ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Friday, March 21, 2008

David Mamet - No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal

David Mamet has turned a corner and reconciled the competing thoughts of liberalism with the reality of everday life in America.

H/T to Dan Henninger at The Wall Street Journal... apparently the rejection of liberalism (aka socialism) by one of its leading artists can be ignored if the major leftist news outlets simply ignore it. Here is Mamet's explanation:

David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'
An election-season essay
by David Mamet

March 11th, 2008 12:00 AM

John Maynard Keynes was twitted with changing his mind. He replied, "When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?"


I once won one of Mary Ann Madden's "Competitions" in New York magazine. The task was to name or create a "10" of anything, and mine was the World's Perfect Theatrical Review. It went like this: "I never understood the theater until last night. Please forgive everything I've ever written. When you read this I'll be dead." That, of course, is the only review anybody in the theater ever wants to get.

My prize, in a stunning example of irony, was a year's subscription to New York, which rag (apart from Mary Ann's "Competition") I considered an open running sore on the body of world literacy—this due to the presence in its pages of John Simon, whose stunning amalgam of superciliousness and savagery, over the years, was appreciated by that readership searching for an endorsement of proactive mediocrity.

But I digress.

I wrote a play about politics (November, Barrymore Theater, Broadway, some seats still available). And as part of the "writing process," as I believe it's called, I started thinking about politics. This comment is not actually as jejune as it might seem. Porgy and Bess is a buncha good songs but has nothing to do with race relations, which is the flag of convenience under which it sailed.

But my play, it turned out, was actually about politics, which is to say, about the polemic between persons of two opposing views. The argument in my play is between a president who is self-interested, corrupt, suborned, and realistic, and his leftish, lesbian, utopian-socialist speechwriter.

The play, while being a laugh a minute, is, when it's at home, a disputation between reason and faith, or perhaps between the conservative (or tragic) view and the liberal (or perfectionist) view. The conservative president in the piece holds that people are each out to make a living, and the best way for government to facilitate that is to stay out of the way, as the inevitable abuses and failures of this system (free-market economics) are less than those of government intervention.
Note to Mamet - You'd probably enjoy this book by Thomas Sowell. Or, perhaps you've already read it?
I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.

As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.

These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. Why do I say impracticable? Because although I still held these beliefs, I no longer applied them in my life. How do I know? My wife informed me. We were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the [#%^$] up. "?" she prompted. And her terse, elegant summation, as always, awakened me to a deeper truth: I had been listening to NPR and reading various organs of national opinion for years, wonder and rage contending for pride of place. Further: I found I had been—rather charmingly, I thought—referring to myself for years as "a brain-dead liberal," and to NPR as "National Palestinian Radio."

This is, to me, the synthesis of this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong.

But in my life, a brief review revealed, everything was not always wrong, and neither was nor is always wrong in the community in which I live, or in my country. Further, it was not always wrong in previous communities in which I lived, and among the various and mobile classes of which I was at various times a part.

And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

I'd observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.

For the Constitution, rather than suggesting that all behave in a godlike manner, recognizes that, to the contrary, people are swine and will take any opportunity to subvert any agreement in order to pursue what they consider to be their proper interests.

To that end, the Constitution separates the power of the state into those three branches which are for most of us (I include myself) the only thing we remember from 12 years of schooling.

The Constitution, written by men with some experience of actual government, assumes that the chief executive will work to be king, the Parliament will scheme to sell off the silverware, and the judiciary will consider itself Olympian and do everything it can to much improve (destroy) the work of the other two branches. So the Constitution pits them against each other, in the attempt not to achieve stasis, but rather to allow for the constant corrections necessary to prevent one branch from getting too much power for too long.

Rather brilliant. For, in the abstract, we may envision an Olympian perfection of perfect beings in Washington doing the business of their employers, the people, but any of us who has ever been at a zoning meeting with our property at stake is aware of the urge to cut through all the pernicious bullshit and go straight to firearms.

I found not only that I didn't trust the current government (that, to me, was no surprise), but that an impartial review revealed that the faults of this president—whom I, a good liberal, considered a monster—were little different from those of a president whom I revered.

Bush got us into Iraq, JFK into Vietnam. Bush stole the election in Florida; Kennedy stole his in Chicago. Bush outed a CIA agent; Kennedy left hundreds of them to die in the surf at the Bay of Pigs. Bush lied about his military service; Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for a book written by Ted Sorenson. Bush was in bed with the Saudis, Kennedy with the Mafia. Oh.

And I began to question my hatred for "the Corporations"—the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live.

And I began to question my distrust of the "Bad, Bad Military" of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world. Is the military always right? No. Neither is government, nor are the corporations—they are just different signposts for the particular amalgamation of our country into separate working groups, if you will. Are these groups infallible, free from the possibility of mismanagement, corruption, or crime? No, and neither are you or I. So, taking the tragic view, the question was not "Is everything perfect?" but "How could it be better, at what cost, and according to whose definition?" Put into which form, things appeared to me to be unfolding pretty well.

