Saturday, September 29, 2007

New Mets Fight Song!

Here in Chicago, I am limited to hearing Mets and Phillies updates on the Cubs games. But the Mets lose again, Philly wins, and now the Mets are in second place.

So, without further ado, the Mets new fight song!

Beat the Mets, beat the Mets,
Last place teams defeat the Mets.
Hanging sliders, minor-league speed,
Guaranteed to waste a seven run lead.

Because the Met bullpen keeps fading away,
October baseball won't be at Shea.
Mota...Sosa...,Every game is now in doubt.
Can anyone who's on this staff, Get three men out?

(I was sent this by a friend who saw it on where it was posted by a Mets fan who got it from a Phillies fan who in turn received it from another Mets fan)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Begrudging the Rich

The Anchoress notes that she does not begrudge the rich, but is annoyed by the "better than thou" attitude that many of them have. As usual I think she is correct. Generally, I do not view the world as a zero sum game -- what makes Bill Gates or an actor rich does not make me poor. On the contrary, what makes them rich betters my life. It may enrichen me materially (the computer software created by Microsoft probably increases my material wealth) or in an immaterial way (such as when I enjoy a movie or a piece of music).

What is annoying is the seeming attitude of many of celebrities that they know better than I do how I should live. And many times, they themselves completely ignore what they claim needs to be done (such as when John Travolta, who has a 707 in his yard, lectured about global warming).

The real problem is that the rich, especially celebrities, live in a world of make believe. They are surrounded by sycophants who tell them what to do, and are very much divorced from reality. As Isabel Paterson once said:

We do not object to the rich, as long as they know their place. Segregated in Newport and other penal colonies, they do little or no harm . . . A lot of them have decided to Help Others. And the results are just about what you’d expect.

Saints and Madmen

According to the Anchoress, Father Rutler told Christopher Hitchens that Hitchens will die "either a Catholic or a madman." The Anchoress notes that she is not sure this exchange really happened, but she notes some truth to it. She looks at her favorite saints and notes that they, well, were all slightly mad.

Mother Teresa before the "Dark Night"

I have started reading the collection of Mother Teresa's letters. As I noted here and here, the press has been reporting that Mother Teresa was some sort of atheist, without realizing that her cry was that of an anguished believer.

The interesting thing so far is that she felt her call so strongly. In letters written to her spiritual advisor and to her Archbishop asking for permission to start the Missionaries of Charity, she described it so vividly. Christ asked her to minister to the poorest of the poor and she felt that she could do nothing but answer that call. Her superiors of course were not quite so convinced. Her spiritual advisor suggested that she take some time to reflect, her Archbishop suggested that they delay any decision, while her superiors transferred her to a remote school.

Yet she continued with pursuing her call. She wrote constantly to her Archbishop, requesting a decision (one that he tried to delay or pass to otters). In these letters, you can almost hear the pleading voice of the humble nun. Considering how vivid and strong the call was, you can understand why her later struggles were so devastating to her.

Perhaps that is the lesson of Teresa, that when we hear and answer the call, it is then up to us to make it happen. God points in the direction he wants us to go, but then it is up to us to get there.

What Libertarians Want

There has always been a tension within the conservative movement between libertarians and traditional (and now social) conservatives. Libertarians tend to be against government "interference" in personal affairs, while conservatives are willing to allow government intervention to protect societal values. This tension has been around since the early days of the modern conservative movement, and was played out initially with in the pages of "National Review". This tension continues today, as noted on the pages of Instapundit and Classical Values.

I think the problem is one of perception. I generally worry about the same things that social and traditional conservatives worry about. I do worry that our culture is degrading. While I self describe myself as a libertarian, I am also Catholic. I have one wife and view that as a permanent arrangement (one woman in my life is tough enough, why do some people want more?). Other than the glass of wine with dinner, I am not running around trying to score substances. I avoid most t.v. as it is a sewer.

But I believe that much of the cause is the increased role of government in our lives. Increasing government's role will exacerbate, not solve the problem. When people began to see government as the be all and end all, personal responsibility disappears. And if you try and regulate your way to virtue, you send up with hypocrisy and depravity.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Why McCain?

