Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Sunday, February 14, 2010

This Is Why NASA Should Be Run By Someone Without A Sciences Degree

Maybe they could think up better goals than this. Or at least come up with a reason why manned spaceflight matters. Why should we try to get an astronaut out of earth's gravity well? According to the writer of the article...well he doesn't actually say. He just laments our obsession with "landing on things".

Passed Along Without Comment

Other than to say that this seems like the type of book both Christians and non-Christians should check out.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What A Super-Creepy Thing To Say

Listen, if some woman wants to be buried in an Obama t-shirt, I'd say she has problems, but its her business. But for the president to cite it as if it's some kind of touching story or illustrative of some larger point about policy is more than a little bit sick. It's one thing for the president to have an unhealthy, child-brainwashing, celebrity-pledging, personality cult. It's another for the president to act as if it is healthy.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Here's Something We Can All Agree On

Any New Yorker who votes for Harold Ford thinking they're getting a liberal is a moron. Any New Yorker who votes for Harold Ford thinking they're getting a blue dog is a moron. Any New Yorker who figures that a charming man with no morals and no center will make a pretty effective Senator is probably right.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Why Bipartisanship Can't Work

Apparently it is because the GOP exercises such rigid control over its members. Unprecedented control that no party has ever exercised before in history. It makes one long for the halcyon days of yesteryear, when Harry Reid allowed all of Bush's judicial nominees an up-or-down vote, Democrats supported the 2003 tax cuts, and they tried so hard to contribute constructive ideas during George Bush's Social Security reform efforts.

Did it ever occur to Fallows that perhaps the GOP's intransigence has as much to do with being locked out of the process from the beginning as it does with the GOP leadership's legendary ideological conformity? (Quick quiz: Which party's voters just elected a pro-choice Congressman with a lifetime ACU rating of only 55% in their Senate primary on Tuesday after the state's leadership quietly cleared out any strong conservative opposition? Here's a hint. The same one that recently elected the pro-choice, "same-sex marriage in Massachusetts is a settled issue" Scott Brown, and whose leadership supported guys like Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio and Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey.)

Don't get me wrong here. I don't know that the Democrats did anything wrong by locking the Reeps out. Once they got Al Franken and Arlen Specter on board, they naturally assumed that they didn't really NEED any Reep votes. Why give things away when you don't have to? It was a natural response to having the largest majorities any of them remember, and I don't fault them a bit for it. However, it's pretty disingenuous for the president and Congressional leaders to now pretend that they went into this process with any intent to listen carefully to Republican proposals or for political pundits to blindly accept the "Party of No" label.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Survey Sez

How about we all just agree that this survey doesn't prove Republicans are more well-informed than Democrats, but rather that they are simply marginally less stupid? 6 out of 10? Sheesh.

Christian Manhood

I think Rod Dreher makes a good point when he says that evangelization tools like this are a sign of a deeper need. Ironically, the faith of King David, Saint Stephen the protomartyr, Charlemagne, Richard Cœur de Lion, and Dietrich Bonoeffer is struggling to deal with a deficit of authentic manliness. This is more than a Christian phenomenon though. It is an American one. A combination of the deliberate confusion of gender traits, the rise of single-parent households, and increased dependency have created a generation that doesn't know how to be men, or where to go to learn.

Fight Club and Wild At Heart are both great books dealing with manhood, albeit from drastically different perspectives. Rod talks a little bit with Fight Club and its hyper-masculine nihilism. In their attempt to discover what they lack, its characters embrace the worst faults of manhood rather than remain mild and boring. This is because a godless worldview has little to offer as an alternative. The solution for the hyper-masculine is not to become feminine. That is the direction taken by too many today, and young men, never the most faithful churchgoers, look around and see little in modern churches that meets their needs. Church is like too much like school, another place ill-suited for young men. It is a place where you are told to be good, quiet, patient, and safe. Jesus was Mr. Rogers and we should all aspire to be like him. There is a worship song that gets on my nerves every time I hear it for precisely this reason. One line describes Christ on the cross as "like a rose, trampled on the ground." I hate that. My God isn't a rose. He wasn't some fragile little victim dragged to a cross against his will. He was a man of such power that the hired thugs sent to bring him back fell on their faces at his very name. HE chose the cross, not his persecutors.

That is the message that John Eldredge tries to convey in Wild at Heart. The traits that lead to a Fight Club world are not inherently bad. In fact, they are the very traits God wants his men to have. They must be controlled, but not ignored or denied. Christian churches don't have to throw MMA parties to teach manliness. They just have to rediscover a balanced view of their own savior and history. Buddy Christ has been tried and found wanting. It isn't easy, and its much simpler to say than to do, but it is necessary.

