September 29, 2008

Grim days, I think...

Today's events have really got me down.

I have been arguing for years that the "Left" in this country, and throughout the developed world, is not just pursuing bad policies, but is in deep psychological and existential trouble. Is suffering from pathologies that have no likely cure.

A crisis is an chance to test the theory. The indication is that I'm right. And this is a case where I would LOVE to have been proved wrong. Because I think we are not just looking at one financial crisis. If a large portion of the country---maybe 25%, maybe 33%? Who knows?---is seriously deranged, then we can only expect things to get worse in the future.

Posted by John Weidner at 3:43 PM

September 28, 2008

"The Christian is the person who does not calculate..."

This is from a great book I'm reading, Ratzinger's Faith, by Tracey Rowland, p. 75...

....In particular he [Ratzinger] speaks of the twin pathologies of bourgeois pelagianism and the pelagianism of the pious. He describes the mentalité of the Bourgeois pelagian as follows: 'If God really does exist and if He does in fact bother about people He cannot be so fearfully demanding as He is described by the faith of the Church. Moreover, I am no worse than others: I do my duty, and the minor human weaknesses cannot really be as dangerous as all that.'

This attitude is a modern version of 'acedia,' —a kind of anxious vertigo that overcomes people when they consider the heights to which their divine pedigree has called them. In Nietzschean terms it is the mentality of the herd, the attitude of someone who just cannot be bothered to be great. It is bourgeois because it is calculating and pragmatic and comfortable with what is common and ordinary, rather than aristocratic and erotic....

...Contrary to the bourgeois spirit Ratzinger argues that the Christian is the person who does not calculate. A Christian with an authentic spirituality does not ask 'How much farther can I go and still remain within the realm of venial sin, stopping short of mortal sin?' Rather, the Christian is the one who simply seeks what is good, without any calculation... In contrast one can find an example of an erotic and aristocratic disposition in the prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola:
To give, and not to count the cost,
To fight, and not to heed the wounds,
To toil, and not to seek for rest,
To labor, and not to ask for any reward
Save that of knowing that we do thy will.

Posted by John Weidner at 2:57 PM

September 26, 2008

"The long-winded version"

Here's Mike Plaiss's follow-up....

Since you invited me, you've opened yourself up to the long-winded version. First, I'm afraid, it is important to understand the role of capital in a bank. Here's the short version. A bank must maintain a certain percentage of their assets in capital. So if a bank has $1 billion of assets (loans, investments, etc.) then they have to have, say, $50 million in capital -- their own money, not borrowed funds. This is a gross oversimplification, but you get the idea. So a shareholder group could raise $50 million in capital (real money), borrow $950 million, and they'd be fine running a $1 billion bank. Understand that a lot of that $950 million would be in the form of good old fashioned savings accounts, CD's, etc.

You may be surprised at the amount of leverage (borrowing) that banks are allowed to employ and this is the first of two problems that the financial sector is facing right now. Banks have never been more leveraged, especially investment banks. They can leverage even more, and it is no accident that they were the first to die.

The second problem is that banks have suffered a very real decline in asset quality. Nearly every bank is struggling with an increasing number of bad loans. Imagine a developer who borrowed money to build a new subdivision in 2006 with plans on having the first phase complete in 2008-09. He is likely bankrupt-- and the value of that land, the collateral, to the bank now? Not good.

Asset quality issues inevitably impact capital. Bad loans have to be written off, investments that have depreciated significantly in value have to be written down, etc. All of this decreases capital. Let's use the numbers in the example above and assume that the bank is looking at loan losses (or investment write-downs) of just 1.5% of those $1 billion in assets. Well, that's $15 million in capital that's gone, but remember they are required (by some quite determined regulators) to have $50 million in capital.

The bank now has two choices. Raise $15 million in capital (In this environment!? Good luck), or shrink the balance sheet. If they shrank their assets from $1 billion to $700 million, they'd be OK with only $35 million of capital.) So the bank in this example is looking to sell $300 million worth of loans or securities -- preferably by the end of the quarter.

If it were only a few banks in this predicament, it would be no big deal, but the reality is that many if not most banks are in this same boat, and that is the crux of the problem. Everybody is looking to de-leverage, to shrink their balance sheet by selling assets, at the same time. It only takes a moment of thought to realize where that gets you.

And if it were just the banking world it might not be such a big problem. But nearly everybody is looking to de-lever (sell assets) right now. Hedge funds? They borrow money to buy their assets too. Who's going to lend it to them now? They are under even more pressure than the banks to sell. Private equity? Yes, that's coming on line (and what a great time to have access to private equity) but frankly it's a drop in the bucket. Thus, we have maybe 5 sellers (of all assets) for every one buyer and therein lies the "opportunity" as Kessler sees it.

None of this is really a defense of the plan, only its cost. If the government buys these assets they aren't "out" $700 billion. The treasury can borrow at, say 4%, buy assets that are going to return north of 8% (even with the losses factored in) and make a killing. It is certainly reasonable to argue that this is simply not something that the government should be in the business of doing. I have thoughts on that, but again I'll save them for later.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:23 AM

Only scrubs act like this...

Couric Diminishes Gov. Palin, By The Prowler
CBS New anchor Katie Couric ordered staff to drop all references to "Governor" or "Gov." from her interview with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. When a staff member pointed out that in other venues, Couric and CBS News had referred to Governor Palin's opponent, Joe Biden, using his title of "Senator" or the abbreviation, Couric, according to a CBS News editorial aide, sought approval from CBS News management to drop the "Governor" reference during her broadcast interview with Palin that began on Wednesday night.

"It's not true," said another CBS News source. "We treat everyone the same."

But, in fact, that's not the case: as late as September 22, CBS News and Couric -- even on the CBS website -- used Biden's honorific. Here is an excerpt from the transcript of a Couric interview with "Sen." Biden:
Katie Couric: How is it preparing for the debates?

Sen. Joe Biden: Well, it's kind of hard to prepare because I don't know what she thinks. There's been no -- I don't know a lot about her, so I have to assume for purposes of the debate that she agrees with John on everything.
Now compare that the transcript of the "Palin" interview:
Couric: Why do you say that? Why are they waiting for John McCain and not Barack Obama? Palin: He's got the track record of the leadership qualities and the pragmatism that's needed at a crisis time like this.
In fact, at no point during the broadcast interview does Couric refer to the GOP vice presidential nominee as "Governor."....
How utterly dishonorable and petty. It's the little things that reveal the soul. Democrat souls are shriveled...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:06 AM

September 25, 2008

The numbers work...

Mike Plaiss posted a comment to the earlier post A safe haven for capital. I think it's worth posting on its own...
Well, I do know enough to know if the numbers work, and they do. Let's take an example of something a little less exotic than a sub-prime CDO. Imagine just a large pool of mortgages (not insured by Fannie or Freddie) that is currently suffering from a relatively high level of delinquencies -- say, 10% of the pool is 90 or more days past due on their monthly payment. Now let's say that fully one half of the mortgages in the pool will eventually default -- a number that far exceeds what just about anyone is predicting. That means half your money is good. But what about the other half? Well, eventually the house will be sold, likely at auction, and the proceeds of that sale go to...the holder of the mortgage. If the loss that is taken on the mortgages that do default is 50% (again higher than anyone is predicting and higher than we are presently seeing), then the mortgage holder has lost 50% of 50% or 25%. Thus, at the end of the day, the mortgage holder will get back 75 cents on the dollar.

I can tell you from personal experience that the mortgage described above may well be trading right now at 50 or 60 cents on the dollar, and if the government were to offer a bank 75 to 80 cents on the dollar for the mortgage pool, the bank would likely jump all over it with both feet.

But wait, the numbers get better. Remember that there is a monthly interest payment that the mortgage holder collects, so if I get 75 cents of the principal back, plus interest, then the thing has to ultimately be worth, if held to maturity, something north of 75. And this is all assuming truly depression era levels of default and loss severity.

So if all of that is true, and it's that simple, why are the bonds trading at 50 or 60 cents in the first place? Why aren't there buyers at 75. There is a very good answer to that question, but I'm afraid it's at least as long as everything I've written so far.

The point is that Mr. Kessler's numbers are correct. If done right (and the likes of Bill Gross have stepped up to say they'll help to see that it is done right) the Paulson plan will not cost taxpayers money, and could in fact add to the treasury over the next several years. This all doesn't mean that I'm thrilled with the plan. But I do believe it is the least bad option out there, and the cost, at least in dollar terms, will almost certainly be negligible.
"There is a very good answer to that question..." Well, send it on Mike, and I'll post it! I bet I could answer it, but not clearly.

I think we need to bail-out pronto, and I think the arguments of "Why should the taxpayers bail out Wall Street?" are silly. As if Wall Street is something separate from the rest of us, not joined at the hip with everybody's pocketbook. (Bad metaphor but you know what I mean.)

And my main objection to the plan(s) is that no one seems to be shaping them to shape the financial sector to create a better future. No one seems to be planning with an underlying philosophy. I hope I'm wrong. But the main thing is just to pass some hocus-pocus to preserve confidence in our markets. If we do, the basic robust good health of the patient will ensure recovery...

Posted by John Weidner at 11:04 AM

Clueless about ordinary Americans...(refers to Obama, natch.)

From Obama's Revealing Disconnect by Hugh Hewitt....

....Hank Adler has written on the Obama's 2004 tax returns and what they reveal about his economic life. In a nutshell, the Obamas were like many classic Yuppies that rose quickly from very modest means and saved little along the way, an analysis that tracks closely Michelle Obama's frequent campaign trail references to how strapped the young couple was by student loans and the costs associated with a young family until the big book deals came along after Barack Obama's 2004 keynote address. It appears, in fact, that the Obamas had little in the way of savings or investments prior to his big publishing scores, though their combined incomes were quite high. Nor does it appear that either had inherited anything from their families as their tax returns show no interest or dividend income or distributions from inherited IRAs.

Combine this inability to save prior to the windfall years with the well known accounts of Obama's rather modest circumstances growing up and the picture emerges of a young professional who is essentially clueless about savings and investment growth. Of course he has never started much less grown a business, and there is nothing in his background to indicate he grasps what it means to need and responsibly use business credit, or to spend decades patiently accumulating mutual fund assets through regular payroll deduction.....

My dad once told me that his dad said to him: "If a man doesn't save when he's earning $20 a week, he won't save when he's earning $200 a week." Adjusted for inflation, that's still a basic truth about human nature. With the added problem now that he's likely to say, "Why isn't the government helping me?"

....Obama's inability to understand the genuine fear in the middle class and to respond appropriately and with a priority on protecting the long-and-painfully accumulated assets of the savings culture should be a huge warning flare to the electorate.

Obama just doesn't get it, and really cannot be expected to get it. He comes out of a career in the professional liberal-to-leftist political class spent tending to the needs and crises of the urban poor and the academic elites and special interest groups of the Chicago machine. His life growing up was not spent among the small business owners and white collar savers that mark so much of suburban, small town and rural America. He has zero experience with real business, and he's not worried about the college funds of his girls.

Obama revealed a great deal yesterday beyond his obvious inability to react quickly to unanticipated events. He showed us a profound ignorance not just of the financial crisis but of the people it threatens to injure and injure deeply....
Posted by John Weidner at 10:16 AM

A safe haven for capital...

I don't know enough to know if the numbers really work, but this WSJ article by Andy Kessler, The Paulson Plan Will Make Money For Taxpayers, is quite intriguing.
...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.

Europe is threatened by an angry Russian bear. The Far East, especially China, has its own post-Olympic banking house of cards of non-performing loans to deal with. Interest rates will tick up as the economy expands -- a plus for the dollar. Finally, a stronger economy driven by industry instead of financials means more jobs, less foreclosures and higher held-to-maturity payouts on this Fed loan portfolio.

