Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Big Debate

Moderator Jim Pinkerton fumbled the opening of the Libertarian Party debate on C-SPAN, directing the first question to Bob Barr before allowing the candidates to make their opening statements. Barr answered the question, then Pinkerton apologized and corrected himself, letting Barr make his opening statement. Barr said he'd learned from years of debates never to correct the moderator.

UPDATE: Steven Kubby's providing a lot of humor. After nearly all the candidates had called for an end to the drug war, Kubby said, "I'm getting a buzz just sitting up here." Later, when the question of the federal judiciary was raised, Kubby denounced the "Madison vs. Mayberry" decision, prompting Jim Pinkerton to make a joke about Sheriff Andy Taylor's role in that case.

LP afternoon thread

UPDATE 5:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. MT -- A new update at AmSpec blog with official token counts and video. Looks like Russ Verney's assessment of Barr as the "underdog" wasn't just campaign spin.

Now it's nap time for me, as I'll need to be rested for the C-SPAN debate tonight at 9 p.m. ET/7 p.m. MT.

* PREVIOUSLY *
My post about the token race is at AmSpec blog. Just went to lunch with Bob Barr and some of his campaign staff. My suggestion was Johnny Rocket's, but one of the staffers said the candidate had to be back to the convention at 1:30 pm, so they wanted to go to Starbucks.

"But we can eat at Johnny Rocket's in 30 minutes," I said.

"Stop whining," said Barr, reprising a line he uses often with Republicans who complain of his potential as a "spoiler" in November.

"You're spoiling my lunch," I replied.

What kind of serious caffeine hound is Barr? He's been in Denver three days, and already the barristas at Starbucks know his order: "The usual?" That's a latte with five espresso shots and foam.

Overall, Team Barr is feeling good about their candidate's chances, but the wild-and-woolly nature of an LP convention makes it impossible to say what the odds are at this point. David Weigel makes this clear in his latest excellent article at Reason:
As the convention fills up -- almost 600 delegates have registered now, more than 250 of them on Friday -- it's becoming clearer that this is not a Bob Barr coronation. Delegates are tolerant people who can sit through a pointless convention floor vote or a ramble from longshot Daniel Imperato, but they prefer to hear from candidates who say what they really think. Kubby and Ruwart do that. . . .
Kubby's alliance with Ruwart is the single most direct threat to a Barr nomination -- the outcome that most outside media still think is assured. A motion to make it harder to participate in Saturday's "C-SPAN debate" failed, making it easier for the two radical candidates to share support and propel each other into the fray.
It appears that seven candidates have qualified for tonight's debate. I'm going to need a nap, but here are some more photos:
David Weigel of Reason works from the convention floor. When it comes to reporting this convention, I can easily run circles around the MSM reporters, but it's almost impossible to scoop Weigel, who knows LP politics like the back of his hand. Also, he bears an uncanny resemblance to Charlie Sheen.

Wayne Allyn Root hears a report from one of his supporters. Root and Barr, the two pragmatic ex-Republican candidates, turned in a combined 187 tokens. Root had 94 and Barr 93, but the Barr staff noted that they shared tokens with ex-Democrat Mike Gravel, to ensure his inclusion in the C-SPAN debate. So if Gravel turned in 57 tokens, that would put the Root/Barr/Gravel block at 244 initial votes. I should point out that while Root and Barr are ideological allies, they are political rivals in terms of the byzantine LP nominating process.

Candidate Christine Smith solicits support. Unfortunately, Smith didn't collect enough tokens to qualify for the C-SPAN debate, although she did have enough to earn a nominating speech on Sunday.

Barr addresses his supporters prior to marching to the convention hall to turn in their tokens.

An LP official counts Barr's debate tokens, as Barr operative Steven Gordon and campaign manager Russ Verney watch. Depending on how all this turns out, there may be a book, in which case the story of the role performed by the mysterious Gordo will be good for at least a chapter.

LP photoblogging

Almost time to get the final delegate count the Libertarian Convention, while the floor fight over the platform continues. I'm blogging more at the American Spectator, but here are a few photos to give you a sense of the scene at convention:

An uncommitted delegate is wooed by Barr operative Shana Kluck, a homeschooling mother of four.

D.C. delegates support the majority report in the platform squabble. Not because they don't like minorities, but because the repeated objections are getting on everybody's nerves.
"The chair recognizes the lady from ... er, the gentleman from ... er, the delegate from California." The San Francisco delegate known as "Starchild" raises a point of parliamentary procedure during Saturday morning's platform brouhaha.

Steven Kubby, favorite son of the Free Weeder Caucus, talks to some of his supporters Saturday morning. Rumors of a "tokes for tokens" operation were unsubstantiated.

Breakfast, etc.

It's nearly noon on the East Coast, but here in Denver, it's not yet 10 a.m., and the Saturday platform fight at the Libertarian Party convention is getting underway.

Just got back from a media breakfast with Bob Barr, which I highlighted at AmSpec blog. The key quotes from that event, I believe came at the end, when Barr essentially told the 9/11 Truthers to take a long walk off a short pier:
Barr was asked why he hadn't signed the "Libertarians for Justice" pledge, calling for a new investigation into 9/11 -- a "Truther" project endorsed by 11 of the 14 LP presidential candidates.
"I'm not interested in conspiratorial theories, I'm interested in moving the country forward," Barr said. "Some candidates will sign whatever's put in front of them, if they think it will get them votes. I don't operate that way."
Two words for Truthers: Popular Mechanics. Two more words for Truthers: Occam's Razor.

Barr's willingness to incur the wrath of Truther crackpots is an act of courage, in the context of this convention, where cracked pottery is not exactly in short supply. Will be blogging mainly at AmSpec blog today, but hope to update here with photos and video later. At some point, I've got to start transcribing the massive amount of audio I've recorded. Plus, I just realized I got less than three hours sleep, so a nap is in order this afternoon.

Saturday a.m. roundup

The Rocky Mountain News has a nice story, including a quote from my friend:
Delegate James Bell, a videographer from Atlanta, said he is one of the Georgians "responsible for moving Bob Barr . . . into the Libertarian Party."
Considering this coup, Bell smiled and said, "I believe Bob is now ready to take this party, and this country, to a whole different level."
The Georgia LP guys know Barr best, and they're very excited about him. Meanwhile, the Economist has this article:
The Libertarians, now deciding who should be their presidential nominee, are usually a sideshow. Their last candidate, Michael Badnarik, took a third of a percentage point in 2004. The hopefuls this year include one who wants to move the United Nations headquarters to Somalia, one known mostly for a book about the spirituality of John Denver, a country singer, and a near-obsessive marijuana-legalisation advocate.
But this year the Libertarian nomination may be a bigger prize. Ron Paul ran a lower-case libertarian campaign for the Republican nomination, generating surprising levels of enthusiasm, votes and money. Paulites continue showing up and voting for him in primaries, despite the fact that Mr McCain has locked up the nomination. The word “libertarian” has, in the wake of that run, gained more currency and respectability.
And now Bob Barr, a prominent former Republican Congressman, is campaigning for the nomination. Mr Barr, a former anti-drug warrior and leader of the impeachment against Bill Clinton, has converted to a rightish branch of Libertarianism.

A very good article, and you can read the rest here. I've got to get in the shower and attempt to get into some kind of condition to attend a media breakfast this morning.

UPDATE: Just saw Mike Gravel at breakfast in the 22nd floor Concorde Club. He's buttonholing delegates one-by-one. His wife, Whitney, is very nice.

I've got a lot of photos from last night, but only time to upload one right now.
That's Stephen Gordon with Barr's assistant, Jennifer Chambrin. A short story about Jennifer: Each delegate to the LP convention receives one token. To get participate in the Sunday night presidential debate, a candidate must collect at least 30 tokens. For a candidate to collect a delegate's token, then, is a major coup -- especially if he collects those tokens early in the process.

