Friday, October 31, 2008

Is who to vote for a scientific question?

Nature magazine has endorsed Barack Obama. That's Nature magazine, the one that deals with issues of science.

If Nature was endorsing candidates on the basis of where they stood on issues that affected scientific progress or on how they would affect the amount of dollars for scientific research, it would be easy to see its motivations. These would of course put the magazine in the role of a special interest, but at least it would make some sense.

But Nature says that this is not why it is endorsing a candidate:
There is no open-and-shut case for preferring one man or the other on the basis of their views on these matters. This is as it should be: for science to be a narrow sectional interest bundled up in a single party would be a terrible thing. Both sides recognize science's inspirational value and ability to help achieve national and global goals. That is common ground to be prized, and a scientific journal's discussion of these matters might be expected to stop right there.
So why does Nature magazine endorse Obama? Because he more closely reflects the "values of scientific enquiry." That's right, science apparently encompasses values:
... science is bound by, and committed to, a set of normative values — values that have application to political questions. Placing a disinterested view of the world as it is ahead of our views of how it should be; recognizing that ideas should be tested in as systematic a way as possible; appreciating that there are experts whose views and criticisms need to be taken seriously: these are all attributes of good science that can be usefully applied when making decisions about the world of which science is but a part.
In what way is science "bound by, and committed to, a set of normative values"? Science is bound by values? How? According to what definition of science can you say that it involves values in any way? Scientists can be bound by and commited to values, but science itself? A scientist can adhere to a set of values, but not insofar as he is a scientist. He can adhere to them insofar as he is a man, or as he is a philosopher, or as he is a citizen, but not a scientist.

Any values that "science" possesses are derived from something other than science, since science itself stays exclusively on the fact side of the fact/value distinction. The Nature editorial suggests this, but, in the very same paragraph contradicts it. It says one of the "values" of science is placing a "disinterested view of the world as it is ahead of our views of how it should be..." This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. "Values" involve precisely how things "should be." That's what values are.

And what is a political endorsement anyway except a statement saying who people should vote for?

The Nature editorial even talks about science's "core values":
Writ larger, the core values of science are those of open debate within a free society that have come down to us from the Enlightenment in many forms, not the least of which is the constitution of the United States.
The values of open debate have nothing to do with science. They are entirely ethical or political concerns.

Why do scientists say such stupid things? The biggest reason is this: As soon as science starts talking about itself, it is outside its area of expertise. If science is the empirical study of natural things and processes, then, since science is not a natural thing or process, a scientist can't say anything about it--at least not as a scientist. If science is not an object of science (which, according to the definition of science, it can't be), then whatever a scientist says about it he says as something other than a scientist.

You can't talk scientifically about science. You can talk philosophically about science, or ethically about science, or emotionally about science, but the one thing you can't do is talk scientifically about it. And one of the most common mistakes scientists make is to forget this.

The Nature editorial endorsing Obama betrays a complete lack of understanding of science's inherant limitations and a completely confused set of notions about what science is. That's what happens when people try to pretend they're not being political partisan when, in fact, they are.

The editors at Nature should stop hiding behind their laboratory smocks and just come right out and say that they are pushing their own personal political agendas--political agendas that lie outside the scientific enterprise. Anything less just undermines their own credibility.

Sarah Palin and the fruit fly controversy

When you start hearing criticism of Sarah Palin for her position on fruit flies, you know it's time for the election to be over--just so the liberals can have some time to chill and get some oxygen to their brains.

Abortion: a disqualifying issue

A number of years ago, William F. Buckley, Jr. was discussing the abortion issue with a guest on his program, "Firing Line." The guest challenged Buckley's assertion that a conservative should not vote for a candidate who supported abortion. The guest charged that this was "single issue" voting.

Not at all, said Buckley. "Abortion is not a single issue," he explained: "It is a disqualifying issue."

If you had, say, a candidate with whom you agreed about everything, but he was in favor of bringing back slavery, Buckley asked, would you vote for him? No. Because slavery is a disqualifying issue.

Abortion operates in the same way (or should) for a voter who believes that life begins at conception. As Buckley explained, a prolife voter should no more vote for a pro-abortion candidate than he would for a person who favored infanticide--because that's exactly what abortion is.

Is the world coming around to Wendell Berry?

Harold Goddard once said: "The world is forever catching up to Shakespeare, only to fall behind him again." I don't think the modern world has yet caught up with the 73 year-old Wendell Berry, but Rod Dreher, writing in the Dallas Morning News, says he thinks it might be about to.

