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In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, dated 27 September, the Congressional Black Caucus declared bankruptcy reform directed at "distressed homeowners" an essential component to any "financial rescue package." Otherwise, the letter suggests, the Caucus would see the plan as a bailout for Wall Street rather than a benefit to the American people.

As you know, the bankruptcy reform did not make the final cut.

What role did the Black Caucus play in the Monday vote?

Of the thirty-nine (39) members of the Caucus casting votes on the bill, twenty-one (21) voted in the negative. While approximately 60 percent of Democrats voted in the affirmative for the bill, 21/39 in opposition is significantly higher than the party profile. Moreover, four out the five Congressional Black Caucus officers voted against the measure.

As you know, the bill failed by twelve votes.

We have been told repeatedly by Democratic leadership that Barack Obama has never been more than a phone call away during this crisis, ready to help the process along in any way possible.

Interesting Question:

What influence did Senator Obama, member in good standing within the Black Caucus, exert on the votes within this oftentimes extremely unified coalition?
Category: The Economy
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Problem with democracy? The People are sometimes ill-informed, short-sighted, and selfish.

In truth, the will of the people is not always the same as the public interest. This is why self government based on representation by courageous statesmen is far superior to the tyranny of the majority (see James Madison et al, 1787).

"Not with my money you don't" is demagoguery. Politicians who caved in to this populist claptrap should be ashamed.

The biggest problem: most Americans see this as happening to somebody else. Unfortunately, we all own this economic crisis.

The other major problem: we are a conspiracy-driven community. Wackos on one side think this is a Bush-Wall Street conspiracy (similar to the conspiracy to rush us into war with Iraq for various nefarious reasons). Wackos on our side see it is a socialist, big-government cabal to extinguish liberty and the market economy.

Up until now we have been a culture so wealthy and free that we could indulge ourselves with these sorts of paranoid fantasies. That era may be coming to an end.

My prediction: if the stock market tanks (and by that I mean a 2000+ drop) over the next few days, my guess is that this misguided empty populist rebellion will evaporate quickly.

BTW: I notice that a lot of congressional Democrats whom I recognize as part of the Black Caucus voted against this rescue. Any ideas what that means?
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
Everyone knows the old saw "Success has many fathers, but Failure is an orphan." How does McCain explain this?
Perhaps all is not lost. A note of calm from an old friend of the Bosque Boys,

Swabian Prince:

I won’t venture a prediction about the debate, but I think (to speak in the metaphor of the moment) the valuation on Sarah’s stock was way too high at the outset, but now has fallen way too low. I also think the race is very, very close, and much of the gloom in conservative circles is WAY out of hand, and shows how easily we STILL, even in spite of all we know, are manipulated by MSM and polling data. I talked over the weekend with a friend, a very distinguished political scientist, who is in despair because Obama appears to have “won” the debate, as demonstrated by the tracking polls inching toward him over the weekend. And this is someone who should know better. Much more to be said, of course, but I agree with Bill Kristol about letting Sarah be Sarah.

Somehow, the key role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in this financial debacle needs to be brought out more clearly, and the clear connection between Obama and the Dems and the culprits. (You no doubt have seen the videos that have been circulating.) And McCain absolutely has the credentials to do it. But maybe Sarah can start the process, since the media will be glommed onto her every word anyway.
~~ Swabian Prince
A Bosque Boys Timeline:

30 August: A Hail Mary (a low-percentage play that just might work and why).

31 August: The Genius of the Palin Pick (three reasons why Palin might play well and a prediction that the prObama frenzy might backfire).

5 September: The Homerun (how Palin's convention speech changed the nature of this contest).

6 September: Is She Reagan? (she is engaging and polarizing, in a positive political way--but a word of caution: we have only known this woman for eight days).

11 September: Immediate Analysis of the Charlie Gibson interview (not devastating but not great). September 12: Charlie sinking; Sarah on the rise.

13 September: Let's be honest
with what we have here (Sarah has limits; she is no Republican David; she may be as good as Reagan was when he first emerged on the national stage--but early Reagan was much rougher than we remember).

Where Are We Now?

Palin is not as good as her maiden speech--but she is not as bad as Tina Fey (who, by the way, may well prove to be the single-most influential and effective outside actor in this entire election season).

What has happened to our girl? Bill Kristol had it right today on FOX News Sunday: "we have not let Palin be Palin."

We/they have gotten inside her head. She is a raw natural talent with great instincts. We have filled her head with "do's and don'ts." Team McCain has overprotected her, creating the impression inside and outside the camp that she is vulnerable. They have her second-guessing herself.

She needs to relax. She needs to breath through her eyelids.

Let Palin be Palin.

It is worth mentioning that no candidate in history has ever had so much scrutiny and/or so many bright lights in the American intelligentsia rooting for her complete and utter humiliation. In this way, at least, she is Reaganesque.

There is no question that she faces an atrocious double standard. If some reporter had her on tape blithely conversing about visiting all fifty-seven states, or placing President Roosevelt on TV in 1929, she would be over. Sarah Palin does not get the benefit of the doubt, ever. She is the nation of Israel; every battle, every interview is a fight for survival. She is singular among the candidates in that she faces a sudden-death situation every time she walks out of her house.

An Important Aside: the double standard is not sexist--although her liberal tormentors play on sexual stereotypes. Rather, the double standard is the half-century-old conservative disadvantage dealing with left-leaning media institutions, multiplied by a factor of 100 because so much is at stake and her presence makes the race so volatile.

But no honest observer can deny the double standard. Obama can hem and haw, stammer and stutter, and misspeak all across America--but nothing he says will ever do damage to the template of the articulate and erudite constitutional law professor. Joe Biden is good for a gaffe a day (and the Roosevelt thing is perhaps the worst of all time--much worse than "potatoe" in the mind of this history teacher), but none of that matters. Joe Knows.

In truth, none of these gaffes really do matter very much--but the glaring unfairness of the coverage frustrates us. "Call 'em both ways, ref." You can call fouls any way you choose--just make sure a foul is a foul on both ends of the court.

So What?

We got a big event coming on 2 October. It's a Thursday (one day before my 10th Wedding Anniversary--thanks be to God). But this truly is Must See TV.

Conventional Wisdom: silver-haired Senator Joe Biden is going to demolish Tina Fey.

My guess (my hope, perhaps) is that Tina Fey won't show up. From Day One, we have all known Sarah Palin had to deliver on two occasions: her convention speech and the veep debate. She hit a homerun in late August. If she can muster coherence on this Thursday night in early October, it will be tantamount to slapping a tough pitch down the first base line into the right-field corner for a triple.

Is that even possible? If nothing else, we have the expectations game on our side. Although Team Obama understands this--and with their willing accomplices in the media--they may attempt to rehabilitate Palin a bit this week, to fatten her up for the kill. However, Tina Fey and the boys (ours and theirs) and Sarah Palin herself have done too much over the last fortnight to establish the Palin template--it is set in stone.

We will be tuning in on Thursday to see a ferocious liberal lion devour a confused and nearly defenseless Christian. If she can hold her own, we might just have something new to talk about for a week. If she can rise above the expectations, SNL may actually have to come up with a goofy Democratic character.

On the other hand, if she falters at all, say goodnight, Gracie. This debate very well could be exactly what most observers expect: the final nail in the coffin for McCain-Palin 2008.
Category: Thinking Out Loud
Posted by: an okie gardener
For centuries Euopeans were captured and enslaved by Muslim corsairs operating from North Africa. The author of the book Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 estimates that over a million Europeans suffered this fate in the time period he examined. Book summary.

In history, the impact of a story depends in large part on when the story begins. For example, if the story of the bombing of Hiroshima starts with the Manhattan Project, then the U.S. looks like the bad guy. If the story begins with Pearl Harbor and includes the Bataan Death March plus atrocities committed by the Japanese in their conquests (ask the Chinese), and also relates how the defenders of Iwo Jima and Okinawa fought to the death against hopeless odds, then the decision to drop the Bomb appears more reasonable.