Do I speak as a member of the "privileged class"? If you will—but classes in the United States are mobile, not static, which is the Marxist view. That is: Immigrants came and continue to come here penniless and can (and do) become rich; the nerd makes a trillion dollars; the single mother, penniless and ignorant of English, sends her two sons to college (my grandmother). On the other hand, the rich and the children of the rich can go belly-up; the hegemony of the railroads is appropriated by the airlines, that of the networks by the Internet; and the individual may and probably will change status more than once within his lifetime.

What about the role of government? Well, in the abstract, coming from my time and background, I thought it was a rather good thing, but tallying up the ledger in those things which affect me and in those things I observe, I am hard-pressed to see an instance where the intervention of the government led to much beyond sorrow.

But if the government is not to intervene, how will we, mere human beings, work it all out?

I wondered and read, and it occurred to me that I knew the answer, and here it is: We just seem to. How do I know? From experience. I referred to my own—take away the director from the staged play and what do you get? Usually a diminution of strife, a shorter rehearsal period, and a better production.

The director, generally, does not cause strife, but his or her presence impels the actors to direct (and manufacture) claims designed to appeal to Authority—that is, to set aside the original goal (staging a play for the audience) and indulge in politics, the purpose of which may be to gain status and influence outside the ostensible goal of the endeavor.

Strand unacquainted bus travelers in the middle of the night, and what do you get? A lot of bad drama, and a shake-and-bake Mayflower Compact. Each, instantly, adds what he or she can to the solution. Why? Each wants, and in fact needs, to contribute—to throw into the pot what gifts each has in order to achieve the overall goal, as well as status in the new-formed community. And so they work it out.

See also that most magnificent of schools, the jury system, where, again, each brings nothing into the room save his or her own prejudices, and, through the course of deliberation, comes not to a perfect solution, but a solution acceptable to the community—a solution the community can live with.

Prior to the midterm elections, my rabbi was taking a lot of flack. The congregation is exclusively liberal, he is a self-described independent (read "conservative"), and he was driving the flock wild. Why? Because a) he never discussed politics; and b) he taught that the quality of political discourse must be addressed first—that Jewish law teaches that it is incumbent upon each person to hear the other fellow out.

And so I, like many of the liberal congregation, began, teeth grinding, to attempt to do so. And in doing so, I recognized that I held those two views of America (politics, government, corporations, the military). One was of a state where everything was magically wrong and must be immediately corrected at any cost; and the other—the world in which I actually functioned day to day—was made up of people, most of whom were reasonably trying to maximize their comfort by getting along with each other (in the workplace, the marketplace, the jury room, on the freeway, even at the school-board meeting).

And I realized that the time had come for me to avow my participation in that America in which I chose to live, and that that country was not a schoolroom teaching values, but a marketplace.

"Aha," you will say, and you are right. I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.

At the same time, I was writing my play about a president, corrupt, venal, cunning, and vengeful (as I assume all of them are), and two turkeys. And I gave this fictional president a speechwriter who, in his view, is a "brain-dead liberal," much like my earlier self; and in the course of the play, they have to work it out. And they eventually do come to a human understanding of the political process. As I believe I am trying to do, and in which I believe I may be succeeding, and I will try to summarize it in the words of William Allen White.

White was for 40 years the editor of the Emporia Gazette in rural Kansas, and a prominent and powerful political commentator. He was a great friend of Theodore Roosevelt and wrote the best book I've ever read about the presidency. It's called Masks in a Pageant, and it profiles presidents from McKinley to Wilson, and I recommend it unreservedly.

White was a pretty clear-headed man, and he'd seen human nature as few can. (As Twain wrote, you want to understand men, run a country paper.) White knew that people need both to get ahead and to get along, and that they're always working at one or the other, and that government should most probably stay out of the way and let them get on with it. But, he added, there is such a thing as liberalism, and it may be reduced to these saddest of words: " . . . and yet . . . "

The right is mooing about faith, the left is mooing about change, and many are incensed about the fools on the other side—but, at the end of the day, they are the same folks we meet at the water cooler. Happy election season.
I know that Brian is pleased, since he can now continue to enjoy Mamet's work without letting his politics get in the way.

But, as the WSJ asks, if Mamet has this epiphany about the ridiculuosness of the liberal progressive socialist argument, what might millions of similar Americans be thinking?
Still a thought: If David Mamet says he can't take it anymore, can others be far behind? Were I a Democratic Party strategist, out on the frontier of voter sentiment, my thought would be: This is not good for Democrats. David Mamet's mind is a tuning fork of regular-guy sentiment. He's the one who wrote "Glengarry Glen Ross." He says he's been a reliable liberal all his life. All of a sudden, the party sounds off-key. What if other guys are starting to think this? What if, after Barack's charisma gets stripped away, all you're left with is "universal health care" and Hillary's blind ambition? Come November, you could be [Mamet-worded].
Mr. Mamet in his (often hilarious) goodbye-to-liberalism essay credits the famed American newspaper editor William Allen White with the idea that government should basically stay out of the way of people trying to work out ways to get along and get ahead. Tom Stoppard ends with the same, central point: "The idea of the autonomy of the individual is echoed, I realize, all over the place in my writing."

