Friday, July 31, 2009

South Florida Bloggers on Obama's Beer Diplomacy

A local blogger recently shared his thoughts on Obama's attempt to diffuse racial tensions through arranging for Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department to share a beer at the White House. His thoughts were subsequently adopted and expanded by another local blogger.

Their writings are evidence of a shift in posture among progressive bloggers. Whereas months ago Obama-friendly blogs were aggressively promoting him in all ways, the tone has shifted to defending Obama's serious mistakes. The intellectual dishonesty is obvious, and I have yet to read any local blogger admitting to Obama's imperfection.

Obama's calling for the so-called Beer Summit demonstrates exactly what his detractors and opponents warned of during the 2008 campaign. Specifically, that Obama is inexperienced. The denial of this truth is evident in "Mustang Bobby's" writing, wherein he acknowledges that:
some saw [the Beer Summit] as just another photo op on the White House lawn -- like when Arafat and Rabin shook hands -- that papered over the real differences between the parties and nothing's really changed;

That snippet is the full extent of the analysis and thought Bobby devotes to the comparison. In fact, the "paper[ing] over the real differences" between the Jews and Arabs in form of the handshake between Arafat and Rabin had dire consequences. For one, Rabin was assassinated by a Jew two years after the Clinton-brokered handshake. The well publicized political motives of his assasin leave little doubt that his participation in the handshake was a motivating factor. Secondly, the handshake legitimized Arafat's terrorism, and terrorism generally. Terror organizations are now quick to form deceptive "political wings" and immediately expect equal standing in world politics. The current state of middle east "peace" speaks for itself.

The intellectually honest recognize Clinton's mistake. For a moment, consider that Obama says this about science:
“It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s inconvenient,” Obama said. “Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as president of the United States ...”

Albert Einstein, a scientist, defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Yet for all his talk, Obama chose to ignore the historical failures of "papered over" photo opportunities. History is, after all, a very powerful social science.

A younger social science, considered by some a subset of economics, is "game theory". Consider that Obama has now introduced a new possible outcome to anti-social and possibly illegal racist behavior. When considering the possible consequences of abusing a position of power, or falsely accusing another of racism, a summit-like resolution immunizing the act is possible. The disincentive to commit the act is lessened. Further, a punishment harsher than a summit reconciliation will be perceived as a deviation from precedent. The next officer deprived of the opportunity to toast with a minority citizen he abuses, and instead punished by suspension or termination, will cry afoul. The over-racting citizen legitimately sanctioned for disorderly conduct will feel similarly deprived of the rule of law when no summit is offered. The unintended consequences on human behavior caused by this Beer Summit can be variably postulated, but unlike Bobby and Rick, the intellectualy honest recognize that not every consequence will be good.

Mustang Bobby rushes to Obama's defense with vague hopes:
Staged events like this rarely accomplish anything in themselves, but it does set an example...-- it may get the cop and the prof in other places like Toledo or Albuquerque or Miami to sit down and talk.

Rick writes:
Getting people to talk to each other instead of shouting at each other is a noble goal no matter what beer is sipped or how many photos are taken.

Neither Bobby nor Rick cite to any historic precedent of harmonizing a festering social tension through similar staged events. Numerous historical examples exist besides the Clinton-brokered handshake. Surely Chamberlain and Hitler sipped wine or cognac as they prevented the outbreak of WWII. Rushing to defend their false idol, Bobby and Rick offer only "hope" and "nobility".

The intellectual dishonesty is glaring when one considers the simple, time tested method of resolving the conflict: Truth. To borrow a phrase from Bobby, the Gates incident is indeed "like [a] Rorschach test; you take away from it what you want to see." Some see the violation of an innocent citizen's civil rights. Others see a noble man in uniform falsely accused.

