Day By Day

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bush Was Right, redux

Ann Althouse, writing about Obie's problems with prosecuting the 9-11 terrorists, opines:

[T]he President is the victim of his own ideas about how to do things differently. If he had graciously accepted the inheritance left by George Bush, he wouldn't have had either of these problems. He squandered an inheritance that he failed to value!

Bush — despite his reputation for simplicity — did understand the complexity of the problem, and he had a solution. There was stability. After posturing about "change" in his political campaign, Barack Obama seemed to think that he could apply the immense power he had won to changing things in the real world. And there is no blaming Bush for failing to know the difference between what sounds goods and what works well.

George Bush — the extreme contrast to Barack Obama — knew that he was doing a lot of things that didn't sound good and left him open to harsh criticism, but he made a decision early on to accept that and to do what he thought was right. He didn't get enough credit for that. Maybe he will some day. But he also avoided the torrent of justified criticism that would have fallen on him if there had been further terrorist attacks.
Read it here.

She's absolutely right. Dubya, as I have argued time and again, had a far better [and more nuanced] grasp on the issues facing our nation in this time than his critics. He was a better man than they, and a good [perhaps a great] president, and part of the reason for that was his willingness to accept with good grace the unfair criticism and calumny directed at him and his associates rather than to lapse, as does Obie, into petulance and rancor.

Bush Officials Cleared of Wrongdoing

From Newsweek:
By Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman

For weeks, the right has heckled Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. for his plans to try the alleged 9/11 conspirators in New York City and his handling of the Christmas bombing plot suspect. Now the left is going to be upset: an upcoming Justice Department report from its ethics-watchdog unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), clears the Bush administration lawyers who authored the “torture” memos of professional-misconduct allegations.
Read about it here.

Once again the Left made a mountain out of a molehill and got away with it long enough for it to have political impact at election time. I hope that in coming elections people will be reminded of just how very often Democrats lied and lied again about Bush and his administration.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Weekend Wrap

Cleaning out the files: Things I didn't have time to get to during the week.

Men are now the most recent grievance group. The Futurist argues that the demasculization of men and pervasive misandry are at the root of our current problems. [here]

The roots of Obama worship -- they're scarier than you thought. [here]

What's wrong with the professoriat? Professionalism, that's what. [here]

The lefties at HNN try to take down Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism. [here]

Jonah replies here.

More Pennsylvania Pictures

From time to time we have driven past this barn at the intersection of Rtes 61 and 895. Occasionally I have stopped and taken pictures of it and some of its outbuildings. I'm not the only one. I know of at least a couple of professional photographers who have shot it too.

Here's what it looked like back in December when we passed it on our way down to Maryland for Christmas.

Here's what it looks like today.

And, digging back into the files, here are some pictures I took walking along Maiden Creek just north of Reading a couple of months ago.

I've been told that here be fish, lots of them.

Medved v Beck

Michael Medved explains a few political facts of life to one of Glenn Beck's devotees.

Medved is absolutely right. Mouthing Beck's slogans is no substitute for argument and there really are important substantive differences between the Republicans and the Democrats. But, for all his inarticulateness, the caller has a point. Ronald Reagan raised the tantalizing possibility of making the federal government smaller, less expensive, and less intrusive into our lives, but neither he nor any of his successors has done anything substantive to reverse the trend toward ever bigger government and in some cases (the Bushes come immediately to mind) have actually hastened it. There is no reason to believe that McCain would have been any better, especially given his embrace of the environmentalist agenda. Medved is right to say that elections matter and that we should choose the least damaging alternative; but the caller is also right when he asserts that a choice between greater and lesser evils is unacceptable. That's what the tea parties are all about and Glenn Beck has been providing listeners with a plausible [and largely correct] historical narrative that can help conservatives to contextualized their grievances and understand how we got into such a predicament.

Friday, January 29, 2010

This Day In History

Today is "National Puzzle Day", a day to indulge yourself with your favorite kind of puzzle. For some it's the Times crossword, for others Sudoku. For still others it's spatial or logic or jigsaw. Here's a link to where you can find a plethora of puzzles to keep you amused all day long. As for me, I tend to find life itself to be an puzzle and have not a clue how to solve it, assuming of course that there is a solution. I plan to spend today celebrating its other aspect -- today is also "National Cornchip Day" so this morning I plan to stop by the local convenience store and load up.

On this day in 1860 Anton Chekhov was born. His plays and short stories seem a bit dated today, but that is only because they were so powerfully influential on the literature of the past century. Everybody who writes in either form, whether they are aware of it or not, is emulating some aspects of Chekhov's work. Artistically, we are living, and have lived our entire lives, in the world Chekhov created. I still can't decide whether or not that's a good thing. My favorite Chekhov quote, one apropos to today's political situation: "Any idiot can face a crisis — it's this day-to-day living that wears you out."

And on this day in 1843 William McKinley was born in Niles, Ohio. As a young man he attended Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, as well as Mount Union College, but transferred to and graduated from Poland Seminary in Ohio. When the Civil War broke out he joined the U. S. Army as a private. His commanding officer was future president Rutherford B. Hayes. McKinley's service was so distinguished that he rose quickly from private, to sergeant, to lieutenant, to captain, and finally to major and was frequently cited for his heroism.

After the war McKinley got a law degree and became a prosecutor in Stark County, but after two years he resigned to become a defense attorney representing workers in labor disputes. At about the same time he got active in politics, working on Rutherford Hayes' campaign for Governor of Ohio. After the campaign he ran for and was elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican where he was identified with protectionism, raising tariffs on foreign imports to protect American businesses and jobs. In 1890 he was defeated for re-election because mid-western farmers rose in revolt against the hated "McKinley tariff", but he remained something of a hero to northeast workers. After leaving Congress McKinley was elected Governor of Ohio where he again promoted legislation to protect workers' rights. During the depression of 1893-97 McKinley organized, and paid for out of his own pocket, relief missions to feed, clothe and provide medical care for distressed miners. Then in 1896 he resigned the governorship to begin his campaign for the presidency.

1896 was one of those "transitional" elections you always hear about. McKinley, under the tutelage of Mark Hanna [the Karl Rove of his day] ran an innovative "front porch" campaign in which delegations from groups all across the country were brought into his home town of Canton, Ohio to hear him speak. McKinley's reputation as a spokesman for the worker stood him in good stead as he gained the support of both businessmen and workers in urban areas while his Democrat opponent, William Jennings Bryan, polled well in rural areas of the Midwest and South. The result was a political realignment that continued into the 1930s.

As president, McKinley supported the consolidation of big business and promoted foreign trade. He also promoted territorial expansion, annexing Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. He reluctantly took the country into war with Spain and sent troops to China to protect American business interests during the Boxer Rebellion. He easily won re-election in 1900. Historians consider his to be the first "modern" presidency.

In the following year McKinley and his wife were attending the Pan-American exposition in Buffalo, New York, when he was attacked by Nicholas Czolgosz, an anarchist. What followed was one the worst cases of medical malpractice on record. Two bullets had lodged in McKinley's body. Surgeons probed for them, finding and extracting one, but they were unable to find the other. The problem was that they were operating in the dark. They were using ether to keep the president unconscious while they probed, but that meant that they could not turn on the gas lights in the room. A new invention, the x-ray machine, was on exhibition at the site of the exposition, but the doctors refused to allow it to be used because they feared it might have dangerous side-effects. For eight days the president remained essentially untreated in non-sterile surroundings while gangrene developed in his wounds, then he went into shock and died whereupon his vice president, Theodore ["that damned cowboy"] Roosevelt became President of the United States.

Karl Rove is on record as saying that McKinley was his favorite president. He's one of mine too.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Who Saw That Coming?

