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US tax revenues establish new one day record receipts. Here.
What we can infer: 1. The economy had a strong quarter. 2. Cuts in the tax rates did not necessarily decrease government revenues. 3. "Supply-Side Economics" may have some merit.
Recently A Waco Farmer posted an excellent piece entitled The Age of Paine. One of his comments prompted a response from me. He wrote:" Plenty of contemporary commentators warn that the Middle East is culturally ill-prepared to embrace democratic rule; consequently, they cast the US project to remake the Middle East as unadulterated folly. The argument in a nutshell: how can a society without an understanding and appreciation of John Locke adopt popular government? President Bush has intimated that this argument is a form of racism (or at least Eurocentrism). An aside: as one who teaches freshman history, I can only hope that a democratic society without an appreciation for John Locke can survive." To which I expanded "A brilliant essay. I would add that we colonials were the beneficiaries of the military power of English nobles (Magna Carta)[, the] violence of the English Civil War in the 17th century, and the miracle of the Glorious Revolution. Much of our violence had been done for us already before our Revolution. But, re: the Midle East, before Locke, the English also had the Puritans, followers and adapters of a Reformed theology from Switzerland that taught that tyranny was devilish. Calvin in Geneva granted a right to nobles and magistrates to rebel against a tyrant, Knox in Scotland turned it into a religious duty incumbant upon all Christians. (Committment to limited government based not on Burke, but on a radical understanding of Human Depravity.)"

I now would like to expand on the contributions made by the Reformed Tradition, mediated through the Puritans, that have contributed to our understanding of republican government, especially the idea of limited government. (cont. below)

» Read More

I do not want to make too much of this anecdote, but, I think it may indeed say something about American opinion between San Jose/San Francisco and Manhattan.

The other day I was in a group of older Native American men, most of whom are not members of our church. These are not rabid Republicans, nor are they blind Democrats. World affairs came up, specifically Islamic terrorism. One man suggested we may need to nuke Iran. Everyone present shook their heads in agreement. The oldest present then said: "If ants are getting into your house, you can't get rid of them a few at a time in your kitchen; you go into your yard, pour gas on the ant hill, and set it on fire."
If Hillary Clinton is elected in 2008 (and at this moment, she is the most likely person to be the forty-fourth president of the United States--see Part I), America will endure; perhaps, we will even prosper.

Why it's probably going to be okay: What do I mean by "okay"? I mean we will be fine; she will be fine.

A personal aside: A few months back, in two separate off-line discussions on the same issue, I got on the wrong side of my friends, and Bosque Boys regulars, Gossenius and "Tocqueville" (quite a feat; they do not agree on much). I rendered them incredulous arguing that Harriet Miers would "be fine" as a Supreme Court justice (they both argued that she was unqualified).

Gossenius, especially, properly demanded that I explain my statement. At the time, I was at a loss to articulate what I knew in my soul: it does not take a legal genius to serve on the Supreme Court. Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are great legal minds, and they advocate brilliantly for their positions. But are they good jurists? Are they honest triers of fact? Or are they merely brilliant proponents of their particular political philosophies. Harriet would have been fine.

I am just enough of a "Jacksonian Democrat" to be increasingly convinced that common sense and integrity are more important qualities in leadership than ideology or conspicuous intelligence. It does not take an Ivy League-educated intellectual to serve as president of the United States. In fact, some of our least successful presidents have been geniuses (Herbert Hoover & JQ Adams, for example).

John Kerry would have been fine. Al Gore: fine. George Bush: fine. Mrs. Clinton will be fine, for she is a dedicated public servant who wants America to prosper and succeed. The presidency will test her, torment her and age her, but it will also demand her very best. I have a whole list of disagreements with Mrs. Clinton, but just like all of her predecessors, she will summon the total of her inner strength and the best elements of her personality to meet the awesome challenges of the office.

