Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The rational case for a bailout

We have called attention to Daniel Larison's criticism of supporters of the bailout for appealing to fear rather than to reason in advocating the financial bailout. We should also point out that there are those who made a rational case for it (not that you heard it very cogently in the national debate, however.

Here is my friend Bob Martin, emeritus professor of economics at Centre College, actually engaged in reason:

On the nature of the problem
On the need for the bailout
On the changes that need to be made

This is the best case I have seen made in favor of the bailout.

An Argument Based on Fear: Where was the rational case for the bailout?

According to Aristotle in his book, Rhetoric, there are three means of persuasion: ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos is an appeal based on the integrity of the speaker. Logos is an appeal based on reasoning, and Pathos is an appeal based on emotion. Any one of these (usually a combination of them) can be used in a persuasive appeal.

Daniel Larison makes an excellent point about why the financial bailout bill failed in Congress yesterday: because the appeal of bill proponents was to fear. The persuasive appeal was to pathos, not logos. And given the lack of credibility that the Congress, Paulson, and Bernanke have accumulated over the past several weeks, it's no wonder there was no appeal to ethos:
I agree with Ezra Klein that we are seeing, in one sense, the “failure of politics” today, but it is not the failure he means. The failure of politics that culminated in the defeat of the bill was the failure of the proponents of the legislation to make an argument that did not rely very heavily on prophecies of disaster. There was no real attempt at persuasion, and the haste in which everything was done generated far more intense opposition than was necessary. The supporters of the bill wanted to ram it through with as little deliberation and scrutiny as possible. On any other issue, on any other bill, this would be seen as outrageous and you would hear about the wisdom of having a lower chamber that was more responsive to the people. Now opposition to this hasty adoption of a bad plan is derided as irresponsible?
He's got a point.

The Economist Magazine on why we need a bailout

Bringing back the hockey mom: Sarah Palin needs to declare her independence

The mishandling of Sarah Palin by the McCain campaign could go down as one of the greatest lost opportunities in modern politics. The squandering of the political benefits of a potential political folk hero has been painful to watch. All the promises Palin's convention speech held out for conservatives are in dangers of being lost unless the campaign can turn a corner in this week's debate.

Don't get me wrong. Palin's appeal is still strong among white women even though her appeal outside those bounds has been tarnished by the bungling Bush handlers who have had her ear since the convention.

The mistakes the McCain campaign made are plain as day: I can see them from my house. According to reports, McCain himself is fully aware of the situation and has dispatched several competent hands to salvage the situation.

What went wrong? More importantly, how do you fix it?

Palin's greatest appeal was her normal person credentials. She was mother of five who had upset the political powers of an entire state. She was the female Mr. Smith going to Washington to stand up for the little guy. So what do McCain's handlers do? They take her behind closed doors and fill her with political, economic, and foreign policy arcana and try to turn the Hockey Mom from Wasilla into Brainiac from Alaska.

If it had worked it would have failed.

As it is, they have produced a vice presidential candidate whose words don't fit her speech. It isn't that what she says is necessarily inaccurate or embarrassing per se--you have to go visit the other party's running mate if you want to get a taste of that. The problem is that she appears to be trying so hard to sound like an expert. Her remarks have the earnest ring of someone's first high school term paper on current events.

Every question elicits a stream of disconnected facts you can tell have been drilled into her in interminable quiz sessions on the campaign plane. Her coaches (all candidates have them) should have been telling her to do what all good PR coaches tell their clients: answer the question you wish the interviewer had asked and to do it in a few words as possible. Instead, her presentation has all the feel of being beaten over the head with an almanac. Anyone who has seen the footage of her performance in debates running for governor knows that, before the Bush advisers got to her, she was perfectly competent in such an environment.

Is it Palin's fault? She has to shoulder some of the blame here, but let's face it, when you get picked to be a presidential running mate, you're in a position of having to do what the guy at the top of the ticket tells you. It's a hard position to be in no matter who you are. That Biden has not been kept on as close a leash is more a function of no one caring what he says than the actual quality of what he has to say.

What where they thinking when they decided to have her play to her weaknesses rather than her strengths? Why in the world would you play on your opponents terms rather than your own? Did these people fail Politics 101?

From the last word of her convention speech it has been downhill. The decisions made by the McCain campaign in using her are simply inexplicable. On the one hand, they keep her from making small talk with reporters on the campaign trail where she would have easily acclimated to the national stage, and then they thrown her in the lion's den with people like Charlie Gibson and Catie Couric. I'm surprised they didn't send her to Jon Stewart first thing. They might as well have.

This is simply political malpractice. Who made these decisions? Find them and send them packing: they don't belong in politics. Give them their walking papers and whisper in their ears as they leave headquarters, "Electronics."

Palin should have gotten a good night's sleep after the convention and headed straight over to Sean Hannity's studio. Then maybe Bill O'Reilly and Greta Van Susteren. And when a full week had been spent at Fox News' studios, get on the talk radio circuit. Spend an afternoon with Rush. Go see Michael Reagan. Visit the studios of every conservative talk radio host on the air.

And when the mainstream media complained that she was being kept from them, she could have adjusted her hood and told them what nice teeth they had, but that they needed to get out of the way because she had a basket of goodies to deliver to the next conservative interviewer. Every conservative would have cheered her on.

To put it simply, Americans were promised a normal person, but they have succeeded only in giving Tina Fay new notoriety.

If Palin is smart, she'll run away from the campaign in the dead of night and refuse to tell her handlers where she is or what she intends to do. She eloped once. She knows how to do this. Then she can go out scouring the countryside for like-minded populists, gathering an army of peasants with pitchforks, and serve the only legitimate role of a community organizer: raising Cain. In the wake of the financial crisis, enthusiastic followers should be easy to find.

She can tell her inept advisers she'll see them at the debate. Maybe.

McCain should spend the rest of the campaign reinventing her image back into the mold of the hockey mom. They need to forget about trying to make her look more experienced than she is. Palin's appeal was never that she was experienced. In fact, her appeal was that she was like most Americans few of whom are experts on anything in particular.

Right now there are millions of Americans inexperienced in economics who have been told one thing by one set of experts and another by a different set of them. Sarah Palin could voice their frustrations--the frustrations of normal people who don't know who to trust. If she comes out trying to sound like another expert with a solution (and not doing it very well), she loses. If she comes out voicing the fears and frustrations of people who have watched their "experienced" leaders demonstrate their ineptitude even in trying to do what many Americans think was the wrong thing anyway, she wins.

Palin needs to drop the expert act. It isn't convincing, and isn't what she should have allowed her handlers to foist on her in the first place. She needs to act like who she is. This is the woman who said, "I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion." The problem is, that's what it seems like she's trying to do. To try to become the very thing you got into politics to oppose in the first place is an idea only political experts who have lost touch with normal people could have come up with.

Anyone interested in the what has happened to Palin needs to see Frank Capra's classic film "Meet John Doe," starring Gary Cooper. It is a movie about a man who is picked off the street and who, through the skills of people who have neither his nor the people's best interests at heart, becomes a political hero to millions because he is just like them. After reluctantly going along with the plan, he finds out that his sponsors are going to use his tremendous popularity for their own selfish purposes, and he rebels. But in the course of their exploitation of him, he has become the very person they have portrayed him to be--the everyman who identifies with normal people. No longer reluctant, he refuses to go along with their plan, and strikes out on his own, giving his own speeches. As a result, they try to destroy him. Rather than betray those who loved him for what he was portrayed to be--and what he in fact has become, he risks his own life to save the country from them.

There are obvious differences in Palin's position, but the contrasts to Palin are as instructive as the comparisons. John Doe's handlers, unlike Sarah Palin's, actually understood what image they wanted to project. They knew the power of populism. And John Doe's enemies are in fact his own supporters, not a hostile media. Palin's problem is not being manipulated by evil benefactors, but incompetent advisers.

But she is the female version of John Doe, and if McCain's campaign is smart, they'll go watch the film and see how to develop a populist personality, not try to turn her into something else. If they don't, the Palin should do like the movie hero, who, in everyone's best interest, strikes out on his own.

That's what a real maverick would do.

The refutation of naturalism in one sentence

It is counterintuitive but true that the people with their feet most firmly planted on the ground are metaphysicians. Well, Thomist metaphysicians anyway. Here is one of my favorite bloggers, Thomist, with the ultimate take down of the naturalistic nonsense about proving through any scientific means of inquiry what mind or morality "really is":

"A scale proves that man is nothing other than a certain weight."

