Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Class Conflict in Washington

Not long ago, Vinceng Gray defeated the incumbent mayor of Washington, DC, Adrian Fenty, and became the presumptive next mayor.  As a result, Michelle Rhee is leaving her job as schools chancellor.  Washington has notoriously bad, yet expensive public schools. Rhee was trying to improve the schools and was willing to knock heads and to fire people to do it. 

In the election, the black communities were central to Gray's victory.  Why?  As the Washington Post noted, firing public employees hits the black middle class:

As mayor, Fenty retained his overwhelming popularity among white voters, as a breakdown of last Tuesday's vote demonstrates. But he lost the support of vast numbers of black voters who derided him for ignoring their communities and slashing government jobs. Many of those jobs were held by African Americans, who since the advent of D.C. home rule have used city employment as a stepping stone to the middle class. . . .

Although blacks and whites recognize the importance of the public schools as a vehicle for educating their children, blacks also see the school system as a primary employer, providing jobs to thousands of teachers, school bus drivers, administrators and secretaries. When Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee laid off hundreds of teachers, many blacks saw something more than a simple purge of poorly performing educators. They saw an assault on economic opportunity.

To put it more bluntly, the leadership of the black community is heavily invested in working for the government.  Statistically, if memory serves, the percentage of blacks who work for the taxpayers is higher than that of any other ethnic or racial group in the U.S.  In short, it might be the case that the interest of the black middle class conflicts with the interest of the rest of the black community.  The idea of ending tenure for civil servants and teachers threatens a very strong, entrnched interest in the black community, even if opening up the job market is, in fact, in the real, long-term interest of the community as a whole.

Perhaps the rise of black tea party candidates represents a move to change that, reducing the dependency of the black community on the government, and breaking the perceived uniformity of interest in the community.

Categories > Politics


Missing the Point

Peter Berkovitz in today's Wall Street Journal is not to be missed.  He catalogs the many ways in which the left's "commentariat" and their followers have completely missed the point of the last two years in American politics.  It would almost be funny--if it weren't so sad--to reflect on the ways that highly educated people can be so amazingly clueless and insular.  But then, what to expect?  They put all their stock in hope and hope and change and hope for change and "we are the change we've been waiting for" and sat comfy in the belief that they'd actually persuaded the American people to abandon two centuries and more of political tradition and ethos.  They thought that everything they held dear was now "beyond debate."  Guess not.  So now they find that they have persuaded no one of anything.  They've been talking to their friends, exploiting their usual constituents, forgetting that one particular constituency has the eternal problem (for them) of growing up, and blithely writing off the Tea Party movement as the province of hicks, losers and weirdos.  It's going to make for some messy accounting for them come election day.  
Categories > Elections

Smurf City, Here We Come

The correction of the day is brought to us by the Los Angeles Times:

In the Oct. 13 Section A, a profile of Lorenzo Velez, the only Bell City Council member not charged with a crime, described Bell as "a city dominated by blue-color Mexican immigrants like himself." It should have said "blue-collar."


Australia Gets a Saint

Tomorrow, Pope Benedict XVI will canonize Australia's first saint, Blessed Mary MacKillop, who died in 1909.

While one would be tempted to praise the land down under for their accomplishment, I've gotta say ... what took so long? I mean, really - 2010? You couldn't get a saint until 2010? Australia's been Christian since the late 18th century! Take the shrimp off the barbie and get yourselves to church, you lazy, no good . . . .

God bless the Aussies. Congrats.

Categories > Religion

Shameless Self-Promotion

Power Surge

The Weekly Standard has a feature from me today on the energy plan I worked on with Mark Muro at Brookings and the Breakthrough Institute greenies Shellenberger and Nordhaus.  And the FrumForum has an article that quotes copiously from me explaining how this call came to be.  And I spent my morning debating energy issues with former CIA director Jim Woolsey.  Which is really cool when you think about it.  He tried to go all "Three Days of the Condor" on my butt, but I was prepared.


This Won't Help Either

From AP:

The Obama administration is expected to announce today that the federal budget deficit has exceeded $1 trillion for the second year in a row.

Categories > Economy


This Won't Help Democrats

WSJ NEWS ALERT: Social Security Payments Won't Increase Next Year

The Social Security Administration said there will be no increase in benefits next year -- the second year in a row without an increase for more than 58 million retirees and disabled Americans. The announcement marks only the second year without an increase since automatic adjustments for inflation were adopted in 1975. The first year was this year.

Categories > Economy


NYT on Boehner

The New York Times leads today with an article on John Boehner, focusing on his Ohio roots. The Times can't resist but to call him a liar and present him as partisan in the opening paragraph, but the remainder of the article is generally snark-free. It also concedes that he will be the next Speaker of the House.
Categories > Elections


Shame and Humiliation

Shame is an undervalued quality. Only humans have shame, as they alone recognize when their actions have fallen short. A person who acts immorally without shame has lost the most precious of human qualities: conscience. People who routinely espouse a philosophy of "no regrets" are simply attempting to suppress their humanity and liberate themselves from morality, guilt and consequences.

