Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Thoughts on a "Crisis"

Yesterday's events provoke a few desultory thoughts:

How long will it be before the rest of the media starts informing viewers of the facts surrounding our financial crisis (see video below)? And why, if it truly is such a crisis, did Congress take the next two days off for Rosh Hashana? If the situation is as dire as we've been told that it is wouldn't we expect Congress to work on Christmas day, if need be, to get it resolved? Why are Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank blaming Republicans for not getting the bailout passed when 40% (95) of House Democrats voted against it? If only 11 of those Democrats had voted for the measure instead of against it it would have passed. I'm not saying that that would have been a good thing, understand, but it's hard to blame the other party when so many of one's own party didn't vote the way one thinks they should have voted.

The fact that neither Pelosi (nor Obama) seemed to work very hard to get her caucus to support the bailout plan and the fact that the Democrats adjourned for a two day holiday suggests to me that this "crisis" is more a political ploy than a serious immediate threat to our economy. Either that or the Democratic leadership is even more irresponsible than I thought they were.

Here's an interview you can expect never to see on MSNBC:


Obama's Gestapo

A couple of weeks ago we mentioned Senator Obama's attempt to intimidate and squelch free speech by prosecuting those who produce ads that the Obama campaign doesn't like. Now comes an organized attempt in Missouri to use police and prosecutors to respond to ads the campaign deems to be unfair.

This is unconscionable, and, as we said in the earlier post, it reveals something truly frightening about the Obama mindset and what an Obama presidency would be like. No politician has any business recruiting law enforcement personnel to serve as truth squads. The only purpose this could have would be to frighten people away from voicing their opinion. By threatening people with litigation or police scrutiny for speaking their mind, Obama is bringing gestapo tactics into the political arena. This is precisely what totalitarian governments do, it's a first step on the road to tyranny, and it has no place in our politics. It's amazing to me, or would be if I hadn't come to expect it, that the liberal media is letting him get away with this. Where are the media guardians of free speech?

Watch the news clip about this here, and go to Hot Air for more.

It seems to me that Obama has handed John McCain's people a tremendous gift. This news clip should be turned into an ad and played around the clock in every battle ground state in the nation so that voters see that, as Jonah Goldberg says, liberalism really is fascism with a smiley face.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Diplomatic Genius

In the midst of trying to arrive at a bipartisan plan to save our economy Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi decided to go to the well of the House and blame the Republicans for the entire mess. By choosing at this delicate moment to resort to partisan attacks against them, and accusing Republicans of being the cause of the crisis, she so angered GOP congressmen that a number of them recanted on their agreement to hold their nose and vote for the bailout. Consequently, it failed to pass 207-226.

I don't know what she was thinking, but it appears that she wasn't thinking at all. It should also be noted that, as the following post makes clear, any attempt to blame this crisis on Republicans reflects either ignorance, stupidity or dishonesty. No one who occupies the Speaker's chair could possibly be ignorant of the facts so we're left with some rather unfortunate alternatives regarding Nancy Pelosi.


Where the Blame Lies

Anyone following the news this past week will probably have heard Democrats and other liberals repeatedly blaming the Republicans for the current financial crisis. The historical fact is, however, that Republicans have tried on several occasions to rein in these institutions and have been forcefully resisted by Democrats who wanted banks to be forced to give mortgages to people who couldn't afford them and for taxpayers to essentially guarantee those loans.

This video is from a 2004 congressional hearing in front of the House Subcommittee on Capital Markets. It leaves no doubt that the Democratic members chose to attack the credibility of the regulator rather than take any action against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or their CEO's whom they chose to defend.

Watch the whole thing and the next time you hear someone try to blame the current mess on the Bush administration dare them to watch it as well:

Here's a rich irony. The very same people who preferred to beat up on the regulating agency at this hearing, Barney Frank and his fellow Democrats, now run the committee and are the same people to whom is entrusted the task of designing legislation to solve the problem.

Here's another irony. More people trust Barack Obama to fix this crisis than trust John McCain despite the fact that Obama has accepted more money in the last two and a half years from Freddie and Fannie than any other politician except Democrat senator Chris Dodd and despite the fact that he numbers among his economic advisers the two men most responsible for the corruption at these two institutions, Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson. It's hard not to be cynical about the intelligence of the American voter.

For more background on this video go here.


Palin's Qualifications

There's lots of concern that Sarah Palin's inexperience and lack of intellectual polish disqualify her from being just a heartbeat away from the presidency. A common rejoinder to this is to point out that Obama has even less relevant experience than does Palin, but there's another comparison I've never seen called to our attention that should be. Nancy Pelosi is only two heartbeats away from the presidency and there are probably few people in government less qualified for the Oval Office than she. Those who complain that it's painful to listen to Palin stumble through her interviews with Katie Couric and Charles Gibson ought to be made to sit and listen to Nancy Pelosi's brutal assaults on both logic and veracity.

If the woman who appears in this video is qualified to be Speaker of the House then Sarah Palin is eminently qualified to be vice-president:

What Pelosi said about Republicans being opposed to contraception is nonsense, of course, but her statements about the teaching of the Catholic Church are even worse. See here for the Church's response:

This video also has some interesting discussion of Obama's claim that pro-lifers are lying about him having voted against a bill that would have protected children from infanticide. It's old news, I know, but it's good to be reminded of this stuff now and then.


Above His Pay Grade

The science journal Nature worries that a creationist may inveigle her way into the White House and then all will be lost:

The most worrying thing about a McCain presidency is not so much a President McCain as a Vice-President Palin. Sarah Palin, Alaska's governor and McCain's running mate, opposes all research into human embryonic stem cells. She is a creationist....

But there's still hope. Barack Obama may ride to our aid and rescue us from the calamity of having a vice-president who thinks that students should be able to discuss the issues involved in the debate and decide for themselves what to believe rather than being told what to believe. Nature interviewed Barack Obama on this issue. Here's what they said about his response:

Contrast that with Obama's statement on page 448, in which Nature asked him about the teaching of intelligent design in science classes. It is not easy to address students' questions about evolution without falling prey to the false notion of 'teaching the controversy', as the Royal Society's director of education discovered last week in a public-relations meltdown (see 'Creation and classrooms'). But Obama could not be more clear: "I do not believe it is helpful to our students to cloud discussions of science with non-scientific theories like intelligent design that are not subject to experimental scrutiny," he wrote.

Isn't it odd that Barack Obama didn't think questions about the philosophy of science to be above his pay grade? Anyway, maybe someone will ask our science educator-in-chief whether he thinks ideas like string theory and the multiverse should be excluded from physics classes.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Trivial Pursuit

Well, most of the commentary I consulted last night had John McCain winning his debate with Barack Obama. Given my political leanings I guess I should be pleased about this, but I'm not, particularly. I want to ask these people how they define a win. The experts I heard and read mentioned fine points of delivery, factual errors by Obama, a little testiness showing around the Illinois senator's mouth, a level of disrespect manifested by his calling McCain by his first name, and on and on. I find all this very annoying. I personally feel presidential debates, as they're usually conducted, are a waste of time and especially so if the winner is decided on the sort of scoring that would be more appropriate to a high school speech and debate tournament or a beauty contest.

We're electing neither a debater-in-chief nor a beauty queen. An error or two, a stumble or stammer, mean nothing in terms of the kind of president a candidate would make. The media treats these events as if they were dancing competitions and whoever scores the most style points in the dance wins the prize.

Much of the post-debate television commentary centered around whether either man committed a blunder or got off a zinger, as if McCain and Obama were auditioning for a comedy club rather than the White House. Undecided voters watch the debates looking for the slightest reason not to vote for one candidate or the other, and the criteria they use are often totally irrelevant to a man's qualifications to be president. Richard Nixon fared poorly in the first ever television debate with John Kennedy in 1960 because he had a "5 o'clock shadow" and visibly sweated from the hot studio lights. JFK, on the other hand, seemed cool, calm, and vigorous even though he was debilitated by back pain that his handlers managed to conceal from the public. Viewers later reported that they voted for Kennedy because he "looked more attractive".

The media, by the way they stage and analyze these dog and pony shows, implicitly encourage us to evaluate our candidates in terms of their personality, eloquence, charm, grace and appearance, none of which are particularly indicative of the kind of president a man would be. We're manipulated by the media into electing a celebrity rather than a leader. It's as shallow as it is depressing.

