Saturday, May 31, 2008

Conditional Contriteness

There seems to be an epidemic of people lately who feel the need to apologize "if they offended ... anyone."

I guess making a conditional apology over other people's reactions is easier than apologizing for being nuts.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Restored to Life

While attending a dozen Texas Rangers' games so far this year, I have enjoyed watching the emergence of Josh Hamilton as a superstar. However, even someone who has no interest in baseball would find his story moving. Read it here.

Mindless Bureaucrats

In the United States, a bachelor's degree is sometimes referred to as a "four year degree," based on the length of time it takes to complete the requirements for the degree when a student takes a normal course load. The Oracle managed to complete the requirements for his "four year degree" in 2.5 years. However, most people would not disagree with me if I claimed that my B.A. is a "four year degree."

I do not mention my rush through college in order to brag, but rather to provide background for my disdain for the wooden thinking of a group of mindless bureaucrats at the Grapevine Independent School District who are depriving a graduating senior of the designation of valedictorian -- and a scholarship that goes with that designation.

According to Grapevine's school policies, "The valedictorian shall be the eligible student with the highest weighted grade-point average for four years of high school." No one denies that the highest GPA belongs to a student named Anjali Datta. However, the student has managed to complete her requirements for high school graduation in three years, not four.

Even acknowledging that the policy is not particularly well-written, one can still easily maintain that the language is intended to convey the thought of completing the credits for a high school diploma -- which is normally a four year enterprise. Did the district really set out to punish a student for excelling by graduating early? And, after all, because students start in August and finish in May, none of them actually went for four calendar years. Since the written policy doesn't stipulate "academic years," perhaps no student should be permitted to be valedictorian under the ridiculously wooden interpretation of the board's lawyers.

An injustice is being done to Ms. Datta.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Journalists are as a class not necessarily noted for having long historical memories, but the Louisville Courier Journal shows an uncommon level of amnesia in an editorial that claims that U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell "pioneered political slash-and-burn."

Pioneered? Yes, of course. There were no negative campaigns before Sen. McConnell came on the scene.

Of course, the senator has been noted for running rough campaigns, and the newspaper is free to complain about it on its editorial page. However, in addition to the above hyperbole, the newspaper also ran a picture along with its editorial that is classless and over the top. It is a picture of Jaws with mouth gaping that appears over the words, "McConnell in action."

A Do Nothing Congress? Well, There's the Horses

Congress has failed to come up with anything approaching a coherent energy policy and recently passed agriculture legislation that continues to pay farmers not to grow crops, even as food costs skyrocket. Regarding the impending entitlement crisis? Nothing. However, no one can accuse the legislative body of not setting out to accomplish anything constructive. Earlier this year, they grilled Roger Clemens over his alleged steroid use. Now, they are checking into drug use with regard to thoroughbreds.

Not since the 1850's has the country been afflicted with a Congress so out of step with the needs of the country. That is not a Republican or Democratic problem. It is a fundamental failure of leadership.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Which of These Names Just Doesn't Belong Here?

Golda Meir
Indira Ghandi
Margaret Thatcher
Hillary Clinton

Regarding three of these, Peggy Noonan writes:

Great women, all different, but great in terms of size, of impact on the world and of struggles overcome. Struggle was not something they read about in a book. They did not use guilt to win election -- it comes up zero if you Google "Thatcher" and "You're just picking on me because I'm a woman." Instead they used the appeals men used: stronger leadership, better ideas, a superior philosophy.

The one to whom the above paragraph does not apply is the one whose supporters have lately been crying misogyny to explain away failure.

Nor does it apply to the one who seems to have said that she is hanging around the campaign for the same reason that a nephew hangs around a rich uncle with a heart condition.

Not Ready for the Steve Carlton Comparisons Yet, But....

Cincinnati Reds rookie pitcher Edinson Volquez has a record of 7-1, with a 1.33 earned run average.

All of the other Reds pitchers combine for a record of 14-25.

While this only represents the first two months of the season, it is reminiscent of one of the most remarkable seasons that any pitcher has ever had. In 1972, Steve Carlton, pitching for the worst team in baseball that year, finished the season with a record of 27-10. The team's record was 59-97, meaning that all of the pitchers other than Mr. Carlton combined for a record of 32-87.

On Arguments and Interests

An Associated Press report on the advice of the American Heart Association that all people with high blood pressure should own monitoring devices contained a statement that reveals the silliness of those who focus on interests rather than the content of arguments:

Outside experts strongly agreed. But some said the case would be more compelling if those pushing the monitors had no industry ties.

The argument that all people should own monitors is either compelling or not regardless of the interests -- financial or otherwise -- of those making the case. Of course, a financial interest may provide an explanation as to why someone either consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally, makes a bad argument, but it does not change the validity of the argument itself.

In addition, the statement sees having "industry ties" only in a negative light. Certainly, those relationships can create an incentive to argue in favor of one's own financial interests, as the statement suggests. However, being involved in the industry can also give one a day-to-day appreciation of the value of a product or a service. Additionally, those actually in an industry have a level of expertise regarding their product or service that those outside of it do not have.

It is always wise to "follow the money" when evaluating what one is hearing. However, the existence of an interest does not devalue a valid argument. That many think that it does reveals some of the poverty of our political and social discourse.

My Contentment at Being out of Touch

I am visiting my parents this week. I have not watched the morning network news and entertainment programs for years, but that is part of their morning routine. As a result, for the last two mornings I have been subjected to overhearing one of them (Good Morning America, I think: whatever Diane Sawyer is on) while trying to occupy myself with other interests. Yesterday, Ms. Sawyer -- who I recall was once regarded as a serious network journalist -- nearly struck Harrison Ford while attempting to knock some bottles off of a table with a long whip. "Did I hurt you?" she cooed. He laughed and told her she did not.

My question: have these programs gotten worse, or did I just not notice how really bad they were when I was younger? What I have seen/heard the last couple of days is sort of like Regis and Kathy Lee -- without the hard news content.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

GOP Calamity Quote of the Day

"Why not? Republicans pretend to be conservative every day."

-- Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal columnist, responding to a comment by Republican National Committee chairman that the GOP cannot let Democrats "pretend to be conservatives." Ms. Noonan's column provides a brutally accurate assessment of the problems currently facing the party.

Media Covering Democratic Contest Correctly

Conservatives and Republicans frequently complain about the way the mainstream media covers politics, and those among them preferring Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary have joined her Democratic supporters in criticizing the way that those news organizations have covered the primary. They have argued that the media has favored Barack Obama by downplaying Clinton victories over the last couple of months while continually questioning when she will leave the race.

