"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Wyatt Earp Was a Republican

And the bad guys were Democrats. What else is new?!!! Read about it here. Okay, it's somewhat tangential, but read anyway!

Self-Congratulation in Political Defeat

If I could ban one type of writing or speechmaking, I think my choice would be simple. I would do away with the "why I lost" message. Brad Carson, who lost his Senate race to Republican Tom Coburn has a column on that topic up at New Republic (subscription required). Former Georgia governor Roy Barnes still glories in the reason for his loss back in 2002. The "official" reason for his defeat was that he took the Confederate-style state flag off the capitol dome and replaced it with something less offensive. Better reasons would be that he governed dictatorially, presided over some really bitter redistricting (not covered by the national press because Republicans were getting nailed), pissed off the teacher's unions (which I liked), and was running in the same party as Max Cleland. He won a Profiles in Courage Award for giving up his seat as a consequence of changing the flag.

Then again, maybe those "why I lost" speeches and columns aren't so bad. I'd certainly rather have Roy Barnes and Brad Carson justifying themselves in courageous defeat than standing in the well at the state or federal capitol justifying legislation.

Who Polarized Congress? Reagan the Liberal!

A little blatant self-promotion if you don't greatly mind: my article on the polarization of Congress and indeed America's two major political parties appears in today's American Spectator online.

The article points out that this polarization is a result of the two parties having changed and solidified their fundamental ideas, which has worked greatly to the Republicans' advantage: "Reagan actually never shook off his core ideas of true (a.k.a. classical, Whig) liberalism. He never left the Democratic Party, Reagan always said, but instead the party left him; and just so, he never left liberalism, but instead modern liberalism left him. As a result, when Reagan ran for the presidency, he emphasized how much social disorder, economic stagnation, and social stratification harmed society's underdogs, taking up a traditionally Democratic theme and offering a highly plausible political alternative. As president, he acted on those premises, and was reelected overwhelmingly."

The Democrats reacted by digging in their heels, but they "would have been smarter to try to woo the evangelicals back into the fold by acknowledging them as underdogs, which would have been an easy, logical move to make. But this would have involved jettisoning the antireligious, ACLU wing of the party, along with the rest of the intellectual class, which they were by no means prepared to do.

"That decision, however, meant that the Democrats would openly become increasingly the party of the privileged classes, which would finally confirm the very role reversal the Republican had been trying to establish: the Republicans as the party of the search for ordered liberty, and the Democrats as the party of privilege, atheism, pacifism, and social and economic sclerosis."

That is where we are today, and it is largely a salutary change, as it brings a certain amount of clarity to the political situation. But there is a problem: the current divide "appears, however, to be an unmitigated disaster for the Democratic Party. The Republicans have their side staked out and seem fairly comfortable with it, despite some internal divisions—but the Democrats seem increasingly uncomfortable with theirs. African-Americans, suburban mothers, and union members, for example, do not share most of the values of the farther-Left side of their party. The three former groups adhere to the Democrat Party mainly for its traditional championing of the underdog, and they are by no means in it for a radical transformation of the American mind and society.

"That tension seems likely to remain until these persons either leave the party or take it over."

In addition, the Republican's current strength may tempt them toward policies that are politically unwise. Hence, "The presence of two strongly plausible political parties, each with a serious respect for the pursuit of both liberty and order both within the United States and in the international environment, would surely be much better than the current situation."

It will be up to the Democrats to change, however, given that the Republicans are benefitting greatly from the current situation.

You can read the full article at The American Spectator, here.

Continuing the Specter Meme

For those who don't know, I'm a law school grad who immediately went to work in public policy and then on to academia. Never wanted to sue anybody, don't you know? Perhaps unsurprisingly, I am an avid court watcher.

In the controversy over what to do about Arlen Specter, I have to side with Hugh Hewitt. Specter is not a conservative's conservative, but he has been willing to support conservative appointees to the court. Having him as the judiciary chairman will make it easier to avoid protracted battles over Supreme Court nominees. To some extent, Senators in the middle will feel that nominees okay with Specter are okay with them. Conversely, if Specter is removed, prepare to hear about how the process is now illegitimate. That's the last thing we want to hear, especially when shaping an institution like the court.

The way to go is to leave Specter in and nominate conservative legal giants like Michael McConnell and Alex Kosinzki. They are too prominent to fail the process and have avoided any excessive rhetoric.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Great Line from Walker Percy

Writing in The Thanatos Syndrome, the unmatchable (in my view) Percy delivered this pithy statement that perfectly sums up the problem with the cultural left:

"There's Hawkeye and Trapper John back in Korea. I never did like those guys. They fancied themselves super-decent and super-tolerant, but actually had no use for anyone who was not exactly like them. What they were was super-pleased with themselves. In truth, they were the real bigots, and phony at that."

The Vacuity of the Fundamentalist Label

Click here to read an excellent article that provides much needed perspective on the issue of religious fundamentalism and its adherents. We need to see about fifty articles like this one to correct the sea of misperceptions that exist among our religiously illiterate opinion journalists of the left.

Speaking of film and religion . . .

Those of you interested in the intersection of faith and film should hurry to Barbara Nicolosi's weblog Church of the Masses. Ms. Nicolosi knows an awful lot about Hollywood, screenwriting, and developing professionalism while pursuing a vocation in the arts. Her project has a lot to do with the notion that it's time for Christians to break out of their segregated markets and address the mainstream culture with their work. Check it out.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Religion in Films

A very interesting article about a very interesting phenomenon—Hollywood's burgeoning interest in religious ideas as expressed in various films—in Friday's Opinion Journal, here. The most important observation in the piece, to my mind, is the author's recognition that motion pictures (like other works of art) often present quite serious ideas under seemingly unrelated or even trivial surfaces. That, of course, is the premise behind this author's own writings about the arts, and it is pleasing to see this understanding gaining some adherents.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

GOP Voter Fraud? Uh, No.

Look here for a pretty thorough debunking of the "voting irregularities" disappointed Dems wish were legit. I've been taken aback by the persistent Democrat concern with voter fraud performed by Republicans. The GOP is the party of fair process, as opposed to fair outcomes, remember? If anybody were to rig the results to achieve some sort of "equity," I suspect it would be the Donkeys.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Cut Flower Civilization: An Explanation

One of my astute co-bloggers asked me to define "cut flower civilization." Quaker theologian Elton Trueblood, who published a number of great books with the famed Harper publishing house mid-century, wrote and spoke of the idea frequently. In a nutshell, the metaphor places civilization in the place of a flower. Modernity/the Enlightenment/secularization represents the cutting of the flower at the stem and then placing it in a vase, or perhaps more appropriately, a beaker. For a while, the flower will continue to live and will maintain its beauty. After all, at least some of the citizens of the new order are the same as those of the old order. But over time, its untimely divorce with the soil (tradition, religous belief, etc.) will result in withering and ultimately, death. Advocates of the cut flower civilization hypothesis would point to the dissolution of the nuclear family, sexual promiscuity/sexual disease epidemics, and greater need for prisons/security measures as indicators that the hypothesis is true and the flower is indeed quite wilted.

Novak Gives More Perspective

One of the problems with today's lefties is that they are religiously illiterate. In other words, they have no clue that the civilization they now enjoy is largely built on premises and foundations they claim to despise. Here's a nice bit from Michael Novak (who does know a thing or two about religion):

"For instance, La Repubblica (Nov.7), which I read on the plane, carries a front-page jump column by Eugenio Scalfari, its founder and publisher, under the title "Why We Cannot Call Ourselves Laicists." After confessing his own secular creed — the creed of the Enlightenment and the great principles of liberty, fraternity, and equality — he writes that this does not end the matter. He notes how the Christian idea of a duty to the most needy and vulnerable has undeniably influenced his creed, and how the Christian idea of giving to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's, is a necessary barrier to totalitarianism both Left and Right. The history of the European secular mind cannot be described simply as laicist, he insists, for it also includes a crucial source of light absorbed from Christian faith."

If you need help decoding, "Laicist" means uber secular. There are a few who realize that Christianity is deep in the mix of Western civilization and that Elton Trueblood's Cut Flower Civilization thesis may well be in danger of fully manifesting itself.

How the Enlightenment Really Dies . . .

Andrew Stuttaford has a nice corrective to the gas pains one might experience when reading the ridiculous wailing of earnest American liberals who fear fundamentalist theocracy stands ready to crash over them like a wave:

"In a last attempt to save his life, a desperate Van Gogh reportedly pleaded with his attacker: "We can," he said, "still talk about it." Talk. Dialog. Reason. In response, savagery. The murderer sawed through Van Gogh's neck and spinal column with a butcher knife, almost severing his head. And that, Mr. Wills, is how Enlightenment dies."

Hopefully, the Van Gogh incident will help overwrought liberals understand the differences between murderers and those who might wish to employ democratic processes to reduce the number of abortions in the United States or have some say in the way marriage is defined.

From Dreaming to Dreaming, by Farpoint

The new disc by the South Carolina-based band Farpoint, From Dreaming to Dreaming, finally makes real the potential suggested by the band's first two discs. Farpoint combines progressive rock with American folk traditions and a strong melodic sense to create a very passionate kind of intelligent and sophisticated rock-based music. The first full-length song on From Dreaming to Dreaming, "Autumn Sky," sets the tone with a very catchy organ line and driving rhythm reminiscent of Guy Manning's terrific song "Tightrope" (from his The Ragged Curtain CD) plus a very strong and appealing vocal performance by Dana Oxendine, who is becoming a very accomplished vocalist.