Last March I wrote the following post. I repeat it today, slightly edited, because I think it's even more timely now than it was then:

The media continue to trivialize our politics by treating the presidential campaign as though it were a board game in which gaffes, scandals, missteps and debate zingers all get tallied up to delight the talking heads and newspaper columnists. Meanwhile, the voting public wishes they'd grow up and start doing their job. They can begin by pressing the candidates to answer some urgent questions and holding their feet to the fire until they do. Here are five questions with which each candidate should be confronted at the earliest opportunity, and they should be badgered for answers every time they make a public appearance until they finally produce them:

1) The National Intelligence Estimate notwithstanding, the consensus seems to be that Iran is still engaged in the production of a nuclear device. The Iranians have threatened to use such a weapon against Israel once they have it. What will you do if Iran (or North Korea, for that matter) persists in pursuing a nuclear weapon? Please do not answer that you will sit down and talk with their leaders. The question presupposes that all such diplomatic efforts have failed. How far are you prepared to go to stop Iran or North Korea from obtaining a nuclear weapon?

2) The sub-prime mortgage crisis and the falling dollar have placed us on the verge of a global economic recession. What, precisely, will you do about the crisis we are facing? Please don't answer with platitudes about "hope" and "change", "yes, we can", and "mavericks". What measures will you take, that the Bush administration has not taken, to fix the problem?

3) Illegal immigrants are flooding into this country and placing enormous burdens upon our schools, hospitals, justice system, and welfare system. What, if anything, do you propose to do to stop the flow of illegal immigration? Please be specific. Telling us that we must secure our border is vague and unhelpful. Please state exactly what you propose to do, if anything, to secure the border.

4) Please name a Supreme Court justice, current or former, who would be most similar to a nominee that you would select for the court or federal bench should the opportunity arise during your presidency.

5) Exactly how do you propose that we achieve energy independence from the Middle East? Do you believe such independence is possible without exploiting the petroleum resources we have within our own borders and without building more nuclear power plants?

If the media neglect to ask these questions and to demand answers they will have failed to meet their responsibility to the public. If the questions are asked, but the candidates refuse to give clear answers then the candidates will have failed the voters, who will be given little upon which to base a responsible vote.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Genesis of a Crisis

Here's a quick course on how the financial crisis came about and why the Democrats in Congress dare not blame Republicans for it. Even so, if more Republicans had been doing their job when they controlled both chambers of Congress Democratic efforts to block reform would not have been successful.

It's worth the time to watch this, but when I say it's a quick course I mean that it helps to be a speed reader:


Irrational Belief

From Hollywood to the academy, nonbelievers are convinced that a decline in traditional religious belief would lead to a smarter, more scientifically literate, and more civilized society. This article in the Wall Street Journal, however, throws a bucket of ice water on that piece of mythology. Here's an excerpt:

The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won't create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that's not a conclusion to take on faith -- it's what the empirical data tell us.

"What Americans Really Believe," a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.

While 36% of those belonging to the United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama's former denomination, expressed strong beliefs in the paranormal, only 14% of those belonging to the Assemblies of God, Sarah Palin's former denomination, did. In fact, the more traditional and evangelical the respondent, the less likely he was to believe in, for instance, the possibility of communicating with people who are dead.

It has been clear to most evangelicals for a long time that the people likeliest to believe the craziest things were not Christians but those who had forsaken belief in the Judeo-Christian God. As G.K. Chesterton observed, when people stop believing in God they don't believe in nothing, they believe in anything.


The Obama Test

A friend passes along the Obama Test. It's a survey to see how closely one's views hew to those of Barack Obama. Some of the questions are poorly framed, and some lead too obviously toward a desired answer, but even so it gives a good idea of where Senator Obama stands on a wide range of issues. You can take the survey here.

I found that the senator and I agreed about 4% of the time.


More on the Bailout

Donald Luskin at NRO writes on the administration's $700 billion bailout of the financial markets that, "To arrive at a principled view on this intervention, we must answer three critical questions: Is it necessary? Will it work? And even then, is it morally justifiable?"

Good questions, these. Go here for Luskin's thoughts on them.

I do not profess to know the ins and outs of the mess we're evidently in, but I do have a thought on any package put together to get us out of it. In my view any such proposal must have four elements: It must ensure that the taxpayers reap whatever profit is made from the investment of the $700,000,000. It must ensure that people working for the financial institutions that receive our largesse are fired and given no severance compensation. It must not help those who defaulted on speculative mortgages nor assist illegal aliens whose mortgages, apparently a significant number, are in default. The taxpayer should not be compelled to underwrite speculators nor buy houses for illegals. Thirdly, there needs to be a provision set up to establish a grand jury to investigate the relationships between the failed firms and Washington politicians, particularly Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd.

Our economy is on the brink of total collapse in large part because politicians and bureaucrats pressured banks to give loans to high risk buyers, congress and the SEC refused to impose any constraints on the practice, and CEOs of major lending institutions were only too happy to go along because they were making a fortune.

None of these guilty parties should be absolved of their culpability for their derelictions, irresponsibility, and greed.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Brain Trust

CNN brightens our day with this bit of buffoonery from a man who has made a career out of embarrassing himself. Speaking to a panel about the shared agenda of Jewish and African-American Democrats Rep. Alcee Hastings (D,FL) delivered himself of this asseveration:

"If Sarah Palin isn't enough of a reason for you to get over whatever your problem is with Barack Obama, then you damn well had better pay attention. Anybody toting guns and stripping moose don't care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks. So, you just think this through."

We're told that the room erupted in laughter and applause which leads me to conclude that thinking things through must be as novel a concept among the members of his audience as it is for Rep. Hastings. The impeached former judge managed to pack an exceptional amount of racial demagoguery and logical incoherence into just a single sentence. Apparently, both Hastings and his audience believe that anyone who hunts is a neo-nazi. Either that or Hastings and his listeners have the IQ of protozoa.

CNN goes on to tell us that Hastings was joined on the panel by Rep. Steven Cohen (D,TN). Cohen is the gentleman, you'll recall, who recently proclaimed from the House floor that Barack Obama is like Jesus Christ (they were both community organizers) and Sarah Palin is like Pontius Pilate (they were both governors). Get it?

It's fitting, I suppose, that these two fine minds should appear together on the same stage. They have a lot in common.

Not having exhausted his supply of theologically edifying pronouncements before Congress, Cohen added this observation at the event with Hastings: "A lot of what Jesus talks about is wonderful, talks about helping people and lifting them up and caring about people who are sick and all those things. He's a great Democrat."

Indeed. The difference, however, between Jesus and many congressional Democrats is that Jesus actually did more than talk about helping people.

Anyway, Hillary was also at the event. The photo below shows her listening to Mr. Hastings. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but she appears to be marveling at how anybody who was once a judge and who now serves in Congress could possibly say anything so pathetically stupid:

A nation shares in her wonderment.


Is McCain Fit?

My friend Jason calls our attention to an essay by George Will in which he lays hold of a troubling aspect of Senator McCain's character that we ourselves have fretted over on a number of previous occasions - his volatile temperament. Will argues that the man is temperamentally unsuited for the office of the presidency, and it's hard to argue with him, especially since we've made a similar case ourselves before and during the primaries.

In this election, however, one has to keep in mind one very important fact. We are voting not just for the next president. We are voting for that president's party. A vote for Obama is a vote for Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha and a host of others. It's a vote to help the Democrats achieve their goal of removing all restrictions on abortion, of altering the meaning of marriage, of effecting a massive redistribution of wealth from the middle and upper classes to the underclass, of treating terrorism as a police matter, of piling onto American business onerous regulations and taxes that will make it impossible to compete in the global market, of continuing the accelerating secularization of our society, of opening our borders to anyone who wants to take up residence in our country, of nationalizing health care, of denying parents the choice of where they send their children to school, of maintaining high fuel costs, of quelling freedom of speech, particularly when it is conservative or religious, and much else as well.

Some of this may come to pass under a McCain presidency, of course, but it's almost certain that all, or most of it, will come to pass if the Democrats control both the White House and the Congress.

Will is correct. The GOP has nominated a less than ideal candidate which is why most of the enthusiasm for him is a result of his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. But we must look at more than just the two men running for president. We must also consider what kind of society their respective parties will create for us. For my part, I don't feel at all comfortable with the Democrats' vision of what the future should be.


Just Tell the Truth

What is Senator Obama's position on social security? He goes to Florida and tells retirees there that had George Bush been successful in privatizing social security three years ago seniors would have lost a bundle in this latest bear market, an assertion which is patently untrue. For one thing, Bush's program would have not been open to anyone 55 or older, which would exclude current seniors, and would have been optional in any event.