Many Democrats know that individual autonomy is the moving spirit of our times. The Web is its relentless, daily metaphor. This notion is embedded in the thought of the writers David Mamet has been reading of late. Left-liberalism breeds many autonomous spirits -- but only in their private lives. The party's ethos is as it was in 1930 -- dark forces arrayed to thwart the delivery of benevolence to fragile masses. For the latest standard version, see the end of Mr. Obama's Tuesday speech on "the real culprits of the middle-class squeeze."

Unless the Democrats figure out a way to back down big brother, the years ahead likely will bring more Mamet drop-outs. Belief in autonomy may even reach Hollywood.

It is true that the autonomy of the individual is the driving force in the 21st century, whether from the new punditocracy on the blogosphere to the unquestionable superiority of the individualist-wikipedia or to the disruption in old-style distribution chains being caused by peer to peer networks.

I'm always amazed by the disconnect of those in high-tech (bloggers, commenters at slashdot, etc) who champion open-source methodologies in information technology, but then decide that a command & control methodology is the best way to deliver health care, education, etc. Their incessant attacks on corporations, even as they gobble up corporation-created iPods (tied to corporation-created iTunes, of course), corporation-provided cell phones, computers, food, etc.

Perhaps more people will have an epiphany similar to Mamets in the coming years?

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Guess that Explains Why the Clinton's Have Not Had much to Say About The Right Reverend "God Damn America" Wright

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: MontereyJohn

McCain Aid Canned for Pointing Out this YouTube Video?

What are the McCain people thinking? The staffer didn't make this video. He merely pointed it out in emails.

Good grief!

Yes I realize McCain has elected to stay out of this sort of thing, wisely so. There are plenty of Swift Boat types out there who will do it for him. But to can a staffer who had the audacity to notice this rather innocuous video. Come on!

So, here, I'll post it!

Your Co-Conspirator,

Jonathan Martin's column at Politico

March 20, 2008
Categories: McCain

McCain aide circulates Obama/Wright video, is suspended

An aide to John McCain was suspended from the campaign today for blasting out an inflammatory video that raises questions about Barack Obama's patriotism.

Soren Dayton, who works in McCain's political department, sent out the YouTube link of "Is Obama Wright?" on twitter at 12:31 today with the tag, "Good video on Obama and Wright." It has since been taken down.

Twitter is an online device that allows users to send out short messages and links en masse through computers or PDAs.

McCain and his campaign have repeatedly said that they would stay away from personal attacks on Obama, but the temptation has increased as Wright's words have dominated the race in recent days.

Last week, they included an op-ed that hammered Wright and Obama in their morning clip package emailed to reporters. The same day, a campaign aide they regretted doing so.

Informed that Dayton was circulating the video, McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said he had been suspended and "reprimanded by campaign leadership."

"We have been very clear on the type of campaign we intend to run and this staffer acted in violation of our policy," she said.

She declined to say for how long he was suspended.

Previously an independent blogger, Dayton drew the attention and favor of McCain's campaign with his frequent attacks on Mitt Romney. He was brought onto the campaign earlier this year to help in the political department. An aide said he was doing "low-level political work for [deputy political director] John Yob."

The video Dayton sent, which includes images of Malcolm X, the black Olympians raising their hands in the black power salute and the rap song "Fight the Power," has been rapidly spreading in political circles this week.

As I reported yesterday, it was crafted by a conservative talk radio producer.

Mary Todd Lincoln for President?

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: MontereyJohn

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama - "It's All Your Fault" - But Said Ever So Nicely

Jeremiah Wright is a raving loon, but he is that way because of the world in which grew up.

That is what Obama is basically saying when he says we need to understand the "context" of his pastor's rant, "God damn America!" the Sunday after 9/11 and numerous other odious sentiments over the years.

And the MSM swoons. This was the most important speech on race since King's "I Have a Dream." Obama appealed to their white guilt, and they bought it. He did it so deftly it took several days for me to see it. The man is fantastic with words. He sucks you in before you realize what has happened, at least he did me.

Of course Wright hates America. Look what he had to deal with in his youth 40 years ago. We should all be filled with guilt and give him whatever he wants, including approval of his hate mongering. Wright should not be challenged let alone rejected.

I don't think so, not this time.

Your Co-Conspirator,

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Conversion Rate Euro to Dollar

In case anyone has any doubts about what rate cuts to to the dollar.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: MontereyJohn

Rahm Emanuel proposes New Shaft in WSJ

This Op-Ed in the WSJ by Rahm Emanuel (former Clinton policy adviser) illustrates how ridiculous the positions of the Left.

He starts out to defend NAFTA, but then devolves into leftist cliches about everything. I provide some analysis throughout...


A New Deal for the New Economy
March 19, 2008; Page A17

In recent weeks, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) if elected president. I share their concern for Americans who have lost their jobs to global competition. But here's a bigger idea: Let's renegotiate the social contract with America's workers.

