You are currently viewing archive for March 2009
I commend this essay by Louis Markos in Touchstone for reading by all.

In the essay he delineates and destroys the heresy at the core of Christian advocacy for same-sex practice: a liberal misunderstanding of Jesus as embodying absolute inclusivity.

Note that Christians who insist on the sanction and blessing of same-sex “marriage” are not saying: “Well, society’s changing, and if the Church doesn’t keep up with the change, she will be looked upon as old-fashioned and irrelevant to the concerns of today.” No, they are saying something far more radical and troubling: “ Because we are Christians, we should be in the forefront of those who are currently fighting for gay ‘marriage.’”

How could those who call themselves Christians take such a position? The answer is that many have accepted what I must call, without apology, the heresy of inclusivism. Though rarely stated so baldly, this heresy posits that at the core of Jesus’ life and teachings is a simple, non-negotiable message of absolute love, tolerance, and inclusivism that should determine every aspect of the faith. Any belief or practice that jeopardizes this message is to be rejected, even if it is stated clearly in the Bible, accepted by the historic Church, and believed by nearly all Christians since the founding of the faith. Any statements or doctrines that portray Jesus as exclusivist or intolerant, even if spoken by Jesus himself, must either be rejected or reinterpreted to fit in with his “true” message of inclusivism and tolerance.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
James Tonkawich has an essay that makes the same point I did in an earlier post--that a welfare-state undermines the character of citizens.

He also makes another point, that welfare-states are bad for the health of churches. I don't agree completely with his reasoning, and may address the issue at greater length later. Historically, secularization in Europe preceeded both the decline in church attendance and the creation of the modern European welfare-state. The correlation between weak churches and strong governmets may not be direct, but both may be the product of secularization.
Story here. While the story stresses that the Chinese government has not been linked directly to this spying effort, the targets--the Dalai Lama's organization and also India-- are suggestive of government activity. Plus, China is not a free society and the Chinese government goes to great efforts to monitor the internet traffic of its citizens.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Last week for my birthday the older son and daughter-in-law took my wife and I to a concert by the Duke Ellington Orchestra performing at his university.

Wow. The Sound Continues. The Duke is dead, but the band continues, like a living organism replacing members as they die or move on.

It is a tribute band, playing tunes written by Duke, or perfomed by his band. But it also is a living jazz band, blessed with wonderful, inventive soloists who express their own creativity within the charts.

For an introduction to the music of Duke, here is the official band site, with music.

If you need an introduction to Edward Kennedy Ellington, the Duke, then go here, or here.

When Ellington died in May, 1974, a radio station in another town announced they would devote the entire evening to his music. I got in the car and drove until I could pick up the station, then pulled into a field driveway to sit and listen. Royalty deserves respect.

In late winter I did a funeral for a Texas woman who had been in a nursing home for several years. Her husband preceded her in death. Both of them went into assisted living together when they could still dress themselves and walk to the cafeteria. Together they had operated a small-town grocery for a time; and he had also been a housepainter (after the store, I think). When they were first making plans to leave their house, the accountant suggested they give up their assets to their children so that Medicaid, and perhaps other government programs, would pay for the cost of care. The man refused. He believed that people should take care of themselves, and not go on charity unless absolutely necessary. His children agreed. So the couple paid their way.

In a few years this story will seem a fairy-tale.

We want to help people. But, an unintended consequence of helping can be to destroy self-reliance.

When I went to seminary my wife and I had a small savings account. The seminary--the best endowed in the world--could afford generous financial aid. Tuition cost was factored on the ability to pay. The first year, because of the savings account, I had a small tuition cost. After depleting our savings, the next two years I paid no tuition. It did not take a genius to figure out that if we had spent the money rather than saved, I would have paid no tuition the first year. We could have had some fun with the money, and then been taken care of.

We want to help people. But, an unintended consequence of helping can be to destroy a sense of responsibility.

The evil of a welfare-state is that it nurtures dependency rather than independency, perpetual childhood rather than maturity, sloth rather than prudence.

26/03: SAY WHAT!?!

Category: The Economy
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
This morning I caught a Steve Inskeep interview with Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and so-called budget hawk. The South Dakota Democrat spent five minutes explaining how to be a fiscal conservative while helping the president actualize New Deal 3.0

That was good for a laugh, but then things went from funny to alarming with the following exchange.

When reminded that "some Republicans have used the word bankruptcy," Conrad assured us that the opposition was just engaging in lose rhetoric.

"You know it's really not that much of a possibility," asserted Conrad, "because governments can print money."

More Conrad:

"We know the history. Governments can inflate their way out of debt, but that has consequences, doesn't it? So when our Republican friends use that word [bankruptcy], it's not reality. What is a real threat is a precipitous decline in the value of the dollar and the threat that would pose to the economic security of the country."


That's great. Don't worry about bankruptcy. We can always hyper-inflate and all be millionaires before that would happen.

Don't worry about NOT being able to swim, the fall will probably kill you first.
Is the Honeymoon Over?

I am now watching the press conference live...

In my view, to put it mildly, the President is struggling.

After a performance of this caliber with any other modern president, we would expect some pretty horrid press coverage.

The Experiment:

Let's monitor the media. Link your favorite press reports and summarize the tenor in the comments section.

Don't let me and Tocqueville have all the fun.

UPDATE: so far there are ELEVEN comments--and they are all mine. Come on, guys, throw me a bone here.
Two of the coolest hands on our side of the aisle (make that this side of the planet Earth) are Michael Barone and Charlie Cook.

How smart is Michael Barone? He is a savant. His encyclopedic knowledge of every congressional district in America is beyond parallel. Why does FOX News election central never make a wrong call? Because Michael Barone is in the back analyzing every crucial precinct on the big board. When John McCain led in Ohio by a couple-hundred thousand votes, I was starting to feel giddy (might we have a chance?). Michael Barone said "not so fast." He stopped me in my tracks. Why? He didn't like the looks of the margins in the McCain areas. McCain was winning--but not big enough where he needed to. I could tell by the look in Barone's eyes that we were in for a long night. Sure enough, two hours later we were calling Ohio for the next president of the United States, Barack Obama. Just one example--but I have a ton of them. Trust Michael Barone. He is a virtuoso at separating out his predilections from his prognoses. Barone takes more pleasure in being right than partisan.

Barone says:

"We've been hearing a lot of criticism of Barack Obama in recent days from pro-Obama corners..."

Barone senses a potentially debilitating crisis of confidence among supporters of the President.

Then there is Charlie Cook, who is never wrong.

Cook says independents may be catching on to the fork-tongued ways of the President.

Then there are the disappointed Democrats who keep coming out of the woodwork (Broder, Elinor Clift, Richard Cohen, et al).

Is it over? Is Tocqueville right?

Well, yes and no. It depends on what the meaning of "honeymoon" is.

Pertinent Question: why don't I just bite the bullet and admit Tocqueville is right?

Believe it or not, I am inclined to do just that--but that opinion just won't write.

Here is the thing. Yes. The President is absorbing some zingers from some friendly quarters (liberal pundits). But he is still not facing the wrath of an unfriendly press corps.

I cannot help but believe that with this uptick in the market--and just a bit more good news--we are going to be right back to hailing this fellow as the best president since John F. Kennedy--who, for most of the people who count the most, was the best president in American history.

The honeymoon may be over--but all of his structural advantages (invested press corps, majority in Congress, and an economy bound to go up in the near term) are still in tact.
Category: The Economy
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Nobel prize-winning economist and NYT columnist, Paul Krugman, pronounces The Geithner Plan economic "hocus pocus" and dead on arrival.

Why is this good news?

For all his erudition and acclaim, Krugman is too often a pompous and grandiloquent fool. And history, possessing a keen sense of irony, tends to seek out the most bombastic and definitive statements for singular embarrassment.

