Friday, December 26, 2008

Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem

An eye-opening article from the Times of London about the necessity of Christianinty--from an atheist. Some snipettes:

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good...

...Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

...Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

The Pacific Northwest is having a white Christmas this year. To commemorate it, here are a couple of photos I took while going about the day.

On a dog walk:

A trip to the grocery store:

Down a quite road:

Friday, December 19, 2008

If Music be the Food of Love... on, give me excess of it.

A fascinating article in The Economist about the speculative evolutionary roots of music.

Some comments:
Today, people are so surrounded by other people’s music that they take it for granted, but as little as 100 years ago singsongs at home, the choir in the church and fiddlers in the pub were all that most people heard.
My father's family was very musical. Old tintypes of them show them at family reunions looking like a small orchestra. Occasionally, when he was disgusted at popular culture, he would talk about how the entire town of Roff, Oklahoma would meet and everybody was expected to to have something, such as a song or recitation, to entertain the others.

Of course, I find that the hypothosis fails in this regard:

Another reason to believe the food-of-love [evolutionary] hypothesis is that music fulfils the main criterion of a sexually selected feature: it is an honest signal of underlying fitness. Just as unfit peacocks cannot grow splendid tails, so unfit people cannot sing well, dance well (for singing and dancing go together, as it were, like a horse and carriage) or play music well. All of these activities require physical fitness and dexterity. Composing music requires creativity and mental agility. Put all of these things together and you have a desirable mate.
I offer this in rebuttal:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Ten Hidden Gift-Giving Rules

This week marks the kickoff of the Holiday shopping season, so from the wonderful Unplug the Christmas Machine:

The Ten Hidden Gift-Giving Rules:
  1. Give a gift to everyone you expect to get a gift from.
  2. If someone gives you a gift unexpectedly, reciprocate that year. (Some people have pre-wrapped generic gifts for just this event.)
  3. When you add a name to your gift list, give that person a gift every year thereafter.
  4. The amount of money you spend on a gift determines how much you care about the recipient.
  5. Gifts exchanged between adults should be roughly equal in value.
  6. The presents that you give someone should be fairly consistent in value over the years.
  7. If you give a gift to a person in a certain category (for example, a co-worker or neighbor), give a gift of roughly equal value to everyone in that category.
  8. Women should give gifts to their close women friends.
  9. Men should not give gifts to their close men friends—unless those gifts are alcoholic.
  10. Whenever the above rules cause you any difficulty, solve the problem by buying more gifts.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Now that the Republican Party is looking for it's next standard bearer, we all have been compiling lists of what qualities the ideal candidate will have, and what priority we should impose on those qualities.

Let me state that whoever leads the party and whoever becomes the candidate in 2012 must be, in the words of Joe Biden, "...articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking."

She aces "bright," "clean," and "nice-looking;" but much as I love Governor Palin, she did not demonstrate "articulate" during the recent campaign.

Why is this so important? I think that while we have seen that George W. Bush has been an effective administrator in protecting the country for the last 8 years, his inability to communicate his plans and directions ceded to his opponents the marketplace of ideas and opinions. So his accomplishments (no attacks on the order of 9/11, forstalling a depression in 2002, etc.) became not victories, but clubs used by the left to beat him.

James Pethokoukis points out that if the Democratic plans for US health care policy proceed unopposed, Conservatives may never recover the ground. He makes this observation:

3) Republicans better learn to competently talk healthcare.
John McCain's healthcare plan was perhaps the most provocative policy proposal of the entire 2008 campaign. Too bad he could neither fully explain how it worked nor persuasively argue why it was better than Barack Obama's plan. Also too bad since his plan would have smartly reduced healthcare costs by getting companies out of the healthcare benefits business and empowering individuals to buy insurance on their own. This would have helped fix what economist Arnold Kling calls the insurance vs. insulation problem: "Insulation relieves the patient of the stress of making decisions about treatment. The patient also does not have to worry about shopping around for the best price. The problem with insulation is that it is not a sustainable form of healthcare finance."
Mr. Pethokoukis ends with this:

Another interesting healthcare reform option is highlighted by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam in the book Grand New Party. Uncle Sam would require individuals and families to put 15 percent of their income into health savings accounts. If you run out of money before year-end, the government steps in. If you don't, you get the money back or it rolls over into a retirement account. Of course, any conservative alternative would be easier to implement if it doesn't first have to kill an existing nationalized health plan. But thanks to Tom Daschle, that is just what might have to happen.

The Constant Reader will remember that I endorsed this idea when it was proposed by Megan McCardle.

If the Government Built Cars

Michael Moore told Larry King this:
In an interview Wednesday with CNN's Larry King, Moore criticized the automakers for ignoring the desires of consumers, building instead bigger, more profitable cars as foreign automakers pursued both SUVs and more fuel-efficient sedans and compacts.

Moore suggested that Congress demand change in exchange for the money, including a call to help rebuild mass transit in the country.

"President-Elect Obama has to say to them, yes, we're going to use this money to save these jobs, but we're not going to build these gas-guzzling, unsafe vehicles any longer," Moore said. "We're going to put the companies into some sort of receivership and we, the government, are going to hold the reins on these companies. They're to build mass transit. They're to build hybrid cars. They're to build cars that use little or no gasoline."

What would such a Congress-mandated car look like? Why, the Pelosi GTxi SS/Rt Sport Edition!

So take the bus to your local CM dealer today and find out why the Pelosi GTxi SS/Rt Sport Edition is the only car endorsed by President Barack Obama. One test drive will convince you that you'd choose it over the import brands. Even if they were still legal.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Merry Christmas. Get ready for Mad Max

Daniel Henninger writes in his November 20th "Wonder Land" column about the link between Christmas (or the lack of it) and the current economic meltdown:

What really went missing through the subprime mortgage years were the three Rs: responsibility, restraint and remorse. They are the ballast that stabilizes two better-known Rs from the world of free markets: risk and reward.

Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down. And so we come back to the disappearance of "Merry Christmas."

It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

The point for a healthy society of commerce and politics is not that religion saves, but that it keeps most of the players inside the chalk lines. We are erasing the chalk lines.

No Ogoodey-Boogedy?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I love the sound of it.





UPDATE: Oogedy-Boogedy!!

MORE UPDATE: I was amused by the controversy over the idea that Christians should vote like we are told and drop the "Oogedy-Boogedy" stuff.

As I pointed out last month:

Many critics stand ready to mock Palin’s Christianity. Fair enough. Will they also mock Obama’s and Biden’s?

Christianity is a miracle religion. Absent belief in the miraculous, there is nothing left of Christianity worth the name.

I don't ask that my political allies believe in the miraculous, I just don't what them to expect me to deny it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Kiss a Wookie, Kick a Droid

If you want a big, overbearing, orchestral movie score, John Williams is the man.

I kid! I kid because I love his work.

But not as much as this:

UPDATE: Just to be clear, the video is of a chap lip-synching to an acappella quartet. The quartet is called "Moosebutter," they approved of this video. For more Moosebutter, check out

Crazy Pills

Back in mid-October, Ben Smith published an email that really shocked me. It was about focus group results from a test of a McCain ad:

Yes, they believed the charges against Obama. Yes, they actually think he's too liberal, consorts with bad people and WON'T BE A GOOD PRESIDENT...but they STILL don't give a f***. They said right out, "He won't do anything better than McCain" but they're STILL voting for Obama.

