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Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Semantics of Change

The mantra on the campaign trail is change. Obama is the change candidate; McCain is the maverick. Neither want to be aligned with the last eight years. Change is a good message, and certainly is a part of the American psyche at this moment, but I think I think we're all using "change" in an idiosyncratic way; it's use on the campaign trail and among the American voters has a meaning much closer, it seems to me, to "stability", paradoxical as this may be.

The Credit Crisis hurt McCain so much because it steered discussion away from national defense, but it also hurt him because it connected, with voters, the current economic instability with the Republican administration. Who can make this unstable situation stable? This was the question posed to McCain, and one in which he needed, being an encumbent, a rabbit-out-of-the-hat response. He didn't provide any magic (far from it), and so sunk in the polls.

The reality is, the world is dangerous today on many fronts: we continue to persist in an assymetric war climate in which terrorist groups can exact massive damage to our people, our infrastructure, and our sense of self-confidence in spite of the large size of our military. We are immersed also in a global economy that has become increasingly complex, resistant to traditional "protectionist" close-the-doors solutions, and less and less controllable by the actions of central governments. Information was once disseminated in libraries; now we have the Web. Same shift I think with economies, and the shape of violent conflicts. Notwithstanding the wars we're fighting in quasi-conventional fashion, the assymetric nature of terror threats has never gone away. (It's morbid, but after Sept. 11 I've been inescapably impressed with the notion that we're on a countdown to the day when a suitcase sized nuclear device detonates in a major city.) The world is a scary place. But what we've discovered in the wake of the Credit Crisis is that it can be scary in many ways. A terrorist attack, or the collapse of the economy; it's all instability.

Part of what makes the modern world feel so perpetually unstable is that it's seemingly impervious to prediction, more now than ever. We're all bottom-up today, distributed, and not centrally controllable. It's not a recipe for prediction. In spite of the exhilarating progress of modern science, somehow we can't tell what's going to happen next. Forget the Enlightenment, we may as well be back in the Middle Ages, only with more differential equations (that don't apply to complex systems), and High Definition TVs. Arguably (and I think actually), our perpetual failure to predict what comes next is why true innovation is still possible (more on this in some other post). But no one can pretend to have their thumb over it anymore. It happens out there, apart from central government control. The 700 billion bail-out was a throw-back to such central control, but I suspect it will have less effect than we hoped, and at any rate, the increasing interdependence of the global economy will make such Hail Mary maneuvers less and less effective. It's a Scary New World. But we're all in it together.

So I think our current change candidates are really only succeeding with voters when they strike chords of stability, in spite of the continual use of the word change. The average voter, whatever he says outwardly, seems to be saying inwardly: The world is currently unstable; give me a President that will make it more stable. It's Obama's election to win, for sure. McCain has the Sisyphusian task of pushing the Rebublican rock back up the hill. He must be the "change" (read: return stability) candidate in spite of the fact that he's the encumbent. His folks have been in charge, and mostly we're not happy with the result.

Which is why, to descend into partisan politics, McCain shouldn't have chosen Palin. He chose her on "change", but apparently failed to recognize that "change" in this election really means "stability". Disasterous. She represents an unknown quantity in high office, whatever her appeal to the Republican base might be. McCain needed a stability veep, and one with the calming effect of a person of gravitas, good judgement, and experience. (I wanted Lieberman, personally, as we would get all of the above, as well as a strong case that McCain does indeed eschew party-line politics in favor of solving problems across the isle as needed.) Oh well. This election is all about stability, and as much as conservatives try to paper over the obvious problems, McCain's campaign has not instilled it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Interesting article from an economics professor at George Mason University. "Wackonomists", as he calls them, are those who think that a lot of complex economic phenomena can be explained by invoking corporate "greed". Yes, greed, the great Satan, and the key to understanding the global economy, didn't you know? I'm not so sure. Not that it doesn't exist, but as a comprehensive theory purporting to explain an extremely complex, interconnected global phenomenon, I must say it smacks of ideological oversimplification. I think it reveals, in particular, the (seemingly) perpetual Ivory Tower Manichaeistic tendency: good versus evil. Free marketers versus the Enlightened ones. Bad = free markets (is it because they're free, or because they grant The Greedy Ones free reign?). Good = the Enlightened ones (anyone who derides Capitalism, especially with a pitch that borders on the Pentacostal).