Hmmmm... did John Locke talk about a social contract with America's workers? Was America founded on such a principle? Or have we just "evolved" into such marxist thinking?
The biggest reason many Americans are worried about their jobs is not what happened in the 1990s, but what this administration has done over the past seven years that has squeezed the middle class. Since 2001 the middle-class median annual income shrank by $1,000, health insurance premiums rose to more than $12,000 per year up from $6,230 and college costs increased 64%. The national debt also increased by $3.5 trillion.
Hmmmm.... It's interesting to note that both health care and colleges have a high degree of involvement from the government (through regulations, subsidies, tax policies, etc). Meanwhile, areas of low government regulation (eg. Information Technology) seem to be experiencing decreasing costs.

In 1993, I was President Clinton's point man in ratifying Nafta. And, I am the first to admit, the fact that our party is still debating this trade agreement 15 years later is proof it hasn't lived up to its hopes. It is true that if we were to negotiate Nafta today, we'd insist on tough labor and environmental standards that never mattered to negotiators in the first Bush administration, who hammered the agreement together before Bill Clinton took office.
You heard it here first - the signature achievement of the Clinton administration was actually the product of George H.W. Bush.

Or, is this just the typical liberal ploy of taking credit for positive developments, while blaming any negatives on those wascally Republicans?
Yet Nafta is not the main reason workers today are hurting. Nor are new and improved trade agreements, and tougher trade enforcement, the whole answer. What we need now is an honest discussion about trade and the challenges and opportunities the new economy presents.

Trade supporters and skeptics alike agree that the Bush administration has failed by pursuing a partisan, polarizing strategy rather than showing the world a bipartisan, united front on the importance both of strong labor and environmental protections and of tough-as-nails enforcement. If we don't keep our competitors honest, they won't be.
It would help if Congress and the Federal government wasn't throwing lavish subsidies on unproductive and inefficient agriculture here in the US, which is one of the main problems that the developing world has with truly free trade with the US.
But it's also time for supporters and skeptics alike to be honest. Over the long haul, the only answer to the economic anxieties that many American workers feel is a new social contract that Americans can count on -- no matter how stiff the global economic competition turns out to be.

If we don't have a well-trained work force, it won't matter whether we put up walls or hammer out new agreements. Our workers' standards of living will continue to fall. If we don't reform health care, to give workers more security and to reduce the daunting competitive burden that health-care costs put on U.S. employers, blue-collar manufacturing workers in Ohio and Pennsylvania won't be the only ones feeling shafted. Every major employer will move more good jobs overseas. If we don't turn energy from our most expensive habit into our most promising source of new, high-paying jobs, the acronym inscribed on the tombstone of the American Dream won't be Nafta, but OPEC.
Amen, brother! The exodus of employers (aka corporations) from the US will continue until we simplify our regulatory system, our tax system, eliminate health care as an employer cost, etc.

Let's improve our education system through increased competition, free-up corporations from having to embed health care costs within each product created, and unleash the creativity of the American entrepreneur to tackle America's dependence on foreign oil. WOOOOOOOOOOT!
I propose a New Deal for the New Economy -- a plan that helps address Americans' economic anxieties and prepares workers for the future.
A what? Did you say..... "New Deal?"

Ummm... I thought you were going in a different direction here, buddy.
First, we must reform the way we educate the next generation of workers to ensure that our nation stays competitive. In an era in which you earn what you learn, Americans should no longer be allowed to drop out of school at age 16. We should require all students to receive one year of training and education after high school -- be it at a community college, technical school, or a four year university. And we should make higher education less costly, by expanding the Hope Scholarship and Lifetime Learning tax credits to make going to community college affordable again. Previous investments, such as the GI Bill and universal high school education, have proven that investing in human capital yields large dividends.
Yes, we should drastically change our education system. And, as the old saying goes, "two heads are better than one." Therefore, I suggest that we unleash the creativity and ingenuity of the American people to develop thousands of different models of education which address their local and individual concerns. No more of this Top-down, one-size-fits-all approach which has dominated American society at the same time that you claim things have gotten worse.

Heck, let's take one step towards giving education dollars to the individual student in primary/secondary education and letting their parents decide which school they want to go to - like the Europeans do!

Let's give people the Freedom to Choose! Choice! Freedom! (I'm sure you would agree that both have positive connotations. When combined, they're exquisite!)
Second, we should ensure that all Americans have quality, affordable health care. We should start on the road to coverage for all by building on the success of Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (Schip), guaranteeing universal health care to the two groups most at risk: children and older Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 (who are not yet eligible for Medicare). Schip should be for children what Medicare is for the elderly -- a universal health-care program. Covering every child is a moral responsibility, and will address working parents' greatest worry. Helping older workers and employers manage the health costs of early retirees will make it possible for entire sectors of the U.S. economy to get back on their feet.
Ahem... there you go again with your top-down, centralized approach to address what are essentially individualized needs and concerns.

S-CHIP already provides coverage for those in need (along with people who could afford health care themselves). Removing the tie between employment and health care coverage would eliminate all of the problems associated with pre-existing conditions (which become an issue when switching jobs, times of periodic unemployment, etc) and also remove a disincentive for people to switch jobs to something that they actually like doing.

Putting responsibility of health care coverage into the hands of individuals would also give primary focus on costs to the person actually consuming the service, reducing costs in the long term.

