You are currently viewing archive for July 2009
Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I have only one caveat to the praise I heaped upon Senator Lindsey Graham for his eloquent and compelling statement on why to confirm Judge Sotomayor. I found the "role-model" portion of his remarks maudlin and out of touch. Sonia Sotomayor is no more of a realistic role model for young Latinas in Waco, Texas, than George Bush is an exemplar for white kids from rural Wyoming.

While I applaud the personal determination evidenced by Judge Sotomayor's impressive legal career and inspiring life story, we should not kid ourselves about what this historic elevation really means. The Supreme Court is still very much a closed club. Obviously race and gender are no longer exclusionary factors--but graduation from an elite law school (for the most part, either Yale or Harvard) and social connections within the elite national legal fraternity are still VERY MUCH required.

Sandra Day O'Connor is likely the last "regular Jane or Joe" to be elevated onto the Court.

So, you want to open up some doors in re diversity, let's elevate a law school alum from BYU or the University of Florida or UT Austin. Until then, we should hear all those "up from their bootstraps" "only in America" encomiums with a healthy grain of salt.

Yes. The path to the Supreme Court is open to anyone (with talent, the willingness to work hard, and the sense to keep their nose clean). However, for the sake of intellectual honesty, we should note that there is only one path to this ultimate position of high honor and importance--and the only trail heads seem to be located in New Haven and Cambridge.

We live in a nation in which any graduate of Yale or Harvard Law can grow up to be a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.


Harvard: 6
Yale: 2
Northwestern: 1*

*John Paul Stephens--confirmed to the Court during the Ford administration, 1975
Category: Courts
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
In re the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor:

Kudos to Lindsey Graham for his statesmanship. I greatly admire his dedication to the proper constitutional balance regarding an obvious instance of executive preeminence and the subordinate legislative authority to advise and consent.

Presidential elections matter. The Constitution lays all this out quite clearly. The people elect a president, and he nominates justices to the Supreme Court. The Senate has a say--but, barring extraordinary circumstances, this is manifestly a presidential prerogative.

Shame on Senators Charles Schumer and Richard Durbin for their audacious hypocrisy in chastising Republican votes against the current nominee while never even pausing to acknowledge their craven votes against the confirmations of John Roberts and Sam Alito.

Senator Graham, whom I am proud to rank as one of my favorite national Republicans, understood perfectly the long-term stakes.

The egregious partisan antics employed by the Democratic opposition over the past twenty-five years has done great damage to the judiciary. The fruits of their unforgivable political vandalism provide a stark lesson on why we should do the right thing. While ranking member Jeff Sessions and former chair Orrin Hatch are also two personal favorites--and I respect their decisions to vote against confirmation--I disagree with them. The time had come for grace rather than payback.

Yes. Sonia Sotomayor is a liberal. Yes. She will surely vote with the liberal wing of the Court. But none of that should be a consideration when voting to confirm. Presidential elections should be political. Judicial confirmation proceedings should be statesmanlike and nonpartisan.
I grew up reading Newsweek and then Time. I've read lots of issues of the New York Times and The Washington Post.

I said farewell to the MSM for several reasons: the increasingly snide and superior tone, the decline of prose standards, the bias. But perhaps most important was the deterioration in quality of reporting--more and more mistakes in fact.

Powerline in this post prints the New York Times Corrections from its own obituary of Walter Cronkite. The errors of fact made in the obituary of a god of Mainstream News sends the irony meter off the scale.

And they had the nerve to make fun of Dan Quayle and mock Sarah Palin.
Story here. From The Telegraph (UK)

Must be Nigeria's support of Israel. Or the history of Nigerian colonial expansion in the Middle East. Or the Nigerian backing for the Crusades.

The group is made up of former students who want hardline Islamic sharia to be the dominant legal system across all of Nigeria. Africa's most populous nation is made up of roughly equal numbers of Christians and Muslims.

A member of the gang who was wounded during the initial attack on the police station told Reuters the group wanted to "clean the (Nigerian) system which is polluted by Western education and uphold sharia all over the country."

Militant Islam is not simply reactive to Western actions: Militant Islam has its own agenda derived from its core beliefs.
President Obama is taking his lumps.

I am reminded of the 2001 film, Black Hawk Down, at the point in which the US raid on a Somali warlord begins to unravel and take an increasingly and ultimately disastrous turn. Remember Major General William Garrison (Sam Shepard) listening to the radio transmissions as Somali RPGs take down his second Black Hawk helicopter? Hearing this ominous development in real time, Garrison very calmly but gravely announces (in essence to himself), "we just lost the initiative."

