Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Here are a few pictures out of the 200 I just uploaded from my camera. See Facebook for the balance.

Mission Possible

The top story on the NYTimes site yesterday showed that honest political observation still exists on the left. Two liberal Brookings Institution scholars took a trip to Iraq. Their finding? This is "a war we just might win". Based on their article, it seems the Bush administration has finally pulled together the right expertise on war, community relations, and development, and put it all under the right man: General David Petraeus. Imagine if the administration had done all this before entering Iraq!

James Taranto responds to the article in BOTWT, and a lot of other bloggers have picked it up as well.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Come On In, The Economy's Fine!

My professor Alan Stockman, a leading voice in the economics of international finance, has a brief paper for popular consumption on the confusing subject of the U.S. current account deficit. People who don't know economics think everything should go up: the dollar, the trade balance, the current account, GDP, investment - except a few things they understand, like unemployment and inflation.

As it turns out, there are plenty of things that can go down without hurting America. The dollar is one; and according to Stockman, the current account is another. He argues that the recent large current account and trade balance deficits are caused not by profligate U.S. spending but by a combination of high foreign savings (in Asia and Germany) and good investment opportunities in the U.S.

The paper is online, under the ever-so-accessible title, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Current Account Deficit. (Note: if you read it, you'll be much better able to understand the specific research project that I am embarking on).

Sunday, July 29, 2007

An Adage

The most powerful philosophical challenge to Christianity is this: How could a good Creator knowingly create beings destined for damnation? This has been addressed in many books, sermons, and dialogs. God gave me, as I questioned Him on this point, a pithy answer:
Any being with the moral intelligence to question the goodness of its Creator also has the moral intelligence to choose to obey or disobey, to worship or not to worship that Creator.
This is a spiritual cogito ergo sum. Restated in Cartesian terms:
I question, therefore I am accountable.
That is, God is just in judging me - even to the point of damnation - since I bear witness to my own moral freedom.

I do not pretend to have resolved the greatest question in the universe in a 100-word blog entry. However, any great question deserves many essays, and this I offer in that spirit.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Building

A great deal of my summer will be invested in renovating the newly acquired home of Trinity Communion Church. The Democrat & Chronicle ran a short news item about us yesterday. The most amazing thing: by God's grace, we got the building for a song - $475,000, according to the D&C.

I couldn't find a picture of the building on the 'net - I'll provide one at some point. But I've been inside, and it's incredible: four stories, built into the side of a hill, with a Gothic-revival sanctuary from the 1920's at the very top, replete with stained-glass and bas-relief images of saints and their symbols. A good deal more work needs to go into it, but by September 9th it should be beautiful again.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Stalkerbook Item(s) of the Day

It's a sign of the times:
Mallory Beckett left the group South Carolinians for McCain. 4:57pm
Mallory Beckett joined the group Business Legend, Conservative Leader: Mitt Romney for President. 5:17pm
Go Mitt!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Free-For-All 2008: Can Giuliani Compete?

Two facts make the 2008 election one of the most interesting to watch in decades. First, both parties have wide open primaries with no incumbent. Second, the primary schedule has been torqued like never before as every state tries to move earlier and earlier in the year. Open the calendar here and read along.

The early primary may magnify or minimize the importance of New Hampshire (Iowa, I think, has already jumped the shark: caucuses are too finicky and the state is too small and homogeneous). Does a New Hampshire victory aid a candidate going into Super Duper Tuesday, or will it be too little, too late?

While the results remain (obviously) to be seen, I think the new calendar gives Rudy Giuliani a chance he never would have had otherwise. Not only does he have the money and name recognition to maintain an advantage in big states, he also benefits from earlier primaries by liberal states. Consider this scenario:
  • 1/22: NH - Romney
  • 1/29: FL - Romney
  • 2/2: SC - Thompson
  • 2/5: NY, NJ, CA, CT - Giuliani
Another candidate would have to sweep most of the other 23 states in play on Feb 5th - especially PA, IL, TX, and NC - in order to remain competitive. If Thompson and Romney split those, Giuliani is home free.

That's the technical side. Why would Giuliani's candidacy take off, though? He's obviously not a middle-of-the-party Republican. But plenty of primary voters might be so frightened by the specter of Hillary that they vote for the obvious "winnability" superstar. And he is: Giuliani would be a very, very difficult man to beat in a general election. Thus, oddly enough, a weakened, chastened Republican party might in fact be best positioned to win in 2008.

(On veeps: Giuliani needs a running mate from the South, preferably a Christian. I'm putting Thompson in, but it might as well be Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, or - even more likely - an unknown independent who won't steal Rudy's spotlight).