In short, Krugman is salivating at the possibility of a failure so huge that the only solution is complete government control (and I suspect he would also relish a turn running Treasury). But a successful private-public partnership does not further his agenda for nationalized banking and a planned economy.

This is not the first time Krugman has let his preferences get in the way of his judgment. He possesses a track record for pronouncements of doom that turned out to be nothing more than wishful thinking.

Krugman on the SURGE in Iraq (September 2007):

The smart money, then, knows that the surge has failed, that the war is lost, and that Iraq is going the way of Yugoslavia. And I suspect that most people in the Bush administration — maybe even Mr. Bush himself — know this, too.

The Financial Crisis is Barack Obama's Iraq. Just as President Bush understood that Iraq (once engaged) was the one potential threat that could fundamentally alter American hegemony in the world, President Obama needs to understand that the potential Financial Meltdown possesses the same destructive capacity.

Just as the surge had to work to save us all, the Geithner Plan has the same scent of absolute necessity (and desperation).

I hope the "Krug" is just as wrong now as he was then.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Watching C-SPAN this afternoon:

Chris Dodd is mad. I mean really mad. Nobody can be angrier than him. He is livid.

Nobody is any more incensed about all these rich guys taking advantage of the American people. Really.

But don't any of you worry, he doesn't care about the politics of any of this. He is going to keep on fighting for the people of Connecticut.

He has spent a career doing what is right, and no matter how many lies anybody might tell about him, he is going to just keep right on a fighting for you.

Sleep well tonight, America. Congress is in session and protecting your interests.

NYT here with the politics of being Dodd.

UPDATE: How ANGRY is he? Video from RCP here.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Eighty-five Republicans joined 243 Democrats to impose a 90 percent retroactive tax on bonuses given to employees with family incomes above $250,000 at American International Group and other companies that have received at least $5 billion in government bailout money.

So many big and obvious things wrong with this bill that I don't even have the time or energy to enumerate them.

Just when you thought the plunging market on Republican integrity and principle had bottomed out. Think again.

Political kudos to Nancy Pelosi for setting the buffoonery trap.
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
In Lawrence v. Texas Justice Kennedy announced: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." [Query whether this applies to the notorious Octo-Mom?] The architects and proponents of decriminalization assured us that Scalia's slippery slope argument was a canard--that the enshrining of homosexuality (once taboo) into law would not lead to the mainstreaming of other historically taboo but consensual relationships. Well, they were wrong.

It's finally begun. Here's the next vanguard in the "civil rights" struggle. Romania is set to decriminalize incest between consenting adults.
Who are you going to believe?

Me or David Broder?

Or Michael Goodwin?

Or Michael Barone?
Category: General
Posted by: Tocqueville
From the front page of today's New York Times:

"But in a much anticipated court filing, the [Obama] Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorists there [i.e., Guantanamo Bay, Cuba] without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration."

Are there no truth commissions? Is the "Wheel" no longer in operation?
Two weeks ago I could NOT have picked Jim Cramer out of a police lineup. As it turns out, he has been an on-air personality for CNBC since 1996. Who knew?

On March 3, 2009, his name finally penetrated my consciousness. That was the day the White House press secretary "called out" Cramer in response to his criticism of the President. The day before, Cramer had asserted that the recently announced budget represented a "radical agenda," and he held the President responsible for wanton "destruction of wealth."

Two days later, Cramer issued a manifesto of defiance, promising to lead an army of millions in revolt against the the President's policies.

A few days after that, Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show, picked up the White House line of attack and castigated Cramer as a hypocritical menace and presented a series of examples of his erroneous predictions over the years. The next day I finally put a face to the name, as I came across a YouTube of Stewart's five-minute-plus comic excoriation of the Mad Money man.

Thursday night, March 12, Cramer appeared as a guest on Stewart's program, where the host lambasted him mercilessly for crimes against the economy. The Charge? According to Stewart, Jim Cramer and CNBC, the cable financial news channel that draws approximately 300,000 viewers a night, bears major culpability for failing to warn us sufficiently that the stock market was risky.

Friday the cable feud was above-the-fold news. I watched or listened to news stories reporting and reacting to the confrontation from three different sources (NPR, the Newshour, and the CBS Evening News).

Every one of those news-and-analysis segments offered a straightforward account of the dramatic televised duel between Stewart and Cramer (with video highlights), fully embracing and amplifying the premise that Stewart raised a salient point worth public discussion: how could the business reporters fail so grievously in their duty to protect the public good?

Seriously? Jim Cramer and his ilk are to blame for our current economic difficulties? Stewart is the king of irony, but doesn't anyone but me find it completely absurd that we should try to pin blame on some loudmouth, whom most of us had never even heard of two weeks ago, who appears on a cable network that captures an audience equivalent to less than .001 percent of the U.S. population?

Perhaps most troubling, not one of these mainstream news agencies connected Cramer's sudden national scrutiny and notoriety to his dispute with the President. What about some context? If you just tuned in today, you would have thought this story somehow spontaneously generated itself somewhere in the vast wasteland of cable TV. The reports offered no inkling that that the White House had initiated the counter-attack on Cramer.

No journalist asked the obvious questions: how much does this slug-fest have to do with Cramer's high-profile attack on the President? What role did the White House play in all this? Is Stewart a surrogate for the Obama administration?

Am I off-base? Are these NOT basic questions? What is going on here?

Welcome to the Surreal World.

UPDATE: unfortunately, add Howard Kurtz to the list of oblivious mainstreamers. The best he can do is say that online reaction tended to split along partisan lines and quote (but not link) Mark Hemmingway's excellent piece on NRO (linked here)--which everyone should read.
Regarding my previous post predicting a long honeymoon for Barack Obama, Bob and Merrill points us to this WSJ analysis piece: "Obama's Poll Numbers Are Falling to Earth."

The Executive Summary:

The poll reaffirms that President Obama's public approval ratings, relative to his predecessors, are NOT abnormally high for this early stage in a new administration. In fact, they are just a tad on the low side compared to past honeymoon periods and DROPPING.

In the view of Douglass E. Schoen and Scott Rasmussen, the numbers also suggest that the President may well have stormy seas on his horizon. Why? He has publicly declared a mandate for action that most likely exceeds the expectations of many of the swing voters who cast ballots for him.

More alarming for the President, the ADD-plagued public is increasingly skittish about the economy--and, if I may infer, nearing the moment in which they no longer collectively remember the previous president and, therefore, are LESS susceptible to the current strategy of blaming Bush.

Who? Oh, yeah, yeah, right, that guy....

An Aside: this reminds me. I highly recommend Joel Stein's hilarious but penetrating column today: "the economic blame game." I continue to hail Stein as the most insightful funnyman-pundit on earth.

Back to the Honeymoon conversation.

Forget about these polls. They are virtually meaningless. A lot of this analysis is wishful thinking. The honeymoon is in stable condition.

Why do I keep saying that?


1. Forget about the precedents. This honeymoon period, like the election that preceded it, is an event comparable to NO previous occurrence of its kind. All of those previous instances existed within the framework of a media ranging from hostile to skeptical to at least professionally objective. The word that best describes the current media dynamic: invested. In themselves, daily tracking numbers mean nothing. A serious downward trend generally takes a willing press corps to turn misgivings into a template.

If a president's popularity stalls, but journalists elect NOT to report it as the story, will the public ever hear it?

2. More insulation: if criticism does penetrate the mainstream aegis, dissenters face a second line of defense, the wrath of a whole host of presidential stalwarts in the broader entertainment media. John Stewart, SNL, and like-minded enforcers provide a snarky gauntlet for this administration, guarding his flank with powerful satiric artillery.

3. Another Obama advantage: compliant and loyal majorities in both houses of Congress. This development is not as unparalleled as the truly unique circumstance of his media shield--but, nevertheless, it offers the President additional cover against attack. Why? The opposition has no platform. There will be no committee hearings or splashy press conferences to embarrass this president. Aside from political junkies tuned into the overnight coverage on C-SPAN, who is going to hear the opposition's denunciations of the President?

