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

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

2008: Too Much Too Soon

Glenn Reynolds links to some of the predictable concerns about 2008; at 20 months or so, it's perhaps the longest presidential campaign in history.

Barack Obama's current misspeakages notwithstanding, and who knows, he might be absolved of them by the time the first primary vote is cast---Americans have notoriously short memories---what I hope the process proves is that absolutely nobody these days is qualified to be President of the United States, so perhaps we'll get off the next president's back a little, whoever she may be.

The only presidents to get their grist through the mill in the 20th century were the Roosevelts (although Teddy was a bit crackers before and after, although not during), Ike, and Ronald Reagan. Harry Truman is bouncing back a little, mostly through Democrat-leaning historical revisionism, and Bush41 and Bill Clinton had rather tame times that were immune to any major screwups. Jack Kennedy's star sinks the more we learn about him, and praise for his presidency these days rests mostly on eyewitness testimonials on what he would have done had he lived, like pull us out of Vietnam or actually lift a finger about civil rights.

Our current president---at the mention of whose name many Americans descend into a certain derangement---could not be said to have been a stellar candidate in 2000. He was a six-year governor of a large state, but one whose top job was constitutionally weak. Neither could he be accused of a mastery of the rhetorical arts or a history of elegant self-authored position papers.

But he knew how to handle himself, which his opponents Al Gore and John Kerry did not. Gore lost an unloseable peace-and-prosperity election by mookiness alone, and George W. Bush (there, I said it), for all his verbal clumsiness, never said anything as foolish as "I voted for it before I voted against it," which alone lost Kerry his chance to become JFK44.

And speaking of losers, it's difficult to make the case that Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis or Bob Dole never becoming president was a great tragedy for the republic.

But they sure look good to me about right freaking now:

The most qualified for the job in 2008 could very well be Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich. Each has a creditable intelligence, insight and vision. Each has an alarming lack of self-control and statesmanship. Dang. It's a fact that if you can't be trusted to handle yourself, we cannot trust you to handle what is now an impossible job.

My quick takes on the rest---

His Rudiness: The ultimate metrosexual---agnostic on social issues, agnostic on them in his personal life, too. The most glib and able rhetorician since Clinton42, and Reagan and JFK before that. Seems to like tax cuts and is a bear (bull?) on national defense, and even his, um, nuanced position on it will wipe the floor with any Democrat hem-and-hawer on illegal immigration. Can win any given election on the quality of his BS alone, and if nobody else shows up at the post, conservatives will have to take 2/3 of a loaf, and mebbe get a skosh more around the seams.

Clinton44: Likewise for leftists, about 2/3 of a loaf. Not as dovish or as socially progressive as they'd like, and a bit of a free-trader to boot. Still, she hates tax cuts, which are a moral obscenity to the cosmic justice crowd, and that goes a long way. And although I've seen her turn in some lousy performances on the stump as only a six-year elected official, she's also put in a lot of excellent ones. She's still learning, and unlike Obama and the late great John Kerry, has never put her foot in it, and neither do I expect she will.

Mitt the Last---the odds being prohibitively against there ever ever ever being a second president named Mitt: Leave out the Mormon thing, which would hit the fan on both left and right bigtime. (Wait until you hear about the Mormon underwear: if the press is forced to use it to down the GOP candidate, they certainly will. They've been polite so far, but if Mitt gets anywhere near the danger zone, rest assured that the article is already written up, like Chuckles' obituary.)

No, the problem is not just being a mere former one-term governor (four years, Connecticut)---Mitt says weird things, like his sons are serving the nation by working on his campaign instead of volunteering for Iraq. And that thing about putting his dog carrier (with dog inside) on the roof of the family car on a vacation trip, and then saying he enjoyed it, the poopoo jetting down the car windows as proof to the contrary.

This is never going to wash in a presidential election. Even Al Gore was never that much of a mook.

Barack Obama: Man, I'd love to have a black president. It would be good for the country, it'd be good for the world. Just not this one. He's a follow-the-dots lefty, and on those rare occasions when he actually thinks for himself and departs from orthodoxy, trouble follows.

John Himself McCain: His departures from orthodoxy have become orthodox for him. If Reagan's model of leadership was finding a parade and standing in front of it, McCain's is building his own drum, pounding on it, and then marching to it. We all love and respect the guy, but he never perfected the technique of making new friends without losing the ones he's already made.

John Edwards: Parlaying the millions he scored as a trial lawyer into a Senate seat, all on the strength of his BS (and great looks) alone, he (and the lovely missus) somehow got the impression that works in the real world, too. Sorry, our standards are much lower for the legislature (see Kennedy, Ted) than the executive. Much, much lower.

