Archive for May 13th, 2009

May 13, 2009

Dear Associated Press: Let’s talk about political celebrities and their ghost writers

Y’know, it was nice of you guys to assign Hilel Italie to write that story suggesting Sarah Palin doesn’t have the brains to write her own book.

Shall we discuss the editorial process behind, say, Bill Clinton’s My Life or Hillary Clinton’s Living History? Between them, the Clintons employed enough ghosts to staff the day shift at Disney World’s “Haunted Mansion” ride.

Having been a Washington, D.C., journalist since 1997, I can assure you that we “talk shop” often enough so that every writer inside the Beltway knows who’s ghosting whom. No need to name names, but suffice it to say that once somebody has served in the Cabinet or been elected Senator, any book published under his name can be assumed to be, at best, a team effort in which the named author was the quarterback. (Or sometimes, as one hears in regard to the Clintons, the meddlesome team owner who insists on second-guessing the editorial quarterback.)

However, since the Associated Press has taken this sudden and keen interest in the subject of potential future presidents and their ghostwriters, perhaps you could be bothered to run down a disturbing theory that has troubled me for several months.

After I founded Authors Against Obama, a reader called to my attention Jack Cashill’s theory that Dreams of My Father was ghost-written. Cashill offered abundant circumstantial evidence to support his theory, and perhaps the mighty AP could assign Hilel Italie to investigate this.

Or, as seems likely, perhaps not.

(Cross-posted at Hot Air Green Room.)

UPDATE: Allahpundit loves me! And Chris Matthews still hates Sarah Palin:

May 13, 2009

Lee Pefley goes to Hell

Fans of novelist Tito Perdue are intimately familiar with the eccentric protagonist of his books, Lee Pefley. In his most recent work, Fields of Asphodel, the reader sees the afterlife through Pefley’s eyes. It seems Pefley must atone for his sins — or rather, for his virtues — and Fields of Asphodel is sort of like Dante’s Inferno updated to account for Satan’s modernized methods:

Just now they were running through a neighborhood of superb homes, structures of four and five stories with balconies and fountains with sculptures in them. The youngest of the men noted his amazement.
“You approve of these homes, Dr. Pefley?”
Lee admitted it. “Gosh,” he said. “And just look at that one! Why, it must be the post-mortem residence of some great philosopher or composer? Melville’s house, is it? Poe’s?”
“Who? No, actually it’s the summer place of one of the finest strong side tackles in the country. Hell of a nice guy, too.”
“And that one! Moses!”
“I can see you have good taste. That one belongs to a really great man, doctor. He picked just the right time to unload half a million contracts of orange juice futures. Two lovely children, too.”
“And there! Happy the man or woman who dwells in that!”
“Lottery winner.”
“And yonder!”
“Rock singer.”
Lee gaped at it. He had subscribed all his life to the meritocracy theory, and now he was being vouchsafed a look at one of the meritocrats himself, a fat man in an undershirt snoozing by the pool.

I’ve known Tito for about 15 years. He never ceases to denounce me as a “philistine,” mainly due to my abhorrence of opera, and I return the compiment by calling him a “pagan,” to which he never objects. To anyone who enjoys a fine novel, I heartily recommend all of Tito Perdue’s books.

May 13, 2009

Is Rush racist?

Every conservative discovers, sooner or later, that to criticize liberal ideas is to be adjudged guilty of some “-ism” or diagnosed with a “phobia.” Nowhere is this more true than in the realm of race.

Steve Benen has one of those “a-ha!” moments with a segment of a recent Rush Limbaugh monologue:

“The [economic] deterioration reflects lower tax revenues and higher costs for bank failures, unemployment benefits and food stamps. But in the Oval Office of the White House none of this is a problem. This is the objective. The objective is unemployment. The objective is more food stamp benefits. The objective is more unemployment benefits. The objective is an expanding welfare state. And the objective is to take the nation’s wealth and return to it to the nation’s quote, ‘rightful owners.’ Think reparations. Think forced reparations here if you want to understand what actually is going on.”

