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Friday, August 31, 2012

Proud papa Beldar brags on his son Adam Dyer

The University of Houston Honors College has an excellent program for exceptional students at this Tier One university, and it's been very good to my family: My older son, Kevin, is already an alumnus of the program (and he's now an entering "1L" at the University of Houston Law Center this fall). My older daughter, Sarah, is within sight of completing her degree in elementary education through the Honors College, aiming toward a career path as an educator that was blazed by my sister, my mother, and my paternal grandfather. My younger son, Adam, is now entering his sophomore year in the Honors College. My youngest, Molly, still has a year left at Bellaire High School — and although she's fortunate to have a great many attractive college choices, it's not unlikely that she too may be seeking a spot in the Honors College fairly soon.

My ex and I, and all four of our children, were therefore very gratified that based on faculty nominations made among last year's entering freshmen, Adam was named among fifteen or so "Outstanding First Year Honors Students" at the Honors College's 2012 Fall Convocation.

Adam J. Dyer receiving an Outstanding First Year Student award from the University of Houston Honors College on Aug. 30, 2012

Honors College Dean William Monroe said this of Adam at tonight's awards ceremony in the ballroom of the Hilton on the UH campus:

In addition to being an outstanding contributor in his nominator [Prof.] Ted Estess' class, Adam also served on Alpha Team's student committee to select the best Human Situation lectures of Fall 2012 [referring to a required two-semester Honors College seminar that "stud[ies] our cultural heritage by examining texts from the Greek, Roman, Hebrew, Christian and Islamic cultures of antiquity"] — all the while ... showing promise of doing truly distinguished work as an undergraduate at the University of Houston. In the words of Dr. Estess, [writing] tonight from Colorado: "Adam, we salute you for what you have done, but we put you on notice that we are expecting a great deal more in the coming years." Adam is a creative writing major from Bellaire High School with a National Merit Scholarship.

Adam is committed to obtaining a broad liberal arts education through the Honors College, and he'll continue studying creative writing this fall. But he's adjusting his major to also include computer science because (1) every starving artist needs a day job and (2) it's quite likely that his creative goals will end up involving computers and software in at least some important aspects. He's just a swell kid, and while his mom and I and his siblings are always proud of Adam just for being who he is, tonight was another of the many occasions on which we are all extra proud.

More pix:

Adam jokes after the ceremony:

Adam Dyer jokes after the awards ceremony

Every award must come with a certificate suitable for framing, no? But this one is indeed worth the cost of a frame:

Adam Dyer's award

Big sister Sarah (left) reacts to Adam's award:

Big sis Sarah Dyer reacts to Adam's award

Posted by Beldar at 12:06 AM in Family | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Today's vocabulary word

I had thought myself to have a perfectly adequate vocabulary to describe and discuss President Obama. But I have just learned a new word that I am trying to commit to memory, in part through this post. It is a term that most certainly may be fairly applied to to many politicians, and it's something of which Gov. Romney has been accused as well.

But I believe President Obama is much prone to tergiversation. (Yes, follow the link; and while you're there, do be sure to click for the pronunciation, for it is not at all what I had guessed it might be.) Indeed, with the possible exception of Bill Clinton toward the end of his second term, I think President Obama is probably the most accomplished and habitual tergiversator I've ever encountered.

Posted by Beldar at 07:36 AM in 2012 Election, Humor, Obama, Politics (2012) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Sputtering Puffington Host gives Beldar a morning grin

I opened my browser today to the Puffington Host for the specific purpose of seeing how badly "on tilt" the Lefties are after Paul Ryan's speech. Here was my answer:

screencap of the Puffington Host's front-page early on Aug. 30, 2012

Immediately I thought back to Datechguy's rallying cry, upon close observation of Team Obama and its partisans: "Ride right through 'em, they're demoralized as hell!"

I confess that I did not read the Puffington Host post linked from that dramatic headline. Perhaps in the Puffington Host's alternate universe, the Democratic whom Obama appointed to co-chair the Simpson-Bowles debt commission, Erskine Bowles, never gushed about fellow commission member Paul Ryan thusly:

Have any of you all met Paul Ryan? We should get him to come to the university. I’m telling you, this guy is amazing. I always thought I was okay at arithmetic, this guy can run circles around me. And he is honest, he is straightforward, he is sincere. And the budget he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan. It is a sensible, straightforward, honest, serious budget, and it cut the budget deficit, just like we did, by $4 trillion.

The president came out with his own plan. And, the president as you remember, came out with a budget. And I don’t think anybody took that budget very seriously. The Senate voted against it 97-to-nothing.

Perhaps in the Puffington Host's alternate universe, that GM plant is actually still open, and America's credit rating was never downgraded. Perhaps there, water flows uphill, Obamacare didn't raid Medicare, and one of the most reflexively liberal political blogs at the Washington Post never ran this headline and story:

screencap of the Washington Post's 'Wonkblog' article on Aug. 14, 2012

But regarding those voters who are firmly tethered to this universe, I think Paul Ryan had a very good night, and the hysterical confabulation of this Puffington Host front-page makes me even more confident of that than I was last night.

Posted by Beldar at 07:11 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Beldar reviews Wednesday night's GOP convention speakers

Tonight I recorded, and just now finished watching, the GOP convention speeches given by Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM), former Secretary of State Condi Rice, and, of course, the newly official GOP Vice Presidential nominee, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI). I watched C-Span's coverage because I'm hard-core enough in my politics that I will even sacrifice HD just to avoid interruptions by insipid talking heads and toilet bowl cleaner commercials.

Susana Martinez opened a lot of eyes tonight. I know the Dems will inevitably label as "tokens," "sell-outs," or worse essentially every woman, and certainly every non-white person, who speaks at the GOP convention. But if you're actually listening to these speakers, I can't imagine how you could continue to insist that these non-WASP Republicans are just eye candy and time-fillers. My reaction to Gov. Martinez is like my reaction to U.S. Senate nominee Ted Cruz: "Stronger'n train smoke!" They are no one's clones, every one of them has a compelling personal story, and they radiate both authenticity and competency. The GOP has developed a deep and talented bench, folks, and it's been on display last night and tonight for anyone who cared to invest the time to look.

I have long been, and remain, among Condi Rice's fans. She is a prodigiously gifted writer and wordsmith, and she is commanding in one-on-ones and small groups, but she is not a career politician, nor a naturally confident public speaker in large venues. When I thought I heard an occasional nervous quiver in her voice tonight, I loved her for it all the more, because it simply highlighted the willpower and determination that have characterized her remarkable life story: she couldn't eliminate her jitters, but she relentlessly mastered them with every line of her speech.

Secretary Rice's critique of the Obama Administration's foreign policy was measured and substantive, if not very deep on details — which is to say, it was appropriately pitched for the audience and purpose at this nominating convention. But what was most noticeable and surprising to me — and this may have been something which came through better on C-Span, I don't know — was how very warmly the convention audience responded to her.

The Bush Presidents, with whom Rice is closely associated, and their spouses appeared only briefly tonight, and that in a brief, pre-recorded, and mostly sentimental video tribute. It was probably focus-grouped within an inch of its life to ensure its complete inoffensiveness. And everyone in the GOP — including the Bush family and all their allies and supporters — understands the decision Gov. Romney made long ago, back during the earliest pre-primary campaigning, to begin writing a new chapter of his own. There was no downside to de-emphasizing either Bush-41 or Bush-43, and no likely net benefit from highlighting them.

But the people in that convention hall are, for the most part, the GOP faithful. Thus, when Condi urged the audience to recall and appreciate "the will to make difficult decisions, heart-wrenching choices in the aftermath of 9/11 that secured us and prevented the follow-on attacks that seemed preordained at the time," the audience responded powerfully, with authentic affection that I believe was intended not just for her, but also for He Who For Purposes of Political Expediency Must Barely Be Named, the President in whose cabinet she most recently served. Even still, that applause was dwarfed by the approving roar she got from these lines (punctuation mine):

And on a personal note: A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham, the most segregated big city in America. Her parents can't take her to a movie theater or a restaurant. But they make her believe that even though she can't have a hamburger at the Woolworth's lunch counter, she can be President of the United States. And she becomes the Secretary of State!

That applause all belonged to Condi — because, as she went on to say, "America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect. But of course it has never been inevitable." Many other people and circumstances made her career possible, but she is who actually made it happen. She built that career, one might say. And the audience just adored her, not just because they agreed with what she was saying, but because they approved of the fine and fierce example she has set.

Not a single word in Paul Ryan's acceptance speech surprised me, but that's because I've been listening closely to his public speaking for a couple of years now. I was, for example, utterly unsurprised that he did not back away a millimeter from his dogged commitment to make this election a debate over spending, the debt crisis, and the on-rushing collapse of our national safety net under the Democrats. But there were a few particularly well-crafted lines in this speech that I hadn't previously heard. My personal favorite among them was this:

None of us have to settle for the best this administration offers — a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us.

For tonight, I am content.

Posted by Beldar at 01:07 AM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Best line of Tuesday evening's GOP convention speeches

There are several good contenders, but for my money, it was this one, from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's keynote speech:

You see, Mr. President — real leaders don't follow polls. Real leaders change polls.

Christie's remarkable and transformative success in blue New Jersey gives him the credibility to say that. It is a combined diagnosis and prescription that, alas, can be fairly directed not only at President Obama, but also at many other politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Chris_christie_at_rncBut no one has ever accused Paul Ryan of tailoring his politics to anyone's public opinion polling — and as Prof. Reynolds frequently and aptly notes, picking Ryan was Mitt Romney's first presidential-level decision. Picking Joe Biden was Obama's, and that contrast gives me hope for success in November.

My read on the subtext of Tuesday night's proceedings: Every speech had clearly been prescreened and edited to minimize any kind of negative campaigning directly against Obama. Romney-Ryan is obviously confident that the GOP is unified behind it, so it will focus essentially all of its own campaigning, including everything in this convention, on influencing independent and swing voters in battleground states. Those states quite literally contain the polls — the electoral kind, not the public-opinion kind — where the GOP strategists believe the election will be won or lost, and therefore those are the polls the results of which (per Gov. Christie's prescription) Romney-Ryan must change through a show of leadership. The Romney-Ryan campaign will rely on surrogates and outside groups to rally the base from now on; they're serving little to no red meat at this convention, but it will be served up, in more targeted campaigning, by others to those who want it or can be influenced by it.