I told my wife the other day that Wendell Berry is the only author whose books I read for their own sake, not for anything I might glean from them to "use". They are not, in that sense, "practical," and yet, saying that, I realize they have changed my life and the way I think--and ultimately the way I do things--more than any other.

I find it increasingly remarkable how many of my conservative friends, some of whom are what my son calls "Rush babies," have been discovering Wendell Berry. What happens in their thinking about life and culture--I should perhaps rather call it an attitude--I can only describe (having gone through it myself) as akin to a Copernican revolution.

One friend told me, "I have spent the better part of my adult life studying C. S. Lewis. I'm spending the rest of it studying Wendell Berry."

Here is Dreher, writing about how Berry answers the very problems of which today's economic crisis has made us painfully aware:
Could any man be less relevant to the politics and culture of our time than an old Kentucky poet-farmer who is so out of step with the times that he refuses to use a computer and still tills his earth using draft horses? And yet, given the converging crises of this extraordinary moment in American history, it just might be that in the winter of a long and honorable career, Wendell Berry's moment has arrived.
Check out the rest of this wonderful article here.

The best looking site on the web

I marvel at it every time I make a visit to The Daily Beast. It is simply the best looking website on the net. Not only the that, but the content is as good as the format. It's what we want to be when we grow up.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chicago considering setting up gay-only schools?

Chicago is reportedly thinking about setting up homosexual-only schools as a "safe haven" for gays and lesbians. We're not entirely sure what they're supposed to be keeping them safe from. Perhaps the fawning and flattery towards gays from obsequious school officials and an ideologically sycophantic media has finally become too much for them and they just want some peace and quiet.

Back to premodernism: While postmodernism buries modernism, St. Thomas is still relevant

Why postmodernism's critique of modernism is irrelevant to Thomism. Another great post from Just Thomism.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Chart of National Debt growth

Thanks to Sophistpundit for pointing this one out. What a chart! Click on it and see it in all its economic glory:

If Obama failed with $10 million in education dollars, can he be trusted with billions?

The CATO Institute on the Obama's failed education initiative in Chicago and what it means for the country if he's elected.

What McCain's health credit plan would do

Another great chart from Harvard economist Greg Mankiw:

Is Sarah Palin stupid? No, says former Ms. Magazine editor

I promise not to ever do this again, but here is a former editor in chief of Ms. Magazine, writing in the Daily Beast, on Palin's critics:
It's difficult not to froth when one reads, as I did again and again
this week, doubts about Sarah Palin's “intelligence,” coming especially
from women such as PBS's Bonnie Erbe, who, as near as I recall, has not
herself heretofore been burdened with the Susan Sontag of Journalism
That's one of those comments you always imagine someone blowing the smoke from the end of her pen after she finishes writing it.  Elaine Lafferty makes some very interesting observations about Palin after spending some time with her.  "What is often called her 'confidence,'" says Lafferty, "is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Question: Should voters use abortion as a litmus test?

Answer: Yes.

What happened at the NKU mock trial of the creationist teacher

Someone complained in the comments section of a previous post that I had not given an update on the mock trial of a creation teacher at Northern Kentucky University event.

Here is the account of the event from P. Z. Myers blog Pharyngula, a pro-evolution blog. The worst the correspondent seemed to be able to say was that one of the qeustioners was a "plant" for one of the creationist witnesses during the Q&A time at the end of the trial. His evidence for the person being a plant was that he read his question from a piece of paper (and we know people never read questions from a piece of paper unless they're plants, right?).

At the end, the audience voted on whether the teacher should get her job back. Here are the results, also from Pharyngula:

36%Believe she should remain fired.
2%Believe she should remain fired, but for other reasons.
4%Believed should she keep her job, providing she stop including young earth science research as part of her teaching.
28%Believed she should keep her job, if she agrees to make it clear when teaching young earth research that most scientists reject that research and accept evolution as the explanation for the origins of the Earth and its plant and animal life.
31%Should be given her job back unconditionally (that is, she should be permitted to continue presenting research by young earth scientists that challenges evolution).

Alger Hiss and the Permanent War

The public confrontation between Alger Hiss and Whitaker Chambers was one of the great flash points of the Cold War.  Chambers, a journalist, charged Hiss with being a communist spy in the state department.  How did Chambers know?  He was in the same communist cell that Hiss was him, and actually worked with him in the Soviet espionage effort.

Hiss eventually went to jail--on perjury charges.  But Chambers account of the whole episode, his book Witness, will go down as one of the greatest autobiographies of the 20th century.  Chambers was not only a former Soviet agent, he was a truly great writer.

