The results are in from the Watcher’s Council

After yet another week of sterling Council submissions, the votes are in and counted at the Watcher’s Council.  Here are the results:

Winning Council Submissions

Winning Non-Council Submissions

Don Quixote’s Thought for the Day: Image is nothing

That silly American Idol song, Pants on the Ground, actually has a worthwhile message.  All these young men parading around trying to look like ganstas or prison inmates or whatever really are just “Looking’ like a fool with your pants on the ground.” 

It reminded me of a young fellow I saw at a stop light years ago.  He was looking straight into the sun, in obvious distress, trying to see the light by shading his eyes with his hand.  On his head was a baseball cap . . . wait for it . . . backward.  He was so busy making a fashion statement (“I’m an idiot who doesn’t know which way to put my hat on”) he forget that the bill actually serves a purpose.

The President’s religious desire to reverse Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

On the subject of the “secular humanism religion” that guides liberals, it’s informative to read this quotation from William Kristol, writing about Obama’s sudden imperative need to do away with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the American military:

But the repeal is something that Obama campaigned on. He believes in it. But with all due respect to his sincerely held if abstractly formed views on this subject, it would be reckless to require the military to carry out a major sociological change, one contrary to the preferences of a large majority of its members, as it fights two wars. What’s more, it isn’t a change an appreciable number of Americans are clamoring for. And even if one understood this change to be rectifying an injustice, the fact is it’s an injustice that affects perhaps a few thousand people in a nation of 300 million.

But, “It’s the right thing to do,” said the president.

Here is contemporary liberalism in a nutshell: No need to consider costs as well as benefits. No acknowledgment of competing goods or coexisting rights. No appreciation of the constraints of public sentiment or the challenges of organizational complexity. No sense that not every part of society can be treated dogmatically according to certain simple propositions. Just the assertion that something must be done because it is in some abstract way “the right thing.”

In other words, although the liberal’s faith doesn’t derive from God, it’s a faith all the same.  The only difference is that liberals, because their unnamed God is the government itself, have no problem crossing the Constitutional dividing line and using the coercive power of government to force people to worship at their shrines.

For a cogent discussion of the practical problems that repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would create, read J.E. Dyer’s article and her earlier post on the subject.  And for a revealing look at the military bureaucracy’s lumbering agreement to comply with the President’s ill-thought out wishes, check this out, at the Daily Caller.

Famous people I have known

I was thinking about famous people I have known and I’ve concluded that the answer is . . . I don’t know any famous people.  I know intelligent people, hard working people, kind people, loving people, high class and low class people, blue collar and white collar people, gay and straight people, people of varying colors and faiths, even a few rotten people, I don’t know any famous people.  I can’t drop a single name.

How about you?  Do you know anyone famous?  And by “know” I mean that the famous person has to know your name.  I once shook hands with George Bush, Sr., when he was VP, but that doesn’t count, because I was simply part of a massive receiving line after he gave a speech.

Leftist tactics to scare the uninformed about America’s religious freedoms *UPDATED*

I got a very hysterical form letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  What’s impressive about it is that Barry Lynn, the Executive Director who purportedly authored this fevered screed, is totally uninformed about the nature of America’s Constitutional mandates regarding religion.  Here’s what the First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Boiled down to its essence, the First Amendment says that government in American may not control people’s religious worship.

By stating this principle, the Founding Fathers sought to distinguish themselves from the European tradition that saw government actively interfering in people’s religious practices.  On the one hand, European governments dictated which religion citizens should worship and often controlled the doctrinal substance of that state approved religion.  On the other hand, these same governments brought harsh civil penalties to bear on those who refused to comply with state religious mandates.  The easiest example to point to, of course, is England, which was the situation against which the Founders were reacting.  Not only were the State and the Church of England inextricably intertwined (with the monarch as head of the church), but England in the late 18th Century still had multiple laws on its books barring people who were not C of E from serving in the government or even obtaining a higher education.

Although Leftists deny it, Thomas Jefferson was imply reiterating the principles in the First Amendment when he coined the phrase “separation of church and state” (a phrase found nowhere in the Constitution itself).  Although Progressives like to forget this fact, Jefferson was a very religious man, although he was sufficiently private in his worship that he avoided incorporating it into public ceremony, as Washington and Adams had done.

In late 1801, while still President, Jefferson received a letter from the Danbury Baptist Association complaining that, as a religious minority in Connecticut, the state was treating their religious rights as privileges from the legislature, rather than immutable rights inherent in all citizens.  Jefferson’s reply makes it plain that the Legislature can neither grant nor deny religious rights, since it is not the responsibility of the American government to interfere in church function and doctrine (emphasis mine):

To messers Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.


