VDH: "Is Anyone Sane in Washington?"

Victor Davis Hanson on the Obama administration’s lemming-like rush to duplicate all of Europe’s mistakes:

What is surreal is that, having been given the great didactic gift of seeing the Europeans go off the cliff ahead of us, this administration has hit the accelerator, not the brakes — almost as if it wishes to beat Europe down into the abyss.

Read the whole thing here.

Why I Can't Manage to Get Too Worked Up About Obama's SCoTUS Pick

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I’m finding myself experiencing zen-like calm about the upcoming confirmation hearings of for Elena Kagan–our president’s pick for the latest opening of the Supreme Court.

Why? First of all Kagan is replacing a ultra-liberal justice in John Paul Stevens. She doesn’t change the ideological balance of the court in any way. Second, there is no reason to believe that, had John McCain been elected, his pick for this opening would have been much better. “Moderate” Republicans have an appalling track record in picking nominees to the court. In fact, the out-going Stevens was a Ford pick.

Until Republicans start nominating the most electable principled conservative for president instead of whomever’s “turn” it is, it’s just going to be more of the same.

So . . . yawn . . . whatever.

Robert Samuelson: "What we're seeing in Greece is the death spiral of the welfare state."

(hat tip: Instapundit)

What we’re seeing in Greece is the death spiral of the welfare state. This isn’t Greece’s problem alone, and that’s why its crisis has rattled global stock markets and threatens economic recovery. Virtually every advanced nation, including the United States, faces the same prospect. Aging populations have been promised huge health and retirement benefits, which countries haven’t fully covered with taxes. The reckoning has arrived in Greece, but it awaits most wealthy societies.

The California-fication of American Began with the Greece-ification of California

Over at Reason magazine online Tim Cavanaugh has an interesting piece up titled, “California: The American Greece. It opens thusly:

What do Europe’s most bankrupt nation-state and America’s most bankrupt united state have in common, aside from being bankrupt?

In what is undoubtedly a coincidence noticed only by free-market fundamentalists, it turns out that Greece, that sun-drenched paradise on the Aegean, and California, that sun-warmed El Dorado on the Pacific, are the worst places to do business in their respective economic zones.

Check it out.

A Perfect Economic Storm?

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Europe is tottering on the brink and now the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland is spewing ash again. Flights across Europe are being canceled. Not helpful.

Of course, the challenges Europe faces are almost entirely a result of pursuing policies that the current American government would love to put in place here. Among them, the strengthening of labor unions, the massive expansion of jobs in the government sector, nanny-state regulation of virtually every realm of life, and daunting regulatory disincentives for hiring new employees.

All it takes is a couple of generations of cradle-to-grave government “security” promises to produce a population that will riot when the day of reckoning finally comes. It has come to Greece. It’s right around the corner for Portugal, Spain and Britain. A populace that has swallowed the lie that the government can and should control everything from the price of food to the wages ditch diggers and doctors deserve to receive is a mob that will turn ugly when market forces do what they inevitably and invariably do.

There are still plenty of folks in this country who claim we need to emulate the policies of the European nations. And they do so with a straight face. And so talk among liberals and Democrats of adding a VAT tax to our system of individual and corporate income taxes grows.

This oil spill off of Louisiana is a big deal. In any time or any context it would be a tragedy–both environmental and economic. But in this particular time and context–a fragile, reeling economy and the most inept and misguided national leadership since Jimmy Carter and Tip O’Neil were running the show in Washington–it is potentially devastating. It is therefore a near certainty that the government will learn all the wrong lessons and prescribe solutions with negative unforeseen consequences.

Here The Pragmatic Capitalist offers “Ten Reasons to Worry.”  I prefer to think of them as ten reasons to be glad I’m a Christian, in Texas, and out of the market.

A Tale of Two Blogs

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First, thanks to all for the kind comments and emails regarding my post about my mother from a few days ago. Those comments put me in mind of something I’ve been meaning to do with this blog for while now. Allow me to explain.

A little more than three years ago, I staked a claim to this happy little corner of the wild, wild web and started cultivating organically grown blog posts. Five-hundred-ninety-four posts later, it is clear that my writing here can be classified into two broad categories:

1. Musings about family, life, and faith along with quirky humor centered on retro ephemera.

2. Analysis and commentary about politics and the culture.

Given the above, it’s not surprising that I seem to have developed two distinct groups of readers. There are those who come here primarily for category 1, and another group that values the category 2 content.

In other words, there are those who come for the heart-warming and those who come for the blood-boiling. Those who come for cheer and those who come for drear. Some for witticism, some for criticism.

There is, of course, a little overlap between the two groups. But not enough to keep me from wondering if I should split the content into two separate areas.