Over the last fortnight, the President of the United States lost the initiative.

Two setbacks:

1. The President and his forces overreached on health care. Too confident in his popularity, political prowess, acumen, and overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress, the administration convinced themselves that they could sweep in, neutralize the deep-seated public apprehension that has for six decades stymied the liberal desire for national health care, and roll to victory unscathed.

Not surprisingly, the assault into treacherous territory faced much stiffer resistance than anticipated and stalled.

We got a Blackhawk down! Super 61 is down. We got a bird down in the city.

2. In an attempt to regain some momentum, the President fell back on one his favorite tactics--the prime time press conference. However, the President, uncharacteristically unsteady, unconvincing, and perhaps even boring, failed to reassert control. Much worse, at the end of his unsuccessful thrust, he paused to engage a distraction on his left flank: the matter of Henry Louis Gates.

Super 64 going down. 64 going down hard.

President Obama is in a serious and potentially lethal mess of his own making. In the midst of a precarious fight for survival for which he is not prepared, for the first time, the President must defend himself in the eyes of a suddenly skeptical American majority and face a slightly less fawning Washington press corps.

Now what? How will he react?

Two possibilities spring to mind:

1. He craters. We only met this man a short time ago. We know almost nothing about him. We have no idea his measure. But we are about to find out. And, as I say, there is the slim possibility that he is made of mush--and he withers in the face of his first real challenge. But this is quite unlikely (I would give this scenario a 5 to 10 percent chance of coming to pass).

Remember how the GOP expected Bill Clinton to cave in the face of the Republican shutdown? The party leaders believed that President Clinton was a coward, who had demonstrated his lack of manliness when he had avoided Vietnam in a less-than-honorable fashion. But the Republicans foolishly misjudged the character of Bill Clinton. For whatever reasons Clinton took such great pains to avoid the war, it had nothing to do with his political courage. In the arena of politics, Clinton turned out to be Rocky Balboa--literally impossible to knock out or outlast.

Of course, Barack Obama does not have the political experience that Bill Clinton did in 1995. No matter, do NOT expect President Obama to collapse--it remains an extremely remote possibility.

2. More likely, the President faces this crisis and rises to the occasion. More than likely, the President takes this hit and learns from his mistakes and comes away a stronger and more dangerous political opponent--better understanding the perils of overestimating his own invulnerability.

Why is the President so likely to regroup and fight his way out of this perilous political engagement? He still has the firepower. He still owns the high ground. And he still owns the airwaves.

More importantly, the economy is likely to improve in the short term. While his long-term plans are disastrous and will ultimately fail miserably, the emergency measures put in place by the Fed and the outgoing Bush administration (wisely continued by the Obama administration) have averted immediate disaster.

We are likely to see a cyclical upturn that will propel President Obama through his bid for re-election. To his further advantage, Republicans have foolishly staked their upcoming electoral bids on a continued recession. When the economy inevitably revives (at least to some extent), the President will undoubtedly take credit for sticking to his guns in the face of opposition predictions of doom. And, when this happens, we can expect the mainstream media (still friendly at heart and still invested) to obediently carry his message to the electorate. We can also expect the Republicans to do their best to convince the voters that the economy remains in the shallows (to no avail). Remember how well this worked in 1996?

Bottom Line: we are finally seeing the end of the Obama Honeymoon--but we should not delude ourselves. The President still holds all the high cards. Even more telling, the loyal opposition is not playing its hand very astutely.
Chuck Colson has an article on health care reform in Christianity Today. In favor of a reform, he raises important questions, and urges Christians to participate in the debate.

Here is his next-to-last paragraph:

Christians have to reassert that there are transcendent standards of right and wrong. While some kinds of heroic care may be withheld in hopeless cases, it is wrong to intentionally take a life. Second, we must champion care for the poor and the weak. Bringing health-care reform to the forefront is the first step. But prudence—a classical virtue that looks objectively at complex situations and applies moral truth—is the third concern. How do we best allocate limited resources?

A while back I posted some considerations on end-of-life issues, which I now repeat.

My pastoral work this week has me thinking about life and death and modern medicine: when to fight death and when to accept it.

Here is my view, for what its worth.