Oh, and by the way, there are some Christians doing it pretty effectively.


Carly Fiorina's attempt at an attack ad against Tom Campbell is so bad that it is almost sufficient in and of itself to keep me from voting for her in a primary. The ad is like a spoof on attack ads. Really? A cartoon sheep falling off a pedestal is supposed to help convince me not to vote for Campbell? It amazes me that politically savvy people could have watched and approved this.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Alito/Obama Throwdown

Am I being too boring if I'm not as shocked as some by either man's behavior? Obama's statement was false and demagogic, but the idea that he isn't allowed to criticize the court during his big speech is just silly. Presidents have criticized Congress before during the SOTU speech, so why is it some heinous breech of etiquette to call the court out when you think they are wrong? The other branches of government are separate, not sacred. And, while the precedent may be for the court to sit there like a bunch of polite rocks, once the president starts criticizing them so directly, showing a little human emotion seems to be well within reasonable bounds. In fact, telling Justice Alito that the president has a right to rake his decision over the coals while he sits there and takes it without so much as a facial tick seems like a pretty cowardly position for the president's partisans to take.

Charles Krauthammer makes a decent point. Unlike the Congress, the Supreme Court attends the SOTU as a courtesy to the other branches. They are not required to attend, and past courts have not done so. That makes the president's attack a little more like inviting a friend for dinner and browbeating him about politics over dessert. Therefore, maybe you can argue that Obama's choice of venue was a tad rude. I still think that the folks acting as if this was some major breach, or assault on the separation of powers are more than a bit overwrought.

This Is Kind Of Nifty

The size of everything.

Speaking of NASA

One of the most valuable scientific tools around is in danger during the upcoming Martian winter. Spirit seems to be permanently stuck in her current spot, which will make it much harder for her to get the power necessary to survive the winter. The Mars rovers are one of NASA's great success stories. Hopefully the plucky little robot will surprise us yet again.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Death of NASA

When I visited NASA, one of the impressions that hit me most strongly was an aura of neediness. NASA desperately wants what it does to seem sexy and important. Unfortunately, studying the effects of microgravity on insect development on board the ISS will just never meet that need. For many, that is precisely why manned space exploration is so vital to NASA. It challenges the imagination in a way that their current missions simply cannot. Even the potential for missions to the moon and Mars holds psychological value in this respect. However, its current mission may spell eventual doom for NASA by robbing it of any such cutting-edge mission. Here's a good write-up on the trouble facing the space agency.

Umm...Never Mind

Remember back when I wondered about the wisdom of Tom Campbell's jump into the CA Senate race? Yeah, next time I should keep my mouth shut. He's ahead by a solid margin in two different polls. Obviously we have a way to go until the primary election, but Chuck DeVore and iCarly must be hating this news. What's most surprising though is the change in fortunes for DeVore. The common wisdom was that the socially liberal and fiscally conservative (though more flexible than many would like) Campbell would take his share of the electorate out of Fiorina's hide. After all, DeVore has been spending months trying to paint her as a typical Silicon Valley squishy Republican. And yet, Fiorina has lost 5-10% of her share of the vote to Campbell while DeVore has plummeted by 20%. This race may tighten as Carly starts to spend and voters begin to pay more attention, but for now it seems to be Tom Campbell's to lose.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