More importantly, our nation has the innate capacity to overcome mediocre leaders. Writing in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville observed: "the great advantage of the Americans consists in their [ability] to commit faults which they may afterwards repair." As a corollary, he wrote: "American democracy frequently errs in the choice of the individuals to whom it entrusts the power of the administration; but...the state prospers under their rule."

Why does American democracy prosper in spite of inferior leadership? Tocqueville offered three reasons: 1) the people are vigilant and jealous of their rights; 2) leaders are in power for relatively short periods of time; and, most importantly, 3) the interest of the leaders are more likely to be subsumed in the interest of the people. While aristocratic (or elite) "magistrates" might offer more sterling talents and virtues individually, there is "a secret tendency in democratic institutions that [works toward the good] of the community in spite of their vices and mistakes." Ironically, Tocqueville argues, "in aristocratic governments public men may frequently do harm without intending it; and in democratic states they bring about good results of which they have never thought."

Political passions tend to blind us to the good in American public servants. Looking back over American history, we do not see a pattern of good versus evil (although the partisans of the day certainly cast the contests in that light). The battles between Hamilton and Jefferson were fought on those terms, but we now see that Hamilton and Jefferson both were earnest in their love of country and both essential to our success. The same can be said for Jackson and Clay or McKinley and Bryan. Some Americans live long enough to participate on both sides of the divide. Ronald Reagan began his adulthood as a New Deal Democrat and adherent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but he lived to lead a counter-revolution that bears his name. In truth, he was right both times.

America perseveres.
From the AP via the Washington Post:

"Former Texas governor Ann Richards, the witty and flamboyant Democrat who went from homemaker to national political celebrity, died Sept. 13 after cancer was diagnosed this year, a family spokeswoman said. She was 73."

Wayne Slater, the senior political writer for The Dallas Morning News and famous Karl Rove-watcher, pens a flattering tribute to the former governor, which is worth reading.

An excerpt:

"When Ms. Richards first took office as governor, she retained her predecessor's huge cotton-trader's desk, but little else in the office.

"Gone were the Tom Lea oil paintings of cowboys and cattle. They were replaced by contemporary art: an impressionist beach scene and huge photographs of outdoor settings tinted in green and mauve.

"In one corner was a sculpture of a woman, erect and serene, playing a lute on the back of a tiger. The metaphor was not lost on her."

The Speech. Unfortunately, most of us were introduced to Ann Richards in 1988, when she offered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. That particular venue begs for partisanship and crude characterizations, and she delivered. We all remember the line that made her famous:

"Poor George. He can't help it - he was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

Employing a thick Texas drawl and sprinkling her address with colorful "Texasisms," the Waco native and Baylor graduate touched on all the boilerplate items one would expect to hear from a loyal party functionary: FDR, the Depression and the "little man." Republicans were uncaring, corporate malefactors intent on polluting the water and starving children. She cast Ronald Reagan as the personification of cruelty and incompetence, while she held up Jesse Jackson as the epitome of American statesmanship. It was an unabashedly political speech, but not inappropriate for that particular stage.

Even though candidate George H.W. Bush, the primary target of her blistering attack, overcame the verbal assault to win election as president that year, the speech launched Richards into the national orbit. Two years later, Richards won the governorship of Texas. Two years after that, she chaired the Democratic National Convention that nominated Bill Clinton, who defeated the incumbent President Bush.

Those were heady times for Governor Richards. With public opinion polls registering strong approval for her in Texas and beyond, her star seemed on the rise. Then all the laughter turned to sorrow. George Bush the son (whom she and Molly Ivins called "the shrub") emerged to challenge her reelection juggernaut and square the family accounts. The forty-seven-year-old "ne'er-do-well" seemed an unlikely figure to settle the score. Inarticulate and lacking accomplishment and political experience, he was easy to "misunderestimate." Governor Richards did not realize until much too late that she was in a fight, and the legend of George W. was born.

