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Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Today the President announced the intended withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

While I am grateful that he seized this moment to salute our military and briefly recognize the most-overlooked hero in the recent happy turn of events in Iraq, Ryan Crocker, the President took great pains NOT to characterize the wind-down to this six-year conflict as anything resembling success.

Even as this President inherits a world in crisis, ironically, we can point to Iraq as one of the few areas of the world in which the situation on the ground is greatly improved over its condition eight years previous. President Obama can rest a little bit easier each night knowing that Iraq no longer poses a grave threat to American interests or regional security; in fact, the new Iraq, incredibly, today stands out as one of the few bright spots in an extremely troubled Middle East.

An Aside: the implicit trade off seems to be that President Obama will allow Secretary Gates and Generals Petraeus and Odierno to hammer down the hard-won victory in Iraq--as long as no one mentions that inconvenient fact publicly. We'll take that deal.

One more thing: for years we have heard the opposition harangue President Bush over the cost of the war in terms of blood and treasure.

The human cost has been high (over 4250 American soldiers killed in action).

However, the projected trillion-dollar price tag for the transformation of Iraq, relative to the events of the past month, suddenly seems like a drop in the bucket.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Tired of Freebird after the 10,000th time? Wonder if Southern Rock is more than replays of Lynard Skynard, Allman Brothers, or J. Geils?

Give a listen to Drive By Truckers. Hard rocking. And hard-edged. Music from the Southern underside. Lots of sin, little grace, despair faced down by grit, prickly pride.

Lookout Mountain

Never Gonna Change

Decoration Day

Lyrics by album.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I have said before that Bobby Jindal is likely to be the next Republican elected president of the United States. Some of the bloom came off his rose this week, but c'est le vie politique. Climbing the greasy pole is, by definition, not easy; the journey to the Oval Office is not usually a rocket ship to the moon. No matter, the youthful governor of Louisiana continues to impress me as the most articulate and dynamic young face in the GOP, and, reminding you that nobody knows anything--and that goes double for me, I stand by my prediction. Having said that, for myriad reasons, he should not be our candidate for 2012.

Who's it going to be? Mitt Romney, who gave a rousing speech today at the Conservative Political Action Conference.


He is ready and willing. Defeating an incumbent Obama will be a daunting task in 2012 (I say impossible). Most ambitious Republicans will be hanging back to position themselves for the better window for victory in 2016. For a number of reasons (age being one of them), Romney will be reluctant to sit out a cycle. Moreover, if the planet does not slip off its axis between now and then, he will also be in position to finance his own campaign, if necessary.

But that won't be necessary. Romney emerged from 2008 as the conservative favorite in the race. Conservatives had to hold their noses as John McCain, the epitome of center-right Republicanism, won the nomination and went on to lose the General Election in a big way. Never mind that 2008 was a year so poisoned for Republicans that a resurrected Abraham Lincoln would have faced an uphill battle, the McCain campaign proved to many that moderation is a losing hand. Right-wing Republicans will rise again during the next cycle, arguing that it is time to run an ideologically pure movement conservative. Romney now fits that bill.

Romney is a handsome man and a talented orator (albeit with some limits). He exudes an aura of confidence and competence on economic issues. Right now, we think the next election will center on the economy (of course, conventional wisdom held for a long time that the previous election would turn on progress in Iraq--ooops). Mitt Romney can present a cogent and compelling case for conservative fundamentals.

Any Republican candidate is likely to lose the next election. Romney probably has a better chance than most of pulling off an upset. If he does not, he will run with integrity and vigor--and we won't waste any of our promising young guns in a brave but fatal charge against Cemetery Ridge.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
The invention of the arts, and other things which serve the common use and convenience of life, is a gift of God by no means to be despised, and a faculty worthy of commendation. John Calvin

Recently on Wednesday night our church has begun a new Family Night format called "Dinner and a Movie." We eat, and then we watch 15 or 20 minutes of a movie followed by discussion and Bible Study. The plan is to finish one movie over the course of Lent, then see if we want to repeat the experience. We do this as a single mixed-ages group: what those who get paid for being church consultants call "intergenerational approach to education." For those of you new to the blog, our congregation is Native American, mostly Comanche, Kiowa, and Ft. Sill Apache.

I am structuring the first part of the discussion around the "world-view" presented in the movie. William D. Romanowski, Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Calvin College, suggests this approach in his book Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture. (Here is a brief review of this book I wrote for Perspectives. Scroll down to page 9.) If you've not read it, I recommend this book. Then we move to discussing the themes presented by the film. After discussion we move to a teaching Bible Study on one or more of the themes.

If you have never seen it, I suggest you rent the movie we are now watching: Smoke Signals. Both the writer, Sherman Alexie, and the director, Chris Eyre, are Native American: Eyre is Cheyenne-Arapaho, and Alexie is Spokane-Coeur d'Alene. The movie centers around two Indian young men, their relationship to their families and to each other, and to a tragedy early in their lives. Funny, poignant, insightful, true-to-life, definately worth a view.

The themes from the movie that we are doing Bible Study on are family, friendship, and forgiveness.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Recently the U.S. State Department issued a Travel Warning for U.S. citizens regarding Mexico. An excerpt:

The greatest increase in violence has occurred near the U.S. border. However, U.S. citizens traveling throughout Mexico should exercise caution in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Mexican and foreign bystanders have been injured or killed in violent attacks in cities across the country, demonstrating the heightened risk of violence in public places. In recent years, dozens of U.S. citizens have been kidnapped across Mexico. Many of these cases remain unresolved. U.S. citizens who believe they are being targeted for kidnapping or other crimes should notify Mexican officials and the nearest American consulate or the Embassy as soon as possible, and should consider returning to the United States.
. . .
Mexican drug cartels are engaged in an increasingly violent conflict - both among themselves and with Mexican security services - for control of narcotics trafficking routes along the U.S.-Mexico border. In order to combat violence, the government of Mexico has deployed troops in various parts of the country. U.S. citizens should cooperate fully with official checkpoints when traveling on Mexican highways.

Some recent Mexican army and police confrontations with drug cartels have resembled small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and grenades. Large firefights have taken place in many towns and cities across Mexico but most recently in northern Mexico, including Tijuana, Chihuahua City and Ciudad Juarez. During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area. The U.S. Mission in Mexico currently restricts non-essential travel to the state of Durango and all parts of the state of Coahuila south of Mexican Highways 25 and 22 and the Alamos River for U.S. government employees assigned to Mexico. This restriction was implemented in light of the recent increase in assaults, murders, and kidnappings in those two states. The situation in northern Mexico remains fluid; the location and timing of future armed engagements cannot be predicted.

Many U.S. colleges and universities have issued warnings to students to avoid travel to Mexico, and even the southern U.S. near the border.

This violence results from the money to be made smuggling illegal drugs into the U.S. for sale. The demand for illegal drugs by U.S. citizens drives the killing in Mexico.

So, what should we do?

I wish I knew a great and simple answer to that question.

For starters, I have advocated before the legalization of marijuana use--not because I think it harmless, but because too many Americans want to use it to make stopping it possible, while preserving a free society.