While the critics are correct that the media has covered the race in this way, it is understandable that they have done so.

The race for the Democratic nomination was for all practical purposes over in February, when Sen. Obama followed an impressive performance on Super Tuesday with a string of nine consecutive victories. Looking at how the primaries were lining up, as well as a series of desperate tactics by Sen. Clinton, I called the race for Sen. Obama at that time, and my brief explanation for doing so has held up over time.

Since February, anyone who understood the math and the Democratic rules could see that it was essentially impossible for Sen. Clinton to win. She could prolong the event and in the process dampen enthusiasm for Sen. Obama, but barring some out of the blue disqualifying failure by Sen. Obama, it was impossible for her to win. Subsequent events have proven this to be the case, and Sen. Clinton continues on with her campaign to tarnish Sen. Obama for no discernible purpose.

Has the media coverage discriminated? Yes, but in this instance justifiably so. Anyone who has seen a chicken have its head cut off knows that activity does not prove life. The Clinton campaign remains active, but it has long been dead.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Redefining Failure as Passing

Some educators are making the argument that students deserve credit for doing nothing. They argue for eliminating the ability of teachers to give zeroes for work not performed and instead giving students a minimum score of 50.

A report in USA Today explains the reasoning behind this "emotional academic debate:"

Other letter grades — A, B, C and D — are broken down in increments of 10 from 60 to 100, but there is a 59-point spread between D and F, a gap that can often make it mathematically impossible for some failing students to ever catch up.

This creates what Douglass Reeves, who somehow heads an organization referred to as an "educational think tank," describes as a "classic mathematical dilemma: that the students have a six times greater chance of getting an F."

He does not explain the difference between a classic mathematical dilemma and a nondescript one, but the reader might surmise that he was just relieved to be able to claim it as a mathematical dilemma, as opposed to a logical one. If he were up to resolving a logical dilemma, he might recognize that making more than 60 has nothing to do with "chance," as though grades were determined by rolling a series of dice, but it has to do with whether the student demonstrates the minimal knowledge necessary for passing.

The reason that schools want to stop giving zeroes is that some educators measure their success based on whether students pass, not on whether they learn anything. If those who learn nothing can still pass, so much the better.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fully Informed Voters

Talk radio personality and Dallas Morning News columnist Mark Davis writes that the recent saga of Carrollton mayor Becky Miller confirms his opposition to early voting. Ms. Miller lost her re-election bid after news emerged a few days before the election that she had apparently made numerous untruthful claims regarding her personal history. Referring to the fact that many voters had cast their ballots before this was known, Mr. Davis writes:

I do not know whether Ms. Miller had concocted details ranging from the mundane (the university she attended, which has no record of her) to the heart-rending (the "brother" who died in Vietnam who became a close family friend in the revised story) to the wildly dubious (singing backup for Linda Ronstadt and dating the Eagles' Don Henley, neither of whom recall her).

But I do know that voters deserved to evaluate the gaping holes in her story. The only voters who cast a fully informed vote were those who resisted the crack pipe of early voting.

Mr. Davis differentiates early voting, which is done solely for the purpose of convenience and which he opposes, from absentee voting, which is the only recourse for those who know they will be away from their communities on election day.

Congress Tells Americans Concerned about Food Prices to Go to Hell

With food costs soaring in the United States and abroad and growing concerns regarding a global food crisis, a bipartisan majority in Congress again showed themselves unfit to govern by passing a $300 billion agriculture bill intended to pander to American farmers. The bill spends $40 billion dollars on subsidizing already high food prices, taxes the import of ethanol in order to drive up fuel prices, and even pays farmers $30 billion to keep farmland idle at a time of food shortages and price increases.

In addition to those policy decisions, the bill has also been porked up with items such as subsidies for race horse owners in Kentucky.

Democrats overwhelmingly passed the bill in hopes of buying off rural voters who traditionally lean Republican. A majority of GOP congressmen joined in out of fears that the Democratic strategy might work. The losers in all of this: the American people, who need a Congress that is serious at a time of economic fragility and spiking food costs.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Murphy Was an Optimist

When the notoriously cheery Fred Barnes is this pessimistic about Republican prospects in the fall, one knows that things really are bad.

They are.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Little Satire on Wednesday?

After heavy criticism for his denunciations of the Catholic Church, which he had described as "the great whore," San Antonio pastor John Hagee emerged from a period of Bible study and deep reflection and apologized for what he had said.

Rev. Hagee explained that the Church was nothing more than a 2-bit whore. He regrets using the word "great."

That is not true: he actually gave a thorough and laudable apology. However, The Oracle couldn't help himself.

Adding Insult to Injury

As if consumers aren't concerned enough with gas prices approaching $4/gallon, the Dallas Morning News reports another problem that might make them angry: pumps that shortchange buyers.

The Texas Department of Agriculture has found problems at more than 2,000 stations across Texas. The department is serious about confronting the problem: Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, a former state senator (and a genuinely nice guy: I met him briefly at a conference during the time that he was in the senate) has quadrupled the fines that were in place a year ago.

The DMN has a map showing the locations of stations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area that have been fined here. Consumers can also report complaints related to the accuracy of fuel pumps to the Texas Department of Agriculture at 1-800-835-5832.

Vincent Voyeur might?

In a Dallas Morning News report, Forrester Research analyst Henry Hartevledt explained why most people don't mind restrictions on cell phone usage on commercial airplanes: "No one wants to sit next to a Chatty Cathy talking about their latest conquest."

He's right, though his pronoun usage could use some work. One thinks that it would be difficult to make air travel more unenjoyable than it already is, but an airplane full of people chatting on their cellphones would undoubtedly make it worse.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Subtle Tyranny

Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts has an outstanding piece, built around a conversation he had with a friend from Estonia, on the ways that Americans are losing freedom:

Americans, she said, love to trumpet their freedom. But it's hard to square that with political correctness that straitjackets communication for fear of giving unintended offense, hair-trigger litigiousness that requires major corporations to treat customers ("Caution: Coffee is hot") like idiots for fear of being sued, zero-tolerance policies and mandatory sentencing guidelines that remove human judgment from human encounters for fear of rendering unequal justice.

Mr. Pitts argue that these trends -- some social, some political, some legal -- result in the loss of originality.

Market Value

A report in the Dallas Morning News shows that the demand for teachers, especially those who are certified for math, science, or bilingual, is helping to drive beginning salaries for educators in north Texas upward. Among the several districts in the metroplex, salaries for beginning teachers are in the mid 40's, with additional stipends and bonuses for the afore mentioned teachers pushing beginning pay rates to close to $50,000 per year.

