Monday, August 29, 2011

Wodehouse and golf and marriage/romance

"It has always seemed to me a strange and unaccountable thing that nowadays, when gloom is at such a premium in the world’s literature and all around us stern young pessimists are bringing home the bacon with their studies in the greyly grim, no writer has thought to turn his pen to a realistic portrayal of the golfing wife.  No subject could be more poignant, and yet it has been completely neglected.  One can only suppose that even modern novelists feel that the line should be drawn somewhere….

The real trouble was that the spectacle of her on the links was destroying his ideals, sapping away that love and respect which should have been as imperishable as steel

To a good man his wife should be a goddess, a being far above him to whom he can offer worship and reverence, a beacon-star guiding him over the tossing seas of life.  She should ever be on a pedestal and in a shrine.  And when she waggles for a minute and a half and then jerks her head and tops the ball she ceases to be so."

The Heart of a Goof, P.G. Wodehouse, Keeping in with Vosper, page (63 - 65)

P.G. Wodehouse and golf

"Provided luck was with him and the lie not too desperate, a mashie would put him on the carpet.  It was only when he reached the rough and saw what happened that his heart sank.  There the ball lay, half hidden in the grass, while above it waved the straggling tentacle of some tough looking shrub.  Behind it was a stone, and behind the stone at just the elevation to catch a back-swing of the club, was a tree.  And, by an ironical stroke of fate which drew from Bradbury a hollow, bitter laugh, only a few feet to the right was a beautiful smooth piece of turf from which it would have been a pleasure to play one’s second..

Dully, Bradbury looked to see how Bott was getting on.  And then suddenly, as he found that Bott was completely invisible behind the belt of bushes through which he had just passed, a voice seemed to whisper to him, ‘why not?’

Bradley Fisher, remember, had spent thirty years in Wall Street."

The Heart of a Goof, P.G. Wodehouse, High Stakes, page 49

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jonah Goldberg on Rick Perry

An interesting column by Jonah Goldberg on Rick Perry, his critics and his defenders.  Goldberg has tweeted that it has been widely misinterpreted.  So perhaps I should stay clear at the risk of confirming that I can’t read.  But I’ll take a stab at it anyway.

It is kind of an oddly structured column, as it takes a sharp turn at the three quarter mark.  But what I take to be Goldberg’s point is that while East/West coast shots at candidates who don’t fit their stereotypes are absurd, the resulting automatic defense of these candidates by conservatives is a mistake.  If liberal snobs dismiss someone as stupid because they are from Texas, conservatives shouldn’t rush to claim that the charge is false and due only to the person being from Texas.  The argument should be on the merits which includes the possibility that a folksy Texan isn’t very bright.

When Goldberg writes “I think conservatism needs to spend less time defending candidates for who they are, and more time supporting candidates for what they intend to do,”  I think he means by “who they are” their cultural persona as distinct from who they are in terms of political philosophy, intelligence, experience, articulateness, etc.

The latter is no small point.  2012 will represent an excellent opportunity to make the case for conservative governance, but just making better policy choices only takes you so far.  Far better is to be able to make those choices and explain convincingly why they are better.  That is to make the case for conservatism intellectually at the same as you demonstrate its superiority.  Or to put it slightly differently, just because liberals place too high a value on being articulate doesn't mean that conservatives should fall into the habit of argueing that it doesn't matter.  An argument, as Michael Palin pointed out, isn't the automatic gainsaying of what the other person has said (yes it is).
http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/275591/my-rick-perry-problem-and-ours-jonah-goldberg

Note: The Michael Palin reference is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQFKtI6gn9Y

Football, preseason ticket prices

I made the mistake of watching The Sports Reporters on ESPN this morning and their discussion of preseason football.  These are always the same: the starters don’t play, the games are of poor quality, and yet the fans are still paying a full ticket price for the game.  And this is trotted out as an argument in favor of getting rid of these games.  But a moments thought should tell you that the ticket price argument is really, really silly.

That fans are being forced to pay regular season ticket prices for inferior preseason games is true only in the accounting sense, but is otherwise nonsense.  It isn’t a surprise or unexpected that the preseason games are as they are, so the season ticket holder—and that’s who we are talking about—is getting what he pays for.  The fan is paying a single price for a season of football.  Just like a golfer pays a single green fee for 18 holes of golf, of which there maybe non-descript par threes and spectacular par fives.

Non-Club season ticket prices for the Chicago Bears average $112.  So the season ticket holder is paying $1,120 for eight regular season games and two exhibition games.  If the fan places $0 value on the exhibition games he isn’t getting ripped off since he knows what he is going to get from those contests.  What he is doing is paying $140 for the eight regular season games.  What it says on the ticket is irrelevant.

A more interesting line of inquiry is why teams price this way.  The first preseason game for Tampa was blacked out because it wasn’t sold out, much to the annoyance of its fans.  If preseason games were priced to clear, with a corresponding increase in prices for regular season games you would think everyone would be better off.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jonah Goldberg - Travelin'

I have a feeling that Jonah Goldberg's jokes don't do anything to help his reputation, but I guess that's his problem (I'd probably advise him to tone it down a bit, to paraphrase "there's no hope for thems that make others laugh").  Anyway, he's been traveling with his daughter and posted the following on the return trip:

"I’m aiming to lay my head on an Omaha pillow tomorrow night, which means about 12 hours of driving. And given that my daughter is only 8, that means at least 10 of those hours are going to require me behind the wheel."

Now that's funny. http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/275296/homeward-bound-jonah-goldberg

Note: Travelin' in the title is a reference to the great Modern Jazz Quartet song.

Keynesianism and the stimulus

A Keynesian economics is of course central to the stimulus spending which we saw in '08 and will perhaps see again as the economy continues to go nowhere.  There is some question as to whether this approach actually worked in the 30's, a recent study by some academics at UCLA argued that the New Deal programs actually prolonged the depression rather than brought us out of it as is popularly taught in schools.

But beyond that question is the assumed universality of the Keynesian solution. It is like those in case of a fire break glass ideas, i.e. in case of a recession, increase government spending.  Thus, Moynihan in 1981 is asking a question via an observation that is especially pertinent to today:

"Keynesian economics was a huge idea that swept through the universities of Britain and this country in the 1930s by purporting to explain how the Great Depression came about, how to get out of it, and most important of all how to avoid another [it also promised a greater role for economists which probably didn't impede its sweep through the universities - me]....It was brilliant but it was flawed.  Central to Keynesian thought was the idea that modern industrial economies oversave and that as a result, large resources of capital and labor end up unused.  The Keynesian answer was to overspend.  For the government that is to overspend.  Enter the deficit as public policy.