In other words, the assumption behind the naturalist project of trying to explain mind (or anything else for that matter) that purports to find that mind is merely matter, or that morality has some purely physical explanation, is that the thing measured is somehow limited by the means of measurement.

In fact, is that not the chief presupposition of scientism? That the object of inquiry is limited by the instrument of inquiry?

The financial crisis for dummies

An excellent rundown of the bailout and the problems it was intended to solve.

Is the sky really falling? Where we stand on the dire predictions of bailout proponents

Here is Lawrence White, F. A. Hayek Professor of Economic History at the University of Missouri, St. Louis on where we stand on the dire predictions made by the supporters of the Bush bailout.

It can't be this bad

Mark Steyn, pithy as always, on the dire financial forecasts: "If the entire global economy is so vulnerable that only the stalwart action of Barney Frank stands between it and ten years of soup kitchens, can it, in fact, be saved?"

More here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Does the failure of the bailout bill help the Democrats?

Call me suspicious, but I've got conspiracy theories running through my head about today's vote on the financial bailout. Here's the thing I can't figure: If you spend enough time around a legislature, as I have, you know that no competent speaker would call a floor vote on a bill unless he or she knew the votes were there. Now Nancy Pelosi is a lot of things, but she's not stupid, eliminating the only other possible explanation for today's legislative defeat.

So what gives? Why did this bill go down to defeat?

Here is my theory. Pelosi had two choices. The first was to pass the bill with largely Democratic support and a majority of Republicans opposing it. If the economy tanked anyway, she and her party would be left holding the bag. If it didn't tank, they would still be vulnerable to criticisms of some of the inevitable long-term fallout from the bill, like increased governmental intrusion in the economy, and inflation that would result from the infusion of as much as $750 billion in additional dollars chasing the same about of goods.

The second, alternative choice, would be let the bill be defeated. If, as a result, the economy crashed, she and her Democratic colleagues could blame the intransigent Republicans for killing the bill that would have saved the day.

In other words, passing the bill was really a no-win situation for the Democrats, whereas letting it die at least held out some promise of ultimately looking good.

Letting this bill die, in short, may have been the best tactical course for the Democrats. It would also make sense of why Pelosi gave a partisan floor speech which she surely knew would cost her Republican votes.

The first course of action has the added advantage that there were individual Democratic representatives whose "Yes" votes would have cost them their seats in November. These were given cover with their "No" votes. Most Democrats were for it, so the party inoculated itself against the possibility of blame in the case of an economic meltdown at the same time it saved a few vulnerable individual members.

This theory, of course, could go up in flames if a reconstituted bill gets passed later this week. We'll see.

GOP kills bailout bill

According to Roll Call, while the Democrats voted for the bailout 140 - 95, the Republicans opposed it 133 to 65. The Democrats would have been left holding the bag if the bill passed and failed to salvage the credit markets, but the Republicans could shoulder the blame if the markets tank.

My understanding is that Pelosi went after Bush and the Republicans in her floor speech. Was she trying to kill this thing?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Harvard economist corrects Obama's mortgage crisis narrative

Harvard Economist Greg Mankiw, responding to Obama's account of how the mortgage crisis came about:
Senator Obama might want to read this NY Times article from 1999:
In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders....Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people.

Friday, September 26, 2008

John Kenneth Galbreath on the bailout

Okay, first of all, I didn't even know John Kenneth Galbreath was still alive. What is he, like 150 years old now? And, second, it scares me out of my tree to even admit he makes sense. But here he is, making sense at 150:

Is this bailout still necessary?

The point of the bailout is to buy assets that are illiquid but not worthless. But regular banks hold assets like that all the time. They're called "loans."

With banks, runs occur only when depositors panic, because they fear the loan book is bad. Deposit insurance takes care of that. So why not eliminate the pointless $100,000 cap on federal deposit insurance and go take inventory? If a bank is solvent, money market funds would flow in, eliminating the need to insure those separately. If it isn't, the FDIC has the bridge bank facility to take care of that.

Next, put half a trillion dollars into the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. fund -- a cosmetic gesture -- and as much money into that agency and the FBI as is needed for examiners, auditors and investigators. Keep $200 billion or more in reserve, so the Treasury can recapitalize banks by buying preferred shares if necessary -- as Warren Buffett did this week with Goldman Sachs. Review the situation in three months, when Congress comes back. Hedge funds should be left on their own. You can't save everyone, and those investors aren't poor.

With this solution, the systemic financial threat should go away. Does that mean the economy would quickly recover? No. Sadly, it does not. Two vast economic problems will confront the next president immediately. First, the underlying housing crisis: There are too many houses out there, too many vacant or unsold, too many homeowners underwater. Credit will not start to flow, as some suggest, simply because the crisis is contained. There have to be borrowers, and there has to be collateral. There won't be enough.

Oh, and notice the Galbreath appears to be closer to House Republicans than to Nancy Pelosi and the rest of her San Francisco Democrats.

Who woulda' thunk it.

Haven't you seen this before?

I could have sworn I've seen similar things come across my e-mail:

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had a crisis that has caused the need for a large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Franklin Raines, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. You may know him as the Chief Economic Advisor for Senator Obama’s presidential campaign, and the former head of Fannie Mae from 1999 to 2006.

Let me assure you that this transaction is 100% safe. Mr. Raines is completely trustworthy with your money. His record speaks for itself.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of friend so the funds can be transferred. Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully

Henry “Hank” Paulson

Minister of Treasury

From A Second Hand Conjecture. Thanks to Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars for pointing it out.

Shouldn't the U. S. do what it tells other countries to do in times of economic crisis?

Robert Shimer, professor at the University of Chicago School of Business, in an e-mail to Harvard Economist Greg Mankiw today:
The U.S. has long been a beacon of free markets. When economic conditions turn sour in Argentina or Indonesia, we give very clear instructions on what to do: balance the budget, cut government employment, maintain free trade and the rule of law, and do not prop up failing enterprises. Opponents of free markets argue that this advice benefits international financiers, not the domestic market. I have always believed (at least since I began to understand economics) that the U.S. approach was correct. But when the U.S. ignores its own advice in this situation, it reduces the credibility of this stance. Rewriting the rules of the game at this stage will therefore have serious ramifications not only for people in this country but for the future of global capitalism. The social cost of that is far, far greater than $700 billion.

How it happened (with a few plugs for McCain)

A little to much campaign rhetoric in here for my taste, but it does explain the sequence of events leading up to the current mortgage crisis better than just about anything else I've seen.

Greed is not the problem

Some people have apparently forgotten what the road to Hell is paved with, and are under the impression that the mortgage crisis is a result of an excess of greed. Some of the people who believe this are now trying to sell us a bailout plan. But what if the problem is not greed? What if greed is exactly the opposite of the problem? And what if the people who have the problem 180 degrees wrong are asking you to place confidence in their bailout plan?

Here is Lawrence White, explaining why the Greed Hypothesis is so preposterous:
On greed, let me repeat: If unusually many airplanes crash during a given week, do you blame gravity? No. Greed, like gravity, is a constant. It can’t explain why the number of crashes is higher than usual. And let me add: This isn’t a morality play. What we’re seeing are the consequences of monetary-policy distortions of interest rates and regulatory distortions of incentives, amplified in some degree by private imprudence, not the consequences of blackheartedness.
In fact, if we look at the causes of this mess, we find that it is not greed at all that caused it, but compassion. Not compassion on an individual level, not the compassion of the Good Samaritan--not the compassion of the person who loves his neighbor, but the compassion of the kind of person who loves humanity.

We're in this mess because policymakers wanted to make mortgages available to people who couldn't afford them. But now compassion has given way to blame shifting, and they are blaming the people they pressured to do this as being greedy.

Beware of compassionate government.

Why does Pelosi need Republican support?

It appears that Speaker of the U. S. House Nancy Pelosi has the votes to pass the bailout; she just doesn't want to do it without Republican support. Why? Why does the leader of the majority party in the House have to have Republican support, along with Senate support and the support of the President to pass a bill? Since when did that become essential?

There is only one possible reason: Pelosi fears the bailout will be unpopular, and the bailout will only prove unpopular if it doesn't work, meaning that Pelosi fears the bailout won't work.

Why should her fear inspire confidence in anyone who wants to vote for this bill?