The monthly prediction...
Jul '07: Giuliani & Thompson over Clinton & Warner
Jun '07: Clinton & Warner over McCain & Romney
May '07: Clinton & Warner over McCain & Romney
Apr '07: Clinton & Warner over McCain & Giuliani
Mar '07: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Feb '07: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Jan '07: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Dec '06: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Nov '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Oct '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Sep '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Aug '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Jul '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney
Jun '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney
May '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney
Apr '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney
Mar '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Rice
Feb '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Rice

Rank Candidate ChatterRank Change
R.1 Sen. John McCain 5,0040
R.2 Rudy Giuliani 4,3620
R.3 Gov. Mitt Romney 3,2740
R.4 Fred Thompson 2,1070
R.5 Sen. Chuck Hagel 900+9
R.6 Secy. Condoleezza Rice 669+3
R.7 Ron Paul 5630
R.8 Sen. Sam Brownback 5430
R.9 Gov. Mike Huckabee 277-3
R.10 Rep. Duncan Hunter 220+1
R.11 Newt Gingrich 216-6
R.12 Jim Gilmore 1670
R.13 Rep. Tom Tancredo 144-3
R.14 Tommy Thompson 140-1
D.1 Sen. Hillary Clinton 7,0530
D.2 Sen. Barack Obama 4,5780
D.3 Sen. John Edwards 3,7240
D.4 Al Gore 1,910+3
D.5 Gov. Bill Richardson 1,295+1
D.6 Sen. John Kerry 936+2
D.7 Sen. Joseph Biden 914-2
D.8 Sen. Christopher Dodd 647-4
D.9 (tie) Rep. Dennis Kucinich 4450
D.9 (tie) Howard Dean 445+3
D.11 Sen. Russ Feingold 285-1
D.12 Mike Gravel 220-1
D.13 Gov. Mark Warner 1950
D.14 Wesley Clark 400

Notes: The Chatter Rankings are created by searching each candidate's name plus "2008" in the Google News database. This month tested but not qualifying is Jeb Bush (72). Non-contenders are kept on the rolls as Vice-Presidential possibilities (e.g. Rice) and benchmarks (e.g. Dean).

See recent graphs of the Chatter Rankings plus Chatter Rankings from June, May, April, March, February, January, December 2006, November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, December 2005, August, July, June, and May.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It's The Eponymy, Stupid

What could be better than Annie Leibovitz and Queen Elizabeth II scuffling over artistic control? For one, the fact that Her Majesty's press secretary and troubleshooter has the monumentally apropos handle of 'Dickie Arbiter'. He's a dicky arbiter indeed.

Also, one of Ms. Leibovitz's photos (pinched from the Daily Mail):

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Surge

The "surge" in Iraq is working according to at least one scholar. So why did Congress and the American public sentence it to the dustbin of failed ideas before it even began? (For the record, the surge reached full strength on June 15th).

Mostly, the "surge" was a public relations failure. The administration has made a lot of mistakes in Iraq. I repeat: a lot of mistakes. Americans know this. Non-Americans know this. Even Congress knows this. So when an administration looked at its failed past policies, what did it do? It trotted out an - allegedly - new one.

But the surge isn't really "new". What's new about using U.S. troops to fight insurgents, secure neighborhoods, and train Iraqi forces? That's been the modus operandi since "Mission Accomplished", as well it should be. All that's new is that there was a modest increase in troop strength reversing the previous drawdown.

What right did the administration have to introduce a new strategy? If the old strategies had failed, then they should have said so. If not, why change? Everyone instinctively recognized the surge as an exercise in public relations, and rejected it as such.

Imagine if instead the administration had come out in December and said, "We made a mistake. We removed U.S. troops from Iraq too quickly. We apologize to America and Iraq for a mistake which has cost hundreds of lives and we are moving to rectify that mistake by returning 30,000 G.I.'s to the front." This would have cost the administration some political capital in the short run, but would have begun to restore the public trust.

Instead, we have an apparently working strategy and an obviously failed administration. Iraq ultimately may pay the ultimate price for the Bush Administration's unwillingness to level with America and admit its mistakes.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Many believe that 2008 represents the first honest, fair, true presidential choice by voters in half a century. This could not be farther from the truth. Rather, the 2004, 2000, 1996, 1992, and earlier elections were a truer and fairer judgment by the voters than 2008 will be.

Why? Because politicians are deceptive. Outsider George W. Bush won in 2000 as a "uniter, not a divider". Love him or hate him, you can't pretend he's united anything other than his opposition. Bill Clinton won in 1992 as a centrist Democrat; his first major policy initiative was an abortive attempt to socialize medicine. Voters will never be as sophisticated as politicians and their mercenary machinators, but we are - in the ballot box - more powerful.

Voters cannot evaluate economic policy intelligently - but they do know whether or not they lost their jobs in the past four years. They cannot determine the best way to stop terrorists - but they know whether or not their cities have been bombed. They don't know what sort of justice a president would appoint to the Supreme Court - unless he's done so already.