Posted by Beldar at 04:38 AM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, August 27, 2012

An astonishing record of achievement from the west Texas plains

Coaches Tippy and Patty Browning with members of the LHS volleyball team after 900th career win (photo credit Lamesa Press-Reporter)Everyone thinks his hometown is special.

Everyone's right.

My hometown of Lamesa, Texas, is special in many ways, and I'm prompted today to put aside politics and law and everything else I usually blog about to extend my warm congratulations to two long-time Lamesans for reaching an amazing pair of career milestones:

Last Friday night, the Lamesa High School Golden Tornado girls' volleyball team beat Van Horn in the Crane Tournament. It was the nine hundredth career victory for Patty and Tippy Browning, twins who've been coaching Lamesa High School girls' athletics teams for forty-five years:

The Vega natives, 900-448 through Friday, made history and have collected a lot of accolades while coaching in Class 3A and 4A before moving to Class 2A this season. The sister duo has earned 21 district championships, and a UIL Class 4A state championship in 1986 along the way.

But the Brownings were quick to divert the individual praise to, what they both said, was a more vital cast of characters.

"The 900th win isn’t the important thing," Tippy Browning said. "The important thing is the history. Without history you don’t have tradition. That tradition is what I feel got us 900 wins. It’s not our 900 wins, it’s 900 wins for the countless student-athletes that have come into our program and created that great tradition and pride."

The Brownings are ranked No. 14 on the all-time active coaching wins list according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Over their coaching career, the Brownings have averaged 20 wins per season, which is a level of consistency most coaches never reach.

I recall when another legendary Lamesa coach, the late and much-loved O.W. Follis, reached his 800th career win as the Golden Tors' head basketball coach; by the time he retired in 1982, he'd gathered 857 career wins. The Brownings' career win total is just as amazing a statistic, and they certainly share the same very rare company.

A Lamesa store window supports the Golden TorsAs amazing as such statistics are on their face, it's what they imply, the story they merely hint at, that is genuinely astonishing. But with just a moment's reflection, anyone who's ever been, or known, a high-school girl can immediately appreciate the patience, the dedication, the love of teaching and of sports, that these numbers bespeak.

Lamesa is a small town, and I live on the far side of Texas from it now. But I'm tickled that the internet and social networking lets me keep track of this kind of news, and I'm happy to extend my congratulations to Coach Browning and Coach Browning! There are a lot of Lamesa ex-pats scattered all over Texas and beyond who are very proud to help you both celebrate this accomplishment.

Posted by Beldar at 09:40 PM in Sports, Texas | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Is either Apple or Samsung to be, or not to be?

Would Shakespeare have been an Apple fanboy?I'd previously read or heard most of the notions that Rich Karlgaard advances in his Wall Street Journal op-ed titled "Apple's Lawsuit Sent a Message to Google," but he's done a service nonetheless by polishing and distilling them nicely. As he puts it himself, this "techno-Shakespearian story is entertaining," and he makes a reasonable case that it's nevertheless "bad for the phone-buying public."

I agree completely with him that both from a business perspective and a legal one, it was strategic genius — albeit fairly obvious — for Apple to sue a foreign-based company, Samsung, rather than its real target, American-based Google, for pretty much all the reasons he explains.

I think his essay errs, though, in its tacit assumption that foreign companies like Samsung are always and forever going to be nothing more than proxies — pieces to be moved on the global chessboard by American technology leaders like Apple, Google, and yes, Microsoft. Of course, Samsung will appeal this latest American jury verdict, and it has a decent chance of winning on appeal. But that will take many months to play out. Does anyone doubt that in the meantime, Samsung — and many other similarly situated companies — will redouble their efforts, and probably more than redouble their budgets, to develop their own software prowess and capacities to augment their demonstrated manufacturing prowess and capacities?

And Mr. Karlgaard is absolutely right to note that there's a Shakespearian quality to this long-running and ongoing drama. But they're not re-running the same play every night, or even relying upon a static cast of players. Yes, in the 1980s it was already Apple versus Microsoft, and yes, those two still compete fiercely today. But there was no such thing as Google or Amazon then; they parachuted in seemingly from nowhere, but no one today can dispute that they've become formidable competitors who aren't shy about entering new lines of business. And quite a few dominating companies from the 1980s have been swallowed by others (as Google swallowed Motorola and HP swallowed Compaq), or have become competitively and technologically irrelevant (like Xerox and Kodak), or have simply disappeared altogether (like DEC and Wang).

In short, I think both plot and players are even more unpredictable and exciting than Mr. Karlgaard gives them credit for. So bring the house lights back down, and on to the next act!

Posted by Beldar at 12:50 AM in Film/TV/Stage, History, Law (2012), Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Requiescat in pace: Neil Alden Armstrong (1930-2012), American astronaut, hero to the human race

My friend Patterico has a post up honoring a true American hero who passed away today — Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon. Lightly edited and without blockquoting, here's the comment I left on his blog:


I was born in 1957, the year of Sputnik — indeed, during its few weeks of orbit — so I was old enough not just to watch, but to relish, the 1969 Apollo 11 landing. Indeed, although I don’t quite remember Alan Shepard’s flight, I do definitely remember John Glenn’s, and all the rest of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo flights which preceded or followed Apollo 11.

Neil Armstrong, on the surface of the moon in July 1969By July 1969, I had several models of each major component spacecraft of the Apollo system, constructed variously of plastic, paper, or balsa wood and with varying levels of detail. Some of them were working model rockets that I’d sent hundreds of feet into the air before they returned to earth on their plastic parachutes. I was almost certainly an insufferable fan. I remember accompanying my father to the barbershop some weeks before the landing; while he got his haircuit, I was explaining to all the grownups present how the Lunar Excursion Module was practically made of aluminum foil, and that the real one was less rugged than some of my models. On the fateful day, while Walter Cronkite narrated, Armstrong was piloting the real LEM over and around the boulders strewn across the Sea of Tranquility, and I was piloting my favorite and most detailed plastic version over and around the sofas, chairs, and other obstacles of the Dyer living room. Neil and I had simultaneous, and equally successful, touchdowns. The whole world celebrated.

Folks are apparently still arguing over whether Armstrong said “One small step for man,” which made no sense, or “One small step for a man,” which made perfect sense. I wish historians could get their acts together and report it the way it makes sense, even if they feel compelled to drop a footnote to suggest that Armstrong might have inadvertently swallowed the “a.” Let’s recognize that Armstrong didn’t have the luxury that Doug MacArthur had to re-film his return to the Philippines and re-shoot his famous “I have returned” line until he was entirely satisfied with it.

Armstrong wasn’t just a lucky guy who was in the right place at the right time to snag a history-making role — although there was some luck involved in his beating out the other Apollo astronaut candidates and astronaut wannabes. Rather, he and his fellows were extraordinary pilots and professionals, patriots who’d seen friends blown apart or burned up while pushing the boundaries of manned flight. They all knew the same could happen to them at almost any moment, but they were all righteously committed to helping make that giant leap for mankind. Can we at least give them all the benefit of a generous standard for quoting what might in fact have been said, and what clearly was meant to be said, instead of a truncated and nonsensical version of that quote?

Posted by Beldar at 04:30 PM in Film/TV/Stage, History, Science, Technology/products, Travel | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Friday, August 24, 2012

Did you take my advice to bookmark my post on April 3, 2011?

I've been re-reading some of my old posts under my blog's Paul Ryan tag, which only dates back to April 2, 2011. I'd mentioned Ryan before then, but mostly in passing. Nevertheless, by the next day, I had posted this bit of political fortune-telling:

[Y]ou can bookmark this post: If Paul Ryan is the GOP Veep nominee, Obama will either dump Slow Joe Biden (probably through some contrived health or "more time with his family" excuse) or at least find another excuse for there to be no vice presidential debate. Because Paul Ryan would eat Joe Biden's lunch and then drink his milkshake.

I'd forgotten that. If you're not familiar with my "milkshake" movie allusion, here's the scene from "There Will Be Blood."

I'm still hoping that my speculation about the Obama-Biden[?] 2012 ticket dumping Slow Joe will be proved wrong, but that particular ax is still suspended in mid-air as far as the public has been made aware. Perhaps it will end up missing outright.

I do confess that I laughed aloud at a sharp-but-juvenile joke about the Vice President that Peggy Noonan related yesterday. I just wonder if President Obama is still finding his Veep's verbal adventures very amusing.

Posted by Beldar at 04:41 AM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2012), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hewitt interview focuses on Paul Ryan's early life — even his job at Mickey D's

Either the transcript or audio of my friend Hugh Hewitt's radio interview yesterday with prospective GOP Veep nominee Paul Ryan is educational. Hugh chose to focus on some details of Ryan's early background that give insights into his character today. Here's a sample:

HH: ... [D]id you go to parochial school?

PR: Yeah, I went to Catholic school from first through eighth grade, and then I went to public school after that.

HH: Now which, what was the name of the parochial school in Janesville?

PR: St. Mary’s Catholic School.

HH: And did you play youth sports?

PR: Yeah, of course. I played basketball, soccer, track, all correct.

HH: And what was your first job?

PR: Well, you can get a job as a very young kid in Wisconsin in detasseling corn. So for people not in the Midwest, what that means is you walk down a corn row, and you snap the tassels off the corn to help pollinate the corn. I had a lot of landscaping jobs, a lot of lawn mowing jobs. I worked at McDonald’s, waited tables, was a fitness trainer, sold meat for Oscar Meyer, I had a lot … I painted houses, lots of different jobs.

HH: You worked at McDonald’s?

PR: Yeah, I was, you know, a funny story is the manager said I didn’t have the social skills to work the front, so he put me on the quarter pounder grill.

HH: (laughing)

PR: So now I’m in Congress, I say. It’s kind of funny.

Read the whole thing. There's nothing exotic about Paul Ryan's past. There's nothing radical or strange about his background. Paul Ryan's personal history is typically American — and it is one that will resonate as strongly with black or Latino families as with whites.

Not all Americans will agree with him, ever. But lots of Americans may be surprised to find themselves liking and respecting and approving of this young man. Some of them, I think, will also be surprised to find themselves listening to him, rather than just reading what his frantic political opponents say about him. And that's all to the good.