You can slice the numbers a lot of different ways. My calculations, which assume 50% impairment on subprime loans, suggest it is possible, all in, for this portfolio to generate between $1 trillion and $2.2 trillion -- the greatest trade ever. Every hedge-fund manager will be jealous. Mr. Buffett is buying a small piece of the trade via his Goldman Sachs investment.

Over 10 years this could change the budget scenario in D.C., which can also strengthen the dollar. The next president gets a heck of a windfall. In the spirit of Secretary of State William Seward's purchase of Alaska for $7 million in 1867, this week may be remembered as Paulson's Folly.

Mr McCain was laughed at by lefty retards for suggesting that our economy is fundamentally sound. But it IS fundamentally sound. In fact, it's the wonder of the world, and has been since the Reagan tax cuts (With an assist from the Bush tax cuts.) Last quarter it grew at a 3.2% annual rate, even as the press was begging people to believe we are in a recession. Most European countries would kill to get their economies growing at 1%.

The financial sector has tied itself up in knots with derivatives, but the underlying asset is the USA. And to give you an example of how strong we are, our current military budget is about half the planet's total military military expenditure, and yet, as a % of GDP our defense budget is about half what it was in the Reagan years...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:13 AM

September 24, 2008

The usual Quaker scam...

By James Kirchick...
....Meanwhile, other religious figures are reaching out to Ahmadinejad. On Thursday, the Iranian president will be the honored guest at an Iftar dinner--the ceremonial breaking of the Ramadan fast--at the New York Grand Hyatt Hotel. That meal is sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, the Mennonite Central Committee, Quaker United Nations Office, Religions for Peace, and the World Council of Churches-United Nations Liaison Office (notice the absence of any Jewish organization.) According to the invitation, the assembled guests--including Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, President of the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Rev. Kjell Bondevik, former Prime Minister of Norway and President of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights--will hold a "conversation about the role of religions in tackling global challenges and building peaceful societies." The discussion will occur "In the presence of His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran."

You'd think that with such a high-profile figure addressing such an important topic, the Quaker lobby and its friends would want to share their honored guest's views with the world. But the event is closed to the press. So I called Mark Graham, Director of External Relations for the American Friends Service Committee. He said that "Jewish individuals," but not Jewish organizations, had been invited to Thursday's event, though he wouldn't name any of them for me. As far as the program is concerned, the evening's discussion will consist of a "dialogue around the idea that God has created us all and our common humanity. People are going to speak about the politicial, social,and religious implications that it has for their faith perspectives." This is actually the fourth event that AFSC (which has led interfaith delegations to Iran, though, again, with no Jews participating) has held with Ahmadinejad, and when I asked Graham about Ahmadinejad's thoughts on the Holocaust, he defended the Iranian President, telling me that "he readily says that the Holocaust was an historical event and he feels for the Palestinian people since the creation of Israel." When I asked if AFSC would press the Iranian President about his pursuit of nuclear weapons capability, support for international terrorism and the murder of American soldiers in Iraq, Graham told me that, "What we hope for with this event, like with others, is that we will help to understand each other a bit better. We will have more precedent for open questioning and a two-way dialogue that's open and honest."

There will be a protest of this Quaker Meeting. Details here.

The pacifist position is simple. War is something that America and Israel do. Iran openly racing to build nuclear bombs while openly talking about frying Israel is not war. So, why should any pacifist object?

Actually, it's worse than fake-pacifism. The Quakers and all those other "inter-faith/peace" groups are completely hollowed-out. They have no faith of any kind. All that's left is leftist politics. (And they would be much more respect-worthy if they really believed in those.) You can bet money that these useful idiots will conclude that Ahmadinejad is a mis-understood peace-lover, but Sarah Palin is a threat to the planet.

And you can be sure no Quakers will be holding "candle-light vigils" about this Christian convert under sentence of death in Iran.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:30 AM

September 23, 2008

Who do you stand shoulder to shoulder with?

From the always-worth-reading Caroline Glick, in the J Post, on the scandal of Governor Palin being barred from the rally against Iran...
....LIBERAL AMERICAN Jews, like liberal Americans in general, and indeed like their fellow leftists in Israel and throughout the West, uphold themselves as champions of human rights. They claim that they care about the underdog, the wretched of the earth. They care about the environment. They care about securing American women's unfettered access to abortions. They care about keeping Christianity and God out of the public sphere. They care about offering peace to those who are actively seeking their destruction so that they can applaud themselves for their open-mindedness and tell themselves how much better they are than savage conservatives.

Those horrible, war-mongering, Bambi killing, unborn baby defending, God-believing conservatives, who think that there are things worth going to war to protect, must be defeated at all costs. They must intimidate, attack, demonize and defeat those conservatives who think that the free women of the West should be standing shoulder to shoulder not with Planned Parenthood, but with the women of the Islamic world who are enslaved by a misogynist Shari'a legal code that treats them as slaves and deprives them of control not simply of their wombs, but of their faces, their hair, their arms, their legs, their minds and their hearts.

The lives of 6 million Jews in Israel are today tied to the fortunes of those women, to the fortunes of American forces in Iraq, to the willingness of Americans across the political and ideological spectrum to recognize that there is more that unifies them than divides them and to act on that knowledge to defeat the forces of genocide, oppression, hatred and destruction that are led today by the Iranian regime and personified in the brutal personality of Ahmadinejad. But Jewish Democrats chose to ignore this basic truth in order to silence Palin.

They should be ashamed. The Democratic Party should be ashamed. And Jewish American voters should consider carefully whether opposing a woman who opposes the abortion of fetuses is really more important than standing up for the right of already born Jews to continue to live and for the Jewish state to continue to exist. Because this week it came to that.

Most people probably find this situation confusing. Why would Jews reject help in standing up to terrorists who want to kill Jews? Why would they put lefty politics ahead of preventing the possible destruction of Israel? Regular readers of Random Jottings know the answer, everyone else has to flounder.

I was going to rant here, but really, you can guess my opinion on this... and I won't try to top Caroline.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:09 PM

"Today's Democrats will not stand against the darkness"

I think Dr Sanity has this right...

...Because, you see, Iran and the rest of the terrorists are patiently waiting. They are waiting for the Democrats--with all their inherent moral weakness and confusion; the Iranians are waiting because they perceive fear, appeasement, defeat, and surrender in the Democratic rhetoric and behavior. They know that as soon as an Obama gets elected, they will be home free and will not have to suffer any consequences for wiping Israel off the map--from the U.S., anyway. They will be able to do as they like without interference.

The dithering Democrats will excuse, rationalize and basically look for any reason to exculpate any atrocity Iran initiates, because they are 'the party of peace' and they just know they can talk to lunatics and trust them

They Iranians know that today's Democrats will not stand against the darkness; instead they will simply turn off the lights and dwell in the dark without protest--then say it is a good thing...

My own feeling is that we will continue to fight the War on Terror in the pattern wisely set by President Bush. Democrats will have to do it, or be turned out by the voters.

BUT, it will likely be a much bloodier and longer war if we elect Obama, or any similar Dem. The terrorists play a game of advance and retreat. They try to gain objectives by using enough violence to destroy the forces of order and freedom in some odd corner of the globe, without actually rousing various sleeping giants.

Put yourself in the shoes of al-Qaeda, and look at Mr Obama. You just know he doesn't want to fight. Nor do Pelosi or Reid or Biden or any of the Dems. Terrorists will push a lot harder if those people are in control. And all those who look to us for global leadership will be discouraged, and will be less likely to stand up to terrorist intimidation. Eventually we will roused to action, but in the meantime a LOT of people will die. (And Tel Aviv may get turned to green glass, and then Tehran in retaliation, in which case tens-of-millions will die.)

And those deaths will be the responsibility of those who are appeasers. Who project weakness instead of resolve. AND those who vote for them.

Voting for Mr Obama is murder. Voting for the party that ejected its one senior leader who strongly supported the War on Terror is murder.

Voting Democrat right now is voting to kill little brown-skinned people in distant corners of the planet.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:54 AM

September 22, 2008

Oh, and there is one little footnote to the story

I think this Bloomberg piece by Kevin Hassett, How the Democrats Created the Financial Crisis, explains the bulk of the present situation....(Thanks to John Hinderaker)
....Take away Fannie and Freddie, or regulate them more wisely, and it's hard to imagine how these highly liquid markets would ever have emerged. This whole mess would never have happened.

It is easy to identify the historical turning point that marked the beginning of the end.

Back in 2005, Fannie and Freddie were, after years of dominating Washington, on the ropes. They were enmeshed in accounting scandals that led to turnover at the top. At one telling moment in late 2004, captured in an article by my American Enterprise Institute colleague Peter Wallison, the Securities and Exchange Comiission's chief accountant told disgraced Fannie Mae chief Franklin Raines that Fannie's position on the relevant accounting issue was not even "on the page'' of allowable interpretations.

Then legislative momentum emerged for an attempt to create a "world-class regulator'' that would oversee the pair more like banks, imposing strict requirements on their ability to take excessive risks. Politicians who previously had associated themselves proudly with the two accounting miscreants were less eager to be associated with them. The time was ripe...
Greenspan's Warning

The clear gravity of the situation pushed the legislation forward. Some might say the current mess couldn't be foreseen, yet in 2005 Alan Greenspan told Congress how urgent it was for it to act in the clearest possible terms: If Fannie and Freddie "continue to grow, continue to have the low capital that they have, continue to engage in the dynamic hedging of their portfolios, which they need to do for interest rate risk aversion, they potentially create ever-growing potential systemic risk down the road,'' he said. "We are placing the total financial system of the future at a substantial risk.''

What happened next was extraordinary. For the first time in history, a serious Fannie and Freddie reform bill was passed by the Senate Banking Committee. The bill gave a regulator power to crack down, and would have required the companies to eliminate their investments in risky assets.

Different World

If that bill had become law, then the world today would be different. In 2005, 2006 and 2007, a blizzard of terrible mortgage paper fluttered out of the Fannie and Freddie clouds, burying many of our oldest and most venerable institutions. Without their checkbooks keeping the market liquid and buying up excess supply, the market would likely have not existed.

But the bill didn't become law, for a simple reason: Democrats opposed it on a party-line vote in the committee, signaling that this would be a partisan issue. Republicans, tied in knots by the tight Democratic opposition, couldn't even get the Senate to vote on the matter.

That such a reckless political stand could have been taken by the Democrats was obscene even then. Wallison wrote at the time: "It is a classic case of socializing the risk while privatizing the profit. The Democrats and the few Republicans who oppose portfolio limitations could not possibly do so if their constituents understood what they were doing.''

Mounds of Materials

Now that the collapse has occurred, the roadblock built by Senate Democrats in 2005 is unforgivable. Many who opposed the bill doubtlessly did so for honorable reasons. Fannie and Freddie provided mounds of materials defending their practices. Perhaps some found their propaganda convincing.

But we now know that many of the senators who protected Fannie and Freddie, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Christopher Dodd, have received mind-boggling levels of financial support from them over the years.

Throughout his political career, Obama has gotten more than $125,000 in campaign contributions from employees and political action committees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, second only to Dodd, the Senate Banking Committee chairman, who received more than $165,000.

Clinton, the 12th-ranked recipient of Fannie and Freddie PAC and employee contributions, has received more than $75,000 from the two enterprises and their employees. The private profit found its way back to the senators who killed the fix.

There has been a lot of talk about who is to blame for this crisis. A look back at the story of 2005 makes the answer pretty clear.

Oh, and there is one little footnote to the story that's worth keeping in mind while Democrats point fingers between now and Nov. 4: Senator John McCain was one of the three cosponsors of S.190, the bill that would have averted this mess.
Posted by John Weidner at 7:42 PM

Not ready for the majors?