Do the arguments I use to argue for legalization of marijuana mean also that all drugs should become legal? Legalizing all drugs probably would end much of the violence in Mexico, and in our own cities. The large underground drug economy would be taken up into the tax-paying legal economy.

But, part of my rationale for marijuana legalization is that the social harm done by marijuana is less than the social harm done by making it illegal. I don't think that case can be made for lots of other drugs, such as meth. Though with the damage being done to Mexico, perhaps I need to rethink my position.

So, what can/should we do, before our neighbor to the south slips further into violent anarchy?

Would gaining actual control of our border with Mexco help? If, and that is a big if for logistical and political reasons, we gain control of our border, then the fighing for control of smuggling routes should decline. I think, therefore that securing the border must become a higher priority not only for ourselves, but for the Mexican government.

Would it help to try to decrease the demand? Seems obvious to me. Perhaps we should have taken a few tens-of-millions away from some of the pork items in the "Stimulus" bill and put them into drug rehabilitation, advertizing, and community faith-based organizations.

And if we take a strong position on prosecuting for possession and use, how about CCC-style work camps with literacy training and skill development.

I wish I knew a quick and easy answer that will save Mexico from the consequences of our bad habits.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Very interesting post from Brits at their Best on the contrast between Britain and Europe in the past, quoting from a book by Alan Macfarlane, who uses among other sources Montesquieu's observations when he visited Britain in 1729. Montesquieu was a French thinker who was read and admired by the Founders of our nation.

In The Origins of English Individualism, Alan Macfarlane explains that Montesquieu visited England in 1729 and plunged into a study of its political and social institutions which he clearly found alien -

"'I am here in a country which hardly resembles the rest of Europe.'

In his work on The Spirit of the Laws, he noted that the social, economic and religious situation, connected to law and politics, was different in England. The English were wealthy, enjoying a 'solid luxury'; England was a trading nation as a result of its freedom from restrictive laws and 'pernicious prejudices'."

Between the 16th and 18th centuries English travellers noticed with shock and horror that France's rural populations had a miserable diet and pathetic clothing. The French were oppressed by heavy taxes and by royal troops that regularly pillaged and beggared villages.

"The husbandman in France, 'scraped to the bones, and . . .dressed in hemp', 'never goeth to the market, to sell anything: but he payeth a toll, almost the half of that he selleth'."

In contrast, travellers in England, among them the Venetian Embassy, noted with amazement -

". . .the absence of heavy taxation, of billeted soldiers, and of internal taxes. This meant that 'every inhabiter of that realm useth and enjoyeth at his pleasure all the fruits that his land or cattle. . .or travail gaineth'.

Yeomen ate plentifully of fish and flesh, drank beer or wine, wore fine wool, had a great store of tools, and often sent their children to university.

'. . .the riches of England are greater than those of any other country in Europe. . .there is no small innkeeper, however poor and humble he may be, who does not serve his table with silver dishes and drinking cups. . .'"

Notice among the differences which gave advantage to Britain were low or no taxes enabling persons to keep the wealth they generated which in tern enabled them to start their families on a path of upward mobility.

Macfarlane also noted that de Tocqueville on his visit to England made similar observations and credited English prosperity to

'The spirit which animates the complete body of English legislation' and because 'The nobles and the middle classes in England followed together the same courses of business, entered the same professions, and what is much more significant, intermarried. . . .'
'classes which overlap, nobility of birth set on one side, aristocracy thrown open, wealth as the source of power, equality before the law, office open to all, liberty of the press, publicity of debate' (L' Ancien Regime).

Why do the Democratic party leadership want to make us look more like France, ancient and modern?

Speaking of the European Union, Brits offers this explanation and contrast:

Today, Socialists and redistributors share a weird mental delusion. They take a snapshot of the poor, the middle class and the upper class and they freeze it in time. In their vision, those who are poor will always be poor - unless the government intervenes. Those who are rich will always be rich - unless, again, the government intervenes.

This is like taking a picture of your children and thinking they are always going to be seven years old.

It is certainly true that there will probably always be individuals who are poorer than others, but over a period of years they will not be the same individuals. Socialists and redistributors do not see this because they do not see individuals. They see classes.

I would modify this assessment and exchange "familes" for "individuals" as more realistic. In our country we have seen over and over again one generation toiling on a lower rung of the ladder in order to enable the next generation to climb to a higher rung. The American immigrant experience often has been of Mom and Dad barely speak English, work hard at entry-level jobs, push their children to succeed in school, and their children move into the Middle Class.

In my first year of seminary (1980-81) I was a Youth Pastor in Kearny, New Jersey, an urban working-class Scots-Irish neighborhood. Over 80% of our congregation had been born overseas. The pastor and I joked that our youth ministry motto should be "Training Tomorrow's Leaders for Suburban Churches". Most of the "kids" of our church would go on to live further out from New York in more affluent suburbs.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
The revolution for social justice at NYU was dealt a significant setback today. Gawker has the details here. Please try not to laugh.
In Revolutionary-Era republicanism, the ideology that informed the Revolution, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution, the most precious of all things in this world was Liberty. In the view of the Founders, Liberty was rare in history, and constantly threatened. The threats to Liberty could be categorized as tyranny (the arbitrary and unjust power of some over others), anarchy (when everyone acts according to his or her passions then no one is free), and foreign domination (which would mean the end of community self-rule). Of course as some of you have already seen, anarchy was regarded as a temporary condition that would lead to the tyranny of the strong. And foreign domination is simply tyranny by outsiders.

Our economic policy is threatening our liberty by inviting foreign domination.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Sunday urged China to keep buying US debt as she wrapped up her first overseas trip, during which she agreed to work closely with Beijing on the financial crisis.

Clinton made the plea shortly before leaving China, the final stop on a four-nation Asian tour that also took her to Japan, Indonesia and South Korea, where she worked the crowds to try to restore America's standing abroad.

In Beijing, she called on authorities in Beijing to continue buying US Treasuries, saying it would help jumpstart the flagging US economy and stimulate imports of Chinese goods.

"By continuing to support American Treasury instruments the Chinese are recognising our interconnection. We are truly going to rise or fall together," Clinton said at the US embassy here.

Clinton had sought to focus on economic and environmental issues in Beijing, saying Washington's concerns about the human rights situation in China should not be a distraction from those vital matters.

Full story linked by Drudge from Breitbart.

It is not difficult to imagine a future scenario in which China threatens to stop buying U.S. Treasury notes, and to dump the ones it now holds, unless the U.S. act in certain ways. We are giving them a lot of leverage.

To those who say that China would never harm our economy because we are such a good customer I have three responses: (1) the Chinese leadership does not have to face the voters, and could decide that long-term strategic gain would be worth short-term econmic pain; (2) lots of history results from "Oh sh*t, that's not how I wanted that to turn out." One can imagine Chinese leadership making the threat quietly, assuming we would cave quickly, we don't, a secret game of chicken ensues, word leaks out and our markets go in a nosedive; (3) France was Germany's leading trade partner in 1938.

22/02: TCCTA, 2009

I am back from one of my favorite annual events: the 2009 meeting of the Texas Community College Teachers Association.

