Friday, October 24, 2008

Literary Interlude: My Wood

And now I am myself again. How about something calming? Earlier this week, I posted on the "entitlement generation." Much of this campaign has been about economics, so I thought you might enjoy this one about the effects of property on the character.

My Wood

A few years ago I wrote a book which dealt in part with the difficulties of the English in India. Feeling that they would have had no difficulties in India themselves, the Americans read the book freely. The more they read it the better it made them feel, and a cheque to the author was the result. I bought a wood with the cheque. It is not a large wood--it contains scarcely any trees, and it is intersected, blast it, by a public footpath. Still, it is the first property that I have owned, so it is right that other people should participate in my shame, and should ask themselves, in accents that will vary in horror, this very important question: What is the effect of property upon the character? Don't let's touch economics; the effect of private ownership upon the community as a whole is another question--a more important question, perhaps, but another one. Let's keep to psychology. If you own things, what's their effect on you? What's the effect on me of my wood?

In the first place, it makes me feel heavy. Property does have this effect. Property produces men of weight, and it was a man of weight who failed to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. He was not wicked, that unfortunate millionaire in the parable, he was only stout; he he struck out in front, not to mention behind, and as he wedged himself this way and that in the crystalline entrance and bruised his well-fed flanks, he saw beneath him a comparatively slim camel passing through the eye of a needle and being woven into the robe of God. The Gospels all through couple stoutness and slowness. They point out what is perfectly obvious, yet seldom realized: that if you have a lot of things you cannot move about a lot, that furniture requires dusting, dusters require servants, servants require insurance stamps, and the whole tangle of them makes you think twice before you accept an invitation to dinner or go for a bathe in the Jordan. Sometimes the Gospels proceed further and say with Tolsoty that property is sinful; they approach the difficult ground of asceticism here, where I cannot follow them. But as to the immediate effects of property on people, they just show straightforward logic. It produces men of weight. Men of weight cannot, by definition, move like the lightning from the East unto the West, and the ascent of a fourteen-stone bishop into a pulpit is thus the exact antithesis of the coming of the Son of Man. My wood makes me feel heavy.

In the second place, it makes me feel it ought to be larger.

The other day I heard a twig snap in it. I was annoyed at first, for I thought that someone was blackberrying, and depreciating the value of the undergrowth. On coming nearer, I saw it was not a man who had trodden on the twig and snapped it, but a bird, and I felt pleased. My bird. The bird was not equally pleased. Ignoring the relation between us, it took fright as soon as it saw the shape of my face, and flew straight over the boundary hedge into a field, the property of Mrs. Henessy, where it sat down with a loud squawk. It had become Mrs. Henessy's bird. Something seemed grossly amiss here, something that would not have occurred had the wood been larger. I could not afford to buy Mrs. Henessy out, I dared not murder her, and limitations of this sort beset me on every side. Ahab did not want that vineyard--he only needed it to round off his property, preparatory to plotting a new curve--and all the land around my wood has become necessary to me in order to round off the wood. A boundary protects. But--poor little thing--the boundary ought in its turn to be protected. Noises on the edge of it. Children throw stones. A little more, and then a little more, until we reach the sea. Happy Canute! Happier Alexander! And after all, why should even the world be the limit of possession? A rocket containing a Union Jack, will, it is hoped, be shortly fired at the moon. Mars. Sirius. Beyond which . . . . But these immensities ended by saddening me. I could not suppose that my wood was the destined nucleus of universal dominion--it is so very small and contains no mineral wealth beyond the blackberries. Nor was I comforted when Mrs. Henessy's bird took alarm for the second time and flew clean away from us all, under the belief that it belonged to itself.

In the third place, property makes its owner feel that he ought to do something to it. Yet he isn't sure what. A restlessness comes over him, a vague sense that he has a personality to express-- the same sense which, without any vagueness, leads the artist to an act of creation. Sometimes I think I will cut down such trees as remain in the wood, at other times I want to fill up the gaps between them with new trees. Both impulses are pretentious an empty. They are not honest movements towards money-making or beauty. They spring from a foolish desire to express myself and from an inability to enjoy what I have got. Creation, property, enjoyment form a sinister trinity in the human mind. Creation and enjoyment are both very, very good, yet they are often unattainable without a material basis, and at such moments property pushes itself in as a substitute, saying, "Accept me instead--I'm good enough for all there." It is not enough. It is, as Shakespeare said of lust, "The expense of spirit in a waste of shame": it is "Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream." Yet we don't know how to shun it. It is forced on us by our economic system as the alternative to starvation. It is also forced on us by an internal defect in the soul, by the feeling that in property may lie the germs of self-development and of exquisite or heroic deeds. Our life on earth is, and ought to be, material and carnal. But we have not yet learned to manage our materialism and carnality properly; they are sill entangled with the desire for ownership, where (in the words of Dante) "Possession is one with loss."