Yes, the Enlightened ones, those with very little hard economic support for their position (you never hear them exclaim "We're richer now that we're Marxists!"), but plenty of ideological fervor to push a particular interpretation of "fairness" into the public sphere. Damn the hard economic realities, this is what's fair (and of course, like all philosophical theories, it's actually a particular interpretation of "fair", and widely debated).

Anyway, the economics prof, Walter E. Williams, argues an interesting, if tongue in cheek, theory: if "greedy oil company CEOs" drove gas prices up so high, what accounts for the precipitous drop in crude now, from $147 to currently $64 a barrel? Following the "wackonomists" logic, we must have much less greed now. Greed, thankfully, is down. Rejoice.

Doubtful the wackonomists would agree. I'm sure they'd prefer instead a careful analysis of geopolitical and global economic conditions, a true analysis of cause and effect to explain this downward trend. Prices going up? Greeeeed. Down? Not less greed, never. The Evil Ones never rest.

Sounds like bait and switch. Or just fuzzy headed. Moving forward I think we'll need a little more sensitive instruments than we've come to expect from the highly politicized...

Told Ya

The Political Animal does a fine job of conflating progressive taxation and income redistribution. Thanks for making my point so well...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I am rubber, you are glue

The tides have turned for Palin, even as the McCain campaign seems to be heading out to sea. She's gone from dunce to Diva. Even the likes of Salon.com's Joan Walsh has sudden sympathy.

What's amazing is that this woman has managed to steer a course, undeterred through it all, toward future rock star status in the Republical party. Personally, I think she's wrong for the party. But, geez, you sure have to admire the verve.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Diatribe, Addendum

Clarification: "spreading the wealth" does not equal "progressive income taxation"...

Just in case anyone has this straw man in mind. Here's why: spreading the wealth means, point blank, from the rich, to the poor. It's direct income redistribution. Wealth spreading is different than simply taking a greater share from those who have more, which is progressive taxation.

Progressive taxation seeks greater tax revenues by taking more money from those who have plenty. Flat taxers will argue the fairness of this as well (see my prior post), but as a strategy for tax revenue generation, it's been pretty roundly adopted by advanced economies, and it has shown itself to be fairly resilient to charges of obvious unfairness.

On the other hand, this business of wealth redistribution is much more contentious, particularly in America. It moves directly from tax revenues from the wealthy to more income to the poor: from those who have more, directly to those who have less. So, the "Marxist" or "Communist" charges we've heard blurted around the fringes of the McCain campaign, while clearly incendiary and political (in the pejorative sense), are not without a certain tout court plausibility.

All this said, politicians talking to scary looking dudes like "Joe the Plumber" might occasionally choose less-than-optimal phrases to convey their meaning; I'm happy to assume that Obama is not--in any real sense--some Trojan Horse Marxist. More likely, he'd like to help some of the middle class by using tax revenue from members of the upper class. We're already doing this, with varying degrees of success. We'll see, if Obama is elected, if he's got the right strategy to make it succeed with American voters. They'll be baaaack, in what may seem like a long or a very short four years. With a Democratic House and Senate alongside an Obama administration, if it's a long four we'll all know exactly who to blame. Right or wrong, the pendulum swingeth, and it surely will swingeth again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Is not a word, last time I checked. But I swear I just hear Palin say it. She said it, she did. To Sean Hannity (who sure as hell would let it pass). Listen, I don't envy Gov. Palin's hyper-in-the-spotlight position, and have empathy for someone doing their level best, but geez, could she get a better command of her native tongue? Play the tape again, maybe I'm wrong. I don't think so.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


"I think that when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody." (Barack Obama, to enough-already "Joe the Plumber").

What, exactly, does this friggin' mean? I mean this in an entirely non-partisan sense. What the hell does he mean? Who is spreading it? The people who have it? Geez, if I'm languishing in luxury, eating grapes and drinking fine wine, and my neighbor is sitting in abject misery for lack of some crackers, I'll sure as hell "spread the wealth"... but who is the "you" that Obama is referring to?

This seems partisan, but really, there's a deeper point. He's saying that "I think that when government has the ability to take from some to give to others, it's good for everybody." In some limited sense it's true. But in some expansive sense it's sure as hell not. Spreading the friggin' wealth? It's not margarine for God sakes. What the comment reveals is failure to understand that it's not a zero sum game, as if "We all have some X, but some more than others, and we can't count on getting any more, so we'd better gosh darn share it...". What's next, rapping our knuckles with a ruler? This is manifestly... ahh crap forget it...