By all outward metrics, he's the perfect candidate and will get the Martian and turnip truck vote, but that's about it.

Bill Richardson: Ace credentials, but punting his interview with the American people farther and farther as you read this, making us all wonder why anyone ever took him seriously in the first place. Mook.

Mike Huckabee: I like him. But although creationists don't have an official underwear, if 1960 was a referendum on JFK and Roman Catholicism (and there was a dry run with another loser, Al Smith, in 1928), Mormonism and creationism haven't even put on their uniforms yet, regardless of what might lie underneath. I mean, creationism can't even carry the Roman Catholic vote, which has trended toward the GOP since Reagan. It's weird, even by Roman Catholic standards.) Mook.

Did we forget anyone? Oh yeah, Fred Dalton Thompson. We'll soon see if he has the right stuff to justify putting him in the Big Chair, but he's the only one among them who's taken his own time about this president thing, and didn't let anxiety dictate when he should show up to lead the parade. First you've got to let it gather, and showing up too early to lead it is gauche, excuse my French.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Iraq, Iraq, Iraq

We're all sick of the talk of it. But that changes nothing.

I've been struggling with the current truism, that the only solution to Iraq is political, not military. Even St. David Petraeus has been known to mouth that one. No justice, no peace, it's been formulated in another context.

But by "military" we really mean "security." There is no security solution, then?

Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither, said Ben Franklin. But is that really true outside the United States? (Like in the UK, where what the ACLU considers egregious abrogations of civil rights are routine, and people love them.)

Folks are fully willing to sacrifice freedom for security all over the world, and that's the fact. It's why there are so many dictators still in power, and dictators are the rule not the exception throughout the fractious Arab world.

The prophet Sting advises us that there is no political solution to our troubled evolution. I'm not a disciple, but I think he was onto something there. What I can glean from the confusing reports from over there is that Iraqi society is moving ahead of its government, as successful societies always must. (The medieval Muslim philosopher al-Farabi notes that first there is a common ground, an ethos, that defines a nation or a people. Politics simply follows.)

The Iraqis have no choice, but I dunno if the American polity will give the situation until January '08 to leave more divinable tea leaves, although our generals are already making those noises. Is the surge "working"? Even some Democrat senators think so. But what is this "surge"? What does "working" mean? Language devolves into nonsense so quickly these days.

A>B has been the conventional wisdom, that political agreement will result in stability. Or maybe it's A>B>A+, that stability will result in political progress will result in greater stability. I'm not sure the Arab world (or human society at its most naked, as Iraq's is) works that way, as previously noted. Politics, as we in the West have grown to understand it, is not what politics is when practiced at the tribal/sectarian level.

Maybe A is simply A, and B is only a corollary. If people want peace, they tend to get peace, even if you tend to have to kill most of those who don't want peace first. Politics might simply be those who are left standing writing up the details.

I ran across a contemporary Muslim philosopher who said that the West are the children of Rousseau, but the Islamic world is Hobbesian. (Life is nasty, brutish and short, and one simply does what one must do to survive.) Jihadism certainly stands in opposition to that, and indeed supplies an acceptably Islamic answer to Hobbes' insufficiency for the human spirit.

But, if the Taliban hadn't been enough proof, the barbarity and outright obscenity of bin Ladenism as exhibited in Iraq has turned all but the most self-annihilating of Muslims against this latest centennial round of Islamic eschatology.

So, what remains is Hobbes, and as bin Laden himself noted, people go with the strongest-looking horse, the likely winner.

We are continually told that we must keep our eye on the real ball, the real villain, the real threat, Osama bin Laden. I submit that his real defeat has been not in forcing him physically into a cave somewhere over the Pakistan border (or killing him), but in Iraq, where his ideology has been shown for what it is, and appears to be finding increasing rejection.

Whether that's because it offends Rousseau in aesthetics, or whether the strong horse of our military is enforcing Hobbes, I don't care. Probably a lot of both.

9-11-01 was designed as a clarion call for global jihad, the re-establishment of the caliphate, blahblahblah. In 2007, I think Europe---from within---has more to worry about from jihadism than the Muslim world itself.

Oh yeah, there's still Iran. Dang.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Amateur Hour 2008

At yet another Democrat presidential debate the other day, Barack Obama referred to "the president of Canada."

Did you hear about it? Maybe if you're an internetable newshound, but most people didn't. They weren't watching the debate in record numbers, and the non-partisan American press so far hasn't found it very newsworthy. Although the Canadanadians seem to have noticed.

But it's OK. I'm sure this Harvard Law School grad knows how to spell potatoe, which we have a lot more of than Canadanadians. He'd make a perfect VP. Do you want fries with that?

