You are currently viewing archive for January 2008
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
From the LA Weekly News. Story here. Link from Drudge.

Jeremy Bernard thinks he has been sucked into a time warp. Only five months ago, he was sitting shoulder to shoulder with U.S. Senator Barack Obama in the back of a black SUV, speeding through West Hollywood on Santa Monica Boulevard, talking about the fine points of gay and lesbian federal legislation. An hour later, the Democratic presidential candidate was hitting every detail they had discussed in the car, but this time on network television. For Bernard, it was mind-blowing. The key fund-raiser for the Obama campaign was seeing his issues dramatically migrate from a personal chat to the national stage.
. . .
During this long and bare-knuckled presidential-primary season, a campaign will get nowhere without very big money. And next to New York City, Southern California — more precisely, the Westside of Los Angeles — is the land cash-hungry politicians never ignore. But only a handful of people in this town have the contacts and relationships to deliver the big checks. It's an elite world, and one that Jeremy Bernard and Rufus Gifford are capable of dominating.
. . .
Bernard and Gifford understand their make-or-break roles. It's the prime reason they went into fund-raising. Gay issues are central to their own political agendas, and they know from years of experience that money gives them unique and up-close access to power. They have the luxury, after climbing to the top, of throwing their deep-pocketed connections only behind candidates who closely match their politics. "We work for candidates who we ourselves would be willing to give money to," says Gifford.

Once the checks are rolling in, Bernard and Gifford then have the full attention of a congressional or presidential candidate, giving them the chance, behind the scenes, to promote their own political issues. It's a level of access gays once only dreamed of, but they are living it.

"Being gay makes you inherently political," says Gifford, comfortable with using his proximity to power to influence the candidate. "You see what's right and what's wrong, and you need to do something about it."

Will this story matter in the Democrat primaries. I don't think so. Except, it illustrates how the Clintons are unable to hang on to some constituencies they need.

But, in the General Election, I suspect this story will get discrete use, if Obama is the nominee.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
First off, what do we mean by "redeeming" films? They're all stories of redemption—sometimes blatantly, sometimes less so. Several of them literally have a character that represents a redeemer; all of them have characters who experience redemption to some degree—some quite clearly, some more subtly. Some are "feel-good" movies that leave a smile on your face; some are a bit more uncomfortable to watch. But the redemptive element is there in all of these films.

It's interesting to note that six of our ten choices are all based on true stories. Maybe that just goes to show that some of the best redemptive stories—at least the ones that move us the most—are those that are really true. And so, our list:

A top 10 with
#1 Into Great Silence
#2 Lars and the Real Girl
#3 Juno

Full story.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
To beat the rush, I wrote my tribute to Rudy Giuliani about a month ago. Kudos to Rudy for a career of service and an honorable and inspiring campaign for the nation's highest office.

From December:

"As I have averred numerous times previously, Rudy is not a good fit for the Republican nomination. Having said that, he is a good man who possesses a thoroughly American story. He is worthy of our gratitude and our imitation. More importantly, the upcoming conclusion to his drive to be president of the United States should not end his career as an important and ultra competent public servant.

Well done, Rudy."

"Rudy: Some Final Thoughts" in full here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Today Richard Baehr (a McCain advocate) of the American Thinker offers a corrective to the oft-repeated criticism that the Gang of 14 somehow stabbed conservatism in the back. He writes:

"To put it plainly, the critics of the deal are flat out wrong. Conservatives should thank John McCain and the other Senators who were part of the Gang of 14 for getting three Appeals Court nominees who had been held up, Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor, and Priscilla Owen, approved quickly and Brett Kavanaugh approved a bit later, and for Samuel Alito making it onto the Supreme Court without a filibuster blocking his way. And they should thank John McCain for preserving for the Republican Party the use of the filibuster on judicial nominations that might be made by a Democratic President beginning in 2009 or later" (essay in full here is worth reading).

For the most part, I agree. Back in the late spring of 2005, I wrote an op-ed piece for the local Waco paper regarding the so-called Gang of Fourteen and the then-controversial compromise over President Bush's judicial appointments.

From May 2005:

Last week, a bipartisan collection of fourteen moderates in the United States Senate caucused together to defuse an impending showdown over the ideological composition of the federal judiciary. Striking an eleventh-hour deal on the brink of political holy war, the self-selected centrists likely averted an injurious redefinition of established practice.

» Read More

Story here.

BEIJING: When state security agents burst into his apartment on Dec. 27, Hu Jia was chatting on Skype, the Internet-based telephone system. Hu's computer was his most potent tool. He disseminated information about human rights cases, peasant protests and other politically touchy topics even though he often lived under de facto house arrest.

Hu, 34, and his wife, Zeng Jinyan, are human rights advocates who spent much of 2006 restricted to their apartment in a complex with the unlikely name of Bo Bo Freedom City. She blogged about life under detention, while he videotaped a documentary titled "Prisoner in Freedom City." Their surreal existence seemed to reflect an official uncertainty about how, and whether, to shut them up.

That ended on Dec. 27. Hu was dragged away on charges of subverting state power while Zeng was bathing their newborn daughter, Qianci. Telephone and Internet connections to the apartment were severed. Mother and daughter are now under house arrest. Qianci, barely 2 months old, is probably the youngest political prisoner in China.

For human rights advocates and Chinese dissidents, Hu's detention is the most telling example of what they describe as a broadening crackdown on dissent as Beijing prepares to stage the Olympic Games in August. In recent months, several dissidents have been jailed, including a former factory worker in northeastern China who collected 10,000 signatures after posting an online petition titled "We Want Human Rights, Not the Olympics."
(a much longer article, click link above to read the rest)

Someone tell me again, why do we have such favorable trade policies for these a***o*e*?
Category: Campaign 2008.9
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Back in March of 2006, I began my first month of blogging by asking myself:

why was I so dead-set against McCain six years ago?

My answer was uncertain:

Frankly, it is hard to remember exactly, but I came to genuinely dislike him for a time.

January 2008: I am starting to remember.

McCain is a decent fellow, I continue to believe. While his opponents ruthlessly distort his political record, he is, in truth, a center-right politician, who would make a good president, especially on issues of national security.

Having said that, he does have several personality traits that I find hard to abide. I have, once again, come to see his "straight-talk express" as a gimmick. He bellows about integrity and truth telling. He inveighs against his main opponent for distorting his record on immigration to shamelessly cover the truth that he continually revises, extends, and attempts to tamp down his unpopular statements on amnesty. Then McCain turns around and despicably invents a completely erroneous attack on Mitt Romney concerning his stance on the Iraq War. When confronted, McCain raises his voice and doubles his bet. Shameless. Moreover, McCain is also thin-skinned and petulant, and he is too quick to assume the victim pose. Everybody is always out to get him. Toughen up, John. Politics is a tough business.

Having said that, from the very beginning, I have believed that the best one-on-one match-up for the GOP is Hillary Clinton vs. McCain. He will run a very competitive campaign, which he might win. Even if he does not, he is a moderate Republican, and Hillary will need to run as a moderate Democrat to win. She will run to the center, and she cannot beat McCain and win election as president without committing to finish the war in Iraq. This is the most important issue of our time.

On the other hand, McCain most likely loses big to Obama. I am convinced he cannot get past the visuals. Obama is tall, handsome, vigorous, and youthful; while McCain is short, ugly, tired, and old. McCain is unable to stand on the same stage as Barack Obama and have a prayer of winning.

On the other hand, while I think Mitt Romney has the potential of losing to Hillary in an absolutely historic fashion, I think he matches up much better against Obama. And who knows, really, Romney might continue to improve as a candidate as the year drones on; he might very well grow into a race against Hillary.

My initial reaction to Romney was lukewarm--but, as circumstances have played out, I have come to appreciate him. Perhaps that is faint praise--but we are down to some imperfect choices.

On the other hand, the biggest problem with McCain is that he is a non-starter (make that deal-breaker) for too many important components of our party.

One more positive for Romney: the new most important issue in this election is the economy. Mitt Romney exudes confidence and competence in this area.

Bottom Line: as so many thoughtful people have written this week, things are still in a pretty big mess for the GOP.
Two thoughts I have not seen in other places (probably for good reason):

1. President Bush scored big on Iraq in his State of the Union Speech. Saving his strong suit for last, Bush hammered the faint of heart and chorus of doomsayers, coming back time and again to the contrast between the despair of early 2007 and myriad hopeful signs of 2008.

Inarguably, for good or for ill, George Bush owns the "surge" in Iraq. Last night he was taking it out for a spin, driving slow down the main drag, and whistling at the girls in the Mustang convertible. For the most part, the Democrats had to sit there and take it. All in all, last night seemed a pretty good night for the President.

One more thing: I was also cheered by his leisurely exit from the chamber, shaking hands and signing autographs in his trademark good-natured manner. He is at his best yucking it up with friends and adversaries alike.

2. Bush has been incredibly responsive and adept at massaging the international economic uncertainty that threatens to throw the world into recession.

Bush moved quickly, forcefully, and confidently after the dramatic downturns in world markets last Monday. With futures trading at 500 points below the opening on Tuesday, Bush followed Ben Bernanke’s announcement of an unprecedented three-quarter point cut in the federal funds rate with an equally rare productive meeting with Congressional leadership in which he secured a stimulus package for the sputtering economy.

In truth, Presidents have little control over the economy in the short run--save some psychological leger demain--but Bush has been making the most of his bully pulpit and good political horse sense.

For the record, the death of Heath Ledger may have done as much to stave off the great market crash of 2008 as George Bush or Ben Bernanke. That is, the banner headlines reading, "HEATH LEDGER IS DEAD," and stories extolling the many virtues of the twenty-eight year-old Barrymore were much better for economic sanity than the alternative headline of "MARKETS CRASHING: RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!"

Anyhow, George Bush may have gotten the break he needed, which allowed him to finesse the rest. Of course, the great crash of 2008 may be mere hours away. Who knows? The truth is the economy probably deserves a downturn. Bush inherited a slumping economy, made worse by 9-11, and not helped by a war that turned out much more expensive than anyone imagined. Having said that, the President does not get nearly enough credit for babying this economy through some tough times, and presiding over a period of significant growth.

An Aside: if you did not know better, you would think this dumb SOB from Texas was a Harvard MBA or something.

Bottom Line: understanding well that the politics of this situation are deadly and rigged against him, for the good of his historical reputation and the electoral fortunes of his party, he is desperately trying to help the troubled economy limp off the 2008 calendar and crash on someone else's watch.

Let's hope he can pull it off.
My mantra, Nobody Knows Anything, stands out conspicuously as my wisest utterance this entire extended season of national decision. Although I have repeatedly sprinkled this caveat throughout my extensive writings on Campaign 2008, I am sure that I have not said it enough. Nobody Knows Anything--and that goes double for me.

Having said that, we are in the midst of another "Hillary is finished" frenzy, but I am not at all convinced that her opponent's recent overwhelming victory in the Palmetto State and/or the endorsement of Liberal Lion, Ted Kennedy, seals the deal for the man from Illinois.

Not that I am not in awe of Barack Obama. I am.

Although Hillary is surprisingly adept and polished as a candidate for president (she is much, much better than I thought she would be), Obama is a once-in-a-generation wonder. He is the charismatic new kid in town about whom we know almost nothing--but on whom we are anxious to project our most sanguine hopes for ourselves, our nation, and our future. He is electric. He is on fire. He is in "the zone" of maximized self-actualization.

In many ways, however, Barack Obama is playing a desperate (and undoubtedly frustrating) game of "beat the clock." He must take control of this race by next Tuesday. Surely, if this nomination process had unraveled week by week, one primary at a time, over a three-month period, the incredibly attractive and energetic Obama would have overcome the Clintons, who seem to be tired, cranky, and taking on water. But in one week, Democrats in twenty-five states and voting districts will choose a candidate. This may prove to be a contest in which organization and two decades of planning, cajoling, and social networking overcomes youthful enthusiasm and raw talent. We will soon see.

If not now for Obama, when? How long will this sensational ride atop the fickled American political culture last? No one can say. He is young. One might think, if he comes up short this time, there will be other subsequent chances for this developing phenom to ascend the greasy pole and claim his due. But political life is unpredictable. There is a saying in cattle country about "striking while the iron is hot."

Oftentimes fate turns on a dime. It seems unlikely that a more propitious moment awaits Mr. Barack Obama. Popularity is fleeting and seldom moves consistently forward and upward. Tomorrow is a mystery. Now is the time for Obama. Luck be a Lady Tonight.

The now is the frustration, however. He is so close he can taste it. He made the right decision to make his move for the oval office when he did. But Obama is not quite there--and the clock is ticking. He had a chance to stampede Hillary Clinton after Iowa--but, somehow, and no one yet has come up with a satisfying answer of just how, it did not quite come together in New Hamshire.

He was supposed to win Nevada--but, somehow, he came up a bit short there as well. He got the unions (a huge coup)--but he still could not quite deliver on game day. He won huge in South Carolina--but there is a lingering worry that he might have gotten "rope-a-doped" in that round. Even as the mainstream media trumpets his successes, cynical pundits warn that he has fallen into a trap of racial politics set by his wily opponents.

And the speed of the game is increasing exponentially. He is moving fast. To shore up the Latino vote in the West (and avoid Nevada writ large), he is promoting his record of favoring drivers licenses for illegal aliens. All the polls say this is long-term poison--but the long term does not matter if one dies a political death in the now. You cannot save your ace for Game Seven, if you are the verge of elimination in Game Six. Obama is pulling out all the stops. Super Tuesday, February 5, is huge; is it bigger than his grassroots movement? No one knows. He has the money. He now has the endorsements. He is better positioned than any other previous insurgent candidate. But does he have the poise, experience, and supporting cast to pull this rabbit out of the hat when the game is on the line?

We will know soon.

A thought (on the relevance of the Kennedy imprimatur):

I will be very surprised if any Latinos on the West Coast give one solitary damn about Ted Kennedy--but who knows?

One Final Thought on the endorsements:
I am convinced that they mean very little in terms of votes (no reasonable person would change his mind because Ted Kennedy told him to), but they are an important barometer of the race. More and more heavyweight Democrats (no insult intended) see Team Clinton as vulnerable; they are taking the opportunity to kick the Clintons in the teeth and curry favor with the likely winner. This trend must be part of the calculus. Most of these folks are canny political operators.
Reciprocity, or, thoughts on being an idolatrous infidel

What he said.

Link from Instapundit.

Being just and righteous and even being Christian is not exactly the same thing as being "nice."

