Saturday, January 31, 2009

Markets Don't Plan any Better Than Planners

From The Economist:

The monument to Soviet central planning was supposed to have been a heap of
surplus left boots without any right ones to match them. The great bull market
of the past quarter century is commemorated by millions of empty houses without
anyone to buy them. Gosplan drafted workers into grim factories even if their
talents would have been better suited elsewhere. Finance beguiled the bright and
ambitious and put them to work in the trading rooms of Wall Street and the City
of London. Much of their effort was wasted. You can only guess at what else they
might have achieved.

I Am Accused of "Unyielding Curmudgeonly Skepticism"

I had an interesting discussion the other day with a fellow named Jay Rogers at The Forerunner. Rogers had blogged about a discussion with a skeptic in which he asserted that “there is a continual unbroken witness to the authors of the New Testament in every generation up until the great Codices of the fourth century.” This was news to me as it is my understanding that the authors of the canonical gospels were not definitively identified until Irenaeous did so around 180 A.D. So I asked Rogers a few questions about the writings that he considered “witnesses to the authors of the New Testament.”

The discussion was cordial enough for awhile. At first, Rogers seemed impressed that I had actually read Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians and understood the issues. However, as I continued to challenge his interpretation of the evidence, he accused me of “unyielding curmudgeonly skepticism” and I decided that there was not much point in continuing the discussion.

The following facts formed the basis for our dispute (or one of our disputes):

Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians is the earliest non-canonical Christian writing. It is generally dated late in the first century around 95 A.D. The letter does not actually name Clement as its author, but according to tradition he was a bishop of Rome who knew both Peter and Paul who were martyred in Rome in the mid-60’s. The letter is written to the church in Corinth where there appears to have been some schism in which the elders of the church were deposed. The nature of the schism is not explained, but Clement urges the Corinthians to restore the rightful leaders to power.

Clement frequently cites the Old Testament by introducing a quotation with something like “Scripture says” or “the Lord says.” He twice introduces sayings of Jesus with “Jesus says.” He also uses many phrases that are found in various New Testament epistles. However, when he does this, he does not say “Paul says.” In fact, he does not indicate that he is quoting any source. He simply incorporates the phrases into his writing as if the words were his own rather than Paul’s.

The only New Testament book that Clement mentions is Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul. What did he write to you at the
time when the gospel first began to be preached? Truly, under the inspiration of
the Spirit, he wrote to you concerning himself, and Cephas, and Apollos, because
even then parties had been formed among you.

Clement never explicitly quotes Paul’s words though.

Clement quotes two sayings of Jesus; one about being merciful in order to obtain mercy and one about the dangers of throwing stumbling blocks in front of believers. Both sayings are similar to ones found in the synoptic gospels, but neither are exact quotes. Clement does not indicate his source for these quotes.

Rogers seemed to find the following arguments indicative of my “unyielding curmudgeonly skepticism”:

(1) You can’t claim that Clement is witness to the authors of the New Testament since he does not name them.

Other than identifying Paul as the author of a letter to the Corinthians, Clement does not mention a single New Testament book or name any of their authors. He uses enough phrases from the epistles that it is clear that he was familiar with many of them. Nevertheless, he does not identify their authors. It might be entirely reasonable to think that he knew who the authors were, but you can’t call him a witness to the authors.

Rogers accused me of making arguments from silence, but I certainly was not making one here. I am not claiming that Clement did not know who the authors of the other epistles were. I am simply saying that he does not say.

(2) You can’t claim that Clement views Paul’s writings as authoritative scripture when he does not treat them in the same way that he treats authoritative scripture.

Throughout his letter, Clement introduces quotations of authoritative sources with phrases like “the Lord says,” “Scripture says,” or “Jesus says.” He never introduces a quote from one of the epistles with “Paul says,” “Peter says,” or “James says.” Clement simply incorporates the words of the epistles into the text as if they were his own. He uses the words of the epistles differently than he uses the words of Jesus or the words of the Old Testament.

