Monday, March 31, 2008

Around the World Wide Web 56

1. How much money does America give to the Palestinians every year? In return we get this crude propaganda about a child killing Bush and turning the White House into a mosque.

2. The story about the 84-year old marine stopping a robber with a much-deserved kick in the groin is getting a lot of notice on the web. But the fact that it is big news says something about modern culture. 200 years ago if a robber was shot to death, no one would have thought twice about it. A man's right to self-defense was taken for granted then. Today a victim fights back and people are shocked. It's a measure of how altruism, moral relativism and subjectivism have warped us.

3. John McCain advocates vast economic regulations to fight global warming -- then he calls it a "market-based solution."

McCain, who once admitted that he "doesn't really understand economics," claimed the solution to the "looming threat" of climate change is to "unleash the power and innovation of the marketplace."

Unfortunately, McCain's plan fails to free anything. In fact, his big government climate policy would mitigate not global warming but economic growth.


McCAIN CLAIMS THE Climate Stewardship Act is a market-based solution to global warming. It is anything but. He would have the government cap emissions; create the emissions market and rake off the profits; and control clean energy research.

If he really wants to put forward free market alternatives, they do exist. He could advocate the elimination of government market interventions that obstruct emission reductions and discourage the adoption of lower emission technologies.

McCain is not only a statist, he is a dishonest one who uses free market language to sell his restrictions on the free market!

The only way to "unleash the power and innovation of the marketplace" is for the government to GET OUT OF THE WAY. McCain, just like Clinton and Obama, thinks the state must intervene and regulate -- two euphemisms for dictate.

4. What was the purpose of Earth Hour, an hour on Saturday, March 29th, when people were supposed to turn out their lights? Like recycling and "reducing one's carbon footprint" it's a useless, symbolic crusade aimed at changing the way people think. Environmentalists continually push sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice, hoping that people will accept voluntary deprivation of their standard of living for "the environment" or "the planet."

5. Al Gore's latest:

Former Vice President Al Gore is launching a $300 million, bipartisan campaign to try to push climate change higher on the nation’s political agenda.

Notice that it's "bipartisan." Involved are Pat Robertson and Newt Gingrich. (Remember when Gingrich led the "Republican Revolution"? What a joke.)

6. "Dem Elite Working for June Solution."

Hoping to avoid a summer-long bloodbath for the Democratic presidential nomination, some party leaders such as Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen have urged a convention of superdelegates in June, after the caucuses and primaries are over.

In other words, Bredesen wants a real convention that will pick the Democrat candidate so that the other convention can be a meaningless party infomercial, the way conventions are supposed to be these days.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Notes On Acting

I was trained in the Stanislavsky method. There is a lot of confusion about what "method acting" is, mostly due to the influence of Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio.

As I understand it, Strasberg emphasized emotion memory -- an actor "feeling it." This school of acting forgot that the purpose of acting is to communicate drama to an audience. In the '50s you might have seen two actors on the Actors Studio stage mumbling to themselves; their acting was "real" but it was not communicated to the audience. As a result, there have been actors who, when told by a director to do something, respond that they can't do it because they don't "feel it."

I can sympathize with these actors to a point. In my acting process I try to start slow in rehearsals and find a reality by pursuing objectives without worrying about results too early. Inevitably, by the third or fourth time I rehearse a scene, the director will become impatient and say something like, "You've got to be bigger" or "Pick up the pace." These results notes are annoying in the first few weeks because I KNOW I must be bigger, but I'm trying to get there from the inside out instead adopting superficial results.

One of the key epiphanies good actors make in their development is that acting is the imitation of what humans do, not what actors do. The beginner will approach a scene by trying to "act" -- that is, aping the results of other actors instead of finding the human reality.

This does not mean that one cannot learn excellent tips by watching master actors. I have learned much about enunciation, emphasizing words and elongating consonants by watching Alan Howard in the scene from Coriolanus on You Tube. But I can integrate these techniques into my acting because I have the foundation of my Stanislavsky training.

I'm not big on exercises. I get impatient with them because their purpose is not immediately tied to the purpose of theatre, communicating to an audience. I think it's better to learn by being in plays and solving problems, always with an eye to the ultimate purpose of performance.

I have learned through rehearsals that the quickest way to find the reality of the scene is to listen to the other actors and react to their words and actions. Just listen and react. Your reactions will take you to unexpected places and give you instant insight into what you are doing.

The biggest mistake actors make in this regard is that, until they are off book, they keep their nose in their book. Wrong! You must get your nose out of the book, look at the actor who is speaking and react. Even in audition, in a cold reading in which you have no idea what's going on, you should try to lift your nose from the page and look at the other actors. When you do this, your acting improves instantly. If you keep your nose in the book, you're not acting, you're reading along while other people act.