Similarly attractive organ work adorns "Here and Now," which also has a fine lead vocal melody line and passionate singing performances by Ms. Oxendine and Clark Boone. "Sojourn" has a very interesting acoustic-guitar introduction and accompaniment to Boone's lead vocal, and Oxendine's overdubbed choral background is quite effective, as is her gorgeous, ethereal lead vocal in the bridge. The song also has a very beautiful instrumental passage featuring flute, synthesizer, and electric guitar. It is really quite moving.

The melodic inventiveness begins to flag a bit from this high point, so that tracks 8 and 9 are not as strong as the rest, but the band rebounds with very good work on the last two songs to send things home nicely. Some very appealing organ work by Kevin Jarvis and another appealing acoustic guitar accompaniment enliven "Ashley's Song (Sail On)," for example.

Boone's husky baritone voice is used more effectively than on the band's first two albums and has become a positive musical asset for the group. Frank Tyson's growling, grumbling bass guitar is highly expressive indeed and a standout aspect of the production. The percussion of Rick Walker matches him step for step, and the lead guitar work by Mike Givins is quite good if not overly original (which is hardly a criticism—who can really find something truly new to do on lead guitar these days?). Kevin Jarvis's keyboard work provides a solid foundation of melody and chord accompaniment, and his solos are reminiscent of those achieved by the great 1970s progressive bands. The lyrics deal with important matters, largely spiritual ones, in a mature and intelligent way, although, like nearly all popular-music lyrics, they are by no means poetry. The CD artwork is quite attractive as well.

Definitely recommended.

Welcome Tech Central Station Readers!

We're glad to have you on board. Wander the halls a bit, won't you?

Secession city by city . . .

At American Spectator today, Lawrence Henry makes an important point about the blue state secession talk, which is that all the red portions of the blue states (which are substantial) would never agree to the deal. Those folks who draw up the United States of Canada and Jesusland graphics are looking at the state electoral map instead of the county one. What they fail to realize is that Jesusland is lapping right up against their own city limits.

My favorite part is the conclusion:

"No, the interesting thing about all the current secession talk is its similarity to the pre-Civil War era. At that time, an area of the country felt itself threatened by the impending loss of a key portion of its agrarian livelihood. Kicking and yelling, it resisted being dragged into the new industrial age.

"So what are the blue confederates kicking and screaming about? What well-nigh irresistible movement toward modernity do they refuse to recognize? Oh, I could name a few things."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Righteousness of Action in Iraq

Now that Sam has brought the war up again, it seems like a good time to share my political sense of the thing. Smart people on both sides have their questions about the war in Iraq, but there is one point of discussion that I think has eluded most. Think carefully for a second. If you wanted to manage the aftermath of 9-11 politically instead of strategically, what would you do? My answer is that the President could have looked very good by hitting Afghanistan, knocking out the Taliban, and calling it a day. Americans would have felt the flush of victory and would feel they had a measure of revenge for the loss of life and property endured in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. The fact that he didn’t settle for a fairly easy victory over the Taliban tells me something. I think the security team and the President believed more was required to secure America’s safety and that they decided to pursue that course without regard for political consequences. If that is the case, the adventure in Iraq has been thoroughly righteous.

Liberals and War

In response to my piece on the New York Times and John Aschroft, which is currently appearing in The Daily Standard, a writer friend of mine asked, "Dear me, am I of the Far Right? I insist I’m a Jeffersonian of the Real Right; I think he’d be with me, as would Madison. Btw, I am not against a war on terrorists, and I did not object to going after OBL in Afghanistan, but … Iraq…?"

I think this an excellent question, and will offer a couple of points in answer. My Daily Standard piece was actually meant as a critique of the New York Times's approach to news analysis, not as a defense of Ashcroft. Note that I wrote "however much one might disagree with Ashcroft's actions as attorney general"; I am in fact one of those "one"s. My own position--which I published on www.vdare.com just a week after the September 11 attacks--is that the essential element in any internal U.S. measures against terrorism must start by recognizing the difference between citizens and noncitizens: the former have civil rights, and the latter absolutely do not. That, in my view, would still be a very good guide in how to approach these matters, and would have the advantage of being constitutional.

As to my friend's possibly being on the far Right, consider that by my own calculus I am a liberal. I am a liberal of the Right, aka a classical liberal. Another person on the Right could be either a conservative of the Right or a radical of the Right. See my first post for this site, "Why the Reform Club...", in the October archive, for a more detailed explanation.

I recognize that most modern-day libertarians classify themselves as classical liberals, but I don't think that most of them are exactly that--they would part from Burke and Smith and the other original Whigs in several important ways. For example, Smith was perfectly happy with lots of government intervention in the economy for national-defense purposes (and might very well have approved of the War in Iraq), and Burke's Catholic activism would horrify the Reason crowd, the Randians, and many others on the more-radical Right.

Consider, if you would, the following handy reference point:

Conservatives are primarily concerned about preserving civilization.
Radicals are primarily concerned about transforming civilization.
Liberals are primarily concerned about extending civilization.

As to the War in Iraq, we Reform Club Whigs are catholic on the issue: Hunter and I supported it, and Alan opposed it (see Alan's recent posting, "One Antiwar Zealot for Bush," on this). But all three of us approached the issue from the same premises--U.S. national security as the first priority for our federal government, pursued under any rational and appropriate means the Constitution allows. My position is that the Constitution allows a War on Terror but does not require it; hence I have fundamental assumptions in common with those who oppoosed the War in Iraq for national security reasons. Those who opposed it for economic or ideological reasons (especially pacifism) or because of simple fear of casualties, however, cannot really be considered liberals in my view.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Controversial Ashcroft

The New York Times article on Attorney General John Ashcroft's resignation describes him, rather hyperbolically in my view, as "one of the most powerful and divisive figures ever to serve as the nation's top law enforcement official." That's a particularly weird statement when one considers that compared to his immediate predecessor, Janet Reno, Ashcroft was downright obscure.

The article goes to great lengths to persuade us that Ashcroft held bizarre, "extremist" beliefs that made him naturally controversial, in the paper's rather sad attempt to distract readers from the fact that the controversies to which the New York Times alludes were largely a creation of that newspaper and its political allies, who disagreed strongly with the entire thrust of his policies. In fact, the present NYT "analysis" inadvertently proves the point, as I demonstrate in today's issue of The Daily Standard (the online edition of The Weekly Standard), here.

To the extent that Ashcroft had a "tumultuous tenure," as the caption of the photo accompanying the article puts it, the tumult was very much a creation of the New York Times itself and the rest of the radical Left (aided by a good many on the radical Right). The fact is, the New York Times and the rest of the far Left despised Ashcroft for his openly religious views on politics. It is a pity that these partisans seem unable to admit or even recognize that little bit of extremism on their own part.

A little honesty in this regard and similar situations would go a long way toward restoring the credibility of the New York Times. That, however, seems far too much to hope for.

Ted Rall and the Disease of Dumb

The far, far left's favorite op-ed writer Ted Rall has bravely confessed his cultural elitism. Rall, you see, knows that the folks in the blue states are much smarter, cooler, fashionable, etc. than the folks in the red states. Here's a paragraph:

"Maps showing Kerry's blue states appended to the "United States of Canada" separated from Bush's red "Jesusland" are circulating by email. Though there is a religious component to the election results, the biggest red-blue divide is intellectual. "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?" asked the headline of the Daily Mirror in Great Britain, and the underlying assumption is undeniable. By any objective standard, you had to be spectacularly stupid to support Bush."

Rall continues the bloviating for several hundred words. What I've always wondered is how the left can maintain their intellectual superiority when they don't even understand economics and basic human incentives. Their public policy program has always struck me as a big bouquet of "wishing makes it so" and "it is because I say it is" proposals. By their standard, Fidel Castro is terribly, terribly bright. Ditto Mao. I'll take mine mediocre, thanks.

Get Smart. Watch TV.

Unless they chicken out at the last minute, I will be on C-Span with Brian Lamb on Friday Nov. 12, talking about budget deficits (the government's not yours) and other such boring stuff. This will become a call-in show at some point, probably when one of us runs out of things to say. The only study guide required is a short piece I wrote for Apple Daily, in Hong Kong (http://www.cato.org/dailys/09-22-04.html)

Idiotic Ideas About Theocracy

Lefties everywhere are crying about the coming theocracy. Apparently, if you justify a political position via Jesus Christ as opposed to your gut feeling, or Nietszchean thought, or Maureen Dowd's cutesie regurgitations, or any other source of values, you have stepped over the line into theocracy. Excuse me, but is it your vote or isn't it? When I enter the voting booth, I have the right to decide on candidates and their policy positions any way I wish, don't I?

Theocracy is when the church and the government are one. We don't have that in America. The countries that did have it, like Sweden for example, now have enormous states with eunuch churches. What we have is separation of church and state where the church is vigorous and critical. When it was mostly left-wing churches doing it, they were celebrated as they "spoke truth to power" and provided a "prophetic voice." When the conservative churches do it, we get theocracy. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Blue States Talking Secession!

On the logic that blue states pay more and get less from the feds than the red states, some "progressives" are shopping about talk of secession. My response to that is, "THROW ME INTO THE BRIAR PATCH BABY!" Secede. We'll pass a lot of great constitutional amendments while you're gone. The South, the West, and the Heartland will find a way to get by. In no time at all, the blue states will head on toward European economic performance while the rest of the world will discuss the emergence of the Sunbelt Tiger!