The Chomsky Dilemma

Noam Chomsky, one of the towering American intellectuals of our time; he nonetheless would have, as a political leader, the judgement of a half-wit. Intellect and political leadership certainly do pull apart.

This said, not having a sound grasp of the domestic and international challenges facing us can hardly be reassuring. How, possibly, could ignorance be acceptable, either?

Biden to Obama: Watch Out!

What the heck is up with Biden? Sheesh. "I don't think this, this guy on my ticket, I'll be honest with you folks, I don't think he'll do a good job...".

This latest may rival his prior self-immolating suggestion that Hillary Clinton may have been a better veep choice. C'mon, Joe! You're winning!

Bernanke Endorses Obama

Obamamentum. Who's next? Petraeus?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The American People

Has anyone noticed that politicians, pundits, and just about anyone on the T.V. or air waves now refers to "Americans" as "the American people"? It's everywhere now. Bush isn't immune (though also not exclusive). Nor McCain. Or Obama. Why? What's wrong with the succinct, and perfectly adequate--in the sense of referring to what's intended--"Americans" moniker?

Maybe it's a silly question. Maybe the talking heads just need some lexical variety. But I'll take the bait. I'll suspect otherwise. Here's how I propose to develop the suspicion:

Used by itself (that is, as a noun, not an adjective), "American" seems to have become a loaded word--it now carries with it some cultural baggage that might at any time backfire, with terrifying social consequences (he's not a real American, or that's an attitude typical of an American, or I'm proud to be an American... this last a statement which, when uttered with a country music twang, is equivalent to pronouncing yourself an ignoramus...). On the other hand, "the American people", well, that's just the smart, hard working humans who happen to live and work in the United States of America. They're not, for gosh sakes, Americans! How vulgar! They're just those citizens out there. Members of the set of American citizens. Ahh yes, the slow, steady, creepy creep of political correctness. Could it be? Could it be!

Well, until we get it sorted out, do feel free to proclaim: "I'm proud to be a member of the American people!" (although you'll sound like a geek for doing it); this is immune to any backlash that simply proclaiming yourself an American might invite. (I have, however, heard rumors that this may itself get further modified to allow only a reference to being a member of a set of humans living in North America, between Canada and Mexico. Will confirm if true.) But, to return. At all costs, go easy on the singular American label, please. Don't be vulgar.


Later it was reported that many heard, in the hallways, on the streets, the resounding battle cry "Members of the set of American people, unite!" Indeed. We have nothing to lose but...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

McCain, Obama, vs. Small Businesses

I hate to get into more discussions of Joe the Plumber, or more recently "Ed the Dairyman", but... here's my take on how small businesses will fair with McCain or Obama at the helm...

McCain first:

Cutting the corporate tax from 35 to 25%, as McCain proposes, clearly helps corporations. Fortunately (or unfortunately), it's a progressive tax, and so the top marginal rate (35%) applies only to corporations making at least 18.3 million a year (marginal corporate tax rate on profits, usually considered gross revenue minus expenses). That's not Joe the Plumber.

So, many truly small businesses, like those bringing in less than a million a year, won't be subject to this rate (again, because the corporate tax in the U.S. is progressive--the less the corporate entity makes, the less we tax it). Try 15% for most small businesses. This does imply that reducing the top corporate tax rate is really a boost to the larger small businesses, and also all of the large corporations in America. McCain's plan is a true tax cut for "Corporate America" as liberals have charged. 35-to-25 benefits the big dogs (but also, it should be noted, the businesses providing so many jobs).

But here's the flip side. Obama keeps harping on the "95% get a tax cut" line, but here's what it really means. First, taxable income, if you're a true C corporation (not e.g., an S corp), cannot be claimed as personal taxes--you can't pay business taxes as a C corp by rolling them into personal taxes. This inconvenient truth deflates the "less than 250K income" balloon right off, since Obama is talking about personal income tax when making this claim. You small c corp guys, your business will pay the corporate tax , and this rate is not on the chopping block with the Obama plan (although take heart, a propos of my point above, it's graduated for business revenues).

So far, so good. But the Obama plan has a Trojan Horse. Payroll tax, also known as the FICA tax, is paid half by employee, half by employer. The Social Security component is 6.2%, Medicare is 1.45%. Social Security is capped, currently, at 97.5K of employee income, which means that, once an employee hits $97,500.00 for the year, there is no further tax burden on employee or employer to continue to pay the Social Security tax (Medicare taxes have no cap).