Christian Socialist Authoritarianism

Via Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty, a very interesting website, "The Stiftung Leo Strauss." Something there to like and hate for everyone.

The Stiftung long argued that Bush-As-Spirit-Of-The-Age is perhaps
not entirely comically absurd. Christian Socialist Authoritarianism in
the U.S. came from somewhere. True, the Movement's various strands
took advantage of 9/11. And true, they together routed and used the
hapless Democrats as props and sock puppets until 2006. But the extent
of the regime's transformation of American social fabric, mores,
politics and destiny was not wholly imposed top down. The Joe Kleins
of the world didn't and still don't get it.

The Enlightenment was always a thin veneer in America before 2001. It
is thinner still in 2007.

Nice formulation, that: "Christian Socialist Authoritarianism" would be entirely defensible by someone like Leo Strauss, I think, as preferable to Jacksonian democracy, civil war, The Gilded Age, Progressivism, and Wilsonianism, as well as a thousand other bad ideas from the world at large.

It's been said that the American Jewish messiah looks a lot like FDR, and Strauss, a Platonist-Jew, dug him bigtime, or so I've heard.

Christian Socialist Authoritarianism certainly fits FDRism, I think, and "compassionate conservatism" seems pretty close, if only running on FDR's fumes.

Was the Founding Era America's Golden Age? Hard to tell, as things got unsettled before they got settled. Regardless, it didn't survive democracy and Andrew Jackson, so its tenability is in doubt, as Strauss and a number of others might observe [if they indulged in a bit of historicism]. Christian Socialist Authoritarianism seems to
round the bases of electorates throughout the West.

(I will put in a plug for Fred Thompson here, whose noises on federalism are the most Founder-like thing I've heard in my lifetime.)

(And I think the linked essay trickles into la-la-land a little [a lot], but I admire its boldness.)


Adventures in Parenting

We discovered a real treasure in CD of American folk songs. Our kids love them and they're pretty easy on parents' ears to boot. But they will sometimes get you an odd look in the grocery store, especially when your five and three-year old are skipping through the grocery store singing "Follow the Drinking Gourd." It's an old song supposedly sung about the Underground Railroad (though this site throws some doubt on the story). You can find the lyrics here and hear the song (after a bit of a lesson) here. The "drinking gourd" refers to the big dipper, by the way,...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Glenn Reynolds and John Lott

I sent the following note today to Glenn Reynolds, the ineffable Instapundit and self-appointed referee of all things scholarly:

Dear Professor Reynolds,

I notice that your blog has shined virtually no light on Steve Levitt's utterly embarrassing letter to John McCall, a letter that most scholars with a shred of dignity would write only after having crawled into a deep hole. (As best as I can tell, all you have done is offer an "update" posting with a link.) In case you missed it: Levitt admits that even as he claimed that the special issue of the JLE that Lott put together was not refereed, Levitt himself was one of the referees. Second, Levitt's claim that Lott invited only authors whose views were consistent with his was undermined completely by his admission that he had been invited to submit a paper. (As, by the way, were others with views differing from Lott's.) And, third, the comedy highlight of Levitt's letter is his claim that "[Levitt] did not mean to suggest that Dr. Lott did anything unlawful or improper in arranging for the payment of the publication expenses for the Conference issue." Of course not; precisely what, then, did he mean to suggest?

Perhaps you could offer some of your usual musings on that. More generally, your rather loud silence on this latest development in the Levitt/Lott controversy is interesting, particularly given the massive amounts of attention, quotation, and credibility over these past few years that you have deemed appropriate for those attacking Lott's integrity. Now, why is that? Could it be that you simply are far less objective or "fair" than you like to pretend?

No obfuscations, please: A straight answer would be appreciated. Feel free to post this note if you wish.

Benjamin Zycher

I Want My Liberals Back!

Some of them were OK.

The New Republic was the reliable bastion of America's liberals---the center-left, if you will---since the 1950s. But over the past few years, its circulation has dipped, and it cut back from a weekly to a bi-weekly. It was also slipping onto the (ever-growing) "not-approved" list among the leftist netroots. Now, these folks can't get within five feet of a copy of National Review without breaking out in a cold sweat, but when their epistemological limits shrink past TNR, it's time for alarm.

So this Beauchamp business at its inception hit me as a shabby attempt to get relevant again. What concerned me was that it illustrates how much the intellectual center-left has collapsed, represented for 2008 only by Joe Biden and God help us, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The question isn't of the apparent fabrications in the "Scott Thomas" reports, but why TNR went with them in the first place. To help the war effort? Hell no, to undermine it and our troops themselves, and get back in the left's good graces, such as they are.