The affectionate sentiments of esteem & approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful & zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more & more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from presenting even occasional performances of devotion presented indeed legally where an Executive is the legal head of a national church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.] Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

(signed) Thomas Jefferson

It is manifestly clear from perusing both the Bill of Rights and Jefferson’s own letter that none of the Founders intended that religious people must be barred from civil participation.  They can bring their values to bear in the civic arena, even if those values are religiously inspired.  What they cannot do is hijack the government so that the government uses its coercive powers to force people to worship a specific faith, to interfere with a religion’s doctrine, or to punish or ostracize people for practicing a faith that the government does not sanction.

These subtleties — the difference between government controlled religion, which is bad, and a religious people whose religion informs their conduct, which is constitutionally neutral — completely eludes the anti-religious Left.  They want people who enter government to check their religion at the door.  They are incapable of understanding that the complete absence of religion is a religion in and of itself, with faith in government and its bureaucracy being substituted in place of faith in God and his morality.

During the 1980s, religious people called this Leftist faith “Secular Humanism.”  As a thoughtless, knee-jerk Leftist myself during those years, I actually appreciated the label (“Hah!  I’m a Humanist”), but rejected the Religious Right’s contention that Secular Humanism is itself a religion.  To the Left, something can be a religion if the word “God” (or, if you’re polytheistic, “Gods”) is involved.  None of us on the Left understood (or, at least, the thoughtless amongst us refused to understand) that Secular Humanism is a religion because it is a comprehensive belief system.  The only difference between Secular Humanism and traditional “religion” is that, in place of an omnipotent deity, secular humanists worship an omnipotent government that rejects traditional Judeo-Christian moral and social values.

It is this Secular Humanist faith that explains the letter I received today, parts of which I reproduce below, along with my interlineations in red:

Do you know how the Religious Right is now targeting your neighborhood, and every town and city in America?

By joining local school boards and local communities . . . winning local elections . . . and creating local precedents with NATIONWIDE consequences . . .

Dear Friend,

They want to hit you right where you live.

The Religious Right has hijacked Christianity and claims to speak for all people of faith . . . and its leaders and activists want to force their ultraconservative agenda on you and your community[You'll notice that Americans United does not argue, because it can't, that religious Christians are trying to enforce their faith on Americans, which would be unconstitutional.  Instead, it just makes it sound utterly evil that religious people want to get involved in local politics to advance their values, something that the Founders generally and Jefferson specifically would appreciate.]

The goal of the movement’s members is nothing less than to shatter the wall of separation between church and state . . . and force you to live a “moral” life.

Their morals!  [Again, this statement ignores the fact that our government is set up so that all citizens, including religious citizens, are welcome to get into politics to advance their values, including their "moral" values.  They just can't use politics as a means of forcing you into their church, something even the hysterics at Americans United cannot say is the case.]

And if they can’t get into your public schools with creationism . . . if they can’t get into your pharmacy to deny patients and their doctors the right to make medical decisions . . . if they can’t use the power of their pulpits to choose your political representatives . . .  [If they can't do all that, then they'll leave more room for the Leftists to get into your public schools with endless scare tactics and indoctrination regarding anthropogenic climate change, pro-illegal alien propaganda, pornographic sex education, and identity politics and anti-marriage activism.]  UPDATEPer Atlas Shrugged, we now know that Lynn’s particular brand of non-deity center religion is being actively foisted onto American students.

. . . Then they’ll zero in on friendlier, more willing targets to get the political clout and legal precedents they need . . . which then may have nationwide ramifications.


[I've deleted the bit in Barry Lynn identifies himself, his career and his organization.]

Throughout those years, we’ve seen what happens when religious extremists like Pat Robertson and James Dobson get their way:

* A tax-funded “faith-based” initiative that forces citizens like you and me to pick up the tab for the Religious Right’s ideology-based social agenda.  [I have no idea what Lynn is talking about here.  As I detailed above, as a tax payer and a parent, I'm currently paying for my children to learn about increasing discredited AGW, the virtues of illegal immigration, radical sex education, anti-marriage values, victim-based identity politics, etc., all of which are part of the Leftist religious canon.  After all that kind of intellectual garbage, just how bad can the Religious Right's "ideology-based social agenda be?]

