Friday, November 28, 2008

Financial Perspective

Funny how the whingeing in the last few years about all the money we're spending in Iraq sort of pales in comparison to the costs of the financial bailouts. In fact, everything pales; this is the largest sum of money spent in American history. Wall Street analyst Barry Ritholtz crunches the numbers: the combined financial bailouts of the last two months are costing more than the (inflation-adjusted values of the) Louisiana Purchase, New Deal, Marshall Plan, Korean War, Vietnam War, Iraq War, and the entire history of NASA combined.

Celebrating Cultural Identity

R.R. Reno at First Things comments on the awesomely-named Afrikaner folk singer Bok van Blerk, who has become quite popular with a song celebrating a hero of the Second Boer War, causing considerable and predictable angst among liberal white South Africans. Happily, black South African leaders aren't so aggrieved:
ANC leader Jacob Zuma has asked the sensible question, “Why should Afrikaners not remember their heroes?” Apparently this song is now frequently sung spontaneously at rugby matches, complete with the waving of the old South African national flag. Nelson Mandela has called van Blerk one of his favorite singers. Another reason to put his picture in every dictionary by the entry for magnanimity.

Something New and Ugly in Bombay

Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal provides some analysis of the Bombay attacks. Interesting stuff, and worrisome. Whether or not Al-Qaeda itself was involved in this massacre, groups that are targeting the United States will see the success of this sort of attack.

True Service

One of the (many) things I love about Indian society is the vibrant sense of service, of vocation even, that has been long absent in the West. In contrast to Western workers who seem to cultivate a disinterested nonchalance, their very indifference saying "make no mistake, this job is not my career", service workers in India -- rickshaw drivers, waiters, retail salespeople and railroad ticket-takers -- take visible pride in their vocations, which expresses itself in uncommon service. Case in point: how many American bellhops do you expect would take a bullet for their guests?

Ignoble Savages

This is America? Sickening.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Brutal Reminder

Here's something to be thankful for today: counterterrorism. If there is any real lesson for us from the attacks in Bombay which are just now ending, it is that it could have been us. There's nothing unique about Bombay that made it a good target; this sort of attack could have been successful in any American city. We know they want to, but apparently they haven't been able to. For seven years, what we considered inevitable on September 12 hasn't occurred. This is not by coincidence. For all the pointless waste and excess of the Department of Homeland Security, something is clearly working, and for that I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bad Bad Bad: Terrorists Attack Bombay

I hope nobody's hearing this news first from me, but today terrorists have conducted a massive series of coordinated attacks on seven locations across Bombay, including hospitals, an airport, railway station, police station, and two prominent hotels. 87 now confirmed dead according to CNN, and the Times of India is reporting over 900 injured. There are still hostages being held in two hotels. A previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahedin has claimed responsibility, but there's no way this was the work of some rabble of Indian domestic terrorists. My money's on Pakistani intelligence and/or Al-Qaeda.

UPDATE: Danger Room links to the Twittering, YouTubing, GoogleMapping, and Flickring developments.

UPDATE 1120ET: Times of India now reporting 101 dead, with 6 confirmed to be foreigners.

Food Miles, Schmood Miles

There are a lot of reasons to eat locally; preventing global warming just isn't one of them. The "Food Miles" concept of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by avoiding produce shipped long distances is a classic example of feel-good environmentalism lacking empirical rigor. As Reason Magazine explains, it makes the most environmental sense to grow food in exactly the same places where it makes the most economic sense. Any given crop has preferences in soil and climate, livestock have preferences in climate and feed, so land and agrochemical use are minimized by growing crops and raising animals in the places most suited to their growth. Then there's the basic logistical issue:
It transpires that half the food-vehicle miles associated with British food are travelled by cars driving to and from the shops. Each trip is short, but there are millions of them every day. Another surprising finding was that a shift towards a local food system, and away from a supermarket-based food system, with its central distribution depots, lean supply chains and big, full trucks, might actually increase the number of food-vehicle miles being travelled locally, because things would move around in a larger number of smaller, less efficiently packed vehicles.
This study was in compact, crowded Britain. The situation can only be worse in spacious America. This excerpt uses the phrase food-vehicle miles. Maybe we can come up with a better term than that, but it hinges on thinking not about total miles traveled, but on miles traveled per item of produce in a given shipment. Think of it this way: you buy a local tomato at the trendy farmers' market instead of one that's been shipped from California, thus reducing "food miles". What you fail to account for is "food-vehicle miles": the local tomato might have ridden thirty miles in the back of a pickup with maybe 50 other tomatoes. The California tomato was shipped cross-country, true, but in a semi-load of millions. The amount of fuel burned per tomato to get it from the field to your house ends up being far less for the mass-market tomato, particularly if you drive further to the farmers' market than the grocery store.