The two most unreal moments of my professional life of watching focus groups:

54 year-old white male, voted Kerry '04, Bush '00, Dole '96, hunter, NASCAR fan...hard for Obama said: "I'm gonna hate him the minute I vote for him. He's gonna be a bad president. But I won't ever vote for another god-damn Republican. I want the government to take over all of Wall Street and bankers and the car companies and Wal-Mart run this county like we used to when Reagan was President."

The next was a woman, late 50s, Democrat but strongly pro-life. Loved B. and H. Clinton, loved Bush in 2000. "Well, I don't know much about this terrorist group Barack used to be in with that Weather guy but I'm sick of paying for health insurance at work and that's why I'm supporting Barack."

I felt like I was taking crazy pills. I sat on the other side of the glass and realized...this really is the Apocalypse. The Seventh Seal is broken and its time for eight years of pure, delicious crazy....

When I read that I knew that a) Republicans had "lost the brand," and b) many of the people voting for Obama were doing so for non-rational reasons.

Now there is this video. It consists of excerpts from Obama voters fresh from the polling booth. After viewing this I know that a) Republicans have to quit whining about the "media bias." This isn't the result of just "media bias," it's the result of cultivated stone ignorance.

I so much love the part where they ask people where they get their news. And the woman who declares, "NPR, PBS, & The New York Times" was as pig-ignorant as the people who got their news from the Comedy Channel.


I have, in the last few weeks, enjoyed watching several of the Republicans who were in the Presidential campaign. Some have retreated to their tents to sulk, some to their caves to lick their wounds, and some have started laying foundation for future campaigns.

The king of this last group is that Energizer Bunny of Conservative Ideas, Newt Gingrich. Newt writes books, founds think tanks, and turns up on the news talkers as frequently as most candidates inhale.

But now Newt is being joined in his Long March by Huck. Mike Huckabee now has an interview show of Fox and had released a new book: Do The Right Thing: Inside the Movement That's Bringing Common Sense Back to America. Time magazine reviews the book:

Many conservative Christian leaders, who never backed Huckabee despite their holding very similar stances on social issues, are spared neither the rod nor the lash. Huckabee writes of Gary Bauer, the conservative Christian leader and former presidential candidate, as having an "ever-changing reason to deny me his support." Of one private meeting with Bauer, Huckabee says, "it was like playing Whac-a-Mole at the arcade — whatever issue I addressed, another one surfaced as a 'problem' that made my candidacy unacceptable..."

...Huckabee describes other elders of the social conservative movement, many of whom meet in private as part of an organization called the Arlington Group, as "more enamored with the process, the political strategies, and the party hierarchy than with the simple principles that had originally motivated the Founders." Later Huckabee writes, "I lamented that so many people of faith had moved from being prophetic voices — like Naaman, confronting King David in his sin and saying, 'Though art the man!'— to being voices of patronage, and saying to those in power, 'You da' man!' "

He calls out Pat Robertson, the Virginia-based televangelist, and Dr. Bob Jones III, chancellor of Bob Jones University in South Carolina, for endorsing Rudy Giuliani and Romney, respectively. He also has words for the Texas-based Rev. John Hagee, who endorsed the more moderate John McCain in the primaries, as someone who was drawn to the eventual Republican nominee because of the lure of power. Huckabee speaks to Hagee by phone before the McCain endorsement, while the former Arkansas governor is preparing for a spot on Saturday Night Live. "I asked if he had prayed about this and believed this was what the Lord wanted him to do," Huckabee writes of his conversation with Hagee. "I didn't get a straight answer." Months later, McCain rejected Hagee's endorsement because of controversial remarks the pastor had made about biblical interpretations.

UPDATE: Allah Says: <
A desperately needed fix of campaign drama during this post-election interregnum detox. Just give me a little hit of score-settling to get me through the day, bro. Just one hit.

Ah, that’s the stuff

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Look of Blog

So I am fooling around with the look of the blog.

So far: meh.

If anyone wants to point me to a cool template (minimalist, lots of white space, focusing on the posts rather than the graphic of Ratatouille in the heading), post the link in the comments.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day 2008


Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

A E Housman

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Sunshine Patriot

From Ace, this link to an article in the Seattle PI documenting the sudden fashionability of American flags in Seattle:

With newfound patriotism, Seattleites want to wave the flag, hang it from their homes and stick it on their cars.

"The thing that's kind of astounding to me is I never ever would have cared to own a flag," said Rosemary Garner, 42. "This is the first day in my life I actually feel this funny sense of pride about my country. It's a very foreign feeling, but it's a good one."

"It's just a rare feeling to feel that type of, I don't know, national connection," said Noah Kriegsmann, a 33-year-old builder from West Seattle. He feels that Obama's win will help America's standing in the world, and he bought a flag to fly on his truck, though he admitted it felt strange to see the flag in his hand.

"I have just historically felt shame for what the symbol of this country is internationally. Being in someplace like Morocco, and Canadians have their flag on their backpacks -- I would never ever do that," he said.

I'm glad that these people are finally able to love their own country. That's a positive. (I wonder how they would react to a traditional Northwest flag-burning by ski-masked anarchists. Hmmm?)

But the essence of love is that the beloved is worth love regardless of whether or not your expectations are being met. You can love someone even while you are being embarrassed by them, as the parents of small children and the children of aging parents know.

Part of love is sticking with the one you love through rough times. That's what distinguishes love from lust.

So to my newly-proud Americans I say, welcome back to the country that bore you, protected you, and whom you tore down with your childish behaviour. I hope that this time you can stick around.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Poet and Novelist Becomes the Political Analyst

A eye-opening, jaw-dropping, election-day article that atriculates a lot of what I've been thinking and feeling:

On Polling:

With polling, the collective delusion is the belief that the product of polling is the data. Remember, polls are a product that is sold like any other product. That stupid little chart that appears in the corner of every USA Today was not made for the purpose of 'research' and 'data'. It was made just to show a stupid little graph on the paper because USA Today knows that little graphs and charts 'sell' the paper more. Just because information is displayed in a chart or a graph does not make it 'scientific' or a real 'analysis'. But the product was to make the reader FEEL like it was and to sell more papers. The product of polls can and often are the readers. This became much more popular ever since polls became 'news items' themselves (before, polls were only supplements to news tories)....

One thing that is very different about this election is the omnipresence of polls and how polls are the axis around all political analysis is conducted. This has never been the case in previous elections. Real political analysts (meaning not hacks or unprofessional pundits), use historical trends, demagraphical data, and other 'truths' of past elections. Much of this cannot be translated into a chart or graph. It is a myth that analysis is done via math or graphs or computer models. The original economists, for example, used only words and essays. Political analysis is not about math. Political analysis is about people. To analyze politics, you must be able to analyze people. In other words, the poet and novelist becomes the political analyst, not the mathematician and software engineer. Politics is all about people.