I am not defending colonial empire building in all its forms and in all places. But, the French, Italian, and Spanish conquest in North Africa does not seem as depraved if the story begins with centuries of pillage and enslavement suffered by Europeans at the hands of the Muslim corsairs.
Now its coffee products and candy that are being recalled. Story here.

If there is a free society in existence in 500 years, I predict lots of dissertations in economics, political science, history, and ethics, debating why the U.S. allowed China to become its number one source of most everything.

I have never been a conspiracy theorist explaining world events in terms of the Tri-Lateral Commission, or the Masons, or the Illuminati, or Zionists. But I am edging closer to the conclusion that some world events are controlled by multinational corporations accountable to no one but themselves and interested only in profits.
China is creating a new African empire. And it seems to be worse than the European ones of the past.

From Peter Hitchens in The Mail: How China Has Created a New Slave Empire in Africa.

Someone explain to me again, why do we trade with these bastards?
Category: The Economy
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The deal is struck. Crisis averted temporarily.

Take the deal. Applaud the deal. It was the right thing to do. The calls on C-SPAN are running fifty to no one against "bailing out the fat cats." No matter, this is one of those instances in which sincere statesmen could not afford to indulge in populist poppycock.

What the misguided callers and disgruntled denizens of "Main Street" fail to realize is that we are all corrupted and connected. We are "fat cats" in our own right. In my small city, USA, every successful lawyer and doctor and small-business owner drives a forty-thousand-dollar-plus vehicle, university faculty live higher than pre-modern nobility, and even the community college teachers live in big houses and drive new cars.

We should suppress our understandable human desire to find malefactors in distant places. The "robber barons of Wall Street" make for colorful villains--but our rush to shift our own complicity clouds the real issue:

We have been living above our means for decades.

This plan avoids the looming cataclysmic crash--but it does not solve our problem.

Some of this I wrote about earlier this week.

This fix is not really a fix. It is only a stopgap. The deal is merely a STAY OF EXECUTION. We can overcome this current crisis, but it is a fire bell in the night. It is a warning, which, if unheeded, signals the beginning of the end for us.

Our only real solution? Repentance.

If we are actually to heal ourselves, we are going to need to change our lifestyles. We must conserve more of our resources. We must practice self denial more and indulge in instant gratification less.

Hopefully, we have avoided a Second Great Depression--but, if we are honest with ourselves, we will grasp this opportunity to recommit ourselves to a healthier and more sustainable culture of reality and sobriety.

This $700 Billion RESCUE was necessary--but it is not a "get out of jail free card." We have an opportunity to turn from our folly. We must seize it. Moving forward with a "business as usual" mindset would be suicidal.

Support the deal and commit yourself to a cultural makeover. A time is coming in which we can no longer have it all.

A Parting Thought: in that vein, perhaps a "spending freeze" is the most practical suggestion put forward by a candidate for national office in the new century.
The death of Paul Newman is incredibly political. With his passing, the liberal John Wayne has died. Prepare yourself for a secular canonization.

I will pass on the politics, however, and offer an appraisal of Newman the movie star.

I was never a great fan of Newman as an actor. The NYT et al will inevitably describe him repeatedly as the greatest student of Lee Strasberg and the pride of the Actor's Studio. But Newman was not in the same class as Brando or De Niro or Duvall or Hoffman or even Jack Nicholson. Newman was a beautiful man and the camera adored him. No one ever looked better on a towering movie screen than Paul Newman. No one ever proved so charming and handsome over a longer period.

But Newman was much more than a pretty face. While he was not the greatest actor of his generation, he was an immensely talented movie star.


Two Reasons:

1. Newman understood his limits. He never tried to play a bald-headed paraplegic. He never donned a funny mustache and tried to lose himself in a quirky character. Newman understood who he was and why people liked him. He played Paul Newman every time out--but he played him better than anybody else in Hollywood.

2. As an actor, Newman understood the necessity of quality material. Once an actor achieves mega-star status, he enjoys the opportunity to pick his roles (virtually any role). The nature of Hollywood means that almost every notable part and/or script, at some point, comes within the grasp of the town's top two or three male stars. Although he had the power to play almost any lead role in Hollywood for at least two decades, he chose his projects with great skill and discipline, understanding, perhaps sensing, what a high quality script and a Newman-vehicle felt like.

Newman will be remembered fondly forever for his penetrating blue eyes and his incredibly handsome face. He will also be remembered for great movies:

Cool Hand Luke

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

The Sting

Absence of Malice

The Verdict

Paul Newman, rest in peace.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
Why aren't more people talking about this?
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Commenting on my post, in which I asserted McCain won on foreign policy but nobody cares very much, one of my friends (RB) came away seeing McCain as rigid:

"McCain looked every bit the over-zealous Bomb, Bomb, Bomb,...Bomb, Bomb, Iran candidate with his stiff body language and his even stiffer rhetoric that allows no flexibility for a political world that is far different than the one that McCain grew up in."

BTW, kudos to Obama for inserting McCain's "lighthearted" Dr. Strangelove moment into the debate. It was the only time McCain actually winced. It is obviously an exceedingly embarrassing incident, which Team McCain would rather forget. After last night, not bloody likely. The old clip received a new life in the post-debate coverage.

RB also agreed with me (and the conventional wisdom) "that foreign policy was supposed to be McCain's territory, but it came across as more of a draw...that's not good enough for McCain who has to land knockout punches to overcome...his voting record over the last eight years."

While I actually agreed in large part with RB's analysis in re style, our differences in re substance speak to the human propensity to see these things depending on our predispositions.

Nothing that might have happened in the debate last night was likely to change my opinion or that of RB.

Who were they talking to?

What is the import of these productions?

The big TV debates are meaningful in changing people's minds in two ways:

1. for the very small number of actual voters who are so un-interested in politics that they have not formed an opinion yet, but for some reason tuned in on a Friday night, the TV duel might have made an impact (did I mention this is a very small number).

2. much more important is the buzz (non viewers who will hear who won). This is why whoever wins the spin really won this debate. Right now RB's analysis is emerging as the consensus (another reason why McCain had little advantage in showing up to the debate--although he had no better option).

Without the knockout, or knockdown, or even a stagger--nothing changed. Obama went into the round ahead on points, and he emerged from the round still ahead on points, and he is now one round closer to the conclusion of the contest.

It was a good night for Obama.

See also Tocqueville's addition of Quin Hilyer's take, which also asserts that McCain lost in the perception wars.
Just when I had called all TV debates meaningless, Jim Lehrer and his friends offer a vastly improved format designed to encourage more substantial interaction. The new regime was not perfect. Too often, just when the two principals began to find a rhythm, Moderator Lehrer started blowing his whistle and instructing the two contestants to reset for a new line of questioning. Having said that, this was the most fluid and meaningful debate in recent memory.

Some quick thoughts:

1. The so-called Truth Squads are all over McCain and his extemporaneous (I presume) use of Dwight Eisenhower and the Longest Day (following Jim Lehrer's prefatory remarks noting Ike's 1952 quote concerning "national security and solvency").

Some smarties are upset that Johnny Mac called D-Day the "greatest invasion in history" (numerically it was not). Many are jubilantly noting that McCain inaccurately described Ike's famous letter of responsibility (written beforehand in case of failure) as a letter of resignation.

Come on fellas. Is this the best we can do? At worst, this was a harmless error that did not alter McCain's obvious point on accountability. And, arguably, it is a semantic distinction without a difference. It is easy to read that note as a letter of resignation (one old warrior confessed to me that he always saw it as a suicide note). In any event, it is a document speaking to the tradition of falling on one's sword, which is a practice that has fallen severely out of favor in modern culture. It is a long way from "mistakes were made," which illustrated brilliantly McCain's simple assertion.

2. The exchange on the economy was less than revealing. McCain got the best of the debate with his promise to freeze spending, drill offshore, and pursue nukes--but the economy remains Barack Obama's major asset in this campaign. Nothing transpired tonight to alter that basic fact of life.

3. McCain won the battle of the Surge. Obama cannot compete with McCain on the current facts concerning Iraq. Obama repeatedly staggered under the weight of recent events, invoking the specter of Osama bin Laden, evading 2007 by emphasizing the decisions of 2003, and even reminding his audience that Joe (Biden) knows. But again--does any of that really matter right now? Remember when we thought this election was going to be about Iraq?

