Thursday, September 30, 2010

A short note on the passing of Greg Giraldo 

One of my favorite stand-up comedians, Greg Giraldo, died last night in New Brunswick, New Jersey, after overdosing on prescription drugs over the weekend. A big loss in the world of comedy, y'ask me. If you drive on your commute, consider buying Giraldo's Good Day to Cross a River. You will laugh hard, even if it is bittersweet laughter when you remember he is gone, and that will make for a better day.

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A brief note on the use of alumni legacy in college admissions 

Every now and then I run in to an opinion with which I agree notwithstanding the best interests of me and my family. This op-ed in the New York Times against preferences in college admissions for the children of alumni is such an instance. Although I have a quibble or two, the author persuades me that colleges and universities should do away with the preference.

That said, there are a couple of additional points worth making which, for some people, might tip the argument the other way.

First, the idea that one can measure the value of alumni legacy preferences in their contributions is cramped and utilitarian. These preferences also reinforce the continuity of tradition between generations, a consideration that is extremely important to Princeton, for example. Putatively timeless institutions need mechanisms to sustain their cultures over long periods of time, and universities are especially in need of this because their charges pass through in four years (unlike, say, churches, which people can attend for their entire lives). Big universities mostly accomplish this through sports, which have their own problems. Ivy League schools do it through alumni legacy preferences, which keep many alumni engaged in the hope that their children will attend. Pick your poison.

Second, if legacies go away African-Americans will, with some justification, feel that they are getting screwed again. When I was at Princeton the proportion of black students had finally risen to something close to their representation in the wider population -- the president's brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, was a classmate, and Michelle Robinson (now Obama) overlapped me by a couple of years. That cohort is finally old enough to send their own children to college and enjoy the an advantage in admission to Princeton not as blacks but as the children of alumni, and now we are going to declare that illegitimate out of the blue? If I were a successful black alumnus of an Ivy League college I would be pretty unhappy about that.

Release the hounds.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010


More Adirondacks. In the fall, the ferns can turn TigerHawk orange.


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Tom Friedman sticks it to Barack Obama 

Tom Friedman's column yesterday on "the real Tea Party" gets a lot wrong, but this paragraph is, by implication, surprisingly dismissive, even contemptuous, of Barack Obama:

The important Tea Party movement, which stretches from centrist Republicans to independents right through to centrist Democrats, understands this at a gut level and is looking for a leader with three characteristics. First, a patriot: a leader who is more interested in fighting for his country than his party. Second, a leader who persuades Americans that he or she actually has a plan not just to cut taxes or pump stimulus, but to do something much larger — to make America successful, thriving and respected again. And third, someone with the ability to lead in the face of uncertainty and not simply whine about how tough things are — a leader who believes his job is not to read the polls but to change the polls.

In other words, according to Tom Friedman, Barack Obama is not a patriot in the sense described, has no plan to make American successful, thriving, and respected, and does not "have the ability to lead in the face of uncertainty and not simply whine about how tough things are." We -- you and me -- knew that, but we did not know that Tom Friedman knew that.

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Nonsense PC controversy of the day 

Mercedes-Benz is getting grief for this ad. Without clicking through the link below for the answer, post a comment explaining contemporary American "sensitivity" to our ignorant German friends.

Answer here. Dang, that is some dumbness.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Adirondack light 

Here I go inflicting on you, our innocent readers, another moment from my weekend in the Adirondacks. I just like it.

Adirondack Light

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The endless war ends 

Later this week, a long war will finally end. There are three known surviving veterans.

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Heading south 

Yesterday morning in the Adirondacks, not far from the Canadian border.

Heading south

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War for oil watch: ExxonMobil gets it done, again 


ExxonMobil (XOM.N) and its partner Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) plan to more than double the number of new wells in Iraq's West Qurna Phase One to reach its projected production target, an Exxon executive said on Monday.

Exxon aims to drill two to three times the current 370 wells in the field as part of its development plan for West Qurna to reach plateau output of 2.325 million barrels per day, said ExxonMobil Iraq Vice President James Adams.

Regular readers know that my admiration for the oil industry, especially the integrated multinationals, is almost boundless. These companies go in to the most challenging geophysical and geopolitical conditions and manage to deliver gasoline to local stations around the world at a pre-tax price that is less than milk, Coca-Cola, or even bottled water. Is there a better value in our modern world? I mean, of course, other than chicken.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010


Walked in the Adirondack woods this morning, four miles over hill and dale, and saw some fungus along the way.




Adirondack shrooms

Not bad res for a phone camera.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rebuttal to Governor Christie 

In the interests of being fair and balanced, a rebuttal by MSNBC host Ed Schultz to the video below of Governor Christie rising to the defense of Meg Whitman.

I wonder if MSNBC has done some research that indicates that its viewers enjoy these kinds of ad hominem attacks. By all means, take issue with specific parts of Gov. Christie's agenda, and discuss why you think he is wrong. But calling someone a "fat slob" (even if the person is overweight) -- does that earn points with viewers that advertisers actually want to reach? Moreover, should commentators from any network speak in defense of any heckler, who by their very nature detracts from civil discourse?

I suppose that Mr. Schultz has had a good run on MSNBC, but I think it's possible that for a variety of reasons (the pending Comcast deal with NBC Universal, a new schedule to deal with declining ratings, general sanity), he might be trying to line up a new gig soon.

CWCID: Hot Air

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Special caption this!: Orange and black edition 

This certainly ought to be a picture from Princeton reunions, but, sadly, it isn't. Original caption below.

Orange and black

Hair we are: Michelle Obama meets the bouffanted First Lady of Cameroon, Chantal Biya.

I'm sure you can do better than that. But please go easy on our First Lady, who is showing almost superhuman restraint in this photograph.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rising to the defense 

Video for TigerHawk's post below.

Governor Christie, an ex-officio Trustee of Princeton University, rises to the defense of Meg Whitman '77, and gives a heckler something to consider.

I wouldn't want to be in that heckler's shoes.

UPDATE: Meg Whitman's class year corrected from 1976 to 1977, thanks to Anon commenter.


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Troofer Mahmoud 

More noise from the elected (kind of) leader of Iran:
The U.S. delegation walked out of the U.N. speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday after he said some in the world have speculated that Americans were behind the Sept. 11 terror attacks, staged in an attempt to assure Israel's survival...

...The U.S. delegation left the hall after Ahmadinejad said there were three theories about the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks:

_That "powerful and complex terrorist group" penetrated U.S. intelligence and defenses.

_"That some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime. The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view."

The Americans stood and walked out without listening to the third theory, that the attack was the work of "a terrorist group but the American government supported and took advantage of the situation."
Good for the U.S. delegation for bailing on such nonsense, and, assuming that this was a play called from the bench and not spontaneous, good for the State Department, Secretary Clinton, and perhaps President Obama, if the decision reached those levels. Sitting there and not engaging in the symbolic act of a walk out must have been tempting for the administration, given how invested it is in the campaign promise of negotiating with Tehran "without preconditions."

I don't think that there is any merit to the rumor that Ahmadinejad was spotted in a Manhattan restaurant having dinner with Rosie ("it’s the first time in history that fire has ever melted steel") O'Donnell. Politics sometimes does make for strange bedfellows, but that would be ridiculous.

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Governor Awesome's "tough Republican love" 

Chris Christie and California: Can it get any better than this?