In a curious way, this message was reinforced by the maturing of the industrial economy.  By this I mean nothing more complicated than that railroads, steel mills, and the assembly lines finally all got built.  Until then saving--the forgoing of consumption--was absolutely necessary in order to make those investments.  Now, those investments having been made, they could only return a profit if people commenced to consume their products.  The advertising business began in earnest.  Someone invented the installment plan.  The Federal  government began to guarantee home mortgages.  The logic our economy, as of our reigning economics, also decreed: overspend.       

9/25/81 (page 438) DPM A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary

It isn't necessary here to agree with Moynihan's causation.  The point is that Keynesianism is premised on over-saving but the economy has transitioned to a different state.  We now over-spend not just at the level of government but privately.  So why are we still looking to Keynes for the solution?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Peter Altenberg - destroying a man

From the essay on Peter Altenberg:

"There are only two things that can destroy a healthy man: love trouble, ambition, and financial catastrophe.  And that's already three things, and there are a lot more."

page 17, http://www.amazon.com/Cultural-Amnesia-Necessary-Memories-History/dp/B00509CSJM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314325870&sr=1-1

Moynihan on Kennedy (with intimations of Obama)

On the tenth anniversay of President Kennedy's assassination:

"Very little has gone well for us: almost nothing as we would have wished.  Not all bad.  The high school rhetoric has been knocked out of us: no more torches....Had he lived we would mostly by now be half ashamed and half angry at the too great submission of our own persons to his persona.  A wholly dangerous: an infantile thing."    November 22, 1973, (page 316)

The high school rhetoric, the torches, the infantile submission to a persona would return

Moynihan on the '60s cultural change

"What has been going on is a pervasive and quite unprecedented onset of role reversal.  The process of socialization is one whereby the infant and then the growing child is gradually taught to perform certain roles that are appropriate to his age, sex, and to a lesser extent his class and caste.  These roles are not performed in a vacuum. Rather, they relate to other roles.  In the case of youth, to that of adults....Typically these have been hierarchical roles, with one person being superior and the other inferior.  These roles have had 'authority' They have been occupied.  In Erickson's formulation, this authority gradually forms as childhood moral standards are acquired, and these gradually transmute into ethical standards in youth.

For reasons difficult to understand, young persons are suddenly reversing these roles.  Of a sudden, they are the superior ones, and are treating their elders as inferiors.  They do so moreover, with a moralistic harshness that is a caricature of the adult world.  They become in effect supermoralistic, treating adults as children who do not know what they are doing really, and certainly cannot fool their all powerful, all knowing guardians.  They turn on adults in a caricature of adults." 

Letter to President, May 17 1969, (page 191) DPM, A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary

I find this interesting because Moynihan's description of what happened in the 1960's seems accurate--at least within a large and influential set of the population--and because the product of this role reversal are now parents and cultural leaders, so that the effect of this change is still very much with us.  I think you can also see the makings of the cultural wars here, in a split between those in the boomer generation who went with this role reversal and those who didn't.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Harvard Professor Jeff Miron - three myths of capitalism

On Greg Mankiw's blog, fellow Harvard prof. Jeff Miron on the three myths of capitalism.  I think myth #2 is the weakest of the three in reality, but is sound from a public policy standpoint
http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2011/08/jeff-miron-on-capitalism.html

Aging baby boomers and the stock market

The WSJ has an article highlighting a study from the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank which argues that the retirement of baby boomers is likely to depress equity values for the coming 25 years or so.  http://blogs.wsj.com/marketbeat/2011/08/22/will-baby-boomers-sink-the-stock-market/

It’s easy to think of share price as being determined exclusively by the valuation of the company, but like everything else stocks are subject to supply and demand.  As boomers—like a demographic pig going through a snake-- have invested share values have gone up, and it follows that if they start pulling their money out or at the very least quit adding to their investments share values will go down.

Beyond other sources of funds, I think one mitigating factor may be what happens to retirement.  It seems to me likely that boomers are going to live far longer then their parents, and with that longevity are going to have to, and be inclined to, work longer.  If retirement is postponed the effect that the San Francisco Fed study is predicting should be mitigated.

I will go further and say that one of the challenges out there is for business and other groups to figure out how to make more effective use of an aging population.  What we’ve seen in recent decades of retirement isn’t going to work for anyone.  There is a real opportunity for business to reconfigure work so that it benefits the company so as to make use of men and women who may not be career driven but can still be very productive despite advancing age and who still want/need to work.

Moynihan on health care plans

I would assume there are important differences between the Clinton health care plan and what was eventually passed as 'Obamacare.'  But as the latter is currently being challenged in court with some success because of the individual mandate which requires a person to buy health insurance, the following is at least suggestive:

"I don't want to seem antagonistic [Moynihan was after all a democrat], but I have to tell you I very much share Martha Derthick's comment that in a lifetime of reading government proposals for social security, she had never come across one as coercive as that of the Clinton health care plan." 
May 19, 1995 (page 631)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ryan's decision not to run

A good post on Commentary/Contentions by Seth Mandel on Paul Ryan’s decision not to run for president.  http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/08/23/presidency-cult-christie-ryan/

I don’t know if I would describe it as quixotic as Mandel does, but I agree that Ryan or Christie running at this stage is to leave a job which they have just started.  There is also the question of foreign policy experience which gets short shrift in the campaign but tends to occupy most of the president’s term.  Moreover as Mandel points out, either of them running for president, even if they succeed, leaves a hole where now there is strength.  Provided Obama is defeated conservatism is better served if both Ryan and Christie stay put.

One should also point out that being really effective as governor or as leader of the House Budget Committee is only tangentially related to being a sound choice for president.  Alexander Hamilton was probably the greatest cabinet official this country has ever seen, and was indispensable to Washington, but I think it is fair to speculate that he would’ve made an awful president. 

It isn’t so much “the cult of the presidency” that is at fault here as the notion in all walks of life that if you are really good at something you should be promoted to a higher position (indeed the idea of ‘higher positions’ in a lot of cases is suspect).  Experience should teach us to distrust this practice.  In the businesses I’ve worked for it hasn’t been the CEOs and other executives that have impressed with their intelligence but the stars working at the middle level.  Valuable skills at one level—intelligence, creativity-- become less useful at another level.  At a distance, Ryan strikes me, at least right now, as having more of the qualities of a standout middle executive than a president.

Moynihan -thoughts for our times

Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a professor at Harvard, Ambassador to India and the UN, part of the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations, and of course Senator from New York.  The collection of letters put together by Steven Weisman presents a wide view into his thinking.  While the letters are naturally about events as they presented themselves they speak to current events as well.