An interesting thought from Christopher Hitchins...
..By the end of that grueling campaign season, a lot of us had got the idea that Dukakis actually wanted to lose---or was at the very least scared of winning. Why do I sometimes get the same idea about Obama? To put it a touch more precisely, what I suspect in his case is that he had no idea of winning this time around. He was running in Iowa and New Hampshire to seed the ground for 2012, not 2008, and then the enthusiasm of his supporters (and the weird coincidence of a strong John Edwards showing in Iowa) put him at the front of the pack. Yet, having suddenly got the leadership position, he hadn't the faintest idea what to do with it or what to do about it.

Look at the record, and at Obama's replies to essential and pressing questions. The surge in Iraq? I'll answer that only if you insist. The credit crunch? Please may I be photographed with Bill Clinton's economic team? Georgia? After you, please, Sen. McCain. A vice-presidential nominee? What about a guy who, despite his various qualities, is picked because he has almost no enemies among Democratic interest groups?...

It would explain a lot...

One of the problems with politics is that people often run for office because they are psychologically needy, not because there is something they want to accomplish. The first President Bush is a classic example. And he's also an example of why words like "accomplishments" and "qualifications,"which everyone is using right now, are misleading. Bush senior was a very "qualified" V-P candidate. And he had "accomplishments," in the form of having run various organizations successfully.

But he had zero accomplishments in the sense of dreaming of building something, or changing something, and then sparing no effort to do so. Sarah Palin is the exact opposite. From the PTA onward, she always ran for office because she wanted to fix something. (And has always succeeded, so far.)

Posted by John Weidner at 5:57 PM

September 21, 2008

Obama squirted with seltzer water...

Peter Robinson has a good article on what could be Mr Obama's big lack as a presidential candidate. A sense of humor....

...True, you could have argued that so far he hadn't needed much of a sense of humor. Hillary Clinton hadn't had them rolling in the aisles herself. That changed the following week, when the Republicans held their own convention. In an acceptance speech of just 3,000 words, Sarah Palin provided no fewer than six laughs--real belly laughs, each followed by thunderous applause--five of which came at Obama's expense.

Gov. Palin's performance undermined Sen. Obama in two ways. It made him appear prim and self-serious by comparison. And it thoroughly unnerved the man. "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,'" Palin told the GOP convention, contrasting her work when she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, with Obama's efforts on the south side of Chicago, "except that you have actual responsibilities." For several days afterward, Obama appeared dazed. "Community organizer," he kept insisting at campaign appearances, was so a real job. Even now, more than two weeks later, he has yet to employ humor effectively. Instead he has "sharpened his speeches," to quote the Associated Press, adding "bite." Obama can take a blow. What he can't take is a joke.

Sen. Obama's self-seriousness is understandable. At Columbia and Harvard, the faculty would have seen him, an exceptionally gifted African-American, as destined for great things. In Chicago, he would have been seen as destined for great things because he had attended Columbia and Harvard. What no one anywhere appears to have pointed out to him, however, is that humor itself is great thing....

Obama's problem is that humor is always conservative. Leftish thinking is based on the possibility of fixing this world. Making things OK, making the trains run on time. Making people happy.

We conservatives are sure those aren't possibilities. Not only will Utopia never be achieved, but if we even think we are within telescope-distance of the most minor sort of utopia (or just a veto-proof majority in the Senate) we are probably about to crash spectacularly and look like fools. And humans will never be happy or contented.

Sara Palin with ski planeThe old name for this is Original Sin. And even those who are not religious at all can understand it. (An atheist can be a conservative, but he really ought, out of simple justice, to admit to himself every half-hour or so that Irenaeus got this one right.) And it's funny as long as you don't expect perfection. We conservatives slip on a banana peel, and laugh at ourselves. Or at least admit that other people have a right to laugh.

But the liberal is the Grand Dame whose very body-language radiates, "That's NOT funny!" Whose elegant party is reduced to chaos by the Marx Brothers squirting bottles of seltzer.

And we saw it happen! Think of sober Mr Obama with his Greek temple and stadium full of fans and his not-quite-thrilling climactic moment. And then the next day John McCain grins and waves his cape, and poof! Presto! The anti-Obama! The most stupendous political reversal of our lifetimes. It was wacky! It was FUNNY. It's still funny.

Has ever a joke produced such a quantity of sputtering outrage from the fat ladies? From the straight men? We keep trying to analyze the Leftist responses to Palin, but really they all add up to, "How DARE they!"

Posted by John Weidner at 11:12 PM

Simple stuff...

I found this piece by Thomas Tallis and sung by the Cambridge Singers, posted by DREADNAUGHT. It's utterly beautiful.

(My son the singer heard it and immediately lost his usual indifference to the teejus blog doings of his father. He instantly said, "That's a canon." And proceeded to explain to me how a canon works, and why it pleases the ear. With examples played on the piano. Of course it was all Greek to me, but cool nonetheless...)

DREADNAUGHT writes:
....How do we love each other? Like the Christ loved us. That one is a mystery. I won't venture there.

How do we love God? Here there is another mystery, but we have some guidance.

In John, Jesus tells us to love Him by keeping His commandments. It is one of those times when He clearly marks Himself out as more than another prophet, beyond just a man of God. The Christ has come in Jesus, and He is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. The commandments He references are the same ones Moses brought down from Mount Sinai.

Notice the sequence:

If you love Me. Keep My commandments. Then, I will ask the Father. The Father will listen to Me. On the strength of My prayer, the Father will give you another Comforter. The Comforter will abide with you. Truth will come down, and abide with you forever.

It is a mighty thing that Jesus makes for us....

And the simplicity under the simplicity is that it's what you DO that matters. In the realm of faith, or just in slogging through daily life. (The two are really the same.) What you feel or think or intend, or your profound elite mystical insights, are secondary at best.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:17 AM

September 20, 2008

The looniest lefty meltdown yet...

Oh boy, this cookie takes the cake. And unfortunately she's a local scribbler, and my daughter (who has taste) was required to read one of her books in school. She made my kid suffer, so sympathy is not what I'm feeling...

Anne Lamott:

I had to leave church Sunday morning when it turned out that the sermon was not about bearing up under desperate circumstances, when you feel like you're going crazy because something is being perpetrated upon you and your country that is so obscene that it simply cannot be happening.

I sat outside a 7-Eleven and had a sacramental Dove chocolate bar. Jeez: Here we are again. A man and a woman whose values we loathe and despise -- lying, rageful and incompetent, so dangerous to children and old people, to innocent people in every part of the world -- are being worshiped, exalted by the media, in a position to take a swing at all that is loveliest about this earth and what's left of our precious freedoms.

When I got home from church, I drank a bunch of water to metabolize the Dove bar and called my Jesuit friend, who I know hates these people, too. I asked, "Don't you think God finds these smug egomaniacs morally repellent? Recoils from their smugness as from hot flame?"

And he said, "Absolutely. They are everything He or She hates in a Christian."

I have been in a better mood ever since, and have decided not to even say this woman's name anymore, because she fills me with such existential doubt, such a sense of impending doom and disbelief, that only the Germans could possibly have words for it. Nor am I going to say the word "lipstick" again until after the election, as it would only be used against me. Or "polar bear," because that one image makes me sadder than even horrible old I can stand...

This is especially kooky because I'm sure the author (and her Jesuit pal) would tell you that conservatives are hate-mongers and think God is on their side---and of course that we are deficient in loving-kindness. And yet here she is foaming at the mouth with pure detestation, and writing about how God hates the people she hates! And totally unaware of the irony.

Her problem of course is that she's looking into the future....and she isn't it. Sarah does that to people.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:24 PM

We'll cry all the way to the bank."...

It's getting to be hilarious how freaked-out leftizoids are about our Vice-Presidential pick! I've haven't seen something get under their skin like this since GW Bush suggested to the world's "liberals" that since they are always bloviating about how bad Hitler was---surely they will be glad to help take down a present-day Hitler! Ha ha. Didn't that put the frauds on the hot-spot.

But Palin's better. Her mere existence is like sprinkling salt on Lefty slugs. Pure delight... Like this example:

By Charles M. Blow, NY Times:

Mr. McCain, on Monday you repeated your delusional notion that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. [Grew at a 3.4% rate last quarter--sounds strong to me.] Now, the federal government is working on a deal to save that economy from collapsing. [No retard, it's the financial sector that is a problem, not the economy as a whole. Of course this will damage the economy in the future if not fixed, but right now all the other economic sectors are still strong.] You have admitted that the economy is not your forte, so you could have used a running mate with some financial chops. (Remember Mitt Romney?) [McCain is only a phone call away from Romney's advice. Plus about 10,000 other economic experts. Why this weird obsession about Palin? Since when is the V-P the main economic advisor?]

But no. Who did you pick? SnowJob SquareGlasses whose financial credentials include running Wasilla into debt, [One project got hit with a big lawsuit, and that cost the city millions, but it was otherwise a thrifty administration.] listing (but not selling) a plane on EBay [She got a talking-point that drives you nuts, then she sold the plane the usual way. Sounds pretty smart to me!] and flip-flopping on a bridge to wherever. [Ended up doing the right thing--when has Obama ever?] In fact, when it comes to real issues in general, she may prove to be a liability. [So why aren't you nihilists happy? Hmm? Who are you talking to here? Are you whistling past the graveyard of failed Leftist candidates?]

In what respect, you may ask?

It turns out that the Republican enthusiasm for Sarah Palin is just as superficial as she is. They were so eager for someone to cheer for (because they really don't like you [Actually we like him MUCH more now.]) that they dove face first into the Palin mirage. But, on the issues, even they worry about her. [No, we worry that she may get tripped-up by some Palin-deranged leftist. But she's obviously fundamentally sound and wise.]

In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted this week 77 percent of Republicans said that they had a favorable opinion of Palin. But when asked what specifically they liked about her, their top five reasons were that she was honest, tough, caring, outspoken and fresh-faced. Sounds like a talk-show host, not a vice president. [Liar. You would KILL for a candidate those words fit. You haven't had one in my lifetime.] (By the way, her intelligence was in a three-way tie for eighth place, right behind "I just like her.") [Oh yeah. Our stupid candidates like Reagan and Bush keep getting rejected by the voters. Not. As my mother says, "I'll cry all the way to the bank."]

When those Republicans were asked what they liked least about her, they started to sound more like everyone else. Aside from those who said that there was nothing they didn't like, [You don't seem to be telling us what percentage said that. I bet it's high.] next on the list were: her lack of experience, her record as governor and her lack of foreign-policy experience.

Also, most Republicans think you only picked her to help with the election, not because she is qualified, and a third said that they would be "concerned" if for some reason she actually had to serve as president. [Concerned about your head exploding and splattering us with brain tissue...]

And Palin is proving to be just as vacant as people suspected. In her interview with Charles Gibson last week, she didn't know what the Bush doctrine was. [I answered that one here. She knows the concept, just not the name. Let me explain. The world is like the Old West. If Jesse James and his gang move in nearby, YOU GUYS want to wait until AFTER he has pillaged the town and raped the women and killed the men to do something (If the UN allows, of course). The dumb cowboy says, "T' hell with that, boys, let's go smoke 'em out!" Would you care to ask ordinary Americans which view they support?]

* Update: I keep laughing about guys like this, who put on a mantle of ponderous seriousness to tell us that Sarah Palin is an insignificant fluff-ball who no one could possibly take seriously! And by the way tell us Republicans what we really think, since we can't figure it out ourselves. Psst. What we really think is that we could kiss Sarah's feet in gratitude, for giving these chomskys indigestion.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:33 PM

September 19, 2008

Climate change in the Solar System...

They're being kinda cute about this. "...could result in changing conditions in the solar system." Uh huh. No mention of changes in the Earth's climate. As in, global cooling. That's the real question.

Move along folks, nothing to see here....

