Tuesday, September 30, 2008

P.J. O'Rourke on God, Evolution and Death

To the extent I have a favorite philosopher, it is PJ O’Rourke. I am not sure exactly what that says about me (it cannot be good), but I find him to be the modern Mencken, without the nastiness.

O’Rourke just found out he has cancer and while things look good, he deals with it in his usual way.
I looked death in the face. All right, I didn't. I glimpsed him in a crowd. I've been diagnosed with cancer, of a very treatable kind. I'm told I have a 95% chance of survival. Come to think of it -- as a drinking, smoking, saturated-fat hound -- my chance of survival has been improved by cancer.
His biggest concern is that he has a malignant hemorrhoid and he is not sure what color bracelet to wear (or where to wear it). Along the way he muses about God, evolution, life, death, pain and meaning. While his theology and philosophy would probably fail freshman courses at Catholic universities, he is right on how death is a part of life. In O'Rourke's words:

Death is so important that God visited death upon his own son, thereby helping us learn right from wrong well enough that we may escape death forever and live eternally in God's grace. (Although this option is not usually open to reporters.)

Read the whole thing. And get well soon PJ.

Let the Children Sing for Obama

One of my problems with Obama is not necessarily the Senator himself, but rather the increasing creepiness of some of his supporters. This is extremely creepy. (HT Instapundit)

Back in 2006 there was a bit of an Internet uproar regarding "Jesus Camp" a movie about a fundamentalist Christian children's camp. What I saw of the movie, mostly clips on YouTube and blogs, never quite struck me right. It seemed like it was either heavily edited to shed false light or was a parody, but no one ever claimed it was anything other than real.

The strangest parts were prayers to President Bush. Andrew Sullivan showed this as proof that Bush was the head of a sinister "Christianist" cabal that was going to do horrible things. I wait for Sullivan to comment on the above video. I doubt he will of course. While I no longer read Sullivan as regularly as I did, he has been pretty silent on the general creepiness factor of some of Obama's supporters (the YouTube songs for example or the quasi religious way his campaign is being viewed.). Some Obama supporters do not seem to realize that "The Matrix" was not a documentary.

This video is merely the latest.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Debate is Over

Which means it is time for these guys.

Friday, September 26, 2008

So what do I think?

The Palin Syrah was very good and a good price. Some moose residue with a hint of gunpowder. My internet friend Stella Hawkins suggests drinking it with gorgonzola.

Isn't this debate . . .

Isn't this debate supposed to be about national security.

Updated -- they are now finally talking about Iraq.

Now Afghanistan. I wonder if the solution to Afghanistan is to draw a line and kill what comes over. Iraq is basically stuck in the 1950s. Afghanistan is basically a 7th Century country.

Updated -- McCain is now hitting Obama on Pakistan. It is a failed state.

Updated -- Obama is talking tough on Iran.

Updated -- "I don't even have a seal yet." Did Obama take his seal?

At least Obama is recognizing Iran is an enemy.

Updated -- Obama sees Russia as a threat to the region. So much for a noninterventionist foreign policy. Georgia for NATO. But no Cold War.

Update -- Obama and McCain agree on clean coal -- I hope he told Biden.

Update -- Obama says yes on missile defense.

Well it is over.


McCain mentions nuclear power and drilling.

The Debate

With all the live blogging, I will too.

For now, all I will say is that neither seem on their game.

A Drink for the Debate

Palin Syrah from Chile. Nice tasting, organic, and fairly inexpensive. In New York, it can be found at Appellation, over on 10th Avenue.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Recession Futures" are fairly low

This looks interesting. Intrade contracts predicting that the US will go into recession in 2008 are down to 12.6.

Intrade is interesting because it represents what people think will happen, it is not a prediction modeler. So take it for what it is worth.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Quote I Like

"The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or spiritual." -- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty.

A quote that proves democracy has its flaws

“Anybody toting guns and stripping moose don’t care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks.”

Can someone explain to me what Congressman Hastings is talking about? (HT -- Instapundit)

David Blaine

Can someone explain why this guy is famous?

McCain suspends his race

Everyone is talking about Senator McCain's decision to suspend his campaign and head to Washington for the bailout. He has asked that Friday's first debate be postponed. At this time, it seems unclear whether Senator Obama will agree.