We see stories from all over the world about UN forces raping children and worse. But they're on page A94 of the papers. After all, we can surely conclude nothing bad about the UN's efforts as a result of these anomolies: they're not inherently meaningful. The front page is reserved for good news about the UN's deployments, and if TNR had been "reporting" rather than agitating, they'd be printing whatever good news is coming from Iraq as well as the even worse stuff the UN forces do.

No, we all know what's going on here. It's only a stroke of luck that Beauchamp couldn't resist embellishing. It could all have been true, let's face it.

With 35% of Democrats believing that Bush had some foreknowledge (or worse) of 9-11, the crank factor on the American left may be approaching an all-time high. Most are unreachable, but to focus on them is to abandon all hope of sanity for our nation. I'll continue to concentrate on engaging the remaining 65%, although it's tempting to drive the nuts even nutser. It doesn't take much, and it's a lot more fun, but duty calls.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Show Me The Monet

This is why you should never rely on first impressionists.

Five masked men took the "Cliffs Near Dieppe". Worse yet, they took the "Lane of Poplars Near Moret". My question is: if the cops know their route so exactly, why can't they follow them back to headquarters?

Which painter is stolen more than any other? You guessed it: Monet. Now the question is, what about country music shoplifters? Do they favor Cash?

Monday, August 06, 2007

For the record . . .

. . . I will not be joining the Blogger's Union.

Interesting Description

So the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), one of the big civil rights groups, plans on honoring Michael Vick (the Atlanta QB who has been indicted on dogfighting charges) during its upcoming conference. Well, that's just dandy, since he's clearly just the sort of role model we would all want our children to emulate: likely involved with a rather unsavory and cruel practice, caught flipping off Atlanta fans when he got a few boos, caught spreading around STDs.

Notice, though, how Sports Illustrated describes the SCLC: as a "Christian Group" that's going to honor Vick. Now, in some ways, that's true. The SCLC has long ties to black churches. But when was the last time you saw it described as a "Christian" organization, as opposed to a "civil rights" one? Interesting choice, wouldn't you say?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

You Say Eugenics, I say Convenient Death

In one of those blogo-dust-ups (is that a good phrase? How about "blogcontroversy"? Or maybe blogscuffle? We need a word!) Ross Douthat over at the Atlantic has been taking some heat for suggesting that calling yourself a progressive implicates you in their past support of the eugenics programs of the early 20th century. Go here and wander around for a good example of how arguments just sail past one another.

For the record, I don't think that Hillary!'s self-labeling as a "progressive" of late means much of anything with respect to support for eugenics. And I do think there is a distinction to be made with the "new eugenics" in that its supporters don't want (yet) the state to enforce the improvement of human beings. And it seems right to say that if we could use some sort of gene therapy to prevent folks from developing, say, cystic fibrosis, that would be a very good thing. And most liberals/progressives really aren't tied to the sort of strong notion of progress that their forbears bought into.

Still, the liberal bleating that they're really *not* eugenicists and that it's all going to be merely individual choice and so everything will be just hunky-dory is just a bit disingenuous. These are folks, after all, who in every area of life other than those things that might ever so tangentially touch on the freedom to procreate as one will (or will not, in far too many cases) insist that free choice really isn't free choice. Hey, some folks decide to take out 35% interest pay-day loans - they made their own choice, right? The truth of the matter (it seems to me) is that in a society where certain sorts of perfection start being the product of choice, especially among the wealthy, well-born, etc., it will necessarily create an obverse pressure on everyone to *choose* in certain ways. One of the ways that Tocqueville gets democratic culture exactly right is his analysis of how public opinion works to ensure a uniformity of views that is much more powerful and much more thoroughgoing than anything government itself could do. So when the successful and wealthy people in a society suddenly start having children that all have TVD's beatific good looks and winsome personality and everyone has a "choice" about what "sort" of children they produce, they will "choose" to all have little TVD's. God help us.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bye-Bye Obama Nation, Hello Evan Bayh

It sez here that Barack Obama just killed his chance for the presidency with this---

Let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaida leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.

This fits the lefty mantra that we had bin Laden surrounded and only peeling off troops for Iraq thwarted his capture and everything would be ducky if we had. (Afghanistan is the "good" war.)

The man on the street forgets that when an American public figure speaks, the world listens. Obama has no such excuse:

Pakistan, by virtue of its nukes and population of 170 million, is the most powerful Muslim nation in the world. For Obama to even hint at invading it or even violating its territorial sovereignty is, oh, how did she put it, ah yes, irresponsible and frankly naive.

I trust the American people will not put our lives in the hands of this amateur. And this might be the coffin-nail for even the VP slot. Hillary doesn't need him---contrary to the prevailing wisdom that the black vote will stay home if he's passed over, Hillary polls very well among blacks and is married to the even more popular First Black President. After this latest bit of nonsense, Obama could easily cost more votes than he would gain for the ticket.