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Free Elmo 

The powers-that-be at Sesame Street have pulled this video of Elmo and Katy Perry because it is "too racy." Maybe I'm a bad parent, but I don't see it. You decide (and, yes, totally SFW -- duh, it's Sesame Street):

All together now: They said that if I voted for John McCain the prudes would censor Sesame Street, and they were right!

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The diversionary tactic 

As TigerHawk has previously commented, the SEC case against Goldman regarding the ABACUS securities (settled previously this year for a number much larger than I had anticipated) might have had something to do with preparing the battle space for financial regulatory reform. According to the SEC Inspector General, it turns out that the timing of the case may also have had something to do with distracting the public from the fact that the SEC had been asleep at the wheel in dealing with Ponzi boy Allen Stanford:
The timing of the Securities and Exchange Commission's case against Goldman Sachs Group Inc is "suspicious," a federal watchdog said, suggesting that the SEC used it to divert attention from a report that sharply criticized its probe into accused Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford.

The SEC filed civil fraud charges against Goldman in mid-April, the same day it released a watchdog report accusing the agency of mishandling an investigation into Stanford's alleged $7 billion Ponzi scheme.

The report by SEC Inspector General David Kotz said the regulator suspected as early as 1997 that Stanford was running a Ponzi scheme but did nothing to stop it until late 2005.

The timing "strains credulity," Kotz told a congressional hearing on Wednesday examining the SEC's handling of the Stanford case.
It is obviously quite difficult to generate much sympathy for Goldman or its employees in the current environment, and there is little if any point in rehashing the specifics of how the naive European institutional investors may or may not have gotten their faces ripped off by the sharpies at Goldman and Paulson, but it is worth noting that the SEC may have had its own agenda beyond the meets and bounds of the immediate case. I was naive in not understanding this when the civil litigation was announced in April, when I wondered -- all of the things that have happened on Wall Street, and this is the case the SEC chooses to file now?

Hey, look over here!

What was I just blogging about? Seriously, do you remember the topic of this post?

Apologies to English actress Michelle Ryan, using her in such a crude way to illustrate how distraction works. Hopefully, Ms. Ryan did not own shares of ABN AMRO, one of the counterparties involved in the losing side of the ABACUS investment.

UPDATE: In the interests of balance, another photo, as requested.

I believe Mr. Jackman is Australian, and presumably was not involved in the losing side of any synthetic securities. Here's Mr. Jackman in his younger days, sailing near Fremantle:

If you bought that, you were distracted again -- it is almost never that calm in Fremantle, and that isn't Hugh Jackman the movie star, it is your lowly TigerHawk blogger in Penobscot Bay, leaning on a whisker pole.

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Autumnal equinox tab dump! 

Today -- technically beginning at 11:09 PM in Princeton -- we Northern Hemispherans leave the lightest six months and enter the darkest six months. Let us hope this refers only to daylight.

I'm at the gate for the early flight to Austin -- no, I will not have any free time on this visit, either, sad to say, but I'll let you know when I do -- so it is propitious to dump my few open tabs before we embark.

The smartest president evah don't know much 'bout history. Either that, or he does know but is hoping that we do not.

With regard to public monopoly schools, the prosecution rests.

This is bad news for all descendants of the Magna Carta:

The UK's tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer.

That, Gentle Reader, is socialism. Dwight Eisenhower had a better, and opposite, idea: Eliminate income tax withholding, give people their entire paycheck, and make people pay estimated taxes to the government directly every quarter. That will never happen because it would turn every last one of the 53% of the U.S. population that pays federal income tax against all but the most necessary federal spending, but it sure would get our house in order in a hurry.

Jesse Jackson Jr. knows 'em when he sees 'em.

My favorite lefty blogger, Ezra Klein, on the departure of Larry Summers from the Obama administration:
His departure leaves a tremendous power vacuum in the Obama administration's economic policy team -- and at the exact moment that the recovery seems to be slowing. With Orszag, Summers and Romer gone, the administration is without three of its strongest voices. That makes the choice on NEC director -- the person who will have to build and manage the economic policy process as the new team gets its footing -- a lot more important. With Summers, the administration got a very strong economic adviser, but not someone known for his managerial talents. Now, as a host of less senior voices vie for influence, the administration might approach the choice of his replacement differently.

The early reports are that the White House wants to replace Summers with a female CEO, if possible.

Excellent, because I can think of no qualification more important to restarting the great American economy than a vagina.

Separately, you have to feel bad for Summers, who apparently finds Harvard, which drummed him out of the presidency for choosing his words badly, more congenial than the Obama administration. Klein explains some of that, too.

"Eddie Haskell goes to Washington." Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, OUCH!


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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The violence veto, again 

We have for years been writing about the "violence veto", "censorship -- including self-censorship -- of perfectly lawful speech because of the fear that people who choose to be offended by that speech will vandalize, assault, and murder on account of it." The latest example is the persecution of Molly Norris, the Seattle editorial cartoonist who came up with "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." She has, on the advice of the FBI, gone in to hiding to protect herself from death threats from Muslims, and nobody seems to give a damn:

Freedom of speech and press are in deep trouble when the American government thinks the best it can do to protect a journalist from death threats is to counsel her to go into hiding, and when the elite voices of American journalism can't be bothered to say anything in her defense. But it's actually worse than that. The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof thinks Muslims are owed an apology. "I hereby apologize to Muslims for the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness that has lately been directed at you," he wrote Sunday. "The venom on the airwaves, equating Muslims with terrorists, should embarrass us more than you."

Instead of telling the rest of us that we're all bigots, shouldn't Kristof and the rest of the journalism profession be outraged by what has happened to Molly Norris? And shouldn't they be angered that her government believes it cannot protect her? Imagine what they would be saying if white-hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan were threatening to kill Norris in Selma, Ala., instead of radical Muslims in Seattle. Would the FBI tell Norris she had to stop being a journalist and go into hiding? And would [the American Society of News Editors] and [the Society of Professional Journalists] look the other way as the First Amendment and freedom of the press were symbolically turned to ashes by flaming white crosses?

The problem, of course, is the frequent use of the word "courageous" to describe "journalists," which practice has unreasonably raised our expectations. Journalists are, as a class, cowards, with no more willingness to stand up in defense of fundamental rights (such as freedom of speech and the press) than, say, your average plumber, the critical difference being that the press pretends to be a guardian of sorts.

What a joke.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Question and answer 

From the email inbox at the address to the right, an interesting link to 10Questions, which appears to be a reasonable exercise in responsive democracy. You ask questions of candidates in certain races, the top 10 questions are presented to the candidates, the candidates answer via video, and you can decide and indicate whether the answers were in fact responsive. TigerHawk readers undoubtedly have a number of pointed questions to ask of their elected officials, so here's your chance.

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Your lunchtime Christie 

Because we all need a regular fix of this guy...

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday afternoon Dad fun 


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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Logo abuse 

Once you see the picture, you will never look at the Democrats' new logo the same way again.

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Enslaved to process 

You can't say that we corporate tools don't live large on a Saturday night...

Life of a corporate tool

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday evening pizza-and-wine tab dump! 

Some thin crust pizza and a value red zin: What better fortification for the dumping of tabs?

German editorialists explain the rise of the Tea Party to their confused socialist readers. Interesting, actually. You'll learn something about both Germany and the United States.

The Tea Party has already won.

An international chess center in lieu of the Ground Zero Mosque? Works for me. If it works for you, thank a Russkie.