UPDATE (Fri Aug 24 @ 1:55am): Sometimes it takes my old neurons a while to make a connection between two different things I've seen on the internet, and perhaps my orientation as a heterosexual male was a disadvantage in making this particular connection, but:

For those of you who noticed "fitness trainer" in that list of jobs, there's this from the campaign trail:

Paul Ryan campaigning

And this:

Ryan campaigning on crowd line

I noticed way back in April 2011 that if you mussed Paul Ryan's hair a bit, gave him a five-o'clock shadow, and maybe put a broken nose somewhere in his past, he'd look an awful lot like actor Patrick Dempsey (a/k/a Dr. Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd on "Grey's Anatomy").

Posted by Beldar at 10:28 PM in 2012 Election, Politics (2012), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Free exercise of religion, cultural relativism, principled distinctions, and foreskins

This report troubles me (link in original; hat-tip Althouse):

A German rabbi is facing charges for performing a circumcision, less than two months after a Cologne court outraged Jews and Muslims by outlawing the procedure.

Rabbi David Goldberg has become the first rabbi to face possible legal action for performing the ritual after an unidentified doctor filed a criminal complaint against the spiritual leader, alleging "bodily harm" to the child involved, the Times of Israel reported.

The German equivalent to our Constitution and Bill of Rights — their "Basic Law" — contains sweeping language based upon, and apparently equivalent to, the Free Exercise Clause of our own revered First Amendment. Will it be interpreted to give Rabbi Goldberg a defense? And if not, how much more are we bothered by that specifically because this is happening in Germany?

A Jewish circumcision ceremony in San Francisco (photo credit Noah Berger/Associated Press)

Because I've been to law school, however, I have voices in my head which insist on complicating this issue even further. "What about so-called 'female circumcision' as practiced in some cultures? If the Free Exercise Clause, or its German counterpart, prevents the state from prosecuting Rabbi Goldberg for performing male circumcision, would it not also protect those engaging in 'female circumcision'?"

"But," my pre-law school ethical self retorts, "what they call 'female circumcision' is really just genital mutilation. It's not comparable."

"Po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to, Beldar," replies my inner law professor. "So say concerned citizens of San Francisco about male circumcision. Can these enlightened people from the City by the Bay be wrong?"

Heavens forfend!

But if I can't eliminate those voices, I can at least hush them for a while: "Enough of the false equivalencies! I am comfortable that I can draw a principled distinction between these two things. I am confident that I am not guilty of hypocrisy in holding one to be a constitutionally protected liberty, and the other a barbaric and cruel practice inflicted to subordinate one gender to the other."

"Sez you," say the voices.

"Yes," I mutter to myself, "sez me, exactly. Yes, there are indeed cultures which promote genital mutilation of children. But mine doesn't, and shouldn't, and in my confident if ultimately somewhat subjective judgment, my culture is, as a consequence of that, better than it otherwise would be. Sez me."

Posted by Beldar at 07:59 PM in Current Affairs, Ethics, History, Law (2012), Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Red books vs. blue books, and Obama's book(s) vs. Romney's book

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds links Amazon's Election Heat Map 2012, which contains Amazon.com's ongoing analysis of its sales of political books, which it divides into "neutral" books, "red" books, and "blue" books. A book's color, for this purpose, has nothing to do with its cover; instead, Amazon says it classifies political books as red or blue (rather than neutral) "if they have a political leaning made evident in book promotion material and/or customer classification, such as tags."

No ApologyAccording to Amazon's current analysis, in the last 30 days, "red" books have outsold "blue" books by 56% to 44% nationally, and "red" books have outsold "blue" books in all states except New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia. Texas, colored cherry-red on Amazon's map, buys two "red" books for every "blue" book, but "red" books only hold a tenuous 2% lead in California.

Prof. Reynolds notes Amazon's sidebar, though, which tracks the sales of Barack Obama's second book, "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream," against Romney's "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness" — with Obama's book substantially outselling Romney's.

I haven't yet read Romney's book, but I read Obama's first quote-unquote "autobiography" — "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," quite closely before the 2008 election. Indeed, I compared Obama's "Dreams" to John McCain's "Faith of My Fathers" in a long post then — McCain versus Obama: 'placelessness,' faith, and dreams — which I think holds up pretty well today. (My two key conclusions: (1) "Barack Obama's young life, and the people around him then, were filled with unconnected randomness. John McCain's young life, and the people around him then, were filled with deeply shared purpose"; and (2) "McCain got a rock-solid and abiding 'faith' from his grandfather and father — faith in them, in himself, in the U.S. Navy and the other U.S. military forces, and most importantly, in all of America — while at best, Obama got only 'dreams' from his.")

Audacity of HopeI also tried to read "The Audacity of Hope" in 2008, but I frankly found it dull, nearly impenetrable, and entirely forgettable: It's not really another autobiography, and it has no plot or story. Rather, it's more or less a repackaged bundle of early Obama campaign speeches and position papers. It's a typical politician's book — which is to say, it's a book that exists to be bought (so it will generate a nicely laundered royalty), and to be displayed on supporters' bookshelves, not a book to actually be read by anyone other than a zombied sycophant whose brains have already been scooped out and consumed.

Of course, both of Obama's books are still selling — and providing him with a handsome continuing royalty stream — and if we counted both Obama books against Romney's one, the sales gap would surely be even larger. And indeed, when I noticed that Amazon had only pitted one of Obama's two books against Romney's single book, I thought perhaps that Amazon was guilty of an oversight.

But then I had a small epiphany, and I suddenly understood why "Dreams From My Father" wasn't included in Amazon.com's sale comparison:

It simply wouldn't be fair to compare fiction to nonfiction.

Posted by Beldar at 05:27 PM in 2012 Election, Books, Humor, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On GOP fundraisers who support gay marriage

Today's Washington Post included an article by Dan Eggen entitled "While GOP opposes gay marriage, key donors fund the other side." Mr. Eggen notes that while the official GOP party platform will include support for a proposed federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a number of prominent Republican fundraisers are nevertheless putting their support, and their considerable fundraising capacities, in service of the contrary position. Indeed, there is even "a new super PAC focused on supporting Republican congressional candidates who favor marriage equality" that's drawing multi-million contributions from some prominent Republican contributors.

Eggen describes this as evidence of a "growing rift" within the GOP on issues of sexual preference, but he also asserts that "support for same-sex unions remains an outlier among Republicans." In my evaluation, both of these statements are technically correct, but they miss and indeed conceal a larger and more important context:

Eggen appears to think this is new news. And he appears to think that there's only a "rift" within one party on such social policy. If so, he's wrong on both accounts.

In fact, each's party's platform will contain again this year — as they have since the mind of living man reacheth not back — policy positions that may indeed reflect the views of a majority of convention delegates, but that are much less fervently or consistently held by the voters who will cast ballots for that party's candidates.

The classic and still-valid example on the Democratic side will be the Democratic Party's official embrace of government-financed abortion on demand. There actually are still substantial numbers (quite literally millions) of pro-life Democrats who oppose abortion as a matter of broad principle; they've been rudely conditioned to keep their views mostly to themselves within the supposed party of tolerance, but they actually do exist, and a few of them still are "on record" with that position. Short of that, there are quite a few Democrats (and quite a few Republicans, including me) who are weakly and reluctantly pro-choice, but who genuinely and sincerely still believe in the Bill Clinton formulation that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare — a last resort whose moral complications must be acknowledged. And there are indeed Republican daughters who end up having abortions. There are Democratic daughters who end up bringing their unborn children safely to term, even though inconvenient or unplanned, even if they support the "right to choose" as a general matter, but out of personal reverence for that which distinguishes a human embryo or fetus from a "lump of tissue."

And likewise, on the questions of gay marriage and sexual orientation more generally, there are both Republicans and Democrats scattered all along the spectrum. There will be married gay Republicans who vote for Romney-Ryan. There will be Democrats who stay home because they're disappointed that Obama has endorsed gay marriage. There are voices even within the gay rights movement who caution against overreaching through court decisions, and who (correctly in my judgment) point to the recent repeal of "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" as the better model for gradual and politically legitimate changes in social policy. 

And actually, Dick Cheney and I are part of a sizeable plurality in the GOP who oppose any government discrimination on the basis of sexual preference, but who are unwilling to engage in the pernicious and unprincipled fiction that the U.S. Constitution somehow already addresses sexual preference. Cheney and I have held that position for many years, whereas Barack Obama only came around to the first part of it a few weeks ago. So the new news is supposed to be that there are Republicans who — gasp! — support same-sex marriage as a policy matter? You'd think the recency of Obama's conversion might have merited more than the brief and passing mention that it got in this article, but I suppose we've always been at war with Eastasia.

Nope, when the WaPo reports on something like this story that deviates from the Democratic Party narrative, it suits the WaPo's purposes to pretend that this is the new news, and that these people are mere "outliers." Otherwise, they can't use fear to move votes. Otherwise they can't pretend that these controversies are going to be resolved, once and for all time, definitively and forever, based on this November's election. Otherwise they can't distract voters from the shambles which this Administration has made of our national economy and the government fisc.

Americans really can't be neatly sorted so neatly into boxes. But that doesn't stop the mainstream media and the political meme-spinners from trying.

And that doesn't mean we have to fall for it.

Posted by Beldar at 11:54 PM in 2012 Election, Current Affairs, Ethics, Obama, Politics (2012) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Obama-Biden[?] 2012 dares not relinquish the spotlight for the GOP convention

In 2008, after promising that he would accept federal campaign financing and therefore abide by its spending limits for the general election, Barack Obama brazenly broke that promise. I was therefore somewhat surprised, and mildly gratified, that Obama-Biden 2008 nevertheless honored a long-standing and bipartisan tradition by self-limiting its own campaigning during the 2008 GOP convention. McCain-Palin, of course, also honored that tradition during the Democratic convention. (And it also took federal financing, as a result of which McCain-Palin was vastly outspent.)