Read the Gospel of Mark straight through at a sitting (it's not that long). Now, decide just how the word "nice" applies to Jesus. For an online version click the link.

One of the common modern heresies is that Christians never should give offense, should be "nice." B*llsh*t.
Story here from the Times of India.

NEW DELHI: India has told China that Beijing's steadfast refusal to clarify the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was leading to incursions into Indian territory and political disquiet. The Indian response came after China protested "Indian movements into Sikkim" recently.

The Chinese protest was made at the flag meeting of the commanders well before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent visit to Beijing.

It was followed up by a demarche after the visit. What is less known is the Chinese protest following a formal protest lodged by India on their movements in Arunachal Pradesh. India had complained about Chinese incursions in Arunachal Pradesh and the India-Bhutan tri-junction after repeated instances of Chinese movements which were described as "aggressive."
. . .

More disquieting news, also from the Times of India:

. . . On November 8, Chinese forces demolished some unmanned Indian forward posts near two Army bunkers against which Beijing had raised objections since July. "The Chinese came, destroyed the posts and went back," said an Army officer. The incident is learned to have taken place around November 8. . . .


NEW DELHI: Amid reports of intrusion by Chinese forces in Bhutan, the Army has moved more than 6,000 troops to the Sino-Indian border, close to tri-junction of India, Bhutan and China. However, Army Chief Deepak Kapoor said that reported intrusions of Chinese forces in Bhutan was 'a matter between the two countries'. The shifting of Army formations north of Nathu La comes in the wake of reports of Chinese troops coming close to the Siliguiri corridor. But Army authorities brush it aside, saying that Chinese forces have been coming close to the Dolam Plateau for over two decades as the boundary in the area is still to be defined. Army officials described the movement from Jammu and Kashmir as "routine move-back" of troops to their original locations". . . .


GANGTOK: The Kunming bonhomie notwithstanding, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China is undercutting Indian Army's efforts to strengthen its presence on the border. On November 23, a week before the visit of defence minister A K Antony and chief of army staff Gen Deepak Kapoor to Sikkim, PLA soldiers unloaded boulders in an effort to wreck the construction of a metalled road at Fingertips, a strategic spot near Gurudongmar in North Sikkim. The area is close to the Kangra La pass bordering south-west Tibet.

Indian troops, however, swung into action the next morning, and removed the obstruction. The road construction — at an altitude of 18,500 feet — was completed on November 27. Chinese representatives, however, did not speak about the offensive at Fingertips during a meeting between army representatives from both sides on November 23. They also kept quiet on the bunker dispute at the trijunction of Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet. Significantly, prior to the Fingertips manoeuvre, Chinese troops had entered Indian territory and asked Indian Army personnel manning the border post there to stop construction of the road.

Apparently, the Chinese government believes that any negotiations should be accompanied by intimidation. Which of the presidential aspirants do you think best to handle negotiations with the growing power and ambition of China?
Category: Frivolity
Posted by: an okie gardener
Funny stuff. Not completely safe for work.

From the Rott, link to YouTube.
Tying up a loose end from a week ago. Joseph Ellis is a marvelous historian. His numerous studies of the framers generally offer compelling and insightful analysis buttressed by careful research and tightly wound logic.

Having said that, Professor Ellis advanced a breathtakingly shaky argument in a brief op-ed piece that appeared in the troubled Los Angeles Times last Saturday morning.

His thesis: When it comes to Barack Obama, the candidate's message of hope and togetherness is rooted in our sacred past.

Ellis begins with a summary of the negative:

"Critics of Obama...have described his vision [of unity and bipartisanship] as a naive pipe dream that would be dead on arrival if he were elected president."

"From the beginning of our history, so the argument goes, an Obama-like message has been a rhetorical veneer designed to obscure the less-attractive reality of irreconcilable division and an inherently adversarial party system."

Not so, says Ellis. Obama skeptics fail to consider our early history as a nation. Employing extensive quotes from our first four American presidents, he sets out to prove "all the prominent founders regarded the bipartisan ideal as the essence of political virtue" and "would regard [partisan battles] as a perversion of all that they wished the American republic to become."

True enough. Ellis accurately conveys the words of these "founding brothers," but his argument ignores the obvious discrepancy between their words and deeds. Incredibly, Ellis seems to accept reams of tragically self-deluded and self-serving pieces of self-analysis from the pens of these eighteenth-century luminaries. Even more curious, he ignores his own findings over time, which tell a much richer story of practical reality so often overcoming the ideals and prevailing political theory of the day.

"Adams carried the ideal to such a length that he regarded his defeat in the presidential election of 1800," writes Ellis, "as evidence that he had so eschewed partisanship that he never abandoned the public interest for his own political gain."

Of course, Adams thought himself an innocent victim of partisanship. Rather pathetically, he assured himself that he had lost a national election as a result of his integrity and principles, preserving the above-quoted defense for posterity. But this is the same Adams who saw the Election of 1800 as an historic confrontation between the forces of good and evil. He viewed Jefferson and Madison as traitors to the true republican ideals of the Revolution (and Jefferson himself as a faithless former friend). Moreover, Adams allowed himself to be convinced that the two Republican Party collaborators were, indeed, dangerous Jacobins (radicals who would murder the opposition, burn churches, and cast the nation into the chaos of mob rule).

Ellis also quotes from Washington's foundational "Farewell Address" in which the Father of our Country rails against "the spirit of party." It is quite true that Washington thoroughly hated the evils of partisanship, and the verbiage of the document (mostly written by Alexander Hamilton with some previous aid from James Madison) reflects that vehemence. However, Washington's ire is directed against one party in particular: the aforementioned inchoate party of Jefferson and Madison. Ironically, even as Washington voiced his righteous indignation, he was tacitly protecting and supporting the party of Hamilton and Adams and the Washington administration, the loose political organization we refer to today as the Federalist Party. All the while, of course, Jefferson was busy denying that his organization was a party and maintaining that factional politics was anathema to him and his loyalists. All of it was quite hypocritical (or, perhaps, more charitably, completely lacking in self awareness).

Amazingly, while admitting he "is somewhat tricky on this score," Ellis even tries to shoehorn Thomas Jefferson into his thesis:

"In fact, Jefferson made two of the most eloquent statements against party politics. 'If I must go to heaven in a party,' he claimed, "I prefer not to go at all.' And in his first inaugural address, he stunned his partisan supporters by observing that 'we are all Federalists, we are all Republicans.'"

Those ought to be good laugh lines, really. Jefferson and Madison came to the Federal City in 1801 intent on taking no prisoners. Elegant words be damned, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were devastating practitioners of partisan warfare. In fact, they were so expert that they put the other side out of business--which eventually led to the so-called "Era of Good Feelings" (which it was not).

An alternate interpretation of the evidence Ellis presents? The pols of the eighteenth century took great care that their public personae (and perhaps their own self-perceptions) conformed to the demands of the political culture of their time. However, without exception, the reality of governing the evolving early republic drove its leaders to pound one another relentlessly in a fashion modern-day practitioners of hardball politics might find startling.

Politicians promising a kinder, gentler, and more bipartisan approach have been with us from the beginning. Some of these prophets of non-partisanship may have actually believed their own rhetoric (John Quincy Adams and George W. Bush come to mind), but not one has succeeded in "changing the tone in Washington."
Category: Christian Belief
Posted by: an okie gardener
Story here.

In Las Vegas former prostitutes and strippers evangelize their former sisters-in-sin. The names of the two evangelical groups: Hookers for Jesus, and JC's Girls.

Reminds me of an old story, I think from 19th-century England. A street preacher was holding forth on a corner, backed up by a Salvation Army band. A man in the crowd passed his card to the front to be given the preacher. It was the personal card of a famous lecturer who promoted atheism. After the sermon the lecturer and the preacher conversed, and the atheist challenged the preacher to a public debate, even offering to pay for the venue. The preacher responded, "I'll accept your challenge on one condition: I shall enter the auditorium at the head of a column of former drunkards, thieves, prostitutes, and others whose lives have been redeemed and uplifted through belief in Jesus. You will enter the hall at the head of a column made up of those whose lives have been similarly uplifed by their embrace of atheism. We then will debate.

The debate was never held.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Britain's health-care system provides us with a preview of the questions we eventually will ask ourselves under many, or perhaps all, forms of universal health care. The article headline from the Telegraph says it all.

Don't treat the old and unhealthy, say doctors

With finite resources, such questions will be raised. Should universal health-care devote resources to the elderly or to others who probably will not live much longer in any case?
The world-wide slave trade continues. Article from the Telegraph.

More information, including a link to the 2007 U.S. State Department Report on current slaving here.
Category: US in Iraq
Posted by: an okie gardener
Gateway Pundit has the round-up on the 10-year anniversary of President Clinton's speech, including video link, in which President Clinton asserted that Saddam Hussein had WMD and must be stopped. Also Clinton's 2004 quote supporting the Iraq War on the same grounds.

Until many Democrats decided their partisan advantage lay in attacking Bush, determination to stop Saddam was bi-partisan. To paraphrase Mark Twain--there are liars, damned liars, and unethical politicians.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Tonight, Scots around the world are drinking, eating haggis, feeling proud of the tartans and the land of heather, and toasting the lasses and the poet Robert Burns. You have to love a land whose chief holiday is held on a poet's birthday.

My first year of seminary, 1980-81, I served as youth pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church, Kearny, New Jersey, a Scots and Irish working-class town in sight of the Manhattan skyline. Of our congregation of about 110 on Sunday mornings, roughly 80% had been born across the water, either in Scotland or Northern Ireland. The pastor was a Scot himself, educated at New College, Edinburgh. Sunday morning my wife and I were greeted with the accents of Scotland. There is not one Scottish accent, but several regional ones. I never did learn to understand dear old Mrs. Barclay, from way in the north of Scotland whose English included some sort of Gaelic. When we took our three-week old daughter to church for the first time, Mrs. Barclay looked at her and said with a smile, "What a wee looney!" (What a small baby!)

In Kearny we learned to love fish-and-chips, meat pies, soup for Sunday dinner (made the day before so as not to break the Sabbath), and the people. And Robert Burns. The night of his birthday was "party night" for all people Scottish, or who wished they were. Singing, fellowship, whiskey, and haggis. The Sunday nearest Burns' birthday was "Scottish Heritage Sunday" in church. Standing room only with people coming from all over the New York metropolitan area. Pipers, kilts, and a traditional Scottish Presbyterian service.

One time the Apostle Peter asked Jesus what was in it for him. "Look, we have left everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age--houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions--and in the age to come eternal life.

In Kearny, New Jersey, a long way from Sullivan County, Missouri, or Wayne, County, Iowa, my wife and I received Scottish and Scots-Irish brothers and sisters. The fellowship of those who toast and quote Robert Burns this night.


Words adapated from a traditional song
by Rabbie Burns (1759-96)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine,
And we'll tak a cup o kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine,
But we've wander'd monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin auld lang syne.

And there's a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o thine,
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne


auld lang syne - times gone by
be - pay for
braes - hills
braid - broad
burn - stream
dine - dinner time
fiere - friend
fit - foot
gowans - daisies
guid-willie waught - goodwill drink
monie - many
morning sun - noon
paidl't - paddled
pint-stowp - pint tankard
pou'd - pulled
twa - two

Robert Burns Night from Brits At Their Best

The official Robert Burns site from Scotsweb

The Burns' poem, Address to a Haggis
More bad news from China, for the average Chinese. From the AP.

BEIJING -- Sulfuric acid leaked into the water supply from a chemical factory in central China, poisoning at least 26 villagers who have been admitted to hospital with nausea and swollen faces, authorities said Thursday.

Here is the information that struck me:

Some of the most polluted cities in the world are in China, where many rivers and lakes are toxic after decades of breakneck industrial and economic growth. The State Environmental Protection Administration says about a quarter of all the water in China's seven main river systems is too toxic for human contact.

The official Chinese Environmental Protection Administration--Chinese government agencies are well know for downplaying internal problems--states that about a quarter of all the water in China's seven main river systems is too toxic for human contact--in other words, don't wash with it or swim in it or dare drink it.

Why are "Made in China" products cheaper than "Made in the USA"? In part because we enforce environmental regulations and they usually do not. We buy cheap "Made in China" products at the cost of the health of Chinese workers. Think about that next time you are in WalMart and other stores.

Article from China Post. English language, no language pack needed.
"It cannot be too often repeated that what destroyed the Family in the modern world was Capitalism." G.K. Chesterton in "Three Foes of the Family" found in the collection of his essays The Well and the Shallows.

Conservatives in the United States tend to equate Capitalism with THE WAY GOD INTENDED THINGS TO BE, and think it A NECESSARY ECONOMIC EXPRESSION OF FREEDOM. Since Conservatives also tend to think that THE FAMILY IS THE BEDROCK OF SOCIETY, few conservatives see any necessary conflict between Capitalism and the Family. But, one of the great Conservatives of the Anglosphere--G.K. Chesterton--believed that Capitalism was doing the family to death in the modern age. We would do well to listen to him.

Since his thought will seem strange to contemporary American conservatives, I have taken small, slow steps toward Chesterton's quote given above. Previous posts in this series:

An Introduction to Chesterton, the British author, Roman Catholic, and curmudgeon.

An Introduction to Chesterton's economic thought: Distributism--placing and keeping ownership of the means of production in as many hands as possible; in effect, an economy of small farmers, shopkeepers, and artisans.

Chesterton's view that Market Capitalism estranged people from God's creation by turning everything into a commodity.

Brief historical overview of American evangelicals gradual embrace of capitalism.

Chesterton's economic beliefs are congruent with his Roman Catholicism, putting into print the ideas laid out in Pope Leo XIII's encyclical "Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor."

Now, let's turn to Chesterton's essay, "Three Foes of the Family."
(more below)

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Not long ago, South Carolina representative, Democratic Party heavyweight, and prominent African American, James Clyburn, famously cautioned ex-president Bill Clinton to "chill out" concerning race.

Senator Patrick Leahy, Barack Obama supporter and liberal stalwart, characterized President Clinton's recent comments as "glib cheap shots," finding Mr. Clinton's actions "beneath the dignity of a former president."

Is Mr. Clinton's political barnstorming tour "conduct unbecoming of an ex-president"?

Maybe. But what an hilarious turn of events on a number of levels.

1. Wow! Pat Leahy thinks this is conduct unbecoming of an ex-president? Too bad he was not as discriminating concerning Mr. Clinton's conduct as a serving president. We could have used a bit of his new-found moral compass back in the winter of 1998 and 1999.

