Hey, Shut Up!

This was at Sam Houston State University. I'll bet old Sam would have some choice words to say about that.

We Lost, You Must Have Cheated

One hears this line from little boys who don't like to lose, but it's a little surprising to hear it in the context of a Presidential debate. Still, GWB was also accused of "cheating," so I suppose it's always the default assumption when a conservative whips up on a liberal in a battle of ideas. (After all, we're supposed to be disarmed.)

What strikes me about the charge, though, is that it is flatly incompatible with the other excuse for the Obama loss: that Mitt Romney lied, lied, lied with every thing he said. You don't need to smuggle in a day planner full of facts if you're just going to make stuff up. The only purpose a "cheat sheet" would serve is making sure that you accurately remembered the facts you wanted to cite, so you wouldn't give your opponent an easy out by misquoting something you had mis-remembered.

So which was it? Did he cheat, or did he lie?

America from the Road

Ed Driscoll wants to write something punishing about the 'death of middlebrow culture,' comparing the fall from Lawrence of Arabia to Easy Rider. It's true that the two films don't really compare. Lawrence is a masterpiece, something we often watched in Iraq and when preparing for Iraq -- although Lawrence was leading an insurgency, not a counterinsurgency. Still, in the high days of the Surge, we were almost doing the same thing: leading a counterinsurgency that was really an insurgency, turning the Sunni tribes against al Qaeda and its fellow travelers, because it was their pleasure.

Easy Rider is another kind of story. It has nothing to do with glory. It does have something to do with America, though. John Wayne spoke of America, and why he loved her. His reasons were simple. They had to do with what America was.

It happens that the full version of Easy Rider happens to be available online right now. You'll find a lot of harmony between what John Wayne said, and what you see in the movie. It is about Monument Valley, and the sun shining through the trees along a desert highway, about New Orleans at Mardi Gras and the good life, as it is lived in a little place, where a man draws his living from the ground.

There's something more to be said for this movie than has been said for it. It is true that it is not Lawrence of Arabia, but it never intended to be. It explores the poison of drugs, which is a topic new to the era. But there is still something about the appreciation of the place, of America as it is a place to be ridden through and enjoyed and seen. It's the place that is worth loving, worth defending, worth sacrifice.

Maybe, even after that, the hippies in the movie wouldn't have fought for it. In that way they are wrong just where Lawrence and Wayne were right.

An Outstanding Metaphor

“You may want to move on to another topic,” Obama implored Lehrer, a bit like a motorcycle thief begging a cop to take him into custody rather than let him stay with the surly biker gang that caught him.
No, no. Leave him here. We'd like a few more words.


You've read the written report, but here's the video of Lars Walker capturing himself a young bride in plain combat:

Funny, That's Not How I Remember It...

Apparently a teacher up in Philly demanded a Romney/Ryan shirt be removed from the body of a girl attending her class, on the grounds that it was like wearing a KKK shirt.

We actually had the Klan show up on the county courthouse square from time to time when I was a boy, so I can see how you'd hate to be reminded of them. Still, as I recall it, the county was a Democratic monolith in those days. Don't remember them being Mormons or Catholics, either.

UPDATE: On the other hand, there's this:
Romney motorcade just passed a hill flying a large confederate flag in rural SW VA
Clearly, that's demonstrative. I mean, any decent human being would have stopped, turned the motorcade around, and driven however far out of the way was necessary to avoid passing a hill with a Confederate flag on it. (H/t: Instapundit.)

"My name is Khamenei, and I'm building a nuclear weapon. . . ."

He's signing on to a 9-step program to treat his addiction.   The problem?   Steps one through eight consist of the West's reversing the economic sanctions that have led to a currency crisis and riots in Teheran.   Step nine is "a 'suspension' of the medium-enriched uranium production at the deep underground site called Fordow."

We should jump on that deal.