It seems no one is interested in studying 'people' anymore. Look at the political analysis currently. There is very little analysis of the current 'liberal' or 'conservative', for example, or the person from Pennslyvania or person from Iowa. In fact, there are no people. There are only numbers. Stark, lifeless, numbers. The problem with leveling political analysis to nothing more than a soup of numbers is that it cannot measure intensity. What does intensity have to do with politics? Well, everything. Intense people are those who vote.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Palin and Obama

That's the story of this election cycle--who will be the standard bearers for thier parties in 2009 and beyond. And it all comes down to this...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Getting a Job in a Growth Industry During an Obama Administration

"In Lower Manhattan, the line for an Internal Revenue Service open house began forming an hour before the event and would eventually wrap around the block. "

The I.R.S. dangled the possibilities when it held an open house at the federal office building at 290 Broadway in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday. An hour before the fair was scheduled to begin, the crowd began lining up — recently laid-off Wall Street types in charcoal-gray pinstripe suits and trench coats; less formally dressed people; a woman with a new accounting degree on her résumé and a 14-month-old baby in a stroller...
Some job-seekers said they were casualties of the financial meltdown. Jean Delice had already been laid off as a computer engineering specialist at Lehman Brothers when the firm, as he put it, “hit the rocks.” He said that the firm’s demise had cost him “everything,” including his severance package, and that the long-term prospects of a government agency looked pretty good.

“You could get a lucrative job in the financial market right now, but how long can you keep it?” he asked. “Everywhere I look, I see layoffs. If I take a $10,000 or $20,000 pay cut, in the long run, I’m ahead. The government is not in the trading business. It will be around.”

Monday, October 27, 2008

Britan's Biden

According to Michael Kinsley, a "gaffe" is "when a politician [inadvertantly] tells the truth."

Not so much telling some objective truth, but revealing said politician's thoughts. In the United States, the preemminant practitioner of the gaffe is Senator Joseph Biden.

In Britan, now, he has a serious contender: Prince Phillip.

Savor his latest venting:

Prince Philip has branded tourism ‘national prostitution’ in his latest unfortunate gaffe.

He made the shocking comment to a professor during his State visit with the Queen to Slovenia last week.

Dr Maja Uran revealed that the 87-year-old Duke told her: ‘Tourism is just national prostitution.’

He went on: ‘We don’t need any more tourists. They ruin cities.’

His comments come despite royal aides regularly stressing the importance of tourists to Britain’s economy – with one million visiting Buckingham Palace and Windsor
Castle each year.

It follows other infamous faux pas by the Prince – including telling a British student in China he would get ‘slitty eyes’ and asking Aborigines in Australia: ‘Do you still throw spears at each other?’

Dr Uran, associate professor of tourism at the University of Primorska, was among
four groups of experts who met Philip last Tuesday at the Hotel Union in the
Slovenian capital of Ljubljana.

She told Philip she wanted to organise a network of people with local knowledge to help tourists. But she said: ‘He laughed and said, “Tourism is just national prostitution.”

‘I couldn’t quite believe he used that word and we all collapsed in embarrassment.’

All those sweaty tourists, clogging up the roads so that the Rolls is often stuck in traffic. And the well-to-do ones fill up often fill up one's favorite reasturant during The Season.

As bad as I disagree with the viewpoints of American elites, they have nothing on European elites.

Friday, October 24, 2008

"Spreading the Wealth" -- A Timely Reminder

Gene Fama reminds us:
First of all, “the wealth” is a Marxist fiction. There isn’t some large, limited pile of communal wealth that just happened to get allocated disproportionately to “the rich.” Wealth is created. The best economic systems encourage the creation of wealth, they don’t redistribute it—and make no mistake, at the extremes the two are mutually exclusive goals.

Do You Have Any Standards at All?

Orson Scott Card, Democrat and newspaper columnist, takes local newspapers to task for being in the tank for the Democrats:
...These are facts. This financial crisis was completely preventable. The party that blocked any attempt to prevent it was ... the Democratic Party. The party that tried to prevent it was ... the Republican Party.

Yet when Nancy Pelosi accused the Bush administration and Republican deregulation of causing the crisis, you in the press did not hold her to account for her lie. Instead, you criticized Republicans who took offense at this lie and refused to vote for the bailout!

What? It's not the liar, but the victims of the lie who are to blame?
If you who produce our local daily paper actually had any principles, you would be pounding this story, because the prosperity of all Americans was put at risk by the foolish, short-sighted, politically selfish, and possibly corrupt actions of leading Democrats, including Obama.

If you who produce our local daily paper had any personal honor, you would find it unbearable to let the American people believe that somehow Republicans were to blame for this crisis.
If you had any personal honor, each reporter and editor would be insisting on telling the truth — even if it hurts the election chances of your favorite candidate.

Because that's what honorable people do. Honest people tell the truth even when they don't like the probable consequences. That's what honesty means . That's how trust is earned.

Barack Obama is just another politician, and not a very wise one. He has revealed his ignorance and naivete time after time — and you have swept it under the rug, treated it as nothing.

Meanwhile, you have participated in the borking of Sarah Palin, reporting savage attacks on her for the pregnancy of her unmarried daughter — while you ignored the story of John Edwards's own adultery for many months.

So I ask you now: Do you have any standards at all? Do you even know what honesty means?

Is getting people to vote for Barack Obama so important that you will throw away everything that journalism is supposed to stand for?
Is that gonna leave a mark? Unfortunately, no. The only thing that will change the media in this country is the ongoing, slow-motion collapse of the newspaper industry.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Be Extra Careful Wrapping Presents this Christmas

X-rays emitted from ordinary Scotch tape

By Malcolm Ritter

updated 10:23 a.m. PT, Wed., Oct. 22, 2008

NEW YORK - Just two weeks after a Nobel Prize highlighted theoretical work on subatomic particles, physicists are announcing a startling discovery about a much more familiar form of matter: Scotch tape.

It turns out that if you peel the popular adhesive tape off its roll in a vacuum chamber, it emits X-rays. The researchers even made an X-ray image of one of their fingers.

Who knew? Actually, more than 50 years ago, some Russian scientists reported evidence of X-rays from peeling sticky tape off glass. But the new work demonstrates that you can get a lot of X-rays, a study co-author says.

"We were very surprised," said Juan Escobar. "The power you could get from just peeling tape was enormous."

A Very Powerful, Very Disciplined, Incredibly Gracious Woman

For the Democratic party, the era after 1968 was filled with a continual tinkering with its primary rules. At first these re-writes (at the direction of the McGovern-Fraser Commission) sought to restrict and then eliminate candidate selections made by party bosses (in "smoke-filled rooms.") After the candidacies of George McGovern and Jimmy Carter, this drive towards more and more direct democracy in the primaries was countered by the Hunt Commission. The Hunt Commission gave the Democrats the "Superdelegates" that were all the talk of the 2008 Democratic primaries.

The Republicans have been influenced by the Dem's drift, but not so much.

Daniel Henninger describes what has happened to political parties in the U.S.:

The established political pros let the selection process come to this. Presidential candidates such as John McCain and Barack Obama have become untethered from the discipline of party institutions, largely because the parties have lost coherence. So we get celebrity candidates made famous, fundable and electable by dint of their access to the Beltway media. For voters, this election is a national Hail Mary.

For nearly two years, all the major candidates have rotated through our lives as solitary personalities attended by careerist campaign professionals. Barack, Hillary, Rudy, Mitt, Mike, McCain. When the moment arrived to pick a running mate, input from the parties was minimal. That famous party boss, Caroline Kennedy, advised Barack Obama. They picked a three-decade denizen of the Senate. John McCain's obligation was himself and his endless slog to this big chance.

Out of this process we have the current candidates. And rather than critiquing the candidate's positions and policies, the U.S. press has degenerated into name-calling and obsessing over how much money the RNC has spent on Sarah Palin's wardrobe.

