"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Moon

(This was our blog's message for the past few years. Another year has passed, but do the important things ever change?

Remembering the important things, as these men did, seems longer ago and even farther away with each passing year, and to some, even more silly. But Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all those here gathered anyway, and may we smile today, give thanks, and be inspired in the coming year to perpetuate their silliness...)




It was on Christmas Eve 1968 that the astronauts of Apollo 8, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders, became the first of mankind to see an earthrise from the orbit of the moon, and looking back on us, they spoke these words:


Anders: "We are now approaching lunar sunrise. And, for all the people back on earth, the crew of Apollo 8 have a message that we would like to send to you...

"In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth. And the Earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness."

Lovell: "And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day."

Borman: "And God said, Let the waters under the Heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas: and God saw that it was good."

And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good earth."


It is good. God bless us, every one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Word About Detroit Labor Costs

Note that the widely-reported difference between hourly compensation costs at the "Big" Three and the nonunion U.S. auto plants understates the cost disadvantage of the former, as the work rules and other factors force GM, Ford, and Chrysler to use more manhours per vehicle than is the case for the others. Hence, the per-vehicle cost disadvantage is greater than the mere difference in hourly compensation. And this is quite apart from the adverse effect of the jobs bank and other legacy costs, which are not relevant on the margin per vehicle produced, but which must be paid and thus are relevant in terms of the ability of the Three to attract private capital. As they sang in the original "M.A.S.H.," suicide (i.e., bankruptcy) is painless, brings on many changes, etc. All for the better.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Starting Point



I submit that any legitimate argument made by proponents of an auto industry bailout (especially those in Congress) must begin with this graph. Anything else is the work of a scoundrel.

_________________________

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Queen Mother Goes Off the Reservation

Elton John, perhaps the world's best-known Gay Guy, is getting flack for his lack of outrage at California's Proposition 8 winning a majority of the vote:

"I don't want to be married. I'm very happy with a civil partnership. If gay people want to get married, or get together, they should have a civil partnership," John says. "The word 'marriage,' I think, puts a lot of people off.

"You get the same equal rights that we do when we have a civil partnership. Heterosexual people get married. We can have civil partnerships."













Elton seems OK with his legally secured equal rights without demanding further "equal rights." Interesting. I wonder if Judy Garland will stop buying his records.




The thing is, there's been very little resistance in America against the establishment of the concept of civil unions. This speaks well of the American people, I think. We aren't cementheads: we're a fair, just, reasonable and compassionate people. There's not a single American who doesn't know a gay-oriented person or doesn't have one [or more] in their family. It's abominably stupid to ban anyone from a hospital visit or from inheriting a house that he/she has lived in for most of their adult life. America has recognized this already.

On the other hand, using legal mechanisms, especially the courts, to take away freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, of reason, about what "marriage" means...well, that's not fair, just or compassionate either.

I think Mr. John got it about right here. Well done, Sir Elton.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Scratch That - Will $40 Bucks an Hour be Enough?

Update: It seems that the Obama camp has updated their website, and so required volunteerism has been replaced by goals and plans. Of course, the abysmal policies of the last eight years under George W. Bush have left the volunteerism of our youth in such a state that it looks like a volunteerism stimulus package will be required.

The revised statement now reads:

...all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free.

So we've now gone from, um, inspiring volunteerism to paying $40/hr to pick up trash at soccer fields. That's quite a change in 24 hours.

Who says the next generation are a bunch of slackers?

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Yes We Can! (And by that, we mostly mean you.)

Apparently the Obama campaign was so inspired by the willingness of The Youth to support his candidacy, that he didn't think they'd mind being required to volunteer up to 5% of a typical 2,000 hour work year to community service.

This from
Change.gov, the President-Elect's website:


The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

What did you think Barack was going to do once elected, just let you lie around the frat house all day in your underwear?

You're not one of those Selfish types, are you?


__________________________________

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

We Have a New President

Congratulations to President-elect Barack Obama, his party, and everyone else who voted for him. I didn't, but he's going to be my president. Our president, the President of the United States.

Like many in his party when it came to President George W. Bush, and like many from my own party when it came to President Bill Clinton, I expect to be in the opposition.

But unlike them, I pledge to be a member of the loyal opposition. I resolve not to descend into the pettiness that marked the opposition to our last---two-term, BTW---presidents. That was unpatriotic.

I once wrote that if Senator Obama used the word "liberty" in a meaningful way between then and Election day, I'd vote for him myself.

To my knowledge, President-elect Obama never did, and so I didn't.

And so, in the meantime before President Obama's inauguration, I shall brush up on my Adam Smith, and on Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, as we all should.

Just in case, y'know? The wisdom of the ages might come in handy, liberty and all that.

__________________________________

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Media Can't be Straight With Us

Is this the most despicable distortion you have ever seen?

Read the article and then look at the headline.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ELECTION 2008 BULLETIN!

Oh, we've let things go to hell around here at what used to be your favorite thoughtful blog, thenewswalk.com. All anybody wanted to talk about was the election, and it's done better everyday elsewhere. Everywhere.

But lookee here---I was talking at Mrs. TVD tonight, as married people do, with my one thought on this election we're all so thoroughly sick of:

TVD: Y'know, I always expect John McCain to come off as a bit of a cementhead. He's been busy. Combat pilot, prisoner of war, catting around after they finally let him go from North Vietnam. Then onto the Senate, where politics doesn't leave much time to actually learn much.

But Barack Obama---private school in Hawaii, two colleges, one of them Ivy League [Columbia], then Harvard Law School. Got elected editor of the Law Review, which goes to the brilliantest of the brilliant.

But Barack never wrote anything at the law review, didn't even leave a trace you could google. And the thing that bothers me most is that in two years running for president, he's never said a single damn thing that made me say, "Hey, that's brilliant. I never thought of that!" Instead, I hear the same ol', same ol' whatever.

Mrs. TVD: McCain's a jock. Obama's a hologram.


Mr. TVD has nothing to add, except that he married well.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Camille-Oh! Appearance

Who says atheist leftists are never honest? As in the old lawyer joke, it's the 99 percent dishonest ones giving the other 1 percent a bad name. Here is Camille Paglia, giving no quarter and taking no prisoners as usual.

Yes, both Todd and Sarah Palin, whom most people in the U.S. and abroad had never even heard of until six weeks ago, have emerged as powerful new symbols of a revived contemporary feminism. That the macho Todd, with his champion athleticism and working-class cred, can so amiably cradle babies and care for children is a huge step forward in American sexual symbolism.

Although nothing will sway my vote for Obama, I continue to enjoy Sarah Palin's performance on the national stage. During her vice-presidential debate last week with Joe Biden (whose conspiratorial smiles with moderator Gwen Ifill were outrageous and condescending toward his opponent), I laughed heartily at Palin's digs and slams and marveled at the way she slowly took over the entire event. I was sorry when it ended! But Biden wasn't -- judging by his Gore-like sighs and his slow sinking like a punctured blimp. Of course Biden won on points, but TV (a visual medium) never cares about that.

The mountain of rubbish poured out about Palin over the past month would rival Everest. What a disgrace for our jabbering army of liberal journalists and commentators, too many of whom behaved like snippy jackasses. The bourgeois conventionalism and rank snobbery of these alleged humanitarians stank up the place. As for Palin's brutally edited interviews with Charlie Gibson and that viper, Katie Couric, don't we all know that the best bits ended up on the cutting-room floor? Something has gone seriously wrong with Democratic ideology, which seems to have become a candied set of holier-than-thou bromides attached like tutti-frutti to a quivering green Jell-O mold of adolescent sentimentality.

And where is all that lurid sexual fantasy coming from? When I watch Sarah Palin, I don't think sex -- I think Amazon warrior! I admire her competitive spirit and her exuberant vitality, which borders on the supernormal. The question that keeps popping up for me is whether Palin, who was born in Idaho, could possibly be part Native American (as we know her husband is), which sometimes seems suggested by her strong facial contours. I have felt that same extraordinary energy and hyper-alertness billowing out from other women with Native American ancestry -- including two overpowering celebrity icons with whom I have worked.

One of the most idiotic allegations batting around out there among urban media insiders is that Palin is "dumb." Are they kidding? What level of stupidity is now par for the course in those musty circles? (The value of Ivy League degrees, like sub-prime mortgages, has certainly been plummeting. As a Yale Ph.D., I have a perfect right to my scorn.) People who can't see how smart Palin is are trapped in their own narrow parochialism -- the tedious, hackneyed forms of their upper-middle-class syntax and vocabulary.