This is all such a great example of the sort of environmentalism that cares more about labels and trends than about actually accomplishing anything. Some of the political motivations are suspect as well; much of the local-food movement has an ugly strain of protectionism to it. Indeed, Kenya has been forced to defend her cut-flower industry from the "food miles" concept, with an ad campaign point out that Kenyan flowers are "Grown Under The Sun" instead of in heated greenhouses and are thus "greener" than British or Dutch cut-flowers. Again, we're back to growing things where they grow best. Crazy talk, I know.

All this is most certainly not to suggest that I'm against buying locally. I think there's a great food security argument to a more distributed agricultural production. There may be some nutritional benefits (though studies are inconclusive). For me, there is without a doubt a mental health benefit; it just feels right to be eating food grown in the community. It supports a more localized economy, a sense of civil interdependence, and a healthier, more traditional lifestyle. So in the end I'm all for local produce, or best of all, food you grow yourself. Just don't try to convince me I'm saving the world by buying it.

Obligatory Thanksgiving Post

Matthew Yglesias blogs about turkey over at the Internet Food Association, arguing (with considerably validity) that turkey just isn't that great of a meat, period, regardless of all the foodies trying to figure out ways to make it better. He argues that the reason for this is that the breeding of commercial turkeys has focused on exactly one factor: size. I buy that this might be true, but I'm not willing to accept his argument that the best response is just to give up on turkey and serve something else for Thanksgiving. There must be sources of naturally-raised turkeys from traditional breeds. I'd like to give one a try before I give up on turkey entirely.

Oh yeah, and I'm thankful for stuff. But I don't think I really need an allotted day to acknowledge that.

UPDATE 27NOV08 2352: Yepp, there are heritage turkeys out there. No word on how pricey, but they do exist.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tonight We're Goin' Dancing

First Things links to this video from a Quebecois band. What I wouldn't give to hear this sort of unabashed tribute to our roots from the Anglo world! Of course, this sort of sentiment is generally considered borderline fascist these days. I don't care.

An Uninclusive Disease

Cystic fibrosis isn't inclusive enough. That's the determination of the student association of Ottawa's Carleton University, which has decided to drop the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation from an annual fundraiser on account of the genetic disorder's highest incidence occurring among Caucasian males (HT a facebook friend). Unbelievable.

War Vegetables!

All my friends who are currently so lucky as to have gardens or who, like me, pine wistfully for the day they will be so lucky, might enjoy a peek at the book War Vegetable Gardening, published in 1918 by the US War Garden Commission and e-published on Google Books. I'm still working on a post explaining why the push to "buy local" according to the "food miles" concept is mostly bunk, and in most circumstances produces results counter to its stated goals. That aside, however, growing food for yourself and your family is undoubtedly a Good Thing for various environmental, political, social, and health reasons, and this book is certainly a classy (and classic) background. The admonishments about seed shortages and rationing are also needed reminders of how easy we have it.