"Covering every child is a moral responsibility." Indeed, and the primary moral responsibility belongs to the parents of those children. Why? Not because I'm some Scrooge. No, because the parents have the best interest of the children in mind.
Third, we must support the development of new, energy-efficient technologies that will make energy less expensive for consumers and businesses, help protect the environment, create millions of green-collar jobs, and make our nation energy independent. We should create a new institute -- funded at the same level as the National Institutes of Health -- that will support critical research into energy technologies for the future. These new energy technologies have the potential to do what the information-technology boom has done for our economy during the past 20 years.
I agree... we should have a new expensive bureaucracy for green energy development. I mean, all technological advances in health care can be traced to the NIH. And the rapid technological advances in Information Technology can all be traced to the National Institute of Information Technology... what? one doesn't exist? Well, then how in the @#$ am I able to type this blog post for the world to see? What government agency created this wonderful technology?

Hmmm.... there has to be SOMEONE responsible for this thing.... it couldn't be the creative destruction of millions of people working in their own self-interest. That would be chaotic!
Finally, we must become a nation of savers again with a universal savings plan. Currently, 75 million full-time workers don't have a savings or retirement plan beyond Social Security. Universal savings accounts would give workers more control over their economic future and their retirement. Like 401(k) plans, these accounts would supplement, not supplant, Social Security. Employers and employees would contribute 1% of their paychecks on a tax-deductible basis, and workers could make additional contributions if they chose.

Wait a second.... what's wrong with not having a saving plan beyond Social Security?

I thought all of you Democrats have been telling me that there's nothing wrong with Social Security and that it's a fine program that will live on indefinitely?

Are you not telling me something?

I agree... saving is important. So, how about we stop taxing people who save, invest, and don't end up spending every dime they make? How about if you put $ into a 401k, it goes in tax free AND comes out tax free at retirement? Think of how many people would start to fill up their 401k's!

How about a zero capital gains rate?

How about a lower and less complex income tax system, something on par with what they do in enlightened Europe (eg. Ireland) or Russia? This would give people more money to save for their retirement...

Oh, wait.. you have all of those health, education, and green-energy programs that you want to implement.... how are we going to pay for that? I know, let's tax the corporations. (Of course, then they'll just have more incentive to relocate their operations and headquarters overseas.... hmmmm.

Got yourself in quite a pickle there.
If we put in place a New Deal for the New Economy, we can finally put the Nafta debate behind us. But here's the best part -- and the greatest challenge -- of renegotiating a new social contract for America's workers: The only government we'll have to negotiate with is our own.

Mr. Emanuel, a Democratic congressman from Illinois, was a senior policy adviser to President Clinton.
Well, that was a nice attempt Mr. Emanuel. But, I think we've seen these centralized, autocratic movements in the past. From Lenin/Stalin to Mussolini & Hitler, the desire to solve every problem through the creation of some new hyper-efficient and centralized bureaucracy has been shown to be the most disastrous course of action.

Don't ever forget, individuals are the best able to control their own lives. I know that disheartens you, because you no longer get to impose your will on others, but it works.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Oh Joy, Another Rate Cut

Delta Airlines is to offer buyouts to 1/2 its workforce, 30,000 people. Reason? Fuel costs.

Any direct connection to this most recent rate cut? Not really. But then again, the two things are not totally unrelated.

Why are fuel costs soaring? As has been noted before, the primary driver for the recent runup in oil costs is the collapse of the dollar. The primary reason for the dollar's collapse is loss of faith in our financial insitutions by foreign investors. The banks are illiquid for a varierty reasons, and that is the rationale for this huge infusion of money. More money, less value and that is not rocket science. This only increases lack of confidence in the dollar. We are in a spiral.

Does anyone remember Paul Volker? He was Carter's Chairman of the Fed that took interest rates through the roof to break the spiral we were in during the late 1970s. After Ford's silly WIN (Whip Inflation Now) buttons, Volker took the hard but necessary steps to bring the dollar under control. I well remember my first mortgage at some 10% with 20% down. Carter's approach worked and set the stage for the Reagan economic miracle that has continued until the last year or two.

Carter paid dearly for what he did. Folks were not crazy about the high interest rates, though I certainly enjoyed the return on my bonds. But he got the job done.

Now I know some folks are really going to hit the ceiling when they read what I just wrote. Carter did something right? "Not possible," they will say. But I think he and Volker did what was necessary at the time and that we are doing exactly the wrong thing now.

As a wise man once said, the first step to getting out of a hole is to stop digging.

We are digging the hole deeper, and pretty soon a lot of folks at Delta are going to be looking for new jobs.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: MontereyJohn

Obama: I'm Your Last Opportunity to Expunge Racism in AmeriKKKa

I didn't get a chance to watch Obama's speech, but did read the transcript on Drudge.

Overall, I though the speech was good, although Obama's delivery often improves it (unless he's standing on a podium in Texas). I don't think Obama was as forceful enough or direct enough in the speech - it certainly wasn't a Sista Souljah moment. It was, as I expected, an attempt to re-establish himself as a bargainer, explaining that Wright's sentiments are understandable given the generation he is from, etc.