For example the riots in London bring to mind a letter reflecting on an essay published in The Public Interest:

His central point [Paul Weaver] – an immensely disturbing one—is that the social system of American and British democracy that grew up in the 18th and 19th century was able to be exceedingly permissive with regard to public matters precisely because it could depend on its citizens to be quite disciplined with respect to private ones.  He speaks of ‘private systems of authority,’ such as the family, church, and local community, and political party, which regulated behavior, instilled motivation, etc., in such a way as to make it unnecessary for the state to intervene in order to protect ‘the public interest.’  More and more it would appear that these subsystems are breaking down in the immense city of New York.  If this should continue, democracy would break down.”

Letter to President Nixon, January 1969, page 169 -170
http://www.amazon.com/Daniel-Patrick-Moynihan-Portrait-Visionary/dp/B004KAB2ZI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314130868&sr=1-1

Monday, August 22, 2011

Political philosophers/philosophy

"It is characteristic of political philosophers that they take a sombre view of the human situation: they deal in darkness. Human life in their writings appears, generally, not as a feast or even a journey, but as a predicament; and the link between politics and eternity is the contribution the political order is conceived as making to the deliverance of mankind....Man, so the vaied formula runs, is the dupe of error, the slave of sin, of passion, of fear, of care, the enemy of himself or others or of both, and the civil order appears as the whole or a part of the scheme of his salvation....

It will not then surprise us to find an apparent contingent element in the ground and inspiration of a political philosophy, a feeling for the exigencies, the cares, the passions of a particular time, a sensitiveness to the dominant folly of an epoch: for the human predicament is a universal appearing everywhere as a particular."

M. Oakeshott, Introduction to Leviathan

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The purpose of education

In a roundtable discussion last week a participant made the point that education was to prepare you for life and that if an athlete went from college to the pros then the college had succeeded.  This trade school view of a college education seems to be quite common—at least I hear it all the time--and is I think mistaken.  A well educated person will be employable but that isn’t the purpose of education.

If life is a stage and we are merely players, then an education is getting up to speed on the story so far, of coming to understand the other characters as completely as possible, and perhaps most importantly to come to understand all the opportunities available to us in the playing of ‘our role.’  It’s also to ask whether Shakespeare’s metaphor of life as play is correct, and if so to what extent and what follows from that understanding.  As much as education is about getting a good job it is about seeing Sherman and Mr. Peobody trying to find the ruby yacht of Omar Khayam and getting the joke [Rubaiyat, by Omar Khayam].

In her The Gentleman in Trollope, Shirley Letwin described education as follows:

“A man is then what he learns to be.  And learning requires submitting to a teacher.  But that does not turn learning into ‘an imposition on a given self’; it is rather the making of selfhood…The pupil has the character of an apprentice, not a disciple, and he is only temporarily so until he acquires the skills, not the style, of the master.  For learning the arts of civilization does not consist in copying patterns but in mastering a language of one sort or another, and knowing a language does not dictate what should be said.”

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The English Language

No commentary on this one, except to say this essay on the English language is well worth reading.  As Iowahawk observed recently, if you're an american you've already won the lottery.

http://www.american.com/archive/2011/august/english-the-inescapable-language

Perry has some doubts vs Liberal beliefs

My liberal friends are having a good time sending me mocking messages about Texas Governor Perry’s alleged belief that “evolution is only a theory.”  I say alleged because it is clear from watching the clip that Perry is trying to handle a kid and his over-bearing mom politely more than he is expressing a view on evolution.  And in any event, while doubting evolution tells us something about Perry’s thinking its policy implications strike me as remote to non-existent.

In contrast, the dubious beliefs of liberals get translated into state and national policy almost without fail.  For example, that the way to “win the future” is through public investments in green technology.  A recent New York Times story reports that “the number of green jobs hasn’t lived up to promises.”  San Jose currently has 4,350 green jobs, its city council has promised 25,000 by 2022 (what they are doing making such promises should be question #1).  In a similar vein, Governor Jerry Brown has promised 500,000 clean technology jobs by the end of the decade, and President Obama has pledged 5 million green jobs in 10 years.  Of course federal and state money has gone into making this happen with a predictable lack of results.  According to the story, in the South Bay area of California, a Brookings study found the sector actually lost jobs.

Perhaps my favorite part of the article is the $186 million of stimulus money that went to weatherize drafty homes.  After two years California has only spent a little over half that money creating just 538 full time jobs.  Part of the problem “The weatherization program was initially delayed for seven months while the federal Department of Labor determined prevailing wage standards for the industry.”  Seven months to figure out what to pay people and I’m supposed to re-up for more of this because Perry might have some doubts on evolution?  I don’t think so.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The nominee conundrum

Yesterday’s column by Jonah Goldberg dealt with the choice facing Republicans in 2012; who to select given the belief that Obama appears to be very beatable.  Goldberg’s point is that if you follow the Buckley rule to elect the most rightward candidate who is electable, the weaker Obama is the further to the right the party can go:

The weaker Obama gets, the more comfortable the conservative rank and file feel moving as far rightward as possible. When the incumbent looks like a loser no matter what, electability loses its premium. That the GOP just swapped Pawlenty for Perry is a testament to that fact, and far more significant than Bachmann’s straw-poll victory.”

He concludes with what might be dubbed the Christine O’Donnell cautionary rule, that the GOP “will think that almost any conservative will be electable given how weak Obama seems.” http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/274785/right-candidate-jonah-goldberg

To this, as Buckley would say, a few observations:

a) A further complicating factor is that the further to the conservative side the nominee is the less likely the election will produce a decisive margin.  Conversely, a more moderate squish candidate is more likely to win going away, and with coattails produce a more favorable congress, but that candidate will be less likely to govern in a conservative direction and to represent conservatism in the way they would like, and branding in politics is no less important in politics than it is in the marketplace.  This latter is no small point as Bush’s “compassionate conservatism”, a clear rebuke to conservative thought, ends  up via winning elections as synonymous with conservatism proper.

b)  A related question is why Obama is beatable.  Is it a question of competency or governing philosophy?  Across the electorate and even for individual voters it is likely to be some combination of the two, but the relative weight placed on these two factors will influence which type of challenger can win and by what margin.  The more his failure is perceived to be philosophic the better an ideological challenger will fare against him.

c)  As has been written about elsewhere, both parties have been waiting for the decisive victory that will re-orient the political landscape in their favor.  But that result is paradoxically less likely to occur with the sort of calculations that Goldberg is talking about (this isn’t intended as a critique as I agree with him on this and generally think he is the best columnist going, merely an observation).  Goldberg’s calculation is a kind of efficient markets theorem of politics, where the parties go just far enough in the direction of purism to win.