And this brings us to our fourth and final point: the blackberries.

Blackberries are not plentiful in this meager grove, but they are easily seen from the public footpath which traverses it, and all too easily gathered. Foxgloves, too--people will pull up the foxgloves, and ladies of an educational tendency even grub for toadstools to show them on the Monday in class. Other ladies, less educated, roll down the bracken in the arms of their gentlemen friends. There is paper, there are tins. Pray, does my wood belong to me or doesn't it? And, if it does, should I not own it best by allowing no one else to walk there? There is a wood near Lyme Regis, also cursed by a public footpath, where the owner has not hesitated on this point. He has built high stone walls each side of the path, and has spanned it by bridges, so that the public circulate like termites while he gorges on the blackberries unseen. He really does own his wood, this able chap. Dives in Hell did pretty well, but the gulf dividing him from Lazarus could be traversed by vision, and nothing traverses it here. And perhaps I shall come to this in time. I shall wall in and fence out until I really taste the sweets of property. Enormously stout, endlessly avaricious, pseudo-creative, intensely selfish, I shall weave upon my forehead the quadruple crown of possession until those nasty Bolshies come and take it off again and thrust me aside into the outer darkness.
EM Forster

Shame on the New York Times

The old gray lady has finally come out of the closet, although her ample rump has been peeking out of the garderobe for quite a while now. The New York Times has made it official by endorsing Obama in an editorial liberally laced with oil of vitriol. For added emphasis, the endorsement was not on the editorial page but on page 1.

That Obama is the chosen one is fine by me. I would expect no less. But I am fed up with mealy-mouthed individuals and entities donning the cloak of self-righteousness to complain about McCain's "negative campaigning." If the media, starting with the Times itself had been doing its job vetting the candidate, had they made clear to the public what all of BO's rhetorical flourishes meant, the McCain campaign would not have been forced to do it. But they have all fallen in love with the candidate. Had Senator McCain been as unscrupulous as they are accusing him of being, he could have made great hay out of the Rev. Wright angle.

Where is the indignation and the outrage at all of the "code words" for old the Obama camp has been hurling McCain's way or the sneers directed at "Joe the Plumber" by the same? And to scathingly dismiss Palin as completely unfit for the office, at the same time they endorse a man without a single qualification other than his ability to campaign reeks of the whited sepulchre.

What makes me see red, however, is the treatment they have ladled on Senator McCain, a man who has done more for this country than the entire lot of them at the New York Times, and to do so in the service of a man who has spent his whole life seeking out those who hate this country even as he was availing himself of everything it had to offer, who has not one legislative achievement on his record is vile. They are the dirty ones.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Journalism Lite

Today's absolute must read comes from Orson Scott Card, very well-known for such sci-fi classics as Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow. In a column decrying the lack of honesty on the part of the media, he demonstrates the political fallout of media inaccuracy and selectivity. Its hard to find an excerpt; the whole thing is so on target:

There are precedents. Even though President Bush and his administration never said that Iraq sponsored or was linked to 9/11, you could not stand the fact that Americans had that misapprehension — so you pounded us with the fact that there was no such link. (Along the way, you created the false impression that Bush had lied to them and said that there was a connection.)

If you had any principles, then surely right now, when the American people are set to blame President Bush and John McCain for a crisis they tried to prevent, and are actually shifting to approve of Barack Obama because of a crisis he helped cause, you would be laboring at least as hard to correct that false impression.

Your job, as journalists, is to tell the truth. That's what you claim you do, when you accept people's money to buy or subscribe to your paper.

But right now, you are consenting to or actively promoting a big fat lie — that the housing crisis should somehow be blamed on Bush, McCain, and the Republicans. You have trained the American people to blame everything bad — even bad weather — on Bush, and they are responding as you have taught them to.

CNN in the Tank: Expanded

This morning, caught John Roberts interviewing a writer from the Financial Times about whether Obama is a "socialist." How's this? After the guest gives a dictionary definition of the term, Roberts queries, very deliberately and leadingly, "So a tax cut affecting the rich cannot be classified as "socialist?" His guest, of course, points out that we have always had a progressive tax code. Nowhere, since Roberts has framed the "question" so leadingly, is their any acknowledgment that those who pay no income taxes (40% or so) will be receiving checks from the government. Heck, "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Maybe, they're right. It's not quite socialism. And Roberts: from child neglect to aguanta pata, such journalistic integrity.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Obama Coalition and the Entitlement Generation

The picture I posted earlier points to the mass hysteria associated with Obama. However, he would not be leading without the support of other swaths of the population. For starters, there are the far left wing-nuts. These are characterized by an acute case of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Then there are the cynical political partisans. These make their home either in the halls of congress or on your television set. There are those who are disgusted with the rampant abuses brought to light by the economic meltdown and who looking to punish the party in power are not examining the alternative economic vision.