MEDIA ADVISORY : M08-176 NASA To Discuss Conditions On And Surrounding The Sun

WASHINGTON -- NASA will hold a media teleconference Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 12:30 p.m. EDT, to discuss data from the joint NASA and European Space Agency Ulysses mission that reveals the sun's solar wind is at a 50-year low. The sun's current state could result in changing conditions in the solar system.

Ulysses was the first mission to survey the space environment above and below the poles of the sun. The reams of data Ulysses returned have changed forever the way scientists view our star and its effects. The venerable spacecraft has lasted more than 17 years - almost four times its expected mission lifetime... [Thanks to Glenn Reynolds]
Posted by John Weidner at 12:12 PM

September 18, 2008

The biter bit....

Patrick Ruffini has an interesting post, Yes, Obama Turning Down Public Financing is Still an Epic Mistake

...Ambinder writes, "The campaigns are spending about $15m in ads per week; each is spending about $7.8 million." So, with an over 2-to-1 Obama spending advantage, McCain is keeping pace with Obama in ad spending. How does he do it?
most of McCain's ads are paid for with both McCain campaign money and money from the RNC; 97% of Obama's ads are paid for by the candidate.
Therein lies the nub of the problem. McCain's $84 million in public finance is just the tip of the iceberg. The real action is at McCain-Palin Victory 2008, the joint fundraising committee that includes the RNC, state parties in Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennylvania, and McCain's GELAC (or compliance) committee. According to their website, Victory can raise up to $67,800 per donor (and presumably, up to $135,600 per couple). Here is how the money gets divided up, according to their disclaimer:
For Individuals- The first $28,500 will go to the RNC, the next portion will be divided evenly between the Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania state parties' federal accounts up to a maximum of $9,250 for each Committee, and the final $2,300 will go to the Compliance Fund. For Federal Multicandidate PACs- The first $15,000 will go to the RNC, the next portion will be divided evenly between the Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania state parties' federal accounts up to a maximum of $5,000 for each Committee, and the final $5,000 will go to the Compliance Fund.
Yes, Obama is theoretically capturing more money into his committee by going private, but at a massive opportunity cost. All of his fundraising energies from now until the election will be spent fundraising for an account with a $2,300 fundraising limit, vs. McCain and Palin, who will be fundraising for a committee with a $67,800 limit (and presumably, $135,400 for couples). Obama has essentially turned down $84 million in free money in exchange for nothing....

I hope Ruffini has this right. Obama's dropping public financing was disgustingly cynical. He promised to use it, and he courted the support of many people who really believe in it. And then he said, "Tough luck suckers. I can use you and discard you, because you have to vote for me anyway."

Just think about those young people who are really excited by Obama, really care, and are going off with stars in their eyes to help him....and they're just chop suey to that corrupt Chicago pol. That really angers me.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:47 PM

There are things to really like about John McCain...

I'd recommend this, by Nibras Kazimi, What would a McCain presidency mean for the Middle East?

A McCain presidency can't be a very reassuring thing for the House of Saud. Senator McCain is probably one of a handful of Washington players that the influential former Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, couldn't get through to over the last two decades. The Saudis never saw the need to do that; they assumed that McCain was too anti-establishment, given his integrity-bound internal compass and natural maverick-ism, to ever make it to the highest rungs of the power game.

They may be proven wrong.

The Saudis can't rely on existing channels to McCain that he has trusted and is likely to trust, whereas even with President George W. Bush, though he may have been alerted to the idea that the Saudi regime may be a liability more than an ally, at least he could be reached and reasoned with either through his father's network, the Republican Party 'realist' foreign policy camp or the oil companies.

No such long-standing channels connect the Saudis to McCain. He is too off their navigational charts, making him too dangerous for the long-term survivability of the Saudi royals for comfort; McCain is not a card-carrying member of the "This is how it's always been, and this is how it should stay" elite--both Republican and Democrat--that's been rubbing shoulders with the Saudis for decades.

Let's posit a hypothetical: How would America respond to another attack of the same or greater magnitude as 911, either on U.S. or European soil, and with young Saudis again being heavily involved?

With McCain as president, the White House would be ready to contemplate a future Middle East that does not include the House of Saud remaining in power. A McCain presidency would challenge the conventional status quo, pushed by the Middle Eastern-related bureaucracies at the State Department, the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, that the Saudi royals are needed to maintain stability within their country and throughout the region.

McCain would likely see the Saudi royals are part of the problem, rather than as part of the solution. Alternatively, McCain may seek to invest more heavily in Iraq, a country and a cause dear to his heart, as the new regional power, and as America's most important Muslim ally in the region...

Read on; he's got Obama figured out too...

And I'll go out on a limb and guess that President Palin will not be wildly impressed by Saudi princelings and their loot either....

Posted by John Weidner at 3:39 PM

How I've been keeping busy...

I just delivered these two tables this morning. They are made to look like several very fine 1940's Art Deco pieces my clients already own. That's a console table in the rear, and a Parsons table in front. (With a lower shelf, so it's a kind of modified Parsons table. The name comes from the Parsons School of Design, by the way, not the title of a clergyman.)

Art Deco tables

I veneered them all over in White Ash Burl. The originals are in Olive Ash, but I couldn't find any that looked right. So I had to dye White Ash to match. Pain in the neck. But the results are worth it.

Here's a closer look at the console table.

Art Deco console table

For those curious about the details. The veneer is paper-backed, from Oakwood Veneer. I built the cases, then veneered them using Heat Lock glue. Then cut the grooves for the corner trim. Got those pieces to fit just right, then dyed and shellacked them, and glued them in. Then dyed the veneer. Then rubbed with boiled linseed oil--that makes the grain stand out. Then sealed the oil with shellac, then sprayed with a clear lacquer.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:22 AM

September 17, 2008

"Is THIS really how they want to win an election?"

The Anchoress on the hacking of Sarah Palin's e-mail...

...I don't know anyone who has not occasionally used their private email for business and vice versa. But that's not the point. What they've done to Palin is criminal and can bring jailtime. More importantly, is THIS really how they want to win an election? By getting into picayune minutiae of email, trying to find something scandalous, when there is not a politician alive who would want his or her private emails smeared across the internet, of for that matter, anyone else? What gives these people the right to think they can invade someone's privacy like this?

And excuse me, but aren't the people on the left the ones who have been telling us - without basis - for the last 8 years that "evil nazi Bush" has been "intruding into people's private correspondences" and that this (if it were happening) would be a bad thing? Can the hypocrisy get any thicker? First Palin is "not a woman", and "not the mother of her baby," and all the rest of the looney tunes stuff�now, she is not an American entitled to her privacy? Is she associating with known terrorists? Is that why she was invaded?...

Crazy. Literally. I mean, we are so used to Lefty craziness that we hardly notice any more how crazy it is. This is really nuts. Imagine if some McCain supporters had hacked Joe Biden's e-mails and published them, and published his phone numbers and stuff like that. Everyone would go ballistic, and Republicans most of all. We'd be falling all over ourselves to condemn this outrage.

But most Dems seem to think this is no big deal. You guys are just crazy. Lost in a mental wilderness where nothing means anything any more.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:48 PM

September 16, 2008

We don't have to think about this, it's in our blood....

From What is truly frightening about Sarah Palin, By Bradley Burston

....The question about the Bush Doctrine was not a trick. It was not a trivial point designed to make Sarah Palin look bad. It is the summary of a worldview that has guided American foreign and military policy for the seven years since September 11, 2001. It is America's formal explanation for sending Americans into harm's way. It is America's explanation to the world for what America has done.

Even my Israeli cab driver, a non-American through and through, knew more about the Bush Doctrine than Sarah Palin. And that is cause for serious concern.

The cabbie knew, for example, that the doctrine provided for anticipatory self-defense, and pre-emptive strikes to forestall hostile acts even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack.

"This would never have happened in Israel, ever" remarked a journalist friend, referring to the choice of Governor Palin, whose credentials in the realms of foreign policy, statecraft and the military are limited in the extreme.

With irony bordering on the painful, the journalist added, "Sarah Palin has restored my faith in Israel."

Israel is far from a model of good government, wise policymaking and exemplary leaders. But here, at least, voters and the politicians they make it their business to know inside and out, relate to politics not as if it were a spectacular bowl game or a reality show.but for what politics really is, in America and Israel both: a matter of life and death....(Thanks to Orrin)

Sorry, Mr Burston, but I think you are wrong here. Do you imagine Governor Palin doesn't GET "pre-emptive strikes to forestall hostile acts?" Of course she does. It's just American cowboy common-sense. It's Jacksonian. For all I know she's never heard of the Osirak raid, but do you imagine she wouldn't understand it in the blink of an eye? And say, "Well duh! They're building nuclear bombs to fry you? Of course you should hit them. Go for it."

And the Bush Doctrine on the subject of spreading democracy? We Americans started arguing furiously on that subject even before we had written our Constitution. I don't know what her views are, but she would absolutely understand the question. It's in our blood. (And I'm guessing your Tel Aviv cab driver hasn't thought much about that part.)

* Update: An irony is that all the major Democrats, such as Clinton, Kerry, and Gore, are on record before 2000 saying that Saddam is a danger to us, and ought to be removed from power. Once Bush proposed actually doing something about it they pretended they had never heard of such a disgusting non-European idea. But that was not a failure to understand the concept, it was moral bankruptcy

Posted by John Weidner at 11:24 AM

Charlene recommends this article....

....Obama's missing years, by Clarice Feldman...
Now that we've had full field MRIs of Palin, her family and their pets, perhaps the media could focus on the many missing aspects of Obama's bio.

Tom Maguire noted that we know virtually nothing about his time in NYC when he was attending Columbia (where no classmates seem to remember him and we have no transcripts or other records of his attendance there).

Dan Riehl notes why we should be especially concerning about those missing years.
By 1980 at Occidental Obama ran partly with a circle of wealthy, drug using Pakistani friends. He traveled to Pakistan between Occidental and Columbia in 1981. That was during the Second Military Era (1977-1988) - Pakistan was under Sharia Law and not the most welcoming to foreign visitors, especially without some graft or connections.

Based upon documented accounts, Obama seems to have also travelled the country-side, not just in the cities. By 1981 Pakistan had become the world's number one supplier of Heroin. Upon his return Obama took up residence with one of the drug using Pakistanis in a run down, presumably drug infested part of NYC in an apartment they couldn't qualify for based on income.....
It must be hard being a Democrat, and having an un-vetted candidate.
Posted by John Weidner at 10:28 AM

September 15, 2008

Not a blinker...

By former Reagan/Bush speechwriter Clark Judge:

....But, as I say, experience is NOT the reasons that Governor Palin is better suited as a steward of our national security than Senator Obama. Here is the reason.

Presidents are surrounded with lots of foreign policy experts. Most of the National Security Council staff will be the same, whichever ticket wins. Both Obama and Palin are intelligent people who will quickly absorb their briefing books and lectures and within months be extraordinarily well versed in the full range of foreign policy issues.

But then something will happen and, not only will the president have make decisions, but it will be essential that he or she be able to stand firm. No quality is more fundamental to the success of a keeper of our security than strength. In recent weeks, one McCain ploy after another has thrown Senator Obama and his campaign. The senator has backed off one position after another that had been previously cast in cement. He and his campaign have acted deeply intimidated by McCain television ads � well, not ads actually broadcast on television, internet ads, an incredible display of weakness

Meanwhile, Governor Palin has uttered three critical words that mark her as having the strength of a Thatcher or a Reagan � the most telling words she said to Charlie Gibson: "You can't blink."

That's what we learned this week. Under pressure, Senator Obama blinks. Under pressure, Governor Palin does not. That is why Governor Palin has emerged as the one better suited to assume our national security leadership, should she need to step in....