Sadder and Wiser: The governor left the Texas statehouse proudly proclaiming that she "had opened government to everyone," but she was humbled, relegated to CNN and Doritos commercials. And she softened some in her later years, explaining that life had made her "sadder and wiser" over time.

A personal aside: I saw that side of her once. I attended a funeral in Waco a few years ago where she eulogized her cousin. She was wonderful. She spoke simple words before simple people. Her Texas accent was less accentuated, her tone was soft and comforting, and her words were meaningful. She owned the room and won me over.

It is easy to demonize a hard-charging, take-no-prisoners party loyalist, but American politics would not be American politics without rabid believers and verbal brawlers. Let us not judge her too harshly. Ann Richards was a hard woman in a hard game. She came from way back in the pack and ascended to the national stage on the strength of her passion for "justice" and her inner drive to win. She gave no quarter, and she asked for none. In the end, however, the story of Ann Richards embodies and reinforces the notion of opportunity and equality and the ideal that hard work and determination can lead to triumph.

Although I will never forget her ringing condemnation in that noisy hall in the summer of 1988, I prefer to remember her for her softer words of consolation and community that I heard in the smallish memorial chapel in Waco ten years later.

Rest in peace, Ann Richards. "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
The previous post on tax-credits has generated discussion about big-spending government in which politicians use tax money to buy votes by "bringing home the bacon" for their districts and states. Currently members of Congress can do this vote-buying with little publicity or accountability. Now, thanks to a push by concerned citizens, with major energy coming from conservative bloggers, we may, like the Progressives of old, be about to shine a light into the dark corners of government corruption. The below is copied from Instapundit.

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: The earmark reform legislation has passed the House (identical legislation was already passed in the Senate) so it's now heading to the President's desk. Here's an email from the Majority Whip's office:

WASHINGTON---Legislation championed by House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (Va.) to increase budget accountability and transparency by establishing a public database to track federal grants and contracts passed the House tonight by voice vote. . . .

The federal government awards approximately $300 billion in grants to roughly 30,000 different organizations annually. Each year, roughly one million contracts exceed the $25,000 reporting threshold. The Blunt-Davis bill will ensure that those expenditures are readily accessible to the media, the public, and Members of Congress.

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act will:

Eliminate Wasteful Spending by empowering everyone with access to the internet to begin reviewing federal grants and other forms of taxpayer assistance for waste, fraud, and abuse;

Ensure Compliance with Federal Law by requiring grantees to also disclose their subgrantees, and

Ensure Compliance with Lobbying Restrictions by identifying entities receiving federal grants that would be subject to lobbying restrictions in existing law.

With House passage of S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, and the enrollment correction containing the House-Senate compromise agreement, the final bill will now go to the president for his signature.

It's not the end of the fight against pork, but it's certainly a very significant step. Congratulations to everyone involved!
I watched the president's address this evening, and thought it was good. When the address came on I flipped over to C-SPAN (I was watching the ABC docudrama Path to 9/11), then flipped back to ABC after the address. I was just in time to see and hear George Stephanopoulis (does anyone but me ever have the urge to reach out and smack him up-side the head?) offer his analysis of the speech--all he could talk about was the speech in relation to the upcoming Congressional elections; in other words, he only discussed it as a political event, not as a wartime address in the context of the ongoing dangers. What an unserious response!

Ordinarily I avoid anything like a "docudrama", not wanting to clutter my mind with images and conversations that may not be historically accurate. I only decided to watch Path to 9/11 because of the attempts by the Clinton adminstration lawyers and others to block the release, or at least modify it. My personal reaction to the drama was that I thought it stuck pretty well to what we know (and who knows what we will never know thanks to folks like Sandy "Oops it's accidentally in my Pants" Berger). At the least, it was a good reminder that we are at war with religiously motivated folks who want to kill us in the name of their god. (Did you notice that the shooting targets in the Al Qaeda training camp had crosses painted on them?)
Four years ago today, I delivered an address here at my institution in memory of the first-year anniversay of 9-11. Reading over the text of that speech, I wonder how well we have responded to our moment of responsibility?