The segment of his supporters I'd like to highlight, however, are people who should know better. These are those who reside in the 40 something to 200 thousand dollar income range. The middle classes. What gives? A better question would be "Who gives?" In this case, the answer is Obama. He has answered the time honored question "What's in it for me?" by hitting upon the notion of pandering to the middle class. Anyone in this income range in the United States is blessed by global standards. No, in the lower reaches, such an income will not afford you a home in a gated community or a gas-guzzling SUV. It will allow you to live a decent and comfortable life, if you live according to your means.

I suspect my readers thought the entitlement up top referred to government programs targeted at the lower classes. No, entitlement here is a larger concept. It refers to a whole generation (baby boomers, anyone?) brought up in relative affluence, an affluence created by their parents who worked for it and lived within their means. It bred in them a sense of entitlement, a sense they passed on to their children. They do not start with the finite figure in determining their lifestyle. No, they start with the living standard to which they are accustomed and then worry about affording it. If doing the latter involves plastic, so be it. That's how you wind up with TV reports of the family lamenting its lack of health insurance over coffee in the half million dollar home with the two late model cars in the driveway. Take a look at countertops, appliances sold to the masses at Home Depot. Do you really need a thousand dollar stove? A countertop that costs as much as a used car?

What is terribly unhealthy here is that they want something for nothing, even if it is at the expense of someone else. And that is exactly what this economic plan is. Where is the concept of fairness? You worked harder, so you can help support me. And taxing corporations more? They can take their marbles and go elsewhere. If they can't, they'll just pass along the cost to rich and poor alike.

The worst part of this phenomenon is that in accepting the placebo of a failed economic philosophy, we are not addressing our true problems. While you worry about the cost of gas for your Escalade, 50 percent of households have an income of 31 thousand a year or less. CEOs make untold millions. No man is worth 100 million dollars. Our schools are failing those who most need the leg up economically. Teachers and administrators are afraid to discipline children because the lawsuit is always waiting in the wings. Children are trapped in failed public schools because the powerful teachers' unions fight vouchers tooth and nail. Politicians pander to them extolling the virtues of public education, all the while sending their own children to private schools. Educational reform is put in the hands of the likes of Bill Ayers. Need more?

Going to the Source: Sowell on Palin/Obama

Here is an elegant and reasonable distinction between the two tickets. First, about the question of experience:

Sarah Palin's record is on the record, while whole years of Barack Obama's life are engulfed in fog, and he has had to explain away one after another of the astounding and vile people he has not merely "associated" with but has had political alliances with, and to whom he has directed the taxpayers' money and other money.

Then the takeaway:

Whatever the shortcomings of John McCain and Sarah Palin, they are people whose values are the values of this nation, whose loyalty and dedication to this country's fundamental institutions are beyond question because they have not spent decades working with people who hate America. Nor are they people whose judgments have been proved wrong consistently during decades of Beltway "experience."

Read the article on RealClear Politics here.

H/T National Black Republican Association

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Et tu, Mexico?

There have been some items of interest lately. In addition to the announcements of untold oil wealth beneath the waters of Cuba, celebrations of "Russia Day" and the like, two items caught my attention. On Monday there was the announcement that Mexico will begin repatriating Cubans fleeing the island. On Tuesday came the proclamation of increased amity and trade between the two countries.

Given the recent "restructuring" of over 400 million worth of debt Cuba owes Mexico, it's not surprising that trade has increased 80 % in the first 8 months of this year. Nor given their long history of doing so, only sporadically interrupted, is it surprising that the Mexican government has chosen to side with the oppressors. Guess it just goes to show the only illegal immigrants they deem worthy of compassion are their own citizens.

Thrilla in Manila

American conservatives aren't the only ones to have doubts about OB. Have to share this goody from The Manila Times. Although the English is somewhat stilted, the opinion piece relies on both Sowell and Freddoso to express doubts about the candidate. Most charming, however, is the following assertion:

Most non-Americans -except perhaps the Cubans both in Cuba and in Miami—are somewhat anti- American.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Funny Thing is Happening on the Way to the Election

I was reminded of Peter Finch's "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not taking it anymore" as I read this Byron York report describing a recent McCain rally. The point of interest here is the after rally as a Columbian immigrant construction worker, along with others, takes on the media. Read it. It's like a scene from An American Carol. Incroyable. If not, the crux is here:

The scene turned into a mini-fracas when David Corn, of Mother Jones, defended press coverage. Munoz was having none of it. Why, he asked, would the press whack Joe the Plumber when it didn’t want to report on Obama’s relationship with William Ayers, the former Weather Underground bomber? “How come that’s not in the news all the time?” Munoz said. “How come Joe the Plumber is every second? I’m talking about NBC, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN.”A black woman with a strong Caribbean accent jumped in the fray. “Tell me,” she said to Corn, “why is it you can go and find out about Joe the Plumber’s tax lien and when he divorced his wife and you can’t tell me when Barack Obama met with William Ayers? Why? Why could you not tell us that? Joe the Plumber is me!”