No, Hillary's VP choice will be Evan Bayh, a senator and former governor of the great red state of Indiana, and he'll single-handedly plunk it down in the blue column. Mebbe Obama figured that out, and that's why he's been going for broke lately. Bayh is a helluva statesman, a solid centrist, and was my secret hope to become the Democrat nominee in 2008. But he sized up the field, saw Hillary astride it, and decided not to run. He's kept a very low profile since, avoiding the Reid/Shumer partisan wars and the line of fire on Iraq, in order to arrive at the Democrat convention next year as the squeaky-clean VP nominee.

With his thoroughly impressive record and resume, many Democrats will wonder if the ticket isn't upside-down. This Republican will have no doubt.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How the News Works

So there I was, 4:30 am, sitting on the sofa with a 2-month old in my arms. She had woken up coughing because of a cold my other daughter had given her. (We try very hard to teach our children not to be selfish - woo-hoo! Parenting success!!). Around 5 am all the local stations switched over to their Traffic! News! Weather! early morning stations. (I'm a morning person, but how do you look so cheerful at frickin' 5 am?)

Anyway, one of the little news stories that caught my attention was the local tv station reporting on the NYT Op-Ed the other day by the Brookings Institution scholars O'Hanlon and Pollack arguing that the surge currently underway in Iraq could work and we ought not start hightailing it out of there. People will disagree, naturally, but tell me, when was the last time you heard on your local tv news a report on something written in an Op-Ed page? Pretty interesting, it seems to me.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Positive Side of Sports

While it has been a rather bleak summer for American sports fan, it is nice to see something positive happening on a soccer field that has good repercussions beyond the mere game. Iraq defeated Saudi Arabia in the Asian Cup leading to men running in the streets of Iraq.

The jubilation over the team known as the "Lions of the Two Rivers" gave Iraqis a rare respite from the daily violence. The victorious run sent men of all ages cheering and dancing in the streest in what politiicans said was a show of unity that proved Iraqi factions could come together.

Sure, it's a small victory, but small victories matter in sports and in culture. Sorry, Myra Fleener, it's not just a game . . .. Let's hope for more victories for the Iraqi national team.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


I noted where the producers of the upcoming tv show based on the Geico "cavemen" commercials were defending themselves against the suggestion that the characters in the series are sort of stand-ins for racial minorities.

I'm sort of surprised this hasn't shown up before. Commercials and now a tv series where the main characters are these rather swarthy, "less-evolved" guys who are the butts of jokes? Why hasn't Al Sharpton been out front and center? Doesn't Jesse know an opportunity when he sees it? I'm sure the tv studios would be happy to shovel some cash these guys' way to keep 'em quiet. It's very disappointing.

In any case, I'm sure it will be a big hit. Seinfeld. Friends. Cavemen. How could it possibly lose? Maybe next season they can make a tv show out of one of those crazy used-car salesmen I see on the tube. It'd be brilliant...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pleased as Punch & Tickled Pink

David Bloch joins thenewswalk.com front page today. David is a partner at one of America's most prestigious law firms, a rock'n'roller, and an all-around good guy. Plus he's a little weird (as his affection for H.P. Lovecraft attests), so he should fit right in around here.

The pleasure is ours, David, and welcome.

Postscript (in praise of S.T. Joshi)

I also should say, publicly and for the record, that S. T. Joshi, America's foremost Lovecraft scholar, deserves a medal or a MacArthur grant or an endowed chair at Harvard or something. I suspect his politics are at sharp variance with mine, and I know his reasonably militant atheism would rub many members of this group the wrong way . . . but he has brilliantly rehabilitated Lovecraft in the eyes of the scholarly community. And he has thought deeply and well about the philosophical implications of weird fiction generally, and of Lovecraft's "cosmic terror" more specifically.

The "cosmic" perspective--the idea of human insignificance--is a philosophically-legitimate grounding for the atheist's world-view. It is far more convincing, at least to me, than Selfish Gene-style evolutionary reductionism. Evolution doesn't necessarily exclude religion, though it tends strongly to favor Deism; but man's existential insignificance, as expressed powerfully by Lovecraft, generally does. It's hard to give much credence to the notion that a loving God has a plan for every field mouse and every cold virus. . . So I can see how Joshi's studies of Lovecraft might have led him toward atheism (or, conversely, why he might have been attracted to Lovecraft in the first place). I think this tends to sit uneasily with Joshi's Left-of-center political beliefs (at least, insofar as I can ascertain them), but--hey--no one ever said scholars need to be consistent.

(Joshi edited the Machen book I mentioned in my previous post; and I thought I'd publicly acknowledge my admiration for him here.)