Jim Geraghty writes:

"John and Elizabeth Edwards are splitting up. Boy, who saw that coming? You hate to see that happen to a couple that have so much going for them. . . ."
I too am shocked. If kids like that can't make it in today's world, what hope do the rest of us have?

I blame Bush.

Jonah Comments on Chrissie's Racialism

Jonah Goldberg on Chris Matthew's comment on Obama's race:

Personally, I think Chris Matthews' momentary colorblindness offers a telling insight. As many of us have argued around here for a while, conservatives aren't obsessed with Obama's race, liberals are. That's why we've had so many asinine, nasty and ignorant charges of racism hurled at Obama's critics. There's a certain species of liberal that can't get over Obama's race. They assume that conservatives can't get over it either and so criticism of Obama from the right must — according to Olbermannesque thinking — stem from some evil desire to see a "black man fail" or some other idiocy. I think it's nice that we have a black president as do most conservatives I know. I just don't think it's the most important thing in the world. Nor do I think that his blackness makes bad liberal ideas suddenly good. Black men are wrong when they say 2+2 is 5 too.

Unlike Chris Matthews, I go weeks, even months, without "remembering" that Obama is black. It's just not a big part of how I see the world or his day-to-day presidency. It is a big part of how Matthews sees things. I leave it to others to decide whose outlook is healthier.

Read it here. [emphasis mine]

This conforms precisely to my experience. Not once in any conversation I have had with a conservative has the issue of Obama's race been raised. It just isn't important enough to notice. But my liberal friends and associates mention it frequently. They really are obsessive on the subject, and assume that everyone else is too. Sad..., really sad!

RIP Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn has died. His horribly biased approach to American history inspired an entire generation of radicals who have misused and misapplied the practice of history. Let's leave it at that. I do, however, appreciate what appears to be his last published statement. Looking back on Obama's first year he wrote:

I' ve been searching hard for a highlight. The only thing that comes close is some of Obama's rhetoric; I don't see any kind of a highlight in his actions and policies.

As far as disappointments, I wasn't terribly disappointed because I didn't expect that much....

I think people are dazzled by Obama's rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president--which means, in our time, a dangerous president....
Read the whole thing here.

HT: John Miller

This Day In History

Today is "Have Fun at Work Day" as well as "National Kazoo Day". So, take your kazoos to work today and annoy the heck out of your co-workers..., or not. Kazoos are wonderful things. They are easy to play -- if you can hum you can play a kazoo -- and they lend themselves to spontaneous creativity. Here's a link to a lady who has been really creative with the thing. Caution, not really safe for work and definitely not for kids, but it is patriotic.

On this day in 1547 King Henry VIII of England died. As was the case with so many of the Tudors his life was a soap opera, every variation of which has been presented time and again in books, plays and film. Although popular accounts have focused on his many marriages, his reign for serious historians was characterized by four important issues: religion, international affairs, internal controls and succession. With regard to religion Henry suppressed Protestantism and broke with Rome, establishing royal control over the religious establishment in England. In foreign affairs he meddled constantly in continental matters seeking to establish England's status as a great power. To this end he began to build up and modernize the nation's armed forces, especially its navy. Internally he greatly strengthened the power of the monarchy, modernizing revenue collection and bureaucratic controls throughout his realm. And, like all the Tudors, he faced major questions regarding the legitimacy of his rule which led him to obsess over the question of succession. In this area he was notably unsuccessful. When he died he left a nine-year old son, Edward, who was sickly and not long to live, and two daughters [one Catholic, Mary; the other Protestant, Elizabeth]. All of them eventually succeeded to the throne.

Happy Birthday to the United States Coast Guard, created on this day in 1915 by President Woodrow Wilson.

And on this day in 1956 Pennsylvania's own Dorsey Brothers hosted a TV show ["The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show"] featuring an up and coming young singing sensation -- Elvis Presley. This was his first TV appearance ever.

And on this date in 1986 the manned space program suffered yet another disastrous setback as the space shuttle Challenger exploded, killing all seven of its crew members.

And happy birthday too to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, an 800 billion dollar "stimulus package" passed one year ago today by the Democrat-controlled Congress.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Schuylkill County Humor

From Threedonia:

This is the pull off at SR 61 and Adamsdale Rd.
A deer was hit there.
The couch was dumped there previously.
Day two the deer was on the couch.
Day three the end table and lamp showed up.
Day four the TV and TV stand showed up.

The Trooper had to call PENN DOT because of all the people stopping to take pictures.

Read the whole thing here.

The Mind of Obama

The Anchoress worries about Obama's mental state.

Mockery and cynicism is all part of modern day politics, but I am beginning to worry that Obama is showing evidence of a real problem, and it is a problem of insecurity, identity, aloofness, self-protection and, I am sorry to say it, but delusion.

Is Barack Obama headed for some sort of meltdown? Is he clinging to his podium and teleprompters because he has lost his protective shields and does not trust himself without them?
Read the whole thing here.

Obama Loses Soros

Oh my! Obie seems to have lost George Soros [here]. First Krugman, now Soros! Where will it end?

Rapping the Economy

Everyone else is posting this, so I might as well too. Keynes and Hayek rap the Boom and Bust cycle:

Wonderful, simply wonderful!

This Day In History -- Remembering

This is it! The day we have all been waiting for, the most wonderful day of the year!!! That's right, today is National Chocolate Cake Day!!! It's a day dedicated to making, purchasing, decorating, serving, and consuming large quantities of chocolate cake in any of its many varieties. If you live in the Glorious Commonwealth you might consider an expedition down to Hershey to consume your chocolatey goodness in its natural environment. If that is not practical, you could always bring Hershey to your home by visiting Hershey's Kitchens on the web [here] assembling the ingredients and making their "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake [here]. Then this evening as you enjoy your concoction you might want to rent and watch the movie "Chocolat" starring Juliette Binoche. It is a wonderful tale illustrating how the miracle of chocolate can bridge and ultimately overcome even the most rigid social and cultural differences.

Opera fans don't know whether to celebrate or mourn today. On this day in 1756 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born and on the very same date in 1901 Guiseppi Verdi died.

And on this day in 1945 Soviet troops occupied the Nazi extermination camp, Auschwitz- Birkenau in Poland. Here is a virtual tour of the site and a description of the horrors perpetrated there. Check it out and remember....

And also remember, on this day in 1967 astronauts Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Edward H. White and Roger B. Chaffee died in a flash fire during a test of their Apollo vehicle.

And on this day in 1973 the Vietnam Peace Accords were signed in Paris. In this agreement, negotiated by Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, who were both awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts, achieved a temporary halt to the fighting in Vietnam. The treaty called for a cease fire, the gradual withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, and the peaceful reunification of North and South Vietnam. In 1975 North Vietnam resumed military operations against the South, a clear violation of the treaty. When the United States threatened to respond with bombing campaigns the U. S. Senate balked, refusing to authorize funds for further military actions in Vietnam. Shortly afterwards the South Vietnam government collapsed precipitating a huge humanitarian crisis throughout Southeast Asia. While we are remembering we should take some time to contemplate the plight of the Vietnamese who were murdered, raped, or forced into "re-education camps" where many died, or the "boat people" -- refugees who fled Vietnam and Cambodia and suffered terrible deprivation on the open seas, often at the hands of pirates. Check out this site on the crisis presented by the Canadian government and remember....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wilentz on Waugh on Grant

One of my favorite presidents has long been Ulysses S. Grant. My admiration for him, however, has rarely been shared by other historians. That, however, is beginning to change. Sean Wilentz has a nice review in the latest New Republic of a new book by Joan Waugh titled U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth that takes a more complimentary view of the man, in both his aspects as military commander and as president, than is usual. What recommends Wilentz' review is the fact that he briefly sketches the way in which successive generations of historians have shaped and reshaped the image of Grant to suit their own purposes. Read it and learn just how very subjective and present-minded is the product of academic historians, and quit complaining about "revisionism". It is inherent in the very nature of the historical enterprise. Objective authority is a chimera.