* “Marriage amendments” that turn out anti-gay voters and swing elections.  [This is a perfect example of Lynn's confusion about the different between a state religion, and religious people speaking up within a state.  The religious right did not seek to force people into a religious viewpoint about marriage in California.  That is, no one said, when we pass this law, you'll all have to become Mormons.  But people who are religious and take seriously the fact that Western religions limit marriage to a man and a woman certainly did get out and vote.  What's really ironic about Lynn's sentence here is that it was Obama's presence in the election that was the "swing" factor, since the same blacks who made their way to the polls so they could vote for him, also happen to come from religious backgrounds that created in them values antithetical to gay marriage.]

* Houses of worship endorsing political candidates, violating their tax-exempt status.  [If I remember my election history correctly, the Democratic candidates were barely able to peel themselves out of Leftist houses of worship, and had Leftist religious people crawling all over them.  I'm unaware of any celebrated case in which the IRS went after any church, Left or Right, for encouraging its voters values in such a way that the voters learned towards one candidate or another.  Churches are allowed to teach values -- and in heated elections, those values may steer voters in one direction or another.  This is not the same as endorsing a candidate.]

* More restrictions on reproductive choices chipping away at the right of access to contraceptives and services that citizens have worked so hard to win since the 1960s.  [I don't need to make my argument here again about the difference between religious people using the government to force all people to Catholicism or Baptism, so that they forswear abortion, something that hasn't happened and won't happen, and the fact that people of faith are disturbed by the number of abortions performed annually, and who seek to change the laws to change that situation.  What I do find interesting, however, is the way in which Lynn's sentence makes it sound as if religious people aren't "citizens."  "Citizens" work for abortion; religious people are scary zombies who block citizens from their Progressive-guaranteed rights.  That kind of phrasing highlights the way in which the Left is incapable of acknowledging that religious people are citizens and that the Constitution clearly allows them to use government to advance their values, although not to advance their specific faith.]

I’ll stop here.  Believe it or not, there are three more single-spaced hysterical pages with this types of ignorant, mean-spirited demagoguery.

Long-time readers know that I don’t even really have a dog in this fight, as I am a non-religious Jew.  I am, however, intellectually honest, and it disgusts me to see the Left try to use our Constitution and the deeply religious Thomas Jefferson as vehicles by which they shut religious people out of politics and civic discourse.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Saturday afternoon open thread

It’s been a crazy day. I got off to a slow start this morning, since I’ve got a muscle problem in my neck and shoulder region that’s painful and that’s pinched a nerve. I took a muscle relaxant at bedtime, which definitely helped the pain and reduced the spasm, but I woke up zombie-like. If you’re like me, and don’t even have the occasional beer or wine, a little Vali goes a long way.

Once I shook off the drug-induced malaise, I went to help a friend with something very exciting. Sally Zelikovsky is getting Read to run agains Lynn Woolsey for the Marin/Sonoma seat in the House of Representatives. Woo-hoo! Right now, she’s collecting signatures in order to waive the fee for getting on the primary ballot. I’ll be keeping you posted. She’s fabulous, and it would be a Scott Brown sized earhquake if she won in November.

Now I’m blogging on my iPhone as I gety unruly waves tamed preparatory to a haircut. Since I can’t write anything serious now, it’s an open thread.

Haircut — a parable

Got a brilliant email today:

One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut. After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you, I’m doing community service this week.’ The florist was pleased and left the shop.

When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you , I’m doing community service this week.’ The cop was happy and left the shop.

The next morning when the barber went to open up, there was a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Then a Congressman came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, ‘I can not accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week.’ The Congressman was very happy and left the shop.

The next morning, when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen Congressmen lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the politicians who run it.

That wacky Pashtun culture

I don’t have a comment here.  I just think this story is interesting:

An unclassified study from a military research unit in southern Afghanistan details how homosexual behavior is unusually common among men in the large ethnic group known as Pashtuns — though they seem to be in complete denial about it.


In one instance, a group of local male interpreters had contracted gonorrhea anally but refused to believe they could have contracted it sexually — “because they were not homosexuals.”

Apparently, according to the report, Pashtun men interpret the Islamic prohibition on homosexuality to mean they cannot “love” another man — but that doesn’t mean they can’t use men for “sexual gratification.”


The U.S. army medic also told members of the research unit that she and her colleagues had to explain to a local man how to get his wife pregnant.

The report said: “When it was explained to him what was necessary, he reacted with disgust and asked, ‘How could one feel desire to be with a woman, who God has made unclean, when one could be with a man, who is clean? Surely this must be wrong.’”