RAAAAACISM! (Remember, bloggers, there are five A’s in “RAAAAACISM!” Some of you have been slacking off and trying to get by with four.) Benen pronounces Limbaugh’s suggestion “nauseating,” but as always, we must ask the question, “Is Rush right?”

Would any honest “progressive” deny that the aims of their redistributionist economic program — to tax the evil “rich” for the benefit of the sainted “poor,” in Robin Hood fashion — are motivated by notions of “social justice”?

Is it not a fundamental tenet of this “social justice” ideology that the wealthy gain their riches by the exploitation and oppression of the poor? And is it not furthermore true that, vis-a-vis the racial aspect of “social justice,” progressives believe that black people have been especially victimized by capitalist greed?

From such a chain of premises, it follows that a policy that purposefully hinders the private free-market economy and expands government entitlement programs — the “Cloward-Piven Strategy,” as it has been called — is to some degree intended by the authors of the policy as “forced reparations,” just like Rush says.

In other words, is Limbaugh being denounced as a racist merely for describing this policy accurately?

In The Vision of the Anointed, Thomas Sowell describes how liberals employ “mascots” and “targets” to advance their policy aims. By positioning themselves as defenders of “mascots,” liberals set a rhetorical trap whereby any attack on their policies is denounced as an attack on the (allegedly) victimized and downtrodden people whom those policies are supposed to benefit. Ergo, anyone who criticizes the cost of Medicare is accused of wishing to deprive the elderly of health care, and anyone who criticizes affirmative action is accused of hating women and minorities.

The problem, of course, is that this prevents rational discussion of policy. Limbaugh would surely argue that black people would benefit more from a flourishing private-sector economy — which offers them jobs — than they would benefit from an expanding program of entitlements, which offers them only government handouts.

Furthermore, we have seen that the “Cloward-Pivens Strategy” brings disastrous results for the poor people its architects claim to care so much about. Go read Fred Siegel’s The Future Once Happened Here if you want to see how this kind of liberal policy has devastated America’s great cities and brought misery to the urban poor.

If liberal policy is demonstrably bad for black people — as Limbaugh, Sowell and Siegel would argue — then in what sense is it “racist” to oppose liberalism? In fact, given the clearly evident socio-economic disaster inflicted on the black community by decades of liberal policy, is it not liberals themselves who ought to be attempting to defend themselves against such accusations?

The real problem with modern liberalism is the concept of “social justice.” As Friedrich Hayek explained, “social justice” is a mirage, a will-o’-th’-wisp that, however enthusiastically pursued, can never be achieved. And “social justice” harms those it aims to help, in part because it destroys the only legal and economic system — free-market capitalism — wherein the downtrodden have ever been able to improve their fortunes to any great degree.

The great irony of all this is that, even if you favor government aid to the poor — or perhaps, especially if you favor such aid — the health of the free-market economy should be paramount in your considerations.

After all, government can’t conjure money out of thin air. Ultimately, government can only spend on aid to the poor what it takes from the private economy in taxes. So if liberals pursue policies that harm the private economy, they’re killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. (Anybody tried applying for food stamps, health care or student loans in Zimbabwe lately?)

So the accusation of “racism” against Rush Limbaugh is transparently false, its entire rhetorical basis being the liberal conceit that only mala fides (bad faith) can motivate opposition to liberalism.

May 13, 2009

Economics is not a popularity contest

Yesterday I posted about the idiocy of NRSC endorsing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in the Senate race against conservative Marco Rubio.

Greg Sargent, who has apparently gone from Talking Points Media to a Washington Post site, gets all snarky about Rubio’s first TV ad:

Another mark of just how far to the right the GOP has moved:Barely moments after the news broke that Governor and stimulus-supporter Charlie Crist has entered the Florida GOP primary, his conservative opponent already has a new ad attacking him — with an image of President Obama, whose performance is supported by strong majorities and by Independents. . . .
It isn’t every day that a politician seeks to turn a race into a referendum on his opponent’s support for a President with an approval rating in the 60s, but these aren’t ordinary times for today’s GOP.