Jonah Goldberg Nails It!

I have rarely agreed with anything as much I agree with Jonah Goldberg's recent remarks on liberal unhappiness with the election results:

"But what offends them so much about religion is that it is a source of authority outside — and prior to — politics. What has offended the Left since Marx, and American liberalism since Dewey, is the notion that moral authority should be derived from anyplace other than the state or "the people" (conveniently defined as citizens who vote liberal). Voting on values not sanctified by secular priests is how they define "ignorance." This was the real goal of Hillary Clinton's "politics of meaning" — to replace traditional religion with a secular one that derived its authority not from ancient texts and "superstitions" but from the good intentions of an activist state and its anointed priests. Shortly before the election, Howell Raines fretted that the worst outcome of a Bush victory would be the resurgence of "theologically based cultural norms" — without even acknowledging the fact that "theologically based cultural norms" gave us everything from the printing press and the newspaper to the First Amendment he claims to be such a defender of."

Priceless Karl Rove . . .

Last night I saw Tim Russert interviewing Karl Rove. They talked about the business of appointing judges. After asking Rove whether the President would appoint judges who would reverse Roe v. Wade and getting the standard answer about interpreting the law instead of legislating from the bench, Russert took a new tack. "Does the President believe there is a right to privacy in the Constitution?" Rove's answer was priceless:

"Griswold v. Connecticut? The President and I have never discussed Griswold v. Connecticut."

Monday, November 08, 2004

Mike Kinsley: Arrogant Elitist

Michael Kinsley took a stab at irony in the Sunday Washington Post, with ironic results (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A29470-2004Nov5?language=printer): “If you insist – and you do – I will rethink my fundamental beliefs from scratch, since they are shared by only 47 percent of the population. . . .But could you please stop calling me arrogant and elitist?”

The arrogance of Kinsley’s sermon eludes him because he is so elitist. He presumes, against overwhelming evidence, that everyone who voted for Senator Kerry must be a Kinsley clone – that is, another “softheaded liberal” who shares Kinsley’s beliefs about abortion and gay marriage.

Kinsley asserts “that people on my side of the divide want to live in a society where women are free to choose abortion and where gay relationships have full civil equality with straight ones. And you [meaning those intolerant zealots who voted for Bush] want to live in a society where the opposite is true. . . . We don't want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same gender, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. Which is more arrogant?”

Kinsley is far more arrogant than he realizes, because he claims to speak for “we” when he really means “me.” He assigns one prepackaged duet of opinions to Kerry supporters and another to Bush supporters. Yet many Kerry and Bush supporters don’t care a bit about these two issues (which have never been under the jurisdiction of federal law). Others hold Kinsley’s view on one of them, but not the other, and that includes Republicans as well as Democrats.

Kinsley is simply dreaming if he thinks most of his views are shared by 47 percent of the population. Exit polls show only 21 percent of voters – not 47 percent -- regard themselves as liberal. Only 25 percent – not 47 percent -- approve of same-sex marriage, and 22 percent of them voted for Bush. Bush also received 23 percent of the gay vote.

When it comes to abortion, however, only 16 percent of the voters think abortion should be illegal, and 22 percent of them voted for Kerry. Nearly half of U.S. Catholics voted for Kerry, and a larger fraction of Muslims and Jews, although many people of those faiths view abortion as equivalent to infanticide (which is also not subject to federal jurisdiction).

Kinsley’s “full civil equality” for gay couples dodges the more sensitive issue of reserving the term marriage for traditional couples. Among those favoring civil unions for gays, in fact, Bush beat Kerry 52 to 47 percent. What “civil equality”means is inherently unclear because it could involve many agencies of federal, state and local governments. The IRS would surely protest if two men or two women tried to file a joint tax return, but that would be a matter of money not morality.

Senators Kerry and Edwards advocated letting the states permit or ban same-sex marriage laws, which state elections just proved is the practical equivalent of favoring a ban. President Bush did not take a fundamentally different position, but worried (from experience) that local judges might contravene state legislatures.
Kinsley goes on to say, “We on my side of the great divide don’t, for the most part, believe that our values are direct orders from God. We don't claim that they are immutable and beyond argument. We are, if anything, crippled by reason and open-mindedness, by a desire to persuade rather than insist. Which philosophy is more elitist?”

Orders from God? Kinsley defines his “great divide” as only a habitual elitist possibly could. He imagines a division between religious Republicans and liberal Democrats. A liberal rabbi or Ayn Randian atheist has no place in “The World According to Mike.” Yet only 8 percent of the voters thought the candidate’s religious faith was a top issue. And 31 percent of those with no religion voted for Bush. Senator Kerry, on the other hand, received 47 percent of the Catholic vote, 74 percent of the Jewish vote and a sizable majority of the Muslim vote.

As for the left’s alleged open-mindedness and mild-mannered “desire to persuade,” that is just an arrogant and elitist description of what arrogant and elitist liars and panderers like Michael Moore and George Soros have been doing to try to trick and buy their way to power.

The Enemy in Fallujah

Michael Fumento sends us the following, from the Kansas City Star:

"'This is as pure a fight of good against evil as we're likely to see in our lifetime,' Marine Col. Craig Tucker told troops. 'This enemy is a terrorist. He is a hardened criminal. This is not an insurgency -- there is no alternative better future for Iraq that is represented by these bastards.'"

Exactly. The enemy in this case is not a band of idealists who are basically hopeful and well-meaning even if possibly mistaken in their desired policies. On the contrary, the enemy that remains in Iraq is a relentlessly vicious bunch of thugs very like the Communists, Nazis, African dictators, and other assorted gigantic criminal conspiracies that have looted and destroyed a multitude of previously livable places in the past century and a half. It is an outpouring of a common, primitive will to group power that is aided by modern technology. And like all its predecessors, it responds only to force.

Garrison Keillor and I Finally Divorce

During my long drives home from college back in the late eighties and early nineties, I passed the time wearing out an old cassette full of material from Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. My enjoyment from the show has diminished as the once genial entertainer has become less of a delightful monologuist and tale spinner and more like any ordinary angry liberal. The famed Powerlineblog brought this little bit of transcript loveliness to my attention:

"We're over it. We've moved on. We're just fine. The election was days ago. Days ago. Much has happened since then. We've practically forgotten about it here [laughter] in our rush to enter into new activities, new frontiers, new projects. I am now the chairman of a national campaign to pass a constitutional amendment to take the right to vote away from born-again Christians. [enthusiastic audience applause] Just a little project of mine. My feeling is that born-again people are citizens of heaven, that is where there citizenship is, [laughter] is in heaven, it's not here among us in America. If you feel that war in the Middle East is simply prophecy fulfilled, if you believe that tribulation and suffering are just the natural conditions of life, if you believe that higher education is vanity, unnecessary, there is only one book that one need to read, if you feel that unemployment is -[glitch]- dependent on him and drawn you closer to him. [laughter] If you feel -[glitch]- lousy healthcare is a portal to paradise, [applause] then you don't really share our same interests, do you? No, you do not."

Count on Andy Rooney to Tell It Straight

This line from his column posted on the CBS News website pretty much says everything you need to know about the establishment media:

"Television did a good job Tuesday night, I thought. I know a lot of you believe that most people in the news business are liberal. Let me tell you I know a lot of them, and they were almost evenly divided this time. Half of them liked Sen. Kerry; the other half hated President Bush."

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Just so you know how Michael Moore feels about it . . .

Michael Moore now has a map of North America posted on his website that consolidates the blue states with our neighbor to the north and calls that region "The United States of Canada." The red states are re-christened "Jesusland." One gathers this juxtaposition is supposed to elicit either a laugh or a feeling of great pathos.

After a brief scan, I can tell you I was quite relieved to find I live in Jesusland. Neither Nietszcheland, Marxland, Stalinland, or Castroland have ever held much appeal.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Arlen's Spectre!

Pro-lifers from National Review to the Family Research Council are freaking out about Arlen Specter's remarks on what judges the President should nominate. My counsel (as a most avid pro-lifer, myself) is that everybody take a breath. Specter's lib/moderate status is not such a terrible thing. Nominees who do come out the relatively friendly confines of the Judiciary Committee will be more or less pre-approved. The normal rules still apply. Nominate people without a big paper trail and let them through.

Which seat is being filled is also something that should be considered. Bush should be given deference in appointing a serious conservative to Rehnquist's chair because that won't change the balance of the court at all. On the other hand, when he replaces Stevens, there will more scrutiny because that will be a major change in the court's ideology and Bush will have to be careful to select someone basically undeniable.

Welcome back, DLC

Your intrepid prestidigitator told you the Bill Clinton era Democratic Leadership Council would return and they have. Andrei Cherny, author of "The Next Deal" (a book effusively praised by Newt Gingrich), writes in the NYT about why the Dems lost the last two big elections. He's not settling for the easy stuff like a sighing Al Gore, either. Check this out:

"Democrats have a collection of policy positions that are sensible and right. John Kerry made this very clear. What we don't have, and what we sorely need, is what President George H. W. Bush so famously derided as "the vision thing" - a worldview that makes a thematic argument about where America is headed and where we want to take it.

"For most of the 20th century, Democrats had a bold vision: we would use government programs to make Americans' lives more stable and secure. In 1996, President Clinton told us this age had passed, that "the era of big government is over." He was right - the world had changed. But the party has not answered the basic question: What comes next?"

