You are currently viewing archive for December 2008
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Due to the elevation of its junior senator to the presidency of the United States, Illinois state law requires its governor to appoint a qualified candidate to fill the open seat for the remainder of the term, terminating with the regularly scheduled canvass for senate in 2010. Yesterday, the duly elected governor, Rod Blagojevich, appointed, Roland W. Burris, longtime Illinois public servant, to represent the people of the Prairie State. In ordinary times, this would all be pro forma and not much of a news story. But these are no ordinary times.

Backed up by the President-elect, Senate Democratic Leadership has drawn a line in the sand, forswearing to block the appointment, arguing that Governor Blagojevich, as a result of his recently discovered perfidy, is unfit to make the selection.

From the Senate Democratic Leadership:

"This is not about Mr. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat. Under these circumstances, anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus."

Statement in full on PDF here courtesy of C-SPAN; interestingly, this statement is not available as of this writing on any of the usual Senate websites.

Democratic Leadership is wrong. It makes no sense to block a legitimate replacement appointment solely because of his indirect relationship with a politician about whom you are feeling guilty and politically vulnerable.

Burris is a qualified candidate in terms of the Constitution, which admittedly does not set a very exacting standard: 30 years of age, nine years a citizen of the United States, and a current resident of Illinois. More significantly, as all parties acknowledge, Burris is also an eminently qualified candidate in terms of reputation and political experience.

There is no reason to believe that Burris cannot effectively represent the people of Illinois. Harry Reid and his boys ought to take a deep breath, admit that Blago outfoxed them--and then stand down.

Granted Blagojevich is most likely a bad guy, which Harry Reid and company knew long before Patrick Fitzgerald made the man a pariah. What changed exactly? Legally, not much. This governor, who remains unindicted (at this point he faces only a criminal complaint), has all the formal power he did before December 9th.

UPDATE: Just now USA Patrick Fitzgerald asked for a 90-day extension to indict (breaking news via USA Today here). Really, what in the Sam Hill is going on with this case?

Thus far the Illinois legislature has not gotten serious on impeachment, nor have they enacted legislation that would have placed the replacement decision in the hands of the voters (legislation which Blogojevich had promised to sign). The common wisdom holds that the Democratic-run Illinois state senate balked upon considering the possibility that a special election might favor a Republican candidate in this atmosphere.

So, in the absence of action on the part of the legislature, the governor reasonably argues that he has an obligation to move forward.

According to the Constitution, the Senate reserves the right to refuse service to anyone it pleases. But this may well be a case in which the institutional "right" conflicts with right and wrong, and the fine print may not be in keeping with the "spirit of the law."

Bottom line: Harry Reid and company need to hold their noses (for public consumption), seat Burris, and move on.
Samuel Phillips Huntington has died. He was a great asset to liberty and scholarship, a Harvard professor, and the author of The Soldier and the State, The Crisis of Democracy and The Clash of Civilizations, among others. Brits at Their Best has a tribute and links.
The story from The Pew Forum:

A few tidbits

Collectively, Protestants account for more than half (54.7%) of the 111th Congress, about the same proportion as their share of the U.S. adult population (51.3%). But American Protestantism is very diverse and encompasses more than a dozen major denominational families, such as Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians, all with unique beliefs, practices and histories. When these Protestant denominational families are considered as separate religious groups, Catholics are the single largest religious group in the 111th Congress. Catholics, who account for nearly one-quarter of the U.S. adult population, make up about 30% of Congress. Indeed, the number of Catholics in Congress is two-and-a-half times the size of the next largest religious group, Baptists, who make up about 12% of the members.
. . .
Differences become much more pronounced at the party level. While 70.8% of congressional Republicans are Protestant, fewer than half of Democrats (43.6%) belong to Protestant denominational families. On the other hand, the share of Democratic members who are Catholic (36.6%) is much greater than the number of Catholic GOP members (21%). And while Jews make up 13.4% of all congressional Democrats (including two independents who tend to caucus with the Democrats), they account for just 0.9% of congressional Republicans, with one Jewish Republican in the House and one in the Senate.
. . .
In many ways, the changes in the religious makeup of Congress during the last half-century mirror broader changes in American society. Congress, like the nation as a whole, has become much less Protestant and more religiously diverse. Indeed, the total percentage of Protestants in Congress has dropped from 74.1% in 1961 to 54.7% today, which roughly tracks with broader religious demographic trends during this period. As recently as the early 1980s, nearly two-thirds of Americans identified themselves as Protestants. In the recent Landscape Survey, the number of self-identified Protestants dropped to 51.3%.

Not surprisingly, many of the major Protestant denominational families have lost ground in Congress in the past 50 years. Methodists, who made up nearly one-in-five members (18.2%) of the 87th Congress, which was seated in 1961, make up only 10.7% of the 111th Congress. The share of Presbyterians and Episcopalians also has dropped significantly during this period, from 13.7% and 12.4%, respectively, to 8.1% and 7.1% in the new Congress. Finally, Congregationalists have dropped from 5.1% to 1.1% during this period.

A few Protestant groups have fared somewhat better, however. From 1961 to today, the number of Baptists in Congress has remained roughly the same, at around 12%, as has the Lutheran share (around 4%).
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
There is a growing sense that the 111th Congress will not include a Senator Kennedy from New York.

Why? The reasons are numerous and growing every time Caroline Bouvier Kennedy (Schlossberg) faces the people and the media. She is not impressive. She is going South fast in terms of public opinion, and even the press corps is starting to feel uncomfortable with her. As improbable as it might have seemed a week ago to deny this heir apparent to America's favorite political dynasty, it is increasingly evident that the ascension is a non-starter.


Ironically, deliciously, the "Palin Standard" is gaining currency--not with the mainstream media, who continue to exist in a tortured state of denial concerning their journalistic malpractice in 2008, but with the less-pedigreed class of politician watchers. Inquiring minds want to know: what makes Caroline qualified for high office? What are her positions on the issues? What has she been doing over the last thirty years? How often has she voted? How does she respond to the bright lights and rapid-fire questions from the Fourth Estate? How many times does she say "you know" in a three-minute interview?

In fact, she is quite unlike Sarah Palin? She is not nearly as experienced, as likable, as telegenic, or as articulate as the Alaska governor.

Caroline supporters were counting on a "stuff job." They believed they could make the locals choke down this decree from on high--and smile during the process. Evidently her backers have not given up on that strategy, but things are tough and getting much tougher. Even more troublesome for her campaign, she is not responding to adversity like a champion. She really is "deer caught in the headlights" unprepared. My sense is that she is about to fold like a house of cards.

Even if her partisans are successful in thrusting her upon the Senate, she will face more of the same. In fact, one might plausibly argue that the best thing for what ails Republicans right now might very well be a brittle and tongue-tied heiress in the Senate as a symbol for the new Democratic Age.

But those Democrats are smarter than they used to be. This about-to-be President, whose support will be absolutely essential if Kennedy is to prevail, seems to understand when to pull the trigger on dead weight.

I could no more renounce him than I could renounce...wait a minute...hold I was saying, I renounce him.