Henninger ends his piece with a quote from someone who has recently worked with Sarah Palin.
Lorne Michaels, the executive producer of "Saturday Night Live," lives on the forward wave of American life. This week he gave his view of Sarah Palin to "I think Palin will continue to be underestimated for a while. I watched the way she connected with people, and she's powerful. Her politics aren't my politics. But you can see that she's a very powerful, very disciplined, incredibly gracious woman. This was her first time out and she's had a huge impact. People connect to her."
Sarah in 2012?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Next Republican Party

Having voted, my thoughts turn to what is ahead for the Republicans. The Party seems to be fracturing along social, and even geographic lines.

Tony Blankley throws a log on the fire:
...Miss Noonan's unconscious fear may be that it will be precisely Mrs. Palin (and others like her) who will be among the leaders of the about to be re-born conservative movement. I suspect that the conservative movement we start re-building on the ashes of November 4th (even if Mr. McCain wins) will have little use for over-written, over-delicate commentary.

The new movement will be plain spoken and social networked up from the internetted streets, suburbs and small towns of America. It certainly will not listen very attentively to those conservatives who idolatrize Mr. Obama and collaborate in heralding his arrival. They may call their commentary "honesty." I would call it - at the minimum - blindness.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Grandpa, You're so Old!

Yes, kids, I loved these songs when they first came out.

These are "The Seekers" in their farewell concert in London, July 12, 1968. Listen to the crowd's reactions!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why is it OK to Make Fun of Sarah Palin's Christianity?

Carnal Reason discusses why there is so much animosity towards Sarah Palin's faith:

Many critics stand ready to mock Palin’s Christianity. Fair enough. Will they also mock Obama’s and Biden’s?

Christianity is a miracle religion. Absent belief in the miraculous, there is nothing left of Christianity worth the name.

Obama has gone on record as stating that Christ is his Lord, that he prays to Jesus. I see three possibilities:

  1. Obama was lying: he believes no such thing, but finds it politically expedient to claim he does.
  2. Obama accepts as fact the Resurrection of Christ.
  3. Obama is an idiot.
Obama is no idiot. So does he believe that a corpse dead on Friday came back to life on Sunday? And if so, does he accept as facts the rest of Christ’s miracles? Prior to his death, Christ is said to have resurrected a corpse, made the blind see, walked on water, and turned water into wine. I can’t see why anyone would believe in the Resurrection, and deny the rest. Why strain at gnats?

The theory that the earth is only 6000 years old appears to be pre-scientific nonsense. It contradicts known facts about the rates at which radioactive materials decay. By the same token, a corpse coming back to life violates the laws of thermodynamics, and walking on water violates the laws of gravity.

Exactly. If you are a Christian, you have already, through the scandal of the Incarnation, accepted accepted as fact the biggest, most overwhelming supernatural event of all time. So don't choke on gnats.

People that are offended by Palin's faith have, to me, been very unserious about their objections. If you are offended by Governor Palin believing that dinosaurs and humans were contemporaries (I don't), then realize that she holds that belief because of a greater belief that she shares with Senator Obama.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Dave Burge declares that whoever attacks Joe 'the Plumber' Wurzelbacher is attacking us all.

What Jim Treacher Wants

If were going to have socialism, says Jim Treacher, why start with plumbers?

If "it's the economy, stupid," aren't higher taxes part of the discussion? I'm no economist, but I do know that every dollar I give to the government is a dollar I can't put into the economy. One campaign is saying they want to lower my taxes, and the other campaign is questioning my patriotism if I complain about higher taxes. And millionaires like Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric are backing up the latter. I would suggest that they find the nearest large body of water and hurl themselves in.

And don't give me that "95%" crap. Why doesn't Obama just go all-out and promise that 110% of Americans will get a tax cut? (Oddly enough, that's the same percentage of Americans who've registered to vote.)

If we're going to plunge headlong into outright socialism, then I want some of what George Clooney's got. You're a big Obama backer, right, George? Well then, put your money where your wagging, chiseled chin is. It's not fair that you've got so much more than I do. I'll take one of your houses and one of your cast-off girlfriends. Doesn't have to be one of the good ones in either category. Whatever you can spare, genius.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Just in Time for Hallowe'en

(And how many times do you see the contraction apostrophe in Hallowe'en these days?)

Anyway, via Rand Simberg, James Whale is alive and well and working in the fashion industry:

More Bailout Thoughts

A few posts back, I said this about the impending government bailout of the financial industry:
So the government (via its new version of the RTC) becomes the mortgage holder for hundreds of thousands of Americans. Already the cry from Democrats is "People before profit."

Will the US be able to resolve the most clear out the very worst of these loans in an fiscally responsible manner?

If there is any possibility of making money on these loans, won't that cause an outcry on the Left?
Jonah Goldberg points out:
Democrats in Congress had great fun using Fannie and Freddie as public policy piggy banks, rewarding constituencies, funding pet projects, forcing the private sector to dance to their tune. What’s to stop them from renegotiating this week’s deal after the election and using Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and the others as Fannie Mae 2.0?

Please don’t say that the terms of the deal are set and the government can’t revise them. If there’s one thing the last month has hammered home, it’s that nothing is written in stone. Besides, the banks may grow to like the security of partial nationalization and even lobby to Congress to stay on as less-than-fully-silent partners.

Heck, that way they wouldn’t have to pay back the loans.
I never thought of that.

Banks might tout the participation of the government as a way to sell their stock, "Hey, the government won't let us fail!"

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kiss Me, Ladies, I've Voted!

Washington has become a vote-by-mail state, so I have just sent off my ballot. I object to vote-by-mail. I think that taking a few minutes out of your day to carry out a civic duty is a small price to pay.

Of course, maybe I'm old-fashioned, but this tidbit on this Washington voter information page made me chuckle:

Voter Drop Box and Service Center Locations

Alley behind the Court House
24 Hour Drop Box
625 West 4th Street
Newport, WA 99156

(Pssst! Tell `em Joe (Biden) sent yah!)

Monday, September 29, 2008

This is not "The America I Knew"

James Taranto has spotted this reactionary meme at the first Presidential Debate, in Barak Obama's closing statement:
You know, my father came from Kenya. That's where I get my name.

And in the '60s, he wrote letter after letter to come to college here in the United States because the notion was that there was no other country on Earth where you could make it if you tried. The ideals and the values of the United States inspired the entire world.

I don't think any of us can say that our standing in the world now, the way children around the world look at the United States, is the same.

And part of what we need to do, what the next president has to do--and this is part of our judgment, this is part of how we're going to keep America safe--is to--to send a message to the world that we are going to invest in issues like education, we are going to invest in issues that--that relate to how ordinary people are able to live out their dreams.

And that is something that I'm going to be committed to as president of the United States.
Taranto points out:

Barack Obama may be the world's leading expert on Barack Obama, but he managed to misstate a crucial fact in his father's life story. Obama père came to the U.S. in September 1959, the Washington Post reported in March--which would mean that the letter-writing campaign Obama fils describes would have taken place in the 1950s, not the 1960s.

Why is this important? Because it is weird to hear a left-liberal politician wax nostalgic for the "moral authority" the U.S. supposedly enjoyed in the 1950s--before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the War on Poverty, America's defeat in the Vietnam War, women's liberation, gay liberation, Roe v. Wade, Nixon's resignation--all the liberal triumphs of the 1960s and '70s. It is conservatives who usually argue, rightly or not, that the era since the 1950s has been one of moral decay.