4. McCain gave a tour de force on foreign affairs knowledge, effortlessly integrating into the conversation unpronounceable names and obscure faraway places. During these riffs, Obama could do little more than furrow his brow and nod his head in a serious way. McCain pounded the point that Obama had no idea or understanding of American foreign relations. I believe him. But, again, does anyone really care about foreign policy experience in this election? My hunch is not so much.

5. I don't have FOX News--but it certainly seems that Obama is dominating the spin on TV (the networks and PBS). The mainstream consensus: draw (or, slight edge for Obama). Considering that this debate was McCain's strong suit, a draw for Obama equals BIG CASINO.

My sense is that McCain did better than the talking heads think right now. We will see how this all plays out over the next forty-eight hours. My guess is the "take away" (the on-again, off-again drama) generated more interest in the debate than we might have seen otherwise; therefore, I would expect some high numbers in re viewers.

My guess: not as bad for McCain as the pundits are predicting-- but, certainly, no dramatic knock down for the maverick.

Revised and extended version of the comments section here.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
"Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits."

Remember this?

UPDATE: Watch Video Here
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Enough with all the talk about whether McCain is going to show up for the debate, whether he made a good political move asking for a postponement, or whether he blinked by relenting.

If this were some ordinary time, all that campaign kibbitzing might be tolerable (perhaps even enjoyable).

If this were some ordinary time, a McCain "snub" of David Letterman might be of some interest and comedic value.

If this were some ordinary time, a televised presidential debate might be a harmless and entertaining diversion.

But clearly this is no ordinary time.

Shame on McCain for giving in to the clamor.

More importantly, shame on us for acting like David Letterman and presidential debates have any substantive importance. Sure, modern TV debates are consequential because they shape perception--and perception is reality--but nothing is ever actually revealed in one of these spectacles. Surely, no one expects either candidate to seriously address substantive issues in a format designed to create soundbites and retain the attention of a serially inattentive nation. Surely, we will discover nothing new about Senators Obama and McCain tonight that any reasonably informed voter did not already know.

But the show must go on.

McCain backed down because his opponents across the aisle and in the media would have likely spun his refusal as cowardice and/or a cynical ploy--but so what? If you truly are genuine about saving the country at any personal price, what does it matter what the dream merchants say about you?

The REAL ISSUE. This economic precipice is a defining moment in American history. We are not treating this crossroads with the seriousness it deserves. Rather, we continue to react to the potentially crippling financial crisis as if it is just one more installment of a melodrama in which the fate of the characters bear no relation to our real lives. Will the Wall Street fat cats bilk the people once again? Will Bernanke and Paulson talk Congress into a deal? Will the House Republicans outsmart the Democrats? "Turn it up, dear, this is getting good." Or, more likely, "what else is on?"

Tune in next week to see if the USA survives.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
From Patrick Deneen:

“My friends, during the primaries I insisted that I would rather lose an election than lose a war. I was honored to receive my party's nomination, and have had the honor to represent my party during this election season. However, with the coming of this economic crisis that threatens to undermine the American economic system, it is time to put aside partisan bickering and to offer some straight talk. And, given that this threat is as grave to our country as a military conflict, I want to state that I am willing to lose the election if it means that straight talk will help defeat this threat to our national well-being.

“Congress and the administration have reached the outlines of an agreement that would restore confidence to our financial system and allow it again to provide essential loans necessary for the functioning of our economy. But make no mistake about it, my friends — this agreement is only a temporary solution, one that will require oversight and accountability. I make it my solemn oath that this short term solution will not become yet another permanent government entitlement program. Like the Surge, it is a temporary measure — needed to restore confidence in our financial system and prevent a collapse of our economy; when its work is done, I will be vigilant that our government stands down and returns the essential workings of the economy to the private sector. In this, I believe that I will be more vigilant in preventing further permanent expansion of our federal government than my opponent, who believes that every problem can be solved by yet another permanent government program.

“However, as part of that vigilance, I will also seek to prevent this sort of crisis from ever happening again. Many people in our nation have made bad choices and share the blame over the past several months and even years leading up to this crisis. Many on Wall Street acted with greed and lack of restraint. Our regulators have not exercised their proper authority and watchfulness. Lenders were unscrupulous and speculators sought to make a quick dollar at the expense of ordinary citizens. Under my administration, this will cease.

“However, we must also be willing to consider our own participation in this crisis. We have become a nation of debtors and spenders, and no nation — no republic — has long persisted where appetite replaces self-governance. My friends, when our nation called me to serve as a young man, I did not hesitate to heed that call, and I bear the scars and, yes, the medals of one who sacrificed much for his nation. Today we need a renewal of a spirit of devotion to a cause greater than ourselves — a devotion to the health of our nation, vitality that is built on the bedrock of the decencies and virtues of our citizens.

“For the past several decades leaders of both parties have watched, and even encouraged, rising levels of debt and consumption in both the public and the private spheres. We have wagered our future by allowing foreign powers to hold most of our national debt, and we have indirectly supported people who seek our destruction when we fill our gas tanks. We have ceased to encourage and support many of the virtues of frugality and responsibility that a citizenry needs to embody for its nation to flourish, and have mortgaged the future sometimes for fleeting pleasures. I promise to you today, my fellow Americans, that I if I have the honor and privilege of serving as your next President, I will make it my foremost task to endeavor to restore the esteemed place of these virtues of self-sacrifice and commitment to a greater good than ourselves by means of example, encouragement, and, yes, legislation that will reward savings and not spending, conservation and not waste, and a promise to future generations to leave the our nation at least as good if not better than we found it.”

Category: The Economy
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
"Do you think Wall Street owes the American people an apology?"

It was the soundbite of the day earlier this week. On Monday and Tuesday the world watched breathlessly and angrily as the Senate Committee on Banking grilled the Fed Chair, Ben Bernanke, and Secretary of Treasury, Henry Paulson.

Against the weight of the political extravaganza, Bernanke patiently attempted to explain American economic history and Business 101 to a gaggle of self-aggrandizing politicians amid the clicking, clucking, and buzzing of the political press. On a desperate mission to save the US economy from collapse, the indefatigable Fed Chair pressed on through congressional willful ignorance and gratuitous disdain.

"Do you think Wall Street owes the American people an apology?" asked a grandstanding freshman senator.

An Aside: my immediate reaction (with my face changing color and fire rising in my eyes): "with all due respect, Senator Brown, do you ever wonder if the Senate of the United States owes the American people an apology?"

It is good that I am merely an obscure history teacher and an anonymous blogger. Rejoinders of that nature are not productive.

Bernanke, the Southern-born, Harvard- and MIT-educated gentle intellectual giant, responded with grace, explaining finally that "Wall Street" was something of an "abstraction."

Otherwise intelligent people have been asserting all week that the fat cats are to blame. If you actually believe in capitalism, they say, you must agree that heads need to roll, markets need to work, and we need to let the chips fall where they may. Who's at fault? George Bush and his corrupt business cronies. Or, Bill Clinton, big-government liberalism, and political correctness. Or, greedy mortgage bundlers on Wall Street. Or, deceptive lenders who forced people with bad credit into loans they had no intention of paying back while living in houses that they could not afford.

Bailout? "Not with my money you don't."

Here's the problem:

Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

Who's in trouble? We are. Who's needs bailing out? We do. Who's to blame? We are. Who's going to save our asses in this moment of crisis? We are--if we can muster the good sense and stifle the self-righteous indignation.

First Step: stop pointing fingers. Our overall mess is seven decades in the making. We are a spoiled rotten bunch and a society too often unconnected to reality. "Wall Street" has done our bidding. Every mug on "Main Street" NOW can tell you how idiotic the mortgage derivatives were. Where were all these geniuses a few years ago when we were all slurping up our low-interest, no-questions-asked home loans? We could have used some of that 20-20 hindsight in real time.

An Aside: what often goes unsaid is that there were many more innovative financial mechanisms that worked as advertised. Innovation means taking chances. When things work everyone is happy. When they don't: get a rope.

More importantly, we need to face this reality: we did this to ourselves. Face up to our own complicity. We wanted it all (and still do).