Someone's Still Standing Up For Civilization

Someone's still standing up against the barbarians, but sadly (and sadly predictably) it's not a traditional Western power. Rear Admiral Raja Menon of the Indian Navy has chastised NATO members for treating Somali pirates "with kid gloves", Danger Room reports. "There is an 1838 convention that permits any warship to interfere anywhere on the ‘High Seas’ to intercept pirates and try them — without handing them over to the country of origin." Dern skippy, there is. Customary law of the sea has always treated pirates as stateless actors and given captains of legitimate flagged vessels the authority to try them, at sea, under the laws of the capturing country. But the West these days is more concerned with the pirates' civil rights. An old definition of conservatism is the firm belief that civilization is but a thin and fragile veneer in need of vigilant defense: India gets it, Europe clearly doesn't, and America can't seem to make up her mind. This isn't the first time I've wondered whether, having inherited more evidently the traditional responsibilities of Western civilization, India doesn't more legitimately deserve the global eminence that the Western powers historically enjoyed.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Touch Obscure

When one hears word about a performance of a C.S. Lewis work adapted as an opera, first thoughts run to the Chronicles of Narnia, perhaps, or maybe one of the theological allegories like The Great Divorce. I would not have guessed Perelandra.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Recount Fun

Minnesota Public Radio shares some of the challenged ballots in the current Minnesota Senate recount (background from PowerLine). I guess it's not surprising that in such a high-stakes game both sides would be making pretty ridiculous challenges. Not surprising, but not particularly encouraging. Can we possibly come up with a voting system that doesn't leave us in this position?

I Want One: Mammoth-Wool Sweater

Science is finally getting around to seriously considering the feasibility of reconstituting extinct animals. While the Jurassic Park scenario is pure science fiction, Paleolithic Park is not. Scientists are now suggesting that the woolly mammoth, which went extinct right around the dawn of human civilization, could be brought back to life for something in the neighborhood of $10 million. I don't know exactly how long it would take commercial mammoth-ranching to take off after that, but I for one refuse to believe that mammoth wool would be anything but snuggly-soft.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Big 3 Bailout

As far as the proposed bailout of Detroit goes, I'm inclined to go with the suggestion offered by ScrappleFace: "Here’s my proposal to rescue U.S. automakers... Memo to Detroit: Make better cars."

What worries me considerably more is the possibility floated by Todd Zywicki at The Volokh Conspiracy, that the bailout money might just tide the automakers over until "card check" empowers the UAW to get those peskily profitable foreign automakers under control.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I've spent the last week on a short-term recruiting gig, visiting high school classes in several cities in the western half of North Carolina, from classy Smoky Mountain resort cities to economically hopeless Appalachian towns. The full-time recruiters I worked with said that they look at a high school class with the knowledge that about 70% are already disqualified for various reasons, and of those who aren't, only about a third will get a qualifying score on the ASVAB. With that in mind, it was heartbreaking to hear teachers so enthusiastic for their students to enlist, admitting to us privately that the military was the only path they could see for their students to make anything of themselves. "Half these kids think they're going to college," one of them confided in me. "Nine out of ten of those will drop out in their first year." Interacting with high-schoolers these days isn't exactly an encouraging experience.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How Long...

... until history can take a dispassionate view of the Bush presidency and declare that it wasn't, in fact, an unmitigated disaster? How long until people can admit that the Bush administration has actually had some major accomplishments in foreign policy? It has somehow evaded mainstream media attention that Libya — a country whose government has murdered US civilians, which just six years ago had a vast arsenal of chemical weapons, was pursuing nuclear weapons, and was a listed State Sponsor of Terrorism (and one of John Bolton's "Beyond the Axis of Evil") — is now on a clear path to fully normalized relations with the US and the international community. Amazing. But never forget, Bush is a warmonger who is constitutionally incapable of even considering diplomacy.

Classic Moments in Soldiering: Livin' It Up on TDY

I'm traveling around the western reaches of North Carolina this week, on a recruiting TDY (temporary duty). We're basically just going to high schools and talking about what we've done in the Army. I guess the Department of the Army is starting to realize that it might help recruitment to let potential recruits interact with some regularly-assigned soldiers. Personally, I think the permanent recruiters should all be contract civilians, and just have soldiers from line units rotate through on short TDYs, but that's a thought for another post. Whatever the purpose, TDY is generally a time to relax and enjoy a sort of half-vacation: you're still working, but you're away from the familiar frustrations of your own unit, staying in a hotel and eating out on the Army's dime. The timing of this trip is especially sweet because back at Fort Bragg our buddies are busy with "Clean Sweep", the biannual week-long post-wide "area beautification" effort. A buddy describes the experience:
Step one: remove dead pine needles from base of tree. Step two: replace with slightly less dead pine needles. Step three: repeat. I would go TDY to the moon, butt-@$$ naked from a slingshot, if it got me out of this.