It is true that Clement describes Paul as writing his first letter to the Corinthians “under the inspiration of the Spirit.” If he quoted Paul's writings in the same way that he quoted the writings from the Old Testament, I would take Clement's use of the word "inspiration" as persuasive evidence that he intended to elevate Paul's letters to the status of "scripture." But Clement does not do that. Clement explicitly cites the Old Testament as "scripture" in order to show that he viewed its teachings as authoritative and he never does this with any of the teachings drawn from Paul’s letters.

It is a similar argument to one I have had about “spare the rod and spoil the child.” Many Christians point to “thy rod and thy staff comfort me” in Psalm 23 to argue that the rod is meant merely to guide the child. However, if you look at the book of Proverbs, its author repeatedly refers to using the rod to “beat” people. I have not studied hermeneutics, but I cannot see the justification of looking to Psalms for a usage of the rod that is contrary to the usage that is perfectly clear in Proverbs. Similarly, I cannot see the justification for looking to “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” in Timothy 3:16 to argue that Clement viewed the epistles as scripture when his own letter shows that he did not.

Clement’s failure to indicate when he is quoting Paul seems particularly significant to me as the whole point of his letter is to convince the Corinthians to submit to the rightful authority that had been established by the apostles and their successors. I cannot conceive of any reason why Clement wouldn’t have indicated that he was quoting the words of those apostles in the same way that he indicated he was quoting the words of Jesus and the Old Testament if he thought that they carried similar authority.

I am not really sure whether this is an argument from silence or not. If it is, I think it is a damn strong one because I am not arguing based on some abstract speculation regarding what I think Clement might have done had he thought the epistles to be scripture. I am basing my argument on direct observation of what Clement did do when he thought something was scripture.

(3) You can’t claim that Clement is a witness to the canonical gospel of Matthew when he never identifies Matthew as the source of the quoted sayings of Jesus.

It is a very simple argument. Similar words appear in Matthew and Clement. Clement could have taken the words from Matthew. Matthew could have taken the words from Clement. They both could have taken the words from a third source. It is like a teacher who receives two identical papers. How do you determine which student copied the other’s work or whether they both copied from somewhere else? The similarity alone does not tell you.

To a certain extent, this logic applies to the quotations to the epistles as well, however, Clement borrowers so heavily from some of them that it is hard to imagine that he wasn’t working with their texts. However, he only uses two sayings of Jesus, and he does not reference any of the stories about Jesus’ ministry, passion, or resurrection that are found in the gospels. That makes it very difficult to rule out the possibility that these two sayings were taken either from the oral tradition or from a written collection of sayings rather from the Gospel of Matthew as we know it today.

As with the epistles, I am not arguing from silence to say that Clement does not say that he is quoting from Matthew because he doesn't. However, I would make the argument from silence that he was not familiar with Matthew. At one point, he uses the myth of the Phoenix rising from the ashes to illustrate the nature of Christ's resurrection. Had he been familiar with the canonical gospels, I cannot imagine why he would not have used what he would have considered the historical stories of the empty tomb and Christ's appearances to the apostles to illustrate the same point. This is an argument from silence that I find quite persuasive though I would concede that I have never convinced an evangelical blogger of its validity.

I would not claim that I have conclusively established that Clement did not know all things that Rogers thinks he knew or believe all the things that Rogers thinks he believed. I don't pretend that I can read Clement's mind. However, I can read his letter and I can see that it is not a witness to that knowledge and those beliefs.

One of the things I found most amusing was how Rogers chided me for making arguments from silence at the same time he was doing so.
One of the strongest arguments in favor of authentic authorship is the fact
that form the earliest centuries this was never in dispute until the German
critics came along in the 1800s.
Further, ALL the documentary evidence we have available points to four
named authors of four gospels. There is exactly ZERO documentary evidence that
the authors were unknown or disputed.
I find his arguments from silence particularly unpersuasive for a very simple reason: we have little reason to expect to find much documentary evidence of such disputes. The early church did not make it a practice to preserve the writings of those it considered heretics. Our knowledge of heretical belief comes for the most part from the writings of theologians defending the orthodox. After the orthodox faith was firmly established, people who challenged things like the authenticity of scripture risked ex-communication and death. I don't think we can infer all that much from the scarcity of dissent.