One need only examine the Dreyfus affair to see how poor Obama's decision was. If Sgt. Crowley is a racist, then let it be exposed. If Gates was the true "reverse-racist", then let it be exposed. If Obama really wanted what was best for America, "even when it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s inconvenient," then he would have instead sought Justice and Truth. As it stands, it now appears unlikely that any of us will ever be comfortably informed as to exactly what transpired between Gates and Crowley.

The consequences of Obama's "papering-over" of the Truth are predictable. If history is any guide, tensions between races are likely to worsen as a result of this incident. The question is, do progressive bloggers understand this? I think some do, and for them my charge of intellectual dishonesty is proven. Others who continue to apologize for Obama and defend the Beer Summit are simply as naive and hubristic as Obama. Or, as Einstein would call them, insane.

Friday, July 24, 2009

SFDB: Mystery continues

As I previously blogged, a certain local blog piqued my curiosity as to whether the political digressions posted thereon were at the behest of a political organization, or if they are the genuine musings of the average Joe they purport to be.

I'm still not sure. On the one hand, that blog recently perpetuated the progressive boogey-man of right-wingers that want America to suffer in order to spite the half of America that voted for Obama (post here). I envisioned "Rick", author of the blog, as someone intelligent enough to see how silly that boogey-man is. Are there folks who, for example, believe that Obama's presidency will invite terror attacks? Of course. Does it mean they literally value the worth of an "I told you so!" more than the lives of fellow Americans, and actually want an attack to happen? Come on, "Rick" seems smarter than that.

So lo and behold, "Rick" goes and posts a rather lengthy discussion of the incident near Harvard involving a black professor. His conclusion echoes sentiments I expressed while commenting on another blog. Namely, that we ought not rush to conclude that the incident was racially motivated. Now, that is thinking consonant with what I would expect from the mind that does so well putting together the daily digests posted on the blog. Certainly, such an opinion breaks ranks with the progressive blogosphere, in stark contrast to the short blips on politics "Rick" usually posts that are lock-step with the progressive blogosphere.

So the plot thickens. Is "Rick" just lazy about how he assembles his opinions? Does that explain the longer than usual political post on the Harvard incident, where he finally shows some gray matter? Or is there still another explanation for the (seemingly) thoughtless political posts that seem so out of place on that blog?

The world may never know.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Politics: All in the family?

A post by a Florida blogger got me thinking about politicians' families. "Mustang Bobby" of Bark Bark Woof Woof had the following to say about the firing of a Fort Myers Beach employee over his marrying a porn actress:

I'm not going to make any judgments about Ms. Janke's profession and whether or not she contributes to the exploitation and objectification of women. That may easily be, but in this instance -- her husband being fired because of her profession -- it is breathtakingly irrelevant.

The city may have been within its legal rights to terminate Mr. Janke without cause, but sure makes them look like ignorant tight-asses.

The message I take from "Mustang Bobby" is that family issues are irrelevant as to whether not a person in public office gets the job done. His comments got me thinking about Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama. As a reader of "Mustang Bobby", I would say he practices what he preaches, criticizing the skewering of MO and SP here.

But as we know, inordinate attention is paid to the families of people in government. After all, there is some truth in judging a person, in part, by the company they keep. So I don't think its as simple as "Mustang Bobby" lays it out to be.

First, I don't accept Mustang's premise that we ought not judge Mrs. Janke. Pornography is a troubling paradox to society. We recognize some marginal mental health benefits in its consumption, but not all of us can turn a blind eye to the troubling circumstances surrounding the production of nearly all of it. Mrs. Janke is paid to have sex with strangers, plain and simple. Under certain circumstances such arrangements are illegal, artistic license being a limited exception. But the disturbingly troubled lives of people in that industry are well documented. When computer animation advances to the point of photo-realistic portrayal of live people, I'm not sure society wouldn't be better off outlawing most porn production utilizing real actors.

But even if I pass judgment on Mrs. Janke, should that affect my view if I were a taxpayer of Fort Myers Beach? Without much need for thought, I can say that if Michelle Obama were a porn starlet, presently, Barak Obama would never get my vote. I would form the conclusion that he approves of not only porn's consumption, but also its production, which to me would demonstrate poor judgment. Further, as hinted at by Mustang, I would consider such a First Lady an atrocious role model for American girls. Lastly, as a practical matter, America would be a laughing stock.