This Day In History

Today is "Spouses Day", not to be confused with "Military Spouses Day" [which is always the Friday before Mother's Day]. It is a day to be extra nice to your spouse, to love and appreciate and enjoy the most significant person in your life. Think of it as a preliminary Valentine's Day. Not that you have to buy gifts or anything like that [we all are on tight budgets these days], but just take some time today to let him/her/it/them [whatever] know that you appreciate him/her/it/them [whatever].

On this day in 1788 the first group of European settlers in Australia landed at what is today Sydney. They were led by Captain Arthur Phillip. Two years earlier Phillip had been charged with establishing a permanent colony in Australia. He recruited a fleet of eleven ships, took aboard 772 settlers, nearly all of them criminals, and set out for the island continent. The fleet's first landfall was at Botany Bay but Phillip quickly realized that it was an unsuitable site for settlement, so the fleet progressed on to Sydney Harbor arriving there on January 26th. Within a few years a stable, if not yet thriving settlement was in place and the British claim on Australia was secured. It was a great day for the Empire.

Not so great [from an imperial point of view] was this day in 1950. On January 26, 1950 India officially proclaimed itself a republic and Rajendra Prasad was sworn in as it's first President. India had officially gained its independence back in 1947, but there were lots of things to be sorted out, the most important being conflict between the region's Muslim and Hindu populations. The Independence Act had provided for the partition of British India into two nations -- Pakistan and India. The 625 princely states, which continued to exist after independence, would choose to which nation they would adhere. This turned into a huge mess as approximately 25 million people left their homes and moved across borders to a new homeland. The process was accompanied by incredible episodes of violence in which it is estimated that half a million people died and several millions were rendered homeless. In Kashmir province open warfare broke out. The tensions associated with partition make the Indian/Pakistan border still one of the world's most dangerous flashpoints.

It was in this chaotic environment that India forged its constitution -- the one that took effect on this day sixty years ago. It established a quasi-federal system of government with a British-style parliament. The constitution officially describes the new state as "Socialist" and "Democratic", reflecting the priorities of the founding generation. Since 1950, though, India has become more federal as the central government assumed more and more power, but in recent decades India has also become far less socialist and is now one of the great hotbeds of capitalist development in the world. Sixty years on, the Republic of India is still a work in progress.

And on this day in 1998 President Bill Clinton made this statement:

And a very Happy Birthday to actor Scott Glenn who was born on this day in Pittsburgh in 1942.

And on this day in 2009 Timothy Geithner was sworn in as Secretary of the Treasury. From the perspective of one year later we can all say "heck of a job, Timmy".

Leaving the building:

On this day in 2000 Don Budge, the first grand-slam tennis winner [back in 1938] died in Scranton at the age of 84.

Monday, January 25, 2010

This Day In History

Among the many "holidays" listed for this date [ex: "Better Business Communication Day"] the only one that sounded like much fun was "Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day". There's something about bubble wrap. Oh sure it has practical uses, but when you come right down to it..., it's the popping. Popping bubble wrap is theraputic and fun and slightly addictive3. There is even an etiquette guide for popping bubbles:
  • Don't pop someone else's bubble wrap without permission. This could lead to Bad Things Happening to your person..
  • Don't pop bubble wrap in quiet public places (like libraries) unless you want it confiscated.
  • Don't pop bubble wrap in a store if you haven't paid for it. They get cranky when their rolls of bubble wrap are all limp.
  • It is always good form to offer to share your bubble wrap.
  • Giving your bubble wrap to children is good for Karma points.
  • Chicks dig bubble wrap. Always bring it along on a date.
What's that you say? You don't have any bubble wrap handy? Well, then, just go to this site and pop away till your heart's content.

On this date in 1904, at about 8:15 am, an explosion took place in the Harwick Mine at Cheswick, Springdale Township, Pennsylvania. The Harwick Mine was new, and presumed to be relatively safe, but there was a lapse in maintenance and part of the mine was not properly ventilated. An inspector's report showed that coal dust had accumulated in that area. I quote:
Sprinkling and laying of the dust had been neglected; firedamp existed in a large portion of the advanced workings. The explosion could be transmitted by the coal dust suspended in the atmosphere by the concussion from the initial explosion, the flame exploding the accumulations of firedamp and dust along the path of the explosion, carrying death and destruction into every region of the workings.
Death and destruction is right. 179 miners died in that shaft. Here is a tribute to their memory. This site presents contemporary newspaper reports on the explosion and its aftermath. It makes for fascinating reading as you can follow day by day the efforts to rescue the men trapped underground.


Doing the Bubble Dance

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Revolutionary Holocaust

Glen Beck's "Revolutionary Holocaust" is now available on Youtube. It's powerful stuff, check it out.

Politico immediately went out and rounded up some lefty historians to denounce Beck's documentary. Their criticisms, however, are for the most part either wrong or beside the point.

Steven Marks faults Beck for something he didn't say. He claims that the purpose of Beck's film is to illegitimately tar modern progressivism by associating it with the sins of past totalitarian movements. To the extent that such an association is suggested in the film, it is completely legitimate. First, modern progressives such as Hillary Clinton have proudly claimed association with the progressives of a century ago. Secondly, early progressives and mid-twentieth century liberals frequently applauded, supported and apologized for horrific policies carried out by totalitarian regimes. Finally, liberal and left-wing historians have consistently portrayed progressive and liberal reforms favorably while ignoring their negative consequences and associations. Beck is simply trying to restore the balance. Marks' further assertion that "nobody in his right mind" celebrates Che or Stalin is quite simply absurd.

Alan Wolfe argues that the associations Beck points out are trivial and that he ignores important differences between liberalism and fascism, however the only significant difference he notes is the Holocaust and he is left arguing (a la Marge Schott) that if we ignore the Holocaust the Nazis had some pretty good ideas.

Robert Thompson takes another tack -- the timeworn argument launched against all popular histories -- arguing that the film tells us nothing that professional historians didn't already know. That may be true, but the profound associations between progressivism and totalitarianism that Beck rightly notes are absent from the texts used in college survey courses. Beck is quite right in bringing them to the public's attention.

Finally, Michael Kazin repeats Thompson's argument that there is nothing new in Beck's film and admits that Beck has his facts right, but notes that the film presents an incomplete story of twentieth century liberalism, especially during the Cold War when many liberals opposed Communism. But that is to miss the point of the film. All histories are selective and historians pick and choose among the range of available facts to support their narrative or ideological purposes. Beck simply chooses to emphasize a different set of facts than those chosen by left-wing historians. If his film is, as Kazin charges, simply "propaganda", the same could be said of much of the product turned out by academic historians.


Historian Ronald Radosh responds to liberal critics of Beck's film here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Shelby Steele on America's Race Problem

He writes:
America's primary race problem today is our new "sophistication" around racial matters. Political correctness is a compendium of sophistications in which we join ourselves to obvious falsehoods ("diversity") and refuse to see obvious realities (the irrelevance of diversity to minority development). I would argue further that Barack Obama's election to the presidency of the United States was essentially an American sophistication, a national exercise in seeing what was not there and a refusal to see what was there—all to escape the stigma not of stupidity but of racism.
He goes on to argue that this sophistication regarding race has terrible consequences for both blacks and whites. For whites it involves a willful blindness as to the reality of the world -- a retreat into childish fantasies. For blacks it creates a need to construct masks, fantasy figures behind which their authentic personality is hidden.
Mr. Obama always knew that his greatest appeal was not as a leader but as a cultural symbol. He always wore the bargainer's mask—winning the loyalty and gratitude of whites by flattering them with his racial trust: I will presume that you are not a racist if you will not hold my race against me. Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and yes, Tiger Woods have all been superb bargainers, eliciting almost reverential support among whites for all that they were not—not angry or militant, not political, not using their moral authority as blacks to exact a wage from white guilt.