As someone whose first seven years were spent among Italian-American immigrants (I never met an elderly person who spoke English until we moved from Endicott to rural Oxford, New York, when I was in first grade), I am very used to understanding meaning through what might seem to others to be outlandish or fractured variations on standard English. Furthermore, I have spent virtually my entire teaching career (nearly four decades) in arts colleges, where the expressiveness of highly talented students in dance, music and the visual arts takes a hundred different forms. Finally, as a lover of poetry (my last book was about that), I savor every kind of experimentation with standard English -- beginning with Shakespeare, who was the greatest improviser of them all at a time when there were no grammar rules.

Many others listening to Sarah Palin at her debate went into conniptions about what they assailed as her incoherence or incompetence. But I was never in doubt about what she intended at any given moment. On the contrary, I was admiring not only her always shapely and syncopated syllables but the innate structures of her discourse -- which did seem to fly by in fragments at times but are plainly ready to be filled with deeper policy knowledge, as she gains it (hopefully over the next eight years of the Obama presidencies). This is a tremendously talented politician whose moment has not yet come. That she holds views completely opposed to mine is irrelevant.

Even if she disappears from the scene forever after a McCain defeat, Palin will still have made an enormous and lasting contribution to feminism. As I said in my last column, Palin has made the biggest step forward in reshaping the persona of female authority since Madonna danced her dominatrix way through the shattered puritan barricades of the feminist establishment. In 1990, in a highly controversial New York Times op-ed that attacked old-guard feminist ideology, I declared that "Madonna is the future of feminism" -- a prophecy that was ridiculed at the time but that turned out to be quite true. Madonna put pro-sex feminism on the international map.

But it is now 18 years later -- the span of an entire generation. The instabilities and diminishments for young women raised in an increasingly shallow media environment have become all too obvious. I had grown up in a vibrant pop culture with glorious women stars of voluptuous sensuality -- above all Elizabeth Taylor, sewn into that silky white slip as the vixen Manhattan call girl of "Butterfield 8." In college, I feasted on foreign films starring sexual sophisticates like Jeanne Moreau, Anouk Aimée and Catherine Deneuve. Sex today, however, has become brittle and superficial. Except for the occasional diverting flash of Lindsay Lohan's borrowed bosom, I see nothing whatever that is worth a second glance. Pro-sex feminism has worked itself out and, like all movements, has degenerated into clichés. And even Madonna, with her skeletal megalomania, looks like a refugee from a horror movie.

The next phase of feminism must circle back and reappropriate the ancient persona of the mother -- without losing career ambition or power of assertion. Betty Friedan, who had first attacked the cult of postwar domesticity, had long warned second-wave feminists such as Gloria Steinem about the damaging exclusion of homemakers from their value system. The animus of liberal feminists toward religion must also end (I am speaking as an atheist). Feminism must reexamine all of its assumptions, including its death grip on abortion, if it wishes to survive.

The hysterical emotionalism and eruptions of amoral malice at the arrival of Sarah Palin exposed the weaknesses and limitations of current feminism. But I am convinced that Palin's bracing mix of male and female voices, as well as her grounding in frontier grit and audacity, will prove to be a galvanizing influence on aspiring Democratic women politicians too, from the municipal level on up. Palin has shown a brand-new way of defining female ambition -- without losing femininity, spontaneity or humor. She's no pre-programmed wonk of the backstage Hillary Clinton school; she's pugnacious and self-created, the product of no educational or political elite -- which is why her outsider style has been so hard for media lemmings to comprehend. And by the way, I think Tina Fey's witty impersonations of Palin have been fabulous. But while Fey has nailed Palin's cadences and charm, she can't capture the energy, which is a force of nature.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Out For a Dozen Counts

Nobody likes pundits who claim that they predicted results but offer no documentary evidence to that effect.

Oh, Jay is not like that.

Friday, October 03, 2008

OBiden vs. McPalin

Hey, I was watching the ballgames. My beloved Phils beat the Brewers and their best pitcher, CC Sabathia. And God still hates the Cubbies, 10-1.

Two quick takes, one of each:

---Sarah Palin pronounced it "NUC-u-lar," just like a well-derided, highly unpopular current president. I'd think that's enough to blow the whole thing.

---But Al Gore beat Dubya on debating points in 2000, but forgot that these debates ain't debates, they're campaign appearances. Gore acted like a creep, Dubya acted like an OK human being.

Tonight, Joe Biden addressed his debating points to moderator Gwen Ifill, looking down and to the side. Sarah Palin looked directly into the camera and spoke to the American people.

All I know is that you can't win the game until you know what the hell it is. Joe Biden, like Gore in 2000, brought a hockey stick to a baseball game. By all odds, the eminently experienced Sen. Biden should have enjoyed a laugher tonight over Gov. Palin, who isn't that long off the turnip truck.

But you can't hit a home run with a hockey stick, even if you're Babe Ruth.

_______________________________________

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Congress Mortgaged our Markets

The financial markets in this country are weathering a severe storm. My strategy in life, modeled for me by some great people, has always been to face rough times with humor. Right now, though, is no time for a belly laugh, not with a lot of very good people watching their net worth slip through the netting and down the drain. But a chuckle is still appropriate, even if it comes with a grim echo.

The funniest gag of all comes from Nancy Pelosi, blaming the Bush administration for the collapse of the nation’s mortgage base. This occurred, she says, because of a lack of regulation and oversight. For people living out here in the real world, that is a real thigh-slapping screamer. What brought so many mortgage banks down was a surfeit of regulation and oversight, but regulation designed for goals other than fiscal security.

Look, anyone who has bought or sold a house in the last twenty years is well aware of the situation. The real estate agent or mortgage broker whom you work with will certainly clue you in to the existence of FHA mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. You, as a middle-class person, will be told that you must put up 20 percent of the cost of the home you purchase. It is possible also to pay 10 percent in advance and borrow 90 percent, but then you will have to pay a monthly charge above the mortgage payment. That charge is to pay for mortgage insurance, where the bank gets some additional degree of protection from loss in case they foreclose and the house only sells for 80 percent of value.

But if you are poor, the agent or broker adds, then you are in good shape. Between Fannie and Freddie they can lend you up to 95, 97 and 100 percent of the price.

Now, I have been both buyer and seller of real estate over these two decades, and I have been shaking my head quietly over this situation. It was clear to me, as it should have been to any responsible person, that this system was a disaster waiting to happen. There is a reason why banks do not agree to lend more than 80 percent of the value of the property, more than one reason in fact. Values often go down twenty percent on their own, and the value of a home in foreclosure is also hurt by the process. There is also a reason to demand that a buyer put up some money, more than one reason here too. It is important that a person has some ability to manage funds well enough to accumulate some; it also bodes well for repayment when the purchaser has put some of his own capital on the line.

The idea of helping a poor person get a house is wonderful, but it flies against some of the harder edges of reality. It could work in many cases, or even in most cases, but it puts the lender in the position of having no margin for error. As long as the borrower can keep his job, with a salary increasing in proportion to inflation, without radical new expenditures caused by illness, and as long as the house keeps its value, the result will be a win-win. But if any one of those elements takes a hit, the whole house of cards will come tumbling down.

Clearly, then, the only way this system works is by eventually pushing the bad debt back to the government. Yet the government bureaucrats do not have their own money at stake. What they do have at risk is their job if they cannot show Congress that enough poor people are getting into homes. An unhealthy paradox evolves, where the government worries more about pushing loans than about collecting loans. Lenders and brokers get the message, so they run around recruiting new buyers among the barely-employed. How could this fail to fail?

Fail it has. After years of scratching my head, trying to figure out how this works, I have achieved perfect clarity. No mystery here after all. The answer is simple: it does not work! Never did, never could have.

As with any crisis, the only hope is if the villains are correctly identified and blame is reasonably apportioned. What are the chances that Congress will suddenly hit themselves in the collective forehead and yell, “Eureka, two plus two equals four”? Now there is a thought that has to make you chuckle.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

No Gloating, Rethuglicans!

Well, that's what the leftosphere calls you. Rethuglicans, fascists, Nazis, whatever.

Yes, John McCain's Hail Sarah pass worked. Definitely. He threw it, she caught it.

McCain and the GOP were headed for a November drubbing on the order of Goldwater or the 2006 congressional elections. And now, McCain/Palin is even or even ahead in the polls of the popular vote, although the Electoral College remains problematic.

So a wipeout looks unlikely.

Gov. Sarah Louise Hussein Palin [R-Caribou Country] came out of almost-nowhere and found herself thrust upon the world stage. She's handled herself with other-worldly dignity, grace, and aplomb, far surpassing Barack Obama's at this point. But Brother Barack had the same sangfroid at the start of his journey. It's only recently that his wheels have begun to wobble, and his cool meter is pegging on "overheated."

