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Saturday, October 05, 2002

Long-Term Stimulus-This latest Krugman steaming pile parallels closely what I was covering in my macroeconomics class on Thursday. I was talking about the Permanent Income Hypothesis and how tax rate cuts are more simulative than lump-sum credits and why long-term tax cuts are more simulative than temporary ones.
Although other news has been drowned out by the barking of the dogs of war, something ominous is happening on the economic front. It's not dramatic, but month by month the numbers keep coming in worse than expected. Let's put politics completely aside for once, and review where we are and what should be done. The key point is that this isn't your father's recession — it's your grandfather's recession. That is, it isn't your standard postwar recession, engineered by the Federal Reserve to fight inflation, and easily reversed when the Fed loosens the reins. It's a classic overinvestment slump, of a kind that was normal before World War II. And such slumps have always been hard to fight simply by cutting interest rates.
You have overinvestment in a few industries, not as a whole. He's going to have to blame this on a lack of investment to put aggregate supply out of the loop so as to trot out a Keynesian solution.
Now there's no question that the Fed's rapid rate reductions last year helped avert a much bigger slump. But a hard look at monetary policy suggests that the Fed hasn't done enough — and possibly can't do enough. Although the Fed funds rate, the usual measure of monetary policy, is at its lowest level in generations, the real Fed funds rate — the interest rate minus the inflation rate, which is what matters for investment decisions — is actually about the same as it was at the bottom of the last recession, in the early 1990's, because inflation is considerably lower. And the drop in the Fed funds rate engineered by Alan Greenspan & Company, though faster than that in the last recession, has so far been considerably smaller; last time it fell by 6.75 points, this time it fell by only 4.75. Even if the Fed funds rate falls all the way to zero, that will be a smaller interest rate reduction than the last time around. If you think the excesses of the 1990's were larger than those of the 1980's, that the economy needs more stimulus to pull itself out, then it seems likely that the Fed hasn't done enough, and quite possible that even going all the way to zero still won't be enough.
Sometime monetary policy can do the job, but this time, it might not be a short-term interest rate problem. Much of the market slump is a crisis in long-time confidence in the stock market, partly due to your old employer, Enron. The bloom is off the telecom and Internet rose, and the market doesn't yet have another market-driving industry to pull it out of the Enron/WorldCom slump. A long-term blow to confidence needs a long-term solution.
The answer is that we should have a sensible plan for fiscal stimulus — one that encourages spending now, to bridge the gap until business investment revives. Some of the elements of such a plan are obvious, and were described by Jeff Madrick in yesterday's Times. First, extend unemployment benefits, which are considerably less generous now than in the last recession; this will do double duty, helping some of the neediest while putting money into the hands of people who are likely to spend it.
The spending increases do nothing to add to aggregate supply and if they are temporary, they will not change people's long-term habits much. Extending unemployment benefits will actually lower aggregate supply, as people are actually encouraged not to work, thus lowering the labor force.
Second, provide aid to the states, which are in increasingly desperate fiscal straits. This will also do double duty, preventing harsh cuts in public services, with medical care for the poor the most likely target, at the same time that it boosts demand.
This will mean marginal state programs, which includes providing children's medical care programs, will get funding; the important programs will be kept.
If these elements don't add up to a large enough sum — I agree with Mr. Madrick that $100 billion over the next year is a good target — why not have another rebate, this time going to everyone who pays payroll taxes?
Temporary lump sum payments don't do much to aggregate demand, since people will tend to spend based on their long-term expected income rather than their short term income; that Permanent Income Hypothesis would suggest that long-term tax cuts will give people an expectation of a long-term income boost and will make them more willing to spend.
And how will we pay for all of this? You know the answer to that: Cancel tax cuts scheduled for the future. The economy needs stimulus now; it doesn't need tax cuts for the very affluent five years from now.
No, that will take away the incentive of taxpayers to spend if you're going to raid their future paychecks. Also, that will take away the incentive to invest and work hard, thus shrinking aggregate supply as well. If the economy has oodles of excess capacity, Krugman might be right in giving a Keynesian demand-booster. However, we're also looking at a crisis of confidence in investment, and increasing taxes won't help aggregate supply.
This isn't rocket science. It's straightforward textbook economics, applied to our actual situation. It's also, I'm well aware, politically out of the question. But I think we're entitled to ask why.
The problem is that it is straightforward textbook economics if the textbook is Keynesian. If you look at the long-term and include both supply and demand into the mix, that straightforward solution is simplistic.

Canada's Colours-Interesting question from Orrin Judd in this piece, wondering if there's a Red (conservative) Provinces-Blue (liberal) Province thing going in Canada. Here's my quick-and-dirty version of Canada's colors Anglophone Canada's a lot like the northern tier of the US. The Maritimes are New England left, with the RINOesque Conservatives doing well there. Ontario's a lot like New Jersey-I said New York in my comments in Judd's site, but New Jersey is more like it. It leans severely to the left on the federal level, but they did have a free-market Conservative premier for many years. Saskatchewan and Manitoba are a lot like the Dakotas, red state country with a occasional flirtation with a prairie left-populists. Alberta's a lot like Montana and Idaho-serious red-state land and the heartland of the Alliance Party. BC's a lot like Washington State-leans left but with sane pockets of conservatism. Quebec looks more like France by way of New York State; even the PQ are statists. However, with the Conservatives going the way of the dodo in Quebec and the Alliance party having a redneck-anti-Francophone persona, the Liberals have become the federalist opposition there. However, a Francophone free-market party, Action Démocratique, is making inroads and might get into power in the next provincial election.