Then the senator's website quietly removed from their social security statement Obama's previous assurance that it would be both unnecessary and unfair to raise the retirement age.

So what's going on here?

Ed Morrissey thinks that Obama's Florida statements were a way of preparing the ground for a new social security plan that would indeed raise the retirement age. In other words, the misrepresetation of Bush's plan is the run-up to another policy back flip.

Maybe, maybe not. Raising the retirement age may be the right thing to do, even if Obama has been saying all along it would be the wrong thing to do, but misrepresenting Bush's plan to retirees in order to discredit Bush and, by extension, McCain, is not.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sam Harris' Silly Column

I've never been impressed with the arguments advanced by uberatheist Sam Harris (See Ten Myths about Atheism in the Hall of Fame on the left margin of this page), and little that he says in a recent column in Newsweek gives me reason to reassess my opinion. The article is, like much of his work, a rant against Christian belief, embodied, in this case, in the person of Sarah Palin. His list of particulars against her includes the following:

She's a closet theocrat:

"If anyone could make Christian theocracy smell like apple pie, Sarah Palin could."

Harris offers, however, no evidence that Palin has theocratic tendencies so his charge is little more than petty libel.

Harris also castigates Ms Palin for being as unprepared for the responsibilities of the presidency as, well, as is the Democratic standard-bearer:

"She comes to us, seeking the second most important job in the world, without any intellectual training relevant to the challenges and responsibilities that await her....She is a beauty queen/sports reporter who stumbled into small-town politics, and who is now on the verge of stumbling into, or upon, world history."

"The next administration must immediately confront issues like nuclear proliferation, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and covert wars elsewhere), global climate change, a convulsing economy, Russian belligerence, the rise of China, emerging epidemics, Islamism on a hundred fronts, a defunct United Nations, the deterioration of American schools, failures of energy, infrastructure and Internet security ... the list is long, and Sarah Palin does not seem competent even to rank these items in order of importance, much less address any one of them."

"What doesn't she know about financial markets, Islam, the history of the Middle East, the cold war, modern weapons systems, medical research, environmental science or emerging technology? Her relative ignorance is guaranteed on these fronts and most others, not because she was put on the spot, or got nervous, or just happened to miss the newspaper on any given morning. Sarah Palin's ignorance is guaranteed because of how she has spent the past 44 years on earth."

To all of which one must ask how much Barack Obama knows about these matters and how have the last 44 years prepared him for the presidency? Harris doesn't seem interested in these inconvenient questions, however. He much prefers to dash off to compile more reasons to dislike Palin.

For instance, like many of the most brilliant thinkers in the history of Western civilization, Governor Palin believes God is sovereign. Harris finds this both disagreeable and disqualifying:

"I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn't: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events."

Also, like millions of Americans Governor Palin has the temerity to think that parents should be able to decide whether their minor children have an abortion:

"She has also fought vigorously for a 'parental consent law' in the state of Alaska, seeking full parental dominion over the reproductive decisions of minors. We know, therefore, that Palin believes that she should be the one to decide whether her daughter carries her baby to term. Based on her stated position, we know that she would deny her daughter an abortion even if she had been raped. One can be forgiven for doubting whether Bristol Palin had all the advantages of 21st-century family planning-or, indeed, of the 21st century."

Most galling to Harris, perhaps, is that Palin is a confident woman:

"Watching her deny to Gibson that she had ever harbored the slightest doubt about her readiness to take command of the world's only superpower, one got the feeling that Palin would gladly assume any responsibility on earth: 'Governor Palin, are you ready at this moment to perform surgery on this child's brain?' "

Among the most annoying of Harris' indictments of Palin was this one:

When asked about these remarks [her prayer that the U.S. would be within God's will in Iraq] in her [ABC] interview with [John] Gibson, Palin successfully dodged the issue of her religious beliefs by claiming that she had been merely echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln. The New York Times later dubbed her response "absurd." It was worse than absurd; it was a lie calculated to conceal the true character of her religious infatuations.

Harris' accusation has the misfortune of being completely misleading, grossly unfair, and manifestly wrong all at once - a kind of trifecta of intellectual irresponsibility. Palin was explaining to Gibson that her intent when she made those remarks was to reiterate, however imprecisely, Lincoln's response to a clergyman who ventured to say, in his presence, that he hoped 'the Lord was on our side'. Lincoln replied "I am not at all concerned about that, for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side." Palin was obviously trying to emulate Lincoln, to hold his prayer up as her model. For Harris to call her a liar just makes him look the ignorant fool.

But speaking of having a tenuous relationship with the truth, Harris himself seems to be no stranger to the seductions of making stuff up. He writes:

[W]e cannot ignore the fact that Palin's impressive family further testifies to her dogmatic religious beliefs. Many writers have noted the many shades of conservative hypocrisy on view here: when Jamie Lynn Spears gets pregnant, it is considered a symptom of liberal decadence and the breakdown of family values; in the case of one of Palin's daughters, however, teen pregnancy gets reinterpreted as a sign of immaculate, small-town fecundity.

I don't know of any conservative writer or commenter who has suggested that Bristol Palin's pregnancy is anything but an unfortunate illustration of the sorts of problems that so many people have to wrestle with in our world. For Harris to characterize conservatives as interpreting Bristol's situation as somehow benign is ridiculous. But, perhaps, when your goal is to diminish someone in the eyes of others and when you're philosophically unhampered by any moral constraints yourself, such fabrications come easily to the tongue.

Harris concludes his essay with this:

[H]ow has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth-in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated.

Here I agree somewhat with Harris, but I think I know the answer to his rhetorical question. Washington is in a mess precisely because we've entrusted it to the graduates of the Ivies. Who does Harris think has been running this country for the past century? Who does he think has run our financial markets into the ground? What makes Harris think that what we need is more of the same? Why does Harris think that a degree from an expensive college means anything more than that you had a rich daddy? Why does Harris think that the children of privilege are better suited to run this country than anyone else? Didn't the execrable George W. Bush graduate from Yale? Money and brains are worthless without values and virtue, and Harvard and Yale do nothing to instill either of those in their graduates.

The late William F. Buckley once famously opined that he would rather be governed by the first 100 people in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty. A lot of Americans see his point. What we don't need are bigots like Harris telling us that those who've come from humble backgrounds are not suited to assume the duties of citizenship just because they never got stoned at an Ivy league school.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Bailout

Here we are after much disparaging of the government regarding the financial malfeasance that has occurred over the last 35 years. Given the attempts of the present administration to rush through an ill-conceived bailout of the financial industry, I find it fascinating that Germany would be the defender of free markets and capitalism but here we have it.

It's not a call for assistance; it's a scream for help. US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is asking other countries to help buy up bad US debt. The US government is putting up $700 billion in taxpayer money in the hopes that the measure might restore stability in the financial system. Some countries are planning to help. But the German government has answered this call quickly and clearly: no.

Accordingly, IWH's Dietrich suggests that the US government require all banks to issue stocks and that they be required to back up the issuance with a set amount of capital. Under these circumstances, Dietrich believes that investors would buy shares of the banks that they consider healthy and that the market would make it crystal clear which banks these were. And the institutions that are having a rough time because they can't find investors will go broke. "That step would send the right signal to the market," Dietrich says, adding that those who were performing the worst wouldn't be rewarded in such as situation -- as they are being now.

Maybe the idea of a trillion dollar bailout isn't such a good idea. America is truly the frog in a pan of boiling water and soon will be too cooked to jump out and save itself. "Hank" Paulson says "The crisis is embarrassing". Personally, I think "Hank" Paulson is embarrassing. He and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke didn't cause the problem rather ex-chairman, Alan Greenspan is probably responsible for most of it. However, they perpetuated it and are ultimately accountable for the mess we are faced with and now we find them at the trough of the government largess urgently imploring the people to bail out the very institutions they have mismanaged.

I'm reminded of the movie, Trading Places when Dan Aykroyd as Louis Winthorpe III approaches his friends at the country club asking for some financial help and Todd says something to the effect of "frankly, Winthorpe, I find this to be in extremely bad taste.".

Well, I have to say that we find the efforts of the buffoons in charge of the financial markets of the U.S. to be equally in "bad taste".

The honorable Ron Paul, Texas congressman is against the bailout:

The solution to the problem is to end government meddling in the market. Government intervention leads to distortions in the market, and government reacts to each distortion by enacting new laws and regulations, which create their own distortions, and so on ad infinitum.