Another big problem beginning actors make: they do not stylize their acting. They make unnecessary movements, gestures, grimaces and vocalizations that clutter up their acting. I saw a rehearsal in the last year in which a young actress shifted her weight back and forth and fidgeted throughout like a restless child -- and she was playing the wise Portia in The Merchant of Venice! It did not occur to her that her every movement should be selected for the purpose of characterization.

Art is the selective recreation of reality. Actors must select their movements and eliminate the clutter. The Coriolanus scene I linked to above is highly stylized. Gestures are kept to a minimum and every movement is carefully chosen. The stillness of the actors is striking and powerful, but never alienating or unreal.

Once you are on firm ground in the rehearsal process, then you turn your focus to communicating to the audience. This is where technique comes in. This is where "feeling it" is not enough. The purpose of a play is to make the audience feel it, and here whatever works is good.

I was in a play recently in which I said, "I have been betrayed before by those I have known and loved." Now, I did not feel any great emotion inside myself when I said this. But I communicated emotion by choosing a brief pause before the words "and loved." That pause told the audience that the words did not come easily. That pause was the residue of being hurt in the past. The audience felt the emotion; all I did was coldly apply technique.

UPDATE: Other acting posts:

The Art of Acting

Rules For Actors


Democrats Praise McCain By Damning Him

It happens every election. My thinking is the polar opposite of liberal thinking on the economy. What I think is good, liberals think is bad. What I see as white, liberals see as black.

So when Democrats make commercials criticizing Republicans, those commercials sound to me like the most persuasive argument for voting for the Republican. The spots come down to something like, "Candidate X won't use the government to fix things!" Well, hallelujah, I cry.

I must remind myself that Democrats are so out of touch with reality that when they attempt to smear a Republican they end up exaggerating his free market bona fides.

Obama and Clinton, talking about the economy, are now doing it. They are making a better case for McCain than McCain will probably ever make.

Both Obama and Clinton argued that Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain isn't ready or willing to handle an economic emergency.

"The phone is ringing, and he would just let it ring and ring," Clinton said, echoing the "3 a.m. phone call" TV ad she used earlier to suggest she was more qualified than Obama to handle a national security crisis. Speaking in Raleigh, N.C., she chastised McCain for opposing government intervention in the nation's credit and mortgage crisis.


Bemoaning the nation's economic woes, Obama, like Clinton, dismissed McCain's approach as pure hands-off. On Tuesday, McCain derided government intervention to save and reward banks or small borrowers who behave irresponsibly though he offered few immediate alternatives for fixing the country's growing housing crisis. Obama said McCain's plan "amounts to little more than watching this crisis happen."

Obama is so sure that big government is the way to win votes that he goes on to criticize his fellow Democrat Bill Clinton for deregulation policies.

I imagine John McCain in a secret meeting with Karl Rove.

"Karl," the Senator says, "I have these paleolithic conservative jackoffs on my ass for being too much 'big government.' What should I do?"

"Don't worry," Rove says with a twinkle in his eye. "I'll use my mind control machine to make the Democrats hit you for not being socialist enough! Nothing else could work better to unite Republicans around you."

Now, McCain defenders will surely object at this point that their man should get credit for opposing government intervention.

Yes, he gets credit for that. I haven't looked at his ideas in detail, where the devil often lies, but if he opposes government intervention, then he is right.

As a long-suffering observer of Republicans in action, however, I have learned that what they mean by "smaller government" is actually "bigger government, just not as big as what the Democrats want."

Call them 50% Me-Too Republicans. It is true that they don't take us 100% as far as the Democrats want, but at the end of the day we're 50% of that distance down the road to serfdom. The Republicans erode freedom and expand the government -- and then they congratulate themselves for not going as far as the Democrats.

The worst thing about 50% Me-Tooers is that, in their pragmatism, they concede the principle of big government to the Democrats. Once the principle of laissez-faire capitalism is thrown out, then the battle is lost. The Republicans have no principled arguments to stop the next Democrat assault on liberty.

John McCain's name is on some of the worst violations of freedom in our time, such as McCain-Feingold and McCain-Leiberman. If he got it right on the credit and mortgage crisis, such lucidity is rare and out of character for him.

Like Bush he is ignorant of economics and like Bush he will expand the government. McCain is more dangerous than a mediocre cypher such as Bush because he has explicitly rejected the Goldwater ideal and replaced it with Teddy Roosevelt's trust-busting, big government progressivism.