Afternoon Musings-The hit logs had been slow today until MSNBC stepped in-"Support your local anti-idiotarian." Keep an eye on Brazil's presidential election. The leading candidate, left-populist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, smells like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Lula's close to getting an outright majority in the first round, and the financial markets are rightly jittery. Dr. White will have his Scream tie on tomorrow-the Gators just got beat by Ol' Ole Miss. [ Update 10PM-Sorry for the typo, Mr. Carver.] Put this one into the Blind Squirrel Finds Acorn department- the People's Republic of Santa Monica's ending a free three-meals-a-day for the homeless program. Does the word "enabling" mean anything? 20 Years for Talib Johnny? A bit light, but not unreasonable. I don't want to send a lot of bile his way; he might have a chance to clean up an obviously-addled brain.

God Took the Last Train for the Coast-They had a job-swap day over at Blogs4God, and Mr. Heddle had picked up the Metablog beat for the day. His title "Meta Girl Who Sang the Blues" had this part of American Pie (the song, not the movie) going in my head today.
Did you write the book of love? And do you have faith in God above if the Bible tells you so? Now, do you believe in rock and roll? Can music save your mortal soul? Can you teach me how to dance real slow?
How many people today will relate more to the second paragraph than the first? Most? For the average person in our culture, popular music is a bigger part of their lives than God is. It may not save their souls (and they know that) but that's where they put their focus. Later on in the song, McClain has God leaving town "The three men I admire most, the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, they caught the last train for the coast..." For many people, especially in the big cities, God has left town. I remember seeing an NRO piece a few weeks back where a Manahattan guy transplanted to Seattle was surpised at the number of evangelicals. When I didn't a web search to double-check the lyrics, I saw this site that is doing an exegesis of the song.

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Use Test Banks-Just got finished earlier today with an excellerated Managerial Accounting class which was an exercise in how not to set up a class. (1) The textbook assumes that you have a financial accounting background, and Warner Southern, in their infinite wisdom, didn't include that in the prereqs for the class; I wind up having to give a one-hour Financial Accounting for Dummies session to get them somewhat up to speed. (2) The MBA program underwent an overhaul after the Business school got custody of it from the Continuing Ed department, but they inherited a group of students who were expecting a less-quantitative, more management-oriented program. So, not only does half the class not have any accounting background, they are, shall we say, quantitatively challenged as a group. Not dumb, mind you, but math ain't their strong suit. (3) The MBA program is an excellerated one; a three-credit class is dispatched in a month with four four hour evening sessions and two all-day Saturday sessions. Thankfully, the newer cohorts are doing things a bit more slowly-six weeknights and a Saturday is the pattern for my new Thursday night class. OK for survey courses, not OK with a homework-intensive subject like accounting. Needless to say, I had a pack of sixteen mostly unhappy campers to deal with; somehow, I managed to adjust the class to give them a good overview of what they needed to know while keeping them from becoming persona-non-grata to their spouses. I've got a second pack of students who just starting MA Thursday who don't as a rule fit categories 1 and 2 above-the accelerated schedule will still be a challenge. As the title suggests, I've had it with test bank questions-they're often badly written and may have multiple right answers or no right answer. I had to throw out a question that I put on the quiz that looked good at first blush but needed a None of the Above to be answered. Do it yourself, Mark.

Morning Musings-I don't have a collection plate, but bloggers who do might be interested in Ebay taking over PayPal. It might have some implications if people are using an Ebay service and posting things like the Egray political parody site. Good news-the President's going on TV Monday night to make the case for Iraq. The liberals won't be able to use "you haven't engaged the American people" line after that; yeah, they still will, but they'll have to change it to "you haven't engaged the American people in a full [translation, equal time for Chompsites] debate." Who says you don't here about job hires?. Chrysler's adding workers in a metro Detroit truck plant. That's both good economic and political news, since I can see the enviromentalists cringe at all the pickups coming off the assembly line.

Edifier du Jour-Matthew 1:1-6(NASB)
1 The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham: 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. 4 Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. 5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. 6 Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.
I'm about to do the near-impossible-make a genealogy interesting. Jesus chose a motley crew for his descendents. Firstly, let's look at Judah. If you remember the story of Jacob, he had two wives, Rachel and Leah. He was tricked into marrying the "weak-eyed" Leah rather than her younger, prettier sister Rachel. It was Leah that produced Judah. The birth of Perez is R-rated. Tamar was Judah's widowed daughter-in-law, who wound up getting pregnant by Judah after posing as a prostitute after Judah reneged on having a younger son marry her. Conversely, Ruth is one of the sweetest love stories in all the Bible, fit for the kiddies. The Moabitess goes back with her mother-in-law Naomi to Israel and marries a wealthy landowner, Boaz. So, we have in Jesus' lineage the son of the unwanted wife, the son of a prostitute, the son of a Moabitess and a son of David and Bathsheba. He's the son of David, but He's also the son of some funky characters. He's a king but also a mutt. He can relate to the little guy from His human side as well as from His agape divine side as well.