It is time this process is put to an end. But the government cannot just sit back idly and let the bust occur. It must actively roll back stifling laws and regulations that allowed the boom to form in the first place.

The government must divorce itself of the albatross of Fannie and Freddie, balance and drastically decrease the size of the federal budget, and reduce onerous regulations on banks and credit unions that lead to structural rigidity in the financial sector.

I strongly urge our readers to take a moment and visit this website where you can express your opinion on this issue.

Heretics and Scientists

The Darwinian thought police have added another scalp to their belt. This time it was the Director of Education of the British Royal Society, Michael Reiss. Reiss, who is an Anglican priest as well as a professional biologist and evolutionist made the breathtaking observation that it might be good to teach creation along with evolution in British public school.

Here in his own words is proof of Reiss' heresy:

"I realised that simply banging on about evolution and natural selection didn't lead some pupils to change their minds at all. Just because something lacks scientific support doesn't seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from the science lesson . . . There is much to be said for allowing students to raise any doubts they have - hardly a revolutionary idea in science teaching - and doing one's best to have a genuine discussion."

In other words, Reiss wasn't endorsing creationism, he was simply saying that many students believe it, and they should be allowed to debate it in their classes if they wish. This immediately set off the tocsin alerting the protectors of orthodoxy at the Royal Society to an unacceptable level of intellectual freedom for British students. Howls of protest were raised at the very thought that students might be permitted to question whether the Truth was indeed the truth. Letters were written and demands that Reiss be marched to the gallows were registered. Finally Reiss agreed to step down from his post, perhaps out of fear that the Royal Society would embarrass itself even further:

Reiss ... agreed to step down from his position with the national academy of science after its officers decided that his comments had damaged its reputation.

No doubt that was their reputation for narrow-minded intolerance they felt had been damaged.

Kidding aside, if anything has damaged the Society's reputation it's the prigs who are so fearful that their theory will be unable to withstand scrutiny that they insist it be protected and insulated from all examination.

It reminds me of a passage written by that great British advocate of freedom of thought, John Stuart Mill, who said in his masterful essay On Liberty that:

There is always hope when people are forced to listen to both sides; it is when they attend only to one that errors harden into prejudices, and truth itself ceases to have the effect of truth....

And here's another:

All attempts by the State to bias the conclusions of its citizens on disputed subjects are evil.

There's an amusing irony in this. If the Catholic church, say, were to expel from it's clergy those who disagreed with Church doctrine on the Trinity, or if the Church were to excommunicate politicians who endorsed a right to abortion, civil libertarians everywhere would be execrating the Church for its ossified and archaic intolerance. But let a society of Darwinians do the same thing and there's scarcely a peep. Well, of course, scientists have an obligation to keep their science free from the taint of heresy, we're told, but Churches should be much more broad-minded than to stifle and punish dissent. Pretty funny, I think.

For more on this unfortunate episode see here.

I close with another excerpt from Mill who wrote in 1859 (the same year Darwin published Origin of Species) but whose essay is must reading for every intelligent, educated person today:

But when it [e.g. Darwinism, ed.] has come to be an hereditary creed, and to be received passively, not actively - when the mind is no longer compelled...to exercise its vital powers on the questions which its belief presents to it - there is a progressive tendency to forget all of the belief except the formularies, or to give it a dull and torpid assent, as if accepting it on trust dispensed with the necessity of realizing it in consciousness, or testing it by personal experience, until it almost ceases to connect itself at all with the inner life of the human being.... The creed remains, as it were, outside the mind, incrusting and petrifying it against all other influences addressed to the higher parts of our nature; manifesting its power by not suffering any fresh and living conviction to get in, but itself doing nothing for the mind or heart, except standing sentinel over them to keep them vacant.


Tough Choices in Waziristan

Bill Roggio talks about the cross-border attacks in Pakistan's northwestern province of Waziristan carried out over the last several weeks by American forces.

The problem is that al Qaeda is using training facilities and safe houses in western Pakistan to train and prepare for further attacks on American soil which leaves us with two options. We can do nothing and hope that the Pakistanis will, counter to all experience, purge the Taliban and al Qaeda from these territories themselves, or we can try to disrupt their planning and training by attacking these facilities ourselves and killing the terrorists. This last carries with it substantial costs since it threatens to undermine the Pakistani government and thus our relationship with it. Unfortunately the risks associated with doing nothing are even greater.

Roggio's analysis is a good read.


Bad Mommy

Lest anyone be influenced by Sarah Palin's decision to have a retarded child Nicholas Provenzo feels it important to affirm that it is indeed moral, even obligatory, to kill such children. Provenzo writes:

Like many, I am troubled by the implications of Alaska governor and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's decision to knowingly give birth to a child disabled with Down syndrome. Given that Palin's decision is being celebrated in some quarters, it is crucial to reaffirm the morality of aborting a fetus diagnosed with Down syndrome (or by extension, any unborn fetus)-a freedom that anti-abortion advocates seek to deny.

A parent has a moral obligation to provide for his or her children until these children are equipped to provide for themselves. Because a person afflicted with Down syndrome is only capable of being marginally productive (if at all) and requires constant care and supervision, unless a parent enjoys the wealth to provide for the lifetime of assistance that their child will require, they are essentially stranding the cost of their child's life upon others.

In other words, Provenzo seems to be saying, if a parent cannot provide adequately for a Down's syndrome child throughout its life the parent has a moral obligation to terminate the pregnancy.

This from someone who titles his blog The Rule of Reason. Rule of Reason is an Objectivist blog based on Ayn Rand's philosophy and presumably embraces Rand's atheism, which causes me to wonder. How does reason lead us to moral obligation? Why are we obligated to care for our children, and why do they think it appropriate to affirm the morality of aborting a child? Why, if one is an atheist, think that abortion is a moral matter at all, or that anything is?

But the irony of atheists talking about moral obligation aside, the implication running through all this is that Sarah Palin was irresponsible in having her Down's syndrome child because she set a bad example for other women and is therefore a bad mother.

See here for more of this kind of purge-the-race-of-all-defectives thinking. Upon visiting these blogs one can almost hear the jackboots marching in the background and smell the crematories of Auschwitz.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Authoring a Crisis

While Barack Obama assigns the blame for Wall Street's current woes to eight years of "George Bush's failed policies" Kevin Hassett at Bloomberg.com tells a different tale. Hassett recounts the history of the Fannie and Freddie crisis and lays the blame squarely at the feet of the Democrats in Congress, particularly those, like Senator Obama, who have been on the take from these failed institutions throughout their political careers. After recapping events leading to 2005 Hassett writes:

What happened next was extraordinary. For the first time in history, a serious Fannie and Freddie reform bill was passed by [Republicans in] the Senate Banking Committee. The bill gave a regulator power to crack down, and would have required the companies to eliminate their investments in risky assets.

If that bill had become law, then the world today would be different....But the bill didn't become law, for a simple reason: Democrats opposed it on a party-line vote in the committee, signaling that this would be a partisan issue. Republicans, tied in knots by the tight Democratic opposition, couldn't even get the Senate to vote on the matter.

That such a reckless political stand could have been taken by the Democrats was obscene even then. The SEC's chief accountant, Peter Wallison, wrote at the time: ``It is a classic case of socializing the risk while privatizing the profit. The Democrats and the few Republicans who oppose portfolio limitations could not possibly do so if their constituents understood what they were doing.''

Now that the collapse has occurred, the roadblock built by Senate Democrats in 2005 is unforgivable. Many who opposed the bill doubtlessly did so for honorable reasons. Fannie and Freddie provided mounds of materials defending their practices. Perhaps some found their propaganda convincing.

But we now know that many of the senators who protected Fannie and Freddie, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Christopher Dodd, have received mind-boggling levels of financial support from them over the years.

Throughout his political career, Obama has gotten more than $125,000 in campaign contributions from employees and political action committees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, second only to Dodd, the Senate Banking Committee chairman, who received more than $165,000.

Clinton, the 12th-ranked recipient of Fannie and Freddie PAC and employee contributions, has received more than $75,000 from the two enterprises and their employees. The private profit found its way back to the senators who killed the fix.

There has been a lot of talk about who is to blame for this crisis. A look back at the story of 2005 makes the answer pretty clear.

Oh, and there is one little footnote to the story that's worth keeping in mind while Democrats point fingers between now and Nov. 4: Senator John McCain was one of the three cosponsors of S.190, the bill that would have averted this mess.

Nevertheless, who do you suppose is going to be blamed by the media and by voters come November?