There was a practical and mutual benefit to the tradition: Everyone on both sides of the political aisle recognized that every presidential campaign could benefit from a three- or four-day breather, a chance to recharge and reorganize and quietly fund-raise, a chance to gather resources and determination for the sustained push to Election Day. And by honoring the tradition, both parties' campaigns also showed class and self-confidence — an affirmation by each campaign that it was not afraid to give the other campaign a brief monopoly on publicity. The tradition demanded that each side be willing to say, in effect: "Give it your very best shot for a half-week during your convention, only let us have a comparable half-week during our convention in return, and we'll both have better served the American public."

But apparently, desperate times at 1600 Pennsylvania call for desperate measures. Obama-Biden[?] 2012 has announced multiple campaign appearances for Vice President Biden, the First Lady, and President Obama himself during the GOP convention (which will officially run from August 27-30, 2012).

So what's next? At the presidential debates, when it's Mitt's turn to talk, is Obama going to put his fingers in his ears and chant "Na-na-na-na I can't hear you na-na-na-na!" to drown out the sound of Romney's voice?

But the GOP convention comes first this year. And the more Obama-Biden[?] 2012 tries to distract from it, the more justification Romney-Ryan will have to return the favor when the Dems hold their convention on September 3-6, 2012. So why would Obama-Biden[?] 2012 break a tradition when it's certain that the GOP can and will retaliate, and when the sequencing favors the GOP?

The only explanation I can think of is that Obama-Biden[?] 2012 is totally fixated on continuing to divert the public's attention from the exact issues which Paul Ryan's selection has brought to the fore. With the Congressional Budget Office warning that "the economy will enter a recession next year if the country goes over the so-called fiscal cliff" at year-end 2012 — with "the economy contracting by 2.9 percent in the first half" of 2013, and even the artificially understated unemployment rate reaching 9.1 percent — Obama-Biden[?] obviously feels it has to keep up a steady, indeed, an increasing hue and cry about any and all possible distractions. So expect Obama to use these swing-state campaign appearances to continue talking about Romney's tax returns from 2003 or his dog's vacation travels in the 1980s, whatever will get even an iota of traction. So determined are they to distract from the Romney-Ryan message that they're willing to have their own convention undercut.

Of course, since they have no plan other than more taxing, spending, debt, and graft, which they'd rather not talk about, they're not damaged as much by chaos. And besides, when and if Romney-Ryan campaigns during the Democratic National Committee, Obama-Biden[?] 2012 can always employ its universal fall-back:


Posted by Beldar at 03:40 PM in 2008 Election, 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dogs that don't bark in the night, and an obvious campaign talking point we haven't heard

The conventional wisdom among the chatterati is that despite all the hoop-la about Joe Biden's most recent set of gaffes, his spot on the ticket is safe.

The Obama-Biden[?] campaign's spin-meisters have been hard at work: The Vice President was misunderstood; the Vice President meant to say "shackles" instead of "chains"; Danforth, Virginia, is actually very close to North Carolina, so perhaps the Vice President really was exhorting those Virginians to mobilize their cross-border friends and family to take North Carolina again this November.

You know what proposition, what obvious campaign talking point, I haven't heard anyone — from any stripe or shade of the political spectrum — assert with respect to Joe Biden in many, many months? It's this one:

Well, you know, no matter what else may be said, at least Joe Biden would probably make a pretty good President if called upon.

It hasn't even occurred to anyone to make that argument.

And the only possible response to that assertion would be: "Are we talking about the same Joe Biden?"

Posted by Beldar at 05:33 PM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2012) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Vice President's delicate condition

Writing at Forbes.com, Henry I. Miller opines that "Joe Biden's gaffes call for a thorough neurological examination":

Are these aberrations stupidity, dementia or personality disorders? To find out, shouldn’t there be some vetting or testing of people in, or who aspire to, governmental positions as critical as the vice-presidency? After all, we require bus drivers and hairdressers to prove their competence before they are permitted to ply their trades, and applicants to most police forces undergo psychological testing.

Biden should submit to a thorough neurological and psychiatric examination, with special attention to whether he is experiencing “transient ischemic attacks” – marked by impaired blood flow to the brain – small strokes, seizures, or suffers from a brain tumor. After all, we often demand to know whether a candidate has recovered from open-heart surgery, cancer or a stroke, and many states require elderly drivers to be re-licensed.

Aren’t the vice-president’s highest-level security clearance and his influence on public policy as important as the ability to drive a car?


Don’t voters have a right to know whether Biden is ill or merely unlikeable, impulsive and prone to deceitfulness?

I'm not sure how much of this is tongue-in-cheek. I don't know, or know of, Dr. Miller. Forbes lists him as "a physician [and] the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution." I can tell from this op-ed that he has a fairly good sense of humor. And he came up with a couple of pretty good anecdotes about Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) that I hadn't heard before; by themselves, they're worth following the link to his piece.

I'm not quite sure whether Dr. Miller is urging this prescription (i.e., that Biden seek medical and perhaps psychiatric help) upon the Obama-Biden[?] campaign, or whether he's contending instead that the American press or the voting public ought to demand it of the Obama-Biden[?] campaign, and penalize them at the ballot-box if they're non-compliant. If Dr. Miller is counting on the press, though, he might want to consider that there's not a single reporter in the White House press corps who has even the guts or the integrity to ask whether Pres. Obama is or isn't still smoking cigarettes! Perhaps he will recall that before asking America to elect him, Obama released a grand total of one-half page of medical information — that being a conclusory set of opinions from a physician selected by Obama, given without a whit of supporting data or detail. Press furor at an obvious stonewall? Zero. Follow-up on that, by anyone in the mainstream media, since the 2008 election? Zero.

Vice President Joe Biden when he was in the SenateNevertheless, I must reluctantly disagree with Dr. Miller's prescription. For one thing, I'm not sure whether Dr. Miller was aware of Vice President Biden's public medical history, which includes surgery to repair two brain aneurysms some years ago. It is by the design of the Obama-Biden[?] campaign that we know so little more, but I would still be very surprised if Biden's not already getting more thorough-than-usual neuro workups anyway, if only as a consequence of that history. 

More fundamentally, though, I am pretty skeptical of sentences which begin, "Don't voters have a right to know ....?" Voters decide for themselves, for better and often quite demonstrably for worse, how much and what type of vetting they want. Voters can and do employ ridiculous double standards. And it wasn't just the mainstream media who gave Obama a free ride in 2008. A majority of the American republic, as represented through the presidential electors from their respective states, ratified the media's inaction by electing a man who'd campaigned on his "Kansas values" even though he never lived in Kansas for a single day. Some of us cared; some of us were horrified; but not enough of us were, obviously, and so we've been stuck with both President Cypher and his faithful sidekick, Bozo the Veep, for the last three-and-three-quarter years now.

But the voters don't need a neuro or psych report on Joe Biden. His unfitness for office is obvious, but it was obvious in 2008 too. Remember that even among Democratic voters, when Biden was running again for President during the 2007-2008 Democratic primaries (from which Biden dropped out on January 3, 2008), Biden ran a distant tied-for-fourth (with Chris Dodd), polling at a mere 5% — far behind not only Obama and Hillary, but also far behind that blight on the reputation of the entire male sex, Johnny Reid Edwards. No amount of professional whitewash could change any of that; Joe Biden's as far beyond rehabilitation as he is beyond the onset of male pattern baldness.

Nope, even without expert opinions, everyone knows Joe Biden is a disgrace, a bad joke, a catastrophe being kept from America only by Barack Obama's steady heartbeat, may the Lord protect and preserve his good health. The question is whether more of us, this time, will care.

Posted by Beldar at 03:28 PM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2012) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Assault into the Mediscare ambush

Fight fear with facts. And when appropriate, bring your mother.

Medicare and Social Security can be saved. They can even be improved upon, without diminishing their reliability. But you can't do it by pretending that they can go on forever, or even more than a small handful of years, without major structural changes.

We need to have this debate. We're glad to have this debate. And we will win it, not just because we have the better debaters — and now, we finally do — but because we have the truth.

Posted by Beldar at 05:31 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Friday, August 17, 2012

John has a l ...

The title of this post is how far I got just now, in typing into a Google search engine search field, before Google's predictive text algorithm hazarded a ranked set of likely completions to my search terms. First among them:

John has a long mustache.

Friends and neighbors, since junior high school I've been able to type consistently in excess of 100 words per minute with generally good accuracy. Between the time my right ring finger could hop up from the "L" key to the "O" key while typing the word "long," much less than a fraction of one second could have passed. Yet that fractional second, even with internet lag, was long enough for Google: Not only was "John has a long mustache" indeed what I had been in the process of typing (keyboarding?), but Google's first offered search result was also spot-on correct, just exactly what I'd been wanting to look up: It was about the movie I'm watching right now, which contains a scene in which the sentence "John has a long mustache" is very important.

Aren't there many, many other quotes, constructions, passages in English-to-French dictionaries, random works of fiction, or other likely sources of sentences which begin with "John has a," plus just the letter "L"? My fragmentary search term could have turned out to be "John has a leopard," or "John has a luxurious apartment," or "John has a lackadaisical attitude toward his blogging." So how did Google's algorithms rule those possibilities out and rank the correct one (about John's long mustache) as the most likely fit? All I can imagine is that on previous occasions when this same film has been shown on television, some measurable number of other geeks have googled on that same phrase. Still: This mimicking — of human reasoning, of a very perceptive and well-read expert on countless subjects, of mind reading — is very, very uncanny. Indeed, it is slightly disturbing. But damned impressive!

I was seized by an eerie sensation: I remember telling friends to try Google out, back in 1999, during the first dozen months or so after it launched. "They have found some new wrinkles that you can't get with other search engines," I told them. "It seems to be ... smarter, somehow, than the others. It doesn't just index."

Well, now it finishes my sentences for me, just as if Goggle and I are some sort of long-married old couple. It can correctly guess what movie I'm watching — even though there's more than one film that has used that same line, even though the line has independent historical significance in its own right. Of course, in that scenario, I'm already the stroke-impaired, senile numbskull compared to how quickly it intuits my intent from a handful of keystrokes and then leaps ahead of me.

Posted by Beldar at 05:06 AM in Film/TV/Stage, History, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Is the conventional wisdom on Biden's inevitable renomination crumbling?

