31 January 2007

"Articulate." Now That's Irony

Senator Biden has apparently noticed that Senator Obama is attractive because "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," he said. "I mean, that’s a storybook, man."

MORE: Now that I've thought about it, isn't it most likely that the thought behind this inartful comment was that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are neither "mainstream" or "clean." As for clean, it was most likely not meant a comment on their personal hygiene, but on their ethics.

Dismisses? What Else Does It Have Going For It

Harper's letter dismisses Kyoto as 'socialist scheme', from the CBC.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper once called the Kyoto accord a "socialist scheme" designed to suck money out of rich countries, according to a letter leaked Tuesday by the Liberals....

The Kyoto Protocol went into effect Feb. 16, 2005, with 141 countries signing on, including every major industrialized country, except the United States, Australia and Monaco.
This really isn't that hard: the US signed Kyoto, remains a signatory and is making more progress towards it's goals than Canada and most of western Europe. I do understand that the fact that we're not even trying is frustrating, but it's no excuse for bad facts.

30 January 2007

How To Punish Your Friends While Making Yourself Worse Off

Gregg Easterbrook praises the President for his proposal to aggressively increase US auto fleet CAFE standards. The problems with increased CAFE standards have been well-rehearsed and I won't go into them here. (Well, ok, just a little: increased CAFE standards decrease the cost of each mile driven, which will necessarily lead to people driving more miles.) But one thing Easterbrook says is nuts for reasons not having to do with CAFE standards:
Nothing the United States can do in energy policy is more important than an mpg increase. Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton, and, until last week, George W. Bush had all refused to face the issue of America's low-mpg vehicles, which are the root of U.S. dependency on Persian Gulf oil and a prime factor in rising U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions.
First of all, we're not particularly dependent upon Persian Gulf oil. We get most of our oil from the Americas: Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, etc. In the 12 months ended October 06, only 16% of our petroleum imports and 11% of our total petroleum usage came from the Persian Gulf. That's slightly less than we imported from Canada, alone.

Nor can we hurt the Persian Gulf countries through conservation. If we do succeed in conserving enough oil to effect the global market, the effect will be a cut in the price of oil. The Persian Gulf nations, however, are the low-cost suppliers of oil. A sufficient decrease in the price of oil will only shift consumption towards the Persian Gulf and away from the high price producers, such as Canada.

Is This Ironic?

As demonstrated by the "5 Myths" article I posted about below, there is a tendency to confuse clean air laws with a response to global warming. In fact, it is as clear as anything having to do with global warming can be that cleaner air, ceteras parebus, results in a warmer climate than otherwise. More particulates in the air would mean more cooling. Cleaning the air is not part of our response to global warming, it's part of the problem.

29 January 2007

The Wrong Track

The Washington Post lost its mind yesterday and published an article entitled 5 Myths About Suburbia and Our Car-Happy Culture by Ted Balaker and Sam Staley. The five myths are:

  • That Americans drive too much. In fact, it's not that Americans drive too much but that we are rich and, all over the world, rich people drive more. The Europeans, with their smaller countries, big cities, trains to die for and gasoline at $5.00 per gallon, use cars for 78% of their travel. We use cars for only 88% of our travel, and the Europeans are gaining on us.

  • That public transportation makes sense. Public transportation simply can't be made convenient, cheap and attractive enough to displace driving. Even in New York, only 25% of commuters use public transportation.

  • That cutting driving would improve air pollution. To the contrary, we're now getting improved air quality along with more driving. Even more improvement is locked it, as older cars get replaced by newer less-polluting cars.

  • That we're paving over America. Only 5.4% of the US is "developed," meaning a population density of at least 30 people per square mile (the approximate population density of Kansas).

  • That less driving would lead to less global warming. The Post comes to its senses here and the answer given is not all that convincing. But Kyoto is a joke, the best thinking now is that the costs of global warming will not outweigh the benefits until the temperature has risen about 2 degrees F which is the entire likely rise this century and tying global warming to substantial decreases in driving will only ensure that we take no action to stop global warming.