If I were diagnosed with cancer, and told I needed extensive chemo and radiation, I would ask the following questions: what are the odds that the treatments would bring me to a state of being cancer free? if I take the treatments, how much longer would I live than if I refused treatment? if I take the treatments, what would the extra time be like?

If I were told that the treatments would give me a better than even chance of becoming cancer free, then I would accept treatment. If I were told that the odds were good that treatment would add years to my life, years that could be productive, then I would accept treatment. On the other hand, if I were told that there was almost no way treatment could make me cancer free, that treatment probably would add minimal time to my life, and that this time would not be productive, I would refuse treatment. These decisions I would make as a Christian.

Christian wisdom on this issue gives me two guidelines for my decision making.

On the one hand, I am a steward of my own body and its health, the one to whom my body and its health actually belongs is Jesus Christ. My life is not my own to destroy by active measures or by neglect. My purpose in life is to glorify God and work for the Kingdom. If treatment has good hope of a cure, or of adding productive years to my life, then I am under obligation to take treatment. (Scriptures to read include 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.")

On the other hand, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die;" Ecclesiastes 3:1-2. None of us are going to live forever as we now are. Unless Jesus returns sooner, all of us reading this will die. As Christians we should regard our own death as did Paul--"for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain," Philippians 1:21.

As a Christian I am not free to take my own life or to neglect my own health, including neglecting treatment that may give me health. But, I am under no obligation to try to prolong life merely for the sake of avoiding death. I believe these things to be true when we must make decisions for those incapable of making their own.
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener

Herod the Great was the ruler when Jesus was born. In addition to cruelty, he was know for his building projects, including a renovation of the Second Temple.
It is a commonplace that Christians live by an ethic of love. We are commanded by Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves. We easily see that loving others includes being helpful.

But what does it mean to help our neighbor?

The apostolic teaching, the authortative interpretation of Jesus, contains these words that at first reading do not seem very loving:

For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:10

If any one does not provide for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8

If a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn their religious duty to their own family and make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. 1 Timothy 5:4

If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her assist them; let the church not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are real widows. 1 Timothy 5:16

So, how is it a deed of Christian love not to feed someone who chooses not to work? How is it a deed of Christian love to demand that men provide for their families? How is it a deed of Christian love to demand that families take care of their own, and not to depend upon the church for maintainence?

True Christian love desires that each person become the person God wants him or her to be. True Christian love does not desire that a person remain in a condition God does not desire. Genuinely Christian help will heip a person become what God want that person to be. "Help" that makes it possible for a person to remain disobedient is not Christian help, it is ungodly enabling.

Sometimes love must be tough.
Category: Same-Sex Marriage
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Pew Forum gives this summary of the positions held by various religious groups on same-sex marriage.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
"No! Don't hit him with the Bible! Here, use this!" Overheard from the back of the church van full of elementary aged children being taken home.

Well, we had gotten half a lesson across: the Bible is a special book. More work remained on personal interaction.

We are having Vacation Bible School at our church this week. Children, ages preschool through 6th grade, are getting Bible stories, Kool-Aid, crafts, games, supper (tonight goulash, corn, and ice cream), songs, and love. What will all this do for them? Only God knows how each life will turn out. But, I am confident that we are doing good, and no harm. And that at least some of the children are benefitting on some level.

We won't be on CNN, or FOX. Nor will our work, or the similar efforts of churches large and small this summer, be discussed on Rush or Hannity. But, what we are doing is important.

Our Founders assumed that most of the life of the republic would happen outside government--local, state, and federal. It does, and it should. But we are in danger of forgetting this blessed reality; and may even alter our national life into a web controlled by a bloated spider on the Potomac.

I have a fantasy. All the members of Congress going back home for a week, laying aside bills and hearings and fund-raising, and strumming guitars, helping 6-year olds with construction paper and paste, playing kickball with 10-year olds, and telling Bible stories in churches and synagogues across America. Or, working at the Y for a week if more in line with beliefs or lack therof. The country would be the better for it.
A lot is being written now about the first manned moon landing. I have nothing substantive to add, just personal recollection.