But this mask comes at a high price. When blacks become humanly visible, when their true beliefs are known, their mask shatters and their symbiotic bond with whites is broken. Think of Tiger Woods, now so humanly visible. Or think of Bill Cosby, who in recent years has challenged the politically correct view and let the world know what he truly thinks about the responsibility of blacks in their own uplift.

It doesn't matter that Mr. Woods lost his bargainer's charm through self-destructive behavior and that Mr. Cosby lost his through a courageous determination to individuate—to take public responsibility for his true convictions. The appeal of both men—as objects of white identification—was diminished as their human reality emerged. Many whites still love Mr. Cosby, but they worry now that expressing their affection openly may identify them with his ideas, thus putting them at risk of being seen as racist. Tiger Woods, of course, is now so tragically human as to have, as the Bible put it, "no name in the street."

Obama, in his public aspect, like Bill Cosby or Oprah or Michael Jordon or Tiger Woods, was a carefully constructed fantasy figure comprised in equal parts of the individual's will to deceive and the public's will to believe. When reality intrudes on the fantasy, when the illusions crumble, the backlash can be terrible to behold. I fear that this is precisely what Obama faces in coming months. Will he be able to recover? He certainly has strong institutional supports upon which to draw in the form of Democratic Party loyalists and their media allies. But will Americans ever fully trust him again? No! Not in a thousand years.

Read Steele's perceptive analysis here.

In the latest issue of the New Republic Jonathan Cohn asks "Where is the Obama I voted for?" Shelby Steele provides an answer, John, that man never existed. He was simply an empty suit who allowed, even encouraged, you to project on him your politically correct fantasies -- a construct made up of delusion and duplicity. Still with a person as ideologically blinkered as a staff writer for the New Republic, hope never dies. By the end of his article Cohn is desperately clutching at any straw he or his colleagues can find that suggests an ever-so-slight indication that Obama might be something more than he has revealed himself to be so that he can reconstruct the fantasy and once again begin to believe in his deracialized liberal messiah.

Get Ready For It

Jonah Goldberg looks into the future and sees..., Obama -- lots and lots of Obama. It seems that Obie thinks that we haven't had enough of him this year [read it here].

What we have had in the past year is a display of delusional arrogance not seen in this country since the days of Woodrow Wilson, and they are promising much more of it in the future.
Today is "Blonde Brownie Day". I don't think that refers to the little woodland critters [they're just a figment of the imagination anyway, or at least that's what I was told] or to the Girl Scouts in training. Nope, the holiday refers to these things.

Here's what goes into them: Butter, brown sugar, unbleached flour, salt, baking soda, vanilla, chocolate chips, walnuts (lots of butter and brown sugar Chocolate chips and walnuts). Mmmmm. So today, gather up your ingredients, bake yourselves a bunch of brownies, and pig out. Aaaaaaah, the good times, they are here again -- the perfect way to celebrate and savor Senator Brown's victory.

On this day in 1561 Francis Bacon was born. He was one of those Renaissance men who could, seemingly, do anything. He was a philosopher, poet, statesman, lawyer, jurist, and author. He served as Lord Chancellor under James I. Additionally, he invented the scientific method [often referred to as the "Baconian Method"] and is celebrated as the world's first real scientist. Some scholars think that he wrote Shakespeare's plays. Interesting guy.

Despite his numerous accomplishments, there was a dark side to Bacon. His personal life was a mess. It was widely rumored by contemporaries that he [and possibly his royal patron, James] were homosexual pederasts, but scholars have been unable to prove the rumors true. At one point he was engaged to a woman, but she dumped him quickly and married another man. At age 45 he finally married, to a girl 14 years old, but she was only after his money and when that ran out she took up with another, richer man whereupon Bacon disinherited her. Bacon was also corrupt and was the subject of a Parliamentary inquiry that resulted in his being stripped of high office, heavily fined, and briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London. His close friendship with King James saved him from harsher punishments. It should be noted that Bacon claimed to be innocent and said that he had plead guilty to numerous charges only to cover up crimes actually committed by his royal patron. And then there were all those rumors about his involvement in various secret societies.... As I said, he was an interesting guy.

You can read about, and even join, the Francis Bacon Society [here] if you are so inclined.

And on this day in 1973 the Supreme Court handed down its "Roe v. Wade" decision. In doing so the Court established the "fundamental right" of a woman to abort an unviable foetus, thus invalidating all laws prohibiting abortion. I can think of no other Court ruling that has been more controversial during my lifetime or one that has had greater political impact.

One year ago today President Barak Obama ordered that the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay be closed within a year.

When Pigs Fly

By Nate Beeler

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Air America Bows Out

Can't say that I'm sorry to see them go.

From the NYT:

Air America, the progressive talk radio network, said Thursday that it would cease broadcasting immediately, bowing to what it called a “very difficult economic environment.”

“It is with the greatest regret, on behalf of our board, that we must announce that Air America Media is ceasing its live programming operations as of this afternoon, and that the company will file soon under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code to carry out an orderly winding down of the business,” the chairman of Air America Media, Charlie Kireker, said in a memorandum.


The headwinds were enormous, he said, adding, “Radio is a dying industry.”
Read it here.

"Dying industry"? I wonder what Rush Limbaugh will say about that.

The Costs of Social Democracy

During my many years in academia I have had occasional arguments with Europhile colleagues who assert that the European political and economic models are superior to America's. This has become an article of faith among left-wing academics despite the fact that statistics show just the opposite. Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate in economics, makes the academic argument once again in the New York Times writing that European-style social democracy, with its extremely high tax rates, has been an outstanding economic success and that Europeans are not paying a heavy economic price for their government-subsidized lifestyles. In support of this assertion he argues that while it is true that Europe has experienced much slower growth rates than the United States and that Europe's unemployment rates are consistently much higher than American, much of that disparity can be explained through demographics and work habits. America's population is growing while Europe's is not, and Americans tend to work longer than Europeans. He argues that on a per-capita basis Europeans are nearly as productive as Americans.

Not so, says Greg Mankiw, Professor of economics at Harvard who cites statistics that show European per-capita productivity to be much lower than American [here]. Mark Perry expands on Mankiw's point, noting that according to official statistics nearly all European countries are poorer per-capita than nearly all American states. Only little Luxembourg ranks near the top.

He writes:
Professor Krugman claims that “Europe’s economic success should be obvious even without statistics.” Unfortunately, the economic statistics presented here tell a much different and bleaker story about Europe’s economic performance than Krugman portrays. Most European countries have lower per-capita GDP than even many of the poorest U.S. states, suggesting that Europe has a lot more to learn about economic growth, dynamism, and success from the U.S. than vice-versa.
Read the whole thing here.

I only have two observations to make. First, none of these economists attempts to take into account the "underground economy" of illegal transactions. By all accounts these off the books deals are rampant in Europe where many people work a limited number of hours at their official jobs [the earnings from which are taxed heavily], then supplement their earnings with off the books work that is tax free. So we should not rely too heavily on official data which are incomplete. Secondly, Perry's data point out a disturbing feature of the American economy in the Twenty First Century. They show that the District of Columbia is more than twice as wealthy per capita as the richest State [Delaware].