September 11, 2002:

“ALWAYS REMEMBER.” We are not likely to forget. The images of that day are seared into our national memory. September 11th is one of those exceedingly rare universal moments of history, in which all Americans, for as long as they live, will recall with absolute clarity where they were and what they were doing when the reports of the attacks first reached them. So many of us were on campus when we first heard the news, first viewed the startling pictures, and grappled to make sense of the tragic spectacle as it unraveled before our eyes.

Our initial reactions differed. Many of us reached out to loved ones via the telephone. Some of us paused in silent meditation. Or perhaps we could only watch in stunned silence. But then, after that, we turned to each other for solace. It is appropriate that we congregated again not only to honor the heroes of September 11th but also to reflect together on our world then and our world now and the world that we will make.

Today our students presented selected historical readings, which included Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Daniel Webster, Franklin Roosevelt, Barbara Jordan and John Kennedy. It was especially moving to hear the collected wisdom of our past proclaimed in such powerful fashion by the caretakers of our future. They emphasized the words of Lincoln as he addressed the crowd at Gettysburg so many years ago. I am struck by Lincoln’s poignant and forceful appeal to Americans of his generation, exhorting his listeners to complete the work left undone by the valiant warriors who sacrificed their lives at Gettysburg.

Today we placed a memorial wreath, the Marines fired off a salute, we shared a moment of silence and we read a poem to honor our countrymen lost on that catastrophic morning one-year ago. During the moving memorial many of us shed a tear in their memory. All of those gestures were good and fitting and necessary. We do well to commemorate our fallen citizens in that way.

However, those emotions alone are not sufficient. The honored dead deserve more; they demand more. Lincoln was right. Webster was right. Kennedy was right. Those honored dead don’t cry out for our sympathy, they call out fervently and surely for our commitment. The distinct and compelling voices of our past entreat us to act boldly, and they remind us that our sacred obligation of citizenship is now due.

"Always Remember." Certainly, we will remember. We will remember the tragedy and terror and chaos of that day. We will remember the heroism of New York City, the brave men and women of Flight 93, the heroes of the Pentagon, and countless other acts of valor that summon hope and lament simultaneously. We will always remember them. We will construct monuments of steel and stone so that future generations will remember them also.

But will anyone remember us? Will we respond to this defining moment with humanity, brotherhood, resolve and dedication? Will our reply to this test of national and individual character be worthy of our heroic past? Our answer must be yes. Invoking the “better angels of our nature,” we will defeat the external threats to our freedom, fight tenaciously in defense of our domestic liberty and continue to strive toward fulfilling our “national purpose.” In the end, total commitment to those ideals offers the most profound memorial to our fallen brothers and sisters. May God rest their souls and bless our efforts.
I continue to read and recommend Gordon Wood's latest offering, the brilliant Revolutionary Characters. His brief essay on Tom Paine, "America's First Public Intellectual," reminded me that the international revolution that Paine promoted with such vigor, enthusiasm, and optimism collapsed initially.

Plenty of contemporary commentators warn that the Middle East is culturally ill-prepared to embrace democratic rule; consequently, they cast the US project to remake the Middle East as unadulterated folly. The argument in a nutshell: how can a society without an understanding and appreciation of John Locke adopt popular government? President Bush has intimated that this argument is a form of racism (or at least Eurocentrism).

An aside: as one who teaches freshman history, I can only hope that a democratic society without an appreciation for John Locke can survive.