A brief meditation on the press (or, Machen on the MSM)

Arthur Machen was a turn-of-the-century (by which I mean turn-of-the-Nineteenth-Century) writer of weird fiction. He never really made much of an impact in his own right, but was a significant influence on H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft, of course, is now recognized as being one of the greatest writers America has produced; he got his volume in the Library of America in 2005.

So it's in that spirit that I've been reading some of Machen's work. And in "The Terror," he writes:
Now a censorship that is sufficiently minute and utterly remorseless can do amazing things in the way of hiding . . . what it wants to hide. Before the war [WW I], one would have thought otherwise; one would have said that, censor or no censor, the fact of the murder at X or the fact of the bank robbery at Y would certainly become known; if not through the press, at all events through rumour and the passage of the news from mouth to mouth. And this would be true--of England three hundred years ago, and of savage tribelands of to-day. But we have grown of late to such a reverence for the printed word and such a reliance on it, that the old faculty of disseminating news by word of mouth has become atrophied. Forbid the press to mention the fact that Jones has been murdered, and of those who hear how few will credit the story that they have heard. You meet a man in the train who remarks that he has been told something about a murder in Southwark; there is all the difference in the world between the impression you receive from such a chance communication and that given by half a dozen lines in print with name, and street and date and all the facts of the case. People in trains repeat all sorts of tales, many of them false; newspapers do not print accounts of murders that have not been committed.

(Arthur Machen, The Terror & Other Stories, pp. 3-4, Chaosium ed. 2005.)

Now, "The Terror" turns in part on the idea that information about strange murders is being suppressed by wartime censors, so I guess we should take Machen's comments with a grain of salt. And "The Terror" was originally published in serial form in the London Evening News, so there's something self-serving about the comment, too. Still, I think the comment is valid as a general statement about the state of information dispersal and retrieval throughout the 20th Century.

Clearly, we're seeing a shift away from that paradigm in the early years of the 21st Century. Is our reliance on multiple, dispersed, often low-trust sources of information (as Hugh Hewitt characterizes the blogosphere) sui generis, or instead a reversion to humankind's historic ways of gathering data and assessing facts? Machen's not definitive, by any means, but there's a sense in which his language suggests that it's the 20th Century's near-exclusive reliance on print (or, more broadly, "official") media that represents the true anomaly.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Calling King Solomons

Via the Associated Press, we have the latest in litigating the perversions of the natural law:

In what is being called a "wrongful birth" case, a jury awarded more than $21 million Monday to a couple who claimed a doctor misdiagnosed a severe birth defect in their son, leading them to have a second child with similar problems.

Daniel and Amara Estrada, whose two young sons aren't able to communicate and need constant care, sought at least enough money to care for the second child, 2-year-old Caleb.

The couple claimed that Dr. Boris Kousseff failed to diagnose their first son's genetic disorder, called Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome, which is the inability to correctly produce or synthesize cholesterol, after his 2002 birth.

Had the disorder been correctly diagnosed, a test would have indicated whether the couple's second child also was afflicted and they would have terminated the pregnancy, according to the lawsuit.

The nub is that the genetic mistake who is Caleb Estrada would simply have been erased in his mother's womb, if only they had known. I imagine the philosopher-king Solomon would've offered the plaintiffs the choice of killing the baby now or surrendering him to the protection of the state, and we all know how that one would come out.

Still, these are strange days and they'll continue to get stranger as science and modern philosophy stand astride nature yelling, "Go!" Moral judgments must keep up with the times:

The doctor clearly committed medical malpractice, which is bad, and in their defense, the Estradas putatively want to raise Caleb in their family environment---putatively with as much love and respect for his human dignity as they can shower on him---which is good.

As for the legal details, by Florida statute since a state institution was involved, Caleb's parents cannot collect $21+ million, only $200,000. Their lawyer hopes for a way around that---by custom and practice he gets one-third, but that's OK. Despite the perverted circumstances, I say justice is served, although $200K is too low but $21M could care for a number of Calebs, so you have to wonder what the jury was up to.

Ah, for the day when two mothers, one baby, and a philosopher-king with a sword made for a relatively easily-solvable equation. The challenge of this age is a lot tougher.


Monday, July 23, 2007

The Wicked Witch of the West

"These are public airwaves and the public should be entitled to a fair presentation," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is considering whether the Fairness Doctrine should be restored.

Oh, please. She's not "considering" anything. The ineffable DiFi wants it back in full force precisely because she wants to shut Limbaugh and all the others up, particularly given that Air America and the other left-wing wannabees can't seem to compete.

