We’re Still Not Here

January 7, 2009

Haven’t been back here in a while, but I note that there is still a lot of traffic coming from this site. I assure you, no new content will be added here – except this, which isn’t really content – so update your bookmarks, RSS feeds, or what have you.

We now live at: http://theenlighteneddespot.com


Despots on the Move

November 14, 2008

We’re packing our bags and heading over to our new URL:


Everything that was once here is now there. Everything that is now here will remain here, at least for now. Everything that is yet to be will come to be there, not here.

Our IT department is looking in to the possibility of setting this URL to forward, but early indications are that WordPress doesn’t want its free URL being used to funnel traffic elsewhere. Fair enough. (Though we are still using their software.)

Bear with us as the layout is restored, and as we take advantage of our new freedom to enhance longterm overall awesomeness.

Goodbye, https://theenlighteneddespot.wordpress.com. We’ll always have Paris.

Dow Jones up 500 Points on News that the Yankees have Acquired Nick Swisher

November 14, 2008

Well, perhaps that had nothing to do with it. I find it very difficult to say with any certainty why the market behaves as it does over a short period of time. This puts me in the minority. The WSJ, for instance, recently ran an editorial laying out a theory already popular with many of our friends at the Corner:

No President-elect in the postwar era has been greeted with a more audible hiss from Wall Street. The Dow has lost 1,342 points, or about 14%, since the election, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq hitting similar skids. The Dow fell another 4.7% yesterday.

But there’s little doubt that uncertainty, and some fear, over Barack Obama’s economic agenda is also contributing to the downdraft.

Little doubt? Jonathan Chait seems to have quite a lot of doubt, gloating as the Dow soared today. No doubt Chait is largely joking, but there have certainly been plenty of lefties giving Obama credit for every silver lining they can find in the dark economic clouds, while sub-prime morgages are rapidly being reduced to a minor contributing factor in the conservative account of the financial crisis Obama has brought down on all of our heads.

These bits of market analysis are absurd, but no more so than what we hear about the markets every day of the year. People are up in arms over attributing market gains or losses to Obama beacuse a new president-elect is something about which people get up in arms, not because those attributions are any less grounded than usual. Headlines following the same formula as the one above this post are a regular feature of the daily news. But the idea that the day’s trading can usefully be explained as the effect of a simply stated cause immediately obvious to reporters is ludicrous. It’s probably true that, from time to time, some easily observed event occurs whose effect on the market is sufficiently dramatic to make all other factors relatively uninteresting in accounting for market movement over a very short period, but, for the most part, media outlets are simply looking at whether the markets did well or poorly, then running with the most recent news event that seems most conducive to that outcome, and voila. There may be some utility to this sort of analysis, but the ubiquitous practice of presenting it as fact (in headlines!) is unfortunate.

Kevin Drum, Leaning Quasi-Correctly

November 14, 2008

It’s a mixed bag, correctness-wise, in this post:

ONE MORE FOR THE DEMS….It looks like Mark Begich is going to beat Ted Stevens in the Alaska senatorial race after all. Which begs the question: Is there anything that Nate Silver isn’t right about?

Yes, Kevin, Nate Silver is on top of his game, provided the game we are talking about is statistical analysis, and not appearing on TV without looking like a guy who spends way too much doing statistical analysis.

But no, Kevin, that is not what ‘begs the question’ means.

¡Viva Sarah Palin!

November 12, 2008

The scariest part of the election of Barack Obama to the presidency is the possibility that our nation’s fling with Sarah Palin may soon be over. Sure, she’s in the midst of a media tour right now, but one can’t help but worry that sooner or later, people may feel that interviewing and investigating her are no longer activities with much journalistic merit. This would make politics a lot less entertaining.

Andrew Sullivan is having none of it. Here is his defense for keeping up the good fight:

This deluded and delusional woman still doesn’t understand what happened to her; still has no self-awareness; and has never been forced to accept her obvious limitations. She cannot keep even the most trivial story straight; she repeats untruths with a ferocity and calm that is reserved only to the clinically unhinged; she has the educational level of a high school drop-out; and regards ignorance as some kind of achievement. It is excruciating to watch her – but more excruciating to watch those who feel obliged to defend her.

Her candidacy, in short, was indefensible. It remains indefensible. Until the mainstream media, the GOP establishment, and the conservative intelligentsia acknowledge the depth of their error, this blog will keep demanding basic accountability.