Me, I think Sen. Obama is reaching his Peter Principle Point, where we all excel until we reach our level of incompetence and then sit and die there. Barack Obama's PPP is getting nominated by his party for president: think Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, and Bob Dole before him---good men all. [Some notable omissions there, but let's move on...]

I could be proved wrong, of course, come November 5, 2008, although we all hope not sometime in December. Lord, can you please spare us that much? The Gore-ocrats are still whining about the year 2000!

John McCain himself will figure into this circus at some point, perhaps, being as he's the one running for president and all.

I think John McCain knows what he believes and who he is, and his opponent illustrates every day that he remains unsure of either one. Americans've had a radar for such distinctions for practically ever. We'll find out pretty soon if the American radar is still online.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sarah for Veep, and lest we forget, McCain for President

Well, John McCain's selection of Gov. Sarah Louise Hussein Palin (R-Alaska) makes me 0-for-4 in my prognostications. But that's cool. This is my favorite wrong one.

New polls give McC/Sarah a 4-point general lead and a 10-point lead among "those most likely to vote." Astonishing.

"The Democrats are in trouble. Sarah Palin has totally changed the dynamics of this campaign."---Willie Brown


Now, Willie Brown is mebbe the most astute politician I've ever seen. He was king of the California Assembly for so many years that California put in term limits just for him. Still, when the GOP finally won a 39-39 standoff in the state house---something I expect them never to get close to again in this writer's lifetime---WB peeled off a couple of GOP turncoats, put them "in charge," got himself declared "speaker emeritus," and kept control. It was a beautiful thing.
The old white boys got taken fair and square.---WB

Hehe, they sure did. The old white boys got mad instead of appreciating and applauding Willie's mastery of their own game. Did 'em no good, though: in fact, they downright disappeared, like Whigs or mastodons.

[Republicans are still rumored to survive in California, either as changelings like Arnold Schwarzenegger or as sasquatches somewhere out by Fresno.]

Anywayz, if party man and consummate pol Willie Brown---when he needed a new gig, he easily scored the mayor's job in San Francisco even though he was an Oakland man---says that this Palin thing has turned the game completely on its head, I believe him more than any poll or pollster or pundit or analyst. Willie is the best.

If Sarah can make it through her upcoming media colonoscopy---or if the press finally gives Barack his, which is way way past due (there are surely more "investigative" reporters in Alaska right now than were ever dispatched to Sen. Obama's Chicago)---well, you see where I'm going with this:

Election night 2008 celebrations will consume far more Budweiser than soy products. That would be good for America, I think---if not its bodies, its soul.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Combing Through the Whole Story

Yes, the piece you are about to read exemplifies the very reason you regularly make the trek to peruse this inimitable blog. Er, on second thought you have not been trekking here. On third thought, you may not be reading even this, having drifted away to greener pastures.

Anyway, you will notice in this item about Mackenzie Phillips being arrested for uncontrolled possession of a controlled substance that the spokesman for the LAX cops is Sgt. Holcomb. If you Google the earlier story about Britney Spears scuffling with a photog at the airport you will note the good Sergeant's role in that saga as well.

To readers of the Perry Mason series of novels, there can be only one Sergeant Holcomb, the bumbling cop who keeps trying to work his way up to Homicide and then gets demoted when Mason humiliates him on the witness stand.

If you Google the name Sergeant Holcomb, you will find tales of a number of heroes by that name, both soldiers and police officers, including some who were killed on duty.

But to actually have a police officer by that name in Los Angeles, where the Mason stories are based, is delightfully rich. We wish him well in the arduous world of celebrity law enforcement.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Keith Olbermann on Michelle Obama's Convention Speech


"I'm sounding borderline sycophantic on this, I know..."---K. Olbermann, MSNBC newsanchor


Not at all, Keith. Truth is your game, and Truth is your middle name. This is why you're such a respected journalist. Ed R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite or Rachel Maddow couldn't have done it any better. Go for it, dude.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Oracle Blinded

Oh well, I'm oh-for-three (0-3) on the prez-veepstakes: it wasn't Rudy or Hillary and now it ain't Evan Bayh either.

(Although I'm really delighted it's the One Democrat Who I Always Wanted To Say I Like, Except He Just Keeps Saying Incredibly Stupid Stuff. Go Get 'em, Joe, speak your mind! Let 'er rip!)

So, I'm going quadruple or nothing on Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, although Mitt the Twit wouldn't be the pits by current standards. We're looking at an all-twit final four after all, so what the hell.

But I've caught Pawlenty here & there, and adjudge him to be a non-twit. He's actually kinda cool.

I have a wife who genuinely loves to fish. I mean, she will take the lead and ask me to go out fishing, and joyfully comes here...She loves football, she'll go to hockey games and, I jokingly say, 'Now, if I could only get her to have sex with me.'"

The governor quickly clarified, "It's a joke, it's a joke."


I mean, Pawlenty even knows that whenever he tells a joke, politics dictates that you tell everybody it's a joke, just in case. And it was funny to boot.

Dude's OK. He gets this 21st century thing.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Hello, Good Bayh

HuffPo has an educated guess that Barack Obama will name Evan Bayh his VP pick as soon as Wednesday.

I got the rest of the races wrong, counting out McCain early and picking Hillary, of course. But I've been a Bayh man all the way.

It makes sense for Obama to do it now. The GOP narrative of Obama-as-leftist is sinking in, and Obama's poll numbers are flattening.

Evan Bayh, a Democratic ex-governor and now senator of a red state, might not be able to swing Indiana to the Obama column, but he would certainly help arrest what appears to be a spiraling distrust of Obama's centrist impulses.

[A distrust, which in my opinion, is well-founded...]

Monday, July 28, 2008

Judeo-Christianity

Oooops, I should have used scare quotes in the title. "Scare quotes." "Judeo-Christianity."

Because "Judeo-Christianity" doesn't exist of course. The term is a neologism, more specifically a retronym, where the old term loses its meaning and needs a qualifier to make any sense. Like "acoustic guitar." Once upon a time, all guitars were acoustic, like before electricity and before Les Paul invented the electric guitar.




Acoustic Guitar.



                                       Guitar.

Note how guitars are now pointed upwards, but in the olden days, they were always horizontal. That's just the least of the differences, but this illustration do for now.

Anywayz, way back when, there were yr Jews and there were yr Christians, and never the twain should meet, least of all in a hyphenated word. Might as well call Thomas Jefferson a "Democrat-Republican"! But today, necessity dictates the miscegenation of "Judeo-Christian" in trying to make some sense out of the religious landscape at the founding of this here US of A.

You see, our first four or five presidents believed in the Bible more or less, but didn't believe Jesus was God or died for our sins or is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, whatever that is. But they believed that the Bible wasn't total bunk and that man was created in God's image like it says in Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 9:6.

That meant that man was endowed by his Creator with certain unalienable rights, blah, blah blah. But it was still a statement that the human race, for all its intellectual fortitude, hasn't managed to get around yet. Whether truth, myth, or illusion, the idea founded the greatest nation in history [IMO], and is imitated around the world through the present day.

I was struck by something the atheist Jürgen Habermas [who was one of the philosophical founders of post-WWII Europe] wrote recently:


Christianity has functioned for the normative self-understanding of modernity as more than a mere precursor or a catalyst. Egalitarian universalism, from which sprang the ideas of freedom and social solidarity, of an autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, of the individual morality of conscience, human rights, and democracy, is the direct heir to the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of continual critical appropriation and reinterpretation. To this day, there is no alternative to it. And in the light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we continue to draw on the substance of this heritage. Everything else is just idle postmodern talk.---Jürgen Habermas, “Conversation About God and the World,” Time of Transitions, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006): pp. 150-151.



Ah. Judeo-Christianity. At last.

Now, intellectual honesty would oblige Jürgen Habermas to deny that Jesus is God or even that the Old Testament [another retronym, eh?] is revelation from God. Or that God even exists. Still, Habermas, a manifestly good man, can't get around that ol' Bible, which had certain unique ideas. "Judeo-Christianity" sums up those ideas, justice, and then on to love [which I read as mercy].

I think the Founders, even the first four presidents, were cool with that. Were they "Christians?" Nah. Were they Jews? Hah! "Judeo-Christians?" Mebbe.

[Oh, BTW, Jefferson always seemed quite in accord with rabbinical Judaism to me. No Jesus-is-God, emphasis on good works. Turns out he WAS Jewish!]