The House Republican response to the bailout

The House Republican response to the bailout plan.

How we got in the financial mess we're in

In case you were wondering how it all came about:

The seeds were sown during the Clinton administration. All of the seeds had enthusiastic bipartisan support. The fair housing initiative that made mortgage loans available to low income borrowers (subprime loans) and the deregulation of banking under the Glass-Steagall Act had bipartisan support and were signed by President Clinton. These "reforms" actually penalized lenders who did not make subprime loans.

The bubble was put on steroids by the Fed's actions following 9/11. In order to prevent a recession, the Fed greatly increased liquidity in money markets. The government was promoting home ownership and providing funding at the same time. Interest rates fell to historic lows, remaining negative in real terms for long periods. The liquidity put huge amounts of cash in the hands of lenders and lenders are in the business of making loans. It is no surprise they made a lot of loans. Many of those loans were absurd.

During the same time-frame, the financial industry was creating sophisticated new securities with risk properties that no one understood! Supposedly, the innovations would compensate for the absurdity of the loans being made. Financial innovations always lead to the same boom/bust scenario, and we were not disappointed this time. The last time this happened was in the 1980s when "junk bonds" were introduced. The scenario was the same, the market grossly under-estimated the real risks associated with the new securities, and the market tanked. Once the real risks were revealed, the market began to function normally. This is precisely what happened with junk bonds, and it is eventually what will happen with subprime loans.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Atheists meeting in Kentucky to fight influence of religious right

I was quoted in yesterday's Louisville Courier-Journal about a group of atheist and freethinkers who are now meeting together, presumably to discuss their atheism and to think freely, although what exactly their thinking is free of is unclear.

Austrian economics in action

Ron Paul vs. Ben Bernanke.

Ownership of the means of production: Where have we heard that before?

We are now being assured that the government is not going to get out of this bailout too badly because the government is apparently going to own at least a part of some of these companies. Since when is it a comforting idea that the government is not just helping, but taking over ownership of financial companies?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

You can't make this stuff up: PETA calls on Ben & Jerry's to use human breast milk in its ice cream

The animals rights group PETA is calling on Ben and Jerry's to replace the use of cow's milk in its ice cream with human breast milk. No joke:

"The fact that human adults consume huge quantities of dairy products made from milk that was meant for a baby cow just doesn't make sense," says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. "Everyone knows that 'the breast is best,' so Ben & Jerry's could do consumers and cows a big favor by making the switch to breast milk."

Let's extend this logic out a little further. Why are we eating cow's flesh? Eating meat from cows just doesn't make sense. We could all do ourselves a favor by eating human flesh instead, and urging all beef growers to convert over to human farms.

It's a measure of the decline of Western Civilization that these people just don't have any concept of how absurd they look.

Solving the financial crisis in a world of two-handed economists

There is a story, possibly apocryphal, that President Harry Truman once had a meeting during the course of which he asked questions of several economists, one of whom would respond by saying "On the one hand," and giving one view, followed by another who would say, "On the other hand" and giving the alternative view. A frustrated Truman, upon leaving the meeting, told an aid, "Next time, get me economists with only one hand."

The story comes to mind in the current national discussion over the financial crisis. The vast majority of Americans understand little about it, and so are consigned to being spectators in a see-saw spectacle in which those who they thought should know such things disagree.

Although many Americans are concerned about the current situation on Wall Street, most of them can do little more than scratch their heads. They simply have no way to determine how bad the problem is, let alone what the solution might be. If they were only economists, they think, they would know what to do. But then they watch the economists, and the awful truth dawns on them: even if they were economists, they wouldn't know what to do.

As it turns out, the people who they are trusting with solving this problem don't seem to know themselves, whether or not they think they do. "Nobody involved in the bailout proposal," says Arnold Kling of EconLog, "has sufficient knowledge of mortgage credit risk." Great. Of course we could ask whether even the people who say nobody knows know enough to know that nobody knows.

Such is the state of our collective ignorance.

Even former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, one whose mere utterance caused the markets would rise or fall, said he didn't see it coming.

How bad is the problem? According to Ben Bernanke last Tuesday, a recession could ensue unless the Bush administration's bailout plan is passed. Yet Allan Meltzer, a historian of central banking, says that the problem is not as bad as it is being portrayed:
I've listened to governments tell me for 40 years that there was a crisis and the world was going to fall apart if we didn't do this or that. But there have been a few cases where they weren't able to do that.
And let's not ask the question why Bernanke, who warns of an imminent recession if his plan is not passed, doesn't agree with those who think we've been in a recession for some time now.
Now we know why, as one wag has observed, if you took all the economists in the world and laid them end to end, they still couldn't reach a conclusion.

And if you thought there was confusion in regard to the problem, wait till you see the confusion in regard to the solution. So if everyone is confused, including the people who aren't supposed to be, what should we do?

Was there anyone among all the hordes of economists arguing with each other who actually wasn't confused? Were there any economists out there who were so lacking in confusion that they saw this coming? Are there people out there who actually warned us about this?

And this leads me to my proposed solution. First, forget about the economic experts who were blindsided by the mortgage crisis. Ignore them. Pretend they don't exist. If they offer a solution, listen to them politely, and then forget about them. Secondly, find out who, among all the people who are supposed to know what they are talking about, saw this coming first. Honor them, exalt them, ensconce them in plush offices with large salaries, and give them the first word on what to do about it.

Are there such people?

Tyler Cowen, at Marginal Revolution, claims Lawrence Sterne addresses the problem in his 18th century work Tristram Shandy, and he's right, but let's not get carried away.

Here is Mark Thornton, writing in June of 2004. See if this doesn't sound prophetic:
Given the government's encouragement of lax lending practices, home prices could crash, bankruptcies would increase, and financial companies, including the government-sponsored mortgage companies, might require another taxpayer bailout.
"Who is Mark Thornton," you ask? You've never seen his talking head on television, you say? Thornton is one of a number of economists of the Austrian School of Economists. Although the names don't mean much to the general public, early 20th century figures such as Ludwig von Mises and Freidrich Hayek are at least familiar to those of us who have bothered to study economics. The late Murray Rothbart, a political journalist who died several years ago, is perhaps better known. But the best known adherent of the Austrian school is Ron Paul, who ran for Republican nomination this year, and who people like John McCain sneered at.

In fact, here is Paul, speaking to Congress in 2002:
Ironically, by transferring the risk of a widespread mortgage default, the government increases the likelihood of a painful crash in the housing market. This is because the special privileges of Fannie, Freddie, and HLBB have distorted the housing market by allowing them to attract capital they could not attract under pure market conditions. As a result, capital is diverted from its most productive use into housing...

However, despite the long-term damage to the economy inflicted by the government’s interference in the housing market, the government’s policies of diverting capital to other uses creates a short-term boom in housing. Like all artificially-created bubbles, the boom in housing prices cannot last forever. When housing prices fall, homeowners will experience difficulty as their equity is wiped out. Furthermore, the holders of the mortgage debt will also have a loss. These losses will be greater than they would have otherwise been had government policy not actively encouraged over-investment in housing.

Perhaps the Federal Reserve can stave off the day of reckoning by purchasing GSE debt and pumping liquidity into the housing market, but this cannot hold off the inevitable drop in the housing market forever. In fact, postponing the necessary but painful market corrections will only deepen the inevitable fall. The more people invested in the market, the greater the effects across the economy when the bubble bursts.
This if fully 4-5 years before Alan Greenspan says he saw the light at the end of the tunnel and realized it was an oncoming train.

Now I will admit that I have always considered people who support Ron Paul as a little cultish in their devotion. Among these I count several members of my immediate family (Don't tell them I wrote this, or I will be accosted with a thousand "I told you so"s). And, in fact, many of the Austrian School are not entirely pleased with Paul.

But the fact is that if you roll back the tape, it becomes very apparent that Paul and the Austrian economists have been warning us about this very thing happening for several years now.

So if the Austrian School knew enough about the situation six years ago to know what was coming, what do they say we should do now? Are they for a bailout, or against it? Here is Paul, writing at CNN.com:

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.

The people who knew enough to see the problem coming think the solution is not for the government to lay hands on the financial system, but for the government to get its hands off it.

Are there people who will scoff at the idea of the government backing off instead of bailing out? Sure there are. And to them I say, you go and predict an economic crisis six years before it happens, and then come talk to me.