Jennifer told a tale last night of her effort to woo a token from a reluctant delegate. Large amounts of bourbon were required, but she finally got that token.

Well, media breakfast with Barr at 8 a.m. I've had about three hours sleep. Ready to go.

RFK Jr. defends Hillary

The Clinton campaign press office just sent me an e-mail with this statement:
It is clear from the context that Hillary was invoking a familiar political circumstance in order to support her decision to stay in the race through June. I have heard her make this reference before, also citing her husband's 1992 race, both of which were hard fought through June. I understand how highly charged the atmosphere is, but I think it is a mistake for people to take offense.
-- Robert Kennedy Jr.
Time magazine confirms that Hillary has said something similar before.

Miley Cyrus: Libertarian?

Probably not, but she sure is free with those underwear photos. (Mary Ruwart vindicated?) I'm thinking maybe Annie Leibowitz didn't exploit her so much.

Post-Barr event

Welcome Instapundit readers. Amazing evening that ended about 1 a.m. MT in Bob Barr's suite, where there is an 8 a.m. media breakfast today.

There was a debate last night of all the other candidates except Barr -- the debate apparently scheduled deliberately to conflict with the Barr reception. It's hard to tell, but it's possible the crowds for the competing events were about equal in size.

Had a great interview with LP National Chairman Bill Redpath, who pointed out that the excitement here in Denver is that nobody has any idea who will win. It's wide open -- old-fashioned politics.

Today is Saturday, with a lot of warfare over the platform expected. If I get busy and don't get anything online early this morning, I would recommend Third Party Watch and Reason's Hit & Run as the best sources. Also, believe it or not, Jackie Passey linked me on her LP Convention blog post.

Well, it's almost 2 a.m., and I'm supposed to be at that media breakfast at 8 a.m., g'night.

UPDATE 2:15 a.m.: Went out for one last smoke and found myself talking to Robert Murphy, an Oklahoma LP delegate who regaled me with tales of the 1983 LP National Convention that chose "a surfer from California" over the "Cato candidate." Murphy on the LP nominating process: "It's byzantine."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Just so you know

Most of my LP convention blogging is at The American Spectator blog. Just woke up from a three-hour nap -- trying to recover from the exhaustion caused by riding 20 hours in a van to get here. (The Atlanta Journal Constitution has a story about the guys I rode with.) If you think jet lag is bad, you should try van lag.

I really needed the rest because tonight's Bob Barr's big delegate reception party. Barr is a well-known party animal, so I need to be at my best if I'm ever going to keep up with him.

UPDATE: About to get in the shower to get ready for the party. In my Pajamas Media convention preview, I quoted Daniel Adams:
"I think the Libertarian Party’s going to see what organization looks like," the Georgia LP chairman said.
And Team Barr has indeed fielded a very professional operation, including endorsements and liveblogging. They're also canvassing the delegates and compiling a database of the results, putting together a list for use in whipping votes when the vote comes Sunday.

UPDATE II: Out of the shower now, ready to describe a little bit more of the Barr operation here in Denver.

Last night, Stephen Gordon chased me away from the sidewalk cafe outside the lobby bar at the Sheraton, where he was convening a meeting of his floor whip team. Then this afternoon, I saw Gordon outside the entrance of the hotel, scribbling down information on a canvass form -- pre-printed sheets with spaces for the delegate's name and state, his preference for candidates, his key issues, etc. Gordon was completing two of these forms, and then shoved them into his portfolio, which I could see contained a thick stack of completed forms.

Not long afterwards, Daniel Adams walked up and suggested that three of us grab drinks. Gordon and Adams discussed the results they were getting in the canvass and were pleased at the number of delegates who were supporting other candidates, but listed Barr as their second choice -- a key point, if the balloting goes multiple rounds.

While we sat there, another member of the Barr team (whose name I didn't catch) walked up and asked Stephen if he had more canvass forms, which Stephen gave him.

Canvassing is one of the most basic elements of political organization, and so far as I can tell, Barr is the only candidate doing an organized canvass of the convention delegates. This could be a decisive advantage in the nominating process.

On the other hand, there are some delegates beyond Barr's reach. I just talked to one of them, a longhaired young man from West Virginia, who was wearing a button declaring himself a member of "The Libertarian Wing of the Libertarian Party" (a Radical Caucus slogan) and another button supporting Susan Hogarth for an LNC office. Hogath is a Ruwart supporter whom I met in my April visit to "Ruwartistan" (a/k/a, North Carolina).

The size of the "anybody but Barr" delegation is at this stage unknown, except perhaps to Gordon's canvassers. Two days into the convention, however, the Barr team seems confident and cheerful.

Denver dinner with Dave

Just had lunch with David Weigel of Reason magazine and two Libertarian conspirators I won't name. (The alleged Barr conspiracy updated here.) Weigel's got a good take on the convention:

When Barr walked onto the exhibit floor of the 2008 Libertarian Convention, a trail of six campaign staffers followed behind him -- the kind of showy political operation that gives outsiders the impression that the former Georgia congressman is the obvious frontrunner in the race to head up the biggest third-party challenge in this year's presidential campaign.
A few feet away in the Denver Sheraton, Barr's opponents are shaking their heads, sharing "can-you-believe-this" looks. "Talk to some delegates, already!" says Jim Casarjian-Perry. A Massachusetts delegate for candidate George Phillies, Casarjian-Perry had, moments earlier, pinned Barr over whether he sticks by all the propositions of the Defense of Marriage Act, which Barr uthored.
Read the whole thing. Weigel is a great reporter, extensively familiar with the LP's history. Here are some photos from Denver:
LP National Chairman Bill Redpath presides over the opening session of the convention.

George Phillies and Wayne Allyn Root -- both LP presidential candidates -- chat in the exhibition hall.

Barr and I, attempting to get some product-placement bucks from Starbucks.


Denver's 16th Street, which has been converted into a pedestrian mall and tourist magnet.

Greetings from Denver

I'm here for the Libertarian Party National Convention at the Denver Sheraton. Got into town Thursday at 5 p.m. Central, which is 7 p.m. Eastern. That meant I had only three hours to file my story for The American Spectator:

"The Libertarian Party -- Not For Sale!" declares a flyer being distributed here by the LP Radical Caucus. The charge is that former Rep. Bob Barr's presidential campaign is part of a takeover plot by Barr's campaign manager Russ Verney and longtime conservative fundraiser Richard Viguerie.The accusation that Barr and others are attempting to "hijack" the party is one of the many intrigues surrounding the Libertarian convention that began here Thursday. With 14 declared presidential candidates and more than 1,000 delegates -- none of them officially pledged to any candidate -- there is plenty of opportunity for suspicion. ... (MORE)

"Suspicion" -- I prefer to use mild, sensible words when doing news reporting. Resist the temptation to jazz it up by depicting the LP convention as a crucible of insane paranoia. It might get there, but it's not there yet.

I'll come back and update with more details, including the 22-hour cross-country van ride.

UPDATE: About 8 p.m. Wednesday, Doug Craig of the Georgia LP (and the Crazy for Liberty blog) arrived in the parking lot of the Calhoun (Ga.) Times, where I was sports editor 1987-91. I chose this as the rendezvous point because it's an hour north of Atlanta, saving me a little drive time, and I could leave my car in the parking lot.

Riding shotgun in the 12-passenger van was Garrett Michael Hayes, the LP's gubernatorial candidate in 2002 and 2006. Also on board were Alex Chandler of Fayetteville; John Monds of Cairo; Marc Caplan of Lawrenceville; Lance Lamberton of Austell; and James Bell of Douglasville. Along the way, we stopped in Nashville to pick up Aleq Boyle of Chickamauga (who had been visiting his father in the Tennessee capital), and stopped in St. Louis, Mo., to pick up Tom Knapp, a colorful and outspoken Libertarian blogger.

The van ride was one of those small-world situations, because I went to school with James Bell at Lithia Springs High School. James is now a professional videographer and does communications for the Georgia LP.