Free speech? That's the last thing on DiFi's list of concerns. As is the rest of the Bill of Rights, which DiFi has made a career of shredding. The first amendment: She loves campaign finance "reform" (incumbent protection from criticism and competitors) and the Fairness Doctrine. The second amendment: She loves gun control. OK, as best as I can tell, she's never attempted to erode the third amendment on the quartering of soldiers in peacetime. The fourth amendment: DiFi loves the drug war, the no-knock searches and all the rest. The fifth amedment: She's a great believer in using federal prosecution in cases in which the state and local prosecutors don't get convictions; and forget about all that due process crap, as DiFi is a staunch supporter of the forfeiture laws and takings for her constituencies. The sixth amendment: Has DiFi ever tried to do something about the plea bargain racket, in which prosecutors threaten the innocent and the almost-innocent so as to coerce guilty pleas on lesser charges? Well, actually, no; how are we gonna do something about narcotics unless we break some eggs? The seventh amendment: She has done nothing about the litigation lottery and the habit of many, many judges to allow the manipulation of juries with fraudent testimony. The eight amendment: You can't fight a war on drugs without filling the prisons with nonviolent drug offenders. The ninth amendment: DiFi doesn't believe even in the right to keep and bear arms, let alone any unenumerated rights. The tenth amendment: DiFi is a staunch supporter of federalism. Yeah, right.

But, the press treats her like a statesman. Oh, by the way, DiFi also believes strongly in her right to use her committee assignments to enrich her husband. But of course. After all, there's nothing in the Bill of Rights about that.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Better Than?

I'll admit, this is meant to be a shameless provocation, but I had the chance the other day to sample the fine fare at a Five Guys hamburger place. Dee-lish! The burgers were tasty and substantial, the fries were fresh-cut and done just right, and, well, the prices meant there was a very high penny-to-calorie ratio. (That's always an important food question for me. I hate those sissy places where they put a teensy bit of food on some huge plate as a way of making some "artistic" statement. If I want artistry with my food, I'll watch Giada).

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, and I think Five Guys might even beat out some other place that at least a couple of folks around here might have heard of...nah, probably not?

Mr. Watson?

Damn It

Wouldn't you know it? Right during the summer rerun season, with the huggy weepy blatherings of Hillary and John and John's Mommy, oops, wife, and Obama's audacity to use such four-letter words as "hope," and The Great Gore's carbon flatulence, and all the rest, we had a chance---a real chance---for the kind of entertainment from which legends are born. I refer to the lawsuit filed by Valerie Plame accusing the Administration of El Presidente W of outing her, and isn't it all so terrible what they did to her and blah blah blah.

Now, that would have been a real show to watch, in particular, Joe Wilson's testimony under oath about all the lies he told about, well, everything. Would he have told the truth about the lies? Would he have lied about the lies? Would he have been truthful about the truth, thus contradicting every utterance that he has made over the last three years, or would he have lied about the truth? The possibilities seem endless. Or would he have suffered from sudden amnesia? Who knows? The judge threw it out, thus depriving all of us of some YouTube fun that would have approached immortality. Let's impeach the bastard.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Headline Footnote

Yahoo ran a headline on its home page today:

"Oh," I thought. "So that is why Brazilian models keep going too far!"

Honest Headline On Iraq-Pullout From LA Times

I almost spit out my cereal this morning when I pulled up my virtual LA Times and read this headline: “Iraq-pullout backers lack plan to deal with violence.” I thought I must be on the wrong website or dreaming. I wonder if the paper version had the same headline. That might be asking a bit too much. Clicking through to the article I found another jarring headline: “Pullout proposal lacking a Plan B: Those who want troops out of Iraq acknowledge that sectarian violence will likely follow.”

What is this world coming to when one of the more liberal leaning big city newspapers actually reports accurately on what Democrats say and do? Holding Democrats accountable for their policy positions is just not something you see very often in the MSM. We’re not getting the near-unanimous vote TVD references below, but this is still a pleasant surprise.

As to the substance, most Democrats just don’t give a damn what happens to Iraq and the Iraqis. The Majority Leader calls what happens after a withdrawal “hypothetical” and he’s just “not going to get into it.” I have a question for Mr. Reid: When offering up legislation, especially about a war, exactly what would not be hypothetical? He’s simply pissed off that he has to answer for the consequences of the Democrat position. How dare you question The Great Majority Leader! Yes, Mr. Reid, now you know what it’s like to be a Republican, especially a conservative one, all the time.

Anyway, most of this is just a show for the kook fringe left of the Democrat Party. The left wing of that Party is simply devoid of any notion of reality. This war is just like Vietnam to them, so we need to just get the hell out and the Iraqis be damned, just like millions of Vietnamese were then. The implications for our national security don’t cross their mind; they probably don’t even care.

