29 / January
29 / January
Howard Zinn, RIP

Former Boston University professor Howard Zinn, famous for authoring "A People's History of the United States," died of a heart attack yesterday in Santa Monica, California. Zinn, of course, was one of the "intellectual morons" discussed in my book of the same title. Zinn wrote about America with a critical eye. I used the same approach to write about Zinn.

28 / January
28 / January
State of the Union '10

The president made a speech of Castroian length last night. To his right sat a man paid to make approving nods practiced in advance. To his left sat a woman paid to clap on cue and glare at those who didn't. The mood was one of a wake rather than a pep rally. From a man accustomed to hysteria, the forced enthusiasm of his partisans, and occasional laughter from his detractors, must have been a bitter pill to swallow. Nobody fainted, nobody shouted "You lie!," and everybody was bored.

The state of the union was a delusional address aimed at wishing away the disastrous year one of the Obama Administration. "We all hated the bank bailout," said a man who voted for it in the senate and administered it as president. "Let me repeat: we cut taxes," announced a politician who oversaw the increase in the top marginal rate from 35 to 40 percent. "It begins with our economy," explained the primary booster of a socialistic health care scheme that sacrificed all other priorities, including the economy, to the Moby Dick of the Captain Ahabs of the American Left. The stimulus bill "helped save jobs," insisted its creator who has presided over the loss of millions of jobs.

Mouthing Democratic boilerplate on "green jobs" was perhaps the grandest hallucination in the delusional sermon. "The nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy," President Obama said with a straight face. The fact that the president called for "passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America" was a tacit admission of the unprofitability of "green jobs." Sound businesses do not need government subsidies to turn a profit.

"We still need health insurance reform," but since the president needs health insurance reform to go away, he neglected to mention this until 9:43 p.m. EDT. Obama declared: "I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people." This from a man who wasted a year of his life pushing, and pushing, and pushing this bad medicine on an unwilling patient. Mr. President, take this as a compliment: it wasn't the messenger, it was the message.

Interspersed with passive-aggressive blame classlessly heaped upon his unnamed predecessor, the 44th president gave lip-service to placating the changing mood in the electorate. He expressed willingness to drill for oil and open new nuclear power plants. He supported a repeal of capital gains taxes on small business owners. And he pushed a freeze on government spending--to start next year and to exempt the vast majority of government spending (defense, social security, medicare, etc.).

The speech's Rosetta Stone phrase: Americans "don't understand why.... Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems." For Ronald Reagan, government was the problem; for Barack Obama, government is the solution. The message of Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts was clearly lost on the president. Caution: Iceberg ahead!

27 / January
27 / January
Winning Streak

Good news for FlynnFiles readers who are first and foremost readers of my books. I'm enjoying a productive run of book writing/research that began before Christmas and has extended well into the New Year. A fourth book is fast taking shape.

Success, in my case, does indeed have many fathers. One claimant to paternity is my new HP "netbook," a gift from Santa Claus. On my recent trip West, it was a Godsend. In archives and in restuarants, on the train and on a plane, at the airport and by my fireplace, the miniature computer enabled me to work more effectively and efficiently. The netbook has replaced the notebook. Each has benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, no shifty-eyed train passenger ever coveted my notebooks the way they eyeball my netbook. On the other hand, I doubt I will ever lose my netbook the way I lost countless notebooks.

The decision to go West was another such catalyst. One trick of the trade: one must research before one can write. To write this book, it was necessary to conduct research at several venues--the Hoover Institution and the San Francisco Public Library being two. So many wonderful people were instrumental in making this trip happen. And it was a happening. I liken it to my winter venture to Europe back in '06, which transformed a case of writer's block into a case of carpal tunnel syndrome. Bleak winters, people speaking gibberish, and barrooms for miles have that effect on me. My San Francisco trip, I imagine, has done for this book what my European jaunt did for A Conservative History of the American Left.

Fortuitously, while conducting research at Stanford, I received an invitation to speak in Chicago. It just so happens I have pending research to conduct in the Windy City. Piggy-backing multiple purposes upon one trip is just about my favorite thing in the world. The added bonus that the trip is for the most part paid for is just frosting on the cake. You could say that I am on a winning streak.