Conditions aboard the van were not exactly conducive to relaxation. Not only was it crowded, but when you've got that many Libertarians together, there tends to be a lot of . . . discussion. (Like I said, mild, sensible words.) So over the course of 22 hours on the road, maybe I nodded off for four hours. Maybe.

I volunteered to drive from Marion, Ill., to St. Louis, the across Missouri past Kansas City, about five hours, before Doug took over driving again. On the next leg of the trip -- the seemingly endless ride across the plains of Kansas -- I drifted off to sleep and woke up about 11 a.m. (Eastern) to hear Glenn Beck on the radio interviewing Bob Barr for a full hour.

Just as we neared the Colorado border, I noticed tumbleweeds blowing across the highway. I'd never seen tumbleweeds before, so that was cool. We stopped for gas near Burlington, Colo., and the wind was whipping about 30 mph. Didn't realize it at the time, but northern Colorado was then being hit with devastating tornados.

Coming into Denver, we ran into a traffic jam, which the radio told us was caused by an overturned dump truck. I suggested we take the next exit and try to navigate surface streets to reach our hotel. This turned into a bit of an adventure, because the Denver street map in my atlas isn't very detailed and is so small the street names are hard to read. As Davy Crockett once said, I've never been lost, but I've been a mite bewildered a time or two. We made a few wrong turns, but eventually found our way.

The Sheraton abuts the 16th Street Mall, an area of downtown Denver that's been renovated and is lined with shops, restaurants and nightclubs. Very nice.

Arriving with only three hours to go before deadline, I had to work fast, and with the assistance of the LP media staff was able to get hooked up with a WiFi connection. Did a few quick interviews with delegates, threw together about 550 words, and filed it, then packed up my computer and took it back to the hotel room before heading out in search of refreshments.

Writing is very difficult when you're in a condition of complete exhaustion. I'd gotten about seven hours sleep Tuesday night and then, as I said, about four hours during the ride from Georgia.

By Thursday evening, brainfog was setting in, and the story I filed for my 10 p.m. (ET) deadline was a bit thin. Jeremy Lott, my editor at the Spectator, called me to ask if I had anything else to add. I promised to get back to him.

Fortunately, I found Stephen Gordon in the lobby of the Sheraton, where he was getting ready to convene a meeting of the Barr campaign's convention floor team. Since Gordon is a central figure in the allegedy conspiracy that has inflamed some LP imaginations, I got a few quotes from him.

I called Jeremy back and dictated a few extra sentences, and mentioned that floor votes at the convention today (Friday) were expected to be indicators of the relative strength of Barr and his opposition. One of the issues to be voted on is the party platform, so I e-mailed Jeremy a brief synopsis of the platform dispute and some details. Jeremy smoothed all this stuff into a coherent story.

The title "Fear and Loathing in Denver" naturally suggested itself and is, of course, another Hunter S. Thompson reference. Everyone always associates Thompson's Gonzo style with drug abuse. But deadline pressure and exhaustion are equally part of what Gonzo is about.

Thompson preferred Wild Turkey and mescaline to help him meet deadlines. I manage to get the job done with Starbucks. Of course, if the LP's Radical Caucus ever gets their way, we'll be able to buy bulk quantities of mescaline at Costco. I report. You decide.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Notes on an Instalanche

I'm now enroute to Denver to cover the Libertarian Party National Convention, riding in a van full of Georgia LP members driven by Doug Craig. It's long story and it's going to be a long ride, so I'm posting this in advance just to give the regulars something new to read while I'm on the road.

Saturday, my post about Obama's original book deal got linked by Instapundit, producing the famous "Instalanche." This was the second Instalanche for The Other McCain (the first was during CPAC in February), and it's hugely exciting.

If you don't know anything else about blogging, you've got to know that nobody throws traffic like Insty. Big bloggers whose links I crave are themselves always craving that Instalanche traffic. And blogging is all about the traffic. A blogger without traffic is one of those "if a tree falls in the forest" situations. So to get the Instalanche is like a Pulitzer for bloggers or something -- total validation -- and I feel like I ought to tell the story of how it happened.

Saturday afternoon, I was browsing around at Memeorandum, which is where I get most of the blog fodder for the posts here. They linked a New York Times article about Obama's book deals. Upon reading it, I was shocked to learn how Obama, as a 28-year-old second-year law student, basically handed a $40,000 book deal with a major New York publisher.

Anybody who's ever dealt with publishers knows that kind of stuff just never happens. Getting a book published is a headache on top of a nightmare scripted by Ionesco. When authors get together, everybody's got their own stories of being jerked around by publishers and agents. And don't even get me started on trying to get a book reviewed.

So the red-carpet treatment for Obama -- a memoir! a New York Times review! at 28! -- was galling, and I conceived the idea of a tongue-in-cheek protest mobilization of authors. I wrote the post and created an "Authors Against Obama" Facebook group, then e-mailed the link to several bloggers, including Insty.

Now, lots of bloggers will tell you that there's not much point in posting stuff on weekends. Most people who read blogs do so during business hours at work -- Bored At The Office (BATO) Syndrome -- and find better things to do with their time on Saturday and Sunday. To give you an idea of how traffic falls off on weekends, HotAir.com had 292K visitors on Wednesday, May 14, but only 125K on Sunday, May 18, a 57% decrease.

Strangely enough, however, almost all of my Instalanches have come on weekend posts. This goes back to 2006, when I was doing nights-and-weekends blogging at a different URL. Maybe because the Big Dog bloggers aren't posting as much on weekends, it's easier for a little blogger to cut through the clutter on a weekend. Thus it was that Insty linked me at 10:31 p.m. Saturday.

Saturday night at the McCain household means it's time to watch "America's Most Wanted," my favorite show in the whole world. Being a compulsive traffic-monger, I regularly check SiteMeter to see how the traffic's doing and who's linking. So after watching "AMW" I decided, about 11 p.m., to check the SiteMeter and -- whoa! -- it was off the charts. I'd been 'lanched.

In the first full hour (11 p.m.-midnight) after being linked at Instapundit, I got 1,200 visits. Saturday's total traffic had been about 500 hits prior to the 'lanche, and since the total Saturday traffic was about 2,100, I figure that Insty delivered 1,600 hits in 90 minutes.

That was the professor's next-to-last link of the night, so it stayed high on his blog until the morning, delivering another 2,190 hits between midnight and 6 a.m. The Professor started posting again at 7:01 a.m. Sunday, but the link from the night before kept delivering traffic -- another 2,179 hits before noon.

The "Authors Against Obama" post was also linked by American Thinker, Astute Bloggers and Vox Day, among others. All told, Sunday's traffic was 5,766 -- at least 5,000 more hits than I otherwise would have expected on a Sunday. The residual traffic boost will continue for days, as the post continued to get linked Monday by those "why bother blogging on the weekend" bloggers.

It's early Monday morning as I write this, but the post won't go live until Wednesday night, by which time I should be somewhere west of Chattanooga in a van full of Libertarians. Pray for me. I've done some crazy things over the years, but this trip to Denver is one of the craziest ever. Almost as crazy as the time me and my sons shot off $1,200 worth of fireworks in our 4th of July finale:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Y'know wha'm sayin'?

A discourse on contemporary discourse:



(Via Pastor Mark.)

Women victimize themselves?

Feminists will blow a gasket over this:
Women make up almost half of today's workforce, yet hold just a fraction of the jobs in certain high-earning, high-qualification fields. They constitute 20 percent of the nation's engineers, fewer than one-third of chemists, and only about a quarter of computer and math professionals.
Over the past decade and more, scores of conferences, studies, and government hearings have been directed at understanding the gap. It has stayed in the media spotlight thanks in part to the high-profile misstep of then-Harvard president Larry Summers, whose loose comment at a Harvard conference on the topic in 2005 ultimately cost him his job.
Now two new studies by economists and social scientists have reached a perhaps startling conclusion: An important part of the explanation for the gender gap, they are finding, are the preferences of women themselves. When it comes to certain math- and science-related jobs, substantial numbers of women -- highly qualified for the work -- stay out of those careers because they would simply rather do something else.
Liberalism presumes that all inequality is injustice. In other words, if I make less money than you do, I am somehow being victimized and you are oppressing me.