28 January 2007

Sunday Brunch: The Wide, Wide World Of Web

When Cass Sunstein suggested that the web would dangerously narrow the arguments to which people were exposed, I scoffed. Didn't he know that we all read the lefty sites so that we could scoff at them? But now that we've set up an international collaborative of conservative bourgeois individualists, I wonder if he has a point. And yet we do discuss (ad nauseum) issues on which we disagree. The web: home of pornography and viewpoint confirmation, or scene of fertile international argumentation (and pornography)?

25 January 2007

A Tale Of Two Irans

After the Iranian revolution, the Shah's government was succeeded by a more or less secular western government. That government allowed the Ayatollah Khomeini to return to Iran from exile and invited him to be the figurehead head of state. He refused. Instead, he started holding court in Qom and setting up Revolutionary Councils under Imams in every Iranian city. These councils became, in effect, a second government parallel to the de jure government. After a year or so, the councils were so popular that they swallowed the secular government. The new constitution kept this bifurcated government intact, so that now Iran has two official governments.

This bifurcated structure has caused the US and the west no end of trouble. The hostage crisis was, from the Iranian point of view, simply part of the power struggle between the secular government and the religious government. It was carried out by the Revolutionary Guard, a quasi-autonomous militia allied with, but not quite answerable to, the religious government. We insisted on negotiating with the secular government, which had no power to end the crisis. The same problem came back to bite us during the Iran/contra scandal and we're still having problems with it today both in Iraq and dealing with the Iranian nuclear program.

No one, including the Iranians, quite knows who is in charge of which program. The person making threats or promises today is not necessarily in a position to deliver. The president himself can be overruled by the Guardian Council or the Supreme Leader, but neither the council nor the leader are in control of the minutia of government. Ahmadinejad probably can't launch a nuclear attack without Ayatollah Khameini's permission, but the Ayatollah almost certainly can't stop the government from working to develop nuclear bombs. To some extent, this is simply clever. It gives the Iranians an artificial but real advantage in negotiations in that it binds the two people in the room into a team who have to craft a sufficiently attractive package to convince the decision-maker who is not in the room and not disposed to being convinced. Good cop/bad cop always works.

But, worse, this dichotomy is also a very real problem in the Iranian government. It not only makes Iran more difficult to deal with, but makes any agreement less reliable. Even the Iranians don't always know who has the authority to make a binding agreement because some other part of the government might decide, on its own and secretly, that the agreement does not apply to it. On matters that are sufficiently important, the only agreement that will last might be the agreement that is imposed.

24 January 2007

Who Says I Can't Kick Him Around Any More?

John Kerry has decided not to run for President in '08, keeping his tinder dry for the critical 2012 election. In its article bemoaning the absence of this political giant from our ballots, the AP describes John Kerry as "Democratic Sen. John Kerry, who fell 118,601 Ohio votes short of the White House in 2004." Now, this is true as far as it goes: if 59,301 Ohio voters had switched their vote, John Kerry would have been our second minority president in a row, having lost the popular vote by 4 million votes. Kerry can also be truthfully described as the man rejected by the largest number of voters in history. But he will be best remembered by history as "French looking."

22 January 2007

Render Unto Caeser

As global warming science leaves its boisterous adolescence behind, we're starting to see the long-expected pull back: Climate scientists feeling the heat: As public debate deals in absolutes, some experts fear predictions 'have created a monster' (Eric Berger, Houston Chronicle, 1/22/07). This article rehashes several recent articles prompted by climate scientists starting to confess publicly that their models are less reliable than has been presented and that younger scientists are feeling pressured to make their results conform to the global warming orthodoxy. Ironically, it seems to have been Al Gore's success in scaring people by publicizing the worst possible climate change possibilities that is the immediate cause of the pullback.

The heart of the Chronicle story is not that climate scientists are not actually absolutely 100% sure that we're all doomed. The heart of the story is this:
Gerald North, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, dismisses the notion of widespread tension among climate scientists on the course of the public debate. But he acknowledges that considerable uncertainty exists with key events such as the melting of Antarctica, which contains enough ice to raise sea levels by 200 feet.