I was born in 1956. About the time I became aware of the wider world, it seemed to be falling apart. One of my first memories of fear is watching television during the Cuban missle crisis. I was old enough to understand explosions and destruction, but I think what frightened me was that the adults were nervous, both on television and off. I grew up seeing the daily casuality count from Vietnam onscreen during the nightly news, along with footage of war; by 1968 I turned 12 and assumed that my future would include jungle warfare. 1968 was a bad, bad year: assasinations, riots, a feeling that the world was disintigrating. And over all hung the spectre of nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

But, alongside the gloom and doom, was another story that I followed almost like an addict: the good news of the space program. I have an early memory of my dad taking me out of the house into the darkness to watch a satellite fly overhead. Mercury, Gemini, unmanned missions to the moon. Apollo. It helped that I loved science, and science fiction, but I think that the space program would have attracted me even if I had not. I think I was hungry for heroism, for ambitious and positive goals, for the romance of exploration, for a token that humanity might just beat its problems and survive.

When Neil Armstrong spoke those memorable words, I was elated. The moon landing gave me hope for a future beyond our nation's problems in 1969.
At their convention this week, not only did Episcopalians remove a moratorium on consecrating more openly self-affirming and practicing homosexual bishops, but also authorized the blessing of same-sex unions. Story.

These actions put further pressure on the relationship with Anglicanism world-wide, where African and Asian bishops--the growing part of Anglicanism--already regard their American kin as heretical.

Episcopalian leadership seems to have redefined "God" into a cosmic Barney, with love and hugs for all, no wrath, and no firm standards, except for "I'm OK, You're OK."

Theologically, there seem to be two basic errors in Episcopal thinking here: 1. there is no conception that the Fall has lasting effects on humanity such that we are born with problems--from physical birth defects to abnormal brain chemistry affecting our mentality to the impulse to sin, so that to say "God made me this way and that's OK" is at best naive; 2. there seems to be no conception of God's holiness, righteousness, and wrath, so that God is fine with us however we are.
Buzz Aldrin, a Presbyterian elder, took communion bread with him to the surface of the moon, eating it in thanksgiving. Story here from Voice of America.
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
Check ou the blog Stormbringer. Today's page here featuring a remembrance of the late Darrell Powers, WW2 member of the 101st Airborne, and excerpts and a link to R. Crumb's (yes, that R. Crumb) history of Country Bluesmen, plus other posts.
Story here.

The unborn have memories, according to medical researchers who used sound and vibration stimulation, combined with sonography, to reveal that the human fetus displays short-term memory from at least 30 weeks gestation - or about two months before they are born.

"In addition, results indicated that 34-week-old fetuses are able to store information and retrieve it four weeks later," said the research, which was released Wednesday.

Scientists from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Maastricht University Medical Centre and the University Medical Centre St. Radboud, both in the Netherlands, based their findings on a study of 100 healthy pregnant women and their fetuses with the help of some gentle but precise sensory stimulation.

Once more research has shown that couples who live together before marriage are more likely to divorce.

The article linked speculates on the reasons, but does not mention that perhaps those who live together before marriage lack a serious committment to life-long marriage itself.
Episcopalians, the U.S. branch of world Anglicanism, recently told the rest of Anglicanism to take a flying leap.


The Episcopal House of Bishops has, with minor amendment, adopted a resolution (D025) essentially repealing a moratorium (B033) on the consecration of gay bishops. The resolution, D025, had previously cleared the Episcopal House of Deputies on Sunday and was quickly picked up by the Bishops on Monday afternoon. It passed the House of Bishops 99-45 in favor, with two abstentions.
One of my new year's resolutions was to develop an appreciation for opera. To that end I have listened to (small) doses, usually Met productions.

So far, small success.

But, perhaps I have found a substantive reason to dislike opera.

A few weeks ago I was listening to The Pearl Fishers by Bizet-- Synopsis here. --when I began yelling at the radio.

A very brief summary. Two old friends reunite. Earlier they had "fallen in love" with the same woman seen from a distance. In order to preserve their friendship each promised the other not to pursue her. The woman, a priestess, is pledged to virginity. All three come together at a fisherman's encampment when the priestess hired to protect the fleet through her prayers and rituals turns out to be the object of the friends' earlier infatuation. After much tribulation, one of the men runs off with the priestess.

Promise to his friend--overuled by "true love." Vow to remain celibate--overuled by "true love." Obligation to protect the fishing fleet through religious ritual--overuled by "true love."

The passions of the heart, the least stable part of human make-up, are in this opera made determative for life and its decisions. Promises and vows count for nothing.

And this opera is not unique.

This is not the world-view I subscribe to. So maybe I have a substantive reason to continue a non-lover of opera.