Is the Courier-Journal turning itself into Kentucky's Obama campaign headquarters?

I think this is the first time I have seen this happen: on yesterday's editorial page of the Louisville Courier-Journal, of the four full length editorials, all four bash either McCain or Palin--or both.

And we wonder why the Courier-Journal is a dying paper.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who is to blame for the financial crisis?

We're starting to here more and more calls to punish those who headed the private sector organizations that the politicians in Washington now say we have to bail out.

But here's the irony: the people in government who were responsible for the policies that brought this about are looking to punish the people in the private sector who were doing what these policymakers made it rational for them to do. The people who created the incentives for the heads of private sector companies to act as they did are now calling for the heads of these same people for doing what they gave them the incentive to do.

But the people who set the policies that caused the current financial crisis are at least as responsible as those in the private sector who acted on them. Why should we have a worse opinion of those who acted rationally in an irrational economic world than of those who created the irrational world in which such actions were rational?

Is it reasonable to trust, in a time of crisis when stakes are high, those who did exactly the wrong thing in better times when the stakes were not as high? They are people who got the diagnosis and prognosis wrong. Now we're supposed to trust them on the prescription.

Go figure.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Where is Congress when you don't need them?

Thanks to Cartago Delenda Est for this one. I have been wondering the same thing: Where do these quasi-governmental agencies like the Fed get the authority to spend tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money on bailouts? Where I come from (the U. S. of A.) the House of Representatives has the power of the purse.

Where is Congress?

Here's my theory: there may be some Constitutional ground for QUANGOs (QUAsi-Non Governmental Organizations) to determine spending--but I'd sure like to know what it is. But, regardless, the reason Congress isn't involved is because they don't want to touch this with a ten foot pole.

This is a result of the invertebrate nature of politicians in general, who want someone else to take the responsibility when it really belongs to them.

In other words, nothing new here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Since when is the ACLU against free speech?

The American Civil Liberties Union filed an official complaint on behalf of two gay men who were called names at a McDonald's in Louisville, Kentucky. The group has cited the city's "Fairness" ordinance as grounds for the complaint:

Louisville has a local human rights ordinance which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public accommodations such as restaurants.

Now obviously the McDonald's in question has pretty low employment standards if they have a cashier who calls customers names--for whatever reason. But since when does the ACLU file complaints against someone's exercise of free (albeit hateful) speech? The ACLU has always defended any kind of expression on the grounds that, however distasteful it may be, it is protected under the First Amendment.

This is an issue that, if it involved any other issue than gay rights, the ACLU would be defending the McDonald's, not the two gay men. The ACLU has defended the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi party.

Either the ACLU is misinterpreting the Fairness Ordinance, in which case their complaint will have not effect, or they are interpreting it correctly, in which case the ordinance violates the First Amendment (at least according to the groups traditional interpretation). In either case, it makes you wonder why the group is going back on its previous commitment to free speech.

Joe Biden gaffes still flying under the media radar

Going relatively uncovered in the salivating of the major media over every Palin hiccup that goes awry is the trail of embarrassing statements Obama's running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden is leaving. You can start here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Heather has two mommies. Nevermind, make that one.

Today comes the Louisville Courier-Journal's unenthusiastic endorsement for yesterday's appeals court ruling that, 1) yes, we do have laws, and 2) yes, we should follow them.

The case involved a lesbian couple, one of whom conceived a child by artificial insemination, gave birth, and then split up. A family court judge, then proceeded to let the non-biological parent adopt the child, which, in Kentucky can only be done in a case where there was a marriage. The appeals court slapped them down and told them that they don't make laws (or change them), they apply them, which was apparently news to the family court judges.

These judges either didn't know what the laws were, or didn't care. Neither possibility is particularly comforting. But the Courier-Journal is less concerned about the corruption of our justice system and more concerned with ensuring that couples with two fathers or two mothers can enjoy the same rights to adoption that married couples have.

Oh brother.

What is wrong with Wall Street?

This analysis of the economic situation on Wall Street by economist Robert Samuelson seems to be pretty close to the mark. Thanks to Gene Edward Veith for pointing it out.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gov. Steve Beshear and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Idea

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has declared an emergency over the price of gasoline. The action comes at the behest of our wonderful Attorney General, Jack Conway. The law that this action was taken under allows the governor to declare an emergency when the price for a product is "grossly in excess of the price prior to the declaration [whatever the heck that means] and unrelated to any increased cost to the seller."

In other words, the market laws of supply and demand take a back seat to politicians who want to grandstand. Thankfully, Beshear will never actually do anything, since this little declaration allows him to look like a populist without actually doing anything. But that's less harmful than if he actually did prosecute any cases because, if the government actually did do something.

This is a stupid law, designed only to allow Democratic politicians to demagogue economic issues.

Oh, and by the way, why is it that liberals are in favor of allowing "consenting adults" to engage in any sort of social behavior that violates traditional morality, but are against letting consenting adults make economic decisions like whether they want to buy and sell gasoline at whatever price they agree to?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Scientific reductionism

Don't let the humor in this little presentation by John Cleese on scientific reductionism hide the very sophisticated observation he is making here--one which I have made before. It is a version of the "argument from self-destruction." Scientific reductionism is one of those philosophical beliefs that fails its own criterion:

Jake at Page One: Is this guy for real?

Jake at Page One Kentucky, while hurling hateful epithets (his favorites are "homophobe" and "bigot"), gives a hellfire and brimstone lecture on the evils of ... hate. Preaching things he doesn't practice is apparently Jake's favorite passtime.

Jake is still suffering under the delusion that he knows how to count votes in a legislative leadership election by using the sophisticated method of calling legislators, each of whom, surely cognizant that they have an amateur on their hands, is telling him what he wants to hear using the sophisticated method of not telling him what he wants to know.

Jake falls for it every time.

He thinks Stumbo, who, in contrast to Jake, is an experienced and veteran vote-counter, doesn't have the votes he needs to gain the House Speakership. We'll see.

But Jake then goes on to conclude that I somehow support Stumbo in the race. He apparently, in addition to not being able to distinguish between a candid answer and a put on, cannot distinguish between political analysis and political cheerleading.

Why in the world would I support Stumbo for speaker? Stumbo's views and mine are, in many cases, diametrically opposed. He's for gambling, I'm against it. He is for same-sex marriage, I'm not. In fact, Stumbo, whose leadership abilities dwarf those of Richards on Richard's good day, would be bad news for conservatives, not good news. Why would you want your liberal opponents to have a competent leader rather than an incompetent one?

In fact, it would be far more palatable to conservatives to have Richards in the chair. But now Jake has gone and connected me with Stumbo, something that can't possibly help Stumbo, and, in fact, could hurt him.

I just wish I could take credit for consciously manipulating Jake into this position of helping me when he thinks he has struck a blow for his left-wing cause, but I'm afraid Jake deserves all the credit for maneuvering himself into this absurd position.

Shhhh. Don't tell him.

Sarah and Hillary, together

This is hysterical:

How not to count votes

Jake at Page One Kentucky tells Greg Stumbo to "get real here," saying that Stumbo only has 16 votes for House Speaker. And this from someone who fashions himself a "savvy" of observer of Kentucky politics. Who needs to get real?

In fact, Jakes say he "can prove" he doesn't have the votes. He is still apparently under the impression that he's a better vote counter than Stumbo because he has gone around asking reps where they are on it and they're telling him they're not committed.

Well, let's just says the first thing a lobbyist learns (and I've been one for 17 years) is that you can't trust what a legislator tells you. You can't lie to them, but they can and will lie to you with impunity. Some day we'll give Jake a primer on how such things work. But for now, we're just going to let experience teach him a little lesson.

The Democrats double standard

Why is it that when liberals want to put a woman in a position of importance, her gender is the only important consideration, but when conservatives want to do it, qualifications are all that matter?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Who got the "Bush Doctrine" wrong?

Several conservative writers have already weighed in on the question of who made a mistake in Charlie Gibson's interview with Sarah Palin--Gibson or Palin.

One was John Podhoretz:
For the record, when a distressed friend called to say he was made nervous by her failure to identify the Bush Doctrine off the bat, I had to stop for a moment and think about it because I wasn’t instantly sure whether the Bush Doctrine was the policy of preemption or the democratization of Arab lands. And I wrote an entire book about the Bush presidency. She answered it, after a pause, by assuming it was the “you’re either with us or with the terrorists” line Bush promulgated right after 9/11.