At present, Texas universities are graduating aspiring teachers at about half the rate needed to replace those leaving the profession. It will be interesting to see if the elevation of salaries begins to make a difference in the number of students interested in the profession.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Type Casting

U.S. Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN), asked for his thoughts regarding Hillary Clinton's decision to continue her campaign, replied, "Glenn Close should have stayed in that tub."


Hat Tip: Michael Silence

Scared to Death

The blogger at Shrinkwrapped laments reports of the resurgence of childhood diseases such as polio that once were considered nearly eradicated. The culprit: some parents are refusing to have their children vaccinated because of fears that vaccines are somehow linked to autism. There is no scientific basis for those fears.

Wanting Religion in School?

Jonathon Seidl questions whether Christians fighting for religion in the classroom are really sure that they want to get what they are asking for:

Conservative organizations do need to fight for religious free speech. The ACLU is roving the country, devouring any case with even the slightest fragrance of progressivism, liberalism, and anti-Christian sentiments. But treating religion as a deposed king and advocating for its return to the throne within public schools might have far greater consequences than many realize.

Read the rest here.

What Is Clinton Doing?

Peggy Noonan points out that the Democratic Party now knows beyond a reasonable doubt who their presidential nominee is, but they can't yet break out the champagne:

The Democratic Party can't celebrate the triumph of Barack Obama because the Democratic Party is busy having a breakdown. You could call it a breakdown over the issues of race and gender, but its real source is simply Hillary Clinton. Whose entire campaign at this point is about exploiting race and gender.

The continued presence of Sen. Clinton in the campaign, depending on whom you talk to, is either to convince delegates that she is the better choice (though Democratic voters have declared otherwise) or to permit all the voters in the remaining states a chance to participate in the race (though that has never been a priority in past primary elections). Her ongoing attacks on Sen. Obama's ability to appeal to voters beyond his base, while representing a desperate attempt to pull a rabbit out of a hat, concern Democrats who recognize that she is weakening his appeal in the general election. However, one who is cynical, and it is sometimes difficult not to be when dealing with the Clinton's, might ask if Sen. Obama's diminished ability to take on John McCain is a matter of much concern to the Clinton's.

Consider this: a victory by Barack Obama in the 2008 general election almost guarantees that he would again be the nominee in 2012. That essentially pushes the Clinton's permanently out of the leadership of the Democratic Party. However, a loss by Sen. Obama opens the door for the Clinton's to claim that they were right in the first place and that the Democrats should have never turned away from them in favor of an upstart. That revitalizes them in the role of party rebuilders and saviors as the nation moves toward the 2012 election.

Of course, the Clinton's will proclaim loyalty to the party and promise to work hard for its nominee. They will express umbrage at the accusation of disloyalty. Then, someone will ask whether it is really believable that the Clinton's would throw their own party under the bus in order to promote their own personal agendas.

At that point, thoughtful people will become quiet. We already know the answer to that question, don't we?

A Dubious Prize

Minor league baseball has gained a well-deserved reputation for having odd promotions, but perhaps this stands as among the oddest. According to Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News, the new Grand Prairie AirHogs will give away a funeral at their June 3 game. A spokesman for the team, evidently with a straight face, used the terms "fun and exciting" when describing the event.

"Laughing" and "Sex" Quote of the Day

"It can interrupt sex when my wife starts laughing."

-- an anonymous man, quoted in a New York Times story about problems that patients have had with squeaky ceramic hip replacements.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Kudos for Jenna Bush

The Oracle wishes to express praise for Jenna Bush, who has the seemingly uncommon wisdom to understand that her wedding is something other than a public spectacle.

Do the Crime if You're Going to Get the Time Quote of the Day

"I didn't do nothing. Basically, they're telling me next time I get off the bench, go and hit somebody and get your money's worth."

-- Sidney Ponson, a pitcher for the Texas Rangers, in response to being fined $500 for his part in a fight that broke out in Thursday night's baseball game against the Seattle Mariners. Mr. Ponson says he plans to appeal. Seattle first baseman Richie Sexson, who started the brawl by charging the mound for no apparent reason (a pitch thrown to him by Kason Gabbard was about head high, but out over the middle of the plate), was suspended for six games.

Tom Grieve, the color analyst on Rangers television broadcasts, commented on the air that there was no way that Mr. Gabbard was trying to hit the Mariner with the pitch:

"You've got a guy up there who can't hit water if he fell out of a boat, and you think [Gabbard's] going to throw at him?"

Discrimination Suit Filed against Texas Democratic Party

From an AP wire report:

"The League of United Latin American Citizens of Texas and the Mexican-American Bar Association of Houston sued in federal court, arguing that the party failed to seek clearance required by the U.S. Justice Department for the process, the so-called Texas Two Step. The groups also say the system effectively discriminates against Latino voters by giving them fewer delegates."

Friday, May 09, 2008

Like Announcing a Hockey Game with 453 Players?

The Associated Press has a report on the plight, made ever more difficult by the growing numbers of foreign students coming to the U.S., of those responsible for calling the names of graduates receiving their degrees. For example, Jayne Niemi has this to look forward to:

A week from Saturday, 453 new graduates will cross the commencement stage on the lawn of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. Among them: Nokuthula Sikhethiwe Kitikiti, Udochukwu Chinyere Obodo, and Baitnairamdal Otgonshar.

Unfortunately, because the bearers of those names are actually present, Ms. Niemi can't follow the advice I used to give to readers in church who had to take on reading publicly a passage from the Bible that included difficult to pronounce and obscure names of people and places. I told them to just rip right through them, pretending they knew how to pronounce them. Most of the people listening didn't know either, and if one read them confidently, those in the pews would assume they most know it was right.

"Game Changing" and "Funeral" Quote of the Day

"It's not often that a truly game-changing technology comes along in the funeral service. We might have gotten a hold of one."

-- from the Funeral Service Insider, as reported by the Associated Press, regarding alkaline hydrolysis, a process that dissolves human bodies into a "brownish, syrupy residue" that can be "safely poured down the drain, provided the operation has the necessary permits."

The process is not used in any funeral homes, and it is illegal for them to use it in states other than Minnesota and New Hamphsire, though a couple of institutions that do research on cadavers are utilizing it.

More on Taxing Internet Sales

Yesterday, I linked to a post by Nathan Moore on the state of New York's attempt to collect sales taxes from Because the internet bookseller does not have a physical presence in the state, the collection attempts likely violate the interstate commerce provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

However, The Dallas Morning News reports that the raising of that issue has been noted in Texas, which has opened an investigation of whether the company should be collecting and paying sales taxes on shipments to Lone Star State residents due to the fact that it does have a physical presence here. Amazon opened a distribution center in Irving in 2006, but appears not to have been paying sales taxes.