Although the rest of the post is more worthy of the Patron Saint of Hyperbole (the Despot is looking into the legality of trademarking nicknames for public figures), this summary of Palin and her candidacy strikes me as just about right. And I do think there is merit to dwelling on this beyond the obvious entertainment value. But I don’t get the bit about accountability here. Even if it’s right that, for instance a ,vice-presidential candidate has some sort of tacit obligation to release her medical records (which I doubt- no one on the right seemed too upset by Obama’s equivalent level of disclosure), surely there is no obligation for a former vice-presidential candidate to do so. Now that the election is over, I don’t see how Palin owes us anything in the way of openness. She is accountable only to the people of Alaska now, and if they suddenly have a problem with corrupt lunatics, they have a very odd way of showing it.

She remains, however, a good litmus test (and bludgeon against those who fail it) for conservatives. Simply put: it is so obvious that Palin was an inexcusable pick that anyone who tries to excuse must either be intellectually dishonest or too stupid or crazy to be taken seriously. As I said in my previous post, I think worries about the state of conservatism are incoherent. And plenty of very conservative thinkers pass this test: Sullivan, Hitchens, Buckley, Will, etc. But while conservatism is just fine, a number of formerly serious conservative publications are not. The outdated good reputations of the Wall Street Journal and the National Review in particular have allowed a great number of clowns and hacks to pose as right-wing intellectuals. Focusing on Sarah Palin is a good way to begin correcting this.

Tough Times for a Vague Concept

November 12, 2008

People simply won’t stop writing about what has happened to conservatism, and what, if anything, should be done about what has happened to it. Almost all of it is extremely tedious, horribly mixing up a number of distinct questions, each of which would be boring enough on its own. Many of the people who are ostensibly worried about conservatism are in fact worried about the word ‘conservatism’. Specifically, they wonder how it came to refer to what religious wackjobs think rather than what they think. Others talk about conservatism as if it is a real object out there that needs to be watered and turned toward the light from time to time, and fear that its nature is somehow being altered.

These are both incredibly stupid things to worry about, and it is only by conflating the two that they can be rendered so murky as for their irrelevance to be made undetectable. How else could Andrew Sullivan write an entire book about conservatism being “hijacked by Republicans”? Have neocons infiltrated the OED? Are they tinkering with Platonic forms?

Republicans aren’t fucking up conservatism, they’re fucking up our country. Whatever set of beliefs or attitudes you want to label ‘conservative’, it’s as easy to believe or hold them now as it has ever been. I’m just as convinced that heroin should become legal, and that public funding for the arts should become illegal, as I was eight years ago. I think most people would agree that those are some crazy conservative beliefs I hold; the fact that a bunch of jerks who don’t hold them are also considered crazy conservatives doesn’t mean anything has been hijacked. It simply more evidence of the fact that in a country where every conceivable political philosophy has to be hammered into a one-dimensional scale that goes from liberal to conservative, the terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ are always going to be ambiguous, and that discussions about the nature of liberalism and conservatism are always going to be inane.

The one good article I have seen on this subject comes from PJ O’Rourke. He clearly takes the fact that both he and the people who have been running the country have the term ‘conservative’ applied to them a lot more seriously than I do. What he sees as a missed opportunity, I see as evidence that most Republicans never cared about the conservatism to which PJ subscribes as anything more than a talking point. But, leaving that aside, it’s good stuff, and, as always, he’s very funny. Some excerpts:

To go from slime to the sublime, there are the lofty issues about which we never bothered to form enough principles to go out and break them. What is the coherent modern conservative foreign policy?

We may think of this as a post 9/11 problem, but it’s been with us all along. What was Reagan thinking, landing Marines in Lebanon to prop up the government of a country that didn’t have one? In 1984, I visited the site where the Marines were murdered. It was a beachfront bivouac overlooked on three sides by hills full of hostile Shiite militia. You’d urge your daughter to date Rosie O’Donnell before you’d put troops ashore in such a place.

The left has no idea what’s going on in the financial crisis. And I honor their confusion. Jim Jerk down the road from me, with all the cars up on blocks in his front yard, falls behind in his mortgage payments, and the economy of Iceland implodes. I’m missing a few pieces of this puzzle myself.