For the past week or so I have been pushing the idea of a McCain revival. Is it wishful thinking, or am I onto something here.

So here are the reasons I think John McCain will be the Republican nominee for President:

  1. Republicans want to win -- The GOP rank and file, if given the choice between an unelectable pure candidate and John McCain, they will pick John McCain.

  2. Republicans pick the candidate whose "time" it is -- Republicans tend to pick candidates who put in the hours. In 1960, Richard Nixon was nominated as he was Ike's loyal vice president. In 1980, it was Reagan's time, having help revitalize the conservative movement. In 1988, Bush was Reagan's loyal vice president. In 1996, Bob Dole, having put in the time in 1976, 1980, and 1988. So that gets us to 2008. Unlike past years, there is no establishment or movement candidate. The closest you get is John McCain, who ran in 2000 and has put in his time.

  3. The other major candidates have too many flaws -- Mitt Romney is now seen as too much of a flip flopper. Rudy Giuliani has some political positions that will be difficult to mesh with the GOP base. Fred Thompson, after a at times comes across as an actor playing Fred Thompson.
  4. The GOP wants a warrior as president -- McCain is a warrior, something lacking in our current political class. Given the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the GOP base wants a warrior as a president at this time.

The next test is the FEC money reports due early in October. McCain did not do well in the money primary. The report may turn out to be a disaster and he will be announcing his withdrawal soon. But I doubt it -- if he can hold on monetarily until January, he will be the GOP nominee.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Symbols and Meaning

All symbols immediately have some meaning. Some might barley made an impact, while others immediately bring something to mind.

Take the swastika. To my Western eyes, it immediately brings images of death camps, war, and genocide. Lately I have become interested in the works of Isabel Patterson and I tracked down a first edition of one of her novels. So imagine my surprise when I opened the book and saw this:

It is the receipt of the original owner of the book. The book store used a swastika in its logo.

(Vroman's Book Store still exists, with a new logo and just down the block from the location on the receipt)

To Buddhists and some Native Americans, the swastika is a good luck symbol. Buddhist temples often incorporate the symbols. This filtered into the West -- in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the swastika was often used as a good luck charm. Mystical societies also used it as a symbol.

A US Army division raised during World War II, the 45th "Thunderbird" Division originally used the symbol in its division patch -- the division was raised in the Southwest and the local Indians incorporated the symbol in the artwork. The 45th Division quickly changed their patch and the Indians decided to stop incorporating the swastika into their artwork (tourists stopped buying it).

So has the swastika in Western eyes become too damaged to use? Edith Altman, a Jewish artist has decided to "reclaim" the symbol and now uses it in her artwork.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

McCain's Comeback?

I am a supporter of John McCain. This strikes many people strange because (i) I am a member of the GOP base, which is supposed to be very angry with McCain for various reasons and (ii) McCain is supposed to be the bane of libertarians due to his somewhat nannystatish outlook. But there is something about the man that makes me think he will be a fine president.

So the past few months have been difficult for me. McCain was the heir apparent and then came Iraq, immigration and the GOP base remembering why they disliked him. Social conservatives looked to Romney and those concerned with national security and electability to Giuliani. Then Fred Thompson entered the race and he quickly became a contender. McCain's slump, added to his fundraising problems, had many figuring he was gone before summer ended.

Yet, the a Gallup poll is now showing McCain back into third place, 4 points behind Thompson and 12 behind Giuliani. Can this be what McCain was waiting for? It does come at a good time for McCain. There is still 2 weeks of fundraising before the next FEC reporting period ends. Even if he does not raise a lot of money, but finishes strong, it may signify momentum coming back into his campaign.

Yes, I still believe that John McCain will be the next GOP nominee.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Abby Wambach Facts

Abby Wambach is the star striker for the US Women's National Soccer team, which is in China right now for the Women's World Cup. Wambach so far has had an incredible World Cup, scoring some nice goals and just dominating when she is on the field.

For those readers new to soccer, I present some


Three North Korean defenders asked to be sent to the gulag rather than face Abby Wambach.