The history section featured an outstanding slate of eminent scholars: Eric Foner, David Goldfield, Brian Delay, and H.W. Brands. I hope to offer comment at some point on the provocative presentations offered by those luminaries.

However, as is my wont, I could not help myself from sneaking into the government section to hear one of my favorites: Harvard's Kennedy School of Government Professor of Political Science, Tom Patterson, who, once again, lived up to my incredibly high expectations regarding his cogent and dispassionate analysis of presidential politics.

"Can Obama Succeed in an Era of Impatience?"

Patterson: Barack Obama is obviously an exceptional political talent, but, more importantly, he is a natural executive, which, ironically, turns out to be a fairly rare gift among recent presidents (think Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton).


1. Obama ran a superior presidential campaign (the very best ever, in Patterson's view--and I concur). Perhaps most astounding, he did it with presumably second-tier talent. Of course, his staffers are NOW the first-tier players--but we should NOT forget that the overwhelming favorite in the race for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, flush with cash and the glow of inevitability, bought up all the heavy-hitting pros early on in the contest. Undeterred, Obama found a way to draft an over-achieving cohort of talented personnel in the latter rounds and facilitated their development into a cohesive and ultra-effective organization.

2. Upon election, Obama assembled the presidency first. Prioritizing an executive staff over a cabinet and assembling a team of doers, Obama fielded a highly functioning White House ready for battle the first day in office.

An aside: some of you will be tempted to point out some of the stumbles--but, seriously, this team is in mid-season form already. After only a month, this President is indisputably in command and in control of the national storyline.

Where is Obama now?

He inherits a frightening crisis. Ironically, this precarious situation fraught with peril offers him a pathway to presidential distinction. Every "great" chief executive needs an insurmountable obstacle to overcome. Great triumph only comes after great trial (not surprisingly, Brands and Foner both echoed this manifest fact of presidential scholarship).

On the other hand, crisis presents a double-edged sword for a president. Leaders don't always prevail over adversity; sometimes chief executives do not rise to the occasion.

Will Obama succeed?

Most likely. If Obama is lucky, Patterson observes, he will be Ronald Reagan.

As Patterson notes, the President seems to invite comparisons between himself and former greats such as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. However, Patterson asserts that this time and place is more comparable to the late-1970s and early-1980s than the era of the Great Depression. How are we different from 1933? We are a much more demanding and impatient culture today, with a wall-to-wall-twenty-four-hour news cycle, a fiscal situation wholly different from pre-New Deal America, and a post-industrial service economy.

An Aside: on the following day Brands, author of the current best-selling FDR biography, also offered an illuminating discussion regarding similarities and differences between the predicaments that face Obama and the collapse that Roosevelt inherited, which I hope to report on in some depth shortly.

Patterson: like Reagan, Barack Obama won election because of who he was NOT. The Election of 2008, like the Election of 1980, revealed more about the electorate's revulsion and frustration with the ruling party rather than an absolute affinity for the respective challengers. Americans rejected Jimmy Carter much more than they unequivocally elevated Ronald Reagan. Likewise, 2008 voters first and foremost voted against the perceived incompetence of George Bush and the faithless Republicans.

Having said that, like Reagan, Barack Obama is very popular and a vessel of hope. However, Patterson reminds us that Reagan's popularity plummeted as the economy continued to stagnate during the first two years of his presidency, with Democrats making big gains in the 1982 midterms. It was not until the economy began to rebound in 1983 and 1984 that Reagan recovered from his historic low approval ratings. Of course, his resurgence was spectacular (as was the economic recovery), as Reagan rolled onto a landslide reelection in 1984.

The Good News for President Obama?

If we see some brand of upswing in the economy before 2012 (as currently predicted by the Fed), the next quadrennial contest could very well be "Morning in America" for President Obama's reelection campaign.

Moreover, this president has two advantages over RR.

1. Unlike Reagan, Obama will not be restricted by principles or circumstances to supply-side solutions alone. His stimulus will attack the downturn from the demand side, pumping mainline injections into the sluggish economy.

2. Unlike Reagan, Obama enjoys shockingly unparalleled positive press. As Patterson correctly asserts, the news media powered his victory in the primary, showering him with disproportionately positive reportage, while hammering the front runner with surly negative portrayals and unfriendly analysis. Of course, Patterson reminds us that the media, although no less gushing in the General Election, played a role significantly less instrumental, for the events of 2005 through 2008 formed an irresistible wave of popular enmity for any Republican standard-bearer. That is, 2008 was a year tailor-made for any Democratic nominee.

Bottom Line: never before has a president faced a press corps so friendly and so thoroughly invested in his success. Contra to regular expectations of a mainstream media driving despair about the economy through negative coverage, we can expect this coterie of national reporters to continue their pattern of lending assistance to this president in unprecedented fashion.

On the other hand, regardless of the supportive White House press corps, the reality of the economic situation will settle into the public consciousness. Eventually, real life will overtake the media-created illusion. And, one day not too distant, President Obama will own this economy.

Patterson expects Democrats in the House to lose seats in 2010, which, of course, will completely reconfigure the current conventional wisdom about the GOP as the zombie party.

However, if Obama gets lucky, like Reagan, he gets "Morning in America" Part II.

If he gets an economic upturn after the midterm setback, and he wins another landslide election in 2012, President Obama may well outstrip the second term of Ronald Reagan. Well-positioned to achieve something close to universal health care and a substantial and historic program to counter the affects of global warming by scaling back carbon emissions, Obama will have a shot at finishing as a "near-great" president.

But, Professor Patterson reminds us, there are some less salutary potentialities as well. How could this presidency go down in flames?

There are the THREE BIG IFS:

1. What if the economy does not respond to the stimulus? Very possible. Many analysts are already talking about a SECOND STIMULUS, which would necessitate more money we don't have. More gnashing of teeth. Will there be any one left to borrow money from? This contingency severely dampens the rosiest Obama scenario. Even if one imagines a reelection victory in the midst of the continuing unease (a la FDR), the possibility of achieving big things in the second term virtually vanishes.

2. What if we drop into a deflationary spiral? Unlikely--but not impossible. Economists see this as extremely remote but no longer unthinkable.

3. What if the economy is exhausted? What if we keep the banks and the car companies above ground--but only on life support? We are surely headed toward a national debt that equals our Gross National Product (GDP). We reached that position at the end of World War II, and we expanded our way out of our financial hole, settling into a long period of dynamic growth in which our national debt decreased steadily until it leveled off and averaged about one-third of our GDP for decades. Now our national debt suddenly equals 70 percent of our GDP and seems inevitably on the way to approximately 100 percent once again.

Can we grow our way out of this kind of mammoth debt in our current state of national health? The USA of 2009 is not the America of post-war period, which was characterized by a vibrant manufacturing sector fueled by a nation of consumers with disposable income and pent-up demand for consumer goods. We are well past that vigorous America now. Today we live in a post-industrial society in which most Americans suffer from high personal debt and cannot honestly say that they want for much.

As you know, I worry that the party is over.