Another thing to remember is that, for the last 40 years at least, Republican presidents have been more effective at expanding government than Democrats. Look at Nixon's record. One could make the case that the most free market president of our time has been Bill Clinton, he who (cornered by a Republican Congress) reformed welfare, balanced the budget, passed NAFTA and, as Obama complains, repealed the Glass-Steagall Act on bank regulations. Bush 41, by comparison, passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Bush 43 passed the biggest expansion of the welfare state since LBJ with the prescription drugs bill.

Republicans in Congress grow a spine only when we elect a Democrat president. They harry and attack Democrat presidents like terriers going after a rat. Any expansion of government proposed by a Democrat president brings forth howls from the Republicans.

Democrats in Congress, on the other hand, criticize Republican presidents for not expanding government. Thus a Republican president can be a 50% Me-Tooer and look like Goldwater against a backdrop of leftist moonbats in the Congress.

Let us not fool ourselves by thinking John McCain is in any substantial, principled way for less government. Getting it right every other Tuesday is not enough.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Collectivism of John McCain

Matt Welch reminds us why John McCain is one of the most frightening politicians in America (if not the most frightening).

Mr. McCain’s stump speeches, as well as his five books, are chockablock with calls to elevate national greatness, collective duty and Washington rejuvenation over whatever individual roads we might be pursuing. In “Worth the Fighting For,” he wrote that “our greatness depends upon our patriotism, and our patriotism is hardly encouraged when we cannot take pride in the highest public institutions.” These institutions, Mr. McCain wrote, should “fortify the public’s allegiance to the national community.”

John McCain repudiates the ideas of our Founding Fathers. He throws out the individualism of the Declaration of Independence and admires collectivism and "national greatness" instead.

The presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party has seduced the press and the public with frank confessions of his failings, from his hard-living flyboy days to his adulterous first marriage to the Keating Five scandal. But in both legislation and rhetoric, Mr. McCain has consistently sought to restrict the very freedoms he once exercised, in the common national enterprise of “serving a cause greater than self-interest.”

Such sentiment can sound stirring coming from a lone citizen freely choosing public service. But from a potential president, Mr. McCain’s exaltation of sacrifice over the private pursuit of happiness — “I did it out of patriotism, not for profit,” he snarled to Mitt Romney during the final Republican presidential debate — reflects a worryingly militaristic view of citizenship.

“We are fast becoming a nation of alienating individualists, unwilling to put the unifying values of patriotism ahead of our narrow self-interests,” Mr. McCain warned in a speech during his 2000 presidential campaign. He added that “cynicism threatens to become a ceiling on our greatness.”

When you throw out individual rights as a standard, then you can use collectivism and "national greatness" to justify any intrusion of the state into our rights. He made the template in his assault on the First Amendment:

When people raised First Amendment objections to the law, which prohibits citizen advertisements that so much as mention a federal candidate’s name within 60 days of an election, Mr. McCain responded, “I would rather have a clean government than one where quote ‘First Amendment rights’ are being respected that has become corrupt.” When the Supreme Court questioned the law’s constitutionality, he complained in a legal brief that ads were targeting “candidates in close contests — and almost invariably in a partisan manner.”

With this reasoning McCain could find justification for any expansion of the state; the only limits to his power lust will lie in two things I can think of. First, what Americans will still resist from a fading culture of individualism that is the last glow of our Enlightenment heritage. But as public education dumbs down America, and the welfare state saps our self-reliance, our tattered, disintegrating traditions and sense of life can't be much of a defense against a committed statist like McCain.

The second factor is the way our federal government works. With the balance of powers, it seems to have been designed to resist revolutionary change. Big changes come slow in America. For a century the liberals have, except for moments such as FDR's first 100 days, had to resort to gradualism in erecting the welfare state. This can be frustrating for those of us who want to roll back the welfare state yesterday, but it also provides the sturdiest bulwark against tyranny coming tomorrow.

But how fast might statists destroy freedom in a great crisis? Federalism should buy us some time, but maybe not.

As the Democrat candidates destroy themselves with their multiculti/politics of identity squabbling, leftist ideology and hopeless inadequacies, it looks more likely that McCain will be the next President of the United States of America. The blood chills.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Around the World Wide Web 55

1. Gus Van Horn, poor guy, must move to Boston. Well, I guess we all can't live in California.

But wait -- Matt Damon is from Boston!

2. This story about a man not allowed into creationist propaganda film must be read to be believed. Great punchline!

3. Organization of the Islamic Conference wants world-wide restrictions on speech. Yes, we must outlaw any criticism of Islam! Don't these muslims realize that by advocating such backward, medieval tyranny they defame themselves more than any cartoonist could?

4. Dithyramb links to a paper by Allen Gotthelf on Ayn Rand's theory of concepts. Haven't read it yet, but I'll be checking it out over the weekend when I have some time.

