Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What Catholics have lost

In my previous post I mentioned that I recently finished a book on the decline of Boston's Catholic culture. "The Faithful Departed" spends most of the book looking at the clerical abuse scandal and how its roots go back to the time the Catholic Church decided popularity and acceptance was more important than the Church's mission. For most of its existence the Catholic Church in America served a population that was primarily poor and marginalized. The Irish, German, Polish and Italian immigrants who formed the backbone of the church talked funny, wore strange clothes, worked awful jobs and lived apart from the Protestant majority. While American Catholicism still represents some of the poor and marginalized (for example, immigrants from Latin America), American Catholicism is now indistinguishable from the American mainstream. Pick a group of 100 non-Latino Catholics at random and they would look pretty much indistinguishable from 100 non-Catholics picked at random. We are no longer almost universally poor and ghettoized.

I was thinking about this a few weeks ago as I stood in the old CYO room at one of the local churches. In the room were cases filled with very old trophies detailing the victories of basketball and bowling teams sponsored by the parish. Ancient black and white photos of the CYO participants adorned the walls. It was a throw back to a time when Catholics in America lived in a parallel world of their own creation with their own schools, clubs and organizations.

Catholic churches used to have their own banks. The Knights of Columbus had (and still have) special insurance products sold only to Catholics. My mother's church in Brooklyn, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, used to have a bowling alley in the basement. My father used to tell me that his church, Saint Cecilia, had special events every Saturday night for the parish teenagers. To attend, you had to show a card you received at catechism earlier that week (my father as an old man could still recite portions of the Baltimore Catechism whenever we would discuss matters spiritual, so I guess the lessens were pretty good). Even my cousins in Brooklyn used to hang out on the church steps with their friends.

That time seems long since gone. My neighborhood has something like six churches within walking distance of my house. But the old Irish/Italian working class that used to populate Park Slope is gone, replaced by a combination of bobos and, paradoxically, some immigrants. The immigrants are mostly Catholic and on a few occasions I have attended Spanish or bilingual Masses. There you can catch a glimpse of the old Catholic Brooklyn. But the immigrants are getting pushed out by new condominium development. The church buildings will remain. Some people will even attend Mass there. But the community will be gone.

Now, you can say that your church has a great community. They have coffee hours and diners and events for the kids. And that is true. But the centrality of the local Catholic parish is missing. That I fear is gone -- disappeared in the wake of clerical abuse scandals and the increasing assimilation and affluence of Catholics.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thoughts on the (old) scandal

I recently finished a book about the decline of Boston's Catholic culture entitled "The Faithful Departed." Boston was once the center of American Catholicism. It still is probably the most Catholic city in America, at least in nominal terms. But Boston was rocked hard by the clerical sexual abuse scandal and has not recovered.

The author of the book, Philip F. Lawler, looks at the scandal from a very conservative Catholic position (there was a Philip Lawyer who was the Constitution Party's Senate candidate in Massachusetts in 2000 --if they are the same persons, that may give some context to Lawler's views). Lawler buys into the "Lavender Mafia" explanation of the scandal. As a former altar boy and lector, I never really bought that explanation.

But Lawler also views the scandal (and the continuing slide of Catholicism) to the desire of the Catholic hierarchy of America to be liked by America's elites. I think he may be onto something here. The scandal was handled not as an affront to religious belief or a moral issue, but rather a PR problem. It was managed as a corporation might manage a product defect. But the Catholic faith is not a product or a commodity to be sold.

Yet, despite the long rumblings of the scandal, the church seemed most worried about how the scandal would effect the public image of the church.

So in the end, the Church is horribly damaged, Catholics disheartened and the approval the hierarchy sought is no where to be found.

The Gaza War

And so it continues. After months of attacks Israel strikes back hard, leading to lots of damage and lots of deaths. Lots of folks immediately condemning Israel (the usual ones) and lots of others immediately stating support for Israel (the same ones as always).

I have seen complaints that the US media is not really covering this story and that this somehow shows some sort of media pro-Israel bias. While I think most Americans tend to be pro-Israel, Americans simply are not that interested in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis anymore. It is like a T.V. soap opera -- no beginning, no end, but the same characters and the same story lines. "Mideast in Crisis" is a headline the newspapers should have a macro for.

There seems no end to this ongoing crisis.

But at some point, Israel has to ask if a bunch of dead Palestinian kids (as Hamas has no compunction about putting their installations in the middle of civilian areas) is worth it. Hamas is happy right now with Israel's response. Hezbollah will now launch their new war and the whole things starts again.

I mean, Israel's reaction is understandable -- if someone keeps pinching you, then you turn around and punch them in the face and kick them once or twice, it is understandable. Also, even with regards to the blockade, Hamas was trying to smuggle in weapons. Then there were the elections. Some argue that it was stupid to allow the Palestinians to have elections (the US government insisted on them). But what use would have a Fatah negotiated peace been worth if Hamas really had the majority in Gaza.

So should Americans really care? This guy says we should. But I have difficulty in getting any hopes up.

I do not know the answer. Maybe the best we can hope for is an acceptable level of violence, sort of what the British hoped for in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Or maybe we can hope that the Palestinians will find a Michael Collins, someone who recognizes that violence is only a means to an end and is willing to accept 3/4s of a loaf, so they can get a real country.

But I am not getting my hopes up.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

And now for a Christmas Message

This is the Holy Innocents choir of St. John Cantius in Chicago. I occasionally would attend St. John Cantius when I lived in Chicago (though the choir is singing here at another church). It is a special church given direction by the Archdiocese to continue traditional worship.

A quote for the next administration

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before."

Rahm Emmanuel supposedly said this though I have yet to find it in a primary source. I have been accused of downplaying the scope of the current economic situation. I do think it very serious. People are losing their jobs, credit appears seized up, businesses are in trouble. To combat deflation the Fed is dropping so much money on the economy that I fear we will have serious inflation next year.

I do believe however, that many people have an incentive to talk up the problem and make it seem worse. If you are an auto executive at the Big 3 or CEO of a bank or investment house, it helps to claim that it is all not your fault, that larger macroeconomic factors are to blame.

If you believe that government is the solution to problems, it makes sense to talk up a crisis.

If you are the press, crisis is more exciting and sells more newspapers than covering a city council committee hearing on street names.

So while I do not down play the extent of the current situation, I merely note that many of those running around screaming THE SKY IS FALLING are also those who stand to benefit from when Congress passes the Sky Stabilization Stimulus Package of 2009.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

In the Bleak Midwinter

From the Anchoress:

I do not think I have ever heard this hymn before. But it goes along with my belief that we Catholics should simply adopt the old Anglican hymnal.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I for one . . .

Welcome our new socialist overlords!

Back in the dying days of the election, I posted about whether I thought Barack Obama was a socialist (a question which gained traction after the "Joe the Plumber" incident). At the time I said that I doubted he was, but thought Obama was more of a managerial state type. Obama's picks so far seem somewhat centrist, so I still feel the same way. Even his proposed stimulus plan seems more like a conventional Keynesian program, writ large.