In the "fabulous fourth-hand gossip, but could this possibly be true?" category, Robert Costa at NRO's The Corner quotes Larry Kudlow's CNBC interview with Edward Klein, author of a controversial recent book about Obama and his administration called The Amateur. Klein, in turn, claims to know from Clintonista sources that the White House was "putting out feelers" about Hillary replacing Biden "up until just a couple of weeks ago," when Hillary supposedly turned down the offer. There's much more — Bubba's name is mentioned — but read the whole titilating tale.

I wonder if Jay Carney interprets "a couple of weeks ago" to be the same as "a long, long time ago"? Because, you know, in a political campaign, it can be. Ask the ghost of Thomas Eagleton, the "18-Day Nominee" whom George McGovern continued to trust in 1972 even after news leaked of Eagleton's hospitalizations for exhaustion and depression and his electroconvulsive therapy sessions. Indeed, McGovern went on record saying that he was "one thousand percent for Tom Eagleton," and that he had "no intention of dropping him from the ticket." And McGovern struck doggedly to those positions, too, for several more hours at least.

On the one hand, it's not hard to imagine that replacing Biden might have become a more-than-theoretical inquiry after Biden's off-script comments forced Obama's timing on his gay marriage reversal (or as I prefer to call it, Obama's very belated joinder in my own and Dick Cheney's position). On the other hand, though, it would have been imprudent for Obama to turn over any cards — even to Hillary, and arguably especially to Hillary — before he knew who Romney was going to pick as the GOP's nominee-presumptive. And Team Obama is presumably already pretty sure that they've thoroughly vetted Hillary, who'd been under intense public scrutiny for over a decade before Team Obama even began their "opposition research" for the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. If he wanted her to accept, the smart play would have been to clam up, sit tight, and then have Obama spring it on Hillary in person, on short notice and with a short fuse. But on the third hand, that may be imputing better organization and planning, and more acute political sophistication, to Team Obama than it deserves.

I'd surely like to see how Frank J imagines that alleged lunchtime conversation between Hillary and Obama consigliere Valerie Jarrett might have taken place, though.

Posted by Beldar at 03:30 AM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2012) | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Easements and beaches

I was just now skimming my email, in which I found an invitation to watch a continuing legal education program on important recent decisions of the Texas Supreme Court. One of the cases that's to be discussed is Severance v. Patterson, __ S.W.3d __, 2012 WL 1059341 (Tex. Mar. 30, 2012), whose holding the invitation describes as follows:

Private beachfront properties on Galveston Island's West Beach are not impressed with an easement that rolls or springs onto property. Never previously encumbered, although the law allows the State to prove an easement, as would anyone else.

And so help me, I couldn't stop myself from making and posting this:


Posted by Beldar at 04:29 PM in Humor, Law (2012), Sports, Texas | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Big and little reasons: Why Hillary would say "yes"

My commenters here, and many pundits elsewhere on the web, argue very persuasively that Hillary Clinton would turn down an offer from Barack Obama to replace Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket for 2012. They advance many small but cumulatively weighty reasons why Hillary would say "no" if Obama asked. Here, for example, is respected political analyst John Fund's take at National Review Online:

I’ve no doubt that some Democratic strategists would love for Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to swap jobs and bolster the Democratic ticket with a little Clinton magic. But there’s no evidence that Hillary would take that deal. If she wants to run, she is already the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination and would gain no advantage by being yoked to Obama, her old adversary, for the next three months if they lost or the next four years if they won.

So Democrats are stuck with Old Joe, who will turn 70 this November. It’s said that few people vote for a presidential ticket based on who is filling the No. 2 slot. But some do, and they may matter in a very close race....

I confess not to being able to follow Mr. Fund's logic in that last paragraph. Don't the last two sentences directly support the notion that Obama should replace Biden? If you're looking to get to the polls those people, few or otherwise, who might be excited about a vice presidential nominee, do you want Hillary or do you want Slow Joe? Just about the only unanimous opinion about Sarah Palin's impact on the 2008 election was that she energized and turned out a lot of the GOP base who were unenthused about John McCain. There's no reason to think that Hillary Clinton would do less well among the Democratic base, and some reason to think that she might do quite a bit better in attracting independent voters.

And does anyone think George H.W. Bush didn't gain a net advantage over Dukakis in 1988 by being the sitting Veep? Dukakis' attempts to tar Bush-41 with Iran-Contra and other Reagan controversies didn't work well enough to make a difference, and Poppy successfully campaigned as Reagan's natural heir and annointed designee. However well it works out in any given election cycle, having to campaign as a sitting Veep is hardly the political kiss of death.

But put that aside, and let's get back to how Hillary Clinton would necessarily have to evaluate an offer from Obama that she replace Biden.


I humbly submit to you that there is one big reason why she would say "yes," and that it alone outweighs all the other little reasons why she might say "yes" or she might say "no":

If she says yes and they win, she will be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

The number of former First Ladies who have become President is zero, of course. The number of former U.S. Senators who've become President is considerably higher, and so is the number of former Secretaries of State. The number of people who've already placed a reasonably close second in a long-running party presidential primary is pretty small. But any of those examples might give Hillary statistical hope for her chances in 2016, whatever happens in 2012, right?

Obama's worst nightmare: MathYet look at the percentages. It's true that sixteen U.S. Senators have gone on to become POTUS, but that's out of well over 2100 total U.S. Senators (less than 0.8%). Six former SecStates have become POTUS, but that's only nine percent of our sixty-seven total Secretaries of State. I don't have stats handy for how many primary runner-ups have later gone on to become POTUS, and of course primaries are relatively new. But if taken separately, the percentages of former SecStates and Senators and presidential primary runner-ups who've gone on to become President are all small; and taken collectively, they surely amount to only some tiny fraction of 1%.

By very sharp contrast, nine Vice Presidents have succeeded to the presidency due to the death or resignation of the POTUS (Tyler, Filmore, A. Johnson, Arthur, T. Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, L. Johnson, and Ford). And no one but a Vice President (i.e., no then-current House Speaker nor Senate President Pro Tem nor SecState, etc.) has ever succeeded to the presidency due to the POTUS' death or resignation.

Five more Vice Presidents (Adams, Jefferson, Van Buren, Nixon, and G.W.H. Bush) were elected POTUS in their own rights. Another (Gore) failed by no more than a whisker just 12 years ago, and at least one failed Veep nominee (FDR) also later became POTUS (and there may have been others). But even discounting the near-misses and valuable set-ups, there's one stat which simply cannot be ignored:

Through succession or election, fourteen out of our forty-four Presidents — almost a third — have previously been Vice President. I think Hillary is smart enough to follow that math.

I also think she's smart enough to prioritize. Do she and Obama like or trust one another? Who cares? That's way, way down the list of factors either one would consider in answering the question of whether they can stay/become POTUS. Who gets to sit in the big chair in the Oval Office is controlled solely by Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, which governs both the electoral college and the order of presidential succession. If your goal is the top, everything else is a subsidiary issue.

President Obama is himself young, and but for his cigarette habit (about which we haven't heard much lately), he seems to be healthy and athletic. There's no reason to think he's likely to become disabled or to die in office from any medical cause. He is as well protected as the Secret Service can make him, and we all share in hoping that he remains safe and healthy. But there are no guarantees against disease, nor other causes of death or disability. There's no guarantee against a successful presidential impeachment, for that matter, nor against circumstances that could prompt a President's resignation. As a matter of structural constitutional opportunity and long national history, there's no shorter pathway to the presidency than through the vice presidency — nor any that's more likely, nor any path at all that is so unambiguously prescribed. That the vice presidency under Obama would guarantee her preeminence as the Dem favorite for 2016, and keep her continuously in the public eye until then, would simply be gravy.

If asked to replace Biden, Hillary would have to ask herself the same question that an aging Lyndon Johnson asked himself when JFK offered him the Democratic Veep nomination in 1960: What maximizes my chances of becoming POTUS? And as LBJ recognized in 1960, any way you slice it, becoming your party's nominee for Vice President is the best way to maximize your odds.


And finally, this:

Suppose you're Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama comes to you and says he's decided to replace Joe Biden on the ticket. He offers you the spot, but you believe that if you decline, he will pick someone else — a second choice, but still someone whom he reasonably believes will help him counter the change the Ryan selection has made in the race. He mentions a couple of names; assume, for purposes of this hypothetical, that you agree with his assessment of the likelihood they'll help him more than Biden.

What does that do to your 2016 plans and dreams?


UPDATE (Thu Aug 16 @ 6:45pm): White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today gave an unequivocal "yes" when asked directly if Obama-Biden[?] "is the ticket." Carney added that "that was settled a long, long time ago." And I'm sure that's all technically correct. It will be until the moment that Obama dumps him, which is every bit as possible now as it was before Jay Carney said it wasn't. Democrats live in an alternate universe anyone, one in which Bill Clinton never had sex with that woman and Tony Weiner never sent those penis self-portraits to young women — until they confessed that yes, they actually had. (Also, you will always be able to keep the health care you had in 2008; the stimulus was full of shovel-ready jobs; unemployment is now 5.6%; we weren't in combat in Libya when our ships and aircraft were blowing stuff up; we tried Obama's plan and it worked; and Obama completely turned around the economy in his first three years in office. That alternate universe. Oh, and we've always been at war with Eastasia.)

Obama can always say, "Mr. Carney was speaking before we realized that the country needs Joe more to be heading up the peace-and-relief mission to ________ [fill-in-the-blank] than I need him to be with me on the campaign trail. We're lucky he's so committed to the good of the country."

As a supplement to Geraghty's Rule — "All statements from Barack Obama come with an expiration date. All of them." — I offer the Beldar Corollary: "Only a sucker would base any bet on the proposition that Barack Obama is capable of being shamed by anything."


UPDATE (Thu Aug 16 @ 8:15pm):  Since we're not talking about replacing Vice Presidents as such, but about replacing candidates for Vice President, another fairly recent precedent, at least for those of my generation or older, is George McGovern's abandonment of Sen. Thomas Eagleton (D-MO), the Veep nominee McGovern had picked, and the Democratic National Convention delegates had accepted, on July 13, 1972. Eagleton had not disclosed several hospitalizations for physical and nervous exhaustion, his electroshock therapy treatments, or his diagnosed depression. (Would anyone today think any of that more disqualifying than Biden's idiocies? I wouldn't.) When the news broke 18 days after the nomination, McGovern at first insisted that he was "one thousand percent for Tom Eagleton" and that he had "no intention of dropping him from the ticket" — which sounds almost exactly like what Jay Carney said about Biden today, doesn't it?