On the other hand, Patterson, an extremely talented handicapper, lays odds that the President is most likely on track for the more optimistic recovery scenario. This would be good news for all of us--at least in the near term. On the other hand, Patterson offers no guarantees, warning that the scariest outcomes are not just remote doomsday eventualities.

To borrow a line from the Brands lecture of the following day: the good news is that Obama has the potential to be another FDR. The bad news is that he also faces a danger of being the next Herbert Hoover.

We'll see.

UPDATE: We are grateful to HNN for the link to this post.
Recently we have expressed some problems with Rush Limbaugh and some of his views.

We regard him as irrationally wedded to the idea of the absolutely Free Market. I think most of us who blog here regard the Free Market as a good thing, so long as it is not absolutly free, that is, we see the need for some rational regulation. Similarly on the related ideas of free trade and Capitalism.

We regard him as over emphasizing "Rugged Individualism," taking insufficient note of the role of communities in the good life.

We regard him as too quick to see conspiracy at work among those he opposes.

I regard him as too cavelier regarding the environment.

Photognome and Martian Mariner also expressed problems with his ability to analyze a problem rationally and to present comment in rational form. I understand their complaint.

Having said all of this, I wish to speak a word in Rush's defense.

First, while I disagree with him on the items listed above, I think that for someone who makes a living talking live for 15 hours per week, he manages to get most things right. Sometimes he spots trends or issues before anyone else seems to notice.

Second, he understands that rationality is only a part of the human make-up. And, that many, many people are not dominated by their rational side. He makes great use of humor, and emotion, in his presentation.

Third, Rush is an ideologue. He has a philosophy, a variety of conservatism, and he views the world through this ideology. He knows what his beliefs are, can explain them coherently, and can persuade others of the truth of his world-view.

As a Christian, and a preacher, I understand what he does. I operate from an ideology also, try to persuade people to see things according to a Christian world-view, and use more than rationality in my rhetoric. I just wish Rush would take a sabbatical and immerse himself in The Institutes of the Christian Religion, or in Church Dogmatics. Since Rush is nominally Roman Catholic, I would settle gladly for Thomas Aquinas as Rush's bedtime reading.
Remember those commercials featuring a hapless employee forced to work with monkeys?

Were those ads playing on deeply coded racial symbols? Were those spots designed to appeal to frustrated white employees forced to work with incompetent African American colleagues? Or was the "monkey business" of those commercials a symbol for working with a bunch of frivolous and mischievous "clowns"?

Pretty obvious answer--and, for the record, they were hilarious.

Just in case you do not know, the New York Post ran a cartoon last week in which two cops shot down a monkey (playing off an actual incident in the news earlier in the week), and the caption reads: “They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

The most reasonable point to infer? The stimulus bill was so egregiously ridiculous, it could have only been written by a monkey (figuratively speaking).

A less reasonable inference? The Post advocates the assassination of Barack Obama.

I can only surmise that those who sincerely charged that the cartoon depicted President Obama as a chimpanzee were the ones who did not follow the news very carefully. Key word: write.

“They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

Who wrote the stimulus bill? Not the President, unfortunately, or any of his braintrust. The most frustrating and disappointing element of the entire stimulus melodrama was the absence of the President and his economic council of wise men in the drafting of this abominable legislation. As I noted weeks ago, the great ironic travesty of this trillion-dollar bill was that it was farmed out to the lower branches of the Democratic Party's political tree.

If I had to pick one of two options, I would have to choose misogyny over racism--but that accusation rings equally hollow.

However, there are actually two things wrong with this cartoon.

1. It is not hilarious. The gag was not nearly obvious or powerful enough. If this thing had made somebody somewhere laugh (or even smirk), it would have gone down much smoother.

2. No matter how innocent (or plausibly deniable) the cartoon may be, a depiction of a monkey that can be placed any where near this first African American president definitely deserved more deliberation than the editorial board of the NY Post evidently saw fit to grant it.

Really Obvious Observation: this is the last monkey we will see in a political cartoon or any other media for the next eight years.

Having said that, even if the Post should have known better, this firestorm of misplaced indignation does not diminish the sadly obvious fact that we live in a world gone mad.
Posted by: an okie gardener
Essay, originally in The American Spectator, reprinted in the Institute for Religion and Democracy
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Listen to this embed video and just try not to move. Make even clumsy white guys like me boogie in the office chair. Juke-joint pedal steel supreme. From the Infidel Bloggers' Alliance.

Here are a couple of tracks from my favorite juke-joint band: The North Mississippi All-Stars.

From the 2006 Blues Festival in Clarksdale.

From Bonnaroo 2007.
Interesting. Here, video embed from the Rott.
Category: The Economy
Posted by: Martian Mariner
Okie Gardner recently pointed out that The Market Is Not God. I'm pleased to see the note of caution on pure reliance on "the market." Smith calls pricing (supply/demand) the "Invisible Hand," and claims that when individuals act in self-interest they end up working in society's interest. He never said anything about the "Infallible Hand."

Another issue we've got to look at is that Smith's conception of "society" is no longer synonymous with "nation." It was understood early on that while self-interested capitalist action would be beneficial to society overall, it would certainly be more beneficial to some than to others. When a market is wholly contained within a state, the government can regulate these "market failures." The problem now is the markets, particularly the oil market as pointed out by okie gardner, are world-wide rather than national. Therefore, the disproportional accrual of benefits is not just going to the Rockefellers, but to the al-Sauds and the Nevzlins.

And that's the way the market works. Those with the capital, resources, and entrepreneurship are going to get the big bucks, which, the way our international political economy is structured, equals power. An honest advocate for a purely free-market must accept that (and all it means) and move on.

The bigger problem comes when we look to market principles and expect that the market should and always will favor America. Yes, it has for a long time in a lot of areas. But it won't always, and it certainly won't in all sectors. I'd cite a few examples, but I take it you've turned on the news sometime this year.

So, I'd tag a modifier to Gardener's statement - The market is not God, and it is most certainly not a god who prefers America over all others. So if regarding the "Market" as absolute borders on idolatry, holding un-regulated market solutions invariably to be the best policy is also unpatriotic.

[I may tackle Gardener's other topic, which economists politely label as "negative externalities" in another post. Needless to say, this is another area in which market regulation is a net benefit.]
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
Are tradition and democracy necessarily opposed to one another? G.K. Chesterton concluded just the opposite. In a chapter entitled "The Ethics of Elfland" in his book Orthodoxy, Chesterton wrote the following:

But there is one thing that I have never from my youth up been able to understand. I have never been able to understand where people got the idea that democracy was in some way opposed to tradition. It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time. It is trusting to a consensus of common human voices rather than to some isolated or arbitrary record. The man who quotes some German historian against the tradition of the Catholic Church, for instance, is strictly appealing to aristocracy. He is appealing to the superiority of one expert against the awful authority of a mob. It is quite easy to see why a legend is treated, and ought to be treated, more respectfully than a book of history. The legend is generally made by the majority of people in the village, who are sane. The book is generally written by the one man in the village who is mad. Those who urge against tradition that men in the past were ignorant may go and urge it at the Carlton Club, along with the statement that voters in the slums are ignorant. It will not do for us. If we attach great importance to the opinion of ordinary men in great unanimity when we are dealing with daily matters, there is no reason why we should disregard it when we are dealing with history or fable. Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our father. I, at any rate, cannot separate the two ideas of democracy and tradition; it seems evident to me that they are the same idea.