Number Two:
come together, stop whining and blaming, and do the right thing. We can beat this crisis together. Right now we still have enough collective punch and stamina as a super power to overcome this mighty financial blow of our own making. Let's do it. Stop talking. Stop the CYA. Make the right deal.

Number Three:
Repent. This fix is not really a fix. It is only a stopgap. We can overcome this current crisis, but it is a fire bell in the night. It is a warning, which, if unheeded, signals the beginning of the end for us.

If we are actually to heal ourselves, we are going to need to change our ways. More conservation of resources. More self denial and less instant gratification. Fewer vacations. Older cars. More walking. Less gardeners, maids, and nannies. More reading. More church. More saving. Less fast food. More vegetables. Less TV. Fewer designer labels. Less NFL. More playing in the yard. More studying. Less drinking beer. More gardens. More respect. Less snark. More grace.

25/09: Next Move

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Quick Thought:

Team McCain should suggest that the VP debate be moved to Friday. This flies in the face of the media template that Sarah Palin must be protected. Let everybody know that Sarah is ready for prime time. Bring on Joe and the pr0bama press volcano.

The VP debate will be a circus. Let the crowds watch the spectacle while the business of government is done in executive session over the weekend.

Plan B:
if Obama insists on showing up on Friday, send Sarah Palin to debate him (while McCain stays "suspended" and engaged in important matters of state).
Barack Obama on why he insists on maintaining the debate on Friday night as scheduled:

"This is exactly the time the American people need to hear from the person who in approximately 40 days will be responsible for dealing with this mess."

"In my mind, [the debate] is more important than ever."

Three Quick Things:

1. No one new will be in charge of this mess until 20 January. We have an election in 40-odd days--but we wait more than two months after that for an actual changing of the guard. We cannot wait four months for a fix.

2. The debate in question is over foreign policy--not economics.

3. And the last thing we need is two donkeys (and I am not talking party symbols here) "demagoguing it up" on TV. We need two statesmen who are willing to forgo political advantage and put their country first. No solution is possible with the grandstanding Congressional leadership mugging for the cameras and dueling for the best plan to help the "little people." Our only hope is some selflessness.

Elections be damned. I salute John McCain for the sentiment and the paean to the founding heroes of the United States of America. Even if he is just being cynical (and I am not at all sure that he is), I appreciate the sop to an antiquated American tradition. John Quincy Adams would be proud.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
From The DrudgeReport:

David Letterman tells audience that McCain called him today to tell him he had to rush back to DC to deal with the economy.

Then in the middle of the taping Dave got word that McCain was, in fact just down the street being interviewed by Katie Couric. Dave even cut over to the live video of the interview, and said, "Hey Senator, can I give you a ride home?"

Earlier in the show, Dave kept saying, "You don't suspend your campaign. This doesn't smell right. This isn't the way a tested hero behaves." And he joked: "I think someone's putting something in his metamucil."

"He can't run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second string quarterback, Sara Palin. Where is she?"

"What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!"

UPDATE Video available here.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
"On Nov. 5, the presidential election winds up in a electoral-college tie, 269-269, the Democrat-controlled House picks Sen. Barack Obama as president, but the Senate, with former Democrat Joe Lieberman voting with Republicans, deadlocks at 50-50, so Vice President Dick Cheney steps in to break the tie to make Republican Sarah Palin his successor."


23/09: My Two Cents

Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
Spengler asks: "Why should American taxpayers give US Treasury Secretary "Hank" Paulson a blank check to bail out the shareholders of busted banks? Why should the Treasury turn itself into a toxic waste dump for their bad loans?"

For what it's worth, I think the latest Democratic mantra, "Don't send a blank check to Washington" is absolutely brilliant and captures the sentiments of most Americans. Here was a real opportunity for McCain to go toe-to-toe with the Administration, in weeks just before the election, both tapping into populist sentiment while defending conservative economic principles. He blew it. McCain has simply allowed himself to be out maneuvered on this one. Instead, McCain's move has been to rail against bailouts both before and after they happen, but support them in the moment -- bizarre. He was against the AIG bailout the day before he approved it. Most Americans are freaked out by this bailout giving Paulson unfettered authority and allowing companies to give massive payouts of taxpayer money to their CEOs.

But maybe you disagree?
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
Dennis Prager, one of my favorite Americans, nails it on the head. The real danger for Obama is that this quickly spreading "voters-are-racists" attitude is seen for what it is by uncommitted Democrats and independents. Obama is smart enough to know this, so he tries to avoid it, but he can't control his "well-meaning friends" in the media and academia.

Amazing, isn't it? Those intelligent, well-educated, and highly ambitious leftists have never figured out that if you insult the voters as racist, they just might vote against you! Their ignorance is bliss.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
George Will says it here. I have been thinking it for weeks:

John McCain's best argument for why we should elect him president in 2008 is divided government.

That is, if McCain does not win, prepare yourself for a tsunami of liberal legislation that will make the New Deal and the Great Society look like a day at the beach.

If you believe that government governs best when it governs least, you will want to vote for the contrarian McCain and hope for vetoes.
Category: The Economy
Posted by: Martian Mariner
I have been thinking about writing a bit on the financial crisis, but fortunately for you I found some analysis from people who actually know what they're talking about. A particularly relevant bit from the Freakonomics blog:

[Frequently Asked Question #] 4) I do not work at Lehman or A.I.G. and do not own much stock; why should I care?
The concern for the man on Main Street is not the bankruptcy of Lehman, per se. Rather, it is the collective inability of major financial institutions to find funding.
As their own funding dries up, the remaining financial firms will be much more cautious in extending credit to normal firms and individuals. So even for people whose own circumstances have not much changed, the cost of the credit is going to rise. For an individual or business that falls behind on payments or needs an increase in short-term credit because of the slowing economy, credit will be much harder to obtain than in recent years.
This is going to slow growth. We have not seen this much stress in the financial system since the Great Depression, so we do not have any recent history to rely upon in quantifying the magnitude of the slowdown. A recent educated guess by Jan Hatzius of Goldman Sachs suggests that G.D.P. growth will be just about 2 percentage points lower in 2008 and 2009. But as he explains, extrapolations of this sort are highly uncertain.

The full article is greatly worth reading for a straight-forward (well, they still use the insider terms, but to be fair, it's almost impossible not to) explanation of what exactly's been going on.

Also try looking here for a brief take on the crisis in the media, but mostly for a good selection of links.

I'll let gardener and Farmer tackle the normative side of the whole situation. I have a feeling they have something to say on the credit situation that got us here...
Poison Toothpast. Baby Formula Causes Kidney Stones. These and many other headlines have this in common: they refer to Made in China goods.

Now, chairs and sofas that can cause eczema. Article here.

Would someone please explain to me again, why do we trade with these folks making dangerous products? Why do we help support their murderous, aggressive government by enriching their nation?
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
When I made this earlier post on Sarah Palin's religious beliefs, I did not know that some already were attacking her on this point. Steve Rempe over at The Institute on Religion & Democracy has this essay in which he quotes from the critics and then counterattacks.

I think that the religious beliefs of a candidate are fair game for questions and discussion. I do, however, prefer intelligent debate to partisan attacks.
On an oldies station this evening I heard Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire for the first time in quite a while. I actually had forgotten it.

History quiz: can you identify all the references in the song?

Live performance.

To make it easier, here are the lyrics:

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnny Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, Television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, The King And I, and The Catcher In The Rye

Eisenhower, Vaccine, England's got a new queen
Maciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dancron
Dien Bien Phu Falls, Rock Around the Clock

Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn's got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev
Princess Grace, taking place , travel in the Suez

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, Bridge On The River Kwai

Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkwether, Homicide, Children of Thalidomide

Buddy Holly, Ben Hur, Space Monkey, Mafia
Hula Hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go

U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, Psycho, Belgians in the Congo

[ Find more Lyrics at ]
We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Hemingway, Eichman, Stranger in a Strange Land
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion

Lawrence of Arabia, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British Politician sex
J.F.K. blown away, what else do I have to say

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Birth control, Ho Chi Minh,
Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock

Begin, Reagan, Palestine, Terror on the airline
Ayatollah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless Vets,
AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz

Hypodermics on the shores,
China's under martial law
Rock and Roller cola wars, I can't take it anymore

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning since the
world's been turning.
We didn't start the fire
But when we are gone
It will still burn on, and on, and on, and on...