In any event, given that President Bush seems content to nationalize the economy, even without Congressional approval, there may be nothing left for President Elect Obama to nationalize, once he gets into office. So the question is somewhat moot.

So in the spirit of Christmas Nationalized:

I have been warning for years that the cats are plotting against us!

Brideshead Revisited

Back in October I noted a list of books I wanted to read before I die. I quickly finished the two Mario Vargas Llosa books I ordered and then got to work on Brideshead Revisited, by Englishman Evelyn Waugh. Waugh was a convert to Catholicism and like most who come to Catholicism as adults, he takes the faith extremely seriously. All too often, us cradle Catholics view the faith with too much complacency -- it is a nice cozy blanket that keeps us warm but we often never really think about it.

Waugh saw Brideshead as being a "theological" novel but while he obviously had a point, to limit readership to Catholics or committed Christians would be a mistake. The novel is often seen as a valedictory to prewar England, but even there you might be missing the point. For while Waugh looks unhappily at modern society -- "The Age of Hooper" he calls it contemptuously (after a rather ridiculous minor character), the pre-war aristocracy is not entirely looked upon with approval. Comic relief is often provided by "Boy Mulcaster," the heir apparent to an English title who comes across as the stereotypical upper class twit.

Rather, the novel is about redemption. Most of the characters are flawed persons, as we all are, and all try in their way to make right with themselves and with God. The imagery of this call is so perfect -- repeating Chesterton's line of the "twitch upon the thread." In the end, things do not turn out quite as everyone expected, yet the narrator realizes that it turned out well.

The novel, though is replete with humor, most of it revolving around drinking. But my favorite passage regards Rex Mottram, a rather disreputable character who decides to convert to Catholicism to marry into a noble family to further his political career. Mottram is extremely uninterested in Catholicism. When a priest asks Mottram if he has any questions regarding the faith, his reply is to ask the priest to tell him what he should believe. The intended bride's younger sister then gets hold of Mottram and fills his head with such silliness that Mottram believes, among other things, that there are sacred monkeys in the Vatican.

Maybe that is where Dan Brown got his ideas from!

Macys at Christmas

I have been enjoying my children this Advent season too much to post. Well, Christmas is SUPPOSED to be about enjoying what is truly important, isn't it?

In any event, last Saturday I took my children to Macy's Herald Square. My wife needed some time to herself and I forgot something in my office, so a trip into Manhattan with a side trip to 34th Street seemed like a great idea. My children loved it.

Spending an hour or two at Macy's makes you forget there is a recession. The store was packed. The windows were beautifully done. The store was completely decorated. And the properly attired staff was busy to distraction meeting the needs of the customers. My boys were also impressed by the old wooden escalators that are on most of the floors.

Later in the week I returned. to buy a few gifts for my wife. The store was still mobbed, even though it was late on a week night. If only Macy's was the US economy, there would be no talk of recession!

Yes I said at the beginning of this post that Christmas is supposed to be about what is truly important and rank consumerism is not what is important. But walking around Macy's is a throw back to an earlier age, before suburban shopping malls, Wall Marts and Targets every half mile or so, and Internet shopping. I can remember my mother talking about how trips to Bloomingdale's or Macy's were special events. Walking around the Herald Square store, you could feel for a moment that you were transported back to an earlier age.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Credit Crunch Part II!

First my wife, now me. I received an offer today for a home equity loan, despite the fact that I rent (though my old home in Chicago is rented out).

So, where is that credit crunch again (and yes Rodak, I know that is how they make their money, but we keep hearing about how the debt markets have seized up).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Credit Crunch!

If there is such a horrible credit crunch, why did Bank of America send my wife an offer of a $50,000 unsecured loan?

Friday, November 28, 2008

This guy is usually right

And I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out to commentor Bill Barker, who started (finally) his own blog Usually Right.

Good luck Bill!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

When Black Friday Comes!

Driving around tonight, we actually saw people lined up at the big mega mall, hoping to get into Best Buy when it opens.


I love Thanksgiving. It is my favorite holiday. Christmas has become an excuse for commercialism. Easter has become a holiday about rabbits. Some people decorate more for Halloween than other holidays.

But Thanksgiving can remain pure. Sure, the story of the first Thanksgiving is more myth than history, but this allows people to focus in on what is important in life. And maybe we overeat a little today, but once in a while that is fine.

No, Thanksgiving is what holidays should be.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008





ABC is reporting that Gates is staying at defense for at least a year .

Yes, I voted for McCain, but none of this really surprises me.

Obama is left wing in background and probably in sentiment. Yet his national security and economic team choices so far are ones I generally can support. Even Eric Holder, while he needs to answer a bit for the pardon issue, is someone I can support.

Then again, I am not Obama's base. There are going to be a lot of people who feel that Obama sold them a wagon of CHANGE! goods that are not being delivered. But then again, that does not surprise me either. Obama sold his coolness. He was in essence an empty slate on which lots of folks projected what they wanted. (He even admitted as such in one of his autobiographies).

My guy lost. The people I supported gave up on their principles and rightly lost the support and trust of the people. (To the point I no longer consider myself a Republican -- when the GOP loses people like me, you know they are in trouble). And if Obama is the socialist, why is George Bush the one nationalizing everything?

It is now Obama's turn.

I wish him luck and good will because my personal safety and prosperity rely on what that one man does. (It relies too much on one person in my philosophy, but that is another discussion for another day). I promise not to act like the unhinged left acted the last 4 years, though I reserve the right as an American to disagree with him responsibly and to chuckle at "change."

Catching up!

It has been a week since my last post. Sometimes life intrudes. Work, relatives visiting, birthday parties (Alex is 5!) and trips to the emergency room (having two sons will require lots of those) can keep you from doing other things.

Oh well, I am back!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Quote for Today

"Everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings." Thornton Wilder, "Our Town".

Monday, November 17, 2008

Our Town

I watched Paul Newman's version of "Our Town" tonight. This has been one of my favorite plays. I remember as a child watching it on PBS staring Robbie Benson. In junior high school, I was in the hospital and the tutor assigned the play for me to read.

It is funny how a play sticks with you. All these years, it seems that the characters occasionally perform parts of the play inside my head. Why should this play more than others have that effect?

It is a strange play in many ways. Scenery is a bare minimum and there are hardly any props. The characters pretend to eat or string beans or throw baseballs. The Fourth Wall is constantly broken, and characters even shout out questions from the audience. In lesser hands, this play could have degenerated into farce, as so much of modern experimental theater often does.

And yet, the play is rightly considered a triumph of American drama.

By stripping the scenery and props, Wilder forces us to concentrate on the themes of the story. The story itself and the characters are quite ordinary. It is mentioned that one minor character, a newsboy, later graduates MIT with honors but dies in France during World War I. As for the rest of the characters, they are typical New England townsfolk. And the play begins with those typical townsfolk doing what typical townsfolk do. A doctor comes home from a house call. Mothers make breakfast for their families. The milkman goes about his deliveries. Nothing earth shaking, quite boring really.