2. What is beneath the dignity of a former DEMOCRATIC president? These comments make Pat Leahy uncomfortable? What did he think when ex-president Jimmy Carter called the current president the worst president in history? (Googling for a Leahy repudiation of President Carter. Nothing so far. Will continue to look and report back with any discoveries...).

This is politics. John Lewis and Andy Young (Hillary supporters) don't see anything inappropriate thus far. For Joseph Lowery (Obama supporter), the criticism of Obama smacks of racism. Leahy cries foul. Clinton friends say welcome to the big leagues, rookie. This is politics.

More importantly, Bill may well be doing us a great national favor. He has done it before.

Back in the post-Clarence Thomas era, in which the mere whisper of sexual harassment equaled scandal and ruination, Bill Clinton stemmed the momentum of the sexual harassment juggernaut. Of course, he had not planned to moderate the feminist fever sweeping the political universe in 1998 when revelations of his misconduct with a White House intern threatened his presidency. Nevertheless, he fought to retain his office with every weapon at his disposal (intimidation, stonewalling, and mendacity). Along the way, he found it necessary to water down considerably the newly fashioned stigma of sexual harassment.

Undoubtedly, as a society, we benefited immensely from our raised awareness of powerful men abusing their female subordinates. Moreover, we very much needed to address this indignity, and we continue to do well holding people in authority to higher standards in this area. On the other hand, Democrats and feminists, for purely political purposes, had fanned the issue into an overheated mess poised to do great damage to society.

However, to save their embattled president, the most strident voices went silent on sexual harassment and rallied around Clinton. And the great sexual harassment scare of the 1990s abated somewhat. On the whole, this was a positive development.

Now Bill is making the case that we can and must engage with African Americans in the full-contact sport of American politics. Presumably, Barack Obama will not be the last viable African American candidate for president. Therefore, it is not in our interest to perpetuate a political climate in which we must treat a black man running for office with kid gloves.

No one should have to fight off charges of racism for believing that LBJ was key to civil rights. No one should have their words distorted into "race-baiting" (as Bill Clinton's were) at the fairly mundane charge that a political assertion made by an opponent was a "fairy tale." Moreover, a "moratorium" on discussing admitted cocaine use on the part of an opponent, simply because of his race, is a ludicrous measure of political correctness that has no place in a free society.

This is all treacherous territory, and Bill is wading in where mere mortals fear to tread. Why? Because he is one of the few people in the world who has the political capital to navigate this minefield. Why else? Because he must. Just as he did in the Lewinsky scandal, he is providing a needed corrective to a set of rules that are neither practical nor reasonable. And, similarly, as in the Monica moment, he is taking a hard path out of desperation and self interest--not for the good of America.

Nevertheless, on the whole, it is a positive development.

One last comment: for all the conservative talk radio hosts gleefully rubbing their hands together, yelling into the microphone, and fulminating over Bill's “dastardly use of racial code words," please SHUT UP! Think about what you are saying. This is the very same cudgel that has been wielded against us and a whole host of innocuous comments for decades. Once again conservative Clinton hatred and schadenfreude makes us irrational.

Shut up, stand back, and let Bill Clinton work through all this. We will all benefit from his journey.

23/01: Get Over It

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The other night I watched The Eagles on VH1 and heard a song I had not heard before. "Get Over It" is a conservative/libertarian rebuke to the culture of victimhood. Here are the lyrics.

I turn on the tube and what do I see
A whole lotta people cryin' "Don't blame me"
They point their crooked little fingers at everbody else
spend all their time feelin' sorry for themselves
Victim of this, victim of that
Your momma's too thin; your daddy's too fat

Get over it
Get over it
All this whinin' and cryin' and pitchin' a fit
Get over it, get over it

You say you haven't been the same since you had your little crash
But you might feel better if they gave you some cash
The more I think about it, Old Billy was right
Let's kill all the lawyers - kill 'em tonight
You don't want to work; you want to live like a king
But the big, bad world doesn't owe you a thing

Get over it
Get over it
If you don't want to play, then you might as well split
Get over it, get over it

It's like going to confession every time I hear you speak
You're makin' the most of your losin' streak
Some call it sick, but I call it weak

You drag it around like a ball and chain
You wallow in the guilt; you wallow in the pain
You wave it like a flag, you wear it like a crown
Got your mind in the gutter, bringin' everybody down
Complain about the present and blame it on the past
I'd like to find your inner child and kick its little ass

Get over it
Get over it
All this bitchin' and moanin' and pitchin' a fit
Get over it, get over it

Get over it
Get over it
It's gotta stop sometime, so why don't you quit
Get over it, get over it

Get over it

Great song.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Martian Mariner draws our attention to this essay by Michael Brendan Dougherty.
For those of you committed to the idea of complete moral relativism, that every culture and society is equally valid, and that no one culture or person has a priviliged position from which to criticize another, please read this article on the reconstruction of the records of the Stasi, the East German secret police. Then answer this question: if no society is superior to any other society, would you be happy living in pre-fall East Germany?

Most of the records were recovered intact by German citizens after the fall of the communist regime. But, during the final chaotic months, the secret police managed to shred about 5% of the records; and when the shredder motors burned out, they ripped files up by hand. Given Teutonic order and logic, one can assume that this 5% chosen for destruction first may be especially damning. Today the hand-ripped files are being pieced together, and now computer software has been developed to aid the recovery.

But some of it wasn't. And some of it ... Poppe doesn't know. No one does. Because before it was disbanded, the Stasi shredded or ripped up about 5 percent of its files. That might not sound like much, but the agency had generated perhaps more paper than any other bureaucracy in history — possibly a billion pages of surveillance records, informant accounting, reports on espionage, analyses of foreign press, personnel records, and useless minutiae. There's a record for every time anyone drove across the border.

In the chaos of the days leading up to the actual destruction of the wall and the fall of East Germany's communist government, frantic Stasi agents sent trucks full of documents to the Papierwolfs and Reisswolfs — literally "paper-wolves" and "rip-wolves," German for shredders. As pressure mounted, agents turned to office shredders, and when the motors burned out, they started tearing pages by hand — 45 million of them, ripped into approximately 600 million scraps of paper

. . .
As the enforcement arm of the German Democratic Republic's Communist Party, the Stasi at its height in 1989 employed 91,000 people to watch a country of 16.4 million. A sprawling bureaucracy almost three times the size of Hitler's Gestapo was spying on a population a quarter that of Nazi Germany.

Part of an Evil Empire indeed.

Link from Instapundit.
Dick Morris has it right, essentially, in his latest column:

Clinton Will Win the Nomination by Losing S.C.

Old News: Dick Morris is a hack; that is, he has an uncanny sense for getting things right in the present (what is happening on the ground somewhere today), but he is usually completely misguided in the long term. Hillary was unstoppable until Hillary was finished; now, evidently, Hillary has won the nomination with a clever plan to take advantage of race in this campaign.

One other note: Morris views the world through a deep visceral hatred for the Clintons (especially Hillary).

One last shot: in a year in which the smartest thing I have said all season is "nobody knows anything," it is hard to take a pundit seriously who shamelessly markets his ability to "know all the answers."

Having said that, his thesis today is a near-bullseye.

Hillary will lose South Carolina in a big way as a result of a massive black vote for Obama, which will forever shatter Obama's aura of racial transcendence.

That is correct.

We love Obama because he represents a bridge to a future age in which we will realize the dream of a race-blind society. Although this truly is a contradiction-laden "fairy tale," we desperately want to elect this charismatic African American on the basis of his intellect and character. More than anything else, his ability to provide racial redemption is the foundation for his message of hope.

What Morris so shrewdly detects is the fragility of that political currency. Or, as Margaret Carlson wrote last week, when she saw Al Sharpton on TV defending Barack Obama, she "realized that the Clintons had done what they needed to do to stop Obama's historic surge in its tracks."

A racial division in this contest equals the end of the fantasy.

What Morris and Carlson both exaggerate is the conspiratorial character this latest development in a thoroughly wacky race. I am convinced that the Clintons optimistically strategized at some point that they might actually win the African American vote in South Carolina, casting Obama as not nearly as black as Bill. This would have worked just fine in their big picture. A win is always better than a loss.

However, Obama's viability awakened a race pride in African Americans all over the nation. No problem. Plan B--and I am guessing this idea come on the fly--make Obama run on race. Plan B was helped by Team Obama's lack of foresight in attacking Lyndon Johnson.

In truth, you can believe LBJ was instrumental to civil rights and not be racist, the Bill "fairy tale" remark was taken out of context, and the "moratorium" on discussing Obama's admitted cocaine use is evidence of preferential treatment based on race--not the other way around.

Team Obama stepped into a punch on this one. They needed to fight the perfect fight to win, and they made a mistake. Only time will tell if Obama can overcome the error.

22/01: So Long, Fred

Category: Campaign 2008.9
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Fred is out. A post mortem.

1. Fred was arguably the best candidate--but he ran the worst campaign.

2. There was always an uncomfortable paradox in my prediction that Mrs. Clinton would/will prevail ultimately in the Democratic canvass, which I base(d) on her superior organization, extensive and meticulous pre-planning, financial advantage, and her prodigious will to win, while at the same time I expected Fred Thompson to emerge victorious on the GOP side, even as he offered the worst organization, an almost spontaneous decision to seek the office, a dismal financial foundation, and an eighteenth-century-style disinterest in running.

3. Why my erroneous hunch that Fred could pull it off? I figured Fred had a chance based on the peculiar make-up of the Republican campaign; that is, since all the GOP contenders arrived seriously flawed, the race was always (and still is, most likely) vulnerable to a late-arriving charismatic candidate espousing an enticing mix of confidence, fresh policy ideas, and conservative orthodoxy.

4. Although I wrote that South Carolina was "Fred's Last Stand," in truth, this campaign remains so loony that nothing really necessitates that Fred exit at this moment. But he obviously wants out--and that is that. You can lead a horse to water--but you cannot make him run...

5. What now? McCain or Romney? Or someone else? Is there anyone else? Fred staying in for a longer run would have done more toward keeping things unpredictable, further complicating the drive to amass a majority of delegates. With Fred gone, he increases the chances of one candidate eventually emerging as the winner before the Republican convention. Is this good? The punditry declares that a deadlocked convention gives the Democrats an advantage. I am not sure about that.

6. Perhaps a contested convention would increase interest in the Republican spectacle, offering a platform for whomever might rise from the ashes of Minneapolis. A someone who might not be a currently declared candidate. A dark horse perhaps? Who knows? Moreover, a new candidate appearing in late summer would scramble the opposition research machine and might actually excite the public's short attention span, which, by Labor Day, will undoubtedly see Obama as the familiar and be looking for something new by then.

The wildest possibility: Fred emerges as a compromise choice in a deadlocked convention (with Newt Gingrich as the VP).

7. Back to reality: with Fred out, look for the rest of conservative orthodoxy to reluctantly line up behind Romney, setting up the battle royale between the McCain insurgents and the forces of the neo-traditional Rush Limbaugh wing of the party.

PS After his loss in South Carolina, seemingly, finally Huckabee should be "Hucka-was."
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, long has been a stronghold of the Presbyterian Church, as has western Pennsylvania in general.

The troubles of the national denomination over issues such as recognition of same-sex practice are affecting congregations withing the Presbyterian heartland.
This article from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review online:

The congregation of the largest church in the Pittsburgh Presbytery voted overwhelmingly Sunday to split with the national church and join a smaller, more conservative Presbyterian denomination.

The Mainline Denominations continue their move to the sideline.
This article from Christianity Today on the growing strength of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention, especially in the seminaries.

Calvinism is not new for the SBC. Baptists in America root back to the Particular Baptists of England. The Philadelphia Confession, the statement of faith of the largest and most influential Baptist association in the colonies, is a Baptist descendent of the Westminister Confession. Sometime in the 1830s-1850s, Calvinism gradually lost its grip on the majority of Baptists in the United States. It is not accidental that the first major split among colonial Baptists resulted in the formation of the Free Will Baptists, taking their name from their rejection of the dominant Calvinism of their fellow churches.

Calvinism always will be attractive to evangelicals looking for a comprehensive world-and-life view. Protestantism has generated few systems of thought that can comprehend science, philosophy, government, etc. to compete with Roman Catholic, especially Thomistic teaching. Calvinism is the most comprehensive system of Protestantism.
April 16, 1963


While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

------- *AUTHOR'S NOTE: This response to a published statement by eight fellow clergymen from Alabama (Bishop C. C. J. Carpenter, Bishop Joseph A. Durick, Rabbi Hilton L. Grafman, Bishop Paul Hardin, Bishop Holan B. Harmon, the Reverend George M. Murray. the Reverend Edward V. Ramage and the Reverend Earl Stallings) was composed under somewhat constricting circumstance. Begun on the margins of the newspaper in which the statement appeared while I was in jail, the letter was continued on scraps of writing paper supplied by a friendly Negro trusty, and concluded on a pad my attorneys were eventually permitted to. leave me. Although the text remains in substance unaltered, I have indulged in the author's prerogative of polishing it for publication. -------

I think I should indicate why I am here In Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

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Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Why I am committed to local church ministry.

Lou Lotz says it better than I could: Click on the link below, then on the toolbar that appears click CONTENTS, then on the pull-down menu click SIGNS OF THE KINGDOM.

Ordinary Time
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
It seems to me that what people will do depends in part on what people think is possible. If someone has never heard of something, then the odds are against that someone thinking of it. If someone has heard of it, but thinks it impossible, then the odds also are against that someone trying it.

"Possible" for most people also includes the consequences of an action. If we know that an action is likely to cause us distress, then we are less apt to do it. "Distress" can be caused by punishment, including the punishment of being shunned by others in society. If society overwhelming says, "This is wrong and if you do it we will treat you as a pariah," then most people will refrain from the action.

We all have internal drives. But the expression of these drives I think depends on the factors given above. And, I think internal drives can be shaped by what we learn and think possible.

At present, our society has few taboos. Self-gratification is exalted. And the internet has provided the means for scattered individuals to find "communities" of those with like drives and tastes.

We have lots of green lights, and very few red ones.

Boy Charged with Raping Dog. Here is the excerpt that really got my attention: "These crimes are getting more and more common. And it’s very disturbing," she said."

More and more common? We may reach a point where the guys in Sodom would hurl at what our people do.