My reaction is that this will surprise those who know me -- I see this as Senator McCain essentially conceding the election. Two weeks ago, when Senator McCain was rising in the polls, I warned that something could happen to reverse the situation. In particular, I warned that the credit crunch could get worse. It has.

As I listen now to President Bush speak, I believe that the rescue plan will be unpopular. Some will see it as a bailout of big business, others as too little too late, and in any event, the GOP will be tagged with allowing it to get to this point (and while I think there is lots of blame to go around, Bush could have done things administratively to slow down Fannie and Freddie and the whole market).

I am a fervent McCain supporter. I believe that he has was the best person in 2000 and is the best person now. But the election is no longer about Iraq or foreign policy, it is now about the economy and this will hurt McCain. (as an aside, for saying this, I have been accused of Astroturfing). I wish that were so.

I hate to say it and I hope I am wrong, but McCain just conceded the election, in an honorable way.

[Edited to add -- Senators McCain and Obama just released a joint statement on the bailout]

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Obama's Plan

The Anchoress noted a Christopher Hitchens essay asking if Obama wanted to be president this time around. I admit I have thought the same. Obama supporters I know (given where I live, just about everyone) think that Obama expected to win. But lots of people run for president without expecting being nominated. And all of the third party candidates know they cannot win -- they are running to prove a point.

I wonder if that is why Obama waited so long to clear up the loose ends in his background — Trinity UCC, Ayers, and the rest. Could it also explain why he seems to have done little with the Foreign Relations subcommittee he was given.

If this is correct, be probably figured it was HRC’s time and he would lay the groundwork for a future campaign. Even if he did not take the VP slot, he would spend the next 4-8 years (depending on who won in November) chairing subcommittee hearings, distancing himself from Rev. Wright and Father Pfleiger, making sure Bill Ayers was more remotely in his past , and doing the “Senate statesman” rounds in Europe. T hen when it was time, he would be able to run as an experienced statesman.

Instead, he became “The One.” And despite everything, he is poised to be the next president.

The Old America no Longer Exists

Bruce Bawer, author of "While Europe Slept" wrote an essay on Pajamas Media about being away from America for 10 years, and about how the America he knew no longer exists. This lead to some rather pointed comments about "Bawer's choice" as it were.

Mr. Bawer has made it clear in most of his writings that his move to Europe was primarily due to his sexual preference -- Norway recognizes his relationship while the US does not. Hence, he can live in Norway, but his partner cannot live in the United States. Personally, if I were gay, I would prefer New York to Norway, but so be it. He has never stuck me as a “citizen of the world” type.

And I can understand wanting to experience something foreign. If all goes as planned, I will be moving to Europe next summer for an extended work assignment. That will not make me less American.

As for lamenting the passing of an old America, that is a normal aspect of getting older. I used to laugh at my parents complaining about the old America being gone. They grew up very poor, in a Catholic immigrant family at a time when Catholics were viewed in this country with suspicion and the country of their parents was actually at war with the United States. Their first memories were of the Great Depression and World War II. I could never understand how they missed that old America.

Yet, entering my forties, I too find myself lamenting the passing of what I think of as America. It is natural. Things change and you reach a point when change is not easy anymore. I think in Mr. Bawer’s case, living abroad, it is just more pointed a feeling, given that he feels the shock of the unfamiliar whenever he returns home.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Obama sort of loses a supporter

One of Ann Althouse's sons, an Obama supporter, has written a blog post about "how Obama lost me." This has lead to an argument among Professor Althouse's commenters as to WHY Jac Althouse Cohen has decided he "lost Obama" (though if you actually read his post, it is not really that Obama lost a supporter, but that the supporter lost the landslide he was expecting). And of course, some pro-Obama commenters are playing the race card.

My theory with Obama from the beginning is that he was the "liberal yuppie candidate", not the black candidate, not the left wing candidate. He was originally the candidate primarily of the white, liberal, urban well educated upper middle class. Until recently I lived in the Lincoln Park section of Chicago, on a block where there were $5M homes owned by hedge fund guys (mine was worth a lot less than $5M). I knew two other people who for certain were voting for McCain.