The mean geographical center of the population of the United States, over time.

No longer global warming, nor climate change. "Global climate disruption" is the new politically correct term, according to the Obama administration.

President Obama’s Science Czar John Holdren is worried about global warming. Having noticed that there hasn’t actually been any global warming since 1998, he feels it ought to be called “global climate disruption” instead. That way whether it gets warmer or colder, wetter or drier, less climatically eventful or more climatically eventful, the result will be the same: it can all be put down to “global climate disruption.”

Social Security and Medicare tax rates, over time. The tax for the "self-employed" is, of course, the true burden, since the individual rates ignore the half paid by the employer. That, too, is a burden on the economy.

The Tiger Hawk goes to Afghanistan. It is intimidating and inspiring everywhere it goes, and might well be a powerful weapon in the counterinsurgency.

Chinese archives reveal that Mao's Great Leap Forward killed at least 45 million people, a revelation which will surprise no conservative but would have not been believed by crunchy liberals of an earlier time. Back in 1984 Your Blogger and a couple of college friends were at Mao's Tomb in Beijing, shortly after China opened to independent Western travelers, in line to see the preserved body of The Chairman under glass, and yakking away about the freak show we were about to enjoy. A couple of older American hippies -- yes, the word was clearly apt -- turned around and hissed "Have you no respect?" One of my friends replied "I should respect this person who murdered 50 million people?" Their look of disgust was priceless.

Why is everybody afraid of Elizabeth Warren?

David Brooks' most recent column about the Tea Party movement, and whether it is good or bad for the established parties, is rather interesting.

The Democrats return to the talking point that has always led them to defeat for almost 60 years, that conservatives are just stupid. This is such a perennially bad idea that you know that the Donks are losing their stuff when they trot this one out.

Change: Visits to U.S. restaurants decline for the 8th quarter in a row. Restaurant dining being just about the most avoidable discretionary expenses, this ought not be a surprise. (That said, the just-opened Princeton Sports Bar and Grill was packed last weekend.)

Zero intelligence watch: An eight year-old is suspended from public school for a second year in a row for having brought a toy gun to school. This is what happens when the government has an effective monopoly over education.

The transnational progressives urge the passing of laws against drones and other robotic weapons. Are they worried about Skynet, or the United States? I think we know the answer.


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Bernie Marcus on fire 

Via Hot Air, Greg Hengler over at Townhall has a series of short video clips from CNBC this morning, featuring Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus riffing on the current business climate and his perception of the attitude of members of the Obama administration. Here's a funny one in which Marcus almost sounds like a Borscht Belt comedian.

For more than a decade, Home Depot has been a bête noire for those with strong anti-business sentiments (much in the same way Wal-Mart has been, but not to the same extent), in part because of some of its sourcing practices, and in part because its entry into a geographic market tends to kill off smaller local hardware stores, who lack the scale to compete on price, and don't have enough customers who value service. It is understandable that Marcus might react the way he does, in mock defense.

It is worth going over to Townhall to watch all five clips.

CWCID: Hot Air and Townhall

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Wasting toast? 

While this is clearly a Princeton-oriented blog, it is hard to refrain from commenting on an op-ed piece by Penn senior Pranav Merchant appearing in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, calling for an end to a Penn tradition:
The University of Pennsylvania's first home football game is this weekend, and it will no doubt feature the traditional singing of "Drink a Highball" at the end of the third quarter. At one time, it was also tradition to take a swig of beer upon reaching the line of the song that calls for "a toast to dear old Penn."

After alcohol was banned from the stadium in the 1970s, students began marking that line by throwing toast onto the field instead. This tradition came to be known as the Toast Toss, and it continues to this day. Innocent, alcohol-free college fun, right?

Wrong. Penn has replaced consuming alcohol with wasting loaves and loaves of perfectly edible bread, all in the service of a play on words.

Students fling about $500 worth of bread onto the field per game, all funded by the school and sponsors. Some students add their own toast to the total, but most of it is provided by the Penn staff. (You can watch the toss yourself in numerous videos on the Web.)

What happens to all this toast? It's tossed again - into the garbage. In other words, every year, the university is trashing a massive amount of food.

This is a cavalier and startling display, especially in Philadelphia, where almost a quarter of the population and a third of the children live in poverty. Indeed, St. Mary's Episcopal Church and Penn Hillel maintain food pantries on campus.
Though I am reluctant to admit it, I do have some standing to opine on this matter -- while my father (who grew up next to the Penn campus) had the good sense to go to Princeton, and brainwash me in orange and black, I have many relatives who went to Penn, which is, after all, part of the Ivy League. Kind of.

So, is a Penn senior justified in complaining about a few thousand dollars of wasted food during the course of a home football schedule, or is he just being a killjoy ("cavalier and startling")?

Here's what the Penn Athletics website has to say about the tradition:
Toast throwing is one of the most unique sporting traditions at Penn which crowds of Quakers fans perform as a sign of school pride. After the third quarter of Penn football games at historic Franklin Field, the spirited fans unite in the singing of “Drink a Highball.” As the last line is sung, “Here’s a toast to dear old Penn,” the fans send toast hurling through the air to the sidelines. Legend has it that this tradition began back in the mid-1970s, and after a couple of games where thousands of pieces of toast covered the track, a group of engineering students modified Penn’s motorized turf cleaner so it would be able to pick up larger pieces of trash. These days, it is belovedly called the “Toast Zamboni” and is a permanent fixture at Penn football games.
It seems to me that if the toast throwing has done nothing more than stimulate the creative work of a group of engineering students, then it has served an educational purpose in keeping with the mission of the university.

I infer from Mr. Merchant's name that he may well be of South Asian extraction, and might be particularly sensitive to the plight of the hungry, since, for a variety of reasons, hunger and starvation are tragically more common in that part of the world. I can appreciate that he may find the symbolism of wasted food significantly more offensive than a student or alum with a few generations of history at an Ivy League institution. The fact that most restaurants in Philadelphia would waste a multiple of that amount of food each week is probably besides the point -- that Penn undergrads who are being trained to think in terms of social justice would willfully waste food to support a silly and short-lived tradition just seems incongruous. His idea may in fact gain some traction.

Moreover, I would think that there are other opportunities on the Penn campus to eliminate waste -- perhaps doing away with the marching band (the energy savings of eliminating transportation to the away games would be meaningful), and melt down the instruments to provide for brass fixtures for low-income housing in the area; require the cheerleaders, when not cheering, to pedal stationary bicycles that would generate electrical power for Franklin Field, etc. I am sure that TigerHawk readers could suggest many other possibilities, short of doing away with Penn altogether.

In the near term, while the Penn trustees are debating this issue, I suggest that a group of enterprising Princeton undergrads, possibly studying evolutionary biology, use public transportation (Amtrak from 30th Street Station to Princeton Junction and the Dinky) to bring the wasted toast to Princeton, and feed it to the black squirrels. Then again, do we really want Princeton to be accepting hand-me-downs of any sort from Penn?

UPDATE: Mr. Merchant's concerns illustrate an unintended secondary effect of doing away with alcohol on campus in certain situations. If beer was still served at Franklin Field, there would be a regular toast, and no wordplay, and no wasted food (assuming, rightfully so, that all of the beer was eventually consumed).