Bad Bad Bad: Somali Pirates Capture Supertanker

It's the early years of the 21st Century, we're living in the future, people, and while I can deal with the lack of flying cars, it's a bit surreal to me that open-seas piracy is reemerging as an international issue. I understand that as long as there are desolate stretches of ungovernable wasteland, there will be people who seek to profit off of chaos. I just didn't think they'd get to the point that they can capture supertankers.

UPDATE: Kenneth Anderson at Opinio Juris suggests that Somali pirates could be low-hanging fruit for an Obama administration eager to gain some serious security credibility while simultaneously demonstrating its commitment to internationalism. He also notes how Great Britain, once the lonely guardian of shipping lanes worldwide, has abdicated any responsibility to fight pirates:
Meanwhile, the British have instructed their navy to ignore pirates, out of the remarkable fear that any captured Somali pirates might have asylum claims on metropolitan Britain. I am not alone in thinking this an ignominious day for Britain.
Not alone, indeed.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I Want One: Car Made of Cake

Via the ever-entertaining Cake Wrecks, this charming ad from the Czech automaker Skoda:

And if you loved that, here's the "making of" video.

Just For Fun

The real world, meticulously videotaped to make it look like a scene of miniatures in stop-motion. Beautiful.

UPDATE: Full videos, in HD, available here:

The North Wind Blew South from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Preservation Bias Revisited

I wrote about preservation bias a while back, but I just have to bring it up again after John Hinderaker at PowerLine posted about a 2,000 year-old earring found recently at a dig in Jerusalem:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Good Reminder

That even in tough economic times, there are always winners. The beauty of capitalism is the opportunity to profit by providing things people need, better and cheaper than anyone else. It's a beautiful thing. Which is why we should be incredibly suspicious of calls for the government to save companies that haven't produced a product people actually want to buy for nearly a generation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Another Advantage of an Obama Presidency... that the AP will no longer have to tie themselves in knots spinning the successful completion of counterinsurgency milestones as US forces "abandoning Iraqi cities". Via James Taranto, this AP article takes a full five paragraphs to get around to admitting that US troops are pulling out of some Iraqi cities because they are secure enough to entrust to Iraqi security forces.

The Uncanniest Valley

Are all my readers familiar with the concept of the Uncanny Valley? Essentially, people are generally attracted to other people, and to things that resemble human beings such as Cabbage Patch dolls or vaguely humanoid robots, except for things that are a little too close to human, but still clearly not; this is the "Uncanny Valley". The phenomenon is a way of explaining the otherwise inexplicable revulsion people feel toward creepy-realistic porcelain dolls, clowns, zombies, corpses, and lifelike robots. Meanwhile, certain line of modern technology seems to be dead-set on plumbing the deepest depths of the Uncanny Valley, creating abominations like this:

This thing needs to be destroyed. (HT Mike Elgan). Also, is it just me, or does it look like a creepy android Paul Dano (who is himself wandering awfully close to the brink of the Uncanny Valley)?

A Day Late

But I still wanted to link to this Veteran's Day post at the Donovan, about Honor Flight, a charity that provides free flights for WWII veterans to visit the National WWII Memorial in Washington, DC.


This guy's got 'em:

Arizona State University student Alex Botsios said he had no problem giving a nighttime intruder his wallet and guitars.

When the man asked for Botsios' laptop, however, the first-year law student drew the line.

"I was like, 'Dude, no -- please, no!" Botsios said. "I have all my case notes…that's four months of work!"

He then proceeded to beat the snot out of the burglar. I particularly love that his mom attributes his hand-to-hand skills to watching cop shows on TV.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


So that post I promised last night, well, I'm not going to write it tonight, because we threw a birthday party for a fellow soldier in my platoon, and now I have to go to bed. We've had early work call for various reasons all week. What gives? So maybe tomorrow.