Stated so bluntly, this premise is laughable, but liberals are adept at smuggling this premise into their rhetoric in such a manner that most people don't notice it. Think of how Democrats demonize oil company executives who make multimillion-dollar salaries. "The CEO made $10 million! The company made record profits! And we're paying $4 a gallon!"

To which the conservative must answer, "So?" What business of mine is what Exxon or ARCO pay their executives? Why should I be offended by oild company profits, any more than I'm offended by the profits of coffeee vendors or videogame merchants? If I think gas is too expensive (did anyone ever complain gas was too cheap?) I can either cut back on my driving or else adjust my budget to compensate.

Oil companies are big. Their profits are large, and the head of such a large and profitable enterprise will always be handsomely paid. So liberals start jumping up and down, shouting about million-dollar salaries and billion-dollar profits, and thereby mislead people who are foolish enough to accept the false premise: Inequality is injustice.

The same thing with feminists and scientific careers. Because jobs in engineering, research science and similar technical specialities pay better than careers like education or journalism, feminists look at the shortage of women in scientific and technical fields and say, "A ha! Injustice!"

If 50 percent of engineering majors aren't female, the feminist sees this as oppression and discrimination. Never mind that women are now a majority of college graduates, or that women with degrees in nursing or management aren't exactly poor. The inequality-equals-injustice mindset must relentlessly seek out evidence of statistical disproportion and attack these inequalities as "oppression," regardless of whether any of the alleged victims have complained.

Liberalism causes conflict where conflict is neither helpful nor necessary, and the firing of Larry Summers at Harvard is a classic example of where such egalitarian fanaticism leads.

A few years ago, the feminists were up in arms because Mattel produced a talking Barbie doll, one of whose sayings was, "Math is hard." This, said the feminists, was sexist brainwashing that discouraged girls from studying math. Never mind that Barbie was right -- math is hard -- and that acknowledgement of the difficulty doesn't mean that it's OK to skip your algebra homework.

No, feminists had spotted an injustice! Mattel changed the dolls, and 8-year old girls struggling to memorize their multiplication tables were deprived of the comfort of hearing their plastic role model commiserate with them: "Math is hard."

Another liberal triumph! And now Mattel has developed Engineer Barbie. Toys for social justice . . . .

More bad news for GOP

Here are the April FEC numbers:
  • Obama $32 million
  • Clinton $22 million
  • McCain $18 million
So the two Democratic candidates' total of $54 million was three times the amount raised by McCain, who locked up the nomination in Febuary. McCain has announced a "special arrangement" with the RNC -- evidently a loophole in the campaign finance law he sponsored -- that will enable him to drain the Republican treasury. So when he loses in November, the party will be dead broke, too.

Please explain this

Headline: "To many whites, race still matters."

Accordng to exit polls, Barack Obama got 90% of the black vote in Kentucky, while Hillary Clinton got 72% of the white vote. Yet it is the whites who vote for Hillary, not the blacks who vote for Obama, who are subjected to this news-feature scrutiny and the not-so-subtle imputation of bigotry.

When blacks show such a decided preference for a black candidate, is that just taken for granted? Is there no term to describe it?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Barr 'underdog' at Denver

Everybody keeps talking about Bob Barr as a "spoiler" for John McCain, but first Barr must wint the Libertarian Party nomination, which won't necessarily be easy:
Former Rep. Bob Barr will be an "underdog" for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination going into this week's convention in Denver, the ex-Republican's campaign manager said Monday.
"We definitely don't expect to win it on the first ballot," said Russ Verney, the Barr manager who shepherded Ross Perot's third-party bids in 1992 and 1996. “The other [Libertarian] candidates have been out there recruiting delegates for over a year. Bob just declared his candidacy last week, so he's definitely the underdog."
After days of telephone calls soliciting support among LP delegates, Barr's backers say that when the convention begins Thursday, they will be ready for a tough contest against a crowded field of Libertarian hopefuls, with several rounds of balloting likely.
"We'll be ahead on the first ballot, but not enough to win," said a key Barr campaign operative, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Barr confirmed that assessment on Monday, saying in a brief phone interview that his campaign was prepared to contend for the nomination through multiple ballots during Sunday's vote at the Denver convention.
Read the whole thing. I'm leaving early Wednesday morning for Denver to cover the convention, and will try to keep y'all updated.

News: The need for speed

If the first three rules in journalism are "accuracy, accuracy, accuracy," the next three rules are "faster, faster, faster." Notice how quickly a big story breaks: In the span of 15 minutes, seven news organizations sent e-mail alerts about Senator Kennedy's brain tumor diagnosis.

The Internet age means that major news organizations are in a constant race to get the news first. Delay is deadly in the news industry, and anyone who goes into the business must be aware of the need to work quickly and move the story as soon as possible.

MSM's Obama 'lovefest'

A petition at Media Research Center:
The media’s lovefest with Barack Obama and other liberal politicians has gotten so blatant that they continue to give Obama a free pass no matter what he says. . . .
The liberal media push their agenda without any organized, grassroots opposition. Now, the MRC is stepping in to change this by launching a nationwide grassroots effort to expose liberal media bias and hold the media accountable.
When the bias gets so bad that Lanny Davis complains, you know it's gotten out of hand.

Disappearing Deutschland

Will the last German leaving Germany, please turn out the lights?
More Germans left the country in 2007 than in any year since reunification in 1990, new figures from the Federal Statistics Office reveal.
The figures showed 165,180 German citizens migrated elsewhere last year, an increase of nearly 10,000 from 2006, with Switzerland, the United States, Poland and Austria the top destinations. A total of 111,291 Germans returned from abroad, resulting in a net loss of 53,889 citizens in 2007, the third straight year in which more Germans have left the country than returned. . . .
[T]he state of the economy, high taxes and immigration are all seen as contributing factors.
Via The Corner, where the factors are discussed.

Architect of (another) disaster

Karl Rove is double-dealing as a Fox News contributor and a John McCain campaign advisor, Salon charges:

It has now been more than three months since Karl Rove first appeared on television as a Fox News political analyst on Feb 5. In no fewer than 57 appearances, he has increasingly been welcomed into the Fox News fraternity. . . .
Fox News hosts routinely introduce Rove as a "former senior advisor to President Bush," "the architect," a "political wizard" and a "famed political consultant." But never has he been introduced as he should be -- as an informal advisor and maxed-out donor to John McCain's presidential campaign. . . . .
On Feb. 7, two days after Rove first appeared on Fox News as a contributor, he donated $2,300, the maximum legal amount, to McCain's campaign. According to the New York Times, Rove's donation was part of a symbolic effort by Bush's allies "to unify the Republican Party behind its presumptive nominee." . . .
The question for Fox New is not whether Rove has phone chats with McCain's campaign staff. The question is whether Rove is being paid -- directly or indirectly -- for his campaign advice.

So long as he's not getting paid, so long as he has no financial interest in the McCain campaign, Rove's private conversations are nobody's business and no ethical concern to Fox. But you cannot present yourself as a disinterested analyst while simultaneously collecting a campaign paycheck from the people whose campaign you're supposed to be analyzing.

I've actually enjoyed watching Rove's analyses on Fox. He's a very good numbers guy, very adept at analyzing trends, with a fantastic memory for facts. He's also witty.

Yet Rove clearly bears some burden for the disastrous decline of the GOP since 2004. If news accounts are to be believed, Rove was influential in a lot of the policy-as-politics thinking of the Bush administration, where poll numbers rather than principle were calling the shots. And if Rove ever complained about Bush's open-borders enthusiasm, he kept those complaints to himself.