All the simple truth. It's good to keep in mind that Palin did not succeed in Alaska politics by subterfuge or by presenting a small silhouette.. She decided who her targets were going to be, and then destroyed them in head-on attacks. Not a blinker, thet's for sure.

May he live long and prosper, but if, God forbid, Mr McCain was to die two years and one day after his inauguration, Sarah Palin could legally, if re-elected twice, serve as President for ten years! Pretty funny to think of Lefties chocking on that one!

Posted by John Weidner at 9:00 PM

Lefty panic makes my morning coffee taste SO good...

By Gary Kamiya, in Salon:

....Palin represents the reappearance of the one part of Bush that never died -- the culture warrior. [What's hilarious is that she doesn't have to be a culture warrior. She hardly mentions "God guns 'n gays. Neither did Bush. And Palin never mentions abortion. She just IS the Culture of Life.] Democrats may have forgotten about the notorious red state-blue state divide, or hoped that the failures of the last eight years had made it go away. But it hasn't. It's been there all along. [And it's coming to your home town!] If Palin catapults McCain to victory, it will be revealed to be the most powerful and enduring force in American politics. And that fact will raise serious questions about the viability of American democracy itself. [Right, it's not a democracy if those stupid voters reject their betters]

The culture war is driven by resentment, on the one hand, and crude identification, on the other. Resentment of "elites," "Washington insiders" and overeducated coastal snobs goes hand in hand with an unreflective, emotional identification with candidates who "are just like me." [Resentment of "proles" goes hand in hand with an unreflective, emotional identification with a metrosexual nihilist "who is just like me"]

Large numbers of Americans voted for Bush because he seemed like a regular guy, someone you'd want to have a beer with. [He IS a regular guy.] As Thomas Frank argued in "What's the Matter With Kansas," ideology also played a role. As hard-line "moral values" exponent and former GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer told the New York Times, "Joe Six-Pack doesn't understand why the world and his culture are changing and why he doesn't have a say in it." [Well, Mr Kamiya, that's a very good question. This is a democracy. Why, EXACTLY, do you think Joe S should NOT have a say?] The GOP appealed to Joe Six-Pack by harping on cultural issues like the "three Gs," gods, guns and gays.... [We don't have to harp. You Lefties keep assaulting the beliefs of ordinary Americans. You do all the heavy lifting. We just have to look like more-or-less like ordinary people, and we get elected.]

....It's terrifying that so many Americans are so driven by resentment that they will vote against more qualified candidates simply because they seem "different" from them. [That's very true. Sarah Palin is clearly the most qualified to be President of the four candidates, yet the resentment of Lefty nihilists because she is "different" won't even let them consider her.]

For what this means is that anyone with expertise, unusual intelligence, mastery, special knowledge, is likely to be rejected by voters who are resentful of "elites." [As an example, mastery of energy issues, expertise in working across the aisle in the Senate, or special knowledge of the nuts and bolts of state and local government. Or the unusual intelligence needed to rise quickly in politics without riding anyones coat-tails, or having an Ivy League education.] This constitutes a rejection of the very idea that it matters if someone is better at something than someone else. [It's a shocking thing. I see it daily here in SF.]

The peculiar thing is that this only applies to politics: Voters who would not dream of taking their car to an incompetent mechanic or their body to an unlicensed physician have no problem electing totally unqualified candidates to perform the most difficult and important job in the world, simply because they identify with them. [The Obama strategy in a nutshell.]

Posted by John Weidner at 9:17 AM

September 13, 2008

Various Palin interview tidbits...

Newsbusters has a neat piece: ABC News Edited Out Key Parts of Sarah Palin Interview. Try to guess ahead of time whether they edited her to look better....or worse.

And this is right on...

[link] ...Charles Gibson of ABC News was out for blood and inherently applied a double-standard compared with the kid gloves George Stephanopoulos used on Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois on Sunday night.

Gibson was out to embarrass Palin and expose her presumed ignorance from the word go. By contrast, when Obama referred to his "Muslim faith" on Sunday and did not correct himself, Stephanopoulos rushed in at once to help him and emphasize that the senator had really meant to say his Christian faith...

Well, the poor empty suit needs a lot of help. The whole Obama phenomenom is just a big improvization, without any underlying philosophy. He has no ballast.

This was interesting, but wrong I think...

Ross Douthat: Sarah the unready. Now that we've seen the entirety of the Palin-Gibson tete-a-tete, I concur with Rich Lowry and Rod Dreher. The most that can be said in her defense is that she kept her cool and avoided any brutal gaffes; other than that, she seemed about an inch deep on every issue outside her comfort zone.

Yes, the questions were tougher than the ones that a Tim Kaine or Tim Pawlenty probably would have been handed, but they were all questions that a vice-presidential nominee needs to be able to answer. And there's no way to look at her performance as anything save supporting evidence for the non-hysterical critique of her candidacy - that it's just too much, too soon - and a splash of cold water for those of us with high hopes for her future on the national stage.

Maybe. But I don't put a lot of emphasis on that kind of knowledge. Character, moral courage, intelligence, judgement, faith in America....all are more important than knowledge. George W. Bush was held up to ridicule for not knowing the name of the President of Pakistan. But when the moments of testing came, he made the right decisions (in my opinion, and I'm always happy to back my opinion up with facts and logic) while a lot of people with a lot more knowledge than he failed. And there was another V-P who was suddenly thrown into the Oval Office, who was widely considered a lightweight. But Harry Truman made (in my opinion) the right choices, while many of the wise were morally adrift.

And this was by Robert Schlesinger in US News and World Report;
....Watching her grasp for her talking points at times called to mind Spinal Tap ("But this one goes to 11!") This was especially clear when asked about Israel. See if you can pick out her talking point (emphasis mine):
GIBSON: What if Israel decided it felt threatened and needed to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities?

PALIN: Well, first, we are friends with Israel and I don't think that we should second guess the measures that Israel has to take to defend themselves and for their security.

GIBSON: So if we wouldn't second guess it and they decided they needed to do it because Iran was an existential threat, we would cooperative or agree with that.

PALIN: I don't think we can second guess what Israel has to do to secure its nation.

GIBSON: So if it felt necessary, if it felt the need to defend itself by taking out Iranian nuclear facilities, that would be all right.

PALIN: We cannot second guess the steps that Israel has to take to defend itself.
Now we know why they've kept her away from the press for two weeks....

Actually, Palin is being very clever here. She's not just mindlessly repeating a talking point, she is evading a trap. The question is a trap. Either she looks like a warmonger, or she looks like she's not supporting Israel. Either way the press will gleefully trumpet her mis-step. That's why Gibson keeps pressing her. He knows exactly the sort of thing he needs to help his party. By repeating the same "second guess" line she shows clearly how he is badgering her despite having been given her answer. And it's a good line. It shows pretty clearly that we are on the side of the good guys, without being explicit about an attack. Thank you Sarah for being smarter than the horrid little creeps of the lefty press!

Posted by John Weidner at 4:24 PM

September 12, 2008

If you are not smart enough to earn a living, become a journalist.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) By Ed Stoddard and Yereth Rosen- Is Sarah Palin a friend or foe of big oil?

As governor of Alaska, she raised taxes on oil companies and clashed with them over a planned pipeline through her state.

But on the fundamental issues of drilling for oil and the environment, her positions look very much like those of the man she seeks to replace: Vice President Dick Cheney...

Dick Cheney on a SegwayPersonally I consider a comparison with Dick Cheney to be a big compliment. But this really shows desperation by the Media Wing of the DNC.

And stupidity! The world is not divided between "friends and foes of big oil." Oil companies are just businesses, with good points and bad points. The idea that they are reservoirs of mysterious evil, and that any sane person would be "foes" of them is the level of thinking of sociology professors at junior colleges. Or Reuters "journalists." Imagine someone dividing people into friends or foes of "big auto." Pretty stupid, right?

If you are Governor of Alaska, you very much want to have big oil working in your state, but you need to negotiate hard to get the best terms you can. That's what Palin did. She's neither friend nor foe of the oil industry, and I'm sure they don't consider her a friend or a foe. More like a tough but honest business partner. Alaska is in the oil business almost as much as they are. I'd trust any oil company employee over a Reuters hack.

We are nearing the end of eight years of the Bush Administration. I'll take this moment to say, "Thank you Mr Cheney. You are a patriot and a great public servant, and your life should be an inspiration to all real Americans. And the fact that you have attracted the ankle-biting hatred of the pit-Chihuahua's of the nihilist Left is just confirmation of this."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:10 PM

Kooks---fewer than they appear?

I gave my son a ride to SF State this morning, and we were listing to a bit of Rush. And he said that he thought that the kooks who are at the heart of the Democrat Party are really not that great in number, and that their influence is amplified by the Drive-By Media.

I think there's a lot of truth in that. Actually, I hope there's a lot of truth in it. My perspective is probably slanted, living here in SF as an "embedded journalist" within the post-moral Left.

There are surely large numbers of ordinary Americans who vote Democrat because they always have, and because the liberal platitudes seem appealing. But who would recoil in horror if they could eavesdrop on a private conversation between Barack and his pal Bill Ayers.

Smelly hippie lights cig on burning American flagThe Dem Party is sort of like student government on a college campus. Go to almost any college or university in America, and look at student government, and you would guess that the entire school is a glowing fire-pit of anarchism, Marxism, jihadism, La Raza-ism, and environmentalist-wacko-ism. You would think the guy in the picture is the norm.

Actually, 90% of college students pay no attention to "student government" at all. They just want to get their education, plus have some fun. The Leftizoids can take over the student gov because they are the only ones who care! (It's different in High School, where status is the great disideratum. Thank God my kids are all past that!)

Similarly, Obama was nominated on the strength of the votes of caucus-goers (and the infatuation of the media). If all the states had primaries, he would not be the candidate. It's the extremists who care enough to drag themselves out for the lengthy tedium of a caucus.


Posted by John Weidner at 10:58 AM

He's never done ANYTHING.....

Jim Geraghty of NRO:

I applaud Barack Obama saying he thinks that universities should not turn away the Reserve Officers' Training Corps because of disagreement over military policy.

Of course, it would have helped if the senior lecturer/professor had ever said or done something about it while he was teaching at the University of Chicago, which kicked ROTC off campus during the Vietnam War.

Right now, University of Chicago students can participate in the Army ROTC by treking to the University of Illinois-Chicago and students who wish to be a part of Air Force ROTC must commute to the Illinois Institute of Chicago...

I think there is something profoundly sick about Mr Obama. What you ARE is basically what you DO. It is meaningless for you or me to to express lofty sentiments if we don't actually DO anything when we have a chance.

Obama is a person of rare gifts who has held positions of real power. A state legislator or US Senator, even if they can't pass important legislation, has a lot of influence. They can call attention to things; give publicity to good causes. Their favorite charity is sure to flourish. They can get the attention of bureaucrats in a way ordinary citizens can't. They can hold hearings and help correct abuses.

What has Obama DONE with the power he has had? That's the question we should be asking.

People sneer at the position of Mayor of Wasilla, but that's utterly stupid. What Palin did as a mayor reveals what she will do as V-P, or President. For that matter, what she did on the PTA showed what she would do as mayor. People don't really change that much. The way you tackle the little job is basically the way you will handle the big one. Bush as an owner of the Texas Rangers baseball franchise was the same guy as Bush the President. If you had know him then, you could have guessed what sort of President he would be.

So, the question is, WHAT from Obama's past tells us what kind of President he would be? Hmmm? Any Dems out there care to comment?

I'd say his past tells us he's a phony. Either he's just a lot of hot air, or he's hiding what he really is.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:11 AM

September 11, 2008

Boxed up...

I'm sorry, but this is just crazy. People in 1800 were more sane than we are, at least architecturally and acoustically....