The Clinton administration introduced us to the idea of the "Permanent Campaign," the Obama administration may well render the first "Permanent Public Love Fest" reality show.
Category: Honeymoon Over?
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Thursday, 12 March 2009

1. "Phony War."
I failed to note on this blog the similarity between our current state of denial concerning our new economic reality to the so-called Phony War, the period between the fall of Poland in 1939 and the spring of 1940 in which the German blitzkrieg rambled across Western Europe. I meant to. Kudos to David Ignatius for making the connection in his Washington Post column today; it is a brilliant analogy. The Party may be Over (it really is), but the revelers refuse to notice.

2. Is the Honeymoon Over? In response to my definitive declaration a few weeks ago that the honeymoon for President Obama was still going strong and likely to continue for quite some time, Tocqueville has been sending me mainstream media pieces that take the President to task. Admittedly, the vehemence of some of the reportage and analysis over the past week surprises me.

Nevertheless, I am loath to admit that Tocqueville might be right (which would make me wrong). On Tuesday, in response to a tough op-ed at the hands of Howard Fineman, I wrote back to him:

Are you asserting that Obama is NOT still getting much better press than he deserves? I assume you are NOT asserting that he is getting anything comparable to the last president?

With all due respect to Howard Fineman, this president continues to get the most fawning press coverage I have ever witnessed in my thirty-five years of watching national politics.

Is the honeymoon over? Not by a long shot...

And after this big bounce on Wall Street, I expect his numbers to go back up five or ten points...

But even NPR ran a slightly combative, slightly apologetic piece today debunking some of Obama's numbers on education.

Actually, I razz NPR because I love them. Remember, NPR led the way among mainstreamers in reporting the success of the "surge" in Iraq, an inordinately awkward admission that most of the established news agencies could not bring themselves to make prior to the presidential election.

Now if SNL goes on the offensive, as opposed to limiting their targets to right-wing talk show hosts and obscure members of the minority in the House, then I might be forced to admit that the glaciers are actually melting.

One other serious indicator: I have also opined that the honeymoon won't be over until the White House press corps starts shouting questions at the President in a surly manner. However, after the last ten days, I can actually envision a moment in which the press might actually take on this President.

3. I support Geithner and Bernanke. One last thing. In my Geithner piece this week, I wondered if the treasury secretary might be sacrificed at some point to propitiate an angry mob incensed over the economy and the financial bailouts.

However, let me make it clear that I do expect something of an economic upswing at some point--and I like Geithner. While I am now convinced, unfortunately, that Obama does NOT comprehend the parameters of the economic crisis that confronts him, my thin reed of hope for something less than total ruin in the banking sector has always been Ben Bernanke. My sense is that the Fed Chair is the most knowledgeable government official (and the coolest hand) in Washington right now. This is a good thing. My sense is that he is capable of facing down the mob and the demagogues, maintaining his composure, and making the right moves. My sense also is that Tim Geithner is quiet but exceedingly competent in all this.

Remember, if you fix the banks, the recession comes around. This doesn't solve our malignant structural problem, but it keeps our gooses from getting cooked in the here and now. Therefore, I am fairly bullish on the possibility of a recovery over the course of the next two years.
I haven't had much good to say about the Obama administration, and do not anticipate much change in the future. So I better give an 'atta-boy when I can.

A few days ago I posted on the world challenges facing Obama, and how world leaders were testing him.

Apparently he has decided to show some resolve. We knew he had it in him after watching his conduct of the
campaign against the Clintons. After all, he's a Chicago pol.

U.S. Warships Head for South China Sea Link from Drudge.

UPDATE: The Chinese are now playing hardball. Today they are expressing doubt about buying more U.S. Treasuries. Coincidence. Not on your life. See my earlier post about the leverage we have given China with our debt.

Sometimes I hate being right.
In the quiet morning; there was much despair.
And in the hours that followed no one could repair:
That poor girl...rolled in on a sea of disaster;
rolled out on a mainline rail

The reign of John Maynard Keynes began with a titanic financial crash. Will the Keynesian Era conclude with another cataclysmic collision? Are we right now in the excruciatingly painful throes of passing from one economic epoch to the next?

A More Conventional History of the New Deal and the Great Depression.

From the very first moment I heard Amity Shlaes's provocative Forgotten Man thesis, I reacted to her revisionist assertion with skepticism and trepidation. I compliment her for ingeniously seizing upon an incontrovertible fact of American history: the New Deal failed to generate prosperity and, for eight long years, proved altogether incapable of lifting the United States out of the Great Depression. From that irrefutable, under-appreciated, and timely assertion, however, I fear that Shlaes went on to build a bridge too far, arguing that the New Deal actually exacerbated the Great Depression.

Not surprisingly, The Forgotten Man has set off a firestorm of accusations and recriminations between politicians, talking heads, and pundits. Perhaps most problematic, too much of the chatter seems ignorant of the conventional narrative of the New Deal. Submitted below is an ultra concise, straightforward, and hopefully noncontroversial summary of the events in question, followed by a few terse conclusions, several nagging questions, and a rant.

The Three Phases of the New Deal.

Franklin Roosevelt took office in March of 1933 in the midst of a horrific international financial crisis, which had been gaining steam since the fall of 1929. Although the national economy had showed intermittent signs of hope along the way, the winter of 1932-33 brought a culmination and fateful crossroads to the long downturn: an impending collapse of the banking system.

THE FIRST NEW DEAL. In the face of looming chaos and the potential unraveling of American society, Roosevelt and his "brain trust" acted with jarring alacrity and authority to seize control of the banking, industrial, and agricultural sectors of the American economy. Increasingly certain that the notion of the competitive marketplace had outlived its utility (and was, in fact, the cause of the massive crisis), the Roosevelt administration empowered the government to plan and coordinate the national economy.

During the storied first "Hundred Days" of the Roosevelt presidency, a special session of Congress gleefully agreed to a long list of administration proposals, beginning with emergency banking legislation. As an afterthought, they then added the Glass-Steagall Act, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the SEC. Along with the rescue and reform of the financial sector, the President urged Congress to establish myriad "alphabet soup" agencies (NRA, PWA, FERA, AAA, TVA, etc.)--granting the New Dealers unprecedented authority to reshape the traditional relationship between government and business.

How utterly epochal was this moment? One commentator observed that this brief period read like the first chapter of Genesis ("and FDR created"), allowing us to imagine the new president moving across the great void and virtually speaking modern government into existence.

How well did it work?

Undeniably, Roosevelt's swift action after the bleak winter of chaos and confusion saved the banking system and staved off national ruin. Moreover, the regulatory regime constructed to manage the financial sector paid off handsomely over the next seventy-odd years--and continues to insulate us in important ways, even today, from a catastrophe strictly analogous to the 1930s.

On the other hand, the administration's expressed goals of dictating national standards for industrial output, prices, and working conditions proved less effective than originally advertised in terms of revitalizing the devastated economy. The initiative to impose production quotas on the agricultural sector raised commodity prices, but it also established the precedent of paying farmers not to farm, displaced legions of tenant families, and oversaw the intentional destruction of millions of edible farm animals during a moment of widespread hunger. And while the public works projects temporarily employed millions of workers, unemployment after two years of the Roosevelt administration remained astronomically high: just over 20 percent.

THE SECOND NEW DEAL. Although disappointed with his initial failure to hoist the economy from the depths of the Depression, FDR could console himself with his unparalleled popularity evidenced by the unprecedented reaffirmation of his party in the midterm elections of 1934. However, even in the midst of that electoral triumph, continuing hardship and charismatic potential rivals forced him to keep a wary eye to his political left.