But in many ways, that is the point. Life is really best lived by appreciating the little things, by taking time to occasionally stop and look at each other. Life, love, marriage, birth and death, gain and loss, all are parts of life to be treasured. Wilder was a Congregationalist, and while I do not know his real attitude toward religion, the play does try, in the words of the Stage Manager, to grasp the eternal.

You can argue that plays such as this are no longer relevant, but I would argue that Our Town is even more relevant today than when it was written. The world has sped up, do we ever really stop and take time to remember what is important, who is important. Does anyone stop and look, really look, at their spouses, children, friends, family? Shouldn't we?

When the movie ended, I walked into my children's room and looked at them as they were sleeping. Can I really appreciate this time with them? They grow up so fast, have I really noticed?

US Removes Last Nuclear Weapons from the UK

For some time I have been advocating that our government remove our last nuclear weapons from Europe. One problem though is that it is difficult to determine exactly how many US weapons remain on the continent.

I recently came across this on the blog of the Federation of American Scientists. It is a blog post from July noting that the last US nuclear warheads in the UK have been removed. However, the post notes that the US is doing much of this in secrecy. With those weapons removed, the question now is how many remain? Why the secrecy? As noted by the commenters, NATO is missing a big opening to engage the Russians. And if engaging the Russians is not enough, why not make a big deal about the reductions for PR purposes?

T^he remaining number of US nuclear weapons in Europe is somewhat small and many seem to be housed on allied bases. I assume that those weapons are stationed under the Cold War era agreement between the US and our allies to have nuclear weapons available for them in case of war with Russia. That concern is obsolete, so why keep them there, especially as nuclear weapons require upkeep and security, money that can better be spent addressing other security concerns.

The author of the FAS article wonders if part of the problem is that the US thinks everything involving nuclear weapons must be secret. Yet, with enough digging, he was able from public sources to, with much difficulty, determine the fate of the weapons. I wonder if the real issue is that European governments fear the US is "leaving" Europe. Yes, there are old emotional, military and economic ties between the US and Europe, but since the end of the Cold War, those ties have been fraying. As the United States becomes more Latino and Asian and the history of European immigration becomes a distant memory, I think the US will look to the south and the Pacific, not the Atlantic. And once US forces leave Europe, I doubt they will ever go back there again. For Europeans, that cannot be a good result, as that means they will have to spend more on their security.

Granted, I think it is time we removed the last of our troops there — given that the USSR is no more. I do not see Russia as a threat to the United States, unless we make her one. NATO policy made sense in that the USSR was a threat to the US. It was, however, primarily an ideological treat, so it made sense to say to Europe we have so many troops here that if the Soviets attack, we are in it from the beginning, I have trouble seeing that relevant today.

I hope this will be something the Obama administration will address. He can start by removing the last US warheads from the continent.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Elliot "Profumo" Spitzer

Elliot Spitzer now has an op ed describing how to end the financial crisis. Professor Bainbridge called BS on the former governor, not only for the substance of his op-ed but also for the fact that in the old days, someone disgraced as much as he was would quietly disappear. Instead, he writes op-eds for the Washington Post. (HT- Instapundit).

After John Profumo resigned in disgrace following revelations of his sexual peccadillos, he did not write a book or try to move back into politics. Rather, he volunteered to clean toilets at a settlement home in London, eventually becoming the home's chief fundraiser. He was rehabilitated back into society, winning a knighthood in 1975 and died a respected member of English society.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Strange Comments

I have gotten two strange comments over the past few days (no Rodak and Bill, it was not you). The first was a comment from an Indian blogger (which I have kept on). The second, was in Chinese in response to my post on SVU's increasing preachiness. That has been deleted.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Law and Order: SVU

Is it just me or is SVU getting very preachy of late?

Another Thought for Armistice Day


The Kings of the earth are men of might,
And cities are burned for their delight,
And the skies rain death in the silent night,
And the hills belch death all day!

But the King of Heaven, Who made them all,
Is fair and gentle, and very small;
He lies in the straw, by the oxen's stall —
Let them think of Him to-day!

Joyce Kilmer was very American and very Catholic. A member of the famous NY 69th Infanty (the "Fighting 69th"), he was killed in action in 1918 on the Western Front

Armistice Day

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What is Obama's stance on Missile Defense in Europe?

What exactly is President-Elect Obama's stance on missile defense. Back in 2007, when he was still a long shot, he made the following video for Think Progress where he states he will cut funding in missile defense.

Yet, on his website and in the debates, he says that he supports missile defense.

Last week, after a discussion with the Polish President, Obama would not say whether he would continue building the proposed missile defense system in Eastern Europe. This has lead to charges among the right blogosphere that Obama has "surrendered" to Russia. He did nothing of the sort.

Strong supporter of missile defense that I am, I hope that Obama cancels this installation and further changes our policy toward Russia. Russia is no threat to the United States. It is not the threat the Soviet Union was. The Soviet threat was primarily ideological, but Russia has no ideological loyalty from anyone other than some silly Serbs. Rather, Russia is merely acting like past European powers acted, trying to dominate her neighbors. The European Union in both population and economy is larger than Russia.

I admit that Russia's complaints about the missile system are silly. 10 interceptors in Poland would have no impact on the Russian missile force. Yes, the system is faced against Iran, but the cost of relations with Russia is too much. In any event, I think NATO has outlived its usefulness and it is time to make the Europeans pay for thei own defense.

If you are concerned about Georgia and Ukraine, the real way to protect them is to reintegrate Russia into Europe and the West.

President Elect Obama can start by stating unequivocally where he stands on the European missile defense program.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What do we do now? Part 2

There will be initially the urge to act in opposition the way many on the left did with Bush. Namely, throw a tantrum and oppose every action.

This is wrongheaded for several reasons.

First, the closeness of the 2000 election, the fact that Bush lost the popular vote, and the seemingly endless recounts gave rise to the feeling on the left that Bush was "illegitimate." There is no such situation here. While we can argue if this was a landslide and what was the size of any "mandate", Obama won convincingly. His legitimacy to be president is beyond question.

Second, the press is obviously behind Obama and will play up the smallest of items into huge tempests. As much as we complain about the media, whining does not help. We need to have a better PR game, all the while trying to develop our own Internet based alternative media.

Third, I am an adult. You are all adults. Lets act like adults.

So what should we do?

Be responsible, intelligent, and most of all adult in our opposition. If President Obama does something I think wrongheaded, I will oppose and look for alternatives. If he supports something I support, I will support him. If he governs as the far left wing community organizer and legislator he was, oppose him and suggest alternatives. If he governs as the centrist Democrat he presented himself as during the general election, great. I will support those policies I support and try try and push him to the center right.

And if he governs as a vacuous but cool, post-modernist poster child having his way with a fawning press, well, that is what I am expecting right now. Then we shout that the emperor has no clothes.