What do you think?
Category: Honeymoon Over?
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Thomas Sowell on NRO today explains why the "honeymoon" may never end for President Obama:

“the will to believe.”
My "Forgotten English" word today is gardyloo. Citations from two old dictionaries define the word as a warning cry given when the contents of chamber pots were thrown from windows into the street or alley below.

For those of you born in the latter 20th century, a chamber pot is a bucket with a lid kept in the house, perhaps in the bedroom, so that one need not make the trip to the outhouse in the dark. An outhouse, or privy, for those of you in ignorance of pre-indoor plumbing architecture, is a small building built over a pit for the purpose of relieving oneself.

Growing up when and where I did (the 19th century lingered late in Sullivan County, Missouri) I am familiar both with outhouses and chamber pots.

The greatest health-care breakthrough in human history was the development of sanitary sewers and waste-water treatment. Before then, all cities were subject to regular outbreaks of disease carried by sewage. In early America when traveling, cities could be smelled before seen if the wind were right. Sanitary sewers and waste-water treatment, along with clean drinking water treatment and delivery systems, have saved more lives than perhaps any other single idea.

Water and sewer services must be community based. It makes no sense to speak of "rugged individualism" when considering clean water and sewage treatment for New York City. America is a nation built upon communities just as much or more than on "rugged individualism", contra Rush. Traditional Mainstreet Midwest Conservatism has always known this.

The History of Sanitary Sewers

How Sewer Systems Work

A History of Drinking Water Treatment
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
As I was fairly early on the scene with my assertion that the Senate should seat Roland Burris, I feel obligated to join the castigation chorus post haste.

I associate myself with these remarks from the Washington Post :

"Mr. Burris should resign."
Only God is God, and beside him there is none other. Only God is absolute, omniscient, and omnipotent. Only God is to be accepted without qualification.

Recently I have heard several conservative commentators speak of the Free Market, and laissez-faire Capitalism, as though it were God. Its decrees to be accepted without question.


For example, you can't be a social conservative and believe in the Free Market absolutely, or in laissez-faire Capitalism. Prostitution, in market terms, is simply product meeting demand. Producers of child pornography have found a demand, and create a product to meet that demand. Abortionists likewise. Hit-men are members of the Service Sector with a different skill set than plumbers. The free maket of laissez-faire Capitalism has no conscience, no moral code, no sense of Right and Wrong. Morality must be imposed on the Market from outside the Market System.

Recently, Mark Davis, a radio host I greatly enjoy and respect, argued that Energy efficiency should be left strictly up to the Market. If consumers want to buy fuel-efficient cars, then they should be allowed to. If buyers want horsepower and size, then they should be able to buy those cars. Car companies should be able to build and sell whatever the consumer wants to buy. These decisions should be left up to the market. His thought was--you don't mess with the free market.

Here are two reasons not to accept the decree of the Free Market, as though it were God, on the energy issue.

First, energy consumption in the United States is closely linked to world affairs, particularly our relationship with the Middle East, and all its instability. Dependence on oil puts our economy at the mercy of OPEC, jeopardizing our national independence. Reducing U.S. demand is a sensible goal. We either can wait until gasoline once more reaches $4 per gallon, and stays there--not good for our economy--or, we can take steps like mandating fuel efficiency standards for automobiles. As C.S. Lewis remarked in another context, the French Revolution should have taught us that the behavior aristocrats enjoy may not be the behavior conducive to the survival of aristocracy. In other words, the behavior free citizens enjoy may not be the behavior conducive to the survival of freedom.

Second, the Free Market tends not to reward good stewardship of the environment. Why do you think almost all plastic products sold in the U.S. are made in China? Because is is expensive to manufacture plastics in an environmentally responsible way, we outsource production to a country that is willing to destroy its environment for economic gain. Automobiles are hard on the environment. Increasing efficiency in a responsible way is a reasonable goal. Such a goal must be decreed from outside the market.

Regarding any economic system as absolute seems to me a form of idolatry.
If you missed the "cold open" for Saturday Night Live this weekend, you didn't really miss much hilarity. In a skit entitled "Republican Meeting," Dan Aykroyd guest-starred in a parody of House Republican leadership. After watching the bit in stunned silence, out of curiosity, I went back and reviewed the archive with pad and pen in tow to count the laughs. Needless to say, my hand did not tire tallying the yuks in one of the longest six minutes in the history of the Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Players.

Aside from a raucous welcome for Aykroyd, an original cast member and old friend, the best the audience could muster were a few anticipatory laughs in the early stages of the performance waiting for the bit to gain altitude. It never did. The rest of the piece could only generate a few titters and courtesy laughs as the buffoonish Republicans plotted impeachment proceedings and hatched a tone-deaf plan to pick a fight with the President's incredibly cute daughters. The burlesque had some of the elements of comedy (incongruity and irony), but the attempt lacked the essential element of plausibility without which the laughs just never could materialize.

Don't believe me? Watch for yourself--and report back on any funny lines I missed.

During the campaign, I often wondered what the inexperienced Obama crew would do if they achieved their implausible dream. As that fantasy drew closer to reality over the course of the long campaign, I began to wonder what the mainstream media would do if their dream candidate actually became President of the United States.

For twenty-five years SNL has existed as a pop-culture institution dedicated to "speaking truth to power." But what if these snarky anti-heroes finally succeeded in over-throwing the establishment and installing a revolutionary junta? What then? What would be left to lampoon?

Nothing, as it turns out. SNL has NOT come up with one funny line at the expense of President Obama. Most of us don't even know the name of the actor who plays the President. For the record, it is Fred Armisen, but he has not emerged as a star. Why? Because every one of his performances has been utterly forgettable. Why? Because the braintrust at SNL seems incapable of penetrating observational humor the portrays the President in an unflattering light.

That bears repeating: the braintrust of SNL seems incapable of casting the President of the United States in an unfavorable light.

So, what does SNL do now? They make fun of the opposition. They protect their president by parodying the out-party, mocking those who might be cravenly making fun of him behind closed doors. Sarcastic distortion of high-flying politicians, celebrities, and the mega-rich is almost always good for a laugh. But beating up on the underdog gets unfunny fast.

The ultimate ironic end for SNL? Their success in finally bringing down the ancien regime means that laughing at the powerful is now passe. And if poking fun at the president is now off-limits, the market for court jesters is not so lucrative.

Perhaps the Democratic Party will see fit to bailout their increasingly obsolete friends at 30 Rock.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Poor Judd Gregg.

What was he thinking?

That seems to be the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. Actually, I know exactly what he was thinking. The country is in trouble. Our party played an indispensable role in getting us where we are. Can I be part of the solution?

The old system has broken down--so much so that my party seems wholly disconnected with our traditional principles and original raison d'etre. Does this president from the other side of the aisle see the folly of his caucus--as I see the folly of my own? Can we come together and do the right thing for the country, transcending the old rules and creating a new political paradigm imagined long ago by the framers?