"We honestly don't know that much about the big ice sheets," North says. "We don't have great equations that cover glacial movements. But let's say there's just a 10 percent chance of significant melting in the next century. That would be catastrophic, and it's worth protecting ourselves from that risk."
We need scientists to tell us what they believe is likely to happen and to demonstrate that their results can survive a skeptical inquiry. But it is for the government and the people to decide what to do based upon the scientists' report. It is not enough to tell us that the results will be catastrophic. Tell us what the results are and let us decide whether they are catastrophic. The not-at-all hidden agenda of the true believers in anthropogenic global warming is to present the science so that it leads to only one possible choice.

21 January 2007

Chargers Finally Beat Patriots

Having won a tough game in San Diego last week, the Patriots simply didn't have the energy to handle a great Indianapolis offense. The Patriots were outplayed by the Colts once they had used up their initial burst of energy halfway through the second quarter.

Congratulations to Payton Manning, Tony Dungy and the Colts.

He Must Be A Really Bad Skier

Prince Charles cancels ski trip to help save planet

Sunday Brunch

We're going to try something new here at the blog that dare not speak its name: a Sunday topic for general discussion not tied to current events, evolution or religion.

Today's topic is a new trope I've noticed wending its way through SF. If we assume that intelligent life is not rare and that faster-than-light space travel is not difficult, then there is likely to be a highly xenophobic space-traveling race. This race will see any other intelligent species as a threat to itself (because it is a threat to any other intelligent species) and do its best to wipe such a race out as early as possible. In other words, our attempts to contact other intelligent beings might be a signpost saying "Hey, kill us next."

I have two questions. First, is this scenario likely assuming, for the sake of argument, that other intelligent life exists? Second, should we change our actual behavior (SETI, space probes with star maps, radiating radio waves, etc.) because of the chance of FTL capable xenophobes?

19 January 2007

Did You Ever Notice

How other nations' militaries become "battle-hardened" while our's becomes over-stretched and exhausted?

18 January 2007

The Sacred Tragedy Of The Commons

Belated word comes from Canada that it is a sin to drink bottled water. The United Church of Canada (L'Eglise Unie du Canada) has decided that water is a human right and thus must be protected from profiteers and the United States:
Avoid those purchased water bottles--where possible.

The United Church's 39th General Council voted August 17 to discourage the purchase of bottled water "starting within its courts and congregations."

Meeting in one of its three decision-making commissions, the Council also voted to boldly affirm its conviction that "water is a sacred gift that connects all life," and the privatization of water must be avoided.

"Its value to the common good must take priority over commercial interests," said the Council. "Privatization turns a common good into a commodity, depriving those who cannot pay and further threatening local ecosystems."...

It voted to "firmly call upon our federal government to declare water as a human right, support municipalities in keeping water in public control, and resist any attempts by the United States to increase exports of Canadian fresh water under the energy proportional sharing provisions of NAFTA."...

The Council voted to receive for information the report "Water: Life before Profit."

[Emphasis added]
Yes, one can readily see how the decommodification of water will be a boon to the poor everywhere.

16 January 2007

Cheap Oil

Oil prices are down about 4% today, with both NYMEX crude and Cushing spot prices below $51.00 per barrel.

We Despise None So Much As Those We Have Wronged

One of life's little pleasures -- one that I owe entirely to the blogosphere -- is reading "Spengler" in the Asia Times on-line. The pseudonymous author, who seems to be New York-based but perhaps not American, has aptly named himself after a German philosopher of a century ago so pessimistic that he was rejected by the Germans for being dour. The original Spengler has the perhaps unique credential of having been a committed but not racist Nazi.

Our columnist, on the other hand, does not seem to be either a Nazi or a racist, though he does present himself as more willing to speak the truth on race than most Americans. In Americans, this always means that the speaker is, in fact, racist: "I'm not racist, but I am brave enough to say what we all know to be true. Blacks are lazy, Jews are money-grubbing, we're at war with Islam and all Mexican babies will grow up to be drug-dealing gang-bangers. You all just can't handle the truth." In someone who is not American, this need not be the case.