Policy people should do policy and campaign people should do campaigns. Rove's role in the Bush administration shows what can happen when there is too much overlap of these functions.

Nice shot, Yglesias

David Brooks tells George Packer that his feelings of being "estranged" from the conservative movement were why he became a columnist for The New York Times, prompting this rejoinder from Matthew Yglesias:
Is there some long list of political pundits who turn down that particular job offer? I'm guessing Brooks took the job because he was offered a job as an NYT columnist and that's not the sort of job you turn down.

Yeah, last time I checked, NYT columnists were paid $300,000 a year, which is plenty of incentive for estrangement.

'Jell-O on a roller coaster'

I hadn't followed the story about the Tennessee GOP's ad featuring Michelle Obama's statements that she was never proud of her country until this year. But now Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker has condemned the ad. Michelle Malkin says:
Will the Republican civility-mongers not stop until the Right is completely disarmed?
The GOP establishment has been all atwitter of late over its demise and urging itself to "stand for something." But when its state parties takes a stand -- against the radical demagoguery of Jeremiah Wright or against the America-bashing of the Obamas -- the party elders quiver like Jell-O on a roller coaster ride.
Here's the ad. Judge for yourself:

Apples, oranges

Gary Kamiya of Salon is the latest liberal writer to attempt to make John McCain's endorsement by Texas televangelist Rev. John Hagee equivalent to Barack Obama's 20 years under the tutelage of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

I'll try to make this as simple as I can: McCain was never a member of Hagee's church. Nor, for that matter, was McCain ever a member of Rev. Rod Parsley's church (Parsley being another "psycho Christian" whose name Kamiya brings up).

So far as I am aware, McCain is a lapsed Episcopalian who doesn't attend any church regularly. In attempting to mend fences with the Religious Right -- he viciously dissed them in 2000 -- McCain has courted ministers like Hagee and Parsley. It would certainly be fair to criticize McCain for this, but it is in no way analogous to the 20-year relationship between Obama and Wright, which is what liberals like Kamiya are attempting to suggest.

It's an apples-and-oranges comparison, and ought to be rejected as such.

Leaving some children behind

Your public-school tax dollars at work:
Yesterday the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education and the Breckenridge County School District, accusing them of violating the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause, Title IX, and other equity laws.
The Kentucky district's middle school randomly assigned students to sex segregated classes in subjects such as math, only later telling parents they could opt their kids out of the girls or boys-only classrooms. What's even more disturbing is how different the classes are: The most advanced math course offered is open only to girls, meaning that students who prefer co-education can't leave that classroom without relegating themselves to a lower level of instruction. High-achieving boys are not allowed to enroll at all in the highest-level math class.
Fact: Education majors, on average, have the lowest SATs of all college students.

$1 million a month

That's how much taxpayers are spending to keep the Texas cult kids in foster care:
It will cost taxpayers $21 million to care for a polygamist sect's children over the next year, the Health and Human Services Commission estimated Monday.
Foster-care payments for more than 450 youngsters removed because of possible child abuse at the group's Eldorado ranch will cost nearly $1 million a month, commission spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said.
Virtually all of the sect children are deemed to need a "basic" level of service, which at $39 a day is the least costly of Texas' four levels of paid foster care. Nearly doubling the monthly cost, however, is the fact that many -- a precise number was not available -- are staying in emergency shelters. The state pays shelters $106 a day.
Ms. Goodman said other monthly costs will include $325,500 in health care, provided under the state-federal Medicaid program for the poor; and $425,000 for an additional 70 protective services workers -- as soon as they're hired.
Doing the math on that $39 a day per child, Lady Liberty comments:
Can I just point out that there are many single mothers in this country that would love, love, love to see a $1200 monthly- per child- support check? And, the monthly emergency shelter rate of $3379 plus approximately $700 monthly in paid health care is more than some dual income families make in a single month. You’d think that the jackasses at CPS who are supposed to be so much better at parenting would have learned to budget a little better.
Think about $39 per child per day. That's $14,235 per child per year. I've got six kids, so I'd need $85,410 just to provide a "basic" level of care for my kids. My wife and I together have never earned that much in any year of our entire lives, so I guess our children have been subjected to a sub-"basic" existence, inferior to what any child in the Texas foster care system experiences.

My kids are victims! Call Child Protective Services!

(Hat tip: Hit & Run.)

Islamic PR methods

Reporters attacked at Muslim charter school. At least they didn't get beheaded. Maybe the teachers need to attend the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.

Ace of Spades, economist

It's not a recession? OK. Can we just pretend it is?

Final (?) showdown

Talk of tightening polls in Oregon erupted everywhere Monday. Whether that's a real trend or a statistical illusion, James Antle points to a Michael Barone column from Friday arguing that Obama can't clinch tonight anyway:
As this is written, RealClearpolitics.com has Obama at 1,891 delegates. Current polling gives him 58 percent of the two-candidate vote in Oregon and 34 percent of the two-candidate vote in Kentucky. That should give him, under the proportional representation rules, about 17 delegates in Kentucky and about 30 in Oregon. That puts him at 1,938. That means he needs to add 87 superdelegates between Friday and Tuesday night.
Furthermore, Barone notes that Hillary's big win in Kentucky will be announced many hours before Oregon finishes counting its mail-in ballots, which might not be until early Wednesday morning, Eastern time.

So Obama's going to Iowa on Tuesday night . . . for what? He can't claim the nomination, and last-minute undecided Oregon voters might be put off by the weekend announcement that Obama wouldn't spend Election Night in the state he was supposedly counting on to put him over the top.

A quick roundup of Election Day news:
Ill be in Washington tonight for an event so I probably won't be blogging the results, but I've got a small bet riding with Dave Weigel of Reason magazine, who thinks Obama will win by double digits in Oregon. Wagering always adds to the excitement of an election. As I've said before:
Politics is a game, just like football. You cheer for your team and it's always more fun if you bet on it. The difference is that when your team loses in football, the opponent doesn't get to raise your taxes or invade foreign countries.
Think about it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

NR comes full circle

If you pick up a copy of William F. Buckley Jr.'s 1959 classic, Up From Liberalism, you'll find it brimming with contempt for the empty, meaningless "Modern Republican" stance of the Eisenhower-era GOP.

Buckley was a staunch Republican loyalist, but he was also damned sick of the go-along, get-along nonsense peddled by the GOP Establishment, and he never hesitated to declare that fact.

Fast-forward half a century:
Some candidates make themselves ridiculous by running for president over and over: Stassen, Buchanan, Keyes. Others make themselves ridiculous by running at all. Enter former Republican congressman Bob Barr. . . .
The press is speculating that Barr could be John McCain’s Nader. We doubt it. It will probably be Barr’s fate to be ignored, and those libertarians who care about the credibility of their cause should be glad of it.
Sandwiched between those two sneering paragraphs is a lot of nitpicking to no particular purpose, and of no persuasive power to those conservatives who -- like the Buckley of yore -- are damned sick of the GOP Establishment, of which National Review has become an integral component.

Why this sudden interest in the doings of the LP? Might it have something to do with another presidential candidate whom National Review once labeled "ridiculous"?

Somewhere amid the heaps of papers surrounding my desk is at least one back issue of National Review (I seem to recall a Roman Genn caricature on the cover) in which the magazine derides Sen. John McCain's candidacy as unworthy of conservative support. I don't have the time or patience to search for that issue now, but its doesn't take much Googling to find golden oldies like Rich Lowry slamming "McCainiac Hypocrisy." One wonders how long before intractable McCain critic Mark Levin will be purge from NR.

Now that McCain is the Republican nominee, however, the editors reserve their derision for those conservatives who refuse to enthusastically rally 'round the Establishment's choice. (And they ridicule Barr for changing positions!)