Back East, I have negotiated a winter truce with the bats in my attic. Are they hiding in my walls? Have they journeyed to a Southern bat cave for the winter? I do not know. I only know they don't harrass me when I work. Added to the stimulating attic environment, is the reemergence of cigars. As was the case with Ayn Rand, Eric Hoffer, and so many of the writers that I am fascinated with, tobacco is a performance-enhancing drug for me. During the past five days, for instance, I've penned 2,700 words for my new book. This would be some kind of record if it were not for my testing positive for a PED (cigars). When asked by aspiring preteen writers what they must do to become a published author, I always advise them that they should take up smoking. Cigarettes, cigars, pipes--it really doesn't matter so long as it's some addictive tobacco product.

I anticipate a completed book by the end of Spring and a published book sometime early next year. With any luck, the remnant of book readers will not go extinct in the intervening period.

26 / January
26 / January
Barack Jennings Bryan, Sockless Jerry Obama Even

As comical as it is to contemplate an Ivy-League-educated law professor and denizen of Hyde Park posing as a pitchfork populist, unlikelier men have have sucessfully played the role. Ted Kennedy, the closest thing American politics has had to Little Lord Fauntleroy, made factories and union halls prime stops on the campaign trail. Al Gore, son of a senator, strangely channelled his inner-Huey Long during his 2000 run for president. Franklin Roosevelt, the Duke of Dutchess County, railed against plutocrats, economic royalists, and other phantoms that more readily resembled the man making such utterances over the radio than the targets of the invective. So, even if Obama strikes an unconvincing populist, precedent shows that one's background is no impediment to successfully masquerading as a populist. What is more befuddling than Obama's reincarnation as Sockless Jerry Simpson is his desire to reincarnate as a populist. It's bad politics. Sure, populists from William Jennings Bryan to Huey Long thrived in tough times. But those were different economies. The 2010 economy is not constituted of farmers or factory workers. Just seven percent of private sector workers are unionized. It's a white collar economy, in which voters dream of being capitalists--not of killing capitalists. Obama is using a playbook made obsolete by the transformation of the game. He is still playing rounders when everyone has moved on to baseball.

Global Warming Warning

Of more than 20 issues listed by the Pew Research Center, Americans polled ranked global warming dead last as a priority. Global warming, refuted by the weather, has become a fringe issue pushed by monomaniacs and their flatterers.

25 / January
25 / January
Dude, Where's My Job?

Just how bad were the aughts? My home state, Massachusetts, and a dozen other states actually lost jobs during the decade. While Massachusetts posted 2 percent negative job growth, Michigan lost 15 percent of its jobs. Though Illinois and Ohio also saw significant job losses during the 2000s, Michigan experienced about a quarter of all of America's private sector jobs lost in the aughts. The biggest winner? Texas, which added 700,000 jobs as the country as a whole lost more than 1,000,000 jobs. "This was the lost decade," Andrew Sum of Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies told the Boston Globe. "No job growth, no wage growth. It was a total wipeout."

Unbelievable

Being out of state for the last week of the campaign, I wasn't privy to the shameless desparation attacks Martha Coakley unleashed on Scott Brown in the contest's waning days. She truly deserved to lose. I came home to the sight of a Democratic Party mailer, which, superimposed over the blurred faces of women, contained these words: "1,736 Women Were Raped in Massachusetts in 2008. Scott Brown Wants Hospitals To Turn Them All Away." Wouldn't it be so easy if opposition candidates actually resembled the devil figures they're made out to be by scummy political hatchetmen? It's satisfying to see the electorate rebuff such base libel. The flyer termed Brown's views on women's rights "unbelievable." The electorate found them "unbelievable" too.