Friday, January 30, 2009

White Pays a Visit

James White stopped by to let me know that he thinks I am a jerk, too, and that my comments about his debate with Bart Ehrman prove "that atheists hear only what they want to hear." Just to make things clear, this is what I heard White say on his podcast about Ehrman's refusal to comment on the extent to which the texts of the Koran were corrupted in transmission:

  • Ehrman really knows more about the Koran (because he was Chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at UNC) than he is willing to admit, i.e., he is a liar.

  • Ehrman criticizes Christian texts without criticizing Islamic texts, i.e., he is a hypocrite.

  • Ehrman is a reluctant to offend Muslims by criticizing their texts, i.e., he is a coward.
What I did not hear was any claim that the Koran had any relevance to the topic of the debate: “Can the New Testament Be Inspired In Light of Textual Variations?” All I heard was White’s insinuations about Ehrman’s character.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Consistency of Dr. James White

Consider the following hypothetical exchange:
Bart: Hey Jim! Your wife is a slut.

Jim: How dare you say that!

Bart: I slept with

Jim: Well how about Tom’s wife. She’s a slut

Bart: Well I never slept with

Jim: Well I have. Trust me. Tom’s wife is a

Bart: Fine. Both of your wives are

Jim: No. You’re wrong. Only Tom’s
wife is a slut. My wife is a free spirit.
Who is being inconsistent here? Bart who only comments on the woman he knows or Jim who thinks that sleeping around only makes someone else’s wife a slut?

Last week, James White and Bart Ehrman had a debate on the textual reliability of the New Testament. White seems to think that he scored some big points because Ehrman was unwilling to discuss the textual reliability of the Koran. “His unwillingness to apply his own hyper-skepticism to anything other than Christianity betrays his deep bias and prejudice.” Of course, Ehrman is not a scholar of the Koran and has not studied its texts. More importantly, the fact that the Koran is not textually reliable would not for a minute effect the reliability of the New Testament.

I think White is a jerk. However, I have no reason to think that his wife is anything other than pure and virtuous.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Earners v. Entrepreneurs

Watching CNBC this morning, I heard Larry Kudlow complain about Democrats who want to raise taxes on the most “successful earners and entrepreneurs.” I find the use of the word “earners” very revealing. It is the word that the mafia bosses in The Sopranos used to describe their most successful underlings.

John Thain was a successful earner. In early 2008, he spent $1.2 million to refurbish his office at Merrill Lynch headquarters while the company was slashing jobs and businesses. In September, he arranged the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America whose stock is down 80% since the deal was announced. The government has been forced to put up more than $40 billion to bail out B of A. Nevertheless, Thain thought he deserved a year end bonus of $10 million.

Dick Fuld was a successful earner. He made half a billion dollars during his years as chief of Lehman Brothers including $45 million in 2007. Lehman filed for bankruptcy in September sending markets into a tailspin.

I have no objection to tax policies that reward successful entrepreneurs because they make the economy go. However, a successful earner is not necessarily the same thing at all.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Will History Be Kind to Bush? (5)

Of the 2008 Economic Crisis, ChrisB writes,

It’s hard to predict what will be said about this president and this crisis when we’re still trying to figure out what the heck is going on, but I think two things will be emphasized by future historians:

First, the Bush administration called this thing years before it happened. They certainly could have worked harder to prevent the eventual crisis, but they identified at least some of the dangers in the mortgage market years before the crisis was realized and called for reform.

Second, when the crisis hit, Pres. Bush did not cling to his ideology when he thought it was not working. To use his phrase, he opted, right or wrong, for “compassionate” over “conservative.”

The best that Bush’s apologists can hope for when it comes to the economic crisis is that the blame gets spread around. After 9/11, Bush encouraged Americans to go out and shop. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan cut interest rates to 1% and held them there far too long which sparked the housing boom and allowed consumers to use their houses like ATM’s. Until the bubble burst, the administration unabashedly took credit for the debt-fueled economic expansion and constantly touted the record level of home ownership as proof of Bush's economic stewardship. History will confirm that Bush was a cheerleader throughout.

Will History Be Kind to Bush? (4)

On Torture, ChrisB says,

Of course, Iraq and the “War on Terror” will bring up Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. I think history’s evaluation of these will be mixed. First, we have to confirm that people do bad things at times, and that the soldiers in Iraq are often the same age as frat boys. Given sufficient stress and peer pressure, 20-year-olds do stupid things. But I think time will provide the perspective to say that making a man wear a dog collar is not torture in the strictest sense of the word.