What attracted the columnist to the philosopher is clear. The philosopher believed that civilizations have a natural life-cycle and that the decline of the West was inevitable. The columnist is here to chronicle that decline. Yet the columnist is writing for an Asian audience that sees itself as the West's successor in global domination, which gives Spengler's columns a certain bitter-sweet quality. To keep this audience happy, half his columns are wild stories of decline, while half are full of insightful analysis of some troubling situation. It is very hard to tell the two apart.

Take, for example, this column on Jimmy Carter and the Palestinians. Spengler is excellent at explaining how the current state of the Palestinians can be laid at the door of the UN and the Arab states, rather than just being Israel's fault.
Where the Palestinians are concerned, Carter keens the same trope. It is repulsive to think that a people of several millions, honeycombed with representatives of international organizations, the virtual stepchild of the United Nations, appears doomed to reduce its national fever by letting blood. The 700,000 refugees of 1948, hothoused by the UN relief agencies, prevented from emigrating by other Arab regimes, have turned into a people, but a test-tube nation incapable of independent national life: four destitute millions of third-generation refugees in the small and barren territories of Gaza, Judea and Samaria, which cannot support a fraction of that number.

The project of a Palestinian economy based on tourism and light manufacturing is a delusion in the globalized economy of Chinese-dominated trade in manufactures. The subsistence-farming fellahin should have left their land for economic reasons, like the Okies during the 1920s and 1930s, and dispersed into cities, like a hundred other rural populations of the so-called developing world. Kept hostage for political reasons, they cannot stay, and they cannot leave. They have chosen instead to fight, and if need be to die.
This is good stuff missed by almost all those experts (and Jimmy Carter) who comment so sanctimoniously on the middle east. Our anger at Israel isn't because this mess is Israel's fault. It is much more the fault of the UN, which not only birthed this monster but also nursed it and utterly refused to wean it. But at this point only Israel can solve the problem for us at small cost to ourselves if only at the cost of everything to Israel.

On the other hand, Spengler unconscionably misses an interesting parallel. Hong Kong, like Palestine, is small, overcrowded, isolated and without any natural resources except people. Hong Kong is rich, Palestine is poor. The UN, for all of its many faults, has educated the Palestinian people ("J" is for "Jew"/"K" is for "Kill.") Palestine could be rich, if only the world would let it be.

14 January 2007

Why Do Racists Always Mention That Blacks Are Articulate?

Obama's charm lost on America's black activists (Tony Allen-Mills, Sunday Times, 1/14/07)
Belafonte, who returns to British cinema screens shortly with a small role in Bobby, the new Emilio Estevez film about the assassination of Robert F Kennedy, also cast doubt on Obama’s credentials as a legitimate candidate.

"He’s a young man in many ways to be admired," Belafonte said. "Obviously very bright, speaks very well, cuts a handsome figure. But all of that is just the king’s clothes. Who’s the king?" There were contrasting views on the likely impact on Obama’s campaign of black competition or criticism. One analyst argued that a Sharpton candidacy would "put Obama on the spot" by forcing him to address awkward civil rights issues such as police brutality and racial profiling that he tends to steer clear of. One Democratic blogger argued that Sharpton was "just what the doctor ordered to keep Obama on the straight and narrow".
If we judge a man by his adversaries, that's one point for Obama.

11 January 2007

Cheap To The Last Drop

Oil prices fall on weather woes, supply (Madlen Read, AP, 1/11/07)
Oil plunged below $52 a barrel Thursday to its lowest price since May 2005, extending a sharp decline that has been led by dampened heating oil demand, but which could save consumers money on a more widely used fuel: gasoline.

Crude oil has tumbled by 15 percent so far this year in a huge sell-off that was kicked off by investment funds last year, and then stoked by a historically warm U.S. winter that has left supplies of heating fuel barely touched.
But don't worry, $100 gasoline will solve all of the problems caused by cheap oil.