Presumably it was to divert attention from this contradiction that Obama misstated the decade in which his father attempted to come to America. Liberals, at least those who weren't there, remember the 1960s fondly. But however one evaluates the legacy of the 1960s and early '70s, is there really any substance to Obama's claim that "our standing in the world now, the way children around the world look at the United States," has deteriorated? (Obama's father, by the way, was a "child" of 22 or 23 when he arrived in the U.S.)

Our sense is that there is not, that Obama is painting a rosy picture of the past in order to disparage contemporary America. It's nothing more than feel-bad rhetoric.

In fact, we'd say the most salient contrast between America in 2008 and America in 1959 is this: In 2008, Obama fils has an excellent chance of becoming the next president. In 1959, there were large portions of the country where Obama père would have been treated as a second-class citizen. Obama père seems to have seen past America's imperfections and focused on its greatness. If Obama fils is to be the next president, one hopes he will learn to do the same thing.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bailout Thoughts

So there is a lot of back-and-forth about whether the Paulson Bailout will cost the U.S. trillions of dollars; or whether it will in the end reap a windfall of trillions of dollars.

The question that I have for those that think this may actually make money is this:

Are you nuts?

(Note that I generally applaud buying up distressed assets a fire-sale prices, then making a killing once everybody starts to realize how stupidly they have acted. I am, after all, a heartless capitalist.)

Andy Kessler makes this point in his Wall Street Journal article:

In 1992, hedge-fund manager George Soros made $1 billion betting against the British pound. In 2007, John Paulson's Credit Opportunities fund correctly bet against subprime mortgages, clearing $15 billion for the year and $3.7 billion for him. Warren Buffett is now hoping to make big money on Goldman Sachs.

[Chad Crowe] Chad Crowe

But these are small-time deals. My analysis suggests that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (a former investment banker, no less, not a trader) may pull off the mother of all trades, which could net a trillion dollars and maybe as much as $2.2 trillion -- yes, with a "t" -- for the United States Treasury...

Firms will haggle, but eventually cave -- they need the cash. I am figuring Mr. Paulson could wind up buying more than $2 trillion in notional value loans and home equity and CDOs for his $700 billion.

So the U.S. will be stuck with a portfolio in the trillions of dollars in bad loans and last-to-be-paid derivatives. Where is the trade in that?

Well, unlike Mr. Buffett or any hedge fund, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve get to cheat. It's not without risk, but the Feds, with lots of levers, can and will pump capital into the U.S. economy to get it moving again. Future heads of Treasury and the Federal Reserve will be growth advocates -- in effect, "talking their book." While normally this creates a threat of inflation and a run on the dollar, and we may see dollar exchange rates turn south near term, don't expect it to last.

First, with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley now operating as low-leverage bank holding companies, a dollar injected into the economy will most likely turn into $10 in capital (instead of $30 when they were investment banks). This is a huge change. Plus, a stronger U.S. economy, with its financial players having clean balance sheets, will become a safe haven for capital.

So where is the downside?

L. Willaim Seidman and David C. Cooke list some of the lessons they learned from the Resolution Trust Corporation in the Savings & Loan bailout of the 1985:

Here are the most important lessons we learned from our experiences in the late '80s and early '90s:

- Acquired assets require active management. Assets tend to lose value while in government hands, as the government seldom can duplicate a private owner's interest in enhancing value. The RTC employed over 10,000 people in the first year of operation.

- Holding large inventories of assets will lead to depressed prices. No one wants to buy when the market has a large overhang of assets just waiting to be dumped when prices improve.

- To get the market started, assets have to be sold at very low prices. Such sales will attract buyers, with a resulting increase in prices. At the same time, selling at low prices could trigger accusations that the agency is "depressing the market."

- Every government sale or purchase creates winners and losers. This results in intense political and economic pressures to influence the actions of the agency. The RTC's independent governance and operations protected against fraud and political influence.

So the government (via its new version of the RTC) becomes the mortgage holder for hundreds of thousands of Americans. Already the cry from Democrats is "People before profit."

Will the US be able to resolve the most clear out the very worst of these loans in an fiscally responsible manner?

If there is any possibility of making money on these loans, won't that cause an outcry on the Left?

Monday, September 15, 2008

William Ayres

This is all very inside baseball. If you haven't been following the presidential campaign since 2006, it may seem as though it is an argument in progress. It is. Feel free to skip.

Just a few posts ago I was wondering about Barack Obama, "Who Does He Owe?"

It seems as though one of the people he owes is William Ayres. As pointed out by Hillary Clinton, Obama used the position that he had in Ayres operation as a bullet point on his resume.

This is the absolute sticking point for me. My family calls me McCarthyite and say that I'm attempting to smear Obama with guilt by association.

And yet.

"I don't regret setting bombs" and "I feel we didn't do enough", and, when asked if he would "do it all again" as saying "I don't want to discount the possibility."

"We weren't terrorists," Ayers told an interviewer for the Chicago Tribune in 2001. "The reason we weren't terrorists is because we did not commit random acts of terror against people. Terrorism was what was being practiced in the countryside of Vietnam by the United States."

Oh, God. Do we think that the Red Brigade were random? Bader-Meinhof Group? Were all the pain and horror and death in the end for nothing?

Calling me McCarthyite isn't the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

George Putnam has Died

Things I didn't know about George Putnam:

"I detest labels," he once told the Los Angeles Times. "I've been called many things in my career: right-wing extremist, super-patriot, goose-stepping nationalist, jingoistic SOB. And those are some of the nice things.

"But those people have never bothered to determine my background: Farmer-Labor Party, Socialist Party, lifelong member of the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People], member of the Urban League. I went through the Depression, and my father was reduced to selling peanuts door-to-door . . . I fell in love with Franklin D. Roosevelt. I've been a lifelong Democrat. I'm a conservative Democrat."

Sorry. My head will stop spinning in just a minute.

Belly Laugh

I saw the video of Senator McCain being besieged by the harpies of "The View," and it caused me to reflect.

What I wanted McCain to do, what I wanted Sarah Palin to do when confronted by Charlie Gibson, was to laugh. I wanted John McCain to toss back his head, hold his stomach and laugh at the silly improbability of it all until tears rolled down his cheeks.

When you think about it, "Do I have to be worried about the return of slavery," seems to require one of two responses. The first is outrage that your viewpoint could be so distorted by a sadly un-funny comedienne. I have no doubt that Senator McCain could rise to heights of outrage should he so desire. The second response is to look at these Lilliputian scold-hens and see how ludicrous their jabber really is. I don't want to hear a mean snarly laugh, nor yet a derisive snort, but a belly laugh that reflects his amusement that these people, these people, contend that they speak for the American people.

Have you noticed how Senator McCain smiles these days when he is standing in the vortex of all the cheers directed at him and Governor Palin? That's how I knew that she was the right choice. America wants a happy warrior, not glum eat-your-Brussels-sprouts policy wonks.

Anyway, the election season is here. At dinner parties I attend, the hostesses hush any talk of November when I am present. My brothers and sisters are, I am sure, discussing having me committed for the insanity of disagreement with them.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Barack Obama = Steve Jobs?

Other than Jobs helped create a multi-billion-dollar industry where there was none?

