28 January 2008

Demos and Mr Tomorrow

Well, I have to admit (through only slightly gritted teeth), Tom Tomorrow has perfectly captured the spirit of the Democratic juggernaut as it crunches towards its inevitable (unless not) victory in November.

United they stand.


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Why history is important ... or at least ironic

Here is a quote for The Atlantic Magazine found in today's 'Daily Dish:'

.... the temper of the times made it the special duty of a prosecutor and a court engaged in trying two Italian radicals before a jury of native New Englanders to keep the instruments of justice free from the infection of passion or prejudice. In the case of Sacco and Vanzetti no such restraints were respected. By systematic exploitation of the defendants' alien blood, their imperfect knowledge of English, their unpopular social views, and their opposition to the war, the District Attorney invoked against them a riot of political passion and patriotic sentiment; and the trial judge connived at—one had almost written, cooperated in—the process.

Sound familiar? A recent case? An overheated liberal law professor. No - it is Felix Frankfurter's* take on the Sacco and Vanzetti case back in 1921. We have certainly matured as a civil society since then.

*though he was a law professor at the time.


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27 January 2008

Opus, Technology and the Generation Gap

Last might I went with Murty and Clovis to see "Cloverfield." Clovis is 19 and thought the movie was great - in fact, this was the second time he'd seen it. Murty and I thought it was ... "OK." But even before the movie started I had developed severe qualms about the younger generation from watching all the previews of coming attractions. All vapid, soulless looking fluff designed for and about a generation of 20 somethings raised on instant messaging and screaming laptops. A generation that has truly been 'wired' in the worst possible sense of the word, with cell phones grafted onto their ears.

My latest example of the haplessness of these folks when it comes to anything I can recognize as learning, a literate culture, and a connection with that great mass of humanity that is dead, is my current world civ class. They have 15 weeks to read three books, each selected for being short, and easy to read (I thought). And they complain because I expect too much from them, none of their other classes actually expect them to read, like, books. Maybe I'll just show them videos.

This morning, while basking in the schadenfreude of yesterday's primary in South Carolina, I was brought up short by this little episode of my favorite philosopher and commentator of 21st century society, Opus.

Makes me feel like a grumpy old penguin in need of a good hug.

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26 January 2008

The Dual Presidency

Gary Wills, a noted historian and commentator on things American,* has his own take on the Clinton/Clinton campaign in today's New York Times. He's against 'em, and for an interesting reason: the country doesn't need two presidents. What is most fascinating about this opinion is that it is based on an analysis of what the original framers of the Constitution wanted and the failure of the Bush/Cheney dual presidency.

Here's Wills' conclusion:

We have seen in this campaign how former President Clinton rushes to the defense of presidential candidate Clinton. Will that pattern of protection be continued into the new presidency, with not only his defending her but also her defending whatever he might do in his energetic way while she’s in office? It seems likely. And at a time when we should be trying to return to the single-executive system the Constitution prescribes, it does not seem to be a good idea to put another co-president in the White House.

I am slowly, very slowly, coming to agree with him. I suppose I must to stay true to my 'Spirit of Ball's Bluff' campaign. No political restorations. No incumbents. Throw the bums out.

Stay tuned for November.

*his latest book is Head and Heart: American Christianities."

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USCIS: the most hated entity in the Federal Gov't

At least at the Clemens' household. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services. They are the clowns preventing our adopted 'grandson' from coming into America. Making our homeland safe from incoming 6 month old infants. It's explained here and here. [We aren't too fond of our Senator, Elizabeth Dole, either. Her office refuses to even respond to requests for help]

But, lest you think that Clemens and Carmen et al are simply malcontents focusing only on their own peculiar experience, here is a helpful editorial from today's Washington Post explaining just how inept and out of control these clowns are. You will notice that they are self funded, btw. That means they are NOT controlled in any way by congress. They can, and do, tell Senators to buzz off if they have the temerity to question CIS judgement. Perhaps that explains why Senator Dole's office refuses to get involved.

Anyway, here is a key quote from the editorial:

IN JULY, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services increased naturalization and visa fees across the board by an average of 66 percent. One fee more than septupled: the application to change from temporary to permanent residency, which went from $180 to $1,370. Immigration advocacy groups and other critics (including us) decried the ghastly expenses immigrants faced. Still, USCIS pledged that the increases would benefit applicants by allowing the agency to reduce processing times: from six months to four months for permanent residency visas, and from seven months to five months for naturalization applications.