Meanwhile, there are still liberals in denial about Hiss's guilt.  During the Cold War, it was part of the blood oath liberals apparently swore to one another as part of the general campaign to either support or enable the Soviet Union.  It's just what you did if you were on the political left: it was part of what it meant to be a liberal.

But the case against Hiss was based on compelling evidence, the case in his favor on ideological sympathy. The case against him was buttressed by the otherwise inexplicable promosthinary warbler and the Woodstock typewriter (you'll have to read the accounts of the case to get the full import of these); the case in his favor by the fact that he never confessed and that he was a nice guy.

Today, despite the growing evidence from foreign intelligence files and other sources confirming Hiss's involvement in espionage, his son, Tony, carries on the fight for his father's vindication.  It's a touching, but ultimately tragic effort.

Read Matthew Richer's informative account on First Principles

New York fessing up to its role in the slave trade

Southerners are used to receiving self-righteous lectures from Yankees about slavery. The most recent by the normally sensible John Mark Reynolds. But now it looks like we might have to endure their confessions. New York, it turns out, is fessing up to its own role in the tragedy, thanks, ironically, to multiculturalism:
Prominent northern merchant, industrial and banking families built the ships, hired the captains and crews and financed the expeditions that snared millions of African men, women and children for forced labor in the Americas. Wealthy Northerners then used their profits to first fund the southern plantation system and then politically promote slaveholder goals. Northern capital, ships and business acumen carried cotton, sugar, rice and other plantation crops to world markets, and produced the chains and whips needed by planters and overseers. “I hear the sound of the hammer, I see the smoke of furnaces where manacles and fetters are forged for human hands,” said Senator Daniel Webster. He was standing in Boston when he spoke.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What McCain's and Obama's tax plans will do for your incentive to work

Harvard economist Greg Mankiw using the Walls Street Journal's analysis of the the tax plans of Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama to explain what each plan will do for your incentive to work:
Let me try to put each tax plan into a single number. Let's suppose Greg Mankiw takes on an incremental job today and earns a dollar. How much, as a result, will he leave his kids in T years?

The answer depends on four tax rates. First, I pay the combined income and payroll tax on the dollar earned. Second, I pay the corporate tax rate while the money is invested in a firm. Third, I pay the dividend and capital gains rate as I receive that return. And fourth, I pay the estate tax when I leave what has accumulated to my kids.

Let t1 be the combined income and payroll tax rate, t2 be the corporate tax rate, t3 be the dividend and capital gains tax rate, and t4 be the estate tax rate. And let r be the before-tax rate of return on corporate capital. Then one dollar I earn today will yield my kids:


For my illustrative calculations, let me take r to be 10 percent and my remaining life expectancy T to be 35 years.

If there were no taxes, so t1=t2=t3=t4=0, then $1 earned today would yield my kids $28. That is simply the miracle of compounding.

Under the McCain plan, t1=.35, t2=.25, t3=.15, and t4=.15. In this case, a dollar earned today yields my kids $4.81. That is, even under the low-tax McCain plan, my incentive to work is cut by 83 percent compared to the situation without taxes.

Under the Obama plan, t1=.43, t2=.35, t3=.2, and t4=.45. In this case, a dollar earned today yields my kids $1.85. That is, Obama's proposed tax hikes reduce my incentive to work by 62 percent compared to the McCain plan and by 93 percent compared to the no-tax scenario. In a sense, putting the various pieces of the tax system together, I would be facing a marginal tax rate of 93 percent.

The bottom line: If you are one of those people out there trying to induce me to do some work for you, there is a good chance I will turn you down. And the likelihood will go up after President Obama puts his tax plan in place. I expect to spend more time playing with my kids. They will be poorer when they grow up, but perhaps they will have a few more happy memories.

George Gilder on why we should be optimistic about the economy

George Gilder can always be counted upon for a positive view of just about anything, but particularly on the economy. Here he is once again explaining why things aren't as bad as they seem.

Because the U.S. remains
the world's largest economy and still leads the world in business and
technological creativity, the current crisis is mostly confined to
boondoggles of finance. It will pass rapidly and evolve into a new
boom. Emerging is a parallel unregulated financial system based on
entrepreneurial creativity and invention.

At the heart of this multitrillion-dollar engine of growth are 741
venture capital firms that traffic in creativity as a business. These
firms command $257 billion under management and have launched companies
generating $2 trillion-plus in revenues. Complementing the venturers
are some 10,000 hedge funds and private equity players, with upwards of
$2 trillion under management. Like everything else, the hedge funds are
down this year. But collectively losing 12%, they have succeeded in
preserving the bulk of their capital. More important, these funds
represent a vast laboratory of capitalist ferment and experimentation
beyond the heavy hand of politics. (Full disclosure: I run several
hedge funds and have financial interests in two companies discussed
below--Seldon Technologies and iCrete.)