It turns out Charlie Gibson meant the preemption doctrine — but then, he didn’t know what he was talking about either, since he told her in the weirdly patronizing voice in which he interviewed her that it was enunciated in September 2002.

The doctrine of preemption was, in fact, enunciated in June 2002 at West Point; September 2002 was when Bush declared Saddam Hussein in violation of 16 U.N. resolutions and declared that it was the responsibility of the U.N. to unseat him.

In fact, ABC News' own site has several different versions of the Bush Doctrine.
Now comes this, from the person, as the author states, who first coined the expression, Charles Krauthammer:
The Times got it wrong. And Charlie Gibson got it wrong.

There is no single meaning of the Bush doctrine. In fact, there have been four distinct meanings, each one succeeding another over the eight years of this administration — and the one Charlie Gibson cited is not the one in common usage today.

He asked Palin, “Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?”

She responded, quite sensibly to a question that is ambiguous, “In what respect, Charlie?”

Sensing his “gotcha” moment, Gibson refused to tell her. After making her fish for the answer, he grudgingly explained to the moose-hunting rube that the Bush doctrine “is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense.”


I know something about the subject because, as the Wikipedia entry on the Bush doctrine notes, I was the first to use the term. In the cover essay of the June 4, 2001, issue of The Weekly Standard titled, “The Bush Doctrine: ABM, Kyoto, and the New American Unilateralism,” I suggested that the Bush administration policies of unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty and rejecting the Kyoto protocol, together with others, amounted to a radical change in foreign policy that should be called the Bush doctrine.

...If I were in any public foreign-policy debate today, and my adversary were to raise the Bush doctrine, both I and the audience would assume — unless my interlocutor annotated the reference otherwise — that he was speaking about Bush’s grandly proclaimed (and widely attacked) freedom agenda.

Not the Gibson doctrine of pre-emption.

...Yes, Palin didn’t know what it is. But neither does Gibson. And at least she didn’t pretend to know — while he looked down his nose and over his glasses with weary disdain, “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 phenom who presumes to play on their stage.
Part of the significance of Krauthammer's remark comes from the fact that he has not been a terribly enthusiastic supporter of McCain's choice of Palin.

Friday, September 12, 2008

KY education blogger sides with Page One against Bluegrass Institute

I can understand why Richard Day, the proprietor of Kentucky School News and Commentary, is impatient with the Bluegrass Institute because of what he feels is too high a level of vitriol. "I get my fill," says Day, "of the outrage-of-the-day mentality and petty name-calling that goes on regularly at the Bluegrass Institute blog now. Everybody's a liar, or a fraud - and always an educrat."

Well, I can understand Day's aversion to the hurling of epithets, although I haven't noticed any appreciably higher levels of name-calling from Bluegrass than any other similar kind of group that gets involved in public controversy. But what is curious is why he would pass judgment on the Bluegrass Institute and not Page One, Kentucky, the blog with which David Adams at Bluegrass recently got into a little spat.

Page One is a left-wing state blog with a strong penchant for muckraking--much of it quite good muckraking, in fact. But if your problem is name-calling and an "outrage-of-the-day" mentality, one wonders how Day could see it at Bluegrass but not at Page One. In fact, Bluegrass would have to put forth more effort that I think it is capable of to match the tastelessness and lack of care and caution in commenting on issues that has become common practice at Page One.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Newest slam on Palin: She's not really a woman

That's right. Thanks to Rod Dreher for pointing out this interesting article by Wendy Doniger at the Washington Post's On Faith:
Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman. The Republican party's cynical calculation that because she has a womb and makes lots and lots of babies (and drives them to school! wow!) she speaks for the women of America, and will capture their hearts and their votes, has driven thousands of real women to take to their computers in outrage. She does not speak for women; she has no sympathy for the problems of other women, particularly working class women.
Oh brother. And I love Dreher's retort:
Well, useful to get that learnt. If there's anybody I trust to define womanhood and to be sympathetic to the lives of working-class women, it's a divinity school professor in Chicago who has constructed womanhood ideologically.
Just more evidence that the reason they don't like Palin is the shattering of their ridiculous illusion that the women of this country really share their feminist resentment of Western civilization

The article is also interesting as a good example of all of the liberal shibboleths about Palin:
But I object strongly when anyone (and especially anyone with political power) tries to take their theology out in public, to inflict those private religious (or sexual) views on other people. In both sex and religion (which combine in the debates about abortion), Sarah Palin's views make me fear that the Republican party has finally lost its mind.
Where did Palin bring up religion? It seems to me that it is people like Doniger who are constantly bringing it up--and then only to bash other people over their heads with it. Isn't it strange that is the people who charge other with being obsessed with religion who are really the ones obsessed with it?
As for sex, the hypocrisy of her outing her pregnant daughter in front of millions of people, hard on the heels of her concealing her own pregnancy (her faith in abstinence applying, apparently, only to non-Palins), is nicely balanced by her hypocrisy in gushing with loving support of her teenage daughter after using a line-item veto to cut funding for a transitional home for teenage mothers in Alaska.
Outing her pregnant daughter? The woman was being attacked for supposedly covering up her daughter's pregnancy of Trig. Was she supposed to think they weren't going to go after her daughter for really being pregnant? Does it matter that she actually increased the funding for the transitional home for teenagers rather than reducing it?

Is Palin a rebuke to feminism?

One of the raging ironies about the Palin nomination is that for years the media has been trying to foist feminist women on the public as the appropriate models of what women should be, an attempt that has been met mostly by a collective feminine yawn. Now a conservative woman has been set before the public and many of those women who are supposed to harbor a secret desire to be like Gloria Steinem are enthusiastically joining the Palin bandwagon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obama third leading recipient of contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Barack Obama was the third leading recipient of campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The mortgage buyers contributed $105,849 to his campaigns since 1989.

This won't help his already imploding campaign.

The Democrats strange charge against Palin on the Bridge to Nowhere

The Democrats are accusing Sarah Palin of lying about opposing the "Bridge to Nowhere" on the grounds that, before she opposed it, she didn't oppose it. That's a rather strange argument. On that logic Barack Obama never stopped using cocaine, since, before, he stopped using it, he used it.

Here is South Carolina Sen. Jim Demint on Palin's record on the Bridge to Nowhere and a few other things.

YouTube pulls McCain "Lipstick" ad. Are they trying to help McCain or whut?

This campaign gets more interesting by the second.

I put up a post this morning that included the McCain campaign's ad attacking Obama for its "lipstick on a pig" remark. But this afternoon, when I got on to show a student of mine who wanted to see it, the link had disappeared. Come to find out, YouTube has pulled it because of complaints from Katie Couric, who appears in the ad. Someone else put it up and I changed the link, but who knows how long that will last.

Of course, all this does is to draw more attention to the ad. It is one more excuse for the McCain campaign to charge the media with being pro-Obama. Sheeez. With all the help his enemies are giving them, how can the McCain/Palin campaign lose?

Hell Hath No Fury: Watching the Obama campaign alienate half the electorate

The Democrats are in a very serious strategic bind: if they attack Palin, they anger women voters. If they don't attack her, they have to stand by helplessly and watch as her political star continues to rise. This is why the Palin pick will, in the end, prove to have been a political master stroke.

The Obama campaign strategy had been premised on completely different political fault lines. They had solved their woman problem when Obama defeated Hillary in the primary. But defeating Hillary was a manageable problem. Many women did not identify with Hillary. There was simply little danger that a significant percentage of women would ever see her--Washington insider that she was, as like them. That, and Hillary was a good girl and fell in line with the Obama campaign at their convention.

Besides, the Republicans wouldn't nominate a woman anyway. They thought.

Then came the Palin nomination. Now the Democrats are in a fix. The political realities have utterly changed, and the campaign strategy that they spent the past year formulating is completely obsolete. Still they appear loathe to discard it. If they don't, they're cooked.

The political world is totally different than it was just two weeks ago. There are things you could have said then, that you simply can't say now. Despite this, however, they just keep saying them. I have already said that I think Obama's "lipstick on a pig" remark was not an intentional slam on Palin, but a gaffe--but it's looking now like it could be a very costly one. Just Palin's appeal to women could put the Republicans over the top in the fall, but it is mistakes like this that could ensure it.

If you combine Palin's appeal to women with the anger at Obama's campaign that is already palpable because of what are perceived as unfair attacks on her, there is already enough momentum to propel the Republicans into the White House once again.