Let me see if I can explain what Greg Sargent evidently doesn’t understand. It doesn’t matter how popular Obama or his policies are, if his policies bring disaster. Remember how high Bush’s numbers were in 2002?

At this point, Obama is popular for being Not Bush. But there is a sell-by date on that commodity, and I’m betting that the Not Bush brand won’t have much value on the first Tuesday in November 2010.

The biggest problem Obama will face going forward is that the deficit-spending Keynesian approach that he and the Democrats have embraced cannot produce recovery. It never has and it never will. It Won’t Work and The Fundamentals Still Suck.

Greg, try to wrap your mind around what Megan McArdle is telling you about the bond market. And I’d say Megan is a wee bit on the optimistic side. After all, with trillions of dollars in new government debt soaking up so much scarce capital, what will the resulting shortage of private credit do to the already weak housing market? Unemployment is already near nine percent and will not decline soon, and without new buyers entering the market, the mortgage-default problem will likely get much worse in the near future.

None of these economic problems (and I’ve merely scratched the surface) can be solved by pointing to Obama’s poll numbers. As it becomes evident that Obama’s policies are making matters worse, that there is no magic to Hope, those poll numbers will decline, and being seen as associated with Obama’s policies will be political poison.

Snark all you want. Crist is a “dead man walking” politically speaking, and Rubio is making the smart bet by vocally opposing Obamanomics.

Oh, and not incidentally, remember that promise about “tax cuts” for everybody earning less than $250,000 a year? Well, now we have the details. Just a big fat lie:

40% of the value of new “tax cuts for families” is actually new spending, not new tax cuts. . . .
Families with taxable income of $230,000 and individuals with taxable income of $190,000 will see their income tax rate rise. . . .
By limiting tax breaks for the production of domestic energy and a raft of other energy tax hikes, the Obama budget blueprint will raise American families’ energy bills by $105 billion over the next decade. . . .
Small businesses will shed jobs to pay for the higher small business tax rates. The Obama budget blueprint calls for the top tax rate to climb from 35% to 39.6%, and for the second-highest rate to climb from 33% to 36%. . . . These tax rate hikes would be devastating for small businesses, which pay taxes on their owners’ tax forms. $2 out of $3 in small business profits pay taxes at these tax rates.

Good-bye, Hope! Hello, Change!

UPDATE: Thanks to Michelle Malkin for reminding us that the recession has accelerated the impending insolvency of Social Security and Medicare.

Like the lady said, the fundamentals suck. And, as Jimmie Bise reminds us, the Obama administration is “creating jobs” in much the same way Jayson Blair “reported news” — they’re just making stuff up.

May 13, 2009

Paglia: say the ‘C’ word!

by Smitty

Camille Paglia is never a bore, but she, as so many do, misses the obvious:

Troubled by the increasing rancor of political debate in the U.S., I watched a rented copy of Seven Days in May last week. Its paranoid mood, partly created by Jerry Goldsmith’s eerie, minimalist score, captured exactly what I have been sensing lately. There is something dangerous afoot — an alienation that can easily morph into extremism. With the national Republican party in disarray, an argument is solidifying among grass-roots conservatives: Liberals, who are now in power in Washington, hate America and want to dismantle its foundational institutions and liberties, including capitalism and private property. Liberals are rootless internationalists who cravenly appease those who want to kill us. The primary principle of conservatives, on the other hand, is love of country, for which they are willing to sacrifice and die. America’s identity was forged by Christian faith and our Founding Fathers, to whose prudent and unerring 18th-century worldview we must return.