Good luck with that.

Nonetheless, shame was once a central element of punishment. From schoolboys wearing dunce caps to throwing someone in the stocks and the literary scarlet letter, punishments have long relied upon public humiliation as a means of personal rehabilitation and general deterrence - and often as a bit of good old fashion vengeance. 

The state has generally lost the power to employ humiliation as a sentencing device - cruel and unusual, apparently. So it's interesting to read that private citizens have offered precisely this punishment as an alternative to prosecution. There is currently an 18 year-old would-be-shoplifter dressed as a Sesame Street character carrying a sign that reads, "I got caught shoplifting at Halloween Express." I'm rather comfortable with people offering private substitutions to would-be criminals - they can always choose the courts, but have the option to give the victim and others concerned with the crime a first say in restitution. 

On the other hand, a guy in Houston was sentenced to spend every weekend for the next six years pacing a busy highway with a sign reading, "I am a thief. I stole $250,000 from the Harris County crime victim's fund. Daniel Mireles." His wife is currently serving a sentence for theft, as well - their home has a court mandate sign in the front yard reading, "The occupants of this residence are convicted thieves. They stole $250,000 from the Harris County Crime Victim's fund. Signed, Judge Kevin Fine."

Maybe there's hope yet for humiliation.

Categories > Courts


Ohioans Lead the Run on Red Paint

In the pages of the Wall Street Journal  today, Stephen Hayes examines why election night television commentators are going to need to stock up on red paint to cover the swath of territory that constitutes the (once blue) Midwest.  Hayes does an excellent job of explaining why this stunning reversal--most vividly seen in the bellwether state of Ohio--cannot be dismissed as a mere reflection of anger in the service of some hazy perception of economic interest.  He argues that the policies of the Obama Democrats have been more than just an affront to the economy.  They have been an assault on deeply held Midwestern notions of justice and right--at the same time that they have evinced a blatant, blustering and arrogant disregard for earning the consent of the people there: 

The values that have long been associated with the Midwest are almost anachronistic in the Obama era. Thrift, hard work, common sense--the messages and policies coming out of Washington seem to disregard these once-revered virtues. As voters in the Midwest and across the country found themselves increasingly worried about the economy and government spending, Democrats in Washington, led by the White House, changed the subject to health care.

Do read the whole thing. 
Categories > Elections


Catholics and the Tea Party

OSV has a brief exchange on the compatibility of Tea Party ideals and church teaching between Catholic historian David O'Brien and Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at my law alma mater, The Catholic University of America.

Naturally, the Tea Party isn't a perfect fit, but it isn't attempting to provide a full-fledged political, social and economic philosophy. It addresses a particular, current issue with a roughly-sketched response. Of course, that response could be refined and cultivated by philosophers, theologians and political scientists - but it's a pretty good start for a bunch of everyman-Americans responding to a gut-feeling of injustice and foolishness.

Categories > Conservatism

Europe's Orwellian Thought Police

From WSJ (registration required):

Imagine if a leader within the tea party movement were able to persuade its members to establish a third political party. Imagine he succeeded--overwhelmingly--and that as their leader he stood a real chance of winning the presidency. Then imagine that in anticipation of his electoral victory, the Democrats and Republicans quickly modified an existing antidiscrimination law so that he could be convicted for statements he made on the campaign trail.

All of this seems impossible in a 21st-century liberal democracy. But it is exactly what is happening in Holland to Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders.

It really doesn't seem all that impossible, if you've been paying attention. Liberals in America have been all too happy to censure conservatives (e.g., the Fairness Doctrine) and criminalize thought (e.g., hate crimes). So far, they have failed - but the very endorsement of such tactics is shameful.

Health Care

Obamacare Challenge Goes Forward

The 20-state lawsuit against Obamacare has been given a greenlight to proceed by a federal judge in Florida, who denied the administration's claim that the law is plainly constitutional under the commerce clause. The judge denied the administration's legal argument (which contradicted their political rhetoric) that "individual mandates" were a tax (and thereby constitutional under the government's power to tax). Transcript here.

The next hearing is in December, so this is the state of affairs until the election. Like many things pertaining to the Obama administration, it is in Limbo.

Categories > Health Care


Wise Spending?

Jay Cost writes that much of that much of the money spent for voter mobilization is ineffective in turning non-voters into voters.  Maybe he is right and I think that a lot of campaign season advertizing has many of the same limitations.  I'm numb from watching commercials about the New Hampshire Senate race and the Massachusetts Governor's race.  The commercial breaks on the local news have political ads back-to-back-to-back.  It is disorienting.  I think that a certain amount of repetition is needed just to keep your message fresh in the voter's mind, but at the margin, there has to be a better use for some of those dollars.  I remember watching the 2008 election and feeling that Obama would have done about as well if he had spent 30 million fewer dollars on ads.  Scott Brown was able to beat Coakley while being outspent in the air war.