I am anticipating the return of Saturday Night Live this weekend with the election in full swing. In an article about the comedians who will do impersonations of the candidates, Fred Armisen talks about "doing" Barack Obama:
Obama might at first seem almost too straight of a character for Armisen. While Hammond is a somewhat traditional standup (he performs frequently and has recently begun appearing on Broadway, notably in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee"), Armisen is closer to absurdist, Andy Kaufman territory...

But he says Obama reminds him of another character of his: Steve Jobs.

"There was something about Senator Obama that I felt they had some similarities — in their presentation, in their love for what they do," says Armisen. "Steve Jobs really makes moments happen."
So the similarity is that Barak Obama has his own Reality Distortion Field?

From Wikipedia:
Reality distortion field is a term coined by Bud Tribble at Apple Inc. in 1981, to describe company co-founder Steve Jobs' charisma and its effects on the developers working on the Mac project. Later the term has also been used to refer to perceptions of his keynote (or Stevenote) by observers and devoted users of Apple computers and products.

Bud Tribble claimed that the term came from Star Trek.

In essence, RDF is the idea that Steve Jobs is able to convince people to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bluster, exaggeration, and marketing. RDF is said to distort an audience's sense of proportion or scale. Small advances are applauded as breakthroughs. Interesting developments become turning points, or huge leaps forward. Those who use the term RDF contend that it is not an example of outright deception but more a case warping the powers of judgment. The term "audience" may refer to an individual whose attitudes Steve is intending to affect.

Often the term is used as a derogatory remark to criticize Apple's products and its more enthusiastic fans.

The term has extended in industry to other managers and leaders, who try to convince their employees to become passionately committed to projects, sometimes without regard to the overall product or to competitive forces in the marketplace. It also has been used with regard to hype for products that are not necessarily connected with any one person .

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Who Does He Owe?

I have avoided posting about the Sarah Palin Veep situation. I, like almost everyone else, was caught near flatfooted. I had considered Palin, but had filed her in my mind in along with Bobby Jindal in a box marked: "Rising Stars, check back in 2 years." I have been revolted at the toxic waste dump of hate that has been spilled by her political opponents.

But the Obama campaign's featherweight response to Palin was telling in its ineptness. It's like that they felt that had to throw something out there, rather than let the announcement dominate the next six news cycles while they did opposition research. But the response was pathetic. Calling Palin a "former mayor," rather than a "sitting governor?" Getting trapped in comparing the top of the Democratic ticket with the bottom of the Republican ticket?

This ineptness in choosing Joe Biden, blowing the Palin announcement, and the daily gaff-o-matic tone of the Obama/Biden ticket has me puzzled. How did they get this far?

Joe Biden owes Barak Obama big time. Biden couldn't get more than 1% of the Iowa vote.

So who does Obama owe? Step back a minute and contemplate just how unlikely it is for Obama to be where he is. Here is a freshman senator defeating the Clinton Machine on his first national campaign. What's up with that?

No big conspiracy theory needed. I don't need to imagine a left-wing cabal. Just the usual big-money people.

First on the list is Oprah Winfrey. I have heard that Oprah Winfrey was a big factor in convincing him after she heard his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. (Of course she was measuring him against John "Reporting for Duty!" Kerry, so he looked positively presidential.) She was a fellow member of Wright's church. She opened her Rolodex to him, giving him entree to the necessary early big-money donors.

So yeah, he owes Oprah. If he gets elected, she gets to swank it and go to State dinners and lay a proprietary hand on his arm and say, "Yeah, I gave him his start." That's an easy payoff.

But beating the Clintons? One of the most feared political machines in modern politics? A machine that has members so loyal that they will pull free-lance black-bag operations at the National Archives? I mean, this real life, not National Treasure.

And this fresh young man from the sticks steps in and beats The Clinton Machine?

Yeah, right.

Quite frankly that's the most impressive item on his rather slim resume'.

But in politics, everybody owes somebody.

So who does Obama owe?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Music Man

A fascinating article by John McWhorter in The New Republic on the changes in oratorical styles in the last century.
If Abraham Lincoln were brought back to life, one thing that would throw him, other than electric power and the Internet, would be that audiences disrupted his speeches by clapping after every three or four lines. As ordinary as this seems now, this kind of applause is actually a custom of our times: Wesleyan political scientist Elvin Lim has documented that, in records of presidential addresses since Franklin D. Roosevelt, 97 percent of the applause lines appear in speeches by Richard Nixon and his successors. To speakers in Lincoln's day, a public address was typically a lecture. In our time, it is more often a love-in, more about the speaker "connecting" with the audience than teaching it anything new; hence the constant interruptions for clapping....

Given the standard assumption that our political culture would be better off if everyone would just "stick to the issues," the heavy performative streak in modern political speechmaking could be seen as counterintuitive. Wouldn't we expect the average person, when behind the podium, to simply talk? Why do so many find it natural to slide into a dramatic speaking style alien to their everyday selves when speaking to audiences--and why do they say so little when they do?
(Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan refers to this impulse as "reaching for the marble," that is, the hope of every presidential wanna-be and might-have-been to hope that their rhetoric will be so high-flown and compelling that it will be carved on the walls of their national monuments some day. -ed)

Interestingly, modern speakers have discovered they can play down to their audiences without seeming to. The intonations of casual speech are a kind of music; and, when wielded effectively, they can satisfy in the same way as a good song. Steven Mithen at Reading University has even proposed that language began as strings of musical syllables, gradually reinterpreted as nouns and verbs. Thus, euphonious intonation has a way of sounding like grammar--i.e., logic. In fact, researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig have discovered that the part of the brain that processes musical sequences is the same one that generates grammatical syntax.

If our expectation that a subject will be followed by a predicate is founded in the same process that leads us to hear the sequence of notes of "Twinkle, twinkle, little star / How I wonder what you are" as a proper tune, it's no wonder Obama can get so much out of the sheer melody of his delivery. With our brains configured in a way that makes melody feel like logic, the only question would be why Obama's savory intonations would not suggest leadership ability to his fans. In fact, intonation has arguably been as key to Obama's success as his heritage or intelligence. One senses that the women fainting during his speeches are overcome more by the way he talks than what he is saying: With his mastery of cadence and vocal texture, he could rouse an audience reading from a phone book.

However, we must be careful what we wish for. In our sound-bite culture, America not only does not, but perhaps cannot, process logos-based oratory the way it used to. Hillary Clinton's content-rich addresses during the primaries got her nowhere, and Obama's masterfully composed speech on race this spring left his detractors unmoved, many seemingly challenged in even following his lines of argument. For all the complaints from voters about Obama that they don't know "who he is," if he had stepped onto the national stage patiently explaining who he was, how many people would have even been able to listen?

H/T Allah

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Life Imitates Iowahawk

...In the latest issue of Tikkun, in an article titled “Election 2008: Why is it Close?” [Rabbi Michael] Lerner concludes “there is another factor operating that dares not speak its name: RACISM.”

His solution for helping Barack Obama put the election away? “Imagine the cultural impact if tens of thousands of Obama activists were to volunteer the month of October to go door to door in the contested states and ask people to discuss the issue of racism!” (Dear Barack Obama — Please heed Michael Lerner’s advice. — Sincerely, John McCain)
--Mark Hemingway in National Review Online

...With new polls showing Barack Obama's once-commanding lead over John McCain all but evaporated, the Obama campaign announced today it has begun deploying its vast volunteer army of downtown hipster douchebags to help reconnect the presumptive Democratic candidate with middle-American voters.