Cherny is right about the question of vision and thematic argument. The Democratic party has been in need of a good soul search ever since McGovern won the nomination in 1972. The social issues cost them a large part of their natural constituency. If they turn right, even halfway, on abortion, gay marriage, religion in the public square, and national defense, they'll prove extraordinarily difficult to defeat.

Americans Not So Crazy After All

Gerard Jones’s excellent analysis of the meaning of the recent U.S. elections, in today’s Times of London, suggests that the American public is perhaps not so crazy after all:

Jones notes, “There is a broad consensus against gay marriage that goes well beyond the religious Right just as there is a broad agreement in favour of making abortions scarcer (for a country run by religious nuts, America has surprisingly liberal laws on abortion), or for lifting some of the world’s tightest restrictions on the role of religion in public life (the British particularly should remember that, especially, as they drop their children off at state-funded church schools.) Mr Bush’s re-election was no narrow victory for religious zealots. It confirms that America is a decidedly conservative country, but not an alien one.”

“And its implications for the rest of the world are not baleful. All the world has to fear now is four more years of an America doing its damnedest to export the value that is at the heart of all of its people’s beliefs: that people should be as free to choose their own direction as the American people so joyously were this week.”

What Jones is describing, of course, is true liberalism. The United States has always been the world’s most classically liberal nation, and this election not only does not contradict that truth, it in fact confirms it.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Team America Are Thunderbirds a Go-Go

As Hunter Baker notes, Team America: World Police is uneven but funny. The film certainly refers to many contemporary issues and personalities, and its comical violence, brazen vulgarity, and scatalogical and sexual humor certainly identify it as a product of our time.

However, I think an underappreciated aspect of the film is the 1960s side of it. The main concept, after all, is based on those cheesy mid-1960s TV marionette shows such as Supercar and especially Thunderbirds. Several of the Team America members look suspiciously like various Thunderbirds characters, as is evident in these pictures at the Thunderbirds site.

There are many other 1960s motifs in the film, such as the use of Kim Jong-Il—one of the few remaining Communist leaders in the world—as villain.

Why is this interesting? Because the viewer will take away from the film a very serious view of the War on Terror, a realization that the current war is as important, difficult, and serious as was the Cold War. Yes, Team America knocks down a few tourist attractions and some innocent bystanders in the zealous pursuit of their duty, but the enemy they are fighting really does want to harm all of us, and not by accident but by intention.

The film makes this very clear, through both action and dialogue, and the 1960s aspects of it keep bringing the Cold War back to mind, continually reminding us of the vastness of the forces now arrayed against America and the rest of the developed world, and expressing—in a very comical context, of course—exactly what is at stake. Team America are definitely on the side of good. There can be no question that although the filmmakers recognize all of America's many faults, they know that what we have is far better than what the other side has in mind for its own people, let alone what it would have in store for us.

More Trailing Edge Political Film Review . . .

When you see TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE you'll immediately understand the reason for its lukewarm box office. The film is terribly uneven. South Park's Stone and Parker clearly rushed the film to get it out before the election and it shows. Satire really scores when it speaks the truth. There are too many points in this film when the satire is just not fair to either side and thus comes up a bit short.

On the other hand, the creative team has an amazing gift for physical comedy. If you've never seen a puppet throw up, this is the way it should be done. No question about it.

Another success for TEAM AMERICA comes in the final monologue, when the newest member of the team delivers his political philosophy to a once gullible international audience. It's crude. Actually, it's extremely crude, but it makes its point very effectively. I think Dick Nixon might have put things the same way himself behind closed doors.

Mandate Talk

The inevitable discussion of mandate has begun. Many seem to expect a mandate to look like 55-60% of the popular vote, but I think Bush can make a strong case for having the mandate he lacked during his first four years. He improved his popular vote substantially, improved his electoral count, and won both measures outright. Although the party improved its standing in Congress in 2002, the Dems could argue patriotism in the wake of 9-11 created greater support for the incumbent party. Now, after Michael Moore's antics and a unified chorus of criticism from Democrats for the past two years, Bush has again been affirmed and to an even greater degree than before. Whatever the President is doing, he appears to have a mandate for it and from the first true majority of American voters in 16 years. I wonder if the out party would prefer to give Bush a shot at a third term and see what percentage he can deliver then.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Slow Learners . . .

Now that the election's over, I felt secure enough to visit some of the left-wing blogs. I found one comment particularly arresting. The lefty in question viewed the results with disbelief and reported that he felt as though he were trapped in a room full of slow learners. After reflecting for a moment, I thought about the Cubans, something liberals never do unless they're trying to return one to the homeland. They've been trapped in a nation ruled by one of the slowest learners of all time. Somebody send Castro a copy of The Road to Serfdom, wouldya?

The Hewitt Factor

I like Hugh Hewitt. I enjoy his writing and check in on his weblog almost daily. However, I have to admit I thought he was relentlessly over-optimistic about the 2004 election. Even when Bush's debate performances threw me into depression, there was Hugh Hewitt blowing the horn of triumph. It almost seems that he WILLED Bush and the GOP Senators into victory. Props to you, Hugh.

There's Something About George W.

I have a love-hate relationship with W. I love his heart, his determination, his moral clarity, and his faith. I hate watching him attempt to articulate anything verbally. I couldn't even make it through his acceptance speech. The guy is absolutely terrible as a public speaker. Four years haven't helped much.

BUT, I think he has God's hand on his shoulder or some special favor that can't be articulated. How many promising liberal politicians' scalps lie at this man's feet? Ann Richards, Al Gore, Dick Gephardt, and Tom Daschle have all been finished by this President with a heart of steel and a tongue of cheap aluminum.

First Domestic Policy Agenda Item

I'd love to hear from our resident economist about this, but I think the answer has to be TORT REFORM. You can read some of my reasons why at American Spectator Online.

Prediction for the next four years

The Democratic Leadership Council will return as a major force in the party. Michael Moore and the Deaniacs will be marginalized. Hillary will run in 2004 as a "New Democrat" offering a less ambitious version of the health care entitlement. The Lieberman wing will return in full force. Hide and watch, as my mother used to say.

Two Americas, All Right

James Bone of the Times of London notes that the "gay poll was the key" in Bush's win in Ohio:

"The crucial factor, it emerged, was the referendum on gay marriage which was going on at the same time as the Presidential election, the Senate race, and votes on numerous other issues," Bone writes here.

Mr. Bone states, "Christian conservatives turned out in their tens of thousands to back a ban on gay marriage in the state of Ohio, and it was this, coupled with Mr Bush's strong showing in rural areas, that gave him an apparently invincible lead in the crucial Midwestern state."

It is clear, in fact, that such referenda were an important factor in the Bush victory nationwide. Many polls (for whatever they may be worth) show that a plurality of voters yesterday stated that the most important issue for them was gay marriage, and President Bush won among these voters by about four to one. There were votes on the issue in several of the swing states, and turnout among evangelical Christians was much higher than in the past few elections.

That was the deciding factor in the presidential election, right there, and rather unexpectedly for most of the press, judging by the relative paucity of media attention to the gay-marriage issue in the days before the balloting, with Iraq and the economy of course as the main areas of discussion.

Look at the map of red and blue states indicating support for the Republican or Democrat candidate, respectively. There are indeed two Americas. One believes strongly in one set of values, the other just as firmly adheres to a quite contrary view of the world.

The Republicans have their side staked out and seem fairly comfortable with it, despite some internal divisions—but the Democrats seem increasingly uncomfortable with theirs. African-Americans, suburban mothers, and union members, for example, do not share most of the values of the farther-Left side of their party. The three former groups adhere to the Democrat Party mainly for its traditional championing of the underdog, and they are by no means in it for a radical transformation of the American mind and society.

That tension seems likely to remain until these persons either leave the party or take it over.

More Mainstream Media Bashing . . .

I read thoughts by and spoke to conservatives decrying the media's unwillingness to call certain states for Bush while rushing to call others for Kerry, but I saw something else that indicated real bias. Which Senator elected last night got more press than any other? Barack Obama (rhymes with Osama . . .oh, forget I said that, I'm a better person than that, really, no I'm not, SHUT UP!).

DIGRESSION: I may be a little too sensitive. After all, I strongly supported Alan Keyes in two columns for the American Spectator Online before my favorite speaker came out for slave reparations and then needlessly took a whack at Mary Cheney. The only thing holding Alan Keyes back is Alan Keyes, but that was more than enough. Wlady P. tolerantly posted my righteous musings while shrewdly publishing counter-opinions.

ANYWAY, Obama was everywhere highlighted as the great hope of the Democratic Party and received about as much press as our President! Anything wrong with this picture, or was it just that he was available as a big winner from about 7 p.m. on? For a little perspective, imagine if a conservative female had won a blowout in a non-swing state. Do you think the press would have been panting after her like a sheepdog about to score some Alpo?

Shooting You Straight

Alan is telling the absoloute truth when he says what he had predicted for the presidential and senatorial races, and when.

And no, I don't know how he does it.

I think that Alan, as a true English Whig, should indulge in an extra glass of first-rate claret.

As an English Whig and unrepentant anglophile, I shall have me a black and tan. Or two. And a double Glenfiddich.

I share Alan's bipartisan disdain for politicians of every stripe--excepting, of course, those who happen to be my personal friends. Those, I see as good lambs who have lost their way.