But, this passage, where Obama basically calls on every single American to vote for him or else, is troubling:

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American
For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

So, by voting for Obama, I can help to completely expunge the history of AmeriKKKa - Obama is truly the Messiah, the Deliverer, our Redeemer.

If I don't vote for him, the insanity of a Jeremiah Wright will only continue.

This isn't someone who's calling out the insanity and damaging messages of Jeremiah Wright's sermons. This is someone excusing their content and impact.

How sad...

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Bargaining his way to the White House

Barack Obama will make a speech today on race and there's little doubt that he'll try to reposition himself as the Bargainer, now that his anti-American pastor of 20 years has been illuminated for all to see, tarnishing Barack's persona and damaging his bargainer persona.

Shelby Steele predicted all of this and provides this timely OpEd in the Wall Street Journal:


The Obama Bargain
March 18, 2008; Page A23

Geraldine Ferraro may have had sinister motives when she said that Barack Obama would not be "in his position" as a frontrunner but for his race. Possibly she was acting as Hillary Clinton's surrogate. Or maybe she was simply befuddled by this new reality -- in which blackness could constitute a political advantage.

But whatever her motives, she was right: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position." Barack Obama is, of course, a very talented politician with a first-rate political organization at his back. But it does not detract from his merit to say that his race is also a large part of his prominence. And it is undeniable that something extremely powerful in the body politic, a force quite apart from the man himself, has pulled Obama forward. This force is about race and nothing else.

The novelty of Barack Obama is more his cross-racial appeal than his talent. Jesse Jackson displayed considerable political talent in his presidential runs back in the 1980s. But there was a distinct limit to his white support. Mr. Obama's broad appeal to whites makes him the first plausible black presidential candidate in American history. And it was Mr. Obama's genius to understand this. Though he likes to claim that his race was a liability to be overcome, he also surely knew that his race could give him just the edge he needed -- an edge that would never be available to a white, not even a white woman.

How to turn one's blackness to advantage?

The answer is that one "bargains." Bargaining is a mask that blacks can wear in the American mainstream, one that enables them to put whites at their ease. This mask diffuses the anxiety that goes along with being white in a multiracial society. Bargainers make the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America's history of racism, on the condition that they will not hold the bargainer's race against him. And whites love this bargain -- and feel affection for the bargainer -- because it gives them racial innocence in a society where whites live under constant threat of being stigmatized as racist. So the bargainer presents himself as an opportunity for whites to experience racial innocence.
But bargainers have an Achilles heel. They succeed as conduits of white innocence only as long as they are largely invisible as complex human beings. They hope to become icons that can be identified with rather than seen, and their individual complexity gets in the way of this. So bargainers are always laboring to stay invisible. (We don't know the real politics or convictions of Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan or Oprah Winfrey, bargainers all.) Mr. Obama has said of himself, "I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views . . ." And so, human visibility is Mr. Obama's Achilles heel. If we see the real man, his contradictions and bents of character, he will be ruined as an icon, as a "blank screen."

Thus, nothing could be more dangerous to Mr. Obama's political aspirations than the revelation that he, the son of a white woman, sat Sunday after Sunday -- for 20 years -- in an Afrocentric, black nationalist church in which his own mother, not to mention other whites, could never feel comfortable. His pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a challenger who goes far past Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in his anti-American outrage ("God damn America").

How does one "transcend" race in this church? The fact is that Barack Obama has fellow-traveled with a hate-filled, anti-American black nationalism all his adult life, failing to stand and challenge an ideology that would have no place for his own mother. And what portent of presidential judgment is it to have exposed his two daughters for their entire lives to what is, at the very least, a subtext of anti-white vitriol?

What could he have been thinking? Of course he wasn't thinking. He was driven by insecurity, by a need to "be black" despite his biracial background. And so fellow-traveling with a little race hatred seemed a small price to pay for a more secure racial identity. And anyway, wasn't this hatred more rhetorical than real?

But now the floodlight of a presidential campaign has trained on this usually hidden corner of contemporary black life: a mindless indulgence in a rhetorical anti-Americanism as a way of bonding and of asserting one's blackness. Yet Jeremiah Wright, splashed across America's television screens, has shown us that there is no real difference between rhetorical hatred and real hatred.

No matter his ultimate political fate, there is already enough pathos in Barack Obama to make him a cautionary tale. His public persona thrives on a manipulation of whites (bargaining), and his private sense of racial identity demands both self-betrayal and duplicity. His is the story of a man who flew so high, yet neglected to become himself.

As Brian points out, if Barack were white, he'd be John Edwards. A relatively attractive Senator with a weak political track record, decent skills as an orator, and no chance at a White House bid.

Barack's speech will position himself as above the racist and anti-American rantings of his closest spiritual and political adviser. Through Rev. Wright's church, Obama as a person has become visible and he must remake himself as the blank canvas.

And the quivering and tingling MSM and other Democratic primary voters will lap it up, secure in the notion that he is more than an Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson huckster.

Dan Riehl and Don Suber are covering.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St Patrick's Day all!

Happy St Patrick's Day to all my fellow peace loving sons of Ireland!

Here is my favorite rendition of Danny Boy.

Is it true this beloved song was written by an English lawyer? Say it ain't so, Joe!