What we now call the "Second New Deal" commenced in 1935, shifting administration priorities away from the frustratingly intractable business side of the recovery to a new emphasis on so-called economic security for American workers. Influenced by a diverse collection of voices (Keynes among them) acting independently but coalescing around a new economic spirit of the age, the Roosevelt administration shifted focus to the demand side of the economy. The new imperative: produce purchasing power among consumers by redistributing wealth and raising real wages.

Once again, compliant Democratic majorities on Capitol Hill proved happily responsive to the agenda of the president whom they now called the "Champ." Propitiating the populist vexation with the class of wealthy Americans FDR would soon be calling "economic royalists," the 74th Congress levied a confiscatory tax on large fortunes and corporate profits (the Revenue Act of 1935). The New Dealers also created the Rural Electrification Agency to bring electric power to isolated farm families, struck a decisive blow for unionization, collective bargaining, and higher wages with the Wagner Act, and finally found the right recipe for sustainable work relief (the Works Progress Administration).

Of course, the centerpiece of the Second New Deal, and the most concrete element of the Roosevelt legacy, was the Social Security Act of 1935, which created a massive national safety net for ordinary citizens and marked the beginning of the so-called American welfare state.

How successful was the Second New Deal?

In terms of solving the Great Depression, the new emphasis achieved modest success in temporarily blunting unemployment. The jobless rate dipped to 14 percent in 1936. However, as Roosevelt attempted to reduce the federal deficit by spending less on farm subsidies and work relief, just as the Social Security program introduced a payroll tax on most workers, the economy slowed dramatically and unemployment jumped back up to 20 percent by the end of 1937.

Significant to this narrative, the 1936 publication of John Maynard Keynes's revolutionary monograph challenged a basic economic principle of the day and influenced the New Dealers. Keynes postulated that government should intercept a downturn in the business cycle by injecting money into the economy and igniting and multiplying a "natural" recovery. The emerging theory encouraged the Roosevelt administration to push for more spending to combat the "slump of 1937," allocating billions to new work projects and renewed farm relief. After the intervention, the economy recovered relatively in 1938 to its 1936 levels.

"Keynesian economics" was not a revelation to Roosevelt in 1937; the British scholar had been a long-distance confidant of the administration almost from the beginning. Nevertheless, after two failed attempts at restructuring the economy, combined with Keynes's timely assertion of a systematic economic theology in 1936, the events of 1937 marked a dramatic tipping point for the administration. The slump and recovery hammered home an important lesson for Roosevelt and his advisers: in times of great distress, massive appropriation of federal dollars would stimulate the economy. After years of pragmatic experimentation with all manner of solutions, 1938 marks the moment when we can confidently characterize Roosevelt as "Keynesian."

On a deeper level, the Second New Deal also transformed American political culture. Our view of fair working conditions changed dramatically during the mid-1930s. Modern rules regarding child labor, the necessity of a minimum wage, and the forty-hour workweek are all products of the Roosevelt approach. More broadly, and perhaps most significantly, the Social Security Act institutionalized the notion that the government maintains ultimate responsibility for the welfare and economic security of individual citizens.


After four years of nearly unchecked executive power and his triumphant reelection in 1936, the "Champ" absorbed several debilitating blows during his second term. In addition to the inconvenient economic downturn in 1937, FDR audaciously challenged the Supreme Court. He came away with a split decision, losing the notorious "court-packing" fight in Congress--but succeeding in as much as he intimidated the surviving jurists just enough to save his Second New Deal from judicial nullification. More detrimental politically, FDR waged an unsuccessful campaign to cleanse his own ranks of non-believers. Frustrated with a less responsive 75th Congress, the President publicly entreated loyal Democrats to root out conservative obstructionists within the party, most of whom hailed from the South, and replace them with solution-oriented liberals. The midterm elections of 1938 failed to "purge" the renegade Democrats. The era of Roosevelt invincibility was over, and a long-running "post-1938" political impasse commenced.

With a loose coalition of southern Democrats and Republicans in Congress now thwarting the domestic initiatives of the White House, and the President increasingly intent on preparing the nation for the impending world war, the New Deal receded gradually from center stage. During the 1930s, the administration had happily exploited popular revulsion with the business community. During this third phase of the Roosevelt presidency, the "class warfare" rhetoric and other radical elements of the intoxicating early days of New Dealism gave way to a more mature relationship with the private sector. In essence, the war years necessitated a rapprochement between the federal government and big business.

Rehabilitated, chastened, and unleashed, American business thrilled a newly fascinated and supportive nation with stunning achievements in wartime manufacturing, full employment, and a skyrocketing GDP. Massive expenditures of federal funds resurrected traditional working sectors and created entirely new industrial communities built around war production. At the stubborn insistence of the administration, business finally submitted to the notion of unionization as a fait accompli and reluctantly accepted organized labor as a third partner in the retooled economy. Magically, business, labor, and government all prospered in this symbiotic commensalism as the nation came together to gird itself for a righteous war for freedom.

The government became a monster--albeit a generally benevolent one. The budget more than quintupled between 1940 and 1943 and continued to rise through 1945. Meanwhile, business and labor also emerged as popularly beloved institutions of American capitalism, as GDP more than doubled during the war and stood poised to ascend at an ever more astounding rate once the conflagration ceased. As the fight overseas raged on, even in the midst of rationing and scarcity, American workers and families enjoyed a level of prosperity unknown for more than a decade. Somewhere in the midst of the fog of war, the Great Depression evaporated into the atmosphere never to be heard from again.

What happened? What can we deduce from this set of facts?

As an experiment in Keynesian economics, it is currently popular to assert that the War experience proved that massive government spending defeated the Great Depression. While true on its face, that facile conclusion, especially when applied to our present situation, merely leads to more difficult questions.

How colossal would the massive stimulus actually need to be to redirect our failing economy? Crafting a current measure proportional to our wartime spending might require as much as five trillion dollars in stimulative appropriations ($5,000,000,000,000)--or one-third of our current GDP. Based on this calculation, many intellectuals castigate the most recent 800-billion-dollar stimulus as annoyingly insignificant.

Are you ready for a second stimulus? And a third? How about a fourth?

What brand of national emergency would precipitate such extraordinarily gargantuan intervention?

And, by the way, what role should defense spending play in this "inducement to investment"?

Even more troublesome, the contemporary full-blown Keynesian prescription also assumes that current conditions are relatively similar to the 1940s. That is, once we run up massive deficits to leverage our way into a spending-driven cycle of prosperity, we are well-positioned to expand ourselves back into the black (or close to it) as we did during the post-war decades. That is no modest assumption.

To be fair, our simplistic popular association that imagines Keynesian principles as a license to achieve permanent prosperity through perpetual government stimulus and massive public debts and deficits breaks faith with Keynes's General Theory. Keynes, who died in 1946, never posited that government could guarantee unlimited abundance. However, the fundamental flaw with the New Deal-slash-Keynesian hybrid lies with the misleading assurance that government can ensure life without misfortune. Keynes himself made no such promise.

Perpetual deficits and an out-sized national debt strikes me as an unsustainable proposition. Doesn't our profligate spending and inability to balance our budgets become an intractable problem at some juncture? Doesn't Mr. Keynes's magic carpet ride actually have to end someday?

Where are we now? The Rant:

Part of me wonders whether a Great Crash and a Second Great Depression is not, perversely, the only ultimate solution to our massive addiction to seventy years of unrestrained government intervention in the economy. I worry that our seventy-year Keynesian interlude must come to a close at some point in the near future regardless of what we do here.

For me, the question is hard crash or soft crash. My most sanguine hope is for a soft crash-landing in which we walk away chastened and repentant. Of course, that scenario stretches the limits of human nature. A more likely outcome is that we buy ourselves some extra time to further ignore our new reality and blithely go on with business as usual until we come to the next emergency. Why? We are addicted to stimulus. As a body politic, we have no tolerance for anything less than perennial expansion.

I am reminded of Thomas Jefferson's portentous observation regarding slavery during the Missouri Crisis of 1820:

"We have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go."