Yes, I know there are other operas. sigh. Perhaps I should check out pre Romantic Movement works.
I have wondered what might take priority over F-22s in the latest military budget. The article linked by Instapundit makes a good case for more and newer communications-jamming aircraft.

But there’s ample evidence that electronic-warfare planes really are more useful in today’s wars. In the early days of the Afghanistan conflict, the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines cobbled together a makeshift armada of jamming planes — Air Force EC-130H Compass Calls and Navy and Marine EA-6B Prowlers — capable of zeroing out the Taliban’s communications. That armada subsequently shifted to Iraq, then back to Afghanistan as the Iraq war winds down. Last week, the small Compass Call detachment at Bagram airbase, in Afghanistan, marked its 2,000th Afghanistan mission. “There are only 14 of these aircraft in the Air Force,” Maj. James Bands said. “So it’s taken four years of constant flying at about 2,000-3,000 hours on one aircraft a year, in order to accomplish this.”
The man has class.

George H.W. Bush Lands on the U.S.S. Bush. Story. From Theo.
This afternoon my wife and I bought a small shelving unit at a business supply big box store. Is is solid wood.

On the way home I meditated on the fact it was "Made in Thailand."

What are the odds the shelving unit is a product of sustainable logging?

Earlier this year my wife and I shopped for a bedroom set, our first, as a 30th wedding anniversary present to ourselves.

Most of what we saw were made in China. Given China's environmental record, I strongly suspect that buying Made in China furniture is environmentally irresponsible. Perhaps that is why manufacturers are pushing dark-colored pieces--the finish hides tropical mystery wood.

We bought a Made in the USA set that is mostly constructed wood, though if our budget had been larger, we would have gone for Made in America solid hardwood.

Free trade is trade without a conscience. Free trade gives advantage to foreign goods produced without the environmental and safety regulations that protect American workers, and our environment. Fair trade would be better.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
A movie I want to see: The Hurt Locker.

Review from Powerline.

IMDB listing.

Rober Ebert thinks it is Oscar material.

From Ebert's review:

A lot of movies begin with poetic quotations, but “The Hurt Locker” opens with a statement presented as fact: “War is a drug.” Not for everyone, of course. Most combat troops want to get it over with and go home. But the hero of this film, Staff Sgt. William James, who has a terrifyingly dangerous job, addresses it like a daily pleasure. Under enemy fire in Iraq, he defuses bombs.
. . .
"The Hurt Locker" is a great film, an intelligent film, a film shot clearly so that we know exactly who everybody is and where they are and what they're doing and why. The camera work is at the service of the story. Bigelow knows that you can't build suspense with shots lasting one or two seconds. And you can't tell a story that way, either -- not one that deals with the mystery of why a man like James seems to depend on risking his life. A leading contender for Academy Awards.

11/07: Hand Fishing

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Today is a big day in Paul's Valley, Oklahoma (on I-35 south of Oklahoma City).

It’s sure to be another day of unforgettable fun, food and festivities when Bob’s Pig Shop in Pauls Valley hosts the 9th Annual Okie Noodling Tournament and Fish Fry. story here from the Paul's Valley Daily Democrat

For those of you not privilaged with a rural upbringing, "noodling" refers to catching fish by hand, or foot. We called it handfishing up home. You move slowly along the creek or river, sticking your hand or foot, back into underwater holes in the bank, feelling among tree roots and other lurking spots for fish. Did I mention that catfish have spiny fins? Or, that many such catches are made when a large catfish grabs your appendage? Of course, the possibility of water snakes and snapping turtles keeps up the suspense.

And you thought rural life was dull.

Yes, I have handfished, though not for about three decades. Maybe its time to start again.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Casino Revenues in Oklahoma Up from Last Year story in the Lawton Oklahoma Constitution. I guess people must be cutting back in other areas.

Heard indirectly from a pawn shop owner: fewer items being redeemed. That fits.
Category: Christian Belief
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Cuban revival, from Christianity Today.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I am entertaining a thought this evening that I do not much like. Perhaps we need to rethink forced sterilization.

I'll call him Moe. He goes back and forth between jail and freedom. While out, he tries to stay sober off and on, and clean of drugs; sometimes he succeeds. Last I knew there was another warrant out on him. I have known Moe for a few years, and never known him to earn a wage. He has at least five children with more than one woman. Last I heard he was shacked up with another girlfriend in a different county. I suspect that Moe will father a few more children before biology slows him down. You and I will cover at least part of the cost as taxpayers. If I were dictator, I would consider making a vasectomy the condition for Moe's next release.