Back to Work

Tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will post a piece about the various possible bright sides of President Obama's term in office. Right now I'm going to bed, because in 5 hours, I have to be up, uniformed, and headed to the rifle range. I can't quite believe they're seriously giving us live ammo after all this... but I'm not as worried as I would have been if the results had be inconclusive. Here's to shooting "Expert" in honor of my new commander-in-chief. I'll be supporting him any which way I can. Here's praying he needs it less than I fear he will.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


There's this, too, from Jim Manzi:
There are about 1,460 days until the next Presidential election, and I assume that I will spend approximately the next 1,459 of them opposing Barack Obama. But I'm spending today proud about what my country has overcome.

Grace in Defeat

If I'm going to echo anyone's concession, I'm happy to choose Jonah Goldberg's:
Look, I expect to be one of the most severe critics of the Obama administration and the Democrats generally in the years ahead (though I sincerely hope I won't find that necessary). But Obama ran a brilliant race and he should be congratulated for it. Moreover, during the debate over the financial crisis, Obama said that a president should be able to do more than one thing at a time. Well, I think we members of the loyal opposition should be able to make distinctions simultaneously. It is a wonderful thing to have the first African-American president. It is a wonderful thing that in a country where feelings are so intense that power can be transferred so peacefully. Let us hope that the Obama his most dedicated -- and most sensible! -- fans see turns out to be the real Obama. Let us hope that Obama succeeds and becomes a great president, for all the right reasons. As for John McCain, he is an American hero and arguably the best candidate we could have fielded. I will in the days to come offer no small amount of criticism about his campaign. But where his campaign may have lacked qualities that would have helped it win, the candidate never lacked for honor and integrity. Thank you John McCain for your sacrifice, commitment, and honor. God bless America, and may He guide Obama to be the best president possible.

A Republican's Vow

Things are definitely leaning Obama's way, as expected, though with states being called on 1% or 2% of precincts, there's plenty of room for ugly surprises. With that in mind, I'd like to share something I picked up from a friend of a friend's blog. It's a little vow for McCain supporters (here selected):

I hereby vow that if Obama wins:
  • I will remove my McCain campaign bumper stickers shortly after he is sworn in. I will not leave them on my bumper until Obama leaves office.
  • I will never refer to the election as "stolen" or a "coup d'etat". Massive voting problems should prompt future reforms, not invalidate the election. No matter how dirty the election, he will still be my President.
  • I will never own a "days until Obama is out of office" countdown calendar.
  • I will never pass on every verbal stumble as proof he is a moron, or buy books or calendars asserting such. Caveat: Joe Biden is fair game.
  • I will not adopt a cutesy insulting nickname for Obama and use that whenever referring to him in order to avoid calling him the President of the United States.
  • I will never call Obama "Hitler" or a "Nazi". Similarly, no pictures or photos will ever be digitally altered to give him a Hitler mustache.
  • If any organization affiliated with Obama is enriched due to the direction of the country under Obama, I will not insist that Obama's motivations are wholly to enrich that organization.
  • If Obama makes reasonable, logical statements that are backed up by the information known at the time, but these facts prove to be incorrect, I will not call him a liar.
  • I will admonish any right-wing blog which dismisses Michelle Obama for being a woman, or which photo manipulates her image in a sleazy way. I will not adopt any kind of rude nickname for her, or hold her up for mockery for anything unrelated to political statements which she makes.
  • Obama's daughters are totally off-limits. If they do something stupid, I will admonish any blogs which gossip about them. Their parents are in politics; they aren't.
  • I will not demand Obama's resignation or impeachment for making decisions that are consistent with being President.
  • Obama will take office while the War on Terror is still going on, and unless he is even dumber than he appears to be I can only assume he will take some steps to fight terrorism, regardless of what actions he takes in the current fronts of the war (Iraq and Afghanistan). I will not assume that Obama's every action in this is a malicious move towards oppressing the American people.
  • If Obama, too, fails to capture Osama bin Laden, I will not assume he is not trying.
  • Obama's judges, U.N. representatives, cabinet officials, diplomats, etc. are his to appoint. If elected, he is the President and he does not have to appoint people who are ideologically acceptable to Republicans.
  • I will never threaten to move to Canada because Obama is taking our country to Hell in a handbasket.
  • Should things ever become so dire under Obama's Presidency that I would have to leave the land that I love to flee to Australia, I will not threaten to do so. I will move and then verify my change of residency with a photo of me in front of that weird horseshoe crab opera house or the big rock.
Of course, the whole thrust of this piece is that we need to be gracious in defeat, and constructive in our time in the wilderness; for the sake of a nation that we love. This is why I honestly hope that McCain does not pull off a narrow electoral victory; if he's going to do it, let it be decisive — if not, concede graciously. Because I honestly don't know if America as I know and love her will survive another presidency conceived in such ill will. And for what it's worth, should McCain pull off the impossible, it'd be nice of our left-leaning friends to consider a corollary set of vows. But that's really wishful thinking.

Hope Springs Eternal

When my favorite grumpy Tory, John Derbyshire, finds himself voting for John McCain against all compelling logic, there's got to be something in the air. Probably not enough of it, but who knows?
I hesitated. The little angel on my right shoulder was saying: "Purity, Derb, purity and a clean conscience! How could you live with yourself, voting for Ted Kennnedy's and Joe Lieberman's best friend? You're a conservative, man! Go into the darkness unsullied, with your head held high!" Meanwhile the Father of Temptation had a representative sitting on my other shoulder, waving the Delonas cartoon at me, whispering: "Remember your Kipling, Derb! Stick to the Devil you know! At least when you're breaking rocks in that labor camp in the Aleutians, you'll be able to tell yourself you did what you could to stop it." I succumbed. By an effort of will, I reached out a trembling finger and turned down the tag. Then I shut my eyes and pulled hard on the lever. Yes, my friends, I voted for John McCain.

Yes On 8, Yes to the Mormon Gestapo

You know, I'd thought that the crazier streams of anti-Mormon bigotry had pretty much faded away. I didn't give a whole lot of credence to the suggestion that Mitt Romney's primary run was likely done in by it. Then I see that a "No On 8" organization is running this ad:

I'm appalled. I'd always thought of anti-Mormon feelings in connection with wary evangelicals unsure what to make of the LDS. I just never really thought what the LDS must represent to some of the more paranoid-leaning lefties out there.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Useless Gadgets?

WIRED's Gadget Lab blog posts the Five Useless Gadgets You Should Throw In The Trash Right Now. These supposedly obsolete pieces of equipment are the: printer, scanner, CD/DVD optical drive, fax machine, and landline phone.

About the only one I agree with on this list is the scanner, and that's just because it's been made obsolete by my digital camera. They're right that home printers and fax machines should be obsolete, but there are still agencies and employers out there who still deal stubbornly in hard copy, and until they start accepting things digitally, I'll still be relying on my trusty printer and occasionally scrambling to find someplace I can send and receive faxes. I agree the situation is completely ridiculous when I'm emailing documents to myself so I can print them out in my room and drive to the UPS Store to fax them off, but there's not a lot I can do about that.

As to optical drives, flash memory and functionally limitless hard drives are pretty much making the disc obsolete, but software and media haven't moved completely into the cloud yet, so until that happens I still need to be able to install programs and play my DVDs.

My real disagreement is the landline phone, which I think I've mentioned before. The authors just don't seem to take seriously the implications of an entire city being rendered incommunicado after a major disaster, and how easily cell networks could be brought down by malicious actors.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Get A Government Job, Kid!

John Derbyshire, my personal favorite grumpy ole' Tory, shares a letter from a reader cataloging the vast improvements in his personal comfort level since abandoning the rat race of the free market for the nourishing womb of a government job:
What a fool I was. It was all a vast waste of time... Oh, it was fun while it lasted but, seriously, I should have been a mailman out of high school!! Like yourself, I have advised my grandchildren accordingly.

Let me be clear, this is a catastrophic development for our country. When the private sector can no longer compete with the public sector, you know that society is on its way out... At this point, my wife and I are planning to make the most of it and have as much fun as we possibly can for as long as we possibly can. Frankly, nothing else makes sense anymore. The old beliefs, the old gods, the old standards have gone a-glimmering. I now answer the deep questions of the day with a cosmic shrug, a "whatever" and an inquiry as to when the Chargers are playing this Sunday. It is wise not to have opinions in the new America. Opinions are dangerous.