In a harried, fragmented, media-addled time, there is an invigorating simplicity to this political fundamentalism. It is comforting to hold fast to hallowed values, to defend tradition against the slackness of relativism and hedonism. But when the tone darkens toward a rhetoric of purgation and annihilation, there is reason for alarm. Two days after watching “Seven Days in May,” I was utterly horrified to hear Dallas-based talk show host Mark Davis, subbing for Rush Limbaugh, laughingly and approvingly read a passage from a Dallas magazine article by CBS sportscaster David Feherty claiming that “any U.S. soldier,” given a gun with two bullets and stuck in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden, would use both bullets on Pelosi and strangle the other two.

How have we come to this pass in America where the assassination of top government officials is fodder for snide jokes on national radio? Davis (who is obviously a glib horse’s ass) did this stunt very emphatically at a news break at the top of the first hour. It was from there that the Dallas magazine story was evidently picked up by liberal Web sites and disseminated, pressuring CBS to denounce Feherty, who made a public apology. The gravity of this case was unfortunately overshadowed by feisty comedian Wanda Sykes’ clumsy jibes at Rush Limbaugh the next night at the Washington Correspondents Dinner. Sykes (who is usually hilarious) was rushed and inept, embarrassing herself and her hosts. But what Mark Davis did, in irresponsibly broadcasting Feherty’s vile fantasy, was an inflammatory political act that could goad susceptible minds down the dark road toward “Seven Days in May.”

“Increasing rancor”, Camille? Having just finished reading America’s Constitution: A Biography, I can safely assert that there is legitimate, dispassionate concern amongst “We the People” about the direction that the country has taken. This is not to say that your emotional characterization of the problem is wholly inaccurate. However, what is sadly absent from your hormonal analysis is the word “Constitution”. Modern Liberalism seems wholly rooted in the present tense. Neglectful of history, except as a weapon against the opposition. Ignorant of the future, except where it can be used to mine fear and guilt (medical costs, anthropogenic global warming).

We should instead see “an invigorating simplicity to this political fundamentalism” rather than concern for the foundation and historical direction of the country. Are you sure, Ms. Paglia, that there is no wisdom in “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” (Amendment 10) Heeding that Amendment, however bereft of nuance, would have been significantly cheaper than the Community Reinvestment Act. Or did I miss something, Oh Condescending One?

The Pelosi-Reid line bit, besides the sad attempt at apologizing for the inexcusable (Sykes), is more glaring in its omission of another movie: Death of a President. Now, I haven’t seen DOAP or SDIM, but it seems obvious to me that, unless you have a modern liberal non-command of proportion, that a movie wherein the sitting president gets snuffed might be more destabilizing than a tasteless joke about The Doltish Duo.

So, Camille, can we expect you at a Tea Party on 04 July? Are you afraid to circulate amongst “just folks”? Would your ivory tower crumble to confront the greatness of the country in its simple, positive, Constitutional, laughing-at-the-DC-idiots form? What if, for all their lack of polysyllabic locution, the common people are packing greater wisdom than you?

May 13, 2009

Basic HTML code for bloggers

I’m currently helping someone learn to blog, and this is a post to explain that learning a few simple HTML commands is very useful in blogging.

Why? Because the “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) interface doesn’t always give an exact rendition of what the page will look like. Sometimes the coding gets screwed up, and if you don’t know how to fix the code, the page will look like crap. Every blog software has an “edit HTML” that lets you go in and alter the code yourself. Eventually, every blogger has to learn to use HTML.

Don’t be intimidated by thinking, “Oh, that’s high-tech geek stuff. I don’t know what I’m doing. What if I screw up?” The answer is, if you screw up, you’ll go back and fix it. It ain’t rocket science, and your computer is not going to blow up because you used the wrong code on your blog. Besides, nobody’s reading your blog yet. So relax.

The Bare Bones Guide to HTML is a good place to start. Most of those codes you don’t need to know. Basically you need bold, italic, “link to something,” blockquote, paragraph and line break. But go ahead and print the whole thing out, staple the pages together, and keep it handy.