Incumbency is a gift. It allows us the people to evaluate our leaders on something substantive - the results of their policies - rather than holding a national beauty contest. In 2008, it will take an extraordinary amount of effort, particularly in the wild west of the dual primaries, to elect a good president.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Politics first, Jesus second

Thanks to Ali Baba for tipping Global Review off to Dr. Charles Marsh's opinion article in the Boston Globe. Marsh is an evangelical who unabashedly uses the language of salvation in a liberal newsrag. He also unabashedly bashes the Christian Right's jingoism. Global Review wholeheartedly agrees with his premise:
Conservative evangelical elites, in exchange for political access and power, have ransacked the faith and trivialized its convictions.
His downfall, however, is in the last paragraph, which gainsays his thesis. He concludes:
But if Franklin Graham speaks truthfully of the Christian faith and its mission in the world -- as many evangelicals seem to believe -- then we should have none of it. Rather, we should join the ranks of righteous unbelievers and big-hearted humanists who rage against cruelty and oppression with the intensity of people who live fully in this world. I am certain that it would be better for Christians to stand in solidarity with compassionate atheists and agnostics, firmly resolved against injustice and cruelty, than to sing "Amazing Grace" with the heroic masses who cannot tell the difference between the cross and the flag.
This after (rightly) telling American Christians that we should have listened to the world Christian community on the Iraq War.

Why is this downfall so stark? Because he commits the very crime he is ostensibly writing against. A political position on a subjective issue (in this case, whether the Iraq War was just and wise) is non-essential. He very eloquently argues:
The gospel has been humiliated because too many American Christians have decided that there are more important things to talk about. We would rather talk about our country, our values, our troops, and our way of life; and although we might think we are paying tribute to God when we speak of these other things, we are only flattering ourselves.
So his correct conclusion should be to urge Christians to put their political leanings second, and focus on the truly spiritual things to which we are called. Instead, he merely sets himself up as the opposite-but-equal to his brothers and sisters whom he denigrates as "heroic masses". They support the war, denying their brethren; he opposes the war, denying his brethren.

No wonder the Boston Globe published the article; behind all the Christian language, the bedrock message is that agreeing with Dr. Marsh on politics is more important than believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Global Review Daily Clicker

Click on the shaded countries for Global Review's highlighted news stories of the day.

United States of America Canada Greenland Iceland Britain Eire Mexico Central America Cuba Jamaica Lesser Antilles Colombia Ecuador Peru Venezuela Guyana, Suriname, Fr. G Brazil Uruguay Paraguay Bolivia Chile Argentina Norway Sweden Finland Denmark Germany Netherlands Belgium France Spain Portugal Switzerland Italy Austria Former Yugoslavia Greece Czech Republic Poland Slovakia Ukraine Hungary Romania Bulgaria Turkey Moldova Lithuania Latvia Estonia Belarus Georgia Azerbaijan Syria Levant Egypt Libya Tunisia Algeria Morocco Mauritania Senegal Guinea-Bissau Guinea Liberia Cote DIvoire Mali Burkina Faso Niger Ghana Togo / Benin Nigeria Cameroon Gabon Republic of Congo Central African Republic Chad Sudan D.R. Congo Rwanda / Burundi Uganda Angola Namibia Zambia Botswana Zimbabwe South Africa Madagascar Malawi Mozambique Tanzania Kenya Somalia Ethiopia Eritrea Hispaniola Sierra Leone Saudi Arabia Yemen Oman UAE Iraq Iran Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Uzbekistan Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan Tajikistan Russia Japan Republic of Korea DPR Korea Mongolia China Taiwan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Burma Nepal Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Australia New Zealand Papua New Guinea Indonesia Malaysia Antarctica

OK, so by "daily" I mean "once every three months".

True Boston Insults

Soxaholix today unleashes the best of Boston insults.
Bill: ...I'm blowin' out of here early for the 4th.
Doug: Where you headed this year, Ogunquit or Provincetown?
Bill: Yeah, where you going, ovah to your momma's triple deckah and uncap a [fiah] hydrant?
If you don't get it, don't ask.

Black Like Whom?

Cory Booker is getting smeared. In the eyes of many in Newark's majority black community, their reformist celebrity mayor is Not Black Enough™. This is a familiar assault to any black conservative (c.f. Barber, LaShawn for a blogospheric example). Usually, liberals like Cory Booker - who is cut from the same cloth as Sen. Barack Obama and Gov. Deval Patrick - are spared the indignity of an assault upon their cultural identity. However, the experience of Mayor Booker shows that the black old-boy network is no different in its goals than any other political machine, but is willing to employ means reminiscent of Tammany Hall.