In the old days, that would all sound silly. But thanks to the Internet, we can organize easier. “YES WE CAN!” But let's be adult and responsible about it.

What do we do now? Part 1

We lost. No doubt about it. As I sit in Newark Airport right now, siting next to me, there is a 20 something who looks like he has not slept in weeks wearing a tee shirt that says Planetarians for Obama.

Don't ask, I have no idea.

So, after an extremely disappointing night, what does a conservative do?



Pack his or her bags and move to Turks & Caicos?

Let's begin with some perspective -- the sun rose this morning.

There will be lots of post mortems on the election. But we can start with this. John McCain thought this was going to be an election about national security. Barrack Obama got his initial excitement going by calling for a withdrawal from Iraq.

In the end, did anyone really talk about Iraq or national security at all? Not really. It was "THE ECONOMY STUPID" come back from 1992. Senator McCain was completely unprepared to address it. Senator Obama, surrounded by bobos, was. And when McCain finally was forced to address the economy, he fumbled badly. It was not his fault really. No one really expected it and for conservatives, we tend , in theory, to think the government should be as light on the economy as possible. I say in theory because it is under a supposedly conservative president that the banks have been de facto nationalized.

So perhaps the first thing we get out of this is that people really care about bread and butter issues. And if we give up on core principles and try to buy popularity, we should expect losing. Given the chose between someone whose actions go against their theoretical principals, and someone who comes out and says the government will give you everything you need, the voter is going to go with the genuine article. If we play "me tooism" we will lose.

Bobos in Power

I have often said that President Elect Obama was never the "black" candidate, he was really the "liberal yuppie candidate." His election was driven by the new upper classes of education and money that feel they have been kept from power since the early 1960s, when their parents and grandparents supported JFK. Perhaps the term "yuppie" is the wrong one though. For many of the new class are not necessarily young. I wonder if a good term might not be "bobos" ("bourgeois bohemian"). David Brooks seems to have first developed this term, to refer to the new urban upper class and I have decided to adopt it as my term from now on..

Forbes.com has an article today about the triumph of the "creative class." (HT: Instapundit) The rise to power of this class may be the real shift of the 2008 election.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

That looks to be about it

I guess that is it. I will call it early and say congratulations President Elect Obama.

EDITED to add -- it is true that it is a historic moment that the US elected a black president. I knew and hoped it would happen someday, though I hoped the president would be named Powell, Watts or Steele. But it is a moment.

Election Coverage

I have been watching the coverage on CNN and ABC. George Will is on ABC but most of the people they have on the panels are political types.

I wish we could have coverage like the Vidal -- Buckley battles in 1968.

Election Day

Well, I finally was able to vote. I snuck out of work about 5:15 and when I got to the polling place, there was no line. My sons wanted to help me vote, so my wife met me there. I quickly voted, then headed out for Italian food and wine.

Now watching the returns, I agree with Megan McArdle -- never again can someone say that a black man cannot get elected president.

Will the election crash the internet?

Elections are the type of thing the Internet was made for. It allows everyone to be a pundit or a reporter and get their ideas out there. Of course, it seems that quite a few sites are getting hammered by heavy traffic.

This site unfortunately is not one of them!

With all the complaints about media bias, I tell my fellows on the Right to deal with it. Do not be a general fighting the last war. The Internet can overcome your complaints. Look, we can see anyone with a camera interview people, report on issues, and babble on about whatever they find important.

So even if the Fairness Doctrine comes back or ACORN is given control over t.v. licensing, do not fight it. Fight instead to keep the Internet as free as possible from regulation.

A little political humor

Now for some political humor.

Back during the Illinois primary, I said to my wife I would go vote and take my older son to preschool. My younger son though I said I was going to "the boat" and he wanted to come to. After voting, my older son got an "I voted" sticker and told everyone on the street while heading to preschool that "I Voted". It being Chicago, no one noted it was strange that a 4 year old voted.

A few days ago, walking around Times Square, a homeless guy was sitting there with an Obama poster saying "I am like Obama, I just want change"

I also saw a guy on the subway wearing this shirt:

Needless to say, I think I was the only one to get the joke (vie le Brooklyn resistance!).

The Difficulties of Trying to Vote in Brooklyn

I went off to vote this morning and had to bail -- I had an early meeting and the line was very long. Not that it matters much. Park Slope is one of the deepest blue sections of one of the deepest blue counties in one of the deepest blue cities in one of the deepest blue states in the country.

So I plan to sneak out early and vote this afternoon. My older son asked to come along, as he says he needs to help me vote.

Monday, November 3, 2008

So what do I believe?

So, on the night before a presidential election in which I expect my preferred candidate to lose badly, what do I believe? Sometimes, only tongue partially in cheek, I describe my personal politics as being "three martinis away from anarchism." And by anarchism, I mean the individualist anarchism of Spooner, Tucker and Nock, not the blag flag folks running through the streets trashing Starbucks to protest corporate globalism.

Thanks to the fusioniss whereby National Review back in the 1950s brought together traditional conservatives and libertarians, American conservatism is very different from conservatism elsewhere in the world. To begin with, American conservatism grew mostly out of Whig roots. It is no accident that Russell Kirk began his book "The Conservative Mind" with Edmund Burke, England's great Whig political philosopher. The Tory roots of English conservatism hold some influence, but are overwhelmed by the Whig roots. The more authoritarian strains of continental conservatism are thankfully generally subsumed by Whiggery.

The second great influence on American conservatism is of course libertarianism. Libertarianism has as a root the individual anarchist of the 19th Century. It is ironic of course because in theory, conservatism is the opposite of anarchy. My cousin, who probably could have been considered a Marxist in her youth, was surprised that I mentioned Spooner in conversation, she thought Spooner was only a hero to the left.

So where does that leave me, a conservative libertarian the day before Election Day, 2008? I think the words of President Reagan, turned the Winthrop's "city on a hill" to a "shinning city":

I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how
I saw it and see it still.

So that is how I see it. I believe in the ingenuity and commerce of the American people. I believe that yes the city has walls, but also gates, and that those gates remain open. Reagan supported amnesty for illegal aliens, and while he believed in defending America, he never wanted to shut it out from those who sought her out. He believed in trade but most of all, in believed in the American people.

That is what I believe.

Sometimes Politics Takes a Back Seat

Madelyn Dunham, grandmother of Senator Obama and the person who raised him, has died. As I said previously, there are times when we all must remember that politics is not war, that the other party is not the enemy, that politics is not everything, and that we are all humans.

Ms. Dunham lived an amazing life, rising in banking, which was then very much a man's world. Not much was seen of her during the campaign, she obviously was not doing well. But she must have been very proud of her grandson. This must take some of the shine off his success the past few weeks.

I am not a supporter of Senator Obama, but I wish him and his family the best.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Can McCain win it?

I have been getting e-mails from friends noting a Zoby poll yesterday stating that McCain is now ahead. I do not buy it. For one, it is a Zogby poll and secondly, I think that poll has been reversed (there are so many polls and analysis out there, it is impossible to keep up).