The real reason for the decline in polar bear populations? They are hiding from Abby Wambach.

The last person to call her Abigail to her face was identified using dental records.

Abby got into an arguement a month ago with Chuck Norris. Chuck still is in intensive care.

Michael Mukasey

I must admit I know next to nothing about the Attorney General designate, Michael Mukasey. However, I predict an easy confirmation. Most Democrats seem happy with the choice, and while some conservatives were willing to go to bat for Ted Olsen, it was not going to happen. As I noted during the immigration bill debacle, President Bush has no political capital left. It is better to go with someone who you can confirm than go to the mattresses at this point for someone who will not be confirmed.

Or maybe it is a Thompson Surge

According to Rasmussen, Fred Thompson is ahead of Rudy Giuliani and is now the preferred candidate on the GOP side. In the Rasmussen poll, Thompson has a 28-19 lead over Giuliani, with McCain third at 14.

The GOP polls seem to be everywhere. GOP voters are really undecided. They are looking around for a candidate to chose and not crazy about the current crop. Eight years of "compassionate conservatism" and failed attempts at dealing with the Middle East have soured most GOP voters, at least for now.

So what happens between now and the Iowa caucus? Ron Paul, despite the fervor of his supporters is not viable, and neither is Brownback. Alan Keyes has jumped into the race (please stop laughing).

Of the major candidates, Romney has money, but I think not much else to offer the race. He comes across as being too slick, too polished and too much a politician. Giuliani is electable, but has too many negatives for the GOP voter. McCain was hurt bad by the immigration debacle. Given the deep antipathy among the GOP base for McCain, he already was on thin ice. The possibility that the immigration issue maybe BACK for a third time this Congress will simply remind the anti-immigration vote why they turned against McCain.

I still think Huckabee is the dark horse, he is a social conservative but is willing to be open to libertarian and fiscal conservative ideas like the Fair Tax. I still cannot see him as the nominee -- he does not have the money. But I think he has the possibility of staying around a long time and being considered a vice presidential candidate.

Still, though, considering how everything is in flux, I think that leaves an opening for John McCain.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The McCain Surge

John McCain seems to suddenly be up in the polls, though still trailing Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson. Since the immigration debacle and the last FEC filing, many pundits have been writing McCain's political obituary. but the GOP faithful seem unhappy with their choices. Romney had a brief flurry but is now heading down again. Thompson seemed to be Regan reincarnated, but once he actually joined the race, he is a disappointment. Giuliani is still in front, but given his negatives, the conventional wisdom is that he cannot win.

So that leaves McCain.

If real, this McCain surge comes at a good time. The third quarter ends at the end of the month and if McCain can turn this poll increase into a jump in fundraising, he can say that his campaign has increased momentum. And if McCain donors feel that their candidate is suddenly viable again, then maybe they will open up their checkbooks. If McCain can survive into January, who knows what might happen then.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Bush Speech on Iraq

I did not see the speech but read it on Instapundit. The speech was as expected, especially following the Petraeus Report. Namely, the surge will now be wound down.

Looking at this from afar, my concern is that once US troops leave, the violence begins again. But keeping a large army in Iraq indefinitely is not an option. The real issue is whether the Iraqi government is serious enough to take control. It seems at times that the Iraqi government is not really interested in getting their country in order. n While I think it was good to give Iraq breathing space, it is now time to give the government there a timetable. We keep some troops behind to help train the Iraqi Army and to hit back at al-Qaeda is they get active, but otherwise get ready to turn the country over to the Iraqis.

Yes, this sounds a lot like the Obama plan.

One change I would make though is to also keep some presence in the Kurdish territories. The Kurds are the largest "nation" without a state and the victim of a great historical wrong after World World. After being essentially promised a state in return for rising against the Turks, post war political considerations intervened. The Turks make a stronger play once the war ended so the much of northern Kurdistan ended up in Turkey. As France and Persia had been promised concessions, some Kurds ended up in those countries. And finally, the Kurds of Iraq were scarified to British concerns, especially articulated by Gertrude Bell, that the Kurdish oil fields be assigned to the new nation of Iraq.