Growing the economy the liberal-progressive way

Some time ago, noticing the growth in Washington DC in marked contrast to the rest of the country I dubbed it Versailles on the Potomac.  So the linked post is no surprise.  A few highlights:
  • From 2008, while the economy grew at 5%, regulatory budgets have increased by 16%
  • Private sector jobs shrank by 5.6%, employment in regulatory agencies has increased by 13%
I can't understand what's keeping the economy from taking off. Perhaps not enough presidential bus tours.
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/274923/regulatory-hiring-bloom-veronique-de-rugy

London Riots IV - How not to deter crime

At Powerline today is an essay by Joyce Lee Malcolm on British efforts to make committing crimes more pleasant.  If that sounds sarcastic then read the essay, and see for yourself, it reads like something by Waugh or Wodehouse.  I think my favorite item is this:

"This past February the gardeners of Surrey were told they could not use wire mesh on the windows of their sheds because burglers might get hurt breaking in."

It seems Britain's unique achievement has been to create a Leviathan without any of the Hobbesian benefits.
Read the whole thing: http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2011/08/malcolms-moment.php

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Oakeshott on Religion

"The gift of a religious faith is that of a reconciliation to the unavoidable dissonances of a human condition, a reconciliation which is neither a denial, nor a substitute for remedial effort, nor a theoretical understanding in which the mystery of their occurrence is abated or even dispelled, but a mode of acceptance, a 'graceful' response...

He is fortunate where he has a religion, a traditio, of notable imaginative splendor to draw upon; and while this reconciliation may be no more than that of a somewhat anxious equanimity or a patiently nurtured hope, it is as complete as it may be when it is a release from care and generates an unostentatious, unaccusing serenity in conduct."

On Human Conduct, Michael Oakeshott, 1975

Santorum

It is way, way too early to my mind to start deciding on candidates.  Before the Ames Iowa debate I dismissed Rick Santorum, as what little I knew of him centered on social issues.  Now, I can understand the passion of social conservatives as I think no group has taken more of a sustained beating over the last 40 - 50 years.  But I don't think government can do much about it (the London riots have the potential to do far more for social conservatives than anything a president is likely to do), and in any event it's way down my list on what I want to see from the Republican nominee.

That notwithstanding, I thought he was by far the most impressive of the candidates in the Ames debate.  I'm now intrigued rather than dismissive.  And on that note, thought this brief interview on J Rubin's Right Turns was interesting: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/post/path-to-the-nomination-rick-santorum/2011/03/29/gIQAacu5JJ_blog.html

Buffett: Well raise my rent

The WSJ has a good column today on Warren Buffett’s plea for higher taxes, beginning with a great quote:
“Barney Kilgore, the man who made the Wall Street Journal into a national publication, was once asked why so many rich people favored higher taxes. ‘That's easy,’ he replied. ‘They already have their money.’

The Journal makes the point that Buffett is being taxed at a lower rate than others because his income is from dividends and stock sales which are being taxed at the corporate gains rate, and that he is leaving out that this is on top of the corporate tax which was paid on profits.  It also makes the point that others have made, namely that if Buffett thinks he isn’t contributing enough to the nation’s treasury there’s nothing stopping him from paying more.

I take this last to be slightly unfair in that acting alone Buffett would be doing nothing but reducing his own wealth.  But it is only slightly unfair.  There is nothing stopping Buffett from using his influence and connections to band together similarly minded wealthy individuals to pay into the treasury.  Such voluntary associations are actually rather highly esteemed in America.

Moreover, one doubts whether Buffett has foregone the use of tax attorney’s and accountants to manage his affairs with an eye towards reducing his tax burden.  The WSJ brings up, for example, the trusts and foundations that Buffett has established.  Kilgore’s point can be expanded to note that the wealthy have the means to avoid paying those higher rates they favor.

Finally, I wonder why Buffett doesn’t apply his fundamental analysis to the government.  If he did, he might notice that it really doesn’t do much of anything well, that it has grown enormously over the years, and that it has made long term commitments that it can’t keep.  An opportunity perhaps for a restructuring but not as is. In short, that the problem isn’t revenue but scope creep (more like a gallop actually) and spending.  On taxes we can safely tune The Oracle out
http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424053111903918104576504650932556900-lMyQjAxMTAxMDEwNjExNDYyWj.html?mod=wsj_share_email

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Federal Reserve policy

Like most of the people commenting on and fretting about the Federal Reserve's easing of the money supply, I'm so far from being qualified to be a central banker  I can't even see it.   Still, I've been surprised by how the velocity of money has been missing from the discussions of Fed policy that I've seen.  As I'm sure most of you will remember from your econ. courses the supply of money is a combination of the amount of currency in circulation and its velocity, that is how fast or often that currency is changing hands. 

Posting on Bloomberg, conservative writer Ramesh Ponnuru brings up velocity and doesn't accuse the Fed Chairman of treason.  Whether his analysis is correct I really don't know, but I'm inclined to believe that it is much better to try to attack our economic problems through the Fed than through any fiscal stimulus, and the velocity of money must have slowed dramatically.  Anyway, I think this is worth a look:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-08-16/loose-money-will-keep-economy-from-sliding-away-ramesh-ponnuru.html

One final point, I think this is where conservatives get themselves into a bit of trouble.  They have little or no faith with elites, and with good reason.  But not everything is simple or can be discerned through common sense.  Central banking is one of those areas where you need real expertise.  Populist rants against the Federal Reserve show more often than not, that the speaker doesn't know what he's talking about.  I sure hope Bernanke is right, because I'm certain that I couldn't tell you when or why he was wrong if he was wrong.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Let's read two

Norman Podhoretz on Barack Obama:

"we villainous conservatives do not see Mr. Obama as conciliatory or as 'a president who either does not know what he believes or is willing to take whatever position he thinks will lead to his re-election.' On the contrary, we see him as a president who knows all too well what he believes. Furthermore, what Mr. Westen [NY Times - What Happened to Obama] regards as an opportunistic appeal to the center we interpret as a tactic calculated to obfuscate his unshakable strategic objective, which is to turn this country into a European-style social democracy while diminishing the leading role it has played in the world since the end of World War II."
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903918104576502093021646166.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop

Mark Steyn--The New Britannia--on the riots in London should strike a few familiar notes to those of you following this blog. http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/274492/new-britannia-mark-steyn

Why Tiger won't catch Nicklaus - in theory

Via a tweet by John Podhoretz, a very interesting essay on golf and Tiger Woods by Charles Murray
http://www.american.com/archive/2010/july/why-tiger-wont-catch-jack

Friday, August 12, 2011

Is our political system broken?