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Poverty in America, an addendum 

Yesterday we noted the record absolute numbers of Americans now living below the official poverty line. The post drew a number of astute comments, including this one:

No matter how good their standard of living is, brings up a good point, Americans below our Federal Poverty level have a much higher standard of living than the average EU citizen.

I am not sure that is entirely true, but it is not false, either. Because I love you, my readers, herewith a relevant and lovingly typed excerpt from Michael Medved's excellent book The 5 Big Lies About American Business: Combating Smears Against the Free-Market Economy, which I read on the plane home yesterday.
By focusing almost exclusively on the disparity between those who earn most and those who earn least, rather than reporting on the remarkable progress in income and living standards for even the poorest among us, major media distort and exaggerate the problems of poverty and inequality. David R. Henderson of the Hoover Institution of Stanford University suggests that "because of the problems with measuring income and adjusting for inflation, there's a better way to measure the wellbeing of a household: see what's in the house."

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation did just that in an important paper in August 2007, using detailed and authoritative government figures. According to this research, among the 37 million Americans officially classified as living below the poverty line, 97 percent own color televisions, more than 50 percent own two or more color TVs, 78 percent have a VCR or a DVD player, and 62 percent receive cable or satellite TV reception. Eighty percent of poor households boast air-conditioning, 89 percent have microwave ovens, and nearly three-quarters own a car. An impressive 31 percent have two or more cars.

Most surprisingly, 43 percent of all poor households actually own their own homes, and the average home owned by households classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one and a half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio. Even considering poor people who rent apartments, or live with extended family, the average poor American enjoys more living space than the average middle-class individual in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other European cities.

The old stereotype of poor kids going hungry no longer applies to the United States. As Rector reports, "The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children and, in most cases, is well above recommended norms.... Eighty-nine percent of the poor report their families have 'enough food to eat, while only 2 percent say they 'often' don't get enough to eat."

The numbers show that today's poor not only enjoy a vastly better living standard than the poor of previous generations, they actually enjoy more comfortable lives than the middle class of some thirty years ago. The Federal Reserve of Dallas used Census Bureau numbers to compare poor households in 2005 with "all households" in 1970, and the poor households of today are more likely to own washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, stoves, color TVs, telephones, and air conditions -- not to mention recently invented conveniences like DVD players and cell phones. In other words, by simple, homey measures of comfort and convenience, the lowest rung on the income ladder lives better lives today than the average middle-class Americans of the last generation. More significant measures show substantial expansions in opportunities for struggling families: while children of poor households face far more challenges in attending college than children of affluent parents, they still manage to do so in greater numbers and percentages than typical middle-class Americans of thirty years ago.

What makes these achievements particularly impressive is the high percentage of the nation's poor who constitute new arrivals to this country. According to Census Bureau figures, a full one-quarter of all poor persons in the United States are now immigrants or the first-generation minor children of those immigrants. Approximately one in ten among the poor (or nearly four million individuals) is either an illegal immigrant or the under-eighteen child of that illegal.

Nothing more dramatically illustrates the prodigious ability of the U.S. economy to generate and spread wealth than the rewards and opportunities earned by those classified as poor -- especially when such a substantial proportion of those in that category entered the nation recently, and often without authorization.


Of course, Medved's data are a bit dated -- there are now more than 43 million people living below the poverty line, and many of them have lost their homes in the mortgage mess. I suspect that if the statistics above were updated to the conditions that prevail today, a smaller percentage would own their own homes, a smaller percentage would be illegal aliens, but a larger percentage would own the other erstwhile luxuries that were much less common in 1970.

In any case, who among putatively compassionate liberals will give Wal-Mart and its manufacturing partners in China the credit for this massive improvement in the material comfort of America's poor? After all, appliances and devices and clothing and just about anything else the poor might need other than food are manifestly less expensive, often by an order of magnitude in real dollars, precisely because we have outsourced the metal-banging work to Asia.

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The morning reading 

Spengler is spectacular this morning. Read "Terry Jones, asymmetrical warrior." Teaser:

Meet the Reverend Terry Jones, asymmetrical warrior. It appears that pinpricks can produce chain reactions in the Islamic world. The threat may be termed asymmetrical because Islam is more vulnerable to theological war than Christianity (or for that matter Judaism).

As the youngest of the major religions (apart from Sikhism), Islam must defend its historical narrative more fiercely than the older religions. Islam never withstood the withering criticism of Enlightenment scholars from Spinoza to the Jesus Project determined to discredit sacred texts. And because the Koran is not a human report of God's word, like the Christian and Jewish bibles, but rather the "uncreated word" of Allah himself, any challenge to its authority cuts at Islam's credibility. The fact that Islam has established neither a Magisterium in the Catholic sense, nor an authoritative tradition like that of Orthodox Judaism, leaves it decentralized, divided and fractious.

But read the whole thing.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Poverty in America 

The absolute number of Americans living in poverty today is at the highest level ever recorded. Short commentary follows.

Poverty rate soars


In all likelihood, the data will eventually show that the disparity between "rich" and "poor" in assets and income that widened during the last thirty years will have narrowed considerably during the last three years because of massive layoffs in financial services and allied businesses (such as Big Law) and big declines in the stock and residential real estate markets. If that indeed happened concurrently with the absolute increase in poverty, will that finally discredit the ridiculous yet bizarrely popular myth that inequality is a cause of poverty? I'm not holding my breath.

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The best conservative blogs 

Mr. Hawkins of Right Wing News is out with his quarterly list of the "best conservative blogs." Per his admonition, we are not taking it personally that we did not make the cut this time -- probably that Beck post, sigh -- but have high hopes that saucy political coverage will earn us a ranking in the December period.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

There are times when we must stand up and be counted 

The lefty bloggers are having a field day with this video, in which a youthful Christine O'Donnell appeared on MTV decrying that ancient plague, masturbation. William Jacobson responds with a "there they go again" post, supposed feminists viciously attacking a female candidate because of her opinions on sexual matters. Jacobson has a point, to which I would additionally speculate that the same bloggers would have mocked her mercilessly had she advocated masturbation as, say, a way to avoid getting AIDS or having sex out of marriage. These attacks are not principled, habits in self-pleasure not having any known relevance to service in the United States Senate, they are ugly and personal and meant to distract voters from the Democratic unpopularity. Oh, well, politics ain't bean bag. If you are going to run for office as a Republican, you had better hope that nobody has a video of you so much as using the word masturbation.

And, no, I have not found any indication that O'Donnell either stands by or does not stand by her opinion on that subject today. Just as well. We do not need to hear more. That said, if O'Donnell has any chance at all she is going to need the support of people who masturbate. I, for one, stand four square in favor of both Republican control of the Senate and masturbation, and reconcile these apparently contradictory preferences the way I always do, by reminding myself that consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.

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Stratfor on Obama's presidency and the prospects for a bold stroke 

There is much to argue with here, but Stratfor's latest Geopolitical Diary (republished here with permission) poses an interesting speculation: That if the Obama administration is unable to pursue its domestic agenda after the November elections, it will turn to foreign policy where it has a much greater capacity to act unilaterally. Short commentary follows:

By George Friedman

We are now nine weeks away from the midterm elections in the United States. Much can happen in nine weeks, but if the current polls are to be believed, U.S. President Barack Obama is about to suffer a substantial political reversal. While we normally do not concern ourselves with domestic political affairs in the United States, when the only global power is undergoing substantial political uncertainty, that inevitably affects its behavior and therefore the dynamics of the international system. Thus, we have to address it, at least from the standpoint of U.S. foreign policy. While these things may not matter much in the long run, they certainly are significant in the short run.