Given regional politics, a true Kurdish state is not possible now. It would cause too many problems with Turkey and also cause problems in Syria and Iran. But the Kurds seem more interested in cleaning up their little patch of land rather than killing each other and assisting them now could right this great wrong. It also may cause problems in Turkey, but hopefully not. One civil war at a time.

The Shia and Sunni Arabs of Iraq will finally need to figure out how to live together. The strife goes back to the days of Mohammed's successors, but the immediate cause again has its genesis in post World War I politics. When the British found themselves in control of the region, they looked around for local leaders to take control., As the British were comfortable with monarchies, they supported and built up the various emirs and tribal leaders. In the case of Iraq, the British looked to Prince Faisal, one of the leaders of the desert revolt made famous by Lawrence of Arabia. Faisal initially was to head a pan-Arab government based in Syria. That would have put him (and the British) in conflict with the French, who expected to receive Syria as the fruits of victory. So they killed two birds with one stone.

The problem was that as a Hashimite, Faisal was a Sunni Arab in a country where Sunni Arabs were a minority. Besides the Kurds, then as now, the largest ethnic group were the Shia Arabs. Also, at the time, the largest Jewish community of Baghdad was influential, due to their location in the capital and importance to the economy. Add the various Christian sects and the odd Turk, and Iraq was already an ethnic stew. The Shia for various reasons refused to join in the government, so Iraq early on was hobbled by the fact that a significant portion of the population (the Kurds and Shia) were not actively engaged in the process of government.

While the Jews were pushed out of the country following the Arab-Israeli wars, the remaining ethnic complexity remains. Sunnis fear retribution for 90 years of control, the Shia finally have control, and the Kurds seem to be interested in staying out of the way of the Shia and Sunni. Hence, the Iraqi government is afraid to tread into the stew and to reach a solution. For that reason, a timetable needs to be in place. The Iraqi government need to be forced to get its act together. Right now, with US troops patrolling their country, it is unnecessary for them to act. During the Desert Revolt, Lawrence of Arabia rejected the offer of British combat troops (though he accepted specialists). His reasoning was so long as there were British troops to do the fighting, the Arab army would let the British do it. Then as now, the only way to get the Iraqis to take control is to make it clear that they will have to, that once a certain date comes, we leave.

The Bin Laden Tax Plan

Folks are having lots of fun with the latest bin Laden videos. From the beard that looks like it is covered with a gallon of "Just for Men" to questions about "freezing" to jokes about bin Laden's concerns about Koyoto, you have to laugh.

But what I find most interesting are the tax comments. In the video "bin Laden" discusses that the only tax under Sharia would be a 2.5% tax on wealth. Some are joking that maybe al-Qeada is going after the low tax green vote.

As I understand it however, the Zakaat is an annual wealth tax. in the West, most taxes are either taxes on net income (such as the income tax) or taxes on sales transactions (such as consumption taxes or sales taxes). The estate tax is an example of a wealth tax.

So even though a 2.5% rate looks attractive, the actual rate as a percentage of income will be higher.

Steve Forbes therefore probably will not be endorsing bin Laden.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Chemerinsky Affair

Erwin Chemerinsky is a fairly liberal law professor who was hired by UC Irvine to be dean of their new law school. Then one week later, he was suddenly dehired. Apparently, UC Irvine feared that Chemerinsky was too liberal.

Interestingly, the right side of the blogsphere is rallying to Chemerinsky's defense.

The whole thing strikes me as weird. The law school obviously knew about Chemerinsky's beliefs when they hired him. And he is a well known and well respected quantity.

In any event, for me and most conservatives/libertarians, the really issue with academia is not its left bent, but rather the lack of diversity of any kind AND the lack of respect for opposing views. By all accounts, Chemerinsky is someone who values opposing viewpoints and is respectful of those who disagree with him. Libertarian law professor Glenn Reynolds notes that Chemerinsky is a "nice, fair guy" while conservative radio pundit/blogger Hugh Hewitt considers Chemerinsky his friend.

It seems to me that if people are serious about restoring civility to the academy, Professor Chemerinsky is the kind of person you want as dean.