Granted, while I think I will wake up on Wednesday (or more likely, go to sleep on Tuesday) hearing the words "President Elect Obama", it is not outside the realm of fantasy that McCain would win. This has been a very difficult race to poll. And while I absolutely hate the presence of the "Bradley Effect" you can understand where it comes from. Add to that "Shy Tory Factor," given the way Republicans and conservatives are portrayed in the media and movies, etc, I can see that some people may be less willing to admit voting for one.

So if McCain wins this, I will not be entirely surprised. But I really doubt it.

Is Obama a Socialist?

This is a question that has been hoovering around Obama since the start of the campaign. It gained new traction following Senator Obama's remarks to "Joe the Plumber." So is he?

I doubt Obama is a socialist in the traditional Marxist nationalizations context. Granted, President Bush, by effectively nationalizing the banks, insurance and automobile industries has got the ball rolling should President Obama consider further nationalizations.

Rather, Obama strikes me as a "managerial state" type. James Burnham developed the concept, which has become mostly popular in "paleoconservative" circles as a criticism of modern society. (Of course, the positive spin you could place on Obama's beliefs could be that he is a "Galbraitian" and a believer in the idea of a "new class" to guide society.) I am no paleo, but I think the concept holds some validity.

I think an Obama administration will be very interventionist and regulatory, i.e., very "managing" but not instituting direct state ownership or control. Is there a difference? To some extent yes. But I worry that it will stifle innovation and increase our reliance on the state.

The Pope Meets Stephen Hawking

Pope Benedict met briefly with Stephen Hawking at a Church sponsored conference on faith and science. The Pope spoke briefly, noting that "There is no opposition between faith's understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences."

Accepting God and evolution pose no problem for me. I have never really understood the issue. Creation just is, accept it as it is. God's message is one of redemption, not the Bible as a science book.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sports and Elections

My old DC friend Robert George notes that Yankees recent era of dominance started when a Democrat (Bill Clinton) was elected to the White House.

Of course, the two times the Mets won the World Series, a Republican was in the White House.

One other point. The 1970 UK General Election was something of a shock win for the Tories. The preference polls mostly showed it close, but with Labour winning. But polls asking who people THOUGHT would win were heavily Labour winning.

It was a shock but shouldn't have been -- though Labour started with a large lead, the Tories gained steadily through the campaign. In the end, the Tories won by a few percentage points, but comfortably in seats.

The reasons given usually deal with a mistimed late budget released by Labour with a little bit of Shy Tory factor (like Bradley factor, except that people did not want to admit being a Tory because it was uncool). Another factor was that Enoch Powell's anti-immigrant speeches may have thrown some traditional Labour voters to the Conservatives.

So where am I going with all this? There is another theory. Shortly before the 1970 General Election, on top of everything else, the English soccer team (who were defending World Cup champs) were knocked out by West Germany in spectacular fashion days before the election. Some commentators feel that with all the other bad news at the time, that was the final straw that killed Labour's chances.

Let's Go Mets!

The Endless Presidential Campaign

Thankfully, it is almost over. But the last several presidential campaigns, lasting for two years and where little actually gets said, it getting to be too much for me.

I have come to the conclusion that a parliamentary system may be better. The party leaders are chosen outside of the context of the campaign. They face each other across the aisle every debate and ask each other hard questions. While the parliaments have a required ending date, an election is chosen often prior to that time. The election campaign itself lasts a month.

At least it will soon end!

What should I drink Election Night?

So folks, I would like you to suggest what I should drink on Election Night.

Palin Syrah. Everyone's favorite Chilean organic wine. I drank a bottle during the first presidential debate -- it made it debate bearable. Chilean wines are perhaps the best values these days. A very nice wine, with a hint of moose but a little gunpowder residue.

Obama Martinis. Ingredients, Kool-aid and vodka. The only problem is that when you make an Obama martini, the government takes most of it and gives it to others, so you either have to drink it really fast or nip off around the corner where no one can see you.

Tattinger. Churchill supposedly said of champagne “In victory we deserve it, in defeat we need it.” So either in celebration or defeat, it is a proper drink for all occasions.

Belvedere Vodka. An Obama administration with a heavily Democratic Congress promises to be highly protectionist. So it may be the last Belvedere I can get for a long time.

Tequila and grain with a sleeping pill chaser. Put me in a coma for 4-8 years. However, with my luck, I’ll wake up and find I am in the USSA with Rodak as head of the junta (Rodak remember to shoot straight, don't make a bloody mess of it).

As an aside, do you think the Palin Syrah can see the Belvedere Vodka from its house? (And yes, I know Belvedere comes from Poland)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ted Stevens


Earlier this month I said I can be a conservative or I can be a Republican, I cannot be both. This is one of those times. Stevens should have been forced to resign by the GOP months ago, we should have been retired off years ago. What do you expect from a system that views government as the font of all that is good and holy.

I do not care if this is the 60th seat for the Democrats. As long as the GOP protected pork laden corrupt politicians, the GOP deserves to lose.

Someone agrees with me on NATO

This may be a first, someone agrees with me on NATO. The comments I think does a good job explaining the pros and cons of continued US membership in NATO

Please rise

For the singing of our new national anthem!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What will the crisis be?

As I have said before, I really like Senator Biden. Partly it is personal as he is the only major candidate for President or Vice President whom I have ever had a conversation with. Partly it is that he does seem to have a good head on his shoulders. But he does say some very strange things at time.

The blogosphere is ablaze of course with Senator Biden's latest -- a call to Senator Obama's supporters to "gird their loins" for a major crisis that President Obama will quickly need to face. Biden warned that "it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."

Considering Senator Biden's seniority and his importance in the Senator oversight of foreign policy and intelligence, this has lead to concerns that something is currently up from Iran to Russia to Israel. Everyone knows that the president will face crises. That is THE job description and that has been the primary focus of Senator McCain's campaign (and lead Senator Clinton to run those silly 3 A.M. ads). But the tone and the language of the statement was so bizarre that it has seemingly spooked many people.

So what do I think? I believe that Senator Obama, if elected president, will need to look tough immediately. So I wonder if Senator Biden was laying the ground for an attack on Iran. Despite the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate which discounted Iran's nuclear capacities, there have been news reports that Iran could build a bomb by next year. Given that Obama has been seen from the beginning as the peace candidate (wrongly I think, given some of his statements on Afghanistan and Iran).

Last year, he had pledged (sort of) deep defense cuts, including cutting missile defense, yet in the debates, he said he supported missile defense.

So I think Biden is laying the ground for Obama early on taking a hawkish stance, something that will not be very popular with his base. Hence the warning that initially, it will not be certain President Obama is doing the right thing.

I also wonder if the draft will be reinstated. Except it will not be called the "draft" but rather given some PC moniker such as "Volunteers in Service for the World". It will be "voluntary" but in such a way that it will be difficult to get student aid, student loans or other basic benefits without doing the service. And it will not entirely be military, but I could see national service including options to do Peace Corps or Americorps type service.