Colts-Saints

When will Brett Farve revert to the gunslinger with bad judgment who rolls out in one direction and throws a pass across his body in the other direction? I asked that question all season. I finally got the answer in the 4th quarter of the NFC championship game. The great thing about this year's Super Bowl is that the two best teams in the NFL, rather than the two hottest teams, will be playing. The opening line of the Super Bowl is Colts -4. My immediate reaction is surprise. The teams seem evenly matched. If I were a betting man, I'd take the points. FlynnFiles will have a Super Bowl pool next week. For now, use the comments thread below to discuss the big game.

22 / January
22 / January
Open Thread

It's free-speech Friday. Say anything you care to say on anything you care about in the comments section. Well, we're waiting!

21 / January
21 / January
Et tu, Massachusetts?

Scott Brown didn't just beat Martha Coakley. He erased Ted Kennedy's imprint on the Bay State, used the bluest state to flash a red light at ObamaCare, embarrassed the president of the United States, and sent Democrats running scared around the country. If Democrats aren't safe in Massachusetts, they aren't safe anywhere. Republicans winning in Massachusetts is the political equivalent of "When a Stranger Calls": "Yeah, Mr. President. We've traced the call. It's coming from inside of your house." Read my article @ City Journal explaining why Republican victory in Massachusetts will either serve as harbinger or alarm bell for Democrats. Wake up, or get a rude awakening in November.

Postcard from San Francisco

I am on an extended research trip. Specifically, my travels bring me to Palo Alto and San Francisco. At Stanford, where the manufactured scarcity of parking is predictably matched by inflated prices for spots, it dawns on me what universities are: the last vestiges of the company town. Check out the prices of textbooks at the company store if you don't believe me. In an effort to shake off West Coast flakiness and become embraced as a serious institution of public learning, Stanford has apparently instituted a vigorous affirmative action program aimed at ugly coeds--a surefire way to become known as the Harvard of the West. Stanford is a good place to get a degree, but I wouldn't want to party there.

To change the subject from the homely to the hot, a first: I catch sight of an attractive homeless woman outside of the San Francisco Public Library. The blond and three confederates share a joint without the least effort to conceal their illicit activities. The (cigarette) smokers outside the library's doors are not so lucky, and receive a scolding from library security. Public Library + San Francisco = Homeless. Free Books, Free Bathrooms, Free Men. The library is the epicenter of the local homeless community, within which, with my grubby garb, aversion to shaving, and presence at the library long before opening for three consecutive days, I am accepted. For example, one community member of seemingly high repute spots me smoking a cigar and makes a friendly comment, amid uncontrolled laughter, of how good it smells and how he needs to get himself one. His gregarious nature is not shared by all the members of this urban subculture. One down-on-her luck San Franciscan berates passersby while another young man uses the "f" word in a most loud yet clever manner.

Civilization inside the hulking institution doesn't differ much from civilization outside it. As I enter the library, a busybody passes out flyers promoting a lecture on the dangers of cell phone use. I think the better of placing my cell phone to my head as a method of evading her unwelcome conversation. I just avoid eye contact and imagine us engaged in a game of tag in which I must not let her invade my eighteen-inch line-of-death personal space. Another patron, not so wise in the ways of escaping conversations with lunatics, politely declines a flyer. The rudeness is too much for the pamphleteer, who remarks: "Die of a brain tumor if you want." My fear of such crazy people is so great that, just to stay on the safe side, I generally avoid all people.

Other library vignettes color my picture of San Francisco. "You can't take your shoes and socks off in here," a security guard explains to a library patron (not me, I assure you). So enthusiastic are the locals about doing their part for the environment that, in the first floor restroom, gentlemen double up to share a stall. Elsewhere on the first floor, I spot a transsexual engaged in a spirited conversation with an invisible adversary.

There was no escape, even in my cab ride. It starts off bad when I immediately notice the cabbie's car radio turned on to eleven. Responding to the driver's query as to my reason for travelling to San Francisco, I respond over the din that I am interested in, among other topics, the stevedore philosopher Eric Hoffer. The taxi driver, resembling the taxi driver if not in appearance than in mental condition, responds: "You know who's a really brilliant writer? Adolf Hitler. Have you ever read Mein Kampf?" The conversation went downhill from there.