Because National Review has declined into a Republican house organ, with no more editorial independence than an RNC newsletter, candidates like McCain feel free to stiff-arm conservatives, co-sponsor liberal legislation with the likes of Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold, and spout "progressive" bilge about global warming. Lowry & Co. might murmur and grumble, but there's not the remotest chance they'd ever summon the testicular fortitude to tell such a sellout to go straight to Hell and stay there.

Whatever anyone's opinion of Bob Barr may be, it's transparently obvious that this carping from the NR editors has little to do with Barr himself and everything to do with John McCain. It's stenography for John Weaver, or else plagiarism of the McCain campaign's talking points.

John McCain may yet win the White House, and Barr may disappear as an inconsequential electoral blip. I don't really care either way. Still, it's painful to see Buckley's fiery old journal turned Laodicean, a predictable sock puppet for the GOP Establishment its founder once so famously scorned.

Watch your back, Ambinder

You call that an "update"? Heh. Same to you, Matt Lewis. You guys wouldn't know news if it was sitting right in front of you in broad daylight. Which, by the way, it is.

Look, while you guys were still chewing over McCain's performance at CPAC, I was the first guy to report that LP activists were forming a "Draft Barr" effort. That was Feb. 11. I'm also the guy who, on the day Barr announced his exploratory committee, stated flatly that this was a formality and that Barr was definitely running.

So when you guys find yourselves smacking your foreheads and saying, "Why didn't I think of that?" just remember who's the daddy.

New TWT Web site

Interesting:



My old buddy David Eldridge is in charge of the "communities" aspect of the project. What's interesting in the video is when David says the new site will offer the opportunity to "make connections with the editors and reporters of The Washington Times."

About freaking time. I spent more than 10 years at the paper, including five years as Culture page editor, and my e-mail address never appeared on the Web site. As a matter of fact, readers couldn't even get to the Culture page from the front of the Web site. There was no link; you had to go to a special pull-down menu to find it.

No matter how many times I complained about that kind of stuff, nothing ever changed. Here I was, producing Page Two of the newspaper -- a page I tried to reconceive as our mini-alternative to the WaPo's Style front -- and it might as well not have existed as far as Web readers were concerned. Being ignored and taken for granted, an afterthought in the workplace, is an enormously frustrating experience.

Maybe the new editor, John Solomon, actually listens to employees. That would be the biggest revolution in journalism since Gutenberg. Newspaper editors are generally dictatorial, kind of a cross between Douglas MacArthur and Woody Hayes, or perhaps more like the master of a Roman galley crew: "The floggings will increase until morale improves."

Code Pinkos strike again

A bunch of leftoid dimwit women just interrupted a speech by John McCain.

Code Pink is a Yippie-style carnival act, Abbie Hoffman in drag. Such self-aggrandizing stunts -- by which I mean the Code Pink protest, not McCain's speech -- do not persuade the undecided or elicit public support for the anti-war cause.

The fact that Code Pink activists are all unattractive women, most of them well past middle-aged, only adds to the negative PR value of their stunts.

I certainly don't mind anti-war arguments, as such -- I do not leap to the conclusion that every war opponent is a traitor -- but creating a public nuisance and rudely interrupting speakers to shout slogans does not constitute an argument.

AP: Frankenstein?

Steve Boriss, who blogs at The Future of News, has an interesting Pajamas Media column:
Before there was an Internet, AP member papers could freely share their stories amongst themselves without worrying that their readers could access them from other sources. Now that the Internet allows readers to find AP stories from many
different sites, local papers are left with little content that appears to be exclusive, and thus little reason for their readers to subscribe.
Worse still, in a plot reminiscent of Dr. Frankenstein, the AP, which was created by
its member papers, has turned on its masters in at least three ways. First, while its members’ businesses are shrinking, the AP has used their fees to mushroom into a huge, full-service news outlet with more than 4,000 employees working in more than 240 bureaus worldwide. Second, last September after AP members made the foolish complaint that Google News was not paying them for words in the brief synopses linking to their articles, the AP made a deal with Google News to feature the AP’s version of the story, and ignore similar stories at the members’ own sites — a move that, no doubt, has cost members a good deal of online traffic.

A former co-worker of mine used to call it "The Great Atlantic & Pacific News Company." It's a reliable service on most basic news stuff, but they're bad to put a PC spin on anything that might be called culturally sensitive, and some of their political coverage is biased.

Forecast for GOP: Disaster

Will the last Republican voter leaving the Big Tent please turn out the lights?
Whoever wins the presidency this November, it's all but a slam dunk they'll be working with a Democratic Congress. And it probably will be a stronger Democratic majority with more votes than it has today.
Even normally optimistic Republicans conceded in recent days that the landscape is stacked against them. . . .
"A large segment of the American public doesn't have confidence in the Republican Party," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the party's chief political operative for House races.
Yeah, Tom. That "large segment" called voters.
"It should be a really good Democratic year in both chambers," said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. He's one of the three most authoritative nonpartisan voices on congressional races, along with Charles Cook of the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
They all predict that Democrats will add to their majorities in the House by six to 20 seats and in the Senate by two to five seats.
OK, everybody, sing along:
Gloom, despair and agony on me!
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery!
If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all.
Gloom, despair and agony on me!
Until further notice, that's the GOP theme song. Or maybe ...


RNC/McCain fusion

Something tells me this is a very bad idea:
In late April, John McCain entered into an agreement with the Republican National Committee that would allow him to raise upwards of $70,000 from individual donors. The deal, then criticized by public financing advocates, allows donations in excess of $2,300 to flow directly to the RNC, which will spend the money on McCain's behalf.
While increasing the amount of funds available to McCain, it also makes the Arizona senator more beholden than ever to the Republican machine he is lauded for challenging. The New York Times reports that the RNC will play an enormous part in funding McCain's campaign.
The co-author of McCain-Feingold does a runaround on his own "reform"? One obvious result of this deal is that the RNC can kiss their small donors goodbye. And when the McCain campaign ends -- however it ends -- the RNC will reap a harvest of leftover resentment.

Meanwhile, we note with interest that Crazy Cousin John's campaign dissed Michelle Malkin by not inviting her to participate in a conference call:
Yesterday, I learned that several far left-wing blogs were invited to participate in The Maverick's blogger conference call session. . . . I e-mailed McCain's New Media guy, Patrick Hynes, asking if I could participate in the next blogger conference call. . . .
Update 10:17am Eastern: I kid you not. I just received an e-mail from Republican Internet strategist David All touting McCain’s liberal blogger outreach. . . .
Update 11:36am Eastern: Just heard from Patrick Hynes: "Yes, you will be invited to all future calls."
There's an old saying in politics, keep your friends close and keep your enemies closer. They should have been giving her red-carpet treatment; instead she has to ask permission to participate in the call? Something tells me this oversight on McCain's part will not result in better relations with Mrs. Malkin.

Clinton's quitters

Clintonistas have lost their bloodthirstiness:
For those on the far right hoping for blood in the streets of Denver, Sunday's meeting of the California delegation to the Democatic National Convention was very bad news. . . . Sunday's meeting made it clear that both the Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns are ready to turn their swords into plowshares behind the impending nomination of Obama for the greater cause of defeating John McCain.
Bad news for Denver's tear-gas vendors, I suppose.

'Minister for Equal Opportunities'

That's Mara Carfagna's title in the Italian cabinet, but surely not all ministers are created equal:
A former showgirl who has become an Italian cabinet minister has admitted that you don't have to be pretty to get ahead in politics, but it helps.
Mara Carfagna, nicknamed Mara La Bella, or Mara the Beautiful, also said she was still shocked over her rapid ascent to the top of Italian politics. The 32-year-old was made the minister for Equal Opportunities last week.
The German tabloid Bild has already dubbed her "The world’s most beautiful cabinet minister" and the internet is buzzing with saucy pictures and videos from her past.
Yeah, trust me -- the picture I used at the top of this post is by no means the most "saucy" photo of Mara La Bella I came across during my Google search.
Although she graduated with a law degree in 2001, she pursued a career as a television showgirl for six years and posed provocatively for several gentlemen’s magazines.
However, in her first interview since her appointment, Miss Carfagna was keen to stress she is a woman of substance.
She told La Stampa newspaper: "Being pretty helps you make relationships quickly, and the political world is a segment of society full of male chauvinists."
Not to mention, they're Italian. Male chauvinists in Italy? Whoever heard of such a thing?