RELATED: Whatever Krugman's skills as an economist, they certainly do not bleed over into his political analysis. Last week he argued that Obama is not placing enough blame on President Bush for his current troubles. Warner Houston replies here.

This Day In History

Today is "National Hugging Day"; it is also "Squirrel Appreciation Day". So go out there and hug a squirrel. Of course the little critters are a bit hard to catch, especially now that I am getting old and slow. They're really fast and they climb high, so catching one to hug is a real challenge. I recommend nets and tranquilizer darts. If those don't work I suggest that you search out someone near and dear to you and give him/her/it a big hug. If, that is, you can catch him/her/it.

On this day in 1793 Citizen Louis Capet [formerly King Louis VVI of France] was guillotined in what is today the Place de la Concorde. After the execution several members of the crowd witnessing the event ran forward to dip their clothes in the King's blood. Others committed suicide by slitting their throats or jumping into the Seine. Albert Camus considered that the execution was the turning point of French contemporary history, "an act that secularized the French world and banished God from the subsequent history of the French people". If you are interested in the French Revolution I would recommend that you check out Simon Schama's wonderful history, Citizens.

And on this day in 1924 Vladimir Ilych Ulyanov, better known as "Lenin", died. Lenin was a monster (Churchill compared his influence to that of a "plague bacillus") and I would say "good riddance" except for the fact that what followed him [Stalin] was even worse.

And on this day in 1950 former State Department official Alger Hiss was found guilty of perjury and sentenced to five years in prison. Hiss, accused of being a Soviet agent and lying about it under oath, always maintained his innocence and left-wingers have proclaimed him to be a victim of "McCarthyism", but with the fall of the Soviet empire Western investigators gained access to secret files in Communist bloc nations and testimony of Soviet operatives that seem to confirm Hiss' guilt. Most scholars today believe that Hiss, indeed, was a Soviet agent, one of several who attained high office and positions of influence in the Roosevelt administration, but a hard-core group of left-wingers still consider him to be a martyr.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kerry Staffer Says Bush Was Right

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is a journalist. He is also a lawyer who served on Senator John F. Kerry’s legal team during the 2004 election. Belatedly he has come to realize that he, along with many other Americans did the former president a great disservice. Here are a few quotes from an article he recently wrote titled "America Betrayed President Bush".
One year after taking office... Obama has done a total reversal on his isolationist, non- interventionist foreign policy, and is now pushing President Bush’s neo-conservative philosophy as a justification for starting a new war in Afghanistan. What the Democratic Party once criticized as an over-simplified good vs. evil argument has become the cornerstone of Obama’s reasoning.


As Obama continues to make decisions that mirror the Bush doctrine, it is becoming apparent that the former president was not ignorant or irrational in his foreign policy decisions despite the harsh criticism and disloyalty he endured. He was in fact, ahead of his time, a visionary who understood politics and warfare in the modern age of terrorism.

That is why Obama is now following his lead.

Read the whole thing here. I mean it, read the whole thing.

As Obama slowly but surely grows into the office of president and begins to confront its awesome responsibilities he becomes more and more like Bush and more of a disappointment to his left-wing supporters. What they cannot admit is that Bush was right, even though the realization seems to be dawning on their idol. Much of the disorder that has characterized this new administration has been blamed on incompetence, but I think that it is largely attributable to the fact that they came into office armed with very bad ideas and holding false assumptions about the country, the world, and the nature of our political system.

I'll give Obama credit for one thing. He is learning. In a couple more years he might make a half-way decent president.

Democrats In the Bunker

Hitler gets the news of Martha's defeat:

Obama and the American Character

Mort Zuckerman has decided that Obama's presidency has been a disaster for the Democratic Party and for the nation. The reason? Obama, "misjudged the character of the country in his whole approach."

Read it here.

Well what the heck did you expect? Obama is the product of an academic/activist subculture that stands in critical opposition to the mainstream of American culture. His political consciousness was nurtured in an environment wherein people oppose or are conspicuously contemptuous of the American middle class, where the values and behavior of ordinary Americans are routinely disparaged, and where people proudly identifiy themselves not primarily as Americans but as representatives of some aggrieved minority or alternatively [as Obama himself has] as "Citizens of the World".

Of course he misjudged the American character. He's only had a passing acquaintance with it.


Neo was impressed by the depth of Mort's disillusionment. She writes:
I’ve read a number of pieces by former Obama supporters, but I’ve never read one that shows such a complete disillusionment with the man. Zuckerman doesn’t understand why Obama has acted this way (in this he’s hardly alone). He sees Obama’s failures as incompetence; he doesn’t get that he was a con artist, lying about his ideological agenda as well as his ethics. But Zuckerman certainly comprehends that an Obama failure has occurred, and that it’s not limited to just a few issues.
Read the whole thing here.

This Day In History

Today is "Penguin Awareness Day", not to be confused with "World Penguin Day" which doesn't come until April. What did the little critters do to get two whole days dedicated to them? I suspect it has something to do with the incessant global warming propaganda to which we have been so mercilessly subjected for the past few decades. Today you can celebrate by reading about penguins, watching a film about penguins [I would recommend "March of the Penguins"] or do as these guys did. eat one. I hear they taste a lot like chicken.

On this day in 1801 President John Adams nominated his Secretary of State, John Marshall of Virginia, to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This was a momentous decision on Adam's part. Marshall turned out to be by far the greatest Supreme Court justice in our nation's history. In a very real sense we live in a world made by John Marshall. He instituted new procedures in the Court, allowing it to speak with one voice [and almost always the voice was that of John Marshall]. Under his leadership the Court established the fundamental principle of "judicial review" that made it the final arbiter of what was and what was not constitutional. It took a while for that principle to be accepted. Andrew Jackson felt that the President, being the only figure chosen by all the people, should be the final arbiter of what the Constitution meant; Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both argued that the power ultimately lay with the State legislatures. The question was still being debated at the time of the Civil War, but was finally settled by force of arms. Other decisions written by Marshall established the supremacy of the Federal Government over the States and private corporations, greatly expanded the scope of the Court's interpretive powers, and made of the Court a governmental entity fully the equal of Congress and the Presidency. In a very real sense, the Constitution we have today is the Constitution as John Marshall interpreted it.

On this day in 1942 the Wannsee Conference began. This was a meeting of several leaders of the National Socialist regime in Germany to discuss a "final solution" to the "problem" of what to do about Europe's Jewish minority. The conference only lasted ninety minutes and it is still a matter of debate as to whether most of the participants recognized its full significance, but it led to one of the greatest crimes against humanity perpetrated in the past century. It was at Wannsee that a program proposed by Reinhard Heydrich was adopted that prescribed the deportation of Jews, their employment as slave laborers, and their ultimate extermination. This was the death panel of all death panels for here was the genesis of the Holocaust.

On this date in 1981 the Iran Hostage Crisis came to an end as the Islamic Republic released 52 American hostages it had held for 444 days. The timing of the release was a calculated insult to one of America's weakest and most inept presidents -- Jimmy Carter. They were held until he left office so the credit for ending the crisis would accrue to his successor, Ronald Reagan.

And one year ago today Barak Hussein Obama was sworn in as the nation's chief executive. What a strange journey it has been since then.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This Day In History

Oh Boy! Today is "National Popcorn Day" [not to be confused with "National Popcorn Month" which is October]. I knew that popcorn, one of my favorite comfort foods, had been a part of the pre-Columbian American Indian diet, but had no clue as to its modern history. It turns out that popcorn was not a viable commercial product until the late nineteenth century when Charles Cretors, a Chicago inventor, produced an effective popping machine and displayed it at the Columbian Exposition of 1893. It was not until the Great Depression, though, that popcorn caught on with the American public when it began to be marketed at a nickel a bag at movie theaters. Popcorn turned out to be one of the few growth industries during that miserable decade and many American farmers were able to survive by growing it. Then, during World War Two, sugar was rationed and candy production declined dramatically. As a result increasing numbers of Americans turned to popcorn as a comfort food, consumption of the tasty treat tripled, and it emerged as a staple of the American diet.