I have a strong hunch that Caroline is about to go away.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
During the the most disquieting white-knuckle moment of Campaign 2008, in an attempt to explain his loyalty for his controversial pastor, Barack Obama famously served up his white grandmother as an analogous relationship:

a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

On second thought, maybe the late Mrs. Madelyn Dunham and her notorious prejudice against black men was not so misplaced.

From the Wall Street Journal today:

WASHINGTON -- Murders of African-American teenagers have risen 39% since 2000 and 2001, according to a report due out Monday.

Homicides in which blacks ages 14 to 17 years old were the victims rose to 927 over the two-year period of 2006-07, the last years for which statistics are available, compared with 666 during 2000-01, according to the study by criminal-justice professors at Boston's Northeastern University. The 39% increase is much greater than the rise in overall homicides, which jumped 7.4% from 2000-01 to 2006-07.

In all seriousness, one of my central hopes for a Barack Obama administration is this: as an African American president, he will have the resolve and credibility to deal with this long-festering American tragedy of urban violence, which, up until this moment, for reasons of political correctness and our tortured racial past, has been an unutterable and untouchable societal quagmire.
First off, thanks to the Gardener for his kind remarks about me personally, which I fully reciprocate. I thoroughly enjoyed his response to my Joel Stein piece. Ironically, our original idea for a blog centered around what we often did through the years: the exchange of emails hashing out issues of history, politics, culture, and religion. I say "ironically," as I believe our intention was to do much more of that brand of discourse on our blog than we actually do. Well, the best laid schemes...

What is so amazing about Joel Stein?

It is his honesty about himself and his fellow travelers. This strikes me as nearly unique among his brethren.

While I concede the Gardener's point that Stein does not fully understand conservatism, I would also say that observation is almost irrelevant to my assertion of admiration.

A liberal with a sympathetic understanding of conservatism would be truly miraculous, indeed. Of course, I would guess that devout liberal readers of the Bosque Boys (if there were such an animal) would point to a whole slew of perceived misrepresentations and "straw men" over the years.

Not so remarkable. Pretty human, in fact.

What is remarkable is when a liberal (or conservative) swims against the stream of his own ideological shibboleths.

I gave three examples from Stein:

1. Liberals really don't love America as much as Conservatives.

2. Jews enjoy disproportionate representation in the media and entertainment industry.

3. Blithely proclaiming that you "support the troops" while you oppose the war is disingenuous and is put forward merely for the sake of PR.

Those are devastatingly frank admissions--and exceedingly rare.

Does he get us conservatives right? Not exactly--but, then again, it is more our job than his to get us right. Moreover, a lot of our political discussion is thrust and parry. They assert, and then we defend and counter-assert. At some point, we get fairly close to a truth.

So, Joel Stein is NOT amazing because of his cogent observations about conservatives; he is amazing for his incredibly forthright admissions about his own team.

I think this is a man with whom we can do business.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

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

At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.

We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.

This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.

Read the full essay. From The Times Online, link via Brits at Their Best.

Not all religions are equal.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
I have deep respect and even affection for A Waco Farmer. He's one of my hetero-life-mates. But sometimes I do a different take on things. Take his recent expression of respect for Joel Klein ( I don't think Farmer was being sarcastic). I did read Klein off-and-on, but gave up on him a couple of years ago as being a great example of the smart fool, the worldly-mind. I will grant that Klein here is honest about his own, and most liberal's, attitude toward America. But he misrepresents conservatives, and so concedes to a straw man.

In Klein's recent LA Times opinion piece he made these statements:

I don't love America. That's what conservatives are always telling liberals like me. Their love, they insist, is truer, deeper and more complete. Then liberals, like all people who are accused of not loving something, stammer, get defensive and try to have sex with America even though America will then accuse us of wanting it for its body and not its soul. When America gets like that, there's no winning.

But I've come to believe conservatives are right. They do love America more. Sure, we liberals claim that our love is deeper because we seek to improve the United States by pointing out its flaws. But calling your wife fat isn't love. True love is the blind belief that your child is the smartest, cutest, most charming person in the world, one you would gladly die for. I'm more in "like" with my country.

Klein here tells us a lot about himself, but nothing really about conservatives. He contrasts liberal love--seeking to improve the U.S.--with conservative love and concludes that liberals just "like" America. A conservative's love of America, Klein wrote, is "the blind belief that your child is the smartest, cutest, most charming person in the world." Wrong. "True love" does not mean blind belief that your children are the best. My wife and I have raised three and we are proud of them. But I have always been aware of their flaws and weaknesses, as well as their strengths. I have sought to minimize the former and encourage the latter. Conservative love for America is not blind. Any real conservative can list on the spot at least three things that objectively make America the greatest, and the ideal place to live. At this moment I would list our Constitution including the Bill of Rights, our national history of self-improvement, and the generosity of Americans with their own money and resources toward those in need. And conservatives, so long as their has been a conservative movement, would like some things in America to be different, and work to change them. Our love is passionate, but not self-deluding.

. . ., I still think conservatives love America for the same tribalistic reasons people love whatever groups they belong to. These are the people who are sure Christianity is the only right religion, that America is the best country, that the Republicans have the only good candidates, that gays have cooties.

So, Mr. Klein, you have advanced enough to transcend tribalism. Perhaps, though, you're just afraid of commitment.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Like legions of loyal conservative RCP fans, this morning I clicked onto this intriguing title: "Do Republicans Love America Too Much?"

What did I find? Joel Stein, columnist for the LA Times.

What's the big deal? I feel like a successful Diogenes. I think I have finally discovered an honest liberal pundit.

His thesis today (the Times headline writer was more descriptive than the RCP tag): "Republicans are blinded by love. Lefties just don't have the same feeling about America as the hard right does."

Can you believe a liberal is willing to admit this obvious but awkward and uncomfortable fact of life? Usually, that simple truth is "fighting words" for most left-of-center politicos. But Stein doesn't just own up to the "accusation," he patiently explains the merits of a healthy skepticism for the "tribalism" that compels patriots to slavishly adore their native land.

Savor this gem:

But I've come to believe conservatives are right. They do love America more. Sure, we liberals claim that our love is deeper because we seek to improve the United States by pointing out its flaws. But calling your wife fat isn't love. True love is the blind belief that your child is the smartest, cutest, most charming person in the world, one you would gladly die for. I'm more in "like" with my country.

How honest is Stein? His previous column addressed the awkward truth that Jews actually do run Hollywood. Did he really say that? Another must read.

Some of you may be thinking this is a familiar name. And some of you are undoubtedly thinking, "how could this ignoramus not know Joel Stein."

In fact, Stein made a big splash a couple of years ago when he wrote a column in which he explained that he did not "support the troops." Why? Because he opposed the war. And supporting the troops and opposing the war was a prima facie contradiction.


But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken -- and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.

One more must read, equally brilliant in its honesty and impeccable logic.

I am now recalling the dust up back then resulting from this piece. A lot of the right-wing talkers held him up as the ultimate disloyal liberal pundit. Too bad. That reaction misses the point.