(Interestingly, the oil companies were mostly up today.)

The Next Pele

Adios! Becks Heads For LA (Skynews, 1/11/07)
David Beckham says he is leaving Real Madrid to sign for LA Galaxy.

The former England captain will leave the Spanish club at the end of the season and sign a five-year deal for the US side, believed to be worth £128m.
You can't fool me. LA doesn't have a football team.

10 January 2007

Not To Pick On OJ, But

This sentence deserves some sort of award: The President just keeps hitting on long balls while the Right begs him to run the ball into the line to show how tough they are.

09 January 2007

A La Recherché du Temps Perdue

Closing up shop last night, I ran across "The Last Starfighter" beginning at 11:00. I was immediately back in the summer of 1984.

The summer of 1984 wasn't the best of my life, but wasn't bad at all. I had finished my first year of law school in June and was a summer associate at a small firm in Boston. I was living with my grandmother in Brookline and commuting to the office on the "T." I didn't know anyone in Boston and, since the firm was small, there were no other summer associates or even young associates to hang around with. I drove home most weekends, but didn't have much to do on weeknights. One Wednesday, I drove to a cineplex and watched "The Last Starfighter." It's the only time I've ever gone to a movie by myself. It was pretty good -- better than I expected -- but sitting in the dark by myself was odd. The standard joke about loners is going to restaurants alone, but I've done that many times and it doesn't bother me at all. (Actually, I kind of like it. Reading and eating while someone else serves me are three of my four favorite things.) But going to the movies by myself was just odd.

Of course I stayed up till 1:00 to watch the movie.

08 January 2007

McDonalds Doesn't Love You

James Lileks writes today about the closing of "his" Target.

Daily Quirk: Can you have a relationship with a Target store? (James Lileks, Startribune.com, 1/8/07)
It's hard to say goodbye, unless of course someone just punched you and is walking away. But I must say goodbye to something that's been a part of my life since I moved back to Minneapolis in 1994: the Southdale Target store. It's closing today. Child took the news hard; this was Our Target, and we'd made weekly trips our entire life. I shared her distress: What will we do if I need a TV set, socks and milk at 8 p.m.? Wal-Mart? What do I look like, Pa Kettle? I need a store whose merchandise is finely tuned to confirm my membership in a particular economic stratum! When Wal-Mart carries toilet brushes whose handles were approved by the architect of the Children's Theatre addition, we'll talk.

This was fortunate for me, because I've been looking for a hook for a post, or maybe an informal series of posts, about corporate issues.

Every once in a while at BrothersJudd, a commenter would go off on a rant about corporations, and how they're controlling the world, and shouldn't be treated like people, and need to be fought. The most interesting thing about these attacks is that they are equally likely to come from left or right. Whichever side they came from, they would be astonished when we pointed out that corporations don't actually exist. The idea of the corporation is just a legal fiction that allows large groups of people, even strangers, to own property and do business together. As owning property and doing business was traditionally something done by "people," corporations are considered people to the extent that they do business or own property. That is, they don't have the right to free speech or the right against self-incrimination, but they do have the right not to have their property taken by the government without just compensation -- just like any other property owner. The point being made to the corporation haters was that, to the extent they wanted to silence corporations or punish corporations, all they were doing was silencing and punishing people.

As important as not hating corporations, though, is not loving them. Corporations don't exist and can't love you back. To the extent that you think that Coke is America personified, or Chevy's are tough, or carrying a Smith & Wesson connects you to the cowboys, you've fallen prey to marketing. McDonalds will happily stuff you full of as much food as you willing buy and, simply by offering "supersized" portions is trying -- that is, the people who make up McDonalds are trying -- to convince you that such portions are reasonable.

Now, many of you think this is absurd: who could love a corporation? The Boston Red Sox are a corporation. Manchester United is a corporation. Your church or synagogue, your local diocese, are all most likely corporations. Coke and McDonalds and Disney are all corporations. Except corporations don't exist. All there is is people.