Okay. You guessed it. I am talking about me as much as him.

What was I thinking?

Judd and I were desperate--and desperate people do desperate things.

Why so desperate? After decades of Republican ascendancy, the electorate snatched away the keys as the country lurches toward our most lethal national crisis since the Civil War. Team Pelosi seems absolutely intent on pressing the accelerator to the floor as we approach the on-coming cliff, happily reminding the world that George Bush pointed us in this direction.

What to do? The Republican brand is busted, and it will be decades before Americans begin to forgive and forget the great GOP betrayal. What can we do right now?

Frantic questions in real time: what if this fellow really is something different? What if his plea "to be my president too" is sincere? What if he is smart enough to realize that Nancy Pelosi only wants to drive us off into the abyss? What if I could be one of the courageous statesmen who helps him inaugurate an entirely new American era?

I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee
Clouds in my coffee, and...

In the end, Judd Gregg and I could not coexist in a coalition in which Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman call the shots. Somebody had to go. Unfortunately, it was us.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
"Do you ever wonder why the poor and the working classes, if they're religious-minded, are almost always followers of the most conservative forms of religion? And why the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to be a partisan of liberal religion, if you're a partisan of religion at all?"

Rod Dreher has some thoughts here.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Readers of Christianity Today have chosen their favorite movies of 2008.

#1 The Dark Knight

#10 (tie) Mama Mia
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
NRO has a symposium today inviting historians, beltway pundits, and other expert commentators to pick their favorite U.S. President: "The Good, the Bad, and William Henry Harrison."

What say you? If you had to pick just one, who would you say is your favorite and why?
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Link from LGF.

This is funny right here, I don't care who you are.
In honor of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, a multimedia collection of tributes:

In text,
Lincoln's official mini-biography, from the White House homepage.

In spoken word,
NPR's biographical remembrance, presented by an All-Star cast of voices.

And in pictures,
A video prepared by the RNC, celebrating the party's patron saint.

Here's to what's best about America.
Category: Frivolity
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Every economist worth his salt agrees that the only thing that can save this country is a trillion-dollar stimulus written by Nancy Pelosi.

Maybe the party of Herbert Hoover should watch the news more.
Yes. I agree that Barack Obama's first press conference belied his promise of a new era of gracious statesmanship. He came out swinging--and did not hesitate to throw low blows and rabbit punches. His partisan assertions reviling Republicans were not just dubious; they were most of the time demonstrably false and embarrassingly patronizing.

If he had only been as generous with us as Iran, whom he called an "extraordinary people with an extraordinary history and traditions." On the other hand, the GOP appeared again and again as a gang of unrepentant politicians with bad Washington habits intent on dithering in the face of economic misery for the American people.

This is disappointing on several different levels.

However, I have heard too many conservatives today gleefully predicting that his honeymoon is over.

Here's the problem: at the core of the President's "unhelpful" tone is the following undeniable fact.

"First of all, when I hear that from folks who presided over a doubling of the national debt, then, you know, I just want them to not engage in some revisionist history. I inherited the deficit that we have right now and the economic crisis that we have right now."

This is the club with which Democrats will beat us for the rest of our lives--or until they do something worse (which, unfortunately, is a distinct possibility).

But until then--here is the set of facts that supersede all possible excuses. While we were running things, we ran up a ten trillion dollar national debt. Again, the bitter pill in all this is that the principal charge is absolutely undeniable. We really did it.

It is going to take decades to live down this ugly fact. Don't look for all to be forgiven in a few election cycles--much less a fortnight.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Last week I commented with suspicion on the move by Obama to bring the decadal census under the control of the White House. Here. Imagine if it were a Republican White House and the Census was reporting to Karl Rove. The MSM and fellow-travelers would be having a fit.

John Fund in a Wall Street Journal essay offers his thoughts.

Here are excerpts:

"There's only one reason to have that high level of White House involvement," a career professional at the Census Bureau tells me. "And it's called politics, not science."

. . .

Mr. Chapman worries about a revival of the effort led by minority groups after the 2000 Census to adjust the totals for states and cities using statistical sampling and computer models. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Department of Commerce v. U.S. House that sampling could not be used to reapportion congressional seats. But it left open the possibility that sampling could be used to redraw political boundaries within the states.

Such a move would prove controversial. "Sampling potentially has the kind of margin of error an opinion poll has and the same subjectivity a voter-intent standard in a recount has," says Mr. Chapman.

Starting in 2000, the Census Bureau conducted three years of studies with the help of many outside statistical experts. According to then Census director Louis Kincannon, the Bureau concluded that "adjustment based on sampling didn't produce improved figures" and could damage Census credibility.

The reason? In theory, statisticians can identify general numbers of people missed in a head count. But it cannot then place those abstract "missing people" into specific neighborhoods, let alone blocks. And anyone could go door to door and find out such people don't exist. There can be other anomalies. "The adjusted numbers told us the head count had overcounted the number of Indians on reservations," Mr. Kincannon told me. "That made no sense."

The problem of counting minorities and the homeless has long been known. Census Bureau statisticians believe that a vigorous hard count, supplemented by adding in the names of actual people missed by head counters but still found in public records, is likely to lead to a far more defensible count than sampling-based adjustment.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Note to Republicans:

To get an idea of where we are, try to wrap your mind around this calculation:

This fellow is incredibly likable and the most telegenic American politician since Reagan. He is smart and light on his feet. Even when he is patently disingenuous and/or obtuse, he is engaging and appealing.

Multiply these qualities by the fact that the media love him and are invested in his success.

What does it add up to? This is going to be a long and frustrating eight years for partisan opposition.
I wrote this last May--but in honor of Lil Wayne and his big haul at the Grammys last night, I am reissuing this lament on the decline of pop culture:

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition and we'll all stay free!

Praise the Lord and swing into position!
Can't afford to sit around and wishin'
Praise the Lord we're all between perdition
and the deep blue sea!

Yes the sky pilot said it
You've got to give him credit
for a son - of - gun - of - a - gunner was he,
Praise the Lord we're on a mighty mission!
All aboard, we're not a - goin' fishin;
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition and we'll all stay free!

"Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" relates the partly true story of a chaplain ("sky pilot") and his reaction to Pearl Harbor. The song was a huge pop hit for Kay Keyser and his orchestra in late 1942. For a revealing window into our current sensibilities, view this You Tube video (with the actual music as sarcastic background to some classic conservative baiting) and then read the accompanying discussion (from the beginning).


One other hit song from the era (#1 in 1943):
When The Lights Go On Again All Over The World

Note: In truth, unlike 1943, only a small slice of America is actually at war today (the rest of us are drafting off the heroic sacrifice of a select few stalwart souls). For all those Americans on their third and fourth tours of duty, and all the families waiting at home, our sincere thanks. This song is dedicated to you.

When the lights go on again all over the world
And the boys are home again all over the world
And rain or snow is all that may fall from the skies above
A kiss won't mean "goodbye" but "Hello to love"

When the lights go on again all over the world
And the ships will sail again all over the world
Then we'll have time for things like wedding rings
and free hearts will sing
When the lights go on again all over the world

One last thought, FYI: The number one song again this week (three weeks running) is “Lollipop” by Lil’ Wayne: “She she lick me Like a lollipop; She she lick me Like a lollipop; She she lick Like a lollipop; She lick Me Like a lollipop….”