Good column today from Charles Krauthammer shooting down the notion that the lack of comity in Washington proves the system is broken. http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/274375/system-works-charles-krauthammer

On NRO Yuval Levin adds some good commentary, with a useful pointer to its source:

The yearning for a cleaner, smoother process more amendable to technocratic control which is so central to the president’s rhetoric now (and a form of which was also at the heart of S&P’s defense of its downgrade of American credit last week) is a rejection of the American system of government dressed up as a defense of that system—a favorite gambit of progressives since at least Herbert Croly.”

This is what makes me apprehensive about businessmen going into politics.  They bring a mindset of efficiency and getting things done to an activity where it isn’t very appropriate.  Even while espousing conservative ideas they tend to be of a technocratic mind.

Levin goes on to note a frame of reference error in all this:

“In his book The Audacity of Hope, Obama speaks of a “time before the fall, a golden age in Washington when, regardless of which party was in power, civility reigned and government worked.” He has in mind in particular the early and middle 1960s—a period he suggests was the high-water mark of the American regime.

But in fact, that period marked a temporary but very costly failure of the adversarial controls essential to the American system. That failure did not occur (as some others have) because of a terrible war or a grave economic calamity. It happened in the midst of peace and prosperity. It had its roots in an unusual postwar elite consensus on social policy and in the catastrophic failure of the Republican Party to offer a plausible alternative to that consensus in the 1964 election. The result was a brief but significant explosion of policymaking that yielded the hasty and careless creation of a massive artifice of entitlement and discretionary programs we have come to know as the Great Society.”

I would add that if I’m correct that we are seeing the crack-up of Progressivism then it should be expected that our politics appears rough and unwieldy.  The Ancien Regime isn’t going quietly, and the challengers are impatient. Where’s the surprise?

Republican Debate - Ames, Iowa

I watched the Republican candidate debate last night from Ames Iowa and the biggest impression it made was that debate is the wrong word.  The evening reminded me of the show Chopped.  This is a competition on the Food Network which starts with four chefs who are given baskets of unfamiliar or ill suited ingredients and tasked with cooking a dish under a tight time constraint.  Challenging, interesting to watch, but what does it have to do with being a restaurant chef?

Like the show Chopped, the debates have an air of unreality about them.  Asked about his economic program, Romney responds with 7 Habits of Highly Effective Economies.  Asked a similar question Jon Huntsman provides glowing job statistics in Utah while he was governor as if this was all his doing, and that being governor of Utah is like being president of the United States. 

And then there are the pledges which in the Republican case mean promises to never, under any circumstances, raise taxes.  This last is completely understandable, and completely divorced from reality.  Thus asked whether they would accept a deal which included ten dollars in spending cuts, for every one dollar in tax revenue, the candidates all rejected it.  Which is why the best moment last night, was when Ron Paul was asked what reforms he would call for that could pass through a divided government and he responded with an extended, I’ve got nothin’, pause

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Quotes - John Buchan

In a post over on Contentions, Peter Wehner quotes John Buchan as follows: “My fear was not barbarism, which is civilisation submerged or not yet born, but de-civilisation, which is civilisation gone rotten.” http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/08/10/civilization-barbarism-london/#more-763424

Never having heard of Buchan, I looked him up on Wikipedia and found this:

“It's a great life, if you don't weaken.”

“No great cause is ever lost or won; the battle must always be renewed, and the creed must always be restated.”

London Riots - causes?

At the Daily Mail Max Hastings has an interesting column on the London riots.  Hastings says the rioters remind him of the polar bear who attacked the Norwegian tourist, except that the bear was shot.  And he quotes a police chief who earlier had described the “feral children” on his watch.

“The depressing truth is that at the bottom of our society is a layer of young people with no skills, education, values or aspirations. They do not have what most of us would call ‘lives’: they simply exist.”
No surprise there.  But Hastings doesn’t blame this state of affairs on a lack of spending on education, or income inequality, or any of the other causes often trotted out during my life time.

Today, those at the bottom of society behave no better than their forebears, but the welfare state has relieved them from hunger and real want.  When social surveys speak of ‘deprivation’ and ‘poverty’, this is entirely relative….

Of course it is true that few have jobs, learn anything useful at school, live in decent homes, eat meals at regular hours or feel loyalty to anything beyond their local gang.

This is not, however, because they are victims of mistreatment or neglect. It is because it is fantastically hard to help such people, young or old, without imposing a measure of compulsion which modern society finds unacceptable. These kids are what they are because nobody makes them be anything different or better.”

Hastings goes on to describe the effects of this failure to apply a measure of compulsion in the schools and anywhere else and in a criminal justice system which is of the same mind:  "The problem,’ said Bill Pitt, the former head of Manchester’s Nuisance Strategy Unit, ‘is that the law appears to be there to protect the rights of the perpetrator, and does not support the victim.’

Police regularly arrest householders who are deemed to have taken ‘disproportionate’ action to protect themselves and their property from burglars or intruders. The message goes out that criminals have little to fear from ‘the feds’.”

We have in short, become so “civilized” that we’ve lost civilization.

Read the whole thing http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2024284/UK-riots-2011-Liberal-dogma-spawned-generation-brutalised-youths.html

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Two tweets from yesterday, A day later

About this time yesterday I put out two comments on Twitter.

First: So Bernanke/Michael Palin announces that the parrot is dead and stocks go up???

This is of course a reference to the Monty Python sketch where shop owner Michael Palin tries to pass off an obviously dead parrot to a customer.  I was astonished that the market rallied on news that the Fed intended to keep rates the same for 24 months.  Certainty is nice, but this was the certainty that no economic rebound was in sight.  Today the market gave back the rally and more. Although to be fair, it's not clear that it was this or something else that caused the decline.

Second:  Bet there are a lot of property owners in England right now who wished they had our 2nd amendment rights

Walter Russell Mead on The Progressive Crisis

On August 2nd, W.R. Mead posted on essay on the “Progressive Crisis” after reading a column by Democratic party pollster Stanley Greenberg.  The essay can be found here (including a link to Greenberg’s column) and is worth reading in full: http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2011/08/02/the-progressive-crisis/

Mead reads Greenberg as trying to come up with an answer for “the mysterious inability of Democrats to turn widespread public support on individual issues into a stable governing majority.”  Beyond what is articulated in the essays is that an issue level view of politics is deficient as it abstracts political questions out of any coherent whole.  As anyone who has worked with budgets before—and it’s telling that this progressive administration hasn’t produced one—there are many things which you can be for but they come tied to the question of what are you willing to give up.  And it is I think at this fundamental level where Liberal-Progressivism goes wrong with its astonishing ability to view political problems in isolation as if responding to a problem will leave everything else untouched.