Obama was "one of us" in that he was well educated, wealthy enough, but not super wealthy, with the two nice kids and the appropriate disdain for the distant suburbs. Obama was the logical result of the changes in America's demography and economy, and especially the Bush years. The urban, liberal upper middle class thinks it is now their time. The spiritual forefathers of today's Obama supporters were the "best and the brightest" who backed JFK.

After JFK's assassination, those folks found themselves out of government. LBJ was from more of a traditional hardscrabble Democratic Party background as was Jimmy Carter. Clinton promised these folks an in, but in the end, Clinton was a moderate Republican. Nixon was from small town Republicanism, Ford deeply rural America and Reagan (despite his Hollywood background) was small town America. Bush 41 was in many ways the last gasp of the old GOP WASP establishment and his son is more in sympathy with the new evangelicals. No one has come from that urban liberal background.

So that is why I think Obama has become the new champion. He represents for the first time in almost 50 years that the urban, liberal, yuppie demographic has a chance at power.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Another Hymm

As much as I often complain about the quality of hymns in Catholic Churches, I also find myself more and more loving the old Anglican hymns.

For some reason I have gotten stuck in my head the hymn "The Son of God Goes Forth to War". It was written by Reginald Huber, the same Anglican bishop who wrote "Holy Holy Holy." The hymn is probably most famous for its appearance in the John Huston movie "The Man Who Would be King." In the movie, whoever, the tune is changed to an old Irish air "The Minstrel Boy," the tune of which itself is based on an older Irish folk song.

The tune (if not the words) of the Minstrel Boy itself is in the United States associated with the Irish regiments of the Civil War, and is still used today by police and fire departments with a large number of Irish Americans.

Using either tune, the hymn is both powerful and moving. As I have said before, I sometimes wish the American Catholic church would simply buy up some old Anglican hymnals and use those.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Quote for Senator Biden

"Towards the government I feel no scruples and would dodge paying the [income] tax if I could. Yet I would give my life for England readily enough, if I thought it necessary. No one is patriotic about taxes." George Orwell, Wartime Diary, August 9, 1940. (HT-Radio Derb)

(I guess this now means we can question Congressman Rangel's patriotism)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Looking at the Election

For the first time in months, I am actually holding out hope that Senator McCain will actually win this thing. The Obama campaign seems to be in a melt-down phase, the media is having a complete fit over Sarah Pallin and the McCain seems to have found his voice.

Already, conservatives are declaring victory and starting victory laps.

Of course, none of this takes into account that it is still seven weeks to Election Day. Much can happen between now and then. The credit crunch could flare into a full blown meltdown. War could flare up again in Georgia. The Middle East could have an oil shutdown -- who knows.

The latest is that McCain is supposedly closing the gap in NEW YORK.

I find it hard to believe. The last time a Republican won New York was in 1984, when Reagan won about 54% of the vote. The last time a Republican won New York City was Calvin Cooolige in 1924.

Back in 1988, when I was volunteering on the Bush campaign, the last weekend, the office was awash with rumors that New York was winnable. We were told that Bush was only 3% behind Dukakis in Queens and that statewide, internal polling showed a statistical tie. In the end, Dukakis won the state with about 52% of the vote and won Queens pretty handily if I recall.

One thing to note is that while New York has usually been a reliably Democratic state, it was not always with the big margins we saw in the past few elections. Granted, that was during the days of the Rockefeller Republicans, but the state was usually "in play." However, given the changes in the state's demography and the past few elections, I cannot see McCain having a real chance at winning. While I have seen lots of Obama bumper stickers ans signs since I moved to Park Slope, I have yet to see any evidence that there is another McCain voter in my neighborhood. Even the suburbs have changed in political makeup. What McCain can hope for is to force Obama to spend time and effort here, instead of Virgina and Colorado.

[edited to fix my public school spelling]

The Crucifixion and MultiverseTheory

Having moved to Brooklyn, I now need to find a new church. And Brooklyn being the "Borough of Churches" I have plenty of choices -- there must be 6 Catholic churches within walking distance of our new apartment.

So I choose Saint Saviour, I will admit, mostly because the Mass was most convenient to when I woke up.

The Homily was about the Crucifixion and the importance of it to Catholic belief. Yet, it also has been very sanitized. The crucifix we see at home or in church is nice and clean, it cannot convey the horror and suffering Jesus endured.

But one thing the priest said was quite interesting. It was not important to the homily, to be sure, but raised my interest. Namely, if multiverse theory is correct, would the Crucifixion be the one common event in all multiverses.