For the last 50 years we have defined "freedom" as the uninhibited self-expression of the individual. Chickens do come home to roost, though in the U.S., they may want to roost on a high branch.
Maybe it is a good thing that China will be hosting the Olympics.

When first announced, I grumbled about the choice. But, the publicity in the run-up to the games has prompted discussion and debate about China's poor human-rights record

From the Ottawa Citizen, link from Netherlands Post this article on controversy in The Netherlands over participation by Dutch athletes in the Olympics. Some excerpts:

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The Netherlands irked Olympics host China on Thursday by going ahead with a discussion of the country's human rights record and the Games, despite a warning by the Chinese ambassador that the debate was offensive.

The Chinese government does not understand public relations in the West. Their response to any criticism, no matter how mild, seems always to be anger and threats. Maybe they do not know how to deal with free citizens.

Members of Tibetan groups, an organization representing the interests of the banned Chinese spiritual group Falun Gong and rights activists queued up at the microphone to express their views, many demanding a boycott of the Games. "What are you doing to stop the persecution?," "Sport doesn't live in a vacuum," and "We're being pushed under the table" were among the emotional and frustrated pleas made by such groups. [Dutch Foreign Minister] Verhagen said that a boycott would be counterproductive, and that dialogue would achieve more. But he expressed concern that respect for human rights in China seemed to be deteriorating in the run-up to the Games. "You do see a worsening situation if you look to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and we have to address these issues with China," he said.

Perhaps shining some more light into this dark corner of the world may help. CNN has this video report on Tibetan monks celebrating the honoring of the Dalai Lama by the U.S. Congress, and their repression by Chinese authorities. Previous posts:

Amnesty International report on worsening of human rights in China as Olympics near.

Call from the Dream for Darfur group for boycotts of the China Olympics to put pressure on China to end its support for the genocidal regime in The Sudan.
Category: Campaign 2008.9
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few final thoughts on South Carolina:

1. The most recent numbers in South Carolina continue to indicate a two-man race between John McCain and Mike Huckabee. Of course, while scientific samplings are fairly accurate most of the time, we have grown accustomed to wildly erroneous polling in recent days. Is there one more surprise out there? That is, can Fred Thompson come from nowhere to impact this contest? Unlikely on its face--but certainly not impossible.

An aside: In a real physical sense, I cannot seem to accept the idea of McCain or Huckabee winning tomorrow night. Of course, that very well may be my heart talking--rather than some prescient instinct.

2. Some positive notes:

With Romney concentrating on Nevada, the "Stop McCain and Huckabee" movement has one clear alternative in the Palmetto State: Fred.

The late-breaking “undecideds” are the element that has been giving pollsters fits. Fred has a shot at swaying this vital segment (see below).

If the conservative establishment has any power in South Carolina, Fred Thompson ought to win a lot of votes. The big boys of talk radio have pressed hard for Thompson over the last forty-eight hours. They are the noncoms of the conservative army--and they are important. How influential? We will know soon.

Fred is doing us proud, finally hitting his stride and finding his voice (to borrow a phrase). For the last fortnight, he has been heads and tails above the crowd at every outing.

3. Pointing Fingers: Fred's unorthodox anti-campaign campaign is an acquired taste; it takes time to appreciate his retro approach. I sense that he is on the verge of breaking through, but almost is not going to make it tomorrow night. No results in SC and Fred Thompson is finished.

If he does not come through tomorrow night, who to blame?

The Republican faithful for overlooking him amidst the circus; we should have worked harder to see the big picture.

The media for dismissing him when he turned out to be different than what they anticipated.

And Fred himself for not giving us more time. It is one thing to wage a laid-back under-the-radar campaign that attempts to turn back time--but he should have understood that his method might take some time to sink in. Offering the least glitzy and least dynamic style is not a good combination with the most truncated campaign.

4. Not writing Fred off (holding out some hope), but, if the worst happens, it is Romney the rest of the way by default.
Category: Campaign 2008.9
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From Tocqueville (Wednesday PM):

Last night, Romney lifted this message directly from Rush Limbaugh's program yesterday, which I think was a GREAT move:

"Tonight is a victory for optimism over Washington-style pessimism. (applause) What we're going to see in the next few days is Democrats say that they're the party of change. (grumbling) You're going to hear Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards, saying that they're the party of change, and I think they would bring change to America, just not the kind we want. You see, I think they take their inspiration from the Europe of old: big government, Big Brother, big taxes. They fundamentally in their hearts believe, that America is great because we have a great government -- and we do have a great government, but that's not what makes us the best nation, the strongest nation, the greatest nation on earth. What makes us such a great nation is the American people. I take my inspiration from Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush, who said we are a great and good people. It's exactly what we are, it's why we will always be the most powerful nation on earth."

A Waco Farmer:

I agree with Tocqueville. You have to admire Romney's game. He is smart enough to understand that he cannot win the nomination without bringing along Limbaugh (unlike Huck and McCain—who seem unwilling to accept this basic fact of life). Romney is positioning himself as an acceptable alternative to Huckabee and/or McCain. In my mind, this race comes down to a contest between Romney and Thompson. Rush is clearly for Thompson, and Thompson has his last last chance on Saturday night in South Carolina. But if Thompson cannot get traction, Limbaugh et al will have no choice but to support Romney to thwart either Huckabee or McCain, both of whom he detests.

Another note: I haven't heard as much impassioned yelling on Talk Radio in years. The conservative talkers are pulling out all the stops to stop Mac and Huck--and they will.

One last note: as the economy cools down (and heats up as an issue—what war in Iraq?), Romney and his optimism becomes increasingly attractive. He is authentically the no-nonsense, straight arrow whom we can trust to fix things.

The path to victory for Romney is suddenly wide open and well lit.
An admission: I did not watch politics last night. I spent most of the evening thinking about Lyndon Johnson. Nevertheless, here is what I think last night might mean.

Some quick reactions to Michigan off the top of my head:

1. The Y2K of American politics failed to materialize last night. The season of the witches for conservative orthodoxy perhaps is coming to a close.

I have said this once before and been dead wrong, but I declare John McCain officially finished. If he cannot win in Michigan with all the available independents and Democrats, how can he win in core Republican venues? McCain will run hard in South Carolina, of course, but his chances there seem increasingly improbable. A loss in the Palmetto State places his campaign on a seemingly unrecoverable lethal trajectory.

2. Romney had a great week campaigning. A lot of observers (including our Tocqueville--who predicted this big win) sensed a renewed vigor in the former Massachusetts governor. He looks to be hitting his stride.

3. Romney is back. Since the entire canvass remains so horribly muddled, Michigan places Romney back on top of the game (at least for a brief moment). Despite all the talk over the last twelve days of his demise, Romney now rolls into the South with momentum and the aura of a winner. While South Carolina will undoubtedly take the bloom off of that a bit--the trip to the winner's circle in an important contest permanently changes public perception of this candidate. Romney is now indisputably viable.

4. No poll before last night has any meaning. We can expect a big bounce for Romney and a big dip for McCain following this telling contest.

5. Huckawho? The next must-win scenario? Mike Huckabee must take South Carolina. My hunch is that he is in trouble there--but we will see soon enough. In terms of perception, the media focus on Huckabee in New Hampshire and Michigan helped to raise his name recognition, but coming in third in those two primaries tends to color him as a perennial loser. Iowa seems like a month ago. The fresh images of Huckabee portray him as an affable also-ran.

6. South Carolina is Fred's last last chance. He seems to be surging somewhat. Will it be enough? For months I have wondered if we are waiting on a broken-down bus. Well I can hear the bus rumbling down the street blocks away. Will it arrive on cue to get us to the dance just in the nick of time?
In my last post, I asserted that Lyndon Johnson brilliantly seized a fleeting moment in American history and used his unique skills to accomplish what few others could have or would have: the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. It is not racist to admit this obvious truth. If you love civil rights, three cheers for Lyndon Johnson!

Lyndon Johnson struck many observers as an unlikely champion of civil rights in that he was a Democrat, a Southerner (Texan), and a famously adroit legislative deal maker, known for his ability to count votes and bend opponents to his interests. While he had articulated the southern orthodoxy of racial segregation early in his career, he famously proclaimed that his later actions sprang from a "change of heart."

Johnson's authentic sensitivity toward the plight of African Americans was sincere, organic, and a lifetime in the making. However, a legend has grown up around this historic legislative accomplishment.

According to the tradition, after signing the landmark legislation in 1964, Johnson purportedly turned to a young aide and proclaimed: "We have lost the South for a generation." This jewel of political prescience is a favorite for pundits and academics, illustrating for many LBJ's courage, integrity, and dedication to racial justice in the face of certain electoral disaster.

Did Johnson really say it?

Perhaps. The source for the quote is Bill Moyers, Johnson's youthful press secretary at the time. Is Moyers a credible historical source? His access and proximity to the President certainly makes him worth considering. On the other hand, I sometimes have difficulty determining when Moyers is preaching, reporting, or opining; more troubling, I am not sure that even he is always readily capable of such distinctions.

Even if the quote is accurate, was Johnson really conceding the South to his arch rivals, the Republicans?

Not likely. No matter how convicted the Texan president found himself on civil rights, he was no political martyr. As vice president, pitching a civil rights bill to President Kennedy, Ted Sorenson remembers Johnson arguing that the losses in the South (if they occurred) would come from states that were already in transition. In effect, Johnson made the case that much of the South was lost anyway. In fact, the Republicans had already made giant strides in the region during the Eisenhower administration.

Could Johnson actually have envisioned the inclusion of African American voters as a curative for an emerging realignment?

And this is where the unabashed speculation begins...

Johnson came of age politically on the edge of South Texas where Democratic Party bosses had "voted Mexicans" en masse with regularity and success; that is, truckloads of brown-skinned voters would be carted to polling places on election day and instructed for whom to vote, for a price. For that time and place, using Latino votes as a blunt instrument was merely politics as usual.

Moreover, Johnson came of age in an era in which the Huey Long Machine in Louisiana, his neighboring state to the east, voted African Americans in massive numbers. Long had proved himself a visionary in this regard. While every other southern state took great pains to bar black voting in any significant numbers during the Jim-Crow Era, Long boldly combined the black vote with poor whites to achieve a populist coalition and a personal fiefdom in the Bayou State.

Was Johnson influenced by these examples of successfully manipulating minority votes? Frankly, I am not nearly enough of a Johnson scholar to make that case with any specificity or certainty.

However, this alternative explanation makes at least as much sense as the more popular legend. While sincerely believing in civil rights, Johnson was also inclined to pursue the transformational legislation with a hope of wresting a more secure political future for his party. In many ways, this scenario is a better fit with the LBJ we think we know than a political suicide mission to achieve justice no matter the cost.
Lyndon Johnson was essential to the Civil Rights Moment of 1964 and 1965.

I love King--and I believe he was the indispensable man in the civil rights breakthrough of mid-century--but there is no racism in giving poor old Lyndon Johnson his due.

Some inside-baseball (history shop talk) background information in a nutshell:

Historians have long argued over whether great men make history or exceptional (but not necessarily indispensable) people sit atop gigantic popular waves that break across the cultural landscape. Is history essentially biography? Or, is the graveyard full of "indispensable" men?

In truth, historical events are complicated webs of contingency. The Civil Rights Moment is a giant river full of diverse currents. We have a tendency to simplistically credit King and Rosa Parks for bringing about a social revolution--but things are much more complicated than that. The story goes back at least a century. The platform on which King stood was built by a legion of greats: Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington, A. Philip Randolph, Charles Houston, Thurgood Marshall, Bayard Rustin, and a whole host of others.

Moreover, the landmark legislation arrived as the product of a collective change of racial sensibilities in the USA, which occurred as a result of a transformed post-war international political reality, a changing economy, a newly activated federal judiciary, the advent of television, the negative example of Nazi Germany, the hard work of civil rights organizations, and much, much more.

Having said that, just as it is hard to imagine a successful American Revolution without the exceptional leadership and personal force of George Washington, the progress of the 1960s would not have transpired as it did without the person of Martin Luther King. We are right to honor King and Washington as national heroes and role models.

Just the same, there are some silly questions out there that we need not answer. Who was responsible for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965? Lyndon Johnson or Martin Luther King?


While it is true that the re-emergence of King in the tumultuous spring of 1963 and the violent images of Birmingham pushed President Kennedy to endorse a sweeping civil rights bill that June, even after the dramatic pep rally in the nation's capital (the March on Washington) that summer, in which MLK shared his dream with a massive American audience, the legislation was a dead letter by fall. What saved the bill? The assassination of JFK in November, which allowed the new president, Lyndon Johnson, the legislative genius and former "master of the Senate," to leverage the "martyrdom" of the slain president to achieve "racial justice" as a "monument" to a fallen American hero.

Did Lyndon Johnson play a vital role in this event? You bet. LBJ seized the moment and used his unique skills to accomplish what few others could have or would have. It is not racist to admit this obvious truth. If you love civil rights, three cheers for Lyndon Johnson!
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
In a previous post I commented on the remarks of Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali as reported in the Telegraph:

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester and the Church's only Asian bishop, says that people of a different race or faith face physical attack if they live or work in communities dominated by a strict Muslim ideology.
. . .
Bishop Nazir-Ali, who was born in Pakistan, gives warning that attempts are being made to give Britain an increasingly Islamic character by introducing the call to prayer and wider use of sharia law, a legal system based on the Koran.

In an attack on the Government's response to immigration and the influx of "people of other faiths to these shores", he blames its "novel philosophy of multiculturalism" for allowing society to become deeply divided, and accuses ministers of lacking a "moral and spiritual vision".

I wrote:

"When a society abandons faith and confidence in its own worth, and ceases to demand a reasonable level of social integration and assimilation, the result is a mulitiplicity of enclaves who happen to share national borders."