5. Ezra Levant gets fan mail.

6. The budget simulation game.

UPDATE: Bonus link! The 85 Weirdest Storytellers of the Past 85 Years. And damn, are they weird.

Hillary Clinton's Problem

Hillary Clinton has been getting ripped because she admits she "misspoke" about a trip to the Balkans. She said there was no greeting ceremony at the airport, and that they ran for fear of sniper fire. The tape, however, shows a greeting ceremony at the airport.

You know what's scary? I think she believed what she said. I don't think she was lying.

Now, you might think that you would never make such a mistake. I know I wouldn't. But Hillary Clinton did. She must have been lying, right?

I don't think so. I have a hypothesis as to why she believed what she said when she said it.

Hillary Clinton accepts the premise that in politics appearance is reality. She watched her husband operate successfully under that premise for eight long years. Bill Clinton is a man who can say with a straight face that it depends on what the meaning of is is. White House operatives would hit the media with their spin, and come the next polls, if 51% of the American people bought the spin, then it became reality to the Clintons' enablers in the MSM.

When a politician accepts the premise that in politics appearance is reality, it can be dangerous to his mind. The words he says do not necessarily have to stay connected to reality. Just think of how this false premise could wreak havoc with a person's epistemology. Over time a person would become less sharp and more vague in his thinking. He would not examine his words against reality but against the standard of political pragmatism. Do his words help his poll numbers that afternoon? Then they become reality.

So, as in the time she said she was named after Edmund Hillary (although it turns out she was born before Mt. Everest was conquered), I think Clinton believed what she said about her trip to Bosnia when she said it because she did not think it necessary to examine her words against reality.

Remember this the next time you hear Democrats praise Senator Clinton's intelligence. Clinton's epistemological premises have, I believe, made her stupid and inept. Only a reality-based epistemology helps one function in reality.

No, I don't trust Hillary Clinton to handle any 3am phone calls well at all.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Obama's Problem

The underlying lesson of the Obama-Wright flap -- which the MSM, now the propaganda arm of the Democrat Party, refuse to address -- is how far left liberals have gone. Only in a far left atmosphere of Democrat politics could Obama have forged a close relationship with a pastor who thinks the US government created the HIV virus and who applauded 9/11. It never occurred to Obama that he might need to create some distance from this wacko in order to avoid controversy when he sought the presidency.

Obama's problem is anti-Americanism. People don't want their Commander In Chief to hate America. But liberals can't think straight about anti-Americanism because they evade the problem. How can they address a problem they refuse to acknowledge? When any right-winger is so gauche as to bring up leftist anti-Americanism, liberals have been trained to leap up, pound the table and shout, "HOW DARE YOU QUESTION MY PATRIOTISM?" The question is designed not to explore the issue, but to stop all discussion. Leftist anti-Americanism is That Which Must Not Be Named.

This culture-wide evasion did not help Obama. He never even realized he had a problem until it exploded on You Tube. It is a classic case of a Democrat living in the liberal cocoon and then having reality slap him in the face when his ideas leak outside the cocoon.

His reaction was woefully inadequate. In his speech he falls back on more liberal assumptions: America is a racist nation, and so on. Like an alcoholic who just wants one more for the road, Obama continues to avoid That Which Must Not Be Named.

Obama's problem is the problem of the Democrat Party for the last 36 years. They cannot be honest to the voters about who they are and win the presidency. I look for signs that an open liberal can win the presidency forthrightly, the Kossacks' ideal, but it seems the American electorate is still not quite there.

Ironically, the Republicans seem determined to ape the Democrats in their evasion of reality. The Republicans have become a big government, welfare state party, but they won't admit it. They still pretend to hold small government ideals of a past era that recedes further from us every year and begins to look as quaint as Prohibition and the Spanish-American War.

Perhaps we should take heart that both parties still feel they must pretend to be better than they are to succeed with voters. Their hypocrisy is the tribute statists pay to the better ideas that Americans have yet to forget -- ideas such as individual rights, self-reliance and free markets. As long as our politicians twist themselves into pretzels pretending to conform to America's individualist, capitalist history, then there's hope.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Good Saturday

Saturday was a good day. I went to Lancaster to jam with my drummer friend, whom we'll call Reggie to protect the innocent. We played a bunch of songs I wrote that I want to record with female singers. The songs are written in a melodic '60s pop-rock style. It was a thrill to hear them for the first time with a drummer.

My theory on getting a band together is to find the best musicians you can and give them the freedom to be creative. Reggie is an excellent drummer who grew up listening to the same '60s music I did, so he understands immediately what to do.

But there was a further thrill. Reggie owns a Rickenbacker 360 12-string, the same color as the guitar Pete Townshend has in this photograph.