At some 0.2% of U.S. GDP, the amount of venture capital is tiny
compared with the oceans of debt and money commanded by other
institutions. But venture funds are fertile and catalytic. Data
gathered and tracked by Thomson Financial shows that the revenues of
companies created by the venture industry generated 17.6% of U.S. GDP
in 2006. For every venture dollar invested between 1970 and 2001,
venture-backed companies produced $7.90 in U.S. revenue in 2006.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why do people think Obama is a Muslim?

I was quoted in a story today in the Lexington Herald-Leader on why so many people still think Obama is a Muslim.  My comment was simply that his name is "Barack Hussein Obama" for crying out loud.  If don't know that he's not a Muslim, that alone would give you the general impression that he was.

But Larry Forgy's remark was the best:
I know he's not a practicing Muslim but, to me, his preacher, Jeremiah Wright, sounds more like Malcolm X than Billy Graham.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Educators for Bill Ayers

3,000 educators signed a statement in support of Bill Ayers. Does that say more about Bill Ayers, or this country's educators?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Will the creation/evolution be fair?

As a commenter on the previous post about tonight's mock trial at Northern Kentucky University has pointed out, those who have doubts about Darwinism shouldn't necessarily be pleased with the debate from a practical standpoint. According to Art (who is a UK Professor of science, I believe), the gentleman who is cast in the role of the defense's chief witness is "an honest-to-goodness nut case, a charlatan whose ideas wander way, way beyond the bounds of earnest intellectual discourse."

Of course, sometimes I get the impression that Art might consider anyone who doesn't accept Darwinian theory as a nut case and a charlatan, but I'm perfectly willing to take that back if he has more specific criteria (which he's welcome to mention here).

Here is the press copy on the man in question:
Scott's chief witness will be the real-life Dr. Ben Scripture, who received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Notre Dame in1998. Dr. Scripture has earned degrees from the University of California at Berkeley (a A.B. in zoology) and Grace Theological Seminary (M.Div.). Dr. Scripture has published articles in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Journal of Molecular Biology. He hosts weekly radio programs, "Scripture on Creation" and "That's What Scripture Says" on radio stations in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Indianapolis, and on the Good News Network stations covering the southeastern region of the U.S.
On the one hand, he's apparently credentialed, but on the other, he is apparently at the far right end of the spectrum on the issue, believing in a literal six-day creation. I don't happen to share that view, but I also don't think someone is a nut case for believing it.

It would be interesting to know what person Art considers to be the least nutty non-charlatan representative of the creationist side.

But Art's main point has to do with the question of whether the creationist side will be adequately represented. I have been around long enough to know that when such "debates" take place under the auspices of institutions that are hostile to those views, often the worst representatives are chosen to give the unpopular view. Art is right about that. If you doubt it, just go back and watch PBS's "Judgment Day".

Whether this is one of those cases remains to be seen I suppose. But, as I mention on the other post, there are two questions here: the first is the question of free and open discussion if important issues, and the second is the question of whether that discussion is done in a fair and representative way.

We already know where the pro-evolution side is on the question of free and open discussion in our educational institutions: they're against it. Whether the institution now promoting the free and open discussion does it fairly is something we'll have to see about.

Darwinists who don't want to debate

If you thought the scientific community was a place of free and open discussion, you'd better think again. Northern Kentucky University recently announced a mock trial involving a fictional public high school teacher who is fired for teaching creationism in a biology class. The program is part of a series the university is sponsoring on controversial issues. But there are some people who don't want the debate to happen at all.

According to Inside Higher Ed, NKU University president James C. Votruba has received hundreds of e-mails asking him to call off the debate. It isn't the conservatives who are complaining, says the article, "scientists are." “Evolution is science and creationism is faith,” Vortuba told the online education magazine, but, he added, that's no reason to be afraid of a debate on the issue.

But there are those in the scientific community who think otherwise, and their voices seem to be growing louder by the day. “What this really is is an attempt to contrive a debate between science and superstition in which the superstition side gets to pretend they have equal status. [sic] And, of course, science issues are not settled in a courtroom, ever,” said PZ Myers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota at Morris, whose weblog Pharyngula, purports to be a watchdog on anti-evolution activity.