I have gotten to know several people affected by fetal alcohol syndrome, or in utero drug abuse by their mothers. And I know a few women who abuse, even while pregnant, and probably will do so several more times.

I believe in individual rights, but not in an absolute sense. Do we need to rethink forced sterilization as an expression of the common good?

It is not an idea I much like, but, I also don't like the alternative.
This brief article surveys the recent research and comes up with 14 factors cited by various "experts" to explain why some Christian congregations grow. Link from The Layman Online.

Here is a summary of the 14 factors which I document fully below: (1) witnessing, (2) strictness, (3) high fertility rates, (4) caring for children and youth, (5) high involvement, (6) welcoming new people, (7) leadership, (8) prayer, (9) being a church of 1000+ attendees or under 50 attendees, (10) being located in rural counties, (11) being in rapidly growing zip codes, (12) being in a tradition that is altering worship practices slightly but not too much, (13) churches that offer “intimacy and choice” and (14) attractive worship style, senior pastor, and church reputation.

(10)"Rural counties," above seems to mean exurban counties rather than the middle-of-nowhere counties, and so would overlap (11) rapidly growing zip codes. (9) Under 50 attendees would naturally reflect larger percentage changes with fewer numbers, also, many new church starts would be in this group. Numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8 often overlap with theologically conservative beliefs. And, (9) over 1000 attendees (not just members) often would be conservative churches rather than theologically liberal.
For those who like dates and charts, 2007 can be regarded as significant in the decline of the former Mainline Christian Denominations, and the rise of the (formerly)Sideline groups. According to the most recently available data, in 2007 the Presbyterian Church, USA, declined to 2.9 million members, while the Assemblies of God increased to 2.9 million members.

Interestingly, denominational declines were not limited to the Mainline (read Liberal) groups. The Southern Baptist Convention declined slightly, as did the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. So did Roman Catholics. The only large Christian denominations growing are the Assemblies of God, and the Church of God-Cleveland, Tennessee. (There are several groups calling themselves "Church of God," so they are differentiated by the location of their headquarters.)


Both the Assemblies of God, and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) are charismatic--emphasizing personal experience of the miraculous.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
"In general, though, the modern tendency was to feel rather than to think; so that men were now more highly esteemed for inventing new diversions than for preserving old facts or pushing back the frontier of cosmic mystery. Religion was a leading interest in Tsath, though very few actually believed in the supernatural. What was desired was the aesthetic and emotional exaltation bred by the mystical moods and sensuous rites . . . " H.P. Lovecraft describing a fictional civilization in decline 1929/30

Michael Jackson as an icon of Pan, or Bacchus; enabling the worshiping throngs to commune with the gods.

What has been forgotten by the modern devotees is that Pan or Bacchus were dangerous, and linked to death as well as orgiastic pleasure.

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few scattered thoughts on the scattered Palin announcement:

1. TRULY UNEXPECTED and disappointing on two fronts: a) quitting is irresponsible and damning; and b) she delivered another less than impressive rhetorical performance (which is merely exasperating).

2. Having said that, her decision was not idiotic.

3. 2012 seems completely out of the question now--but that may not be a bad thing. So much of the immediate punditry and conventional wisdom centered on 2012--but that analysis misses the forest for the trees. Forget about 2012. In fact, taking herself out of the running in terms of the next election is the smart play. Although the ODS wing of our party remains convinced that the GOP is well-positioned to defeat the President in 2012, I disagree vehemently.

More to come on this as we move forward, but beating Obama in 2012 is a very tall order--and unlikely at this point. For a number of reasons, Mitt Romney is the man for 2012. He will probably lose--but he is more than willing to brave the long odds and fight the good fight. He wants his shot. He is well-funded and popular on the right. Give him the ball. We could do a lot worse.

4. What does the future hold for Sarah Barracuda? Palin is a heavy hitter. She will continue to be very successful on the stump. She will continue to be very successful on the lecture circuit. If she makes the difference in a number of tight races in 2010 and 2012 and 2014, she will be an even more formidable national figure.