At this stage it is all speculation of course and I hope I am wrong. Hopefully, President Obama faces no crisis and everything comes out like roses.

Non-Interventionism v. Isolationism

Is non-interventionism the same as isolationism? Kirk Johnson, fellow DC United fan, on his Bosnian blog sort of equates the two. And I can understand why. But I wonder is that is really the case?

I was something of a neo-Wilsonian when I was in college but then I began to drift toward non-interventionism. (9/11 changed stopped my drift for a while, but I have since continued drifting that way). But I do not think non-intervention is the same as isolationism. I do think the US has a role to play internationally. I believe for example that the US should take the lead in fighting piracy.

I do not, however, have much faith in most international institutions. For example, on Darfur, I have not had much hope for the UN, and would have preferred that the US (and West) properly fund an African solution to the problem. But I also believe that if the US and other western nations get too heavily and directly involved, the situation turns from one of humanitarian concerns into issues of power politics between nations. With China feeling her oats and Russia trying to maintain some influence, those two may oppose anything the US and the West suggest.

Yes, I am opposed to Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO. But that is not due to wanting to isolate myself from the troubles of that region. Rather, I believe that Western efforts should be spent on trying to reintegrate Russia back into the West. I think that will do more to protect Georgian and Ukrainian sovereignty than threats of NATO membership at some future time. And that definitely is not isolationism.

Even my feelings about winding up NATO are not driven by isolationism but by a desire to see Europe take more responsibility for its own security. As the Bosnian crisis showed, Europe will not take anything seriously as their leadership knows that they will be able to rely on US security guarantees. In the end, all US intervention in Europe continues to do is subsidize the European welfare state.

But Kirk has a point. At its extreme, non-interventionism does become isolationism. But until that point is reached, I would argue the terms represent two different foreign policies.

Life in the Borough of Churches

Brooklyn is sometimes known as "the borough of churches" for obvious reasons. One nice thing about living in Brooklyn is that there are about 7 churches within easy walking distance from my home. As Alex is not in 1st grade yet, I can move around and go to whatever Mass is convenient. The diocese even has a website that allow you to find Mass times in your neighborhood.

I used the tool this morning (as usual) but unfortunately did not pay as much attention as I should have. And I ended up at a Spanish language Mass.

Luckily, the Missal was bilingual (and of course the order of Mass was the same) so I was able to follow what was going on. It was my first time at a Spanish Mass. Christian really liked the music and danced with every hymn (although I am not a fan of liturgical dance, I figure it is different for a 3 year old).

Nuclear Decline?

Is the Department of Defense worried about our aging nuclear arsenal? This report argues Secretary Gates is.

The nature of the world has changed since the end of the Cold War. For example, there no longer remains a justification for keeping nuclear weapons in Europe. With Iran I am an advocate of the "Godfather" strategy. Think about the "peace conference" scene in the original Godfather. Don Corleone says that he will make peace, but he needs to make arrangements to get his son Michael home from his Sicilian exile. Corleone says that he is a superstitious man, and that if Michael is "hit by a bolt of lightening" he will blame some of the people in the room.

Our policy with Iran should be similar Yes I agree, try to cut off imports of items which can be used for their nuclear program, but otherwise explain the Godfather strategy. Make it clear that if Hamas or some other group gets hold of a nuclear weapon, we may blame Iran. This hopefully will motivate them to make sure no one decides to freelance nuclear strategy.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Isabel Paterson

I have become interested in Isabel Paterson. She was one of the three founders of the modern libertarian movement (along with Ayn Rand and Rose Wilder Lane). Unfortunately, she is somewhat forgotten today.

I came across Wendy McElroy's review of "The Woman and the Dynamo" by Stephen Cox. McElroy notes that Paterson was an important novelist yet unlike the her left wing contemporaries, is little remember today, even in libertarian (and broader conservative) circles.

So, why is Paterson so obscure today? McElroy thinks it is because in libertarian circles at least, novelists have not been as well regarded as professors. While I agree (despite the fact that Rand and Heinlein were both novelists), I think there is another important reason. Ayn Rand had her Objectivist movement. Rose Lane had the Freedom School and she acted as grandmother to the Libertarian Party. Hayek, Mises, and Rothbard had organizations devoted to their ideas. And of course Milton Freedom had the ear of presidents and a network of disciples on economics faculties across the world.

Paterson, on the other hand, was in many ways a lone wolf and most of her work was in a newspaper that ceased publishing 45 years ago. Each time she did try to collaborate, it ended badly. Russel Kirk, William F. Buckley and most famously Ayn Rand all were influenced by her, but she was unable to work with them. They all went onto greater fame, but Paterson remains sadly obscure. Hopefully, that will change (now more than ever).

EDITED Welcome fans of Wendy McElroy. I have learned my lessen and promise not to post typo ridden blog entries in the middle of the night. Look around, and make sure you read more about Isabel Paterson!

No More Kings!

With all the usual pre-election strife, a little pick me up is in order

Fred Thompson on the Choice

Back during the GOP YouTube debate, I noted that Fred Thompson was a better non candidate than a candidate. And as his campaign wound down towards its unsatisfying finish in South Carolina, I noted that his supporters seemed to want it more than he did.

Now non-candidate Fred is releasing an electoral appeal.

(HT - Public Secrets)

I have noticed a bit of commentary in the conservative Blogosphere about this appeal, most from former supporters tinged with some regret that Thompson did not make a bigger splash on the GOP race. Thompson was one candidate who could have gone toe to toe with Obama on rhetorical flourishes. (As an aside, "rhetorical flourishes" is my new favorite phrase).

No matter the outcome next week, I hope we will see more of Thompson's commentary.

So, what if McCain pulls it off?

So, what happens if McCain pulls it off. Will all those always talking about moving to Canada finally do so?

The Canadian government has a program now to help those in need.

So Hugo, how goes the Revolution?

Oil is now below $ 65 a barrel. When oil was at $100 a barrel there were food shortages in Venezuela (that is all you really need to know about socialism).

When oil was riding high, Hugo went on a spending spree. As oil drops, those bill are coming due. I read somewhere that Venezuela needs oil to be something like $95 a barrel to meet their balance of payments.

About those Russians fighter jets you bought Hugo -- I am pretty sure Vladimir does not take Visa.

I really am not that worried about Venezuela these days

Friday, October 24, 2008


Tired of hearing about Joe the Plumber? Well, I AM BILL! (HT: LGF)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Books to Read Before I Die

There are lots of great books out there and so little time. There are so many books and authors I want to read but just never get around to.

I was thinking about this the other day when the Nobel Literature Prize winner was announced. I was looking through the list of previous winners and noticed that there were very few I had read, though to be frank, none of the recent winners are people I want to read. And I was thinking, which of the current writers I read have a chance at a Nobel? Nick Hornby MAYBE in 20 years or so, but I doubt it.