Myers is just one of many voices that in recent years have tried shout down any debate about issues involving human development and origins on the grounds that any debate would give undeserved credibility to the anti-Darwinist side. The dogmatic tone Myers strikes is one being heard increasingly among those who hold to Darwinism, the reigning paradigm in the scientific community.

Earlier this year, advocates of Darwinism strongly opposed a bill passed by the Louisiana State Legislature that advocated objectivity, logical analysis, and critical thinking skills in the discussion of science and other controversial issues in state schools, claiming that the measure was a thinly veiled attempt to impose creationism in the classroom.

When you are reduced to arguing that objectivity is a creationist plot, you'd better start revising your public relations strategy. And when you have to abandon the very principles that you advocate on every other occasion in order to protect your beliefs, it's probably time for an intellectual gut check.

Tolerance and diversity are the academic watchwords when it comes to views that challenge other dominant paradigms, so why are they abandoned so quickly when it comes to discussion of controversial issues like evolution?

Why is there such a fear of debate?

"Within the larger scientific community, the issue is settled, but in the public policy arena, it’s not a settled issue,” Mark Neikirk, executive director of the university’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement, told Inside Higher Ed. Scripps Howard, along with the university’s law school, is sponsoring the event. “In the real world, there is a public policy debate over how to handle this topic. Many Americans believe in intelligent design. Many Americans believe it should be taught."

Advocates of Darwinism are understandably frustrated. Despite the fact that they have had control of the nation's science education for decades, a majority of American's still hold to some form of creationism, or at least intelligent design, a broader theory that would include creationism but also includes those who belief in some form of evolution guided by a designer.

Maybe one of the reasons there are so many people in this country who maintain a suspicion of Darwin's theory is the behavior of those who are its most ardent advocates. If the evidence for Darwinism is as airtight as its advocates claim, then why are they so opposed to the discussion of the issue in an academic forum?

In other words, their failure to convince the larger public may turn out to be their own fault.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jon Stewart needs to give himself the lectures

In one of his frequent fits of hypocrisy, Jon Stewart hurled the F bomb at Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin during a talk to a college audience in Boston, Mass. last Friday.  Granted it was in response to a stupid--and undoubtedly unintentional--gaffe on the part of Palin, but it's hard to figure how Stewart's very intentional obscenity contributed anything meaningful to the discussion.

The incident would be unremarkable if it weren't for the fact that this is the same guy who showed up on Crossfire a while back and gave Tucker Carlson a lecture on demeaning the public discourse.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Intelligent Design opponents getting Orwellian on us

The Louisiana Coalition for Science, fresh off its campaign to try to convince the public that objectivity is a creationist plot, is now claiming that the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), which passed last June, is once again pushing the bounds of logic. Barbara Forrest, the philosopher of science turned crusader against Intelligent Design who makes up at least 50 percent of the group, is now arguing that LSEA is a religious law because it specifies that it isn't:

One of the clearest indications that the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) is intended to advance the religious agenda of the Discovery Institute (DI) and the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), the organizations that jointly promoted this legislation, is the law’s inclusion of a religion disclaimer that comes directly from DI’s doublespeak-titled “Model Academic Freedom Statute on Evolution.”

Here is DI’s disclaimer:

Section 7. Nothing in this act shall be construed as promoting any religious doctrine, promoting discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promoting discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.

Here is the disclaimer in the LSEA, now Louisiana Act 473 [pdf], which the Louisiana House and Senate passed as SB 733 and which Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law on June 25, 2008:

D. This Section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.

There you have it. The law says it isn't religious, and the Discovery Institute says such laws shouldn't be religious, therefore it is a religious law. If this kind of logic is unfamiliar to you, then you haven't been reading the pronouncements of the Louisiana Coalition for Science.

Forrest cites this as an example of "doublespeak", the Orwellian practice of saying something to using language to misrepresent the truth. She needs to look up "doublethink", the practice of affirming two contradictory beliefs at one time.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Liberals: Plumbers aren't people who fix pipes

This is just priceless. 

Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden is charging that Joe the Plumber is not a plumber.  And surely a guy who spends so much time at Home Depot knows a plumber when he sees one.

Why isn't Joe a plumber?  Well, just flip over to today's New York Times.  Joe is not a plumber, it turns out, because a) he's not licensed by the government; and b) he isn't in a union.

In Liberaldom, apparently, fixing pipes is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for being a plumber, whereas having a government license and being a union member is.

Oh, and then there's the matter of back taxes.  Joe owes some.  Proof positive, if we didn't have it before, that Joe is not a plumber.

If this reasoning doesn't make sense to you, it will after Nov. 4, when these people take over.