I would suggest that if you wanted to turn non-voters into voters (or to turn some of the other side's voters who have weak or vaguely understood affiliations), some of that money is better spent between elections targeting low-to-medium information voters. The key would be shifting policy preferences (explaining how certain policies would directly benefit them and/or how those policies are consistent with their beliefs) and improving the party brand.  This approach would shift some significant amount of money to different media.  The ads that are being put out today tend to go to media with older-skewing audiences and to programs with the broadest appeal.  There are good reasons for that and those media buys should not be abandoned come election time.  The question is when more money isn't doing very much to advance your message.  It would make sense to spend money on media with large audiences that don't consume much right-leaning media and take only a passing interest in the old-model NBC/ABC/CBS/CNN-type news.  The ads on these media would also have to be different.  The audience does not know your policies or your presumptions.  Your slogans are completely meaningless to them.  Slow down, take a minute (or two) and explain.  Communicating with people who don't already share your frame of reference is hard.  Read this book.  Try to do the same thing with today's audiences who aren't already conservative.  Try writing an anti-cap-and trade ad for viewers of the Daily Show, a tax ad for Univision and an ad for market-driven health care reform for viewers of BET. 

Conservatives have developed great ways of talking to one set of Americans and pretty good ways of talking to another.  The right-leaning media offers conservatives a great way to communicate with tens of millions of Americans at length and at fairly low cost.  Conservatives are also okay at getting their message out through the "traditional" broadcast news media.  Those programs aren't exactly a favorable environment, but a combination of ability to work through the conventions of the programs and advertizing on those programs ensures that (if you are competent) your message will get out.  The problem is that the audience for right-leaning media is not a majority of the country and the size of the traditional broadcast news audience is shrinking and aging.  That leaves tens of millions of people who aren't getting talked to by conservatives in any kind of effective way.  Many of them end up as Democrats by default. 

Jay cost writes that, under present conditions "There is really only one reason to vote: you care about what happens."  True, but I think that one of the least understood communication problems in our politics is how little communication effectively takes place for millions of people and how many of the common place terms of debate are total nonsense (not wrong, just meaningless) to tens of millions of Americans.  If you want people to care what happens, meet them where they are and talk the language of everyday life.  It is harder than it sounds.

I know that there are reasons not to do this.  Money spent just before an election is fresher in the voter's minds.  But before you can reap you must sow.


Categories > Politics


At War (or Not) with the "Elites"

In addition to the Peggy Noonan column (already cited in my post below) there are some of good links worth exploring on this question of an American/conservative/Tea Party backlash against so-called "elites." 

One is this column by Anne Applebaum which Jonah Goldberg lays to waste here.  Applebaum then responds to Jonah, and Jonah responds--again--to Applebaum.  Note, too, this oldie but goodie from the Goldberg files. 

The dangers of populist anger (like the dangers of all anger in politics) are nothing new and nothing to be dismissed.  Every expression of popular outrage and exasperation, however, does not constitute some vast threat to the health of the republic.  There is such a thing as righteous anger and, even when it is clumsily expressed, a wise student of politics does well to consider the complaint on its merits (and as it was obviously intended) rather than to scour it for what amounts to the equivalent of spelling errors and a few over-broad generalizations.  The political philosopher, Leo Strauss, is noted (when he isn't being attacked as the god-father of warmongers) for making the very sensible and irrefutable point that if you want to understand a text or the work of a great author, you have to understand that author the way that he understood himself.  It seems to me that this maxim is desperately needed by more than a few would-be observers of American life and the American people.  It's not fair to be critical of them or of it until that kind of clarity is achieved.  
Categories > Politics


French Bread at an Afghan Restaurant: Not a Good Meal for Americans

This NYT article on Afghanistan and the French involvement over there is amusing--not in itself, so much in how it is likely to be used by the left.  A liberal friend of mine posted it on Facebook by way of imagining, I suppose, that he had  thereby made a point in his efforts to prove the efficacy of welfare/statist programs as an indisputable good.  See:  the French have stabilized a sector of Afghanistan by establishing a functioning and generous welfare system, therefore, welfare is (obviously) a good way to govern human beings.

Is that not utterly revealing?  Do we want to be like dirt-dwelling Afghans mollified by a few pieces of cake?  Honestly!  I think this is what Peggy Noonan was getting at with her column last week  in which she opined that one reasons the American electorate is reacting so vehemently against the Obama/Pelosi agenda is that they are concerned about the kind of character these programs are likely to spawn.  Do we want to be that kind of a people?  Thank God, the answer still seems to be "No!"