Finally, contra Alan's contention, I am not really embarrassed by the name Samantha. I'm just not cool with it yet.

S. T. K.

Unsurprised therefore Unexcited

The day before the election I sent the following e-mail to Sam (who apparently writes under the alias of S.T. so strangers won't know that his real name is Samantha):

"Bush gets 300 electoral votes and a comfy margin in the popular count too.
That's all the obvious red states (213) plus Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Hawaii. I am not, however, dumb enough to either publish that or bet on it. On the other hand . . . if Kerry wins, the good news is that he won't be able to get anything past Congress. And Congress won't be able to get anything past the White House. There must be some bad news there, but I can't recall what it might be."

For a poll at the Cato Institute, I predicted 53 Republican Senators. I do this the way I used to kill a few minutes doing economic forecasting for the Journal and the Blue Chip bunch -- heroic assumptions plus informed guesswork.

Celebrating? At my age (fifty twelve) that means I might be allowed a third glass of wine. Under normal circumstances that might be a Souverain or Sebastiani chardonnay (cheap but good), but that sounds too girlie-manish for the moment. So does Pinot Noir. Maybe Kendall-Jackson Syrah? This is a much tougher decision than the vote.

I am bipartisan in the sense that I don't trust pols of any stripe. The Democrats simply failed to offer a serious presidential or vice presidential candidate this time, in my insufficiently humble view.

Hurrah! Hurrah! And Darn It!

HURRAH, HURRAH: Bush appears to be the man, despite the efforts of the porcine prince of propaganda to defeat him. I don’t make that characterization lightly because I’m a man of some heft, myself. However, I have pledged to use my mass only for good. I don’t know about Alan’s tastes, but Sam and I are going to virtually go on a bender. Break out a few quarts of Old GrandDad and wind up the VCR for the full run of Banacek. If my mood holds up, we can hit the brief, but brilliant Keen Eddie, as well.

DARN IT: Yesterday, I told my colleagues the vote would be 51% for Bush, 48% for Kerry, and 1% for Nader. Wish I’d preserved that here at the timestamped blog. My record isn’t that good, though. I said Bush would win the popular vote in 2000 and that Lazio would beat Hillary!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Early Exit Polling News and What Me, Worry?

All my conservative colleagues are dejected at Drudge's report of Kerry leading in exit polls from various states. I think the fears are unfounded. In a race like this one, I don't think exit polling this early in the day is going to be worth much. We also have to face the fact that internet rumor-mongering is a particular problem. I think Bush will win in light of the fact that he has not really trailed at any point in the race. That's usually a pretty good indicator of success.

Dutch Filmmaker Assassinated

I hope that this news item speaks for itself, so I shall simply note it without comment:


America the Liberal

The highly estimable Michael Novak has an excellent article in today's edition of National Review Online, available here, which was originally published in La Monde. Novak, who is a self-described conservative, notes that the United States is increasingly becoming liberal in the classical sense, the sense in which Europeans still tend to use the word:

"Year by year," he writes, "the American electorate becomes (in the European meaning of the term) more 'liberal' — that is, more committed to liberty, less willing to heed elite opinion, and a little more religious and 'traditional' in their moral ideals. Put another way, they become less like France. Less social democratic, less bewitched by the Left."

Novak mentions the "the optimism and energy of the 'conservative' movement for change," a phrase which astutely points out the confused nature of the terms liberal and conservative in the United States at this time. He makes a point with which we strenuously agree: that many people now called by one or the other of these terms actually would be better described by the other.

That is, many if not most people whom today's conservatives condemn as liberal are in fact either radicals (strongly dismissive of present institutions and realities) or real conservatives (people who want to preserve and perhaps extend the current welfare state, sexual revolution, national secularization, and the like; are elitist in nature; and approve of heritable social status and advantages, usually taking the form of race or sexual categorization). These latter individuals are quite conservative by termperament. Likewise, many if not most self-described contemporary American conservatives are actually liberal by both temperament and politics, hungry for reform of the very things the Left wants to preserve. (The most notable exception are the Buchanan American Conservative group, many of whom I would suggest are in fact radicals of the Right.)

Novak's article strongly shows what we believe to be the real value of the term liberal, which we see as a label not to be shunned but one to be embraced. (See my initial post for this site, from October 18 of this year, "Why the Reform Club . . . ," available here.) In the United States today, Liberal most aptly describes a rather large group of people on the Right, and very few indeed on the Left.

Novak's article is a very thoughtful and comprehensive analysis in the brief span of a couple thousand words, well worth reading.

I love the smell of democracy in the morning . . .

Despite misty rain and a chill in the air, I was having a good morning. I went to my little voting precinct, pulled the lever for straight ticket GOP, and walked out having done my civic, moral, intellectual, and possibly religious duty. But then I get in the car and hear Baylor's former President Herbert Reynolds attacking the Club for Growth's Arlene Wohlgemuth in a radio ad. This bit is surprising since Reynolds is a lifelong conservative. Why the anomaly? Because Waco's congressman Chet Edwards is a devious freaking Democrat. Reading the tea leaves in the Texas right turn, Edwards went around to Texas Baptists like Reynolds and co-opted them by saying, "I'm in a position of responsibility and I wonder if you could teach me more about the separation of church and state." For a Texas Baptist, that statement is roughly as compelling as a 17 year old cheerleader approaching a high school freshman and asking for help on a bra-shopping trip. In other words, it worked and now several Baylorites are in Edwards' pocket. We'll have to rely on the Fort Worth suburbs to save good Arlene.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Send this to an undecided voter in OHIO

A Washington Times ran article (Oct. 17), “Angry Ohioans Ask Kerry to Stop Outsourcing,” noted that “polls show than an overwhelming majority of Ohioans blame the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for their lost jobs.” China also comes in for a lot of blame. Assuming those polls are right, many Ohioans are badly misinformed.

The notion that NAFTA caused unemployment in Ohio has bee repeatedly retold by Rep. Marci Kaptur of Toledo, since NAFTA was enacted in 1993. Yet unemployment in Ohio was cut in half during the first 8 years of NAFTA, falling from 7 percent in January 1993 to 4.4 percent two years later, then to 3.6 percent by March 2001.

Mexico accounted for nearly 11 percent of our imported merchandise last year, but some $15 billion of that was oil. Mexico accounted for a larger 13.7 percent share of U.S. exports. Canada accounted for a much larger 17.6 percent of U.S. imports, yet Canada’s unemployment rate is 7.1 percent, obviously higher than Ohio.

The notion that Ohio lost jobs to China is also widely believed in Ohio’s steel towns. Yet U.S. exports of steel mill products to China last year exceeded $442 million. China’s growing demand also greatly increased the price of steel, much to the benefit of midwestern steel companies. China imported 43 million metric tons of steel last year – and exported very little.

China accounted for only 12.1 percent of U.S. imports last year, because the goods China sells here are visible but cheap. Before we bought shirts and gadgets from China, we bought them from Japan and others. “While imports attributable to China increased from 5 percent in 1992 to 12 percent in 2003,” notes the Congressional Budget Office, “the share of imports from other Pacific Rim countries declined from 34 percent to 21 percent.”

More than half our imports are industrial supplies and equipment (such as parts for Honda of Ohio). That partly explains why real U.S. imports rose 13.1 percent in 2000, when industry was doing well (until August), then fell 2.6 percent in the recession and terrorist attack of 2001. If imports caused job loss, we would have lost jobs in 2000 and gained them in 2001.

China had more than 98 million manufacturing jobs in 1995 (Asian Development Bank), but only 89.6 million by 2003. In every other major economy mechanical modernization is likewise having the same effect on assembly-line work it had on farm jobs a century ago. Employment nonetheless keeps rising, just differently (less work, on average, and more pay).

The U.S. is by far the world’s largest exporter; China is just fifth largest. It makes sense to worry less about cheap imported socks and more about valuable U.S. industrial and farm exports.

Recessions always hurt heavy industry the most and it always takes a few years to get back to normal. The booms and busts of cyclical industries are not the result of imports, which actually rise and fall in lockstep with manufacturing.

Ohio had a statewide unemployment rate of 6 percent in September, but even in August (when the statewide rate was higher) unemployment was only. 5.3 percent in Akron, 5 percent in Cleveland, 4.8 percent in Columbus and 4.1 percent in Hamilton-Middletown. Only three states had a higher rate. Among major metropolitan areas, high unemployment is mainly confined to Toledo and Youngstown. That’s not even a statewide problem, much less a national or international one.

Senator Kerry has nonetheless pandered to ill-informed anxieties about trade by talking about “outsourcing” without explaining what he means, and asserting, “thousands of Ohioans have seen their jobs shipped overseas.” He proposes to make U.S. companies “more competitive” by greatly increasing taxes on their overseas branches and also on their shareholders, customers and workers. Senator Kerry either does not understand these complex issues or he hopes voters do not understand them.

Kerry Recruitment Vehicle

I was in Florida over the weekend for my sister's wedding. As you might imagine, political signage was much in evidence. When I stopped at a gas station in Pensacola to fill up the rental car (a Dodge Stratus, which I didn't like much), a minivan pulled up with Kerry signs and flags festooning the outside. It looked somewhat official. A young man stepped out to fill his tank. A booming bass tune punctuated by frequent emissions of f***, n*****, and m*****f***** exploded into the aural range of my wife and two year old child.