In Guantanamo, history will, I believe, acknowledge that the US faced an unusual situation – a war not against a nation but a diverse group with no uniforms and no rules. Though it may not judge that we acted properly in all of our treatment of the not-prisoners-of-war there, I think it will at least appreciate the struggle to determine what to do with combatants to whom no rules or precedents apply and who may hold knowledge vital to protecting American civilians and soldiers.

It is hard to know what the final verdict will be of the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” and “extraordinary renditions.” The administration claims that it has obtained actionable intelligence that has saved American lives. On the other hand many experts insist that coercion doesn’t work because the subject will say whatever he thinks the questioner wants to hear regardless of the truth. If it could be proved that torture worked, history will probably cut Bush some slack on this issue, but any records that might substantiate the administrations claims will no doubt be classified for years to come.

Historians will also have to weigh the benefits obtained from any accurate intellingence against the negative consequences of Bush’s torture policies. For example, information obtained by “enhanced techniques” was used to bolster Colin Powell’s U.N. speech that made the case for war. The cost in chasing down false leads will have to be considered. History will also judge the effect to which torture policies made our job more difficult. The pictures from Abu Graib and the stories of innocent citizens caught up with extraordinary rendition will prove to be a recruiting bonanza for jihadists for years to come.

I would also point out that there were in fact rules and precedents that applied to these combatants. They were known as the Geneva Conventions, which the Bush administration abandoned. The United States had led the world in the humane treatment of prisoners since George Washington refused to engage in torture during the Revolutionary War. America took the high road even when enemies like Japan and North Viet Nam engaged in abusive practices. Abu Ghraib was not simply the result of a few rogue soldiers. It was the result of inadequate planning for the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq as well as the vacuum created when the Bush administration abandoned America’s traditional standards for treating prisoners.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Will History Be Kind to Bush? (3)

Regarding Iraq, ChrisB writes,

Though history will probably record that Iraq possessed few non-conventional weapons, it will also confirm that every major power in the world believed otherwise and that Hussein’s goal was to re-establish WMD programs once the sanctions lapsed. Had the US and its allies not invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein would probably have achieved nuclear weapons before Iran, and it takes little imagination to envision what the presence a nuclear Iraq would have done to the Middle East.

History will show that most major powers thought that Saddam had retained some chemical and biological weapons from his war with Iran in the 1980's, but almost no one other than the United States believed that he was actively pursuing WMD in 2002 or that the available intelligence warranted an invasion. Moreover, most major powers believed that Saddam had not taken any steps to reconstitute his nuclear program since the first gulf war.

If Iraq becomes the kind of secular democracy that we would love to see in the Middle East, Bush's standing will surely rise. However, I don't think it likely that we will learn anything that makes his original case for war look any better. In fact, history may well find the smoking gun that shows that the administration knew that its case was full of holes.

Will History Be Kind to Bush? (2)

I would like to take a look at some of the ways that conservatives have suggested that historians may rehabilitate George Bush's reputation. Most of the the arguments will be taken from ChrisB at My Three Cents and RedBlue Christian because they seem to be pretty typical and because he has always been one of my favorite sparring partners.

Regarding 9/11, ChrisB wrote:
Conspiracy theorists not withstanding, I don’t think most people believe the Bush administration “allowed” the attacks to occur. If the administration and/or intelligence community dropped the ball prior to 9/11, they certainly made up for it afterwards. On Sept. 10, 2001, no one believed we could suffer such a blow; on Sept. 12, 2001, no one believed we would go more than a couple of years without another. The seven years that have passed without another incident can certainly be attributed to many things, but anyone who denies the Bush administration’s hand in it is blinded by ideology.

I find the conspiracy theories as silly as Chris does, but I do think that Bush dropped the ball prior to 9/11. I also think that Bush made a big mistake by failing to immediately appoint a commission to figure out what went wrong as Franklin Roosevelt did after Pearl Harbor. The administration took the attitude that the world changed on 9/11 when the truth was that world was the same, but 9/11 showed that we did not understand it. I think that a more careful assessment of what had gone wrong might have led to less impulsive decisions going forward.