In Joel Stein we have an incisive and honest (and laugh-out loud funny) opponent. My guess is that we can learn a lot from him. Stein is now a permanent must read for me.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Nativity by E. Merrill Root

Here is the hinge of history--the hour
Wherefrom the years recede, the years advance--
The night when Love has victory over Power.

A new born child beneath a mother's glance,
God the creator is made manifest,
Born of his creature, flesh of circumstance.

Here, petal-soft against his mother's breast,
He lies who made the sun to be his rose;
Here he who strews the lightenings lies at rest!

O little hands that buoy the nightengale!
How can your fingers sleep in such repose?
And must you, of soft baby feet, rescale
The height of heaven on the driven nail?

Category: Frivolity
Posted by: an okie gardener
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A lot to say here--but nothing you haven't already thought for yourself.

I tend to think most of the Obama-Blago connections are not especially damning (at least, relatively innocent on the "Chicago scale"). Moreover, a press corps not frothing at the mouth in pursuit of a president is refreshing--and I think a necessary change in our political culture.

Having said that, coming from where we've been, you must get a chuckle out of this relationship between the Fourth Estate and their hero.

Pretty funny stuff.
From G. Washington, the indispensible man. Story here from Brits At Their Best.
Here’s a holiday tip I learned over the weekend: A fruitcake can be used like a Duraflame log in the fireplace. Jay Leno

Fruitcakes make ideal gifts because the Postal Service has been unable to find a way to damage them. Dave Barry

Tis the season for fruitcake jokes.

I finally figured out a use for holiday fruitcakes--paint them white to keep people from parking on your lawn.

I found the ideal fruitcake recipe. Forget all the other ingredients and just use rum.

I happen to like fruitcakes myself. My mother made two or three every year. We ate one and the others were given as gifts. They were good. My wife makes a "bread" that really is a small fruitcake in a loafpan--one of my favorite Christmas treats. I grant that some of the store-bought fruitcakes aren't great, though some are, like the famous Corsicana, Texas, fruitcakes.

I suspect that most of the people who make fun of these Christmas confections of fruits, nuts, and spices in a thick cake batter have never tried one. They just go with the stereotype.

I am not innocent of going with the humor flow myself. For years I made fun of Spam, the canned meat. It is like I assumed that any sentence with the word Spam in it was the set-up for a joke.

Last month, in the grocery store with my wife, on a whim I picked up a can. I tried it, and I liked it. Now I know that the word "Spam" is not automatically funny.

C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters defined frivolity as the assumption that the joke has already been made. It is the only form of humor encouraged by demonic temptors, because it creates the frame of mind in which virtue can be derided. Frivolous people act as though truth-telling, honest behavior, chastity, loyalty, and such are somehow literally ridiculous.

The older I get, the less patience I have with frivolous people, or with frivolous comedy. I wish they would try virtue before they ridicule it.

Posted by: an okie gardener
Story here, from The Washington Post.

WARSAW, Poland -- Poland's president celebrated the start of Hanukkah by visiting Warsaw's main synagogue Sunday, a gesture the city's Jewish community greeted as a historic step in its revival.

Lech Kaczynski's visit marked the first time the head of state has attended a religious service at a synagogue in Poland, whose Jewish population was nearly wiped out in the Holocaust and later suffered from communist-era repression.

Pre-WW2 Poland had a huge Jewish population, and huge anti-semitism among Poles. Simon Wiesenthal recounts his high school experience:

Two years before the outbreak of war the Radical elements had invented a "day without Jews," whereby they hoped to reduce the number of Jewish academics, to interfere with their studies and make it impossible for them to take examinations. On these feast days there assembled inside the gates of the High Schools a crowd of fraternity students wearing ribbons inscribed "the day without the Jews." It always coincided with examination day. The "day without the Jews" was thus a movable festival, and as the campus of the Technical High School was ex-territorial, the police were not allowed to interfere except by express request of the Rector. Such requests were rarely made. Although the Radicals formed a mere 20 percent of the students, this minority reigned because of the cowardice and laziness of the majority. The great mass of the students were unconcerned about the Jews or indeed about order and justice. They were not willing to expose themselves, they lacked willpower, they were wrapped up in their own problems, completely indifferent to the fate of Jewish students.
. . . In the side streets ambulances waited patiently and they had plenty to do on examination days. The police too waited to prevent violence from spreading outside the campus. . . .

Given this historical context, the visit to the synagogue by Poland's president is a very welcome step.

The attempt at a Final Solution was possible only because there existed in the populations conquered by the Nazis an embedded anti-semitism. There never were enough Nazis to carry out the Final Solution without help. In conquered nations where the Gentile population refused to round up Jews, such as Denmark, the Nazis were unable to put their plans into effect.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
The voters chose a slogan not a plan,
an image, not a man.
Reflecting back on the star-crossed eight years of the George Bush administration, the outgoing chief executive might feel some gratitude to his predecessor. In a perverse way, Bill Clinton and his desperate campaign to retain power in the face of scandal probably saved the Bush presidency.

The framers designed impeachment as the ultimate (as in last resort) "check" against the misuse of executive and/or judicial power. Congress has used the weapon of impeachment sparingly over the course of American history. Two presidents, Washington and Jackson, when faced with a quarrelsome opposition in Congress, dared the legislative branch to impeach. On both occasions, Congress wisely demurred.

Jeffersonian Republicans (forerunners to the modern Democratic Party) pushed to consolidate gains against the Federalist Party and remove a troublesome remnant of the opposition within the judiciary. Through mostly good luck and/or providence, the scheme failed. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Radical Republicans attempted to remove the beleaguered Southern Unionist, Andrew Johnson. The Senate failed to convict the President (just barely), but the legislative succeeded in diminishing the executive for a generation. The power of the presidency did not make a real comeback until the administration of Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1974, a resurgent legislative branch finally succeeded in toppling a president. Although the House of Representatives never formally impeached him, Richard Nixon resigned once leaders of his own party assured him that he faced certain removal.

Enter Bill Clinton.

Initially, I believed that the low crimes and misbehavior of President Bill Clinton did not meet the threshold of constitutional removal from office, but it merited resignation. That is, although not quite impeachment-worthy, Bill Clinton's lying, cheating, and shameful behavior tainted the presidency and compromised the national security of the United States; therefore, an honorable President, made to confront his misdeeds, would have fallen on his public sword and slunk off into the shadows of American public life. But, alas, President Clinton did not see it that way, and he determined to hunker down and hold on to power with every ounce of his prodigious instinct for survival.

In the midst of his simultaneously craven and courageous full-court press to stay in office, I began to detest President Clinton and the gutter brawl he waged to preserve his power. Although I voted against him twice, it is important to note that I had never been a Clinton-hater before Monica. Before it was over, however, I loathed Bill Clinton and his entire team. In the heat of the moment, I cheered for impeachment, and I cursed the day he was acquitted (or "not proved") on all charges.

Today, I look back on impeachment sheepishly. Perhaps we over-reacted. Bill Clinton was pathologically untruthful, egregiously self-absorbed, and disdainful of many of the traditional social mores that serve to limit the worst excesses of human behavior. Worse, he seemed to view himself as above the law (although he was never formally charged with any criminal behavior).