To begin thinking about this, we must bear three things in mind. First, while Obama won a major victory in the Electoral College, he did not come anywhere near a landslide in the popular vote. About 48 percent of the voters selected someone else. In spite of the Democrats’ strength in Congress and the inevitable bump in popularity Obama received after he was elected, his personal political strength was not overwhelming. Over the past year, poll numbers indicating support for his presidency have deteriorated to the low 40 percent range, numbers from which it is difficult, but not impossible, to govern.

Second, he entered the presidency off balance. His early focus in the campaign was to argue that the war in Iraq was the wrong war to fight but that the war in Afghanistan was the right one. This positioned him as a powerful critic of George W. Bush without positioning him as an anti-war candidate. Politically shrewd, he came into office with an improving Iraq situation, a deteriorating Afghanistan situation and a commitment to fighting the latter war. But Obama did not expect the global financial crisis. When it hit full blast in September 2008, he had no campaign strategy to deal with it and was saved by the fact that John McCain was as much at a loss as he was. The Obama presidency has therefore been that of a moderately popular president struggling between campaign promises and strategic realities as well as a massive economic crisis to which he crafted solutions that were a mixture of the New Deal and what the Bush administration had already done. It was a tough time to be president.

Third, while in office, Obama tilted his focus away from the foreign affairs plank he ran on to one of domestic politics. In doing so, he shifted from the area where the president is institutionally strong to the place where the president is institutionally weak. The Constitution and American tradition give the president tremendous power in foreign policy, generally untrammeled by other institutions. Domestic politics do not provide such leeway. A Congress divided into two houses, a Supreme Court and the states limit the president dramatically. The founders did not want it to be easy to pass domestic legislation, and tradition hasn’t changed that. Obama can propose, but he cannot impose.

Therefore, the United States has a president who won a modest victory in the popular vote but whose campaign posture and the reality under which he took office have diverged substantially. He has been drawn, whether by inclination or necessity, to the portion of his presidency where he is weakest and most likely to face resistance and defeat. And the weaker he gets politically the less likely he is to get domestic legislation passed, and the defeats will increase his weakness.

He does not, at the moment, have a great deal of public support to draw on, and the level of vituperation from the extremes has reached the level it was with George W. Bush. Where Bush was accused by the extreme left of going into Iraq to increase profits for Halliburton and the oil companies, Obama is being accused by the extreme right of trying to create a socialist state. Add to this other assorted nonsense, such as the notion that Bush engineered 9/11 or that Obama is a secret Muslim, and you get the first whiff of a failed presidency. This is not because of the prospect of midterm reversals — that has happened any number of times. It is because Obama, like Bush, was off balance from the beginning.

If Obama suffers a significant defeat in Congress in the November elections, he will not be able to move his domestic agenda. Indeed, Obama doesn’t have to lose either house to be rendered weak. The structure of Congress is such that powerful majorities are needed to get anything done. Even small majorities can paralyze a presidency.

Under these circumstances, he would have two choices. The first is to go into opposition. Presidents go into opposition when they lose support in Congress. They run campaigns against Congress for blocking their agenda and blame Congress for any failures. Essentially, this was Bill Clinton’s strategy after his reversals in 1994, and it worked in 1996. It is a risky strategy, obviously. The other option is to shift from the weak part of the presidency to the strong part, foreign policy, where a president can generally act decisively without congressional backing. If Congress does resist, it can be painted as playing politics with national security. Since Vietnam, this has been a strategy Republican presidents have used, painting Democratic Congresses as weak on national security.

There is a problem in Obama choosing the second strategy. For Republicans, this strategy plays to their core constituency, for whom national security is a significant issue. It also is an effective tool to reach into the center. The same isn’t true for the Democrats. Obama’s Afghanistan policy has already alienated the Democratic left wing, and the core of the Democratic Party is primarily interested in economic and social issues. The problem for Obama is that focusing on foreign policy at the expense of economic and social issues might gain him some strength in the center, but probably wouldn’t pick him up many Republican votes and would alienate his core constituency.

This would indicate that Obama’s best strategy is to go into opposition, government against Congress. But there are two problems with this. One of the underlying themes of the Obama presidency is that he is ineffective in getting his economic agenda implemented. That’s not really true, given the successes he has had with health-care reform and banking regulation, but it is still a theme. The other problem he has is the sense that he has surged in Afghanistan while setting a deadline for withdrawal and that his Afghan policy is merely a political gesture.

Obama can’t escape national security issues. Clinton could. In 1996, there were no burning issues in foreign policy. There are now two wars under way. Obama can’t ignore them even if his core constituency has a different agenda. Going into opposition against Congress could energize his base, but that base is in the low 40s. He needs to get others on board. He could do that if he could pass legislation he wanted, but the scenario we are looking at will leave him empty-handed when it comes time for re-election. His strongest supporters will see him as the victim, but a victimized president will have trouble putting together a winning coalition in 2012. He can play the card, but there has to be more.

We come back to foreign policy as a place where Obama will have to focus whether he likes it or not. He takes his bearings from Franklin Roosevelt, and the fact is that Roosevelt had two presidencies. One was entirely about domestic politics and the other about foreign policy, or the Depression and then World War II. This was not a political choice for Roosevelt, but it was how his presidency worked out. For very different reasons, Obama is likely to have his presidency bifurcated. With his domestic initiatives blocked, he must turn to foreign policy.

Here, too, Obama has a problem. He ran his campaign, in the Democratic tradition, with a vague anti-war theme and a heavy commitment to the American-alliance structure. He was also a strong believer in what has been called soft power, the power of image as opposed to that of direct force. This has not been particularly successful. The atmospherics of the alliance may be somewhat better under Obama than Bush, but the Europeans remain as fragmented and as suspicious of American requests under Obama as they were under Bush. Obama got the Nobel Prize but precious little else from the Europeans. His public diplomacy initiative to the Islamic world also did not significantly redefine the game. Relations with China have improved but primarily because the United States has given up on revaluation of the yuan. It cannot be argued that Obama’s strategy outside the Islamic world has achieved much. It could be claimed that any such strategy takes time, Obama’s problem is that he is running out of political maneuvering room.

That leaves the wars that are continuing, Iraq and Afghanistan. We have argued that Afghanistan is the wrong war in the wrong place. It is difficult to know how Obama views it, given his contradictory signals of increasing the number of troops but setting a deadline for beginning their withdrawal. We have argued that a complete withdrawal from Iraq without a settlement with Iran or the decimation of Iran’s conventional forces would be a mistake, but we don’t know, obviously, what Obama’s view on this is. We do not know his view of the effect of the Afghan war on U.S. strategic posture or on Pakistan, and we do not know his view of the impact of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq on Iranian influence in the Persian Gulf.

Let’s assume that he has clear views, which is likely for a president, and he is playing a long and quiet game. This would not be a bad strategy if he were stronger and had more time. But if the polls hold he will be weaker and running out of time. It would therefore follow that Obama will come out of the November election having to turn over his cards on the only area where he can have traction — Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. The question is what he might do.

One option is to solve the Iraq problem by attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities. This carries the risk, as I have said many times, of Iranian retaliation in the Strait of Hormuz and a massive hit on the Western economic revival. In that sense, a strike against Iranian nuclear targets alone would be the riskiest. Far safer is a generalized air campaign against both Iran’s nuclear and conventional capability.