It would not surprise me if there was something more to this, and I suppose we will find out more over the next few weeks.

More on Mother Teresa

It seems that Mother Teresa's spiritual doubts have struck a cord in the blogsphere. The Anchoress has a wonderful essay on the subject, along with a round up of others. Despite the silly statements in the press that the letters show Mother Teresa was an atheist, the letters instead show the opposite. “My God my God, why have you abandoned me” is not the cry of an atheist, but the cry of a pained believer. But what is forgotten, is that the psalmist went on to state that “For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out.” The psalm ends with the psalmist stating that he will teach the next generation of God, so they can proclaim Him to the generations to come.

The book of Mother Teresa's letters must be selling very well. Amazon tells me that the book will not be shipped until sometime in October. And why not? I want to read about a saint's "long dark night" to give me courage when my much weaker faith falters.

"Truthers" and the bin Laden tapes

Almost since the moment the planes hit, the "9/11 Truth Movement" has been active in trying to argue that either the US (or Israeli) governments plan the attacks or had foreknowledge of the attacks. The most obnoxious truthers are those who claim that the buildings were not brought down by hijacked airplanes but rather by missiles or explosives in the buildings.

Just on its face, the argument is ridiculous. Looking at how Iraq has been screwed up by the administration, the truthers suggest a level of competence that our government has not shown. Furthermore, bin Laden and al-Qaida has stated that they did the attacks. In the latest tape, bin Laden reads what he claims was the last testament of one of the hijackers. Granted one can argue that the tapes are fakes and given the strange issues of the beard and the "freezing" of video, I am maybe reconsidering my previous statement that bin Laden is alive, and open to him being dead.

Still, it is fairly certain that the tapes were produced by al-Qaida. Yet the truthers will soldier on.

Bin Laden's Newest Tape

Bin Laden has released another anniversary tape. More of the same. He rails on about martyrdom, and takes more shots against capitalism, globalization, democracy and the like. While he masquerades as a religious leader, at heart, bin Laden really is nothing more than the latest manifestation of collectivism. Fascism, Nazism, Bolshevism, Maoism, all called for an end to liberty and the replacement by a collectivist system that claims to have all the answers. And for those who disagree, camps and executions await.

Is bin Laden really preaching anything different than these past ideologies?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My memory of September 11

Every September 11, we have a retrospective as people and the press remember where they were on that day. At the time, I was living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan. That morning, I left the house a bit earlier than usual as it was the morning of the New York mayoral primary. My wife called my office after the first plane hit, thinking it was an accident. When the second plane hit, I realized it was no accident.

What I remember most about that day and the month that followed was the smell. The entire area smelt of burnt paper and soldering fire, reaching even into Brooklyn.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Views from the Bellagio Lakefront

No comment necessary.

A few thoughts on Zurich

To get to and from Lake Como, we passed trough Zurich. The main train station in Zurich really is the cross road of Europe. When sitting there, you see just about everyone and all kinds passing through.

These guys though were there in abundance on Saturday.

They are fans of Swiss soccer club Grasshoppers (of Zurich). Apparently, that Saturday was their last game in their old stadium. A new stadium build in connection with the Euro 2008 soccer championship is opening. The fans were in a good mood and heading off to the old stadium.

Later that night, we ran into a few Grasshopper fans on the train. They were carrying seats taken from the stadium and boxes. When they opened the boxes, I saw they had grass inside, apparently taken from the stadium. So somewhere in Zurich right now is a backyard with seats and turf from the old stadium.

The Bin Laden Tape

A month ago, I asked the question "Is bin Laden dead?" Apparently, in response to my blog, he has kindly delivered a new tape. The only new thing on the tape is that he seems to have been doused with a case of Just for Jihadists -- given the newly dark black hue of his beard.

I will leave it to others to analysis this tape -- frankly, bin Laden does not really worry me that much any more. He can cause some damage if he gets lucky, but he is too busy hiding in caves to really be a threat to out existence.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

More Pictures from Italy

Bellagio is the tourist center of Lake Como. The lake itself is "Y" shaped and Bellagio is on the tip of the peninsula where the two legs branch off. The area has long been popular with English tourists, most of the English you hear in Bellagio has the old middle class English accent.