Some stereotypes are true, as you can discover by talking to any American woman who's ever traveled to Italy. American women have a certain look that Italian guys can spot instantly, and because the media has created the worldwide impression that all American women are sluts, female tourists who visit Italy report that they're repeatedly catcalled, leered at, and propositioned.

So it's not exactly surprising that when Italian politicians needed a Minister of Equal Opportunities, they'd pick a 32-year-old hottie. Not that I'm complaining, but I'd hardly call Carfagna a triumph for the feminist cause. (Remember Rush Limbaugh's "Undeniable Truths of Life," No. 24.) Here she is on the cover of an Italian edition of Maxim:

(Hat tip: Hot Air Headlines.)

Organized ignorance

The futility of "educating" stupid people:
I work part-time in the evenings as an adjunct instructor of English. I teach two courses, Introduction to College Writing (English 101) and Introduction to College Literature (English 102), at a small private college and at a community college. . . .
My students take English 101 and English 102 not because they want to but because they must. Both colleges I teach at require that all students, no matter what their majors or career objectives, pass these two courses. For many of my students, this is difficult. . . .
A few weeks into the semester, the students must start actually writing papers, and I must start grading them. . . .
Remarkably few of my students can do well in these classes. Students routinely fail; some fail multiple times, and some will never pass, because they cannot write a coherent sentence.
Oh, could I ever write a book on this topic. (Maybe Obama's agent can get me a contract.) This teacher reiterates an argument I've been making for at least 20 years: Americans foolishly confuse (a) attendance at school with (b) education. My six kids have been homeschooled -- attending church schools once they reach high-school age -- and there can be no more enlightening opportunity to observe the difference between learning and schooling.

Americans also confuse certification with accomplishment. We're like the Scarecrow, thinking we'll automatically become smart as soon the Wizard of Oz gives us a diploma for our Doctor of Thinkology. Yet there are people with advanced degrees in English, communications or journalism from first-class institutions who are lousy writers and can't make a living as working journalists. "Those who can, do ..." etc.

Over the years, I've worked with enough newsroom interns and rookie reporters to realize that our colleges and universities are in many cases handing out degrees to people who are half-educated, and in other cases graduating people who have little aptitude for the profession for which their diploma supposedly qualifies them. If this is true in journalism, I'm sure it's true in many other fields.

American youth are repeatedly told that higher education is a ticket to success, but this involves a correlation/causation relationship that's hard for some people to undertand. Yes, very smart people tend to be successful, and more very smart people go to college nowadays. But this doesn't mean that sending a moron to college will make him a more successful moron.

I attended a second-tier state university in Alabama. My dad had graduated from the flagship University of Alabama, but I was a lazy teenager more interested in rock 'n' roll than algebra, so I enrolled at Jacksonville (Ala.) State University in 1977.

At that time, Jax State had an open admissions policy, operating on what they called the "right to fail" principle. If you had a high school diploma and tuition money, you could sign up and take your chances, but if you flunked out, that was your own fault. Reading and writing was never my problem, and I actually made the Dean's List a few times, although I also flunked a few classes because I spent too much time partying.

Yet among my classmates were lots of what you'd call "earnest strivers." They showed up for class and worked hard at the assignments but -- bless their hearts -- they just weren't very smart. Or at least not "book smart." Smart enough to graduate from high school with a B average, but not adept at abstraction, reading comprehension or written composition.

Nor, I should say, did such of my fellow students demonstrate any keen interest in what you'd call "the life of the mind." Despite being a high-school slacker, I'd grown up sort of idealizing college life: Young men of learning, sitting around the dorm discussing politics, literature, history, psychology and so forth.

Instead, I found myself surrounded by a lot of kids who'd been jocks or cheerleaders in high school, and who evidently thought of college as a continuation of their hometown social scene, parties and "popularity," etc. They weren't there to discuss Descartes and Kant or the Peloponnesian War. They were there to get a degree in business management so they could get a suit-and-tie job, or to get a degree in secondary education and become basketball coaches.

Many of those kids flunked out; for some reason, the sophomore year was when the scythe really swept through. Yet about half of those who enrolled as freshmen eventually got degrees, though not without a lot of griping about the curriculum requirements.

The administration of JSU had delightfully quaint notions about liberal education. So you'd occasionally find yourself sitting in a psychology, political science or art history course with these future textile-mill managers and high-school coaches. And they'd whine relentlessly about it: "Why do I have to study this crap? I'm never going to need to know this stuff in The Real World."

Looking back, I shudder to think how many people with that attitude actually became teachers. I suppose the world is little harmed by business managers who are uncultured and ill-educated, but the thought of anti-intellectual teachers is profoundly disturbing. And so the cycle perpetuates itself, you see? Thirty years since I was a college freshman, and today's freshmen are even less prepared to do college-level coursework than were my classmates.

The article in The Atlantic Monthly is more interesting than my ramblings, so please, read the whole thing.

The Death of Allusion: On the odd chance anyone's actually still reading, let me call to your attention a few passages in this article:

Our dialogue had turned oblique, as though we now inhabited a Pinter play. . . .

If colleges could find a way to mount a third, graveyard shift, as Henry Ford's Willow Run did at the height of the Second World War, I believe that they would. . . .

Will having read Invisible Man make a police officer less likely to indulge in racial profiling? . . .

I roam the halls of academe like a modern Coriolanus bearing sword and grade book, "a thing of blood, whose every motion / Was timed with dying cries."

These sorts of allusions -- to drama, to history, to Ralph Ellison and Shakespeare -- become increasingly impossible as our culture decays. There was a time, and not that long ago really, when a college graduate was expected to have at least a passing acquaintance with the canon of Western civilization.

Maybe you never actually read Aristotle or Locke or Dickens, maybe you'd never seen "Othello" or a Wagnerian opera, and maybe you couldn't give a tactical account of Austerlitz. But somewhere along the way, you'd picked up a kind of recognition vocabulary, so that you at least knew that Aristotle was a Greek philosopher, that Othello was a jealous Moor, and that Austerlitz was a battle won by Napoleon.

Literature, philosophy, history, art, music, drama, religion -- what else do we mean when we say "culture"? If you don't know this stuff, you're not a cultured person, and there was a time when colleges cared enough about their reputations that they more or less insisted that you had to be a cultured person in order to get a diploma.

Grant that The Atlantic Monthly is a high-toned publication. Yet should it be the case -- as it surely is -- that you could hand that article to the average American with a college degree and he wouldn't be able to make heads or tails of the literary or historical allusions?

Seriously, what percentage of college graduates would know what I meant if I said that someone was "as proud as Coriolanus"? Or "as faithless as Iago"? Never mind alluding to Greek history, or throwing in a bit of Latin, French or German. Vermeer, Seurat, Degas? Hayden, Chopin, Strauss? Such names evoke nothing in the minds of a majority of current college graduates.

A dozen years ago, I came across Gen. Richard Taylor's memoir, Destruction and Reconstruction. Taylor was a thoroughly literate man, and his account of the war is studded with all manner of historical and literary allusions, often employed humorously. But if you don't know anything about, say, Greek mythology or the works of Sir Walter Scott, these allusions are meaningless and you can't get the jokes.

The decline of literacy and the loss of culture deprives us of a common ground of shared knowledge necessary to the effective use of allusion in writing. If there is no canon, no generally recognized body of learning with which all educated men should be familiar, our intellectual life becomes impoverished and shriveled.