I planned my research trip as a crash course on intellectual history and Bay Area politics. It becomes anthropological fieldwork among San Franciscus Lunaticus. Sensing the danger, I depart before I go native.

20 / January
20 / January
Two, Three, Many Martha Coakleys

Martha Coakley was unbeatable one month ago. Now she is an also ran. This opens up interesting possibilities for the 2010 midterms. Senators, congressmen, and governors once deemed safe aren't safe anymore. If a Democrat can lose in Massachusetts, a Democrat can lose anywhere. So who are you looking to get knocked off in November's elections? Nevada Senator Harry Reid? Florida bigmouth Congressman Alan Grayson? Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick? Who is going to sit next to Martha Coakley on the one-way train to Loserville? Name some names, even some ones I have never heard of before.

Massachusetts Miracle

Scott Brown not only defeated Martha Coakley. He probably defeated ObamaCare too. On the Richter scale of political earthquakes, this one is about a 9.2. The race is huge not only for its impact on the present--a 41st vote upholding Republican filibusters--but as a harbinger of things to come. Change, or get changed--that's the message of Massachusetts to Democrats across America, November is ten months away. There may be two, three, many Scott Browns. Brown is immediately a Republican rock star and the Drudge Report, appropriately in the age of Obama and Palin, dubs him a theoretical presidential contender. As massive as this is nationally, it is huge, for altogether different reasons, for long suffering Massachusetts conservatives. A Massachusetts Republican hasn't served in the Senate since I was five years old. The few Republicans who have served statewide generally have been of a decidedly more liberal stripe than Brown, too. So not just a Republican victory but this Republican's victory makes it so much sweeter. Scott Brown had no chance, in the land of Tip, Dukakis, and Kennedy, but he took his chance and won. It wasn't supposed to end this way, Martha Coakley and others commiserating at her Irish Wake, are certainly sobbing. No, it wasn't supposed to end this way. But it did. Bill Clinton's wake-up call came almost two years into his presidency. Barack Obama's alarm rang in less than a year. He hits snooze at his own peril.

19 / January
19 / January
The Tortoise and the Hare

Once upon a time there was a hare who, boasting how he could run faster than anyone else, was forever teasing tortoise for its slowness. Then one day, the irate tortoise answered back: "Who do you think you are? There's no denying you're swift, but even you can be beaten!" The hare squealed with laughter.

"Beaten in a race? By whom? Not you, surely! I bet there's nobody in the world that can win against me, I'm so speedy. Now, why don't you try?"

Annoyed by such bragging, the tortoise accepted the challenge. A course was planned, and the next day at dawn they stood at the starting line. The hare yawned sleepily as the meek tortoise trudged slowly off. When the hare saw how painfully slow his rival was, he decided, half asleep on his feet, to have a quick nap. "Take your time!" he said. "I'll have forty winks and catch up with you in a minute."

The hare woke with a start from a fitful sleep and gazed round, looking for the tortoise. But the creature was only a short distance away, having barely covered a third of the course. Breathing a sigh of relief, the hare decided he might as well have breakfast too, and off he went to munch some cabbages he had noticed in a nearby field. But the heavy meal and the hot sun made his eyelids droop. With a careless glance at the tortoise, now halfway along the course, he decided to have another snooze before flashing past the winning post. And smiling at the thought of the look on the tortoise's face when it saw the hare speed by, he fell fast asleep and was soon snoring happily. The sun started to sink, below the horizon, and the tortoise, who had been plodding towards the winning post since morning, was scarcely a yard from the finish. At that very point, the hare woke with a jolt. He could see the tortoise a speck in the distance and away he dashed. He lept and bounded at a great rate, his tongue lolling, and gasping for breath. Just a little more and he'd be first at the finish. But the hare's last leap was just too late, for the tortoise had beaten him to the winning post. Poor hare! Tired and in disgrace, he slumped down beside the tortoise who was silently smiling at him.

"Slowly does it every time!" he said.