Take a look at this:

I'm tellin' ya folks, this could do the Democrats in. You can talk all you want about Palin's lack of experience and qualifications, and for all I know that may be right. That still remains to be seen. But all of that will be irrelevant if, because of politically inept Democratic attack rhetoric against this woman, the tick off half the electorate.

If it keeps going the way it's going, she won't have to win her debate with Biden. There will be millions of women rooting for her. If she wins, they cheer Palin; if she loses, they boo Biden. If there is one person in this campaign I would hate to be right now, it's Biden. He is in a no-win situation.

I literally don't know how the Democrats escape from this pincher movement the Republicans have performed.

So here's the question: Assuming I'm right (and my analysis isn't too much different from that of Willie Brown, Mayor of San Francisco), what should the Democrats do? If you were advising the campaign, how would you tell them to proceed from here?

Is the University of Louisville a degree mill?

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported yesterday that John Deasy, a superintendent in California and one of Robert Felner's cronies, received a PhD from the University of Louisville after completing only 9 units of coursework never completing the residency requirement, both of which are violations of university policy. Felner is the former education dean at U of L who is currently under investigation for misusing federal grant money.

The story came just as U of L President James Ramsey was trying to put the quietus on the negative PR the university had been receiving by making a long overdue public apology.

At some point someone is going to have to start questioning why it was that President Ramsey and Provost Shirley Willihnganz didn't have any clue about this until others from outside the university started snooping. The board too is going to have to start asking hard questions about how their university is being run before its reputation is irreparably harmed.

Oh, and it doesn't help that U of L's name is being dragged through the mud by national publications like the Chronicle of Higher Education either.

Palin: the Democrat's tar baby

In the Uncle Remus stories, B'rer Fox makes a trap for the arrogant and excitable B'rer Rabbit: a tar baby. B'rer Rabbit finds him along the road, says "Howdy", and when the tar baby doesn't respond, B'rer Rabbit gets mad and finally punches him. When his hand gets stuck, he hits with the other hand. When both his hands get stuck, he kicks, at which point he is completely subsumed in the stuff . The more he struggles with the tar baby, the more stuck he gets.

The Democrats would do well to review their children's literature. The more they attack Sarah Palin, the worse they look. Other than Obama's appeal to lay off Palin's personal life, they haven't made a good political decision in two weeks, and the McCain campaign has made a whole string of them.

They will wake up one morning and kick themselves for it.

More evidence the Democrats don't know what they're doing to themselves

I was speaking to a friend recently who is a staunch Democrat and who would be one of the last people to be sympathetic to anything the Republican's did. She was extremely irritated at the Obama campaign for its attacks on Palin. "I just think it's stupid for Obama to be attacking Palin. I want to know about the issues, not about all this personal stuff."

Interesting. I wonder how many other liberal Democratic women are thinking the same thing.

How will Palin affect other political races around the country?

One thing I haven't heard anyone address, and that is the effect of the Palin nomination on other races around the country: everything from Congress down to state legislative races. If the Republicans stay as energized as they seem to be now, there could be long coattails in all of these races, render the initial predictions of greater Democratic inroads in Congress and in other places obsolete.

The high Republican turnout Palin may bring about could spell national disaster for the Democrats.

The Democratic crack-up

The Democrats self-destruction is really something to behold. The latest evidence of it is Obama's remark about "lipstick on a pig." Sean Hannity wants to say it was an intentional reference to Palin. But I'm with Huckabee: I don't think it was.

It wasn't an intentional slam on Palin; what it was simply a gaffe--like the bit about his "Muslim faith". Obama wasn't making these gaffes just a couple of weeks ago, but now they seem to be happening daily as the McCain campaign picks up steam.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Is Biden ready to be president?

Let's hope Sarah Palin gives betters answers on foreign policy than Joe Biden does on the greatest moral issue of our time.

San Francisco mayor on Palin

The former beauty queen has some savvy democratic political operators shaking in their boots. Care of Commentary Magazine's blog, this from former California Speaker of the House and current mayor of San Francisco:
The Democrats are in trouble. Sarah Palin has totally changed the dynamics of this campaign. Period. Palin’s speech to the GOP National Convention on Wednesday has set it up so that the Republicans are now on offense and Democrats are on defense. And we don’t do well on defense. Suddenly, Palin and John McCain are the mavericks and Barack Obama and Joe Biden are the status quo, in a year when you don’t want to be seen as defending the status quo. From taxes to oil drilling, Democrats are now going to have to start explaining their positions. Whenever you start having to explain things, you’re on defense. I actually went back and watched Palin’s speech a second time. I didn’t go to sleep until 1:30 a.m. I had to make sure I got the lines right. Her timing was exquisite. She didn’t linger with applause, but instead launched into line after line of attack, slipping the knives in with every smile and joke. And she delivered it like she was just BS-ing on the street with the meter maid. She didn’t have to prove she was “of the people.” She really is the people. There is one thing she should have done: announced when her 17-year-old daughter and the teenage father of the girl’s unborn child are getting married and invited all of us to the wedding. It should be like Sunday at church.

Puritanism the source of the teen pregnancy epidemic?

Charles M. Blow, in the New York Times, has identified the source of the problem of high teen pregnancy rates in the U. S. as ... puritanism:
If there is a shame here, it’s a national shame — a failure of our puritanical society to accept and deal with the facts.
And we all know how high teen pregnancy rates were among the puritans, don't we?

8 Lies: The lengthening list of false charges against Sarah Palin

Liberal Democrats and their friends in the media have leveled charge after charge at Sarah Palin, none of which has actually had any basis in reality. They include:
  • That her child Trig was actually her daughter's child
  • That she was having an affair with a staffer
  • That she was a member of the Alaskan Independence Party
  • That she supported Pat Buchanan
  • That she slashed money for a program benefiting teen mother
And my personal favorite:
  • That she named her children after witches
Now we can add two more:
  • That she banned books at the local library
  • That she opposes mention of contraceptives in schools
But we should be careful about getting off topic and remember our Democratic talking points about the inaccuracies in Sarah Palin's speech.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sarah Palin cartoons from the Sunday papers

A collection of cartoons about the Palin nomination from the Sunday papers.

Are the Democrats sure they want this?

I suppose the taunting that the McCain-Palin campaign is receiving for holding their lipsticked pit bull on a tight leash is viewed as beneficial by the Obama campaign, but I wonder...

One of the reasons Palin has gotten the press she has gotten is because she keeps exceeding the low expectations the Democrats keep setting for her. Are they doing the same thing again with interviews with the press? They're going around giving everyone the impression that she can't speak off script and knows absolutely nothing about issues. So now all she needs to do is show up in a non-comatose state and she exceeds the expectations here political opponents have set for her.

Good job, guys.

She could bomb, of course, but I wonder what Obama's campaign strategists will be saying to themselves if she shows up on World News Tonight later this week and exceeds the expectations once again.

If Obama were the newly-picked running mate, would the Democrats be cautious about rushing him before the public?

I think the criticisms of the lack of access to Palin are perfectly appropriate, but I think it has less to do with Palin, as the critics seem to suggest, than with other factors. I would bet that if it were up to Palin, she would want the leash lengthened a bit. McCain's campaign people, on the other hand, obviously want to make sure not only of Palin's grasp of the issues, but also that she fully understands her role in the campaign and where McCain himself is on the issues so there is no confusion.

There are a lot of reasons you would want to keep the newly-acquired pit bull on a short leash, even if (and maybe especially) it wears lipstick.

Since her pick appears to have been a late game inspiration on the part of McCain, his campaign has to be nervous about her level of expertise--simply because she is an unknown commodity to them--as well as about her ability to complement McCain in the way they want.

Ten bucks says that if Joe Biden were at the top of the Democratic ticket and he picked a relatively unknown Black freshman senator from Illinois, the Democratic campaign people would be doing exactly the same thing--only liberals wouldn't be complaining about it.

Sarah Palin in gubernatorial debate on Alaskan public television

Sarah Palin's November 2, 2006 gubernatorial debate on Alaskan public television.

The Atlantic Enquirer: another tabloid attack on Palin falls flat

The Atlantic fires another tabloid attack on Palin, only to see it, like so many others, miss its target.

