenneth Tapping,National Research Council,Little Ice Age[/tags]

The Spoiler

Now that Ralph Nader has entered the presidential race, things get a little more interesting.  My personal feeling is that McCain would lose to Obama but could win against Clinton, with all her negatives.  Nader typically draws votes more from the Democratic candidate (just ask Al Gore), so with Obama looking more and more like the presumptive candidate, I like this development. 

One of the things that Nader’s candidacy always puts forth is that he is the candidat of real change, and that there’s not much difference between the two major parties.  Which, in my mind, means that those who vote for Nader on that basis really just don’t generally pay attention to what’s going on.  That most of Nader’s votes come from Democrats says, to me, more about Democrats than about Nader.

[tags]Ralph Nader,Al Gore,Democrats,politics[/tags]

Oh, That Liberal Media

Yeah, I know, that’s a cliche line if there ever was one, but the smear by the New York Times on John McCain is only the latest, and perhaps one of the most egregious, example in this election cycle.  They endorsed him while preparing this story, and now that he has the nomination essentially sewn up, they tossed a bunch of innuendo about him from disgruntled former aides on the front page.  The blogosphere has been all over this story, but Captain Ed gives a good post-mortem on the whole thing today.

So what do we have? We have salacious but completely unsubstantiated gossip, combined with a rehash of at least one old Times smear, placed on the front page of what used to be the premiere newspaper in America. And what exactly does that do for the Times’ credibility for the rest of this electoral cycle? They can’t run anything on McCain now without it being seen in the context of what the Times itself calls a "war" between the Times and McCain. Keller and company declared war on McCain yesterday, and it fired a bazooka of effluvium as its opening salvo. They’ve marginalized themselves for the next nine months.

Ed notes earlier that the Times has done what the Republican party couldn’t; fire up the base for McCain.  Blogger punditry on the Left still wants to milk this for all what it’s worth, but it’s unlikely their words will be taken seriously when trying to prop up rumor as some sort of "I told you so" moment.  Not gonna’ happen. 

[tags]John McCain,New York Times,politics,liberal media[/tags]

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