Cross-posted @ American Creation.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Shameless Self-Promotion

My new paper on the private-sector contribution to pharmaceutical science, coauthored with Joe DiMasi and Chris Milne (both of Tufts University), can be found here (pdf) or here (HTML). The attendant op-ed, from today's Wall Street Journal, can be found here. Comments welcome.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Vouchers and Public Education

So the typical objection to vouchers is that they would undermine the public school system and "leave behind" the weakest of of students. But that's always seemed to me largely nonsensical, given that the choice is between largely what we have now and a voucherized system - and that know we already have school choice. It's just one organized by geography and income.

It seems to me that the *real* objection to school choice - and this is where liberals' willingness to have other systems voucherized comes into play - is that it would trim the state's ability to use education to shape its future citizens. When people talk all swimmingly about "public education" and its "role in building our country" what they're channeling (perhaps only unconsciously) is the idea that education is about (in part) separating children from their parents' benighted, un-progressive views and turning them into constructive citizens. Voucherized systems would make that more difficult, I think. It's one of the reasons, after all, that the first "homeschoolers" really showed up among the hippies in the 1960s - they didn't want "the man" getting a hold of their kids.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

NYT: Obama Better Than Bush

The New York Times makes the difference between Barack Obama and George W. Bush nice and sparking clear. All from the same article, mind you:

Mr. Bush’s critics, including former aides, have portrayed him as too cloistered, too dependent on a small coterie of trusted aides...




But Mr. Obama’s ease belies a more controlling management style. For all the success his campaign has enjoyed with grass-roots organizing, the operation is highly centralized around Mr. Axelrod; David Plouffe, the campaign manager; Robert Gibbs, the communications director; Pete Rouse, his Senate chief of staff; Valerie Jarrett, a longtime friend from Chicago; and a handful of senior advisers that has barely changed since he opened his campaign in January 2007.



Oh, I can see the difference. I'm sure you can, too. Actually, and to their credit, I think the NYT reporters are trying to slip the truth in there somewhere, knowing that most folks only read the headline and the first few grafs that appeared on the front page.

Their secret is safe with us. You'd have to actually read the whole article to see what they're up to. Their jobs are safe.

Even more braintwisting from the NYT on how Obama's better than Dubya is chronicled here by Erick at Red State, comparing this NYT story with one on Dubya in the year 2000. Take an Alka-Seltzer before clicking over, word up. Valium might be better.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Biblical and Talmudic Perspective - III

My first two entries were in two separate categories. The first referred to miraculous and revelatory matters in Biblical and Talmudic sources that can be tracked into our present reality. The second focused on the rich source material for getting a better glimpse into the day-to-day lives of our ancestors two to three thousand years ago.

Here is another example of the former.

Scientists consider the fact that there is very loud noise emanating from the corona of the sun, but getting lost in space, to be a recent discovery, developed over the last forty to seventy years. This segment gives a good synopsis of what is known.

Here is the Talmud weighing in on this subject 1500 years ago. And I quote (Yoma 20b): "Our Rabbis taught, there are three sounds that travel from one end of the world to the other, the sound of the corona of the sun, the sound of large urban populations and the sound of the soul as it leaves the body; some say also the sound of childbirth; and some say also the sound of Radia (or Radio)."

There was a clear awareness that the corona of the sun produced sound, but that it somehow did not reach us in an audible form.

Tangentially, Radia is explained to be an angel who somehow is tasked with connecting the heavens and the earth. (Maimonides famously explains that all angeels are scientific forces. But, he complains, the masses are not subtle enough to understand this, and they think him a heretic for not taking the prophetic images of creatures with wings literally.)

Incidentally, as a kid I found that Ripley, in one of his Believe It or Not books, was amazed that a sound said to traverse the globe (or the universe) was called Radia or Radio. If indeed the title came from the Latin word for ray, it shows that they believed sound to be a form of ray, which touches on the recent approaches of merging wave and ray theories in modern acoustics.

Biblical and Talmudic Perspective - II

Perhaps the most vivid example of basic knowledge that is lost to our secular encyclopedists by their ignorance of the Bible and Talmud is the history of table utensils.

Some years ago, an article in the Chicago Tribune traced the practice of eating with a fork and a knife to the 1600s, a mere four hundred years back. That totally blew my mind, considering my own life history, as I shall explain. Sure enough, this seems to be accepted wisdom. This segment from Diner's Digest is typical. It indicates that in the 11th century a Greek princess brought forks to Venice and was branded a heretic. They did not come into common use until the early 17th century.

The first apparent mention of a fork in the Bible is in Exodus (27:3) where it uses the Hebrew word "mazleg" to designate an implement used in handling meat on the altar. However, Rashi (1040-1105) interprets this to mean a hooked prong that was used from a distance to manipulate meat still burning on the altar.

However, the same word "mazleg", this time clearly meaning a fork, is used in Samuel I (2:13-14). "And the Priests made a rule among the populace, that whenever a person slaughtered an offering, the young Priest would come as the meat was cooking, with the three-toothed fork in his hand... whatever came up on the fork the priest would take..."

In modern Hebrew, mazleg is in standard use to mean a fork.

In Hebrew School in the 5th Grade,we began basic Talmud study with the chapter that discusses returning lost objects. As a general principle, items found in situations where the owner is likely to be optimistic about their being returned, and with identifying marks, must be advertised and may not be kept. If there are no unique markings, or if they are found in situations where the owner will assume loss (such as at a huge carnival), they may be kept.

One of the cases dealt with (Bava Metzia 25b) is when things are found amid the collected neighborhood trash. The decision is that forks and knives found there may be kept, because the owner will entertain no hope of it resurfacing in the garbage dump.

The Talmud was compiled in the 6th Century. Not only are forks and knives mentioned casually, but we even encounter the common scenario of accidentally clearing some utensils into the trash along with the food remnants.

The way this subject became a personal issue for me in the 5th Grade was because the Talmud uses the Aramaic word for fork, which is pronounced either 'hemnik' or 'himnek'. You can imagine what my classmates did with the similarity to my family name, devising all sorts of gags and pranks.

Incidentally, the Jews do not take credit for inventing this implement. Here is the the quote from Rabbenu Hananel, the 11th Century commentator from North Africa, on the above section of Talmud: "A himnek is an implement with multiple prongs, like the (Biblical) fork with three teeth, and it is the practice of the Greeks to steady the piece of meat while cutting with the knife, then eating. He can take what he cut and put it in his mouth without his hands touching the food at all, thus avoiding the grease."

Clearly, having this sort of basic knowledge as part of our cultural heritage enables us to know better the history of civilization.

Biblical and Talmudic Perspective - I

When my daughter recently was assigned the anaconda snake as a topic for a school assignment, I was enlisted to assist, if only by doing our modern lazy form of research, i.e. Google.

The lowest form of parenting is pointing out the correct book without revisiting it yourself at all. To avoid being tarred that way, I did a quick scan of the basic info.

To my shock, the section (in Encarta, the kid-friendly encyclopedia) on physical characteristics begins thus: "Like boas and pythons, anacondas retain primitive features that indicate ancient lizard ancestors. The snakes have traces of a pelvis and hind limbs."

As a child in Hebrew School, we studied the story of the snake in the Garden of Eden. We were taught the Biblical text along with the Jewish traditional exegesis. The full story is that the snake was an upright animal who stood on legs and was attracted to Eve. His scheme was based on enticing her with this fruit, eventually luring her away from her husband. When he was punished, God tells him (Genesis 3:14): "You will travel on your belly." As a consequence, his legs were taken away.

For some odd reason, I found this image one of the hardest to accept, the idea that the snake had legs and they atrophied in some way over time as an expression of a moral consequence.

Still, my teachers clearly were not aware of this astonishing vestige that can be witnessed in the current structure of the serpentine anatomy.

Nor are the writers of the encyclopedia conscious that they are communicating material that provides support for the very first incident described in the Bible.

This occasioned in me the meditation that an odd disconnect has crept into the modern consciousness. The basic premises of the Bible, whether in physical or theological reality, are simply not in the forefront of our cultural awareness, rendering us poorer as a people.

Hopefully, this can be the first in a series of notes expanding upon this theme. Please let me know if you find this of interest.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The end of summer vacation?

I have real sympathy for folks who struggle to make ends meet but there's nothing more annoying than upper-class writers who just can't figure out what those folks' lives are really like. Consider, for example, this article in Slate on the lack of vacation for many American workers. Why are vacations imperiled? Well, part of the reason is:

There are several factors at work here. To begin with, technology has helped iron downtime out of the economy. Many Americans are struggling to cope with job creep—the phenomenon of work quietly grabbing more and more of our leisure time. We are forever receiving co-worker or client messages on our BlackBerrys, or responding to work e-mails on our home computers on weekends, or lugging our laptops on vacation.