Unfortunately there is much much more to “Lollipop.”

Remember the bad old days when we sang silly songs that assumed God was on our side in a just war against evil doers? Thank goodness we have elevated our culture above that brand of provincialism.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman died last month of pancreatic cancer. He was 75. Story here.

Jazz, R&B, Blues. He could play them all and bring them together into one package. Here are a few representative cuts.

Lonely Avenue

Another Kentucky Sunset

Cristo Redento[r]
The Good News: the events of the last week have united the GOP.

More Good News: the Republican Party will be back someday (probably sooner rather than later).

The Bad News: this development came at a frightful price.

What really happened to Barack Obama? Or, how did the era of bipartisanship, cool competence, and common-sense solutions come to a conclusion before we could even settle in our seats (one of my buddies was out getting popcorn and missed it completely).


It was all a big lie. Obama never intended to be different. He is just another politician--more gifted than most, but at his core a prevaricator and soulless opportunist.

MORE LIKELY: he really believed a lot of his rhetoric--but a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.

He got rolled by his own party. The 380-pound veteran bull-rushed the Rookie. The sharks just inhaled the guppy.

We are reminded that five years ago, none of us had ever heard of this man. Five years ago he was a less-than-spectacular state senator whom most of the people in his own state did not know.

We are reminded that we convinced ourselves that this man was somehow so blessed with superhuman powers that he would overcome his deficiencies of experience.

Okay. We were wrong.

Side Note (and this is important): why were so many of us (Republicans) hoping against hope that this new man really was somebody totally different?

Simple. For those of us who can be honest with ourselves and objectively discuss our Grand Old Party, we know that we squandered the golden opportunity. After forty years of Democratic Party leadership based on fatally flawed assumptions, the American people came to see modern liberalism as a well-meaning ideal in the abstract but a recipe for disaster in practice.

And what did we do when our turn came? In general, we were even less responsible than our predecessors. Drunk with power and delusions of grandeur, we broke the bank. During our twelve-year window to right the course, we made absolutely no headway toward saving the nation that we love so dearly.

We are crushed. We are mortified. We are sick with disappointment in ourselves--and we lash out.

Some of us try to blame the media. Some of us blame the perfidy of the opposition. Some of us try to blame one another.

It was us. All of us. We did it to ourselves.

Okay, so some of us who understand how disastrous our missed opportunity really is were hoping against hope that the mysterious Obama was something different than a Nancy Pelosi Democrat. He said he was--and we desperately wanted to believe him. We were hoping that he could somehow slip in the Democratic backdoor and restore good sense to our national dialogue regardless of his party affiliation.

Looking back, none of that seems very logical right now.

The Bottom Line: Obama is NOT the Devil. We should still support our President. Let's don't go off the deep end and start spewing insane accusations and conspiracies. But those of us who have been clinging to a fantasy world for the past few months need to shake it off and get back in the game.

Okay. We are in a mess of our own making. We cannot count on any significant help from this president (at least not in the foreseeable future). Let's figure out where to go from here.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
It's late, in the midnight hour, and I'm listening to jazz. Here's my recent playlist.

Dave Holland.

Idris Muhammad and group.

John Coltrane and group.

Stan Getz & group.

Chet Baker & Paul Desmond

Chick Corea & RTF

Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, and the late Freddy Hubbard.
Posted by: an okie gardener
These videos are a hoot, and also thoughtfully informed.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
A week ago on Friday night my wife and I drove to a nearby town even smaller than our own. The Apache girls' and boys' basketball teams were to play Fletcher. We left early to have time for the chili supper beforehand.

Held in the Fletcher High School cafeteria, 8 local volunteer fire departments made and served chili. At the beginning of the line was a boot on a desk to receive donations for the departments. On the serving line were pots of chili, one from each fire department, with a basket in front of each. The idea was to get a sample from one pot, eat it, then return to the line to sample another pot, for as long as the stomach could hold out. You were then to put money into the basket in front of the pot you judged best.

I love chili. Simple in its basic form--meat, tomatoes, chili powder, perhaps beans--it lends itself to many variations. That night I sampled a batch that I think had cilantro in it, another I think used chorizo, two fairly sweet, and one with near-nuclear quantities of jalepano.

The supper was organized by Joe Dorman (D), our Oklahoma State Representative. His goal is to raise enough money for each Volunteer Fire Department Station in his District to have an electric generator so that one site in each community will have electricity during outages. Such as ice storms.

Later, during one of the games, he announced that each department would receive about $175 at a minimum (I assume from the division of the boot money) and the winning chili brought in around $430.

Communities working together in common purpose. Volunteers supported by voluntary donations. This is genuine conservatism. This is a large part of what makes America great.

Cardinal George Pell in this address speaks of social capital: the networks of men and women, families, and organizations, acting honestly and responsibly in service to the common good.

Amen, Brother Cardinal.

p.s., The Apache girls won and the boys lost.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Quote from one of my favorite colleagues (an ultra insightful giant of a man, center-right in his politics):

"I feel like my man lost, but we still won the election."

I have happily shared that sentiment. Until now.

The Bad News: we finally lost the election this week.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
Can't anybody play this game?

Tax problems, tax problems, tax problems. Obama's process for nominations seems even more incompetent than Jerry Jones on draft day.

Here is another good one: David Ogden for Deputy Attorney General. The man has argued against anti-pornography filters at public libraries and other cases for pornographers, plus pro-abortion advocacy.

Seems to me that Obama needs to raise hell with his vetting group, fire some folks, and bring in competent people for his nominations team.

Wizbang has more.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
According to this report in CQ Politics

The director of the Census Bureau will report directly to the White House and not the secretary of Commerce, according to a senior White House official.

The decision came after black and Hispanic leaders raised questions about Commerce Secretary nominee Judd Gregg ’s commitment to funding the census.

What could possibly go wrong in bringing the 2010 Census more under the control of a White House Administration with ties to ACORN?

My guess is that we will see another push to create the decadal census numbers used for Congressional apportionment based on models, rather than hard numbers. In the past the claim has been made that the Census Bureau regularly undercounts urban areas and minorities. To make up for this supposed shortfall, it has been advocated that estimated numbers be used. Here is a PBS NewsHour segment from 2001.

Sounds like a way to strengthen Democrat representation at the state and federal level.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
No difference. We could have gotten this Nancy Pelosi stimulus from President Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, or John Edwards. Nothing original about scare tactics and name calling.

It was a wonderful couple of weeks to imagine a new day. It was fun to believe in a post-partisan transformational leader for a fortnight.

I deserve all the clucking coming my way from my conservative friends.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Fact: Barack Obama possesses a world-class intellect and appears to be one of the coolest political operators to ever sit behind a desk in the Oval Office.

Fact: the President has assembled a "best and the brightest" caliber team of economic advisers.

Fact: we face an economic day of reckoning in which government action is undeniably necessary to avoid cataclysm.