Friday, October 04, 2002

The Lovable Moses?-We've got some blogfire over Jerry Falwell's blasting of Muhammad on 60 Minutes piece to air this weekend. This Fox piece says that Falwell called Muhammad a terrorist and that he
... tells correspondent Bob Simon he has concluded from reading Muslim and non-Muslim writers that Islam's prophet "was a -- a violent man, a man of war." "Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses," Falwell says. "I think Muhammad set an opposite example."
I'm not sure Falwell has either his facts or theology straight. First, let's look at Muhammad. Muhammad was a man of war- he took over most of Arabia by force in his lifetime. However, I don't think the terrorist label quite fits. Second, let's look at Moses. Jesus did set the example for love, but I'm not so sure about Moses. Eugene Volokh points out
Hey, I'm no Biblical scholar, but wasn't Moses involved with that whole smiting of the first-born thing, plus of course a wide variety of biological warfare? And weren't there lots of other figures in the Old Testament -- figures who are generally viewed quite positively -- who were also "violent [men], . . . [men] of war"?
WIlliam Sulik rightly counters that Moses was merely the messenger and the only death he was personally liable for was the killing of a Egyptian slavemaster in his youth. I'm going to agree with Sulik on this concept, although Volokh only accused him of being "involved" with the plagues. Yes, Joshua and Saul would be up on charges in The Hague, but Moses gets acquitted of genocide charges in my book. Manslaughter, maybe, but not genocide. However, Falwell's statement on Moses also setting the example for love rings a bit hollow. Moses was a good leader of the Hebrews, but he didn't seem to be a particularly tender person. I did a word check for "love" in Exodus through Deuteronomy. The word shows up 29 times, none of them describing Moses. Lots of talk about people loving God, but none about Moses loving anyone or caring for anyone. Not that Moses was cold and heartless, but I'm not feeling a lot of love here in the four books where Moses is the lead human character. Moses was laying down the Law, literally. The Law isn't a snugglebunny; it was how the Hebrews were supposed to worship their God by work and deed and faith. This is what Jesus died to redeem us from. Moses wasn't a bad guy; a bit self-centered on occasion and stubborn, so I think putting him up on the podium with Jesus as an exemplar of love doesn't quite cut it. P.S.-I just realized I had been spelling it Farwell all these months-I went back and corrected it.

Morning Grumblings Musings-I don't have a link for this one, but NPR had a sound bite of ol' Porkasaurus Rex, a.k.a. Robert Byrd, who declared independent action against Iraq "improvident." Who died and made him prophet? I have to avoid listening to NPR on the way in to work-it raises my blood pressure. Also per NPR, Article I, Section 4 is an "arcane" part of the Constitution. Which means we can ignore the stuff that obscure? However, I did call that the appeal would go on that grounds before the lawyer-bloggers did. It's interesting that the Fox piece doesn't mention the grounds for the appeal (and why is Bill Frist picture 1?) while the Washington Post does.

Edifier du Jour-Proverbs 16:25(NASB)
There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
This verse reminded me of the message at chapel on Tuesday of Kevin Derryberry, a hard-living country musician turned singing evangelist: If you don't make a conscious effort to follow God, you're following the Devil into destruction. Most of us, left to our own devices, won't pull out black robes and pentagrams, yet the effect of following our own instincts can be just as pernicious. By the time the "good" kid who isn't following God discovers that he's made an error, he may already be dead or have ruined his life and the lives of others; divorce, extramarital sex and substance abuse are some things that seem "right to a man." God doesn't have any grandchildren-each generation has to make its own decisions as to whether to follow Jesus. That's why its important to reach children and teenagers with the Gospel before those mistakes can be made. Don't wait until they're adults; Eileen has some mothers (and likely a father or two) in her 8th grade classes.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Blame it on Jesse-Let me get this straight-you're trying to win the evangelical vote in Brazil and you bring in .... Jesse Jackson? Remember that down in Brazil, you don't have too many nominal Baptists; people that are in evangelical churches are their by walking with their feet, leaving their Catholic backgrounds. If the left-populist candidate Jesse's stumping for thinks that a nominal Baptist (sorry, I don't see the fruit of the Spirit in Jesse) will swing a few evangelical votes, the two deserve each other.

Opus Dei Has Nothing to do With Bloom County-There's been a bit of verbiage about Opus Dei given this weekend's canonization (saint-declaring) of its founder, Josemaría Escrivá. I'm a bit out of the loop to make an informed judgement, but from the people at HMS Blog are saying (it's a general link, just scroll down to see all the stuff), the OD people are just very devout Catholics. That level of devotion, couple with the communal living (complete with the pooling of income) that some OD members practice and the independence of the movement (it transcends geography and reports directly to the Pope) makes many people nervous. The independence reminds me of many evangelical parachurch organizations; Promise Keepers comes to mind. They transcend local churches yet don't detract from them. To those who are used to dealing with the standard Catholic chain of command, OD's independence might look out of place and thus a threat. Their devotion also will strike the more secular as threatening. Could that be also restated as convicting, that they have a focus on God that they lack? This ibedem piece lays out the links of OD to the current conservative Spanish government as well as to the Franco regime. IIRC, Franco played a God-and-country theme, especially in contrast to his more secular opponents in the Civil War; it's not surprising that a few conservative Catholics served in his administration.

Morning Musings-It looks more like the unilateralist are going to rule the day-the House leadership has signed on to a measure giving the President the go-ahead to go after Iraq with or without UN support. That's a good thing, since it looks like France and Russia are leaning against us for the moment-I did hear a piece where Russia is starting to come around but China might be a problem. My cautious support for the Lugar alternative was based on the idea that we were close to a UN deal on the issue. We aren't. Serve up the crow I've got coming, Ben. The Jonah G. post in The Corner and this Tech Central piece point out what I was thinking earlier this week when the McArthur grants came out-the "genius grants" are given to people who reflect the goals of the liberal establishment.

Sub-Tropical Musings-Now that it's fall down here in Florida, the sun goes down earlier. Duh, basic astronomy. However, that combined with the warm weather gives some odd feelings for a Michigan kid. I was walking with Eileen last night after dinner. It was 7:30. It was dusk. It was about 80 degrees. In Michigan, those three don't go together. If it's 80 degrees out at dusk, it's summertime, and it's more like 9-9:30PM. If it's dusk at 7:30, it's early fall or early spring and it ain't 80 degrees out. It's October, and summer hasn't ended yet-we still have highs in the low 90s, unseasonably warm. Sooner or later, we'll cool down a bit.