Presidential empathy

From the National Review, an excerpt from Mitt Romney's book "No Apology":
During my campaign for governor, I decided to spend a day every few weeks doing the jobs of other people in Massachusetts.  Among other jobs, I cooked sausages at Fenway Park, worked on an asphalt paving crew, stacked bales of hay on a farm, volunteered in an emergency room, served food at a nursing home, and worked as a child-care assistant.  I’m often asked which was the hardest job – it’s child care, by a mile. 
One day I gathered trash as a garbage collector.  I stood on that little platform at the back of the truck, holding on as the driver navigated his way through the narrow streets of Boston.  As we pulled up to traffic lights, I noticed that the shoppers and businesspeople who were standing only a few feet from me didn’t even see me.  It was as if I was invisible.  Perhaps it was because a lot of us don’t think garbage men are worthy of notice; I disagree – anyone who works that hard deserves our respect.  – I wasn’t a particularly good garbage collector:  at one point, after filling the trough at the back of the truck, I pulled the wrong hydraulic lever.  Instead of pushing the load into the truck, I dumped it onto the street.  Maybe the suits didn’t notice me, but the guys at the construction site sure did:  “Nice job, Mitt,” they called.  “Why don’t you find an easier job?”  And then they good-naturedly came down and helped me pick up my mess.
"Dreams of My Father" it's not.  Was Romney just slumming for effect, after living a silver-spoon existence?   There's no doubt his wealthy father helped him get a start in life.  On the other hand, by the time his father died, Romney already had become quite successful himself, so he donated his inheritance to BYU.

Quit giving them ideas

Admiring a Paris bike-sharing program that positively encourages people to ride around without a trace of helmet protection, on the theory that more lives will be endangered by sedentary obesity than by head trauma, New York Times correspondent Elisabeth Rosenthal quotes/muses:
[I]f we wear helmets for cycling, maybe we should wear helmets when we climb ladders or get into a bath, because there are lots more injuries during those activities.”  The European Cyclists’ Federation says that bicyclists in its domain have the same risk of serious injury as pedestrians per mile traveled.
Or we could adopt the California approach:
In the United States, cities are struggling to overcome the significant practical problems of melding helmet use with bike-sharing programs — such as providing sanitized helmet dispensers at bike docking stations, says Susan Shaheen, director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
Right next to the condom dispensers. Helmets are health care too, you know!   We ought to think about mandating them for pedestrians, ladder-climbers, and bathers.  But that bomb-throwing anarchist Rosenthal, she probably ate non-pasteurized cheese while she was in Paris.

H/t Maggie's Farm.

I know what he means

From a 2002 speech by Barack Obama at a Martin Luther King Day memorial service:
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but rich people are all for nonviolence.  Why wouldn’t they be?  They’ve got what they want.
Yep, whenever I decide whether to indulge in violence, my first order of business is to think through whether I have everything I want yet.  If not, all bets are off.

Another viewpoint

Just to keep things fair, Bryan Preston's alternative explanation for the President's abysmal debate performance:  "Obama wasn't just tired or off his game.  He was incoherent because his ideas stink."  Obama issued his usual complaint that he inherited a big deficit, including "two wars that were paid for on a credit card."  Then he suggested "that we take some of the money that we’re saving as we wind down two wars to rebuild America and that we reduce our deficit."  Hey, wait a minute, Preston objects:
If the two wars are paid for on a “credit card” as the president says, how then are we going to reduce the deficit by taking that money and just spending it on something else?  Wouldn’t it make more sense just to not spend that money at all?  Since, you know, we don’t have it in the first place?
A commenter chips in:
The way to fix my household budget deficit is to take the money I have already spent on the security system and somehow get it back from the ether and plunge it directly into the toilet.  This doesn’t help keep my family safe and destroys the plumbing.  And, if two wars were costing so much money . . . why enter a third in Libya, then fail to protect the people you sent there to clean up the mess.

Was that a good jobs report or a bad one?

It may have been naive to expected an un-jimmied jobs report this close to the election, but even by the loose standards we've learned to apply, this one is a doozy.  Somehow, we added fewer jobs than are needed to keep pace with a growing population, but the unemployment rate took a dive to 7.8%, the first time in 43 months it's been below 8%.  OK, you can get there by driving a phenomenal number of people out of the workforce, I guess, but the numbers still don't add up.  We added 114,000 non-farm jobs but lost 456,000 unemployed people, while the household survey showed that the number of people with jobs rose by 873,000 (seasonally adjusted) -- the highest one-month increase in 29 years.  It seems that the latter number includes 582,000 part-time jobs accepted by workers who were seeking part-time work but taking what they could get.  Total "multiple jobs holders" rose by 183,000.

Zero Hedge is having some trouble with the numbers.  Here's an interesting coincidence, for instance:  the household survey figure is 873,000 jobs, of which 582,000 are part-time, which is precisely 2/3.  Sound a bit like a plugged number?

I'm totally confused, but I take it that the unemployment number uses the household-survey jobs (873,000) instead of what Zero Hedge calls the "establishment" jobs number, which was the 114,000 figure.  Also, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has unexpectedly revised upward the disappointing jobs figures for the last three months.

Well, I just hope the jobs picture is turning around, and these aren't simply numbers that will be quietly revised downwards later, per the usual practice.