In looking at Democratic ideas and policy proposals Greenberg finds that “the rhetoric inspires; the reality disappoints” and the perception is that “government grows remote and unresponsive.”  This is hardly surprising, except to a progressive.  As Ken Minogue observes in The Servile Mind  our rulers now manage so much of our lives they cannot but do it badly.”

Later Mead lays out the progressive vision:we would have government by philosopher kings, or at least by incorruptible credentialed bureaucrats.  Alabaster towers of objectivity such as the FCC, the FDA, the EPA, the FEC and so many more would take politics out of government and replace it with disinterested administration.  Honest professionals would administer fair laws without fear or favor, putting the general interest first, and keeping the special interests at arm’s length.  The government would serve the middle class, and the middle class would thrive.”

The first thing one notes about this is the notion you can somehow take politics out of government, which brings to mind Obama’s irritating tendency to describe real issues as false choices.  In short we have here, the belief in politics as science, that it can be made to mirror the objectivity of the natural sciences.

But I think what is equally important is that this politics would serve the middle class.  Now the middle class is the middle, and in a normal distribution it is the predominant group.  One has to wonder how government can serve the majority in any real sense other than by administering neutral laws that leave the middle class to make their own way.  Indeed one can see in this idea Buckley’s description of political activity leading to “skies black with crisscrossing dollars.” Serving the middle in a progressive state means that I pay for your kids education and you pay for mine, without stopping to ask why we simply can’t pay for our own kids education.  Moreover by obfuscating the true costs and benefits of programs you have just the recipe for our mystery, popularity for individual policies without overall satisfaction.  And you have the recipe for our current predicament, where the cost of those popular proposals can be put off as debt until it reaches a level that no longer can be ignored.

Of course this isn’t Greenberg’s explanation for this supposed conundrum his anwer is that the electoral process isn’t working and we need campaign finance reform.  Snore. 

After knocking this down, Mead goes on to explain another, deeper cause:

It is not that evil plutocrats control innocent bureaucrats; many voters believe that the progressive administrative class is a social order that has its own special interests…. The professionals and administrators who make up the progressive state are seen as a hostile power with an agenda of their own that they seek to impose on the nation… The progressive state has never seen its job as simply to check the excesses of the rich.  It has also sought to correct the vices of the poor and to uplift the masses.  From the Prohibition and eugenics movements of the early twentieth century to various improvement and uplift projects in our own day, well educated people have seen it as their simple duty to use the powers of government to make the people do what is right: to express the correct racial ideas, to eschew bad child rearing technique like corporal punishment, to eat nutritionally appropriate foods, to quit smoking, to use the right light bulbs and so on and so on.
Progressives want and need to believe that the voters are tuning them out because they aren’t progressive enough.  But it’s impossible to grasp the crisis of the progressive enterprise unless one grasps the degree to which voters resent the condescension and arrogance of know-it-all progressive intellectuals and administrators.  They don’t just distrust and fear the bureaucratic state because of its failure to live up to progressive ideals (thanks to the power of corporate special interests); they fear and resent upper middle class ideology.  Progressives scare off many voters most precisely when they are least restrained by special interests.”  

Mead goes on to note that theprogressive ideal of administrative cadres leading the masses toward the light has its roots in a time when many Americans had an eighth grade education or less.”  One I think could extend this by saying that the progressive ideal is intent on keeping the masses at an eight grade level, i.e. as adolescents not adults.  To my mind this is what conservatives should harp on, not just that the liberal-progressive state doesn’t work (see Hayek, Friedman, Sowell) but that it is undesirable on its own terms.  That the promise of conservatism, properly understood, is to allow you to live an adult life (Oakeshott).  In Finding Nemo there’s this exchange between the father Marlin about his son Nemo and Dory:

[Marlin]   I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.
[Dory]  Hmm.  That’s a funny thing to promise.
[Marlin]  What?
[Dory]  Well you can’t never let anything happen to him.  Then nothing would ever    happen to him.  Not much fun for little Harpo.

The progressive state promises that nothing will happen to you, that Lord Beveridge’s ideal of cradle to the grave security will be realized.  Dory’s is the conservative response.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

London Riots III - thoughts from Michael Kelly

To Michael Kelly it was clear, it was/is all Sinatra’s fault as the prototypical iconic celebrity.

“The iconic celebrity is the result of the central confusion of the age, which is that people possessed of creative or artistic gifts are somehow teachers—role models—in matters of personal conduct.”

Kelly delineates the model to be aspired to before Frank:

“He possesses an outward cynicism, but this is understood to be merely clothing; at his core, he is a square….He is willing to die for his beliefs, and his beliefs are, although he takes pains to hide it, old fashioned.  He believes in truth, justice, and the American way and love.  He is, after his fashion, a gentleman and, in a quite modern manner, a sexual egalitarian.  He is forthright, contemptuous of dishonesty in all its forms, from posing to lying….He is honorable and virtuous, although he is properly suspicious of men who talk about honor and virtue.  He may be world-weary, but he is not ironic.”

Then came Sinatra:

“The new cool man that Sinatra defined was a very different creature.  Cool said the old values were for suckers.  Cool was looking out for number one always.  Cool didn’t get mad; it got even.  Cool didn’t go to war: Saps went to war, and anyway, cool had no beliefs it was willing to die for….Cool was a cad and boastful about it; in cool’s philosophy, the lady was always a tramp, and to be treated accordingly.  Cool was not on the side of the law; cool made its own laws….cool was nihilistic.  Cool was not virtuous; it reveled in vice.  Before cool, being good was still hip; after cool, only being bad was.”

King of Cool, Things Worth Fighting For, Michael Kelly  
http://www.amazon.com/Things-Worth-Fighting-Collected-Writings/dp/B000BTH5OY/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1312928216&sr=1-1

Federal Reserve Actions

In the wake of the Federal Reserve actions today, it may be instructive to listen to this discussion of former Fed officials via Greg Mankiw's site: http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2011/08/former-fed-officials-opine.html

Quote for Today

"...our rulers now manage so much of our lives that they cannot help but do it badly."

Kenneth Minogue, The Servile Mind

London Riots II

I dashed off something last night on the London riots making the point that civilization is something of a bluff.  Via Instapundit, I see Richard Fernandez echoeing that point:

"Since no police force has the numbers to be everywhere at once, it maintains order through the force of its name, the power of the uniform. This was once known as ‘prestige’; today it is better known as ‘legitimacy’.  Although as insubstantial as air it is as vital as oxygen. Without it things become very dificult. Once the authorities begin [to] lose their prestige they must rely ever more heavily on force, of which there is never, ever enough.


In one sense legitimacy is the fiction on which society is based. It is to government what confidence is to a bank.  As long as everyone believes that the bank will pay the depositor no one will demand all his money back. As long as most believe that the King’s justice is effectively invincible, no one will challenge it. But when a government behaves in a supine manner for an extended period — or a bank refuses to pay out without a good reason — then doubts begin to grow."
http://pajamasmedia.com/richardfernandez/2011/08/09/youth/

I take this as one of the fundamental divides between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives understand that civilization is fragile, that it hinges on norms, shared understanding, prestige.  Liberal-Progressive is literally progressive, it takes it as a given that things must move forward (unless reactionary forces win out), and so it has no compunction about attacking traditional understandings which hold society together.  The Liberal-Progressive view has dominated throughout my lifetime.  The London riots are a good indication of what results from that understanding of the world.

Jerry Garcia Day

If I were an elected official I’d push for making August 9th, a national holiday in recognition of the passing of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia (unless I thought it might actually pass).  While he may not have been the best, Jerry was for my money—and my collection runs a little over four feet—the most consistently interesting of all the rock guitarists.

While the focus tended to be on the really long jam numbers, for me Jerry was at his best adding little phrases to the shorter numbers, playing behind the vocals, and especially in the transitions where The Dead would move from one song to another.  In a song like Row Jimmy (Atlanta ’77) you can hear him play around with a musical idea; essentially playing the same thing three times but coming at from a different angle in each one.  It’s great playing, and pure Jerry.  RIP

Peggy-O from the first show I attended: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xOgD8HuGRo

Monday, August 8, 2011

London Riots

I think we assume that civilization is the norm, and fail to recognize how fragile it is.  The whole thing is actually something of a bluff.  Like a school classroom, the teacher can command the room but only if most of the students are inclined to behave.  That inclination to not to break things up is in part a response to the perceived potential punishment, but only in part.  Far greater, is simply the self keeping the self in control on the self understanding that to misbehave is wrong, diminishes oneself. When that goes in a large enough group, authority is hard pressed to hold.

The London riots will of course accomplish nothing.  The cost has already been great:

From the Telegraph's live coverage: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8687177/London-riots-live.html

23.15 Trevor Reeves, owner of the furniture store torched in Croydon tonight, told Sky News his life had been ruined tonight. The firm was established in 1867.
Quote It has just provided my family and the 15 or 20 staff and families that were supported, it's just completely destroyed. Words fail me. It's just gone, it's five generations. My father is distraught at the moment. It's just mindless thuggery.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Is Hayek's Road to Serfdom being vindicated?

Even for many who regard it as a great book the claim that we were actually heading to serfdom seemed a bit of a reach, but perhaps we owe him an apology. In a very interesting column Janet Daley says the essential question is whether capitalism is combatible with a democratic socialist society.  If it isn't, then you can go in one of two directions, and one of the possible choices is Hayek's serfdom:

"As the EU leadership is (almost) admitting now, the next step to ensure the survival of the world as we know it will involve moving toward a command economy, in which individual countries and their electorates will lose significant degrees of freedom and self-determination.
We have arrived at the endgame of what was an untenable doctrine: to pay for the kind of entitlements that populations have been led to expect by their politicians, the wealth-creating sector has to be taxed to a degree that makes it almost impossible for it to create the wealth that is needed to pay for the entitlements that populations have been led to expect"
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/janetdaley/8685945/If-we-are-to-survive-the-looming-catastrophe-we-need-to-face-the-truth.html

In his introduction to The Social and Political Doctrines of Contemporary Europe (1939) Michael Oakeshott noted: a) "Contemporary Europe presents the spectator with a remarkable variety of social and political doctrines; indeed it is improbable that this collection of communities has ever before shown such fertility of invention in this field." and b) Moreover, this variety of social and political doctrine is not to be explained as merely the product of a fashion which has become a craze.  It denotes a deep and natural dissatisfaction with the social and political doctrine, broadly to called Liberalism..." [not to be confused with what now travels under that name]

The doctrines Oakeshott described in '39 were Representative Democracy [Liberalism], Catholicism, Communism, Fascism, and National Socialism.  What eventually won out in the west, was Social Democracy in Europe, and its watered down cousin Liberal-Progressivism here in the U.S.  What we are seeing is the failure of those two "winning" doctrines (the feedback loop in politics is very long).  Not only don't we know how this failure will play out economically, we don't know what political movements and doctrines will emerge from the wreckage.  It could be a recognition that Classical Liberalism was sound after all--a conservative victory--but I doubt it.

Sunday Mornings

"People don’t read the morning newspaper, Marshall McLuhan once said, they slip into it like a warm bath.  Too true, Marshall! Imagine being in New York City on the morning of Sunday, April 28, 1974 like I was slipping into that great public bath, that vat, that spa, that regional physiotherapy tank, that White Sulphur Springs, that Marienbad, that Ganges, that River Jordan for a million souls which is the Sunday New York Times.  Soon I was submerged, weightless, suspended in the tepid depths of the thing, in Arts & Leisure, Section 2, page 19, in a state of perfect sensory deprivation, when all at once an extraordinary thing happened:
I noticed something!"
Tom Wolfe, The Painted Word

Friday, August 5, 2011

Scene from Godfather II re-imagined

Back room after a fund raiser: Obama lies on a couch, exhausted, with his shirt open showing that his chest hair has turned white.  Sitting in a couch next to him is Joe Biden grinning.  A donor in an expensive suit is standing just in front of the president.

Obama:  My sixth sense tells me you brought a bag of money for my campaign. [long pause]

Donor:  I just want to wait.

Donor:  How do you feel?

Obama:  Terrible.  I’d give a million in campaign contributions just to get one piece of good economic news.

Donor:  Who gave the go ahead for the stimulus spending?  I know I didn’t.

[Obama gets up off the couch]

Obama:  There was this man who worked in England.  He was part of the British delegation at Versailles and when the great depression came he was the only one who had an answer for how governments should respond.  More than any other economist he changed economics from being a dismal science to something positive, something that we could use to justify our political schemes.  I knew he was a homosexual, and I knew he could make flippant remarks like “in the long run we’re all dead” so I’m not surprised that right wingers opposed him.  That man’s name was John Maynard Keynes.  A great man.  So that when a recession hit while I was president I didn’t ask whether conditions were different now than in the 30’s.  I didn’t ask whether debt was the problem not too much savings.  I did what I thought John [cough] Maynard [cough] Keynes would do.

Obama:  Now I’m going to play some golf.  When I get back if I see a big bag of money I’ll know I have a partner.  If I don’t see it, I’ll know I don’t.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Happy 50th!!! You're toast

Since I never felt the tingle, never thought he was the one I'd been waiting for, you are advised to take my assessment with a dose of skepticism (but I was never so delusional as to think McCain was going to win in '08).  But I think the precipitous drop in the Dow today of 513 pts coupled with his inept handling of the debt ceiling extension has all but closed out Obama's chances to be re-elected. 