06 January 2007

Reason Starts To Break Through

Now that the dystopic religion of anthropogenic climate change is a few years old, we're starting to see schisms. Once we were all damned equally, now certain sects are starting to see that there is also an Elect:

Europe to suffer as the world warms up
(Andrew Bounds, FT.com, 1/5/07)
Chilly northern Europe could reap big benefits from global warming, while the Mediterranean faces crippling shortages of both water and tourists by the middle of the century, according to the first comprehensive study of its effects on the continent.

Fewer in the north would die of cold, crops there would boom and the North Sea coast could become the new Riviera, an analysis to be approved by the European Commission next week shows. But the annual migration of rich northern Europeans to the south could stop – with dramatic consequences for the economies of Spain, Greece and Italy.
The headline is necessary to sneak heresy past the Inquisition, but with Russia having long since joined the ranks of the heretics (global warming is here and it is good), can Finland be far behind?

What I Love About Human Beings

A tribe of early humans sits around the communal fire.
“Hey, I’ve got an idea.”
“What’s that, mate?”
“Let’s believe in god.”
“God? What’s that?”
“Hmm, God. Yeah that’s even better. God is the one creator of the universe, who controls everything that happens from outside of time and space.”
“Hey, cool.”
“But … why only one. Shouldn’t there be dozens, each one in charge of some natural phenomenon?
“That’s heresy. There’s only one God.”
The heretic leaves the fire.
“While, maybe not dozens. How about three.”
“There’s just one, I tell you.”
“How about three who are one.”
“One-third gods?”
“No, just three that are one.”
“Well, you can believe that, if you can. I’ll stick with one.” The speaker leaves the fire.
“About these three, who are they?”
“Well, one should be a father, and a son and a ….”
“No. A … uh … ghost. A holy ghost.”
“Oh, sure. But there must be a mother somewhere.”
“Well, the son must have a mother. She’d have to be a virgin. And conceived without sin.”
“She’d have to be a virgin, of course. But not conceived without sin. That’s ridiculous.”
The Catholics leave the fire.
“But, what’s in this God business for us?”
“Everlasting life, of course.”
“You mean we won’t die.”
“Not exactly. But your soul will be saved.”
“Hmm, how does that work? If we do good things?”
“Do good things? That has nothing to do with it. It’s only if God chooses to save you – and He’s already made up His mind.”
“Well, that sucks. I don’t believe in this predestination nonsense.”
The Protestants all leave the fire. The rest of the tribe look at each other.
“What dolts.”
“Wow, how could they believe that?”
“We know that there’s no god.”
“Well, I don’t know about ‘know.’”…

05 January 2007

Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager

Falsum In Uno, Falsum In Omnibus"

OJ points us to this story on global warming. The story is a complete mish-mash, arguing (I think) that because past global warming was severe and intense while carbon dioxide rose over millions of years, we should expect climate change to be even more sudden and intense now as carbon dioxide rises of the course of a century. Such speculation should be ignored, but I was struck by this sentence:
Over several million years, carbon dioxide in the ancient atmosphere increased from about 280 parts per million to 2,000 ppm, the same increase that experts expect by the end of this century as remaining reserves of fossil fuels are burned.
[Emphasis added]

What a maroon! If it weren't for the problem of collecting, there would be easy money to be made betting these dolts about whether there will be hydrocarbons for sale in the year 2100.

04 January 2007

Car Blogging

Not blogging about your car, but blogging from your car.

Turn Your Car Into a Wi-Fi Hotspot
: New technology will soon let car passengers check email, surf the web, game or communicate via any Wi-Fi-enabled device (gizmag.com, 1/4/07)
The era of permanent internet connectivity comes a step closer next week when Autonet Mobile launches its new wireless service that turns any car into a WiFi Hotspot
Residents of Hanover, New Hampshire, were woken today by the sound of an explosion. One resident said that it sounded like a head exploding. The source of the sound has not yet been discovered.