Our objection to lefties is that they seem to want to view us through a lens that we find de-humanizing.  They want us to act like grateful Afghans.  But the truth is that these Afghans are only happy because they now have a benevolent tyrant instead of an evil and violent one.   Do we want to be like that?  Should we be grateful when decisions (and the money to implement them) concerning the most basic functions of ordinary life come down to us from on high?  Eat your cake!

Constantly pushing this kind of benevolence on us, what they seem to miss is the implication in their words and actions that we don't know what's good for us.  We ought to listen to them and give up our silly dreams of self-government.  Self-government is too darn messy and difficult.  If the Afghans can't do it, we probably can't either.  This is what they think the failed experiment in nation-building has proven.

I am fairly certain that the next charge leveled at me from the peanut gallery will be one of jingoistic arrogance . . . I think Americans are better than Afghans.  Well . . . yeah.  I do.  (Though I also think Afghans are capable of being Americans--though, perhaps not all at once or while they're still in Afghanistan.)  Amazing to me that the reverse--thinking we're just like Afghans (or the Greeks!)--is not the damning charge!

I asked this friend of mine what will happen when the Afghans in this story become accustomed to looking to their government (and France) for care and support and then begin--as inevitably, they will--to want MORE.  What happens when there is no "MORE"--because we know from reading our own Bill Voegeli, that there is "Never Enough!"  I suppose they will take a cue from their French betters and riot.  That's what.  Except theirs will likely have a bit of an Afghan/Taliban twist to it . . .

Categories > Politics

The Founding

Ron Chernow Podcast

Over at Infinite Monkeys, the always engaging "Ben and Joel Podcast" (featuring the talents of Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis) today features Ron Chernow, author of the new (and, apparently, also quite engaging) biography of George Washington.  Have a listen!
Categories > The Founding


Ohio Governor's race

Mytheos Holt tries to explain why Kasich is losing some steam against Strickland; hint, Kasich is late to the tea party. The Rassmussen Poll just out today shows Kasich ahead by only three points.  (He was ahead by eight points two weeks ago). This doesn't surprise me.  Strickland has run a disciplined and hard-hitting campaign from the start (completely negative) and he never wavered.  Also note that both Obama's are coming to campaign for him on Sunday, the first time the Mrs. is campaigning with the Pres this cycle.  Impressive.  We'll have to see if that pushes Strickland above 45%.  I am betting it will not, Kasich will still win, but it'll be close, two or three points.
Categories > Elections


House Races

I talked with Andy Busch about the House races and the conversation was very good and enlightening (about 35 minutes).  Andy is a very careful fellow, but there really isn't a person who follows this stuff who thinks that the GOP will not retake the House.  In Ohio (in my opinion), the most interesting races to watch are the 6th District ( Johnson vs. Wilson), and the 18th District (Gibbs vs. Space).  If these two go Republican, it really will be a tidal wave.  The 16th District (Renacci vs. Boccieri), the 15th District (Stivers vs. Kilroy), and the 1st District (Chabot vs. Driehaus) are almost certainly going to the GOP challengers.
Categories > Elections


Warm Bucket of Spit?

Or warm bucket of an expletive that rhymes with spit?  Based on this story alone, Joe Biden is my nomination for the guy with the worst job in America.  Of course, as voters might very reasonably point out to him, at least he's got one . . . for now.
Categories > Presidency


Winston Churchill, Pop Star?

In case you missed this, we have word this week that Winston Churchill is now climbing the British pop charts.  This, in the wake of Prime Minister, David Cameron's stirring speech last week in which he claimed that the conservatives "are the radicals now" makes it almost as interesting to watch political events unfold on the other side of the pond as it has been the last several months over here. 

Of course, Cameron's fine speech came despite reports that Cameron and the conservative Brits still don't get the Tea Party and don't much like being identified with it at home.  Come to think of it, those Brits never really quite understood that first Tea Party either . . . so perhaps Cameron can be forgiven his disinclination to fully identify with his American political cousins?  
Categories > Leisure


And Now for Something Completely Different

I'm at an airport at the moment--the second of four days in airports this week--so I don't have much time for a long post (thank God!--ed.), but I wanted to highlight something out of . . . center field perhaps?  Long story--I'll tell it more fully in the next issue of the Weekly Standard out Friday, but for the last 18 months I've been--gasp!--working with centrists (from Brookings) and lefties (from the Breakthrough Institute in California) on a "reset" for energy policy.  We're going public today at the National Press Club.  It will be up later today on AEI's website, but the whole thing is up now on the Breakthrough Institute site.  There is plenty in the plan for people off all persuasions to dislike.  That's called politics.

David Leonhardt of the New York Times offers the first media coverage of it, with several quotes from me.  I have one quibble--I don't think I ever said anything about "creating jobs."  Elsewhere I refer to the whole "green jobs" cliche as "energy Keynesianism" or "all fluff and no fold."  Still, Leonhardt's article is serious and thoughtful.