Bellagio, right off the ferry terminal.

A hotel in Bellagio

A street in Bellagio, looking down from the upper city toward the lake front.

My mother in law and me sharing some proseco.

A street in Bellagio

More to come.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

A few more vacation photos

Alex and Christian clearing customs at Zurich

Hungry yet?

A view of the historic center of Griante, Italy, where we were staying.

Cadenabbia-Griante, as the ferry pulls away.

Bellagio, the tourist center of Lake Como, as we approach on the ferry

More to come

Mother Teresa and the Struggles of Faith

A book of Mother Teresa's letters was published recently. I ordered the book today. It shows a woman struggling with faith, to reconcile her faith with the poverty she saw around her. She felt abandoned by God and a hypocrite.

Of course, some of the press is saying that this proves Mother Teresa was an atheist.

Yet, I find the fact that she struggled with faith reassuring and proof of her saintly virtue. The saints are held up as examples to us. If they were purely angelic creatures without faults or doubts, what kind of examples would they be to us? They are human, and as such they have vices, frailties and failings. Yet, they overcome those failings.

All Christians struggle with faith. Did not most of the Apostles run from Jesus? Did not Peter actively deny Him? Was not Paul originally an oppressor of Christians? Did not Dorthy Day have an abortion? Was not Saint Augustine a libertine?

I have at times questioned my faith. At times I even actively denied it. I still struggle. If Mother Teresa could struggle yet overcome those doubts, I realize I might also.

Some more vacation pictures

My kids loved Italy as they were able to eat pasta every meal.

And drink juice mixed with sparkling mineral water (or tickle water as my son called it)

Everywhere you looked, it was beautiful.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Call of the Entrepreneur

I went to see the Chicago Premier tonight of the Acton Institutes's film The Call of the Entrepreneur. The film looked at the utility of entrepreneurship to society in the guise of three people, a compost farmer in Michigan, a merchant banker in New York, and a media mogul in Hong Kong.

To often, people view the economy as a zero sum game. Yet, that is far from true. Levittown made the Levitts wealthy, but did it really pauperize anyone? It gave people like my grandfather jobs building the houses, and created new homes for people needing homes. Wealth was not transferred, it was created from basic materials with labor, risk and a desire of others to buy. No one was impoverished by building Levittown, rather people were enriched to varying degrees.

After the film, the producer had a question and answer session. When all that is said and done, what is the real difference between rich and poor societies. It is not race or religion but rule of law. In countries with rule of law, people are able to take risks. If there is not rule of law, if private property is not respected, society becomes impoverished.

Keeping with the beliefs of the Acton Institute, the film has a strong undercurrent that faith and economic liberty need not be in opposition, but rather entrepreneurship is really something from God.

I highly recommend the film.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Richard Dawkins is Following Me

Well, not literally, but for some reason, everywhere I turned in airports or on airplanes this vacation, someone was reading "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. I will admit, that given the general tenor of this blog, that book is not on my reading list. However, one person in the flight yeseterday was not only reading it, but giving her husband frequent updates on the thesis of the book.

One problem I find when speaking to nonbelievers is that they have a view of believers that is more Hollywood caricature than fact. They have n their mind an uneducated, small minded person who believes the world is flat. Then again, the same can probably be said of how believers view nonbelievers. Too often, believers have a caricatured view of immoral nonbelievers engaging in sex with animals in front of the neighbors' kids.

As with most everything else, the problem is communication.

Back from Vacation

I just returned from a vacation to the Lake Como region of Italy. An incredibly beautiful place. We stayed in the small town of Griante on the west side of the lake. The town has about 700 residents and 800 hotel rooms. Most of the tourists were Germans and British, I doubt I heard an American accent there.

An incredibly beautiful region where the mountains seem to sprout up from the shore of the lake. The lake had been surrounded by the villas of the wealthy,

plus hotels and houses for the rest of us.

The towns, such as Bellagio (the famous tourist center) hug the hills along the shore.

The easiest way around was by boat. The kids loved it, being able to eat pasta for every meal.