Now, Obama's plan to raise the Social Security cap to 250K income, from 97.5K, amounts to burdening small businesses with an additional tax, kicking in once the 97.5K is reached. This is not a tax cut for small businesses under 250K, as he claims, since these businesses are now burdened with the additional Social Security tax for employee income over 97.5K, all the way to 250k, when it used to be capped. And, a double hit, the employee is equally burdened; he or she is paying the 6.2% Social Security tax on the income between 97.5K and 250K. 6.2% of 250K is a lot of extra taxes (it's fully 12.4% including employer share); we might think that folks making over 97.5K can just deal with it (I'm sure they will), but effectively this is a tax on the leadership of small businesses, especially high tech businesses, where salaries of CEOs, CTOs, and other management and lead development positions are commonly more than 97.5K (particularly in high cost of living urban areas, such as San Francisco or Seattle, where white collar small businesses are often formed, and try to thrive).

To stay on this point, payroll taxes are costly for small businesses; even if you're not making a profit (and hence subject to the corporate tax... gotcha!), you're paying payroll tax for all of your employees. Think it doesn't matter? Try paying it with little cash on hand. It matters. And, raising the payroll tax to the 250K ceiling, laudable as this may be for addressing the social security problem, certainly levies an additional tax on small businesses. In my experience, the payroll tax (with associated unemployment and state taxes), are a huge drag on very early stage small businesses, just breaking new ground by hiring employees.

So, no raised taxes below 250K of income? Tell that to the small businesses paying more payroll taxes on their employees. If we're talking small business growth and the encouragement of innovation, I'd rather see an elimination of payroll on small businesses until they reach a certain number of employees, or a certain amount of revenue. Encouraging American innovation--stimulating very early stage small businesses to grow by exempting them from excessive tax burdens--is a great way to reinvigorate our stagnating economy.

Go French Man, Go

Huh? This restores my faith in the triumph of reason over bald partisanship...

The Closing of the Republican Mind

William F. Buckley, as reported in Newsweek after his death:

"In his old age, he told his son, "I spent my entire life separating the right wing from the kooks." Though it cost him contributors and readers, he banned conspiratorial members of the John Birch Society from the pages of National Review along with the anti-Semites who had stained the far right."

How about now, today, someone steps forward to help strip off the anti-intellectual clothes that have come to adorn, under the false guise of philosophical conservatism, the Republican party?

Folksy is as folksy does; the Repulbican party desperately needs conservative leaders who understand and properly promulgate conservative ideals. What happened? Suddenly big government, huge deficits, a kind of (and this hurts the worse) country singer, "don't know much about" mentality that ceeds our national debate to political liberals who have taken the time to become educated? And nowhere, not even the whisper of suggestion that there are some worthy principles undergirding a conservative (also, for the most part, libertarian) worldview. What happened? Republicans, have, really, closed their minds, and lost their way.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Flat Debate (what debate?) over the Flat Tax

Ah, yes, the flat tax. A substantive idea with a panoply of economic data supporting its usefulness. It gets chucked into a presidential campaign by a dude known to us, affectionately, as "Joe the Plumber": the ultimate softball for the always eager to swing Huffington Post. Huffington delivers the easy ad hominem dismissal. I have a different take. Contra Huffington, and digging deeper than Joe the Plumber's endorsement (Joe, no fault to you), it's clear that the flat tax proposal has earned a place in American politics and around the world generally. It has, and continues to be, richly debated. Why is this so? Where Huffington offers only arrogant, dismissive rhetoric, I'll take the time to explain.

Let's cash out the theory first. We go right to the meat of it with the notion of fairness, or "justice".

Libertarian Philosopher King Robert Nozick offered a memorable picture of the sort of fairness that undergirds the flat tax proposal, when he proposed the following thought experiment. Imagine that there is some distribution of wealth in the U.S. that we all accept as fair (call this, following the usual academic love of unnecessary variables, D1). So, ex hypothesi, we all start with the cash in our pockets that we all agree is fair; we start with distribution D1. Now suppose a celebrity (Nozick's example was the dated but still venerated Wilt Chamberlain) decides that he or she wants more than D1, but proposes only to allow people to choose how they spend their fair share. Now here's how it happens. Loving our celebrity and his or her enrichening performances, many of us end up freely contributing some portion of our fair share to enjoy the performance, with the result that he or she ends up with more money than the rest of us.
This is to say, D1 no longer holds. The celebrity ended up with much more cash.