The situation struck me in two ways. First, I'm sick of being assaulted by other people's music at gas stations. What ever happened to basic courtesy? I don't have a problem with playing the music of choice within the stereophonic confines of your own vehicle, but I'd be ashamed to have my speakers dropping f-bombs on innocent bystanders. Second, the guy was fronting for John Kerry and his vision of the big welfare, litigator-friendly, United Nations permission-asking, economically uninformed, junk food tax levying state. THAT WAS REALLY OFFENSIVE!

One Antiwar Zealot for Bush

Presidential candidates mining the upper Midwest are apt to lose sight of a local tradition that may prove extremely important. Des Moines Register columnist David Yepsen got it just right. He noted that, “Our ancestors brought both isolationism and pacifism to the prairie, and those strains have dominated the state's political gene pool today, unless it's akin to the Civil War or the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.”

Charles Lindbergh chose Des Moines to deliver a speech on September 11, 1941 warning against rushing to war without a plan. “We are on the verge of a war,” said Lindbergh, “for which we are still unprepared and for which no one has offered a feasible plan for victory.” Senator Kerry talks like that too, now that it’s too late. Yet Kerry’s plans for the future seem every bit as warlike as President Bush, if not more so.

I feel entitled to say that because I wrote several columns before the war trying to prevent it. On December 4, 2002, I predicted “war and its aftermath would be more costly and difficult than the optimists admit.” On March 13, 2003, I warned the Iraqis “may violently resist occupation . . . Just keeping the place from coming unglued could be a chore.” My critique of the CIA report on WMD, “Intelligence Without Brains,” was reprinted at antiwar.com.

Because of my credentials as an antiwar zealot, I now get angry e-mails from fellow zealots asking why I have been so critical of Senator Kerry’s economic schemes. For one thing, I am an economist; so I hate watching economic facts and figures so amateurishly tortured. But my isolationist side also sees no reason to prefer Kerry to Bush.

It is Senator Kerry, not President Bush, who keeps saying we need more troops in Iraq. He pretends the extras soldiers will be French or German, but nobody believes that. He says he’d train the Iraqis “faster,” which is blatantly meaningless.

The U.S. military had more than 1.4 million young men and women on active duty, yet only a tenth of them are in Iraq. We still have 75,000 in Germany, 40,000 in Japan. President Bush plans to reduce forces in Europe and Asia. It’s about time. Senator Kerry prefers to add yet another 40,000 to the armed forces. But he has no way to pay them and no place to put them. Maybe France?

A larger standing army does not bode well for those of us who believe the reason for a Defense Department is to defend the U.S. homeland rather than to fix-up foreign roads and schools. Regardless who got us into the Iraq War (including a fantasy-prone CIA), I cannot see any difference between President Bush and Senator Kerry on how they would get us out, except that Kerry is more inclined to add troops.

So the main difference between Bush and Kerry lies in their grasp of economics. I am as certain as the new Nobel Laureate Ed Prescott, who spent much of his career at the Minneapolis Fed, that President Bush is far more likely than Senator Kerry to help preserve and extend the budding economic expansion. When the economy performs well, that lifts the nation’s confidence and resources needed to accomplish many other tasks – including a graceful exit from this divisive war.

Welcome American Spectator Readers!

Thanks for dropping by after reading about the offensive reality of Texas' "Billion Dollar Man." Giant legal verdicts represent the ultimate in big government activism and should prove to be a uniting cause for classical liberals, libertarians, and modern conservatives. We've got to get a handle on the litigation problem before it completely cripples the healthcare system and continues its damaging effects on other sectors of the economy.

Don't stop reading with this post. We've got commentary from S.T. Karnick and Alan Reynolds, too. I think you'll enjoy the experience.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Speaking of Incompetence

This is the title of my last pre-election column, which Townhall.com has online. WashingtonTimes.com will also have it up on Sunday.

In it, I question more of Senator Kerry's statements of "fact," as I have done for the past four weeks(the old ones are also at townhall, or cato.org).

A quick summary of two points:

1. Kerry says, "Over the last four years . . . wages of the average family have fallen by $1,500." That figure (from the reliably partisan Economic Policy Institute) was really about three years not four, incomes not wages, households not families and -- most important -- it was about pre-tax income. Family taxes fell more than $1,500 thanks to you-know-who. Other than that, it is scarcely news that incomes two years after a recssion (2003) were still lower than a year before the recession (2000). Median houshehold income in 1997 was still lower than in 1989, when another you-know-who was President. And that's not counting the tax hikes of 1991 and 1993, which set us back even further.

2. Kerry's only seemingly serious economic plan to date (other than lavish spending and higher tax rates) has been to cut the corporate tax to 33.25% (wow) in exchange for taxing foreigen subsidiaries into oblivion. Yet President Bush just signed a law to cut the tax to 32% for most industrial companies. Although Kerry still talks about his 5% corporate tax cut, it would now require a 4% corporate tax hike. Not to mention destroying any chance of competing in foreign markets (where countries like Germany, France and Canada do not tax offshore earnings at all).

As a long-time absentee Senator, of course, Mr. Kerry probably has no idea the tax law was changed. He's not a quick study. He's not a slow study. He's just a back bench rep of the chattering class. If it sounds good, who cares if it's true?

Friday, October 29, 2004

Sick Flu Claims

The tendency of even the more popular and respectable outlets of libertarianism to adopt and disseminate crank ideas is a truly off-putting aspect of that movement. LewRockwell.com, for example, all too regularly presents bizarre and hysterical screeds like the one that science writer Michael Fumento rebuts in today's National Review Online, available here.

In the LewRockwell.com piece to which Fumento refers, the flu vaccine is seen as a conspiracy between government and big business to make money for a couple of huge pharma firms. As a result, LewRockwell.com author John Keller asserts, the publicized numbers of flu deaths in the United States are wildly exaggerated. Fumento powerfully refutes this ignorant suggestion. Yes, the flu is not a modern-day mass-killing plague, but it can be highly dangerous, and people do die from complications of flu. Hence, it is wise to take the vaccine if it is available to you.

Keller's piece, unfortunately, has very much the flavor of a Lyndon LaRouche argument.

So, to our libertarian friends:

Yes, it's fun to complain about all the wicked things powerful people do in this world, and we encourage people to spread the truth about them. However, a strong sense of fealty to the facts and a skeptical application of common sense and adult wisdom are essential. Spreading wild claims is all great fun until somebody gets sick and dies from it.

The authentic original "Two Americas" speech

Surfing the web, I stumbled upon the original version, posted below. It appears to be a major improvement:

Two Americas
a speech by Edward Johns

This election is about more than attacking the Bush Administration; it’s about a new attack on America. And we have so much work to do. Because the truth is, we still live in two different Americas: one for the privileged few who sue whoever they want, whenever they want to, and another one for everybody impoverished by legal fees. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We have so much work to do. Because the truth is, we still live in two different Americas: one for people who married well, and another for most Americans who work hard and still struggle to make ends meet.

And you know what I’m saying. You don’t need me to explain it to you, you know—you can’t save any money, can you? Takes every dime you make just to pay your taxes. And you know what happens if something goes right. Some politician tries to take even more of your hard-earned money and give it to someone more deserving.

We still have two health care systems in this country: one for families that get their healthcare paid for by taxpayers, and one for people who pay their own bills and buy their own insurance. Millions of Americans want health insurance only if somebody else pays for it. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We shouldn't have two school systems, a private system for the children of affluent Senators and a mandatory public school for everybody else. You and I do not believe that the quality of a child's education should be controlled by parents, but by federal politicians.

We shouldn't have two tax systems in this country: one where the top 20 percent pay 83 percent of all income tax. And one where the bottom 44 percent pay no income tax at all. Right? Folks who work unusually hard, pay nearly all your taxes for you and for Mrs. Kerry. They're carrying the tax burden in this country. You know that. It shouldn't be that way.

This is wrong. It is wrong for our values. It is also wrong for our economy. But it is right for our Party, because those smart enough to earn more than $200,000 are rarely dumb enough to vote for us.

The economic engine of our economy is the millions of Americans who work hard in every corner of this great city and every corner of our great country. But the more they work the more they earn, the more they earn the more likely they are to turn to the Republicans at election time. It doesn’t have to be that way. Together we can keep more people dependent on political generosity.

We need to fix our tax code to punish work and wealth, and to give middle class families a chance to see what suffering really means.

I also want to say a word about an issue that's important to me personally. I think it's important for the country. You never hear politicians talk about it anymore: 35 million Americans who live in poverty at some point in their lives.

There are two Americas, one in which husbands and wives get married and stay married and take care of their children, and one in which marriage is rare and fathers are deadbeats. The poverty rate within married-couple families is 5.3 percent, while the poverty rate among female-headed families is 28 percent. It doesn’t have to be this way.

There are 35 million Americans classified as poor yet nearly 8 percent of those poor households have one family member working fulltime. It doesn’t have to be that way. Together, we can teach that 8 percent what the other 92 percent already knows – that it doesn’t pay to work.

Work is not what the Democratic Party believes in. We need to stand on these working families.

Let me tell you what we're going to do. We're going to build an America where we say no to kids with two hard-working parents. You and I can do something about this that. This is the America we believe in.

We still have two governments in America: one for the trial lawyers, the Hollywood elite, the union bosses, and then whatever is leftover is for you.

But in the America you and I build together, we will have one government that works for our insiders, not for theirs.

Let me say this in very simple language that everybody will understand.