ISI's new blog: First Principles

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute, my favorite conservative organization,  has a new blog: "First Principles."  I haven't had a chance to poke around yet, but if it is like everything else the boys over there do, it is bound to be excellent.  Check it out.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Why McCain will lose tonight's debate

Sarah Palin won her debate with Joe Biden not primarily because she did well (she did), but because the expectations for her were so low going in. The expectations for McCain's performance tonight are so high, it is simply impossible for him to meet them. The talk is that this has to be a knockout blow for the Arizona Senator--this for a politician whose penchant for negotiation and compromise make knockouts a hard thing to achieve.

Even if he does well, it won't be good enough.

Listen for commentators to be saying things like, "This had to be a decisive win for McCain, and clearly he didn't accomplish that."

Giving the foxes the keys to the henhouse

The government is now going into the business of bank ownership. The idea, I'm hearing, is that the government gets "nonvoting" equity shares, which, theoretically, is supposed to make everyone feel comfortable about government ownership of private businesses. But anyone who knows how businesses work knows that that is a distinction without much of a difference. Does anyone really believe that if someone has a significant ownership interest in a company they don't have a say in what goes on?

What is scary about this is that, although banks certainly share blame in all this by giving out 100 percent loans--and increasing their vulnerability by lending out, in some cases, over 100 percent of their assets in loans, the government itself is the entity that has pushed for the policies that brought the financial crisis about.

Now we're giving those very people even more control of the banking system. This kind of cure would very well kill the patient.

The Acorn controversy

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had an editorial on the ACORN controversy. Along with Stanley Kurtz's exposé on the group in National Review, the two articles can serve as a primer on why this matters. But whether Obama had a past association with the group seems to me to be a secondary issue. The primary issue is whether he is being honest about it. There is an inauspicious history of presidents who had a tendency to cover things up.

Here is (to me) the key paragraph in the Journal's editorial:
The Obama campaign is now distancing itself from Acorn, claiming Mr. Obama never organized with it and has nothing to do with illegal voter registration. Yet it's disingenuous to channel cash into an operation with a history of fraud and then claim you're shocked to discover reports of fraud. As with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, Mr. Obama was happy to associate with Acorn when it suited his purposes. But now that he's on the brink of the Presidency, he wants to disavow his ties.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Will the Amish take over the world?

The Amish have grown 84% since 1992, according to the Washington Post (via Gene Veith's Cranach). Watch church growth experts start recommending that their church clients get rid of their buses in favor of Sunday morning buggy rides to church for their elderly members, replacing church bake sales with vegetable stands, and replacing popular abstinence education with lessons on bundling.

On the other hand, maybe not.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why are Obama's people so angry?

Stephanie Cutter, a spokeman for the Obama campaign, was on Fox News Sunday feverishly complaining about the anger she is seeing in the McCain campaign.

And it really made her mad.

I could swear the veins in her forehead were showing. In fact, she was extremely exercised over the fact that there were people who disagreed with her. What made angr... er, what got her so upset was that the McCain campaign was pointing out things about her candidate that, well, made them angry.

Like the fact that Obama has had past associations with a guy that set of a bomb at the Pentagon and doesn't feel bad about it.

Cutter--and the Obama campaign--can't figure out why anyone would be upset that a guy is running for president who has associated with a known, unrepentant, proud left-wing terrorist.

And it really makes her...


Obama getting a pass

Only in a media severely stricken with Obamamania (and in a campaign that knows and takes comfort in this) is a candidate's past association with a guy who bombed the Pentagon not an issue.

Friday, October 10, 2008

McCain's Economic Surge won't work

The only thing worse than socialists proposing socialism is when so-called conservatives do it. Here is National Review's editorial against John McCain's Economic Surge.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Could Obama get a security clearance?

Obama's past proximity to William Ayers would cost him a low level security clearance, but we're ready to hand him the leadership of the free world.

Go figure.

Is Hank Paulson a "living god"?

It appears that there is a crisis of faith among atheists these days. We pointed recently to survey results showing that 21 percent of atheists believed in God. Now comes news that the atheist government of Nepal has appointed a 6-year-old girl as a "living goddess" in the ancient city of Bhaktapur. She began her divine reign today at the auspicious time of 11:39 a.m.

Oh, and she will be home schooled.

In related development in the ancient city of Washington, in the capitalist country of the United States, the Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was granted unprecedented economic powers in a massive government bail out of the financial industry.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Spot the fallacy

A blog headline reads "One-fourth of mammals are facing extinction". Now let's say this is true. I was musing as I read this headline whether they had included humans in this assessment. So I have a syllogism for you:
One-fourth of mammals face extinction
Humans are mammals
Therefore one-fourth of humans face extinction
I'm thinking, given their current polls, that Republicans may find themselves among the unfortunate quartile.

