March 29, 2008

Obama's "Present" Votes in Illinois Senate

They're fine with Abner Mikva, who spanks Hillary:
Senator Hillary Clinton should probably be forgiven for not remembering the course on the state Constitution that she would have had to take as an eighth grader in Illinois. But had she remembered it, she would have known that Senator Barack Obama was not ducking his responsibility in the Illinois Senate when he voted ''present'' on many issues.

Unlike Congress and the legislatures of most other states, each chamber of the Illinois Legislature requires a ''constitutional majority'' to pass a bill. The state Senate has 59 members, so it takes 30 affirmative votes. This makes a ''present'' vote the same as a no...
In the Illinois Senate, there can be strategic reasons for voting ''present'' rather than simply no. A member might approve the intent of legislation, but not its scope or the way it has been drafted. A ''present'' vote can send a signal to a bill's sponsors that the legislator might support an amended version. Voting ''present'' can also be a way to exercise fiscal restraint, without opposing the subject of the bill.
It's noteworthy that Mikva spent a year as White House Counsel in the Clinton administration.

This doesn't change my view of Obama as demagogic and unqualified, but fair is fair.

March 19, 2008

Brilliant Marketing Ploy If It Works

And it seems to be working: the product is currently sold out.

The Kindle™ wireless reading device from Amazon has many appealing features and I'll think seriously about it if and when I can afford it. Not mentioned in the pitch is that the buyer pays $399 for the privilege of being subjected to Amazon's digital rights management. Customer reviews are positive on balance, but there is a definite body of negative opinion.

March 18, 2008

Barack & Michelle (and Jeremiah Wright):
Chickens Come Home to Roost Indeed

Harvard Law graduates with a sense of aggrieved entitlement.

Such is the harvest of 30+ years of "affirmative" action and the concomitant encouragement of victimology and identity politics.

There's no such thing as an ideal meritocracy, but a serious effort to construct a society along meritocratic lines would yield a far better result than the mess we have now.
The idea that electing Obama would dissipate the mess is ridiculous on its face. The mess might even get worse: that is, it might get worse faster than it already is.

March 17, 2008

Happy Saint Paddy's to All

This first stanza is perfect IMO:
‘Though logic choppers rule the town,
And every man and maid and boy
Has marked a distant object down,
An aimless joy is a pure joy,’
Or so did Tom O’Roughley say
That saw the surges running by,
‘And wisdom is a butterfly
And not a gloomy bird of prey.'
Wisdom is a butterfly, and not a gloomy bird of prey. Noted, with thanks for the insight.

March 16, 2008

Replacing S&P and Fitch?

The situation in the financial markets is too serious for playing the blame game, but I'm pretty sure where the buck will stop after, hopefully, we get through this. (Hint: it won't be at the Democratic Congress.)

Last year I commented at Dinocrat:
It’s a good thing that the current Treasury Secretary is a hardened Goldman Sachs capo.
Even if Paulson and Bernanke bring us through, I wonder if the Europeans and Asians, with OPEC concurrence, will form their own ratings agencies without whose blessing no American instrument will be acceptable in global financial markets.

Addendum 20081111. Indeed the Europeans are considering forming their own rating agencies. They're also realizing that that may be unnecessary if they take over the American ones: if European regulation of rating agencies is stricter than US regulation, the American entities will have to comply. And the Yanks still take the blame when something goes wrong.

Addendum 20081112. Given the bailout's incompetence (yes, incompetence), special-interest feeding frenzy, opaqueness and stonewalling, and possible malfeasance, it is no longer unthinkable that the US financial position could collapse completely.

On one side of the aisle, we have people who threatened to fire a civil service actuary if he gave his professional opinion about the costs of Bush's prescription drug benefit. On the other side, there are people who want to restore the "Fairness" Doctrine. Given a pretext and irrespective of the merits, neither would hesitate to unleash the full power of the state against an American entity that they disfavored.

The rest of the world might establish a nonAmerican rating entity in order to get proper warning of US default or reduced creditworthiness.

March 12, 2008

Hay-soos Works at Dilbert's Company

Recent Dilbert strips during this Lenten season feature a character named Jesus (pronounced 'hay-soos') who does things like turn coffee into wine, etc.

I've read that strip for decades, but IMO recently it's frequently crossed the blurred line between mockery and nastiness. Consider this exchange between Scott Adams and a commenter on his blog:
So when do you plan to start mocking Islam (pronounced hey-zeus)? Or do you only mock religions that won't threaten you with a fatwa?

[Is there some sort of contest for dumbest question of the century and no one told me? -- Scott]
Maybe I'm eluded by the sophisticated banter of the enlightened intelligent elite that guides and rules us.

Though I'm an agnostic and skeptic, I'll give William Blake the last word:
Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau;
Mock on, Mock on, 'tis all in vain.
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again.

And every sand becomes a Gem
Reflected in the beams divine;
Blown back, they blind the mocking Eye,
But still in Israel's paths they shine.

The Atoms of Democritus
And Newton's Particles of light
Are sands upon the Red sea shore,
Where Israel's tents do shine so bright

March 4, 2008

(Democrat) Americans on Trade

According to CBS exit polls:
Ohio Democratic voters hold mostly negative views on U.S. trade with other countries: Eight in ten say trade takes jobs away from their state. In Texas, 58 percent say trade takes jobs away, while a quarter say U.S. trade with other countries creates jobs.
Since Texas presumably benefits greatly from the two-way commerce with Mexico, it's astonishing that trade is so unpopular there.

Last year I remarked:
Will the world's financial traffic reroute around America the way the Internet routes around censorship? My guess is that we're not at that point yet, but if it happens it will happen faster than people expect.
Perhaps the global economy too, at some point? Not that we are imminently becoming a backwater--but if it happens, it could happen faster than people expect: for example, our global competitors might sign trade agreements with partners we spurn out of protectionism.

We are in the fifteenth year after the Gore-Perot NAFTA debate. The quality of American leadership and, I am inclined to believe, the sagacity of the electorate have declined.

Afterthought. The sagacity of the electorate may not be to blame. Surveys show that people think that the country is moving in the wrong direction. IMO that's correct and the biggest single--not the only--reason is the corrupt incompetent hypocritical pharisaism of the Republican party. Since the malfeasance is deliberately disguised and hidden, one can't expect John and Joan Public to formulate policy prescriptions. It's understandable that they look to themselves when the leadership has repeatedly demonstrated it cannot be trusted.

March 1, 2008

William F. Buckley Jr. 1925-2008

From National Review's mission statement:
Radical conservatives in this country have an interesting time of it, for when they are not being suppressed or mutilated by the Liberals, they are being ignored or humiliated by a great many of those of the well-fed Right, whose ignorance and amorality have never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity.
Even more true today, perhaps, than in 1955.

Afterthought. On the other hand, this obituary is considerably less than heartbroken.