Fortunately for our national security, many Democrats realize that a "precipitous withdrawal" would be a disaster, thus the 94-3 vote. President Bush, most Republicans and a few Democrats understand that a failed state in the Middle East run by Al Qaeda is not an option. That is why even the harshest critics of the president say we can’t leave Iraq or the region entirely. The dirty little secret I mention below is getting out, and that puts the Iraq war debate on a whole new footing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

All Iraq, All the Time (Except When...)

Per MDV's post below---from politico.com ("GOP Establishment Rallies Behind Bush"):

[Today,] Senate Republicans pushed through a nonbinding resolution stating that "precipitous withdrawal" from Iraq would "create a safe haven for Islamic radicals, including Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, who are determined to attack the United States and (U.S.) allies." The vote was 94-3.

Huh? A near-unanimous vote on Iraq, in any way, shape or form? This isn't just man-bites-dog, it's more like man-bites-unicorn.

Will that lead off the evening news, be the headline of my morning LATimes? We shall see. To me, that's the news, and all else is sound & fury, signifying, well, I think MDV put his finger on it.

So far my Google news points up no other source from America's Media (slogan: "Trust Us to Tell You What's Important"), and just one other---from Italy, with Arabic script involved, under the headline "Senate votes to authorize continued occupation of Iraq."

Dang, but ain't it hard to find out what the hell's going on in this country these days. Better to move to Italy and learn Arabic.


The Democrats and Iraq

One would think from listening to the Democrat candidates for president that they are all for pulling out of Iraq now! Of course we all know that means all military personal, every last one of them, and they will all be coming home ASAP. But the dirty little secret is that whoever the Democrat nominee (i.e. Hilary Clinton), she will not do any such thing. But you would not know this from the mainstream media’s reporting of the campaign. Nor do the Democrats want their left-wing base to know this.

I’ve read this before, and Rush has mentioned it numerous times, but a Washington Post article yesterday means it may be getting out beyond a few of us right-wingers. Clinton was campaigning in Iowa recently and in a 10-page news release her campaign dedicated all but one paragraph to troop withdrawal. Here was that one paragraph:

But toward the end, Clinton noted that it would be "a great worry for our country" if Iraq "becomes a breeding ground for exporting terrorists, as it appears it already is." So she would "order specialized units to engage in narrow and targeted operations against al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in the region." U.S. troops would also train and equip Iraqi forces "to keep order and promote stability in the country, but only to the extent we believe such training is actually working." And she might deploy other forces to protect the Kurdish region in the north, she said, "to protect the fragile but real democracy and relative peace and security that has developed there."

The author mentions the Baker-Hamilton Report, which is basically what this is, and eventually this is where Bush wants to get to as well. However, he doesn’t want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory to get there too soon. Democrat primary voters don’t want to hear any of this, so Clinton won’t be playing this up anytime soon. I wonder if her allies in the MSM will play along.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Rush Limbaugh's Journal on PBS

Ooops, sorry. Hallucinating again.

This week, Bill Moyers' Journal will feature John Nichols, a "journalist" from the far-left rag The Nation, who favors impeaching both President Bush and #2 man Dick Cheney. Also featured is Bruce Fein, a minor Reagan-era Justice Department official who (ta-da!) favors impeaching Bush and Cheney.

Fair and balanced and open-minded, that's our tax-supported PBS. Always willing to listen to both sides of the same side.


Bush = Hitler (again...sigh)

Sometimes with the American press, you don't even hear one side. It's on righty blogs like Power Line and LGF, but a quick google indicates that aside from his local paper, you'll have to go to the foreign press to find out what's happening in America. From the UK's Telegraph:

Bush like Hitler, says first Muslim in Congress

By Toby Harnden in Washington
Last Updated: 1:14am BST 15/07/2007

America's first Muslim congressman has provoked outrage by apparently comparing President George W Bush to Adolf Hitler and hinting that he might have been responsible for the September 11 attacks.

Addressing a gathering of atheists in his home state of Minnesota, Keith Ellison, a Democrat, compared the 9/11 atrocities to the destruction of the Reichstag, the German parliament, in 1933. This was probably burned down by the Nazis in order to justify Hitler's later seizure of emergency powers.

"It's almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that," Mr Ellison said. "After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it, and it put the leader [Hitler] of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted."

To applause from his audience of 300 members of Atheists for Human Rights, Mr Ellison said he would not accuse the Bush administration of planning 9/11 because "you know, that's how they put you in the nut-ball box---dismiss you."

Oh, not if the US press continues to cover up for you, Congressman Ellison. You can say the most crackpot stuff and never have to answer for it. Being a Democrat in this country means never having to say you're sorry. Must be nice.