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire...

I make this an extra-credit option in my history class.
Category: The Economy
Posted by: Tocqueville
Former federal reserve chairman Alan Greenspan pointedly announced today that the United States is mired in a "once-in-a-century" financial crisis. If you really want to understand what the hell is happening to our economy, look no further than this recent post by Patrick Deneen. Among the more provocative and unconventional arguments that Deneen advances is that Jimmy Carter's now-famous "malaise speech," with its emphasis on the need for limits, was "the one conservative speech that may have been given in the past 30 years." I think Deneen has a really good point.

An excerpt (from Deneen):

Tonight, as I scan channels and read explanations online, numberless narratives look for someone to blame. George W. Bush. Predatory lenders. A craven government that refused to regulate. Big corporations. Big government. Someone. Anyone.

We refuse to consider our own complicity. We started "paying" for things using credit cards. We demanded everyday low prices, and assented to the American military to secure a firesale on the goods of the earth. We began misusing language, like calling fantasy equity sources our "homes." Lemming-like we threw our children into the maw of a meritocratic meat-grinder, desperately seeking to ensure their successful corporate future by enrolling them in the best pre-schools - convinced that only an entry-level job at Lehman Brothers insured a successful life.

The symptoms were countless. The source was a loss of self-government, lodged most deeply in the fantasy that something could be gotten for nothing. If the fantasy continues to unravel - as every indication now suggests - we may re-enter a reality-based world. We will be poorer, but perhaps not in spirit. We may begin to value well and aright. While the world quakes tonight in the fear of plunging values, in that impending fall I see the inklings of a phoenix in the ashes that may arise and illuminate a fundamental truth: things of actual value - whether crafted by human hand or born of human relationships - are the products of work, memory, care, and fidelity. Dazzled by fantasy, we have been blinded to this truth, but a dimming of New York's neon glare may yet make this reality newly visible and even beautiful to behold.

Painful words. Candid words. Brilliant words.
Sarah Palin is a Christian, baptized Roman Catholic, but has belonged to the Assemblies of God for quite a while. The Assemblies are a pentecostal denomination. Assembly of God website.

The Pew Forum has this biographical overview of Palin, along with links to articles on her religion.

The Pew Forum website also has this essay with statistics on pentecostalism.

So far, I think the most powerful member of the Assembly of God in Washington was Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Brief, preliminary thoughts: On the plus side, if Palin has internalized the Assemblies doctrines and ethos, she will be driven by a concern for right and wrong, not popularity. She will have a source of strength that may enable her to transcend the forces that shape people inside the Beltway. On the negative side, the Assemblies' doctrines and ethos do not lend themselves to compromise. The Assemblies, and pentecostalism in general, do not have the lengthy and sophisticated intellectual tradition regarding political practice that can be found within Roman Catholicism, Reformed thought, or Lutheranism. She will need to reach outside her tradition if she tries to think through to a well-developed Christian political worldview.

Perhaps someone will give her some of Reinhold Niebuhr's books.

14/09: Run This Ad

A lot of talk this week about disingenuous McCain ads. Aside from the fact that the prObama press labels every hard-hitting negative ad against their man misleading and beneath contempt, our recent attacks have lacked punch. Not only are they weak in the veracity department, they are mostly sound and fury.

The McCain team should run this ad:


Video of an ecstatic Barack crowd (women fainting and men shouting hallelujahs), with Barack chanting something like, "we are the change we seek; we are the change we have been waiting for."

Voice Over: The Change we Need?

Fade to black.

Come back on a headline: Obama Rejects Public Financing.

Voice Over: Barack Obama promised to participate in the public financing system, just as every other presidential candidate has done since its inception in 1976. He kept his promise (a pause) right up until the moment he saw advantage in breaking it.

Cut To: Crowd again. More soaring oratory from Obama. Some platitude about a new post-partisan better way of doing the business of the American people.

Fade to black.

Come back on a headline: Obama: No Townhall Debates

Voice Over: Barack Obama says he wants to concentrate on issues and raise the level of political discourse in this country. But when John McCain invited him to tour the breadth of this nation, debating and discussing the vital challenges confronting America in a series of townhall meetings, traveling together from stop to stop, demonstrating that two patriots from opposite sides of the aisle could disagree without being disagreeable, Barack Obama saw no personal political advantage. So, he never got around to responding to the invitation.

This is a Change We Can Believe In?

Senator Obama talks a good game--but he is not nearly as adept at walking the walk.

John McCain. You may not always agree with him, but you can always count on him to put Country First.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener

Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonists Index
As I write, Texans are being rescued from the high waters caused by Hurricane Ike.

Every one of these people chose to remain behind in spite of orders to evacuate. They made a bad choice.

So, who will pay for their rescue? I suspect you and I and all taxpayers will through Federal disaster relief money.

But, is there not some personal responsibility to cover at least some of the cost on the part of those adults who freely chose to ignore the evacuation order, remained behind, and needed plucked from rooftops?

I think the same thing about people who deliberately build in flood plains and on the coast of Hurricane country. Why should I help pay for people in New Orleans to live below sea level? For people to live in condos on the ocean in Texas or Florida?
This week Sarah Palin went head-to-head with the mainstream media for the first time, sitting (and standing and strolling) for a series of interviews with ABC News anchor, Charles Gibson.

An Aside: she is better on the move. Her best exchanges came when she was standing and walking. Coincidence? Her team ought to think about that.

The overall outcome? As I previously confessed, I agree with James Carville, the famous Democratic strategist, who pronounced her performance a C-. She passed (not exactly with flying colors)--but she passed.

We are both disappointed and relieved.

Relief: It could have been worse. You risk almost everything on these engagements. Charlie Gibson was out to end the short but exceptionally dramatic political life of Sarah Palin. He did not accomplish his mission. We made it through the long night alive. The banner of Sarah Palin still waves over the land of the free and the party of brave. We did not give away any of the precious ground recently acquired as a result of her flawless debut. Hopefully, the interview was as bad as it gets.

Disappointment: Most of us were secretly hoping (or maybe not so secretly--maybe some of us were actually starting to believe) that Sarah Palin really was a Republican David. She had appeared from nowhere and offered a confident smile in the face of a deafening roar of ridicule and smug derision. As we trembled at the task confronting us, she stepped forward and slew the terrible behemoth with alacrity and unimaginable skill. Consequently, her great feat energized the previously demoralized children of Reagan, suddenly silencing the over-confident Philistines across the valley, and beginning a panic on that side of the cultural divide that certainly had the potential to end in an unanticipated rout. It naturally followed that our David might lead the charge to complete the campaign and lead us to victory, unity, and a long reign of peace and stability.

The Interview was a warning that victory is within sight (to quote one of her now famous stump speech lines), but the battle remains intense and indeterminate. Even worse, Palin may be something less than a storied champion with perfect political pitch and irresistible charm in every respect, in every venue, for every occasion.

Governor Palin has limits.

If you had watched her gubernatorial debate back in 2006 (archived here on C-SPAN), you were probably not too surprised by the Gibson interview. Palin is good enough meeting the press--but not flawless. From the Alaska debate you get the sense that Palin is not quite comfortable sitting across the desk from hostile reporters (and they are hostile), but she soldiers through it--and, the good news, as indicated by her success at the polls and her astronomical public approval ratings, her wide fan base accepts this less impressive component of her political package and votes for her anyway.

In that vein, it is instructive to remember that our hero, Ronald Reagan, had similar hardships with a disdainful media. If you remember RR as the perennial master of the Washington press corp, refresh your memory with this 1966 clip from Meet the Press.

Like Reagan, Palin faces a press corps that judges itself morally and intellectually superior. At the same time, the mainstream media sees the insurgent new face from the West as dangerous in two respects: a dissenter regarding the enlightened progressive status quo and an appealing fool with the potential to mesmerize the ignorant masses hailing from the backward hamlets of Red State America.