It was a revelation hearing that bright, jangly 12-string sound. It worked with many of the songs.

When I got home I still had that sound bouncing around my head and I wrote a riff reminiscent of the Byrds or the early Beatles.

At the end of the day I performed the First Gravedigger in the closing night of Hamlet. Now I must get back to the day job.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Paul Scofield, RIP

The great actor, Paul Scofield, is dead at 86. Check out these two clips of his acting, one from A Man For All Seasons and one from Mel Gibson's Hamlet.

Both clips feature brilliant acting. Scofield's Ghost quietly and convincingly shows the agony this creature is in -- something most actors miss in this role.

The writing in these clips is also pretty good. The scene from A Man For All Seasons has a nice defense of law against the medieval religious mentality. And Hamlet is, well... it's Hamlet. I'm always struck by how modern Shakespeare's writing is in this play. It is one of the great masterpieces of drama, a work of art that enhances your life for experiencing it.

When I watch a master like Scofield at work, I am inspired to make the extra effort in my own work. A good actor is not satisfied with mediocrity, not when such greatness is possible.

(If you want to see another bit of brilliant Shakespearean acting, though not featuring Scofield, check out this scene from Coriolanus starring Alan Howard. The language is quite difficult, but it's worth watching the whole scene. The way Howard says "Shall remain!" is spine-tingling. I find Coriolanus a fascinating play because it is about a proud hero who disdains the mob.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Speech

I watched Obama's speech given in response to the furor around the statements of Obama's preacher-mentor, Jeremiah Wright. The speech is an enormous straw man meant to obfuscate and distract from the real problem.

Let me sum up Obama's problem in a paragraph:

Barack Obama, like most Democrats, is a New Leftist. As such he believes in many ideologies such as multiculturalism, feminism and environmentalism. The most controversial idea held by New Leftists is anti-Americanism. This leftist anti-Americanism is not a problem within the Democrat Party, but It is the one belief that Democrats must hide more than any other in order to be elected President. Obama's preacher has made outrageous anti-American statements. People wonder if Obama agrees with them; they wonder why he did not break with Wright years ago. For a Democrat presidential candidate even to be suspected of anti-Americanism is catastrophic problem, one that is probably fatal to most politicians.

In his speech Obama did not attempt to answer the problem -- it is so profound and dangerous that Democrats will not even name it. Instead, he changed the subject and made a speech about race.

The suspicions about Obama's anti-Americanism will linger. People don't want the Commander In Chief to be someone who can listen to a nutjob shout, "God damn America" without breaking relations with the man. Obama has lost those Democrats who are not anti-American leftists. They used to be called Reagan Democrats; come November 5, 2008, if Obama is the Democrat candidate, they will be called McCain Democrats.

Changes to Watch For

Since the 1972 rout of liberal George McGovern by Richard Nixon, the Democrat Party has had a problem. How does a New Leftist party win the presidency in a nation whose voters are not so far left?

It has been a difficult 36 years for the left. The Democrats won the presidency twice in that period with southern governors, Carter and Clinton. Their primary strategy has been to obfuscate their identity as liberals. They have been a party that is afraid to admit who they really are. Liberal became a dirty word, so much that even Ted Kennedy would not admit on a Sunday morning talk show that he was one. The Democrat Leadership Council was created to help Dems get elected in a nation afraid of liberals.

The great hope of the left has been that the American electorate is changing, becoming more liberal, and the Democrats can stop "triangulating" and compromising their liberal principles. The "netroots," led by Daily Kos, have championed the more open, in-your-face liberal candidates. Recently, there has been an upheaval as supporters of Hillary Clinton have left the web site. Kos doesn't care, sneering at them as "laughable."

I'm hoping the 2008 election answers the question of whether or not the Kossacks are right. Can the Democrats campaign honestly and openly as liberals and win the presidency?

It's an open question. America is not the same country it was in 1972. Take California, where I live. This is the state that gave us Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. Orange Country used to be synonymous with the far right wing; now it seems to be full of young college educated kids and hispanics, two groups that vote Democrat. It's been a long time since a Republican presidential candidate wasted any time in California.

At the same time we have seen a growth in religion in America, and those voters tend to be conservatives. But as Huckabee showed, religious people can happily embrace environmentalism and socialism. Another big question of our time: what does it mean to be conservative? Ironically, it seems that, like the liberals, conservatives are giving up the pretense of being against big government.

We have two parties getting in touch with their inner statist. Hey, I love big government! Yes! This is who I am, damn it, and I don't care who knows it! I'm liberated!

I suspect we are at the precipice of a whole new era in American politics. The prospect is ominous.