This Atlantic article, with "Professor X" desperately trying to teach college students how to compose a cogent paragraph, is just the tip of a large and growing iceberg of ignorance in American society. Even those who manage to pass his introductory English courses -- that is to say, his "good" students -- are not likely ever to possess the cultural vocabulary required to catch the allusions in that article. These college-educated semi-literates are more and more common, and are emblematic of how our culture deteriorates by the gradual decline of standards.

Oregon's Obamessiah

Yea, verily, did they turn out in Portland:
Sen. Barack Obama has seen his share of large crowds over the last 15 months, but his campaign said they have not approached the numbers gathered along the waterfront here right now.
The campaign, citing figures from Duane Bray, battalion chief of Portland Fire & Rescue, estimated that 75,000 people are watching him speak.
More here, although the Washington Post reporter obviously missed the lepers who were healed and the lame who walked. Probably too stunned by the heavenly verities that the Obamesiah uttered.

The Obama-NARAL cabal

The Prowler explains:
One reason that the national board of NARAL, the pro-abortion lobbying organization, endorsed Sen. Barack Obama . . . was a series of behind the scenes conversations between the Obama campaign and NARAL.
"The message was, get on board or risk losing influence," says an Obama strategist. "We needed one of these [feminist or pro-abortion] groups to step up and walk away from Hillary." . . .
Obama advisers suggested that Obama was more likely to put in place key feminist and pro-abortion activists than Clinton. "The name that kept popping up was [San Francisco District Attorney] Kamala Harris. The campaign promised she'd become increasingly higher profile with Obama, and the women's groups love her," says another Obama strategist.
Harris is viewed as one of the most radical local elective office holders in the country, a district attorney who has refused to seek the death penalty even against cop-killers, and who has won high praise from the homosexual and pro-abortion lobbies that have strong bases in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Harris has been mentioned for high profile jobs in an Obama Administration, with some claiming she could be a dark-horse candidate for Attorney General.
That Hillary could be out-radicalized by Obama should tell you all you need to know about what the next Democratic administration will be like, as should the fact that San Francisco's calling the shots.

Obama overconfident?

Given that he drew 75,000 in Portland yesterday, Obama's probably feeling pretty confident of victory in tomorrow's Oregon primary. But is he too confident?
"I've been declared dead so many times, and luckily it's been premature, and I'm hoping it stays premature," Hillary said during a televised hour long town hall event Friday in Portland, Ore.
That Hillary had that hour to herself signaled the Obama campaign's confidence that they've got the nomination locked. Portland's KGW-TV had originally wanted to have a debate between the two candidates. When Obama refused the invitation, the station gave Clinton the whole hour.
Oregon has an unusual mail-in election system and, as of Friday, only 22 percent of voters had sent in their ballots for tomorrow's primary. When Obama ceded Hillary that hour of free TV time, polls showed him leading in Oregon by as many as 20 percentage points. However, an American Research Group poll taken late last week indicated the race might be tightening, with Obama leading Hillary by only a 50-45 margin.
Meanwhile, Clinton expects another West Virginia-sized landslide tomorrow in Kentucky, where polls show her leading by a whopping 30 percentage points. So even as Obama begins campaigning as the nominee-to-be, Clinton keeps winning primaries.
That's from my article today for The American Spectator and, please, read the whole thing.

The possibility of a Clinton win in Oregon is so remote as to be almost ridiculous, but I'm just superstitious enough to feel that you can jinx a sure thing by counting your chickens before they're hatched. So when I see Obama doing things like going to Iowa tomorrow to claim the nomination . . .

I don't know, maybe I've read too many Greek tragedies or something, but if that's not hubris, I've never seen hubris.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

More from Mr. Reform

John McCain lives up to his promises to "get big money out of politics" and "clean up the mess in Washington," by dumping another lobbyist from his campaign staff:
Former Rep. Thomas G. Loeffler, a Texan who is among the McCain campaign's most important advisers and fundraisers, has resigned as a national co-chair over lobbying entanglements, a Republican source told Politico on Sunday.
It's at least the fifth lobbying-related departure from the campaign in a week. . . .
The McCain campaign's stringent approach to the issue is provoking a bit of grumbling from some of its Washington allies, who point out that a lobbyist's function is enshrined in the Constitution.
"No one in real America cares," said one key Republican. "But McCain cares."
Amazing that Mr. Reform's campaign seems to be staffed entirely by lobbyists. You see why the Beltway GOP Establishment is so ineffective. They're controlled by the big-money influence peddlers on K Street, and are indifferent to what Republican voters actually want -- as McCain demonstrated in 2006 and '07 when he tried to ram his amnesty through.

Meanwhile, a sixth McCain staff resignation looms, as Charlie Black's lobbying career comes under scrutiny.

(Via Memeorandum.)

Moderate opportunity?

Linking a study of the voting records of Hillary, Obama and McCain, Ed Morrisey says:
In 1968, McCain would have been on the right wing of the Republican Party, and both Obama and Clinton would have been significantly on the left side of the Democrats. By 1988, McCain exists squarely in the GOP’s mainstream, and both Obama and Clinton remain on the left wing of the Democrats. Now, McCain’s fixed 2008 position puts him on the moderate side of the party, while the mainstream of Democrats have just barely reached Obama and Clinton’s position. . . .
What does this mean? It shows that RINOs and DINOs exist largely as mythology. Congress has become a place where party-line votes prevail on an almost-exclusive basis. . . .
Much has been made of independent runs from Bob Barr, Ron Paul, and Ralph Nader, but this shows that they also miss the point. The opportunity for political traction doesn’t come from the extremes of the Left and Right, but from the center.
Ed's analysis is wrong, but I don't know that I have the time or energy right now to fully explain why he's wrong. Just briefly:
  • Ed mistakes party-line voting for a real ideological divergence. To those of us who are conservatives, this ignores the fundamental question of the size, scope and expense of government. The conservative complaint is that, since 1997, congressional Republicans have abandoned any effort to shrink and limit the federal government. Where are the roll-call votes on abolishing the National Endowment for the Arts and zeroing out the Department of Education? These things don't show up in the charts Ed references, so he's scoring a game that's being played between the 40-yard lines.
  • Ed ignores the fact that party leadership controls the legislative agenda. The leadership can pick fights or avoid fights. If enough House Republicans don't want to take a stand on a controversial issue, John Boehner & Co. can use the process to ensure that there is no roll-call vote that would put them on one side or the other of the issue. As a result, policy may drift uncharted by the metric employed by Ed's source.
  • To advocate a middle-of-the-road strategy is to assume that Left and Right are morally equivalent, and that there is thus some virtue to steering between those two "extremes." Is there a defensible middle ground between truth and error? Can we compromise between good and evil? If conservatives believe our ideas are true and good, then we should advance those ideas fearlessly. To be compelled into legislative compromise on occasion is inevitable, but we should never confuse compromise with success.
  • The "moderate opportunity" scenario ignores the actual history of our politics. Political change -- new initiatives that reshape the landscape -- always begins at the margins of acceptable discourse. In 1960, how many candidates would have run on a platform endorsing legalized abortion? Yet the militance of the pro-choice movement was such that by 1973, the Supreme Court struck down the abortion laws of 49 states, and opposition to this ruling was (at least in the immediate aftermath) weak and disorganized.
Many issues that we take for granted today as part of the public discourse were once "fringe" issues of interest only to "extremists." Less than 15 years ago, for example, Clinton was able to ram the so-called "assault weapons" ban through Congress, and only "gun nuts" spoke out. Yet the ban quietly expired in 2004, and not even hard-core liberal Democrats have shown any real interest in reviving it. The political landscape changes, and the force for change begins at the margins.

In general, I would say beware of liberal academics decrying "polarization" in politics. Liberals certainly do not advocate unilateral disarmament by liberals, so their criticism of "polarization" is actually a demand for the unconditional surrender by conservatives.

Like McAuliffe at Bastogne, I answer, "Nuts."