Will it take a cataclysm on the scale of our enormously destructive Civil War to break our economic addiction?

The Keynesian episode reads alarmingly like a classic fable. Man is presented with a miraculous tool for good, if used in moderation. Instead of using the great gift sparingly, man happily abuses the new device until it is exhausted. If the fable has a happy ending, some benevolent force comes and puts the mechanism back in the box and instructs man that he will need to persevere without the gift. If the fable has a harder less therapeutic conclusion, then the largesse becomes the primary implement for destruction of man at his own hands.

End of Rant.

One last thought (just in case the world doesn't end):

As for the assertion that we are all socialists now, the history of the New Deal offers us important lessons in our current time of troubles. New Deal regulation arrived as a needed corrective to the barely regulated 1920s. Large elements of the regulatory apparatus proved constructive, and remnants of that regime survive as a lasting and positive legacy in the modern era. Moreover, this model for reform will prove instructive as we emerge from an extended period of deregulation.

On the other hand, the general attempts at central planning during the New Deal failed. While we make a huge mistake imbuing market forces with mystical omnipotence to solve all our human problems, we also err when we delude ourselves into believing the market is optional. The reality of the marketplace is relentless, omnipresent, and presents us with myriad contingencies impossible to anticipate.

Finally, it is worth noting that a more mature, less invasive, more business-friendly version of the New Deal proved better equipped at achieving a return to prosperity. In terms of recovery, Roosevelt accomplished more after he lost his ability to dictate policy to Congress and found himself forced to compromise the most radical tenets of the early Popular Front ethos. Class warfare and the tendency to demonize business proved politically expedient early on, but ultimate success on the macro level necessitated a more focused and less revolutionary approach.

Our current president might do well to note that oftentimes less is more.
Posted by: an okie gardener
My daily calendar tells me that today is Johnny Appleseed Day.

John Chapman (1774?-1845), aka Johnny Appleseed, is famous for planting apple trees along the American frontier in the Old Northwest, primarily in the Ohio River Valley. He subsisted by selling seedlings (at six cents each, if he could get it), or bartering them for food and clothing.

He also carried a religious message as he went. My calendar mistakenly identifies him as "evangelical" in spreading "biblical messages."

Chapman was a Swedenborgian, a religion that follwed the teachings/visions of Emmanuel Swedenborg (1668-1772), a Swedish scientist, engineer, and philospher. Swedenborg believed that God spoke to him through dreams and visions, showing him spiritual truths and the correct interpretation of the Bible. To quote from Encarta

Swedenborg maintained that in 1757 the last judgment occurred in his presence, that the Christian church as a spiritual entity came to an end, and that a new church, foretold as the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation, was created by divine dispensation. According to Swedenborg, the natural world derives its reality from the existence of God, whose divinity became human in Jesus Christ. The highest purpose is to achieve conjunction with God through love and wisdom.

Many of the Romantics were influenced by Swedenborg's writings, including for a time William Blake.

A church was founded based on his teachings that continues today, though in its influence diminished since the nineteenth century, and split into two. The Swedenborgian Church and The New Church.
An interesting contest now in Connecticut between certain legislators and the Roman Catholic church and allies.

A Bill currently under consideration would mandate lay boards for Roman Catholic parish corporations, with the Archbishop or Bishop being an ex officio member without vote.

Full text of the bill here. Status here.

This Bill has provoked strong opposition from the Archdiocese of Hartford.

In a letter to parishioners the Archbishop wrote that the bill "directly attacks the Roman Catholic Church and our faith," because "[i]t forces a radical reorganization of the legal, financial, and administrative structure of our parishes" and "disconnects parishes from their Pastors and their Bishop."

Wizbang reports and responds to this bill, urging readers to contact the Bill's sponsors and give them what for. One of the links is to the Family Institute of Connecticut, a conservative political action group opposing the Bill.

On the one hand, the First Amendment, as it has been interpretted, would seem to forbid such government restructuring of a church. After all, the Roman Catholic Church is hiearchical, power and authority flows from the top down, not the bottom up. The Shepherds--pastors, bishops, archbishops, pope--are decision makers, not simply advisors or persuaders.

On the other hand, the state has the responsibility to establish adequate safeguards regarding legal corporations and their activities. The Church does not exist in a vacuum. Congregations, parishes, and denominations carry on activities that are covered by civil law.

If this Bill passes, I am sure it will be challenged in court. It will be interesting to see just where the courts would draw the line between necessary regulation of a non-profit corporation, and undue interference in the basic structure of a religion. My guess is that this Bill goes too far in giving power to laity in a religion that believes Christ established a hierarchy.
Category: Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
I move we make Pelosi the poster child for the 2010 Congressional campaigns.

Here's another reason she needs to be the target. From Wizbang.

Pelosi abuses power in securing military flights.
No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment. H.G. Wells THE WAR OF THE WORLDS

To paraphrase Wells: across our own world, intellects ambitious and cool and unsympathetic, regard our nation with envious eyes, and slowly and surely draw their plans against us.

Their focus is on the President of the United States. Ruthless and ambitious men know the U.S. possesses great military and economic power. The question is whether or not we have the will to use it. And that question comes down to whether or not the President has the will to defend U.S. interests.

Eyes now are on Obama. How will he respond to challenges? The probing begins.

North Korea. and China. and Iran. and Taliban.

Is the administration setting up Tim Geithner as a scapegoat?

Geithner was never an Obama confidant. In fact, he was one of the "cross-over" nominees. He was one of the early choices designed to make us feel more comfortable with the stealth president about whom we knew so little, save for his extreme liberal voting record and his penchant for associating with radicals.

Geithner hailed from the Rubin-Summers wing of the DLC-Bill Clinton centrist Democratic Party. Tapped to lead Treasury while has was the sitting president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Geithner was then a Bush-appointee and already waist-deep in the immensely unpopular (but, nevertheless, essential) plan to rescue the financial sector of our economy.

Does the White House plan to let Geithner twist in the wind and then sack him at the most politically beneficial moment?

The Obama administration has not shown any urgency or even much inclination to concentrate resources on solving the banking crisis; in fact, they have disingenuously conflated the very serious banking problems with the much more familiar economic recession.

The Obama administration has already forced Geithner to the forefront with a half-baked plan, and done essentially nothing to make his life any easier.

As things continue to spiral downward, the Obama administration seems more and more prone to roil the waters with attacks on easy targets: fat cats, Rush Limbaugh, CNBC screaming heads, and the previous administration. In the coming days, at a moment of crisis, will Obama play the Geithner card? Fire the Treasury secretary and frame the move as the final break with the tired and bankrupt solutions of the past. No more Bush appointees. No more Robert Rubin acolytes. We need fresh approaches from the Paul Krugman-Robert Reich wing of the Democratic Party.

One other development worth noting: SNL, where company policy prohibits criticism of anything Obama, offered its first scorching rebuke of an Obama administration figure this weekend, skewering Geithner as lost and incompetent.


Granted, all this is way too conspiratorial--but, just in case, if I were Tim Geithner, I would watch my back.

UPDATE: A big Texas welcome to Instapundit readers.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
One of the pundits who understands that the "Party is Over" is Robert Samuelson.

The following paragraph is only one highlight in his must-read op-ed that appears in the Washington Post today.

"A prudent president would have made a 'tough choice' -- concentrated on the economy; deferred his more contentious agenda. Similarly, Obama claims to seek bipartisanship but, in reality, doesn't. His bipartisanship consists of including a few Republicans in his Cabinet and inviting some Republican congressmen to the White House for the Super Bowl. It does not consist of fashioning proposals that would attract bipartisan support on their merits. Instead, he clings to dubious, partisan policies (mortgage cramdown, union card check) that arouse fierce opposition."

Another gem: "If Obama were 'responsible,' he would conduct a candid conversation about the role of government. Who deserves support and why? How big can government grow before higher taxes and deficits harm economic growth? Although Obama claims to be doing this, he hasn't confronted entitlement psychology -- the belief that government benefits once conferred should never be revoked."