Snapshot of the Liberal Mind

I was talking to a liberal recently. He is an erudite, educated man who prides himself on looking up conservative lies at and calmly explaining the truth. Of course, being a liberal, for all his education and intelligence, he is abysmally ignorant of economics. They all are. It's one of the defining characteristics of liberals.

He is an entertaining conversationalist, however -- and he makes some good points about the more hysterical claims of conservatives.

But then the subject of Ann Coulter came up. This man changed from a sophisticated urbanite to a neanderthal at the mention of her name. He began to fantasize about her being gang raped. I was stunned at the sheer, brutal ugliness of his words. He imagined a scenario of violent sex that no one should wish on any woman. I don't know if he has an underlying hatred of women or just a hatred of Ann Coulter, but the hatred was there.

Why does an otherwise calm, pleasant intellectual become a barbarian at the mention of Ann Coulter's name? Because liberals think conservatives are evil, and therefore any attack on them, however dirty or mean, is an act of justice. This is the premise that leads to "the end justifies the means" in liberal thinking. This is the premise that leads liberals to think they can lie, cheat to win elections and smear their opponents character.

The problem is not that liberals make moral judgments of their opponents. The problem is that they discard reason and act by their emotions with no regard to justice, fair play or honesty. It's as if liberals are subjectivists and moral relativists who make no judgments about anyone -- until they are threatened by their enemy, then they go to the other extreme and fight dirty.

We see in the liberal mind the end of two centuries of irrationalist philosophy at work. Liberals no longer have confidence in reason. To liberals, socialism was "scientific," and the collapse of socialism proves the efficacy of irrationalism and radical subjectivism. When push comes to shove in the real world -- and push always comes to shove in politics -- the liberals turn into snarling beasts when they fight. Having abandoned reason, they will tell any lie and smear any character it takes to win.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Around the World Wide Web 54

1. Obama, Clinton and McCain are all ignorant of economics.

2. The conservative Rick Moran reveals his ignorance of economics in "Is Capitalism and the Conservative Rationale for It Dead?"

...the huge investment companies who manage the hundreds of funds that invest in securities were overconfident in their ability to manage everything from the risk of mortgage securities to the effect the bursting of the housing bubble had on the value of their portfolios.

They just got it wrong, that’s all.

Mr. Moran fails to take into account economic distortions created by preexisting government policies.

For decades our government has had a semi-official policy that large financial institutions are too big to fail—and therefore must be bailed out when they risk insolvency—a policy that creates perverse incentives for them to take on far more risk than they otherwise would. "Too big to fail" is implemented through a network of government bodies that protect financial institutions from the long-term consequences of their decisions at taxpayer expense—a phenomenon we can observe right now.

Mr. Moran ends up calling for more of what caused the problem, government intervention in the economy:

Maybe we need new regulation to prevent this from happening again. Maybe we need better monitoring and thus less “free” markets by the government. And what good is “individual and corporate responsibility” if the economy would be prostrate if we followed that dictum and just allowed economic Darwinism to rule the day and watch as millions lost their savings and millions were thrown out of work?

Thus do breezy, half-assed dilettantes like Rick Moran, blithely unaware of the damage they wreak, spread stupid ideas and take America a little further down the highway to hell.

3. Harry Binswanger demolishes two ghastly conservatives, David Brooks and William F. Buckley.

4. Cassandra imagines what would happen if Obama's relationship with a radical preacher were a Republican problem.

5. My mom said I could.

6. Hillary Clinton's plan to end war in Iraq:

On taking over the presidency in January 2009, she says she will instruct the Joint Chiefs of Staff to draw up a plan for withdrawal to start within sixty days of her inauguration; she will next convene a regional stabilization group composed of states bordering Iraq, major US allies and other global powers to find an agreement on how to support a durable Iraqi state - a long overdue proposal, first put forward by another Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry, in the 2004 race; and she will ask the most important multilateral organization on the planet, the United Nations, for its involvement as a "neutral, honest broker" to forge political reconciliation in Iraq.

It sounds like a recipe for chaos to me. And one of those states bordering Iraq is Iran. Would it be good to have Iran dictating how Iraq should be run? Can the UN keep peace in Iraq?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Eliot Spitzer and Reality

Susan Estrich attempts to make sense of Eliot Spitzer:

My old roommate used to call it "getting stupid." In the beginning of the story, the guy might be smart, thoughtful, good-looking and funny. But when it came to sex, she'd just shake her head. Lord, could guys get stupid or what?

That's the phrase that kept running through my head as I listened to the reports, read the affidavits and plowed through the details of the mess surrounding my very smart former student Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

How could one smart guy get that stupid?


Rich, powerful men don't need to pay women to have sex; there are plenty who will do it for nothing, save the expectation that they be treated as people. I have never understood why such men prefer to pay for it. Or, more accurately, I have understood, and I think less of them for their choice. What does it say about a man that he'd rather pay for sex? That he is willing to offer nothing but money?