Okay, okay, I know that that the headline should have indicated is that one-fourth of animal species are facing extinction, but I'm still interested to now if anyone can spot what is wrong with this argument.

Is American economic dominance over?

The U. S. mortgage crisis has produced the curious spectacle of angry fer'ners who are at once lamenting the effect the problem is having on their own economies, and then declaring that American economic power is over. But if American economic power is over, then why is it having such an effect on their economies?

Here is John Gray, in Australia's The Age, making absolutely no sense whatsoever:
Our gaze might be on the markets melting down, but the upheaval we are experiencing is more than a financial crisis, however large. Here is a historic geopolitical shift, in which the balance of power in the world is being altered irrevocably. The era of American global leadership, reaching back to the Second World War, is over.
I heard the same thing on PBS yesterday morning from a European, upset about the affect of the mortgage crisis in American on his own country, say that this is evidence that American world economic dominance is over. But if that is the case, then why is the euro falling in value against the dollar in the midst of the now worldwide crisis? The euro fell to $1.3587 in Monday trading from $1.3774 late Friday.

In fact, if American worldwide economic dominance is over, then why are the problems here having so many effects over there? Would the United States be experiencing the kind of effects here if, say, Britain had a similar mortgage crisis?

There is an old saying meant to articulate the long-standing preeminence of America in the world: "When America hiccups, the world shudders." Well, America his hiccuped, and its detractors abroad seem to think it a conclusive point in their case against American preeminence that the world has shuddered.

Maybe all those educational comparisons showing all these other countries ahead of us are bogus after all.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Why the Republicans will lose in November

Nobody has come right out and said it, but the Republicans are going to lose in November for one very simple reason: they are divided among themselves on the most important issue in the election, the economy.

The bailout debate simply splintered the Republican Party. In my state of Kentucky, the six most prominent Republicans in the state are right down the middle: three-three, with the two senators, Jim Bunning and Mitch McConnell, finding themselves on opposite sides. This is going on around the country.

The split is not only the effect of confusion, it is the cause of confusion among the electorate, who are sensing that the Republican Party doesn't know what it is about. You simply can't win an election without a coherent message, and you can't have a coherent message without a coherent philosophy--and the Republican Party no longer has one. The Republican Party uses the image of Ronald Reagan the way Kentucky Fried Chicken uses the image of Colonel Sanders: not because they cook food the way he did (they don't), but because his image give the general impression that they do.

In the case of the bailout plan, a Republican president proposed the plan; on the other hand, a Democratic Congressional leadership helped promote it. On the one hand, the majority of rank and file House Republicans opposed it; on the other hand, the Republican nominee for president supported it. And both the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates took the same position on the issue.

The only recipe here is for total electoral confusion, a confusion the Democrats benefit from because at least their consistent--consistently wrong, but consistent.

The Republicans had nothing politically to gain from supporting the bailout. Support for the plan just means that they are indistinguishable from the Democrats. They can talk all they want to about how the Democrats were responsible, but confused voters will still wonder why they both have the same solution.

Here's the chief problem for the Republicans: their chief domestic policy themes for decades have been fiscal restraint and free market economics. These were the positions that marked them off from their Democratic opponents and that brought them success with Ronald Reagan. But George W. Bush scuttled the first issue by massive increases in federal spending during his two terms in office, and McCain, although feigning support for fiscal restraint, has scuttled the second issue by supporting the bailout.

Republicans are left confused about what exactly they are supposed to stand for economically, and why they should vote for Republicans over Democrats. The Democrats on the other hand, with a few exceptions, they are united on the bailout bill. And why shouldn't they be? It is a pure big government solution--completely consistent with everything they have stood for for years.

How can the Republicans win when the chief economic crisis of our times (which crested, ironically, right in mid-presidential campaign) was resolved on liberal Democratic economic principles, and half of the party that supposedly stands on conservative principles joined arms with them?

Buffett says there was regulation of Freddie, Fannie

Okay. I have a new derivation from my General Theory of Who We Should Listen to About the Economic Crisis. If you tuned in last week, you heard my articulation of the First Theorem of Economic Credulity, which was, in trying to figure out how we should solve the crisis, that we should listen to those who saw it coming first.

Now, I propound my First Corollary of Economic ... Who to Listen To ... Ness. Or something like that. And it is this: "Listen to What Warren Buffett Says." Like a good economist, I have reduced this to an acronym: "WWBD". "What would Warren Buffet Do."