But the office of President of the United States is not quite the same as town manager of Fort Myers Beach, population 6, 500. But why should the principles involved be any different?

Unlike Mustang, I can't go by a black and white rule on this. I certainly think a person in public office is entitled to a private life. But like all things where other people in society are affected, there have to be limits. I think the bounds of those limits are exceeded when a person in public office decides to marry a "whore" (legal or not). Particularly where the marriage occured after his taking the job, the tax payers aren't exactly getting the public figure they bargained for.

Are some South Florida bloggers actually paid political operatives? defines the word "shill" as:
"a person who publicizes or praises something or someone for reasons of self-interest, personal profit, or friendship or loyalty."

I had to look up the meaning of the word after a commentator on South Florida Daily Blog (SFDB) accused the blog's author of being one. I'm not sure whether "Rick", the blog's author, actually denied the allegation. Their exchange took place on this post, the relevant portions being:
"Truther": I won't bother to read your response, because I've seen you do little more than personally attack anybody that posts a comment disagreeing with you. I kind of suspect you're (sic) political blogging is paid for, and you're a shill.

"Rick": As far as your other comments go, you get what you give here, Truther. Use words like "shill" and make spurious allegations and I can guarantee you that the next time you poke your nose in here, using whatever pseudonym you choose that day, you'll be treated accordingly.

I am not sure whether "Rick" intended "spurious allegations" to serve as a denial of his being a paid political operative, or rather as reference to "Truther's" doubts regarding President Obama's place of birth.

The reason I found the exchange so interesting is that I also harbor some doubts as to the motivation for the political posts on SFDB. SFDB, at its core, is a thrice daily digest of South Florida news, aggregated at "Rick"'s discretion. According to the site, "The South Florida Daily Blog sifts through and reviews most of the blogs based in South Florida and highlights those posts that stand out from the rest of the day's traffic." "Rick" does his job well, and I enjoy the stated purpose of the blog. Judging by the discretion he employs when selecting posts for inclusion in his digest, he/she seems to be a well-rounded individual with diverse interests and broad general knowledge.

"Rick" diverts from the stated purpose of the blog several times a week, and takes up certain political topics. This habit of his/hers appartenly caught "Truther"'s attention, as well as mine. These posts seldom relate to local politics, the majority are national in focus.

The political posts are, in my opinion, strikingly dissonant with the rest of the blog. They are inconsistent with the diverse, liberal-minded and educated picture of "Rick" the rest of the blog paints. Instead, they are painfully simplistic left-wing talking points, seemingly harvested directly from sites like Media Matters (cited to and discussed in comments by "Rick" here) and other (allegedly) partisan-funded outlets. It is difficult to believe that the "Rick" who assembles the daily digest could possibly be the same "Rick" who authors the political posts.

I simply dismissed the situation as strange, but "Truther" may be on to something. Is SFDB a sham "astroturf" blog? I use software to block ads in my browser, so I can't say for sure there are no ads on SFDB, but could the regurgitation of left talking points be a source of income for "Rick"? Why not? If he's getting traffic for his well-assembled daily digest, why not sell some of that traffic to political PR buyers?

If its not already what is actually going on, then it certainly would be a brilliant strategy for marketers of all kinds, political or commercial. Either buy "posts" on blogs, or create a franchise of blogs, unrelated to politics. For example, you create a blog devoted to [INSERT CITY HERE] dog owners, where you blog about dog parks, local dog events, etc. Then out of the blue, once a week, the "blogger" goes off on a political tangent under the guise of "just making conversation." Its a beautiful idea, if I do say so myself.

That being said, let me announce to the world that this blog is damn sure for sale! Sign me up! "Rick", if you're out there, please give me the name of your agent!