Francis Beckwith vs. Andrew Sullivan on the Dies Irae

Francis Beckwith on Andrew Sullivan's critique of Larry Croon, Sarah Palin's pastor, who had the temerity to utter what he believes:

In this case, an Atlantic.com writer seems to think (from the quote he publishes and the link to which it is sourced) that it is somehow controversial for Christians, including Gov. Palin, to be members of a church that believe that their theology is true, that it teaches a last judgment and that one ought to rely on Christ and his grace, both in word and in deed, in order to avoid such a fate. Apparently, the Atlantic writer also thinks that there is something prima facie outrageous when a church’s pastor speaks from the pulpit of a last judgment of the entire world that includes residents of all the Earth’s geographical regions including Wasilla, Alaska and the United States of America.

This, by the way, is called Christianity, and it is well-documented as an essential doctrine in the catechism of the Church of which the Atlantic writer aligns himself. It’s also in the Nicene Creed: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.” Surely, the Catholic Atlantic writer believes the Nicene Creed? Even Presbyterians believe it, for God’s sake!

Surely this will never happen if Palin is asked a foreign policy question

I wonder if, when Sarah Palin is asked a foreign policy question, she will say it is "above her pay grade"?

Update: More on Biden as Catholic moral philosopher.

A funny thing happened on the way to the coronation

Gallup, among others, has McCain-Palin moving ahead of Obama-Biden.

New Sarah Palin campaign ad

This is hysterical. The only danger is that Palin's detractors, whose credulity seems to know no bounds, will actually believe it:

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Why Sarah Palin is so popular

One of the reasons I have had so many posts on the Palin nomination is that about 25 percent of the posts in my Google Reader are discussing it (more like 50 percent right after it happened). If I had only to judge from the number of posts on my reader, this would have to be the news story of the year.

I wanted to point out what I think are the three interesting things about it, sort of in answer to the question, "Why is Sarah Palin so popular?"

The first reason is that the biggest part of the old Reagan coalition, those Republicans who became Republicans because of the fiscal and social conservatism that Reagan expounded, have lacked a leader since Reagan left the political stage. What you saw last week was a group of people who think they have finally found someone who really believes what they believe and who can articulate it, possibly as well as the Great Communicator himself.

The first reason is that social conservatives think they have found a leader; the second reason is that conservatives think they have found a champion. When Palin took it to the Democrats in her first national speech, conservatives realized that there was someone in their midst who knew how to wield the big stick and do it in an endearing way.

The third reason is less about Sarah Palin herself than it is about what the idea of Palin does to the Democrats. Conservatives are experiencing pure glee that a hockey mom from Alaska with five children is sending the Democrats into either fits of indignation or seizures of fear. The people who had been singing the hosannahs of a man with little experience himself have all of a sudden been seized by the realization of the importance of experience, although they don't appear to want to apply it to their own candidate. And realizing their predicament, they are now sending e-mail memos warning each other of the dangers of attacking her, although the e-mails have apparently not reached the inbox of Andrew Sullivan.

That all of this could be done by a woman in a party that the Democrats are always charging is anti-woman is just icing on the cake.

Iranian political professor on Obama's qualifications

Mohammad-Ali Fardanesh, an Iraniam political science professor is as impressed as many of Obama's Americans supporters with his qualifications:

“The problem with Mr. Obama is his education. He is a Harvard graduate. The Americans cannot accept him because they consider him an elitist - someone who thinks he is above others, because he is better educated. They don’t understand that his education would enable him to serve them better.”

Thanks to Roger Kimball at the Roger's Rules for this one.

Former head of Alaska National Guard on Palin

Former head of Alaska National guard on Palin:

Liberal online magazine advises, "If we make the election about Palin, we will lose"

Mickey Kaus at the liberal Slate advises the Democrats that they take on Sarah Palin at their peril:

Tomorrow's Marching Orders Today: If there were some sort of tacit liberal MSM conspiracy--a hypothetical!--Plan 1 was to knock Palin off the ticket out of the box with various unvetted home state scandals. Plan 2, the plan currently in place, is to force Palin to submit to "real interviews" where she will supposedly reveal her embarrassing unpreparedness for the office.

May I suggest to my fellow conspirators that we move directly on to Plan 3: Forget Palin. Stop writing about her. If we make the election about Palin, we will lose. She'll probably win her debate and will almost certainly handle the interviews well enough (to the satisfaction of the voters, at least, if not the experts). The election's not about Palin. It's about McCain. We can beat McCain. ...

Ramsey finally apologizes

U of L President James Ramsey has finally offered apologies for the people hurt by Robert Felner, the former education dean at the school, a man Ramsey, until very recently, ardently defended. If Ramsey had a clue about PR, he would have at least just shut up since there was an investigation going on. If he had been a competent administrator, he would have taken care of the situation before it became public. And if he and Provost Shirley Willihnganz had had a clue about how to recruit deans for their departments, they would have seen the red flags in his background.

The people close to this case refer to Felner as a "psychopath" who routinely engaged in sexual harassment and intimidation. As one person described it to me, "the financial fraud is the least of his offenses."

We're glad Ramsey has apologized, but why in the world did it have to wait until way after everyone else in the known world had figured it out?

Oh, and how many other incompetent deans do we have at U of L because Ramsey and his underlings can't distinguish a competent administrator for a psychopath?

Not Even Semi-Tough: Obama's defenders can dish it out, but apparently can't take it

More complaints from the people who want control of the world's greatest economic and military power wanting to know why the Republicans are being so mean to them.

Those issues-focused Democrats

In between giving the Republicans lectures on the importance of addressing the issues, the opponents of McCain and Palin are starting to issue policy statements on ...

... Cindy McCain's wardrobe.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Palin's withdrawal from the Republican ticket "a burning question"? With whom?

Andrew Sullivan, who is giving more and more indication that he lives on another planet altogether has a poll at his site asking whether Sarah Palin, who is now more popular than McCain or Obama, should withdraw from the Republican ticket. It is, Sullivan claims, "a burning question."

It is? I'm trying to detect a spark somewhere, but can't seem to find one.

Obama's work on swing sets and sandboxes more evidence of his qualifications to be president

This just in from the Worldwide Standard: Obama's experience ensuring swing sets and sandboxes free of glass at public parks during his time as a "community organizer" more evidence of his presidential qualifications:

It was the first step in an informal partnership between Obama's constituents and Friends of the Parks that led to renovations and increased security in a handful of far South Side parks and playgrounds.

Ensuring that swings have seats and sandboxes are free of glass might not seem requisite skills for a man who could be president of the United States. But associates say Obama's approach to the unglamorous task illustrates his style as a community organizer - an experience he cites as "the best education I ever had," qualifying him to unite a racially and socially fractured nation and "create change from the bottom up."

Take that, governor of Alaska!

Rasmussen: Palin more popular than McCain or Obama

"Remember where you live," says Michael Moore on the Palin nomination

Michael Moore (of all people) on the Palin nomination:
But before everyone gets all smug and self-righteous about the Palin selection, remember where you live. You live in a nation of gun owners and hunters. You live in a country where one out of three girls get pregnant before they are 20. You live in a nation of C students. Knocking Bush for being a C student only endeared him to the nation of C students. Knock Palin for having kids, for having a kid who's having a baby, for anything that is part of her normalness -- a normalness that looks very familiar to so many millions of Americans -- well, you do this at your own peril. Assuming she's still on the ticket two weeks from now, she will be a much tougher opponent than anyone expects.

Media still misrepresenting Palin's positions

Time Magazine today says the following:
And they [young evangelicals] would disagree with Palin's decision to use her line-item veto as Governor to slash funding for an Alaska shelter that serves teen mothers.
despite the fact that it has already been shown that Palin did not "slash funding" to the shelter, but reduced the amount of the increase in the funding of the shelter.

Spokesman for liberal establishment says it doesn't exist anymore

David Gergen says that the Republicans are targeting a liberal establishment that "doesn't exist anymore." Is this guy for real?

The NEA, one of the nation's biggest entrenched interests, to spend the big bucks on Obama

The National Education Association, one of the entrenched interests primarily responsible for the stagnation of education in this country, is going to spend $50 million to support the Candidate for Change and his political allies.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Will McCain be a drag on the ticket?

I remember sitting in May's Bay, the den in our fraternity at the University of California, Santa Barbara, watching Ronald Reagan accept the Republican nomination for president in the summer of 1980. Reagan had been the object of relentless attacks in the media portraying him as a shallow actor who was too far right to win a national election.