Read the whole thing.
Category: The Economy
Posted by: an okie gardener
Story, link from Drudge.

March 8 (Bloomberg) -- Republican lawmakers said Congress should stop providing General Motors Corp. with federal aid and let the company file for bankruptcy if necessary.

“The best thing that could probably happen to General Motors, in my view, is they go into Chapter 11,” Senator John McCain said on the “Fox News Sunday” program today.

Of course, going into Chapter 11 does not mean ultimate failure. But, in the present political climate, it seems that we are assuming the Federal Government will decide whether or not the automaker fails or succeeds. That is not a good assumption for the long-term health of the economy.

The first family car I remember was the De Soto that my dad had before he married mom. Don't see too many on the road today.

If I remember correctly, the first car I can remember my maternal grandparents driving was a Studebaker. I don't know when I've seen one on the road.

The pastor during my boyhood drove an American Motors Rambler. I did see one the other day.

Until I was a young man, I saw several International Harvestor pick-ups in daily use, and the occasional IH Scout. I am not sure our younger readers even know what a Scout is.

American business has operated in a Darwinian world. In such an environment some species will become extinct. Others will prosper. In a government-controlled economy, the peasants drive Trabants.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Jazz musicians have been adapt at taking inspiration from various sources, and turning it into jazz. One of the best at expanding horizons was Don Ellis, trumpeter, composer, and bandleader. He was one of the first to bring electronic music, and rock music, and world music, and classical music, and avant-guarde modern music, into the transformative embrace of jazz.

If you've not heard of him, you obviously are not alone. Youtube has little on him. If I had the proper skills, I might try to post some of my old albums online.

Here are the charts that are on there:

Bulgarian Bulge live from 1969.

New Horizons

That's all I can find of Don Ellis playing his own stuff. But the Wurzburg Jazz Orchestra in 2007 had the courage to do an Ellis tribute and play several of his charts.

Final Analysis For those of you trying to count along, the basic meter is 4/4 with just enough 5/4 thrown in to keep you on your toes.

Of course, there are other sources online. Here's Last.FM with some Ellis.

Here's a fan site.
Health care reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it's a fiscal imperative.
President Barack Obama

He is right, of course. The health care debate has shifted beneath our feet.

Why? The Party is Over.

One day, we will look back wistfully on this moment and recall our privileged status regarding health care in America. How good was it? Almost anyone with a job, or was married to someone with a job, or lived with parents with a job, enjoyed nearly unlimited access to a truly miraculous system of health care. Although we have NOT spent a lot of time appreciating the wonder of the current system, the vast majority of us have been privy to the best-trained physicians, the most advanced medical technologies, and the most comprehensive network of doctors and facilities ever assembled in the annals of medical history.

Those days are necessarily coming to a close.

Why? Not merely because the "Radicals have taken over." True, Barack Obama and his brain trust seem intent on finally fulfilling the ancient New Deal promise of national health care, which has always portended a leveling effect on the quality of care--but that fact is merely incidental to this story. This inevitable change is not driven primarily by the "social justice" side of the political ledger--or, as the President characterizes it, "the moral imperative."

For decades, we have been very close to totally deaf to the sad refrain of "forty million uninsured" fellow citizens. Why so unresponsive? Partly because the claim is something of a distorted and transparent political manipulation, but mainly because the vast majority of us were thriving under the status quo. We are not a blindly utilitarian society, but when the great bulk of the citizenry are prospering under a given regime, they are loath to sacrifice their advantage for a disadvantaged minority. In that regard, nothing has changed. Collective compassion will not be the impetus for the massive change in the offing.

What then? Unsustainable costs necessitate our coming transformation. Ironically, we are victims of our own success. The wonders of medical research and development and production have outdistanced our financial resources. Most of us do NOT assume we are inherently deserving of the very best and most-advanced products in our consumer culture. We make choices commensurate with our ability to pay. Most of us do NOT feel entitled to drive top-of-the-line automobiles regardless of our ability to afford one. Most of us understand that we must settle for the computer, television, or stereo that fits within our budget.

But not in regard to health care. If we are sick, by God, we figure we ought to have access to as many PET scans, CAT scans, and MRIs as we can fit into an afternoon visit to the Medical Plaza. That sounds fine, doctor, but let's bring in the specialist for a consultation. Private Room or Semi-Private? Do you even have to ask?

Conservatives bristle when Liberals enumerate health care as one of the recently found bedrock undeniable human rights. In the abstract, if we are compassionate conservatives, we prefer to characterize universal access to medical care as a positive good that falls within the scope of community interest--but not an inalienable right endowed by the Creator. We delude ourselves. We should acknowledge the acute sense of entitlement among the American middle class (regardless of party or ideology) concerning medical care. While we robustly debate the level of care society owes the "poor folks," we have no doubts that we deserve the platinum treatment. We work hard; therefore, we warrant the very best medical care available.

Part of our disconnect rests in our sense that health care appears free to us. Of course, rationally, we understand perfectly well that nothing in this life is free. As Milton Friedman loved to remind us, "there is no free lunch." Somebody always picks up the bill. For most of us, as intimated above, it is our employers--and then gets passed back on to us indirectly and discretely. But the truth is, and here is the rub, the rising costs are fast-approaching a prohibitively burdensome strata. How much longer can companies continue to shoulder this cost of living as part of our compensation packages? Not forever.

But this also begins to obscure a more important point. It is not just that our employers can no longer afford our health care, because, as we say, the money for health insurance comes in the form of compensation and is part of the overall cost of doing business and is passed back into society and absorbed by all us indirectly. Conceivably, we are getting paid less (and, hopefully, taxed less) because our employers are compensating us with benefits rather than salary. In itself, shifting the burden from the private sector to a one-payer system (national health care) will do nothing to solve the problem.

To repeat, the fundamental problem rests in the UNSUSTAINABLE rising costs. As a society, we CANNOT afford to pay for health care through government agency anymore than we can afford our current system of health care as an employee benefit.

The obvious solution is cost control, which means rationing care, which means the Golden Age of carte blanche health care is concluding.

How we get there remains undetermined, but the ultimate destination is certain.

The Party is Over, and the time has arrived to pay the piper. We are not going to like it, but we better get ready for it nevertheless.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I like Barack Obama. I have a picture of him prominently displayed on my office wall. I respect him as the forty-fourth president of the United States. I appreciate his style and bearing, and I am at times utterly enthralled with his eloquence. I wish him good health and happiness. I hope he succeeds grandly as a father, husband, and a child of God.

But that does NOT mean I support his recently revealed ambition to transform American government into a post-Reagan liberal leviathan. Moreover, my admiration for the President does not keep me from noticing that he indulges in some intellectual sloppiness: misleading rhetoric, a propensity for false choices, and he never met a straw man he didn't like.

However, in addition to those quibbles, I am starting to wonder if our President does not have a fatal flaw. I am not sure if he is just thin-skinned or egregiously egotistical, but he possesses a destructive inclination to pick fights with right-wing talkers?

Exhibit A: have you ever heard the opening of the Sean Hannity show? It includes a montage of our President criticizing the host by name (audio here via YouTube). I cringe (for Obama) every time I hear it. I ask myself: what was he thinking? Why did Obama allow himself to go on-record lashing out at Sean Hannity?

Exhibit B: inconceivably, the President and his White House advisers have NOW concocted a strategy to "call out" Rush Limbaugh.

The President of the United States versus Rush Limbaugh? Really?

Why would the President lower himself to the level of a talk-show host? Once again, what is he thinking?

An Aside: I don't remember George Bush ever mentioning Dan Rather or Chris Mathews or Keith Olberman. Ironically, Bush-43 was either too smart or too well-raised for that kind of self-indulgent and destructive political behavior.