The Duty to Die

A U.K. Telegraph article begins with these jarring words:

Elderly people suffering from dementia should consider ending their lives because they are a burden on the NHS and their families, according to the influential medical ethics expert Baroness Warnock.

This is disturbing not least because it sounds as if a presumably intelligent ethicist is suggesting that people with dementia are nevertheless capable of making a reasoned decision about what to do with their lives. Actually, as we'll see, what she's suggesting is much more sinister than that:

The veteran Government adviser said pensioners in mental decline are "wasting people's lives" because of the care they require and should be allowed to opt for euthanasia even if they are not in pain. She insisted there was "nothing wrong" with people being helped to die for the sake of their loved ones or society.

The 84-year-old added that she hoped people will soon be "licensed to put others down" if they are unable to look after themselves.

Her comments in a magazine interview have been condemned as "immoral" and "barbaric", but also sparked fears that they may find wider support because of her influence on ethical matters.

Lady Warnock, a former headmistress who went on to become Britain's leading moral philosopher, chaired a landmark Government committee in the 1980s that established the law on fertility treatment and embryo research.

A prominent supporter of euthanasia, she has previously suggested that pensioners who do not want to become a burden on their care-givers should be helped to die.

Lady Warnock claims that dementia sufferers should consider ending their lives through euthanasia because of the strain they put on their families and public services.

If people should be given the choice whether to dispose of their life when they become a burden how long will it be before people are told they have a duty to end their lives when they become a burden? Evidently it doesn't take long at all since Lady Warnock takes that very step just a few paragraphs on:

Recent figures show there are 700,000 people with degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's in Britain. By 2026 experts predict there will be one million dementia sufferers in the country, costing the NHS an estimated 㿏 billion a year. Lady Warnock said: "If you're demented, you're wasting people's lives - your family's lives - and you're wasting the resources of the National Health Service.

"I'm absolutely, fully in agreement with the argument that if pain is insufferable, then someone should be given help to die, but I feel there's a wider argument that if somebody absolutely, desperately wants to die because they're a burden to their family, or the state, then I think they too should be allowed to die. "Actually I've just written an article called 'A Duty to Die?' for a Norwegian periodical. I wrote it really suggesting that there's nothing wrong with feeling you ought to do so for the sake of others as well as yourself."

So we've slipped smoothly from the right to choose to die to the obligation to die. But Lady Warnock is not through. She also wants to see the decision taken out of the hands of the individual and placed in the hands of an "advocate", i.e. the state:

"If you've an advance directive, appointing someone else to act on your behalf, if you become incapacitated, then I think there is a hope that your advocate may say that you would not wish to live in this condition so please try to help her die. "I think that's the way the future will go, putting it rather brutally, you'd be licensing people to put others down."

So, in a few brief paragraphs we've seen the entire slippery slope unfold. From the right to choose to die, to the duty to choose to die, to having the state license people to decide you have to die. This is the brave new world envisioned by the secular left.

It reminds me of the insistence of some that Sarah Palin was irresponsible in not choosing to abort her mentally retarded son. From the right to choose an abortion we've "progressed" to the duty to choose an abortion. How long will it be before, as in Communist China, the state tells women they must have an abortion?

The one virtue in Lady Warnock's dark social prescription is that it is completely consistent with the basic assumption of secular leftism: There is no God but the state. Thus human life has no value except as it is valuable to the state. When people cease to be valuable to those who govern they should be done away with, like farm animals no longer productive for the farmer must needs be removed from the herd.

Perhaps it's convenient that the Europeans never tore down all of Hitler's extermination camps. Who knows but that they might be pressed into service yet again if people who think as does Lady Warnock ever manage to acquire political power.


The Party of Liberalism

An AP-Yahoo News poll found that one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks-many calling them "lazy," "violent" or responsible for their own troubles. See the results here, especially on page 21f, although I was unable to figure out how they arrived at the numbers for Democrats and Republicans from this data.

At any rate, if liberals feel that way about minorities what must conservatives think? The article says that:

Lots of Republicans harbor prejudices, too, but the survey found they weren't voting against Obama because of his race. Most Republicans wouldn't vote for any Democrat for president-white, black or brown.

No support from the survey was adduced to support either of these claims although a sidebar does show that Republicans harbor more negative views toward blacks than do Democrats.

The interesting thing about the survey, however, is not that Republicans tend to be more critical of blacks than Democrats, but that so many Democrats harbor opinions about blacks that are totally at odds with the party's reputation for liberalism.


Priestly Piffle

Gerry Coyne is an astronomer and Catholic priest whose views about God and creation seem a little out of step with those of his church. He recently gave a lecture at The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State College) in which he said that although he believes in God, and believes God created the universe, he cannot as a scientist believe in intelligent design:

"God gave the universe a certain structure so we could come about, but he didn't predetermine it. He created the universe and then let it go."

This is standard-issue deism which seems odd coming from a Catholic priest, but I suppose such theological tepidness is no less uncommon among Catholic clergy than it is among protestant clergy.

According to Coyne, it is the parents' duty to teach their child about God, if they want, but its not the science teacher's responsibility.

Well, yes, but what does this have to do with intelligent design? Coyne is neither stupid nor new to the debates over ID so one has to think that he's deliberately dissembling here when he implies that teaching ID in a science class would amount to teaching about God. As he surely knows ID is silent on who or what the designer of the cosmos is.

But let's play along. Suppose we agree with Fr. Coyne and banish ID and all of its intellectual cousins from the public school science classroom. Will we then be teaching nothing about God? Actually, no. By implicitly teaching that the universe and life came about by purely mechanical, naturalistic means we are tacitly teaching that God is neither necessary nor in any way relevant. We're subtly teaching, in fact, that if God exists he's little more than the same remote and impotent deity that Fr. Coyne believes in. How convenient.

Excluding God from the science classroom is not nearly as easy as Fr. Coyne thinks. Even if God is never mentioned students are still being taught theology. They're being taught that God has almost nothing to do with life as it has developed which is certainly a theological claim.

Freshman Stephanie Laurent got the message. Asked about the lecture she said:

"It was good. It really cleared up a couple of things I had been wondering about. Religion is abstract and you can't really touch it. Science, you could find evidence and actually believe that it's true. Religion only uses the Bible, and you can't really explain it."

This is depressing. It's certainly the case that its easy to believe a particular explanation if the only evidence you're allowed to consider is the evidence supporting that explanation. That's the state of affairs that Fr. Coyne wants to see prevail in our public schools.


Market Forces

George Will gives us a primer on the nature of capitalism and markets all centered around the lowly wooden pencil. It's a good read and important instruction for the student just beginning to develop an awareness of economics.

HT: Jason


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pots and Kettles

Woody Allen, the man who married his step-daughter, instructs the rest of us on the ontology of disgrace:

"It would be a disgrace and a humiliation if Barack Obama does not win," Allen avers. Well, I guess Allen should know about such things.

Then there was the ethically challenged Charlie Rangel calling Sarah Palin "disabled". Here's the report:

The question was simple: Why are the Democrats so afraid of Palin and her popularity?

The answer was astonishing.

"You got to be kind to the disabled," Rangel said.

That's right. The chairman of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee called Palin disabled -- even when CBS 2 HD called him on it.

CBS 2 HD: "You got to be kind to the disabled?"

Rangel: "Yes."

CBS 2 HD: "She's disabled?"

Rangel: "There's no question about it politically.

Charles Rangel, chairman of the committee charged with writing our tax laws, is being investigated for not paying taxes he claims he didn't know he had to pay. I don't know what kind of disability he thinks Palin has - such an odd word to use in the context. Was it an oblique reference to Palin's youngest child? - but people who write the laws about taxes and don't know what those laws are certainly shouldn't be calling others disabled.


Meanwhile, in Palestine

Strategy Page gives us an update on what's happening in the West Bank and Gaza:

Israel has refused to free 1,500 Palestinians from jail, in return for the release of an Israeli soldier held (for two years) by Hamas. Israel has offered to release 450 Palestinians (mostly low level offenders, not the killers and terrorist leaders Hamas wants). Thus negotiations with Hamas are deadlocked.

Meanwhile, the Israelis have been warning their citizens to beware when visiting nations with large Moslem populations, because Hezbollah has begun a large scale effort to kill or kidnap Israelis overseas, this being the easiest way to strike at Israel (at least according to Hezbollah thinking.)