Did the administration and intelligence community make up for it afterward? The intelligence on Iraq cannot be seen as anything other than a massive failure both in terms of the lack of WMD and the failure to anticipate the insurgency. History may show that the lack of further attacks is directly attributable to steps taken by the Bush administration and that would certainly burnish Bush's reputation, however, I don't think we will know until a lot of information is declassified and someone within Al Queda describes how they reponded to what the administration did. I think it is still possible to be skeptical without being ideological.

Will History Be Kind to Bush? (1)

It goes without saying that our evaluation of presidents changes over time. Sometimes it just takes a long time for the results of a president’s decisions become known. Harry Truman was deeply unpopular when he left office in large part because American forces were stalemated in Korea. However, with each passing year in which American and Soviet missiles remained in their silos, it looked more and more like Truman had found the right balance by confronting the Soviet Union when it made sense to do so while avoiding the provocation that might have led to nuclear war.

While evaluations often change based on future events, they also change when more is learned about the times in which the president operated. An assessment might improve as historians come to understand that a president was dealt a worse hand coming in than we originally thought. As key players write their memoirs and documents get declassified, historians better understand the choices that were available to a president. As information about how our adversaries responded to choices a president made, he may look much better.

It is entirely possible that historians will look more kindly upon George Bush’s presidency than his dismal approval ratings might suggest. Nevertheless, I have not found many of the conservative arguments along these lines terribly persuasive. While there are many areas of uncertainty that may turn out better for Bush’s reputation than we might now expect, there are just as many that might turn out worse. Moreover, there are many areas where the likelihood of anything coming along to burnish the forty-third president’s reputation seems extremely remote.

For example, there are still a lot of things we don’t know about the deliberations behind the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys in December 2006 because of the White House’s refusal to come clean about Karl Rove’s participation. I suspect that historians will eventually confirm that the administration retaliated against dedicated public servants who insisted on basing their prosecutions on an unbiased evaluation of the evidence rather than the White House’s partisan political agenda. It think that the Bush administration’s politicization of the Department of Justice is going to be a lasting stain on his legacy regardless of anything else that happens.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

But How Do You Know What You Know Sarah?

It is an article of faith among Sarah Palin's supporters that CBS edited her interview with Katie Couric in order to make Palin look bad. As an article of faith, it is not surprising that they have no evidence to support this for the simple reason that Palin herself has never watched the interviews. As she told Ziegler:
I never saw the interview after Katie edited it, they spliced it together,
did what ever they did and then aired it. Never saw how it came
across. But my understanding is so many other topics that were brought up
certainly weren’t portrayed as accurately as they could have been should have
been after that interview.
The question naturally arises: how does Sarah know they weren't portrayed accurately? She is the only one who could tell us whether CBS edited her answers unfairly, but she can't because she never watched it. She simply assumes they did because she did not like the way people reacted to the interview. It apparently never occurs to her that it was her inability to articulate her beliefs in coherent sentences that was her down fall and she has no interest in finding out. It reminds me of the time that Charles Barkley claimed that he was misquoted in his autobiography.

It is sometimes said of Sarah by her admirers: "She knows what she believes." For some reason, this is considered a big accomplishment. However, when it comes to why Sarah believes what she believes or whether Sarah knows any facts that support her beliefs, her admirers are completely indifferent. Indeed, they are outraged that Katie Couric had the nerve to ask Sarah what she read to stay informed, as Sandy Rios and John Ziegler* discussed last week:
Rios: She recognized that Katie was doing all these ‘gotchas’ so that when
she asked her what she reads, its such an insulting question, that she knew that
she was being set up, so that rather than answering, she just didn’t cooperate
with the game, of course what they aired over and over again was that she didn’t
answer the question, which she did answer for you, that point has to be made.
Ziegler: Exactly and I would just suggest that if Barack Obama was ever
asked that question, which he would not be asked because it would be seen as
racist, because is would be seen as implying he doesn’t read, what he doesn’t
read because he’s a black man. That’s how it would be perceived and he would be
applauded for not giving that kind of question the respect that it didn’t

Rios: Yeah. Well it’s different rules.