UPDATE:  I am flamed!!  By the Center for American Regress Progress no less!  But I wonder if I'm being had: this reads like very clever satire on somebody.
Categories > Environment


The Coming Sacrifice

Peter Lawler and James Poulos wonder if we have what it takes to make the sacrifices needed to get the federal budget under control.  I think the answer is yes, but only because we have no choice.  It also depends on what we mean by sacrifice.  Old (and near-old) people are terrified of any changes to the existing system.  They can see the enormous budget deficit and they feel that they are in no position to take care of themselves if their current benefits are cut.  That is one reason why the sentiments that "government is getting too big" and "don't cut my Medicare" tend to go together.  It isn't merely hypocrisy.  Older people have built their lives around certain government guarantees and many are not in a position to make major adjustments now.  There will be no new savings and investment to make up for Social Security cuts.  Whatever benefits might come from voucherizing Medicare will come too slowly to help off-set cuts in reimbursements.

The  question is not how we will take care of those who are already too old to work.  The question is what adjustments will be made for middle-aged and younger people.  One choice we do not have is keeping the existing system for younger workers at the current tax burden.  That isn't going to happen no matter who wins what election.

There are false and comfortable choices that only promise sacrifice for someone else.  Obama says that "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it" and "no tax increases if you make less than $200,000."  John Boehner says "extend the Bush tax cuts, and repeal Obamacare and...uh...I'll get back to you."  These kinds of misleading tactics are designed to disguise either long-term policy goals (Obama) or get through one election cycle without having to say anything real about the problems we can't escape (Boehner.)  You won't find our actual policy future in either man's rhetoric.

While there are many intermediate options (and innumerable details), our policy options fall somewhere between two poles, and reality will probably end up much closer to one than the other.  The real challenge of statesmanship (as opposed to merely grasping for a chairman's gavel) will be to influence policy making between those two poles. 

1.  The first might be called the Bernie Sanders/Nancy Pelosi pole.  People would pay higher taxes during their working years in order to finance the full Social Security benefit for currently young and middle-aged high earners.  There will be centralized government control over health care.  The wealthy will still be able to pay for their own care but the vast majority of the public would get their health insurance through the government and have no other realistic options.  Medical providers would be oriented around providing (or not providing) the services that the payer (the government) wanted provided.  Individual middle-class consumers would be marginal and have no bargaining power with medical providers.  The vast majority of people would get the health care that government decided to pay for.

2.  This second might be called the Mitch Daniels/Paul Ryan pole.  Higher earners would get somewhat less from Social Security when they retired.  That means more saving and investing now.  Some large fraction of workers in physically less demanding jobs (and who had not developed crippling injuries or conditions) would have to retire later.  In return, we will all pay lower taxes during our working lives.  Most people would pay for most (this part is negotiable) of their routine health care costs out of pocket or out of Health Savings Accounts.  The government or private insurers would cover catastrophic health care costs.  That means that individuals would have to choose which health care providers provided the best services at the lowest price.  In return, they would get lower costs for many services, lower premiums, and higher take-home pay.

Both poles (and every real world-oriented plan in between) involve sacrifices by lots of somebodies, but none involve cutting off people who are retired or near retirement.  It also means that older people who sense that government's current promises are unsustainable in the long-term are wiser than smug and malicious creeps who can't understand why people in Medicare-provided scooters don't support creating an expensive new middle-class entitlement.   

Categories > Politics


Democrats still in horrible position

Democratic National Congressional Committee has pulled the plug on Rep. Steve Driehaus (1st, OH).  This is the seat that Chabot lost in 08, and is now set to retake it.  See details.  Also note this and this.
Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs


Michael Lewis writes (in the current Vanity Fair) about Greece, monks who know more economics than MBA's, and citizens who trust no one. What is this place?  Is it a country?  Instructive.
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Go Ahead and Ask

From WaPo:

A federal judge has issued a nationwide injunction stopping enforcement of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, ending the military's 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.

[The] landmark ruling Tuesday was widely cheered by gay rights organizations that credited her with getting accomplished what President Obama and Washington politics could not.

U.S. Department of Justice attorneys have 60 days to appeal. Legal experts say they are under no legal obligation to do so and they could let Phillips' ruling stand. 

While Obama has stated his desire for Congress to decide the matter, I assume this is one of those occasions in which the administration is very content to have a court overturn its own policy. Yet I doubt this mode of victory will inspire gays to rally behind the Democrats, whereas social conservatives are far more likely to find anti-Democratic motivation in the ruling.

Some assumed the Dems would repeal DADT in the post-November lame duck session. Should this ruling prevent such a vote and then be overruled after the GOP assume control of the House, the ruling would have the ironic effect of cementing DADT in law for the foreseeable future.

Categories > Military


Drill Maybe Drill

Obama has lifted the ban on deep-water oil drilling prior to the original Nov. 30 expiration date - though months will pass before anyone gets back to work and draws a paycheck. The political, rather than safety-oriented, nature of the ban is painfully apparent. Everyone understands that Obama needed to do something in the wake of the worst environmental disaster in American history. The decision to simply stop all drilling and wait, however, has been devastating to the coastal economy - and this during the worst recession in recent history.