He wound up his speech, and then paused and said he was going to do something he had been advised against doing, but was going to do anyway. Then he asked everyone to bow their heads while he prayed. This was in the days when the media was completely ruled by liberals. You just didn't do this kind of thing on TV. It was prohibited in the First Amendment. Well, okay, it wasn't really, but it should be.

He said "Amen", and thanked his audience for their support for him. The guy sitting next to me said, "Well, what do you think?" Before the speech, I had been convinced by the constant media drone about the former two-term California governor and his dim prospects for election.

But after seeing Reagan's performance, I turned to my friend and said, "It's going to be landslide."

It was.

I got the same feeling last night listening to Sarah Palin's speech. The Party has been waiting for another Reagan--another interesting, vibrant, exciting, authentic, likable character it can use to put a face on its cause. They found one Wednesday night. I could be wrong, but I think what we are seeing here is the emergence of a legitimate conservative folk hero. Our politics are populated with dull, boring figures who think in jargon and talk in platitudes.

Just look at Obama's running mate.

Some Republicans had been worried they had chosen a running mate who would find herself with a deer in the headlights look when the national spotlight was turned on her. But when the national spotlight was actually switched on, there was Sarah field dressing the rhetorical carcass of Barack Obama.

The question is no longer whether Palin was the right choice. The only question now is whether McCain will be a drag on the ticket.

Meanwhile the Obama camp clearly doesn't know how to handle this woman. Here is Obama's response:
The speech that Governor Palin gave was well delivered, but it was written by George Bush's speechwriter and sounds exactly like the same divisive, partisan attacks we've heard from George Bush for the last eight years.
Wonder who wrote that for him.

And divisiveness? Was Obama listening at his own convention? Do the Democrats expect anyone to take them seriously when, right after spending a year verbally savaging George W. Bush over and over again, they issue a formal objection that the Republicans are being mean to them? Is there anyone who thinks that a candidate who thinks it is out of bounds when his political opponents criticize him at their national convention is really ready to face down terrorism and a newly expansionist Russia?

Osama bin Ladan is undoubtedly shaking in his boots at the prospect of offending Obama's tender sensibilities. Vladimir Putin must be hurrying troops out of Georgia so Obama won't lose any sleep.

But there you have it. A man who for some reason has been coronated as a foreign policy expert by a fawning media and who thinks it is inappropriate for people he is running against to disagree with him, and a woman who, although she has no unrealistic pretensions about being an "expert" on anything, and who, after enduring a week of vicious assaults on her character and her family, isn't afraid to take on the whole Washington/media axis.

And we're supposed to feel more comfortable in a hostile world with the man in question rather than the woman. Go figure.

"Our mama beats your Obama"

Todays headline in the Anchorage Daily News.

The Authenticity Gap

Before last night a lot of Republican operatives were wringing their hands about the prospect of Sarah Palin going up against Joe Biden in a vice presidential debate. If those same hands are being rubbed together right now, they should be, and here's why.

Joe Biden's chief weakness is that he comes off as inauthentic. If you watched the judicial hearings for Robert Bork or any of the Supreme Court nominees in recent years, it is plain as day. He seems smarmy and arrogant. He exudes a lack of genuineness from his shoes all the way up the ends of his hair plugs. I can't think of an easier target for Sarah Palin's homespun charisma.

Call it the "Authenticity Gap".

The Democrats are going to have to retool Biden's demeanor, and they only have until October 2 to do it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Yuval Levin: "A deep rot at the heart of the political press"

Yuval Levin on the media's treatment of Sarah Palin.

Alan Wolfe writing about something he doesn't understand

Alan Wolfe, writing in The New Republic's The Plank today, on the Bristol Palin situation. Last week, Wolfe charged that Palin had named her children after witches. Hmmm. He does apologize for the mistake in this article, but his arguments against the religious right here are not much more convincing. I'll be commenting on them later.

His first point is that he thinks the Palin nomination will split the conservatives:
The conservative triumph in this country is frequently attributed to "fusionism," the ability of a politicians such as Ronald Reagan to bring together traditionalists, libertarians, and cold warriors into one movement. The cold warriors went the way of the cold war, and even if they had not, the neoconservative impetus to which it gave birth has lost all intellectual credibility. Now Sarah Palin's life has already begun to render asunder the remaining two elements of the coalition.
Trouble is, he offers no evidence for this. In fact, the two elements of the party seem to be coming together over Palin. The social conservatives are solidly for her, and anyone who thinks the more socially liberal wing of the party is against her needs to listen to the Hannity and Colmes interview of Rudy Giuliani last night in which the former New York Mayor excoriated the media for its treatment of Palin.

There is opposition to the Palin nomination within the Party, but to say that it is splitting the Party over ideological lines is, at best, a drastic overstatement.

But Wolfe skirts the evidence for his assertion because he is on his way to the more important job of adding his two cents to the case that, in defending Palin, social conservatives are hypocrites:

It may seem like ages ago but during the Clinton administration, conservative traditionalists were everywhere. The nuclear family is sacrosanct. Women should shun the workforce and become full-time moms. Kids should obey their parents and, if they choose not to, discipline, including harsh measures, ought to be applied. Sex outside of marriage is strictly forbidden. Our culture is spinning wildly out of control, and sexual liberation, the worst byproduct of the God-awful 1960s, is the cause. And, by the way, abortion is murder and should be forbidden.

All that is left, if the Palin controversy is any indication, is abortion. Palin's defenders, far from being traditionalists, are moral relativists. We should not rush to judgment. It is important to understand the pressures that families face. Love is all you need. Forgive in order to forget. People are entitled to their privacy, even, if not especially, in the bedroom. The state should not be in the business of telling people what to do. It sounds like the language of the left, but it has also had long resonance on the libertarian right. When the McCain campaign said that Bristol Palin had a choice, it was correct. These days we all have choices. The fact that we do has always bothered conservative traditionalists.

Look, as a social conservative myself, I readily admit that there are plenty of things social conservatives do to invite ridicule--but defending Palin isn't one of them. Wolfe's analysis betrays a basic misunderstanding of how social conservatives think about these issues. His basic mistake is he thinks that the belief in sin and the belief in forgiveness are somehow inconsistent, and that the act of understanding and forgiving sin are evidence of moral relativism.

Wolfe can't seem to distinguish between the forgiveness of sin, an act which has apparently gone on in the Palin household, and the disbelief in sin altogether, which is the habit of modern liberal secularists.

Palin isn't acting as if her daughter's pregnancy wasn't the result of sin. We don't have any basis upon which to say exactly what happened within the confines of Palin's home over this, but there is no reason to believe that she and her husband did anything other than help their daughter understand that she did something wrong and forgive her for it. Wolfe, apparently mystified over how such a process works, somehow views this--and the acknowledgment of it by her supporters--as relativism.

Go figure.

Wolfe's basic problem is that he violates the first rule of criticism: understand what you are criticizing. Of course there are those, whether Wolfe is one of them I don't know, who would fault the Palins for not giving their daughter a preachy sermon on using contraceptives and telling her not to forget next time.

I assume Wolfe would probably be equally puzzled if he pondered the prevalence of crisis pregnancy centers all over the country who are doing exactly the same thing: dealing with people who made mistakes and giving them help and compassion.
Sarah Palin's nomination is a public service. No longer will we hear lectures from the likes of Newt Gingrich telling poor women on welfare how to conduct their sex lives. Focus on the Family will have to focus on a different kind of family. William Bennett has no virtues left to write about. At long last our national nightmare over sexual hypocrisy has come to an end, and we can all thank John McCain for that.
This kind of rhetoric doesn't even rise to the level of criticism. It is the employment of crude stereotypes for the purpose of petty politics, an art in which Wolfe has proved himself a skilled practitioner.
But it is a charge that has a long pedigree. It is dignifying the charge too much to cast it in terms of a legitimate argument, but for purposes of illustration here it is:
People who believe in sin sin themselves
Therefore, they must not really believe in sin
The flaw should be obvious. In fact, the way you become a Believer in Sin is to acknowledge you commit it yourself and that the only way you get rid of it is to admit you do and try not to do it again at which point other people should back off.

This is in contrast to the Opposing Belief that there is no such thing as sin, and therefore no such thing as forgiveness. There is only hypocrisy, which, despite their professed disbelief in it, this school of thought treats as sin.

It appears Wolfe is squarely in the latter camp.