But this actually raises an interesting question. If Texas chooses to begin collecting these taxes, would it make financial sense for a business like Amazon to shut down its Texas location -- where a large population results in a large number of book sales and revenue, and move across the border to, say Oklahoma or Arkansas, so that it is having to charge the tax on a smaller number of orders. Obviously, having to collect the tax in Texas makes it less competitive versus another online bookseller without a physical presence here. It would seem to me that this would offer a great opportunity for states with smaller populations to attempt to recruit internet based businesses to their locales. Of course, the states would need the transportation infrastructure to make it economically feasible.

Puff Piece on the Predatory Polygamist Compound

Emily Ramshaw has a report in the Dallas Morning News on the current state of the polygamist community known as Yearning For Zion Ranch, Texas. State authorities have removed over 400 children and placed them in foster care as they investigate allegations that underage girls were being forced to have relationships with much older men.

Is it too much to call Ms. Ramshaw's article favorable toward the residents? Here's a snippet describing the idyllic lifestyle that has been lost:

City and county officials say they'd be surprised if the 1,700-acre ranch, which contributed more than $400,000 to the region's property tax rolls last year, shut its doors. But the gloomy desolation of this once-industrious community makes it hard to imagine a resurgence.

Men no longer scale the green roofs of the giant communal residences, making repairs to the immaculate Lincoln Log construction. They no longer split slabs of limestone inside the gaping pink stone quarry, or run spools of electrical cables underground. And the craggy fields and rows of fruit trees, normally dotted with women and children, are empty.

Much of the rest of the article is similar. It is an odd news account given the nature of the allegations against the residents. I would invite others to read the piece for themselves and let me know if you think I am overstating it.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Fight in Rangers Game

In what may be the strangest melee I have seen in a baseball game in awhile, Seattle Mariners first baseman charged the mound following a pitch that didn't come close to hitting him. The pitch was head high, but over the middle of the plate. Meanwhile, the 6'8" Mr. Sexson, while running to the mound like a madman, took off his helmet and threw it at the pitcher's head. The Rangers' announcers are calling Mr. Sexson "gutless," and it is hard to disagree.

Two Rangers have previously been hit during the game, but the pitch came no where close to hitting Mr. Sexson.

McCain on Judges

Paul Mirengoff points out that conservatives wondering if John McCain's recent statements regarding judicial nominees reflect his genuine views can find comfort in noting that they are consistent with those he made 20 years ago. Read the post and the links here.


Scrappleface "reports" on a possible dream ticket resulting from Rush Limbaugh's effective campaigning in Hillary Clinton's behalf.

Tax Now and Ask Questions Later

In discussing New York State's ill-advised attempt to tax internet sales, Nashville attorney and blogger Nathan Moore reminds the reader of an important political and economic point:

Amazon is likely to prevail, but not before the grace period for registration passes, leaving them (potentially) on the hook for back due taxes and penalties if they do in fact end up losing the fight. These kinds of attempts at taxation are akin to imposing tariffs between and among the states. One of the central and most overlooked reasons the United States has been such a successful country is that the fifty states are the largest free-trade zone in history. Regional comparative advantage, the free flow of capital and the unrestrained flow of labor is built-in to the domestic American economy on an unparalleled scale.

The Evangelical Manifesto

A group of American Christian leaders trying to rescue the term "Evangelical" from various misunderstandings have issued a document entitled "The Evangelical Manifesto (for those with short attention spans, the summary is here)." While such publications rarely have much impact once the initial hype has passed, this one deserves wide reading.

The authors of the manifesto group their statements around three key ideas. They argue that Evangelicals must reaffirm their identity, reform their behavior, and rethink their place in public life. The first of these points is foundational to the other two. The document declares that Evangelicalism "should be defined theologically, not politically, socially, or culturally." Thus, they declare evangelical identity at its foundation to be rooted in the early church creeds (Nicaea and Chalcedon) and the Reformation principle of justification by faith alone. It is fundamentally Christ centered and cross centered in its orientation. The Gospel, literally "Good News," is the message of salvation through Christ.

The section on reforming behavior begins with this self-critical statement:

All too often we have trumpeted the gospel of Jesus, but we have replaced biblical truths with therapeutic techniques, worship with entertainment, discipleship with growth in human potential, church growth with business entrepreneurialism, concern for the church and for the local congregation with expressions of the faith that are churchless and little better than a vapid spirituality, meeting real needs with pandering to felt needs, and mission principles with marketing precepts. In the process we have become known for commercial, diluted, and feel-good gospels of health, wealth, human potential, and religious happy talk, each of which is indistinguishable from the passing fashions of the surrounding world.

Much of the reaction to the document will likely center around the final section on rethinking the Evangelical place in the public square. The manifesto warns both other evangelicals and outsiders against the errors of either privatizing faith on the one hand (so that it has no public relevance) or politicizing it on the other. They also make the point that "it would be no improvement" for a weakening religious right to give way to a strengthened religious left. The statement declares that "a politicized faith is faithless, foolish, and disastrous for the church." The document proceeds to argue for religious liberty for people of all persuasions.

Some on the religious right seem ready to argue that this is really an attempt by liberals to peel voters away from Republicans. The inclusion of Jim Wallis and Ron Sider among the charter signatories will encourage that view, which also finds proof from the fact that those who put it together did not approach James Dobson on bended knee to beg for his signature. However, there is really very little here that any Evangelical should disagree with, and many of us who are conservative both theologically and politically nonetheless agree that Evangelicalism, or any other version of Christianity, should not be first and foremost a political movement. Marvin Olasky, the conservative editor of World Magazine, says that the declaration "is likely to do some good."

If The Oracle were a church leader -- and at present he is not -- he would use the document as a teaching tool. There is much here that is important.

Update. Joe Carter also has posted regarding the document. He makes the valid point that much of the press will misconstrue it as a political document because that is the only rubric they understand. Thinking of it theologically would be completely foreign to them.

The Indiana Franchise

John Fund provides some information I had not read before about the nuns in South Bend that didn't get to vote earlier this week. They evidently were told they would need an ID, but refused to get one.

It seems that, at the very least, they have a stubborn streak. I wonder if they ever whacked a student across the hands with a ruler for that?

Meanwhile, Mr. Fund gives another example of a supposedly disenfranchised voter and asks a valid question:

One voter in Indiana had a valid drivers license but insisted on showing an invalid federal ID anyway so he could be "denied" the right to cast a ballot and thus ''make a point."