My Scattered Thoughts on the SOTU Speech

-I thought the opening was problematic. The imagery he started off with should have lent itself to an "America has been through tough times before and come back stronger, we can do so again" line of rhetoric. Instead, he continued for too long with a laundry list of how lousy things are. People who are unemployed, losing their homes, etc. don't need the president to tell them things are lousy. They want him to tell them things are going to get better. For once, I wouldn't have minded a little more Audacity of Hope.
-He has some good stuff early on about Reeps and Dems working together. No one who says that ever means it, but it's nice to pay lip service anyway.
-He has a line a few paragraphs in about "bad behavior on Wall Street being rewarded" while good behavior on Main Street is not. To the extent that that is true, it has largely happened on his watch.
-Remember back when Democrats criticized President Bush for cutting taxes at the expense of a balanced budget? Funny that Obama felt the need to brag about his tax cuts, and then brag about not raising the income tax, despite running deficits that would make Bush blush. (It was the right choice of course-well except the deficit part-but I'm just sayin' you probably won't hear Dems complaining about the President selling our kids futures down the river anytime soon.)
-I like the stuff about helping small businesses with tax credits.
-Can we please all stop with the high-speed railroad obsession? America is not Europe or Japan. We have a population that likes independent mobility and is insufficiently dense to make that sort of system viable.
-Who told the president that addressing the problems facing us would be "too ambitious"? I want names please.
-Loved the line about not accepting second place for the United States. That's the kind of stuff that would have better balanced his opening paragraphs.
-Does anyone believe that the president would actually veto any financial reform bill that the Congress sends him? Has anything in his first year indicated a willingness to really get into a fight with the Dem leadership in Congress over legislation? He hasn't even waded in strongly on his own signature reform, health care.
-Good on him for mentioning solar and nuclear before the obligatory nod to biofuels. Lead off with the realistic stuff. Was his line about "tough decisions" on offshore drilling supposed to be pro or con? Since it's in the context of new fuel sources, my first assumption was pro, but he's also talking about clean energy, so I'm not sure.
-I liked the talk about seeking new markets and signing trade deals, but that will require a fight with the Dems in Congress. Remember poor Colombia?
-Decent stuff on education reform. If the federal government has to stick its nose into education, things like Race To The Top are not a bad way to go about it.
-Yeah, making MORE money available for college will help make it more affordable. After all, basic economics tells us that the more money thrown at a finite resource, the cheaper it gets, right?
-Instead of doubling the child care tax credit, how about an increase in the child tax credit. Do parents who choose to stay home with their children, or who make family or other arrangements that allow them to work not deserve the same consideration as other families?
-The health care reform bit seemed a little bit like whistling in the dark. "I didn't do this simply to get a legislative victory", "I take the blame for not explaining it to you dolts more clearly", "cool off and look at our crappy plan a second time". There's dealing with the serious trouble his bill is in, and no acknowledgment that perhaps people have substantive issues with the bill.
-Good stuff on the spending freeze. Non-defense, non-discretionary spending is only about 12% of the budget, but at least he wants to freeze something.
-He keeps talking about the problems he inherited. Ok, but YOU SPENT TWO YEARS CAMPAIGNING FOR THIS JOB. YOU DON'T GET TO COMPLAIN THAT IT'S TOUGH. IT WASN'T EXACTLY FORCED ON YOU. President Bush did that in his first (I think) debate with John Kerry. It wasn't impressive then, it isn't impressive now.
-The president's statement on the Citizens United case was not only petty, it was flat-out wrong on the facts. That might be excusable for you or I, but didn't this guy teach Constitutional Law? And I loved his call for Congress to pass a law to fix it. Umm...wasn't a Congressional law what the Supremes just overturned?
-Good stuff on earmarks. Did Jeff Flake sneak that in?
-"We cannot wage a perpetual campaign..." Hey, didn't you just re-hire your 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe?
-"To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills.And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions." Good lines. Possibly the most memorable of the speech, and they'll probably hit a chord with a lot of people.
-"My Administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination." Classy. Way to imply that the previous administration turned a blind eye to civil rights issues just minutes after calling for bipartisanship and an end to endless campaigning.
-Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Whatever your position, what are the odds of a change to that policy in a campaign year where a bunch of red state Dems are already in trouble?
-The close was kind of schmaltzy, but it was the type of schmaltz you expect from a presidential speech. He does it pretty well. Not Clinton well, but still pretty well.

Overall, I obviously disagreed with a lot of the policy stuff, but just as a speech, it lacked coherence. That's a typical problem with SOTU addresses. Everyone wants a shout-out for their particular issue, and the president's speechwriters feel a need to squeeze them all in. It was a middling speech, but a great speaker giving it.

Rod Dreher, Call Your Office!

Brits don't know where bacon comes from. In related news, Homer Simpson rolls over in grave.

More Climate Fun

The IPCC starts taking water from within. But don't worry, there are years of government cap-and-trade schemes, ethanol boondoggles, EPA power grabs, and unhinged lectures ahead of us before people start focusing on more realistic possibilities.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Heckuva Job Rajendra!

The IPCC, the body whose work is supposed to convince us to sabotage the economies of the major industrial powers, is in a bit of trouble for saying things that aren't scientifically accurate.

Is Anyone Else Confused By This?

Mike Huckabee currently leads Barack Obama in PPP's 2012 election polling. Of course, this type of polling is worth less than nothing in predicting what will happen in 2012. It's also a little unfair to compare the approval ratings of a guy with a tough job to a guy who gets to sit behind a desk and spout off all day. The fact that the Huckster leads Barry O isn't what I find interesting about this poll. What is really fascinating is WHY he leads. Apparently he is more popular with independent voters by a 44-38 margin.