I have visited Philadelphia, the cradle of our freedom. I have been astonished at the modest rooms where the great men of that time gave birth to our country. I think of Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Franklin spinning in their graves. They would be appalled that it has come to this. Ask yourself, would you sacrifice your life, your sacred honor and your fortune for what you see around you today? The answer is self evident. We are a de facto colony of China. It is enough to make you cry.
It does make me want to cry. It makes me fear for the future of our nation, regardless of who wins the election on Tuesday.

Obama's Crowds

I finally got around to reading a piece by Fouad Ajami that I'd saved a few days back, on the role of the crowd in politics in general, and the Obama campaign in particular. It's good stuff:
My boyhood, and the Arab political culture I have been chronicling for well over three decades, are anchored in the Arab world. And the tragedy of Arab political culture has been the unending expectation of the crowd -- the street, we call it -- in the redeemer who will put an end to the decline, who will restore faded splendor and greatness. When I came into my own, in the late 1950s and '60s, those hopes were invested in the Egyptian Gamal Abdul Nasser. He faltered, and broke the hearts of generations of Arabs. But the faith in the Awaited One lives on, and it would forever circle the Arab world looking for the next redeemer.

America is a different land, for me exceptional in all the ways that matter. In recent days, those vast Obama crowds, though, have recalled for me the politics of charisma that wrecked Arab and Muslim societies. A leader does not have to say much, or be much. The crowd is left to its most powerful possession -- its imagination.

On a totally unrelated note: 300th post!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Election Nostalgia

Andrew Roth of Club for Growth shares this charming reminder of a bygone era:

Stay Classy, St. Olaf

St. Olaf gets a shout-out from PowerLine. Sadly it's about a visiting professor, Phil Busse, who has admitted on the Huffington Post to stealing McCain-Palin lawn signs along Highway 19. Sad, though not as surprising as I'd prefer, that a faculty member would exhibit such immature and proto-fascist behavior (more disappointing that the college would hire such a poor writer). Unsurprisingly, the culprit has some seriously twisted analysis of his guilt:
But unlike stealing a lawn gnome or a plastic pink flamingo, I admit, stealing a lawn sign is a more heinous crime. There is moral and ethical guilt. I believe in free speech, and also believe and encourage political expression. I guess I could argue that I was flexing my free expression to say "shut up." But that would put me at the same low-level of political discourse as Bill O'Reilly, who consistently steamrolls over anyone who disagrees with him. If I need to justify my actions, I could argue that I was trying to achieve some great public service for rural voters. In his 2004 book, What's The Matter With Kansas, Frank Rich explains that working class and family farmers, like these in Minnesota, increasingly vote conservative and against their own interests. By pulling out the McCain signs, I was hoping to curb the impression for passing motorists that family farmers in Minnesota supported McCain. Or, at least that's the most high-minded explanation that I can offer.
Sir, your free expression is in your yard. Your act is not equivalent to O'Reilly's (admittedly annoying) railroading of interlocators whom he has provided with a platform on his own show. It is, rather, equivalent to O'Reilly sabotaging the satellite feed of someone else's show. And I can't even bring myself to discuss how Professor Busse considers "high-minded" his rationalization that he was censoring less enlightened citizens for their own good. Just last week I came across the Arabic expression "an excuse more damnable than the offense", and didn't entirely understand its application. Now I do.

UPDATE 04NOV08: Phil Busse has resigned his position at St. Olaf. Good riddance.

Best Thing Ever (Yet): Escaped Rhino Drill

You Could Buy Four Palin Wardrobes...

... for the money the Obama campaign spent on staging and lighting for his rally in Berlin. In front of people who don't get to vote. Amazing this hasn't gotten more coverage, right? Right? Of course, the Washington Times has nothing to lose by being critical now, since the Obama machine has cut the newspaper off for endorsing McCain (along with the other two national papers to endorse the Republican). This after cutting off the Florida TV station whose anchorwoman had the temerity to ask the sort of aggressive questions you expect from, you know, a journalist. It's remarkable how beloved Obama remains in the media when his camp so transparently treats them as an expendable resource, to be coddled only so long as they remain favorable.