Now that the Supreme Court has resolved this matter, wouldn't it make sense for everyone to work together to get an ID into the hands of those who need them?

Of course, that's much too practical. There are no points to be scored off of simply helping people to vote.

You Don't Say?

“We share a husband. We love big families. But polygamy is not something I recommend to anyone unless you share the same fundamental religious beliefs because otherwise it could turn into a mess.”

-- Lillian Tucker, a resident of a polygamous colony in Mexico, as reported in the Dallas Morning News.

Not Knowing When to Fold Them

George Will aptly satirizes the desperation of Hillary Clinton in attempting to find a rationale for her staying in the race:

After Tuesday's split decisions in Indiana and North Carolina, Clinton, the Yankee Clipperette, can, and hence eventually will, creatively argue that she is really ahead of Barack Obama, or at any rate she is sort of tied, mathematically or morally or something, in popular votes, or delegates, or some combination of the two, as determined by Fermat's Last Theorem, or something, in states whose names begin with vowels, or maybe consonants, or perhaps some mixture of the two as determined by listening to a recording of the Beach Boys' "Help Me, Rhonda" played backward, or whatever other formula is most helpful to her, and counting the votes she received in Michigan, where hers was the only contending name on the ballot (her chief rivals, quaintly obeying their party's rules, boycotted the state, which had violated the party's rules for scheduling primaries), and counting the votes she received in Florida, which, like Michigan, was a scofflaw and where no one campaigned, and dividing Obama's delegate advantage in caucus states by pi multiplied by the square root of Yankee Stadium's Zip code.

He later concludes the column by warning Republicans that Barack Obama should not be underestimated:

The Republican brand has been badly smudged by recent foreign and domestic policies, which are the only kinds there are, so McCain's hopes rest on the still-unattached cohort called "Reagan Democrats," who still seem somewhat resistant to Obama.

McCain's problem might turn out to be the fact that Obama is the Democrats' Reagan. Obama's rhetorical cotton candy lacks Reagan's ideological nourishment, but he is Reaganesque in two important senses: People like listening to him, and his manner lulls his adversaries into underestimating his sheer toughness -- the tempered steel beneath the sleek suits.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Biased AP Report on McCain Speech

Associated Press reporter Libby Quaid displayed more than a little bit of bias in what is supposed to be a news report of John McCain's speech yesterday in Winston Salem, North Carolina. While much of the article could be criticized, I will limit myself to noting the two most eggregious instances of prejudice.

Ms. Quaid writes: "While McCain didn't mention abortion, the far right understands that such nominees would be likely to limit or perhaps overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion."

Really? Only the "far right" has an interest in placing some limits around Roe v. Wade?

She also writes: "The Arizona senator said his role models interpret the law strictly, paying attention to what lawmakers intended, as opposed to "activist" judges who, by striking down statutes or court decisions, make laws rather than interpret them. "Activist" is a term conservatives use pejoratively to criticize liberal justices."

This is just nonsense. One might disagree with conservatives (or liberals, on occasion, for that matter) who bemoan activist judges, but to suggest that the description is nothing more than an empty insult is blatantly incorrect. She correctly describes what conservatives mean by the term in the first sentence of that quotation. The second sentence is nothing more than a bit of sloppy editorializing.

The Fat Lady Inches One Step Closer to the Microphone

In reality, we have known for several weeks that it was a mathematical and political impossibility for Hillary Clinton to overtake Barack Obama in the Democratic race. Realistically, her only function has been to diminish the prospective nominee.

That is even more true following yesterday's primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. While the two candidates split victories in these two states, Sen. Obama did better than expected in both. Arguably, Sen. Obama would have won Indiana if not for the efforts of Rush Limbaugh to interfere with the Democratic campaign by urging his listeners to vote for Sen. Clinton. Regardless of that, the fact that she failed to meet expectations in the wake of favorable circumstances created by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright mess amounts to a stunning repudiation of her candidacy.


For those who don't know, The Oracle was engaged to Kim Basinger, was a body double for Arnold Shwarzenegger in one of his movies, and graduated from Western Kentucky University.

Actually, only one of those things is true (the reader can likely guess which one), but that means that I have apparently told the truth about one more item than did the bizarre mayor of Carrollton, Texas. Mayor Becky Miller has claimed to have dated Don Henley, sang backup for Linda Ronstadt, and attended my highly esteemed alma mater. She also claims to have had a brother die in Vietnam. An investigation by the Dallas Morning News suggests that none of these -- or a number of other fantastic claims -- are true.

Ms. Miller is up for re-election on Saturday. It will be interesting to see if the city re-elects an official for whom dishonesty has risen to the level of a mental illness.

Oh, did I mention that I once hit a three run homer in the bottom of the ninth in game 7 of a World Series? Or, that I dated Jennifer Anniston?

No, I guess I didn't.

Update. In a letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News, Ms. Miller's husband, Jerry Miller, stands by his woman, expressing "full faith and trust in her" based on what he says that she has accomplished for the city. However, he does not address any of the vast array of untruths that she is alleged to have told.

Update II. For her part, Ms. Miller also argues that she has done good things for the city, offers vague and unsubstantiated responses regarding her apparent untruths, and accuses her opponents of dirty politics. Saying that opponents are guilty of dirty politics for pointing out a seeming inability to differentiate truth from fiction would seem to be the last refuge of this scoundrel.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

But It's Worth It

When kissing someone, between 10 million and 1 billion bacteria are exchanged.

Hat Tip: Evangelical Outpost

The Launching of a Career

Ronald Reagan's famous speech in support of Barry Goldwater for President in 1964 can be found here.

Hat Tip: Keller City Limits

Going in Different Directions?

As conservatism appears to be on a cyclic decline in the United States, it appears to be on the upswing in European capitols.

The Swiss Forsake Neutrality

They're on the side of the plants.

Hat Tip: Alan K. Henderson

Alfred Hitchcock on an Elevator

It's really a funny story that Stuart Buck has here.

A Divided Personality

At the end of his post, Rob Huddleston claims, a bit pretentiously, that his refusal to consider voting for the Republican nominee for President comes from his learning at the feet of "Kuyper, Burke, Chesterton, Buckley, Nash, and Reagan." One only wonders that he didn't add Jesus. He doesn't seem to have noticed that many, if not all, of those he mentions understood that conservatism takes note of what is do-able in the real world. In other words, their conservatism tended not to remain in a pristine vacuum. Pristine purity has been more characteristic of the Utopian left.

To the contrary, Mr. Huddleston, in this post and otherwise, has always struck me as one who combines mostly conservative political views with the temperament of a Utopian.