Then there is Mario Vargas Llosa. I doubt he will win as he is (i) a Latin American and the Nobel committee is biased in favor of Europeans and (ii) he is a right of center person and an unapologetic supporter of liberal democracy, the Nobel committee choices there days skew far to the left. In any event, while I have read lots of his essays over the years, I have read only one of his books "The Feast of the Goat." I did buy two of his books however in case he gets chosen over the next few years.

So, leaving aside the question of whether you have library privileges in the afterlife, I decided to make a list of those books I want to read before I die. In no particular order:

1. The Gulag Archipelago. All people with pretensions of being an intellectual need to be cured of the totalitarian temptation that seems to effect that class. (Am I an intellectual? Good question, I have pretensions of being one)

2. The Diary of a Young Girl. This seems to be such an important book for our time.

3. Two more Charles Dickens books. I have read a Tale of Two Cities and played Scrooge in Fifth Grade. I just need to figure out which ones to read.

4. An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. I believe that all university trained English speaking Catholics can never read too much Newman.

5. The Summa Theologica. This book is so central to the Catholic faith, it is incredible I have never read more than the snippets required in my college theology classes.

6. More of the classical historians.

7. Something by Voltaire (other than Candide, which I have read). Though I am not sure what the Church's position on that could be.

8. The Discovery of Freedom. An obscure text these days to be sure, but one of the foundation documents of American libertarianism.

9. Tender is the Night. The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books, so I should read more Fitzgerald.

10. Churchill's histories of World War I and II. I have read quite a few of Churchill's books. Churchill was a great writer -- despite his aristocratic background he was not that wealthy and lived mostly a hand to mouth existence until the 1950s. He survived on his books and lectures, so they had to be good. Granted, some of his books, like "The Malakand Field Force," have no interest to us today except as historical curiosities. But others, such as "My Early Life," should rank as great monuments to historical literature. Given the centrality of the two World Wars both to Western society and to Churchill himself, I think I should read his works on the conflicts.

11. Orwell's pre-WWII works. I have read "Animal Farm" and "1984" of course, along with some of his WWII era essays. Orwell should be considered one of the finest writers in English history. But he has such a wide variety of literature that I think if you read only 1984 you miss out. He is as relevant today as he was when he wrote. His essay, "Notes on Nationalism" could have been written yesterday.

12. Sword of Honor and Brideshead, Revisited. Waugh was very English, very aristocratic and very Catholic. He lamented a world he saw as in decline, the old virtues misplaced in a new world of common culture and industrialized warfare.

13. The Skin of Our Teeth. I read "Our Town" as a I teenager, stuck in the hospital after a hip operation. I still carry its message -- life is really best lived by appreciating the little things. As "The Skin of Our Teeth" is considered Wilder's second best work, that makes my list.

Well, the list does not include the two Vargas novels I bought, so once I finish those, I plan on working on the rest of my list.

How I Expect to Survive an Obama Presidency

A somewhat different take on my earlier plan to survive a Clinton presidency. Unlike that earlier plan, this has only two steps.


Keep repeating for four [eight?] years.

The only problem with the Obama martini is that once you make it, the government takes most of it and gives it to others. So you either have to drink it really fast or nip around the corner and drink it when no one is looking.

WELCOME American Digest readers! Come on in, pour yourself an Obama martini and take a look around.

A little more on Ayers

I am of two minds on Bill Ayers. On the one hand, I think Ayers should be sharing a jail cell with the Unabomber and that Senator Obama's relationship with him needs to be better examined (this whole "he was just a guy in my neighborhood" does not ring true). On the other hand, I really have no interest in refighting the culture wars of the 1960s, especially as I was 1 year old in 1968.

But I have never really believed that Ayers was just opposing the Vietnam War. Ayers went beyond that -- The Weathermen's real goal was a communist revolution in America, a dictatorship of the proletariat with all the horrors that would follow.

Much of the right side of the blogosphere has been linking to Zombie Time, which has found an old copy of "Prairie Fire", the Weather Underground's 1974 manifesto. Bill Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, are listed as two of the four authors. They set forth a program of armed struggle, not just against the Vietnam War (which the US was out of in 1974) but rather the structure of society itself.

One ironic thing. Obama is trying to make simself the heir to the Kennedys and the book is dedicated to, among a long list of others, Sirhan B Sirhan, the assassin of RFK.

So am I overreacting? Was all the talk of "Armed struggle" and "dictatorship of the proletariat" just, as Senator Obama might say, mere "rhetorical flourishes?"

If this person, a former law enforcement mole in the Weather Underground is to be believed, no -- come the Revolution, the leadership of the Weathermen wanted reeducation camps and planned the liquidation of TWENTY FIVE MILLION Americans.

But his words alone are not necessary, Ayers's (and Dohrn's) own words say what their plans were.

Barrack Obama was 13 years old when Prairie Fire came out. But if Obama was connected with the Unabomber or an abortion clinic bomber, wouldn't people be asking more questions?

So, once again, does it all matter? I am not sure.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Why soccer should not be played on Astro-Turf

As a former goal keeper, I am torn between being happy that a keeper scored during play while I also really feel for Columbus's keeper. Of course, the fact that hated Red Bull NY scored, makes it even doubly annoying.

Powell's Endorsement

The blogosphere and the pundits have been ablaze with Colin Powell's endorsement of Senator Obama. It is not really that great a shock. It has been rumored for months (there were even rumors that Powell would speak at the Democratic Convention).

We on the right need to face facts. This is the last nail in the coffin. I know most conservatives do not like McCain but he was the only Republican who had a shot this year. He was game but the financial crisis (and his answer to it) doomed him.

Obama is the result of Bush. Without Bush., Barrack Obama is probably a Con Law professor, not about to be elected president. When Bush started talking about “compassionate conservatism” we all should have raised alarm bells. His actions after going into Iraq, his tone deafness, his fecklessness and his manifest unseriousness about everything has lead us here. And ow he is doing Obama's job for him by nationalizing the financial sector.

We as conservatives need to rethink a lot. As I noted last week, maybe we are meant for a period in the deep wilderness to remember our principles. I do worry though that collectivism and intervention will now be the norm.

Adam Smith

I spent last week on a business trip in Edinburgh, Scotland. Scotland of course was the home of Adam Smith, the father in many ways of the free market system. I stood before his statute on the Royal Mile and pondered what would he think of the current financial crisis? And then, what would his thoughts matter? The crisis has been caused by something that Smith could have never imagined. I doubt he would have much to say about the mechanics of subprime mortgages.

Or maybe he would. Would he have been worried about government interference in the real estate market? Or maybe he would have been more concerned about monetary policy, or the lack thereof.

This is not the first financial panic in history. They used to happen fairly regularly. Smith was obviously aware of the South Sea and Mississippi Company bubbles earlier in the 18th Century. It was those bubbles that probably kickstarted the Scottish interest in economics that flowered with Smith. And this panic looks a lot like that of 1907, with the bursting of a commodity bubble leading to panic on Wall Street and Main Street.