Were Europeans prepared for democracy? Many of those most virulently pessimistic about democracy in the Middle East are smug Europeans (or smug Americans who pine for a European sense of sophistication in our culture). But Europhiles are too quick to forget pre-WW II history. While the United States showed an almost immediate aptitude for republican-democratic government, the long and dreary path to self governance in the Old World featured spectacular failures. In fact, the American clarion call brought much more grief than triumph for European republicans in the nineteenth century. Then, in the early twentieth century, when democracy seemed on the march, the drive faltered once again in tragic and astonishing fashion, when fascism overpowered the fledgling democratic governments of Western Europe.

A rebirth of conservatism? Professor Wood reminds us that John Adams, writing more than a decade after the failed French Revolution, refused to call the times in which he lived an "Age of Reason" (alluding to the famous contemporaneous treatise of the same name). In the mind of Adams, it was nothing of the sort. Adams preferred to describe his era as one of "the Burning Brand from the Bottomless Pit," or, perhaps, the "Age of Paine."

He referred to Thomas Paine, and, as you might infer, he offered the label not as tribute but as censure. Adams believed that Paine's sanguine and impractical philosophy of rule by the masses had corrupted the opportunity for a level-headed republican experiment and caused (and would cause much more) misfortune, suffering, distress and agony. The Age of Pain(e).

Other contemporaries of Paine and Adams saw the dark power for destruction contained within the new age of popular revolution. More than fifteen years prior to Adams's stinging critique, Edmund Burke wrote Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), which correctly predicted the disastrous and brutal conclusion to the French Revolution. Burke's jeremiad against the radical assault on tradition, authority and human nature gave birth to modern conservative thought.

The optimistic age that produced the French Revolution drew strength from the surprisingly successful rebellion against the British Empire in America. In turn, the "terror" of the French Revolution gave voice to a calculated realism, gradualism, and respect for tradition that eventually gave rise to modern conservatism. Undoubtedly, the triumph of American ideals, will and power in World War II and the Cold War provided the foundation for a renewed optimistic vision for a world connected by liberty, equality, and brotherhood. Will the perils and frustrations of Iraq bring about a conservative revival in American politics?

What of Iraq? Did we move too fast? Did we entertain unrealistic expectations? Yes. Students of democratic history should not be surprised at the troubles inherent in this brand of societal transformation. On the other hand, history also offers hope. From the despair of failed revolutions, horrific wars, and unspeakable cruelties in Europe emerged the modern era of Continental peace, prosperity, tolerance, and popular rule. The world was not prepared for democracy in the "Age of Paine," but that trying period spread the seeds of democratic thought and began the slow and agonizing process of positive change.

The great question of our age remains: will the seeds we plant in Iraq today eventually produce a fruitful Middle East?
In our society groups gain from attaining the status of "victim." Once the "victim" label is on a group, then they become difficult to criticize and can make demands based on grievances. One player in American politics who understands this game is CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. To read their press releases, one would believe that America has been awash in the persecution of Muslims since 9/11. Their claim has been repeated often enough that it has entered public consciousness: witness the scholarly paper on corruption and economic development posted earlier, in which reference is made to anti-Islamic hate-crimes following 9/11. The footnote for this reference is to a CAIR release.

But, is CAIR overstating the number of anti-Muslim hate-crimes in the US? Perhaps to aquire the coveted status of victim? That charge has been made in the blogosphere. Perhaps it is best to check an objective source. Here is a quote from the official FBI report on hate crimes in 2001. "A breakdown of the 2118 victims of hate crimes motivated by religious bias showed that the majority of victims were Jewish, 56.5 percent. Anti-Islamic bias accounted for 26.2 percent of victims of hate crimes motivated by religious bias, . . ." Report here . The statistics table shows 554 Muslim victims, compared with 1196 Jewish victims. For 2000 the FBI report indicates 36 Muslim victims, and 1269 Jewish. Report here. For 2002 the figures are 174 Muslim victims, and 1084 Jewish. Report here.

Yes, we did see a spike in anti-Muslim incidents following 9/11. But, we have not seen continued widespread persecution of Muslims. Even during and after 2001 it remains more hazardous to be Jewish.