On the other hand, we the citizenry duly elected him as president twice, and he clearly maintained the overwhelming support of the American people during the very worst of the revelations concerning his conduct. We got the leadership we desired. While the impeachment charges were serious and valid, they were also the product of overheated politics.

Looking back, the impeachment of Bill Clinton seems ill-advised, and his decision to eschew the myriad calls for resignation appears far-sighted. I grudgingly believe that he acted judiciously in riding out the storm. If he had left office under the pressure of the moment, the institution of the presidency would have suffered significant damage, and every president forward would have faced intense pressure to resign in moments of crisis and personal embarrassment.

More practically, one can reasonably argue that Bill Clinton's decision to fight for power, and his ultimate victory, saved the presidency of George Bush. Understanding the lessons of 1999, the Democrats of 2007 went to work to derail this president the old fashioned way (through obstructionism and violent calumny). Standing against fierce calls for impeachment proceedings from the left-wing fringe of the party, Democratic Leadership opted to wait for and work toward the Election of 2008 as the appropriate moment to chastise a president they had come to detest.

Who can doubt that an impeachment charade during the spring and summer of 2007 would have been a violently destructive and destabilizing national experience? Ironically, Bill Clinton's primal impulse to stand and fight back in 1998 played an essential role in securing our reprieve from a pathetic partisan show trial in 2007. Going forward, the consequences of the Clinton showdown will serve as a cautionary tale for any opposition majority. This is a good thing.

UPDATE: Welcome HNN readers. We are honored by the link.

22/12: Signs of Hope

The Party is Over, but, all things considered, of course, this development is for the best.

An Aside: the End of the Party should not be confused with the End of the World (which is still possible, but a different subject).

The End of the Party means releasing unreasonable expectations and assumptions about the nature and meaning of life. Earlier this week, Pope Benedict XVI pointed to the obvious silver lining contained within our long overdue reconciliation with reality:

The present economic crisis, causing so much suffering, can however help us to focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, and to welcome into our hearts the hope brought by God’s coming among us as man.

The Pontiff encouraged all of us to "rekindle our hope in God’s promises and, in humility and simplicity, welcome the light, joy and peace which the Saviour brings to us and to our world."

This is good advice.

Running the risk of mixing the sacred with the profane, allow me to point to another sign of hope in popular culture: the Country Music Top 40.

Last week the number one country song in the nation was "Chicken Fried" by the Zac Brown Band (you may view a live version here via YouTube).

It is a great song and a celebration of "simplicity and humility" and the "little things in life that mean the most."

This week, unfortunately for Zac and the boys, "Chicken Fried" dropped to number three. However, ascending to number one is another song about "slowing it down and looking around" and reconnecting with the more fundamental elements of human experience: "Roll With Me" by Montgomery Gentry (you may view the video here via CMT--if, ironically, you don't mind watching a commercial first).

Country folks will survive. If this is what is resonating in the heartland of America right now, we are going to be okay.

UPDATE: a hearty Texas welcome to Instapundit readers.
I have been using the phrase, "the party's over," on this blog and on the street for some time now. I feel compelled to offer a bit of explanation and background.

Provenance: Several months ago, at the beginning of the financial meltdown, my wife and I were driving through the campus of our beloved alma mater. As we passed beautiful coed after beautiful coed driving new sports cars, talking on cell phones, and cruising handsome young men, I remarked to her, "someone needs to come down here and tell these kids the party's over."

I exercised my prerogative to interpret her raised eyebrow as an invitation to expound. "This is all over," I said. "The college experience can no longer merely be about seizing the opportunity to hang out with exotic people, party all weekend, shop, and find romance outside the confines of parental supervision." Time is short. We must return to teaching and learning as our number one educational priority.

I can't remember her exact words, but, in essence, she accused me of being a cranky old man. She gently reminded me of my own college experience. She had me there. No one had ever taken better advantage of the party than I--but that ironic observation, in fact, no matter how incisive, misses the greater point: the party's over. It is not really important whether this new fact of life is fair--or some kind of double standard--it mainly matters that the new reality really is the new reality.

The party's over.

Meaning: So much of the culture we have invented for ourselves during the last half century (accelerating over the last quarter century and last decade) is not sustainable. The world is suddenly very serious--but the kids on the campuses of our major universities, like their parents and teachers, are still in "party" mode.

Therefore, if we suddenly and unexpectedly live in a very serious world, we can no longer be careless or whimsical with our personal, national, or institutional resources. The old republican virtues are, by necessity, very much back in vogue: frugality, modesty, integrity, sacrifice, humility, etc.

The New Reality. We no longer live in a fantasy world without consequences. We can no longer pretend that path to prosperity and security is paved by spending beyond our means. We no longer have the luxury of wasting large blocks of time on the pursuit of temporary pleasures and self indulgences. The decades-long magic carpet ride is over. It is time to walk the earth once again and rediscover the limits and natural laws of the human experience.

A Self-Conscious Aside: having said all that, I am keeping the blog.
Category: Same-Sex Marriage
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Comparing gay marriage to pedophilia, polygamy, and incest is homophobic, right?

However, don't we often hear that the proponents of "traditional" marriage offer a selective history in which they conveniently forget how the definition of marriage has changed over time? What about the patriarchs of the Bible who enjoyed multiple wives? Society has a right to evolve and redefine its institutions.

I actually think that is a valid argument. But, if the definition of marriage is fungible and the product of community consensus, why is comparing same-sex marriage to other currently out-of-favor marriage variants a sign of bigotry? That is, why isn't gay marriage in the same category as underage unions, polygamy, and marriage between siblings?

Let's break it down:

Intrinsically Unique.

1. Any honest broker will admit that marriage between a man and a woman has a "natural" and historical advantage in this debate. Since time immemorial, societies have recognized this form of human relationship for reasons that are too manifest and lengthy to explain in this space. Hetero marriage is fundamentally unlike same-sex marriage.

2. I did not mention this category in the above listing, but let's dismiss bestiality as an unkind and irrelevant comparison. Bestiality belongs in a completely separate category of cross-species commingling as well as an abuse of animals. Equating homosexuality with bestiality is insulting and not at all constructive or illuminating.

3. Pedophilia, sexual engagement with children, is also a false comparison. Why? The question here revolves around our definition of children. If we, as a society dedicated to human rights, are to eventually rest our case on the concept of "consenting adults," underage marriage becomes a question that revolves around the age of consent rather than "unnatural" attractions. Less different--but not comparable.

Fair Comparisons.

Polygamous and Incestuous marriages, on the other hand, entered into between consenting adults, seem fully comparable to same-sex marriage.

Why would a proponent of same-sex marriage take umbrage at this comparison?

If it is proper to redefine marriage for homosexuals, why not extend the same tolerance to plural marriages and incest?
Make sure the Witherspoon Institute is on your radar. Scholarly, thoughtful, needful.