But isn't the common wisdom that independents tend to be socially more liberal and fiscally conservative? That's why they swung away from the free-spending GWB and the Republican congress in 2006 and 2008, right? If that is really the case, one would think that a former Baptist minister who once called the Club for Growth the "Club for Greed" is hardly a great fit to win over these crucial swing voters. Perhaps Huck is so charming on his TV show (I don't know, I've never seen it) that he wins them over despite their views. Or perhaps the common wisdom on independent voters is less accurate than one might think.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tom Campbell Switches Races

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Campbell is expected to announce tomorrow that he will jump into the Republican primary race to face Barbara Boxer for her US Senate seat.

This race is an interesting one for me personally. My heart is with Chuck Devore, especially given the fact that he has been plugging away, building support for this run for over a year now. He constantly travels the state to speak to small groups and has built up a substantial network of grassroots support. However, there's a part of my brain that keeps pointing out that Carly Fiorina probably has a better shot at knocking off Boxer in the general election. Conservatives aren't terribly effective at gaining statewide office in California, and a moderate, pro-life, Republican woman might be just the right combination to enthuse Republicans while capturing Democrats and independent voters.

Having said all of that, I have one big question about Campbell's jump. Devore is the red-meat conservative with grassroots support, Fiorina is the attractive moderate candidate with star power and money. What does Campbell bring to the table? He's fleeing the governor's race because Whitman and Poizner drop more in tip money than his entire campaign budget. Ok. But he can't transfer the pittance he has raised for a statewide race to a Senate race (had he moved into another statewide race like Insurance Commissioner he could have taken his money with him) and he is months behind the other two candidates in preparation and fundraising. He doesn't fill an obvious political vacuum (he probably fills the same ideological space as Fiorina, though he's a little to her left on social issues) and California Republican primary races aren't known for being kind environments for penniless moderates.

Admittedly though, he is a smart and experienced guy. Tom Campbell's one indisputable skill is his wonkery. With a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago, a JD from Harvard, and a resume that includes stints in Congress, the Assembly, and as dean of UC Berkeley's Business School, he's usually the smartest guy in any room he enters. And we all know how well wonkery sells in political races. Just ask Presidents Paul Tsongas, Phil Gramm, and Mitt Romney.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Connecticut Senate Race

The resignation of Senator Dodd puts Connecticut's Senate seat squarely back in the column of a "Safe Democratic" race. The state's AG seems to have commanding leads over every Republican opponent. I'd say that this turn of events can mean only one thing. The Republicans need to go with Linda McMahon as their candidate. I know her poll numbers trail those of former Congressman Rob Simmons, but Linda has a special advantage. Vince. For those not familiar with the world of professional wrestling, Vince is known for finding unique ways of dealing with his opposition. He even has an assessment of the new health care plan prepared.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Health Care Reform Transparency

Please read the next sentence carefully. THERE WILL NEVER BE TOTALLY OPEN AND TRANSPARENT NEGOTIATIONS ON A CONTROVERSIAL POLITICAL ISSUE. End of discussion. If you believe otherwise, you're wrong. This is common sense if you think about it for more than two seconds. If negotiations on the health care bill were openly televised on CSPAN, there would be too much incentive for individual legislators to posture for their voters, give long-winded speeches, and otherwise act like performing seals. Deals are made when the principles meet in private away from the pressure of their voters to stick it to the "bad guys". It isn't perfect, but that's just life. It allows them to be candid with each other, strike the side deals that smooth the way to a majority, throw ideas at the wall to see what sticks, etc.

So in the large, principled sense, I don't blame Obama/Reid/Pelosi for reneging on all of the silly transparency talk during the campaign. They said what the voters wanted them to say, but now they're not going to deliberately impede their signature legislation just to keep a campaign promise voters were naive to expect in the first place. If you believed them (or ANY politician who promises a new standard of ethical behavior), then you're probably not a person who should be voting anyway. I DO have a Nigerian banker I'd like you to e-mail though... However, from a practical standpoint, because this bill stinks and I want it dead, I hope the Republicans take this issue and ride till the wheels fall off. The Dems made a decision to kill Republicans on the transparency issue in the election, and in exchange they exposed themselves to similar treatment down the road. Time to pay the piper guys.

Japanese Whalers Don't Mess Around

Here's a video of them sinking a boatload of morons. As a warning note, the drug-addled hippies filming this incident demonstrate that the only word they can articulate besides "whoa" is an f-bomb.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of the whaling industry in Japan. I think they're on the wrong side of this issue. But nothing, and I MEAN NOTHING, makes me more sympathetic to their side than the asinine antics of extremist environmental groups.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

COEXIST Reexamined


Presidential Protest

So the president is objecting to his picture being used for commercial purposes on a billboard? Ok, it's silly to think that the most famous man in American can control his image like that, but if that's your policy, fine. But then what was appearing in a commercial for George Lopez's talk show all about? Given the quality of the show, maybe Obama considers that charity work?