Archive for September, 2008
26 Sep 2008

Sarah Palin Beauty Pageant Video

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The Huffington Post isn’t all bad.

Not only do they entertain us by publishing the rants of some of the silliest and most self important representatives of the community of fashion, why! here they’ve done the patriotic thing and posted a 0:37 video of Sarah Palin (née Heath)’s swimsuit appearance in the 1984 Miss Alaska Pageant.

26 Sep 2008

Ten Economists on the Bailout

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Reason poses the following three questions to ten free market economists.

1. How bad is the current market situation?

2. How bad are the current proposed bailout plans?

3. What’s the one thing we should be doing that we’re not?

26 Sep 2008

Brooks Evaluating McCain

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David Brooks takes a serious look at John McCain.

What disappoints me about the McCain campaign is it has no central argument. I had hoped that he would create a grand narrative explaining how the United States is fundamentally unprepared for the 21st century and how McCain’s worldview is different.

McCain has not made that sort of all-encompassing argument, so his proposals don’t add up to more than the sum of their parts. Without a groundbreaking argument about why he is different, he’s had to rely on tactical gimmicks to stay afloat. He has no frame to organize his response when financial and other crises pop up.

He has no overarching argument in part because of his Senate training and the tendency to take issues on one at a time — in part, because of the foolish decision to run a traditional right-left campaign against Obama and, in part, because McCain has never really resolved the contradiction between the Barry Goldwater and Teddy Roosevelt sides of his worldview. One day he’s a small-government Western conservative; the next he’s a Bull Moose progressive. The two don’t add up — as we’ve seen in his uneven reaction to the financial crisis.

Nonetheless, when people try to tell me that the McCain on the campaign trail is the real McCain and the one who came before was fake, I just say, baloney. I saw him. A half-century of evidence is there.

If McCain is elected, he will retain his instinct for the hard challenge. With that Greatest Generation style of his, he will run the least partisan administration in recent times. He is not a sophisticated conceptual thinker, but he is a good judge of character. He is not an organized administrator, but he has become a practiced legislative craftsman. He is, above all — and this is completely impossible to convey in the midst of a campaign — a serious man prone to serious things.

26 Sep 2008

Obama Fights Back with Threats of Censorship and Lies

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The Obama campaign’s attempt to respond to a National Rifle Association attack ad with dishonest quibbling combined with attempts at intimidation through use of government regulatory power provides an alarming sample of what a future Obama administration’s governing style might be like.

Allahpundit has the video and details.

It seems astonishing that democrat campaign professionals are so willing to believe that sportsmen and gun owners can be bamboozled by a few disingenuous protestations of support for a right to private gun ownership which has actually been a dead-letter in Obama’s home state of Illinois for years.

Obama has been consistently a supporter of the sort of gun ownership rights (from his point of view) currently regrettably still in legal existence, temporarily representing the residuum of private liberty awaiting elimination via future regulatory measures not yet presently politically achievable.

25 Sep 2008

Must Huckleberry Finn Be Banned?

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Over its century and a quarter of existence, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been generally recognized as one of the special pinnacles of the American canon, yet at the same time the book has retained a unique capacity to provoke the alarm and indignation of the godly by its failures in decorum.

Long ago, the problems were coarse language and unseemly racial fraternization. Today, it’s politically incorrect language, the dreaded N word, and a vital portrait of a racially unequal society and unequal characters which provokes the wrath of the Philistines.

Can such a corrupting and subversive book possibly be permitted to appear on reading lists in respectable American schools?

The Manchester, Connecticut school system bravely wrestled with the thorny problem, and devised a bold answer. Huck Finn could stay, but teachers must first attend special seminars instructing them in exactly how to frame and properly civilize the unruly text.

Personally, I think that Huck ought to jump back on the raft and sail off down the Connecticut River for the territories.

Eyewitness News 3

24 Sep 2008

Nigerian Billionaire to Aid US Banks


BBSpot has the story:

Nigerian philanthropic billionaire Esenam Ayele said that he would make $80 billion dollars available to US banks from his accounts in Nigeria. All he needed to transfer the funds was a trusted associate at the bank.

It couldn’t come at a better time for Wall Street as the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the sale of Merrill Lynch and government bailout of AIG has left markets tumbling with no bottom in site. The guaranteed funds should bring some stability back to financial institutions.

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson said Ayele could be trusted. “I know he’s had problems in the past with people believing him, but I assured the folks over at Washington Mutual that he was for real.”

Ayele, who has returned to wealth with the rise in oil prices, said from his palace in Lagos, “I just need someone to fax me a copy of the transfer codes on some bank stationery, and I’ll get the money right over.”

He added that his widowed sister also had more funds she could transfer out of the country which she inherited from Prince Ugube of Tanzania. “She just as helpful as I am, but she’s unable to come to the United States because of a visa issue. If somebody could just send her a cashier’s check for $1000, she’ll be able to clear everything up and transfer the funds.”

The American government would rather have private funds involved as to not create the appearance that taxpayers will rescue every bank from dumb mistakes.

“I’m glad I can be of service,” said Ayele. “The American people have done so much for me. I’m thankful to return the favor.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1,458 points on the news.

24 Sep 2008

“Coal Miner Joe” Says No! to Coal

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Ben Smith identifies a hundred eighty degree policy reversal made by Joe Biden in one 72-hour period.

Some great rope line video from Joe Biden’s recent Ohio swing, where he was asked by an anti-pollution campaigner about clean coal — a controversial approach in Democratic circles for which Obama has voiced support, particularly during the Kentucky primary.

Biden’s apparent answer: He supports clean coal for China, but not for the United States.

“No coal plants here in America,” he said. “Build them, if they’re going to build them, over there. Make them clean.”

“We’re not supporting clean coal,” he said of himself and Obama. They do, on paper, support clean coal.

The answer seems to play into John McCain’s case that Obama has been saying “no” to new sources of energy.

0:53 video

Today, Senator John McCain pounced on Biden’s remarks.

“I am going to put in place the priorities and policies that will create jobs in Ohio. One important way that we are going to create jobs here is with the development of additional nuclear plants and through investments in clean coal technology,” he said. “[Obama’s] running mate here in Ohio recently said that they weren’t supporting clean coal.”

Biden spokesman David Wade responded by calling McCain’s statement “yet another false attack from a dishonorable campaign.”

He continued: “Senator McCain knows that Senator Obama and Senator Biden support clean coal technology. Senator Biden’s point is that China is building coal plants with outdated technology every day, and the United States needs to lead by developing clean coal technologies.”

But the error here does seem to be Biden’s, and his remarks, and his apparent return to his primary position Tuesday, were striking because just three days ago, he praised the possibilities of coal to a crowd at the United Mine Workers of America annual fish fry in Castlewood, Va.

“You know we have enough coal in the United States of America to meet out needs domestically for the better part of the next hundred to 200 years,” Biden said before launching into a critique of McCain’s energy priorities, slamming his support for billions in tax breaks for oil companies as the industry rakes in record profits.

“Imagine … what Barack and I can do taking that $4 billion … and investing it in coal gasification, finding out what we can do with carbon sequestration, finding out how we can burn the coal that you dig that can free us from being dependent on foreign oil countries and at the same time not ruin the environment. That’s within our capacity to do it, if you give me $4 billion I promise you, I promise you we will find the answer,” Biden said.

He linked the ticket’s support for coal with their call to have U.S. automakers produce plug-in electric cars. “Where’s that [electricity] come from? That comes from a utility. What do utilities burn? They burn coal mostly.”

Southwest Virginia UMWA members are just too dumb to notice what he says in a different state, Biden obviously surmises.

23 Sep 2008

Death at Lehman

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New York Magazine describes what it’s like for Manhattan’s financial elite when the music suddenly stops.

The Trader had come to Lehman only a year ago, after being recruited from a rival firm. He’d studied physics as a grad student, then come to Wall Street as the tech bubble and the aggressive gentrification of the Giuliani years remade Manhattan into a banker’s playground, a place where a $2 million salary could seem like the norm.

Like many on Wall Street, the Trader’s career was moving along briskly. By 2006, he had settled into a new $2 million house in Connecticut with a pool, and kept a pied-à-terre in Manhattan. With two young children, he had private-school tuition to cover. He had recently completed a home renovation, and now there was talk of a new porch with a built-in stainless-steel barbecue. The Trader estimated that he was two years from making enough money to retire and never have to work again.

By Saturday, September 13, Lehman Brothers teetered on the precipice of bankruptcy after Barclays and Bank of America walked away from a deal. The Trader was certain of little, except that he was a lot poorer. The unvested stock from his previous year’s bonus, once worth $3 million, was now reduced to a scant $6,000. And on Wall Street, self-worth and net worth can amount to the same thing. “The hardest thing in my mind is to have your compensation cut,” a veteran Wall Street executive says. “It’s almost like you’re a bad person.”

At a dinner party in Darien that evening, the conversation was a mix of denial and panic. An executive from UBS lamented what the Lehman meltdown would mean for Wall Street. “This is going to be a disaster,” the executive said. The executive’s wife nervously tried to steer the topic toward lighter subjects. She kept talking about summer vacation. And then she turned to the Trader and asked, “What do you do?”

The collapse of the world’s most powerful wealth-creating engine required everyone to take stock of their financials. One Lehman executive in Rye Brook, fretting about paying off a Hamptons summer house and a ski chalet in Vermont, panicked on Monday morning and laid off her nanny, who had been with the Westchester family for nine years. “The nanny called me crying,” says Marla Sanders, who runs Advance Nannies and staffs Lehman homes. “One of the children she had brought home from the hospital.” Sanders knows more cuts for her clients are on the way. “They’re going to have to sell homes. The question is, will the homes sell? They’re cutting some of the children’s activities out, dance class, acting class. Are they going to have flowers delivered every day to their homes? I don’t think so!”

23 Sep 2008

Yes, You Were Robbed

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John Steele Gordon identifies the guilty parties behind the Fannie Mae-Freddie Mac collapse.

At the heart of the problem is Congress and its deeply corrupt relationship with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Congress was equally at the heart of the savings and loan disaster 20 years ago and, obviously, learned nothing from it. (For a history of what led to the savings and loan collapse, see here.)

Fannie and Freddie, two of the largest publicly traded financial institutions on earth, are headquartered in Washington, D.C., where the next-largest non-governmental financial institution is probably a local credit union. Big financial companies are headquartered in New York and other cities where capitalism is practiced. That should tell you a lot about Freddie and Fannie: they were political to their fingertips.

Being “government sponsored entities,” they were able to borrow at lower interest rates than other profit-seeking companies, had less regulation, had lower capital requirements, and had an “implied” guarantee on their huge debts. This was supposed to translate into more money available for mortgages, but was used instead to roll up big profits and, not so incidentally, big bonuses for their top management — which came not from the financial world but from the political one.

Franklin Raines, Fannie C.E.O. from 1999 to 2004, had been budget director in the Clinton White House. He cooked the books at Fannie to increase his compensation (more than $50 million). Jamie Gorelick, vice C.E.O., was number two at the Clinton Justice Department before going to Fannie Mae. She made $26 million. Jim Johnson, a perennial Washington big-foot, was chairman from 1991 to 1998. He too, according to an official government report, cooked the books to increase his compensation and failed to publicly reveal how much he received.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page has been giving chapter and verse for years on why this was a disaster waiting to happen (Pulitzer Prize judges, please note). The Bush administration tried way back in 2003 to change the system. It got nowhere. Alan Greenspan, then the chairman of the Federal Reserve, frequently noted the danger of Fannie and Freddie’s weak capitalization. He was ignored. Congressman Mike Oxley, then chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, introduced a bill in 2005 to correct the situation. Lobbyists from Fannie and Freddie succeeded in gutting it to the point that Rep. Oxley pulled the bill.

Why were Fannie and Freddie so successful at maintaining the status quo? Check it out.

Senator Chris Dodd — formerly ranking member and now chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, with oversight over Freddie and Fannie — recently said on Bloomberg Television: “I have a lot of questions about where was the administration over the last eight years.”

Excuse me? Just where the hell were you, Senator? Oh, right. You were standing in line at the bank in order to deposit the political contributions Fannie and Freddie were lavishing upon you. At least they got their money’s worth — until the party ended and the American people got the bill.

Members of Congress — aided and abetted by their many waterbearers in the media — wonder why their collective approval rating is about on par with colon cancer’s. The reason is simple enough: Congress is the sick man of Washington; a textbook example of the truism that institutions tend to evolve in ways that benefit their elites, at the expense of the people they were created to serve.

22 Sep 2008

Gallup Massages the Numbers for Obama

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D.J. Drummond, at Wizbang, explains Obama’s miraculous recovery in Gallup’s Polls.

Obama’s support goes up and down, but the Liberal and Moderate Democrat support for Obama has been steady all of September. Odd, isn’t it? And support for Obama among Conservative Democrats went down four points in the last week, even though his overall support is supposed to have gone up four points. How to figure that?

Perhaps it’s in the Independents. …

Hmmm, again. Obama gained support among Independents in the last month, but he actually lost two points among Independents in the last week. So that 4 point gain overall is still a mystery.

Nothing to do, then, but look at the Republicans. It would really be something if he’s improving support from GOP voters:

Ouch. Obama lost six points among Liberal and Moderate Republicans in the past week.

Conservative Republican support for Obama …

No change there in the past week.

Taken altogether, there is no group of political identification where Obama’s support has increased in the past week. Mathematically, therefore, there is only one way in which Gallup could show an increase in Obama’s overall support, when none of the party identification groups showed improvement for him.

Before I explain that possibility, I want to look at John McCain’s support by specific party identification groups. The man, according to Gallup, lost four points of overall support in the past week,

Conservative Republican support for McCain…

Interesting. McCain’s support among Conservative Republicans went up a point in the last week.

Wow, McCain’s support from Liberal and Moderate Republicans climbed by seven points in the past week, and yet we are told his overall support fell by four points? That is very odd, wouldn’t you say? It must have been the Independents, perhaps?

Independent support for McCain …

Stranger and stranger, McCain’s support among Independents went up by four points in the past week, just as his support from Republicans increased, yet we are told his overall support went down by four. Very hard to explain that using the math most of us learned in school, isn’t it? Well, there’s just one place left to look. Maybe somehow McCain used to have significant support among Democrats, but lost it? Let’s find out:

Conservative Democrat support for McCain …

Hmpf. Once again, a group where support for McCain went up (3%), but the overall says he went down.

Moderate Democrat support for McCain …

Steady there, so that one does not explain it.

Liberal Democrat support for McCain…

It’s only a point, but again we see McCain’s numbers in this group went up.

So, put it all together, and in the past week Obama has stayed steady or lost support in every party identification group, yet Gallup says his overall support went up four points. And McCain stayed steady or went up in every party identification group, yet we are supposed to accept the claim that his overall support went down by four points? Anyone have an answer for how that is even possible?

Well, actually I do. There is one, and only one, possible way that such a thing can happen mathematically. And that way, is that Gallup made major changes to the political affiliation weighting from the last week to now. Gallup has significantly increased the proportional weight of Democrat response and reduced the weight of Republican response.

Read the whole thing.

22 Sep 2008

Son Finds Father’s Korean War Garand

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Minneapolis Star-Tribune

For Virgil Richardson’s 79th birthday, his son Jim searched Internet gun offerings and successfully located, via a dealer in Kentucky, the M1 Garand his father had carried during the Korean War, reuniting the aged rifleman with his rifle.

22 Sep 2008

“You Say You Want a Revolution?”

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Larisa Alexandrovna, at HuffPO, demonstrates that her political assimilation as a recent immigrant has been less than successful. Remedial work in both Civics and American History is in order.

Alexandrovna obviously never learned to understand the Electoral College system, and she is clearly unaware that the election of 2000 was the fourth in which the candidate with the larger number of popular votes was nonetheless defeated. If George W. Bush, as Alexandrovna alleges is “a man the citizens overwhelmingly rejected” on the basis of a .5% popular vote margin in his opponent’s favor, what would be her position on Bill Clinton who assumed the presidency despite a 4% larger margin of voters rejecting him than supporting him?

Huffington Post accepts opinion pieces from the oddest sources.

Here is a recent Russian Jewish immigrant, with a literary background, who has apparently sought asylum not in the normal America most of us inhabit, but in the deepest depths of the paranoid fever swamps of the left, who is now setting up shop to tell the rest of us Americans that we must make haste to impeach the current president (in the 5 remaining weeks before the next election) or there is no alternative to violent Revolution.

As I see it now, we have but two options and I have long alluded to hoping against hope that one of these options would not be the only one left to a peaceful people. The first and frankly most preferable option is for Congress to immediately begin impeachment proceedings against the members of this latest Business Plot.

No time needs to be wasted on hearings as we already now have in writing, formally as presented to Congress, the intentions of this administration to nullify Congressional powers permanently, to alter Judicial powers permanently, and to openly steal public funds using as blackmail the total collapse of the US economy if these powers are not handed over. You do see how this is blackmail, do you not? You do see how this is a manufactured crisis precisely designed to be used as blackmail, do you not?

The other option, the one I have long prayed we would never need to even consider, is a total revolution. But, If Congress won’t act in its own self-defense, in the defense of democracy, in defense of us – the people who have elected them to protect us from this very danger – then what is left for us to do? I don’t want to see it come down to this, but I fear that it will. Put your party politics aside right now. We are in a crisis so dangerous that should these people succeed in their coup, your party affiliation will no longer matter, your American flag will be a nice collectible item of something that once was, and your version of God will be worshiped in secrecy because your freedoms will be owned by the few.

Possibly this young lady may have insights on the work of stylistic geniuses like “Vladamir Nabkov” which are worthy of attention. She obviously is fundamentally incapable of approaching US political issues at any level more sophisticated than the repetition of leftie slogans and irrational raving.

Worse, she hasn’t even got the minimum intellectual integrity required to take political positions.

When she posted her bizarre “summons to the barricades” yesterday in response to the prospective federal bailout, she provoked a little feedback from elements of the right Blogosphere.

Jeff Goldstein identifies the young lady’s political perspective, accurately, as antidemocratic progressivism.

What the progressives want is a type of non-filial aristocracy — an aristocracy of region and school and manner and argot. Once established, this ruling class will act in the interests of all — at least, in the interests of all as those interests are defined by that ruling elite.

Voting, democracy… messy encumberances that keep those fit to lead from leading, all because too many US citizens are too stupid to vote in their own best interests. As decided upon by those who would rather the rubes not vote at all if they aren’t going to vote the “right” way. Hence the outrage when certain “types” wander off the liberal plantation.

This is the face of progressive fascism. Which for all its high-sounding political importance is, at heart, nothing more than temper tantrums being thrown by those who aren’t quite as clever as they’ve always been taught to believe.

Sad, really. But then, such is the burden of being an elite in this country. STOP HATING US BECAUSE WE’RE BETTER THAN YOU!

Further negative commentary was provided by Confederate Yankee, MacRanger, and others.

How did she respond to criticism? With the radical left’s customary defenses of insults, sneers, and foul language, and, ridiculously enough, with disingenuous “Who, me? I didn’t say any such thing!” protestations.

We need advice on politics from her?

21 Sep 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Obama


Rex Murphy, writing in the Canadian Globe And Mail, observes that the effulgent energy of the Obama candidacy came from sources external to itself, and seems to have entered an irreversible decline.

Most of the story of the campaign isn’t so much coming from the candidate himself as it is created by all those who, most in worshipful terms, have talked, written and reported on or about him. The Obama campaign is one great text generator, the grand fable of his fans.

In one sense, this is not surprising. He has a quicksilver quality. Even after two autobiographies, Mr. Obama remains something of a floating, uncrowded presence. His story (and he is so impressively self-aware as to have made the most acute comment on it) is temptingly open-ended, very much a page to be written on. He himself has written, most memorably: “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”

That is as bold a statement as it is an insightful one. Bold, because it is a remarkable confession from a presidential hopeful. Insightful, because it matches the facts. There are not many personalities so fluid or vague on which an attempt to “project” a storyline would take hold. Imagine, for example, projecting a “rewrite” of Donald Rumsfeld. There’s too much of Mr. Rumsfeld already there to offer hospitality to new material.