To add insult to injury, during Obama's moratorium on deep-water drilling, he committed $2 billion in funding to an off-shore drilling company ... in Brazil. As the WSJ put it: "Americans are right to wonder why Mr. Obama is underwriting in Brazil what he won't allow at home." 

Lifting the ban will now annoy the left (which wants a permanent ban on all wealth-producing activities) and remind the right that the moratorium was a foolish overreaction in the first place. Just another nail in the Democrats' coffin.

Categories > Environment

Men and Women

Paladino on Parade

NY's Carl Paladino stepped on a landmine this weekend by, as WaPo puts it, refusing "to step back from his inflammatory comments disparaging gays." Referencing his opponent's decision to march in a gay pride parade with his child, Paladino objected that, where men wearing only women's bikini underwear are "grinding at each other and doing these gyrations, I certainly wouldn't let my young children see that. Young children should not be exposed to that at a young age. They don't understand; it's a very difficult thing."

If you've ever seen a gay pride parade, you know that you'll be exposed to things you shouldn't have to know about until you're in prison. If parents acted in a similar manner in front of their kids at home, authorities could remove the kids on cause of obscenity and mental abuse. It's the equivalent of taking your child to a burlesque cabaret or X-rated film.

Nonetheless, Paladino committed the media sin of prioritizing parenthood above gay rights. Further, he stated that he didn't want his kids "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is acceptable." And therein is the reason he was roundly denounced by the usual suspects as "hurtful and dangerous," "preaching hate," "stunning homophobia and a glaring disregard for basic equality."

If any other group wandered into the streets dressed and behaving as those in gay pride parades, they would be arrested. If nearly any other group (Muslims immediately spring to mind) demanded that all others approve their lifestyle and branded all dissent as bigotry, they would be admonished for devaluing free-speech, individuality and diversity.

Could the homosexual lobby please practice what they preach and tolerate those with whom they disagree? Is it really an extreme proposition to object to kids being taught that running around in the street, in someone else's underwear, pretending to masturbate or have sex, is acceptable behavior? American's aren't Islamophobic for not wanting a mosque at Ground Zero, and they aren't homophobic for not wanting homo-erotic obscenity in the streets. It's just common sense decency in a pluralistic society. 

On the other hand, Cuomo stated that Paladino's views "make it clear that he is way out of the mainstream and is unfit to represent New York." If that is so, it speaks more of New York than "the mainstream" or the GOP candidate.

Categories > Men and Women

Men and Women

The High Cost of Feminist "Freedoms" in France

It is no wonder to me, after reading this NYT story on French government policies regarding women and the family that French women are increasingly seeking anti-depressants. This trend probably has very little to do with "macho" culture (as the NYT would have it) and a great deal to do with an idiotic form of nature-denying feminism that has entwined itself (as it invariably does, since nature won't stand for being denied) around a freedom-sucking form of bureaucratic socialism which must stand in for the masculine it seeks to undermine or usurp.  In France, it is now to the point that the government pays for and instructs women in perinatal exercises after childbirth--which appears to be less of a recommendation than a requirement.  The message--now coming from the GOVERNMENT (and perhaps a cold, exacting, well-subsidized nurse Ratchet with equally cold and and exacting gloved fingers)--is that you had better measure up as careerist, mother, sex goddess and femme fatale . . . all within the pre-ordained and government approved time limit, or you are a failure.

Aren't women more free when they get to negotiate (with their husbands) their own ideas about what being a good mother and wife should be? And if there is anything (short of rape) that is more degrading in Western Civilization than that regimented prescription of vaginal exercises ordered and funded by the French government, I cannot imagine what it is. The NYT, in typical fashion, engages in excellent description and a huge amount of missing the point.
Categories > Men and Women


"Nazi, Schmatzy"

I have a confession to make.  I own, although I do not display, a Nazi flag.  I also have (on display in my office) an Iron Cross, a German helmet, and a samurai sword (all replicas).  At home I have a collection of miniature diecast German tanks.  I have some strange music, too.  I own a CD called "The Best of Communism: Selection of Revolutionary Songs."  I also have on my iPod a selection of Japanese military marches from the 1930s and 1940s.

Does all of this make me a Nazi, a Communist, or a supporter of Japanese militarism?  No.  I find all three abhorrent.  Yet I also find those ideologies fascinating, just as, although I have no love for war, I find military history fascinating.  All this helps to explain why I've dedicated my career to the study of 20th century history.  In particular, I want to know why totalitarianism managed to gain so many adherents.

Another confession: at one time I considered becoming a World War II reenactor, and, because because of my German ancestry and my interest in totalitarian ideology, I thought about joining a group that took the German side.  I ultimately decided against it, for the same reason that I don't display that Nazi flag that I own--because it would be misunderstood, and used against me.  In addition, although I suspected that most of those I would meet in the group would have been motivated by the same things that drove me, I feared that there might be some in the organization who were really pro-Nazi.