Hamas is in a downward spiral. Opinion polls show that Hamas would receive only 29 percent of the vote if elections were held today, versus 43 percent for Fatah. The problem is that the economic problems in Gaza (largely the result of Hamas insisting that its main goal is the destruction of Israel) have changed attitudes towards Hamas (but not towards Israel, which most Palestinians still want destroyed, or at least hurt in a big way.) The hatred of Israel by Palestinians appears to be implacable, and unlikely to change any time soon.

There is growing armed opposition to Hamas in Gaza, largely from al Qaeda affiliated groups. But this opposition is not strong enough to really threaten Hamas control. The Hamas reaction to its problems has been to build a police state in Gaza. This is not popular, but Hamas has sufficient support (at least a third of the 1.5 million population) to make it work.

Egypt is concerned that Hamas will provide a base for Islamic terrorists, and their attacks into Egypt. A solution being talked up in Egypt is the takeover and annexation of Gaza. Israel would have to agree to this, and is apparently giving serious consideration to the idea. That has resurrected the old proposal that the West Bank be given back to Jordan (which used to control it, but gave up its claims after the Palestinians decided they were a separate people four decades ago). Jordan already has many Palestinians, who comprise over half their population. Jordan has never been keen on acquiring more Palestinian citizens (the royal family that rules Jordan is Bedouin, and relies on the Bedouin minority to stay in power.)

Meanwhile, Israel has made it very difficult for Palestinians to travel between the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli counter-terror operations in the West Bank are as active as ever, keeping the terrorists neutralized (as they have been for several years).

Israel has supplied Fatah with several thousand assault rifles and pistols, as well as vehicles (armored and unarmored.) Israel has also released about a thousand West Bank residents from jail. Most of these were being held for low level offenses, but the gesture has made Fatah more popular.

The question the Palestinian people must face is, to paraphrase Golda Meir, whether they hate the Israelis more than they love their own children. The only way their children have a future is through peaceful rapprochement with Israel. Endless war will only keep the Palestinians poor and miserable, but that's all that Hamas offers them.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Why the Sisters Hate Sarah

Cathy Young examines the feminist teeth-grinding over Sarah Palin's ascendancy and marvels at how women who should be rejoicing at the success of a strong woman are instead resorting to, well, cattiness:

Left-wing feminists have a hard time dealing with strong, successful conservative women in politics such as Margaret Thatcher. Sarah Palin seems to have truly unhinged more than a few, eliciting a stream of vicious, often misogynist invective.

On Salon.com last week, Cintra Wilson branded her a "Christian Stepford Wife" and a "Republican blow-up doll." Wendy Doniger, religion professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School, added on the Washington Post blog, "Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman."

You'd think that, whether or not they agree with her politics, feminists would at least applaud Mrs. Palin as a living example of one of their core principles: a woman's right to have a career and a family. Yet some feminists unabashedly suggest that her decision to seek the vice presidency makes her a bad and selfish mother. Others argue that she is bad for working mothers because she's just too good at having it all.

Read the rest at the link.

HT: Jason


Religion is Science

The atheist philosopher of science Daniel Dennett was interviewed in Science and Spirit and along the way uttered this remarkable claim:

There are no factual assertions that religion can reasonably claim as its own, off limits to science. Many who readily grant this have not considered its implications. It means, for instance, that there are no factual assertions about the origin of the universe or its future trajectory, or about historical events (floods, the parting of seas, burning bushes, etc.), about the goal or purpose of life, or about the existence of an afterlife and so on, that are off limits to science. After all, assertions about the purpose or function of organs, the lack of purpose or function of, say, pebbles or galaxies, and assertions about the physical impossibility of psychokinesis, clairvoyance, poltergeists, trance channeling, etc. are all within the purview of science.

I say this is remarkable because it completely undercuts the rational for excluding intelligent design from the science classroom. If ID is, as its critics insist, a religious theory, and if, as Dennett says, all religious claims are ultimately matters which science can investigate and assess, then why would ID not be appropriate in a science classroom? If religion just is science then what's the problem?

Richard Dawkins, another adamantine atheist, makes a claim similar to this - but even more strongly worded - in The God Delusion. So, will Dennett and Dawkins be called upon to testify for the ID side the next time there's a prominent court case over teaching ID in schools? If so, will they stick to their guns or will they start backpedaling like an NFL defensive back as soon as they realize the harm they're doing to the materialist cause is causing their comrades in the cause to grow furious with them?

Dennett certainly proves his point that people who accept the claim that religious assertions are within the purview of science don't consider its implications. He and Dawkins are exhibit A.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Finger Pointing

There's lots of finger pointing going on as to who should shoulder the blame for the mismanagement of Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Lehman Bros., AIG and other failing finacial institutions. The Obama campaign instinctively faults the policies of George Bush and John McCain for the debacle that has rocked Wall Street this week and last, but their indictment is rich in hypocrisy which I will explain below.

Meanwhile, Jim Wallis of Sojourners tends to agree that there's something wrong with the prevailing ethos in Washington:

In the search for blame, some say greed and some say deregulation. Both are right. The financial collapse of Wall Street is the fiscal consequence of the economic philosophy that now governs America - that markets are always good and government is always bad. But it is also the moral consequence of greed, where private profit prevails over the concept of the common good. The American economy is often rooted in unbridled materialism, a culture that continues to extol greed, a false standard of values that puts short-term profits over societal health, and a distorted calculus that measures human worth by personal income instead of character, integrity, and generosity.

Wallis is right, I think, as far as he goes, but it's not the whole story. If we're looking for villains we should examine the political prostitutes who were in bed with the corporate CEOs throughout the last twenty years. Turning our gaze toward Washington we discover an interesting irony in Senator Obama's indictments of Bush/McCain:

In 2003 George Bush requested that Congress act to reign in Freddie and Fannie, but he was resisted by Barney Frank and other Democrats who insisted there was no crisis and that Bush's request would stifle home loans to poor people and minorities. Congress did nothing, partly, at least, because the financial giants were flooding Capitol Hill with cash through their lobbyists.

Two years later John McCain co-sponsored legislation that would impose regulations on Freddie, Fannie and other mortgage institutions that would force them to do a better job of bookkeeping, make them more accountable and tighten up their lending practices. McCain predicted in 2006 exactly what came to pass these past weeks, but the legislation he endorsed died in committee. The committee was chaired by Democrat senator Christopher Dodd.

The lenders didn't want to be regulated, and they had bought influence in Washington with millions of dollars of campaign contributions. Records show that Senator Dodd ranked first among over 300 recipients of such contributions, receiving over $165,000 from the lobbyists over twenty years. John Kerry was third. Barack Obama, the man who criticizes John McCain for not doing anything to prevent the collapse, managed to be second, having collected over $123,000 from the lobbyists, even though he had only been receiving these emoluments for just three years.

What's more, the former CEOs of both Freddie and Fannie, men who had made millions while their companies hurtled toward collapse, have both served as economic advisors on Obama's campaign team. Whoever Senator Obama has in mind when he promises us change from the old ways of doing business in Washington, he's not thinking of himself. No one is more wedded to cronyism and big dollar politics than is Barack Obama.

Here's John Gibson's report on this sordid tale:

For more see Hot Air.



A couple of years ago we gave out Dreyfus awards here at Viewpoint to people who, like Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther series, seemed to have been driven mad by their profound hatred for Inspector Clouseau, i.e. George Bush.

Maybe we should start giving another award which we could title something like, the Randi Rhodes Award for Despicability, or something. There would be no shortage of material, that's for sure. In addition to all the distortions, sleaze and rumors about Sarah Palin we were treated to over the past two weeks there's lots else.

Here's an example: A professional photographer named Jill Greenberg was hired by The Atlantic to get some pictures of John McCain. She deliberately set him up to make him look as devilish as possible and then bragged about it on her blog. Not only is she unembarrassed by her complete lack of professionalism and ethics, she seems to think that her behavior is somehow noble and important.

Is there something in the water these people drink that makes them this way? Michelle Malkin gives a number of additional examples of the kind of deranged behavior that's come to be so common on the left, and she has more on Jill Greenberg here.


Why People Vote Republican

Jonathan Haidt, who identifies himself as a liberal and an atheist, says many interesting things in an essay at Edge titled What Makes People Vote Republican?, but in the end his discussion leaves unanswered a fundamental question that is implicitly raised in his article.

It's hard to summarize his essay because it covers a lot of ground, but essentially he says that there are five domains of moral experience about which people feel strongly. He labels these harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. In other words, people have moral concerns that arise out of behaviors which can either harm others or which are somehow unfair, or disloyal, disrespectful, or unchaste.