The Telegraph now has a follow-up article to Bishop Nazir-Ali's comments, which have sparked contention in Britain. In the article the reporter interviewed several people. Here are some excerpts:

"I feel like an alien, like I'm on a street in Karachi," Mr Carbin says, awkwardly. "I don't feel I have anything in common with this area. It's like I've never been here before. I knew it would be different but I knew, too, that I would feel uncomfortably like I don't belong." He now lives just 10 miles away, in the north of Bradford. He hasn't returned because Oak Lane, like so many similar areas of so many northern cities, is now an almost exclusive Asian Muslim community. Mr Carbin is far from a racist, however. Well educated and widely travelled in Muslim countries, he has the utmost respect for the Islamic religion. What is worrying him is that Britain's increasing espousal of multiculturalism has led not to an integrated society but, instead, to ghettoisation, with white-only and Asian-only communities existing cheek by jowl but with little or no common ground. And that, he believes, could have an ominous outcome.
. . .
In the surrounding streets, the few white residents willing to talk speak of isolation rather than intimidation. One said he had had several members of the Asian community knocking on his door, asking if he wanted to sell his home. "At face value, that seems innocuous," he says. "But others believe it was a message saying I should get out." Another tells of how his father, an electrician, parked his van in the area only to have it rocked and thumped by a group of Asian youths telling him: "This is our area now. You are not welcome here." It surprises no one, he says, knowingly, that a recently built massive police station, complete with a 30ft wall and a communications tower, now dominates upper Oak Lane. In the nearby town of Dewsbury, which was once, like Bradford, a thriving mill area, similar enclaves exist. Local people were outraged recently to read that busy nurses at their local hospital had to allocate time to turning the beds of Muslim patients towards Mecca five times a day so that they could pray.

We Americans face a similar future is we abandon the idea of a common culture and assimilation. Assimilation does not mean giving up all aspects of ethnic identity. It does mean a common political, legal, economic, and language culture. Without this commonality, we do not have integration, but segregation instead.
After 9/11 President Bush made one of the most momentous choices in modern history and set a goal that is truly mind-boggling in its ambition: to transform the Islamic world into free and just societies.

He could have chosen the Clinton approach, treated the bombings as a matter of law-breaking and pursued the conspirators in a law-enforcement mode. But, he knew the bombings were an act of war, and must be responded to as such.

He could have chosen a purely punative approach, with the goal of punishing the guilty and frightening potential enemies away from similar future attacks. The American military was fully capable of leaving a trail of death and destruction through the Islamic world that would still be retold a thousand years from now: cities in smoking ruin, possibly radioactive. We could have made Attila and Tamerlane and Genghis Khan seem half-hearted.

But he chose a different path: transformation of Islamic lands. Using military force, yes, but with the goal and the methods not destruction and death, but rather to recreate new societies in which justice and peace could flourish.

In the history of the world, that is a major, major decision.

Will the goal be met? We, or perhaps our children, will see. But, Afghanistan and Iraq are on their way toward becoming just societies; and there are signs of hope also in other places.

Gateway Pundit has excerpts from President Bush's recent speech in Abu Dhabi, and a link to the full text. Amazing. Here is a portion:

The United States has no desire for territory. We seek our shared security in your liberty. We believe that stability can only come through a free and just Middle East -- where the extremists are marginalized by millions of moms and dads who want the same opportunities for their children that we have for ours.

To the people of Iraq: You have made your choice for democracy, and you have stood firm in face of terrible acts of murder. The terrorists and extremists cannot prevail. They are tormented by the sight of an old man voting, or a young girl going to school -- because they know a successful democracy is a mortal threat to their ambitions. The United States is fighting side by side with Sunni and Shia and Kurd to root out the terrorists and extremists. We have dealt them serious blows. The United States will continue to support you as you build the institutions of a free society. And together we'll defeat our common enemies.

To the people of Iran: You are rich in culture and talent. You have a right to live under a government that listens to your wishes, respects your talents, and allows you to build better lives for your families. Unfortunately, your government denies you these opportunities, and threatens the peace and stability of your neighbors. So we call on the regime in Tehran to heed your will, and to make itself accountable to you. The day will come when the people of Iran have a government that embraces liberty and justice, and Iran joins the community of free nations. And when that good day comes, you will have no better friend than the United States of America.
. . .
For most of the world, there's no greater symbol of America than the Statue of Liberty. It was designed by a man who traveled widely in this part of the world -- and who had originally envisioned his woman bearing a torch as standing over the Suez Canal. Ultimately, of course, it was erected in New York Harbor, where it has been an inspiration to generations of immigrants. One of these immigrants was a poet-writer named Ameen Rihani. Gazing at her lamp held high, he wondered whether her sister might be erected in the lands of his Arab forefathers. Here is how he put it: "When will you turn your face toward the East, oh Liberty?"

My friends, a future of liberty stands before you. It is your right. It is your dream. And it is your destiny.

God bless. (Applause.)

As I have written before, President Bush is a Christian post-millenialist in his beliefs and actions, whether he knows it or not. He believes that God is working in this world through human agency to transform this fallen, violent, sinful world into an era of peace and justice.

GW dreams big, even for a Texan.
Category: Farmer's Favorites
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I wrote this piece more than a year ago (New Year's Eve, 2006). Some of it I got right--some of it I missed. But I submit that the post is worth reconsidering on this near-anniversary of the surge, and in the midst of this hotly contested primary campaign, as the basic dynamic I describe below remains at work (at least partially) in 2008.

One other comment: Hillary did not make the choice for which I hoped--but, in retrospect, if she had, it is doubtful that she could have survived this long. I wildly underestimated how much her base wants George Bush and the United States to lose this war at any cost.

From December 31, 2006:

Clinton-44: Part III: Hillary's Choice

Hillary Clinton is still the most likely person to be elected the forty-fourth president of the United States in 2008 (see Part I). If she is elected, America will endure (see Part II); perhaps, we will even prosper.

Clinton-44: Part III. Why it might even be good:

1. We have reason to hope that Republicans will better inhabit the role of loyal opposition than the erstwhile players.

2. Most importantly, if Mrs. Clinton remains faithful to her record and rhetoric, her election will commit the Democratic Party en masse to the global war on terror. Just as Harry Truman and the Democrats owned the Cold War until Dwight Eisenhower came along and embraced the policy, the War on Terror at this moment is a unilateral Republican policy. It is vital for American survival that the Democrats have a partisan interest in our success in the larger war on terror.

A crucial time. Mrs. Clinton is at a crossroads right now. Does she stand pat on her Iraq position? Or should she hedge her bet? During the next few days, President Bush will reaffirm his commitment to winning in Iraq, and he will announce a "surge" in troops (very likely a number larger than many of us are prepared for). Will Mrs. Clinton support the President? Or will she join John Kerry and John Edwards, who have both repudiated their 2002 support and are vocally advocating for an expedited withdrawal? Hillary's choice will be the most important decision of her political career, and not merely vital for her personally; her determination goes a long way toward shaping our future as a nation.

Her political calculation: To win the general election, Mrs. Clinton must cast herself as a moderate Democrat, tough on terror, strong on defense, realistic on taxes and sane on the cultural issues. She has steadily constructed this political persona for almost a decade. For the most part, she has succeeded grandly. As a result, most of the other moderate Democrats are fleeing the field, leaving the canvass to Mrs. Clinton.

An aside: Most handicappers have this race down to Hillary and Barack Obama (the candidate who has burst onto the political scene from nowhere to become a viable choice with astonishing momentum). Not invested in the original decision to invade Iraq, Obama has made the safest bet: he opposes increased troop levels (his statement here ). This is clearly the best route for him, as it highlights his original opposition to what has become an incredibly unpopular military action. His compelling answer to the inevitable question of experience: "My opponent may have a few years on me, but I have enough common sense to avoid a debacle." Notwithstanding, there are weaknesses in this strategy (see below).

Back to Clinton: Although she wobbled a bit this week, significantly, Mrs. Clinton has not laid the predicate for supporting a precipitous exit from Iraq. Why has she remained firm thus far? She understands that success in Iraq is in her interest. Best case scenario for candidate Clinton in 2008? A passive Iraq quietly building strength below the media radar. In fairness to her, she also understands that wresting a stable Iraq from the current chaos is in America's vital national interests, comprehending the catastrophic consequences of a humiliating withdrawal.

The Politics: Mrs. Clinton is the frontrunner. She is a superstar; she sits atop the best organization in the contest; she has unlimited access to money, and she (in partnership with her husband) has spent a lifetime locking in endorsements, racking up favors, and collecting promises from all the key players in the upcoming primary battle. But she has a dilemma. If a volatile Iraq continues to deteriorate through January 2008, her opponents in the Democratic primary will inflict monumental damage depicting her as George Bush's enabler. Can she survive that? Impossible to say.

On the other hand, staying the course may be the wiser political move. She is not in a desperate position like John Edwards, who must publicly and repeatedly repent to resurrect his 2008 viability. She does not need to appeal to the most radical elements in her party, who detest the war. A degree of hawkishness and faith in American good intentions helps her in the heartland.

The McCain factor: More significantly, if she abandons ship, and the plan to increase troop levels succeeds, she is in real trouble in the general election. Surprisingly, John McCain seems now in position to secure the Republican nomination. Increased troop strength is John McCain's recipe for success. He has been sounding this call for three years. If this last gasp works, John McCain (with the willing aid of President Bush) takes full credit for the change in tactics. If Hillary deserts the cause at this late date, and the new plan works, she cedes the foreign policy high ground to her Republican opponent. On the other hand, if she stays true to her previous commitment, she fights McCain on even ground in November of 2008.

This is an extremely vexing political decision. But it is momentous. If she holds firm, the Democratic Senate leadership in the Senate will back her. With the support of Mrs. Clinton, Joe Biden, and Joe Lieberman, the United States gets one more chance to snatch victory from the awful struggle in Iraq.

Dick Morris wrote an insightful piece a few weeks ago (read it here courtesy of Jewish World Review).

He begs us not to elect Hillary Clinton and enumerates a long list of reasons why she would be a disaster. Undoubtedly, he has a lot of this right. I agree with much of his unflattering character profile. Morris is a canny operator and an insightful observer with expert knowledge of the Clintons. Having said that, Morris's analysis is always flavored by his hatred for them (especially intense for Hillary), which clouds his judgment.

Even so, Morris points out that Hillary, in contradistinction to Bill, is rigid and stubborn, inclined to make up her mind and "charge ahead and do what she thinks needs to be done, the torpedoes be damned." Morris sees this as a horrendous flaw, and I would agree with him in ordinary circumstances; however, in this case it may work to our national benefit. We need stubborn more than practical right now.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Guest Blog: Tocqueville

These two comments appeared under posts over the last twenty-four hours from regular reader and contributor, Tocqueville--but I am convinced we will all benefit from a wider consideration of these two observations.

Hillary and Obama

Obama has proceeded under a golden aura of unquestioned veracity, and I guess it's true that no one in the MSM wants to be the first to point out a few things e.g. the dissonance between his let's-all-get-along sloganeering and his hard-left positions, between the bring-people-together rhetoric and a record empty of actually bringing people together.

Hillary has gotten kind treatment too. Her gaffe on the Pakistani election -- mistakenly assuming that Musharraf was running -- would have had the media screaming for a scalp if Bush or any of this year's R[epublican] candidates had done it. They swept it under the rug. Steinem's piece the other day was absurd -- a woman never is the front-runner, indeed -- the day before Hillary became the front-runner again, as she has been since before she announced! NB: Steinem's preferred candidate is a woman whose husband serially abuses powerless women, and her most important job to know, her qualifying experience if you will, has been the further abuse and if necessary the destruction of those same women. Steinem and Hillary are moral idiots.

John F. Kerry's endorsement of Obama

OK, so John Francois Kerry has endorsed B. Hussein Obama, an announcement for
which we have waited impatiently. Now the suspense mounts unbearably
and the larger and most momentous question becomes: "Whom will Dukakis
endorse?" The Free World awaits breathlessly. Stay tuned for McGovern and Mondale's endorsements.

One additional thought from a Waco Farmer: perhaps Kerry's endorsement of Obama will carry as much weight as Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean during the last cycle.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Just for grins tonight, I have taken 4 online quizzes that are supposedly designed to help me determine which presidential candidate most closely matches my own positions.

The quizzes varied in length, and in the sophistication of the questions, as well as in the number of possible responses per question.

For what it's worth, here is how I scored.

quizrocket (they will ask for contact information, though that can be worked around) #1 Giuliani

VAJOE #1 Gravel #2 Giuliani (I'm still trying to figure that one out.)

VoteChooser #1 (tie) Romney, McCain #2 (tie) Giuliani, Huckabee

WQAD (link from FreeRepublic) #1 Hunter #2 Thompson

I am not sure I know more than I did, but I guess Obama, Clinton, and Edwards are out for me.

One thing I did have reinforced, there are some important issues that I am not entirely clear in my head about the solutions I favor: most important illegal immigrants already in the United States, and health care.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
I have started playing around with Vote Gopher and like it so far. Anyone else using it? It is easy to use and seems accurate in what I have looked up so far.
Category: Campaign 2008.9
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Yes, that line forms on the right, babe
Now that Macky’s back in town …
Look out … old Macky is back!!

For McCain, this must seem like deja vu all over again. After the astounding win in New Hampshire this week, he faces all the same questions he did in 2000. Can he convert his triumph in the Granite State into victories out West and down South? As before, he is comparatively low on money, and he must rise above his counter-productive popularity with the liberal-leaning mainstream media and the stigma of winning New Hampshire with the wrong voters.

Last time around, he won Michigan following New Hampshire but then met his Waterloo in South Carolina--after which, the wheels came off with disturbing rapidity.

Will history repeat itself? Will John McCain be the Ohio State of American politics?

South Carolina 2008 will not shake out exactly as it did in 2000, for this current race is so fundamentally different from eight years ago. Back then it was a two-man contest. Today there are perhaps five viable candidates--three of whom see South Carolina as a must-win (McCain, Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson).

Significantly, Romney has backed off in South Carolina for the moment--concentrating on the showdown with McCain in Michigan. Will Romney fold, if he loses Michigan? Maybe--but the Romney camp swears he will press on. We will see.

An Aside: In general, I have wondered whether Romney would stay in this race even after his own chances diminished, just to hammer McCain. That is, no matter what, would Romney remain an inexhaustible ubiquitous force in this campaign as a generic funder of anti-McCain media? But, evidently, he will not play that role in South Carolina (or Florida?)--which means there are limits to how much effort and fortune Romney is willing to expend in this campaign.

Bottom line: The other guys are going to have to pay their own freight and come up with their own anti-McCain ads. This is a huge help to McCain in the Palmetto State and good news for him in general.

Huckabee and Thompson. The media is playing up Huckabee's "southernness" and his affinity with evangelicals, who make up a large segment of Republican primary voters in South Carolina. All of this may work out just fine for Huckabee--but I would not be at all surprised if we find that South Carolinians see Arkansans as less southern than Tennesseans.

What a fool believes (speaking of myself, of course): considering the full spectrum of conservative policy positions, Fred Thompson has a chance (his absolutely last opportunity) to emerge victorious in the first southern state primary. Again, we'll see; Fred has a long way to go and a short time to get there.