A tale of two ads

It was the RNC perspective, it was the DNC perspective.  Erika Johnsen at Hot Air shows the first two ads to run clips from this week's presidential debate.  The RNC ad splices shots of Romney explaining what he thinks has to change and why, while the President, on split-screen, grimaces.  The DNC ad cuts rapidly among Romney, a pundit, and Jim Lehrer, as Romney tries to keep the floor, Lehrer interjects "Just a moment," and the pundit says, "He just kept going.  He just kept going.  He just kept going."  The President doesn't even appear in this little drama.

Explanations for the President's lackluster performance include altitude sickness, or distraction by his secret national security duties, or spiritual exhaustion from the strain of being forced to conduct wars.  These theories are difficult to take seriously.  A more telling consensus is that the President dislikes personal confrontation, and was at an unfair advantage because Romney lied.  (See herehereherehereherehere, and here for a sampling from the nearly 9 million search engine hits on that theme.  You would be hard-pressed to find a comments thread on the subject that omits this favorite theory.)  What did he lie about?  That's not so clear, but a central argument is that Romney misrepresented his own platform.

The latter two explanations -- a distaste for personal confrontation and an inability to confront "lies" -- are more related than they might seem at first.  Nothing in the President's background or career has equipped him to grapple with his opponents' different worldviews.  He and his set dismiss them without really trying to understand them.  Unlike Reagan, for instance, he did not start out on one end of the political spectrum and change to another over time.  He spent his life and career among like-minded political activists in academia, in community work, and in public office.  It's even possible he gets no more accurate information about Romney's platform than the average voter gets from a hostile media.  He seemed genuinely stunned by Romney's assertion that he did not propose to cut taxes by $5 trillion.  Strange!  Every time I heard Romney on that subject, he stressed that, although he wanted to lower rates, no taxpayer should get excited about the prospect of a lower bill, because the idea was to get rid of a lot of deductions in order to make the changes revenue-neutral.  That is, he proposes a flatter and simpler tax structure rather than lower taxes overall.  But unless the President is a phenomenal actor, he was surprised when Romney corrected him about his platform.  In preparation with his sparring partner, John Kerry, the President may have spent all his time preparing to respond to a caricature.

Is it really possible that the President assumed Romney would get up on the debate stage and advocate the parody of his own platform that is all anyone had been allowed to see on network TV or in the New York Times?  Maybe so.  Maybe the President really is that unused to arguing with anyone outside his bubble.  He doesn't get a charge out of meeting people on their own intellectual ground and trying to bring them around to his point of view; he's more at ease with a captive, silent audience.  As Cassandra so memorably put it, he's like a prize fighter who's used to fixed fights:  shocked and helpless the first time his handlers put him in the ring with someone ready, willing, and able to land a punch.

Interesting analogy

"The rich are hoarding all the toys," laments the New York Times:
Imagine a kindergarten with 100 students, lavishly supplied with books, crayons and toys. 
Yet you gasp: one avaricious little boy is jealously guarding a mountain of toys for himself.  A handful of other children are quietly playing with a few toys each, while 90 of the children are looking on forlornly — empty-handed.
Shouldn't the grownups step in and force the mean little boy to share?  Wait a minute -- if the American people are a bunch of babies, who's the grownup in this analogy?

We're from the government . . . .

John Stossel recounts the experiences of his intern looking for a job by way of government-funded jobs programs, which turn out to be centers for signing up for unemployment benefits.  Unjob programs, except for the public employees drawing checks for running the programs.

Has anyone here ever gotten a job through a government jobs program?  Or known anyone who did?

The Gas War

I know people are pretty happy with the debate last night, but this picture from Drudge is pretty powerful too:

It's hard to remember prices that low. What's not hard to remember is the President's commitment to higher energy costs for Americans. He has always been clear that he wants to restrain our consumption by pursuing higher prices for the American consumer.

He didn't get 'cap and trade,' and we aren't quite to Europe's gas price levels, but he has a partial success to chalk up here. Energy prices are much higher than they used to be: as the sign shows, gas prices have doubled.

SCOAMFOTUS blows the debate

The really deadly point of the debate:  from professional commentators to man-in-the-street focus-group members, everyone noticed that the President fell apart the first time he was hit with difficult questions he actually had to answer.  The press has never let him be exposed like this before.

"I Like Firing People"

Maybe it's the meeting I sat through yesterday with State Park employees, who were working on an Emergency Response Study addressing a small upcoming community event, at which perhaps a few dozen people will eat home-made cookies under a locally famous tree, while listening to a handful of politicians make remarks about a BP-oil-spill-guilt-financed acquisition of whooping crane habitat for the local state park.  (The study will detail their plans for a "First Amendment Corral" to be set aside for potential protesters.)  ("State Park Unfair to Non-Whooping Crane Species.")  Or maybe it's persistent recent reports of a Fish & Wildlife officer who's suddenly made it his life's work to harass locals who drive completely unregulated golf carts on our tiny, untrafficked, low-speed streets in this unincorporated rural coastal community.  Maybe it's the upcoming presidential debates.  For whatever reason, I got a kick out of this Wizbang post:  "If You Work for the Government, You Deserve to Be Fired."  He's not a true firebreather, of course; he makes an exception for teachers and first responders.

3 questions

The Pirate's Cove quotes three questions that should be deployed in a climatesomething debate:
What would it take to convince you that you are wrong? 
What happens if you are wrong? 
What makes you hate the future so much?
Actually, those are questions recommended by a Warmist to discomfit an evil denier, but they seem like pretty good questions in reverse as well.

An American Tragedy

The total number of American dead in all our nation's armed conflicts going back to the Revolutionary War is estimated at 1.3 million.... Yet those numbers are dwarfed by another scourge. It’s one we don’t talk about very much in presidential politics, an oversight I’d like to do my part to change.... In the ensuing 113 years [since the first automobile fatality], vehicular traffic on the highways and byways of this country has taken a toll in human suffering that can be accurately described as a holocaust. The total number of dead from that September day in 1899 to this October day in 2012 is approximately 3,573,384.
Horrifying. Yet those numbers are dwarfed by another scourge. Of the 62,947,714 alive in that 1890 census, it is widely believed that all of them are dead. Nor are they alone. Tens of millions more Americans have also lost their lives.

I write today to say that the author of the piece does not do enough in calling for the Presidential debate to include a question about how they will deal with automobile accidents. No, any would-be President must be asked to provide his solution for death!

Striking Coincidences in Foreign Policy

Quite possibly the decision to abandon Benghazi was done for any number of reasons that had nothing to do with derailing the FBI investigation into what happened there. That effect just happens to be an unfortunate coincidence of what was surely done for other, pressing and legitimate, reasons.

Likewise, the sudden deployment of a member of the National Security Staff to Iraq is explicable in terms of the difficulties that nation is experiencing just now. It is merely a coincidence that this particular NSS member happened to be one who corresponded closely on Operation Fast and Furious with an ATF agent who just testified to Congress about that program. The fact that this member of the White House will not be available to answer Congressional questions about the role of the administration in that operation is just a coincidence.

It would be improper to suggest that such significant matters of foreign policy were being subordinated to political considerations. No one would believe the suggestion anyway: it's impossible to imagine the administration acting that way.

More on the Late Maurice Keen

The Guardian has penned an informative obituary regarding the gentleman historian, for those of you who wanted to read more about his life and work.



Sometimes Tex and I talk about the dangers of the market. Things sometimes prove to be for sale that ought not to be. Not at any price.

Katrina blues

Did any of you notice that a bunch of Katrina-flooded New Orleans plaintiffs won a huge judgment against the Corps of Engineers in federal court in 2009?  I never heard a peep about it.  Anyway, it went up on appeal to the 5th Circuit, where a 3-judge panel initially affirmed the judgment last March.  This month, however, the same 3-judge panel reversed itself, ruling that the "discretionary function exemption" insulated the federal government from all liability, even assuming the Corps's error rose to the level of abuse of discretion.  Apparently the decision turns on whether the Corps's handling of the levee system turned primarily on public policy discretion or objective engineering judgment; if the former, the Federal Tort Claims Act prevents any liability.  It's unclear why the panel decided to reverse itself, an unusual move, but it may have been persuaded by arguments made by the government in seeking a re-hearing from the full 5th Circuit.  Is it possible the effect of the "discretionary function exemption" simply wasn't stressed in earlier arguments?   If so, then whoever wrote the most recent set of pleadings for the Corps deserves a lot of credit for turning around his client's fortunes.

There is also a 1928 Flood Control Act that shields the Corps from the consequences of the failure of flood protection projects, even if caused by negligent and wrongful acts of federal employees. The lower court had found that the Flood Control Act exemption applied only to a limited part of the Katrina flooding, while other flood damages resulted from the operation and maintenance of the "MR-GO" or Mississippi River Gulf Outlet levee system, which concerns navigation rather than flood control. Under the new 5th Circuit ruling, the Corps is insulated from liability regardless of whether its projects concerned flood control or navigation.