Being one of the busiest retail chains in the United States, and being lined with stainless steel, the noise level in Apple's stores can rise to an uncomfortable level. The noise has apparently become so bad that it affects One-to-One personal training sessions that occur on stools near the back of the store. So some stores are now using a headset-based intercom system during training to allow clear communications between the presenter and student even as they sit side-by-side, less than 18 inches apart. See a photo after the break. [link]

Clean crisp modern design is appealing in a certain way, but it is basically inhuman. Stainless steel rooms are for holding frozen produce, not people.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:57 PM

" We have been privileged to live amongst those who have volunteered"

The president this morning at the Pentagon for the dedication of 9/11 Pentagon Memorial

...For future generations, this memorial will be a place of learning. The day will come when most Americans have no living memory of the events of September the 11th. When they visit this memorial, they will learn that the 21st century began with a great struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror. They will learn that this generation of Americans met its duty � we did not tire, we did not falter, and we did not fail. They will learn that freedom prevailed because the desire for liberty lives in the heart of every man, woman, and child on Earth.

We can be optimistic about the future because we've seen the character and courage of those who defend liberty. We have been privileged to live amongst those who have volunteered to spread the foundation of peace and justice, which is freedom....


Posted by John Weidner at 10:41 AM

"The apparent security of the 1990s was an illusion"

During the decade of the 1990s, our times often seemed peaceful on the surface.Yet beneath the surface were currents of danger. Terrorists were training and planning in distant camps. . . . America's response to terrorism was generally piecemeal and symbolic. The terrorists concluded this was a sign of weakness, and their plans became more ambitious, and their attacks more deadly. Most Americans still felt that terrorism was something distant, and something that would not strike on a large scale in America. That is the time my opponent wants to go back to. A time when danger was real and growing, but we didn't know it. . . . September 11, 2001 changed all that. We realized that the apparent security of the 1990s was an illusion. . . . Will we make decisions in the light of September 11, or continue to live in the mirage of safety that was actually a time of gathering threats?
    -- President George W. Bush, October 18, 2004

(Quote borrowed from a very good editorial by Bill Kristol)

President Bush with soldiers


Posted by John Weidner at 8:37 AM

Clear objectives....

You are probably getting bored with Sarah Palin. Sorry, I'm not---she just gets better the more I learn.

This piece, Sarah Palin is not such a small-town girl after all, by James Bennett is just great...

Sara Palin with ski plane....Palin quickly realised that Alaska had the potential to become a much bigger player in global energy politics, a conviction that grew as the price of oil rose. Alaska had been in hock to oil companies since major production began in the mid-1970s.

As with most poor, distant places that suddenly receive great natural-resource wealth, the first generation of politicians were mesmerised by the magnificence of the crumbs falling from the table. Palin was the first of the next generation to realise that Alaska should have a place at that table.

Her first target was an absurd bureaucratic tangle that for 30 years had kept the state from exporting its gas to the other 48 states. She set an agenda that centred on three mutually supportive objectives: cleaning up state politics, building a new gas pipeline, and increasing the state's share of energy revenues....

....The surprise is not that she has been in office for such a short time but that she has succeeded in each of her objectives. She has exposed corruption; given the state a bigger share in Alaska's energy wealth; and negotiated a deal involving big corporate players, the US and Canadian governments, Canadian provincial governments, and native tribes - the result of which was a £13 billion deal to launch the pipeline and increase the amount of domestic energy available to consumers. This deal makes the charge of having "no international experience" particularly absurd.

In short, far from being a small-town mayor concerned with little more than traffic signs, she has been a major player in state politics for a decade, one who formulated an ambitious agenda and deftly implemented it against great odds.

Her sudden elevation to the vice-presidential slot on the Republican ticket shocked no one more than her enemies in Alaska, who have broken out into a cold sweat at the thought of Palin in Washington, guiding the Justice Department's anti-corruption teams through the labyrinths of Alaska's old-boy network...

So, as a thought experiment, try to imagine Mr Obama being described by the sentence: "he set an agenda that centred on three mutually supportive objectives."


Posted by John Weidner at 7:25 AM

Never forget...

People trapped in the World Trade Center
Certain people have apparently proposed that the 9/11 tribute shown at the Republican National Convention was in "bad taste," or something like that. My suggestion is that they should move to some other country whose people and welfare they happen to care about. I won't suggest they try to find a country they can love, since I doubt if they are capable of that emotion, or would even know what I'm writing about.

Me, I promise that as long as I draw breath I will never forget.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:04 AM

September 10, 2008

I think I post this quote at every election...

And it always fits...

Experience shows that if you lack a coherent set of beliefs and principles, you will flounder. You must know already what you want, and why, and broadly how best to attain it, if you are ever to deal effectively with the thousand-and-one crises that face you in government."
    -- Margaret Thatcher

Actually it's true of life in general. People flounder. Whole continents flounder. We can see this.

Life is a road. You can go one way or the other. You have to think clearly about which way you want to go, or you will certainly drift along the easy downhill direction...


Posted by John Weidner at 6:56 PM

Please, Br'er 'Bama, pleeeese don't trow me in dat briar patch!

The day McCain's party blew its political advantage By James Carville

In all my years in national politics since 1982 there had been one constant until August 29. It was that the Republican party cornered the national security market. They were willing to give up advantages on healthcare, environment and, in the end, even fiscal responsibility. But never, ever, would they cede that patch of high ground they refer to as "American security". Any time I had a race against a Republican opponent, I respected their operation. And often (I am not afraid to admit), I was scared to run against them because you knew most of the candidates were going to be selected carefully, based on a combination of experience, adherence to tradition, national security or public safety credentials. John McCain fits this profile almost to a T. Strangely, he has chosen to cede this advantage not just for himself but for the Republican party for the foreseeable future...

Please attack us on this! I beg you, Barack. Go for it! Convince America that the soft delicate flower from the sheltered purviews of Wassila is going to crumple when tough men oppose her on the world stage. And that the steely-eyed crisis-tested metrosexual from Hyde Park will never get rattled when things get hairy....McCain/Palin sign with caribou


Posted by John Weidner at 3:49 PM

Interesting guy...

Peter Robinson at NRO is putting up videos of an interview with writer Andrew Klavan. (The latest installment is #3 of 5.)

I recommend them. Very intelligent and thought-provoking. Normally I don't want to see a video, I just want to read stuff. But I'd say Klavan is an exception. It's worth seeing and listening to him "in person," so to speak.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:52 AM

All shook up...

re: the lipstick on a pig remark, I think the McCain campaign made a mistake in claiming sexism.

Let other people make that connection. Their point should be that this guy is obviously rattled. By a Girl! Do we want such a brittle character in charge of the government if there's a crisis?

Posted by John Weidner at 8:42 AM

September 9, 2008

Evasion ...

Alan Wolfe, in The New Republic blog, What Bristol's baby tells us about the Christian right...
....It may seem like ages ago but during the Clinton administration, conservative traditionalists were everywhere. The nuclear family is sacrosanct. Women should shun the workforce and become full-time moms. Kids should obey their parents and, if they choose not to, discipline, including harsh measures, ought to be applied. Sex outside of marriage is strictly forbidden. Our culture is spinning wildly out of control, and sexual liberation, the worst byproduct of the God-awful 1960s, is the cause. And, by the way, abortion is murder and should be forbidden.

All that is left, if the Palin controversy is any indication, is abortion. Palin's defenders, far from being traditionalists, are moral relativists. We should not rush to judgment. It is important to understand the pressures that families face. Love is all you need. Forgive in order to forget. People are entitled to their privacy, even, if not especially, in the bedroom. The state should not be in the business of telling people what to do. It sounds like the language of the left, but it has also had long resonance on the libertarian right. When the McCain campaign said that Bristol Palin had a choice, it was correct. These days we all have choices. The fact that we do has always bothered conservative traditionalists.

Sarah Palin's nomination is a public service. No longer will we hear lectures from the likes of Newt Gingrich telling poor women on welfare how to conduct their sex lives. Focus on the Family will have to focus on a different kind of family. William Bennett has no virtues left to write about. At long last our national nightmare over sexual hypocrisy has come to an end, and we can all thank John McCain for that...

Conservative traditionalists are still everywhere. And one thing sure hasn't changed since the 90's: Leftists like Mr Wolfe are afraid to engage their actual arguments, and instead desperately erect strawmen to tear down.

Mr Gingrich was not "telling poor women on welfare how to conduct their sex lives," (except in the sense that he may have pointed out that certain actions tend to have bad consequences, such as keeping you mired in poverty and welfare dependency.)

His main point, and mine, is that you, Mr Wolfe,YOU, and your fellow Leftists, are destroying human beings by undermining the intricate web of culture and laws and faith and decent entertainment and traditions and hard work that used to encourage people to live their lives well and sensibly.

The Christian view of sin (or at least the Catholic one I was taught) is not that God is a killjoy who doesn't want you to have fun. Rather, he is like your mother when she told you not to poke the knife into the electrical outlet! God says if you do certain things you will suffer bad consequences. That's just the way the Universe works. (Interestingly, the Hebrew word usually translated as "commandments" can also mean "statements." Think of The Ten Statements, and things will be clearer.)

Conservatives want to discourage sin because people�and societies�who try not to sin do better, in both the short and long run. Bristol and Levi are less likely to have successful lives together because they are marrying as teenagers. It is Christian Charity to try to discourage this. To balance this, they have a greater chance of a good future because they are surrounded by a loving and moral community, that will tend to push them towards lives of hard work and honesty and Christian faith. And will discourage them from taking easy outs like abortion and divorce. This has always been our view.

And what do "Conservative traditionalists" think when they think about the Palin's situation? Have they cynically become "moral relativists?" They think three things.

1. That the Palin's may very well have failed somehow, but that they were probably doing their best. Teenagers happen. And there is nothing cynical about making allowances. We Christians expect that we will often fail, and will pick ourselves up and try again. (Catholics, by the way, call this "continuous conversion," and we think it is a much more realistic picturethan the Evangelical "conversion experience.")

2. We know that there is always a painful trade-off in trying to discourage sin (or crime.) Treating the sinner harshly may be less compassionate than it should be towards the individual, but also is more compassionate towards other people who need to be kept from temptation. The shame that used to surround the unwed mother was harsh on her, but also a kindness to all the others who were discouraged from making the same mistake. (And I know what I'm talking about, because I grew up in that old world, which Mr Wolfe sneers at.)

3. We are always bitterly aware that our children have to grow up in a foul nihilist culture that encourages everything that degrades people, and is designed (consciously or un) to atomize society, the better to make us dependent on the state. To break down all the institutions that stand between the individual and government, in order to give power to bureaucracies that just happen (surprise surprise) to be manned almost entirely by leftists like Mr Wolfe.

We are keenly aware that every institution that assaults tradition, morality, religion, patriotism�think Hollywood, the press, the academy, the "arts"�they ALL of them support Mr Obama. If Bristol and Levi sinned, we are well aware that they are surrounded by enemies who have spared no effort to cause their failure.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:05 PM

But have you wine and music still, And statues and a bright-eyed love?

I who am dead a thousand years,
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.

I care not if you bridge the seas,
Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
Of metal or of masonry.

But have you wine and music still,
And statues and a bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
And prayers to them who sit above?

How shall we conquer? Like a wind
That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Maenads the blind
Said it three thousand years ago.

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.

Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.

-- James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915).

Posted by John Weidner at 8:50 AM

Sweet... Well-deserved troubles...

