29 March 2008

A different take on Obama's politics and heritage

An interesting piece from one of Andrew Sullivan's readers:

Obama isn't the first credible African-American candidate so much as he's the first credible Hawaiian candidate. Everything that's essential and appealing about him is Hawaiian in character, and reflects his years growing up there. People in Hawaii don't fixate on race, because everyone is mixed race, individually or by marriage, and they don't think in terms of political party, because that's at best a secondary characteristic; and above all, they don't think in terms of traditional left/right, red/blue polarities-- those are for the mainland. Hawaii is a place where conservative evangelical Christians are Asian and Polynesian, and the secular liberals are white and not quite local; where "black" isn't even a common category, because African-Americans are so rare; where liberal Democrats revere military service, largely because a lot of Hawaii's political leaders are veterans of the legendary all-Japanese 442nd Infantry, starting with Medal of Honor winner Dan Inoyue. In Hawaii, ideological stances are looked at with huge skepticism, because they imply pretension and putting on airs-- or as it's said there, "Hey brah, no act!"

The key to understanding Obama isn't race, or Kennedy, or any of that: the key is Hawaii.

Hat tip: Best of the Web

24 March 2008

Poetic Justice

First let me say that I do not believe that photos or videos of the intimate acts between a couple (between a couple... is that good grammar?) should ever be made public without the consent of both parties. I believe that the current culture in which people become famous for making sex tapes and having them posted on Internet, with or without their permission, is part of a grotesque coarsening of our society.

However, let it also be said that this coarsening has been driven and accelerated by the entertainment media. One of theprime examples of that has been HBO's Sex and the City. While I have never seen it, all reports indicate that it is very cleverly written, but that the characters spend all their time totally preoccupied with sex.

Therefore it strikes me as poetic justice that one of the actresses whom a great deal of money on that program, Kristin Davis, now finds herself caught up in a sex photos on the Internet fight. It is unfortunate that the woman finds herself in a position of having to deny these photos are her, but since the publication of such photos is one result of the coarsening of society which has enriched Ms. Davis, I have a hard time feeling too terribly bad for her.

23 March 2008

Musings of a typical white person

I was troubled by Barack Obama's speech in Philadelphia last week, which he was forced to give in light of the Jeremiah Wright controversy.

My first concern was the constant equivocations. His white grandmother having used a racial or ethnic slur is not the same thing as Reverend Wright's over-the-top rhetoric. Neither were Geraldine Ferraro's comments. In fact Ferraro was accurate; she correctly pointed out that Obama has benefited from being black in just the same way she benefited from being a woman in 1984.

I am not actually troubled by most of what Reverend Wright has to say is a few clips that I have seen. There is a long history of prophetic preaching which condemns the nation the preacher lives in; there are many things about America to condemn. Wright's claims that the US government created AIDS to kill black people is not one of them. In fact, much of what Wright says seems attuned to his audience. Rather than proper Christian preaching, as I understand it, which calls the listener to repentance, Reverend Wright, at least in in the few clips I have seen calls not on his listeners to repent, but tells them they are victims because white people need to repent.

I am deeply troubled by Obama's dissembling about Reverend Wright up until the Philadelphia speech. I am also troubled that in the Philadelphia speech, he made only passing reference to personal responsibility within the black community.
That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change.
Then Obama goes on a radio show a couple days later and drops this egg.
"The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, but that she is a typical white person. If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know - there's a reaction in her that's been bred into our experiences that don't go away and sometimes come out in the wrong way and that's just the nature of race in our society. We have to break through it. What makes me optimistic is you see each generation feeling less like that. And that's pretty powerful stuff"


I am thinking to myself , what the heck is a typical white person? That sounds like a racial slur to me. And then I remembered a quote from sometime back:
Even Jesse Jackson said a few years ago, "There is nothing more painful to me ... than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved."
So now I get it. Jesse Jackson is a typical white person.

But now I am all confused.

Hat tip to Mark Finkelstein at Newsbusters, who had the quote first, and a somewhat more fun take on it than I did.

13 March 2008

Wrong, Mr Carney!

In today's Political Diary, a publication of the Wall Street Journal, one Brian Carney writes:
...if Mr. Spitzer is indicted -- or if a debate catches fire in the media over prostitution, misogyny and related gender concerns. This is touchy territory for Mrs. Clinton, given her own husband's philandering. A Monica-esque debate about powerful older men and vulnerable young women would hardly be a convenient subject right now for the Clinton campaign. Mrs. Clinton may have airbrushed the New York Governor from her campaign site, but with at least two debates coming up before the crucial Pennsylvania primary, Mrs. Clinton will be lucky if she doesn't have to offer a more elaborate denunciation of Mr. Spitzer's actions.
I completely disagree. The Spitzer debacle could actually be very good for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

in a difficult election, one of the emotions that can benefit a politician is sympathy. Barack Obama, as a black man, has benefited from such sympathy. (In that, Geraldine Ferrero is correct.) Hillary Clinton, with her tearful response to a question in New Hampshire, but also in her election to the Senate in the first place has also been a recipient of such sympathy. She may well yet be again.

Imagine the debate where Senator Obama is asked to repudiate Reverend Jeremiah Wright's statements which some regard as hate speech. In order to balance the questions, Hillary is then asked about her former New York campaign operative, former Governor Eliot Spitzer. Hillary will answer,
Well, as everyone knows, I have some personal experience with the kind of pain that is caused in a family when infidelity is disclosed [camera shot of Bill looking lovingly at Hillary], and even more so when it is disclosed publicly. So I will say very simply that I reject former Governor Spitzer's behavior, which he himself acknowledged was immoral, and I sympathize with his family and pray for healing for all of them.
That will coax more sympathy votes out of the voters of Pennsylvania than almost anything else that could happen.

Good Theology in the wake of the Spitzer debacle

I found some good theology from Scott Ott, a Christian camp director who also writes Scrappleface.

Frankly, my first reaction to the news was a chest-tightening sadness -- not just for Mrs. Spitzer and their children, but for the governor. Dreams, hopes, aspirations, reputation....toast. He stares blankly at the reporters and cameras, swallows emotion and chokes out a brief, vague statement. Inside he wonders, how did it come to this?

We who watch from afar will mentally distance ourselves afarther from this tragic character. We'll sit in the bleachers, either mourning or laughing, and vigorously work to repress thoughts of our own inner-Spitzer.

We'll tell ourselves that power corrupts, that money is the root all evil, that he's just another hypocritical politician with a public face and a private face -- two faced. Meanwhile, his partisan brethren will blame political opponents for his downfall.

We'll convince ourselves that we're made of better stuff; that we would not squander such blessings. We believe we love our wives and children more than he does. We're stronger. We can avoid or rebuff such temptation.

Yet conscience calls our bluff: Do you really believe that you are so different from Eliot Spitzer?

There's an interesting episode in the life of Jesus of Nazareth in which the people were amazed at his character, his integrity and his incredible accomplishments. But John's gospel says, "Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people..." (John 2:24)

What did Jesus know about all people?

It's the same thing you know about yourself.

No matter what you may tell others (i.e. "I'm basically a good person."), there is something at the core of your being that seems to stain even your best intentions. Like Gollum in the caves of Tolkien's trilogy, it dwells within the heart and mind of all. Rarely does this beast reach full ferocity and manifest itself so publicly in some heinous act of cruelty or depravity. But it crouches at the doorstep for each of us, insinuating itself into our daily lives.

The distance between you, or me, and Eliot Spitzer is not so great as we would imagine, or wish.

The difference between me and Eliot Spitzer is largely this: I have never been elected governor of New York.

Knowing we face a common threat, I don't dance at his downfall. I weep. Yes, I mourn for his demise, even though it may politically benefit my ideological comrades or the cause of conservatism.

I also pray. I pray for the Spitzer family, for the prostitutes who have sold their souls into opulent slavery, for the federal agents who labored at the distasteful task of uncovering the tawdry tale. I pray that justice might be done, and that each person involved would find the mercy I have found -- unmerited mercy that relieves me of my false confidence, and places my hope in the only world figure who ever successfully navigated the perils of power, both publicly and privately, because he alone had no inner-Spitzer.

12 March 2008

Worth Quoting in Full - 2

Also from WSJ, the best analysis of the Spitzer collapse:

Quote of the Day II

"It's not just schadenfreude -- Spitzer's foes reveling in his suffering. It's that Spitzer became governor largely thanks to his many hyper-publicized cases against Wall Street titans like Dick Grasso and Hank Greenberg -- cases that he pursued by going after everything and everyone connected with his targets, no matter how personal, by leaking constantly to the press and by making his own nasty, off-hand public comments. Keep in mind, Spitzer was charging Dick Grasso with making too much money.... [W]hen Grasso refused to settle, Spitzer's 'investigation' wound up probing whether Grasso had had sex with his secretary and fathered a child out of wedlock. The apparent effort to beat Grasso into submission included threats of tawdry press leaks about alleged personal indiscretions -- allegations Grasso denies, and for which little evidence ever materialized" -- CNBC reporter Charles Gasparino, writing in the New York Post.

For what it is worth, I pity the man and his family. I do not expect to address it again, as he is but one sinner among billions.

Worth Quoting in Full

This is not a hat tip. This is out and out plagiarism. From the WSJ's Political Journal:

Quote of the Day I

"I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind. As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.... [Now I] question my hatred for 'the Corporations' -- the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live. And I began to question my distrust of the 'Bad, Bad Military' of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world.... I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism" -- Playwright David Mamet, writing in the Village Voice on why he is no longer a "brain-dead liberal."

My dear Niece, remember the Winston Churchill quote you so disliked: If you are young and you are not liberal, you have no heart. If you are old and you are not conservative, you have no brain.

David Mamet has gotten old. :)

Proper Attire.

I had heard of "Dress for Success" but who knew that there was also a proper way to

"Dress to Confess?"

(FYI: That's Gov & Mrs James McGreevey, top and Gov. & Mrs Elliot Spitzer, bottom.)

She was always the cute one ...

I mean, who didn't have a crush on her in grade school, even if we didn't know why.

But who knew she was even still alive?

Of course, it would be easy to escape notice when one is marooned in a place called Driggs, Idaho. (Which, since it is just outside Grand Teton National Park is probably a pretty nice spot.)

03 March 2008

Pity


It is a pity, really.
Oscar winning actress Marion Cotillard has now been written up for some things she said a while back...

In an interview that originally aired on French TV a year ago, she opined, "I think we were lied to about a number of things," singling out September 11.

“On the Internet you see all these films about a 9/11 conspiracy theory. It’s fascinating, addictive even,” she said.

Note to Marion: 6 billion pages on the internet are not to be considered factual information any more than 1 million tons of concrete and steel are to automatically be considered a building.
Referring to the World Trade Center, Cotillard said: "We see other towers of the same kind being hit by planes, are they burned? There was a tower, I believe it was in Spain, which burned for 24 hours. It never collapsed. None of these towers collapsed. And there [New York], in a few minutes, the whole thing collapsed."

The La Vie en Rose star suggested that the towers, planned in the early 1960s, were an outdated "money sucker" which would have cost so much to modernize that it was easier to destroy them.

“They were finished, I think, by 1973, and to re-cable all that, to bring up-to-date all the technology and everything, it was a lot more expensive, that work, than destroying them,” she said.

Turning to America’s space program, she added: "Did a man really walk on the moon? I saw plenty of documentaries on it, and I really wondered. And in any case, I don’t believe all they tell me, that’s for sure."
So, you believe movies you see on the internet, but not documentaries you see elsewhere? Hmmmm.

What a pity. So cute, and soooooooo stupid.

01 March 2008

Immigration and $4/Gallon Gas

I got through college economics by the skin of my teeth. I have only a fleeting understanding of the workings of the economy.

But this opinion piece makes a great deal of sense to me.

How are illegal immigration and inflation tied together? In 2005, Bear, Stearns Senior Managing Director Robert Justich and a team of his economists issued a study on the impact of illegal immigration on U.S. economic indicators. They found that undocumented immigrants account for some 8 percent of U.S. workers, a much higher figure than the government reports. Justich's report explained that the number of people counted in productivity calculations is artificially boosted when there are more people working than are reported to the government. U.S. productivity is based on the amount our economy produces divided by the number of people working. If there are a lot more people working than the government takes into account, this makes productivity look artificially high. It can also help to conceal underlying inflation.

My personal belief is that inflation is and has been a lot higher than the government has been reporting, and undocumented workers play a large part in concealing the true inflation rate.

What difference does this make today? Inflation causes the dollar to be weaker abroad. A weak dollar makes everything we buy overseas more expensive. One of the things we buy a great deal of overseas is oil. There is some talk about $4/gallon gas. This week I heard Senator Obama say that we have to do something to strengthen the dollar to prevent that from happening. I agree with him on that.

I find it very interesting that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, of all places,published this story. when coupled with the Obama quote, I ask: is there about to be a liberal backlash against illegal immigration? Boy, that would sure mix it up.

Or AM I conservative?

When I was installing the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software that allows me to post more often without wearing out my fingers, I was instructed to read one of several passages in order that the computer software might get used to my voice. I chose to read a brief speech which included this passage:
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge—and more.

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do—for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom—and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required—not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
Compare these words to the musings of Senator Obama. As I have noted before, and as documented here, Senator Obama believes that we should withdraw from Iraq regardless of any potential human tragedy. This week he said that in the event the Al Qaeda establishes a base in Iraq after our departure, he is prepared to go back in to Iraq.

(Isn't that just like a "progressive"? Don't bother preventing a problem; just be prepared to spend oodles of taxpayer dollars to deal with a preventable problem after it occurs.)

Now how do we square the words of President Kennedy, quoted above, with the amoral, us-first-and-only-us attitude evidenced by Mr. Obama? And Kennedy was a liberal, right? So how far off to the left does that put Mr. Obama?

As further evidence of the old adage that politics makes strange bedfellows, I find myself this week in agreement with Angelina Jolie, of all people. I have previously commented that her selection as humanitarian of the year by the United Nations is evidence of just how out of touch with their home nations many UN staffers are. But this time Ms. Jolie seems to have more moral compassion, and the willingness to pay the price to demonstrate that compassion, than the Democratic "progressives."

The Iraqi families I've met on my trips to the region are proud and resilient. They don't want anything from us other than the chance to return to their homes -- or, where those homes have been bombed to the ground or occupied by squatters, to build new ones and get back to their lives. One thing is certain: It will be quite a while before Iraq is ready to absorb more than 4 million refugees and displaced people. But it is not too early to start working on solutions. And last week, there were signs of progress.

In Baghdad, I spoke with Army Gen. David Petraeus about UNHCR's need for security information and protection for its staff as they re-enter Iraq, and I am pleased that he has offered that support. General Petraeus also told me he would support new efforts to address the humanitarian crisis "to the maximum extent possible" -- which leaves me hopeful that more progress can be made.

UNHCR is certainly committed ... to increase UNHCR's presence there and to work closely with the Iraqi government, both in assessing the conditions required for return and in providing humanitarian relief...

My visit left me even more deeply convinced that we not only have a moral obligation to help displaced Iraqi families, but also a serious, long-term, national security interest in ending this crisis.

Today's humanitarian crisis in Iraq -- and the potential consequences for our national security -- are great. Can the United States afford to gamble that 4 million or more poor and displaced people, in the heart of Middle East, won't explode in violent desperation, sending the whole region into further disorder?

What we cannot afford, in my view, is to squander the progress that has been made. In fact, we should step up our financial and material assistance. UNHCR has appealed for $261 million this year to provide for refugees and internally displaced persons. That is not a small amount of money -- but it is less than the U.S. spends each day to fight the war in Iraq. I would like to call on each of the presidential candidates and congressional leaders to announce a comprehensive refugee plan with a specific timeline and budget as part of their Iraq strategy.

As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. And when I asked the troops if they wanted to go home as soon as possible, they said that they miss home but feel invested in Iraq. They have lost many friends and want to be a part of the humanitarian progress they now feel is possible.

It seems to me that now is the moment to address the humanitarian side of this situation. Without the right support, we could miss an opportunity to do some of the good we always stated we intended to do.

I continue to believe that Barack Obama is the new George McGovern. He is an antiwar isolationist, with a radical socialist agenda wherein government can and must solve all the problems within this country, but must completely avoid trying to do anything outside of this country.

In his isolationism, Obama has more in common with Pat Buchanan than with most Americans. And in his secular progressive socialism, Obama is in the same camp as Ralph Nader, even if he is funded by the corporate interests Nader despises.

Four major areas of concern are yet to come back to bite Obama, but I confidently predict that they will.

The first is that he pledged to take federal funds and limit his campaign spending. Now that he is the nearly-presumptive nominee and has demonstrated all kinds of abilities to raise funds, he is hedging that bet, saying that he will only keep that pledge if he can renegotiate it with McCain to include organizations over which neither of them actually have any control ... if they're following the law, that is. This is causing consternation with Obama among the campaign reform minded left and center. And those folks are all or nothing. If they become disillusioned with Obama, he loses a major portion of his primary base.

The second is his almost completely unvetted record. Mark Penn of the Clinton campaign put it this way:
“He [Obama] regularly goes out there and says he’s the person who can beat John McCain,” said Mark Penn, Mrs. Clinton’s chief strategist. “But the truth is, if he is ever in a general election, a lot of positions he took in 2003 and 2004 will come back to haunt him in a big way and a lot of the vetting that didn’t happen will happen. The independent and Republican support that he has had will evaporate really quickly.”
The third is that he has said nothing of substance yet, except to attack NAFTA and the status quo. It is very easy to talk about "change" and "hope" and draw large crowds in the primary. When you are facing a true ideological opponent in the general election, and you have to start putting actual programs and policies on the table, and most Americans start to realize how far to the left Obama is on the basis of those proposals.

(I recently heard a quote from a prominent journalist analyzing JFK's style in 1960. I cannot find the quote, but the gist of it was this: Kennedy uses his charm, wit and intelligence to deflect questions, and that it is not until after a press conference is over that a reporter looks at his notes and realizes no question was answered, no specifics given.

(The commentator quoting this was saying that Barack Obama has a similar skill, and that it would serve him well in the general election. I disagree. I will not quote Lloyd Bentsen, but I will note that as a war hero, Kennedy had impeccable national security credentials. Also, and more importantly, this is 2008 and not 1960. The press is more skeptical, and there are a lot more of them. Likewise, though he has correctly railed against baby boomers and their preoccupation with 40-year-old conflicts, Obama has to face this most skeptical generation in history in the general election. I frankly do not think that absent his PT 109 experience, that John Kennedy was electable, then or now.)

Finally, I believe that Americans have a long and bitter memory of Vietnam and its aftermath. Obama's willingness to cut and run (and thereby completely screw our allies in Iraq) will show up as a real thorn in the sides of the so-called Reagan Democrats: working people, including union members, who might otherwise support him. For all the talk of the youth vote, people need to remember that Baby Boomers outnumber every other generation. And for every baby boomer who opposes the war, there is at least one, and maybe two or three, with bitter memories about our defeat in Vietnam and its aftermath.