15 / January
15 / January
Haiti

I've been away from the television for the past few days. I can't complain. The still images of death and destruction in Haiti are bad enough. I don't need the moving pictures, played on a loop on the cable networks, to reinforce the depressing picture. Television creates the illusion that it's a small world. It's not. Haiti may be on America's doorstep, but it's far from me--and my help (sympathy doesn't count as help). I'm reminded of Tom Fleming's excellent book, The Morality of Everyday Life: "To love the whole world, we must begin by loving our parents, our spouse, and our children. Charity, so it is said, begins at home. It then radiates outward in ever broader and weaker concentric rings until it encompasses the widest human horizons a person is willing to acknowledge. For Edward Banfield's Calabrians, this may be the village; for many moderns, it may be the nation; and there may even be saints capable of loving the entire human race. But if such general love is not based on more specific and local attachments, it amounts to little more than whim, a narcissistic love that basks in its own superiority without acknowledging the personhood of other human beings." Pray for Haiti.

14 / January
14 / January
It's Up To You Massachusetts

It's strange that Massachusetts would now be the epicenter of the political universe. Democrats have controlled both houses of the state legislature for more than a half century. The entire congressional delegation has been comprised of Democrats for more than a decade. No Republican has won a U.S. Senate seat since 1972. In short, Massachusetts, like Cuba and North Korea, is a one-party state. Elections are supposed to be boring if contested (less than half of the Congressional delegation faced Republican opposition in 2008). Should Scott Brown fall short of victory next Tuesday, it will not be a moral victory. There are no moral victories in politics, only victories. If not a moral victory, a close defeat (and certainly an outright win) would be a harbinger. Brown's hapless opponent, state attorney general Martha Coakley, acknowledged as much at a fundraiser earlier this week: "If I don't win, 2010 is going to be hell for Democrats.... Every Democrat will have a competitive race." To loosely paraphrase that good Democrat Frank Sinatra, "If Democrats can't make it here, they can't make it anywhere." How quickly the political tides have turned: 2008 was supposedly 1932; 2010 may be 1994.

13 / January
13 / January
Worth Repeating #121

"Marx's 'Das Kapital' and Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' have caused far more deaths then all the cigarettes ever smoked. Should we therefore ban their sale? Should we prohibit their being advertised over the radio and TV? Should we require them to carry a warning: READING THIS IS DANGEROUS TO MENTAL HEALTH AND MAY CAUSE DEATH FROM REVOLUTION AND OTHER DISTURBANCES? Should we send millions of taxpayers' money to 'educate' the public of the viciousness of the doctrines they spread?"
--Milton Friedman, Newsweek, June 16, 1969

12 / January
12 / January
The Banana Commonwealth

Drudge headlines aside, the Massachusetts Senate race is only a symbolic proxy battle over ObamaCare. Massachusetts is a Banana Commonwealth. Just as the Democrats rigged the game after Ted Kennedy's death--reversing themselves by changing the law to empower the governor, rather than a special election, appoint an immediate successor--they are set to trample over the rule of law yet again. As the Boston Herald reported last week, the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office has already announced that it will hold up the election until after the health-care vote. In other words, if Republican Scott Brown wins then Kennedy's hand-picked successor will be kept in the Senate until after the final ObamaCare vote. It's a federal election, they say, and it may take a month or so to count all the absentee ballots. That's funny. When Nikki Tsongas won a federal election in 2007, the same Secretary of State rushed to swear her in so that she could cast a key vote in the House of Representatives. The fix, as it generally is in Massachusetts, is in.

11 / January
11 / January
At Least Governments Didn't Waste Billions on Piltdown Man

It was 3.2 degrees cooler this December than the December average for the 20th century. Summer ice in the Arctic has increased by more than 25 percent--more than 400,000 square miles--since 2007. The unusually cold weather in Florida will skyrocket the prices of oranges, strawberries, and other fruits. "For the time being, global warming has paused, and there may well be some cooling," a UN scientist concedes. "[T]his may well last two decades or longer." This is the moment when Geraldo Rivera opens Al Capone's vault and finds--nothing.

Was It Something I Said?