Yeah, all those down-scale workers who are constantly checking their blackberries and laptops - it's a real challenge to our vacations....

The Victim President

Obama combats darker side of Internet politics
Sayeth the AFP, a French news agency...


WASHINGTON (AFP) — Democrat Barack Obama has shown the stunning power of the Internet for political fundraising. Now he is fighting its darker side as a vehicle for "smears" against his bid for the White House.

Pausing from a war of words with Republican John McCain over taxes, the African-American senator Thursday unveiled an interactive website to debunk false rumors peddled by email and right-wing media outlets.

The site at www.fightthesmears.com was created after one recent, and thus-far unfounded, assertion that Obama's wife Michelle had been caught on tape slurring white people.

"We created an interactive tool to allow our supporters to fight back against these smears in the same way that they received them -- on the Internet," campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor said.



President Barack's victimhood amounts to this so far: Somebody, not a "right-winger," alleged a tape involving Mrs. Barack saying bad stuff that probably doesn't exist. [I won't repeat the charge here in case it's false.]

And some folks, who easily could have been Hillary supporters as "right-wingers," sent emails around awhile back saying President Obama is a Muslim, although he actually professes Christianity.

Is there anything else? At some point, disagreeing with President Obama will not just be "smears," but honest disagreement on the issues of the day.

2010, I make it, if then, if ever. I'm feeling damn unified already, howbout you? Duckspeak, doubleplusgood.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Eulogy for Neo-conservatism

Like the Bush Administration itself, I mostly gave up defending the decision to go ahead and topple Saddam quite awhile back. There's simply no percentage in it. Fellows like this fellow are on about WMDs Bush lied people died blood for oil, whatever. Case closed, as the victors get to write the history.

I've admitted that I'm a neo-con, or at I least was one, if neo-conservatism isn't already dead and buried in an unmarked grave in Iraq. And our friends on the left throw dirt on the neo-conservative grave at every opportunity, as if somehow neo-conservatism was a brand new thing invented by Paul Wolfowitz, the Kristols père et fils, and of course, Leo Strauss.

And there are no small number on the right who have agreed, not in the least the late William F. Buckley, a "traditional" conservative, although his "traditional" conservatism actually dates back to only the mid-1950s.

So let's take a look at this mess---

Before Edmund Burke [1729-1797], a British parliamentarian, became the “First Conservative,” he was quite the liberal, supporting the American colonists, opposing slavery, and fighting for expanded rights for the Irish. It was his opposition to the Jacobins that led to his being trashed by the liberals [Whigs, his own party] of his day, most of whom thought the French Revolution was a great idea.

Burke supported war against revolutionary France, to quarantine what he saw as the contagion of a diseased ideology.

That the neo-cons were in favor of warring against both Caliphatism and its secular counterpart pan-Arabism [Ba'athism is one variety] seems quite consistent with the classical liberalism---or Burke's original conservatism---that favors both individual liberty and social order.

Although arguments from prudence against the Iraq war are worthy [too expensive, too much carnage], the neo-con scheme just might work. Pan-Arabism is quiet, and according to some, the book may be closing on bin Ladenism as a growth industry because of the tyranny and brutality it has already shown to be in its nature.

Are the neo-cons [R.I.P.?] conservative or liberal? The answer is yes. Will we go the way of the Whigs? As a political force, it sure looks like it. But neo-conservatism has actually been around for awhile now. Things---if they hold truth---have a way of coming back around, in different times and in different forms, when they are needed.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

In Defense of Small-Town Life

Jim Manzi's quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. He's clear, sensible, and (mostly) right. This (blog post) essay at NRO really hit home with me. Not because I grew up in that sort of town. I didn't - I was an Air Force brat who moved from suburb to suburb. Rather, it hit home because it so clearly articulates what's missing in our contemporary political options: if there is one thing that at least the national Democrats and Republicans can agree on, it's that things local must go, whether by virtue of chain-store reconstruction or bureaucratic centralization (or, preferably, I suspect, both). Local communities don't fit into "rationally" planned ideals - they are too thorny, too full of idiosyncratic traditions that don't always make "sense." The essay is well worth your time and reflection.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hillary for VP?

As I write this, cable news is flashing that Hillary and the Man Who Would Be King are meeting face-to-face.

My observation is that Barack Obama has always taken the path of least resistance. Hillary would be the easy choice here, just as joining a high-powered and somewhat wack black church in Chicago was, as was accepting the support of William Ayers and his considerable Chicago network, Ayers being the ex-terrorist who helped bomb the Pentagon and now masquerades as a respected academic.

The no-brainer choice [and I don't mean that in a bad way] would be to select Gov. Phil Bresden of Tennessee or Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio. Both would give Obama considerable clout in the Caucasian Belt, which leans Republican, and where Obama struggles even against Hillary.

The smart choice would be the best man for the job---Evan Bayh, son of the legendary Democrat Birch Bayh, a staunch Hillary ally, and himself both a two-term governor and now senator from Indiana, a Republican state and one with a lot of white people.

Two birds, one stone.

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Quick Take on Election 2008

I'd love for the United States of America to elect a black president. Especially one with the middle name of Hussein.

I'm totally sincere. It would clear the decks of white male imperialism/racism that's really Europe's fault, although many white Americans take the shame for it, stupidly.

[Our Founding Fathers thought Europe sucked, which is why they and their own fathers fled it. I think Europe sucks too, past and present. I hate white people myself, and I am one.]


If Barack Obama uses the word "liberty" in a meaningful way between now and November---"liberty" as the Founders understood it, the freedom for every individual to pursue his own excellence, what made the USA the greatest nation in man's history---then I'll vote for Barack Obama my owndamnself.

But I'll bet against him ever speaking of liberty meaningfully. The word is so far missing from his life's vocabulary. He believes in community organizing, of fighting for "us" against "them," whoever "them" is. [I think it's me.]

Obama does not speak of liberating each individual soul to seek the best it can be. We call that "freedom." When he speaks to his giant crowds, he sees only the crowd. Crowds by definition are not free.

America was not built on crowds, nor did it become great by crowds demanding full service from their government. Ask not what your country can do for you, one admired American president once said.

I don't think President Obama gets us.

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Lucas Strikes Again!

So a few buddies and I went to see the new Indiana Jones movie, full of expectations that it wouldn't really be all that good. Sure glad it wasn't like I expected - it was much, much worse. How bad? Well, let me count the ways... (no doubt there are spoilers here, so read as you will).

1. Harrison Ford's been taken over by some sort of zombie spirit. That's the only explanation I can give for his most lackluster performance ever. His heart just didn't seem to be in it. He's got a couple of clever lines, but he really should switch back to the caffeinated stuff. Can't hurt...

2. Plot. Who in the world thought this was a good plot. The first movie works so well because it manages to tiptoe along that line between being merely fantastic and being simply ludicrous. This one just goes ludicrous (and is bizarrely complex to boot). Aliens? Who are inter-temporal and all sorts of powerful, but lose a skull to some half-baked conquistador?

3. Any movie that can turn Cate Blanchett into that bad of an actress has, I'll have to admit, really accomplished something. It's like Lucas and Spielberg were watching a Boris and Natasha marathon right before production. When Blanchett gets one of those lifetime achievement awards many years hence, I suspect that this little part may be neatly excised from her history. I'd be happy to have it excised from mine.

4. What was up with the McCarthyism stuff? The first 20 minutes are full of it and then it disappears - the only explanation I can come up with is that it's a way of "balancing" the anti-communist stuff in the rest of the movie. It's odd, but you come away with the sense that the movie doesn't really *like* commies, but there's no equivalent to the famous "Nazis! I hate Nazis!" catch-phrase, especially odd given that there are so many other parts of the movie that are clearly meant to be tributes to the earlier ones. I guess commies are bad, but not that bad.

There are probably many other ways the movie sucks rotten eggs, but that's enough...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Witness to History: Sydney Pollack

Film director Sydney Pollack passed away on Monday. He was a great man, directing Tootsie, of course as well as They Shoot Horses, Don't They?.

Mr. Pollack directed me in one of my films [yes, there were at least two], in Absence of Malice, starring Paul Newman.

That handsome man behind Sally Field's head is me. Although you can't exactly see my face, if you squint, it's almost visible if you watch the scene in the movie. Me, I think my arm looks danged good there, especially since I was wearing my favorite shirt, the white one with blue checks.