Fast-forward to today. As USCIS Director Emilio T. Gonzalez testified at a House hearing last week, permanent residency applications now take about a year to process, and naturalization applications take a whopping 18 months. USCIS attributes this to the surge in applications it received in June and July -- 3 million applications and petitions in the summer of 2007, up from 1.8 million in the summer of 2006 -- and says it had no way of anticipating the increase. But USCIS should have known that raising fees so precipitously would have this effect.

This is typical of how things operate at CIS: price gauge so they can increase their budget without Congressional oversight, blithely make pledges they can't possibly meet, and then stonewall. Twits.

[not that it is the main thrust of my post, but this 'unavoidable' delay in processing citizenship will almost certainly benefit the Republican Party in November]

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25 January 2008

Fun art with pencils

No. Not the way you think. Check it out.
This one is my favorite - reminds me of Ben the Cat, especially around 6 am.

This post was approved by PMS, the Pencil Manufacturors Syndicate.

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24 January 2008

The Bush Years from the Inside

Michael Gerson, who was once speechwriter for George W. Bush has just written an interesting overview of the Bush years and it is not pretty.

First, the historical perspective since it is easy to forget just how high the Bushies were riding at the end of 2004:

The Republican Party, at that moment, was on a roll. Between 2000 and 2004, the president increased his total vote by 23 percent. Republicans in the House held their highest majority since 1946. It was the first time Republicans had controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress in back-to-back elections since the 1920s. One respected conservative commentator said that Republican hegemony in America was "expected to last for years, maybe decades."

Well, "decades" was a bit optimistic.

Now, however, things have changed:

In early 2008, by nearly every measure, the Republican Party is in trouble. Republicans in the House and Senate have been exiled from leadership and are retiring in large numbers. Fund-raising—the most tangible measure of enthusiasm—is weak. In the first three quarters of 2007, Democratic presidential candidates out-raised their Republican counterparts by $77 million. One adviser to a major Republican campaign recently complained to me that a significant number of wealthy donors on their fund-raising list were giving to … Barack Obama. Voter turnout on the Republican side in the early primaries has been weak compared with Democrats. And the party, well into the primary process, lacks a unifying candidate.

The cause of all this? Partly Bush, especially his (now) unpopular stand on the war in Iraq. But Gerson makes a good case for spreading the blame:

Then came the congressional losses of 2006, which were related to a sour public mood on Iraq—but only in part. Republican congressional leaders had assumed the same earmark-seeking and ethical corner-cutting image of their Democratic predecessors. The "bridge to nowhere" became a Republican symbol of waste and hypocrisy. Some conservatives tried to shift the blame to the president's "reckless spending" for the midterm defeats of 2006—conveniently forgetting that more than 15 Republican members of Congress had been implicated in sexual and financial scandals.

So much for the decades long triumph of conservatism and Republicanism. It still amazes me that the Republican candidates are generally running as Bush III. Well, I suppose it could work, if the Demos were dumb enough to nominate someone totally inept or unlikeable.

And they would not do that.

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21 January 2008

An ode to Lincoln

For MLK day Andrew Sullivan links to a 1902 article in The Atlantic about Lincoln. Here's the full quote he uses. I like it very much. It reminds me a bit of Harry Flashman's reaction to meeting young Mr Lincoln as told in his memoirs.

Slower of growth, and devoid altogether of the many brilliant qualities which his rival possessed, Lincoln nevertheless outreached him by the measure of two gifts which Douglas lacked,—the twin gifts of humor and of brooding melancholy. Bottomed by the one in homeliness, his character was by the other drawn upward to the height of human nobility and aspiration. His great capacity for pain, which but for his buffoonery would no doubt have made him mad, was the source of his rarest excellencies. Familiar with squalor and hospitable to vulgarity, his mind was yet tenanted by sorrow, a place of midnight wrestlings. In him, as never before in any other man, were high and low things mated, and awkwardness and ungainliness and uncouthness justified in their uses. At once coarser than his rival and infinitely more refined and gentle, he had mastered lessons which the other had never found the need of learning, or else had learned too readily and then dismissed. He had thoroughness for the other's competence; insight into human nature and a vast sympathy for the others' facile handling of men; a deep devotion to the right for the other's loyalty to party platforms. The very core of his nature was truth, and he himself is reported to have said of Douglas that he cared less for the truth, than any other man he knew.