“I am Joe the Plumber!” Munoz chimed in. “You’re attacking me.”

I've run across that before. After all, I am Joe the Plumber, too. There are many of us, and we've had it. Funny thing, though, while the revolutionaries are on the other side: the proletarian revolution is happening on this one.

The Powell Endorsement: A Personal Loss

I confess to having been an ardent supporter of President Bush, President George HW Bush. I am actually pretty much a moderate Republican, by which I mean that I abhor extremes on both sides. I did not vote for W because I loved him but because I could not stomach the alternative and he came closest to my views.

I am a Cuban American, which parlays into a belief that "that government governs best which governs least." It also means I believe strongly in traditional values and in the ability of the individual to rise above his circumstances. In sum, I am a natural Republican.

It is in this context that I have always admired Colin Powell. As a Republican and a Hispanic, brought up in the bad old days of rampant discrimination, I saw Mr. Powell not only through the lens of his achievement, but also with the hope that his open party affiliation would serve to break the stranglehold of the patronizing culture of victimhood fostered by the Liberal Left, that he would serve to show that you can do it. "Entitlements" because you cannot take care of yourself tell you you can't. Powell gave the lie to that assertion. He also stood for my views, a bulwark against the extreme right wing of the party.

So what does he do yesterday? Against every value one would assume he had, he endorses Obama, one of the most liberal of Senators, a man who not only opposed the war Powell helped get us into, but who would have pulled us out in defeat. And his rationale? In addition to the usual Liberal contortions regarding Palin's lack of experience for number two while disregarding completely Obama's lack of experience for numero uno, he objects to the tenor of the campaign, the Ayers story. Memo: if the media had done its job, McCain would not have been put in the position of having to educate us about the educator. These associations would have been brought up during the primaries and McCain would probably be running against Hillary Clinton right now. When there is no record to judge, when the associations are so unsavory to most Americans, what can be more important than the character of the man? Perhaps it is all irrelevant, but that is a decision for the American people and not the American Media to make.

Most hurt by yesterday's actions was my measure of the man: "You dance with them that brung you." That he would be deliriously happy to see an African American within striking distance of the presidency is understandable. I would be. It is an emotion, however, he should have experienced in the privacy of the voting booth. I am no fan of Rush Limbaugh, but he struck a chord with me. Powell owes much to the Republican party, no matter how contentious the relationship, and he should have acted accordingly. This last minute endorsement begs the question as to whether he ever believed in the political philosophy he espoused previously or whether it was just expediency. Frankly, my only hope this election is that his candidate has similarly used the left.

This endorsement is more about the Secretary than it is the candidate. I suspect he feels he was misled into the UN appearance that damaged his credibility. I think he would have been served by waiting for the judgment of history than trying to rehabilitate his image with the cultural elite. I am terribly saddened.

Without Comment

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What's Wrong with This Picture?

borrowed from Drudge

Sunday Morning: Ain't That America

No Thanks. Some smaller community banks are not at all happy about the intrusion of the federal government, according to this article in The Washington Post, preferring to let the market take its course. Many of them have been a heck of a lot more conservative in their lending practices and stand to lose out if depositors flock to banks they perceive as safer. A pretty good view of how this part of the program will work. Speaking of the bank meltdown, here's an interesting read from BusinessWeek which takes a look at some of the fallout, the cities and towns that will be hard hit in the present difficulties.

Shabby Chic. As if its not enough that the ring dings in Hollywood and beyond are backing OB, the Miami Herald has joined the collection of once great dowagers in endorsing "the One." The sound you hear is their circulation figures circling even further into the toilet.

The Bradley Effect. According to Ann Coulter in this, it's not racism; its fear of being considered racist. We just want to be cool. Having worked in enemy territory my whole life, she' correct. You're better off admitting to being in the Man/boy love association than acknowledging you're a Republican. Despite the many egregious things she says, she generally has a point and always wields a verbal scalpel.

The American Spirit. A sad story that has received little play between the election and the collapse. Millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett's plane has been discovered, along with human remains. Article here.

The Wuss Factor. A 35 year old Pompano, Florida man is suing the "Booby Trap" because a stripper flung her shoe which hit a glass ceiling (no pun intended) and rained glass down upon him. He had a cut to his eyebrow and suffers nosebleeds. Read it here.