Under constant political pressure, which went almost unresisted by conservatives, a lot of lousy mortgages that would never be repaid were handed out to Jim Jerk and his drinking buddies and all the ex-wives and single mothers with whom Jim and his pals have littered the nation.

Wall Street looked at the worthless paper and thought, “How can we make a buck off this?” The answer was to wrap it in a bow. Take a wide enough variety of lousy mortgages–some from the East, some from the West, some from the cities, some from the suburbs, some from shacks, some from McMansions–bundle them together and put pressure on the bond rating agencies to do fancy risk management math, and you get a “collateralized debt obligation” with a triple-A rating. Good as cash. Until it wasn’t.

Or, put another way, Wall Street was pulling the “room full of horse s–” trick. Brokerages were saying, “We’re going to sell you a room full of horse s–. And with that much horse s–, you just know there’s a pony in there somewhere.”

Checking out the New Digs

November 11, 2008


Usually the New York Post Awesomeness watch highlights a front page that is particularly outrageous, hilarious, or both. This is just a great picture.

Still, he’s been president-elect for days now; time to take off the kid gloves and throw some biting headlines on those pics.

Byrd out, Inouye in.

November 10, 2008

Byrd resigns his chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee because at 90 he is too frail and senile to do the work required in this momentous term.  Very well.  But replacing him is Senator Inouye, 84.  Change!


Ralph Nader, Race Baiter

November 10, 2008

There is a lot of outrage out there about Ralph Nader’s use of the phrase ‘Uncle Tom’. A few fringey lefties are upset that Ralph is being falsely accused of calling Obama an Uncle Tom, when what he really did was say that the big question facing us is whether Obama will prove to be an Uncle Tom. That’s a bizarre complaint, since even Fox News honestly reported the comments in context and gave Nader a chance to recant, which he roundly rejected:

Nader, clearly, is a nasty human being, and the Fox News hack, the faux-outraged conservatives, the habitually-outraged liberals, and the deranged Nader-defenders are all letting him off easy by focusing on the words ‘Uncle Tom’. Smith asks him if he wishes he’d “used a phrase other than ‘Uncle Tom'”, as if Nader’s problem was simply word choice. But word choice isn’t the problem here at all. If Nader had used words that people didn’t like to argue a legitimate point, I would be unhappily defending him. But Nader was using the phrase ‘Uncle Tom’ because it was the easiest way to express an ugly, racist sentiment, namely that Obama has more of a responsibility to sign on to Nader’s wackjob agenda than previous presidents because he is black. This is something he has said in the past:

Asked to clarify whether he thought Obama does try to “talk white,” Nader said: “Of course.

“I mean, first of all, the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities and the rural areas, and have a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended by the law, is going to be protected by the law, and is going to be liberated by the law,” Nader said. “Haven’t heard a thing.”

Nader has some unpopular ideas, and he isn’t afraid to call black people who disagree with them race traitors. Even if his ideas weren’t batshit crazy, that would be disgusting. Focusing on the words he uses to express that bile is silly.

Berrien County Goes Blue

November 6, 2008

Berrien County is a place you’ve never heard of in a state that everyone (rightly) stopped paying attention to a month ago. It is where I spent the final weeks of the electrion, though, and what happened here was pretty incredible to anyone who knew anything about the place. Most people, even within the Obama camp, assumed the place was simply too racist to vote for their candidate, and not a county that would ever go blue anyway.

Here is Berrien’s entry from a county-by-county breakdown of the 2004 elction results:

Berrien county

Bush – 41076 – 55.01%, won by 8230

Kerry – 32846 – 43.99%

Bush Best Votes – Lincoln Twp by 3172

Bush Best % – Royalton Twp – 71.54%

Kerry Best Votes – City of Benton Harbor by 3439

Kerry Best % – City of Benton Harbor – 95.29%

The SW corner of the state on Lake Michigan. Posthumus ran 2% ahead of Bush in both 00 and 04. That’s because of the Benton Harbor Turnout. This would be a 60%+ county otherwise. Benton Harbor is 90% black, and Benton Twp is about 65% black and went 69.89% for Hanoi John. The only other area to sometimes go dem is the city of Niles. The rest is solid GOP.

That account is something of an understatement compared to most descriptions of Berrien I’ve heard from locals. Here are a few pictures of Niles City, “the only other area to sometimes go dem”:

The corner store, about 200 yards from the local Campaign for Change office

The corner store, about 200 yards from the local Campaign for Change office

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