All of these things are on my mind today, of course, because of the case of Republican House candidate Rich Iott.  On the one hand, I sympathize with the guy, who seems to be nothing more than a military history buff.  (He's also portrayed a U.S. soldier in World War I, and soldiers on both sides of the Civil War.)  On the other hand, if I ever found myself mulling over a run for public office I'd want to make sure that, whatever the explanation, there weren't any photographs of me in a Nazi uniform floating around.

Should this prevent him from joining the House of Representatives.  No.  Should it matter at all?  Maybe a little.  If I were a resident of Ohio's 9th District I'd want to learn a bit more about Iott, just to make sure there were no political undertones to his decision to reenact as a German soldier.  Of course, I suppose to be fair we should also ask whether members of this group of Red Army reenactors are Communist sympathizers, or whether those belonging to this organization are clandestine monarchists yearning for the return of the United States to British rule.

Categories > History


Barone on Daniels

Michael Barone asks, can skinflint Mitch Daniels win the presidency?
Categories > Elections

Ashbrook Center

Voegeli on Downsizing Government

Bill Voegeli's Colloquium of last Friday can now be heard.  Unsurprisingly, it was very solid and thoughtful, with a good conversation following.  I think he spoke for about fifty minutes, and then thirty minutes of Q & A.  We sold a couple of dozen of his books, and those of you who haven't read it, can get it from Amazon.  It was good fun having here.  Thanks for coming out, Bill.
Categories > Ashbrook Center


Governor's Races

Today's NY Times article on the governor's races could be a very good and instructive article, but instead it is not only too brief, but also stresses the wrong things (for example, that there are slightly more third party candidates than is normal, etc.), although it has a paragraph on why winning governor's mansions will have a political effect for years to come.  It should stress the massive political fact that in a state like Oregon (hasn't had a Republican governor in over twenty years) the Republican is leading.  The GOP also leads in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, New Mexico, Wisconsin.
Categories > Elections


Progressivism: Theory vs. Practice

Today's New York Times features a roundtable called "Hating Woodrow Wilson," in which a number of scholars address the fascination certain conservatives such as Glenn Beck have with America's twenty-eighth president.  Of course, there is the unsurprising divide among the discussants between liberals and conservatives, but what I find more interesting is how closely this corresponds to the fault line between historians and political theorists.  Even more interesting is how the two sides talk past one another.  The historians profess to be surprised at Beck's hatred of Wilson; after all, critics of Wilson have traditionally tended to come from the left.  Wilson, they remind us, brought the country into a world war--isn't rising to "national greatness" what conservatism's supposed to be all about?--and once in that war he suppressed domestic dissent in a far more radical way than George W. Bush ever did.  Why not focus instead on FDR or Lyndon Johnson, under whose administrations the federal government grew much larger than it did under Wilson?

The political theorists, on the other hand, pay almost no attention to what Wilson did as president, and focus rather on what he believed, as laid out in his various scholarly works.  Once we see that Wilson was the first president openly to repudiate the principles of the Founders, and sought to replace the notion of limited government with an expansive administrative state, it becomes far easier to understand why conservatives dislike him.

I must say that, while my own opinion of Wilson is closer to that of the conservatives (no surprise here), both approaches strike me as incomplete.  If we regard progressivism as merely a set of policies (banning, say, child labor or the sale of tainted meat) it probably does not appear particularly objectionable, but if such a platform is predicated on a philosophy that effectively rejects self-government on the part of ordinary citizens in favor of rule by unelected bureaucratic experts, then we should probably be worried.  At the same time, however, is it not worth remembering that, whatever theories he espoused, as president he generally regarded himself as bound by the Constitution?  The fact that arguments similar to his were employed in support of fascism (although I wouldn't go so far as Jonah Goldberg and claim that fascism was predominantly a phenomenon of the left) is worth noting, but should we not also consider that, when he had the opportunity to do so, Wilson did relatively little to act on them?

Categories > History


The November Zeitgeist

A month is an eternity in political terms, admittedly - but we can get a pretty good sense of the mood and environment of the country come November from our present perch.

Economics will rule the day, and the draught is not likely to have improved. The final job numbers prior to the election have been released, and unemployment remains at 9.6%. America shed another 95,000 jobs during the past quarter. Without doubt, that's the most damning news for Democrats, who, after a trillion dollars in stimulus spending, now own the economy. (Government spending rose 9% last year, totaling a $1.3 trillion deficit - down from 2009, but second-largest on record.)

The tomfoolery on freezing foreclosures (merely exacerbating an open wound and prolonging the housing market collapse) and Obama's veto of a bipartisan bill to fix the problem merely lend to the sense of incoherence, impotence and desperation emanating from Washington. The market was not likely to pick up by November - now it is certain not to do so.