Iraq: The Second Six-Day War-NPR was actually somewhat pro-Israel this morning as they did a piece on the 1967 Six-Day war, here's a site giving a run-down of the war and the lead-up to it. It has interesting parallels to our current situation with Iraq in that the Israeli struck first but did so to counter Egyptian belligerent actions. Egypt had blocked the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, removed UN peacekeepers from the Sinai and started a large military buildup in the Sinai. According to the NPR piece, Israel spent a lot of effort in May of 1967 (the war started June 5th) making the case that a first strike against Egypt was defensive in nature, designed to head off what seemed to be a coming Egyptian attack. We're in a similar situation with Iraq. They haven't attacked us yet, but all indications are that any new weapons that the Baathists are coming up with will be used against the US and its friends in due time. Weapons of mass destruction don't need to be mobilized at the border in order to be used, so the parallels to 1967 are looser. We are in the May 1967 stage, explaining to the world why we need to do what we are about to do and that it is defensive in nature. I think a war with Iraq will be quick-we want to get control of the country as soon as possible so as to grab and WMDs before they can be used or smuggled out of the country. I can't guarantee six days, but the basic campaign will be days rather than weeks.

Edifier du Jour-Psalm 80:8-19(NASB)
8 You removed a vine from Egypt; You drove out the nations and planted it. 9 You cleared the ground before it, And it took deep root and filled the land. 10 The mountains were covered with its shadow, And the cedars of God with its boughs. 11 It was sending out its branches to the sea And its shoots to the River. 12 Why have You broken down its hedges, So that all who pass that way pick its fruit? 13 A boar from the forest eats it away And whatever moves in the field feeds on it. 14 O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You; Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine, 15 Even the shoot which Your right hand has planted, And on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself. 16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down; They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance. 17 Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself. 18 Then we shall not turn back from You; Revive us, and we will call upon Your name. 19 O LORD God of hosts, restore us; Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.
I'm not sure if I'm overreading the messianic nature of this passage, but there are two vines here. One, of course, is Israel. The second is Jesus, who is alluded to as the son in verse 15 and the "man of Your right hand" and the "son of man." The old vine has been trashed, but the new vine is Israel's hope. Everyone's hope.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

One New Jersey Supreme-Hold the Anchovies-The NJ Supreme Court has decided to ammend state election law and allow the Democrats to sub for the Torch. As you've likely seen elsewhere, former senator Frank Lautenberg is the new nominee. As I said yesterday, remember Article I, Section 4 of the US Constitution; that's my choice for appeal grounds, since you'd have to have a federal issue to take the appeal out of the state courts. It states
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Choosing Senators.
Of course, following the Constitution isn't what people want to do, even if they're judges.

The Jonah Pool-The new Veggie Tales Jonah movie will be hitting theaters Friday and it should be interesting to see how the secular media will play its likely success. Whenever Christian movies crack the top ten for the week, the secular media gets surprised. This one could open at number 1 this weekend, or a respectable second behind the Hannibal Lecter prequel Red Dragon. We've been seeing a lot of fallout from the "F*** Jesse Jackson" attitude of Barbershop heading up the charts; getting Bob and Larry on top of the charts would blow a lot of people's minds away. "We're here, we're saved, get used to it!" Announcing-The Jonah Box Office Pool- Put you prediction of the total box office for Jonah as of Sunday, February 2nd in the comment section-I'll post them later so all can see them for the long haul. I wouldn't be surprised if Jonah grossed more than $100 million. I'll put my guess at $85 million. I'm offering no prize other than being able to say "I told y'all so" in February as I post the winner. p.s.-Chick-Fil-A had a Jonah kiddie meal promotion going when Eileen & I had lunch there on Saturday-fitting for the never-on-Sunday store.