From the recent reportage available from Politico and other reliable sources, this appears to be a "Clintonista" operation led by Rahm Emanuel, the President's White House chief of staff, and partly executed by his old Clinton-era compatriots Paul Begala and James Carville (although they deny it--sort of). According to Jonathan Martin's reporting, an attack on Rush polls well for the President, and the old Clinton hands are just the crew to take the fight to the venerable but perhaps now vulnerable King of Conservative Talk. The Clinton connection is significant, for we have seen an earlier version of this tawdry drama once before--back when the Clinton administration went to war with Rush during the mid-1990s (back then a few cards had Rush slightly ahead on points, but I would call it a draw in retrospect).

Now, evidently, the old gang in the new White House is taking another pass at settling an unfinished score. There was a frenzied bloodlust in the air over the weekend and earlier this week. With their quarry in the open and on the run, the President's men seemed positively giddy as they breathlessly stalked this biggest of all big game trophies. But, I cannot help but believe that this great quest can only end in tragedy--and possibly for the hunters. "Call me Emanuel." Let me tell of the pursuit of the great white obsession, Maha Rushie. I fear that Captain Obama "has that that's bloody on his mind."

Once again, the nagging question: why elevate Rush Limbaugh to the status of heroic antagonist? Suddenly, this imbroglio has the quality of an epic Thomas Jefferson- John Marshall clash of the titans, or, perhaps more analogous, the FDR versus Charles Lindbergh death-match. Moreover, regardless of the polling that assures the White House that Rush is wildly unpopular with the people who count most, bullying rarely plays well in the long run. Make no mistake: this is David and Goliath. Every time the President of the United States picks up a rock to sling at somebody--he is Goliath, and the intended recipient is David. The Obama White House runs the risk of making the not especially lovable Limbaugh into a much more sympathetic character.

And here is the crazy thing: it is a terribly odd and unnecessarily risky gambit on the part of the President, who had this historic opportunity to truly unite some disparate constituencies. A few weeks ago Hannity and Rush were seemingly on the ropes. One could tune in and almost hear the approaching obsolescence in their voices. They were swinging wildly and not connecting, growing increasingly frustrated and embarrassingly out of touch. For a fleeting instant, Rush looked like he might soon be down to leading only a small band of dead-enders.

Obama had stumbled onto this wonderful moment in American history in which the vast majority of us really did want him to succeed and hoped for a political revolution of pre-partisan statesmanship on a scale envisioned by the founders but never executed. Obama had me and Judd Gregg and David Brooks and a lot of others including my friend and colleague, Paul Holder. We were willing to give this new Democrat the benefit of the doubt. He wanted to be our president, and we were almost persuaded.

Then, the stimulus of abominations came to fruition--surprising us like a Southern California tremor in the late afternoon. We all looked around a bit stunned and said, "what was that?" Then the early morning 8.0 earthquake hit soon after--and we suddenly understood that Obama meant revolution, but not the kind for which we had foolishly hoped.

If you turned on the radio during all this, you could feel Rush and Hannity getting well and gaining strength. By the time Obama rolled out his 3.6 trillion-dollar "New Deal 3.0" budget, they were on fire. Once again relevant, reinvigorated, and vindicated.

"Bamp, baump, baump, the Radicals have taken over..."

Sometimes our president makes some curious choices. Joe Biden as veep was one that still has me scratching my head (and keeps me up at night). Perhaps worse, picking Nancy Pelosi over my optimistic band of well-intentioned conservatives strikes me as a decision with tragic consequences. But the decision to go to war with Rush seems just plain silly. It demeans the presidency--and it elevates Rush Limbaugh.

I don't own a picture of Rush. I would not enumerate him in my pantheon of personal heroes. Nor is he an intellectual wellspring for conservative thought. But he is a bright, self-educated, entertaining, and articulate "popularizer" of the faith. I respect him as a modern Horatio-Alger story and an exceptionally gifted polemicist. Moreover, give him his due; he was conservative media when conservative media wasn't cool. We all owe him a debt for his courage and implacable tenacity in the face of twenty years of vicious enemy fire. He deserves our protection.

For those reasons, as well as the sheer unseemly character of this presidential assault on a political enemy, I support Rush and his right to speak truth to power.
Yesterday's word in my "Calendar of Forgotten English" was Houstonize, defined in an older dictionary as To beat up a Congressman. In allusion to a beating administered by Sam Houston to Representative William Stanberry April 13, 1832. Ahhh, the good old days.

I am not advocating physical violence on members of Congress, but I do think many of them need to take an electoral beating. We need to put the fear of the people into them. And nothing scares a politician more than the thought that he or she might be forced to make an honest living in the private sector.

Standing sqare in the middle of the current financial mess, and responsible in large part for it, are Representative Barney Frank and Senator Chris Dodd. If your retirement account has been going down and down and down, they are in large part responsible. They helped create the mortage mess by pressuring lenders to extend loans to folks who did not qualify, and, they blocked efforts to oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The founders assumed that the House of Representatives would be responsive to the judgment of the voters, having to face them every two years. While senators were originally selected by the states, the Founders assumed that the States would not return to office those who had hurt the state interests. What the writers of the Constitution did not foresee was the power of incumbancy as it would develop.

Today, incumbants have huge advantages which keep them from being punished at the polls, which insulate them from the consequences of their actions. Not least of the advantages of incumbancy is the ability to pull Federal dollars into the district or state representated. Then, when election time rolls around, an incumbant can point to the pork delivered, and argue that his or her seniority would allow them to pull in more in the years ahead than a novice replacement. This fact is why the so-called Stimulus Bill should more properly be known as the Congressional Rescue Action Program (or CRAP for short). I think Mike Huckabee was the first to coin this acronymn.

And voters allow them to get away with it. If Frank and Dodd, and others now in Congress such as Rangel, are not Houstonized the next time they are up for reelection, then American voters will deserve what they get.
Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
Brits at their Best has the story of Lieutenant-Colonel Tom Carew, who recently died at age 89. Excerpts:

On August 26 1944 Carew was one of a three-man Jedburgh team, code-named "Basil", which was dropped into France south of Besançon, near the Swiss frontier. His companions were Captain Robert Rivière, of France, and Technical Sergeant John L Stoyka of the US Army.
The team became separated, and their canisters – which should have contained vital equipment and a wireless set – were full of cocoa and propaganda leaflets. They had only their pistols and the clothes they stood up in, Carew said later.

He hid in the house of a schoolmaster, where he heard a BBC message on the local radio which told him where he could contact the Resistance. Their leader later recalled the anxious wait at their HQ. They had received a large arms drop, their map was marked up with promising targets – but they were in a foul mood because their special agent was missing.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door, and everyone in the room scrambled for a weapon. The door slowly opened to reveal a blond young man in a Harris tweed jacket and corduroy trousers, smoking a pipe. "Excuse me, gentlemen," he said. "My name's Carew. I dropped in this evening, you know. Got lost somehow." When the laughter had died down, he gave them the plan.

After successfully leading Resistance fighters against the Germans, he was parachuted into Burma where he had similar success against the Japanese.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Newsweek writes this week that President Obama has a Pelosi problem. That is, although the stout-yet-tender-hearted Mr. Obama really does pine for an era of bipartisan statesmanship, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a "sharp-elbowed San Francisco multimillionaire" intent on stuffing her agenda down the throats of the minority, intent on avenging myriad slights suffered over time as a political minority and a grizzled veteran of the gender wars, "who battled her way to the top of a club still dominated by men."

Wow! Can you say "good cop; bad cop." Shameless. Although I actually penned a post a month ago myself detailing the battle between the entrenched Speaker and the fresh-faced modern-day Jeff Smith goes to Washington ("Obama & Pelosi: the real contest to watch"), in truth, the train has left the station on that hopeful Hollywood narrative. No more of the fantasy for me.