On this day in 1807 Robert E. Lee was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia. His father was Major General Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee and it was quite natural for the son to enter military service. Lee graduated second in his class at West Point [Charles Mason was first] and went on to have perhaps the most illustrious military career of any American officer. He distinguished himself in the Mexican War serving as a reconnaissance officer in the artillery and as Winfield Scott's aide. He led the marines who captures John Brown at Harpers Ferry. He was serving in Texas when the State seceded from the Union, returned immediately to Virginia and took the rank of Colonel in the U. S. Army. His appointment was signed personally by President Lincoln. Lee was courted by both the Union and Confederacy and was even offered a promotion to Major General and command of the entire Union forces, but when Virginia seceded he declined the appointment and instead took command of the Virginia State forces. During the war he won major victories at the Seven Days Battle, the Second Battle of Bull Run, at Fredricksburg, Chancellorsville, and Cold Harbor. Twice he led his army north into Union territory, being repelled at Antietam and Gettysburg. His surrender to U. S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse broke the back of Confederate military resistance. After his surrender Lee strenuously urged Confederates still in the field to lay down their arms, to abandon plans for guerrilla insurgency, and to reconcile themselves to being forever a part of the United States. Later in life he served as President of Washington and Lee University.

After the war Lee emerged as the most prominent symbol of the Confederacy as a glorious "Lost Cause". Apologists for the South promoted him and his famous nobility of character as representative of Southern gentility. But that interpretation has been challenged. Historians have questioned Lee's military effectiveness. Everyone agrees that he was a tactical genius. Some question his strategic vision, arguing that the two occasions on which he went on the offense were disastrous blunders. His role as a slave-holding planter has also been criticized. On at least one occasion he inflicted harsh punishment on insubordinate slaves and he may have resorted to legalistic trickery to keep in bondage slaves who should have been freed. On the other hand toward the end of the war as the South began to experience severe manpower shortages Lee endorsed and actually began to put into effect a plan to arm the slaves to fight for the Confederacy in exchange for their freedom, a program that would have effectively brought an end slavery as a viable institution. And so the debate continues as do the controversies over nearly everything else in history.

On this day in 1980 retired Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas died in Washington at the age of 81, and ten years later to the day retired Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg was found dead in his Washington apartment at age 81. Both deaths took place on the anniversary of President Nixon's nomination in 1970 of G. Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court, a nomination that was rejected. Coincidence? I report, you decide.

Hey, just connecting the dots here.

There's Something About Sarah

That really, really irritates secular Jews.

Jennifer Rubin writes:
For her conservative admirers, [Sarah Palin] continues to exemplify independence, moxie, common sense, the superiority of the common American over the nation’s elites, and the embodiment of modern womanhood and Christian faith. For her detractors, both conservative and liberal, she is uncouth, unschooled, a hick, anti-science and anti-intellectual, an upstart, and a religious fanatic. There is no group so firmly in the latter camp as American Jews.


While Palin enjoys support from some prominent Jewish conservatives, it is not an exaggeration to say that, more so than any other major political figure in recent memory (with the possible exception of Patrick J. Buchanan), she rubs Jews the wrong way,

It's an interesting phenomenon. Jewish contempt for Pat Buchanan could arguably be based in public positions he has taken that could be considered anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic, but the antipathy toward Sarah, Rubin argues, is not. Rather, it is something more fundamental -- something that lies at the cores of our contemporary American culture.

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

This Day In History

Today is officially Martin Luther King Day honoring the memory of America's most noted civil rights leader and his vision of a color-blind society in which what mattered was the content of a man's character, not the color of his skin. We already talked about Rev. Dr. King last week on his birthday, so let's check out a couple of the other semi-official holidays that fall on this day.

Today is "National Thesaurus Day", celebrating the birth of Peter Mark Roget [1779] who compiled the first modern onomasticon [sorry, I just like using that word] in 1805. Roget's thesaurus was published commercially in 1852 and is still being sold today. As everyone knows, a thesaurus groups words according to their meaning as in:
Thesaurus: glossary, language reference book, lexicon, onomasticon, reference book, sourcebook, storehouse of words, teminology, treasury of words, vocabulary, word list.
Today is also "Winnie the Pooh Day" celebrating the birth of author A. A. Milne in 1882. Generations of children have been entertained by the adventures of Christopher Robin, Winnie, Eeyor, Piglet and all their friends. Milne was a prolific writer who produced a wide range of fiction in addition to the Pooh stories. Some of these can be accessed for free at Project Gutenberg [here]

On this day in 1949 Carlo [Charles] Ponzi died destitute in a charity ward of a Rio de Janeiro hospital. He was the inventor of the "Ponzi scheme" a swindle in which early investors are paid large returns drawn from deposits made by later investors. These "pyramid schemes" have become disturbingly common in recent years and can, as in the case of Bernie Madoff, cost investors billions of dollars when the pyramid collapses.

Entering the Building:

And on this day in 1782 Daniel Webster was born. He was never president, but for a while he was the most respected political figure in the country. By all accounts he was the greatest orator of his day. After his admission to the bar in New Hampshire he rose to prominence as a critic of the Monroe administration during the runup to the War of 1812. He was a staunch free-trader while the Republicans, from Jefferson on, had tried to use trade embargos as a diplomatic tool. Elected to Congress in 1812 he was a consistent critic of Madison's conduct of the war.

Webster's greatest early success, however, came as a legal advocate rather than as a politician. If you look at the great constitutional cases that were argued in the early years of the republic -- the ones that really defined the way the federal system would work -- Webster's name appears again and again. He argued Dartmouth College v. Woodward, McCullough v. Maryland, Cohens v. Virginia, and Gibbons v. Ogden, all of them landmark cases. His reputation as a constitutional scholar led to him being chosen as a delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention in 1820. There he further distinguished himself and began to attract national attention.

Returning to Congress in the 1820's he again was involved in a number of high-profile controversies, the most important of which was his defense of the rights of the Creek Indians against claims by the State of Georgia [which ultimately resulted in their being removed to the West] and in 1827 he was elected to the Senate, where he achieved his greatest triumphs.

In the Senate Webster abandoned his earlier defense of sectional interests and became a committed nationalist. He engaged South Carolina Senator Robert Hayne in a debate over States Rights that became one of the defining episodes in the controversy that ultimately led to the Civil War. He clashed with Andrew Jackson over the issue of the Second Bank of the United States, and was one of the founders of the Whig Party. Webster ran unsuccessfully for President three times; he was twice offered the Vice Presidency and turned it down; and he served as Secretary of State in two different administrations. As Secretary of State he negotiated the Webster-Ashburton Treaty with England that settled the country's eastern boundary. In the Senate he emerged as a leading critic of the War with Mexico. His greatest moment came in 1850 when he, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun cooperated to pass a series of laws (collectively called the "Compromise of 1850") that headed off a sectional crisis and postponed civil war for a decade. Democrats have criticized Webster as a shill for New England's commercial and manufacturing interests, but others have praised him not just as an eloquent spokesman for national unity and against slavery, but also for his role in creating the legal and legislative means for uniting the nation during its most dangerous decades. Stephen Vincent Benet described him like this:
[F]or a while, he was the biggest man in the country. He never got to be President, but he was the biggest man. There were thousands that trusted in him right next to God Almighty, and they told stories about him and all the things that belonged to him that were like the stories of'patriarchs and such. They said, when he stood up to speak, stars and stripes came right out in the sky, and once he spoke against a river and made it sink into the ground. They said, when he walked the woods with his fishing rod, Killall, the trout would jump out of the streams right into his pockets, for they knew it was no use putting up a fight against him; and, when he argued a case, he could turn on the harps of the blessed and the shaking of the earth underground.
From The Devil and Daniel Webster. You can read the whole thing online here. Go ahead, check it out, you'll enjoy it.