Estrich fails to understand that sex is more than just physical pleasure, more even than psychology. Sex is an affirmation of metaphysics.

Eliot Spitzer's entire career was at war with reality. Why shouldn't his sex life reflect that war as well?

Spitzer was a statist thug who persecuted innocent businessmen.

As he declared war on Wall Street and other corporate abusers, Spitzer also declared war in effect on his own oath of office: a commitment to the state and federal constitutional guarantees of the presumption of innocence.

Time after time with high-profile corporate officials - most conspicuously, former American International Group CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg - Spitzer railed on national television that his targets had broken the law.

But in most cases - after the damage to reputations was already done - no charges were brought.

Robert Tracinski notes that Spitzer had the soul of a power luster:

Spitzer's "crusading" career as New York's attorney general is a catalog of abuses of prosecutorial power. He tried cases in the media instead of the courts by releasing embarrassing documents at press conferences and leaking carefully selected facts to sympathetic reporters. This is slander under the color of law, an attempt to ruin a target's reputation without actually have to prove the allegations against him. Spitzer smeared his victims by digging into their personal lives and spreading rumors about their infidelity (another disgusting irony of this affair). He blackmailed businesses into paying massive fines by threatening to file corporate indictments that would cripple a firm's ability to operate, even if it were eventually acquitted. He threatened respectable businessmen with the prospect of being hauled off in handcuffs in front of their families.

He did everything he could, in short, to bully the rest of the world into a solicitous state of submission—the state of terrorized subjects groveling before a tyrannical emperor.

Gus Van Horn writes,

He prosecuted citizens for victimless "crimes", some of which were forms of productive activity. The laws that made these acts crimes were legal codifications of arbitrary religious and altruist proscriptions against behavior that violated the rights of no one and, therefore, did not belong on the books.

In other words, Eliot Spitzer was not motivated by a desire to protect the individual rights of the people who elected him, but by a moral code that is incompatible with personal freedom because it calls for the sacrifice of individuals. Whether Spitzer was benevolent but misguided at first (which seems very unlikely to me) or a power-luster from day one is irrelevant.

Eliot Spitzer's public career was at war with reality because his ideals -- altruism, statism and collectivism -- are also at war with reality. They are an affront to justice, a massive con game in which the rights of the strong and able are violated in the name of the weak and disable.

The welfare state breeds creeps like Spitzer and Bill Clinton, who seek affirmation in the bedroom that they are above reality, that the rules don't apply to them, that they can get away with whatever they want.

Reality caught up with Spitzer and Clinton, and someday it will catch up with the welfare state. There will be hell to pay when those chickens come home to roost. Spitzer's problems, if they are then remembered, will seem insignificant.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Sick As A Dog

I have caught the bug that's going around. I took the day off from work and called in sick to tonight's rehearsal.

I don't often get sick. I've gone years and years at a time without catching a cold. I think tonight's rehearsal is the first I've ever missed.

When a cold or flu (what's the difference?) does hit, I feel miserable. There is nothing I know of that you can do about a cold except sleep and drink water and endure.

I caught a really bad one once in NYC. Of course, I refused to go to a doctor. I think that one lasted like six weeks, which makes me think it was influenza. That was the worst I ever had. I was young then. Today I have to think it would be even worse.

Speaking of viruses, I see Hillary Clinton won in Texas and Ohio. Republicans must be delighted. I don't think it matters who wins, Obama or Clinton, as neither can beat McCain. I keep reading about how this is the Democrats' year and no Republican can possibly win, but I'm dubious of all that.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Around the World Wide Web 53

1. An interesting quote:

The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality. - ~ Dante Alighieri

2. If you want to understand conservatism, you cannot do better than to read "The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism" by C. Bradley Thompson. He lays it all out with footnotes, and you can read it for free.

3. Global warming believers are trying to scare people into dictatorship. Meanwhile, to the dismay of the environmentalists, there are scientists who have not been intimidated into joining the politicized "consensus" on global warming.

4. Why tyrants cannot be happy.

5. Blasphemy now a crime in America.

6. Gary Gygax, creator of D&D, is dead at 69. Can't some cleric resurrect him with holy water or something?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley is dead. So, incidentally, is the philosophy he sought to launch dead; it was in fact stillborn.

If that first paragraph sounds like a rather graceless and gloating way to talk about the recently deceased, I'm paraphrasing Buckley's column on the death of Ayn Rand:

"Ayn Rand is dead," wrote conservative author William F. Buckley in an obituary in 1982 about the best-selling novelist-philosopher. "So, incidentally, is the philosophy she sought to launch dead; it was in fact stillborn."