At some point in the next few days I’ll be splitting the blog into two zones and changing the home page to create two corresponding doorways. Going forward from there, you’ll be able to bookmark whichever side of my brain you find most interesting.

As always, I’m humbled and grateful that you find your way here at all. Thank you.

May I Tell You About My Mother?

I have written here occasionally about my father and his ongoing battle with Alzheimer’s—an enemy he has fought valiantly but to whom he continues to lose weekly ground. (See here, here, and here.)

I haven’t written much about the woman who daily displays equal valor in taking care of him—without complaint or a discernible trace of self-pity. She has a story, too. What follows is a piece of it.

*****

The little girl wearing dark, short-cropped hair and a hand-sewn dress stands beside the open grave. A plain casket is gently lowered into the earth. She is five.

Five is old enough to understand the meaning and implications of the words, “Your mother has died.” But not nearly old enough to carry more than few treasured swatches of wispy memory fabric away from that dusty cemetery in Grady County, Oklahoma. It is a cruel paradox.

There had been abdominal pain and fever. Appendicitis was the eventual diagnosis. A simple appendectomy was successful. But a post-operative infection set in. And in 1936 the mass production of penicillin lies in a future three years distant.

In the coming years the little girl will savor sweet stories about her mother and study the pitiful handful of pictures. And imagine. Those pictures reveal a beautiful woman. The stories tell of a Christian faith, a lovely singing voice and the making of a poor but happy home continuously filled with song and laughter.

She was educated, a rare thing among women in this time and place. She had graduated from the Oklahoma Normal School in far-away Edmond, Oklahoma. Decades later, a son-in-law she would never knowthe husband of that little girl—graduated there after the name had been changed to Central State College; and a son of theirs would know that campus as Central State University.

At graveside, the little girl holds the hand of a fidgety toddler. She has been instructed to take care of her little sister during the service. It is a charge she takes seriously. She holds tightly. She is responsible.

Indeed, over the next decade she will continue to take care of her as best she can. It seems my mother became a mother far sooner than should ever be asked.

She has three older brothers but they will be needed in the fields. The Great Depression is at its lowest depth. And the Dust Bowl drought that is ravaging Oklahoma and much of western Kansas and Texas is at its height.

The weathered, grief-wracked face of the man beside the coffin belongs to her father. He is a strong man. Some would say a hard man. But what he is facing has shattered many good men. And he will come through unbroken.

He is a tenant farmer. He does not own the land he works. A wealthy man who lives a universe away in Kansas City owns the house and the land and receives a percentage of the proceeds of each harvest. When there is a harvest.

Her father will actually count himself fortunate in this regard. In better times he will joke about not having lost anything in the Great Depression because he didn’t have anything to lose. In fact, in those grim years, several relatives who do own land will find themselves foreclosed upon and homeless. These will come to live with my mother and her family—one whole household actually taking up residence in their chicken coop.

When she and her sister are old enough, they will join their older brothers in the fields, pick cotton, haul water, and by way of callused, bleeding hands earn a deep understanding of that old saying about “a hard row to hoe.”

Store-bought candy will be an almost unthinkable luxury, so from time to time she will slip into the empty kitchen and sneak a couple of little pebble-sized pieces of hardened brown sugar from the counter canister. One for her. One for her sister.

Her father will remarry as quickly as possible. Perhaps this marriage is born of some genuine affection, but it is also clearly born of necessity. He has a farm and five children. Farming is a partnership and he has lost his partner. As a result, five more children will come along in quick succession, the first three of them girls. This results in more responsibility for my mother (the oldest girl with six younger siblings) and even less time and attention devoted to her own needs.

Thus it is always “others.” There will be the time her little sister reveals that her heart’s desire is to take piano lessons, but is crushed when told there is no money for such extravagances. So for a year my mother will skip her school lunch several days a week and use the money to pay for those lessons herself.

It won’t be the last time she will know real hunger. When she seeks to follow in the footsteps of the mother she never really knew by pursuing a college education, there will be no money for that either. But she will find a way.

She will enroll at the Oklahoma College for Women in nearby Chickasha, rent a small room from a kind couple, and work nightly at the local movie theater. Some weeks, her primary source of calories will be the leftover popcorn she is allowed to bring home after work.

She will graduate, marry, and raise a family of her own. At the age of 40, with three small children and one more on the way, she will earn her Master’s degree. Her gifts to her children will be music and books and robust work ethics. But her principal endowment will be a real and enduring faith. The kind of faith that sustains in hard times.

And though it is clear the little girl can and will work her way out of poverty, it is also true that the scars of poverty never completely work themselves out of the girl. And still, ever and always, it will be “others.”

As so it is. Now in this, another stern season, she looks after her husband of 55 years as, in many ways, a cruel disease renders him by degrees a child.

So she holds his hand tightly. She won’t let go. She is responsible.