I'm skeptical that any American refers to himself as a "nontheist." Bring back Bright!

03 January 2007

If This Is Global Warming, Count Me In

I've been running around outside in a short-sleeve shirt the last two days and, according to the forecast, we're going to reach the low to mid-50s each of the next four days. It's like living 300 miles south of here.

Of course, because it's so warm, we've been using less fossil fuel. Our heating bill is much lower than normal and we're probably driving less and not running the heaters in our car as much. So one way to limit greenhouse gases is to increase global warming.

MORE: Having lived through a life time of New England winters, I should mention that it is clear that mild winters (e.g., global warming) saves lives.

Next In Our Occassional Series, Making Grown Men Cry

Bystander Pulls Off Daring Subway Rescue: Commuter Jumps Onto Tracks To Save Teen Who Suffered A Seizure (CBS/AP, 1/03/07)
A quick-thinking commuter saved a teenager who apparently suffered a seizure and fell onto subway tracks in Upper Manhattan, by jumping onto the tracks himself and pushing them both between the rails, beneath the oncoming train.

Cameron Hollopeter, 19, of Littleton, Mass., fell onto the tracks at Broadway’s 137th Street station Tuesday. Another subway passenger, 50-year-old Wesley Autrey of Manhattan, was standing on the platform with his two daughters whom he was taking home so he could go to his construction job.

When Autrey saw Hollopeter fall, he quickly took action and left his daughters to jump on the tracks to bring the man to safety as an oncoming train approached.

Barack Hussein Obama

The easiest conclusion for a conservative watching the jockeying for the Democratic nomination in '08 is to conclude that Senator Obama is, at best, a spoiler who might touch up Hillary Clinton on her pre-ordained path to the nomination. After all, the Democrats couldn't possibly nominate a guy who was, two years ago, an Illinois state senator? A guy who was, before running for the Senate, and I mean this literally, a socialist? A guy who has done nothing with his life other than get a Harvard education? A guy who's middle name is "Hussein?" And if they did nominate him, he'd lose easily, right?

Let me introduce you to Governor-elect Deval Patrick.

Now, the comparison here is a little unfair. Governor-Elect Patrick actually has some real world experience, although he's not a manager and has never run anything. His middle name is not Hussein or Khomeini or Adolf (that I know of, at least). Patrick ran in Massachusetts, the most Democratic state in the nation. His opponent was particularly weak and it wasn't a good year for Republicans. Nonetheless, Patrick came out of nowhere, said nothing of substance, has a far-left history and won handily. To date, the only stand of substance he's taken (yesterday) was to -- I swear I'm not making this up -- urge the state legislature to ignore the will of the people, the express language of the state constitution and the state supreme court by refusing to authorize a ballot question on gay marriage.

Nevertheless, the essential similarity is there. Both men are Harvard trained (which is almost irrelevant) and, oh yeah, both are charismatic, attractive black men. As a nation, we would love to elect a black president. It would be a gift to ourselves; proof that we've come a long way (baby) and have put our racist past behind us. Nor is this pull only felt by the left; I feel it myself. Combined with our inner fear of being racist, the threshold for voting against Senator Obama would be higher than the threshold for voting against some generic white man (Senator Edwards) and much higher than voting against Senator Clinton, who we know and dislike.

It's that last point that's the kicker -- we know Senator Clinton and thus wouldn't elect her president. As I mentioned before, Senator Obama is a socialist. In order to get elected, in fact, in order to get the Democratic nomination, he has to hide that fact from us. So the key for Senator Obama is to run exactly the same campaign Governor-elect Patrick ran. Run from substance, run on "bringing us all together" and "together we can" and "healing the nation's wounds." In 2004, the Democrats decided to run exactly the kind of milquetoast, speak-no-evil primary that would allow Senator Obama to scoot to victory without anyone challenging him to stake out actual positions. If they decide to do the same thing next year, I don't see any reason why Obama-fever won't sweep the nation.

01 January 2007

Happy New Year

New Year is our chance to start anew. Do something different this year. I'm planning to.