One other thing, evangelicals are much more diverse and complicated than the folks who work at Rockefeller Center can ever fathom. Huckabee is not necessarily a slam dunk for conservative evangelicals in the Deep South. Remember, a significant number of southern evangelicals abandoned their fellow Baptist, Jimmy Carter, to vote for a divorced Presbyterian from Hollywood in 1980.

One last note on Fred. For the first one hundred years of American politics, candidates for president never ran for office; rather, they stood for office. That is, instead of soliciting votes personally, candidates announced that they would accept elective office as servants of the public interest, if the public so desired. Although this pose was somewhat disingenuous, candidates eschewed personal campaigns (no kissing babies, endless handshaking, or litany of promises). In theory, they waited for the electorate to find them.

Fred is running the closest thing to an old-style campaign that we have witnessed in one hundred years. It is interesting--and in this tumultuous year in which the unexpected has become the rule, his off-beat approach has a chance of working. We will see.

Can McCain win South Carolina? Yes. He is great on the war--and that is great in the South. He has Lindsey Graham--and that helps. Having said that, things are still very tough for him. The conservative establishment is still extremely antagonistic and unforgiving. As for Republican voters in general, McCain is most vulnerable on immigration. I suppose we will see how powerful that issue really resonates with the base--but McCain's defense does not stand up to much scrutiny on this subject. For a self-proclaimed straight shooter, McCain's Clintonesque reliance on a semantically slippery definition of "amnesty" does real damage to his image.

One last cheap shot at McCain (but maybe it is worth noting):

In an era in which "forty is the new thirty," forty-six year-old Barack Obama seems much younger than the forty-three year-old 1960-vintage JFK, whom we view through the prism of history and mostly gray scale images.

In contrast, in an era in which "seventy is the new sixty," John McCain looks every day his age. The oldest president ever was Ronald Reagan--but he was a movie star, who maintained his matinee idol good looks and athletic vigor for all of his public life. The seventy-one year-old McCain is craggy-faced and unhealthy looking. In this era, McCain's physical appearance and stamina could prove a significant deficit to his campaign.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Read this. From my favorite left-leaning social/political commentator.

Excerpt: Hillary's willingness to tolerate Bill's compulsive philandering is a function of her general contempt for men. She distrusts them and feels morally superior to them. Following the pattern of her long-suffering mother, she thinks it is her mission to endure every insult and personal degradation for a higher cause -- which, unlike her self-sacrificing mother, she identifies with her near-messianic personal ambition.

The MSM usually speak of the Gender Gap as the Republican inablity to capture the "Women's Vote." I prefer to think of the Gender Gap as the modern Democrat Party's inability to capture the "Men's Vote."
Posted by: an okie gardener
The things people say when they are confident no one will behead them or blow up their building.

Gateway Pundit has the story, and video links, of comments made on The View by Joy Behar to the effect that the Saints of the Church all were psychotics who heard voices. Today we have no saints, she said, because of medications. From the transcript:

JOY BEHAR: I’m going to get in trouble for this, but you know what? I have a theory that you can’t find any saints any more because of psycho-tropic medication. I think that the old days the saints were hearing voices and they didn’t have any thorazine to calm them down. [laughter] Now that we have all of this medication available to us, you can’t find a saint any more.

In the same post Gateway Pundit has information on another anti-Christian attack, this time against evangelicals and Huckabee that aired on an NPR station.

But, did Joy Behar have a point? I think she did, though not in the way she thought. I do not believe that all the Saints were psychotic, but, I do believe that their lifestyles and beliefs would today get them diagnosed as pyschotic or neurotic, and perhaps even committed or medicated.

Take Saint Francis, since he is familiar to most people. At a fairly young age he renounced the considerable wealth of his family, turned to a celibate lifestyle, and left home with no clear plan. St. Francis lived an essentially homeless life, begged for food, repaired chapels and churches, and taught. All free of charge. It is not hard to imagine that a wealthy family today could get a son committed for behaving this way. Or, to imagine the family calling their pastor to "talk to the boy."

Other saints had visions, most lived without regard for their own safety or comfort, many voluntarily withdrew into the desert or forest as hermits--no saint conformed to accepted social norms.

Perhaps we do have fewer saints today because we confine or medicate them. But that does not mean it is they who are insane.

Category: Campaign 2008.9
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I am listening to Hugh Hewitt tonight.

I love Hugh Hewitt (and I like Mitt Romney okay). But Hugh is completely irrational when it comes to Mitt and this election.

He has overtly limited his callers tonight to listeners who support Romney and adamantly desire him to stay in the race. If anyone violates this rule (and expresses a dissenting opinion), they are rudely ejected off the show. All the while, after every positive call, Hewitt announces: "another vote for Romney to stay in!"

The Romney-ites are curiously and comically insistent that their man is winning this race.

The Facts: Romney is an extremely wealthy person, who built and funded a great organization, and devised a brilliant strategy. The plan: win the Iowa caucus (spending more money there than all the other candidates combined and utilizing his army of paid volunteers). From there, win the New Hampshire primary, where he was well positioned as a former governor of neighboring Massachusetts. Next capture Michigan, where his father served as a popular governor during the 1960s. These early victories would begin an avalanche of inevitability, allowing Romney to win the GOP nomination. It was a great plan—but it went awry.

He did not miss by much. Romney almost "bought the pot" in Iowa, chasing all of his big-name competitors from the field, but, in the end, he lost by nine points to an under-funded long shot, Mike Huckabee. In New Hampshire, five days later, lightening struck again when John McCain, long given up for dead, dramatically climbed out of the crypt and took the Granite State by six points. Moreover, Hewitt concedes that Romney may well come in second in Michigan next week and possibly do even worse in South Carolina after that. Nevertheless, Hewitt asserts with complete confidence that all is going according to plan (Plan B), and Romney remains in the best position to secure the nomination.

Plan B: outlast the other hopefuls and win by default.

Now that is the Audacity of Hope.

Of course, the crazy thing is that things are so chaotic that I am not ready to say that this line of thinking is completely foolish. Nobody Knows Anything. At this point in the GOP canvass, nothing is impossible. McCain and Huckabee, the presumptive frontrunners, have troubles of their own—lingering skepticism with core conservatives. Rudy is betting heavy on his ability to draw an inside-straight in Florida (the first card of his big-state strategy), and Fred is still a mystery (are we waiting on a broken-down bus?).

So, conceivably, all these candidates could run out of gas and the ever-smiling, optimistic, all-America Mitt Romney, currently running second everywhere and giving pleasantly gracious concession speeches, might be there to pick up the pieces.

I doubt it, but damn if I know…

UPDATE: The AP is reporting the Romney is pulling ads in South Carolina and Florida.
Category: Campaign 2008.9
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Back when I was a miserably clueless high school algebra student, I spent a lot of time sitting in my seat toward the back of the classroom staring at a poster featuring a befuddled-looking monkey with this caption:

Just when I figured out all the answers, they changed all the questions.

Wow! 8:20 PM CST. With 36 percent of the precincts reporting in NH things look awfully unexpected on the Democratic Party side.

I lost count of all the "end of the Clintons" stories I read between last Thursday night and today, but it was a big number. How many total? A number approximate to the total number of pundits with access to a keyboard.

Perhaps they were a bit premature.

A Personal Aside: it was my good fortune to have been too busy (and too confused) to write such a story.

A Statistical Aside: the number of thoughtfully penned “Clinton is dead” essays over the last five days was approximately equal to the “Clinton is inevitable” essays offered with absolutely certainty two months ago.

There is a lesson here--and it is something we should all remember--and it is one of the elements of American politics that makes it the best show in town: the only thing we know for sure is that Nobody (and that goes double for me) Knows Anything.

But I think you can take this one to the bank, as I said last Friday: Fasten your seatbelts, boys; we're in for a bumpy ride.
An interesting meeting is going on today up the road from me at the University of Oklahoma. Story here.


NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - University of Oklahoma President David Boren says a conference in Norman today is intended to send a message that Democrats and Republicans should lead a bipartisan government of national unity.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is among more than one dozen political centrists expected to attend the conference one day before the New Hampshire primary.

Other attendees include former Republican senator John Danforth of Missouri and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

One part of me is drawn to this idea: a government by statesmen rather than by party. As I've mentioned, in my political thought, I am a great admirer of Revolutionary-Era Republicanism (the system of ideas underlying a republic): the political thought of the Revolutionary generation. A major idea in that ideology is that citizens should be committed to the Common Good, what's best for all. Also, that politics takes place within a universe governed by laws given by the Creator, in other words, political decisions should conform not only to the natural laws governing politics, but also to the Moral Law. George Washington deplored the idea of political parties. In the 1790s neither the Federalists nor Republicans could or would call themselves political parties. "Parties" were thought to equal "Faction" which meant a group out for themselves, not the Common Good.

But, on the other hand, there is another idea in Revolutionary-Era Republicanism at tension with this: human beings are not to be trusted with power. One major root of republicanism is the Puritan/ Presbyterian/ Separatist Protestant tradition in Britain. Central to the doctrine of these groups is the teaching that mankind has "fallen" into a state of sin. Therefore, in politics vigilance is necessary lest someone, or some group, abuse power because of their fallenness. Madison exemplifies this way of thinking in the establishment of checks-and-balances within our Federal Government, and between the Federal Government and the States. Later, Martin Van Buren (a member of the Kinderhook Dutch Reformed Church, a group very committed to the doctrine of Total Depravity), would justify political parties, in part, because of their ability to maintain vigilance. In a sense, political parties are an extension of Madison's system of dividing power and then limiting the expression of power by having competing groups.

Realistically, we need parties in conflict. Mexico, among other nations, demonstrates that corruption follows the extended rule by one party making itself a monopoly. Even a "bipartisan" group will act like a party.

For some more philosophy, see below.

» Read More

Category: Campaign 2008.9
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A couple of observations from the Republican debate on Saturday evening.

Obviously, all parties turned on Mitt Romney last night. Why? He has played it tough, and it was his time to take some hard shots in return. Blood is in the water. Politics is a tough game.

Nevertheless, for the first time in this campaign my heart went out to Romney. I agreed with him that the caddy remarks and tag-team taunting was unbecoming and a bit excessive.

John McCain would have us believe that his snide remarks were merely "just desserts" for the rich-boy governor who had been distorting his record. On the other hand, I am increasingly less inclined to buy McCain's victim pose. Didn't we hear the same thing from the McCain camp about George Bush back in 2000? According to the legend, all the Bushies were running around slandering the good name of the heroic senator and trotting out all the dirty tricks.

What did Romney say last night that was so bad? Even as I agree with McCain on immigration, in large part, Mr. Straight-Talk Express was playing pretty fast and loose with the facts. Hiding behind a semantically slippery definition of "amnesty" is not heroic. From what I can tell, Romney had it just about right in his characterization of McCain's record in this explosive area. McCain knows he is vulnerable on immigration, and Romney hit him where it hurt. Nothing foul about that. Politics is a tough game.

One Important note on the Democratic Race in New Hampshire. Although Hillary retains a one-point advantage in the most recent Reuters / C-SPAN / Zogby Daily Tracking Poll, this is misleading. That poll is based on a rolling canvass; that is, the latest poll reflects an average of the last three days.

However, I heard John Zogby say on C-SPAN this morning that yesterdays numbers, when taken alone, reveal an eight-point Obama advantage. This would indicate that the tide has turned in a dramatic way, which explains why the Clinton folks are running for the hills, and the pundits are predicting a crushing defeat for Mrs. Clinton in the Granite State.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
When a society abandons faith and confidence in its own worth, and ceases to demand a reasonable level of social integration and assimilation, the result is a mulitiplicity of enclaves who happen to share national borders.

Such a future is coming into being in Great Britain. One result is that it is increasingly dangerous for non-Muslims to live and work in Muslim dominated areas of Britain, so says Michael Nazir-Ali, the Pakistani-born convert from Islam who now is a Bishop in the Church of England. Story here from the Telegraph, link from Jihadwatch.

Some excerpts:

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester and the Church's only Asian bishop, says that people of a different race or faith face physical attack if they live or work in communities dominated by a strict Muslim ideology.
. . .
Bishop Nazir-Ali, who was born in Pakistan, gives warning that attempts are being made to give Britain an increasingly Islamic character by introducing the call to prayer and wider use of sharia law, a legal system based on the Koran.

In an attack on the Government's response to immigration and the influx of "people of other faiths to these shores", he blames its "novel philosophy of multiculturalism" for allowing society to become deeply divided, and accuses ministers of lacking a "moral and spiritual vision".

Echoing Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, who has said that the country is "sleepwalking into segregation", the bishop argues that multiculturalism has led to deep divisions.

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, has accused Muslims of promoting a kind of "voluntary apartheid" by shutting themselves in closed societies and demanding immunity from criticism.
. . .
The Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, the Bishop of Blackburn, which has a large Muslim community, said that it was increasingly difficult for Christians to share their faith in areas where there was a high proportion of immigrants of other faiths.

Will this become the situation in the United States? Will our abandonment of a "national narrative", our loss of a sense of shared history and identity, our disavowal of assimilation, lead to a collection of cultures who happen to share national borders?
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Okie Gardener continues to encourage me to write more campaign pieces concentrating on substantive issues. In my defense, I have argued, among other things, that the candidates are basically similar on their policy proposals within their respective party races.

For example, I am currently watching the Democratic Party edition of the ABC News debate.

Thus far (half-way point), the discussion has been mainly an argument over who can withdraw from Iraq the fastest, who can nationalize healthcare the soonest, and who can best explain how the troop surge in Iraq has failed (despite all evidence to the contrary).

Another Reason for my dearth of substance: Horse race and personality are what the primaries are all about. It can be a lot of fun. Back in the nineteenth century, before TV, organized sports leagues, or the internet, (or primaries, for that matter), Americans entertained themselves with politics. For the record, approximately 80 percent of eligible voters participated in electing leaders back then. This is what I call fun. I am watching the debate instead of the wild card playoff game.

Once we pick two candidates, we can do much more with the platforms and policy statements. Until then, expect a generous portion of horse race and other sports metaphors.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
New Year's Eve my wife and I went to dinner and a move. (Our 29th wedding anniversary) We saw National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

It is an enjoyable movie, a thrill ride of clues and places and treasure. If you liked the first National Treasure, you probably will like this one. Since the movie depends on twists and turns and breakneck speed, I will try not to provide any spoilers. I do, however, want to comment on the hero, the Nicolas Cage character Franklin Gates.