Hat Tip: Abramson

In Reality, All Can't Be Above Average

Charles Murray argues that educational policies originating from both the political left and right have been characterized by a Utopian "educational romanticism" that has harmed students at all ability levels. He concludes his article:

For the good of our children, educational romanticism needs to collapse, and quickly. Its effects play out in the lives of young people in devastating ways. The fourth-grader who has trouble sounding out simple words and his classmate who is reading A Tale of Two Cities for fun sit in the same classroom day after miserable day, the one so frustrated by tasks he cannot do and the other so bored that both are near tears. The eighth-grader who cannot make sense of algebra but has an almost mystical knack with machines is told to stick with the college prep track, because to be a success in life he must go to college and get a B.A. The senior with terrific SAT scores gets away with turning in rubbish on his term papers because to make special demands on the gifted would be elitist. They are all products of an educational system that cannot make itself talk openly about the implications of diverse educational limits.

There is much more to be said about these harms (and I have said it, in a book that will appear in a few months). For now, it is enough to recognize that educational romanticism asks too much from students at the bottom of the intellectual pile, asks the wrong things from those in the middle, and asks too little from those at the top. It short-changes all of them.

While I would argue that some of Mr. Murray's arguments are too sweeping, he nonetheless makes a number of valid points that should be engaged by those all along the political spectrum concerned about education policy.

Hat Tip: Harrison Scott Key

Too Little, Too Late

While I'm not sure that his prescription for revitalizing the Republican Party would make much difference, even if it were not destined to be ignored, Newt Gingrich is surely right about this:

The Republican brand has been so badly damaged that if Republicans try to run an anti-Obama, anti- Reverend Wright, or (if Senator Clinton wins), anti-Clinton campaign, they are simply going to fail.

Basically stated, the problem is that the national Republican Party is essentially rudderless. What do Republicans really stand for now? Limited government? Can anyone really argue that with a straight face any more? Competence? Faced with a choice between Democrats offering brazen big government solutions and Republicans offering empty rhetoric, Americans are likely to choose the former, or to stay home.

Yet, the party's moribund national leadership has consistently shown over the last two years that it prefers the perks of minority status to an actual sustained effort at governing based on principle. The party likely needs new blood to invigorate it before it will again make a difference.

I feel compelled to add the disclaimer that I hope that I am wrong. I wouldn't bet on it, though.

Hat Tip: The Hill

Taking Baseball a Little too Seriously

At a bar in New Hampshire, a group of Red Sox fans began taunting a Yankees fan, Ivonne Hernandez. In response, she ran her car toward the group, killing one.

There appears to have been drinking involved.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Why Medical Underwriting Is, Regrettably, Necessary

While arguing in favor of legislation that just passed the U.S. Senate that would prohibit insurance companies from using genetic information in underwriting insurance, UCLA law professor Russell Korobkin goes a step further and argues that insurers should also not be allowed to do any medical underwriting on health insurance, as "the purpose of insurance is to share the risk." His argument is a bit confusing here, as he fails to account for the fact that there are already limitations regarding medical underwriting with regard to group insurance under ERISA.

For personal reasons, I am somewhat sympathetic to his argument (I have not tried, but suspect that I would not be able to buy individual health insurance due to a slightly heightened risk of developing cancer than the general population.). However, there are problems with his suggestion. First, it fails to account for the problem known in the insurance industry as "anti-selection," which is the tendency of healthy people to put off buying insurance until they are sick. His plan would actually encourage anti-selection, which would actually have the effect of driving up costs, as seemingly healthy people would have an even greater incentive to take the risk of refraining from buying insurance until such time as they needed it if they knew for certain that they could not be denied at a later time.

There is a second problem with the concept of pooling risk as it relates to health insurance. With regard to most kinds of insurances, we can speak of pooling risk because we are insuring against unpredictable losses. No one knows when or if they will have a car accident. However, we require health insurers to cover predictable events -- things such as preventive medicine, annual check ups, and so forth. It would be like using car insurance to cover oil changes, which might sound like a good idea until someone figured out what it would do to costs. This difference means that health insurance in many ways is not a means of pooling risk as much as it is just a complicated financing mechanism.

Visiting the Alamo

Everyone -- literally -- I have known that has visited the Alamo has told me the same thing: they were disappointed. While that was not my reaction when I visited there on Saturday, I understand it. The fort itself is right in the middle of San Antonio and is a fairly small area. Visiting the Alamo is not at all an experience like visiting Gettysburg or Shiloh.

That being said, I enjoyed the visit. The information in the church and on a wall of information outside was interesting, and a guide gave a passionate presentation on the history of the area and the actual battle. Admission is free.

Approximately 200 defenders of the fort were overwhelmed by the 2,000 plus soldier Mexican army led by Santa Anna. All of the men were killed, though 14 women and children were spared and allowed to leave by the Mexican army.

Not a Paid Advertisement: I Was Just Impressed

While walking through an area near the South River Walk in San Antonio this past weekend, we came across this art studio. As I was expressing amazement at the vividness of the portraits, a voice from the other end of the room said, "Thank you." The woman sitting behind the counter was the artist herself.

If I ever decide to have a portrait done of a family member, I will definitely give her a call. She is really very, very good.

She also has a blog here.

"Expelled": a brief review

Being a romantic sort of guy, The Oracle decided to take his date to a chick flick on Saturday night. Thus, we saw the controversial Ben Stein documentary, Expelled. Regarding the movie, which I for the most part enjoyed, I will make a few observations.

1. While the movie concerns the subject of Intelligent Design, it does not purport to make a full blown defense of that theory of origins. The movie more fundamentally concerns the issue of academic freedom. Given the atmosphere of political correctness that prevails frequently on college campuses, the producers could have chosen from a wide range of other subjects to make their point. Nonetheless, to say that academic freedom is a valued concept is not the same thing as saying that everyone ought to be entitled to it. Thus, Mr. Stein suggests early on that advocates of ID should not defended if they are adhering to something comparable to those who believe that the earth is flat. To that end, the film is successful in showing that these advocates are frequently articulate and highly credentialed scholars. As such, their treatment at the hands of the academic community has been unconscionable.

2. The entertainment value of the film is heightened by humorous scenes and clips sprinkled throughout it poking fun at the opponents of ID. While these devices make the documentary generally more enjoyable to those who agree with it, they also reduce its effectiveness for those who require convincing.