This NYT piece on how the Barackmo Campaign may be struggling with fund-raising made us smile. The Times of course does not see fit to mention the teensy-weensy little fact that Obama promised to use public financing, and that breaking his pledge when it seemed expedient was a kick in the teeth to the more idealistic of his lefty backers...
NYT: Straining to Reach Money Goal, Obama Presses Donors After months of record-breaking fund-raising, a new sense of urgency in Senator Barack Obama’s fund-raising team is palpable as the full weight of the campaign’s decision to bypass public financing for the general election is suddenly upon it. Senator Barack Obama, who spoke Monday in Flint, Mich., has bypassed federal financing, giving him more freedom but requiring continuing fund-raising. Pushing a fund-raiser later this month, a finance staff member sent a sharply worded note last week to Illinois members of its national finance committee, calling their recent efforts “extremely anemic.” At a convention-week meeting in Denver of the campaign’s top fund-raisers, buttons with the image of a money tree were distributed to those who had already contributed the maximum $2,300 to the general election, a subtle reminder to those who had failed to ante up...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:39 AM

September 8, 2008

I'm not a Michael Savage fan, but....

....I love this bit that Charlene heard on the radio today, words to the effect of:
"Why am I voting for McCain? It's a choice between someone who shot rockets at the enemy and someone who shot staples into telephone poles."
Posted by John Weidner at 6:56 PM

Moose surplus...

(Since I'm sure the lie will be floating around) Mark Steyn: Moose Blarney
Our pal Jay Nordlinger was on Irish radio yesterday, and several callers objected to Sarah Palin on the following grounds:
The woman shoots moose, as did Teddy Roosevelt, a long time ago. Only in TR’s day, there were many more moose — Sarah endangers a species.
Absolutely backwards, but an interesting example of how the progressive mind prefers to obsess on entirely fictional crises. There were far fewer moose in Teddy's day. Today there are more moose than a century ago, in Alaska, Canada, New England. In New Hampshire in the mid-19th century there were fewer than 15 in the whole state. Now NH sees more than 250 killed every year just in highway collisions - before Sarah even has a chance to load. We are awash in moose. We have a moose surplus.

And as you'd expect me to add, being NR's in-house demography bore, on present population trends the Italians, Germans and Spaniards will be extinct long before the moose. But no Irish radio listeners seem to be worried about them.

(More here about the great increases in various North American animal populations, and also of our forests.)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:13 PM

Speechwriters...

One of the silliest political criticisms one hears is to say dismissively that so and so's speech was written by a speechwriter.

All major politicians use speechwriters, even if they are capable of writing a great speech on their own. In fact it would be irresponsible not to, since speechwriting, like all writing, takes a lot of time and energy to do right. And a candidate or politician (or business leader or union leader or whoever) have more important work to do.

And any good speechwriter works hard to express what the speaker is intending to say, in the style they would naturally use. And for an important speech it is usually a collaborative process, with drafts going back and for between speaker and writer.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:02 AM

September 7, 2008

Technical blogging trivia....

For any bloggers with Macs, I'm now using MarsEdit, from Red Sweater Software, instead of Ecto, as a blogging client. I like it a lot so far.

MarsEdit: Powerful Blog Authoring Made Simple.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:04 PM

Bible facts you may not know...

OK children, it's time for Sunday School. And today I'm going to give you a historical "background briefing" so certain things will make more sense to you than they did to me in my long-ago youth...

1. Centurions. The Roman Army had an interesting way of doing things. Almost every officer in a Legion was a Centurion. That is, the commander of a "century" of 80 men. (Originally 100, hence the name.) And he would always lead his century in battle. But he might also be a staff officer, or a supply officer, or even the commander of a whole cohort. Or fill some important civilian office. It was as if every officer in one of our brigades was also a platoon commander, and went into combat with his platoon. (No REMF's!) That's why the centurions we meet in the New Testament can be important men, with houses and servants, even though the name implies that they are very junior officers.

2. The two kingdoms. After the reign of Solomon, the Israelites split into a northern kingdom, Israel, and a southern kingdom, Judah. The northern kingdom comprised 10 of the 12 tribes. Yet the two kingdoms were about equal in size. This used to bewilder me. The answer is that the Tribe of Judah was about as big as the other 11 tribes put together!

3. The "Lost Tribes of Israel." The Kingdom of Israel (10 tribes) was conquered by the Assyrians in 720 BC. Many of the people were removed and dispersed around the Middle East, especially to Media, in present-day Iran. They weren't really lost, everybody knew where they were. Many probably rejoined the general Jewish population later, but the tribal identities were mostly severed. They became just Jews.

4. The Southern Kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BC, and much of its population was also dispersed. This was the Babylonian Exile. When the Persians conquered the Babylonian Empire in 537 they let various displaced populations return to their homelands. The people of the Kingdom of Judah then returned to Judea and rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem. From "Judea" we get the word Jew.

5. Samaria. The center region of the old Kingdom of Israel, Samaria, after it lost much of its population and had strangers settled on it, diverged in its religious practices. The Samaritans were, to Jews in the time of Jesus, heretics. The Jews hated the Samaritans almost more than they did the Romans. So Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan was a shocking story.

6. Galilee. In the Second Temple Period, after the Babylonian exile ended, there were Jews in Judea, (roughly the old Kingdom of Judah) and also up north on the western side of the Sea of Galilee. This region was called Galilee (roughly the north part of the old Kingdom of Israel) and this is where Jesus was raised. Jews in Galilee went, if they could, to the great festivals in Jerusalem, especially Passover. However, there was a big problem, because Samaria was in between Judea and Galilee.

In summer Galileans would hike to Judea through Samaria, which took about 3 days, and was dangerous. In the cool of winter they would follow the valley of the Jordan River, which took about 5 days.

7. Pharisees pestering Jesus. One gets the impression from the Gospels that Pharisees were lurking in every field, waiting to catch people breaking some tiny regulation, and then shrieking "Gotcha." Sort of like a Monty Python Spanish Inquisition. Actually, it was Jesus they wanted to catch out, not the average Joe. He seems to have driven them crazy. In exactly the same way that Sarah Palin is driving lefties crackers right now. He was so real they could not ignore him.

Who were the Pharisees? Too complicated to go into today; here's the Wikipedia link.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:05 AM

September 6, 2008

"in the DNA of the left all along"

I recommend this piece, Why They Hate Her : Sarah Palin is a Smart Missile Aimed at the Heart of the Left, by Jeffrey Bell in The Weekly Standard.

He explains some things that, as usual, I have just been groping towards. In particular, why leftists reacted with instant hatred of Sarah, before we knew anything about her.......except that she has those five children....

....In the short run, most political elites weathered the storm [of the 1960's] . A big reason, the left gradually realized, was that socialist economics had become an albatross. Increasingly, the democratic parties of the left in Western countries downplayed socialism or even decoupled from it, leaving them free to pursue the anti-institutional, relativistic moral crusade that has been in the DNA of the left all along.

This newly revitalized social and cultural agenda made it possible for the left to shrug off the collapse of European communism and the Soviet Union nearly two decades ago. Even in countries like China where the Communist party retained dictatorial power, socialist economics became a thing of the past. Attempts to suppress religion and limit the autonomy of the family did not.

For the post-1960s, post-socialist left, the single most important breakthrough has been the alliance between modern feminism and the sexual revolution. This was far from inevitable. Up until around 1960, attempts at sexual liberation were resisted by most educated women....

....Though earlier versions of feminism tended to embrace children and elevate motherhood, the more adversarial feminism that gained a mass base in virtually every affluent democracy beginning in the 1970s preached that children and childbearing were the central instrumentality of men's subjugation of women. This more than anything else in the menu of the post-socialist left raised toward cultural consensus a vision in which the monogamous family was what prevented humanity from achieving a Rousseau-like "natural" state of freedom from all laws and all bonds of mutual obligation.

If this analysis is correct, the single most important narrative holding the left together in today's politics and culture is the one offered--often with little or no dissent--by adversarial feminism. The premise of this narrative is that for women to achieve dignity and self-fulfillment in modern society, they must distance themselves, not necessarily from men or marriage or childbearing, but from the kind of marriage in which a mother's temptation to be with and enjoy several children becomes a synonym for holding women back and cheating them out of professional success...

...The simple fact of her being a pro-life married mother of five with a thriving political career was--before anything else about her was known--enough for the left and its outliers to target her for destruction. She could not be allowed to contradict symbolically one of the central narratives of the left...

Sara Palin with ski planeIn a sense, Sarah doesn't have to say anything. Her mere existence, her marvelous presence, eclipses many leftish ideas. A slide-show of Sarah pictures makes all sorts of Leftizoid clap-trap suddenly look gray and wispy. Silly. Old. Vegetarianism, Ivy-League superiority, atheist as "Bright," ugly old feminist leader as "liberated," Christians or hunters as "primitive," small-town Americans as dullards.

And there are plenty more. Pacifism and appeasement as having anything to do with peace, for a start. "Community organizer" as serious person. Lofty rhetoric as superior to gritty reality. Biden and Obama as "men of the people."

How you do it, Sarah...I'm mystified. But may God bless you and protect you from your enemies. If you die tomorrow you have already struck a mighty blow for liberty.

Our lives are hectic and frustrating right now, but Charlene and I often just look at each other and start smiling. Or cackling. We hardly need to mention what we are thinking about.


Posted by John Weidner at 9:00 AM

September 5, 2008

Animals...

AOG notes:

Check out this picture (via Just One Minute). It's a lone policeman, knocked to the ground by a group of thugs at the Republican National Convention with lots of media in the circle. Just count the cameras. How many of them do you think would intervene if the thugs started beating the cop bloody? Any? How many do you think would carefully capture any (however justified) retaliation by the cop or his buddies?

Well, amen to that, brother. For citizens to stand aside and snap pictures when an officer (or anybody) is attacked by criminals is despicable.

Actually, I think about 98% of everything that goes under the name of "protest" is just pure evil. Even such a meritorious cause as the Civil Rights Movement was a witch's-brew of things good and things toxic.

You know, I think I'll just post the photo, as an example of everything I despise:

criminal 'demonstrators' attack officer

The photo is credited to a creature named Robert Stolarik of (of course) the NYT. Well Mr Stolarik, you have earned my utmost contempt, along with with all the other fake-journalists in the picture. You do not deserve to live in this great country, if you can stand by cooly as a "disinterested" observer while a citizen is set upon by a mob of hoodlums.

And of course the bogus journalist isn't "disinterested" at all. He hopes that that officer will strike back, so he can snap a picture of "police brutality" and earn his Pulitzer, or some other badge of foulest dishonor and treason. And, as always, help get the Democrat elected. (And if criminals break into his house some night, why, then what will he do? He will...........call the cops! And expect them to risk their lives to protect him.)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:55 PM

September 4, 2008

"A quest for the inchoate self."

From a post I liked by Alan Sullivan with thoughts inspired by Governor Palin...

...But I had odd affinities for a city kid. I was fascinated by the natural world: water, fire, earth, and air. I read about mountaineers and polar explorers; I soared into space with science fiction. So I fit poorly in both of America's cultures, which were already fully apparent then: urban America that respected and envied Europe; rural America that had evolved its own culture and needed no other.

Affinity and chance took me to the Red River Valley of the North. I spent a quarter century in a cultural setting not unlike Alaska, and I travelled in the biggest state too. I understand and admire Sarah Palin. Northern climes do not allow for real dissolution of community. People must cooperate to survive.

In 1992 I bolted from traditional politics and supported the Perot campaign. In the space of a few weeks I met a lot of people I would never have encountered: military folks and hard-core social conservatives � people like the Palins. Tim and I were completely open about who we were [gay partners]. I was astonished at the lack of prejudice. There was ignorance, and even some curiosity, but no hostility.

If we had frightened them with effeminacy, or told them America was despicable, we would not have been well received. Instead we shared their pride in country, hope for its future, and determination to keep America free. And for the most part we meant the same thing when we said "free" � though we had some tough debates about the drug war.

The 1992 campaign finalized a lesson I had been slowly learning for the previous decade. I had brought a lot of mistaken assumptions from the city. The people of Red America were wrongly stereotyped, while the people of Blue America were understood and sometimes pitied by their country brethren. This is why Sarah Palin could be partisan with a smile. She doesn't hate her foes; she is a Christian.