The Witherspoon Institute is an independent research center that works to enhance public understanding of the moral foundations of free and democratic societies. Located in Princeton, New Jersey, the Institute promotes the application of fundamental principles of republican government and ordered liberty to contemporary problems through a variety of centers, research programs, seminars, consultations, and publications.

Here are the Senior Fellows:

Gerard V. Bradley is the Director of the Center on Religion and the Constitution of the Witherspoon Institute and Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School.

Thomas D. D'Andrea is the Director of the International Society for Legal and Moral Philosophy (INSOLM) and a Fellow at Wolfson College, Cambridge University.

Jean Bethke Elshtain is the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago and the Thomas and Dorothy Leavy Chair in the Foundations of American Freedom at Georgetown University.

Robert P. George is the Director of the Program in Political Thought and Constitutional Government and the Herbert W. Vaughan Senior Fellow of the Witherspoon Institute. He is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.

Marcus Grompe is a professor in the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics and Pedieatrics at Oregon Health and Sciences University.

John Haldane is a Professor in the Department of Moral Philosophy and the Director of the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs at the University of Saint Andrews, Scotland.

Kevin T. Jackson is the Director of the Program in Business and Ethics, Senior Fellows of the Witherspoon Institute and Professor of Business Ethics at Fordham University's School of Business in New York City.

Harold James holds dual appointments as Professor of Economic History in the Department of History and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and is Director of the Program in European Politics and Society, all of Princeton University.

Byron Johnson is the Director of the Program in Religion and Civil Society, a Senior Fellow of the Witherspoon Institute, and Director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University.

Robert C. Koons is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Program in Western Civilization and American Institutions at the University of Texas in Austin.

John Londregan holds dual appointments as Professor in the Department of Politics and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Daniel N. Robinson a Professor and Faculty Fellow on the Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University and Visiting Senior Member of Linacre College. He is also Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Georgetown University.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The most logical explanations for Hillary Clinton as Barack Obama's secretary of state are the ones we already know:

1. She is capable.
2. She is an international superstar.
3. She qualifies as a moderate voice in the Democratic Party foreign policy establishment.
4. The "Team of Rivals" thing makes for good PR.
5. Multiplication is better than division; that is, Demo Party healing.

On the other hand, for your consideration, here are two wild (but unfortunately mutually exclusive) scenarios:

1. Obama knew well that the publication of the Clinton Foundation list of donors might disqualify Hilary as a nominee, which would make O look like a gracious winner and, as an added bonus, forever end the political career of a dangerous rival. Truly Machiavellian.

2. As we now know that Princess Caroline wants the New York Senate seat, is it possible that Barack paid back his vital early supporter by rotating Hillary out of office into the cabinet, clearing the field for the next installment of the Kennedy Dynasty?

Neither conspiracy scenario is likely--but good for a chuckle.

19/12: The Gay Mafia

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The term "Gay Mafia," as it has come to be used by arts and entertainment insiders, does not fully or accurately capture the influence (or methodology) of gay activism on current political debate. The extreme harassment exerted by the gay lobby in certain parts of this country is more like the violently persuasive peer pressure and economic coercion employed by the old White Citizen's Councils of the Deep South during the post-Brown years.

However, our common usage of Mafia, thanks to Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, connotes a more fiendishly implicit brand of influence. "We will make him an offer he can't refuse." "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes." The Corleones are deadly, but they have style, and they are charmingly indirect, and they are polite (as they shoot you in the back of your head).

But the Gay Mafia is not subtle. The Gay Mafia is screechingly "in your face." "Gay McCarthyism" or "Gay Fascism" strikes me as an even more accurate label. Like the McCarthyites of old, too many gay activists are not so worried about the facts. Just turn up the volume and start screaming accusations.

This exchange between Ray Suarez and Harry Knox (an official from the Human Rights Campaign) on last night's Newshour on PBS with(out) Jim Lehrer, discussing the announcement that Rick Warren will deliver the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration, is emblematic:

HARRY KNOX: [W]e were profoundly disappointed in the president-elect's pick because he chose someone who is a divisive person, who has attacked our community and attacked our families, families like mine, and called us every horrible thing he can think of.

And that's the person that the president-elect has chosen to represent all of religious thought in America on this most important symbolic day, this very first day of his administration.

For us, it was a real slap in the face that the person who associated people like me and my partner, Mike, my husband, Mike, with bestiality and polygamy and pedophilia, of all things, would be the person that the president-elect would choose.

Say what? Are we talking about the same Rick Warren? Soft and fuzzy, "purpose-driven," compassionate evangelical Rick Warren?

More Harry: This is a person who has fundamentally disrespected people like me on every occasion that he had opportunity. He has, in fact, leveraged homophobia to get ahead in his career. And this is like putting an anti-Semite at the first part of the program and then saying, "Well, we're going to add a rabbi at the end. Won't all the Jews be happy?"

This is the worst possible choice the president-elect could have made. This is a divisive choice, not one that brings America together.

Either you are with us, or you are a Nazi. What bothers me most about the debate over "gay rights" these days is the "intolerance." Too many front-persons for the gay agenda behave like Harry Knox.

There was a time when I was inclined to support gay rights, certainly civil unions, and, at times, even the possibility of gay marriage. I am much less sympathetic to the cause these days. Why? My hunch is that the marriage debate is merely a means to a more significant end. I worry that the Gay Civil Rights Movement is intent on settling for nothing less than total equality, enforced by federal "civil rights" legislation directed at rooting out "discriminators" and "homophobes," wherever they may be.

I am happy to have a public conversation in which "reasonable people can disagree without being disagreeable," to quote the President-elect, but these guys are looking to steamroll the debate by stridently shouting down any dissenting opinion.

I am growing more and more frustrated with the not so "velvet" intimidation.

NOTE on Recent Influences: many thanks to the recent piece by Francis Beckwith in First Things, which helped me to coalesce my thoughts on this matter.
The Pew Forum has completed and released this study of media coverage of religious issues during the presidential campaign.

Religion played a much more significant role in the media coverage of President-elect Barack Obama than it did in the press treatment of Republican nominee John McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign, but much of the coverage related to false yet persistent rumors that Obama is a Muslim.

Meanwhile, there was little attempt by the news media during the campaign to comprehensively examine the role of faith in the political values and policies of the candidates, save for those of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

And when religion-focused campaign stories were covered by the mainstream press, often the context was negative, controversial or focused on a perceived political problem.

The whole article is informative. One conclusion I have: when media types try to investigate religious issues, they become unprepared foreign correspondents.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
We had the season's first Christmas program practice at church last night. As usual, it was more-or-less controlled chaos. Squirming little children not listening to directions, teens trying to act cool and not always listening to directions, costumes being tried on while trying to learn to hit the marks on stage--tough to do when your angel costume is stuck on your head. But, by the end of the night the program was beginning to be recognizable. We still have a problem with the bashful Joseph not wanting to look too husbandly toward Mary.

But, by Sunday night we'll be ready--more or less.

Children just naturally disrupt our ordered lives simply by being children.