Also born on this day Archibald Alexander Leach [1904]. You probably know him better under his stage name of Cary Grant. As a boy he performed on the stage under his birth name, but when he began to have some success he changed it to Cary Lockwood. When he finally broke into films the studios made him change it again, to Cary Grant, so that he would have the same initials as Clark Gable [at least that was the rumor].

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Delusional and Sad

So the New York Times thinks that people outside Manhattan will be willing to pay to read their stories online [here]. Boy are they in for a surprise!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

In Their Own Words

John Hawkins reprints some of the more outlandish and vicious things Liberals have said over the course of the past decade, and in the process reminds us of why we are not liberals.

Read the whole thing here.

More Pennsylvania Pictures

It's been a while since I posted any Pennsylvania Pictures, mostly because I have been spending a lot of time outside the State and there just haven't been that many opportunities to shoot the beauties of the Gorgeous Commonwealth. So these will have to do.

Late in the afternoon when the Sun's rays are slanting in low, check out the tops of heavily forested hills and mountains. The sunlight reflecting off innumerable small branches and twigs takes on a reddish cast while the areas in shade look blue in comparison. This picture doesn't really do justice to the phenomenon -- sometimes the red really pops out of the landscape, but it gives some hint of what we saw last week on our way to Lancaster.

When there isn't much color to play with you have to focus on form and texture. Corn stubble sometimes looks neat against newfallen snow.

And of course there is always the old standby, the farms of Dutch country.

And occasionally just a common weed poking through the snow.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Martha Coakley Is A Monster

Dorothy Rabinowitz reviews the role played by Coakley in the destruction of an American family on trumped-up sex abuse charges and concludes:

Attorney General Martha Coakley—who had proven so dedicated a representative of the system that had brought the Amirault family to ruin, and who had fought so relentlessly to preserve their case—has recently expressed her view of this episode. Questioned about the Amiraults in the course of her current race for the U.S. Senate, she told reporters of her firm belief that the evidence against the Amiraults was "formidable" and that she was entirely convinced "those children were abused at day care center by the three defendants."

What does this say about her candidacy? (Ms. Coakley declined to be interviewed.) If the current attorney general of Massachusetts actually believes, as no serious citizen does, the preposterous charges that caused the Amiraults to be thrown into prison—the butcher knife rape with no blood, the public tree-tying episode, the mutilated squirrel and the rest—that is powerful testimony to the mind and capacities of this aspirant to a Senate seat. It is little short of wonderful to hear now of Ms. Coakley's concern for the rights of terror suspects at Guantanamo—her urgent call for the protection of the right to the presumption of innocence.

If the sound of ghostly laughter is heard in Massachusetts these days as this campaign rolls on, with Martha Coakley self-portrayed as the guardian of justice and civil liberties, there is good reason.

Read the whole thing here.

Pants On the Ground

This clip from American Idol is going viral. It's all over the web and has even been parodied on late night TV [here]. As Simon says, it could be a big hit.

This Day In History -- Kings and Queens

Today is "National Hat Day" so dust off that old straw boater, or that derby that's been sitting for years in your closet, or a felt fedora, or your favorite bowler or sombrero, or that old stovepipe hat that you used to wear as a kid thinking that it would make you "cool" and popular at school [it didn't], or just find a piece of construction paper and make your own. One way or another put some covering on your pate -- in this weather you probably need it.

On this day in 1559 Queen Elizabeth I ["Gloriana", "The Virgin Queen", "Good Queen Bess"] was crowned in Westminster Abby. She remains one of Britain's most admired monarchs and has been the subject of innumerable plays, films, novels and popular histories. Like all the Tudors her life was a soap opera that has titillated audiences for centuries.

Elizabeth's popular image is that of a strong and decisive figure, fully in command of her nation, if not of her heart, even [in a recent film] as a warrior queen, dressed in armor, rallying her troops on horseback to fend off the Spanish Armada. Academic historians, however, have a very different opinion of her. She is widely seen as emotionally unstable and indecisive, given to sudden impulses and fits of anger. She is popularly remembered as a great military leader, largely because of the defeat of the Spanish Armada [celebrated as one of Britain's greatest triumphs], but in fact she was just plain lucky. Most of her military adventures were poorly planned, funded and executed and were ultimately unsuccessful. She is identified with no great domestic initiative, preferring instead to consolidate those of some of her predecessors, and in the latter years of her reign were characterized by recurrent economic and military failures. She was more a survivor than a leader and benefited from the fact that most of the other crowned heads of Europe were distracted by internal problems and unable to take advantage of Britain's weakness.

More than anything else, Elizabeth's reputation benefits from the fact that her long and relatively peaceful reign of more than four decades was preceded and followed by times of extreme domestic turmoil. There is something to be said for that. While the popular image of Elizabeth is certainly wrong, that constructed by academic scholars has problems too. Historians have a bias in favor of strong, "transformative" leaders who inflict great change upon the people they govern. I, however, tend to admire those rulers who are content to be caretakers, providing effective and popular government during their terms of power. Elizabeth's motto was "video et taceo" ("I see, and say nothing"). There is a great deal of wisdom in that.

And on this day in 1947 the mutilated remains of Elizabeth Short, the "Black Dahlia", were found on a vacant lot in Los Angeles. The case has never been solved. Like her royal namesake the unfortunate Miss Short has been the subject of movies, plays, novels and many articles and websites. If you are in a macabre mood you might want to visit one of these [here or here] to see what all the fuss was about. Warning, not for weak stomachs -- keep away from children.

And on this day in 1967 the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I. Ah yes, I remember it well....

Entering the building:

On this day in 1929 Martin Luther King, Jr. was born. The son of a Baptist minister, King became involved at an early age in the civil rights movement. He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, an act that catapulted him to national prominence. Two years later he was one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and in 1963 King led the famous March on Washington that culminated with his delivery of the magnificent "I Have A Dream" speech. He became, in the minds of many, the personification of the struggle for racial equality. His assassination in 1968 precipitated riots in cities across the country. He won the Nobel Prize, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. He is remembered each year with a federal holiday. This year, Martin Luther King Day will fall on Monday, January 18th. At the time of his death King was a controversial figure within the civil rights community, subject to strong criticism by the radical left, and ever since activists have been fighting over his legacy. Most Americans, however, see him as the voice of reason, abjuring violence and advocating the goal of a color-blind society in which people will be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. The contradiction between this goal and the activist agendas of racial preferences and ethnic solidarity is a continuing source of controversy.

We should also remember that Dr. King was a Republican and his stated goals are very much in line with those today advocated by Republican Party leaders.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

For the past couple of decades climate change has been a fad, almost an obsession, across a wide range of scientific disciplines. Almost everything imaginable has been related in some way to climate change or to human impact on the environment. People in the science biz understand this sort of phenomenon -- fads come and go and hopefully when the tide of enthusiasm for the new idea recedes it leave behind some useful information of lasting value.