Fisking? I'll Show You a Fisking-The "formerly obscure Tennessee law professor called Glenn Reynolds" clued us into this New Statesman piece on blogs. Hint to any mainstream media folks doing a piece on blogs: (1) bloggers love to read articles on blogs (2) bloggers love to pick apart bad articles (3) thus, a bad article about blogs is about to become road kill.
Why have Americans started to vilify the Guardian?
Because it the home of the British Euroweenie
Why does the actor John Malkovich want to kill the Independent foreign correspondent Robert Fisk?
Does the word idiotarian mean anything to you?
And why is the Princeton economics professor Paul Krugman writing with a new-found attention to detail?
Two words-Charles Austin. [update 6:50PM Oopsy, that's Megan McArdle-Richard Cohen is Stone Cold Charles' favorite steaming-pile generator]
Answer: Fisk, Krugman and the Guardian are all victims of the latest web-publishing phenomenon: blogging. Blogs are becoming the medium of choice for politically attuned members of the digital generation. Like talk radio, they are dominated by the political right. Why has the left ceded this potentially influential medium without a fight?
Because they are underarmed. Blogs pay attention to facts and attention to detail. Liberalism tends to be more emotionally based.
A weblog, or "blog", is like an internet diary in which users (bloggers) "log" and comment on interesting websites. They have grown astonishingly, from nothing to more than a quarter of a million in roughly a year. The New York technology commentator Clay Shirky dubs bloggers "trainspotters for the 21st century", obsessives who pass websites around the net, creating miniature information ecosystems in their wake.
Not quite true. There were blogs more than a year ago, but they started to show up on radar in the last year.
The American right moved into the medium with speed. Two bloggers in particular have astonishing influence: the journalist Andrew Sullivan, with his eponymous site; and a formerly obscure Tennessee law professor called Glenn Reynolds, who runs InstaPundit. There are no equivalents on the left; indeed, there are precious few left-wing blogs at all. Both Reynolds and Sullivan are libertarian, rather than conservative. And both despise the Guardian. As Wyeth Ruthven, publisher of a rare centre-left American blog, says: "No one here had even heard of the Guardian until Sullivan began his personal jihad." In a country with no recognisable left of its own, bloggers have made a British newspaper the pantomime villain of the right.
Papa Blog's called (not named) Glenn Reynolds? Blogs allow both good and bad journalism to reach a wider audience. I hadn't heard of Mark Steyn either before I started reading blogs.
The Independent foreign correspondent Robert Fisk is a particular cause célèbre. His articles on the Middle East are gleefully pulled apart, to the point where "fisking" has come to mean the sport of intellectually trashing any piece of left-wing "propaganda". John Malkovich was asked whom he would like to fight to the death. Robert Fisk and George Galloway, he replied.
No, fisking is systematically trashing a badly-written or illogical piece regardless of ideology. We'll fisk righties too if they have it coming. Pat Buchanan and other paleocons get fisked as well.
Even luminaries such as Paul Krugman (who is leftist by US standards) can't escape blog wrath. Sullivan and his acolytes glory in highlighting the smallest inconsistencies in Krugman's popular New York Times column. And this is the blogger's way: like raptors, they hunt in packs, gain momentum, pick enemies, vent spleen, and never, ever, hold back.
They also point out some of his consistencies, one of which is an irrational hatred of Republicans.
These blogs do not have large direct readerships: InstaPundit clocks only 40,000 readers a day. But many readers run their own blogs; others are political or media professionals. So a growing community is aware of whatever most irritated Sullivan today. This in turn creates what the legal theorist Cass Sunstein calls "cybercascades", reaching millions of readers with ideas, in this case associated almost exclusively with the right. They are democratic dynamite: private networks of information, unchecked by sensible debate. The aftermath of 11 September increased the cascades. Blogging became warblogging; the community became indignant cheerleaders for any madcap Bush anti-terrorism scheme. Attempts to question were given a vigorous fisking.
"[U]nchecked by sensible debate" translates to "uncensored by liberal filters." We only fisk the stoopid ones. Which madcap schemes did he have in mind? Please tell.
It is no exaggeration to say that the current disconnection between America and Europe over Iraq has been exacerbated by the blasts of bloggers. As Sullivan posted recently: "The problem with the Europeans is that they didn't experience 9/11 themselves, have a history of appeasing terror, and so find the new doctrine . . . an implicit indictment of their entire foreign policy record of the last decade." Such bunk goes uncontested. It is almost part of the mainstream. But what explains it?
Maybe we're discovering the European's autoproctology?
Importantly, they got there first. Sullivan had an established following for his journalism, and took his chance when the first blogs appeared. The medium lends itself to short, sharp, witty commentary of the sort often associated with raging libertarians. But although polemicists of the left - Robert Reich, James Carville, Al Franken, John Pilger and others - may have websites, they have stayed out of the blog fight.
I'd like to see a Reich blog; he's got the intellect and the wit to hold his own in the Blogosphere. Franken too, he can be equally funny and nasty, he’d be seeing quite a bit of flamage. However, why the left isn't in blogs as much I'll answer after the next paragraph
The right would argue that it had nowhere else to go. It sees itself as the victim of a vast, left-wing media conspiracy. Because it is barred from the mainstream print media (not true, but play along), it seeks "underground" new media.
Nice straw man; they aren't barred from the mainstream media, just badly underrepresented. Most of the big media does lean to the left, so that a conservative viewpoint is restricted to the occasional op-ed column in most papers. The reportage leans severely to the left, especially on moral and foreign-policy issues; blogs can take apart news coverage for accuracy and slant. Robert Reich can pontificate on PBS or NPR while conservatives have fewer outlets. Thus, conservatives and libertarians will have more of a desire to express themselves in this new media. Yes, feel free to bring up Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times. That's three conservative-leaning outlets as compaired to dozens of left-leaning outlets.
Should the left worry? Definitely. The blogsphere is an example of Willard Quine's coherence theory of truth: that things are true if they agree - or appear to agree - with other things that are held to be true. Right-wing bloggers are thus creating their own world, in which their truth exists often without debate. And the same may be about to happen in the UK. The journalist Stephen Pollard, the only British political blogger on the left, notes: "There are plenty of new British political blogs. And they are all - all - on the right." But political blogging is in its infancy here. It remains up for grabs. Got a computer? Got a view? Get blogging. There is a war to be won.
"their truth exists often without debate." We have comment sections in most blogs and e-mail addresses in most others. If the left thinks we're getting our facts wrong, they can fact check our tushies. If they think we have our paradigm wrong, that's called political debate. Bring it on, if you think you've got intellectual game.

The Game is Afoot-I think this might be a doable plan to get Saddam that is heading to the UN Security Council. Note that the Presidential palaces are fair game
Inspectors are to have access to all sites, including President Saddam Hussein's eight palace compounds spread over 12 square miles (31.5 square kilometres), mosques and any government buildings.
If Saddam signs off on a no-holds-barred inspection plan, with Americans and British inspectors in the mix, he'll look like a wimp to his people. If he doesn't sign off, the bombers fly. If he signs off and then renigs, the bombers fly, and he'll have a lot potential things to renig on. Dirty pool, Mr. President. I like it!