On Sunday mornings a little before 11am I holler into the sanctuary (it's Oklahoma)--"Time to ring the bell!" The children there on time walk/rush/run to the bell tower to take turns ringing the bell to start the service. Not an orderely start to the worship of the Most High God. But, better now than when I began this practice. Then I'd have to separate pushing, squabbling children wanting to be first in line to pull the bell rope. Did I mention that we open the outside door of the bell tower so we can hear the bell, and so that the kids who want can go outside to see the bell ring? Yes, of course I sometimes must yell at some of the small boys to stay away from the road and get back into the church.

Next the children take turns by Sunday lighting the candles at the front of the church. I follow them in, not always in an orderly procession because a kid who is new automatically gets to light it on his first Sunday. (sotto voice) try to walk side-by-side, OK your candle is now lit, you can put the candle lighter out, now follow her to the back of the church and put the lighter into the holder. (I have one little boy who seems so fascinated by fire that he forgets his moves.)

Somehow, I don't think God minds.

On Sunday night we'll have the Christmas program. Even after three rehearsals there will be some confusion, a bit of chaos. But that's OK. After all, we are celebrating the birth of a child, who brought his own chaos into ordered lives.

You're pregnant? Who's the father? What, I have to ride all the way to Bethlehem on a donkey in my condition? Eleazer, wake up! How could you sleep through the music. Come on, we're all going into Bethlehem! The sheep? They'll be fine for a while, come with us to see the Messiah! You've seen whose star? Quick Mary, we must go to Egypt. Kill all the children you find. Joseph, where's Jesus? I thought he was with you. Help me look for him, he's only 12 you know. . . . Come, follow me, and I'll make you fishers of men.

And we think we can both order our own lives and welcome into them the Holy Child.

Provocative and well said from Francis Beckwith:

"On November 4, 2008, the people of California—in a 52 to 48 percent vote—placed in the state’s constitution an amendment that reaffirmed that marriage consists of one man and one woman. The amendment, Proposition 8, overturned the California Supreme Court’s May 2008 ruling that invalidated a statute that was passed in 2000 in a statewide referendum by a 61 to 39 percent vote. That 2008 opinion held that limiting marriage to one man and one woman, as required in the 2000 statute, violated the equal protection rights of homosexuals under the California constitution.

"Following the Proposition 8 victory, thousands of its opponents protested in a number of California venues including in front of the Mormon Temple in Los Angeles and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Orange County. The rage and anger exhibited toward the Latter-day Saint and Evangelical believers who were present during the protests was palpable. The protesters were clearly blaming their loss on the effort and organizational and financial support of LDS citizens as well as Pastor Warren’s vocal backing for Proposition 8.

"There is a certain irony in seeing those who speak so often of tolerance and understanding using the occasion of a political loss to unleash a torrid of vitriol that no one would ever confuse with tolerance and understanding if the perpetrators were burning crosses or Dixie Chick CDs. And yet the perpetrators in this instance, the losers in the Prop 8 election, do not see it that way. They see the absence of same-sex marriage from our legal regime as a grave injustice that must be remedied by any means necessary. For them, tolerance does not extend to injustice."

Read the entire First Things piece here.

Also, from Politico, "Gay leaders furious with Obama" over selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
In light of a former Iowa governor ascending to the head of the Department of Agriculture, I offer this brief basic point:

As a general principle, I am against burning food as fuel.
I love the smell of ocean-water soaked tea in the morning.

Brits at Their Best has the story.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I am not going to spend a lot of time defending the legacy of George Bush. In short, the history of his tenure as president is complicated. He was a well-intentioned man who faced a whole slew of nearly intractable problems. From those unenviable circumstances he often attempted to pick the least disastrous alternative available. He won some, and he lost some. He was sometimes courageous. He was sometimes comically imbecilic. He was sometimes both. But he was never an incompetent, or an ignoramus, or a fascist--regardless of what a host of otherwise intelligent people erroneously asserted.

It is too cliche to assert that "history will judge him," but there is absolute truth in that old saw. For the rest of our lives, partisans (and that includes journalists and academics) will argue vehemently over him. Then, generations from now, disinterested historians will attempt to view him from different perspectives and judge his administration against the context of all the current and subsequent history we cannot know in our time. Then the historical-industrial complex will endlessly revise themselves in an atmosphere of decreasing popular interest to generations to whom the name George Bush will only conjure up only the faintest recognition.

If the world continues to turn, and the United States continues to exist as a free nation, all of this will inevitably come to pass--with or without my commentary.

Secondly, I am not going to waste my breath explaining how the mainstream media employed an egregiously unprecedented double standard in its coverage of the candidacy and/or the presidency of Barack Obama. Either you have eyes to see that--or not. But, at this point, who cares?

Much more importantly, we face a real crisis, mostly of our making, in the here and now.

Barack Obama was duly elected through a process all good Americans hold sacred. He is the only president we have for the next four years, and the next four years are "make or break" for the good ole USA.

If it makes the other side feel better to blame all the bad news that's fit to print on George Bush, whatever gets them through the night. But don't waste my time with those increasingly irrelevant distractions, and don't bend history to justify your lopsided political ideology.

We don't have time for that old parlor game. We cannot afford the luxury of blind partisanship anymore. It is time to put away childish things. All good men need to come to the aid of their country. We need to be wide awake and committed to watching one another's backs as we fight our way out of this extremely precarious position.

In brief, in terms of this president, I have a few reasons for hope:

1. Barack Obama is a smart fellow.
2. He has every reason to love America.
3. He has every reason to believe America is the land of the possible.
4. He has two children.

He has a lot of reasons to reject the pablum of his old New Left cronies and lead us as a nation into a new era of responsibility and common sense. Such a feat will not be easy, but he is uniquely positioned to accomplish that unlikely task.

A few days ago I was asked to define Obama's top two priorities. I said:

1. The Economy. Understand that the party is over. Work out a sustainable plan for the USA going forward. Basic problem: we cannot be all things to all people. We can no longer believe that the key to economic success is spending every dime available and then some. The Keynesian Interlude is finally over. This will be an incredibly hard transition--but, providentially, Barack Obama is uniquely qualified to bear this bad news. Only Nixon could go to China. Only Barack can explain our new reality to a nation in need of tough love.

2. Foreign Policy. Barack inherits one war he does not like that is going well and one war he has promised to win that is unwinnable. He must find a way out of this personal quagmire (and we must help him--support him--as he backs off his campaign promises). Accepting our hard-won victory in Iraq, we must set a new sustainable foreign policy. We must learn from our mistakes. Again, we cannot be all things to all people. We must reconcile ourselves to the limits of American power. We must pick our spots wisely.

As I have said before, may God bless America. May God bless this President.
Category: Frivolity
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I greatly appreciate the perceptive culturally informed reporting that has so patiently explained how hurling one's shoe connotes a deep insult in Iraqi society. This analysis is so vital and helpful to us as Americans in light of our tradition of whizzing shoes at people's heads as a sign of great respect and admiration.

There is a reason I listen to NPR and read the NYT. An ignoramus like Sean Hannity simply lacks the experience and erudition to provide that kind of depth.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few quick thoughts on the bizarre shoe-throwing incident at the President's press conference in Iraq. Full story here in the Washington Post.