After last week, the President has chosen his path. To blame his obviously deep-seated bent for traditional liberal politics on San Fran Nan borders on cowardly--as well as the ridiculous. The President is the president--and he occupies the desk on which the buck stops. No more excuses for him from me. From here on out, I will address my complaints to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where they belong.
Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Democrats have found their "do you support the troops" question.

I always cringed when Republicans tormented anti-war Democrats with that interrogatory. Do you support our troops who are in harm's way? It was a "damned if you do; damned if you don't" kind of question. If you did NOT support the troops you were the worst kind of freeloading ingrate, running down the way of life our fighting men have fought and died to keep. If you supposedly did support our troops, then how could you say such ugly things about our president and his war while our troops were in the field fighting for your freedom?

It was always an ugly spectacle.

Unfortunately, what goes around comes around.

Fast forward: the Democrats have found their cudgel.

"Do you hope the President fails?"

Of course not! His success will be our success. Right? I have written and articulated that line myself many times since November 4th.

The first time Rush Limbaugh said he hoped this president would fail I winced. I knew immediately that it was a horrible public relationships misstep. Worse than that, it struck me as the perfect example of partisanship run amok. Limbaugh obviously hated Democrats more than he loved America.

Why? We are in an exceedingly precarious position. Wishing for the failure of this president is tantamount to hoping for a national economic cataclysm. If this president does not meet the exigencies that threaten our union, the next president may be too late.

But that was before this president showed his true colors and proposed New Deal 3.0. Now that it is clear that this president is determined to turn back the clock on the Reagan Revolution and lead us into the promised land of a European-style welfare state, it is not so easy to say I hope he succeeds. In my heart of hearts, I am convinced his program of unabashed liberal restoration would be disastrous for our nation at any juncture--but especially so in our currently compromised state of economic weakness and indebtedness.

Therefore, I guess I am with Limbaugh for now. I hope the guy fails in his current push for radical transformation of American society.

Do You Hope the President Fails?

Get ready to be beat about the head with this malicious question as a basic measure of your patriotism and good will.
Category: The Party is Over
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Party is Over.

As I have written, the End of the Party means releasing unreasonable expectations and assumptions about the nature and meaning of life. The End of the Party means a return to reality. The End of the Party is an opportunity to purge our lives of pernicious distractions and reconnect with ancient human truths. Again, this is essentially positive--although it will have its inconveniences. Up until a few days ago, I believed most of us were in the process of coming to grips with these resurgent facts of life.

An Important Aside: the End of the Party, however, should not be confused with the "End of the World." The End of the World is a much scarier scenario, although, unfortunately, altogether possible.

A Note on Terms: to be clear, the "End of the World" speaks to the reality that we are flirting with a titanic economic collapse. A complete financial meltdown so mammoth that the government and culture of the United States would cease to exist in a form recognizable to our generation.

What to do? We the people must change our ways, and, more importantly, we must demand that the government change the way it does business to avert the eventual economic cataclysm is this country.

Perversely, massive federal borrowing to avert a bank collapse seems logical to me. We know exactly what happens when the banks fail (the Panics of 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893, 1907, and 1929). Who knows what chaos such a financial calamity might wreak on our modern society? We cannot take that chance. Seven-hundred billion or three trillion dollars, restoring the financial sector in this country is a matter of national security; it is the proper role of government.

Having said that, the banking crisis and the recession are two different problems; they are connected but distinct. The difference? Most of us have lived through many recessions; few of us have lived through a bank panic. Fix the banks and heal the credit sector and the recession fixes itself naturally. However, there is a much bigger systemic liability: we are approaching a moment in which our collective ability to generate revenue can no longer support our extravagant national lifestyle.

What next? What must be done in Washington? Our government must work out a sustainable plan for the USA going forward. Understand our 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. We must face the unhappy reality that the Keynesian Interlude is finally over.

Although I dutifully voted for John McCain and divided government, for a brief moment during the transition, I allowed myself to believe in Barack Obama as the agent of necessary change. Why?

1. I am a person of hope.

2. As a nation, our other options were so dismal.

Barack Obama was uniquely qualified to bear bad news to an admiring nation. Only Nixon could go to China. Only Barack could explain our new reality to a nation in need of tough love.

Why was I hopeful that he would rise above partisanship and ideology to be a great American president? Because it was so necessary; our posterity depended on him doing just that. In my heart of hearts, no matter how illogical or un-biblical, I continue to trust in Providence as it concerns American government. I was optimistic about Barack Obama for the same reason I was optimistic about the "surge" in Iraq. Not because it was logical or likely--but because failure would be lethal. It just had to work.

Our economy today faces a crossroads that dwarfs Iraq in terms of importance. It is not an exaggeration to assert that our very survival as an independent nation is at stake. Would Barack Obama rise to the occasion? If he failed to grasp the urgency of the moment, we would be in dire straits.

The Bad News: the events of last week demonstrate clearly that he does NOT get it. Instead of folding our bad hand and leading us to a new epoch of real sustainability, the President has decided to double-down. If our pattern of spending, taxing, and borrowing regardless of sound economic principles and plain old good sense got us in to this mess, then more of the same will surely get us out.

What Now? I still support and respect this duly elected President of the United States. But it is now time to face facts. I am now painfully aware of how much I disagree with his governing philosophy. This President's political ideology is destructive, and we need to defeat his proposals.

01/03: New Deal 3.0

During the transition, I entertained a hopeful hypothesis that Barack Obama was a sheep in wolf's clothing, a center-left statesman so perceptive, patriotic, and post-partisan that he might well govern center-right. Okay--I was wrong in a big way. Most of you were right. Implausible as it might seem to me, Sean Hannity had it right ("the radicals have taken over...").

As it turns out, Barack Obama really is a "liberal" in the tradition of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who worked so assiduously during the 1930s to give the term "liberalism" its modern political meaning: an ideology that favors a powerful and active state committed to social justice and public welfare. In that sense, we now understand that this president is the most committed liberal to sit in the Oval Office since Lyndon Johnson, a Roosevelt acolyte, who attempted to complete the project of transforming the United States into a European-style welfare state during the 1960s.

What is at stake? Think on this: the national transfiguration from limited constitutional governance envisioned during the founding to the modern leviathan we encounter today boils down to two very brief periods in our 225-plus year history.

1933-1937. The New Deal, while failing to solve the immediate economic crisis that fueled its revolutionary ethos, succeeded in forever instilling a popular expectation of government as guarantor of public welfare and individual prosperity. Franklin Roosevelt expertly recast the conception of individual liberty, forever linking freedom to insulation from personal misfortune and a government-given right to "a healthy peacetime life" for its citizens.

1965-1967. The Great Society, coming three decades later, proved wildly unsuccessful at defeating poverty and a litany of other targeted ills that beset humankind in general and our national community in particular. No matter, Lyndon Johnson's New Deal 2.0 further insinuated the virus of personal dependence on the state into the American body politic.

What do those two periods have in common? A powerful liberal president bent on radically remaking the American system paired with a happily compliant overwhelming majority in Congress. One emerged during a period of economic crisis, one during a period of great prosperity, but both presidents understood perfectly the small window of opportunity for a massive re-imagining of the American creed.

Now, some forty-odd years later, we are most likely on the brink of the next (perhaps final) phase of the great transformation of American society. The President understands that he is in the midst of a moment ripe for completing the massive project began so many decades ago. This window won't last for long, but the President and his rubber-stamp Congress don't need all that much time.

What is at stake? Forgive the analogy, but being a conservative is a lot like the old anti-terrorism conundrum. The haunting reality of your mission is that you must defeat your opponent everyday to win, while your opponent only needs to beat you once to totally defeat you.

An Aside: how bad is it really? When Paul Krugman and Robert Reich are beside themselves with joy over the agenda of this administration, prudence, indeed, will dictate that we ready ourselves for a ferocious political battle to preserve the last vestiges of our uniquely American experiment in liberty.

We live in interesting times.