"Unlike Iraq, this is one surge that is actually going to work," said Obama campaign manager David Axlerod...

According to Lorenz, winning back fence sitters to the Obama column takes a disciplined three-pronged attack of sarcasm, irony and condescension, which he demonstrates on a diner at a Fond du Lac IHOP.

"Excuse me, who are you voting for?" Lorenz asks the elderly man.

"Oh, I don't know, McCain I suppose," the man answers.

"Yeah, I guess you senile old f*cks need to stick together," says Lorenz. "That way you can stay safe from those scary Muslim nee-groos."

"See?" observes Lorenz. "Now that he's been properly shamed out of his racism, he'll think twice before pulling any lever for McBush."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Misremembering Doctrine

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been chided here before for her quoting of Bible passages that no one, not even (nor especially) those familiar with the Christian scripture recognizes.

Now she is lecturing the Catholic Church on it's doctrine and dogmas.

Once again, she's wrong. Oh, so wrong on so many points. First:
REP. PELOSI: I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator–St. Augustine said at three months. We don’t know. The point is, is that it shouldn’t have an impact on the woman’s right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child–first trimester, certain considerations; second trimester; not so third trimester. There’s very clear distinctions. This isn’t about abortion on demand, it’s about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and–to–that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god. And so I don’t think anybody can tell you when life begins, human life begins. As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who’ve decided…

Well, first of all, Ms. Pelosi, your party (and you party's standard bearer, Barack Obama) have not been supportive of any distinctions between the trimesters relating to the personhood of the child.

Second of all, Roe v. Wade was based upon viability of the unborn child. Breathtaking medical advances in the last 35 years have kicked that crutch out from underneath that argument. (A problem with pragmatic judgements--the circumstances change and you are left clinging to an argument that is no longer valid.)

But I am concerned here with your understanding of the doctrines of your own church:

MR. BROKAW: The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that it…

REP. PELOSI: I understand that.

MR. BROKAW: …begins at the point of conception.

REP. PELOSI: I understand. And this is like maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy. But it is, it is also true that God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And we want abortions to be safe, rare, and reduce the number of abortions. That’s why we have this fight in Congress over contraception. My Republican colleagues do not support contraception. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, and we all do, we must–it would behoove you to support family planning and, and contraception, you would think. But that is not the case. So we have to take–you know, we have to handle this as respectfully–this is sacred ground. We have to handle it very respectfully and not politicize it, as it has been–and I’m not saying Rick Warren did, because I don’t think he did, but others will try to.

Oooooh, that wascally Wick Warren! She's not saying Rick torpedoed her guy, but others will try to say he did!

Ed Morrisey over at Hot Air posts some historic Church documents:
“The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child” (Didache 2:1–2 [A.D. 70]).

Tertullian wrote:

“In our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed” (Apology 9:8 [A.D. 197]).

“Among surgeons’ tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade, by means of which the limbs [of the child] within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fetus is extracted by a violent delivery.

“There is also [another instrument in the shape of] a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: They give it, from its infanticide function, the name of embruosphaktes, [meaning] “the slayer of the infant,” which of course was alive. . . .

“[The doctors who performed abortions] all knew well enough that a living being had been conceived, and [they] pitied this most luckless infant state, which had first to be put to death, to escape being tortured alive” (The Soul 25 [A.D. 210]).

I'm not large-C Catholic, so I will leave the heavy lifting to The Anchoress.

But Nancy, you know those churchgoer's votes you wanted this fall? I wouldn't count on them.

Taking the Fifth, Part 2

As a public service follow-on to my original Taking the Fifth posting, I present the following two videos. They are both from the law class of James Duane at Regent University. Professor Duane tells why he advises never to talk to the police. He then turns his class over to a police officer to give the other view of the Fifth Amendment. Hilarity ensues.

The videos are about 25 minutes apiece, but move very quickly.


I am a big fan of the Television show Firefly. I own the DVD box set and have watched it again and again. I have loaned it to friends and relations causing a few to buy their own sets.

Now the word comes out that the series will be released in Blu-ray. Well, here is the news item:
Firefly: The Complete Series drops on Blu-ray high-definition disc on Nov. 11 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in a three-disc set that includes all 14 episodes, a new Firefly Reunion roundtable discussion and a new episode commentary from series creator Joss Whedon and select cast members; the set carries a suggested retail price of $89.98.

I'd love to see the roundtable discussion and hear the new commentary, but nearly $90 for a discs that I already own...

Friday, August 08, 2008

Recognizing Quality

From an MSN Money article on knowing when to spend more on an item to save in the long run:

Americans in their 20s and 30s are now at least one generation removed from the era of homemade clothing and hand-crafted wood furniture, Underhill says. "In the 1950s, 90% of homes had sewing machines, which means women knew something about how clothes were put together. They could look at something in the store and tell if was of good construction or crappy construction," he says. "In my office, I don't know anyone who has bought a custom suit. They don't know the difference between off-the-rack and custom."
My mother had a Singer sewing machine, and, being a daughter of the depression, made lots of clothes for the family. Those she didn't make, she likely altered to fit the next-smallest child.

For one brief, shining moment I owned a wardrobe of hand-tailored clothing, including hand-made shoes. I was in Asia for a year and was buying clothes that weren't hand-me-downs. Alas, all my baggage was lost on the trip back to the United States!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Return of "The America I Knew"

Barak Obama is shown here using the "America I Knew" meme.

Let me plagiarize myself:
What I am annoyed about is that [this is] being intellectually and historically dishonest about where America is and where it used to be. [This is] attempting to appropriate a conservative, even reactionary, meme and use it to advance a point of view that is radically unconservative....

A few years ago John Stossel...played a couple of television commercials from the late 1950s and early 1960s for various products, laundry soap and canned coffee. I was aghast at their sexist bias and insensitivity. What was worse, I remember seeing the commercials when they first aired, and they were completely unremarkable in the cultural context of their day. Younger people who don't remember this time could fall into the "America I Knew" meme because they have no direct memory of those times. I do. Shame on those, conservative and liberal, who trot that old warhorse out.

America is a wonderful country. My favorite! And I have wonderful nostalgic memories of my boyhood. But I cannot generalize from the specific of my own experiences to say that America was better back then.

Look, if you are a progressive at least espouse a doctrine of progress. It is conservative to look back. It is silly, politically, for progressives to engage in nostalgia.

This is especially true if you are trying to sell a "post-racial" message!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tony Snow

I was a Tony Snow fan since the beginning of "Fox News Sunday." His closing comments were gems. His comments following September 11, 2001, when he lost his composure still define the times.

I hope that this doesn't sound too self-centered, but you get to an age and notice that the people that obituaries are starting to be about people who are younger than you. Tony Snow faced the monster that was eating him a piece at a time, and he laughed with the joy of the life that remained:

Tony Snow in The Jewish World Review, 2005:

The art of being sick is not the same as the art of getting well. Some cancer patients recover; some don't. But the ordeal of facing your mortality and feeling your frailty sharpens your perspective about life. You appreciate little things more ferociously. You grasp the mystical power of love. You feel the gravitational pull of faith. And you realize you have received a unique gift – a field of vision others don't have about the power of hope and the limits of fear; a firm set of convictions about what really matters and what does not. You also feel obliged to share these insights – the most important of which is this: There are things far worse than illness – for instance, soullessness.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

You keep using that word...