1. The President demonstrated his celebrated athleticism in deftly avoiding the shoe projectiles at short range. Watch the video. Those things are coming in fast (especially shoe number one; by shoe number two, the shoe-hurler seems to have lost his nerve and, obviously, his best chance to catch the President by surprise).

2. I appreciate the President's good humor in the face of the attack and the ensuing chaos. In slo-mo, he actually looks amused by the oncoming brogan. Afterwards, he graciously takes the whole affair in stride, smiling and offering a friendly Texas, "don't worry about it," to his embarrassed hosts.

3. Not surpisingly, most of the reporting today is emphasizing the exhiliration on the "Arab street" and the parallels to the fall of Saddam. We are being told that the shoe-thrower, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, is now a big hero to many Iraqis.

FTR: while some stories have security forces beating the assailant, on the video, I could not detect any blows cocked or landed. However, one can hear the journalist-turned-protester wailing in an almost comical way as he is wrestled to the ground.

Notwithstanding, my guess is that before this is all over, the story will be that President Bush cried like a woman while his valiant attacker stoically faced the wrath and power of the Infidel Empire.

So it goes.

The Good News: as of 20 January, all of these folks are going to love us.
Category: The Economy
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Back in my old car-selling days, smart operators lived by this saying:

"Better to have half a loaf than no loaf."

But not the UAW, evidently. On one hand, they are spreading talk of an impending economic cataclysm if the Big Three fail, but, in the same breath, they refuse to buckle down, suck it up, and accept compensation packages comparable to the competition.

Give us billions to save our jobs, but don't ask us to take painful cuts.

Some other quick thoughts on the Republican stand last night to stymie the Fed Bailout of the Big Three:

1. Regardless of what Democratic leadership may say, the GOP is not responsible for this tragedy. Democratic leaders needed to stand up to the UAW. Kudos to Republicans for courage and principled behavior in the face of incendiary political rhetoric.

2. The Nancy Pelosi wing of the Democratic Party is committed to a radical political solution to a peripheral concern that they have falsely indentified as the core problem; that is, the San Francisco Democrats are convinced that the fundamental flaw in GM's business model is that they have not produced enough Toyota Prius-like vehicles.

Wrong. In truth, very few practical-minded consumers want to buy hybrid cars for ten thousand dollars more than comparable fuel efficient gasoline-driven models. If we hand the American auto-making franchise over to the "Earth in the Balance" crowd, it will not be long before USA Motors will be producing a Yugo-like, faux-environmentally friendly monstrosity that no one will drive.

3. Saturn is a profitable division. GM trucks and SUVs are not going away. The Chevy Malibu is worth owning. And the list goes on. Worst-case scenario: Chapter 7. Someone will come along and buy up these assets sans the suicidal labor contracts--and American auto manufacturing will survive in some form, go through a process of healing and regeneration, and inevitably experience a rebirth at some point.

4. The President should stay away from this impasse. The UAW and the Democrats are expecting him to cave. Standing up to this power play will be incredibly difficult. The PR will be atrocious: lame duck, Herbert Hoover, heartless SOB, etc. But he needs to let this thing play out.

One more thought: if the automobile companies are to be nationalized, let it be done by the next president.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
A few quick observations regarding Fitzmas:

1. Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true. Three years ago all good little Democrats went to bed on Christmas Eve hoping for a Patrick Fitzgerald bill of indictment directed at their favorite villain: Karl Rove. It never came. But this Holiday Season, ironically, the "Fitzmas" finally arrived, with a whole slew of "complaints" against the Democratic Party home-state governor and erstwhile ally of the President-elect.

2. For all the newly initiated politicos brought into the system on the Obama wave, who only know what the mainstream media reported during the last election cycle, this disclosure that "Chicago Politics" has a seamy side must feel quite jarring. Really? You mean Illinois has a political history between Honest Abe and the Agent of Change? Surely, our national redeemer, fully man but also fully divine, must be as horrified as we are at this revelation.

In truth, all things considered, Barack Obama is looking relatively good in all this. After all, he never offered anyone a million big ones in unmarked bills for a political favor, the bad guy called him an "m-f-er" for not playing ball, and it looks like no Obama insiders are implicated in the dirtiest of the deeds. On the other hand, this is not good for the President-elect.

Obama and his team necessarily joined the stampede of Chicago politicians running to microphones to proclaim their absolute shock to discover that there was gambling in the backroom of "Rick's Café Américain." Frankly, that scene bordered on the ridiculous. Give the Obama Gang credit for not being in total cahoots with this fellow--but let's be serious. We know they were all swimming and drinking from the same water hole. There is going to be some blow back from this scandal. There are undoubtedly people and political associations that link Obama and his brain trust to the crooks (Tony Rezko comes to mind, for starters).

True, Obama has a complicit media still running interference for him, but this fiasco is going to cost him some credibility and equity with the adoring prObama press corps. This is no where near the beginning of the end of the honeymoon--but it is a weight on the scale that will inevitably shift at some point in the public life of Barack Obama from adoration to contempt.

3. Give Patrick Fitzgerald some credit for keen political instinct. I have little doubt that everything alleged in the "complaint" is true and accurate (in the aggregate), but it feels rushed. The timing is suspect. Why? We all know that the insider speculation has had Obama shutting down the pesky US Attorney bulldog. Fitzgerald just became a household name again. Buttressed by his Scooter Libby "bonafides," and elevated once again into the public consciousness as the ultimate no-nonsense "honest as the day is long" lawman, Fitz just made himself bullet-proof. The SOB is now much too famous to sack.

Obama is going to have to live with Fitz as long as Fitz wants to sniff around Chicago. At this point, there is really no guessing what he might find there--but you can bet there are a lot of prominent Chicago politicians sleeping uneasy this week.
I read Newsweek sometimes. Fareed Zakaria does some good pieces, like this one (although it's not actually IN Newsweek, but Foreign Affairs). Plus, I like the page toward the front that has cartoons and quotations on it. Usually good stuff there.

But this week's cover story by Lisa Miller does a good job of wiping away any respect I held for the mag. As journalism, the piece is lacking - she only interviews one side of the debate, and makes assumptions as to the arguments of the other. As biblical exegesis (hey, it's what she's purporting to do, so she should be judged on it) it is un-nuanced, incomplete, and dead wrong on several assertions.

I'd go on, but Molly at did a much better job than I could - LINK.

I have no idea how this made it in the mag, let alone got the cover. I can only think that the magazine as a whole is completely shot. Sorry, Fareed, but your next article will have to make it to Foreign Affairs, too, before I'll get around to reading it.

Category: The Economy
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Does anybody really believe the troubled American auto industry will rebound under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, and Henry Waxman?

Perhaps, if you believe the real problem is that we have NOT had enough solar cars and/or GM just doesn't pay their workers a living wage, you might be cheering the government takeover.

Otherwise, I think you can mark down this day as the beginning of the final death spiral for the Big Three.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Fr. Zakaria Botros, that is. If you are a regular reader, you've been introduced to him. He is a Coptic priest who is having a big impact on the Muslim world. His Arabic-language television show is watched by an estimated 60 million people, mostly Muslim. He teaches and debates for conversion--from Islam to Christianity. There is a price on his head, but modern technology and sensible precautions have kept him alive so far.