3. Implicit, though not as clearly stated as it might have been, in the film is the idea that Darwinism, as much as ID, rests on a philosophy as much as on empirical science. This is an idea that ought to be pressed, as scientists frequently fail to notice the philosophical bias inherent in folding philosophical naturalism into the definition of the scientific method. To say that scientists study the natural world ought not to be the same thing as saying that nature is all there is, but that is exactly the presumption that is made all too frequently by Darwinists.

3. There has been much criticism of the documentary's linking of Darwinism with the atrocities of the Holocaust. It is a device that runs the risk of seeming to unfairly tar all Darwinists with the stain of the Nazis, and Mr. Stein states on more than one occasion that this is not the purpose behind this part of the film. Having said that, the documentary does make the fair point that ideas have logical conclusions, and the historical link between Darwinism and the eugenics movement prior to WWII is not debatable. Early Darwinists also frequently held to views generally referred to as "social Darwinism." Ultimately, those beliefs were rejected, not because they were not reasonable conclusions from a Darwinist understanding of the nature of life, but because those logical conclusions came to be rightly regarded as cruel, arrogant, and inhumane.

The late Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer argued that if nature is all there is, then there is really no distinction between cruelty and non-cruelty -- nature is all there is. That cold reality does not determine who is right on the question of origins, but it does tell us something about what is ultimately at stake.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Bipartisan Fiddling?

Steven Studdert, author of a new book entitled America in Danger, may (or may not) turn out to be guilty of alarmism with regard to his concerns about the nation's future. However, it is difficult to argue with his assessment of the country's leaders from both parties in view of the rather significant long term problems we face:

It all boils down to the fact that the entire political leadership of this country is ... political. That is, they're more concerned with short-term political survival than the long-term good of the country. In my entire political career, I've never seen such a confluence of serious problems. Congress is debating whether or not ballplayers should use steroids while we've got the mortgage crisis threatening to bring down the economy, and we have the lowest wheat reserves in history.

Fat Cats

Scott Burns looks at the most recent IRS data and notes that, contrary to much of the inflammatory rhetoric about the Bush tax cuts helping the rich, the top 25% of income earners paid a higher percentage of total tax revenues than they did in the year prior to Mr. Bush taking office:

In 2000, the top 25 percent of all taxpaying filers paid a whopping 83.6 percent of all income taxes. By 2005, they paid 85.6 percent of all taxes. So in spite of tax rate cuts for the well-off, the share of taxes paid by the well-off has risen.

What does this all mean?

Simple. When political talk turns to tax "fairness," none of the candidates mentions where a high income begins. So I thought you might want to know. You were in the top 25 percent of taxpayers in 2005 if your taxable income exceeded $61,055.

Millions of Americans have no idea what fat cats they are.

Mr. Burns also notes that an increasing number of tax filers pay no income taxes at all, though they are responsible for payroll taxes.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Mugged by Reality

Dallas Morning News columnist James Ragland, moved to compassion by the story of a man who was robbed in downtown Dallas last week while having a seizure, set out to find a way to help the victim. Sadly, along the way Mr. Ragland has learned that much of the man's story appears to have been a fraud. The columnist holds out some hope that it will turn out otherwise, but given what he has uncovered so far -- or been unable to uncover -- those hopes are diminishing.

Read about it here.

Dumb Criminal Story of the Day

Charles Ray Fuller was arrested in Fort Worth yesterday after walking into a Chase Bank and attempting to cash a check for $360 billion -- from his girlfriend's mother, who, as one might guess, did not write the check.

The criminal's mistake was in attempting to cash the check in Fort Worth. A check for that amount in north Dallas wouldn't have raised an eyebrow.


Oakland, California Schools Propagandize Students

That educators in California strongly disagree with state funding proposals that could result in teacher layoffs is not surprising. However, that teachers in Oakland, California have resorted, with the tacit approval of the school district, to propaganda in an effort to indoctrinate students on this and other issues is unacceptable.

As an example of what took place in yesterday's "teach-in," the New York Times reports that students were given a worksheet showing the amount of money spent on the war in Iraq and relating that to the fact that "our schools don't have money." One high school senior quoted in the story shows that she understood what she was taught. She said, “We don’t have any money because it’s all going to the war. And now they’re shutting all this stuff down.”

Unfortunately, the student doesn't seem to understand (because the propagandist leading her class didn't teach it) that the amount of money spent on the war in Iraq -- a federal expenditure -- has nothing to do with how much the government of the state of California spends on education. Speaking of California spending, U.S. census data shows that per pupil spending in California increased from $5,255 in 1997 to $8,486 in 2006. That increase of over 60% hardly qualifies as not having any money.

Thus, students were apparently mislead during school hours about both state spending and the nature of federalism in order to support a political goal.

Craig Gordon, the social studies teacher responsible for the day's curriculum claims that the goal was to "raise awareness" and help students "to actively think about the priorities of society." A district spokesman claimed that the lessons exemplify "a comprehensive education" that considers "the subjects that are taught in relation to current events." In fact, the teaching represents a fundamental failure of civics instruction. The teachers responsible should be fired for incompetence.

Soft on Crime in Texas

A federal court yesterday sentenced Plano, Texas bodybuilder David Jacobs, who is described as having run one of the largest steroid trafficking businesses in the United States, to 3 years probation and a $25,000 fine. His former girlfriend and an employee were also each sentenced to 3 years probation and smaller fines.

In agreeing to the sentence, the federal judge in the case noted that the punishment seemed lenient for the crime, but prosecutors cited the cooperation of the witness in defending the recommendation. Mr. Jacobs is reported to have identified supply systems for his operation.

The perpetrator says that he wants to help clean up the NFL. It may be that the NFL, which has taken a head in the sand approach to problems related to both concussive injuries and steroid use, may prefer not to know. Time will tell.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

For an excellent post discussing "self-esteem and its misuse in education," see Shrinkwrapped here.

A snippet:

Self-esteem may well be the psychoanalytic concept most thoroughly perverted by the pop psychology movement since the 1960s. It has led to especially pernicious effects in pedagogy. Schools routinely refuse to rank students, demur from teaching actual math or spelling skills (versus allowing and encouraging students to find their own approach to math and spelling with the correct answer being less important than the effort), ban games of tag or dodgeball, and reduce competitive games to unscored exercises, all in the name of protecting the self-esteem of their young charges. This does a disservice to the students, who too often graduate from our schools without knowing that they don't know what they don't know. It encourages a populace to believe that facts are inconsequential and feelings trump reality since there is nothing more important than the students' feelings. This is highly corrosive.

A Bit of Wright Satire

Scrappleface "reports" that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright will be invited to offer the "invocation rebuttal" at the Democratic National Convention.

Advice for Single Men

In case you haven't figured it out, I would confirm that you should follow the Brad Pitt Rule.