During the '08 campaign, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid apparently observed that Senator Barack Obama could enjoy success because he is "light-skinned" and speaks "with no Negro dialect." It seems an impolitic way of expressing what many observers said: Obama transcended race. He didn't run as a black candidate, as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton had done, but as a presidential candidate. Reid's belatedly reported faux pas strikes me as much an insult of American voters as a pack of racists as it is a demonstration of his own aloofness on racial matters. The former offense doesn't offend the PC police, so nobody's talking about that aspect of his statement. Reid's words have, predictably, drawn the ire of Republicans. GOP Chairman Michael Steele wants him to resign. His point seems to be what's good for the goose is good for the gander. When Trent Lott claimed America would have been better off if South Carolina Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948 (I think he said "47" and actually got the year wrong), Democrats feigned outrage until Lott resigned his position as Majority Leader. Steele has a point: what matters to Democrats is whose ox is being gored. But here's a better point: two wrongs don't make a right. Like Reid's remark, Lott's was stupid and revealed insensitivity. But should that be enough to eject someone from office? Here's my big problem with Michael Steele's logic. Rather than challenge the rules of political correctness as idiotic, Republicans embrace them. They legitimize ginned up charges of racism of the past by their shocked, shocked response to Reid. The Democrats are hypocrites, sure. But do we really want to live in a world where their twisted standards decide what's acceptable speech and what's beyond the pale? People who have thin skins also have soft brains.

08 / January
08 / January
Some People Never Learn

Here's what I wrote almost a year ago upon President Obama signing the so-called stimulus package: "Barack Obama has signed his misnamed stimulus package. The $787 billion bill is actually a depressant package. It doesn't create wealth, it merely redistributes it. The wealth it takes comes mostly from wealth producers. The wealth it distributes goes in large part to the un- and underemployed. In other words, it rewards the problem and hampers the solution. The package is more sedative than stimulus." The American economy lost 85,000 jobs in December. The December bad news puts an exclamation point on a year filled with bad news. The AP's Christopher Rugabear writes: "Employers cut 4.2 million jobs in 2009, and the unemployment rate averaged 9.3 percent. That's compared with an average of 5.8 percent in 2008 and 4.6 percent in 2007. Nearly 15.3 million people are unemployed, an increase of 3.9 million during 2009." The stimulus package failed to create jobs. It killed jobs, for the reasons I predicted in February. Barack Obama's weasel language, "jobs saved or created," was a signal that even the administration didn't believe, economically not politically speaking, in the plan. Now after all the damage the redistributionists have done to the economy, they want another stimulus package.

The Feds Want To See You Naked

One of the ramifications of granting undeserved civil liberties to foreigners suspected of terrorist ties is the undeserved restriction of civil liberties of actual citizens. Failing to revoke visas, flag for special screening, and impose "no fly" restrictions upon security risks results in terrorist attacks, like the one that almost suceeded on Christmas Day. This laxity that results in near terrorist misses in turn results in unnecessary impositions on the civil liberties of American citizens, like the hundreds of full-body imaging screeners set to hit American airports this spring. Put another way, the defenders of civil liberties are often the ones who ultimately undermine them. When you don't weed out the suspected bad guys for special airport screening, airport screeners demand to see everybody naked through an X-ray contraption that some science fiction writer, or pervert, probably dreamed of 60 years ago. Big Brother is watching--just not the bad guys. That would be profiling, or bigotry, or some other offense against political correctness.

07 / January
07 / January
An Act To Make Health Care More Affordable By Taxing It

How patently dishonest is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? The president is currently strong-arming the speaker of the House, to the extent that that is possible, to accept a large tax on health insurance plans that cover a wide range of care to bankroll coverage for people who currently don't have it. The widely proclaimed raison d'etre of health-care reform is to make medical care more affordable, hence the name of the bill. But imposing taxes on existing plans will make health care more expensive. In other words, the sales pitch doesn't reflect the item up for sale.

06 / January
06 / January
Worth Repeating #120

"Terrorism is yet another of the new and bitter truths we must learn to face, constantly. Like political corruption and high-priced oil, it Is here to stay, day in, day out, in your life and mine. Nobody in public life is ready to admit this fact."
--Douglas Davis, Newsweek, June 14, 1976

A Republican Senator from Massachusetts?

The mid-term elections are eleven months away. A potential harbinger of things two come is only two weeks away. On January 19, the citizens of Massachusetts vote to elect a Senator who will fill the seat once held by Lodges and Kennedys. Democrat Martha Coakley, the state's attorney general, faces off with Republican Scott Brown, a state senator. It's Massachusetts, so naturally there is a Kennedy on the ballot--independent candidate Joseph Kennedy. Ironically, it's neither the Democrat nor the Kennedy who is using Kennedy family imagery for political advantage in this race. It's the Republican, whose ingenious ad shows a speech advocating tax cuts by President John Kennedy, who morphs into Republican Scott Brown finishing the thought. That's good politics in Massachusetts, where the Kennedy name is still golden and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 3-1. To win, Brown must peel away a few Democrats from their ancestral party. Appealing to Camelot is one way to do that.

A Rasmussen poll shows Scott Brown within 9 points of Martha Coakley. In any other state, such a finding is bad news for the Republicans. In Massachusetts, it's bad news for the Democrats. There are no moral victories on election day, only actual victories and actual defeats. But for a Republican to be within striking distance two weeks before election day is horrible news for Democrats no matter how you spin it. Why is this even a horse race?

For the first time in a quarter century, a Democrat incumbent is not on the ballot. The economy is horrible, and Massachusetts voters can only take their frustrations out upon Democrats, who control not only the White House but the state's entire congressional delegation and every statewide office. In this special election, the Republicans enjoy all the trappings of a mid-term election: with the Republican base energized over the explosion of federal spending and Brown potentially becoming the 41st vote to stop ObamaCare.

More so than these variables is the reality that Brown is a far more attractive candidate than the wooden Coakley, who--in a Martha Stewart accent foreign to Bay Staters (at least those who live in the eastern half)--mouths Democratic talking points in a robotic manner. Brown is a 25-year veteran of the Massachusetts National Guard. His local-TV-news star wife and two daughters (one performed well on American Idol) compare favorably to Coakley's husband and two dogs. A quarter-century ago, Brown's good looks landed him a spread in Cosmo as "America's Sexiest Man." This is Massachusetts, and a semi-nude spread is no impediment to elected office. Brown, though at times appearing in need of a line of coke or a few Red Bulls to boost his energy level, is charismatic, intelligent, and likeable. His favorable/unfavorable rating in Massachusetts is 25-5. Coakley's? Her unfavorables eclipse her favorables.

I interviewed Brown on the radio last week, and, unlike the sacrificial lambs the Mass GOP has nominated in the past, he is a gamer. With a weak opponent, favorable national conditions, and no incumbent barring the path, the stars seem aligned for a good showing for Brown. But showing doesn't cut it in politics. Neither for that matter does placing. Only winning matters.

Though Scott Brown trails in the one poll of this race, the raw vote count has him ahead 1-0. I cast an absentee ballot yesterday at city hall. Should Brown win--and provide the 41st vote upholding a fillibuster of ObamaCare--you know who to thank.

05 / January
05 / January
The Atheist Belt

New England is in many ways more like Europe than it is like the rest of America. Take regional attitudes on religion: the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life recently released its state-by-state data on the role of religion in the lives of Americans. The findings? God doesn't play much of a role in the lives of a significant number of New Englanders. For each of the four questions posed, the states of New England ranked at or near the bottom. Whereas 91 percent of Mississipians--the most God-fearing state--believe with absolute certainty in God, just 54 percent of respondents from the Granite and Green Mountain States answered in the affirmative. Massachusetts, at 60 percent, also ranked far below the national average of 71 percent. Just 40 percent of Bay Staters, second-to-Maine's last, pray at least once a day. In no state in the Atheist Belt do more than thirty percent attend religious services at least once a week, compared with 60 percent in Mississippi, 57 percent in Utah, and 54 per cent in South Carolina. Since America generally ranks as one of the more religiously observant nations within the West, can we say that New England is the Sweden of America while the Bible Belt is, well, the America of America?