As I diligently did my "work" as reporter Tom X [I don't appear in the credits, as I didn't have a line], Mr. Pollack kindly stopped by my desk between takes and said encouragingly, "That's good. Keep on doing what you're doing." So I did.

I'm being playful here, but all of the above is true. With the ten thousand things that are buzzing in every movie director's head, he took the time to make me feel a part of his film. Sydney Pollack was by all accounts a great guy, always with a good word for his people, a genuine artist, and was loved by all who knew him. A true gentleman, and he will be missed. R.I.P.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Julius Caesar Found

...under the Rhône River. This bust was apparently made during Caesar's lifetime, so it's it's thought to be somewhat accurate.











Looks like a cross between Ollie North and Tom Brokaw, doesn't he? That fits--- Caesar was a warrior-journalist, writing highly popular chronicles of his exploits in the Gallic Wars.

Today, he'd be a bestselling author, have a show on Fox News, or be in the White House. Maybe all three.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Founded as a Christian Nation! [?]

Thomas Paine published Age of Reason in 1794, advancing a decidedly unProvidential and therefore unChristian God---remote to the point of disconnectedness---and attacking the Bible as fable and fantasy. He received almost universal condemnation from the new American nation, including from Samuel Adams, erstwhile brewer, semi-"key Founder," and of course, cousin of the 2nd president.

Sam wrote to Paine in 1802:

"[W]hen I heard that you had turned your mind to a defense of infidelity, I felt myself much astonished and more grieved that you had attempted a measure so injurious to the feelings and so repugnant to the true interest of so great a part of the citizens of the United States.

The people of New England, if you will allow me to use a Scripture phrase, are fast returning to their first love. Will you excite among them the spirit of angry controversy, at a time when they are hastening to unity and peace?"


Now, this might indicate that even if there was a re-swell of religious affection happening, the Founding landscape was not one of church-going holy rollers.


Still, Adams adds:

"Our friend, the President of the United States [Thomas Jefferson], has been calumniated for his liberal sentiments, by men who have attributed that liberality to a latent design to promote the cause of infidelity. This and all other slanders have been made without a shadow of proof."

We may read this as indicating that the Founding landscape obliged public figures to keep their religious unorthodoxies to themselves if they wanted to remain public figures. Most of Jefferson's repudiations of Christian orthodoxy appear in his private letters, and only after he'd left office.


Was the United States founded as a Christian Nation? The answer is definitely yes. And definitely no.


As for Paine himself, the full correspondence may be found here. Paine even claims to have saved the revolutionary French from atheism! Who'd a-thunk it?

A few excerpts:


"There is however one point of union wherein all religions meet, and that is in the first article of every man's creed, and of every nation's creed, that has any creed at all: I believe in God. Those who rest here, and there are millions who do, cannot be wrong as far as their creed goes. Those who choose to go further may be wrong, for it is impossible that all can be right, since there is so much contradiction among them. The first therefore are, in my opinion, on the safest side.

...I have but one God....

Since I began this letter, for I write it by piece-meal as I have leisure, I have seen the four letters that passed between you and John Adams. In your first letter you say, 'Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age by inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity and universal philanthropy.'

"Why, my dear friend, this is exactly my religion, and is the whole of it. That you may have an idea that the "Age of Reason" (for I believe you have not read it) inculcates this reverential fear and love of the Deity I will give you a paragraph from it.

'Do we want to contemplate His power? We see it in the immensity of the creation. Do we want to contemplate His wisdom: We see it in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible whole is governed. Do we want to contemplate His munificence? We see it in the abundance with which He fills the earth. Do we want to contemplate His mercy? We see it in His not withholding that abundance even from the unthankful.'

"As I am fully with you in your first part, that respecting the Deity, so am I in your second, that of universal philanthropy; by which I do not mean merely the sentimental benevolence of wishing well, but the practical benevolence of doing good. We cannot serve the Deity in the manner we serve those who cannot do without that service. He needs no service from us. We can add nothing to eternity. But it is in our power to render a service acceptable to Him, and that is not by praying, but by endeavoring to make his creatures happy."


This is the God of Deism---unremarkable in today's world of mushy theistic secularism, but Paine stood virtually alone with Him in the Founding era. Even Jefferson himself, who was supportive of Paine's freedom of conscience [and who shared Paine's disdain for things like the concept of the Trinity and the miracles of the Bible], believed in a Providential God who was quite interested in man's affairs, a God Who smiled on the virtuous and withheld His favor from the wicked. Jefferson was no Deist, and people should stop saying it, because it's not true.

More on that later perhaps, but one need only look at the Jefferson Memorial for starters. Jefferson says "I tremble for my country" at the thought that his just and providential God might not abide the obscenity of slavery for very long.

Was Jefferson's God---the God of the Founding---the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham? Not exactly. But He was no other God than the God of the Bible, either. Not Aristotle's, not Tom Paine's, not even Albert Einstein's.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Jews Killed Kennedy

...according to the leftist Daily Kos, anyway. Hmmmm, I didn't know that.

Now in fairness, it's only in a "diary," which is different than the main page. Still, it's been up for weeks, and LGF has been all over it. Rest assured, if the conservative Red State site [which uses the same format] were hosting such paranoia and bigotry, they'd be spat upon for it, and rightfully so.

And so, Daily Kos, I spit on you, and rightfully so. First your people chased out all the Hillary supporters in favor of Obama, and now this ugliness from the left's most influential website, the cradle of the "reality-based" community.

Reality, indeed.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Obama's Ox Gored, and Gored Good


I'm a strong believer in civility and I'm a strong believer in a bipartisan foreign policy, but that cause is not served with dishonest, divisive attacks of the sort that we've seen out of George Bush and John McCain over the last couple days...---Barack Obama, US Senator and apparent Democrat nominee for President




Dang, where I come from, folks listen to what a man's saying and not just how he says it. Maybe they honestly don't believe what you honestly believe, dude---that you can talk radicals out of murdering for their cause. Perhaps people of good conscience can disagree.

You're damn liars and disagreeing with me is dividing our country, is what I hear you saying here, Senator, and not all that civilly, really.

Now, where I come from is Pennsylvania, a "swing" state that you'll need to carry to be elected.

Make your case to those voters, Senator, without calling the other fellows liars and dividers, even if they are. That would be the most liberal and unifying thing to do. Walk the walk that you talk, and by the way, save your real outrage for the murderers in this world, not your fellow Americans. When will you raise up your genuine passion---if you have any---and your demonstrated ability to move your fellow Americans, against murder and tyranny and not just against words you don't like?

You're going to need that passion, concentrated to the best of your ability, if you hope to be any kind of president and leader of the free world at all.

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Bye Bye Huck: Thank God We Never Got to Know Ye

Even though I disagree with almost everything Barack Obama stands for [yeah, yeah, I know---what does he stand for?], I'd have voted for him if Mike Huckabee had been the GOP nominee, for a number of reasons.

Via The Hill via NRO:

During a speech to the National Rifle Association convention in Louisville, Kentucky Friday, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee joked to the audience that an offstage noise was Barack Obama avoiding gunfire.

'That was Barack Obama, he just tripped off a chair, he's getting ready to speak. Somebody aimed a gun at him and he dove for the floor.'



I can excuse a lot of stupidity in American politics, but this is the lowest this year for either party, and nothing's in second place. Assassination has been a palpable concern for black leaders and presidential candidates since the nightmares of April and June of 1968, and Barack Obama is of course both of these things.


The line was met with laughter.



Both Huckabee and the NRA brass owe Sen. Obama an apology bigtime. And Gov. Huckabee needs to get off the GOP stage immediately, and for the foreseeable future. I suspect I shall never hear the words "President" and "Huckabee" in the same sentence ever again, thankfully. But if I do, either me or the GOP is going to have to go.

Now, to consolidate the vote of the evangelical right, the Republican Party might consider it clever to slip Rev. Huckabee a speaker's slot at its convention in September. But of such small symbolisms [think Jimmy Carter and Michael Moore sitting together at John Kerry's coronation], elections are lost, and rightfully so.

As David St. Hubbins once noted, there's a fine line between stupid and clever. Me, I don't even think there's a fine line here. People know.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"The New Cold War"

Thomas L. Friedman of the NYT takes a lot of ridicule from both left and right, depending on whose ox he gores. But he's an original thinker, and most importantly, he's one of the very few who actually travels to all the corners of the earth and talks with the people who live there before he pontificates on the problems of mankind.

Tom Friedman puts himself wherever the rubber meets the road. No ivory-tower type or bland theorist. He has earned every man's ear.