Objectivism was not dead in 1982, nor is it dead now. It thrives and grows more influential every year. It was ignored, however, in 1982, and there were misconceptions about it due to dishonesty and smears such as Whittaker Chambers's vile review of Atlas Shrugged in National Review that likened the philosophy of the book to Hitler's genocide of the Jews.

Unlike Objectivism, conservatism is dead, and Buckley lived long enough to see its death, if he was still paying attention. We now have a Republican party that has made its peace with the New Deal and is a big government, welfare state party. Buckley deserves some of the blame, even though his stated goal was limited government.

But Buckley himself was not as consistent about free market economics as many conservatives even back in the 1960's. He always had pragmatist streak:

All this adds up to a conservatism premised on firm principle and opportune adjustment alike, a dialectic impressed upon Buckley by two of his early mentors, James Burnham and Whittaker Chambers, both ex-Communists with well-developed aversions to strict party lines. When conservatism emerged from the wilderness in the 1960s, it was Buckley who insisted its elected tribunes be given room to operate outside the strictures of "the movement." In 1967, he defended the right's brightest star, Ronald Reagan, who, as governor of California, had enlarged, rather than slashed, the state's budget. Buckley calmly spelled out the reasons and concluded his case by quoting Chambers: "A conservatism that cannot find room in its folds for the actualities is a conservatism that is not a political force, or even a twitch: it has become a literary whimsy."

So from the beginning he defended Republicans acting like Democrats in order to get elected.

Buckley's disastrous mission was to integrate religion and capitalism. It doesn't work. As Robert Tracinski writes:

Fusionism is unstable because its basic premise--that the moral foundation of free markets and Americanism can be left to the religious traditionalists--is false. For five decades, under Buckley's influence, conservatives have ceded to the religious right the job of providing the moral fire to sustain their movement. But they are discovering that the religionists do not have a strong moral commitment to free markets. In fact, the religious right seems to be working on its own version of "fusion"--with the religious left.

Wednesday's Washington Post provided the latest example: a column by former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson on the shift to the left among evangelical Christians, who "respond to a message of social justice and community values, not only to a message of rugged individualism and unrestricted markets." Gerson insists that "Christianity indicts oppressive government--but also the soul-destroying excesses that sometimes come in free markets and consumerism." So much for traditional religious values serving as the basis for advocacy of capitalism.

The reason for this shift toward the religious left is that religion cannot support the real basis for capitalism and a strong American national defense: a morality of rational self-interest. Christianity is too deeply committed to a philosophy of self-abnegation, a destructive morality that urges men to renounce any interest in worldly goods and to turn the other check in the face of aggression. The early Christian saints, for example, abandoned all material comforts and lived in caves--which is to say that their closest contemporary disciples are the radical environmentalists. As for foreign policy, St. Augustine spent a fair bit of his massive apologia for Christianity, The City of God, explaining to the Romans that being sacked by barbarians was good for them because it taught them the virtue of humility and cured them of their attachment to material wealth.

Ayn Rand wrote about National Review in a letter to Barry Goldwater in 1960:

"This leads me to the subject of the National Review. I am profoundly opposed to it--not because it is a religious magazine, but because it pretends that it is not. There are religious magazines which one can respect, even while disagreeing with their views. But the fact that the National Review poses as a secular political magazine, while following a strictly religious "party line," can have but one purpose: to slip religious goals by stealth on those who would not accept them openly, to "bore from within," to tie Conservatism to religion, and thus to take over the American Conservatives. This attempt comes from a pressure group wider than the National Review, but the National Review is one of its manifestations. . . .

"The attempt to use religion as a moral justification of Conservatism began after World War II. Observe the growing apathy, lifelessness, ineffectuality and general feebleness of the so-called Conservative side, ever since. You are, at present, a rising exception in the Republican ranks. I do not believe that that pressure group could succeed in making you its tool. But a philosophical pressure group is very hard to detect, particularly at first. That is why I want to warn you against them now, and help you to identify the nature of their influence.

"I am not certain that you understood my relationship to the National Review, when I spoke to you here. I thought that you knew the facts, but perhaps you do not. In brief, they printed a review of Atlas Shrugged by Whittaker Chambers, which I have not read, on principle; those who have read it, told me that this former Communist spy claimed that my book advocates dictatorship. Thereafter, the National Review printed two articles about me (which I did read), one of them allegedly friendly, both of them misrepresenting my position in a manner I have not seen outside The Daily Worker or The Nation. What was significant was their second article: it denounced me for advocating capitalism."

The post-war movement to defend capitalism with religious morality will prove to be the most damaging thing ever to happen to American liberty. The leader of that movement was Buckley.