H/T to Jonah G at NRO for pointing out this lovely cut from "Miller's Crossing."

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: MontereyJohn

Bear Stearns, Loon Democrats and Other Morning Musings

However much I want to say, "I told you so," I'll restrain myself.

I'll just think it really loudly.

I do not take any satisfaction in being right about the impact of the housing bubble bursting. The issue is a serious one. If housing prices continue to drop at a double digit rate, there are going to be a lot of banks with serious balance sheet problems.

I saw something this weekend that I have never seen before in my 60 years. Outside a bank here in Salinas there was a sign that read: "Home Tour of Bank Owned Houses." This an not be a good sign of things to come, at least not in the near term.

Having said that, that brings us to folks like Senator Shumer (D-NY) and his fellow travelers who are running around saying that this is the worst crisis since the Great Depression.

Oh puh-lease! 5% unemployment? Nobody flinging themselves out of windows from twenty stories up? Put a sock in it Senator! Besides, I thought that was the Bush I economy. Wasn't that Carville's rant for Clinton, Inc.? "It's the economy, stupid!"

No matter, assuming these idiots do not start a run on banks, it would be well if someone began to speak and act in a way that would get the financial ship righted.

We have at least two serious issues in the economy right now, the credit problem and the problem of the falling dollar. The solution for one compounds the other. To stop the shrinking dollar, interest rates must come up. To ease the credit problem, interest rates have to go down. Now that is a conundrum of the first order.

Watching what happened to Bear Stearns this weekend, a 30 billion dollar company instantly became a 250 million dollar company and vanished, one has to take this as a warning shot if not a near miss.

There is an interesting irony here, JP Morgan bought Bear. The namesake Morgan, JP Morgan, was a major character. He was the embodiment of the robber baron from financing the North in the Civil War through financing White Star Lines, the owners of the Titanic. Through it all he was a brutal and ruthless excuse for a human being. What happened this weekend would have brought a smile to the lips of his corpse.

Historical trivia aside, it is time to get our financial house in order. I suggest this means putting a lid on such stupid ideas as "stimulus packages," and finding a balance in righting the the credit markets and at the very least stabilizing the dollar. One can only hope that there is the political will and intellect available to get the job done before things really go down the drain and we do slide into serious trouble.

Your Co-Conspirator,

It's the Economy, Stupid

One of the reasons that I supported Romney in the primary process was the fact that he would provide a level of experience with economic matters that the other contenders couldn't. And McCain's strength, his support for the War On Terror and the Surge in particular, would not be an asset if the Surge continues to go well or if the Surge starts to unravel.

McCain's positioned to successfully fight a Presidential campaign in 2006, not 2008.

Hopefully McCain knows this and will bring some economic gravitasTM to the ticket and his team. Why? Well, if the Democrats end up winning the White House and continue to hold the Congress, it won't just spell doom for our country in the War On Terror - it'll likely result in the end of American dominance in the global economy.

Or, as James Lileks puts it:

Speaking as an utter amateur, I’m worried less about a recession than inflation. I’m worried most about a recession, inflation AND a jolly round of trade wars, coupled with fragile banks, overcapacity, diminished consumer confidence and aggressive messianic collectivism. Something about that smells familiar. I love studying the thirties and forties, but not first hand.

Over the weekend, I watched Bush talk about how cattleman and other livestock producers were complaining about the rising costs of feed and how corn-based ethanol may not be the right solution.

My immediate reaction was - Why the @#$% did you sign a bill which inserted the federal government into picking which energy solution would prevail?

With the dollar in a death spiral (ready for another 100 basis point cut, MontereyJohn?), a Soviet-style 5 year plan in corn-based ethanol, increasing demand for commodities from the developing world, increasing demand to treat CO2 as a pollutant, an uncompromising desire to regulate everything from finance to health care to food to transportation, an absolutely idiotic head-in-the-sand approach to the impending Medicare & Soshsecurity failure, an increasing anti-free market rhetoric from the socialist Democrats, and an uncompromising desire by the socialists to increase taxes on individuals and businesses, it's unlikely that we'll be able to stop the decline.

As the situation worsens, expect the siren song of the socialists and communists to attract more adherents....

Perhaps I'm being fatalistic (and breathless) - perhaps were not seeing a return of the 30s and 40s, and "merely" a replay of the Carter years. Or perhaps everything will be sorted out in a few months.

But, the tide is not moving in the right direction to provide me any solace. Perhaps Texas could secede?

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Obama on Wright: I don't recall those sermons

So Obama says that he "condemns" Jeremiah "I'm a Ward Churchill Wannabe" Wright's comments following September 11th. Here's a link to the AP story where Obama essentially says, "Hey, I wasn't in the pews that day and hadn't heard such anti-Americanism from Jeremiah until I started running for President."

While Obama's leftist supporters are surely clamoring for Obama to Speak Truth to Power and jump on the Ward Churchill/Jeremiah Wright Chickens-coming-home-to-roost spiel, I find Obama's condemnations to be somewhat disingenuous.

I'm sure that more videos of Wright's sermons will demonstrate that week after week, the topic each day was some form of anti-Americanism and racism.