In a nutshell, multiverse theory is that there exist an infinite number of alternative universes. In each, history takes a slightly different turn. For example, in one universe, the US Navy may have received the "war warning" in time to win the battle of Pearl Harbor. In another, you did not stub your toe on the bedpost this morning.

The homilist wondered if in each multiverse, the crucifixion would have been the one common event. He used the term "Omega Point" which I think was somewhat unfortunate. The term has something of a loaded meaning, under a very controversial theory of Catholic theology as the point to which all human consciousness is evolving.

Questions of terminology aside, it does make for an interesting thought experiment. I will admit that I always though a bit differently, that I could imagine a multiverse under which humanity accepted Christ's mission, making the Crucifixion unnecessary. But when you think about that, would you still have Christianity. For as the homilist today noted, without Good Friday, you cannot have Easter Sunday.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

CBS Blogger Outreach

I have been getting e-mails of late from CBS in a political blogger outreach. Unfortunately, buy the time I read my e-mails, the story is already finished and past.

CBS is currently running behind other news sources, so maybe they view this as a way to widen their audience. I am obviously only a minor blogger, so I have no idea if other news organizations have been trying to contact other bloggers.

The Real Reason Obama is more Qualified to Be President than McCain

"I think they spent months trying to figure out how they can position Obama as better qualified than McCain, and basically came up with the fact that Obama can type."

Village Idiot, commenter on Ace of Spades blog (HT -- comment to the Head Tilter).

Seriously, this is dumber than Hillary Clinton's "3 AM" ad

So, after getting past the computer and e-mail comment, Obama throws in an attack on taxes and the economy. But still, "he can't send an e-mail"?

And of course, it turns out that McCain cannot send an e-mail because he cannot type, the result of 5 years of communist torture.

I know I am not the first to wonder this, but is Obama really trying to win the election?

Friday, September 12, 2008


There was a bit of an uproar today when ABC News showed the first part of Charlie Gibson's interview with Sarah Pallin. Pallin noted that if Georgia was in NATO (something she supports), an invasion of Georgia by Russia would mean the US and others would go to war with Russia.

WARMONGER! was the cry.

Well, DUH -- under the NATO charter an attack on one is an attack on all, requiring the other NATO members to intervene. So if Georgia is a member of NATO, a Russian attack on Georgia would require us to attack Russia.

Now, Obama also wants Georgia (and Ukraine) to join NATO. So I assume that if Georgia joins NATO and is attacked by Russia, President Obama will also go to war with Russia.

One can argue that the TONE of the statements are different, Obama is a bit conciliatory toward Russia while Pallin a bit more bellicose, but the fact remains that Obama's position on Georgia is little different that Pallin's (or McCain's for that matter, as McCain's position is the one that really counts).

Personally, I do not support US membership in NATO anymore, so you can guess my feelings about Georgian membership. But given the lack of imagination by our foreign policy elites, we will continue to be members in NATO.

So the point is, both candidates support Georgian membership of NATO. Which means that any Russian attack on Georgia will mean that we have to go to war with Russia.

Everyone REALLY Loves Barack!

As I noted the other night, polls show that everyone on the planet, and probably some from other planets, LOVE Barack Obama. Today I came across this little website, dedicated to the proposition that everyone else on earth needs to tell people like me to vote for Obama.

It is pretty funny. But as John Derbyshire pointed out on his "Derb Radio" podcast today, what does it really mean? For example, polls in Russia show that Russians love Vlad Putin, yet also want Barack Obama. How do you reconcile the two?

I think people are more into the IDEA of Obama than Obama himself. He is the cool, post modern candidate. As for American foreign policy, will it really change all that much? Given the incestuousness and lack of imagination among our foreign policy elites, I doubt it. The difference may be one of tone, but not really substance. Obama will use multilateral cover a little more than Bush has, and an Obama foreign policy will be more aggressively anti-Russian than Bush's, but in the end, I doubt much will change.