In many ways, he is an old-fashioned hero. He is determined to defend his family honor by proving the innocence of a maligned ancestor. He is loyal to his father and his friends. With the exception of "necessary" deceptions to sneak into places not open to the public, he is an honest man. And he keeps his word, even to the villain of the movie. Not to mention that Gates is brave, resourceful, and determined. And, he loves his country in an old fashioned way. He is that rare thing from Hollywood, a character you would be a better person for imitating.

But, here is the new-fashioned part. In the beginning of the movie we learn that Franklin Gates has been living with Abigail Chase, the curator he met in the first movie. And that she has kicked him out and changed the locks. Not surprisingly for the old-fashioned tone of the movie, man gets woman back by the end. But, instead of a marriage proposal, she tells him he can move back in.

I guess I should just be grateful that we have a hero to emulate in most ways.
Sometimes the very thing you're looking for
Is the one thing you can't see

And now we're standing face to face
Isn't this world a crazy place
Just when I thought our chance had passed
You go and save the best for last

John McCain has executed a phoenix-like comeback. Now leading in the polls in New Hampshire, he is on the verge of winning the historically meaningful "first" primary. His new-found potency, once again, incredibly, makes him a viable player in the greater race for the Republican nomination. Is the much-maligned John McCain really going to win the Republican standard in 2008?

David Brooks, Robert Novak, and Bill Kristol think so.

While confessing my admiration for McCain, and reminding readers that I had come out for McCain twenty-one months ago as a courageous and electable Reagan conservative, I wrote with confidence a few days ago that the McCain comeback would necessarily fall short.

I offered a list of five improbable events, which would need to transpire in order for the seventy-two year-old Arizona senator to emerge victorious. But I argued then, taken together, they were highly unlikely; however, yesterday I noted that "two have come to pass and, incredibly, the ice seems to be breaking on the other three."

The Five Signs of the Political Apocalypse:

1. Huckabee holds on to Iowa.

Happened. This much and more. I had expected Huck to fade a bit and Mitt Romney to prevail thinly on the strength of money, organization, and electability. Not so! Huckabee won the caucus by nine points, and he is the darling of the national press corps this weekend. On the other hand, the person McCain has always seen as his primary obstacle to victory, Mitt Romney, is staggered, bloody, and on the ropes.

2. McCain "finishes strong" (third place) in Iowa.

Miraculously, in effect, this happened also. McCain surged to finish in a statistical dead-heat with Fred Thompson for third-place in Iowa, adding to his growing sense of possibility and sapping Fred of the bounce he might have enjoyed from a solo finish in the money.

3. Independents in NH abandon Obama and other attractive fruitcakes and come out for McCain.

Of the five improbables, this one remains the most intractable. While McCain did well with independents in New Hampshire in 2000, New Hampshire independents have a lot more choices than they did then: Ron Paul, John Edwards, and, most troubling for McCain, Barack Obama.

Many pundits had averred that an Obama loss in Iowa would help McCain with independents in New Hampshire--but, alas, a triumphant Obama arrives in the Granite State with momentum, enthusiasm, and a compelling pitch for independents. One other problem for McCain and NH independents: while McCain's incredibly courageous and prescient leadership on the war in Iraq inspires rock-ribbed Republicans, I wonder whether this facet of his current political package makes him much less appealing to these independents, whoever they really are?

On the other hand, perhaps the conventional wisdom is wrong, and McCain does not really need the mysterious independents to win this race. Perhaps he is surging the old-fashioned way--which could portend more success in the aftermath of New Hampshire 2008 than in 2000. Following the shocking McCain upset eight years ago, the independent-tainted victory seemed an albatross around his neck in the ensuing primaries, serving as further proof to core Republicans that the Maverick really was not one of us.

4. At the crucial moment, the GOP establishment (conservative talk radio, blogs, non profits, etc.) experiences an epiphany, suddenly embracing "Maverick McCain" and admitting grievous error.

Within my original post a few days ago, I said: "Not in this lifetime." But, maybe so. Of all the "improbables," this would be the most ironic. It is not happening right now--but a big win in New Hampshire, which seems possible, will force conservatives to re-examine McCain. Rush has advocated for Fred Thompson as the only conservative alternative. Sean Hannity says he could accept either Rudy, Mitt, or Fred Thompson. But what if none of these candidates are around next month? Mitt is probably out. Fred is Fred (see below). Rudy is in the netherworld right now--but will likely get one more chance on the national stage as we head South (and West).

My point: alternatives to McCain are falling away. At some point, conceivably, the conservative establishment could be forced to pick between two options: McCain or Huckabee. Most likely, they pick the old hero.

5. Fred Thompson proves as lifeless as advertised.

As noted above, Fred won third, but (quoting myself from yesterday) "[h]e pulled off a surprisingly lackluster and curiously uninspiring third place. He may have, once again, done the minimum to keep himself above water in this race."

Fred is still alive--but only because there are so few other options. Let's see what happens in the big prime-time, nationally televised debate tonight on ABC--but, as always, it is now or never for Fred. He certainly could prove as "lifeless as advertised" and as insignificant as every knowledgeable person in the mainstream media seems to think. We'll see.

The Bottom Line: Does McCain have a chance? Yes. Today I think he does, but I still would not bet the house on it.
Instapundit links to this story on Stategy Page about National Security implications of Chinese manufactured goods. Two excerpts:

January 4, 2008: One reason China tolerates the widespread manufacture of counterfeit products is because some of them have some military benefit for China's Cyber War effort. This came to light recently when the FBI arrested two Americans for running a computer parts company that was selling counterfeit computer parts (especially Cisco router components), manufactured in China. The phony parts had counterfeit labels, and were delivered in counterfeit boxes. The two brothers had a contract to sell these parts to the Department of Defense and other government agencies.
. . .
. . . There's also the fear that the Chinese, or some other hostile nation, might get their hands on real computer components, and replace some of the chips with modified ones that will make government networks easier to hack. Yes, it just gets worse.

Somebody explain to me again, why do we have free trade with these *ssh*l*s?

And more: according to this NYT article, abuse of workers in Chinese factories continues. Think about it. We have recalled toys made in China because of high lead content in the paint. What about the workers who make the paint and those who paint the toys? What of their lead exposure?
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Most media coverage of the presidential nomination race could be on the Sports Page. The focus is on the "game" of politics.

If you are a reader who is more interested in the positions and professed beliefs of the candidates, you will need to work to find the information you need.

Farmer helped all of us recently with his work on Obama's foreign policy convictions, and I hope he'll use his political and scholarly skills to do similar work on other top candidates.

For now, here is a page from the Des Moines Register that should prove helpful, though certainly not exhaustive. (This page may take a while to load because of its video links.)
Trying to understand the interplay of religion and public life in the United States? A great place to start would be this address by Wilfred McClay at the recent Pew Forum.

An excerpt:

So let me begin with two propositions. The first one is that in the American experience, the separation of church and state, which by and large we acknowledge as a rough-and-ready principle, does not necessarily mean the separation of religion from public life. Another way of saying this is that America has a strong commitment to secularism, but it is secularism of a particular kind, understood in a particular way.

Second, that the United States has achieved in practice what seemed impossible in theory: a reconciliation of religion with modernity, in contrast, as I say, to the Western European pattern. In the United States religious belief has proven amazingly persistent even as the culture has been more and more willing to embrace enthusiastically all or most of the scientific and technological agenda of modernity. Sometimes the two reinforce one another. Sometimes they clash with one another, but the American culture has found room for both to be present. I won't prophesy this will always be the case, but it's a very solid relationship of long standing.

And perhaps I should add-and I did this for my Turkish audiences
[he had recently been on a speaking tour of Turkey]; it utterly baffled them, but it shouldn't be quite so baffling for you-that all this makes sense in light of the fact of [a] third proposition: that American institutions and culture are intrinsically and irreducibly complex-not chaotic, which is of course what they see-but complex.

The complexity takes a particular form: that politics and culture are designed around an interplay of competitive forces, which is, I think, the key to understanding a lot about the United States. The Constitution was based on the assumptions that in any dynamic society there would be contending interest groups, and [that] one could best counteract their influence by systematically playing them off against one another. That was the reasoning behind separation of powers. That was the reasoning behind the federal system. These different parts of the government are supposed to fight with one another. That's how the Constitution is supposed to work.
Nobody Knows Anything....but, as it happens, no one more so than I.

My predictions tens day out:

The Party of Lincoln:

Romney pulls it out. Huck hangs on for a respectable second place. Fred surprises with a third-place finish and emerges, finally, as a serious candidate.

Wrong. Wrong. Right--kind of, maybe, but--perhaps--not exactly.

Huckabee is much more formidable than I gave him credit for. Note to self: do not underestimate Mike Huckabee again. He has a lot of talent, and he has come to play and not just for the ride. In truth, I don't dislike Huckabee. He is affable and engaging--and those are good qualities. Certainly, he would do no worse as president than Obama or Hillary.

How did he do what he did last night? Christian conservatives helped him greatly in Iowa, where he harnessed a perfect storm of social conservative enthusiasm, personal appeal, and neglect on the part of a field bent on conceding the state to Romney. New Hampshire is not likely to provide the same fertile ground for Huck--but he will undoubtedly receive a bounce there. After New Hampshire, all eyes will turn South, where, like Iowa, he speaks a language God-fearing, America-loving, social conservatives understand. He is likely in this race for the duration.

Having said that, I remain skeptical that he goes all the way. The forces of conservatism are arrayed against him (my previous thoughts on that). This is a tough hill to climb. But no one expected Jimmy Carter to win in 1976 when he faced a similar battle with party regulars and the traditional sources of Democratic orthodoxy. Funny things happen in American politics.

Mitt Romney. He had a lot of money, a great organization, and a great plan--but he had to win Iowa and New Hampshire to generate a groundswell. He did not reach first base. This is extremely problematic for Mitt. He remains viable for a while because of his money and organization, but it is hard to imagine Romney catching fire at this point. Obviously, New Hampshire is do or die for him—but, even if he wins the Granite State, he faces a hard road from there.

Fred Thompson. He pulled off a surprisingly lackluster and curiously uninspiring third place. He may have, once again, done the minimum to keep himself above water in this race.

One interesting note: if you take Thompson's 13 percent and McCain's 13 percent (as they are, after all, basically the same guy), you get 26 percent—not enough to beat Pastor Mike in "Evangelical-land," but a significant number nevertheless.

What happens to Fred? Beats me. Nothing would surprise me at this point. Amid the rumors circulating that he was planning on withdrawing and joining the "national security senators for McCain" tour, he surged just a bit in Iowa. It is worth noting that his lurch forward occurred while his "ace in the hole," Rush Limbaugh, was on vacation. Rush is on record as extolling Thompson as the only true conservative in the race. This kind of support is not insignificant in the upcoming primaries wherein candidates must court the Republican base, many of whom listen to Rush regularly and admire him greatly. Fred is not dead—but he continues to need to make his move and show us something. On the other hand, a Thompson-McCain alliance sometime soon certainly would not shock me either.

John McCain’s rise from the dead is so remarkable that he deserves his own post--which will be forthcoming. Preview: of the five improbable things that had to happen for McCain to return to viability, two have transpired and, incredibly, the ice seems to be breaking on the other three.

And Rudy illustrates the perils of skipping Iowa. His big-state strategy is not completely dead--but he will be engaged fulltime for the next few weeks making the case that he is still relevant. This is a tough assignment for the former US attorney. As I have written many times in the past, I am a big Rudy fan--but I remain convinced that he is not GOP nominee material. Rudy for AG or DHS.

Bottom Line: The Republican canvass remains a mess. Anything is possible at this point, including a brokered convention and a nominee outside the current contest. We'll see.

But, then again, why would anybody listen to me?
Category: Campaign 2008.8
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Nobody Knows Anything....but, as it happens, no one more so than I.

My predictions tens day out:

The Party of Jackson:

Hillary wins a squeaker. Obama second. Edwards a close but, nevertheless, terminal third.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong--but possibly right in spirit.

This was a huge win for Obama. If there were any doubters left before last night (not me), they are running for the hills today. Barack Obama is big time for real. Most importantly, unlike many past insurgents (Gary Hart, Pat Buchanan, Paul Tsongas to name a few), Obama is in great shape money wise and organizationally to move to the next battle with strength and style. He has plenty of money in the coffers and is likely to out-raise Hillary 3-to-1 during the next few days.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is still Hillary Clinton. As I have written previously, she is unlikely to collapse in the face of disappointment. She is an amazing candidate in her own right, with the best national organization in the first-ever "national primary." She has a whole slew of political assets and big guns in her arsenal. Now that the battle is irrevocably and indisputably joined, I expect to see a primary fight over the next five weeks unlike anything we have ever seen in American politics. Fasten your seatbelts, boys; we're in for a bumpy ride.

As for Edwards, his tie for a distant-second seems terminally impotent. For the man who staked his whole campaign on Iowa and started there with a lot of advantages, a seven-point loss in the Hawkeye State to another insurgent is devastating. He was vying to be the alternative to Clinton--but Obama clearly won that distinction. This remains a two-person race. The recently adopted Huey Long populism appears to be a gimmick that failed.

One quick note before the mythology takes root: many will wonder if Hillary erred in coming to Iowa. My opinion is that she really had no choice. Certainly, she understood that Iowa was not a good fit for her and a tough place in which she did NOT play particularly well. Having said that, she would have looked silly and cowardly, if she had sidestepped the caucus. She came, she ran hard, and she lost; It is a tough blow--but watching from the sidelines likely would have proved even more devastating.

One other Clinton note: Bill must take a back seat. After the loss in New Hampshire for George W. Bush in 2000, the elder Bushes (as popular as they were) went underground. A presidential candidate must be the top dog. Bill talks too much, he exudes self-absorption and self importance. Sit down, Bill, and shut up. Quite frankly, the three generations of Rodham-Clinton women are much more compelling at this stage of the contest than the old silver-tongued he-devil.

One last Clinton note: New Hampshire may or may not be do or die for Hill--but she must play it as if it is. New Hampshire saved the Clintons in 1992. She finds herself with her back against the wall there in 2008. NH is crucial. And while Obama will get a big bounce from his win in Iowa, Hillary still holds some high cards in the Granite State. We'll see.

Two random notes:

1. Zogby International was right on. He captured the steep Clinton drop-off in the waning moments of Iowa (he was also close enough on Huckabee, and he had his pulse on the Thompson surge and slight fade--see next post).