Something to Remember While Playing Phone Tag

For 10 tips that will help one avoid leaving "crappy, unclear, and long voicemails," see here.

From my perspective, the most important of these is "repeat your phone number twice." It really is annoying to have to replay an entire voice mail because the caller stated the number too quickly to write down in a muffled voice difficult to understand.

Hat Tip: Evangelical Outpost

No Caps on Non-Economic Damages in Tennessee

Tennessee, a generally conservative state with a strong trial lawyer lobby, has never been able to pass medical malpractice reform legislation placing caps on non-economic damages, even though such legislation has proven to be an effective means of promoting adequate access to health care in states such as Texas.

Tennessee will again not be able to pass such legislation this year. After killing caps, the misnamed Tennessee Association of Justice agreed to a compromise with the Tennessee Medical Association on a bill that will allow both groups to claim victory while accomplishing nothing of substantive value. The bill requires a party filing a medical malpractice complaint to get a medical expert to sign a "certificate of good faith" stating that malpractice occurred.

The Tennessee Association of Justice is a group of ambulance chasers that used to be known as the Tennessee Trial Lawyer's Association. Evidently, some PR firm explained to the group that Americans like justice but think of trial lawyers as being disreputable.

The only effect of the bill will be to create a new cottage industry of doctors that will be willing to sign off on almost anything. It will be parallel to the situation with regard to medical experts used for independent medical exams in accident cases.

Hat Tip: Tennessee Politics Blog

The Advantages of Unemployment

The Oracle, who is a hopelessly addicted baseball fan, has now seen eight consecutive Texas Rangers' home games. They go on the road after winning today, giving me a break.

My loyal readers should not worry. All of my non-baseball time has been spent on the job search.

Bush Administration Disarray Quote of the Day

"In a lame duck administration, there's apparently no one making her do the job she was hired to do."

--- Kevin Funnell, writing about a report in the Wall Street Journal that FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair is working on a legislative proposal that would permit the Treasury Department to make direct loans to homeowners in financial difficulty. Mr. Funnell is pointing out that the proposal has no relationship to her responsibilities at the FDIC.

Why Clinton's "Momentum" Doesn't Matter

From The Cook Report:

"But you can’t change how the game is played once it has begun. The Democrats have decided that the nominee will be determined by the number of delegates won, not by the popular vote, and that primaries held in direct violation of party rules (in this case, Florida’s and Michigan’s) don’t count. End of discussion."

Hat Tip: Rick Perry Vs. the World

Easy Money

The news that the American economy has not yet entered a recession has been widely reported, but those accounts have also been quick to label economic growth as being weak, based on the first quarter GDP growth of 0.6%.

However, I had not seen prior to reading this Wall Street Journal editorial that the increase in first quarter GDP is a much more robust 1.8%, if one excludes the housing sector, in which the bubble has recently burst.

That figure makes the Federal Reserve's decision to cut the federal funds rate yet even more curious. Not since the end of the Carter era has inflation posed so great a threat to American economic well being.

He Must Be Smoking Grassley

In spite of food prices spiraling out of control world wide, partly as an unanticipated (though certainly predictable) result of congressional ethanol mandates, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) stubbornly persists in insisting that ethanol is part of the solution to the problem of dependence on foreign oil.

Even so, Sen. Grassley is right about one thing. According to The Hill, he "insisted repeatedly that corn farmers aren't to blame." That is true. No one should blame farmers. Blame should be focused on those in Congress who perpetuate this destructive progam in order to pander to their constituents.

Yes, Senator Grassley. That would include you.

The Inflation Monster?

In cutting the prime rate by 1/4 of a percentage point, the Federal Reserve signalled that this would likely be the final reduction after a series of cuts over several months.

One worries that they may have made one too many. In reacting to the economic woes of the housing sector, they are ignoring, and even worsening, the most crucial problem facing the economy as a whole: rising prices.

The Federal Reserve has done an outstanding job of curbing inflation and sustaining economic growth over the last 25 years. That may have changed.

Pork Addiction

Dallas mayor Tom Leppert and state senator Royce West jointly authored an opinion piece for the Dallas Morning News in which they sing the praises of pork. They are in love with the fact that their congressional representatives can force the taxpayers of Dallas, Pennsylvania to pay for water projects in Dallas, Texas.

In order to promote earmarks (the authors don't merely defend these appropriations, but encourage their use as a positive good), they must emphasize the great wisdom and knowledge exercised by extraordinary congressmen and senators in funding projects that meet their communities' needs. It is, after all, a wisdom that is so superior that it justifies providing funds without any kind of hearing process evaluating earmarked proposals that are simply stuffed into omnibus bills. The authors rightly point out the potential abuses of block grants sometimes provided to communities through the regulatory process, but they unfortunately think that criticism of that type of funding somehow makes the use of earmarks acceptable.

They also attack bureaucrats for making decisions that are sometimes political. That criticism is sometimes valid, but at least regulatory agencies are subject to mandated administrative procedure processes and congressional oversight. Earmarks are subject to none of those checks and balances.

Why Superdelegates Remain Mum

Syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak asks whether Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's renunciation of his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, came too late. It is possible that it has, but it is interesting that Democratic superdelegates have remained on the sidelines at what could have been thought of as a magic moment for finally embracing Hillary Clinton. That they did not do so ought to be encouraging to the Obama camp, and it is, no doubt, infuriating to that of Sen. Clinton.

Why did the superdelegates not embrace Sen. Clinton at a time when her opponent has been severely damaged? I would suggest the following:

1. Over the course of this campaign, Democratic Party leaders have finally figured out and come to resent what outside observers have known for almost 20 years: the Clinton's are more than willing to throw the rest of the Party under the bus in order to promote their own political and personal fortunes. That realization gives them an emotional stake in a Clinton loss.

2. Democratic leaders are calculating that the Wright issue will be largely forgotten by the public by November. In that regard, they think they have the perfect opponent in John McCain, who not only has shown an unwillingness to engage in attacks on the issue, but who has actually tamped down on supporters who tried to raise it. If the Wright problem dies, Sen. Obama is still a stronger candidate for the general election that Sen. Clinton due to her high negative ratings and political tin ear.

3. Democratic leaders fear the repercussions among blacks should they coronate Sen. Clinton on the basis of questionable associations on the part of Sen. Obama. Even with an extremely unpopular Republican President, the Democrats know that they cannot win if they do not continue to receive around 90% of a robust black vote. Should blacks decide to vote for McCain or, nearly as bad, just stay home, the consequences will be a Democratic loss in what should be a banner year.