But McGovern soon decided that not replacing Eagleton would hurt worse than replacing him, so McGovern turned instead to Kennedy-family in-law Sargent Shriver, who joined the ticket in plenty of time to prepare for their eventual 49-state blowout loss. Certainly choosing Eagleton, then dumping him, made McGovern look bad. No one has suggested it had more than a tiny and marginal effect on the outcome of the election, however, and we'll never know whether McGovern would have fared better or worse with Eagleton than he did with Shriver.

Posted by Beldar at 12:28 PM in 2012 Election, Obama, Palin, Politics (2012) | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

You see, what the Vice President really meant to say was ...

The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper passes along along news "that aides to Vice President Joe Biden have taken the unusual step of wrangling the press for edits to pool reports." Quoting a source I don't choose to link, this post explains that "attempting to intervene in the drafting of accounts that reporters share with one another is all but unheard of," not just regular spin. The quoted source goes on to say that this "reflects the deep concern Biden’s team has about offering any fodder to the opposition."

In other words, the political pros are trading favors and using all their influence to get friendly reporters (i.e., virtually all of them) to take it easy on Slow Joe. They are literally telling the reporters how to do their jobs in a way that will benefit the Obama-Biden[?] campaign.

("Obama-Biden[?] campaign," with that question mark in brackets, is exactly how I'm going to refer to the prospective Democratic ticket for the next three weeks or so. Feel free to do likewise, or not. I'm not in the business of telling my readers how to do their jobs.)

It's hard to imagine a more dispiriting job than being one of Joe Biden's handlers. I'm sure they tell themselves that they're star performers at the circus. In their dreams, they're high-wire performers, or perhaps trapeze artists, always skillfully recovering from desperate peril at the very last moment. But everyone else can see that they're the guys with push-brooms and wheeled trash cans who follow the circus parade to deal with the poop it's left in the streets.

The notion that Obama might replace Biden is spreading, and in addition to Hillary, New York governor Andrew Cuomo is also being floated as a possible replacement. Cuomo is indeed a rising star of the Democratic Party, but he's still a very young man. He is not yet widely known outside New York, and has never run in any sort of national campaign before; we might predict that he'd do well when rolled out, as Paul Ryan has, but Cuomo has only a tiny fraction of Hillary's current name recognition and approval nationally. Cuomo also has many future presidential election cycles in which he might plausibly compete; he's surely ambitious, but the calendar isn't his enemy like it is Hillary's. If (and I don't assume that at all) Cuomo thinks Obama is going to lose this year regardless of whether Biden's replaced, Cuomo might well think it in his best long-term interests to pass on a chance to be the Veep nominee this year. But that's a luxury I don't think Hillary has, as I've previously explained — no more than LBJ could resist JFK's offer in 1960.


UPDATE (Thu Aug 16 @ 10:08am): Meanwhile, it turns out that my whimsical title on yesterday's post has been proved prophetic: Even as I write this update, Obama, Biden, and Clinton are huddled together in the Oval Office. Doubtless the POTUS and SecState are merely drawing upon the VPOTUS' vast foreign policy experience — in which case we should expect an announcement this afternoon that Iraq is being partitioned into three parts.

Or maybe they're having a conversation that includes the phrases "take one for the team" and "good sport."

Is anyone monitoring the lockdown status of Wikipedia's entries on Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton?

Whatever other consequences might flow from Obama picking a different Veep nominee to run with him in 2012, and whatever someone like Hillary might bring to the ticket that Biden cannot, the one thing that Obama can be reasonably certain of is this:  Dropping Joe Biden won't cost Obama a single electoral vote. Biden has no constituency; so long as Biden exits with reasonable grace, even the voters of Delaware — probably including Biden's close friends and family — will still vote for Obama-Whoever in at least the same numbers as they would if Biden remained on the ticket.

Posted by Beldar at 09:11 AM in 2012 Election, Mainstream Media, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Madame Secretary, please hold — the President says he needs to speak with you urgently

On Sunday, I predicted that Obama will replace Biden with Hillary, and I explained why I think that:

... Paul Ryan's selection just moved Hillary Clinton from "possible" to "probable" as Biden's replacement on the 2012 Dem ticket. Look for Slow Joe to find a sudden yearing to become an elder statesman who has more time to spend with his family. I'll bet Hill & Bill are having champagne tonight. Even most of my Democratic friends will admit, if pressed, that it would be a good thing for the country to get Joe Biden out of the line of presidential succession....


Pawlenty, Portman, or even Rubio would have whipped Biden in the Veep debate and as a campaign surrogate, but not so badly as to make Biden look much worse than Biden does even with no active opponent. If Romney had chosen one of them, then keeping Biden would have been a closer call. But recall that Paul Ryan is the only Republican politician in the last two years to have obviously bested Obama himself in face-to-face argument in a public forum. And whether you credit Obama with modest or supernatural eloquence, he's certainly aware that Biden isn't in his own league, and he surely knows that Ryan will disarticulate Biden, both stylistically and substantively, in the Veep debate.

Biden turns 70 in late November, and his medical history includes two brain aneurysms. The rationale for him being on the ticket in 2008 (that he would offset Obama's foreign policy inexperience) no longer exists. He brings no constituency that Obama doesn't already have on his own now; among young voters, whose participation Obama wants desperately to encourage, Biden is very nearly as much a standing joke as he is among Republicans. There has always been a decent chance that Obama would dump him in 2012, but of course that would never conceivably have happened until Obama first saw who Romney picked, in order that Obama could know who Biden's successor would be up against. Now he knows.

The best chance the Dems have to respond to the Ryan selection would be asymmetric political warfare — which translates quite neatly into replacing Biden with the most ambitious and most popular Democrat in the country, Hillary Clinton. Indeed, that will mesh like clockwork with the coming Obama pivot to foreign policy as the best possible distractraction, and the only substantive distraction, from the economic ruin he's wrought. The rest of the Obama-Clinton campaign would largely consist of heaping calumny on Romney-Ryan and Mediscare — Dems cannot talk about the economy in anything but the most simplistic, jingoistic talking points, because anything else is poison to Obama's campaign — but SecState/Veep nominee Clinton, along with a newly energized Bubba, would surely be employed to highlight the relative lack of traditional foreign policy credentials on the part of both Romney and Ryan.

A couple of my very articulate readers left comments containing thoughtful counter-arguments and skeptical observations.

Since then, though, Biden has, in short order, told the citizens of Danville, Virginia, that "With you, we can win North Carolina again," and that Romney's "gonna put y'all back in chains."

The only thing remarkable about the latest Biden gaffe is how routine these gaffes have become, and what a cosmic double standard everyone in the public eye — the press, both campaigns, everyone but the general public and its snarky bloggers — employs to avoid asking the question, "Just how panicked would we all be if Barack Obama suddenly had chest pains?"

Meanwhile, as Prof. Reynolds notes, The Onion has some pretty funny insights into the new dynamics of this race since the Ryan pick.

I could well be proved wrong. I'm out alone on my limb, it would seem. But I'll bet you there are back-up provisions in the election laws that, in the event of a convenient "health crisis" involving V.P. Biden,* or perhaps simply a decision by him that he wants to forego the nomination so he can spend more time with his family, would still let Obama pick a replacement even after the Democratic convention. I don't think he'll wait that long because Obama will want to use the convention to squeeze one last sentimental appearance out of Biden as he goes to pasture, and more importantly, to rub some of Hillary's popularity back off onto himself.

And when you say "sure, Ford changed Veeps, and FDR switched Veeps like he changed his underwear, but the Dems couldn't replace a prominent candidate this late in a major federal election these days," I have one name for you: Bob Torricelli.

If you think Hillary would say no: The conventional wisdom is that that's what "everyone" thought LBJ would say when JFK offered him the Veep nomination at the Democratic convention in 1960. Robert Caro's newest volume in his phenomenal biography of LBJ takes a fresh look at that historical surprise and concludes that it made perfect sense from both JFK's and LBJ's points of view. Caro also convincingly debunks the later attempts by the Camelot Crew (led by Bobby) to claim that JFK had only offered Johnson the spot as a "courtesy," and that JFK had been stunned when Johnson accepted, but too polite to withdraw the offer. Instead, Kennedy offered the spot to Johnson not out of any courtesy at all, but because without Johnson on the Democratic ticket, Jack Kennedy thought Nixon would probably win — it was exactly that simple, and Jack knew it whether Bobby could come to grips with it or not. The notion that Jack Kennedy would have taken on a Veep for four years who he didn't really think was the best choice, simply to avoid offending Johnson, is risible.

It will come down to one two-part question: Does Barack Obama think he'll have a better chance to win this election by replacing Biden with someone else — and if so, with whom? And as with JFK's pick of LBJ in 1960, it's exactly that simple.


*(Lest anyone think or suggest otherwise, I stress that I wish the Vice President a long and healthy life, whether in or out of politics, as his wishes and the fates decide. I bear him no personal ill-will. This is simply about him being an anchor dragging back the Obama campaign, and whether it makes political sense for Obama to replace him.)

Posted by Beldar at 04:37 AM in 2012 Election, Books, History, Obama, Politics (2012), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (25) | TrackBack

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What would Leo think?

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy — "Leo" to us English-speakers — was a very romantic fellow, and I am among his many fans. But the quality for which he is most widely known is prolixity: If the Family Feud question is "Name a really long novel," then "War and Peace" (1440 pages in paperback, almost 600,000 words) is always going to be the Number One Answer.

It's fascinating to me, then, but also disquieting, to see how Hollywood boils down the 832 pages (in paperback) of another of his epic novels — Anna Karenina — into a movie poster. To genuinely appreciate this one, if your internet connection permits, click on the image below to open a really huge hi-rez image in a new window:

Promo poster for 'Anna Karenina,' a Focus Features Film opening on November 16, 2012

I didn't gag, but I sputtered when I read the tagline: "You can't ask why about love." But then again, taglines are meant to be memorable, and one way to achieve that is by being quite trite. This poster's tagline has the same sort of repulsive attraction as "Love means never having to say you're sorry," a well-remembered tagline from an otherwise forgettable movie made from a quite trite novel. (I watched it again on late-night cable a couple of years ago; it doesn't hold up well, although the pretty actors and actresses still look pretty.) So, if there has to be a tagline for Anna Karenina, "You can't ask why about love" is certainly more romantic than "Look out for that train!"