In the end, Reagan triumphed against these forces aligned against him and intent on "exposing him" (an amazing accomplishment when we consider he was virtually on his own--no conservative talk radio, no FOX News, and no conservative blogosphere). We should not forget, however, Reagan occasionally stumbled in his direct engagements with the press, sometimes looking red-faced and confused. Who could blame him? The sincere Westerner faced a relentless and ruthless parade of reporters looking to make a name on the carcass of Ronald Reagan. Nevertheless, he found a way to speak directly to Americans, going over the heads of the antagonistic press.

We have known Palin for a fortnight. She may or may not prove to be a Ronald Reagan in the fullness of time. However, it is unlikely that she will be Reagan, circa 1980, during this election cycle. She is more likely to be Reagan, circa 1966 (although we can certainly hope for Reagan, circa 1976).

Bottom Line: We cannot place our fortunes solely in the hands of Sarah Palin. We need John McCain and, more importantly, the Republican grassroots to bring us home. Sarah Palin got us even. Because of her, we now have a chance. We cannot expect any more than that.

One other specific silver lining: in re the "expectations game," her less than stellar performance in the interview takes some pressure off her head-to-head with Joe Biden on 2 October. Better for the GOP, if she goes into that contest as a slight underdog.
Posted by: an okie gardener
My computer is just back from the shop so I missed posting on 9/11.

Here is a fitting tribute to a hero on that day, from the Rott.

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Morning After.

Yesterday evening, in real time, I offered a less than glowing reaction to the big interview. At first blush, I found Governor Palin a bit stiff and nervous. On the other hand, I thought she escaped the ambush without a mortal wound.

A few thoughts twenty-four hours later:

After re-watching and re-hearing the conversation all day, I stand by my sober assessment of Palin. I think James Carville had it just about right on GMA this morning: C-. However, my sense that she escaped unscathed is gaining altitude rapidly. Not that Palin has improved with the parade of "reviewings;" rather, the more one watches, the more Charlie Gibson and ABC go into the tank. Gibson's sloppy research, erroneous quotations, and snarky condescension regarding Palin's view of "God and Country" becomes more embarrassing to ABC News as the day progresses. When we consider the misleading edit and the willful ignorance of history on the part of Gibson, the whole affair begins to smell of dishonesty and blatant partisanship.

Newsflash: Mark Levin is leading his broadcast with a reading of Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural. If you have never paused to consider this seminal treatise on American civil theology, do yourself a favor and read it ASAP.

The other stinking fish from last night's pop quiz seems to be the "Bush Doctrine" question (which I admitted at the time confused me--that's right, even me).

With the passage of time, Gibson looks more and more like the nerdy hall monitor drunk on authority.

What has happened in the last twenty-four hours is the further polarization of this race. Here is the way we see it: the anti-Chritian, anti-Republican, anti-Red State mainstream media is out to humiliate us by any means necessary (obfuscation, intellectual dishonesty, misdirection, etc.).

Add in some Matt Damon, the ladies on The View, Pamela Anderson, and Susan Sarrandon, and this has been a very good day for the GOP.

If this race comes down to Sarah Palin versus Barack Obama, we are well served. If this race boils down to "ignorant, gun-toting, Bible-reading," America versus the axis of elite liberalism (Hollywood, the mainstream media, and academia)--we win.
Just watched the first segment of the Palin-Gibson ABC News interview.

An Aside: I predict it will be the highest rated network news show in ten years.

Quick reaction:

Not very good. Palin struck me as too strident, breathless, and unsteady. She was talking way too fast, which I took as a sign of nervousness. Gibson was smug and patronizing (but understated enough that he will probably get by without too much grief). But all the "are you sure you are ready" questions seemed a bit gratuitous. Asked and answered. Move on counselor.

She was a bit too scattered (sort of a like a shotgun). And a bit too staccato (like an M-16).

Sometimes she was non-responsive and visibly rattled.

However, for a first time out, I am not sure she gave any mortal answers. She was a bit too anxious to give Israel unqualified support (which will not go over well with the MSM--but pro-Israel positions always make sense to the heartland). She was also a bit too ready to court war with Russia over Georgia and/or the Ukraine. Again, this will draw some snickers and gasps from the striped-pants crowd, but potentially okay with hardhats, farmers, and hunters.

She didn't remember the "Bush Doctrine of 2002" (which, honestly, I couldn't quite get my mind around either on the spur of the moment). It was preemption. I am not sure if Gibson made her look bad on that one--or if he just looked like a pompous know-it-all, pulling out obscure questions to trip up the candidate.

But, as I say, if there is nothing there that plays as a lethal YouTube soundbite, she is probably okay. Even if it was highly watched (relative to the normal viewing audience for the evening news), the vast majority of voters did not tune in--and will not really care.

Not good--but, hopefully, not devastating.

But this probably signals the end of our glorious thirteen-day run and the beginning of a rough patch. This campaign is going to be nip and tuck, up and down, and down to the wire.
I recently read a book, recommended to me by okie gardener, called "Goodby to a River", by John Graves. The river in question is the Brazos, on a stretch northwest of Waco where the land's turning from CenTex farms to West Texas scrub (or vice versa, going downriver.) The author takes a canoe trip downstream while he still can, before more dams went up, as a sort of tribute to a site of his youth. The book reads partly as travel narrative, partly as history and lore, and partly as American philosophy, the good kind (Thoreau is "Saint Henry" to the author.)

The history and lore is small-scale, as history goes, but full of interesting characters. Comanches feature prominently, as do the frontiersmen who tangled with them. The author questions his own scholarship, but I'd say it's decent enough to make this required reading for anyone interested in Texas or frontier history. It was written in the late 1950s, only a couple of generations removed from its rougher days.

Graves really knew the land he was on. Its history was living to him, breathing, still fighting and feuding and moonshining and scalping and farming and alive. Its wildlife fed him, inspired him, called out to him, each in its own voice. The river had moods, changing from day to day or bend to bend, but all adding up to the river's own personality, soul. The land, though not rich, had its own character too: tough like the cedar covering the hills, stable like the limestone outcroppings, transient as the autumn grasses.

I like that. The phrase goes "If something's worth doing, it's worth doing well." True enough, and I'd add another: If somewhere's worth living, it's worth living well. I'm currently living in a town in northern Missouri where I didn't grow up (I call myself a Texas boy, and know a different stretch of the Brazos), but I'm just a county away from where my father grew up, and his father, and his. This land is worth knowing. I have an uncle who's constantly telling me of the history of this area (he's from another county or two over). Chief Big Neck had a "war" with the first white settlers. The Bee trace, a wagon route not a mile from where I now sit, would let a wagon travel from the Missouri river to Iowa without crossing a creek. If the Chariton's low, a steamboat's carcass is visible near Yarrow, just about as far north on that river as they would go.

I don't plan to be here long, but I plan to know the place while I am here. Know its people for how they are now, and how they were a generation or two ago. Recognize the songs of the birds I hear and the shape of the trees I see. Eat food raised in this county, swim in its lakes, bike its backroads, smell its air. My grandfather taught me how to pluck chickens last week. I may never need to use that skill again in my life, but I'm glad I've done it, for it's a part of where I am and who I am.

My life goals will lead me far from this place, in all probability far from any place I've known. (I'm still a young man, and haven't yet cemented my path.) I'll likely be in cities more often than not, in this country and others. I'm blessed enough to have a wife who's keen to visit these places with me. I'll be focusing on big-pictures and global issues, because that's where my intellectual and career ambitions lie, but I hope not to ignore the small-picture and local issues in doing so. Place matters.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few months ago, commenting on the Obama-Wright affair, I wrote:

"I find significant discomfort in the parade of conservatives, who, in our pursuit of Obama and his pastor, have adopted the language of the politically correct Left. If we have any hope of returning to sanity on the issue of speech, we must break the cycle of acrimonious sanctimony. Perhaps we should take the initiative and offer grace rather than vengeance while we hold the upper hand in one of these disgusting and frightening public spectacles."