But launching a new war, while two others go on, is strategically risky. From a political point of view, it would alienate Obama’s political base, many of whom supported him because he would not undertake unilateral military moves. The Republicans would be most inclined to support him, but most would not vote for him under any circumstances. Plus, brilliant military strokes have the nasty habit of bogging down just as mediocre ideas do. That would end the Obama presidency. Clinton’s war in Kosovo was not an easy option for him strategically or politically.

That leaves another option that we have suggested before, one that would appeal both to Obama’s sensibility and to his political situation: pulling a Nixon. In 1971, Richard Nixon reached out to China while Chinese weapons were being used to kill American soldiers in Vietnam. Roosevelt did the same with the Soviets in 1941. There is a tradition in the United States of a diplomatic stroke with ideological enemies to achieve strategic ends.

Diplomatic strokes appeal to Obama. They also would appeal to his political base, while any agreement with Iran that would contribute to an American withdrawal from Iraq and perhaps from Afghanistan would appeal to the center. The Republicans would be appalled, but Obama can’t win them over anyway so it doesn’t matter. Indeed, he can use their hostility to strengthen his own base.

What the settlement with Iran might look like is murky at best. Whether Iran has any interest in such a settlement is murkier still. But if Obama gets hammered in the midterms, his domestic agenda will be frozen. He doesn’t have the personal strength and credibility to run against Congress for two years and then get re-elected. He retains his power in foreign affairs but he has not gotten traction on a multilateral reconstruction of America’s global popularity. He has two wars ongoing, plus a major challenge from Iran. Attacking Iran from the air might or might not work, and it could weaken him politically. That leaves him with running against Congress or addressing the Middle East with a diplomatic masterstroke.

It is difficult to know the ways of presidents, particularly one who has tried hard to be personally enigmatic. But it is easier to measure the political pressures that are confronting him and shaping his decisions. I wouldn’t be so bold as to predict his actions, but I would argue that he faces some unappetizing choices that he could solve with a very bold move in foreign policy. His options on the domestic side will disappear if the polls are right.


Even the foreign policy "bold stroke" will be difficult for a weakened Obama administration, in part because Barack Obama has not built up a track record of credibility the way Richard Nixon had done when he went to China. Nixon's China initiative worked because RN's reputation as a foe of Communism bought him enough trust among the hawks that Nixon had political room to treat with the enemy, which China literally was at the time. Barack Obama has earned no such trust -- quite the opposite -- so there is no Nixon/China analogy in a bold diplomatic initiative with Iran (especially since there have been so many failed attempts across administrations and party lines since 1979). If Barack Obama wants to surprise everybody with a bold foreign policy stroke, he would need to attack Iran (as Friedman discusses), not make concessions to it.

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In light of yesterday's Tea Party victories... 

...I've gone and ordered Scott Rasmussen's Mad As Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System. Glenn Reynolds declared it "well-worth reading" this morning, which is more than can be said for most political books these days.

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After dessert-in-France tab dump 

In France, one must always eat dessert. Mine is pictured below, followed by a pastry of tabs drizzled in a sauce of commentary.

Dessert in France

Da Coach doesn't approve of "sensitivity" training for the New York Jets. Me, I just wonder if it will lower their T-levels.

I just learned that back in June the Business Roundtable produced a lengthy letter to Peter Orszag (then Director of OMB, which is not to be confused with OMG) detailing the manifold ways in which regulation or the threat thereof have stifled business. Here's the link to the 54 page pdf, which I hope to read and digest for you at some point.

One of those many burdens is the ridiculous requirement in the Obamacare legislation that businesses issue countless zillions of 1099s to virtually everybody they buy something from. Talk about your dead weight cost to the economy. Well, the Democrats who voted for that disaster are now claiming that they did not know it was in the bill. Next thing you know, they'll be claiming that they did not know health care reform was in the bill. Dudes, if ignorance of the law is no defense, ignorance of the bill doesn't fly either.

Foreign Accent Syndrome: Not as funny as you'd think.

Remember that Indian professor whose arm got chopped off by jihadis for posing an exam question they did not like? Turns out the question was just non-substantive text designed to test punctuation.

The new tough bank capital requirements of Basil III are going to lead to higher interest rates for bank loans. Well, obviously. Equity costs more than debt and deposits, so if you are going to require banks to put more equity behind every loan, their costs are going to go up. Those higher capital requirements may indeed be necessary, but there is no arguing that they are wind in the face of our current monetary policy.

Yet another chickengreen unmasked. Not that I'm all let's-strip-mine-the-Rockies or anything. Here's some recycling I could get behind.


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Questions for your discussion while I am away 

I am in France about to begin a day of meetings and taking in the results of last night's Republican primaries. I have two questions for your discussion in my absence, both of which are of great moment.

Question One.

Will the recent victories of "Tea Party" candidates, including in Delaware last night, make it easier or more difficult next year to achieve legislative results that conservatives would prefer? Comment with reference to this thoughtful piece from Doc Zero at Hot Air. More on the same subject here.

Question Two.

Do you think Power Line's Paul Mirengoff is correct in his assessment that the 2012 GOP presidential nomination is Sarah Palin's to lose?

Release the hounds.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Justice Breyer and the burning 

Is it conceivable that Justice Breyer could get the Supreme Court to issue cert on a free speech case that involves the burning of a Koran? It is worth watching the video at the link to see if he is just advocating normal due process and judicial review, or if he really believes that such a case might possibly be worthy of a hearing in front of the Supremes.

Just to be clear, I do not believe Pastor Jones is a wise man, and I do not share his views (and I agree with General Petraeus and his expressed concerns), but to equate his threatened actions with yelling "fire!" in a crowded theater is a bit of a stretch. At the very least, it infantilizes the the other party in the transaction -- the party that may commit the acts of violence. If the Obama administration thought that it had a legal weapon available to it to prevent that free speech, chances are that the Holder DOJ would employ it. It almost looks like an invitation is being issued to give it a try.

CWCID: Hot Air

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Last year, the United States had a severe recession with rapidly rising unemployment and poverty, Americans bought more firearms than in any year in history (more than 14 million firearms, enough to arm the 21 largest standing armies in the world), and violent crime fell across the board. By a lot.

One is forced to wonder whether either poverty or rates of gun ownership "cause" or are directly correlated with rates of violent crime. Quite contrary to the impression one might have had from, oh, reading the newspaper most of the last forty years.

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President Clinton and Rachel Maddow 

No, there isn't a, er, liaison between the former president and the MSNBC host, but rather a strong statement on Clinton's part, defending his record against a characterization made by Rachel Maddow on her show last spring:
Bill Clinton flashed irritation at MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and other liberals Monday for failing to appreciate the successes of his presidency.

“One of the leading television commentators on one of our liberal cable channels said I was the best Republican president the country ever produced, which would come [as] quite a surprise to the Republicans, half of whom still think I’m a closet communist,” Clinton said during an appearance with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia...

...Clinton said he accomplished more for the poor and middle class than traditional, New Deal-era liberalism ever could have. He touted his welfare-to-work program, which he said cut the rolls by 60 percent.