"...I do not think it means what you think it means."

The Washington Post tells us how rich people spend their time:
People invariably believe that money can make them happy -- and rich people usually do report being happier than poor people do. But if this is the case, shouldn't wealthy people spend a lot more time doing enjoyable things than poor people?

Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman has found, however, that being wealthy is often a powerful predictor that people spend less time doing pleasurable things, and more time doing compulsory things and feeling stressed.

People who make less than $20,000 a year, for example, told Kahneman and his colleagues that they spend more than a third of their time in passive leisure -- watching television, for example. Those making more than $100,000 spent less than one-fifth of their time in this way -- putting their legs up and relaxing. Rich people spent much more time commuting and engaging in activities that were required as opposed to optional. The richest people spent nearly twice as much time as the poorest people in leisure activities that were active, structured and often stressful -- shopping, child care and exercise.

Kahneman and his colleagues argued that many people mistakenly allocate enormous amounts of their time and psychological focus to getting rich because of a mental illusion: When they think about what it would mean to be wealthy, they think about how enjoyable it would be to watch a flat-screen TV set, play lots of sports or get a lot of pampering -- our stereotypical beliefs of how the rich spend their time.

"In reality," Kahneman and his colleagues wrote in a paper they published in the journal Science, "they should think of spending a lot more time working and commuting and a lot less time engaged in passive leisure."
First of all:

People who must commute to work aren't rich. Rich people don't have to work.

Second of all:

And in the United States in the year 2008, $100,000 per annum isn't rich.


People who make more money tend to be people who are doing what they want to do. Working 50 to 60 hours a week sounds grim to me, but I'm not making a six figure income.


The same driven, successful people may enjoy structured stressful leisure activities more than "passive leisure." White-water rafting, competitive team sports, sailing, tennis, adventure vacations, all take a lot of effort and planning, yet yield a lot of pleasure to the right kind of people.

If I won the lottery, I would take a few months to put my feet up and veg out, but I think that the lotus-eating would pall after a very short period.

It's Okay to Laugh at Him

With the possibility of an Obama victory in the offing, John Stewart starts aiming at the Democratic candidate.

Two points:

1) Jim Treacher is funnier than me:
That’s my favorite part, the nervous, hesitant laughter. You can almost hear the audience thinking, “Is this okay? Will people think I’m a racist?”

2) Democrats are kicking up a dust cloud when they say, "Changing circumstances required Obama to change his mind."


When Obama made his pledge he knew that if he won the primary that he would face the winner of the Republican party. What changed there? Did he think that McCain is just a big meanie and that he would have kept his pledge if Fred Thompson was the Republican candidate? Mike Huckabee?

What has changed since then? Money. Lots and lots of money.

Like the old joke goes, "We've established what you are, my dear. We are now haggling price."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Awesome Awsomeness

This is why I love the Internets. It's also why I read quality bloggers like James Lileks. Here is a show from the early 1970s that defines an era. And the cast! Burgess Merideth, Hugh O'Brian, Tony Franciosa, and Doug McClure!

Here's a link to Search in Jump the Shark.

All the way back to Jerusalem

We hear so much these days about the cultural and demographic challenge to the West by Islam. An interesting article in the Asia Times points out that the challenge goes two ways:

For the first time, perhaps, since the time of Mohammed, large parts of the Islamic world are vulnerable to Christian efforts to convert them, for tens of millions of Muslims now dwell as minorities in predominantly Christian countries. The Muslim migration to Europe is a double-edged sword. Eventually this migration may lead to a Muslim Europe, but it also puts large numbers of Muslims within reach of Christian missionaries for the first time in history...

As Father Dall'Oglio warns darkly, Muslims are in dialogue with a pope who evidently does not merely want to exchange pleasantries about coexistence, but to convert them. This no doubt will offend Muslim sensibilities, but Muslim leaders are well-advised to remain on good terms with Benedict XVI. Worse things await them. There are 100 million new Chinese Christians, and some of them speak of marching to Jerusalem - from the East. A website entitled Back to Jerusalem proclaims, "From the Great Wall of China through Central Asia along the silk roads, the Chinese house churches are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ all the way back to Jerusalem."

Islam is in danger for the first time since its founding. The evangelical Christianity to which George W Bush adheres and the emerging Asian church are competitors with whom it never had to reckon in the past. The European Church may be weak, but no weaker, perhaps, than in the 8th century after the depopulation of Europe and the fall of Rome. An evangelizing European Church might yet repopulate Europe with new Christians as it did more than a millennium ago.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

No Greater Honor

In The Atlantic Robert D. Kaplan describes the process of awarding the U.S. military's highest honor, and reflects on the disconnection between those who serve and those who are served.

Over the decades, the Medal of Honor—the highest award for valor—has evolved into the U.S. military equivalent of sainthood. Only eight Medals of Honor have been awarded since the Vietnam War, all posthumously....

Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith was the ultimate iron grunt, the kind of relentless, professional, noncommissioned officer that the all-volunteer, expeditionary American military has been quietly producing for four decades. “The American people provide broad, brand-management approval of the U.S. military,” notes Colonel Smith, “about how great it is, and how much they support it, but the public truly has no idea how skilled and experienced many of these troops are.”

Sergeant Smith had fought and served in Desert Storm, Bosnia, and Kosovo prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom. To his men, he was an intense, “infuriating, by-the-book taskmaster,” in the words of Alex Leary of The St. Petersburg Times, Sergeant Smith’s hometown newspaper. Long after other platoons were let off duty, Sergeant Smith would be drilling his men late into the night, checking the cleanliness of their rifle barrels with the Q-tips he carried in his pocket. During one inspection, he found a small screw missing from a soldier’s helmet. He called the platoon back to drill until 10 p.m. “He wasn’t an in-your-face type,” Colonel Smith told me, “just a methodical, hard-ass professional who had been in combat in Desert Storm, and took it as his personal responsibility to prepare his men for it.”

Sergeant Smith’s mind-set epitomized the Western philosophy on war: War is not a way of life, an interminable series of hit-and-run raids for the sake of vendetta and tribal honor, in societies built on blood and discord. War is awful, to be waged only as a last resort, and with terrific intensity, to elicit a desired outcome in the shortest possible time. Because Sergeant Smith took war seriously, he never let up on his men, and never forgot about them...

The ceremony in the East Room of the White House two years to the day after Sergeant Smith was killed, where President George W. Bush awarded the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Smith’s 11-year-old son, David, was fitfully covered by the media. The Paul Ray Smith story elicited 96 media mentions for the eight week period after the medal was awarded, compared with 4,677 for the supposed abuse of the Koran at Guantánamo Bay and 5,159 for the disgraced Abu Ghraib prison guard Lynndie England, over a much longer time frame that went on for many months. In a society that obsesses over reality-TV shows, gangster and war movies, and NFL quarterbacks, an authentic hero like Sergeant Smith flickers momentarily before the public consciousness.

It may be that the public, which still can’t get enough of World War II heroics, even as it feels guilty about its treatment of Vietnam veterans, simply can’t deliver up the requisite passion for honoring heroes from unpopular wars like Korea and Iraq. It may also be that, encouraged by the media, the public is more comfortable seeing our troops in Iraq as victims of a failed administration rather than as heroes in their own right. Such indifference to valor is another factor that separates an all-volunteer military from the public it defends.
Read the short article. It is well worth your time.

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