Question: how in Heaven's name did Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, Charlie Rangel, and the balance of the usual Left Coast liberal suspects draw the assignment to write the trillion-dollar stimulus package?

I have been holding my fire, waiting patiently and confidently for the "miracle in the Upper Chamber," in which the new President quietly goes bipartisan and deftly disposes of the Pelosi abomination. But we are getting a bit close to the edge. The new rhetoric from the White House is a bit scary.

If we come out of here, in the face of this national crisis, with nothing more than an anachronistic big-spending, big-government, 1960s-style liberal appropriations package, with some added anti-Republican class warfare rhetoric as the icing on top, I will be crushed--and mad.

I know this is early--but it is not too soon to assert that President Obama is at a major crossroads. The content of this massive stimulus bill will determine the character of his administration and the future course of the United States of America. Good God, I hope he gets this right.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Millard Fuller, the man who founded Habitat for Humanity and whose name was synonymous with volunteer faith-based efforts to build houses for the poor, died suddenly Tuesday after a brief illness.

Fuller, 74, had suffered from a chest cold in recent weeks, said Holly Chapman, vice president of communications and development of the Fuller Center for Housing in Americus, Ga.

"He just took a turn for the worse last night," she said.

Story here from Christianity Today.

Fuller became a millionaire before he turned 30, then gave up his wealth to joing Koinonia Farm, a Christian communal farm in Georgia. He then created Habitat for Humanity in an effort to house the poor.

One of the things I have admired about Habitat, is that the recipient of the house must also labor, putting in a specified number of hours of "sweat equity." Helping people to help themselves is theologically, biblically, and psychologically, superior to giving people things.

People helping people help themselves; Community created by community, not by government.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Gallup people are releasing on their web site some 2008 data broken down by state. Included are political party affiliation, and the importance of religion.

Adults esponding positively to the question "Is religion an important part of your daily life?" :

Mississippi 85%
Alabama 82%
South Carolina 80%
Tennessee 79%
Louisiana 78%
Arkansas 78%
Georgia 76%
North Carolina 76%
Oklahoma 75%
Kentucky, Texas (tie) 74%

Vermont 42%
New Hampshire 46%
Maine 48%
Massachusetts 48%
Alaska 51%
Washington 52%
Oregon 53%
Rhode Island 53%
Nevada 54%
Connecticut 55%

No real surprises here. I myself put more emphasis on measured behaviors such as church attendance and giving, but I think this poll has value in a general way. One thing that stands out to me is how high the positive responses were in the bottom ten states. By the standard of Western Europe, even Vermont would seem a hotbed of religious fanaticism.

Here are the top and bottom ten Democrat Party states with the Dem party advantage

District of Columbia 75%
Rhode Island 37%
Massachusetts 34%
Hawaii 34%
Vermont 33%
New York 27%
Connecticut 26%
Maryland 26%
Illinois 24%
Delaware 23%

BOTTOM DEMOCRAT STATES (or, top Republican states)
Utah -23%
Wyoming -20%
Idaho -15%
Alaska -11%
Nebraska -7%
Kansas -2%
Alabama -1%
Arizona 0
South Carolina 0
3-way tie 1

No real surprises. Note that the Top and Bottom Ten in each category have a slight correlation. None of the Top Ten states on the importance of religion is a Top Ten Democrat state, and two are Top Ten Republican states. None of the Bottom Ten on the importance of religion is a Top Ten Republican state, and four are Top Ten Democrat states.
Category: housekeeping
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Programming Note:

The good folks from Political Vindication Radio have invited me to kick around some political issues on their internet radio show (listen here).

Please tune in tonight at 6:00 Pacific. It is always a good time to talk with Frank and Shane.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
During some pretty uncomfortable confirmation hearings, when faced with questions of delinquent taxes hurriedly brought current in the face of his impending nomination as Secretary of Treasury, the supporters of Tim Geithner argued that he was supremely and uniquely qualified for the position. That is, with the economy in free fall, the brilliant Robert Rubin-Lawrence Summers acolyte, Bush-appointed chairman of the Fed Bank of New York, and a man who inspired confidence on both sides of the aisle, was the only person suitable for the most critical position during the most precarious financial crossroads since the Great Depression.

For the most part, Republicans held their fire and passed on the opportunity for partisan gain, quietly believing that Geithner was much better than any other choice they could ever expect from an Obama administration. Too much was at stake. Irony be damned, some commentators observed wryly, his nomination was just "too big to fail."

Now, Tom Daschle, nominee for the Department of Health and Human Services secretary, faces some unsavory tax questions of his own.

Just a few days ago, Mr. Daschle amended his 2005-07 tax returns and paid $128,203 in back taxes and $11,964 in interest. The corrected returns reflect additional income for consulting work, the free use of a corporate limousine, and erroneously declared deductions for charitable contributions.

The devastating line that is making the rounds:

"A limousine liberal who refused to pay taxes on his limousine."

Is Tom Daschle too big to fail
? Yes and No.

Surely, no one would argue that Mr. Daschle is anything close to "uniquely qualified" to run Health and Human Services, or, for that matter, even that the Department was somehow essential to the health and happiness of our republic. Surely, we can move forward and prosper as a nation--even without the experienced hand and comforting voice of the former senator from South Dakota.

But there is something else. Tom Daschle himself is a big man in politics. He has a lot of powerful friends in high places. The Senate is generally inclined to protect members of its incredibly exclusive club, especially when we recall that Daschle was not just a member, he was club president (one-time Senate Majority Leader).

In addition, Daschle and President Obama enjoy a special relationship. Just as the good people of Illinois were electing a new junior senator back in 2004, the misguided South Dakota electorate was cashiering a Minority Leader. Exercising his uncanny ability to hitch himself to the right star, the outgoing senator insinuated his staff into the office of the incoming senator on the rise. Theirs has been a very close friendship ever since--with Daschle swinging early support over to the insurgent Democratic candidate early on in his quest for the nomination. No question, President Obama is certainly indebted to Daschle.

Not surprisingly, news reports from the White House have the President unequivocally sticking by his man.

Many are asking: what would have been the reaction from the other side, and from the mainstream media, if this had been President Bush's nominee?

I have consciously avoided that brand of question over the last few months. Why? The answer is usually too obvious for a serious reply. But, more importantly, most of us agree that the treatment of President Bush at the hands of his partisan opposition and the mainstream media was unconscionable--and damaging to the American political fabric.

So, it is very important to me that we do not adopt a standard for dealing with this President that we know in our hearts is manifestly disruptive and unconstructive.

A better question: what would we expect from our side? What would we accept as a fair reaction to a Republican president's nominee in similar circumstances.

By that standard, this Daschle situation stretches our sense of charity and offends our sense of fairness. This nomination sends all the wrong signals. Even as the President scolds Wall Street for double-standards, he seeks to raise his tax-evading friend to high office. This nomination--coming as it does on the heels of some other recent ethically murky moves that we have let pass--leaves a bad taste in our mouths.


Nice man--maybe. Innocent mistake--probably. Nevertheless, at this juncture, the administration should withdraw this nomination. If not withdrawn--the Senate should not confirm.