There are indeed different rules Sandy, but it is people like you and Ziegler who have them. The rest of us evaluated all the candidates in terms of how well they understood what was really happening in the world. Obama wouldn't have considered it insulting to be ask how he stays informed because he understands how vitally important to know what's going on. It was only the Palin supporters who did not care how or why their candidate reached the conclusions she did.

So why was Palin asked about what she read while Obama was not? Personally, I think it might have had something to do with the breadth of knowledge that Obama demonstrated in speeches, debates, and interviews. When someone shows themselves to be consistently capable of discussing events in remote corners of the world, it is obvious that the person is working hard to stay informed. On the other hand, if a person answers a question about foreign policy by telling you that they live in a state that's close to Russia, it makes you wonder whether that person even knows how to read.

*Ziegler also excused Palin’s inability to name any newspapers on the grounds that Couric was out to get her on the abortions questions. “I think that’s why we had the alleged fiasco over ‘the what do you read’ question.” According to Couric, she asked about the newspapers before she asked about abortions. I guess that's just one of those silly little "fact" things that can't be allowed to get in the way of a good story.

Sarah Palin: Not Tough Enough for Katie Couric

If a candidate for Vice President of the United States of America is unapologetic about her pro-life position, shouldn’t she be capable of answering a question about whether or not abortion should be illegal in cases of rape or incest? What does it say about her if she is afraid that she will be “clobbered” for answering the question?

John Ziegler recently interviewed Sarah Palin for his upcoming documentary Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Palin Got Smeared. Talking about her interview with Katie Couric, Palin said “I knew it didn’t go well the first day.” She said she asked her advisors in the McCain campaign, “Why are we going to go back for more?” According to Ziegler, it was Couric’s questions about abortion that convinced Palin that Couric was “out to get her.”

Couric: Let me get your take, if I could Gov. Palin, on a number of social
issues. Because that's, they've gotten some attention, your position. If a
15-year-old is raped by her father,you believe it should be illegal for her to
get an abortion. Why?
Palin: I am pro-life. And I'm unapologetic about my position there on pro-life.
And I understand good people on both sides of the abortion debate. In fact, good
people in my own family have differing views on abortion and when it should be
allowed. So … I respect people's opinion on this. Now, I would counsel to choose
life. I would like to see a culture of life in this country. But I would also
like to see taking it one step further. Not just saying I am pro-life, and I
want fewer and fewer abortions in this country. But I want, then, those women
who find themselves in circumstances that are absolutely less than ideal, for
them to be supported for adoptions to be made easier. For more support given to
foster parents and adoptive families. That is my personal opinion on this.
Couric: But, ideally, you think it should be illegal …
Palin: If you …
Couric: …for a girl who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?
Palin: I'm saying that, personally, I would counsel the person to choose life,
despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves
in. And, um, if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should
anyone end up in jail for having an … abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing I
would ever support. Then, now, some may characterize my position as being
extreme, because I am pro-life … and I want women empowered to know that, you
know, we can help them. They can be strong enough, and they can have the
resources provided them to give that child life. The extremism, to me, is those
who would support partial-birth abortion. Those who would disallow parental
consent when it comes to a minor child who would seek an abortion. I think
parents should have a say in that. They should be a part of their child's health
care there. And those who, like Barack Obama, would support measures that would
actually allow in a botched abortion, late-term abortion, that child being born
alive, to allow it to not receive medical help to save that child's life. That's
extremism to me. That is so far on the left side of the political spectrum and
public sentiment in this country. That's the extremism to me.
Couric: So you want more support so women have more options, or girls have more
options. But you also think it should be illegal, that there should be no
punishment if a woman does break the law… Palin: I would like to see more women
given more support so that those of us who say, "You know, a culture of life is
what we believe." Is best … for human kind, you know, to respect the sanctity of
every human life. And to understand … that we live in a pretty messed up world
sometimes. When you consider what's going on in this world. The most promising
and good ingredients in this world … is a child. The hope that a child brings.
And just understanding that. Being near and dear to my heart. I want to do all
that I can to reduce the number abortions. And to usher in that culture of life.
And in my respect for the other side of this issue, I have not spoken with one
woman who do, may disagree with me on, when abortions could or should be
allowed, not one woman has disagreed, as we sit down and rationally talk about …
the common goal we have, and that is to see fewer and fewer abortions. And to
provide more and more women support in this world.
Couric: Some people have credited the morning-after pill as for decreasing the
number of abortions. How do you feel about the morning after pill?
Palin: Well …I'm all for contraception. And I'm all for any preventative
measures that are legal and safe and should be taken. But, Katie, again and we
can go round and round about the abortion issue, but I am one to seek a culture
of life. I am one to believe that life starts at the moment of conception. And I
would like to see …
Couric: And so you don't believe in the morning-after pill.
Palin: I would like to see fewer and fewer abortions in this world. And, again,
I haven't spoken with anyone who disagrees with my position on that.
Couric: I'm sorry. I just want to ask you again. Do you not support or do you
condone or condemn the morning after pill?
Palin: Personally, and this is isn't McCain-Palin policy …
Couric: That's OK. I'm just asking you.
Palin: But, personally, I would not choose to participate in that kind of
contraception. It …
Couric: Do you think it should be illegal?
Palin: I don't think that it should necessarily be illegal. But we can go,
again, round and round. And what the foundation I believe of this debate, of
this discussion, even of your questions, is do you believe in the sanctity of
life? Are you are you gonna side on the pro-life position or not when decisions
are in front of you and you have to make them? Now, as a vice president, what
positions would a vice-president have to take on the abortion issue? They're not
legislating. A vice president does not make law.
Couric: But if you have a moral problem with abortion, it seems to me you would
do everything in your power to make it illegal and overturn Roe v. Wade and …
Palin: Of course, it's the legislature, the law-making branch of our third, of
our three branches of government …
Couric: But they …
Palin: …makes the laws.
Couric: …your vision or the administration's vision.
Palin: Well, let's be practical about it and let's be realistic about a
vice-president's role in this debate. I can personally share my views, which I
don't apologize when I share my views of being pro-life. And, you know, I'll do
that all day long if you want me to. But a vice-president does not make law. And
a vice-president does not interpret the law either.