This is one of his very best, IMO. Excerpted here, but his entire essay is worth your time:

The next American president will inherit many foreign policy challenges, but surely one of the biggest will be the Cold War. Yes, the next U.S. president is going to be a Cold War president - but this Cold War is with Iran.

That is the real umbrella story in the Middle East today - the struggle for influence across the region, with America and its Sunni Arab allies (and Israel) versus Iran, Syria and their nonstate allies, Hamas and Hezbollah. As the May 11 editorial in the Iranian daily Kayhan put it, "In the power struggle in the Middle East, there are only two sides: Iran and the U.S."

For now, Team America is losing on just about every front. How come? The short answer is that Iran is smart and ruthless, America is dumb and weak, and the Sunni Arab world is feckless and divided. Any other questions?

THE TICKET?



...asks Drudge.

Oh, I sure hope so. In the merger business, we call it putting two turkeys together trying to make an eagle...


Like most everybody else, my initial prediction was Hillary, but my call for her #2 would still the best for the Democrats.

Evan Bayh. Even more now, since he's a Hillary ally who was pretty obviously positioning himself as her VP, he'd help heal the Demo HRC-BHO* rift better than any "dream" ticket.

A two-term Democrat governor from Republican Indiana and now its junior senator, a centrist with impeccable credentials and qualifications [he cut taxes, fer crissakes!], I have to admit Evan Bayh had a shot at my vote for president regardless of the GOP nominee was, but he decided not to run.

In this day of leftists and radicals claiming the American center, I have a weakness for good ole-fashioned Democrats, the few that are left. He'd balance the ticket between wack and not so wack, bigtime. Word up, BHO*.

_____________________________________

*Sen. Obama is the victim of bad initials. As much as using Barack Obama's "H"-for"Hussein" might be considered pejorative or racist or associating him with jihadists or Islam or certain exterminated Iraqi dictators, not using it seems even more pejorative. Even if his lovely missus has confirmed to the national press that yes, he is and he does.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Obama Shies Away Again

The most interesting thing about this blog post at Commentary is the first comment, by Michael J. Totten. The subject is the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas declaring its preference for Obama as some sort of new JFK. Totten writes:

Obama could easily make this go away: “Hamas will be VERY sorry if I am America’s president. They need to be careful what they wish for.” He doesn’t have to say anything else, but I doubt it occurs to anyone on his staff to go after Hamas instead of McCain. To me, that’s the obvious fix. What could McCain possibly say after that?



Simple. Elegant.

Sen. Obama had a chance to repudiate Hamas—at no cost to his candidacy. And once again Obama shied away from, just once, a spontaneous Sista Soulja moment, not to mention it would have been the right thing to do. They are murderers.

But Obama’s instincts took him elsewhere, to attack McCain. So much for “new politics.” So far, he never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity, as the saying goes about the Middle East.


Michael J. Totten rules. The honest man’s honest man. Do visit his website http://www.michaeltotten.com. [Uncompensated endorsement.]

Totten has traveled the Middle East so much in the past 5 years that for practical purposes, he lives there, especially Lebanon, where the Islamicist rubber meets the Western road. The force of his honesty is such that the local freepaper [lefty, unlistenable altrock, bodypiercing and personal escort ads, etc.], the LA Weekly, published him regularly.

So, when a commenter appreciatively wrote, "McCain could actually use that," Totten replied:

Both Obama and McCain can take my advice. It’s free!


If I had to guess, Totten would decline an offer from either campaign to join as a paid advisor, as it would put his impartiality in doubt for the rest of his career. He's a journalist in the highest sense of the word---in the only sense of the word, and in fact, his Middle East travels are financed by freelance sales of his articles and his blog tipjar.

Nobody owns Michael J. Totten, and that's the highest praise I can give to any man.

Even when Totten writes stuff I don't want to hear, I listen. He's earned my respect and my trust. The Western world---and the world all over---ignores him at its peril. And its folly.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

The Nutty Perfesser...

This post by Todd Zwicki over at The Volokh Conspiracy defending Obama's relationship with Rev. Wright seems to me a pretty good one, actually. I'm rather surprised it hasn't gotten more play in the blogosphere. Maybe it's because it doesn't quite fit into what's becoming the tripartite partisan narrative: the hard left defends Wright since he more or less thinks what they do (maybe excepting the "govt created AIDS" stuff); the right thinks he's a wacko and so is everyone who hangs out with him; and the libs think Wright is mostly wrong, but are more worried about his electoral effect (will he kill Obama's chance at winning the presidential race?). The virtue of Zwicki's post is that it notes, entirely correctly, that it's not quite right to judge people by their friends, since most of us have friends and close associates who have some peculiarity that, when looked at singly, makes them seem entirely crazy.

That all seems right, but I'm not sure it quite gets Obama off the hook. I don't think Obama should be judged per se because he's friends with Rev. Wright. Rather, it seems to me that his relationship with Wright at least illuminates something about Obama's social and political views. After all, according to Obama's own memoirs, it was the way that Wright connected the gospel to social and political critique that first really attracted him to Trinity. What's more, his membership in Trinity is but of a larger pattern, where Obama seems often to inhabit the most starkly left-wing precincts of our society. He does, as Zwicki notes, seem like quite the decent guy and, truth be told, I would probably rather have him as president than the junior senator from NY. But show me where he is friends with, regularly interacts with, and engages with some set of people who don't think The New Republic is some sell-out rag, and then I'll begin to think that maybe we should give him a bit of a pass on Wright. Otherwise, it's another piece to the puzzle that is Obama and the picture it shows ain't exactly to my liking.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

My Bad

Alas, work has piled on, the usual array of office crises has intervened, and the defense of capitalism this year has proven more burdensome than even my rare and finely-honed bemused cynicism envisioned. Accordingly: My promised posts on Doug Feith's book will have to wait until next week at the earliest. May empires not fall on this tragic news. At least not the NewsWalk Empire.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sooo...

Rev. Wright has decided not to keep his head down until November. Instead, it's all about him - he sees just how the US govt is capable of "anything" (like infecting people with AIDS), that it's unfair to demand that he criticize Farrakhan (after all, Mandela didn't throw Castro under the bus!), that 9/11 occurred because we're terrorists ourselves, and so on and so on.

Hoo-buddy! We've all really wandered into the fever swamps now and Rev. Wright has decided, apparently, that he's not backing down an inch. No sir, he's got nothing to apologize for. And that Obama denunciation/disavowal? Just "politics," dude, can't you see that?

So Obama has a choice. He's certain to be asked about these sets of remarks; what does he do? If he continues to denounce Wright's views (as opposed to Wright himself), he's just setting himself up, isn't he? Isn't it clear that Wright just *loves* the attention and will play things up as much as he can? And eventually, he's going to have to start answering specific questions about specific claims - does *he* believe the AIDS stuff, etc.?

The problem is, though, that if he goes whole hog and gets serious about his denunciations, that is what will dominate the news for at least the next week, right up through the Indiana primary, and he'll be dealt another big loss. What's more, he's in danger of becoming *defined* by his association with the wackadoo fringe of American religion. But here's the real kicker: setting aside some of the more conspiratorial stuff (e.g. AIDS), what about Wright's views would the hard-core lefties that populate too much of American academia actually disagree with? America as structurally racist? Check. Islamic terrorism essentially "caused" by US foreign policy? Check. Israel as the "problem" in the Middle East? Check. How many of these folks will sit still if Obama goes after Wright's views - who will pen the first essay lamenting Obama's capitulation to monied Jewish interests? Or the lack of his "real" progressive politics?

I'd really be enjoying this more, though, if I didn't think that he wasn't still the odds-on favorite for the presidency. Gulp.

Why Barack Obama Shunned the Flag Pin

Via the often-elegant Don Surber---

Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq War, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest. I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.”—B. Obama (D-IL)



Some of us---many of us---believe this country is already great, despite its flaws and its checkered history. The flag pin isn't just about the war in Iraq. You have to lose all sense of perspective to believe that.

We massacred each other over slavery, and could have sat out World Wars One and Two and gave Germany and Japan free rein over Europe and Asia since it didn’t affect us.

As to what proto-president Obama believes will make this country truly great at last, well, I’m willing to listen.

Perhaps he’s thought of something new.

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N.B.---The invaluable Mr. Surber also includes this quote:

The reason that I don’t always wear a flag pin is not that I disrespect the flag, it’s that when I started wearing a flag pin after 9/11, I gotta admit that sometimes I would misplace it and so I didn’t always put it on.


Well, that's a perspective that every man in America who left his wallet on the dresser while hustling off to work could sympathize with, and that's every single one of us. You could vote for a guy who understands that.