2. Hats-off to the Democrats, who boasted a roster of impressive candidates this time around. With the exception of John Edwards, all of the major Democrats struck me as good Americans who approached this contest with sincerity and noble motives (which is not to say, of course, that I agree with their policy proposals). But it is not surprising to me that Democrats in Iowa caucused in record numbers. Some of that was good weather (it only got down to 24 degrees last night in many parts of Iowa), but serious candidates and enthusiastic campaigning are also a large part of the explanation. Impressive.
Category: US in Iraq
Posted by: an okie gardener
Once again the blogosphere does the work that past generations of MSM would have done.

Captain Brian Chontosh, USMC, American Hero. Story here, from the Rott. From the official site of the USMC:

-- Capt. Brian Chontosh, of Rochester, N.Y. While serving as a platoon commander in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 25, 2003, Chontosh and his platoon encountered a coordinated ambush in a blocked road. Chontosh single-handedly cleared more than 200 meters of an enemy trench, using his own weapons and discarded enemy weapons to kill more than 20 enemy soldiers and disable many more. For his actions, Chontosh was awarded the Navy Cross.

Details from the Department of Defense site here.

An internet search showed very few news references to his actions or his medals. One of thes stories, from USA Today, takes a typical slant in covering medal winners--trauma and its sometimes aftermath of substance abuse. Does a society that does not honor its warrior heroes even deserve to exist?
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Earlier I took notice of Obama picking up the endorsements of 20 Democrat County Chairs in Iowa.

Now I see that Obama has the endorsements of the current and of the former mayor of Des Moines (capital and largest city in Iowa).

Will this swing the caucuses his way? I don't know. But, I think I know this. Obama's ability to pick up significant support from within the Democratic Party Organization in Iowa demonstrates both a strong and effective campaign, and more importantly, the weaknesses of Clinton and Edwards. Edwards has invested heavily in Iowa for over four years, since he last ran; the Clintons have been trying to sew up support for Hillary among Democrat politicians for nearly that long. And while they have significant numbers of supporters, along comes Obama and makes inroads in a relatively short time. We'll know soon what difference this makes.
I intended to write a post accusing Mike Huckabee of dishonesty and grandstanding when he called a press conference on New Year's Eve to announce that he was not going to go negative on Mitt Romney. Candidate Huckabee went on to explain that Romney deserved to be lambasted by a negative ad and everything he had planned to say in his thirty-second negative spot about Romney was absolutely true. Furthermore, just to prove that this was no publicity stunt, Huckabee went so far as to show the negative ad that he had decided not to show, just to prove that, indeed, he had a negative ad that he had generously chosen to suppress.

I intended to say that this might have been the most ridiculous political moment in my memory, and that Huckabee is either an incompetent flim-flam artist or a sincere bumpkin unfit for the presidency, but I think I am going to hold off of any assertions of that kind for a while.

The ad Huckabee doesn't want you to see via YouTube here.

The press conference (via YouTube here) in which Huckabee explains why he won't go negative and, while plagued with technical difficulties, repeatedly attempts to show the ad he is so adamant about not wanting you to see.

"Jive Talking" via YouTube here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Copied from Brits at Their Best, a website devoted to the heritage of English Liberty and its preservation.

Paul Johnson on the five essential qualities of a democratic leader

In the latest Imprimis, British historian Paul Johnson describes the five essential qualities of a leader. Given Britain's crying need for a great democratic leader today, and the upcoming American presidential primaries, his list is timely. Let us know what you think

1) Ideas and beliefs. "The best kind of democratic leaders has just a few – perhaps three or four – central principles to which he is passionately attached and will not sacrifice under any circumstances. . .History teaches it is a mistake to have too many convictions, held with equal certitude and tenacity. They crowd each other out. A great leader is someone who can distinguish between the essential and the peripheral – between what must be done and what is merely desirable."

2) Willpower. "I think the history of great men and women teaches that willpower is the most decisive of all qualities in public life. A politician can have immense intelligence and all the other virtues, but if will is lacking he is nothing."

3) Pertinacity. "Mere flashes of will are not enough. The will must be organically linked to resolution, a determination to see the cause through at all costs. . .One aspect of pertinacity is patience. Another is a certain primitive doggedness. . . 'It’s dogged as does it’ is an old English proverb. True enough. But doggedness should not be confused with blind obstinacy. . ."

4) The ability to communicate. "The value of possessing a few simple ideas which are true and workable is enormously enhanced if the leader can put them across with equal simplicity. . .But where words fail, example can take their place. Washington communicated by his actions and his personality."

5) Magnanimity "Greatness of soul. It is not easy to define this supreme quality, which few even among the greatest leaders possess. It is a virtue which makes one warm to its possessor. . .Churchill, who also had it, made it one of the top quartet of characteristics which he expected the statesman to show. . ."

So, how do the current presidential aspirants stack up? Do any of them have all five characteristics?
This is getting ridiculous. Lead paint used in toys, poisonous substance in toothpaste, and on and on and on.

Now, according to the FDA supplements from China containing unlabeled sildenafil have been found. Sildenafil is the active ingredient in Viagra. Story here. The FDA warning.

Someone tell me again, why do we still have free trade with these a***o*e*?

Here's one I had missed: this past summer the FDA issued an alert on seafood imported from China.

Here is the toothpaste warning from this past summer.

Here is a an FDA alert revised this fall on undeclared cyclamates in some imported Chinese food.

This is really great: on Dec 27 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall of defective circuit breakers--they do not "break" under overload. Country of manufacture? China.

The Who Sucks? website has prepared a timeline for 2007 recalls of dangerous products made in China.

Again, why do we continue to import products from these *ssh*l*s?
Heh guys, want to lead a protest that could save a lot of lives of black Africans, and get you some publicity?

Then check this out. It is a report on the efforts of the Dream for Darfur group to get corporate sponsors to bail on the Summer Olympics to be held in China unless China stops the genocide in The Sudan. They are the only country in the world that can do it without war since they are the main economic and political support for the current murderous regime.

Report by Nat Hentoff from Jewish World Review.
Story here: my favorite quote

Vandals have torched 372 cars as France celebrated the New Year, down on the figure last year after a night the police described as "relatively calm".

Somebody remind me again, why do many American elites want us to be more like Europe?

The post-election violence in Kenya is being explained by the media as tribal conflict, an explanation undoubtable correct at least in part.

For example, Fox News and the New York Times.

From the NYT:

The violence -- which has erupted from the shantytowns of Nairobi to resort towns on the sweltering coast -- has exposed tribal resentments that have long festered in Kenya. Kibaki's Kikuyu people, Kenya's largest ethnic group, are accused of turning their dominance of politics and business to the detriment of others.

But is religion involved? During the campaign it was reported that the opposition leader Raila Odinga promised Muslims that he would introduce Sharia (Islamic Law) as the law of the land in Kenya if he won. That report generated controversy in Kenya.

Odinga has denied the report. And certainly, since Muslims are a minority in Kenya, such a promise would not make political sense.

At the least, religion has been a factor in the Kenyan election, as testified to by Bertil Mketu in Kenya Magazine

On the religious front, the country is awash with crusades and other similar religious functions that are usually well attended. Parliamentary aspirants all over the country are known to be determined in their attendance of church functions and their conduct of fund raising activities for religious causes, especially right before elections are called. With the growth of the prominence of Kenyan Islam and the Pentecostal churches, these particular constituencies have become more important in the calculations of the major presidential candidates. While tribe may win you the backing of one district, getting the support of a religious leader with a large following opens doors across the country and makes millions more receptive to your message.

Again, while others rebuffed this approach to national politics, the Lang'ata MP was not so squeamish. Instead he was quick to woo Muslim leaders who were disillusioned with the government, even as the political parties allied with the Government ignored their overtures. Later after the revelation that Raila had met the Muslims and sealed some form of a deal became public, a panic-stricken Government realised its folly and started playing catch-up fully aware it seems of the value of this constituency. In a testament to just how central to our politics, and just how passion-inducing religion can be, Raila's Memorandum of Understanding with the NAMLEF has remained one of the hottest and most prominent political topics of the campaign period.

And it is not just this constituency that the ODM has been courting. When American televangelist TD Jakes visited the country in October 2005, Raila Odinga was among the political leaders who attended the crusade at Uhuru Park. In addition local Christian church leaders like Pastor Brawan of Nakuru and Bishop Margaret Wanjiru of Jesus Is Alive Ministries have both been prominent in the rallies of Raila and have been nominated to vie for parliamentary seats on the party's ticket. During the Thunder Rally, Pastor Brawan had a band that entertained the gathered crowd contrasting with the P-Unit and DNA team that had been assembled to play at the Nyayo Stadium rally of President Kibaki a week earlier. This association with religious groups extends beyond political association. The main parties have made a point of opening religious meetings with prayers. President Kibaki's campaign rally at Nyayo Stadium for example, featured Islamic, Hindu, Christian and traditional religious prayers.

An interesting aside, is the fact of the Presidential Candidates' names. Mwai Kibaki has not used his Christian names prominently, so much so that if one was to call the Roman Catholic Kibaki using the names Emilio Stanley, few people would know who was being spoken of. The ODM candidate has on his part had fend off claims that he is not Christian for among other reason his lack of a Christian Western name. Kalonzo Musyoka, the ODM-K candidate has made more pronounced use of his Christianity, using both his name Stephen more prominently and also confessing to being a born again Christian. His rally at Uhuru Park was reportedly preceded by a church service and he has sought to inject a quasi-religious bent to his campaign, speaking prophetically. He has promised miracles and made no small point of his eschewal of corruption. The ODM-K candidate's stance is not new either; he has previously chaired the Prayer Group of the national Assembly and was involved in the first National Prayer Breakfast.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Americans are a strange people: we claim to be religious, mostly Christian, yet few people can name the four gospels in order, tell at least 3 of the parables of Jesus, describe at least 3 miracles of Jesus, list more than a few of the 10 Commandments, distinguish between Paul and Peter, or sketch a brief biography of Moses, David, and Elijah.

Here is the transcript of a talk given by Stephen Prothero, author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know-And Doesn't. (You will learn more about the problem than about what we need to know.)

For fun, take his quiz on basic religious information (covers more than Christianity). Here. Adobe Reader required.
A bit ago I posted Time magazine's list of top religion news stories in 2007.

Their list:
1. Release of Mother Teresa's letters.
2. Democrats embrace religion and Mitt Romney Channels JFK.
3. Jerry Falwell Dies
4. The Pope's Moto Proprio
5. The Episcopal Church at Odds over Gays
6. The Greening of Evangelicalism
7. The Roar of Atheist Books
8. The Trials of New Life Church
9. The Creation Museum Opens
10. South Korean Christian Missionaries Kidnapped in Afghanistan

Now Christianity Today has released their list of the top ten religion news stories of 2007:
1. Taliban kidnaps South Korean mission team.
2. Books advocating atheism top U.S. charts.
3. Campaign 2008 and faith.
4. Death of Ruth Graham.
5. Anglican Communion dividing over homosexuality.
6. Three Christians killed in Turkey.
7. Deaths of Falwell and James Kennedy.
8. President of Evangelical Theological Society returns to Roman Catholicism.
9. Attempt by Dobson et al to oust current president of the National Association of Evangelicals fails.
10. U.S. Supreme Court upholds partial-birth abortion ban.

My own list, done in response to Time, also explains my divergences with Christianity Today.

As usual, I beg to disagree. I really do not think their number one story will matter much in 100 years, except to scholars. I think Falwell's death is rated too high: his national influence was highest in the 1980s. The papal permission to celebrate the Latin Mass without a bishop's permission is ranked too high. And, though indicative of the continuing strength of Fundamentalism in the U.S., the opening of the Creation Museum does not deserve a top ten.

My list.

1. The continuing Islamic jihad against the rest of the world. We are in another hot spell of the nearly 1400 year-long war between Islam and everyone else.
2. The continued decline of Christianity in Europe, and growth of Islam.
3. The continuing consolidation of power in Russia under Putin, a practicing Russian Orthodox Christianwho seems to be trying to bring back the situation of the Czars, including a close relationship between the Church and the State.
4. The issues of religion in the U.S. Presidential primaries.
5. Pope Benedict XVI's conservative pontificate, which coming after Pope John Paul II, moves the Roman Catholic Church away from any liberalizing trends Vatican II may have engendered.
6. Troubles in the Anglican Communion caused by the U.S. Episcopal Church's positions regarding same-sex practice.
7. Related to number 1, but deserving its own space, the moves into international power by Iran; the government of which is propeled by apocalyptic expectation.
8. The continuing suppression of Tibetan religion and culture by the Chinese government, as well as the continued persecution of Falun Gong.
9. The growth of underground Christianity in Iran.
10. The "Quiet Revival" of conservative Christianity in the Boston area.

I will toot my own horn and point out that I did my list, including number 3, before Time's Man of the Year was Putin. Time did mention his religion, but did not make enough of it, I think.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
1. Next year, unless I'm on really good meds, I may destroy store speakers playing Christmas music in October. Market Capitalism has won. Christmas, one of the old and important Christian festivals, in honor of the birth of the Messiah, fully human and fully divine, has been taken over by his archenemy Mammon.

2. I am noticing more and more people celebrating Christmas away from "home" in any sense: resorts, cruises, etc. Christmas started off being a festival of the churches and streets, then in 19th century America was moved into the homes, and now is being moved into entertainment venues. I guess since we now produce so little in the home--at Christmas buying all our candy and cookies and fruitcake and gifts--it is no surprise if we choose to purchase a holiday experience.

3. The weather this year gave more Americans a White Christmas. (Bring on the Al Gore jokes.) One cold winter does not disprove Global Warming. Watch the averages over the years, especially the average lows. Of course the earth's temperature has fluctuated throughout the history of the planet. That is not the issue. The issue is: is human activity affecting planetary temperatures along with natural factors? I am not aware of any scientist who questions the model--Carbon Dioxide helps to retain heat in the atmosphere. And, I do not know anyone who credibly doubts that humans have poured increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since industrialization started. So, have we put enough CO2 into the air to affect temperatures? That is the question. And since this is our only planet, let's be careful with it and err on the side of caution. In a century or so, saying "oops" could be a very bad thing.

4. I watched several Christmas specials this year, including some I had not seen before such as the movies The Polar Express and Elf. "You've got to believe!" In what? The "spirit of Christmas"? What is that? When Christmas is separated from the Christian Holy Day of Christ's birth, then what is there to be merry about?