5. Frankly, she is too impoverished (relatively) RIGHT NOW to make a serious run for the presidency. Politics is an almost impossible business for working-class people (especially for a conservative who must run against the media). She needs to build some wealth, which she can do quite easily by shedding the "ball and chain" of the Alaska governorship. The very least Sarah Palin ought to get for her troubles is to be as rich as David Letterman.

Prediction: Sarah Palin will never be president of the United States.

However, there is no reason why she can't be a Republican Al Gore, beloved and admired on her side of the aisle and reviled and ridiculed by her irate opponents. Remember, Vice President Gore has reportedly earned $100 Million during the years following his defeat in 2000. Like Gore, Palin will always have star power and the ability to draw a crowd. We can expect her to use her influence on the party faithful when needed, and we can also expect her, like Gore, to continually dangle the prospect of running for president before the press and her faithful boosters (but my hunch is, ultimately, she will never pull the trigger again on a all-out run for the big prize).

All she needs now are a "few inconvenient truths."


In conclusion, this very brief analysis from VDH via NRO's the Corner is on the mark and also well worth your time. If she were to be a serious contender for the GOP nomination someday, she would need to follow this path:

In the long run, she can lecture, earn a good income through speaking, develop a coterie of advisers and supporters, take care of her family, not have the constant political warring on all flanks, and invest time in reflecting and studying issues, visit the country, meet leaders, etc. She's not looking at 2012; but in eight years by 2016 she will be far more savvy, still young, and far more experienced. It matters not all that the Left writes her off as daffy, since they were going to do that whatever she did; the key is whether she convinces conservatives in eight year of travel and reflection that she's a charismatic Margaret Thatcher type heavyweight.

UPDATE: big BB welcome to Instapundit readers.

UPDATE-2: big BB welcome to Wizbang readers (another one of our favorites).

UPDATE-3: interesting thread in response to this post on't seem to be many folks actually reading the post, but the idea touched off a heated and sometimes ribald but sometimes funny debate among mostly non-fans of Palin.
Category: Politics
Posted by: Martian Mariner
There's nothing like a good scandal to make the news, and politicians have been awfully obliging the past few months. Marital infidelity is an oft-recurring scandal, and the more brazen the attempt to conceal the affair ("hiking the Appalachian trail," for example), the bigger the news buzz. There are also bonus Nielson points for soliciting prostitutes, using drugs, or attempting to hide homosexual behavior.

But why, why is this such a common theme? I'm not asking why cheating politicians make CNN headlines; I take our collective indignation/morbid curiosity as a given. I'm asking rather why it is that there seem to be so many politicians who risk political suicide for a momentary (or repeated) satisfaction. These are smart guys, right? (Almost always guys, yes.) Why then the stupidity, the risk?

I think the most explanatory analogy comes from the field of statistics. Any researcher working with sample data (statistics) knows that to be a true representation of the larger population, the sample must avoid, as much as possible, any selection bias. Simply stated, a selection bias can taint the results of a survey by virtue of the method in which the survey is collected. A well known example is "Dewey defeats Truman," which was based on a survey conducted via telephone in an era when telephone ownership was restricted to richer (read: Republican-leaning) Americans. The survey was flawed; the sample group was not representative of all Americans.

Representative democracy works on a principle similar to statistics: A group is selected from the total population and is intended to represent the wishes of the whole. [I know this isn't exactly fair to the political philosophy of the Framers, WF and OG, but spare me the historical skewering for the moment, please.] However, representative democracy, particularly in the modern, financing-driven style, is subject to a selection bias, specifically a self-selection bias. Think about the years of political maneuvering, fund-raising, back-scratching, and bacon-bringing required of any politician who wishes to be successful. Anyone who willingly subjects himself to that gauntlet, on the assumption that he/she can actually win at it, is likely to possess traits which may ultimately lead to a fall.

Pride, of course, goeth before the fall, and pride, manifested politically as (pick your term:) ambition, arrogance, charm, confidence, egotism, self-aggrandizement, or selfishness, is required of any politician. I'm an armchair psychologist at best, but I think there is a strong connection between the pride that allows one to consider politics and the pride that allows one to think he can get away with a crime. Speaking statistically again, one could say that there is a positive correlation between a political figure's political skill and SBI - Slime-ball index.

I guess the good news is that if this is true, and politicians are biased as a selected group, then what politicians do does not necessarily reflect on the general morals of Americans overall, since they're not a representative sample.

For debate: Is this self-selection bias an inherent flaw in the system? Can it be overcome structurally, or do we just need to pray for a Washington every election?