Mr. Obama, however, has a kind of welcoming emptiness. Eager acolyte or stern observer, both find it difficult not to add, or project, the most flattering, even jubilant, fill-ins. The Obama candidacy, in its rocket-blast phase when he outsoared Hillary Clinton, drained the dictionaries of every superlative. The great “O” had them swooning in the stands. Why?

True, Oprah had passed her potent wand over him, but even the afternoon regent of a thousand therapies has stays on her sorcery. Mainly, his was very much a candidacy constructed by those who were drawn to him. If there was any meaning to that fortune-cookie poeticism that “we are the ones we have been waiting for,” it was that his campaign was a feedback loop. People saw what they came to see. Mr. Obama was the slate; the crowds brought their own chalk.

This is the nature of Mr. Obama’s particular kind of charisma. People project their best wishes on him, they fill in the blank of a very attractive and plausible outline. His is not, emphatically, a charisma of deeds. For what has he done, save run for president? He is an accommodating vessel – cool, smart, biracial and “unfinished.” This is the Gatsby quality of him that others have noted. Like Gatsby, he is a receptacle of others’ glamorous invention.

People see in him, or wish to see, the last great ideal of the American polity fulfilled, a final and full racial accommodation. That should he be elected president, America will have achieved, by his singular persona, the perfect emblematic demonstration of having exorcised at last the great stain of its racially riven origins.

Mr. Obama’s charisma is, in this sense, external, something extended to the candidate. And it follows that that which is given may equally be taken away. The sparkle has, in fact, dimmed. He travels now in a lower orbit, closer to Earth – which is to say, he grows more mundane. The great word “hope” sounds less frequently now. He picks a running mate thick with the dust and rancour of many long years in Washington.

His acceptance speech in the Olympic-style stadium could not gather the inspirational energy of his earlier arias. Of late, the flash supernova of U.S. politics is seen “competing” with a second-on-the-ticket female governor of a remote state. There’s more than a gap between the “audacity of hope” and “lipstick on a pig.” The mouth that spoke the first phrase should not be capable of the second.

He has shrunk into a combative partisan. He crowds his own screen, leaves less space for projection. Others are not writing his narrative now – he’s inscribing his own.

A candidacy that leached so much of its energy and drive from the imagination of others, Gatsby-like, is shedding its gift. The narrative stage is over. It’s all tactics from here on in.

21 Sep 2008

Joe Biden, Coal Miner

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Campaigning in Virginia coal country, Joe Biden actually described himself as “a coal miner” from the Northeastern Pennsylvania anthracite region.

In his first visit to Southwest Virginia, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, speaking at the United Mine Workers’ annual fish fry here on Saturday, was quick to tout his ties to coal.

“I hope you won’t hold it against me, but I am a hard-coal miner, anthracite coal, Scranton, Pa.,” Biden said. “It’s nice to be back in coal country. … It’s a different accent [in Southwest Virginia] … but it’s the same deal. We were taught that our faith and our family was the only really important thing, and our faith and our family informed everything we did.”

Biden, a U.S. senator from Delaware, told the story of his great-grandfather, a mining engineer who was elected to the state Senate in 1904 and was rumored to be a Molly Maguire, a member of a secret organization tied to union activism and crime in the Pennsylvania coalfields in the 19th century.

“He went out of his way to prove that he wasn’t, and we were all praying that he was,” he said.

The mines closed when Joe Biden and I were kids. Biden obviously was never a coal miner personally. Still, those of us from miner’s families do identify with a certain kind of culture and tradition, and consider ourselves connected to our father’s and grandfathers’ lives of hardship, danger, and hard labor.

Joe Biden moved from Scranton to the Delaware suburbs at the age of ten. Biden campaigns on his purported coal mining, Roman Catholic roots, but his politics have always been upper middle class suburban liberal.

I haven’t read Biden’s autobiography, but Ann Coulter has, and she reports that Biden tells a very different story there.

According to Vice Plagiarist Biden’s own autobiography, his father was to the manor born. Biden’s grandfather was an executive with the American Oil Co., and his father had all the advantages in life. “My dad,” Biden writes in “Promises to Keep,” “grew up well polished by gentlemanly pursuits. He would ride to the hounds, drive fast, fly airplanes. He knew good clothes, fine horses, the newest dance steps.”

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