Obamacare will remain a public annoyance, as court cases keep the issue before the electorate. Should the law be struck down before November, it will render another blow to Democrats.

Nothing will likely happen in Iraq or Afghanistan to arouse public sentiment, nor are any motivating social issues likely to appear. November will be here before you know it, and the nation will only be a month older and a margin madder by then. All the bets have been made - now it's just time for everyone to show their hands.

Categories > Elections


The Tea Party and Moderate Republicans

Had any interesting conversation with another person the other day.  Went kinda like this.

Them: So the Tea Party hates moderate Republicans right.

Me: Yeah, but it isn't like an organization with centralized leadership.

Them: So they hate Scott Brown.

Me: Well, no.

It got me wondering why there wasn't any organized and effective Tea Party movement against Scott Brown during the Massachusetts Republican primary.  You could argue that Massachusetts conservatives were being prudent and, knowing that they weren't going to get anyone to the right of Brown, they took what they could get.  There is something to that, but, it doesn't explain why there was a dump Castle movement in left-of-center Delaware, but not in Massachusetts.  I think that the explanation is that a populist conservative insurgency against a moderate Republican requires several elements to come together.  Brown avoided the fate of Bennett, Murkowski, Crist, Specter, and Castle due to several things that were in his control and one big thing that wasn't.

1.  Brown's opponent in the Republican primaries was a perennial candidate with a history of personal problems (sound familiar?.)  But Jack E. Robinson was not able to distinguish himself as a populist and more conservative alternative to Brown.  He might have had some paid media, but I never saw any of it.  I saw him on one of the local evening news shows one time and, while talking the same anti-Obamacare, pro-tax cuts stuff as Brown and just about every other Republican he said nothing to distinguish himself from Brown .  There were some differences on social issues.  Robinson was pro-life and pro-gay marriage, while Brown was the reverse.  The lack of a conservative alternative in the race gave Massachusetts down-the-line conservative no one to coalesce behind.  If there hadn't been a credible (Joe Miller) or semi-credible "real conservative" in the race, Lisa Murkowski, Charlie Crist, and Mike Castle would be on the way to winning Senate elections.

2.  It strikes me that the Tea Party movement is (along with the right-leaning issue preferences and media consumption habits of its supporters) an anti-entitlement, anti-establishment movement.  While I expect that Scott Brown will show up as a moderate Republican in the next ACU ratings (fwiw) he didn't come across as entitled or as a member of the establishment.  He worked hard and did so in a way that he was seen to be working much harder than anyone else.  He also campaigned against the state and federal political establishments.  

3.  He focused on issues on which he agreed with conservatives.  He built his campaign against the stimulus (unlike Crist and Specter, who supported it), Obamacare (unlike Murkowski and Castle who voted no but later waffled), and civilian trials for terrorists, and in favor of tax cuts.  He even explained supporting tax cuts in the very Reaganite way of invoking JFK in  a very clever ad. 

4.  Brown maintained good relations with the local right-leaning media.  He not only went on the local right-leaning talk shows (or in the case of Dennis and Callahan, shows with right-leaning hosts and audiences), he often got the hosts to say nice things about him and what an improvement he would be over any of the Democrats and explaining to their audiences that we can't expect conservative perfection in Massachusetts. Brown didn't treat conservatives with disdain.

5.  Timing.  There was very little of an "almost any real conservative can win" narrative in early 2010.  Doug Hoffman had just lost the special election in New York-23.  Obamacare was still working its way through Congress and it seemed like one more Republican Senator (and maybe the shattering effect on Democratic morale of a Republican win in Massachusetts) would stop Obamacare.  It didn't work out that way of course, but it probably made it easier for some Massachusetts conservatives to support Brown  

Categories > Politics


Fred Phelps, Free Speech, and Ordinary Wit

I have declined to comment on the Fred Phelps spectacle, in part, because the Phelps clan strike me as pathetically ordinary examples of what Jerry Brown's campaign called Meg Whitman.  [Forgive the California-centric reference . . . if you haven't followed that amusing story, I'm referring to an impolite term for "working" women that rhymes with door.]  That is to say, the Phelps' are attention seekers of the lowest sort and, therefore, taking note of them is to do precisely what they want.  Thinking about them makes me feel dirty.  Taking note of them in writing has always seemed to me to be something even worse.  I really don't like gratifying that kind of element.

Having said that and unfortunate as it may be, it turns out that there actually are aspects to the Phelps case that raise important and rarely well-articulated aspects to the whole free speech debate.  Ben Boychuk writes a studied and thoroughly reasoned commentary on the question over at Infinite Monkeys.  He leans heavily on two of his greatest (if idiosyncratic in that combination) inspirations:  H.L. Mencken and Hadley Arkes.  The result is certainly worth a read (possibly, over a drink of something stronger than coffee) and a discussion.  Have at it.
Categories > Courts