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20 January 2008

VDH on McCain's chances

Victor Davis Hanson, or VDH as he is know on National Review's Corner, has some intelligent things to say about McCain and his chances among conservative Republican voters in a little essay called 'McCain Agonistes' (the guy is a scholar of the classics after all). Basically he thinks that McCain is the best hope for defeating the Clintons. He doesn't even mention Obama.

I especially like his conclusion if conservatives don't make their peace with McCain and support him:

Otherwise, we are about 1/3 the way through a Greek tragedy, in which the fated catastrophic denouement is known, but can't be prevented.

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Romney and the election

Like everyone apparently, I am having trouble digesting the results of the South Carolina primary. In other words, I don't have the slightest idea what it all means. Unlike most of the professional baltherers, I admit it.

But I am most interested in this little comment on National Review by Jonathan Adler on Romney's chances. He likens them to a snowball in hell, btw. But this quote is pertinent to how I feel about Romney:

The blatant pandering to the auto industry in Michigan in a way that suggests some very unconservative views. Romney's MBA style does not help much here, as it reinforces the perception of Romney as someone who solves problems without much regard to underlying ideological principle.

The first sentence is why I won't vote for the man; the second is why I might. Is that confusing enough? After the last eight years I would be happy with a problem solving technocrat who believes in nothing. Once he got through the primary season he would tack back towards the center to win over the national electorate and stay there in order to win a second term. In other words, an old fashioned moderate Republican.

With the Repbulicans we could do worse. While I admire McCain greatly his volatility and age trouble me, though the fact that Rush Limbaugh hates him I find absolutely charming.

We'll see.

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16 January 2008

My friend goes national!

That last post? The one from my former student? In which he sent a link to the Huckabee push poll?

Someone (not me btw) has sent it to Josh Marshall who posted the same link on his 'Talking Points Meme" blog.

Does this mean that Clemens is wired into the up and coming movers and shakers?

Nope. Probably not.

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Huckabee - the Christian candidate

I've always wondered exactly what makes some candidates tick. This message just came to me as part of a newsletter put together by a former student of mine. He's a dyed in the wool Repub if there ever was one. Was even a campaign manager for a local Republican not too long ago.

He seems to be angry at the
Huckabee campaign. Here's his explanation:

While sitting at home, minding my own business - my telephone rings. It's not bad enough to get calls at nearly 9 PM from people wanting to talk about the issues du jour, but getting autocalls - and push polling autocalls to boot - really got my nerve up.

It's one thing to attack your opponent - a necessary evil in politics. But to be so cowardly as to call people from a number that is disconnected, with a fake committee name, violate South Carolina law, and claim to be a Christian is just baffling to me. If Mike Huckabee really disavows and doesn't support this tactic, but is so incompetent to stop people who are calling on his own behalf - just imagine how (in)effective he would be in international politics signing treaties and other sensitive "Presidential responsibilities".

Best of all:
the telephone poll here.

I have read a lot about these things, but this is the first time I've ever actually heard one before. What impresses me is how crude it all sounds. Could it be someone for Huckabee playing dirty tricks? I head the big H himself today saying that he was disavowing all such calls and publicly calling for them to cease and desist. Was he being genuine? I don't know. Could this actually be a dirty trick played by someone NOT for Huckabee? I don't know that either.

So someone is playing dirty tricks on behalf of someone, and Clemens doesn't know much about modern campaigning. I think we can all agree on that.

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15 January 2008

How to fake a really, really big battle

Did you see the opening scene of the attack on Omaha Beach on D-Day in "Saving Private Ryan"? I didn't, but heard that it is gritty and spectacular. So how many extras did they have to get, how many landing craft, tanks, etc?

As it turns out, four guys with uniforms and rifles pretty much did it. Check this out, from a link provided by Andrew Sullivan. I especially like the way they did the explosions.

Update: My mistake. Three guys and some uniforms.

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Uncommitted in Michigan

It is presumed that since Clinton is running unopposed in Michigan that Demos in that state have nothing to do but vote for her. Either that or cross over to the Repubs' primary and vote for Mitt Romney just to screw things up. But Mark Kleiman on "The Reality Based Community" has a different view: vote 'uncommitted' in the Demo primary. After all,

I've known Uncommitted for years: not only a great patriot, but a great philosopher, who has mastered the art of maintaining skepticism in the face of unreasoning demands for certainty. If Uncommitted were to win, it would be the funniest political result since John Ashcroft lost to a dead guy.

And Kleiman concludes with a great quote from Churchill that pretty much sums up my philosophy of life:

Let us prove ourselves, in Churchill's immortal words, "decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity."