“We had 100 times as many people move out of poverty during those eight years [I was president] than the previous 12 years because we had an earned income tax credit, not because we had another traditional anti-poverty program hiring people,” he said.
Say what you will about Clinton and his personal recklessness, and inadequate responses to the earlier days of Islamist terrorism in the 1990s, he is the most fiscally prudent Democratic president since JFK. He had the benefit of having a very strong voter's message sent to him in 1994, and a job-creating economy with a rising stock market shortly after that. He had Secretary Rubin and Chairman Greenspan, back when the world still genuflected to their wisdom. Capital gains occurred in large volumes each year and were taxed, thereby (kind of) balancing the budget late in the decade, until the bubble popped. Compared to the current administration, Clinton is a miser when it comes to deficit spending.

Maddow has an interesting shtick, albeit one that is in an apparently narrow niche, and she has not refrained from taking pot shots at President Obama from his left. That raises the question -- is it at all conceivable that there will be another Rachel Maddow with another TV show in the late 2020s, saying that President Obama became a "Republican president" after 2010?

The two presidents are different men. Clinton was the best retail politician of his generation and thrived on personal interaction with voters (sometimes, obviously, to his detriment). He was never accused of having a "cool detachment," and enjoyed speaking extemporaneously. It wasn't clear to a large segment of voters if Clinton had an unalterable set of core principles, or whether his primary instinct was for self-preservation. I think we are about to find out whether President Obama will compromise on some of his strongly held beliefs, with the showdown over the expiring Bush tax cuts for higher income taxpayers possibly being the first act in that drama.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Public service announcement 

My devotion to you, our loyal readers, verily impels me to link to Amazon's fall "blowout sale".

Actually, there are some pretty awesome price cuts on stuff you might actually want.

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Crushing of dissent watch 

In a column by Michael Barone worth reading in its entirety (for its discussion of the administration's "zero tolerance" policy toward business dissent), there is this:

According to Politico, not a single Democratic candidate for Congress has run an ad since last April that makes any positive reference to Obamacare. The First Amendment gives candidates the right to talk -- or not talk -- about any issue they want.

But that is not enough for Sebelius and the Obama administration. They want to stamp out negative speech about Obamacare. "Zero tolerance" means they are ready to use the powers of government to threaten economic harm on those who dissent.

If you're Barack Obama, that's gotta hurt.

As for the threats from the administration, the only thing that differentiates this latest is that it was written down and out in the open. It is well known among health care industry executives that the administration directly and indirectly threatened recalcitrant companies and industry sub-sectors to drop their opposition to the passage of Obamacare in the first place. If you are a cynic you say that politics ain't bean bag and we should all grow up. If you are a romantic, or maybe just an ingenuous American, you believe that the government should not threaten to coerce people who speak out in opposition to its agenda, whether or not those people happen also to be executives.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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Capital requirements and banks 

The New York Times, of all newspapers, ran an op-ed yesterday that argues that banks are not lending because regulators are so aggressively raising the capital requirements for lenders. It is very worth reading, especially if you want to see but one small example of new regulation stifling the recovery of the economy, a theme we have been harping on since the beginning of the administration.

Of course, one might reasonably argue that the financial crisis of 2008-09 revealed the need for much higher equity requirements for banks, and that international regulators are in general agreement to impose them. All perhaps true, but that does not change the point that the cost, at least in the next few years, is substantially slower economic growth and fewer opportunities for everybody.

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Conservative and racism 

Gerard Alexander of the University of Virginia cogently argues that liberals are wrong to assume that American conservativism is racist, or politically dependent on racism. He walks through the usual culprits -- Barry Goldwater's opposition to parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Nixon's "southern strategy," the Willie Horton ads, and so forth -- and reasonably well disposes of all of them. I would add that liberals themselves often argue that nobody is free of racism, and racists -- but of the condescending or anti-Semitic variety -- often travel in lefty circles.

In any case, I think Alexander misses at least one thread in the intellectual history of the controversy. In coastal chattering class circles, American liberals often identify with the European left, and therefore tend to analogize American conservatives to the European right. The problem is that the European right has a more obviously racist history, in general, than modern American conservatives, so the analogy, however unfair, sustains the myth that Alexander discredits in his column.

Release the hounds.

UPDATE: Because we are fair and balanced and, besides, you have to know your weak spots, here's a pointed lefty response.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

A note on the roots of Palin Derangement Syndrome 

Glenn Reynolds links to a proposed explanation for Palin Derangement Syndrome, the condition under which journalists and other lefties completely lose their minds when they contemplate Sarah Palin.

No, the best explanation for the left’s bizarre Palin obsession is status-anxiety. Status-anxiety occurs when a person believes that their position in a real or imagined social hierarchy is threatened. Leftists react emotionally to Palin because of the threat she poses to their own individual sense of status. All their other arguments are just put forth to rationalize that emotional reaction.

I beg to differ. While status anxiety (and read the linked post to see what the writer means by this) may be part of it, the better explanation is that Sarah Palin was and remains a huge electoral threat to the Democrats.

Palin is really not unlike any number of other conservatives in background, accent, attitudes, and so forth. There is one crucial difference, though, which is that she is female, attractive, and a mother. That means that the swing voters of our time, the famous soccer moms, might well find in Palin somebody with whom they can identify notwithstanding her pro-life
position. If you are a Democrat, that is intolerable. If you think like a lefty and believe that these personal attributes are defining (the "personal is political, and vote for me because I am black/Latino/female"), then Palin suddenly becomes an enormous threat to the left's electoral requirement to grab a big part of the independent center. Hence a need -- a political imperative, frankly -- to discredit her as somehow fraudulent, nuts, dishonest, or some combination thereof. Because if you do not discredit Palin, she is an arrow aimed right at the heart of the Democrats' only real swing constituency (other than male "Reagan Democrats," who are also going to like her because she is a gun-toting attractive "wife" they can easily admire), security-conscious suburban women. So I think that the hatred of Palin comes from the simple political belief that if she is not discredited she is very attractive to the two swing constituencies that the Democrats simply must win.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Battle for Iowa resolved: 35-7 Hawkeyes 

Nice. Now let's not blow the Arizona game.

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Sitting in the sports bar tab dump 

I'm in Princeton's newest hot spot, the Princeton Sports Bar and Grill, enjoying serial Sierra Nevadas and an orgy of Big Ten football. And free wifi, which means that I am the blogging dork at the table with the view of Iowa v. Iowa State, Miami v. Ohio state, and Michigan v. Notre Dame, rooting for a Big Ten sweep. And yet, there are also tabs to be dumped, like arching spools of unrolling bathroom tissue hurled from the stands in days of yore.

The first woman to paddle the Northern Forest Canoe Trail is from New Jersey, and 50 years old. An inspiration to us all, I would say.

A 50-year-old New Jersey woman on Monday became the first female to complete a solo end-to-end paddle of the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) from New York to Maine.

Cathy Mumford of Colts Neck, N.J., set off from Old Forge, N.Y. on June 19, paddling, wheeling and dragging her nine and a half-foot-long Perception Sparky kayak to the northern terminus of the trail at Riverside Park on the St. John River in Fort Kent, Maine. The NFCT opened to the public in 2006 and Mumford is only the third solo kayaker to complete a through paddle of the recreational waterway.

Mumford's adventure included paddling across the eastern half of Lake Champlain on her 50th birthday, taking a wrong turn on the Missisquoi River in Vermont, and having to repair her broken kayak wheels.

A round-up of September 11 memories. My step-cousin, Welles Crowther, died in the towers that day. Here is more about Welles, one of the genuine heroes of the day. And here is a video of Welles' mother, Allison, remembering him.