"The repeated accusations of racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism are inflicting great injury on our body politic. Accepting the proposition that "hate" and "intolerance" are the ultimate unpardonable sins is an unwise long-term strategy for conservatives; this invidious protocol is a rigged game invented by liberals that we can never ultimately win."

Why were we so relentless and uncompromising in our quest for satisfaction in that sickening affair?

We have suffered great abuse. For a brief moment, the tables were turned, and we wanted our pound of flesh.

Do I exaggerate the circumstances of our trauma?

Not by much. Many of us labor in a culture of extreme intolerance for any hint of intolerance.

Even as the collective rhetoric of the American intelligentsia purports to prize nonconformity, critical thinking, and dissent as the most admirable of all public virtues, the shock troops of nonconformity stand ready to intimidate and punish public figures and private individuals who fail to conform to our most sacred cultural creed, the ideology of tolerance.

The charge of "racism" has become the most stigmatizing condemnation in our society, often signaling a painful and potentially career-ending ordeal for accused public figures and/or academics.

This poisonous theater in the culture war has exacted a high price over the years:

Republicans lost a Senate seat in 2006 (and probably a fairly decent fellow), when George Allen uttered one word: "macaca" (the exact meaning of which remains mysterious to me still). The Party of Lincoln cashiered a Senate Majority Leader in 2005 after he stooped to praise an ancient political warrior on the occasion of his 100th birthday and impending retirement. Even the great conservative hero of our generation, Ronald Reagan, a man praised by objective chroniclers for his unflinching sense of fairness (racial and otherwise), still faces the specter of evil intentions for an ambiguous sentence spoken at a county fair near Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1980.

Any fair-minded observer will admit things have been tough for conservatives over the past few decades, and, even more importantly, the mainstream media has prosecuted a merciless double-standard.

What about the "lipstick and the pig" comments?

We must abandon this theatrical display of victimization immediately. We sound too much like DemocRATS (remember that one?).

Obama called Palin a pig? Sort of? Maybe. Close enough? I am always suspicious of "coded" race and/or sex baiting. Sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar. Even if it was the real thing, SO WHAT? Suck it up. Good one, Obama. Bite me! Pretty pathetic attempt at a burn, actually. We'll see you chokers in the playoffs.

But let's stop demanding apologies. It makes us look like the pusillanimous party.

If this were going the other way, you say, they'd have our asses. Pretty much. Can't argue with you there. If someone had said something like, "this really is the pot calling the kettle black," all Hell would have broken lose. But the double-standard be damned--I don't want to win that way. Let's walk it off. Pin the quote up in the locker room and take it out of their hides on the field of play.

Is she the new Reagan? If she is, she's going to laugh off this desperate slight and say, "Well, Barack, there you go again," and then counter with a rhetorical sharp right cross to the jaw.

UPDATE: a hearty Texas welcome to Instapundit readers.
For my money, Michael Yon is doing the best reporting from on the ground in Afghanistan. Here is his report on the successful transport of a large electrical generating turbine.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Overheard this week, quite a bit of political talk among my Indian parishioners and locals on the presidential campaign. I do mean "overheard" because while I am very vocal about issues, I do not talk politics in the parish in the sense of parties or candidates.

Native Americans usually vote Democrat. But Palin's nomination has some Indian women rethinking their vote for this fall.

Native Americans usually vote Democrat. But John McCain has a good reputation among our local Indians. Recently I heard a significant figure in tribal politics, usually a Democrat, declare to a group that he was going to vote for McCain, because of McCain's record on Native American issues.

Here in Oklahoma, the state will go for McCain with or without the Indian vote. But in New Mexico we may see a McCain win in November because of the reservation vote.

I have not heard Obama's color mentioned publically around here, but our local Indians tend to be prejudiced against blacks. My suspicion is that some will not vote for Obama because of his race.

For my previous post on the Indian vote this fall, see here.

Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
The registration requirement was suspended in April 1975. It was resumed again in 1980 by President Carter in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Registration continues today as a hedge against underestimating the number of servicemen needed in a future crisis. Source: the official website of the Selective Service Administration.


Mr Obama was asked by George Stephanopoulos of ABC's "This Week" programme whether he'd ever thought about military service and replied: "You know, I actually did. I had to sign up for Selective Service [a means of conscription in case of war] when I graduated from high school.

"And I was growing up in Hawaii. And I have friends whose parents were in the military. There are a lot of Army, military bases there.

"And I actually always thought of the military as an ennobling and, you know, honourable option. But keep in mind that I graduated in 1979. The Vietnam War had come to an end. We weren't engaged in an active military conflict at that point. And so, it's not an option that I ever decided to pursue."
Source: The Telegraph

I am puzzled. Obama states that he graduated from high school in 1979. And, Obama states that he registered for selective service when he graduated from high school. But, there was no Selective Service registration in 1979. Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue, having no teleprompter or notes to consult. He seems not to have anticipated the question. He is not good at thinking on his feet when forced off his talking points: witness his mispeak "my Muslim faith" in the same interview.

If George Stephanopoulos can rattle Obama into misstatements, how will B.H. Obama do with Tsar Vladimir?
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I am seeing all kinds of Ronald Reagan-Sarah Palin comparisons careening around the blogoshere over the last seventy hours (perhaps the most eerie from Mike Reagan). Any validity? Maybe. I see some similarities.

Truly, she has a Reagan-like gift for communication. She talks, we listen, and we understand exactly what she means. Moreover, we admire her style even as we process her message. She feels at ease with us--and vice versa. She is confident, sincere, and approachable. Those are rare qualities that Reagan possessed in spades.

A member of the Bosque Boys community, "speakerofdacommoner," recently compared Palin to John Kennedy:

"She is bright, enthusiastic, matter of fact, and easy on the eyes! JFK was able to appear like a regular Joe each time he took center stage – almost as if he were having a conversation with just you. Palin did a remarkable job of appearing as real and rooted as anyone since Reagan. She seems trustworthy, honest, and tough – yet strikingly feminine: assertive without outright aggression."

"Speaker" is right to NOT shy away from her appealing appearance. The sheer physical beauty of Reagan and Kennedy should not be overlooked in explaining their political allure. Most of us are naturally drawn to beautiful people. Of course, you need to do more than look pretty (ask John Edwards). But an attractive countenance seems a wonderful starting place for a public figure.

One other comparison to Reagan (and this may be important):

She is polarizing. Just about half of us have already fallen in love with Sarah Palin--but the other half seems intent on ripping her heart out. If you remember the Reagan days, you will recall how much the left hated the Gipper. Even as there is a new energy and sense of great expectation on our side about her, our opponents are overflowing with fulmination. You could feel an uneasiness and dread on the part of the Obama nation and the almost intuitive and collective desire on the left to crush Palin immediately. This lady Hercules needed to be killed in the cradle, but, instead, she showed up on Wednesday night smiling and joyfully taunting her tormentors with the carcasses of the unsuccessful character assassins.

One thing about Reagan, the more you disparaged him, the more he smiled. "Well, Jimmy, there you go again." She smiles a lot--even when she is giving her opponent the business. Put me down and I will laugh good-naturedly--but you better be ready for my comeback. You make fun of me for being a small-town mayor, I've got a joke that puts you in your place, buster. And when it is all over, you will wish you had never opened up that can of worms.

One more thing I like: she doesn't look off into space; she looks directly at me through the television set.

One note of caution: we met Ronald Reagan the politician in 1964. We watched him for sixteen years before we elected him president, which included eight years as governor of the most populous state in the Union and two unsuccessful campaigns for president.

We met Sarah Palin eight days ago.
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
Instapundit links to a fun discussion on best portrayals of a real president by an actor in a movie or TV miniseries. Some of the suggestions include

Anthony Hopkins as Richard Nixon in Nixon
Paul Giamatti as John Adams in John Adams
Bruce Greenwood as JFK in Thirteen Days

I am partial to William Devane as JFK in The Missiles of October
and Ralph Bellamy as FDR in Sunrise at Campobello and in the miniseries The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.

Any thoughts? The role must be major in the plot of the movie, not a brief appearance.