Let's hear it for Uncommitted.

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14 January 2008

Conventional Wisdom - another oxymoron

Here's an episode of Tom Tomorrow that I think even Jack will agree with (though he may not like it). I especially identify with the last five words of the strip, directed at all the pompous overpaid bloviators out there.

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"Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau’s repeated failures to pay phone bills on time.

A Justice Department audit released Thursday blamed the lost connections on the FBI’s lax oversight of money used in undercover investigations. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000.

In at least one case, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation “was halted due to untimely payment,” the audit found. FISA wiretaps are used in the government’s most sensitive and secretive criminal and intelligence investigations, and allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies."


The above was quoted here. Click on it for the whole story.

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09 January 2008

Hanson is on a roll!

Today in National Review Online Victor Hanson writes a remarkable column about Hillary Clinton. What's remarkable about it? While managing to show his distaste for the Clinton machine he still manages to write a clear-eyed reasonable assessment of her 'crying' moment. He starts out by pointing out how silly most of the rhetoric about it was. One of several good points:

The slur against her was that she was an iron-lady automaton, without emotion; so she needed that tearful introspection; it was not like a quirky, psycho-dramatic Pat Schroeder crying 20 years ago, and thereby confirming what we suspected — that as a fragile personality, she was subject to wild mood swings and undue passions. Hillary’s quarter tear wasn’t the weepy Cowardly Lion serially breaking down, but an appreciated sad drop or two coming from the heartless Tin Man.

His final point is one that ought to have bi-partisan support, especially for those who want to sign up for my "Spirit of Ball's Bluff' campaign.

The campaign talking heads and opinion makers this season have been lousy, about the worst in memory — especially the “she’s won, she’s lost, she’s won...” feeding frenzy, and then writing the silly “end of the Clinton era” essays — all based on a few thousand Iowans, some bad polls in New Hampshire, and catch-up to what some other wrong pundit wrote an hour earlier. And remember, these are “experts” who pontificated each week on the real Iraq war.

Amen to that, brother.

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07 January 2008

Amnesty for Illegals?

Just when I have given up on him Victor Davis Hanson returns to some plain spoken common sense. He sees the trap of Repubs taking their anti-amnesty into the realm of mass deportation which is, after all, the logical end point to such talk.

... while it is easy to say, "I oppose amnesty in all its forms," note apparently how difficult it is for the candidates to make the next intellectually honest and logical corollary, "Thus I am for the mass deportation of all illegal aliens."

It is fine and good to talk of "attrition" by slowly and incrementally rounding up illegal aliens as they come in contact with government agencies and need various licenses, papers, statements, etc., but you are still talking about deporting millions, who are currently working and crime-free, rather promptly.

His conclusion:

Bottom line: Republicans have to be careful that they don't turn a windfall issue (the Democrats are mostly open-borders and captive to the identity-politics wing of the party) into a mass deportation albatross.

Personally I am not so sure they can do this. I am pretty sure, however, that the Demos are capable of mishandling the issue, one way or another.

One of these days I am going to have to get around to reading Hanson's book Mexifornia.

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Send all the campaign handlers packing - please.

Here is an essay about what listening to campaign handlers, pollsters, media flacks, and consultants have done to Mitt Romney's run at the presidency. The author, John Ellis, talks of what might have been:

Romney's only real choice was to run as a Republican Gary Hart, the candidate of "new ideas" for a party in desperate need of some. That would have at least given him the flexibility to play to his strengths; his intellectual prowess, his business acumen, his demonstrable executive skills and his admirable personal qualities. And it would have enabled him to attract a wide array of advisors and intellectuals to help him think through innovative policy positions on what appear to be intractable issues.

As such, he would have been a candidate I could respect and, perhaps, vote for. As it is ....

Shakespeare should have said in "Henry V", "First thing we do is kill all the campaign handlers."

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Huckabee says something that makes sense

For several reasons it would be a tough sale to get me to vote for Huckabee. Not impossible, just very tough. Still, I thought this quote made a lot of sense.

"None of us would write a check to Osama bin Laden, slip it in a Hallmark card and send it off to him. But that's what we're doing every time we pull into a gas station," - Mike Huckabee.

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Politics - a class act

Here's a little film clip courtesy of Andrew Sullivan of campaign workers setting up signs in support of their candidate.

As I said, a class act.

[though some viewers insist that the campaign workers were within their rights removing an opponents signs. Oh well. I report. You decide.]

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