I will go further and predict that the polls will always show him having a better chance than he actually has from now until election day.  His supporters want him to succeed and are going to be very reluctant to admit that they were wrong.  Besides until 2012 he's the President.  November 2012 will be a different point, and I think we will find that a lot of Obama's "supporters" will find themselves unable to pull the trigger to give him another four years.

It's over. He's done. Put a fork in him.

Addendum:  U.S. credit rating goes from AAA to AA.  Not exactly the change we've been waiting for.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Tragedy of Barack Obama

In Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine http://www.amazon.com/Mauve-Gloves-Madmen-Clutter-Vine/dp/0553380591/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1312386602&sr=1-2  Tom Wolfe tells us of  the man who always peaked too soon.

“Back in 1959 I was already into long hair and sideburns and leather and levis and boots and chains and violence and cold steel…but nobody called me hip…they called me a hood and goddamned juvenile delinquent.

Three years later my look was all over Saks.

But I was into something else…”

And so it goes as Wolfe chronicles various American fads.

In looking at Barack Obama he is undeniably talented but he’s also the man who peaked too soon.  President without any experience, a Nobel Prize bestowed before he’d had a chance to do anything to earn it.  But it is Obama’s unique achievement that he has peaked too soon with a set of political ideas which have clearly passed their sell-by date.  Unfortunately the tragedy is ours as well as his.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Podhoretz - liberal tantrums

Following a post by Jonah Goldberg http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/273444/hell-you-people-jonah-goldberg which was prmarily about the media double standard that allows the most over the top rhetoric on the left while chastising the right for its supposed lack of civility, John Podhoretz provides some perspective on just what the House Republicans did:

'As it happens, I too think a failure to raise the debt ceiling would have been wildly reckless. But for those who voted as they did, the most minimal elementary fairness should be extended: They told their constituents they wouldn’t. They ran for election in 2010 promising to do what they could to change the relationship of the body politic to the federal government, to reverse the spending mania in Washington, and to hold true to principles of limited government. They won. They were presented with bills they thought failed the test. They voted against those bills. In what conceivable universe is this entirely appropriate behavior by elected officials trying to fulfill their campaign promises tyrannous, terroristic, jihadist, or anything else? Opposing tax hikes is the act of a jihadist? Wanting larger cuts in government programs is terrorism? Exercising the right to assemble into a loose coalition to oppose such things is dictatorial?" http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/08/02/the-liberals-are-throwing-tantrums/

Both posts are worth reading.


Seve, his caddie and democracy

His death has brought about the telling of a great many Seve Ballesteros stories.  As I recall the talented and mercurial golfer was almost always getting into it with his caddies.  The story is told that during one of these tempests, Seve is complaining, telling his caddie he’s worthless, etc. and then says “I don’t blame you, I blame me for hiring you.”

This comes to mind when I hear the usual voter complaints, decrying Washington and politicians.  The complaints aren’t without merit, but left alone they are deficient.  To be complete they should, paraphrasing Seve, conclude with “I don’t blame you, I blame us for voting for you.”

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Godfather Commentary - Part 2

At a break, Phila. Reporter George Anastasia  makes the point that the mafia is a bastardization of the Italian family.  Following Oakeshott’s thought, I think you could say that it takes what is primarily a civil association and turns it into an almost purist enterprise association.

9:15 Oh my.  Michael spots Appolonia.  Michael: Kay in my mind, Kay in my mind..and she’s gone. 

I go out for walks all the time, how come I never come across any one that looks like her?

9:28 Oops.  Sonny chases down Carlo, hits him a few times then doesn’t come within a foot of his head with a right cross but Carlo reacts like he’s been hit.  How’d that make it into the final print?

9:31 Appolonia looking pretty good in her wedding dress as we knew she would.  Wedding night scene is altered.  Remember seeing this for the first time with my father sitting next to me.  Kind of spoiled it for this thirteen year old.

9:35  So how’s the Carlo and Connie marriage going.

9:38  Sonny gets gunned down at the causeway. 

This goes right past you the first time you see it and then you realize it is completely improbable.  A staged fight and call which Sonny happens to pick up.  He takes off in his car, bodyguards get in a car and chase after him.  When he gets to the toll there are shooters in the car in front and in back and in the booths.  Mind you this is the forties.  It would be difficult to coordinate this hit today with cell phones. 

How long are the men hanging out in the toll booth waiting for this to happen?  That’d make a great cartoon, showing those guys waiting for Sonny’s car crouched down in the booth, getting up to stretch their legs.  Is that him, is that his car???

And what happened to the bodyguards, did they stop and change a flat?  They’re in the car just after Sonny gets beyond the gate and yet they’re nowhere to be found until well after Sonny has been hit a hundred times.

So given that this hit is completely implausible, I’ve always wondered whether it was intended as an homage to Penn/Bonnie and Clyde.

9:48  Michael teaching Appolonia to drive, and she's wearing a nice blue dress, her hair up.  Oh my squared.

9:50  And that’s it for Appolonia.  Think if I was Coppola I would’ve kept her alive a little longer.  O’K, a lot longer. 
10:00 Don Vito figures out at the bank negotiations that it was Barzini not Tattaglia that has been behind everything.  I wonder if it was Tattaglia’s choice of a peach colored suit that tipped him off.

10:03  Kay: “senators and presidents don’t have men killed”  Michael “who’s being na├»ve.” 
 Is this intended to show Michael has managed to deceive himself or is it just 70’s, Vietnam commentary sophism?

10:09  So roughly a year after the agreement in the bank, Tessio and Clemenza are being squeezed by Barzini to such an extent that they want to break off from the Corleones.  This is what makes The Godfather a great foreign policy film.  The families are just like nation states.  The agreements that they make are unenforceable except by force.

10:17  Is that Ted Danson as Moe Greene?

Fredo is banging cocktail waitresses two at a time?  Fredo?  Like that Bleaker kid, I didn’t think he had it in him.

10:28  “Now listen.  Whoever comes to you with this Barzini meeting, he’s the traitor.”  Seems kind of obvious, no?  If the meeting is where Michael will be killed, the family member who pushes for it would presumably be suspect number one.

10:33  And the traitor is Tessio.  By the way, a mistake in this movie is having all of the hits that we see handled by Clemenza.  Should’ve had Abe Vigoda (Fish)/Tessio take at least one of them to better establish the character. 

10:40  Antonin Scalia handling the baptism

10:42  And it wraps up with Michael taking care of his enemies.  Michael holds to be bold, be bloody, be quick rather than leading from behind.  Or maybe he’s still really, really mad that they blew up Appolonia.