Couric: So you're saying this won't be a top issue for you if you're elected?
Palin: I will do all that I can personally to encourage that culture of life, to
remind women that I believe with more empowerment, they - more and more women
will realize that they are strong enough … and they are able to carry a child
and still continue a career, still continue education opportunities, all with
the goal being fewer and fewer abortions in this world.

Last Wednesday, Ziegler spoke with Chicago Christian Radio Host Sandy Rios and explained the effect this exchange had on Palin:

Sarah Palin knew after round one that this was a bad idea. Now I want to make something very very clear to people because it may not be obvious from that clip [from Ziegler’s interview with Palin]. Cause it might just sound like Sarah Palin is saying “wow I just wasn’t strong enough to take on Katie Couric. I got my butt whipped and you know why would I go back into the ring again?” That wasn’t it. What it was was and I think your listeners will especially find this interesting and important. What it was was that she could tell from Katie Couric’s attempts, numerous attempts, on the subject of abortion to trip her up into saying something that could be used to try to make her look bad or make her look like an extremist or what have you . Katie Couric repeatedly, repeatedly—and I’m all in favor of follow up questions—but according to Governor Palin, this was almost a quest on the part of Katie Couric to come up with a way to phrase the abortion question so that Sarah Palin could be made to look bad. And at that point, I think Sarah Palin, and I think she would admit this although I’m not speaking for her would acknowledge that she had a negative attitude towards everything Katie was asking and who would blame her? If you know someone is out to get you, you have to look at every question through the prism of that reality.

Ziegler’s right about one thing: it sounds exactly like Palin wasn’t strong enough to take on Couric. This woman wanted to be Vice-President of the United States of America and yet, she got rattled because Couric wanted her to say whether she thinks abortion should be legal in the case of rape and incest. Palin had previously said of her reactions to Couric, “The Sarah Palin in those interviews is a little bit annoyed. Because man, it’s like no matter what you say, you’re gonna get clobbered. If you choose to answer a question, you’re gonna get clobbered on the answer. If you choose to pivot and go on to another subject that you believe that Americans want to hear about, you’ll get clobbered for that too.”