05/09: The Homerun

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Due to a debilitating and painful combination of injuries, Kirk Gibson came to bat only once during the 1988 World Series. His single plate appearance transpired at the conclusion of Game One with one man on and two out in the bottom of the ninth; the scrappy Los Angeles Dodgers trailed the mighty and heavily favored Oakland A's by one run. Painfully limping into the batter's box, Gibson faced the American League "Rolaids Relief Man of the Year," ALCS MVP, and future hall of famer, Dennis Eckersley.

Dodger announcing legend, Vin Scully, with the call:

"...and all year long, he [Gibson] answered the demands, until he was physically unable to start tonight——with two bad legs: The bad left hamstring, and the swollen right knee. And, with two out, you talk about a roll of the dice... this is it."

Fifty thousand Dodger fans waited breathlessly at Chavez Ravine, while millions of white-knuckled fans crowded over TV sets all over the City of Angels. Gibson quickly fell behind in the count (two strikes, no balls). On the sixth pitch, as Gibson worked his way back to 3-2, the runner on first, Mike Davis, stole second base placing him in position to score the tying run with a base hit. However, it also allowed Eckersley and the A's the opportunity to intentionally walk the normally heavy-hitting Gibson in favor of the next batter, Steve Sax. No way. The brilliant pitcher and the sagacious manager, Tony LaRussa, saw Gibson as wounded and vulnerable. This was the opportunity to put away the nettlesome Dodgers.

Scully: "the game right now is at the plate."

The three-two pitch.

Scully: "high fly ball into right field, she i-i-i-is... gone!!!"

Scully again: "In a year that has been so improbable... the impossible has happened"

Jack Buck on CBS radio: "Unbelievable! A home run for Gibson! And the Dodgers have won the game, 5 to 4; I don't believe what I just saw!"

None of us could. Dodger Stadium erupted in a way never witnessed before or duplicated since. The streets of Los Angeles resounded with a cacophony of car horns and primal screams of sheer jubilation.

The Dodgers went on to win that series in five games. Gibson did not appear again. Orel Hershiser won the Most Valuable Player. Orel was tremendous, shutting out the A's in Game Two and Game Five. Nevertheless, I have always believed that Gibson deserved MVP honors for his single at-bat. Life is made up of moments. Gibson with one incredibly heroic and unlikely swing of the bat changed the trajectory of that series. Without that turning point, it is impossible to imagine the Dodgers overcoming the opening game loss at home. But with that win, the impossible suddenly seemed within their grasp--and it was.

Sarah Palin

Her stunning address to the Republican Convention and thirty-seven million television viewers on Wednesday night was a walk-off homerun. Under intense pressure, and against all odds, Sarah Palin delivered a game-changing swing of the bat. It does not mean the Republicans will win the series--but they have won Game One--a feat nearly unimaginable two weeks ago.

The Palin Homerun automatically stands as one of the Greatest Political Moments of All-Time.
Perhaps the best I have ever seen.

[The Palin Nomination Acceptance Speech.]
How will John McCain and Barack Obama perform in the face of Gustav? Their reaction to this crisis may well determine the course of this campaign—perhaps even the outcome of the election. Right now McCain holds the initiative. The national spotlight is directed upon him, and he enjoys a structural advantage in terms of access to the business end of the government relief effort. But hurricanes and presidential campaigns oftentimes defy human agency or prognostication. Will this force of nature prove advantageous to either candidate? Time will tell.

Perhaps even more significant, Gustav potentially offers George Bush an opportunity to come in from the cold after his three-year political storm.

By the way, it is worth noting that Democrats are not only shocked and horrified that a major American political party would nominate a relative novice to a national ticket, now it turns out that they are also revolted at the thought of partisans taking political advantage of a natural disaster (such as a Gulf Coast hurricane).


ITEM ONE: Some historical context.

Hurricanes have played major roles in presidential elections. Before there was a FEMA, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, a 1928 presidential candidate, proved to be a one-man federal emergency management administrator when he personally took control of relief efforts along the lower Mississippi following the catastrophic Flood of 1927. Hoover's actions pioneered the concept of federal relief for natural disasters on that scale and cemented his reputation as a great organizational genius at the disposal of humanity.

More recently, Hurricane Andrew (1992) not only wreaked havoc on Florida (the worst American natural disaster up until that time), but the sluggishness of George H.W. (41) Bush's FEMA, in the wake of the devastating storm, also inflicted great damage on the Bush re-election effort that fall.

Ironically, and almost forgotten, a series of Florida hurricanes in 2004 allowed George Bush (43) and his FEMA (headed by Michael Brown) an opportunity to perform with high proficiency and rally to the aid of buffeted Floridians. If you think hard enough, you may remember the images of a fatigued but smiling George Bush dressed in dungarees slinging hash for displaced neighbors. Not unconnected, President Bush took the perennial toss-up Sunshine State with ease that November.

ACT TWO: 2005

Of course, when we think of George Bush, Michael Brown, and a hurricane, we think of KATRINA, the devastating super storm that pummeled New Orleans and the Mississippi coast and beyond. Katrina proved a disastrously debilitating public relations nightmare for the Bush Administration. Undoubtedly, the President and his team misjudged and mishandled the natural disaster. In fairness, however, the Category Four deluge overwhelmed the best laid schemes of mice and men. While it is tough for us to admit our limitations as all-powerful humans, in truth, the natural force of Katrina simply over-matched even the power of the President of the United States.

Notwithstanding, the media and the opposition party piled on the President, de-emphasizing the unprepared Democratic governor of Louisiana and the not-ready-for-prime-time local leadership in New Orleans--also ignoring, for the most part, the more successful response in Mississippi spearheaded by a Republican governor.

Regardless of the complicated web of events and the multiple actors and motives, Katrina became the symbol of a failed presidency. Katrina exposed Bush “cronyism” and incompetence, GOP corruption and a systemic lack of compassion, and, perhaps most importantly, the international embarrassment of Katrina crystallized public frustration regarding our dreadfully dispiriting position in IRAQ. Although the judgment had been percolating for some time, suddenly, the Bush fortunes dropped precipitously (and gas prices rose just as abruptly)--and stayed there. Over the last three years, George Bush has suffered the lowest sustained approval ratings in the history of the American presidency.


How will this storm be different?

I do not know the name of the current director of FEMA, but, whoever he is, his boss, Michael Chertoff, chief of Homeland Security, is onsite in Baton Rouge directing operations for the feds. The old governor of Louisiana is gone. The new governor is everywhere, appearing ultra-competent, breathtakingly articulate, and exceedingly telegenic. He is on every newscast and flawlessly in command of the situation, comfortably discussing any possible contingency. The old mayor of New Orleans is a new man, reborn and on top of an almost comprehensive evacuation of the Big Easy.

Where is George? He is on his way to Texas (and assuredly South Louisiana as soon as he gets the go-ahead to go in). He is conspicuously monitoring the situation, eschewing all invitations to birthday soirees, GOP conventions, and any celebrations that might include a Mexican hat dance. All systems go.

Added to the additional preparation and experience at every level, Gustav is almost certain to be less powerful, less lethal, and, as a result, much less catastrophic than the tragedy of three years ago. Ironically, for many casual observers (even as the mainstream media takes every opportunity to roll the tape of the Katrina abomination), this less calamitous episode will translate into better storm management on the part of the government.

EPILOGUE: An Opportunity to Forgive George Bush?

Much has been made of the fact that Gustav has blown George Bush and Dick Cheney off the GOP stage in St. Paul today. That helps politically--without a doubt. The Democrats have placed most of their eggs in the "McSame" basket. It was always a strained and disingenuous line of attack, but the lack of a Bush-Cheney primetime appearance at the McCain nominating convention helps to make the connection even more attenuated.

Perhaps even more significant, however, is that the government performance in the face of Gustav may offer the President a modicum of redemption. Could the American people, after three years of sustained anger directed at the White House, take this opportunity to forgive and re-assess a bit? Just as the Katrina failure seemed to typify the larger fiasco playing out in this administration that included Iraq of 2005, the potential triumph over Mother Nature, in light of the much more successful Iraq of 2008, might finally stanch the President's long, slow, three-year bleed.

The Lagniappe:
In a tight race for president, even a slight upward re-evaluation of the Bush years would help John McCain tremendously.