And this is exactly Nozick's point: D1--we all agreed--was just. But we only freely gave our share to others, with the result that our celebrity ended up with more. So where did the injustice sneak in? Where did it enter in? We all freely parted with some of our wealth. But, ex hypothesi, we all started with a fair distribution. So by the free exersize of human interest, some of us ended up with more. Which is contrary to D1. And, Nozick says, so much the worse for D1. Fair is fair.

What underlies this conception of justice is the notion that fairness is simply equality of opportunity, rather than outcome. Nozickian fairness is fairness that gaurantees that everyone can spend or create wealth according to their interests and abilities. If this scheme--a scheme where people have freedom to spend or create--ends up with inequalities of outcome (we ended up giving our celebrity more gold), then so be it. The government ensured that we could fairly exersize our interests using our resources; the outcomes are however this works out.

Great, but what, you may well be thinking at this point, does this have to do with flat tax proposals? Here's how it works. Government needs some of your money, in order to perform the functions of government (e.g., provide for defense), but it doesn't take more from you because you have more. Fair is: a certain percentage of your money goes to the government, according to the rules we've agreed (voted) on. If you happen to be the celebrity, it's not the business of government to take this into account when it comes time to pay taxes. Bully for you, celeb. You ended up with your gold however you did. (Forget, for our purposes here, questions such as what to do with inherited wealth, or we'll never get through this.) Government doesn't care if others gave you more gold. It only sets a rate that it taxes, and demands that you pay taxes at that rate. It's blind, by design, to your own particular wealth-accumulating accomplishments. On the Nozick line, that's what "fair" means.

In contrast, equality of outcome theorists such as John Rawls (and many others) consider, well, outcomes. Do we all end up with a fair distribution of resources, regardless of how we started? To Rawlsians, inequalities of wealth are ipso facto examples of unfairness, because "fair" means aiming for equality of outcome. (This is, of course, at loggerheads with the "opportunity" camp, and one might insightfully conclude at this point that the two views of fairness are incommensurable. The fact that such discussions in America tend to ground out in incommensurability is a troubling fissure in our intellectual landscape. The problem has been discussed at length by others, notably philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre in his seminal 1980s work "After Virtue", but as weighty philosophical discussions typically go, it hasn't percolated up into discussions of policy, as I think it should.)

But back to the flat tax. The pressing point is that Huffington Post types, either ignorant or uncaring of this rich philosophical discussion, simply act as if Conservatives, like poor Joe the Plumber, spout out flat tax proposals because they're either too dim witted or poorly educated to realize that it's not fair. But as I hope I've shown, it depends on what you think fairness is in the first place. How dare they presume that there's only one take on it.

Now, for some "praxis" to all this theory, it turns out that there are many countries that have actually implemented a flat tax. I'm not a comparative politics guy, and I'm well aware that the success or failure of particular economies are the subject of much debate, but my point is simply that there is a debate. It turns out that Joe the Plumber's not alone. To take one example of a debatable flat tax success, consider Lithuania. Wikipedia has this to say:

"Lithuania, which levies a flat tax rate of 24% (previously 27%) on its citizens, has experienced amongst the fastest growth in Europe. Advocates of flat tax speak of this country's declining unemployment and rising standard of living. They also state that tax revenues have increased following the adoption of the flat tax, due to a subsequent decline in tax evasion and the Laffer curve effect."

Sounds pretty dim witted to me. Again, I'm not claiming to be an expert on Lithuania, or on flat tax policies in general for that matter. But my point is simply this: knee jerk condemnations of particular tax proposals, like those cheerily published by the Huffington Post, are not, shall we say, the paragon of educated, liberal democratic discussion. It would be preferable, in my view, for us to dig a little deeper before pulling the trigger on ridicule. Whatever its ultimate merits, the flat tax is an idea that has played a key role in intelligent debate from first-class thinkers far back into our history. Arguably, it also has been put to the empirical test by countries with, it would seem, not so dim witted results. Maybe Joe the Plumber is on to something.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Last Stand

McCain might still win if he warms to Obama, looking at him sincerely and showing him palpable respect as a worthy adversary. His downward trend tracks interestingly with his increasing "grumpy, I don't have to listen to you" demeanor. Change agents--real change agents--tend to be remarkable human beings as well. A fortiori encumbents who run on change must also run on some large, evident quality of humanness--of intelligent sensitivity--that provides the public confidence that makes all else possible.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

China, Puppetmaster

Long time friend and former colleague Mike Pool recently raised the "China, puppetmaster" spectre. I think it's overblown. A fiction from the right and left, as follows: China's tentacles into the American economy are a pending catastrophe. Perhaps. But respected financial market strategist David Smick, in his recent book "The World is Curved", recounts a discussion with a senior official at the New York Federal Reserve, regarding what would happen to the US economy if China suddenly stopped buying US Treasury securities. The official's response? Interest rates would skyrocket. Maybe 35 basis points! Maybe even 50! (Smick was expecting 300-400 bp). That's hardly a meltdown. Investors in US bonds are a huge and pretty diversified pool. That said, I'm more worried about the "drip, drip, drip" of gradual decline than a China catastrophe...