Also, in the days after 9/11, people of all faiths flocked to their places of worship to pray for those who were killed, their families, and the heroes who were working to clean up the sites.

Did Obama go to a church service that Sunday? Why wasn't he at Jeremiah's service that day? If Jeremiah is such an integral part to Obama's life - his mentor and father-figure - why didn't he attend his church service just days after the most tragic day in American history? Was he not in the city? Does Wright's church keep track of attendance?

Mark Steyn has this excellent article about Obama's "repudiation" of Wright:

But Jeremiah Wright is not exactly peripheral to Barack Obama’s life. He married the Obamas and baptized their children. Those of us who made the mistake of buying the senator’s last book, The Audacity of Hope, and assumed the title was an ingeniously parodic distillation of the great sonorous banality of an entire genre of blandly uplifting political writing discovered circa page 127 that in fact the phrasev [audacity of hope] comes from one of the Reverend Wright’s sermons. Jeremiah Wright has been Barack Obama’s pastor for 20 years — in other words, pretty much the senator’s entire adult life. Did Obama consider God Damn America as a title for his book but it didn’t focus-group so well?

Ah, well, no, the senator told ABC News. The Reverend Wright is like “an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with.” So did he agree with goofy old Uncle Jeremiah on September 16th 2001? That Sunday morning, Uncle told his congregation that the United States brought the death and destruction of 9/11 on itself. “We nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,” said the Reverend Wright. “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards.”

Is that one of those “things I don’t always agree with”? Well, Senator Obama isn’t saying, responding merely that he wasn’t in church that morning. Okay, fair enough, but what would he have done had he happened to have shown up on September 16th? Cried “Shame on you!” and stormed out? Or, if that’s a little dramatic, whispered to Michelle that he didn’t want their daughters hearing this kind of drivel while rescue workers were still sifting through the rubble and risen from his pew in a dignified manner and led his family to the exit? Or would he have just sat there with an inscrutable look on his face as those around him nodded?

All Senator Obama will say is that “I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” And in that he may be correct. There are many preachers who would be happy to tell their congregations “God damn America.” But Barack Obama is not supposed to be the candidate of the America-damners: He’s not the Reverend Al Sharpton or the Reverend Jesse Jackson or the rest of the racial-grievance mongers. Obama is meant to be the man who transcends the divisions of race, the candidate who doesn’t damn America but “heals” it — if you believe, as many Democrats do, that America needs healing.

Yet since his early twenties he’s sat week after week listening to the ravings of just another cookie-cutter race huckster.

What is Barack Obama for? It’s not his “policies,” such as they are. Rather, Senator Obama embodies an idea: He’s a symbol of redemption and renewal, and a lot of other airy-fairy abstractions that don’t boil down to much except making upscale white liberals feel good about themselves and get even more of a frisson out of white liberal guilt than they usually do.
What is Barack Obama for? It’s not his “policies,” such as they are. Rather, Senator Obama embodies an idea: He’s a symbol of redemption and renewal, and a lot of other airy-fairy abstractions that don’t boil down to much except making upscale white liberals feel good about themselves and get even more of a frisson out of white liberal guilt than they usually do.
The song the Reverend Wright won’t sing is by Irving Berlin, a contemporary of Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin and Lorenz Hart, all the sophisticated rhymesters. But only Berlin could have written without embarrassment “God Bless America.” He said it directly, unaffectedly, unashamedly — in seven words:
God Bless America
Land that I love.

Berlin was a Jew and he suffered slights: He grew up in the poverty of New York’s Lower East Side. When he made his name and fortune, his marriage to a Park Avenue heiress resulted in her expulsion from the Social Register. In the Thirties, her sister moved in with a Nazi diplomat and proudly flaunted her diamond swastika to Irving. But Berlin spent his infancy in Temun, Siberia (until the Cossacks rode in and razed his village) and he understood the great gift he’d been given:
God Bless America
Land that I love.

The Reverend Wright can’t say those words. His shtick is:
God damn America
Land that I loathe.

I understand the Ellis Island experience of Russian Jews was denied to blacks. But not to Obama. His experience surely isn’t so different to Berlin’s — except that Barack got to go to Harvard. Obama’s father was a Kenyan, he spent his childhood in Indonesia, and he ought to thank his lucky stars that he’s running for office in Washington rather than Nairobi or Jakarta. Instead, his whiney wife Michelle says that her husband’s election as president would be the first reason to have “pride” in America, and complains that this country is “downright mean” and that she’s having difficulty finding money for their daughters’ piano lessons and summer camp. Between them, Mr. and Mrs. Obama earn $480,000 a year (not including book royalties from The Audacity of Hype), but they’re whining about how tough they have it to couples who earn 48 grand — or less. Yes, we can. But not on a lousy half-million bucks a year.

God has blessed America, and blessed the Obamas in America, and even blessed the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose bashing of his own country would be far less lucrative anywhere else on the planet. The “racist” here is not Geraldine Ferraro but the Reverend Wright, whose appeals to racial bitterness are supposed to be everything President Obama will transcend. Right now, it sounds more like the same-old same-old.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler