Monday, December 14, 2009

Some helpful graphical information in re Eric Steig's Antarctica paper...

...and Jeff Id's attempted takedown thereof.

Id's point -- and you should read his post so that you aren't victimized by unwitting misrepresentations on my part -- is that there were lots of weather stations in Antarctica to choose from, but GHCN's "value-added" process threw out all but one. I thought I'd help out by pointing out what it's like to use a single thermometer to measure the temperature for all of Antarctica.

First of all, Antarctica is big. Here it is on the same scale as North America:

If you go from the coastal thermometer used by GHCN to the South Pole, that's 1,555 miles, which is slightly less than the distance between coastal Corpus Christi, Texas and...Winnipeg. If you go from that same thermometer to Vanderford Valley, on the opposite coast, that's 3,200 miles. If you start at the point where New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all meet, about fifty miles or so from Trenton, and you go 3,200 miles in the general direction of Alaska, you wind up in Fairbanks.

So let me ask you: if you had a single thermometer in, say, the Catskills, and I told you that that thermometer could tell you what was happening to the average temperature across all of North America between there and much crack would you think I was smoking?

Now I add that there are actually thirty or so other thermometers, but I only took this one. And then I add that the one I picked showed more warming than any of the other thirty. And then I add that since that thermometer was installed, they've built an airport next to it and turned that outpost into a sort of tourist destination complete with a coffee shop...would you begin to have suspicions about my scientific integrity?

Then you point out that maybe global warming's not that unprecedented because people used to farm successfully in Greenland and make wine around Hadrian's wall -- and I respond, "Oh, well, you have to ignore that; that was just a local warming effect."

Hmmmmmmm...Greenland's being farmable for a century or so is a purely local effect of no significance, but a thermometer in the Catskills is a good proxy for Anchorage, Fargo, Cleveland and Seattle...look, I'm not exactly saying there's inconsistency in the standards here, I'm just saying the consistency isn't obvious to the Uninitiated Non-Scientist, like, um, yours truly. Just sayin', that's all.

Here's another thing: looking at this picture of Antarctica, where would you guess this oh-so-representative thermometer sits?

Try right where this arrow points...yes, on that island just off the coast, on the part that sticks out way further north than the rest of the continent.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm.....if there was any grant money or political power-grabbing at stake here I might be suspicious. Good thing it's just our good old trustworthy friends the Scientists...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Al Gore, Poet Laureate of Climate Change (UPDATED WITH VIDEO)

You think I'm snarking with that headline, but I'm just copying the honorific that Vanity Fair gave him in all seriousness. What's that you say? Well, okay, fair point: merely to quote what Vanity Fair says in seriousness, is to be snarky -- kind of like any direct quote of Dubya that involves the phrase "nukyular power."

Here's you an e-mail thread from earlier this week, involving yours truly and a couple of quick-witted co-workers:

From: Pierce, Ken
To: Guidry, Randy; Greer, Chris
Subject: The Poet Laureate of Climate Change

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the one, the only, the incomparable, the red-blooded...AlGore! Whose poetry is, I humbly submit, proof that extraterrestrial life exists, as this is true Vogon poetry if ever I heard true Vogon poetry.

One thin September soon
A floating continent disappears
In midnight sun

Vapors rise as
Fever settles on an acid sea
Neptune's bones dissolve

Snow glides from the mountain
Ice fathers floods for a season
A hard rain comes quickly

Then dirt is parched
Kindling is placed in the forest
For the lightning's celebration

Unknown creatures
Take their leave, unmourned
Horsemen ready their stirrups

Passion seeks heroes and friends
The bell of the city
On the hill is rung

The shepherd cries
The hour of choosing has arrived
Here are your tools

By the way, the Poet Laureate thing is not my gag...Vanity Fair uses it. The “gag” part (in both senses) is that Vanity Fair means it seriously, and goes on at length about Gore’s comic poetic genius. I don’t know which is funnier, the original poem, or the Vanity Fair brown-nosing:


From: Greer, Chris
To: Pierce, Ken; Guidry, Randy
Subject: RE: The Poet Laureate of Climate Change

Ha. And I quote from the article:

“The result is a surprisingly accomplished, nuanced piece of writing. The images Gore conjures in his (untitled) poem turn a neat trick: they are visually specific and emotionally arresting even as they are scientifically accurate.”


From: Pierce, Ken
To: Greer, Chris; Guidry, Randy
Subject: RE: The Poet Laureate of Climate Change

You did read it aloud, right? You can’t truly savor the full delights of any poetry without reading it aloud...but out of consideration for others, you should do it alone. Preferably in a soundproof room.


From: Greer, Chris
To: Pierce, Ken; Guidry, Randy
Subject: RE: The Poet Laureate of Climate Change

No, I am in full panic mode now waiting for the destruction of our planet. Not by global warming, but due to the construction of a space lane bypass...

From: Guidry, Randy
Sent: Tuesday, December 08, 2009 9:27 AM
To: Pierce, Ken; Greer, Chris
Subject: RE: The Poet Laureate of Climate Change

I know some Vogons and Mr. Gore, you are NO Vogon, Sir!

Is that how the poem ends???? It left me wanting more! What are these tools he refers to at the end? I must know! Perhaps our salvation lies in them! I bet Pelosi knows!

UPDATE!!Thanks to Guy Fawkes by way of Ace, we can now bring you a dramatic reading by the Poet Laureate Himself. And thank goodness, because, if I'm 100% honest with you, up until I heard His Goreness demonstrate how the poem is supposed to be read, I, um, frankly didn't think it was that good...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hey, this is genuinely useful

Rasmussen has come up with a way to attempt to classify the basic emotional orientation of a voter toward the very concept of government. I think this is awesome, and suggest that you ask yourself these questions. (The Perilous answer to each one is not merely obvious, it's obvious with lots of exclamation points / lots of non-Baptist emphasis / ALL CAPS / all of the above means of emphasis plus jumping up and down vigorously in place.)

-- Generally speaking, when it comes to important national issues, whose judgment do you trust more - the American people or America’s political leaders? [The Peril trusts political leaders of any country, as a class, rather less than the Peril trusts the sort of person who advises prostitutes and their pimps on tax-evasion strategies.]

-- Some people believe that the federal government has become a special interest group that looks out primarily for its own interests. Has the federal government become a special interest group? [What do you mean "has become"? When 25,000 years ago the first bossy Lucy-hominid picked up a big rock and threated to hit the other members of the tribe with it unless he did as they were told by their Betters, which is to say himself, goverment "became" a special interest group. And it has stayed one ever since.]

-- Do government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors? [Whenever government and big business work together, which is pretty much all the time except when government is working with big labor unions, it is pretty much always at the expense of consumers and whichever part of the investment community has stocks in companies other than the ones in bed with government. So, um, that's a...


Friday, December 4, 2009

Stay classy, Governor Huckster. And judicious as well.

First of all, we have the letter in which public prosecutor Robert Herzfield objects, in vain, to Happy Saintly Christian Governor Huckabee's decision to commute the sentence of future police-executioner Maurice Clemmons. I would very much like to have seen the earlier letters -- Herzfield appears to have sent a letter providing a "standing objection" to all clemency proclamations in his district, pending an opportunity in each case for him to investigate the facts of the case, and Huckabee appears to have written a somewhat pissed-off response; but I haven't seen either of those two letters. This particular Herzfield letter, however, is impressive and well-argued:
Dear Governor Huckabee,

I've received your letter of January 5th in which you state that you "judiciously" review each clemency application "on a case by case basis, carefully analyzing the merits of each." After reading your letter, I was surprised to hear that your spokesman stated that you "just do what the Post Prison Transfer Board recommends." These statements seem to be mutually exclusive. Do you analyze the merits of each case or do you rubber stamp Board recommendations? [That seems like a very good question to me -- especially since "I review each application on a case by case basis, carefully analyzing the merits of each" sounds like the sort of vague, insincere boilerplate a politician would feed to an inconveniently pestersome prosecutor accusing him of carelessness, while "I just do what the Post Prison Transfer Board recommends" sounds exactly like a politician speaking to the public and trying to disavow any responsibility for his decisions. Can't blame Herzfield for asking the Huckster to make up his feeble mind. I'm curious to see how Huckabee responds to this excellent question.]

Secondly, it seems clear that you did not finish reading my December 29th letter. As I stated last month, if you have a case which merits clemency, I requested that you contact me with the reasons you believe clemency is appropriate for persons incarcerated and allow me to research the facts and then determine whether I would withdraw my objection. I did not -- as you stated in your letter -- declare that everyone from Saline County "is beyond any consideration for extra-judicial relief, no matter the facts." Perhaps your anger at having your judgment questioned prevented you from reading the entire letter. [Let's see: a prosecutor asks, "Before I agree to go along with granting clemency to some convicted murderer or rapist, I'd like to have a chance to check the facts," and the governor responds, "You don't want anybody to get clemency and you don't care about the facts." That does seem to imply either that Herzfield is lying to Huckabee on a point where Huckabee would certainly know that he's lying, or else that Huckabee has a reading disability. It would be very interesting to see the previous two letters in the series, wouldn't it? Can't wait to see how Huckabee responds to this point, which doesn't seem very easy to respond to in any way other than with an apology.]

Finally, I believe your administration's policy of granting clemency is fatally flawed. You would be wise to take the time to re-evaluate your rocedures. I suggest an approach that is more public, and that you announce specific reasons for granting clemency at the time you announce your intent. [Note: the Governor was obliged at the time to publish and "intent to grant clemency" thirty days before actually granting it, in order to allow for public comment; Herzfield's suggestion is that the government provide his specific reasons for wanting to let this particular murderer or rapist get out of jail sooner, so that the public commentary could be better informed. Can you think of a reason not to do this, other than that you, as Governor, were afraid that if people knew what your reasons were, they'd crucify you as an ass for granting clemency on such weak grounds? Me either.] An open system along these lines would be more respectful to the people of Arkansas, and allow them the opportunity to understand why a convicted murderer (or rapist) should be set free. [Do you see any problem with this, Gentle Reader? I certainly don't, and am very interested to see Huckabee's response to these seemingly well-thought-out suggestions.]

It is inevitable that citizens will question the motives of public officials who take such dramatic action without offering the slightest explanation or justification whatsoever. This type of situation damages the credibility of everyone in public service, and is harmful to our democracy. [Seems a trifle overwrought at first reading...but then he's a prosecutor who's watching murderers and rapists set free, and I imagine the families of the four dead Washington cops don't find it overwrought at all.]

I hope you will consider updating your policy to reflect the suggestions above.

Sincerely, etc.
Well, I certainly can't wait to read Huckabee's response to this letter. How will he clarify his position on the degree to which his decisions are his own doing rather than mere rubber-stamping? Will he apologize for carelessly mis-reading Herzfield's original letter? Will he give careful consideration to Herzfield's seemingly excellent suggestions for improving the clemency process? Let's see, shall we?
Dear Robert,

The governor read you [sic] letter and laughed out loud.

He wanted me to respond to you. I wish you success as you cut down on your caffeine consumption.

Sincerely yours,

Cory Cox,
Deputy Legal Counsel and Adviser on Criminal Justice
Ladies and gentlemen, the front-runner for the Republican Party's Presidential nomination in 2012...and you wonder why, in a country where more people self-identify as conservatives than liberals, the Republican Party has trouble getting its candidates elected.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sometimes it takes wives a little while to get a clue

Michelle is out for a walk in the Rose Garden when she sees Barack pacing back and forth, in apparently intense concentration, muttering under his breath. She grows concerned and goes over to check on him.

MICHELLE: Barack, honey, is everything okay?

BARACK [looks up a bit distractedly]: Sure, there's no problem, babe, I'm just praying.

MICHELLE: Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize...I thought you were talking to yourself.

BARACK [trying hard to bear her obtuseness with patience]: Well, yes, like I said...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The real tragedy would be if we lost our excuse to congratulate ourself on our political correctness diversity

General Casey is a disgrace to the armed forces, in my opinion; but it's not entertaining for me to say so in that bald, unadorned fashion. But with the Army's and media's desperate attempts to find some way to avoid admitting, "Uh, yeah, we let a jihadist stay in the armed forces because we all know Muslims are one of the Specially Protected Victim Groups that only racists hold to the same standards other, whiter people are held to," perhaps the best thing to do is just parody the hell out of it.

Sort of the way Latma does here:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Respect for one's neighbor's political opinions... a critical element of American civic spirit, admirably demonstrated in this picture forwarded to me by my friend August.

Looks photoshopped to me but that doesn't hurt the gag.

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's only startling if you're a particular kind of jackass

Okay, everybody, repeat after me something my daddy taught me long ago, but that apparently most Americans' dads didn't bother to say:

"Anybody can lie with his words. It's hard to lie with your deeds. So if you want to know what a man is going to do, don't listen to what he's saying -- look at what he's already done."

Barack Obama has played dirty his entire political career. It's not like this is a big secret; he's a standard-issue dirty Chicago pol. Now comes Peter Wehrner to whine, in apparently honest astonishment:
The Obama White House is showing a fondness for intimidation tactics that might work well in the wards of Chicago but that don't have a place in the most important and revered political institution in America. To see these impulses manifest themselves so early in Obama's presidency, and given all that he has said to the contrary, is rather startling.
The emphasis is mine. And the reason I emphasize it is simply this: if you paid any attention whatsoever to what Obama SAID, rather that looking at the record of what Obama has DONE, then you have s*** for brains. Who in God's name, other than people with single-digit IQ's, listens to what a politician SAYS and doesn't bother to go back and say, "Um, how does that line up with what he's spent his life DOING"?

Apparently one hell of a lot of self-impressed we're-way-smarter-than-you-illiterate-rednecks American intellectuals, that's who.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Yes, that just about sums the Bushes up

Andrew Ferguson, talking about Ted Kennedy's "bipartisanship":

And so, for example, he happily conspired with the first President Bush to pass the draconian Americans with Disabilities Act and, with the second, the disastrous No Child Left Behind education reform. In the proponents of "big-government (or compassionate, or national-greatness, or kinder, gentler) conservatism" he found the useful idiots he needed.

I agree with the Left that an Alzheimer-stricken Shetland pony is likely to have a higher IQ than the two Presidents Bush combined...but I fear that we arrive at our common conclusion from very different premises.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Line of the Day

From Vodkapundit, disagreeing with Jules Crittendon's labelling of Obama's Afghanistan/Pakistan policy as "Chaosistan" (at the 3:14 mark):

"I'm gonna have to disagree with Jules on this one; it is a little like chaos, sure, but, um... [pause for effect]...less disciplined."

Monday, October 5, 2009

And as we all know, people who don't know sports shouldn't express political opinions

"I'll tell you another thing about Glenn Beck," James Taranto quotes James Carville as saying. "He wouldn't know the difference between a football, a bat and a hockey court."

For those of you who know as little about sports as does Glenn Beck, and therefore labor under the misapprehension that hockey is played on a "rink," the word is now apparently "court," one presumes in honor of the invariable mutual courtesy displayed by the participants...

Barney Frank (D - Fannie Mae)

I like theblogprof's habit of referring to Barney Frank not as "Barney Frank (D - Massachusetts)" but instead with reference to Barney's true constituency.

Bush Lied? Nah, probably not Clueless George himself...but my money says Paulson did

And if that makes me a member of the Left, then you can color me pink, because this sounds perfectly credible to me.

HT: Hot Air.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

And you wonder why old people are opposed to Obamacare...

...maybe they've been looking around to see how this whole government-run-health-care thing works in other places.

For example, note this bit: "And, as the Patients Association report points out, most of these stories are about old people."

Or this:
Poor basic hygiene was a factor in the recent disaster at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust hospital where at least 400 patients died needlessly; the official report of 2007 blamed “shocking and appalling” standards of care. But two years on, it emerged earlier this year that 10 NHS health trusts have even worse death rates than Mid Staffordshire had.

There's this, of course, but then the fact that liberals hate monopolies in business but love it in government is something nobody who has paid attention to politics for a single day at any time in the past seventy years could have failed to notice:
One of the problems is that the NHS is a monopoly — any patient knows there is nowhere else to be treated and any nurse or doctor brave enough to blow the whistle runs the risk of never working in medicine again; there is no alternative to the state medical monolith.

See, the thing that sucks if you're a liberal and 49% of the people in the country don't like doing it your way, and you're having to compete in the free market where people don't have to give you their money unless they personally think you deserve it, is that you only have a market with 51% of the people...'cause you can't take the 49%'s money without their permission, and since you don't have a monopoly they can give their money to somebody else, and, to be blunt, they think you're a moron and haven't the slightest intention of giving you their money. Every private businessman without a monopoly has to deal with this every day; it's called "customer satisfaction" and without it you go out of business. (This is why businesses that have enough money to spend on lobbyists -- such as big insurance companies -- spend that money urging legislators to regulate their industry "for the good of the public" and thus raise entrance costs enough to keep the small players out and protect the big guys' monopoly, the fostering of exploitative monopolies being the primary economic effect of government regulation.)

But if you're a liberal, you don't have to worry about satisfying the 49%. You just have to round up the 51% to outvote them -- and then you can say to the other 49%, "Screw what you want, hand over your money," with all the practically irresistible power of the state to back you up. So what if the Republican down the street thinks you're a moron and thinks that you will do a terrible job of taking care of his health and the health of the homeless guy down the street? So what if he wants to make his own health care decision with his own doctor rather than having you decide what decisions he's allowed to make? So what if he thinks the local Catholic hospital will do a vastly better job of caring for the homeless guy than will your army of bureaucrats and he wants to give his charity-for-the-homeless-guy money to the hospital rather than to you? Too bad for him; he'll damned well give you the money whether he likes it or not -- because you and your fellow Fifty-One-Percenters voted yourselves a monopoly on health care.

Liberalism is the quintessentially anti-democratic political philosophy, though it doesn't perceive itself that way. It is the free market that is truly democratic: my dollar is worth as much as yours, and I get to vote with it. If 80% of us like HEB and 20% of us like Randall's, then HEB will get 80% of the money and Randall's will get 20% -- but I, Mr. Randall's Lover, will still get to spend my money at Randall's. If HEB's customer satisfaction drops to 60%, then the voting shifts to 60% HEB and 40% Randall's...and so do the dollars. If Randall's pulls ahead 51% to 49%, then the money shifts accordingly -- but the almost-half-the-population that prefers HEB, still gets to go to HEB, and Randall's won't get those people's money until it finds a way to make them happy.

But in politics, if you're in the 49%, you're hosed. There were all kinds of liberals who hated having Dubya as President. I personally was no fan of Dubya; I have litte or no respect for McCain; and I got stuck with Obama. But if you are in the 49%, your vote doesn't count, and your money goes to the 51%.

Do you see what I mean? Here's how it works in the private sector for me, Mr. Randall's Lover.

Voting is running 80% / 20%: I get to shop at Randall's.
Voting is running 60% / 40%: I get to shop at Randall's.
Voting is running 49% / 51%: I get to shop at Randall's.
Voting flips back to 51% / 49%: I get to shop at Randall's.
Voting flips back again to 49% / 51%: I get to shop at Randall's.
Some guy opens a new store called Whole Foods and I, along with 5% of my fellow Americans, discover that it is awesomely better than either Randall's or HEB: I get to shop at Whole Foods.

Noticing a theme there, are we? But now what if the private sector worked like the "democratic process" beloved by liberals?

Voting is running 80% / 20%: I have to shop at HEB.
Voting is running 60% / 40%: I have to shop at HEB.
Voting is running 49% / 51%: Yay, I get to shop at Randall's!
Voting flips back to 51% / 49%: [sigh] I have to shop at HEB again.
Voting flips back again to 49% / 51%: Yay, I get to shop at Randall's again!
Some guy opens a new store called Whole Foods and I, along with 5% of my fellow Americans, discover...oh, wait, never mind, he's not allowed to open it because he doesn't have 50% of the vote yet.

You see, anybody who attempts to take any part of life that is currently in the private sector, and move it into the public sector, is an essentially anti-democratic person -- because he is trying to move that part of life out of the world where every person's dollar counts, and move it into the world where your vote is worthless unless you're part of the biggest mob.

Liberalism: always looking out for the little guy...

P.S. (I admit I'm being deliberately provocative here to make my point...if you want to say in the comments that the free market isn't democratic because rich people have more dollars than poor people do, fire away. But it's not going to change the primary points I'm making in the post, since "liberalism is anti-democratic" isn't really the main point.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Good luck refuting Mr. McCain

No, not I-Hate-The-First-Amendment Senator McCain. I mean Stacy McCain.

I have yet to hear a single argument in favor of the obvious and blatantly fraudulent system known as American "public education" that could be put forth without blushing by a ten-year-old of reasonable intelligence and a minimum of intellectual integrity. There are many things in America that are indefensible, but few are more hopelessly indefensible than is public education. (As empirical evidence, I could cite the fact that most people who read my blog would be considered to be "well-educated" Americans...and I'd be shocked to find that even one has seen either of those J. S. Mill quotes before. I'm not blaming you, Gentle Readers. You were, after all, educated by American public schools.)

Feel free to take a shot at defending it if you like. Just know that I won't pull any punches when demolishing your arguments. Come up with a defense of public education -- by which I mean, a public school regime that survives only thanks to compulsory attendendance and compulsory taxation -- that holds water even for five minutes and I'll buy you a steak dinner. There are many complex policy issues in the world. This is not one of them.

HT: Vodkapundit.

Monday, August 31, 2009

[Cackling delightedly]

Barack Obama: in the words of Vodkapundit, "the first man to prove the Peter Principle over-optimistic."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

As I was just saying...

...if you want those of us who disagreed with Teddy Kennedy's politics to pipe down and not be so gauche as to raise political disagreements during a time of mourning and of spiritual significance, then you had bloody well not recruit a kid to pollute the Prayers of the People during the Mass itself (!!!!!!!!!!) with the following ever-so-cute little variant on the standard liturgy:

“For what my grandpa called the cause of his life, as he said so often, in every part of this land, that every American will have decent, quality healthcare as a fundamental right and not a privilege, we pray to the Lord.”

If every conservative in the church had simply stood up at that point and walked out, it would have been less than the Kennedy family deserved. And had the same thing happened at a conservative politician's funeral, I'd lay even money that at least some of the liberals present would have walked out -- and if Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton had been in the crowd, then I'd've given you ten to one on those two guys personally.


By the way, I won't link to this particular post because of non-family-friendly language, but Protein Wisdom also has the line of the day. Many of us non-fellow-travelers have been disgusted (though of course not surprised) by the shameless rush on the Left to use Kennedy's death as a way to push health care, as though there were any acceptable reason to vote for a bill other than that it is in the best interests of the country. (If you weren't going to vote for the bill on its merits, but now that Teddy's dead you'll vote for it as a sentimental gesture, then the place for you is not the Senate, but someplace far less congenial where you can have no influence whatsoever on the public policies of this great nation.) But nobody had found the perfect way to capture that disgust in a single pithy line...until Darleen pulled it off:

"[N]ot even 24 hours could pass without them shamelessly running Teddy’s corpse up the flag pole and demanding we salute it by giving up our liberty."

Pretty much sums it up for me. Well done Darleen!

De mortuis nil nisi bonum

"Speak no ill of the dead," is one way to translate that classic Latin tag; but I prefer, "If you can't say anything good about a dead guy, don't say anything at all." Which is an excellent reason to say nothing at all about Teddy Kennedy.

But there are two problems with staying silent about "the Lion of the Senate." (Excuse me for a moment...okay, back. Sorry about that; had to rinse the bad taste out of my mouth there.) First of all, public figures become part of history and lessons must be learned from their legacy, and anybody who has gone to the trouble that Teddy Kennedy went to in order to remain a public figure, cannot reasonably hope to avoid blunt commentary on what that legacy is, even after his death.

But the bigger problem is that the Kennedy hagiography industry wants to tell the rest of us not to say anything bad about ChappaTeddy; which I would personally be happy to do for a decent period of mourning, at least, as long as the hagiographers would agree not to say anything false (including false by fallacy of emphasis) about Kennedy. If the hagiographers would restrict themselves to things along the line of the Anchoress -- "May God have mercy on his soul, as I hope to find mercy myself," basically -- then there would be nothing I would want to contribute to the conversation until a few months from now, at which point I would simply comment on Kennedy the same way I comment on FDR or LBJ, ad hoc, depending upon the political issue that happened to be under discussion.

But to have to listen to the 24/7 glorification of one the most repulsive public figures of twentieth century American, that really tries one's patience. It is especially trying when you remember, for example, how artfully Teddy turned Mary Jo's death into a "Kennedy curse" (if you have never watched Teddy's eleven-minute exercise in please-pity-me-so-that-I-don't-have-to-suffer-consequences-for-my-action speechifying, which we now know was in large part composed of lies, then you certainly ought to), in a speech containing what I consider to be the single most shamelessly hypocritical utterance in Cold-War-era American politics:
It has been written, 'A man does what he must, in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures, and that is the basis of all human morality.' Whatever may be the sacrifices he faces, if he follows his conscience -- the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow man -- each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of the [sic] past courage cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look in his own soul. I pray that I can have the courage to make the right decision.
You have to admire a man who can speak so honestly about struggling with the decision of whether or not to come clean and tell the truth about his actions, actions that cost an innocent young woman her life...oh, no wait a minute, he's not talking about how he ought to have done what was best for Mary Jo instead of spending time concocting an alibi to try to avoid persona consequences, and he's not talking about how he now needs to come clean with the people of Massachusetts about what he's done. He's talking about...well, let's just let him finish:
Whatever is decided, whatever the future holds for me, I hope that I shall have -- be able to put this most recent tragedy behind me and make some further contribution to our state and mankind, whether it be in public or private life. Thank you, and good night.
In other words, he's hoping that he can muster the "courage" to "put this most recent tragedy behind me" (instead of going to jail like anybody with a different surname would have done) -- and keep his Senate seat, as of course he did. "A man does what he must, in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures, and that is the basis of all human morality." The fact that Kennedy, under those circumstances, could utter those words, leaves one wondering how it is possible to avoid suspecting Kennedy of being completely bereft of either conscience or shame.

Then you hear a friend of his, who is trying to praise Kennedy with the standard line you get so often about how, "He wouldn't want us to be sad; he would be here making jokes to make us feel better..." Pretty standard thing to say at a wake, right? And Ed Klein is running along these lines, and he gets carried away since he's in a room full of fellow far-Left Kennedy-worshippers, and then...well, here's a transcript:
KLEIN: I think he'd be the last person who would want us...those he's left and, and full of bathos; I think he, he'd be...

DIANE REHM [hostess]: [helpfully, as Klein seems to be struggling to find words] He would come in with a big guffawing laugh and make us laugh too.

KLEIN: He would, and...yes, and he, you're so right, he would, and he'd probably have a joke to tell, as well...

REHM: [chuckling] At his own expense.

KLEIN: Well, you know, he'd...[starts to chuckle happily, having just thought of something that will show what a cool guy his buddy Teddy was] I don't know if you know this or not, but one of his favorite topics of humor was indeed Chappaquiddick itself. And he would ask people, "Have you heard any new jokes about Chappaquiddick?" [in tones of fond admiration] I mean, that is just the most amazing thing. It -- [suddenly realizing what he has just said, as the producers, presumably in horror, hit the button to play the "we're going to commercial now" music, and then desperately trying to salvage the situation] it's not that he didn't feel remorse about the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, but that he still always other side of everything and the ridiculous side of things, too.

REHM: [firmly, no longer chuckling] Ed Klein, former foreign editor of Newsweek and author of a new book on Teddy Kennedy; we will be taking more of your questions after this short break...
You may think I have transcribed this bit unfairly and imputed tone and motivations unreasonably; so by all means listen yourself here and draw your own conclusions. But I see no reason not to think that Klein has let a perfectly legitimate cat out of the bag -- and the imagination reels.

By the way, if you want to say, "That was a long time ago, why can't you let it go?" -- well, if there was the slightest bit of evidence that Kennedy had ever genuinely repented for what he did at Chappaquiddick and in the weeks that followed, I would say simply, "The man did an evil thing; he repented and confessed and sought forgiveness; and I say it should be granted to him." I have, for example, not been able to get out of my mind these past few days the example of John Profumo, onetime up-and-coming politician, who was discovered to have cheated on his wife. (And it turns out that I'm not the only one; Mark Steyn compares Kennedy's behavior to Profumo's in this column.) In Profumo's case, unlike Kennedy's, the girl he was amusing himself didn't wind up dead. But still, Profumo made his public confession of guilt, after a brief period of trying to wriggle out the noose -- and then resigned his public office, walked away from his political career for good, and...let's let wikipedia take it from here.
Shortly after his resignation Profumo began to work as a volunteer cleaning toilets at Toynbee Hall, a charity based in the East End of London, and continued to work there for the rest of his life. He "had to be persuaded to lay down his mop and lend a hand running the place", eventually becoming Toynbee Hall's chief fundraiser, and used his political skills and contacts to raise large sums of money. All this work was done as a volunteer, since Profumo was able to live on his inherited wealth.
. Now, that is what an honorable man does when he commits an uncharacteristically evil action. One feels that Lord Longford was reasonable in feeling "more admiration [for Profumo] than [for] all the men I've known in my lifetime." And had Kennedy reacted by living a life of penance and good works, rather than using political connections and dishonesty to keep a grip on a position of immense personal power that he clung to grimly literally for the rest of his life, then I would say of Kennedy, as I say of Profumo, "I hope that when I find myself face-to-face with my own sin, I respond to it with the courage and honesty and humility that man showed." Probably I wouldn't; probably I am much more like Kennedy than I am like Profumo...but to be compared to me, is not to be complimented.

You know what else is difficult? It's especially difficult to sit in silence when you remember the unprecedented venom and dishonesty of his unspeakable and inexcusable personal attack on Robert Bork, a speech which marks a stark and apparently irreversible turning point in the way Supreme Court nominations in particular and Washington politics in general were carried out. Only a man utterly without honor and utterly without ethics could have said the things Kennedy said with a straight face, knowing them, as he did, to be lies and grotesque exaggerations; only a man dedicated to partisan politics at the expense of all else including simple human decency could have launched that attack.

And it is especially difficult to sit in silence when you hear the likes of Melissa Lafsky say things like this:
So it doesn't automatically make someone (aka, me) a Limbaugh-loving, aerial-wolf-hunting NRA troll for asking what Mary Jo Kopechne would have had to say about Ted's death, and what she'd have thought of the life and career that are being (rightfully) heralded.

Who knows -- maybe she'd feel it was worth it.
Um...I find myself speechless.


Okay, here's the deal. If you want to take the line the Anchoress takes, I'll happily take it with you: Teddy Kennedy is somebody God loved, and there was no doubt a priest with him most of the way in his final months, and we may hope that he found his way to the repentance and mercy that we all will have to find when our time comes. And if that's all you want to say, then that's all I'll say, and we can be in agreement. And you can stop here; the rest of what I have to say, is not addressed to you.

If you want to try to convince me that Teddy Kennedy's life is being "rightfully heralded," in the sense that you want to try to convince me that Kennedy was a good man and a good Catholic, then the politest thing that I can tell you is that you are passing judgment on him when you call him good, in apparent refusal to weigh his actual behavior by any standard that I consider to be moral or rational, and that I can only do my best to refrain from passing my own judgment -- given that all the evidence available to me points to the conclusion that he spent most of his life as an evil and manipulative man, and therefore only the knowledge of my own ignorance of his spiritual state can stand in the way of my condemning him unservedly. His actions in personal life were, when he thought he could get away with it, shockingly often downright evil actions, and I know of no evidence that he repented of them. I can only plead ignorance of the psychological pain and motivations that lay behind those actions (any son of Joe Kennedy could hardly escape psychopathy of some sort), and my further ignorance of what happened spiritually in Kennedy's last days...which is to say, I can at best say, "I do not know for sure that Kennedy was an evil man, though he did many evil things." But then by that standard you cannot possibly say, "I know for sure that Kennedy was a virtuous man, for he did many virtuous things." I will agree not to spend the next two months saying that Kennedy was a sociopath, if you will agree not to spend the next two months saying that he was a nice guy once you got to know him. Fair enough?

But of Kennedy the politician, we most certainly can pass judgment. There is hardly a piece of catastrophic legislation from the past fifty years that doesn't bear his fingerprints, and insofar as he has influenced the way in which politics are done, that influence has been disastrously negative. It is not possible to calculate the price in personal devastation that has been paid by the citizens of this country, and especially the poorest and most vulnerable among us, by the folly and influence of this deeply wrongheaded but deeply powerful man. I cannot speak with confidence to the question of whether Kennedy's impact on those he knew privately was a net positive or a net negative, though certainly he would have to do a great deal of private good indeed just to get back to break-even after what he did to Mary Jo, and to his wife, and to the powerless waitresses and star-struck political groupies he used and discarded along the way. But I know that those harmed by all the statist legislation that Kennedy's hagiographers assure us would not have been passed without Kennedy's influence, number in the tens and perhaps hundreds of millions.

Now, God is able to bring good even out of great evil, and therefore my faith tells me that on that Day when all is revealed, we will be able to see how God has used Kennedy's folly and dishonesty and partisan malice to accomplish things Kennedy himself would never have imagined. But that is no excuse for Kennedy; "these things must come, but woe to him through whom they come." And these are great mysteries, of which we can but profess ignorance. If you are willing to say with me, "Whether the direct and humanly inferrable consequences of Kennedy's political actions was good or bad, Romans 8:28 still applies, and therefore we should focus on the good God will accomplish rather than on the harm that Kennedy did" -- well, I'm happy to go there with you, too; though that marks the end of the useful part of the conversation since the "good God will accomplish" is almost by definition something presently invisible to our fallen vision. But, yes, I'll very happily agree not to talk about how much harm Kennedy did to the country if you'll agree not to rhapsodize about how much good he did it.

But if you are going to insist on carrying on and on about what a wonderful human being Kennedy was and what a great Senator Teddy was, then at a certain point you had better be prepared to hear me eventually say two things:

1. On the humanly observable (non-8:28) level, the world in general, and America in particular, is a worse place today because Teddy Kennedy was born in 1963. He left the world worse than he found it, and his influence was profoundly negative. God save this nation from more politicians like that one.

2. God forbid that my personal life and my moral choices should remind anybody of Teddy Kennedy's, and may God forgive me for those times in my past where it already does.

On praise of Kennedy by Republican fellow Senators

Doesn't it strike you that almost all of the "he was a nice guy even though I disagreed with his politics" praise that Kennedy gets from his Republican colleagues, really reduces to nothing more than, "If you were somebody, like me, whom Kennedy found it useful to charm, then he could be very very very charming indeed?" It's as if Republican politicians have completely forgotten that charm and virtue have nothing whatsoever to do with each other, that charm is the indispensable requirement of every S.O.B. who wants to be able to get away with outrageous and sociopathic behavior, and that furthermore charm is the primary professional skill of the professional politician. Kennedy could charm you if he thought it worth his while. Okay. And that says what, exactly, about his character?

If I want to know what kind of person a man is, I don't ask how he treats the people he thinks he might need favors from later -- which would include, in Kennedy's case, pretty much every member of the media and every member of Congress. I ask how he treats the people whom he thinks he can treat as he wants without fear of repercussion...waitresses, for example, or starstruck young staffers whom he has gone to the trouble to get drunk, or young ladies who have been assaulted by his close relatives. If you tell me, sure, Kennedy left Mary Jo to a lingering death by asphyxiation and then spent the rest of his life collecting and being amused by Chappaquiddick jokes, but that's not so bad because when I arrived in Washington as a fellow Congressman he made an effort to charm me...sorry, but that doesn't make me think well of Kennedy's character. It just makes me think badly of your intelligence.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Delightfully, blissfully un-self-aware Democratic website of the day

Today we find ourselves over at Talking Point Memos, where I happened to notice a sidebar reference to John Mackey's outstanding op-ed on an approach to health reform that is quite different from (and quite a bit saner than) the One's. Now I've already pointed to that op-ed, and if you have read it, you will note the following points:

1. Mackey doesn't like the current system and wants to reform it. He is, therefore, emphatically in favor of health-care reform -- just not in favor of Obama's proposals, which he believes will make things even worse than they are now, and which upsets him precisely because he thinks it's really, really important to make sure Americans have access to good health care. To say that Mackey "opposes health-care reform" is...well, the most charitable description would be "clumsily misleading," assuming that one believes it is more charitable to believe that an adult person cannot read than it is to believe that he would deliberately create a false impression.

2. The one absolutely certain consequence of the Obamessiah's proposals is that the power of politicians such as Reid and Pelosi and The One Himself, would be immensely enhanced -- which is to say, that they would personally be vastly enriched in the only currency that politicans care about, which is political power. The conflict of interest that exists whenever a politician proposes laws that increase the power of politicians and reduces the individual's right to tell the politician to bugger off, is the elephant donkey in the room in every public debate involving Democratic politicans (and more than half the debates involving Republican politicians as well, Republican politicians being by and large politicians by essence and Republicans by chance). But the True Bara-meter Of All Virtue And Wisdom of course has nothing in view but the Good of the People. Well, the Good of the Right Sort Of People, at least.

John Mackey, however, is a business owner, and therefore presumptively evil. Sure, he has catered for years to a market sector consisting heavily of urban liberals who happen to have quite a bit more money than your average Joe, but there's always been something fishy about him that we can't quite put our finger on...oh, yeah, he's a business owner. And he's rich, like, he has more money than your average upper-middle-class urban liberal. Now, I mean, being rich can be forgiven if you're a Kennedy or a Kerry or an Edwards or you work in Hollywood and say the right sort of things about the wrong sort of people (namely Republicans), but you have to be suspicious of anybody who got money by identifying things other people need and figuring out how to meet those needs reliably and at low cost, rather than by inheriting it or being bribed by lobbyists to confiscate it on their behalf from taxpayers. I mean, these businessfolk are such bastards.

Now, Mackey's salary is $1 per year because he decided a while back that he didn't want to work for money any more. Furthermore, most of his arguments keep coming back to, "I've paid attention to what my employees say they need and want, and one thing they need is really good health care, and this is how we think we need to get there, because experience shows that going the direction Obama wants to go takes you to a place where people can't get the health care they need." Furthermore, by openly taking a position opposed to Obama while knowing perfectly well that most of his customer base will have a knee-jerk "boycott the bastard" reaction while spending precisely as much time on reading his actual op-ed as the average Democratic Congressman will spend reading the health-care bill he votes into law, Mackey knows perfectly well that the impact of his op-ed on Whole Foods revenues will be negative.

So what does Talking Points Memos tell its readers is going on here? Pretty simple:

1. John Mackey is opposed to reform and doesn't think Americans need health care.

2. He is doing this not because, like The One, he is genuinely concerned for the welfare of Americans, but because, unlike The One, he is out to expand his personal corporate empire.
But conveniently, [Mackey] also includes the following advice: "Recent scientific and medical evidence shows that a diet consisting of foods that are plant-based, nutrient dense and low-fat will help prevent and often reverse most degenerative diseases that kill us and are expensive to treat."

Translation: Whole Foods is the solution to all of America's health care woes.

Translation: Mackey is merely trying to boost his corporation's profits. By, um, openly taking a position certain to infuriate well more than half his customer base. Oh, the cunning of it all!

I'll leave it to you, Gentle Reader, to decide whether my translation of TPM's point is more or less accurate than TPM's translation of Mackey's op-ed.

In a related item, can you believe the way those awful swastika-carrying Astroturf mobs are pretending that the President is saying things he isn't really saying at all? What kind of scumbag could sink so low as to misrepresent his opponents' views?

[chuckling] I swear, sometimes I think the Democratic Party has an initiation ritual in which the pledge is required to locate the part of his brain that provides self-awareness and a sense of irony, and lobotomize it. Thank God I actually know some reasonable Democrats in private life, because if the only Democrats I ever heard from were the ones who make all the noise and get all the air time, I'd be absolutely convinced that 50% of our electorate had gone clinically insane.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A genuinely fascinating point embedded within the Whole Foods opinion piece

Whole Foods president John Mackey has written an excellent op-ed piece demonstrating the idiocy of leaping from "the current system is unsustainable" to "therefore you should support whatever insanity the President and his far-Left cronies wish to impose since anything is better than what we have." He demonstrates it by the simple act of listing common-sense reforms which go in exactly the opposite direction from President Obama's "reforms," which would go miles toward solving the actual problems that we actually have, and which I think would get lots of support from most people...except the main donor base of the Democratic Party, which is drastically Left-of-center and is far more concerned with imposing a New World Order than with, you know, actually helping people be healthy.

The part I find most fascinating is this one:
At Whole Foods we allow our team members to vote on what benefits they most want the company to fund. Our Canadian and British employees express their benefit preferences very clearly—they want supplemental health-care dollars that they can control and spend themselves without permission from their governments. Why would they want such additional health-care benefit dollars if they already have an "intrinsic right to health care"? The answer is clear—no such right truly exists in either Canada or the U.K.—or in any other country.
Exactly. The reason they want those supplemental dollars is, of course, that in these countries where health care is "free," you can't get a simple cholesterol exam unless you're willing to fork out $900. Welcome to the wonderful world of Something For Nothing. I mean, you did believe the liberals when they promised it to you, right?

This is pretty good

In fact it's outstanding. You are welcome to suspect Crowder of special pleading; but then I've been interested in this subject for a decade and if anything he understates the problem. I'll vouch personally for the accuracy of his analysis; but he presents it far more entertainingly than I would be able to.

In particular, note that at two different government health care outlets, the staff there told Crowder's friend that the only solution available to him was to go pay $900 -- at a private clinic. I think my favorite bit is when the friendly helpful nurse at one clinic, in giving Crowder's buddy advice on how to go about getting a cholesterol test, tells him that he needs to put in his two or three years on the waiting list for a family doctor -- yes, you heard that right, two to three years on the waiting list to get a family doctor -- but that that's okay because "you're young, you have time." (This section runs from the 7:25 mark to 7:45, if you can't really believe that it's possible to be told such a thing by a woman who is actually well-intentioned and wants to be helpful.) Canadian health care is free, you see, in about the same sense that it's free for me to have the government send me on a joyride into space, which is to say that you don't get charged money to fail to receive a service...oh, wait a second, in Canada (thanks to those taxes) you do get charged money to fail to receive service. A helluva lot of money, in fact.

Or, as the nurse helpfully points out, he could pay $900 at the private clinic...if he happened to be one of the Canadians who had enough money left over after the exorbitant taxes Canadians pay, and the absurdly high cost of living, to have $900 spare dollars lying around to spend on a cholesterol test.

I also love the part with Diane...I mean, I don't love the fact that her mother unnecessarily lost her leg to the waiting list; that's exactly the reason that I think that whole system is evil in its end results as well as in its means, and I use that word "evil" in its full, literal, technical and carefully considered sense...what I mean is, I love the way Diane frames her disgust with the Amazing Wonderful Single-Payer System That We Americans Should All Emulate Even Though It Literally Treats People Worse Than Dogs:

DIANE: ...because I have a dog, and if I want to get a blood test for him at the vet, it takes me 15 minutes and costs ten dollars and I have the results.

STEPHEN: And it's private?

DIANE: Well, yeah, it's private -- he's a vet. I'd be willing to pay ten dollars to have my blood tests right away too.

If you aren't prepared to explain to me why you believe that Obama's health care program won't fall afoul of exactly the same economic laws that have savaged the NHS in Britain and the single-payer system in Canada, then don't bother wasting my time telling me about how our current system is "unsustainable" and that anything is better than what we have., frankly. You could make the system catastrophically worse than it already is. You could implement Obamacare.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mr. President, please add me to the list...

…of individuals who think that this whole health care plan of yours is either the lunacy of economic barbarians with the approximate cumulative IQ of a small school of goldfish who were oxygen-deprived at birth, or else a shamelessly dishonest attempt grossly to extend the reach and power and intrusiveness of federal government into private life, by persons with neither honesty nor honor who couldn't care less about how much irreversible damage they do to our health, our economy, and our liberties, so long as they can temporarily pacify their insatiable craving for ever more power. I will happily be expressing this opinion to anybody interested in it right up until your jackboots crush my windpipe. As this makes me by definition a liar and a member of the swastika-toting mob, your list would be incomplete without my name. As it is difficult to think of any roster on which it would be more honorable to appear, I demand to be placed thereon.

What an inconvenience that First Amendment must be for you and all of your fellow…I tell you what, I will generously allow you the opportunity to choose your own derogatory term to complete this sentence, stipulating only that it must be an extremely non-Baptist one.

And how utterly unfit to be the leaders of a free people you are. "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism..." Unless, of course, the Obamessiah is the One against whom the free citizen dares to direct his dissent. As my father always told me, nobody fears debate more than the man who knows he has no case. And not since Richard Nixon has this country seen a President less capable of facing disagreement with grace and equanimity.

I attach my name, Social Security number, address and telephone number for your Big-Brotherly convenience.

Yours most sincerely,

Darrell Kenneth Pierce, Jr.
Social Security # [omitted from the blog but not from the actual e-mail]
731 South Marathon Way, Stafford, Texas, 77477
Telephone number 832.643.8820

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A proposed divorce agreement

While this purports to be from a law student, I don't for a moment buy it -- you wouldn't believe the cleanup I had to do on grammar, punctuation, and the spelling of "Barbara" Streisand's name; and the references to individuals seem very dated. I mean, Shirley MacClaine was a nutcase, I'll give you that -- but who under the age of thirty-five or so remembers the glory that was Shirley MacClaine's nuttiness? Am I supposed to think that this was written by a guy who is still in law his forties? Sorry, ain't buyin' what you're sellin' there.

So I imagine this is an old piece I hadn't seen before that's been updated with a Sarah Palin allusion or two and re-issued. Still pretty funny, though -- especially because so many on the far Left wouldn't see anything funny about conservatives' offering to keep Bibles, the NRA, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies or Wal-Mart.


Dear American liberals, leftists, social progressives, socialists, Marxists and Obama supporters, et al:

We have stuck together since the late 1950's, but the whole of this latest election process has made me realize that I want a divorce. I know we tolerated each other for many years for the sake of future generations, but sadly, this relationship has run its course. Our two ideological sides of America cannot and will not ever agree on what is right; so let's just end it on friendly terms. We can smile and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences and go our own ways.

Here is a model separation agreement:

Our two groups can equitably divide up the country by land mass, each taking a portion. That will be the difficult part, but I am sure our two sides can come to a friendly agreement. After that, it should be relatively easy! Our respective representatives can effortlessly divide other assets, since both sides have such distinct and disparate tastes.

We don't like redistributive taxes so you can keep them. You are welcome to the liberal judges and the ACLU. Since you hate guns and war, we'll take our firearms, the cops, the NRA and the military. You can keep Oprah, Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnell. (You are, however, responsible for finding a bio-diesel vehicle big enough to move all three of them.)

We'll keep the capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart and Wall Street. You can have your beloved homeless, homeboys, hippies and illegal aliens. We'll keep the hot Alaskan hockey moms, greedy CEO's and rednecks. We'll keep the Bibles and give you NBC and Hollywood.

You can make nice with Iran and Palestine and we'll retain the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us. You can have the peaceniks and war protesters. When our allies or our way of life are under assault, we'll help provide them security.

We'll keep our Judeo-Christian values. You are welcome to Islam, Scientology, humanism and Shirley McClain. You can also have the U.N., but we will no longer be paying the bill.

We'll keep the SUV's, pickup trucks and oversized luxury cars. You can take every Subaru station wagon you can find.

You can give everyone health care if you can find any practicing doctors. We'll continue to believe health care is a luxury and not a right. We'll keep "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and the national anthem. I'm sure you'll be happy to substitute "Imagine," "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," "Kum Ba Ya" or "We Are the World."

We'll practice trickle-down economics and you can give trickle-up poverty your best shot.

Since it often so offends you, we'll keep our history, our name and our flag.

Would you agree to this? If so, please pass it along to other like-minded liberal and conservative patriots and if you do not agree, just hit delete. In the spirit of friendly parting, I'll bet you ANWAR which one of us will need whose help in 15 years.

John J. Wall
Law student and American

P.S. Also, please take Barbra Streisand and Jane Fonda with you.


Friday, April 10, 2009

On Obama's speaking style (hint: o-v-e-r-r-a-t-e-d)

An excerpt from a chatty e-mail to a friend who had referred to the President as "the Obamanable One":

About Obama I generally say very little, except to make private use of the ample comic potential he provides as long as one can distract oneself from the devastating consequences likely to ensue from his conceit, naivete, and genuinely staggering ignorance. "The Obamanable One" is pretty good, though. I'll share with you a couple of things that I hope will allow you to extract some gallows humor out of the appalling situation...

First, is a riddle from my son, brought home from school in the middle of the presidential campaign:

Q. What's the difference between Obama and Osama?
A. It's the BS.

Second, there's a conversation I had with a close Pakistani friend who thinks Obama is the bee's knees. Obama was on television giving a speech at the time. Now, I've watched a lot of politicians give speeches over the years, and they have tended since the invention of the teleprompter to all look more or less the same: the politician glances at the teleprompter for as long as it takes him to be reminded of the contents of his next paragraph, and then for as long as that paragraph lasts in his memory, he works the crowd and the camera. In particular, ever since Kennedy/Nixon, all politicians know the importance of looking into the television viewer's eyes -- which is to say, straight into the camera -- and projecting sincerity and concern and whatever else he's hoping to b.s. the viewer into believing the politician feels. And when Obama first burst onto the scene, all any Democrat could talk about were three things. (A) How Satan had a lot to learn from Dubya about this whole Master Of Evil schtick (not all Democrats were into this but, very noticeably, Obama himself played to it shamelessly). (B) How it would prove that America didn't care about race any more if we were to elect a black dude, a proposition of whose inherent self-contradiction its proponents were blissfully unaware, even as they babbled incessantly about how cool it was that Obama was black, and about whether it was more important for America to elect a black dude in penance for racism or to elect a chick in penance for sexism. (C) What a great speaker Obama was.

Now, I don't have a very high opinion of Dubya, but that's because I think he inherited from his family some very foolish assumptions that had highly unfortunate consequences, not because I think he is an evil man; so (A) didn't interest me. And I genuinely don't give a rat's ass what color a man is, and think it says just as much evil about a country when that country elects a man because he's black as it would should that country refuse to elect him for the same reason; so (B) was of no interest to me either. But (C) caught my interest...up until I saw the man speak.

What struck me forcibly about Obama's speeches were the following:

1. He had a fascinating rhetorical technique in which, whenever he appealed to "victims" that the Democratic Party was going to help (that is, by taking money away from other people and giving it to the "victims"), everything was concrete and highly personal. He would pick a specific single mother who was a victim of tragedy, for example, and tell her story with lots of details. But then when he turned to the traditional Democratic pasttime of demonizing those Americans who dare to be more successful than is the Democratic Party's base, all of the accusations and bitterness were there -- but they were carefully depersonalized. The attacks were bitter and vicious and were clearly intended to stir up anger and resentment -- but it was never "evil rich people" who were keeping Democratic voters poor and hungry, as it would have been in the past speeches of such notable Franciscan practicioners of poverty and simplicity of life as, say, the Kennedy brothers. No, when Obama was stirring up the bitterness pot, the bad guys were never people; instead they were "the forces of intolerance," or something similarly impersonal. Thus we had the fascinating spectacle of a man whose message was in large part, "You've been getting screwed by evil rich Republicans and I'll make it stop," i.e., an appeal to bitterness, but who in the very act of presenting that message, presented himself -- successfully! -- as the candidate of reconciliation and healing, in defiance not only of his own entire life history, but even in defiance of the actual content of the very speeches in which he spoke of the need for healing. The student of rhetoric within me gives him a standing ovation; that was a helluva trick he pulled off (though it does not speak at all well for the intelligence of those taken in by it). The moralist and patriot within me naturally has a rather different reaction.

2. He seems to me to be a one-note pony: I've never seen him give a speech in which he didn't seem to be posing for a bust. The chin is elevated slightly in a pose of self-conscious nobility; the voice is self-consciously serious and self-important; and when he attempts to be humorous it falls painfully flat. If, like a great many Democrats, you believe that George W. Bush represented the end of all civilization worthy of the name, and you think that every speech of the President should be the next Gettysburg Address...why, then, you probably liked Obama's speeches, because he clearly thinks that each of his speeches is the next Gettysburg Address. Those of us who are old enough to remember Reagan know better.

3. But the thing that really caught my attention was that Obama never looks at the camera. He looks at a forty-five degree angle or so off to his right, and then he swings back to look at a forty-five degree angle or so off to his left. Then he looks back to his right. Then back to his left. He's practically a metronome. And he's always looking at the same elevation, have you noticed? He never looks down at the people in the front row, never elevates his eyes to the "ceiling fans," as I once heard a pop singer call the fans in the back row of the balcony. For a long time I couldn't figure out what was up with that -- right up until I saw how astonishingly badly he floundered in any venue in which he is forced to ad-lib rather than use his teleprompter. And the penny finally dropped: Obama reads his whole speech word-for-word from the teleprompters. He looks at the teleprompter on his right, and then he swings back to look at the teleprompter on his left. Then he looks back at the teleprompter on his right. Then back to the one on his left.

Now, Dubya is never going to be mistaken for a great orator. But even Dubya knew his own speeches well enough to take his eyes away from the teleprompter every now and then and look at the camera. So now I get the hugest kick out of watching Obama give a speech, because I just watch his head move to the right, and then to the left, and then to the right...and I laugh myself silly.

At any rate, I was sitting with Novera (my Pakistani friend) while Obama was speaking, and I mentioned this teleprompter thing. "Just watch," I said after explaining it to her, and then I did a simple play-by-play: "See, he's looking at the one on his the the the left..."

After about ten seconds an incredulous Novera burst out, "Oh my God, you're right!"

" the the left..."

Then in tones of mingled amusement and outrage, Novera demanded to know why I had insisted on showing her that. "I always LIKED watching his speeches, and now I can't see anything but his head swinging back and forth between those teleprompters -- you've ruined it for me!"

At this point I felt I had earned the right to cackle in evil triumph, and I accordingly exercised that right. Then I told her one of the very few jokes that I've ever made up on my own rather than stealing from somebody else -- another Obama riddle, as it happens:

Q: What did Barack say to Michelle at the very height of passion on their first night together in the White House?
A: Nothing. The teleprompter was broken.

Well, that's enough uncharity for now, I suppose...

By the way, I think it's only fair to say that I'm not the only person who caught onto the "forces of intolerance" rhetorical trick. (I mean, it was an obvious trick, of course; the fact that Obama felt safe, and was safe, in using it, is proof that the American public knows nothing about rhetorical technique and therefore has no defense against even the more obvious tricks. There were probably hundreds of people across the country who noticed what he was doing; unfortunately there were a couple of hundred million other people who had no idea.) I think I remember seeing on some other political blog -- the Corner, perhaps? -- a comment about this trick of Obama's, and thinking, "Yes! That's EXACTLY what the little slimeball does! Thank God somebody else sees it." So if I happen to remember where I saw it I'll come back and retroactively hat-tip 'em.