Hat tip:  Neptunus Lex

Andrew Klavan’s must-see PJTV

You’ve got to see this one.  It’s so right — and it really resonates with me because I work so hard educating and inoculating my children against the omnipresent Leftist pop culture.  I think the video also works for me because, as a history major who has always rejected Marxist and deconstructionist approaches to history, I believe in historic facts and despise the way in which liberals manipulate history to suit their current political outcomes.  (Although, to be just, Shakespeare did precisely the same thing, although he was pandering to current royalty, rather than trying to propagandize the public.)

Democrats become visibly anti-democratic

As part of a longer post about the Democrats’ anti-democratic tendencies, Peter Wehner has this to say:

If you wanted a sound bite that embodied much of what is wrong with contemporary liberalism, you could do worse than listen to the words of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on health care:

We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in but we’re going to get health-care reform passed for the America people.

Set aside the fact that Ms. Pelosi sounds like Tareq and Michaele Salahi trying to crash a White House State dinner. She seems to view herself as part of the guardian class, as one of our philosopher kings who knows better than the great, unwashed masses what is good for them. It is of a piece with the collectivist mindset, one that believes that it is with the ruling class that wisdom resides. They know best – and they will give you not what you may want but what they believe you need.

This view is exceedingly arrogant and, if it is indulged in often enough, it becomes, in some sense, anti-democratic.

There is a long history in America to dictate the proper role of its legislators. Some argue they ought to mirror public opinion all the time; others argue that we elect people to political posts based on our confidence in their judgment. They therefore have a relatively free hand to pursue the agenda they deem appropriate. But even those who subscribe to the views of the second group understand that in the end, ours is a representative form of government. The will of the people matters. We are, after all, a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

I concur heartily and urge you to read Wehner’s entire post.

The new deal in the Middle East

I have predicted several times that, in a choice between Iran and Israel, Middle Eastern nations will back Israel, not because they have developed any fondness for her, but because they recognize that, while Israel makes a great rhetorical scapegoat, Iran is the real threat.  I’ve also said that America’s weakness regarding Iran will hasten this process.  So far, my predictions are proving accurate.  I feel smug.

“Eff you!” — How Jon Stewart interpreted Obama’s SOTU address *UPDATED*

I’ve never been a big Jon Stewart fan — there’s a lack of good spirit and subtlety that turns me off — but I’ve found interesting watching him deal with Obama.  As Stewart’s pr0nouncements during the course of every show demonstrate, he is a die-hard liberal.  However, he’s also a comedic shark.  This last means that, despite his liberal predilections, he’s going to go after blood in the water.  Right now, much to his manifest distress, the Democrats and President Obama are providing that blood.

Last night’s show was particularly interesting.  After managing a few weak attacks against Gov. McDonnell’s rebuttal, the real chum, for Stewart, was Obama’s SOTU address.  And the way Stewart understood it was as one giant “Eff you” from Obama — to everyone.  He attacked Republicans (natch), Democrats, Supreme Court justices, businesses, Wall Street, voters.  You name it, said Stewart, and Obama was out there giving someone the finger.  (Stewart didn’t mention, of course, that Obama managed to keep his rhetorical fingers neatly hidden away when it came to terrorism, Iran, North Korea, etc.)  I think Stewart was on to something:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Speech Therapy
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

The second half of the show — the interview part — was just as interesting.  Stewart’s guest was Doris Kearns Goodwin, known on the Left as a historian whose book, Team of Rivals, about the Lincoln cabinet, was supposed to be a blue print of how the perfect Obama temperament would create a bipartisan political scene unknown since the Civil War.  (And that is, yes, a very funny sentence because, Lincoln’s cobbled together cabinet notwithstanding, the Civil War era doesn’t stand out as an exemplar of bipartisanship in action.)

To the Right, we know about Goodwin’s book, but we also remember that Goodwin has a little Biden-esque problem with plagarism.  In my mind, plagiarism is a very bad moral crime.  It is the intellectual equivalent of robbing a house.  Most plagiarists, though (unlike house robbers), add a soupcon of arrogance to their crime, since they believe that their greatness entitles them to the fruit of someone else’s labor.  I make this digression about Goodwin’s nasty intellectual habits to explain that I was predisposed to dislike her.

And dislike her I did.  She is, typically for America’s intellectual class, very, very liberal.  She opened her shtick by explaining that Obama’s words are meaningless unless he can match them with action, which is true.  She praised FDR and LBJ for doing just that, and told a rather funny story about Nixon inadvertently predicting his own departure during his last SOTU address.  Those were good historical stories, but she then started out with sheer partisanship, saying Obama should double-down on his policies, etc.

What was interesting about the Goodwin interview was Stewart.  Stewart is troubled.  He kept saying, without using that word, that Obama presented nothing but a dreary laundry list, without vision.  Should Obama, he asked Goodwin, state clearly a few big picture things he wants (and here Stewart digressed by praising Reagan for his skill in doing just that), rather than bogging everything down in the details?  For example, said Stewart, when it comes to health care, shouldn’t Obama identify a few problems, such as preexisting conditions, tort reform, etc., and explain how he’s going to fix them.  “Jon,” I wanted to say, “that’s the Republican plan you’re advancing.”

Goodwin just didn’t get it.  The whole notion of actual vision and problem-solving, as opposed to a simple government takeover, eluded her.  Instead, she rejoiced in the thought of Republicans standing athwart the battlements yelling stop, something she thought would harm the Republicans.  It didn’t seem to occur to her that New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts and all the polls show that, should the Republicans do that, ordinary Americans will probably be standing there cheering them on.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

I do wonder whether Stewart is going to reach some intellectual impasse, where his intelligence and aggressiveness crash head-on with his knee jerk ideological beliefs. Will we watch The Daily Show fall apart in a welter of cognitive dissonance?

UPDATE:  Earl’s comment (comment #6) is such a must-read, I’ve elevated it here, into the body of the post:

Something didn’t seem right in DKG’s reference to Strom Thurmond… I checked.

Wikipedia (I know, I know) reports that it was the 1957 civil rights bill that Strom Thurmond filibustered (for 24 hours and 18 minutes nonstop), and not the 1964 one.  And, by the way — when Thurmond engaged in that filibuster, he was…..a Democrat!

In 1964, the champion filibusterer (14 hours, 13 minutes) was apparently…..wait for it……Robert Byrd — who was…..a Democrat!

She is an historian, right — surely she should know this stuff…, did she simply not want to tell her audience?


Spengler (David Goldman) gets to the core problems with Obama’s economic analyses

There were so many things wrong with Obama’s speech last night, whether because of dumb ideas, lies, vicious attacks against Constitutional guardians, etc., that criticism actually becomes difficult.  It’s kind of like punching Jello, because you just get sucked in.  Nevertheless, it is important to criticize, not just Obama’s untruths, but the fundamental flaws in his reasoning.  David Goldman (aka Spengler) does precisely that when he goes after Obama’s facile prescription for America’s economic malaise.  Aside from learning more about Obama’s profound wrongness when it comes to economics, you’ll get to read this gem of a paragraph:

In his attempt to emulate Clinton’s success, President Obama resembles nothing so much a the New Guinea aboriginals who built model airfields complete with straw control towers and airplanes after the Second World War and the departure of the American army. The Americans had summoned cargo from the sky through such magical devices, so thought the aboriginals, and by building what looked like airfields, so might they. But Obama can no more conjure up an economic recovery by doing things that look like what Clinton did, than the natives of New Guinea could draw cargo from the sky with straw totems. Marx’s crack about history repeating itself—the first time as tragedy and the second as farce—comes to mind.

Incidentally, Obama is the lightening rod for this critique, because he is the President who uttered the words showing his profound inability to understand economic forces. Democrats, however, are supporters and enablers, so please don’t give any Dems in Congress a pass on this. Statistics show that America’s Congressional Democrats are as loony-toons liberal as they come. Even the Blue Dogs are simply “blue,” without any mitigating “dog” attached.

This week’s Watcher’s Council submissions

Thursday is my day for expanding my mind, something I do by reading the submissions at the Watcher’s Council.  Normally, I have a nice beaten track that I rely upon for my information.  The Watcher’s Council, wonderfully, forces me out of that intellectual comfort zone, and enables me to read things that educate and enlighten me.  You can join me in that reading, with this list:

[Read more...]

Obligatory post about POTUS’ SOTU speech *UPDATED*

Preparing and eating dinner took precedence of the President’s first State of the Union speech, so I didn’t watch it in real time.  Indeed, because I find Obama’s presentation dull (he has the cadences of a slightly defective metronome), I haven’t listened to it at all, but I have read it.  I therefore felt that, as an obsessive blogger, it behooved me to make a few comments.

The most obvious comment to make is that the speech was sooooo loooong, clocking in at over an hour.  This might have been okay, but for the second most obvious comment I’m about to make, which is that it was dull.  It suffered from exactly the same defect as Obama’s inauguration speech:  there was no underlying theme tying it together.  It was, instead, a slightly tempered laundry list of Leftist dreams, wrapped up with a wooden peroration about America’s wonderfulness.  In other words, leaden, not stirring — an expected sin from most presidents, but an unforgivable sin in a president elected primarily based upon the expectation that he would be the greatest orator since Cicero.

By my rough count, there are 37 “I’s” in the speech.  By contrast, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural speech had one “I” in it.  Because we live in a more confessional age than in times past, a review of SOTU speeches from the last 40 years probably have their fair numbers of “I’s” in them, but they tend to leap out in an Obama speech, since they are both overused and emblematic of the man himself.

Speaking of the man himself, I’m patting myself on the back, in a slightly depressed way, because the speech was exactly what one could have predicted after reading my attack on Obama’s narcissism.  It was dishonest, defensive and, significantly, showed an inability to be flexible in the face of a rebuff from the voters.  Where both Reagan and Clinton, when rebuffed, tacked to the middle, Obama continues to push an agenda that is more statist than the American people want.

I have no desire to get bogged down in the endless minutiae of Obama’s speech.  It reminds me of the briefs written by a lawyer against whom I had the misfortune to litigate almost 20 years ago.  To the uninitiated, his briefs, aside from the grammatical errors, looked like ordinary documents, with facts, laws and arguments.  Only to the educated eye was it clear that each sentence contained at least one factual or legal falsehood or twisted argument.  Unfortunately, it might take a paragraph or a page to assemble the facts, law and argument necessary to expose even a single misstatement.  This meant that his briefs were smooth and seamless, although entirely false, whereas my opposing briefs, in their effort to educate the court, were long and complicated.  Smart judges ruled in my favor; dumb judges (and, boy, are there a lot of those in San Francisco Superior Court), took the easy way out, only to be reversed, every time, at the appellate level.  Because this is a blog, not a legal brief, I’m not going to occupy myself with trying to right every factual wrong in Obama’s speech.  But there are a few points I want to make.

Obama starts the speech by complaining that things were rotten when he arrived in town, by saying that he did everything possible to make it better, and then by expressing surprise that, one year later, things are worse.  Hmmm.  Could it be . . . and I’m just suggesting here . . . but could it be that the “everything” Obama did is what made things worse?  Obama doesn’t seem to recognize that the efforts he put in place, which involved burdening our country with decades worth of crippling debt, much of which went to political pandering, might be a cause-and-effect situation:

One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted — immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.

But the devastation remains. One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. And for those who’d already known poverty, life has become that much harder.

Laughably, after stating the above about the massive unemployment, Obama makes his risible statement that, in the face of these rising unemployment numbers, his wonderful policies mean that “there are about 2 million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed.”  People like me, those who believe in the marketplace, and believe that government is slow and, because of its concentration of powers, inclined to corruption, think that, had the money been disseminated to businesses and individuals in the form of tax breaks and refunds, there would have been a whole lot more employed and a whole lot less unemployed walking around.

Did you barf, as I did, when Obama said “I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change”?  I think ordinary Americans are figuring out that the “overwhelming scientific evidence” is a cesspool of ambition, distraction, uglification and derision, with some actual facts thrown in for leavening.  I’ll concede that the climate is changing, because it has done so for 3 billion or so years.  I’ll concede, wholeheartedly, that we are the earth’s stewards, and that it behooves us to treat it with respect, for our own benefit and that of our children.  But I will not allow myself to be bullied into stupid economic decisions, all in the name of false, agenda-driven “science.”

Throughout the speech, to cover up for the government’s culpability in worsening the recession by taking money away from the people and packing it into the government, Obama engages in populist attacks against the marketplace.  There are little throwaway lines (“bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on Main Street isn’t”) that culminate in Obama’s unconscionable attack on the United States Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court justices, Sotomayor included, responded by sitting there absolutely frozen in shock, surrounded by a sea of applauding Democrats:

With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.

I don’t believe that a President has ever used a SOTU as a vehicle to attack the Supreme Court — and nodding to the “separation of powers” doesn’t make it any better. The statement is especially foul considering that the Supreme Court decision goes to the heart of America’s uniqueness, it’s difference from all other countries, and that is its veneration for freedom of speech, especially in the political marketplace. I think that even ordinary Americans, unversed in the Constitutional law that was allegedly Obama’s academic specialty, have figured this one out.  [UPDATE:  Not only was Obama's attack on the Supreme Court unprecedented it was just plain wrong, explaining Alito's shocked "not true" response.]

The level of self-delusion in the speech is staggering.  A few paragraphs after his extraordinary attack on the Supremes, Obama, self-deprecatingly, assures everyone that he never thought he was the Messiah:

Of course, none of these reforms will even happen if we don’t also reform how we work with one another. Now, I’m not naive. I never thought that the mere fact of my election would usher in peace and harmony — and some post-partisan era. I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched. And on some issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, they’ve been taking place for over 200 years. They’re the very essence of our democracy.

This is, to say the least, a peculiar statement from a man whose sole platform, in the absence of any experience or accomplishments, was that his wonderful temperament would usher in a new era of government, free from partisan fighting at home, creating peace and harmony abroad, and then, just for an encore, he would heal the planet and lower the seas.  His whole shtick, one that vanished the moment he announced in a meeting that he won, and his opponents lost, was that he would transcend all serious fighting and petty bickering on the earth, an act that had his followers likening him to a sort of God.

And that’s really all I want to say now.  Yes, there is more and more to attack, whether on speech, jobs, ugly populism, national security, etc., but I grow weary just thinking of that task.  Bottom line:  despite the rebuff in Massachusetts (and New Jersey and Virginia), Obama chooses to believe that nothing has really changed.  Americans, he thinks, want big government.  Indeed, he could have “X’d” out the entire speech and simply said this:

Madam Speaker, Vice President Biden, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

Better living through Big Government

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

And as for that last line, which I copied directly out of his actual speech, I find it funny coming out of the mouth of a man who can’t seem to find a church in Washington, D.C. — even though I know the City boasts a few churches — and who has not attended any serious religious occasions since arriving in D.C.  Just a reminder, as if you needed one, that his real God is government.

If you’re a glutton for punishment, you can watch the speech here.  At around 46:30, you can see Obama’s attack on the Supreme’s, followed by their shocked reaction.

UPDATEMark Steyn says clearly what I, in a muddled way, tried to say about the vision-free, laundry-list quality of Obama’s speech:

It sounds like an all-purpose speech for President Anyone: We’ve met here in good times and bad, war and peace, prosperity and depression, Shrove Tuesday and Super Bowl Sunday, riding high in April, shot down in May. We’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing. Each time we find ourselves flat on our face, we pick ourselves up and get back in the race. That’s life, pause for applause . . .

There’s no sense that, even as platitudinous filler, it arises organically from who this man is. As mawkish and shameless as the Clinton SOTUs were, they nevertheless projected a kind of authenticity. With Obama, the big-picture uplift seems unmoored from any personal connection — and he’s not good enough to make it real. Same with all those municipal name-checks.

When he does say anything firm and declarative — the pro-business stuff at home, the pro-freedom stuff abroad — it’s entirely detached from any policy, any action, so it plays to the Bob Herbert trust issue. And, when he moves from the gaseous and general to the specific, he becomes petty and and thin-skinned and unpresidential. And, unlike the national security feints and 101 Historical Allusions For Public Speakers stuff, the petulance is all too obviously real.

Don Quixote’s Thought for the Day: “Radio friendly” politics

I was chatting with my son the other day about music.  He didn’t much like mine (50 years of pop/light rock from the Beatles to Nickleback) because, he said, it was too “radio friendly.”  He then played me the most listened to song on his IPOD, by a guy who couldn’t sing, singing a song so ugly it barely qualified as music.   Since when did “radio friendly” (a term which I take to me pleasant and catchy enough that a lot of listeners will want to listen to it) become a pejorative?

My son’s comment reminded me of the snobs who don’t own a TV, listen only to NPR, read only the New York Times, regularly attend the ballet and the opera and look down on everyone who doesn’t share their refined tastes.  But maybe the ordinary folks who prefer BBQ to fancy fish eggs, who listen to Taylor Swift and Uncle Kracker, who watch reality TV and football games are on to something.

Thay’d better be.  After all, if we don’t think they are smart enough to make good choices with their entertainment dollars, how can we possibly put much faith in their political choices?  Make no mistake, as has been pointed out here recently, the vocal advocates on either side of the aisle are not likely to convince many of the advocates on the other side.  It’s the good people of America we have to persuade.  Maybe we should give a little more respect to their choices and tailor our message accordingly.

Americans cool on abortion, appropriately given the societal damage it both causes and reflects

My views on abortion have changed mightily over the years.  The selfish, immature side of me still longs for a pro-choice label, but the mature, moral side of me has concluded that, subject to a few exceptions, pro-Life is the way to go.  I won’t expand on that right now, but you can see more on my views here.

On the subject of abortion, I want to draw your attention to three things:

First, if you somehow managed to miss this headline story, let me be the one to tell you that the Superbowl, of all things, is at the center of an abortion controversy.  Tim Tebow, super-duper college quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, is going to be in a television commercial that is slated to air during the Superbowl.  In it, he and his mother talk about the fact that she elected to go ahead with a difficult pregnancy, even though the medical establishment assured her that the baby was likely to be dead or damaged at birth.  Tebow, of course, was neither.  Women’s groups are outraged (h/t Soccer Dad), although they sound more foolish than persuasive in their anger:

A national coalition of women’s groups called on CBS on Monday to scrap its plan to broadcast an ad during the Super Bowl featuring college football star Tim Tebow and his mother, which critics say is likely to convey an anti-abortion message.

“An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year — an event designed to bring Americans together,” said Jehmu Greene, president of the New York-based Women’s Media Center.


The protest letter from the Women’s Media Center suggested that CBS should have turned down the ad in part because it was conceived by Focus on the Family.

“By offering one of the most coveted advertising spots of the year to an anti-equality, anti-choice, homophobic organization, CBS is aligning itself with a political stance that will damage its reputation, alienate viewers, and discourage consumers from supporting its shows and advertisers,” the letter said.

Hmm.  While I know that large sectors of the American public watch the Superbowl (I guess that’s the coming together part), I always considered it a rather divisive thing, considering that half the audience is devoutly hoping that the other half turns off the television set in deep despair.

But more to the point, I found interesting the fact that the women’s groups state, with no authority, that celebrating a successful life that resulted because the baby’s mother made a choice, is something that will “damage [CBS's] reputation, alienate viewers, and discourage consumers from supporting its shows and advertisers.”  I think the women’s groups are backing the wrong horse.

Which brings me to my second point about abortion.

The invaluable Zombie was out on the streets of San Francisco this past weekend, documenting the annual pro-Life rally held in that bastion of radical liberalism.  What you’d except from a photojournalist is a series of photos showing a few cowering pro-Lifers, surrounded by screaming pro-Choicers, all carrying “keep your hands off my uterus” signs and wearing kuffiyahs (because who doesn’t go to a feminist rally wearing the clothing symbol of the most repressive, misogynist culture on earth?).  But there you’d be wrong.  In a stunning combination of photos and text, Zombie reveals that the rally was a blow-out for the pro-Life crowd.  As Zombie says:

[W]hen the anti-abortion group Walk for Life staged a march in San Francisco last Saturday, January 23, they turned out an overwhelming and jaw-dropping 40,000 pro-life activists, who were met by a well-advertised counter-protest which managed to draw no more than 80 (that’s eighty, eight-zero) pro-choice advocates. 40,000 vs. 80 is a 500-to-1 pro-life advantage, something that seems inconceivable in the sex-positive liberal stronghold of San Francisco. How did this happen?

Talk about must-read journalism.

And the third and last thing I want to discuss about abortion isn’t really about abortion at all, it’s about the culture that supports unfettered, unlimited abortion.  As you probably read somewhere the other day, the teen pregnancy numbers rose a bit higher in 2006.  Robert Rector tells us that (a) those numbers are not what they seem and that (b) more seriously, those numbers reveal, not about a problem that can be corrected with ever more birth control and abortions, but a fundamental societal breakdown amongst young Americans.

As for me, with one pre-teen  and one very observant 10 year old, I spend a lot of my time talking about values and self-respect.  I’ve learned that, in a wired world, I cannot protect my kids from exposure to our sex saturated culture.  All I can do, over and over, is talk about the value they should place on themselves, the respect they owe others, the moral forces in favor of marriage and abstinence, and the risks associated with disease and young, out-of-wedlock pregnancy.  I hope, devoutly, that my kids take these messages to heart, because I really don’t have much else in my armament.

My parents always complained that, raising children in the late 1960s and 1970s, they had a hard time parenting against societal trends.  They couldn’t have imagined how much worse it would become.  Yes, they had to deal with hippies and self-actualization, but pop culture was still reasonably traditional.  The Brady kid actors may have been getting into trouble behind the scenes, but the message to the viewing audience was still one of traditional values.  Who would have imagined then MTV, YouTube, Lady GaGa, Adam Baldwin Lambert (isn’t that the crotch-grabber from American Idol?), and the whole parade of degradation that oozes out of every pore of American society?  Looking around, it’s clear that abortion is both a cause and a symptom of a society that has lost its sexual bearings, bearings that should be grounded in respect for the opposite sex and reverence for human life.