Liberals, he maintains, are concerned only with the first two of these and are actually disdainful of the last three, whereas most Americans care about all five. Thus liberals are seen by most people in this country as out-of-touch elitists. He urges his fellow liberal Democrats to recover at least the language of the last three.

But herein lies the problem. Morality itself, whether we're talking about "justice, rights, and welfare", the moral sphere of most concern to liberals, or the wider sphere which encompasses, in addition, patriotism to one's country, family, sexuality, etc., is contingent upon there being a personal transcendent moral authority. Without such an authority to obligate us to follow certain prescriptions there is no moral obligation at all. In other words, in order to sound genuinely interested in the moral realm liberals have to acknowledge that the foundation of secular exclusivism upon which they have tried to stand is crumbling under the weight. Without God there is no morality, no good or bad, no right or wrong. There are just things that people do that other people either like or dislike.

This is what conservative people tend to see, or at least intuit, and to which liberals are largely blind. Liberals talk about justice and human rights on the one hand while, often, minimizing the need to ground these in a God who made us in His image and whose property, to use a Lockean term, we are. Their moral pronouncements thus seem to float like balloons in metaphysical air, anchored to nothing.

Haidt seems to recognize this at several points throughout his essay but, being an atheist, he shies away from drawing the proper conclusion. In the end he winds up calling for Democrats to embrace the larger moral vision of conservatives but gives them no real reason to do so other than political expediency. Such a prescription can only be seen as hypocritical by the people he's trying to win over.

He concludes with these words:

If Democrats want to understand what makes people vote Republican, they must first understand the full spectrum of American moral concerns. They should then consider whether they can use more of that spectrum themselves. The Democrats would lose their souls if they ever abandoned their commitment to social justice, but social justice is about getting fair relationships among the parts of the nation. This often divisive struggle among the parts must be balanced by a clear and oft-repeated commitment to guarding the precious coherence of the whole. America lacks the long history, small size, ethnic homogeneity, and soccer mania that holds many other nations together, so our flag, our founding fathers, our military, and our common language take on a moral importance that many liberals find hard to fathom.

Unity is not the great need of the hour, it is the eternal struggle of our immigrant nation. The three ... foundations of ingroup, authority, and purity are powerful tools in that struggle. Until Democrats understand this point, they will be vulnerable to the seductive but false belief that Americans vote for Republicans primarily because they have been duped into doing so.

The article is a little long but worth the time to read.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Multiverse's Appeal

George Johnson in The New York Times reviews a book by physicist Leonard Susskind who is a strong advocate of the idea that there are a near infinite number of mini-universes in our universe, like bubbles in a bubble bath. According to Johnson this theory is appealing. Here's what he says:

Three years ago in "The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design," Leonard Susskind, a professor of theoretical physics at Stanford, spun a tale of a multitude of different universes - nooks and crannies of a transcendent multiverse, or "landscape," each ruled by a different physics. This is probably the most controversial interpretation of superstring theory (some of Susskind's colleagues absolutely hate the idea), but it has its appeal. With so many universes out there, the fact of our own existence need not inspire worship and awe. We just happen to occupy one of the niches where the laws are favorable to carbon-based life.

Notice in what the attraction of this theory consists for Johnson. It's not that it is empirically verifiable or that it explains the data or that it is aesthetically elegant. No. For Johnson and others the appeal of the multiverse is that it allows us an out, an escape, from the conclusion that our world is so incredibly organized that it all but screams for an explanation grounded in an intelligent engineer.

According to Johnson, if a world representing every possible physics exists then a world with our physics must exist, and we shouldn't be astonished by its extraordinary fine-tuning and precision. Nor need we conclude that an intelligent designer created it. Johnson is doing metaphysics and calling it science. The multiverse is appealing not because the science confirms it but because it allows us to side-step the conclusion that there's a God.

Susskind himself once said that the only two alternatives are an infinite number of universes or a designer deity. The idea of a deity is presumably philosophically unpalatable so he opts for the multiverse, and Johnson, who also finds a deity philosophically unacceptable, follows along.

But this idea that we are justified as scientists in embracing the theory of the multiverse because it's metaphysically useful raises a host of questions: Why would a scientist, qua scientist, want to avoid the conclusion that there's something more to the universe, an intelligence, that science has been unable to discern so far? Why should a scientist, qua scientist, be invested in the answer to the question of what is ultimately real anyway? Isn't that outside the scientific purview? Shouldn't questions about the cause and structure of the universe be settled, for scientists, at least, on empirical grounds rather than metaphysical flights of fancy?

Philosopher and psychologist William James once wrote that any rule of thought that would prevent me from finding a truth, were that truth really there, is an irrational rule. The rule of thought that says that any explanation of ultimate reality must be a naturalistic explanation - which is the rule embraced by many scientists - would prevent us from concluding that God is really the ground of creation even if God really is that ground. According to James, then, it's irrational to accept the multiverse simply because it's the only alternative to transgressing the bias among many scientists against explanations which invoke intelligent causation.


Gibson's Gaffe

I guess this is getting to be old news, but Charles Krauthammer lays the wood to Charlie Gibson for his disdainful and supercilious treatment of Sarah Palin when she seemed not to know what the Bush Doctrine is during his interview with her for ABC. It turns out that Gibson, for all his haughty condescension, didn't know what the doctrine is either.

Krauthammer concludes with this biting observation:

Yes, Sarah Palin didn't know what it is. But neither does Charlie Gibson. And at least she didn't pretend to know -- while he looked down his nose and over his glasses with weary disdain, sighing and "sounding like an impatient teacher," as the Times noted. In doing so, he captured perfectly the establishment snobbery and intellectual condescension that has characterized the chattering classes' reaction to the mother of five who presumes to play on their stage.

Read the whole thing at the link.


Who Am I?

Here's an interesting question which has popped up in my e-mail box:

Who Am I?

I am under 45 years old, I love the outdoors, I hunt, I am a Republican reformer, I have taken on the Republican Party establishment, I have a number of children, I have a spot on the national ticket as vice president with less than two years in the governor's office.

The answer: Teddy Roosevelt (1900) whose visage graces Mt. Rushmore today.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Voter IQ

Before and after the 2004 election there were a lot of snarky comments made about the intelligence and sophistication of people who would vote for George W. Bush. Bush, we were frequently told, was an imbecile, and we had to be imbeciles to vote for him. The insults flew so fast and furiously that if one didn't stop to think about them they might have almost believed them to be true.

But of course they weren't. It wasn't Republican voters, after all, who couldn't figure out how to use a ballot in the Florida election of 2000. Nor is it Republicans who are absolutely dependent upon the least well-educated members of our society for their success.

Nor is Bush the dolt his opponents like to portray him as. Not only did he surpass the relatively modest academic achievements of John Kerry at Yale, but also it turns out that the president is a voracious reader who reads over a hundred books a year. Nor is the stuff he reads just fluff as Steven Hayward notes at No Left Turns. Hayward quotes John Lewis Gaddis:

So what might shift contemporary impressions of President Bush? I can only speak for myself here, but something I did not expect was the discovery that he reads more history and talks with more historians than any of his predecessors since at least John F. Kennedy. The President has surprised me more than once with comments on my own books soon after they've appeared, and I'm hardly the only historian who has had this experience. I've found myself improvising excuses to him, in Oval Office seminars, as to why I hadn't read the latest book on Lincoln, or on-as Bush refers to him-the "first George W." I've even assigned books to Yale students on his recommendation, with excellent results.

"Well, so Bush reads history", one might reasonably observe at this point. "Isn't it more important to find out how he uses it?" It is indeed, and I doubt that anybody will be in a position to answer that question definitively until the oral histories get recorded, the memoirs get written, and the archives open. But I can say this on the basis of direct observation: President Bush is interested-as no other occupant of the White House has been for quite a long time-in how the past can provide guidance for the future.

Anyway, the calumnies against the intelligence of Republican voters really is a joke. The Democrats, even as I write, are feverishly at work trying to enlist young people as well as the poor and marginalized, groups not noted for their close following of political matters, in the service of Barack Obama. In other words, the Democrats realize that unless they can get a lot of people voting for them who have no idea what they're voting for, they don't have a chance.



An article on superstition in New Scientist has a quote from Wolfgang Forstmeier, an evolutionary biologist at the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology in Starnberg, Germany.

Forstmeier argues that by linking cause and effect - often falsely - science is a simply dogmatic form of superstition. "You have to find the trade off between being superstitious and being ignorant," he says. By ignoring building evidence that contradicts their long-held ideas, "quite a lot of scientists tend to be ignorant quite often," he says.