And once you get past the puffery and oversimplification inherent in the movie poster format, this one is actually very ambitious, very detailed, filled with visual allusions to Tolstoy's plot line, and sumptuously stylish. This poster does its job, which is to trigger my fond memories of a romantic novel to entice me to see a romantic film adaptation. I also don't find it hard to watch Keira Knightley, and this poster reminded me of that too. So I will likely go see this movie in the fall.

Posted by Beldar at 10:58 PM in Books, Film/TV/Stage, History | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A true-life parable from Beldar on low interest rates, "free money," and Democrat logic

In July, for the first time during this millennium, I bought a car. I'm very happy with it and with the transaction by which I acquired it: I test-drove at the dealer closest to my home, did further comparison shopping and took competitive bids on the internet, and then struck a fair deal with no game-playing by me or the salesman I dealt with. But when I was arranging the paperwork, one of his colleagues was tasked by the dealership with selling me something I was not much interested in buying — one of their various extended warranty packages.

For some people and on at least some kinds of purchases, extended warranties can make economic sense. In my circumstances, for a purchase like a car, they don't: I'm at a lower than average risk than many other car owners whose vehicle use is more demanding than mine, I can usually tolerate the kind of cash flow disruption caused by unexpected car repairs, and when you add in the transaction costs and profit margin that's necessarily part of the price for an extended warranty, it just makes more sense for me to rely on the original manufacturer's warranty (which on this vehicle was already excellent) until it runs out, then to self-insure.

So I knew going into the conversation that there was zero chance that this fellow could persuade me, even though he was charming and professional and knowledgeable. I cut through most of the chase and told him my decision, and my rationale for it, right away. He didn't argue with my facts or logic.

But he had to at least give it one last try. So he pointed out that I could finance the entire up-front cost of a multi-year extended warranty using very attractive manufacturer-provided financing at less than one percent interest! "That's like doubling your original manufacturer's warranty using practically free money! It's too good a deal to pass up at those rates, even if you normally wouldn't buy the extended warranty package."

(I'm thinking to myself: Either this guy is a Democrat, or he thinks I think like one. He thinks I'm an Obama voter.)

"So," I asked, "this 'free money' — that means if I finance the cost of the extended warranty package, the manufacturer will loan me the entire cost and I'll only ever have to pay 1% of it back, and they'll just write off the rest at no charge to me, is that it?"

He looked at me with puzzlement; I think he was wondering if he'd overestimated my financial acumen. "No," he replied, "You'd just pay it back over several years' time at this very attractive interest rate."

"So I would still have to pay back every single dime that I borrow, plus a little more," I continued, "in order to buy something that I really don't want anyway and that I otherwise couldn't justify buying. Is that what you're telling me? And you think that because the extra I'd have to pay back is just a little more instead of a lot more, that makes this too good a deal to pass up?"

The confusion disappeared and was replaced with a moderately respectful grin. He pushed the paperwork to my side of the desk. "Check here and here to acknowledge that I explained the extended warranty options to you and that you declined them," he said, "and we're all done." I did, and we were.

Posted by Beldar at 06:00 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Humor, Obama, Politics (2012) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Romney picks Ryan

On my recent post entitled Paul Ryan on entrepreneurial capitalism vs. crony capitalism, reader Greg Q commented today: "So, why aren't you gloating yet about Romney picking Ryan?" And my dear friend DRJ, recalling my support for Sarah Palin in June 2008 and my support for a possible Paul Ryan presidential campaign earlier in this election cycle, inquired today in the comments on that same post: "Has any other blogger picked two VPs in a row? Well done, Beldar."

DRJ gives me too much credit: Although I'm happy to see this selection, and I certainly favored and tried to promote both Palin and Ryan as potential Veep nominees months before either was selected, I didn't go on record with a prediction as to whom Gov. Romney would pick this time. And in fact, I'm mildly surprised that he did choose Paul Ryan, although I'm obviously delighted by the choice.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan campaigning by the battleship USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, VA, on August 11, 2012On a superficial level, Ryan is more widely known throughout America now than Sarah Palin was in 2008. As Stephen Hayes wrote in the Weekly Standard on July 23, since John McCain's defeat in November 2008, Paul Ryan has become the intellectual leader of the Republican Party. Speaker John Boehner wields more raw power in the House, but he has relied heavily on Ryan. Boehner deliberately (and commendably) has placed Ryan at the forefront of the House Republicans' opposition to Obama, especially since the GOP recaptured the House after the 2010 mid-term elections. The Dems had already started their slurs campaign against Ryan just based on the threat he posed to Obama from his chairmanship of the House Budget Committee, and when I read Ryan Lizza's grudgingly admiring but fundamentally dishonest profile of Ryan in a recent issue of the New Yorker (which I'm not going to link), I knew the Dems were taking him seriously as a potential GOP Veep nominee.

Nevertheless, to all but perhaps the 10% of American voters who closely follow politics even outside election season, the depth and substance of Paul Ryan and his political philosophy are still largely unknown. Between now and the conventions, the Romney-Ryan campaign will seek to remedy that, and the Obama-Whoever campaign will do what it always does, which is to tell lies designed to frighten and confuse people.

I will go on record with a Veep prediction now, though — not about Ryan, but about his counterpart in the race: If Romney had chosen Rob Portman or Tim Palenty or Marco Rubio instead of Ryan, then Slow Joe Biden and his boss could both have breathed easier. In my view, however, Paul Ryan's selection just moved Hillary Clinton from "possible" to "probable" as Biden's replacement on the 2012 Dem ticket. Look for Slow Joe to find a sudden yearing to become an elder statesman who has more time to spend with his family. I'll bet Hill & Bill are having champagne tonight. Even most of my Democratic friends will admit, if pressed, that it would be a good thing for the country to get Joe Biden out of the line of presidential succession. 

To answer Greg Q's question, though: The enthusiasm with which I might otherwise be greeting this pick is not diminished, but is nevertheless deeply tempered, by my conviction that things in America are today much worse than they were at this same time in 2008 — or even, for that matter, than they were in September 2008 during the financial system's near meltdown. We no longer have to speculate how badly a generic Democrat would do as Dubya's successor. We know exactly how abysmally the actual Democrat who succeeded him has performed, and there is absolutely not a reason in the universe to think he will be a whit better or less disastrous if he's permitted four more years to continue dismantling the American Dream.

Romney's choice of Ryan gives me grim satisfaction, then, rather than elation or surprise. It does give me new hope insofar as it demonstrates Gov. Romney's willingness to take on the biggest issues and to move this campaign cycle beyond the ridiculous trivialities that Obama counts upon to distract Americans from his own conspicuous incompetency, his own insufficiency for the office.

But the Dems can't compete with Ryan's principles, which are, very fundamentally, America's principles too. So to keep the conversation on other topics, as they are desperate to do, the Dems will have to pull out all the stops.

Barack Obama's reelection campaign is already the most shamefully dishonest in my memory, which dates back to LBJ vs. Goldwater in 1964. It is about to get much, much worse.

Fortunately, and may God continue to bless him in this regard, one of Paul Ryan's most defining characteristics is his unflappability. Many call Ryan's style "Reaganesque," and it is indeed cheerful and passionate and hope-filled — but Reagan never had Paul Ryan's handle on details.

Those who think the Ryan selection is risky essentially base their projections upon a very poor opinion of the American public's intelligence. But I believe, as did Ronald Reagan, that almost all Americans understand that we can't live forever in a world of magic unicorns and "free" stuff from the government. The magic dust that Obama sprinkled over Americans in 2008 — the magic that he told them could make them fly if only they thought happy thoughts and held Obama's hand — has now all worn off. The entire audience can see the wires, and that most of them are broken. The gap between the Lightworker character as written in Democratic fiction and the tired political hack now playing that part has become more obvious than Mary Martin's bosom. I believe that enough Americans know that it's time to exit the theater as grownups, and to get back to work in the real world.

Batten down the hatches, then, folks. The deluge is here, and the Obama campaign is going to make sure we're all at least waist deep in fecal matter before the voters send that campaign back to the sewers where such nastiness belongs.


UPDATE (Sun Aug 12 @ wee-smalls): I asserted that Ryan's selection improves the odds that Obama will dump Biden for Hillary, but I didn't explain why. The short version is: Pawlenty, Portman, or even Rubio would have whipped Biden in the Veep debate and as a campaign surrogate, but not so badly as to make Biden look much worse than Biden does even with no active opponent. If Romney had chosen one of them, then keeping Biden would have been a closer call. But recall that Paul Ryan is the only Republican politician in the last two years to have obviously bested Obama himself in face-to-face argument in a public forum. And whether you credit Obama with modest or supernatural eloquence, he's certainly aware that Biden isn't in his own league, and he surely knows that Ryan will disarticulate Biden, both stylistically and substantively, in the Veep debate.

Biden turns 70 in late November, and his medical history includes two brain aneurysms. The rationale for him being on the ticket in 2008 (that he would offset Obama's foreign policy inexperience) no longer exists. He brings no constituency that Obama doesn't already have on his own now; among young voters, whose participation Obama wants desperately to encourage, Biden is very nearly as much a standing joke as he is among Republicans. There has always been a decent chance that Obama would dump him in 2012, but of course that would never conceivably have happened until Obama first saw who Romney picked, in order that Obama could know who Biden's successor would be up against. Now he knows.

The best chance the Dems have to respond to the Ryan selection would be asymmetric political warfare — which translates quite neatly into replacing Biden with the most ambitious and most popular Democrat in the country, Hillary Clinton. Indeed, that will mesh like clockwork with the coming Obama pivot to foreign policy as the best possible distractraction, and the only substantive distraction, from the economic ruin he's wrought. The rest of the Obama-Clinton campaign would largely consist of heaping calumny on Romney-Ryan and Mediscare — Dems cannot talk about the economy in anything but the most simplistic, jingoistic talking points, because anything else is poison to Obama's campaign — but SecState/Veep nominee Clinton, along with a newly energized Bubba, would surely be employed to highlight the relative lack of traditional foreign policy credentials on the part of both Romney and Ryan.