Buffett, for those who have only heard mention of his name, is the world famous investor who made his own fortune of $62 billion. It has been said that an economist who is not rich is like a man who gives advice about women, but has never even had a girlfriend. Unlike many economists, who are middle class at best, Buffett, following his own investment principles, is actually rich. He did it by doing what he tells other people to do.

Now the critics of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government sponsored lending giants who recently failed, and who, before they were critics, were their apologists, say we need more regulation. But, as it turns out, Fannie and Freddie were regulated. Here is Warren Buffet, in a CNBC interview in August, pointing this out:
[S]omething called OFHEO was set up in 1992 by Congress, and the sole job of OFHEO was to watch over Fannie and Freddie, someone to watch over them. And they were there to evaluate the soundness and the accounting and all of that. Two companies were all they had to regulate. OFHEO has over 200 employees now. They have a budget now that's $65 million a year, and all they have to do is look at two companies. I mean, you know, I look at more than two companies.

...And they sat there, made reports to the Congress, you can get them on the Internet, every year. And, in fact, they reported to Sarbanes and Oxley every year. And they went--wrote 100 page reports, and they said, 'We've looked at these people and their standards are fine and their directors are fine and everything was fine.' And then all of a sudden you had two of the greatest accounting misstatements in history. You had all kinds of management malfeasance, and it all came out. And, of course, the classic thing was that after it all came out, OFHEO wrote a 350--340 page report examining what went wrong, and they blamed the management, they blamed the directors, they blamed the audit committee. They didn't have a word in there about themselves, and they're the ones that 200 people were going to work every day with just two companies to think about. It just shows the problems of regulation.
Waddya wanna bet that the people who now see regulation as the solution are completely unaware that the two mortgage giants already were regulated?

Read the whole interview. It's dynamite.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sarah Palin may or may not have beaten Biden, but she did beat Tina Fey

Tonight's debate was interesting for a lot reasons, first and foremost in regard to whether Sarah Palin was going to continue as a viable political presence. What Biden did was largely irrelevant: he doesn't help or hurt his ticket. In fact, he did just fine, although his Washington-speak can't have won over any converts in middle America. As Jennifer Rubin at Commentary Magazine put it about Biden's remark about the time he spends at Home Depot, "What’s he doing there — trying to find someone to deliver a lecture to?"

Sarah Palin may or may not have beaten Joe Biden in the debate, but the fact is she didn't have to. What she had to beat was the media image of a political newcomer out of her water, and this she did in spades.

This debate wasn't about beating Joe Biden. This debate was about beating Tina Fey.

Sarah Palin not only exceeded expectations, I think she saved her political career. She was in danger of becoming a political joke because of poor performances in unadvisable interviews the geniuses at the McCain campaign unwisely put her in. This debate completely rewrites all of that current wisdom. I think it was Fred Barnes who pointed out that he could not remember any vice presidential debate that rewrote the future of a partipant. This one clearly did.

The only comparable such event I can remember was the second presidential debate between Reagan and Mondale, when Reagan, after a lackluster performance in their first debate, and facing questions about his fitness for office because of his age, made the remark about "my opponent's youth and inexperience," and hit it out of the park.

If you are scoring a debate card, I think it was a draw for Palin at best, but we all know these debates cannot be scored that way. They are about much more than the words the candidates say. Debates like this come down, not to who has the better arguments (and there were cogent arguments on both sides), but to who is more appealing. On this criterion, Palin won hands down.

Palin exceeded expectations, which is what the current wisdom said she had to do to win. But she not only exceeded expectations, she exceeded the expectations by more than she was expected to exceed them.

What really told you about how this debate went was the remarks of the opponents, and you could detect the talking points Democrats had prepared in the case of a Palin win. Paul Begala (who you can always count on to follow his orders) said it best: Palin may have helped herself, but she didn't help McCain. When you can't say what you want to say about something you just saw, say something about something no one could see.

Begala and the Democrats might be right, but I suspect not. Whether the McCain/Palin ticket converts the unconverted as a result of the debate isn't really what you would expect anyway. But what the Obama campaign has to be equally concerned about is what this does for Republican turnout. Palin had energized the base, and that energy was eroding.

It is back now.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The real barbarians

According to the Boston Globe, Joe Biden told trial lawyers at a private, $2 million fundraiser in a private home that there are "two groups that stand between us and the barbarians at the gate. It's you and organized labor."

That's funny, some of us thought those two groups were the barbarians.