A huge chunk of the original stimulus package has not even hit the economy yet, but still the administration wants to borrow countless more billions from our children so we may employ a few more people, maybe, today. It is not obvious whether that is a measure of arrogance, incompetence, or both.

Occasional TH guest-blogger Cassandra is writing for the RightNetwork, today imploring the president to respect the sacrifices of military families.

An interesting article about the big money flowing in to "minor" college sports. Much of it is the result of simply tallying the national results and given out an award to athletic directors in recognition in respect thereof.

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Shredding the First Amendment 

This is appalling. The Obama Administration is implicitly threatening health insurers that disagree with its estimates for the costs of Obamacare in communications to their policyholders. HHS Secretary Sebelius:

It has come to my attention that several health insurer carriers are sending letters to their enrollees falsely blaming premium increases for 2011 on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act. I urge you to inform your members that there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases....

Forget the usual point ("imagine if Bush had done this"). This is an obvious threat by the administration designed to chill speech that is protected under the First Amendment. Tactics like these are genuinely offensive to the Constitution, and should be clearly called out as such. These people are thugs.

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Governor Awesome does it again 

Chris Christie continues to roll. Don't all you not New Jerseyans wish Governor Awesome was working for you? Another great town hall moment:

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Morning observations re Koran burning 

Tom Maguire had some fun yesterday with the now called-off (or not?) Koran burning:

President Obama follows Sarah Palin's lead in condemning the Quran burning slated for Sept 11.

He's such an imp.

And then there is this:
Why are these Quran crackpots being given a platform to hold our national security hostage and endanger our troops?

OK, part of the answer is that this started as a lovely opportunity for the liberal media to bash some crazed righties. Fun's fun, but if the media is so worried about this, they might wonder why they feel obliged to cover it. Will CNN be broadcasting live from the bonfire? I bet they will. But if fifty people gathered to demand a look at Obama's birth certificate (or Kerry's military records!), they would be ignored as crazy but not incendiary. Or, closer to home, this is the same media that refused to publish the Mohammed cartoons that started riots in Europe. Deep-sixing stories that don't fit their narrative is what these people do for a living - why not bury this one?

Some crackpot dreamed up a stunt that the liberal media loved, and now they don't know how to get off the tiger. Well done.


One small aside: Some of the righties in my life have noted that Christian bibles get destroyed all the time and nobody gives a flip (see this old story, which has scrolled across my Facebook page several times today). Perhaps this is a false implied analogy, for Christianity and Islam regard their holy scriptures differently*. As a matter of doctrine, any given copy of a Christian bible is simply a copy of a translation, with no inherent significance. It is not inherently disrespectful to scrap a bible. Muslims, on the other hand, regard an individual physical Koran, particularly in the original Arabic, as in and of itself holy, a manifestation of the actual words of Allah as conveyed by his Messenger. Willful destruction of a Koran is, as I understand it, an offense to Allah. Equating one to the other does not, therefore, deepen our understanding of the argument.
*I cannot remember where I read this, and therefore have no source at hand. As is always the case, feel free to straighten me out if you believe I'm getting it wrong.

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

But will they walk in the P-Rade? 

You know that the Undead have achieved a certain respectability if Princeton University Press has published a book with "Zombies" in the title.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Big news from a study 

Semi-NSFW, and entirely unbelievable.

Neither the conclusions regarding BMI and endurance, nor the supporting figures make any sense. Come on, 7.3 minutes, 1.8 minutes? When did life turn into a sprint? Stop and smell the roses, already.

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A campaign idea 

Now that Labor Day is behind us, the midterm campaign season heats up. Earlier this year, I predicted that the Republicans would not take numerical control of the House (and that would not be such a bad thing, if neither party had effective control), but that prediction is looking about as solid as a Red Sox appearance in the 2010 World Series.

So, I have a campaign idea for the Democrats, in keeping with the spirit of the cram-down aspect of the final passage of the health care bill. Take a page from candidate Reagan in 1980, when he posed his famous question about being better off than you were four years ago. Take that, and turn it into a declarative statement: "You are better off than you were two years ago, even if you don't realize it yet." At this point, it's not like it could make things worse for the Democratic party.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The new CNN show 

The former governor of the Empire State and a WaPo columnist discuss important matters.

I have no particular expertise in programming cable news channels, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that this new show, which starts next month on CNN, will not be on the air by April Fool's Day 2011. Perhaps you'll agree that the best part of the teaser at the link is the music (or the end).

Is CNN deliberately trying to shed viewers at the 8:00 pm time slot? What advanced demographic and market analysis was performed by network executives to come up with this concept? Is CNN now down at the level of a local cable access station in Aurora, Illinois?

I will even try to watch for a night or two, just to say I saw it. I'll report back if it is not as bad as predicted.


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Waiting out the tropical storm tab dump 

I'm in Austin, hemmed in by tropical storm Hermine, and have not surprisingly accumulated a mixed grill of tabs, many of them from my very entertaining group of FB friends.

Dave Kopel:

Ross Douthat pens another excellent column in yesterday’s New York Times. He observes that “obsessing about the paranoia of the masses is often a way for American elites to gloss over their own, entirely nonsymbolic failures.” For example, “Today, establishment liberals would much rather fret about the insanity of the Republican base than reckon with the unpopularity of Barack Obama’s domestic program.”

Yup. Douthat's column is well-worth reading for a number of the points that it makes about paranoia in American politics.

Here's a shocker: financial mismanagement at Al Sharpton's non-profit.

Who says there are no creative ideas to close the budget gap? I would totally pay for this privilege. And it definitely would boost sales of fast cars in Nevada.

This seems like good news we should celebrate, but something tells me that it will disappoint the liberals.
The rate at which ice is disappearing from Greenland and Western Antarctica has been seriously overestimated, according to new research.

Seems like the earlier models had failed to correct for an important variable. Surprising, since that almost never happens with computer modeling of complex systems.

Slate: What can Obama say to get Democrats excited? Harder to do, now that polls indicate that blaming Bush has run its course. Oh, voters still blame Bush, but not the GOP.

Twenty-five reasons to send the Democrats packing. The first five are particularly compelling.

Much of what we thought about good studying habits is wrong. Solace for the kids: More testing is better than less testing, because testing itself promotes the integration of knowledge, not just the assessment of the extent of knowledge.

This is what happens when a great democracy starts to appease its Muslim minority:
Adding insult to injury, a Kerala college has sacked its lecturer whose right hand was chopped off by activists of radical outfit PFI for preparing a controversial Malayalam question paper with alleged derogatory references to Prophet Muhammad.

The management of the Christian-run New Man College has informed T J Joseph that he had been removed from September 1 on the grounds that he had hurt religious sentiments, college sources said on Saturday.

And these were Christians, who in principle believe that the Prophet Muhammad was either a fraud or deranged. That is what fear will do.

Insult to injury of the most cruel sort.

It must suck to be Al Gore's publicist.

And, finally, the most important news in this post:
Iran is steadily stockpiling enriched uranium, even in the face of toughened international sanctions, according to a U.N. inspection report that raises new concerns about the ability to monitor parts of the nation's nuclear program that could be used to make a bomb.

Citing a broad pattern of obstruction, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that it cannot confirm quantities of certain nuclear materials, has a growing list of unanswered questions about enrichment sites and disagrees sharply with Iran's recent decision to eject two inspectors.

Mr. President, dithering only makes it worse.


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