I can't say I disagree with the decision, or that I have any real understanding of the various liability exemptions involved.  I will say that the following is a less-than-enthusiastic endorsement of the Corps's judgment:
The corps's actual reasons for the delay (in armoring the banks and levee) are varied and sometimes unknown, but there can be little dispute that the decisions here were susceptible to policy consideration.

I hate it when this happens

Cassandra posted a piece this week on one of my favorite topics, which is the grave danger of letting people vote for bigger government on other people's nickel.  It's always seemed obvious to me that you'll get not only too much government that way, but runaway deficit spending.

So I was a bit taken aback to read her original source, which tries to establish a causal relationship between the percentage of non-taxpayers and the growth of government spending.  Statistically, it seems the case is not easy to make.

It doesn't change my feeling of impending doom.  I can't see how this can be a good direction to push in.  If nothing else, it just chaps me to have to pay for intrusive government for the benefit of people who claim to support it, but not enough to pay for it themselves.

Eric Hobsbawn Passes

The last of the great Marxists has gone to wherever Marxists go when they die.

As the article points out, he also was a great historian. His bias was front and center on the page, so that you could easily filter for it; but his depth of knowledge, and his dogged adherence to the Marxist theory, always made him interesting to read. It is striking to reflect that a man of his obvious intelligence and historical awareness could remain a committed Communist after everything. He was born in the year of the Russian revolution, and grew up during a time when Communism was in its fullest flower as a movement that serious people took seriously: no longer the radical fringe that it had been in Marx's day, nor the small but committed revolutionary internationalists of Lenin's, but a powerful nation engaged in the experiment of trying to move a giant and sprawling nation several centuries' forward in a few short five-year plans.

Even granting the hour of his youth and young manhood, though, it's striking that he remained committed. Past Stalin; past Mao; past the collapse of the USSR, and the revelations of the Stasi. Even if you were to wave all of those off as somehow accidental rather than essential to the Communist process -- and it is not at all clear that you possibly can, for remaking Man and Society whether they like it or not lies right at the core of that process -- it is hard to believe that an intellect could adhere to the clear demonstration of economic inferiority. Marxism was an economic theory first, and Marx was just wrong. The facts bear this out, but if (like a good academic) you aren't satisfied with the facts, the theory bears it out as well.

Feeding the Snake

So we're trying to get Ratbane up to size, in the hope that he can go down and be a good basement dragon. For that reason we've been feeding him baby mice from the pet store. These (I have recently learned) come in several sizes, from "pinkies" who don't yet have hair, to older mice named "fuzzies" and then "jumpers."

The wife got tired of riding all the way to the pet store, so instead of buying just one mouse to feed him live, she bought several and froze them to death. (I would feel bad about freezing baby mice to death, if it weren't for the merciless war I have raged on their kind for the last two years.) Today it came time to feed the snake one of the pre-killed mice, which is more of a problem than it sounds like it ought to be.

Naturally the wife had somewhere to be today, so on her way out the door she asked me to microwave a dead frozen mouse and see if I could get the snake to eat it. "He might not," she said, "because he's never encountered a dead mouse before. But give it a try."

Well, so I did. I warmed up the dead mouse, and dropped him into the tank by the snake. The snake ignored him entirely, and when I came back later the snake was still paying the mouse no mind at all.

"OK," I thought, "clearly I need to get the snake's attention."

So I went and got one of those bamboo skewers you use for making kabobs, and I skewered the mouse through its side. Then, I used the skewer to bring the mouse over to the snake, and slapped him across the face with it.

He didn't seem to like that, so I smacked him with the mouse several more times until he curled up into a little ball. Then I dropped the mouse on him, and went away.

After a while, I got to thinking to myself, "That probably wasn't very mouse-like behavior. Perhaps it would have been more effective if...."

Apparently I'm not very good at simulating a prey animal.

However, when I went to check, the snake was eating the mouse, so I guess it all worked out.

We Get Your Point, Dr. Mead:

Reports that this chimerical Al-Qaeda group sent operatives to work with Boko Haram and enabled it to operate at a higher level of effectiveness should be ignored by all serious people.

The President of Yemen, meanwhile, is thanking the United States for its support for his efforts in his country’s ongoing anti-crime effort against randomly motivated groups of violent criminals in developments that have nothing in common with superficially similar movements anywhere in the world. In what was obviously a slip of the tongue he linked the criminals with “Al-Qaeda” and implied that some sort of international network was engaged in the violence in his country but such crazy talk by a man under a great deal of stress is best ignored. Only rampant paranoia with perhaps a touch of Islamophobia could link events in Yemen to anything warlike or global.

In another completely unrelated and random development, the governments of the United Kingdom and Australia....