This democracy does not belong to their interest groups; it belongs to our interest groups. I have never taken a dime from a Washington lobbyist. But I’ve taken millions from investment bankers at Goldman Sachs and millions more from class action lawyers -- Baron & Budd, Beasley Allen, Girardi & Keese, Weitz & Luxenburg, the Simmons Firm, and many more.

We also live in a country that in far too few ways is still categorized and labeled by race. This is not an African-American issue, not a Hispanic-American issue, not an Asian-American issue; this is an issue of splitting-up Americans according to whether they are African-American, Hispanic-American or Asian-American.

The truth is that we want our children and grandchildren to be the first generation to grow up in an America that's divided and sub-divided by race, and where entitlements and class-action lawsuits are granted on the basis of race, so we have to make as big a deal out of racial division as is humanly possible. Any notion of describing people as simply “American” is simply unacceptable.

It's what our values are. What we believe in. We can do this together, yes, we can.
You know exactly what I'm talking about. So when we hear those same voices telling us we can't get enough trial lawyers, insurance magnates, currency speculators and Hollywood playboys to bankroll our campaign—I say just watch us.

This election is about demeaning the American people. It's about trying to persuade voters that we’re now living through another Great Depression. It's about making the American people believe again that everything depends on government spending and regulations. Our campaign is not just based on the politics of cynicism. It's based on the economics of deception.

Thanks you
And God bless the Trial Lawyers Association of America

Mrs. Kerry's Missing Income

Mrs. Kerry’s Missing Income

Michael Kinsley, writing in last Sunday’s Washington Post, finds it unfair to complain that Teresa Heinz Kerry paid a paltry 12.4 percent federal tax on her reported $5.1 million in taxable income. “Whatever point Teresa Kerry’s critics were making,” he writes, “is wrong as well as utterly obscure.” At a superficial level, Kinsley is right. The Wall Street Journal editorial page made much too much of the fact that half of Mrs. Kerry’s reported income came from tax-exempt municipal bonds. They missed the point. But so did Kinsley.

The most serious question is not how little tax Mrs. Kerry paid on the income reported, but how she managed to report only $5.1 million of taxable income with a net worth of at least $750 million. On October 16, New York Times tax reporter David Cay Johnston noted that “even a modest 5 percent return [on $1 billion in assets] would have generated $50 million of income, 10 times what was on the two pages released by the Ms. Heinz Kerry. A statement released by the Kerry campaign noted that income taxes are paid directly by the Heinz family trust.” The Kerry campaign raised questions rather than answers, since it remains a well-guarded secret how much the family trust paid in taxes, or to Mrs. Kerry.

On October 21, The Journal printed a dozen letters on the relatively minor issue of tax-exempt interest income. One made the simple point that Kinsley now overemphasizes -- that income from tax-exempt bonds involves an “implicit tax,” because the pretax interest rate is lower than might be gotten on similar taxable bonds. It follows that the actual burden of driving investors into tax-exempt securities involves “deadweight loss” – a loss to taxpayers that exceeds by far the revenue gain (if any) to the government.

In a similar way, the pre-Bush tax rate of 39.6 percent on dividends had a high cost to me even though I never paid it. To avoid a high tax on dividends I invested too heavily in riskier securities that pay no dividend in the hope of capital gains. Before the capital gains tax was reduced in 1997, I bore yet another cost by parking cash in a tax-exempt bond fund. The lesson Kinsley should have learned from Mrs. Kerry’s example, if not from mine, is that high tax rates on avoidable transactions hurt taxpayers without yielding any revenue. But the lesson he draws, oddly enough, is that steep tax rates that are avoided are somehow superior to lower tax rates that are paid. “Teresa Kerry’s tax returns,” he writes, “certainly seem to illustrate, not contradict, the case for her husband’s tax proposal.” Huh?

Kinsley makes an unduly heroic “rough estimate” that she paid “a fraction under 30 percent.” But this hypothetical implicit tax is not an estimate of dollars received by the U.S. Treasury, but an estimate of the burden of tax distortions to one taxpayer. The 12.4 percent figure, by contrast, would be an entirely fair measure of how little revenue Mrs. Kerry contributed to financing the sorts of grandiose federal spending schemes her husband favors. It would be fair, that is, if her income was not understated.

The truly interesting question, however, is how Mrs. Kerry managed to report so little income. She made it into the Forbes 400 with a net worth of $750 million, most of which is presumably invested in H.J. Heinz Co. Heinz stock rose 10.8 percent last year, from $32.87 to $36.43, yet Mrs. Kerry reported only $14,412 of capital gains. To be as fair as possible, assume she sold no Heinz shares. But what about last year’s dividends of 27 cents a share?

Alan Sloan’s sources estimated that were it not for last year’s cut in the dividend tax to 15 percent, Mrs. Kerry would have paid around $918,000 in taxes rather than $628,000, saving $290,000. Johnston figures she saved $440,000. Take your pick. These figures raise more questions than they answer. How could a Heinz heiress own so few shares of H.J. Heinz? And if her wealth is not mainly from Heinz shares, what is it?

For simplification, assume H.J. Heinz stock accounts for virtually all of her dividend income. Sloan’s figures then imply a 20 percent increase in the dividend tax (from 15 to 35) on her assumed 1,450,000 shares would indeed raise her taxes by $290,000. The trouble is that 1.45 million shares at $35 a share accounts for little more than $50 million – less than 7 percent of her wealth. Johnston’s estimate likewise implies 2.2 million shares, only about 10 percent of her wealth. We are still left with the key question Johnston posed at the start: How could Mrs. Kerry’s report income of only $5.1 million, more than half of which was tax-exempt, if her net worth is $750 million?

Subtract the value of her five houses, $33 million, and that still leaves $717 million earning only $5.1 million – a literally unbelievable return of seven-tenths of one percent. Even Heinz stock and municipal bonds did much better than that.

Despite reporting almost no visible return on her wealth, Forbes nonetheless estimates Mrs. Kerry’s wealth increased by $200 million over the past two years. How is that possible? If she owns enough shares of Heinz to have such large unrealized capital gains, then why does she report so little taxable dividend income? Besides, Heinz stock was no higher at the end of 2003 than it was at the end of 2001, so where’s the gain?

Estimates that Mrs. Kerry would have paid an additional $290,000 -$440,000 if the tax on dividends had been 35 percent rather than 15 percent assumes people would report the same amount of dividend income regardless how dividends are taxed. This is called a static revenue estimate, which is a polite expression for claptrap. Prudent investors would quickly stop holding dividend-paying stocks outside of pension funds. And, like Mrs. Kerry, they would hold more municipal bonds.

Incidentally, the 28 percent Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) accounted for more than half her tax bill, $326,000, even though tax-exempt bonds are not subject to the AMT, which is usually a sign of aggressive tax planning, to put it charitably.
Contrary to Mr. Kinsley, Mrs. Kerry’s tax returns make no case at all for the centerpiece of her husband’s tax schemes – raising the top tax rates to 36-39.6 percent. On the contrary, as Mr. Sloan noted, raising the top tax to 39.6 percent would not increase Mrs. Kerry’s taxes at all. Any increase in the regular tax on part of her income would be offset by a reduction in the 28 percent alternative minimum tax on the rest. Mrs. Kerry’s tax return illustrates one of many reasons why Mr. Kerry’s wicked tax rates would not raise nearly the booty he imagines -- even aside from the demoralizing impact on work and investment. Raising the top two tax rates would have literally zero impact on at least one of the 400 wealthiest Americans – Senator Kerry’s wife.

One thing that raising the top two marginal tax rates really would accomplish, however, is to make the Kerry family wealthier. It would greatly increase the demand for municipal bonds, driving up their price and generating a windfall capital gain for Mrs. Kerry.

Mr. Sloan concludes, “Heinz Kerry doesn’t seem to be playing any significant tax games.” Yet serious tax avoidance games among the rich and famous typically involve hiding income in seemingly impersonal legal entities such as trusts.

The massive gap between Mrs. Kerry’s huge and growing wealth and her relatively tiny reported income suggests her lawyers and accountants have done valiant work. In their loyal efforts to ignore Teresa Heinz Kerry’s mysterious missing money, apologists Sloan and Kinsley have been especially heroic.

--Alan Reynolds, Cato Institute

Thursday, October 28, 2004

ABC Is Holding a Drudge . . .

Has anyone considered how different recent political history might have been without Matt Drudge's incredible contribution? Thanks to him, we know that ABC News is holding off on airing an authenticated videotape from Al Qaeda promising to punish the U.S. for electing George W. Bush, who destroyed the Taliban and made war on Al Qaeda. On top of NYT and CBS trying to bomb the Bush campaign at the last minute with the missing explosives story, we now have ABC holding a story that will kill Kerry. Americans will react to a threat quite differently than the Spaniards. They'll vote Bush just to spite Al Qaeda.

How to Tell Who's Ahead, II

Today's New York Times story "A Clouding of the Crystal Ball Draws the Candidates Back," by R. W. Apple Jr., provides more evidence for my theory that the poll numbers the press reports to us are a far less accurate guide to the candidates' true standing with the voters than are the candidates' actions themselves.

Michigan was safely in the Kerry column, and still is so, according to all the polls except one that recently appeared in the Detroit News, but suddenly both Kerry and Bush are campaigning furiously there."Very late in the game," Apple writes, "Michigan finds itself back in play."

Apple believes that the Detroit News poll was what caught both candidates' attention:

So what happened? Bill Ballenger, who edits Inside Michigan Politics, a popular newsletter, traces the change to a tracking poll by Steve Mitchell of East Lansing for The Detroit News, which showed Mr. Bush ahead by five percentage points as of last weekend, when other polls showed Mr. Kerry holding a solid lead.