Posted by Beldar at 12:02 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2012), Romney, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Ted Cruz on today's Fox News Sunday

I just watched Chris Wallace's interview of Ted Cruz from this morning's Fox News Sunday. It got me revved up. It certainly made me feel proud of my endorsement of, and campaigning for, this likely next U.S. Senator from Texas:

As I sometimes heard said on the prairies of west Texas whence I sprang: "Stronger'n train smoke!"

The contrast between Ted Cruz and Wallace's preceding interviewee, Obama flack David "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" Axelrod, was stark and very bracing indeed.

Posted by Beldar at 05:19 PM in 2012 Election, Congress, Politics (2012), Politics (Texas), Texas | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Unicorns and hypothetical close relatives of Harry Reid who may have been unsure whether he is or isn't a pederast until they consulted the interwebs

On Friday, Prof. Glenn Reynolds was kind enough to link my recent post about the Harry Reid pederasty rumors, opining that "firmness is justified when responding to slurs from a man widely rumored to be guilty of pederasty." Today he directs us to a thoughtful essay by ethicist and lawyer Jack Marshall in which Mr. Marshall opines that the recent blogospheric attention to the precise nature of the Senate Majority Leader's interest in young boys is "not fair but deserved."

Mr. Marshall urges us to re-take the high road, and that "when dealing with an individual as loathsome as Harry Reid," we should content ourselves with "denigrat[ing] him with the truth":

Reid himself deserves little sympathy, for the collective smear on his name was prompted by his own scurrilous rumor-mongering on the floor of the U.S. Senate, where he asserted that Mitt Romney hadn’t paid his taxes for a decade based on no evidence whatsoever. Nonetheless, while giving someone a “taste of his own medicine” is no doubt satisfying and perhaps even instructive, wrong is wrong, and spreading intentional lies, even about a public figure as devoid of decency and scruples as the Senate Majority Leader, is unethical. No conduct, no matter how nauseating, by its target can justify this. Stooping to Reid’s level can only further degrade civility and dignity in American public discourse, which is the objective of political sewer-dwellers like Reid, not anyone with the best interests of the nation in mind.

This is well put and high-minded. Less persuasive is this bit, though:

The meme is doing its work: Sen. Reid is on the way to being “santorumed.”* Google his name, and Google’s suggested searches put “Harry Reid pederast” third. By next week, it could be first. Will some unsuspecting, innocent and trusting citizens come across this completely fanciful libel of Reid and believe it? Perhaps even a young nephew or niece of the Senate Majority Leader? Oh, we can be sure of that.

I'm not at all sure of that. In fact, I think that's extremely unlikely. Here is the comment I left (which at this moment still awaits moderation; emphasis added):

Mr. Marshall, you argue well and eloquently. But I do not think YOUR fantasy — that some innocent, virginal young relative of Harry Reid will see his name associated with pederasty on the internet AND WILL BELIEVE IT — is a realistic one. Were Harry Reid not a public figure, your fantasy might be plausible. But there are equally bad, and worse, accusations leveled at controversial public figures on the internet every minute of every hour of every day, and this is not a new phenomenon. You’re more likely to persuade me that Harry Reid has sex with real unicorns than that he has anyone close to him whose opinion will be affected by this. Indeed, because they are close to him, they can judge him for themselves. [The people, I meant — not the unicorns, who are famously nonjudgmental.] That’s how real life works.

So: Plaudits for the moral stand. Brickbats for silly and counterfactual arguments to justify it. This is parody, and it has a point other than meanness.

Of course, so do Reid’s lies: HIS point is to actually deceive people.

That, by the way, is a common feature of pederasts.

Mitt Romney has hypothetical nieces and nephews too, you know. From their penthouses in the Grand Caymans, they probably have Google alerts set up to help them keep track of what they ought to think of Uncle Mitt, and I know that they value Harry Reid's opinion above all others.

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Marshall as to whether the fanciful risk of someone becoming persuaded by this meme that Harry Reid really is a pederast — and I'm not the one saying he is, nor am I the one whose political spokesman allegedly charactered the suggestion of Reid's potential pederasty, on the record, as "cute" — is sufficiently real to make it anything other than a theoretical problem. And I disagree with Mr. Marshall's characterization of these posts as being "the intentional spreading of lies." It's actually somewhat insulting to suggest that anyone in the extended Reid family, or for that matter, anyone anywhere, is as spectacularly gullible as Mr. Marshall's characterization would require. But I'll grant Mr. Marshall that Reid's own assertions about Gov. Romney are similarly insulting to the intelligence of the American public, and yet Reid clearly expects political gain from making them anyway.

In my own view, any arguable ethical breach is implicit in, and necessary to, the parody, which I believe to be fully justified; and any ethical shortfall is also mitigated at least to the point of adequate excuse by Reid's own deliberate and malicious lies about Mitt Romney. Were I to extend Mr. Marshall's rationale to its natural conclusion, I'd have to watch what I said about such non-pederastic monsters as Adolf Hitler or Ghengis Khan. Still, come to think of it, has anyone ever seen either of them and Harry Reid in the same room at the same time? Ever? The coincidences just keep adding up. And one thing is indisputable: No one with subpoena power has yet looked into any of these allegations. Sen. Reid's stonewall, in other words, seems to be working — for now.

Nevertheless: To the hypothetical adolescent niece or nephew of Creepy Friendly Old Uncle Harry who happens upon this post and is pondering it:

First, you're probably in big trouble if your parents catch you reading a conservative website. Remember to scrub your browser history, temp files, and cache.

Second, I confess that I know of no evidence to suggest that Harry Reid has sex with real unicorns either. I draw no adverse inference from his failure to deny it, because most people who have sex with real unicorns are understandably shy and reluctant to discuss it. (The unicorns are very private too, and it's easy to understand why no unicorn has yet come forward to admit to a sexual relationship with the powerful Senate Majority Leader.) Certainly you shouldn't think about any of these troubling internet rumors the next time you sit in his lap, because that would be wrong and unfair.

Just remember that your Uncle Harry could put a stop to this in the proverbial New York minute. He could admit that he was lying about Romney and resign from the Senate. Short of that, he could deny the rumors of his pederasty and, like I said earlier, release his personal porn collection.

Posted by Beldar at 03:40 AM in 2012 Election, Congress, Humor, Politics (2012), Romney | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Paul Ryan on entrepreneurial capitalism vs. crony capitalism

Worth your four minutes and twenty-one seconds:

(Hat-tip Robert Costa at NRO's The Corner.)

You want a "jobs bill"? Reform the tax code — flatter, simpler, fairer, with lower rates but no loopholes. Return federal government spending as a percentage of GDP to its historically successful and sustainable 19% level instead of the current ruinous 24-25% that has produced Obama's multi-trillion dollar deficits. Tax compliance will improve (i.e., more people will feel the system is fair and that they have less of an excuse to cheat; simple rules mean easy and more effective enforcement against those who do cheat); productivity will soar (as resources previously used to beat the system are redeployed to create wealth and jobs); and discontent with government will justifiably drop. Tax revenues will soar — and deficits will shrink — which will permit us to reform and save our safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security by increasing individual choice and by reintroducing market economics to healthcare generally and elder-care in particular. The pie will once again start growing for everyone's benefit as free-market transactions create wealth: TANSTAAFL, but every such transaction, by definition, leaves both sides holding something they value more than what they just traded away, and that translates into jobs, savings accounts, investments, and progress.

This photo (lifted from a Richard Brookhiser post at The Corner) —


— nicely illustrates the biggest and most obvious lie told in the Twenty-first Century so far:

"We've tried our plan — and it worked!"

Remarks by the President, Oakland, CA, July 24, 2012.

Posted by Beldar at 04:34 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2012), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Harry Reid: Pederast?

We simply can't know that all the rumors about Harry Reid's pederasty are false until he releases his personal porn collection. Of course, if he denies having a porn collection, we will know he's a liar.

(There are also rumors that Reid and Mitt Romney are both Mormons. I know, that's hard to believe, but I hope someone looks into that. I'm sure someone from Team Obama will get around to it between now and November.)


An email from a law school friend prompted me to remember this post from 2004, in which I revealed the real dirt on John Kerry, too.

Posted by Beldar at 03:36 PM in 2012 Election, Congress, Humor, Obama, Politics (2012), Romney | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Cruz' big win foreshadows watershed election in November

My prediction had the right result, but the final totals were not nearly as close as the five-point difference I'd predicted: As of this moment, with 100 percent of precincts reported, it's Cruz 56.8% versus Dewhurst 43.19% in a blow-out.

David Dewhurst may want to reconsider even running for reelection to his current spot as lieutenant governor. He and Rick Perry both look like yesterday's news.

This gives me all kinds of warm-and-fuzzies for the November presidential election, friends and neighbors. Texas isn't in play, nor is it a mirror for all of America. And the total GOP turnout was quite high for a primary runoff, but still represented only 8.6% of the state's total population of 13 million registered voters.

But for perspective on that: The Dem run-off for this U.S. Senate seat drew a truly pathetic 1.8% of the registered voter total, a mere 235,708 voters compared to 1,106,224 voters in the GOP runoff. The Dems' run-off winner, in other words, should simply be listed as "Who Cares?"

And here's the genuinely amazing statistic: Ted Cruz drew only 480,558 votes out of 1,406,648 total voters (34.16%) in the May 29th initial GOP primary. In this run-off, he drew 628,336 votes out of 1,106,224 total voters (56.8%). Almost as many Texas Republicans voted in the run-off as in the primary, but Cruz' relative performance among them simply skyrocketed. Cruz' net improvement (147,778 votes) was nearly two-thirds of the total Democratic runoff turnout!

This result bespeaks a well-informed populace among whom highly motivated constitutional/movement conservatives are getting incredible traction. This result sings one word to me: "Watershed." It makes me, again, wish that the national GOP had Paul Ryan at the top of its ticket, because he and Ted Cruz are both emblematic of the party's new generation, the "Young Guns" who, ironically, will return America to sustainable principles and limited government. And I think the hunger for that extends far beyond Texas' borders.

Perhaps Gov. Romney will take the hint.

Posted by Beldar at 03:59 AM in 2012 Election, Politics (2012), Politics (Texas), Romney, Ryan, Texas | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack