Saturday, September 20, 2008


"A new television ad released Wednesday by Sen. Barack Obama's campaign highlights the closure of Corning Inc.'s plant in State College, Pa., and accuses Washington with Sen. John McCain's help of selling out the workers," the Associated Press reports.

So what did Corning make at the plant? The ad, which you can see here, does not say, but the AP story does: "glass tubes for television sets and computer monitors."

It's hard to remember now, but in the olden days TV sets and computer monitors used a technology called cathode ray tubes. A CRT consisted of an electron gun that projects an image onto a fluorescent screen. In most cases the gun had to be some distance from the screen, with the entire assembly enclosed in glass, which meant that TVs were bulky and boxy (hence the term "idiot box").

In modern times, the CRT has given way to superior technologies such as plasma and liquid crystal, which take up less space and provide superior picture quality. This is an enormous blessing to all Americans who watch TV or use computers.

It's hard to imagine a more backward-looking position than mourning the decline of the picture-tube industry. What'll Obama do next, promise to restore American supremacy in the manufacture of buggy whips, iron lungs and floppy disks?

Everyone Else, Go Shopping
Joe Biden opened his mouth yesterday, and something foolish came out. We know, dog bites man. But everyone's talking about what he said, so we thought we'd weigh in too. From the Associated Press:

Biden said Thursday that paying more in taxes is the patriotic thing to do for wealthier Americans. . . .
"We want to take money and put it back in the pocket of middle-class people," Biden said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Noting that wealthier Americans would indeed pay more, Biden said: "It's time to be patriotic . . . time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut."

Since Biden is resting his case on patriotism rather than economic efficacy, let's analyze his statement in those terms.

If paying high taxes is patriotic, then Biden and Barack Obama, in putting forward a plan they claim will result in lower taxes for 95% of Americans, seem to be trying to undermine American patriotism.

In order to avoid this problem, the AP infers that Biden has a double standard in which paying higher taxes is patriotic only for "wealthier" Americans. But it seems odd to say that patriotism demands something of one class of people, while making no such demand on everyone else. You guys, if you want to be patriotic, salute the flag. You guys over there, go ahead and burn it, we don't care.

What is more, Obama and Biden are not proposing higher taxes in order to serve some common purpose such as national defense. Rather, what they want, as Biden makes clear, is outright redistribution: take money from a minority and give it to "middle-class people." As Forbes's Susan Lee notes, many of the Obama-Biden "tax cuts" are actually credits, often "refundable" credits--which is to say, subsidies.

The Obama-Biden tax plan consists in asking a select group of Americans to sacrifice while effectively telling everyone else to go shopping.

Where have we heard this before? And can we really afford four more years of the same?

Obama 1, Jews 0
Sarah Palin won't speak at that U.N. rally next week against Iranian nuclear weapons, Politico's Ben Smith reports. Under pressure from Democrats, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations rescinded the invitation:

The Obama campaign in turn offered to send Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida--who had harshly attacked Palin for slender ties to Pat Buchanan--to the event.
But the appearance that the non-partisan group was aligning with the Republican ticket put the group and its president, Malcolm Hoenlein, under heavy pressure from Jewish Democrats, including members of the conference, members of Congress, and the liberal group J Street, not to give Palin a platform, sources said. Hoenlein told the McCain campaign that he would have to rescind Palin's invitation or cancel the rally.
The organizers, I'm told, have formally disinvited all elected and political officials, but the move was about Palin.

Yesterday we suggested that the obvious solution would be to invite Palin's counterpart, Joe Biden, to speak also. Commentary's Jennifer Rubin reports that "Biden was invited to the event in the wake of Hillary Clinton's refusal to appear on the same stage as Palin--and he declined."

Fox News reports that Hoenlien told the network, in its words, that "the decision to disinvite Palin had nothing to do with [Mrs.] Clinton, but rather the unwanted media attention." This is a rather laughable assertion, since the whole point of holding a rally is to attract media attention.

It seems to us that this is an enormous show of weakness on Hoenlein's part. If the McCain campaign is willing to send its vice presidential nominee to this rally but the Obama campaign can't do any better than an obscure congressman, that tells you something about the relative importance the two campaigns assign to the question of the Iranian threat to Israel--and to those voters who care about it. This is how most of the readers who have posted comments to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Web site have taken it.

In disinviting Palin, Hoenlein appears to have succumbed to bullying from partisan organizations, and the organized Jewish community seems to have succumbed to bullying from the Obama campaign.

Today's New York Times reports from Tehran that "The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, took the unusual step on Thursday of explaining that while he strongly opposed the state of Israel, his hostility did not extend to the Israeli people." Given the ineffectuality of Ahmadinejad's American opponents, one can only hope that this is true.

Hating Sarah Palin
The left-liberal Webzine Salon has become something of a clearinghouse for rage against Alaska's governor. The latest contribution, from one Anne Lamott, actually uses the H word:

I sat outside a 7-Eleven and had a sacramental Dove chocolate bar. Jeez: Here we are again. A man and a woman whose values we loathe and despise--lying, rageful and incompetent, so dangerous to children and old people, to innocent people in every part of the world--are being worshiped, exalted by the media, in a position to take a swing at all that is loveliest about this earth and what's left of our precious freedoms.
When I got home from church, I drank a bunch of water to metabolize the Dove bar and called my Jesuit friend, who I know hates these people, too. I asked, "Don't you think God finds these smug egomaniacs morally repellent? Recoils from their smugness as from hot flame?"
And he said, "Absolutely. They are everything He or She hates in a Christian."
I have been in a better mood ever since, and have decided not to even say this woman's name anymore, because she fills me with such existential doubt, such a sense of impending doom and disbelief, that only the Germans could possibly have words for it.

What's hilarious about this is that, except for the obligatory "or She," Lamott and her unnamed interlocutor fit exactly the stereotype people on the left typically hold of conservatives, and religious conservatives in particular: smug yet insecure, dogmatic and intolerant and filled with hate and rage. Even Lamott's descriptions of Palin more aptly describe Lamott in the act of describing Palin!

Man Without a Party
USA Today reports on West Virginia's pork-mongering senior senator:

From the roof of the Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center on Main Street, one can see the Wheeling Artisan Center to the east, the Wheeling Stamping Building to the south and Wheeling Heritage Port to the west--all flourishing, thanks to the financial help of Sen. Robert Byrd.
To say the 90-year-old senator from West Virginia has brought home the bacon during his half-century in Washington would be akin to saying Congress likes to spend taxpayers' money.

The story informs us that earmarks sometimes "are the source of political corruption--as was the case of former congressman Randy 'Duke' Cunningham, a Republican who was convicted in 2005 of taking bribes in exchange for Defense earmarks." This is the only reference to Cunningham in a story about Byrd. So what is Byrd's party? The story never says, though it is mentioned in a sidebar fact box. Surprise, he's a Democrat.

Homelessness Rediscovery Watch

"If George W. Bush becomes president, the armies of the homeless, hundreds of thousands strong, will once again be used to illustrate the opposition's arguments about welfare, the economy, and taxation."--Mark Helprin, Oct. 31, 2000
"In Hard Times, Tent Cities Rise Across the Country"--headline, Associated Press, Sept. 18, 2008

In Chicago They Vote, Too
"Members of the Dead to Play Fundraiser for Obama"--headline, Associated Press, Sept. 18

We've Heard of Fighting Inflation, but This Is Ridiculous
" 'We Want the Goodyear Blimp Shot' "--headline, Chicago Sun-Times, Sept. 19

Someone Set Up Us the Bomb
"Texas Law Keeps Rebuilding After Ike in Limbo"--headline,, Sept. 19

Everything Seemingly Is Spinning Out of Control

"Naked Man Found on Top Official's Sofa in Madison, Wis."--headline, Chicago Sun-Times, Sept. 18
"Iguanas Are Invading South Florida"--headline, WPTV Web site (West Palm Beach, Fla.), Sept. 17
"Man Stuck on Stopping Exploding Blue Cow"--headline, Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel, Sept. 18
"Blind Masseurs Jump From Bridge"--headline,, Sept. 18
" 'Japan's Hillary' Makes Run for Prime Minister"--headline, USA Today, Sept. 17

News of the Tautological
"Environmentalists Balk at Drilling Off NJ Coast"--headline, Associated Press, Sept. 18

Breaking News From 1989
"Berlin Wall Goes Under the Hammer"--headline, Reuters, Sept. 18

News You Can Use

"7 Sexy Hybrids You Can't (Yet) Buy"--headline,, Sept. 18
"Skirts 'Unsafe' on Ladders"--headline, Toronto Star, Sept. 18
"Two Studies Recommend Less-Frequent Colon Exams"--headline, The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 18
"Someone Has Gotta Disparage the Irish"--headline, Detroit News, Sept. 19
"Today, Talk Like a Pirate!"--headline, Newsday Web site (Long Island, N.Y.), Sept. 19

Bottom Stories of the Day

"Student Cashes In Savings After Private Loan Falls Through"--headline,, Sept. 18
"NBA Power Couple Doug and Jackie Christie Buy AIG Stock Promoting Everyone to Help With the Financial Crisis at Hand"--headline,, Sept. 16
"Gary Coleman Sued Over Utah Bowling Alley Ruckus"--headline, Associated Press, Sept. 18
"Poll: Obama Tops McCain as Football-Watching Buddy"--headline, Associated Press, Sept. 19

Party of Lawyers
Barack Obama and Joe Biden are both lawyers. Neither John McCain nor Sarah Palin is a lawyer. Kedwards were both lawyers too, whereas neither George W. Bush nor Dick Cheney is one.

Eugene Volokh, a lawyer, extends the pattern further: Of 12 Democratic presidential and vice presidential nominees since 1980, all but two (Jimmy Carter and Al Gore) were lawyers. Of the nine Republican nominees in the same period, all but two (Dan Quayle and Bob Dole) were nonlawyers.

The Republicans, that is, have not had a lawyer on the ticket since 1996. The Democrats have had two lawyers on each ticket since 2000. The last Republican ticket with two lawyers was Ford-Dole in 1976; the last Democratic ticket without a lawyer was Johnson-Humphrey in 1964.

Do lawyers make good presidents? They can: Abe Lincoln was one. But recent experience is not so encouraging. The last lawyer to be president, Bill Clinton, was impeached. And the last all-lawyer ticket to be elected? That would be Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. Both resigned in disgrace.

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