Now he has won the 2008 Daniel Award.

Story here.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Story here. Link from The Layman Online.
Photognome sends this link on China's cyber-espionage.

A congressionally created commission has warned that China is stealing vast amounts of sensitive information from government and corporate computer networks in the U.S., including those of the nation's top defense contractors. This theft is part of China's preparation to outmaneuver the U.S. electronically in any future conflict, according to the bipartisan U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission.

Somebody remind me again, why do we trade with these b*********?
The recent trampling-to-death of a Wal-Mart employee on "Black Friday" has received a lot of press coverage. The coverage started by recounting the events and the resulting lawsuit, but quickly began moralizing and seeking cause.

ABC News blames the economy, in "Bad Economy, Dangerous Holiday Shopping."

The Moscow News Weekly blames human nature in general and Western consumerism in particular - "Black Friday."

Columnists and writers to the editor all across the country offer varying explanations, usually heavy in the use of the words "greed", "animalistic", and/or "heartless." Here, here, here, here, and here.

It's apparently very difficult to condemn the event without self-righteous generalizing.

Can we truthfully judge the core value of a culture by looking at where people get trampled? [We'll discard the events where people die escaping a fire, building collapse, shooter, etc. Avoiding sure death is a universal human value.] A quick search shows that hundreds die every year during the Hajj in Mecca. 93 died in 1989 at a soccer match in Britain. A combination of a rainstorm and a rock concert caused 54 people, mostly young girls, to be trampled to death in Belarus in 1999. Just this year, nearly 150 people were killed in a stampede in a Hindu Temple in India. A full list of modern "crowd-related deaths" can be found at by clicking on the "Crowd Disasters" link at right. [This is an all-around interesting site - using scientific methods to analyze the dynamics of too many people in not enough space]

The wide diversity of event types and locations for trampling deaths seems to preclude any values-based analysis. In terms of physically damaging moral values, based on world-wide events, religious piety and attending soccer matches seem to be the worst. Yet we don't see round condemnation of the culture of soccer, or of religious pilgrimage.

It's easier to condemn a culture of consumerism. Don't get me wrong - I'm not a fan of consumerism myself. My wife and I bought our family's Christmas presents at a local craft fair, and I do most of my clothes shopping at a consignment shop. But I've benefited, too, from the consumer-based economy that's in part responsible for making our society the most prosperous in history. I'm also hurt, along with the rest of the country, by the current financial backlash to this type of culture/economy.

Condemning the greed of post-Thanksgiving shoppers necessitates drawing a line between ourselves and the tramplers. In reality, that greedy, heartless mob is composed of individuals who, I would venture to say, are not *really* that much different from the rest of us. "Ye who is without sin..."
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From Chris Cillizza and the Washington Post:


"Sarah Palin: While Chambliss' winning margin suggests he would have won whether or not Palin stumped for him on Monday, the Alaska governor's high profile swing through the state is sure to be cited by her backers as evidence of her political potency as talk of 2012 heats up."

That reportage on the big win in GA is pretty mild compared to many other analyses.

Bottom Line: Sarah Palin rocks.

As for the advice from Democrats to drop Palin like a bad habit (for our own good), I think the GOP is likely to say "thanks--but no thanks."

Sarah is here to stay. The girl's a rainmaker.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Gates, Clinton, and Jones.

What about Eric Holder, Janet Napolitano, and Susan Rice?

If Holder is no great AG, it won't be the first time we have had an incompetent or a lightning rod or both at that position. Remember, JFK quipped that he was giving the position to his younger brother to get him some experience. Here is a list of AG's. My bet is that Holder will NOT be the worst ever.

Does it really matter who runs DHS? Homeland security strikes me as the ultimate boondoogle (to quote a friend); that is, the star-crossed agency is the epitome of a bloated and ineffective government solution to a vital problem, originally and primarily designed as a CYA.

Susan Rice? Is she related to Condi Rice? Seriously, folks, ambassador to the UN is not exactly where the rubber meets the road in American foreign policy.

But Gates, Clinton, and Jones. In that order:

1. Much more than we had a right to wish for in arguably the most vital department of the government.

2. Much better than the alternatives (Kerry, Richardson, and/or Biden).

3. Marine. Not every Marine is Chesty Puller--but it's a better place to start than Les Aspin.

Are there going to be some egregiously offensive (to us) cabinet picks? Of course. But, then again, we lost. That is one of the unhappy consequences of losing elections.

03/12: Jeb?

Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Today, potentially, marks the beginning of the return of Jeb Bush.

Perhaps this post I composed a few years ago (Sept. 2006) is worth revisiting (albeit hilariously un-prescient on several key points):

Is Jeb Bush finished as a Prospective President?

Right now, if the public opinion polls are accurate, the American electorate holds President Bush in such low esteem that anyone associated with his administration seems tainted. No one is mentioning Alberto Gonzales as a potential governor and future presidential candidate. The recent boomlet for Condi Rice for 2008 has fizzled, partly as a result of her non-interest, but more importantly because the affairs of state seem so dismal. And Jeb Bush, once "the next in line" in the Bush dynasty, seems suddenly and completely finished as a prospective president. Is he really?

Maybe not. Jeb Bush continues to be an extremely popular person (and eminently electable candidate) in a very important state. Also, the death of Jeb Bush's viability assumes the permanence of disdain for Bush-43.

The only thing certain about American politics is that nothing is certain.

George Herbert Walker Bush lost in 1992 with 39 percent of the popular vote. At that point, for most Americans, Bush-41 epitomized an inept, insensitive, and detached failed leader. Almost immediately, Americans felt guilty for their poor treatment of this good American.

An aside: I always get a chuckle when Democrats profess their great admiration for George Herbert Walker Bush. I suspect some of that is just talk, and some of it is a rhetorical foundation for criticizing the son, but I think to myself: we could've used some of that kind-spiritedness in '92. One possible lesson: you don't win elections extending your hand across the aisle and impressing the opposition as a decent and competent fellow.

How did guilt over handing George-41 his walking papers help the son? As more citizens came to believe that the elder Bush received a raw deal, the younger Bush grew in stature as a candidate for governor of Texas and then for president. Many Americans felt the Bushes deserved a second chance.

Assuming that the current President Bush has bottomed out in terms of public opinion (it is hard to imagine things getting worse; even in the current polls, he seems to be slightly on the upswing); assuming Iraq continues to be very bad for the foreseeable near term--but then settles finally into a lackluster stability, George Bush and his team will rebound a bit in the minds of Americans. After four (or eight) years of Clinton-44, there will be a natural reappraisal of the second Bush presidency. At that moment, Jeb may very well emerge as a familiar fresh face.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
WAER is the Syracuse University radio station. They have been compiling lists of the top jazz musicians for each instrument, including human voice. These lists are great--thoughtful, knowledgeable, and I pretty much agree with them. Each entry, in most cases, has a paragraph biography with it.





Male Vocalists

Female Vocalists