It seems that the enthusiasm for environmental explanations in prehistory is beginning to abate. Numerous publications in the recent past have attributed all sorts of things -- migrations, the rise and fall of cultures, technological innovations, etc. to climate change. One of the biggest of these was the beginnings of agriculture. The narrative went something like this. As the ice sheets retreated at the end of the last Ice Age [about 12,000-10,000 ago] the climate in many parts of Eurasia became warmer and drier. In some of those regions hunter-gatherers who had exploited a wide variety of resources over a broad geographic range began to concentrate on a limited number of these, adopted a more sedentary way of life, and began to develop the social and technological innovations associated with the "neolithic revolution". Now, however, scientists are beginning to question the idea that climate change precipitated social and technological change. In fact they are now arguing just the opposite, that the innovations associated with the origins of agriculture depended on a stable climate regime.
Sustainable farming and the introduction of new crops relies on a relatively stable climate, not dramatic conditions attributable to climate change. Basing their argument on evolutionary, ecological, genetic and agronomic considerations, Dr. Shahal Abbo, from the Levi Eshkol School of Agriculture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and colleagues, demonstrate why climate change is not the likely cause of plant domestication in the Near East. Rather, the variety of crops in the Near East was chosen to function within the normal east Mediterranean rainfall pattern, in which good rainy years create enough surplus to sustain farming communities during drought years. In the authors' view, climate change is unlikely to induce major cultural changes.
Read the whole thing here.

This is the way real science operates in the absence of political pressures. Ideas emerge and spread widely, are tested in a variety of contexts, and then are either abandoned or modified.

This Day In History

Today is "Dress Up Your Pet Day" an observance I suppose was created by pet shops as a way to sell goofy outfits. I certainly hope so, because otherwise it might well indicate a deep and abiding sickness at the core of our civilization.

On this day in 1784 the United States formally ratified a peace treaty with Britain bringing the Revolutionary War to an end. It had been a long hard struggle -- hostilities had broken out way back in 1775, but many people still think it was worth it.

On this day in 1963 George C. Wallace, a Democrat, was elected Governor of Alabama. His campaign slogan was "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" This should serve as a reminder that Democrats historically have had a far worse record on civil rights than have Republicans. There is a nice little summary of the positions taken by leading political figures at the height of the civil rights struggle here. It's titled "Why Martin Luther King Was A Republican".

Entering the building: Benedict Arnold, born on this day in 1741. Arnold was a hero of the revolution, for a while at least. He distinguished himself as a courageous and effective military commander in the campaigns against Fr. Ticonderoga, on Lake Champlain, and the battles of Ridgefield and Saratoga where he was seriously injured. Unable to fight, he was reassigned to Philadelphia where he met the beautiful daughter of a prominent local Tory, Peggy Shippen. Soon they were married -- she was 19, he was 38. She was headstrong and high maintenance, he had little money. At some point Peggy introduced her husband to one of her exes, Major John Andre. It was he with whom Arnold conspired to betray the American defenses at West Point. When the plot was exposed Arnold's name became a byword for "traitor" in America, although he received honors from the British for his subsequent service in their army. Just what Peggy's role was in the entire affair is hard to judge, but she certainly left her mark on American history.

"Happy Birthday" to NBC's "Today" show which premiered on this day back in 1952. The host was Dave Garroway and comic relief was provided by J. Fred Muggs, a chimp who would occasionally go nuts on the set destroying equipment and biting reporters and visiting celebrities. These tantrums made J. Fred something of a hero to a lot of people. The Soviets said that he was a perfect representative for American culture. Here's a link to a video of J. Fred doing his thing on "Make the Connection" a quiz show hosted by Gene Rayburn. Ah, the days of live-TV.

And a special "Happy Birthday" to MoDo who was born fifty-eight years ago today. That's right, Maureen Dowd is rapidly approaching the status of senior citizen -- and she's still looking for the right guy. Better get cracking Mo, you're not getting any younger.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Goldberg on Racism

Jonah Goldberg writes:
[R]acism is... a nonissue in U.S. politics today. Most of the "black agenda" is simply a throwback to the ethnic spoils game played by Italians, Germans, Jews and the Irish in previous generations. But we've absurdly elevated racial pork barrel into a test of one's soul. It's no more racist to oppose spending on the "digital divide" than it is anti-Irish to oppose pay increases for Boston firemen.

No politicians in either party are calling for Jim Crow-style segregation or anything remotely like that. Instead, we have one party that, for the most part, says it wants special benefits for blacks and certain other minorities in order to compensate for past discrimination, and another party that, for the most part, wants to live up to the colorblind ideal found in the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s poetry about judging people by the content of their character. Both points of view are well intentioned. But only the Democratic position gets lacquered with a thick coating of self-serving sanctimony and the benefit of the doubt from the media.

Read the whole thing here.

This Day In History

Today is "Make Your Dream Come True Day" during which you are urged to do something concrete to realize your goals and dreams. The observance seems to have originated in the self-help motivational movement and, in most cases, it seems to be a good idea, but I have a nagging thought: What if the dreamer is Osama bin Laden? What if he is John Wayne Gacy? What if she is Nancy Pelosi?

On this date in 1846 President James K. Polk ordered General [and future president] Zachary Taylor to move 4,000 troops to the Texas border. This was an extremely provocative move. Ten years earlier Texas had won its independence from Mexico, had been recognized by the United States, Britain and France, and had applied for admission into the union. Mexico at the time made it clear that annexation of Texas would mean war. The threat worked and successive administrations rejected Texas' applications for annexation.

Then in 1844 James Polk campaigned for president promising, among other things, to annex Texas and once in office he proceeded to push for annexation and on December 29, 1845 Texas became a State of the Union. In retaliation, Mexico immediately broke diplomatic relations with the U. S. Fearing that war was imminent Polk ordered General Taylor to moved thousands of U.S. troops into Texas.

There remained a question of borders. Texas claimed that its southern boundary lay along the Rio Grande. Mexico, however, claimed that its northern border lay far to the north along the Nueces River. This left a large tract of land in dispute. Attempts to resolve the problem diplomatically failed, largely because of instability in the Mexican government.

The weakness of the Mexican government was attracting the attention of European powers. Britain, France, and Russia were all expressing an interest in taking over parts of Mexico, particularly California. Polk decided that the situation was too dangerous to be allowed to fester, so he took decisive action. He ordered General Taylor to move his troops south to the Rio Grande which, to Mexican eyes, was an invasion of their territory. This act provoked a Mexican response in which American troops were killed. This incident, along with the collapse of diplomacy led Polk to go to Congress for a declaration of war. The result was the Mexican-American War.

Entering the building: Horatio Alger, Jr. [1832]. Alger was one of the most influential authors in American history. He churned out widely popular juvenile fiction that had as its recurring theme the journey from "rags to riches" -- the rise of an individual from poverty to middle-class respectability. In Alger's books the hero is a young man who, although impoverished, displays strong middle-class virtues such as diligence, honesty, frugality, industry, etc. It is not these virtues alone, though, that enable the hero to escape his miserable circumstances, he needs a break. This is usually an incident that allows him to display extraordinary courage or conspicuous honesty that attracts the attention of a wealthy older man who then takes the boy into his home and provides for him.

Many cultural historians have argued that Alger's fiction expresses the individualistic, optimistic ethos of nineteenth century America -- the age of the "self-made man" -- but that is hard to reconcile with the recurrent themes of mentoring and happenstance that we find these stories. It is not hard work and honesty that propels Alger's heroes into the middle class, it is luck and the benevolence of older men.

It is probably better to recognize that these stories are Alger's personal fantasies. He was a homosexual pederast who sought sexual gratification with poor children. Today he would be stigmatized as a sexual predator, but it is more likely that he was the prey. Much of his income from selling his books was taken from him, often stolen, by the poor children with whom he consorted. He wound up impoverished and being supported by relatives.

You can read one of his most famous stories, Ragged Dick, Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot-Blacks [1868] here.