"I think Mitchell changed their minds," Mr. Ballenger said. "He worried the Kerry people and he encouraged the Bush people. If Steve hadn't come out with those numbers, the candidates wouldn't have invested any more time in Michigan."

It strikes me as highly unlikely, however, that one outlier poll could have that much influence over candidates' actions in a very close, high-stakes race. Much of the article, in fact, deals with the presumed unreliability of the polls conducted by the press. In addition, Apple's own article quotes a source as claiming that the candidates' internal polls must have been the real factor in their change in plans:
David Rohde, a professor of political science at Michigan State University, said he had "seen nothing and heard nothing" to explain why Michigan should suddenly "lurch.'' But the candidates' own internal polls, he added, "must show the race tightening in the last days, or they wouldn't be coming here."

None of this, of course, is intended to say that Bush will now win Michigan, only that the race in the state is much closer than previously thought, and that the New York Times saw Kerry's and Bush's new interest in campaigning in Michigan as a clue to the real state of the race, despite what the polls said.

How to Tell Who's Ahead in a Political Campaign

The opinion polls have become notoriously unreliable in the past few years, to the point that some analysts argue that the media outlets commissioning the polls actually want them to be skewed, to make for more interesting stories and to push for their favored candidates. It has become a truism to say that one cannot trust the polls, especially those claiming to tell which way voters are leaning during election campaigns.

Actually, for us laypersons the polls are often unnecessary anyway. I have found that the surest way to infer a candidate's real standing is to watch what he or she does on the campaign trail and in paid advertising. A candidate's polls are as accurate as they can be made to be, because the consequences of getting the numbers wrong are potentially so disastrous. Hence, risky, negative gambits almost always indicate that a candidate knows he or she is behind and falling farther back.

Here in Indiana, for example, Gov. Joe Kernan suddenly went very negative a couple of weeks ago, with a series of extremely harsh advertisements claiming that his challenger, Mitch Daniels, had made a fortune costing average people their jobs during his tenure as a board member of an Indiana corporation. The ads seemed much more angry, intemperate, and irrelevant than one thought could possibly be necessary, especially considering that the two candidates were said to be running neck-and-neck at the time.

Now the polls say that Kernan is about a half-dozen points behind Daniels. One could surmise that the negative ads pushed him down in the polls, but it seems quite possible that what has really happened is that the press's polls are starting to catch up with Kernan's and Daniels's more accurate internally generated numbers. In that case, Kernan's negative ads would be understandable as a desperation move by a candidate falling behind in the polls late in his campaign.

And the same theory would explain the increasing harshness of Sen. John Kerry's attacks on President Bush since the third debate.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Plastic Forks and the Election

Like most people, I probably give the most thought to 9-11 when I'm in an airport. Shortly after the original event, I boarded a plane in a nearly abandoned airport with soldiers holding machine guns standing in the background. We bought bagels and were not allowed to have any implement of any kind with which to spread the cream cheese. Today, I sat with my wife and child in an airport TGI Fridays waiting for a flight to Atlanta. I lifted my fork to my mouth and realized it was plastic.

It was just another reminder how much things have changed. Using a plastic fork at a restaurant that serves food that actually requires real utensils, made me realize that it's the little things that indicate you've lost something. The plastic fork is a bit like the bolt locks we all feel required to have on our doors at home. Barbarism takes back a little space from the civilized world. I don't trust John Kerry to be the guy who's going to turn things around.

NY Times Bombs Bush

Today's New York Times lead story tries to put a good face on the newspaper of record's obvious attempt at an October surprise in using a two-year-old non-story against President Bush just days before the election:

The very fact that Mr. Bush mentioned the missing explosives, after two days of silence since their disappearance was first reported, signaled that his campaign strategists recognized the issue's political potency in the final week of a presidential race that both sides agree could be exceedingly close.

People in the Kerry campaign clearly think too that the missing explosives may be a powerful issue, as the senator himself illustrated today by again emphasizing it at a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, whose seven electoral votes are up for grabs.

Reports out of NBC and CNN, by contrast, suggest that the explosives may well have been moved out before the United States entered Iraq, which would mean, of course, that their disappearance has nothing to do with any carelessness on the part of the Bush administration or the American military forces in Iraq. Which would mean that Sen. Kerry and his ghastly friends at the New York Times have not only spread a vicious falsehood—with exactly the same amount of care and sense of responsibility that Dan Rather and CBS used in spreading an anti-Bush story earlier in the campaign—but have exploited that lie for political gain during a time of war.

Rather reminiscent of certain false stories about American atrocities in Vietnam that certain people spread during the early 1970s, isn't it?

Really, Really the End of Objective Media

The simultaneous release of the 60 Minutes Bush National Guard story and the DNC's "Operation Fortunate Son" ad campaign looked bad. The subsequent revelation of badly forged documents and a CBS producer putting a source in contact with the Kerry campaign was worse. Surprisingly, the establishment media appears completely unchastened. On the same day the NYT publishes a two year old story about missing explosives in Iraq, Kerry unveils a new section of his stump speech incorporating the material. You don't suppose he had advance notice, do you? Then , the next day Kerry has a new ad criticizing Bush for blowing it with regard to securing the explosives before they could be vanished. Just how quickly can you have an ad put together, anyway?

These events smack of coordination between Kerry, the DNC, and the establishment media in a way that is going to be studied and commented upon for a long time. The days of big, supposedly objective media are way over. We're moving back to openly ideologically driven news, just like in the days when every town had a couple of papers, one for each party. It's just more honest that way.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Kerry Group Worked with Viet Cong, Documents Suggest

Journalist Tom Lipscomb has a very interesting article in today's New York Sun, "Hanoi Appproved of Role Played by Anti-War Vets." According to Lipscomb's account, "The communist regime in Hanoi monitored closely and looked favorably upon the activities of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War during the period Senator Kerry served most actively as the group's spokesman and a member of its executive committee, two captured Viet Cong documents suggest."

The 1971 documents "provide a glimpse of the favorable way the Viet Cong viewed the activities in which Mr. Kerry was involved," Lipscomb writes. He notes that the documents closely tie Kerry's activities and those of the VVAW with the expressed desires of the Viet Cong:
The CDEC Viet Cong document titled "Circular on Antiwar Movements in the US" notes, "The spontaneous antiwar movements in the US have received assistance and guidance from the friendly (VC/NVN) delegations at the Paris Peace Talks." It also notes that "The seven-point peace proposal (of the SVN Provisional Revolutionary Government) [the Viet Cong proposal advanced by one of its envoys, Madame Binh, operating out of Paris] not only solved problems concerning the release of US prisoners but also motivated the people of all walks of life and even relatives of US pilots detained in NVN to participate in the antiwar movement."

The significance of the documents lies in the way they dovetail with activities of the young Mr. Kerry as he led the VVAW anti-war movement in the spring of 1971.

One could argue that this is all ancient history and of no real importance today, had Sen. Kerry not based so much of his presidential campaign so thoroughly on his war record. As a consequence, the entire record of Sen. Kerry's response to the war is indeed relevant, and Tom Lipscomb has done an excellent job of unearthing this side of Kerry's record, in several articles in the Chicago Sun-Times and other publications. Highly recommended.

The Older I Get, the Smarter I Feel . . .

Recent reports claim Bush is polling at 18% with African-Americans. Several months ago, yours truly predicted something like this might happen. Click here to see what I mean. The title of this tale is "The Straw that Broke the Donkey's Back."

Remember the DLC!!!

The prospect, even the small prospect, of a Kerry presidency brings out inexplicable longings for Bill Clinton. Although Clinton was out to lunch on abortion (was there ever any statement as bogus as the whole "safe, legal, and rare" thing?) and had lady trouble, one sensed that he was realistic about the role of government. Okay, okay, there was that whole attempt to nationalize about 12% of the economy, but this is a rose-colored exercise! But seriously, wouldn't all of us be happier if we were facing a choice between Bush and Lieberman instead of Bush v. Kerry? I'd certainly have a less apocalyptic view of the near term.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Religion as a Neurological Disorder?

Bill Maher recently told Canadian Broadcasting that he believes religion is a neurological disorder, something you would tell a psychiatrist about and he would give you a pill to make it go away. His remarks got my attention, not because I have a thin skin about such things, but because I've often had the same thought in a different direction. I've considered the notion that some people are "wired" for religious belief and others are not and concluded that being incapable of believing in God would be a lot like being an animal, a clever, calculating, rationalizing animal, but an animal nonetheless.

FahrenHYPE 9-11

I balanced off my order of "Supersize Me!" this weekend with a viewing of "Fahrenhype 9-11." I can sincerely report that it is an excellent piece of work. There are several cuts that could easily be made into dynamite Bush campaign ads. The African-American teacher of the students with whom President Bush was reading "My Pet Goat" comes across as a sincere admirer of the President and the way he carried himself that day. Ed Koch, Dick Morris, and Ron Silver do quite a bit of damage, as well.

What may prove more important than the video itself is the promotion of it. While watching ESPN at various intervals, I caught the ads offering "Fahrenhype" for sale. They function as defenses of Bush against Moore without qualifying as anyone's campaign money.

Ideologically-based for profit business is going to be absolutely huge in the near future. Get ready for regular visits to your cineplex of "documentaries" of the Moore style in both left and right varieties.