I don't know if Forstmeier had Darwinists in mind, but it sure sounds as if he did.


On Creation

Having read the latest attack on Sarah Palin regarding what she believes as it pertains to the Creation, I have grown weary of the Liberal, anti-religious, anti-creationist body of individuals who actually have no understanding of what the Bible has to say regarding the Creation of all things yet they behave as scholarly and intellectual elite who feel compelled in the name of all that they think to be right and true to assault and degrade those who believe differently than they.

Bible-believing people are not evil and represent no threat to anyone except, perhaps, to those who are truly lost just as Jesus was a threat to the truly-lost Pharisee of His day. Indeed, He threatened their status quo to such a degree that they crucified Him.

To this end, I have added a page to Viewpoint that can be accessed via the "Creation" link at the left of this page under Hall of Fame. Perhaps Ms. Palin will find something of value here also.

Sex and Commitment

With the news of Bristol Palin's pregnancy her mother's advocacy of abstinence education has come under some scrutiny.

Those who oppose abstinence-only education make the argument that kids are going to engage in sexual behavior no matter what they're told so we should give them the means to prevent being "punished with a baby", to use Barack Obama's infelicitous phrase.

This argument seems a little like telling youngsters that they shouldn't shoplift, but since a lot of kids are going to do it anyway, we should give them a coat with deep pockets so they're less likely to get caught. Or they shouldn't speed, but since they're going to do it anyway we should give them a radar detector so they don't get punished with a ticket.

To say that something is wrong, but that as parents and schools we're going to help facilitate the doing of it, is to send our kids a pretty confusing message.

The surest way not to get arrested for shop-lifting is to refrain from shop-lifting. The surest way to not lose your license for speeding is to not speed. The surest way to not get pregnant is to not have sex.

There's a tacit assumption at work among those who say that we should face the reality and acknowledge that kids will have sex anyway and that we should therefore give them the means to protect against pregnancy. That assumption is that there's nothing wrong with sex outside of marriage except that an unwanted pregnancy might result.

I think that assumption is simply wrong. When we decouple sex from commitment, when we make sex a form of recreation, a number of harmful effects follow. Surely, the morally desperate condition of contemporary society is prima facie evidence that somewhere along the line we've gone terribly wrong with regard to our thinking about sexuality.

Mary Eberstadt at First Things writes compellingly that we are reaping the bitter fruit of our divorce of sex from procreation. I don't know about that, but certainly separating sex from commitment, particularly marital commitment, has been a disaster. It has resulted in a long litany of social problems and dysfunctions - everything from rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, a million and a half abortions a year, the objectification of women, marital infidelity, spouse abuse, illegitimacy, child sexual abuse, STDs, broken homes, shattered lives, and the general sleazification of our culture.

Many social problems that seem superficially unrelated to sex are, in fact, the consequence of a sexually permissive culture. Crime and academic failure, for example, are much more common among fatherless young men, but many children are fatherless because men are no longer required to commit themselves to a woman in order to have sexual access to her.

When sex is isolated from profound commitment people tend to lose respect for each other, their relationship changes, they often find themselves quarreling more frequently, trust between them diminishes, and if and when the relationship ends, one person, often the girl, feels used and embittered. I think it was C.S. Lewis who wrote that the question, "Will you still respect me in the morning?" has become a cliché because the concern is so real.

We call it "making love", but sex apart from commitment is rarely about love despite what the participants tell themselves and each other. The harmful consequences are far-reaching, both emotionally and physically, and the rewards, such as they are, are ephemeral and uncertain.

To think that the only hazard of a physical relationship with someone to whom there is no commitment is an unintended pregnancy is, in my opinion, terribly naive.


Al Qaeda Admits Defeat

Captured documents reveal a level of deep despair among members of al Qaeda in Iraq. The report at Long War Journal reveals a lot of internal dissension and many al Qaeda leaders have given up hope of prevailing against the coalition.

Perhaps we should forward this report to Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader of the senate, who famously pronounced at the outset of the surge that we had already lost the war.

By the way - I read in last night's paper that 2008 has been the worst year for our military in terms of casualties in Afghanistan, and I wondered: Can anyone remember reading anything in the papers or seeing anything on television about the war in Afghanistan that was not about our troops being killed or our people killing innocent civilians? One might think, for all the media tells us about that theater, that the only thing that's happening there is that our troops are taking terrible losses and the only casualties we're inflicting are on women and children.

It's not unlike the template the media followed in Iraq. As long as there were a lot of casualties among our forces and Iraqi civilians we heard about Iraq day and night. Then when the country began to be pacified, Iraq just about disappeared from the news altogether. A year ago it bade fair to be the dominant issue in this year's presidential election, but since we're succeeding no one seems to want to talk about it.

Harry Reid certainly isn't saying much.


Jason Bourne Needs to Know

Anika Smith at Evolution News and Views has a little fun with actor Matt Damon over Damon's semi-coherent criticism of Sarah Palin's views on how long ago dinosaurs roamed the earth:

You may have seen the video of Matt Damon attacking Sarah Palin because he doesn't know anything about her (his words, not mine). It's like he read a bad Maureen Dowd column and regurgitated the unfunny parts - that is, the whole thing.

The best comment, and the most relevant to our readers, Damon makes at the end:

"I need to know if she really thinks dinosaurs were here 4000 years ago. That's an important - I want to know that, I really do, because she's going to have the nuclear codes. You know, I want to know if she thinks dinosaurs were here 4000 years ago... we can't, we can't have that."

Whatever Damon's command of English might be, he's clearly completely ignorant of the issue at hand. Of course, I don't know much about Matt Damon, which frightens me, actually. I need to know if Matt really thinks random mutation acting on natural selection is capable of accounting for the complexity of life and the universe. That's an important - I want to know that, I really do, because he's going to be making million dollar block buster films I'm probably going to be watching. You know, I want to know if he thinks Darwinian evolution can explain that. Because, you know, we can't have such dogmatic, blind adherence to outdated modes of thinking in such a vocal world leader, we can't have that.

For my part I wonder what the age of dinosaurs has to do with having access to nuclear weapons. I'm sure there's a connection or else someone of Mr. Damon's stature would not think it so important, but I'll be darned if I can figure out what it is.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

With Friends Like These ...

Some on the left seem determined to remind people every chance they get that nothing is beneath them. Here's Randi Rhodes from Air America, the liberal talk radio network, on yesterday's show:

Why do they say these things? How does Randi Rhodes know what Sarah Palin is like? Why does she have to imply that she's a child molester, for heaven's sake?

One reason is that they know they can't fight on the battlefield of issues because they don't have any. Obama has moved so close to McCain that there's really not much difference between them on most of the issues that catapulted him to the nomination. Nor can they keep up the pretense of "change" because Obama has pretty much abandoned that rhetoric and symbolized his apostasy by naming a veteran Washingtonian as his running mate. Whatever Biden represents it's not change.

So instead we get remarks like that made by Sue Fowler, chair of the South Carolina Democrat party and wife of Don Fowler who rejoiced that Hurricane Gustav was coming and would interrupt the GOP convention. Mr. Fowler's better half opined that Sarah Palin's "only qualification for the vice-presidency is that she hasn't had an abortion".

Or we get the inane line, repeated by a gaggle of Democrats, that Barack Obama is like Jesus because Jesus was a community organizer and that Sarah Palin is like Pontius Pilate because Pilate was a governor. Third graders would find this sort of thing too stupid to employ on the playground, but desperation will evidently lead some people to throw away their dignity and say things like this.

Earlier it was smears against her family and gross distortions of her religious beliefs, her prayer about Iraq, and her views on creationism. It just makes you shake your head in dismay at the depths to which some people will sink.

Ed Morrissey reminds us that:

Rhodes recently offered the novel claim that John McCain got treated like a "prince" by his captors in North Vietnam. Apparently her separation from reality has accelerated with this piece of character assassination. There's really no other term for it; she accuses Palin of being at least a latent child molester.

Even apart from that despicable accusation, the rest of Rhodes' argument sounds strangely like projection. What does Rhodes herself do for a living? She "opines about everything from politics to lawn care". Rhodes also acts as though she "knows it all", including Palin's sexual proclivities. If Rhodes finds opinion from strong women so offensive, maybe she should find another line of work. After this bit of lunacy, perhaps her employer should expedite that change.

Barack Obama seems to me to be a fine and decent, if woefully misguided, man, but some of his supporters on the left make one wonder what's happened to their decency. I'm sure he's embarrassed by them.