What is the significance of her nomination? Incalculable. Obama poses as "an agent of change,"� but the most telling line of last night, for me, was Palin's observation that the Presidency should not be a journey of self-discovery. Palin knows who she is; Obama's whole life has been a quest for the inchoate self. He will never be satisfied; he will always want more, and never be sure what he wants more of....

I was reading somewhere that after Palin's speech the RNC received a million dollars in donations.......and the Obama campaign received 8 million. So, does that worry me? Not very much. It doesn't do you much good to have the money to get your message out, if you don't have a message. Obama is like a person with great writing talent---who doesn't have anything to say.

Actually, it's worse than that. He's a hider. He has to hide what he really is. We got one tiny glimpse of the real Obama, when somebody blogged what he said in San Francisco about bitter people in small towns clinging to guns and religion. That alone may well cost him the Presidency. And I feel confident that that's what he's really like among his pals. There are lots of people like him around here. Bitter. Clinging to shreds of Leftism they don't really believe in, because they have nothing else... Suits of clothes with no emperor inside.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:38 PM

Gone.....

I had several draft posts in preparation expressing outrage over the treatment the media and the Left have given Sarah, but after last night, they just seem silly. They're gone like a bad dream...

As Seth Leibsohn puts it at The Corner:

The idea, planted by the media and Democrats, that she wasn't vetted: gone, because not believable or important anymore.

The idea that her family is from Peyton Place or says one thing and does another: gone.

The idea that she's a lightweight: gone.

The idea that she was picked only because she was a woman or a strong conservative: gone.

This is all not just the power of a word fitly spoken, it's the dominance of character of the person doing the speaking. It shined through big last night, bigger than any media, political, or speech coach could make happen...

Sara Palin with ski plane


Posted by John Weidner at 10:40 AM

McCain should use his nukes...

Guardian:

...Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden said yesterday that he and running mate Barack Obama could pursue criminal charges against the Bush administration if they are elected in November. Biden's comments, first reported by ABC news, attracted little notice on a day dominated by the drama surrounding his Republican counterpart, Alaska governor Sarah Palin...

I think this is a great issue for McCain and Palin. "Dirty little lefty animals want to destroy the great men and women who have been leading us in wartime" is what he should say. (Of course putting it in more politic language.) "Who will be willing to serve our country in the future if they have to fear being thrown in prison by commie atheists disguised as Dem politicians?" (Same caveat.)

In fact I'd advise him to ask the President to fly out and speak to the convention tonight, just to publicly spit in the eye of the horrid little traitors in the Appeasement Party.

Thanks to Tigerhawk.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:25 AM

September 3, 2008

Very impressive...

Charlene and I just watched Sarah's speech, and we are most pleased. I'm thinking about the millions of ordinary Americans for whom this must have been their first look at her. most people don't follow this stuff closely like we do. I bet they were blown away.

And millions of lefties must have watched too. Hee hee.

"....We Americans need to produce more of our own oil and gas. And take it from a gal who knows the North Slope of Alaska: we've got lots of both..." (As Henry K famously quipped, "It has the added advantage of being true!")

and...

...But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed ... when the roar of the crowd fades away ... when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot � what exactly is our opponent's plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to make government bigger ... take more of your money ... give you more orders from Washington ... and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world...

True.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:50 PM

Problems should be tidied-away!

This is a good point, thanks to Orrin

When Leftists push the line that Bristol's pregnancy means that Sarah wasn't vetted, it probably makes perfect sense from their viewpoint. They assume a smart politician would have ensured that the little "punishment" slept with the fishes.

Todd, Piper, Willow, Trig on McCain/Palin bus

Photo thanks to Meghan McCain's blog. Which I recommend highly for its pictures of life on the campaign trail. Piper Palin is a pistol!

That's Todd with Piper and Willow. I don't know who is holding the baby...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:46 AM

tell 'em, Newt!

Posted by John Weidner at 9:14 AM

Desperately seeking Anita...

Michelle writes:

There's something about outspoken conservative women that drives the left mad. It's a peculiar pathology I've reported on for more than 15 years, both as a witness and a target. Thus, the onset of Palin Derangement Syndrome in the media, Democratic circles and the cesspools of the blogosphere came as no surprise. They just can't help themselves.

Liberals hold a special animus for constituencies they deem traitors. Minorities who identify as social and economic conservatives have left the plantation and sold out their people. Women who put an "R" by their name have abandoned their ovaries and betrayed their gender. As female Republican officeholders and female conservative public figures have grown in number and visibility, so has the progression of Conservative Female Abuse. The astonishing vitriol and virulent hatred directed at GOP Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is the most severe manifestation to date.

The first stage of Conservative Female Abuse by the left is infantilization. Right-wing women can't possibly believe what they say they believe about the sanctity of life, self-defense, free markets or foreign policy. They must be submissive little dolls of the White Male Hierarchy. Or, as a far-left (Is there any other kind of left in San Francisco?) San Francisco Chronicle columnist wrote of first lady Laura Bush, they must be put in their place as "docile doormats" with no brains of their own. True to form, no sooner had John McCain announced Gov. Palin as his veep pick than jeers of "Palin = neocon puppet" sprouted across the Internet....

"They just can't help themselves." That's so true. The Left has reacted as a single entity, instantly.

And stupidly, like all hive-minds. My guess is that the odds are at least 95% that these attacks will backfire big. They are obviously attacks on a quintessentially ordinary American, and there are a lot more ordinary Americans than there are effete Lefty snobs. "Flyover country" goes on for a lonnnnng ways.

Do read Michelle's whole piece. We are going to see tons of this stuff.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:59 AM

Symbols matter...

Andy McCarthy, at The Corner:

Secretary of State Rice's favorite Palestinian "moderate," PA president Mahmoud Abbas, made time last week to meet in Lebanon with Samir Kuntar, the terrorist recently freed by Israel in a swap with Hezbollah for the remains of Israeli soldiers.

The International Herald Tribune delicately mentions that Kuntar killed three people in "a grisly attack" in 1979. I posted about that attack around the time of Kuntar's release � how Kuntar made sure to make a 4-year-old girl watch her father being killed right before he murdered her by crushing her skull.

Just remember, when you see Western liberals wearing kaffiyahs, this kind of Jew-killing is what they are, symbolically, FOR.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:22 AM

September 2, 2008

Vetting...

Another thing that's making me smile right now are the Leftists who are, pathetically, suddenly talking about vetting...

Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter Bristol is five months pregnant. McCain campaign claims he was aware of this before selecting Palin as his VP, despite evidence and rampant speculation that Palin was not seriously vetted. Governor Palin is a strong supporter of abstinence-only sex education.

Tom Eagleton lasted 18 days before withdrawing from the McGovern ticket in 1972. My money says Palin doesn't last that long.

Turns out, ooops, that Bristol's condition was not even a secret. Everybody in town knew. (Take a look at Nathan Thornburgh's good piece on Wasilla.) The local folks just happen to be decent Americans, and don't blab about people's private lives.

And of course Eagleton had had serious mental health issues, which is a very different sort of thing. But there's a more important point...

...We now know far more about Sarah Palin in just four days than we've learned about Barack Obama in 17 months. That is just sad. It's a pathetic reflection of the mainstream media's unwillingness to do their jobs for fear of finding stories that would hurt the candidate so many of them openly desire to win.

But periodically appearing to read teleprompters isn't vetting, not matter how many months a candidate has done it, and Obama's ability to perform in set-piece debates is both dubious�Hillary once famously took him apart�and irrelevant. Barack Obama really has never been fully vetted. He hasn't even come close...

One of the really cool things about being a conservative is that I don't have to live in fear of people finding out what I really am up to. I can just be open about it...

* Actually, I'd guess that the sicko rumor-mongering about Trig Palin played into the hands of the campaign, and allowed them to get the news out early with an appearance of reluctance, and the sympathy of all decent-minded people. Ha ha.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:57 AM

Resistance is futile...

The Battle Of Bristol: John McCain Has The Upper Hand By Kleinheider

...The Left will fight this battle as a political debate. They will argue that Bristol Palin proves their assertions about traditionalism. They will lay it out point by point. The evidence will be solid. And their case will make sense — in theory.

But this is not theory, and to a certain extent i'ts not even politics, this is life. Steve Schmidt is not wrong when in reaction to the news he says, “Life happens.” Life does happen. It happens again and again to people in rural America who go to church, work and pray hard. Everyday life happens. Despite their prayers, it happens.

The Left simply misunderstands the Cultural War because they believe that social and religious conservatives think they are perfect people. Rural, working class people know exactly who they are. The Left seems to think that they are somehow breaking the news to social conservatives that sometimes, even often, kids will have sex and get pregnant. Social conservatives know these things. They are not as divorced from reality as they sometimes get painted...

That's exactly what leftists are doing. For instance, by Sally Quinn:

...And now we learn the 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. She and the father of the child plan to marry. This may be a hard one for the Republican conservative family-values crowd to swallow. Of course, this can happen in any family. But it must certainly raise the question among the evangelical base about whether Sarah Palin has been enough of a hands-on mother…

Stupid. Of course she didn't actually ask anyone in the "conservative family-values crowd" what they thought.

I enjoy the thought of liberals waiting and waiting for social conservatives to recoil in horror because sex has reared its unexpected head. Be patient guys, it will take a little while for this to penetrate the thick skulls of the knuckle draggers. Perhaps you should explain it to them more forcefully. Really make a case. Explain that they should surrender to the zeitgeist, that resistance is futile, and that Hollywood knows what's best for their children.

* Update: Plus I'm really charmed to see Lefties and "feminists" expressing doubt about the possibility of a woman balancing a family and a career. Lovely, lovely, just lovely.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:57 AM

September 1, 2008

The future belongs to those who show up for it...

Regarding the pregnancy of Bristol Palin, Hugh Hewitt published this e-mail:

Hugh –

There couldn’t be a clearer difference between conservatives and liberals than this one…

Obama…
“If my daughter makes a mistake, I don’t want her punished with a baby”

Palin…
“As [our daughter] faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support.”

(also… "Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family.”)


When I, myself, became pregnant in college, my soon-to-be mother in law (a hard-core liberal Democrat who had openly encouraged me to have un-married sex with her son) expressed her “disappointment” in both of us – and immediately pushed for an abortion. My own mother (a sex-before-marriage-is-sin Catholic) immediately comforted me, affirmed her love for me and said, “There’s always room in our family for another baby.” My husband and I have been JOYFULLY married 21 years and have 4 amazing kids…. What an beautiful gift of love my mother gave me that day!

Babies...Punishment vs. Love. I think I’ll take love...

If your worship yourself, you worship a bloodthirsty god. I've come to think that abortion is the sacrament of the nihilist Left. It is fascinating that abortion (indeed, infanticide) is the one issue where Mr Obama has show some political conviction, and done more than was required by political calculation...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:54 AM

Sums up Sarah...

I have all sorts of Palin items I've thought of blogging, but this really sums up her appeal. Especially for me, acting as a sort of embedded journalist here in the post-moral left...

Sara Palin with ski plane Beldar writes:

...The opening splash of the Palin announcement has been all I'd hoped it might be, and I thought she was terrific at the rally. And something that just thrilled me, that hit me at a very emotional level, was at the very end of her prepared remarks, when she turned to face McCain again and shake his hand. You couldn't hear her over the music and the roar of the crowd. But you could very distinctly see her lips say to John McCain the words, "Thank you, sir!"

Oh, my! A national candidate who doesn't just profess humility, but actually still possesses it, and who displays unselfconscious respect for the older generation of which McCain is a part! What a fine, fine thing, that "sir" — as she thanked McCain for giving her this chance, for taking a risk on her. And you could see in her face the determination to do her very best not to let him down...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:11 AM