So why do I see McCain as better than Obama in this regard? My big concern about Obama is the same that I had about Bush 8 years ago -- seriousness. I also worry that Obama will try and prove he is a tough guy. John McCain has nothing to prove on that score. Obama may feel like he has. And considering the Messianic overtones of his campaign, I worry that he will react to any attack on US interests not as an attack on US interests, but as an attack on him personally. Presidents should never take anything personally -- that may be how we got into Iraq in the first place.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Another September 11

As I noted last year, what I remember most about 9/11 is the smell, that horrible smell. It is hard to believe it has been 7 years, but life goes on.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Everyone Loves Barack!

Everyone outside the US that is. Good thing we do not let foreigners vote.

So what can we do. Electing Senator Obama would make the rest of the world like us again. But on the other hand, my taxes are really high (especially as I now live in New York City).

The fun and slightly insane folks at IMAO have an idea -- let's give Barack to the rest of the world. Hence, they will like us again and I am only taxed at a 55% combined rate.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

So what do I think of the Republicans?

The Sarah Palin pick will either go down as the most brilliant, or most disastrous, election decisions in history. I really do not see any middle ground. And that is strange, because usually, vice-presidential choices do not matter. Did Dick Cheney give GWB a boost? Did George Bush do anything for Ronald Reagan? Walter Mondale still lost in a landslide despite putting Ferraro on the ticket (and if I recall correct, Reagan even won Ferraro's district).

But Palin may have an effect. Let's be frank, the conservative base of the GOP has not shared my enthusiasm for John McCain. Governor Palin may have in one speech energized the base of the GOP in a way he could not.

I actually have been talking about her quite a bit, though it seems I mentioned her only twice in passing on this blog. She was my "hoped for" pick, though I could not really see him doing it. My Obama supporting wife has been hearing about Palin for about 5 months and when she saw the smile on my face her first words were "Palin?"

So why am I so excited? I am not an evangelical or politically a social conservative. But Palin has an appeal across constituencies. To me, I see her as a radical reformer, who took on the Alaska political establishment and a republican Senator I do not like. I also see her as someone who can make the case for drilling for more oil here, to take the pressure off until new sources of fuel are developed.

And while I can point to her as a reformer, she comes across as a practically intelligent, quirky, strong willed woman. I come a family filled with practically intelligent, quirky, strong willed women (though they are a bit difficent in the moose killing department).

Then she gave that speech.

As for McCain's speech, McCain was being McCain. That is who he is. People know him. He cannot, and should not, try to match Obama's oratorical brilliance or rock star appeal. But he should use the contrast to his advantage -- he must cast himself as a Cinncinatus in comparison to Obama's Gracchus.

In any event, this is really Obama's race to lose, not McCain's to win. Obama should be up by a lot more, considering the general level of discontent but he is not. . McCain's best hope is that the debates get Obama away from the teleprompter. That is where McCain can shine, and Obama has had some difficulties.

But even that may not be enough. Still, I can have the AUDACITY to HOPE that McCain will CHANGE the results of this election, right?

So what do I think of the Democrats?

I have a confession to make. I really like Joe Biden. I went to school with his son (the Attorney General of Delaware), and while I did not know him well, we did have a passing acquaintance. Back when I lived in Washington, I met the Senator on a few alumni occasions, even once having lunch with him. Unlike most politicians I have met, he is interesting, has a personality and interests outside of politics.

In fact, belying the fact that Biden has been a career politician, politics seemed very secondary to him. To me that is a mark in his favor, as I worry that too many people feel that politics (and government) is the font of all that is good and holy in this world.

I also find him to be a real adult and a serious person. His does have a reputation for shooting his mouth off, but again, I think that is because he is not a politicians that measures everything he says against a focus group.

Politically, he is something of a through back to the "old" pre-McGovern Democratic Party. You could label him a "Scoop Jackson Democrat" or maybe better as the old Catholic Democrats that dominated the party in the North East until the late 1960s. Does he bring anything to the ticket? He brings a wealth of foreign policy experience and a lot of gravitas. I do worry that we would be in the same situation as with Cheney and Bush in 2001, namely that President Obama might essentially fob off lots of national security issues to Biden.

But all in all, Barrack Obama could have done far worse.

I am Back!

We are finally moved in, though still surrounded by boxes. And after one week, we have FINALLY gotten home Internet access.

My oldest son started kindergarten, my youngest son started music school (at 3 he has pretty much decided he wants to be either a musician or a tax driver), my new job is looking very interesting, and my wife has not stuck a knife in me!

Over all, things are going well!