Tuesday, August 31, 2010
When it comes to Presidents, I principally care about their policies (and their competence). And on that score, obviously Obama's statism is anathema to me.
Other issues matter less. I don't really care what their personalities are like. If they pursue good policies, then so what if I don't like them. I am not even terribly upset about falsehoods in politics. Both parties do it a good bit, and while some do it more, I would rather a dishonest President with the right policies than a honest one with the wrong ones.
That said, it is worth mentioning how petty a man Obama is. His speech on Iraq provided President Bush with the minimal praise he could get away with -- which was pretty minimal:
As we do, I am mindful that the Iraq War has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, it is time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.
Pathetic. I don't expect Obama to admit he was wrong about the surge. (And I don't hear any of the MSM asking him to admit his mistake, as they used to ask Bush repeatedly to acknowledge his mistakes.)
But some statement about the surge and its success should have been in order, especially since Obama has employed Bush's general, and his surge policy in Afghanistan.
But no. This small, petty man, cannot bring himself to do it.
I actually think this may hurt him. Sure, his base wouldn't have liked it, but the independents who have left him in droves would have viewed it favorably.
Its funny. I know people who get their news from the New York Times and NPR, and I don't think that they realize this side of Obama. Certainly, no one points it out at these news outlets, so the smallness, the pettiness of Obama escapes them. But I don't think it escapes most people.
Monday, August 30, 2010
This last weekend Jeanne and I dropped Luke off at college. He's going to USD where I am a professor, but living in the dorms. USD prides itself on being the very opposite of the big, impersonal state university where the minnow is dropped off into the ocean and you hope for the best. There was a whole program for the parents, intended to reassure us that they were really, really going to take care of our kids. It was well organized, the weather was beautiful, his room was quite nice, his suite mates seemed like great kids, many from Texas and thereabouts. It would have been worse without these things, but I would still describe my emotional state over the weekend as vacillating between paralyzed numbness and grief.
This is another one no one warned me about. This summer had been very busy for us. Our four boys were involved in various activities and even with Luke driving it seemed to me I always had to be taking somebody somewhere or picking them up. I knew the time was coming when Luke would be moving out but I guess I didn't quite appreciate that it would be a big deal. He's attending the college where I work, so I thought he is really not far away. I did not think of it as in fact it is -- that before we all lived under the same roof, and now we don't. I drank most of a bottle of chardonnay because I didn't have any scotch. Take my advice, and lay some in.
On Sunday there was a Mass for new students and parents. It was the most beautiful Mass I had been to in a long, long time. The music was wonderful, the homily was thoughtful, the kids looked happy and the parents looked I thought mostly rather stricken. At the end our celebrant said there was a custom from Catholic Mexico of blessing a child before he went out into the world, so he led us through that. I got maybe half the words out; Jeanne, none. Walking back to Luke's room we saw a mom and her son hugging next to a car with Florida or Texas plates. Each was hugging the other and it was clear neither had an exit strategy. Mom was crying and saying something about Christmas break. Christmas. Jesus.
I know it's a good thing. It's a privilege and a success to send your son off to college. You certainly wouldn't want him just staying at home playing video games or watching TV. Growing up and moving out is a major objective. I just don't like it. What I want to be really is Ben Cartwright on my own Ponderosa. The boys would help me work the ranch and if any bad guys showed up, we could kill them together. If any of them got married, there would be plenty of room in the big house or if need be, lots of good, solid pine to build rooms out for the young'uns. That's the way to do it.
I have a theory about why it is so hard. Your son (maybe it's the same for daughters) is probably the best friend you have. American men are notoriously poor at making friends, but be that as it may, father and son probably have common interests, sports, warfare, or in Luke's and my cases, politics and martial arts. Then just as your son is really becoming an adult, off he goes. And you stand there thinking, wait a damn minute. You go through the motions like you know what you're doing. They say it gets easier and I hope they're right.
With the Dem's control of Congress looking shaking, it's time to start complaining about how unfair it is going to be. Herr Doktor Professor Krugman gets in some preemptory whining.
His description of how Republicans went after the Clintons is interesting, but he leaves something out. I can't quite put my finger on it though. Wasn't there some Clinton scandal beyond the Vince Foster thing and the White House Christmas card list? Was was that? Something about berets and knee pads or something? It's on the tip of my tongue. Darn I hate it when I can't bring something like that to mind. State policemen, trailer parks, depends on what "is" means. Is this ringing any bells? Well, I suppose if Krugman doesn't mention it, it can't be that important. I remember thinking Ken Starr was a very bad man, with no respect for privacy at all and that everybody does it. What it was everybody does though, eludes me entirely.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
I don't know much about Jim DeMint, except that he is criticized strongly by liberals, but he seems quite good in this piece. Excerpt:
"In the House, John Boehner and the Republicans get it," Mr. DeMint says. He's not so sure about the Senate. "I think we're in danger of doing the same thing we did before, where a lot of young conservatives come in who have been out there campaigning on the right issues, but then all the senior guys take control of the committees and it's business as usual."
He warns: "This may be our last chance with voters, because if we're given the majority . . . and don't reform Washington, everybody is going to say, 'What's wrong with these guys? We need a third party.'"
Friday, August 27, 2010
I have been reading this new book about UFOs, which has been getting some play in the mainstream press. Leslie Kean is the investigative journalist who wrote it and it has a foreword by John Podesta. Podesta is a former Clinton administration WH chief of staff and a heavy hitter in the DC policy world. I believe he is at some liberal think tank now. Back in the early '90s he was a partner at a big DC law firm that my firm worked with on some matters. I met him once and was impressed. No doubt he is a serious guy. I heard about Kean's book on NPR.
If you are at all interested in this sort of thing, that is, UFOs, the book is well worth reading. I am evidently not up on my UFO lore as I had not even heard of the last three biggest incidents, in Belgium, Chicago and Phoenix respectively. As Kean reports it, the basic message is, numerous credible witnesses have observed what appeared to be physical objects shaped like either saucers, triangles or cigars, hovering, shining lights and/or darting about in ways that suggested they were being intelligently driven and doing so in ways current technology cannot account for. Several chapters in the book consist of first hand accounts by retired high military officers, and commercial or military aviators of their encounters with whatever it was they encountered. I am currently reading the chapter which is a history of how the US government has dealt with UFO reports, which one could say has been pretty stupid, at least according to Kean.
It's difficult to know what to make of this. As a mere fan of the X-Files (which hasn't aged very well I'm sorry to say, but how great it was when it was fresh!) and former and I hope again someday amateur astronomer, I can't claim to be any sort of expert on UFOs. I do think aviation is very cool and sometimes regret I did not follow a boyhood dream of flying jets, a profession at which I suspect I would not have been very good, alas, since I was fired from a job driving a truck for my inability to make the truck go where I wanted it to. But to just the casual reader who wants to be open minded yet not appear a credulous fool, books like Kean's present a problem. She appears to be a perfectly level headed journalist who is very careful not to make wild claims. She has simply interviewed lots of people with serious jobs who say they saw these puzzling things, read government reports, and reached her conclusion that something significant is indeed going on. To wit, there appear to be from time to time objects that appear in our skies that fly about in ways that no technology that we currently have (unless there is technology that nobody admits to having or knowing about) can explain. Kean frankly admits we don't know what these things are but says we should be seriously studying them and not, as she says the FAA among others routinely does, just ignoring them or making up risible explanations for them. So Kean says.
What is the reader to do? On the one hand, it seems improbable that a serious seeming journalist would just make this stuff up out of whole cloth. The same applies to her witnesses. On the other hand, what the witnesses are reporting is highly improbable as well in its own right. I've never seen a UFO and I have spent quite a bit of time looking at the sky, a thing I like to do. I have seen a piece of tumbling space junk silhouetted against the bright lunar surface in a telescope for example, a rare sighting. Thus one is left having to choose among improbable things, unless one decides, as I suppose I shall, on just remaining in a state of suspension, where one says, well, I don't know if this writer is as credible as she seems, or whether she just seems credible. If for example, I came out and said, I believe her!, wouldn't I feel stupid if her next book were about leprechauns and she managed to get a bunch of Irishmen with serious titles to tell their stories of leprechaun encounters. My only point is banal enough I suppose -- forming beliefs is a fairly complicated business.
Having said that, we may move on to some unproductive speculation. Assuming these Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs -- preferred by some to try to get away from the stigmatized term UFOs) actually exist as such, and are not mere hallucinations or whatever, what can one say about what they might be? Very little that is warranted of course, but what could one guess in the spirit of speculation? Oddly enough, the so-called extra-terrestrial hypothesis seems more plausible than the alternatives. Some writers such as Nick Cook have speculated that the US military has developed anti-gravity drive and kept it deeply in the black. But if that is the case, what on earth would a super-secret branch of the US military be doing performing stupid tricks over Belgium of a summer night? That makes no sense. On the other hand, it makes little more sense that entities capable of building craft that can travel interstellar distances would go to rural Belgium and then do such things as look down the smokestack of a power plant. Even the business of shining super bright spot lights down to the ground, as is reported in several cases, makes little sense. What, they don't have infrared? They need bright white light so their old fashioned Nikons will work when they lean out of their saucers to take pics for the squids back home? On the other hand, this may be supposing that ET's would send their best and brightest. Maybe UFOs are degenerate von Neumann probes, smart in some ways but stupid in others. Or maybe they are like teenagers or tourists who get off an exit in a remote part of the galaxy, poke around and generally make a nuisance of themselves, then go on their way, like Manhattanites driving up the Hudson Valley. Technologically extremely advanced but in important respects, pretty stupid. Now there's a plausible theory.
ALSO this fairly information free offering. I think being a pop-physics professor with your own TV show would be a lot of fun.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010