Word up, Brother Barack. When all else fails, stick with the truth.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Decision 2008

From WLS over at Patterico, and just too delicious not to pass on:

A caller into the Dennis Miller Show this morning had a particularly insightful view into the coming general election choice that will be before the country:

The Dems offer a witch who is a lawyer and who is married to a lawyer, or a lawyer who is married to a witch who is a lawyer.

One of those will be matched up against a war hero who is married to a hot babe who owns a beer distributorship.

How hard is that choice?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

War And Decision

Run---do not walk, do not wait for Amazon's SuperSaver delivery schedule---to your local bookstore and buy Douglas J. Feith's War and Decision. It is unlike any book that has come out of the Beltway in years, written by a member of that rare species, the objective insider seeking to set the record straight rather than settle scores or engage in desperate self-justification. It is, in a word, scholarly; with massive references to documents and the actual decisionmaking record, Feith sets out the evidence on how the decision to go to war in Iraq was made, on who and which institutions supported what courses of action, etc. If you want hard evidence to refute the various disinformation campaigns of the left---and others---this is the work in which to find it.

I will begin a series of blogs on this book next week.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

You Just Don't Get It, Dude


They like stirring up controversy and they like playing gotcha games, getting us to attack each other. And I have to say Senator Clinton looked in her element...She was taking every opportunity to get a dig in there. You know, that's all right. That's her right. That's her right to kind of twist the knife a little bit.---Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), alleged Next President of the United States of KKK-A



You mean like your dig when you casually put the knife right back where it came from, bringing up Bill Clinton's midnight pardon of the Weather Underground?

By the way, who's "they?" Hillary? Me? Seems like The Great Unifier has at least 2/3 of God Damn America on his spitlist. A whole lotta "they" coming out of the woodwork, and a shrinking "us."



That was the roll-out of the Republican campaign against me in November. That is what they will do...they will try to focus on all these issues that don't have anything to do with how you pay your bills at the end of the month.



Yeah, they just might. Unlike you, Sen. Obama, many in the GOP believe that when Americans enter the voting booth, they just don't cling to their checkbooks. They have more than their material well-being on their minds.

You call those things "distractions." Many of your fellow Americans prefer to think of them as "principles."

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Words Escape Me

And, believe me, that happens, well, rarely. With respect to how Obama's bitterness quote happened to become public, I quote Michael Barone:

Kit Seelye in the New York Times and Pajamas Media correspondent Bill Bradley (the California political writer, not the former New Jersey senator) fill us in on how the story got on the pro-Obama Huffington Post. It seems that Arianna Huffington approved it by cellphone while on David Geffen's 454-foot yacht in Tahiti. No, I'm not making this up.

Like I said: Words escape me.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Elitism, Judicial Activism---You Name It

Basically, the charges of Barack Obama's "elitism" stem from a perception that he believes he knows better than you, and that your disagreement comes from irrationality.

By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court just upheld lethal injection as constitutional. Justice John Paul Stevens dissented. Why? “I have relied on my own experience in reaching the conclusion that the imposition of the death penalty [is unconstitutional]."

Oh.

But Antonin Scalia rides to the rescue, and comes down on Justice Stevens bigtime. Justin Levine over at Patterico kindly types out this gem from the PDF of Scalia's opinion:


As JUSTICE STEVENS explains, ‘objective evidence, though of great importance, [does] not wholly determine the controversy, for the Constitution contemplates that in the end our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability of the death penalty under the Eighth Amendment.’


Purer expression cannot be found of the principle of rule by judicial fiat. In the face of JUSTICE STEVENS’ experience, the experience of all others is, it appears, of little consequence. The experience of the state legislatures and the Congress—--who retain the death penalty as a form of punishment—--is dismissed as “the product of habit and inattention rather than an acceptable deliberative process.”

The experience fellow citizens who support the death penalty is described, with only the most thinly veiled condemnation, as stemming from a “thirst for vengeance.” It is JUSTICE STEVENS’ experience that reigns over all.



And that's elitism in a nutshell. Principled disagreement with the "Elect" is impossible; it's stupidity or irrationality or bitterness or just being downright lazy. Opposing views don't even rise to the level of being wrong---they're simply not valid.

Such arrogance rubs some people the wrong way, like me, tens of millions of other Americans, and the great Nino Scalia.

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The Trouble With Talking

So Nobel Peace Prize winner, former US President, and peanut farmer Jimmy Carter has spent his time in the Middle East laying a wreath at the tomb of Yasser Arafat and will now, reportedly, be meeting with leaders of Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls the Gaza strip and is officially committed to the destruction of Israel, the establishment of an Islamist state, and is on the State Department's terrorist list, among other highlights. Giving honor to Arafat, an unrepentant terrorist and scourge of his own people, is bad enough, but even Obama wouldn't meet with Hamas. (Though why, exactly, is unclear, since they're certainly not any nastier than Iran).

We're often told - and Carter seems to be operating under this premise - that it does no harm and possibly great good to talk to enemies. "You make peace with your enemies, not your friends," or so the saying goes. But in what way is that true - when exactly should one talk to your enemies? It seems to me that Carter's view - talk to everyone - betrays a dangerous and rather silly naivete, particularly because it lumps all of one's "enemies" together. Of course, you make peace with your enemies, but any reasonable understanding of history shows that you don't make peace with *all* of your enemies. Or, to put it a bit too bluntly, sometimes the only peace available is the peace of the dead - you get peace, but only because one of you is no longer on the scene.

But surely just talking to one's enemies couldn't do any harm, could it? Well,consider what talking might accomplish (and by "talking" I have in mind general diplomatic exchanges, to include everything from meet-and-greets to formal negotiations). Talking could very well clear up misunderstandings and provide greater transparencies, mitigating conflicts and solving problems before they get dangerous. Talking can also be a vehicle for getting one side to understand clearly that their position is untenable and finding ways for them to do a "climb-down" with minimal damage. Talking can also be a means for bargaining, where one side gives something up in exchange for something else.

But none of that covers the sort of "talking" Carter and others have in mind with respect to Hamas and, say, Iran. What seems to be at work in this sort of talking is the profoundly naive hope that simply by talking to them, both will come to see the unreasonableness of their views and will modify their behavior accordingly. But why, if one talks to them (and does so publicly) without preconditions, will they come to see the unreasonableness of their views and modify their behavior? It is precisely those views (and the actions they produce) that have pushed you (so they will think, perhaps rightly) to the talking table. With Hamas, if you are willing to talk to them, willing to "negotiate" with them, then haven't they already won half the battle? Haven't they pushed you to a position of "talking" precisely with the sort of behavior you hope they will give up? And if their most fundamental goals - say, the destruction of Israel - are precisely what you want them to give up, isn't the "talking" inevitably bound to fail, unless you allow them to maintain those fundamental goals? That is, Hamas (and a similarly constructed argument could be made with respect to Iran as well) is constituted fundamentally as an organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel. They will not give that up (whatever they may claim) except that they decide to close up shop and exit the stage of history; talking to them will not change that and will instead merely put you in a position of implicitly legitimating that goal, since it is something that can be negotiated over.

It's a shame ol' Jimmy wasn't satisfied with peanut farming.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Just a Thought...

Wouldn't it be ironic if the first serious black presidential candidate in American history were undone in part because of a perception that he was "elitist"?

I mean, if Obama goes down - and who knows at this point what will happen - it will be because some portion of the Democratic or general electorate decided that his views were more representative of Harvard Law School than deepest, palest Pennsylvania. That's pretty remarkable, isn't it?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Giving Obama a Break, Sort Of

In fairness to Barack Obama, I sincerely believe that by "religion" he was explicitly referring to opposition to gay marriage, and politically, to the GOP's exploitation of the issue in Ohio '04. [Although it may not have made the difference, contrary to popular Democrat belief.]

From Barack's backtrack today:

So people end up, you know, voting on issues like guns, and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage...



The rest of his explanation was sophistic hogwash, but I think he was honest there. After a free pass from the chattering class, it's ironic that he's getting it both barrels [gun pun intended, sorry] for the wrong reason.

On the other hand, Obama falls into Thomas Frank's Marxist-friendly "What's the Matter with Kansas" view of the human condition, that the Great Unwashed should vote their pocketbooks instead of their social values about what kind of country they want to raise their kids in.


Hey, I live in a cosmopolitan area---I know lots of folks who are unsympathetic, if not hostile, to organized religion. I can take it. But this is why Frank doesn't get Kansas, why Obama doesn't get America and why the left doesn't get what all the hubbub's about:


It's the leftism, stupid.

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