Clinton Making Sense?-This is scary-I start off the morning defending a near-RINO and I'm almost agreeing with Bill Clinton
The UN had to insist on unrestricted access for weapons inspectors, argued Mr Clinton on the day the US and UK rejected Iraq's latest inspections offer. "Saddam Hussein as usual is bobbing and weaving," he said. "We should call his bluff. The UN should call for a complete and unrestricted set of inspections with a new resolution. If the inspections go forward, and I hope they will, perhaps we can avoid a conflict."
Hello, my name is Mark, and I'm a recovering neoliberal. Either Clinton had a rare moment of clarity, or I need an intervention from my fellow conservatives. I don't hope the inspections go forward, for Saddam needs to be replaced, but otherwise Clinton isn't off base. He's far from an authority on bluff-calling, as should have called it years ago when he had the chance. Did Clinton stumble uncontrollably into a defendable position?

Kyle, The Kindly Storm-Now that I live in Florida, I've been hanging out on the Tropical Storm Update page of Weather.com. There's been a long-lasting meandering Tropical Storm Kyle that has been hanging out south of Bermuda for over a week. I got a kick out of this description this morning.
In the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Kyle continues to loiter--kind of a streetcorner tough--several hundred miles south of Bermuda. Kyle is forecast to continue hanging out in the area and perhaps even strengthen a bit over the next couple of days. And it's not out of the question the storm could make some menacing gestures in the direction of the Bahamas.
"Yo. You talkin' to me?"

Principled Moderates?-There are many people who are ambivalent about an issue, not because they are by nature indecisive but because they see the pros and cons of an issue roughly equal. For instance, I'm a fence-sitter on things like the death penalty and term limits, things a good conservative's supposed to support, yet I see the cons slightly outweighing the pros. That doesn't make me a spineless wuss on the issue, just one who sees those two issues 55-45 rather than 98-2. If you honesty have ambivalent views of an issue, the true wuss is the one who gives into the party position even though he doesn't believe it, like many Democrats who were somewhat anti-abortion and moved left in order to fit in. Yes, you'll have some people who are indecisive mugwumps -"Somes of my friends are fur it, and somes are 'gainst it. I always support my friends." Many of those manage to get into high elective office. However, there are others who honestly have 55-45 views on a number of contentious issues. The true believer on either side of the aisle will save some of his most bitter bile for the moderates in their party. Liberals will bash the DNC types as Republican Lite. Conservatives will bash moderate Republicans as RINOS (Republicans in Name Only) or Rockefeller Republicans or Spineless Wussboys. Full disclosure-I did imply Riordan was a "wimpy moderate" and declared Dubya's stem-cell decision as "Semi-wimpy." A lot of the people who are getting into l'affair Lugar are a bit young to remember the 1988 election, including Josh Claybourn and Paul Musgrave, who rushed to the defense of their Hoosier homeboy. Back then, the elder George Bush 's moderate views were seen as being wimpy. This was a guy who was a naval aviator in WWII-I got to see one of his training planes (eerily numbered #41) when I was up at Pensacola's Naval Air Museum. Bush 41 was a physically brave guy who was a bit too centrist for my liking; the same can be said of Lugar. We're often quick to demonize or to resort to ad homs in our debates; I'm not lily-white on that front, as I pull out the occasional Euroweenie or comparable light put-down. Some people are evil and doing the devil's work. Some people are wimps. But the tendency to declare all moderates as wimps is both misguided and counter-productive. Yes, Ben was engaging in a bit of hyperbole. Hyperbole on a position ("Wellstone is a commie") is one thing; hyperbole on someone's character is another. However, returning the favor isn't the best option, either.

Edifier du Jour-2 Corinthians 13:11(NASB)
Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Rejoice-We need to go through our lives with a certain level of joy. That's been hard for me this week with 22 hours of classes to teach; I've had to fight off being grumpy. Grumpy is a lousy witness, so I've been striving to be a joyful grump during this overload stretch. Be made complete-You're a work-in-progress (no, Mark, two nights a week of Managerial Accounting classes are getting to you; don't start talking about direct labor and materials, and don't even go near manufacturing overhead) and need to continue to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. It doesn't matter how mature you are, you're still not God and need to grow in the Lord some more. Be Comforted-Allow God to come along side. You might not feel like things are going your way, but God's still on the case and He'll be there to help you when you can't take it anymore. Be Like-Minded-We need to be as united as possible so as to present an attractive front to the world. That need not come at the expense of the Gospel as many ecumenistas seem to think, but we need to strive to bring fellow believers into a common understanding of God. Live in Peace-Squabbles amongst ourselves and with our neighbors don't help. There are some fights that are unavoidable, and those should be dealt with in as calm and loving a way as possible. However, when the dialog starts to degrade, we don't do the cause of Christ too many favors. ...and the God of love and peace will be with you. Note the and. If we do the above, God will be with us. To the extent that we're showing joy and striving towards godliness and getting along with our brothers and sisters in Christ, God will be with us. He'll be there even when we're not, but He'll be there in a special way when we are doing those things.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

What About a Write-in Campaign?They're having some interesting chicanery in New Jersey over Torricelli's dropping out of the race. The Constitution does give the Governor of the state the duty to call new elections in event of a vacancy in the Senate seat-here's the pertinent part of the 17th Amendment calling for the direct election of Senators-italics added
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures. When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
At this point, there is no vacancy in the Senate-Torricelli's dropped out of the race, not the Senate. If Torricelli resigned from the Senate, Governor McGreevey could appoint a Democrat of his choice and then call a special election for the remainder of his term. However, that would not change the election for the six-year term starting January 2003. By state law, it's too late to change names on the ballot. However, what would stop the New Jersey Democrats from running their anointed replacement as a write-in candidate? Stranger things have happened on a statewide basis-if I recall correctly, Strom Thurman got elected Governor of South Carolina with a write-in campaign and Mayor Williams in DC had to run a write-in campaign for the Democratic primary after having his petitions thrown out for bogus signatures. Turns out that Fred Barnes beat me to the idea by a few hours. If the New Jersey Supreme Court decides to allow the "old switcheroo," allowing Governor McGreevey to call a new election, do the GOP have grounds for an appeal? Here's my try-Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution, (again, my italics)
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Choosing Senators.
It's up to the New Jersey stale legislature, not Governor McGreevey, to decide when the elections are. If the governor tries to do this himself without legislative approval, I think there would be a valid federal constitutional issue.

High-Caliber Lugar-Ben, here's a hawkish conservative (I bobble between neo and unprefixed) giving this Lugar piece a look. I don't think he's going Euroweenie on us. He's an internationalist even when internationalism isn't cool. I don't think this proposal is a bad way to fly; get a UNSC decision demanding unfettered inspection and send in the bombers if Saddam gives the decision the middle-digit salute. This will get the reachable Euroweenies on board (Germany can go and [rest of thought deleted]) and give the invasion the blessing of the diplomatic crowd. Coming from almost-RINO Lugar and McCainiac Hagel, it will draw support from a lot of Democrats and be something that the administration can sign off on; it isn't far from the diplomatic tack they're currently taking. As far as Lugar heading up the committee later this fall, it's better than it sounds. Jesse Helms was over-the-top in his UN-bashing and hyper-skeptical over most US activity overseas, often holding up things or people he didn't like. Lugar's too much of a diplomat for my taste, but he might be more of a functioning ally of the President on most issues, shepherding things past filibusters via good relations with moderate Democrats. On the other hand, Democrats gave Helms zero slack.

Inspections in Our Time-Internet silence has been lifted-the network snafu here at Warner Southern is over and I can now post (and surf the web) from work again. I was going to headline a McDermott piece "Hanoi Jim" but George Will beats me to the concept, comparing him to Jane Fonda. Last night, I felt that McDermott was having a hallucinatory flashback to the sixties, questioning Dubya's honesty by confusing him with LBJ and Vietnam. McDermott isn't exactly lily white on the front. Other then being one of the more outspoken "single-payer" health care backers, the area where he last showed up on my radar was when he got ahold of an illicitly-copied cell-phone conference call between GOP leaders back in 1997. He's not above playing free and loose with the law, so might he be engaged in some transference? If you go back to the Cold War era, we frequently backed some nasty fellows in the name of anti-communism. "He might be an SOB, but he's our SOB" was the case that was made for people like Marcos, Somoza, Pinochet and the Shah. The FBI and CIA weren't as scrupulous as they are today, giving the liberals of the era a certain amount of ammunition to their idea that the West was roughly as evil as the East. By and large, the Our SOB Era ended in the late 70s, with the possible exception of some of the more unscrupulous Contras and Savimbi in Angola. American actions of the 80s and on have been in the interest of the natives of the countries involved rather than as merely an anti-communist fight. However, many people of the left are still stuck in the Our SOB Era, seeing Ashcroft as J. Edgar Hoover and Dubya as Nixon. The left will be too eager to go the Chamberlain route, not seeing the full deceit of Saddam and not realizing that the US does have the interest of the average Iraqi in mind

Edifier du Jour-2 Corinthians 12:7-10(NASB)
7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
One of those questions theologians would love to have answered is "What was Paul's thorn in the flesh?" The key thing isn't what it was but that it was there. There are some people who will blame an affliction on a lack of faith or the presence of sin; they aren't going to like this verse. If anyone had faith, it was Paul, yet God let the thorn remain, weakening Paul but strengthening his witness. God's grace is sufficient for us. He knows what we can handle and he knows our needs. What problems we do have are not there by accident and God thinks we can handle them with His help.

Monday, September 30, 2002

Evening Musing-I was in Internet blackout mode today as Warner's Internet connection was on the fritz and I was on campus all day from 8AM to 10:30PM, thus the non-existent posting. Even so, 133 viewers have come my way today despite the lack of posting. The big news seems to be the Torchdown-Torricelli has decided to drop out of the race. The question now is whether the Democrats can name a replacement candidate. This is bad news for the Republicans, since the replacement might have a good shot of beating Doug Forrester. More on that tomorrow when I'm not working with a 20-point IQ deficit. There are other things that I haven't had the chance to post on. The Israeli pull-back from Ramallah doesn't make sense. Why go it, kick around his compound, then leave without accomplishing much more then some demolition? The other one that bugged me was the McDermott and Bonior show from Baghdad. I'm not sure if McDermott line about Bush being willing to lie to start a war with Iraq wasn't a flashback from the 60s; he'd seem to be the type to have said Johnson would lie to get us into Vietnam (and you can make a case that the Gulf of Tonkin was such). However, Dubya is about as honest a politician as we'd had in a while; he doesn't have the amoral political hardball sense of LBJ.