04 / January
04 / January
Bad Words

Lake Superior State has released 2010's list of banned words and phrases for "Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness." (Lake Inferior State, the imaginary university where I serve as chancellor, may counter with a list of unnecessary capitalizations.) I am happy Lake Superior State says goodbye to "bromance," "teachable moment," "app," and variants of "friend" as a verb. But "chillaxin"? I have never heard of it until now and plan to overuse it for 2010. E.g., I plan to go to work at the library this afternoon, but following dinner you'll find me chillaxin by the fire. Feel free to use "chillaxin," or any of 2010's banished words, in the comments section below.

Panic Room, Indeed

A Somali man, with alleged al Qaeda ties, was arrested for the attempted murder of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard over the weekend. The unnamed defendant, anonymous because of a court order, had earlier been held in Kenya, but released, for a suspected plot to kill U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. On Friday night, the 28-year-old Somali stormed Westergaard's house armed with an ax and a knife. The cartoonist absconded to his specially made panic room before police arrived and shot the intruder.

Westergaard sketched this cartoon, which depicts Muhammed as a warrior prophet. Islamic radicals, and many garden-variety Muslims, remain outraged over the unflattering cartoon. The radicals decided to counter Westergaard's portrayal of Islam as a violent religion by murdering him with an ax. The irony is apparently lost on such fanatics.

Much is made about the encroachment of the West upon Islam--McDonald's arches amidst minarets and the like. What of the encroachment of Islam upon the West? Freedom of expression, if not as ingrained throughout the West as it is in the United States, is a cultural marker of Western Civilization. Clearly, this extreme form of the heckler's veto, in which ax-toting maniacs reject sunlight as the best disinfectant in favor of sharp cutting instruments, imposes a chilling effect upon expression. Cartoonists, politicians, writers, and others fear speaking truth lest it incite a crazed Muhammedan to murder them. Thusly, the West becomes dewesternized, to a degree slight or great depending upon the percentage of unassimilated Muslims present, and becomes more like the lands these new immigrants have fled.

Good for Westergaard to have had the foresight to have installed a panic room. Better for Denmark, and other Western nations that wish to remain so, never to have been so indiscriminant in who they allow into their countries. Should they continue this suicidal course they won't remain their countries for long--and then panic rooms will be as common as bathrooms.

02 / January
02 / January
Making Homes Affordable Foreclosure More Painful

In a revealing article, the New York Times suggests President Obama's "Making Homes Affordable" program is actually harming the homeowners and lending institutions it intended to help by prolonging mortgages that will never get paid off. "The choice we appear to be making is trying to modify our way out of this, which has the effect of lengthening the crisis," Kevin Katari, a manager with Watershed Asset Management, explained to the New York Times. "We have simply slowed the foreclosure pipeline, with people staying in houses they are ultimately not going to be able to afford anyway." The foreclosure crisis is a sympton of the disease but not the disease itself. The proliferation of high-risk loans, which are often bad for lender and lendee, is the disease. Home buyers who have no business buying homes receive loans from banks who have no business lending them money. A rational economic system, i.e., the free market, would punish such maladaptive choices. Through bailouts, to banks and homeowners who made poor choices, the U.S. government encourages such lunacy.

01 / January
01 / January
Best Songs of the Decade

Now that the decade is over I have the proper perspective to judge the top ten songs of the last ten years. Here are the best songs from the aughts:

10. Things the Grandchildren Should Know--The Eels
9. Fans--Kings of Leon
8. Real Good Looking Boy--The Who
7. Wake Up--Arcade Fire
6. Nancy ('Cos It Already Is)--Pete Yorn
5. Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors--Editors
4. All These Things That I've Done--The Killers
3. Come Pick Me Up--Ryan Adams
2. Best of You--Foo Fighters
1. Maps--Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs

Player hate. Player participate. Share your favorite songs from the '00s in the comments section below.