It is interesting to compare Palin’s discombobulation to Mike Huckabee’s reaction to the same kind of question from NBC’s Tim Russert.

MR. RUSSERT: South Dakota had some proposed legislation to outlaw all abortion
except saving the life of a mother, no exceptions for rape or incest. You said
you’d sign that. Why?

GOV. HUCKABEE: Well, I always am going to err on the side of life, Tim. I
believe life is precious. But I think the issue for many of us who are in the
pro-life camp—and I have been since, you know, I was a teenager. This is not
something that I’ve been all over the board on, it’s consistent. It’s because of
my view that God is the creator and instigator of life. But I think those of us
in the pro-life movement, we have to do also some growing and expanding. We have
to remind people that life, that we believe it begins at conception. It doesn’t
end at birth. And if we’re really pro-life we have to be concerned about more
than just the gestation period. As a pro-life person, as a governor, look at my
record. Yes, did we pass pro-life legislation? We did. But we also did things
that improved the environmental quality and the conservation issues that would
affect a child’s air and water. We also made sure that he had a better
education, that access to affordable health care would be better. So I think
that real pro-life people need to be concerned about affordable housing, we need
to be concerned about safe neighborhoods, access to a college education. That,
for me, is what pro-life has to mean.

If you read the entire interview to see the way he stood up to Russert’s tough grilling, you can understand why Huckabee told Esquire magazine that Couric was “extraordinarily gentle” with Palin. Say what you want about the man, Huckabee is not afraid to say what he believes and he is not rattled by questions about his beliefs. Unlike Palin, he does not avoid tough questions for fear of being clobbered.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

An Interesting Contrast

Sarah Palin whining in interview after interview about being mistreated and exploited by the mainstream media.

Barack Obama having dinner at George Will’s home with a guest list including David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, Peggy Noonan, Larry Kudlow, Rich Lowry, Paul Gigot, and Bill Kristol.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ayn Randian Douchebaggery from the WSJ's Moore

Saturday's Wall Street Journal carried a column by senior economics writer Stephen Moore titled 'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years. Despite the column's title, I am not at all sure that Moore ever thought of Rand's novel as fiction:
Some years ago when I worked at the libertarian Cato Institute, we used to label any new hire who had not yet read "Atlas Shrugged" a "virgin." Being conversant in Ayn Rand's classic novel about the economic carnage caused by big government run amok was practically a job requirement. If only "Atlas" were required reading for every member of Congress and political appointee in the Obama administration. I'm confident that we'd get out of the current financial mess a lot faster.

You know what else would have been great Steve? In 1964, it would have been great if every member of Congress had read Gone With The Wind before they voted on the Civil Rights Act. Then they might have realized how much happier Blacks were when their masters took care of them in the good old days before Northern carpetbaggers filled their heads with crazy notions about voting and going to decent schools.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Now the Journal's Looking Out For Barack

In my last post, I scoffed at the Wall Street Journal’s seeming concern for the Democrats who had been briefed on the Bush Administration’s decision to embrace enhanced interrogation techniques for suspected terrorists. I suspected that Journal was warning Leon Pannetta not to investigate allegations of torture by the CIA because it wanted to protect the Bush Administration officials who had decided to trash America’s moral values rather than the CIA officers who had carried out the policies or the legislators who had gone along with the decisions.

In another effort to protect the Democrats, the Wall Street Journal today criticized the selection of Dawn Johnsen to lead the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Apparently, the Journal is alarmed by the idea that the Obama Administration might be guided by lawyers who care more about what the law really is than by what the Administration might want the law to be. Once again, I cannot help but think that the Journal is more concerned about the outgoing administration that believed that the President had complete discretion to decide which laws it would and would not obey.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Wall Street Journal Has Pelosi's Back

When the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page starts looking to protect Nancy Pelosi’s political reputation, you can be sure that something really fishy is going on. Today’s lead editorial warned prospective Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta not to look into the Bush Administration’s terrorist interrogation policies on the grounds that Democrats like Pelosi, Jane Harman, Bob Graham, and John Rockefeller had been briefed on the aggressive techniques employed on detainees like Abu Zubaydah. Thank goodness these Democrats have the Journal looking out for their best interests.