I do not know what Adam Smith would think. But I do know that we have been through this before, and will get through it again.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Life on Mars

Imagine being a cop today, getting hit by a car, and waking up in 1973. That is the premise of "Life on Mars"

I have watched a few of the British episodes on BBC America and it was brilliant. So I was intrigued when I saw that it was being transferred to the US. Apparently the original pilot, based in LA, was not accepted. The new pilot has a NY detective sent back to 1973. The show particularly uses music from the era well.

I was 6 in 1973. They show New York as a dirtier, grittier, smoggier, or wild place than the city today. And I think they hit that well. Was everything in 1973 in earth tones? Did everyone really have shaggy hair? It seems that way to me looking back to my childhood memories, but when does one really begin to remember? I remember the Mets winning the 1973 pennant (my mom organized the neighborhood kids to have a parade). I remember the Paris Peace Accords. I remember watching T.V. with my parents as air raid sirens went off in Israel.

But do I remember the colors and the hair or do I simply remember T.V. shows I watched later?

When does one begin to remember?

The Death of Conservatism?

In his latest Derb Radio, NRO's John Derbyshire argues, among other things, that conservatism is dead.

I agree with him. In the end, it is the fault of us conservatives ourselves. Why? Because the GOP, which was supposed to be the standard bearer of conservatism, decided the K Street Project was more important than principles.

It is not all George Bush's fault. Yes, he threw money at everything and had a program for every ill. As for Iraq, he went to war without being serious about it. But it comes down really to us ourselves.

I have decided in the end I can be a Republican or a conservative, not both. So I have decided to be a conservative. The role of conservatives for the next 25 years or so will be to stand athwart history shouting stop, instead of trying for actual power itself.

US-Cuba Qualifier Tonight

Cuba is in Washington to play us in a World Cup qualifier tonight. What is the over-under on the number of defections?

Turns out two already have disappeared.

Weather Report

High in the 60s, chance of falling investment bankers.

The credit boom turned into a crunch and now into a free fall. Bailouts, excuse me, "rescue plans" adopted by governments have done nothing to stop the bleeding. People are comparing this to 1929.

Before the founding of the Fed, "banking panics" happened with regulatory, and resulted in stock market crashes. The best analogy in my mind in the Panic of 1907. There was an asset bubble (though in copper, not real estate), the bursting of which lead to a severe credit crunch. As banks began to fail, New York banks suspended specie payments to customers. The Dow lost half of its value.

According to legend, JP Morgan at one point locked the heads of the ten largest banks in his office and told them they had to raise $25 million in half an hour. JD Rockefeller made big deposits in failing banks to help stabilize them.

In the end, the credit crunch eased and within two years the Dow was back at its pre-Panic levels.

Will that happen here? I do not know. The Great Depression was caused by a number of factors. The Fed has engaged in a mildly inflationary policy in the 1920s, but when the recession began (and the stock market crashed), the Fed for some reason decided to TIGHTEN credit. This caused a credit crunch that brought business to a halt. All that was needed was a few bank failures and a return to protectionism and the Great Depression was born.

It seems that the Fed has learned from the lessons of 1929-1933. They are not tightening credit. Unlike the Depression, the FDIC is protecting most persons deposits and so far at least, the failing banks seem to be taken over by other banks. But the fall in asset values is not being stemmed, and the credit crunch still seems in place.

Of course the call will go up for more regulation. But every time there is a banking or securities scandal, ore regulation is proposed -- the Enron scandal lead to SOX and changes to accounting rules, the S&L crisis lead to more regulation and yet we still have the Panic of 2008. More regulation inevitably leads to more lobbying and then a relaxation of that regulation (Representative Waters in 2003 telling a regulator that there were no problems at Fannie and Freddie).

In short, I believe the government should do as little as possible here. The Fed should keep credit available but allow the toxicity to bleed itself out of the system. The banks do not want to foreclose on 10 million houses (or however many it is). The banks can foreclose on the bad ones, renegotiate with the rest, and the bond holders will take their hit. That is capitalism.

Why Ayers Does Not Matter

Despite my protestation in the previous post, Ayers also does not matter. It WAS a long time ago. Barack Obama was a kid when Bill Ayers was off on his bomb throwing. The median age in the United States is about 36 so most Americans were not even born during the events of 1968 while others (such as myself) have no memory of those events (I was 1). And it was such a horrible time in America, I would imagine that most of those around at the time have suppressed much of the memory.

But for those not on a college campus or on a battlefield in Vietnam, was it such a horrible time? My parents always looked back wistfully at their childhood, even though they were born during the Depression. I used to jokingly ask my parents how they survived the 60s, and you get the feeling that they were too busy dealing with their own issues, jobs, saving for a house, going through the difficulties of trying to have a baby (my Mom had problems on that front) and finally raising me -- they did not have time to worry about bomb throwing radicals and the campus ideological battles between the SDS and YAF.

Given the challenges faced by the next president regarding the subprime meltdown and the continuing war in the Middle East, refighting 1968 is probably low on everyone's list of things to do.

Why Ayers Matters

Q. How is Obama like Osama?

A. They both know someone who bombed the Pentagon.

That joke has been circulating the Internet and it is unfair, but there is some truth to it. Ayers matters. If John McCain was palling around with someone who bombed abortion clinics 30 years ago and never felt any repentance, it would be front page news.

What annoys me most about Ayers is that he was a child of privilege who attacked the very system that gave him everything. One he faced jail for life, fell back on that privilege and the fact that the FBI made errors in building a case against him. Ayers should be sharing a cell with the Unabomber, not teaching (what exactly radicalism?) at a university.

I can understand the anger of the black militants of the 1960s. Blacks were treated as second class citizens and subject to harsh disabilities under the power of the Jim Crow laws. So I can understand why they viewed the “system” as corrupt. But Ayers and his ilk were simply spoiled children trying to get back at daddy for leaving them with the nanny while boinking the babysitter.

My parents grew up in poverty that I could never imagine. As Catholics, they were treated as second class citizens until after WWII, when the threat of communism became a bigger threat than the Pope. The country of their parents (Italy) has declared war on the United States. Yet they never threw bombs but worked damn hard to better themselves, their family and in that way, their country.

Ayers matters because he never regretted his life and it really raises the issue of Obama’s judgment. Obama has surrounded himself with some questionable people over the years. Where they people he used to further his activities and career or did Obama truly believe as his friends believe? Back in college I had am acquaintance who started associating with Operation Rescue types. I tried talking him out of it -- to me, Operation Rescue tended to shade off to a radical fringe that were terrorists. After he told me that he had lunch with Randall Terry, I broke off our friendship. And as far as I know, this person never threw a bomb or directly associated with anyone who threw a bomb.

Ayers matters because it sheds some light perhaps on what Obama truly believes. Despite his voting record, he is trying now (successfully) to publicly recast himself as a moderate. If elected, and with large Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, would Obama govern from the center or the left? And if from the left, how far left?

Ayers matters as it opens a window on Obama.