Edifier du Jour-2 Corinthians 11:12-15(NASB)
12 But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
Satan doesn't have to moon the church with his pointed tail to lead people astray, he's way more subtle than that. He can appeal to the intellect, as in the Jesus seminar that David Heddle so nicely Fisked last week, where Jesus' divinity and miracle-making power gets dissed, leaving Him merely a good teacher. This is the quickest way to destroy a faith, to get Jesus to become just another prophet and to take the Bible apart like an erector set. If he can't deny a faith, he can dilute it by adding a bunch of other stuff along side it. He can give it a legalistic tact, making the believer miserable by adding truckloads of rules that aren't needed. The person might have a saving faith in Jesus but be much less effective in spreading the Gospel weighed down by the extra rules. Or, better yet for Satan, he might think that doing (or not doing) A,B,C... and X get them a pass into heaven. He can get Jesus lost in clutter, as in many saint-huggers (no, I'm not talking about St. Blog's Parish) who get too lost in their devotion to saints and Mary and lose track of the Son of God. Contrary to the Jack Chicks of the world, quite a few Catholics find their way to an saving faith in Jesus (as the Catholics in my blogroll seem to have) but others are weighed down by extra stuff when they could cut out the middle-man and put their faith in God factory-direct. He can make Jesus look too afraid/too loving to send people to Hell and give universalist thoughts an assist; it creates a more "loving" God than those mean, narrow-minded fundamentalists who say everyone else is going to Hell. This is a very pernicious one that saps the faith of the believer. It doesn't have to be outrightly mentioned as universalism to do the job; just the idea that Jesus isn't the only way to Heaven will be helpful. How many churches does that cover? If Jesus is merely Lord and not Savior, it makes the cross moot. He can make Jesus a lesser player in the believer's life. If taking away the Savior part takes away His saving power, taking away the Lord part takes away His transforming power. If Satan can make the believer become sucked into the things of the world and not recognize his authority in all things, he can destroy the believer's testimony and spiritual growth. All these things will look good to the victim. On this front, we have a possible aid-a new Blog that vows to get at some of these areas-Religious Left Watch. Although he seems more interested in the political ramifications of the theological liberals, he might be helpful in taking a hard look at their various heterodoxies.

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Paleocons, Neocons and Unprefixedcons-Just got done looking at this Fox piece on the launch of Pitchfork Pat's new birdcage linermagaizine, The American Conservative. The interesting thing in the piece is the lack of mentioning that there is more than two camps in the conservative movement. Buchanan would like to make it out to be a neocon-paleocon fight when there is a third camp in conservative circles. There is a class of conservative that isn't the secular-leaning free-trade and internationalist neocons versus the more-religious and nativist-leaning paleocons; I'll call them unprefixed-conservatives, who share the paleocons desire to maintain a traditional morality with the internationalist sentiments of the neocons. Despite a good chunk of neocons on The National Review, William Buckley is a unprefixedcon, as is most of the staff. Ronald Reagan would be an unprefixedcon, as would Dubya. The divide between neocons and unprefixedcons isn't much and often depends on whether one was raised a unprefixedcon. People who grew up on the left-side of the aisle who come to their senses are more likely to be comfortable with the neocon label. Often, there is little difference between the two camps. If you combine the neocons and the unprefixedcons, you have a clear majority of the Republican party. The GOP is about 15% paleocon, 20% neocon, 40% unprefixedcon and 25% status-quoian (right-of-center statists). There isn't much the paleocons can do to take over the GOP unless they try to split it on theological grounds, appealing to the religious convictions of the unprefixedcons. So, Buchanan and his paleocons have two choices; put up with the free-trade internationalist wing of the GOP or cast a protest vote as a third party. Their economic and social conservatism makes a coalition with liberals on protectionism undoable, so they either have to grumble and stay in the Republican party or cast a protest vote. If it's cast in a neocon-paleocon light, Pat's got a shot at outshouting Bill Kristol, but he's not in a position to take over the GOP. [Update 8:05-Looks like Kevin H. gave the magizine both barrels Friday night, as does this Tech Central piece. The Old Right sounds a bit like Robert Taft (not the Ohio governor but his grandfather, the isolationist senator of the 40s and 50s), who's been dead for 50 years. The paleocons are comperable fossils.]

Sabado Futbol-Lots of upsets, lots of overtime. If it weren't for overtime, we'd be looking at an incestious makeout session today. Iowa ruined Penn State's Fiesta dreams in OT, spoiling one heck of a comeback. Auburn needed three extra sessions to send Syracuse packing. Iowa State got out the industrial-sized can o' whuppin and beat Nebraska-Baggy-Slim had the Huskers pegged. The Hokies' corralled the Broncos 30-0-hey, WMU, at least get the bagel off the board. Florida almost got beat against Kentucky; the Gator fans down here were rightly nervous about that one. All the other favorites took care of business, including USC bageling Oregon State. Either KSU is real good or OSU needs to fortify the diet of Twinkies in the pre-conference schedule

School's Out, Now What?-This might be interesting to American academics who might be looking for a teaching job next fall. Ontario has had five-year high schools and has switched over to a US-style four-year program, allowing students a fifth year if needed. They were expecting only 60% of the students to graduate early in this first graduating class under the new rule-now it looks like 90%. This massive influx of college students will mean a big need for faculty, for the next four years will see this "double cohort" of the class of 2003 flow through the college system. I If the Ontario colleges choose not to increase enrollment, you could see a rash of unemployment and a flow of extra college students heading to the US. If they choose to bring on all the extra students, the need for extra faculty might tax the Canadian academic system, requiring the importation of foreign professors, with the US being a likely source. Either way, this should be a good time to be finishing a Ph.D., for your services might well be more in demand than before. Also, some American schools might negotiate a subsidy from the province to take in the overflow if they have the capasity to handle it. Should be interesting.

Edifier du jour-2 Corinthians 10:3-6(NASB)
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.
I had heard the phrase "take every thought captive" many times before, but even though I've read 2 Corinthians before, I wasn't connecting it to spiritual warfare. Once we defeat the strongholds of the enemy, some of Ol' Sloughfoot's minions will still be one the loose and need to be captured. This is an interesting companion with my thoughts on our ignoring God's omnipresence yesterday. Those low-key sinful thoughts that aren't likely to be acted upon in public become the most dangerous when you are alone. Then, they can sneak in and cause you to do things you will surely regret later. Thus, we need to corral those maverick thoughts before they can come back and cause harm.

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