The New Bipartisans (or, sound and fury...)

Curious is the surface veneer of bipartisan agreement on the bailout. I've heard only dyed-in-the-wool small government conservatives fulminate about it, presumably on principled grounds, and our own (in the sense of, he's a human too...) Ralph Nader, presumably on principled grounds as well (in Naderland, nothing makes less sense, and reeks with the stench of immorality more, than bailing out Corporate America).

In between, suddenly there's consensus; disagreement only on details. What happened? Call me cynical, but this seems more a surface veneer over "boundless seas of confusion"*, than real agreement. The economy seems to have gotten so complex, and the stakes for failing to understand it so great, that it's pushed politicians together in positively bizarre bedfellow fashion. Economic 9/11? Maybe. Maybe also just strength in numbers (insert favorite Nietzsche quote here). They're banding together against the "beast"... the new global economy. But I'm not assuaged. A little dyspeptic. And apprehensive.

* I transmogrified this phrase from Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind" written years ago, and on a different (but perhaps related?) subject. Full disclosure.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Joe Four Pack (of 90 Minute India Pale Ales)

Nuff said.

Parker Pivot

Originally a letter to the editor, but maybe too pedantic (and long) for those fire from the hip American Statesmen...

I read with interest Kathleen Parker’s October 4 op-ed entitled "Did Palin show she was ready?”. I can't help feeling, however, that if Ms. Parker thinks a “question remains” about her readiness, she must also think that her recent plea, just prior to the VP debate, for Palin to “…bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn.” was premature (September 26, National Review Online). A frank acknowledgement by Ms. Parker that she jumped the gun would have been appreciated, but it was curiously absent from her October 4 editorial.

The tone of Ms. Parker’s article, also, was a bit more curmudgeonly than I think typical for her; juxtaposed with her mea culpa omission, it makes her to sound a bit defensive. (Perhaps, even in discussions of politics, consistency still matters...).

On the substantive issue of Palin's readiness, I agree with Ms. Parker’s distinction between debating and interviewing. Yet somehow she (and I, and many other soon-to-be-voters) thought going in to the VP debate that Palin would do poorly on both counts. So her distinction is, I think, an ex post facto explanation of Gov. Palin’s various performances, and reveals again a kind of stinginess toward her, as if Ms. Parker is trying to retrofit the success Palin has to the previous she's-a-lightweight conclusion.

Finally, it seems that Gov. Palin is getting up to speed rather quickly; wouldn't even her skeptics admit? It will be intriguing to see Palin's readiness increase with her continued exposure to the national political scene. If her learning curve continues, I think the question of her readiness to lead the country will, by degrees, become less urgent, and less interesting.

Joe Six Pack

McCain's recent downward trend in the polls is best summed up as follows: A lot of ordinary Americans have begun scratching their heads in earnest, thinking "Hey, wait a minute, I know Joe Six Pack, and he's not that damn smart! Isn't this economy stuff kinda complicated?" Aw shucks.

We can throw in as well the observation that we've had Joe Six Pack for two terms now, and for all his Southern charm and "shoot ya straight" politics, it's simply a fact that the economic miasma we've been ineluctably sucked into happened under his watch.

Fair or not, the Credit Crisis has shifted the debate from national defense to the domestic economy, and that tends to favor the Democrats, not the encumbents. It also tends to favor expertise, and a respect for, and sensitive appreciation of, the complexity in our global financial system and in the world all around us.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Fat Ones

The bellies and backsides of Northerners expand during the Winter months, as a rule; there isn't much to do outside in the snow and cold, for most of them, and so they catch minor bouts of log cabin fever, eating sweets as a surrogate for outside activities, drinking hot chocolate, and watching too much T.V. Southerners are afflicted with just the opposite bug: during the hot, humid dog-days of a Southern summer, they crank the A.C., drink too much alcohol and lemonade, and generally come out only to barbeque, when the sun has receeded and the temperature begins its lazy descent to two digits again.